Some Food for Thought

18 07 2012

I’m on a much needed vacation. I probably should be doing more with the blog this week because I finally have the time. But reading comic books and enjoying the kids is winning out.

Its been harder than I thought to stick to a plant based diet on vacation. For starters I have mysteriously grown an affinity for pancakes as I’ve had them for two out of three of the last breakfasts. Not going to help things with the scale. I did have a fantastic tofu veggie stir-fry the first night here. I’m looking forward to possibly getting that again before vacation is through.

The heat is oppressive. It’s really putting a crimp in my plans to do a lot of walking. Every year it seems to work out this way lately. Thank God there is no such thing as global warming! It’s a total fluke that the last 16 out of 17 have been the hottest on record or that 6,000+ new records have been set in the United States this year. Yet we still argue about what causes it. It would be nice if we could just all agree that something funky is going on. Who cares if its manmade or a cycle or a bit of both- its like arguing about how you got cancer. Why can’t we just agree that something needs to be done to save the place where we live? Now I’m getting fired up! Time to get back to vacation!

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Look Ma, I’m on TV!

27 05 2012

My friend Jaime has a fantastic new television show that teaches folks how to make amazing plant based meals. As you will see though, this show offers a whole lot more than just a few recipes. I make my appearance in the last segment to talk about how I came to adopt a plant based diet. I also get to try this amazing food. And that’s not hype, these dishes were fantastic! As you watch this you will see that it’s obvious that I’m not all that comfortable yet with sharing my story on camera but this was a very fun experience and a fantastic opportunity to let folks in my local area know about my blog.

I’m very much indebted to Jaime. People like her hold part of the map that I need to get to where I’m supposed to be going. The first night I met her I was really talking for the first time about my health, my new plant-based lifestyle change and my wanting to lose a lot of weight. I was terrified to talk about this in front of strangers (we were at a local bloggers meet and greet – yes, bloggers really do get out from behind the computer once in awhile. And when we do, we gather together and talk about blogging!). Jaime gave me a big genuine hug afterwards that completely disarmed me and made me feel much better about the situation. This is truly part of Jaime’s mission statement. She works to make the world a better place by putting part of her soul into so many of the things that she does. That night was the very first time that I truly realized that beyond my fear lies amazing and wonderful things.

please check out Jaime’s blog: http://savethekales.wordpress.com/





The Amazing Benefits of Eating Your Sweet ‘Taters!

11 04 2012

One of the neat things about eating plant based is that your tastes really do change after awhile. As a kid, I despised sweet potatoes but after eliminating all sugars from my diet, I’ve gone back to try them and found them to be nature’s candy. They are delicious and one of the most nutrient packed vegetable that you can eat. Sweet Potatoes are loaded with vitamin A. An average sized sweet potato packs more than the daily recommended allowance of vitamin A. This is especially beneficial for smokers who often end up having a vitamin A deficiency which over time can lead to emphysema. They are also a great food for asthma sufferers and are low on the glycemic index for those with diabetes.

An average sized sweet potato can give you nearly a third of your daily vitamin C allowance while providing you with 15% of your recommended daily fiber intake. They are also loaded with antioxidants. You won’t find more betacarotene anywhere so sweet potatoes are perfect for good heart, eye and skin health. They are also full of anti-inflammatory properties and are excellent for people suffering from arthritis.

Because sweet potatoes are often chemically treated during and after the growing season, it is best to remove the skin prior to eating. As always, buying organic is going to be your best bet. It’s worth the extra money not to eat the poison.

Sweet potatoes are so nutrient rich that they can potentially cause harm if you eat them too often while having kidney or gallbladder issues. They contain small amounts of oxalates which when taken large doses can be problematic. Healthy digestive tracks will be more able to properly digest sweet potatoes. But like all things, eat them in moderation. Definitely don’t pass them up thpogh because they are amazingly beneficial and delicious.

Here is a great looking recipe that I cannot wait to try. It’s from Engine2 Diet:

RIP’S SWEET POTATO LASAGNA
1 onion, chopped
1 small head of garlic, all cloves chopped or pressed
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1 head broccoli, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 red bell peppers, seeded and chopped
1 can corn, rinsed and drained
1 package Silken Lite tofu
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon rosemary
2 jars pasta sauce cashews
tomato
2 boxes whole grain lasagna noodles
16 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and drained
2 sweet potatoes, cooked and mashed
6 roma tomatoes, sliced thin
1 cup raw cashews, ground

Preheat oven to 400º. Sauté the onion and garlic on high heat for 3 minutes in a wok or nonstick
pan. Add the mushrooms and cook until the onions are limp and the mushrooms give up their liq-
uid. Remove them to a large bowl with a slotted spoon. Reserve the mushroom liquid in the pan.
Sauté the broccoli and carrots for 5 minutes and add to the mushroom bowl. Sauté the peppers and
corn until just beginning to soften. Add them to the vegetable bowl. Drain the tofu by wrapping in
paper towels. Break it up directly in the towel and mix into the vegetable bowl. Add spices to the
vegetable bowl and combine.

To Assemble:
Cover the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch casserole with a layer of sauce. Add a layer of noodles. Cover
the noodles with sauce. This way the noodles cook in the oven, saving time and energy. Spread
the vegetable mixture over the sauced noodles. Cover with a layer of noodles and another dress-
ing of sauce. Add the spinach to the second layer of sauced noodles. Cover the spinach with the
mashed sweet potatoes. Add another layer of sauce, the final layer of noodles, and a last topping
of sauce. Cover the lasagna with thinly sliced roma tomatoes.
Cover with foil and bake in the oven for 45 minutes. Remove the foil, sprinkle with the cashews,
and return to the oven for 15 minutes. Let sit for 15 minutes before serving.

Enjoy!





Spotlight: UltraMantis Black, Vegan Pro Wrestler

8 02 2012

Those who know me, know that I have had a sometimes unhealthy obsession with the world of professional wrestling since I was about 6 years old. Thirty years later, I’m still a diehard fan. I’ve been lucky to meet a lot of my professional wrestling heroes over the years. Recently, I’ve been enjoying an indy promotion, Chikara, when they come to town. Chikara is a family friendly promotion that is quite entertaining, has some amazing talent and puts on some fantastic matches. If you love wrestling as an art, you will really enjoy what type of show Chikara puts on.

The beauty of having this blog is that sometimes my passions collide and I have the opprtunity to talk to some really interesting people. Recently I had the chance to interview one of Chikara’s most popular stars, UltraMantis Black, about being a vegan. UltraMantis Black has wrestled all over the world for many different promotions. He calls Chikara his home though as he has been a presence there since the beginning. I was so thrilled to ask him a few questions including some issues I’ve been “wrestling” with since adopting a plant based diet!

JS: Can you explain what the circumstances were that led to you switching to a plant based diet and embracing a vegan lifestyle?

UMB: I eliminated animal products from my diet over 20 years ago. I skipped over vegetarianism and went directly to veganism after existing completely on an omnivorous diet all of my life up until that point. I had become exposed to issues involving the welfare of animals – factory farming, vivisection, animal testing – through books and music at the time. Something just clicked inside my head that led me to no longer wanting to participate in the suffering of animals in any way. Veganism seemed like the natural first step.

JS: What were the difficulties that you encountered when you first adopted this lifestyle change? Is there anything that you know now that you wish you would have known then?

UMB: At that time, there were little to no pre-packaged vegetarian meal alternatives readily available in grocery stores. Today, you can go into nearly any grocery store and find soy milk, tofu, and meat substitutes. I was still very young and simply did not educate myself enough about how to eat healthy. So I survived on things like packaged ramen noodles, pasta, and french fries. I was probably at my most unhealthiest in those first few years simply because I didn’t take the time to really think about how I was eating. So I wish I knew then the importance of educating one’s self about nutrition. I also wish I would have been more enthusiastic about “exploring” food options. I wasn’t a huge fan of fruits and vegetables before I changed my diet and it took me a long time to actually try new things in new ways to realize just how amazing plant based foods really are.

JS: How would you say your overall health has improved in the years since you have made the switch?

UMB: As with any diet, your health will never improve unless you approach it in a sound way with as much factual nutritional information as possible. That was my major downfall when I initially went vegan. Once I actually started doing the research myself and figuring out the optimal ways to eat, my overall health improved immensely. I reached a healthy weight, added actual muscle mass to my body, and increased my energy levels ten-fold. I rarely get sick with a cold or flu anymore and when I do notice cold symptoms, they last for a minimal period of time. Other minor health issues I experienced either disappeared entirely or no longer affected me as much physically. Do I think a plant based diet is some sort of miracle cure-all? No, but I firmly believe that it has greatly helped contribute to my overall well-being.

JS: I imagine that when you are on the road for a stretch, adhering to plant based diet can be difficult at times. How do you overcome this?

UMB: I’ve learned how to pack my own meals and food items when on the road. The chances of finding a Whole Foods grocery or a vegetarian restaurant on the road are slim to none and the amount of healthy veggie options at the endless procession of gas station stores, diners, and chain restaurants is pretty disheartening to say the least. I pack a lot of fruit, nut butters, rice and veggies, etc. Usually this means eating in the car or alone in the hotel room while everyone else is at Denny’s, but I can live with that.

JS: I’m always looking for snack ideas. What are some of your favorite “go to” snacks?

UMB: I snack on baby carrots, bananas, apples, and spinach salad all day long. At one time that may have sounded boring even to me – but I really feel that its easy to learn to love simple snacks like that. When I’m feeling adventurous and have some time to prepare them, I also love snacking on roasted/seasoned garbanzo beans and oven roasted kale chips. And homemade natural protein bars!

JS: Some people who enjoy the standard American diet believe that a plant based diet does not provide enough protein or calcium. Can you speak a little to this?

UMB: If you approach ANY diet the wrong way, there is a good chance you will end up not getting the optimal amount of nutrients to sustain a healthy lifestyle. But I, along with countless others, are living proof that you can lead a healthy and active lifestyle with a plant based diet. I don’t lack for anything – protein, calcium, whatever. Its too easy to fall into the trap of swallowing the same outdated nutritional dogma that we have all heard for years. Take a look at some of the “studies” and guidelines that we too often accept as fact and see exactly who funded or is behind them. Its in the financial best interest of countless industries and corporations that Americans continue to eat animal products, continue to eat unhealthy, continue to get sick and continue to be medicated.

JS: Do you find that being a professional athlete who is vegan changes people’s (mis)conceptions about the vegan lifestyle?

UMB: I hope so! Even if I only expose a few people to it or just cause one individual to re-think their own diet, I am pleased.

JS: What advice do you have for those who may be starting off on the path to a plant based diet?

UMB: Get educated. Do your research and realize that you will have to completely re-think the way you look at food. Today, the internet makes it easier than ever to learn about proper nutrition. To learn about food and where your food comes from. Understand that, with any lifestyle change – and that’s what veganism can be – comes a certain amount of struggle. Prepare for that, nothing that matters will ever be easy. And finally, be ready to enjoy and appreciate food more than you probably ever have before. Check out vegan.org!

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I’d like to thank UltraMantis Black for his time and for generously imparting his knowledge.
The Devious UltraMantis Black…http://www.ultramantisblack.com
Ministry of Propaganda…http://www.twitter.com/ultramantis

See UltraMantis Black and his partner, Hallowicked take on the tag team champions, Gargano and Taylor in a 2 out of three falls championship match in Reading, PA on February 25th. Event and ticket information can be found at http://www.chikarapro.com
*Kids get in free with a paid adult (this show only)! How cool is that?

This is Chikara:





Weekend Comfort Foods!

3 02 2012

Just spoke with a friend who I haven’t seen in some time.  He has lost over a hundred pounds and is eating a mostly raw foods diet.  That is amazing!   What an inspiration.

“Human beings have great potential; they can do anything.  The power of the mind is incredible, limitless.”
-Lama Thubten Yeshe
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Some folks have been sharing some fantastic recipes with me lately so I thought that I’d pass a few along:

VEGAN SPLIT PEA SOUP
one bag split peas
3 carrots – chopped
1 chopped onion
Baby red potatoes – chopped in half
2 tablespoons garlic
2 bay leaves (remove before serving if you  can find them)
1 Tablespoon cumin
1/2 Tablespoon marjoram
9 cups vegetable broth
Dash of cayenne pepper
slow cooker – all day
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VEGETARIAN MEATLESS MEATLOAF
One Pkg extra Firm Tofu
1 Cup Low Sodium Soy Sauce
1/3 Ketchup
3 tblsp Dijon Mustard
1 tsp Black Pepper
1 Medium Chopped Onion
1 Cub Italian Bread Crumbs
2 eggs (or egg beaters)
Mix
Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9 inch square baking dish.
  2. In a bowl, mix,  Place the mixture into the prepared pan, and mold into a loaf shape.
  3. Bake the meatloaf 30-40 minutes in the preheated oven.

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VEGETARIAN GRAVY
http://allrecipes.com/Video/117/Vegetarian-Gravy/Detail.aspx

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And this fantastic link (that won’t link for some reason) to a downloadable file of plant-based recipes for the big game from “Forks Over Knives”.

http://www.forksoverknives.com/recipes-for-super-bowl-xlvi/

Have a great weekend friends!





It Ain’t Easy Eatin’ Vegan

1 02 2012

So this plant based diet thing is no cake walk.  I was hoping that when I began this journey my preoccupation with food would lessen, but in reality, I’ve never thought of food more than I have in the last 5 weeks.  In order to be really successful with this  life style change, you have to plan your meals out well in advance.  You have to shop for all the ingredients you need and you have to keep a fresh stock of fruits and veggies on-hand.  This means going to the store about 3 times a week instead on once a week as I had been doing.  The meal prep takes a lot of time.  After a long day of work I find myself not always wanting to go through with the effort that it takes.  So the idea of getting away and having someone else make me a dinner was very appealing.  But honestly, finding a local vegan-friendly restaurant  is no easy task.  It took a lot of research and there weren’t many choices.  We finally settled on a decent looking place not too far away.

When we arrived, I asked for the special vegan menu.  It was handed to my wife.  That made me laugh.  Clearly the waiter thought that a guy my size could not possibly be going for the vegan fare.  And honestly, I really didn’t want to be looking through the vegan selections.  To see the non-vegan menu and all the good stuff that I would be missing was really tough for me.  Fish and clam chowder, caesar salad made with anchovies, grilled scallops.  My mouth is watering now just thinking about the dinner that I didn’t get to have tonight.

I was disappointed when the waitress told me that the chef was out of tofu for the “tofurrito” appetizer.  The idea was to load up on the appetizers because I was certain that the entree was going to be small.  I settled for an arugula salad with diced tomatoes and pine nuts, on a bed of beets and covered with a herb vinaigrette.  It was a generous mound of greens and it was quite good.  I quickly made peace with not having the caesar.

I then had a white bean soup with nutmeg and black pepper.  Again it was large and it was surprisingly flavorful.  Still though it would have been great to try that chowder.

The main course was a wild mushroom risotto.  It was moist and very flavorful but it was small.  This is exactly what I was afraid of – small portions for non-meat eaters.  I would have been okay with it if they added some asparagus or broccoli on the side but that wasn’t the case.  So I chewed each spoonful about a hundred times and drank three glasses of water and by the end of the meal I was actually fairly full (for a little while at least).

My portion of the bill was cheap.  The total was less than nearly all of the other entree prices.  Not bad.  And it was definitely a very nice break from making my own dinner.  Watching other people eat what you want to be eating is going to take some getting used to though.








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