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Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Keeping Up With The Condiments

Sometimes, when I think I am craving something, I've discovered it's not really the item I am wanting, but the taste of the condiments. For example, let's say I think I'm craving a hot dog ... is it really the yucky, disgusting, cruelty conceived, animal innards throw-aways all ground up with fat and spices that I desire?! OMGoodness ... no! It's the taste of the mustard and relish and onion and ketchup on top of a smoky tasting long cylindrical item, all nestled in a bun. I can accomplish this with a carrot dog. Here's my favorite carrot dog recipe. 

Now I know the ketchup comment may cause some controversy. Do you use ketchup on a hot dog? Or just mustard? To each his own, but I like both. I have been trying to go totally sugar and salt free, but ketchup has been one of my last hold outs ... along with salsa. But today, I am glad to say, I have finally come up with a no salt added, no processed sugar, ketchup. It does contain date sugar, but that's just dried, ground up dates. I still consider that a whole food. If I wasn't out of fresh dates, I would have used as couple of those instead. If you're wanting a healthy salt and sugar free ketchup, click here to give this recipe a go and let me know what you think.

Health and Blessings! 

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Surviving Pizza Night -- Part 2


So here’s the outcome of pizza night. After spending a little time prepping other ingredients … the Italian veggie mélange, the tofu ricotta, and the no oil marinara, I ended up using, of all things, bread for my pizza crust. Why not? I’ve used pita bread and flat bread ... granted, by using a loaf of Ezekiel’s Food for Life Sesame Bread, this could, potentially, be considered pizza toast. But call it what you will, it was what I had to work with and it worked out wonderfully well ... little single size serving pizzas that satisfied, with all the flavor you want and no compromise to my health. Maybe I will call it pizza toast ... then I can have it again for breakfast!

So I ended up toasting the bread first thinking that would help keep it from getting soggy from the sauce and toppings. Then I layered it with marinara, veggies and ended with the tofu ricotta on top. I preheated the oven to 400 degrees and baked them for about 7 minutes. When the tofu ricotta started browning, I decided it was done. 

Building my pizzas
I should mention that I was concerned about possible sticking on the baking sheet, so I sprinkled about a tablespoon of corn meal over the sheet before laying the toasted bread down on it. Worked like a charm, and I think it helped the bread to not get soggy as well. 

So, all around, this was a success, if a little out of the norm, crust-wise. While my husband was chowing down on his "It's not delivery ..." pizza, this was all I needed to satisfy me. And yes, I ate all four of them ... with a side salad! I love eating plant based!
Fresh out of the oven

Friday, August 21, 2020

Co-Existing with a Carnivore (Surviving Pizza Night)

My husband has been wanting pizza. I put him off last week due to our a/c being temperamental and outside temperatures that got up to 110 degrees here in Northern California. There was no way I was going to have him turn the oven on in those circumstances. And the microwave would not accommodate the frozen pizza he had stashed in the back of the garage freezer. 

Well, the a/c got fixed Tuesday and temperatures have been lower this week, so I know he’s not going to be put off much longer. The problem now is that pizza is a trigger food for me. After all, I didn’t stop eating melty, stretch, gooey, cheese-laden pizza (and other animal/dairy products) because they suddenly tasted horrible. It doesn’t matter than I know, and have experienced, the detrimental effects of dairy. The fact that processed meats, such as the pepperoni and sausage toppings, are class one carcinogens, as reported by the World Health Organization, has no effect on my body’s physical reaction when I smell pizza. My response, when faced with that assault on my senses is … I WANT PIZZA!!! While knowing how unhealthy it is does keep me from eating it these days, it doesn’t help with the cravings that start within me when I'm triggered. 

So what’s a gal to do?! In this instance, I intentioned to make a health-promoting, whole food plant based pizza that would satisfy body and mind. Sure, I could have gone to the store and grabbed a vegan pizza, but I like to stay as close to whole foods as possible. Which is why I spent some time prepping ingredients. For this endeavor I prepped three items that should serve double duty for pizza and lasagna or other pasta dishes if I decide not to do lasagna. 

I sautéed some veggies, slightly different from the normal, weekly sauté that I do. I used onions, mushrooms, bell peppers, zucchini and summer squash and tomatoes. I water sautéed them and added little Trader Joe's Italian Style Soffrito seasoning. For the “cheese” factor I decided to put together a tofu ricotta. I could have made a melty, stretch, gooey vegan cheese. I have made one in the past that’s awesome, but I chose the tofu ricotta, knowing it could do double duty with some other dishes. And I’m all about prepping ingredients that can be used for multiple dishes. So, along with a super simple marinara, I now have the fixings for pizza that will satisfy me when he’s munching on his fat and cholesterol-laden, cancer-causing “it’s not delivery” pizza tonight for dinner. 

In the meantime my prepping paid off with this yummy bowl (I'm calling it a lasagna bowl.) that I had for lunch today. To put it together I cooked some whole wheat rotini and added a serving to a bowl along with some of the veggie mixture, tofu ricotta, cannellini beans and spinach, then topped it with some marinara. Yum! I’m looking forward to doing this again. Next up … pizza. Now I’ve just got to come up with a crust. (To be Continued)

Recipe Links:

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Hiccup ... smickup! (Claiming the Victory!)

So, if you are in my Facebook group, you will know that I hit a milestone last week ... 150 pounds gone! I'm not going to say gone forever, as I have in the past, because that's come back to bite me. And it's not that I am ever going to go back to eating the standard American diet or not actively working on a healthy lifestyle. It's just that weight is a thing that fluctuates. And I've already fluctuated back up a couple of pounds. Not exactly sure why... could be water weight or the fact that I haven't exercised in over a week, or maybe my scale just had an off day. (That's what I'm hoping!) 

I think I'm not gonna worry about it too much and I'm still gonna claim my 150 pound victory. I put the work in and I deserve it! Truth is, I have lost well over 150 pounds ...  probably more like 300 pounds if you count up all the times I have dieted and lost, and gained back. This isn't one of those times, so I'm not gonna let a little hiccup phase me. But I am definitely making a plan to get back to exercising because I do that for my heart health, not just my weight. And that, my friends, is something I can do for myself right now, so I am off to walk a couple miles ... as soon as I finish this.

If you haven't visited my Day One Facebook group yet you can do so by clicking here. I will still be blogging from time to time, but I usually post every day in the group. Would love to see you there! Below you'll find a screen shot of part of the post that you can see in its entirety in the group. If you're not into the "group thing" I also have a Day One Facebook page. You can find it by clicking here.

Health and Blessings!

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

40 miles ... 14 days ... go!

I got four miles out of the way first thing this morning! Yay me! I have set a goal of walking 40 miles in the next two weeks. So, I am now 10% of the way there. It may seem strange … especially for a … um … “mature” woman of my years, but I have never really set any goals. (New Year’s resolutions are not goals!) And the flip side of that, unfortunately, is that I’ve never really attained any … that I can think of. Goal setting is not something I learned growing up. 

Physical activity is also not something I learned growing up, nor was I encouraged in any physical activity as a child or teenager, not at home anyway. There was the … um … really can’t call it encouragement, but the expectation of a certain amount of physical activity during school years, in that class that was my least favorite … PE. Ugh! Oh how I hated PE, especially when it was time for the President’s Physical Fitness Test. Talk about pressure  … and the embarrassment that came along with not being able to do as many sit ups, or push ups or (any) pull ups as the other kids. But I had a way of coping with pressure and embarrassment and the ridicule I received back then … eating. I have memories of hiding food in my room as a young child, just 6 or 7.  And it only continued as I got older. Food was a friend who never judged me and was always there for me.

Is it any wonder that by age nine I was already overweight? I remember with vivid clarity the experience that brought this knowledge to me, and the shame I felt that day … that continued for years.   I was at my friend’s house next door with her and another friend from across the street. For some reason we were weighing ourselves. I don’t recall ever having weighed myself before then.   I was in the fourth grade … maybe that’s what fourth grade girls did back then, I don’t know.  I’m pretty sure fourth grade boys weren’t doing that … anyway …  I weighed 90 pounds. I don’t remember how much the other two girls weighed, only the reaction of my best friend’s mother, and, subsequently, my two friends as they took their cue from mom, that told me that number was too high … way higher than it should have been … shame on me. Whoa … I didn’t really mean to delve into my childhood. This really was going to be about goal setting, so let’s get back there and leave the childhood stuff for my therapist.

Currently I am participating in a 20 week Kaiser program called HALT. That stands for: Health Achievement Through Lifestyle Transformation. In addition to following a plant-based diet for the reversal of disease, some of the subjects of our bi-weekly online meetings have included tools to help us such as: mindfulness, exercise and goal setting, among other things. Last night we were encouraged to set a goal and mine was to walk 40 miles in the next two weeks. A few weeks ago that would not have been something I would have ever considered. A few weeks ago I could barely walk one mile … but I did … barely … I remember my hips screaming after only half a mile. But then after a week or so I was able to walk two miles.  And then  … after some more days … three miles. And now I can do four miles. In fact a couple days ago I did four miles in the morning and another two in the afternoon.

And now I have a goal … 40 miles in 14 days. And when I meet that goal, I will set another … and meet it … at least that's the goal. Look at me … I got this goal setting thing!

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Stir Fry on Greens?! [The crowd goes wild!]

What's that you ask? OK, so you didn't ask ... just go with it, alright?! Is it a salad? Is it a stir fry? Is it … could it possibly be ... Is it both a salad and a stir fry co-existing ... nay … living together with abandon in the same bowl? Why yes … yes it is!!! [Insert sound effect of roaring, cheering crowd.]

OK, that may be a bit dramatic, but I was pretty darn excited about my lunch today and the deal that I got on some veggies on my way home for lunch. The produce gods were good to me.* I was thrilled to find a better than usual selection of marked down items. [Cue crazy coupon lady happy dance. (former crazy coupon lady!)]

I got two 12 oz. packages of stir fry veggies for
$.89 each, two Mediterranean salad packages for $1 each (note: I just use the greens and toss the non WFPB compliant dressing and toppings), a 16 oz. container of organic spring mix for $1.99 and some organic apples for $.99 per lb. Everything for about $7.

So for lunch I used one of the stir fry packages and added some onion, red pepper, celery and black rice that I had on hand. When it was finished, my plant-powered brain said, “Let's add some more greens and make this dish even healthier. Why not serve it on a bed of the spring mix and top it with my Thai peanut sauce.” And so I did. Winner … winner … yummy, healthy dinner!!! OK, it wasn’t dinner  … it was lunch. Again, just go with it.

Perhaps stir fried veggies on top of greens is nothing new for you, or maybe you're saying "ew," but it was totally freaking awesome. I will definitely be doing this again … tomorrow, in fact, for lunch.  I just need to make more of my peanut sauce.

For dinner I used a package of the Mediterranean salad, one apple and more spring mix for a big, beautiful chopped salad topped with air fried Japanese sweet potatoes. I dressed it with a homemade no oil, no sugar, lemon Dijon salad dressing. Looking forward to a re-run of this one as well. 

If you’re interested in any of the recipes I used, here’s a couple links:

Thai peanut sauce (Scroll to the bottom of the page)
Lemon Dijon salad dressing (I omitted the poppy seeds, added a couple more dates, and increased the mustard.)

*Disclaimer: For the record, I do not subscribe to a polytheistic view, as may be inferred by this statement, and do not believe in actual produce gods, or any other gods other than the one, true God  … the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Love At First Bite ... (aka My JSP Experience)

I am in love! I had Japanese sweet potatoes (JSP) for the first time today … air fried on top of my chopped salad. I got the idea from Tami at Nutmeg Notebook. This is actually the second batch I air fried, ‘cause the first batch didn’t make it to the salad. After the first bite, I was a goner … well, actually, they were. With their super sweet, crunchy, carmelized outer layer giving way to an only slightly less sweet, all soft and warm inside ... I fell ... hard. JSP where have you been all my life?!

I usually take my lunch break in front of the TV, before I have to head back to work. Not today. No. This meal deserved more attention than it would get with my feet up in the recliner, watching a saved episode of The Good Doctor. Today I actually sat down at the table. I even lit a candle. Well … flipped the switch anyway. It's an electronic candle. What we were going for here was ambience. I just wanted to be alone with my salad. Yeah … THAT GOOD!
And since I was sitting there, I decided to go all out and have dessert after. I had made chocolate mousse last night and had one leftover serving in the fridge. It was the perfect ending to my perfect meal.

If you try these JSP  "croutons" I strongly suggest you use a large sweet potato, and use the WHOLE thing. I thought I could get away with using half of one but, believe me, you want to have one of these sweet morsels in each and every mouthful of salad.

Here's a link to Nutmeg Notebook's  blog post about her chopped salad with the JSP croutons.

And here's the link to the chocolate mousse recipe I used. It's a pdf file from the website where I found it. This way you don't have to wade through the blog post ads and stuff.

I've been using a lemon dijon dressing lately on my salads. If you want that recipe let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Someone's in the kitchen air frying ... someone's in the kitchen I know oh oh oh ...

I keep steamed whole potatoes in my fridge at all times. And with a zesty salt substitute recipe, (link below) perfect seasoned air fries are a fast and easy fix any time.

I had some yesterday for lunch with my chopped salad. I prefer the steaming method rather than baking,  because they don’t dry out in the fridge as sometimes happens with baked. Just chop and toss in a bowl with some of this zesty salt sub seasonings and air fry 12 – 15 minutes @ 375. Yumm!

My meat and potatoes husband loves these so much he has taken to spending time in the kitchen cooking himself ... well, at least air frying … baby steps!

Zesty Salt Substitute recipe link:

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Plant Based on a Budget (Part 1 of ?)

Being frugal by nature (and a former crazy coupon lady), I tend to purchase what’s on sale or special, and plan meals around that. Switching from the standard American diet to a whole food plant based way of eating has not changed that. What has changed, drastically, is the contents of my shopping cart. When couponing my motto used to be, “If it’s free, it’s for me!” And I used to bring home a lot of free stuff (junk). While I no longer stock up on packaged and processed food items, I do still love the thrill of the hunt and one of my favorite things to do is check out the marked down produce at my local store.

Stir fry w/Thai peanut sauce
Yesterday I got some great deals and have already put most of it to good use. I made stir fry last night for dinner. My omnivore husband and I both enjoyed a serving and I had three leftover portions for the freezer. I also made some mushroom and sweet potato curry. Then I made mushroom stroganoff. We’ll be enjoying both these dishes the next couple days, or freezing them for later. For dessert I had a fruit bowl using some of the mango. Today for lunch I had a big, beautiful chopped salad and have enough for a couple more. I used some of the mango in that and it was awesome!
Mushroom Sweet Potato Curry
When I get these prepackaged salads on sale, I throw away the dressing packets and toppings and use my own WFPBNO options. 

The squash got spiralized and it’s hanging out in my fridge, along with half a jar of Trader Joe’s fat free marina. I think I’ll let them meet up for lunch tomorrow … or maybe dinner since I will probably have another chopped salad for lunch. And this time I'll add some garbanzo beans.

Chopped salad lunch, al fresco
And today when I got home from work I sautéed up some more mushrooms, along with onions, peppers and garlic that I had on hand. I'll use this mix for pizza, or add some beans for tacos, or add some air fried potatoes for hash, etc. I had one more container of mushrooms left and decided, after googling multiple mushroom recipes, to make gravy. Again I sautéed onions, mushrooms and garlic for my base before adding veggie stock, soy sauce and thickening with flour. By this time I had worked up an appetite and the mushroom gravy won out for dinner. I grabbed some pre-cooked potatoes from the fridge, which I always have on hand, and smashed potatoes took just a couple minutes.

Smashed potatoes w/mushroom gravy
The total cost for all my marked down produce was $10.26, but it only cost me $.26 out of pocket as I used a $10 gift card that I received free a week ago with a store promotion. This is what I got: seven 8 oz. packages of organic mushrooms, two 12 oz. packages of stir fry veggies, one 8 oz. package of sugar snap peas,  1 lb. of mexican squash, one 10 oz. package of mango chunks, one can of garbanzo beans, one single serve chopped kale salad mix and one family size chopped kale salad mix.  And this is what it has, or will provide (with a few additional items already on hand): 5 servings of stir fry, 4 servings of mushroom, sweet potato curry, 3-4 servings of mushroom stroganoff, 3 chopped salads, 1 large serving of spiralized mexican squash, plus enough toppings or fillings for multiple pizzas or tacos, not to mention the mushroom gravy that will top lots of smashed potatoes.I'm estimating 20 meals from my haul yesterday. My inner crazy coupon lady is quite satisfied indeed … as is my tummy … and will be for days to come!

In part 2 I’ll share more about my shopping strategies and how I save … so stay tuned! Be sure to click on the follow button to be notified.
A lot of Veggie Stir Fry and Mushroom Stroganoff!

Friday, September 13, 2019

The Mistake That Wasn't

A slather of gooey, stretchy vegan mozzarella and a sprinkle
of everything seasoning and angels began singing!
Did you know you can make toast in the microwave?! Now … I know some of you are opposed to microwaves, and if you are, then just stop right here. But if you aren’t opposed to microwaves and you love really (really) crunchy toast, read on.

I just made toast in my microwave and it was awesome! Well, actually, first of all, it was a mistake. But it turned out to be an awesome, wish I had actually thought of it, I will definitely do this again intentionally,  delicious, crunchy mistake. Now, you’re probably wondering why I didn’t just use the toaster. Am I right?! Well, for the simple reason, I don’t have a toaster … haven’t had one since I moved in February. It just hasn’t been that important for me to replace since I do have a Breville Smart Oven Air that will toast bread when I desire. Which is what I was going to do, but my bread was frozen, ‘cause it lives in the freezer. If it lived on my counter I’d be eating a loaf every week.

So I took my half loaf of Dave’s Killer 21 grain bread out of the freezer, used a knife to pry one slice apart from the rest and placed it in the microwave for 20 seconds to thaw before toasting. Or so I thought. I got busy and two minutes later when I remembered (because the buzzer went off) I was prepared to throw it out and start all over again. But I discovered it wasn’t the burnt mess I was expecting. It was slightly browned in places and quite crisp. I thought, what the heck, I’ll slather some melty, stretchy,gooey vegan mozzarella on it that I had made last night for my pizza, and just see how it is.  The cheese, by the way, was awesome on my pizza. So … I slathered a little. And then a little more. And after I slathered I sprinkled some everything seasoning on it and … mmm … mmm …mmm … toast heaven. I swear, angels were singing. Well, maybe that was my taste buds, but there was definitely a chorus going on in my head.

If you try it, just be aware that your microwave time may vary from mine due to the wattage thing and whether you are starting with frozen bread or not. I'd try it in 30 second intervals. But it's totally worth the try … if you like crunchy toast. (Did I mention that it was super crunchy?!) Toast from the microwave. Yes siree … this is definitely going to be a thing for me from now on.

If you liked this post, please consider leaving a comment and/or clicking the “Follow” button on the upper right. I also have a Facebook group that I have started and would love to have you join in and interact in regard to a whole food plant based way of eating. You can check it out here

Saturday, September 7, 2019

The Thrill of Victory ...

I went out to lunch today. It was a planned outing and I was prepared. This, alone, went a long way in ensuring a successful outcome.

I knew we were going Chinese and I knew the restaurant had two dishes, out of the 29 they offer at lunch time (yes ... I counted every single one on the menu), that I could choose from: Snow peas, Mushrooms and Bamboo shoots, or Mixed Vegetables Deluxe. I also knew (knowledge IS power!) I could order either veggie plate steamed, rather than stir fried, with no oil or sauces, and that each dish would come with steamed rice, an egg roll and a cup of hot and sour soup.

This is how I prepared before I left the house: I toasted one tablespoon of sesame seeds and packed it in a small plastic container. I also packed some toasted dehydrated onions that I had on hand. I had toasted them the other day to top a salad. I got the idea when I thought about those fatty, fried onions you can buy in a can and was thinking they would go great on top a salad. Well, I didn’t have any, nor did I actually want any. I just wanted the crunchy, oniony taste. I then realized I had some dehydrated onions … had had them for ages and not used them. I toasted them up in a pan and they were awesome! Anyway, since I had them on hand I thought they would also be good on top of some steamed veggies.

So, along with my toasted twosome, I packed my 3 oz. plastic bottles of Sweet Heat and Teriyaki Balsamic vinegars from California Balsamic. I am finding these are a great take along size. This very easy preparation turned some rather bland, simple steamed veggies and rice into an excellent, epicurean experience. The food, thanks to me, was great and the company and conversation, thanks to my awesome sister, was a delight!

Did I encounter temptation? I did mention that the lunch specials come with an egg roll, right? So … yeah … there was a little temptation. China City has the best egg rolls around, but I had already prepared myself that I was going to bring it home for hubby, along with the hot and sour soup, and that’s exactly what I did. Both are now, safely, in the fridge. And even better than the feeling of being satisfied by whole, plant based, no oil, food is this feeling of victory I am enjoying right now ... Now that’s some good stuff!
Left: Steamed, (naked) veggies. Right: Veggies ala Jenny!

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Beans and Greens and Rice, Oh My!

Not a chopped salad!
I know today’s lunch doesn’t look like my usual (as of late) chopped salad. It is, in fact, not. It was going to be a chopped salad, but it became this. Worse things have happened ...

I had about half of a (large Costco-sized) bag of power greens (kale, spinach, chard) that needed to be used today, and I knew that would make more of a salad than I would want to eat for lunch. I also knew I would not want to have salad for both lunch and dinner. And I didn’t want them to go to waste. So, I decided the only way I could get that volume of greens inside my body today would be to cook them down. I mean, you can cook a pound of spinach down to a couple tablespoons … right?! Well … maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration. But that’s what I started to do. As they were in the pan, I began considering how I could, perhaps, “liven” them up. Nothing against greens on their own … perhaps I should say “starchen” them up. I knew it would take more than greens to satisfy me through the afternoon.

Only 4 ingredients! I actually used fresh corn, but didn't 
take a picture first. Canned or frozen can be subbed.
I had a can of "savory sides" beans in the pantry, so I added that to the pan. I also had some leftover steamed ears of corn, so I cut the kernels off one and threw that in. It was looking good … real good. I had started off with some water in the pan when I thought I was just going to be steaming greens. And now, with the additional liquid from the beans, I had, at this point, a bit of a soupy dish. I didn’t want to drain the beans because they were seasoned. I thought I could make some quinoa, but didn’t want to take the 12-15 minutes. I was, after all, home on my lunch break and would need to get back to work soon.

Back to the pantry for some pre-cooked and
pre-portioned plain white rice bowls, courtesy of my recent Costco shopping trip. I microwaved one according to the package directions and threw it in the pan as well. A couple stirs and a minute or so to simmer and, voila … Super Easy Black Beans and Greens with Rice was born! It didn’t need any more seasoning, but I did top it with a dollop of smokey oat cheese and some diced onion. If I had had some plant based sour cream, I would have had a duo of dollops on top.

I enjoyed it with a home made sprouted wheat tortilla that I made last night. I had made them for the first time thinking I would use them tonight for pizza crust. My omnivore husband had pizza last night (not plant based, full o' fatty cheese and pepperoni) and that started my hankering. I knew I didn’t have any yeast, however, so I googled “oil free tortillas” and came across this recipe from Plant Smart Living. I used sprouted wheat flour. Super easy.  

So, a super simple (so much so, you don’t need a recipe, right?!), yummy dish and two leftover portions to enjoy again … and again.  Since the greens were cooked in the dish, I don’t have to worry now that their best by date was today. I think I’ll enjoy this again tomorrow for lunch. And maybe put one in the freezer for some time next week.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

A Match Made in (Air Fryer) Heaven

Two years ago, before going plant based, I would never have thought that I’d be eating two pounds of  vegetables in one day, let alone one meal. Even now, two pounds of zucchini (and summer squash) steamed or stir fried would probably still be a little much, in both volume and taste ... at least for me. I like zucchini. It’s great in my banana, zucchini, oat breakfast cookies. I’ll add it as a “filler” to a lot of recipes to bulk them up, but I wouldn’t really say I love zucchini. Until today … when I introduced it to my air fryer. (Zuke, meet Breville … Brev, meet  zucchini.) A match made in air fryer heaven and now those two pounds of simple, unassuming squash are anything but.

Thirty minutes @ 400 degrees on super convection and I have a super delicious start to my day. Veggies for breakfast, oh yeah!  Air frying vegetables, much like roasting, concentrates the flavor and brings out the sweetness as the moisture content is released. And what I had on my plate this morning tasted almost like, dare I say it, candy. I can’t believe I’m saying that (ok, typing that), because the first time I heard Chef AJ say that her air fried zucchini tasted like candy, I was like … uh huh … yeah sure. But, I kid you not, what I just ate for breakfast was as satisfying as any candy … more so, actually. If I had eaten candy (or waffles or pancakes or cinnamon rolls or any other sweet breakfast foods) my taste buds would be on hyper drive and I’d be wanting more and more and more … and more.

So this was a great savory way to start my day. I did drizzle the finished product with a little of my California Vinegars. I mixed Sweet Heat, Teriyaki and Gilroy Garlic. Just the tiniest amount of each. And, honestly, these sweet little squash spears were good to go just plain naked too. Didn’t even need salt. Could I have dressed them up more? Sure. I could have dredged them in aquafaba and rolled them in some seasoned panko crumbs and faux parmesan. And I just may do that when I have the time and inclination. But this … this I will definitely be doing again. This just might be my new morning favorite.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Mud Cookies ... a (delicious, decadent) blast from the past

I've been eating these all week … so I deserved a treat!

I have been getting back on track the past week, after over a year of on again, off again that has taken a toll on my health and caused me to gain back 20+ pounds of the 127 I had lost. But that's OK. It's a marathon, not a sprint. And I know what I need to do. I have just, up until the past week or so, felt powerless to do so. Depression … complicated grief, life, etc. have taken its toll, but, thankfully, this week I am doing better. I see the light at the end of this tunnel.

So the past week has been full of chopped salads, air fried potatoes, veggies and hummus, rice cakes and tzatziki and fresh fruit. Up until last night. While my cravings for sugar and fat have subsided, measurably, from previous weeks (thanks, I'm sure, to the whole food, plant based, no oil, way of eating I have returned to) I did find myself wanting something chocolate. I wouldn't really call it a craving. It was something I think I could have resisted with some fruit, but I was feeling inventive and decided to try and make something yummy and chocolate that was still compatible with a WFPBNO way of eating.

A childhood favorite, now veganized!
And I did it! I have perfected the vegan, low fat mud cookie!  And while the name might not sound particularly appetizing, let me assure you they are (were!) delicious! I think these were actually called chocolate drop quickies in my mom's 1960s Betty Crocker cookbook. However, when I was growing up, we called them mud cookies. I have scaled the recipe back, omitted the butter it called for, opted for a plant based milk and replaced peanut butter with a defatted peanut flour. I couldn't get around the sugar … at least not yet. I'll continue to work on it … enjoying delicious, decadent, plant based cookies (every once in a while) until I do. While I wouldn't consider these healthy, by any stretch, this recipe tastes and has a mouth feel identical to the original  …if not better. They took me back to my childhood and it was a nice trip.

Mud Cookies

1/2 cup cane sugar
3 tbsp almond milk
3 tbsp PB2 (or other defatted peanut flour)
1 tbsp cocoa
1/4 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup quick oats (possibly a little more)

1. Whisk 1st four ingredients together in a small saucepan. I used a one quart saucepan.
2.  Bring to a rolling boil over medium heat and boil two minutes.
3.  Remove from heat. Add vanilla and oats and stir quickly to combine. Check if any more oats are needed at this point to make sure they are "setting up." I had to add just a little more, but didn't measure the additional.
4.  Drop by spoonfuls onto wax paper or a silicone mat. Allow to set up and enjoy! (I actually put mine in the freezer to set up faster.)

Sunday, August 11, 2019

It's Complicated ...

You’d think salad dressing recipes and grief are two totally unrelated topics that don’t belong in the same blog post … right?! Well, you’d think so, but here you go … 

I haven’t blogged for over a year. So to my many, OK … four, followers, I do apologize for leaving you hanging. You have missed me, right? I just haven’t felt the motivation or inclination to write. It seems kinda ironic that my last post in June 2018 was titled, “How Blogging Has Helped Me and How it May Help You.”  Perhaps I should re-read it myself, but as I said I haven’t been motivated, stimulated, inclinated (if that’s a word) or any other kind of “ated” as I have been dealing with some (a lot of) complicated grief. Some days it's all I can do to motivate myself out of bed in the morning.
From left: Charli, Kahlua, Bear.. all now at Rainbow Bridge.
It started July 13, 2018 with the death of my beloved dog, Kahlua. A very premature death, as he was only 5 years old. It then escalated with the realization that there were other losses I have suffered that I haven’t fully dealt with … other beloved pets, my mom’s death, my dad’s death, the death of a close friend and mentor, the moving away of friends, the estrangement of family, etc. As I said, it’s complicated … complicated grief that remained (remains?) unprocessed. Now, unprocessed … in the context of a whole food, plant based diet, the usual subject of this blog, is a good thing. I still believe unprocessed (whole) foods are definitely best for the human body. Unprocessed grief, however, has got to be the worst. … Has been the worst, at least for me, this past year or so. My therapist (yes … I am not ashamed to share that I needed to seek out professional help) thinks that blogging could be beneficial for the processing of my grief but that is not meant to be the subject of my post today.

I am actually writing about a completely different type of loss I experienced recently when I visited my local Trader Joe’s. I don’t get to Trader Joe’s very often so when I do, there are a few things I like to stock up on. The number one item being sesame soy ginger vinaigrette. I have found this to be such a versatile sauce for veggies and noodle dishes as well as a dressing for salad. After adding a few items to my cart I wandered down the salad dressing aisle … once … twice … and then a third time. What was going on here? There was no sesame soy ginger vinaigrette to be found. Seriously? I didn’t even see an empty spot on the shelf where it should have been. Then, horror of horrors, upon inquiring at the customer service desk, I was told that it had been discontinued … a month ago. What?! … wait … what???!!! How?!  How could they do this?! How can I live without sesame soy ginger vinaigrette?!!!  It is the only truly oil free dressing that I have found that I love … love … LOVE. And it was relatively inexpensive … not like some other brands that shall remain nameless.
After catching my breath, I realized that if I had (barely) endured this past year without Kahlua, I could live without sesame soy ginger vinaigrette. Or not. What if I didn’t have to live without it? What if I could just replace it? I could … I could do that. Note: While this may work for this particular situation, it will not work for dogs. I know … I thought to try and replace Kahlua (as if!) with a look alike (eerily so) doggie in need of a home a couple weeks into my grieving. Fortunately I took the advice of my therapist and did not … but I digress.

Back to the sad salad dressing situation. Thankfully, I still had an almost empty bottle of the good stuff in my fridge and, using the ingredient list from the back of the bottle, this morning I concocted my own copycat recipe which you can find below. Is it as good as the original? No. While the label provided the ingredients, it didn’t provide measurements. The color is different … lighter. The consistency is not quite the same. The taste, while yummy (in my humble opinion) is definitely not exactly the same. Will it do? Yes it will. I can live with it. Life goes on ...

Yes … life does go on. Enter Itsy Bitsy … not a Kahlua replacement by any means. He looks nothing like him and his personality is totally different. Itsy is outgoing and fierce while Kahlua was more shy and reserved. Itsy barks … a lot. Kahlua never really barked all that much, but he did howl. His howl was the sweetest puppy song I had ever heard. How my heart would fill with joy when he would throw back his head and let loose, encouraged by and emulating his daddy who taught him well. I have had to insist that my husband not teach Itsy Bitsy the same behavior for fear my heart could not take it.
So Itsy barks … and barks … and barks. It drives me crazy sometimes, but I have also grown to love him fiercely, madly, totally. I didn’t think I had it in me, after Kahlua, to feel this much love for another furry creature.  And yet … I do. And yet … again, I digress, but I am not going to apologize. It’s who I am, it’s what I’m dealing with. And, this morning, while yet still dealing with complicated grief I felt both motivation and inclination to experiment and come up with a pretty darn good salad dressing and then blog about it. A salad dressing that I know I will grow to love … scratch that … enjoy … as much as the original. The word love really shouldn’t be used in conversations about food, but that’s another post.

So, if you, like me, really, really enjoyed Trader Joe’s sesame soy ginger vinaigrette, try this version and let me know what you think. And, if you try it and make any changes to improve it or make it more like the original … please do let me know. After all … recipes are just a starting point, right?!

To your health …

Sesame Soy Ginger Vinaigrette

1/2 cup water
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp miso
1 clove garlic
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp NOW organic Better Stevia extract powder 
1/8 tsp xanthan gum (optional)
2 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted

Place all ingredients except toasted sesame seeds in a blender and blend. I would have used fresh ginger if I had it. Not sure how much to use if you want to sub.

After blending add the toasted sesame seeds in and mix just to combine, keeping the seeds whole. Then bottle up and store in the refrigerator. I do not know how long this keeps but it will be used too fast to worry about that.

Note: I have xanthan gum listed as optional. I like how it thickens the dressing. If you prefer your dressing not thickened, or if you are opposed to using xanthan gum, simply omit it. I also use stevia. You may not want to use stevia. I won't judge you, but you may want to add more honey or other sweetener to taste. I am going to try using dates in this next time and will update the recipe is that works.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

How Blogging Has Helped Me (And How It May Help You!)

While sharing this morning in one of the plant based/starchivore/low fat vegan Facebook groups that I frequent, I was asked the question: Has blogging helped me in my journey? The short answer … yes. The complete answer, however, turned out to be quite longer ... too long to want to post on a Facebook feed, thus this new blog post. Thank you, Cheryl L., for the inspiration.

First of all, I believe writing in general, i.e. journaling, blogging, helps with introspection and the working out of thoughts, feelings and emotions. For a person with food issues, who has been overweight literally all her life (obese her entire adulthood) and who comes from a history of food addiction and abuse*, introspection plays heavily into the journey. (*I’m referring here to me abusing food, not me being abused, though I have lived through the latter as well. That, however, is a subject for another post …  maybe.) 

Of course, I don’t put everything out there. There are some things just for the journal … some things just between me and my Maker. But I do try to be real and authentic in what I do put out there. And, hopefully, someone else may, at some time, find it helpful ... if they can actually find my blog.

Secondly, and something I really need to concentrate on, it helps me to look beyond myself and try to be an encouragement to others who may find themselves on the same journey by sharing tips and recipes, what has worked for me, etc. With no advertisements or affiliate links! (Sorry ... pet peeve of mine. Though it shouldn't be, I know. People gotta make a living.)

Thirdly, on those occasions when I feel less than enthusiastic about the food I'm eating, or am craving what many of the groups call "non compliant" food (Argh! I really don't like that terminology!), or when it seems that I haven’t had much progress, it helps to look back and realize that I’m certainly not in as much pain today as I was a month ago ... a week ago ... to recognize that not all changes will be visible. Some may be harder to discern, but they are there nonetheless.

It also helps me keep track of recipes I have tried, tweaked, and want to keep making. I want to do more of this in the future. Maybe Pinterest would make this easier … not sure. I kind of get caught up there ... sometimes ... as I do on Facebook or the internet ... sometimes. This spot is all mine. I won't get lost searching for hours here.

It provides a creative outlet for writing and photography. Are my photos food blog worthy? No ... emphatically no! Much as I enjoy arranging (playing with?) my food and choosing dishes to use for plating, and even though I have a strong desire (obsession?) to photograph my food, I have no talent in this area. I know this because I search many food blogs and see much, much better photos everywhere. I also have a daughter who is an extremely talented photographer ... something she did not get from me. I have even thought, perhaps, I should ask her to help me in this area, but it's the writing, the chronicling of my journey, not the food, that is my main focus here. That, I do believe, is a talent. (Though some may disagree.) And, as with all talents, I believe they improve, you improve and grow in them, the more you use them ... exercise them ... share them ... Don't hide them under a bushel!

So ... yes ... blogging has helped me. If reading this post, or any of the others, inspires you to begin your own, I say GO FOR IT! And, please, send me a link so we can encourage each other on the journey.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Out of Limbo and Losing Again!

The scale is finally moving in the right direction again ... downward! And I'm celebrating with pizza! Just kidding ... as a person with food issues, I no longer use food to celebrate these days. I've actually been celebrating the new digital display since yesterday when it registered 58 pounds gone! Finally a circumstance worthy of my happy dance. I've been in a little bit of limbo since the end of April ... a plateau, I guess. I had been fluctuating, up and down, between 54-56 pounds for a couple months. So jazzed to be losing again.

The pizza just happens to be today's lunch and an opportunity to try out a new recipe. Today's noon time meal answers the question: "Can you take 1 cup quinoa and 1 cup water and make an awesome fat free, gluten free pizza crust?" The answer ... OMGoodness, yes you can! I had been hearing about a two ingredient quinoa flatbread recipe in the Forks over Knives Facebook group and wanted to give it a try. Of course, as always, I made my own modifications, especially since I was going to use it as a pizza crust.

Quinoa Flat Bread/Pizza Crust

1 cup quinoa
1 cup water
1 tbsp. nutritional yeast
1 clove garlic
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. dried basil (if I had had fresh basil I would have just put in on top of the pizza, but I didn't)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Rinse quinoa well in a fine mesh strainer (unless you have purchase a pre-rinsed brand. Kirkland from Costco is one such brand.) Blend all ingredients in a high speed blender. It should be like a thick pancake batter. Spread out on parchment paper or silicone mat (I used the latter). Use a spatula to smooth out and shape. Should be rather thin. Bake for 15 minutes, remove from oven, turn over and put back in for another 8 - 10 minutes. Be careful when turning so as not to tear. I had to use a spatula on the silicone mat to release. When I made it using parchment, that wasn't a problem, however the flatbread kind of ballooned up and wasn't exactly flat when I used parchment.

When done you can enjoy as is or make a pizza like I did. While the flatbread was baking I simply sautéed onions, red peppers and some shredded lacinato kale in a non stick pan and used that for my topping over a basic no oil marinara sauce. Sorry ... didn't write down that recipe. I then baked the whole thing for another 5-8 minutes and sprinkled some almond parmesan over it when it came out of the oven. So yum!

Vegan Parmesan

1/2 cup almonds (I used sliced almonds)
3 tbsp. nutritional yeast
1/4 tsp. garlic
1/4 tsp. salt

Process all ingredients in a blender until consistency you desire. Don't overprocess. This is awesome! I could eat it with a spoon. In fact, I did. I also used it on some Alfredo Zucchini yesterday.