Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Choose Wisely

I'm getting off my non-blogging butt today thanks to an article by John Robbins (yeah, that Robbins). 
The article pretty much sums up why I started a blog.  Doctors do NOT always have all the answers. It is time we start taking our futures in our own hands & it begins with the food we eat. Mindlessly shoving whatever crap food the commercials tell us to must stop! The lobbyists for the fast food companies have to stop influencing what constitutes a "healthy" school lunch. We cannot continue making money off the poor health of our nation. It is literally killing us. This story was deep, on so many levels; it was inspirational and beautiful and my heart goes out to this heroic young lady!

Below are several things to think about/consider when making your next food choice:
We make many more decisions about food per day than we think: at least 12 at breakfast alone!  Choose wisely!  Plan ahead!  Whole grains keep you full longer, add fruit for an extra pep-in-your-step, use soy milk instead of calorie-laden, cholesterol-producing cow milk...

NEVER assume what you're given is an appropriate amount. Usually, it isn’t.

If you must have fast food, order a kids meal. Kid’s meal = 700 calories. Adult meal = 1700!

Try to name a place that doesn’t have food. Even the laundromat, car service center, offices, book stores and hospital waiting rooms have some kind of food or vending options.  You're surrounded by poor easy choices.  Use that big, beautiful brain of yours and Choose Wisely!

A popular blame/excuse is: Cortisol. This is a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal gland in response to stress and a low level of blood glucocorticoids (regulates the metabolism of glucose). Cortisol’s primary functions are to increase blood sugar, suppress the immune system and aid in fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolism. This was helpful when we were cavepeople and didn't know where our next meal was going to come from: an issue most Americans do not face today.  However, we do have stress that contributes to the increased levels of cortisol.  So, maybe try parking in the very back of a parking lot instead of searching for the closets space.  Choices come in many varieties, not just food.

Conversely: never aim to be "thin".  Chosing wisely does NOT mean starving yourself.  There are plenty of yummy, healthy options out there to satisfy a salty/sweet/savory/carb/whatever craving!  A handful of roasted almonds will curb a candy bar craving, but you'll never know unless you (let's say it together): Choose Wisely!

We are an addictive culture; sugar triggers the same receptor in the brain as illegal drugs.  Despite what the “corn sugar” people have to say, sugar is addictive; you can imagine what High Fructose Corn Syrup is doing to our nation. You can see the physical addictive hold it has on us.  If you think you don't, try going 24 hours without a soda: 1 20oz soda = 15 teaspoons sugar.  Measure that out!

Most religions even have correlations between food, body and overall wellbeing. 
Seventh-day Adventists, Hindus, Buddhists and Rastafarians are a few religions following strict diets. Research results have documented a 50% reduction in heart disease and longer life expectancy in people who eat a well-planned vegetarian diet. There are a number of religious rationales for a vegetarian diet. According to the Book of Genesis in the Bible, humans were given a plant-based diet. 
Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food." And it was so. - Gen 1, 29-30

Quotes from religious texts:
    Christianity:  Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple
- I Corinthians, 3:16-17.
    Judaism:  The Kabbalah’s main teaching is that we’re not alone in this world, and we are channels for higher energy. Each of us has something to contribute that’s unique: we’re on a mission. And we are receptacles to use our strengths, our talents, our unique opportunities to reveal a deeper spiritual dimension in everything we do. In a sense, to spiritualize the material world we live in. That means from when we take the next bite of food in our mouths, it’s not just an act of sustenance or indulgence, but rather a spiritual act, as Kabbalah will teach, that there are spiritual sparks in that food.
And from the fruits of date palm and grapes you get wholesome drink and nutrition: Behold in this is a sign for those who are wise.  - Quran 16:67
    Buddhism:  To keep the body in good health is a duty...otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.  - Buddha

Ignorance is never an excuse for what you put into your body.  That gray matter in your head gives you the ability to r-e-a-d.  Read. The. Label.  It's going to take an extra 15-20 seconds when grocery shopping, but each time you do it, it could add an extra 1-5 years to your life.
With many things in life, we understand the importance of quality.  How and when did quantity override quality?  We'll eat a $1 burger from a fast food joint, but we know it's horrible.  Next time ask yourself if you're willing to make that compromise.  Would you pay $500 for a car that looks horrible & will probably break down on the side of the freeway?  Probably not.  You want something safe and reliable.  Apply that same standard to your food!

The environmental impact alone is astounding!  We spend $1 billion more on fuel per year than in the 60s simply because we weigh more.  You can save the environment and your wallet by weighing less!

If your excuse for eating poorly is Healthy = Expensive: Weigh the option of putting a bit more money into good food now vs. medicine for health problems later.
Not to mention, Americans seem to have no problem at all spending money on weight loss drugs (estimated $42 billion is spent annually on weight loss foods, products and services).

So, you like to eat, aye?  Me too!  Being vegan you can actually eat more, weigh less and feel better!

Just because it is "USDA approved" approved, doesn't mean you should eat it. School lunches, for example, are a joke.  USDA pays $7 billion/per year to feed the nation’s public school children. After overhead & payroll, that’s $0.80 per child.
The government spends $900 billion/per year on education. Food fuels the brain, people!!  If we want smarter, better-functioning kids, put some good food in them!

• USDA Officials are nearly all former food lobbyists! Our nutritional education system is so politically influenced that it is ineffective.  So, make choices based on what YOU know, not what someone tells you.  Unless it's me, because I'm like 99.9% right.

The Dept. of Agriculture tried to change the crap served as school lunches, but was blocked by some big lobbyists. The following companies lobbied against healthier school lunches: Heinz, McDonalds, Pizza Hut, Pillsbury, Kraft, Tyson, National Frozen Pizza Institute, General Mills & National Restaurant Association.
Hummmm, I wonder why?$?$?$?

• The government did try to get involved (Healthierus.gov). 
I'll let Stephen explain, he does it so well!
• Saying that: The Government spent $2 million on mynewpyramid.gov.  But, that was developed by a private PR firm (Porter Novelli) whose other clients include: The Snack Food Association and McDonald’s. 

Are you seeing a pattern here???
Choose Wisely, or, you know what happens!!

Yeah...don't be a Nazi either.  Nazis are the trans fats of history.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Very Vegan Valentine

Don't clog your valentine's big, pretty heart:  Give them a delicious plant-based treat to show just how much you love them!

This recipe was inspired by the C'est La Vegan blog.

I give you - Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes!

Here's what you'll need:

1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
½ cup dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 Tbs. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
¾ cups sugar
½ cup cherry soy
½ cup vanilla (or plain) soy milk
½ cup canola oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. almond extract
10oz. frozen cherries (or fresh cherries, but the frozen are pitted & cheaper!)  I chopped the larger cherries in quarters & halfed the smaller cherries.

Sift all dry ingredients except the sugar.

Why do we sift?
Because we don't want clumpy cocoa in our yummy cupcake!
Now we're ready to mix...

Preheat oven to 350 (F).
Mix the sugar and soy yogurt until just blended.
Add about 2/3 of the sifted mixture a few big spoonfulls at a time.
Then add your milk/oil/extract mixture...
Add remaining dry ingredients & then remaining wet.  Adding the ingredients this way ensures a firm moist cake.  ;o)
Do not over mix ingridents, mix until just combined:
You don't want your cake to be chewy!
Scrape sides & beater, fold in any unmixed parts as you fold in the cherries...
I mean, if you don't want to eat this right now, you should consider talking to a therapist.

Line muffin tin with papers (pink & white here for the holiday) & fill 1/2 - 3/4 full.

Pop 'em in the over for 20-25 minutes.

In the mean time, you can start on the Butter Cream Frosting...
You'll need:
4oz. Vegan Cream Cheese
1/2 stick vegan butter
2-2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Cream butter and cream cheese until thoroughly combined (maybe 2-3 minutes).
Add powdered sugar & vanilla until combined.  Check the consistancy, if you want it thicker, add more powdered sugar.

Frost your cupcakes & voila!
I topped mine with some organic truffles I picked up at Earth Fare.  I wanted to make little chocolate hearts, but I got started late & it just wasn't in me.  I guess I'll have to make something chocolatey soon.  Oh, the horror.

Happy Valentine's Day, Ya'll!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

It's Nada Enchilada!

I love Mexican food more than Speedy Gonzalez loves his sombrero. I could eat it at least twice a week, probably more.

This recipe was inspired by an Amy’s frozen dinner:

I saw it in Earth Fare over the weekend and it looked sooo good; the price tag, however, did not. One of these little frozen entrées runs around $3.99. My thrifty side kicked in & I figured out I could make four to six servings for around $8.00; granted not all the ingredients I used were organic (as Amy’s are).

So, here’s what I used:
1 small can chopped green chilies
1 small can sliced black olives
1 can refried beans
1 can black beans (soak ‘em if you got ‘em…I was in a hurry & hungry!)
8 corn tortillas
1 medium can red enchilada sauce
1 medium onion; diced/chopped
1 Jalapeño (if you likey the spicy)
2 tsp. taco seasoning (from this blog)
Pepper Jack Almond Cheese...Don't forget the cheese!!

Sauté diced onion with about 1 tsp oil for about 2 minutes. Add taco seasoning and jalapeño and sauté for a good five minutes.
Add green chilies, black beans and half the enchilada sauce and cook until heated through (this is when you should taste it to see if you’d like more seasonings).

Meanwhile, mix remaining enchilada sauce with refried beans (I microwave them for about 30 seconds so it mixes easier).
Just be a grown up and get over how it looks.

Heat oven to 350 degrees (F) and begin to layer your ingredients: Tortillas, bean mixture, Sauce/Veggie mixture, olives and cheese. Repeat. That’s how I layered, but you can do it any way you like.
Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes.

While it’s baking, you can prep your garnish:

When 20 minutes is up, uncover and bake for another 10 minutes.

When you take it out, let is set for at least 5 minutes.
There ya go.

And if $2 per serving isn’t exciting enough, see how this little creation stacks up to the meatier versions:
Now, you could shave off a even more fat and calories if you left out the cheese and black olives. I l♥ve black olives and this brand of almond cheese really melts and tastes great. You could also sub Mexican rice for the refried beans. I thought about doing that, but the hubby has a “thing” about Mexican rice.  It baffles me.

So, play with it and let me know what variations you come up with!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Pack a Protein Punch!

Well, better late than never!  My blogging intentions are good; my mandatory house, pet, husband, job and social needs just impede on those good intentions.

Without further ado, I give you: Garlic Parmesan Quinoa
Delicious, hearty, pretty and packed with good-for-you protein and fiber!

What the heck is quinoa?  I'm glad you asked - here's the Wiki answer!

Here's what you'll need:
1 tbsp soy butter
1 small onion, diced
2 cups broth
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup uncooked quinoa
Salt to taste
1-2 cups fresh spinach (or 10oz pkg frozen)
¼ vegan parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast

In a medium sized pan, sauté the onion and garlic in butter (or olive oil) over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes, until onions are just soft. Reduce heat to medium low.

Add the vegetable broth and quinoa. Cover, and allow to simmer until liquid is mostly absorbed and quinoa is cooked, about fifteen minutes. Add parm and spinach; cook just until the spinach wilts.

I served this with some marinaded tofu (super yummy marinade, thanks Jené)!

A yummy sauce inspired by my recent trip to the Asian market
1 tsp chili bean sauce + 1 tsp rice vinegar = seriously kick ass sauce

Here's what you end up with
Serves 6 people

Nutritional Info per serving (approximately):
Calories:  266
Fiber:  7g
Protein:  13g

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Happy and Healthy 2011!

It’s a New Year and time for new decisions. Many people will get back on the diet bandwagon; a decision which will be bitter-sweet for most of them. Personally, I hate the word “diet”. It is a misconstrued four-letter word which evokes visions of supermodels dancing through one’s head. Since the majority of us fall under the shorter than 5’10” category and check the older than 25 box, we can do ourselves a favor and put the supermodel image to bed already. We cannot, however, put to bed our health.
Make a decision this year to be healthy, not “skinny”! Make healthy choices and your body will follow. Make your insides happy and you will be happy – it’s as simple as that.
As a vegan, I’m frequently asked how I get my protein. The recommended dietary allowance for both men and women is 0.8 grams of protein for every 2.2 pounds of body weight (people with special needs, such as pregnant women, are advised to get a little more).
Our bodies – hair, muscles, fingernails, etc... – are made up mostly of different kinds of protein that consist of varying combinations of amino acids. In much the same way that the 26 letters of the alphabet can form millions of different words, 20 amino acids serve to form different proteins. Half these amino acids can be manufactured by the human body, the other 10 cannot. These remaining amino acids are easily obtained by eating a balanced vegan diet.
I always stress how careful you must be when ingesting animal proteins. The consumption of animal protein has been linked to some types of cancer, Alzheimer’s and other avoidable diseases. Plant-based protein sources contain healthy fiber and complex carbohydrates.

So, here is your Easy Protein Formula:
Your Weight ÷ 2.2 x 0.8 = Your recommended per day protein amount.

My recommended intake is around 44 grams. I was curious to see how many grams of protein I was actually getting, so I tracked my meals for a couple days and found I could use a bit more. I was getting between 26-38 grams of protein per day, so I need to try to work in about 10 more grams per day. I stocked up on beans, grains and tofu at the store and will try to whip together some tasty vegan dishes over the next few days.
Here’s to getting as healthy and happy as we can be! Happy 2011!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Pressed Tofu and Vegan Egg Salad

I crave certain foods that you wouldn’t think would translate into vegan. But, by golly they do! I used to love egg salad sandwiches and I knew it would be hard to give them up. It was more of a sentimental thing, actually. I think that’s why food is so important to most of us; and why it is so inconceivable for some to make the vegetarian/vegan leap. Cookouts and homemade ice cream are more than just a good meal; it is the heart of many summer memories. I too have felt tugs at my heartstrings when thinking I’d never eat a specific type of food again. People often tell me, “I could never do that” when thinking about going vegan. They also say they could never slaughter an animal for consumption. Smart, successful, driven people tell me “I can’t do that”. What I believe they’re really saying is, “I don’t want to because I’m afraid of what I’ll miss.”

I’m going to tell you (in my best Waterboy impression), “You can do it!”

You can have everything you had before AND you can be healthy and happy! Not only will you gain health, your choices will benefit hundreds of animals and our planet. Did you know that on average, a vegetarian saves over 100 animal lives each year? In turn, this saves land, grain, water and reduces dangerous methane gasses. The benefits far outweigh what you “think” you’re going to lose. Below is proof: An Eggless Egg Salad Sandwich! Put on your big girl panties and get ready to make an awesome change!

First you’re going to want to press your tofu. Since tofu was a mystery to me, literally for years, I’m going to help out with the basics. You’re almost always going to want to drain your tofu at least a little. Depending on what you’re making, you may want to press it for 5 minutes up to overnight. The more you press, the more water you take out, the chewier it will be. Also, you can replace the liquid you press out with any kind of marinade you want! I’ve had some seriously tasty tofu and I get really mad when people talk bad about it! It is delicious and healthy and very filling.  And it won't attack your heart! 

Step 1: Cut the tofu into 3 lengthwise slabs, like so…
Step 2: Wrap the 3 slabs in a clean tea towel (or paper towels)…

Step 3: Put some kind of even weight on the tofu to encourage draining (I used a small cutting board and a jar of pizza sauce, just use whatever is handy to you).
NOTE: If you’re using silken tofu for this recipe, it will be best to drain your tofu using the same method (wrapped in a towel), but place in a colander over a bowl. Silken tofu has more water and a different texture than the NaSoya brand pictured. Also, freezing your tofu will give it more of a “chew”. Here are some other helpful Tofu Tips.

I let this tofu drain on the counter for about 1 hour (any longer than an hour and you should put in the fridge.

After letting it drain, gather all your ingredients:
¼ cup dill pickle relish (or onion or celery, whatever floats your boat)
Just crumble the tofu with your fingers (about the size you’d cut your eggs if making egg salad).

¼ cup vegan mayo
1 Tbs. Dijon/wheat mustard
1 ½ Tbs. lemon juice
1 tsp. sea salt
¼ tsp. white pepper
¼ tsp. turmeric
1 heaping tsp. nutritional yeast
Optional Herbs: dill, chives, basil, parsley, tarragon
I used about 1 Tbs. parsley and 1 Tbs. basil because they’re still growing in my window box!

Mix all the wet ingredients, spices and nutritional yeast together, being careful to not mush the tofu, just stir. Then fold in your dill relish (or onions/celery) and herbs and you’re done! (Taste and add more of whatever you think you need more of).  This is delicious as a sandwich, on toast points, pita, and little endive boats make very lovely apetizers!

The Lindsay List: High Holiday Recipes: Vegan "Egg" Salad Sandwiches from Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Diet on Foodista

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Tacos with a Side of Love

This is what we had for dinner last night...
It was oh-so-delicious! The hubby liked it (which is always what I inform meat eaters about a vegan dish). If it’s Husband Approved, it’s good to go!

Here’s what you’ll need...

1 package frozen Boca (or Morning Star, etc) Soy Crumbles
1 Alton Brown Taco Spice Mix
2 Tbs. chili powder
   1 Tbs. ground cumin
   2 tsp. cornstarch
   2 tsp. kosher salt
   1 ½ tsp. hot smoked paprika
   1 tsp. ground coriander
   ½ tsp. cayenne pepper
1-2 Tbs. oil (canola, safflower, veg, etc.) or ¼ cup veggie broth
1 Medium Onion
Tortillas (preferably corn b/c it’s better for you!)
Vegan Sour Cream
Lettuce, tomato, [vegan] cheese, other toppings

A Side of Love:
2 (15 ounce) cans cooked black beans
2 Tbs. oil (canola, safflower, veg, coconut, etc.)
2 Tbs. minced yellow onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. kosher salt
¼ cup masa de harina (or corn meal)
Tomatillo [green] Salsa

First, let’s start on the taco “meat”:
Heat 1 Tbs. oil in a sauté pan of your choice. Add onion & sauté about 1 minute; add 1 Tbs. of the taco seasoning and cook on medium heat for another 2-3 minutes. Add soy crumbles (totally fine if they’re frozen) and 1 more Tbs. of taco seasoning. Cook about 3-5 minutes (until it has thawed) and decide if you need to add more oil. You’ll probably need to since soy crumbles have a lot less fat than ground beef.
   1 lb of Ground beef = 1,200 Calories, 93.6g fat & 37.6 saturated fat!
Dude, good thing you’re using soy crumbles!!
Taste your mixture to see if you’d like another Tbs. of taco seasoning (I did!). It was perfect after that!

Move the onion/soy crumble mixture to the back burner and let it relax for a bit. Time to make taco shells. Why not buy them? Because the taste like cardboard and you don’t like cardboard, do ya??

Preheat oven to 350F. Look around your kitchen and see what you can fashion into a taco shaper. My husband suggested his rib rack holder-thingie.
Worked great! I used a little foil to hold the tortilla in place for the first 4 minutes, then took it off and baked another 4 minutes.

Now…it’s time for a Side of Love!
You might be asking yourself, what the hell is a side of love? Technically it is two black bean cakes topped with tomatillo salsa, sour cream, feta cheese and red onions. I had this at a restaurant in Atlanta, GA called The Flying Biscuit. It seemed easy enough to recreate, so I did…with my own spin.

Directions for a Side of Love:

Rinse and drain black beans in a colander. In a small sauté pan heat 1 Tbs. of the oil over medium heat. Cook onion, garlic, cumin and salt until onions are translucent.
Place beans & onion mixture in a bowl and mash with a potato masher until well combined (I like to leave a few whole beans for texture). Gradually add masa, allowing mixture to absorb it before adding more. Test dough by rolling it in the palm of your hand. Keep adding masa until dough doesn’t stick to your hand and holds the shape of a ball.
Divide dough into 12-14 balls and flatten into cakes. Mine were about “large golf ball” sized.

Place a large skillet over medium heat and add the remaining 1 tablespoon of canola oil. Sauté cakes until lightly browned on each side, about 3 to 5 minutes per side. I topped mine with green salsa, soy cheese, vegan sour cream and banana peppers.
Voila! A healthy, yummy, interesting and attractive dinner!
All this took me about an hour (start to finish), so it wasn’t that bad. Plus, leftovers tonight should only take about 10 minutes or less!

Vegan Taco Salad