Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Veg Out At This Restaurant In Sarasota

Veg: A Vegetarian and Seafood Eatery

Hi Friends! I wanted to tell you about a restaurant that I ate at when I was visiting my parents for Fathers Day this past weekend. The restaurant is called Veg and it's a Vegan/Vegetarian/Pescatarian eatery. The menu had a decent amount of vegan options and everything was so creative. I had a hard time choosing what I wanted to order because everything looked so awesome. 

We started off with the Hummus, Quinoa, and Babaganoush Appetizer. Watch out though, the Babaganoush is made with mayonnaise, so it is not vegan. Either order it with double hummus or quinoa. I mixed a small scoop of hummus and quinoa together and spread it on my pita. 




I ordered one of the specials, so it's not a regular on the menu. This was half of a butternut squash stuffed with tempeh curried rice served on top of spinach with a side of beets. This was easily one of the best meals I have had, and happy that I was able to have some the next day for leftovers. The next day I scooped everything out of the squash and mixed it together. Yum!




My mom ordered the Portobella Volcano. This is marinated portobello topped with caramelized onions and garlic mashed potatoes on a bed of sautéed spinach and quinoa. I had a bite of this and it was to die for. I almost ordered this for my dinner, but I went with the special since I can always order this. 




My dad ordered the Organic 7-Bean Root Soup. I had a bite of this and it was delicious, savory, and filling! 




If you live in Sarasota, or are ever there for any reason, this is a place that you won't want to pass up. The service is top notch, and the food is so creative, fragrant, and delicious. You can't go wrong, and you will find yourself wanting to go back for more!


Everyone really liked their dinners, and my dad seemed to have a great Fathers Day!

Have a great night!

Namaste,
Monica

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Check Out My Sweet Beets



Hi Everyone!

Yesterday I did my blog on how to cook beets, which I was quite happy with. But, today I am sure you are wondering what items you can pair beets with to make a full lunch or dinner (or breakfast.. why not?). I know I gave you some ideas at the end of my last blog, but I would like to indulge you with a recipe that I made last night that includes a sauce that you can use with almost anything. This sauce is a staple in my diet, and maybe it will be in yours too! 

Read on to find out kiddos…….

1 package Rising Moon Butternut Squash Ravioli
1 cup roasted beets, sliced or cubed
5 green onions
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 to 2 cups beet greens (I used greens from three beets… however much that makes)
Some salt and olive oil to use in the boiling in the water for the ravioli.

1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic
1/2 tablespoon agave

Start by preparing and roasting the beets  - click here for directions on roasting beets. While the beets are roasting, prepare the green onions: cut the white parts into long strips and then cut in half lengthwise. Continue to cut the green parts into smaller slices. Chop up the beet greens and get them ready to sauté. Click here for more detailed instructions on how to prepare the beet greens.

Heat the water for the ravioli and add the salt and olive oil. Bring to a boil and pour in the ravioli. Cook according to directions on the package. Drain the ravioli.

Heat a skillet with 1/4 cup of the olive oil. Once it's heated, put in the smashed garlic. Cook until the garlic starts to get slightly brown. Add the green onions and cook for about 2 minutes. add the beet greens. and cook for about a minute. Add the roasted beets, the ravioli, the agave and balsamic and stir together so that everything is coated and warm.

Put on a plate and you're done!

Yay for colorful food!

How To Make The Garlicky-Agave-Balsamic Sauce Separate:
Mix together the balsamic, garlic, olive oil, and agave in a blender. Now you can use this to pour over already made dishes, salads, or anything that you want to eat with this sauce!

I borrowed this sauce out of Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything Vegetarian Cookbook, which is one of the handiest cookbooks I own. It's a cookbook about how to cook every type of vegetable, noodle, grain, bean, spice, and anything else you can think of (besides meat of course) with many variations to each dish. I recommend that you pick it up!


I was so happy that I was able to use the Butternut Squash Ravioli. It had been in my freezer for months. Every time I cook it up it always tastes so delicious and I have no idea why it took me so long to make it! The whole mixture topped with the sauce made it taste like candy, but in a healthy way.

I always put on music when I cook, so this time I decided to listen to Mates of State. I listened to their last album Re-Arrange us over and over and loved it, but I probably overplayed it. This time I decided to listen to the prior album, Bring it Back. I listened to it a bit when it entered my music collection, but I hadn't really listened to it enough to form an opinion. Now I can't decide if I like Bring It Back more than Re-Arrange Us or the same. I guess that's a good thing, but I still need to pick up their newest album and their first three! If you haven't heard of them, they are an indie rock band made up of two members that are husband and wife. I would describe their music as indie pop, and I would say it is very catchy, but it's not too cute or poppy. When they sing together they harmonize beautifully, and you won't be able to help yourself from singing with them. They also use variety of instruments to bring you through each song to the end of the album. The colorful music was a perfect fit with the dinner.

I hope you enjoy!

Do you have a favorite beet recipe? Make a comment or Email Me, I'd love to hear from you!

Namaste,
Monica

Monday, June 21, 2010

Put This In Your Mouth

Beet Me Up!





A few years ago, right about the time when I became a vegan, I went to Seasons 52 with my parents. I ordered the vegetable plate, and I was delighted to see all of the vibrant and delicious vegetables. I studied the plate to see what my dinner would consist of that night, and I noticed a golden vegetable that I just couldn't put my finger on. I thought it was a potato, but I could tell by the mildly sweet taste and non-starchy texture that this was not a potato. I had no idea what this was, but it was so succulent and I had to figure it out. At the end of the meal, I asked the waiter, and he told me that I was eating beets. I had never tried beets before, and for some reason I thought I wouldn't like them. They tasted amazing compared to what I had imagined. 


Some time went by and I forgot about beets for a little bit. Then, a few months ago I was at Cafe 118 Degrees and had a beet juice that was magnificent. After that I had some delicious beets in a faro dish with white truffle oil at a fancy restaurant in St. Louis. Obviously this was a message that beets were supposed to be part of my life, so I started reading about all of the health benefits, and decided that I was going to learn to cook beets and make them a regular part of my diet. Please continue reading to find out more about cooking, buying, and storing beets....

Quick tips of buying beets:

*There are a few different types of beets; some are red, some are a gold color. I like both types, and I just decide which one I want depending on my mood. Red beets are sweeter in taste, and the golden beets have a mild sweetness.

*Buy the beets with the greens attached to ensure freshness. You also want to cook and save the greens. Nothing goes to waste except the stems!

*You can store beets wrapped in plastic. If you buy them fresh, they will store for over a week this way.



I have only cooked beets twice, and I am a big fan of roasting root veggies, so this is how I have had the most luck:

*Preheat oven to 400
*Use a few tablespoons olive oil, and a pinch of salt,  and coat the baking sheet.
*Cut off the bottoms of the beets, and cut the beet away from the greens
*Cut each beet in half
*Once the oven is preheated, place beets on pan face down.
*Place in the oven for 30 minutes
*About 15 minutes in, turn the beets
*Cook for the remainder
*Take beets out of the oven when finished
*Let them cool for about 15 minutes (you can prepare the beet greens at this time)
*Once cooled you should be able to easily peel the beet with your fingers, or if it freaks you out to get the red pigment all over your hands, then you can take a knife to the beet and peel it that way. Either way, you will get red pigment on you unless you wear gloves. It comes off easily.
*Then, cut to whatever shape you like (cubes, slices, stars, feet)!
****EAT!****

How to cook beet greens:
*You can really cook beet greens the same way you would cook any green (kale, spinach, chard)
*Cut the greens away from the beet
*Also, cut any rough stems away from the green. You don't have to be super picky about cutting the stems away. Just make sure anything too thick is discarded.
*Chop up the greens
*Heat a skillet with some olive oil, salt, and garlic
*Once sizzling, put in the greens and cook for about a minute or until your desired doneness .
*Add them to you favorite dish to get some heart healthy greens in your diet!

If you are interested in learning more, here is a link explaining some of the health benefits of beets.

You can eat the beets and greens just like that or you can add them to a dish. I think they would be great with anything! Some things that come to mind are beets with a side of quinoa and asparagus, beets and beet greens with Soba noodles and tofu, or beets over faro with other roasted root veggies. But, one of the best combos is the one that I made tonight.... Rising Moon Butternut Squash Ravioli with sauteed green onions, beet greens with roasted beets in an agave-olive oil-garlic-balsamic sauce! This dish was inspired by one that I had at Veg, a restaurant that I will blog about soon located in Sarasota. You will see the recipe this week!





Do you have a favorite beet recipe? How do you cook beets? Make a comment or Email Me, I'd love to hear from you!

Namaste!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Propaganda or Propagandhi?


One thing that I love to do when I have free time is go through and listen to all of my old cds. It's pretty interesting to see what holds up over time, and then what just doesn't impress me anymore. Then, there are always the cds that I never really gave a chance and I wonder what took me so long because the album ends up rocking my world.

When I was going through my old albums, I came across the album How To Clean Everything by Propagandhi. I bought this album when it came out in 1993 from a mail order catalog (remember those days), and it easily became one of my top five favorite albums. I think I listened to it all through high school alongside Ani DiFranco on repeat. And, if you know me, you know how much I love Ani DiFranco, so that says a lot. I usually throw in Less Talk, More Rock, which came out in 1996, but it had been so long since I listened to their first album, so I dusted off this old thing and popped it in the cd player. It was so great to hear it again and how much it still rocks. It's probably one of my favorite punk albums of all time, but it's also nostalgic to me.

I think what drew me in is that they were one of the first bands that I listened to that were major political activists - saying things like, "I never have and never will pledge allegiance," and singing about veganism, animal rights, atheism/religion, capitalism, and just human rights in general. I was an angry teen at the time, so this was very fitting. Even though I get all fired up the more I think about the messed up things going on in the world, I am not angry anymore (that's an Ani DiFranco song… I didn't even mean to do that). I am passionate about these things though, and it's important to be an activist and speak your mind. You just have to do the best you can with what you have, and continue to do your part to try to make the world a better place.

Since How To Clean Everything, they have released more albums, their sound has matured and they continue to preach their message. I really haven't kept up on them since Less Talk, More Rock. I went ahead and did some searching on the internet and found this podcast on Vegan Freak Radio where Chris Hannah talks about animal rights, being vegan, and their newest album! The interview doesn't happen until the last half hour of the show, so you might want to forward to it.

Check it out the podcast here!

This is also a link to the resources section of their website where they list all of the activist groups they support.

Here is a link to an interview with Chris Hannah on the Peta2 site!

I still listen to Propagandhi because they continue to be animal rights activists, promote veganism, and speak their message on other political subjects. I like what they stand for, and as long as they are taking action I will support them.

I am listening to this cd now, and I forgot how awesome it is....It's blowing my mind! I hope you enjoyed learning about Propagandhi! Now go listen to them!

Do you have any favorite bands that promote veganism or have a political message? What were some bands that you loved that you rediscovered that still held up well over time? I love talking about and discovering new music. Make a comment or Email Me, I'd love to hear from you!

Namaste,
Monica

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I'm With Coco....


          
Hi Friends! I'm not sure if you've noticed, but it's been extremely hot this summer - especially in Florida. If I go outside for 5 minutes, it looks like I've just been through a spin class. Last night, my yoga instructor even said, It's not everyday that you come to yoga to cool down!

Speaking of summer heat, one thing that I know I can count on to keep me hydrated is Coconut Water. I've tried a few brands over the last week, and my favorites are O.N.E and Vita Coco. Naked also makes a brand of Coconut Water that uses the same pasteurization process as the others, so I imagine it's just as good. There is another brand of Coconut Water that I wanted to bring to your attention called Zico. I do not recommend this brand because it has added natural flavors and it is from concentrate. I did try it, and it does not taste natural at all - so stay away!

The sweet sweet Coconut Water in these tetrapacks are 100% natural, but not raw. The water is extracted from young green coconuts from Brazil, and they use a process called "flash" pasteurization to eliminate any bacteria, but this does not ruin the nutritional value at all. These products also have no additives, preservatives, added sugar, or natural flavoring - the only ingredient is 100% natural coconut water. Hooray! 





The refreshing  sweet water flavor is not the only reason to drink coconut water. I have found that Coconut Water is the purest liquid second only to water itself. It has more electrolytes than sports drinks, more potassium than a banana, and it is also full of calcium and magnesium. 



Here are a few fun facts about Coconut Water:
  • Helps keep the body cool and at the proper temperature.
  • Helps carry nutrients and oxygen to cells and boosts poor circulation.
  • Regulates the function of the intestine, helping promote smoother skin.
  • Helps replenish your body's fluids after exercising.
  • Helps detoxify your body and boost your immune system.
  • Helps ease stomach pains.
  • Coconut water releives urinary problems and breaks down kidney stones
  • Coconut Water is a universal donor and has been used in blood transfusions
  • It's cholestoral and fat free
  • Regular consumption of coconut water can naturally improve immunity, increase metabolism, alter HDL, and detoxify the body.


I also discovered that in World War II and The Vietnam War coconut water was used intravenously to prolong life when IV solutions were in short supply. It was injected directly to the blood stream to prevent dehydration because coconut water is similar to human plasma. Isn't that fascinating?


I have no idea how it took me so long to discover Coconut Water! 


How often do you drink coconut water? What are your favorite brands? Are there any healthy recipes, drinks, or smoothie recipes that you would like to share? I've never actually attempted to cut open a coconut, and extract the water myself. I'm a little intimidated, but one day I will do it! Have you ever done that? I'd like to hear about it! Make a comment or  Email Me  me, I'd love to hear from you. 


Namaste, Monica

Monday, June 14, 2010

You're Not Supposed to Outlive Your Kids


Hi Friends! Todays blog is about food that is marketed as healthy, but is actually very harmful to your health. Many of these products are targeted towards children, and I think that's pretty sickening. Okay... Ramen has never been marketing as healthy, but I think that some parents may not be aware of how bad the ingredients are in these products. It is upsetting that many parents buy these products for their families, and do not even look at the ingredients or pay attention to what they are actually feeding their children. These ingredients are the cause of diabetes, obesity, and other future health problems. 

First, let's talk about GoGurt. What pisses me off is that I could not find the ingredients for GoGurt anywhere on their site. I had to search and search the internet to find out that it contains many harmful ingredients including sugar, high fructose corn syrup, kosher gelatin, natural and artificial flavors, yellow#5, and blue#1. First of all.... sugar and high fructose corn syrup? Why do we need two types of sugars? Also, do you know what gelatin is? It's made from the collagen inside an animals' skin and bones. Oh, but this is kosher gelatin - Well, then that's okay, right? No, it does not make a difference... that's crazy talk.  I found this article about GoGurt and how it contains more sugar that a coca-cola. Well, that's just awesome! 

Okay... Ramen noodles.... first of all... the noodles are deep fried! That should be enough said right there. But no worries... I'll indulge you with more information.... the noodles also contain cottonseed oil and a bunch of other ingredients I cannot pronounce. The packet contains: Salt, MSG, chicken powder (how is chicken powder even made?), sugar, natural and artificial flavors, and more ingredients I can't pronounce. 

Cottonseed Oil is a natural toxin and contains pesticide residue. Here is an article that explains how bad this is for you. Why would you let your kids ingest this?

MSG (Monosodium Glutamate) can cause migraines, numbness, chest pain, nausea.... read more about it here. 

One of my favorites is Chex Cereal: Whole Grain Wheat, Sugar, Salt, Molasses, Trisodium Phosphate, BHT added to preserve freshness. Wow.... that sounds really healthy... sugar, salt, molasses, and some other ingredients that sound like diseases. Awesome! 



Then, there are Lunchables. The easy go to lunch for kids so you don't have to pack it yourself. You can see I posted the ingredients to the left. Look at all of those ingredients! This drives me crazy! Smoke Flavor, Carmel Color, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Guar Gum! What happened to a good old fashioned home made sandwich with natural ingredients? These are some of the worst things that you can feed your kids. Did you watch Jaime Oliver's Food Revolution? Jaime Oliver refers to feeding your kids these types of products as child abuse.  









Who came up with 100 Calorie Snacks? What a genius idea! It's like someone said; What should we do with all of these leftover ingredients that no one wants to eat anymore? Oh I know....how about we figure out how much adds up to 100 calories, and that will trick people into thinking it's healthy, and sell it!  This 100 cal snack to the right will kill you.... it's full of trans fat, cottonseed oil, msg, etc.





The list goes on and on: Cool Whip, Honey Nut Cherrios, Chex Mix, Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, Fruit Roll Ups, Juicy Juice... all of these products are just awful. Start paying attention to the ingredients and do yourself a favor and don't consume these products. Make healthy choices for your kids early in life so they don't get addicted to these products, and so they will be more inclined to crave, buy, and cook healthier food as they grow and mature. When you know exactly what you are putting into your body you feel better, look better, and are more confident. Knowing you are doing the same for your children will lighten up your life.

One last thing: Do you know what's in your orange juice? I bet you have no idea. Watch this video and find out!




What are some quick and healthy meals that you make your kids? Are there any products that I forgot to mention that you would like to add to this list? Make a comment or  Email Me  me, I'd love to hear from you. 

Namaste, Monica

PS. Stop buying soda for your kids. Have you ever seen how a soda cleans the corrosion off of a car battery? Why would you do that to your intestines? Stop drinking soda!


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Mac & Cheeze & Gardein Chick'N Tenders - For The Kid In You


Hi Everyone! I hope you've had a really good weekend! One thing that I have had a very hard replicating is some good old fashioned mac and cheese. When I first heard the hype about vegan Daiya Cheese I was so excited to run out and get it and whip up this favorite from my childhood! This isn't super healthy.... just a treat, and sometimes we need that! But, I do try to make it as healthy as possible by using whole wheat noodles and throwing some broccoli in there. I paired it with some Gardein "Chicken" tenders and some Regina Spektor because they are both fun and goofy.

Here is my recipe:

For The Noodles:
1/2 LB (plus a little more) Whole Wheat Elbow Noodles
1/2 Tbls olive oil
A few pinches of sea salt

For the Main Dish:
1 bunch green onions, sliced (white and green parts)
1 cup broccoli (cut really small)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tbls Olive Oil
1 Tbls Earth Balance
1/2 cup water
1 cup cheddar Daiya Cheese
1/2 cup mozzarella Daiya Cheese
2 Tbls Braggs liquid amino (or tamari, shoyu, soy sauce)
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1 bag Gardein Chicken Tenders

Directions:

Preheat the oven and cook the tenders based on the directions of the package.

Add the olive oil and salt to the water that you are going to cook the noodles in, and bring the water to a boil.  Once it boils, pour in the noodles and cook to your desired tenderness. I used a little more than half of the 1LB bag.

Once they are done, drain the noodles. In the same pot, turn the heat to medium, and add the olive oil and Earth Balance. Once heated and melted, add the garlic, onions, and broccoli. Cook for about 3 minutes. Add the noodles back into the pot, add the water, the Braggs, garlic powder, and onion powder. Then mix together and add the cheese gradually as you mix. You might want to lower the heat a bit, but still hot enough to melt the cheese. Keep mixing together. You will notice that the cheese might start to get stringy, but just keep mixing and it will start to coat the noodles and eventually look like real mac and cheese. It might take about 10 minutes. If you notice that the noodles or cheese starts to stick you might need to turn down the heat or add a splash of water.


This was my second time making this, but the first time I just used the cheddar, and it turned out fabulous as well. So, it's your choice. I like having the mixture though. Grab a few of the tenders (which are addicting and even good cold), a few spoonfuls of mac and cheese, and you are done!

And, don't forget to put on something fun, like Regina Spektor. Fun is actually an understatement, even though she is silly and quirky, her music is also intelligent, creative, and sometimes complex. I only own and have heard Far and Begin To Hope. When my friend gave me her latest album, Far, I could not get it out of my cd player. I loved it - song after song. I love the themes and enchanting stories, the piano playing, her whimsical singing style, and each song is just as catchy as the next and easy to sing along to.

When I listened to Begin To Hope, I liked about half of it, but the more I listen I am getting into it. At first I thought her voice was just annoying in some songs, but I started to appreciate the quirks and eccentricities. I love the way that she sings as if she's just talking to you. I think it makes the music more intimate. She has this way of capturing a moment in time, and it feels like you are reliving it with her.  I don't know what it is about cooking, but it makes music better. Now I have to grab her older albums!

I hope you enjoy!

Do you have a favorite vegan mac & cheese recipe? What are some of your favorite childhood dishes? Have you made any of them vegan and would like to share?  Email Me  me, I'd love to hear from you. 

Namaste.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

I Like It Raw


Hi Friends! Today has been absolutely delightful, and I hope that your day has been as well. I started off the day with some organic Yerba Mate that I bought from Infusion Tea, and then did some stuff around the house, and made my way to the sauna. I always feel so refreshed after a visit to the sauna, and nothing feels better than finishing it off with a cold energizing shower immediately after. I feel more awake, my skin looks better, and my body feels lighter and freer. I have this quark where I worry that if I wait to get home and shower after the sauna that it won't work to its full extent. I figure - you sweat out toxins such as sodium and environmental pollutants - but if the sweat dries does it seep back into your body? That's why I like to run right to the shower after. Does anyone know the answer to that? 


It's been so hot out in Florida, so today I was craving some sort of healthy and cold smoothie. I usually make a trip to Cafe 118 Degrees on Saturdays to get one of their raw smoothies. If you don't know about Cafe 118 Degrees, it is a raw food restaurant off of Park Avenue in Winter Park, and everything is fabulous. If you are not familiar with cooking with raw foods, it means that they only use nuts, seeds, fruits, and veggies. All food is vegan, free of processing and refining, and everything is heated below 118 degrees in order to preserve vitamins and enzymes. 


I know what you are thinking.... can't I just eat raw at home? Not like this! Everything is so out of this world and you won't believe what kinds of concoctions the chef can make. It's like nothing you have ever seen. Today, I got the Venus Verde, which is Spinach, Basil, Pear, Banana, and Pineapple. It's my favorite smoothie from there. They also have "milk" shakes, juices, entrees, and raw deserts. I have just been going down the list ordering from their menu. My favorite dish so far has been the Beet Ravioli, but I have tried many things, and there is not one thing that I can say yuck to. My favorite raw desert is the 'Smores'. The Chocolate Hazelnut Tart is amazing and so rich, and the raw ice cream is to die for. 


Below are pictures of the Venus Verde, the Gazpachos, the Fettuccini Alfredo (the noodles are made out of zucchini), the Raspberry Agave Lemonade, and the Chocolate Hazelnut Tart.




You would think that it couldn't get any better than this, but I am off to see Passion Pit!


What are some of your favorite vegan friendly restaurants? What is your experience with raw food, or do you have any recipes that you would like to share? Email Me  me, I'd love to hear from you. 


Talk to you soon!


Namaste, Monica

Friday, June 11, 2010

Beat Your Meat - With These Proteins

I don't make a habit of eating meat replacements, but they are not bad every once in awhile. They are great when you are having a lazy day, need something fast, or are just having a craving that you want to nourish. I wanted to share my favorites in this category, and you will see that I use these every so often in my recipes. These also make great transition foods for people wanting to make the changeover to vegetarian or vegan. 


Gardein is a play on the words garden and protein. It's made from soy, pea and wheat proteins, and ancient grains, and then slow cooked to give you a meaty bite and texture. You can cook Gardein in the microwave, on the grill, in the oven, or on the stove - all of the conventional ways that you would usually cook meat. I love Gardein when I want something quick, or when I am craving one of the old dishes that I used to make such as "Chicken" Piccata or "Beef" Stir fry. I have tried all of the products in the pictures and they are awesome and totally vegan!




I love Boca Crumbles when I am craving spaghetti and "meat" sauce, and a Boca Burger whenever I don't have time to make dinner and I need something quick before a night out. I wouldn't say they are super healthy, but good in a pinch.  
Sunshine Burgers are the best! They are made from sunflower seeds, brown rice, herbs, sea salt, and carrots. They taste awesome and they are great on the grill at a cookout!

                                

I'd love to hear about how you use these products in recipes, or to answer any questions you may have about being vegan. Email Me  me, I'd love to hear from you. 

Namaste.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Books to Live By

8 Weeks to Optimum Heath: 
A Proven Program for Taking Full Advantage of Your Body's Natural Healing Power
 Andrew Weil, M.D.

Do you have books that have made such an impression on you that you keep them by your side and constantly grab for them because you just couldn't get enough? I first read 8 Weeks to Optimum Health by Andrew Weil, M.D. about 10 years ago (man, that makes me feel old) and it's one of those books that I always find myself referring back to. I keep it in my bookshelf right next to my kitchen table, and I'm always skimming through it just to refresh myself.

If you haven't read this book, you should. It's an 8 week program that takes you through steps on ridding your life of toxins and getting you on the right path to natural health. When I first bought the book I did the 8 week program to perfection. I always take the attitude that when you have a program like this, you have to take it to the extreme, and then eventually add back in what you need to make it work for your lifestyle.

What I really like about this book is that it is not a fad diet, and not something that you just jump right into so that you shock your system. He promotes gradual change and learning how to feed your body what it needs to utilize it's natural healing abilities. In other words, like fad diets, he is not telling you this is what you need to do to lose weight and have a perfect body, but he's telling you what you need to incorporate into your life to live long and be healthy physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Every week has a focus and he breaks down each chapter into these categories: projects, diet, supplements, exercise, and mental/spiritual to get you on the right track. Then he goes onto explain each section in detail, and even adds in simple delicious recipes to help get your diet moving forward. A few of his focuses are identifying and removing harmful ingredients in your pantry, learning about the impurities of your drinking water, using a steam bath or sauna, the importance of sleep, breathing techniques, types of fasting, and adding tonics to your life. Throughout the book he also has sections called, Healing Stories, where people tell their inspirational stories about how these methods have brought them from close to death to total health.

This book greatly influenced me because it was the first time that someone opened my eyes up to the pollutants to the world around me, and taught me how to use what we have in nature to nourish and heal our bodies. When I implemented this program into my life I felt 100% better and still continue much of it today. I can't encourage frequent visits to the sauna and practicing yoga enough and explain to you how much it will brighten up each day. I strongly recommend this book to anyone that feels like they want to take the first step in making changes towards their overall health.

Namaste.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Put This In Your Mouth


Brussel Sprouts: The Most Misunderstood Vegetable


Brussel Sprouts are delicious. They are little bite size cabbages that crunch in your mouth (if cooked right). I am sure that you heard a lot of awful things about them growing up, but don't be fooled by the bad reputation that they have. They are just so bad that they are awesome. They might even be too cool for you.

I once was fooled by the myth that brussel sprouts taste the inside of a trashcan until one day my friend made them for me. I remember thinking... great.... she made me this awesome dinner for my birthday, and I have already decided that I hate brussel sprouts without ever trying them. But, I'm open minded and I was newly vegan, so I was happy to try them. We were all sitting at the table, and I had my plate in front of me, grabbed the veggie with my fork, and I bit into my first brussel sprout. I instantly wanted more and I couldn't get over that it took me this long to give them a chance. She made me this recipe off of 101 cookbooks, and since then I have forever been buying, cooking, and loving brussel sprouts.

Why are brussel sprouts awesome? Well, besides tasting good, they have super healthy for you. They are high in fiber, help protect against cancer, and they are high in vitamin C which helps support immune function. They also help protect against rheumatic arthritis and birth defects. You can read more about it by clicking here.

There are a few ways to cook brussel sprouts, but I think they are best when they are cut into ribbons and pan fried to where they are a little crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. I do not recommend frozen brussel sprouts, they always end up too soft and watery.

How to prepare a brussel sprout for cooking:
Cut off the ends and peel away any loose or discolored leaves. Wash well. They can be cooked whole or halved, but for this recipe they are best sliced.

Here is my basic brussel sprout recipe....

You will need:
20 brussel sprouts, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
sea salt
1/2 Tbls sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped

*In a bowl, coat the brussel sprouts in 1 Tbls Olive oil and some salt. Mix together
*Heat a large skillet to med heat with 1 Tbls olive oil. You do not want to make it too hot because you don't want the outside to cook too fast, but you do want to get the outside somewhat browned.
*Pour in the brussel sprouts until they are laid out flat on the surface.
*Cook for about 5 minutes, and then they should start to look brown on the bottom.
*Once you see that they have started to brown, add in the garlic, sesame oil, stir together, cover and cook for another minute.
*Pour in a bowl and you are done!

You can eat them just like this, or add them to a pasta, a rice dish, quinoa, couscous, soba noodles, or just add some other delicious veggies to the mix. Tonight I made these and mixed them in with kale, tofu, leeks, and rice noodles.

Roasting brussel sprouts is also a good option. Here is a Barefoot Contessa recipe for that. 
I have also been wanting to try a veganized version recipe from the Momofuku cookbook by David Chang for Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Let me know if you make them and how they turn out! Enjoy!



I love Brussel Sprouts in my mouth!


Namaste.
Brussels Sprouts on Foodista


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Mixed Mushroom Soup with Green Lentils


I LOVE mushrooms......and I hope you do too because this is a soup for mushroom lovers! This soup came about because I was cleaning out my fridge and realized I had a box of dried porcini mushrooms that I needed to use. I went to the grocery store and bought some fresh crimini mushrooms and fresh shiitake mushrooms and mixed mushroom soup was born. Something to remember when making this earthy flavored soup is that it only needs to be lightly salted. If you don't salt it enough it will be bland, but adding just a small amount of salt will bring out the mushroom flavor beautifully. 


I also love the New Pornographers, and I have been listening to their newest album, Together, for a few weeks now. I've been listening to it in sections or just repeating certain tracks, but tonight I decided to take the time to listen to the whole thing while making this soup.......


For the broth:
1 oz dried porcini mushrooms
5 crimini mushrooms, sliced
5 shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 leek, sliced and cut in half
1 cup broccoli
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup olive oil, plus a little more
2 cups hot water (for the dried mushrooms)
3 cups water (or water used to boil the lentils)
salt to taste
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon rosemary

For The Lentils:
1/2 LB Green Lentils
5 Cups Water
Some Olive Oil
A few pinches of salt


Putting It All Together:
The first thing to do would be to start cooking the lentils. You will use around 5 cups of water, and add about two tablespoons of olive oil, and 1/2 tablespoon of salt to the water. Once the water starts to boil, add the lentils. Turn down the heat until it is at a slow boil. Usually green lentils take a bout 30-40 minutes to cook, but you can always test them after 30 minutes to see if they are at your desired texture. While the lentils are cooking you can start on the next step.

Soak the dried porcini's in the 2 cups of hot water for 15-20 minutes to soften and soak up the flavor. While they are soaking chop up the leeks, garlic, broccoli, crimini mushrooms, and shiitake's.

In another soup pot, heat about a tablespoon of olive oil and add the garlic and leeks. Cook for about 3 minutes and add the 1/4 cup olive oil and the shiitake and crimini mushrooms. Cook for about 2 minutes and add the porcini mushrooms along with the water they are soaking in.

Add 3 cups of filtered water and flavor it yourself. Start with 1/2 teaspoon of salt, taste, and adjust from there.

**If you want to be creative add some of the water used to cook the lentils. I actually added 2 cups of the lentil water and then a cup of filtered water. Some of the lentils will get into the measuring cup, but that is just fine. You can also use vegetable broth if you would like, but make sure it is low sodium. If you need to add more water to make it more soupy, go ahead!

You'll have a lot of leftover lentils, but just add about 1 cup to the soup. Add the rosemary, the bay leaves, stir everything together, bring to a boil, lower heat to a slow boil, and cook for about 5 minutes.

Add to a bowl.... add more lentils if you desire... and you're done!

Afterthoughts: 

I sat at my table savoring my new concoction while being completely captivated by Dan Bejar and Neko Case singing Daughters of Sorrow in the background and I thought, This is one of the best soups I have ever made! I love it when this happens! It was a perfect moment. Sometimes I throw things together and it's good enough for me, but I can't say it's actually good enough to share it with someone else. This soup is hearty, fragrant, and full of flavor with every bite. I can't wait to use mushroom broth for so many other things..... and I couldn't have done it without the New Pornographers to back me up.....


I have been listening to The New Pornographers for a few years  now. I have every album, and have been spending some time listening to them all thoroughly. The first one I listened to was Challengers, which is their 4th. It takes a totally different turn from their first three, which are more upbeat. That being said, they didn't just go from one extreme to another. Twin Cinema (3rd album) is a transition piece where you can hear hints of their catchy upbeat tunes from the first two albums, but then some songs that are still catchy, but also have some breathing room.

Challengers and Together have a more mellow (but not depressing) mood. I loved Challengers when I first heard it, but it was tough for me to go backwards with The New Pornographers. Although, it didn't take very long for me to fall in love with everything about them. What I love most about them is that they have their own style, but every song is different depending on who is fronting it. At first I couldn't get enough of Neko Case and A.C. Newman.... listening to their voices together just completely mesmerized me (and still does). But lately my interests have taken a turn to preferring the Dan Bejar songs. I just love his voice so much. I remember his style took awhile to grow on me, and when I first listened to Destroyer, I didn't take to it so well. I wanted to like it, but it just wasn't working for me, but now I can't stop listening (that's another blog post). That's what I love about this band..... the more I listen to them, I hear something different. The best way I can describe their songs are that they end in a different place from where they begin, and I never get sick of them.

I can't say that Together is the best album that they have put out, but I can say that I continue to like it more every time I listen. I'm listening to Valkyrie in the Roller Disco as I write this, and it's like a breath of fresh air. It just keeps getting better.

Namaste


Green Lentils on Foodista

Monday, June 7, 2010

Say No To High Fructose Corn Syrup

                        



Have you see these commercials trying to make High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) seem like it's totally okay for consumption?



This makes me angry! 


Why you ask? Well, because there are so many lies in these commercials, and HFCS is the leading cause in obesity right now. It's pretty much a death sentence. By airing these commercials, the Corn Refiners Association is silently promoting future health problems so that they can earn a dollar at the end of the day. 


At the end, the narrator says, "Get the Facts." Let's go through all of the lies in the commercial and get the real facts right now:

A.  HFCS is almost impossible to eat in moderation because it is in almost everything. It's way cheaper to use than sugar and it is easily dissolved in liquids, which is why it is so popular in the beverage industry. It's also used as a preservative so it extends the shelf life of food. That explains why you see it in place of sugar in everything. It's even in ketchup! Why?

B. In addition to obesity, It's also been linked to diabetes and overeating. After doing some research, I found out that HFCS also affects the hunger hormone in your body known as leptin, which creates an increase in your appetite and causes people who eat foods with HFCS to overeat. 

C. HFCS does come from corn, but it is not natural. It's completely manufactured requiring the use of enzymes and a series of chemical processes.  The processing of any food causes changes in its composition, therefore, making it unnatural.

D. It's obvious that HFCS is not the same as real sugar. But, if you would like to learn more about it, read this study that Princeton University posted on March 22, 2010. And, if it's supposedly the same..... then just use real sugar!


Knowing how much of a negative effect HFCS has on our health, commercials like these should be illegal. 




Sunday, June 6, 2010

How Can Tony Hayward Live With Himself?




Like all animal lovers, I am heart broken over the suffering of these birds. It makes me feel a little better that many of the birds are being saved, but then sickened at the amount of birds that have died, are dying, and are suffering through this. What makes me sick is that this is a man-made disaster. It's one thing to have a hurricane or tornado, but we did this, and there is no end in site. The repercussions of this disaster are endless to our ecosystem, and it kills me whenever I see the footage of oil gushing into the Gulf.


What makes me furious is how Tony Hayward is handling this situation. BP says they want to be transparent, but they haven't been clear at all about what/how/when they are doing anything. This cap they used is not working perfectly, and as long as there is still oil flowing in the Gulf, I can't be optimistic.


Every time I see that ad run on TV with him saying, "We're going to make this right," I want to punch him. It's like BP thinks they are just going to PR themselves out of this mess. How do they not have any compassion? Are they not human? It scares me to think that what we are seeing is just the surface of this mess! What about the whole underwater ecosystem that we can't see?


What about the harmful chemicals that are being dispersed into the Gulf that are banned in other countries because these chemicals have been linked with human health problems including respiratory, nervous system, liver, kidney and blood disorders? Why won't they use an alternative? How does one even attempt to clean up such an environmental disaster as this one? What is going to happen when a hurricane hits?


I am encouraging everyone to do your part in saving these helpless birds by going to the International Bird Research Rescue Center and either donating, adopting a bird, becoming a member, or calling the number listed to find out what you can to do. You can also check out this site on the CNN website to find out all of the ways you can take action. 
Namaste,
Monica