Monday, February 25, 2013

The Stork Flies In

I think I owe it to you to tell you that I am expecting. As in, "the stork is coming," or, "there is a bun in the oven." I am almost 12 weeks along and only just recently discovered this. I apologize to all my dear friends or family who are finding out about this on a blog. For me, it's just easier to say here than to blab it out in the middle of church, over the phone, at exercise class, or picking up my kids from school. I hope you can understand that.

You see, at first I just thought I was sick. Getting sick over and over. Sinus congestion, indigestion, nausea, fatigue, headaches, dizziness, hot and cold flashes. Paul kept telling me, "You're pregnant." And I just responded, "No, I'm not. It'll never happen. I'm broken." Well, Paul was right, and I was most definitely wrong. I am so very used to having to seek out doctor's help and medications for fertility treatments. So to be expecting without jumping through all those medical "hoops" is something very new to me.

I was very excited when I first found out. Woo hoo! Right?...morning sickness kinda' dampens excitement. If you've read this post (actually one of my #1 read posts, surprisingly), then you understand my difficulties with hormone imbalances. I almost wanted to shout out, "I'm cured! Whole foods has helped me cure my ailments!" But of course I can't scientifically prove that. Correlation does not necessarily mean causation. Although I do think it is strongly related, there are other factors like the fact that I took Vitex (a natural women's hormone supplement containing a mixture of Chaste Berry, Red Raspeberry Root, and other herbs), and have had 3 children previously (albeit with the aid of fertility treatments).

Let me just take a moment to say that I know many, many women with fertility problems, including the popular health food "nut," Robyn Openshaw, who suffered infertility for a while until she changed her eating patterns to reflect a whole foods, plant-based diet, and lost weight. Maybe that solved her infertility, and maybe it solved mine. But maybe it won't solve everyone's, and that is not their fault.

I mention this because it is such a sensitive topic. No one should be pointed at and accused of causing there own infertility because of what they do or don't eat. While transitioning to a whole foods, plant based diet has solved so many of my health and physical concerns, I believe this issue is one to be handled with so much care. Many beautiful women that I love and care about cannot have children, or additional children, for any number of reasons. I just have to believe that God is in charge, and loves each of His daughters. I don't know the reasons for all trials, but I know that God cherishes His daughters and that all things wrong on this earth will eventually be made right through Him.

For now, I can't stand the thought of cooking. All things food related make me sick. Which I am very sorry about because I kept promising posts of fantastic recipes that my family had recently enjoyed. I think even blogging about food would be nauseating for me. All recipes in this house are currently compliments of Mr. Sub Way, Mr. Jason's Deli, Dr. Bell, and other various chefs. I avoid my kitchen and the grocery store like the plague. Poor Paul. Doing all the grocery shopping, and picking up takeout every night to feed the family. And he does all the laundry because the smell of laundry detergent is just repulsive to me right now.

Carbs are the foundation of my diet, but I have to say I am doing better with this morning sickness than I have with the three previous. I am actually able to eat raw salads and plenty of cooked vegetables (as long as I didn't have to prepare it). That has never been the case before, usually all things veg are absolutely untouchable. My morning sickness with my second pregnancy was actually so bad that I remember living completely on corn chips and ginger ale for weeks and weeks, and I was only able to keep those foods down because I was taking nausea medications given to me by my doctor.

I am very much wondering if the severity of morning sickness is also because of eating plant based or not eating plant based. This is my first plant-based pregnancy, and so far, although still quite challenging, it has been the easiest. And I am the healthiest -- I can actually exercise and eat vegetables.

I have a theory on that. I ran across a newsletter by Dr. McDougall where he discusses studies done on morning sickness, and how it actually may be the bodies' defense mechanisms to prevent the expecting mother from eating meat. Here is an excerpt from that newsletter:

Morning Sickness Protects Babies from Meat

Drs. Samuel M. Flaxman and Paul W. Sherman in their classic article “Morning Sickness: A Mechanism for Protecting Mother and Embryo,” explained how nausea and vomiting during the first trimester of pregnancy cause pregnant women to physically expel and subsequently avoid foods that cause harm to mother and infant.7 Approximately two-thirds of women experience nausea or vomiting during early pregnancy. Women who develop morning sickness have less risk of miscarriages and a better chance for survival of their infants. Their research revealed that aversions were greatest to meats, fish, poultry, and eggs. In an analysis of 20 traditional societies in which morning sickness has been observed and seven in which it has never been observed, they found the latter were significantly less likely to have animal products as a dietary staple and significantly more likely to have only plants (primarily corn) as staples. Reducing the intake of toxic chemicals found in high concentrations in animal products would be one of the greatest benefits from morning sickness.

The vast majority (89 to 99 percent) of synthetic chemicals, including pesticides, herbicides, building materials, and industrial wastes that are known to cause an increase in infertility, spontaneous abortions, recurrent miscarriages, and birth defects gain access to the body through food. More specifically, the foods with the highest levels of chemical contamination are those that are high on the food chain: meat, poultry, fish, and dairy products.8-12 The reason that these animal foods are the primary source of pollution is because their fatty tissues attract and concentrate chemicals—a process known as “bioaccumulation.” Consuming organic foods would be another big step to having a cleaner body.

My theory is that since the offender (meat, and in my case, also cheese and dairy) are not present in my current diet, my body does not need to build up such high defenses, or have such severe morning sickness in order to prevent me from eating the above mentioned "offensive" foods. Much of my online reading from mainstream websites (not vegan websites) concludes that low fat, high carbohydrate foods are the least offensive foods for the expectant mother. I have experimented with this and found it to be true for me. On my good days I have made banana bread and applesauce muffins with no added fats. I was able to easily digest these foods. Juicing has also worked very well for me because the nutrients are so readily available for my body with little digesting involved.

I have clear memories of only wanting mashed potatoes and fries during many of my previous pregnancies. Sometimes chips and soda. Foods with easy access to sugars, or simple carbs because they are so easy to digest. I also remember a well-meaning friend recommending that I have cheese on toast to help with morning sickness. I tried it, and promptly my body expelled that food. Cheese was by far the number one offender during previous pregnancies with things like yogurt or dairy based cream sauces right behind.

And so I have actually been very curious. Do other women who switch from the SAD diet to whole foods, plant based diets in between pregnancies experience similar results? Have you had or heard of easier morning sickness experiences on "vegan" diets as compared to previous pregnancies on the SAD? How sound is my theory?

Monday, February 4, 2013

Beans from Scratch; Lessons From A Kitchen Expert

More and more I am convinced that learning how to cook the "staples" (beans, grains, legumes, etc) is key to being able to feed families inexpensively, without having to depend on recipes for every meal.

My Mom has been cooking beans for children and families for the last 30-40 years, and has perfected the art. A few years ago I asked her how she did it. She emailed me written directions, including approximate measurements. I would like to share her art with you, here.

How to Cook Beans From Scratch: years of experience, right here:

Hi Ashlee! I changed my bean recipe after talking to Kari (my aunt) and reading some books about cooking beans. I have an aluminum pressure cooker which I have found out is very bad for heavy metal contamination. Your pressure cooker is stainless steel so you should be fine.

First off, it is really best to wash thoroughly, then soak the beans overnight, change the water in the morning, and then cook them in a pressure cooker during the day some time. They can be cooked more gently and for only about 23 minutes in the pressure cooker, and they will be very soft. After soaking, you can alternatively cook your beans in a crock pot on low, for about 8-10 hours. If you run out of time, you can always put them into the fridge and then cook them whenever. You can take unsoaked beans and cook them directly in a pressure cooker, but make sure they are covered with a couple inches of water or the top layer will be crunchy. Dry beans can be cooked in the pressure cooker directly, for 45-60 minutes.

Second, pressure cook them in water and kombu (seaweed that aids in digestion of beans) and nothing else, not even salt. This was hard for me to do, because I am so used to seasoning and flavoring. The books I have read say to season and add fat after the beans have been cooked. Then season, add fat, and cook for a half hour or so longer very very gently not using pressure but while the beans are still in the pressure cooker. Ashlee, these measures are for 2 1/2 cups of dry beans that have been cooked.

Third, use about 1 T celtic sea salt

1 T paprika

2 t. cumin

20 turns or so of the pepper mill

1 -3 t. chile powder or more, depending on the intensity of the heat.

Fourth, put the following in the food processor so you won't have to chop, chop, chop:

3 - 5 garlic cloves

1 large onion, quartered

2-6 carrots - broken into smaller pieces

2-4 stalks of celery - broken up

Any other veggie you like

Because the beans already have the water they were cooked in, in order not to get them too watery from adding the chopped vegetables, you can drain some of the water off and discard some of the bean water.

Next, you need fat in order for the beans to taste good. I found that if I tried to cook fat free, little children just wouldn't eat the food. You can use olive oil, coconut oil, bacon and bacon grease, butter, or a combination. I like the taste of coconut oil along with either a little butter or olive oil. Everyone will scarf that down. 2 - 3 Tablespoons.

Cook this mixture for 20 - 30 minutes on very low heat.

Now is a good time to add a green pepper or two. That way, it will still be a little crunchy when you serve it, if you like crunchy.

Well, that was a looong explanation. I hope you have time to read it! I also hope I remembered it right. You can modify the seasonings to suit your taste. Once, I juiced carrots and added the juice after the beans were cooked, so it would still be raw and have all the enzymes in it that help our digestion function at a more premium level. I also added the pulp. It was yummy.

For me, this is comfort food. I was horrified to read that if you use floridated water in an aluminum cooking pot, the contamination is dramatically increased. I have a hard time cooking beans now, although I really enjoy them. So, be glad your water isn't floridated.

With Love, Mom


Speaking of my water not being floridated.

That's because we live in the mountains and have our own well. Pretty awesome most of the time. But last week (hence no posts) the pump on our well decided to give out, and DIE!

Pretty dramatic, I know.

A full day's work, and $1,200 later, we have a new pump. And blessed running water. Aaaawwwww water. But there goes the rest of Paul's bonus money from work for the year, because we also had to purchase the fridge. Boo.

Oh, and we got an aesthetically damaged fridge for half the price. The dings/dents are on the side, where we can't see them so we don't care. Half price!

The inside. LED lights!

Oooohhhhh, who knew a discounted fridge could be so exciting!

So the next time you have to go buy a fridge or any appliance, (which I hope is never, they are so pricey!) just ask the employees at the appliance stores if they have any discounted, slightly damaged options to look at. You could make it outta' there like a bandit! Gettin' awesome discounts!