Where do we go from here?

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Joy of Composting

Eating as we are has a side effect that could either be considered a drawback or a gift, I suppose.  It is the  enormous amount of organic waste that piles up daily in the compost bucket by the kitchen sink.  Everything goes into it: peels, cores, shells, rinds, trimmings, grinds, teabags, even used paper towels and coffee filters. The paper towels are made of recycled paper and the coffee filters are unbleached (most of the grinds go right under the roses as food for them). So, drawback or gift?  For me, no question - a wondrous gift.  All of this stuff goes into the compost bin in the backyard, where it gets mixed with mulched up leaves and plant clippings.  We just mulched up leaves last week, and they aren't too well-incorporated into the pile yet, but they will be soon.

The center of the pile is full of fat happy worms, turning cantaloupe rinds, peapods, wilted cabbage leaves, onion skins, and old tea leaves into black gold.  We've been here five years now, moved the compost bin with us from Delaware (although we did leave the compost there, dumped it out into what had been our big vegetable garden, and our neighbor came over and scooped much of it up for his garden across the street), and started filling it up from scratch that summer.  Since then I have emptied it several times, using the resulting product in garden beds, planters and pots.  It is very full right now, with the addition of the leaf mulch, but it really needs some time to cook before I can use it. Workng on the compost always makes me so happy, makes me feel connected to everything I love: the earth and the cycle of life and death that is constantly happening all around us.  Because of the drought we're in and the recurring cold weather, weather which froze the emerging leaves on several much-loved plantings,  I haven't really done much planting yet this year. I think June will be my big gardening month, and hopefully there will be some loads of compost ready to go. The slogan "Compost Happens" is a fun euphemism for the real phrase, but in fact, it doesn't just happen.  It entails some knowledge and a bit of work:  Here are some links to sites that can get you started on your own Black Gold project if you don't already have one going, and maybe give you some tips if you are not quite sure what you're doing:

Compost Mania offers both advice and equipment (although really, equipment is nice, but optional).
Composting Section on Journey To Forever  advice, philosophy, The Big Picture
163 Things You Can Compost - A fun list of just exactly what it says.

-- "Man's work with Nature that furthers Nature's aims is the work that rewards him the best." (I-Ching)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Is Vegan Pizza Our Favorite Supper?

I ask myself this question, but I find I do not know the answer.  It is our favorite supper when we are having it for supper.  As we did tonight.  A big fat pizza full of veggies, of which we could only eat half, so there is half left for lunch tomorrow.  It is for sure one of our favorite suppers.  And here is how I make it:

I am a big fan of shortcuts when cooking, as a pizza like this would have taken me all afternoon to make, if I made everything from scratch.  This would have left no time to work in the yard, go to the Y for the daily workout routine, and pick up a few things at Trader Joe's.  So, the first shortcut is the crust - we love Rustic Crusts line of pizza crusts, the Tuscan Six Grain being our favorite.  I bake the crust for about five minutes on a pizza stone, then haul it out of the oven and let it sit and wait for the toppings to get ready.  For the topping I use a mix of fresh and frozen veggies.  Tonight's fresh veg were zucchini, mushrooms and garlic, the frozen were the SW blend from Whole Foods (red and green peppers and onions), roasted corn kernels (from TJ's).  I added some green chile to the mix, sauteed it all until it began to soften.  I used TJ's no-salt-added fire-roasted salsa on the crust instead of tomato sauce, as this pizza has a Southwestern bent, then piled on the veggies.  I sprinkled it all with Daiya shredded cheddar cheese alternative (a great find, it melts and tastes truly almost like cheese), put it back on the pizza stone and baked it for ten minutes in a 450 degree oven.

The first time I tried to make a veggie pizza I didn't prebake the crust, didn't precook the veggies, and it ended up a total catastrophe.  I kept on trying to figure it out, and tonight's was the best ever yet.  I use different vegetables, sometimes use the Daiya mozzarella fake-o cheese, and just have fun with it.  With a big green salad it is a supper that makes us feel happy and blessed to have such a delicious and healthy treat!!

P.S. - Ho! No sooner do I mention Daiya cheese sub in a post, but Ellen Kanner writes about it in her Miami Herald column, The Edgy Veggie.  She includes a recipe for cheese grits, a dish I learned to love as a high school boarding student in North Carolina. Feels good to be in such exalted company.  At last, a vegan cheese that tastes like the real thing.  

Forks Over Knives, or How To Save Your Own Life

So, life (thank the goddess) goes on, and I seem to have less and less time or inclination to sit at the computer. Well, no, the truth is that I quite often have the inclination, but since for the past almost seven months now I have been exercising more and more often than in the past forty or fifty years put together, and have become convinced of the real dangers of spending too much time sitting in a chair, I don't very often act on that inclination. I do miss spending time writing things longer than emails or Facebook status posts however, and since we're all going to be raptured (or the Chosen will be raptured, and I guess the rest of us will just fall into the Great Void) when Judgement Day happens on Saturday, I thought I'd spend a little time on the old blog today (with frequent intervals to get up and jog around the house, mind you).

It's really too bad about that judgement day business, especially if it really happens.  Gail and I have been spending so much time and effort on getting healthy and fit at this late day in our lives, and wondering why we waited so long -  be a damn shame to waste it on getting tossed into la nada by worldwide earthquakes and so forth.  I personally would really like to go down a few more sizes and maybe run a 5K race for a worthy cause of some sort before it's all over.  Maybe even a marathon eventually.  Well, I guess we'll see.

In the meantime my more immediate goal is to be able to see a movie whose progress I've been following for a while now.  It's called Forks Over Knives, and it's about the benefits of exactly what Gail and I have been doing since her Coronary Artery Disease diagnosis in September, eating a plant based, nutritionally dense, vegan diet.  We've also been doing yoga, working out on the treadmill and weight machines at our local Y's, and as soon as the outdoor pool is open (Memorial Day, and we can't wait), swimming, daily.  The movie apparently doesn't deal much with exercise, according to Roger Ebert's review "...Although regular exercise, especially walking, is invaluable, the film shows only a little exercise and focuses singlemindedly on nutrition."  Ebert is most enthusiastic about this film, and says what we have found to be true during our Medical System Journeying after Gail's diagnosis: " 'Forks Over Knives' is not subtle. It plays as if it had been made for doctors to see in medical school. Few doctors seem prepared to suggest proper nutrition as an alternative to pills, stents and bypasses." No doctor has recommended the path we've taken; quite the contrary - the recommendations are all for invasive procedures and/or medications. The reactions to our telling them our plan has universally been snorts of derision. So, we took the initiative to read the very doctors featured in this movie, T. Colin Campbell and Caldwell Esselstyne, and embark on our own vegan adventure.

I've been writing about this adventure in this blog since we started, and think it's time for a little update. Gail, who was not really overweight to start withbut did have some of the dreaded belly fat,  has lost fifteen pounds, her cholesterol has dropped many points, her blood pressure is now very low normal, and she never has any angina, even when racing away at high speeds and inclines on the treadmill.  I, who was quite overweight, have lost almost fifty pounds and my blood pressure is closer to a good normal reading than it has been in my entire adult life.  I won't have a physical and tests until November (first apptmt I could get), but I am expecting my cholesterol to be lower than it has been since I started having it tested in my forties.  It has always been high, and doctors have wanted to put me on medication for years now. So, Gail and I are living proof of this movie's premise, laid out here by T. Colin Campbell himself: 

For more than 2,800 years, the concept of eating plants in their whole-food form has struggled to be heard and adopted as a way of life. However, recent evidence shows that more than ever a plant-based diet is not something to be ignored. In fact, eating a plant-based diet has become an urgent matter from several perspectives. Not only will it improve your health -- and the evidence behind this claim is now overwhelming -- but it will also dramatically reduce health care costs, as well as reduce violence to our environment and to other sentient beings.

The fact is our nation's economic stability, already crumbling due to the repeated bursting of bubbles such as technology and housing, has been hard hit by spiraling health costs that seem to have no end in sight. Despite this, as a nation, we are sicker and fatter than we have ever been. The epidemic of obesity and diabetes, especially in the young, forecasts an economically unsustainable public health challenge with the gloomy prophecy that today's children may not outlive their parents.

Who will protect the public? Not our government: The U.S. Department of Agriculture's nutrition pyramid is laden with food that will guarantee millions will suffer ill health. Not the American Dietetic Association, which is controlled by food corporations. Not the insurance industry, which profits by selling plans to the sick. Not the pharmaceutical industry, which pockets billions from chronic illnesses. And not the medical profession, in which doctors and nurses receive virtually no training in nutrition or behavioral modification, and are handsomely rewarded for administrating drugs and employing technical expertise.

What can save America is a plant-based diet, which will help individuals recover their good health, and which in turn will set our health care system right (as well as our economy). However, for this plant-based diet to take hold, the public must be endowed with nutritional literacy, the kind of knowledge that is portrayed in the new documentary, "Forks Over Knives."

"Forks Over Knives" focuses not just on the research that both of us have been engaged in over the last four decades, whether in China and Cornell or at the Cleveland Clinic; it also traces the journey of several Americans as they move from a lifetime of eating mostly animal-based and processed foods to a whole food plant-based diet, and the extraordinary medical results that follow. It is educational, entertaining, and literally life-saving.

See this movie if it comes to a theatre, or even a town, near you. It would be so great if this movie actually provided the impetus this country needed toget itself off the track of degenerative illness and onto one of real health care. (Cross-posted to Women On.)