Author Archives: Zanna

Tasty and Healthy Homemade Granola

Granol in Bowl

Paul and I like to eat granola but frankly most of the granola out there that you can buy is full of fat and sugar, and over-processed. Making your own granola, however, is quite easy. My granola recipe is influenced by Kathleen Daeleman’s crunchy granola recipe from her book Cooking Thin with Chef Kathleen, but I’ve made it even healthier by reducing the sugar and adding chia, flax, and cocoa nibs. It’s of course a completely plant-based (vegan) recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup organic coconut sugar or organic brown sugar
  • ½-cup water
  • 4 tablespoons of organic chia seeds
  • 2 tablespoons of organic ground flax
  • 2 teaspoons organic vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 8 cups organic rolled oats
  • 1 cup of chopped nuts (e.g., cashews, almonds, pistachios)
  • ¼-cup cocoa nibs (optional)
  • 1 cup of dried fruit (e.g, cherries, cranberries, raisins, currants)
  • Coconut flakes (optional)

Steps

  1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  3. Using a 4-cup microwave proof glass measuring cup, add your sugar and water, and microwave for 1-2 minutes until the sugar is dissolved. Add chia, flax, vanilla, and salt to the measuring cup and let stand for 10-15 minutes.
  4. Get out your biggest bowl, and combine the oats and nuts with the contents of the glass measuring cup. Add the cocoa nibs if you are using them.
  5. Mix well then spread the granola onto cookie sheets.

Granola Before Putting Into Oven

Ready for the oven.

  1. Bake for 90 minutes.
  2. After removing the granola from the oven, add dried fruit and other mix-ins like coconut flakes.
  3. Let the granola cool completely, before storing it in an airtight container.

Granola After Coming Out of Oven

Fresh out of the oven.

Putting the Granola into Container-2

Carefully pouring the granola from the parchment paper into a glass container after it has cooled.

Variations

Each time I make this recipe, I vary the nuts and dried fruit used. Some great flavor combinations I’ve made in the past:

  • Pistachio & dried cherry
  • Almond & cranberry

Today’s mix included:

  • cashews,
  • currents,
  • and sweetened coconut flakes.

I usually use 1-cup of nuts and 1-cup of dried fruit, but you can adjust to suit your needs. You can use either raw nuts, or roasted/lightly salted nuts.

Categories: Diet, Vegan | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Delicious (Vegan) Mushroom Sweet Potato Lentil Soup

This post is part of the Virtual Vegan Potluck, held on November 16, 2013. At the bottom of the post, you will find links to the previous and next recipe posts in the Virtual Vegan Potluck. Enjoy! Here is a link to the beginning of the potluck posts.

Paul and I recently became vegan. Not too long ago, Paul requested some lentil soup. I rooted around online and adapted a recipe I found somewhere. This is my adaption. It makes for a great fall or winter meal.

For us, this soup meets all our needs: it’s easy to make, wonderfully delicious, and naturally vegan. That is, it’s vegan without really trying since it’s all vegetable-based. We hope you like it as much as we do.

A bowl of this delicious soup.

A bowl of this delicious soup.

Mushroom Sweet Potato Lentil Soup

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 bag of Trader Joe’s Steamed Lentils (or cooked lentils)
  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 Tbs chopped garlic, minced
  • 3-4 cups chopped mushrooms (any variety or mix)
  • 1 Tbs each
    • Cumin
    • Turmeric
    • Chili powder
  • 4 cups vegetable stock (home-made or from a box)

Steps

  1. Add the olive oil to a big soup pot.
  2. Saute the chopped onion in the olive oil.
  3. After a few minutes, add chopped sweet potato to the pot.
  4. Being careful not to burn it, add the garlic and continue to saute until the potatoes are soft.
  5. Add mushrooms and spices.
  6. Saute until slightly browned.
  7. The secret that makes this recipe very quick and easy is to use a package of steamed lentils from Trader Joe’s. Now I usually shy away from pre-fab food, but these are minimally processed and really make life easier when dealing with lentils. Of course, you can substitute cooked dried lentils if you prefer.
  8. Add lentils and broth.
  9. Bring to a boil.
  10. Simmer for 15 minutes or so.
  11. Serve in bowls with some crusty bread.
Trader Joe's Steamed Lentils box.

Trader Joe’s Steamed Lentils box.

The bag of lentils inside the box.

The bag of lentils inside the box.

2013-10-19 18.09.19

Box of Vegetable Broth.

Bulk organic spices.

Bulk organic spices.

Sautéing the sweet potato, onions, and garlic.

Sautéing the sweet potato, onions, and garlic.

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Go back to prior Virtual Vegan Potluck post

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Go forward to next Virtual Vegan Potluck post

This post is part of the Virtual Vegan Potluck, held on November 16, 2013. You can use the images above to navigate to the previous and next recipe posts in the Virtual Vegan Potluck.  Here is also a link to the beginning of the potluck postsEnjoy!

Categories: Cooking, Diet, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , | 17 Comments

Cancer Gets Personal

Cancer definitionIt seems like not too long ago when I didn’t know anyone with cancer and then it seemed to hit, like summer here in Seattle…One day it’s 50 degrees and raining, and the next, boom, it’s hot and sticky summer weather. All of a sudden all around us, just like, for me, cancer.

In 2011 though it was my turn. First, some background: After a birth defect necessitated a kidney transplant; my father donated a life-saving kidney to me in 1995, I have been blessed with pretty-darned good health. So much so that I was training for the RSVP (Ride from Seattle to Vancouver and Party) bike ride with Paul (we did STP (Seattle to Portland) the previous year) when, after a 100 mile training ride I didn’t feel well.

Of course, you might think that after 100 miles on a bike, most people would feel crummy; but it wasn’t just being tired and sore. That night I couldn’t get warm and watched as my temperature started to climb, up to 101, then 102, an finally 103. Now, as a transplant recipient you can think of two causes of a high fever; infection or rejection. So a trip to the ER was an absolute necessity. Here we were back from a trip to Europe, where Paul had just proposed to me, and now it’s off to the emergency room with my new fiancé.

After an initial evaluation, I was told I most likely had a kidney infection and they ordered an ultrasound. I was hospitalized and, when the results of the ultrasound came back, the doctors started saying they saw something, but they couldn’t really determine what it was and wanted my infection to die down a bit before confirming a diagnosis. I don’t remember when the “c” word was uttered for the first time, but I do remember getting the phone call in the evening at home, from the surgeon telling me that I had cancer. It hit me like a brick.

Of all the places for me to get cancer, did it have to be my precious kidney? My one and ONLY kidney? Talk about shock and awe…

Kidney cancer really only responds to one thing, surgery– to remove the tumor. As someone who carefully guarded her only kidney, the last thing I wanted was for it to be cut into. However, I certainly didn’t want to walk around with cancer–does anyone–so the surgery was scheduled.

My surgery was successful and I recovered just fine. Now when you have cancer surgery you think, well, that’s that; they cut it out! No more cancer for me, let’s celebrate! It’s such a downer when you go for your one year check up and the doctor says, let’s do a chest x-ray because that’s where this kind of cancer goes next. Well, so far so good, no cancer in the kidney or the lungs and my follow-up will only be the chest x-ray and my prognosis is good. Bullet dodged.

Of course another cancer scare has come & gone since then… Just recently an innocent enough looking line on my fingernail was biopsied and luckily did not turn out to be melanoma. It did require the removal of my thumb nail and a few days of quite a bit of pain, but the melanoma-free diagnosis was worth it.

But both Paul and I know plenty of people going through similar, even more challenging cancer scares and long-drawn out battles. Nothing makes you feel more vulnerable than cancer because it never seems to go away, you feel like it’s always lurking.

obliterideIt’s easy to not think about cancer and donating for the cause when you aren’t affected personally by it. But when you or a close friend or relative gets cancer, you can no longer ignore the fact that it’s a real and horrible disease. It also makes you want to rid the planet of cancer. And that’s what the researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center where Paul works are trying to do. This is why I believe so much in Obliteride. And why Paul is riding in Obliteride, why I am volunteering, and why we are donating to the cause as well.

Please consider donating to Paul’s Obliteride campaign.

tripledAnd because I believe so much in the cause, Paul and I will match all donations between now through Sunday, July 7th, up to $500 dollars total. And because I work for Microsoft who matches donations at 100%, any money you donate will therefore be tripled! How’s that for some incentive to donate today?

Suzanna Litwin

Post Script: Suzanna’s challenge raised $550 so we matched it with the limit of $500 which Microsoft will match again.  Thus, her challenge raised at least $1,500 (not counting the fact that some of the donors also worked for Microsoft and will be submitting their donations for matching as well).

Categories: Charity, Community, Fitness | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

From the Future Mrs. The Whole Geek…

I don’t think my story is unique; you workout you maintain a decent functioning body and then you meet someone, fall in love, and as I like to say, gain “10 pounds of love weight.” The phenomenon is not for women only: men seem to go through this too, so it’s no surprise that Paul and I both gained some weight during our courtship. One of the biggest challenges for women who live with men is the annoying realization that you can’t eat like he does and not expect to put on pounds.

The Whole Geek (Paul), Future Mrs. Whole Geek (Suzanna), Matron of Honor (Tammy), and Best Man (Peter) in front of Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco

The Whole Geek (Paul), Future Mrs. The Whole Geek (Zanna),
Matron of Honor (Tammy), and Best Man (Peter) last weekend in front of Fisherman’s Wharf,
San Francisco

I have tried numerous times, sort of, to lose those 10 pounds but the reality is that I just didn’t care enough. I really didn’t want to put forth the effort, and I think in the back of my mind figured I couldn’t do it without drastic measures. Somehow the planets aligned and while Paul was reading Tim Caulfield’s book “The Cure for Everything…” and as we were planning our wedding, we decided it was time to give it another go.

I recommended we log our food using My Fitness Pal as I had used it in the past (and a myriad of other online tools) and found it to be the most user-friendly.

 

No Secrets

As Paul has posted before, there really is no secret to losing weight. It’s a bitter pill to swallow for many of us, myself included, that I cannot eat whatever I want in the quantities I want and maintain a healthy weight. I fight that every single day!

caloriesUltimately you have to cut calories. For me, unfortunately, cruelly, that means reducing my caloric intake to 1200 calories per day. THIS IS NOT EASY. In the beginning this seemed like a paltry amount of food and I struggled! I ended up starting at 1400 calories per day because I just struggled so much getting to 1200. While Paul was peeling off the pounds at a quick pace, I was sluggishly bouncing up and down the scale. I finally tired of the up and down and made a concerted effort to eat 1200 calories per day. I was bitter. He was losing weight I wasn’t. What a motivator!

oatamealThe secret to this you see (I thought there were no secrets?), is to get the most bang out of your calorie buck. Some foods become too “expensive” while others are easy to fit into your diet.

For us that meant oatmeal in the morning with fruit, chia seeds, and pumpkin seeds (just a tablespoon full) with our latte. Lunch was salad or nonfat Greek yogurt and fruit and dinner was another salad, veggies, and maybe salmon. We have eaten in restaurants successfully and had wine many nights of the week (usually stopping at 4 ounces) and enjoying small bits of dark chocolate.

 

Surviving on Less

Once I figured out I could survive on 1200 calories per day, I did a pretty good job of staying at that number regularly. The results? I have successfully dropped those 10 pounds in about six weeks. Yes, I lagged behind Paul. Yes, I’m approaching menopause. Yes, I have a bum knee, a kidney transplant, take tons of drugs. Yes, I have excuses to use, but the reality is, that by eating less and moving more, I did it!

Beldar and Prymaat with Nan Schaefer coneheadsI am, what did they say about the economy “cautiously optimistic” about my ability to maintain this weight, which I’m happy to say, slides me into the healthy BMI category. However, I’m not stupid. I know that our upcoming trip to Italy could be a license to consume, as the Coneheads put it “mass quantities“, but then my pants won’t fit!

Will I enjoy gelato? Yes. Will I enjoy pasta? Yes. Will I enjoy my wedding cake, you bet. But, I won’t enjoy them all on the same day. I will balance out the indulgences with better food choices and relieve any wedding day stress by walking in the Italian countryside.

Paul and Suzanna WalkingIn conclusion, I share this story with all the 40-something women out there who think they can’t lose the weight, that it’s impossible during the hormonal firestorm, and with women who have health problems who can’t do intense exercise right now.  My message is, yes you can. If you want to, you can! It won’t be easy, but you will get used to eating less and you will enjoy the results.

Zanna

Categories: Fitness, Weight Loss | Tags: , | 2 Comments

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