Friday, June 27, 2008

June 26 & 27 food

I'm eating the same thing every day in the hotel so not much to post. Today I stocked up on supplies at the Wedge Co-op, an excellent grocery store.

Breakfast: 16 oz box of strawberries, 6 oz box of blueberries, handful of walnuts

Lunch: salad mix, half an avocado, mushrooms, red pepper. dessert: cherries. mmmm

Snacks: banana, apple, orange, carrot, watermelon

Dinner: salad mix, spoonful each of raw sunflower and pumpkin seeds, mushrooms, red pepper. dessert: grapes. sometimes I just add the grapes to the salad.

The golf tournament is quite fun too.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

June 25 food

Now for the fun experiment of eating healthy in a hotel. I brought this food in an electric cooler.

Breakfast: 4 oz strawberries, 3 oz blueberries, 3 oz raspberries, baby spring mix and baby herb mix from bags, handful of walnuts. Yummy! To make life easy, I did not cut this stuff up and put it in a bowl. I rinsed the berries in a bowl, dumped the water, and then just ate them with my fingers. then I rinsed the salad mixes in a bowl, dumped the water, and ate them with my fingers. good stuff. The dill in one of the mixes was a nice touch. Then ate my walnuts.

Snack: carrot, apple.

Lunch: the rest of the berries (same amount as before). more salad mix. some mushrooms. part of a red pepper. half an avocado. Next time I'll probably not bother with avocado. You have to cut it--then I just scooped it out with a spoon and ate it, but then I had to wash a knife and spoon (no soap required but I'm not in the mood for utensils in a hotel room). I felt the same way about the red pepper until I ate it. Boy was it good. I sliced a chunk of the red pepper and ate it and decided using a knife for that was acceptable. I just ate these things one at a time until I was full. I tried to eat a lot because then I headed off to the golf tournament for several hours.

Dinner: more of the same. salad mix, mushrooms, carrots, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds, orange for dessert. I did the same thing, ate them one at a time--oh, I did add the seed to the salad mix. This is fun because you really taste each ingredient. It's not something I'd do at home where I have a kitchen to work in, but it works great in a hotel.

Before leaving home I punched these foods into "" to see if it I was going to get enough (or too much) calories or protein. Well, I actually don't need that much protein since I won't be working out like I usually do, but it was very illuminating. Mushrooms have a ton of protein per calorie! As do salad greens. The rest have about 10% protein which is plenty. So I realized I don't need the nuts and seeds for protein, I just need a minimum amount (of the nuts and seeds) for the healthy fats (omega-3s etc) and because they aid in absorption of nutrients, according to Dr. Fuhrman. And I realized I can eat whatever I want of the rest and won't gain weight. That's what Fuhrman as been saying all along and I am slowly catching on.

June 24 rant

I'm in a hotel for several nights with 2 friends. Last night After I ate my dinner smoothie, I accompanied my friends to Denny's (next door) for dinner. That stuff doesn't even look like food to me anymore. Is it? One friend got nachos and the other got a BLT and fries. It's all so processed. Even the "fresh" veggies like the pico de gallo sauce on the nachos are probably made by one of those food-delivery mega-corporations like Cisco; it probably had preservatives on it and they were probably the cheapest, low-quality veggies since profit is the bottom line here. Even the fries, which used to tempt me, didn't look appealing to me, because I wondered how the oil was made, how old it was, how long ago were those potatoes sliced and frozen and plus they were loaded with salt. The food came very quickly so the bacon was probably already cooked up too (at least that was probably done in the kitchen). I don't mean to single out Denny's. I mean to condemn them all. Substitute 98% of restaurants and I would feel the same. I sound like a real weirdo but the more I eat real food, the more I think this other stuff is not food. okay, it's food but it's not healthy. One thing I'm starting to realize, which Dr. Fuhrman says a lot, but I was slow catching on, is that not only does this SAD (Standard American Diet) food have harmful things in it like too much fat and animal protein, but perhaps even more importantly is what it lacks in micronutrients, like you get in leafy green vegetables. These micronutrients do so many things like fight cancer, keep your skin and nails and hair healthy, fight inflammation, and much more. My house-mate's health has improved since I've been feeding her 2 good meals a day. So even though I wish I could convince her to quit the junk she eats the rest of the time, I can see that the healthy food has an effect.

June 24 food

Today we headed off to Minneapolis to watch a golf tournament (US Women's Open). I loaded up with supplies at the grocery store and put them in an electric cooler. These coolers are nice,because they don't require ice--you plug them into your car outlet. And there is an attachment for plugging into a wall when you get to your hotel. But I didn't have to break into the supplies yet today as breakfast and lunch were at home and I brought a smoothie for dinner (happened to have one in the freezer). Today's meals:

Breakfast: blueberry smoothie

Lunch: steamed asparagus and broccoli and carrots. My meal was mostly asparagus and broccoli stems, and I gave housemate the broccoli trees and carrots (I don't mind the stems). I added lemon and fresh herbs from the garden (chives, dill, basil, cilantro, parlsey, a little of each but a lot of chives) and a bit of date sugar. It was delicious.

Snacks: apple, banana, orange, grapes

Dinner: green smoothie

Monday, June 23, 2008

Edamame and pesto

Frozen bag of edamame (not shelled)
Frozen pesto made from the garden last summer (several spoonfuls)

Take the edamame and pesto out of the freezer. Boil water, add the edamame, bring to boil and boil for 4 minutes. Defrost the pesto in the microwave, add it to the edamame. Then you make a big mess eating it. It's very fun. The edamame is in its shell so you bite it and squish out the beans. And your fingers get pesto all over them. It's as messy as a crawfish/shrimp boil or crab/lobster dinner, only no one is hurt by it. This only takes 10 minutes to prepare, and is delicious.

Oil-free Pesto

I modified this from Isa Chandra Moskowitz' Vegan With a Vengeance cookbook. The traditional pesto recipes use basil, pine nuts, parmesan cheese, olive oil and lemon. The vegan recipes substitute nutritional yeast for the parmesan cheese. I've tried this and don't like the combination of pine nuts and nutritional yeast. Isa substitutes walnuts for the pine nuts and I think this works better. She also puts in a lot of olive oil and salt which I leave out. and I put in less nutritional yeast. 

1/2 cup walnuts
3 cups packed basil leaves
3 cloves garlic
1-2 Tbsp water
1-2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
2 Tbsp lemon juice

Combine the walnuts, basil and garlic in a food processor. Add in the water and lemon. Add in the nutritional yeast. Blend until it's grainy, but not a puree.

Baked plantain

I saw a plantain in the store and it looked intriguing. It's kind of like a banana. The description said that it's ripe when it turns black, and when it's not ripe, you'll need to cook it. Well, I'm leaving town and the plantain was almost black but not quite. So I decided to bake it. Here's the "recipe":

1 plantain, peeled, cut into coins (like you usually do a banana)
lemon or orange juice (fresh squeezed)
a bunch of date sugar on a plate

Preheat oven to 350 F. I squeezed the lemon into a bowl of water and added the plantains. I thought the lemon might add a little flavor and perhaps "tendorize" the plantain. Next, place each plantain piece into the date sugar to coat it. Put it on a pizza pan or cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Turn over. Bake for another 5-10 or whenever it starts to smell good. This is like dessert. Yum.

June 23 food

Not much time to write, but I made a fun dish so can't resist. Today I ate whatever was left in the fridge and fruit bowl, because I'm going out of town tomorrow. It was all great.

Breakfast: Raspberry smoothie

Lunch: leftover beans, salad, baked plantain (yummy). The salad consisted of iceberg lettuce + lettuce greens, green pepper, mango topped with cilantro and parsley from the garden and ground up sunflower and pumpkin seeds (raw). The seeds dried it up a bit so next time I'd probably combine them with a fresh squeezed orange before topping. It was good. For housemate, I made steamed new potatoes and carrots, topped with lemon, chives, dill, and parsley (from the garden), and just a touch of date sugar

Snack: mushrooms, carrots

Dinner: edamame with pesto. One of my favorites and it only takes 10 minutes!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

June 22 food

At some point I'll stop blogging each day's food. But I want to show examples of how you can eat healthy in a variety of situations, for example, in social settings, or when the refrigerator is getting empty. Today is a bit of a mixture of those. Tomorrow I'll be eating whatever is left in the refrigerator as we empty it out before a trip.

Breakfast: banana strawberry smoothie

Lunch: Spinach smoothie and a few fresh vegetables from the lunch line: carrot, apple slices, tomatoes. I was at a luncheon after church. The smoothie is delicious and filling so I don't care how little of the other food I get. It's also easier to bring a smoothie to the table than my own prepared lunch, since it just looks like a drink. I had some leftover beans when I got home. I'm trying to finish them off even though I am ready for a break from beans.

Dessert: walnut stuff in a date, microwaved for 10 seconds.

Snack: grapes, carrot

Dinner: Big salad made from leftovers from yesterday: iceberg lettuce (contrary to popular opinion, this is reasonably nutritious), salad greens, mushrooms, tomato, mango, 1/2 avocado. Added some cilantro and chives from the garden. This was so tasty it didn't need any dressing. I find that if I add fruit or berries to a salad I don't really want dressing. Or other times I am in the mood for my favorite orange-cashew dressing so I don't add fruit to the salad.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

A New Paradigm

When I became a vegan, I learned how to cook all over again, and it was fun. Now I feel like I'm rethinking food again. I've always relied on recipes but now I feel they aren't so necessary. Just mix vegetables and fruit and make wonderful concoctions. I'm even rethinking beans, which I considered a staple--the bloating and gas is getting old, plus it pushes out of the diet some delicious vegetables and fruit. It's really fun to mix whatever vegetables and fruit is in your fridge, and shop for whatever looks interesting instead of what is on your list from a recipe plan. It's all easier, fast to prepare, and tastes great. Vegetables and fruits---these are the most delicious foods! Why are we taught to think of these last? I think it's because the food companies want you to spend your money on their products. Even vegans are taught this as we replace our meat with tofu and tempeh and seitan and grains, and aim to make vegan baked goods as decadent as the animal products kind, and exclaim that we do not in fact eat like rabbits. Vegetables and fuits should be the centerpiece, not the afterthought, and we should eat like rabbits (actually I'm not sure what rabbits eat but greens and carrots come to mind). Next week I'll be eating from a cooler in my hotel room. So I'll be eating raw: bagged salad mixes, berries, nuts and fruits. Should be delicious compared to my compatriots who will be eating hotdogs and hamburgers at the food stands (we going to a golf tournament). More on that in a few days.

Curried Mustard Greens

Edited July 1. much better!

This may seem weird but I avoid buying things in a can or bottle or box. Some reasons include laziness (another ingredient to add to the shopping list and the cupboard); not wanting to support mega-corporations; cans and bottles (e.g., of juice or soy milk) and jars add too much weight and volume to my bike bags; and I don't like reading labels to make sure it's vegan and healthy. So I didn't have any coconut milk which is a common ingredient for a curry sauce, so I made a cashew sauce instead. After making this recipe the first time, I thought it needed some sweetening. Coincidentally, Elijah posted his own curry sauce invention on the Fuhrman forums, and he used a banana. That sounded like a good idea, so I tried it and I think it works well. I also added garlic and mushrooms second time through and that was a nice addition.  Third time through I added ginger and shaved coconut (dried) and red pepper flakes.  I thought this was as good as any restaurant curry I've ever had.    This would probably work with a lot of different greens:  swiss chard, bok choy, kale, even collard greens though you'd need to cook the collard greens longer

1 onion, thinly sliced
1-4 cloves garlic (depends on how much you like garlic)
Large bunch or bunches of mustard greens, yum
sliced mushrooms (however much you like, okay if you insist on an amount, 2/3 cup)
1.5 oz raw cashews (1/4 cup)
1 banana
1 date, remove pit
some grapes, say 1 cup, slice each in half.
1 Tbsp minced or diced ginger
2 Tbsp shaved coconut (optional)
ground black pepper or diced hot pepper or red pepper flakes (i.e., your preference for spiciness)

I sliced the onion thinly and then cut them in quarters. Do it however you want, but you don't need it finely diced. Start cooking the onion in a large fry pan with plenty of water. Wash the mustard greens, rip the stems out, and cut or tear into medium size pieces (few inches on a side). chop the garlic and add.  Dice the ginger and add.  Chop the mushrooms and add. Add the curry powder and pepper and shaved coconut. Put a lid on the pan, make sure there is enough water (not too much, but enough so it doesn't boil away and burn), and let it cook. Blend the cashews, date, banana in some water (half cup or so) in a powerful blender until smooth. Cut up the grapes. Check the greens. when you think there's about 5 minutes left, add the grapes and the cashew-banana sauce. I didn't wait, because I was hungry. I'd say the greens cooked about 15 minutes when I added the grapes and cashew-banana sauce. You can cook them 20-30 minutes if you want them more tender. Add water as needed to make the sauce however thick you want.

The only substantial fat in this is the cashews so if you keep it within your daily allotment, you can eat this whole thing in one sitting, or share with a friend.  You can  add this to rice, but it tastes good on its own.  I'm eating all the vegetables and fruit I can while they are still affordable.  I'll wait for the economic crisis to add the filler grains.  

I bet mango would be a good substitute for grapes. I just can't get my mangos to ripen well in Wisconsin. I think they are shipped really unripe.

June 21 food

Today we had family visit. House-mate prepared them a meal of meatloaf, baked potatoes, salad, peas and corn. (yuck, I cleaned up carefully after the meatloaf preparation). Housemate's mother brought cake. And they had ice cream too. And milk and cheese on their salad and butter on their rolls. I don't feel critical or superior towards them because they think they are eating very healthy food, and that their declining health is a natural part of aging. This is what I thought 3 years ago, because this is what we are all taught, and I only stumbled on my discovery by accident. I am angry at the food and medical and pharmacuetical industries who are happy to profit off of people's declining health instead of letting them cure themselves through a healthy and delicious diet. I am a coward because I don't try to convince people I love that they can become healthy from changing their diets. I just quietly eat my food. I need to work on this. Here's what I ate today:

Breakfast: smoothie

Lunch: yesterday's beans on (small) baked sweet potato, steamed asparagus with lemon and ground sunflower seeds, peas and corn, salad.

Snack: grapes, apple, small peach

Dinner: Curried mustard greens. The family had pizza delivered. I enjoyed my meal as much as I recall enjoying pizza.

Dessert: Strawberries and mango (small bowl). The mango I've been eating lately is a smallish yellow one from Mexico, not the more common large green-red one from South America. The larger ones taste better when properly ripened, but in Wisconsin we get them really unripe and they don't ripen well in my kitchen--they ripen at as they wrinkle instead of ripening first. So the Mexican ones work better for me right now.

After the guests left, I made some green smoothies, because I might need one for a luncheon event after church tomorrow. I'm finding that bringing your own food and not apologizing about it seems to work just fine.

Friday, June 20, 2008

How my health has improved

I stumbled onto healthy eating when I became a vegan in July 2005, at age 45. I didn't have any serious health problems, yet, but they were starting. My weight had increased a couple pounds every year since my mid-30s, so by this time I was 158 lbs. I am 5' 9" tall so I wasn't technically overweight but I've never had much muscle on my frame so this extra weight was all fat. And it was a bit uncomfortable, especially while flying on airplanes for some reason, maybe because we're packed in so tight. I had daily indigestion and thought I had acid reflux disease (GERD?). I had a heart murmur, heartbeat irregularities, and I figured a heart attack was in my future, just like my mother and grandmother before me. My mother, who had always watched her weight, had a heart attack a day after she ran 5 miles. I had hip pain, backaches and shoulder aches. Right around the time I became vegetarian (May 2005), I had just bought a pair of size 16 jeans and recall accepting to myself that this is my new size and this is a natural part of aging.

When I went vegan, I ate pretty healthy food, in part out of ignorance (I didn't know about vegan ice cream!): grains, vegetables, beans, and fruit, and I continued to cook with oil. After about 9 months I started cutting out the oil, after discovering the McDougall, Fuhrman, and PCRM websites. I discovered the fatfreevegan website, which had great oil-free recipes.   Caffeine, alcohol, salt, and those last occasional splurges on a vegan cupcake or cookie, were the last things I "gave up", each in steps, but by the time I was ready to "give them up", it was more a desire not to have them because I didn't enjoy how I felt after eating them.   Here is how my health has improved since adopting a healthy diet:

1) Indigestion went away immediately when I quit dairy. I discovered this by accident when I was traveling to Mexico and then Sicily in May 2005, and it was warm and I didn't feel like drinking milk (normally I drank about 2 glasses per day). About 2 weeks into the trip, it dawned on me that I didn't have the daily burping and night-time indigestion which had previously made it difficult for me to fall asleep. Once I had the idea it was related to dairy, it was easy to experiment and discover that indeed milk caused digestion problems, so I was likely lactose intolerant. This also made it easier for me to choose to go vegan a few months later.

2) I lost 30 pounds without trying, over a period of about 9 months. I lost another 10 lbs over the next few years. This made me feel much better. Due to my lower body fat, and a lower metabolism, I am colder in winter. However, in summer, I don't get uncomfortably hot anymore. This feels much better. I can add clothes when I'm cold, but it's harder to deal with being too hot.

3) My heart stopped its irregular and skipped beats.   I get my healthy omega-3 fats from green vegetables.  For added insurance I usually include a Tbsp of ground flax or chia seeds.  

4) My cholesterol went down. I avoid doctors so I don't have good records of this, but when I was 38 years old, it was 155. A year after becoming vegan, when I was 46 years old, it was 131. I don't have numbers for a year before becoming vegan which would be interesting. There are lots of success stories on the Fuhrman and McDougall websites that document dramatic cholesterol lowering from changing their diets.

5) This one amazes me the most: My aerobic capacity is unbelievable now. I have to work hard to get out of breath. I used to be the most out of breath of anyone, just going up a flight of stairs, even though I've always been an exerciser. Even though I'm older and have less muscle power than most people at my gym, I sometimes kick butt when we do the heavy aerobic activities like stair climbing and sprinting--not because I'm fast, which I'm not, but because I recover faster in between and can catch up, eventually passing most people. I now realize that all adults who eat the Standard American Diet have heart disease. I had it too before my diet change. My resting heart-beat is about 47 beats per minute. All my life since I first took my pulse in the 8th grade, it was in the upper 60s at its lowest. My blood pressure is 95/57. Yes, most doctors think this is too low but that's compared to people eating a Standard American Diet (SAD).

6) My periods got much lighter and less painful. I no longer required medication (I used to take ibuprofen). This started in spring 2006 (about 9 months after becoming vegan). Then in spring 2008 I got my first skipped period. Then in Nov. 2008 I had another. I stopped having periods in Jan 2009 and have had no other symptoms of menopause. Okay, that right there should be enough to turn women on to healthy eating. I turned 49 in Apr. 2009.  Dr. Fuhrman says that a pre-menopausal woman who has eaten healthy for a long enough time produces less estrogen and has more estrogen receptors. Then when you go through menopause, the drop in estrogen is less dramatic, plus you have more of the receptors, so you don't have many, if any, symptoms. Maybe I got lucky and have been nutritarian for just long enough to get these benefits. what luck!

7) My allergies went away. I used to get them in spring and late summer, and it interfered with my favorite mode of transportation, biking, which seemed to make it worse (the wind got more stuff in my eyes I think). Now they are gone.  This diet can cure a host of other inflammatory conditions including arthritis.

8) My hip pain went away. My aunt and mother get this too. Before healthy eating, I was taking ibuprofen on a regular basis (several times a week!). It was worst at night when I was going to sleep. All gone! When my aunt stopped eating dairy, the same thing happened to her. And when she eats dairy it comes back.

9) My skin has a lovely orange tint to it now. My skin used to be so pale that doctors thought I was anemic. Now people ask me where I got my tan in the middle of winter (I live in Wisconsin which has long winters). I've been told I look "golden and radiant" (needless to say, I loved hearing that). It's from eating all the leafy green vegetables, and carrots and sweet potatoes.

10) My gum disease went away. I was getting bleeding when I flossed and had a particularly bad spot and cleanings were painful especially in that bad spot where they dug into it (ouch) and the dentists were telling me I was in the beginning stages of gum disease and that's a normal part of aging. Now my gums never bleed, and the dentists and hygenists remark about the health of my gums. Vegans tend to have a more alkaline pH than meat eaters, so I wonder if that's why my gums are healthier, in addition to my nutrient-rich diet.

11) My bad breath went away (as far as I know). I used to chew gum to keep my breath fresh. Gave that up. and it turns out the artificial sweetener is bad for you--affects your insulin production like real sugar (and therefore causes weight gain). no thanks to that.

12) Constipation, hemorroids became a thing of the past. knock on wood.

13) I don't get as tired after eating, especially in the afternoon. I have lots of energy throughout the day, until night-time when I get totally exhausted (because I became an exercise fanatic after getting my health back) and go to bed. I don't seem to need as much sleep as I used to. 

14) This is a benefit my housemate received. She eats whatever I cook (but unfortunately, supplements with white bread, cookies, coke, and candy bars). She used to get bouts of diarhea every few weeks. These have disappeared. Was it the E. coli bacteria in meat? I probably wasn't that careful in the kitchen. You have to treat your kitchen like a hazardous waste center when you have meat and dairy in the house. Or maybe she just didn't digest meat well. All we know is, she never gets diarhea anymore, knock on wood.

15) I used to get lower back pain and shoulder pain on a regular basis, and throw out my back or shoulder every few years. This was from about the age of 35 - 45. I get none of it now. I'm not sure how much is due to my yoga and exercise classes that have built up core, shoulder, and arm strength, and how much is due to diet which can heal or hurt your joints. I think it's a mixture.

16) I used to get nosebleeds a lot in the winter (every day or two) and thought it was due to the dry indoor air. I don't get them anymore. Maybe it's because my blood pressure went down.

17) I don't stink nearly as much as I used to in all my various orifices including my regular skin. My sweat is mostly water, and doesn't taste salty. As a result, I don't need to replace electrolytes when I exercise heavily because I'm not losing them in the first place! A little water is all I need.

collard greens

1 bunch collard greens
an onion, or half of one depending on your mood
a few cloves garlic (0-4 depending on your preferences)
1 tsp - 1 Tbsp vinegar (optional), I prefer Dr. Fuhrman's spicy pecan
or lemon juice
pepper (optional)
red pepper flakes (optional)
minced ginger (say, 1 Tbsp, optional)
spoonful of date sugar (optional, if you are using lemon, may keep it from being too tart)
spices (optional)

Chop the onion, start boiling in water water to cover. Chop the garlic, add. Wash each collard green, remove stem, chop, add to pan. Add the red pepper flakes and spices.   Add vinegar or lemon at some point (I'm actually not sure when.  It's supposed to cut down on the bitter taste so that makes me think it should be early in the cooking process, but a lot of people don't add it until it's served on their plates, so I don't know--if you know, let me know).

No need to add in all the optional things.  These are just variations I've tried depending on what was or was not on hand.  For example, once I didn't have garlic, but I had ginger.  Once I used lemon juice and then thought it might need some date sugar (so I've only added date sugar once after making this hundreds of times).    If you have leeks, try them instead of onions.  or green onions.  or ramps.   if you have nothing but collard greens, they are probably going to taste great all by themselves, so go for it.  Add some beets if you happen to have them.  Or sweet potato (wait until the end to add them because they only take 5-10 minutes).    

You might be wondering, isn't steaming healthier, since you wouldn't lose as much nutrients to the water? I like steamed kale but I prefer boiled collard greens. I use not too much water, say 1/2 cup, and add a little if necessary to it doesn't boil dry. As long as there's not too much liquid left at the end, you will ingest most of the nutrients. I cook it up for about 20-30 minutes. 


This is easy, delicious and has lots of protein.

2 cups dried beans (or so; I mean, if you have 1.5-2.5 in your jar, that will be fine)
1 onion, or more if you have extra or small ones etc, and depending on your mood
few cloves garlic

Go back into time to the night before. Rinse the beans and then soak them. Put a lot more water than beans because the beans will absorb a lot. Next morning, rinse the beans, add water, this time not so much, maybe only an inch above the beans. Turn on the stove. Chop the onion and garlic and add. Pick out your spices and add. You can let the beans boil, or if you are like me and are running off to your exercise class, just turn the stove to the place where you know they will simmer at (medium-low on my stove), put the lid on, and run out the door. I have a roommate who can make sure the house doesn't burn down. This only takes 10 minutes. Then when you come home after your long morning of exercise/work/goofing off, the beans are ready. If you don't have a house-mate and don't want to leave the burner on, a crockpot on high will work but will take longer. But that's okay, have them for dinner.

Now, for the spices. This is fun to experiment with. For white beans, I've been using "Fines Herbs," "Herbs du Province," and Bouquet Garni. These are just mixtures and are not necessary, I just happen to have them and was looking for something to put them in. Herbs de provence has savory, thyme, rosemary, basil, tarragon, lavendar flowers. Bouquet Garni has savory, rosemary, thyme, oregano, basil, dill, marjoram, sage, and tarragon. Most people have thyme and basil and that would work fine. Oregano would probably be good too. I'd total maybe 3 tsp of spices. But that is a personal choice. For pinto beans I've been using cumin and I think oregano. In the summer I add herbs from the garden at the table.

I've found adding a can of tomatoes to both pinto and white beans is also good. We can our garden tomatoes and have them all year round.

Adding all the ingredients at the beginning adds flavor to the beans and it's so easy!

June 20th food

Breakfast: smoothie

snack: apple and small peach

Lunch: collard greens and a bowl of beans. Last night I was looking at Ruth Heidrich's $5 CHEF/Raw cookbook (I recommend it) and she was talking about spices and reminded me of ginger and cinnamon. So I added both to the collard greens and beans and it was good. I also added a touch of Dr. Fuhrman's Spicy Pecan vinegar to the collard greens. I'm not a big fan of vinegar but his are not as strong. My beans were a mixture of the bottoms of several jars: pinto, black-eyed pea, and white. I like to use them all up before buying new so they don't get old. Then I buy a whole bunch again. All I have left now are black beans. So the spices I added to the beans were cumin, thyme, ginger, and cinnamon. Wierd eh? Well, I thought the cumin went well with the pinto beans, and the thyme with the white beans and I was just in a mood for ginger and cinnamon. But I was fearful, so only added a half teaspoon each. They turned out great. Housemate gave them thumbs up. I think it's hard to ruin beans, unless you boil off too much water and burn them. I was going to add some ground walnuts to the collard greens to get my fat, but forgot so had a handful of walnuts for dessert. Oh, and had one walnut in a date, microwaved.

snack: half of small cantaloupe, 8 oz strawberries

Dinner: salad with green lettuce and salad greens, small mango (peeled, sliced), half an avocado, couple sprigs cilantro, chives. I was in the mood for lettuce. You really develop a taste for it after a while. And both the lettuce and salad greens were fresh, organic and locally grown. The cilantro and chives were from the garden. They aren't necessary but when you got 'em, it's great.

Dessert: grapes

I probably snack too much...and the beans made me feel too full. Maybe I should limit myself to 1 cup max.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Asparagus and ...

We are getting lots of local fresh asparagus this time of year so I'm gobbling it up. The simplist thing to do is steam it and add a little lemon and a little date sugar if you want a little sweetness. Date sugar is just ground dates and you can get it in a health food store. Or don't bother with the sweetness and just enjoy the full flavor of the asparagus! You can add to that ground sunflower seeds and/or pumpkin seeds. Finally you can add to that a peeled, sliced mango or pineapple (I prefer mango). Any combination of these ingredients is good. For example, on Saturday I think I will eat my next bunch of asparagus with lemon and ground sunflower seeds. So to make it look like a real recipe here it is.

1 bunch asparagus
slice of lemon
1-2 Tbsp raw sunflower and/or pumpkin seeds (I keep these in my freezer)
1 ripe mango, peeled and sliced (optional)

Chop off the ends of the asparagus, then chop the rest into your favorite size (I usually do ~three pieces per). Steam. I leave out the tops for about 5 minutes because they cook faster than the stems.

Grind the sunflower and/or pumpkin seeds in a coffee grinder.

Put the asparagus in a bowl, squeeze the lemon from the slice (don't need much). I then mix it up with my hands to spread the lemon around. Add the seeds and the optional mango.

Dr. Fuhrman says that fat with a meal helps you absorb nutrients. But it has to be healthy fats like sunfower seeds (not oils). And seeds also gives you protein which I want since I'm trying to build a little muscle on my scrawny frame. However, the asparagus alone has about 6 grams of protein. I added 1 Tbsp sunflower and 1 Tbsp of pumpkin seeds. I think that added another 6 grams or so. So a good high protein meal.

June 19th food

It was an exciting day at the grocery store. The shelves were full of locally grown (organic) produce! So I went crazy. I had already put a bunch of fruit in my cart but I think next time I will just fill it with local stuff, which is mostly greens right now. And they are cheap! Here are my meals:

Breakfast: smoothie (I have this every day)

Lunch: Asparagus and pineapple

Snacks: I went crazy. The strawberries (the Driscoll organic that you can get in practically every grocery store in the country) were the best I've ever had from a store. I ate the entire 16 oz box. it was so good. Then I also ate my bag of cherries. That was only 8 oz. and a few grapes. I am quite the pig. And yet, I am pretty thin. but still I shouldn't be quite such a pig. But I don't regret the strawberries.

Dinner: I haven't done this yet but I'm going to meet a friend at the Terrace so took out a green smoothie from the freezer and will bring that. Frozen green smoothies are handy away-from-home meals.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Pretty Good Hummus

I'm still working on my hummus recipe but this is better than last time.
You need a food processor for this

1 cup dried chickpeas of 15 oz can of no-salt chickpeas.
1-2 garlic cloves
1 tsp ground cumin
Juice on 1 lemon
1/2 avocado
Couple of fresh basil leaves, chives if you happen to have them in our garden and it's summer (optional)
1/2 peeled, diced sweet potato, steamed until soft (optional)

If you are using dried chickpeas (they taste better), soak overnight, then cook up in the morning for about 4 hours. Drain, but save some of the cooking water.

Throw the garlic in the food processor and blend it. Add the chickpeas, avocado, sweet potato, cumin, and half the lemon juice. Blend. Taste it, and add more lemon juice to taste. Add chickpea water if you need more liquid. Blend some more. When it's nice and smooth, then add the herbs and blend for short time, just enough to chop the herbs but not pummel them.

A normal hummus recipe has 1-2 Tbsp tahini plus olive oil, instead of avocado, and no sweet potato. I'm not a big fan of tahini and think oil is evil, but want the creamy consistency, so tried the avocado instead. Of course, it adds (healthy) fat, so if you are watching your calories, don't add the avocado, or add less. If you don't care about the calories and want it real creamy, throw the whole avocado in (without the pit and the skin of course).

Spinach-Mango Green Smoothie

Serves 2

2 small oranges: peel, cut in quarters and remove seeds (or juice the oranges if you prefer)
1 oz walnuts (or cashews or pecans) or seeds (hemp, sunflower, or pumpkin)
5 oz spinach
1 10 oz bag frozen mangos
frozen banana

Put the walnuts and part of orange juice blender. Add the spinach on top. Blend. Add everything else and blend again.

If you use 5 oz of spinach, you can't taste it, and it tastes like a delicious mango-orange-banana smoothie. Then you can get brave and use the stronger greens like salad greens, kale, and collard greens. A little lemon juice balances the bitter of these stronger greens (say, 1 Tbsp).

I usually freeze one or both servings for later.

breakfast smoothie

Serves 2. Share with someone or freeze the second serving and thaw when you are ready to eat it.  


1/4 cup walnuts or other nut (pecans, pistachio, almond, cashew are all good) or 2 Tbsp raw sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds
1 frozen banana (buy a bunch of bananas, when they are ripe with brown spots, peel, break into pieces, put each banana into a separate plastic bag and freeze)
1 bag frozen berries (8-10 oz), or combine half bags of different berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, mixed berries)
14-16 oz water, or mixture of water and/or berry juice and/or soy milk.   Housemate likes all berry juice

Blend nuts in some of the juice (throw in your vitamins if you don't like taking pills) in a high-powered blender until smooth.   Add the frozen banana and berries. Blend until smooth. YUM!

June 18th food

There's a lot I want to discuss but I had a long day at work so will just have to save it for another day. Here is what I ate today:

After exercise snack: apple

Late breakfast: smoothie

Lunch: Today I ate the last of the veggies in the fridge before shopping tomorrow. So for lunch it was a beet and it's greens cooked up in a small amount of water, with a half of a sweet potato. Easy and good. Next course was some carrots and broccoli lightly steamed, and some sliced red and green pepper---these were dipped in yesterday's leftover hummus.
Dessert: date with pit removed and stuffed with 1/2 tsp raw sunflower seeds, microwaved for 10 seconds. Really good. Probably not so good for my teeth.

Snacks: A big handful of baby romaine lettuce (this is a great snack to eat out of the bag). Another apple (really good), a banana.

Dinner: A bunch of kale steamed. Added a cashew sauce: boiled part of an onion, in water, added a chopped date and cashews, blended it in a blender to make the sauce. Very good.

Is this a lot of food? Maybe. I don't feel too full so I think it was okay. The banana wasn't necessary. I noticed that the apple tasted just as good as yesterday's tofutti cutie. so that's something to keep in mind. The apple was a "pink lady". I'm trying out different types. This was good. That reminds me that the quality of your produce really matters. Fresh organic produce tastes better. I'm lucky to have the best grocery store I've ever shopped at only a 4 mile bike ride away. Okay, next posts will be recipes...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

June 17th food

Okay, quickly before bed, let's get started with today's successes and failures. I knew I was going to be gone most of the day so brought food with me. Went to my 7:30 am exercise class. We ran up and down stairs for 25 minutes. Like I said in my last post, I notice I don't get out of breath as much as others. My muscles tire before I lose my breath. It used to be very much the opposite and I would get out of breath before my muscles tired. I think this is because my arteries have cleared up after being vegan for almost 3 years. After that, did some work in a coffee shop before my dentist appointment, and drank my breakfast smoothie. Had some decaff coffee. I went off caffeine a year and a half ago. Believe it or not, that feels great. Okay, I get tired sometimes when I don't sleep enough, but overall I have more energy. Plus I think caffeine is part of our societal brain washing to make us work harder so the rich guy at the top can make more money. Today I decided, maybe I should give up decaff coffee too. I don't drink it much, but may as well give it up if I'm going to try this healthy experiment, and it won't be painful since I'm not addicted to caffeine. Okay, then I met a friend for lunch at the Union terrace (favorite hangout in Madison WI). She was going to get a burrito at Chipotle's. It's okay to stray from perfection every once in a while but I just had a burrito yesterday at a potluck so I wanted to eat more healthy so I brought a green smoothie I had in the freezer. I like these green smoothies as much as any fattening dairy dessert (I'm a whacko). When I came home in the evening, I chatted with my neighbors who happen to be vegan and they offered me a tofutti cutie. It's a vegan ice cream sandwich. It is so good. I ate one. So I have failed on my first day! I haven't had one of those in a year or two. Well, at least they are small, half the size of the familiar ice cream sandwich. But they are junk food. But it was good. Then I came home and finally made a hummus I like. I've just not been satisfied with the hummus recipes without olive oil. It's not creamy enough. This time I added avocado and a little steamed sweet potato to the normal recipe and I like it. I also took out the tahini. I am not a big fan of tahini. I had that with lightly steamed carrots and broccoli. It was delicious. but I ate too much of the delicious hummus and felt like exploding. Then to top it off, since I figured I'd blown it already I decided to finish it off with a brazil nut stuffed date. This is a great treat. You remove the pit from the date and stick in a nut, like a pecan or brazil nut or walnut. Microwave it for 5-10 seconds. It's good! Well, this blog would sound better if I left out my mistakes but I decided I should be honest and tell you my failures too. The stuff date would have been okay without the tofutti cutie.

hee hee, my first blog

How is this free? Who is paying for it?

Well, here's my introduction: I became a vegan in July 2005. I accidentally ate healthy food because I knew what vegetables and fruit were and how to eat them, and didn't know yet about all the junk-food vegan options. My health improved dramatically. Holy cow. I'll detail that in another post. I became a vegan for environmental reasons and a vague desire to not eat animals. After becoming vegan I learned a lot more about the horrors of animal food production (including dairy!) and I doubt I will ever stray from veganism. I also learned why my health was improving from sites like and I decided these guys are right: The most healthy diet is whole foods with little or no animal products, and no refined oils. The last one is a surprise to most people. Where McDougall and Fuhrman disagree is that McDougall recommends a low-fat diet period whereas Fuhrman says that healthy fats like avocado and nuts and seeds are okay as long as you don't overeat them and gain weight. Also McDougall allows for more grains and high-carb vegetables (like potatoes) and Fuhrman emphasizes more leafy green vegetables. Most people would benefit by either plan. As an experiment, I'm trying to eat the most healthy diet possible, to see how I feel. My understanding of this, after reading several books, is that my diet should consist of mostly vegetables (leafy green at the top of the list), fruit (berries at the top of the list), some legumes (beans), and some raw nuts and seeds. I'm also having fun trying to get into good shape. This again was inspired after my health improved so much. Most people would be surprised to find out that vegetables like broccoli have a lot of protein. so I'm eating lots of veggies and beans in order to get my protein (surprise), and it's pushing out the grains--at least in my current experiment. I'm a weakling and I am trying to build some muscles. It's working slowly. I go to this really cool gym: I'm the weakling but I notice that I don't get out of breath as easily as everyone else. More on that in my posts. Another thing I'd like to mention: I'm as much a hedonist as any meat eater I think. It's probably true that my tastes have changed, but I feel that I am eating food that tastes very good. More on that in my posts. I'll probably have a bunch of things I want to share at the beginning, and then I just plan to share things like what I ate, and how I am succeeding or failing on a day-to-day basis where I am socializing with people in restaurants and traveling and so forth. I find it very easy to eat healthy at home, but it's with the rest of society where it gets difficult and I have to learn to present my case in a way that people don't think I'm too much of a whacko. 

Finally, the reason I'm writing this blog is because some of my family and friends are intrigued at the idea of improving their health but think it would be impossible to make such a dramatic diet change. Yet some are trying (go Betty and Bob!). I'm hoping some of my meal and social situation descriptions will help out. It might scare them off to see what a whacko I am but what is so wrong about being a whacko? It's fun!