Monthly Archives: February 2012

Not Your Grandpa’s Snake Oil

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I find it ironic that as soon as my husband and I embark upon the quest for superior nutrition the entire family is stricken with plagues–it doesn’t exactly make me the model spokesperson for good health.

But, we survived, and today, since the weather wouldn’t freeze off my eyelashes, I felt compelled to hit the trails.

I can hardly describe how good it was to feel a little bit of warm-ish sun on my face. There’s nothing like Siberian winds and weeks of illness to make you grateful when the temperature climbs to just above the freezing mark.

As I ran, it occurred to me how good my body felt. I used to think that getting older entailed aches and pains and a lot of medication, but the more I learn about nutrition, the more I realize that aging does not have to come with massive quantities of pharmaceuticals.

I don’t think anyone would argue if I said that eating one cup of raw spinach a day would be good for me. Spinach contains vitamins K, A, C, E, B1, B2, B3, as well as iron, magnesium, potassium, and Omega 3s, not to mention a whole list of other things I’ve never heard of.

Now what if I added a cup of kale to the mix. Then I would be getting: vitamins K, A, C, E, calcium, potassium, iron, B1, B2, B3, and Omega 3s, plus more good things I’m not even listing here.

What if I topped my spinach/kale salad with a few collard greens? I would have the usual vitamins K, A, C, E; B1, B2, B3, B5 (I didn’t know there WAS a B5); iron, protein (yes…it’s in plants too), and potassium.

I haven’t even mentioned antioxidant nutrients, anti-inflammatory nutrients, and the anti-cancer nutrients found in these leafy greens.

What if I told you that I don’t eat a cup of spinach, a cup of kale, and a few collard greens each day. Rather, I consume 6-8 cups of spinach, an entire head of kale, and 6-8 leaves of collards.

But it gets better…

I top that with 2-3 cucumbers; 4-6 green apples; 2-3 lemons or limes; a few stalks of celery; and two thumb-sized hunks of ginger root. Sometimes I add small green pears for fun.

Eating raw kale, spinach, or collards doesn’t sound appetizing, but somehow putting it all into the juicer creates a tasty drink–yes, it actually tastes good–that gives my cells the nutrients they need in order to function properly.

While Dr Joel Fuhrman is NOT the juicing guru, his book Eat to Live should be read by every person who is old enough to say “King Meal, please.” My husband and I are combining the nutritional information in Eat to Live with our juicing.

Dr. Fuhrman’s Plan In a Nutshell:

Eat: You eat as many veggies a day as you want, with the goal of consuming at least 1 pound raw, 1 pound cooked.

Eat at least one cup of legumes, beans, sprouts, or tofu each day.

Have a minimum of 4 fresh fruits per day.

Eat more if you are still hungry!

Limit: cooked starchy veggies or whole grains: squash, corn, potatoes, rice, bread, cereal; raw nuts & seeds (1 oz per day); avocado (2 oz); dried fruit (2 tbsp); ground flaxseeds (1tbsp).

Off limits: dairy; animal products; snacks; fruit juice; oils; sugar; processed foods.

Many people I know and love are struggling with health issues. Whether it is high blood pressure, autoimmune disease, headaches, excess weight, diabetes, heart conditions–whatever ailment you have can only improve by adding nutrient rich foods to your diet.

When you begin to break lock with the addictive salt/fat/sugar laden foods which are so cheap and readily available in the Western World, (after you detox) you will begin to feel stronger and more energetic. You will begin to crave Lean Green rather than Big Macs.

And that’s gotta’ be a good thing.

I’m not trying to sell you a bridge in Brooklyn; this is not some fad diet or cure-all scam; I’m not peddling juicers, nor am I on Dr. Fuhrman’s payroll–I simply want people to enjoy this brief life to the fullest.

Some people will spend 6 weeks during the course of their lives in doctors’ offices, in hospitals, physical therapy clinics, nursing homes, or waiting in line at Wal-Mart to have prescriptions filled. So why not invest 6 weeks (or a lifetime) in superior nutrition?

It seems so simple, so easy that it sounds be too good to be true!

The only real way to tell is to try it for yourself.

All I need is your credit card.

Just kidding. Now go buy some veggies!

*Thanks to The World’s Healthiest Foods for the nutritional information: http://whfoods.org/
*For more info on the Eat to Live lifestyle: http://www.drfuhrman.com/

Recipe of the Week: 

Non-Scary Fried Tofu & It’s All Over But the Choppin’ Veggies

You may notice that most of my recipes are extremely easy. This is because I have four kids, and they are notorious for distracting me with things such as theological questions, hugs, political debates, and secret laundry piles. The most time consuming portion of this week’s recipe is the chopping…but it’s totally worth it–trust me!

The Raw Materials: Veggies

1-2 eggplants, peeled, rinsed, drained, and chopped into bite-sized hunks

1-2 packages fresh baby asparagus

1 small red onion (thinly sliced)

1 package fresh mushrooms

1 zucchini, peeled and chopped (and optional)

1/2 lemon

The Method

Peel and chop veggies so that you could take a bite without having things fall off your fork. Place it all in a glass baking dish and spritz with your lemon half. Bake at 400 for 12-15 minutes or until the veggies are tender and are giving off a nice aroma. You CAN toss this all with a little olive oil if you want, but if you’re trying to cut fat, then you can leave it out.

While the veggies bake, get ready for some non-scary tofu. (This is what my kids have asked me to make 3 times!)

The Raw Materials: Tofu

1 package Extra Firm Tofu, drained, cut into bite-sized cubes

2 or 3 green onions

Your favorite tamari or soy sauce

olive oil

The Method

If you’ve never seen it before, tofu comes in a big hunk. Slice it so it’s not too thin (or it will break when cooking) and not too thick. 2 inch cubes or triangles are perfect. Extra firm also works best–otherwise your tofu will end up looking like cottage cheese in the pan.

Place your tofu chunks in a bowl and drizzle with tamari or soy sauce, gently tossing the tofu to coat, and heat up a little olive oil in a pan or wok. Let the tofu sit while you thinly slice the green parts of your onions. You may use the white part too, but I’ve found the greens give plenty of flavor.

When your pan is hot enough for water to sizzle, drain the tofu and add it to the pan. Add the green onion and saute the tofu. When the tofu looks golden or brown, it’s ready to eat.

The Arrangement

You can either toss the fried tofu with the veggies when they’re done, or you can serve them separately. Another option is to serve the veggies and tofu with brown rice and drizzle with tahini. Or, if you feel fancy, fry up the veggies and tofu with some rice in a wok.

Basically, slap it all together, sit back, and enjoy the non-scary tofu!

*Note: Every time I made this in my stainless steel pan, the tofu stuck to the bottom, making a thick brown crust that my teenager did not appreciate scrubbing off. The tofu does not stick to my oiled cast iron wok. So, beware of which pan you choose for this tofu experience.
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Coffee Break

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Every wardrobe must be properly accessorized, which is why I am usually found sporting a coffee cup.

I love coffee: I love the smell of it; I love the feel of my favorite mug in my hand; I love lighting my scented candle before dawn and brewing coffee while the house is quiet; I would live at Starbucks if they would let me bring my husband, kids & dog–and if we could get rid of all those strangers who wander in; yet despite these things, I never thought of myself as an addict.

However, by the end of day one on the Daniel fast, when I had the urge to actually eat coffee grounds to help my headache (which I did NOT do…as far as you know), I realized I was probably addicted to coffee.

But I didn’t care.

I have always taken my coffee black, so there was no reason to banish coffee for calorie reduction. Besides, there were worse things I could alter my body chemistry with–and so weaning myself off coffee, merely for the sake of doing it, was NOT on my priority list.

Even after reading Joel Fuhrman’s book Eat to Live, where he recommends ditching the java, I decided it was one of those bits of advice I could ignore. So I did ignore it. Happily.

And then something strange happened–I completely lost my cravings for coffee.

????????

When our Daniel Fast was completed, my husband and I continued to eat a plant-based diet, low in fats and high in veggies; and we added juice to our daily routine. I’m not talking kiddie faux juice that comes in a box. I donned my apron and began experimenting with a variety of veggies & fruits that would be palatable.

I also decided that in no way would I give up coffee (though my husband did).

Day one was horrible but not tragic. I went to bed feeling sad and kind of hungry.

Day two didn’t get any better. I was a breath away from snarfing down a pice of tofu that had fallen out of the pan while I was cooking the kids’ dinner.

Day three I was ready to give up this ridiculous idea when I stepped on the scale. I was 5 pounds lighter.

Then somewhere around days 4 and 5, other strange things began to happen: I could fit into my skinny jeans without writhing on the floor to button them. Then I spotted ribs that have not been seen since my last marathon. And even though my husband & I both caught colds, we actually felt energetic. By day 5 I had lost 11 pounds and my husband had lost 20 (which puts him at a 40 pound total loss since January 1st).

On the night of day 6, we broke our fast with a light miso soup. We had decided not to juice on day 7, supposedly in honor of our anniversary, but really so I could have some chocolate cake.

Big mistake.

I felt horrible the entire day. The cold bug began to win the war against my immune system, and I ended up taking a two-hour nap in the middle of the day. I didn’t want to get out of bed–not even for ‘real’ food. When it came time for me to actually make the chocolate cake, I looked at the box, looked at my husband and asked, “Can I make some lean green instead?”

Bingo.

I made our favorite variation of spinach juice, and after drinking it, we both began to feel better. Maybe there was some placebo action going on, but my head felt clearer, and I had more energy.

All through the juice fast, I was still making coffee in the morning. But as time went on, the more I juiced, the less coffee I drank.

I still binged on enjoyed my lactose-free cappuccino at Art Class Mama Coffee, but my daily intake of coffee has gone down with each day of juicing.

Yesterday, for the first time in recorded history, I could not finish a large coffee at a restaurant–I was too full from the pineapple-mango-carrot juice I’d just had.

This morning, I had half a cup at breakfast, mostly from habit.

This is all very strange for me: I don’t crave coffee like I used to, and I’m not having any withdrawals (or panic attacks) from not having it. I feel more energetic than when I’m drinking it straight up.

I will always love coffee; and I will always drink coffee; but at this point, I don’t feel I NEED coffee, or at least, I don’t NEED coffee CONSTANTLY, which is a real miracle for me.

Running Update: During a juice fast, where you only drink juice and eat no meals, it is recommended that while you should remain active, you probably shouldn’t be running long distances. So when the Siberian weather hit central Europe, (and everyone got sick) it seemed the perfect time to do a juice fast (since my one encounter with running made my eyes burn). I have been exercising with the kids (between illnesses), lifting light weights and doing stuff inside, like running through the house with spray bleach and a wad of paper towels.

I can’t wait to get back outside on those lovely frozen Franconian trails!

Recipe of the Week: Vegetable Miso Soup

I stole this recipe from Whole Living magazine, a Martha Stewart publication, which I don’t normally buy since I fall into the Non-Martha category of woman. However, I found this publication helpful compared to other magazines such as Clean Eating, where 9 out of 10 recipes called for meat, dairy, gluten or all of the above. So, in this case, I decided to trust the convicted felon & attempt miso soup. After googling ‘miso’ I began my search for the ingredients.

The Raw Materials

1/2 chopped onion

2 minced garlic cloves

2 diced stalks of celery

2 carrots, diced & peeled

1 cup chopped broccoli

1 cup garbanzo beans (rinsed)

White Miso (I used the only gluten-free miso I could find at the organic market–it didn’t look white, but it tasted great)

*note: when cooking for a large family, add more veggies & more water. I used an entire can of garbanzos, 2 heads of broccoli (no stems) & 6-8 cups water.

The Method

Heat a smidge of olive oil in a dutch oven (or a pot…but I use my d.o. for everything); cook onion garlic, celery, and carrots until tender (6-8 minutes). Stir in broccoli and garbanzo beans, cooking for about 2 minutes. Add 4 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until veggies are tender (apx 10 minutes). Remove from heat. Dissolve 2 Tbsp miso in 2 Tbsp cool water, and stir into soup.

Enjoy!

*note: this was my first experience with miso, and there are a lot of types out there. Mine was gluten-free and soy based. It came in a clear plastic bag with a little spout and looked HORRENDOUS when I squished it out–think, something you pay other people to pick up in your back yard.

However, it had an excellent flavor and made the soup very filling. It is also ‘macrobiotic,’ which means I need to do some more googling…but I’m sure it must mean something good!

A Princess Tale

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Motherhood, for all its charms, still requires a lot of sweat and tears. Some days you’re bounding down a country lane with your chatty offspring, and other days you’re on your hands and knees with a bleach bucket, scrubbing vomit out of the grout.

Thursday morning began as usual but ended with an emergency run to the health clinic.

Three of the four kids were up, my husband was getting ready for work, and I was making some lean green. As the juicer was winding down, we heard a barking noise from Libby’s room. Everyone–the children, the pets, even the creaky house seemed to freeze in time.

After a moment, Katie said, “I think that was Libby.”

I ran to Libby’s room, and she was sitting half up on her bed, struggling to breathe. Though the morning sun shone through the fuchsia curtains, bathing the room in a rosy glow, Libby’s face was ashen and her lips were tinged with blue. All I could think was that she had developed pneumonia, her lungs were filling with fluid, and there was nothing I could do.

I have never been so terrified. All that I imagined I was; any scrap of power or control I thought I had was wiped away; and it was just me and God.

I realize that many women, like two of my dear grandmothers, have lost children, or have seen them become deathly ill, but for me, this was the worst thing I have ever been through. And it is as close to tragedy as I’d ever like to get in my life.

I’m not a doctor. I can’t make a trache tube out of a pen; I don’t know proper procedures for this kind of emergency; so as I was on my knees digging pants out of Libby’s underbed dresser, all I could do was pray.

It calmed me down; and it calmed Libby down to a point where she could breathe through her nose.

I felt like falling apart, but I was able to keep it together long enough to get the girl bundled up and out the door without making everyone in the house panic. Though she was shoeless, one of the kids managed to tuck Wilbur, Libby’s favorite stuffed pig, under her arm.

The drive to the clinic was endless. It seemed every tractor-trailer in Bavaria had descended on our winding B-road, just ahead of us at every turn. It’s probably a good thing my calm, collected husband was driving.

When we finally arrived, they got Libby in right away. A chest x-ray revealed a lung infection, which could possibly be developing into pneumonia. At the clinic, Libby was given some medicine and started to perk up. By the time we left, her face no longer had that scary gray pallor, and her lips had turned back to the Princessy pink.

Thankfully, Libby is on the mend now.

As a mom, it’s normal, I think, to self-flagellate with stinging questions: How could I let her get this sick? How could I let her eat junk food? Why didn’t I take her to the doctor sooner?

As a steward of these precious young lives, I need wisdom, but I also can’t beat myself up over my mistakes.

I do believe there is a reason for everything that happens in life–even the bad things.

And I hope and pray that Libby’s princess tale has a happily ever after.