Sunday, September 25, 2011

Bridging the gap between family and the military...

A lot of people, upon hearing that we are an military family, ask us where we have been, and where we would like to go. After hearing that 'home' is our number one choice, most everyone exclaims something to the effect of, 'But you can go anywhere in the world!' 'If you have the opportunity, take it!' 'Have an adventure!' While all of these are well and good, that's just not where we are at. Family is the most important thing for both of us (I even have it tattooed on me!), and if we have the opportunity to move back home, where our family (and hearts) is, that is what we shall do. You can always travel, but you can't always create memories and make the most of time with your family. Now that I'm married, and children are somewhat close on the horizon, I especially want to be close to home, how special to be able to experience a pregnancy and birth with my mom by my side, and giving my child(ren) the gift of grandparents. I understand that the world is a big place and there is so much to see (believe me I understand; in a three year period I was lucky to travel the world and visit Asia and Africa multiple times), but of even greater importance to me is my family. When everything else in the world fails you, you still have your family. You can never sever those ties. You can injure and disable them, but they are a permanent part of you. Having lost a cousin a few years ago, this is highlighted for me even more. I cherish my family and want to spend as much time as possible with them. This is why we want to come home, it's where our roots, and our hearts, are.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Chocolate cravings and a crazy cookie.

Chocolate. I want chocolate! It's surprising, because I am by no means a chocoholic, I guess every once in awhile I just get the craving. I want something sweet, and I want it now! 
Today was one of those days. I was doing a little grocery shopping this morning, and was searching in earnest for a vegan bake mix, alas to no avail (I know Whole Foods has them, but with the nearest one to me about 40 minutes away, it's not reasonable to travel all that way for just one item...because I've never done that before...honest... :). I got excited when I saw the No Pudge Fudge Brownie mix, but it has egg whites, boo. I stayed strong (for once) and left to check out sans a sweet something. Well, lady luck was with me today in the checkout line...there, in a glorious display, calling my name...vegan cookies from the Alternative Baking Company! I'd had them once before a long time ago and wasn't thrilled, today however, one of those cookies completely satisfied my craving! I wanted something sweet, and I wanted it chocolate. With a cookie that is dairy-free, cholesterol-free, egg-free, soy-free and made with whole wheat flour, you wouldn't think it could possibly deliver on it's addictive promise...until you realize that you've just eaten the entire cookie and are left distraught, wanting more! You're lucky I had the presence of mind to snap this photo when I did, seconds later it was nothing but an empty package of crumbs and I was resisting the urge to run back out to the store and clean them out of stock! It's a testament to how good they are that I enjoyed it as much as I did, I'm quite a cookie snob. I think that  a cookie should always be soft, slightly chewy with a hint of underdone-ness, and nary a nut in sight (I love just about every kind of nut I've come across, I just strongly feel that they have no place in my cookie/brownie/cake/etc.) The only crunchy or crispy cookie I find acceptable is an oreo. These babies fit my cookie bill wonderfully! It was perfectly chewy with a stand-up texture and the middle extra soft, mmMmm! It was perfectly filling without leaving me feeling like an oaf, and almost an hour later I have yet to experience a sugar crash. I highly recommend these cookies, run out and get one today! 

Monday, September 19, 2011

From animal to vegan, a challenge.

I love to cook. I have for as long as I can remember. I love the challenge of creating a complicated dish, and getting inspired from someone I admire.
Recently, I love learning about and eating healthy, following a plant-based diet. You wouldn't think the two are natural companions, but I shall make it so. You see, I'm not willing to compromise flavor and creativity when it comes to culinary creations (alliteration alert!). While I am continuously surprised by the scope and breadth vegan fare has to offer (I've made and consumed everything from enchiladas to pizzas and burgers, even!), I sometimes find it stimulatingly lacking. I get that it is totally all in my head, the food is creative and delicious, but for whatever reason I often find myself un-willing to cook, thinking that it will be boring because it's healthy. (Really, what a road block, what is wrong with me? I once made a vegan pizza so good that my mom's friends asked for the recipe, she was going on about it so much!) No longer.
I also love a certain food blogger who now has her own show on the Food Network. The Pioneer Woman lives on a working cattle ranch in Oklahoma, and her food demonstrates it! There is really nothing healthy about it, lots of meat and potatoes going on! I've made a ton of her recipes, all absolutely delicious, all a huge hit with my husband (who definitely has his own preferences when it comes to food!) and 99 percent of them pretty unhealthy. I was watching her show the other day, almost drooling over her Cajun Chicken Pasta. 'Man, I need that in my belly!' I though to myself. I caught myself in time to remember my new healthy eating habits, and reluctantly didn't run to the kitchen to whip it up. A couple days later I was still thinking about it and just HAD to have it! I was upset that I had to restrict myself from something so tasty, and knew there had to be a compromise. There was, and a new era of my journey has been born! I will be taking unhealthy meals, tweaking them a little and re-creating them into something healthful and still delicious, not compromising the integrity of the dish. I am SO excited about this and can't wait to share more!
I'm happy to share with you now my take on the Pioneer Woman's Cajun Chicken Pasta!

The original recipe:
  • 3 whole Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts, Cut Into Cubes
  • 3 teaspoons Cajun Spice Mix, More To Taste
  • 1 pound Fettuccine
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1 whole Green Bell Pepper, Seeded And Sliced
  • 1 whole Red Bell Pepper, Seeded And Sliced
  • 1/2 whole Large Red Onion, Sliced
  • 3 cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 4 whole Roma Tomatoes, Diced
  • 2 cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
  • 1/2 cup White Wine
  • 1 cup Heavy Cream
  • Cayenne Pepper To Taste
  • Freshly Ground Black Pepper, To Taste
  • Salt To Taste
  • Chopped Fresh Parsley, To Taste

What I did:

-Substitute the chicken for 2 bricks of extra firm tofu, drained, pressed and cubed.
-Substitute the chicken stock for vegetable stock.
-Substitute the heavy cream for vegan heavy cream.
    -Now, this was a real challenge. I spent about an hour researching vegan heavy cream substitutes. I found an extremely simple recipe and went with that, after all, PW is all about simplicity! Two ingredients: 1/2 block silken tofu, and 1/2 cup soy milk. (I used almond milk, it's what I like.) The flavor was fine (non-descript), but took a little longer to thicken once it was in the pan.

I also used quinoa pasta instead of regular. Quinoa has but two ingredients, whole corn flour and whole quinoa flour. It's still high in carbs (though lower than regular varieties) but the quality of ingredients is much better. Honestly, if you didn't know, you wouldn't know that it was any different from normal pasta, definitely switching to quinoa pasta from now on! 

Look at those heirloom tomatoes, mmm I'm going to miss summer produce!

Everything else remains the same. I followed the same methods, the same order. The result?
A dish so delicious you would never think 'vegan' at the same time! It was a direct hit, my dad even high five-ed me he loved it so much! It's already been determined that tomorrow's dinner will be the leftovers from tonight, that's a success if I ever heard one!

Saturday, September 17, 2011


It always seems that the hardest part of writing a blog is clicking the button, and putting your fingers to the keyboard. I always feel like I don't have enough to say, or that no one is interested, yet time and again I am proven wrong. When I finally do open up to a new post and put my fingers on the keys, I always have something to say. I have had so much interest in my blog and so much encouragement to continue writing, it has been an eye-opening blessing. 

Today I want to talk more about my food journey, more specifically my journey towards health and fitness, learning about the foods we put in our bodies and what they do (or don't do) for us. 

An old roommate of mine got in contact with me as a direct result of following my blog (again, I never think this reaches as far as it does, it is so humbling.). She and her husband had recently been introduced to a new health product on the market and thought I might be interested in it. Turns out she was on the mark, I have fallen in love! The product is ViSalus, a health and wellness product. In one shake you receive a full day's worth of all of the nutrients, vitamins and minerals, you need. It is a non-GMO (my favorite part!) soy based protein powder. The added benefit? Weight loss! It is not an appetite suppressant, rather an all-natural metabolism booster. It was not originally intended to be a weight loss tool, that just happened to be a happy by-product. 
I'm still continuing my vegan journey (though not eating it strictly, I am committed to education and one day will happily say I am a full vegan!) and learning about what it is exactly that we are consuming. One of the bigger challenges with eating a plant-based diet is ensuring I receive enough of the nutrients I need that I no longer get from eating animal products (calcium from milk, protein from chicken, i.e.). The ViSalus shake ensures that no matter what I eat during the day, I will have consumed exactly what I need. For me, that is is best reason for joining the ViSalus community and incorporating the shakes into my daily regimen. 
For many others, the best reason is the added health benefits...a lot of people suffer from high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes; all diseases that are (in part) perpetuated with poor eating habits or not receiving the proper nutrition. Thousands of people who have joined the ViSalus challenge have reported huge drops in the amount of medications they have to take, or reversing their diseases completely! 
My dad deals with high blood pressure, and when I learned just how beneficial ViSalus is to your health, I talked to him about it. Now, my dad is as analytical as they come, let me tell you! He isn't easily hoodwinked, and has made learning about foods for health a large part of his life as well. I told him everything I had learned, he checked out the package to see the nutrition information, and researched it himself, and believes in the product! If nothing else, that gave me the final stamp of approval.

You can not buy the product in stores, only through distributors (it is, at the end of the day, a multi-level market product). I have long hesitated becoming a distributor, I loathe the idea of 'selling' myself, or have others think I'm viewing them through the eyes of a marketer, a potential sale for me (let's be honest, doesn't everyone who knows someone who is self-employed with a multi-level marketing company wonder, sometimes, if someone sees them as a friend or just a market?). I've thought long and hard about it, viewed it from every possible angle, and have come to one conclusion: I have to. I believe in this product so completely, I am willing to put my name behind it. In my vegan journey and learning about food, this aligns so completely with my mission, I can't help but be excited about it and want to share it with others. I realized that at the end of the day, I just want people to be aware of ViSalus and know that it is a realistic option for them, whether or not they buy it from me. If you are interested in the product or want to know more, go here, but better yet, ask me about it, I promise to tell you everything I know without once asking you to purchase. :) I feel like I am quickly becoming passionate about health and true nutrition, and feel it unfair to not share this with everyone I know (I can't even think of the last time I was so excited about something in this way!).
At the end of the day we are all responsible for our own health and doing what works best for us. For me, ViSalus is a necessary and welcome part of my diet!