Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Health Update

It's been a while since I've written in this space but I've made some discoveries, or one major one, rather, and I'd like to share my experience in the case that someone out there may be reading. Perhaps this might provide some information that they've been looking for.

In previous health updates, I shared my frustrations with hair shedding, spotty skin and painful menstrual cycles. I'm happy to report that after a lot of trial and error, I've figured out the reasons for the spotty skin and painful periods. The culprit? Soy.

This discovery both thrilled me and saddened me. I love soy. I love tempeh and I love tofu and they were a big part of my diet. Which is probably why they were wreaking so much havoc-- I had a lot of the stuff. There is a lot of conflicting research out there, soy has a positive effect on hormones, soy has a negative effect on hormones. It never occurred to me to eliminate it.

Since the summer, I experienced a lot of breakouts on my lower back, breakouts that wouldn't really pop or go away as well as a lot of breakouts on my neck. It eventually became something that I was extremely self conscious of. In addition, I was having periods so painful that I had to take off work. I was bed bound and nothing helped. No amount of hot water bottles would relieve the cramps. Periods like these are highly unusual for me. I had ultrasounds done, blood tests. Everything came up clean. I was stumped.

I had taken to eating my grape nuts with soy milk, every day pretty much, and one day, I had this epiphany. What if it was the soy? I started doing some research and as mentioned, I came up with lots of different opinions. I asked my gynecologist if it could be a cause, and he had no comment on the issue. I decided I would try it. I eliminated the soy milk and stopped consuming tofu. I have to say, my skin started clearing up immediately. My lower back and neck, while scarred are now completely smooth and the best part is, the last two periods have been really really smooth and I must say, normal. It might be too soon to tell, but I'm going to keep laying off the soy and see how things continue. It's hard to keep eliminating things from my already vegan diet, first nightshades, now soy, but I think I'm getting closer and closer to understanding what works and what doesn't work for my body.

As for my hair.... This is the last piece in this very complex puzzle of mine. It has been frustrating and depressing me for nearly two years. I have lost pretty much half of my hair. Not only is it thinning but it is visibly thinning. I can not express how sad this makes me. I no longer think it is due to a vitamin deficiency. The last six months have been stressful for me, it might have caused more damage, but that can't be the initial cause. The latest step that I've been taking is to two fold. Firstly, Im tracking all of my calories on cronometer, to make sure that I am getting enough calories. Sometimes it feels like Im eating a lot but really, I barely hit the 2000 calorie goal on a daily basis. I go most days without eating a proper dinner. I might very well have been starving my body without even knowing it. That has to change. Secondly, I'm going to focus more on getting a good balance of macros- not just carbohydrates but fats and proteins. I've been on the McDougall plan for a long time and being an all or nothing person, it's hard for me to eat fat at this point as it makes me thing I'm doing things wrong or that I'll regain weight. On the other hand, I believe that all of our bodies are different, and no two bodies run the same. I may need more protein and/or fat to thrive than other people. And that is just going to have to be fine. I'm going to keep the oil at bay but I will incorporate more avocados and such and see how things go from there.

To health!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

My CSA Box and What I Do With It

At some point toward the beginning of my foray into plant based eating, I discovered a farm that does organic vegetable-basket deliveries. Excitedly, I decided to subscribe and I began receiving the box every week. I so looked forward to filling out my form every Friday and opening the door to my fresh bounty each Wednesday morning. Eventually, I decided that getting the box every week was too expensive for me and I stopped the subscription. A few weeks ago, upon finishing Dr. Greger's How Not to Die, I thought to restart my subscription, opting for every other week, more or less. 

There are many things that I like about this subscription service. First of all, I love the idea of supporting a small local farm. Secondly, all the vegetables that come are not only organic but are strictly seasonal, meaning you won't find anything that has spent hours of travel making its way to my door. Since ending my subscription last time, my dietary needs have changed. I am now very sensitive to nightshade vegetables, meaning that the core of the baskets (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers) are not useful to me. Thankfully, the site gives you the option to swap out things you don't want for like vegetables and I asked that they put that request into my file so they know. This means that most of my box is usually root vegetables and greens. 

This week's box came with two bunches of collards, one bunch of spinach, some cucumbers, some peppers (they added to everyone's boxes-- I don't know what to do with them!), fresh fava beans, beets, carrots, fennel, a couple of turnips, lots of onions, and lettuce. 

Generally, my approach to how to use the contents of the box is to use the vegetables in their plain, cooked state and not try to incorporate them into dishes. (Although this time, I realize I could have used the spinach for an upcoming recipe!) The first thing I did when I got home from work was get to work on the fava beans. I shelled them, boiled and blanched them and then peeled of the waxy coating. I enjoyed the favas as my mid-morning snack today. Next, I proceeded to peel and chop the beets and turnips. I cooked them very simply in the pressure cooker and enjoy them has a side dish every day with my lunch. The most labor intensive task is washing all of the collards, beet greens and spinach. After I wash them all, I steam them in the pressure cooker and then freeze them in one cup portions to get my daily servings of greens. The onions get put away for regular use. The cucumbers and carrots will be good for dips and the fennel and lettuce... Gotta find a good use for them. And the peppers? Any takers?

If any of you readers are local to me, you can read more about this service at havivian.co.il. 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Shabbat Cooking!

Shavua tov! Hope everyone out there had a good weekend! It's been a while since I've shared a post like this and I hope to get to posting more often. As I may or may not have mentioned, I live in an area where there are many singles and we often do communal meals. This Friday night I ate with some friends, old and new at a couple across town and when I told them I was a vegan, they suggested I bring something that I'd be able to eat. Right away, inspiration struck and I decided to try out Somer's Early Retirement Quiche made with broccoli from Kittee's blog, which can be found here. I loved this recipe! Because I chose to just add chopped frozen broccoli, it gave this dish the flavor and texture of broccoli kugel, something I dearly miss from my pre-vegan days. I would omit the smoked paprika next time as it throws off the flavor a bit. I also left out the crust, but I tell ya, this recipe is a keeper!

For lunch, I was hosted by a lovely family that lives nearby. They didn't ask me to bring anything with but I figured I'd make some sort of dessert. When I go away, dessert is usually not vegan so I decided to rectify the situation and make something that I could eat. I had just made a batch of chickpeas so I decided to use those and found this recipe on Pinterest. Holy cow, is it good! I couldn't photograph it because it was eaten on Shabbat but my my, I am now a believer is beany baked goods! Except for the crust, no one could tell that there were chickpeas in here, I certainly wouldnt have guessed. But the texture was there and so was the delicious peanut butter and chocolate flavor. These are also gluten free and honestly, pretty good for you-- totally guilt free!

Sunday, February 14, 2016


Breakfast around these parts has been pretty dynamic over the last few months. What started out as my most consistent meal of the day has seen some changes. When I started out on this way of life, oatmeal and berries was my morning staple. I bought oats in ten pound boxes, berries in two pound bags and plowed my way through them month after month. (I just noticed that my go to supermarket is out of those boxes of Quaker oats, sad for me!) When the naturopath that I had seen suggested I get off fruit, I was kind of devastated as I really loved having fruit for my morning meal. As it is, I still had almost a whole bag of frozen nectarines and a whole bag of frozen blackberries to use. I decided to try Angela Liddon's Baked Oatmeal from Oh She Glows substituting the pears/apples for blueberries and nectarines. I loved the way it turned out and I find it to be visually striking. I've made this quite a few times until all my fruit was gone and I've enjoyed it every time. You can find the recipe in Angela's book or here.

When all my fruit was gone, I decided to try my hand at granola. I was looking for an oil free recipe and thankfully, I found that in Dreena Burton's Plant Powered Families. Although I left out some ingredients in her recipe, I've made the Almond Zen Granola more times than I can count. It's yum.

When my herbalist encouraged me to get back on fruit, I didn't hesitate. I added berries to my granola and soy milk. In the meantime, I also discovered that grape nuts are a totally McDougall compliant food and I stock up on that whenever I can, enjoying a bowl with berries and soy milk. 
What's with the muffins you ask? I'm dipping my toe into vegan baking and I like to have a batch of muffins on hand in the freezer for speedy breakfasts on lazy days or for days when I have no other options. Those are banana muffins adapted from Isa Does It. I made them with applesauce instead of oil and had to hold back from adding chocolate. I had been craving banana muffins for a long time so those really hit the spot!So there you have it, my evolving breakfast options. I'm glad I have a few go to recipes that I can rotate and depend on for a delicious and healthful start to my day.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Hello, It's Me

It's been quite a while since I've posted here on this blog. I don't usually feel bad about this but reading back through previous posts made me realize how much I enjoyed writing here and how much I missed it. I am obviously still cooking and eating a plant based vegan diet (loving it more than ever!), I just have been terrible about keeping up here. I post a bit on Instagram (@chavisamet) which is a tad easier in terms of social media-- a picture and a caption and you're done!-- but that's about it.

I figure this post will be a bit of an update, where I am, what I'm eating these days, etc.

First things first. In terms of health, my hair is still shedding. I don't know if it's improved or normalized but it's still coming out in the shower. Not freaking out about it anymore because as my hair dresser says, I still have plenty left. I'd been to see a naturopath (whom I didnt like!) and then began a journey into Chinese herbal medicine. Ive been taking herbs to improve my periods and while I've noticed significant improvements, things aren't always consistently good so we're waiting and seeing there. In terms of the hair, the nurse I saw emphasized that hair is made of protein and that I need lots of good, strong blood and protein to keep my hair strong and healthy. She suggested I up my take of spirulina and so instead of taking just six tablets a day, I've upped it to nine. We'll see what happens there. I had blood work done pretty recently and my D turned up extremely low and so I've started supplementing there as well. Taking b12 everyday (which I hadn't done before) has been helping me with my energy levels. I take probiotics, digestive enzymes, some zinc (almost done and then will stop), some iron and biotin. It sounds like a lot, and it probably is, but I just want to be safe and I will stop taking some of them when the bottles run out.

So what am I eating?
Well, when I went to see my naturopath, he told me to lay off fruit. Totally disheartened, I started to lay off the oats and berries. (Which I think lowered my immune system as up until now I've experienced a record three colds in just as many months!) To get rid of the rest of the berries and fruit in my freezer, I made baked oatmeal a lot (I will post about this) and then subsequently started making Dreena Burton's granola (I'll post about that, too!) and enjoying that with soy milk. My Chinese herbalist looked at my numbers and told me to get back on fruit and that I'm in good health so I decided to add back berries! I couldn't have been happier about that. So these past few days, I've been having Grape Nuts and soy milk with frozen strawberries and blackberries and I'm a happy girl! I will try to see if I can get a good price on Grape Nuts and stock up if I can. If not, I'll re-evaluate breakfast!

As for lunch, I've been having mostly baked sweet potatoes with broccoli or brussel sprouts and some tahini drizzled over. Depending how my week goes, I'll have Shabbat leftovers but I'm pretty consistent about the sweet potato and green lunch. I just love it. Dinner... well, I admit, sometimes I get lazy and just have some matza with homemade almond butter and jelly (don't judge!) but lately I've gotten back to cooking from the books so I've been cooking again. I cooked for a while from Plant Powered Families and I've come back to cooking from Isa's books because I just love her. I've made a list of her nightshade free recipes and I'm working through those.

Still trying to keep an eye on my budget and be frugal but it doesn't always work. Hopefully getting back to posting will keep me accountable.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Meal Plan: June 28- July 2- Chimichurri Acorn Squash Bowl

It feels like it's been a while since I've been in the kitchen, preparing my weekly recipe. Last week, I subsisted on weekend leftovers and my fave broccoli/rice/tahini combo.  I have been making some green smoothies to increase the intake of greens by a  little but that can hardly count as cooking/meal prep. I'm thinking they are enough to be snacks or dinner (a very light dinner) at best because they don't keep me full for long! Anyway, this recipe comes from the bowl section of Isa Does It. It consists of pasta and chimichurri sauce, black beans, and some pumpkin, although I opted to use acorn squash. This comes together pretty quickly. I've never made a chimichurri so I'm not sure that I got it fine enough. But it was fresh and green and very zippy from the red wine vinegar and garlic. I feel like I didn't puree it enough because it didn't coat the pasta the way a sauce would but it was still delicious. This week I spent about 27 shekels at the farmer's market just on the parsley, cilantro, some spinach (for smoothies) and a couple of sweet potatoes. I had bought the pepitas and pasta last week and the beans I already had on hand. You can find the original recipe here

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Shabbat Cooking: A Brief Recap

So this past weekend, I did something I haven't done in ages- host a meal at my place. While I always make chicken for my non-plant based friends, everything else that I made was plant-based. I made a cauliflower kugel using a thickened cashew sauce (I think this would be better with broccoli), Isa Chandra's Spinach Noodle Kugel from Veganomicon (was amazing!) and Sweet and Sour Brown Rice Salad from Isa Does It. I couldn't get any photographs because it was Shabbat but the rice salad was also delicious. It has a really nice spicy bite and I loved the crunch that the peanuts offered. You can find the recipe here. As we were six people and I made loads of food, there was a lot of leftovers. So much so that they served me for most of the beginning of this week and I chose to skip a meal plan recipe this week. Also, yesterday we had a fun day with the office, food provided, so nothing was necessary. I did buy spinach and bananas though so that I could start making some green smoothies. This video gave me hope that by adding green smoothies, my hair loss will stop. I'm hoping it will happen. In addition, I did go to the shuk picked up some stuff. Not alot but enough to set me back around 115 shekels. I bought two huge, fragrant and delicious melons, some bananas (that were really pricey but needed to be bought for smoothies!), kale, spinach and acorn squashes so I did have some expenditures this week. Hopefully, this coming week I'll get back to the regular programming and get back to cooking. Have a great rest of the week!