Saturday, December 22, 2007

I wish you a merry cold shower (or a bucket)…

By now I have accepted that I’m just not that consistent at writing. Or reporting. I find it hard to write when I’m figuring something out. And almost impossible to explain it, once I have figured it out.

But let me try and give you some updates.

Especially for those of you who want to lose weight.

Or get younger.

Or get energy.

Cause I’ve lost almost 20 pounds. In less then two months. Healthfully. And I’m jumping again. Really jumping. Up in the air. With my kids :-)

So gals (and guys), it’s possible! I’m writing just to let you know that. Maybe you’ll get inspired :-)

I thought I’ll never have this feeling again. I bought into the “getting older”, “weaker joints”, etc…

But it was all a lie. I’m now feeling younger by the day. And I’m implementing more and more healthy habits into my and my family’s life. It’s no longer overwhelming. It is still a journey, and it’s still a learning process, but it is slowly forming into a system. And it is paying of.

One of the latest destinations this journey has taken me is back to my past. I suddenly remembered (not that I really forgot, but I certainly avoided it :-) ) that between the ages of 13 and 18 I was very fit, skinny and healthy. I hardly ever got sick. I had all the energy in the world. And there was this one thing I did (on top of eating better) that I stopped for a reason I now can’t think of. I used to pour a bucket of freezing cold water over myself every single morning.

You see, it’s a quite common knowledge in Russia that cold water has tons of positive effects. Among other things it improves blood circulation, gives you energy, prevents from catching colds, destroys viruses and ailments inside you, etc… Russians are notorious for taking steaming hot baths and then running out into the snow. Or skinny dipping in the dead of winter. There is much scientific research done to prove the effectiveness of such body tempering (I really can’t find a better word – there doesn’t seem to be an English translation for the concept.). There is not too much information about the concept in English, but if you check this link
Anyways, I can attest to the fact that the cold water thing works. It worked for me then. And I decided to do it again. Unfortunately over these past years I’ve become very pampered and was too scared to do a freezing bucket out of the blue. So I decided to do it in stages. Every day at the end of my shower I switch the dial to cooler and cooler temperatures and take on that cold water for a few seconds. I feel so refreshed after! I’m proud to announce that I feel ready for the bucket again. In fact, it’s already on my “to buy” list. (As soon as I’m out of “Christmas debt”).

So, if you are brave enough, and want to feel a jolt of energy you’ve never thought possible – give it a shot. Take your shower, as usual, and then at the end, take a breath in (cause the first time the shock might leave you breathless) and shift the water dial to cool (or as cold as you are brave enough to try). As the water pours on you, feel free to jump, scream and twist. It’s fun! Do that for a few seconds, and then right after dry yourself vigorously with a towel.

No cup of coffee in the morning will ever get you this alert.

(Disclaimer – naturally I’m not a doctor, and you’d be doing it at your own risk… )

I’m thinking that these showers are responsible for a turnaround in my attitude. And in the way I feel. I’m no longer feeling oppressed by all these changes. I welcome them. Cause I feel like finally the real “me” is being resurrected.

And that’s a darn good thing.

And I wish you the same.

PS: You think loosing 20 pounds is nothing? Well, that’s 20 pounds in two months. But I actually lost over 40 since I came home with the baby. It’s just that these last 20 were much easier and sort of melted off without me even focusing on them :-)

Posted by vasilisa @ 12:45 AM :: (6) comments

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Will the insanity ever end?

I have been cooking every single day… Breakfast, lunch and dinner… I can’t believe it’s me. I didn’t even know that it’s possible to spend so much time thinking about food.

I read about it, I talk about it, I make it, I eat it. It has become the absolutely dominating part of life.

And I’m trying to figure out the best formula for “healthy”. Cause, amazingly enough, nobody seems to agree about anything. Not even the “health crusaders”. Some say that you should eat all raw, others that you need grains. Some offer a diet that is about 80 percent fruit, others say that you should go easy on fruit cause of sugar content. Analyzing all this information (and there is no way around that – I gotta eat something) sometimes leaves me frustrated and scared to put anything in my mouth.

There are, naturally, common threads. Eat your veggies. Lots of them. As much of it raw as possible. Avoid meat and dairy if you can, or go really easy on them if you can’t.

And so I’m making a lot of salads. And wraps. And soups. (Nobody actually recommends soups, but I figured that they are all veggies, homemade, and will do no harm. I can’t quit soup cold turkey. That’s just too much to ask.)

I have now become a queen of salad dressings and spreads. And the gadget that gets the most mileage in my kitchen? Magic Bullet blender. Yes, the one from infomercials. I bought it couple of years ago and I still think it’s one of the most useful things ever. Because whenever I don’t know what to do, I just put whatever I find into that little cup and shred it into oblivion – voila, a spread/sauce! (It’s also heaven-sent for mashing baby food). And I can make really tiny quantities of things in it.

Here’s an example of a recent all raw and fully healthy hummus-like spread I envented a few days ago:

1/3 cup raw sunflower seeds
2 tbsp sesame seeds
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Grind all these together in a coffee grinder or any other Magic Bullet type device that grinds dry items.
Then add:
Juice from 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoon olive oil
3 tablespoons or more finely chopped dill
Sea salt or salt substitute to taste
About 2 tablespoons of water (depending on how thick/thin you want the consistency to be)
Mix or blend everything.
Voila – a nice healthy spread. Goes well with veggies or on cracker. Or even on a sandwich instead of my old staples (ahm… mayo…)

I made it a few times already. But it never survives long enough to make it into my photo album. Somehow it just disappears, before I can say “cheese”. That’s how yummy it is :-)

Oh, and I’m officially a smoothie queen. Something about blending fruits and sipping them through a straw gets everyone excited. I guess it makes us feel like we are relaxing somewhere in a Caribbean. It’s so relaxing not to even have to chew your food. People are really lazy around here…

That’s about it for now. What else could I say. Christmas is coming, and I have a toddler. So I have to live up to Santa Claus expectations. I.e. – I’m busy, stressed and dream about those helping elves. Santa really got it easy – elves do all the work, reindeers do all the driving, and all he has to do is drop a toy to get his milk and cookies – now that’s a job I want!

Sorry Santa – no milk and cookies in this house. But you better work yourself down this chimney or else there’ll be no lettuce wrap for you. I can see you drooling already…

Posted by vasilisa @ 10:37 PM :: (4) comments

Monday, December 10, 2007

A tale of an evil mother and spinachy beans...

Let’s begin this report by reporting about a very bad mother (grammatical perfection, as usual…). An evil mother that is so selfish that she thinks that some soy spray in her soup is OK even though she’s specifically been warned that her kid is probably allergic to soy… A squirt of darn soy spray per gallon of soup which she doesn’t actually give to the baby, but consumes herself in a pretty small bowl.

And then her baby has a major rush on his behind. A hive-looking one.

I feel so guilty, I could die.

Bad, bad mother…

But honestly, I thought: it’s not like I’m giving it to him. I sprayed 1/10th of a teaspoon into a whole soup pot, and I’m the one who had SOME soup, and not him, and somehow whatever got to the milk gave him a rush (at least that's what I think happened)…

I feel like guilt is crawling up my knuckles and raising every tiny hair on my evil selfish arms…

And I am even more paranoid now

Did you know that they put soy in chocolate? In bread? In cookies? In PRACTICALLY EVERYTHING?

Those delicious nutritious Ezekiel’s wraps? They have soy…

Those carrot muffins? They have soy oil...

That organic fresh raspberry pastry? Why the heck does it have soy? What does soy have to do with organic raspberry pastry?

Why does black bitter chocolate have soy? WHY? What does soy have to do with bitter organic chocolate? Am I missing something?

What is wrong with this world?

And if you are very careful and buy sprouted bread that doesn’t have soy, then when you thaw it you’ll get this:



You probably can’t see the moisty part. The sweet-gooey-moisty part. Let me just tell you, nowhere in the ingredients does it say that it supposed to contain moisty-gooey-sweet (rotten) part.

That’s what you get when you can’t be like normal people and buy sprouted bread that contains soy.

Ah… Life is like shopping in a freezer section of a health food store -- You never know what's it gonna thaw into…

On the bright side:

I found goat butter. Yes, butter. Yummy real butter that is organic and goat milk based. And it is delicious. And has no salt.

I guess there is some food at the end of the rainbow.

But enough about that. Let’s get down to business. Lets discuss actual eatable food… Because today I had some serious munchies. And lettuce just wasn’t doing for me. So I had to come up with a seriously filling dinner. Without meat, fish, soy or nuts… (I know, I know… Enough already… But I still can’t get over it! What else is there?)

So, I made beans with buckwheat and salad.



Very alkalizing. Very green. And pretty. What more can a girl want? Allow me to share the recipe:

Any normal person can use good quality canned beans (of their favorite type). However, being on this whole home-cooked wave (and masochistically enjoying making my life more difficult) I cooked some black-eyed-peas (which are actually beans, why do they call them peas? I think they are conspiring just to confuse me…) from scratch. Basically, I soaked them, and then cooked in water with some cumin seeds and a couple of bay leafs.

Separately, in a blender (or a food processor) mix till chunky:

A bunch of cilantro
2 medium tomatoes
Roughly a bunch of spinach (really, that’s just a guideline -- however much you have is just fine…)
2 teaspoons cumin seeds (I adore cumin seeds. You can probably use less, if you don’t share the fascination.)
1 and half teaspoons fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
Salt or salt substitute of your choice to your taste. Being desperate to invent a salt without salt or soy sauce I put in 2 tablespoons of soaked wakame. I was being creative. Luckily it worked out just fine.
Liquid from cooking the beans (or water, or stock) to the extent of how watery you like the sauce to be. I used about a cup.

All that goes into the blender (my wonderful-wonderful blender, which Alma so aptly called “a blender with a car motor”!) or food processor. Process till chunky. Pour over the beans, bring to boil and turn off the stove. Leave it covered for a while to let the flavours blend. (Alternatively you can let it simmer for five minutes if you don't mind cooking veggies. Or don't bring all the way to boil, if you are trying to do it mostly raw. The beans are cooked though -- I don't know a way around that.)

Serve over rice, quinoa, buckwheat or anything you like. (I haven’t figured out all the rules and reasons behind food combining, so I’m promptly ignoring them for now -- But I think beans over buckwheat are ok, cause I seem to recall that buckwheat is actually some sort of bean disguised as a grain… No idea why I think that… )

Serve with big salad.

By the way, the salad dressing today also worked out quite well. Olive oil/lemon/garlic and some water (to thin) blended with dill. The dill makes it green and it tastes very much like ranch dressing. Give it a shot. Quite easy, creamy and yummy.

Bon appetite everyone!

Posted by vasilisa @ 10:56 PM :: (4) comments

Friday, December 07, 2007

Zucchini spaghetti extravaganza…

Ladies and Gentlemen. Allow me to actually share a pretty delicious/nutritious (and raw! So should it be classified as a salad?) recipe with you. This is what we had for dinner yesterday.



Isn’t it pretty?

Yes it’s spaghetti with tomato sauce and avocado slices… But get this – the spaghetti is organic zucchini! Not even cooked one! Sliced with this Saladacco thingy I got at a trade show:



Pretty neat, eh?

It looks like angel pasta. And it tastes pretty good too. And your eyes and fork are totally fooled into thinking that you are eating spaghetti. And taste buds are not rebelling either. Provided they also get this tomato sauce. A home made one.

I don’t usually measure ingredients, but I’ll try to give you a basic direction of the sauce:

2 medium tomatoes
1/2 green bell pepper (or red one)
couple of teaspoons of Dulse flakes (that’s cause we’re avoiding salt and soy. Sea Salt or some kind of natural soy sauce to taste would probably be OK for people who are not as strict)
1 teaspoon dry oregano
1 teaspoon dry thyme flakes
1/3 cups – 1/2 cups sun-dried tomatoes
squeezed juice of about half medium lemon
some olive oil (about a tablespoon)
optional amount of water to desired liquidness (I probably added 1/4 cup or less)

Put everything in the blender (or food processor) and blend till just a bit chunky. In order to get it more uniform, pre-chop the tomatoes and peppers before putting them in the processor. (Not anything major, just cut into 4 - 6 pieces each veg...)

You can then warm the whole thing in a skillet till just about luke-warm. Enzymes start deteriorating at about 106 degrees F, so if you want the most out of your food, keep it as cool as you can. Of course, if you are not into the whole raw/enzyme preservation, you can heat it up all the way and even simmer for a while. It's all up to you :-) I just warmed it a bit and it was totally delicious...

Pour over the spaghetti and enjoy!

PS: I got my magic blender! Yes! I want to kiss it, and dance with it, and use it, and eat it… And I need a new kitchen, cause it’s just not fitting under my cupboards, the buggar is too tall… Darn… Honestly, where is that perfect world?

Posted by vasilisa @ 12:31 AM :: (5) comments

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Rawring, rawring, but not quite raw, though…

Just to clarify – I am not on a raw food diet. I aspire towards it, but I'm not there yet. Not by a long shot. I totally believe in it’s healing powers and it's energy (I mean seriously, check out these pics!), but I’m just not physically or emotionally ready for that. But 70 – 80% is quite an achievable goal. And not eating junk. My credo now is to alkalize our diet as much as possible and to eat as natural products as I can get. So if I’m making a “stir fry” I basically steam veggies for shortest time possible and add some olive oil after cooking. Or if I’m making a soup (Come on! It’s winter in Canada – can’t really last on salads…) I cook it for less than half an hour (as opposed to over an hour in the past). And if I make a sandwich, it’s some hummus with heaps of veggies, as opposed to butter and cheese (my favorite former staple…)

But there is always a green drink. And a salad. Those are a must.

All these changes remind me of the time I became vegetarian. At the beginning I simply had no idea what to eat. When the stake and the chicken left my plate, there was this daunting empty space that was driving me insane. I thought I’ll never enjoy food again. But then I learned better. And discovered delicious new foods, and new ways to look at dinner.

Now I’m back there again. The empty space in my head under the heading “dinner”. Over and over again I stand in the kitchen, and my old staples come to mind. Followed by a list of reasons why I can’t have them (too processed, too much salt, contains soy, or nuts, or fish…) and there are moments of desperation, with fists banging the counter top, screaming: “So what do I cook for you, people?” But inevitably something gets figured out. Not always a culinary champion entry, but eatable :-)… It is a learning curve… Some day I might become a master health-food chef. But for now I’m just a struggling apprentice.

However, I shouldn't dwell on the obstacles so much. Because there are positive things about our new diet. Like learning about all the products I’ve never heard about. For example, it turns out there are tons of grains out there! Grains that are not rice and are actually delicious. Like buckwheat, quinoa (my new favorite), millet (OK, I haven’t tried that one yet, but am about to) and spelt (honestly, sprouted spelt bread? Best thing ever, and they sell it sliced!)…

Or have you heard about the wonders of avocados? Wow. Those things are loaded with nutrients, potassium, healthy fats etc. And being low on sugar, they are much better than bananas for that natural energy kick. (Pricey though – but the world is just not perfect yet…)

And I always thought that there is only one type of sea vegetable. The one they wrap around sushi. Imagine my surprise when I was confronted with no less than six eatable varieties in my local health food store! Not that I know what to do with them yet, but so far I’ve tried Kombu and it’s delicious!

I could go on and on. Recent trips to the health-food stores have opened my eyes and emptied my wallet into oblivion... I am suffering from an information and opinion overload. And all the accompanying highs and lows. "Yes, I love goji berries! Wow, they do all that? At once? And I'll never need any other food again? How much did you say they are? Really? It was very nice to meet you..."

If I was rich, had unlimited resources, great weather (and not snowed-in freezing rain conditions) and a health food store closer than an hour away, I'd probably go completely raw right away. But it too hard right now. I can't. I need my comfort warm food. And I haven't figured out the way around it...

I need things like this:



A soup! Homemade, organic and no salt, but cooked and very warm…

To be raw fair, though, this is what I made for breakfast:



A completely raw and healthy coleslaw, consisting of shredded red cabbage, a shredded carrot and a shredded apple. All organic. A great salad that works like a broom through the intestines. Extraordinarily effective :-)

And there was a salad for dinner too. (Trying to keep that 80/20 ratio going. Though failing miserably, cause the soup was just way too good...)



An exotic take on stuff found on the fridge: tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, avocado and baby lettuce, tossed with cilantro, lemon juice and olive oil. Oh, and some Dulse flakes for saltiness. (Those flakes are one of those sea-vegetable things I just found out about. Quite eatable -- though not all that salty...)

So, as you can see, lots of changes, lots of cooking and lots of veggies… It's a learning and adapting process. But it's very much worth it.

Though I do miss my bread-butter-cheese sandwich...

Posted by vasilisa @ 10:35 PM :: (5) comments

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Life as we’ve never expected it…

Well… Guess what we had for snacks?

Yes.

You guessed it.

Lettuce leaves… With pumpkin seed paste, but lettuce nevertheless…

Oh, and take a look at this fridge:



I dare you to find something unhealthy and processed. (Hemp milk doesn't count. It's quite organic. And so hippie :-) I feel like a flower child...)

And it looks empty because all these healthy things – they run out almost as soon as they are bought. No longevity what so ever. So it’s shopping every two days or so. (Besides, I've got a pretty huge fridge...)

For those curious, I am trying to operate a diet that takes some concepts from the "Ph Miracle Diet", and some general raw food ideas, with my favorite book so far being “The Raw Food Detox Diet”.

Lot’s of great ideas there, except for the fact that some form of nuts is present in almost all the recipes… But I’m adapting. It just occurred to me that nuts can be substituted with seeds (like sunflower seeds) and almond/soy milk with hemp milk. So I’m feeling much more optimistic now.

No, we haven’t gone all raw yet. It’s way to hard. But we’ve certainly changed our diet.

And guess what this is?



Yup, it’s a very fancy-shmancy juicer. (I'd take a picture of my own, but it's all disassembled at the moment. Besides, this one looks much juicier with the whole pineapple theme they've got going...) We use it for juicing green veggies first thing in the morning, to get all those good vibes and enzymes. Cause juicing makes these enzymes go straight into the blood and do their miracle there, for there is no effort wasted on digestion. The drink is now our daily energy shot…

See, I’ve told you we’ve gone wacky…

Yes, we juice wheat grass too… No it’s not disgusting… Sort of an acquired taste by now.

What else? Let’s see, we got a spiralizer (Saladacco) for making veggie pasta. (I already tried it once, and my zucchini pasta was just fine, thank you very much.)

And we ordered a very fancy blender. It’s not here yet, but when it gets here I can just imagine my life getting better. (It better, considering how much we’ve paid…)

We’ve emptied the entire pantry and got rid of everything that had salt. Read – donated two huge boxes of cans to food bank.

We collected and are about to donate all stuffed toys in the house. Dust mites, you know. Not good for the baby. (Sniff, sniff, the cute little bears…)

We now buy sprouted bread. Spelt sprouted bread… And wraps… No more Dempster toasts…

I seem to cook endlessly. I’m making sauces from scratch, hummus from scratch, pastes from scratch, baby food from scratch…

Yah… and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

On a positive side – did I tell you I lost 15 pounds this month? Hmmm… I actually weight less now than I did in about 8 years. Not quite my first year university shape yet (another 10 – 15 pounds to go), but way closer to that goal than in ages. And it’s not like I’m not eating. I’m eating all these healthy things till I feel like celery is growing out of my ears, and I’m still loosing weight!

And hubby lost 20 POUNDS! In a month! Doing absolutely nothing to achieve that, other than eating healthy foods instead of the garbage/junk he used to get for himself. Seriously, that’s an argument for healthy diet in itself.

You know, I do get emotional about all these changes, cause they are quite overwhelming. But they are manageable. And they definitely have positive results. And we do eat. I spend more time cooking and thinking about cooking, but I’m sure that I’ll figure my way around it eventually. It’s not like the diet is so difficult, it’s just being thrust into it so suddenly makes it challenging. No real transition. No time to plan and figure it out. Instead going from one day with a stocked pantry and fridge to being back at square one and having to start everything all over.

But it’s a challenge that is worth it. My family is worth it. Our health is worth it.

I just need to figure out a way to sit down and get my brain together, so that all the little pieces don’t run away from me. And then it’ll be a breeze.

I’ll try to keep you posted :-)

PS: don’t worry, we didn’t just eat lettuce today. We also had sandwiches, fruit and even some chocolate. And kids had completely normal dinners of chicken and grains. At grandma’s home. (How else would I get all this time for blogging?)

Posted by vasilisa @ 10:24 PM :: (8) comments

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Where is my dinner?

When I first named my blog I thought that this was a cute name. I thought it was a temporary question that I would only really worry about while pregnant and struggling with morning sickness. A pretty severe one, but I was sure it will pass… Little did I know how streneous that question would become. How much it would be affecting my life all the time.

Skip a little over a year ahead, and here I am. Pondering that question again. Pondering it so much, that even though I’ve had absolutely no time for a while to get to my computer (hence the long absence, and I know most of you already forgotten me, and I’ve been very neglectful of the blog – I’m truly sorry, but with a toddler and a baby I barely find time to take a shower, and I have immense respect for all the women who manage to have kids and blogs and jobs and have a life – I have no idea how they do it…) I needed to write a bit, as a form of therapy, cause I’m going insane.

It all started with a health scare related to my husband. I won’t go into details, but it was sufficiently nasty that we had to make immediate changes and cut out all junk, salt, sugar, coffee, and the like things from our diet.

And just as I was figuring my way around the new kitchen, I found out that my baby (the one who’s already eight months old – time flies!) is allergic to fish, peanuts, tree nuts and soy. And that I should also stay away from those things while nursing.

Which begs a question –have you ever seen a food in a store that doesn’t contain those ingredients? Me neither…

Today I bought tea. It said on the package – “raspberry tea”. I brought it home. I brewed it. Just before drinking I glanced at the ingredients. I was expecting to read “raspberry”. Instead it read “contains soy”.

Ha?

So the tea went down the drain. And the tears streamed down like a waterfall.

I’m now living in a new lala-land where all I do is try to cook something that is healthy, not salty, organic, vegetarian, has no nuts/soy/fish, not processed and tons of other “nots” that even I’m loosing track of.

If I manage to create something other than a lettuce leaf on a plate, I’ll be posting the results. If I can restrain the kids long enough.

This sure is not where I thought I would be right now.

But that’s our new life.

Welcome to the new healthy eating plan for crazy over-board people. Plenty of fresh air to go around.

No wait, isn’t the air all polluted anyways?

I guess this is where imagination comes in handy…

Posted by vasilisa @ 8:31 PM :: (3) comments

About

I'm a 29 year old mom of two! A toddler (kiddo one) and a new baby (kiddo junior). I am also the most horrible (as in I barely ever do it) cook that I have met in my life. This blog is a diary of my attempts to feed my hungry growing family

PS: My name is not actually Vasilisa... But I find that honest reporting comes easier when there is a shred of anonymity. (Apparently, posting pics of my sons doesn't count...)

PPS: For those of you wondering where on the planet I am: I'm cosily tacked away in the Torontonian suburbia of the Great White North (Canada).

The Beginnings

What is all this?

Listening

To music, naturally.

Reading

All kinds of books. Haven't figured out how to post links to them yet.

E-mail me

Yes, you can actually email me:

Vasilia

Real Savvy Mom Blogger