Friday, February 27, 2009

A Day in the Life of a Very Busy Vita-Mix

It finally happened. After 11 years of almost daily use, our old Vita-Mix container began showing signs of wear (that time I accidentally left a stainless steel spoon in the blender and turned it on probably didn't help...but the spoon lost).

So we got a spiffy new one! The 5200 model we got has some nice new features -- new lid, new handle, BPA-free container, and it's quieter than our old one, too.

I've raved over and over about the Vita-Mix on my blog and in my books, but I hear what you're saying: "It's a blender, Jennifer. What on earth could make a flippin' blender so special that you would spend that much money for it?" (At least, that's what I think you're saying, because that's what I said to my husband when our old Vita-Mix first arrived.)

To give you some idea of why I love my Vita-Mix oooh so much, I present you with A Day in the Life of a Very Busy Vita-Mix:

Our busy blender's day begins at the crack of dawn with a smoothie for Hubby shmoo (his smoothies involve raw eggs, so I'm not even going into it).

7:00am: I'm finally awake and it's time for my morning smoothie.

My breakfast smoothie is almost always the same: 1/2 cup pomegranate juice, 1/2 cup hemp milk, 1 tbs. flaxseed (whole, no need to grind them first), a banana, 2/3 cup frozen blueberries, 1/3 cup frozen pineapple, and about 2/3 cup chopped organic frozen spinach.

A quick blend and the flaxseed and spinach disappear without a trace. I pour the smoothie into my travel cup, take a couple sips, and head for the gym. When I'm done working out the smoothie is waiting for me in the car, still cold.

10:00am: I whir up a batch of creamy Nacho Cheese for our afternoon out with friends. My mom reports that her regular blender never gets these vegan cheese sauces as creamy and smooth as mine.

5:00pm: It's time for dinner and one of my favorite Vita-Mix tricks: blending a portion of a vegetable soup and then stirring it back into the soup to make the soup "creamy" without using any cream.

This Indian Cabbage Soup is nice and spicy. I serve it with dahl and brown rice.

7:00pm: Dessert, our favorite! And here's something a regular blender really can't do: make sorbet. Tonight I go all-out and make Healthy Fruit Parfaits.

I start by bringing out the bins of frozen fruit I have in my freezer and washing a bowl of fresh (not frozen) blueberries. I blend frozen peaches with a bit of orange juice, using just enough liquid to get the blender going while keeping a thick consistency (I use the tamper to keep things moving). I put the peach sorbet in a bowl in the freezer for just a minute while I rinse out the container and blend frozen strawberries with a few pieces of frozen pineapple and just enough soymilk to get it going again.

I layer spoonfuls of peach sorbet, strawberry sorbet, and fresh blueberries in pretty parfait glasses garnished with slices of tangerine. Oooh, fancy shmancy! And no sugar!

08:00pm: After one last wash and rinse, our Vita-Mix is ready for a well-deserved rest. Good night, Vita-Mix! See you in the morning!


It must be true. Shmoo must really be hitting his preteens, because now he has zits. Last night he pointed to the big red blotches on his chin and asked me, "What is this?" My little baby!! Next thing you know he'll be going on dates and asking to borrow the car...

I've dealt with acne my entire adult life (they all told me I'd grow out of it, the liars). And although acne has been linked to milk and dairy products in several studies, going vegan did not clear up my skin at all.

Of course, although it didn't contain dairy, my early vegan diet did include daily servings of things like soda, chips, candy, and french fries.

When I learned about nutrient-density and started following Eat To Live, things changed. I cleared sugar, white flour, and oil out of my diet and added more fruits and vegetables, and within two to three weeks my acne had disappeared. At first I didn't know what to make of it. Each morning I would stare intently into the bathroom mirror, ready to do battle with my face, and would find that I had nothing to fight. I would stand back and gape at myself. No zits!

Of course, I'll always have acne scars and pores you can see across the room (along with wrinkles now, how lovely), but for the first time in my adult life I have clear skin. The nasty bumps return and flare up all along my chin and jawline within two to three weeks of bringing sweets back into my diet. (I wish I could say one experience of this was enough to keep me on the wagon forever, but I must admit I've fallen off a few times now, always with the same results.)

Then last week I discovered that I'm not alone. Here's the passage I read in Anticancer:
"When [Loren Cordain, PhD] was told that certain population groups whose way of life is very different from ours had no experience of acne (which is caused by an inflammation of the epidermis, among other mechanisms), he wanted to find out how this could occur...Cordain accompanied a team of dermatologists to examine the skin of 1,200 adolescents cut off from the rest of the world in the Kitavan Islands of New Guinea, and 130 Ache Indians living in isolation in Paraguay. In these two groups they found no trace whatsoever of acne. In their article in Archives of Dermatology, the researchers attributed their amazing discovery to the adolescents' nutrition. The diets of these contemporary sheltered groups resemble those of our distant ancestors: no refined sugar or white flour, thus no peaks of insulin or IGF in the blood.

"In Australia, researchers convinced Western adolescents to try a diet restricting sugar and white flour for three months. In a few weeks, their insulin and IGF levels diminished. So did their acne."
Think this information will be enough to convince shmoo to go sugar-free? I doubt it. That monkey just don't let go. But maybe when he gets interested in girls...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Two Cute Lunch Kits

Wow, it seems like exciting new lunch-gear is just springing up left and right! I'm having a hard time keeping up with all the fun lunch items I want to share with you all. Here are two more:

1. Etsy craftswoman Becky Striepe recently sent in this email:
"Hi Jennifer!

I've been a big fan of yours for quite a while. You're basically the reason I got interested in bento, so it would be a total honor if you mentioned my Lunch Kits on your blog. Each one comes with: a handmade bag, 5 napkins, a stainless steel lunchbox and a pair of bamboo chopsticks or eclectic utensils.

"I'm also a vegan and love cooking! Your Magical Loaf Studio is one of my go-tos when we need an easy, tasty dinner. It hasn't failed me yet!"
Oh, thank you so much, Becky! Your handmade bags are super-adorable!

2. A blog commenters recently pointed me towards Kids Konserve, a new company focusing on waste-free lunches for kids.

There's so much to like here! Their Lunch Kits come with a recycled canvas sack with recycled aluminum name tag, an organic cloth napkin, stainless steel beverage bottle with a carabiner, a BPA-free "food kozy" that replaces disposable baggies, and two stainless steel food containers with BPA-free plastic lids. Eco-impeccable!

There is one thing I don't like, though, particularly since this kit is geared toward school kids, who usually don't have access to a refrigerator: I wish that the lunch sacks were insulated and came with an ice pack and a built-in ice pack pocket, to keep foods safe until lunch time.

Also, although I think stainless steel is the best choice environmentally, I wonder about sending kids to school with it. Watching my own son swing and drag his backpack around makes me fear these containers will wind up dented in a matter of weeks. And do schools have issues with stainless steel, particularly those with security? Thoughts?

Friday, February 20, 2009

Road Trip with a Pitted Prune

We’ve been stuck under gray skies so long, I can hardly remember what the sun looks like. It sure feels melancholy around here towards the end of winter. Time to get out of town and take a road trip! Yesterday we packed lunches and rode along with my dad and his sweet dog Libby, up into the pretty foothills of the Blue Mountains.

For shmoo’s lunch I packed a veggie dog in a whole wheat bun, two corn-on-the-cobs, and a Sunsweet Ones. What clever marketing is that? They’ve packaged individual pitted prunes in little wrappers to look like candy!! I saw these at the store and just had to give them a try. It seems like they would make the perfect, healthy treat to tuck into the corner of a kid's lunchbox.

For myself I made a hummus, sprout, tomato, and lettuce sandwich on sprouted wheat bread packed in our Lunch Skin bag. I also packed a tiffin container of mini cucumber slices, baby carrots, celery, and green grapes, and two Golden Delicious apples.

We started out worried about the weather; the car was wrapped in dense fog and the cold was bitter. We guessed we wouldn’t be able to get too far into the hills and would probably have to turn back. But as the car headed up into Dayton we climbed out of the cloud cover and suddenly, there it was! The sun was shining down on us from a blue sky! We had a wonderful, warm tramp about in the hills. The snow was mostly melted away. The ground was mucky but mostly clear.

Verdict: Shmoo wolfed down the hot dog and an apple but wouldn’t eat the corn ("too mushy" – it was cooked frozen corn), then said "This is my treat? Nice try!" and handed me the prune. Oh well, I still think it's a great idea. Maybe it will work better with younger children?

We nibbled on the veggies and grapes together on the drive back. I discovered that I love popping a slice of mini cucumber and a green grape into my mouth at the same time. Nice flavor combo!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Nacho Cheese for Everyone!

Enough of the serious stuff for a moment -- time for some fun! Shmoo and I meet our homeschool friends each week at the community center for games and fun and momma chats. This week I wanted to pack something fun for shmoo and I to share with our friends.

I made a batch of Nacho Cheese Dip and packed it in a warm thermos along with a big bag of organic corn chips for shmoo and his friends. I also packed a big batch of veggies for me (the kids were welcome to eat the veggies, too...but they didn't): lightly steamed cauliflower, baby carrots, jicama, celery, cherry tomatoes, and radishes.

I packed the veggies in a three-tier tiffin and left the third container empty. At lunchtime I poured the warm dip into the empty container to make it easier for dipping. I also packed some little fondue forks to make dipping the vegetables more fun.

Verdict: Everything tastes so good with this dip! I've been experimenting with the recipe and have discovered I can substitute canned white beans for the cashews to make the dish nut-free. I also like to add a bit of fresh salsa to the mix before I blend it, to add more flavor and a nice orange color. (Follow the link to the recipe and you'll see other people's variations, too.) James' best friend was hesitant to try the dip at first, but ended up coming back for more and then more. Can you believe I ate that much cauliflower?? 5 stars.

Why, Yes I Do!

Thank you so much to everyone who took the time to comment on my last post, offering their experiences and encouragement. It’s true, raising a child is so difficult at times, especially now that we’ve hit the preteens! Thanks for all your encouraging words and for sharing your own struggles.

It’s so fascinating and affirming to hear from all of you who have also experienced problems with dairy. You know, I’ve often read all the bad news about dairy on sites like and, but I've always taken it with a grain of salt. Many people I know (including my husband) consume dairy with no apparent difficulties, and sometimes I think people with an anti-cruelty agenda will say what they have to say to convince people to go veg, even if it’s not exactly true.

But now that I’ve witnessed it in our own lives and heard from all of you, I take the dangers of dairy (at least for some) much, much more seriously than I did before.

By the way, I wanted to mention that I've also been talking with a fantastic vegan wellness coach who specializes in teaching kids about healthy eating. Gretchen says she sometimes recommends cutting dairy with soymilk, starting at half and half, to start weaning resistant children off milk.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Long Shmoo Update, with Bonus Momma Lunch

Hey, it’s been such a long time since I’ve posted a lunch! I just had to take a picture of mine this afternoon -- isn’t it beautiful? This is pretty much what I eat every afternoon: some kind of salad and steamed veggies or soup. This salad is topped with Blood Orange Vinegar, sliced oranges, and cold cooked beets. I just love all the color and freshness.

The cooked vegetables are asparagus and yellow squash. This is such a treat, the first asparagus I’ve had in months – so good! I can’t wait for May, when half my refrigerator will be devoted to our local asparagus.

Well, a lot has been happening here, some of it good, some of it bad. In the GOOD NEWS, I’ve finished writing a new cookbook! Vegan Lunch Box Around the World features menus from, well, around the world, with emphasis on nutrient-dense recipes and the healthy vegetables, salads, and fruits I like to feature in my meals (don’t worry – there are more than a few special treats thrown in as well!) Visit my flickr album to get a glimpse at the great pictures my friend Michelle took for the book (the veggie burger is my favorite). It will be available in September, so stay tuned!

In BAD NEWS, my son’s health has been failing this fall and winter. Bit of background: as I’ve mentioned before, shmoo lives in a mixed “mom loves veggies/dad loves steak” household, and although I try to present him with healthy plant-based options at all times, I’ve never dictated what the shmoo was “allowed” to eat. Although he consistently prefers veggie meats over the real thing, he’s never gotten over his passion for junk food, soda pop, and cheese. I battle with sugar addiction myself, and I know I haven’t helped at all with all the times I’ve broken down and brought home bags of cookies, taken him to Baskin-Robbins with me, or shrugged my shoulders when he wanted soda pop. Even worse, he continues to dislike a lot of the vegetables I offer, and his resistance to them seems to be getting more intense as he gets older. Many of the healthy foods he used to eat he now refuses to touch (he even turned down broccoli the last time I made it!)

Then a few months ago my husband decided to start buying raw, unpasteurized whole milk. This thick milk comes in glass jars with enormous globs of cream rising to the surface. Shmoo has been sucking this stuff down in huge glassfuls and loving it…it’s like drinking half-and-half.

This summer I was alarmed watching his weight go up, and then listening to the doctor prescribe him allergy pills. But I continued to maintain that my son was his own person and could make his own choices. I provided all the educational material I could without sounding too “geez, mom” lectury, but in my mixed household (i.e. without the agreement and support of his father) I feel like I’m only listened to so much, and that my hands are somewhat tied (i.e. I can suggest he lay off the crap, but I can’t remove it from my house).

Then in December, shmoo started coughing continuously, day and night, and was finally diagnosed with asthma. Now he carries an inhaler wherever he goes. Since then he’s also suffered two long-lasting colds that never seem to go away.

Is it the milk? I hate to talk trash about something certain people near-and-dear to me see as an ideal food, but I honestly think so. Of course, it could also be the junk food we’ve allowed (even vegan food can be unhealthy garbage!!), or the soda pop he always drinks when he’s away from home, or something else entirely.

Anyway, after nagging his wheezy little head off, I finally convinced him to lay off milk for the last three weeks or so. It’s impossible to say anything for sure just yet, but he tells me he feels a difference, and he has only needed the inhaler twice in the last week, versus several times a day before. Now if only the cold would go away…

What’s the moral, peoples?
If I had to go back and do it again, you bet I would be laying down the law a heck of a lot more, enforcing instead of suggesting healthier eating, and hopefully would manage to be a better, more consistent role model for my son.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Veggie Betty

I love comics! I read a bunch of them online every day, and for the past two weeks I've been watching Betty's son try out vegetarianism:

(click on the image to see a larger, readable version)

I love the last one -- that's exactly the attitude my son has.

Monday, February 02, 2009

More Lunch Box Lust

Do I really need to be shopping online for yet another lunch box? Let's see [opens two cupboards] ... there's three Laptops, five Japanese bento, three To-Go Wares, two stainless steel rectangulars, two thermoses, one Mr. Bento, one Lunchsense ... oh, I'm tired of counting.

Anyway, just look at these Pyramid Tiffins from Happy Tiffin. Aren't they breathtaking?? The large one is 13-inches tall and has six tiers and five integrated plates. Imagine what you could do with all those compartments! It would be a feast! And with all those tiers you could reserve one compartment in the middle just for an ice pack to keep things cool.

Ooh, look at the price! Oh, dear. I think I'll go fondle my current lunch boxes and try to calm down...