Monthly Archives: January 2012

Curly Hair and the Magic Refrigerator

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I am now four weeks into plant-based eating, and aside from some sleep deprivation due to the kids taking turns with the midnight flu, I’m feeling great.

You may object, and point out that my plant-based eating experiment isn’t all that scientific, and my increased energy levels may be attributed to my increased mileage in running.

However, even after a long day, I don’t have to drag myself begrudgingly into the cold, gray winter, or banter with the demon on my shoulder about whether I should run or bake cookies. Instead, I find myself asking, “When can I run and for how long?”

This is something new for me, and it seems to have a direct correlation with what I have for lunch, or more specifically, what I’ve been drinking for lunch. You see, I’ve started supplementing my diet with freshly-pressed juice. And although I never thought I would be one of those granola-crackpots drinking spinach juice from a plastic cup…here I am.

Take Tuesday, for example. After getting up at 5 am, tidying up, feeding people, getting everyone out the door, having a full morning at Bible study, two hours of driving, and feeding people again, I found myself bursting with energy. I couldn’t wait to take a short run, which ended up to be six miles. Instead of sprawling on the couch afterwards, I still had energy to attend to my usual duties around the house.

Can energy be bottled? Apparently so!

Joe Cross, from the documentary “Sick, Fat and Nearly Dead” made up a juice called “mean green,” the primary ingredient of which is kale. But since there is only one kale farmer in Germany, and it is not currently kale season, I’ve opted for spinach instead.

The recipe: I put 2 granny smith apples, one cucumber (or two), a stalk of celery, a thumb-sized piece of ginger, one lemon, a few leaves of romaine, and 4 to 6 cups of spinach (one big bag) into the juicer, and out comes something I like to call “Lean Green,”  which my son says it tastes like grass. However, his taste buds have been chemically altered by 14 years of macaroni & cheese, so he’s not a very good judge. I think Lean Green belongs in the lemonade family; and it gives me a real boost–no artificial ingredients required!

There have been other changes in my physiology besides increased energy. I’ve also noticed I’m not using as much “firming” cream on my face; nor do I need the special tube of eye de-puffer for those big, black bags I normally wake up with. (Yes, the closer I get to 40, the more of this junk I seem to purchase).

But perhaps the strangest thing that has happened this month is that my hair is curly. I’ve always had enough natural wave in my hair to make it frizzy, and I usually have to blast it with various forms of heat to tame it. But lately, I simply wash it, add a little mousse, and let it dry, which results in some nice wavy locks. I’m not a nutritionist or a beautician, but this seems to indicate my hair  wants to be vegan.

While I can’t guarantee you can forego that next permanent wave, I can heartily recommend investing in a plant-based diet. Produce, especially organic, can be expensive. But it is worth it when you think of the money you’ll save by not having to do things like buy heart medication or anti-aging cream.

Some juicers on the market cost as much as a SmartCar, but we opted for one with enough horsepower to do the job without having to rob our life savings–and it didn’t cost any more than a few fancy tubes of eye serum.

The Magic Refrigerator

With all of this juicing going on, and considering the fact that our German fridge can fit inside a kitchen cupboard, and the freezer is smaller than a shoebox (and not your husband’s size 13 combat boots–we’re talking ladies size 8 ballet flats), we needed some place to store our produce, just above freezing, so it wouldn’t spoil. Thus, we found the Magic Refrigerator.

Why is it magic? Because in our house, anyone can have anything out of it at any time.

Plus, it’s cute and is filled with such colorful things, it seems magical. Remember Dorothy stepping into Technicolor for the first time? That’s kind of what it’s like to open the door of the Magic Refrigerator.

Not only does the Magic Refrigerator keep our produce from rotting, it encourages the kids to eat healthy foods. I don’t mind if they snack on fruits and veggies–and as long as they’re still eating their vegan dinners every night.

I’m not pushing them nor cajoling them: I am simply making certain choices more appealing.

I wish some of you could have known me in the early days of being a wife and mother. I don’t know how many chicken nuggets and toaster waffles my kids consumed. It was fast, cheap, and easy; three qualities which should come as red flags.

Eighteen years ago, I never would have imagined that I would be some kind of “health nut.” But now, after years of pumping our bodies with things that are harmful, we are starting to fuel ourselves with foods that God intended for us.

My point is that if my family can make these changes, then any family can–no matter how “far gone” you feel.

I pray it’s not too late for my kids.

I want them to have their own Magic Refrigerators someday.

Curly hair, optional.

Recipe of the Week: “Ack! My Husband Will be Home in Half an Hour and I Have No Idea What We’re Having for Dinner Lentil Stew”

Even those “meal planner” type of people sometimes have a lapse in judgement. Maybe your key ingredient went bad? Maybe you were gone all day (either mentally or physically) and the thought of dinner didn’t even cross your mind until your husband called & said he was on his way home from work.

This is why you MUST, MUST, MUST keep lentils on hand at all times. Think of this dear wonderfood as the new pasta & ground beef. Not only is it high in protein, but  it has stuff like calcium, vitamin C, iron, and fiber. It is also super low in fat and has zero cholesterol. The BEST part is that lentils do NOT need to be soaked overnight–and they come in all sorts of fun colors.

The Raw Materials

Lentils–one bag, any kind.

Produce–as much as you like, any kind.

Water

Veggie broth (or bouillon or dry soup base in a pinch)

The Method

I use a ceramic-coated cast iron dutch oven, but I’m fairly sure this will work in a regular pot too.

Rinse lentils and bring 6 to 8 cups of liquid (water with bouillon or broth or a combination of both) to boil.

Madly search your fridge & pantry for any produce available. Potatoes, carrots, celery, onion, peppers, green beans, frozen spinach…whatever is not rotting.

Chop up everything edible. When the water is boiling, add your rinsed lentils and veggies.

Reduce heat and cover, simmering for 30 minutes (possibly longer). Add more water if necessary. Stir occasionally.

*Note, if you use fresh baby spinach, add during the last 5 minutes of cooking.

 My personal favorite combo is red (or orange) lentils with chunks of butternut squash (though, allow more time for tricky-squash-chopping). Yum!

That is it, people. It is SO easy. Toss it all in the pot and have fun!

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Reviews, Scary Food Documentaries and Vegan Recipe of the Week

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Please Note* Today’s Auf Geht’s, Mama! contains images that may disturb you, unless you are a surgeon, in which case, you have no worries.

A review on…

Scary Food Documentaries

My husband was browsing a popular infotainment website and came across a recipe for something called “Cheese Straws.” I looked in horror at the photo:

 What’s the big deal, Keri? you ask. These hunks of dough & cheese look tasty. And they’re perfectly fine for vegetarians. So, why the disgust?

We have been watching a lot of documentaries on food recently. Originally, it wasFood Incorporated that paved the way for better eating habits. We switched to as many organics as we could lay our hands on, and we played with foods outside of the Standard American Diet (which, sadly, is entirely possible to maintain in Germany).

We watched another documentary called Food Matters; though not as snappy as Food Inc, it highlights the problems of the American diet and the current medical system in America.

The third scary food movie we watched was Forks Over Knives, which has much of the same information as Food Matters, but it’s presented in a neater package.

The cheese straw that broke the camel’s back was a fantastic documentary called Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead, which is about a man who takes drastic measures (drinking nothing but freshly-pressed juice for 60 days), to save not only his own life, but to inspire and help others. We bought a juicer the next day.

With all of these documentaries rolling around in my brain, when I saw the picture for “Cheese Straws,” my first thought was how closely they resemble Atherosclerotic plaque, which is the number one killer of Americans today. What IS Atherosclerotic plaque? It is the fatty stuff that sticks to your arteries. If you want to see how closely it looks like a Cheese Straw, watch the video below.

If you don’t have three minutes to spare, skip to the part where they’re doing the surgery:

Scary, yes.

Motivating, yes.

Cheese Straw baking, nein, danke!

Books

The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan (who is interviewed in Food Inc)

The Gold Coast Cure, by Andrew Larson, M.D., and Ivy Ingram Larson (interesting read and some good recipes)

The Daniel Fast, by Elmer L. Towns (not the best read, but it gives a good outline of fasting for spiritual reasons)

Forks Over Knives, by T. Colin Campbell, PhD, and Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr. M.D. (good recipes and an overview of the movie)

Super Immunity, by Joel Fuhrman, M.D. (is interviewed in many of the documentaries)

Note: Some of these books contain certain philosophies and opinions I do not agree with, but it does not mean the nutritional principles have no merit. Test everything. Hold on to the good; let go of the bad!

Running

Despite the weather, I have been getting out and running, and I am now up to 20 miles a week. I still have a long way to go before I’m in marathon shape, but since I have until the third weekend in July, I think I’ll do fine.

In case you missed it, I did sign up for yet another Königsschlösser Romantik Marathon, which I distinctly recall saying I would never do again (around mile 7 of the first one).

I am now running all my mileage in my forefront trainers–the pink Newtons. I save the Merrell Trail Gloves for short runs with Noah and everywhere else (to strengthen my feet). I’ve had no pain in my arches, ankles, knees or feet, so I’m hoping I can do the next marathon without the knee braces–so far, so good!

To combat the wind & cold temps, I’ve discovered the naturally wicking coziness of Merino wool, and I try to wrap it around as many parts of my body as I possibly can.

Recipe of the Week: Yam & Black Bean Burritos

The Raw Materials

2 large yams (more if you have a bigger family)

olive oil

1 cup chopped onion (I prefer red)

1 red bell pepper (seeded & chopped)

1 clove garlic (peeled & pressed)

jalapeno (if you like it, which I do not)

1 can organic diced tomatoes (I use a 20 oz can) + 2/3 cup fresh cilantro

1 tsp red chile powder

1 tsp ground cumin (if you like it)

1 jar of salsa–if you want it spicy. (If you use a jar of salsa, then use a smaller can of diced tomatoes)

1 (15 oz) can organic black beans, drained and rinsed (I use 2 cans..but I have 4 kids)

2 tbsp juice squeezed from a lime

salt & pepper (to taste)

8 tortillas–please, use ones made from plants that have not been highly processed. Celiacs can use gluten-free corn tortillas.

Guacamole or chunks of avocado with lime juice (for topping)

The Method

Soften the yams in the oven at 400 degrees (10-15 minutes or so); or prick with a fork and microwave for 4-5 minutes. The yams should be a little soft, but NOT mushy. Peel the yams and cut into bite-sized chunks.

Saute onion in olive oil until soft. Add red pepper & jalapeno, and saute until pepper is soft. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add yam chunks to the veggie mixture.

Add diced tomatoes, salsa, spices, black beans, cilantro, lime and anything else you want. Heat until everything is hot.

Heat tortillas and fill with the mixture.

OR, do what I do and plunk it all on a bed of lettuce.

Top with guacamole or avocado & a little fresh lime juice and revel in the rich, satisfying taste of a plant-based meal!

A Fatted-Calf a Day: Why I’m Eating Veggies

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Why would a woman who has gone for three years without beer or brezen or apfel strudel or any other form of gluteny goodness decide to also do away with dairy, meat, candy & any so-called food created in a laboratory?

My food journey begins with a guy named Daniel. He was from a war-torn city; and he & some of his buddies were taken away as captives. But instead of living in tents in the burbs with the other prisoners, these guys were brought into the largest, most powerful city in the world at that time.

These young men were special–chosen to learn the language and literature of the place which was to be their new home. As an added bonus, they were to live in the palace, which was pretty snazzy student housing.

My kids & husband & I stood next to these very same palace gates–still shiny cobalt blue and adorned with the popular gods of that time. I craned my neck back and tried to imagine the hot desert sun & bright blue sky above, rather than the pale autumn sun trickling in through the sky lights of the museum.

These ancient city walls were built in order to symbolize, for anyone who could see, the greatness and supremacy of the king.  I mean, who could argue with the king of the world?

As I maneuvered to get pictures of the kids without a thousand other photo-snapping tourists in the picture, I thought about Daniel & his friends, walking through these gates as humble captives.

After Daniel had settled into the palace, the king ordered that these chosen men were to be given the same food & drink that the king himself ate.

It was a really nice gesture, but in spite of the fact that a king who could build such an impressive foyer probably had some great-tasting grub flowing through his kitchen doors, Daniel wasn’t good with it.

The servant in charge of the buffet table was concerned that Daniel would starve & look terrible if he DID NOT eat the king’s food. So Daniel asked him for ten days to prove that the fruit & veggie tray really was better than anything from the all-you-can-eat menu.

As you’ve probably guessed, Daniel & those on his fad diet looked like movie stars compared to the guys sucking down milkshakes and bacon double-cheeseburgers.

But here’s the important point that many people emulating Daniel overlook: after the ten days, Daniel did not jump on the king’s gravy train. Rather, during his three years of studying in the palace, he continued to eat healthy food. And he ended up being the wisest man in the kingdom.

I’m not saying that eating veggies is going to make you gorgeous and brilliant–but seriously, it can’t hurt!

I am two weeks into plant-based eating, and though I had 2 cappuccinos (with real milk), the veggie plan seems to be working small wonders already. My skin is soft, my complexion is better, I have more un-caffeinated energy, I don’t need to consume as much food to actually feel full, I eat when I’m hungry, and I’ve lost 4 pounds. So, I’m going to stick with it for a while–especially since I have a marathon (possibly two) in my near future.

I anticipate that I will eat meat sometime this year. And that’s okay. Meat is there for us if we want it. If you are at all interested in the Bible, then you know about the feast days, which sometimes include things like lamb (which means I can justify the occasional doner kebap). On other days, people did actually eat fish, though it probably wasn’t battered and deep-fried.

In ancient times, only rich people (like kings) could kill the fatted calf every day. For the average working slave, it was only a couple times a year–if that. And I can’t prove it, but I’m pretty sure the normal ancient person didn’t die from heart disease or type 2 diabetes–not when there were so many natural things that could kill you.

My nutritional journey began with Daniel, but the more scary food documentaries I watch, the more I want to stick with plant-based eating.

I’m not the only one doing this. For thousands of years, entire people groups were eating this way. And while words like “vegan,” “organic,” and “whole foods” conjure images of people who tie-dye t-shirts in the bathtub, I believe that the more plant-based food I eat, the healthier I will be.

And if I want to be the great-grandma who wins her age division in the ultra-marathon mountain race, I’ll need all the eating wisdom I can get.

 

RECIPE OF THE WEEK: Portobello Mushrooms Stuffed with Spinach Baba Ganoush

Inspired by a whimsical purchase of Portobello mushrooms (because I’d never bought them before), and a whimsical batch of baba ganoush (because I liked saying the name–and I had eggplants getting a little too soft). I added spinach for good luck, and voila! a new favorite was born.

The Raw Materials
6 Portobello mushrooms, cleaned with stems removed
2-4 medium eggplants (depending on family size)
olive oil
1/4 cup tahini
1 tsp minced garlic
2 tbsp lemon juice (freshly squeezed is best)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp minced fresh parsley
1/4 cup thawed, drained frozen spinach or finely chopped fresh (more if you like it, less if you don’t)

The Method
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Poke the eggplants with a fork. Lightly oil them and place on a baking sheet. Roast in the oven until they look withered and the flesh is soft (30-45 minutes). Remove eggplants from the oven and let them cool.

When the eggplants are cool, remove the pulp from the skins. Squeeze pulp gently to remove excess water. This process will remind you of gently squeezing a squid, but bear with it. Chop the pulp very fine. Combine with the remaining ingredients. Taste the mixture and adjust ingredients to your liking.

Brush mushrooms lightly with olive oil. Fill mushrooms with eggplant mixture and bake until you can smell it–8-12 minutes.

These are most excellent served on a bed of rice (long grain or wild).

Auf die Dauer Makeover

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Two years ago, I began a blog about my journey from couch potato to marathon runner.

Though I wanted to keep the blog purely about health, I found funny things, like my kids, kept creeping in. Because at the core, whether I’m keeping the couch warm on a daily basis or getting my Merrells routinely muddy, I’m still a mom.

I’ve come to realize that not a single component of the mother/writer/runner amalgam can be extracted without making the other elements weaker.

Looking back through my blog, it’s apparent I haven’t met all of my health goals (I can barely hold myself in plank position for 30 seconds before falling in a quivering heap, let alone do an actual push-up), but I am much healthier than I was two marathons ago.

I’m not worried about the fact that I still have many items on my “goal” list because it gives me more to strive towards. And I’m the kind of person who always needs some goal or project to keep me from the fuzzy warm blanket of lethargy.

“Auf die Dauer,” is the German equivalent of “In the Long Run,” which is especially fitting for my life as a mother/writer/runner living in Germany.

Everything we do (or fail to do) has an impact in the long run.

It is finding the importance in each of the hundreds of little daily events, which will lead to something greater. Whether it is plugging away on a languishing manuscript, taking 5 minutes to let my teenager vent, or running a few miles, each step gets me closer to the goal.

It is a new year, and I have a lot of goals: some old, some new.

While I still hold fast to the Auf die Dauer philosophy, I’ve decided to start a new blog. It will be the same me…just a different name.

Auf Gehts, Mama! will contain more about my life as a world-schooling, noveling, solar-powered, running mama, who is encouraged and motivated (often literally) by her children, and who also happens to live in an incredible (often literally) place in the world.

So join me in the new year at AufGehtsMama.com

Let’s go!

Fast, Family

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What did we do over the holidays?

We baked goodies, snacked, baked more goodies, feasted, ate leftovers, and gained at least ten pounds. Well…only some of us gained ten pounds.

We did enough eating to last an entire year, which is part of the reason we began the new year with a fast.

To kick off the new healthy-eating lifestyle, the adults in the family went 24 hours without eating anything. By the end of it, we were thrilled with our dinner of potatoes and broccoli. The complete fast truly made us appreciate the rabbit food we are now eating.

In all honesty, it feels great to purge the clogged cupboards. There are many scary things in industrial food, and I feel better simply taking a few steps away from it.

So even though I currently cannot eat gluten without getting sick, I am also avoiding meat, dairy (for a little while), refined sugars, high-fructose corn poison, and any oils that can stick to my arteries.

Even though we didn’t force the kids to fast with us, they did give up certain foods for a few days; and since their mini-fast ended, I’ve seen them reaching for healthier alternatives. By having healthy snacks on hand (and by pitching the junk) the kids will be healthier too.

It seems so simple.

I’ve had some glorious successes, such as the gluten-free, egg-free, dairy-free blueberry-banana pancakes; and I’ve had some failures, like the garlic-tofu-mashed potatoes, but the challenge has been fun.

This week, our family has eaten a lot of things that are unusual to us–eggplant, butternut squash, soy milk & red lentils. And I’m finding that in order to eat better, I have to plan better, which is not always easy for me.

Though I love wearing aprons (I have one for cooking & one for cleaning), I’ve never thought of myself as the “meal-planner” type. Just saying “meal-planner” brings to mind June Cleaver.

But with 4 growing kids and this newfound desire to eat whole foods, I might advise Webster to slap a new picture next to the term “meal-planner.” Gone are the high-heels & pearls; in are the barefoot trail shoes & yoga pants.

Now that my kids are learning about nutrition through real-life example, rather than some phantom mom in my imagination, the majority of my children want to eat better (though one young mac & cheese addict is hopeless); and all of the kids are starting to exercise on their own accord.

The younger kids beg & plead with me nightly to lead them in simple weight lifting; and Noah (my only runner) wants to do a 5k with me this spring. We already began training.

It is a new year, full of new possibilities.

And we’re off to a fast start!