Archive for the ‘Lifestyle’ Category

postheadericon The power of preparation

cucumber-slices

We all know how time consuming it can be to do food prep- you know, all the stuff that has to be done before you can even start cooking. And for those of us on a plant based diet, it can seem like a never ending process of washing, chopping, slicing, dicing, and soaking. Not that it’s a bad thing. Actually, one of my favorite things to do is to wash and chop vegetables. I find it can be very relaxing, and I love to have a feel for the fresh and raw ingredients that will soon be turned into a meal or a snack. And after a disturbing find recently in a tub of commercially bought hummus (I think it was a corn husk but who really knows for sure?), I am even more determined to stay on the path of home cooking and no processed foods. My ultimately goal would be that nothing in my grocery cart even has to have an ingredient list because it doesn’t contain any ingredients other than the item that it is (oranges, for example, don’t need a label other than the bin label to identify the type – navel, etc.). Now I doubt I will ever get to the point where everything in my cart is that way (I am not giving up store bought soymilk or peanut butter), but I want to get as close to that as possible.

So back to food prep. As I said a minute ago, I actually like chopping veggies and doing the prep work. But I don’t necessarily like doing it at the moment I plan to cook a meal. Especially dinner – it’s late, I’m tired, still have a number of things to do, and I am just HUNGRY! The idea of leisurely chopping veggies for a stir fry is not doing much for me at that moment other than perhaps overwhelming me. It’s always amazing to watch Rachel Ray or any of the food cooks do their thing – it seems like it takes them literally minutes to prepare a dish, or at least get it into the oven. And the reason for that is, of course, all the cute little bowls and glass cups that are assembled near the cook at the start of the show containing all the ingredients they will need – even the spices are measured out (personally, I don’t feel the need to do that at home). All the washing and chopping has been done, so all the cook has to do is assemble the dish according to the recipe – easy peasy, right? They certainly make it look that way. So I have decided to adopt this method of prepping stuff that I might need later, especially if there will be a lot of it for a particular recipe. If I am going to make chili for dinner, I can chop the onions, garlic, peppers, etc. the night before or the morning of and stash them in a baggie in the fridge. If I’m going to be having a salad, I can wash and chop the veggies and put them in a baggie, with the salad greens washed in another baggie (to keep them from getting too soggy). If a stir fry is on the menu, all those veggies can be washed, chopped, and ready to go so all I have to do at mealtime is hit the pan with some oil and it’s cook time. Sometimes I find that even an hour or two before dinner (when it is possible to do it) can help tremendously in the psychology of “I’m so tired I can’t imagine cooking now.” Knowing there are several bowls on the counters of fresh veggies waiting for me to just toss into the recipe, can, for me, make the difference between preparing a nice meal or having a piece of fruit for dinner (sometimes I’m that tired and I know I’m not alone).

So just as we might prepare for a race or a hike by training and conditioning ourselves before the event, we can do some of the prep work for our dinners before we actually need to cook. It may seem like a very simple, basic change (and it is), but for many of us, it can make the experience of cooking dinner at the end of a long day just that much easier. bon appetit!

photo: publicdomainpictures.net

postheadericon Caring for our immune system

immune-system-SALMON_1

Our immune system is something we often don’t think much about until we get a cold or the flu. But a healthy immune system is critical for us to carry out our daily activities, including our workouts, without falling ill to many of the microscopic invaders that we come into contact with daily. One important part of our immune system is in our intestines. Our intestines do a lot of work for us – trillions of bacteria, most of them the beneficial kind, inhabit our intestinal tracts, processing our food and making available essential nutrients that fuel our bodies and help us to carry out all of our activities, including exercise. One of the important functions of our intestines is immunity. About 70% or more of the power of our immune system resides in our intestines. Important players in our immune system, such as B and T cells, have their origin in the gut, specifically the gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT). So a healthy intestinal tract is important for overall health, immune strength, and good training.

So how do we give our guts the best care we can and how can we help our overall immune system stay healthy?

> Well, one thing we can do is obvious – eat a healthy diet. Unprocessed, nutrient-dense food makes less work for our bodies and gives us the nutrition we need without having to filter out a lot of junk (there’s a reason it’s called “junk food.”)

> We can also be tuned in to any negative reactions we have when eating certain kinds of food. We all know people with food allergies or intolerances, and having that as an added burden won’t help our health OR our workouts. So watch for that often hidden problem.

> Probiotics, which can be found either in some foods or taken as a supplement, are basically the beneficial bacteria that can help keep the population of “good bacteria” high enough to allow for good function. Probiotics are available in capsule or tablet form, either in refrigerated or shelf stable varieties. Soy or almond yogurt is also a good vegan source of these beneficial bacteria.

> Exercise! Moderate exercise has been shown to help immune function and is recommended for almost everyone, even people with serious diseases such as cancer. For example, colon cancer patients have been shown to have better odds of survival if they walk regularly.

> Get plenty of rest and sleep. Lack of sleep can impair immune function and predispose us to all kinds of ailments. Plus, it just makes us feel lousy.

> This one is tough, but try and avoid stress. Or, if there is unavoidable stress in your life (and who DOESN’T have some stress?), try and find healthy coping mechanisms, such as exercise (!), relaxation techniques, or spending time outdoors.

> Phone a friend – or better yet, get together with one. Social relationships can have a positive effect on our immune system.

So externally and internally, there is a lot we can do to strengthen our immune system and keep it working for us and our workouts!

Source articles:

Mother Earth News
NIH
Prevention
Weight Training

Photo: Color-enhanced scanning electron micrograph showing Salmonella typhimurium (red) invading cultured human cells. Credit: Rocky Mountain Laboratories, NIAID, NIH

postheadericon About my recipes…

It is my hope that everyone who visits this website will find useful information. As for recipes, though, a quick note: If you are a foodie or gourmet cook, are good at it and enjoy it, first of all, I admire and envy you. Second, you might not find my recipes very inspiring. In theory, I love the concept of unprocessed ingredients and homemade, healthy dishes. In reality, with everything going on in my life, I often do not have the time/energy/interest to prepare anything that isn’t quick and simple. But I still like the idea of choosing the ingredients that I consume (vegan and organic in particular) and having a small role to play in the preparation of my meals. So the recipes I share are based on my versions of meals that are filling, taste good, and provide a choice of ingredients and brands to include. They also tend to be quick, often utilizing the microwave and the one-pot meal idea (think Rachel Ray meets Isa Chandra Moskowitz). I tend to be a simple eater and am happy if something is easy to prepare, filling, and as healthy as possible. So these recipes will reflect that philosophy. There are many well done and beautifully photographed websites about vegetarian and vegan cooking. As time goes on and I expand my link list, there will be links to many of those websites. So if you are ok with quick, uncomplicated, and un-fancy, I hope you like these ideas or are at least inspired to create your own quick and easy dishes. On those occasions when I spend more time in the kitchen and have more gourmet type recipes, I’ll certainly share those too. Bon appetit!

postheadericon Do this one thing to get what you want in restaurants

Many of us who are 1) trying to follow a healthy diet 2) are vegetarian or vegan 3) have food allergies 4) have other food related concerns- are often flummoxed and frustrated when it comes to eating out. As a health-oriented vegan with a gluten allergy, I feel your pain. Seeing plate after plate of hot, filling meals coming out of the kitchen and wondering if I am going to have to settle for a cold salad yet AGAIN (not that I dislike salad – it’s just that I don’t necessarily ALWAYS want one in a restaurant as my meal) got me to thinking about my previous dining out strategy.

In the past, I would gravitate to the salad section of the menu or maybe the appetizers. And if it was one of those wonderful places with a dedicated vegetarian or vegan section on the menu (rare), I would go to that. But otherwise, I would try and piece together a meal with a salad and maybe an appetizer if I could find one.

Now I do things differently in one way. It seems like a small thing, and many of you may already be doing it. But when I started doing this one thing, it made a real difference in my enjoyment of eating out and getting filling, diet-appropriate food. Ready? I now make a point of reading the ENTIRE MENU. I know, right? All that suspense for that?? It’s a tiny, tiny act, after all. And it’s not necessarily one I enjoy, especially when many of the meat based dishes can be quite descriptive in how the meat is cooked. But many clues are hiding in some of those descriptions that can tell you what you really need to know: what ingredients are in the kitchen. There might be an asparagus topping, a vegan sauce, black beans for burritos, or a side dish that is not listed anywhere else on the menu. In fact, a whole variety of sides and ingredients that could be incorporated into a meal for you are often hiding there in the “meat” dishes section of the menu.

pinto-beans-textureAnd although I don’t live near too many vegetarian or vegan restaurants, I have had very good experiences with the strategy of composing my own meal and asking the server to have it prepared. I almost never get told that something can’t be done or that they are unwilling (in fact, I can’t think of any times in recent memory). So now instead of scanning the salad and appetizer section and doing my best, I take the time and read the whole menu, looking for the ingredients I can use to make up my own dish.

As more restaurants become vegan/food allergy/medical diet aware, the cooperation I have experienced will hopefully only increase at restaurants everywhere. So happy menu reading and happy dining!