Satisfying Flavor-Festival Soups!

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Soup Season

Comfort foods that are naturally filled with flavor and nutrition are exactly what we need as cold of fall and winter looms.  Pleasant to the eyes and nose before the first spoon full lands on our tongue, and so economical and easy to prepare. I am going to share with you the keys to making a great soup.

I’m not going to recreate the wheel since there are hundreds of good soup recipes online. And I am going to be honest, I use those recipes for inspiration but do not follow any one recipe.

I purchase my arsenal of herbs and seasonings and keep them on hand. I always have frozen vegetables and odds and ends of fresh vegetables and canned beans here. That way I am always ready to cook up any soup that fits the mood and occasion. I cook up everything from pea soup to vegetable soup, bean soup, tomato soup,  cream (vegan) of cauliflower with broccoli soup, to chili.

Have you priced healthier soups at the store these days? You will easily spen $3.00 to $5.00 for a can or store made small tub of soup.  I do keep a few cans on hand but the last time I went to make use of a sale I saw advertised for Progresso soups, none of the healthier vegan ones were on sale.

I noticed there was a tremendous sale on good quality low sodium organic vegetable broth and stocked up.  There was an equally good sale on frozen organic vegetables as well. Of course I loaded up. I purchased thyme, rosemary, fennel to properly season an array of soups.

At home I already had an ample supply of dried and frozen peas. Lots of cans of organic low sodium beans and lentils. Dried lentils are always a staple as well. There was a sweet potato waiting to be used in something. I had garlic and onion at home as well. Soup is great for using up these sorts of left overs.

So a couple days later, in my multi cooker (not a presser cooker), I sautéed some cubed sweet potato until they were semi cooked. I added 64 oz of the vegetable broth, 2 bags of mixed vegetables, a can of rinsed black beans and a can of rinsed chickpeas. Also added a cup of finely/pureed tomato with garlic, onion, chili powder, fennel and thyme, crushed red pepper.

Dont ask me how much of the seasonings I used, I never measure. I taste and adjust how much is in. Since you can easily add but can’t easily remove, I would suggest layering in small amounts of seasonings and add more as you taste.

You can use the stove top, slow cooker or multi cooker. Because I can’t stand for long due to my disability, I do the fast way and just chuck all the ingredients in my multi cooker. I bring it to a boil and then I reduce it immediately to slow cook. If your slow cooker doesn’t have a way to do that in the same cooking container, just start it off on your stove top and then pour it into the slow cooker once it has reached boiling.

A really well made soup is a soup made while the cook tastes it throughout its cooking and adjust seasonings. Forget recipes and season it with what you prefer and to taste.

Once the soup has been placed in bowls that is the time to add to each bowl your choice of greens. The temperature of the soup will allow you a hot enough cooking temperature even after it is in the bowl, to cook the spinach enough to release the vitamins you can only digest from spinach when slightly cooked.

I prefer adding the greens fresh just before serving it to who eats it, instead of to the whole batch in the pot. That way I can make the dish as fresh as possible each time the left overs are served.

Other thoughts

  • Add leftover barley, farro, quinoa or brown rice to the soup to get your serving of grains as part of the dish.
  •  Use bread such as a good german make of thinly sliced dense German rye bread, as croutons or for a side sandwich.
  • Add a piece of fruit with the meal

Very little effort and you can fill your tummy with food that will nourish your body and soul.

Soup Season

 

Other Ideas For Whole Food Plant Based Meals

WFPB back in the saddle

When In Hospital, Advocate For The Way Of Eating Your Health Requires

There are many like myself whose daily functioning depends on sticking to a specific WFPB way of eating. In my case I have a combination of disorders that not eating in my prescribed manner can instantly mean: gaining 4-12 lymphatic weight pounds in a day, escalating blood sugars, high blood pressure, heart arrhythmia, lymphatic weight gain of several pounds, increased pain from rare disorder, brain fog, and my chin so large it hits my chest plus clothing suddenly not fitting. That is no exaggeration. (look up Dercum’s disease, lipedema, lymphedema )

Obviously it’s not out of pickiness that I eat what I eat. It’s the only way I have to be as comfortable as possible. No pills do what this way of eating does for me. I just posted how I handled my recent hospital stay but felt an additional write up was warranted on how I handled sticking to my Whole Food Plant Based No processed foods, no animal products, no oils or added sugar way of eating. Whether it’s in restaurants, hospitals, people’s homes, and so on, there are ways to make to make it work.

So when I had a run of the mill hysterectomy on the horizon, I knew I would have to maintain this way of eating going into the surgery as well as after, and especially in the hospital itself. I couldn’t imagine the initial swelling and pain from the surgery with the unnecessary other possible issues that wrong eating can cause me.

So I reached out to the hospital’s dietician’s office and spoke to their supervisor.  You can employ the same idea when working with nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, eating establishments hotels and possibly when staying in people’s homes as a guest for a meal or more.

At all times you need to remember that you are a guest in someone’s home or establishment. They may not fully understand or grasp the severity of your nutritional needs. Insisting and demanding isn’t going to help them understand. So your choice of words, your tone, and keeping your explanation simple can go a long way in both them being treating with the respect they deserve and you getting the consideration you deserve.

  1. There is more than one way to address each dilemma. So don’t get discouraged as you identify the issues to be resolved.
  2. What is the reason for the occasion the overall goal through their eyes verses your eyes. In a hospital it would be the health and nutrition of each and every patient. Your own goal would be the same but for  yourself. There is  an important difference, they have an enormous responsibility that you have to respect.  They are there for everyone not just you. So as you discuss options you must respect that.
  3. Pay close attention to their meal, snack and drink options. Do you see any options/ingredients you can root your own meal through?  Here is an example of what I saw on the menu of the hospital’s listings that gave me hope.. In the end with some modifications and some items from home, I made entire meals from the following:

 

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4)  Express appreciation for their offerings and ask if the following is possible:

  • Can the chef prepare yours without oil?
  • Can you ask for things you can’t eat to be left off?
  • Is it ok to bring things they don’t offer along with you so you can stick with your meal plan?
  • If they seem hesitant: Explain what your immediate risk would be if you eat what you are not suppose to eat.

Here are some of the items I was allowed to bring with me. Note it was all prepackaged and sealed, shelf stable. Nothing cooked from home.

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From Target: Beluga mini black lentils and a can of easy open chickpeas. From Trader Joes, Fortified Nutritional yeast, from Walmart WASA crackers and from Aldi, ready to serve brown rice.

 

So in the end if you added together the modified versions of what the hospital offered on their menu, and what was brought from home I was able to eat like this:

Hospital dinner
Along with some strawberries, this has fresh green beans, broccoli, mushrooms, red peppers, carrots, a half cup of black beluga lentils, and B-12 fortified nutritional yeast. For whole grains, there is a 100% whole grain WASA cracker. This dish contained tons of protein, iron, fiber vitamins A, B vitamins  and C, Vitamin D. 

When you are staying in someone else’s home of course, it is different. You just have to level with them and explain that you are willing to take responsibility for purchasing and preparing your own foods. If you are open and honest with them ahead of time and explain they risk having a very ill houseguest otherwise, then you should be fine.

Restaurants, you need to call them in advance and see how flexible they will be.

Airlines: Don’t even count on them accommodating you. All their meals are prepared and wrapped up in advance. Find out what is currently allowed and not permitted to be brought through security and onto the plane. Take into account  the number of hours without access to a refrigerator and remember ice packs likely not permitted on the plane.

Just size up your situation, your options, and figure out how to make it work for you while being a team player with the others directly involved in the situation.

Always remember to be gracious, flexible and if there is something they can’t do for you, remember likely there is more going on than just your own needs.

 

 

 

 

Hospitalized: Negotiating A Whole Food Plant Based Diet No Oil, No Sugar

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Having a hysterectomy was inevitable. My mother and twin sister both needed to have one done in their 40’s. I was in the 82nd percentile for having the same issues they did..  Here I was 56 and it was time for me. I knew a few years back that I was headed that direction with the need of repeated D and C’s, due to thickening uterus walls and bleeding that should never be happening. Seemed like a crossroads.

I found it a little depressing because like for all women, my uterus and it’s attachments had been a big part of my life for many years.  A pain in the neck, yes.  Just not sure how losing those parts would impact me overall.

Then I realized how ridiculous I was being and decided to be even more ridiculous but in a more fun manner.  We turned it into a celebration! We took this life event and made it our own.   I made a meme and invited my facebook friends to celebrate the end of an era, the parting of me from my uterus. We all got a good laugh out of it.

Uterus good bye

While laughing about it helped, I also wanted to give myself the best chance of being my healthiest going into the surgery and during recovery. Maintaining my whole food plant based diet has been very important as a tool to being my healthiest.  It’s the one thing I have control over.

One would assume that since a hospital is a place of healing that they would serve healthy foods. Reality is that in the mix are class one carcinogen. Translation would be to say that it’s the same as smoking cigarettes. Sausage is considered a processed meat so picture them being sold in cigarette cartons as well. Then there are eggs which I simply refuse to eat.

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Eek! Avoid The Processed Foods!

 

So seemed counter productive to have my uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries and cervix removed and enduring a hospital stay to improve my health, but at the same time eat the typical hospital food offerings.

My healing depended on continuing to eat whole food plant based no oil, low fat, low glycemic index, no added sugar low glycemic index. So no white flour, no animal product and no processed foods.

I phoned  in advance the dietician responsible for the meals served to see what was possible. There were some great options they had available. They invited me to bring any shelf stable foods of my own to use with what they could provide. I took them up on their offer.

I brought in some foods from home including fortified nutritional yeast, brown rice, a pull top can of chick peas, an envelope of prepared, shelf stable baby beluga black lentils, and WASA crackers.  I used them with a modified version of a couple of their menu selections they prepared without oil and other items I asked them to alter.  I enjoyed delicious water sautéed stir friend vegetables with black lentils. Their pasta with marinara sauce and chickpeas, broccoli,cherry tomatoes and spinach with a side of orange sections was lovely.

Mercy Hospital even sautéed  vegetables for my breakfast

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Hospital dinner
Mercy Hospital in St. Louis Missouri water sautéed a mixture of vegetables and then I added black lentil and nutritional yeast to make it balanced. Very healing.

My surgeon, Dr. Cory Wagner did a wonderful job on my surgery and fully supports my eating Whole Food Plant Based Oil Free and Low Glycemic Index.  My labs were perfect for surgery and all went well.

I am now home and have a freezer and fridge filled with my favorite berries, greens, fresh vegetables, apples and oranges, homemade bean burgers, a shelf with my favorite crackers, rolled oats, garbanzo beans, black beans, lentils and dried peas.

As I continue to recover I won’t stop continuing to evolve as a healthier person. Each chapter of life is ours to safeguard and enjoy. We have power in selecting what we eat and to work with the world around us to make it happen.

I want to thank ‘St. Louis Mercy Hospital for being open to bending their menu selections to meet my needs. It kept my blood sugars level, my blood pressure healthy, and kept me from blowing up like a balloon.

I also want to thank my husband Tim for coming up to the hospital at night and rubbing my feet and making me feel like a special woman. He even made a special trip just to bring me an apple to snack on.

 

Thank you to my son Eric who held down the fort at home so well and gave me such a wonderful homecoming.

I love my family and I love my life, every stage of it and every challenge I come across. Lots of changes for the better. I am grateful.

 

When Food Takes On The Wrong Role

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silhouette photography of people on theater
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Arnold Schwarzenegger playing the role of Cinderella in “Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella”.  Meryl Streep cast in “Grease” as Danny Zuko.

Can you imagine going to a play and being handed a playbill and seeing that level of miscasting?  I would find it fun at first, but personally I would want to see more logical choices or the roles.

I would be asking myself, “With the means to hire a well known actor to play the lead, with so many other options available, why make such a poor choice?”

The producers and directors have a list of parts to cast and a list of available options for actors to play those parts. Auditions are many times held, trying to find the right one for each role.

We make “casting choices” in the form of life choices every day. Imagine each day we get out of bed, we walk out onto Life’s Stage in a production of “A Day Of Living”  Each of us are our own producer and director of a significant part of our own story.  

 What options are  you going to select in your life today?

I speak from experience like so many others. Foods can be so addictive especially  chocolate, cheese, meat, plus other processed sugars and animal proteins.  Many of us are taught from a young age to have these and similar addictions to help us deal with our needs. Those serotonin levels rise with all of it. Life can be complicated and eating processed sugar and fats are so very easy and handy. All that immediate gratification is enticing and potentially life shortening.

I use the analogy of a stage production and the playbill that is the official accounting of each day’s “performance”. The playbill shows who plays what role.  For me it’s helpful to be able to visualize and pinpoint the questionable “casting”, if you will, of how by habit in the past I coped with life. It keeps me on top of things. Many times food is the go to for needs that really are better handled by other options. Sometimes we learn it young.

 

I still remember to this day being 4 years old and it was a miserable time in my family with deaths, stress, my grandparents being in the hospital for months due to severe injuries from a car accident. My mother, sister and I lived with them.  My poor Registered Nurse mother had to work some horribly long hours and oversee the care of my grandparents. They had different people taking care of my sister and I. Those caring for my sister and I would give us ice cream at night as something in which to look forward.

An evening snack was called “a party” and it was always something wonderfully sugar and fat filled.

The pattern had begun.

To make things more annoying I have 3 fat disorders that, since childhood , made me large and misshaped. What I eat and how I exercise had made no positive impact on those. No doctor realized I had those. Dercum’s Disease, lipedema and lymphedema went overlooked and mistaken for obesity for decades.

I was so worn down as I struggled with the lack of impact of dieting and seeing that it made no difference if I ate or starved myself. Those fat disorders are fairly painful.  I was in misery for decades. I remained large and misshaped, it made it easier to make some pretty unhealthy choices. Why not have a piece of Dove Chocolate when anxious? Why not eat a Big Mac when hungry?  

Playbill Chocolate red flag

After decades of feeling helpless, and low carb diets doing nothing for me,  life handed me the path I had sought my whole life. Over a year ago I got violently sick on animal products with horrible blood sugar and cardiac related lab results. I discovered WFPB No Oil, Low Fat, Low Glycemic Index, Low Sodium. I started to see better labs, weight started dropping.  There has also been a bit of a budge on some of the symptoms associated with my fat disorders. 

Sure I will always have three painful, annoying fat disorders. That’s how the ball bounces. I have fibromyalgia and like all other humans, I have a variety of stresses. I can’t do a whole lot to change some things, but I can empower myself and do what is possible. Some of those symptoms for those health issues have improved. Some remain the same. I enjoy taking far fewer medications than before.  I enjoy having heathy coronary and blood sugar numbers. I find joy in what is possible as I continue to learn to coexist with the rest.  The power is in making good choices and lovingly holding myself accountable.

As I sit here finishing this, my husband came home from the grocery store. To this day my mind wants to ask him if he brought home chocolate. I have to remind myself of that playbill. Chocolate is no longer a regular on my playbill. It’s been replaced by strawberries or an apple or watching a good movie. 

Playbill Healthy Blue
I don’t do all these, but it gives you an idea. When I struggle, I literally picture someone announcing a change in who is playing what role.
Before After 3
It’s worth it.

 

 

 

 

A Year Without Animal Products And The “Unlikely” Woman Is “Glad”

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Last year I started this blog. I felt at that time that the most honest title I could give it would be “The Unlikely No Meat Please Gal”. Meat and animal products had been the center of all my meals for 55 years.

I grew up in the Ohio farmlands and there were a few decades where very few vegetables were consumed but many, many meals of meat, eggs and dairy. So the chances of ever saying, “no meat please” were practically non existent. So that was the title of this blog,”The Unlikely No Meat Please Gal”

After more than a year of not eating meat, dairy or eggs, I felt that it was time to change the name of this blogging effort. I thought about why my commitment to not eating meat and other animal products was strong, and the new title was easy. I thought about the reversal of my heart and diabetic issues. I thought about how the dress I wore when I married my husband 10 years ago is now way too big for me and yet a year back I couldn’t have squeezed into it. And just the hope it all has brought to me.

I am indeed “The Glad To Not Eat Meat Gal”: A fat girl  from St. Louis, Missouri who is now at a much healthier weight and better lab results. All of that inspite of 3 fat disorders (lipedema, lymphedema, Dercum’s Disease) that makes it very difficult to lose weight. Am I cured of any of them? I stand firm in saying that it has reversed some of the symptoms. I would not say that I am cured, but I’ve changed the quality of my life and I no longer feel helpless. So in addition to everything else, less depression that comes with being diagnosed with a rare disorder that had taken over my life.

From 13 pills a day to one prescription and a selenium supplement, down in clothes sizes and up in hope,, I am forever The Glad To Not Eat Meat Gal. I am forever no animal products or oils, period.

 

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Thank you to my friends, family, doctors, Forks Over Knives community, the STL Veg Girl, Dr, Joel Kahn’s publicly shared information on this topic, nutritionfacts.org , Clayton Medical Associates and my fellow members of the Lipedema, Lymphedema and Dercum’s Disease communities who have supported me on my efforts.

Easy Black Bean Burgers Recipe

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What has kept me sane in the last year. Black Bean Burgers.  I get requests for the recipe every week so I thought I would post this. Easy to make, season to taste, Use as a healthy substitute for animal product burgers, on top of riced vegetables or on top of greens. Use t as part of a buddha bowl.  Top it with fresh tomatoes and some pickles, hummus, cashew cheese sauce,  onions, salaa, a couple sliced olives, mushrooms or a pile of greens

Stick them in the freezer for fast meals.

Ingredients:

Your choice of a bag of dried black beans (usually a pound size) cooked per directions, or 3-4  cans of drained and rinsed black beans. Organic and salt free is best, but rinsing the normal kind helps quite a bit.

A variety of salsa or oil free huumus that you enjoy. (We really enjoy low sodium black bean salsa. It blends in well and keeps it moist) I use 1/4 or more.

Ground Flax Seed and water or Bob’s Red Mill Vegan Egg substitute or a combination of the two. (For binding). You want it to be the equivalency of 1 or 2 eggs.

Use any of the following to help binding:
-oats (whole or ground into flour)
-garbanzo bean flour (Bob’s Red Mill is easiest to find)
-compliant bread ground into crumbs
The amounts vary from a half cup to a cup or so. Enough to make a meatloaf kind of consistency.

Any finely chopped vegetables you enjoy (optional). The key word here is finely chopped because big chunks may make it easier for the burger to fall apart. Ideas include beats, onions, peppers, carrots, cauliflower,zucchini, chopped baby kale, a little mashed sweet potato with skin left on.

Suggested possible seasoning (Pick your favorites)

-Curry Seasoning
-Turmeric
-Garlic Powder
-Onion Powder
-Dried Crushed Red Pepper
-Black Pepper (I’m allergic so I don’t use it)
-Oregano
-Basil
-lime juice
-lemon juice
-chopped fresh cilantro (really great with the lime juice)

-to get the B-12 as you would from meat in each burger, use a fortified nutritional yeast and sprinkle into each burger you form.

Other alternatives: Use different kinds of beans, lentils and peas in with the black beans.

Directions:

Using a fork, mash the beans. It will be lumpy and it’s fine for them to not be completely mashed.

Combine ingredients with the beans and with clean hands or a fork combine the ingredients.

You can vary the amount of binding ingredients to make sure that it is a meatloaf like consistency. You can also refrigerate the mixture to get it to firm up. I have also found that just letting the mixture set for a few minutes on the counter helps this too. It will firm up in the oven if you bake it.

TASTE IT AS YOU MAKE IT TO ADUST SEASONING AND INGREDIENTS.THERE IS NOTHING IN IT THAT SHOULD MAKE YOU SICK.

Patty making:

We find it helpful to make the patties two different sizes. A fourth cup size and a half cup size. That way you can combine one or the other with different low glycemic meal items and keep the low glycemic carb load within reason.

Also we make some thinner but larger in diameter and some a little thicker. No matter what, make sure they are firmly put together and not so big that they are more likely to fall apart.

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Cooking Instructions:

On a parchment paper lined cookie sheet, place reasonably spaced out patties. You can sprinkle additional seasoning options.

Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 20 -30 minutes. Use a non slotted spatula for all flipping and removal of burgers.

You remove it from the oven at the half way point, allow it to cool down just enough to let it firm up, and then flip the burgers. Reapply any seasonings if you want. Place back in oven for additional time.

When done, allow the burgers to “set” for 10-15 minutes. They should have the firmness of any typical burger.

Good news is that if they crumble ( only once has this happened to me and that was in the beginning), just set them aside in your freezer and use the crumbles for tacos, burritos or in other dishes.

Storage:

Once cooled down completely, I use your favorite freezer safe container. Use layers wax paper between each layer of burgers. I put in a combination of sizes in each layer so I don’t have to dig through the layers to find the size that works. Store in Freezer for weeks.

Typically we make 12-24 black bean burgers at a time and freeze them. It is so worth it. Whether my husband is cooking or I can manage to reheat them myself, it’s great for throwing together a no fuss meal with some greens and fresh fruit and veggies on the side. Keeps me compliant.

Chronic Illness makes it important not only to stick with eating healthy, but to make it doable. For those with crippling illness, It is fine to make this and set it aside in the fridge for a day before making the patties and baking them. No need to be on your feet too long. Or sit at your table and work on it. A little effort on making these means that you will have many easy meals in your future.

Keep bags of fresh dark greens, fresh fruit, and vegetables you can eat raw or easily prepare in your fridge. Keep frozen vegetables, berries and fruit  in your freezer. 

 

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The cheese like topping is a combination of Trader Joes Cashew Cheese Fiesta Dip, additional fortified nutritional yeast to make it cheesier, garlic powder and a touch of crushed red pepper.

Celebrating Rare Disease Day With A Win!

Please work with and get advice from your medical team before making any decisions that could impact your health.

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The left side is before when I was bed ridden much of the time. . The right side is me today with 60% fewer Dercum’s tumors in my stomach and lymphatic backup has subsided. From size 32 to size 14 (XL)

Dercum’s Disease can force large amounts of weight on the body that mimics obesity. It’s rare and extrenely painful. Deemed almost impossible to treat.

The article that the first sentence here will lead you to, provides adequate information on this disorder. Along with lipedema, and lymphedema it’s been a “large” life for sure.

Changing my nutritional intake has done more for me than any information provided e by the medical experts I traveled so many hours to see. No way of knowing when I began eating Whole Food Plant Based, Low Glycemic Index, no oil, low fat, and low sodium that I would see any relief from these disorders. Just goes to show that each day there is a new chance for miracles.

Will always have Dercum’s Disease, lipedema and lymphedema, but this has helped. Based on the work of Dr. Michael Greger and his Daily Dozen, Dr Caldwell Esselstyn Jr, and Dr. Neal Barnard from Physicians For Responsible Medicine.  I was introduced to these men and their views by watching Forks Over Knives.

whole food plant based list

I highly recommend those who have any of those disorders and want more information to join us at Improving Fat Disorders Using Low Fat Low Glycemic WFPB Eating