Since last year when I tried the Green Boheme I've been interested in giving their 30 Day Raw Food Challenge a try. But every month I've had food events going on. August was my Offal Day, September was Farm to Fork, October - December were holidays, January was Dine Downtown and Baconfest. Then I realized that I had no food events scheduled for February. Now was the time. Especially since I've been very badly eating a lot of sweets since the holidays.

My reasons for trying the challenge are two-fold. First, I need to get a handle on my sugar intake and cravings. It is possible to eat sweets in a less dangerous way, after all.  You just need to go for lower sugar and better alternatives that have less effect on your blood glucose levels. With natural alternatives like stevia, yacon, and agave, it is possible to satisfy a sweet tooth in a healthier way. Something I also learned when I was testing the cookbook Naturally Sweet and Gluten-Free. (blog post)

Sugar is evil.  It's addictive and cancer cells feed on sugar. A convincing case of this for me was my mother-in-law. She's dealt with two bouts of breast cancer and is cancer free today. Her last bout she tried an alternative treatment that required her to go to Mexico every couple of months to filter the sugar out of her blood. Hey, it worked. 

The second reason is for my energy levels. I have to take a nap EVERY day. Around 2 p.m. I am dragging so that I either go out on the balcony or find an empty cubicle to hide in and take a 20-30 minute nap. I am curious to see if this has anything to do with my diet. 

It makes sense that I do a health assessment as well. So, I currently weigh 126, which is the heaviest I've been in over ten years.  I know people look at me and think I'm great as is, but my optimal, make-me-happy weight would be around 115-117.

I then got a Before blood panel done. My cholesterol is scary high. Probably didn't help that we were coming off Baconfest.  I did wait from Sunday to Wednesday before going in with the hopes that some of the bacon grease would have cleared out of my system. Oh well.
Cholesterol<=239 mg/dL264
Triglyceride<=199 mg/dL59
HDL>=45 mg/dL83
Low density lipoprotein calculated<=129 mg/dL169
Glucose, fasting60 - 99 mg/dL91

What to expect

The daily regimen for the Challenge is this:
  • Upon waking - 4 ounces of a probiotic drink (luckily I make kombucha)
  • 30 minutes later - 8 ounces of green juice
  • Midday - 32 ounces of green smoothie
  • Late afternoon - raw, vegan meal
  • Snack
I've opted to pay Green Boheme to make my meals and snack and I'll take care of my liquids. I already juice daily anyway and have the kombucha on hand. I'm paying for the meals because I don't want to be stuck eating 30 days of salads. How boring would that be after day 3? Brooke at GB makes fabulous meals and so I'll just have her make them for me so I don't have to think about anything. 

I've been told that the first three days are the detox phase when your body starts adjusting to the new diet. That's when you get the hunger pangs where you have the urge to eat something more solid to settle your stomach. I've experience that before and it's not fun. But after you get through that, it's easier.

I'm also told that the big change in your body doesn't become fully realized until weeks 3 and 4.  So I need to be diligent and patient. 

My biggest challenges? Poor will power is number one.  Therefore, I am skipping the Superbowl parties this weekend and probably going to a movie. Second is the desire for a hot meal. Raw means no cooking and that means nothing but cold or room temperature food. It will be interesting to see if there is a craving just for heated food.

So....wish me luck. I'll be blogging every few days about how it's going.

Another year has gone by and it's January, the month for the west coast's edition of the Fancy Food Show. Put on by the Specialty Food Association, the FFS takes over Moscone Center in San Francisco for three days. Purveyors from around the world come to show their newest and best products, hoping for new grocery, restaurant, and catering customers. 

Each year a panel of judges determine the top five food trends from the FFS. This year's list included: Sriracha in everything, crunchy snacks, low sugar drinks, fancy condiments, and mint everywhere.

The biggest, obvious, trend for me was ridiculous amounts of flavored popcorn, followed by the Sriracha flood. But I also look out for things that peak my own interest that I, as a home consumer, would be interested in - especially if they are healthy. As I filled myself with a diet of cheese, charcuterie, and chocolate, I did find a few things. I'm hopefully going to receive some samples so I can write more about some of them in the future, but here's what I especially liked.

SweetLeaf's water drops

There's been some debate lately about the fact that Coca-Cola, through it's Dasani brand, is marketing drink drops to flavor water.  Should water, healthy and free, be replaced with water with additives?  Certainly not, but as a person who grew up finding water to be boring and not tasting good (because I grew up overseas), I am the perfect customer for water flavoring drops.

The key is to pick good ones, or, at least, better ones. Instead of one with artificial flavors and colors like those produced by Dasani and Aquafina, I'd rather have SweetLeaf's version with natural, organic stevia. Plus, there are no artificial colors, additives, or sweeteners. I was given a sample of their strawberry lemonade flavor, which I really like. It takes fewer drops than those other brands to flavor your glass of water or, as I use it, in sparkling water. 

any organic, extra virgin oil is good
Have you heard of oil pulling?  It has been used by Indians and the Far East for centuries and is the process of swishing oil around in your mouth to remove toxins.

I'll talk about how it's done first, then why it's done.

Oil pulling can work with any oil, but virgin, organic coconut oil is a good choice. More on why later.  First thing when you get up, before even a sip of water, get a tablespoon of coconut oil. In winter it is usually in solid form, so you might want to heat it up a bit if you prefer liquid state. Take the oil and swish it around your mouth, through your teeth, for 10-20 minutes. I know, that's a long time. So far I'm only getting around 5-10 minutes myself. When you are done, spit out into the trash. The plumbing is not such a good idea because it's an oil that could stick to your pipes. Just spit it into the trash or a wad of tissue.  When you spit it out, it should be creamy white in color, which indicates you accomplished your goal.  Rinse your mouth out and then you can eat or brush your teeth.

The goal of oil pulling is to detoxify. When you sleep your body purges itself of toxins. A lot of this happens in your mouth and why you wake up with that awful morning breath, even if you brushed your teeth before bed. You also have that nasty film on your tongue.  If you were to drink some water first thing, you'd be swallowing back some of that nastiness. 

Yes. You read it correctly. Bear.  I cooked bear meat. It came from a female bear that my BFF's husband shot, as he is a hunter. BFF refuses to eat anything besides pork, chicken, turkey, and beef. That means hubby has to cook and eat his game himself or he gives some to me.  On my last visit to their house he handed over a bag of bear, venison, and duck. Score!

I did some internet research and discovered that bear meat is often riddled with parasites. So if you are eating it at your campsite the night after you've shot it, you need to cook it to well done to ensure you kill the parasites. But in general, freezing kills parasites. That's why you actually want your fish to be previously frozen, especially if you are a sushi eater. Luckily the fishing boats pretty much throw fresh catch directly to be flash frozen.

My gift of bear steak was frozen and so I didn't need to worry. I thawed it out and debated what to do with it. I wasn't sure if it was going to be a tough meat or not. In the end I decided to braise it. Being lazy, I braised it the quick way - in a pressure cooker. Less than an hour versus all day. I'm just learning to use my pressure cooker and so I was thrilled when this experiment came out so successful.

How did it taste? This recipe was a combination of a couple that I found on the internet. In the end it was delicious and I venture to say that if I served it to someone, they would think it was braised beef short ribs. Only the slightest of gamey flavor. The sauce was think and packed with concentrated flavor. I would definitely eat bear again.

Braised Bear in a pressure cooker

- ¼ cup flour
- salt and pepper
- 2 tbs. vegetable oil 
- 1 pound of bear meat (I had steaks)
- 1 medium onion, sliced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ¼ cup red wine
- 1 cup beef stock
- 1/4 teaspoon thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon celery seeds

In a bowl mix flour with some salt and pepper for seasoning. Coat the bear meat with the flour mixture.  In a pressure cooker over high heat, add the vegetable oil. When it is hot, sear the meat on all sides until nicely browned. Turn temperature down to medium. Add onions and garlic and cook until translucent. Add in the wine, stock, thyme and celery seeds. Put on pressure cooker lid and secure per instructions.  Follow pressure cooker instructions to get it pressurized.  Cook for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool or carefully release pressure per instructions. 

I served mine with sauteed kale.

Nationwide January is known as National Restaurant Month. I guess they figure that after the holidays, January is the slowest month for eating out. Throughout the country cities and restaurants try to alleviate that with special restaurant weeks. Here in Sacramento our Dine Downtown week runs from January 8 - 17. 

This year there are 28 restaurants participating with $31 prix fixe menus. You get three courses with choices of appetizers, entrees, and desserts. The Downtown Sacramento Partnership, which promotes the event, was kind enough to ask to do a preview again. As usual, I reviewed the menus looking for creativity and something other than steak, chicken, and pasta. This year I chose Fat City in Old Sacramento after their duck breast caught my eye. I love duck.

By the way, the reason for that extra's going to California Food Literacy, an organization close to my heart. They educate low income children on healthy food choices. So eat out and give them that extra dollar!

As my guest I took Debbie Cunningham, who has been photographing most of the best restaurants in Sacramento. That's why her pictures look so good compared to mine.

We arrived to find that Old Sacramento was still bustling with tourists or visiting families. The Christmas lights were still up and made me wish I had come down to see the light show they had during the season. Maybe next year. Fat City was busy as well. 

We were seated near the entrance and I was happy that there was no issue with lighting as FC is brightly illuminated. Our server was Jennifer, who was very friendly and impressed us with her drink carting skills. She's got some dextrous fingers for holding multiple glasses in one hand without spilling! As we discussed the menu she explained that their latest chef is Steve Gonsalves and that he's been the most creative chef they've had. That was apparent by reading the DD menu.