Sunday, March 29, 2009

Healthy Eating for Tough Times

Let's try this again . . .

Well, this is my first post in a while and I have a really good excuse . . . like many folks out there I was layed off . . . wish it were laid vs. layed off. It helps to start with a joke. I was without a puter for a while and I just recently bought a MacBook. I feel all Carrie Bradshaw now.

Like many folks out there, I too am dealing with having less $$$ to spend on food but I still have the desire to eat healthy. So I have some tips:

- Eat more vegetarian meals. These can still be high protein. Mike Mahler is an excellent example of a vegan athlete. Check out Mike eats high protein but completely vegan. This can be done with some careful meal planning involved. Lentils are inexpensive and have both protein and fiber. I love white beans and kale. Also, tofu is usually less than $2.00 for a package. is a gold mine for great vegan recipes.

- Drink green smoothies. My local ethnic mart has cheap produce in the back of the store, such as apples and spinach. Greens don’t have to be expensive, parsley and cilantro are inexpensive nutrient dense greens. Take a handful of parsley, chop up a pear or two and blend it all together. Add water to make shake less thick.

-Organic canned tuna is one of the cheapest protein sources out there. Trader Joe’s offers the best deals on organic canned fish. I like to take canned tuna, some low-fat mayo and a handful of nutritional yeast flakes and process in a food processor and you’ve got yourself a good tuna salad. If you process it a bit longer, it becomes that high protein veggie dip I mentioned in a previous post.

Freeze it up . . .

Freeze whatever fresh produce you don’t use. Or puree leftover carrots and greens for a nice veggie soup or a sauce.

Freeze leftover wine (or wine you tried but weren’t that crazy about). Sure freezing will decrease the alcohol content but it can enhance a tomato sauce into a better tasting marinara.

Don't throw out left-over coffee but freeze it into cubes and add into protein shakes with cocoa powder for a nice mocha-like protein shake. You can also do this with green tea and blend that into a protein shake with a milk of your choice, some agave nectar and a scoop of vanilla protein powder and Argo Tea has nothing on you.

I heart a bargain . . .

Investigate in your neighborhood restaurant deals on off nights. I live in Lincoln Square where several eateries have happy hours offering half priced drinks and food. Some bars even have free buffets with drinks on certain nights. has some great deals. I treated my Dad to brunch once for about $5 at the lovely Murphy's Irish Bistro. How did I get so lucky? I paid $2.00 for a $25.00 gift certificate during one of their sales.

Go to a BYOB. A friend and I recently dined at the local Thai favorite, Roseded. We each brought our own bottles of wine. Our bill which included an appetizer and two entrees came to $20.00. Imagine how pricy that would be with the additional cost of a few glasses of wine!

Try Trader Joe's vitamins. My chiropractor let me in on a little secret. TJ purchases high quality vitamin brands but uses their own labels. I believe the food-based women's multi is more than likely Rainbow Light.

Shop Costco. I know I know. I just discovered Costco for the first time and it was a . . . whole new world. Enter cheesy Disney music. I bought a bunch of wine, vodka and yes . . . food too, like fresh fish, organic turkey, and produce. I was really impressed.

One Last Tip

You can save a lot of money by simply eating less. I am not advocating anorexia but even Dr. Oz is behind caloric restriction. Yes, I did catch that Oprah show now that I'm unemployed. How you go about it is up to you. You could eat less daily or fast one day a week. There are a bunch of great sites on the topic such as the IF blog (IF = Intermittent Fasting), and

In the next few weeks I will be revamping this blog into more of an exclusive "food allergy coping/advice" blog as I see that there is a real need for that. So I will be cleaning up my language a bit for some of the families out there that might be looking at it. I'm sure I'll find another outlet for my angst. I will keep you all posted.

Cheap Healthy Eats for Touch Times

Friday, February 27, 2009

Becoming Edvard Munch

I just saw the Edvard Munch at the Art Institute during one of the fab free and late Thursday nights. He is one of my all time favs and the show did not disappoint. People find this type of work depressing but I don't. I think it's liberating. For artists, it's more depressing to hold it in than let it out. I really like his color palette and how the Art Institute capitalized on it with a few of its walls painted in maroon and muted shades of viridian and cobalt. While The Scream is his most popular work, it's so wonderful to see his other works which are just as good. You can really see his influence on the graphic art world. I was taken with the very last image titled The Sun. In person it actually radiates. It was one of his last works and what a great ending.

Besides seeing good art, I have been "haunted" by the fact that my 20 year high school reunion is coming up this summer. Yikes, I am so not where I want to be in life. One of my friends said, "Well at least you are not fat." True and em . . . thanks. I guess I could use this reunion to get into even better shape. Speaking of food, I came up with a quickie recipe for left over brown rice. I was thinking that I needed something late afternoon with some protein and good carbs that I could just grab out of the fridge at my busy desk job.

Brown Rice Balls

Brown rice - let's say 1-2 cups
Nut butter
Nutritional yeast flakes
Protein powder

Cook the ole brown rice per directions on the box. I actually prepare mine in the oven which is a recipe from Miss Betty Crocker. First I soak the rice for an hour or two. Then I set the oven to 350 degrees. In a corningware style pot with a lid combine 3/4 cup of rice with 1.5 cups of hot water, a little butter (or not) and salt. Cook about 30 min or longer until it can be fluffed with a folk. My rice always comes out great this way. I never have luck with cooking on top of the stove.

In a bowl, combine the following: the rice (let it cool a bit), 1-2 scoops of protein powder (I used non-flavored Jay Robb egg white protein), a dash of nutritional yeast flakes or salt and 1-2 TBS of nut butter (I like Trader Joe's low-fat peanut butter). Mix it altogether. Form little balls and let set in the fridge on a tray or plate. Then later you can put in ziplock bags and take to work. I eat these cold out of the fridge and they are delish.

You can experiment with spices or try adding cinnamon and agave nectar for a sweeter version. Or maybe you want a savory taste so add a bit of rosemary, more nutritional yeast flakes and some salt.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Native Eating and Other Things

I’ve been fascinated with Paleo (caveman) diets for years. I’m inspired to eat more like my ancestors these days. I was thinking about my hometown of Shererville, IN and what the Native Indians of that area probably ate. It must have been a diet filled with buffalo, bear, venison, catfish, raccoon, catfish, frogs (frog legs are a very popular delicacy), poultry, lots of corn, apples, tubers and whatever greens they could find on the ground. All-in-all a very healthy diet and resourceful. Here’s a recipe for Three Sisters Soups. The “Three Sister’s” being corn, squash and beans.

Three Sisters Soup (Serves about 4 as a main dish)

1 C. dry beans (I personally like white beans but do whatever works for you)
6 C. water
1 acorn squash, cut into chunks or wedges, drizzled w/ olive oil, sprinkled with salt and roasted (375*, 30 minutes covered with foil, plus about 20 minutes uncovered)
1 onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
a couple garlic cloves, minced (the recipe calls for this, garlic doesn’t agree with me so I skip it)
2 C. frozen or fresh corn
2-3 Tbs. chopped fresh herbs (thyme, sage, Italian parsley, or cilantro would be great) salt and pepper to taste
*1 small can of green chillies if you like it spicy
*I like to add J. Robb's Unflavored Protein Powder to boost the protein quota in this soup. I add it towards the end and stir till full blended

First of all you, dry beans should always be soaked before you cook them. I like to soak them for at least 12 hours. The soaking not only makes them cook faster but they digest so much easier. Trust me you'll thank me later.

While you are roasting the acorn squash chunks in the oven, cook your beans in a large pot with the 6 cups of water and 1 tsp. salt to start with. Four cups of the water is for the beans specifically, and the extra two (or more if you like) will accommodate the other soup ingredients.
When the squash is tender, and then cool enough to handle, peel the skin off the flesh and cut into bite sized pieces and set aside. Sautee the onion, carrot and garlic until softened and a little caramelized. Throw it all in together with the frozen corn and simmer for maybe five or ten minutes for the flavors to marry, and add any herbs you have around or some canned green chilies if you want it spicy. Taste for seasoning. I like to add tumeric and some nutritional yeast flakes for some extra tang.

I’m also trying very hard these days to stay away from processed sugar. Even some of the non-processed sugars bother me. Honey creates just as much candida in my body as white sugar. Agave nectar is better but is 60 calories a tablespoon. Stevia is a healthy option but I so wish I liked the taste. I think it’s really bitter. The sweetener I’m loving these days is Wholesome Goodness’s organic erythritol. It’s fermented so it helps digestion too. Best of all, it actually tastes good. I have no candida reactions from it. Hopefully, I won't read years from now that it causes something really really horrible in lab rats and thus humans but so far its seems safe.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Foodie TV and Some “Healthy” Super Bowl Eats

When I’m not painting, exercising, or making food I love me some TV. I admit it! I heart TV. I’m a bit more disciplined than I used to be. I have a new rule: I will allow myself to watch something that I truly enjoy once but I don’t need to see the same episodes of Top Chef five times. I hardly watch regular network TV it’s mostly food and travel shows: Anthony Bourdain, Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern, Paula Dean is good for a laugh, the previously mentioned Top Chef, and Man v. Food with my TV boyfriend, Adam Richman. Adam is the perfect host, enthusiastic but not annoying. He’s warm and polite and just seems like the nicest, coolest guy ever. I wonder if he would date a Shiksa? I wouldn’t doubt that the majority of these shows have audiences filled with dieting or health-conscious women. Grrrrr, let’s watch the big boys eat. I’m kinda living vicariously through them.
Of course when I watch TV I like to eat in front of the TV too as we all do. It’s easy to fill up on junk foods and fatty dips. I came up with a recipe for a High Protein Veggie Dip. It’s basically tuna salad run through a food processor to make it more creamy.

High Protein Veggie Dip
1 can of environmentally-kosher tuna (or canned salmon works too)
A few TBS of reduced fat mayo (Trader Joe’s brand works for me)
A few TBS of mustard, whatever your preference I like Trader Joe’s garlic-mustard
Salt or your favorite seasonings, I like to add a handful of nutritional yeast flakes

Basically drain the tuna and throw the above in the food processor and hit the “food processor” button. You can add more mayo if you want it creamier. You can get creative and add some celery or nuts like in a real tuna salad. Eat it with a spoon or put it on veggies.

Now for a completely different topic, I just started taking tart cherry juice concentrate as a supplement and it is tremendous! My chiropractor, Dr. John Zrelak, turned me on to it. It’s basically a super food for joint pain. It also has natural melatonin which has anti-aging properties and aids sleep. I feel so much more rested when I take it. I’ve discovered all brands are not the same. I really like Fruit Advantage brand. In fact when I ran out I got sick recently and when I started it up again I felt great and shortly got over my cold. Having proper sleep really does boost one’s immunity! Of course the deviant part of my personality came up with a recipe for what I like to call a Medicinal Martini so here it goes . . .

Medicinal Martini
Take 2 TBS of tart cherry juice concentrate
Add some ice and maybe about 1.4 cup of water
Add 1-2 ounces of your favorite vodka
Stir it (just like James Bond) and adjust the taste as you like it—more water or ice is you want it sweeter or go with 2oz. of vodka if you like it stronger

One word of caution: do not drink this during the day. This is a good nightcap actually. Tart cherry concentrate will make you oh so sleepy so enjoy this medicinal tonic at night before bed and NOT while let's say operating heavy machinery. I don’t see why you couldn’t also try black cherry, blueberry or pomegranate concentrate as well. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Very Inspired Weekend Indeed

I saw two great shows over the weekend. The first was an art opening at Thomas Robertello Gallery in the fab West Loop area. Jason Robert Bell is one of my favorite living artists. Years ago (I think I probably blogged about it) he did a show featuring a paleolithic woman called Kayla and it was absolutely stunning and fascinating. This time around his new series called Metaphysical Portraits is just as amazing. In person the work is shiny and smooth yet underneath all that it's very textural. I also like his “Fireclowns”. I even love the name “fireclown”. I overheard Bell talking to someone at the opening and he mentioned that he liked drawing monsters because no one can tell you they look wrong or bad. I liked that idea very much. It’s just gorgeous and magical work that deserves to be seen. I got to meet Bell and he was very nice. Sometimes NY artists can be intimidating but he was really great. Here’s more from the press release:

Bell’s small-scale paintings and sculpture feature enigmatic entities built with layers of paint, paper collage, raw metallic pigments and colored sand trapped within epoxy. The works encase powerful figurative images under smooth glossy surfaces. These metaphysical portraits, whose imagery is the result of years of the artist’s independent research in the fields of mythology, spirituality, symbolism, and speculative thought, are fusions of primitive, modernist, and otherworldly forms producing profoundly playful and arresting imagery.

The second “inspiring” show I saw this past weekend was Jennifer Weigel’s I’m Spiritual Dammit which is a one woman memoir about her struggle to deal with her Dad’s death and to uncover her own spirituality. Her dad was sportscaster Tim Weigel who died in his mid fifties from a brain tumor.

When I saw the postcard for this show I knew there was something special about it plus the title: Climbing the Mountain of Enlightenment With a Martini in One Hand, and My Pumps in the Other...). The weather was really shitty and I was already exhausted from my errand and walking in heavy snow all day, it felt kind of like walking in sand. I even tried to cancel but I couldn't find Goldstar’s number. I even tried to coerce the theatre but they couldn't help me. So I decided to keep my ticket and just go. I guess it was fate because I was meant to see this performance. And wouldn't you know this coming weekend’s weather is going to be even worse.

One of the things that struck me the most is when she mentioned how sick her dad eventually became as he tried to work, he could barely read or write. He said to her, “but Jen I can still love”. She was very honest about their relationship. She was not apart of the perfect Chicago family. She said she didn’t get to know her Dad well until she hit 21 and could go to bars with him. I was also struck by all the "signs" she mentioned in her own life ***spoiler alert**** such as her missing portrait from her employer's Wall of Fame after she talked to a physic about quitting her job and doing what she loves. After the show she talked with everyone and I got to meet her and she could not have been more wonderful. Now I’m reading her book.

This little bit is from her site:

“I don’t want to spoil the ending of the show for anybody, but lets just say that I’m finding that the life and death are kind of the same: they’re just on different channels, so stay tuned.”

Her story or should I say "discovery" reminded me of Jill Bolt Taylor's journey. I'm a sucker for a cynic or intellectual who makes a spiritual turnaround. Something about this experience really made me value my intuition more. It's not silly, it's important. What this weekend also taught me is the importance of being a fan. You have to be a really good fan to be a good artist. It's essential.

In less important news I discovered that I actually like martinis now. Keeping with the theme of the show and all, I had a martini. The Chicago Performing Center let's you drink and watch the plays. Since I’m easing into eating less sugar. Vodka is really the only alcohol that does not contain sugar. So I will allow myself to have one once in a while. I guess I'm an adult now—spiritual, intuitive and a martini drinker.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

It’s 2009 and I’m Flying

My New Year’s resolution to be a FlyLady. No, not fly as in flygirls ala the 1990’s In Living Color but FlyLady which is actually an international internet phenomenon. I tried it a few years back and dropped it because I was suffering from “Programitis” at the time. I was simply trying way too many self-improvement programs at one time and making myself crazy. So this year I’m going to do it right. To give you the 411, a woman named Marla Cilley, went through a lot of personal drama and came up with this home (and well “life”) organization program. It’s all about not being perfect and doing a little each day. She starts you out with baby steps and then gradually you build. Eventually you get little assignments each day. I like the idea of setting a timer to clean a room for 10 minutes then moving on to the next. I kind of practice this concept with my artwork. I can get myself to paint for ten minutes but if I tell myself to paint all Saturday and it better be a masterpiece, I won’t do it.

Cilley’s book Sink Reflections tells the full personal story and outlines everything in detail. The only turn-off is that she is very Christian. I go to a non-denominational church so I really don’t care but if you look at the web site forum you might find a lot of members with names like “BlessedMammaofSix”. I don’t think I’ll be BBFs with anyone on board but I love the nuts and bolts of this program.

Everyday you do this:
- Get dressed up to shoes first thing
- Keep your sink shined
- De-clutter 15 min a day
- A simple morning/evening routine (you don’t have to follow her list to a T she just provides an example)

It’s ironic that this type of planning can allow for spontaneity but it does. If I get all this shit done every day then if someone asks me for coffee I can go and not worry about my housework. I’m having trouble with getting dressed to shoes first thing since my hardwood floors are very old and creaky plus I get up at 5:30 am each morning and nose is simply amplified at that ungodly hour. That concept works better for me on the weekend when I can be a real sloth on Saturday mornings. I also love tips like cleaning the tub while you are (yes, naked) in the shower. I have to say now that my apartment is cleaner I feel less stressed out. It’s becoming a Zen Den. I’m starting to feel like one of those Anne Tainter magnets with the hyper-happy 50’s housewives.

In other news I really did have an amazing New Year’s Eve and Day. I spent it with wonderful friends and a little too much red wine. This holiday season has to rank up there as one of the best. Now that sadly, the party is over I’m easing into my no-sugar, anti-candida diet. It’s too hard to go from double fisting cookies to not consuming ketshup because it contains sugar. My plan is to go a little at a time. First I’m giving up alcohol (maybe I’ll have the occasional vodka martini but nothing with sugar) then minimizing coffee, then taking less of my rasayanas (which are ayurvedic herbal meds with raw honey) and once my tart cherry juice concentrate is used up I’ll switch to the no sugar capsule form till eventually my diet will be completely savory and sugar free. I’m going to *attempt* this for about 3-6 months. Already I see how much I crave that sweet taste. Rarely do I ever have a complete day of just savory tastes. I know the news is pretty bleak these days but I’m excited to see what 2009 will bring. I guess if you want to hear about Blagovich you’ll have to find that in someone else’s blog. ;)