PITA = Pain In The Ass

A client (and friend) of mine recommended a fantastic book to me. “Crazy Sexy Diet” by Kris Carr was my vacation reading last week in Israel. It’s not exactly a “beach read” in the vain of “DaVinci Code” but I really enjoyed Kris’ story.  Although, I have to admit I did sit by the pool reading this vegan manifesto while eating a few Bamba and Kinder Bueno!

Bamba

Bamba

The author, Kris Carr, was diagnosed with an incurable cancer at age 31 and faced with an incredible journey, took her life in her own hands and became a vegan and wellness warrior. Her documentary, “Crazy Sexy Cancer” was shown on TLC and she has appeared on Oprah spreading her message of “Make Juice, Not War.”

Kris Carr, from Origin Magazine

Kris Carr, from Origin Magazine

From Kris’ website, “My backstory and why the heck I know a thing or two … On Valentine’s Day in 2003, I was diagnosed with a very rare and incurable (yet thankfully slow-growing) stage 4 cancer. This whiskey tango foxtrot moment (that’s military lingo for WTF?!) sparked a deep desire in me to stop holding back and start living like I mean it! I wanted to feel better, love harder and enjoy my life more fully. So I hit the road on a deep healing pilgrimage and have never looked back. Nearly ten years later, my life is truly, madly magical–even with cancer. If I can pull that off, just imagine what YOU can do!”

I found her story inspiring and also a wake up call, even for me, someone who thankfully has never had to think about a cancer diagnosis. The message is so clear to me – eat a plant based diet to have the best health.

Wait, wait! Don’t go anywhere! I know the words “plant based diet” freaked you out and maybe made you want to run to Shake Shack for a burger. But wait, hear me out.

I’m not becoming a vegan.

Whew. (Side note, Jay-Z and Beyonce are becoming vegan according to the news today. I can’t believe we’ll never get the chance to bump into them at our local pizza joint, Lucali. They’ve been known to frequent it while in Brooklyn. Pizza ain’t pizza with the cheese, amiright?).

Having said that, I am adopting a 90% plant based diet.

I’ve been doing this for the last year, but always with some trepidation. Last year I attempted veganism for 1 week and I did so well it lasted 12 days. To which my cousin Paul (a well-known vegan in the family) scoffed, “12 days?!?!” Lame, I know. But it’s all I could handle at the time. I wanted a friggin’ poached egg at brunch, so sue me.

Veganism has always intrigued me because my blog is called MY LOVE AFFAIR WITH CHEESE. This is *not* a vegan manifesto. The idea of being so pure of body that you only put plants and nuts in your stomach seems romantic to me and lofty. “Only whole grains like teff and millet grace these lips, nothing so pedestrian as quinoa or god forbid – spaghetti. I’m just a perfect specimen of plant based godliness. I never crave pizza or Entenmann’s chocolate donuts. I only eat cocoa nibs for dessert once a month.”

Doesn’t sound like me at all. Yet, I’m intrigued by it. I admit it, I want a piece of that crazy sexy body and mind.

So since I am coming off of a vacation and admittedly a very stressful couple of weeks leading up to vacation, I decided upon return to “Make Juice, Not War.”  I had to go shopping for all the veggies and green apples for juicing first.  My fridge was so empty since we had been away, I only had a sad little piece of ginger in the crisper drawer.  I shopped and then I prepped all the goodies for juicing. I washed all the greens and chopped everything up into juicer friendly sizes.  Then I filled giant ziploc bags with the fixings for one juice where all the ingredients were ready-to-go.  This way in the morning when I am ready to juice, I just have to grab a bag and start chucking veggies down the chute!  I tried a new juice recipe from Kris Carr’s book that included kale, romaine, ginger, cucumbers, broccoli stem and a green apple. Surprisingly, broccoli stems are sweet and are a great source of Vitamin C & Vitamin K.  I also loved the idea of using the stems from broccoli that I would normally just throw out.

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First juice in a while!

A few tips from Kris that I found really helpful were:

1) You can juice ahead of time and keep the juice in glass mason jars in the refrigerator.  Fill the juice up to the top so there’s no space for air,  to prevent oxidation.

2) When creating a juice recipe use the ration 3:1.  That’s 3 vegetables to 1 piece of fruit. This way you are making sure you get your veggies in but with a touch of sweetness from fruit that makes it taste amazing!

3) Once you’ve juiced all your ingredients, empty the bin with the leftovers and re-juice. Sending it back through the chute could yield you another half a cup of juice.  If you hate the idea of waste, juicing the ingredients twice will make sure you get the most out of them.

I even took the leftovers from juicing and tossed them into my Vitamix blender for about 7 minutes (with an additional carrot and tomato, for flavor) and made a soup out of it!  Sure, it was green, but I liked it!

So yeah, juicing is a bit of a PITA because you gotta prep the ingredients and clean the juicer, but I feel so good when I’m drinking juice!  I think it’s worth it.  I bought a cheap scrub brush from Container Store that makes cleaning my juicer even easier.  And hell, I have a dishwasher.

I just bought Kris’ cookbook as well, “Crazy Sexy Kitchen” and I can’t wait to try more vegan juices and main dishes.  Maybe I will get a small piece of that plant-based godliness after all.

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My good friend Abby passed on this recipe to me because she knows I am a choco-holic and I love a good recipe that uses my Vitamix.  I made this pudding over the weekend for a few non vegans and it went over great!  The trick is that it tastes DELICIOUS so people don’t care if it’s “vegan” or “dairy free” – it’s just YUMMY!

Abby’s 4 Ingredient Chocolate Pudding

1 Can Coconut Milk (must be full fat) or Coconut Cream, chilled

4-6 Dates, pitted

5 tablespoons of cocoa powder

2 teaspoons Vanilla Extract

Place can of coconut milk in the refridgerator for a few hours to create coconut milk solids.  When ready to eat, scoop coconut milk solids into a blender or food processor along with dates, cocoa powder and vanilla extract.  Pulse a few times to combine ingredients.  Add coconut milk liquid to achieve desired consistency.  Pour into ramekins and eat right away, or refrigerate.  The amount of servings you will end up with depends on how much solids and liquids you use.  Expect at least 2.  The pudding can be rich for those without a sweet tooth, so small servings are ideal.  If you don’t like the bits of dates you can strain them out, but I think they add a nice texture and should be left in.  Enjoy!

The 12 days of Veganism

March 17, 2013

As part of my schooling in nutrition I’ve really been making an attempt to “try on” as many different ways of eating as I can.  Every week we tackle a new dietary theory and when we reached “veganism” I have to admit I was intrigued.  What would it be like to rid my diet of all animal products?  How would I survive without burgers, milk, or cheese?  What does one eat when they aren’t eating eggs, chicken parmesan or pork chops?  These are questions I was curious to answer.  Mostly, I wanted to see if I could do it for at least 1 week and to see if I could lose a little weight.  So it was a game of will power and weight loss, most of my games are.

I set out to try it for one week and ended up lasting 12 days before I added eggs back into my diet.  I felt really good while being vegan, and have been trying to keep up the healthy ideas I learned.  I don’t think veganism is a good long term diet for me, but I do think some of the lessons I learned are definitely great to be incorporated into my diet on a regular basis.

First, restaurants have great vegan options.  I found it useful to ask the server what vegetarian options they recommend, and from there you can decipher if it is merely vegetarian or vegan.  I had a delightful vegan veggie enchilada at Jolie Cantina in Brooklyn that was delicious and made me feel like I wasn’t missing out on anything at all.  In the past it would have never occurred to me to ask for a vegan/vegetarian option.  It would also never occur to me that there would be delicious options.  I also tried vegetarian options at Bark in Park Slope and Shake Shack, both with great results.  I’m actually still dreaming about the ‘shroom burger from Shake Shack.  I definitely plan to scope out more vegan options while eating out – who knew they’d be so yummy?

Another revelation: brown rice can actually be tasty!  Previously, I thought brown rice was like chewing on pebbles. It was always so hard and grainy it totally took the fun out of Spicy Tuna rolls.  I tried making it with the directions from the package a few times, but it was basically inedible to me and to my family.  After a while I just gave up and when back to white rice.  But being vegan for 12 days, I wanted to try brown rice again.  I turned to my guru Gina who writes the blog Skinnytaste.  She had a brown rice recipe similar to her Baked Rice and Peas where you steam the rice.  The recipe was super easy to follow and the results were fabulous.  It was the first brown rice I ever tasted that was light and fluffy enough to be mistaken for white rice.  It was also a large batch so I had plenty to enjoy all week.  I even made a porridge with some of the brown rice for breakfast!  Even my husband liked it – now I know I have a winner.  Moral of story – try new things, you might be surprised with the results.

If you ask for special dietary treatment, you will usually get it.  During my first week of veganism I had to attend a bridal shower at a catering hall on Staten island.  These types of affairs (when you’re Italian-American) usually include a lot of food – most of it smothered with cheese!  The menu included zero vegetarian options.  When the server came to me, I simply asked “Do you have any vegetarian options?”  He responded they’d be able to make me eggplant parmesan.  “Oh, with cheese?”  The server said, “Do you want vegetarian or vegan?”  I was shocked!  I didn’t even have the guts to ask for vegan, I just assumed that this type of restaurant wouldn’t be able to accommodate me.  The server told me it was no problem to make me a grilled veggie risotto, a pasta dish with garlic and oil, and a salad course with no cheese on it!  He totally hooked me up.  It was such a surprise and the food was great.  Again, I didn’t feel like I was missing anything.  I ate good food and had a great time at the party.  By this point I’m realizing just how much of my food choices aren’t really about food.  There ‘s this lingering feeling within me that if I go to Shake Shack and don’t have a burger that I’m missing out on something.  But I’m not.  I’m still there with my friends or family, talking and laughing.  I’m still a part of things even if I’m not eating meat or cheese.  Perhaps this is a deep rooted issue with eating that I’ve been dealing with for my whole life?  What will I miss out on if I don’t eat something?  Now I know the answer, nothing.  

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