Green Smoothie https://flic.kr/p/o1cTXv

Super Juice Me!

Last week, I stumbled foggy-headed into another day of post-travel recovery and back-to-work shell shock. I’d been living on Jimmy John’s, pizza, and egg and cheese mcgriddles for two months or so. (That was literally all I was eating, with a few stops at the ice cream shop thrown in for good measure). I’d gained 15# as a result, at a time when I could already stand to lose 30. Junk food was getting expensive, not only to my budget, but to my waistline. Of course, I wasn’t exercising. (That last C25K post never materialized into anything consistent). My elbow had me out of commission for a lot of activities, so I just did none.

As the new school year started, though, I really wanted to get back into a routine. Sometimes, I do great things when left to my own devices, and sometimes, I self destruct. It’s been a challenging couple of years, and this summer, I came out the other side quite a bit worse for the wear. I needed to quit the junk food, first and foremost.

The thought of getting back to clean eating (read: prepping and cooking meals) was almost nauseating in itself – not the food, but the labor. I just didn’t feel like doing it. At the same time, the thought of another fast food meal was unbearable. I just felt awful all around.

Then, in my Facebook feed, an entry popped up from Jason Vale, the juice master. He had a documentary out called “SuperJuice Me!” I’m a fan of Jason Vale. I’ve done his 7 day juice plan a few times, usually around New Year’s Day when I need to (again) kick the junk food. I watched the documentary.

And I decided to do the SuperJuice Me! plan.

I debated just using the 7 day app of his that I already had, but (spoiler alert) I’m so glad I bought the new app, because he really has mastered some of these recipes. They’re much better in the new program.

But back to the miserable version of me. It was a Sunday. I went to the grocery store and bought 3 days worth of produce. I didn’t want to waste food and money if I didn’t stick it out.

Day 1 was fairly miserable, due to caffeine withdrawal. Headaches suck, and I believe that was the 3rd time I’ve gone through full on caffeine detox (maybe the 4th?) It’s the worst. Every time I go through it, I swear I will never get back on the diet coke bandwagon again. Again, I swear… ugh. Never again.

Day 2 was meh. I didn’t feel good but I didn’t feel bad. I wasn’t hungry but all I could think about was food I used to eat before I went vegetarian! The Mad Max burger from Outback Steakhouse… pepperoni pizza… this crazy cheeseburger at TGI Fridays that was a 3 cheese burger, PLUS a fried provolone patty of cheese… ridiculous things. Gross, really. I also had a bit of a pity-party meltdown in the evening, and watched a sad movie to indulge it.

Day 3 was the best day ever! Day 3 usually is. I felt great. On top of the world. Not hungry. Sleeping great. Feeling alert. No mid-afternoon sloth session. I also went back to the gym on Day 3, and tried my first Body Pump class. (I’m taking it slow so as not to re-injure my elbow). I will go back next week!

Day 4 was fine. Felt good. But I still had no desire to cook food, so the easiest solution was to stay on the juice plan. (Also, sore as hell from Body Pump!)

Day 5 was today. Felt great, slept great – according to my sleep app (which now has almost 3 years of data in it), I never sleep well at home. (Cats). I usually have to be on vacation with no cats around to get sleep quality of 90% or higher. But every single night on the juice plan, I’ve had excellent sleep quality. I used to blame the cats for my awful quality of sleep. Maybe I should have been blaming junk food all along.

Also today… it clicked. I’m ready to start cooking meals, and they’re going to be vegan.

It’s amazing how powerful and addictive sugar and dairy are. I’ve always sort of scoffed at the use of the word “addiction” with sugar or dairy, because it’s not like I ever felt like I was a junkie running around the grocery store begging for a hit of cheese. But the moment I realized that I’ve actually beat them both – it’s so crystal clear. I went through this the first time I went vegan for an extended period of time (about 6 months), and it’s both amazing and saddening. It’s sad because it’s so easy to slip back into eating them, and before you know it, you’re hooked again. In my case, I end up making all of the apologies to the cows and excuses that I need my Greek yogurt for protein. But those are just excuses, and this time around, it seems so obvious that they work in the body like addictive drugs. Maybe there is no such thing as just this one donut.

The amazing part is that it feels so good to be in absolute control of my own health and wellness – and because my body is feeling fully nourished, I’m actually optimistic instead of miserable! The difference is like night and day.

I have enough produce in the fridge to juice through Day 7. I’m going to finish through Day 7, and this weekend, I will meal plan and prep for next week, vegan again.

I really feel like if I can avoid sugar and dairy, I won’t even crave it. If I slip and fall down the cheese rabbit hole, it’s going to be hard to get back on track. Right now, the thought of dairy disgusts me, and the thought of all of the sugar in processed food makes me furious. Did you ever notice that sugar is the one entry on the nutrition label that doesn’t show its corresponding percentage of your daily allowance? Yeah, because half of the time it would be like, “203%” in one silly little serving of whatever frankenfood it is. The more I learned about the USDA and our food regulations (way back in good ol’ 2009 when I started learning about organics), the more I distrusted it all – and now as I look at sugar and processed foods, I’m mad all over again.

The last time I was fully vegan, a few years ago, I felt like I ate like a king. I can’t wait to recapture that feeling and love food again.

Photo credit: https://flic.kr/p/o1cTXv

The finished product

Juice Reboots

Once upon a time, I watched a film called “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead.” It’s about a guy (Joe Cross) who changed his life by juicing fresh fruits and vegetables (and drinking them). Aside from sharing his experiences in the movie, he started a program called “Reboot Your Life.” The premise is that for a period of time, you eat and drink only fresh fruits and vegetables to reboot your system – to break unhealthy eating habits and retrain your body to crave healthy whole foods.

Now, Joe did his initial reboot for 60 days – that’s two months of living on solely juice. Some might say that’s a bit extreme. Me? I love the idea of juice reboots and have personally found them to be very effective, but I stick to a 5-7 day plan with a few allowances beyond Joe’s plans, and recipes from another one of my favorite juicers.

As I started getting into juicing, I came across this modern-day juicing pioneer: Jason Vale, also known as the Juice Master. His story started as he searched for ways to treat his severe psoriasis, a chronic auto-immune skin disease. Through juicing, he saw extreme improvement in his skin condition and lost weight as well. Jason Vale is one of those over-the-top enthusiasts whose energy and zest for life and juicing is contagious. He’s very interactive via videos on his web site, and is a best selling author of a number of books on juicing.

When I find myself too far off the beaten path of healthy eating, I do a 5-7 day juice reboot. I drink 2-3 16oz juices per day, and eat one meal consisting of fruits and vegetables (usually a giant salad), or a homemade veggie soup. Snacks are fruits and veggies. I do allow myself to have dressing on my salads (hey, I’m an imperfect human). This plan works well for me. It’s not as extreme as going juice-only, but seems to me to adhere to the spirit and intention of a reboot. Eating solid fruits and veggies fills that “need to eat!” void without straying from the nutritional goals of the reboot.

Why do I do juice reboots? For me, the effects are very positive.

  • They serve a cleansing role to help detox from periods of eating too much processed food.
  • They help retrain my brain to crave whole foods.
  • They reset my notions of “satisfied” and “full” when I’ve gone overboard with portion sizes.
  • They serve as a springboard to reaffirm my self-awareness of healthy eating and fitness habits.

How do juice reboots make me feel? Without fail, after the second day or so, my body feels so amazingly fresh and alert and just plain good. I marvel over it again and again. It makes me kick myself for ignoring proper nutrition in the first place. It’s hard to know how bad you really felt until you come out on the other side feeling spectacular. Even when I think I was feeling OK, I’m shocked at how bad that “OK” really was. Proper nutrition and energy levels seem to go hand in hand for me. I’m reminded all over again at what amazing machines our bodies are, and just how much our bodies can do when we provide the right forms of energy and fuel.

When it comes to juicing, there are definitely pro’s and con’s to the whole practice. Juicing isn’t some miracle cure for diseases or obesity, but it can certainly play a role in improving the conditions of both. Juicing isn’t necessarily “healthier” than actually eating the whole fruits and vegetables, but in my experience, juicing allows me to drink veggies that I rarely eat enough of. In most cases, if I don’t juice those veggies, they don’t get consumed at all. I have a harder time eating enough greens and veggies (cabbage, chard, kale, spinach, etc) but an easy time drinking them. To me, juicing is better than nothing!

On the down side:

  • Juicers aren’t cheap. A small, basic one costs around $80, but if you plan to juice daily, you’ll want to consider a more heavy-duty model. In that case, you’re looking at $150 and up. (That said, I’ve got the Breville Juice Fountain Plus and absolutely love it. It runs about $150, and if you’ve got a Bed Bath and Beyond nearby, you can use their 20% off coupon on it).
  • Organic produce isn’t cheap. Conventional produce is much less expensive, and if that’s the only way you can manage to afford juicing, go for it – but I prefer organic. I find organic produce to taste much better and be more healthful without chemicals, pesticides, and genetic modification.
  • While juicing is nearly as nutritious as eating the whole fruit or veggie, you lose the fiber (which is contained in the pulp).
  • As with any instance of “drinking your calories,” even fresh fruit and veggie juices can be high in calories.

On the bright side:

  • The body absorbs nutrients from freshly juiced fruits and vegetables more easily and quickly than from the whole fruits and veggies.
  • Juicing offers an easy way to sneak in servings of fruits and veggies that you might not enjoy eating in their whole forms.
  • Freshly juiced fruits and vegetables contain the same vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients as their whole counterparts.
  • Freshly juiced fruits and vegetables offer the same nutritional benefits as whole fruits and veggies – including decreased risk of cancer and other diseases, improved immune system function, decreased inflammation, and detoxification.

While juicing is pretty trendy right now, there’s no shortage of evidence of its benefits from the big names. ABC News did a good intro to juicing a few years back: Juicing Up Your Nutrition, and the Mayo Clinic says that juicing is a fun way to try new fruits and veggies or add ones to your diet that you wouldn’t normally eat. Dr. Oz often touts the benefits of juicing, and has a great juice recipe on his web site – the Anti Aging Green Monster Drink – a concoction of freshly juiced apple, carrot, cucumber, and kale, blended with yogurt. He explains:

It’s loaded with protective phytonutrients, found in fruits and vegetables, known to help boost your body’s defenses against cancer and chronic degenerative diseases. It can help correct diet deficiences – and tastes good, too.

Some people avoid juicing because of the perceived hassle. While it’s best to juice fresh each time you want to have a drink, you can certainly prepare a whole day’s worth of juices for convenience. I’m sure some juicers can be a pain to clean, but my Breville is very easy to manage. It takes me 1:48 to clean my juicer (that’s one minute, 48 seconds). I rinse all of the parts and scrub the filter basket, and let them air dry. Once a week I run the parts through the dishwasher. Done. My daily juicing takes all of 5 minutes, start to finish – prep to juice to cleaning.

My juicer has become a vital addition to my kitchen. It lives on my counter and is in constant use. You can find all of my juice recipes and juicing posts under the Juicing category here on EpicOrganic.

Do you have a favorite juice concoction? I’d love to hear it!

Acknowledging Stress

We all have those days… those weeks… those months. Heck, I recall having a couple of “those years” along the way – times when things just don’t seem to go your way, and you find yourself joined at the hip with the stress monster.

I’m currently on what I hope is the tail end of one of stress’s roller coaster rides. Eight months ago, I moved half way across the country (away from family and friends) to an unfamiliar town to take my dream job. At the time, I was training to run my second long race – a half marathon. I ran that race in December 2011 and broke my goal time by a whopping 9 minutes. It was a huge accomplishment, but I knew the facade was starting to crack. The last few weeks of training was brutal. I couldn’t focus and felt overwhelmed. Too much stress.

After the race, I decided to take a break from running – just a few weeks, to recharge and de-stress and find the joy in it again.

That break has lasted 4 months, with a few half-hearted attempts at jump-starting my running shoes along the way.

What happened? Athletic fitness had certainly become more than a habit. In 2010 and 2011, I ran oodles of races – ten 5K’s, one 10K (6.2 miles), one 25K (15.5 miles), a half marathon (13.1 miles), and the insane Warrior Dash obstacle course 5K. Between training and races and recreational running, I pounded out nearly 1,000 miles of pavement and trails. Yet, here I am – 4 months later, still not running.

I heard something on NPR the other night as I drifted to sleep, and it struck me. The guest was talking about exercise, and debunking common myths (such as, the myth that the best time to exercise is in the morning. False: the best time to exercise is whenever you will do it!). The statement that hit me was:

Exercise is stress.

Stress! Gah!

But of course, she was right. Exercise (particularly high intensity exercise) stresses the body. I had become a master at applying such stress and then providing my body with the tools to recover, but I had failed to consider the cumulative effect of exercise stress and work stress and adjustment stress and school stress. In the chaos of having to function on a daily basis, do my work, and complete my studies, all in a completely foreign environment, something had to give – and it did. Fitness went out the window.

What do I do now? I’ve recognized the problem, but how should I address it?

One phenomenon that has plagued me the past few months has been mind games. My brain likes to tell me, “You’re only running a couple miles… if you’re not running 10, what’s the point?” To further that notion, the devil on my shoulder works hard to convince me that by the same logic, walking and biking are worthless as well. Of course, that is all nonsense – and in a way, I must acknowledge that I’m starting a bit from scratch here. I’ve lost most of the strength and stamina I had 4 months ago – but I haven’t lost the knowledge I gained or the accomplishments I achieved.

I’m going to start out with a little Finals Week juice reboot. I’m a fan of Jason Vale and his JuiceMaster lifestyle. I did one of his juice reboots after Christmas, with good results. It was supposed to be a 7 day juice and raw fruits/veggies fast, but I stopped after 3 days. Still, it was a great cleanse and I felt really good afterwards.

This time, let’s shoot for a happy, juicy week that concludes next Friday – May 4. Of course, if things don’t go as planned, no harm and no foul. But Finals Week sounds like a perfect build-up to kick start a healthy, active, and relaxing summer.

Time to break out the juicer! Here are some of my juice and smoothie recipes:

And for more information on my juicer and how I got into all of this: My Foray Into Juicing.

Here’s to a great week!

Super Juice!

Super Juice

Introducing, Super Juice!

I’ve finally concocted a repeatable, yummy juice for my Breville Juice Fountain Plus. It’s meant to be a “healthy” juice, no doubt, but it manages to be pretty darn tasty, too.

Things to note:

  • I prefer to peel all non-organic fruits and veggies (as applicable).
  • I peel beets no matter what. They taste much less earthy when peeled first!
  • Since lemons are kind of a pain to peel, often I’ll leave them out of the juicer and just use my handheld lemon juicer for the lemon.
  • Zucchini can be substituted for cucumber. I’ve also added broccoli stems, with good results.
Super Juice!

Super Juice!

Super Juice
Recipe Type: Juice
Prep time: 5 mins
Total time: 5 mins
Serves: 1-2
A healthy way to drink some fruits and veggies!
Ingredients
  • 3 apples (Golden Delicious or other sweet variety recommended)
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 large stalk celery
  • 1/2 cucumber
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1/4 beet
  • 2 cups spinach
  • 1 inch chunk ginger
Instructions
  1. Add ingredients to juicer chute and process on high or per manufacturer’s instructions.
Notes

Spinach juices best when stuffed between two larger items in the chute (such as, between two apples).

Cranapple CC Juice

Cranapple CC

Yup, it has a name!

Cranapple CC juice.

I made that up.

Sorry to vanish for a couple weeks on ya’s! I am proud of my successful (albeit unofficial) completion of Vegan MoFo in October, but man – midterms attacked soon thereafter and I’ve been swamped (both student-me and teacher-me). Fear not, though, my pretties; I’ve been snapping photos all along to document the time we’ve missed together and soon you will be all caught up with my kitchen.

I’m still juicing, and getting better at it! I am almost ready to share a recipe that I’ve been repeatedly enjoying for a couple weeks now, but for today, please enjoy this festive Thanksgiving entry:

Cranapple CC juice, starring:

Apple, Cranberry, Cabbage, Carrots

Apple, Cranberry, Cabbage, Carrots

This was some sort of Virginia-native apple species that I have of course since forgotten. It wasn’t quite sweet enough for juicing; I’d recommend golden delicious apples instead.

I absolutely love juicing cabbage – mainly because it makes such awesome purple juice!

Attack of the Cabbage!

Attack of the Cabbage!

This one wasn’t bad at all – just a little bit tart. A sweeter apple would have balanced this juice.

Cranapple CC Juice

Cranapple CC Juice

Bottoms up!

Funnest juice ever!

School Spirit Juice

I had an absolute blast with this juice. Why?

CABBAGE JUICES PURPLE!

GO DUKES!!

I almost threw the whole head of cabbage into the juicer when I saw what an awesome color it turned into. But I digress.

3 Apples, 2 Carrots, 1/2 Lemon, 1 Ginger, 1/4 Cabbage, 1 Bunch Rainbow Chard

3 Apples, 2 Carrots, 1/2 Lemon, 1 Ginger, 1/4 Cabbage, 1 Bunch Rainbow Chard

This was another low-prep juice, thanks to organic ingredients. I did have to peel the lemon, but that was it (other than chopping a head of cabbage into wedges).

Ingredients: 2 carrots, 3 apples (a local Virginia variety – sorry, I forget the name!), 1/2 lemon, 1 hunk of ginger, 1 wedge of cabbage, and a bunch of Rainbow Chard.

Ginger is the secret ingredient here. This is a really sweet juice, but the ginger gives it a kick of spice that is just perfect.

It's a Purple Party!

It's a Purple Party!

This was when I was freaking out. Look at that JMU purple!

Funnest juice ever!

Funnest juice ever!

Come on. Tell me that’s not the funnest looking juice ever.

Sweet with a zing

Sweet with a zing

OK, so it doesn’t look as fun once you mix it up – but I promise, it’s delicious!

Look, Mom - it's green!

Juicy Juice!

Hallelujah! My first “yummmmmm!” juice concoction! This recipe came courtesy of the Top 100 Juices book I picked up the other day.

Oranges, Kiwi, Spinach, and an invisible Apple

Oranges, Kiwi, Spinach, and an invisible Apple

It all started with a couple oranges, a couple kiwi, and a half-full tub of spinach. (There was also an invisible apple – see it?)

This juice was a little more labor intensive, as I had to peel the oranges and kiwi. I’ve never peeled an orange before. I hit up YouTube for instructions, and the first guy demonstrated how to peel it with a fork. Uh – yeah. No. I must not have bionic forks. Fail. The next video I found had a lady demonstrating how to peel an orange with a spoon. I was optimistic, since that’s how I peel kiwi – but no. Fail. Finally, I just dug in and peeled it with my hands. (Imagine that!)

The disastrous remnants

The disastrous remnants

It gets kind of chaotic in here!

Juice Party

Juice Party

But there’s no such thing as a good party without a little chaos. Such fun colors!

Have you ever wondered what the pulp looks like after juicing?

The leftover pulp

The leftover pulp

I hear it can be used in baking, but I haven’t gone that route yet. I’d love to see a cookbook with recipes for fruit and veggie pulp. It seems there’s an untapped niche somewhere in here….

The pulp from the Breville is very dry (which is good – because the juice should be in the jug, not in the pulp!). It feels wasteful throwing the pulp away, so I will soon make a diligent effort to find ways to use it. Unfortunately, I don’t have a way to compost my food scraps at the new place (city living, no land). I’m investigating options. If you have any ideas, please let me know!

At long last…

Look, Mom - it's green!

Look, Mom - it's green!

The most delicious juice I’ve made thus far. Cheers!

Green Lemonade Carrot Juice

Green Lemonade

Juice attempt #2! Green lemonade.

Ingredients for Juice #2

Ingredients for Juice #2

Lemon, celery, carrots, kale, cucumber, strawberries, and spinach.

OK, so I modified the original recipe. I added the strawberries and the carrots… I mean, strawberry lemonade sounds awesome, right? And, well, carrots go with everything.

Party Juice

Party Juice

The juice bucket always looks like a party to me!

Green Lemonade Carrot Juice

Green Lemonade Carrot Juice

I probably shouldn’t have added the carrots (it is my instinct to add carrots to just about everything); I suspect it killed the “lemonade” aspect of the recipe (and made the “green” in the name inaccurate).

Still, this juice was pretty good. I haven’t nailed the recipe yet, but I’ll get there! This one was much more immediately palatable than the beet juice. It tastes like a breakfast-y juice.

I’ve been storing my juices in Ball jars in the fridge. I figure, each will be consumed within a day or two, so it’s all good. Shake it up, then drink up!

I’ve got some oranges, plums, fennel, cabbage, and pears to find recipes for. Need to make room!

1 Apple, 3 Carrots, 1 Beet, and Kale

My Foray into Juicing

It has just been a foray-into kind of weekend over here!

For my birthday, I used a gift card to buy myself a Breville Juice Fountain Plus juicer (thanks, Mom!). Earlier in the week, I watched the movie Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, and decided that juicing would be a good way to get myself to consume the fruits and veggies that are less palatable to me, or that I don’t like to prepare based on the hassle (like beets!). I’m not going to try any sort of juice fast or anything like that right now – not while I’m training for this half marathon – but maybe someday. And I already eat 6-9 servings of fruits and veggies a day on most days, and don’t intend to replace that with juice. I figure, juicing will be a good way to incorporate more fruits and veggies into my diet. And more is good!

I loaded up on produce at Whole Foods (huge selection of organics) and got to juicing! First up: an ABC juice.

1 Apple, 3 Carrots, 1 Beet, and Kale

1 Apple, 3 Carrots, 1 Beet, and Kale

Mer, of course, had to help.

Merlin helping with juicing

Merlin helping with juicing

I washed the apple, carrots, beet, and kale (didn’t peel them – though if they were not organic, I would have). Stuck ’em in the juicer one by one, and ended up with about 10 oz of juice. I decided to double the recipe so that I could stick some juice in the fridge for later. (Might as well get a few servings out of the mess!)

The Breville at work.

The Breville at work.

The juicer has 2 speeds – low, for softer fruits/veggies and greens, and high, for harder fruits and veggies. I used high for all but the kale. I’m not positive that I juiced the greens quite right, as they didn’t seem to yield much juice – though I guess that’s typical. I’ll do a bit more reading. As far as kale goes, I think I might prefer eating it as kale chips – so spinach might instead become my go-to in juices.

I love the huge food chute on the juicer. I was able to drop an entire apple in there. It speeds up things to not have to cut and prep all of the produce first. Tossing food down the chute was FUN! And the resulting juice looked like a party!

Juice!

Juice!

The juicer was fairly quiet on the low setting, and – well, not as loud as my blender, but still a bit loud on the high setting. It was much easier to clean up than I anticipated. I had lined the pulp collection container with a plastic bag, so that part of clean-up was a snap. For the remaining parts, I just rinsed them in the sink immediately when I finished, and they all came clean. I figure, it will be a bit like using my food processor – I’ll be able to get away with rinsing/hand-washing for a week or so, then I’ll throw the pieces in the dishwasher. (They’re top-shelf safe).

The moment of truth….

ABC Juice - apples, beet, carrots, kale

ABC Juice - apples, beet, carrots, kale

I sniffed it. (Wine tasting flashback?)

Whoa. It smelled like…. earth.

*Gulp*

“Well,” I thought to myself. “Here goes nothing!”

I took a sip.

Hmm. It definitely tasted better than it smelled. It was a very mild juice – a little earthy (dang beets), but mildly sweet.

Oddly, the more I drank, the more I realized I didn’t mind the earthy taste. I suspect the appreciation would be lost on somebody that didn’t already eat a boatload of veggies every day – but my taste buds were OK with it. By the end of the glass, I was actually enjoying it.

I’m pretty excited about this new juicer! The one minor frustration is that I haven’t been able to find any good books on juicing, even on Amazon. There are a few with good reviews, but they tend to be extremely dated. I’m looking for something current, and something that doesn’t spend half the book preaching about all the diseases that juice will cure. Skip the preaching – I just want facts on the nutrients in the different juice-able fruits and veggies, and recipes for tasty combinations.

And maybe some how-to on prepping produce for juicing. I had a heck of a time figuring out what to do with the beets. I found information that said both the greens and the root are juice-able, but do they mean the leaves? The stems? The greens are supposedly the bitter part. I ended up only using the root. And, about juicing kale – is there a method to getting more juice extracted from it? Some secret trick to handling it as it goes down the chute?

Lots of newbie questions. While I may have to find my own way, it will be a delicious path!