Friday, June 27, 2014

Join Me in the 21 Day Vegan Kickstart

As you know, I'll soon be teaching the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) Food For Life classes. To start with though, I'm going through the 21 Day Kickstart myself, so I'll be more familiar with it, and better able to help my students make their way through it too. It's a three-week program designed to get you started on a super healthy, creative, simple, delicious plant-based way of eating. If you go all-in for the three weeks, you'll likely see some surprising changes in the way you look at food. Most people don't stop at the three weeks, which is really the goal of the program. It's not about miraculous overnight weight loss - although you'll probably lose a few pounds if you have them to lose. It's more about reclaiming your health and discovering how awesome a plant-based diet can be.

I've been vegan for over four years, so I really don't need to learn how great it is. I'm sold! But over the past few months, with lots of unusual stressors in my life, I've slipped into some rather unhealthy eating habits - like way too regular doses of cupcakes and french fries! Comfort food, right? I know better, but I ignored what I knew in favor of high fat treats I was craving on an emotional level. Truth is, they made me feel happy for about three minutes. Then they went to work adding fat I don't want or need to my waistline. Little stinkers. When I realized I'd gained ten pounds in the course of four months, I gave myself a mental slap across the face, with a good Snap out of it! thrown in to get my own attention. It worked, and along with the inspiration I soaked up in DC last week, I came home ready to re-kickstart my own diet.

Some people think that just because you're doing the vegan diet thing you can do no wrong food-wise. Not so. There's plenty of vegan junk food out there, and let me assure you, much of it is quite delicious and alluring. The same over-processed fat/salt/sugar combinations that keep us undernourished and overfed in "regular" junk foods do the same thing in their vegan offshoots. Most of us slip up in "what we know" from time to time. The key is to get a grip and get back on track before a snack or a treat becomes a lifestyle. The four main vegan food groups are as simple as can be - vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains. Stick to those and you'll discover an endless variety of delectable dishes that will keep you healthy and satisfied without weighing you down.

I have a feeling the 21 Day Kickstart will be one of my favorite classes to teach. It's a simple, fun, high-fiber, low-fat way of eating that doesn't count calories or serving sizes. Just eat real food and enjoy it! To me it's a no-brainer, but I realize how kerbobbling such a recalibration can be to someone who's used to having a slab of animal flesh at the center of their plate at every meal. I really want to help people get over the fear and into the fun!

However, if you're a good self-motivator, you can begin the Kickstart yourself with all the wonderful, supportive tools offered on the 21 Day Kickstart Website. It generally starts over at the first of each month, so this is short notice if you want to hop in for July. I decided to start early, and have been kickstarting since Monday. In the first four days I lost two pounds, and I feel clear headed and energetic again. My cupcake cravings are already gone, and french fries just smell yuck. What am I eating? Beautiful bowls of grains, greens, and beans, oatmeal with wonderful toss-ins, smoothies, soups, wraps, spreads, dips... everything that's whole and real, and comes from plants. It's so simple, and I'm so happy to finally be making friends with my new kitchen (which was part of the problem.)

I want to add that weight loss is not always the most important thing in the world. A healthy weight does, however, help us to avoid terrible things like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. Like they say, when you have your health, you have everything. It doesn't hurt to feel good in your clothes and rediscover a bounce in your step either. Dropping those unneeded pounds is a win-win any way you look at it. I already feel re-energized and back in control, and the cupcakes can just wait in the wings for a Very Special Occasion. (My birthday is coming up, and I might invite just one little cake to the party. Treats are treats, not food groups. Sorry, Chocolate!)

So, if you're interested, the online 21 Day Kickstart Program is a well thought out tool, free for you to use. There's also a book, by Dr. Neal Barnard, available on Amazon, and many other places. (Yes, I do get a commission if you buy it through the above link.) Everything PCRM presents is based on extensive research, with no need for opinion, popular "logic", or fad "nutrition." They've been around for 13 years, and they do amazing work. Check out the PCRM website and the 21 Day Kickstart for yourself. It might be just what you're looking for.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Back From DC - It Was Amazing!

I had a terrific trip to Washington DC. Better than I expected or hoped for! I was there last week for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) Food For Life instructor training. Wow! I came away with my head spinning from so much new and useful information. I thought I wanted to teach healthy cooking classes for people who want to step up their diets but just don't know how to start. Now I know that's exactly what I want to do! I'll be posting here about that as I get organized. It will take a few weeks. There's so much material to assimilate, as well as materials to order, and venues to find and book. It's a little overwhelming, so I have to go in baby steps, just like someone who's fixing their diet. It works better that way. My classes will be listed on the page link above. Also look for classes near you by clicking on your state or country in the blue box on that page. We're all over the world!

The one and only Dr. Neal Barnard spoke to the group of 61 new instructors. Amazing man. Read his books!
It wasn't all work and no play in DC. I also had time to make some friends and explore some of the sights. This was not my first trip to DC, and I hope it won't be the last. I loved it!

They provided incredible food for the workshop attendees. This lunch from ZenfulBites was my favorite.
Although the ride to the top of the Washington Monument was spectacular, the Lincoln Memorial is my favorite. It feels like a holy place to me.
With my new friends - Julie from NYC, Farrah from London, and Julaine from Boise. We had a lot of fun, and now we'll keep in touch and keep each other motivated.
So now I have a lot of work to do. I'm up for it! I'll keep you up to date, of course. It looks as though I'll only be teaching the Food For Life classes in Portland, at least for now. Since there are instructors all over the country, they prefer that we stick to our own area. However, if you can't find classes near you, please contact me! I can help you find someone, or possibly get permission to go to you myself. If you want to health-up your diet in a life long meaningful way, I want to help you do it!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Hot and Sour Soup with Tofu and Quinoa

I'm posting early this week, because I'm off to Washington DC tomorrow for the PCRM Food For Life training I've been waiting for for months! This is so exciting! The program is intended for nurses, dietitians, and other health care professionals, and the interview process was a bit lengthy and daunting. Still, I got in! To me that means it's exactly what I'm supposed to be doing, and I can't wait! I'll be back next week with a full report. For now, here's my latest soup recipe, whipped up the other night on a whim. It's delicious!!!

I'm having trouble loving my new kitchen. It's small, with chopped-up bits of counter space and a glass-top stove that I really don't like, not even a little bit. However... a crummy kitchen is not an excuse not to cook. In some ways it might even help me be a better blogger. Most people don't have fancy professional kitchens with infinite counter space and all the Barbie Dream Appliances. Using what I have, I'm choosing to call this a Great Opportunity to show you what terrific meals you can make for yourself in minimal space, with basic gadgets.

This is my kitchen. The refrigerator/freezer is the part that looks like a closet on the left. Very European. I don't mind the small fridge space, but the counter space is far from optimal. It's a Challenge!!! Weee!!!

First up, straight from my new digs in Portland, Oregon, this terrific bowl of wonderfulness, seasoned in an unusual, zippy way that was just the thing for a cloudy evening at home. It was exactly what I felt like eating, so I made it without consulting Rick. I knew he'd try to steer me in a different direction (Can't we have peanut sauce...?). He approached his bowl tentatively, but quickly devoured every last slurp and then went back for more. When that happens, I immediately write down what I just did, so I'll be able to repeat it for us, and share it with you. So here you go!

Hot and Sour Soup with Tofu and Quinoa
Serves 2-4

1-2 cups cooked quinoa
1-2 T coconut oil for frying
1/2 block tofu, cubed
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 cup green cabbage, thinly sliced
1 carrot, grated or thinly sliced
1 T fresh ginger, minced
1 cup pineapple-orange juice
1 cup greens, chopped
1 cup broccoli, cut into small florets
2 T tamari
2-3 T apple cider vinegar
1 T Sriracha (rooster sauce), or other hot sauce
3 T miso, mixed with 1 cup water

Cook a batch of quinoa or use leftover cooked grains if you have them. Reheat just before serving.
Heat a small soup pot to medium, then add the coconut oil to melt.
Toss in the tofu and red pepper flakes, and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring often.
Add the cabbage, carrot, and ginger. Cook for 1-2 minutes, adding some of the pineapple-orange juice if it starts to stick.
Add the greens and broccoli, and stir for about 1 minute, until the broccoli turns bright green.
Add the rest of the juice, tamari, vinegar, and hot sauce, and heat to a simmer.
Add the miso/water, and bring it back to a simmer, but do not let it boil. Miso should never be boiled.
Adjust seasonings, adding a little more tamari, vinegar, or hot sauce to taste.
To serve, ladle broth and vegetables into a bowl, then top with a mound of quinoa in the center.

Like this recipe? There are now 117 others in the Recipe Box! Get yours right now please, and support my work here on the blog and in the kitchen! xoxoxo

Friday, June 13, 2014

Who's That Cow?

I found a darling little plastic cow in a toy store the other day, and had to take her home. My idea is that she'll make a great little mascot for my Instagram pictures, as someone who is happy to be looking at my plate rather than being on it. I bought a toy pig too, and my friend gave me a cute, cartoonish cow/eraser, but for me, the realistic baby cow (who has very sweet eyes) really represents all of the animals that vegans don't eat. So while you might see the pig or the cartoon cow, or maybe even other mini farm creatures, from time to time, the cow says it all for me, and she'll be along for the ride whenever I head out into the world of wonderful vegan food. (Yes, I know this is silly. I see no problem with that.)

I've always felt an affinity for cows, even back when I used to eat them, which I realize now was a real conflict for me. I even had a cow-themed kitchen for a while, which might have been a mistake. Once the word got out that I liked cows, everyone gave me cows for every occasion, until the kitchen theme overflowed into the rest of the house. I put a stop to it after a few years and found new homes for all (well, most of) my beloved cows. My father still sends me a cow birthday card each year. I treasure these, but I do not want anyone else sending me cow decor in any form. OK? I have my cow, and I'm content.

Are you on Instagram? It's fun! And my kids tell me it's the "new Facebook," so I'm in, because I do not want to fall behind. Follow my food adventures with my cow, just for fun, because lots of what I find out in the world never makes it to the blog. I'm PositivelyVegan on Instagram. And my cow needs a name. Send me your suggestions!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Rice Junkies

We stopped in at Rice Junkies for a quick lunch in the Portland State University district. This little hole in the wall seemed to be super popular with the student crowd, and with a certain business sector as well. We fit in somewhere in the middle, and were pleasantly surprised with the quality and tastiness of the food.

Rick's Yaki Soba Bowl came in a big stainless steel "for here" bowl. It was good, with lots of crispy vegetables, but maybe needed a little more sauce.

I ordered the Curry Bowl, which for some reason came in a paper take-out container. I think it was busy and they ran out of the steel bowls, but still, I did have some bowl envy...

Both dishes were tasty and kind of hugely portioned. They offered me brown rice, which I add major points for. And it was nice that my meal had lots of sauce so I could share with Rick. All in all, we were well fed and happy, and because Rice Junkies is in our new neighborhood, I expect we'll go back from time to time.

This branch of Rice Junkies can be found at:
620 SW 6th Ave.
Portland, OR 97205

There's another Rice Junkies on trendy-hip Hawthorne.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

One Vegan Morning in Portland

I might start sounding like a spokesperson for a Vegan Portland Chamber of Commerce campaign. Is that bad? I can't imagine how, when there's so much to share about this unusually veg-friendly city. If I repeat myself every so often, it's because a place is so darn good we have to go back rather than explore something new. Trust me, there's a lot of new to explore, and we're doing it. My heart and stomach are in this job!

We recently spent a morning meeting up with friends for breakfast at A.N.D. Cafe, which I talked about a short while back. I love taking non-vegans to veg restaurants, especially when I already know how great the food is. Everyone in our group was exclaiming all over themselves about how good their breakfasts were. And Ken, the mighty (but good natured) hunter, absolutely fell in love with his strawberry waffle with (vegan) ice cream on top. Who wouldn't? It was gone so fast I couldn't get a picture.

Coming from New Mexico, breakfast burritos are very important to me. I can make a Taos style burrito at home, so it's fun when someone comes up with something new for me to try, like the Super Vegano Burrito. So super bueno.

After breakfast, Rick and I extended our field trip to include a stop at the one and only (or world's first, or something like that) Vegan Mini Mall. We had lattes with hazelnut milk at Sweetpea Baking Co., and bought a big oatmeal cookie to save for later (I ate my half while writing this).

Next door at Herbivore Clothing we picked up our favorite Booda Butter lip balm, and a darling little white plate by Jeanette Zeis, hand stamped with the word VEGAN. I plan to use it - a lot - in my food photos. I might even take it everywhere I go, and use it in restaurants too.

We peeked in the window of Scapegoat Tattoo, but didn't go in for new ink. Not just yet. I expect I'll feel the urge to add to my collection one of these days, but really it's best to wait until the Tattoo Gods speak to you. I like knowing there's a place that uses all plant-derived inks and products, and that the artists care about such things.

Our last stop was Food Fight, where we stocked up on some treats we don't find in other stores. We were specifically looking for the new Earth Balance Cheddar Squares, which, I sampled (and loved) in California recently. Sadly, they were out of stock, but we did pick up some of the new Earth Balance Kettle Chips. We haven't tried them yet, but I promise to soon. I feel it's our duty to keep you informed on all the tasty vegan snacks that keep coming out - and then to remind you to eat your greens, baby! "Snack" is a key word here. Healthy vegans eat real food more than potato chips!

So here's our entire haul from this little excursion. So much fun. The Vegan Mini Mall is not in our neighborhood, and not in walking distance, but we'll venture over as often as we can think of an excuse to, just because we like to support all things vegan, and the nice people who make them happen.

Find the Vegan Mini Mall at:
12th at SE Stark St
Portland, OR 97214
(503) 281-8638

A.N.D. Cafe is located at:
5420 E Burnside St
Portland, OR 97215
(503) 233-4550

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Sunday Scramble

We've been eating out a lot. We're making up for lost meals in New Mexico, and the few extra pounds I've put on are only annoying me a little bit. I'm sure we'll get back into a more regular cooking routine eventually, after the next few weeks of continued settling into our new place, exploring Portland, visiting family in California, and my upcoming trip to Washington DC. (I'm super excited about that, but I'll tell you more later!)

Back to cooking - I'm enjoying a bit of it in our new little kitchen. The glass cooktop makes me sort of uncomfortable, but I have to get over it. Afraid to break it with my beloved cast iron pan, I bought a non-stick skillet at Ikea the other day. It's kind of a starter pan, to ease me into cooking on glass. It's  funny that I spent all those years making glass beads, but now a silly stove intimidates me. I'm told that it's perfectly fine to use cast iron on this thing, but I'm just not ready yet. I have to admit, I'm enjoying my new pan's ability to let the food slip-slide around when I want it to, and to gently brown things like tofu without losing half of it to stickage.

Most mornings we have green smoothies and toast, but on weekends we like something a little more special. We haven't found much in our neighborhood in the way of vegan breakfast (yet!), so last weekend I rummaged through our minuscule Euro-refrigerator, and came up with a pile of ingredients that may or may not have worked well together in a scramble. We had purchased some fun new products at the farmers market the day before, and I was eager to give them a try. What we ended up with was a wonderful surprise party of flavors. Restaurants should serve this! I would order it!

Sunday Scramble
serves 2

1/4 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 block (8 oz) extra firm tofu, cut in small cubes
1 small sweet potato, cut in 1/2 inch cubes
3 corn tortillas, cut into bite-sized pieces
3 T pine nuts
1-2 cups chopped mixed greens
1/4 cup salsa
1 avocado, sliced
vegan feta (buy it or make it)

Saute the onions, garlic, tofu, and sweet potato in a little oil or water until the sweet potato is soft and the tofu is lightly browned.
Add the tortillas and pine nuts, and cook for 2-3 minutes.
Add the greens and salsa, and stir to heat and wilt the greens.
Serve topped with avocado slices, vegan feta, and extra salsa.

We loved the Heidi Ho Feta Crumbles we picked up at the farmers market. you can get it at Whole Foods too! And the organic non-gmo fresh tortillas we bought from Three Sisters Nixtamal were more wonderful than any we've had in Mexico. We got the "sampler" bag, with four different colors of corn represented, and used what was left for portobello and asparagus tacos later for dinner. It was a Good Food Day, and all at home.