All posts by A.A. Mackey

plant based whole foods adventurer - wife - boxing fan - heirloom organic gardener - wellness educator - mother - golfer - traveler - friend - photographer - daughter - runner - sister - recipe scientist - writer

Adventures With Ami: Vegetable Delivery

Where do you buy your produce?  From the local grocery to the farmers market, warehouse stores or a co-op, there are plenty of options out there.  In some areas, there are more options than others.  We say, do the best you can.  I personally buy a lot of frozen fruits and vegetables at my local super center or discount grocery.  I also grow veggies in the summer and shop at local farmers markets.

I recently had the opportunity to try out a grocery delivery service called Green Bean Delivery that services the midwest.  Similar in nature to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share, you get a weekly delivery of fresh fruit and vegetables.  In addition to the fresh produce, this service also allows you to add on grocery items to your order as well.

My small bin of produce from Green Bean Delivery
My small bin of produce from Green Bean Delivery

If you have been considering a CSA share this year or like the convenience of delivery, you might want to look into Green Bean Delivery.  Though they are not available in all areas of the USA, similar services may be.  In the summer, I normally have my own vegetable garden.  I’ve never tried a CSA or delivery service because of that.  With our recent relocation, I haven’t had a chance to garden here in St Louis just yet.  The availability of great looking produce at the local markets here varies as well.  I’ve found it to be hit or miss.  So I was really excited to see what Green bean had to offer.

The produce bin from Green Bean comes in three sizes. S-M-L ranging in price locally in St Louis from $35-$49.  Other options include a fruit only bin and a small bin that includes produce and groceries.  Each bin is customizable, you can mix and match the vegetables and fruit in your bin based upon what is available that week.  Adding more apples for example or swapping spinach for kale.  The majority of the produce is local and organic.  The grocery section also have a large selection of locally produced items available which was really nice.  From bulk items like rolled oats to locally baked bread, they had some really great items that I was interested in personally.

When my delivery arrived, the produce looked amazing!  I was pleased with every single item that was in my bin.  Everything was very fresh.  I wasn’t sure what to expect.  All of my items were bagged either in plastic produce bags or in brown paper bags.  I don’t think I could have picked a better array of produce had I gone to the store myself.

a great selection of organic produce
a great selection of organic produce

Though I don’t foresee using a delivery service for all of my grocery shopping needs, I have been really pleased with the Green Bean Delivery experience.  It makes a very nice supplement to the other grocery shopping that I do.  I like that I can add things like locally baked bread without having to make a trip to the bakery itself.  One of the benefits I enjoy about online shopping for groceries is the fact that I am not cruising the aisles and picking up impulse items.  I search for what I need, add it to my cart and make it to checkout without having to see all the things that aren’t part of my daily plan.

If you are in their service area and would like to try Green Bean Delivery, you can use this promo code for $15 off your first order: 15pbaml

code expires: March 22nd, 2014

Helpful links to find other delivery services and CSA’s in your area:

http://www.peapod.com

http://www.greenling.com/home

http://www.localharvest.org/csa/

https://www.planetorganics.com/UI/default.aspx

Adventures With Ami: Make A Difference

Bill coaching one of the kids.
Bill coaching one of the kids.

A chance conversation while working in my urban garden with two neighborhood boys who happened by one Saturday started it all.  We talked about vegetables, growing your own food and making healthy choices.  A year later, I was working on an assignment for my plant-based nutrition courses at eCornell. My instructor, Lewis Freedman requested we write about a plant-based business.  I wrote about starting a program for urban youth to teach them about community gardens, healthy food and cooking with a side of tutoring and physical fitness.  The name of the program I wrote about was Plant-Based Adventures.  Working with kids to introduce them to plant-based nutrition was my dream. Not long after, I started blogging as Plant-Based Adventures and eventually became part of the Engine 2 team.

Since then, my husband Bill and I have been volunteering with amateur boxing.  He is a USA Boxing coach and a mentor to young adults in the boxing program.  I help many of them make healthy choices and work toward living a plant-based lifestyle.  I have had the opportunity to work with many athletes in the kitchen and at the market learn more about plant-based cooking.  When performance can be enhanced through better eating, they are eager to learn more.  Several of the athletes I work with have made the transition completely, going 100% plant-strong.  I am so proud of these individuals! Their hard work and dedication is astounding.

A conversation during a road trip when the PowerBall lottery had exceeded $300 million began. We bantered around ideas for opening a different kind of boxing gym if we won the lottery.  We talked of buying an old warehouse building to house our program.  Purchasing fitness equipment, a full featured boxing gym, a commercial kitchen so we could feed the kids and teach classes on cooking and plant-based living, space outside for a community garden, and a computer lab/study area where tutors could work with the kids. We included a mentoring program for kids who needed someone to help guide them through the tough years that adolescence can bring.  We would implement a scholarship program to help get them into higher education and a GED program for those who needed to finish school.  What can I say? It was a lottery dream :) We had this conversation often, adding ideas to build a comprehensive program.

Enter St Louis.  We relocated to the City of St Louis last summer.  St Louis is a great place!  We love it here.  It is the perfect place for us.  The city has a rich history in boxing, lots of community gardens, amazing people and an abundance of urban at-risk youth who can benefit from a structured program like our lottery dream.  Like any large metropolitan area, St Louis has it’s fair share of crime, guns, gangs and street violence.  Providing an opportunity to box is often an enticing incentive to those looking to avoid becoming an all too familiar statistic.  We also encountered several like-minded individuals in St Louis and discovered that alone, we could only do so much; but together, we could form the foundation to build our collective dream.

I am proud to announce that what was once a dream, is becoming a reality.  Plant-Based Adventures and our dream gym have merged.  December 16th 2013, St Louis All City Boxing Inc. was born.  A non-profit corporation aiming to serve the at-risk youth in the City of St Louis.  As the founders of St Louis All City Boxing, we are excited for the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of young people who participate in our program.  Boxing is the hook that gets the kids into the program.  Providing them with the support, understanding and nourishment that our program offers keeps them coming back.  Helping them build a life outside the gym through tutoring, community involvement and education will make them champions outside the ring as well.  Our goal is to make a difference.

http://www.gofundme.com/stlallcityboxing

Eat Your Ingredients

(The entry below was written for The Engine 2 Diet – Daily Beet)

A baked potato with fresh cracked pepper, steamed kale with a squeeze of lemon juice, black beans topped with salsa.  Red rice, black-eyed peas and collard greens cooked with jalapenos and veggie broth.  Whole wheat spaghetti tossed with diced tomatoes, spinach and fresh basil.  No recipes required.  Just wholesome, fresh food with a bit of seasoning.  Requires very little prep time and packs flavor and nutrition into every bite.

I think that being whole foods plant-based with no added fats lends itself to enjoying ingredients for the qualities they have inherently.  Since ditching the salt, oils and dairy, vegetables can be an entirely new experience.  Whether it was ranch dressing or some sort of cheese, deep-fried or glazed – I didn’t really taste the vegetable as much as I disguised it.  I am sure there are people out there who have always preferred their broccoli steamed with nothing on it, but I was not one of them. I now enjoy the nuances of different varieties of tomatoes, fresh off the vine in my garden.  So many flavors to try!

The same holds true for beans and lentils.  There are so many varieties of legumes out there, all with their own flavor profiles.  While eating the standard American diet, I had only tried a handful of them.  Most were either drowned in sugary sauces, or wrapped in a burrito surrounded by cheese and sour cream.  I don’t think I had ever tried a plain spoonful of beans that weren’t doused in something.  On a store tour of the bulk section of Whole Foods in Austin, TX, I was amazed to see so many heirloom beans and legumes that were exotic to me.  Even just a year ago, I never would have imagined sitting down with a bowl of cranberry beans with just a clove of crushed garlic and oregano.  One of my favorite things about this lifestyle is how much more I really enjoy my food.

Some of my favorite meals require no recipe.  I prefer making meals that encourage improvising.  Like big bowls of rice with vegetables or baked potatoes stuffed with beans and salsa. My husband is a fan of my big pots of soup.  I rarely make the same exact soup twice.  Using finds from the farmers market or leftover veggies from dinner the night before, soup is a great way to use up what you have already in the house.

I tend to keep containers of the following items in the fridge at all times: quinoa, rice, diced fruit, chopped veggies, cooked beans.  The type/color/variety may change, but I usually have what is currently in season on hand.  I cook rice, quinoa and beans in large quantities to use in a variety of recipes of the course of a few days.  These can be used for breakfast as well as lunch or dinner.  Tossed together in a tofu scramble or a bowl of brown rice with cinnamon and blueberries.  I also like to freeze a few last-minute meals for days when we are super busy.  Better to be prepared than to be hungry.

Experiment with what you have.  You’ll find you will rarely put together a bad combination of vegetables in any dish.  If you haven’t started Engine 2 yet, or if you are just beginning, hang in there.  If you are feeling overwhelmed by unfamiliar ingredients or recipes that seem long and involved, keep it simple.  You can create countless meals without using a single recipe.  Revel in the vast selection of the produce department. Enjoy the adventure of trying something new.

Adventures With Ami: USA Boxing Nationals

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Today I am in Spokane, WA for the USA Boxing National Elite Championships. I am here helping Cam F. Awesome get ready to win his 4th title at this event.  We flew in on Saturday night and headed straight to the grocery store to pick up our plant-strong fuel for the week.  Like last year, we rented a house in Spokane, so we would have a kitchen to cook a bevy of Engine 2 meals.  Believe it or not, we rented the house for less than it would have cost to stay at the host hotel for the event.  Next time you are planning a trip, consider renting a house or condo instead of a hotel.  Not only do you get more space to move about, you also get a kitchen and generally other perks like flat screen tv’s, wifi, and more.  From jacuzzi’s to gym equipment, renting a house is the way to go.  We use Airbnb.com, Vrbo.com, HomeAway.com to search for properties at our destination.

At the grocery store we picked up all of Cam’s favorites for the week.  He loves having oatmeal with bananas for breakfast, big salads with beans for lunch, a hearty pasta dish with spinach, zucchini, kidney beans and garlic for dinner and Engine 2 crackers with hummus for snacks.  Having the kitchen in the house means we spend less money dining out as well.

Fueling a plant-strong athlete isn’t any different than fueling a typical person.  Cam just needs more calories because he trains full-time.  He burns more energy than the average person, so he just eats bigger servings and a few more snacks.  Some days his burrito bowl is in a mixing bowl, a base of greens topped with rice beans, corn and salsa.  He always has snacks with him for before and after training sessions too.  When he feels like he is running out of steam, his favorite snack is a peanut butter and banana sandwich on Ezekiel bread.  A quick way to refuel the 201+ super heavyweight champion.

So this week my husband and I will be making sure Cam has everything he needs.  Between media appearances, weigh-ins daily, multiple bouts in the tournament and strength and conditioning, it takes a lot to keep this awesome machine moving.  Cam tells us he has never felt better.  Nearing his 2nd year anniversary being plant-strong, he says he can’t imagine ever eating the standard American diet again.  In 2013, Cam had a 28-2 record.  That is a lot of boxing in a year, considering pro boxers usually only fight once or twice per year.  2014 will be no different.  Winning this tournament will give Cam the opportunity to travel with the USA Boxing International Team once again.  He reports that a full schedule of international tournaments will keep him busy all year.

It’s been a pleasure having the opportunity to work with Cam as his Food Coach.  I look forward to watching his progress in and out of the ring.  Spokane is in for a treat this week as the best amateur boxers in the country are here, prepared to put on a great show.  You can keep up with Cam via his Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/CamFAwesome