pumpkin-sage-ravioli

After the Juice: 3 Weeks Later

I’m wrapping up my 3rd week post-juice. My plan was to eat vegan, cut out added sugar (no more than 6 tsp/24g per day, the recommendation for women), and kick the diet coke habit.

So far, so good! Jimmy John’s would probably disagree, as I went from eating there 5+ days a week to… none. I miss my daily chill-out sessions at JJ’s, but I’m fairly certain I’m eating healthier at home. I can’t seem to find any data on the added sugars in the #6 (I suspect there’s a bit extra in the bread and/or the avocado spread); it’s not on their nutrition labels. Comparing the lettuce wrap to the sub, and comparing the sub to a typical 8″ Italian sub roll, I’m fairly certain that one JJ’s sub would blow my whole added sugar allotment for the day. And the way my logic works, I enjoy the bread too much to go with a lettuce wrap, so if I can’t have it the way I love it, I won’t have it at all.

I’ve had a few bites of cheese on a couple occasions (when eating out), but kicking the sugar has been surprisingly easy, since I haven’t craved it (thanks to the juice plan). The biggest struggle has been, surprisingly, avoiding diet coke. I’m not explicitly avoiding caffeine, as I am still drinking tea, but I terribly miss the fizzy drink, and no substitutions have solved the cravings. I’m almost obsessed with it, and I’m fairly certain that I’m just going to cave and drink the occasional diet coke.

One unexpected benefit has been reduced food waste. In the past, I would go food shopping and buy produced based on things I thought I should have on hand to be well-stocked and ready-for-anything, but in reality, I threw away a lot of spoiled food. This time around, I’m picking one lunch and one dinner for each week. I shop specifically for those meals (and a few staples that I eat no matter what), and that’s it. I cook those meals on Sunday and then eat the leftovers all week. Every weekend, I go through my recipe stash and cookbooks and pick meals for the following week and do it all over again.

The first week after the juice, I made a walnut-lentil tacos and homemade cashew sour cream, and had tacos all week. They were surprisingly awesome, considering I really don’t like lentils.

The second week, I bought a pasta roller and tried my hand at homemade ravioli. My pasta skills need some work, but it turned out absolutely delicious – pumpkin sage ravioli. It was amazing and I was shocked that I was able to pull it off.

This week, I put together an old favorite (though I did skimp on the veggies and just doubled the spinach, out of laziness) – pesto veggie lasagna. I also burned half of my pine nuts when toasting them, and had to sub in a bunch of raw cashews. But it all turned out just fine and delicious (man I love pesto). I’ve been eating this with Tofurky Artisan Spinach Pesto sausages. They’re a little bit dry on their own (like most faux-meats) but they are very tasty, and the marinara in the lasagna solves the dryness issue.

My other new obsession is a waffle recipe from one of my favorite cookbook authors, Isa Chandra Moskowitz, of Post Punk Kitchen fame. It’s the Sinfully Wholesome waffle recipe from her book Isa Does It, but the recipe is also in her PPK forums – Sinfully Wholesome Waffles. They’re waffle perfection. Hearty without being heavy, crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, and just right topped with fruit or maple syrup. One recipe makes 5-6 large waffles, and I’ve been having them for breakfast or lunch. Smoothies fill in the blanks.

I’m also glad to report that the 10 pounds I lost during the juice week was not a fluke. I’ve kept them off, and lost a few more. I’ve also started doing a class at the gym called Body Pump. I’m enjoying it, and so far, my elbow is tolerating it well. I’m going to keep on keeping on with baby steps so I don’t injure the elbow again, and see how it goes.

The only thing I haven’t done is kept up with juicing. I intended to have some juices from the plan a few days a week, but I haven’t done a good job at planning ahead for those to make sure I have the proper produce on hand. Room for improvement!

Now, I think it’s time for a waffle…

 

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

Christmas Trees!

Alien Cauliflower

I am convinced. Aliens walk amongst us.

I mean, have you SEEN this thing?

Romanesco Cauliflower

Romanesco Cauliflower

It’s the Christmas Tree Broccoli!

I first encountered this wonder if the form of a locally grown version while dining at the Local Chop & Grill House. It was delicious, and I’d never seen or eaten it before. I promptly forgot the name of the veggie, until I saw it today at the Friendly City Food Co-Op (and, it’s locally grown!). (BTW, juicing is expensive!! I’m going through produce like crazy, and that’s with only drinking 16 oz of juice per day!).

I just had to pick one up… not to juice, but to eat!

This thing was a blast to chop up. I tried so hard to maintain the cute little Christmas trees! It turns out, this thing isn’t broccoli. (Well, some countries call it broccoli, and there are cauliflower-broccoli hybrids out there that are similar, but this wackadoodle is a species of its own. In the US, we typically call it Romanesco Cauliflower. It chops up similarly to cauliflower, but it tastes more like broccoli.

Chopping the Romanesco Cauliflower

Chopping the Romanesco Cauliflower

Now, personally, I’m not a huge broccoli fan (though I do eat it once a week or so), and I really don’t like cauliflower (even though I keep buying it anyway and then either tossing it because it goes bad before I convince myself to eat it, or I end up not liking whatever recipe I use it in). Is it just me, cauliflower-dislikers, or does it just look like it has so much potential?

But this Romanesco Cauliflower – it tastes more like a mild broccoli, and it’s really, really good! (It’s also gorgeous and funny looking and quite amusing to eat Christmas Trees).

The internet told me that this delicious little weirdo was best prepared either steamed or briefly boiled. One site suggested 2 minutes in boiling water, followed by a brief stir fry in a seasoned oil mix. I went that route, but tossed it in a quickie vegan garlic cream sauce instead (1/4 cup soy milk, 2 Tbsp nooch, a few cloves of garlic, a Tbsp or so of Earth Balance, and 1/2 tsp of basil).

Christmas Trees!

Christmas Trees!

I had a bag of Shirataki tofu noodles in the fridge that needed to be eaten…

Shirataki Noodles

Shirataki Noodles

… so I served the Christmas Trees atop those, with some leftover Pumpkin Chickpea Fritters on the side.

Pumpkin Chickpea Fritters and Romanesco Cauliflower in Vegan Garlic Sauce with Shirataki Noodles

Pumpkin Chickpea Fritters and Romanesco Cauliflower in Vegan Garlic Sauce with Shirataki Noodles

Wonderful dinner! Fantastic vegetable! I hope it sticks around so I can enjoy the Romanesco Cauliflower a few times before it goes out of season.

Dinner is served!

Dinner is served!

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!

Oh yeah.

Pumpkin Chickpea Fritters

It’s like a drug. I’m back on the pumpkin.

I stumbled across this recipe for Pumpkin Chickpea Fritters over on Happy Healthy Life and literally jumped up, ran to the kitchen, and made them. Nevermind that I’d already eaten dinner. (Snacks!!)

Oh yeah.

Oh yeah.

How do you resist such a thing? I’ll tell you how. You don’t.

These came together very quickly, and I’m a big fan of recipes that involve the potato masher. You can find the full recipe here. Basically, mash the chickpeas and pumpkin together, fold in some spices and stuff, coat in bread crumbs, and fry ’em up!

Into the frying pan!

Into the frying pan!

You should definitely leave more space around your fritters than I did. Flipping was a challenge.

Flipped!

Flipped!

But I managed!

I made a couple modifications to the original recipe. First up, I was out of hemp seeds, so I used a combo of ground flaxseeds and chia seeds instead. Next, I used 2 Tbsp of cornmeal instead of flour to help with binding. (It just sounded yummier!). Lastly, I fried them in a couple tablespoons of peanut oil instead of safflower oil. I love how peanut oil smells! Definitely didn’t need a half cup – but mine were more pan-fried than deep-fried.

Pumpkin Chickpea Fritters

Pumpkin Chickpea Fritters

Super delicious! I ended up with 9 fritters – I figure, 2 meals worth. I definitely wish I had doubled the recipe! These could be baked instead of fried, if you’re into that. I usually go the baking route, but I was feeling frisky. Definitely worth it.

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!

Spaghetti Squash Veggie Lasagna

Something Different, Starring: Spaghetti Squash

And now, for something completely different.

Or not.

OK, so it’s pretty hard to do anything non-spaghetti-related with spaghetti squash. Believe me. I scoured the internet for recipes and didn’t really find anything inspiring.

At least I didn’t just make spaghetti with it.

* harps playing in the background as we go back in time *

It all started with this dang spaghetti squash that had been sitting on the counter staring at me for a couple weeks. I wanted to do something different with it. Easier said than done.

Whatever this beast would become, it first needed to be roasted. I like to add a little coconut oil to the cut side of the squash before I roast it. Most people seem to use olive oil, but the coconut oil has such a great depth of flavor. It worked really well here. Into the oven it went for 40 minutes. And out…

Roasted Spaghetti Squash

Roasted Spaghetti Squash

I started assembling stuff in search of inspiration.

Ingredients

Ingredients

Forking spaghetti squash is fun.

Forking the Squash

Forking the Squash

Let’s make a veggie lasagna with it!

I sauteed the onion, pepper, broccoli, and asparagus with the Herbs de Provence. Then I remembered I had 1 link of Field Roast anti-sausage left and threw that in there. In another pot, I made a tomato basil marinara.

Then, I layered the squash and veggies with some red pepper hummus and Daiya vegan mozzarella and baked it all for 35 minutes or so at 350F.

Spaghetti Squash Veggie Lasagna

Spaghetti Squash Veggie Lasagna

Look at all those veggies! The only downside – it probably could have used a double-batch of marinara. That didn’t stop me from licking the plate clean.

Spaghetti Squash Veggie Lasagna

Spaghetti Squash Veggie Lasagna

The peppers were from the garden of a colleague of mine, picked less than 24 hours prior. So good!

This was a much more enjoyable way to eat spaghetti squash – and I can say with a good deal of certainty that this is how I’ll make lasagna from here on out!

White Fig Jam

Snacks

Let’s talk about snacks for the kickoff of the last full week of Vegan MoFo.

I like snacks.

Lots of people have lots of opinions on the process of eating – when to eat, how much to eat, how often to eat. I grew up thinking 3 square meals a day was proper. Then, the diet marketing machine jumped in, and advice ranged from juice fasting to eating 6 times a day. Eat many small meals. Eat fewer large meals. Eat a bigger breakfast. Don’t eat less than 3 hours before bed. Midnight snack? Shame on you!

Well, having run the gamut myself on all extremes of health and fitness, I think I have the solution: there is no solution. Not one that fits all, anyway.

I eat a minimum of 3 times a day. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. Most days, I also have a snack. Sometimes, that snack comes around 3pm when I know I’m not having dinner for another few hours. Sometimes, that snack comes around 10pm when I ate an early dinner but my stomach is rumbling and I still have 3 hours to go before bed.

The moral of the story: food is not the enemy.

Sometimes, I eat a handful of nuts as a snack. Sometimes, I eat a PB&J. Sometimes, it’s a bowl of cereal. Sometimes, it’s raisins or a banana. (It’s almost never vegetables, shame on me… thus, the juicer!)

This summer, I was all about making my own freezer jam. I also developed an affinity for figs. Unfortunately, by the time I realized I loved figs (and thought it would be a great idea to make fig jam), it was too late to find fresh figs at the market.

I finally broke down and bought a pre-made fig jam.

White Fig Jam

White Fig Jam

If you like Fig Newtons and have not tried fig jam or fig butter (I hear Trader Joe’s has an awesome fig butter, but there are no Trader Joe’s nearby, *sob*), you have got to try it.

Fig jam

Fig jam

It’s ridiculous. I can’t even tell you how much I enjoyed this sandwich.

Almond Butter and Fig Jam Sandwich

Almond Butter and Fig Jam Sandwich

Snack on, my friends.

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!