Monday, December 26, 2011

Before/After

Before plant based diet (January 1, 2011)

After 1 year of being plant strong (December 12, 2011)
Enough said. What are you waiting for?

Wait a minute. Enough has not been said. I thought this would be an inspirational post for my family and friends but I was a little embarrassed at the thought of being boastful, and so I let it sit for a bit. And I kept coming back to the pictures and then...

Back in that January 2011 picture I was feeling really great. That smile on my face, in my bright orange shirt, was a smile of HEALTH! I was willing myself to good health through walking! I was ecstatic that I could walk 3 whole miles in an hour. I was on a roll! I truly believed that the walking would CHANGE MY LIFE! I was certain of it. I was planning to do a 365 miles in 2011 challenge and I was asking others to join me. And I was certain that the people who signed up for the challenge with me would experience the same life changes that I would. LETʻS GO PEOPLE! As a matter of fact, I got 50 people to commit to joining me on this resolution of sorts.

Wow. So much has changed since that picture was taken. It was a year ago. I walked just about everyday and a minimum of 1 mile a day. Usually 3. But the weight stayed pretty much the same. On February 1st, though, I changed my diet completely to a plant strong diet. My mantra became "fruits, veggies, beans, and nuts...and some whole grains". I had no idea then (after reading Eat to Live) that my life would change so dramatically. I kept on walking and started challenging others to eat plant strong. When I do something in my life I love to have company. As I tell others, why should I suffer alone? But the fact of the matter is, I am far from suffering. I am thriving and I like to think that others who are following a plant strong diet are thriving with me.

Here is what I have learned:
1. It's easy to cook/bake delicious food if it has salt, sugar and oil in it. Those are addictive foods. Scientifically proven. The evil trio. Restaurants like The Cheesecake Factory and Chili's hire scientists to figure out the perfect combo of this trio in their dishes. Think about it. What are your favorite dishes. Bet they contain a combination of sugar, salt, and fat.
2. Walking is easy and enjoyable. And getting someone to walk with you makes it even more enjoyable. And listening to audiobooks helps me when I have no company. Books make perfect company.
3. The longer you eat a plant strong diet the easier it becomes. Except for the cooking. That is a challenge for me, even months later. But it gets better and better every month. I won't let the difficulty stop me. That would be taking the easy way out. Use my lack of skills to eat crap? No deal.
4. Health = nutrients/calories. Simple enough. I have never been or felt healthier.
5. Everything is connected to food. How you look. How you feel. It is truly my answer to everything. Need more energy? Eat better. Tired all the time? Take a look at your diet. Bad complexion? Watch what you eat. Lots of sinus issues or allergies? Guess. I believe this with my heart and soul.
6. Even if you don't think you can do it, you can do it. It's just a matter of how bad you want it. Or need it.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Healthy Skin

At a party last night two thirty something women were going on and on about anti aging products they were using as part of their daily efforts at slowing down the aging process. They conversed back and forth about how it's important to be preventative and how you just can't use the products until the wrinkles go away. It's daily. Everyday. And spending good money on good products is a good thing. They were so proud of themselves. And while they were going on and on while snacking on goodies on the pūpū table I wondered if they had any inkling about the role that food and drinks play on the overall health of their skin. Dr. Fuhrman has a great post on his blog related to how foods contribute to our complexion.

What we choose to put into our bodies in the form of food (fruits and veggies vs. processed foods and chemicals) and drinks (water vs. alcohol or soda) plays a bigger role in the health of our skin and in actually slowing down the aging process (as does exercise) than anything we can put ON our skin topically. And I am not even going to consider the toxic nature of the chemicals in skin care products.

We, as women, will spend millions of dollars every year on skin care products and yet will have no qualms about the day to day crap we put in our mouths, i.e., McDonald's, chips, sodas, alcohol and coffee (and I'm not immune to a couple of things on this list). But if we are so concerned about our overall looks (and slowing down the appearance of those inevitable fine lines, crow's feet, and bags under the eyes), we would be best served by concentrating on how we treat our bodies in terms of diet and exercise. We should consider the cost savings of getting out and walking everyday and eating fruits and veggies instead of spending $$ every month on cleansers, toners, creams and lotions and then all the makeup that goes on top of it (a whole new post as I ponder a makeup free life).

I look at some of the 6 week challengers around me and sometimes I remark on how slim their faces look but lately I've been looking at them and saying, "Wow, great skin!" It shows. When you put good things IN your body, it shows ON your body.


Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Banana Chocolate "Ice Cream"

At least once or twice a week, after dinner, my husband has a craving for something sweet (okay, he craves something sweet EVERY night). He took such great care of me yesterday as I recovered from my root canal that I jumped at the chance to prepare him something delicious.

It was so quick and easy I don't know why we don't do it more often. Wait. I do know. Even though it is nutritarian, it does have calories and I don't need extra calories after dinner every night.

If you have a Vitamix or a Champion Juicer you would have the best luck in making this. Try it in your blender and let me know how it turns out.

Ingredients
Frozen ripe bananas (if you chunk them prior to freezing I think it will be much "easier" on your machine)
unsweetened cocoa powder (your favorite brand)

Directions
Throw the bananas in the blender (I used about 7 small bananas, the whole thing. Not chopped up into chunks. But my Vitamix was NOT a happy camper as was evidenced by the awful smell it emitted)
Add a couple tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder
BLEND (you really need to use the plunger thing to push the bananas down into the blades)

Be prepared to feast! 
I freeze very ripe bananas (spots on skin). Make sure you peel and cut up bananas before you freeze. I didn't cut up but I wish I did.)

I love dark chocolate. This is now my favorite unsweetened cocoa powder.

Just throw it all together in the vitamix/blender and turn on. Tap it down with the plunger (make sure you have the lid on so your plunger doesn't touch the blades)

I know the picture doesn't do it justice. But believe me--it is better than chocolate ice cream. I kid you not. I'll make it for you if you come to my house. with frozen bananas. And unsweetened cocoa powder. Because by the time you come to my house we will not have any frozen bananas or cocoa powder. I'm having this every night until I run out of the ingredients.

For a bit of a change, add in some peanut butter or almond butter, maybe even some vanilla bean scrapings or extract. Next time I make this I am going to stir in some mac nuts at the end. I can't wait.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Stuffed Pumpkin

Ever since we had our first Challengers' potluck a couple months ago, I have been aching to make a stuffed pumpkin. Darci made the most delicious stuffed pumpkin. I could not wait to try it and I think my sister in law got inspired when she saw the the post from Darci. I don't blame her. I was inspired, too (my post is upcoming).


I have to let you know that my sister-in-law, Michelle, beat me to the punch. In fact, she sent me her pictures and recipes WEEKS ago and I have been remiss in not posting this sooner.
Michelle in the middle, with her hubby, Phil, and me! They came out to cheer me on for the Honolulu Marathon!
Michelle was gracious to share her recipe:

Liana,

First, thank you to So Duck Soup for the wonderful photo (and recipe).
I'm a big believer in "you eat with your eyes, first" and the photo was inspiration.

Found that I had to cook the kabocha pumpkin longer than suggested.  Definitely for an hour in the water. (Pumpkin seeded and placed directly into water.)
After stuffing the pumpkin I dumped the water from the pan and cooked it for another half hour and it made the kabocha softer and a nice crispy crust to the stuffing.

Because I am making three pumpkins (1 medium, 2 small)
I needed to have a lot of filling.
To help the budget along I bought from:

Cost Co.
1   container dried shiitake mushrooms

Whole Foods
1   box of organic mushroom broth

Foodland Farms
1  Whole Wheat Round with flax and the bonus whole pumpkin seeds on crust

Safeway
1   yellow onion
3   stalks of celery from a bunch
3   cloves from a bulb of garlic
1   bag dried cranberries

In cupboard:
    Organic onion powder
    Organic curry powder
    Organic turmeric

Stuffing:
Rinsed the dried mushrooms (half of the container)
In a large sauce pan:
3 cups of mushroom broth.
Cooked the rinsed shiitake mushrooms till soften and absorbed some of the broth.
Drain in a bowl to collect leftover broth. Turned out to be 1/2 cup which you will cook with the onion, celery and garlic.
Used the food processor to make the shiitake into a tapenade consistency.  The shiitake mushrooms can be a little rubbery otherwise.  (It yielded two batches in my food processor.)
Cooked the chopped (I used the food processor so it was minced) onion, celery, garlic in the broth.  Next, fresh rough cut button mushrooms.  Then add the shiitake.
For additional flavor I used onion powder, curry and tumeric. (To taste.)
Last item to the mix a bag of cranberries.  The broth mix plumps up the dried cranberries.
In a x-large bowl added the mixture to the hand torn bread and mixed.
Voila... stuffing for the pumpkin.

I took the pumpkin out of the water and stuffed it.
Then dumped the water and replaced the pumpkin into the oven.
The second bake was for about 1/2 hour.  The additional baking time gave the stuffing nice brown and crispy crust and soften the pumpkin as well.

To serve... cut it like a pie/cake.


Here are some notes she added in a later email:


LEAVE OUT the tumeric.  KEEP the CURRY.
The curry has a more familiar taste... the tumeric gives it a "hippie" flavor that doesn't resonate with everyone especially those resisting the green eating.
Also, I am adding fresh chopped apples and fresh rosemary to the already made stuffing tomorrow.  Trying to give the stuffing some interest.  There is definitely enough salt from the broth but the stuffing needs some depth.  Not having fats and/or dairy makes it little challenging.  What I would give to have a pound of bacon and portuguese sausage in the mix.  Hee hee.



Gotta love the Michelle humor!


Michelle's Pumpkin



Sunday, December 18, 2011

I Can Do Anything



I am woman hear me roar. I entered my first marathon ever. That's right. 26.2 miles of pure hell. I jest. It turned out to be probably 6 miles of pure hell and 20 miles of outright exhuberation.

But let me start from the beginning...

I have two really good friends in Pa'auilo. One lawyer and one veterinarian. They are my BFFs. 
The lawyer, the veterinarian, and me, the nutritarian
Two years ago one (Lisa) signed us all up for the Honolulu Marathon. None of us ended up going. Last year she did it again. That's what I love about my friends. Always hopeful. They never give up. Lisa trained all year. And tried her darndest to get the two of us to do the same. But eventually life got in the way of training and as the date fast approached, I tried my hardest to back out of the deal. Lisa wouldn't hear of it. So I figured I had two choices: 1-follow my gut and just not go. After all, it would be quite costly...one roundtrip flight to HNL plus a hotel room for the night. Plus the fact that it was 26.2 miles and the most I had ever trained NEAR that was our 10 mile trek from Pa'auilo to Honoka'a. 2-suck it up and go because I don't want to dissapoint my friend. I was leaning more towards #1. But when I finally got up the gumption to call Lisa and break the news she INSISTED that I go. "We are in the best shape we have ever been in. If there was ever a time to meet this challenge this is it. We worked hard all year long." Aw. She had me locked in. There was no doubting that what she said was true. I lost a few pounds this year. I walked almost everyday, since January 1. I was already 52 and not getting any younger.

Long story short: the three of us flew to O'ahu. Lisa ran with her daughter, Justina. Jo and I walked it. Jo, who is due for knee surgery in January, eventually had to call it quits (hell, I can't believe she walked as far as she did given her circumstances) after she was almost halfway done. I walked/ran the marathon in 7 hours 25 minutes. My legs were on fire from about the 20 mile marker. I remember walking and crying (yes. crying. just me. walking in the marathon. all alone) at about the 20 mile marker at the thought of actually finishing a marathon, of all my family members cheering me on through texts, of all my friends sending me good wishes on Facebook, of all the people who had "issues" far greater than my own and who were out there walking and running and for all those people who can't even walk a few yards without having to stop and catch their breath. I thought about my dad. I cried for every single finisher and non finisher. It was quite the physical and emotional trek.


And though I likened those last few minutes or hours of childbirth to this race and how I would NEVER EVER DO THIS AGAIN, by the time I was on that plane going home that same evening, I knew this was just the beginning. As I hoisted my leg up onto the truck (literally, using my hands to lift it up) when my husband picked me up at the airport, the first thing out of his mouth was that he would join me in the marathon next year. I knew definitively at that very moment that I would be enter again, but this time with a bigger crew in tow because surely this kind of pain and joy, much like childbirth, has a huge and everlasting payout at the end.
Lisa, I am forever indebted to you for pushing me to reach new heights!

Because our wakeup time was set for 3:35 am, I got all my goods ready the night before.

My new favorite number: 3987

Part of the fun of the marathon was the people we met along the way. Here's my good friend, Bimo, making trouble to Jo and me along the way.

 Still smiling!

Documenting every mile to send to my family so they would know where I was along the course.

Finally!!!!

My forever treasure

Dedicated to the 365 Miles in 2011 Challengers!!!

And my one booboo, a medal of honor of a different sort.
So many people to thank (this is when I make pretend it's like winning an Oscar): My husband (encouraging me every step of the way), my girls (rah rah! They knew just what to text me to keep my spirits high along the route), ALL the volunteers AND families in Hawai'i Kai who were on the sidelines, clapping, yelling, offering fruit and snacks, Ronnie, Michelle and Phil who came out to see me and cheer me on and chronicle my marathon with their cameras, to my friends (KELLY SOHRIAKOFF! Mel Keolanui, Lyanne Binkauski) who I saw RUNNING towards the finish line while I was still heading to Hawaiʻi Kai) and to my other BFF, Kathy Wurdeman, who picked me up on the side of the road, after the marathon, as I was shuffling and whimpering down Kalākaua Blvd, trying to figure out how I was ever going to be able to walk back to the hotel to grab my things and get the heck out of  Dodge.

So much to be grateful for!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Sukiyaki Stir Fry

I am so into the quick meal fixes lately. This meal is definitely EASY and FAST and DELICIOUS!
I used swiss chard as my "greens" because that's what I have growing in my garden. I know it would taste as good and even better with any "choy" you can get at your grocer, farmer's market or garden.

Here are the ingredients:
One can sukiyaki no tomo (it has bean thread [a.k.a. long rice], button mushrooms, bamboo shoots)
two packs long rice (or more, or none. up to you), soaked in hot water
1/2 cup dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in hot water
2-3 cups chicken or vegetable broth (I used chicken broth)
1/3 cup oyster or mushroom sauce
1-2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
1 onion, sliced lengthwise
10 swiss chard leaves, chopped small
2 cloves garlic (optional)
2 slices fresh ginger (optional)

I didn't have garlic or ginger. Believe me when I say my fridge is bare. So I sauted an onion in my pot (with a little pam sprayed on the bottom. a water saute would have been fine too). If I had the garlic and ginger I would have added it at the same time with the onion.  When the onion was almost translucent I added the swiss chard, not really worrying about the stems versus leaves. Once that cooked down a bit I added the long rice (water drained out) and mushrooms (water squeezed out), the can of sukiyaki (also drained). In other words, EVERYTHING ELSE. And then I just let it simmer on the stove for about 15-20 minutes. I think the longer the better because then the mushrooms can soak in the flavors better.

Taste it. If it's not flavorful enough, add some more oyster or mushroom sauce and/or tamari. Season to taste is the key to everything. I think a few red pepper flakes would have been good. Or maybe even some mirin.

It was quick. And easy.
Two packs of long rice soaking in hot water (probably 10 minutes max)

One can sukiyaki no tomo (on sale from Longs)

Chard, fresh from the garden

Onion, sliced lengthwise

Chard all chopped up

saute the onions and the chard (just a bit at first)

I squeezed out the shiitake mushrooms and just threw it on the long rice

This is the contents of the can of sukiyaki

threw the long rice, mushrooms and can contents right on tops of swiss chard in the pot and then added everything else

so so delicious

What do you think? Easy enough, right?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Hōʻiʻo Salad

First time I ever saw or heard of hōʻiʻo was when I was an 11th grader at Kamehameha. One of the Hawaiian language teachers was cooking it and talking with another teacher about its slimy nature. Yum. I don't think I saw it again for many more years--it's not as easy to come by on O'ahu as it is on Hawai'i Island. In fact, it is so affordable I'm ashamed I don't eat it more often. I mean really, I could get it for free if I want to venture down into Waipi'o or other places along the Hāmākua Coast. At the open market in Hilo you can get a nice bunch for $2-3 and if you go later on in the day you could even garner a bunch, like I did, for a mere $1.00. It almost doesnʻt seem right!

Hōʻiʻo is often referred to as warabi (Japanese name) or fern shoot. I will stick with hōʻiʻo, what with being Hawaiian and all. It is often likened to asparagus in taste and I must agree. I think the part that is most unattractive about it is its slimy texture once it is cooked. But once you get past that, it really is quite delicious. And the better you clean it, the less slimy it is.

$1.00 just because it was almost closing time!

I have watched others prepare it and I will eat it at gatherings but I never really prepared it myself until a girlfriend of mine taught me how she does it. I was so excited to start this afternoon that I jumped ahead of the gun:
I cut off the end pieces just like I do with asparagus.   Put those in my compost bin and then proceeded to cut up the hōʻiʻo in small one inch pieces.

And then I remembered that I didn't clean the stalks. So I had to clean the pieces.

My friend, Kanani, taught me that you should run your thumbnail down the deep groove on each fern shoot. I forgot all about this step until, of course, I had already cut up every single shoot in 1 inch pieces. Darn! Now I had to clean up each piece. Piece by piece. Ugh. But that's okay because in the meantime the water was on the stove heating up. Here is another great cleaning tip: have a toothbrush dedicated to hōʻiʻo cleaning and use it to brush in that groove and all around, especially on the hairy pieces.

Once you have cleaned up the groove of each stalk and cut it up into pieces, wash the pieces well. At least a couple times. Once the water in a pot starts boiling, put the pieces in then rush to get some ice and put it in a bowl and add water for an ice bath!

After maybe a minute of blanching, take the hōʻiʻo off the stove and drain immediately then put it in the iced water bath to stop the cooking. This will help to retain a nice green color as well as retain a great crispiness.

What you want to add at this point is totally up to you. Kanani likes to add konbu, aburage, and pea shoots. I like to add whatever I already have in the pantry and refrigerator. I had some wakame and konbu. Since the konbu is seasoned with MSG and other not so great ingredients, I make sure to rinse it at least 2 times. I added probably 2 tablespoons of dried wakame and dried konbu, then reconstituted them in water.




In the fridge I had some small tomatoes and a Japanese cucumber so that would be added for sure.

One of my favorite cooks uses the Paul Newman's dressing as the "sauce" but I just added 3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and 2 tablespoons of Braggs (or shoyu).

Putting this over some buckwheat soba noodles would be exquisite. Or just eat it right out of the bowl. The longer you let it marinate the better! I cannot wait until tomorrow!


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Akira Kurosawa Dressing (a.k.a. Caesar Chavezmoto)

I blogged about the most delicious Caesar Chavez dressing a few weeks back. It has since became the go to dressing or everything, including raw veggies, burritos and more. Need a snack? Nothing beats some raw veggies (zucchini, cucumber, carrots, celery, cabbage wedges) or whole grain crackers and Caesar Chavez dip.

Yesterday I ended up making a double batch for my daughters et. al. in Kāneʻohe. Big hit. So when I finally got back home to Pa'auilo tonight I went straight to the kitchen to make a quadruple batch, this time subbing out the dijon for wasabi! GOOD CHOICE, Rubber Slipper Contessa! Both on the wasabi substitution as well as the new name!

Not sure how I garnered the Starbucks glass jars but they are perfect for dressing! I wiped out the ramekin w/ Akira "dip" right afterwards.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Fruit Salad

I could live off of fruits. I recall a time about 5 years ago. A friend gave me a box of the most delicious mangoes ever. And I ate them everyday, several a day. I thought for sure I was going to gain at least 10 pounds because I felt like it was eating tons of sugar all day long. Lo and behold once I stepped on the scale after the frenzy was over, I had actually lost weight. That got me thinking that fruits are a great thing no matter what!

Living off of fruits is a good thing if you live in Hawai'i. We are fortunate to have some form of fresh fruit all year long. Bananas are always in season. Avocados abound at this time of year. And citrus trees are alive with orange and yellow right about now! Pomegranates can be found and the list can go on. And if you don't mind the huge carbon footprint that imported fruits have, then your choices of delectables are even larger (can't believe I saw Cherries in Safeway for more than $8 a pound. Ridiculous).

In my younger days the only type of fruit salad I would partake of were those that had a mixture of whipped cream in it. Kind of defeats the purpose of the fruit, don't you think? When you are a nutritarian, you truly enjoy the TRUE taste of pure fruit. Dripping down your chin getting stuck between your teeth make your mouth water fruit. Why ruin it with whipped cream that leaves an oily film in your mouth? The thought makes me sad now.

And seriously, why is it called a salad anyway?

Just wanted to share with you the best ever looking fruit salad that my niece, Ashley, prepared. She included at least five different fruits including my favorite part: sectioned grapefruit!!! It was so delicious. On day three (surprised it lasted so long but there were so many leftovers from Thanksgiving), I threw the rest of it in a blender, added some soy milk and had the most delicious smoothie ever. This fruit salad needed NOTHING to accompany it...no vanilla sauce, no whipped cream. It was beautiful and tasty all on its own.


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Keeping it Simple

I like to think of myself as a gourmet cook or baker in the kitchen. At times. Like maybe last year. Or the year before that. I mean I was making my own cheese and yogurt. Spaghetti and ravioli! But this year with the demands of work and exercise (I have put that as a priority for this year), I don't have the time I have had in the past. Fortunately, if I have learned anything living a plant strong life it's that I can keep it SIMPLE and be satisfied. Whereas in my former life the more butter, cheese, and sugar I could add to a dish the BETTER, now my motto is: LESS IS MORE! It's a beautiful thing.

Hidden Rose Apple proved to be delicious. A great way to start the day OR end lunch!

The easiest breakfast ever...besides a whole fruit. Oatmeal, slivered almonds and banana.

And if you have blueberries, fresh or frozen, it is a great variation
I like how I can enjoy just a few key ingredients in any dish I might prepare for lunch or dinner. Besides a raw salad (EAT THE SALAD FIRST), I am totally satisfied with simple cooked veggies.

Nothing's much better than brussel sprouts and mushrooms (with garlic!). Saute in water. Add whatever spices.

Roast some asparagus and bell peppers...OMG! Just put it on a pan in the oven and bake at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes. Perfecto mundo!
And just when you think you don't want to eat another leaf of lettuce, MAKE YOUR SALAD PRETTY! I am famous for just throwing romaine in a bowl and calling it a salad. But after a few days I just want to throw it all in the compost pile because it just is not happening. I learned the trick (besides having someone else make it for you).
Variety is the spice of life!

So beautiful! Added bean sprouts on top (on sale!) and it was a great atypical addition!

Only in my later life have I come to enjoy different colored tomatoes. I was strictly a red tomato kinda girl before.

And of course it's all about the dressing!
And then when you just need that break, take your computer or favorite book down to the nearest Starbucks and order yourself a decaf soy latte. The soy does have a bit of sugar in it, but once in a blue moon is just enough to give you that lift we all need once in a while. You deserve a special treat.