Archive for February, 2012

Eat Pizza and Feel Good About It

Mothers, do you know that feeling you get when you make a delicious and nutritious dinner?  That feeling that makes you feel like the love child of Mother Theresa, Benjamin Franklin  and Martha Stewart?  Contrast that to the feeling you get when you’ve given your kids crap that you know you shouldn’t and you start saying things to yourself like “one night’s not going to kill them” or “for pete’s sake, I can’t do everything perfect”?

Put this on the schedule for Friday night.  You won’t have leftover food or regret.  Vegetable Pizza!

This is not my pizza. I got the picture from It looks like my pizza.

I know, I know.  I should take my own pictures!  My pizza was prettier anyway.  My pizza had more color.  Orange carrots, red and green bell peppers, black olives, green broccoli. It was gorgeous.  I could have worn it to work it was so impressive.  And, my pizza was a super easy, veganish delight.

Roll out a couple of tubes of refrigerated pizza dough or make a batch of your own if you’re so inclined.  (If your homemade dough recipe is easy, please share it with me.  I look for dough recipes online, but I’m just not sure about them.  I’d love to have one that I know a normal person makes.  That does, of course, assume that you’re a normal person…) I lay one crust on top of the other because they get flimsy under the weight of all my vegetables.

For the sauce, mix one packet of Ranch seasoning (vegan-ish–I’m sure there are some milk solids in there or something) with 1/2 c of veganaise and 1/2 cup of Tofutti sour cream.   Sprinkle the sauce with 1 cup of grated Follow Your Heart Mozzerella cheese.

It's about $4 for 10 oz., but you can make it last for a while.

Here’s a tip about vegan cheese:  it doesn’t taste like the real thing.  Don’t expect it to.  Don’t eat it plain and then whine that it’s not good.  Cook with it.  It melts fine and tastes creamy.  On this pizza, it’s perfect.

Now, the fun part.  Chop up every vegetable you have in your house that looks pretty, tastes good, or cooks nicely.  Definitely include carrots, bell peppers of any variety, broccoli, and black olives.  Your pizza has to be gorgeous or you’ve failed.  But, look around your kitchen for mushrooms, banana peppers, artichokes, tomatoes, pineapple, spinach, or whatever else.  You really can’t mess it up.  If it tastes good with ranch dressing, it’ll taste good on this pizza.

Next time I make it, I’ll take a picture of it to show you.  And, judging from the way my family scarfed it down Monday night, I’ll be making it again real soon.  Here’s the recipe in a pdf so you can make it too:  Vegetable Pizza


Let’s Have Soup for Dinner

I made this soup last night pretty quick, and it was awesome.

This picture is from But, my soup looked just like this, I promise!

I’ve always considered Roasted Apple and Butternut Squash Soup to sound like something pretty difficult, but it certainly wasn’t.

First, cut a butternut squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Put it cut-side-up in a baking pan.  Let 4 granny smith apples join it the exact same way, except peel it first.

You have to use granny smiths, or it won't be as good.

You can put this into a hot oven (425) for an hour or you can put this into a cooler oven (300) for a couple hours.  I opted yesterday for the cooler oven because I wanted to get some other things done.  The good news is that once you’ve done the roasting, you’re about 15 minutes from having dinner on the table.

When you think your squash and apples look pretty soft, chop up a medium-sized onion.  In a soup pot, saute the chopped onion in 3 tablespoons of oil, 3 tablespoons of brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon of cardamom, 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper.  It will smell fabulous.  (If you’re having company or if you want to show off to neighbors, now is the time to invite them in.)

This is cardamom. Use it ground, of course. Don't leave it out. It's the cardamom and cinnamon combination that makes this soup great.

Turn the heat off your onions.  Scoop the flesh out of your butternut squash, and add the squash guts and apples to your onions.  Transfer all of the mixture to a mixing bowl.  (You’re going to blend up the soup in a blender and put it back into that soup pot to warm up for serving.)  If you’re vegan, you’ll need 5 cups of vegetable stock.  If you’re vegan-ish, you’ll need 5 cups of water and 5 cubes of chicken bouillion.  Blend a scoop of the mixture, 1 cup of water and a bouillion cube on high in blender or food processor until it’s smooth.  Pour it into the soup pot.  Repeat this process until all ingredients have been blended.

Heat your soup on the stove until you’re ready to eat.  Our soup last night went great with a veggie pizza.  Even my kids loved it, and a couple of them are ungrateful bastards!

Here’s a better copy of the recipe, if you’d like to see it:

Squash and Apple Soup

What Does a 60-year-old Hottie Know That I Don’t?

Has anyone else read Fit For Life by Harvey and Marilyn Diamond?  I’ve seen mixed feedback online.  On the one hand, the Diamonds (who are divorced now and probably would not like being referred to in the generic plural) are called quacks and frauds. On the other, the gals from Skinny Bitch cited some of their research and my sister said it was a book worth reading over and over again.  I’m not sure, but I do know that this:  If you look like this when you’re old enough to be on Medicare, I’ll listen to your advice about health and nutrition.

Seriously, look at her butt. She's in her 60 for Pete's sake!

Unless someone photoshopped the hell out of these pictures, she's lookin' good.

So, right away, the book draws me in because chapter one is entitled “Diets Don’t Work” and because one of his major premises is that your body is capable of maintaining itself as long as we keep it nourished and allow it to do its job.  I believe all of  that wholeheartedly.

So far, I’ve been intrigued by one thing in particular.  The Diamonds assert that one of the basic tenets of long-term health and weight management is the observation of the body’s natural cycle of elimination.  In short, our bodies spend about 8 hours (noon to 8 pm) hungry and taking in food periodically.  They call this appropriation.  Then, it moves to 8 hours of absorption, digestion, cell repair, etc. from 8 pm to 4 am.  This stage is assimilation.  From 4 am to noon, the body enters the phase of elimination where it cleanses out toxins and whatever is left over from the earlier phase.

To the Diamonds, the elimination phase is key.  If the body does not have time to properly cleanse and protect itself from toxins and waste materials, it will not function properly.  In fact, the body will store these byproducts as far from the organs as possible in fat cells.  If that is true, then it means our bodies will have a vested interest in staying fat!  Could this be why weight just won’t go sometimes?  Could the feeling that my body is not cooperating or even fighting me be real?  I thought that was just how trying to lose weight felt.  Maybe it doesn’t have to be as frustrating as it used to be.

I spent a little time thinking about this idea that the body has a natural cycle that should be respected and observed, and I think that could be true.  It seems that all of nature has a rhythm or a pattern.  Why not my digestive system?  But, then, how do I respect it?  The Diamonds say to eat light, fruit-only breakfasts, if you have to have something at all, until you’re sure your body is ready.  They also advocate eating a diet that is 70% fresh fruits and vegetables in order to maintain hydration.

I’m going to try to observe the body’s rhythms a little more.  I’m going to toss out all the head-trash about 3 meals a day and a balanced breakfast, for a while anyway, and just pay attention to what my body needs and when.  And, and this one is big and difficult but totally essential, I’m going to attempt to put as few toxins in my body as possible.  No processed food.  Nothing fake.  Nothing chemically-laden.  Not even the vegan-friendly fake stuff.  I want nothing but clearly identifiable, largely raw ingredients.  Which means a whole lot of this:and none of this:and just when I was really starting to like it, too.

I think observing the body’s natural cycles and rhythms will be my goal for March.  I’ll keep you posted about how that works.

Come, Let Us Reason Together

I am rereading The China Study.  I found that book to be so overwhelming that I’m just not sure that I got everything out of it the first time around.  However, before I get started, let me run a few thoughts past you and see what you think.

First, why is it that so many people are fat?  I live in the Deep South where we are famously fat and unhealthy.  I can go to the grocery store or the mall and see, without a doubt, dozens more fat people than thin.  On some sides of our metropolis, that is different.  But on the west side, where I live, obesity is the norm.  Why is that?  Everyone I know is on a diet.  Everyone I know talks about what they should and shouldn’t be eating.  More of them are setting goals and trying to do better all the time, but it just never materializes into long-term weight loss.  I know very few people who lose weight and keep it off.   I know very few people who manage their weight into middle age.  (I do know a few who are just naturally skinny.  I’m not counting them.  They’re some alien species whose purpose for existence is to make the rest of us feel like slobs.)  Most people in the circles I travel have accepted the idea that as you get older, you get fatter.  And, if you’ve given birth, don’t even bother trying to be thin.  It’s too late.  You’ve had kids.

Secondly, why are so many people sick?  Isn’t there a better way to live?  If we didn’t have the technology we have today that allows most of us to do our jobs and manage our lives from the comfort of our desk chairs or cars, how in the world would we survive?  Surely, our ancestors were not the weaklings that we are.  They would have become extinct.

Thirdly, and I may lose some of you here, is this how God meant for us to live and eat?  Watching your weight and staying healthy can easily become an obsession.  If fact, if you’re one of those, like I am, that gains a whole lot faster than you lose, you know that you have to be a little obsessed or you’ll blow up faster than you can say “I think my jeans shrunk in the dryer.”  But, did God design our bodies to be so susceptible?  I have to believe that we are supposed to be more like the animals who eat what’s available when it’s available and their bodies regulate themselves.  Anything else seems like a design flaw, and I don’t think the problems we have lie there.

So, with those questions in mind, I’m going to reread The China Study.  Last time I didn’t really know what I was getting into.  This time I’m going to pay closer attention.  If you have any interest in the field of nutrition or weight management, please read this book too so we can talk about it.  I’d really like to hear how this looks from some else’s point of view.  I don’t even care if you disagree with my opinions as we go.  I would just like to hear some reasoned, informed discourse. 

As I go, I’ll also be trying a few of the recipes I’ve found and reporting on my progress with them.  Plus, my husband wants to do a side-by-side vegan cheese taste off.  I’ll let you know how that goes too.

I Just Got Married and Didn’t Gain a Pound

I pass on the chicken and the steak.  I don’t have grilled cheese sandwiches even though I love them.  I skip ham sandwiches and just won’t eat if all that’s there is something made with beef or pork.  I resist the siren song of frying bacon.  So you wanna know why I think being vegan-ish is worth it? Here’s why.

Twelve days ago, I got married. 

He's got great hands, doesn't he?

For weeks before that we’ve been rearranging my house, merging his furniture into my rooms.  We have 4 kids between the two of us, and getting everything ready has been a chore.  To add to the complication, my house is 1,000 square feet.  Not much room for 6 people to live in 1,000 square feet.  However, we’re committed to keeping our finances simple and being debt free.  So the cheapest house we could live in is the one I already have.  We’ve worked really hard to make it fit our needs, and we’ve done a fantastic job, if I do say so myself.

four kids, one full bathroom

But, have you ever gotten really busy while you’re on a diet?  I would be willing to bet that nine times out of ten, you gained weight.  I know I always did.  Then I said, “Well, when things calm down, I’ll get back on track and get this weight off.”  But the law of entropy has something to do with chaos.  And, although I cannot remember that law, I’m familiar with chaos. Things rarely get calm enough for a long enough period of time for me to make feeding myself a part-time job.

Being vegan-ish worked differently for me this time.  I made the highest quality, lowest animal protein choices I could over the past few weeks.  When we went out for Japanese, I ordered hibachi vegetables.  When we got pizza, I ate the slices that were light on cheese and meat and heavy on vegetables.  When everyone wanted fast food for breakfast, I got oatmeal from McDonald’s.  When I needed to grab something quick, I grabbed nuts, dried fruit, ginger snaps or dark chocolate.  Did I eat perfectly? No.  Did I gain weight like I normally do when I take 3 weeks off from thinking about my food?  No.  Even though I ate 5 slices of my wedding cake and drank champagne and generally forgot about my “diet” for more than 2 weeks, the numbers on the scale stayed the same.

Why is being vegan-ish worth it to me?  Because I like not having to be obsessed with my weight in order to maintain it.

You’re vegan? What do you eat?

I just had this conversation with a coworker this morning. I think Janice Daniels is answering the right question for all of us!

“I think I speak for all vegans when I say this is one of the most annoying questions I get asked. This and “Where do you get your protein?”
First off, I eat. If anything, I probably eat too much and it’s never much of a hassle for me to find something filling and satisfying at any restaurant and/or at home.
When I first started eating healthy – not eating vegan, just eating healthier in general – I couldn’t cook and had no confidence in the kitchen whatsoever. Cooking used to mean melting cheddar cheese in between two flour tortillas in the microwave. Now, I can say I have mastered making delicious, creative meals – without burning things (most of the time) – in the kitchen.
I’m not saying I’m good at cooking but, every time I do it, I feel more confident about it. As they say, practice makes perfect and my progress in the kitchen is consistently proving it.

Peanut butter and banana toast for breakfast.
I would say breakfast is the least complicated meal of the day for me. It’s usually something that only takes a few minutes to make, such as oatmeal, peanut butter and banana toast, or some sort of whole wheat or bran cereal with almond or soy milk. Sometimes I’ll get adventurous (usually on the weekends) and whip up something like whole wheat pancakes with homemade pumpkin apple butter or tofu scramble (tastes like eggs!) but that’s pretty rare.
I like to save my kitchen time for dinner. Besides, what kind of human would I be if I cooked for every single meal of the day? I’m already vegan, I don’t need to be any more of an outcast.
I spend hours (seriously) browsing the internet for recipes. You know how most people spend time procrastinating on Facebook? Well, my procrastination consists of googling things such as “vegan Indian recipes,” “vegan Ethiopian,” “benefits of chia” and “nutritional yeast macaroni and cheese.” I have found my calling, and that is food.

School lunch! Frozen beans, which have yet to be thawed in the microwave, and diced Pomelo fruit for lunch.

Curried pumpkin and broccoli for dinner.
For lunch I’m not as lazy as I am with breakfast, but I am also not as gourmet and crafty as I am with dinner. My lunch is a vegan, home-cooked version of what you might see in a HUNGRY-MAN meal. Every weekend I make a few batches of different dishes – could be beans, Spanish rice, chana masala, couscous salad, mashed potatoes or anything else – I divide them up, put them into sandwich baggies and then freeze them for them upcoming week.
In the morning, I’ll take one or two of those baggies, put them in a small airtight tub to take on the go and then I’ll heat it in a microwave at school (or wherever I happen to be) when I am ready to eat. I always grab a piece of fruit to go with my lunch as well. This way of eating is convenient, delicious and leaves somewhat less of a hole in my pocket.
Fruit and nuts are important staples in my diet as well. I don’t think I have ever gone more than a few days without having some sort of fruit in my kitchen. I grew up in a household that, to this day, never fails to have bananas lying around somewhere and as a result, I feel like a pantry without bananas is an empty one.
I also am an avid buyer of grapefruits, apples, raisins, unsweetened applesauce, almonds, peanut butter and just recently, PRUNES! I’m a pooper, alright.
Whether I’m cooking or eating out, dinner is always different. It can range from burritos to Indian food – which has been my favorite kind of food to cook lately – and on my lazy days is usually something along the lines of oats with raisins, a bean burrito or a peanut butter and banana sandwich.
Just because I don’t eat meat or dairy products, doesn’t mean I don’t get adequate nutrition. Out of all the foods noted, I seem to be a pretty balanced person, right? I’ve got protein, fiber and magnesium all from beans and nuts. Calcium from almond milk (a serving provides 50 percent of the daily value the average person needs), potassium from foods like potatoes and bananas, vitamin A from carrots (which I eat a TON of) and greens, vitamin C from a variety of fruits and vitamin E from whole wheat cereals and the overabundance of nuts I allow myself to consume.
As for the protein question, you’re better off not asking it because it only sounds ignorant. Protein is probably the easiest thing to get.
On The Vegetarian Resource Group website it states, “It is very easy for a vegan diet to meet the recommendations for protein as long as calorie intake is adequate. Strict protein planning or combining is not necessary. The key is to eat a varied diet. Almost all foods except for alcohol, sugar and fats provide some protein. Vegan sources include: lentils, chickpeas, tofu, peas, peanut butter, soy milk, almonds, spinach, rice, whole wheat bread, potatoes, broccoli, kale…”
The hardest part about being vegan is that I have to work a little harder than before to prepare and think about meals, but I think people should be doing that anyway, whether they eat meat or not. It’s a shame when people don’t think enough about the food they are consuming. Have you ever stopped to think about what are in those wee little mystery nuggets before you ate them? I think I would rather die then have another one of those darn things.
Janice Daniels can be reached at afeatures.

Tell me if this isn’t absolutely true…

“A woman without curves is like jeans without pockets.  You just don’t know where to put your hands.”

%d bloggers like this: