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A warm and simple, welcome.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Green with Envy Smoothie

My goal in life is to have a "Vita-Mix" blender. They are pretty expensive, in fact, the price of a new one (around $700) is half the price of my used 1966 Mustang, which I bought in 1968 from Mr. Farino, my neighbor, for $1500.

But, because I am a fan of the infomercial, I can tell you the difference between the Wizard, the Bullet, and the Montel, which is a faux "Vita-Mix." I do have the Wizard, and it is my new best friend in the kitchen. I show it off as though it was a diamond ring or a fancy car, just like I did that Mustang, back in the day.

Here's a fun recipe that you might like to try. Yummy and very filling, and easy to make.

"Green with Envy" Smoothie

One cup of FROZEN spinach
One cup o FROZEN peach slices
One cup of Almond Milk (I use the unsweetened variety)

Milk first, add spinach. Blend until it looks yummy. Add fruit. Blend until smooth and creamy.

Enjoy. Good source of iron. Chock full of vitamin "E" (for envy).

You'd make Popeye proud.

Tip of the Day: If you think you LOVE dairy and could NEVER get into non-dairy milk (soy, oatmeal, almond, etc.), start out by mixing equal amounts of dairy and non-dairy, and eventually, you can make the total switch to non-dairy milk. Really.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Allright, Call Me a Zealot

I love to watch people. If a plane is delayed at an airport or if there is a long wait at my favorite restaurant, I am never bored, because I get to watch people. Sometimes I even become the commentary to their actions, like, you can hear me say, "Will you get a load of that guy?" Or, "Who dresses her, Pamela Anderson?"

But my favorite pastime is watching what people order when they dine out. So, tonight we are at the Pei Wei Diner (a Howard Johnson's, if you will for the P.F. Chang chain[more casual, much louder, and way cheaper]). You can visit the menu on line and plan a meal that suits your dietary needs. You can order a Rice Bowl with steamed vegetables and tofu, no sauce, and steamed rice. It's a very safe place to eat if you are vegan.

Tonight though, dining was better than a good movie. For example, there was the "older couple" who could barely breathe and walk at the same time. And wow, they ordered enough food for a family of six. They sat sheltered in a corner, but I was busy watching them. Of course, their beverage of choice was a "Diet Coke." And all of their foods choices were fried. But, in their minds, they were eating vegetables. It's kind of like the person who buys a butter cream cake at Whole Foods, and thinks that there is a special dispensation to fat, calories, and sugar. All I'm saying is, people are convinced that "Diet Coke" saves loads of calories, and really, I think that we are also a country lacking in overall-general nutrition education.

All I could think about was my love for Oprah, and if you think I love her, don't get me started on Dr. Oz. If this couple was on his show, he'd have them in the "Truth Tube" and then haul them off to Lenox Hill Hospital to an evaluation in a CCU.

You are what you eat. You need to eat to live. Sometimes, I have to promise my husband that I will give him my undivided attention when we dine out, and as hard as I try, I am sometimes lured to another part of the restaurant...and beware, because I can also read lips.

Tip of the Day: When you eat out, check the menu on line and see what you can eat. You can also be very detailed in your specific order so that you can maintain whatever eating practice you own.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Thoughts About Kirstie Ally...Made Me Feel Sad

I love Oprah, and frankly, don't know how I'll feel when she signs off next year. Her wide array of guests, coupled with her interviewing skills, make her the best of the best. Though I have never mentioned this to anyone, a part of me feels a kindred spirit to Oprah. It's the food/weight thing. I get Oprah's frustration. And I get Kirstie Ally's, too. She was a guest on Oprah yesterday.

Now, I live just outside of Philadelphia. It's a pretty grey place in the winter, and in the summer, its colors are dotted in splendor. So, I cannot really understand what it is like to live in a place like Hollywood where you are judged by your looks and your inner soul is defined by how much you weigh. The only open-toed sandals I own are my Birkenstocks.

As I listened to Kirstie, her desperation to be thin is her only goal. Will her "Organic Liaison" be the ticket required for her to live in the positive side of the wellness spectrum? I was hoping that she could look into herself and think about eating well and healthy. Adding a third of a cup of EVOO to a soup was pretty heavy-handed. She needs to fill her body with leafy greens, fresh fruits, and different sources of protein. Say goodbye to fats.

Now, don't think I am being too preachy, but I have traveled a rather circuitous route to get where I am today. I've just moved out of the "fat girls" section of the store. I'm not going to be buying the "Organic Liaison" kit, nor will I get the $20 water bottle...but, I will continue to prepare healthy, green, luscious fruits and vegetables.

I thought that Kirstie's obesity was a commercial for her next business venture, but I only wish her well. Compulsive eating is a disease of loneliness and isolation. I hope Kirstie knows that and that she finds the nutrients to help get it fixed.

Onto a great recipe.

Here' a recipe for "Kale Butter," an adaption from the E-2 Diet, with an Italian Flair...

8 ounces of Kale, cleaned and cut
4 cloves of garlic
pinch of sea salt
1/2 cup o raw walnuts

1. Steam kale and garlic;
2. Drain well;
3. Add pinch of salt

Throw in your food processor, add walnuts, and process until kale begins to look mushy. Add about two tablespoons of water. Continue to process.

This will turn out smooth as silk. Great on veggies, crackers or add to pasta.

Thought of the Day: Always say please and thank you to everyone, and make sure you always look people in the eye.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

You Gotta Shake it to Make It...

Micronutrients are my new best friend. When I wasn't following my combo of Pirello/Fuhrman/Esselstyn (sounds like a Park Avenue law firm, doesn't it?), I was ALWAYS, and I mean, ALWAYS hungry. Now, eating fresh leafy greens, fruits and grains, I am NEVER hungry (really). My body no longer craves any kind of food.

One thing I do love is a great shake (smoothie if you will). I don't have a fancy-smancy blender, in fact, I have a $15 individual blender (Hamilton Beach), that I love, be/c it is also a travel mug, so I can make the smoothie, and bam, I am done and gone!

Here's an easy recipe for a cool looking and delicious tasting shake:

One cup of Vanilla Almond Milk (there are variations...sugar, no sugar, etc, read the labels)
1/2 cup frozen mango
1 cup of baby lettuce greens

First, add the frozen mango and milk, and give it a "whir." Then, add the greens, gradually.

You'll end of with a great tasting shake that will make your friends "green with envy."

Tip of the Day: Planning your daily menu helps you shop better, and in the long, run, you'll save more $$$$. Really.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Taking Good Care of Myself...

I have never been one to head to the doctor's on a regular basis. I do the "maintenance" thing with female related stuff, but generally, I feel well and healthy. And, I do think that my being a vegan has in itself, been a cure (for me) of whatever body ails I may have had.

One of the things for me is reading labels. This is key. My observation has been that lesser priced foods have additives, preservatives and LOADS of sugar. Sugar and fat...a lethal combo. I am sticking with foods that come from the ground. I am hoping to live to a ripe old age, medicine free and very active and mobile.

My dinner tonight was easy--made a spinach shake in almond milk--so good.

Folks, keep a light heart. Don't forget that the first journey begins after you've tied your shoes.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Power of the Stock Pot

I purchased a new stock pot, so shiny and bright. And because there is a "cover for every pot," I also purchased a matching cover for this big soup vat. Along with that purchase came the addition of two knives for paring and chopping. There are many vegetables in my life everyday, I needed the tools to help me in their preparation.

After prepping the "three aromatic vegetables" I sauteed them in carrot juice and let them simmer. Part of eating as a vegan (following E-2 and Fuhrman) is to use as little fat as possible, that's why I saute in carrot juice. Then, I added mushrooms, red quinoa, baby garbanzo beans, spelt, kamut, and tomatoes...and a crazy shaking of curry powder. The house smelled so nice.

Again, I am suggesting that you read as much as you can about being vegan. This is the best decision I have ever made regarding my health and well being. Visit Joel Fuhrman's website, go to Christina Pirello (and watch her show on PBS), and read-read-read.

Tip of the Day: Clean out your cabinets of foods that carry empty calories. Replenish your empty shelf spaces with jars of whole grains, brown rice, and other rich, high-fiber foods. If you have unopened boxes, donate them to a shelter.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Valentine's Day

Seemed like a gooey, food filled kind of day as I watched shoppers fill their carts with lots of "foods from my past." The sweetness of Christmas did not even phase me, but for some reason, today, the caramel shaped hearts were looking for me. A pink, heart-shaped cheesecake passed me by, and I really thought I heard a whisper of my name. Food talks.

One year, several years ago, my husband gave me a heart shaped box filled with black licorice. Then, there was the year of heart shaped cookies. Valentine's Day seems to be a food holiday, but this year, I will be hoping for a piece of dichroic glass, and flowers. No food. Not a food zone. A just say no kind of event...no food. Maybe a heart-shaped piece of melon, or perhaps a dozen apples, nice and red, with a little extra shine.

A piece of 70% chocolate might be nice--but I am trying to stay away from sugar. So, no chocolate, either.

Maybe a nice cup of red chai tea with some almond milk will suit my fancy.

I am going to ignore the food cues I see. Looking forward to a nice piece of fruit and a dinner of organic veggies with San Marzano tomatoes.

My ears are plugged so that when some foods call me, I will not pay attention.

Tip of the Day: Think of healthy alternatives to your old food favorites. Bet you can be very creative, huh!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

My Thoughts on the "Biggest Loser"

I really enjoy the "Biggest Loser(BL)." And, I have learned lots, especially from chefs like Curtis Stone. His "roll" of two Portobello Mushrooms (playing the role of the "roll") is pure creative genius, and it a filling way to make a vegan sandwich.

But, when I watch the BL, I am concerned about some of the foods that the contestants eat. Sliced cold-cuts laced with nitrates and preservatives on "make-believe" whole wheat bread? Sliced apples in a plastic bag with even more preservatives? And some kind of baked potato chip? These people need to cleanse their systems of the crap in ready-made, grab and go food and look to the earth for better food. Even the oatmeal they eat is instant and flavored. Have they ever made steel cut oats? They push the Quaker instant stuff...not really oatmeal in my opinion. I wondered what would happen it they were vegan for one week? Just one week.

Now I am cognizant of the fact that the commercial revenues from their sponsors help to pay the bills at NBC...and that's why they are eating hoagies, Jello(R), etc. Yea, I've seen them make a salad, but it has some kind of commercial salad dressing, when a freshly squeezed lemon might do the trick. It's the impact of TV...like the kid who gets his veggies in a serving of Ragu. Come on, America.

Imagine an episode of the BL that might be sponsored by a quinoa producer and Silk(R) soy milk. See, I can't decide if middle America is so far into the pit at Taco Bell (back in the day, they had a fire pit in the front of their stores) and that the BL brings subtle changes OR if something like a quinoa salad with pomegrantes might be just too strange.

I still love the BL, I try and re-create some of their training when I am at the gym. Like, I use the Bosu Ball, and although I am clumsy while standing on it, I pretend that Bob is cheering me on and that my core is getting stronger. And when I crank the bike up to 20 mph, in my head, Jillian is screaming in my face and calling me a "loser." And I pedal harder and finish getting in my 16 miles in one hour.

Because I also stay away from caffeine, I do not drink black tea. And I have found a great RED CHAI that tastes wonderful...nice to sip a cup of hot tea on a cold day like today.

Tip of the Day: If you make something delicious and vegan, make a little extra and take some to a friend who might be struggling with their emotions and managing food. And, of course, count your blessings.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Think You Really L-O-V-E Cheese That Much?

A few weeks ago, someone said to me, "So, what is it that you miss most about being a vegan?" It took me a New York minute to blurt out, "Parmasano Reggiano and Locatelli Romano." When most kids were growing up on Velvetta, I was grating Locatelli for my Italian grandmother who would check our cheese eating status by saying to us, "Whistle." You see, you cannot whistle if your mouth if filled with cheese. When kids were eating American grilled cheese sandwiches, I was eating grilled cheese made from mozzarella on a roll. So, in my blood, there are big globs of cheese, because I really love hard, Italian cheeses. And that is what I miss most.

I can't decide if we really miss the food or is it the ritual and history that we really miss. Just like, I no longer drink coffee (and I loved the stuff), but what I miss most is grinding my beans and making a great cup of joe. I also miss the ritual of heading to Starbucks...I think we attach events to food and that becomes part of our eating fabric.

It's like, you go to a wedding, and after the discussion of what the bride wore, someone will say, "How was the food?" I guess our lives are earmarked by food.

What I would like to impart is that entering the sphere of Vegan-dom can be gradual. Get yourself a "day pass" in trying to be meat-free for one day a week. Then, graduate to two days, etc. And remember, write everything down and do not go to the "substitute" foods. I say this be/c your idea of pizza is well-etched in your mind...if you went to a soy based, organic vegan thing, it might put your taste buds in a tail spin.

Do what you know, and start out simple. There is one thing that prevents me from "going to the other side," and that is that I feel so incredibly well, that I do not want to surrender the wonderful physical and emotional well-being that I am enjoying. Really, we are what we eat.

What I know now at age 60 is that everything catches up with you. Enjoy your day.

Tip of the Day: Send an email or call an old friend. Check in with them. Let them know you love them.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

A Nice Day to Make Soup

I have a very "fun" job. I'm sort of like a cruise director for a Whole Foods Market. A few years ago when I was planning a store event, I thought I'd call Christina Pirello, the PBS TV chef, author and vegan. There I was this happy and plump woman, and when I called Christina, she couldn't have been nicer. She was coming to the store to cook a vegan bruschetta and sign copies of one of her many books. When we met, I was awe struck, and now five years later, I am happy to call her a good friend. She is a very down to earth woman of grand stature with a great heart.

And, believe me, this woman is a GENIUS and a fabulous cook. When I am preparing a meal (I am an inventive cook [granddaughter of Italian chefs]), I pretend (in my head) that I am just like Christina. She can cook anything and everything looks and tastes great.

So, today, in my kitchen on this cold and snowy day, here's the recipe I made (invented). Hope you like it.

Black Bean and Tomato Soup

This is quick and easy.

One bottle cap of Olive Oil
Four celery ribs, finely cut
One onion, thinly sliced
Four carrots, finely cut

One can of San Marzano Organic Crushed Tomatoes
8 cups of spring water

1 teaspoon of curry
Sea salt (to taste)
Bay leaf

Two cans of organic black beans, rinsed and drained
Bag of organic baby leaf spinach

How You Make This

Take your cut veggies and toss them in the oil. Then, turn on your burner and saute your veggies. Saute them until they are clear. Add tomatoes, water, curry, sea salt and bay leaf. Simmer on a gentle flame (uncovered). When they are soft, but not wilted, add the two cans of beans, and the bag of spinach. Cover and steam. Should be done in about five minutes.

This is a nice thick and hearty soup. Make a nice salad. This is a great dinner. If you live with carnivores, you need to incorporate them into your life without making so many different dinners. My suggestion is to put some shredded cheese on the table for them to sprinkle on their soup. It's important you express the importance of your being vegan without creating distance between you and those you love.

Tip of the Day: Today your joy will fall from the sky.

Friday, February 5, 2010

People Ask Me, "What Do You Eat?"

Easiest thing to answer with is, "Anything from the ground or a tree."

A few years ago I remember attending an event for a "Vegan Society," and an attendee wore a shirt that read, "The only thing that I eat with eyes is a potato." I thought to myself, is she for real?

Some vegans do not eat honey, be/c it comes from a live animal. Some use agave, a wonderful low glycemic sweetner from a cactus. Tastes great.

Today, I had steel cut oats for breakfast. For lunch, lentil stew, an orange, and red chai tea. For dinner I will have a big salad of fresh and organic greens, garnished with pomegrante and blood oranges...and very light on the oil. VERY LIGHT. And the squeeze of a big MEYER LEMON...my salad will taste divine.

One thing I do want to stress is that you need to be well informed. The books I mentioned in yesterday's blog are good tools to help develop new guidelines for yourself. This isn't a quick fix, but rather a permanent repair to otherwise unhealthy eating.

Oh, and let me say that POTATO CHIPS are vegan, but they are VERY processed. Avoid the processed foods...and lay off the colas. Diet ones, too. Water is so good. Give up your Mochachino from the fancy coffee places...do the right thing.

And more than anything, become a better label reader. That is your key. Tell me what you like to eat, I bet I can think of a healthy alternative.

Have a great day!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

How I Started This Journey

Simple--life long dieter. Love great food. Sadness caused my weight gain. I went to a meeting in Rockville, MD and our regional president talked about his becoming a vegan. Something spoke to me. I work for Whole Foods Market. I should know better.

I bought three books:

Engine 2 Diet
My Crazy Vegan Life
Eat to Live

Read them all. Each had lots to tell. In September, a plant based diet was my new vista. Could I do it? I love cheese. Yogurt. Skyr. Dark Breads (I am also now gluten free). I have osteo-arthritis, and wheat is a flammatory; for me, not eating wheat keeps my joint pain at an all time low.

I lived through a monumental birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, etc. as a VEGAN and it is EASY and I feel amazing.

Next month I will spend a week at a spa-resort in Austin, Texas to help along this journey, and I am grateful to my employer, Whole Foods Market, for sending me on this journey.

If you're thinking about becoming a vegan, take small steps. Eat as much organic food as you can. Eat foods that you like. Find new recipes. Do not look at this as a diet, but a better way to guide and live your life.

Since September, I have lost 40 pounds. I work out everyday (always have). For me, eating as a vegan has greatly improved my overall well-being.

TIP OF THE DAY: Keep an eating journal. Count your blessings.