Sunday, July 14, 2013

Halfway

   
Juicer or torture device?
When I was in high school, my dad discovered the wonders of freshly squeezed grapefruit juice. Dad jumped into anything that interested him feet first and, as crazy as some of these things were, he really was about 20 years ahead of his time. My parents' bookshelves were bursting at the seams with books and manuals that catalogued his progression of interests, from making yogurt and cooking with tofu to building an earth-sheltered home, eating for your blood type, and naturopathic healing. We'd barely recovered from having to recycle every scrap of aluminum and styrofoam when juicing struck his fancy. Adjacent to the giant ball of compacted aluminum foil which occupied a tremendous amount of kitchen counter space, there sat one of those old timey citrus presses, the kind where you inverted halved fruit over a ridged cone and used all your might to crank down on the handle that clamped the lid, all for a few lousy tablespoons of precious life-giving juice.

   
 
Me in 11th grade. SO not interested in juice!
The thing about Dad's new fad was, he wanted either me or my sister to prepare his juice for him. Whichever one of us set foot in the kitchen first for breakfast was greeted by Dad's melodious Polish accent: "Good morrrning, daughterrrr of Barrrtek. I am rrrrrrready forrrrr you to prrreparrre my grrrrrrapefrrrrruit juice." O mój Boże! (That's "OMG!" in Polish). I've never been much of a morning person, and the only thing my sixteen year old self was interested in at the crack of dawn was gobbling down a bowl of Captain Crunch so I could call first dibs on the bathroom I shared with my sister and two brothers. I'm really not sure why Dad got hooked on grapefruit juice. True, it was the mid '70s, and the Hollywood Grapefruit Diet had taken the nation by storm. But, Dad was never one to follow trends; he was more of a trend-setter himself. He wasn't drinking grapefruit juice to lose weight. I suspect that he believed fresh juice had real health benefits, and over the years, his suspicions have proven true. Raw whole foods contain all sorts of micronutrients and digestive enzymes that pasteurization and processing kill, and nowadays, it's widely accepted that freshness is where it's at.
     
These grapefruits didn't fall far from my tree...
My son, Nick, requested a slow juicer for his 23rd birthday, which is coming up on the 21st of this month. Over the last couple of years, he's become extremely conscientious about his health and has developed quite an interest in plant-based nutrition. There's no doubt in my mind that the dietary modifications he's made, along with yoga and meditation, have had a significant positive impact on the progression of his cystic fibrosis, that the gradual improvement in lung function and decrease in serious pulmonary infections he's experienced cannot be attributed to medication alone. Coming from a 22 year old guy, this might sound like a strange gift request, but it's really just part of his DNA. Nick's fascination with nutrition isn't surprising, given his legacy. It's the same with his brother, Rory, and his enthusiasm for making music. Grapefruits never fall far from the tree.

...or from their Grandpa's.
I gave Nick his juicer  a few weeks early. Since he works at a natural foods store, he now has an innovative way to use up all that expiring produce that would otherwise be tossed into the compost bin. After hearing him rave about the joys of juicing, I decided to give it a try myself. I eat lots of fresh fruit and veggies, and carry my lunch to work in order to avoid eating crap. Unless I have cherries or apples on hand, Spartacus forgets about all the yummy things I have stashed in our crispers, so I have to find creative things to do with wilting greens, limp broccoli and cucumbers, and bruised fruit. There's only so much cobbler and soup stock I can make!


Hmmm...isn't this how this thing's supposed to work?
Several weeks ago, I injured my back from one too many HIIT workouts, and have been very aware of the fact that my jeans are fitting a little tighter than I'd like them to. I'll rest my back by walking for a few days, then I'll get disgusted and go balls out with a Spartacus workout, and boom! I'm back to being practically crippled. It's complete madness. Sure, exercise is a great way to burn calories, especially if you're resistance training and building lean muscle mass, but exercise alone won't compensate for caloric overconsumption. My eating habits haven't really changed since I switched jobs, but my alcohol intake has. When I was taking hospital call, I'd have at least two alcohol free days per week. In-house hospital duty is physically taxing as well, so in general, I was moving around a lot more at my old job. Now, I'm at home every night for cocktail hour. No matter how much you work out or how little you eat, the calories from alcohol are burned preferentially before those from fat, so you're basically negating any metabolic afterburn potential by ingesting booze on a regular basis. This has been on my mind for a while now, and I'm sure that's why I've gained a little weight. So, I figured I'd eliminate alcohol, substitute an array of fresh juices, and see if it makes a difference. It'll be interesting to see what happens.
   
My new wine
My first batch of juice came out kinda "meh." It was blueberry, black plum, and mâche with fresh ginger and a bit of turmeric root. I forgot to strain it, so it was really viscous. According to Spartacus, it would have been better served over ice. The second attempt yielded a groovy concoction called Pumpkin Pie juice. This one contained winter squash, apple, fresh ginger, and carrots. It was smooth and rich and absolutely scrumptious, like the lightest, most sunny pumpkin pie filling you could imagine. Yum! Next, I made a green juice with  green apple, celery, cucumber, lime, kale, and turmeric and ginger root. In case you're wondering about the turmeric, it has anti-inflammatory properties, and I'm thinking it might help with my sore lower back. Anyway, the green juice was delicious and refreshing, especially when chilled. Lastly, I made ruby red HeartBeet juice from beets, beet greens, rainbow chard, cucumbers, kale, celery, apple, lemon, basil, and broccoli. That was my "wine" for the evening, and it too was very satisfying.

   
Waste not, want not...it's all edible!
After juicing, you're left with quite a lot of dry pulp. I figured I'd just put it outside in the community garden, but then I wondered if it would be too acidic and whether or not it needed to be composted first. As far as I know, there's not a compost heap around here. I didn't want to throw the pulp away, so I googled "what to do with leftover juicing pulp." Who knew there were so many things you could do with pulp? It's all edible, so it makes sense to use it in some way. I learned that, besides composting it, you can make bread and crackers with it, add it to soups and pasta sauces, stir it into cream cheese for a sandwich spread, and even make dog treats with it. Since my dogs are allergic to whatever the heck's in storebought dog treats, I decided to whip up a batch especially for them.
   
I think this dehydrator's finally gonna get some use.
I mixed the pulp with sunflower and flax seeds and some nama shoyu, spread it out on two dehydrator trays, scored it into bite-sized pieces, and let it dehydrate for about 16 hours. It smelled (and tasted) really good! This morning, Simon and Lilly were introduced to these homemade canine cookies, although I'm not sure they deserved it after tearing all the stuffing out of their dog bed on Friday afternoon. Welp, I suppose it could be worse; they could be chewing on shoes or furniture. Eight cups of leftover vegetable matter made my dogs and me very happy. They got crunchy wholesome treats and I got the satisfaction of knowing that no part of the produce I juiced went to waste. I even shared some with our neighbors' dog, Mason.

I thought Kevlar was indestructible!
"Chew on these, not your dog bed!"
                 
Yesterday afternoon was a little voyage in discovery, transforming each colanderful of Nature's gorgeous abundance into supercharged nutrients in liquid form, glowing like jewels on the top shelf of my refrigerator. I can't help but think I've made a healthy move here. I was so excited about baking those dog biscuits that I ended up making another trip to the store for flax and sunflower seeds. As I was leaving, Spartacus looked at me and said, "You don't do anything halfway, do you?" He wasn't being critical; it was just an observation. "No," I responded on my way out the door, suddenly reminded of the unbridled enthusiasm for the little things in life that I share with my sons and their grandfather. "I suppose I don't."
Gorgeous jewel-toned juice


33 comments:

  1. I dunno, Juice Hour doesn't have the same ring to it.

    Please tell me you haven't given up wine.

    A few questions: What juice goes well with steak? What about with seafood pasta? What happens if you try to run junk food through a juicer?

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    1. LOL, Joel, not entirely, just for a few weeks. I just want to see if reducing my intake makes a difference. If not, I might have to consider liposuction :-P

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  2. you catch yourself gaining a few pounds; this is why you stay so slim..smart lady

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    1. Melanie, I detest shopping for clothes and rarely ever buy myself anything new. I've had the same jeans now for about 5 years, and they've still got plenty of mileage left. So, this extra bit of weight's got to go! ;-)

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  3. Such a post chock full of goodness Kris. It's good you never do anything halfway, w2e have enough of that in the world. As far as the juicing goes I never really saw the need for myself. Now, if I could have a milk cow................that would be different as I drink a gallon of milk a day. My mother was a juicer back in the day, I never payed her much attention then with all the organic plant based stuff.

    Sounds like you need to rest your back a bit, forget about the way the jeans fit, in time you will be able to act 20 again.

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    1. I love milk, too. When I was growing up, my dad really, really wanted a couple of goats. He thought they could eat the grass (instead of it having to be mowed) and give us milk for cheese. It made perfect sense to me. He grew up in the foothills of the Carpathian mountains in Poland, and everyone there keeps goats. Mom was not thrilled with this idea, so we never got any. You're absolutely right about resting the back, which is exactly what I'm doing. Going for long walks doesn't bother it, so that and weight-lifting that doesn't involve my lower back is my exercise for now.

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  4. That was one juicy post! Enjoyed the depiction of your dad ruling over you girls and doesn't that remind me of the obsession of my own father that somehow devolved on my poor sisters! All said, it takes someone like you to write a post dripping with all that juice and pulp.

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    1. Maybe it's a father-daughter thing from a past generation? I'm sure you have no such expectations on your twin girls ;-D I've gotta say, I am noticing that I have a lot more energy since trading wine for juice.

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  5. This is funny because I just recently started juicing myself. I used to juice a lot back in the day, but I never paid much attention to good recipes and usually ended up gagging.

    There's no denying the health benefits of juicing though, so that's why I do it. I'm considering going on a juice fast soon.

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    1. Interesting! I am going to experiment with my own combos after I try a few more recipes. I sure do like the juices that contain ginger; love that spicy kick! Let me know how your juice fast goes.

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  6. Natural juice - good, booze - baaaaaad :D Hope your son is ok, it kind of made me sad finding out that he has cystic fibrosis. Make him tons of juice so he doesn't have to feel sick :D As soon as I can I will start experimenting with making juice :) Thanks for your post :)

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    1. Gabriel, both of my sons have cystic fibrosis; they are identical twins. The good news is that both of them are doing really well! They live apart now, but Nick and I will supply Rory with fresh juice because we see each other often. Both Nick and I have noticed a big difference in energy levels since we started making our own juice. Thanks for stopping by!

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  7. My daughter's the health food aficionado in our household. I can't even pronounce half the things she eats. Today, she was explaining the principle behind a few of her purchases, but being incapable of following any kind of scientific thinking, the information flew leagues above my head. When I was active as a bodybuilder, I ate all the stuff considered healthy in my day, wheat germ, brewer's yeast, smoothies with skim milk, fruit and raw eggs. I must've been really dedicated, because the smoothies tasted god-awful. Now it's cereal in the morning, a slice of cheese in the afternoon, and pasta at night. Sounds ridiculously inadequate, but it seems to be keeping me going.

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    1. Ewww...raw eggs! We used to make Polish Christmas ornaments from whole eggshells, and you'd have to pierce both ends and suck out the egg before decorating the shell. I think Dad was the only one brave enough to eat the gloppy egg. Yes, there's a lot of science behind nutrition, but there's also good old common sense. I try to eat as much raw, unprocessed food as possible, which is why juicing is so handy. As I told Melanie, I never buy myself new clothes, so I have to continue fitting into these jeans, which is what prompted this whole switch from alcohol to juicing. The body wants to get rid of alcohol before anything else, so it burns those calories first. Any calorie-burning potential you've achieved from exercise is greatly minimized, so it makes sense that if I eliminate alcohol and change nothing else, I'll lose the weight.

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  8. This all sounds great and smart but... I know the only way I'd ever do it is if I could employ the, "Daughter of barrrtek" method. Sofia would love to do it, but the mess she'd make!!!

    It's also great that the grapefruit doesn't fall from the tree. Your sons are reaping the benefit of this healthy legacy. Whereas my daughter will have to run from the tree or suffer my bad chocolate an coffee habits :)

    ps- I think Daughter of barrrtek would be a great way to introduce yourself!

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    1. Gina, it is pretty messy, especially if you try to juice raspberries or blackberries...the seeds clog the drainage sieve and you end up having to take the whole thing apart before proceeding. Hey, dark chocolate and coffee are packed with anti-oxidants, so you're setting a good example for Sofia. As for Daughter of Barrrtek, I would love it if I could hear my dad say that just one more time :-)

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  9. OH! loooove this post! i was right there in the kitchen with you with the old juicer and your dad speaking Polish! Nice to see you extending the tradition with Sparticus and your boys. Hoping the jucing helps your son's condition, and cool that they are hip to it.

    You are all better than i am when i comes to healthy juicing. I had one for about a month and gave it away in the 90's. I LOVE fruit juice and I LOVE veggies, but, I'm not into the combo veg/fruit juices....... yet. maybe it will just take time. I didn't like yogurt or guacamole for a while and now I love both, so who knows ....

    Awesome homemade doggie treats as well!

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    1. Yes, some of the combo juices taste a bit weird. I am just going to find a few recipes that I like and stick to those combos. I am surprised that Dad never got himself a juicer.

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  10. That's awesome, Kris that your dad was such a forward thinker. It is equally great that the "grapefruits" are rolling along the same path as him. That was very resourceful of you to minimize waste and use that pulp. I don't have a juicer, but I do make smoothies with a blender, so I typically dont have any pulp to worry about. Thanks for the entertaining read!

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    1. I enjoy smoothies, too, Kyle. Started making my own almond milk for a Cinnamon Banana Protein smoothie recipe I found that'll be perfect for my husband to carry into work in the morning. Guess what? The almond pulp has tons of uses, too :-D

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  11. Isn't amazing how one thing (a juicer) can open up other doors?
    You get lovely juice and some interesting new cooking ideas. The dogs get new doggie treats. Everybody wins.
    Loved the post.

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    1. I agree, Big D. Juicing's a win-win situation in more ways than one. Since I started substituting juice for alcohol in the evenings, I've lost 5 lbs!

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  12. Funny that. I'd guessed you don't do anything half way Kris...no surprise there. Love those mentions of your father. An interesting guy, & also not a `halfway' person.
    Cheers, ic

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    1. Ian, he sure was an interesting person...so worldly (like you) and interested in everything and everyone. Definitely not a halfway person!

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  13. You're amazing, amusing, awesome! And now I know how to say OMG in Polish. You never know when that might come in handy ;)

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  14. Kris, fantastic post! I’ve had one of those way-too-busy and wacky weeks and reading your post really brought a smile to my face! :) And Love your million-dollar smile even back in school!! Juicers are wonderful, very useful for maintaining good health. (Have to admit that old citrus press in your photo did resemble a torture device lol!) Nice memories of your Dad (and now I've learned OMG in Polish!).

    I admire Nick’s enthusiasm for nutrition and I bet that has made a positive impact on his CF. I also admire Rory’s enthusiasm for music. Great photo with your sons and you look way too young to be their mother! Sweet photo with your Dad and your sons, too.

    Like those juices you made, like the colors, and interesting and healthy combinations. I used to make my own juice, in particular variations of carrot juice, which works great for sinus headaches. But after mine broke a few years ago I never did replace it. Now, looking at what you’ve done, I am encouraged to buy one again.

    How creative, the way you found interesting and useful ways to use the pulp, too! I am especially eyeing the sandwich spread idea and making dog cookies. Great photo of Spartacus feeding the treats to Lily and Simon. (Yes, eat these dog cookies, they taste way better than the dog bed lol!) Yummy treats; lucky dogs!

    I just love your Dad’s spirit, jumping feet first into whatever interested him and being 20 years ahead of his time. Kris, I think you are just like your Dad! Spartacus is right, nothing halfway about what you do. It’s a fabulous way to devour and enjoy life to the fullest!

    Happy upcoming birthday to Nick and Rory!

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    1. Madilyn, I've had one of those weeks, too. Spent most of yesterday, preparing ice cream, cake, and ciabatta bread for the boys' birthday dinner tonight. I am thrilled with the results of my juicing and abstinence from alcohol...have already lost 5 lbs (not back for 1 week), so my hypothesis about those alcohol calories being a major culprit in my slow weight gain was correct. I thought I'd miss my nightly wine, but I haven't at all. I have so much more energy, too, and think I'm probably enjoying better sleep. Nick's interest in nutrition has definitely enriched my own, and it's pretty cool sharing ideas with him. Yes, my father and I were kindred spirits. After he died, my mom, siblings, and I took his ashes to Poland to scatter them at the confluence of the Dunajec and Poprad rivers, near where he grew up. Mom pulled each of us aside individually as we were standing on the riverband. When it came my turn, she said to me, "He saw himself in you." I still get the chills thinking about that moment.

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  15. I just love freshly made juices which are so good for you, although I don't drink enough of it. I can just imagine how those old juicers gave you and your sister good arm muscles :) Dad was smart, sooner or later someone was going to be the first in the kitchen to serve him, ha ha ha.

    What kind of exercises were you doing to do such damage to your back? You don't even look like you need the exercise from the photos I've seen :) I wish you well Helena with your recovery, and at your size you can afford to take it easier :)

    Wine is so nice but is a killer for weight gain. I have so struggled as to whether drink that bottle or put on more pounds. I have now convinced my silly self that 'spirits' such as gin, brandy or rum don't put the weight on, so these are now my first option. Please don't tell me I'm wrong Helena. It will spoil my evenings...and weekends...
    I think by eliminating the alcohol it would make a difference, but it would be interesting to see what happens with what you are doing. And the juices you made into your new wine sounds very nice. Not to mention all the other things you found you could do with the left-overs.

    If I had dogs that could get through Kevlar, then I wouldn't give them any more nutrition, ha ha.

    Happy Birthday to Nick and Rory and hope you all do something nice together.

    Halfway? More like 'Full Throttle', ha ha ha

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    1. RPD, I think my back problems have been a combination of not enough resting between high intensity interval training workout and a bad mattress! We bought a new mattress yesterday, and I've also rested my back a day between those strenuous workouts, so I'm feeling better now. Believe it or not, I have already lost 5 pounds since last Saturday (1 week), just by eliminating alcohol. So, now I don't have to worry about liposuction! I think my metabolism must have slowed down once I turned 50. I thought it would be hard not to have wine every night, but I haven't missed it at all! I have more energy, and when I wake up in the morning, my mouth doesn't feel dry. So, the next time I have a glass of wine, it'll be just one glass. As for my Kevlar-eating dogs, I am hoping there' still a warranty on this supposedly indestructible dog bed. So frustrating! Today is the boys' birthday, and we will have a nice party here at my house tonight. I've made a cake and two kinds of ice cream, and am baking ciabatta bread for grilled veggie sandwiches with herbed goat cheese...yum!!! I will convey your birthday wishes to them :-)

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    2. That's brilliant news Helena. 5 pounds is quite a lot in such a short space of time. Liposuction? What would they suck out of you? Bones... You're not exactly a large bird Helena.
      Yea, I think as you get older it's harder to get rid of any excess weight so you have to do double the work. It's also a good thing that you already do good amounts of exercise to keep you fit as this is where most people would fail. But it's good that you had a go and can confirm what the culprit was. Nice one mate.
      Oh, that food for the birthday treat sounds lovely and I hope you all have a wonderful time.

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  16. What a juicy post! It's pretty hilarious reading it gangster style, too. :)

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  17. Hi Kris! Your dad sounds like he was quite the character. Glad you have such awesome memories. Also, love the pictures. Especially the one of the "indestructible" dog bed. Happy birthday to your boys and happy juicing!

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