Sunday, January 29, 2012

Not For Me

Still soaking wet from hot yoga, I found a text message from my husband, "We’re waiting at [trendy pancake joint] to get in.  It will be about 10 minutes.  Join us?"  

Sweet, huh?

Me, "No thank you.  Enjoy.  Please don’t bring me anything.  Don’t bring home the leftovers on my account."

This new pancake place is divine and breakfast foods (I’m not talking Cheerios, here) are my favorite:  pancakes soaked with maple syrup with every variety of decadent combinations imaginable, Belgium waffles with deep pockets of melted butter dusted with powdered sugar, thick slices of French toast that taste like bread pudding, 3 egg cheesy omelets with chunks of ham and sauteed veggies, enormous blueberry muffins with sugar encrusted tops.  Oh yeah, I could have breakfast three meals a day.

Like many restaurants these days, this one serves enormous portions that could feed 3 to 4 people at least.  Some folks (not many if you take a look at US obesity rates) are great at portion control.  They eat what they need and bring home the rest.  Or discard it.  Me, if the food is that good, and even when it is not, I will continue eating until my 3-year-old is under the table napping in the coats, my 11-year-old is lost in a book, and my husband is standing up with his coat on, check paid, ready to go.  The pleasure of those huge brunches is only fleeting.  The pain will most certainly come later in my fickle gut, inflamed joints and with the befuddlement of my thoughts.

Best not to join them, today.  Let that be their special Sunday morning daddy fun time.  For me, I’m having a green smoothie, or I’ll whip up a beautiful batch of tabbouleh with flax bread on the side, or some raw-vegan banana pancakes.

And I don’t even feel the tiniest bit of deprivation. 

(Well, maybe just a smidge.)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Mommy Timeout

Today is a day of temper tantrums, from both my 3 year old and myself.  I needed to put myself in timeout, so I went for a walk by the lake.  So beautiful, tranquil.  Back at home, major breakdown over a pair of socks.  I think I'm about to have a break down myself... I'm just going to sit and look at this picture.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Kale Mango Smoothie

A simple little green smoothie - not my best, but refreshing and filling all the same:

- kale (I prefer to remove the stems)
- green apple
- frozen mango chunks (because the fresh ones didn't look so fresh)
- about an inch of ginger
- avocado
- 1/2 banana
- water

Blend.  Drink.  Love.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

(not) Nacho Cheese Sauce

Nachos are one of those things that I think I cannot live without.  Saturdays and nachos seem to go hand in hand - easy to make and everyone loves them.  Yet, they make me feel lousy afterwards, almost every time.  It's mostly the dairy that is bothersome to me, but pigging out on a pile of tortilla chips can't be so good, either.  I know, portion control matters, but with salty, crispy chips, it's like asking an alcoholic to have just one sip when a tray of cheery martinis is made available.

Recently I Googled, "raw vegan nacho cheese" and came up with a ton of great recipes.  This is the one I chose because I had all the ingredients on hand.  I've altered it a bit to suit my taste and each batch turns out a little different based on what seasonings I play around with.  The fun part, this is one of those really good Raw vegan recipes that most people will eat up without caring a fig whether it is dairy free, raw, vegan or whatever.  I don't have to explain myself when I serve it - just whip it up and watch it disappear.

Here is the basic recipe:

IMG_0557 by dominique ap

This is taken from notes from my iPhone.  I copy all my favorite recipes into there because I move frequently from home to farm to friends' homes, etc and I always want my best recipes at hand.  It also makes it so easy to share.  Whenever I've tried to make from memory, disaster occurs and then I mourn the loss of those fresh, (sometimes expensive) beautiful ingredients.

A few of my fussy notes:  About 2 hours beforehand I'll soak the cashews in water.  I think it can be done on the fly but the results won't be nearly as creamy.  These babies seem to sprout fast, so if I've soaked them, but don't use them, I pour off the water and refrigerate in a sealed container.

I've always used the entire pepper which will typically yield more than 1/2 cup.  I love the flavor and it gives a great color to the sauce.

With the lemon juice, I stick to the measured amount.  When I've used too much, I'm always unhappy with the result.  Always use a fresh lemon versus bottled lemon juice - such a difference in flavor.  I'm now in the habit of keeping a bag in the fridge at all times.

Why onion powder and not fresh onions?  I haven't tried it the other way.  Onions are one of those things that I really don't like raw no matter how I mix or dehydrate them, so I'm grateful for the suggested powder.

I can't really tell what the turmeric adds except the color looks very "cheesy".  The taste, not so much. 

What I do add to the recipe:  A good dose of chili powder (tsp, tbsp? depending on my mood) and a pinch of cayenne pepper.

Here are the ingredients ready at the start:
Untitled by dominique ap

I start with the peppers because they blend so easily and help the cashews along.   Note the Vitamix blender.  I love, love, love my Vitamix and makes a huge difference in how creamy this recipe can get.  However, I made this at my sister's home with a regular blender and the result was still great.  I may have stressed her machine a bit, though.  If not a Vitamix, add a little more water to help with blending.  The result will be a little thinner in consistency, but still delicious.  Now, recently I went to a good Mediterranean restaurant that served up a similar dip that was a little chunky, like a good pesto sauce, which made me think this might work in a food processor as well.  I'm going to try that next week.

Untitled by dominique ap
I have to include my juicer because it's shape and color is so cheery.  I use a reamer often, as well, but then have to deal with the seeds in the juice.  Just one tiny step, to juice fresh, makes such a big difference in flavor.

Untitled by dominique ap
As it appears in the blender before firing it up.  Oh, I should mention that if you're not using a Vitamix, chop your veggies smaller.  Be kind to your machine.  Notice my little punk rocker?  He cleans the Vitamix blades - they're too sharp to want to get my fingers even close.

Untitled by dominique ap

Yum, all blended and creamy.

Untitled by dominique ap

Here it is again.  It's always a challenge to get the thicker, creamy sauces out of the Vitamix.  I've got small spatulas, chopsticks, long handled spoons (bad, bad, bad for the blades).  I get the most that I can get out of it and then lick the rest as if I were three and my mom just gave me the bowl of remaining cake batter - that is before we were all terrified of salmonella.  No salmonella in this stuff, though.  Just nuts, veggies and spices.

Untitled by dominique ap

I serve this with a crisp flax bread that I make weekly and a bowl of fresh pico de gallo and maybe some sliced olives.  I'll work up those posts in the future.  In the interim, serve up with some crisp romaine like I did here, or a platter of colorful crudité.

My best variation to this recipe, yet, happened when I made this for my lovely sister-in-law, Mara, and her husband, Danny.  We had no chili or cayenne for seasoning, so I dropped in a packet of tandoori seasoning mix.  It was amazing, but obviously not nacho cheesy.  I've got to get up to Devon Avenue in Chicago with someone who really knows their Indian cuisine to fill out my spice drawer.

Except for the soak time, this whips up in less than ten minutes.  Really.  I'm not fast, just ask my mom.

Eat well.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Trying Not to Cry

Rain by Mama 'Nique
Rain, a photo by Dominique on Flickr.

Again, the hot yoga.  It is extreme punishment for all the years of neglect to my body - for the miscarriages, surgeries, pregnancies, births, the excess food, drink, the accidents, broken bones, arthritis, depression, age.  No, the yoga isn't the punishment, the clunky, popping, cracking, unbalanced, awkward, jiggling body is the punishment.  The yoga is just one of those paths to change.

In class I was thinking about Richard Simmons.  His shows in the 80s would have my sister and I in stitches.  I thought he was so weird with his big frizzy hair, spandex and little legs.  Classes full of big, soft people with large t-shirts and white sneakers.  Jane Fonda was popular then, too, with her perfectly made up face, head bands, bright colors.  Classes full of happily, fit people.  I laughed at Richard Simmons, but secretly I loved him.  He was always hugging people.  Someone would choke up, break into tears, and he would wrap his little arms around her big body telling her she's great.  Everything was possible because Richard told you it was.  But, I didn't need Richard then.  I wasn't that fat.  I worked out with Jane, but loved Richard.

Today, I am the biggest woman in class.  I know, because I looked carefully at each woman there, weighing myself against her.  Once in the past, I used to always identify someone in class who was bigger than myself.  It kept my perspective when I would be too hard on myself for having a little pot, a soft layer over my muscles.  For years I haven't gone to classes.  I typically work out in privacy, isolation, because the biggest person in class in now me.  No amount of clothing will minimize me.  Spanx would be a decidedly bad idea for this class.  

It was when moving from the Tandasana (tree) to Padang Ustasana  (toe stand) that I thought about Richard Simmons.  I was the only person left standing as the entire class of yogi's were low to the ground on just five toes each.  Well, I should say not moving from one pose to the other because it takes every ounce of effort to not topple over with just one foot on the ground. My big self, towering above all those lithe, flexible, strong women, imagined him wrap his little arms around me to tell me I'm doing great.

In the locker room after class, trying to cool down, my friend asked me how it went today.  "It kicked my ass," I said, trying to be funny.  She asked again and I tried to put her off, because this is where the fat lady would cry and make a scene.  Instead I smile, fight the tears, keep it light.  Save the tears for the car.

I fought off the tears.  This isn't about what I cannot do in the class - it is what I can do.  I made it through another ninety minutes of Bikram Yoga.  The heat, humidity, breathing, stretching, sweating, holding, strengthening.... felt really good.

Saturday, January 21, 2012


I've been to this park hundreds of times. Today, while I sit back while my kids play in the snow, I notice the trees are planted in perfect rows, all spaced evenly apart. There was probably a good reason for this. Maybe someone calculated the space around which a tree needs to grow its roots. Or perhaps, the park district had a hundred trees in its possession and spread them equidistant in a determined space.

Whatever the wisdom behind the design, I look at how each tree is unique. The branches break out at different heights, different directions. The patterns in the bark are similar, yet they'll take unique paths up the trunk.

No matter the intention of the grand design, each tree resist all efforts to conform.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Hot Yoga, Cool Lunch

With the encouragement, and good company of my trainer, I took a Bikram Yoga class for the first time today.  Hours later, I still feel like a noodle, or jelly fish, or anything else you can think of that has a terrible time holding its form.  I ate super light in the morning, knowing that I couldn't handle anything in my stomach for the duration of the class, so when I got home, I was Starving.

Nothing better to celebrate making it through 60 plus minutes in 105f and 50% humidity than by enjoying a Raw Vegan lunch.  Beautiful, beautiful food.  While sipping lots of cool water, it took me just a few minutes to put together this, romaine lettuce with nacho cheese sauce (raw, vegan), and homemade pico de gallo.  It helped that I had made both the pico and sauce earlier in the week - they'll keep for a few days, the sauce up to a week.  So good.  The pico and lettuce are too light to sustain my appetite.  But the sauce is rich, creamy and nutritious.  A perfect pairing.  I need to call this something... Raw Tacos?  No - hate comparing new food to old food, it sets up unrealistic expectations.  Hmmm, have to think on this.  I'll put up a recipe for the pico and sauce soon.

Making changes that work for the long haul has everything to do with finding a routine that's workable.  For me it is all about having the right stuff in the refrigerator.  On the days that my son is in preschool (at the moment, only 2 days a week, because my house is too lonely and quiet without him around), I do lots of food prep.  I load up the dehydrator, chop veggies, and whip up a few sauces.  Today, not so much as I'm still trying to find my legs after that hot, hot, hot yoga.

Eat well.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Stop and Go Apples

Mom: Would you like a red apple?
Jasper:  No.
M: A green apple?
J:  Yes. I want a GO apple. I do not want a STOP apple. A GO apple.

Huh?  Ohhh.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Because I Woke Up Craving Chocolate

Today's green smoothie includes spinach, avocado, banana and mango.

I awoke this morning with a serious chocolate craving. This will be a super dense, creamy smoothie with the idea that I'll feed the craving with fat - lots of good fat. Still super nutritious and good balance for blood sugar levels.

This is like pudding. So good, even my 3yo loves it.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

This field was green only a few short hours ago. Winter may finally be here in Chicago. The kids are going to love this.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Monday, January 09, 2012

Green Smoothie

There has been a lot published lately on the futility of dieting and exercising for long term weight loss.

Instead of feeling hopeless, I feel like fighting. In our culture of excess and poor eating habits, I have lived with a love-hate relationship with food. In a nutshell, when dieting, I am obsessed with what I cannot eat. When breaking a diet, I consume with guilt without thought or taste.

I work to perceive food as a beautiful, life giving gift. I make each selection with care as I know it will be broken down into it's smallest elements in my body to provide nourishment.

With that in mind, I give you my smoothie of the day... cilantro, avocado, mango, lime and water. As fresh as possible in the cold Midwest.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone