Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Waving the Green Bean!

There I was, enjoying a passover seder with lovely people at my table, and as we were chatting, I found myself waving a green bean to make my point. A real green bean. Oy! Hopefully no one caught this moment on camera - the rabbi using a green bean as though it were a pointer. Of course, it could be better than the photo shots of me, the rabbi, lifting a bottle of Manichevitz instead of a glass. Never good.

My meal was lovely. I brought it from home and plated it as my table mates went through the buffet line for a meal of chicken, brisket, sweet potatoes and the like. I had steamed green beans, raw carrots, and the raw walnut pate I made earlier in the day (recipe below).

There were questions about my "diet" -- did I have health issues that "made" me have to eat like this? Do I feel deprived? Do I look forward to eating "normal" again?

Here is were those of us who have chosen a vegan/raw/healthy or similar lifestyle have to be careful not to wave the proverbial green bean in an evangelical way. (Actually, I look at it as "having been chosen" because I can't imagine me, the junk food junkie, chosing this myself, and yet it fits as naturally as worn bedroom slippers.)

I try to keep my choices to myself and not proselytize, in the way a non-smoker might, or one who newly discovers a religion or restaurant: "you gotta try it!" And yet, there is the balance of sharing information with folks who are truly interested and looking for healthful suggestions to improve their lives versus the evangelical bean waving.

Somewhere between providing guidance and experience (hence this blog as one example) and standing up and waving my green bean in everyone's face with "eat this or die!" printed on my T-shirt, is the balance or middle ground.

The longer I am on this journey -- and as of today, it is just shy of three months (so I am still a virtual newbie) - the more I feel changes in my body, my tastebuds, my energy levels.

Even today as I heated up a veggie burger -- my favorite lunch item during those first three months, I swear, I could smell the "processing." I no longer had the taste for this burger that formerly I considered healthy. Compared to a hamburger, yes, a veggie burger is healthy. But a commercially packaged and frozen veggie burger is still processed, and hardly compares to a freshly made veggie burger.

As food writer Michael Pollan writes: If a third grader cannot read and pronounce the ingredient list, it is NOT food. My commercial veggie burger did not pass this test.

Hopefully, as I write this blog, and share friendship and dinners with many of you, I will not feel the urge to proselitize. If I ever do -- just tell me to stop waving the damn Green Bean!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

My first raw creation: Walnut Pate. Story and recipe below.

Raw Recipe One

Today is the day of my first raw recipe.

I know, I know -- I have a friend whose raw recipe for banana walnut bread is:

Take one bite of banana and one handful of walnuts and chew slowly, enjoy.

But as usual, I want more!

In anticipation of this day, I took a cup of raw walnuts and soaked them in water in a specially purchased.....drum roll....Mason Jar. Now I grant you, any container, including a glass bowl and saran wrap would have worked, but it felt oh-so-authentic to use a Mason jar. Even when I was purchasing the Mason jars at the local hardware store (an authentic local hardware store, by the way), several folks gathered around to see what I was "putting up."

I slept later than I wanted today. Actually, I awoke at 8 full of vigor to start my first raw creation, and then thought, "well, I will just do a "tester" and see if I am really awake." (A tester, for those of you who do not know my penchant for making up words, is testing to see if you are really awake, by laying down again and closing your eyes. If you fall asleep -- you were not awake in the first place; and if after a few minutes of stirring, you don't -- then voila! the day begins.)

Well, the tester indicated I needed more sleep. I re-emerged at 11 a.m., and in my pajamas, and with coffee in one hand, I gathered the dusty food processor from the top shelf of the pantry and began my new life as.....


modest and humble though I try to be.

My first recipe was walnut pate. It called for fresh parsley, but the baby squirrels who delight in eating from my garden, topped all of the herbs except the baby basil (oh please dear young playful squirrels, leave it for me) and the mature rosemary which they must not like. So I used a little dried parsley and topped one pate with lots of chopped fresh cilantro which I purchased at the store yesterday.

Taste test: A+ if I do say so. It had a nice onion and garlic kick; I think this same recipe could be made with cinnamon for a breakfast or sweet spread. Or with some chipolte for a kicker spread.

Ease of preparation: Embarrassingly easy. Probably 5 minutes plus clean up of the food processor. Once the nuts were soaked -- everything was bing, bang, bam -- eat! I was still sipping my first hit of coffee when it was ready.

The Gordon Test: He grudgingly took a teaspoonful and said, "I can see where you would like this." I said: "what's the hold up here: you like walnuts, you like lemon, you like onion." And he said, "yes, but it is blended and raw." The fact that he took some into his mouth and swallowed -- MAJOR.

Remember, my beloved does not even like the smell of a vegetable and when I cook veggies, I do it when he is not home and turn on the fan and open the doors so the smell will leave before he returns.


Into a food processor (dusted from lack of prior use) I added:

1 cup of rinsed, previously soaked walnuts (I soaked overnight for convenience)
1 tablespoon of fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp of Nama Shoyu
1 tsp virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp of garlic powder
hit of kosher or sea salt

I pulsed it with the S blade into a paste, using a spatula to smooth it down.
When it was almost done - I added 1 tablespoon of minced onion and sprinkled it with dried parsley. (If you have an herb garden and no squirrels or rabbits, fresh is better)

I removed the paste from the food processor and put it in cute little ramekins (but of course). I garnished one with fresh cilantro, and left the other plain for tasting purposed (although it was screaming for a garnish of fresh red bell peppers, or chopped green olives, or a sprinkle of chipolte, or, or.....

Remember --
for a sweet treat, leave out the savory things and add a little agave and cinnamon, maybe some dates or raisins.

I wrapped my creations in saran wrap and put in the refrigerator where they will keep for a few days, if not devoured sooner.

Since I am conscious of reducing my caloric intake, I must warn that this recipe has more calories than a leaf of lettuce, so use as a garnish unless you are twiggy.

The Story Behind the Garden of Eden Vegan Blog

For those of you who knew me prior to December 30, 2009, I was a veteran of the fast food culinary institute. My son, when he lived with me would ask if I had ordered the "Shabbat pizza" yet as the sun was setting Friday nights.

My idea of a good meal was a McFish sandwich, fries with extra salt, and a medium diet coke.

Everything was better covered in a rich creamy sauce and the idea of a naked baked potato was as foreign to me as walking naked in Manhattan.

In June of 2009 I decided to formally become a vegetarian. Although I had dabbled with this, it was not until I read Skinny Bitch that the gauntlet was thrown.

Now being a vegetarian does not sign you up for good health. I was proof of that. Chubby when I started, I indulged in pizza, french fries, cheese, cheese, butter, cheese, pizza......and became very over weight, tipping the Toledos at 200 pounds at 5'4". And taking an assortment of meds for cholesterol and GERD and who knows what else.

As the decade was waning, and with my 60th birthday approaching in the year 2010, there was a perfect storm that snapped my beak and got me in gear. The same friend who gave me Skinny Bitch, turned me on to the John McDougall website. At the same time, there was a Grand Round lecture at the hospital where I work on the book Eat to Live, and at the same time, I was tired of how I looked and felt and needed to make a change.

I regret that I did not start this blog when I changed my lifestyle, but it is better late than never.

My weight is down about 35 pounds, my size has gone from a tight 16 to a loose 12. And I am on no meds, although my vegetarian doctor and I will review my blood work within this month to see if I need anything (like b12) boosted.

I began as a Vegan Minus. Or what I call a Garden of Eden Vegan.

As you know, a Vegan eats no animals nor animal products - none. But then I subtracted oil, sugar, and processed foods.

That is a big subtraction -- but it is this subtraction that helped with weight loss, lack of cravings, increased energy, health, and vibrancy.

Now I am dabbling in raw foods and have signed up to learn with Russell James (google him).

I like the taste and health aspect of raw foods, but worry about the increased calories. So I will (hopefully) use the raw creations as a supplement to my Gan (Hebrew for Garden -- I am in a Hebrew mood today) Eden Vegan lifestyle.

My doctor said that I should write a book about this since most of her patients need it. I said, "Who, or how many, would want to do this?" We shall see. It has been easy (no cravings) and exciting as life and energy unfold before me, just as it was meant to be. (It didn't unfold over a fried fish sandwich, extra tarter sauce.)

Join me or not. Walk with me the whole journey, day trips, part of it, or not. This is my 60th year -- buckle up life, here I come.