Sunday, June 15, 2008


I haven't been posting my daily menus the last couple of days. Ostensibly because it's been a bit busy; I'm tired; I'm in the throes of PMS; add your excuse here. Yes, some of that is true, but the shaming truth is that I've fallen a bit off the wagon.

Nothing overly horrible, though, and with the added benefit that I feel myself compensating or rearranging my eating pattern to bring myself to a somewhat balanced daily total. Case in point: Yesterday, I wanted a chicken parmesan hero for lunch. I haven't craved one in a couple of years, but it was a lazy Saturday with the apartment to myself and there you go. I ordered it and ate the whole (huge) thing. It was tasty, but also kind of an automatic consumption after the first few bites. Later, I had some lightly steamed broccoli with raw hummus, followed by a big raw salad for dinner. In the not-so-distant past, I wouldn't have been terribly happy with salad for dinner, even after such a big lunch. That seems to have changed, which pleases me.

My usually debilitating PMS is also much lessened this month -- only one night of cramps enough to wake me up, compared to the usual week or more of sleepless nights. Considering I only started eating this way mid-month, I'm interested to see what happens during the next cycle. For those of you who live with "female trouble" for more than half the month, you'll know that diminishing that one aspect alone is enough to stick to a new way of eating.

Today and yesterday, I've been trying to get back on track, but also taking the weekend as an opportunity to find out when my body is actually hungry. My natural state of being says that I never really want breakfast (beyond some water and perhaps coffee) until I'm awake for an hour or two. Stuffing a smoothie and oatmeal or toast down my gullet within 20 minutes of waking may curb my cravings later in the day, but it sure doesn't make me happy during my most difficult time of day.

A sample from today:

9:20am -- Wake up
9:30am -- Emergen-C with water
9:50am -- Iced coffee with almond milk
10:30am -- Raw oatmeal with almond milk, ground flaxseed, dried mango, squirt of agave nectar
1:00pm -- 2-3 slices organic mozzarella; 1/2 thinly sliced eggplant sauteed in brushed-on olive oil, sprinkled with kosher salt. One square chewy freezer fudge*.
2:00pm -- Green smoothie made with one banana, three big frozen strawberries, 2-3 cups raw spinach, squirt of agave nectar, water

And here I am. Not bad -- and man, was the eggplant ever so tasty and rich. But my body is used to a daily smoothie now, so I was happy to oblige.

Recipe for Chewy Freezer Fudge (adapted from "Raw Food, Real Life" by Sarma Melngailis and Matthew Kenney)

Make this even if you think eating raw is a bunch of hooey. It's super easy and fantastic to have in the freezer for those sweet treat attacks as one square is enough to satisfy any craving. You MUST store this in the freezer and eat it straight away once you take out a portion; otherwise, it goes very gooey.

1 cup raw almond butter
1/8 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup maple syrup (you could probably substitute agave nectar, I'm guessing)
1 scant tbsp. coconut butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. coarse sea salt (coarse is best -- you want some crunchy bits to contrast with the sweet me!)

Combine everything well in a bowl (alternatively, I'm thinking you can combine everything except the salt and sprinkle the salt over the top of the fudge once you've patted it out). Line a small square pan with parchment, or use a silicone pan. Press mix down evenly to flatten to about 1/3 inch thick (it will not stick to your hands). Don't worry if it doesn't fill pan completely. Place in freezer for at least one hour. Flip it out and cut into one-inch squares. Store covered in freezer.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

What I Ate Today -- June 10, 2008

Feeling very full today. I'm not even sure why I bothered with dinner except out of habit and/or wanting a treat after working both my regular and freelance jobs in one day. Live and learn, I suppose.

Recipes noted below can be found in "The Raw 50" by Carol Alt. I'm really pleased with what she's gathered together in this book.

Breakfast: Shake with one banana, handful of blueberries, 1/2 avocado, skim milk (finishing that up now). Raw oatmeal with almond milk, a few dried cherries, sprinkles of wheat germ and ground flaxseed. Yummy, but I made WAY too much. Iced coffee with milk.

Lunch: Avo-Corn Stuffed Tomato (except I just chopped the tomato into the salad instead of trying to transport a stuffed anything to work -- either way, it's great). Piece of bread with one wedge Laughing Cow Light cheese. One can Diet Coke.

Snack: Granny Smith apple. One wedge Laughing Cow Light cheese. Tastes of hummus I made for tomorrow.

Dinner: Red Beet Ravioli with Tarragon "Goat Cheese" (except my mandoline is on it's way, so I had it open-faced on beet rounds as a starter -- good but not sure if it's worth all the work that went into it). Three hours later...two-thirds of a small Garden Fresh Papa John's pizza. Urp. One glass Vinho Verde.

Notes: Moving forward, I think I'm going to make a concerted effort to reasonably cut down on my fat intake. Granted, what I'm eating is fairly healthy, but I think one avocado OR some coconut OR some nuts -- scattered throughout the day -- is enough. I can understand why I've been overloading a bit here in the initial stages, but I find myself not craving fats as much as freshness. Maybe it's the weather? Regardless, I'm going with it.

Monday, June 9, 2008

The First Week

Part of my intent in creating this blog is to share both the ups and downs of attempting a raw food-esque lifestyle. Over the years, I've learned it's nigh-on impossible for me to commit to anything 100 percent, so I never kidded myself by thinking I might go raw vegan overnight...or ever. I'd rather try my best, experiment a bit, and hopefully hit on what will finally work for me when it comes to food -- both nutrition- and pleasure-wise. Not an easy task, believe me.

The first 48 hours of eating raw (or at least mostly fruits and veg) during the day were great. My body clearly needed the vitamins, nutrients and fiber, especially after the last few months of frighteningly escalating chips/cookies/candy intake at and post work...a new development for me and one I did not really like on many levels.

So yes. Thriving on the freshness, having a nice meal with my husband at night, all was well. And then I hit THE THIRD DAY.

In short: It Sucked. Woozy, foggy-headed, headachey all day despite a rare taking of Tylenol. Even after a nice lunch of mixed greens salad with nuts and a mozzarella stick, plus a raw dried fruit bar, I still couldn't see straight. I finally gave up and ran to the grocery store for cottage cheese and grapes. A little better after that, but not much...I finally succumbed to a heat-and-eat chicken noodle soup, dug up from the depths of my desk and that seemed to do the trick.

After work, I went to a dance performance but not before stopping off for a bite to eat. I decided to give myself a break when I picked up the menu but, surprisingly, my urge was for gazpacho, gravlax and a bit of bread. I expected to hit the fridge with full force once I got home, but only finished half a slice of cold pizza and called it a night.

The next day, I laid low and allowed my body to rest and regather forces. I've realized that, for now, I need more fuel during the day than simple fruit and veg. Bless those that can thrive on such a plan, but I just can't. Adding a touch of grain in the morning (toast or raw oatmeal) and some protein has made all the difference. Once I sort out a good afternoon snack, I think I might be going somewhere.

Dinner has been the best development this week. Usually, I go to town at dinner. Now I'm satisfied with much less and find myself pushing away extra. This thrills me no end.

So some ups and downs and still some things to sort. In all, though, I've been shocked at how quickly most of my ideas have seemed to cement into place. Almost 35 years of struggling and giving up with food, and I may have figured out what will finally work for me in seven days? Unbelievable.

What I Ate Today -- June 9, 2008

I'm surviving the first heat wave of the NYC Summer of 2008 relatively well, which I fully attribute to being smart enough to wear light, loose clothing (work dress code be damned) and drinking plenty of water. That said, ingesting so many more fruits and vegetables must also be helping. Not thinking about it too much more than that -- I think this city overall can only handle one more day of the heat. Thankfully, I have a functioning a/c window unit. I worry about those who do not.

Breakfast: Shake with one banana, ten-ish strawberries, almond milk. One piece toast with Laughing Cow Light cheese. Iced coffee with fat-free half-and-half (the last of the half-and-half...woo!).

Lunch: Mixed baby greens salad with strawberries, almonds, sunflower seeds, a few dried cherries and balsamic vinaigrette. A few spoonfuls of my first raw food culinary disaster -- creamy cauliflower soup. Why was it a flop? Because I auto-added two cloves of garlic without thinking (duh!) that raw garlic -- especially after it sits overnight in a cold soup -- will be SUPER STRONG. Couple that with probably a touch too much cumin and curry and...well. The idea is good, though, so it the soup will probably return, much adjusted. Luckily, I thought to have a backup plan, so I snarfed down a small can of tuna to compensate.

Snack: Handful of cashews. Hummus with a quarter of a red bell pepper. Leftover pad see ew. Green smoothie with one banana, five strawberries, spinach, squirt of agave nectar. One wedge Laughing Cow Light cheese.

Dinner: Spicy (raw) tuna and avocado salad with carrot/ginger dressing. Half an order cold soba noodles with dipping sauce. One glass vinho verde. One sugar-free Fudgesicle (it did top 100 degrees today, after all!).

Notes: Things are a bit wonky this week as I'm in training at work, the husband is at an out-of-town conference, and my normal schedule/food availability is therefore thrown off every which way. I need to plan better for the inevitable need (not just want) of a 4pm snack so I'm not ravenous when I get home. I've figured out that nuts, though filling, just aren't what I generally desire at that point in the day.

I ordered takeout for the third time in 48 hours tonight...mostly to indulge in being alone and eating on the sofa. At least I'm ordering healthy, despite pizza briefly crossing my mind. Happily, saying no was surprisingly easy.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

What I Ate Today -- June 8, 2008

As I've been searching the raw food blogs and websites these past couple of weeks, I find I'm more interested in what people eat day-to-day rather than a lot of philosophy or deep thoughts. That's the culinary obsessive in me that I suspect is present in others, so I figured others may want to see my daily diet. I also figure it will be interesting to look back over time and see how things evolve, so this is also -- selfishly -- for me.

I'm only giving approximate quantities as one of the appeals, for me, of this lifestyle is the non-necessity of counting calories, grams, points, cups, whatever. My shake/smoothie recipes are fairly accurate, though, because I like to keep track of what's tasty, as well as my fruit/veg intake.

I should also note that my beverage of choice throughout the day is water (I drink at least 1.5 liters daily), so that's a given most days.


Breakfast: Emergen-C. Shake with one banana, two handfuls frozen grapes, 1/2 avocado, juice/pulp from one orange, splashes of almond milk. Piece of toast with one Laughing Cow Light wedge. Raw oatmeal (organic rolled oats and almond milk) with sprinkle of sunflower seeds and dried cranberries. Iced coffee with splash of fat-free half-and-half.

Lunch: Cup of miso soup. Small romaine salad with carrot/ginger dressing. Sushi rolls: spicy tuna, yellowtail/scallion, salmon/avocado with soy sauce and pickled ginger.

Snacks: Green smoothie with one banana, juice/pulp of one orange, spinach, ice. One portobello mushroom with one wedge Laughing Cow Light cheese. A few strawberries (neighborly gift!).

Dinner: Raw Thai mango/carrot salad with avocado, cashews and lime juice dressing. Half an order chicken pad see ew. One glass Vinho Verde.

Notes: Despite my intentions to be "raw until dinner," a few things are obviously slipping through. In the case of a few items in my fridge/pantry (half-and-half, non-raw cheese, etc.), I don't want to waste what's already there, so I'm enjoying them while they last (and until I have time to purchase a raw replacement). In the case of the sushi rice, I did have pause before ordering but decided that small amounts of cooked grain at this point is not a bad thing mid or late day.

The remarkable thing is that I'm only one week into this new eating pattern and I'm voluntarily eating only half of my dinner entree. This has never happened in the history of ever -- I am the Queen of the Clean Plate Club. I hope tonight wasn't a one-off experience.

So what on God's green earth do you eat?!

Green earth, indeed! I think I just made my first raw foodie joke. Yuk yuk yuk...

Raw foodies seem to talk in percentages, so for those of you looking for a number: I'm guessing I'm eating about 65-75 percent raw at the moment. Sometimes more, sometimes less. What works better for me is a plan rather than a percentage. My loose daily plan runs as follows:

* Breakfast: Emergen-C powder in water followed by fruit shake. After about 20-30 minutes (or more if it's a workday and I have to commute), a slice of sprouted bread with avocado, butter or a piece of cheese.

* Mid-morning Snack: Handful of raw nuts and/or fruit or sliced veggies.

* Lunch: Big salad with raw dressing and protein source (fish, cheese or nuts) or a raw soup. Or both! Something along side (slice of sprouted bread, dried fruit or yogurt). Perhaps a raw sweet treat for dessert.

* Mid-afternoon Snack: Green smoothie or soup or nuts or fruit or veggies -- this varies depending on daily need.

* Cocktail Hour! Inevitably, I have a glass of wine or small drinkie because life is more civilized when it involves a daily cocktail hour with someone you love. If I feel the need, I'll have a little snack as well -- often a bit of cheese or gravlax on a cracker or some hummus and veggies. Half the fun is making a pretty hors d'oeurve plate and treating myself well in this manner.

* Dinner: Whatever I want, so long as it includes some raw vegetables or soup that I try to eat first. This meal tends to include most of my cooked food, though I try to sub in raw/lightly cooked where it makes sense (e.g., lightly seared salmon with salad). Dinner is also a good indicator of whether or not I've fed myself well during the day -- if I eat small and slow, I know I'm happy.

Regarding meat and dairy: No, I do not plan to become a raw vegan. As noted above, I was a strict vegan for almost two years and found that it's not a diet that works well with my chemistry. I have much respect for those who are vegetarian and vegan and completely understand the dietary and ethical reasons for doing so. That said, I know I feel healthier and more vibrant when I thoughtfully incorporate some animal protein in my diet.

I make every attempt to eat organic, free-range, sustainable, tucked-into-bed-at-night-with-a-story meat, dairy and eggs and fully support those farmers/fishermen who take the risk to treat their animals with dignity. In keeping with the principles of my new diet, I also try to eat raw where I can -- e.g., raw cheese, raw milk/yogurt (when I can find them -- that's a search yet to commence), lightly seared fish and steak, etc. Obviously, this causes a problem when it comes to poultry which, don't worry, I do not eat raw or undercooked.

While I'm coming clean, I will also admit that there are certain vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, sweet potatoes) that I will only eat after a light steaming. That's what floats my boat and makes my tummy happy. When it comes to grains, it's more important to me that they are organic rather than raw, though I can see that evolving over the next few months, especially after I run out of the quite sizable stash I have in the kitchen at the moment -- I hate wasting food. I have no problem eating sprouted bread, eating "raw" oatmeal made with Bob's Red Mill Organic Oats and almond milk, etc. In fact, I quite love it.

My equipment for now is minimal: The usual compliment of knives, cutting board, bowls, etc. in the standard kitchen, including a standard Oster blender which now has a permanent place on my limited countertop. I'm planning on purchasing a mandoline this week, more because I now have an excuse to get one and I've wanted one for years. I also have regular and mini food processors, though I have yet to use either in my preparations (it takes a lot to convince me to pull out the big Cuisinart as we have to hand wash our dishwashers here in Brooklyn), it's nice to know I have them if I need them.

I have yet to play around with dehydrating and can't see myself purchasing a dehydrator anytime soon (see above regarding limited counter space). I've read that a low oven cracked open can work well, so I'll experiment with that first.

Bottom line, I'm trying to find a way to eat and cook as normally as possible, without a bunch of fancy add-ons. Part of the fun challenge of eating raw is being creative in the kitchen, working with what you've got. So far, I'd say the only indispensable piece of equipment for this lifestyle that people may not own is a good blender. I dream of the day I'll purchase a Vita-Mix, but the expense prohibits at the moment. Hell, it was the one thing I didn't get off our wedding registry because who in their right mind spends $450 on a blender?! But I do have a birthday approaching, so hope springs eternal...

Ra(w)rin' to go...

Sing along: What the world needs one more blog...

Regardless! I shall plunge on to share a new aspect of my life: raw food.

I'm sure most folks have heard about those who keep a raw diet -- subsisting only on uncooked and/or dehydrated foods. Lots of fruits and vegetables (good!); not so much on the roasted turkey and pasta and cookies and anything cooked (ummmm...huh?!). Sounds incredibly exciting and sign you up right now, right?


This blog will follow my journey to how I got here and why I decided this might just work for me. The good parts and, yes, the difficulties. From the literature I've read thus far, it seems most raw foodies tend to wax rhapsodic about the benefits and pleasure of eating this way. Although my (admittedly limited thus far) experience has shown that there is much to be gained by such a diet, there are also adjustments and confusion and difficulty. So far, I think the benefits far outweigh the down side, but I'd like a more balanced view to be available for those that are considering incorporating at least some of the raw food principles into their daily life.

While I'm being frank, I also think some of the more hippie leanings of many vocal raw foodies may be off-putting to those who are a bit more cynical or in a personal food struggle. Based on my experience, one thing I know is truth: One Way Does Not Work For Everyone. I have eaten all over the spectrum: good Midwestern kid meat/dairy focused; vegetarian (for ten years); vegan (for almost two years); whole food focused; city-based hedonist name it, I've been there (except, thankfully, anorexia or bulimia).

The gift my struggles have given me is an ability to listen to my body and respond to what it truly needs. Right now, incorporating more raw foods in a deliberate, thoughtful manner makes sense. Ostensibly, the impetus for this change is weight loss. My actual weight is my own personal information, but I will note that I have at least 100 pounds to lose to get to a healthy weight.

Now before you expect the "woe is me" portion of this post, understand that I am not a sad obese person. In all truth, I'm not horribly bothered by my weight on the day-to-day as I'm a fairly active person with wonderful friends and family, especially perhaps the most amazing husband on the planet. With the exception of an underactive thyroid which exacerbates the weight issue, I've been blessed with fantastic health. What scares me (hopefully not) to death is The Unknown. I've watched several family members struggle with diabetes, heart disease and cancer, especially recently. It's not the diseases that particularly scare me; it's the alleged treatments. I have enough problem taking one teeny pill a day for my thyroid; heaven forfend I'm forced to handle more invasive situations.

On the flip side, Restraint and Deprivation are not words I wish to incorporate into my vocabulary except to push them aside with a defiant BLECH. Life is too short and wonderful to restrict; FOOD is too marvelous to not enjoy it every time you sit down to a meal. Make no mistake: Food is one of my major life pleasures and one I'm thrilled we get to enjoy several times a day. It's clear to me I must find a way to eat that allows indulgence, satisfaction, wonderful taste and texture. I think I may have finally found it in raw food and that, believe you me, fills me with more satisfaction than a truckful of delicious burnt ends and ribs with all the trimmings could ever do.