Thursday, August 26, 2010

Can Good Habits Be Habit Forming?

What a crazy week this has been with school starting back up. Our grandchildren talked us into taking the summer off from their studies (against our better judgement), and let's just say we won't be doing that again. Which speaks to habits and how they are formed and how hard they are to break.

It's interesting how good habits seem harder to form than bad habits. I'm sure that's not true. It's just that we prefer the bad habits over the good ones. It might be a lazier way to do something in some cases. I am trying to teach my grandson to make his bed every day. He was having such a time of it that I just let him throw the sheet over the top and then the bedspread on top of that the first time. Now he thinks that is the definition of a made bed, and there doesn't appear to be anything I can do to convince him otherwise. Lesson learned: do it right the first time no matter how hard it is because they'll never let you back up and do it the right way. There are no do-overs in their world! Of course, I could decide I well-made bed is not that important and not worry about it. The lesson there is to pick my battles...

I'm convinced that many of the problems we face in our daily eating choices are the results of bad habits formed. I met a young lady once who was reared as a vegan. She had never eaten at a fast food restaurant, had never had white flour or sugar, and she was a most beautiful creature, spiritually, emotionally, and physically. I marveled at that and wondered how many others there were in the world like that. Then I started thinking about the rest of us. All of us come from varying levels on the healthful eating scale. To me, this young lady was a 9 1/2 (with 10 being a perfect diet), while many of us have had some pretty gross stuff in our bodies. Like the un-made bed, what difference does it make? How do we decide if this battle is worth fighting?

For me, the way I feel makes the battle worth fighting. When I don't eat the food upon which my body was created to thrive, I don't feel well, and I don't think as clearly. That is the bottom line. As an overweight person, I tried every diet out there I think, but there was never a diet that I couldn't wait to get back to because of how it made me feel until I went raw vegan. I did not start eating like that for weight loss or to feel better; I did it because we were hoping it would help Darius fight cancer. Feeling terrific, having more energy than I knew what to do with, and weight loss were just fantastic side benefits.

When I have slips, I suffer physically and mentally. I do not enjoy feeling badly anymore especially when I know I don't have to. When I know there is a way to feel great, why would I purposely endure suffering? If all I have to do is wash in the river to rid myself of leprosy, why wouldn't I do it? (See 2 Kings 5: 1 - 14 in the Old Testament of the Bible for the whole story.)

The fact is, most of us want a fancy solution. I saw advertisements on the TV yesterday for some kind of probiotic pill people can take to restore their intestinal balance of good bacteria and yeast. Why do we need a pill for that when there are wonderful probiotic foods we should be eating every day? We seem more comfortable when there is an 800 number attached to what's good for us, or if a doctor will write us a prescription for it. We think, "How in the world can the food I eat make a difference in how I feel?" Really, are you kidding me? How can it not?

At least once a week, someone calls us who has heard Darius' cancer story telling us someone in their family is dying from cancer, and can we help them? This week it was a little 8 year old girl in Texas. I do not know why people get cancer or if eating only the foods upon which we were intended to thrive can heal us. I am not a doctor or medical professional. I do know our bodies are created as perfect "machines" with self-healing mechanisms. If we overload them in anyway (food and otherwise), they must divert their energy to waste removal instead of other functions. Eventually the body will fail when the other functions are ignored long enough.

Those bad habits are killing all of us at an alarming rate. We must face the addictions to which the habits have led us to fall victim and overcome them if we are to have a decent quality of life. Like Kris Carr said when asked by Dr. Oz how she would feel if she ended up dying anyway, she answered that her quality of life was so much better since having cancer and making changes in her lifestyle that she would not regret making the changes. There's something wrong when our bad habits blind us to reality! We've got to get honest with ourselves. For me, it takes doing the AA 12 steps to do this, but it doesn't matter HOW we do it, just that we do do it!

I've been thinking about putting a box together each week for those who would like to try to add more plant-based foods into their lives. I think a lot of people are over-whelmed when they try to do this, and maybe this would help them. There's a restaurant in Los Angeles called Rawvolution that has been doing this for quite a while, so it is helping people in these highly populated areas.

We have no idea how much to charge for this and are not inclined to sit down to do the math with everything else that's going on. We are not so much interested in doing it for profit as we are trying to get people to get turned on to how good some of these foods can be. If we can come up with a price that can cover our expenses and be affordable, than that would be a win-win. We're going to start with $40 which will include the following (each week will be different) (each is a single serving size) (menu suggestions will be included):

4 main dish starters (pasta, main dish salads, terrines, pizza, burritos, sandwiches, etc.)
1 sauce
1 pate or dip
1 cheese
1 salad topper

4 soups/sides
1 fermented or marinated vegetable
1 shredded salad
1 soup
1 VV salad

2 breads
2 snacks
2 desserts

We could also offer a discount on any produce ordered to round it out like lettuce, zucchini for pasta, veggies for dip platter, tomatoes, fruit for breakfast or smoothies, etc.

What goes into the box each week would depend on what our regular customers order for the week. This week's box includes the following:

1 peanut sauce
1 no bean pate
1 cheddar cheese
1 sweet potato souffle

1 cucumber salad
1 Mexican rice
1 broccoli soup
1 ¡ Viva La Verde ! Salad

1 each: everyday bread, mexi-cali wraps
1 each: honey almond butter, crunch meister
1 each: skinny mints, pumpkin pie

Well, that's our menu for the week as well. Good stuff.

How about a nice tahini dressing this week? This one's from the Raw Food Bible. Good as a dip too.

Tahini Dressing

Yields one pint
½ cup raw sesame tahini
½ cup cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil
freshly-squeezed juice of 4 limes or 3 lemons
1 tsp mustard powder
3 garlic cloves
1 tsp Celtic Sea salt
3/4 cup water

To make:

In a blender, process until desired consistency is reached. Add more water if necessary and always add more garlic and salt till you love it and want to eat it on everything. Sesame seeds are a great source of Calcium.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Have I Done Any Good in the World Today?

I know every week that I will need to think of something to write at the end of the week. Things float through my mind constantly, and sometimes they actually seem as though they might be interesting for those who read this blog or for posterity who may read it later. At the market we are constantly asked questions for which the answer is, "You know, we did a blogpost on that a while back. Here's our blog address." I don't know if they ever read it; I guess it depends on how interested they are in an answer. Hopefully there will be a few tidbits here and there which are helpful to someone.

I suppose it helps me more than anyone as it helps me clarify a lot of things in my mind when I put them into words. I have always loved writing, and it comes easily to me as a means of sorting out mixed up thoughts. For that reason I've never cared if anyone reads what I write, so I suppose I will never be a successful author. I would think they have to care if someone reads what they right, and in turn, they would write to the reader instead of for themselves.

Of course I have enough of an ego to be glad when someone does read it and especially if they are benefitted by what they read. Do I have illusions that I am saving the world? Not hardly. I rarely talk about the lifestyle changes we have made, but sometimes people ask me about them when something comes up. The biggest thing is when I see people I haven't seen for a few years. They're pretty shocked by the weight loss Roger and I have had. (We've each lost over 100 pounds. Darius and Alicia have too. As a family we have lost 450 pounds. That's a whole other family!) Our driver's licenses still have our old pictures. One time a lady at the store refused my check because she thought I was using someone else's license to cash it.

There are a lot of people doing the stomach stapling thing and the rubber band thing, so big weight losses aren't all that surprising until someone asks how you accomplished it. One lady actually argued with Alicia and I about it when we said we just changed our diet when she asked us. She assumed we were lying and didn't want to tell her we had had stomach stapling. She even asked if we got a group rate since all four of us evidently had the surgery.

Being overweight most of my life, I feel so much empathy for those who suffer from this. Those who have never been overweight can't imagine how difficult it is to struggle with everything obese people do. I couldn't even put on a pair of shoes with laces! I think the worst part was knowing that if I could just control what went into my mouth, I wouldn't have to go through this. I had so much pain in my joints that when I got out of the car I would have to stand there a few minutes for the pain to subside so that I could walk to my destination a few feet away. I had acid reflux nearly every night to the point that I'm sure I burned my esophagus. I went through a roll of antacid tablets almost every day.

(Note about this picture: I am on the right, and Roger is on the left. I can't believe I am posting this. I can't believe this is even us. It seems so long ago, and yet it is a very vivid memory - a horrible one. I hope that before I die I can help at least one person not have to continue their suffering as I did.)

I have always had an aversion to medical doctors. I'm sure they would have prescribed various medicines for the ailments from which I was suffering. That is their job: to relieve suffering. It is assumed if the patient could handle this themselves, they wouldn't be seeking professional help, so therefore their approach is warranted. We get what we deserve when we suffer the side effects of the drugs they prescribe.

Rather than seek professional help, I always knew there must be something I could do about my "disease". I wasn't sure what it was as I had tried everything, but I continued to pray for inspiration. Isn't it odd that it came to me through my son and his brain tumor diagnosis? We have all said more than once how grateful we are for that ugly old tumor even though it had so much power to devastate us at the time. I will be forever grateful for the inspiration we received to change our life and the way we were eating.

I was talking to my older son the other day who has no interest in our lifestyle changes. I was mentioning that a mutual acquaintance has a lot of curiosity about our lifestyle but not enough to make the changes himself. My son said that he thinks most people fall in that category. I remembered once when I read about a man who only ate raw fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. This was back in 1985 or so. It was in an Organic Gardening magazine. I remember thinking at the time, "Man, that would be so cool, but I could never do that." I had in fact tried to do it and had failed. So what makes the difference?

I don't think anyone is ever perfect in the way they eat any more than they are perfect in the way they dress or talk or think. It is all a process. If we have a problem with bad language, every day we will try to not use bad words (once we become convinced they are inappropriate). So it is with diet. Once it rings true to us (which may not happen initially), we will struggle with it, and just try a little harder each day. The important thing is to find out if it is a correct principle: Is a diet of raw fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seeds the ideal diet for humans? If it is, we have to make efforts to incorporate them into our lives. We can expect it to be difficult as all changes are. We can expect to struggle and evolve.

I am thoroughly convinced that this diet is the ideal diet for humans. I do not expect anyone to believe me when I say this. They will have to come into it as I have. They will have to experience the miracles I have experienced. They will need to gain their own confirmation. Without a belief that something is true, we will never have the ability to incorporate it into our lives. So that is the first step...

Is bad language something I should abstain from? How about alcohol? Tobacco? Pornography? Caffeine? Meat? Dairy? Sugar and refined foods? Cooked and unsprouted grains and legumes? Cooked veggies and fruits? All of these things are related in that they all induce an addictive response. If I am to be totally free, I have to back away from them - one shaky step at a time.

It is a journey, and a very fulfilling one. I am so thankful to my Heavenly Father for giving me the opportunity to learn these truths and benefit from them.

This week: fresh everyday bread, pumpkin pie, sweet potato souffle, waldorf salad, marinated broccoli, olive cheese spread, queso verde, cuke salad, and no net tuna.

Plus lots of glorious glorious fruit. I can't get enough of it this time of year.

This recipe is from Pansy, someone in an e-mail group I ran across. She says, "This recipe is from and we have it a couple times a week."

Mexican Vanilla Frozen Shake

1 1/2 cups water
handful of almonds
maple syrup (add as much as you like for sweetness. Can also use honey or agave.)
1 baby young thai coconut (all the meat and water)
2 tsp. vanilla extract or 1" piece of vanilla bean
Cinnamon (sprinkle in as much as you like)
8 ice cubes

*I also add hemp seed*

Blend till creamy!

This make two huge glasses!

Enjoy! There's a few more months when we'll enjoy having cold, frosty drinks like this. Then we'll be scrambling for something to help us warm up!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Another Time Around the Moon for Me...

Wow! 57 times around the sun doesn't seem possible, does it? Doing something 57 times doesn't seem so difficult, but when one considers it takes 365 24-hour days to do one of them, it takes on a little more significance. Now that I think about it, from an eternal perspective, 57 times around the sun seems kind of puny! I'd better get busy so that I can turn this into something grand... What would be significant? 157? 257? How about 1,057? Heaven help me. I'd be bored to death if I had to stick around that long. I've got quite a few years before I will be able to clear my desk, so I hope I can be around a little longer.

Longevity is a big issue in the health industry right now. It is interesting the things they are finding out about how we shorten our lives, but how to extend it is still a mystery to a certain extent. No one has lived long enough yet to prove the theories. I just keep looking at that stack on my desk. I have to live long enough to clear it off as I'm sure my kids will just throw it all in the trash. That would be a disaster on many different levels!

Which brings me to the next step in my thought process: what is really important? Why do we waste time doing and worrying about things that really don't matter? Are we just trying to keep busy like a little child playing with his blocks? Does our need to feel important and to feel our work is important drive our actions? Does what we do really matter to anyone else?

Like the toddler, we don't really care as long as we feel like we and our work is useful. Like the toddler, we occasionally become bored and wander over to the toybox to see what else there is to do.

As you can see, birthdays don't treat me kindly, and yet this year, I felt full of gratitude for all the blessings that I have in my life. I couldn't think of a single person with whom I'd switch places. Regardless of how many years I'll be given, I've had a wonderful life, and I'm looking forward to whatever is ahead, no matter what. How can it be anything but exciting? What does it matter whether others find what I do worthwhile? I am amused and fulfilled and every once in a while I actually think what I do does some good. (Whether that is an accurate observation is not relevant... It is only relevant that I think it is doing good which motivates me to keep doing it which in turn, keeps me busy and amused... you know, like how we try to keep the toddler from getting bored.)

I haven't actually thought all of this through, mainly because there is a shiny red toy over there in the toy box that keeps distracting me. I must go check it out...

If you've read this far, you deserve a reward. Here's a reasonable sounding recipe for a smoothie that can easily be turned into a green smoothie by adding a kale leaf.

Vanilla Bliss
This is something a bit heavier to keep from being hungry for several hours. Blend in some kale to increase consumption of greens and also to lighten the sweetness.

3/4 cup water
2 tablespoons raw tahini or other nut butter
1-2 frozen bananas.
Dash of vanilla
sweetener if desired: maple syrup or a date or two

Blend until thick and smooth. Serve immediately. Serves 1.

Lots of breads this week due to customer requests. I think we ended up making everyone of them, so let's talk about bread...

On a raw vegan regime, yeast breads are not in the picture which makes a few of our favorite foods a little bit of a challenge. So what's wrong with bread anyway? That's a whole post in itself; maybe next time...

But I digress. If we don't eat yeast breads or quick breads or wheat based crackers, or anything baked, what do we eat? Buckwheat is the basis of several of our breads and is a very interesting food. Despite its name, it is not a cereal or a grain. The seed of the buckwheat plant is an achene , a fruit containing the seed, like the "fruit" from the sunflower plant. So even though it is botanically a fruit, it is a little different in that is high a higher starch content than most fruits. It contains no gluten but is used in bread and cereal applications because of its starch content.

Anyway, when one starts to use buckwheat to substitute for common bread products, one needs to do some powerful paradigm shifting. Buckwheat breads and cereals will not taste like their high gluten alternatives, nor will they "act" like them in their production. We must forget everything we thought we knew about bread and bread baking. It is interesting to think how what we consider normal becomes that way. At one time in the United States (18th and 19th century), buckwheat was a very common crop and buckwheat use was prevalent. It was not until the introduction of chemical nitrogen fertilizers (to which wheat and corn responded well) that the use of buckwheat declined. Isn't it interesting that a crop that does well on low-fertility soils was pushed aside for ones that required fertilization and therefore fattened the pocketbooks for those providing the fertilizer? Talk about a profit-driven crop!

Anyway, we use this ancient starcy fruit as the basis for most of our breads combined with a little flax for stick-togetherness. (Now there's another ancient crop - flax.) Lots of veggies get mixed in there. In fact, you can experiment with just about any veggies sitting around to come up with a million different combinations. Seasonings help make it a little more interesting as buckwheat is VERY bland tasting (in my opinion anyway). Here are some of the buckwheat breads we make (all have sprouted buckwheat as their base, some flax to hold them together, a little honey or sweetener of your choice, unrefined salt, and maybe some extra-virgin olive oil plus the ingredients in parenthesis):
everyday bread (carrot)

chili lime corny chips (zucchini, tomato, sprouted sunflower seeds, chili powder, cumin, cayenne, garlic, lime, whole pumpkin seeds, sprouted)

veggie crisps (cabbage, carrots, onions, tomatoes, garlic, jalopeno, cilantro, sprouted sunflower seeds, cumin, chili powder, oregano)
We also have an onion bread that has lots of onions, flax, and sprouted sunflower seeds - amazingly good for something so simple. Coconut, zucchini, and flax is the basis of our new pita chip, and Mexi-cali wrappers have no flax or buckwheat in them, just lots of veggies, avocado, and a little psyllium to hold them together.

Having that much variety really does help us not miss our traditional breads especially when we remember why the breads we grew up with really aren't the best food for our bodies no matter how much we might think we want them.

Besides all of the above-mentioned breads, this week we also have the following:

cheddar kale chips (By the way, our kale experiment from last week was a great success. This week we are experimenting with cheddar chips and they smell fantastic!)

Olive Sandwich Spread is still a family favorite. I like it with celery, but Roger and Alicia like it on the veggie crisps with a slice of tomato.

We're making some raita (cucumber in a vegan cashew sour cream base) this week which will be another nice sandwich addition.

Our beloved queso verde is back after a little hiatus. That again will make a nice addition to our sandwich menu this week. It also makes a great "sliced" cheese when we dehydrate it in thin circles.

We're making unfried no beans this week to use in our weekly taco fest. We're going to enjoy them with our Mexi-cali wrappers. The moisture of the "beans" helps to soften up the wrappers so that they bend better and do their job of holding in the beans and other fixins'. Hopefully we can get Alicia to make some Mexican rice (cabbage, tomatoes, and lots of spices) to go with that.

Of course, we must have our elotes con crema too and some nice avocados to stuff it into. We usually have that with ensalada (cabbage, cilantro, lemon juice, and salt).

We have a couple of regular salads during the week: lettuce (looking forward to the red butter lettuce that came in this week), celery, carrots, onion, raisins, dulse, and Ranch dressing. Kale salad again this week too; it is sooooo good (kale, tomato, avocado, olive oil, lemon, and salt). Can't forget some cucumber salad too. I had some on my regular salad today, and it was delicious. I think it was the sweetness of the cucumber salad mixed with the saltiness of the dulse that made it so good.

Sweet potatoes from North Carolina have been fantastic, so we're glad someone wanted some sweet potato souffle. Very nice. Always makes me think about Thanksgiving...

We made some mock peanut sauce which we love on shredded zucchini. We also like to slice a little red pepper into it and a little onion. By the way, we got a great buy on "choice" red peppers this week. When we get them, they are a great buy. We don't have to feel guilty using them! Choice in the produce world means not as good as premium or prime, but we feel like they are just fine for our uses.

Customers requested pizza roll-ups, so we'll be making marinara for one of our meals. Maybe we'll do a "leaning tower": sliced zucchini and tomatoes layered with queso verde or crema and sauced with a little marinara. Marinated mushrooms are a good addition too. We can't make the roll-ups til we get all the bread out of the dehydrators, so we'll probably have that ready Monday.

Alicia has been wanting another dressing, so we're going to have some raspberry vinaigrette made with some of the beautiful raspberries we've been getting this summer (olive oil, apple cider vinegar, lime, raspberries, agave nectar to sweeten, and a little salt). I love this dressing over greens with a few candied pecans and some sliced apples. You gotta love that the new crops of apples are finally in too right alongside all the summer fruits still in season. We do love them with our honey almond butter, too. It's official - everyone in the family has their own cups of it now except me.

Desserts: vanilla panna cotta (An experiment from a few months ago that resulted in a delicate vanilla flavored custard (no eggs or milk though - vegan, remember?). The base is coconut milk, and it's topped with a mango coolis.

We're also making marshmallow topping which is delicious on top of our almond coconut ice cream, but we also use it in our coconut cream pies: chocolate date crust, bananas, and a marshmallow layer. (The marshmallow is coconut based. I don't remember why we started calling it marshmallow except that it is like that stuff you make out of marshmallows when you're doing rice krispie treats.) Roger better get busy busting up some coconuts!

Since Roger and I are celebrating our birthdays together this weekend (mine's the 10th and his is the 25th), we'll be making some ice cream to enjoy under that marshmallow! I think I'll have my ice cream with some apple crisp...

We also have rocky road, pumpkin pie, and key lime pie. Nobody's suffering in this family for something sweet to finish off their dinner.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Having Choices Is a Wonderful Thing

I just finished a strawberry mango mylkshake for dinner, and I'm feeling rather fat and sassy and not too much like working. I probably should have thought that one through a little better, but it sure was good. I had made a nice kale salad for dinner, and then Darius came up with the brilliant idea of a mylkshake, and all my good green intentions went out the window. Well, the kale salad will make a good lunch tomorrow, right?

I'm actually pretty amazed that we still have kale as it (and most greens) do better in cooler weather. I suppose it is cold enough somewhere, right? I was thinking today how blessed we are that California got into this organic thing so many years ago (back in the 70's I'd guess) so that we can have these foods available today. So many growers are "going organic", and they are finding it is not as easy as our California neighbors have made it look. I suppose it will all work out as more and more people want organic foods, but demand definitely surpasses supply.

There's a lot of people who feel that organically grown food costs too much. I have learned that eating junk food all my life cost me a lot more than organic groceries would have cost. I also believe people would be a lot happier about having a more plant-based diet if they had delicious organic fruits and vegetables to choose from instead of badly grown conventional produce. Too many people don't know what a good apple or peach or piece of celery tastes like. (I couldn't believe how many people told me they don't like celery when we offer it with our honey almond butter samples.) And don't get me started at the awful taste of conventional lettuce that comes precut in those bags at the grocery store. They must literally bathe the lettuce in chemicals to get it to hold up longer.

Many of the varieties available aren't chosen for their flavor; they're chosen for how well they'll hold up after they're picked so that they can be shipped all over the country. As we get more and more farmers close to home to grow our food, we're going to discover how delicious other varieties are that wouldn't be options for food that has to be trucked somewhere.

Times are changing, and people are discovering plant-based diets are good on many different levels besides just health. Doctors practicing preventive medicine are even beginning to encourage their patients in that direction. As people begin living this life-style, they are wanting food that satisfies their palette as well as their health needs. Tasty varieties of fruits and vegetables are a key component. And I plan on living long enough to taste every one of them!!!

We have 2 kale salads in our repetoire now, a sweet kale salad including raisins and curried cashews, as well as our old favorite savory kale salad with onion, tomato, and avocado in a lime vinaigrette. We've really been enjoying the olive cheese spread (one of our customers loves it on everyday bread). I like it with celery, and it's also good with tomatoes and/or cucumber/zucchini slices. I also mixed it into shredded zucchini for a mac and cheese variation. Tasty with some marinated mushrooms.

We're also having some Waldorf salad this week since we got in a new variety of apple, Pink Cripps, a cross between an Australian apple, Lady Williams, and the common golden delicious apple. Waldorf salad is a delightful salad of apples, celery, walnuts, and raisins. We dress it with avo mayo instead of the traditional mayonnaise, and I like it better.

We finally made more of our Mexi-Cali wrappers this week. These make such great taco shells, so of course we'll have some elotes con crema this week (corn mixed with picante mayo). Mexican Rice (minced cabbage to replicate rice mixed with tomatoes and spices) will do nicely on the side.

We're still enjoying vanilla yogurt sylk (cashew cheese with honey and lime) to sauce our berries and peach parfaits. I also made some queso dulce (cashew cream cheese with raisins) to go with another all celery dinner. We have been loving fruit for dinner many nights, both solo or with the sylk or sweet cheese. It is my favorite thing about summer. There's plenty of time for heavier foods when it gets colder.

We made some Hawaiian granola this week too from some of the delicious pineapples that have been coming. I love that with some chopped apples and vanilla yogurt sylk too.

Of course we'll have a few regular salads too. I've been on quite an olive kick lately using a mixture of every kind of olive we have to top my salads. The kids love mushrooms on theirs, and Ranch dressing of course. We just made some kale chips by dipping some kale leaves in ranch dressing. We'll have to see how they turn out. Sounds good though.

Desserts this week: Rawky Road, pumpkin pie, key lime pies, skinny mints