Thursday, January 29, 2015


My plant based life won't be complete without this in my life:

Saving up every shekel to get one! It will be mine!

Cookbook Review: Thug Kitchen

After cooking through the Thug Kitchen, I'm finally ready to give it a review.

It seems to be that I am the last person on the planet to have heard of the Thug Kitchen, being a total stranger to the blog. I think I first came across them when I was looking for a burger recipe and I found their Smokey Spinach and Black Bean Burger on their site. I made it and actually quite liked it.

I will admit that I was kind of shocked by the language and in-your-face attitude. I didn't feel like there was any racism going on here but I'm kind of sensitive to foul language and so I was initially turned off. I took to Facebook to ask my McDougall Friends for their opinion and they warmly recommended it if I could get passed the language. The inexpensive price on Amazon was the impetus that drove me to buy the book as I was already placing an order.

So what did I think? Read on to find out.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Meal Plan: Jan 24th-Jan 29th Part 2- Beer and Lime Roasted Cauliflower

The main vegetable component to this week's recipe was the Beer and Lime Roasted Cauliflower. This is the last recipe I tried from Thug Kitchen and they serve them as tacos. I decided to leave out the taco factor and serve it over the Baked Spanish Rice that I wrote about in my last post.

I love baked cauliflower. Love it. Roasted with just some oil, salt and pepper, there's nothing better. (Obviously, oil isn't an option, and I've gotta say while I don't miss the calories that come along with the oil, I sure do miss the flavor. Anyone who says you can get the same flavor out of onions and other things with the oil is just fooling themselves. Okay, rant over.) That's why I was super excited to make this recipe.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Meal Plan: Jan 25th-Jan 29th- Part 1- Baked Spanish Rice

This week's meal plan included two recipes. I saw someone review this recipe for Baked Spanish Rice and when I saw that it was in the Thug Kitchen cookbook, I decided to make it to accompany the dish I had been meaning to make for a while.- the Beer and Lime Roasted Cauliflower Tacos. I figured I'd leave out the tortillas in the recipe and serve it over a more healthful brown rice.

First things first- my grocery bill for the week was 64 shekels. I bought peppers, tomatoes (finally found some decent ones!) cucumbers, a bag of frozen cauliflower, carrots, avocado, a can of beer (for the roasted cauliflower), a new set of containers, and a bottle of soft drink (for my Shabbaton this weekend). Not bad at all!

Back to the baked rice.

I'm pretty familiar with baking rice- I learned the technique from Alton Brown ages ago, and it's pretty convenient. The Thug Kitchen recipe calls for blending up a sauce in the blender, heating it with some broth on the stove and then pouring it over the rice. You cover the rice, bake and then add some peas and corn and lime juice when it's done. I like to get things done in advance so I decided to make this Saturday night.

I gotta say, this recipe was quite underwhelming. I didn't find it to have much flavor aside for the peas and corn. It made a good base for the cauliflower, but I could have just as well saved myself some dishwashing by just making plain rice. Not terrible, just pretty bland. Adding the lime juice does help, but I got very little tomato flavor here.

You can find the recipe here.

Let me know if you disagreed, or how you changed up this recipe.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Meal Plan: Jan 18th-Jan 22nd- Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas

Growing up, we never had Mexican in the house. I'm kind of making up for it now as Enchiladas is something that I've been wanting to make for a while. Thug Kitchen has a recipe for them and as I'm cooking with that book this month, that became this week's meal plan. I don't think they'll get me all the way until Thursday; in that case, I'll supplement with simple beans, brown rice and salsa, which I already have on hand.

My supermarket bill came out to 61 shekels- I bought some more peppers and cucumbers, canned corn (because the tomatoes are still looking sad), more potatoes, oregano, tortillas (ten shekel for a pack of twelve!), a large sweet potato, carrots and garlic. The avocados were hard as rocks! Oh, well.
I'm moving on to my second five pounds of oats so no purchase necessary there but my berry supply seems to be dwindling. :(

I decided to make the sauce ahead of time, on Friday, just in case it flopped. I didn't want to get to Sunday night and have nothing for dinner! I'm glad I did that because the sauce needed some extra work. I could tell by looking at the original recipe that it would be too thin and I knew that would not be good. I ended up adding more tomato paste to the recipe to make the initial mixture a bit thicker. When I saw that even at a boil, it wasn't thick enough, I went ahead and added a tablespoon of cornstarch and brought it to a boil once again. Success! The sauce thickened even more after it was chilled so we had a home run in that sense.

Once the sauce was out of the way, the filling was pretty easy from there. My supermarket was out of zucchini so I just used more sweet potato that I steamed in the microwave. (I thought to add a chopped red pepper but nixed that.) I water sauteed some onions and garlic with some spices, added the beans and sweet potato and some agave. I think I could have bulked this up with another can of beans, or half can, at least. 

People who have made enchiladas in their life (not me!) know how to make them so I won't describe that process. I made about twelve from the mixture and fitted them into a 9x13 pan. I covered and baked them and then uncovered them to finish the cooking.

I gotta say, I really liked these and would definitely make them again. The only thing is.... enchiladas get soggy. Apparently this is normal if using wheat tortillas. If I make them again, I would probably follow the advice from someone on FB and cook the enchiladas separately until crisp before adding the sauce that's been heated or make the effort to make homemade corn tortillas. I think that would make these a real winner.

(Adapted) Recipe after the jump.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Health Update

So this morning I had my long awaited appointment with the endocrinologist. I specifically chose him because he is an English speaking doctor and I wanted to be able to understand everything.

He took an extensive medical history and did some basic examinations, including weight (eek! I had been avoiding that one!) and blood pressure which was excellent. I described the hair loss and at first he didn't believe me. When I took down my hair to show him the crown, he understood what I meant.

Basically, he thinks that the hair loss coinciding with me going full vegan might be just that, a coincidence. He is sending me for some hormone testing so we'll see what that comes up. It'll be awhile before I can get those results and see him again though.

I'm hoping that there will be a solution at least. One more step towards solving the mystery!

My doctor is close to some health food stores only one of which carries vital wheat gluten. Although it's not in the menu plan for the next couple of weeks, I picked some up anyway because I don't know when I'll be in the area next.

To health!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Meal Plan: Jan 11th-Jan15th- White Bean and Red Lentil Burgers

This week was a pretty easy week to get through in terms of meals. As I mentioned previously, my breakfasts and lunches are always the same (oatmeal and berries, salad and baked potatoes) so there was no guesswork there. Since I have my monthly stash of frozen fruit and Costco bags of oats (I shouldnt run out until end of February), there was no money there. I did have to restock up on bell peppers, potatoes (the bag should carry me through all of next week), and cucumbers. The store was out of carrots and nice looking tomatoes so I bought canned corn instead for when I ran out of tomatoes.

Sunday and Monday nights I had leftover split pea soup that I had made for Shabbat- Sunday night with whole wheat pasta and Monday night with salad. For the rest of the week, the plan was to make White Bean and Red Lentil Burgers from Thug Kitchen. I had most of the ingredients on hand so at the supermarket I just picked up some breadcrumbs and onions. My total for the whole week was about 50 shekels.  Friday is an off day for me in terms of meals. As I don't work and it's erev Shabbat, I don't eat too much. Breakfast this morning was baked potatoes with salsa.

The recipe made nine burgers and so on each night I had some served with either leftover whole wheat pasta or steamed greens. The recipe for burgers isn't my absolute favorite- they were a tad bit dry and crumbled easily, but it was definitely okay. I might have had better results if I had processed the beans in a food processor instead of mashing them by hand. I left the oil with no negative results but I probably shouldn't have been too lazy to grate some lime zest into the mixture. It probably would have helped things. Try them and let me know what you think.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Shabbat Cooking: Split Pea Soup

This past week, Jerusalem geared up for a massive snow storm. Last year, we were hit with a huge snow storm which shut down the whole city. Many neighborhoods lost electricity and were snowed in. The municipality was determined to be better prepared for this year's storm and while they were, the snow storm was pretty much a dud. The heaviest snow fell on Friday and it was purely magical, bringing back fond memories of my New York childhood. (Snow is far from a regular occurrence here in Jerusalem, so this was very exciting.)

Knowing that it would be freezing out (and we have no heat in our apartment!), I knew that I would want to be all bundled up at home instead of walking some place for Shabbat dinner. I figured I'd make a soup and call it a day. And that's exactly what I did. I already knew that I was going to make split pea soup as I had all of the ingredients on hand. Thursday night, I pulled out my slow cooker and got to work.

Friday, January 9, 2015

So What Exactly Do I Eat?

When people here that I am a vegan (no patience to explain what WFPB is), people immediately ask two questions, in no particular order. The first being, where do you get your protein?? And the second being, so what the heck do you eat?

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

I would by lying if I said that everything on this way of eating (a starch based diet) is all sunshine and roses. While I love eating this way, and I truly do, I am experiencing some annoying effects as well. A couple are a direct result of this drastic change but the big ones... I dont know if they are just coincidental.

To what am I referring?
For one, after cutting out overt fats and oil, my skin and scalp are DRY! No amount of moisturizer seems to fix that.
Next up..Almost immediately after I switched from an 80/10/10 diet to a starch based diet, my hair began to fall out. Six months later, it still hasnt stopped. By way of a miracle, there is still hair left on my head, and because my curls give it the impression of fullness, it looks like I have far more than I do. What can I say? It's depressing. At first, I thought I could attribute it to detox but how long could that really last? At around the same time, my skin had started breaking out and that too has not righted itself.

I decided to have some blood work done to see what was going on. In July, my results indicated that my ferritin and iron levels were very low as was my D. Right away, I started supplementing. Everything else seemed to be fine. I also noticed that my cholesterol levels were pretty high for someone who is trying to prevent heart disease. Going full throttle WFPB corrected that. About four or five months later, I had my blood tested again to see that everything was okay. My iron levels were improving but still had a ways to go. On other hand, my bloodwork indicated that I had heart disease proofed myself! Woo hoo! All my cholesterol numbers were amazing, to say the least. It felt great.

Still, no indication of what could be behind the hair loss. I went to a dermatologist who didnt think I had a problem, told me it was probably just genetic (this doesnt run in my family!) and suggested I use some sprays to help the situation. Im pretty sure that it is internal and that sprays arent going to help much. Sadly, an email to Dr. McDougall himself didnt yield anything helpful.

A visit to the gynecologist (my recent periods have been inexplicably painful!) resulted in a referral to an endocrinologist to make sure that my hormones are working properly. I was very grateful that he thought to point me in that direction because I am starting to think that the hair loss isnt due to a nutritional deficiency but rather something else. My moods have been rather off lately- I was in funk for quite a few weeks, so I'm thinking they're connected. I've also been suggested to try iodine, so Im going to investigate that route as well. In addition I'm starting to add back some overt fats such as avocado to help restore a healthy sheen to my skin and scalp.

To sum up, I'm loving my eating life except for the hair and skin issues. I refuse to believe that it's because I stopped eating meat. For me, taking the steps back into a meat eating diet is just not an option. Fingers crossed.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Finding a Sustainable Solution

I have a tendency to enter every book store I go into, be it regular or used. Here in Israel, the books are (obviously) in Hebrew but nevertheless, I go into them all the time to see if they have any new English books on the shelves.

One day, perusing the shelves I saw the book Eat to Live by Joel Fuhrman. I picked it up, read the jacket and then put it down. I prefer to read reviews and do research on a book before I pay the inflated Israeli price and give it precious real estate on my bookshelf.

After doing some research online, I returned to the book store and picked up the book and proceeded to read it cover to cover. What I learned really blew me away. I must say it was this book that introduced me to what real nutrition is and meant to be and I thought that it might be a better approach for me than 80/10/10. A larger variety of food, cooked food.. things were a changing.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Hello There and Welcome to Plant Strong Israeli

Readers of my other blog, For the Love of Bread, will know that I stopped blogging at that address because I became a Raw Vegan. In the final post, I described a little about how I began my health/food journey and the impact it had on my life. Since then, the journey has had some ups and downs and has veered off into different directions, but one thing was for certain- my life had changed. I am starting to write at this new space not because I want to build a following and hope to inspire people, but rather because I miss writing. Most people who know me know that I was an excellent baker but a mediocre (if that, even) cook. I'm hoping that this space will  serve as a personal journal, of sorts; help me track my progress as a cook and log my ups and downs on this way of life.

Hi, my name is Chavi. I am twenty seven and a half years old and I live in Jerusalem, Israel. Born and raised in New York, I came to this small but beautiful country nine years ago and have never looked back.