Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Healthy No Bake Cookies

Well, so much for the sweet tooth being under control! Yesterday, the cravings were back with a vengeance. I'm thinking it has to do with the fact that I was working yesterday and feeling a little like a kid who has to go to school when everyone else gets a snow day.
Regardless, my sweet tooth needed a little something after a very delicious vegan quesillada from my new cookbook, Vegan Express. So, I played with a recipe from Recipes for a Small Planet and came up with this healthier version of no bake cookies. They are very, very good especially if you like sesame. I normally make a peanut butter "cookie" recipe from this book which are also delicious, but I am nearly out of PB (horrors!).
Here's the modified version of the recipe for anyone who wants to try it:
Healthy No Bake Cookies
Cream together 1/4 cup of tahini (sesame seed butter) and 1/4 cup of soy margarine (or butter). Blend in 1/4 cup ground flax seed
1/4 cup of ground sesame seeds
1/2 cup of ground oatmeal (I did just till flaky and put all three together in my blender)
Next, add 1/3 cup of dry soy milk (I used Better Than Milk) or dry milk
1/2 cup of coconut flakes
1/2 cup of honey
1/4 cup of raisins
1 tsp. of vanilla extract
Stir it all together until the batter is nice and sticky. Roll into balls about an inch in diameter and chill on a cookie sheet. My batch made about 20 (but I did eat a little of the dough while taste testing!).

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Healthy Planet, Healthy You

Boy, I really wanted to add another rhyme to the title, like "Healthy Planet, Healthy You, in 2002!". But of course, I'd be a few years off.

It's hard to believe that it's nearly 2009! This last year has been one of changes for me--big changes. First, I quit my job to go out on my own with my writing career. Exhilarating. Wonderful. And scary. Worth it? Absolutely. But that just wasn't enough fear for me to feel in one year, so then I decided I was ready to be a mom. And poof! Just like that, I was "with child". (Must be that healthy vegetarian diet!).

Which brings me to the point of my post--healthy eating and a whole foods diet. Now, if you read all the studies, statistics, books, magazines and other information that inundates us on a daily basis in regards to losing weight and being healthier, you can easily become overwhelmed. I know I am. While information about what's healthy and what isn't is beneficial, I think it can all get to be a little bit much.

Recently, I've been reading Michael Pollan's, "In Defense of Food". I find his philosophy of healthy eating simple and astute. Ready? Here it is: "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." That's it! Simple? It would seem so until one heads into the local grocery store and finds 20 "ingredients" listed on popular favorites that you can't pronounce. Pollan states that we should shop like we were with our great-grandmother. If she wouldn't be able to recognize the food item or ingredients in it, that's our cue to leave the food on the shelf.

For the past couple of months I'll admit I've been doing more of a grab-and-go style of eating than is healthy. On top of that, I've been seriously craving sweets and letting myself have them with a little too much abandon. Oh, it starts innocently enough. "Just a couple of hard candies after lunch with a cup of cocoa." But then later in the day the cravings get worse and I feel like crap after plowing through a bunch of cookies or leftover sweets we have in the snack cupboard. "But I'm pregnant! I can't be held responsible for these horrible cravings!" And, I don't know if you are like this or not, but the more I try to restrict myself, the more I want something. The problem is that if you eat a lot of junk, it's taking the place of good, healthy foods that your body really needs. This can set off more cravings and additional craziness in the kitchen.

So I'm trying a new tactic, one that for the past few days I've been doing it, has been working beautifully. Forget what I "can't" have and focus on all the awesome foods that I haven't been making room for. Mangoes. Fresh pineapple. Dried figs. Fresh vegetables prepared in a new delicious marinade. I thank my friend who kindly sent me, "Vegan Express", a new cookbook that is giving me lots of inspiration! And amazingly, so far, after eating lots of fruits and veggies and healthier meals, my sugar cravings are nearly gone.

On top of the wonderful way that you'll feel if you start eating healthier, eating a plant-based, or even decreased meat diet has many benefits on the planet. Global warming is being attributed to, in part at least, the amount of land that is being used up by animals which will later be slaughtered. Methane, produced by animals (ahem) gas, is seriously hurting the atmosphere as well. It might seem funny, but it's actually a really serious problem. Read more about it here. So, we can actually save two of the most important things that we have at our disposal--our health and the health of our planet--by choosing to eat in a healthy, more responsible way.

And on top of all that, it's yummy.

Friday, December 19, 2008

This Christmas will be a difficult one for many individuals and families. Some have lost jobs or businesses. Some might be struggling with ongoing financial issues like serious debt or are feeling the pinch of having lived over their means.

Commercials on TV want us to feel that we're not really "doing" Christmas unless there are diamonds under the tree or a shiny new car in the driveway for us. Really? Is that what the holiday season is all about? How about sharing a good meal with friends or family? What about the perfect, gentle snowfall that makes you feel like you are inside of a snow globe? The peace the comes when all the candles are lit at a religious service and there is a hush over everyone gathered together in the perfect, warm candlelight?

If you are feeling pinched this holiday season, check out these articles. Most of all, let's remember everything we have, even if it's not what we think we deserve. Family. Health. Opportunities. Friends. New chances. Memories. Simple pleasures. The beauty around us.

Pause. Take a deep breath--and remember what the season is all about.

Happy Holidays to you and yours.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Love the Planet? Recycle.

It's very easy to get caught up sometimes in the "big picture" behind the environment and global warming. It's easy say, to blame people who drive gas guzzlers and live in McMansions (even though there are only two people in the family), or to blame the huge corporations that spew toxic chemicals into the air and water near them. The people who don't recycle. The organizations which make junky products that break and end up in the trash sooner than later.

But blaming never gets one very far.

Instead, let's focus on what we can do--each and every one of us. I've compiled a teeny list below, taken from a recent article in Real Simple magazine. For a comprehensive list, follow this link. The articles are called "How to Recycle Anything", and are written by Natalie Ermann Russell. She did a great job on them and offers a huge array of recycling tidbits.

  • Sneakers: Nike offers a "Reuse a Shoe" program where they make courts for kids to play on. If shoes are still in good condition, consider donating to your local thrift shop.
  • Packing peanuts: With the holiday season upon us, we'll more than likely end up with some boxes filled with the puffy peanuts. These can be brought to UPS or Mail Boxes, Etc. stores for re-use.
  • Recreational equipment: Bring to Play it Again Sports, drop off at a local thrift shop, or offer it up on Craigslist or Freecycle.
And lastly, think about pre-cycling. Pre-cycling is trying to buy things with the absolute lowest amount of waste possible. Think bulk food bins at the grocery store, going without plastic carrier bags that we all get far too many of, and trying to buy things in their most natural, plastic free form.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Inspiration for a Monday Morning

My goodness, time has gotten away from me. I apologize that it's been so quiet here on the blog. Chalk it up to good, old-fashioned workaholicism (is that a real word?). As many of you know, I'm a full-time freelance writer. Being self-employed has it's benefits (many) and drawbacks (few). One of the drawbacks though, is a real pain--income and the sometimes lack thereof. For the past few weeks, I have been re-thinking my business plans and have become inspired to make some changes in my career goals.

It's easy isn't it, to get bogged down in all the cant's. "I can't do that, I don't have the money for it. I couldn't possibly do this because it would never work. I could never do this or that because I'm not smart enough/rich enough/popular enough/brave enough."

The fact is, that for many of us focusing on the can't's is easier and more comfortable than dwelling on the possibility of what we can do. "I can stop doing this and start doing this. I can try this. I can believe in this."

Now, what does all this have to do with the environmental and social issues that this blog is dedicated to? Well, a lot really. So often in areas where real change is needed, it is often hard to come by. It's easy to become discouraged over time, to feel like your small changes (re-using plastic bags, wrapping gifts in hand decorated newsprint, composting your kitchen scraps) are all for naught. It's easy to feel overwhelmed by the big, harsh world outside of our doorways. But if you walk out of that doorway with a positive attitude, I believe you will see big changes.

I see positive thinking as something that I need doses of on a daily basis. Like sunshine, healthy eating and exercise, it's something that can boost your spirit every single day. And for people who have a natural tendency toward negative or "realist" attitudes, it's even more important.

One of my favorite positive authors is Dr. Norman Vincent Peale. He wrote many books on the subject of positive thinking and most of what he says really resounds with me. The books, most of which were published many years ago, do have a lot of "old-fashioned" language in them. Some of it is rather comical. But the points he makes are clarifying and the overall feeling of his books is that of personal responsibility. No one else is going to do it for you. Each of us has to take charge of our minds and our futures, to stop blaming others and start looking at what we can do, right here and now to make this place, this life, what we most want it to be.