Sunday, January 29, 2012

Veggies for the week

Last week by about Thursday I decided I was tired of eating so many salads.  Fortunately that feeling only lasted a couple of days and by today I was desiring one again.  I'm planning a better balance this week between cooked and raw so I don't get tired of salads by Thursday.  Yesterday I made my bean soup like I usually do.  Today I made a giant batch of cooked veggies.  Actually after cooking it was not so giant, and just filled 7 bowls.  My veggie choices were inspired by this clip from Dr. Gregor.  His video clips are awesome.  They only last a couple of minutes and are very informative.  So this clip showed some recent studies that maybe did a better job of measuring antioxidant values in vegetables (I'm not going to try to explain, see the video).   I was surprised by the results.  I grabbed a screen shot of the result (hope he doesn't mind!):

So guess what I put in my two big pots of veggies:  beets, eggplant, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, onions, mushrooms, and garlic.  And I threw in some herbs du provence, and some fines herbs and some cinnamon.  Note that red bell pepper is really high on the list but Dr. Gregor says it loses too many nutrients when cooked.   So I added that to my salad.  I love red bell peppers!   Here are the veggies are ready to cook up in 2 large pressure cookers:

Here they are after cooking and cooling and dished out into bowls to freeze for the week:

I still tend to overcook veggies in my pressure cookers, so they are soft but they taste delicious.  I am not sure there is a cooked veggie I don't like.  I doubt you even need the seasonings.  Speaking of those, Dr. Gregor talks about spices with huge health benefits but I can't remember it all.  I seem to recall cinnamon and cloves and marjoram?  oregano is pretty good too.  It's in one of the recent videos. 

Another cooked veggie I plan to eat this week is baked sweet potatoes.  My absolute favorite are the oriental yams.  They have purple skin and yellow flesh.  They are so sweet I wonder if they are even healthy.

Some interesting posts

I ran across some interesting articles and emails this week:

  • PEERtrainer did a survey of dieters from 2011, comparing strategies of those who lost weight and those who didn't.   The ones who lost weight changed their eating habits, and eliminated a lot of junk food: "They did not cite "moderation" as the key to their success in 2011."  The ones who didn't lose weight were asked what their plans were for 2012.  The vast majority of people said, "eat less and exercise more."   A take-away message from the article:  "So if you are one of those people who are thinking just in terms of exercising more and eating less, we'd really encourage you to look at the habits of the 2011 losers. That means get in the mindset of changing what you eat, and focusing less on exercise as the main path to weight loss."  PEERtrainer supports a diet very much like Dr. Fuhrman's.  Even if you don't adopt it fully, it can help you lose weight.
  • Another post from PEERtrainer referred to an article Dr. Oz wrote in the January issue of Oprah magazine.  He said that people who track what they eat lose twice as much weight as those who don't.  That's significant.   This is a controversial topic, and isn't recommended for or by everyone, but it appears to work for some people!
  • If you have food addictions or eating disorders or disordered eating, or perhaps just sense that you have an unhealthy relation to food and want to improve it,  this free set of 9 interviews might be of interest to you from Tara Warner, called "Getting over ED".  I heard about this from the Fuhrman forums---Dr. Fuhrman is one of the interviews.  I admire her for doing such a great job with these interviews and making them free.  Sure she is probably hoping to get some new business from this, and I hope she does.   

Sunday Salad

On the weekdays, my salads are more of a production because they include fruit and raw veggies.  On Sunday lately, I've been going simple and enjoying this one:

That's just romaine lettuce, 1/2 avocado, red bell pepper, 1 cup of peas (frozen), and sliced red onion.  I add some d'angou pear vinegar when I dish out a serving (too lazy to make a dressing).   I LOVE this salad.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Refreshing Veggies

Yes, veggies are refreshing to us, but I'm actually referring to refreshing the veggies.  A guy in the produce section at the co-op was saying some other guy claims he can keep his lettuce fresh for a few weeks!  How the heck can he do that, I asked.  He chops off the bottom and soaks it in water.  So I tried it!  The romaine this time of year sometimes looks pretty tired by the time we get it.  Same goes for the broccolini, which I really enjoy but it looks pretty pathetic sometimes.  Here's a picture showing what I did.

I just cut off the bottoms, and put them in a bowl with water in the fridge (the next time I decided to use a ceramic bowl instead of plastic).   It totally refreshed the broccolini!  The lettuce was noticeably crisper too.  hmm, I think I will go refresh the lettuce in my fridge right now.

Curry GOMB soup

Following on my GOMB soup theme (Greens, Onions, Mushrooms, and Beans), this week I made a curry version.  Last week I made a "spaghetti" version and the week before chili.  It's pretty much the same core ingredients, with different spices.

1 lb dried beans or 2 cans
2 onions, chopped
1/2-1 lb mushrooms, chopped
3 large cloves garlic, chopped
1 red bell pepper (optional), chopped
few large stalks celery (optional), chopped
1-2 bunches collards or kale, chopped
1 can tomatoes
1 Tbsp curry
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp tumeric
1 tsp cinnamon
1-2 Tbsp date syrup

Note that the ingredient amounts are not important--you could halve or double each one and it will still taste good, if you like this sort of thing, that is.  Next time, I might double the spices.

Even though the picture is kind of dark, I like how colorful the soup is.  Here's what I did:  Soaked the dried beans over night, then cooked them up for 3 hours.  Add the can of tomatoes to the soup.   Heat a big fry pan up to hot, then throw on the onions which sizzle and brown.   They release enough liquid to keep from burning.  Add the celery, garlic, and spices, cook some more.  Add the red bell pepper, and mushrooms, cook until soft.  The mushrooms release lots of water which self-cleans the pan.  Add this to the beans.  Pressure cook or steam the greens and add them.  Add the date syrup.  

Sunday, January 22, 2012


This was inspired by Spaghetti and GOMB but has no spaghetti in it.    Last week I made my GOMB chili, so this week I decided to make GOMB spaghetti.   I use GOMBBS as my easy way to remember how to eat healthy.  Greens Onions Mushroom Beans Berries and Seeds/nuts.  Dr. Fuhrman came up with this acronym.    I get my berries and Seeds in my salad, and lots of raw veggies of course.  So I aim for my GOMB in my soup--GOMB plus flavorings.  This week I was curious to try an old favorite:  spaghetti--well, the sauce anyway.   It turned out great:  the beans are a fine meat replacement, and the collard greens and mushrooms seem a fine substitute for the noodles, for me anyway.  I made noodles for housemate.  I haven't heard how she liked it.

1 lb dried beans, or 2 cans already cooked, I used tepary
2 16-oz cans tomatoes or 1 28 oz can
1 can tomato sauce*
few Tbsp tomato paste if you have some (I don't)
italian seasoning herbs
2 onions
1 lb mushrooms
few cloves garlic
1-2 bunches of greens, like collards and/or kale
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 large carrot or 2 medium, cut into big pieces
1 cinnamon stick
1-2 Tbsp date syrup

*I actually don't buy tomato sauce because I use canned garden tomatoes that can't be beat.  I blend a third can of tomatoes in the blender (with the carrot, below) to make my tomato sauce.

Soak the beans overnight if dried.  Add the spices, cook for an hour, add the onions and garlic, cook for another hour, add the tomatoes and peppers and cinnamon stick, cook some more.  You don't want to add the tomatoes too early because they slow the cooking of the beans.  Steam the greens and carrot in a steamer or pressure cooker.   Blend the carrot with some of the sauce and add it to the soup--it adds a nice flavor and thickening.  Remove the cinnamon stick and add the date syrup at the end.   It adds just a touch of sweetness.  Since we don't get salt on our diet, the sweet is a nice touch.

I eat my nuts/seeds on my salad, but if you want some "parmesan cheese" for your "spaghetti," ground walnuts make a great substitute.  You could mix in some nutritional yeast to the ground walnuts.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Avocado orange dressing and Sunday salad

I eat a lot of salads during the week for convenience, so don't eat as many on the weekends.  I treat myself to other favorite foods like baked oriental yam, essene buds, Texas Rio Star grapefruit, samples of housemate's smoothies, frozen cherries and mangos.  By Sunday I'm ready for a salad, but I want something different from my weekday salads.  I also have the opportunity to make a real salad dressing which I'm too lazy to do during the week.  I came up with a really easy dressing

Avocado orange dressing
1 avocado
juice of 1 medium orange or 1/2 large
1-2 Tbsp D'angou pear vinegar

Smash the avocado, add the orange juice and vinegar, mix until mostly smooth.

The salad is just lettuce, cucumber, and red bell pepper.  Add the dressing.  yum.

Cabbage and Carrots in winter

I've become something of a produce connoisseur but with no formal training, so I don't have the vocabulary or a lot of information to go along with it, just experience.   Here's something curious I've learned.  We are lucky to get locally grown cabbage and carrots throughout most of our winter.  They are grown from local CSAs and stored properly.  Well, they seem to get sweeter as winter goes on.  I think they are sweetening as they age.  It's sort of like fruit, they sweeten and then eventually are too old and rot.  I think they are at their sweet spot right now.   My salads have been really tasty thanks to the cabbage, and I am eating lots of carrots because they are so good.   I think the season for both will end in a month or so, so I am going to enjoy them this month.

Comfort Food

One of my most favorite salads is also one of the most healthiest.  I've not been eating berries much this winter because they are out of season in the US.  But housemate started clamoring for fruit salads so I bought the berries from faraway places and was surprised to find that they taste good.  Well, I guess I may as well enjoy this extreme privilege to eat berries from chili in winter in Wisconsin.   So I'll probably start making this salad twice a week (the days after I go grocery shopping).   The carrots and sugar snap peas are just my first course (this was my packed lunch for work).  Underneath that is lettuce, red cabbage (locally grown and very sweet this time of year), broccoli, cauliflower, seed mixture, flavored vinegar, some combination of berries and maybe bananas depending on what looks fresh and ripe when I shop (e.g., strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and banana).   This is so yummy.  So are the carrots.  I'll discuss that in my next post.  Oh, and I don't just have one of these, I have 3 of them:  breakfast, lunch and dinner!

mmm, Chili!

I was just planning to make my usual weekly pot o' beans, and it turned into a great pot of chili.   I always start with Dr. Fuhrman's recommended GOMB ingredients (Greens, onions/garlic, mushrooms, beans).  The beans I need for protein, calories and lots of other great reasons; the others are great for fighting cancer, plus they add flavor and texture.  Then I thought, huh, I could just add some chili powder, tomatoes, corn, and make some chili!   I looked up some recipes and saw cumin and oregano listed, so I added some of that too (the second time I didn't and I preferred it without).

1 lb dried beans, or 2-3 cans   (pinto, kidney, a dark bean, or just about anything---I used a mixture from rancho gordo)
2 16-oz cans tomatoes, or 1 28-oz can
1-2 onions
2-4 cloves garlic
1 lb mushrooms, any type
1 bunch greens, e.g., kale, collards, mustard, etc.
2 cups sweet corn (1 bag frozen) (optional)
1-2 Tbsp chili powder, to taste
1 tsp oregano and cumin (optional, I prefer without)

Toppings (optional)
chopped cilantro, chives, ramps, scallions, anything like that
home-made soy yogurt

Soak the beans overnight, or do a quick soak (bring to boil, then let sit for an hour).   Cook the beans for about 3 hours.  After 1 hour you can add the onions, garlic and seasoning.  Depending on how well-cooked you want the greens, you can add them to the chili at your preferred time or cook them separately.  I prefer them pretty tender and well-cooked, so I cooked them in the pressure cooker, then added them to the chili and let them simmer there for another hour (admittedly I was motivated by a sore tooth, but I ended up really liking the tenderness of them cooked this way).  I added the mushrooms in the last hour.  I added the tomatoes and corn towards the end.  The tomatoes can interfere with the cooking of the beans and they are cooked already anyway.  The corn hardly needs any cooking, especially if you like it a little crunchy.  If you like it tender, add it earlier.

Here's 10 servings ready for the freezer.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Inspirations from this week

I managed to find motivation and inspirations from a lot of sources this week:

  • I was reminded by Linda Spangle in her books (100 days of weightless, Life is Hard, Food is Easy) that Motivation is a choice.  And that reminded me of something Sarah Taylor said which is, motivation doesn't just come to you, you have to make it happen, every day.   So think "I'm going to do this!"  not, "I'll give it a try."  Of course, whatever it is you are planning, make sure it's realistic:  e.g., I'm going to ride my exercise bike 1 minute per day.  Hey, you gotta start somewhere!   And by the way, I think these Linda Spangler books are great.  I'm going through them with my good friend.  We are really enjoying connecting with each other through this venue.  We started just after Thanksgiving and it really helped me get through the holidays.  Even though I don't have much if any weight to lose, I have some emotional eating issues, for example in how I handle social situations and celebrations.  What I'm realizing is that I really do prefer my own food, so that makes those feelings of deprivation and being different fade away more and more.  This is a very positive development for me.
  • In my meditation class, we watched a video by Mingyur Rinpoche, and one of his lines struck me in a lovely way:  "You can be happy anytime, anywhere, no matter what your circumstances."  That just makes me feel good--it's like he's giving me permission I didn't give myself!  And that got me thinking, don't wait until you reach your goals to be happy!   Because if you do, you might now know how to be happy then!   Not only that, if you can be happy now, it might make it easier to reach your goals!   So start learning now how to be happy.  
  • From listening to my Buddhism lectures, I learned about the religious beliefs at the time of the Buddha and how reincarnation was not viewed as a good thing like we westerners might view it (regardless of if you believe it or not).   The end of suffering is the end of this cycle.  It gave me just a little more insight into the point of Buddhism and meditation.  I am a total newbie, but I can glimpse how letting go of both your past failures and accomplishments can be freeing.  I have to admit, it gives me stress to attach to either of those too strongly.  I see glimpses of how letting go of "I" could be a good thing.  I only have glimpses here and there but it's enough to keep me wanting to find out more.
  • I worked hard this week at my job, one of my goals for this year.  So I'm off to a good start.  I think it's a good idea to have a passion other than your eating/exercise plan, a passion that really engages you.  It could be work or a hobby.  For me, when I first became vegan and nutritarian, that was my passion--there was so much to learn and I was loving all of it.  Now that I have learned it, it's time for me to find another passion.  Food/health/exercise is now a vehicle that allows me to perform my other passions.  Also, if you are wondering how to be happy (previous bullet), having something you really sink your teeth into is a great start.
  • I'm listening to Rob Lowe's autobiography on audiobooks.  I listen to audiobooks while preparing food or exercising and saw this was highly rated, and thought it would be fun light listening.  Well, I see why it was highly rated as it is very interesting and entertaining, even while jogging on the treadmill, which is saying a lot (ha).  This week, I was inspired by his approach to his alcohol rehab.  He approached it with the same ambition and competitiveness that he previously approached his acting career, his partying, his friendships and conquests.   That is, he was going to be the best abstainer you've ever seen.  I like his hutzpah.   
What motivated or inspired you this week?   If the answer is not much, well, there's always next week!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

While doing food prep...

I spend a lot more time in the kitchen since adopting this healthy eating plan.  To entertain myself I've been enjoying listening to audiobooks.  I've really enjoy this.   More recently I found something else that is fun.  I've been getting these catalogs from this company Great Courses for years (not sure why).  I've never considered buying them because the prices are usually several hundred dollars.  But they are having a 70% off sale right now so I peeked in the catalog to see what's offered.  I ordered three courses:  Buddhism, old testament and new testament.  I've been interested in all three for a while and figured I'd never make the time to read about them so this will be fun to listen to the lectures.  I started the Buddhism course and am enjoying it.

Bucket o' veggies

Sorry the picture is out of focus.  I made a bunch of cooked veggies for the week.  I filled two large pressure cookers full of veggies.  They cooked down, but this is a large bowl too.  These veggies fit into 6 2-cup containers and went into the freezer.  They taste quite good.  Here's what I put into pot #1:  eggplant, broccoli, cauliflower, yellow zucchini, green zucchini, red bell pepper.  In pot #2 went an onion, a bunch of collard greens, and mushrooms, topped with some dried herbs du province and fines herbs.  After they cooked up, I added 2 16-oz cans of tomatoes.  The tomatoes came from the garden and that contributed a lot to the delicious taste.  The collards were just a bit bitter so I added some lemon juice.  I was surprised how good the final result tastes.  I guessed well what veggies and herbs to use.  The only problem is I tend to overcook veggies in the pressure cooker.  Well, the greens pot was just right.  Next time I will use a lower setting for the veggies pot.   I drank the broth leftover from the tomato jars and steaming to reclaim the vitamins lost in the water.   It was good.  I look at it like drinking a rich cup of tea.

I also prepped beans which I'll cook tomorrow.  I juiced a 5 lb bag of carrots (about 36 oz) and am soaking a lb of beans overnight in this juice (in the refrigerator).  Tomorrow I'll make a pot of collards, onions and mushrooms, and add those to the beans after the beans cook.  I'll divide into bowls to freeze for next week.  Then I just need to make a salad every day.

This is pretty much my standard meal plan.  I'm following an easy guideline, Dr. Fuhrman's GOMBBS acronym:  Greens, Onions, Mushrooms, Beans, and Seeds/nuts (in the salad).   The extra B is for berries which I eat a few times a week.  I add other fruit to my salads this time of year:  apple, orange, pomegranate seeds.  It's the same as the post I wrote here, without the asian pear.  I might have a small bowl of frozen cherries and mangos for dessert when I get home from work.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

mango-cherry ice cream

Today I was messing around with desserts.  I confirmed once again that I am the worst baker in the world!  I was trying out a "chickpea blondie" recipe that someone posted on the Fuhrman forums.  It was okay but, well, I didn't follow the instructions exactly (this is why I'm the worst baker in the world), and it was dry and just not my favorite treat.  Then I tried my own variation which was 10 times worse.  This had cherries and pinto beans and walnuts and dates.  It was a purple gooey glob of so-so.   so a few hours later I saw those dates lying around and I can't resist a good date (which is why I don't buy them very often!).  So I thought, oh, why not some old fashioned ice cream.  Now this turned out good!  I didn't measure anything so I'm just guessing below:

juice of one orange
1 medjool date
1 cup frozen sweet cherries
1 cup frozen mango (vary ratio of mangos and cherries to your preferences)
a few walnut pieces (1/2 oz at most)

blend the date and walnuts and orange juice in a high-speed blender.  Add the cherries and mangos; blend until smooth, or not if you want it chunky.     Serves 2.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Nutrition and Depression

This video by Neil Nedley was very interesting.  He listed the typical nutritional deficiencies that can contribute to depression.  He also argued for a plant-based diet in the process.  I'm not going to list those arguments but I encourage you to watch the video if you are interested.  I'm just going to list some of the nutritional deficiencies that can cause depression for future reference for myself:

  • Tryptophan, an amino acid.  He also mentioned tyrosine another amino acid.  You can find this in sesame seeds, almonds, walnuts, tofu, black eyed peas, and more.  Meat has tryptophan too but you need carbs for it to absorb, so don't go on a high-meat, low-carb diet!
  • omega-3.  best source is seaweed or a supplement.  Fish are too contaminated with mercury.  Flaxseed and walnuts can be converted to omega-3 but not everyone's body does this conversion.
  • folate, thiamine, very abundant in my veggie-based diet
  • iron.  good sources are avocado, green peas, mangos.  Yea, I love all those things!
  • B12.  take a supplement!
He also recommends bright light therapy.  

High cholesterol contributes to depression.  The most harmful cholesterol is that exposed to air (it oxidizes).  The most harmful foods as a result are:  custards and ice creams, pancake mixes (!), parmesan cheese, and lard.  Why pancake mix?  It usually contains dried egg whites which are ground up, so as exposed to the air as you can get.  Parmesan cheese is ground up.  ice cream I guess is exposed in the stirring process?  same with lard creation?   Vegan ice creams, while not healthy, are not nearly as harmful as the animal product.  Interesting, huh?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Year-end Reflections

Here are ome things I learned in 2011

1)  I learned a few things about my job.  One is that I can get away with goofing off at work, but I don’t feel good about it when the day is done.  The other is related and has has to do with my attitude towards my low self-esteem.  Sometimes I think I’m not good enough to be pursuing my profession and that I’m no longer relevant and I should free up the space/funding for a younger person (yes, all dumb thoughts but fairly common in my competitive field).  I decided that whatever I think of myself, I should still try to do the best I can, because I feel a lot better about myself after a good day’s work, than after a day of goofing off at work.  So my plan for 2012 is to be the best astronomer I can be.  And if I’m irrelevant after that, then I will happily pursue something else.

2)  I had my own version of a happiness project (the name of a popular book, which I am reading now too).  I read several “positive psychology” and meditation books in the spring and summer.  I’ve posted about some of these here.  The meditation books were by Mingyur Rinpoche.  He is the first meditation author that got through my dense brain in a way I could understand.  I’d previously learned the concept of mindfulness but I didn’t learn to meditate.  Whenever I tried it, I got bored within a minute, and wanted to do something else, and quit.   Two things got me going on finally starting a practice: First, I learned from Mingyur Rinpoche’s books that meditation is simply learning to being aware of your thoughts.  You don’t have to empty your mind or reach nirvana, you just have to watch the thoughts go by, and when you forget and then notice it, you say, oops, and the more you say oops, the more you are aware.  One advantage I noticed about meditation is that you start to see fallacies in your thinking, for example, negative thoughts about yourself.   The second thing that got me going in my practice was that a tergar practice community started up this Fall in my town with meetings once a week right across the street from my office!   This tergar community is based on Mingyur Rinpoche’s teachings, the same guy whose books I had just read!  I think I felt so lucky about this that I jumped in with both feet.  I worked on daily meditation and eventually found I can consistently do a 20 minute practice right after I get up in the morning.  I worked up to that, starting with 2-3 minute practices.   I’m very happy with my adventure into meditation and I plan to continue this in 2012.  Even though I still feel like a novice, I can see that it has helped me a LOT already.  Our next class module is about meditating on loving kindness.  How awesome does that sound?

3)  I had the best holiday season ever.  On the outside, it was no different than any other.   But on the inside I had a completely different attitude than before.  I cherished my time with friends and family.  I adored our tree full of ornaments from friends, family, vacations, full of memories.  I considered our tree a piece of art.  I enjoyed listening to Christmas music.  Contrast that with my cynical attitudes from previous years:  I endured my family time; I viewed the decorating and shopping as dumb chores forced on me by society to boost the economy;  I viewed the whole season as something to get through and then get back to my life.  What a difference an attitude makes!

4)  I learned something about emotional eating.  I learned what we all already know:  I feel worse when I eat the wrong things and overeat for emotional reasons, than when I don’t.  Easy to say, hard to change.  But worth trying because each time you succeed, it gets easier next time.  I also learned that for me, making certain foods forbidden is a bad idea.  Even Dr. Fuhrman says in his books that nothing is forbidden.   I have a goal to go 12 weeks without eating sugar or refined grains because that is the time it typically takes to break a food addiction according to Dr. Fuhrman.  But it’s just a goal.  I told myself I can have an occasional treat, as long as it’s with the Eat to Live parameters, that is, under 5-10% of total calories.  I figure the really unhealthy stuff should be well under 5% of calories.  I’ve been doing this long enough that a once-a-month treat is enough to satisfy me.  The funny thing is, since it’s not forbidden, it loses a lot of its appeal, or maybe the downside becomes more apparent:  e.g., the cookies I usually crave are actually kind of dry and not all that tasty, etc.  I’m about 5 weeks into this 12-week abstinence goal, and don’t have cravings, but even during this time, nothing is forbidden.  If I really want a cookie, I can have one.  This was an important insight for me.  I’m hoping in 2012, that not just my eating, but my behaviors and attitudes toward eating will be measured and healthy.

I hope we all have a happy and healthy 2012!