As I sit here on the last day of my raw food challenge, bloated and besieged with heart burn, I can’t help but feel that this raw diet might not be for me.

If you are considering eating a raw food diet, I have the following pieces of advice for you:

1. Ease into it. Raw foods have significantly higher amounts of fiber, and can take more time and energy for your body to break down and digest. Changing your ratio of cooked to raw food gradually will help your body learn to absorb nutrients in a new way, and you’ll be much more comfortable for it.

I do tend to be an all or nothing type of gal, but this challenge could have been more tolerable had I been a bit more prepared, both physically and in other ways, which brings me to my next point.

2. Have both a blender/food processor and a dehydrator on the ready. Premade and packaged raw foods are crazy expensive, so if you plan to eat anything other than produce, and you don’t want to break the bank, you’re going to have to do a lot of creative cooking yourself.

There are a ton of wonderful blogs, with great recipes I would have liked to try, but having no dehydrator meant I would have to use my oven at a low temperature. That is totally fine, if it works for you, but I don’t live somewhere or have the time where I can have my oven on for 12 hours at a time. If you choose to use your oven, be prepared. As for a food processor, you can use it to make smoothies, raw soups, and nut milks, among other things. Almost everything that you buy at a store is pasteurized, and that means cooked. Be prepared to make everything from scratch.

3. Hang in there. It makes people uncomfortable when you go to a restaurant with them and don’t eat. It feels awkward bringing your own food everywhere. It made me feel left out and hungry watching my friends eat breakfast while I sipped on peppermint tea. Here’s the thing: couldn’t we all use a little more practice feeling uncomfortable? Couldn’t we all stand to benefit from bucking the norm for a while and standing our ground? What’s wrong with shaking it up every now and then? I will say that this challenge provided some great conversation this weekend.

I won’t be sticking with this challenge for any longer, but I have come away with some new information about myself. Homemade almond milk is amazing. It’s ok to go to a restaurant and not order, just make sure you eat first. I actually really love herbal tea, and it only takes 24 hours to detox from my caffeine habit. Raw “superfood cookies” make a delicious and healthy dessert. Hail Mary’s macaroons are even better. Avocados are good for heartburn, and kale is the most versatile veggie I’ve seen yet.

And with that, I think I’ll go feast on cooked food.

Scorchingly yours,

C

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Last week, my coworker’s suggestion that we try a cleanse this weekend inspired me to try something I’ve been wanting to do for a while now: try a raw food diet!

I originally became interested in raw food last year, when almost in the same week, I went to a restaurant that serves raw food, and I reunited with an old friend who had a girlfriend who ate a raw diet.  I reacted to it like “huh…. why would anyone want to do that?”  I still think it would be hard to exist in a world with hot bowls of soup on a cold day, or mashed potatoes.  period.  All of my comfort foods are hot or warm, and all of my comfort foods are definitely cooked.  Not to mention I LOVE to cook.  Is there anything better than seasoning a pasta sauce to perfection, leaning over the pot, and inhaling the salty, moist steam?

That being said, I definitely did some re-identifying of comfort foods when I became a vegan a couple years ago, and I’m sure given the right motivation, I could do it again.  For the purposes of this particular challenge, I will only be going raw for one weekend, that is one long weekend.  I started my challenge yesterday, and I will be completing the raw food challenge on monday evening.  My intention is to explore what makes a food comforting, how we interact with food in social situations, and how eating a raw diet makes my body and my brain feel.

Wish me luck!

rarely yours,

C

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This was dinner tonight! Fettucini alfredo, asparagus, avocado salad and a rosemary dinner roll. This was my biggest experiment to date in vegan cooking. I was wary about trying to make a vegan version of a cream based sauce – my cheese and cream loving family was even more wary about trying it! But armed with a recipe from The Urban Vegan, I decided to give it a shot.

Results? Delish!! I would make it again and again.

I started out cooking a roux with 6 tablespoons of earth balance (I didn’t say it was healthy!) and 2 1/2 tbsp of nutritional yeast. I decided to add some chopped shallots for a little extra flavor. While I was whisking up the roux, I had my sous chef (aka sister) dissolve a tbsp of corn starch in 1 1/2 cups of soy milk.

After the rue had time to boil a bit, I whisked in the milk mixture, added a teaspoon of salt, and put it over low heat until it thickened (it took about 15 minutes – just as the book suggested it would). Then I tossed it with the fettucini and served it to my timid diners.

We were all so pleasantly surprised! It was rich tasting and had a heavy creamy after taste, but both my sister and I agreed it didn’t leave our stomachs feeling heavy like a traditional Alfredo usually would. Although it isn’t healthy by any means, it might be a small step up due to the lower fat content and lack of animal fats. Who knows… I’m no nutritionist. I’m sure about one thing though: it definitely earns top marks in the flavor department!

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Last monday I was maybe more tired than I have ever been in my life.  I kind of wanted to just go home and go to bed, but my body wanted something hearty and warm and delicious.  My body wanted minestrone soup.

I feel bad sharing my recipe for a few reasons.  First of all, I know that for many people, minestrone is a timeless tradition.  Passed down from grandmothers to mothers to daughters to more daughters.  My recipe isn’t like that.  My recipe is kind of an everything but the kitchen sink type of recipe.  Secondly, soups in general have always seemed kind of magical to me.  What is it about them that heals and strengthens so perfectly?  What is the secret ingredient?  An extra pinch of salt?  A dash of white wine?  I’m no soup expert.  This has no secret ingredients.  This is basic as basic can be.

But it did turn out tasty.  It did fill my belly and my heart.  It was vegan  Here’s how I made it.

I chopped up 3 carrots

I chopped up two celery stalks

I chopped up one yellow onion

I chopped up a whole boatload of greenbeans

I chopped up a tomato

I chopped up about 6 cloves of garlic

I chopped up some basil (maybe about half a cup

I put 6 cups of veggie broth in a pan, and added the onion, garlic, celery and carrots, and a couple bay leaves.  I simmered that for about 30 minutes stirring occasionally, and tasting the carrots until they were  tender.  Also I sometimes just wanted to taste them.

Once the carrots were good to go, I added the tomato, basil and green beans.

I also added about 1 1/2 cups of dried pasta.

I also added one can of chickpeas

I also added one can of white beans

I also added one can of crushed tomatoes (w/juice in) and one can of tomato paste

I boiled that for about 15 more minutes, and it was ready to go.

I served it to my family.  They loved me for it.

The thing about my soups is, they are very improvisational.  Especially with a soup like minestrone.  I could see throwing some potatoes, peas, broccoli, kale, or even eggplant in there and I think it would be delicious.  Be creative!  

Deliciously yours,

C

Here is what you can do when you get home from yoga at nine and haven’t planned dinner:

1. Find leftover brown rice and trader joes green chili sauce in fridge.

2. Put fake chicken and real broccoli in Tupperware with a sprinkle of water, cover with plastic wrap, poke holes in it and microwave for two minutes.

3. Add leftover grape tomatoes and chili sauce to rice. Microwave mixture for about 2 minutes. Add fake chicken and real broccoli mixture.

4. Eat vegan microwave dinner while watching The Bachelor.

Done.

Easily yours,

-C

I feel like this week I have finally hit my stride with this whole vegan thing. As of Sunday, I am exactly halfway through this challenge, and it has definitely taken me until now for my body to really acclimate. I had been having trouble feeling satiated before, and while I felt relatively physically well, I was a bit low energy. I’m excited to report that as of yesterday evening’s yoga class, I am really feeling wonderful.

During the past two weeks, I have really felt the detoxifying effects of Bikram’s more than I have before in my practice. It’s like I could sense my body trying to get rid of all the stuff it didn’t need, and now I feel like a weight has been lifted. It reminds me of the times when I’ve gotten off an airplane with plugged up ears, and everything sounded kind of fuzzy and far away, then suddenly my ears cleared and everything was fresh and open and clear sounding. It’s such a good feeling.

There are definitely things I won’t be able to eat again. Milk, for one. I don’t think I’ll be able to drink cows milk anymore. I think I’ll reincorporate some animal products back into my diet after my challenge, but much more in moderation. I’d like the things I eat and cook with to add to my meal, not act as default ingredients.

Things I miss? Really sharp cheddar, and (even though this is kind of like milk- which I don’t miss) cream in my coffee. Those are things I look forward to incorporating (with moderation) into my diet.

Healthfully yours,
-C

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So this was dinner tonight.  I feel like I’ve definitely gotten better at whipping things together, which is way more my style (for better or for worse) than undertaking elaborate cooking projects.  I’ve been reading some fantastic blogs written by fantastic vegans lately, and while all of their cooking projects seem like the best idea in the world when I’m reading them on Sunday morning, in practice I’ve been getting home from work and really been too tired to attempt a culinary masterpiece.

That is most certainly not to say that I won’t be doing a lot of cooking this month, but it is nice to know that when I feel like something easy, I can get there without my default chicken breast and salad.

I bought some organic sprouted tofu last week, and I wanted to try it in something.  I happened to have tomatoes and kalamata olives (a fave ingredient of mine) in the fridge, and I picked up some spinach and pita bread (turns out my usual pita brand contains honey!  Surprising!).

First I sauteed the spinach just until it got soft in a little olive oil and garlic, then I added the chopped olives and tomatoes.  

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Then I diced the tofu and I added that.

ImageI toasted the pita bread, spread the inside with just a smidge of hummus, and filled the pocket up with this delicious little greek inspired stir fry.

It was good, if a little salty.  Both my sous chef and I agreed that it could use a little textural variation.  Maybe some flax seeds sprinkled in there or some other sort of crunchy grain.  I don’t really know, because my culinary repertoire is fairly limited.  If you have any ideas then throw them at me!

It’s a work in progress, but I was satisfied with my efforts for the evening!

-C

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For some reason day six was the hardest day to be a vegan so far.
It all started when I woke up in the morning, and I just wanted cream in my coffee. Cream in my coffee is one of those little indulgences I give myself that really make my days better. I know I know – I sound pretty terribly whiny and dramatic, but coffee just hasn’t been as satisfying without it, and on day six I woke up jonesing for some cream. “normal!” I kept thinking all day, “I want normal and easy!” Whine whine whine.
Being a brand new vegan, meals have definitely taken more planning and effort as I’m getting used to new cooking styles, different kinds of food, and different varieties of snacks. So I was very excited to learn that there is a beacon of familiarity in this novel vegan world: pizza.
Pizza Pi is a vegan pizza parlor in Seattle, and it is right near where I live! As some of you may know Seattle has been snowed in this past week, and I have been off work. I was tired of cozying around inside, I was ready for an adventure, and vegan pizza seemed like just the thing. I bundled up, convinced my most loyal vicarious vegan that trekking 2 miles uphill in the snow for pizza was a good idea, and off we went.
I ordered the “hoity toity” pizza. Spinach and artichoke sauce with chicken, sun dried tomatoes, kalamata olives and a light sprinkling of cheese. I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I thought vegan cheese might be waxy or plasticky. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It was soft and mild. It conveyed the idea of cheese without trying to be cheese. The toppings were really flavorful and definitely did most of the work in the taste department. The sauce was good too. It was tangy and complemented the zippy sun dried tomatoes perfectly. My vicarious vegan also gave it two thumbs up, even though we did stop on the way home to get him some very non-vegan ham and pineapple pizza.
Having a pizza party was the perfect way to make my frustrations about veganism into a thing of the past. I’m back in the saddle, and I think my next recipe will be Thai coconut soup. Perfect for a cold winter day!

-C

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For my fourth day of veganism I made a variation of sweet potato black bean hash.  I found it in the Moosewood Cookbook (amaaaazzziiiinnnggggg recipes – all either vegan or vegetarian), and didn’t quite have every ingredient so I improvised a little.

I have been noticing the distinct psychological adjustment that comes with eating mainly one dish meals.  As a meat eater, I could use salmon or chicken or some kind of meat as the main part of the meal, and then have side dishes like vegetables and salad and bread with it.  I have noticed that many of the vegan recipes that appeal to me are kind of everything all mixed in one.  I’ve been liking the idea of different kinds of soups and stews, stir-frys and casseroles, and plating something that is only one dish can be a challenge. I have been attempting to add side dishes by experimenting with vegetables prepared in different ways, fruits, vegan friendly bread, and of course salads.  Ultimately, since this is primarily a psychological hurdle, I would like to be able to just get over it.  I have been having fun experimenting with different styles of cooking though!

Last night, to surmount this problem, I made Kale.  I washed and destemmed the leaves, sauteed them with garlic and olive oil or a few minutes, then poured some balsamic on them and put a lid over the pan for about 8 minutes.  I sprinkled on a little sea salt and it ended up being a spicy, hearty side dish that went really well with the soft and sweet yams I put in my sweet potato hash (told you I improvised).

Since I have been animal product free, I have already just 5 days later started to feel so good.  I have had a seriously finicky stomach for about 6 years now, and for the past week, I haven’t had any serious stomach problems at all.  I have had this sense of buoyancy in my body that I haven’t had in a long time. Part of me suspects this may really change my eating habits – for more than thirty days.

Comfortably yours,
C

Happy new year, yogis!!

As most of you know I don’t believe in new years resolutions, but I still wanted to kick off 2012 with something special. I’ve covered a lot of territory this year: the no Facebook challenge, the 8k, a second 30-day Bikram challenge. I wanted to try something a little different, something both personally challenging, as well as something that challenges social norms and explores cultural trends. Enter the 30-day vegan challenge. My first challenge of 2012.

I’ll be the first to admit that veganism isn’t exactly unheard of, especially in a city like Seattle, but I think it is an interesting way to begin exploring cultural attitudes towards diet, trends in food marketing, and it will be lots of fun too! I have already compiled a variety of recipes, done some research on nutrition, and come out to my friends as a temporary vegan (my announcement garnered mixed reactions). I have grocery shopped for the necessary supplies (almond milk, vegan cereal, earth balance, Annie’s lentil soup, and massive amounts of fruit and veggies), and I’m actually already on day two! So go me.

Meatlessly yours,
-C

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