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Ediets vs. MyFitnessPal: Weight Loss and Technology

26 Jan

As I mentioned in my last post, all that cooking and baking in November and December, with very limited time for the gym (as in, never!) led to unwanted weight gain for me.

Although in the past I have been successful with losing weight quickly on an all-raw food diet, or even a few days of juice fasting, I decided not to go that route this time because of the added pressure of a new part-time teaching job.  Plus, I’m not in any rush.  It’s the dead of winter, and I am not going any where in a bathing suit.

Generally, I eat lots of healthy foods, and cook with a minimum amount of oil and salt — if at all.  However, I also have a huge appetite and a weakness for chocolate.  I used to be quite active and burned it all at the gym or outdoors in the summer, but now with a brutal winter and concerns about having time to get to the gym, I can’t just eat as much as I want.

Therefore, I decided that this time around I would stick to a more traditional means of weight loss — calorie counting.  But how?  I couldn’t do it without help.

First I attempted Ediets, which helped me lose a lot of weight nine years ago before I was vegan and knew how to cook.  At the time I succeeded using the Vegetarian convenience plan, which designed a menu using mostly frozen entrees and simple recipes for salads, dressings, snacks, and easy cooked foods like chili.  I did not abstain from dairy at the time, but I am happy to report that Ediets now provides a check box option for avoiding both dairy and eggs in their Vegetarian plan — thus making it vegan friendly.  The plan costs about $18 per month, and gives you menus, shopping lists, exercise logs, and a community for connecting with others.

But I did not stay with Ediets.  Within 24 hours I called back for a refund — which they did promise to return to my credit card.  I don’t believe it’s a bad service at all, and do believe it would be helpful to some vegetarians and vegans — but not me.

As I looked through the menus planned for my first week, I was discouraged by the choices automatically chosen for me.  There were a lot of meals planned with vegan deli meats, vegan cheeses, and bread.  Now, I love a great sandwich from time to time, but I’m so passed the stage of wanting my food to look like a substitute of the Standard American Diet.  It’s probably great for newbies still attached to the ham-and-cheese sandwich ideal, but I just can’t have it every day, or even every other day.  Also, I wouldn’t want just one sandwich — if and when I do splurge on something like a vegan grilled cheese sandwich, I want at least two!  Plus, I wondered where all the greens were in the Ediets plan.  A small salad once  a day isn’t enough for me.

Ediets does permit you to modify the menus.  In fact, if you are like me and you prefer to have the same breakfast food all the time (I just can’t think in the morning), you could find the one you want and set it to come up every day until you change it.  When you modify the menu, you scan through other meal options in their database.  You also have the option of choosing a different meal that is not from the Ediets database.

And therein lies my problem.  After my modifications, my first three meals all said “I chose my own meal.”  None were from the Ediets database.  At that point I realized I would be paying for a service that would essentially  just track my weight as I reported it week to week — since their menus did not appeal to me.  But before I gave up, I tried one more thing.  Since I’m not a huge fan of bread — or rather, I don’t want to waste my calories on bread — I actually changed my Ediets plan from Vegetarian to Wheat-Free, thinking that perhaps a new body of meals would appear in my menus sans sandwiches — more whole foods-based, perhaps.

And that’s when I got the error message!  Under the exclusions section, I marked the “wheat” category and kept the boxes checked off for all the animals (eggs, dairy, beef, pork, fish, shellfish, poultry).   In fact, the only box left was “soy.”  The red-lettered threatening message said “You cannot exclude more than 5 sources of protein.”

Really?  I wasn’t under the impression that I had… I mean, I hadn’t excluded tofu, tempeh, beans, seeds, nuts, rice, quinoa, etc…. oh, and let’s not forget I didn’t exclude plants, who also have protein — a building block of life present in all plant foods!

I came to the sad realization that although Ediets attempted to accommodate vegans, it was still stuck in that Standard American Diet protein-obsession (hence all the bread and vegan meats and cheeses).

Thankfully, the agent on the phone was understanding and promised to refund my money within 5-10 business days.

So what else can I do?

I discovered a free Droid app for my phone called MyFitnessPal.  It is available both on the Internet or through the phone app.  There are tens of thousands (maybe hundreds of thousands?) of food items in their database, and one need only specify the food and its portion size.  And the coolest part is…


If I do eat a granola bar, a certain cereal, or other packaged food, I simply scan its bar code with my phone and it is added to my daily food log.

As I document the foods I’m eating, the program keeps a list of recent ingredients or foods that can easily be chosen again if you repeat the same foods.  For breakfast every day, I’ve been eating 1/2 cup of rolled oats with 1/2 a cup of almond milk, a tablespoon of raisins, and three prunes.  After selecting the individual ingredients on the first day, I was able to save it as a meal called “Breakfast” (I wasn’t very creative with the title), so every day since then I’ve been able to record this meal with one click.

I also created a meal called “Soup” (yes, I have to work on these names).  After my  husband and I cooked a simple soup with broccoli, carrots, tofu, rice noodles, and broth, I looked carefully at my bowl and estimated how much I had of each ingredient in one serving.  It looked like a 1/2 cup of the noodles, 1/4 cup of carrots, 1/4 cup of broccoli, and maybe 1/2 cup of tofu (if in doubt, one could measure it).  The rest was all watery broth with seasonings.  So I entered these ingredients on my food log the first time I ate them, and saved it as “Soup.”  Every time I’ve had left over soup since that day, I just simply clicked on the “Soup” meal I had created.

Another option is to just enter the calories.  So if I make a meal from a recipe book that has the calories listed per serving, I can just add that number to my log (although with this function MyFitnessPal wouldn’t be able to also count the other nutritional information like carbs, proteins, vitamins, etc.)

MyFitnessPal also has an exercise log.  You can add an activity from their database for which it will estimate how many calories you burned.  If you know for a fact how much you burned, you can simply enter them as well.  These calories burned are automatically added to your daily food log, so you know how much more you can and should be eating for that day.

If you decide to use MyFitnessPal, I would suggest creating your free account on your computer first so you can set up your weight loss goals and any meals you eat regularly, like breakfast or snacks.  Then keep track of everything you eat on the go by using the cell phone app.

Well, it’s only been about 6 days, so it is still too soon for me to report any success with MyFitnessPal, but I can say that I am getting the hang of it and am particularly motivated to go the gym more often when I see how it makes my calorie goals go up — that means more food for me!


Where have I been for a month????

23 Jan

Wow.  After furiously writing every day for the one month VeganMoFo Challenge in November, I said I would take a 1-2 week break.  Well, it’s been over six weeks… almost seven!  It’s amazing how time flies.

So where have I been?  Just busy.  December flew by in the blink of an eye, what with the holidays, chores, errands, and family visits.  I succeeded in doing a major overhaul of my Christmas decorations and holiday clutter, bought all my holiday gifts, spent about five days baking and decorating holiday cookies, went to six houses between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, attended two New Year’s Eve parties, and… and… the rest is just a blur!!

My husband and I have also spent a few weekends developing our new found hobby of birdwatching.  Friends are either intrigued or think we are crazy.  Ok, I’ll admit it, only one friend is intrigued and everyone else thinks we are crazy.  But it is a lot of fun, and gives us a focus point and purpose when we go hiking.  In fact, it gave us a reason to hike at all in this bitterly cold weather!!

I have also started teaching again — just for this spring semester — there are no promises for long term work there.  But nevertheless, I really miss blogging, and intend to put it back into my routine now that things have evened out.

My New Year’s Resolutions (albeit very much belatedly) which you will read about on this blog include:

1) Losing some weight!  All that VeganMoFo cooking and fifteen variations of holiday cookies do not come without a consequence — yes, even vegan food can pack some calories!!

2) Write more — for this blog, and other places I have yet to contact.  But I will.  At least I intend to….

3) Learn to identify more birds, and continue to keep track of them as the seasons change.  I intend to blog about this new hobby soon, including my attempts to create a vegan bird suet for feeding woodpeckers.

4) Continue meeting and networking with other vegan friends.  I just got involved with the Vegan Pledge for Peace Advocacy Network in Philadelphia.  Over 30 people in this organization have pledged to go vegan for at least 30 days, with the benefit of a mentor and several workshops to guide them in the journey.  I’ve gone to two events so far and love it!  (More details to come soon!)

5) Visit and review vegan and veg-friendly restaurants in the South Jersey and Philadelphia area.  *Note:  this resolution may conflict with #1

Look for another post later this week!!

Final Thoughts and Final November Meal

30 Nov

Here I am, having arrived at day 30 of VeganMoFo 2010, which is not only my first VeganMoFo contribution, but also my first blogging experience.  In other words, I dove in head first, trying to learn the technology, uploading pictures every so slowly, dealing with occasional writer’s block, and produce a post every day this month.  I  know I wasn’t obligated to post every day, nor would there be a VeganMoFo police checking up on me, but I made the commitment to myself, and I have to say that I now feel I can do anything.

There’s something cathartic about doing something for 30 days, every day, consecutively.  Most of the time, I have no idea if anyone is even reading, but the fact that I have written it for myself is just as satisfying.

Most importantly, I let go of 14-year inhibitions about my writing — I simply hadn’t done any writing at all, outside of the academic.  I also gave up the story that I couldn’t cook, think creatively about food, or share my insight publicly.  And yet, it is publicly that I have made and held this commitment.

Ok, I’m blabbering now, but suffice to say that it has been quite an achievement, and I am serious when I say that I feel like I could take on another 30 day challenge in another area of my life.

For now, I am going to take a one week break, although I do have a list of blog ideas I could already be writing tomorrow!  Nevertheless, a break will be beneficial, and then my goal is to post 1-2 times weekly.  In addition, I do want to blog about vegan issues other than food and recipes, and with time review restaurants, stores, and events in New Jersey, seeing that it meant to be a blog about veganism in New Jersey (Sorry — I didn’t get out much this month!)

If you are reading this post, thank you for following this blog and forgiving my writing flaws and the desperate and weird posts I had occasionally when I hadn’t had time to cook or didn’t know what else to say.

For my last November blog meal, I write about yesterday’s lunch I had at Cafe Chocolate in Lititz, Pennsylvania.  I spent the day in the area of Lancaster County with my mother, and since I knew they had both vegan entrees and desserts, I actually traveled 20 miles out of the way to eat there.  As I did last summer, I ordered a Chocolate Lush — a cold chocolate drink made of strawberry puree and crushed dark chocolate blended with ice.  Amazing!!!  As our server explained, all the dishes are made with 70% dark chocolate that comes from West Africa and is not roasted, and thus does not contain caffeine.  Apparently, in that state it has 13,120 units of antioxidants per 100 gram serving.  As far as high-antioxidant foods are concerned, prunes come in second place at about 2/3 the amount as 5,770 units per 100 grams, and even the mighty kale is only 1,770!  So chocolate really is good for you!

For starters, I had soup:  West African Peanut Chowder with sweet potatoes, butternut squash, and peanuts.

Next, I had my entree:  Vegetable Curry with Black Rice Risotto.  The curry included baby corn, water chestnuts, carrots, baby soy beans, and yubu tofu in a lemon grass and coconut milk curry.  As a palate cleanser, it came with a small pineapple and grapefruit salad, topped with coconut shreds.  It was the first time I had yubu tofu, which apparently is just tofu’s outer skin made into dumplings, and its texture was intriguingly a believable meat substitute (eek!)  However, the black rices risotto was definitely my favorite part of this dish.

I had so many vegan desserts over Thanksgiving, that I just requested two Cafe Nero vegan coffee truffles.  They actually had coffee bean grains mixed in with its soft chocolate center.  Yum!

What a delicious month it has been.  December’s 30 day challenge will have to be a diet and workout plan now.

However, I’m looking forward to VeganMoFo 2011, and will be better prepared next time!  Thank you!

Thanksgiving Dinner

25 Nov

Busy morning!  I’ve been up since 6 a.m. preparing food, but I have to confess I was so overwhelmed that I did not take pictures!!

However, I do want to post about what I have made and plan to eat in a few hours:

Quinoa Stuffed (Buttercup) Squash

Delicious, and with a Latin twist!  I used buttercup squashes instead of acorn, because they are sweeter and I was lucky enough to obtain them from a friend.

Lentil Roulade with Chestnut Stuffing

I haven’t sat down to dinner yet, but it is absolutely delicious from what I sampled.  The outer dough of the roulade is made from lentils, bread crumbs and Earth Balance, and the inner stuffing is chestnuts, bread crumbs and sage.  I did change the recipe slightly, however, by adding garlic, celery, and an apple to the stuffing.

For my family, I also prepared two trays of roasted veggies with garlic, olive oil, and rosemary.  I used potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, parsnips, fennel, carrots, and onions.  Yum!

With all the hustle and bustle, I did not take pictures of the process, but I did take one picture of my plate, after serving it:

Clockwise from the top:  mystuffed buttercup squash, cranberry sauce, my roasted veggies, my roulade (that fell apart), mashed potatoes, and stuffing.  A very satisfying Thanksgiving dinner!

Talking Turkey About the Thanksgiving Myth

24 Nov

A mother turkey and her children foraging for food on the Cumberland County College campus

Thanksgiving — an American holiday, originating with the first colonists of what is now the United States, and celebrating their first harvest with the help of the Native Americans.  A tradition every year since then, that includes turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, string beans, cranberry sauce and gravy.

Well, that’s what we are supposed to believe…

Every year, children are indoctrinated with the story of Pilgrims.*  Every adult my age or older could surely recite it from memory…”The Pilgrims were English settlers who sailed on the Mayflower seeking religious freedom.  They landed on Plymouth Rock and established a colony in 1620.  With the help of local natives, including Squanto, they planted and later harvested an abundance of crops.  They then invited their native friends and had a huge feast with turkey and called it Thanksgiving, wherein they gave thanks for their good fortune.”  That’s how I learned it, and many others still believe it.

*As an interjection here, I will add that in all my years of teaching I did not experience a perpetuation of this flawed curriculum and was not obligated to teach this story I had learned — however, it was mostly due to lack of time to digress from the regular curricula.  With the fervor for raising test scores, most schools do not have time to teach anything about holidays any more.

As an adult, I finally learned that almost every word of that Thanksgiving story is false — (all except the word “English,” “1620,” and maybe some articles and prepositions such as “the” and “of”).  And  yet so many people will gather around the Thanksgiving dinner table tomorrow and swear that they are eating turkey as a tradition traceable to 1620.  In fact, some of us vegans and vegetarians may even hear, “What do you mean you’re not eating the turkey?  It’s tradition!  It’s the American way!”

Well, to help those of you who might hear these comments, I’ve summarized some main points surrounding Thanksgiving and the original settlers of Plymouth Colony to retort the Thanksgiving myth.

A few years ago I purchased a book entitled Lies My Teacher Told Me, by James W. Loewen.  After perusing it in a book store, I felt compelled to read it, as a responsible school teacher who certainly did not want to continue lying to my students!  The book is written by an historian who examined tons of history text books meant for schools at all levels, finding serious flaws throughout all of American history.  In general, the history written in these books is typically boring, overly abbreviated and simplified, and overly positive.  In particular, a lot of negative events are omitted, or only discussed from a particular point of view (such as the oppressor’s).  Loewen asserts that history textbooks avoid controversy and instill patriotism so that children can “feel good” about their national pride.  The content is driven by publishers and school boards more so than actual historians with knowledge.

Chapter 3 is called, “The Truth About Thanksgiving,” and is approximately 21 pages of historical information debunking common misconceptions.  What follows are aspects of the Thanksgiving myth that Loewen has explained:

  • The Pilgrims were not the first settlers; the native groups settled in what is now known as the United States 30,000 years ago.  Too long ago for it to count?  Well, then believe it or not a group of African slaves were abandoned in South Carolina in 1526 by their Spanish captors, so that makes Africans the first to settle here.  But if you want to be specific about what Europeans were the first to settle, then that would be the Spanish that settled an area of the U.S. that covers — oh, just about half of the continent!  (From San Francisco to Arkansas and also Florida).  In fact, they had their own group fleeing religious oppression before the English Pilgrims — Spanish Jews settled in New Mexico in the 1500s seeking freedom.  What?  Do they still not count since they’re on the West Coast?  Well, what about the Dutch who settled in the area of Albany in 1614?  Or, if they really must be English settlers — what of Jamestown in 1607?  Right from the start of this myth, our characters (the settlers of Plymouth Rock) have been chosen rather arbitrarily — and by the way, only 35 out of 102 people on the Mayflower were actually “Pilgrims” (the name coined for them in the 1870s!) — the rest were just pursuing new fortunes, not religious freedom.
  • Squanto and friends did not welcome the Pilgrims because they were so kind, or the Pilgrims were so blessed and good, but rather because a terrible plague had wiped out 90 to 96% of natives in the area of New England.  Fisherman who had visited the area in 1617 infected natives with whom they had contact, and within three years the population was decimated, leaving villages abandoned and tribes without the resources to fight off invaders.  The Wampanoags, for example, were so weakened by the plagues that they formed an alliance with the Pilgrims to increase their numbers in the face of a threat from the neighboring Narragansets.  As in all areas of the Americas settled, or at best visited by Europeans, epidemics of small pox, influenza, chicken pox, viral hepatitis and even bubonic plague defeated native populations who might have otherwise fought off these invasions.  So in truth, the Conquest really happened on a microbial level.
  • The Thanksgiving myth often states that the Pilgrims originally meant to go to Virginia and settle near the existing English settlements, but that “bad weather” veered them off course and led to a navigation error.  There is evidence to support that it was no accident.  Earlier fishing expeditions in the area of Cape Cod had already taken place, and the area was thus known to people back then.  Some historians believe they went there on purpose, since back then it was not difficult for sailors to measure latitude and realize they were off course right away.  Moreover, they could have headed south towards warmer weather, since they still had supplies to travel further.  Thus they chose to stay in Cape Cod on purpose, and settled in Plymouth — which was actually the village of Patuxet, abandoned because of the plague, but ready to go with lands cleared, corn growing in fields, and even homes still in place.  The Pilgrims rummaged through these homes, and even dug up graves, finding food, baskets, bowls, and other objects.
  • Who was Squanto and how did he speak English?  Apparently, around 1605 Squanto had been captured and sent to Europe as a slave.  He lived in England and then Spain, where he escaped slavery and managed to seek passage to Newfoundland and then catch a ride back to Cape Cod the next time Captan Thomas Dermer went fishing in that area.  When he made it home, almost everyone in his village was dead until the Pilgrims showed up.
  • The Pilgrims did not introduce the concept of Thanksgiving to the natives, since the natives had observed autumn harvest celebrations long before.  In fact, Pilgrims did not even call it Thanksgiving — that word came later in history.  But even if the Pilgrims did have a lot to be thankful for (there are some scary primary resources from back then thanking God for the “pestilence” that removed the natives), they weren’t so religious and moral about it.  In fact, they were also in Plymouth to make a profit by way of the fur trade, and many also sought gold as other settlers like those in Jamestown had.  That makes them no different than other settlers, but they certainly weren’t holier-than-thou.
  • When did Thanksgiving actually become an official holiday?  1621?  1776?  No, try 1863.  Declaring it a national holiday was a strategy to encourage patriotism during the Civil War, and ironically, the Pilgrim story wasn’t even a part of it until the 1890s.
  • Who was at the first Thanksgiving?  Definitely some Pilgrims, but there is no definite record of natives present.  Several sources suggest that it lasted three days, and was earlier than November — probably October.

While Loewen does not get into the specifics of food, here are some more facts about the first Thanksgiving from a few other resources:

  • Food: Well, there is no absolute record that specifies turkey — instead, there was specifically venison and waterfowl (ducks and geese probably).  In addition, it is likely that there were shellfish on the table and eels too.  Plant foods were abundant: cornmeal, beans, squash, grapes, plums, onions, blueberries, parsnips, and turnips.  No potatoes or sweet potatoes, apples, or even cranberry sauce actually, as these foods would not be introduced until much later!

So is all of Thanksgiving a lie??  Pretty much!  But why?  Loewen, citing another historian Mircea Eliade, states that Thanksgiving is a ritual observance of an origin myth for the following reasons:

“1) It constitutes the history of the acts of the founders, the Supernaturals.

2) It is considered to be true.

3) It tells how an institution came into existence.

4) In performing the ritual associated with the myth, one ‘experiences knowledge of the origin’ and claim’s one’s patriarchy.

5) Thus one ‘lives’ the myth, as a religion.”

A national religion, it seems, as Thanksgiving is our national holiday.  Obviously, the United States were literally divided during the Civil War, and so the country needed to market a positive publicity campaign to inspire national pride and respect.  As an English-speaking nation with ties to English cultural and probably little to no cultural identification with the Spanish — much less the Africans — the protagonists settlers for this origin myth had to be English.  The first ones, in Jamestown, had basically ruined their reputation because they had enslaved natives, dug for gold instead of planted crops, and were basically just out to make a profit.  So the 35 Pilgrims who had sought religious freedom made much better characters for an origin myth.  The rest of the story falls into place as presumption and a simplistic plot with a happy ending, completely ignoring any controversial tragedies and not-so-flattering Pilgrim activities.

I am not slamming Thanksgiving, nor do I believe it should be discontinued, but I do prefer that our traditions and rituals be truthful and transparent.  I do not like the myths because unfortunately too many people accept them as facts.  Some of us grow up believing in Santa Claus until someone — a parent, or a bully at school — tells us the truth.  That does not mean we stop giving (or receiving!) gifts or celebrating Christmas (another holiday full of myths).  Instead, we change our perspective of it, either from a religious point of view or otherwise.  The settlers of Plymouth need to be regarded for who they were in reality — we do them no justice by making up fantasies about them — and the plight of the natives that suffered in the plague should not be ignored from our history either.  As Loewen concludes in his chapter about Thanksgiving, “Origin myths do not come cheaply.  To glorify the Pilgrims is dangerous.  The genial omissions and the invented details with which our textbooks retail the Pilgrim archetype are close cousins of overt censorship…”

I suggest we completely forget this myth and reinvent Thanksgiving for ourselves.  If you are interested in a return to truly traditional foods, then focus on creating meals with cornmeal, squash, and beans (known as “The Three Sisters” in some native groups).  If not, just make your favorite (vegan) food and just reflect on what you want the holiday to mean for you.

Personally, I’m going to enjoy a delicious stuffed acorn squash with several sides and desserts, and I will reflect on my gratitude for the Earth’s food.  I will also say many prayers for the abused and wrongfully murdered turkeys gracing everyone else’s table (including the table I will share with my extended family), as this holiday is very much about death as it is about life for me.

And I also plan on having some drinks!  Haha!!!

Kitchen Clean Out

20 Nov


Having thoroughly cleaned my refrigerator a couple of days ago, I am nevertheless still up to my elbows in some serious house cleaning that I have been working on week to week and room to room.  In the last four months, I have systematically cleaned out closets, dressers, old boxes, and other nooks and crannies around the house.  I have actually gone to Goodwill four times to donate old things I no longer want or need.  Today was the most dreaded task of all: the kitchen.

Why would it be so difficult, compared to other rooms?  Three reasons:  clutter, old food, and old grime.

I sorted through all my pots, pans, preparation bowls, plastic storage containers, plates, coffee mugs, glasses, spatulas, gadgets, and other kitchen clutter that had long since been invading my home and falling out of my cabinets every time.  I hauled out tons of stuff, ready for another trip to Goodwill tomorrow.  Really, do I need 7 wooden sppons, three pizza cutters, and 23 water glasses?  I hope not!

But that was just the beginning.  Next came the food.  My pantry was actually not too bad — I don’t make it a habit of buying too many packaged goods.  My real problem was in my freezers.  Yes, freezers — two of them.

I’m not sure if I am afraid of one day not having fresh vegan food on my table, but it seems that my deep freezer has become a graveyard for chilis, stews, and even cupcakes of questionable birthdates, all long forgotten and destined for the trash.  I actually found two containers with last year’s Thanksgiving food — two Spanish tapas dishes I had made to go with the theme my family had last year.  Sadly, the patatas bravas and the tomato artichoke dish were only delicious the first time — but I hate to waste food and make feeble attempts to preserve it.

I did find some treasures among the pitiful leftovers — black sesame seeds, Brazil nuts, buckwheat groats, and a big bag of wild blueberries.  I also uncovered several bags of frozen veggies I had forgotten about, including edamame and black eyed peas.

I also had two disasters.  Apparently, ziplock is pretty serious about distinguishing what is a freezer bag and what isn’t.  Unfortunately, a bag of amaranth tore and spewed tiny round pellets all over the freezer.  What a mess!  I had to use a dustbuster to clean it up — but at least I found the amaranth, which I did not know I had!

And finally, I had to clean.  Really clean.  I swept, scrubbed, disinfected, scraped, and wiped every surface including the insides of drawers and cabinets.  I even used a toothbrush to get the crud out from around the sink faucets.

Exhausting work!  So, what did I eat today?  We went out to Chili’s and I ordered a Caribbean Salad — no chicken or honey lime dressing — but full of greens, pineapple, mandarin oranges, dried cherries, scallions, cilantro, sesame seeds and extra slices of avocadoes.  I ordered it with vinaigrette dressing on the side, since they tend to be heavy handed with it and it tends to be soggy.  But overall, it is a good choice, especially since unfortunately their veggie burger is not vegan.

Stay tuned for what I come up with for my newly found amaranth and buckwheat!

Three Minute Vegan Ice Cream

10 Nov

At a Veg Meetup a few weeks ago, I described my vegan ice cream recipe that I’ve been making for a few years.  To some, it seemed to involve a lot of work, but to me it only takes about five minutes, or three minutes if I rush.  The trick is to always have the ingredients on hand, of course, and multi-task the preparation and clean up.  Today, I actually set my stopwatch and finished the whole job (with pictures) in 2 minutes, 58.2 seconds!

Very often, I have an insatiable desire for chocolate, and sometimes it’s in the form of ice cream.  In the summer, it’s every day!

Vegan Ice Cream does exist and is available for sale in both health food stores and regular grocery stores like Shoprite — however, it still has fat and sugar comparable to cow’s ice cream.  As much as I love Coconut Bliss, So Delicious, and Purely Decadent chocolate ice creams, I can’t afford to eat the calories (or pay the price) every day.

But a banana, ice cubes, almond milk, and hemp powder can be a surprisingly rich stand-in for these higher-calorie ice creams, and very easy to make.  As I mentioned in my smoothie post, I always keep frozen overripe bananas on hand.  I usually buy them at Acme, where they sell them for $0.25 / lb. in paper bags.  Before they get mushy, but after they are very yellow and have quite a few black spots on them, I peel them and freeze them in a plastic ziplock bag.  Provided I have these bananas, some cocoa powder, and almond milk on hand, I’m set!  You don’t need the hemp powder, but I have been adding it ever since I discovered that I’d much rather have chocolate ice cream after a workout than a protein shake.  Thus, I put my hemp powder in the ice cream, with the added bonus that it does add a subtle nutty flavor and some body to the ice cream.  Now I add it all the time, even when I haven’t worked out.  All in all, the result is a delicious ice cream eating experience that really amounts to no more calories or regret than having eaten a banana!

Following a recipe based loosely on Alissa Cohen’s Living on Live Food and in observing banana whips in progress at Bashful Banana (Great veg-friendly food!) in Ocean City, New Jersey, I devised a strategy using the tools and resources I have.  Bear in mind, as pictured, my food processor has a hole on the top of the lid with a removable cup.  Once the machine is running, I safely add most of my ingredients through there to avoid wasting time, but you might want to stop yours in between ingredients (today I had to stop it in order to take pictures).  I also suggest washing some of the tools while the food processor works, but for the first time, you may want to keep your eyes on it instead.

1. Set up and plug in food processor.

2. Put 3-4 ice cubes in the processor and start running it.

3. While the ice is chopped up, grab a knife, cutting board, and a banana from the freezer.  Cut it into round slices about 3/4-inch thick.

4. Add these slices to the food processor (I actually throw them in through the hole on top and keep the machine running).

5. While these get chopped up, wash off your knife and cutting board, and grab the almond milk, hemp protein (if using), and cocoa powder from the fridge.

6. Pour in about 3 tablespoons of the almond milk (eyeball it) through the hole on the top.

7. Add about 2 tablespoons each of cocoa powder and hemp protein.

8. Put the hemp protein, cocoa powder, and almond milk in the fridge while the food processor is running.

9. When the mixture is thick and smooth but not liquified, stop the food processor.  Immediately wash the food processor lid.

10. Remove the food processor bowl and careful take out the blade.  You can use a small rubber spatula to push off the ice cream.  Immediately wash this blade too.

11. Don’t waste time or dirty any more dishes!  Take that same small spatula and eat your ice cream right out of the food processor bowl!

12.  When finished, wash the bowl immediately to avoid sticking.

Mmmmmm!!!  Tastes great, and if you multi-tasked, you really don’t have dishes to wash or stuff to put away.  Five minutes later, it looks like nothing happened in your kitchen — nope, no sneaky snacks at all!

However, the only catch is that you really do need to eat it on the spot before it melts, and it won’t keep the same texture if you freeze it.  Thus, for real vegan banana ice cream, you’d have to use an ice cream maker and more ingredients.

Here are some suggested add-ins I’ve used in the past (add to the finished ice cream and pulse the blade a few times to incorporate it):

1.  Almond or peanut butter (be sure it is room temperature).

2. Ghiradelli semi-sweet chocolate chips.

3. Vegan Graham Crackers, Sweet and Sara Marshmallows, and chocolate chips (My response to the Phillies Graham Slam flavor put out by Turkey Hill).

4. Coarsely chopped Oreos (I usually get Newman-O’s).

5. Peanuts or almonds.

6. A teaspoon of agave nectar and a drop of vanilla extract (especially if your bananas weren’t that ripe and sweet).

7. Chunks of brownie or cookie dough if I happen to be making some.

8. Carob powder instead of cocoa powder.

Substituions, if needed:

1. Frozen chunks of mango also work as well as bananas, but I wouldn’t put cocoa powder in it.

2. Almond milk is my favorite for this recipe, but really any non-dairy milk will do.

3.  You could always skip the cocoa if you don’t like chocolate.

****If I get a Flip video camera for Christmas, I promise I’ll repost in the future with a video to prove how fast this recipe can be made!  In the  mean time, enjoy!