Thursday, February 7, 2013

Green for Life Book Review

Last night, I read Green for Life in one sitting. Liam ended up going to bed early, but he fell asleep in my arms on the couch. What better time to start a new book? Victoria Boutenko’s book Green Smoothie Revolution caught my eye yesterday at a local bookstore. I sat down for lunch with that and three other books and I really could not wait to thumb through it. I ended up reading three chapters while sitting there, and after having taken about half an hour of my short time to sit alone, I realized I had to put it down if I wanted to check out the other books I was interested in. It was tough because I was already hooked. I thought about that book for the rest of the afternoon until I got home and check out her other book, Green for Life and bought that one for Kindle. It took me about 3 ½ to 4 hours to read uninterrupted, and the information was mostly new to me. I have been researching health and nutrition since last year in March, so almost a year now! I have come to realize that there will probably always be something new I can learn, but this book really put things in perspective for me.

Last year in March, I had read Beauty Detox Solution by Kimberly Snyder, and that was the first I really learned about green smoothies. Kimberly was such an advocate of them that she even called hers the, “Glowing Green Smoothie.” I started implementing them after reading her book, and I stuck with it for a while. I really followed her food combining theories, but for whatever reason, I always felt like it was too difficult. I constantly felt hungry, and from what I was reading, I was not supposed to feel that way. Then, winter came, and the last thing I wanted was something cold. I had been using frozen fruit for my smoothies. At the time, it really didn’t occur to me to use room temperature fruit, and I ended up dropping the smoothies for nearly the whole winter, just starting them up again at the beginning of last week.

I was so stressed the entire winter. I was still eating what I consider to be healthy food. We ate baked oatmeal for breakfast, quinoa salads for lunch, and vegetable/bean soups for dinner for the most part. However, I was starting to gain back some weight. Trevor was gaining back weight quickly. I was tired, moody, forcing myself to roll out of bed when Liam woke up early. None of that was at all similar to how I had been feeling. My skin looked dull. I had bags under my eyes, and all the while, I was eating very healthy foods. I just wasn’t eating greens. At one point, I started sautéing greens because I wanted them back in my life, but I wanted them warm. I started adding them to any soups that I could just so I could say I was getting them, but I really didn’t feel any better. 

My stress peaked a couple weeks ago, and I decided I had had enough. In the back of my mind, I had this nagging feeling that all of this could end very simply if I could just start the green smoothies again. After all, when I started the green smoothies the first time, I was still eating meat and dairy and my mysterious orange rash disappeared, I was popping up out of bed at Liam’s first stir; I was sleeping 6 to 8 hours instead of 10 but still felt energized. My general outlook on life was better. Even when things should have been very stressful, I knew that they would eventually work. Nothing sent me into panic mode anymore. At the time, I didn’t truly realize that the green smoothies were behind it all, namely the greens. Who knew that simple green leaves could alleviate insomnia, depression, anxiety, obesity, sugar addiction, joint pain, rashes, yeast infections, PMS and painful cramping… I think my list of symptoms goes on, but you get the idea. The green smoothies alone, even if I hadn’t decided to stop eating meat, dairy and eggs, would have rejuvenated me.

I wasn’t worried about protein. I was wondering how I could fit the most greens into my diet. I didn’t feel like I needed anything. I didn’t feel deprived. I just felt good and energized. After reading Green for Life, I was so intrigued by her comparison of the RDA of protein and the amount of protein in one pound of Kale. I was shocked! Kale had amazing amounts of protein, having high amounts of nearly all the required amino acids. It is no wonder I wasn’t feeling like I needed meat, nuts, beans, etc. At the time, I was eating about 5 ½ cups of greens for breakfast! That is almost a pound of greens a day. Victoria also talks about varying your greens. Where some greens are lacking in certain amino acids, other greens are high. They seem to complement themselves, and all of this leaves me in awe. I attribute this perfect food to God’s creativity. You may choose to see it as nature’s learning curve. Either way, you have to admit that greens are kind of amazing.

These days, I am “eating” about 3 ½ cups of greens and 1 ½ cups of fruit in my smoothies that are usually around 24-28 ounces. In just one week, my sleep has regulated. I am no sleeping about 6 hours a night, and for awhile, I thought maybe something was wrong because I believed I needed 8 hours of sleep a night, yet every day I was going to bed around 10 or 10:30 and waking up at 4:30 am or so and forcing myself to go back to sleep. I would lay there for about 2 hours before I started to fall back asleep, and then Liam would wake up. It left me feeling woozy for a little while. I decided to try staying up later so I woke up closer to the time Liam would, and I am still only sleeping about 6 to 7 hours and feeling wonderful.

Another thing that really grabbed me in her book was her information on stomach acid and how necessary it is to good health. It definitely gave me more reason to follow what I had heard about sour and bitter foods being healthiest. They encourage your body to secrete enzymes and actually increase your stomach acid while still being alkaline forming to your body. Victoria states in her book that she truly believes that people could exist solely on greens as their food source if they had to. Greens are the only foods that have every single nutrient except B12. They are cleansing. They soak up toxins and help to eliminate them. Nevertheless, what about salads? Why is it they seem so unappealing without loads of dressing and cheese? Well, Victoria covers that as well. She talks about how food is digested and broken down in two ways: 1) by chewing 2) with stomach acid. Most people can’t chew greens down to liquid to make them more digestible, and on top of that, most people eating a standard American diet of processed foods, fast foods, and low/no fiber foods have very low or no stomach acid. You can actually be tested for this with your doctor, but one quick and easy way to test, she says, is to blend up a beet smoothie and wait to see if it turns your poop purple. If it does, you likely have very low stomach acid, which in turn means you could be malnourished because your body is not able to soak up the nutrients in the food you eat. Eating more greens and citrus foods will help replenish your stomach acid and allow you to break down your foods and really be nourished from them.

I am truly amazed! Greens are perfect food. They are super food! If you don’t believe me (and I wholeheartedly agree that you should never just blindly believe), try them for yourself. Read the book. Incorporate them into your life. I am pretty positive you will see a difference, given the time to let your body heal.

A good way to start is even with 60 % fruit and only 40% greens, working your way up to 50/50, 40% fruit/60% greens (where I currently am) and maybe even beyond where you try some raw soups that are made entirely of greens and vegetables (and Victoria explains why she really believes greens should be considered a separate entity from vegetables). Try it today!

Beginner Green Smoothie
2/3 fruit, 1/3 greens- Makes about 16 to 20 oz
·         1 cup spinach or other raw greens (collard, chard, kale, green or red romaine but not pale iceberg lettuce)
·         1 whole banana, sliced
·         1 whole apple, cored and chopped
·         8-10 strawberries
·         1 cup water
Add water and spinach to the blender and blend well. Then add sliced banana, chopped apple and strawberries and blend until smooth. Enjoy!

Friday, February 1, 2013

#YU30 Plant Powerful Challenge and Gluten Free Vegan Italian Sausage Pizza

Today is the beginning of the #YU30 Plant-Powerful Challenge, and my husband and I are both participating. We have already been eating plant-based diet since March of 2012, but we had only experimented with gluten-free living. At some point over the past year, we started to eat small amounts of gluten again in things like Ezekiel sprouted grain bread, wheat tortillas, and meals we ate while we were out. It was more about convenience for us. We thought we needed bread, and it seemed like a great snack for Liam. Ezekiel bread has about 4g of protein per slice with a handful of healthy sprouted grains and no extra garbage. I don't discount that it is a healthy part of anyone's diet that doesn't have any issues with gluten, but it was just one of the things that caused issues for us. After a short time, my husband had gained back 15 pounds of the near 80 he has lost since March last year. I gained back five, and since dropping gluten 2 weeks ago, we have both lost the additional weight we had put back on. While we haven't been clinically diagnosed as having gluten intolerance, it definitely seems best for us to avoid it for now. Not only had I gained some weight back, but my insomnia returned, I was bloated, cravings returned, etc. After 5 days gluten-free keeping a food diary, my insomnia subsided and my jeans fit again. I don't need a clinical diagnoses to tell me what my body is already telling me. :)

Anyway, all of that meant that the #YU30 Plant-Powerful Challenge came at the perfect time for us. Now, we could have a whole community of gluten-free, plant strong warriors to help us along! I was feeling pretty good about this, but then... the pizza craving hit. I had a boxed mix of gluten free pizza dough on hand that uses brown rice flour, tapioca starch, xanthan gum and a few other ingredients. I knew I would be able to get that going, but what I really wanted was a chewy, crunchy, cheesy pepperoni pizza. Every now and then, that craving alone can still knock me back a week in all my progress, but this time, I was determined to beat it. :)

I remembered seeing a post about beet pepperoni on Ricki Heller's blog. I knew it would be time consuming, but I was prepared for that. What I wasn't prepared for was the mold on my beets. :( Ugh! It was getting later, and in that moment, I just about accepted defeat and a week's worth of insomnia just to have the taste of that pepperoni pizza. Just then, though, I remembered the Raw Taco Salad I tried a couple weeks ago with taco meat made from walnuts. I had tweaked that recipe a bit to use both walnuts and quinoa, and it had crumbled so well and tasted so good. So, this could work! I just needed to find out how to season it to taste like Italian Sausage. Leave it to Google.

I found this recipe for Italian Pork Sausage Seasoning, and it all came together so well from there. Last time we made a vegan pizza, I had found a pretty great vegan Mozarella recipe, but I tweaked that one this time as well. The cheese was inspired by both that recipe and the YU Dairy-Free Ricotta recipe. All together, this pizza recipe was like an, "Aha" moment. We finally had a gluten free crust we could pick up and eat. We had a delicious cheese that wasn't just a puddle of goo on top of a soft crust. We had a beautifully browned veggie meat made with whole foods and no creepy soy meats. And here, you can see for yourself just how pretty it was.

I used the leftover veggie sausage to create little sausage crumbles and 4 sausage patties. I froze them like this on wax paper and will transfer them to a storage container for future pizza use. After seeing how beautifully they browned on the pizza, I can't wait to see how the patties will brown with a little coconut oil in the skillet.

Gluten Free Vegan Italian Sausage Recipe
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1 cup walnuts (I didn't soak mine because I didn't plan ahead, but you can soak them for a few hours.)
  • 1 to 1/2 tbsp Italian Sausage Seasoning
  • 2 tbsp water
Process all ingredients in a food processor until it forms a dough-like consistency. Form little crumbles like pork sausage and place as much as you would like on pizza. This makes 1 1/2 to 2 cups. I didn't measure the final amount. I figure it could make at least 8 sausage 2" sausage patties, and I believe it would be just as good if you browned the crumbles in a skillet with coconut oil and used them in a biscuits and gravy recipe. ;o) Enjoy!

And remember, a gluten-free, vegan diet is only as limited as you allow it to be. My biggest tip for any beginners is to cook in advance. So many times this past November/December especially because I was so busy making up Christmas orders, I wished that there was more healthy vegan convenience food, but I failed to realize that that convenience was right at my fingertips. Now, at the beginning of each week, usually on Sundays, we make up a large batch of oatmeal bars for quick and easy breakfast. Each of us, including Liam, eats 2 oatmeal bars for breakfast. I usually have some grapefruit and green tea with that as well. We make up a whole bag of TruRoots Organic Sprouted Quinoa that I am able to find at Meijer for $5.99. We use it for any meal. Quinoa is so versatile. I have eaten it as breakfast in the Cinnamon French Toast breakfast bowl from YU, for lunch mixed with beans, chopped spinach, garlic salsa and some seasonings to make a quick salad that is great with blue corn tortilla chips (baked and organic if you can find them), and mixed into nearly anything for supper. Quinoa is a complete protein and a good source of lysine that many vegans may not be getting enough of. I prefer it over brown rice for not only its convenience but for its protein and nutrients.

We also recently started making our own beans. I bought 2 or so pounds of pinto, kidney, black, and garbanzo because those are the most used in our house. I got about 9 cans worth or more out of each that I bought. One can is about 1 1/2 cups of beans, so I store them in quart bags in the freezer in that amount. I saved at least $10 per bean type over buying canned organic beans, and now my freezer is running even more efficiently having over 30 "cans" of beans in it. :) Plus, the flavor is so much better! I didn't know if this would be true, but we compared some leftover canned garbanzo to our own cooked garbanzo beans, and suddenly, all I could taste from the canned beans was aluminum. Yuck!

So, if this is your first day of the #YU30, how are you doing and what are your tips?