Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Manila Mangos Are Here! These Sweet And Delicious Fruits Are Great In Raw Salsa And Chia Pudding- Two Easy Vegan Recipes!

Manila mangos blend beautifully with avocados

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T'is the Season!
Manila mangos are here! They are smaller, sweeter and less stringy than other popular mangos. They also have a very thin skin so the best way of peeling this type of mango is with a potato peeler. Their pit is very thin so you get lots of fruit per mango. They are a great source of dietary fiber as well as vitamins A and C.

These little guys are a just a bit over half a pound each.
Unlike some other mangos, their pit is very thin.

Our Favorite Way to Eat Mangos
When these mangos are available, Doug and I kid about falling below the "minimum mango" level. That means we have less than 4 in the house and it's time to buy more! Almost every day we enjoy chia pudding with diced mango and sometimes we add some berries. This healthy dessert is under 200 calories with over 3 grams of omega 3 per serving! 
For a great appetizer, we mix a mango with an avocado and make a quick salsa. Here are two yummy, healthy and easy recipes to enjoy!

Manila mango salsa with organic blue corn chips.

Raw Vegan Manila Mango Salsa 
[Serves 4]
1 Manila mango, peeled and diced
1 California avocado, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons red onion, diced
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
1 jalapeno, chopped (remove seeds if you want less heat)
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

Combine all ingredients and mix gently. Serve with organic chips or slices of jicama, bell pepper and cucumber.

Per serving (salsa only): 86.2 calories, 5.3 g fat, 0.8 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 1 g protein, 11.5 g   carbohydrates and 3 g dietary fiber.

This delicious and healthy dessert only has 164 calories but packs more than 3 grams of omega 3 fatty acid and 7.5 grams of dietary fiber!

Vegan Vanilla Chia Pudding with Manila Mango and Raspberries
[serves 4]
2 cups vanilla Living Harvest hemp milk
5 tablespoons chia seeds
1 Manila mango, peeled and diced
1 cup fresh organic raspberries

Early in the day, or the night before, combine chia seeds with vanilla hemp milk and stir vigorously with a fork for a minute or so. Let sit for 15 minutes and stir again until the chia seeds are well blended and separated. Let the mixture sit out for an hour, stir one more time and refrigerate at least 8 hours or until thickened and firm.
When thickened, stir the mango into the pudding and place in serving bowls. Top with raspberries and serve.

Per serving: 164 calories, 7.1 g fat, 0.6 g saturated fat, 3.3 g omega 3 and 2.7 g omega 6 fatty acid, 0 mg cholesterol, 3.5 g protein, 22.8 g carbohydrates and 7.5 g dietary fiber. 

Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Earth Day 2011 - How To Find Earth Friendly Companies!

Clip art courtesy of Bobbie Peachey

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Voting with your Wallet!
How would you like to cast a vote about things you strongly believe in each and every time you make a purchase? Wouldn't you like to support socially conscious companies - companies that display a code of ethics, use renewable energy, protect animals, pay fair wages and give back to their local communities? And wouldn't you like to avoid companies that use child labor, pollute the environment, factory farm and discriminate? Seems impossible to do but thanks to a man named Ellis Jones who spent 5 years investigating 1,000 different companies with regards to these issues, it's not difficult at all! 
Dr. Jones created a website, Better World Shopper, that provides all the information you need. A big thanks to my son, Vaughn, for turning me on to this great site. Now I'd like to share it with you! Pass it along to your friends!

This is how Better World Shopper ranks companies

Better World Shopper
This site ranks companies from airlines to wine.
For example:
* Seventh Generation has the highest rating for baby care products while Nabisco, Gerber, Nestle, Luvs and Pampers have the worst.
* Nature's Path and Barbara's are among the highest ranked for cereal while Kraft, Nabisco and Back to Nature are dead last.
* For the best chips Barbara's is the best ranked with Garden of Eatin', Terra and Kettle chips close behind while Pringles and Nabisco are the worst.
* Endagered Species, Rapunzel, Equal Exchange, AlterEco and Divine are the best ranked chocolates while Nestles, Perugina, Toblerone and Crunch are at the bottom of the list.
* For the best cleaning products, Seventh Generation, Oxo Brite, Earth Friendly, Method and Dr. Bronner's are ranked the best while the worst ranked include household names like Soft Scrub, Joy, Procter & Gamble, Ivory, Swiffer, Dial, Mr. Clean and Dawn.
* Highly ranked coffees include Thanksgiving, Cafe Human, Equal Exchange while the worst ranked include Maxwell House, Gevalia and Sanka.  The omnipresent Starbucks got a B+.
* OK girls, I've got to cover cosmetics too. Aveda (thank goodness, my favorite), Aubrey, EO, Zia, Body Shop, Colorganics, Kiss My Face and Pangea are on top with Dr. Hauschka close behind. Max Factor, Olay and Covergirl are on the bottom!
* Getting back to food, Organic Valley and Nancy's are ranked the highest for dairy alternatives but some of our favorites like Wildwood, WholeSoy, Stonyfield Farm and So Delicious are close behind. Cool Whip and Carnation are dead last!
* We all resort to an energy bar now and then. Clif, Luna and Alpsnack are at the top of the list with Nutiva, Nature's path, BumbleBar, Optimum, Larabar, Raw Revolution and Health Valley close to the top. On the bottom you will find Balance, South Beach and the ever popular PowerBar!
* For meat alternatives, Amy's, Fantastic Foods, Wildwood and Sunshine Burgers are highly ranked while Boca was on the bottom! This was disappointing - I like Boca burgers. My other favorites, Primal Strips, got a "C". 
* Kettle is the highest ranked peanut butter and jelly with Cascadian Farms, Maranatha, Arrowhead Mills and Woodstock near the top. Peter Pan and Knott's are on the bottom with the popular Skippy almost failing with a "D+".
* For the best ranked pizza, Amy's is on the top with American Flatbread a close second while Tombstone, Stouffer's, DiGiorno, California Pizza Kitchen and Boca all getting the lowest grades.
* Honest Tea, Tao of Tea, Choice, Traditional Medicinals and Equal Exchange are the top ranked teas with Numi, Zhena's Gypsy, Guayaki and Republic of Tea very near the top tea companies. Nestea is on the bottom and Lipton is pretty far down also with a "D+". 
* As an owner of a small vineyard, I can't forget to mention wine! For the best ranked wine, visit your local vineyards! Frey, Fetzer, La Rocca are also near the top. There were no "F" grades given but Sterling got a "D".
These are just a few examples and I only included the companies at the very top and the very bottom for each categy, so you should check out the complete rankings.

For Convenience, Buy the Guide
For a small guide you can carry with you when shopping, buy The Better World Shopping Guide. I just did! 

Happy Shopping and Happy Earth Day! 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Roasted Beet Salad With Oranges And Pecans In An Orange Vinaigrette Dressing

Beets and Oranges - A marriage that was meant to last!

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Just Natural Together
There are few flavors that blend together quite as well as beets and oranges! I still have some winter beets in my garden which probably should have been eaten already so I picked a few of those. And the oranges are just ripening on the tree so I plucked a few of them too. I used 1/2 an orange to make a quick vinaigrette and the rest went into the salad. The most time was spent waiting for the beets to roast.

Preparing Beets
My main goal in preparing beets is to avoid dying my hands and ruining my clothes! So I avoid touching them as much as possible. In my post on Raw vegan beet and radish salad with meyer lemon vinaigrette, I prepare the raw beets wearing plastic gloves. In roasting beets, I just carefully trim the tops and bottoms of the beets, and never touch them again - using a fork and knife to carefully peel the skin off after roasting. To further avoid making a mess, I roast the beets in an aluminum foil tent. I don't worry about the contact with aluminum since the skin is going to be removed.

Trim the beets and place in heavy duty foil.

Make a foil tent for roasting.
 Be careful of stem when opening.

Save the Greens
Don't just toss away those beautiful greens. They are a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamins A,  C, E and K, important B vitamins like thiamin, riboflavin and vitamin B6 as well as key minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, copper and manganese. Due to the high content of oxalic acid in beet greens, however, much of the calcium will not be absorbed.

Lightly steam the beet greens.

Pecans - Get Them While you Can!
I love pecans. They are one of my favorite nuts. Having lived in Texas for so many years, I was spoiled with those big, yummy, Texas pecans. Well as it turns out, lots of people love them - especially the Chinese. According to a recent article, "Shell Shock: Chinese Demand Reshapes U.S. Pecan Business", the Chinese went from buying almost no pecans 5 years ago to buying 1/4 of the U.S. crop in 2009 and it continues to grow. Well, even though we are going to see prices go up due to this new demand, I feel good about farmers making some more money.  

Roasted Beet and Orange Salad with Pecans
[serves 4]
For the salad
4 medium beets
1 1/2 fresh seedless oranges
12 raw pecan halves
heavy duty aluminum foil
For the dressing
3 tablespoon freshly squeezed orange juice (from 1/2 an orange)
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Trim the tops and bottoms from the beets and place in a sheet of aluminum foil. Fold over each side of the foil and crimp each end, tightly enclosing the beets. Roast in the oven for 1 1/2 hours or until done. Be careful when you open the foil tent as steam will escape quickly.
Hold the end of the beet with a fork and with a butter knife in your other hand, gently scrap off the skin. Once peeled, slice the beets and place them in a bowl.
Cut the top and bottom off the oranges with a knife (but make sure you've already removed the zest). Then holding upright, cut the skin off with a knife. Cut the orange in half, and then slice into pieces. (I prefer cutting rather than peeling so that you are exposing the flesh and not chewing into membrane). Place orange in bowl with the beets. 
Add pecan halves.
Combine all dressing ingredients, add to the salad and toss until well combined.
Top with freshly ground black pepper and serve.

Per serving: 126.4 calories, 6.7 g fat, 0.8 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 1.9 g protein, 15.8 g carbohydrates and 3.6 g dietary fiber.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Sailing With Nutritionist, Keri Glassman On A Mind, Body & Spirit Cruise - My Opinion Of Her High ORAC O2 DIet

Keri Glassman
Nationally recognized nutritionist and author

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Learning About Nutrition on a Cruise?
On Tuesday, I wrote about many of my favorite experiences on the Mind, Body, & Spirit Cruise that we recently took. Besides all the great activities like Zumba, yoga, ballroom dancing, stretching and massage, there were some very good lecturers, the best of whom was Keri Glassman. Since I am a nutritionist, it's not a surprise that I would enjoy the lectures about nutrition the most. But I must say, it takes a lot of guts to stand up in front of a bunch of people vacationing on a cruise and discuss nutrition! (Pardon me miss Glassman, could you speed up the lecture as it's interfering with the ice cream social on the Lido deck!).
Much to the credit of the passengers, the seats were filled and people were truly interested in learning more about nutrition. Much to her credit, she encouraged people to listen, enjoy the cruise and practice some of her ideas once everyone got home. Had she told everyone to avoid anything delicious while vacationing, they most certainly would have stop listening.

Lecture #1 - Living a Nutritious Life
In her first lecture, Ms. Glassman discussed the key elements of "living a nutritious life".  What was the most interesting was that the majority of the items did not involve food! In fact, she claims that the first thing she focuses on with new clients are the non-food items like sleeping more or drinking enough water. Here are the key elements that were discussed.

Key Elements to Lifelong Health, Wellness and Energy
* Drink Up
Since our bodies are mostly water, it's important to stay hydrated. Dehydration slows down your metabolism, makes you tired and makes it difficult to concentrate. Quite often, claims Ms. Glassman, people mistake hunger for thirst. She recommends drinking eight 8 oz. glasses of water per day. Although she prefers drinking green tea, she did not discourage the consumption of a good cup of coffee as it has been shown to be a good antioxidant, prevent diabetes, liver cancer and Parkinson's while increasing your endurance. But, coffee and tea do not take the place of the eight glasses of water!
* Get Enough Sleep
Ms. Glassman points out that when a person sleeps less than 8 hours a day, their chances of obesity increases significantly. Sleeping only 6 hours increases your risk of obesity by 23%, 5 hours increases it by 50% and getting only 4 hours of sleep increases your risk as much as 73%! She claims that getting a bad night sleep leads to poor food choices and will result in a person eating 300 more calories the next day.
In addition, poor sleep decreases immunity and accelerates aging. Bottom line, get adequate sleep!
* Exercise Steady
Ms. Glassman encourages consistent exercise with the emphasis on CONSISTENT. She recommends scheduling exercise (just like we schedule dental appointments), setting athletic goals and alternating workouts. Goals don't have to be lofty - make them reasonable and achievable. 
Ms. Glassman reminds us that consistent exercise lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease and depression while improving bone health, reducing stress, improving sleep and increasing muscle mass. The benefit of increasing muscle mass is that you burn more calories even when you're resting.
* Stress Less
When you are stressed, your body produces cortisol which leads to hunger and the storage of fat. 
Continual stress leads to heart disease, GI problems, headache, fatigue, allergies, depression and a craving for carbohydrates. To combat stress, Ms. Glassman encourages meditating (if even for 5 minutes), taking a walk, eating whole grains (which promote a steady flow of serotonin), eating throughout the day and exercising.
* Your World
Ms. Glassman encourages us to better control things in our personal environment or in "our world". 
Simple things like eating on smaller plates, organizing our refrigerator to more easily display our healthy foods and placing plants around our house to clean the air. Pamper yourself by placing some lavender in your bedroom.
* Sex Ed
Sex burns calories (200 calories in 30 minutes), lowers blood pressure and increases oxytocin which Ms. Glassman states has beneficial antioxidant properties. My husband loved this part of the lecture.  I can see why she has a successful practice!
* Eat Empowered
When a person is "on a diet", they feel like they are depriving themselves of something. Ms. Glassman focuses her clients on "what they CAN eat" and not on "what they CAN'T eat". I cannot agree with her more which is why I focus most of my blog on delicious recipes that just happen to be healthful! 

Lecture #2 - The O2 DIet
Oxidative stress, or the generation of "free radicals"  has been associated with the development of many diseases and with the process of aging. Ms. Glassman points out that free radicals can come from many sources like UV exposure, pollution, stress, some foods (like transfats) and some medications. They are also a natural bi-product of the many chemical reactions in our cells. Antioxidants combat free radicals. In Ms. Glassman's  book, "O2 DIet", she encourages eating foods with lots of antioxidants. Specifically, she wants people to rack up 30,000 ORAC points a day.

Ms. Glassman discusses her book, O2 Diet
What's an ORAC?
ORAC stands for the Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity and measures the degree to which a food can destroy free radicals. For a comprehensive list of foods and their ORAC values prepared by the US Department of Agriculture, check out their Latest Report

The O2 Diet
Ms. Glassman encourages people to "Eat Empowered" and focus on what you can eat, not what you can't. She feels that people will be more motivated to eat healthful foods when they realize their capacity to do good. And what more can a food do than squash those nasty free radicals that have been associated with disease and aging! She claims that the antioxidant power of the blood increases 10 to 25% when you consume 3,000 to 5,000 ORAC points a day. There are antioxidants in fruits, veggies, herbs, whole grains, good fats, tea and wine.
Some of the foods she encourages eating (along with links to Foods For Long LIfe recipes that include them) are:
* Blueberries (9,700 ORAC per cup) - high in anthocyanins, good for memory and balance.
* Cinnamon (7,000 ORAC per teaspoon) - cures fatigue, increases alertness and eases frustration.
* Pumpkin  (600 ORAC per cup) - high in vitamin A, good for skin and elastin, reduces signs of aging.
* Artichokes (7,900 ORAC each) - lowers cholesterol and is anti-inflammatory.
* Green tea (3,000 ORAC/cup) - good for weight loss as it burns calories and lowers body fat.
* Lentils (7,500 per 1/2 cup) - a lean protein high in fiber, B vitamins, iron and zinc.
* Rosemary (400 ORAC/ teaspoon 
* Avocado (700 ORAC in 1/4 avocado) - contains glutathione that blocks absorption of bad fats.
* Sweet potatoes (2,400 ORAC per potato) - has over 400% of RDA of vitamin A.
* Spinach (2,400 ORAC/ cup) 
* Cherries (3,500 ORAC per ?) - anti-inflammatory, lowers cholesterol.
* Dark chocolate (5,900 ORAC/ ounce) - high in flavonoids, excellent for heart health.
* Pistachios (1,000 ORAC in 18 nuts) - high in plant sterols, good for the heart.
* Oatmeal (600 ORAC per serving) - helps produce seratonins and help overcome stress.
* Orange (3,000 ORAC per orange) - high in vitamin C, helps reduce stress.
* Plums (4,100 ORAC per serving) - lowers anxiety and helps reduce depression.

Should we Focus on ORAC?? My Opinion
My opinion of this diet only comes from her lecture as I have not read the book. The foods she recommends are certainly great foods and I totally agree with her about focusing on the wonderful and healthful foods you CAN eat and not those that you cannot. 
The only issue I have with the O2 diet is the idea of making sure you eat 30,000 ORAC points per day based on the foods she has in the book. First of all, her book is based on the older ORAC list of only 277 foods but even the latest release only contains 326 foods. So there are LOTS of wonderful foods that do not have ORAC ratings and I would hate for you to avoid them just because they won't help you get to your daily 30,000 points! Also, for those of you who have looked up ORAC lists in the past, you will agree that there is a lot of conflicting data out there. The Department of Agriculture list should be the ORAC bible but the ORAC measurements are per 100 grams, not more useful measurements like "per teaspoon" or "per cup". In any event, use the list to point out the good foods but don't avoid things you inherently know are healthful just because they have not yet been evaluated. 
My rule of thumb for a healthful diet is to fill your plate with lots of colorful fruits and veggies - the more color the better as that is an easy way to determine the amount of healthful plant chemicals in your meal. That's a lot easier than counting ORAC points. 

I thoroughly enjoyed Ms. Glassman's two presentations. I think it's important to be reminded that things like drinking enough water, getting enough sleep, exercise and sex, and doing things to reduce your stress level are critical to weight loss as well as general health. I often forget to drink enough water and I'm too hyperactive to meditate. But she said even 5 minutes of meditation would help reduce stress. I think even I can pull that off!
I think her O2 diet presentation was probably targeted to meat eaters who may not have a very good diet (like many of the people who were on the cruise). Anyone who is presently eating the typical American diet full of factory farmed meat and processed foods would greatly benefit from switching to the O2 diet or any other diet that promotes eating more whole grains, fruits and veggies. If you are a  raw food vegan, you're most likely getting your daily 30,000 ORAC points in your morning smoothie! OK, maybe that's an exaggeration but starting the day with a blueberry, pear and spinach smoothie will certainly give you a good start! 
All in all, if Ms. Glassman's book is as good as her lectures, I think it will be a worthwhile read. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Zumba On The High Seas With Diane Hedrick - The Highlight Of My 10 Day Mind, Body & Spirit Cruise On The Crystal Symphony

Morning Zumba on the deck with Cabo San Lucas in the background

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Another Healthy Vacation
Last year I posted How to take a healthy cruise and have fun without the weight gain. Feeling pretty confident that I could do this again, Doug and I jumped at the chance when we got a great deal on a 10 day "Mind, Body & Spirit" cruise to the Mexican Riviera on the Crystal Symphony. But besides just focusing on the healthy food options, this time I focused on the full agenda of healthy lectures and activities. 
Cruises and other types of "all inclusive" vacations can be dangerous if you slip into the mode of trying to "eat and drink your money's worth". But try to remember that the lovely memory of that last chocolate dessert fades long before the fat it put on your thighs! There are always wonderful food choices to make, especially on cruises where they bend over backwards to please you. 

Lots of wonderful ingredients for a salad.
My favorites were beets, artichoke hearts, garbanzo beans and hearts of palm!
Healthy fruit options for dessert but even the "decadent" desserts were presented in small, bite-sized servings

Zumba - What a Surprise!
I adore Zumba. My mother was a great dancer and taught me and my brother how to dance as soon as we could walk. She especially liked Latin dance. So when I was introduced to Zumba, which is just doing fun dance-like exercises to Latin music, it was love at first sight. And although my mom passed away 7 years ago, I feel her dancing beside be in every Zumba class.
Even though I knew this was a "Mind, Body & Spirit" cruise, I didn't know that there were going to be Zumba classes! But not only were there classes (7 classes in 10 days!!), they had the best Zumba instructor that I've EVER had! Diane Hedrick has been a professional dancer all her life so Zumba was a good fit for her. Diane's energy was infectious and she managed to pick all my favorites tunes for her playlist. If you live in the greater Los Angeles area, you will really enjoy her classes. Even with 10 days of cruising, I managed not to gain any weight and my body fat actually went down a percent! 

Diane's energy is infectious.
She inspired students from 20 to 80!

Keep Moving!
Besides Zumba, there were even more options for me to work off the wonderful food. Doug and I enjoyed taking ballroom dance classes and were lucky enough to have instructors that danced and looked like they just walked off Dancing with the Stars! We took our first dance classes on our honeymoon cruise and every time we take a lesson, we wonder why we don't do this more often!

Ballroom dancing lessons with Latin Dance champions Mark Sasnovksi & Lizl Jooste
Yoga class with instructor Melanie Camp
They also offered yoga and Tai Chi but unfortunately the Tai Chi classes were given at the same time as Zumba so I wasn't able to take them. But there were two other things that I did take advantage of that were great - stretch and massage.

Posture Analysis and Stretch Exercises
By now you must have figured out that we found a deal with lots of "on board credit" so we took advantage of everything we would normally be too frugal to do. One of them was to have our posture analyzed by their fitness director, Rob.
After analyzing our posture, Rob gave us special exercises to do that would strengthen certain muscles. Then he gave us both a really good stretch. It was one of those things that "hurt so good". 

Rob stretched muscles I didn't know I had.
I didn't know my leg could go back that far. Ouch!

Massage and Reflexology
I love getting massages but I rarely ever do it. When I asked the therapist how often I should get a massage, she said once a week! I'm lucky if I go once a year. But she's right, I definitely need to go more often. So to make up for lost time, I had two deep tissue massages and also some reflexology work. Reflexology is where they massage different zones of your feet that correspond to areas of your body. My girlfriend's reflexologist once insisted that she get a lung x-ray after massaging her foot and finding something unusual in the zone that corresponded to her lungs. After finally agreeing to get the lung x-ray, she was shocked to find that it revealed a large tumor! Thank goodness it was benign. 

Chantelle giving me a wonderful deep tissue massage

Just a Walk around the Deck
One of my favorite things to do a cruise ship is to walk around the deck. On the last morning of the cruise, I popped out of bed at 6:00 AM to have one last walk. We were already docked in LA and I watched the sun rise as I walked a few miles. I met Joe, a 71 year old gentleman from Chicago, who joined me. As we walked, he told me how he had a heart bypass operation 20 years ago. Having heart disease at 50 certainly made him a true believer in exercise and healthy eating! 

In between all these activities, there were some wonderful lectures - the best of which were given by nutritionist Keri Glassman. I took copious notes on her presentations and will summarize them in a separate post.

Vacation at Home
All this was great but we shouldn't wait until we can go on vacation to take care of ourselves. I realized that the most wonderful part of the vacation were things I can do at home. So if you can't get away right now, try one or more of these:
* Eat healthy meals - try some of the 200+ recipes on this blog.
* Find a zumba class near you at this class location website. If you are lucky enough to live in LA, sign up with Diane Hedrick!
* Find a yoga class at YogaFinder.
* Schedule a massage at a local spa or search the massage therapists directory.
* Put on a record and dance with your significant other or find a place to learn and practice ballroom dancing. 
* Start your day with a long walk.
* End your day with a good stretch.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Can You Become Addicted To A Curried Pumpkin Enchilada? A Review Of Avatar's Punjabi Burrito Restaurant In Petaluma, California

Vegan curried pumpkin enchilada with quinoa

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A Great Find
It's hard to say what is more amazing - the food at Avatar's Punjabi Burrito or the owner! Let me start by telling you about the owner. 
Ashuk Kumar graduated from Berkeley in 1988 with a degree in Business. Coming from a prestigious school like Berkeley, I'm sure he had many wonderful and lucrative opportunities. In fact, he worked at Cisco for 6 months. But this wasn't his passion. His passion was food. So with the small amount of money he saved while working at Cisco, $10,000 from his mom and a bank loan, he bought (of all things) a hamburger place in Sausalito.
What he did next was pretty crazy. Way back then, when people were still smoking in offices and no one talked much about things like gluten, Ashuk put out a big board in front of his new establishment. It said, "Non smoking restaurant", "Gluten Free", and "Vegan, Sodium Free and Carb Free Upon Request". Instead of hamburgers, he developed a "fusion" menu combining the flavors and cuisine of the places that he had lived and traveled - Mexico, Jamaica, India and Italy. Ashuk laughed as he told me how the hamburger clientele left in droves because of the "weird food" and the ban on smoking. I'm sure he wasn't laughing then after investing his life savings in this new concept. 
He caught a break when some executives from Autodesk, a nearby company, told all of their employees about this wonderful new restaurant. The next day, 72 people showed up at his door! The rest is history. He opened another restaurant in Mill Valley 17 years ago and less than a year ago, he opened Punjabi Burrito in Petaluma. 

Now about the Food
Although Ashuk has been a vegetarian for 46 years, this is not solely a vegetarian restaurant. Seafood and some meat dishes are on the menu. From Mexican enchiladas, Italian ravioli to Jamaican jerk chicken, all of his dishes are influenced by Indian spices. But what's on the menu is not important. Ashuk will usually ask you what you like and then show up with something he promises you'll love! Although he is usually at his Sausalito location, he assures me that his Petaluma team can also customize meals to your liking.
I do believe my favorite vegan dish is the curried pumpkin enchilada. I'm not sure of the ingredients but their are distinct flavors of mango, tamarind, chutney and curry. Now that I've tasted this, I don't believe I can live without it! I'm truly addicted!

Ashuk explains the menu to 16 hungry vegans from Compassionate Living Outreach at a Meetup in March
Blackened seasonal vegetables which chick peas
Vegan mustard greens and spinach enchiladas with rice

Give it a try!
If you live in northern California or come for a visit, give this restaurant a try!
Punjabi Burrito is located at 131 Kentucky Street in Petaluma.
Ashuk's other two restaurants are:
The original Avatar's located at 2656 Bridgeway Blvd in Sausalito and 
Avatar's Punjabi Burrito located at 15 Madrona St., Mill Valley.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Organic Fruits And Vegetables - Are They Worth The Extra Money?

Peaches can contain lots of pesticides - buy organic !

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Eat your Fruits and Veggies!
Research shows that people who eat a healthy diet that includes lots of colorful fruits and veggies have less incidences of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, stroke and high blood pressure. For some, eating 5 to 7 servings of fruits and vegetables is a struggle. For vegetarians, vegans and raw foodists, not so much. I had that many servings in my smoothie this morning! But eating lots of plants can expose us to dangerous pesticides and other chemicals that can damage our health. We can avoid this exposure when we buy foods that have been grown without the use of pesticides or chemical fertilizer.

Buying Organic
It's hard to wrap your head around paying $6 for a few pounds of apples and sometimes you just can't bring yourself to do it. So if you're on a budget (who's not?) and you need to make a decision about where to spend the money, you might be interested in a guide that was put together by the Environmental Working Group. After carefully reviewing data from almost 89,000 tests on produce for pesticide residue, they came up with what they call The Dirty Dozen. These are the absolute worst fruits and vegetables to eat with respect to the amount of pesticides they contain. So these are the ones you should spend the extra money to buy organic. Don't avoid them!! There are some beauties here that have healthful properties. Here's their list in the order of their pesticide content - #1 being the worst:
1. Celery
2. Peaches
3. Strawberries
4. Apples
5. Blueberries
6. Nectarines
7. Bell Peppers
8. Spinach
9. Cherries
10. Kale and Collard Greens
11. Potatoes
12. Imported Grapes

Ways to Save Money
Sometimes you can get organic fruits and vegetables without spending the extra money. Many times I go to the farmers market and ask the farmers if their food is organic. They often tell me that they grow their food using organic methods but they don't want to spend the time and effort to get certified. 
Another place that I find reasonably priced, organic produce is at Cosco. Yes, I know, it's a big box store but it's a great way to have access to affordable, organic fruits and veggies. They have megasize bags of organic spinach and mixed salad greens.  I also buy their huge bags of organic frozen blueberries and peaches for my smoothies. 
The Environmental Working Group also created a list of the Clean 15. These are the top 15 fruits and vegetables with the lowest amounts of pesticides. So if you have to buy conventionally grown foods, these are the ones with the least amount of risk. Here's the list with #1 being the best:
1. Onions
2. Avocados (thank goodness, my fav!)
3. Sweet Corn
4. Pineapple
5. Mangos
6. Sweet Peas
7. Asparagus
8. Kiwi
9. Cabbage
10. Eggplant
11. Cantaloupe
12. Watermelon
13. Grapefruit
14. Sweet Potato
15. Honeydew Melon

The EWG points out that eating 5 fruits and veggies from the Dirty Dozen results in you consuming an average of 10 pesticides a day - yikes! This drops to 2 pesticides a day if you are eating from the Clean 15. I don't know about you but I don't feel good about consuming even 2 pesticides a day! I surely wouldn't feel good about serving them to my loved ones. 
Of course my favorite way to save money and avoid ALL pesticides in to grow lots of my own food. Check out 10 Good reasons to plant a garden and  How to build a raised bed vegetable garden box. So dig out those high maintenance plants in your front yard and put in a vegetable garden! What could be more beautiful or healthful than that?