Back with the Beets

Hey, so it’s been awhile. And I apologize. But I’m not going to pretend like it’s a new year and I’m going to be better about blogging and make resolutions or promises about this, because then we would both be disappointed. See, around May of 2014 I turned my freelance career into an actual business: The Content Chop Shop. And since then I have been overwhelmed and overjoyed by the amount of business I’ve had. Quite a bit of this business is blogging….for other companies. This leaves very little time for blogging….for myself.

But this past Christmas I was gifted a new kitchen appliance . . . one that, unlike the uninspired toaster or a microwave, has basically spawned a cult of loyal followers. That’s right – someone gave me a juicer.

Breville Brothers. AKA - the gateway between me and 90% of my food.

Breville Brothers. AKA – the gateway between me and 90% of my food.

Why Juice?

I’m not going to go into a long, scientific, Alton Brown-esque explanation here like I usually do, but here’s the gist of it:

It’s hard to eat a bunch of fruits and veggies. It’s much easier to just drink them and get the same nutrients in one glass of juice than five or six whole foods. 

Yes, ideally I would eat two apples, three carrots, a nub of ginger, half a kohlrabi, a pear and a handful of parsley, but I’m not going to, so instead I juiced them all and had that for lunch. Simple. I like simple.

I’ve only been juicing for a couple of weeks, but so far I love it! I have so much energy when I do and the juices are really so much more filling that you would think. I really did have that juice I just mentioned for lunch today and it kept me satiated until 5:30 when I had a handful of pistachios while getting dinner ready.

But as you can imagine, it didn’t take me long to incorporate my all-time favorite food into my new juicing obsession: beets.

Blood-Red Beet Juice Martini

beet juice

Ingredients:

  • 2 honeycrisp apples
  • one raw beet, scrubbed and trimmed
  • four medium carrots, scrubbed
  • handful of baby kale

Method:

  1. When/if possible, choose all organic ingredients listed above. Wash and trim any greens from carrots and beets
  2. Process all ingredients through your juicer
  3. Pour juice into a martini shaker full of ice and shake for several seconds
  4. pour into chilled martini glasses and enjoy!

So why the martini shaker? 

Because it’s cool. I mean, really – when juice comes out of a juicer it’s basically just room temperature, so if you like your juice a little chilled, shaking it in a martini shaker is actually a kind of brilliant way (if I do say so myself) to bring its temperature down without diluting it too much by pouring it over ice. This juice was just a bit sweet from the apples and beets with a nice earthiness from the carrots and kale. It was a really good balance and when sipped during dinner, kept my appetite at bay, meaning it kept me from over eating, which is a common problem for me . . .

So while I can’t commit to blogging on a regular basis, I can commit to juicing. Because it’s easy, it’s good for you, and the other people in my cult tell me it’s cool.

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Liebster Blog Award

Maple Avenue Juice nominated me for this blog award, which was great because I didn’t know about her blog until she nominated me, so now I have a new blog buddie who posts some pretty awesome juice recipes. Check her out.

liebster award

So, the Liebster Blog Award is actually not an award, but rather a good way to build community, connect with other bloggers and generate attention for newer bloggers. Here are the rules:

▪   Acknowledge the nominating blogger
▪   Answer 11 questions the nominating blogger has created for you
▪   List 11 random facts about yourself
▪   List some bloggers with fewer than 200 followers that you really feel deserve a little blogging love!
▪   Let all of the bloggers know you have nominated them. You cannot nominate the blogger that nominated you!
▪   Post 11 questions for the bloggers you have nominated to answer

Questions from Maple Avenue Juice:

  1. What was the last meal you had?
    I just ate some left-over quinoa, black bean, avocado and tomato salad. It’s one of my favorite dishes.
  2. What are 2 or 3 your favorite non-fiction health/wellness books?
    Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver; The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan
  3. What is a post on your blog that you are really proud of?
    Apparently my “One Pan Wonder” blog is kind of huge on Pinterest – who knows why – it’s definitely not my best recipe. The one I’m probably most proud of is my crock pot rib recipe, because let’s be honest – cooking perfect fall-off-the-bones ribs makes you feel like a badass.
  4. Who/What inspires you most on your ‘healthy living’ journey?
    The idea of a long, healthy life inspires me. There are so many places I want to see, so much traveling I want to do, so many experiences I want to have – all of those things are dependent on my health, so I take it very seriously.
  5. What is your favorite kitchen appliance?
    My blender. I have a Breville Hemisphere, which I highly recommend.
  6. Name your top 5 favorite fruits and/or vegetables?
    1. Beets (duh) 2. Kale 3. Cucumbers 4. Avocadoes 5. Tomatoes (obviously I prefer veggies to fruit)
  7. Where do you feel the most relaxed/still/at ease?
    The beach.
  8. What is your favorite holiday and why?
    I love Christmas because it’s the one time of the year I get to see my whole, huge family all in one place. That changes as you get older, and I don’t always get to see them every year, but when I do it’s magic.
  9. What is the most funny/silly/embarrassing thing you’ve said or done?
    One time I did “stand up comedy” on a tour bus in Mexico. Tequila and Mexican cowboys were involved, so…yeah.
  10. What is your favorite workout/physical activity/exercise routine?
    I love yoga, but can’t live without lifting weights and my elliptical.
  11. What is your main ‘healthy living’ goal for 2014?
    I’m going to Hawaii in November, and my goal is to climb the Haiku Stairs (aka “stairway to heaven“) in Oahu. It’s technically illegal, so who knows if I’ll get to – but I’m exercising in preparation for doing it – just in case.

11 Random Facts About Me:

  1. I have two pugs named Winston and Clementine. Very few people realize they are named after Winston and Clementine Churchill, who also had a pug named “Mr. Pug”
  2. I’ve known my husband for 25 years – we met when I was 3 and he was 5.
  3. I have a large scar on my left hand from cutting it while creating a robot when I was 9. Best believe I finished that robot when I got home from the hospital with over a dozen stitches.
  4. Although I love being a professional writer, I hate sitting still. My days are a struggle as I force myself to sit down to do the one thing I love to do when there’s just so much pacing to be done.
  5. Growing up I wanted to be an actress and sometimes still do, but am mostly glad I can go into Target without makeup on and no one knows who I am.
  6. I keep my friends forever – I have some friends I’ve had since (literally) the day I was born, some still from elementary, high school and college. Once I find someone I like, I cling on like a barnacle.
  7. I love to travel, but I consistently get home sick after four days. The only exception was when my husband and I went to Napa and there was just too much wine for anyone to want to go home.
  8. I am using this blog as a way to procrastinate on a very important writing project I have yet to begin.
  9. I love cooking for me and my husband, but cooking for any more than two people gives me major anxiety.
  10. My Meyers-Briggs personality type is INTJ, which is the rarest personality type for women – less than 1% of women fall into that type. (According to my husband, that actually qualifies it as a personality disorder, not a personality type…)
  11. I minored in Psychology in undergrad and if I had all the time and money in the world, I’d go back and finish a BS, MS and PhD in it.

OK! Now to nominate. So, I’m a really horrible community blogger and I really only read one other food blog very consistently, and that is Whisks and Words. Dana, no pressure! If you’d like to, please accept this award and answer the following questions:

  1. What brought you to cooking?
  2. What brought you to writing?
  3. When was it clear to you that you wanted to merge your two passions?
  4. What has been your best moment in food writing?
  5. What’s your best advice for others in the food writing “industry”?
  6. What is, hands down, your favorite thing to eat?
  7. What is, hands down, your favorite thing to COOK (I know that for me these are two very different things)?
  8. You were recently interviewing folks about food documentary “fall out” – what’s your personal philosophy on food, food safety and ethics?
  9. What can you never pass up at the farmers market?
  10. If calories were no issue, I would binge on ___________?
  11. Your favorite quote about food, cooking or eating.

Thanks again to Maple Avenue Juice for the shout out!

Green Goddess

The winter gets me down. I’m not a cold weather, snow loving kind of gal. I exist in a tiny percentage of people who actually don’t mind the swamp-like humidity of the south. I thrive in that. When the air gets dry and cold, my sinuses dry up, my nose starts bleeding and I get never-ending headaches. I also can’t sleep at night (or during the day) and, without exaggerating all that much, pretty much lose all of my ability to function. I also, believe this or not, lose my appetite. While most people seem to go into hibernate, stuff-your-face mode in the winter, I can barely think about food without just getting exhausted. These are dark times.

But. I have a solution.

Green Goddess Juice at I Heart Beets

Green Goddess Juice

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of fresh pineapple, chopped
  • 1/2 cup mango (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 scoop of protein powder – vanilla flavored
  • 3 large kale leaves, stems removed
  • 1 tsp fish oil (flavored is best here)
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 3/4-1 cup water

Method:

  1. Add all the ingredients to a blender. Use as much or as little water as you need to make it blend properly. This takes some experience and knowledge of your blender. I use a Breville Hemisphere blender – it’s on par with the Vitamix and is less than 1/2 of the cost. (you can watch an excellent review of it via America’s Test Kitchen on YouTube) It has a smoothie and a “liquify” option. I blend on the smoothie setting for 30 seconds, then on the liquify option for one minute. And there you have it – juice.

What’s great about this juice is that it’s covering a lot of bases for those of us who can’t seem to stomach the idea of solid food. It’s got iron, potassium, protein, complex carbs, vitamin C, Vitamin D (via the fish oil, which is what we are all lacking in the winter and need so desperately) and a whole host of other nutritious stuff. When I make this in the morning, I don’t even need coffee. *gasp* right??

Now, I’m a firm believer in equipping your kitchen with the right tools. I don’t believe in unitaskers or novelty kitchen items, ie, the “butter cutter” – because……you can’t just cut butter with a knife???

butter cutter

So what I’m saying is, if you don’t have a quality blender, buy one. I suffered through too many years of trying to make smoothies and juices in a sub-par blender. My mom and dad got me the Breville this year for my birthday when my rinky-dink “blender” finally offed itself by wrapping its rubber stopper around its own blades in the middle of blending a protein shake (it knew its time was coming to an end one way or another – for this, I respect it for going out on its own terms).

I would never shell out the $450 or $700 for a Vitamix and I would never recommend anyone else do it either, so whenever I’m looking for a good, quality, long-lasting piece of equipment for my kitchen, I always reference America’s Test Kitchen first – they have dozens of chefs who are doing the testing, breaking, and upfront buying for you.  Although the Breville was still a $200 investment (thanks, mom and dad!), I firmly believe it’s worth it in the long run to avoid the hassle, frustration, breaking, replacing and everything else that comes with an inferior product. Plus, it’s winter – I can barely remember what day of the week it is and whether or not I fed my dogs yet today, let alone deal with a crappy blender.

EDIT AND UPDATE: It should be noted that the kale here came from a US Certified Organic Farm on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, Mattawoman Creek Farms. Kale is one of the “dirty dozen” – 12+ fresh produce items that contain the highest amounts of chemical pesticide and herbicide residue. Buying these 12 items as certified organic from the grocery store is a good idea. Or if you buy your produce locally, just ask your farmer what their growing methods are to ensure you’re not reversing the good effects of the produce with the negative effects of chemicals. For those who don’t want to splurge on local or  organic produce, get your priorities straight, then take a look at the “clean 15” list of traditionally grown produce that suffers the least chemical compromise.

Detox and why health care will never be “reformed” (ie – heavy stuff for a Friday)

I haven’t blogged lately because I’m taking a break from food. Not from cooking or from trying new recipes, but from food. From eating it. I’m doing a detox. And now, in many more words than are probably necessary, I will tell you why.

For the past year I have been through the medical industry ringer trying to find the cause or cure for digestive issues that I’ve dealt with for most of my life but most severely in the past two or three years. After several months of intense “suffering,” I finally made an appointment with a gastroenterologist in August 2011. Several tests were done to find out if I had celiac, crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, etc., none of which I had. So the doctor decided to have me tested for an intestinal bacterial overgrowth, which I did have. I was put on an antibiotic for 10 days that is so strong it is usually only give to liver disease patients who have so many toxins in their bodies that their brains literally stop working. It cost me over $400 (just for the pills, that doesn’t include the cost of the test) and did not work. So the doctor decided it was IBS. Again, another medication. Again, no results. Finally he decided to do a full sonogram of my entire stomach, intestines, liver, kidneys and gallbladder to check for tumors, stones, etc. Nothing. Finally, he says to me, “well, there’s really nothing we can do unless you’re willing to change your diet.”

Me: “ummmm…..excuse me? I can fix this just by changing my diet????”
Dr.: “Oh yeah. I just don’t usually recommend that anymore because nobody is willing to do it.”
Me: *face palm*

He gave me the name of a book called Breaking the Vicious Cycle that outlines a specific carbohydrate diet that has worked extremely well for most digestive issues, and in some cases has even cured some patients’ completely, even from things like Celiac Disease. I bought it that day. But as I thought about changing my diet, possibly for life, I thought about all the things and ways I had eaten in the past and how hard it might be to pinpoint the exact thing or things that caused my symptoms, so I began researching detox programs. I figured if I was going to completely change my diet, I might as well start with a clean palate. I found a program called “Clean” that was put together by a real Doctor, (not some hippy dippy whack-job) Dr. Jundro, who is a practicing cardiologist in New York. He went through very similar symptoms to my own after becoming a doctor and found relief through detox and Functional Medicine (a combination of Eastern and Western medicine). The detox program he created and outlines in his book, Cleanis safe and provides you with all the nutrients you need during your detox, which you can choose to do for one to three weeks at a time. Here’s how the program works:

You have two liquid meals a day. One for breakfast:

Carrot, peach and mango juice. My magic bullet and food processor are my best friends right now.

 

One for dinner:

smoothie

Apple cinnamon smoothie with Virginia Apples.

 

For lunch you can have a small solid meal that fits the detox guidelines:

chicken

Balsamic glazed chicken and zucchini with wild rice

You can also have a small snack in the mid-morning and mid-afternoon that fit the detox eating guidelines:

White bean and garlic dip with raw veggies

 

And you can have herbal teas and there are several supplements you take each day:

 

Tower of Supps!

The detox guidelines are pretty intense. You cannot have caffeine, sugar, alcohol, starch, pasta, corn, soybeans or soy products, shellfish, beef, pork, wheat, gluten, dairy, peanut or peanut products, raisins or grapes, citrus, or nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers). The idea being that you cut out every kind of common allergen, irritant and foods that cause your blood to become acidic over time (like nightshades). When your system balances, gets rid of the acidity and irritants, it can detoxify itself and restore itself to a neutral state from which to begin eating again, introducing one type of food back into your diet at a time until you pinpoint the cause of the symptoms. During the detox you also take very strong doses of priobiotics to help restore the good flora in your intestines.

As you can imagine, this has been difficult for someone like me who loves food, loves to cook, and is more or less IN love with wine. But it was my last resort and I was tired of feeling miserable every single time I ate a meal. And more importantly, I felt like it was my responsibility. When my doctor told me, as a LAST RESORT, that I could change my diet and live symptom free, it was completely eye opening for me. Most people won’t do this. Most people won’t take the responsibility for their own health. They want an easy answer and they want it in easy-to-swallow capsules. We are addicted to our addictions. We pop pills that often have side effects worse than the symptoms they are meant to treat. And here is where I get on my soap box about health care, because (Now, listen. Listen, now, as Dr. Stanley would say). Americans, in general, do not wish to be well. And you cannot reform a system in which the people who belong to the system do not want to be reformed. In other words – WE have to want to change, if we want health care to change, and what we need to change is the entire idea of health care. In fact, it needs to become just that: the care of our health, not the treatment of disease. I decided to give up on doctors appointments and treatments and pills and procedures and decided instead to care for my health. It is not easy. I have been craving brownies for 11 days straight. But this is my only answer.

I only have about a week left on the program before I start introducing foods back into my diet, and I’ll admit I’m a little nervous to see what I find out. Will I be disappointed if I have to give up cheese or oysters or (GOD FORBID, seriously, I’m praying on this one) wine? Yes, of course. But you know what? It’s better than being dependent on pills, and their adverse side effects, or going to a never ending string of doctors appointment and having test after meaningless test taken. It’s not as fun as my usual food posts, I’ll admit, but keep checking back for detox updates and my adventures in re-introducing food back into my diet! That will be like  a party!