What happens when you pair a health-conscious, vegan mother of two who has her own diet business with a husband and children who sometimes have other ideas? This blog is a chronicle of my journey to eat and live in a life-affirming way!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Got milk? Sprouts and how to grow them!

Do my little sprouts Caroline and Oliver really need 3 glasses of milk in order to grow?!? 

Is that really the best, most nutritious way for my children to take in a whopping 600 calories in their diets? I think not!

Although my views are fairly "liberal" with respect to nutition in my neck of the woods up in the UES in Manhattan, I still go to the same more traditional pediatrician that I have for 10 years. They have gotten me through surgery with my son at 2 weeks old, fairly serious staph infections, flus, hives and the throw ups, so I am fairly loyal. And, the kids love them and feel confortable going.

We have seemed to live in happy harmony... until yesterday. When I was beseiged!!!

It all started when I began being questioned about how much milk my kids were drinking. I tried to stay fairly light about it all and just brush over the subject and talk about the kids healthy diets etc... For anyone who knows me, my kids eat very healthy diets full of fresh fruits and vegetables, grains, beans, salmon and tofu. Anyway, the line of questioning got quite, how shall I say it, aggressive! And, I came back fighting!

Number 1: Milk is not the holy grail for calcium!

8 oz of milk contains 408 mg of calcium but there are many, many other sources!

Tofu (1 cup contains 408 mg calcium)
Kale (1 cup contains 80 mg)

Almonds (1 oz contains 75 mg)
1 cup tofu                                         408 mg
1 cup of spinach                              280 mg
1 cup of fortified orange juice        350 mg
1 cup fortified cereal                      300mg +
1 cups of soy milk                           200-300 mg
5 dried figs                                      258 grams
1 cup of soybeans                           298 mg
1 cup of broccoli                               94 mg
1 cup kale                                         80 mg
6 oz salmon                                     360 mg
2 slice whole wheat bread                 42 mg
2 tbsp sesame seeds                      126 mg
1 cup navy beans                            140 mg
1 cup black beans                             60 mg
1 cup lentils                                       40 mg
1 oz almonds (approx 20)

Anyway, my point is this- there are soooo many different ways to get in calcium than drinking milk, and I am a firm believer that kids have an intuitive sense for what is good for their bodies and, if served healthy foods, will naturally eat what their bodies need!

So how much do we need? According to the recommended guidelines, children 4-8 need 1000 mg and children 9-13 need 1,300 mg and we grown ups need 1,000 mg. 1 cup of soy or almond milk, 1 cup of orange juice, some broccoli, and salmon for dinner and your done! Sometimes my kids will eat 2 servings of tofu at dinner alone, which is approximately 800 mg of calcium in one meal! Check out this video for an easy, delicious marinated tofu recipe you can prepare in under 10 minutes!.

Number 2: Milk is high in saturated fat and calories!
Saturated fat has been known to cause disease and obesity. Do our kids really need more saturated fats in their diets with all the processed foods and junk foods that are out there? We are experiencing record numbers of obesity in the United States- our children included!

The real problem, though, is that if our children are drinking 3 glasses of milk a day I guarantee that they will be eating less fresh fruits and vegetables and other nutritious foods we serve them. You try having a glass of milk before your dinner and see how hungry you are! 

Back to the saturated fat issue. Saturated fat has been linked to cause high cholesterol! In the last year, the diets of my children have even becoming higher since my son went on a gluten and dairy free diet. When they took my children's blood, their numbers were perfect and I was informed that "both of their cholesterol went down! My daughter's cholesterol went down 50 points and my son's cholesterol went down 70 points in one year!" And, these are children who even then were eating healthier than average diets!

As a sidenote, why was I not informed that my childrens' cholesterol was high in the first place and the fact they don't drink milk such an issue??? Uhm...

Fact #3: Milk does not cause growth or attribute to kids thriving!

My daughter does not drink milk and is in the 97 percentile for height, she is a competative swimmer, plays tennis, does well at school and is thriving. Does this really look like a girl who is not getting the nutrition that she needs?

Further, when I started in on the line of questioning saying, "well, let's have her tested, the doctor balked saying that it was hard to tell because our blood leaches calcium out of the bones and I would have to arrange another test." "Ok, I said," I am all about science, "let's get that test ordered." "Oh, well, that is not necessary." Really. But, it's ok to blindly (and strongly) suggest my daughter drink 3 glasses of milk when we don't have the science to back it?

The pleasant conversation ended with my saying that they could have what they liked at school but it would not be in my house.

End of story. End of discussion.

But, what scared me about this conversation was how many moms- well educated, smart moms- are blindly following this protocol because they respect their doctor and feel that it is the right thing to do?

Please no hate mail from mom's who feed their kids milk and feel right about it! We moms all have to follow what we know is right in our hearts for our own children. And, I just personally don't feel like it is right to feed my children 600 empty calories of milk filled with saturated fat and casein crowding out other healthy foods just so I can check the calcium box!

For more information on my view of milk check out my article The Milk Myth.

So, what is this? This is the delectable salad I made with my homemade sprouts! After tiring of buying box after box of $8 sprouts, I thought "I can do that!" 

Because I am a vegan, an athlete and a busy working mom, I try to get as much protein, calcium, iron, live-enzymes and other vital nutrients in my diet as I can. And, sprouts are basically seeds that have all the nutition in them to grow them into baby plants. And, they are so easy to throw on salads, pastas, soups, sandwiches or just eaten plain as a snack (my daughter adores these as a snack, the way!) To read more about sprouts, go to Sprouts and All Things Green.

So, how easy was it to grow sprouts? Embarrasingly sooo easy!

First step: Purchase dried beans
I chose adzuki, lentils, and peas.

Second Step: Soak them in a bowl of filtered water for 4-6 hours.

Third Step: Rinse them off and put them into a fine mesh collander over the bowl you soaked them in to catch the water.

Fourth Step: For the next 3 days rinse them well 3 times a day. And, voila!

See, the long tails? Those are the actual sprouts coming out so you know you are doing the right thing!

Fifth Step: Refrigerate them to keep them fresh (preferably in a breathable container).
I use the mesh bowl and just cover it.

And, this was dinner again last night! My husband was soooo jealous of my 'Vegan Pasta Alfredo with Mushrooms' that he made me make it again last night. Caroline got in the picture eating a good portion of it as well. Here is a better picture!

Strawberry Banana Spring Parfait and a Hail Merry Sweet Treat!

I am always looking for more healthy breakfast ideas and I was tiring of my old standards, so I decided to use the Creamy Dairy-Free Coconut yogurt I made a few days ago and make this Strawberry, Banana Granola Parfait!

Strawberry Banana Granola Parfait
4 strawberries
1/2 banana
1 cup of yogurt (So delicious is a dairy-free yogurt that we use at home if you don't want to make it!)
1/4-1/2 cup granola (I used Laughing Giraffe's Gluten-free, raw Cherry Ginger Walnut one)

Dice the strawberries and cut the bananas into very thin disks. Place a few heaping spoonfuls of yogurt in your cup, sprinkle granola on top covering area, then place a layer of sliced bananas on top then the strawberries. Continue until you have made the amount you desire. I did two layers and that was great for me.

I so enjoyed my breakfast and felt like I was having dessert for breakfast!!!

Speaking of dessert, yesterday High Vibe delivered some amazing treats that I have been dying to try. And, last night my husband and I tried the Hail Merry's Lemon Tart, which by the way is gluten-free, dairy-free and raw, and we were almost fighting eachother with our forks it was sooooo good. Here is a picture! 

Always like to share my new finds and heealthy and delicious- that's what I love! Enjoy your weekend!!!

Any special foods that you have found and loved? Would love to hear about them!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

'Alfredo Pasta' With Mushrooms & Mail Order

Sorry for the dreadful picture but this dish was SOOOO delicious that I ate it before I had time to download the pictures and realize my lighting was off! Trust me- looked like real alfredo and mouthwatering good!

I promised that I would be making more dishes using the dehydrated and sauteed shitake, oyster and chanterelle mushrooms that I made yesterday. And, after a 7 mile run yesterday, I was in the mood for something rich and nutritionally dense- so I made 'Pasta Alfredo with Mushrooms!' This dish is rich and creamy and tastes almost like the 'real' thing but better!

My version uses kelp noodles, which are fat-free, gluten-free and high in iron, iodine and other trace minerals, but you can use any other pasta that you like. And, mushrooms are know to reduce inflammation, boost our immunity, lower cholesterol and high blood pressure and fight off disease!
'Alfredo Pasta' with Mushrooms1/2 avocado
1 cup raw macadamian nuts (pre-soaked)
1 large garlic clove
Juice of one lemon
1 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup olive oil (or hemp seed oil)
Water (optional to thin)
Kelp noodles (or preferably a gluten-free variety!)
Optional (but delicious!): Dehydrated Garlic Mushrooms

Mix all of the ingredient (except, of course, the noodles) in the food processor until very smooth. Place the mixture on top of the noodles. Sprinkle top with mushrooms and you are done. Truly delicious!

Below are the Kelp Noodles I used. I noticed when I was at the health store that there are also noodles made from tofu by House Foods, which I bought but have yet to try, for al of you out there on gluten-free diets that are tiring of the same old rice noodles. It's nice to mix it up!

If there is any 'Alfredo sauce' left over then save it because it is great to use for dips for crudite, as a spread on sandwiches, a creamy salad dressing, with steamed vegetables on top of rice. or another day later that week for more pasta! I am all for making one dish and using it throughout the week!

My husband for some reason claims not to like raw pastas so asked that I make him Pasta with Sauteed Mushrooms. Just sauteed mushrooms in olive oil, garlic and a hint of sea salt and used a Tinkyada gluten-free rice pasta. He was jealous of mine! "

It felt like Christmas as my shipment from High Vibe arrived today!!!

People are always asking me how I find time to do all that I do and where I get all of my food and staples. The key is to be organize and order ahead. While I do go to the grocery store for fresh produce and other items, I find that mail-ordering items that I want to store in the pantry, as well as items I can't find at the grocery,  works for me! And, High Vibe is top of the list along with Ultimate Superfoods, Sun Organics, and Live-Live.

So, what did I get today?

Macadamian nuts (plan to make a yummy dip later in the week)

Brazil nuts (for a future nut butter and maybe even a raw pudding)

Dried papaya (great for sticking in my purse and having as a healthy snack on the go) 

Raw carrot bread by Rayo de Sol (delicious for an avocado sandwich or with Dr. Cow cheese on top!)

Raw, vegan, gluten-free lemon tart by Hail Merry (OMG, this was sooo delicious my husband and I
devoured it!)

Raw, vegan, gluten-free chocolate tart by Hail Merry (have yet to try but if it is half as delicious as the lemon one then it will be a winner!)  

Raw chocolate brazil nuts and mulberries by Living Intentions (my daughter & I LOVE these!)

Raw white chocolate cashews, almonds and cacao nibs by Living Intentions (it was all I could do not to rip open the bag and eat them before dinner!)

Vita Synergy multi-vitamins for women

Innate probiotics

How do you keep your shopping where it is fun and not a chore? What are your systems?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Einstein, Springtime and Mushrooms

"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle.
the other is though everything is a miracle." Albert Einstein

My daughter is reading a biography of Albert Einstein right now and I came across a few quotes that really moved me. What a brilliant mathematician, scientist and inventor he was, but also was an incredibly wise human being!

I found it incredible that first he was thought of as "stupid" because he didn't speak in class and his parents were told he would not amount to anything and then later he was thrown out of a very strict school for asking too many questions!

With work and family commitments, grocery shopping, errand running, returning phone calls, going to the gym, cooking how often we just race through life and never smell the flowers?

This month I am making a personal goal to sloooooow down, realize that I don't have to get everything done perfectly all of the time, learn to say no and really take the time to take in everything around me and just enjoy being with my family and having some quiet connected time to reflect.

And, in New York City, Spring is finally in the air and it is gorgeous! Here is a picture of our window boxes that my sweet hubbie planted for us.

And, Park Avenue on my walk to pick up my daughter from school today. The tulips are absolutely gorgeous right now.

 And, when it's Spring, the art vendors come out in droves in front of the Metropolitan Museum.

 A picture of our beautiful, tree-lined street. Caroline said it looked like a canopy of snow!

Obviously, I had not had time to "reflect" yet that Spring was here so unfortunately did not have the toes pedicured for the first day of wearing sandals. Oh, well it could have been worse (much worse since I am a runner!)

Since it was such as nice day, I decided to take a trip down to the Union Square Farmers Market to visit my favorite mushroom lady to buy some delicious mushrooms to make dehydrated mushrooms and a pasta with mushrooms for the fam later. Here is her booth:

And, here are some of the delicious mushrooms all packages up and ready to go:

I decided on shitakechanterelle and oyster mushrooms.  I've always thought that mushrooms are a true miracle in nature. Basically, they are the fleshy, spore-bearing fruit of fungus that have amazing medicinal properties. Not only are they antiviral, reduce inflammation, boost immunity, combat high blood pressure, lower cholesterol and, some say, even help fend off cancer!

So, how do I use them?
Today I am going to dehydrate half of them to make a crunchy, delicious topping to put on top of salads and a pasta for me and, the other half, I am going to sautee and put ontop of pasta (a gluten-free variety for the kids and a raw variety for me!)

Here are the Dehydrated Mushrooms! Yum. I can't wait to make dinner!

Crunchy Mushroom Topping (for salads, pastas or just because!)
Fresh mushrooms (I used shitake, portobello and oyster)
Garlic (I used 2 cloves for my huge bowl but add how you wish)
Olive oil
Sea salt

Cut up mushrooms and place them in a bowl.

Dice garlic and place it in the bowl with the mushrooms along with a healthy dose of olive oil and a healthy dash of sea salt.

Place the mushrooms in your dehydrator. *** If you don't have a dehydrator don't despair! Just put the mushrooms on a cookie sheet in the oven at the lowest temperature possible (ususally this is 175 degrees) and heat with door to oven ajar.

If you are dehydrating your mushrooms, place them at 110 degrees for approximately 4 hours then turn over and dehydrate for another 4 hours. Depending on the thickness of your mushrooms this may take a bit longer. If you are cooking them in the oven, then check on them after 30 minutes or so and you will have to go by sight a bit more.

Check back tomorrow for some delicious recipes using these mushrooms!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Easy Peasy Creamy Homemade Coconut Yogurt!

In the past, when I have been craving yogurt, I have either made my Coconut Cream Pudding (see below) or have bought the So Delicious coconut yogurt sold in stores. So, yesterday when we were all having yogurt bowls, I thought, "if I can make my own almond milk, I can certainly try to make my own yogurt!" As are all things that are homemade, it was so creamy and delicious and SOOOOOOO much better than the store-bought variety!

Whether you are trying to eat more dairy-free, are trying to minimize/eliminate the dairy in your childrens' diets or are lactose intollerant, this recipe is so easy and worth trying.

First step is getting all the ingredients you need.

You will need Coconut Meat. You can cheat and buy these great bags of the frozen meat by Exotic Superfoods OR you can purchase 3-4 Thai coconuts at your local health food store or Whole Foods. Watch this short video on How to Open a Coconut.

And, then you will also need:
- 1-2 vanilla beans (approximately 1/2-3/4 tbsp)
- 1/8 cups agave nectar (or more if you like it sweeter)
- healthy splash of vanilla extract
- Coconut or regular filtered water (I used just a bit of coconut yogurt)

Place all of the ingredients except the coconut or regular water and blend. Add water slowly as needed until mixture smooth. At this point if you want you can take part of the mixture aside and have Coconut Cream or Chocolate Pudding (I made both!)

So, here is the coconut pudding (with some delish toppings!). Although the yogurt above doesn't look as white and bright, it is actually just the picture (and the fact that I added more vanilla beans!) Nice thing about this yogurt recipe, is that before you heat up the mixture to make into yogurt, you can put some aside for pudding like this...

And, here is the Chocolate pudding I made from that adding 2 tbsp raw cacao powder and a hint more agave nectar!

Second step: Add in your Probiotics!!!

I used 2 capsules from my favorite probiotics, Innate, by just opening up the capsule and dumping the powder in!

Step 3: Cover mixture and placing in a warm place.

Ideally, this is a dehydrator set at 110 degrees but you can also cover a bowl and place it in either near a warm place such as a space heater or oven OR (and you have to be careful with this) warm up your oven at the lowest temperature possible, open the door for a minute to let the heat escape, turn off the heat and then place the bowl inside the oven to warm it up. (not cook it!!!) The longer you leave it out the more sour and "yogurty" if will taste!

After you take it out of the dehydrator or oven, place it in an airtight container in the fridge and enjoy! You will be seeing many concoctions using the homemade yogurt in the days to come!!!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Yogurt Bar & Science Experiments

Our mornings during the week are sometimes rushed and I am always looking for quick, easy and nutritious ideas for the kids and I during the week! My kids love it when I put out a "yogurt bar" and they can make their own creations. As a vegan, I either use So Delicious Coconut Yogurt or delicious, homemade Coconut Cream (think Vegan whipped cream- yum!) My kids usually like the either the Fage Greek yogurt or the Maple Hill Creamery, which is grass-fed , sweetened with cane sugar and contains natural fruits.

For the "yogurt bar," I usually put out bowls of fresh and dried fruits and the kids also love to pile up granola, cereal and  trail mix on top!

My son piled the Cherry Chocolate Granola that I made a few days ago on top of his.

My kids also love to put the Bear Naked Trail Mix on top.

Caroline also loves to pile hers with Envirokidz Leapin Lemurs, which is gluten-free and sweetened with brown rice syrup and evaporated cane juice.

Here is what Caroline's yogurt bowl looked like!

Doing a yogurt bar is great for breakfasts and also kids adore doing this for after school snacks and treats.

While the kids love "experimenting" with their different concoctions in the kitchen, another set of concoctions took place in our house yesterday!

Science Fair + 10 year old boys + 10 pounds of dry ice = FUN!

Makes me feel like I am 10 again!

 Boiling & Teeming Mason Jar

Blowing Up a Balloon

Making a Gargantuan Bubble

Busy, but fun week. Hope everyone has a wonderful holiday weekend with the family!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Bunnies, Chicks and Other Misadventures!

It looks like al is well in bunny-land but nothing could be further from the truth! When the class mom asked me to prepare "bite size snacks" for my 8 year olds Easter party I don't know what came over me to think that we would make bunny and chick pops?!? Me non-crafty, non-bakey me! I can cook with the best of them but baking cute cupcakes and making cakes for my children's birthdays has just never been my thing.

So, it all started off rather well. I was under no impression that these snacks would be "healthy" in the traditional sense of the word, but I sought out to make them as vegan and as healthy as I could! The recipe starts out with cake mix so I bought the Cherrybrook Kitchen mixes, which are dairy, egg and nut-free. I just love these mixes and use them whenever I do have treats to make for the kids.

So, here is the chocolate one freshly poured into the pan.

And, here are the cakes piping hot right out of the oven.

Once the cakes were cooled we dumped the pan into the bowl and proceeded to mix the along with the icicing (white cake with vanilla icing and chocolate cake with chocolate icing.) You are supposed to add the icing slowly and add as needed and we almost used an entire one with each.

Here my son is mashing the dough with his hands and mixing in the icing! They loved doing the "dirty work!"

Next we rolled the dough into balls for the chicks and triangular flat shapes and put it aside.

We were planning on making the chocolate ones into eggs so shaped them into egg shapes.
After they are rolled into balls you have to use your "candy coating" mixture, which is really just a white chocolate mixture, to attach them to the sticks. Basically you heat up the mixture, dip the stick in approximately an inch and then let them dry.

With the white dough, they worked perfectly.
Then, we began decorating. My son said that the bunnies didn't look like bunnies and we didn't space out the candy corn as we should on some of them. Oh, well.

By the way, the chicks ended up being more Easter Eggs because the yellow gel dye made the "candy mixture" into a clumpy mess! Oh, well.

Here Caroline is heating up chocolate on the stove (with my supervision, of course!)

And, here is the end result of the chocolate eggs. It looks more like a wounded battlefield than a joyous Easter treat! They literally melted off the sticks. So, we just made do and made Easter Eggs sitting in the basket with the bunny.
Overall a fun family adventure but I declared retreat and bought some extra Crumbs mini Easter cupcakes to fill in the gap! I just didn't have it in me to make another batch.

Have you ever tried something ambitious and out of your comfort zone and it just flopped?

Do craft things come easy to you or are you like me and are a total distaster with them?

Not to be too soppy but it truly was the family memories that counted for me!