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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Trick or Treat...Something Healthy to Eat!

Halloween is the day, in my opinion, that sets off spirals of crazy eating for anyone who struggles with food addiction. That one first bite used to send me into a tailspin of crazy eating through the arrival of the new year. It was like a switch made a loud click, and after "reviewing"my children's Halloween finds, my eating was thoughtless and sloppy. I had a pecking order, too. The stuff I liked (black licorice) would be consumed first, and eventually, and at last resort, I would end up eating candy corn. I still don't understand the concept of candy corn.

Anyway, Halloween doesn't even phase me anymore. Doesn't even register on my radar. I am too busy thinking about what plant strong dish I can discover and create for family and friends. I am also starting to focus on Thanksgiving and how I can blend this day for the "Carnivorous Connelly's," my family.

In LA, there's a zany chef by the name of Chef AJ. I met her in Austin, TX in March. She is very funny and witty. I follow her on her "weekly show," which is called The Chef and the Dietitian. AJ has me thinking about Thanksgiving, and this is her recipe for a FABULOUS cranberry sauce. As she would say, "it is free from the evil trio of sugar, fat, and oil." You can visit AJ's website at www.chefajshealthykitchen.com. She has awesome recipes. Here is her divine recipe for Cranberry Sauce.

You Will Need:

Pound of Cranberries (organic, if you can)
2 organic oranges
6-9 organic dates

Wash the cranberries. Place them in the food processor and pulse them until they are finely chopped. With a zester, add skin from one orange.

Peel two oranges, and add them to the mixture. Pulse again until well blended.

Put in your pit free dates, and pulse again.

YOU ARE DONE, this is it! Lovely color and so delicious.

I made a Mushroom and Barley soup that was seasoned with sage, thyme, and other fall spices. The cranberry sauce was the side dish. It was delicious!

I am on a mission. There is nothing that can get in my way. My new mantra is simple: There is no temptation that would taste as good as being plant strong makes me feel...

Sometimes I am hard on myself, because I know that the entire fabric of my life would have been very different if this was my lifestyle choice twenty years ago. I did my best, though, and now I can only do better. No regrets. Plant Strong...Nutrient Dense...a good place to be.

Hold the turkey, pass the cranberry sauce, please.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Giving Thought to Thanksgiving

I have this video playing in my head about the First Thanksgiving. It's where everyone is seated around the table, and as they are passing platters of food to one another, one of the Pilgrim ladies says, "Oh, none for me, I am plant-strong, but could you please pass me the acorn squash with wild rice?" Someone had to be plant strong at that dinner, don't you think?

This will be my second Thanksgiving being plant-strong. And let me tell you this, it gets easier with time. Really. With the exception of the carcass in the center of the table, I have learned to create vegan counterparts to every animal dish ever made. And, I steer clear of the Tofurkey, as it is too highly processed for me. The more I am vegan, the more I appreciate simple, pure, local, and fresh foods.

In some ways, though, I am a cheater. After having spent 25 days of November selling turkeys to housewives, teachers, lawyers, and the like, I am pretty much exhausted, especially during those three days prior to Thanksgiving. That's because I work three, 12 hour days of slinging turkeys to 2000 people. I am pooped. Although, I am always energized to do my favorite 5K on Thanksgiving morning.

My cheating, however, comes in this way; I take my family out to eat Thanksgiving dinner. I am so tired from work, that the thought of cooking exhausts me. We go to a fancy place. We all get dressed up. We look good. Philadelphia is not short on good restaurants, so it is always a pleasant day. And, I eat vegetables, and lots of them!

After making my reservation, I ask to speak to the chef. I see if they have brown rice, baked sweet potatoes, and can vegetables be cooked without any expressed oils. Here's the deal; in this economy, restaurants want your business, and short of acting as though I have a personal chef, no restaurant has ever disappointed. And, as the courses are being served, my small family and I catch up on activities, reminisce, and have fun.

Meanwhile, at home, Crockpots are filled with all kinds of veggie dishes for "leftovers." Sage, thyme and other herbs maintain the flavors of Thanksgiving. I am not a loss for the traditional flavors. Brown rice, succulent steamed vegetables, and a hearty salad make for great grub later in the day.

Dessert isn't an issue, either. There are a million vegan pumpkin pie recipes out there, and you can easily convert a conventional recipe by adding almond milk and egg-replacer. Mighty Muffins can also be made with pumpkin (3 bananas/1 cup of mashed pumpkin) and seasoned to fall perfection. And really, I highly doubt that the Pillsbury Dough Boy was even at that first gathering many, many years ago. I am sure desserts were simple, too, and that simplicity is something that being a vegan helps you to maintain.

Thanksgiving used to be the admission to crazy eating for six weeks for me. Now, it is just another day, but a day where I get to reflect, count my blessings, connect with friends, and then take a nice long nap. I am no longer held captive by the end result of eating things that weren't good for me.

If you're not going out, get a Brown Rice Extravaganza going on. And I bet your family will want that more than anything else at the table.

One thing that stays true is that you still get to count your blessings on this special day.

Lettuce give thanks.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Chill in the Air...Means One Thing...Time for Soup!

With the temps dropping into the 50's at night, that newly identified chill tells me it is time for soup. I was talking to a firefighter yesterday who told me, "Oh, who needs home made soup when you have Progresso Light?"

Well, the answer is, "I need homemade soup." I like soups that are easy to make, and I like them on the thicker side with some added texture, like, chunky vegetables and some type of puree. Nothing out of can, however. No high sodium canned soups for me.

Here's a quick, easy and delicious recipe I whipped up in the kitchen yesterday. The color was lovely and the flavor way too delicious.

This soup will warm your plant-strong heart and you can eat it for breakfast,lunch, dinner, or snack.

Sweet Po/Carrots/Ginger Soup

Two very large organic sweet potatoes (leave the skin on), cubed
Pound of shredded organic carrots
1/2 white onion, sliced into half-moons
1 inch of peeled and diced fresh ginger
Two cups of finely minced kale
1 tsp of Bragg's Amino or Reduced Sodium Tamari
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
One quart of spring water

Fresh parsley garnish.

Saute the onion in a few tablespoons of water. Once they've started to caramelize, add the sweet potatoes, carrots and ginger. Add the quart of water, and simmer until the potatoes are done.

Remove 1/2 of the shredded carrots and set aside.

With an Immersion Blender, make a puree of the remaining veggies in the soup pot.

Put back the reserved carrots, and add the kale. Cover the pot and let the kale wilt. When you plate it, add some fresh parsley.

This is so good. The sweetness of the carrots and sweet potato clearly tells me that fall has arrived!

Time to rake the leaves!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

To "V" or Not to "V"

So, I am this plant strong machine, shy of almost becoming a Vegan Bitch, because I am very tenacious about my own state of well being. I am truly committed to the greener side of life. And, I try to contain my zeal at all times.

Last night, I got to see another preview of Forks Over Knives, the Brian Wendel movie that will change the way people view their food, and what they eat. (A special shout out to my endothelial cells, holla). I have seen the film five times! And each time I see it, I learn something new. I hear something with more clarity, and it always resonates to the bowels of my core.

My friend and neighbor is Lucille. She is the definition of sweet...a loving wife, mother, daughter, and grandmother. But she has this crazy relationship with bad food (like we have all had at one time or another). I always tell her that her food choices are like the bad boys we don't want our daughters to date. She dabbles with being plant strong, but will easily turn the corner for a piece of dead flesh marinated in ginger and soy.

Lucille is an outstanding cook. She knows her meat cuts like a chemist knows the Periodic Tables. And, she tastes when she cooks. At work, I often make meat-related meals for the masses, and I can barely, barely I tell you, touch the stuff. The thought of tasting it would have me hugging the toilet. But, Lucille has announced that "Jesus would have to come down from the cross" before she would give up tasting her food while cooking. And she will never give up salmon.

I love and adore Lucille. But here's what has me worried. While watching FOK last night, she gets an alarming phone call that her mother has been admitted to the ICU of a local hospital where she has had a heart attack and pneumonia. Lucille has to leave early to run off to the hospital to visit her 86 year old mother. And part of my worry comes from seeing Lucille at work where her own breathing is labored.

Now, I know I am not perfect. Really, I do. My own mother died from the ravages of lung cancer. And for this, I do not smoke, nor have I ever. As for my birthfather, he fell off a ladder, and I try to avoid climbing high places or roof tops at all costs. I am plant strong because I got scared from what could have become a stream of chronic diseases entwined with more of life's health complications.

Anyway, I am not sure how Lucille will get the "plant-strong" message in full blast, but this is where I remind myself that I only need to focus on myself and the direction I follow from being plant strong everyday.

The sound of an irregular heartbeat piercing from a heart monitor just might be enough to help Lucille. Let's hope her mom pulls through this, and let's hope that Lucille gets the message.

Plant-Strong and Proud.