Sunday, February 9

Sugar Will Kill You -- Literally

Read an interesting article on Babble.com about the deleterious effects of sugar on the human body. Here are the salient points, pretty much word-for-word, (albeit with grammatical edits):

1. Sugar Is As Addictive as Crack. In a 2007 study via James Cook University (http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0000698), researchers discovered cocaine-addicted mice actually preferred sugar water as a reward over cocaine. The intense euphoria from sugar consumption can be a powerful driving factor in use reaching for it--often and obsessively.

2. Sugar Makes You Fat. We once thought fat made us fat. Turns out, sugar is the culprit (http://drhyman.com/blog/2013/11/26/fat-make-fat/). An abundance of sugar puts the liver into overdrive--it works frantically to rebalance your system--quickly storing sugar as fat so your blood sugar and insulin rates can stabilize. Eat sugar once and your body will brilliantly balance itself out. Eat sugar every day, at every meal, and over time, your body ends up with an excess of belly fat.

3. Sugar is Sucking Your Energy. You already know about sugar crashes. But there may be another reason sugar is making you tired. A recent study by the CDC (http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db122.htm) found increased consumption of added sugars, has been linked to a decrease in intake of essential micronutrients. In other words, when you fill up on sugar, you're less likely to eat the nutrients your body really needs.

4. Sugar is Altering Our Kids' Future. Professor Andrew Prentice revealed a staggering truth in 2002 to a group assembled for the British Association for the Advancement of Science (http://www.theguardian.com/society/2002/sep/11/familyandrelationships.publichealth) annual meeting--the rise in childhood obesity means that, for the first time ever, there is a generation of children that may be outlived by their parents. Modern diets laced with sugars aren't just making us fat; they're making our kids fat and sick for life.

5. Sugar Is Keeping You Hungry. No, you're not making it up. You are always hungry. Sugars--especially in the forms of liquids like sodas--don't satiate. Suck them down and you're not just consuming empty calories, you're inviting constant hunger into your life. Source: Effects of Carbohydrates on Satiety (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21519237) via PubMed

6. Sugar Is Everywhere. Sugar is added to dozens of foods you didn't know about, especially "healthy" options. Nature Valley granola bars contain 2 teaspoons of added sugar, and a six ounce container of Yoplait yogurt contains nearly 7 teaspoons! The back of your cereal boxes, mini muffins, and health food snacks may surprise you. Find more foods with sugar contents that may surprise you at WebMD (http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/sugar-shockers-foods-surprisingly-high-in-sugar).

7. Sugar Feeds Cancer. Scientists have long noted sugar molecules are present in high numbers near cancer cells. A 2013 study by the University of Copenhagen shows that sugar actually aids the growth of malignant cells. (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/09/130916103646.htm)

8. Sugar Accompanies Other Things You Don’t Want in Your Body. Sugar is often consumed with prepacked foods, many of which are made with additives, preservatives, and potentially toxic colorings (http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/02/24/are-you-or-your-family-eating-toxic-food-dyes.aspx), some of which have been banned outside of the United States. (http://gma.yahoo.com/11-food-ingredients-banned-outside-u-eat-101120572--abc-news-topstories.html)

9. Sugar is Making Us Sick. Are you one of those people that always seems to be sick? Sugar may be making illness more common. Sugar can actually suppress your immune system (http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/26/11/1180) causing your body to get common sicknesses more often

10. Sugar Is Costing Us Money. The U.S. healthcare system spends about $1 trillion yearly fighting (http://www.forbes.com/sites/danmunro/2013/10/27/sugar-linked-to-1-trillion-in-u-s-healthcare-spending/) the effects of excess sugar consumption. With sugar linked directly to coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes, health care costs related to sugar are exorbitant.

11. Sugar Goes Straight to Your Belly. When sugar gets processed by your liver, excess sugar gets turned into fat (http://www.rush.edu/rumc/page-1298330047559.html). Belly fat. The kind that can lead to Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Not to mention, it looks rather nappy in a bikini.

12. Sugar is Causing Your Cravings. Sugar intake spikes your blood sugar, so your body quickly works to rebalance itself. Insulin is released; the liver starts storing the sugar as fat. All this work from your body lowers your blood sugar, and as your blood sugar dips, you get ravenously hungry (http://www.drfranklipman.com/why-do-i-feel-hungry-so-often/). So, you eat again, and get stuck in a vicious hunger cycle fueled by sugar cravings.

13. Sugar Is Sneaky. Sugar is listed on food labels under many names. Though the back of a granola bar may not list sugar as an ingredient, your body responds the same to sugar in all its forms. Here's a quick list of the many names sugar can hide under, via Harvard School of Public Health (http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/added-sugar-in-the-diet/): Agave nectar, cane crystals, cane sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, crystalline fructose, dextrose, evaporated cane juice, fructose, fruit juice concentrates, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, malt syrup, maple syrup, molasses, sucrose, and syrup.

14. You’re Eating Way Too Much of It. 4 grams of sugar is the equivalent of 1 teaspoon of sugar, and the USDA recommends (http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/usda-recommended-sugar-intake-8628.html) a total of 6 grams of sugar per day as a healthy amount. A 2009 American Heart Association study found most adults are consuming more than 22 teaspoons of sugar per day. That's 88 grams of sugar daily, 14 times more than the recommended dose!

15. Sugar Is Ruining Your Teeth. Nearly 100 years ago, a dentist named Weston A. Price was shocked by the rise in childhood cavities, and the growing demand for orthodontic braces. Wondering about the link between diet and tooth health, he quit his practice and travelled around the world with his wife, visiting tribes far removed from agricultural advancements and industrialized society and discovered nearly nonexistent levels of decay--even among groups of people not brushing their teeth. Since then, multiple studies have linked tooth health to sugar consumption (http://www.westonaprice.org/thumbs-up-reviews/cure-tooth-decay). Bacteria in the mouth feed off of sugar, and increases the likelihood of cavities.

16. Sugar Contains No Nutritional Value. You don't need sugar (http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2014-01-24/science/46562061_1_sugar-industry-big-sugar-big-tobacco). It contains no nutritional value, nutrients, or minerals. It contains only calories.

17. Sugar Withdrawals Are Real. Sugar encourages the body to release opioids and dopamine. It has an actual effect on your body chemistry, and your body likes that. So it wants more. And more. And when the chemical lending the effects is taken away, it goes into withdrawal (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2235907/). It's not uncommon to experience headaches, fatigue, mood swings, and other detox effects (http://www.wisegeek.org/what-are-symptoms-of-sugar-withdrawal.htm) as you come off sugar.

18. Sugar May Be Making Your Mood Swing. Mood and energy swings can be related to a lot of things, but sugar is among the possible precursors of moodiness (http://blogs.discovery.com/dfh-sara-novak/2012/02/6-ways-your-diet-can-impact-your-mood.html). Insulin in a hormone. And when this hormone is secreted into the body to ward off excess sugar consumption, it can affect the other hormones in your body. The swings is blood sugar related to sugar consumption can also contribute to adrenal fatigue, making your mood rollercoaster as your body tries to balance itself.

19. Sugar Demands Attention. It may sound conspiracy-theorist, but think about it. How many holidays do we have devoted to sugar? Halloween, Valentines Day, and Christmas revolve around sugar-laced foods in many American homes. A recent study by the CDC (http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/databriefs/db122.htm) found we're consuming more sugar in our homes than we are away from our homes. Our personal sanctuaries and celebrations have been infiltrated by our need to feed sugar cravings.

20. Sugar Isn’t Helping Your Skin. A 2011 study funded by Unilever (http://www.unilever.com/mediacentre/pressreleases/2011/Highbloodsugarlevelsmakeyoulookoldernewresearchsuggests.aspx) found a connection between blood sugar levels and healthy, youthful skin. Want to avoid wrinkles, breakouts, and bad skin days? Cut the sugar, and you might just cut years off your appearance.

21. Sugar Is Affecting Our Kids. A 1986 study from Journal of Abnormal Psychology (http://www.livestrong.com/article/248922-what-behavioral-problems-are-linked-to-a-high-sugar-diet/) showed decreased learning performance in groups of preschoolers given sugary drinks. Couple this with other known effects like potential mood swings, cravings, and rising childhood obesity rates and a dire picture is painted for our kids if sugary diets continue to be the norm.

22. You Don’t Actually Need Any Calories from Sugar. Fruit and starchy vegetables easily provide more than enough calories for a healthy adult diet. Sugar is the ultimate empty calorie (http://www.choosemyplate.gov/weight-management-calories/calories/empty-calories.html); it lends no nutritional value at all to your plate. No matter how many ads you see for electrolyte drinks, fruit juices, or protein bars, the added sugars in the products are entirely unnecessary in the average adult diet.

23. Sugar Is Connected to Many Major Health Concerns. Sure, sugar is bad. But giving it up entirely would be weird, right? Who wants to be that crazy mom that won't let her kid eat cupcakes at the party? If the previous 22 points haven't made you want to start making changes in your diet, take a look at these 76 harmful effects of sugar (http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2005/05/04/sugar-dangers-part-two.aspx) Dr. Nancy Appleton, author of Lick the Sugar Habit has outlined. From depression to Alzheimer's disease, and food allergies to blood pressure, sugar may do more harm than we ever originally imagined. Learning about the effects of sugar is the first step in learning how to limit it from our diets.

24. Sugar Affects Your Brain. High blood sugar has been linked to memory loss and cognitive decline in a study released by the American Academy of Neurology (https://www.aan.com/PressRoom/Home/PressRelease/1216). In layman's terms, sugar consumption can lead to a domino effect in a body which can prematurely age the brain.

Source: McLay, Brooke. "You’ll Stop Eating Sugar After Reading This Post," Babble. January 28th, 2014. http://www.babble.com/best-recipes/25-things-about-sugar-that-will-terrify-you/sugar-is-sucking-your-energy/


Monday, February 18

Recipe File: Applesauce, raw, vegan (of course), and warm

Winter's hibernation is nearly over...And I've spent it somewhat productively.

Biggest news: I'm a grandma! Oh, she's lovely and adorable and cute and sweet and perfect. Pictures will follow.

Second-biggest news: Santa brought a Blendtec.

Next-biggest news: I've been blending my brains out since Christmas. (Well that was a bit more graphic than necessary.) So many wonderful new recipes to share!

And fourth-biggest news: I've been perfecting my videography and animation skills. And I'm ready to go public with my first animation. What else? A recipe, natch.


What'd'ya think? Do I have a future in animation?

Friday, December 14

Recipe File: Almond Brittle, Raw and Fabulous

New Year's Resolution: Find a way to photograph food so it looks better -- not worse -- than real life. (Using a camera other than my cell phone might be a good start.)

What we have here is almond brittle -- crunchy, almondy, sweet, raw candy. What it looks like in this photo is a plate of gorp.

Not even the  gorgeous gold tray it's plated on looks good. Sigh.

But if you squint a bit, you can see the lovely almonds in the brittle candy. Keep squinting. There. See it?

Fine. Cover the photo with your right hand and try to imagine something yummy and purdy. Now we're all happy.

Equipment
Spice (coffee) grinder
Food processor or blender
Dehydrator with teflex sheets

Ingredients
  • 1 C whole raw almonds
  • 4-5 dates, pitted
  • 1/2 C flax seed
  • 1/2 C shredded (desiccated) coconut, unsweetened
  • water to cover
  • 5 ripe bananas
  • 2 tsp. almond extract
Instructions
  1. Cover almonds with water, and allow to soak eight hours (overnight). Drain and rinse. Set aside. Refrigerate if storing more than one hour.
  2. Cover dates with water and allow to soak about one hour, until softened.
  3. While dates are soaking, use spice ginder to grind flax seed to meal. Stir ground flax and coconut together in a separate dish, cover with water, and soak for about 20 minutes, until water is absorbed. Add in soak water from dates if too dry.
  4. Peel bananas and blend about 10 seconds. Add almond extract, dates, and flax/coconut mixture. Blend until smooth. After blending, add almonds and blend momentarily until almonds are barely rough chopped. If some or even most almonds are still whole, the resulting candy will look (and taste) better.
  5. Spread mixture onto teflex dehydrator sheets and warm at highest setting for about one hour, then at 116 degrees or less until candy peels from sheets (about 16 hours, or longer if mixture is especially thick or watery.) When it peels without tearing, remove teflex and continue drying until still flexible, but no moisure remains (about 8 hours).
  6. When mixture cools, it will be brittle. Break into large pieces and store in airtight glass jar.
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Today's musical interlude: If (I had a better camera), by Bread. (Are we sensing a theme here?)
 

Saturday, December 1

That's Nacho Cheese! Chips

Hubby has a new addiction: Kale chips. It's true. My macho green-food-hating spaghetti-loving Italian husband likes kale chips. I swear. He asks for a carton every day to take with his lunch.
 
Don't believe the photo. In real life, nacho cheese kale chips are crisp, crunchy, dry and addictive. This picture makes them look deceptively green, cold, and salad like.
 
The best part: It's not just kale. I've now expanded my repetoire to cabbage chips, too. And he likes them! He really likes them!
 
Here's the recipe, with a little South-of-the-Border twist. Warning: Raw chips work best with a dehydrator. If you don't have one, try drying them in your oven at the lowest possible setting with the door cracked open.
 
Calories? Not far removed from nothin', because there's no oil, no fat, no frying, no starch, no cheese. And they still have all the addictive properties of Pringles.
 
Ingredients
  • 1 bag or large bunch of kale
  • 1 small bunch of cilantro
  • 1/3 C nutritional yeast*
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 red onion
  • 2 roma tomatos
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice
  • 1 serrano or jalapeno pepper (less if you don't like spicy)
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes (less if you don't like spicy)
  • 1 tsp chipotle seasoning
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • water, if required to make ingredients more blendable
 
Optional ingredients that add flavor, but also calories
  • 1 C sweet corn
  • 1 C black olives
  • 1/2 med. avocado
  • 1/3 C raw pumpkin seeds, soaked for at least 1 hour

Instructions
  1. Wash and de-stem kale. Tear into medium pieces. Set aside.
  2. After destemming cilantro, add all remaining ingredients to blender. Rough chop using pulse function.
  3. Pour blended ingredients over kale, and lightly massage until kale is covered with sauce.
  4. Transfer to dehydrator sheets, in single layers.
  5. Dry at highest temperature for one hour, then turn temperature down to 108 degrees and continue drying until chips are crunchy and crisp, about eight hours.
  6. Transfer to air-tight containers.
 
*Nutritional yeast adds a cheesy, nutty flavor without the calories. Very high in protein and vitamin B12, too. I buy it in the bulk food aisle of my local grocery store. Nutritional yeast and brewer's yeast and baking yeast are not interchangeable. Despite the shared name, they are unrelated substances. Here's an article about the differences and benefits.

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The cutest Italian couple ever, talking about 50 years of marriage. That's amore!
 

Saturday, November 24

Crazy Healthy Food, Part II

As promised, my senior thesis as I graduate myself from my self-created culinary school. Here you have my nominations for the Top 25 Raw Vegan Super Foods:

Apples – Help women lose weight, and lower the risk of death from heart disease, lung cancer, and type-2 diabetes.

Apple Cider Vinegar – In its raw, organic, unfiltered form, ACV helps manage diabetes by lowering blood glucose levels. Studies show it may also lower cholesterol and blood pressure, kill or slow the growth of cancer cells, and decrease the appetite.

Asian Pears – Extremely high fiber content, which lowers bad LDL cholesterol levels, aids colon health, and promotes weight loss. Also a good source of vitamin C, which prevents macular degeneration and the growth of cataracts.

Avocados – Lower risk of heart disease and macular degeneration. Great source of soluble fiber, vitamin E, folate, and potassium.

Beans, Sprouted – Packed with fiber, protein, calcium, potassium, and magnesium. Reduce heart disease, type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and breast and colon cancers.

Blueberries – Lower risk of heart disease and cancer, anti-inflammatory, and prevent memory loss, urinary tract infections, and eyestrain.

Broccoli – Fights cancer, heart disease. Also acts as a hypoallergenic, which means that it lowers the impact of allergy-related substances on the body.

Cinnamon – Found to stabilize blood sugar and relieve indigestion. Cinnamon is a potent antiviral, and helps prevent colorectal and skin cancer, as well as the development of Alzheimer's.

Dark Raw Chocolate/Cacao – Very high in antioxidants, mood-elevating nutrients like tryptophan (which improves sleep), and chemicals that mimic the brain's chemistry when in love. It can also lower blood pressure. (By the way, “cocoa” and “cacao” differ only in English. Cacao is commonly used to describe raw cocoa; cocoa describes the ground bean after it has been roasted. Carobis a different bean altogether, though it shares some properties.)

Dark Greens – Best source for an array of vitamins and minerals. Rich in antioxidants that protect cells from free radical damage. The beta carotene and lutein in dark greens can improve eyesight. High fiber helps with weight management. Lipoic acid regenerates the body’s vitamin C and E stores, defends against free radicals, and regulates blood sugar.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Cold-Pressed –Monounsaturated fats lower "bad" LDL cholesterol and raise "good" HDL cholesterol. Heart healthy and full of antioxidants that help reduce the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases, such as Alzheimer’s.

Figs – A primary source of potassium, which lowers blood pressure and prevents muscle spasms. Also a major source of calcium, vitamins A and C, and laxative substances.

Flaxseed – High in dietary fiber as well as lignans (an antioxidant), micronutrients, and healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Flax helps prevent cardiovascular disease, decreases insulin resistance, and decreases waist circumference.

Garlic – Boosts the immune system, lowers blood pressure, prevents heart disease. People who eat a lot of garlic have low rates of ovarian, colorectal, and other cancers. Its allicin fights infection and bacteria. Let crushed garlic stand for 30 minutes before heating or adding acids (such as lemon juice), to activate and preserve enzymes that protect the heart.

Guavas – Five times the vitamin C of an orange, and more heart-disease-preventing lycopene than tomatoes. Full of dietary fiber, vitamin A, folic acid, and potassium, copper and manganese. Microbiologists say they can protect against certain foodborne pathogens (Listeria and staph).

Lychees – More heart-healthy polyphenols than grapes. These polyphenols fight the flu, and help prevent degenerative diseases such as cancer. Low calories and high fiber are an aid to weight loss. Rich in potassium, copper, B-complex vitamins and vitamin C. And they’re my kids’ favorite fruit.

Miso – A living food. Contains lecithin (a kind of phospholipid caused by fermentation), which is effective in preventing high blood pressure. A top food source of probiotics, high in protein and rich in vitamins and minerals. Find it in paste form in the refrigerated section of Asian and well-stocked Western markets.

Nuts – The most popular vegan protein source, but also a good place to get your calcium, iron, manganese, magnesium, potassium, selenium, zinc, vitamin-E, and B-complex vitamins. The monounsaturated fatty acids in nuts help lower "bad" cholesterol and increase "good" cholesterol," which may prevent coronary artery disease and strokes. Nuts are an important source of omega-3 essential fatty acids, an anti-inflammatory that may decrease blood pressure, coronary artery disease, strokes and breast, colon and prostate cancers, and help with arthritis, depression, Alzheimer’s and even schizophrenia. Also contain certain antioxidants that protect against heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer's, viral and fungal infections, and degenerative nerve disease.

Quinoa – A gluten-free grain and a complete protein, with all eight essential amino acids. It’s also a source for calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and iron. Sprout quinoa to get your daily dose of dietary fiber.

Red Bell Peppers – A better source of vitamin C than citrus. People who eat more vitamin C have less arthritic knees, better skin (fewer wrinkles, less dryness), faster recovery from colds and flus, and a much lower risk of stroke.

Spinach – Spinach is famous for its iron and folate (a B vitamin that prevents birth defects). But did you know the yellow pigment lutein in spinach protects your eyes from age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness? It also keeps the walls of your arteries clear, which may protect against heart attacks.

Spirulina – Sprinkle this microalgae into salad dressings, smoothies, spreads, dips, and juice to get the benefits of this chlorophyll-rich, protein-laden brain food. Spirulina is an immune booster, and an anti-fungal with antibacterial properties that come from high levels of GLA (an essential fatty acid), RNA, DNA, folate, vitamins A through E, vitamin K, a large number of important minerals, calcium, carotenoids, omega3, and omega 6 (which help protect cells from damage).

Sweet Potatoes – Full of beta-carotene, and the best source of vitamin A, which protects mucus membranes, skin, vision, and the lining of the urinary, respiratory, and intestinal tracts. Also contains essential vitamins such as vitamins B-5, B-6, and thiamin, niacin, and riboflavin, as well as calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, and potassium.

Tomatoes – A primary source of lycopene, an antioxidant reported to protect against heart disease and breast cancer.

Turmeric – A natural anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and anti-inflamatory. May fight cancer because it contains curcumin, a tumor inhibitor that also suppresses the enzymes that activate carcinogens.

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Collected and cross-checked and refined from lots and lots of resources, but my primary sources are: Health Diaries, LiveStrong, Nutrition and You, Prevention Magazine, WebMD, Wikipedia, and World’s Healthiest Foods.

 

Friday, November 23

Crazy Healthy Food, Part I

When I left home to go to college, the sum total of my food knowledge was:
  • Apples, bananas, and oranges are the fruit.
  • Lettuce comes in a ball. You chop it, add a tomato slice, and call it salad.
  • The vegetables are frozen peas and canned corn.
  • The spices are salt and pepper. And cinnamon sugar.
  • If you buy stuff in boxes, the directions are right there on the label.
  • Meat comes in packages. You put it in a frying pan until it's done.
  • If you're hungry, put peanut butter on bread or pour cereal from a bag.
Hey. It was the 70s. Women's lib, and all that. Real women didn't cook, or raise children, or wear makeup. That Leave-it-to-Beaver stuff was for repressed Barbies who didn't have careers -- and being a homemaker was just a shameful excuse for not getting a job.

A few hundred epiphanies later, I have become something of a foodie, somewhat proudly mom-ish, and even a competent makeup-putter-on-er. I'm a happy stay-at-home mother, a homeschooler, an amateur gardener, and an aspiring housekeeper.

But the foodie part has been the real education. I thought I had made real progress over the years, but eating raw food has required me to learn an awful lot more about food than I'd ever understood before. Until this undertaking, I would virtuously purchase a bundle of kale, and then let it sit in my 'fridge until it rotted. It never tasted very good, and I really didn't have a clue what to do with it. Spices would sit on my pantry shelf for -- honestly? -- for years, untouched, because I didn't know what they were for. If they weren't used in a standard recipe, I didn't use 'em. Ever.

I'm now spending hours in the kitchen, playing around with all sorts of things I'd never even heard of before. And y'know what? It's fascinating! I read obsessively about the science behind food, compile information in a database, interrogate my smarter friends, and experiment with everything I read about. This is a fascinating educational undertaking. My database now contains 4,000-plus raw food recipes, definitions for 400 cooking terms, and descriptions, nutrititional profiles, and culinary applications for more than 10,000 varieties of food, of which more than 6000 are raw, vegan, or vegetarian.

I think I'm ready to graduate from my own cooking school. Tomorrow, I'll share some interesting things I've learned during my research. My senior thesis, if you will. Stay tuned!

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It's upon us. Here's Andrea Bocelli ushering in the Christmas season with a beautiful medley in English, Italian and a bit of Latin.

Wednesday, November 21

Giving Thanks for Raw Veggies

There's a large dead bird dripping blood in my outside refrigerator. And it reminds me of a story.

When my youngest son was still sweet and kind and tenderhearted, he came downstairs on a Thanksgiving morning, rubbing sleep from his eyes. I was in the kitchen appeasing the Gods of Gluttony by shoving bits of this and that under the skin of that year's offering, as it sat fleshy and raw in a large roasting pan. I stepped away from the pan just as my little boy entered the kitchen. He stopped, looked at the bird, and screamed.

"What's wrong?" I asked in alarm.

"Oh, GROSS!" he shrieked. "I thought that was a baby!"

And for the next ten years, my sweet young son refused to eat another bite of animal...until, that is, something evil appeared in the night, took over his teenaged body, and turned him into a flesh-eating monster. But it was a fun decade while it lasted.

Anyway, I'm in charge of eviscerating another bird tomorrow. Guts. Entrails. Cavities. How does my now-vegan self feel about this?

Oh, GROSS. That's somebody's baby!

- - - -
I'll be spending an awful lot of time in the kitchen tomorrow. Here's my inspiration: Raw vegan thanksgiving. We'll see how many of our guests are willing to ladle raw veggies alongside their platters of dead bird.

Sunday, November 18

Requiem for a Fruit Pie

My first year at university, I had a love affair. It was unrequited -- for my true love stuck by my side, but never genuinely loved me. I was loyal, nonetheless, and we met each afternoon to spend a few quiet moments together.

I grew increasingly despondent over that long year. I was alone in the world, but for my true love. My school was far from home, my family never called, money was tight, and my friendships felt fleeting and temporary. At the same time, my clothing was growing uncomfortably tight. But there was one comfort in my world: That love affair.

Oh, it was a tawdry thing. I worked at the city paper, and I met my love at a nearby convenience store during my afternoon breaks. Each day I'd watch the clock inch toward that magic moment when I could race for the door and down the block to the Seven-11, where my love awaited my daily appearance. My heart would race, but as I'd approach the door, I'd slow down, adjust my skirt, and try to calm my beating heart. I couldn't let strangers see how much I looked forward to these afternoon trysts. I'd enter the store, stop by the poorly stocked produce section -- perhaps strangers would think I was there to buy an apple -- but then my obession would drive me into the arms of my waiting love: the Hostess fruit pie aisle. Would it be cherry? Should I spend my ducats on an apple fruit pie? Or would today's indulgence be a berry pie? Perhaps a lemon? Or would I really, really indulge and buy a chocolate pie? No! Too much! Eat the healthy pie!

And so it went. Yes, I eventually married, and lived overseas, and had children, and travelled the world, and even graduated (in that order, I'll have you know), but whenever I was in the States, my One True Love and I would pick up again where we'd left off: The pie, callous and unfeeling; me, obessessing, longing for a sweet, joyful reunion. We've had short break ups, from time to time, my Hostess fruit pie and me, but we've never truly ended our relationship.

So when I started this raw food journey, I secretly kept HFP on a mental shelf, knowing it would always be there for me if I needed it. I could go into Seven-11, look triumphantly at the pie aisle, and sneer: You'll be waiting for me. You'll never truly leave me. You still love me.

Try to imagine, then, how I'm feeling right now. My one true love has dumped me. Hostess is shutting down. The bakery nazis have proclaimed No Pie for You. I have been abandoned.

But I have to take responsibility for my part in this debacle. Oh, I'm no innocent.

You'll recall, I quit going to Arby's. They went out of business. I didn't mention it earlier, but I quit going to my favorite gyro shop. Last month, they went out of business. In the past few weeks, not one, but both, of my Indian joints boarded their doors. And now -- oh, I'm so filled with shame -- I've single-handedly shut down Hostess.

Don't get too close. I have a lot to process.

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First I was afraid. I was petrified. Just thinkin' I could never live without you by my side. But then I spent so many nights thinkin' how you did me wrong. Now I'll grow strong. And I'll learn how to get along...Sing it, Gloria!

Monday, November 12

On Broadway...and James

Headed to downtown Seattle over the weekend with my favorite crew of teenagers, and found ourselves without food in hand.

Stopped by a local deli for lunch, and did the raw-est meal I could come up with: A plate of veggies and hummus.

Red onion, sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, and large leaves of romaine lettuce make what? Why, a fabulous wrap sandwich, of course.

Walked out of the place stuffed. Yow-za!

- - -
Be glad I wasn't there in the evening, or Seattle would've witnessed me disco-ing to the BeeGees: Nights on Broadway.

Friday, November 9

Fall Gardening Lessons

Went to visit my dear friend Kristine, the Herbal Momma, on her farm out in the country. We're in the trailing edge of growing season, but she blessed me with fresh produce including carrots and this gorgeous cabbage straight out of the garden.

Also grabbed up a box of fresh pears she'd collected from the farmers on the far side of the mountain.

Then we played with chickens and the goat, and had an altogether lovely afternoon. It was a delightful way to shake off my funk.

I need to spend more time in gardens.

 - - -
I take a perverse pleasure in being citified...but sometimes, your true self reveals itself. I can't claim to be a country gal, but my toes tap and my heart goes pitty-pat when John Denver Thanks God He's a Country Boy

Wednesday, November 7

Food for Thought?

Depressed by the election results? Overjoyed? Either way, here's a sobering thought: A hundred years, all new people.

So speaking of resurrecting the dead (That is what I was doing there, right?), today's discussion addresses the difference between raw food, processed raw food, and living food.

Raw food was attached to the ground, or was plucked off a vine or a stem, or was gathered from the water. It's a carrot, an apple, or algae. You eat it.

Processed raw food started off as a cashew or a dandelion or a strawberry, and was then
  • squeezed
  • juiced
  • grated
  • blended, or
  • dehydrated (at a low temperature).
It retains its amino acids (the building blocks of protein), its enzymes, its vitamins, and its essential raw nature. It was neither cooked nor hydrogenated nor homogenized nor pasteurized. It's just raw food you played with before biting into it. And you do remember what your mother said about playing with your food? Umm, yeah. Ignore that.

Living food is a whole 'nuther animal -- er, vegetable -- altogether. Generally speaking, living food is food that is still growing, still alive. No, we're not talking about live goldfish. Living food generally started out raw (though some of it passed through heat), then it becomes living -- resurrected? -- food through:
  • fermentation
  • soaking (to remove inhibitor enzymes)
  • sprouting
Living foods include miso, soaked raw beans, wheatgrass, raw apple cider vinegar, and lots of other foodstuffs loaded with nutrients (phytochemicals) that do wunderbar things for your health.

And that, dear friend, is the least you should know about raw food!

* Click here for an excellent primer on the role of enzymes in digestion and health.

- - -
Greetings from the state that legalized both pot and same-sex marriage yesterday. The gay stoners are Livin' La Vida Loca.

Monday, November 5

Recipe: Fraises à la Chocolat



That's Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries, to those of you who prefer to sprechen sie Englisch. And hard chocolate on fresh strawberries is a treat not to be denied. Especially when the whole endeavor is raw and vegan.

Here's how I did it:

Ingredients
Pint of chilled strawberries.
3 Tbl. coconut oil, warmed to just above room temp so it's liquid
1 Tbl. raw cacao powder (in any language but English, that's cocoa powder)
A few drops of liquid sweetener of choice (agave nectar/maple syrup/raw honey)

Instructions
Stir together ingredients for chocolate sauce. Dip strawberries, twice. Chocolate hardens in about two minutes. Enjoy, or refrigerate to serve later.

 

Friday, November 2

Recipe: Asian Kale Salad

We do Moms' Nights, my girlies and I, and tonight's theme is Asian Food.

My offering?  A raw salad that's chockfulla Asian stuff. Turned out mighty fine. Here's the recipe:

Ingredients
  • 1 large bunch kale, stems removed and leaves torn to bite-sized pieces
  • 1 heaping Tbl. miso paste (found in the refrigerated section of Asian markets -- and my local Safeway)
  • 2 Tbl. rice vinegar (or mirin for a slightly sweeter taste)
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 2 tsp. Nama Shoyu (a raw soy sauce substitute)
  • 1/2 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1/2-inch section of grated ginger root
  • four mandarin oranges, sectioned
  • 3 scallions (green onions), chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 tsp. seaweed (wakame, dulse, or crumbled nori)
  • 1/2 C sliced raw almonds.

Instructions
Wearing kitchen gloves, vigorously massage miso, vinegar, salt and sesame oil into kale, until kale is soft and wilted, about two minutes.

Toss in other ingredients, and transfer to serving bowl.

Next time, I think I'll add additional greens to contrast with the wilted kale, and a bit of pineapple to add sweetness.

- - - -
Time to get up and dance to Ladies' Night.

Thursday, November 1

Salt. Oh yes. Salt.

Today's random act of stupidity: I drove my car into a mud pit. Yes, I did. And got stuck there. (Oh, I could blame the construction workers, or the sign makers, but let's be honest: I'm living proof that college doesn't make you smart.)

So I called Triple-A, and settled in for a long night of...well...being settled in mud. Then I conducted a resource assessment.

Step one: Check batteries. Phone battery? One backup. Car battery? Good for an hour or so of reading.

Step two: Clothing. Check. Found a pair of warm gloves under the seat, leftover from the haunted forest.

Step three: Food. My daughter's box of energy bars contained only a deck of cards. But what have we here? A big bottle of sel gris...French gray sea salt. Oh...kay!

Salt, you say? Oh, yeah, baby. Nothin' finer to resolve 80 percent of food cravings.

But, you say, salt's bad for you! Salt raises blood pressure, causes hypertension and strokes, and kills people!

Turns out, not so much. (Unless you're a rat from the early 70's eating 60 times the average salt intake of a 200-pound human being. If that's you, then sure, cut back on the potato chips.)

For the rest of us, cutting down on salt can actually "worsen health outcomes." Here's the truth about restricting your salt intake: "The less salt people ate, the higher their levels of a substance secreted by the kidneys, called renin, which set off a physiological cascade of events that seemed to end with an increased risk of heart disease. In this scenario: eat less salt, secrete more renin, get heart disease, die prematurely." (1)

Yup. Seriously.

And sea salt? Apparently, it's lower in sodium and much higher in mineral content than the stuff you pour out of the Morton's container. And my sel gris is hand-harvested (which sounds healthier) off the coast of Brittany, France (which, everyone knows, is superior to salt hand-harvested off the coast of Forks, Washington.)

So how did I spend my evening in the mud? Munching some sea salt, reading a book, Facebooking, and -- when Triple A was a no-show -- being driven out of the mud pit by my heroic husband, who trudged through mud and water to rescue me.

All in all, not a bad night.

- - - -
Tonight's sound track: Fontella Bass, Rescue Me. Naturally!

Wednesday, October 31

Recipe: Cashew Salad of Awesome Weirdness

It's been a rough several weeks. The hubby was suffering mightily, and finally underwent surgery.

Then he stayed home and recuperated in a large, centrally located recliner. Recuperation entailed asking, about once an hour, "Whatcha doin'?"

He went back to work Monday. Our marriage survived. I need therapy.

Overlaid was the bizarre two months I've spent building and manning our local haunted forest -- a charitable fund-raiser that consumed many days of my life, and forced me to wrestle with group meals in the chilly, wet woods, which meals consisted of largely of hot dogs, Fritos, and chili.

During this long, dark night of madness, I've managed to stick to the vegan thing -- albeit with a couple of not-likely-to-be-repeated sidesteps -- but staying raw has been tougher. I managed to resist the slaughterdogs and the carne in the chili con, but Fritos? When I'm hungry, cold, tired, and wet? Yeah. I did partake.

So now that husband is out of the recliner, and self is out of the woods -- literally -- I've hit the reset button. My weight has wandered up and down in a plus-or-minus-five-pounds range, but now it's time to shed the last 30 pounds.

Starting with: CASHEW SALAD OF AWESOME WEIRDNESS

My favorite grocery store has a deli selling cashew chicken salad that I love, love, love -- particularly because it's swimming in freshly-ground black pepper! It's a little sweet, a lot peppery, chewy, crunchy, and altogether weird. The idea of this salad has been niggling inside my brain for months now, and I've finally discovered a way to replicate it, raw vegan style. The biggest hurdle? Emulating the chewiness of chicken. Then I had a Eureka! moment. Leathery banana chunks!

Ingredients
  • bananas -- lots of 'em, on the elderly side
  • vegan mayonaise
  • raw cashews
  • celery, chopped
  • pepper, to taste
  • sea salt, to taste
  • (optional ingredients: walnuts, grapes, pineapple chunks, apple chunks)

Instructions

LEATHERY BANANA CHUNKS
Rough-cut bananas into half-inch to 3/4-inch chunks.

Dehydrate at 117 degrees for about 14 hours, until bananas are leathery on the outside, but still soft on the inside.

Refrigerate in a sealed container. These chunks will probably keep 100 years, and can be used in place of chicken in recipes that combine sweets and savories.

VEGAN MAYONAISE
I tried this first using Vegenaise®, a way-overpriced but seriously yummy commercial vegan mayo. You'll find it in the refrigerated aisle of stores with a well-stocked health-food section. Note the inexplicable spelling.

But I'm a cheapskate, and had to find a less-expensive way to get my mayonaise fix. Almond Mayo, at this link, did the trick.

Combine equal parts banana chunks and chopped celery, with a half portion of cashews. Toss with mayo and seasonings. Then add even more fresh ground pepper!

- - - - -
Whoopi-ty-aye-oh, I'm rockin' to and fro. Seems I'm Back in the Saddle Again. (Whoops. Is my age showing?)
 

Wednesday, September 26

Peaches. Just Peachy.

Once, while living in Taiwan, I bought a peach the size of my head, for which I paid the rough equivalent of my first-born child. It was absolutely worth every penny. A flawless, juice-dripping, two-handed chunk of heaven.

I've spent three decades looking for another perfect peach.

Saturday, I got twenty pounds of them. Our lovely friend R. brought a 20-pound box of peaches that she'd purchased for a jaw-dropping fifty cents a pound. The fruit stand had to move them at any price, because fresh, perfectly-ripe peaches just don't have much of a shelf life.

Since Saturday, I've been trying to concoct some perfect raw recipe for my beautiful box of fruit.

Then, noticing the many teenagers living in my house walking about with sticky hands and arms, I remembered the point of raw food: Just eat the peaches. Maybe use a napkin. Or a bowl. But mostly, grab a piece of fruit and take a bite.

Sometimes I wonder about me.

- - - -
Perhaps I was confused because I grew up in the 70s, when bands named themselves after entrées. Meat Loaf. Humble Pie. The O'Jays. Temptations. Blue Oyster Cult. And the band named after an entire recipe: Peaches and Herb. (This is them, Shaking Their Grove Thing.)

Monday, September 24

Recipe File: Nutrition Bowl

Had an amazing meal today and have to share it...Well, not the meal itself. I ate that. But the general idea, I can share.

Went with friends to visit a monastery on Vashon Island, and stopped for lunch at a cafe that serves all vegan, organic food -- much of it, raw.

One friend had the zucchini noodles...which was too good to be believed. My lunch was the Nutrition Bowl, a salad made of kale and lots of other goodies.

I'm not normally a kale fan. It's a little bitter, a little too out-there to be enjoyed much. But this salad! Breath-taking. We talked to the chef after downing our meals head first.

Here's the secret: Marinade and massage.

I'm posting the recipe here, mostly because I'm making this for dinner tonight. And maybe every night for the rest of my life.

Nutrition Bowl
I'm approximating amounts here, and will report back if the proportions require adjustment.
Pure's mouth-watering Nutrition Bowl.

INGREDIENTS
Bundle of kale, washed and torn into bite-sized pieces
1T sea salt
Juice of one lemon
2T olive oil
2T sunflower seeds
1/2C mixed sprouts
1/2C grated carrot
Avocado, sliced
Lemon wedges

INSTRUCTIONS
Wearing gloves, massage salt into kale. Allow it to sit for a couple of minutes. Then massage lemon juice into kale, until greens become a little translucent. Allow to rest a couple of minutes. Finally, massage in olive oil. Allow massaged kale to marinate in refrigerator for a few hours.

Layer in remaining ingredients, serve with tahini dressing. Makes two salads.

Tahini Dressing
This is my own recipe, but Pure's dressing is a close approximation. I grind raw sesame seeds in a coffee mill, rather than using tahini, because it's fresher and way, way cheaper.

Ingredients
  • 2T apple cider vinegar
  • 2T olive oil
  • 2tsp nama shoyu or tamari
  • 1/2C water
  • 1/4C sesame seeds
  • 1/4C nutritional yeast

Instructions
Blend until smooth. Refrigerate immediately.

Friday, September 21

A Children's Game, a Legal Principle, and Stop Making Me Sad

This blog entry will be a political screed. And there's at least a 50 percent probability it's about you.

* * *

Here's a fun game. I learned it from Nelson Muntz, the bully of Springfield. When someone uses the word "but" in a sentence, shout "Ha ha! You said 'Butt'!"

Fun, right?

It's not? It's stupid? Then please, I beg you, stop doing it.

* * *

Here's a pop quiz from day ten of law school: What's worse?
A. Inadvertantly killing somebody.
B. Trying to kill someone, and failing.

The correct answer? B. Without question. The reason is a legal principle called Mens rea -- criminal intent. If your intentions are evil, you don't get a free pass just because you're also an incompetent marksman.

The life lesson here is that when people have good intentions, when they seek to do good, but their results fall short, they get a lot more latitude than people whose intentions are bad, but whose results are inadvertently benign.

It also means that if you're wise, you recognize the good intent behind words and actions. You may legitimately disagree with a man over whether his approach to problem solving will be successful, but if you're honorable, you don't attribute bad character to him merely because he has a different opinion about how to accomplish a good end.

* * *

A couple of triggers make it nearly impossible to stay out of the refrigerator. I'll bet you have some, too.

Here are mine:
* Frustration.
* Pain.
* Sadness -- which is just pain of the brain.

If sadness were limited to -- I dunno -- sorrow over life's expected tragedies, I could probably just roll with it. Tragedy is, after all, a building block of joy. You can't know joy if you've never experienced sorrow. And when life deals a bad hand, the sun still comes up the next day. With time and effort, you get past it.

But then there's a different kind of sadness, the kind that comes when you finally realize there are people on this earth who just love to deal out misery, who behave as though they're manning a blackjack table and unkindness is a deck of cards.

Sadly, those misery merchants seem to thrive on social media, spinning reality, making a mockery of free speech as they throw around ill-considered political caricatures.

Here's a free clue: The presidential candidate you're not voting for? He's smart -- brilliant, even. He graduated from a prestigious ivy-league university with a law degree, and then passed the bar exam. His wife adores him. He's funny. He's a great father with terrific kids. He's living an honorable life. He's not crazy, not malicious, not a cheater, not a hypocrite, and definitely not evil. He's not running for office because he needs the paycheck; he's already rich. He's running for office because he wants to do good in the world.

Who am I talking about?

I'm talking about the guy you hate, the guy you're voting against, the guy who can do nothing to persuade you to vote for him.

It doesn't matter which candidate you hate. Or like. My description applies equally to both men.

And your nasty, malicious, distorted, dishonest depictions of what the candidate you dislike said? You know you're misrepresenting truth. You know it. And every time you post another twisted misrepresentation of what the candidate said, every time you shriek "Ha ha! You said 'Butt'!" you change nobody's vote; you change only my opinion of you, of your character, of your integrity.

Think about that. You're making me sad. You're making me want to open my refrigerator and eat a horse, or a kitten, or a puppy, or whatever might make you stop being nasty! Please. Stop making me sad. Stop making everyone who resists posting political screeds sad. And fat.

There. I said it. Be nice. Have some integrity. Be kind, be generous of spirit, be honorable, be honest.

You just can't stop yourself? Remember this: If I get fat again before the election, it's your fault.

- - - -
Did you think I wouldn't post this link? Taylor Swift is singing at YOU: Why You Gotta Be So Mean?


Thursday, September 20

A Collection of Randomocity

While at camp, we bunked (literally, bunked) in cement-floored cabins. And when I have an infection, I'm like a 90-year-old man with a bad prostate: Gotta get up several times a night to visit the smallest room. (That waking-up thing should've been my first clue that I need a doc, right?) So my feet would hit the floor before my head woke up, and I'd shuffle my feet around the icy concrete, scuffling around for my flip flops.

After we returned home I took my drugs and went straight to bed. Woke up in the dark, swung my feet to the floor, and shrieked. I was standing on a hairy animal! "Rat!" was my first thought.

Then I realized it was my bedroom carpet.

Never mind.

* * *

So the other day I was reading an article about some silly forgettable celebrity of average height and weight. Apparently, after a year of being out of work, the poor unfortunate woman gained a couple of pants sizes. The article was written to celebrate the fact that she'd undergone surgery (surgery!) to regain her girlish figure. Here's how the writer put it: "After the show was cancelled the formerly svelte star ballooned to 180 pounds."

Ballooned? Ballooned!?!?

Are they kidding?

For the sake of maybe two or three stone, the woman risked her life to have someone put her under anesthetic and knife her?

I had to take a walk to avoid punching the woman's photo on my computer screen.

A hundred and eighty pounds. Celebrity culture is nuts.

* * *

Yesterday my friend K. and I visited a fresh produce stand. K has joined my gym and intends to win the next Biggest Loser competition. She'll kick my backside because she's much more steely minded than I am. We foraged for breakfast (Raspberries! Plums! Donut peaches!) and went up front to pay. The cashier/owner overheard us plotting K's strategy for winning the competition and inquired. K. bragged on me to the woman, who then began interrogating me about how to lose weight.

"Eat raw food!" we chorused. The woman does own a produce stand, after all.

"But," she said, "what about protein?"

K. and I looked at each other and burst out laughing. "Aren't we supposed to be asking YOU that? You sell produce!"

I looked the lady dead in the eye and asked "Where do cows get protein?"

I love watching someone undergo Aha Erlebnis -- that Eureka! moment when the jaw drops and realization sets in. "Grass!" she shouted. K. and I both grinned. I told her about amino acids and the fact that humans have to break down animal protein to its component parts and then reassemble it to get human-accessible aminos, the building blocks of protein -- all of which are readily available in fresh produce. "Now you can change the name of your produce stand to Protein Stand," we told her. "You'll be rich!"

"You've inspired me!" she told us as we walked away. "I need to lose 40 pounds. I'm going to do it!"

What a cheater.

- - - -
Today's sound track: For all my girlfriends, especially K., my fruit-stand lady, and a celebrity who was doing fine before the knife: Bruno Mars, Just the Way You Are! The video will blow your mind.

Wednesday, September 19

Ready, Okay! (Part Deux)

(Continued from yesterday; starting here would be baffling.)

So...then...

Toddled off to urgent care, violated a plastic cup, and confirmed I was toxic. Because I'm allergic to all the usual drugs, Doc-in-the-Box gave me a prescription for an exotic antibiotic that has the perverse side effect of weakening joints and musculature. And turning me green if I go out in the sun. "Stay inside," he warned. "And don't exercise for 10 days." Then he looked at my ugly surgical scar. "And stop breaking bones. Forever."

Ever obedient, I did what the doc said -- except for the breaking bones part.

A few days after starting the antibiotic, I was hiding from my husband, hoping he wouldn't send me to the store, when the phone rang. I gamely ran to answer it, and crashed into the side of a door. And broke two toes.

Yes, I did. Thank you. Thank you very much. Hold your applause, please.

So now I have a taped-up foot, I've finished the course of antibiotics, my husband has had the staples removed and can get his own Oreos, and I'm finally back at the gym.

If only because it's safer there than in my own house.

And my medical experiments have been conducted.

What I've learned:

1. I've lost my slug trail. Cheese will kill me.
2. I'm too old to run out in the street (or the doorway) without looking where I'm going.
3. I need to drink more water.
4. I need to find a new hair color.

Also, I did not win five grand. But five Benjamins is better than a kick in the backside.

So yesterday counts as day 91 in my quest. I'm back, slightly broken, with strangely discolored hair, but back at the gym and far away from Mexican restaurants in the middle of nowhere, fully committed to raw eating and daily workouts.

Ah, it's good to be home.

- - - -
Today's sound track: Marmalade from the best decade: Reflections of My Life. A live performance, too. Doesn't matter if you like the song; you'll definitely love the clothing.

Tuesday, September 18

Ready, Okay!

Hitting the reset button. During the past 19 days I've:

1. Sent my husband to the hospital.
2. Contracted a disease.
3. Broken two more bones.
4. Dyed my hair an appalling shade of red that was supposed to be, well, strawberry blonde, but turned out to be something more like "Unclaimed Luggage from the 1970s."
5. Stayed away from the gym (and the hill) on doctor's orders.
6. Eaten a terrible meal that doubled me over.

Which of these disasters shall we start with? Husband's recovering rather too well from major back surgery, undertaken because cortisone shots didn't do the trick. Now, instead of lying quietly in his recliner, like a good patient, he sends me to the grocery store multiple times a day for juice, Oreos, and other things humans shouldn't ingest. And asks me what I'm doing. And uses the bathroom I was just about to use. And watches Dr. Who on the classic movie channel.

Isn't it the sick one who's supposed to be grumpy?

My own disease du jour? Chronic lifelong urinary tract infections. A bad one kicked in during camp, but I get weird symptoms and always mistake UTIs for.... I don't know. The flu. Or cancer. Or Elephantiasis.

By Wednesday evening I was feeling too awful even to cook dinner, so I herded the teens (yes, we now have multiple teenagers living with us. That's a good thing. Especially since one of them drives.) into town and went to a Mexican restaurant.

Big, BIG mistake.

In my foggy brain, I imagined that if I just ordered vegetarian food I'd be fine.

I forgot about the slug trail.

There's a theory amongst Raw Foodists that folks who eat animal-based foods and even those who eat cooked, otherwise-healthful foods, build up a mucus trail through their gut that runs from the sinuses to the, uh, well, the end of the trail.

The theory is that this trail of slime (called the gastric mucosal barrier, or MUCOID PLAQUE (ewww)) is the body's mechanism to protect itself from the toxins and creepy substances found in animal byproducts and cooked foods. The theory holds that as you cease poisoning yourself with charcoal, lactade, gatorade, fromage, pig snouts, parasites, toxins, hydrogenated crisco, BHA, MSG, NFL, and other contaminants, your body eventually stops building up the protective barrier of gut slime, and allows you to get the full nutritional benefit of the healthy raw fruits and veggies you're ingesting.

I forgot.

And I ate a platter of cheese quesadillas with sour cream and guacamole.

Then spent the next 24 hours doubled over in pain.

The other five people who ate the same food (and worse) had no adverse reaction at all. Just me, the chick who normally has a cast-iron stomach. Nausea. Bloating. Cramps. Diarrhoea. (It's not embarrassing to have diarrhea if you use the British spelling.)

I spent the entire day curled up in bed between bathroom runs. (And I use the word "runs" advisedly.)

By Thursday evening, I was feeling much improved. Which was a relief. Y'know. Because of the Elephantiasis.

By the time we got home from camp on Saturday, however, I was in pretty dire straits. By then, the UTI was eating a hole in my kidneys, and I was doubled over for all new reasons.

... (to be continued).

Thursday, August 30

Decision Time

Thank you, you survey monkeys, for willingly participating in my "What Should I Do Next?" survey. (And if you'd still like to participate, it's still available.)

I've decided on my first act of human experimentation.

My very clever, very knowledgeable neighbor Christina, the Spice Merchant's Daughter, has persuaded me that my first experiment needs to be "none of the above." It is, she admonishes, all about the spices. "Use more cinnamon," she says. "It burns fat. Lots and lots of cinnamon." (Next week we'll undertake experiment number two, based on your survey results.)

Wee one and I are spending the upcoming week at family camp, and we're prepping food now to haul out to the woods. So this will be a simple experiment to conduct. We're beginning this cinnamon loading by tossing a ton -- well, a large scoop -- of beautiful brown spice into our morning green smoothies, which has the unexpected benefit of completely disguising the slightly seaweedy taste of spirulina. That's a win-win.

A friend gave us an entire bag of apples, fresh off her tree, so we're also working on drying cinnamon apples in the dehydrator.  (And if we use enough cinnamon, maybe it'll fend off bears!)

The recipe -- like everything raw -- is stupidly simple. If you have the right equipment.

Tools
  • A dehydrator. Mine, with its collection of eight square shelves, is an earlier version of this, the Excaliber 9-Tray Dehydrator.
  • An apple corer/peeler/slicer. This nifty gadget tears through apples at industrial speed, making peeled apple slices ready for drying, snacking, or loading into raw apple pie.
  • Look at that baby rip through an apple.
  • A shaker, for sprinkling cinnamon. 
Ingredients
Apples
Cinnamon

Instructions
  1. Peel, core, and slice a dozen apples.
  2. Lay dehydrator shelves over kitchen sink, load each shelf with a single layer of apple slices, and sprinkle the slices with cinnamon.
  3. Dehydrate at high setting for two hours to prevent browning and to quickly evaporate surface liquid. 
  4. After two hours, turn dehydrator setting to 115 degrees, and continue dehydrating about eight hours, or until apple slices are leathery. Thickly sliced apples will take longer.
This tray: Half tomatoes, half cinnamon apples.
Note peeled, cored and sliced apple ready to
fill the next tray.
And the final product, dried apples and
dried 'matoes. Yum!



Wednesday, August 29

And The Winner Is...

Yay. I did it. I won a plaque. And five hundred bones. And a car wash. And more personal training sessions.

So that's good.

And now comes second crunch time. I'm determined to lose the remaining 27 pounds.

But first: A salad, a big salad, with dressing. Yeah, it was ranch. Forgot to tell the waitress to leave it off, and was too hungry to send it back. Now, my gall bladder is killing me. Ow, ow, ow. We won't be doing that again.

Wanna see pictures? Arggh. Highly embarrassing, but they're hanging up in my gym now, so I might as well stop playing coy.

Oh, the humanity.

Guess which one's the before. The dates might provide a clue.


So, okay then. We're 73 pounds down, 27 to go. (And what's the secret to losing four and a half pounds in a day? Easy. I removed my shoes, my watch, my sweatcoat, and my sunglasses before the final weigh in. That pretty much sorted it.)

- - - -
Journey has my theme song for the next phase of this undertaking: Don't Stop Believing.

Tuesday, August 28

Dum-dum Dum-dum...

Tomorrow night's the big weigh in. Pretty sure I'm the biggest loser at my gym. The whole enchilada? Fingers crossed.

- - - -
The music that plays in my head when I swim: The Jaws Theme Song.

Monday, August 27

Protein Primer: Part Pi*

Protein tallying is a persnickity pastime. Coffee, with its trace of protein and its utter absence of calories, looks superficially like the number-one way to get low-calorie nutrition. But the protein level in coffee is so minute you'd be better off gnawing on a wad of your own hair.

Ever-willing to provide me genuine low-calories sources of protein, my magical database yields up some other interesting finds.

Today we present the most useful list yet: Top-twenty raw-vegan sources of protein, in anti-Letterman order. The number following each listing is the number of calories per gram of protein. We've left out several items you'll probably never use (drumstick leaves, skunk cabbage, cottonseed meal), so when we eventually make public the entire list (all calculated by nutritional value in 100 grams of food**), you'll find 519 raw food options that have 50 calories or less per gram of protein***. But this list should keep you busy shopping for the remainder of the day:

  1. Seaweed, Spirulina (4.4)
  2. Watercress (4.8)
  3. Vital Wheat Gluten (4.9)
  4. Alfalfa Seeds, Sprouted (5.8)
  5. Seaweed, Laver (6.0)
  6. Pumpkin Leaves (6.0)
  7. Sesame Flour, Low-Fat (6.6)
  8. Sunflower Seed Flour, Part Defatted (6.8)
  9. Soy Meal, Defatted (6.8)
  10. Kidney Beans, Mature Seeds, Sprouted (6.9)
  11. Broccoli Raab (6.9)
  12. Soy Flour, Defatted (7.0)
  13. Winged Beans, Immature Seeds (7.1)
  14. Cowpeas, Leafy Tips (7.1)
  15. White Mushrooms (7.1)
  16. Chrysanthemum Leaves (7.1)
  17. Fresh Basil (7.3)
  18. Frozen Asparagus (7.4)
  19. Fiddlehead Ferns (7.5) -- tied with an item NOT on the government's database, Hemp Powder (7.5)
  20. Baby Zucchini (7.7)
- - - -
*Pi: The Khmer word for "Two". Anything for alliteration.

** Conversion: 100 grams is about 3.5 ounces, which equals a cup of powedered sugar; 2/3 cup of chopped fruit, veggies, or nuts; or 1/3 cup of salt. Ten grams equals a tablespoon of bread crumbs.

*** For comparison purposes, a piece of extra crispy KFC fried chicken weighs in at a tubby 42.3 calories per gram of protein. Just in case you wondered.

Friday, August 24

Pick My Experiment!

So the competition ends Wednesday ... and I haven't reached my goal.

The good news, for you, is that I'm still determined to lose my hundred pounds, and you get to help me decide how I'm going to do it.

So give me advice. Beginning Friday, I promise to spend one week implementing readers' top pick. You want me to eat more calories? Dance in the middle of the freeway? Wear a bra on my head? Help me decide, and you can help direct human medical experimentation! Heil!

(You may choose more than one response to each question. And if the survey below doesn't appear on your screen, click here to take the survey).

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world's leading questionnaire tool.

Thursday, August 23

Doing the Best That I Can

...And then I said, "C'mon! We can do another lap."

And K. said, "Ugghhh."

And I said, "If we do another hill climb, we can feel morally superior to everyone else. And we can drop comments into our conversation like 'Well, when I was walking the hill the second time this morning...' But if we don't do it, we'll feel like losers. So let's roll!"


K.: "Fine. But then I'm going to California and I'm not coming back until school starts."

And she did. And I haven't been back up the hill since Monday.

Sigh. Now I don't feel morally superior to anyone.

On the plus side, there are blackberries everywhere, and I can step outside my door to forage for breakfast. Which is what I did this morning when I had to take hubby up north to a doctor's appointment.

OK, so maybe I'm feeling a little bit superior...to everyone who ate Froot Loops this morning.

- - - -
Note overuse of italics in this post, in honor of the late Helen Gurly Brown, the queen of crazy overused italics in every single thing she ever wrote! RIP.

- - - -
Mac Davis knows, it really is Hard to be Humble.

Wednesday, August 22

Flax Seed: The Love is Back

Unlike the New York Times, I admit my errors, and print retractions.

Oh, flax seed: I done you wrong. Couldn't find your numbers on the USDA database I was using, so I googled you, and found numbers that fit the database format.

Alas. The Internets were wrong. Or they don't correlate with the government's numbers, and we all know that everything the government says is true.

Now I've found the USDA's updated database, and it seems you're just a lowly seed, filled with protein, yes, but neither better nor worse than sesame, hemp, chia, or celery seeds. You're just a lonely little oilseed, forty percent protein, and 25 calories per gram.

I'll celebrate your rehabilitation by throwing you in a smoothy, and pulverizing you into itty bitty  little pieces before I send you swirling through my acidic digestive tract.

Big kisses!

Tuesday, August 21

Protein-Dense Foods: A Primer

That database of mine is a source of endless amusement. Today's excerpt: Top Ten Protein-Dense Foods.

You're guessing: Steak, Chicken, Bacon, Tuna, Liverwurst, Calf Brain, Cheese, and Eggs. Aren't you. I know you are.

Keep hoping. The top ten foods for protein density (grams of protein per gram of weight). Drum-roll, please:

  • Number 10: Bacon. Seriously. Bacon. But once you've cooked the living daylights out of it, and sopped up all the grease with paper towels, it's pretty lightweight. Ratio of protein grams to weight: .37
  • Number 9: Grated Parmesan Cheese. (Of course. The stuff is corpse dry, and tastes like powdered cardboard.) Weighs in at .38
  • Number 8: Flax Seed. (Hello, old friend. You're also on the list of calorie-dense foods.) .40
  • Number 7: Yeast. Straight out of the package. Yeah, don't eat that. .41
  • Number 6: Edamame. Lovely, tasty edamame. Definitely DO eat that. .49
  • Number 5: Nutritional Yeast. Tastes like cheese. Vegan favorite. .50
  • Number 4: Raw Hemp Powder. No pot, just protein. .53
  • Number 3: Hemp Seeds. Did I mention Hemp Fest just ended its Seattle run? Bunch of stoners. But they're good to go in the protein department. .55
  • Number 2: Spirulina. Beautiful blue-green algae, yummy in smoothies, and unusually pretty in a glass canister. Some of which I own. .57

And there you have it: Nine of the top-ten high-protein foods you can shove down your throat. What? I left off number one? Well, yes. I did. It was sort of deliberate. Because number one is a football.

Oh, ok. Here goes: The number one most-protein-rich food in the Yew-ni-ted States?

  • Pork rinds. That's right. Fluffy, greasy, protein rich, 154-calories-an-ounce fried pig skin! With a protein density of .61.

That is all.

- - - -

Can't mention football without playing my university fight song: Rise and Shout!

Monday, August 20

World's Worst Foods

Have I mentioned that I'm sort of a spreadsheet nerd? Yeah, actually, I wrote a book on the subject. Total dweeb.

Over the weekend I began wondering which foods were the most protein dense...And couldn't find an answer online. Or anywhere else.

So I crunched the numbers myself, using the USDA's nutrition database (which database, it turns out, contains some weird glitchy errors, but now they're all sorted. Are you listening, government?)

And now I am the proud owner of a database of 1150 food items, analyzed by weight and caloric content, cross referenced with protein loads.

You'll be delighted to know I have actual numbers to back up the following assertion: Milky Way bars will kill you.

It's true.

Here, by my reckoning, are the five worst foods sold in the United States of America. My standard? Calories per gram of weight. Let's do this Letterman style:

  • Number five: Lard. (9 cal/gram)
  • Number four: Flax Seed. (10 cal/gram)
  • Number three: Gumdrops  (13 cal/gram)
  • Number two: Donuts (14 cal/gram)
And the number one most terrible food you can buy?
  • A Milky Way bar, with a rip-roaring 15 calories for every tiny gram of chocolately goodness.
Wait. That didn't come out right.

- - - -
If Neil Diamond had eaten as many Milky Way bars as I have, he'd be too embarrassed to sing this song: He Ain't Heavy.

Friday, August 17

A Recipe, in Haiku

sunflower seeds, dates,
craisins, sesame, cacao,
coconut, pears. Blend.

----
Got dried pears in the mail. They rock. They also turn into energy bars. They're so good I wrote a haiku.


Thursday, August 16

Recipe File: Asian Lettuce Wraps

So you've get your raw hoisin sauce and and your yummy meat substitute just a sittin' there in the 'fridge. Who you gonna call?

Non-problem solved: It's time to serve up some Asian Lettuce Wraps. The fancy-shmancy kind. The appetizer everyone drools over.

The basic ingredient list makes it Asian. The optional ingredients make it less Asian, more Caribbean or Mexican.

Basic Ingredients
  • Big Green Leaves. (I like romaine. Other folks prefer chard, kale, or butter lettuce (bibb))
  • Walnut-based meat substitute
  • Enoki mushrooms (available in the produce section of Asian groceries)
  • Bean sprouts
  • Garlic cloves (available peeled and packaged in produce section)
  • Pickled ginger (fresh grated ginger tastes more Szechuanese, less Japanese)
  • Chopped green onions
  • Hoisin sauce

Optional Ingredients
  • Red onion
  • Tomato
  • Cucumber
  • Bell pepper
  • Diced celery
  • Carrot
  • Avocado
  • Cilantro
  • Corn
  • Mango
  • Pineapple
  • Grated coconut
  • Lime peel

Instructions
Layer ingredients in lettuce leaf. Roll like a burrito, or fold ends in and create a pouch. Hold together with bamboo skewers or toothpicks.

Drizzle with hoisin sauce before serving.

- - - -
And as the mother, mother-in-law, and future grandmother of Chinese girls, let me say: This song is totally offensive: I Like Chinese.