Plant Life

Today marks two years of not eating anything with a face. I discussed my reasons for moving toward a plant-based diet here, but two years in, a review of the process seems in order.

There have been many failed recipes. Homemade bean burgers that fell apart before we even got them out of the oven, a spring roll that was fine with enough sauce, but the wrapper tasted like rubber, and a misused spice that ruined a whole pot of stew all come to mind. Trial and error. Find what works. Dump what doesn’t.

Gather knowledge. And recipes! I have a penchant for purchasing cookbooks. The more photos, the better. Discovering Forks over Knives has a quarterly magazine FULL of tasty concoctions that I’ve revisited many times was a game changer. The internet?! Hello. SO. MANY. IDEAS. It has been a learning curve, but some tasty eats along the way.

Health. There has been much research on the health advantages of a plant based way of eating. Here are a few:

NutritionFacts.org

Forks Over Knives

Thug Kitchen (Language alert – but SO funny and great eats!)

Dr. Dean Ornish

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

Quick article from Harvard Health

Dr. Garth Davis

Personally, it’s been a road of increasing health, but not in the way we typically think of it. For most of us, we think of health in terms of appearance. 6-pack abs, a certain size, before and after pictures, etc. all promote an idea of what healthy looks like. The fact is, you can be very unhealthy and achieve those things. I’m talking about health from the perspective of cholesterol and A1c (blood glucose levels). Health from the inside out.

For me this process began after getting blood test results that indicated I was prediabetic. Basically that means that I was on the road to Type 2 Diabetes. I sought advice from a registered dietician and followed her instructions. My numbers came down. Among the list of foods to consume was lots of processed meats; and it just didn’t seem right so I kept investigating, reading books such as Protein-aholic by Dr. Garth Davis, Presto! How I made over 100 pounds disappear and other Magical Tales by Penn Jillette, The China Study by Dr. Colin T. Campbell among many others. I read about Type 2 diabetes and how the conventional advice was to limit carbs/sugars and watch the A1c numbers come down. It’s true, the numbers will come down a bit. But it’s putting a bandaid on the problem. It’s not addressing why the body isn’t processing carbohydrates the way it should.

Fat is actually the issue. Fat gums up the locks of our muscle cells, not letting insulin do it’s job of letting in the energy (carbohydrates) in. “Fat in the bloodstream can build up inside the muscle cells, creating toxic fatty breakdown products and free radicals that block the insulin signaling process. No matter how much insulin we have in our blood, it’s not able to sufficiently open the glucose gates, and blood sugar levels build up in the blood. And this can happen within three hours. One hit of fat can start causing insulin resistance, inhibiting blood sugar uptake after just 160 minutes.Fat is actually the issue. Fat gums up the locks of our muscle cells, not letting insulin do it’s job of letting in the energy (carbohydrates) in.”

-Michael Greger, M.D.

And what type of fat? Saturated fat. The kind from animals, trans-fat, deep fryers, etc. You know – the ones that you know you shouldn’t eat. (The fats from avocados and nuts are unsaturated fats.) According to my registered dietician, eating meat was going to help me lower my blood glucose levels. By eating meat?! Nope. Bandaid for sure, but not a long-term solution.

My A1c numbers came down but my cholesterol and triglycerides had shot up! Great. (insert eye roll). It’s no wonder most of us are so dang confused by nutrition. The ‘experts’ attend conferences funded by fast food companies. While many practitioners are simply teaching what they are taught, it’s not solving the problems, and it’s not accurate information.

Fast forward a year in to a plant based diet, I had bloodwork done yet again to check my A1c and cholesterol. My triglycerides came down from 276 to 118. My doctor was so excited by my results she called me from her personal phone after hours to celebrate with me! My A1c number when from 5.6 to 5.3. That doesn’t seem like a whole lot, but it is a trend in the right direction. The farther down the normal range the better. A plant based diet has done just that!

BUT WHAT ABOUT PROTEIN!? My answer is two things.

  1. Proteins are amnio acids. There are 20 amino acids – some are made by the body, some we obtain from food. Regardless of whether you get those amino acids from plants or animals, the amino acids are the same to the body.
  2. Take a look at a gorilla, one of the strongest animals on the planet. Guess what? They have lots of muscles on their body and are capable of lifting 10 times their body weight. They are STRONG. And they are plant eaters. I don’t think they are saying to their gorilla friend at the gym, “What about protein, Brah?”

I also did a test of sorts, I looked up the nutritional value of my typical breakfast and compared it to a typical meat/egg breakfast. Here’s how it stacked up:

Bowl of oats with sliced almonds, blueberries, and hempseed: 23g protein, 12g fiber.

2 eggs, 2 slices bacon and an English muffin: 11g protein, 0.8g fiber

The numbers are clear. Protein is more than sufficient and plant based eating will give you the fiber most omnivores lack and then some!

My palate has changed. Eating a steak or a piece of bacon doesn’t even sound appealing. (I used to LOVE me some bacon!) When I walk by the meat department in the grocery store I can actually smell the blood. It’s so weird. Two years in and I’m feeling great, my doctor is beyond thrilled with my results and I have energy! I have no desire to return to eating meat. Doing so would undo all the health progress I have made and wouldn’t make sense.

Cheers to eating nothing with a face for life!

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Lemons, Lemonade, Lillies, and Other Luxurious Little Things

There are lemons that grow over our fence! REAL lemons! In February!

I showed a picture to the hubby of a planter contraption on Pinterest one evening. He replied, “Hmm. That’s doable.” I didn’t give it much thought, until the next day he brought home supplies and made this! I love it! Yay container gardening!

The fruits that grow locally are delicious! I’m still dreaming of the sweetness of the mandarins a neighbor gave me a few weeks ago. The lemons just hang over my fence waiting for me to devour their juiciness! We were encouraged to take as many as we want!

I raked the leaves and mowed the lawn last week and desired the hard-earned post-yardwork reward. While I no longer drink, there is something very nostalgic about a cold beer on a warm afternoon commingling with the scent of freshly cut grass. I don’t let my thoughts linger there too long because it can be a slippery slope. In lieu of said adult beverage, I opted for plucking a few of those lemons and making the best lemonade I’ve ever had.

Happy Fruit!
Little Man even likes it! Working with an Occupational Therapist has been wonderful in helping him be more open to trying new things.
Little miss helps me make it. Then promptly asks if she can have mine!

Later my sweet husband brought home a calla lily plant to add to our planter garden! They are my favorite. Little things are big things. Truly.

In keeping with the alliteration, the other “luxurious things” include a fabulous new hair cut which makes one feel great after months of feeling not so, including the never-long-enough shampoo/scalp massage/conditioning treatment. I seriously love having my head massaged. If we ever get money tree seeds, I’m hiring a professional to massage my head daily.

These little things like setting up a garden, little happy turquoise chairs, good coffee, a great book to read, a dog on the mend from surgery and simply making lemonade with my kids are just that – little things. I’m feeling particularly grateful, for no other reason than it just feels good to feel good, if that makes sense.

I love the little things.

Internal Thought Vomit

Eric and I have a commonly repeated conversation, usually while driving. It goes something like this:

Me: “What are you thinking about?”

Him: “Nothing.”

Me: “Hmm.”

Him: “What are you thinking about?”

Me:”I’mwonderingwhyyouaresoquietandthisotherthingI’mworriedaboutandblahblahblahblahblahblahmorestuff,” comes tumbling out.

Him: “Oh…I was thinking about how the cotton is only a foot high now.”

Me: **Crickets**

WHAT?! I have brain on rapid fire and he’s just looking out the window and seeing what’s there. I don’t think he gets thought-vomit like I do.

“I really don’t know how you do it,” says any number of people, shaking their heads slowly as they discover we are a military family and my other half is deployed. “I could never do that.”

Yeah, you could. If it was your life and you didn’t have a choice. There are plenty of us doing it.  It sucks. There are good parts, like anything. The highs are high and the lows…well, they suck. My strategy is to tuck my chin, focus on the next right thing and move. Keep moving, keep doing, keep on keeping on. Everything we do gets us that much closer to it being over. Every missed holiday, every missed event, every school function he’ll watch via social media….it all gets us that much closer to homecoming day.

A random day of mid-deployment thought-vomit looks something like this:

It’s Saturday and we’re at the trampoline park because I feel sad that they are missing their dad. They need activity and busy-ness from time to time. They need to wear themselves out. Looking around, I’m struck by how no one smiles. Looking across the cavernous lobby, I catch sight of a couple walking to the exit with a small child, their jump time now concluded. The sweaty, flushed face looks up as she reaches to grasp the hand of one of the adults.

“They don’t even look happy,” I think to myself as I condescendingly judge them. The adult seems to carry the burdens of life physically on her back, slightly rounding at the base of her neck.

As they walk out, I continue to ponder the inner thoughts of other patrons. Cell phones in every hand, boredom tinged with a traces of anxiety, we are all watching each other, sizing everyone up. “Look at how good I’m doing at this whole parenting thing. I’ve really got my life together, ” we all think as we pray no one sees how we really don’t have it together, and we are all pretending.

Or maybe it’s just me who feels like a pretend adult.

My eyes return to my book, though I can scarcely recall the sentence I’ve read 4 times. Turns out this whole deployment business has well, ups and downs. And some of the downs, I don’t handle very well.

Thanksgiving. The 4th holiday he missed. Fourth out of the 8 or 9 that he wasn’t here to celebrate. Normally the holidays evoke gratitude and reflection. This year I was angry and irritable.

I’m angry at the political climate. I’m angry that my son is blind in his right eye. I’m angry that I can’t be with my person. My best friend. I’m angry at the sexual harassment perpetrators, the hypocrisy of politics. I’m angry at the church and myself for not loving people as well as we should, being chastened by a remarkable conversation with an atheist/agnostic who’s actions are more Christ-like than most of us who claim a relationship with Jesus.

I’m angry that I have to fear when I send my kids to school that they may not come home.

Still sober and clinging to my 9 months. I feel good about that, but life isn’t as it should be. It’s paled, almost black and white. The color has slipped a bit…my anger turning to a melancholy I can’t shake.

I can laugh. I can take my kids camping in the rain. I can joke and be social with friends. I have girl friends that I see regularly for adult interaction and coffee. I’m reading, learning and growing. I’m working at being a better dog parent/trainer. The stuff I’m learning about is awesome and I want to pick up the phone and talk to him about it, and then oh..wait. I can’t. Dang it.

I look over and see a birthday party in progress. The noise makes my skin crawl.

I’m nervous about our move to San Diego and simultaneously can not wait to get there. Once we get the transition over with, it’ll be fine, I remind myself for the 500th time.

I want to wake up and have this year over.

I try, yet again, to read my book. The kids come running up, their faces flushed. “MOM! This is so fun!” they holler over the loud music, then darting back out to play dodgeball, practice their flips and cartwheels and see how high they can jump.

They will be okay, I marvel. Borrowing some of their enthusiasm, we’re getting through it, I think. Maybe not without some bumps and bruises and rough days, but we’re getting through it.

Put most simply, my thought vomit is well, messy.

Perhaps everyone’s thought vomit is messy like that. Or not. Mine’s pretty loud. And she likes to talk and analyze. A lot.

In our pre-marriage counseling some 20 years ago, a reference was made to a marriage book, by Chad Eastham, “Guys are Waffles, Girls are Spaghetti.” In short, men compartmentalize areas of their life, like the little squares and of a waffle. Women, on the other hand, are a tangled mess of saucy goodness where everything is tangled and intertwined, like spaghetti.

Sometimes I wonder if I’ve got some sauce falling off the plate because the noodles of my mind are being twirled a bit too fast by life.

Hmmm, now I’m hungry.

Messy spaghetti, anyone?

Newsflash: You’re an adult.

Can we get real here for a minute? You are an adult. (Really. Even if it doesn’t feel like it.) Part of being a grown up human being with a body is taking care of said body.

“I don’t like exercise.”

“Working out is boring.”

“I don’t have time to cook.”

“I don’t like the gym.”

“Meal planning? Ugh. I hate grocery shopping. I hate prepping food.”

“I don’t like water. Unless it’s coffee flavored.”

Ha. ha. ha.

Grow up. Do you find brushing your teeth exciting? Probably not. But you do it, right? It’s called hygiene. It’s taking care of your body. (My dentist says that you only have to floss the teeth you wish to keep.) Who wants to kiss you with your nasty horrid breath? So, as human beings with a body, we bathe, we brush our teeth, we wash our hair, etc. You wouldn’t drive a car without maintenance, right? No oil changes, no new tires, no washing, no tune ups – no problem, right?

Wrong.

Take care of a vehicle, it takes you where you need to go.

Guess what? Eating nutritious foods and moving around and lifting heavy things is part of maintaining a body. It’s REQUIRED if we want it to operate as desired and for a long time.

I get it. Crap like this gives many undo anxiety and just feels overwhelming. (Unless you are super nerdy and love food prep. Yes, there are a few):

If you hate cooking, hate food prep, etc. – these kinds of posts and pictures do nothing for you but make you feel inadequate, uninspired, and like you can’t adult. It becomes a big ‘ole shame fest. But that doesn’t give you a pass on taking care of your body. You don’t have to be a polished food prep pro. If your goal is to eat healthfully, develop a strategy. It doesn’t need to be uber complicated.

It does require being an adult and making choices that benefit you long term.

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Now that you have your big girl or boy pants on, here’s a couple of my weekly adulting food tasks that take zero time. (Okay, not zero time, but definitely not as much time as the crazies with 52 containers of Tupperware that are simultaneously cooking 7 different meals.)

Make a big salad for the week

It’s not that hard. Grab some lettuces you like. Romaine is nice and crunchy, green and red leaf are great, too. Don’t like kale? Don’t eat it. It’s fine. Just because some one wrote an article claiming the wonders of a food doesn’t mean you have to like it. Find what you do like. Super lazy and have some extra cash? They have prewashed and trimmed spring mix, spinach, and every other lettuce you can think of. Get over boring iceberg and change it up! Add some shredded carrot and some cabbage, throw it in a big bowl with a lid and you’ve got a greens base to be used through the week. Taco salad, sandwich/wrap ingredient, Buddha bowl – grab your greens and go!

Tip: If you buy the plastic containers of pre-washed greens, take them out of the container to extend shelf life. They get pretty slimy in the original container. Conversely, if you buy actual heads of lettuces and bunches of greens and chop and rinse yourself, you not only save money, but the produce lasts longer.

Portion out food as you go, rough meal planning

I don’t portion/prep and spend hours on a Sunday mapping out every breakfast lunch and dinner. I just don’t. (If that is your thing – cool. Do you.) Instead, I have a rough idea of what meals we’re going to eat that week, and shop for those ingredients. If we don’t feel like tacos on Tuesday, that’s cool. Just switch it around and have them on Friday because all ingredients needed are there.

For things like mushrooms, bell peppers, or onions etc. that will be used each week for more than one dish, prep those. Being able to quickly grab that diced onion for a recipe makes cooking time go much easier. Younger kids can pack their own lunches with ease when all they have to do is open a container and grab some slices of bell peppers or carrot sticks. Older kids? Cool – make them your food prep labor force! Why we do not teach our kids to cook and properly feed themselves is crazy to me. Life skills, people. Teach them how to take care of their bodies by modeling it yourself.

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Make fruit ‘grab and go’ ready

When buying apples, pears, peaches, grapes, etc., I throw them all in the sink with some water and a 1/2 cup or so of vinegar. Let them soak while prepping a big bowl o’ greens. It makes packing lunches that much easier in the morning, and only takes a few minutes.

Grocery plastic produce bags

Grocery shopping done, check. Produce purchased, check. Turning over a new leaf, check. Proud of yourself for avoiding the junk food aisle, check. Flash forward a week and you’ve got a veggie drawer filled with slimy, rotting veggies in individual plastic produce bags. Sound familiar? Ditch those thin plastic sacks pronto. Like as soon as you get home from the store. (Better yet, try these reusable drawstring bags for produce! No, I don’t get paid for that link, but I DO love and use them every tine I shop!) Those plastic sacks from the store will make your produce wilt faster. Unwrap and unband any fruits and veg and place them in drawers or in prepped in reusable containers.

You don’t have to be a neurotic food freak to be healthy. Feeding yourself and your loved ones doesn’t need to be meltdown-inducing. You do have to make a choice. Drink water. Move your body. Eat fruits and vegetables. Ditch the junk. Lift heavy things. Make the decisions that get you to your goals…or don’t.

It’s entirely up to you.

You’re an adult.

From the Nope Files

My hilarious friend (from Halcyon Hive) regularly posts on Facebook what she refers to as the “Nope files…” and showcases all kinds of awful insects and bugs from her part of the country. I crack up every time. For example:

This little Nope is also known as the Arrow Spider. Bonus resentment towards it because I had to image search “yellow abdomen spiders” for identification and NOPE. Small, but with red daggers growing out of its abdomen, this monster get points for extra nope-ness. #nope

Image may contain: outdoor and nature

See what I mean?! Hilarity to deal with intense loathing of fearsome creatures? Yes please!

We are plugging away into the school year, managing deployment ups and downs and kids are doing as well as can be expected. We are continuing on our vegetarian exploration.  Eating meatless has been an adventure and in many respects easier than I thought it would be. There have been many foods that would fit that same sort of “NOPE” file, but instead of cringe-worthy creatures, it would be frighteningly awful franken-foods.

For example, the bean burger fiasco. OYVEY. Why?! Why would I ever think that smooshed up beans would be tasty on a bun? And carrot dogs? Nope with a capital N! Do not get me started on nutritional yeast trying to masquerade as cheese. IT’S NOT CHEESE. It’s yeasty and gross.

What people choose to eat is really not of any earth-shattering importance or interest, but if you are leaning toward a more plant-based nutrition plan, let me save you a bit of money on some of the freak fake foods we’ve sampled (and promptly stuffed into the garbage!)

  • Bean burgers. We’ve tried the homemade version and one made by Beyond Meat. There are plenty of meat substitute companies, but this brand had rave reviews. Mealy and blah, even with condiments, that’s a big NOPE from Hannah and I. She prefers the Boca Chik’n patty and I like the Spicy Chick’n. Boca’s veggie burger is also a good one.

 

  • Cauliflower tots.i-just-didgosh-now-gimme-your-tots.jpgI love tots. I mean, who doesn’t? I’m typically not a fan of making cauliflower into something it’s not, but the riced veggies from Green Giant were pretty good. The tots? Not so much. It tasted like it had paper bits in it and had a mealy gross texture. the seasoning was overdone to compensate for the fact that it is cauliflower, not a tater. NOPE.Unknown.jpegUnknown-1.jpeg

 

  • Cashews as sauce. Cashews as cheesecake. Cashews as anything other than cashews or cashew butter. Cashews are nuts. They are awesome. But not mixed with water and nutritional yeast and trying to be Alfredo. Just NOPE.

 

  • Vegan Butter Not a fan. Oils and other yuck. Some people swear by it as an alternative to dairy. I would rather just go without and eat the food plain. Big non-buttery NOPE.Unknown-2.jpeg
  • Beyond Meat “chicken” strips. Lightly seasoned, Beyond Meat was beyond gross!Unknown-3.jpegLet’s put it this way; if burned skin and body odor had a taste, it would come in this package. Stinky NOPE. (Just do tofu. At least it’s not pretending to be anything it’s not supposed to be. Tofu just soaks up the flavors of whatever it’s paired with.)

 

  • My son gives all plant based milks a big NOPE. I disagree. We don’t care for soy milks, but Hannah and I really like almond milk. He keeps trying new brands and flavors so time will tell on that one. A friend recommended Ripple milk, made from peas. That’s a NOPE all the Stoffers agree on. Pea milk. We giggle every time we say it out loud. Because we are 12.

 

  • Red Robin French Fries. In the freezer section, I was surprised to see Red Robin fries. Since we don’t have a Red Robin in town, I was excited to have a taste of the seasoned deliciousness. I should have not been excited. They were over seasoned and tasted NOTHING like Red Robin. Big Red Bird NOPE!

 

  • Tempeh Okay, so Tempeh. Fermented tofu. Not technically a franked-food, but it gets a giant fermented Nope from me. I’ve tried it, more than once, and more than once it’s ended up in the garbage.

 

I keep experimenting, but I keep coming back to the same conclusion; foods morphed and masquerading as something they are not = NOPE. They don’t taste the same and usually end up in disappointment.

What never disappoints? What we eat on a regular basis: veggie soups, grown up ramen, stir frys, bean burrito bowls and salads, tacos, veggie sandwiches, whole grain pastas, fresh yummy fruits – just as they are!

 

 

 

 

via Daily Prompt: Interest

Mock Food

I have come to the realization that I am not a fan of fake foods, or mock foods; things that are pretending to be something they are not. For example, turkey bacon. It’s not bacon. Bacon is bacon.

The same is true in the land of fruit and veg. These so-called transition dishes are just weird, some are not even edible. I get that the point is to transition away from a meat-based diet by having similarly flavored meals, but produce on it’s own, without trying to morph it into something else, is actually SO good.

Here are my latest adventures in mock food.

Carrot dogs!

These are the most vile things I’ve ever eaten. Partially cooked, then soaked in a “brine” of soy, liquid smoke, garlic, etc. it seemed like they might be okay….but they are gross. I can live my life without hotdogs. And carrots are sweet, crunchy deliciousness just as they are.

What will be the last time I venture into mock food promised to be a creamy alfredo to serve over pasta. Made with cauliflower (because what isn’t made with cauliflower lately?!) and nutritional yeast – I found it HORRIBLE. Wretched. Awful. Stop trying to make cheese out of yeast flakes. Its disgusting. Seriously.

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Vegan alfredo
While I’m on the subject, the Braggs’ Nutritional Yeast seasoning is the stinkiest thing. I will gladly take my B vitamins in the form of capsules, thankyouverymuch.

Here’s to buddha bowls, salads, pastas, rice, beans, tacos, fruit, veggies and all the yummies just as they are!

Swim in a Vat

When I worked in an office, the ladies I worked with were intelligent, quick-witted and hilarious. Working with the public affords a level of comraderie difficult to come by in other workplaces. Not only did we commiserate about difficult customers or share knowing glances on crazy busy Friday afternoons, we also belly laughed over ridiculous inside jokes.

One of these inside jokes revolved around our mutual love of specific foods and snacks. If something was stop-you-in-your-tracks delicious, we’d say, “Oh my gosh, this is so good I could swim in a vat of this and eat my way out!” Think of the scene in Patch Adams where they honor the patient’s wish to swim in a pool of noodles.

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Making a new recipe tonight for a Mexican Quinoa Bowl, the dressing caught my eye. Avocados, tomatillos, garlic, cilantro…glancing through the ingredient list I realized I had most items already on hand. After the last few meh and outright failure dinners, I was looking for something to wow the taste buds.

Little did I know, I would soon be uttering that familiar phrase…

Looks kind of like baby-poo green, but oh, my. SO DANG Good!

  • 3 small ripe avocados
  • 3 tomatillos, quartered
  • 12 sprigs cilantro
  • 1/4 onion roughly chopped
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 serrano chile pepper
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Approx 1/2 cup of water, more or less as needed to blend

Pop it all in the blender and voila! Instant yummy! The recipe called for refrigeration to let the flavors meld, and then to assemble the remaining parts of the bowl. I dipped tortilla chips in to taste test and it was all I could do to not crawl in my blender and lick it clean! Tomatillos! Where have you been all of my life?!

The rest of the bowl came together very quickly; tri color quinoa, diced cherry tomatoes, diced cucumbers, black beans, and corn. Top it all off with the avocado salsa and enjoy! Next time I may place this on a bed of mixed greens and add some sautéed peppers and onions.

After making disgusting bean burgers and so-so stirfrys, I was so excited to tell Eric that I made something vat-worthy!