Friday, September 30, 2011

CHALLENGE Day #21- Woohooo!

a beautiful surprise delivery
This week's weigh-in really clarified for me what my body is capable of if given the proper food- and I even had to weigh-in a day early.

My notes are scribbled. My body fat need to be in the low 30's and kept
under 28% of my total weight.
This is what I have learned and observed:
  • I didn't loose any weight, actually I gained half a pound, however, I lost 2.3 lbs of body fat and I gained 2.8 lbs of muscle! 
  • The one thing that I did differently was I ate more protein. I still ate fruit and vegetable smoothies for the first half of the day with a cooked dinner consisting of either fish or eggs with veggies and/or carbs. 
  • I went to my trainer 3 days which equates to 3 hours of working out last week.
  • It's nice to be complemented by my trainer for a job well done!
  • I DID NOT EAT LOW FAT ANYTHING, in fact I ate full fat foods like butter and olive oil. 
  • I ate homemade bread. 
  • I DRANK WINE, not a lot, but a few glasses on a few different occasions. 
  • I have had 2 cups of coffee in the last 2 or 3 weeks. This is amazing because I used to start every morning off with at least 1 huge cup of coffee. It wasn't a morning if I didn't have my coffee. 
  • I did not try to loose weight.
  • Protein powder does not taste good in fruit and vegetable smoothies.
  • I'm still just as enthusiastic about using coconut oil instead of lotions and creams.
I'm pumped!

I wrote in my last update on CHALLENGE Day # 14 that I bought a brown rice protein powder to see about adding it into my morning smoothies. Well, protein powder and fruit just don't mix in my opinion. I tried and no matter what I did all I tasted was the vanilla flavor protein. I did however come up with a smoothie that I'm sure is not new, however I had forgotten about how much I loved it.

  • 2 heaping tbsp. natural peanut butter
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 2 fresh bananas
  • 1 heaping tbsp. raw cocao nibs (a powerful anti-oxidant)
  • 1 tbsp. brown rice protein powder
  • coconut water to desired consistency (you could also use almond or rice milk)
So good!
Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Leftover Bread Recipes

Last weekend I made a lot of bread. I knew it was more than I could eat without gaining a bunch of weight back or feeling gross, but what is a girl to do? It's hard cooking for one person.

Well here are a couple of ways to use up old, stale, or just too much leftover bread. Yes, you can eat old, stale bread. It will not kill you and it actually tastes good if you know what to do with it. Lucky for you I do!


I usually make croutons out of bread that I baked in a loaf pan. It doesn't really matter what shape the croutons end up being, but I find it works better if they are squares. Bread made in a loaf pan (see pic below) is easy to cut into uniform pieces. (If you buy one with a lid, the bread comes out in a loaf perfect for sliced bread!)

Anyway, croutons are super easy to make (I am using the thyme infused loaf). Just cut the bread into small pieces, arrange on a baking sheet. Toast in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes. Saute in a pan with some olive oil and whatever spices you like (garlic powder, rosemary, thyme, marjoram, onion powder are all great) until coated. Put back in the oven for a few minutes and Voila! Homemade croutons. They keep well in a refrigerator for a few weeks. I love making these to put on my salads. Just a few croutons take care of my cravings for carbs.

Bread Crumbs
Same thing. Cut the bread into small chunks and toast in 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes. They should be toasty all the way through (if not keep in for an extra few minutes). Take crispy croutons and put in Cuisinart or blender. Add in whatever spices you like (sea salt, pepper, garlic powder, rosemary, thyme, marjoram, onion powder are all great). And blend! That's it...just store them in a canister in the refrigerator up to a few weeks.

Fresh and dried thyme, onion powder, sea salt, pepper,
ground sage and marjoram

Aside from the usual uses (breaded fish, chicken, eggplant) I also like to use these on top of homemade mac-and-cheese. I will have to get that recipe from my mom and convert it to "healthier" ingredients before I can write about it. I see a cold weather comfort food post coming soon in lieu of the change of seasons.

Bread Pudding

This is a favorite desert of mine that my mother has made from as far back as I can remember. The great thing about this recipe is that you can literally save all of the ends of loaves of bread plus any stale bread in a bag in the freezer. Once you have enough bread to make the size casserole you want, you just take it out of the freezer, mix it together with the ingredients below, and you have an amazing and virtually free dessert (you would have normally thrown the ends or stale bread out right?).
  • 6 cups cubed bread
  • 1 cups agave nectar
  • 5 large farm eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups organic milk
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 ripe banana
  • cinnamon, nutmeg, ground ginger, ground cloves
  • raisins, blueberries, cranberries, or figs (if desired)
Directions: If bread is frozen, let defrost completely. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together pudding ingredients. Pour over cubed bread and let sit for 20 minutes. Pour bread mixture into baking dish. Bake for 45 minutes, or until set.

Toppings: If you want an extra sweet factor or if you are making this for a party or special occasion, there are a couple ways you could go about the topping. The first would be to mix and together brown sugar, soft organic butter, and crushed pecans to make a tasty cruble. Put topping on half way through baking time. The second could be just a scoop of organic ice cream (Stonyfield Organic Ice Creams). I actually prefer to not put any topping on because I am not a big sweets person, but to each his own.
The reason why I go to all the trouble (not that is all that difficult) to make extras like croutons and bread crumbs is because, if you look at the ingredients of these items that are sold in grocery stores, they include lots of garbage like: enriched flour, partially hydrogenated vegetable (soy) oil, corn syrup, shortening, whey, soy flour, Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), and preservatives. This is no exaggeration...I just got those ingredients off of a canister of Foodtown "Perfect Recipe" Bread Crumbs. There is nothing "perfect" about any of those food like substances that make up the Foodtown "perfect recipe" bread crumbs.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Organic Dairy Farmers Want to Talk to YOU...Big Dairy Doesn't

In my quest to find good quality dairy products for myself, I have come to find out that it is illegal in New Jersey to buy raw dairy. They should rename the state to NO JERSEY, because that seems to be the overwhelming answer from those who hold authority on just about everything. 

From what I gather, the reason we are not allowed to purchase raw dairy from farms is "for our own protection". As if it is safer to buy ultra-pasteurized, homogenized, fortified milk from Big Dairy Farms that:

#1 do not want to talk about their practices
#2 use cows that have grown up on feed lots and been fed growth hormones, antibiotics, and grain. Cow's naturally eat grass and that is what their digestive system is designed to handle, hence the new need for antibiotics. Healthy grass fed cows very rarely need antibiotics 
#3 milk cows that are pregnant, something that would never happen in nature. I would think that this also increases the level of hormones in the milk since any animal (human or cow) is raging with hormones when preggers.

"From the perspective of a national public health professional looking at an estimated total of 48 million foodborne illnesses each year [from all foods]… there is no rational justification to focus national attention on raw milk, which may be associated with an average of 42 illnesses maximum among the more than nine million people (about 0.0005 percent) who have chosen to drink milk in its fresh unprocessed form.
… Consumption of any food has some risk of illness or adverse reaction. And the consequence of basing public policy on horrific personal experiences is that all foods will ultimately be banned, and we will not be able to participate in any activity." 
Dr. Ted Beals, researcher
I have not ventured across state lines yet to buy dairy from PA or NY (I think that is illegal also but I don't really give a S-H-I-T). It is my firm belief that if someone wants to buy something that they think is healthy for them, they should be allowed. Selling raw milk is now up there with making crystal meth and selling cocaine- RIDICULOUS! 

Anyway, back to dairy. Stonyfield Organics is a company that buys its milk from local, family-run dairy farms. The farms where the milk comes from are actually on their website, as well as videos from the farmers. I really like when companies put videos up because you can really get a sense of whether these people are full of S-H-I-T or not. At least I can. So this company's products are sold at supermarkets all over the country. It is not raw but atleast it is organic and I took a few minutes to watch some of the videos they had on their website and put the best ones below.

There are plenty of other organic dairy companies. You just have to look in your supermarket. The more I read and learn, the more convinced I am that conventional dairy (the way it comes to market today) is just plain no good for us.  

The FDA would have you believe pasteurization of milk protects you from deadly pathogens contained in raw milk. The fact is however, that if cows are raised as nature intended (free-range and grass-fed), there is no need to process the milk these healthy animals produce.
However, cows raised in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) are NOT raised in a manner that makes their milk suitable for drinking raw.

CAFO cows are typically raised on high-protein, soy-based feeds instead of fresh green grass, and instead of free range grazing, they stand in cramped, manure-covered feed lots all day. These conditions are perfect for the proliferation of disease, and yes, this milk MUST be pasteurized in order for it to be safe to drink. These cows also need antibiotics to keep them well, and some are also given genetically modified growth hormones (rBGH) to increase milk production. Needless to say, these hormones and antibiotics also wind up in the milk.
Aside from the manner in which the cows are raised, which significantly alters the milk they produce to begin with, pasteurization has its own problems as it:
  • Transforms the physical structure of the milk proteins and alters the shape of the amino acid configuration into a collection of proteins that is now non-functional and in a shape that can be highly allergenic.  
  • Destroys the friendly bacteria found naturally in milk and drastically reduces the micronutrient and vitamin content.
  • Encourages the growth of harmful bacteria, and turns milk’s naturally occurring sugar (lactose) into beta-lactose. Beta-lactose is rapidly absorbed in the human body, with the result that hunger can return quickly after a glass of milk – especially in children.
  • Makes insoluble most of the calcium found in raw milk, which can lead to a host of health problems in children, among them rickets and bad teeth.
  • Destroys about 20 percent of the iodine available in raw milk, which can cause constipation.
  • When pasteurized milk is also homogenized, a substance known as xanthine oxidase is created. This compound can play a role in oxidative stress by acting as a free radical in your body. (Original Source: Dr. Mercola)

 If you are interested in digging deeper there is plenty of information out there. I urge you to form your own opinion about the health of our dairy industry. I will keep you posted about my adventures in buying illegal milk. Hopefully I won't get arrested.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Goodbye Summer, Hello DRY SKIN Season

I am not exaggerating when I say that for as far back as I can remember I have had horrible dry skin, especially on my legs. It is common for me to have a year supply of lotions, face creams, and Chapstick (just in case the world comes to an end... at least I can continue my addiction for a little while longer). I am constantly waking myself up from scratching in the middle of the night. Sometimes I have to even get out of bed and rub cream into my legs to get them to stop itching. It's uncomfortable to say the least.

Although most of my focus has been on nutrition and foods, I have read in several different books that the additives put in beauty/hygiene products are just as toxic as some of the food like substances we eat. One for instance would be aluminum in deodorant. The aluminum acts as an anti-persperant, and makes up a large percentage of most deodorants. The problem with aluminum is that it builds up in our bodies and becomes toxic. This is mostly a problem for women who shave their armpits (all women I hope- there is nothing worse than little scraggly hairs peeking out!).The aluminum is absorbed through the broken skin most often when deodorant is applied right after shaving. I switched to Tom's of Maine deodorant which has no aluminum in it. Anyway the moral of my story is that along with changing my eating habits I am also starting to look into natural food based beauty products. 

Back to my dry skin!

I could very well write a book about all of the different body lotions and face creams that I have tried ( it wouldn't be very exciting). I have to admit I am never satisfied. My dry skin is never quenched. When I started the 4 week eating challenge, one of the things that I wanted to see if I could remedy was my dry skin from the inside out. Well, I cannot quit body lotion cold turkey, because I would have to check myself into an insane asylum. SO...I decided to try natural oils. I have read of people using coconut and almond oils. Well, I couldn't find unrefined almond oil at my local Whole Foods, but I did find an unrefined coconut oil. 

I kid you not. I have taken 3 showers since I bought the unrefined coconut oil. I keep the jar in the shower, and the heat warms it up into a liquid state (it is naturally a saturated fat so it is solid at room temperature). After I am done showering I dry myself off while I am still in the shower, and lube myself up with the liquid coconut oil. The reason I do it while I am still in the shower is because your pores are open to absorb more of the oil. You will be slightly oily after you get out, but it is not ridiculous because most of it is absorbed rather quickly. 

No exaggeration- I do not feel the need to constantly scratch my legs any more. If you have dry skin PLEASE try this. There are no chemicals, nothing but natural, unrefined coconut oil. It is roughly $10-$13 a jar, which is comparable to a bottle of lotion, however since it is an oil you will use much much less. It is also a natural remedy for dry itchy scalp, which I also suffer from. So I will be trying it for that too and will let you know how it goes. I will specifically be looking to see if it makes my hair an oily mess because I know that many women would be hesitant to try it for that reason. 

If you are interested in more information about all of the uses for coconut oil please visit Organic Facts. I also use it to cook and bake.

DON'T go into another dry skin season without trying this. I hope it works for you as well as it did for me!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Healthcare System or Disease-care System?

I just finished watching a documentary called Food Matters. There were about 4 or five doctors/nutritional health leaders interviewed who are and have been actively prescribing healthy lifestyle changes and vitamin therapy to prevent and reverse serious chronic illnesses like cancer and heart disease.

I will tell you what...while Nani was in the hospital getting test after test to find out what was wrong with her, I was there. I had the chance to spend several days in the hospital. You know what I saw? Fat, old, seriously sick people. It was eye-opening to say the least. I would assume that most of my readers are young and relatively healthy, but  I assure you we will not always be this way. You think it can't happen to you, but statistically it will- and the statistics are getting worse.

The war on cancer started in 1972 with President Nixon. In the 25 years following, trillions of dollars were thrown at the problem and the rate of cancer deaths more than doubled. Government is not the answer because they are in bed with the pharmaceutical companies, who are in bed with the scientists researching the cancer therapy drugs and the so called "cure".

I learned from this documentary that the only legal cancer therapies are chemo and radiation (poisons) in the USA. It is not legal for a doctor to prescribe nutrition therapy. And why would they? Nutrition is cheap, effective, and once people realized that they didn't need to spend thousands of dollars a year on health insurance, the doctor's would be looking for new work.

I personally do not have health insurance and have not for two years. I go to the dermatologist twice a year, the dentist twice a year, and the gyno once a year. I have been to an emergency clinic once for a UTI. In two years. Total that up and it is roughly $750 a year. Prior to two years ago, I had my own health insurance policy that cost me $275 a month which ends up costing $3300 a year. For someone like myself it just did not add up for me to keep it, especially since my dermatologist does not take any insurance, so that would actually end up costing me $3500 a year. I am in my late-20's and not on any medications. Why the hell would I spend that much each year? Just in case? Well the "just in case" could be in case I get cancer or another debilitating disease. But here's the thing. Regular health insurance only covers up to a certain dollar amount per year. If I were to have cancer and be treated with conventional practices, my yearly allowance would be used up pretty quickly with all of the tests and $6000+ a month for the drugs. It would actually be more beneficial to carry a major medical policy that covers catastrophes than regular health insurance.

Long story short, we all have choices every day about what we put into our bodies. The people that put their health and well being as a priority view themselves as more valuable than most everything else. Most people view all of the other stuff as more valuable than their health. Busy schedules, drama (real and made up), obligations, bullshit time-suck things like reality tv. Even I am guilty of it sometimes, but I have realized that I can control me and pretty much nothing else.

Make yourself your #1 priority and figure out for you what is going to make you feel better. For me it was making an effort to replace 1/2 or more of my diet with raw fruits and vegetables. I had tried everything else (eliminating, meat, dairy, soy) and still did not really feel any better. I can realistically say that this has been the most positive change I have ever made and I encourage everyone to experiment with their own bodies.

There is a link to purchase this documentary plus a few other excellent videos on the right sidebar of this blog. I encourage you to take your health into your own hands while you are still "healthy". Healthcare starts with us. The rest is disease-care.

Friday, September 23, 2011

BREAD & CHILI: My two favorite foods

As I sit in my kitchen on this wonderfully rainy Friday night, I am inhaling beautiful smells of freshly baked bread. I wasn't planning on cooking all night, but sometimes I just get this urge to make tons of food. I also realized that it has been about 2 months since I started this blog and I have not made anything with thyme in it.

I started out with chili (see this post for the recipe). Then decided it has been too long since I have made bread. In the middle somewhere I made pesto to use on some pasta at some point this weekend. Back to my favorite food: bread.

I started making it myself a few months ago and have not really eaten much store-bought bread since (there is that much of a difference). I bought a book, Beard on Bread (you can find a link in the right sidebar --->), read the beginning and was amazed at how easy it is. First of all there are three ingredients- flour, yeast, water. Voila! You have bread. You can knead it by hand for a few minutes, put ingredients in a Kitchenaid mixer (link on right sidebar --->), or put ingredients in a bread maker. This is the no nonsense way for every skill and involvement level.

I made 2 different loaves because I wanted to test out the difference between using all bread flour and half bread flour with half whole wheat flour.

  • 1 1/2 c. organic bread flour
  • 1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 2 c. water
  • 1 pkg. yeast
  • sprinkle salt
  • sprinkle sugar
  • (for this one I added in thyme and olive oil for a little flavoring...most fresh herbs will work)

  • 3 c. organic bread flour
  • 2 c. water
  • 1 pkg. yeast
  • sprinkle salt
  • sprinkle sugar
I am eating both as we speak and here is what I have found:
  • The all bread flour recipe is basically white bread, crunchy outside, chewy inside. It literally is the perfect tasting bread. Load it up with butter and it is unspeakable.
  • The half whole wheat recipe is really good. It's crust is not as crispy and center not as chewy, but it still has a great consistency. I added in fresh thyme sprigs (do not use the hard stems) to give it a little flavor and olive oil to moisten it up. It worked! This bread has amazing flavor and is perfect with butter or dipped in seasoned olive oil.
  • I did not make all whole wheat flour bread because I have made it before and it came out extremely dry, dense, and crumbly. The flavor was not that great either.
It's like the three little pigs of bread...the first one is too soft, the third one is too hard, but the one in the middle is just right!

Here are the directions to making bread. They are the same whether you mix by hand or in a mixer. I am not familiar with bread makers so that one is up to you to figure out if you have one.
  1. Get out 1 lg. bowl, measuring cup, and ingredients
  2. In lg. bowl, add 1 c. water, tsp. sugar, and pkg yeast. 
  3. Let sit for a few minutes to test the yeast (if it is good it will start to foam)
  4. Add in 3 c. flour according to the recipe you are following from above
  5. Add in tsp. salt
  6. Mix. If using a Kitchen-aid mixer use the dough hook to mix from the start. It will make a ball automatically. If doing it by hand, start with a fork until ball forms and then knead with hands for several minutes.
  7. Coat ball of dough with butter or olive oil
  8. Let rise 45 minutes. Sit ball in a lg bowl in microwave so it is protected from drafts
  9. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  10. Punch down
  11. Form into bread pan or on baking sheet in shape of choice
  12. Bake 35 minutes
  13. Let cool
  14. Try not to devour it all in one sitting
It's that easy! I just ate close to half a loaf myself just sitting here writing. A couple more things to keep in mind. My suggestion would be to always use at least part whole wheat flour when making bread- this is because the fiber in the whole wheat flour slows down the digestion of the sugar and it is also food for the bacteria in your large intestine (aka poop shoot). The reason I would recommend using 1/2 whole wheat 1/2 bread flour is because eating straight white flour wreaks havoc on your blood sugar levels, which effects your insulin levels, which effects your's just really not a good thing. You might as well be eating a cup of straight sugar. On the other hand I will never eat on a regular basis or recommend something that tastes like shit (i.e. all whole wheat flour recipe). I feel that there must be a compromise between food that is healthy for you and food that tastes great. You shouldn't eat something that you don't enjoy.

I urge you to try this for yourself one of these days, and maybe do a mini taste test to see what you like, you can also try all whole wheat flour if you want to see the full spectrum. I also suggest that you look at the ingredient list on the loaf of bread that you usually buy, or just take a few minutes and look at a few of them while you are in the supermarket. And then say to yourself, "I know what it takes to make bread...why the hell are there 20 ingredients that I am not familiar with in this loaf? Why is there high fructose corn syrup in this bread? Why am I eating this bread?"

I could have easily skipped the chili tonight and just scarfed down the bread (with organic butter of course!). On to watch the last few episodes The Tudors Season 4...perfect Friday night!

My next post will probably about what I am going to do with all of this bread...don't worry there are a few great 2nd uses for too much bread or bread that is slightly stale. :)

CHALLENGE DAY #14: This week was a tough one!

Sometimes you just need a pat on the back and a "Cheer Up!" or in my case "Snap the eff out of it!" The past week was a blur. I wish I could say that I spend it partying and the blurriness was from too many drinks, but unfortunately I cannot. This is what I have learned:
  • Emotions are a force to reckon with
  • I am not an emotional eater until I am emotionally exhausted 
  • I have some decent smoothie recipes (see below)
  • The more bananas you put in a smoothie the better they taste
  • My cravings for salt virtually disappear when I eat alot of vegetables
  • I have not eaten many carbs and I am craving them. 
  • I found a raw grain based form of protein to try in my smoothies
I started my day as usual- making a giant batch of smoothie to bring to work. Aside from being emotionally drained and I feel pretty good physically. Then off to the trainer to have the machine tell me how good or bad I did this week. Results:

Overall I lost a little over 1 lb in the past week. But what is really important is that I lost more fat than muscle, where as the week before I had lost more muscle than fat. Ideally you want to build muscle and loose fat, which I have only had the experience of happening one week a few months ago when I worked out 5 days and ate alot of protein. Last week I really made an effort to eat more protein. This week I spoke with my health coach who suggested a grain-based protein to put in my smoothies. I bought one that consists of brown rice protein- vegan, gluten free, soy free. It is a little weird tasting I'm not going to lie. I put 3 spoonfuls in with my favorite smoothie (see below) and it doesn't taste like tastes a little gritty. I need to experiment with using a little less. We will see next week how my body reacts to more protein.

I am happy with the slow progress though. I have done binge workouts before (by that I mean 2-3 hours a day 5-6 days a week- UNSUSTAINABLE!). I would lose weight quickly but get burnt out on working out and get sick of having no life, and then digress back to my old ways and ultimately gain all of the weight back. I am more interested in making lifestyle changes that I can stick with. All in all, I am slowly loosing weight and not really trying right now. The only big change is that I am making smoothies every morning and eating alot more fruits and vegetables. Pretty good right?

Here are some good smoothies:
  • handful green grapes
  • 2 green apples
  • 2 bananas
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 1 kiwi
  • handful spinach
  • handful kale
  • water
  • ice
  • 2 peaches
  • 3 bananas
  • handful spinach
  • 1/2 cucumber
  • 1 green apple
  • water
  • ice
  • 1/2 cucumber
  • handful baby carrots
  • handful spinach
  • handful chard
  • red apple
  • peach
  • 3 bananas
  • water
  • ice
and still MY FAVORITE:
  • 1/2 pineapple
  • 2 bananas
  • 1 peach
  • 1 mango
  • coconut water
  • ice
Remember: toxins are stored in fat. Juicing fruits and vegetables will help your body excrete the toxins and breakdown fat. If you are concerned with the amount of protein you are eating, buy a protein powder to add to your smoothies. Just beware of soy protein isolate (toxic) and whey protein (many people are allergic because it is dairy based). There are other kinds of proteins like hemp protein. The one I bought is brown rice protein. Just read the ingredients. You should not be buying any proteins that have digestive enzymes in them. You should not be taking digestive enzymes unless prescribed by a doctor. It can seriously eff shit up by taking them unnecessarily. 

This Hopefully I will have some easy and healthy bread recipes for you. Happy Friday!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Friends Are the Best Medicine

More specifically, girlfriends are the best medicine! This past Sunday when I was having an extended woe-is-me moment in my bed, my great friend Kelly (on the right) called and peer-pressured me (she's good at that even through the phone) into meeting up with her and a few other fun ladies.
Thank god she called and I forced myself to get out of bed, shower, put on makeup. It was a beautiful early fall day while we sat on a rooftop and had a few buckets of coronas. And! The best part was that I hung out with one of my oldest friends, Lisa (left), who I have not seen in like 7 or 8 years! I was so happy to hear her laugh and talk about where we have been and where we are now.
Just goes to show you what great friends are for. Thank you especially to Julie, Michelle, Chaump, Kelly, Lisa, Colleen & Kim. You ladies were life savers and mood lifters this past weekend.
You know, I read somewhere recently (if I can find it I will update this post) that women live longer and are happier if they have great friends. I am not sure if this applies to men, I think statistically they die younger anyway (sorry guys!). But it makes sense. Your girlfriends are the ones that you can talk to about anything, and they will listen up to the point of you being a broken record. Then they usually (in the case of my friends) point out the fact that they have heard the same thing over and over and say "Grow a sack!"
Sometimes change is hard. If I want to change my bedroom decor- easy. Switching careers- easy. Getting the motivation to fold and put away my laundry- not so easy. Stop something you know needs to be stopped that involves someone you love tremendously- hard. I'm trying to keep my head high, and thank god that I am super busy this week at work and have school work to finish.
1st chance to open my eyes
2nd chance to open my eyes 
3rd chance to open my eyes
4th chance to open my eyes, looks like I was close
The moral of the story is that I am so grateful to have had one group of girlfriends since grade school and another since high school/college, with a few extra additions here and there. Without them my life would not be as enjoyable, hilarious, grounded as it is. I love you all. And hopefully we all outlive the men and become serious cougars in our old age. JK! I love men.
On to switching everything from my old computer to my new computer! and dealing with the mess of wires that are on and under my desk. Sometimes Jessica runs on Dunkin.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Dreaded Salad Isn't So Bad

Well I am back on the wagon! Since I have put myself on this eating challenge almost 2 weeks ago I have been looking for different ways to get a variety of raw foods into my diet so that I don't have to drink my vegetables as much. It is getting kind of old.

I have learned a few things:
  • Anything I put in there tastes amazing when it is loaded with salad dressing
  • With that in mind, I put my salad in a large Tupperware container, drizzle dressing, and shake until the entire thing is coated (you can also toss it in a large bowl). This allows you to use less dressing and fully coat everything!
  • You can really put so many things in salads
  • I am actually starting to enjoy eating them
  • It is very easy to eat out because every restaurant has salads
First things first- the dressing. I would venture a guess that most (99%) of salad dressings sold in supermarkets are made with soybean oil (I have spent a ridiculous amount of time reading labels). Now after reading The Whole Soy Story by Kaayla T. Daniel, I cut ALL soy out of my diet because I realized that unless soy is fermented properly it is actually an anti-nutrient (means your body sucks nutrients out of your body to be able to process it properly). Most soy that is in our foods today is not fermented, but created in a laboratory or and highly processed.

Then there is the other 1% of salad dressings that are "organic" and made with canola oil. For whatever reason they taste like capital S-H-I-T and are super expensive. So....I make my own dressings! I don't know why people don't do this because it is so cheap and easy and tastes so much better than store bought dressing. Here are two:

  • extra virgin olive oil
  • apple cider vinegar
  • handful cashews
  • juice 1/2 lemon
  • squeeze of Dijon mustard
Put all of these in a blender (I use a Magic Bullet) until smooth. You may be saying "What a minute! That seems like alot of fat!?! Well it is but it is good fats. Your body needs fat to function properly and it needs the right type of fats. Also, the fat in the dressing will make you feel more satiated. As long as you are cutting out other bad fats in your diet you will be fine. 

  • extra virgin olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar
  • squeeze spicy brown mustard
  • squeeze of honey
  • juice 1/2 lemon
Put these in a shaker or a Tupperware to shake until blended. If you have to use more dressing than you think is necessary to eat your salad, then do it! The benefits from eating all of these veggies is well worth it.

Here are some great salad combinations:

  • romaine lettuce
  • tomatoes
  • red onions
  • balsamic dressing
  • spring mix greens
  • baby spinach
  • arugula
  • kale
  • broccoli
  • carrots
  • tomatoes
  • cucumber (yes they are more than just water)
  • onions
  • creamy dressing
  • spring mix greens
  • baby spinach
  • raw almonds
  • raisins
  • dried cranberries
  • carrots
  • diced apples
  • cooked quinoa 
  • balsamic dressing
  • arugula 
  • baby spinach
  • kale
  • artichoke hearts
  • feta cheese
  • black or green olives
  • tomatoes
  • red onions
  • balsamic dressing
  • pineapple
  • berries
  • melon
  • cherries (not maraschino) 
  • kiwi
  • grapes
If this sounds like too much, most grocery stores have salad bars (I personally think Whole Foods has the best). It may be more expensive than buying the ingredients and making it at home, but in my case I cannot eat all of the ingredients fast enough so I would end up throwing away alot of produce. If you are cooking/eating for one it is much more economical to take a scoop of this and a scoop of that rather than buying entire bunches, bags, or containers. 

But where do I get my protein you ask? I ask you, Where do cows get their protein? Believe it or not, there is protein in plants, and that is exactly where cows get their protein that you eat- from grass! Quinoa is also an excellent source of protein that is actually a whole grain. If you feel you need more protein, you can always add raw nuts, eggs (make sure they are organic farm raised or free range), chicken, or steak (please do yourself a favor and try to find grass fed or humanely raised meat...and if you need some motivation watch Food Inc. It is not crazy graphic but it will open your eyes to the meat industry- see right sidebar for link...or it is also on Netflix.)

Stay away from croutons- fried in bad oil, high fructose corn syrup and soybean flour! I will be posting soon about homemade breads and what you can do with them (bread pudding, croutons, bread crumbs. Super easy and tastes AMAZING!


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Swap soda for KOMBUCHA

I got a call from my good friend Michelle today, who was asking me about B-12 vitamins. A couple of years ago I had a serious fatigue problem so I went to my doctor to get blood work done. It turned out I was seriously deficient in B-12. So I became borderline obsessed with finding out what I could about it. I took a B-12 vitamin orally for over a year before I stopped taking vitamins all together and started relying on food for my vitamins. You can find B-vitamins in green vegetables, meat, dairy, and KOMBUCHA!

If you are not aware of each of the B-vitamins here is a list:
  • B-1 or Thiamin 
  • B-2 or Riboflavin
  • Niacin
  • B6 
  • B-9 or Folic Acid
  • B12
  • Biotin
  • Pantothenic Acid
B-vitamins as a group are super important. They are all involved in turning food into usable energy for the body. In addition to that they assist the nervous system, heart muscle, and regulate appetite, play a part in mucus membrane and skin formation, help reduce the risk of heart disease, help form brain and spinal cord during fetal development and is involved in cell division and red blood cell formation. 

While I was visiting my sister in Savannah a few months ago, my hairdresser introduced me to Kombucha. (If you are wondering, I lived there for 5 years during college and grad school. I don't normally travel 800 miles to get my hair done. However, I will take advantage every time I visit. If you are ever in Savannah go to her and tell her "Jersey Jessica" sent you. Salon Aqua works miracles.) It had been at least 4 years since I had been to her so I was talking about what I am up to and the book that I am working on. She was like "Jess you need to drink kombucha". In fact everyone in the salon was raving about it and they ran to get me one while I was there getting my hair did. 

Now I do not drink soda because it is garbage, but I love carbonated drinks. This is slightly vinegary, slightly sweet, and tangy. The kind that I have found and love is G.T. Dave's Raw Kombucha that I buy at Whole Foods. You can buy the 100% raw kombucha or the 95% raw with other fresh pressed juices added. In addition to containing a bunch of the B-vitamins, it has live probiotic bacteria cultures in it which are super important for a couple of reasons. First, probiotics keep our intestines healthy. There are billions and billions of different bacteria in our guts that help us digest food, synthesize vitamins, and support our immune system. 

Did you know that immune system cells are located all around our digestive tract? This is because the most common way for invaders to get into our body is through the food we eat. We eat 3+ times a day with our dirty fingers. I guarantee you do not wash your hands and then touch absolutely nothing until you touch your food. Not to mention if you are a nail biter like I am- gross! I try to stop every is a problem sometimes.

Second, is that I learned by accident that they cure yeast infections (gross I know but a real problem for some people). "A friend of mine" was feeling kind of funny down there and happened to drink a bottle of kombucha. A little while later "she" noticed that it wasn't so funny anymore. So "she" drank 2 bottles a day for 3 days and it was gone! That is probably the same price as over the counter meds, but who the hell knows what is in that goo that you are squeezing up into your lady parts. "She" would much rather drink some refreshing kombucha. Here's a quick review:

So, instead of drinking soda (read my post about high fructose corn syrup and aspartame if you aren't aware of these dangerous ingredients that are in sodas) do something great for yourself and start drinking kombucha. It is a little expensive, but in the long run it will make you feel better.

I have no affiliation with G.T. Dave's Raw Kombucha, or Salon Aqua....I just love both of them!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Falling off "the wagon"

I fell hard. I was doing great, and then had a major emotional setback (don't worry no one died). It is amazing how your emotions can affect your hunger, cravings, and motivation.

Friday night disaster.

Saturday morning emotional mess. Forced myself to eat half a pear. Walked 6 miles on an empty stomach because I had zero appetite. Forced myself to eat 3 farm eggs. Slept for 3 hours. Forced myself to go out to dinner with one of my best friends. Didn't even eat the Italian bread (my favorite by the way). Forced myself to eat some salmon w/ garlic mashed potatoes, mushrooms, and vegetable slivers.

Sunday morning emotional mess. No motivation- laid in bed for 2 1/2 hours talking on the phone and had every intention to stay in bed all day. Forced myself to get showered and dressed to meet up with some friends. Forced myself to eat a bagel w/ cream cheese. Forced myself to "have a good time". On the way home I actually felt somewhat hungry for the first time since Friday evening. Picked up sushi (salmon avocado and asparagus) and then got a craving for pizza. Stopped and got that too.

What I learned this weekend:

  • All of the fruits and vegetables I ate over the past week could not have prepared me for how my emotions took over my body.
  • Pizza and sushi do not mix well. 
  • I got a headache after eating too much pizza and sushi
  • Washing dinner down with a movie about how you can completely transform your life by eating nothing but vegetable juice does not help.
  • I get super thirsty after eating salty foods.
  • Tomorrow has to be a better day
I will write more when I have more motivation. This was like pulling teeth.

Friday, September 16, 2011

CHALLENGE Day #7- Feeling Good

Well, after 7 days of eating alot of fruit and raw vegetables, I feel great! I went to my trainer to weigh-in this morning and lost 1 lb. I lost more lean mass than fat :( but I know that this is because I am not eating as much protein as I need to be.
This is what I have learned:
  • I need to look up some actual recipes for smoothies, as I am getting tired of the mish-mosh that I have been making
  • I find that the days in which I eat fruit and veggie smoothies (vs. just fruit) I crave salt/carbs less
  • I am finding it a little more difficult on the days that I am not in the office (i.e. especially the weekends, traveling back and forth to the boyfriend's apartment)
  • I have better workouts if I eat a little protein a couple hours before. On the days I ate nothing but fruits and veggies before hand I felt sluggish with little motivation.
  • I feel more alert and I do not get the afternoon "dragging ass" feeling where I want to bury my face in a pillow
  • I feel like I am getting slimmer with out really trying. Before if I wanted to loose weight I would have to restrict my diet down to nothing but protein and workout for 2 hours a day. NOT SUSTAINABLE!
  • I actually got a compliment from one of the trainers (something that doesn't happen unless it is actually warranted). She actually asked "are you eating healthier?" YES! I AM (SMILING)!
  • I need to eat more protein, as I am finding I am craving it.
Gotta keep going! 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Prevention Hit List

The more I read about what to eat and what not to eat, one thing becomes clearer to me. Humans are supposed to eat food- that is whole foods that come from the earth. If you are confused as to what a whole food is here is a sampling:
  • raw broccoli (not frozen covered in cheese sauce)
  • cheese (made from animal's milk not in powder or squeeze form)
  • tofu (made by fermenting soybeans, not soy protein isolate made in a factory)
  • corn on the cob (not high fructose corn syrup)
  • strawberries
  • carrots
  • beans
  • oatmeal (the kind where the only ingredient is oats, not like Quaker's Instant Apple Oatmeal with 
Avoid the following food like substances and ingredients at all costs:

High Fructose Corn Syrup

There are more studies than I could count or include in this post (it would bore you) that study the effects of high fructose corn syrup on how the body functions. Some deal with testing on animals, some form their conclusions based on the sheer numbers of overweight (65%) and obese (30%) people in this country vs. a few decades ago before the use of HFCS. Dr. George Bray is a professor of medicine at Louisiana State University, and has looked at whether HFCS in beverages has played a role in the increase in obesity in the U.S. He says that two-thirds of the high-fructose corn syrup Americans consume is in soft drinks. If you add a single soft drink to an otherwise balanced energy level [meaning you are burning as many calories and you are taking in] everyday for one year you will accumulate an additional 15 pounds, says Bray. (source) If that isn't motivation to cut this food like substance out of your diet I don't know what is (other than the possibility of giving yourself Type 2 Diabetes or cancer).

Just about everything processed has HFCS in it. My rule of thumb is to ask myself...Can I make it myself in my kitchen from other whole ingredients? Would I find this in nature? NO? Then don't eat it.

Hydrogenated/Partially Hydrogenated Oils

Another heavy hitter to our poor health. Hydrogenated oils do not occur naturally. They need to be pumped with hydrogen in order to exist. This process increases the shelf life and stability of the fats which would otherwise go rancid faster than it takes to manufacture, transport, sell, and eat. The modern marvel of our 1st rate food manufacturing/distribution system had to overcome the time delay from farm to plate, or from bakery to plate. Enter hydrogenation. A quick list of what hydrogenated oils (trans fats) contribute to:
  • Alzheimer's 
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer- increases inflammation
  • Heart Disease
    • Increases LDL (bad) cholesterol and lowers HDL (good) cholesterol
    • Clogs arteries
You may be young right now (as I am) but one day you will be old (and statistically speaking chronically sick). Make the changes now while you still have the time. Processed foods pumped with these food like substances are making everyone sick and fat. 

Tip: You can also add up the amount of fat in a product (saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated), provided the amounts are listed, and compare the total with the total fat on the label. If they don't match up, the difference is likely trans fat, especially if partially hydrogenated oil is listed as one of the first ingredients.

If you are trying to cut down on the sugar that you eat in your diet there are much better ways to do it than substitute with artificial sweeteners. Here is a list of reasons why not to use artificial sweeteners:
  • cancer
  • diabetes
  • obesity
  • headaches
  • seizures
  • Alzheimer's 
  • Parkinson's
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • ADHD
There are actual negative neurological effects to our brains when aspartame is introduced into the body. If you want to cut down on the amount of sugar in your diet, cut out all of the processed foods. Do not substitute sugar for an artificial sweetener.

A.K.A aspartame (hmm, go figure), casein, caseinate, glutamate, anything hydrolyzed, autolyzed yeast.

Soy Protein Isolate
"Soy protein isolate is mixed with nearly every food product sold in today's stores- energy bars, muscle-man powders, breakfast shakes, burgers, and hot dogs. SPI is also the major ingredient in most of today's soy infant formulas. Consisting of 90-92% protein, SPI is a highly refined product processed to remove "off flavors," "beany" tastes and flatulence producers, and to improve digestibility. Vitamin, mineral, and protein quality, however, are sacrificed."

"The manufacture of SPI has always been a complicated, high-tech procedure. There's nothing natural about it- it takes place in chemical factories, not kitchens."

There you have it from Kaayla T. Daniel, Phd and author of The Whole Soy Story: The Dark Side of America's favorite health food (a link to her book is on the right side of this blog). Now this is only a tidbit of the vast amount of science she writes about in her book. I read it cover to cover, and you know what I did after that? I cut everything out of my diet that contains soy products. It was challenging at first because soy is in EVERYTHING! But now when I read labels I skim for "soy" (as well as HFCS and hydrogenated oils).

Soy is only healthy for humans after it has been fermented for a long period of time using traditional Asian methods to produce foods like tofu, miso, tempeh, natto. But watch out for even these foods may contain soy protein isolate her in America. Also watch out for soy flour, soy protein concentrate, textured soy protein.

Anything You Cannot Pronounce 
Do I really have to explain this one?

I challenge you to go to the grocery store and read labels of the foods that you buy. Go up and down each aisle and only put in your cart items with the following criteria:
  • less than five or six ingredients (all of which you know what they are)
  • no soy ingredients, no HFCS, no partially/hydrogenated fats
  • ingredients that you can pronounce
I did this one day not too long ago, and I was shocked. I already know that what would end up mostly filling your carts are fruits and vegetables, meat, some dairy, nuts, and MAYBE some breads if you are at a really good high quality grocery store. Although even Whole Foods junks up their breads with soy and about 10 other ingredients that do not need to be in bread.  

All in all, I feel better at the end of the day knowing that I did not put anything into my body that was made in a chemical laboratory. And if cancer prevention is at the top of your list as it is mine, I would suggest doing some more research on these food like substances if you are not yet fully convinced.  

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Spice of Life

Over the past 8 or so years since I really started to cook for myself and enjoy it, I have experimented alot with spices. I have learned that you can make a really ordinary dish amazing by adding different herbs and spices to the recipe. I was never really interested in the "healing" or medicinal effects of herbs and spices until recently. In my quest to find information for my cancer prevention diet, I have come to appreciate certain herbs and spices.

#1 on my list is Turmeric.
Turmeric is a spice that has been a huge part of Indian cooking for thousands of years. It is actually the principle spice that makes up curry. Don't be scared of it! Even if you do not like curry, as many people do not, there is still plenty that you can do with this spice to fit it into your recipes. But first a few of turmeric's benefits to boast about:
  • anti-carcinogenic- curcumin can inhibit tumor initiation, promotion, invasion, angiogenesis and metastasis
  • anti-allergy
  • anti-inflammatory- helps to reduce irritation to tissues characterized by pain, redness, swelling and heat
  • natural antibiotic
  • anti-oxidant
  • helps aid in digestion
  • maintains & improves intestinal flora
  • purifies the blood
  • reduces gas and bloating
  • assists in the digestion of protein and with rice and bean dishes
  • improves your body's ability to digest fats
  • promotes proper metabolism, correcting both excesses and deficiencies
  • improves elimination of wastes and toxins
  • turmeric helps increase bile flow making it a liver cleanser that can rejuvenate your liver cells and recharge their capability to break down toxins
  • helps to prevent alcohol and other toxins from being converted into compounds that may be harmful to your liver
  • supports formation of healthy tissue
  • stimulates formation of new blood tissue
  • contains curcuminoids that fight cancer, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s by counteracting the damage effects of free radicals in the body
    • relieves arthritis pain and stiffness, anti-inflammatory agent
    • supports treatment of Alzheimer’s disease: because Alzheimer's disease is caused in part by amyloid-induced inflammation, curcumin has been shown to be effective against Alzheimer's. Clinical trials are in progress at UCLA with curcumin for Alzheimer's.

A bit of information about how turmeric works to kill cancer cells. I get daily emails from Dr. Mercola, who has dedicated his practice to natural health, and the one that came today had an article in it about turmeric and it's anti-cancer properties. 

"Curcumin – a derivative of turmeric, and the pigment that gives the curry spice turmeric its yellow-orange color -- is a natural compound that has been extensively researched, and has been found to have numerous health applications. The ancient Chinese and Indian systems of medicine have recognized curcumin's beneficial properties for thousands of years. Most notably, curcumin is known for its potent anti-inflammatory properties, and as you may know, chronic inflammation is an underlying factor in many, if not most, chronic diseases. In India where turmeric is widely used, the prevalence of four common U.S. cancers -- colon, breast, prostate and lung -- is 10 times lower. In fact, prostate cancer, which is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in U.S. men, is rare in India and this is attributed, in part, to turmeric."

Numerous studies have looked into this potential cancer-fighting link, with promising results. For instance, curcumin has been found to:
  • Inhibit the proliferation of tumor cells
  • Inhibit the transformation of cells from normal to tumor
  • Help your body destroy mutated cancer cells so they cannot spread throughout your body
  • Decrease inflammation
  • Enhance liver function
  • Inhibit the synthesis of a protein thought to be instrumental in tumor formation
  • Prevent the development of additional blood supply necessary for cancer cell growth

I have found a few ways to fit it into my diet without eating curry all the time. I do like curry, but I find that it is just too much sometimes. Also, really important to remember is that our bodies have a hard time absorbing turmeric unless it is accompanied by black pepper. Additionally, the healing effects are multiplied when paired with yellow onions (also a cancer prevention food!). 

Fish- I sprinkle it on fish like salmon along with paprika, sea salt, black pepper, garlic (chopped or powder), chili powder, and cayenne pepper (if I want something spicy). Bake and done!

Chili- When I make a pot of chili (which is a staple for me in the wintertime) I add in turmeric. This is an easy way to get in quite a large amount of turmeric and I find that it complements the taste of the chili rather well. Remember to always add black pepper with turmeric. You can also chop up some yellow onions and sprinkle them on top just before you eat (if you like raw onions. I DO!). If you stay away from chili because it gives you monster gas, try adding in some cumin- it aids in digestion and reduces the effects of gas from beans. So you can eat more of them! because they are really good for you!
  • 1 can black beans (1/2 cup dry)
  • 1 can kidney beans (1/2 cup dry)
  • 1 can chili or pinto beans (1/2 cup dry)
  • 3 large tomatoes,diced 
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 2 corn cobs, kernels cut off
  • 1 Vidalia or sweet onion, diced
  • chili powder
  • sea salt
  • black pepper
  • paprika
  • turmeric
  • cumin
  • red pepper flakes (be careful with these, only a pinch will produce alot of spice)
  • water to desired consistency (ingredients will release water as they cook down so I would wait until about 30 minutes in to add)
Directions: put all ingredients (except spices) above in large pot. Turn to medium heat and let simmer for 1 hour. About half way through add in spices starting with chili powder (I add in quite a bit), and the rest to taste. If you are new to the kitchen, I would suggest starting with small doses until you find what works for your taste buds. I don't ever use actual measurements for spices because I find that it comes out better if you add a little bit, stir, and taste, rather than 1 tsp. of this and 1 tbsp. of that.

Coconut Curry Sauce- This is my own recipe and it is a mild way to do curry. 
  • organic coconut milk
  • raw coconut flakes
  • pineapple chunks
  • Vidalia or sweet onion, diced
  • curry powder w/ some extra turmeric
  • black pepper
  • sea salt
  • paprika
  • nutmeg
Directions: put ingredients into saute pan, turn to medium heat. Mix in spices as desired. This goes wonderfully with shrimp, scallops, white fish, or just some quinoa and vegetables. I find that yellow squash, green beans, asparagus, or snap peas go wonderfully with this sauce.

Hummus- such a versatile dip!
  • 1 can chick peas
  • 1 heaping tbsp tahini
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 jalapeno pepper (if you want it spicy)
  • olive oil
  • sea salt
  • black pepper
  • turmeric
  • paprika
Mix all ingredients in a Cuisinart or blender. Add olive oil as blending to desired consistency (smoothness). Pair with carrots, celery, crackers, or use over whole wheat pasta instead of sauce.

So there you have it...4 interesting ways to incorporate turmeric into your diet. And you will be getting all of the purifying, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant benefits that this unpopular spice has to offer!

Original Sources: Super Spice SecretsCurcumin May Help Prevent Some Types of Cancer, Stop Your Cravings by Jennifer Workman, The Hundred Year Lie by Randall Fitzgerald
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