Easy Golden Milk Mix

golden milk

I have a love-hate relationship with turmeric.  I love it for its anti-inflammatory effects, as most athletes would agree.  I hate it because every time I add turmeric to a recipe, I think how much better that recipe would have tasted, had I only left out the turmeric.  Let’s just say it is an acquired taste.

Perhaps it’s the powdered version I dislike.  So, I hopped onto my online produce delivery service, and ordered the real thing:  a horrific, wormy-looking root that stained my fingertips almost as much as my other nemesis, beet root.  Each day, I reached past the ugly turmeric root in favor of my fresh ginger & lemon, until the sad, neglected plant shriveled up and died in the back of my fridge.

Then I found golden milk.  Ok, not quite as great as hot cocoa, but this I could probably tolerate.  I tried a few homemade recipes, but something about them made me gag slightly.  I am chai tea averse, so apparently, the more spices you mix together, the more my taste buds revolt.  Some golden milk recipes taste overly pungent and complex.

I recently came across a jar of powdered golden milk mix in my online grocery market.  Ok, it has only a few ingredients, so let’s splurge and order it, to see if I might enjoy the flavor.  Or more accurately, so I can copy the recipe, make my own and reuse the jar, thus only paying the $14 premium price once.  Done.  Click.  Purchased.

Golden milk mix arrives at my doorstep with only 6 little ingredients:  Turmeric Root, Date Palm Fruit (what the heck is that), Cardamom Seed (nope, not in my pantry), Ashwagandha Root (that just sounds expensive), Vanilla Bean (confirmed…definitely expensive), and Black Pepper.

Now, everybody knows you’re not allowed to consume turmeric without a pinch of black pepper, or the anti-inflammatory police will show up at your doorstep and fine you for your lack of research on curcumin absorption.  Don’t even think about leaving out the black pepper here.  No one is concerned with your personal taste preferences when it comes to the proper turmeric-absorbing lifestyle.

Just kidding.  Remember, you get to do health your own way…no one is policing you.  So anyway, my jar of expensive golden milk mix was on its last remnants, and so it was time to make my own.  My new streamlined golden milk mix consisted of the following:

1 jar of powdered turmeric (I used Simply Organic brand, 2.38 oz.)

1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. vanilla bean powder (unsweetened)

1 tsp. ground black pepper

I combined this into a mix and used 1 tsp. of mix per 10 oz. mug of warmed non-dairy milk.  I sweetened to taste with stevia, but any sweetener of your choice would work.  I have to say, it tasted remarkably similar to the original version, and so far, I have had no adverse side effects due to Ashwagandha deficiency.

Vanilla bean powder is simply ground up whole vanilla beans, and can usually be found in the spice aisle.  You can make your own using dry vanilla beans and a coffee grinder if you are feeling ambitious.

I buy vanilla powder when I can find it, as I also like to add it to my smoothies.  My precious supply of vanilla bean powder is currently depleted, so my next batch of golden milk mix might have to be made sans vanilla.  I suspect the world will keep on turning if so.

As long as I am still able to choke down my daily (or weekly, depending on my mood) teaspoon of turmeric, then mission accomplished.  If not, there’s always hot cocoa.

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Vegan Closet

plant shirt

My new favorite shirt.

I’m 43 years old, and I have been mostly vegetarian since age 18.  At age 36, I finally decided to go vegan.  It’s not that I pondered going vegan for 18 years before committing, it’s just that it wasn’t really on my radar.  In 2010, seeking answers to health problems, I read The China Study by T. Colin Campbell and Eat to Live by Joel Fuhrman.  After reading those two books, I finally understood the advantage, and the choice to be vegan became a no-brainer.

I naively thought that once other people heard the same message, they would have the same epiphany.  That my friends & family would start asking me lots of questions, like how I was suddenly able to run back to back endurance races without injury or fatigue, or why my skin looked so clear, or how I looked so fit.  Instead, they looked at me with concern.

I suspect that many of my friends quietly thought my eating was extreme or disordered, or that I was restricting my food choices because of low self esteem.  Quite the opposite, I felt so positive, that I started valuing myself, and didn’t consider the standard American diet worthy of my body anymore.  I was addicted to feeling good, and hopeful to spread the message to others whose lives I touched.

But what evolved was more like isolation, like being stranded on a vegan island.  (Not that I would complain…I think a fruit farm in Hawaii sounds amazing).  I invited a friend to join me at the Woodstock Fruit Festival, an idea which she quickly rejected as the worst idea of a vacation ever.  I cooked vegan meals at home, about which my family openly complained.  At age 43, countless races & blog posts later, I can honestly say that still none of my close friends are vegan (that I know of).

And neither is my local neighborhood.  A quick search of the Happy Cow app reveals that the closest vegan restaurants are not in my zip code.  In order to buy groceries, I still have to spend my money at markets carrying meat and animal products.  Even my produce delivery service has expanded to offer meat & dairy.

It can feel lonely being vegan, but I encourage you to keep seeking out community.  For me, that started online, and eventually led to a visit to the Stanford Inn, a vegan eco-resort in Northern California.  I cannot express how positive it felt to hang out with some vegan people for literally the first time in my life, and to not be in the minority.  I physically felt that long-held tension melt away, like my insides were finally untwisting and relaxing.

Since that visit, my soul has changed.  There is no more wavering in my commitment, no more hiding my dietary preferences from friends, no more bending at social functions, so as to not make waves.  I am unabashedly vegan now.  I’ve come out of the vegan closet.  I’m wearing green more often, in case someone should happen to ask.  No, I’m not an angry vegan, I’m still full of vegan love, and I’m ready to be friends with you.

 

 

More Bananas

Running has been the greatest ongoing experiment of finding out how little I can get by on and still survive.  I’ve found myself buying less fitness gear, and fueling more simply the more years I run.  I haven’t discussed food here for a while, so I figured today I’d talk about how my diet has evolved and simplified during this training cycle.

Mainly, I got tired of cooking and my tummy got tired of digesting.  Typically, I look forward to meal planning and creative recipes, but this go round, I felt over it all.  Maybe the extra miles and time commitment of training left me ready for simplicity in the kitchen.  Maybe my body just required simple food in order to process the number of calories I was burning.

Either way, stuff that I used to eat all the time started disagreeing with me, and my motivation to cook waned.  Accordingly, my diet evolved into mainly fruits and veggies.  Perhaps I should say devolved, since fruits and veggies were my very first foods as an infant.  Ok mom, you were right.

What does this look like in the grocery department?  I start with my weekly farm produce delivery, then I shop for a crapton of bananas and soft, ripe fruit.  (I’d like to formally thank DC Rainmaker for the crapton reference, as it’s my favorite word I’ve added to my vocabulary since reading his blog.  I also know he’s super technical, so I totally trust his accurate use of crapton references.)

What does this look like in day to day life?  Each morning, I pretty much sip green tea until I get hungry, then I eat a crapton (hee hee) of fruit until that gets boring, and by dinner, I eat a salad made of whatever needs to get eaten before next week’s farm delivery.  If I’m extra hungry, I’ll throw in some avocado or seeds, because sometimes lettuce just won’t do.

Dates are my running food of choice, and yes, eventually they taste just as gross at that fifth GU gel I used to down near the end of my races.  Nothing tastes as good at the end of a race as sitting down feels.

That’s it.  There is no secret recipe, unless you count ‘more bananas’.  When all else fails, I just eat more bananas.  On that note, I think I’ll have a banana.

 

 

Grocery Games

from-the-farmer

After renewed efforts to track my spending in 2017, I am acutely aware of my grocery spending habit.  This is the area of my monthly budget where I have struggled the most in years past.   My wardrobe and entertainment costs are fairly minimal.  Aside from purchasing 3 nearly identical spiralizers, I rarely fall victim to the alluring trap of consumer goods.  I guess you could call me an economic hermit, except when it comes to groceries.

The grocery store shopping experience has become my nemesis.  Inside those chilly aisles, I feel trapped in the Grocery Games, under some dystopian bubble I cannot escape, where unhealthy choices and overpriced super foods dare me to evade and survive.  I head into weekly battle, armed with my shopping list and meal plan, only to face decision fatigue and emerge defeated, take out coffee splurge in hand, money gone from wallet.

There has to be a better way.  Is anyone else besides me feeling guilty and unenthusiastic at the thought of having to schlep to a farmer’s market each weekend?  I love the idea of a farmer’s market, but Saturday morning is Long Run Day, and by the time the time I finish 20 miles and towel myself off to an acceptable level of sweaty, all the good produce is gone.  And what about chia seeds and other healthy pantry staples?  I’m not ready to say goodbye.

I don’t have all the answers, but I do believe in experimenting to find out what works.  For now, I am avoiding the grocery store as much as possible, and trying a new way.  I am using a lovely produce delivery service and an online market for pantry staples.  The traditional grocery store gets my business when I accidentally run out of toilet paper…and bananas.  I love bananas.

The biggest advantage for me, besides fresher, higher quality products, has been the ability to review my shopping cart online and stay within budget for the week.  It’s easy to grab an impulsive take out coffee at the grocery store, but I find heightened awareness online in seeing that the cold brew coffee concentrate is going to take my cart over my self-imposed spending limit.  I can take the time to review, make careful decisions, and go back and edit my selections.

It takes some upfront work to start using online food resources like these, and I realize that their availability may be different in your local area.  Food delivery also creates additional packaging waste, like boxes and paper wrap.  For now, I challenge myself to fill up the empty boxes with donations from my home, and if that is not an option, I am able to reuse the boxes for my small business.

Is it a perfect solution?  No, but I believe there is value in questioning the system and experimenting to make progress.  May the odds be ever in your favor.

*Apparently, it’s cool in the blog world to put italics at the end of your post disclosing all the places you are making money off of your readers.  I am not.  Not making money, that is, or maybe not cool.  Either way, there are no affiliate links in this or any post.

 

Beauty Foods

beauty-foods

I once briefly panicked, convinced I had a case of head lice.  Upon further investigation and Googling, my fears were alleviated.  No, head lice were not immobile black dots, encircled in gelatinous milky spheres.  And no, head lice were definitely not vanilla flavored.  Apparently, somewhere during the course of daily meal prep, I had somehow gotten chia seed pudding in my hair.

It’s an occupational hazard of the family cook, occasionally being covered in food.  All moms of toddlers know this, but it’s a still a step up from the boogers and poop you were covered with during their infancy.  My kids are teenagers now, but I miss those tender sweet years, so why not feel young again, and slather some beauty foods on my body now?

I first got into beauty foods during my massaged kale salad phase.  Every day, I would wash a bunch of curly kale, wash my hands, and then go to town massaging one half an avocado into a creamy green mess.  Mind you, I am a little obsessive about having clean hands, but this was the only salad good enough to warrant exception to my clean hand policy.

A squeeze of lemon juice, salt, and pepper, throw on some pumpkin seeds, sliced carrots, mandarin orange segments, and you had my favorite lunchtime meal.  In wintertime, I took it up a notch with some pomegranate arils, but the best thing about this salad in wintertime was the effect it had on my dry hands.

After licking off the most incessantly clingy but yummy kale bits from my fingers, I would rinse my hands with water to reveal glowing smooth skin!  So nice was this unexpected side affect that I may have smeared some kale salad on my face on days I was home alone.  We work from home people can do stuff like this, because no one is looking.

There are other beauty superstars besides avocado hiding in your pantry.  Coconut oil for moisturizing, salt and sugar scrubs, cinnamon for blush, apple cider vinegar as hair rinse, arrowroot starch as face powder, olive oil as makeup remover, and the versatile food face mask.  Pretty much anything you would ever eat in a breakfast porridge can be smeared on your face with good results.

Use your imagination or do a quick web search for inspiration.  There is little risk of side effects, other than someone asking you why you smell like whatever you secretly smeared on yourself when no one was looking As a runner and endurance athlete, I’m used to asking myself if I smell, so this really doesn’t hurt my feelings anymore.

 

A Tale of 3 Spiralizers

This is a true story about yours truly.  I contemplated at length whether to share this story, as it’s so incredibly embarrassing.  As a blogger, I feel a somewhat professional responsibility not to highlight my flaws, and to perform due diligence in filtering any propensity to overshare.  However, the more I mull over whether this story makes me want to laugh or cry, the more I end up laughing.  And so, I am sharing, because we all need to laugh a little more.

Food trends come and go, along with my sanity surrounding food.  I’m in favor of expanding your horizons and trying new things, but sometimes rationality gets lost in the flourish of what everybody else is doing.  Take aquafaba.  If I ever start posting recipes with aquafaba, just kill me now.  Wait, I already have posted a recipe with aquafaba, but back then, it was called canned bean liquid.  Afterwards, a friend in my running club read that post and sarcastically told me he couldn’t wait to get home from our run and try some canned bean liquid.  Touche.

But spiralized vegetables are different!  Who wouldn’t want to get behind a trend as innovative as that?  As a formerly pasta-addicted bagel munching gal gone gluten-free health nut, I could not resist the allure of the vegetable based noodle lifestyle.  Sign me up.

This was several years ago, and I remember the excitement with which I ordered my 3-blade Spiralizer.  When it came in the mail, I was sure this was the solution to those elusive last 10 pounds.  Soon, my kids would be eating vegetables without complaining.  The world of pasta cravings would be conquered.

Spiralizer Number 1

I remember the first time I whipped up a batch of zucchini noodles (zoodles) with basil-spinach pesto and nutritional yeast.  They were raw, gluten free, vegan, and super green.  I served them to my daughter, who turned to me and said, “I like these”.  BOOM.  There I stood, practicing my acceptance speech for the Mom Of The Year Award, silently mouthing words of gratitude into my silicone spatula.

Anxious for a repeat performance, I reached into the kitchen cabinet the next night…and accidentally grabbed the spiralizer by the blade.  Be warned, a spiralizer blade is a sharp as a mandolin slicer, and it sliced through my fingertip without me even feeling it.  Minutes later, my kitchen looked like a crime scene, and I was permanently (emotionally) scarred.

I tried to use the spiralizer again, but every time I looked at it, I remembered that cut, instantly getting goose bumps like fingernails on a chalkboard.  The spiralizer gathered dust, and eventually, I donated it.

Spiralizer Number 2

The vegetable noodle trend continued, and I felt left out.  Maybe I didn’t give my spiralizer a chance, or take the proper safety precautions.  Ramen was becoming trendy, and I couldn’t make proper veggie ramen without a spiralizer.

Point, click, purchase.  I rebought the same 3-blade Spiralizer.  This time would be different, and safer.  I took one of my reusable cloth sandwich bags and placed it over the blade mechanism whenever I stored it.  I told myself I was being environmental, because a normal person would have just used a plastic sandwich bag to cover the blade, but not me.  Never mind that the entire spiralizer gadget was made of plastic, and I had just purchased two of them.

Alas, the second spiralizer gathered dust, and eventually, I donated it.

Spiralizer Number 3

Flash forward again, and now that same spiral slicer was new and improved.  It now had 4 blades…none of the useless ones from the last model, but multiple versions of the cool noodle-making ones.  I could now make angel hair veggie noodles.  And, the blade mechanism now folds flat into the device for storage, so no more sliced fingers.  I must have it.

But wait, I am a minimalist now.  I know it’s on sale, but I am trying to streamline my kitchen.   The julienne peeler and I have been getting along fine for months.  Just walk away.  Then it happened.

I walked through the produce section of my grocery store and there they sat:  pre-spiralized vegetable noodles shrink wrapped in Styrofoam for my cooking convenience.  Oh, hell no.  It was time to fight the power on this one.  No individually wrapped produce and landfill waste was acceptable when it was perfectly easy to make your own!  It was time to vote for change with my money.

Point, click, purchase.  That’s how it happened.  In my effort to change the world, I became the owner of a brand new, 4-blade Spiralizer.  At this point, buyer’s remorse kicked in approximately five minutes after I clicked ‘Place Order’.  I had officially lost my mind.  Oh well, lesson learned.  I want to be environmental and healthy, but shopping is not a replacement for meaningful action.  I will simply return this item unopened once it arrives.

I scour the web for the return policy, only to realize that since I bought it on final sale, it is not returnable.  Of course not.  I wouldn’t have fully learned my lesson if I could erase my mistakes so easily.  Thank you, karma.  Now I’m forced to sit and ruminate on my purchasing decision a little longer while the spiralizer sits on the donation pile.

Am I really this consumerist?

Did I really just expend that much time and mental energy on a plastic gadget when I could have been doing something worthwhile?

Yes.  The End.

 

 

If You Don’t Like To Cook

I am the cook in my family.  Thoughts of food cross my mind like clouds through the sky.  I think it’s because I am an artist at heart.  I love the idea of creating with food, and the minimalist in me loves the fact that my work in the kitchen is impermanent.  With each meal, I have a new blank canvas upon which I can combine colors and flavors and textures into a unique masterpiece, an expression of love I share with my family.

My husband thinks cooking is torture.  The idea of chopping a salad invokes in him feelings of ‘Just Kill Me Now’.  He is willing to eat the same granola bar for breakfast 100 days in a row without complaining, just so he can tear open the wrapper and move on with his life.  Lunch does not cross his mind until lunchtime, which takes place whenever his workday naturally pauses.  His favorite dinner is anything I am willing to make for him without his involvement.

So who in our relationship has the nutritional advantage?

My husband tends not to snack, because it’s too much work.  He doesn’t ponder his upcoming meals, nor does he judge what he has just eaten.  He lets hunger be his guide by eating when he needs to and moving on.

Meanwhile, I might be battling cravings from reading food blogs and cookbooks for inspiration.  I am aware that there are exactly 3 hours and 12 minutes until my next meal.   I have days set aside for grocery shopping and meal prep, and food choices set the tone of my day.

My point here is that if you don’t like to cook, then don’t.  You may have a tactical advantage in that food is not a big deal to you.  Perhaps you don’t think about food much.  I’m assuming you may also not like doing dishes, so you’re going to win here, too.

One of the beneficial side effects of a plant based diet is that you can eat your food raw or at least cold.  Another advantage is that sometimes you can rinse dishes with water and reuse (think salad spinner, cutting board, knives).  Less prep creates less mess.  Antibacterial soap is no longer necessary, so you just saved both time and money.

Go ahead, embrace your lack of kitchen interest and make it work for you.  Don’t assume you cannot succeed with your health goals.  Know yourself, and work with who you are.  We all have to start somewhere, as long as we just start.

Some great breakfast ideas for non-cooks are smoothies, overnight oats, chia pudding, or trail mix.  Lunch or dinner could be wraps, spreads like hummus, raw veggies, or canned beans.  Put your takeout meal over some shredded lettuce and call it a salad.  You are officially eating better, no cooking involved.