Dissatisfied Health

Guess what, folks. I’m about to blow your mind with what you already may know or at the very least suspect somewhere down deep, but what I think is important to talk about. Especiallllyyy in the blog world, especiallllyyy in college, especiallllyyy in today’s culture.

We, as people, are masters of self deception. MASTERS, I say. At least up to a point. (At which point you say, get to the point Michaela. Patience, dear grasshopper.)

I want to talk to you about dieting. About exercise. About “lifestyle changes,” because we all know that dieting and exercise are out of vogue. Diets don’t work, the experts say, and rather than force ourselves to exercise we are encouraged to find fun physical activity and delicious healthy food so we don’t have to diet. And around this new trend, dozens and hundreds of blogs (and a whole web and non-web based health culture) have popped up, including my own. It’s called Pilgrimage of Health, for goodness sake. Health. With Healthy recipes and Healthy lifestyle tips and Healthy thought processes and Healthy healthy healthy. 

And I’m not out to bash any of that. We do need lifestyle changes. We do need to forego dieting, and find activities that we enjoy doing that make us feel good, because we’re facing a crisis situation. In my country of the United States and increasingly around the world, we’re facing an epidemic of unhealth in mind, body, and soul. We’re spending more and more time and money and energy on health, and yet collectively we’re still pretty sick. In response, we’re inundated with lifestyles and ideas and tips intended to transform us into healthy, happy, carefree health goddesses (and gods).

But I think, underneath a lot of the healthy language and healthy blog culture, we sometimes use health as a cover-up. As an excuse, to try and change ourselves into what we think we should be rather than accepting ourselves for who we are. Now, rather than esteeming thinness for thinness sake and dieting and weight loss, we’re instead consumed by this image of health that can lead us into unhealthy behaviors.

You following me here?

An obsession with health can be unhealthy. Part of the problem lies within the motivation behind strict workout plans and eating regimes, but part of the problem can come after. After we’re following the cleanest diet, practicing yoga six times a week, training for a marathon. We become dependent on these as something to define us. We become human doers instead of human beings, fixated on the high of pushing ourselves further and defined by what we don’t do, that is, consume ‘bad’ foods (which in our society can mean a million different foods). And if we’re embracing a “healthier lifestyle” out of a deep dissatisfaction with who we are, I think that’s problematic.

Because our bodies know, right? Our self knows. It knows when we act out of insecurity instead of satisfaction. We know, deep down, what actions come from abundance and deprivation. And that doesn’t come without consequences. Lying to ourselves and saying that we’re “just following this eating plan because I feel tired (or want to be healthier or save the planet or I think I’m allergic to . . .)” when we really are trying to follow a diet without calling it so because we are deeply dissatisfied with ourselves and desperately want change, our bodies and souls know. Don’t try to trick them.

I know this to be true, because I do it. Have done it. Mastered it, for the past five years. I’ve been vegetarian, vegan, dairy-free, nut-free. I’ve followed strict running plans and done juice cleansing. I’ve committed to abstaining from this or that because of that and this. And every time I eat a certain way or exercise out of a dissatisfaction, it backfires. Badly.

This is not to say that running or vegetarianism or veganism (or yoga or paleo or grain free or . . . you get the idea) are inherently bad within themselves. Nope, because those things can come from a place of true health. They can come from a place of wholeness, a clarity in communication with our deeper selves that says that running makes our bodies feel good or a certain type of food makes our bodies feel bad.

Check yourself before you wreck yourself. If you’re eagerly about to jump into another trend in the name of health, step back.  Why are you about to embark upon this plan? Is it from abundance, or deprivation? Joy, or insecurity?

 

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Vegan Stuffed Swiss Chard

I used to really almost loathe swiss chard, which is surprising because I’ll eat just about anything that grows from the ground. I found it too earthy and gritty, but since I’ve been working at Greenbrier and bringing home copious amounts of the colorful, beautiful leaf, I had to find a way to make it that was completely delicious.

Sauteing it with some olive oil, garlic, cumin, sriracha (who doesn’t love the red rooster sauce!), salt, and a hint of maple syrup sold me. But I wanted more–more variety, more flavor, and something that wouldn’t leave me hungry a half an hour later!

Cheezy, slightly spicy, with the flavor of sweet corn and sweet potatoes.

Vegan Stuffed Swiss Chard
10-15 Swiss Chard leaves
1 Medium size sweet potato
1/2 chopped white onion
1 15 oz can black beans (well rinsed)
1 cup sweet corn
2 cups cooked quinoa (I used red quinoa)
3/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp garlic powder
Sweet Potato Cheeze Sauce  

Sweet Potato Cheeze Sauce
1 cup cooked sweet potato (about half of the sweet potato listed above)
1/2 cup cashews
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup non-dairy milk
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup nutritional yeast
3/4 tsp onion powder
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp turmeric (for color)

1. Cut the sweet potato in half and chop coarsely. Cook on stove top over medium-high heat with olive oil. While this cooks, start the rest of your sauce.

2. In a food processor, blend the cashews, sunflower seeds, garlic, non-dairy milk, and water until smooth. Add in the rest of the ingredients. When the sweet potato pieces are soft, add to the sauce and puree until creamy.

3. Make sure your swiss chard is thoroughly washed, and remove the stems by slicing them off of the leaf. Don’t discard them–chop them, the other half of the sweet potato, and your onion and saute in a pan with olive oil.

4. Cook until the sweet potatoes have begun to soften and add black beans, corn, and cooked quinoa. Sprinkle with salt, curry powder, and garlic powder.

5. Now it’s time to stuff the chard! Lay one row of leaves in a 9X13 glass pan. Spoon a generous amount of the sautéed mixture onto the leaves.

6. Add some cheeze sauce and roll the leaves. You will have to break the stalk as you roll it. Continue until you’ve stuffed all your chard (sounds like an insult, doesn’t it?)

7. Top all of the rolled chard leaves with the remaining sauce.

8. Bake in a 350 oven for 15 minutes.

 I enjoyed mine with some sriracha 🙂 You’ll need a fork and knife to dig into this baby . . .

How do you prepare swiss chard? 

This is shared on: Real Food Wednesday and Fight Back Friday.

Frugal Nut&Seed Crackers

So, after making Everything in the Pantry Milk, I had a bunch of this stuff left over:

The leftover meal from soaking, blending, and straining my nuts and seeds to get my milk. Because I didn’t want to waste it, I started googling “what to do with almond meal.” Turns out, there is an entire website devoted to the stuff! I found this recipe there, and wanted to modify it because it calls for a dehydrator and doesn’t use many spices. I knew that Angela over at Oh She Glows had some recipes for crackers, so I looked at this one and this one before coming up with the recipe below!

Frugal Nut & Seed Crackers
2 packed cups of leftover nut/seed pulp
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 tbsp chia seeds
1 tbsp flax seed
1 tsp sesame seeds
3/4 tsp onion powder
3/4 tsp garlic powder
2/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp sage
1/2 tsp dill
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp water

Preheat oven to 325.

1. Combine everything except the olive oil and the water, mix well.

2. Add olive oil and water, stir to combine. It should stick together fairly well–if the dough is crumbly, add more water.

 3. Spoon the dough onto parchment paper, spread evenly by patting it with your hands. You will have to use two sheets.

5. Place parchment paper on top of the dough and roll it very thinly with a rolling pin.

6. Take off the upper level of parchment paper and, using a sharp knife, cut out your crackers.
 7. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake at 325 for forty minutes. After forty minutes, I took the outer ones off that were browned already and let them cook for five more minutes.

What is your favorite use for dill? 

This post is shared on: Monday Mania, Scratch Cookin’ Tuesday, and Fight Back Friday.

Everything in the Pantry Milk

Since I’ve been interning on the farm and going to the farmer’s market every weekend, I think I’ve been to a grocery store . . . once? Maybe twice? I love cooking up all the goodies I bring home from work, and I desperately want to avoid the supermarket as long as I can. I ran out of almond milk last week, and my recent reticence to run to Publix (and the ingredients in my pantry) prompted this lovely, non-dairy milk.

I’ve made almond milk in the past, but don’t do it often because it’s cheaper (and easier) for me to simply buy it. I wondered though if I could get the same results with some of the other nuts and seeds in my pantry!

Everything In The Pantry Milk
1 cup almonds
1/2 cup cashews
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
4 3/4 cup water
2 1/2 tbsp local honey
1/4 tsp iodized sea salt

1. Place the nuts and the seeds in a bowl and cover completely with water (not the water listed on the ingredients list )


2. Place a towel over the bowl and soak overnight.

3. The next day, drain off the water and rinse thoroughly. The cashews looked a bit discolored, so make sure to rinse well.

4. Blend the nuts and water together.

5. Add the honey and sea salt, continue blending. Don’t be alarmed if it starts to froth out a bit!

6. Strain with a fine wire mesh strainer. If you want to ensure there is no pulp, strain with a cheese cloth.

Quick taste test:

And then I added some to my chai tea!

It definitely has an interesting taste I wasn’t expected–you can pick out notes of cashew and pumpkin which I really like! Next time, I may have to do a chocolate milk and add cocoa powder, some stevia, and some cinnamon.

Check back tomorrow to see what I made with the nut/seed pulp . . . I think I may like that even better than the milk!

Do you make your own “milk” or other items most people purchase in the store (bread, yogurt, cheese) ? 

This post is shared on Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade and the Homestead Barn Hop at The Prairie Homestead!

Asian “Mac & Cheese”

This dish is DELICIOUS . . . but not perfect yet. I’m going to have to play around with it a bit to get the texture right on the cheezy sauce. But the taste is outta control delicious, which comes in part from Chinese and Indian influences!

After going to Indian food two weeks ago, I picked up some goodies at the attached Indian grocer. One of the ingredients I bought is called “simmer sauce,” and it looks absolutely divine. It’s ingredients include: cashews, onion, coriander, red chili, sea salt, coconut milk powder, garlic, turmeric, ginger, rice, green chili, green cardamom, safflower oil, pistachio, clove, bay leaf, black pepper, fennel, cumin, mace, and saffron.

I promised you  this recipe for today, so I’ll give it to you! Just realize that soon, I will redo it. And it will be even better!

 Asian “Mac & Cheese” 

1 package of your favorite macaroni pasta shape
1 cup raw cashews
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
3/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 1/2 oz tofu (about 1/4 of a block)
1 cup almond milk
2 garlic cloves
1 tbls earth balance
1 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp turmeric (for color)
1 tsp miso
1 tsp simmer sauce (substitute any combination of the above list)

1. Cook pasta according to package instructions. I usually put some olive oil into my water to keep the pasta from sticking.

2. In a food processor, blend cashews, sunflowers, tofu, almond milk, nutritional yeast, and earth balance until smooth.

3. Combine the sauce and pasta. If you don’t want to do a baked dish, heat on the stove on medium heat until warmed throughout. Enjoy!

4. If, however, you want to bake it . . . preheat that oven to 375, place the macaroni in a dish, and top with Daiya Cheese and homemade croutons*!

5. Bake at 375 for twenty minutes.

6. Devour quickly.

Homemade croutons:
Cube 2 slices whole wheat bread.
Spray with olive oil.
Sprinkle with salt, garlic powder, and dill.
Broil in oven on high until toasted.

I’m excited to remake this soon! I have some ideas to make it even more creamy and delicious, and to make those flavors really pop! And, even though it isn’t perfect in my mind, I did have a friend tell me at the meal yesterday, “It isn’t mac and cheese, but I think I like it better than mac and cheese!”

Mission, accomplished.

What is your favorite pasta dish?

 

Chocolate Coconut Power Orbs

Have I got a yummy treat for you this morning! Remember how I said that I‘d be doing a lot more creating in the kitchen since I’m living in the Vista House? Well, having access to a fully equipped kitchen + a lot of people to eat whatever yummy creation I make is definitely already prompting me to cook a lot more!

This recipe is adapted from the lovely Angela at Oh She Glows. I constantly drew upon Angela’s story and wisdom for hope within my own healing process. Her’s was the first blog that I ever ‘followed,’ and I still have it bookmarked and check it daily! Her food is inspired, delicious, and super feel-good healthy.

I enjoyed some of these tasty little guys this morning with breakfast this morning!

Chocolate Coconut Power Orbs

1/2 cup raw cashews
3/4 cup pitted dates
1/4 cup prunes
2 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut (plus more for rolling)
1/4 cup almonds
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp sea salt
3 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp chunky natural peanut butter
1/2 tsp vanilla

Process the cashews in a food processor until crumbly. Don’t leave them in too long–we don’t want cashew butter!

Add the pitted dates and prunes. Process until combined and sticky. Add in the rest of the ingredients, minus the almonds, and process until all the ingredients come together.

Pulse in the almonds to your level of desired nut-texture.

Form into balls and roll in coconut. Store in freezer or fridge.

Do you like coconut? What is your favorite recipe that uses it? 


This recipe is shared on Fat Tuesday over at Real Food Forager. 

A Resolution to Vegan Doubts

Fellow travelers,

I’m sorry for the lack of posting; I was traveling due to the passing of my grandfather.

Which brings up a slightly beaten, re-occuring topic: my struggles following a vegan eating regime.  While up north, I had plenty of time to contemplate my food choices. My dear, sweet grandmother has always loved on our family with food. The moment you finish eating one meal, she brings out another. The first morning I went to the old farmhouse, she was slicing every roll on the premises, buttering them, and placing them back in their bags. Her hands needed something to occupy her mind. The day before I’d turned in a paper entitled “Ethical Eating: Should Christians Consume Meat?”* based upon Romans 14 that made the claim Christians should abstain from [factory farmed] meat out of love. But, watching my precious Grandma, I realized that it can also be loving to eat something I wouldn’t otherwise choose, regardless of my reasons.

The extended family did not know I was a vegan until my sweet papa, trying to provide for my needs, told an uncle who was purchasing dinner to make sure there was something “Michaela could eat, because she’s vegan.” At the hotel, and at the house with my family, there wasn’t a lot I could eat, but it was ok. I’ve realized, though, that for me, being strictly vegan might not be healthy.

Physically, a vegan diet works for me. I always feel nourished, bright, clear, and energetic. But as I’ve mentioned before, health isn’t a simple equation of diet and exercise–it is comprised of many aspects, be they social, spiritual, mental, and emotional as well as the physical. The social exclusion I experienced as a vegan was not healthy for me, and has led to feelings of isolation, deprivation, and discomfort when someone else was providing my food for me. I never wanted to be a burden to people, nor did I want others to feel regretful or uncomfortable because there was no vegan food present.

Here’s my plan, folks. For the most part, the food I consume. Lots of wonderful, healthy food: veggies, fruits, grains, nuts . . .everything I eat now, with very few animal products. Even though I’m going to allow flexibility in regards to some dairy or eggs, I probably still won’t eat meat.** When I can provide the food for myself, I’m going to follow what is known as a ‘vegan’ diet without worrying about labels or restricting myself to that.

*If you’d like a copy of the paper, let me know in the comments.

**Until I intern at a farm this summer, when I’m open to the possibility.

Doubting What I’ve Dubbed ‘Veganism’

This is another hard one. Being honest on here is crucial, but boy is it HARD sometimes. I’m taking encouragement from one of my favorite bloggers, Glennon, on this one. She is honest and open, and it’s wonderful and vulnerable and scary all at once.  I think I’ve avoided delving in enough. Shall we?

Lately, following a vegan diet has been very, very difficult for me. Not necessarily the food, but social occasions revolving around food. Especially when I don’t have control over my food, such as when I’m traveling or at other’s homes. I don’t want to be a burden to anyone, nor do I want to be defined by what I eat.

It’s interesting. Not eating animal products makes sense to me, both for the feel-good body benefits, the environmental benefits, and because I have a skin condition that seems to be exacerbated when I consume dairy. I was vegetarian for a long time before I went vegan, and choosing to eat vegan stemmed from not having as much control over the origin of my food while at college. It’s just a part of what I do, not who I am. Yet, people identify me as a vegan, as if my whole self was tied into the eating choices I make. I’ve been introduced as, “This is Michaela. She’s a vegan.” But, I am so much more than that–aren’t I?

I chose to identify myself as vegan because I figured that was easier for people to understand. Rather than be more of a conscientious omnivore/vegetarian that said “I eat some animal products when I know where they are from, but mostly I’m vegan, but even though I’m flexible I’m choosing not to eat what you’re preparing for me. . . ” seems so pretentious, unsociable, ungrateful. While I obviously would never say that to anyone, I was afraid that my choices would say that to some people. I do eat eggs when I’m at home, because we get them from a neighbor. I’ve also had a bite of fish that my uncle caught. That is the type of flexibility I desire.

Social situations are very difficult. Early on, I didn’t struggle as much with that, because I was typically eating meals in our dining hall where I had plenty of options and could share the moment with everyone. But in certain situations that food is provided, not being able to share those moments has made me feel sad, emotional, tearful, and un-included. And not because of those hosting the events–it is a self imposed exclusion, based upon what I feel is right for my body and the environment.

I suppose it is ok for that definition to change. I will be working on a farm this May with practices I can laud, and I am open to trying some of their meat. No definitive statements at this time . . . the thought of eating meat is still very weird, even though I choose to eat vegetarian for environmental reasons and this meat wouldn’t have those complications. At this point, I think I will choose vegan foods when I have control over what I am eating and when I am organizing social organizations, but be open to being flexible meals including dairy and eggs when someone else is feeding me.

Maybe this makes me a sellout to the vegan community, or means that I’m not being a good “vegan role model”  to the meat eating community. And I think both of those things will somehow have to be ok. I think I’ll wait, though. I realize some people will be confused about the shift back, and I’m uneasy thinking that it could invalidate my eating choices now. Though basing my choices on the reactions of those around me seems superficial, it might be easier for me to stick out this school year. I don’t know.

Have you ever struggled with your food choices? 

How do you deal with social situations when you are eating differently than other people? 

Vegan Banana Muffins + The Comparison Trap

Hello all!

A few days ago a friend invited me to have dinner with her and bake banana bread…I have such wonderful friends! God has blessed me with some very wise and wonderful women in my life, and these two ladies that I ate with and baked with are definitely in that category.

We started talking about the problem of labeling and choosing to follow a vegan diet. One of the other girls is also a vegan, and one is vegetarian. These past two weeks I have really been struggling with my vegan lifestyle, which is another topic for another time. This conversation came around to the inner battle we face with comparison. I know I constantly compare myself   to other women, wondering why my thighs aren’t as thin and toned, why I’m not as petite or dainty, why my hair isn’t as shiny and healthy, why my skin isn’t as clear and smooth . . . I could continue, on and on, which is really sad. I am perfectly unique and perfectly created, with a healthy and strong body that can do just about anything I ask of it.

God really works creatively. Before this conversation, I had spent a few hours on my computer looking up blog posts about body image and how to achieve a healthy one. I found this list, and one thing that continues to resonate with me is this quote: I choose to stop comparing myself to other women, including the woman I was in the past. That for me is huge. Obviously I have gained weight since I stopped restricting and over-exercising, which is a healthy change. Sometimes, it is hard for me to see that–I look at pictures of myself when I was smaller, and look at my bit of extra cushion now and feel wistful. But this is the other important thing about that quote: I have to make a choice to stop comparing myself. It won’t just happen that one day I stop comparing myself, it is a choice. Now, every time I’m tempted to compare myself, I use that as a reminder to redirect and repeat to myself that I am beautiful. I’m going to keep saying it until I believe it.

When I was really in the midst of my eating disorder, I had pushed away God completely. I knew that if I let God in, I wouldn’t be able to treat myself the way I was. If our “ideal body” is unhealthy and we still try to attain that, our emotional, mental, and spiritual selves will suffer. One of us asked, “do I want a relationship with God, or do I want thin thighs?”  If you spiritually identify differently, the question could be posed “do I want to respect myself and live abundantly, or do I want thin thighs?” When put like that, the choice seems really simple, but it’s still hard. It’s still a daily, an hourly, choice.

Today, I choose to believe the truth! And on to the muffins, modified from this recipe. Not too sweet and completely tasty, with completely safe, lickable batter:

Banana Muffins

4 Mashed bananas
1/3 cup truvia (or other stevia granules)
1/2 cup agave nectar
1/8 tsp sea salt
1 flaxseed/chia egg (1 tsp ground flaxseed, 2 tsp chia seeds+2 tablespoons water)
1/4 cup earth balance (or other vegan butter)
1/4 cup apple sauce (you can try all applesauce in place of the vegan butter, or vice versa)
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg

1. Make “egg” by mixing water and seeds. You want to do this first so it has time to get a little gelatinous!
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
3. Mix together mashed bananas+sweeteners.
4. In separate bowl, mix together dry ingredients.
5. Slowly add dry ingredients to wet ingredients + mix.
6. Melt earth balance, add applesauce and vanilla+ stir into mixture.
7. Pour into muffin cups and bake for 20 minutes.


Vegan Fudge Pops!

I am already getting such good use out of the blender my parents brought me this past weekend! It’s only Tuesday, and I’ve used it twice. The possibilities are truly endless!

This little guy is born out of my love for chocolate, smoothies, and snacking. These past few weeks a vegan diet has been particularly challenging for me, especially around desserts and goodies other people were eating. My family was in this past weekend, and I was at Spill The Beans (a local coffee/ice cream shop) not once but TWICE and definitely tempted by the delicious frozen treats everyone was enjoying.

Super versatile and easily modified, these pops can be made out of a variety of combinations and altered easily for taste. (I’m thinking of some strawberry-chocolate and mint chocolate espresso chip flavors in the future!) Keep in mind, many of these measurements are approximate. I tend to shy away from following exact recipes when I cook, preferring to add “a little bit of this” and “a little bit of that.” Rest assured, however, that these can’t be messed up!

Spices! Coca powder has antioxidants and fiber, cinnamon helps insulin production, and stevia is a natural sweetener.

I don't have a lot of experience with silken tofu (I usually use extra-firm for cooking) but this worked wonderfully!

Vegan Fudge Pops

1 Frozen Banana
1 1/2 cups frozen spinach (you can’t taste it, I promise!!) 
1 tablespoon almond butter (or any other nut butter)
3/4 cup almond milk (or any non-dairy milk)
 1 1/2 tablespoons of cocoa powder
1 tablespoon protein powder 
1/5 packet tofu (I used silken, feel free to omit or use a different consistency) 
1 tsp chia seeds 
1/2 tsp flaxseed
2 tsp instant coffee
1/2 tsp cinnamon 
2 packets of stevia  

Blend ingredients together. Pour into popsicle maker and freeze. If you are using the amco express popsicle maker as I was (which I do not recommend), freeze the base 24 hours first and then pour the liquid in and pop it into the freezer for another 20 minutes or so. My parents just brought me the blender and the popsicle maker, and I didn’t know how to use it–I just froze it with the liquid. The pops refused to budge, so I had to let them warm up a bit in the fridge before they slid out.
You can omit the spinach, protein powder, and flax and chia seeds without consequence! I like them because of the added nutritional boost. Spinach is full of vitamins, fiber, and phytochemicals; flaxseed has healthy omega 3s and fiber, and chia seeds are full of protein, omega 3s, and several vitamins and minerals! Super foods for the win.

Even had some left over for a smoothie, which made a delightful afternoon snack!

I didn’t include a picture of the fudge pops themselves, because as you can imagine they are a long, dark brown log shape. Though they are delicious, they resemble…something unpleasant!