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Saturday, March 22, 2014

Heaven and Hell - My 3 Day Dance with High Raw Vegan & a Cool App/Web Tool

As I approach the four-year mark on my whole foods, plant-based food program, I've reached a level of comfort in my understanding of why I eat the way I do and also a level of confidence around the kitchen.  I now have enough of an assortment of satisfying recipes, good cookbooks and alternatives for 'veganizing' most recipes I come across.  I also have been through the calendar year a few times now, so can deal with the various holidays and food-centered celebrations and the people that love me (and those that don't but find themselves in my proximity) have grown used to these big, big changes.

Although, I enjoy pretty good health, have maintained my initial weight loss (more or less, currently up about 7 pounds, but holding at that number), and do not actually even remember the last time I was sick, I still have been feeling that something is missing and that I can, and should, tweak my diet again, delving deeper into my understanding of what constitutes the recipe for optimal human nutrition.

And so, I looked into raw vegan diets, again.

I had looked at the 80/10/10 and 60/20/20 programs early into my switch to vegan eating but felt I was facing a big enough challenge going vegan at that time and passed it by.  {The numbers represent percentages of the macro-nutrients carbs/protein/fat, with the 80/10/10 being associated with Douglas Graham and classified as 'high raw vegan' cooked foods, carbs obtained from predominantly fruits, some veggies and fats from nuts and seeds in very small amounts}.

After reading up on the rationale behind Graham's program and agreeing with most of the logic behind it, I thought this would be a perfect 'spring cleanse' for me and a way to see if this program would be beneficial.

Day One:

Although I quickly realized that it was going to be a BIG challenge to ingest enough food in order to get the calories (2500) needed, I was optimistic and feeling very energized by the fruit meals.  I eat probably about 60-80% raw anyway, so I figured this would not be that difficult.

By afternoon, I was hungry, despite eating more food (in bulk, but not calorically) than I usually do in a whole day, but felt mentally clear and very energetic.

By evening, I was STILL hungry, hungry most of the day, despite eating a LOT and often, and I realized I needed a way to track what I was consuming.  A friend had told me about and I found an app for it on my Android phone, downloaded and started inputting.  I realized that despite eating a massive quantity of fruits and veggies, I was over 1,000 calories low.  I consumed a huge salad and added a dollop of left-over rice casserole to help with the hunger and calorie load.

Day Two:

I started the day with a liter of water, as is recommended by some of the successful raw foodists, and had been generally keeping water consumption way up.  I felt VERY rested and supercharged for the day, great energy and wonderful mood, almost euphoric.  Hopeful, I jumped into my day planning out the food and tracking it on myfitnesspal.  I also thought I would add smoothies in to help with the physical aspect of consuming that much food and to boost calories.

This day went pretty well and I stayed very 'up' all day, dropped my tea consumption, realizing I didn't even need my much energy.  This is great.

Day Three:

I woke up starving....I mean, like STARVING, like a month on a deserted island starving.  Never have I been so hungry in my life.  I stayed in this state, no matter what I ate.

By lunch, I was about in a panic.  Despite my continued input of food into my mouth and numbers into my app, I couldn't even approach the numbers I needed.  I downed 6 Medjool dates to get my energy going and ease my increasing anxiety.  I started getting a headache.  I became dizzy.

I made a HUGE salad, like feed 10 people salad and started tearing into it waiting for a moment of satiety where I could take a breath and relax a bit.  It never came.  I just remained hungry, hungry, hungry.  I added some avocado, thinking that would help a bit and it did a tiny bit, but...still, I was miserable.

Then I went to the bathroom to get ready to go somewhere for the evening and I looked in the mirror and about freaked.  I was bloated, with a swollen abdomen that I have not seen since I was 8 months pregnant.  It was scary.  It's when I realized, that although the logic of this type of eating makes some sense, there is one teensie-weentsie little thing that seems to not be's called PHYSICS!  There is a maximum mass that can be put into another physically massed object.  Even allowing for the wonderful tolerance of the human body and the stretch of the stomach, still, there is a limit. Oh, I was miserable.

It is now 24 hours later....I followed my 'regular' vegan diet for most of today, but still spent most of the day hungry. It was like my body was just stuck in this fear of starvation and was telling me, hey, stupid, you aren't giving me what I need!  I had a nice sweet potato with black beans, corn and brown rice with some salsa and avocado for lunch and that finally did the trick for me.  I'm finally not dizzy, feeling more 'normal' and settled.  (Also, now only 4 pounds off my original weight loss numbers....having lost three pounds the first two days).

I did learn a lot from this foray into high raw vegan, and I do think that the fat levels in my diet have been too high...too many raw cashews slipping in, too much coconut milk.  I'm continuing to use the myfitnesspal app to track my can be customized for any program being followed and has been useful to see some other nutrients I've been concerned about.  I wish it had even greater detail, but there are some nice features on it, including the ability to just scan the UPC code of an item and to pull up the nutritional info from that.

I actually think the 80/10/10 numbers may be about right (or maybe 70/15/15 or thereabouts), but HOW that 80 is gotten is vital, for me, anyway.  I can't get that all in raw fruit/veggies, but could split that 80 about 50/50 probably between simple and complex carbs.  I'm going to play with it a bit and find the right ratios for me and see how my energy and general wellness goes.

More power to anyone who wants to follow this program and who is able to and there APPEAR to be great successes out there.  I think, with any program, we do need to listen to our bodies as we go along and be willing to change and tweak as feels right to us.  I think too, that yes, maybe we, as a people, did eat raw 10,000 years ago prior to modern agriculture, fire and so forth and maybe genetically we haven't changed that much in that time, but there is a food efficiency to a complex carb and there is a place for cooking our food.  While much remains the same, we are NOT the same humans we were 10 centuries ago, either, in many ways.

There is a practical side of this program too; I simply cannot (or am not willing to) spend about 4 hours or more a day in the physical act of eating, (and, a resultant vastly increased time in the bathroom!), and just getting this amount of food down is quite the challenge.  I would say the jump from vegan to high raw vegan is as far, or farther, than the jump from the standard western diet is to whole foods plant based (vegan).  It is very difficult, or at least I found it to be.

Sue, getting back to basics, in Ohio

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Stuffed Mushrooms

I had some mushrooms threatening to become science experiments in the frig (one of the side-effects of shopping at Costco and buying in larger volumes; I've been running into 'extras' more and more and have been challenging myself to find different uses for the excess).

My husband loves, loves, loves mushrooms, whereas I can barely choke them down and do so only because (1) Dr. Joel Fuhrman says they are good for me (and helpful in the prevention of breast cancer) and (2) Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn has a great mushroom gravy recipe in his book "Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease".  {If you don't own Dr. Fuhrman's Eat to Live and Dr. Esselstyn's book, I highly recommend both}.

It's been a stressful winter season and I thought it would be nice to see if I could make something yummy for darling husband, who does so very much for me.

Stuffed Mushrooms:

12-15 mushrooms (I like Bellas)
1 large clove of garlic (minced)
1-2 cups of fresh spinach
1/2-1 t red pepper flakes
1/2 C ground raw cashews
dash of tamari (optional)
additional seasonings as desired

I pulled out the stems of the mushrooms and trimmed the dry bottoms off of those, setting the caps aside.  I rough-chopped the stems and put them in a frying pan with a little bit of water (I'll probably add a dash of tamari to this when I repeat).  I minced a large clove of garlic (I buy good garlic from our farm market and still had one good head left of a purple stripe long hard neck garlic....yummy), so tossed that in with the stems lightly sauteeing.  The aroma was wonderful.  After the garlic was just getting soft, I added chopped spinach, about 1 -2 cups and quickly wilted that, stirring continually.  I transferred this mixture to a bowl and added WAY too much red pepper flakes; husband likes hot food, so more is better, right?  Hmmm, maybe not, although he did say the left-overs 'calmed-down' after being in the frig overnight.  I'll do about 1/2 teaspoon next time.  Add ground up raw cashews and stir well.  Scoop into mushroom caps.
I placed in a 375 degree oven for about 20 minutes.  I think it would do better to have them in a hotter oven, and you could even finish off under the broiler if you wanted to crisp them up.

After my husband ate one, he said they were 'ok'.  (That's like 4 stars at a 5-star restaurant around here....the only higher rating here is 'good' or 'it's a keeper').  The REAL rating that I watch for though is to see if he goes back for seconds, which he did and then the next day made his own little meal out of the rest with some left-over pasta.  Score.

Maybe next time I make them, I'll be brave enough to try them....but, I'm only doing 'cause Joel says to ;).

I apologize for the horrible pictures and will change these out when I make this again, as I certainly will, and soon (just did a Costco run).

Sue, eating to live, in Ohio

Monday, March 3, 2014

Kale Krackers

It's been a cold, cold winter here in Ohio; the coldest and snowiest on record in a long time.  Just surviving the barn chores made more difficult by sub-zero temps has been a challenge and my definition of the specific temperature that actually qualifies as "cold" has been drastically altered.... 10 degrees Farenheit?  Nah...that's not cold; yes, Professor Einstein, everything most definitely is relative.

Vital for our survival this winter has been a trio of soups that I just love:

  Jonathan's chili soup
Sweet potato-spinach soup (scroll down it is the very last one....absolutely yummy)

 and Corn Bisque (aka "Gruel" by my dear husband).

I think they have been key in helping us make it through the winter without any illness (I credit the ginger in the sweet potato soup especially for this good health).

One thing I always miss with soups though, is a good cracker and since it has been awhile since I've made an attempt at a home-made, healthy version of one, I thought I'd give it a shot this weekend, knowing that a huge pot of chili soup was in the works.

I didn't actually measure the ingredients and was making this up as I went along so the amounts are just estimated here.  I am doing a liver cleanse (I hope to carve out a piece of time to do a blog post on that soon) and otherwise keeping my diet very clean, so I was going for something very hearty and more than just a cracker.  I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome.

Kale Krackers

3 T ground flax seed
1/2 C ground raw sunflower seeds
1/2 C ground oatmeal
1/2 C ground raw almonds (or almond meal)
1/4 C cornmeal
1/2 pound raw kale (I used a combo of red russian and lacinato)
Celtic salt
other seasonings as desired

Soak flax seed for a few minutes in small amount of water.  Add nuts, meal and seeds and combine.  Process kale in high speed blender with enough water to make it pourable.  (I used about 1/2 cup - 1 cup).  Add kale to dry ingredients.  This is where I played with the recipe and added a bit more dry ingredients (I ground up more sunflower seeds) to get a batter-like consistency.  I went for something not as soft as a cake batter but not as stiff as bread dough.

Spread on pizza stone.  Top with salt and/or other seasonings.  I started with a low temp and thought I would go for a long, slow bake which you could do if you are doing a raw diet, but then realized it would take too long for my impatient purposes, so I settled on a 350 degree oven and baked for about 20 minutes waiting for browning at the edges.

I used a pizza cutter wheel and criss-cross cut them while still warm.

They are seriously green!  

This cracker is almost earthy in taste...not your store bought version.  I will try it again with different seasonings (the base here would lend itself nicely to some red pepper flakes or other hot spice) and I also think that pumpkin seeds would be a nice addition.  For a sweeter cracker, a few Medjool dates could be added in with the kale in the blender.  I'm thinking of adding a red sweet pepper in the blender too, maybe some carrots and beets...the possibilities are endless.  This cracker really had the consistency of a cookie almost; I think if I spread the batter out thinner and increased the oven temp., it could make a nice thin hard cracker.

In the meantime, I'll gaze out the window and enjoy the snow and find the beauty of winter over a nice bowl of chili soup.

Sue, -1.1 degrees in Ohio, which is relatively cold.  ;)