Monday, January 31, 2011

Vegan Clean Program, I'm Done!

Twenty-one days ago, I started following a veganized version of Dr. Alejandro Junger's Clean Program.  I drank a healthy organic smoothie for breakfast, had a whole foods lunch, and a soup for dinner.  I snacked on yummy things like organic kale chips and raw organic cashews, and sometimes I had a juice for dessert.
Blended curried split pea soup from Vegan With a Vengeance
Overall, I feel really good.  Three weeks later and no complaints here.  I've lost two pounds and a teeny bit of body fat, and my clothes fit better.  Weight loss wasn't one of my goals, I followed the Clean Program because I wanted to press restart after too many sugar cookies over the holidays.  I wanted to pick up some more healthy habits, and maybe make a difference in the way I react to certain allergens.
I discovered the deliciousness of kale chips while on Clean!
The verdict? I'm really happy that I saw this through.  It wasn't always easy, especially with my busy schedule.  I went without sugar for the longest time I can remember.  I mean, I had fruit and a bit of agave here and there, but I'm talking about straight up sugar.  I feel good about that.  We installed a water filter on the tap in our kitchen.  I thought it would be expensive or a pain, but it was like $20 at Target and really easy to install.  I drank filtered water with organic lemon throughout the day.  I started skin brushing regularly.  I left a 12 hour window between my last meal of the day and my first.  I started my day with a healthy smoothie and usually ended it with a healthy juice.  These are habits I could easily continue.

I have allergies to cats, and on Day 20, I spent some time at a house with a cat.  I love kitties, and they love me.  They always end up rubbing on me, and I always end up petting them (it's hard not to!).  Usually, this ends with hives, fatigue, and a stuffy nose.  On Day 20 and reaction.  I couldn't believe it!  Could it be that simple changes in my diet made this happen?  I've been getting allergy shots for almost a year now, but this is the first time I haven't had a reaction in what seems like forever.  The weird thing is, I was getting hives during Clean, so at one point during the 21 days I came to the conclusion that the Detox wasn't fixing my allergies.  The fact that I didn't react to the cat was really awesome and surprising!

It wasn't all smooth sailin' on Clean, though.  There were definite moments of frustration and hunger.  If I got hungry during the day, I'd snack on a Clean approved food.  I found I had the hardest time on Friday nights, after dinner.  It's hard to find the resolve to say no to seemingly healthy food like popcorn while watching a movie.  I would make some tea and move on, and I found my craving would pass without any drama.

Now that it's done, I look forward to sneaking in a little coffee back in my life.  It's been a almost a month!  The only strong cravings I had were for coffee, so I'm going to bring it back. After Clean, you're supposed to bring certain foods and drinks on the "no" list back gradually to see how you react.  Since my diet was healthy to begin with, I don't think I'll see too much of a problem.  It will be interesting to see how my allergies go.  After coffee, I'm bringing back peanut butter, bananas, soy, then gluten.  I'll definitely post updates on how it goes!

Have you ever given up coffee?  How did it go?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Hop Like a Marsupial

I saw kangaroos in Australia.  Lots and lots of them.  They are amazing animals!  I took these photos at an animal sanctuary where we got to walk around with them.  It was one of the coolest things ever!!!
About to hop!
Aaaaawwww....sleepy joey and mommy 'roo.
I am in awe of their body structure.  So cool!
Wallaby in the sun.
I love to watch them go!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Kale Chips!

Wow, do I love kale chips!  I am a huge fan of kale in general, but this is my first time making them into chips.  The finished product is delicate and crispy.  It has a potato chip crunch, and it's so good for you!

There are tons of recipes for kale chips on the internet, but I decided to use this recipe that included nutritional yeast, sesame oil, and apple cider vinegar.  It also calls for tamari, but I can't do soy during the Clean Program.  Here is what I did.

-a bunch of organic kale
-2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
-1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
-1 tablespoon sesame oil
-about 1/4 tsp sea salt

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Take a large bowl and mix together the nutritional yeast, apple cider vinegar, salt, and sesame oil.  Add small pieces (about 2 inches) of ripped kale, avoiding large stems.  Mix it all together with your hands.  Take the time to rub in the nutritional yeast mixture to make sure it's really evenly coated.  
Put it on a baking sheet that has parchment paper on it.  Bake for about 15 minutes.  The end result should be crispy, you can put it in for 5 more minutes if it's not totally crisp.
I like this mixture raw too!  In fact, I think it will be the basis for most of my salads this week. 

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Clean Program, Week 2

Week Two is over, and I officially have seven days left on the Clean Program.  Today, I feel well rested, strong, and healthy.  I feel good! 

This week was a really busy one for me.  I got home late, I stayed up late, I woke up late, I barely had enough time to get dressed in time for my commute let alone make a smoothie.  I found myself randomly getting a strong urge for some coffee while at work, but other than that, it was pretty smooth sailing.
I skipped the breakfast smoothie on Day 11.  I made up for it on Day 12 with a frozen organic raspberry, cocoa, almond milk smoothie with hemp powder and chia seeds.  On most other days this week, the base of my breakfast smoothie was coconut milk, almond milk, hemp powder, chia seeds, and ground flaxseeds.  I added frozen organic fruit like peaches and blueberries.  They are super filling!  I found that I like cold, thick drinks in the winter.  I am so surprised by that!  There's snow on the ground, yet I like my cold smoothie.   Here's a particularly thick version, in a coffee mug.
For most of the week, lunch was not exciting since I have to cook it the night before and bring it to work, and I haven't had the time to do this important Clean meal any justice.  I tried to make a lovely millet and artichoke risotto from the Clean website that was supposed to be nurtured with frequent stirring but ended up being rushed.  The result was pretty blah.  I repeated the quinoa, lentil, spinach mixture from last week.  One definite winner this week was this meal made of balsamic glazed portabella mushrooms from Vegan With a Vengeance and saffron brown rice from Veganomicon
This weekend I made crabless cakes, a Clean recipe from their website.  It was made up of cashews, coconut flakes, celery, carrots, onion, sea salt, pepper, and kelp powder.  It was suggested to serve it with mustard and sauerkraut, but I would have preferred it with Vegenaise.  I'll probably make it again after the detox.
I eventually had time to heat up the artichoke millet risotto with more veggie broth, and it came out so much better.  Here it is with some kale and crabless cakes.
In addition to organic honeycrisp apples, hummus and carrots, raw cashews, and raw almonds, I made kale chips to snack on.  They are so amazing!  I'll post the recipe I used later this week.

Dinner during week 2 was either white bean and roasted garlic soup from my last Clean post or some green juice.  Here's spinach, celery, green apple, ginger, and lemon juice.
An exciting update on my allergies is when I got my allergy shots, the injection site didn't swell up like crazy like it normally does.  Weird, huh?  It will be interesting to see if this continues.  Does this mean that coffee and gluten make me more sensitive to allergens?  I hope not!  After week 3, I'm supposed to incorporate the foods I wasn't supposed to eat gradually into my diet and see how I react.  I'll have to think about what food on the Clean "no" list will make an appearance first.  Soy? Gluten?  Coffee?  Nightshades like potatoes?  Bananas?  I'll keep you posted!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Brisbane Picture Walk

When I was in Brisbane, we explored the city under clear blue skies and sunshine.  Brisbane has a special place in my heart.  I met friendly and down to earth people, had delicious soy lattes, found an amazing book store, and generally wandered around and saw cool things while dodging the occasional flying fox and sidestepping around a massive cane toad.  Brisbane was our home base while we explored the magnificent natural attractions nearby (more on that soon!).

Watching Brisbane on the news recently, seeing some of my favorite places completely covered in muddy water, just made me so sad.  My heart goes out to Brisbane.  In honor of this awesome city, here is a little photo journey of my time there.
After flying in from Cairns, we checked in to our hotel and explored the Brisbane City Botanic Gardens, which was nearby.  
The mangrove boardwalk was really cool.  It was the kind of day that was just the perfect temperature for walking.
Model shoot!  This was in the background.
These birds were like the pigeons of Brisbane, they were roaming around anywhere people ate food outside.  I'm used to pigeons, but these guys are huge!  And their beaks!  I looked it up, they're Australian White Ibis.  We also saw two kookaburra right in the same spot.
We wandered over a cool pedestrian bridge and ended up in a little park that led to an amazing sculptural path covered in vines with bright pink flowers.
It seems like the perfect city for running!
Ultimately, the cool little path led us to a somewhat disappointing food court area.  I ate something unmemorable, and watched in quiet horror as these giant birds jumped onto tables and tried to eat people's scraps.  They're HUGE!  Just as annoying as pigeons but MASSIVE!  It was crazy, but this guy totally brought it onto himself because he was feeding them.  Yikes.
I was almost tempted to check out the views on the Ferris wheel, but my height tolerance met it's limit for the entire stay in Brisbane because of the fact that our hotel room had an open balcony on the 30-something floor.  I could barely sleep without dreaming about being on the very edge of a great height, so I had to pass.
Of course, we ate delicious vegan food there too.  After working up an appetite one night, we wandered to the Queen Street Mall and passed a Japanese restaurant.  We checked it out and ended up eating there.  Right when you walked in, there was an autographed photo of Willem Dafoe.  We were so hungry, and though we were a little out of our element (it was pretty fancy), I thought I remembered he was vegan, so we went for it.  I didn't take pictures of the avocado rolls I got, but I did take these.
I don't even remember what this was, but we were assured that they were vegan.  Sono is located at 202 Edward Street. 
Located at 124 Boundary Street in West End, The Forest is Brisbane's answer to the organic hippie vegan establishment.  Though we're not hippies in the slightest, we were more in our element in this downtown, casual place.  It was more in our price range too.  I didn't take food pics there because we met up with friends and I got a little shy.  I had an organic and really good burger and salad.  I loved being able to order absolutely anything on the menu!
This tofu and veggie combo was budget-friendly and most welcome. 
We ate at City Wok on 99 Elizabeth Street a few times.  They had meat dishes and vegetarian dishes, the setting was very basic, and the staff was very friendly and helpful.
Brisbane at night felt safe and was really fun.  This is the outside of the casino. 

Here is more information about the impact of the flood on Brisbane.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

No Sugar Apple Crisp

After the holidays and before my Clean Program detox, I decided I needed a serious break from sugar.  Typically, I start the day with coffee and later have a small baked good.  Sometimes it's a homemade muffin or a slice of pumpkin or cinnamon bread.  One of my favorites is coffee cake.  I needed something less sugary, but still sweet.  I immediately thought of organic apples, since they're sweet and easily available at my favorite food stores.  Apple crisps are so easy to make, they only require a few ingredients that take minutes to assemble, and they taste amazing.  I started by chopping about 4 apples with the skins and placing them into an 8 by 8 baking dish.  
Then, I sprinkled cinnamon all over the apples and mixed them right in the baking dish with my hands.
Now, on to the topping.  I took some oatmeal, chopped walnuts, whole wheat pastry flour, more cinnamon, and a bit of nutmeg and stirred them together in a bowl.

After that, I added some canola oil and a tiny bit of agave and stirred again.
Finally, I placed the topping over the apples in the baking dish, like this. 
I baked the crisp at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.  I knew it was done when the smell coming out of the kitchen was amazing, the apples were sizzling, and they looked something like this.
I had a little bit whenever I craved something sweet.  The crunchy walnut, the filling oatmeal, and the apple-cinnamon combination was perfect!
I will definitely make this again after I finish my Clean detox, since I'm taking a break from gluten during the cleanse.  I bet this would be amazing with peaches in the summer!  Can't wait to try that!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Clean Program, Week 1 Recap

Week 1 is over!  14 more days to go!  This past week, I began each day with a smoothie and some supplements.  Monday and Tuesday I had a blueberry, coconut milk, avocado, cinnamon smoothie.  Wednesday and Thursday was blueberry, almond milk, cocoa, and a little bit of agave.  The recipes for these smoothies are in the Clean book.  I added a full serving of hemp protein powder and about a teaspoon of ground flax seed and chia seeds to each smoothie and took my daily vegan multivitamin, omega 3, calcium, enzyme and probiotic supplements. I really enjoyed these smoothies!  Friday and Saturday were more of a coconut milk, pineapple vibe that was ultimately just OK.  Breakfast used to be sugary black coffee, so this is a vast improvement to say the least.  I feel full and ready to face the day with these babies.  No more sugar/caffeine crashes.  That said, I sure do miss my coffee.  When the cleanse is all said and done, I'll probably continue with the smoothies for breakfast, but I'm definitely bringing the occasional cup of java back into my life.

Lunch on the Clean Program should be whole foods and can be cooked.  Early in the week, I started with a quinoa, lentil, spinach dish.  I sauteed onion and garlic, added about a teaspoon of oregano, and I cooked the quinoa in veggie broth.  I sauteed the spinach with garlic and olive oil, and I seasoned the lentils that I placed on top with salt and pepper. 
On Wednesday, I had a salad with mixed greens, avocado, and nori with a generous sprinkling of nutritional yeast and a healthy dash of cayenne pepper.  This recipe is from Thrive.  I used the Vegan With a Vengeance recipe for a balsamic/tahini dressing.  Yum!  After my salad I sliced up some cucumber and ate it with more of the dressing.  It's so good! On Thursday and Friday, I had the same salad but added a bunch of chickpeas. 

This weekend's lunch was brown rice veggie sushi with no soy sauce.  I didn't make this (I wish!), I bought it at a store.
For dinner this week, I mostly had butternut squash soup.  

This weekend, I made the white bean and roasted garlic soup from VWAV, but I made a slight change.  I added a bunch of spinach to make it green.  So good!
Since I have such a sweet tooth and I'm a dessert fanatic, I usually have an apple, lemon, ginger juice after dinner.  I've been adding greens and cucumber to my apple, lemon, ginger base to make them healthier.
Some other healthy habits I picked up this week include drinking water with lemon (and a lot of it!), and leaving at least a 12 hour gap between my last meal in the evening and my first meal in the morning.

Have I seen any improvements during week 1?  Well, I'm super allergic to dust.  For whatever reason, I decided to do a massive clean out of my house (clean body, clean house, I guess?), exposing myself to some dust.  Usually, I get a runny nose, itchy eyes, and I break out in hives immediately.  This week, the reaction was slower and less intense.  That said, I did get hives this week.  Not sure if it's reasonable to expect anything major after only one week. 

The other thing is I've been going to an hour and a half hot yoga class, and I'm usually really sore and tired the next day.  This week, my recovery was really fast.  This could be because I've been sleeping more, maybe my muscles are getting used to the routine, but the faster recovery was great.  Unfortunately, the roads around here and the boardwalk are still covered in snow and ice, so no running for me.

Though the transition from my usual diet to the Clean diet wasn't super dramatic, I did have a tough time on Day 5.  I was stressed from work, and I was hungry.  I was sick of the same soup and salad I kept making out of convenience, and I started thinking this whole detox idea was stupid.  I then reminded myself that there really was no reason to let myself get hungry while doing this.  I specifically liked this detox because you can eat real food on it.  So, I went shopping the next day, had sushi and snacked on Clean-approved food before and after lunch.  Now I'm totally fine.

Goal for next week: I want to make kale chips to snack on, and I'm looking for a good recipe.  Have you ever tried kale chips?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Grapeseed Oil and Crazy Rumors

Photo from
A few weeks ago, I wrote about some winter dry skin solutions that have really helped me out this year.  I was looking for a non-waxy vegan lip balm that lasted.  Well, I found one!

I tried a Crazy Rumors lip balm in the past and didn't love it.  They have a line of flavors inspired by coffee, but I think the flavor I picked out just didn't work out for me.  I know they're vegan and use organic ingredients, so when I recently saw a display in a store I opened up some of the testers to smell some of their new flavors.  French Vanilla won me over, so I bought it.  I'm not sure if Crazy Rumors reworked their formula, but I really love this lip balm now!  I've been using it every day with great results.  My lips haven't been chapped since I added it to the Lush lip scrub in the morning, organic cocoa butter/coconut oil at night routine.

I also figured another great dry skin solution that has totally been a life saver.  I find that my favorite lotions that I use all year need to be amped up in the winter.  After the shower, I've been slathering on a bit of organic grapeseed oil before I layer on my lotion.  It makes all the difference!  I feel like the lotion traps the goodness of the grapeseed oil right next to my skin.  

What are some of your favorite vegan lotions and lip balms?

P.S.  I've written about the cute vegan shoe selection at Lulu's before, Statements in Fashion is hosting a Lulu's $25 gift card giveaway until Wednesday, January 19th.  You might want to check it out!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

St. Kilda and Lord of the Fries

While staying in Melbourne, we took a day trip to St. Kilda, a suburb just south of the city.  We walked around and headed to the breakwater to look for fairy penguins.  Camera poised and ready, we carefully climbed wet rocks on the lookout for these tiny birds...unfortunately, we didn't see any.  Overall, it was a quiet kind of day.  It reminded me of November at the Jersey Shore, most of the rides and games are closed, few people walking around, and just one or two restaurants open.  St. Kilda sort of had a less seedy Coney Island kind of vibe. 

The quiet streets had some fun little shops and some of the houses had Victorian architecture.  The slanted boardwalk surprised me, this was my first time seeing a boardwalk that wasn't raised off the sand. Kind of weird, but cool.

It was the middle of Australian winter with temps in the low 50's F.  The beach was empty, but I could see why this would be a popular destination in the hot summer months.  I don't have food pictures, but we did eat at Soul Mama, a vegetarian buffet-style restaurant with beach views.

After walking around for a while, the cold sea breeze started to get a bite to it.  We walked into the building that housed the St. Kilda Sea Baths, a spa, and Soul Mama.  The place was expansive with a nice lounge area, really fancy restrooms, and a fireplace going.  It kind of had a high end beach restaurant/ski lodge effect, and it was most welcome!  Hunting for fairy penguins works up an appetite, and it gets cold in southern Victoria! 

We settled in and after figuring out that we wanted the option of rice and four selections from the buffet (we had three choices: soup and salad, rice and four choices, and a bigger one that I can't remember), we ate.  Overall, I was happy with Soul Mama.  Some of the selections were a little plain, but their menu does change seasonally and you can definitely taste the freshness of the veggies.   As always, we couldn't turn down a vegan chocolate cake, so we topped off our meal with that and headed back to Melbourne on the tram.
Earlier in the day, after finding enough change to cover the journey and before making our way to the tram, breakfast was in order.  Since Lord of the Fries was right across from the train station, we decided on some vegan fast food.
You would never know that this place was vegetarian if you didn't come up close and read their sign that says, "100% veg".  It was always packed with students and business people.
While their delicious fries are in the name, their other specialty is vegan nuggets and veggie burgers. On this particular day, I decided on the breaded and fried soy protein that is their chicken nuggets.

You had a choice of sauce, and I went with the "Aussie": they call it tomato sauce and vinegar, I call it ketchup.  The "American" sauce is barbeque, and I definitely had that on another occasion.  Sometimes you just have to go for the quick and easy food.  Lord of the Fries was a really fun and economical treat for a couple of traveling vegans!