Thursday, November 29, 2012

So All You Eat Is Salad?

That's the question I got from a teacher at my daughter's school back in March when I started this whole food shift.  (I said "shift.")  I guess I understood her concern or curiousity.  I had lost a bunch of weight and she naturally thought "diet," i.e., some really restrictive eating plan where all I ate were plain, tasteless plates of semi-limp greens.  The disconnect ultimately comes from the definition of the key word in that question - "salad."  When you hear it, most people think of the rather meager dish that most restaurants serve before a "real" meal or as a side: some iceberg lettuce, maybe some tomato or onion thrown on top and served with a mini-pitcher of high-calorie dressing.  But what is a salad, really?  Or, perhaps more importantly what can a salad be?  I have an answer to that question.

According to (the trusted soruce for on-the-fly definitions) a "salad" is:

  • a usually cold dish consisting of vegetables, as lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers, covered with a dressing and sometimes containing seafood, meat, or eggs.
  • any of various dishes consisting of foods, as meat, seafood, eggs, pasta, or fruit, prepared singly or combined, usually cut up, mixed with a dressing, and served cold: chicken salad; potato salad.
  • any herb or green vegetable, as lettuce, used for salads or eaten raw.

Sadly, I do not like cucumbers.  Incredibly healthful, I only juice them - my daughter loves them. 
It's the re-definition of that word for myself that has made all the difference and has made salad a mainstay of my diet and something I look forward to every day.  Certainly salad isn't "all I eat," but, to be fair, it makes up at least a third of my meals.  My salads, however, are a far cry from the pathetic hors-d'oeuvre served in most dining establishments.  I haven't given my redefined salad a name, but "Sal's Super Salad" might work.  Or "Sausage Boy's No Sausage Salad?"  "Simply Salad?"  "Simply Super Salad?"  "Just Salad?"  I kind of like that one.
So what's in one of these things and why exactly do I think they're so amazing?

Sal's "Just Salad"

  • Greens, obivously.  This can be as basic as some romaine lettuce - but I've discovered I really like red and green leaf lettuce as well.  From our local CSA (Iona Farm) we've gotten some really nice field greens, which are amazing.  AND, I also discovered curly endive - a little bitter, but it holds up really well and goes with the sweetness of the other ingredients and the dressing (below).

  • Watercress - another happy discovery!  If you can believe it, it's as nutrient-dense as kale (see if you're skeptical).  It's also not techincally a leafy green, it's a crucifer (like brocolli and cauliflower) so it's packed with even more health power!  Really, visit, it's pretty amazing,

  • Alfalfa sprouts - apparently just incredible for you, though I have yet to do the research (you can be sure that's coming, though!).

  • Carrots, cut half and thinly sliced

  • Celery, thinly sliced

  • Red Onion, thinly sliced (maybe not so great for the breath, but excellent for heart health)

  • Scallions (like the onion, a nutritional powerhouse)

  • Parsely, fresh chopped (see my previous post on this for its praises)

  • Any other herbs I have on hand (basil when we had it from our CSA, or thyme, which has been yet another tasty discovery)

  • Kiwi fruit, chopped (they've been on sale lately - when they get to be too expensive, I switch over to Oranges).

  • Raw unsalted sunflower seeds and/or raw unsalted pumpkin seeds.  Supposedly eating greens and seeds together enhances your body's ability to utilize their nutrients

  • Cheesy Salad Booster (this stuff is amazing!) and/or Nutritional Yeast - a lot of vegans swear by it, I have yet to utilize it to its full potential - I think it's often used in place of cheese in things).  There have also been plenty of salads I've made without these two ingredients, they do not suffer at all from their absence.

  • Goji berries (a post about these is forthcoming - wowza!)

  • Of course there's probably a dozen other things you could toss in here.  I've put in Great Northern Beans, banana peppers, radishes and tomatoes when our CSA had them, and thinly sliced cabbage when we had it in the fridge.

It's obviously not your typical salad.  Dr. Joel Fuhrman, who I've now referenced at least a dozen times here, recommends at least one large salad daily.   I'm proud to say that's pretty much what I do.  And sometimes I put everything listed above in it!  There have been days when I've eaten two.  Since it does take a bit of chopping, I usually make this salad at night, leaving it undressed, to bring to work for lunch the next day.

Naked Salad?  No Way.

So there you are with this bowl of nature's goodness and health, bright and colorful, just waiting to nourish you, body and soul.  But, what would this amazing salad be without an equally amazing dressing?  I mean really, I'm not actually a rabbit.  I've been making this dressing for 9 months now and have yet to be bored (though I finally did experiment with some vegan ranch recently).

Orange-Cashew Dressing - this stuff is awesome!

  • 1/2 cup raw cashews
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar or rice vinegar

  1. Put all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.
  2. You can play with the consistency (thinner or thicker) by adding more or less of the dry or wet ingredients.
  3. Take a spoon and taste it - you'll want to just eat it right out of the blender it's so good!
  4. This recipe makes enough for 2 or three large salads.  I usually make at least this much (or more) and refrigerate for at least a week - it keeps very well.

One great thing about this dressing is that it doesn't destroy the greens if you have leftovers.  I think one of the first times I made it I overdid it, made too much and put the leftovers in the fridge.  If you did that to a salad with an oil-based dressing, it would be practically worthless in a few hours, soggy, limp and lifeless.  I took these leftovers out of the fridge the next morning and had the rest of the salad for breakfast.  It had held up perfectly with no wilting and tasted as good as it had the night before.

So there you have it.  There's really no debate, if you want better health, whole raw foods like the fruits, vegetables and seeds in this salad are a no-brainer.  Go ahead, make one for yourself and tell me you don't like.  Really, I'm practically daring you!

Eat well and be well!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Giving Thanks - but NOT for Pumpkin Pie

Hi all -
It's really been a while since I've felt this compelled to write, but wow, wow, wow, do I feel like I've got something to share and say today.  I'll try to keep it as brief as possible, but here's the story.
If you've been following my life closely (as I'm sure you all have), you'll realize that this will be my first holiday season since my "conversion" to healthier and more nutritious food back in February.  And the holiday season has always been big in my family, and big, big, big about FOOD (read the long story here).  Just a little backstory to make sure you all know where I'm coming from here. 

The Pumpkin Pie

Maybe two weeks ago, my mother asked us, my wife and I, if we wouldn't mind making the pumpkin pie for this year's Thanksgiving dinner (held at my parents' house for each one of my 42 years).  They were going to be travelling to see my aunt, and wouldn't be back at their house until sometime late on Wednesday.  My wife agreed - it certainly seemed like the least we could do.
Ironically, I had e-mailed a recipe to my wife maybe a week before that, for this incredible sounding raw and vegan pumpkin swirl cheesecake.  When I found it and sent to her, I suggested we try and make it to bring to the family Thanksgiving.  So, a day or two after we agreed to bring a pumpkin pie, I asked my wife if she thought I could make this pumpkin swirl cheesecake instead.  She thought it was a good idea, but that maybe I should ask my mom first.  I called her and just told her I had a recipe for a pumpkin cheesecake (not mentioning, of course, the raw or vegan aspects of it) and asked if she thought that would be a good substitute.  She thought it sounded good, but decided it would be best to go with the traditional pie.  Oh well.
As something of a side note - it's really my father who would likely have balked at the pumpkin cheesecake taking the place of his beloved pie - how INSANELY ironic, then, that my mother calls at 7:30 this morning to say that they are at the hospital, my father having been admitted to the ER because of some serious gastrointestinal distress.  100% due to his poor diet.  But a raw, vegan pumpkin cheesecake?  Never!
Pumpkin Swirl Cheesecake - Raw and Vegan - Looks amazing, right?

The Pie, Really.

So this is how I ended up, about an hour and a half ago, upstairs in the kitchen, getting started on the said traditional pumpkin pie.  I tell a long story, I apologize.
We'd bought the ingredients a few days ago and were just planning on following the directions on the back of the pumpkin pie mix can. 
I started with the pie crust.  It was Pillsbury's refrigerated Pie Crust, and as I unrolled it and read the ingredients I think I cackled.  Ready?  Enriched flour bleached, Partially hydrogenated lard.  You read that right.  Partially hydrogenated lard.  I certainly wasn't going to be surprised to have found partially hydrogenated soybean oil or cottonseed oil, but partially hydrogenated lard?  Wow.  Also a few preservatives, potassium sorbate and sodium propionate, along with Yellow #5 and Red #40.  Then I looked at the nutrition information.  1 serving (1/8 of one pie crust - a slice of pie crust, essentially) contains 12% of the USRDA for fat, 1/2 of which is saturated fat. 
I put the pie crust into the pie dish and fluted away.
We'd bought the 30 ounce can of Libby's "Easy Pumpkin Pie Mix," whose ingredients inlclude pumpkin, sugar syrup, water and salt.  One serving has 5% of the USRDA for sodium as well as 17 grams of sugar.
And finally I opened the can of Carnation Sweetened Condensed Milk and that's when I actually got pretty grossed out.  I've helped slaughter cows and chickens and pigs, eaten bushels of steamed crabs and raw oysters, eaten and done many things people might consider "gross," but when this thick liquid came oozing out of the top of the can when I opened it, I wanted to throw it into the trash and stop making the whole damn pie.  It's only two ingredients are milk and sugar.  One serving (essentially what will be in one slice of pie) has 12% of the USRDA for fat, ALL of which is saturated fat, as well as containing 25 grams of sugar.
I was standing there, making this pie, just sort of flabbergasted at what a huge pile of toxic crap it was.  The "pumpkin" is pumpkin and sugar, the crust is lard and salt, the "milk" is fat and sugar.  One slice of this pumpkin pie will have just about 25% of a person's USRDA for fat, 75% of which will be saturated fat, as well as having over 40 grams of sugar.  AND THAT'S JUST ONE PIECE OF PIE.  That doesn't include the whipped cream, Cool Whip or ice cream that gets dolloped on top.  It doesn't include any of the other 10,000 calories of fat and sugar that get consumed on this "day of thanks."  And to think that I've been loving that pie and eating seconds and thirds of it (along with all the other garbage) for 42 years!  I was pretty floored at the whole thing.

Causes.  And Effects.

And we wonder why Americans are fat and dying.  Well, I guess we don't wonder, but now it's just so crystal clear.  And here I am, Juice Boy nee Sausage Boy bringing this pie to my family, none of whom need it, certainly not my parents, my children or nice and nephew - I should have just made the "cheesecake" and told everyone to thank me later.
Of course, it's not like every day is Thanksgiving, and it's not like everyone is walking around eating pie every day.  Well, some of them are, I guess.  That aside, you and I both know that those sorts of ingredients are in plenty of stuff that Americans do eat on a daily basis.  The saturated fat, sugar, processed and refined foods we see on American's Thanksgiving tables are just a distillation of the foods we eat all year long, perhaps just not always in the same meal and on the same day.  But, I'm sure you can just see gallon containers of that sweetened condensed milk being poured into vats to make doughnuts and various other pastries that are quite literally killing us.
I mean, come on people - wake the hell up!!!!!

Giving Thanks

I sort of knew as I was making the pie and the thought came write about it, that I was going to end up on the soapbox here, so let's take a turn toward the positive.
Me and my beautiful family (I'm still a bit chubby here - old picture!)
Listen, I have soooo much to be thankful for.  I have never been that much of a thankful person, but it's something I'm really coming into.  I'm thankful for my incredible family, even though my two kids really make me flip my lid sometimes (tough day today).  My wife is truly a divine guide for me.  But something I'm perhaps equally thankful for is this knowledge, this new understanding or appreciation of health and nutrition and the amazing and healthful role real food can play in my life.  It's something that has lately been inspiring and activating me in a way I haven't been inspired and activated for a long while.
And that knowledge, that understanding is why I'm NOT going to be having any of that pumpkin pie on Thursday. 
I hope you all, loyal readers (?!) have a truly wonderful and healthy holiday with your loved ones. 
Eat drink and be merry, just go easy on the pumpkin pie, ok?
Be well -
And one more thing, will someone do me a favor and make that pumpkin swirl cheesecake and tell me how it is? I'm dying to make it. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

"Once More Into the Bog, Dear Friends,

once more; Or close the wall up with our antioxidants!"  No, that's not a typo.  It's been a bit since I posted, but it's not "Once more into the blog"  (though that would have been clever, too).  We're talking bog here, cranberry bog, to be exact.  True, "cranberries" would have actually fit the meter, but I thought antioxidants sounded better/sillier and didn't give away the fact that this post was about cranberries.  This post is about cranberries, by the way.

So as you've all no doubt realized, we're smack dab in the middle of fall.  I wrote longingly about the season here.)  With this season come some pretty classic and traditional foods - apples, sweet potatoes, all of those foods and fixings we think of as Thanksgiving gets closer.  Included among them is the beautiful and tart little cranberry.

Most of us eat cranberries at Thanksgiving paired with lots of sugar, because, let's face it, how many of you have actually just taken a fresh cranberry and popped it your mouth?  Wow.  Hard to not pucker at that.  So whether it's jellied cranberries from the can or whole cranberries with sauce, they're usually still sweetened up quite a bit.  I've stopped getting the dried cranberries for my kids because of all the sugar in them.  In and of themselves, though, these little guys really pack a nutritional punch.


Cranberry Nutrition

Cranberries seem to help lower levels of LDL cholesterol (the "bad" one).  They also contain numerous flavonoids and polyphenols, natural compounds that are quite beneficial to the human body.  They are low in sodium and high in potassium, and eating foods with that particular quality is one way to help maintain healthy blood pressure levels.  Anthocyanins, other natural compounds in cranberries (which give them their vibrant red color), are seemingly responsible for reducing inflammation, implicated in many of the chronic "lifestyle" and diet-induced diseases from which Americans suffer today.

Cranberries and Me (and hopefully you, too)

Why my sudden fascination with these delightful red berries?  Well, I've been juicing a bunch lately, substituting a meal or two or day, and I've discovered a real winner. 

We've still been getting apples from our amazing local orchard, Dickie Brothers - they're almost at the end of the season, and the last apples to come off the trees are the Pink Lady apples.  Has anyone else had these?  Incredible.  As sweet and crisp as both Fujis and Honeycrisps, but with this lightness and an almost airiness - just unbelievably delicious.

 For demonstration purposes only - the apples from our orchard do not have stickers on them.

Anyway, my favorite juicing book, The Juicing Bible, has a recipe I've been wanting to try, and finally, when Food Lion finally began stocking cranberries about two weeks ago, I had to give it a try.


SuperFresh Cranberry Apple Juice

  • 4-5 apples (crisp varieties like Pink Lady, Jonagold, Honeycrisp or Fuji are best)
  • 2-3 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1" piece of ginger
  •  Juice them and serve it super cold.
  • This juice will KNOCK YOUR SOCKS OFF!

Since I'm something of an extremist, I tend to put even more cranberries and ginger in this juice to really give a lip-puckering tartness (which is still always tempered by the juicy sweetness of those Pink Lady apples)

So, now that they're in season, and will be in the produce for at least another month, go out and get some cranberries - make some juice, or, if you're not the juicing type but are the blending type, throw them in a smoothie.  You won't be disappointed!
Do you have a favorite (and nutritious) recipe with cranberries?  Please share!!!
Be well, all -