Category Archives: Juicing

Sometimes You Win. Sometimes You Don’t.

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I’ve been juicing baby bok choy thinking it was an exotic, German variation of kale.

[Insert nervous laugh here]

Though it’s an incredibly embarrassing blow to my ego (not only did I TELL others about my discovery, but I also BLOGGED about it), at least I was giving it a try. And that’s got to be worth something. 

I’d like to blame my mother for raising me on the typical Midwest diet of ground beef and mac & cheese, with the rare roasteneer in summer; but when you approach 40, you really can’t blame your parents for stuff anymore. If I had spent less time during my young adulthood in the Buy-It-In-Frozen-Bulk-Store and more time learning about living, green things, I would have known the difference.

I do, however, have just cause to complain about babelfish, the online language translator. I’ve learned through embarrassing hands-on experience that kale is not baby bok choy–no matter what language you use.

I’ve also been buying something called ‘Wirsing’ thinking it was collards–and that issue remains unclear. Babelfish insists the plants are the same, but the pictures I found online bear little resemblance to each other.

So, until I can find a German who is fluent in American Southern cooking, I’ll have to keep juicing the dark, leafy greens, whether they are properly named or not.

I could just make up my own names, but that’s not helpful in the supermarket.

Despite the setbacks due to language barriers and my own organic ignorance, I do enjoy creating vegan menus for the family.

I used to think veggies came in three colors: white being the yummiest, especially when mashed with margarine and hormone-laden milk; yellow, a close second, also with butter-flavored plastic and heaps of salt; and green, which came from a can, had a grayish tint and were quietly scraped into the garbage after Mom left the table.

Salads in the Midwest would gloriously appear for holidays, picnics and family reunions. No matter which so-called fruit or vegetable was used as a base, salads always arrived encased in some type of alien substance, such as jello, marshmallows or ranch dressing.

With this rich heritage, you will now pardon my current nutritional ignorance.

This week, I was inspired to make artichokes for the first time.

Eschewing any help from my husband (who HAD been a cook in a previous life) and piecing together bits of information from a variety of questionable sources, I carved up the plants, drizzled them with lemon, and tossed them in a hot oven.

They came out looking like pinecones.

We painfully tried them–even forcing my poor children to take bites.

*Disclaimer: no children were harmed in the artichoke sampling

Before you rat me out to Child Protective Services, let me assure you, a kind Italian friend has promised to provide artichoke counseling and special education for my remedial cooking skills.

I will conquer artichokes eventually.

And that is this week’s lesson.

No matter how you were raised, it’s never too late to learn (usually the hard way for me) how to cook and enjoy food that will nourish you, rather than kill you.

While the artichokes bombed in a big way, the quinoa stuffed peppers were fantastic. Even the youngest of my household skeptics cleaned their plates, as the saying goes, and not into the bio bin (I didn’t leave the table until they finished).

Though I may have inadvertently ruined their concepts of ‘artichoke’ forever, my hope is that my children will have broader views of cuisine and more nutritional knowledge than I ever did.

Sometimes you do actually win.

Recipe of the Week: Quinoa-Chickpea Stuffed Peppers

Being an English major, recovering grad assistant, and homeschooling mom, I have that geeky flaw of loving BOOKS. And now that I am learning to cook, I have a particular fondness for cookbooks.

So when an anonymous donor gave me Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook, I held it lovingly in my arms, kissed it, and put it to work right away. This cookbook is great because it walks you through basics (like putting veggies in an oven) which seem obvious to most people, but are scary for novices like me.

Becoming emboldened, I combined two recipes, took out some ingredients that my husband and I are currently avoiding, such as salt and oil, and added some things of my own.

The best cookbook (like the best pair of running shoes) is the one that gets messy; and I’m pleased to say that page 33 now has a red pepper thumbprint on the corner.

Enjoy!

The Raw Materials

Red Peppers, as many as you need, (I used 4 for our family of 6) halved and seeded

1 sweet yellow onion, finely chopped (apx 1 cup)

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 or 2 stalks of green onion, sliced into edible green O’s

1/4 cup (or more) fresh baby spinach, finely chopped

1 can chopped tomatoes or 1 cup fresh tomatoes, chopped

1/2 cup (or more) fresh mushrooms, chopped

1/2 tsp ground cumin (more if you want it spicier)

1 tbsp coriander seeds, crushed

Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 cup quinoa

2 cups cooked or 1 can (15 oz) chickpeas, drained & rinsed

2 cups low salt vegetable broth or water

water, as needed during cooking

The Method

Send your oven on its way to 425 degrees.

In your enamel-coated, cast iron dutch oven (which I know you have by now), water sauté the yellow onion about 7 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté 2 more minutes, adding a little water as necessary, to keep from sticking to the pot.

Add chopped tomatoes and mushrooms, sautéing 2-3 minutes.

Add tomato paste, coriander, cumin, and black pepper; sautéing for another minute.

Add the uncooked quinoa and sauté for 2 more minutes, adding a little water to keep from sticking.

Add chickpeas and broth, cover and bring to a boil. Once the mixture is boiling, put on very low heat, cover and cook for about 18 minutes, or until the quinoa has absorbed all the liquid. Add baby spinach and chopped green onion for the last 3 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Fluff the quinoa-chickpea mixture with a fork.

Place the halved red peppers on a baking sheet and fill peppers with the quinoa mixture, being careful to NOT overstuff them.

Bake in your 425 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the edges begin to blacken.

Serve while steaming hot and enjoy the melt-in-your-mouth, zero cholesterol goodness of your quinoa-stuffed sweet red peppers.

Travels of a Gluten-Free, Vegan(ish) Gypsy Mama

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It is possible to be gluten-free, and it is possible to be vegan; but it is nearly impossible to be both in certain situations, for example, on an 8 hour flight.

And yes, I brought my own food with me. And no, the tepid, ten-hour old slices of cucumber in the baggie in my purse did not seem savory when presented a steaming plate of chicken and polenta (the BEST gf meal ever), courtesy of the kind chefs at Lufthansa.

As for me, the vegan thing is by choice, not politically or morally motivated, and therefore it can be neatly packed in my carry-on at will.

While I am beyond craving meat, I would eat that particular airline meal again and again, until it gave me coronary artery disease, in which case I would have to limit myself to dreaming about it post-op.

I admit it: I ate meat during my travels. But a lot of people who love me bent over backwards to make me gluten-free meals, vegan meals, or  both, and I don’t want to be that annoyingly neurotic sort of person who disdains food presented–especially when I’m lodging (free) with very generous people.

My husband and I have a saying, “Fifi only drinks champagne.”

I’m not sure where it came from, but at some point, we started saying it whenever one of the kids vocalized a food aversion, and then we would laugh.

Thus, not to be a Fifi, the only neurosis I allow myself is the gluten paranoia, only because I don’t want people to feel bad for inadvertently poisoning me.

*Editor’s note: if the author is glutened, it is ENTIRELY her own responsibility! The host is NEVER at fault. NEVER.

Before my trip to the US, I specifically requested my Grandma O. create a gluten-free version of her famous ham balls.

If you are vegetarian, I apologize for the image that may be in your mind at the moment, and I can only say, if you commit vegetarian impropriety just once in your long, untainted life, it should be with Grandma O’s ham balls.

While the kids and I did eat out a few times, we purposely boycotted fast-food (though Tasty Tacos, Chilie’s & Applebee’s blur the distinction).

And the rumor is true: with my consent, Grandpa took the children to IHOP–a place that could now kill me.

*Editor’s note: after the author returned home, she found a ‘Frequent Customer’ card from IHOP in an old purse. The author wants to make it clear that her life has changed drastically from six years ago!

But if the kids eat IHOP once every six years, I think they will survive (with large doses of veggies in the middle).

I also had lattes & cappuccino while I was traveling. Because seriously, if I’m going to have milk with my espresso, I’m going for whole milk. Milk gleaned from rice, soy or almonds just isn’t the same.

Before my vegan and/or vegetarian readers begin posting angry and/or disparaging comments to my blog, let me change the subject by asking: Is true veganism something you can turn off and on by choice?

Was I a convert to begin with? Am I just a backslider? Maybe I’m not a vegan at all. I already find myself fantasizing about the steak I’m going to consume after my marathon this summer.

I’m most likely someone Dr. Joel Fuhrman, in his book Eat to Live, calls a Nutritarian, which simply means someone who, for the most part, eats a veggie-based diet.

While not recommended, the occasional fling with meat & dairy is permissible.

And occasionally really means ‘on occasion,’ as in ‘special’ occasion; not as in It’s three o’clock again–bacon cheeseburger time! 

You might be wondering how I felt with all this fat and cholesterol floating around in my bloodstream, trying to attach itself to places it shouldn’t.

By the end of my binge, I felt bloated, fat, tired, and quite ready for my lean green.

The surprising thing is that I didn’t gain any weight. However, I’m quite sure daily bingeing would put me back into elastic-waisted jeans in no time–an endeavor I do NOT wish to put to the test.

After getting through the jet-lag, my husband and I began a detox. He had lost nearly 20 pounds while I was gone (making a total of 80 pounds since this year began), and I think he joined the Reboot simply to humor me.

But regardless, this week’s juice fast has been tough. I even cheated by eating a fresh fig, a strawberry, and a handful (okay, an entire can) of garbanzo beans. Oh, and there was the mushroom soup I had to sample, since I was cooking for the kids; but that was purely a quality control issue.

But my husband was supportive of my deviation by remarking, “At least you weren’t sucking down hunks of chicken!”

He meant it as a compliment.

And he’s right. In just four days, my cravings for sweets and dairy went away.  Now I fantasize about fruits, veggies, and legumes.

A juice fast will do that to a person.

I don’t want to sound like I don’t enjoy my juice–because I do. I have missed the tangy flavor of my Lean Green.

And knowing that my body is receiving an entire bag of spinach’s worth of nutrients in one drink is satisfying on both mental and molecular levels. If someone were to see my cells under a microscope, I’m sure they would be cheering.

With no trips in my immediate future, I can better control my eating environment; and my cells can slap on their shades, sit back, and take in the liquid sunlight.

Home sweet home.

Recipe of the Week: Don’t Make Fun of Me Cashew “Cheese”

Friday night is pizza night around the Wellman ranch, and since becoming vegan (or mostly vegan), I’ve struggled to find something to replace cheese on my pizza. Well, I found this recipe in the Forks Over Knives cookbook–and it does the trick.

Not only is it scrumptious on pizza, but it’s awesome on gluten-free crackers too. It bears little (if any) resemblance to real cheese, but the flavor is delicious! Don’t make fun of me! Try it!

The Raw Materials

1 cup organic cashews

1/2 lemon (I used one whole lemon, but it was small)

1 tsp fresh basil, chopped

1 clove garlic, pressed

1/4 cup water

The Method 

Toss ‘cheese’ ingredients in the food processor. Puree, adding water slowly until it reaches a thick, cream-cheese-like consistency. You should be able to form little ‘cheese’ balls, so don’t add too much water. Add seasonings (salt if you want it) to taste.

You can form this into ‘cheese’ patties (similar to mozzarella, Italian style) and place it on your pizza. Or, you can crumble it over the top. Or, you can spread it on crackers. Or, you can lick the spatula.

Whatever your method of delivery, it will be good (and filling).

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.

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!