10.23.2014

Cruising Meets Nutritarian

Hi Everyone!  I have another fun post for you today from my mom.  As mentioned in her post a few weeks ago about ridding herself of a lifelong caffeine addiction, she and my dad LOVE cruising.  They have been cruising since their pre-Nutritarian days, and even more so as they have become empty-nesters who focus on whole plant foods for optimal wellness.  Here is my mom’s explanation on how they like to cruise with being healthful in mind.
My beautiful mom when we went to have a mother-daughter tea for last mother's day.
Cruising Meets Nutritarian

This is Amy’s mom again.  I think she may be sorry that she let me write on her blog at all, but now she has asked me to talk about something that is near and dear to my heart.  CRUISING!!!!  I do love to cruise!  My family would tell you if you mention the word ‘cruise’ within earshot of me, I immediately perk up and emit delightful squeals in anticipation of the conversation.

We discovered cruising in 1996 and it fast became our vacation of choice thereafter.  I have been on 26, soon to be 27, cruises mainly with my husband, but a few with family and friends.  We have experienced the Caribbean, Panama Canal, Alaska, Mexican Riviera, Pacific Coast, and soon we will be on our dream cruise through French Polynesia.

It is definitely more challenging to eat Nutritarian on a ship.  When we began cruising in our pre-Nutritarian days, I ate anything and everything without much thought.  Now, I try to eat as close as possible to this new lifestyle we have chosen.

Cruising (Food) Basics: 
For those who may not have been on a cruise before, there is food around every corner.  Often times on-board comedians joke about not really being entertainment, but just a way to pass the time until passengers can eat again.  Depending on the ship and where you are in your itinerary (sea or port day), there are several different options for every meal.

The buffet is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day.  The main formal dining rooms are open every night for dinner, and some days for breakfast and lunch, particularly on sea days.  Most ships have on deck eateries such as a grill or pizza bar.  On sea days or in the evenings, there can also be temporary buffets set up on deck, and many ships have such a thing called the midnight buffet.  On a few cruise lines, they also have small mid ship cafes that are often open 24 hours and offer brewed coffee and smaller finger foods and desserts.  On Princess they call them their International Cafes, and Royal Caribbean have Cafe Promenades on some of their fleets.

As you can imagine, there is not a lack of food venues or eating times on cruise ships!

Breakfast:
We usually start the day with a fruit plate and whole wheat toast with a little bit of peanut butter.  Peanut butter is often hard to find sitting out (probably due to allergies), but if requested the wait staff is happy to bring you a small bowl of it.  Also, when I ask them to throw every fruit of every kind they can find onto my plate, they come back with some wonderful creations for me.  Fresh fruit is plentiful at every turn on a cruise!!
Our gorgeous assortment of fruit to share before a day of adventure in port.

Adorable fruit sculpture creations we were shown when doing a ship kitchen tour.

Another one of our breakfasts filled with fruit and a few almond whole grain muffins.

As I said, the wait staff is happy to get you peanut butter whenever you request it.  This particular time, a young man brought us what we have called a "vat of peanut butter".  This picture is from AFTER we had peanut buttered our toast.  I saved the rest in our room for the next few mornings, until ultimately our room stewardess took it away to clean!

Salads:
The buffets usually have incredible salad bars, and in the main dining room there are always wonderful salads with many different kinds of greens and vegetables on the menu.  For salad dressings, I either have balsamic or mix salsa with a tiny bit of a ranch-type dressing.
Salad created from the buffet.  I believe this was a salad Amy had from the buffet topped with a green goddess dressing.

One of the wonderful salads in the formal dining room.

Beans:
The one place most cruises are lacking is serving beans.  AND you know how Nutritarian tummies love their beans!  It is rather hit and miss from cruise to cruise whether beans will be offered regularly or not. I have seen beans offered on the salad bar, and sometimes I ask the attendants if they can put some out, and other times I go without.  We have felt “bean hungry” at times.  In ports we generally seek out Mexican food or other local cuisines so we can up our bean quota when lacking. On board they do have bean burgers available, but I lose interest in those rather quickly.
Jim's bean burger loaded with onions that he enjoyed while soaking up the sun on deck during a sea day.

Dinner:
There are always vegetarian selections on every menu in the main dining room and we stick to those choices.  They are marked with a “V” which helps us to choose.  I have heard tell, but never experienced, that the wait staff will work with you and come up with completely vegan menu if you put forth the time and effort.  I know someone personally from our last cruise in January 2014 that did it, and they ate amazing meals.  Here is a link to her blog for her experiences during that cruise.

This planned customization works best if you have the same wait staff each evening in the main dining room.  We usually have what is called “anytime dining” where you come to the dining room on your schedule, not a set dinner time, and usually end up with different wait staff each night, so I don’t even try to plan ahead.  Also of note, is that “Vegan” does not mean oil free nor low in salt and sugar, so I am sure these items would never be completely Nutritarian.
Fancy rice pilaf wrapped in grilled zucchini.  Who says nutritarian food had to be plain!? ;)

Pesto Pasta in the main dining room.

Exercise:
The one thing about cruising that does increase hugely in our life is the exercise we experience.  We take very active excursions in each port, and we take the stairs almost 100% of the time while moving deck-to-deck.  Believe you me, when you have anywhere from 12 to 14 decks to climb to get to the buffet or to the pool, and you do it several times a day, you get quite a workout.  My husband loves to hit the gym and I love to do the Zumba or line dancing on sea days.  There is usually a wonderful promenade deck to walk around while viewing amazing sites of the ocean all around you.  Hmmm I can smell and feel that ocean breeze right now!
Jim walking on the promenade deck.

My friend Vonnie and I in our evening dresses getting our line dancing on!

More Food Oggling:
Breakfast one morning with some nuts and seeds we brought ourselves.

Wonderful chocolate strawberries!  Fruit AND chocolate?  Now that's our kind of dessert!

This picture is of Amy's buffet plate when she was first starting out on eating Nutritarian, before we had joined in.  Like us, she likes to have a little bit of seafood when she cruises, but sticks to Nutritarian when she is home.

Fun fountain food display at the midnight buffet.

Part of a midnight on deck buffet.  We love seeing the artful food displays, but try to limit ourselves on late night food intake.

A Mediterranean sampler with hummus, cous cous, and baba ganoush.

A vegetarian bean patty with mixed vegetables.

Creamy mushroom stroganoff-like dish.

Creamy potato zucchini boats with white beans on the side.

My special occasion treat, mussels!

One of our vegetarian meals topped with a phylo-type crust and lots of veggies hidden underneath.

Hearty tofu, potato, and veggie dish.
Do your best:
We are usually Oil-Free Vegan Nutritarian at home, but on a cruise we end up with some dairy products in there and once in a while a bit of seafood as well.  I have to admit I love to eat escargot, mussels, and clams while cruising; so I allow myself these special occasions to not follow as strictly as I would at home.

As I said, we try hard, but we also allow ourselves to have some desserts, and the alcohol consumption increases from our norm.  Vacation is a celebration of the memories we are making, after all.  We balance all of this with going right back to our normal way of eating when we get home.

We don’t usually bring home a great deal of extra baggage in the form of weight gain, souvenirs and amazing photos however, are another story.  The weight gain we do experience is usually water weight from the higher salt content in the food, and disappears in a few days.
   
In summation, it is not as hard as people think to eat plant-based on a cruise. If I wanted to be even stricter, I could, but it is, as always, a choice.  Your body lets you know if you made too many of the wrong ones and the next day we try harder.  I hope if any of you do book a cruise in the near future, that you can rest assured there are always food choices for you!


Happy Cruising,

Kitty

10.21.2014

My Meat and Potatoes Husband

Hi All,

I mentioned in my Three Bean Chili post earlier last week that my husband, Kevin, had been enjoying quite a few of the meals made in my new pressure cooker.  For those of you who haven't followed my blog for very long, my husband is not a nutritarian and dislikes vegetables in general.

A few weeks ago, for my work's health care program, we had our weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose checked.  Thankfully my work pays for all of this and comes into our office to administer the tests.  By doing these health checks, it allows us to earn money back on our health premiums while working towards health goals throughout the year, such as eating more vegetables and exercising.

Kevin hates hates HATES needles, but he came in anyways for the screening.  Happily, I had excellent numbers other than my triglycerides were higher than last year (but that was probably due to spending a weekend drinking in Leavenworth for Oktoberfest just prior to the blood test).  Kevin's numbers, particularly his cholesterol were not ideal.  (For the sake of his privacy I won't say what it is.)

After being married for 2 years, I have all but given up the game of telling him "you should eat better", "what about your arteries", and "should you really be eating that whole pizza?".  All I told him after the health screening was that I was concerned for his health and wished he would take steps to eat better so we can be together for a long and happy life.
This same week I got my pressure cooker in the mail.  I proceeded to make Chickpea Soup Italiano, which, to my surprise, Kevin ate.  Then he requested that I make a jar of chickpeas to send with him to work along with a banana and handful of almonds.

OK!  This is something I can totally get behind!

Over the last week, he has been eating bean soups, plain chickpeas, and quinoa and grain dishes.  He even has had oatmeal with me three times over the weekends as long as it had fruit and nuts in it.  Are there a ton of veggies in all of these things?  No....  But are there animal products and horrible fats, sugars, and preservatives like in his normal diet?  NO!

I'm so excited that he is taking little steps to eat better.  However, he has been on a business trip to Chicago over the last 5 days.  I'm sure he hasn't been eating well like he would have if he was home, but hopefully he is ready to jump back into eating better with me.  Wish us luck!

(Also, don't tell him this, but he liked my homemade vegan caesar salad dressing.  I'm picking him up some lettuce tonight on the way home from work so that I can pack him a salad for tomorrow for his first day back.)

Health and Happiness,

Amy

10.15.2014

Three Bean Chili (Pressure Cooker Friendly)

As I'm sure you guys have seen on my blog, my Facebook, and my Twitter and Instagram accounts, that I am OBSESSED with my new pressure cooker, the Instant Pot IPDUO-60.  Here are some of my favorite things about it:

It has made my kitchen cleaner.  Not only do I not require different pots and pans to saute, steam, and cook everything, but I haven't had to cook separate meals for my husband because he has been enjoying a lot of what I have been making. (More about the husband in another post.)  Also, as the Instant Pot is heating up, cooking, and depressurizing, I can easily have time to clean all of my prep dishes, set the table, and set out Tupperware for any leftovers.  The Instant Pot itself is also super easy to clean!  I made oatmeal the other day with not quite enough liquid, so some stuck to the bottom.  I had it washed out in just a few minutes with soap and water.  No scrubbing!

It has made me more sane.  Not only has cooking with the Instant Pot been easier to clean, it has given me back some sanity when I'm in the kitchen.  Instead of running back and forth between sauteing, chopping, and stirring, I can set my meal to go and leave it until its ready (or when I'm ready, thank you warmer).  No stirring involved!  And because the Instant Pot cooks faster than other methods, I don't feel like I NEED to multi-task to get a meal on the table in a timely matter.  I have been enjoying getting all of my ingredients ready to go, then starting with the Instant Pot, rather than jumping from the cutting board, to the stove top, then sink, and back again.

It has made my kitchen quieter.  When I imagined getting a pressure cooker, I was thinking it would be loud and make noises similar to a steaming teapot.  Wrong!  The only time the Instant Pot isn't perfectly quiet is when the lid opens and closes (happy little notes), it beeps to let me know it has started and finished, if you are sauteing something (which goes really quickly because it can get so hot), and if you do a quick release of pressure rather than a natural release at the end of cooking.  I'm sure Kevin would tell you (as he is trying to watch football) that my old kitchen cooking with pots and pans was much more disruptive.

It has helped me to be better organized.  Many of the recipes I have made so far include dried beans.  Because of this, I have been planning what I will be making a day or two before so that I can soak the beans while I am at work the day that I plan on using them.  I feel like I can also plan for the perfect amount of leftovers for lunch the next day for Kevin and I.  When I used to make things on the stove, I would have a difficult time estimating quantities and end up with too much food.  I would get sick of the leftovers and have to toss a lot out.

It makes meals more flavorful.  When cooking meals in the pressure cooker, you often have to add more amounts of spices, probably due to the lack of evaporation in the recipe and the reduced time in cooking.  That being said, once you do add the extra spices, your food comes out cooked perfectly and wonderfully flavorful.  I have found that I haven't wanted to add salt to anything I have cooked in my Instant Pot.

It has saved and is going to save us money.  Let's do a little bean math!  Just in this last week alone, I have made recipes with the equivalent of about 15 cans of beans (Keep in mind that my husband has been eating 1.5+ cups of beans a day, and we had my parents over to visit for the weekend).  At my grocery store, a can of low sodium beans costs around $1, making our weekly bean consumption equal to $15 worth of cans.  BUT, because of the pressure cooker, I have been using dried beans in all of our meals.

15 cans = 22.5 cups of beans
1 lb dried beans = 8 cups cooked beans
1 lb dried beans = $2
22.5 cups beans = 2.8 lbs dried beans = $5.63

That saves almost $10 in one week alone!  That equates to over $500 in savings over a year.  That number alone makes the pressure cooker worth the money!

Now, on to the recipe!  I made this in my pressure cooker as adapted from Lorna Sass' Black Bean Chili recipe from Great Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure.  I started with her recipe and added in extra veggies, different beans, and different spices.  While this recipe was made in a pressure cooker, it can easily be done on the stove top or in a crock pot with pre-cooked beans (amounts in parenthesis).  Please see the instructions below for each adaptation.

Three Bean Chili
Time: 
    Pressure Cooker: 10 minutes prep, 12 minutes high pressure, 10 minute natural pressure release
    Stove top: 10 minutes prep, 30 minutes cooking (with canned beans)
    Crock pot: 10 minutes prep, 4 hours high/8 hours low (with canned beans)
Servings: 6-8


Ingredients:
    Soak:
        2/3 cup dried black beans, soaked for 8 hours (or 1 1/2 cup cooked black beans/1 can)
        2/3 cup dried pinto beans, soaked for 8 hours (or 1 1/2 cup cooked pinto beans/1 can)
        2/3 cup dried red beans, soaked for 8 hours ( or 1 1/2 cup cooked red or kidney beans/1 can)

    Saute:
        1 tsp cumin seeds
        2 cups onion, chopped
        1 Tbsp minced garlic

    Add:
        3 1/2 cups water or vegetable broth, boiling
        3/4 cup carrots, chopped, about 2 carrot sticks
        1/4 cup celery, chopped, about 1 celery stick)
        1 red bell pepper, de-seeded and chopped
        2 Tbsp mild chili powder
        1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
        1 1/2 tsp cumin
        1 tsp smoked paprika
        1/2 tsp coriander
        1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, optional

    After Pressure Cooking:
        1-14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
        1-14.5 oz can tomato sauce

    Topping Ideas:
        fresh cilantro
        fresh parsley
        cashew sour cream (recipe from Helyn's Healthy Kitchen)
        green onions
        nutritional yeast
        roasted red peppers
        black olives
        favorite hot sauce
        shredded vegan cheese



Pressure Cooker Instructions:
1.)  Rinse and pick over all of the dried beans.  In a large bowl combine all of the dried beans and cover with water.  Allow to soak for at least 8 hours.  Drain and rinse after soaking.
2.)  In the pressure cooker, saute the cumin seeds, onion, and minced garlic for 5 minutes, adding vegetable broth or water to prevent burning as needed.
3.)  Add the remaining ingredients, reserving the diced tomatoes and tomato sauce for after pressure cooking.  Stir well and lock lid into place, with the venting valve closed.  Set to manual high pressure for 12 minutes.  Once 12 minutes are up, allow the pressure cooker to go into warming mode for 15 minutes.
4.)  After 15 minutes, turn the warming unit off and quick release any remaining pressure, OR allow pressure to come all the way down naturally.  Stir in the can of diced tomatoes and can of tomato sauce.  Allow to cool and thicken with the lid off if time allows.  If you find the chili isn't thick enough, blend 1-2 cups in a high speed blender and return to the pot, or use an immersion blender.
5.)  Serve hot with any of the topping ideas above.



Stove top Instructions:
1.) Drain and rinse the 3 cans of beans.
2.) In a large dutch oven, saute the cumin seeds, onion, and minced garlic on high heat for 5 minutes, adding vegetable broth or water to prevent burning as needed.
3.)  Add the remaining ingredients including the diced tomato and tomato sauce.  Stir well to incorporate.
4.)  Bring to a boil, and then lower heat.  Cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  You may need to add more liquid as needed to achieve your desired chili consistency.  If you find the chili isn't thick enough, blend 1-2 cups in a high speed blender, or use an immersion blender.
5.)  Serve hot with any of the topping ideas above.

Crock pot Instructions:
1.) Drain and rinse the 3 cans of beans.
2.) In a frying pan on the stove top, saute the cumin seeds, onion, and garlic for 5 minutes.
3.) Add all ingredients, including the diced tomatoes and tomato sauce, to the crock pot.  Stir well to incorporate.
4.)  Cook covered in the crock pot on high for 4 hours or low for 8 hours.  You may need to add more liquid as needed to achieve your desired chili consistency.  If you find the chili isn't thick enough, blend 1-2 cups in a high speed blender, or use an immersion blender.
5.)  Serve hot with any of the topping ideas above.

Amy's Notes:
I have not tried this recipe on the stove top or crock pot, but I assume the results will be deliciously similar.

With the pressure cooker method, you can decrease the cooking time even more by using canned/cooked beans.  If this is the case, I would reduce the cooking time at high pressure to 7 minutes with a natural pressure release.  Just use your best judgement as you change the recipe!

This chili is wonderfully flavorful!  I have been enjoying it on its own with some of the toppings above, but it would also be great served on any type of baked potato; with a cooked whole grain like brown rice, barley, or quinoa; or with tortilla chips on the side.  This time, I served mine with nutritional yeast, cilantro, green onions, and roasted red pepper.

Health and Happiness,

Amy