No Sweeter Than the Ripest Cherry — Cookbook Review

Hi Friends! Today I’m sharing a review of my friend Suzie’s comic-cook book, No Sweeter Than The Ripest Cherry. Suzi and I met about 7 years ago when she and my husband attended the UCLA Film School. When I found out Suzie was a raw food chef, I was instantly intrigued by her career, thinking that raw food must mean ALL YOU CAN EAT IS SALAD. Thankfully, I was wrong, and when Suzi’s book came out, I knew I had to get my hands on a copy to explore.

No Sweeter Than The Ripest Cherry is a seasonal, fresh food inspired comic book recipe guide designed to fuse foundational, science-based nutrition concepts with a non-dogmatic seven-day culinary exploration of exciting, practical, and bowl-licking-good meals… that are mostly raw, mostly paleo, and made 100% from scratch with whole food ingredients and superfoods.

This is not your ordinary cookbook. The design is incredible, filled with comic book style illustrations, mouth watering photography, and clever typography and text placement that has you reading each page in depth to make sure you don’t miss anything. Look at these gorgeous pages!

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I also really like the style of writing. To me, cooking is FUN — so when things get a little too stuffy (cough cough, Mastering the art of French cooking), I get bored. Ripest Cherry is filled with personality, from the cutesy images of the character Ingrid on her 7-day health transformation, to great tongue-in-cheek quips such as “Like a wild primate, bang the empty coconut on the ground until it breaks.”

For my first Ripest Cherry adventure,  I decided to tackle The Blueberry Hawaiian, a yummy raw smoothie with Avocado, Celery, Cucumber, Lime, Wild Blueberries, Ginger, Honey and greens.

Photo from EssentialLivingFoods.com

This was my first time making a smoothie that had (GASP) vegetables in it, so I was a little nervous about what I’d end up with. For “greens”, I used a handful of spinach. I also added some Spirulina, because I got some at FitBloggin’ and it’s been staring at me from my pantry since June because I had no idea what to do with it.  For the record, wild blueberries are so cute and tiny, and their color is an amazing purple! Also for the record, raw honey is so much more robust than its boring sibling. I got mine (a sage citrus blend) at the Calabasas farmer’s market and it’s so good!

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The end result is perhaps not the most photogenic smoothie, but I have to say – I’m impressed! I was nervous it would taste grassy from the spinach and spirulina, but instead, the sharp ginger was really complemented by the honey, and the texture had a creaminess from the avocado that was only accentuated by the cooling cucumber.  This recipe makes a very large amount, so much in fact, that I had one full glass for dinner and have a blender-bottle of it for tomorrow’s breakfast. SCORE! What I liked about this smoothie was that not only did it taste super fresh,but it was incredibly filling.

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Besides having super yummy recipes like Guacatacos, the other huge benefit to Ripest Cherry is the health and nutrition information. Almost every other page is packed with an easy-to-read essay about topics like how digestion begins, the benefits of fermentation, and the importance of exercise. This is the type of information that you simply won’t get in your Glamour magazine — it’s the kind of information you get from that super-smart friend who teaches cooking classes at the local Ashram. (Suzie does that too!) For example, I loved this passage from the piece about exercise: “Remember, beginnings, however humble, are still beginnings. Everything in nature begins with a singular impulse. From the tiniest germ of being, life manifests outward into the universe. Where ever you may be in your journey, you can always take the first step towards reinvention.”

There’s also a super nutrition appendix that lists the health benefits and properties of all of the ingredients in the book. Did you know that celery is sometimes used as a treatment for rashes, and that bee pollen can help reverse the effects of obesity?
These tips, along with the amazing photography, innovative recipes and informative health knowledge earn the Ripest Cherry the Double Chin Diary seal of approval. You can buy your own copy at RipestCherry.com for $14.95.

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Because a review just ain’t a review on the Double Chin Diary without a giveaway, Suzie has graciously agreed to offer a copy to one lucky Double Chin Diary reader. For your entry to win, all you need to do is visit RipestCherry.com, and tell me which recipe out of the four sample pages shown you would be most inclined to try (Leave a comment).  The winner will be picked next Tuesday at 11:59 PM. US Only, please — and GOOD LUCK! You can earn an additional entry by “liking” Ripest Cherry on Facebook, sharing a tweet or Facebook post about this giveaway! If you do those things, just let me know in the comment. Viva la ‘Raw’volution!

 

From the Pages of the Commode Commander: Life with Crohn’s Disease

Hi everybody, I hope you had an amazing weekend! Today’s guest post is very special to me because it was written by my best friend, Katelyn. Katelyn is a very dear person in my life because we grew up together, catching crawdads in the Petaluma creeks and spending time in our self-named “Fairy hollow,” a beautiful ravine in a meadow that was unseen by most. She is the funniest person I know, and she has wicked smarts and beauty to boot. She’s tackled her disease head-on and has been an inspiration for me in how to make my new diagnosis work for me rather than torture me. Please take the time to read about her experiences below, because as I’ve said before, you must advocate for your own health. I found this post extremely relevant for anybody trying to better themselves through nutrition, so I think you’ll really like it. Katelyn has just started a blog, too! Show her some comment love and enjoy!

Me and my bestie Katelyn in fake Italy, aka, the Bellagio, in Vegas

Me and my bestie Katelyn in fake Italy, aka, the Bellagio, in Vegas

From the Pages of the Commode Commander: How My Disease Helped Me Become Healthy

I’m constantly analyzing the kinds of foods I eat. Nutrition is one of my top priorities. Exercise is a must. I’m an avid label-reader and ingredient investigator. One might assume I’m a health-enthusiast or just another dieter from these statement. While the first assumption is actually quite true, the second is not: I’m a bit more than that. I have Crohn’s Disease.

I’ve never thought more about food in my life until I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) resulting in swelling and dysfunction of the intestinal tract, a little over a year ago. I ate whatever I wanted, although I suffered constantly as a result. Before my diagnosis, I tried many things to ebb the inflammation and pain in my insides: countless diets, not eating at all (I know this is awful but food = discomfort!), herbs, acupuncture, meditation, you-name-it. Nothing stuck. So eventually I said, “Screw it. If everything hurts me, then I’m eating everything!” Trust me when I say you can’t give into this urge.

We all have good days and bad days. As humans these emotional ebbs and flows are a given. Having an amazing support system -including Alyssa!- has been what’s gotten me through my lowest times. It’s important to be firm and consistent when it comes to getting the results you want; but you also have to remember to show yourself some love. Below are my top, three tips for helping achieve this balance.

#1: Quick fixes don’t last

I know how frustrating it feels to try things again and again with no success. Our culture has the tendency to gravitate toward quick fixes and instant gratification. My chiropractor years ago used a great analogy for this: he said, “Katelyn, you’re only addressing the tip of the iceberg. There’s a whole lotta ice underneath that’s being neglected!” The iceberg analogy is pretty common, so it might appear trite. But the underlying message rings true: if you ignore the root of the problem you may experience a temporary form of relief, but sooner or later you’re going to realize the mass of ice beneath is surfacing to derail you.

It took me countless years to admit that what I was putting into my body was actually exacerbating my condition and inflicting unnecessary damage. There will always be a quick fix, a miracle pill or a new “super” and trendy food force-fed to us by the “experts.” But know this: what you eat matters and the choices you make- what to eat, what to avoid- matter. Make wise choices. Find foods that fill, sustain and nourish you. Creating and sticking to a healthy, balanced diet is the first step to achieving equilibrium, health and weight-wise. Stop eating foods that “hurt” you.

#2:  Avoid food fanaticism

You’ve adopted a healthy diet and you’re feeling empowered. “But I could do even more,” you say to yourself. “I could eat even better, exercise even harder and educate myself even more!” So you start poring over every label, begin meticulously tracking your exercise regime and find yourself -innocently of course- preaching to your friends and family about your new and exciting lifestyle changes. I’m not saying this is all bad, but tread lightly. You don’t want to cross over to the obsessive side. I know first hand how good intentions can quickly escalate into border-line OCD preoccupation.

I discovered a diet, a Chrohn’s version of the macrobiotic diet, that was extremely effective in relieving my symptoms. My initial joy in finding something that worked, but that was healthy and gradual, overpowered my rational side. I thought, “If I’m feeling this good, I bet I could feel &@% amazing!” So I adapted the diet to an extreme. I ended up restricting myself so much that I crashed and burned a few weeks later. In bed, exhausted, I wondered, “What happened?” Grudgingly I had to admit to myself that I had caused my own collapse. Be balanced. Find some wiggle room. No one can be perfect all the time. Stick to what works and have foods to “fall back on.” And please, don’t get preachy. We all know that backfires.

#3: Shut out the “Nay-Sayers”

There are going to be people who try to bring you down. There will be people that “poo poo” your latest diet or exercise routine. There will be some pontificator who thinks he/she knows exactly what will work for your body. There are still people who de-legitimize my disease: they say, “it’s all in your head” or “you need pills; what you eat doesn’t matter.” In the past I’ve wanted to silence these people with a swift kick to the face. Now I don’t let the words get under my skin and move on. Only you- OK and maybe your doctor or nutritionist- knows what’s best for YOU. You know YOU. Diets are not a one-size-fits-all. You have to try things on, test things out. It’s OK to talk shop with friends or explore recommendations, but don’t let this overshadow what your gut (had to include a Crohn’s reference!) is telling you.

Portable Sunshine: Perking up my Vitamin D

When I first found out I had a vitamin D deficiency, I was kind of surprised. Although I’d heard it’s very, very common, I live in Los Angeles, city of perpetual sun and beaches. Even as a child, I spent summers speckled and brown, prancing around the Florida beaches without sunscreen, going back to school in September all tan and bronzed. While I try to wear sunscreen now, some days I forget, and I’m out in my garden for hours, training tomato vines, clipping cucumbers, not realizing till later that “Oops! I’m pink!” So long story short, I spend a lot of time outside — always have, always will. My husband and I even eat our dinners outside now that we’re in the sweet summer months, especially on days when it’s a bearable 85. I’ve always been a sun worshipper, and one of my favorite things is curling up on a beach towel with a good book and a glass of iced tea. So really, not enough sunshine for me?! Granted, I do wear sunscreen on my face every day and sunscreen can slow the absorption of Vitamin D, but I guess thought my So-Cal Sunny Bunny personality would keep me D-lightful.

Basking in the sun in San Luis Obispo, CA.

Turns out, you can’t actually get all your Vitamin D from sunshine. A lot of it comes from our food, and webMD says “It also occurs naturally in a few foods — including some fish, fish liver oils, and egg yolks — and in fortified dairy and grain products.” Well, that explains a lot, because I don’t eat fish, and when I have eggs, I always go yolkless, preferring the taste and low calories of whites. I also in general tend to usually order vegetarian at restaurants as I’m a picky meat eater, and people who don’t consume a lot of meat can have problems in this area.

In addition, obesity also screws things up, because “Vitamin D is extracted from the blood by fat cells, altering its release into the circulation. People with a body mass index of 30 or greater often have low blood levels of vitamin D.” However, the fantastic news is that Vitamin D has a large part in maintaining a healthy body weight because Vitamin D sends receptors to the brain to signal fullness and increase the balance of serotonin, the “happy” chemical that promotes well-being and stomps out depression and anxiety.  Here’s a stat that I especially like: “In a 2009 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, obese women who were put on a 15-week diet and took 1,200 milligrams of calcium/D a day lost six times more weight than women who followed the diet alone.” (from Women’s Health Mag)

Here are some other reasons you might have a vitamin D deficiency (from WebMD):

  • Your exposure to sunlight is limited. Because the body makes vitamin D when your skin is exposed to sunlight, you may be at risk of deficiency if you are homebound, live in northern latitudes, wear long robes or head coverings for religious reasons, or have an occupation that prevents sun exposure.
  • You have dark skin. The pigment melanin reduces the skin’s ability to make vitamin D in response to sunlight exposure. Some studies show that older adults with darker skin are at high risk of vitamin D deficiency.
  • Your kidneys cannot convert vitamin D to its active form. As people age their kidneys are less able to convert vitamin D to its active form, thus increasing their risk of vitamin D deficiency.
  • Your digestive tract cannot adequately absorb vitamin D. Certain medical problems, including Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis, and celiac disease, can affect your intestine’s ability to absorb vitamin D from the food you eat.
Accidental sunshine overdose!!!

Accidental sunshine overdose!!!

So there ya have it – my body gets an A for effort, but my sunshine and calcium levels need more D! My doctor recommended a 5,000 mg supplement of D3 daily, and a friend of mine who is D-deficient said after about two weeks of her supplements, she was bouncing off the walls with her renewed energy levels. While I don’t feel particularly sluggish, I know that I do enjoy being a lazy bum, so hopefully this will perk me up a bit and encourage me to spend even more time outside!

Are you curious about your D levels, or any other minerals/vitamin levels? I know many people who have some kind of deficiency, so I’m not too shocked that I’ve joined the ranks, especially as one website I read said an estimated 77% of all Americans suffer a D-ficiency. (Har, har). I don’t want to be a broken record, but if you suspect something’s up, get thee to the doctor, stat! Till next time… I’m off to catch some rays!

 

 

I’m 28! Birthday Thoughts

Hello! Today is the first time I’m writing to you as a 28 year old. Birthdays are weird as you get older, because as you get older they become less exciting and more like, “Oh, it’s my birthday.” This morning I completely forgot it even was my birthday until I opened Facebook on my phone after I pressed the “snooze” button. My adult responsibilities got in the way of me anticipating my birthday – I worked close to 50 hours last week, finished thesis changes, had house guests and doctor appointments. What a whirlwind! Needless to say, I had an amazing day today filled with delicious food (Hubby took me to Cheesecake Factory. Mmmm. We shared a piece of peanut butter cheesecake and half of it is sitting in our fridge softly singing “Alysssaaaaa. Alyssssssaaaaaa. Birthday calories don’t count.”), wonderful people and all of the warm, fuzzy feelings I get seeing so many of you wishing me a happy day. You’re all quite lovely!

In thinking about what I want 28 to be like, I want to claim my health. I’m fortunate that my blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels are fantastic, but this year I want to shed my excess weight and reveal the slimmer, slender Lyssa. I’m not going to put a number on how much I want to lose, because that sets me up for disappointment if I don’t make it, but I need to get closer. I’m in the process of doing some fact-finding that I’ll share more about later, but it might be a little clue as to why I’ve struggled so much the past few months. (For the last time… No, I’m not pregnant. Ha!)

Here are some health related things I want to do this year:

  • Run a 5k with April. We’ve been discussing doing a Double Chin Diary Sister Run, and I’m trying to figure out which 5k will be our first to hit up. Any suggestions?
  • Keep drinking water. Did y’all know I’ve been OFF DIET COKE for over a month now??!?!?! Unbelievable. The only thing I miss is the convenience of grabbing a cold coke when I want something different than water. I feel like my skin has cleared up a lot! I’ve been guzzling unsweetened iced tea like crazy!
  • Focus on strength training in addition to cardio. Too often when I’m trying to lose weight (aka my whole life) I just focus on sweaty, messy cardio. However, this spring’s bootcamp session reminded me that great results come from mixing it up. Plus, nothing makes you feel more badass than pushing a sled filled with weights across a park.
  • Work on changing the negative self talk to a voice of compassion. This means calling out my friends and family when they diss themselves. Life is too short to hate yourself… so I want to make sure I live every day grateful for this body I have, as imperfect as it may be. It is perfect because it is mine, and it works, which is a gift some people don’t have.

That’s all I got for now. Here’s some exciting news: The Double Chin Diary has been listed in Diet To Go’s top 100 inspiring weight loss blogs!!! There are days when I’m too tired, too lazy, or too meh to write, but for the most part, I love coming back here and checking in. Writing has always been my sanctuary, and to know that there are real live people out there reading my rambling warms my heart. When I reach my goal, know that you have played a part in it. THANK YOU.

I hope you have a wonderful day. 🙂

My new jet setter life style

Hello everyone! I’m currently on my way back to Los Angeles after a week working on site in San Francisco. I’m sardine canned between two lovely people- one reading the wall street journal and the other snoring with his mouth hanging open. It’s exciting.

I get home for a couple hours to re-pack, grab my hubby, and then we’re both off to Baltimore for Fitbloggin, where I’ll be meeting up with people who’ve already completed their weight loss journey and those like me who are just starting. I can’t wait to sweat in the mini trampoline fitness class, try out my new shoes from Reebok, hear speakers like Skinny Emmie and enjoy evenings with my hubby, who will be exploring DC in the daytime.

Here’s a quick update for the week- my weight is holding steady at 11 pounds down, and while I didn’t exercise this week, I did make lots of solid lunch choices like these: salads, veggie tortilla-less burrito, veggie enchiladas, and fresh fruit for snacks.

Next week will calm down for a couple days and then it’s back on the road for a few days to celebrate hubby’s birthday. I’m looking forward to getting back into the gym routine next week and sleeping in my own bed! Watch for a new update tomorrow about Fitbloggin’!

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Weekly Weigh In – June 4th

Post-workout healthy treat - frozen yogurt with fresh fruit! Like my "I Voted" sticker?!

Hey everybody! I don’t think I’ve posted about my reality check moment last week, so I’ll start there. I met with my awesome registered dietician last week, and I had maintained my weight…which is better than a gain, but not really what I’m goin’ for. We basically talked about how if I really tried for the next week with tracking and exercise and I didn’t lose weight, we’d need to revisit some blood tests and health check ups to make sure my body wasn’t “broken”. That seemed to knock some sense in to me, and I left her office feeling determined to really TRY for the next week.

So I tracked diligently on MyFitnessPal (Friend me! I’m @lyssacurran), avoided tortilla chips, exercised, and did magical weight loss dances around the kitchen. Maybe I lied about that last part. But basically, I really TRIED last week – and the scale showed that I…

Lost 3 pounds!

This bit of success was exactly what I needed to motivate myself. I have to keep in mind that nobody ever said weight loss would be easy – but the more I do it, and the more I get used to it, the easier it will be to get into a routine and focus on the goal. I’ve been having some good breakthrough moments lately where I remind myself that I’m not losing weight to look cute in skinny jeans or shop in the Junior’s department – I’m losing weight for my HEALTH. It’s not about vanity or beauty, it’s about feeling good in the skin I’m in, and boosting my energy, reducing my risks of heart disease and diabetes, and making sure I take great care of the gift of life. Sounds cheesy, but it’s true! You never know when your number is going to be called – so I want to live life to the fullest and feel great while I do it.

How’s your week going?

***If you haven’t “liked” my Facebook page, please do so for a chance to win an awesome upcoming goodie bag of my favorite things! I like you, will you “like” me too?!