Eat.Pray.Heal


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I’m back! Plus, try Vietnamese Chè Chuối.

If you follow my blog, you’re probably wondering where I’ve been these past few weeks.  I must confess:  I was considering putting Eat.Pray.Heal to the side and forgetting about it.  I have a fairly successful blog about my husband and my experience with infertility–a topic I know VERY well after these past 2 years of unsuccessful fertility treatments.  My husband and I originally became vegan because we were hoping it would help cure me of my fertility issues, but then in researching the vegan diet, we learned that there is so much more to being vegan than just eating healthy.  We are still pretty new at the whole vegan thing, but we are learning and loving it more and more, which is why I started this second blog.  I wanted to share what I learn about animal cruelty, about how my Catholic faith affects my decision to be vegan, about nutrition and exercise, about homemade and/or natural products, as well as recipes I try and love.  But for some reason, the more I wrote, the more self conscious I became.  What do I know about being vegan?  We’ve only been vegan for half of a year.  Now infertility–THAT I know!  I’ve been barren for 2 years.  I’ve seen several doctors, took a gazillion different medicines, had tons of different tests run, been through intrauterine insemination a few times, tried natural remedies and alternative medicine, etc.  I can write about that with confidence, but veganism?  What do I have to share with people?  However, I’m reminded that when I first started blogging about infertility, I technically hadn’t even been diagnosed yet.  My first blog post was published the night before I was to go in for a hysterosalpinogram (HSG).  I won’t go into the details of what an HSG is or what I have been through since then, but you can feel free to check out my first blog post or look around that blog, which is called This Luminous Road I Travel.

Anyway, all that to say, if you actually enjoyed reading Eat.Pray.Heal and maybe even learned a thing or two, then I am sorry I let my anxiety get the best of me.  I do that sometimes…  But I’m back and looking forward to sharing more with you!  I hope you’ll keep reading.  Here’s a quick preview of this upcoming week:  In honor of my husband’s aunt who just had a baby (and asked us to be the baby’s godparents!!), I’m planning to write about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in infant formula (you may have been hearing some talk about this lately because the nonprofit group, As You Sow, asked Abbott Laboratory shareholders to remove GMOs from their Similac products, which is a very popular brand of baby formula), and I’ll be trying 2 new recipes this week–a traditional Vietnamese dish made vegan and a pasta dish.  If they both turn out as delicious as I’m hoping they will, then I’ll post the recipes with pictures. 

Speaking of recipes, I made a really yummy Vietnamese dessert over the weekend.  I didn’t take pictures, but I’ll share the recipe.  It’s very simple.  Vietnamese people eat a lot of something called chè.  Chè refers to any sweet beverage or pudding, which is the most common type of dessert eaten by Vietnamese people.  There are many kinds of chè, and I have too many favorites to list!  The nice thing about chè is it’s always vegan friendly, because most people don’t have access to dairy products in Vietnam, so people typically use coconut milk instead.  Also, Vietnamese desserts are not as sweet as Western desserts tend to be.  This recipe is for Chè Chuối.  (Chuối means banana.)  Here is the recipe:

 

Ingredients

2 cups water

1/2 cup small tapioca pearls

1 cup unsweetened coconut milk (the kind in a can)

1/3 cup sugar

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp vanilla

5 ripe bananas, pealed and cut into 4 parts per banana

2 Tbsp roasted, chopped peanuts to garnish (optional)

 

Directions

Bring the 2 cups water to a boil in a small saucepan.  Add the tapioca pearls and allow to simmer for 5-7 minutes, or until the tapioca pearls turn clear.  Be sure to stir often so the tapioca doesn’t stick to the bottom and burn.  Stir in the coconut milk, sugar, salt, and vanilla.  Then, add the bananas and cook for another 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and pour into small dessert bowls (we use rice bowls, if you happen to have those) and if you like peanuts, you can sprinkle some on top of each bowl of dessert.  Serve warm or cold. 

Tip:  You won’t use the whole can of coconut milk, but unless you serve all of the chè at once, you’ll want to save the coconut milk in the fridge, because if you serve yourself a bowl of leftover chè later on, you’ll want to add 1-2 tsp of coconut milk to help soften it back up (even if you reheat it, which is how I like to have it).

 

 

 

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Meet Xanh.

I realized I haven’t had any posts with pics of my dog yet.  Anyone who knows me will tell you that we are quite obsessed with our pup.  Last May, I was really struggling with life.  My husband, Choi, and I had been struggling to conceive a baby for a while at that point.  In fact, I was on Clomid and had had several tests run to try to figure out what was wrong.  Only 2 months before, we suffered a miscarriage, and in May we were referred to a fertility specialist.  Because of the stress we were under (Choi also worked long hours at the time) and because I was going to be seeing the fertility specialist several times a week, we decided it would be best for me to stop working outside the home.  Because of all this, my husband tried very hard to talk me into buying a puppy.  I really didn’t want the responsibility of a dog.  I’m a firm believer that if you adopt a puppy, you have to make sure they receive lots of your time and attention, and solid discipline and training.  You shouldn’t just leave them home all day and then spend many of your evenings and weekends doing things your dog can’t participate in, so I wasn’t sure I wanted that commitment, especially since I figured if I was going to put that much time and energy into someone, I wanted it to be a baby.  But, Choi won me over and we started looking for a puppy.  Long story short, last Memorial Day weekend, we picked up our first and only “baby,” Xanh (pronounced Sahn).  Xanh is Vietnamese for “blue,” because his silvery/gray fur color is known as blue in the dog world.  He is an American Bully, which is basically a giant and more even tempered pit bull.

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It was love at first sight.  And Choi was absolutely right–having a puppy to care for really did help me heal from all our suffering.  Having this tiny little animal be completely dependent on me for all his needs, and pouring my love and efforts into house training him, crate training him, and doing obedience training with him filled my void, not for a baby, but at least for my need to nurture someone.

This past year, I have loved every second of watching Xanh grow and learn.  He is trained in Vietnamese (the language my husband and I speak at home), and he also knows hand signals.  He was such a quick learner as a puppy!

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We take Xanh everywhere with us that he’s allowed to come.  He’s been to lots of lakes and hiking places, he’s gone out to eat with us at restaurants with outdoor seating, he’s been to peaceful protests with me (wearing his doggie backpack to carry his toys and some water), he’s been around the French Quarter of New Orleans and even came with us to Cafe Du Monde…  This list could go on.

Our baby just turned a year old a couple of weeks ago, and we love him more than ever.  That image of a viscous pit bull is blown out of the water with Xanh.  He is super protective of his momma, but he is a cuddle bug who gets excited if a person even looks at him.  He thinks everyone is his friend, whether that person is afraid of Xanh or not.  He loves to give kisses, and he is VERY dramatic!  He makes noises like a human when he doesn’t get his way, and he goofs off and makes everyone laugh the rest of the time.  As soon as we got Xanh, my depression faded away, laughter filled our home again, and my husband and I finally started relaxing a little, despite the fact that we were going through fertility treatments at the time with little hope of ever conceiving.  Adopting Xanh is one of the best decisions we ever made!

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(These pics were taken yesterday.  Xanh laid in the shade of the garage while Choi changed the oil in my car and I vacuumed it out.)

Do any of you have pets?  (Pit bulls, perhaps?)  If you’ve ever experienced the healing power of a pet, please share your story in the comments section!


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My Story

Welcome to my new blog!  Some of you may have come to Eat.Pray.Heal due to my infertility blog This Luminous Road I Travel, so you probably already know my story.  But to the rest of you, let me start off by sharing my journey with you.

You can read all about my background with infertility, which was the catalyst for the seemingly drastic changes I have made in my diet and lifestyle this year, either on my About page or at my infertility blog linked above, but I want to tell you about my path to veganism.  After my husband and I experienced a few failed rounds of IUI (intrauterine insemination), we were devastated.  We felt we had hit a wall.  I was beginning to wonder if we would ever be able to have children of our own (I still wonder that sometimes).  But I’m no quitter.  I delved into the world of alternative medicine to see if there was anything there that could potentially help me overcome my fertility issues.  I had two problems blocking me from conceiving a baby:  I could not ovulate without medication (or so I thought), and my immune system produces antibodies that attack sperm before they reach my cervix.  I set out to tackle problem number one first, because we moved to the St. Louis area from Birmingham right after our last round of IUI and I didn’t want to see another reproductive endocrinologist (fertility specialist) for a while.  I was so exhausted from the intense treatments, and I was really sick of going to the doctor several times a week for ultrasounds and injections, etc.

I actually learned about maca root from an episode of Taboo on the National Geographic Channel.  A woman on the show (from South America) believed that she would eventually become pregnant if she ate maca root on a daily basis (and if she took a pilgrimage to see some famous shaman in her native country who would go into an altered state, cut himself all over to prove he was possessed by some other being, and then cut her stomach open so her infection could bleed out–but I’m not going to get into that part of her story, though).  Despite the fact that I first heard of maca root on a show called Taboo, I was intrigued by this root I had never seen or heard of before, so I did a little research.  I learned that maca root, which is native to Peru, actually balances hormones in the body, so it is a popular alternative for women who need meds, such as clomid or letrozole, to induce ovulation.  I was sold.  I bought a bag of maca root powder from Whole Foods the very next week, and to my utter amazement, I started ovulating the very same month I began taking maca powder, and I have continued to ovulate ever since.  This really got my wheels turning.  If I could fix such a major health issue by simply adding one new food to my diet, what else could I fix via food?

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That’s what pushed me to learn more about nutrition.  The first change I made to my diet was removing all dairy.  I gave up dairy for a number of reasons:  cows are often injected with hormones, which pass through their milk to us; cows often eat genetically modified, pesticide-filled corn, which again, passes through their milk to us; dairy causes acid build-up in our bodies, which can cause our bones to become brittle and frail over time; dairy products cause more mucus production in our bodies, which can lead to worsened allergy symptoms.  (Not to mention, we are the only species to drink breast milk into adulthood, and the only species to drink the milk of another species.  Ew.)  I can’t say I noticed a lot of physical changes in my body from giving up dairy, but my allergy symptoms have definitely improved, and I know that I’m doing my body a huge favor in the long run by keeping those hormones and pesticides away.  Next came meat.

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I was always under the impression that meat was safe to eat as long as it was organic, because if it was organic, that meant the animals were fed their natural diet, were free range, and were treated ethically.  Then, I watched the documentary Vegucated on Netflix, and I immediately vowed to never eat meat again.  I never knew half the things that happen to animals in the food industry, and that includes animals raised on organic farms.  It was sad, it was disgusting, and I felt awful.  If you want to learn more about the unethical treatment of animals that goes on in our food industry, please watch this documentary!  That pushed me to watch more documentaries and read more books and articles about the meat industry as well as the vegan lifestyle.  Even if you could care less about animals and how they are treated, I urge you to watch Forks Over Knives, an excellent documentary that can also be found on Netflix that lays out the science behind why a vegan diet is best for our health, all politics aside.  Vegans are WAY less likely to suffer heart disease, heart attack, stroke, obesity, type 2 diabetes, or cancer.

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After going fully vegan earlier this year, I immediately felt like a new person.  (For those of you who may not know the difference between vegetarians and vegans, vegans do not eat any animal products.  That includes dairy, eggs, and honey.)  My energy levels soared (this past Easter was the first time I’ve ever eaten a big holiday meal without needing a nap or feeling exhausted the rest of the day), I sleep better, I’m more conscientious about the things I put into my body, my allergy symptoms have greatly improved, and I have opened up my pallet to so many new flavor combinations.  I have always enjoyed cooking, but not like now.  Becoming vegan has made me fall in love with food in a whole new way!

I can’t wait to continue sharing my journey with you, as well as giving you solid information about health and nutrition and sharing with you some of the recipes I love most.  I’d love to hear from you, so please leave me a comment.