Spring Changes

 spring garden/mygoodcleanfood.com spring garden/mygoodcleanfood.com

I’ve been burning the midnight oil lately trying to prepare the next big thing. We’re days (I hope!) away from launching our very own, REAL WEBSITE! I ‘m really quite terrified, especially after a long hiatus and with a busy life, but I’m sort of over waiting around for something awesome, so instead I’m making it. I’m working on branding, designing, and hopefully making it a beautiful and welcoming place for you to visit, to peruse, dream and maybe even decide it’s time for you to dig in. This is hard work for the computer UN-learned.

spring garden/mygoodcleanfood.com

We’ve had spring snow the last two days here. Cold and icky, but prior to the icky, we got a good taste of real spring. Buried under a thick blanket of hay, we had some winter survivors. Beautiful, tasty green things. My almost three-year-old little girl thinks she’s sneaking when she tucks away a spinach leaf, and then another, and then another, chewing them up with great delight.

spring garden/mygoodcleanfood.com

Our garden is much more than a place to grow food. It is our hard-work training ground, a science experiment, an escape, our favorite picnic spot, the raspberry patch, our compost pile, and place to dig badger holes, get dirty, take out aggressions, and yes, even sneak a spinach leaf or two.

Let’s start by watching this…

Is there anything Kale CAN’T do?

Watch this – and yes, it’s long, but you’ll get the idea after about 15 minutes and might just be hooked.

And no, we’re not hardcore vegans, so I feel a bit guilty. We’re 95%-ers and striving for better without over-complicating things, but this is a good watch. And he’s pretty funny, though it’s probably a “preaching to the choir” sort of deal since I’m pretty sure my Carnivorous friends wouldn’t take too kindly too it.

I once heard that we’re constantly flooded by the answers we need, but if we’re not ready to hear them, they won’t find a home with us.

Gah! I can’t breathe in my fat clothes!

I had some health issues–ok fat issues last Dec. I gained 15 lbs in a matter of weeks. I have not been able to get it off. I took the green smoothie challenge because I wanted to lose weight. I lost 3 lbs, got down to 153 (I am 5’7”). I started jogging in the mornings and when I say jog, I mean serious fast walk. I continued strength training with a personal trainer three times a week (I have been doing this for over 3 years) and taught yoga twice a week.  I continued to eat whole food, plant-based protein (healthy vegan) thinking eating so healthy would eventually lead my body to finding its groove and being healthy, sexy, curvy and svelte on its own. I weighed in yesterday at 156.6 (no it is not muscle, but bless your heart for thinking it).

I logged my food yesterday. I am seriously back in reality.

Yesterday’s stats—average day—maybe a little low (LOL!)

Calories Protein Fat Carbs Sugar Fiber
2670 67 136 336 109 61

Good fiber though! If you have never had to count calories before (then I kind of hate you), but for reference, for my height and activity level, to maintain my weight I shouldn’t eat more than about 1800 claories/day.I have been eating almost 1000 extra calories/day. It takes 3500 to make a pound.

My brain kept telling me” just because it is vegan doesn’t mean I can eat all I want.” I just pretended I couldn’t hear my stupid brain.

I am not chasing skinny (I try not to anyway) but I can’t fit into any of my clothes, I have been wearing leisure suits for 6 months—not a good look. I can’t afford to buy new clothes every 6 months and if I keep eating this much food that is reality. I constantly feel these 15 lbs. Every morning I wake up with a sore back, my workouts are harder, my yoga belly looks like fat Buddha and it hurts to stuff myself into “going out” clothes.

The plan until I drop this miserable fat-baby:

  1. no dieting, just calorie budgeting (I will log my food so I know what I have spent)
  2. continue my regular workouts
  3. cardio at least 4 times/week
  4. Share my weekly progress and stats with you

Now for the recipes I want to share with you (this may provide a clue to the appearance of the fat-baby)

Chocolate Mousse

I tried to make Erika’s chocolate mousse recipe–disaster. I used silken tofu and the consistency, even after several hours of refrigeration, was liquid. Worse, it tasted and smelled like really cheap vodka—Andrew said it tasted like medicine.  Threw that out and tried again with firm tofu. Consistency and taste was better, but still not quite there. I did some concocting and wa-la, better yet, Andrew approved!—next time I make it I am going to try and cut down on calories and fat (starting with the coconut cream).

Better than Veggie Grill Chocolate Mousse (Andrew Approved)

 Serves 4

Ingredients

1 package Firm Tofu
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup maple syrup or evaporated cane juice
¾ cup chocolate chips

¾ cup chocolate soy or almond milk

Cream topping ingredients

2 (14 oz) cans regular coconut milk chilled 4-12 hours

1/3 cup vegan powdered sugar (I powdered evaporated cane juice in my vitamix)

Method

1. Melt chocolate chips in a double boiler.

2. In a medium bowl, blend tofu until completely smooth.

3. Mix in sweetener, coconut cream,  vanilla extract, chocolate soy milk, and cocoa powder. Add the melted chocolate and mix until smooth. Mix in most of the cream topping (saving enough for a little dollop on top, or to layer)

4. Transfer to a container, cover, and refrigerate for at least two hours.

Cream Topping

In a separate bowl skim the top, thick part of the coconut milk from the can, discard the remaining liquid, add 1/3 cup vegan powdered sugar and whip for about 20 seconds

Seriously, this is one you can serve at fancy parties!

 

Calories

Protein

Fat

Carbs

Sugar

Fiber
Cocoa, dry powder, unsweetened 124

11

7

29

1

18
Firm, Tofu

470

51

28

14

0

7
Coconut Milk, Regular

1200

10

110

20

20

0
Ch Almond Milk (Almond Breeze)

60

1

3

8

7

1
Organic, Dehydrated Cane Juice

450

0

0

90

90

0
Chocolate dream chocolate chips

400

5

20

50

40

5

Total:  

2704

78

168

199

146

31

Per serving

676

19.5

42

50

37

8

Still going to have this for a treat, after I loose the fat-baby.

Breakfast Quinoa

Had some left over Quinoa and decided to find a recipe for a breakfast something or other. I found a recipe at this blog http://www.howsweeteats.com/2012/04/breakfast-quinoa/ (seriously funny blog) made a few changes. Here is my recipe

Coconut Milk Breakfast Quinoa

serves 1

1 cup cooked quinoa

3/4 cup canned lite coconut milk + more for drizzling

1 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon + more for sprinkling

pinch of salt

1 banana, chopped

1 T  toasted pecans, chopped

2 tsp coconut sugar

1 T chopped dried cranberries

2 Tbs Natures Path pumpkin seed granola

Combine quinoa, coconut milk, cinnamon and vanilla in a small saucepan and simmer until coconut milk is combined.  Add the rest of the stuff.

Calories Protein Fat Carbs Sugar Fiber
578 13 33 62 16 10

All Things Apricot

Canning season began with a bang this year in our kitchen, the inaugural day including apricot picking at my neighbor’s home, followed by apricot butter, two jams and dehydration. Since I can’t do things like canning with the kids home for summer with much efficiency, the process began at 9pm and didn’t end until 3am!  Needless to say, I’m awfully tired today- please excuse any typos or random nonsensical rambling. I’ll try to stick to the point: yummy apricot recipes.

Round 1:  Cinna-Vanilla Apricot Butter

Have you made fruit butter yet?  If not, you’re missing out on one of simple joys of canning.  We’ve done apple, pear and now apricot butter.  We eat it spread on toast, in peanut butter sandwiches, mixed in oatmeal, with yogurt and over ice cream.  There aren’t a ton of ingredients and I use minimal sweetener, making it a healthy sweet.

Cinna-Vanilla Apricot Butter

Ingredients:

Apricots- about 10 lbs worth.  Wash, peel and take out pit.
Sweetener- Agave, maple or honey to taste.  1/2 to 3/4 c for apricots.  (I use a lot less for apples and pears.)
1 Tbl. Cinnamon
1 Vanilla Bean, see this tutorial for a great explanation on how to cook with a vanilla bean

Put apricots into a crockpot and cook on low for 8-10 hours.  Use an immersion blender to puree the cooked fruit until it is a smooth consistency.  (Or put into a blender, but that is just messy.  It’s worth getting the immersion blender, trust me.)  If it is still watery, leave the lid propped open a tiny bit to let moisture seep out for a bit.  Or add water if it is getting too thick.  Add sweetener and seasonings.  Let it simmer for another hour so the flavors blend in.

Process in a boiling waterbath canner for 20 minutes.  Add an extra minute for every 1000 ft about sea level.

If you are new to canning, Ball has great details on the how-to’s of preservation and some great recipes as well.  If you don’t want to can it, the apricot butter will keep well in the freezer for months or in the refrigerator for 3 weeks.

Round 2: Dehydration.  Super simple, just takes a while.

Wash and halve apricots, remove pit.  Lay down on trays.  Turn on dehydrator.  Rough stuff!  Apricots make yummy fruit leather too if you have liners for your dehydrator trays.  Just puree fruit, add sweetener if you like and dehydrate.


Round 3: Apricot Jam

I made two variations.  The first was just the basic recipe in the Pamona’s Pectin box, using apple juice as the sweetener.  It was alright but nothing too special.  The second so much fun, a great savory twist on the standard-

Rosemary Apricot Jam!

To make, just follow the directions on the Pamona’s Pectin Box, or find it at their website.  You could use other pectin brands too of course.  When all ingredients are in your pot heating up to a boil, add 3 Tbl chopped fresh rosemary.  That’s it!  What a difference it made, a lovely new flavor combination for a fruit I am just beginning to love.

A Happy Happenstance and a Little Experimentation

I am not the worlds most gifted cook.  That gene passed from my Grandmother to my sister- the gift of just throwing things together, whipping something up on the fly and having it taste amazing every time.  I have envied the gift time and time again, trying repeatedly to learn the science of culinary arts.  Sure, I can follow a recipe (most of the time, except when I am tired… or distracted… or not paying attention) but rarely do I successfully discover something on my own.

Which leads to the happy happenstance.  The other day Somer put together a crust for mini fruit tarts using dates, almonds, almond butter, vanilla and salt.  It was crumbly like a graham cracker crust and super delicious.

I went home and gave it a whirl, not knowing exact proportions (never a good idea in my kitchen.)  Into the food precessor went the almonds.  Everything looked lovely.  Then I processed the dates which turned in to a big sticky ball of sweetness.  I can work with big sticky balls of sweetness.  I combined the two and the result was much more ‘fruit & nut bar’ than ‘graham cracker crust’ and I didn’t even add the nut butter yet.  I could have added more nuts, no big deal, but I was famished and not patient enough for another go.

That said, I was still craving the salty vanilla flavor, so I added a couple splashes of vanilla and a sprinkling of sea salt.  One taste and I, the carb-starved-haven’t-eaten-a-baked-good-in-three-weeks gal, was in heaven.  We had happened upon raw cookie dough.  I tested it on my kids, calling it cookie dough and waiting for their reaction.  They jumped for joy, shouting that mommy makes the best cookie dough ever.  Yeah, I know they were just trying to butter me up, but these little babies are officially kid-tested and mother-approved.

Raw Cookie Dough Bites

Combine almonds and dates in a food processor to desired consistency.  Add vanilla and sea salt to taste.  Roll into balls.  Taste and smile.

Experimentation

#1 The Avocado:  I always wanted to try to grow an avocado plant.  I don’t know why I haven’t before, most likely due to a fear of failure.  But it worked, it really worked!  We took an avocado pit, skewered it on 3 sides and suspended it in a jar of water.  2 weeks passed.  No sign of change.  3 weeks, it cracked open a bit.  Could it possibly work?  4 weeks, is that a sprout in the middle of the pit?  5 weeks: a root!  And here we are, about 7 weeks in with a mini-avocado plant.  Success.

#2 Stevia:  Can I really grow it and what does it look like?  I put in seeds for 3 starter plants and only one grew.  Noted.  But this one is quite lovely.  It is potted (next time we’ll try direct planting) and very happy.  I ate a leaf.  It tastes like……  drumroll please….. a sugar coated leaf.  Shocking.

#3 Sauerkraut: From scratch?  I’m thinking Bubbies, natural fermentation, only cabbage, water and sea salt required.  Simple, delicious, tangy.  Bonzai Aphrodite said it was easy and gave me the step by step.  Why not?  Recipe says to let it sit 5 days to 5 weeks.  We are 10 days in and it’s not quite to my taste yet but it’s getting close and I can be patient.  Sometimes.

Be Here Now

The last week has been a roller coaster of change.  Fluish days of cleansing, tired days of resting, and vibrant days of clarity.  I wish I could post up amazing recipes for you, saying that I have eaten like a queen in my first 10 days as a vegan.  But I can’t*won’t*don’t need to.

Instead I have found myself going back to basics.  Simple meals.  A bowl of avocado and salsa.  Olives.  Nuts by the handful.  A piece of fruit.  A spinach salad with baby tomatoes and marinated artichoke hearts.I did have grilled portobello mushroom and red pepper skewers on a bed of sauteed cabbage and red onion- that was tasty but still simple as the marinade was just olive oil and garlic salt.

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Now I am more aware of the food I eat.  I savor each bite.  I am more present in my mealtimes.  And I cannot express the joy I felt yesterday in eating a Banana Bread Larabar yesterday- pure bliss!

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Results thus far: When I started this cleanse, I was 10 lbs from my goal weight and had a well rounded pooch.  I am active, running is an integral part of my life.  I ate relatively healthy- lots of organic produce, organic pasture raised meat once a day, and minimal dairy.  I don’t claim to have been perfect, everyone has an Achilles’ Heel.  My downfall is and has always been treats.  Yummy sweet desserts, baking, ice cream, chocolate, chocolate, chocolate.

I assumed I was doomed to always have my post-baby belly and that the final 10 lbs (I gain 65 each baby, I know, ouch) just wouldn’t budge.  WELL.  In ten days I have lost 7.3 lbs and 2 inches of belly!  Seriously?!

On another note, we did try a new recipe for my son’s birthday cupcakes- this vegan frosting.  It was easy to whip up, spread nicely and the kids loved it.  Word is (I couldn’t taste it) it was rich so the frosting didn’t need to be too thick.

Vegan Chocolate Frosting

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Makes about 2 cups
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups organic powdered sugar
  • ¼ cup (½ stick) dairy-free soy margarine, softened
  • ¼ cup plain unsweetened almond milk or soymilk
  • ¾ cup unsweetened pure cocoa powder
  • ½ t. vanilla

Preparation:

1. In a medium-large mixing bowl, using an electric hand mixer, cream the powdered sugar with the soy margarine until mixture is thick but well combined. Add the almond milk, cocoa powder and vanilla, and continue to mix until smooth.

**WARNING: Enter non-food focused ramblings of a Mormon hippie**

This journey has led me to remember a book I loved in college, Be Here Now by Ram Dass.  In facing these changes, my head has traveled in two directions interchangeably.  One of burden and one of peace.  I can choose to see this as a heavy weight, a monumental challenge, or a new opportunity, new hope.

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I have also found my thoughts traveling Heavenward- my prayers leave me with strength, peace and moments of needed inspiration.  The doctor am seeing talks about food and energy being light.  The light we put in both physically and metaphically will affect.

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I am not focused on quantity any longer, on filling an emotional void.  I am aware of satisfaction and nutritional needs, a very different mindset from the standard American diet. It’s a good place to be.

Vegan-ness

On the third day of a vegan + restriction diet and going strong.  Lunchtime was a little rough yesterday with 3 kids, hot sun and so many temptations everywhere we went but I made it through with the help of snap peas and raw almonds.  I couldn’t even have anything in the Whole Foods deli section!  Pretty sure being “just vegan” will be a breeze by the end of this.

While surfing around Pinterest for vegan recipe ideas, I came across this: anatomy of a vegan.  Some random facts about vegans in the US.  Food for thought, though everything I have done in the last couple days feels food related.

I found a new favorite snack the kids go crazy over too.  Not sure how I have missed fresh cured olives all my life.  Here is the write up from www.olives.com that describes this salty treat:

Naturally great-tasting, Fresh Cured™ Green Ripe Olives are California-grown, hand-picked, then cured immediately after harvesting using only sea salt and water. This time-honored process preserves their natural color variations, retains their firm, juicy texture, and brings out a delicious buttery flavor that makes them a popular choice among consumers.

Going vegan is a very mindful endeavor.  Maybe I am just transferring all of my concerns about caloric intake to plant-based thinking.  I love that my doctor said to eat with a shovel, no hunger or calorie counting allowed, all in the name of sticking to the diet and warding away moments of weakness.  Another piece of wisdom he gave was eat like a king in the morning, queen at lunch and pauper for dinner.  I think I do that already.  Unless I’m tired.  Or stressed.  Or feel like eating?  Apparently that’s a work in progress.

I am trying new beverage habits:  Lemon RO water, unsweetened almond milk (drank straight from the carton of course), yogi tea and this tomato juice has helped keep me hydrated and given some flavor to the day.

I also have a load of fresh spring garden veggies from Amanda’s bounteous garden plot- thank you Amanda!!!  The coolest part of our garden visit was learning about garlic scapes- the perks of having a friend with a green thumb are getting a garden education and learning new ways to eat the food you grow.  Plus I have an awesome friend, really, it’s a win win.  :)

It is the flowering top of a garlic plant.  The scape is just as edible and flavorful as the garlic bulb!  I am thinking a leafy green skillet may be in order- with lemon, olive oil, garlic scape and pinenuts?  Just thinking….

On the menu for tonight is broiled asparagus and butternut squash soup.  I’m pretty psyched!  *simple pleasures*  Yesterday I found and made this tasty recipe for Gazpacho Soup and it has been a life savor in hungry moments.  I almost finished it already, I need to find another go to for tomorrow!

Gazpacho Soup, plus one

  • 4 cups tomato juice
  • 1 small well-minced onion
  • 2 cups diced fresh tomatoes
  • 1 cup minced green pepper (I used yellow)
  • 1 cup diced medium cucumber, peeled
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tbsp white vinegar (I did cider vinegar)
  • 1 tsp tarragon
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley (skipped the parsley, not my fav)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste  (didn’t need it, enough in the tomato juice already)

Combine all ingredients and chill for at least two hours.

Now for the plus.  I know it may seem random but it was SO GOOD.  I added diced avocado to my individual serving-it added a perfect smooth texture.  Just what I needed for my “cheese” fix.

SOURCE Food and the Gut Reaction