Friday, March 27, 2015

Say Cheese, or say Smack

When I decided to try the whole vegan thing, my biggest worry was how I was going to say no to cheese. Part of my earliest memories of visiting my Grandma was that she would make us her macaroni and cheese. It was legendary (in my book anyway!). All of the emotions I associate with my Grandma - love and comfort just to name two, are wrapped up in those little cheesy noodles.
I also loved grilled cheese sandwiches (I later acquired the taste for the accompanying tomato soup), nachos, scalloped potatoes, and that pepper jack cheese with all those green and red bits in it. Bleu cheese came on the scene, first only in salads, but it quickly became a favourite as well. Let's just say I love cheese.

So how has it been going without? Well, I will say that on a Friday night, I miss making a meal of wine, cheese and crackers. (Ok, so that's my secret single behaviour from when I lived on my own!) But I still miss a good slice of aged cheddar... mmmm. Ploughman's Feast anyone? Anyway, I digress. The point is that I've survived, and I've actually learned a thing or two about why cheese might be so addictive. I figured it was worth sharing because maybe you've got a hankerin for the cheesy goodness too.

I was reading the book "The Vegetarian Flavor Bible" by Karen Page. She quotes Dr Neal Barnard, who tells us why cheese 'addiction' actually has a physical component to it.

"...cheese is a special case. Nutritionally, it is awful - with a very high content of saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium. However, cheese is extremely high in casein, the dairy protein, which is not like the other proteins. It breaks apart to release opiates into the bloodstream, and these milk casomorphins attach to the same opiate receptors in the brain that heroin attaches to, called the mu-receptor. So it's not just taste, it's not just mouthfeel - dairy products are unique in that they release casomorphins, and cheese has a much higher concentration of them than milk or ice cream." 
"If I stuck a needle in your arm a half-hour after you ate cheese, there would be opiates in your bloodstream and attaching to your brain. While it's not enough to make you drive dangerously or rob a convenience store, it's enough to make you say the next day, 'I think I'd like a little more cheese.' Completely stinky, repugnant cheese become more attractive when a person associates what's going on in the brain with the smell and the flavor."

He goes on to say that "If you are hooked on cheese - or anything else- you might consider trying to make a clean break. That's easier than teasing yourself with little bits here and there."

Hmm. Cheese is like mini-heroin to your brain? Hard to believe, but lately what I've read a lot about the whole sugar / cocaine thing is similar. Why not cheese & heroin?

So... does that mean I'm going to go cold-turkey? Well, I have already, and I don't seem to need rehab. Truthfully, though, I just don't think I will stay off 'the good stuff' forever. I'll keep the doses low, carefully measured out to ensure I just take about one ounce. That should do it, right?


Thursday, March 26, 2015

Gettin my Green On

I've been busy. Sorry, it's true, that even though I'm not working currently, I've still been busy. It takes time to find a job, you see, and I've allowed myself to be all consumed with it. It paid off because I've landed a job!! Maybe more on that later, we'll see. Anyway, the other reason I've been busy is that we've had family visiting. Well, ok, that last part has only been for the last 3.5 days or so, but it still counts.

Anyway, I thought I'd take the opportunity to share 2 recipes that I'm totally in love with. The first one is what I drink every morning for breakfast. I actually feel guilty when I DON'T drink it for breakfast, because it gives me my greens first thing in the morning. If nothing 'good' happens the rest of my day in terms of my diet, at least I know I started off on the right foot!

Now... don't get me wrong, either. I'm not a juicer, and up until now the only smoothie I would fix myself contained either a yogurt / strawberry / banana / oats combo, or sub out the strawberry & banana for raw cacao and peanut butter & that's my go-to number two. That was my repertoire... partly due to the fact that I wasn't really buying the whole "drink for breakfast" thing, and partly because my blender was a typical run-of-the-mill blender. Insert my sister's Blentec and the smoothie world is my oyster!

So... let's get to it. My new favourite go-to breakfast is the "classic green monster" from Oh She Glows. It's TASTY! See my recipes section for the ingredient amounts, but it's basically made with almond milk, spinach, frozen banana, peanut butter, chia seeds, vanilla and cinnamon. You can try subbing in kale for the spinach, but personally, I'm just NOT a fan of kale in a smoothie. It just flavours the whole thing which I feel is a bit overpowering, particularly in the morning. Let's just say that if I'm going to drink something green, it better be tasty.

So... here it is!

Now, I may have said that kale does not work in the smoothie. Ok, I will most certainly go on record and stand by that. I have, however found a fantastic place for kale. My 2nd favourite recipe right now is the "festive kale salad with sweet apple-cinnamon vinaigrette & pecan parmesan", again from Oh She Glows. Let's face it, I'm seriously loving that cookbook, and I think I could eat that kale salad every night. BIG TIME. And I don't feel guilty about it at all!

Please don't take the picture as any indication of what it tastes like. This picture makes it look like something you picked out of the seaweed at the beach - but that's partly because I've used Lacinto Kale. I was using curly kale originally, and it's not so dark green, but I figure it's good to change things up in the kale department every once in awhile! Both types of kale work really well, but I will say, you have to MASSAGE it. If you've never heard of massaging your kale, well, then you've probably never eaten kale (or enjoyed it if you did). What a chewing nightmare. If you've massaged the dressing into it properly, and even let it sit awhile (a few hours maybe) before you eat it, then you should have a perfectly 'relaxed' kale that won't make you feel like a cow eating dinner.

So... I've been busy getting my green on, and hopefully these 2 recipes will help you do it too!


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Moving Outta the Neighborhood

My sister and I went to Atlanta over the weekend. We went down there to go to Dr Furhman's "Nutritarian One-day Intensive" course on Saturday. If you've heard of Dr Furhman before, then you know what it was probably about. But for those of you who don't know who he is, he's written books like Eat to Live, The End of Diabetes, Eat for Health, and The End of Dieting, among others.

Dr Furhman promotes "Nutritarian" eating, which basically has 4 principles.

  1. Your health expectancy is in direct proportion to the number of micronutrients you take in. Micronutrients are things like vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. You should focus on eating the foods that will give you the most micronutrients per calorie you eat. 
  2. Comprehensive Nutrient Adequacy. It's a long term that basically means you need to eat the rainbow. Haven't heard that before? You know, eat reds, greens, yellow, purples... so that you get all the different nutrients you need and don't end up looking like a carrot after eating too many of them.
  3. Hormonally Favourable. Our bodies are full of hormones and they react to the different foods we eat - insulin and IGF-1 to name a few. He is basically saying here that we should eat foods that don't spike up our insulin and cause us to gain weight. IGF-1 is "Insulin-like Growth Factor 1" and it's a bad boy. It promotes cell division and growth. That ain't bad, right? Well, if you are a growing kid, no, it ain't bad, but if you're a cancer cell, well, that's really bad. So.... it's good to limit that sucker if you can.
  4. Avoid toxins. Easy, right?! Not so easy. For example, I took a trip to my local grocery store to buy some corn tortillas to make enchiladas. The kind we buy at Trader Joe's have corn, water and lime in them. That's it. I don't think the corn is non-GMO certified or anything, and they aren't listed as organic, but in my book that's WAY better than the list of ingredients you'll find on a package of Mission (a popular brand).
Ingredients: Whole Grain Corn, Water, Cellulose Gum, Propionic Acid (to preserve freshness), Benzoic Acid and Phosphoric Acid (to preserve freshness), Guar Gum, Amylase.

What IS that stuff?!?  The point is, toxins are everywhere and in nearly everything. You really have to be diligent to avoid toxins, but believe me, I'm doing it. I even try to avoid toxins in my cosmetics... ok, I haven't graduated to eliminating it from my make-up, but I use brands like Yes To for my shampoo, body wash and lotions!

Anyway, whether you subscribe to the 4 principles or not, basically it's a primarily vegan diet that's low on grains (whole grains only if you're gonna have them) but still allows nuts and seeds - even recommends them! It's a plant-based diet that really focuses on eating healthy rather than just eating vegan... cause you and I both know by now that they really aren't the same. You can eat vegan potato chips all you want and you aren't going to lose a single pound, or improve your health.

So what do I mean about moving out of the neighborhood?

These questions were asked...
How many of you have ever been shot at?
How many of you have ever been car jacked?
How many of you have ever had your house broken into?
And now imagine you were sitting at your local town meeting, and those same questions were asked. What would you do? You'd think "I'VE GOTTA MOVE!! This place is no place for me to live!" If your family knew you were living in a place like that but refused to move, they'd think you were crazy!

Well, basically, we're living in a neighborhood where cancer, diabetes, heart attacks, alzheimer's and other ailments all seem to be the norm... and yet we are STILL living in the neighborhood and not moving. Those diseases don't have to be the norm! We can change the way we eat and make an impact on our health. I liked thinking about it that way. Sometimes it's really hard, but when I think about this.. "If you eat what most Americans eat, you'll get what most Americans get", it makes sense. I don't wanna get what most Americans get. FAT is just one of them.

The other statistic that he stated which scared the bejeezus outta me (that's a technical term).. was that 95% of American women over the age of 65 have active cancer in their breasts. It's just not detectable yet. SERIOUSLY!? I wish I knew where he got that information, but basically it's saying that the older you get, the more likely you are to have cells in your body that are acting up and morphing into things they shouldn't be. But that's not to say that it's all in your genes... basically the idea is that WE HAVE THE POWER to change our course. Sure, we might be born with some nasty buggers in there, but we can either turn up the volume and get them multiplying like crazy, or we can chill them the hell down and keep them at bay. I know, maybe it's not that easy but thinking of it as simply as that makes me at least feel like I've got a bit of control over the situation.

So... I'm moving out. Just how far away I go is yet to be seen.... but I'm doing it. This sh!t is for the birds.