Monday, January 21, 2013

Food For Thought

I know a lot of people think that cooking a plant-based diet takes loads of time and who has extra these days?  But let me ask you this, are you exercising like you should? I'm not, I don't crack off 60 minutes of exercise six days a week.  Heck, I don't do any formal exercising at all.  I just cook, clean and run after my boys.  No zumba classes over here.  No palates DVDs.  I wish I knew how to do Tai Chi because I think I could really get into the fluidity and peace that it may bring, but that's another story all together, and I have never taken Tai Chi and I don't have the DVD. So I really don't know if it would bring me inner peace, but I have been watching Kung Fu Panda lately and I love martial arts. So just maybe. Tai Chi would be more on my level though. No more kick boxing for me.  I've been there, taught that for years and frankly, it's too hard on your joints unless you are a little bit of nothing hopping around in a brand new pair of Nike sneakers in your early 20's. I like the idea of slow, thoughtful movement. A mind and body connection.

Since I don't have the time or the extra dough to run 45 minutes up the road to the nearest YMCA, where I used to work as a personal trainer and aerobics instructor! I have plenty to do around here without popping in the latest Ballet Barre workout in the DVD player. I just eat well and put on my rubber gloves and keep this house clean. Then, when it is warm outside, I put on my gardening gloves and have at it. I also eat a whole foods plant-based diet. Steady as she goes.

I have been vegan for a long time. I wrote my very first vegan cookbook when I was 16 years old because my little town of Culpeper had no resources or recipes.  The dial-up internet was very new to us, so I just wrote up whatever clever ways I made burgers or hummus, or lentils and what not.  I was the only child I knew that was writing cookbooks during the hot summer nights instead of going out with friends.  They were all having a laugh and a beer while I was writing my Inklings about health food.  I felt like I didn't fit in anywhere anyways.  But, obsessions can be so isolating.

Even before I was writing cookbooks I was cutting out pictures of broccoli or carrots and writing out the nutritional highlights and sticking them on the fridge at my parents house to reinforce why I choose these veggies over chips or a cookie.  If you know what powerful antioxidants or enzymes that the food has as it is nourishing your body you become excited about chomping down some arugula or tossing back some raw walnuts.  It's fascinating to me.  Just brilliant stuff.

Do you want to know why I am vegan?  I will tell you.  I cannot bear the idea of hurting another living and breathing creature. I'm severely conscious of all things from food to words.  These things can either be a poison or a medicine.  I look at things very differently than most people.  When I see an elderly man I look at his gray head and wrinkled face and I think there was a mother out there who loved him fiercely. He was once a baby who had a Momma who prayed over him when he had a high fever, who washed his dirty cheeks, who nursed him and wanted the very best for him.  I treat people who are my grandparents age respectfully like they are my own grandparents and I talk to them with genuine love in my heart because it is like I see past, present and future in an instant.

And don't even get me started on babies and children. I love them.  They are innocent creatures.  They have little voices and that's why they need strong mother's who will go to bat for them and bend down to their level and ask them what is the matter, why are you crying, what makes you happy dearest? I give everything I've got to my children. I love them fiercely. If you want to see fifty shades of crazy just lay a finger on them.  I will break out all of my Tae Kwon Do skills and go crazy on you. Cray-Hay-Hazy on you. Besides that, I go without the latest fashions, and get them handsome clothing because it is important to me.  I don't care that I'm not in style. I will never be.  I haven't changed my look in two decades and I still fit into all of my clothes (thank you Jesus) and thankfully I have had an obsession with oxford shirts and sweater vests ever since I was in private school prep. The only thing that I ever get is jeans. Those seem to be the only item of clothing that evolve during the years and wear out quickly.  Oh, I get loads of looks from other mom's when I go to pick them up from school and the teachers say, Oh, Pelham he is so handsome and so well dressed. Then they literally take a long look at me like why the heck aren't you a fashion plate like your son.  I just look them straight back in the face and don't give them an inch, and think, I know who I am.  My mind and body have been forged by experiences and no clothing, jewelry, or purses will ever add up to the cost of character, a loving heart and a patient gardener.

I look at animals differently than most as well.  They are someones babies.  A mother gave birth to them and nursed them and brought them to shelter from the rain and the cold. They are loved and have a family too.  I could never hurt them, or lead them to slaughter, eat their flesh. Heck, if I cut my finger and slice through the skin and into the muscle, there is pain.  I just can't inflict pain on any creature when there are plenty of other wonderful things to eat that won't add a layer of guilt to my conscious.  I don't know how people can shut that off and not feel this way about food.

So now that you know me for what I am at my core, all exposed for your ridicule or your acceptance, this is me.  I am as I do.  Shakespeare should have said, To do, or not to do: that is the question.
Who cares about "be".  Everyone wants to be someone.   But to "do". Now that is actually doing something.  Go out and do it. And do it well!

Here's what I do on a day to day basis.

Morning routine:

Up at 4:30 a.m.
Banana. Love the potassium. Love the zip of sugar that breaks the fast.  I also make an ugly mug of green tea.  I don't usually buy organic bananas because they have such a thick peel that gets discarded but if I go to a grocers who offers organic bananas, I buy them because it is pennies of a difference.

7ish a.m.
Quinoa Breakfast Bowl
1/4 a cup of quinoa cooked in a lidded pot with 1/2 cup water for 15-20 minutes. When the water is absorbed, put the quinoa in a bowl and top with 1 Tbsp. raw honey (with the pollen and propolis) and one handful of raw walnuts crushed in my fist like I'm a super hero.

Quinoa which is also called "the gold of the Aztecs" was all but stamped out by the Spanish Conquistadors who literally would kill anyone who tried to cultivate it.  Finally in the 1980s a group of people started growing it in Colorado and it has been gaining ground ever since.  It is remarkable stuff.  It is a complete protein containing all 8 essential amino acids.  It is a seed designed for plant-based people.  It should be called "the gold of the vegans."   I know what you might say about the raw honey, and I've heard all of the arguments.  I have abstained for years but I also have a gut instinct and believe that bee's are free to not go back to the hive and work.  There are no homing devices on a bee.  It is free to work or not work.  Just like you and me.  We can work and have money or we can not work and starve. Same thing for a bee. I understand that some say the conditions are harsh when they collect the honey once a year and use smoke, but people work in factories or walk in cities that are filled with pollution. We are exposed to crap everyday by our own will and needs.

There are so many life giving nutrients in raw honey from the pollen to the propolis to the royal jelly.  It is amazing stuff.  Anti-cancer enzymes. Who wouldn't eat a spoonful a day?! Well, I can concede that I wouldn't if I was allergic, but other than that, I will continue to eat raw honey that is collected to my standards of care.

And finally the crushed walnuts.  I just love raw walnuts.  I frequently dip them in the honey throughout the day when I feel like having something sweet and buttery, much better for you than something confectionery, in my opinion. Walnuts are brain food.  Just look at their shape for proof.  They come from the oldest tree known to man and were considered to be food of the gods in the Roman Empire. There are two reasons I am head over heals with walnuts. First, they contain arginine which is an amino acid that is converted to nitric oxide.  This chemical relaxes blood vessels. How awesome is that?  and that they are rich in the antioxidant ellagic acid which stops the metabolic pathways that allow cancer and heart disease. BAM! How do you 'dem walnuts?

10 ish snack
1/2 of an avocado, arugula greens, one small tomato, fresh herbs like basil, cilantro or parsley, lemon juice and Bangarang!
Some interesting info about the alligator pear.  It has three times more potassium than a banana, and I can see why when every one is drinking red wine they break out the guacamole. They are losing electrolytes while they are drinking but they are replenishing the potassium and salt in the guacamole dip. I get it.  That's why I don't like to drink, it is constantly robbing all of the good stuff out of your blood, stripping it, and that is why you eat constantly when you drink so the alcohol can have something else to metabolize other than your brain.

Arugula is another spectacular food that is part of the cruciferous veggie family that is anti-cancer and truthfully I like it way more than broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts.  It has the coolest nickname "salad rocket" because it give such a boost of flavor to such a mundane thing like a salad.  It is nicely paired with a Bibb or a Boston lettuce but I like it to take center stage.

The tomato, delish, if it is in season, if not, don't waste your money on anything that isn't organic or from a local hot-house. They don't have a taste.  The hubs bought a tomato at Walmart a bit back and it sat on a plate on the counter for 2 weeks and in that two weeks it had only one spot on it but felt as hard as an apple. For anyone that has ever grown their own tomatoes knows that you have to eat them within 2-3 days or they will simply melt away while they decompose.  It was creepy to watch this tomato.  It was like seeing those pics of hamburgers and fries that do not age.  Spooky stuff.

Lemon juice! I love to buy lemons and cut them in wedges and squeeze them over everything.  They are natural detoxifiers and they give everything a nice zing without adding oil for flavor.

Fresh herbs, all of them are great, some more beneficial than others.  I usually just go outside and get a handful of them during the year and wash them and chop them up because they are so expensive at the grocers.  But, organic is best because there is no peeling, you eat exactly what they sprayed.  Just like the arugula, I get that organic along with all of my salad greens.

Noon ish
Baked sweet potato
I bake a sweet potato for myself and Kemper, which he calls pumpkin pie, and I don't tell him the difference.  We eat our pumpkin pies together and just have a sweet little mom and son moment.  I'm always high-five ing my brain when they want to eat like me. I don't push it on the boys. Just like how I appreciate it when people do not press me to eat bread and butter with them at the table. I'm not going to do it. So don't trouble yourself by making a scene.  I like to hold the sweet potato in my hand and eat it, skin and all, saves me time from cleaning the plate and fork.  I just go for it. Great for blood sugar too. Considered to be anti-diabetic.

2 ish snack
organic apples are a must.  They are filthy little things if they aren't organic.  Such thin skin. And they are great for making a BM with all of that lovely pectin.  Just think how pectin acts in your homemade jellies. That's how it acts in your tummy.  I just gotta have an apple a day. Kemper eats probably three.  That sneaky little devil.  I hide them from him too, and he always finds them and before I know it, I'm picking up a trail of apple cores.

Green tea and sliced cucumbers.  I don't like bread.  I get nothing from it.  So I just have some cucumbers which are a natural diuretic and almost a palate cleanser, in my opinion, before I get started on the big meal coming.

Pho Spa
Bake your spaghetti squash, which are supposed to contain loads or carotenes,  in the oven at 350 degrees for 50 minutes. The squash is halved and the seeds scooped out, and place halves on a lined baking dish before you pop it into the oven.  Bake, then remove from heat and turn the oven off.  Let about 15 minutes go by and then spoon out the strings.

In a small stock pot, cook a few minced garlic cloves, a sliced onion and a couple inches of minced ginger in a little bit of water, or oil, for a few minutes, then add a cup of sliced mushrooms (I like shiitakes), and cook a bit longer.  Then I toss in a chopped carrot and stir.  Then I toss in the noodles of one half of the spaghetti squash, reserving the other one for tomorrows dinner.  Toss that up a bit.  Add 2 tsp. of vegan boullion and 2 1/2 to 3 cups water.  Get that to start simmering. And just when it is heated through I get out two bowls and divide the soup between the two.  I top it off with a bit of mung beans, then the other half of the avocado from the morning, diced, then a handful of fresh basil or parsley or cilantro, whatever I have around. Sprinkle on some Bangarang! and then squeeze a lemon wedge over the whole hot mess.  Then serve it nice and warm.

Oh, it is delicious. And I am in love with vegan Vietnamese food with the five elements of the earth, and the yin and yang of food and it's philosophy.  I was researching V cuisine the other day and it matched my feelings about food. I felt like how on earth was I born on this side of the earth?  But, I do not like the meat that they eat. Highly unsavory to me. Dog meat.  I'm sorry Anthony Burdain or however you spell your name.  I will not eat a chicken embryo or dog meat or whatever else is on the market street vendor cart in Vietnam. No reservations indeed.  I am your polar opposite.  I have plenty of reservations and I don't sit on some desert dune and smoke hashish between shows and just go with it. Let the universe in. You say you despise vegans. Ha! No reservations indeed, you dislike vegans tremendously, sounds like you have at least one reservation. Just rubbish. Okay, I do have a few unkind things to say, but he started it years ago in that insipid interview where he slammed vegans. But, I speak the truth about him and I will forever speak the truth however ugly it may be.

I believe you need a filter or conscious thought between you and the universe.  You need to THINK about every aspect and decide if it is right or wrong with your ideals, with your health goals in mind, being present in each moment and feel the weight of each decision and know that is the right one for you.

vegan chocolate or an orange
both are a treat

This is what I eat, there abouts, on a day to day basis.  I switch up the fruit and the veggies to whatever I have or whatever is seasonal, but it is basically the same format everyday until I find something else astounding to eat for all of the right reasons.


  1. Hi Jen. :) I love what you wrote here. It's uplifting for me to read about parents who see their kids through eyes of love, and not as mini-projects whose job it is to reflect well on their parents.

    My 20yo son, the marathon runner, has been eating a vegan diet for almost a year. In January, he decided to go high-raw vegan, and, honestly, it's been so fun reading through websites and cookbooks with him, shopping for ingredients, making exciting, new dishes together. When he made ani Phyo's Pad Thai with kep noodles the other night, I was floored! Who knew this raw stuff could taste so good?? Younger son has been eating a vegan diet, avoiding wheat and most grains. Last night, he made fruit kabobs for dessert, and I got the Shebangarang! down from the cabinet to sprinkle on them before broiling. They smelled wonderful, but he ate them all before i could try any! Maybe we'll make more tonight! :)

    1. Laura, you have an amazing family! I have Ani's cookbook and I will try the Pad Thai. I love kelp noodles. I thought they would taste like the sea but they are little wonders. No seaweed aftertaste. Just clean. Thank you for reading!