Tofu or not tofu……that is the question

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I always had a preconceived notion of what it would be like.  I avoided it like the plague and since I have been enjoying my plant-based/Vegan eating, I knew it was only a matter of time before I would cave and try it for the sake of trying it.  And although my foray into Tofu may have done it a great injustice, it was just as horrible as I thought it would be.

On my day off this past Monday, I stopped into our local health food store to pick up some things to bring home for dinner.  The Polenta Bake was delicious and the Falafel, while tasty, was a bit dry.  I stepped outside of my comfort zone and bought a few pieces of marinated Tofu.  The woman behind the counter assured me that, when it was heated up, it would taste like a chicken nugget.  That should have been my first hint that it would be something that was meant to taste like food, but wasn’t real food.

(my home-cooked dinner…..without tofu)

In my quest to eat better and feel better, I have drastically changed the way I eat.  I have not, in over seven weeks, craved any of the processed food or meats that I used to eat before I embarked on this journey.  I have been truly surprised that I have not had any moments where I deviated from eating food that is essentially good for me and is in its purest form.

I get my protein from beans, nuts and oats, among several other foods, and I feel better than I have in a long time.  My quality of sleep is better, my energy is better and I have no physical symptoms of the stomach upsets that I had before I cut out all of the processed crap that I once forced my body to ingest.

I am not going to preach about plant-based eating but I will say it is a dietary change that made a world of difference for me.  And in that brave new world that includes foods that I could not have imagined enjoying the way I do, Tofu will never be one of those foods.

 

 

They had me at bacon

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I have two words for you – carrot bacon.  Coming from a professed meat lover, I know these two words will shock and amaze you but I have just made my first batch today and will continue to do so.  It was delicious!

My foray into more of a vegetable and plant-based world has been encouraged by a friend who has recently decided to eat a Vegan diet.  I am supportive of his decision and I am hoping that his food choices will help him alleviate some of his medical anomalies.

In his quest to research his new eating style, he has sent me several videos on the topic and they have been very interesting, to say the least.  For a woman somewhat shy of fifty, I have noticed my body does not react well to the foods that were once digested without a second thought.  Bloating is a common complaint so I decided to investigate a plant-based diet and give it a try.  I am not confessing to becoming a Vegan but I am going to give this new lifestyle a fair shot and see how I feel after a couple of weeks.

Food plays a huge role in our lives.  In our twenties, we could eat whatever we wanted.  In our thirties, we became a little more conscientious and made better choices.  In our forties and fifties, we become sadly aware that we are no longer in our twenties and thirties and our lifestyles have to evolve.  I am excited to venture into this new chapter of healthy eating and thankful that the internet is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to recipe ideas.

The carrot bacon is done.  The pistachios, walnuts and almonds are toasted.  The breakfasts and lunches are prepared for the next few days and I am eager to find out how this journey evolves and how my body adapts to the changes.  My first two plant-based dinners were a huge success and I felt full without feeling sluggish.  That to me is a huge step in the right direction.

I am not committing 100% to the Vegan diet.   I may have the odd meal that may not be entirely plant-based but  I am willing to commit to taking this new journey one day at a time.  If it improves my health and well-being, I’m willing to give it a try.

 

 

It’s just my allergies….

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I have suffered with allergies since I was a child.  My sensitivities are mostly environmental so they are certainly manageable.  As a child I used to break out in hives when I ate strawberries but, I was as stubborn then as I am now so, I ate them anyway and eventually outgrew my reaction.

As I have matured into the person I am today, I am finding an increase in my hypersensitivity to certain things.  The environmental allergies still plague me year-round but I have discovered lately that a broad spectrum of human emotion, compassion and empathy is having a strange effect on my eyes.

crying

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When I hear stories that touch my heart, the redness in my eyes is immediately evident.  There is a small bit of swelling in the upper and lower eyelids and I am guessing my body creates tears to cleanse my eyes of the allergens.  This “allergy” is becoming more and more prevalent.  What was once just a susceptibility to dust, mold, grass and trees now encompasses impassioned stories, movies, television shows and even commercials.  Seeing another human being cry is definitely the biggest trigger for this new onslaught of “allergic reactions” and once the tears are formed the next symptom of these “allergies” is a stuffed up nose.

I have battled allergies for years and these are the only ones I can say I actually don’t mind having.  I have given up wishing I could control these allergic reactions in public.  I’m sure seeing a few tears is easier for others to witness rather than a contorted face that looks uncomfortable and painful.

So, if you see me and it looks like I’ve been crying…..it’s just my allergies.

 

I usually hate it when he’s right, but not this time

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I have a great friend who is sometimes is too smart for his own good.  But his advice is sage, his common sense is welcomed and his support is evident.  The combination of those things has recently led me to draft a couple of letters to companies that have been manufacturing the products I have been using for the venture I began for our local Food Bank.

I penned a few well-constructed emails today to let the companies know how integral their products have been to the success of our Freezer Crockpot meals.  In a world so full of negativity, it’s nice to be able to spread a modicum of happiness.  In those letters I did nothing more than tell the truth about how much of a difference this project has made to our small community and how much their product has helped with that success.

chopfest-hamburger-soup

In a few short hours, I had my first email response.  Nowhere in my email did I ask for anything but, after being so impressed with the project and inspired by our story, this company immediately offered to send us some complimentary products to “help continue our excellent work”.

For those of you who know me, or follow my blog on a regular basis, you will know that some tears were shed after I read that email.  And I’m not completely sure if the tears were of pure joy because this company didn’t hesitate to help or because my friend was right….again.  Regardless of their cause, my cheeks welcomed the emotion.

This Food Bank project has been a labor of love since the beginning and the more time I spend organizing, shopping and setting up the volunteers, the more I know this is not just a one-shot deal.  This enterprise has become a part of my life, and one I hope to continue for a long time.  And now that I know even more support is out there, more home-cooked meals will make it into deserving homes during their tough times.

 

 

 

 

To Paleo, or not to Paleo….that is the question

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Along with aging comes change…..in everything!  Some of that change is welcomed, like a new sense of self and not being concerned with what others think.  And some is not so well-received, like white hair, bags under the eyes and the digestive system constantly changing the rules for our metabolism on a daily basis.

I never had a care in the world when it came to food.  I suffered no allergies.  I was not a victim to food sensitivities.  I had absolute freedom in my culinary world.

But something has drastically shifted over the last couple of years.  I have heard of this phenomenon but never thought I would have become a statistic in this game of “what do we cut out of the daily diet today”.   Choosing what to eat has become more like Russian Roulette.  One misfire and that bullet of discomfort is going to rocket through my intestines.

tuscan-chicken-skillet-main

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I’ve been looking at the Paleo Diet and it seems to cut out all the components that could potentially cause inflammation or general malaise without necessarily cutting out the options for a very tasty selection of meals.  I have already become the person who puts beets and turmeric in my breakfast smoothies, so I think I’ve pretty much taken the first step in admitting that I’m not the girl who is able to eat what she wants anymore.   And that recipe in the photo looks delicious!   Wish me luck…..I’m goin’ in.

 

 

Don’t you have anything better to do with your time?

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If you have read my past blog posts, you’ll know that I have started a wonderful project to help our local food bank.  We are making Freezer Crockpot meals so families can feel the satisfaction of having a home-cooked meal on the table, once or twice a week, that is made with REAL food.  The ingredients are things like chicken, stewing beef, ground beef, ground turkey, vegetables and potatoes.   It has been a love affair of mine since it began last winter and continues to capture my heart.

After a sneaky email from a friend, I was recently interviewed by a local TV news station and the reporter and her fellow newscasters were impressed by the project as well.  We had a small segment on the 6:00 news to help promote our cause and gain more coverage to help increase donations.  The coverage was also put on the TV stations’ and my Facebook page to  help spread the word so we could try to help more people who could use a hand this time of year.

I received some fantastic comments and queries from others who wish to start the same type of project in their community, which is exactly what I was hoping would happen.  But amidst the praises and pats on the back, I should have known there lurked a few eyes that glowed eerily in the darkness.

After watching the clip on the news, a woman called the lodge where I work (and the kitchen we use for prepping meals) and was irate that we were not wearing gloves while we prepared these meals.  Upon first hearing of this call, I was taken aback…..and then I was angry.  I have volunteered countless hours of my time to make life a little better for those who struggle through the winter months, only to have this woman challenge my culinary safety practices.

chef-chopping

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I have been trained in kitchens since I was in college.  Before I went to college I worked in restaurants.  And in the 30+ years I have worked in the hospitality industry, I have never encountered a Chef who wears gloves, or makes their staff wear gloves, unless they have been cut and are wearing a bandage.  Hospitality staff are trained in food safety.  From the temperature of a fridge, to the cooking temperature of meats and the frequent hand-washing to avoid cross-contamination, we are well-versed in following very strict guidelines.   Watch a few videos of Gordon Ramsay, Anthony Bourdain, Jamie Oliver or any of the popular cooking-challenge shows and tell me if you see their hands concealed by Latex gloves.  This is cooking, not open-heart surgery.

Sufficed to say, my blood pressure has come down and I am moving on.  One angry voice in a sea of positivity will not get me down.  I can only hope that, one day, this woman will get as much satisfaction from helping others as I do and will give the same strong-arm to anyone who tries to bring her down.