Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Vegan eating is here to stay...

My vegan week is over, yet I find myself unwilling to let go. I had chicken for dinner last night, and it was so...blah. I would much have preferred one of the yummy dishes I had last week, or try a new one again. For me, I think this vegan thing is here to stay, at least mostly. I don't feel the need to cut out all animal products forever, but I certainly love the way eating right makes me feel. The alternative just doesn't seem worth it anymore. I had the vegan oats again for breakfast, so good and filling! I love the feeling from eating something so healthy, so tasty, and so filling, it's just so satisfying! And I must say, I haven't had such a natural abundance of energy and drive in a long time, imagine getting that from nature! I definitely plan to pursue a lifestyle of 'vegan lite', we'll call it. Day to day I definitely want to maintain it, but it would be nice to be able to meet friends for dinner at the last minute, or go to a bbq on the weekend, and be able to eat whatever and not make a fuss. Vegan eating, welcome to my life!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Living the Vegan Life - Day 7

My vegan week is coming to a close!
I ate the last of my vegan overnight oats yesterday and forgot to make more for this morning, so for breakfast I had some Special K something or other, and it was...very not-special.
For lunch I ate MORE leftover pizza, and as much as I loved that dish, I need a break!
We had my in-laws and some neighbors over for an impromptu dinner; I only ate salad and a rice dish (very yummy rice dish!), but was still somehow satisfied with it!
I made Blueberry Almond Chia Squares for dessert, dee-licious! It was like a vegan take on the blueberry oar bars at Starbucks, healthy! I made a couple modifications on mine, I mixed the almonds in with the dry ingredients, and packed 3/4 of the mixture in the pan, put the blueberry's on top and sprinkled the rest of the mixture over that, SO good! Everyone enjoyed it, although my neighbor made a joke that it tasted like particle board, lol. Definitely did not taste like that!

Reflecting back on that week, I have learned so much. I have learned about what is beneficial for my body, how to make sure I am getting the right amount of protein, calcium, etc. in the mix. I have learned that being vegan isn't as challenging as I thought, and eating out isn't very difficult to do (limiting, though). The hardest part for me was making the time to cook everything, and to say no when in situations where non-vegan food was present.
I feel great; I have natural energy, I have the will and drive to take on tasks rather than sit on the couch, and the most important thing? I want to make this a lifestyle choice! I can't say that I want to go 100% vegan forever, it can be really restricting, but day-to-day, absolutely. I haven't felt good about myself in a long time, and I'm starting to again. Being conscious of what we put into our bodies is so important, for both the short and long-term, and I want to live a very long, healthy life!
I am so glad I took on this personal challenge, it has done wonders for me!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Living the Vegan Life - Day 6

Breakfast was once again the blueberry oats. The recipe said that it would last 2-3 days, and it did!
My parents and I decided to go tot San Francisco for the day, and once we got there we went to the formerly Taylor's Refresher (as seen on Diners, Drive-In's and Dive's), now known as Gotts (what an ugly new name, lol!). I got the veggie burger, and while it was good, it wasn't nearly as good as the veggie burger at The Counter!
We wandered around the market, and I wish I would have waited because there was a vegan food stand! Ah well, next time...my dad  then pointed out a sign, under which was a beautiful display of organic, vegan...donuts!! I bought the Maple Candy Cap, and it was SO good, it tasted just like a maple donut! Not even lying, if you didn't know the difference, you wouldn't be able to tell! Pepples Donuts use 100% organic ingredients in all of their donuts, and are also all vegan! It was so surprising and cool to see that eating vegan really does cross all spectrums of food, you can find anything, and enjoy it without compromising!

I wasn't very hungry for dinner once we got home, so I just had some leftover pizza...again! Lol, this pizza is just so darn good! And the Peanut Butter 'Blizzard' was good the next day, but definitely is best fresh. 

Until tomorrow!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Living the Vegan Life - Day 5

One work week down, just the weekend to go!

Breakfast was the Vegan Overnight Oats again, and again, so yummy! It will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days, and that is definitely true. The taste is still just as great, and the texture hasn't changed much, I added a little almond milk to my bowl to thin it out just a little bit, it was great!
I am definitely going to be incorporating this recipe into my daily diet, I'm happy to stick with blueberries for now, while they are in season,

Today has turned a bit into leftovers day, for a snack I had more hummus and crackers, and for dinner I made the same pizza I made on day one, at my sister's request! A delicious pizza that you don't have to feel guilty about eating: Win!

For dessert I made a Peanut Butter Chocolate Crunch Blizzard, SO GOOD! This was one vegan dish that you would swear was the 'real stuff'. It was SO GOOD! Totally filling, totally decadent, totally delicious!

Short post tonight, it's 9.30 and I'm so ready for bed! I think I've turned into a bit of a spinster with Ryan away, it's Friday night and I stayed home, cooked for myself, read a good book and am going to bed early...somebody save me! :)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Living the Vegan Life - Day 4

Off to a great start! Breakfast was Blueberry Banana Pie Vegan Overnight Oats, this recipe is going to become a staple for me! Mix some oats, almond milk and add-ins together and stick it in the fridge overnight: instant breakfast! I was intrigued by the concept of not cooking the oats and eating them cold but was pleasantly surprised! Everything worked well together, the texture was great and the flavor even better! There are an endless amount of way to change this one up too, can't wait for breakfast tomorrow!

Vegan granola! It has oats, walnuts, almonds, dried cranberries, raising, flaxseeds, and lots of other yummy stuff! Great to snack on (filling and satisfying!), or on top of oatmeal for breakfast, or berries for dessert! I ran a few errands late morning and took some with me to munch on, great as a snack on the go as well!

For a snack I made hummus; I didn't follow a recipe, just threw together what I thought sounded good, and it turned out great! I used two cans of chickpeas, one heaping spoonful of tahini, the juice of a lime (I think lemon would have been better, but I didn't have any of those!), three garlic cloves (made it extra spicy, yumm!), a small handful of parsley to brighten everything up, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, garlic powder and a wee it of evoo. It went great with the vegan crackers I bought, yummy!

Dinner was Veggie Burgers with sweet potato fries, and the burgers weren't bad! I kind of feel like, if you're going to eat a burger, eat a burger, but these vegan patties were pretty good, moist and had tons of flavor, I think my family enjoyed them more than I did! Everyone had seconds but me, that does speak for itself!
Sorry for no photos of either, definitely new to this!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Living the Vegan Life - Day 3

Another successful day!

For breakfast it was Cheerios once again, I promise tomorrow breakfast will actually be a vegan recipe!

For lunch I made a Mushroom, Onion and Spinach Tart with 'Goat Cheeze'...it was so good! I used whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose, it paired well with the macadamia nuts in the 'goat cheeze', so yummy! It seemed like a rich meal, but really wasn't, so healthful! Normally I am not a fan of substituting one food for another, but in this case it really worked well, I didn't feel that the tart needed cheese because there was something similar to it, and tasty!

Dinner was Enchiladas, and to quote my sister, were bomb! The sweet potato, black bean and spinach filling was spot on, I couldn't even taste to spinach ;) and with the avocado sauce on top, the cheese was never missed! The spice factor was just perfect as well; when I eat Mexican food I expect spice, and these babies delivered!

Dessert was Chilled Strawberry Almond Butter Soup, this was the first recipe that pretty much no one but me enjoyed, I thought it was great! A perfect ending on a warm summer night, the juicy strawberries with the creamy almond butter went great together, I will definitely be making this one again!

I spent several hours this afternoon in the kitchen, prepping and cooking and baking away many vegan dishes, I can't wait to share more! I realized that I haven't shared any photos yet, I will work on remedying that! In the meantime, here are a few I snapped today:

The grocery list I made for the week. Yikes there is a lot! It was a pretty hefty grocery bill as well, but really, what cost is your health?

                           I made out a meal planner using a word template, planning out each meal for the week. I haven't gone by this strictly, as with last night, things happen and you never know where you might end up for a meal. It is a great guideline and keeps me on track, seeing it all laid out in front of me helps me with perspective, and is great for looking forward to trying out specific meals.

For me, eating vegan means trying out new foods. Here are some very different, yet very yummy itemsI've been commonly working with this week:
Quinoa is a super-food, it is a complete protein source, and is also gluten-free.
Tahini is made from sesame seeds. Much like peanut butter is made from ground peanuts, Tahini is made from ground sesame seeds. It's commonly found in hummus, and adds a great nutty flavor to sauces, spreads and the like.
Vegan crackers: I found these at Fresh & Easy, they are vegan, gluten-free, wheat-free, dairy-free, non-GMO, kosher and organic...and actually tasty, too...for real! It's nice to have some item that are ready-made, making snacking easy!
Nutritional Yeast: that's the yellow stuff in the baggie. Nutritional yeast, when combined with certain foods, takes on a cheesy taste, helping make everything from macaroni and cheese to alfredo actually taste cheesy! I don't really know too much else about it, other than that it is good for you. :)
Coconut Oil: This is pretty much the healthiest oil on the market today. It comes in a solid form but cooks exactly like any other oil. It's much pricier than other oils, but is so much better for you. Again, what is your health worth?
Chia Seeds: I've learned that with the author of the recipes I'm using this week, chia seeds are a staple! Everything from granola to oatmeal gets chia seeds. They are rich in Omega-3's, help benefit diabetes sufferers, they help reduce blood pressure, they help make you feel fuller faster and best of all, they help aid in weight loss by reducing food cravings! No matter where this food journey takes me, I will definitely be incorporating chia seeds into my daily diet!
Brown Rice Pasta: made from nothing but brown rice and water, you can't get my more healthy than this pasta! It is organic and gluten-free as well, something I'm learning to look out for, and choose when possible. 
Almond Butter: I love this stuff so much, I am actually starting to prefer it over regular peanut butter! So far the creamy almond butter from Fresh & Easy is my favorite, there is only one ingredient: roastedalmonds. SO good!                                       

I came home this evening to a house full of bunco players, with loads of snacks laying all over, including one of my all-time favorites, licorice! It was pretty hard to just sit there, with all that junk food staring back at me, and not eat any. I may have been more tempted to cheat, but my family was all around, and probably would have tackled me to the ground lest I fail my challenge! My mom was great about getting it out of my sight quickly, but it was a good lesson in discipline and self-control; I'm not eating vegan because of convictions or food allergies, I'm doing it for me health, and eating candy certainly does not qualify.
My hope for this challenge is that by the end of the week, I will love eating vegan so much that I will incorporate it into my daily diet, being aware of what I put in my body, and reaching for the healthy options, rather than the convenient ones. I hope that my body will be so cleansed from all the chemicals, preservatives and all around junk that I will no longer crave it, that I will want to continue eating foods that nourish and fuel my body, enjoying new and interesting flavors and foods along the way. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Living the Vegan Life - Day 2

This morning began, once again, with a bowl of Cheerios. I then went grocery shopping, doing a massive vegan overhaul in our kitchen. How I wish there were a Whole Foods closer to me than 40 miles away!

For lunch I made Taco Salad, romaine with red peppers, carrots, scallions, avocado and 'taco meat': three bean medley and walnuts blended in a food processor. It was...different. Not bad, just different, will definitely take some getting used to. The vinaigrette, however, was yummy!

After that I went to my grandparents house, my grandpa had a doctors appointment at Stanford University, about 2 hours away, and I offered to drive. On my way over there I realized I was getting a little hungry, so I grabbed some cheerios and was on my way; I don't think I've had Cheerios as a snack since I was a child! I had prepped everything for dinner this afternoon, but after we got there we realized we would not be making it back in time, so we went out instead. My grandparents were aware of my vegan challenge, and suggested Fresh Choice. I've never been a big fan of the place, but they have definitely improved things! There is a food guide and now every single food item has identifying marks, telling you whether it is gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, fat-free, and some other things, so cool! I was easily able to ensure that everything I got was vegan,without making a fuss! I must admit that eating out was a bit more tempting this time, not indulging in any of the usual items I might get. Every station had at least one vegan item, which was wonderful. I ended up having a large salad, herbed rice, pasta pomodoro, and even a slice of sourdough bread! Dessert was less exciting, sliced pineapple with blueberry topping, but I was still grateful for the option!

I'm excited for the recipes I will be trying tomorrow, stay tuned!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Living the Vegan Life- Day 1

Success! I had a fantastic day today! Now that it is pretty much over, I am looking back on my day with satisfaction!
I woke up a bit later than planned, so the oatmeal I was planning on cooking went out the window. At first I felt discouraged, 'already!?' but couldn't let that stop me, I've thrown my personal challenge out into the blogger world, and I can't back out now! I looked at the nutrition information on a box of Cheerios and poured myself a nice big bowl complete with soy milk, yum!
I must admit, I hate drinking milk of any kind, I've never liked it. I remember when I was a kid my mom tried to make me drink a glass of milk before I could get up from the table. When she wasn't looking I went and poured it down the sink, lol! Anyway, not a fan of drinking the stuff, but if I do use it, I always use soy. Next time you are at Starbucks, try soy milk instead, it's thick and slightly sweet tasting, so it seems rich and indulgent but is so much better for you!

I met my best friend for lunch in the bay area. As much as I wanted to forget the vegan thing and just eat lunch wherever, I knew I had to stick to my guns and speak up about it. I texted her about an hour beforehand and explained this challenge to her. I asked if she would rather me bring lunch and we could have a picnic, or find a vegan-friendly restaurant and be adventurous. She chose adventure and I'm so glad!
We went to a place called The Counter (http://www.thecounterburger.com/), a more upscale burger joint where you build your own burger! The menu was actually just a list of all the components; you checked off what you wanted in each section and they custom made your meal. It was fun and interactive, and I didn't have to feel bad about a lot of requests and instructions to make sure it was vegan, every ingredient was laid out for me already! Trisha is so supportive of me and this challenge, she went vegan with me! We both ordered the veggie burger, and let me tell you...delicious! I didn't know it was possible to put those two words together in the same sentence, but it's true, it was moist and so flavorful! We chose the burger bowl option, it came on a bed of lettuce rather than a bun. I had grilled onions (I made sure there was no butter involved!), jalepenos, diced green chilies and corn and black bean salsa, all with a dijon balsamic vinaigrette, it was so full of flavor and extremely satisfying! When we left I felt very full, but not weighed down or lethargic, like I would after a typical burger and fry meal. Speaking of fries, we did share an order of sweet potato fries, dee-licious! It came with aioli that we didn't eat (aioli is a fancy homemade mayonnaise, essentially), the fries didn't need it, sweet potatoes are flavorful enough on their own!
At first I felt a little guilty, like I was cheating for eating out this early in the game, but I realized that hey, life happens, and you don't always know where you will end up for a meal. Luckily I was able to plan ahead a little and find a restaurant that I knew would be vegan-friendly. I hate being 'that person' who makes crazy requests and demands about their meal, but I learned that it's ok to make sure the meal you pay for is what you want, and asking questions is ok! It was a great experience, and The Counter is a perfect date restaurant, the atmosphere is great, it has a full bar, and because you build your own meal, you each get exactly what you want, without compromising for the other. Two thumbs up!

For dinner I followed a recipe from Angela Liddon at http://ohsheglows.com/. I made Roasted Tomato, Onion and Basil Pesto Pizza with Vegan Parmesan Cheese...a mouthful to say, and eat...a delicious mouthful though! And it's true! I made this for my family tonight, and they all loved it! It had so much flavor that I didn't miss the pepperoni or cheese! I made the dough in the morning and let it rise during the afternoon, incorporating italian herbs into the crust was genius, it added so much flavor! The roasted garlic oil, basil pesto, roasted veggies and even vegan parmesan (I made it myself, click the link to find out how!) all together made for an incredibly yummy pizza. Again, when I was done I walked away full and satisfied! I'm excited to try more of her recipes throughout the week, I wish she had a cookbook!

I didn't realize that my whole family would be sharing the meal, so we had to stretch it a bit, the serving size was two but four of us ate it. I was still a little hungry afterwords, so I made dessert! I used a Cooking Light (http://www.cookinglight.com/) recipe, and can not get over how ridiculously simple and delicious this was!! I made 'sorbet' by blending 3 frozen bananas and 1 cup of frozen mixed berries in a food processor. That's it. 2 ingredients. So so good! I added an extra banana and half cup of berries, the serving size was 2 and there were 3 of us eating it, and it made a lot, more than you would think! I think the air incorporating in from the blades whipping up the fruit helped increase the volume. My mom, sister and I all sat around exclaiming how delicious it was, for something so simple. I can't wait to try out other fruit combinations!
I had an incredible first day, such a perfect start to this week, I am so excited to continue to learn about vegan eating and the lifestyle, and share it with you!

The Pillow

I was reading a novel one day, about an Amish family. One of the characters owned a quilt shop, and a lot of the story was centered around that. Suddenly I got inspired to make my own quilt! I thought, how hard can it be? Cut a bunch of fabric, stitch it together! My grandma is a great seamstress, so I went to her and asked for her help. Luckily, she knew just how big of an undertaking a project like a quilt is, and suggested we make a pillow first, using the same design that I wanted to make the quilt with. These pictures follow the journey as I made my first, very own pillow! I had such a great time making it, and loved being able to spend the time with the grandma helping me. I'm still ready to tackle the quilt...I just need a LOT of preparation beforehand!

The supplies, before the magic happened! Hehe.

My grandma's sewing machine, authentically retro 1960's! Very cool story...one day my grandpa was home sick, and my grandma was working on her sewing machine, making clothes for my mom and aunt. The sewing machine she was using was very old and breaking down, she kept cursing at it and had a terrible time trying to get anything done. My grandpa overheard her, and quietly called a store and ordered a brand new machine to be delivered to the house for my grandma! Such a sweet story, and she has been using it ever since! 

Getting everything cut and ready to go!

Getting all of the pieces laid out...

Pinning and sewing together the different patches...

                                                                The top is finished!

                           Sewing on the velcro to close the pillow in...hey, it's my first time! :)

The finished product! Thank you grandma for all of your help, I couldn't have done it without you!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

My Vegan Adventure

For one week, I will become a complete vegan. No animal product of any kind will pass through my lips, and I will place an emphasis on gluten-free, organic meals as well. I will be cooking and baking everything from scratch.
What prompted this (extreme) challenge? The vegan lifestyle has always intrigued me, but I have long hesitated doing anything about it. Well, the time has come, everything has lined up, and I have no excuse not to! I will be using recipes exclusively from Angela Liddon at http://ohsheglows.com/, and reviewing each one.
I feel like my body needs a bit of a cleanse, and a re-charge. I want natural energy, rather than a coffee dependency. I want to feel good about the foods I am eating, and strong and healthy.
I think the hardest part will be devoting a large portion of my time to preparing all of the meals, but I am up for the challenge, and hopeful that this is the beginning of something wonderful and healthful!

I am also going to be starting p90x, eek! I am totally nervous for this challenge, but my body needs exercise and a gym membership is not in the budget! I am telling you this mostly to keep me accountable, that I will actually do it, every single day!

Cheers to a wonderful week!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

If you really wanna know...

The Silent Ranks
I wear no uniforms, no blues or army greens.
But I am in the military in the ranks rarely seen.
I have no rank upon my shoulders, salutes I do not give.
But the military world is the place where I live.

I'm not in the chain of command, orders I do not get.
But my husband is the one who does, this I cannot forget.
I'm not the one who fires the weapon, who puts my life on the line.
But my job is just as tough. I'm the one that's left behind.

My husband is a patriot, a brave and prideful man,
And the call to serve his country, not all can understand.
Behind the lines I see the things needed to keep this country free.
My husband makes the sacrifice, but so do our kids and me.

I love the man I married. Patriotism is his life.
I proudly stand among the silent ranks known as the military wife.


I never wore the uniform,
no medals on my chest.
The band it doesn't play for me,
I am not among the Best.
I do not march in cadence,
I do not rate salute,
I stand among the silent ranks,
our devotion absolute.

If you've not worn my shoes,
you do not know my story.
I live a life of sacrifice,
my reward a private glory.
I've wept many silent nights away,
and I've kept the home fires burning.
I've worried and I've waited,
as world events were churning.

I've moved more times than you could fathom,
left more people than you've known.
I've planted gardens 'round the world --
Very few that I've seen grown.
I've grieved with new-made widows,
and had my share of scares --
when a ship or plane or man was down,
and all I had were prayers.

I'm not asking for your sympathy,
(although appreciation can be nice)
I did it quite on purpose though --
I chose to sacrifice.
I'll tell you a secret now,
one you'd never guess.
About the one glory that is mine,
it's just enough, no more, no less.

When you and I stand together
as our national anthem plays,
I'll fill with reminiscences
of how I spent those days.
I'll know the pain and joys again,
I'll know that freedom isn't free,
I'll know I've helped to pay the price

and that the anthem plays for me.

Elizabeth Soutter Schwarzer

"Distance is not for the fearful, It is for the Bold. It is for those who are willing to spend a lot of time alone in exchange for a little time with the one they love. It is for those knowing a good thing when they see it, even if they dont see it nearly enough.." -Unknown

When you feel alone, just look at the spaces between your fingers, remember that in those spaces you can see my fingers locked with yours forever!

Recipe for a Military Spouse
1 1/2 cups Patience
1 cup Courage
3/4 cup Tolerance
dash of Adventure
1 pound of Ability
To the above ingredients: Add 2 tablespoons elbow grease and let stand alone for one year. Marinate frequently with salty tears. Pour off excess fat and sprinkle ever so lightly with money then Knead dough until payday. Season with international spices. Bake 20 years or until done. Makes unlimited servings

The Military Spouse

When the good Lord was creating military spouses, He was into His sixth day of overtime.
An Angel appeared and said, "You're having a lot of trouble on this one. What's wrong with the standard model?"
The Lord replied, "Have you ever seen the regulations? It has to be completely independent, must be sponsored to get on base, have the qualities of both mother and father during deployments; Be a perfect hostess to four or 40, handle emergencies without military orders, cope with the flu and move around the world, have a kiss that cures anything from a child's torn valentine to a soldier's weary day, have the patience of a saint when waiting for the unit to return stateside, and have six pairs of soft hands."
The Angel shook her head slowly and said, "Six pair of hands? No way!"
And the Lord answered, "Don't worry. We'll make other military spouses to help. Besides, it's not the hands that are causing the problem - it's the heart. It must swell with pride, sustain the ache of separation, beat soundly when it's too tired to do so, be large enough to say 'I understand' when it doesn't, and say 'I love you,' regardless."
"Lord," said the Angel, touching his sleeve gently, "go to bed. You can finish that tomorrow."
"I can't," said the Lord. "I'm too close to creating something unique. Already I have one who can heal itself when sick, feed unexpected guests who are stuck in the area due to bad weather, and wave goodbye to its spouse from a pier or runway and understand it's important to the country that the spouse leave."
The Angel circled the model of the military spouse very slowly. "It's too soft," she sighed.
"But tough," the Lord said excitedly. "You cannot imagine what this being can do or endure!"
"Can it think?" the Angel asked.
"Can it think? It can convert 1400 to 2 p.m.!" the Lord said.
Finally, the Angel bent over and ran her finger across the cheek. "There's a leak," she pronounced. "I told you that you were trying to put too much into this model."
"It's not a leak," said the Lord. "It's a tear."
"What's it for?" asked the Angel.
"It's for joy, sadness, pain, loneliness and pride," the Lord said.
"You're a genius," said the Angel.
The Lord looked somber and said, "I didn't put it there."
~Author Unknown

Aaaand rounding out the end with my current favorite:

The Military Spouse: Sexually deprived for your freedom!

Friday, July 1, 2011

A blog effort of monumental proportions?

I always have something to say. This is true whenever I am talking with someone, or a group of people. I never run out of things to talk about, and always have an opinion to express. So why are putting words down on paper (keyboard?) so much more difficult? I know I have things to say, and plenty to talk about. Once I start a new post, inspiration always comes. My problem is clicking the button that takes me here. I guess sometimes I don't really feel like opening up and sharing, it takes too much effort. I don't know.