Real. Good. Fud.

and other joys in life

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This is what it looks like the day before a cleanse. 

A what?  A cleanse, detox, a challenge, an adventure… call it what you want, I start one tomorrow.

The cleanse I am doing is from  I got the idea from Daphne Oz (Dr. Oz’s daughter, host of the Chew).  Here’s the plan in a nutshell.  Week 1 you eat only fruits, vegetables, and plant based fats- including nuts, seeds and oils.  Week 2 you add seafood, beans, lentils and soy.  Week 3 you add gluten free grains and eggs.  I chose this one because I don’t think my body would do well with only juice or raw fruits and vegetables.  I like that I can still get my good fats and protein. 

So, why?  There are lots of claimed benefits of a cleanse.  The main one being to rid the body of toxins.  The research isn’t there to prove whether this is actually beneficial (not because it’s been proven otherwise, but because there is little research done in the area).  However, it only makes sense, right?  Either way, I have many other reasons for doing this. 

  1. I like challenges.
  2. What a great way to practice self-discipline.
  3. I can discover lots of new vegetarian recipes!

Tomorrow is Day 1.  I will do my best to keep my blog updated with how it’s going, and especially to share any new recipes or ideas!

Have you ever done a cleanse?  Any advice?


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Dress With a Friend

Salad dressing: friend or foe?

It can go either way, really.  Kraft Fat Free Zesty Italian Salad Dressing.  Sounds healthy, right?  Free of fats.  That part is true.  First of all, most any ‘light’ dressings have a first ingredient of water.  Therefore, an equal amount has less flavor than ‘full fat’ options, meaning you probably use more of it.  High fructose corn syrup is the 3rd ingredient.  I stop there. Foe.

Beloved Ranch?  Interestingly, first ingredient is water again.  Third is sugar.  A little later comes monosodium glutamate.  Yuck.  12 grams of fat.  370 milligrams of sodium.  And remember that these dressings keep for quite some time.  Convenient, yes; but what is in there that makes it keep for so long?  Foe

So where can you find a friend?  In your pantry and refrigerator!  Making homemade salad dressing sounds a little intimidating.  It can be done very simply, or more complex for various kinds.  Practice makes perfect.  And as always, experiment and change to suit your tastes!

The basics:  acid, oil, something sweet.

Here are a couple of recipes, beginning with the most simple.

Equal amounts vinegar (my favorite is balsamic) and extra virgin olive oil (EVOO).  Stir in a tiny bit of something sweet (e.g., maple syrup or honey) and some pepper.  This is my go-to.  If I have nothing prepared, this obviously takes seconds to prepare!  It is the base for most others.

Sometimes I will even just squeeze some fresh lemon, drizzle some EVOO and sprinkle some pepper on my salad!  This works especially well if you have lots of ‘yummies’ on your salad like nuts and fruit.

My very favorite salad dressing that I typically always have made is this:

In a small blender or food processor, blend together:

a garlic clove

a few slices of onion

balsamic vinegar


a spoonful of Dijon mustard

maple syrup

lemon juice and/or zest

Once these are mixed, stir or whisk in some EVOO (about equal amount to vinegar)

Still pretty easy, huh?! But so good I could drink it.

Of course you can get adventurous and make ranch, Caesar, etc. homemade too!  Think lots of flavor to minimize the need for much ‘cream’.  And for the cream, try out plain yogurt and low-fat milk and soft cheeses. 

Here is a prime example of taking something that could be really terrible for you; the bad fats, sugar, salt and preservatives from most  bought dressings, and turning it into something that will make your whole body smile.  Full of antioxidants, omega-3 fats; and vinegar is claimed to have a wide array of healing powers.  Out with the bad, in with the amazing!  The great part is, the amazing even tastes amazing!

Final notes:  the better ingredients you begin with, the better your final product will be.  That being said, I typically buy a ‘mid’ level EVOO, not generic, but not the real fancy stuff either.  My vinegar, I do spend a little more on.  Still not the little bottle that costs $30, but something rich and full of flavor. 

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Happy Hearts

Now that it really is Valentine’s Day, I would like to devote another post to our amazing hearts!

I got a free magazine from the local health food store, and read a great article titled, “Eat Well, and Savor Your Life”.  What a great title! It contained a few recipes and interview with cardiologist and chef, Mike Fenster, MD.  Wow, what a perfect match made in heaven!

Here’s a quote that is very quotable:

“What we eat is not just fuel to get us through our daily grind; it contains the building blocks upon which our bodies are constructed…that is why I created the Path of the Three ‘Bes’: Be Aware, Be Fresh, and Be on Time and in proportion.”

Be Aware: basically, junk food is called such for good reason.  Real nutrition is not there, and we are led to seeking something to fill our cravings, losing appreciation for true taste.

Be Fresh:  pretty self-explanatory!  Make what you can from scratch; you know what’s there and have 

control over what goes in and what stays out.  And, this is much more economical.

Be on Time and in proportion: We all love to supersize.  Now, this isn’t a rule I pay much attention to because I was blessed with high metabolism.  Therefore, I do eat a lot.  However, it is good to remember to have a little snack about 20 minutes before eating a big meal to limit overeating.  And, wait a few minutes before going back for seconds!  In Dr. Fenster’s words, “You can have your cake and eat it too- just not at one sitting!”  Just take a moment before consuming and think about what you are about to feed yourself.  This will limit overeating, but also help you to enjoy your food more!

I can’t think of a better way to celebrate this day of love than with a final quote from this chef/physician marriage:

“By using fresh ingredients and controlling portions… there is little that nature offers that is not beneficial to us.  Food, for most of us in this country and many industrialized nations around the world, is more than just nutrition.  It is tied to our memories, feelings and emotions.  We need to be able to feed our souls with great tasting food that also supplies our bodies with the nutrition we require.”

Happy Valentines Day!

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Healthy Hearts

(Picture from

Happy Valentines Day (in a week)! 

I would like to dedicate this post to my beloved father.  He recently underwent triple bypass (open heart surgery) due to occluded coronary arteries.  Considering his father and many other relatives have had similar issues, I am reminded that I must be extra cautious to ward off the Grim Reaper! 

Of course, part of heart disease (and many other ailments) is genetic.  You always hear the story of that man who ran marathons and dropped dead of a heart attack; and the lady who smoked all of her life and lived to be 90.  That leads some to believe that lifestyle really doesn’t affect your longevity.  I believe differently.  I believe that taking care of your body now increases chances of a longer life; and perhaps more importantly, better quality of life.  Of course I am no physician, dietician, or any other expert in the world of health.  So, my disclaimer is to listen to those qualified experts for specific instruction.  Most, if not all, of what I recommend is not radical or dangerous.  Following my advice will at worst do nothing, and will likely improve your life now and later.  Remember, you are in charge of your lifeYou can make the decision to feed your body what it needs and deserves.

The single, most important thing I believe you can do for your health is to be informed and proactive.  Know what you are eating.  Read not only the nutritional facts, but especially the ingredients.  Being healthy is sort of a fad nowadays… that is a good thing because it means health food is more readily available.  However, marketers take advantage of this trend and identify their food as healthy, regardless of what the truth is.  They put “Low Fat” on the front of packaging, and many people will pick that food up, assuming it is good for them.  However, you will often find that these foods add lots of sugar, salt, or other additives to make up for the lost flavor.  Most labels such as “low fat”, “low sodium”, “natural”, etc. are not regulated.  The only ones I know of that are regulated are USDA Organic-the green and white circle, and Fair Trade.  Be careful even with these, organic may mean it is free of preservatives, but it still may contain lots of added sugar, salt, fat, etc.

A few other rules I live by, that go along with the above statement:

I shop wisely.  Whatever you buy at the grocery store and have around the house is what you will eat.  If it’s not there, you won’t eat it.  If you plan and read labels at the store, you won’t have to worry about it until your next grocery trip!

I almost never buy foods with high fructose corn syrup or partially hydrogenated oils in them.  I won’t go into the why, but basically these ingredients are a result of extensive processing.

I make sure whenever I buy any grain product; cereal, crackers, bread, tortillas, etc., that the first ingredient is some sort of whole grain; not enriched, refined, or any other variety.  Just because it is wheat bread, or the crackers say “whole wheat” on the front, doesn’t mean it really is.

The farther your food travels to get to your plate, the more chemicals and processing it has likely undergone.  Whenever possible, I buy local food.  Over time, vegetables and fruit lose nutrients.  Local produce has a short time between the ground and your mouth, making the nutritional content so much greater than food that traveled from far away.  Traveling food will also get lots of chemicals so they look pretty at your grocery store.  Local (and organic) is the way to go!

And finally, people become obsessed with what not to eat.  Fat, sugar, salt… Yes, this is important to be cognizant of.  But perhaps we should consider what to eat.  I’ve said it before, and will a hundred more times: the more whole the food (i.e., the closer to its real, natural form), the better it will be for you (99% of the time).  If you stick to what the Good Lord provided for us, and avoid what man has turned that into to… your body will appreciate you.  Not only will this practice result in fewer ‘bad’ fats, sugar and salt, but it will make your body stronger!   A stronger body means better health, no qualms!

It is really great that the general public is becoming interested in health.  Use that to your benefit; we all know that saturated fats should be limited, trans fats avoided completely, sugar and salt limited, antioxidants are little miracles, as are probiotics.  Don’t fall into the marketing scams; actually look at what it is you are feeding your body!  And of course, food was created for our nutritional benefit; and should therefore be consumed in its most natural, whole state!  Now go forth and enjoy some REAL GOOD food 🙂

If you feel overwhelmed by all the options of food out there, don’t be discouraged!  Practice makes perfect; a little effort now will result in grocery shopping ease in the near future.  You will be able to more readily recognize what is ‘good’ and what’s devoid of nutrition!  Also, education is very helpful.  Read a book, browse a website or even watch a show.  My personal favorites are Dr. Oz and Jordan Rubin.


PS- Next I am going to share how to make the best salad dressing your palate has ever encountered!


New Year Part 1

  It’s a week into the New Year; can you believe it’s 2012?!  I cannot.  But, it is here.  I’m not really one to make ‘resolutions’, but I am a goal setter.  I like to challenge myself; I always need something to work towards.  What better time to set some goals and evaluate where you are at than a new, fresh year?

      I have a challenge for you.  Try some new foods.  For some people, this may be incorporating vegetables into your life.  For others, this could be trying out some exotic foods.  This is a goal for me this year.  Today I bought some burdock root.  Don’t feel alone if you’ve never heard of burdock root (I hadn’t until I saw it in the store!).  It’s a root found in Asia, and “traditionally, burdock has been used as a remedy for measles, arthritis, tonsillitis, viruses like colds, throat pain, and as a diuretic. In modern times, burdock is also used in oncology and to treat many other serious health problems.”(from  It is often eaten like a vegetable, common in stir fry dishes.  It contains iron, inulin and beneficial oils.  It can be used as a gentle laxative and to eradicate uric acid.  Burdock root has antifungal and antibacterial properties, and helps the body eliminate toxins.  And amazingly, it tastes pretty good! I tried a bite of it raw; it’s a little sweet, kind of herbal-tasting.  I ground it up into a kind of paste, and plan to put it in juices.  But, I will probably buy more in the future and try it in Asian stir fry!

      Today I also bought some flax seed, a pomegranate, raw cocoa and some fresh ginger to put into juices and smoothies.  I won’t go into it, but these all have some incredible health properties as well!

      So maybe burdock root is a little radical for you.  Maybe you don’t even enjoy many ‘typical’ vegetables.  This used to be me! I was an incredibly picky eater (and unhealthy).  In high school my typical lunch was pizza, a fudge round and diet Pepsi.  The only fruits and vegetables I ever ate were corn, potatoes, green beans and bananas.  I never ate a salad, until about 5 years ago.  Now I know how incredibly much I missed out on for the first 18 years of life!  So if you don’t think you like vegetables and find it difficult to eat healthy, there is hope.  I promise!  Here are some tips for getting started:

      Start incorporating mild vegetables into dishes you already enjoy.  Casseroles and soups are great for this.  For example, last night I made bean and barley soup; I used leftover tomato soup with chicken stock, and added broccoli and peppers.  Add some chopped spinach or zucchini to your lasagna.  Put some carrots and tomatoes in your meatloaf.  A great resource is Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld.  She purees cooked veggies and puts them in all sorts of dishes to get her kids to eat more.  It works for adults too! It often even adds to the dish.  For example, she puts cauliflower puree into her mashed potatoes, butternut squash in macaroni and cheese, and even chickpeas in her chocolate chip cookies.  The secret is cooking them yourself and making them according to your taste.  If you like garlic, add lots of garlic.  Eventually you can add more and more veggies without having to ‘disguise’ them too much!  And try different ways of cooking; try steaming, sautéing, roasting.  Add them to rice, potatoes, pasta.  Just get creative, and I promise you will find yourself enjoying vegetables.

      Keep me updated! If you are one of these folk who think you have an aversion to vegetables, give them a try.  And let me know what works.  If you are adventurous enough to give burdock root a try, let me know what you think!


Food Matters

  I have some new recipes to share, but I would first like to share some newfound motivation and knowledge.  Tyler and I recently watched two documentaries, Fat Sick and Nearly Dead and Food Matters.  Really they didn’t give any life-changing newfound knowledge, but reminded us of some important things and certainly gave us motivation to eat even better! 

The first, Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead was about a guy from Australia who was overweight and suffered from a debilitating autoimmune disorder the doctors were unable to cure.  He was on a ton of daily meds, including high dosage Prednisone.  He decided to do something radical and “reboot”.  For 60 days, he ‘fasted’; only drinking juice he made himself from fruits and vegetables. He lost a ton of weight, and his disease was cured.  He traveled America during this fast, and met a truck driver whom he inspired to do the juice fast as well.  This man had the same disease and was morbidly obese.  He lost over 200 pounds, and also cured his disease.  I’ve heard of juicing before, did some research and we made our own juices for a while.  I am happy that we watched this, because today I am going grocery shopping and am stocking up on juicing ingredients once again!  Now, these guys were radical, and it was probably necessary in their situation.  But the moral of the story is to eat fresh food.  That really shouldn’t be too radical, even though the sad truth is that it is to a lot of people. 

So why juicing?  Well, I am no expert, but one of the main reasons why is because you get more fruits and veggies in.  You can get a lot of produce into one glass of juice.  Also, as the next documentary discusses, it is important that a high amount of this produce be consumed raw.  If you’re like me, this is tricky.  I love salads, but am not a huge fan of raw carrots, celery, broccoli etc.  When you juice, not only do you consume the produce in raw form, but the juicing process helps your body absorb more of the nutrients.  And there are so many different things you can do with juicing!  Some quick examples/how to’s:

A juicer probably works best, but I use my blender.  For now, this works just fine.

I use a lot of frozen veggies and fruit.  This makes a cold juice, and they contain more of the original nutrients that are often lost in the shipping of fresh produce.

Be creative- check out this guy’s site or the various other’s for recipes, but put whatever you like in there!  I typically begin with a banana and some leafy greens, especially kale and spinach.  Then add some liquid- water or green tea.  Add whatever fruits you want; berries work great, apples, oranges, mangoes, peaches… the list is endless!  My list of things to try out is carrots, avocadoes, and superfoods that I wouldn’t normally eat.  And if you are looking for something heartier, maybe for breakfast add some granola or oats!  For a treat, add some raw cocoa.  The key is to add lots of veggies, then fruit to make it taste delicious.  And believe me, yummy it is.

Food Mattters was wonderful.  Again, the moral of the story was to eat natural foods.  There were several important topics covered.  One was the importance of raw food.  Like mentioned before, I prefer cooked food (exception: sushi!).  But, your gut has a hard time with some of these cooked foods, not to mention they lose lots of the nutrients even when lightly steamed.  I already typically eat a salad for/with lunch.  My goal is to add a juice at least in the morning, and preferably one with dinner as well.  The guy in the movie says each meal should be at least 55% raw. 

The bulk of the movie emphasizes our ‘health’ care system.  Now, this is something I have strong opinions about, and will attempt to share a few key points without going overboard here (you should watch the movie for that!).  First and foremost, our ‘health’ care system is really a disease management system.  As a disclaimer, I have to say that there are some great achievements we have made in medicine, and I am by no means against it all.  If I get in a car accident, please take me to the ER!  But, did you know that doctors learn very little if anything in medical school about nutrition?  And what they do learn is rarely used in practice.  Sure, they may recommend eat more of this and less of that, but they then prescribe you a medicine to help you out.  So the message is that you need the drug, regardless of your lifestyle.  “A pill for the ill”.  But have you ever considered the body’s amazing ability to heal itself?  Provide it with nourishment, and it will heal itself.  The movie gives some great examples of this, especially dealing with cancer and including intensive vitamin therapy.  So, to make a long story short, we have spent billions upon billions of dollars on medical research.  And there hasn’t been a whole lot of progress.  Maybe we’ve developed a few drugs to deal with some symptoms, but the underlying problems are still there.  And those drugs have likely caused a whole new set of problems from the side effects. 

A final word.  I truly believe in the miracle of nourishing the body with quality vitamins and nutrients, especially by consuming real, good food.  Call me crazy, but I really do believe it is the answer to most chronic diseases.  Please watch the documentaries (they are on Netflix!) if you are at all interested in learning more.  But, say it is a lot of hype. Say these people, myself included, are a little crazy.  At the very least, I can promise that real food and vitamins and minerals aren’t going to cause any adverse side effects.  They aren’t going to harm you.  So why not give it a try? We jump at the chance of trying out a pill, one that has documented side effects.  Just remember, you really are what you eat.  I really enjoy eating.  I believe that enjoying food comes second to the primary purpose of nourishing your body.  If you do it right, they come hand in hand- nourishing your body and enjoying every bite.