PD – Day 8

Growing up in Southern California, it wasn’t difficult to find good Mexican food, nearly every corner had a taco shop. Being minutes away from the San Ysidro border crossing, authentic was a car ride away. Growing up my mom was an amazing cook! Maybe it’s where I gained some of my culinary talents in the kitchen. While Mexican was a popular cuisine, Indian cooking was a virtual unknown in our household. It wasn’t until I moved out, grew up that I first experienced Japanese curry, but quickly moved for the Indian variety. In fact, I experience some of the best tasting Indian curry, down under in Australia, when I visited some years back.

Since that time, I have been fond of flavors out of India; cumin, tumeric, garam masala, coriander, ginger, cinnamon, mustard seed and cloves just to name a few. Now that I have my own kitchen, curry seems to be a regular dish in my repertoire, as I am always looking out for new and different recipes to try.

It’s quite easy to find vegan Indian cuisine, unfortunately many of these dishes are loaded with oil when cooked. There’s a local establishment that has some great food, while all  vegan I know I should have made a wiser decision and cooked my own. It’s one of those meals you bring home and the containers are laced with oil, but the favors are incredible.

Looking deeper for vegan recipes from India, the oil can be omitted in nearly every case. Last night I made the Protective Diet Tikka Masala. Oil free, plant based, this was one of the best dishes I have made! It was coupled with Indian Style Basmati Rice I found off All Recipes. I failed to use the PD Indian Spice Rice recipe, as I missed it when I was reading the instructions. Then again, failing to read Julie’s recipes ALL THE WAY THROUGH, seems to be a common theme with me. Funny because it’s usually the FIRST instruction she has when you start the recipe.

Last October I had two weekend long outings with the Boy Scouts of America. It was leadership training for adults, where were broken into groups of 5-6. Along with camping, we were told to cook our own meals during the second weekend. In our group we had a leader named, Praveen. As luck would have it, he was from southern India, vegan and asked if he could do all the cooking. While we pooled our thoughts for meals we could cook, he came up with some excellent Indian food.

While I had heard of Chana Masala (Indian chick pea dish), I had never cooked it but Prvaeen sold us the mean by another name, Chole. This was our main course for dinner the second night. This dish is created several ways depending on the time and richness you desire. He pointed me to this video by Vahchef as a guide.


While canned chickpeas and premixed garam masala can be used, the flavors are enhanced when can soak dried chickpeas and use individual spices to create your personal garam masala. Soaking the chickpeas you are able to control of hardness of the garbonzo, but usually overnight is adequate. Garam masala is a mixture of cardamom, cumin, clove, bay leaves and mace. This spice can be found in any Indian grocery, but also at nearly any market you shop in the spice section.

Accompanying our meal was a dish called upma. “Originally from South India, is a hot favorite breakfast food! Made with semolina and slightly spiced to make a tasty dish that can be eaten for breakfast, brunch or as a snack,” as described by Sanjay Thumma. The word translated;  “up” means “soft” and “ma” means “flat.”


The basic upma recipe as cooked by Vahchef:

1 tbsp channa dal
1 slice chopped ginger
1 small chopped onion
1 tsp cumin
8 leaf curry leaves
2 piece gr chillies
1 pinch hing
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp oil or butter
2 tbsp peanuts
1 pinch salt
1 cup sooji/semolina/rava
1 tsp urad wash

Add oil in a heavy pan ,add mustard seeds,cumin and add channadal ,peanutsand saute till they are cooked add urad wash, add chopped ginger,chillies curry leaves hing add salt and water bring it to boil add semolina/sooji slowly stirring continously so to avoid lumps mix well when all moisture is absorbed cover for 5 min and serve hot with chutney ,pickle ,sambhar and kids love to eat with some sugar (text from the You Tube video).

This recipe can easily be modified for a Protective Diet by removing the oil and the peanuts. In fact, when Praveen made it, there was no peanuts used, but he did use oil to heat the spices before the actual cooking started. However, it was the whole spices that really brought out a full, deep flavor in the upma.

One ingredient I had never cooked with, curry leaves. As I continued to search for more Indian recipes, I realized I had never seen curry leaves for sale at any market I go to, including the Middle Eastern markets I frequent. As luck would have it, a co-worker, who is Indian has a few curry trees growing in his yard and cut some branches for me. Fresh curry leaves are easily stored in a Ziplock bad, folded between newspaper in order to keep moisture off the leaves. Done properly, curry leaves could last up to 4 weeks in the refrigerator.


PD – Day 6 & 7

Honest, nothing happened. I didn’t fall off the PD bicycle just 5 days into the fun and excitement of eating all this good, healthy food. The fact of the matter is, I failed to check in on my website, as I still don’t have my PC set up. However with a bit of free time yesterday, I was able to get it running, but will need to update my wireless connection in order to stay connected when I am away from work. Last thing I want to attempt is blogging on my mobile device.

This past Friday was supposed to start with a afternoon/evening out with a childhood friend of mine, in town from Pittsburgh, PA. Unfortunately, I had to back out on our plans, which might have been a blessing, as I know it would have included quite a bit of beer and unsavory foods, which would tempt me. We reattempted to connect on Sunday but it just wasn’t to be this time around. I did keep busy all weekend around the house, with a load of energy to burn!

The kitchen is always a busy place in our house, as I am there every evening, cooking for the family. As mentioned in the past, it can be as many as three different meals a day. Maybe it’s going the extra mile for my loved ones, or the difference in how we all eat. In preparation for Friday’s dinner, Chorizo Tacos, I made the Ultimate Cheeze Sauce, Taco Sauce and Taco Slaw, earlier in the week. The following day I put together the Vegetarian Mexican Rice. So good! I could probably have eaten the entire pot for dinner that night. I also soaked the black beans (as I was out of pinto) in preparation for the IP. Unfortunately, I ran out of time and the tacos had to wait until Saturday.

I am a huge Mexican food junkie, I love a good burrito or ceviche, but rice and beans were my soft spot. As there is so much lard used to “flavor” these side dishes, I knew neither to be healthy. Over the years I have tried to find recipes full in flavor, but usually these dished tasted a bit bland as if they were missing something. It appears I have found the most flavorful replacements that accompanied the Chorizo Tacos over the weekend. I made the Pintos & Cheese from the PD site, but opted for another Mexican Vegetarian Rice recipe, which featured a few substitutions to conform to the PD lifestyle.

While it was all about the food this first week, I did fall back on planning my meals, which was made easier because many of the ingredients I already had. Amazing to think there were times I would find myself wondering, “what can I eat?” You know that moment. Open and look in the pantry and there is NOTHING made, just bulk foods and canned goods. I found myself getting very lazy, which was cause for a big downturn in my health. In the back of my mind I knew I had so many different meals I could be making, but didn’t

As Julie talks about in her video series, Class #32, #33 and #34, Stocking Your Kitchen For Efficiency and Savings, this can make a world of difference as is relates to your success. While cleaning the kitchen on Saturday, I opened the cabinet that holds my spices. That is where I stayed for the next 2 hours, cleaning and organizing my spice cabinet, as well as the bulk items in my pantry. It seems you can never have enough spices, as the cabinet is bursting with flavor, so to speak. This collection continuously grows. In fact I have an Indian recipe I want to try uses whole cloves, cinnamon sticks and cumin seeds. In all honesty, I could have stayed there for another 2 hours and I still wouldn’t have accomplished everything.

Thankfully, my kitchen is stocked! I was surprised at what I was finding, that I honestly thought needed replacing. What my pantry is missing is more organization. While many of the bulk foods are in plastic bins, I have others that sit in plastic bags, not easily stored or identified as what it contains. I found myself tossing some unidentified bags out, while making a list of a few other bulk items I was low on in order to fill the next time I went shopping.

While a bit of the geek side, I recorded all the spices I owe in the mobile app, Out of Milk. There have been a few times I’ve gone shopping, only to forget if I need specific spices. I use the mobile app to shop and approximate the grocery bill. Adding the spices and pantry list to the mobile app will help me track what I already have, which would help reduce monthly grocery bills.

In just a week, I feel as if I have more energy, as witnessed by the cleaning I did this weekend. Stepping on the scale, I was down about 3 pounds. The next few weeks will be more telling, as even 5 pounds would make a difference in how my pants fit. I do recall, when the weight started dropping off, it came off relatively easy. Looking forward to completing the first 30 days. Maybe if I am brave enough, I will post those before and after pictures.

PD – Day 4

Accountability! Isn’t that what it is all about? If you are not accountable for your actions and decisions, who should be? The answer, no one! The New Year always rings in many resolutions from many people looking to make change. A 2016 article cites, “ 8 percent of people actually keep their New Year’s resolutions, according to one commonly cited statistic. There are many reasons people can’t stick to their resolutions, from setting too many of them to getting derailed by small failures.”

For those who follow a Protective Diet lifestyle we must learn to build on what we’ve started. For me, I started this whole foods, plant-based journey in 2011 behind Dr. John McDougall and the documentary, Forks Over Knives. Thankfully I found my way to Julie and her Protective Diet, taking the plant-based lifestyle to a healthier dimension. I do appreciate all the information supplied by Dr. McDougall because without him, I probably would have never made the change.

My transformation was staggering, to say the least, but not unexpected. However, there were points in the journey that saw me take a few steps back before making a small gain. Maybe that is to be expected. We know this lifestyle has amazing health benefits, we watch Julie and listen to her on a variety of lifestyle topics. We read testimonials from other PD members but yet we still hold onto some doubt that it won’t work.

While I never stopped following a Protective Diet lifestyle, I did slide far enough away that I needed to reassess where my health was at. A blood test was not needed to tell me I wasn’t in a good place, every time I stopped to get fast food, I felt guilty, knowing it was a wrong decision, yet nearly every time I went through with it. So here I sit, looking to build up a strong foundation I laid years ago. Thanks to people like Julie Christensen, John McDougall, Dr. Esselstyn and Dr. Campbell.

While I did not resolve to “follow a PD lifestyle” ahead of 2018, I did recommit myself to change. Again, pictures are worth a thousand words and while it might be monotonous seeing my before/after picture, it’s a driving factor for me. I recall how strong I felt when I participated in my final Tough Mudder event in 2014. The previous year was even stronger, as I said, “I accomplished more than I ever could imagine. While I won’t call Tough Mudder easy, it wasn’t as difficult as I had made it out to be. I had fears to face out on the course, which only strengthened my resolve and increased my confidence when I accomplished certain obstacles.” This was a result of improving my health and gaining strength.

Even now, I am sure there will times of weakness or exception made. While I admire those who hit that “100% PD compliant,” I am not sure I am at that point. Yet. Even when I was a mindful eater, running and lifting weights on a regular basis, I still had my weak moments but those did not dominate my lifestyle, like they do now. Those little moments did snowball and gain momentum, which eventually saw my lifestyle and health do a complete turnaround for the worst. So maybe those “weak moments” are the ones I attempt to work out this time in order to achieve and more importantly, maintain my health.

PD – Day 2

Such as warm and heartfelt, “welcome back,” so to speak from the Protective Diet Living Group on Facebook. These wonderful people create the backbone of support when it comes to being successful in a plant-based lifestyle. I still remember finding Julie Sterner’s (before she married Jerry), Plant Purity website and the start of her recipes that eventually led to Protective Diet, followed by registration to PD-ed!

I made a rookie mistake yesterday and forgot to bring any food to work with me. Thankfully I had an air popper and pop corn in my locker, which represented my breakfast and lunch. Needless to say, I was hungry when I got home from work and was only thinking about the Cheezy Scalloped Potatoes! This was the first recipe I made of Julie’s when I found her site. This recipe only seems to get better every time I make it. Last night was no exception, it was amazing and a perfect meal to “kick start my heart” (to steal a lyric from Mötley Crüe).

Yesterday was a planning day, we know Julie is BIG on planning with her “SUS” approach to meal planning. While I haven’t mastered this skill, I created a Excel spreadsheet that allows me to plan a week in advance the foods I want to prepare and what I need from the store. Thankfully, most of the ingredients for PD meals I already have in the pantry, even some of the obscure ones I’ve purchased off Amazon in the past.

Hiking near Los Vaqueros with BSA Troop 93 and my son, Zachary.

One of the items I felt helped me on my journey was the fact I logged everything I ate, as well as my running and weight lifting. Living a PD lifestyle, it’s not necessary. Eat when hungry, don’t when you are satiated. Can it get any easier? What logging my food allowed me to do was get a visual representation of my journey. Along with looking in the mirror, I could see just how well I was doing. While this required a bit more effort, it was one worth making. Each of us are different, some might find this cumbersome, while others might find it makes a useful tool.

There are two other tasks I want to accomplish early on, as I refocus on my health. First, I want to revisit the Dr. John McDougall’s book, The McDougall Program: 12 Days to Dynamic Health. It was this book and the information he presented that really made me think differently when it came to food. I used it as a reference book for a number of years and some of the early recipes I followed were from he and his wife, Mary. Prior to buying this book, it was a co-worker who suggested I watch, Forks Over Knives. Names like McDougall, Esselstyn and Campbell quickly come back to mind and their research and conclusions provide more incentive to “live to eat, than eat to live.”

An unflattering image of just how round my face has become and how “small” my clothes are. Okay, how big I’ve gotten.

The only change I will make to my approach is not to push this lifestyle on anyone. That was the single, biggest mistake I made when I started to see life saving changes occurring. Standing in front of a mirror, I did not recognize the new me. To look back at old pictures, the first thought that would pop into my mind, “wow, I was heavy!” I am embarrassed to look at those pictures, but the same question can be asked, “How did I let myself get like this?” We each make a conscious decision daily. Yesterday I chose to make changes in my lifestyle to benefit my health, for myself, my wife and son. Hopefully I can lead by example and possibly help to make some healthy changes in the future.

Hopefully by following those steps I took back in 2011 when I made the decision to take control of my health I will reap the benefits in a matter of months. As Julie said recently, ” Nothing can get in his way now that he made his mind up. Keep your eye on him. Results happen fast! Watch this super star transform before us.” It’s that transformation that will quickly sneak up and before I know it, my pants will be loose, shirts will be fall differently and I feel better and have new found energy. All because of a PD lifestyle and a commitment to change!

PD – Day 1

Now that 2018 is here, it’s time to refocus my efforts on those factors in my life that saw me improve my healthy over 10 months starting October 30, 2011. Seems such a long time ago I resolved to take steps and live by the teachings of a plant based lifestyle. The results in just 2 months were amazing! The dedication to follow through was even more of an achievement, sticking to a predetermined plan while continuously learning to live a healthy lifestyle.

Today is like being reacquainted with an old friend you haven’t seen in a number of years. While a plant-based lifestyle is one that I have continued to follow, I started cutting corners and introducing foods into my lifestyle that didn’t benefit my health. It was a conscious decision, know there would be repercussions with my healthy. It’s no surprise that much of the success I experienced is just a memory. I look back on my PD Testimonial and I am a shadow of the person I became by following a Protective Diet. The image alone is words a thousand words.

I have no doubts in my mind I can reclaim control of life and make better decisions when it comes to foods that can help me achieve my goals. A Protective Diet is many things to many people. One thing is constant, the outpouring of support from the founders, Julie and Jerry Christensen, down to the newest member of the PD family (who follow a PD lifestyle), the encouragement to be successful!

My journey has come full circle, but is starting another chapter. Once I was the new member, full of questions, not really sure if this was going to work, but willing to take a chance to better my healthy. In 2013, when I achieved “maximum health” I was the example for others to follow. Now, I am back to the proverbial “starting point” but armed with a knowledge and know how when it comes to being successful.

Today is day 1 and my commitment to myself to improve, both physically and mentally the person I want to become. This goes hand in hand with my 2018 resolution that centers around the word, “selfless.” The words I write and keep help to point me in the right direction. While my approach is different than others, I feel tracking my food and exercise helps me visualize the change in the numbers, which are seen in front of the mirror. As I said 7 year ago, “We will see how this progresses, it’s just the start and hopefully the change will be apparent and I can “live to eat” instead of “eat to live.”