Saturday, February 26, 2011

I am super ...

... 'cause I eat my greens (or at least they make me feel super).

When I was a kid, my mom would use Popeye as an example to get me to eat my greens, like spinach, of course. Little did she know that I actually loved the stuff. Not only did greens make me stronger, but they tasted good (and still do), too (seriously, the thought of having arms like his was not my reason for consuming large quantities of yummy greens, although I do have a tendency to bulk in that area sometimes).

I used to sneak into the garden and pick greens (various lettuces, spinach and such) to eat as a snack. I especially liked to grab a handful of parsley, mint or even chives out of the herb section that bordered the veggie patch in our backyard.

Lately, I've been trying to increase my fresh green intake, as I have to admit to eating more cooked during the cold winter months (homemade soups and baked sweet potatoes kept calling my name). I've been drinking more green smoothies and turning to salads for some of my main courses.

Recently, while watching "Martha," I started craving this salad made on her citrus show. I opted to make a heartier vegan version of it for lunch today.

My version of the salad had a romaine base (I didn't have any endive in the house), but kept the avocado and grapefruit. I also left in the fennel, which isn't listed in the recipe online (I think I remember them using fennel in it on the show), and continued to add texture with some celery and chopped artichoke hearts (which were cooked; please don't hold it against me).

As for the dressing, I squeezed some of the excess grapefruit juice into my trusty Magic Bullet blender, along with the olive oil and vinegar (I used raw apple cider vinegar instead of the white wine vinegar listed in the original recipe). Then, I "veganized" the rest of the recipe by eliminating the honey and swapping out the sour cream for some cashews. Do you think my vegan version of the salad was worthy of some super powers?

Okay, so it is a little off topic, but my family loves the movie, "Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World." It cracks me up when Scott has to take on Todd, who believes he has vegan super powers (literally). Unfortunately for Todd, he has strayed on more than one occasion from his vegan diet, so the vegan police had to take his powers away. Ridiculous, I know, but the movie really is funny. BTW, I think Scott's ex-girlfriend (the blonde girl in the scene) looks a lot like Sarma. What do you think?

Anyway, enough about the movie. Now, back to the salad.

To really make it special, I took a walk down memory lane, adding a couple of my favorite herbs to the mix. I tossed in some torn mint leaves (they are so good with grapefruit; I've been making smoothies with tons of mint, grapefruit, strawberries and hempseeds lately. Yum!) and topped off the bowl with a mixture of chopped parsley and walnuts (the combination of the two was used on the other dish made during the same Martha segment).

Hayden seemed especially interested in what was in my bowl. As she snacked on banana and peas, I added a little grapefruit and parsley to her tray. The grapefruit was a hit, but the parsley really got her attention.

Something tells me she'll be snagging it out of my mom's garden soon (like she's snagging the camera in this pic).

That's my girl :-)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

This mommy is what she eats ... and drinks

Surprise! It looks like I found an opportunity to check in with all of you with a blog post. Hayden is still asleep (there's no way I'd be able to post with her running around), and I have something to blog about.

The good people at Sequel Naturals recently contacted me again, asking if I'd be interested in reviewing another one of their products. I'm a huge Vega fan, so of course, I agreed to take on the task. I quickly verified my address and anxiously awaited my samples in the mail.

Lucky for me (and Vega, too), the samples were individual packets of Vega Complete Whole Food Health Optimizer, a product I use on a regular basis. Obviously, I didn't read the e-mail word for word (I think I quickly checked my inbox that day, while on a break from chasing little lady; the computer was a pit stop on our laps throughout the house), as I conveniently missed the fact that the review was for something I already knew I loved.

Vega Complete Whole Food Health Optimizer is an "all-in-one, natural plant-based formula" I heard about years ago on the GLiving website. Brendan Brazier was on there promoting the product, along with his then new "The Thrive Diet" book. I purchased the book at that time (I had to get it shipped from Canada, since I was too impatient to wait for it to be available in the U.S.), but was unable to find Vega products in my area. Thank goodness I also had his original "Thrive" book, which provided a smoothie recipe Brendan would make before teaming up with Vega to create this product.

For the longest time, I would make the bars and smoothies from the books (actually, I still make them), wishing I could try the premade products, yet eventually deciding I didn't need them, if I could make them myself. That is, until Whole Foods started carrying them. Suddenly, the excuses went away, and I made some Vega purchases.

At first, I wasn't much of a fan of the Complete Whole Food Health Optimizer, but I loved the bars (although I'm known in the Blogosphere for sweet raw treats like raw cupcakes, I sometimes prefer a more toned down flavor when it comes to energy bars). I think I just had to get used to the stevia taste in the background.

I started by using 1/2 a serving at a time, and instead of mixing it with water (it's nice to find a product like this that can be easily stirred into water in a pinch), I opted to substitute almond milk (this is how Vega serves up samples to the public) or blend it into a smoothie. This combination was much more appealing to me. Overtime, the flavor tasted better. I really like it now, especially the Vanilla Chai.

Sequel Naturals sent me a packet of the Vanilla Chai, Chocolate and Berry flavors (thank you!), but it also comes in Natural. Here are some of the things you can do to incorporate them in your diet:

I finally got a chance to test out the Frozen Chocolate Brittle from "Thrive Fitness." It's like chocolate bark, when you want the texture but not as much chocolate flavor (there really are times when I'm trying to cut back on chocolate). The frozen combination of coconut oil and the Chocolate Complete WF Health Optimizer is a fun way to consume this product. I couldn't decide if I wanted to use chia seed or hemp seed in the recipe, so I added a little of both. I also sprinkled some coconut flakes on top to match the snow outside (yes, I ran outside in the snow with this one to get the pic; I must have looked crazy in just my yoga pants and a tank top, as I was still warm from my Tracy Anderson workout).

My favorite recipes from "Thrive" and the "Thrive Diet" are the puddings. There is a Chocolate Recovery Pudding in "Thrive" that I like to modify by swapping out tofu for avocado and various other substitutions. I've actually used a little of the Chocolate Complete WF Health Optimizer in place of the cocoa powder. The results aren't quite as chocolaty, but still yummy and good for you.

I make the Recovery Pudding in "The Thrive Diet" at least once a week in my house, since I got the book years ago. Most of the time, I follow the lengthier ingredient list, but when I have the Complete WF Health Optimizer around, I sometimes whip up the simpler Vega Energy Pudding version found in "Thrive" and "Thrive Fitness." The Complete WF Health Optimizer in the Chocolate flavor takes the place of flax, hemp and cocoa powder (or carob powder) listed in the original. I even like to use the Berry flavor in this.

Of course, the Berry flavor is good in smoothies, but you can get more creative with this one, too. I once mixed it with a tiny amount of water to form an icing for a Vibrancy bar cupcake. You may have seen it before in my Brendan Brazier interview post.

I've also tried to make the bars Brendan posted on the Vega website. However, the directions can be a little confusing.

This time, I decided not to add the oats, which are only listed in the directions and not in the ingredient list. I also played around with the measurements, selected raspberries for the berries in the bars and "glued" them together with chia seeds rather than dates. They aren't as sweet as the version with the dates; I thought the berries and the stevia in the Complete WF Health Optimizer were enough for me.

The Vanilla Chai is my favorite flavor. I like to drink it in almond milk, whip it into a simple banilla smoothie, mix it into a bowl of pumpkin puree or take it a step further, adding it to some overnight oats (like in my MacaSure review) with a little pumpkin puree, of course. It really tastes yummy with pumpkin. One of these days I'll add it to my Raw Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes, too.

The list goes on and on when it comes to how you can use this product. It is convenient and reassures this busy mom that she is getting everything she needs. Just look at these equivalents:

Lately, I've been consuming Vega Complete Whole Food Health Optimizer in some form everyday. It really fuels this mommy and helps get me through me day. Thanks Vega!

Speaking of being a mommy, I gotta go get Hayden up. She can't sleep the whole day away :-)