Pedaling for Peace

On April 15, 2012 I started riding my bicycle cross-country from Jacksonville, Florida in voluntary support of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (NAPF) and the work of author and Peace Leadership Director for the NAPF, Paul K. Chappell. By July 4th, I had covered over 1300 miles to just west of Luling, Texas where a major mechanical failure brought this first stage of my cross-country journey to an end. After storing my bicycle and trailer with my aunt and uncle in Weatherford, Texas, I flew from Dallas to Santa Barbara, California to attend the NAPF First Annual Peace Leadership Summer Workshop. I then lived and worked in Santa Barbara for several more months before I returned to Jacksonville and sold off the rest of my possessions that I could to help fund a continuation of my journey. Starting June 8, 2013 and ending August 9, 2013, I rode from Weatherford, through 400 miles of the central Texas hill country, including Austin, Texas, back to Luling. It was at this point that a friend of mine invited me to work for a brief period in Pennsylvania before flying me back to Santa Barbara where I continued volunteering for the NAPF as well as for the Santa Barbara Bike Coalition. As of August 9th, 2014 I began"Stage III" of my cross-country adventure, this time heading south from Santa Barbara to San Diego and then east to El Paso, TX. It was there that illness, winter weather, and diminishing resources brought that leg of my journey to an end. After staying with another friend in Columbus, GA for several months, I moved "back home" to Kentucky to stay with my dad for a while and build a better "resource base" for future endeavors including review and further tracking and primitive survival skills training at Tom Brown, Jr's Tracker School , and a possible longer tour of the east coast, northern tier, and north west coast back down to Santa Barbara, CA.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Food Basics - Part II - Breakfast

I'm thinking it is "Citibank" that has the commercials that ask "What's in Your Wallet?"

I have decided the more important question these days might be "What's in Your Lunch Bag?" Or are you even carrying one?

If you think you just can't eat healthy food every day because you don't have the time, etc. to prepare food at home, I will be the first to empathize. I have learned from experience that it does take significant time and effort to prepare your own food especially from whole foods and/or minimally processed ingredients. There's time and effort involved in shopping for and buying the food, time to get it all stored away properly once you get home, time to prepare, and to clean up after said preparations, and then it takes some time to pack your lunch bag each day to take to work and then empty it of empty containers and any left-overs when you get home. And, the next morning, it starts all over again. If you're also thinking about growing some of your own food, although it might mean cutting back on some of your shopping time, gardening adds a whole new level of time and effort to the endeavor...but, where your health and the health of those you love are involved - It Is Worth the Effort!

I have had a commitment to preparing my food for myself for a long time now. Since 2004 (when I began my last tour on shore duty with the U.S. Navy), I have had to manage a work commute of two to four hours round trip every day - sometimes while also taking college classes. Between 2008 and 2011, I started really going "above and beyond" by baking regularly for my co-workers - sometimes as regularly as every week, but usually more like once or twice a month (such are the demands of "Amish Friendship Bread" which by nature "expands" itself and must be used regularly to keep it to a manageable size : )). During most of this time, I have done this (more often than not) as a "single" person; i.e. I haven't been preparing food for a husband or children...but that means I have also not had any assistance in all the tasks involved from said husband or children! My point is...If anyone can learn to do this for themselves without the help of others, they can certainly learn to do it as well, and maybe even more efficiently, when there are others to help - with the work and with the eating!

For the record, I have fluctuated between making more cooked meals and eating more raw foods. Cooked "main course" meals included: lasagna, beef and broccoli stir-fry, egg-rolls, chicken pot pie, chili, lentil soup, etc.; i.e. things that could be made in fairly large quantities and then divided up and frozen in plastic containers. I usually used the Rubbermaid Take-A-Long containers with the one large and one small compartment and I made sure my lunch bag was large enough to allow them to fit flat. (Ever seen those Nascar, 10 can bags from Wal-Mart? That's what I've used and they were Quite the Fashion Statement! : )).

Unfortunately, taking those frozen meals to work also meant having to re-heat them in a microwave and although I accepted the necessity of that for a long time, after one friend of mine made a pretty adamant comment about how microwaving really, Really "kills" the food, I decided my cooking food that way really, Really had to come to an end. And so, from that point on, I stopped all that - dare I say - "cold turkey"! I knew I needed to limit the amount of cooked food and meat I was eating anyway, it was just that, up to that point, it was the best way I knew to be efficient with my daily food preparation.

Apart from that, and since reading Fit for Life in 1990, I have always tried to adhere to the one "rule" the authors encouraged their readers to adhere to; basically they said "If you don't do anything else we recommend in this book, just eat fresh fruit, or drink fresh fruit juices until noon." In other words, fresh fruit or fruit juices should be your "break fast"; i.e. the first thing you eat when you start eating in the course of your morning to noon routine - not coffee, not tea - just fresh fruit and/or fruit juices.

As I learned from my study of "Natural Hygiene" fruits do not need "stomach digestion." Masticated properly (including "swishing" juices around in your mouth a bit before swallowing them), fruits will go right through your stomach and into your small intestines where their nutrients will start being assimilated into your system almost immediately. What my 20+ years of experience have taught me is that this practice is like starting your car in first gear: It allows the body to shift into its "appropriation cycle" (i.e. taking food into the system)...g-r-a-d-u-a-l-l-y. And then, once it has picked up some speed, it can handle heavier or denser foods; i.e. foods that require stomach digestion, and it can do so more efficiently.

So that has been, and remains, one of my top priorities as far as my daily intake of food. In addition, there has been an "evolution" of this practice over time. Initially, I would simply eat fresh fruits, usually starting with the easiest to digest like melons, and then including other acid or sub-acid fruits, like oranges, strawberries, or apples, and then, I might move on to sweet fruits like bananas or even some dried fruits through the course of the morning. When I found out the value of a sea vegetable called "Dulse" as a top source of plant-based, organic iron, and that iron was more readily absorbed in the presence of Vitamin C, I started eating oranges, and then slicing my apples and dipping them in dulse flakes before eating them, so I could get everything into my system all mixed together. Oranges and Granny Smith apples became my main breakfast when I lived on the ship (i.e. while in the Navy aboard the USS George Washington) - and, yes, after two six-month tours of the Mediterranean, I was getting kind of tired of oranges and Granny Smith apples!

Nevertheless, at my next training command in Biloxi, Mississippi I bought a small citrus juicer and started juicing four to six oranges every morning into which I simply added the dulse flakes directly (skipping the apple dipping part). That habit continued up until the time I bought my Vitamix. (Oddly, anyone who saw me drinking that dulse infused orange juice imagined it was salad dressing or something, so I was always having to explain myself! : ))

Somewhere along the way, I started including soaked almonds with my fruit meals. I had come to understand that even though almonds would take a little more stomach digestion, once soaked and essentially "sprouting" they would still digest with relative ease, even more so when thoroughly chewed. In addition, the usually more "acid" fruit smoothies would not throw off the "acid" pH needed to support the enzymes digesting the protein-filled nuts. After reading Sugar Busters I began to appreciate that even my healthy fruits, with their relatively high sugar content, could throw off my insulin balance, so I figured eating the almonds would be a good way to slow the sugar up-take just a little, in addition to the fact that almonds are an excellent source of Calcium and all 8 essential amino acids.

Purchase of my Vitamix allowed me to take another step forward in this evolutionary process, in part by increasing my efficiency, at least where my "fruit breakfasts" were concerned. I could use it to blend several fruits together - and - after acquiring a sufficient number of bottles from other juice producing companies like Odawala and Welches, I could distribute a full container of smoothie mix into those individual plastic bottles and then store all the bottles in the freezer. All I had to do then was pull out a bottle at night, store it in the refrigerator, and it would thaw to just the right smoothie consistency by morning. Again, I always added in the dulse, usually just before drinking so it didn't start to overwhelm the flavor too much.

Aside from that, and "for the record," the bit of saltiness in dulse simply "mellows" the natural sweetness of my smoothies. Too much dulse can be a bit overwhelming for some people, especially if they are not used to it, but otherwise gradually increasing to say a teaspoon or so per 8 oz serving, for me, has added more to the flavor than it has taken away as salt generally does that for foods - i.e. it enhances the flavor. Also, the saltiness in dulse is due to the sodium (Na), i.e. natural, plant-based, sodium - NOT "sodium chloride" or "sodium iodide" which is what you get from table salt. Not sure if it is a direct effect of this "natural/plant-based sodium," but I have for years (as my Navy medical records will show) had (naturally) "below average" blood pressure. So clearly my very regular intake of dulse, with its high concentration of sodium, as well as iron, has not had a negative, i.e. blood-pressure elevating effect on my body. Just saying... : )

In the current phase of evolution relative to my Fruit and Nut Breakfasts, I have started adding green, leafy vegetables. Maybe it was because I was already used to the dulse in my smoothies, adding some other vegetables in there didn't really change them that much for me. Yes, with an older bunch of kale or chard you might taste the vegetable flavor a little more, but again, you can start with smaller amounts at first and then increase to your level of taste tolerance from there. In addition, should I forget to soak my almonds at night, my fall-back is to a combination of raw Brazil nuts and cashews, which I do not try to sprout because they just get soggy, and which I have learned in combination effectively balance out their individual compliments of amino acids.

When it comes to smoothie ingredients, wherever available, I have relied heavily on what I could get at Trader Joe's; i.e. Frozen Fruit - Pineapple and Mango, Peach Juice, Pineapple Juice, and Organic Spinach. If you have the option to use fresh organic fruit (especially locally grown), that's fine. (You can freeze berries, etc. spread out on cookie sheets in the freezer and then store them in bags like ice cubes. That makes it easier to use just a small portion at a time.)I get the frozen fruit from the store for convenience and because I believe at least some fruits retain more of their nutritional value by being frozen at the peak of ripeness rather than being trucked for hundreds of miles across the country in their fresh form.

With regards to fruit juice - I buy organic whenever I can, but barring that, I generally won't buy fruit juice from a fruit whose skin I would not eat; i.e. oranges, mangoes, etc. because...generally speaking, when the fruits are juiced, the machines pulp the Whole Fruit including the skin and it tends to leave a bitter taste in the juice I just don't like. Some people think it adds more nutrition, but I have my doubts about that. If it is that bitter, there is probably a reason we should not be eating it. Also, I realize I am kind of going against that "number one rule" to just use fresh fruit and fresh fruit juices; but, again, I had to go with the convenience. I figured by using fresh frozen fruits that would still have some of their enzymes left, I would make up a little for the loss of nutritional value and enzymes from the pasteurized juices. There is a broad continuum of options here, and this is where I found my balance point.

So here's what I start with to make my green smoothies using the Vitamix.*

This is the process for making green smoothies:

Step One: Add the fruit juice to the blender

In this case I'm using pineapple juice...

and peach juice, filling the container to roughly the 3 cup mark.

Step Two: Add the frozen fruit

In this case I'm using Mango and Pineapple, but you can use whatever you want.

This is going to bring the container up to about 3/4 full.

Step Three: Add the greens, in this case organic spinach straight from the bag. It's been washed three times and it's all going to get pulverized in the blender so a few blemishes here and there are not going to make that much difference.

This is what the container looks like before blending:

Step Four:  Blend...

Given this is a Really Full container, some stopping to shake down air bubbles, or push down ingredients may be necessary. I have found that there is a "just right speed" where you are blending quickly enough to keep things moving, but not so fast as to have too much air being drawn into the bottom. If the mixture is too thick, you should keep some juice set aside to thin it out a little. Or, you may want to do about half as much as I am here to start out, until you get the hang of it.

Step Five: Pour into juice bottles

As you can see, I'm using a cut-out top from another bottle as a funnel. It works with these Welches Grape Juice bottles, but I know they've changed there bottles since I got these and so now they have a narrower mouth. In that case, you'll just have to look for a funnel that will work.

I fill these 10 oz bottles to the bottom of where the bottle starts to curve up, about 8 oz worth. This leaves room for expansion due to freezing, and it also allows for a little more shaking room once I've added my dulse.

Step Six: Dribble water around the sides of the blender pitcher to rinse down the last bits of greens and fruit mixture.

Slosh the water around a little...

And then distributed this slightly diluted mixture, topping off each bottle, just a little.

This way None of that Yummy Green Smoothie Goes to Waste! : ))

Step Seven: Put the lids on all of the bottles and shake well (to incorporate the diluted mixture).

(Note mesh lemon bag used for storing lids. I have found this to be the best way to keep them so they always dry out thoroughly. Otherwise, they tend to get moldy.)

Step Eight: Store smoothies in the freezer.

(This is what they looked like in the sub-compact refrigerator I used to have in my basement apartment.)

Step Nine (VERY IMPORTANT! : )): Remember to take a bottle out at night and put it in the refrigerator so it is ready for you the next morning. (And, if you happen to forget, these bottles can be "quick thawed" by placing them in a sink full of hot tap water. You may have to change the water a couple of times to get them to thaw out enough, but you can do all of that while you are getting everything else ready for you to go to work...or whatever. : ))

There are actually lots of videos on-line now for making green smoothies, so feel free to browse for more ideas. As I have suggested here, I'm keeping things as simple and efficient as I can - given my history of working full-time, etc., etc.

In "Food Basics - Part III" I will be showing you how to make my simple "Finger Salads", that can also be easily prepared in advance, and taken as part of your daily "Lunch Bag."

*During the first leg of my cross-country bike trek I did take my "Fender Blender" along for the ride. However, when it did not work very well for me in Tallahassee, FL, I decided to ship it home as it just was not worth the weight. In addition, most of the people I stayed with along the way ("Couch Surfing") had blenders that I could use instead. The frozen smoothies worked as ice packs in my food bags and I would take them from one house to another and thaw (to drink) or refreeze them as necessary. I still think the Fender Blenders from Rock-the-Bike are cool, and great for demonstrations at Farmer's Markets, etc. (I used mine that way while I was still in Maryland.) I'd like to see them have a better/sturdier container/blade though, as I think that would help with their use for "Green Smoothies" with lots of fibrous greens in them.

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