Search This Blog

Monday, June 27, 2011

Pasta and Salad: Not the Only Staples of a Vegan Diet

I am officially "outing" myself as a Food Network nerd.  My DVR, which once used to house many stupid, unoriginal sitcoms, now is filled with cooking shows and competitions.  I still don't know how to make them but I can now have an intelligent conversation about risotto, amuse bouche, balsamic reductions, and other fun tricks and dishes.

Why do I bring this up?  I'm glad you asked.  I was watching an episode of "The Next Food Network Star" when a team of competitors was asked to prepare a vegetarian meal.  Liza has always said that people love to feed vegetarians pasta and salad - I am beginning to notice this more and more in my healthy eating experience.  Sure enough, the two partners on the team decided to make a pasta dish and a salad.  It's as if these foods are the only ones that everyone, regardless of eating habits, can enjoy.

This brings me to my next point that was raised on the exact same episode.  A cook decided to create a tofu dish and the guest judge (Paula "Butter/Sugar/Chocolate" Dean) immediately told him he'd "be in for a rough day".  I can understand this sentiment because for many years, tofu was a completely taboo concept to me.  I didn't want to taste it, I didn't want to try it, I didn't want to have anything to do with it. And, sure enough, he made a dish that everyone (including Paula) loved.

My point being: although I am grateful for ANY meal that is graciously made for me, vegetarians (and vegans) eat good food and there is more than pasta and salad.

There's roasted veggies, grilled/BBQ'd veggies, all kinds of stir-fries, quinoa (an amazing superfood that is more like rice than pasta - stay tuned for further posts about it), soups, wraps, fake meats (we made Sloppy Joe's from fake ground meat and just kept saucing and seasoning until I truly couldn't tell the difference!), sandwiches, just to name a few.  Or, if you want to go with something that everyone likes - pizza!  There are COUNTLESS vegan and/or gluten-free pizza recipes and pre-made, frozen pizzas.  My favorite is Amy's Roasted Vegetable Pizza.

I was eating this pizza long before I became vegan and I am still addicted.  I know many would say that pizza is not pizza without cheese.  Believe me, I felt the same way.  But this sauce is amazing and I don't miss the cheese one bit.  It's still not totally fresh and shouldn't be eaten every day (note also that it is not gluten-free) but it's just another example of a familiar food that can be served to vegetarians and vegans.

So, I would like to open to floor.  Why is there this stigma that vegetarians and vegans are so hard to feed?  This is something that I've been wondering so I'd love to hear what everyone has to say.  Please do not be shy!

As always, thanks for reading, become a Follower, find me on Twitter (@Recon_Carnivore), and tell your friends!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Treat of the Week, Part 2: Carrot Cake Soft Serve

As you may recall, this past Monday was dedicated to The Baron Ginsburg Smoothie - the perfect way to start the day.  And as you may also recall, I promised to share with you the perfect end to the day...  

We all work hard.  We all like to treat ourselves at the end of a long day.  But we also know that eating ice cream at 10pm is not the smartest idea.  To that end, I give you:



  • 1 frozen banana
  • Almond milk (less milk is creamier, more milk is a little softer)
  • A dash of nutmeg
  • Cinnamon to taste
  • 1 tablespoon all natural nut butter
  • Chopped baby carrots to taste (they do not overpower the taste so add as many or as few as you'd like)
  • Raisins (optional)
  1. Blend to desired consistency and enjoy!  Again, it couldn't be easier!
  2. Add raisins, if desired.

As you can see, it doesn't get any simpler than this.  All natural, easily digestible, filled with vitamins - an amazing late night snack after eight (or more) stressful hours on the job!  If you don't like carrots - leave them out!  It's a free country!  You'll still have a delicious banana soft serve!  Again, a tremendously versatile recipe for all to enjoy.  There you have it.  The perfect way to start a day (see Monday's post: The Smoothie) and the perfect way to end the day.  Try these recipes at least a few times each week and you will wake up and go to sleep happy each time.  What could be better???

Thank you for reading, PLEASE become a follower, PLEASE answer the poll at the bottom of the page, PLEASE find me and follow me on Twitter (@Recon_Carnivore), and PLEASE tell your friends! 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Treat of the Week, Part 1: The Smoothie

I thought I would give everyone's brains a rest this week.  So, for a change, I will not impart tremendously useful knowledge to you today.  This week I would love to focus on the best ways to start and end the day.

I don't know about everyone else, but when I wake up in the morning I don't always feel like eating; it's as if my body isn't ready to accept food just yet.  I know how important it is to get the metabolism going as soon as possible (we'll delve into that in another post) so we have devised a way to get food in our systems while keeping it light and refreshing and not overwhelming at the same time.  I give you...



  • 1/2 frozen banana 
  • 3/4 cup frozen fruit of your choice (berries are a great option but we've also had success with peaches and mangoes - ANY supermarket will have bags of frozen fruit, just make sure that it is 100% fruit with no additives)
  • 1 cup Almond Milk (we've tried many brands but are happiest with Blue Diamond Almond Breeze Original Unsweetened - most stores carry this now, as well)
  • 2 tablespoons flaxseed meal (go with Bob's Red Mill if you can - the flaxseed is SO high in fiber and Omega-3 fatty acids)
  • 1 tablespoon raw cacao powder (we use Navitas - you can skip this step if you'd like but we love having a little hint of chocolate in our smoothies)
  1. Blend to desired consistency and drink up!  That's it!  That's all there is to it!  

We drink these smoothies every morning, right when we wake up, and they are just what the doctor ordered.  They only take about 5 minutes to make and they are the perfect blend of simplicity, healthy ingredients, and great taste.  The best part is - this is just our version.  You can add whatever you want to this basic template.  Wanna add some all natural peanut butter for thickness and protein?  Do it!  How bout a few drops of Agave for your active sweet tooth?  Go for it!  Or even a handful of spinach to get your dose of leafy greens?  Have at you!  Note: we've tried the spinach trick and, trust me, you can't even tell that it's there.  If leafy greens aren't your thing, THIS is how to eat them.  They won't affect the flavor and they give you ridiculous amounts of vitamins.  Drink your greens!  I encourage you to give this recipe a try, jazz it up to your liking, and start your day off by letting your metabolism get to work on easily digestible foods instead of the 1790 calorie (970 calories of fat) Big Country Breakfast at IHOP.

Thank you for reading, PLEASE become a follower, PLEASE find me and follow me on Twitter (@Recon_Carnivore), and PLEASE tell your friends!  Tune in on Friday for the perfect late night snack to end a hectic day!  

Monday, June 13, 2011


Happy Monday, everyone!  I feel like I should have written this post earlier considering it is the basis for most of my healthy eating - but better late than never!

When I made the choice to begin my brand new vegan lifestyle, I really wanted to start from scratch and give my body a clean slate on which to work.  Also, I thought it would be wise to get some expert opinions on what to eat.  So, when we returned from our honeymoon in Thailand, Liza and I went to visit Shannon Elldrege at Zen Cleanse here in Tarzana.  First of all, I have never had such a casual conversation that focused on the "workings" of the human body (mine, in particular).  She really put us at ease.  But that's a whole other story...

The most important information I left with were her "building blocks" to healthy eating.  She calls them H.O.P.E. or:

High fiber

I thought I would take this opportunity to define each of these blocks, explain why they are so important to our bodies, and give a few examples of where to find them in everyday life.  Strap yourselves in!

Fiber is essentially "the indigestible portion of plant foods having two main components: soluble and insoluble.  It acts by changing the nature of the contents of the gastrointestinal tract, and by changing how other nutrients and chemicals are absorbed.  Soluble fiber absorbs water to become a gelatinous, viscous substance and is fermented by bacteria in the digestive tract. Insoluble fiber has bulking action and is not fermented." (US Department of Agriculture, National Agricultural Library and National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board)

Got all that?  In layman's terms, you get fiber from the bulk of plants and it helps your body digest things more easily.  High fiber is 5g or more of fiber in a serving.  Easy enough.  But fiber has gotten a bad rap because of what it makes people think of - it makes you have to go to the bathroom.  True, but that is extremely important to our bodies.  Assisting our bodies in digestion and elimination (yup, that's what you think it is) is essential to living a healthy life.  So let's not be so squeamish and get more fiber in our diets.  The best sources of high fiber can be found in:
  • Grains (whole grain bread, bran, brown rice, etc.)
  • Fruits (berries, raisins, apples, bananas, etc.)
  • Vegetables (baked beans, lentils, peas, carrots, sweet potatoes,  squash, etc.)
  • Nuts (almonds, peanuts, walnuts, cashews, etc.)

When people think of oils, they probably think of EFA's (essential fatty acids) and Omega-3's.  EFA's are the bodyguards that protect cell membranes so that they are able to admit healthy substances while blocking ones that may hurt us.  Omega-3's could be the most recognizable fatty acids.  Their advantages include, but are not limited to:
  1. Acting as an anti-inflammatory 
  2. Improving brain function
  3. Protecting against heart disease
  4. Controlling intestinal disorders
  5. Treating skin problems such as acne or eczema
The popular way to get your EFA's and Omega-3's is by taking fish oil.  But, being vegan doesn't afford us that option.  So, we use flaxseed oil.  It can be purchased at any Whole Foods and is an incredible way to get your oils.  Just one teaspoon contains approximately 2.5g of Omega-3's which is equivalent to more than twice the amount an average person gets in their diet.  Instead of using a creamy salad dressing or regular olive oil in a frying pan, sprinkle a tablespoon of flaxseed oil onto your greens and let it work its magic.


In 1989, Roy Fuller came up with the definition that is most widely recognized when referring to probiotics.  "A live microbial feed supplement which beneficially affects the host animal by improving its intestinal microbial balance." (The Journal of Applied Bacteriology)  In short, probiotics are just what the name would suggest: microorganisms that are introduced into the body and are beneficial to the host.  

Some probiotics have been shown to be helpful in preventing and treating various forms of several ailments including:
  1. Diarrhea
  2. Lactose intolerance
  3. Colon Cancer
  4. Cholesterol
  5. Blood pressure
  6. Immune function
I must admit that I am not as well versed in the field of probiotics so I won't act like the expert and direct you to a product I know nothing about.  What I was told by Shannon is to buy an unrefrigerated probiotic.  The refrigerated products are only fresh at the controlled temperature in which they are kept and should be consumed immediately to achieve desired results.  Taking them out of the refrigerator, purchasing them, traveling them home, and then refrigerating them again could very easily create enough unrefrigerated time to kill the beneficial microorganisms.  Liza's favorite probiotic comes in the form of a fermented tea drink called Kombucha.  

 She prefers the Synergy brand but they come in many different flavors and brands.  Try one out, do your homework, talk to a doctor, visit a health food store that carries a wide variety of probiotics, and ask questions!  And, for the record, if anyone has advice on a good probiotic, please share so we can all benefit!

This final block is probably the easiest of the group to recognize and find.  This is your bulk.  Your fruits.  Your veggies.  Your juices.  I'm sure all of your mothers have told you to eat your veggies and drink your juice so I don't have to tell you about all the vitamins (B, B-12, C, etc.), minerals, fiber and so much more.

But I will tell you that this lifestyle hinges around this block.  It is the crux of almost every meal we eat.  The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that a 30 year old man who does up to an hour of exercise daily should eat 2(!) cups of fruit and 3.5(!) cups of vegetables per day.  I feel that these numbers are very low but, if they are accurate, there is no excuse to not achieve your fruit and veggie intake everyday.  Go to your local store where you buy produce, find organic fruits and veggies (when possible) and go to town!  Also, I must recommend my favorite juice in the world: Bolthouse.  These juices are delicious, healthy, 100% natural, filled with vitamins, and they come in both fruit and vegetable choices.  One 8 oz. glass of their juice each morning gives you a great start to the day.  Please keep in mind that, even though Bolthouse juice is a wonderful way to get your dose of fruits and veggies, it is still not as beneficial as fresh juice or smoothies.  Additives are still included to keep the juice fresh for a longer period of time which may lessen the amounts of enzymes that are available.  Eating or juicing fresh fruits and veggies is still the way to go if at all possible!

I hope this was a big help to everyone.  I refer to this list daily and try my hardest to incorporate all of these blocks into my everyday food choices.  Some days are more successful than others, but we live and learn.  Just remember:

High fiber

is the opposite of...

Upside down cake (there aren't many foods that start with "U", ok!?)

As always, thanks for reading.  Create a profile, become a follower, tell your friends and family to do the same, and follow me on Twitter!  (@Recon_Carnivore)

Monday, June 6, 2011

How Much Is Too Much?

We exercise - A LOT!  Ok, we're not triathletes or body builders but we put in a solid hour (at least) of hard-core, non-stop, sweat-inducing, body-altering work every day.  I'll be discussing our regiment in a later post.  I have definitely noticed a difference in my body structure, strength, and endurance but the bottom line is - it still hurts and maybe sometimes I just need a break.

Example: Yesterday Liza and I completed our fifth straight day of running, jumping, squatting, and doing ridiculous amounts of pushups all at a high paced tempo.  We were tired but, as usual, we felt happy just to get through the whole thing (Liza more successfully than me, lately).  Sore as ever, we took our recovery drinks, showered, and left for a brunch party.  While at the party, there were three 15 year old boys playing basketball and they asked me if I wanted to play.  Sure!  Forget the fact that I haven't played a real game of basketball in at least five years.  I've been eating great and exercising so I can do anything, right?  Well, I was a little rusty but I was playing better than I expected.  Then I began to breathe heavy.  Then my legs started to feel like Jell-O.  Then I couldn't jump to grab a rebound.  Then these little punks started running right past me.  I felt fine but I just couldn't keep up anymore.  I got home and discovered that I had pulled something in my chest/upper back which made exercise this morning not terribly efficient.  I am not in massive amounts of pain and I'm sure all will be well in a couple of days but this begs the question:

How much is too much?

I clearly understand the need to exercise every day (with the understanding that the body needs a day to simply rest or stretch instead of killing itself) but I am struggling with this question as well:

When do you push through with everything you've got and when do you listen to your body, take the hint, and let it go?

I clearly don't have the answer just yet because I either push through and sometimes regret it or I listen to my body, let it go, and feel like a lazy bum.  So, I turn to you all.  PLEASE create a profile, become a follower/friend, and throw in your opinions.  This is not just for me, but for all of us.  Maybe there are a ton of people reading this blog who are having the same issues and you are the one person who has the solution.  See?  You could be the one to solve everyone's problems.  What a cool thought!

As always, thank you for reading, tell your friends, and take care of yourselves!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Treat of the Week: Vegan Banana Apple Chunk Bread

I came home late from work the other night and, the moment I entered the hallway leading to the living room, I was hit with an incredible smell.  It was a sweet smelling aroma that I would recognize anywhere - freshly baked banana bread!  My tired body immediately woke up and headed straight for the kitchen where my assumption was verified.  Liza had baked us one of the most amazing smelling banana breads I had ever encountered.  Not only that, but it was completely vegan, tremendously healthy, and apparently easy to make.  And, to top it all off, I would not be posting this recipe right now if this bread wasn't absolutely delicious in every way!  It's sweet, ridiculously moist, and surprisingly light.  It can really be eaten at any time of the day and the prep work is so minimal, you can make the whole thing (from start to finish) in just over an hour.  Enjoy and, if you didn't believe me about the previous recipes, do yourself a favor and try this one - you will not regret it!  Please leave comments and tell your friends.  Let's get some banter going!!!

courtesy of


  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1 apple, peeled and diced
  • 2/3 cup Sucanat or sugar (Liza used Raw Agave - a staple of any healthy sweet tooth diet!)
  • 1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour (Liza used Bob's Almond Flour to make it gluten free)
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.  Lightly spray (or grease with butter/butter substitute) a nine-inch loaf pan.
  2. In a medium sized bowl, mash the bananas with a fork.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.  Pour into greased pan.
  4. Bake for 45-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out dry (Liza baked ours for about 70 minutes - it could have been our oven or the flour substitution but it still came out perfectly - just keep an eye on it)
  5. Cool in pan for 15 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack.
  6. Enjoy!  It doesn't get any easier than this recipe!