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Monday, February 24, 2014

Smoothies, Eating Raw and Superficial Wieners

I don't know of anyone that wants to die of heart disease and yet thousands die of it each year.  In the United States billions of dollars are spent on health products and diet plans each year.  Yet, more than one-third of Americans are considered obese and thousands die from preventable diseases.

Those in the "healthcare" industry really don't make it easy for people to get into shape.  Yes, they all claim they want to "end the trend" of obesity but what they really want is money, money, money.  Face it, any exercise program will work IF IT'S USED! Companies that keep adding new programs to their already bloated set of routines tacitly admit the one prior to that just didn't work.

Supplements are a total waste of money and give obese people a false hope in a panacea.  Eat your greens, veggies, and fruits.  Anything you need to live a healthy life is found in the produce section of your supermarket - and not just at Whole Foods.

Just  few questions I need to get off my chest:

  • Smoothies: Why do healthy people look down on those that use smoothies as a way to get more phytonutrients into their body? We eat our food we don't drink it.  Please.  If someone is "eating" a smoothie with 2-3 servings of greens, a couple of servings of fruit, and some flax seed why would you want to denigrate their efforts.  If blending greens and fruits for an adult doesn't work (for whatever reason) then neither does baby food or split pea soup.  Stop being pretentious tools and cheer people in their efforts!
  • Raw: I eat a ton of raw food and enjoy it.  The people that believe raw is the only way to go are not helping the cause of a healthy lifestyle.  Face it: Not everyone is going to dehydrate or sprout their food.  Cheer them in their efforts to eat cleanly and if they're interested in your "rawsome" lifestyle they will ask.  
  • Superficial Weenies: Those that operate healthy companies often come across as superficial wieners.  I was excited to get a smoothie e-book the other day and was sorely disappointed in the contents.  What is it written by the 1%??? Himalayan Sea Salt WTF is that? I don't have a degree in geography but believe that the Himalayas are land-locked so the how does one get sea salt?  Ionized water - wiener.  Goji berries - wiener.  Acai - wiener.  Stop making things so difficult for people to eat right!  
That is all. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Whole Foods and Trade Joe's Not Required

I realize all the rage is to shop at Whole Foods for people that are "health conscious" but it's not necessary.  I guess Trader Joe's is similar (I don't really know but often hear them discussed in pairs).  I've been on plant strong diet for a few years now and have never stepped foot in either one.  Not that I have anything against them it's just that where I live we don't have them.

I live in the midwest and the best supermarket (in my opinion) is Meijer.  Great produce and pretty much anything I want can be bought there.  We have a small health food store where I purchase nutritional yeast flakes and chick pea flour but those were rare instances.

People that migrate from a carnivorous / omnivorous diet to a herbivore diet often make things way to complicated and give up before they even get started.  Don't be a quitter.  Press through!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Tripe S Challenge Day 3

I'll really be glad when all of the Valentine's Day candy finally disappears! Sheesh.  It's making my "challenge" way too challenging.

Yesterday was day 2 and I did fairly well after choking down the world's worst smoothie.  I ate large salad (arugula, bok choy, spinach, carrots, broccoli, and quinoa) then had a bowl of split pea soup and tossed in some fresh spinach for an extra boost.

Today, was P90X shoulders and arms.  I went heavy today - low reps.  Change things up a bit.  My smoothie was much better today: Kale, mango, banana, date, ground flax seeds and water.  Lunch will be salad and a vegetable white bean soup for dinner.

Need to steer clear of the candy jars at work though!  Plus, there are Girls Scout cookies EVERYWHERE! I can do it!


Spectacular Split Pea Soup

When I was younger I loathed peas.  One day while visiting a cousin my aunt cooked split pea soup and surprisingly I liked it - even at 8 or 9 years old.  Now that I'm older and much wiser I realize it is one of the most nutrient dense foods available.  It abounds with fiber and for those veggie people that squirm when cornered with the question, "Where do you get your protein!?!?,"  this is an awesome rebuttal! Split pea soup has about 16 grams of protein and 16 grams of fiber in a one cup serving! Boo YA!

Split pea soup is easy to make:

Ingredients

1 pound of split peas (soaked overnight, drained and rinsed)
1 cup of chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 cup of chopped potatoes (optional)
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp white pepper
1 tsp black pepper
1 bay leaf
Sufficient water to cover peas by 2-3 inches
salt

Directions:
Bring peas to a boil and simmer for 45 minutes.  While simmering sweat the carrots and celery for 2-3 minutes.  Add all other ingredients to the pot and continue to simmer until peas are tender.  Add water as needed to create the consistency that you prefer.  Remove bay leaf before serving.  Salt to taste

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The World's Worst Smoothie

I've done it.  Without a doubt I made the world's worst smoothie today.  To make matters worse it's all I had available for breakfast so I'm "choking it down" as I type this morbid post.

I received a portable blender (Nutri-Bullet) for my birthday a few days ago.  I figured I could take it to my office and use it there and use my oh-so-awesome-Vitamix at home.  So I toted this clunky contraption on the train along with my laptop, shoes, and food for the week.  I pre-loaded the mixer with the smoothie contents and bleh.

A few handfuls of kale, about a cup of blackberries, a date, chia seeds, and topped it off with almond milk and OJ.  OH. MY. GOD.  It's absolutely disgusting. I'm sure it's good for me but yuck! It even smells yucky.

Memo to Tim: Don't make this again.

Hope my days gets better from here.

I ran 3 miles today on the programmed hill routine on the treadmill.  It took me 33 minutes and says I burned 400 calories.  So at last that is good.

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Triple S Challenge

Over the next 6 weeks I am going to lose at least 12 pounds and don't intend to find it ever again!  Bye, bye love handles, and excess back fat, and pudgy pecs, and round face.  How? The Triple S Challenge.

I've been contemplating this challenge for quite some time and put into practice today.  I'm going to track my progress, use this blog to keep me accountable and if I get the results I expect will formalize it all.

So what is it? It's a simplified way of eating that provides maximum nutrition with minimal calories.  Each day I will have  a smoothie for breakfast, a salad for lunch, and soup for dinner - Monday through Friday.  Or they can be mixed up to suit my needs for that particular day.  On the weekends I have 2 of the 3 and eat a "sensible" meal for the others. 

I believe it's simple and most certainly will be effective.  Now it's time to "flesh" it out.  So today I did the first P90X routine (Chest & Back).  I had a smoothie that contained Kale, pear, peach, date, chia seeds, and almond milk.  Lunch was arugula, broccoli, cauliflower, carrot, and bok choy.  I cooked two larges pots of soup: vegetable & white bean and split pea.  I will eat off of those for the remainder of the week. 

Today I weighed in at 161.2 pounds and I intend to be less than 150 on March 31, 2014.  Honestly, it's not all about the weight - it's about being healthy.  Being overweight is unhealthy.  There are many bad things that accompany being overweight and none of them are good for us. 

I think this will be a simple and effective method to kick start a healthy life!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Nutri Bullet

I had a pleasant surprise on my birthday.  My in-laws gave me a Magic Bullet because they know I "do my best to eat well."  The cookbook that came with the machine is very good.  Full disclosure: I'm a cook book or cooking show junky.  The majority of recipes are for smoothies but there are some good soup recipes in there too.  For the most part the recipes are plant based which is awesome.  I wondered how it would operate though.

I threw together a smoothie with spinach, pear, frozen peaches, cilantro and almond milk and it worked like a champ.  I was very pleased.  Having the connected cup is convenient too.  I believe I will take this contraption to my office and make my post-workout smoothie at work rather than at home. 

All in all it's nice little piece of equipment!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Cardio: Meh

I really don't like to run.  If someone is chasing me with a hatchet I think I could run with a little more enthusiasm but typically I need motivation.  For me, that comes in the form of music.

I was raised primarily in the 70's (my musical formative years) with old-school rock (Bob Seger).  Of course as I entered my teens I listened to anything that appeared rebellious (hello hair metal) and other heavier music.  Now, my tastes are not quite refined but most definitely eclectic.  Here were the 10 songs that helped me endure today's run to heart health:


  1. The Wizard - Black Sabbath
  2. Dani California - Red Hot Chili Peppers
  3. Private Idaho - B52's
  4. Over My Head - King's X
  5. What a Shame - Shinedown
  6. Awake and Alive - Skillet
  7. Yahweh - Hillsong
  8. John Perkins Blues - Switchfoot 
  9. I'm Not Afraid - Fleming and John
  10. Should I Stay or Should I Go - The Clash 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Tuesday Top 5: Calcium

Calcium is vital for strong bones and teeth, right?  Ever wonder how a Clydesdale horse or elephant developed such strong bones?  Surely it was from all of the milk, yogurt, and cheese consumption.  Or was it (he says as he scratches his chin and wonder)?  Adults should get about 1,000 mg of calcium per day.

Here are 5 non-dairy ways to increase calcium without supplementation:


  1. Okra - with a whopping 172 mg per cup this one is a calcium powerhouse!  Don't fry it - please.  Okra is a staple for gumbo.  Yum!
  2. Collard Greens - this one is huge at 266 mg per cup.  Collard don't require ham hocks or neck bones either.  Yes, cook them and eat them with black eyed peas or use collards in a smoothie. 
  3. Celery - Less than okra and collards but still fairly strong with 40 mg per cup.  Celery is key to any type of Louisiana cooking as well as stir fry. 
  4. Broccoli - 62 mg per cup of broccoli.  Hold the cheese but add it to stir fry or eat it raw in salads.  
  5. Almonds - one ounce contains about 75 mg of calcium. Snack on them.  Add them to oatmeal.  

Monday, February 10, 2014

February: Heart Healthy Month

Don't you like the way "someone" determines the theme of our months and days?  It's kind of obvious why February is "heart healthy" month based on the red hearts we see everywhere - kind of easy for word and picture association, right?

Unfortunately, our efforts and lifestyle simply do not have us on the right track for a heart-healthy February.  Approximately 60 million pounds of chocolate (it's not as heart healthy as the headlines indicate) is purchased and most likely consumed on 2/14.  The scary thing is that Easter and of course Halloween crushes Valentine's Day candy consumption.

I love when (okay I'm lying I don't love) people say "A little chocolate won't hurt - it's a holiday!"  I get where they are headed but there is typically always a reason to eat things that are unhealthy:


  1. New Years Day
  2. Super Bowl Sunday
  3. Valentine's Day
  4. Big Mama's 50th wedding anniversary
  5. Clint and Karen's Wedding
  6. Fat Tuesday
  7. St. Patrick's Day
  8. Grandma Bertha's Birthday
  9. Baby Shower
  10. Wedding Shower
  11. Easter
  12. Passover
  13. Baptisms
  14. Memorial Day
  15. Get it???? 
Enjoy Valentine's Day just don't let the folks at Hershey, Mars, and Kilwin's knock you off track. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Fast, Faster, and Fastest Food

Fast food gets a bad rap and rightfully so.  It's believed by many that fast food is responsible for poor health, obesity, and heart disease.  I have to vehemently disagree and will give three examples why:

Fast: Leftovers are fast food.  When making a pot of chili, quinoa, brown rice, or salad (for example) make enough that you can always go back to the fridge and get more a few days later.

Faster: Have bags of frozen veggies on the ready.  These can be steamed or chowed (wok) in a few minutes. Also sweet potatoes are easily nuked and enjoyed.

Fastest: Fresh fruit and vegetables are the ultimate fast food.  Even most gas stations will have bananas or apples available at the checkout counter.  Peel and eat or wipe off an eat.

Get out of the drive-thru window and begin to flip the notion of fast food on its head.

PS - now that I have a Vitamix fast food has a whole new identity.  More on that at a later date.

Any other suggestions on fast food?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Get Up Offa That Thing

Everyone knows that exercise is good for our hearts, minds, and waist line but not everyone knows where to start!  Should they get a membership to the YMCA, Planet Fitness, join Cross Fit, or what? I have a great suggestion that will cost you $0 and have tremendous benefits: Walk.

Yes, walk even if it's cold outside.  I currently walk 1 mile each way to a train station pretty much every day.  Full disclosure when the windchill was -35 I wimped out but other than that...

Read the linked story.  Jodi is real person and used walking and she's still doing it today.

Be encouraged!


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Top 3 Brutal Beachbody Workouts

I like the Beachbody suite of workout videos.  P90X was a significant step in the right direction for me.  I know many people (Cross Fit* folks I'm looking at you) snicker about P90X and other home video stuff.  I always found that kind of odd.  One would think they'd be happy people are actually exercising.  To each him own, I guess:


  1. Plyo X (P90X) - the first time I did this routine - yea I hurled.  Then I walked gingerly for about 3-4 days.  Navigating stairs was nearly impossible.  Tough - tough - tough workout that is scaleable (like all of these)
  2. Pure Cardio (Insanity) - When Shaun T said, "I'm nervous about what's next." I started to sweat a different kind of sweat and took a deep gulp.  In this routine I am required to take breaks as my heart rate races to dangerous levels!  Great routine - fast and too the point. 
  3. Yoga X (P90X) - I was new to yoga when I began this routine.  Honestly, I only did the entire routine 1 time as 92 minutes is just too long for people that don't work out for a living.  However, the DVD has natural cutoff times and it's easy (well not really easy) to stop at 45 and 60 minutes.  This routine is challenging on so many different levels. 
Anyone want to chime in? 

* I see guys in my gym do Cross Fit type exercises and those guys and gals are in mad, fantastic shape!  

Monday, February 3, 2014

Post Super Bowl Reset

Statistics (those darn things!) indicate the majority of Americans ate and drink more than they typically do - maybe even more than on Thanksgiving yesterday.

So what's one to do?  Put your behind in the past and move forward. Don't stop reaching for your goal.  Don't stop pressing for the prize.  Don't give up!(Is that enough cliche talk?)

Improved blood lipids are in your future.  Improved blood pressure, sugar, and resting heart rate are within your grasp!  If you went gastronomically overboard yesterday let's do a reset starting today!

Today is a new day with new possibilities.

I'm with you.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Recipes are an Art Form! Who Knew?

I was raised by a person that cooked without recipe books.  In those days there might be a Joy of Cooking book or something similar but most people would wing it or jot down things on oil-stained paper.  I've always been a drop-of-this, a smidge-of-that, or a few-shakes-of-this type of cook.  Apparently I've been doing things all wrong!

My better half is always reminding me to "write things down" or "why does this taste different this time?" One, it's part of my personality.  I like change in many areas - especially in food.  Just by omitting one spice and adding a different one it's almost like a new dish! Well, apparently that's not helpful for people that follow recipes.

So a few things I'm working on:

  1. Exact measurements for recipes that have been tried and tested many times
  2. A print function for this blog.  I thought I had it but apparently not.  Still working on it. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

P90X Still has Legs

The evolution of my foray into getting my fat ass off the couch and into shape began with the book Body 4 Life.  Remember that one?  It was a good start for me.  It didn't get bogged down in the weeds and had a positive and upbeat message.  I had a tough time believing some of the stories and testimonials but over the past 10 years I've realized the human body can accomplish remarkable things.

I slowly began to change my eating habits.  It was a slow and meticulous process but I didn't quit.  My brother and I went to a local gym and began to follow the Body 4 Life exercise regime and that's when I realized I wasn't in good shape at all.  I did that for awhile and began to develop some improved strength and eating habits.

I next went to P90 which was Tony Horton's big splash for Beachbody.  I really like it - it was simple and worked the entire body.  I particularly liked the ab workout (better than the one with P90X).  I continued to refine my diet and then was bit by the P90X bug!

Yes, I fell hook line and sinker.  It was brutal, nasty, difficult but somewhat compelling. I remember the first time I did Plyo X I was certain that I was going to d - i - e! I began working out so intensely I would often turn down junk food.  I'd tell myself, "Tim, you've worked too hard to give it all up for a paczki!" I finally was able to complete 10 pulls ups at time (when I started 1 was a struggle!) and made remarkable gains on other area as well.

I never experienced the phenomenal results that others did (testimonial people) but was satisfied with my results.  Now I go back to the DVD's on a regular basis.  I'm doing a hybrid P90X workout currently.  I'm following the lifting exercises on M-W-F and doing cardio (bike or run) on T - TH and Yoga on Saturday or Sunday.

I can honestly say the purchase price of $139 has been worth it.  Great value and I'm still using it many, many years after the original purchase. My heart has improved, I have some decent muscle tone, and I'm definitely much more flexible than ever before.

Now what about Insanity???

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Engine 2 Diet National Challenge

Eating a plant-based diet, at least for me, takes effort and concentration. As I've mentioned previously, I'm not doing it for moral or religious reasons (I wish I were) but for health reason. Eating a poor diet isn't lethal on day one or day two but typically years or decades later.  So, the day-to-day decisions can be easily swept under the rug, punted or the can kicked down the road to deal with at a later time. That's why I like to participate in group activities to help keep me on task.

I'm currently part of a "W8" challenge at my place of work. We get points for things such as exercising 30 minutes a day, drinking 8 glasses of water, tracking our food through My Fitness Pal, and other things.  At the end of the challenge we're put in a raffle for prizes and the more points we earn the better the odds to win something awesome.

Today I signed up for the Engine 2 Diet National Challenge.  This will help me to stay focused on what I put into that huge round (well almost) hole located between my nose and chin.  For the most part I do well but I can always use a little bit of encouragement.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Cuban Black Beans

Many years ago I was put under house arrest and escorted from the island of Cuba - that was an eternity  ago.  No offense taken and I still love their food!

Beans, of any type, are easy to adapt to a plant-based life while keeping a budget under control.  Black beans are some of the best and here's an easy recipe.  These can be served as Moors and Christian version or as soup - the choice is yours.

Ingredients

1 pound black beans (sorted, soaked overnight, and rinsed)
1 quart vegetable stock
1 medium onion chopped
1 medium green bell pepper stemmed, seeded and chopped
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons cumin
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon each white & black pepper
1 can (15 ounce) chopped tomatoes drained
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Directions

Fill stock pop with all ingredients except tomatoes and vinegar cover and bring to a boil.  Simmer for about 1 hour and 45 minutes or until soft.  Add tomatoes and vinegar and cook for an additional 15 - 30 minutes.  Add additional water or stock to keep beans the proper consistency for soup.

You're welcome.

Sunday = Cooking Day

Cooking is something that typically gives me pleasure.  My work weeks are insane (I leave home at 4:15 am and return at 8:30 PM) so I do my best to prep meals on Sunday for the entire week.  Here is my menu for this week and how it's prepped for easy implementation:

Monday: Stir Fry - chopped 1 bok choy, 1 red bell pepper, 3 crowns of broccoli, .25 pound of sugar snap peas, 1 package cremini mushrooms, and half pound of carrots.

Tuesday: Cooked a pot of potato and leek soup.  Freeze it and simply thaw and gently reheat and serve with a side salad.

Wednesday - Cooked a pot of white chili.  Same as Tuesday.

Thursday - Cuban Black Bean Soup with Cuban sandwiches.  Cooked the pot of soup and froze it.  The carnivorous portion of my family with eat them with the Cuban sandwiches.

Friday - to be honest I was supposed to make gumbo but ran out of time.  Good thing my okra is frozen!

Salad Base - I always keep a few gallon ziploc bags of salad on hand.  This consists of 3 heads of Romaine lettuce,a 10 ounce bag of baby spinach, small head of purple cabbage, and a bag of rainbow salad (broccoli, cauliflower, and shredded carrots).  This base is easily added to "invent" unique salad ideas.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Vitamix Nation

I have to admit I've coveted one of these machines for a very long time but am just to dang cheap to take the plunge.  Well, with some Amazon gift cards and a few other breaks I was able to "justify" spending as much money on a kitchen appliance as I did on my first few cars!

It should be arriving sometime next week and I'm excited to put the beast to the test.

Stay tuned!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Ugly Afghan

Please, I don't inundate me with hate mail.  Growing up with an older generation everyone I knew had an ugly Afghan.  What?!?! You know those knit blanket type thingy's that someone made or bought at a garage sale.

My lovely wife attended Michigan State University (go Sparty!) and had 3 suite mates.  Apparently, all 4 ladies owned an ugly Afghan and they would use them to survive the stressful times of university.  How would they do it?  The titled it The Ugly Afghan Laugh.

They would grab their ugly Afghans, lie down and start to laugh - even if they didn't feel like it.  Well that's when they needed it the most.  "Hey Marie, I've had a crappy day.  Dr. Johnson loaded me down with 100 pages of reading for the bore John Maynard Keynes and I have a double tonight at the cafeteria."

Down on the floor they'd go and like popcorn the laughter would start:

"Ha - Ha"
"He He"
"ha, ha, ha, he, he, he"
"wooo hoo, hee hee hee"

Before you know it they'd have full blown belly laughs going on.  She brought that peculiar custom into our home and shared with my our daughter.  Isn't it amazing how much better we feel when we simply laugh?

Laughter is good medicine, it costs nothing, is fat-free and sets us free from anxiety and stress.  Now, that's a heart-healthy prescription that any of us can follow!

The Gift of a Wake Up Call

Anyone remember life before cell phones?  Remember going to a hotel and actually requesting a wake up call from the front desk clerk? Do you recall that time they DIDN'T provide the wake up call and you overslept and maybe missed an important meeting?

I was reading the Happy Herbivore today and she made a comment that really impacted me, "You've been given the gift of a wake up call."  She was speaking of someone that had a "mild" heart attack rather than a massive heart attack.  I like that comment, "You've been give the gift of a wake up call."  It's positive, it's forward thinking, and it provides hope. Unfortunately not everyone get's that gift.

According to Alan Gertler, M.D., "Half of the men that die of coronary heart disease have no previous symptoms, and he also claims, "The first manifestation of a heart problem oftentimes is sudden death."  In other words, they didn't get the wake up call.  In all fairness, not everyone that receives the "wake up" call actually makes use of it.  Some continually hit the snooze button until time expires.  And it's sad.  And unnecessary.  And expensive.  And selfish.

Selfish? Yes, selfish.  Ignoring sound nutritional advice in order to live a hedonistic lifestyle is selfish. Choosing a daily cheeseburger and fries when arteriosclerosis is confirmed is selfish.  Children, grandchildren, and spouses deserve to have pleasant memories of their loved ones.

Imagine celebrating the first person in your family to reach 100!  Wow!  Now that's a way to alter a family tree.  If you've received the "wake up" call recently make some adjustments.  Here are 7 things that you can start doing that will benefit your heart.


  1. Walk (how long is up to you.  Just do it!)
  2. Get and Read Eat to Live by Dr. Joel Furhman 
  3. Eat a HUGE salad everyday 
  4. Eat more fresh fruit daily (any type or kind)
  5. Introduce beans into your daily diet 
  6. Pray, meditate, or commune with nature
  7. Laugh 
What would you add? 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Super Chili

Chili is one of the dishes I first learned to make sans meat.  It's also one that my family (carnivorous) perfers plant strong.  I have to confess - I use a lot of canned stuff because I don't have a BP issue.  If you do, make your own beans or look for salt-free stuff.

I typically make double or triple batches and use leftovers for chili spaghetti (not quite Skyline), chili baked potatoes, chili burgers, or chili cheese fries.

Ingredients

1 large sweet onion (peeled and coarsely chopped)
1 small purple onion (peeled and coarsely chopped)
1 large green bell pepper (stemmed and diced)
1 large yellow bell pepper (stemmed and diced)
3 cans chili beans (I use Meijer of Bush's)
1 large can tomato sauce
1 large can chopped petite tomatoes
1 small can diced and peeled chili peppers
1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro
3 cloves garlic (peeled, smashed, and minced)
chili powder
cumin

Directions

Toss onions, garlic, and bell peppers into a heated stock pot and saute for about 5 minutes.  Toss in beans, tomato sauce, chopped tomatoes, and canned peppers.  Allow to simmer for about 20 minutes.  Add chili powder and cumin to taste. Start with at least 1 tablespoon of each.  Don't be afraid to put in sufficient chili powder.  Continue to cook for another 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and toss in cilantro and allow to set for a few minutes.  Enjoy.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Food Fit for a Super Sunday: Holy Shockamole

Now that we know who will be competing in the Super Bowl it's time to begin preparing for the party! I don't go off the wagon for this game - I become creative and stretch the boundaries of tasty food.  If you're invited to a party and want to contribute to the longevity of your friends consider this dish:  Shockamole!

Ingredients

5 ripe avocados, peeled and pitted
1  sweet onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro (chopped finely)
1/2 lime
3 Serrano peppers stemmed and minced (seeds give it more heat)
salt to taste

Optional:
1 chopped tomato
1 or 2 cloves minced garlic

Directions

Combine all ingredients (except salt) and mix together.  I prefer my guacamole a bit chunky some like it creamy.  Combine salt to taste. Cover with plastic wrap tightly on top of the mixture to avoid browning. Serve with chips or crispy pita bread.

My early prediction: Denver 27 Seattle 17

Monday, January 20, 2014

Blooming on a Budget: Salad

Salads are my specialty if I don't say so myself.  I know what you're thinking, "Salad are freakin' kidding me?  How good could salad actually be?"  Well, if I make it - delicious.  This is a dish that can be costly if one is not careful so I will help make an economical, tasty and healthy version.

When I make salad I typically make enough to fill 2, gallon bags and they keep well in the refrigerator the entire week.  When salad is already made it's more convenient to eat it.  Please don't buy that pre-packaged mix that tastes like preservatives!  No wonder your kids don't like salad.

Ingredients:

1/2 small head green cabbage (shredded)
1/2 small head purple cabbage (shredded)
1 head iceberg lettuce (chopped)
1 head romaine lettuce (chopped)
1 bag baby spinach (I chop mine)
1 package of carrot matchsticks
1 package of rainbow salad

Blend together.  This is a base that works well as a stand alone salad or can be added to create more creative versions of salad.  We'll go into great detail on more adventurous versions in a later post.



No Qualifiers Needed

I'm convinced on several different levels that humans do not need to eat any animal products whatsoever.  Granted, NOT eating them can be challenging because they will pop up in the most obscure places (sugar, I'm looking at you!).

Dairy Milk - not needed.  I even find it a bit disturbing that we continue to drink a food that was designed for a different species.  Got Milk? ads were clever and the dairy association has done an admirable job in propagandizing the masses.  Imagine, if you will, the good 'Ol USA is invaded by creatures from Uranus and they desire to drink human breast milk wouldn't we consider that odd?  We'd probably consider it strange if a human breast fed long after the "weaning" process but we simply switch species and delivery method and it's hunky dory.

Protein - most people believe the only way to get protein is through meat but that's not the case at all.  Plants contain protein - lots of it.

In my writing I typically will not qualify my discussions or ingredients by saying something is vegan.  If I mention milk, cream, or other things it's plant based.  I don't use dairy milk in my recipes and if something is obscure I will link to it.  For example, when making cream soups I will link to a prior recipe for cream that is plant based so to avoid any confusion.  I just don't feel it's necessary to preface every ingredient with the word VEGAN.

Make sense?


Heart Attacks, Stents and Slow Death

It is my opinion that heart disease is not truly hereditary in the sense genes control our future.  It's more like we adopt the lifestyle of our ancestors and breaking outside any bad habits is truly difficult.  Furthermore, food is important to us - especially comfort food.  I've yet to see some declare that a fresh, crisp salad is comfort food - even if it's submerged in ranch dressing.  If we're convinced that we must radically alter our diets then often it's an attack or an affront to grandma or mama - even if they died prematurely from heart disease.

I had a long ride to change my diet to one that was conducive to long life and clean arteries.  I slowly changed things (mostly subtracting offenders) and really didn't see positive results.  I did on occasion.  I would have my lipids tested quarterly and sometimes they were up and sometimes they were down.  That was frustrating because it was difficult to determine what was working.  I didn't see consistent, positive results until I adopted a plant-based diet.

Now instead of focusing on what I could not eat I began to focus on what I could eat.  I did my best best to follow the Eat to Live protocol:

  1. At least 3 servings of fresh fruit per day
  2. 1 pound of raw vegetables (salad)
  3. 1 pound of steamed green vegetables 
  4. 1 cup of beans
  5. 1 serving of starchy vegetable
  6. Handful of nuts or seeds
The results were fantastic! 

So what about my family that loves to fry everything and probably only gets about 10 - 15 grams of fiber per day?  Nothing.  Most are aware I eat the way I do.  Most think I'm silly.  Why wouldn't they?  Everyday the news reports something contrary to sound nutrition and people run with headlines.  

Doctors really don't speak of nutrition.  My doctor told me to drink skim milk, eat only chicken breasts, and lean cuts of meat.  None of which is helpful for someone with high cholesterol.  All I can go on is basic science (not reports sponsored by ranchers, dairy farmers, and drug companies) and say, "results don't lie!" 

One cheeseburger doesn't kill.  It's the constant bombardment of our bodies with that stuff that begins to clog the pipes over time.  Some might have an early heart attack others might last longer.  I've seen people after open heart surgery and it's not fun.  

Again, that's the purpose of me writing.  If one person is inspired to start or continue to eat right then I've been successful. 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Spanish Rice

Ingredients

1 cup brown rice
1/4 of an onion chopped
1/4 of green pepper chopped
1 tsp parsley
1 roma tomato chopped
2 cloves garlic smashed and minced
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup vegetable stock
1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce

Directions

Toast rice in a dry skillet until it crackles, stir often (about 3-5 minutes) set aside

Saute onion, garlic, and pepper in a bit of vegetable stock or water for a few minutes and then add the tomatoes

Add stock, tomato sauce and rice and bring to a boil

Cover the pot and reduce heat to a simmer and allow to cook for about 40 minutes.  Liquids should be absorbed but if not continue to cook until they are absorbed.

Remove from heat and keep pot covered for an additional 5 minutes.




Bloom on a Budget: Dominican Beans & Rice

Okay, if you've been following you might be thinking, "Dang, does this guy only eat beans! Bet his house is aromatic." Well, to answer the first question, no I don't just eat beans and two your body adjusts to the increased fiber.  Another way to minimize the, uh, aromatics is to put a half teaspoon of baking soda in the pot at the end of cooking.  Just a little trick and it doesn't change the flavor.

This recipe is inspired by the people that wrote Give Them Something Better.  Fantastic book written by a team of Seventh Day Adventists.  If you're unaware they follow a vegan diet based on their interpretation of The Good Book.  Without further ado…

Ingredients


  • 1 pound of pinto beans (sorted, rinsed, and soaked over night)
  • Large sweet onion quartered (use only 3 pieces)
  • Large green pepper cored, seeded and quartered (use only 3 pieces)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 (8 oz) can tomato sauce
  • 1/3 cup loosely packed cilantro 
  • 1 clove garlic crush and finely minced
  • 1 tablespoon distilled vinegar 
  • Additional cilantro for garnish 

Directions

  • Place bean in crock pot with enough water to cover by about 2 inches
  • Cook on low for about 8 hours
  • Remove pepper and onion pieces and place in a blender with a cup of the cooked beans, bean water (about a cup), cilantro, vinegar, and tomato sauce
  • Blend until smooth and pour back into the pot and stir well 
  • Serve over spanish rice, sprinkle with chopped cilantro

Friday, January 17, 2014

Blooming on a Budget: Hoppin' John

I'm a sucker for cooking shows - any of them.  Well, I guess I'm not a fan of the cutthroat reality TV contests but the one's that are on PBS are fun for me.  I enjoy Rick Bayless, Steve Raichlen (primal grill) but my all time favorite was the Frugal Gourmet.  I think he would approve of this dish. 

Ingredients

1 pound of black eyed peas (sorted, rinsed, and soaked overnight)
1 sweet onion - chopped
1 small green pepper - cored, seeded and chopped
3-4 stalks of celery - chopped
2 cloves of garlic crushed and minced (I don't need to tell you to remove the paper stuff do I?)
1 bay leaf
1 small can chopped tomatoes
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp salt 
1 tsp each white, black, and red pepper
A couple of shots of Tabasco sauce 
Sufficient water to cover beans by a couple inches 
1 cup cooked brown rice
3-4 green onions chopped

Directions

Toss all of the ingredients (except the tomatoes, green onions & rice) in a crock pot and cook on low for 8-10 hours. During the final hour of cooking toss in the tomatoes and allow to cook for the final hour.  Remove from heat and stir in the rice.  Top with green onions. Serve with a side salad or cooked mixed greens. 


Thursday, January 16, 2014

Blooming on a Budget: Grocery List

Debunking the myth that vegans and others that follow a plant based diet can be economical is an exhausting endeavor.  The resistance is strong, the lies continue to reproduce, and the idea that all of us are Prius driving nuts is tough to overcome. I'm going to continue my quest.


  1. Apples
  2. Bananas 
  3. Cabbage (Green)
  4. Cabbage (Purple)
  5. Potatoes (white)
  6. Potatoes (red)
  7. Potatoes (Yukon)
  8. Potatoes (sweet)
  9. Red Beans (Cajun)
  10. Black Beans (Cuban)
  11. Black Eyed Peas (down home)
  12. Chick Peas (garbanzo beans)
  13. Pigeon Peas (islands)
  14. White Beans (Romanian) 
  15. Pinto Beans (Latin)
  16. Oatmeal
  17. Collard greens
  18. Turnip greens
  19. Mustard greens
  20. Kale
  21. Dandelion greens
  22. Onions
  23. Garlic
  24. Ginger
  25. Serrano Peppers
  26. Green Bell Peppers
  27. Brown Rice
  28. Kiwi (Aldi, baby!)
  29. Watermelon
  30. Oranges (in season)
  31. Carrots
  32. Parsley
  33. Cilantro
  34. Tomatoes
  35. Eggplant
  36. Lentils 
  37. Pasta 
  38. Tomato sauces
  39. Cucumbers
  40. Iceberg Lettuce
  41. Seasonal Fruits & Veggies 
You're Welcome

Beans and Rice, Rice and Beans

If you've ever listened to The Dave Ramsey Show you undoubtedly  have heard his reference to eating beans and rice, rice and beans.  I don't know Dave but I'll go out on a limb and say he is speaking metaphorically and really doesn't expect his listeners to eat beans and rice until they're out of debt.  Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with eating them often and to Dave's point it's a frugal and tasty dish.  In honor of debt freedom let's talk about different dishes that will help you bloom on a budget.

Red Beans & Rice - probably the most famous of all bean dishes.  It's a classic bayou dish that is traditionally served on Mondays.  Like all beans they are high in protein, high in fiber, and economical.  Bay leaf, celery, onion, bell peppers, white pepper, red pepper, and black pepper give it a unique flavor.

Recipe:
1 pound red beans
1 sweet onion chopped
3-4 stalks of celery chopped
1 green bell pepper chopped
2 cloves garlic pressed and minced
2 bay leaves
1 tsp each black, white, and red pepper
Few drops of liquid smoke (optional)
Hot sauce for the table
Fresh water
Brown rice cooked to directions

I use a crock pot. Sort the beans (1 pound) and soak over night.  Drain and rinse well.  Return beans to the crock pot and cover with water by about an inch.  Toss in all of the ingredients and cook on low for 8-10 hours.  Beans should be creamy and delish!

I serve with a side salad and my wife and kids like a little bit of crunchy french bread as well.


Bloom on a Budget

One (of the many things) that make me cringe is when people repeat the lie that eating in a healthy manner requires big buck and many trips to Whole Foods to stock the pantry.  There are dozens of healthy (and tasty) meals that can be prepared frugally.

Certainly, we pay for convenience.  Opening a silo of Pringles is easier than peeling potatoes and costs more per pound.  I'm not sure if I ever have heard anyone defending the health benefits of Pringles but you never know.  Yes, filet mignon is more expensive than ground chuck but neither are particulary good for you!

Over the next week or so I'm going to share recipes and frugal tips on blooming on a budget.  Perhaps it can be viewed as an extension of Dave Ramsey's idea of beans and rice to get out of debt.


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Blooming on a Budget Day 1

Breakfast:

Oatmeal (about $3.00 for a large container at Aldi)
1/2 an apple chopped (about $1.00 a pound)
1/2 banana sliced ($0.55 a pound)

Cook according to package directions and blend in apple and banana.



Monday, January 13, 2014

Healthy W8 Challenge

I'm certain many companies and groups have started "dump the plump" or "biggest loser" types of competitions for employees.  My employer is sponsoring one called "Healthy W8 Challenge."  The goal, in a nutshell, is to lose a pound per week for the 8 weeks, increase hydration, increase exercise, and begin to track our calorie intake.

My work schedule is hectic like everyone else.  I typically leave home at 4:15 am and return home around 8:45 a.m. (don't ask!).  The good thing is that I have an onsite gym I can use when I'm not being l-a-z-y.  Maybe it's a crutch but having these types of structure events helps me to stay on task.

My initial weigh-in revealed that I have (ahem) room for improvement.  I'm 1.0% over on BMI (Body Mass Index), 1.3% over on PBF (percentage of body fat), on the wrong side of weight, and body fat mass.  So I guess I can only go up (or down?!?) from here!

Since taking on this new job (with the hectic schedule) I've put on about 15 pounds and they need to go.  I was training for a sprint triathlon and stopped being as diligent with exercising.  Lots of excuses.  Hopefully this contest will be a good accountability partner.

Wish me well!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Ignorance is Not Bliss (It can be Fatal)

Lies repeated long enough eventually become known as "truth".  Take for example any politician.  They speak in sound bites of half-truths and what they continually repeat, regardless of its ridiculousness, it  eventually is accepted as gospel.  It's no different when discussing the benefits of a plant based diet.

People are convinced that humans require 100's of grams of protein per day.  Ironically, I've never heard of anyone being protein deficient from a doctor report.  The myth is further perpetuated with the belief that protein is only found in animal products. Spinach, when compared to steak in a calorie to calorie test, has more protein.

The belief that osteoporosis (brittle bones) is a result of insufficient milk intake is another crazy lie.  The countries that consume the most milk have the highest incidence of broken hips.  Collards, garlic, broccoli, and even oranges contain calcium!

These are just a few of the untruths that must be combatted.  It's amazing to me when I discuss my eating (just talking not proselytizing) how they feel inclined to give me unwanted advice on how I'm crazy and need meat, eggs, cheese, dairy, and other things.

Having facts available at least gives me (and you) a counter argument or discussion.  Some people simply do not care about facts or logic.  Others do and I will simply focus on those people looking for answers.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Funny as A Heart Attack

A ninety year old man went to his doctor complaining of chest pains.  The good doctor ran some tests and g
ave the man some instructions.  The next day the doctor spots the gentleman walking around with a huge smile on his face with an extremely attractive lady on his arm.

The doctor asks the man how he is doing and the man replies that he is doing well since taking the doctors advice.  The doctor is perplexed and asks the man what advice he is referring to.

The old man says, "You told me to get a hot mama and to be cheerful!"

"No, no," the doctor replied, "I said you had a heart murmur and needed to be careful!"

Drum roll, rim shot!

Staying the Course

I have several reasons behind blogging about a plant-based diet (for the lack of a better word).  First of all, it keeps me on track.  As previously mentioned, staying on track is not always easy.  Eating out can be an exhaustive adventure.  I recently went to Applebee's for dinner and there wasn't one thing on the menu that was not meat/cheese or deep fried. I asked my server if I could get the chicken salad without the chicken and she said of course but I'm going to charge you the same price! Excellent customer service. Guess where I stopped going?

Navigating the holidays around friends and family can be dicey as well.  Most mean well but since they don't fall over dead with the first cheeseburger many are convinced that I'm off my rocker and a bit too extreme.  Personally, I think extreme is getting my chest cavity cracked open by a bone saw in order to give a surgeon access to my arteries so he or she can create a by-pass for the blood flow - but that's just me.

Another reason I'm doing this it meet others doing the same thing as me.  It's always easier to do something when you have others cheering you on and sharing tips, tricks, and best practices.  I love to cook so I have many recipes to share.  I'd like to hear feed back.  My immediate family is about 70% plant based in their eating.  I've determined that if a plant-based meal is not world class it won't be served.  They let me know what's good, needs improvement, and what simply needs to go directly to the trash. 

Thirdly, I want to "reward" those that have gone before me on this journey.  There are many people that have inspired and encouraged me through their writing and other medium.  I know the battle can be taxing and I want to honor them by reaching people with the same message. 

Dr. Joel Furhman is my hero when it comes to this stuff.  I've read Eat to Live on several occasions and will be reading it again as soon as my copy is returned.  Rip Esselstyn, the creator of the Engine 2 Diet, is extremely inspirational and his father, Caldwell, is pioneer in this field.  I'd be remiss if I left our T. Colin Campbell of the China Study.  Isa Chandra Moskowitz, creator of the Post Punk Kitchen and author is always a fun read and has helped expand my palate on many occasions. 

Having a good resources makes this easier.  For true vegans eating a plant based diet comes naturally because they have a moral compass that keeps them on task.  Those that follow the Seventh Day Adventist doctrine have a religious compass that keeps them on course.  I depend on will power (which isn't always powerful), encouragement, and the fear of heart attacks, stents, and Lipitor. 

Let's do this together and live healthy lives!

In the Beginning

I love studying the genealogy of my family.  Obtaining passenger lists from the Father Land, old photos from Romanian immigrants, and death certificates from back in the day.  Unfortunately, a pattern quickly emerged from the deaths of most of my family - heart disease.

It really wasn't a surprise as the majority of the family funerals I attended were the result of heart disease. Heart disease still kills more Americans than all cancers combined and is, for the most part, preventable.  I realized I had issues with cholesterol several years ago and began making changes to my eating habits.  I saw some favorable results but the numbers see-sawed more than I wanted.  When my lipids became alarmingly high and the good doc wanted to prescribe medicine I realized I needed to be unreasonable.

I did some research and ordered three books: Engine 2 Diet, The China Study, and You Can Reverse Heart Disease and began to read.  It took some time but a picture began to form in my mind of how to eradicate the ugly, sticky mess from my blood stream.  I needed to go "plant strong" for an experiment.

My blood total cholesterol was 259 at the time and the goal was to get it less than 150.  I removed all animal based products from my eating for 60 days.  Would it work? I really didn't know but realized I didn't want to take a drug that would destroy one organ to save another.  Kind of like slowly burning down your bathroom in order to remodel your kitchen.

The long and short of it is that it worked well.  My total cholesterol dropped from 259 to 138 during the 60-day experiment and I was hooked.  Is it easy to maintain?  I don't think that it is.  I struggle daily and have a strong repertoire of plant-based recipes.  And that's why I'm blogging.

Consider this a supportive, encouraging place to learn and try new things.

Enjoy!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Bloom

US News and World Reports annually ranks the best "diets" and the most recent installment had DASH diet (actually 4 years running) as the best and the Paleo as the worst.  The DASH diet focuses primarily on reducing hypertension (a good thing) and the Paleo diet's main aim is to eat like our ancient ancestors.  I'm sure both have good and bad points just like anything.  As one of my college professor's used to drill into us "our weaknesses are strengths taken to an extreme." 

Over the next year I'm going to tout the health benefits of eating a plant based diet - which strangely was absent from the US News and Word Report's findings.  I'm not a doctor, a nutritionist or a registered nurse.  I'm simply someone that has realized the benefits of adopting a lifestyle of eating plants and would like to spread the good news and maybe help someone in the process. 

I hope you enjoy and will visit often. 

Peace & Carrots, 
TIM