Roasted mango and tomato stacks

Excited about my mangoes since getting my new peelers, I’ve been working on some main course uses that would not taste so much like a dessert.  This is a sweet dish, but it’s delightful, light, and perfect for hot days.  We are at 101 F today in Dallas.  Have mercy!

Roasted Mango and Tomato StackWe had this tonight for dinner, along with fresh sweet corn off the cob, romaine and arugula salad, with raw red cabbage slices, sliced avocado, and my new favorite homemade Fig Balsamic Salad Dressing.

Ingredients:

1 mango, peeled and halved (See video on how to do this, if you need help.)
1 large beef-steak tomato, divided into 4 slices
2 half-inch thick fresh pineapple rings, cored
10-12 fresh blueberries
1/4 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/4 cup raw cashews, rough chopped
1/4 tsp nutmeg, freshly grated
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Instructions:

In a blade coffee grinder, grind cashews, sunflower seeds, grated nutmeg and cinnamon together, set aside.  Cut mango halves so that the round side is flat enough to sit on the roasting rack as the base.  Assemble the ingredients in this order, bottom to top: mango half, one tomato slice, 1/4 of the seed and spice mix on each half, pineapple slice, tomato slice, the remaining seed and spice mix on each half, and 5 or 6 blueberries on each stack.  Set each stack carefully on the roasting rack and roast for 60-70 minutes in 375 degree oven.

Makes two large servings

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Eat To Live progress pictures

I’ve been following the Eat To Live program strictly for the last seven weeks with the goals of achieving better health.  To me, the specific goals are to normalize my blood pressure and blood sugar, sleep better and C-PAP free, ridding my body of the aches and pains of psoriatic arthritis and avoid dangerous pharmaceutical options in the future, stay on top of my old demon of depression, and generally, to feel more vitality in life.

Weight loss was not, is not, and won’t be my ultimate goal.  That’s because with Eat To Live, your body weight will normalize over time, and if you are obese, like I am, the weight will fall off quickly without counting calories, carbs, fats, proteins, nothing!  Just eating the right foods and avoiding the wrong ones is all there is to it.

Still, weight loss is one of the most enjoyable benefits of my plant-based Eat To Live nutritional program.  And, it is the one most noticeable by others.

During the last seven weeks, since I officially started the program on June 6, I have had several family gatherings where there have been countless pictures by family members, many of which are very revealing of the weight loss.  I want to share these, along with a little information about when each picture was taken.

Before and after pictures, or rather “progress picture”

This first one was taken about 4 weeks prior to starting Eat to Live at the family party celebrating our daughter’s marriage to her long-time partner:

2015 before

The second one was taken just two weeks after starting the program at a family dinner to visit with my nephew and his family when they were visiting here in Dallas (I’m the one on the right.):

2015 2 weeks

This one was taken with my daughter, her spouse, and my wife, three weeks into the program:

2015 3 weeksThis one was taken on July 4, four weeks into the program, while celebrating the 4th with our wonderful family at a great Mexican restaurant in Oak Cliff (Dallas).  At this point, I am not seeing much of a change, though I had already gone down a size in my jeans:

2015 4 weeks

This one is where I started noticing the changes more, taken a little over a week ago, visiting with my niece and her newest child while they were visiting family in Dallas:

2015 6 weeks

And, finally,this was taken yesterday, at seven weeks into the program, visiting with another niece and her first child:

2015 7 weeks

Peeling a mango without stress

Wow!  An interesting discussion on Facebook yesterday — nothing about politics or religion — led to my discovering a great new kitchen tool and how to use it to peel and prepare one of my favorite tropical fruits, the mango.

peeloldThe old supermarket rack special

I’d like to say, first, that I never thought these were any good, but I used them anyway, until I got so frustrated that I’d pull out a paring knife and get the dang potatoes and carrots peeled.  Then, I’d have some remorse about all the wasted good stuff that was thrown out with the peels.  I’ve also learned to eat many of these fruits and veggies with the peels still intact, and that’s a healthy thing to do in most cases.

But, my handy-dandy supermarket potato peeler, shown to the right, during most of its life, spent some very dark, depressing, unsued days at the back of my gadget drawer, until last week.  “I know I’ve got one of these dang peelers somewhere,” I said, while I was trying to prepare my Zucchini and Mixed Vegetable Sauté for breakfast.  I finally found it and made it work out, but I swore then that I was going to go to the supermarket and get a new one.

A fruitful discussion on Facebook…say whuh?

So, a vegan friend of mine, a high school acquaintance, who now lives in Costa Rica, was on Facebook asking for some new salad dressing recipes that did not have added oils or tofu.  peeltrioThe dialogue went back and forth, and she shared a salad dressing that she makes, using mango, all the time.  I mentioned that I love mangoes but that I get so frustrated trying to peel them and prepare them.

I learned, it’s all in the peeler you use.  She recommended this trio set from Messermeister.  And, thanks to Sunday deliveries, Amazon had them on my doorstep Sunday morning when I went to work in the kitchen.  In preparation for this new challenge, I had bought some fresh mangoes at Trader Joe’s the morning before.

After looking at the blades on these new peelers I was quite confident they would work perfectly, and wow, did they ever!

peelmango

The mango challenge

I chose the red peeler with the serrated edge, removed the protective cap — sorta reminded me of removing the protective cap off my new safety razor blades — and made a quick test run to see how deep I needed the cut to be to remove just the outer skin.  Oh wow!  I expected nothing this simple!  And, a mango I could actually use when I was done with the peeling and cutting!  A whole new world opened up!

peelthin

I gathered my thoughts and recovered from the explosion of this latest epiphany and began to trim, oh so lightly, the mango skin from the rest of the fruit.  When I was finished, it felt like I should smoke a cigarette, but I don’t have any, and haven’t in many years!

peelwhole

I love these new peelers and will use them several times a week.  Thanks to social media and connecting with like-minded people, I get to learn so much about a developing passion I have, to eat healthy, clean, and for a very, very long time!

Fig Balsamic Salad Dressing

My personal fig story

Black figsThe fig is an enigma to me, and I can only make dumb guesses as to why they are.  I don’t remember ever tasting a fig except in the Fig Newton cookies that I loved as a kid.  I seem to recall my cousins had a small fig tree in their back yard, but I don’t ever remember seeing any fruit on it.  Maybe, we just visited there during the off-season, I don’t know.

It turns out, however, that they are a prominently grown in my native state of Texas, and apparently, are very easy to grow.  They just never FIGured into our diets for some reason…”ugh” with the stupid puns!  That one just sorta caught my eye and was not a planned pun.

A few years ago I was working with a man who grew figs in his backyard.  He was from Jordan, and he had kept clippings of his original fig trees to take with him everywhere he had lived since leaving Jordan.  One day, while I was working on some construction estimates, he tapped me on the shoulder and presented a very large bowl to me, and asked me to try one.  I said, “what is it?”  He said, “feegs,” or, at least, that’s what it sounded like.  I asked, “Feegs?  What are they?”  “Feegs, just try one, they won’t hurt you!”  I’ll never forget how that first fig led to many others that day, and seeing the smile on his face when he shared them with everyone at the office.

The lesson I learned from that, among others, is that figs don’t grow in cookies.  They grow from a plant!  “If that don’t beat all!?”

Selecting the ingredients

cashewsSo, in my quest to create a dozen or so salad dressings that conform to the Eat To Live nutritional plan, I have made and written about a few of them that are tofu-based.  Needing some variety, I needed another medium for getting the taste variety I needed.  I’ve had this one in mind for a few days, and I’m perfectly satisfied with the results.

Needing something with oils, without adding any “cheat oils” from a bottle, I needed some kind of nut that is oil-rich in all the good ways.  So, I bought some raw cashews for this recipe am very happy with the flavor and consistency they bring.

To get the acidic flavor I wanted, I went with a rich, sweet balsamic vinegar, and it was the perfect choice for the flavor I was searching for.

Fig Balsamic Salad Dressing

Fig Balsamic Salad DressingIngredients:

6 black figs, diced
1 cup raw, unsalted cashews, finely ground
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup whole chia seeds
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp fresh ginger, finely chopped
2 cups unsweetened coconut milk

Use a food processor or a nut chopper to grind the cashews, getting them as finely ground as possible so that the oils are released.  Add all ingredients to a blender, and blend to puree.  Chill and serve

Makes about 3 cups.

Listen to your body? Hogwash!

A piece of advice that should be removed from the lexicon of the self-help world is, “just listen to your body.”

Body out of control

If your problem, like mine, is fighting personal obesity, and the chronic killer diseases that arise from it, your body is the last thing you want to listen to!  It’s what I’ve done wrong for decades, and it’s the thing that put me in this situation in the first place!

I listened to my body when my taste buds were screaming for a hamburger, or a beer, or a pizza…omigod pizza!  I listened to my body when I gave up on numerous efforts to correct bad habits, like smoking tobacco, taking sleep aids to get a good night’s sleep, and vegging out on the couch every evening instead of doing things around the house, like food prep and cooking.

liarOur bodies, deceitful liars

The truth is, my body is what I made it — a very deceitful liar!

Way back when I was a child, some 50 years ago, my body had already begun its deceitful ways. By convincing me that sugary soft drinks would quench my thirst better than water, that my mom’s chocolate pie was better for my body than an apple or a handful of grapes, my body was in early training to become the liar that it is today!

I have heard dozens, if not hundreds, of people say that they gave up on healthy eating, usually specific diet plans, because their bodies were rejecting these plans by giving them headaches, a feeling of energy depletion, or some other variety of temporary discomfort.

Unhealthy food is an ADDICTION, pure and simple!  And, these temporary conditions of discomfort are simply withdrawal symptoms that all addicts must go through in order to free themselves from the addiction’s chains.

Changing the paradigm

We need a different paradigm for dealing with our unhealthy habits. Instead of listening to our bodies, we need them to shut up, and we need to listen to the science of good nutrition, and by this, I mean honest nutrition!  We need to know what’s really going on when we eat unhealthy foods.

What we find in nutritional resources is that when our bodies are calling strongly for something, chances are that it is a craving.  It is no different from greed, lust, or any of the other biggies which want to seize control of our more sound and rational decision-making processes.  They demoralize us, shame us, and harm us physically, shortening our lives and robbing us of the quality of life we want.

One of the hallmarks of Dr. Fuhrman’s Eat To Live books and papers is what he calls “toxic hunger.”  It’s what drives these unhealthy appetites and causes many of our problems associated with eating unhealthily.  Addictions to food are dangerously real, and our bodies are great deceivers.

A new paradigm, when trying to relearn what to eat, is to be very suspicious of anything our bodies are telling us to do. Until we can identify the difference between a real need and a raging craving, we should depend on what our heads tell us rather than upon our stomachs.  A new paradigm requires us to embrace discipline, not an easy out, or an alibi when things get tough.

Our bodies are what we make them. Responsibly managing our impulses and discomforts is the biggest, and most difficult, step in defeating a food addiction.

Nutrition planning

Trying to change eating habits without a game plan is like starting out on a cross-country road trip with a quarter of a tank of gas. Enthusiasm is high, but before you’re too many miles down the road, reality hits, and you’re stopping before you’ve even crossed the county line. Does “how much longer, Dad?” ring a bell?

Diet casualties and excuses

I have had many failed attempts at dieting, and one of the most troubling reasons for the failures — there are many others! — is the lack of a good game plan for handling grocery shopping, cooking, and food storage before I started out. If you’ve never thought about the convenience issues, the food prep time and clean-up routines, or how you’re going to feed the rest of the family when they turn their noses up at your healthy meals, you may end up like me, doing one of these three things:

  • eating out, or taking home, foods that compromise your eating plan
  • prepping and eating the same things every day because it’s easiest and you have that one routine down pat, and suddenly it’s all very boring
  • giving up altogether because of the frustration, and perhaps, giving excuses to yourself like, “this takes too much time, I work so hard during the day that I don’t have time for this, or I feel like an outsider in my own family, etc.”

Been there! Many times!

Diet adjustment period

ttplanThe problem is that during the adjustment period, which is obviously the most difficult time to keep the discipline in tow, the routines are not established yet and our brains can fill up with understandable, yet dangerous, excuses. Becoming frustrated is the last thing any of us want. It should be fun and rewarding. Given enough time, it is both! But, in the beginning, it is a path wrought with pitfalls and monsters (why does Gollum suddenly come to mind? Jeez, my brain is wired in the strangest ways!).

The pleasures of diet planning

With every experience I’ve had with nutrition planning, it has become easier. This time, when I committed to Eat To Live again, I knew how to shop, when to cook, what I was going to use for storing foods for the week, and how I was going to make alternative meals for my family if they didn’t like what I was making. No matter how supportive our families are, my experience says their support stops just short of eating the same way, the same foods, we do! People take their food choices very seriously!

A little secret here: it is usually easy to sneak in some healthier foods for your family without them even knowing it! I found that there is a shift toward healthier eating for everyone even if there is not a concerted effort by everyone in the family to eat healthier. The food preparer has a lot of control over how the family eats. Use less salt, or none at all, for everyone. Use less oil, or none at all, by using new cooking methods, like water sauté, steaming, roasting, baking. Use a variety of spices until you find out which ones work best with whom.

Nutrition planning routine

First, before I tell you about my routines, it might help to know a few things about my situation. My wonderful wife is Type 1 diabetic and has been on insulin since 1978. Her condition, after having Type 1 for almost 40 years, is such that just taking care of her insulin schedule, doctor appointments, and mobility issues, is a full-time job. Her endocrinologist requires carb counting as a means for managing her insulin intake, so I keep an app handy on my phone to look up carbs for her foods. She also helps a lot with the chopping, salad making, and other things she can do while seated. It’s a team effort! This has worked well, and is so much easier than I expected. We keep lists of what we know is the right quantities of food to get her carb intake each day. There are only two human creatures in the home now, so really, there are only two human mouths to feed a day.

Here is a rundown on how I manage my own situation.

  • Saturdays and Sundays — big grocery shopping days! I shop at Costco for large quantity items, but I also hit some of the best produce markets in the area, and fortunately, there are many.  Ahead of time, I make some semblance of a list, but when I get to the stores, I just use it as a checklist to make sure the necessary things are brought home. I shop for what looks freshest, in season, and for diversity. Hint: I think back on the previous week and I try not to buy the same produce items week after week. For instance, if I ate broccoli all week, I’ll bring home cauliflower, brussels sprouts, cabbage, or something else in the cruciferous vegetables category.
  • Sunday afternoons and evenings — Knowing that “salad is the main course!” I make salad dressings that will keep for a week in the refrigerator. This is a lot of fun to me because it tastes better and because it’s a creative exercise. Also, I make beans and soups as needed for the week. These can be “main course” items, or side dishes.
  • Washing fruits and vegetables is something I do as soon as they are brought home from the store. I use a vegetable and fruit wash in a very large bowl with water, and I dump the tomatoes, apples, peaches, cucumbers, whatever else, in there and lightly run each piece until they are clean. I rinse them off and let them drain in a colander for a few minutes. Then, I store them in large plastic containers or glass jars, in the refrigerator, depending on what each food “prefers” for storage.  Berries and small items like these, I wash them as needed during the week. I have a handy large sieve, rather than a colander, for this purpose, and it takes no time at all to rinse these off. Food storage planning is key, I believe!
  • Since my wife eats meat, and I do not, I repackage meat products for one or two meal servings before freezing them. She’s usually good for one day of leftovers, but two days is pushing her limits a bit, so I don’t try it often.
  • Supplemental shopping days are necessary when eating fresh foods. There is no way around it unless you have two refrigerators. I like to go twice during the week to fill in some gaps, if needed. This also helps me with planning on the pet foods (they do have to eat, too, I’ve been told!). I can stay focused on the big picture on Saturdays and Sundays, and knowing I’ll be going again during the week, lifts the burden of trying to remember everything when I go.
  • Food prep is done nightly, as needed, but having prepared some of the basics on weekends, nightly cooking usually involves side dishes, or that one more veggie that sounds perfectly right tonight!
  • Invest in great, reusable, microwave and dishwasher friendly, plastic ware for storage. As mentioned before, Snapware is what I use, and I love it.

Look here for some of my salad dressings and my Fresh Tomato Sauce recipes:

Salad dressings

Fresh Tomato Sauce

Rich Tomato and Tofu Salad Dressing

This one is flavor-filled, slightly tangy, and has a beautiful color!

Rich Tomato and Tofu Salad DressingTurmeric and black pepper

With this dressing I bring back one of my favorite spices, turmeric, paired with black pepper to maximize the anti-inflammatory benefits of this deliciously pungent spice (see links below for more info on the nutritional value of turmeric and black pepper.).  Turmeric is also responsible for the orangey color!  Warning: If you’re a nail model, be careful using this spice without wearing gloves.  It could be a career-ender!  Also, be careful not to stain your countertop, your hands, and whatever else matters.  I guess it would be fine to let it touch carrots, huh?

Another tofu dressing

As the story goes, if you’ve read my other posts about salad dressings, I am on the Eat To Live nutritional program, and I am especially interested in the anti-inflammatory benefits of the plan due to my psoriasis and the psoriatic arthritis that had started to show its monstrous head a year or so after getting off-plan two years ago!  No doubt the plan helped me with this condition, and I should have known better than to leave it in the first place, especially since the food is all homemade and tastes so good.

Dr. Fuhrman’s mantra (Eat To Live) is “the salad is the main course!”  And, truthfully, without great salad dressings, many people are apt to give up on receiving the great health benefits available to them through Eat To Live, because the plan does not allow added oils or salts to the diet.  Further, ETL’ers have to search for salad dressings that do not have sodium or oils.  It’s so much easier, and far tastier, to make them at home.

Silken tofu is the perfect medium for creating creamy dressings similar in appearance and flavor to the ones I used to eat when I didn’t have a care in the world about my health.  In a blender, the tofu combines easily with other ingredients, and it can be kept for at least a week in the refrigerator in a tightly sealed jar, without losing any of its flavor.  (See my other tofu salad dressing recipes here.)

Other food uses

Like all of my homemade dressings, this one works great as a vegetable topping.  When I made this dressing, I was also roasting some plain slices of eggplant for use in another recipe, so when the eggplant was done, I nabbed a couple of slices off the roasting rack and put them in a saucer, covering them with the new dressing!  Finger-lickin’ good!

Of course, it’s great on a lettuce and tomato salad, just to stay with the salad dressing theme, right?

tomato3

Rich Tomato and Tofu Salad Dressing

Ingredients:

28 oz can of “no salt added” crushed tomatoes with basil
1 pkg silken tofu
1 level tbsp of turmeric powder (a little less would be fine, if you’re not sure you’ll enjoy it.  Turmeric is about as subtle as this guy!)
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 of roasted sweet bell pepper, sliced (I use yellow or orange ones to keep the color them going…and I like them better!)
1 small yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of 1 medium lemon
1/2 cup of your favorite vinegar (I used raw coconut vinegar I bought at Sprouts.)

Combine all ingredients into a blender and blend until the dressing is creamy in appearance, like this:

tomato2

The dressing recipe takes about 15 minutes to put together, once you have roasted the sweet bell pepper, and that can be done anytime you are roasting anything, just to have it handy for later.  It makes about 32 oz, if I can keep from tasting it a dozen times while I’m making it.

There you have it!  A perfect, rich dressing for a “no salt added” and “no oil added” diet!

Further reading:

Dr. Weil’s take on turmeric
Why Pepper Boosts Turmeric Blood Levels, Dr. Michael Greger
Turmeric and Black Pepper Fight Cancer Stem Cells, Anticancer: A New Way of Life