Juicing for optimal health

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Today I want to share with you my experience with juicing. There’s a lot of online buzz about health benefits of juicing, as well as juicing for weight loss. There’s also a lot of skepticism and warnings against this “extreme”.

I gave juicing a try about a year ago. Together with my husband we decided to do a 3 day juice cleanse to clear some toxins out of our bodies. On the first day both of us felt great, we didn’t feel too much hunger. I felt like I was still living off the food that I consumed the previous day. I drank about 40oz of freshly squeezed vegetable and fruit juices and as much water as I felt like. By the end of the day I felt excellent – light and clear in my mind. That day I realized how much of my regular eating is regulated by emotions instead of hunger. Drinking only juices and water made me stop and listen to my body’s clues. When I felt hunger I drank some juice and water and it went away. When any craving would appear I stopped and asked myself if it was hunger or anxiety. Very often we feed our emotions not hunger. Realizing this was liberating to me. Almost everyone of us eats subconsciously. It takes a while to become aware of our habits. Juicing made me realize that in the morning I am not really hungry right when I wake up. I don’t need to eat breakfast first thing in the morning just because I always used to do that. I can wait until I am hungry. And I don’t have to eat the same amount every day. I can eat more or less based on how hungry I feel. This is something children are very good at and I’m still learning that from them. If they are not hungry they will not finish everything on their plates. If they are hungry they will ask for more. You can’t force them to eat, even chocolate, they will stop at some point and say they don’t have any more room in their tummies (as my six-year-old says).

Another thing I realized on the morning of my juicing day 2 was that I fell asleep easily and slept really well. I still got woken up several times by my two-year-old son, but I felt rested in the morning. And as a mom of young children you don’t feel rested too often (unless you are lucky to have a well sleeping child). I felt so positive that morning that I welcomed second day of juicing with extra energy. Unfortunately, that energy started dwindling in the middle of the day. I felt more hunger during the day and drank more juices than the day before. I also started feeling some slight pains all over by body. It was probably a sign of some toxins trying to flush out. On the bright side, I read that the longer you juice the more your body is going to cleanse and that it is normal to feel some pain. So it was working. Sleep was great again and day 3 was much easier. I felt so good (and my husband shared the same feeling) that we decided to extend our juice cleanse to 5 days.

On day 3 it was easy for me to distinguish between hunger and anxiety. A lot of people are afraid that they are missing nutrition while juicing and think that’s why they feel pain here or there. But the truth is, you are getting actually more nutrients. On top of that, those are clean and easily available nutrients. They go straight into your bloodstream. The amount of veggies and fruits you consume in juice is incredible. I would never eat 5 pounds of carrots, 3 pounds of apples, a bunch of kale, and 2 pounds of cucumber in a day. It’s just too much chewing. But in juice you can take in all those micronutrients, vitamins and enzymes and feel their benefits in your body.

On day 4 I started getting tired of the very process of squeezing the juices daily. It is great to have all those delicious liquids on hand, but it takes about two hours per day to prepare everything for two people. Of course you can buy ready juices. But honestly, it’s not the same. Unless you have a juicery close by where you can buy fresh juice pressed right there. I kept telling myself that I am doing this for my health, that I would probably spend similar amount of time cooking regular meals anyway. And the plus of juicing is that you don’t have to spend energy deciding what to eat. You know it’s only juice, so decision fatigue is not there. You may get bored with only liquids, but you can create excellent combinations when you want a new flavor. I was putting every fruit and vegetable we had at home through the juicer. That way we had some really unique and truly delicious juices. I will share some recipe ideas in another post.

On day 5 I woke up excited that we almost made it. I started thinking what I would eat the next day. And believe me, I wasn’t dreaming of a huge heavy feast. I was craving munching on fresh fruit and feeling their texture. Overall, I was full of energy and continued drinking juices and water as often as I felt the urge.

In the evening I felt the sense of accomplishment. We did it. I felt light. My mind was clear. I learned a lot about my eating habits very often governed by my emotions.

A few months later we did another 3 day juice cleanse, and after that we attempted another one, but stopped it on day 2 because we realized it was not the right time. We figured out that timing is very important. For us, juicing during work/school days is most optimal. We stick to our routine, there’s no extra activities, no extra excitement. When we attempted juicing during my husband off from work days it simply didn’t work. His schedule was different, the whole family schedule was different and it was hard to focus on juicing. Because juicing is not only about cleansing the body, it is very much about cleansing your mind. If you are preoccupied with new activities it is hard to empty your mind. You naturally fill it up. That was a great time to realize that optimal time for juicing is an ordinary day, when you will most likely not have any surprises. That way you can focus on yourself.

That’s how we came up with an idea of Juicing Mondays. In February 2018, we decided that one day per week we will drink only juice and water. That way every week we will have a fresh start, we will cleanse on regular basis. It will be easier than multiday cleanse as it is easier to squeeze juices for only one day. It is easier to find one calm day per week that three consecutive ones. We chose Mondays because it is the beginning of week and it’s good to start a week on a positive note. But if Monday is a vacation day for some reason, we will change our juicing day to Tuesday. We will not juice during traveling, or vacation. If everything goes well, we will have about 40 juicing days per year. That’s pretty impressive. So far, we juiced every Monday in February and it feels like a sustainable idea.

I will keep you posted on our juicing journey. Let me know if you want to join or Juicing Mondays Challenge. Simply drink freshly squeezed vegetable and fruit juices (and wter) for one day each week and see how you feel. We can start each week fresh together.

Simple Nutritious Breakfast

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Oatmeal is one of my favorite breakfast options. It allows for a lot of creativity (if you wish) or can be very simple. It is very easy to make at home or while traveling and packs a lot of nutrition for a good morning. Freshly squeezed juice goes great with it for an extra boost of energy and vitamins that will keep you going until lunch. If you choose non-organic produce for the juice, remember to peel the skins off.

Ingredients for oatmeal:

¾ cups of rolled oats (use gluten free oats if gluten is your enemy)

3 T chia seeds (great source of protein and omega 3 fatty acids)

1 cup of warm water (you can add more if you want oatmeal less thick)

1-2 T of sweetener of choice (I like to use maple syrup)

fresh fruit of choice

a handful of nuts of choice (optional)

Directions:

In a bowl mix oats, chia seeds and water. Let stand for 3-5 minutes until water is absorbed. Mix in sweetener of choice and nuts. Decorate with fruit of choice. Enjoy!

 

Ingredients for red juice presented in the picture:

2 medium beets

6 medium carrots

2 apples

1 lemon

1-2 inches of ginger root

Directions:

Wash and cut all produce and squeeze in a juicer. You will get 16-20 ounces of juice. You can drink everything or refrigerate half of it in a closed container for later. It will stay fresh for 2 to 3 days.

Red Lentil Soup

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This is a favorite soup in my house so far. Kids love to eat it with noodles or rice, adults eat it as it is. It’s great for cold winter days, but we really like it any time of the year. Very easy and quick to make. Perfect for busy families looking for a simple nutritious meal. It freezes well too.

 

Ingredients for 6-8 servings:

2 T coconut oil

1 medium onion chopped

1 small fresh (or frozen and thawed) tomato chopped

2 medium carrots peeled and coarsely chopped

1 small zucchini coarsely chopped

½ cup fresh parsley coarsely chopped

1 cup dry red lentils

4 T tomato paste

6 cups of water

2 T cumin

salt and pepper to taste

lemon (optional)

 

Directions:

In a large pot heat coconut oil. Add onion, tomato and cumin. Cover and simmer on medium heat for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, rinse and drain lentils. Add carrot, zucchini, parsley, lentils and water to the pot. Stir, bring to a boil and then cook covered for 25 minutes on low heat. Add tomato paste, salt and pepper, mix well and cook for another 5 minutes. Blend with a hand blender until smooth. Serve with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, noodles or rice. Enjoy.

Raspberry Lemon Mini Cheesecake

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This delicious desert is raw, vegan, and gluten free. It’s been tested on my family, kids, and friends and everyone loves it, even hard core meat eaters who have no desire to try being vegan. I like to make it in the morning so it is ready to enjoy later in the afternoon or evening. Remember to soak cashews overnight, so they are ready in the morning.

 

Ingredients for 12 mini cheesecakes:

  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • 1 cup soft pitted dates
  • 5 cup soaked (at least four hours or overnight) and drained raw cashews
  • 5 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
  • juice from 1 big lemon
  • 9 tablespoons of maple syrup or agave syrup
  • zest from one lemon
  • 2 tablespoons unrefined coconut oil

 

Directions:

In a food processor with an S blade process almonds and dates for about 1 minute until they are combined and stick together. Transfer to silicone cupcake molds and form a thin layer of crust. Put in the freezer to harden. Place remaining ingredients in the blender and blend until smooth. You may have to stop several times and scrape down the sides. If your blender is not very powerful you may add a little bit of water or plant milk to reach smooth consistency. But try not to add too much. Once ready pour the mixture over crust, smooth the tops with a spoon and place in the freezer for 4-6 hours. Take out of the freezer 15-30 minutes before serving and decorate with fresh berries. Enjoy!

Create your own smoothie

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Do you drink smoothies for breakfast? Do you have a favorite smoothie recipe? Do your kids like smoothies? Or maybe you would like to start making your own smoothies but you don’t really know what or how much of what to blend in order to make a palatable one.

I like to be creative with my smoothies so every day I drink something a little different. However, I always follow some simple rules that I am going to share with you. Just to make a full disclosure, the smoothies I create are not low calorie, or low sugar. But they are made with fresh and organic ingredients. Recently I like to experiment with super powders and adaptogens. For a post work out recipe I also like to add some protein powder. Moon Juice brand is my favorite, as it is made from organic and raw ingredients that are sourced responsibly. If you are new to making smoothies I suggest you use sweeter fruit and milder greens like spinach or lettuce. That’s what I make for my kids – more fruit, less greens, and no or minimal super powders. As your taste buds get used to real unprocessed food, you can lower sugar content and increase amount of greens you put in your smoothies. You are in full control of what you put into your blender.

When I make a big smoothie for myself, I usually use the NutriBullet . It is convenient as you can drink straight from the cup you use for blending. If I make a smoothie for my three kids I use a high speed blender.

Here is what goes into my smoothies. Amounts given are for one big smoothie.

  1. Three to four handfuls of fruit. I put two or three kinds of fruit, so for example I put one medium banana and two handfuls of blueberries; or one pear and a handful of frozen cherries.
  2. A handful of nuts or seeds for healthy fat and protein.
  3. 2 soft dates for sweetness. You can skip this if you watch your sugar.
  4. Super powders or protein powder. This is totally optional, but I like to add extra power to my smoothies. I choose two or three from super foods like spirulina, wheat grass powder, maca root powder, acai powder or any Moon Juice dusts.
  5. A handful or two of greens like spinach, kale, lettuce, or sprouts.
  6. About 8 oz. of liquid of choice. Either filtered water, coconut water, nut milk, or freshly squeezed juice.

Here is an example of what I blended the other day.

1 medium banana

2 handfuls of fresh or frozen blueberries

1 handful of cashews

2 soft dates

1 teaspoon of maca powder

1 teaspoon of wheatgrass powder

2 handfuls of spinach

8 oz of home made nut milk

Let me know how your smoothie creations are coming up.

Happy blending.

Basic Nut Cheese

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For many people who consider going vegan, the hardest part is giving up cheese. No wonder, dairy cheese is addicting. Fortunately, nowadays there are more and more vegan cheeses popping up on the shelves of grocery stores. There are also several outstanding books on how to make vegan cheeses at home. The two I highly recommend are: Artisan Vegan Cheese by Miyoko Schinner and This Cheese is Nuts by Julie Piatt. These ladies have years of experience in making vegan cheeses and dishes and their recipes are truly outstanding.

But for all of you who never tried making your own cheese at home I have my staple recipe that I tried and tweaked over the last four years. You can use any kind of nuts for this recipe. Most popular would be cashews, almonds, or macadamia, but I also tried pine nuts and walnuts. Walnuts will not give that white color you see in the picture, but are still tasty. To make this cheese fully raw remember to use raw nuts. And as always use organic when possible, as it contains less chemicals and truly tastes better.

Ingredients:

2 cups soaked and drained nuts of choice (soak in water overnight, or at lest four hours for cashews and pine nuts; and at least 8 hours for almonds, walnuts, or macadamia)

2-3 capsules of vegan probiotic

1 cup of water

juice from 1 lemon

1 teaspoon Himalayan sea salt

1 teaspoon granulated garlic

1 teaspoon granulated onion

Directions:

Place soaked and drained nuts in a high speed blender. Add probiotic powder from capsules and water. Pulse blend until you have a uniform mass. You will have to scrape down the sides a few times. If you need to add extra water, do it one tablespoon at a time. You don’t want your cheese to be to watery. Blend on high some more until your cheese reaches creamy consistency with no small pieces visible.

Transfer your cheese to a glass bowl, cover with cloth and let it sit on the counter for about 24 hours. During this time the bacteria from probiotic will transform nuts into fermented “cheese”. After 24 hours put a strainer over an empty bowl. Place a cheese cloth on a strainer and transfer your cheese onto a cheesecloth. Wrap it around and on top of it put a stone or a medium jar filled with water. Place in the refrigerator for about 10 hours (may be longer if you forget). During that time any extra moisture will drain from your cheese. Final step is mixing in spices and lemon juice. Now you have a basic nut cheese that is similar in taste to cottage cheese or goat cheese. You can add any extra spices you want. My husband loves to add cayenne pepper, cumin and turmeric. I like to add fresh chives.

Store this cheese in a closed container in the fridge for up to three weeks. But it never lasts that long in our house.

Almond Milk

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There’s nothing like home made almond (or any nut) milk. Unlike store bought plant milks, it doesn’t contain any preservatives, thickeners, or additional “natural” flavors. It is as pure as you make it. Use organic ingredients to make it organic if you wish.

Ingredients:

1 cup almonds soaked in water overnight (8-10 hours),
then drained
2 big dates (if they are not soft, soak them in water
for 10-20 minutes)
3-4 cups of water (the less water you use, the more fat
concentration you will achieve)
pinch of salt (optional)

Directions:

Put all ingredients in a high speed blender. Blend on “whole juice” setting or for about 40 seconds until everything is smooth. If you have a less powerful blender it make take a little longer (1-2 minutes). Put a mesh cheese bag or cloth over a bowl and drain your milk squeezing as much liquid as possible. You can save remaining pulp in the fridge or freezer to use in a variety of recipes. You can also dry it in a dehydrator and use as fat free almond flour. Or you can simply toss it out if you don’t plan to use it. Store your almond milk in a closed container for up to five days.