Tuesday, March 30, 2010

29-Day Giving Challenge

So I joined this site (group really) today called 29- Day Giving Challenge and what better way to spread the word than blog about it. I was browsing another blog (Kiss Me, I'm Vegan! ) and saw her badge, which made me curious as to what this challenge was all about. See my husband and I have been wanting to simplify our lives (which in his case means getting rid of objects we don't need, but in my case this means many things- lose excess weight, manage stress, simplify our finances etc.....) so this concept really appealed to me. I decided to officially join for a few reasons, the big one being if I officially join something then I'll stick to it cuz I'll hold myself accountable.

Basically you can give anything you want- time, money, food, advice, a smile- anything. You're supposed to do it everyday in 29 days, but they're flexible. I may not get it all done in the first 29 days, as some of these "gifts" I want to be really meaningful and not just something simple, so I'm going to have to do some brainstorming. Mom, Dad- you were my first "gift" yesterday and you didn't even know it!! Those yummy chocolate peanut butter treats I made- those were my first gift! Hopefully I didn't also accidently give you the gift of a few pounds too!! Work ladies- you will receive the gift of those little cups of heaven too!!

I just wanted to share this little venture with everyone- maybe you will be inspired to join as well!!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Let's Talk YUMMY!!

Below are the ingredients to make the most amazing treats you'll find this side of the International Date Line. (and they're vegan to boot!!!)
Let's hear a woot! woot! for Alicia Silverstone's Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups!
here's the ingredients and recipe to make these dangerously delicious treats:
1/2 cup earth balance butter
3/4 cup crunchy peanut butter
3/4 cup graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup maple sugar
1 cup grain sweetened non dairy chocolate chips
1/4 cup soy, rice or nut milk
1/4 cup chopped peanuts, almonds or pecans

directions (with photos):
line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper liners.
melt butter in a small saucepan over med. heat. stir in peanut butter, graham cracker crumbs, and maple sugar and mix well. remove mixture from heat. evenly divide the mixture among the muffin cups.
combine the chocolate and milk in another pan. stir over medium heat until chocolate is melted. spoon the chocolate evenly over the peanut butter mixture. (*I personally felt that I needed to add more milk to mine next time, as my chocolate chips were dark chocolate and it ended up being a bit too rich for me. ) the photo below illustrates these previous instructions. (recipe continues below)
Top each with the chopped nuts. I chose almonds as the chopped nuts. I had quite a time chopping those nuts! they flew everywhere!! Below are the cups with the added chopped nuts before they set up in the fridge. They were perfect and ready to eat after 2 hours.
Here are the finished product after a little over 2 hours in the fridge. *Note that there are already 3 missing!!!!! They are sooooooo good!!!!!!!
My husband and I have decided that these treats are going to be for special occasions or just not a regular thing because they are irresistible!!!! I CANNOT be trusted with these in the house!!!!!!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Vive La Salade- Part Deux! aka The Goods....

So let's talk about this beautiful, amazing salad from the previous post! This pic was before it was tossed so you can only see the avocado and pine nuts but there is, oh- so- much more in there!!!

Basically it's an organic spring mix topped with some of the most flavorful vegetable goodness! Obviously everyone's taste buds are different so some of the ingredients might not be your idea of heaven, but my husband and I are currently obsessed with it and have had this exact meal 3 nights in a row!

After finishing Alicia Silverstone's book, The Kind Diet, I was inspired to walk the produce section of the market and grab for things I would normally walk right passed. This would basically be the radish/root vegetable section. I decided it was time to add some daikon to my life. Daikon is a natural diuretic and cuts through fat, it has a mild flavor and looks like a giant white carrot (it should be VERY firm, so you know it's fresh).

So along with the daikon here's what also lies lurking beneath those avos.....

thinly sliced green bell peppers (vitamin C, folic acid, Vitamin B6, anti-oxidant)
shredded carrot (we all know the benefits of this veggie- beta carotene and others....)
shredded red radish (which has a whole slew of medicinal properties!! very detoxifying.)
the above mentioned daikon- shredded
sliced cucumbers (anti-inflammatory, vitamin C and fiber in the skin)
kidney beans (fiber, iron, protein)
garbanzo beans (fiber, iron, protein)
avocado (the list of benefits is so long, I'm just too lazy to type them all- but anti- aging is a good one!!!)
toasted pine nuts (protein, fiber, appetite suppressant!!!! and quite a few more benefits!)

I also added some left over cold brown rice one night and my husband adds tomatoes to his. I like to top my salad with Annie's Organic "Goddess" dressing. My husband eats his without dressing, but sometimes sneaks a bit of Annie's too. :)

Let me go on a tangent for a moment about pine nuts. I never really thought much of the little pine nut, sure I'd had them on greek salads, but I never really remembered their flavor. I had an amazingly simple salad from a restaurant the other day which included pine nuts. I was inspired to do this myself and went in search of organic raw pine nuts that I could toast myself. I had some sticker shock (a pound of raw organic pine nuts from the bulk section of my local health food store is $29.99!!!!!!!!). I got a handful, hoping I wasn't breaking the bank and decided I would savour each and every nut! I'm like the pine nut nazi around my house! I make sure not to lose any from the pan (after being toasted) and I make sure each one is consumed- I don't want to waste a single penny!!!! I needn't have been concerned about that, each and every one of those guys is consumed- they are so good!!! They have a nutty, buttery flavor which tastes so heavenly with avocado, which then makes the whole salad taste amazing- it must be experienced to really know what I'm talking about!! I am a pine nut convert (but will have to limit their use as 1. they're beaucoup expensive and 2. they're kinda high in fat for such a little thing!!! even thought it's beneficial fat)

Hopefully this inspires some of you to make your own "bowl of heaven"...

Food Revolution- Vive La Salade!

Here in the Grantham house we began our food revolution a year and a half ago. My husband welcomed it, which I'm grateful for and has traveled right along with me as we've gone on a healthier journey. We are not super strict by any means but we've cut a lot of things out of our diet and added some unique foods that aren't on the average persons daily meal plan. He never complains about what I put in front of him- he's an adventurous eater (far more than I am) and will try anything once. I'm a very lucky girl!

This is not only a blog about food but also kind of an ode to my Mother. I was raised on homemade, healthful, balanced meals. We had vegetables from our garden, lean meats and no fried foods. I didn't even know how to fry food until I was out of high school. When we got treats it was from the health food store- I even remember the package to the organic peanut butter cups I would get (a queen bee)- or we'd get Tiger's Milk bars (those bars still take me back to childhood, whenever I eat one I feel 6 years old!!) This is not to say we never had Oreo cookies, cuz we did- but we were limited on how many we could have and I honestly don't remember them being in the house all the time. My mother has always been a healthy eater and when I was young she was able to instill that in my sister and I. We were never allowed to have sugary cereals or twinkies and McDonald's was a rare "treat". Unfortunately when I was old enough to make my own food choices I went hog wild and the complete opposite of my childhood. I wanted to know how the other half lived and what I'd been "missing out" on all those years. I had all of the "forbidden" foods I could get. I bought those sugary cereals, had Taco Bell, ate cookie dough with abandon, and never met an ice cream flavor I didn't like. That started in Jr. High and slowly got worse as High School came around. My High School actually had a Taco Bell and Pizza Hut cart!! I had 2 bean burritos for lunch everyday- they were cheap and good. I never thought about what I put in my mouth. I bet my mom didn't even know that's what I had for lunch or that in Jr. High lunch consisted of a shared pack of mini donuts and a diet coke.

Fast forward many years and many pounds later (and a few successful diets followed by relapsing and weight gain), I began thinking about what I was eating. I had stopped eating whatever I wanted in whatever quantities and started thinking about calories etc.... That helped in curbing my free-for-all attitude but it really did nothing for my actual health. So I started thinking about processed foods, artificial sweeteners, going organic, going back to being vegetarian (which my whole family made the shift to when I was about 13) and trying to re-capture the good habits and foods of my childhood. I try to be really diligent about artificial sweeteners- I am a huge believer in getting rid of high fructose corn syrup and banishing it to the netherworld, and I also won't have aspartame or anything else that isn't from nature cuz that stuff has been proven to be cancer causing as well as mimic the symptoms of many auto-immune diseases. I know that I get some refined sugar in my diet, but I can say that it's a small amount compared to what I was having 2 years ago. Basically if I don't know what something is on the ingredients list I'll put it back. Anything that sounds like a science project or came from a petri dish is something I don't want and can stay on the shelf, thank you very much.

Since starting my clean eating habits I've definitely had days where I don't stick to it for every meal. I love a good ol' Subway sandwich (which I just found out has high fructose corn syrup in the bread!!!- gonna have to re-think that.....) and sometimes I'll have a cookie from the coffee shop next to my work (which contain Crisco, unfortunately!). Recently I began thinking about tightening the reins a bit more. I have a wonderful co-worker who has been vegan for over a year. She inspires me and while I'm not ready to go vegan, I want to start incorporating more vegan meals into my life. BUT I already wrote a blog on that whole part of this journey, no need to repeat so back to my mom......

As I was making dinner the other night (pictured above) I suddenly came to the realization that I'm turning into my mother!!! For some women this might their worst nightmare come true but for me it's great and not cringe worthy in the least! I was chopping and slicing the fruit for the delicious fruit salad and dumping them into a big ol' bowl and as I was tossing the fruit I had an epiphany!- this is my mother's fruit salad!!!!!!! I know it's just simple chopped fruit but subconsciously when I was shopping for my fruit I grabbed only the fruits my mother puts in hers- I passed the kiwis, ignored the oranges and didn't even notice the raspberries. My husband even made a comment about this as we were eating it!! See mom, everything you taught me is finally being put to good use, even if it took decades!!!

Sometimes when I'm making dinner I'll think to myself "hmm mom would probably like this", such as the salad in the above picture (which should have a whole blog to itself cuz it's a bowl of heaven!!!!) and I smile to myself. So it's okay if I'm turning into my mom, cuz she's one fantastic lady who taught me some valuable things (not just about food), set an awesome example and I love her fiercely!!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Great Day with Friends!!

On Monday I had the good fortune to hang out with my dear friends Maggie and Rudianne. Maggie has recently lost her husband Don to ALS, a tragic and horrible illness. I love hanging out with these girls but it means so much more now.

We started off by having a great lunch at The Custom House with lots and lots of talking and laughing and reminiscing. Then we went for a walk to the post office, took a spin to the candy store (which was so amazing!! I surprised myself by not buying a single thing for myself- but Daniel did get some goodies!!!) and stopped at a coffee shop.

The coffee took forever, but that ended up being a good thing because we got to be girlie girls and look through Maggie's Nordstroms and Saks catalogs! I certainly learned some lessons in how expensive things are from Saks!!! There was a watch in there for $193000!!!!!! Holy Cow!!! But we had so much fun flipping through the pages dreaming about the frivolous things we wanted (like some MAC make-up!!! hee hee!!!!)

I'm even more excited because next week Maggie and I are going to Santa Barbara (with our friend Abby!!) and we're gonna do some retail therapy! My time with Maggie is precious and always has been, so I'm excited to spend a day with her and Abby, having nothing important to do, nowhere we have to be (besides the MAC counter).

Saturday, March 20, 2010

I'm Dipping My Toes In

In my previous blog I talked about changing my diet and lifestyle. I'm dipping my toes into the vegan pool, cuz I'm not quite ready to dive. My friend Phoebe introduced me to this particular kale chip recipe (I've tried others but this wins hands down!!) This is actually a combination of 2 different "raw" diet recipes. I don't own a dehydrator (which I will now have to purchase after realizing how very time consuming this recipe can be without one!), so I had to devise a different way of doing it. I have another kale chip recipe that you bake at the low temp of 300, so I used that instruction with this. Here's what I did folks (with photos too- oooo, how very cooking show of me!!)

Nacho Cheesy Kale Chips:

1 bunch of curly kale
1/2 teaspoon each of: garlic, onion and chili powder
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon nutritional yeast
1 cup of raw organic cashews (soak for 2 hours in water to soften) ** see note below
1 red bell pepper- seeds removed and chopped
juice of 1 lemon

Instructions (with photos!!):

1. pre-heat oven to 300 degrees. slice the leaves of kale away from their stalks. tear leaves into large bite sized pieces. discard the stalks.
2. **(note on cashews. the recipe says to soak the raw cashews for 2 hours, but they are assuming you have an amazing Vitamix, which I don't have. I soaked them overnight, cuz I just have a Kitchenaid blender- this worked perfectly!!) combine all ingredients (except kale) in blender or food processor. Puree these ingredients. This mixture becomes a hummus-like consistency and looks like the photo below. (this tastes delicious on it's own! I bet it would taste awesome on some pita bread!!) I found this mixture to be a bit too thick to get all of my kale chips crispy. I would add a little olive oil or more lemon juice to make it a bit more runny- or add more kale.

3. in a large bowl combine the kale leaves and coating mixture. You can use your hands but I get eczema so I can't have my hands moist for too long, so I used some tongs to toss everything together.

4. arrange the coated leaves in a single layer on a cookie sheet. It's important that they are a single layer. I made the mistake of having some overlap and the ones on the bottom never got crispy.
5. bake in the oven for approx. 30-40 mins, but check them often!!!! My original kale chip recipe only baked for 20 mins. but because of the coating on these they take longer. These are so delicious and worth the wait, but I do want to invest in a dehydrator so it's done properly and I can walk away from them for several hours and get some other things done (*someday when I get that dehydrator I'll update this recipe with the instructions for that). For those of us without the dehydrator this recipe works just fine! Below is the finished product. They're crispy, crunchy and honestly they taste like nacho cheese chips (without the massive calories and the guilt)!!!!!!!!!! Simply divine!!!!!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Naughty Little Cheese!

(*this could be a long one.....) So I've been on a quest for a year and half to eat healthier both for weight loss and for my health (I don't want any nasty cancer or diabetes coming my way!!!). I started this journey after I read, "The Omnivore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollan. As cheesy as this sounds that book changed my life because it made me change the way that I looked at food. I wanted to cut out all the processed junk, send high fructose corn syrup into the trash, and was determined to not eat anything that's ingredients list was long and full of things I'd never heard of and sounded like plastic. I wasn't entirely sure where to start and then an amazing little publication came my way, landed in my lamp and saved my taste buds!!! It's a fabulous magazine called "Clean Eating"
So that's where I started. I got excited about cooking and discovered that I love chopping veggies!!! Daniel loved it because we had homemade tasty meals every night that were healthy and good for you. Tosca Reno is a contributing columnist to the magazine and she had a book called the "Eat Clean Diet" so I got that, read it cover to cover and started my eat clean diet lifestyle. I was eating well, drinking TONS of water (and peeing like crazy)- I was stoked... and then.....da, da, duuuummmm- I gained 15 lbs!!!! yes that's right I GAINED on a diet!!!!!!! sooooo not stoked about that!!!!
So I had to re-evaluate what I was doing. Why was I following a diet to what I thought was a "T" and gaining weight? Well here's the answer. After really looking at what I'd been eating I realized that it wasn't the food at all but my portion sizes and my free- for- all attitude, because I thought "well these are healthy good- for- me foods, so I can have meals and snacks and some more snacks!". So I went back on weight watchers (which I had done once before successfully 2 years ago) BUT I was doing it with my "eat clean" foods. So, still no processed foods etc.... but using the weight watchers points system to keep me from overdoing my portions.
Fast forward 10 weeks and 10 lbs less (yeeesssssss!!! and below is my inspiration picture that I keep on my fridge!) and I'm still exploring healthier eating habits.
A little background before I get into the next and current leg in my journey (and the WHOLE reason for writing this particular blog). My fabulous co-worker and friend Jenn became vegan around the same time I started eating clean. I've been inspired by her and am so glad I've been able to witness her journey too!! I've been flirting with the idea of becoming vegan, so I went back to being a vegetarian, which I was for 10 years, in the hopes that I could make the leap to being vegan.
So I picked up a copy of Alicia Silverstone's book, "The Kind Diet" which is a vegan cookbook (and explains the reasons to be vegan and why meat, dairy, etc... is bad for you). I wouldn't say it's mind blowing because I am aware of all the information in the book BUT the way she writes has really inspired me and I feel I can relate to her and she makes me feel like I can make the leap. She's also not judgmental about just dipping your toes in and not just jumping into the lifestyle. That makes me happy because I'm not quite ready to go all vegan all the time. I have an addiction to dairy that I need to kick. I can't help it, I love me some good creamy ice cream! Oh and I can't forget that naughty little cheese. Cheese and I have had a strange relationship over the years. When I was a kid I didn't like cheese at all (or eggs for that matter cuz they smelled yucky) because it was gooey when melted (except for mozzarella on pizza). Then I had a grilled cheese sandwich (can't say what age this was) and from then on I never met a grilled cheese I didn't like. I would love to turn back the clock and not have that grilled cheese that started the love affair, but honestly it was going to happen anyway, you addictive little lump of goodness! So this my friends is why I'm not quite ready to go completely vegan- goat cheese stuffed mushrooms, feta crumbles in salad, cheddar cheese and crackers, jack cheese on a garden burger, blue cheese and apple slices in salad and mozzarella on pizza- the list goes on... Anyway it's a process and we'll see how I do. If nothing else I hope to at least be eating lots of whole grains, veggies and things I've never tried (like nutritional yeast which tastes like parmesan cheese!!!!!!!!)

Friday, March 5, 2010

I'm Allergic to Myself.

So I've been pretty sick the last two weeks, but was hanging in there and just thought I had that nasty virus going around. I wasn't worried and was kinda enjoying my husky voice until yesterday.

Yesterday I woke up with a nasty case of the hives! All I could think about are the warnings on over the counter drugs that say "if you have a rash you should see a Dr. immediately as you could have a serious illness". To put it mildly I freaked! Daniel and I carpooled, so the whole drive to SLO I was obsessing. I took Benedryl so eventually the rash went away, but I knew it was time to bite the bullet, face my biggest fear and see the dreaded Dr. (and yes I cried when I found out my mom couldn't go with me- yes I am a big baby!!!)

Up until this point I just thought I had bronchitis, cuz I was coughing something major but didn't have a congested nose or sinuses and wasn't coughing up colored mucus. Due to my crazy coughing my stomach muscles hurt and my voice was nearly gone, and when I did have it I sounded like an 80 year old crispy smoker from Florida. Needless to say my husband did not find it sexy and said I sounded like a robot on the phone. Not good. The worst I would have to say was coughing so hard I started to dry heave. That happened a few times and wasn't so fabulous.

So anyway, the universe stepped in for me yesterday and provided me with a 2 hour cancellation so I could see the Dr. I got to the office, filled out all of the paperwork and waited. So of course my rash was long gone and I wasn't feeling too bad at that point but stayed put.
I finally saw the Dr. after having my vitals taken and proceeded to spill every detail I could think of regarding my illness. After a thorough examination where the words, "I don't want this to turn into a girlie show" were uttered by the Dr., I was diagnosed with Pneumonia and Bronchitis! Lucky me!! I also got to have chest xrays, which was a first for me. Let me say how very strange it is to see your own organs (and to see what pneumonia looks like- it looks like white plant roots growing in you lungs)!

After he addressed the pneumonia, then he addressed the hives. So apparently I'm having an allergic reaction to the actual illness. Crazy. He said it might be an allergic reaction to the over the counter meds, but that seems unlikely as they are all things I've taken in the past with no problems. So basically I'm allergic to myself- or so I like to say. I have regular and chronic eczema for an unknown reason all my adult life and now I break out in hives when I get sick- just wonderful!

So here I am hopped up on drugs and doing my best to get better. I have also found out that I have side effects from the inhaler I was given. I am to take 2-4 puffs ("Like you're taking a hit"- oh yes, I have a Californian Dr.) Well I did 4 puffs yesterday which was probably 2 too many. About 6 pm last night while I was still working my eyesight started to get funky. I was experiencing black and white squiggles that flashed. At one point I looked at my client in the mirror and it looked like she only had one eye because I couldn't see her other eye, my vision was that messed up (and thank goodness I was just blowdrying and not cutting because that would have been impossible at that point!!). I knew it had to be the inhaler, as I hadn't taken anything else, and I had just had my eyes examined at the Dr.'s and they were fine. So I'm trying to lay off the inhaler- though I did use it today but only 2 puffs and so far no vision problems.

So here I am 11 days after I started to get sick, with pneumonia, bronchitis, bronchospasm, an allergy to myself (ha ha!) and a newfound addiction to "The View". That is what 3 days off of work, a computer and hulu will do to you!!!