New Smoothie for the New Year

HAPPY 2015!!

Just a short post to share this new recipe I concocted today.  It is delicious!

I used my new Oster MyBlend 20 oz.  I am in LOVE with this thing.  Single serve and it’s already in the bottle?  So convenient.  It mixes way better than my old blender (which shall remain nameless), and it’s quieter, too.  Highly recommend.  I got it at Lowe’s for $20.  Worth every penny.

Anyway… here’s the recipe rundown:

2 Cups greens mix, any (mine was Attitude greens, idk what kind)

Eyeball about 1/2 cup Almond milk coconut/almond blend unsweetened

3-4 ice cubes

Handful frozen blueberries

Handful frozen cherries

Half banana, ripe

1/2 pack Vega Sport protein powder, vanilla

1 packet Justin’s Maple Almond butter

1 scoop collagen powder

No frills, but your taste buds won't mind.
No frills, but your taste buds won’t mind.

MIX!  Enjoy!  It’s not too slushy and not too thick and SO yummy.  You can add infinite things to this, no sweetener required, the fruit really takes care of that.  I sprinkled some roasted sunflower seeds on top because I enjoy sweet and salty together. Normally I might add hemp seeds but I had them with my oatmeal this morning.  I also try to add ginger, cinnamon, and turmeric to EVERYTHING I eat lately because they soothe my tummy and the holiday eating has it upset.

Resolutions/Goals for this year:  Eat more plants, write more blog posts, finish the book, travel, be kind, be fearless.  OH and I am going to try to read the Bible front to back.  A daunting task, but something I have always wanted to do.  What are your resolutions or goals this year?

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Chocolate Chip “PanCrepes”

Most of my ‘best’ dishes happen by accident.  I love feeling like a mad scientist in the kitchen – creating, substituting, and usually not measuring or following any specific recipe.  I call it ‘guerrilla baking’ in jest, but in truth it’s the most freeing way for me to cook.  Tonight I made something in between pancakes and crepes, using applesauce instead of vegetable oil (blech) and Ghirardelli semi-sweet morsels.

My husband sent me a “Good News!” text, and once I heard what the good news, I decided to celebrate.  Hence, cooking with chocolate.  What makes a heart (or tummy) happier on a cold winter’s night than something buttery, gooey, and chocolatey?  I certainly can’t think of anything.

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So I put a pat of Plugra Unsalted butter (my favorite, hands-down) and got to work.  These are the result. They are not as thin as crepes, not as fluffy as pancakes, just the right ‘in-between’ of sweet and savory, with melted chocolate in the middle. They may not be pretty, but my taste buds are not complaining.   I don’t have a recipe, though if I did I might not share it, as I like to keep my Franken-Dishes to myself.*

These ARE vegetarian – they ARE NOT vegan but could easily be modified.  (Which I may do for myself tomorrow!)

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*Alright, boys and girls – after several requests I’m going to post a ‘rough’ version of the non-recipe:

1/2 C milk or non-dairy milk

1/2 C all purpose flour

dash of baking powder

pinch of salt

pinch of cinnamon

1 Tbsp sugar

1 Tbsp applesauce (or vegetable oil)

1 Tbsp butter or margarine (you really want to use butter here)

1 large egg

Any chocolate you like.  Dark chocolate will give a more bitter taste, so if you want sweet go with milk or semi-sweet chocolate. You could also add vanilla (I was out).

Preheat a pan or skillet and drop a small ‘pat’ of butter.  (Just a LITTLE bit is fine – this adds flavor and thins out the batter a little.) Mix wet ingredients in a bowl. (Egg, butter, applesauce).  Whisk together, then add dry ingredients.  Mix well (mixer not needed, just do it by hand.)   Pour batter in pan as you like – I started small to ‘test’ then got bigger.  Makes 4-6 PanCrepes.

Sweet Tarts for my Sweet Hearts

It’s almost Valentine’s Day!  Which, when I was in my 20s, I really thought was just a “Hallmark holiday”, even though I was in a committed relatinoship at the time.  I felt, like many people do, that every day should be a day – “the” day – you tell your loved ones what you feel about them, what you appreciate about them.  While I still sort-of feel that way, meaning I put no pressure on my husband to show up with jewelry or take me to dinner, I must say that having kids changed my thoughts a little.

My son has my heart.  Every day, all the time.  One of the most enjoyable parts of having a little one is the holidays, or special treats when we’re able to give them to him.  Probably the BEST thing is all of the “firsts” you get to be present for, and that includes paintings, writing valentines, and so forth.  As a mom, this Valentine’s Day is a day I’ve looked forward to with great anticipation.  We have been secretly making gifts for Daddy using Pinterest ideas and some of our own creativity.  Little Dude has drawn love notes for people in our family and tomorrow we get to distribute them.  It’s the sweetest thing!  And, something I have learned, is that small children know how to love better than ANY of us.  They get it.  They get it like we never will.  I’m so proud of my sweet boy, and his love and sensitivity for others, and of course I want to encourage and foster that in him.

So… still not a romantic holiday in my book, but I’m totally on board with loving it up on Valentine’s Day.

The way I show my love is through food.  I enjoy cooking – particularly baking – for my loved ones.  I created my own recipe for tomorrow’s Valentine’s breakfast.  What follows here is a happy accident.

Valentine’s Apple Pie Croissants Fluffy Tarts

Yeah, so, I had the brilliant idea to do something semi-homemade, like Sandra Lee.  (Don’t you love her? I just love her.)  One of my favorite, super easy, dessert or breakfast add-ons is skillet apples.  Cut up an apple into chunks, cook in butter, add cinnamon and some sweetener, and VOILA!  Basically pie filling you can eat with eggs or ice cream, whatever you like.  So I thought I’d stuff some pre-made crescent rolls with the filling and my family would hail me as the loving genius that I am.

However…

I’m not going to name names, but instead of getting the more expensive, name-brand crescents, I purchased the store brand.  Twenty cents cheaper and “it’s the same thing”, I said to myself.  Big no-no in cooking, in my opinion, is cheaping out.  A lot of times those costly ingredients cost more for a reason. Yes, you can go generic sometimes but other times you’re paying less because the quality is less.  This was one of those times.

I got home and assembled my ingredients:

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Yummily in my Tummily, as Pooh Bear might say.

Next, I heat a “pat” of butter – I just eyeball, it’s probably about a tablespoon – in the skillet:

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For accuracy’s sake, it isn’t a skillet. It’s a sauce pan. It’s my favorite saucepan, so watch your mouth.

Add the apples, sweetener, (sugar is best but I used Stevia this time), and as much cinnamon as you like. I like a lot.  You know in movies, when Italian Mobsters say “Fuggedaboutit” (sp, obviously) ?  Well, one of my favorites of all time is Donnie Brasco, I just so thoroughly enjoy Al Pacino’s Lefty Ruggiero character, it’s beyond explanation.  His is the best accent, the best wardrobe, very best “fuggedaboutit” in the film.  And friends, I have to tell you, if “fuggedaboutit” had a smell, it would smell like this.  Moving on…

Everything’s going fine, I’m thinking I’m going to get this done in 15 minutes and have time to take a nap.  Yay Super Mommy!  And then, it happened.  I peeled back the label on the crescent roll can, holding it as far away from me as possible becauseI am as jumpy as a chihuahua and I hate that “pop” sound.  The label came right off, but no pop.  I squeezed.  Still no pop.  Finally I got a large knife and tried to cut them open, but even that was a mess.  After a few minutes of wrestling with it, I finally managed to pull the dough out.  Unfortunately it was hot and not at all in any recognizable shape.  Instead of croissants, I would have to make something else.

Light bulb!  I pulled the dough apart and made six somewhat even balls.  I sprayed my brand new muffin tin with Pam, and lined six muffin cups with the dough.  Tarts! Pies?  I don’t know, we’ll see.  It’s better than wasting my fuggedaboutit apples, AmIRight?

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I quickly – hurriedly, even – filled the dough ball wads with apple goodness and put them in to my preheated (350 degrees) oven for 10 minutes.

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Pretty Before

The outcome?  Better than I could have hoped, all things considered.  They are like quiche without egg, like tarts if tart makers allowed a “home-style crust” option.  They taste wonderful, and I was still able to get that nap!

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Delicious After

 

They’re buttery, crisp on the outside, soft in the middle and filled with warm apple cinnamon LOVE.  Sweet and tangy and everything I want my Valentine’s breakfast to be.  This is why cooking is so wonderful! It’s magical, a true adventure… and so are love and mommy-hood.

My First Overnight

[Oats, that is.]

Perusing some new and some of my old favorite vegan blogs yesterday, I ran across an idea.  Overnight oats.  Never heard of them?  Do a search on Pinterest.  Oh, sometimes I loathe technology but in this instance I like it very much.  There is a wealth of cooking and creative inspiration at my fingertips.

So, I kept seeing posts about overnight oats and I decided to try a variation of a pumpkin recipe.  Since it’s Fall, and pumpkins are everywhere, and mostly because I had a can of pumpkin in the cupboard that I wasn’t quite sure what to do with.

Here’s what I used:

1/4 cup rolled oats

1/4 cup canned pumpkin

1/2 tbsp agave nectar

1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk

1 tbsp chia seeds

splash vanilla

sprinkle of Vega Sport vanilla protein powder (about 1/3 packet)

cinnamon, ginger, ground allspice – just dashes and splashes of each.

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Mad scientist-ing at the zero hour.

It smelled WONDERFUL.  I put on a “Best of Beethoven” CD I purchased at a discount store years ago. I love Beethoven. Classical music in general, pairs extremely well with creative endeavors, in my opinion.

In theory, all these ingredients, once given a good stir, settle and mix and mingle and expand and absorb flavors overnight, and become something brilliant for breakfast.  I had my doubts.

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The finished product.

So this morning I woke up and made a bee-line to the fridge.  I was hungry and curious and hopeful.  I got a spoon and took a big bite.  How was it?  In a word, disappointing.  Texturally it was satisfying.  The chia seeds were new for me, and I love texture in my foods. That’s actually one of the perks of eating vegan/vegetarian. The variety of tastes and feels is sometimes overwhelming. (In a good way.)

I have two theories about why I didn’t like the oats.  First I’ll say they did settle and absorb quite nicely.  Again, texturally I have no complaints.  I think I didn’t love them because 1) I don’t love pumpkin and 2) I am not a fan of cold things for breakfast.  What’s that you say?  “Well if you’re not a fan of pumpkin, what were you thinking making pumpkin oats?”  Astute of you.  I was actually hoping to form a relationship with pumpkin.  I believe in it, as a healthy food.  I know there’s a way to sneak it into some things, but this particular dish for me was a fail.

Positive notes: I think if I make the same dish with sweet potato, I will knock my own socks off.  Particularly if I am able to heat it up.  OR I was also thinking of adding banana.  Creativity begets creativity.  Can’t be bummed about that.  I did also eat this, even though I wasn’t into it, because it’s packed with nutrients and I do not waste food.  Never. Waste. Food.  It’s a thing with me.

So much of cooking and creating is trial and error. I’m honestly feeling that this was a positive experience.  Would I recommend this recipe?  Not unless you are a pumpkin fiend and really like the flavor.  Otherwise, I’d say add something that will mix well or even overpower the pumpkin flavor. It was just too much for me.

My Growing Vegan Pantry

(Not to be confused with the following post at Oh She Glows:

My Vegan Pantry

However that one is one of my favorite blog posts, ever, and I highly recommend viewing it.)

I am pretty committed to meatless eating.  This way of eating is not exactly new to me, in fact it’s my “default” get-well from a cold diet, feel better when I’m in a slump diet, clear up my skin diet, sleep better diet, faster workout recovery diet, make sure I’m regular diet… it’s THE best way to eat, I am sure of it.  WHY it’s taken me so long to make it permanent, I couldn’t say.

The commitment part of this is new to me.  I’m used to storing away thoughts, way in the back of my mind, that I can have diet soda any time.  I can eat a big, juicy hamburger if I want to.  I don’t know why this kind of thinking comforts me, but it does.  I guess it’s because of the freedom – or perception of freedom – is something I need psychologically.  Breaking away from that will be challenging, but it’s helped by how good I feel being vegan.

The more I eat this way, the better I feel.  Physically, see above.  Lots of benefits almost immediately.  Internally, spiritually you might say, I feel lighter. I feel enlightened. I feel joy.  There is some serious smiling going on over here, and sometimes I can’t even help or explain it.  Yes, I’m sure it’s because of cutting out animal products but no, I cannot explain how I know that.  Just take my word for it.

So tonight I took a couple of pictures.  The first one is a cell phone picture of the “beginning” of my new pantry.  Here it is:

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Tri-color couscous, wild rice, quinoa, oats.

I am SUPER excited about this.  Perhaps disproportionately so.  I took the next couple of photos while preparing my food for work tomorrow:

Banana, kiwi, orange, and medjool dates.
Banana, kiwi, orange, and medjool dates.

This is my afternoon snack.  It’s fresh and alive, full of nutrition and nourishment.  As much fruit as I might have eaten in 2 or 3 days before.

Steamed green beans, ripped spinach leaves, kidney beans, steamed zucchini and steamed squash, tomatoes, and some Amy's veggie soup on top.
Steamed green beans, ripped spinach leaves, kidney beans, steamed zucchini and steamed squash, tomatoes, and some Amy’s veggie soup on top.

This is my lunch.  With these two combined I’m eating 10-12 different types of NOURISHING, nutritious, plant foods.  Now, as these photos illustrate, I am what I have come to call “guerilla vegan”.  Meaning, my style is less organized and more, “throw lots of flavors in a bowl and wolf it down”.  I don’t slice precisely, I don’t measure or count anything, which I think is fantastic. That’s just what I do, I know everyone has their own style, but this works for me.

This weekend I hope to get out and pick up more vegan “staples” and start organizing my spice rack.  One of the best things about eating vegan or vegetarian that I’ve yet to mention?  The cooking.  OH, the culinary places you’ll GO!  Places you never even knew existed or that previously only existed in your wildest imagination.  At least, this has been my experience.

So… what’s in your pantry?  What’s your “go to” staple?  What’s the best “quickie” veggie meal?  What is the one item you can’t live without?  If you are vegan or vegetarian, what has been the biggest benefit?  How have you stayed on track?  Do you think there are any drawbacks to this way of eating or lifestyle?  I love comments.  Leave me some.

Vegetables and Yoga and Good zzz’s, Oh My!

Good day, all!

[Actually it’s night time here, but I refuse to accept that I spent so much time at my job and then consumed in my mommy duties that I’m just sitting down to blog at 8 pm.  Total denial.]

What’s up with YOU?

Here’s what’s going on with me lately… I am vegetarian again.  The story about that will follow.  In that vein, I will be posting some vegetarian and vegan recipes, hopefully some yummy holiday ones too, when I get a free moment.  I LOVE eating this way.  I feel so light, my mood has improved, skin looks smoother and plumper, and I’m sleeping much better.  I also discovered that I LOVE Alba brand (vegetarian, cruelty-free) skin care.  Papaya Enzyme scrub and Hawaiian Aloe/Green Tea moisturizer in particular. I’ll be posting about that later, too.  On to the news…

Recently I have been seeing a doctor about some abdominal discomfort. Something hurts – well hurts might be the wrong word – aggravates me is more accurate – on my lower left side.  He has ruled out hernia, fibroids, c-section complications or scar tissue, and appendicitis.  Yahoo.  After 2 ultrasounds he says it’s unlikely it’s cancer or any other growth.  Yahoo again.  It’s possibly: 1) severe constipation, 2) inflamed ligament (the one that connects the hip to the spine), meaning I need to ice it and stretch, 3) ovarian cysts (discovered on u/s but determined to be non-threatening) or 4) something like cancer that could only show up on ct scan.  (Wait… what?)  At least he was honest and said that abdominal stuff is the hardest, particularly with women, and that it’s difficult to diagnose.  So here’s what he decided to do: 1) Get me pooping. Pooping is good, he says. (who doesn’t like to poop, right?) 2) Rest from working out for a couple of weeks, 3) Give me pain meds.  Um… thanks?  After talking it over with my husband – and when I say “talking it over” I mean I talked it over, he listened.  Or fell asleep, I’m not sure and I can’t remember.  Point is, I decided not to get the prescriptions filled, partially because they were $85 (yowza!) and partially because I know that I can heal my body naturally and with gentler measures.  SO, my treatment plan the past week and a half or so has been: 1) Cut out all meat and dairy.  I used to be vegetarian, sometimes vegan, so this is not new territory. My tummy likes this way of eating, I have less bloating and more pooping.   2) Purchase a good probiotic. These good little guys eat the bad stuff in your gut and get things “moving”. So yes, this is poop related also.  (Seriously, I like to poop.)  3) Put down the diet soda.  I was only drinking one a day, but one daily is enough to throw off the body’s internal ph, cause acne, sleeplessness, gas, and other things.  Plus this means I automatically reach for the water more often.  4) Incorporate yoga and meditation. Stretching, yes.  Relaxing, yes.  The main reason, though, was to ease tension and get rid of the day’s stress.  Since I’ve been working full time (4 months now), my whole life has changed.  Some areas in small ways and other areas, pretty drastically. Yoga and deep breathing/meditation helps me center, and I have found that it also helps me sleep like a baby. Well, like a baby that sleeps.  Score!  Meditation, visualization, deep breathing are all AMAZING techniques to become calm, to create peace within, and set the tone for the day.  I even use “power thought” cards that say things like “All is Well in my World” and “My Healing is Now in Process”.  Sounds silly, but it works! 5) Lastly, I increased my cardio.  I was only lifting weights because I’d been feeling burnt out on the other activities.  The problem was that I was also feeling a bit ‘bulky’ and possibly eating an excess of protein following a bodybuilder’s diet.

Bottom line: I feel good.  HOW good?  Good enough to shoulder-dance to “When Doves Cry” at 4:45 this morning, while driving to the gym.  That should tell you everything you need to know.

I should be a doctor.

I Believe You Have My Stapler.

This week at work has been… challenging.  Normally I’m not one of those who looks forward to Friday any more than any other day, but this week is an exception.  Come ON, weekend!  I kept quoting “Office Space” in my head this week.  The pieces of flair, the fantasy copy machine beating, the “mmm… yeah.”  Seriously.  On the bright side, I do work with some amazing people.  So that’s nice.

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My “how can I help you” face

We have staff meetings a couple times a month, and fortunately they aren’t unpleasant.  As a matter of fact, they are a time of encouragement, fellowship with friends and [have I already mentioned?] there’s food.  Someone on staff volunteers to bring a treat, which could be anything.  Sometimes it’s homemade and sometimes it’s from the store.  But hey, it’s always food.  This week I volunteered to bring the food.

Now, obviously, I love food. I love to cook it, eat it, take photos of it.  I love to learn about it, read about it, experiment with it.  I sing songs to my son about his broccoli.  Admittedly, I’m a food nut.  I’m also a health and fitness enthusiast.  Sometimes vegan, sometimes paleo, but always conscious of what I’m putting into my body.  I often find myself in conversation at the office about diet, fitness, vitamins, nutrients, things of that nature.  I don’t mind it. I less-than-mind it.  I enjoy it, I light up in those kinds of conversations because food and health are my passion.

After a few minutes brainstorming, I came up with a perfect snack to represent who I am and how I think about food, and still be sweet and filling enough to satisfy everyone else at the meeting who maybe doesn’t share my food philosophies. [I also needed something that would be affordable.]  Here’s a photo:

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Drooling all over yourself, right?  ME TOO!  Fruit skewers.  Easy to handle, great for Summer and perfectly refreshing.  As I was making these, those little glands by my jaw kept tingling.  Oh, the anticipation of those sweet, sweet strawberries.  And the kiwi – I was ill-prepared and only had one – was SO ripe it was all I could do not to just swallow it whole.

One thing I have noticed about myself in the last couple of years, that either wasn’t the case before, or I didn’t realize before because I wasn’t eating as well as I should: I have a real, physical, visceral reaction to foods that nourish me.  It’s almost lust.  The body is alive, is made up of live cells, so when it’s fed living foods on a consistent basis, there is a palpable shift.  It starts to crave those types of foods.  Trust me, it’s real and it feels good.

Anyway, back to the office story.  At the store throwing all this fruit in my cart, I decided there should be something on the side.  A dip?  Yogurt?  I’m running through dietary restrictions in my head – so and so is gluten free, um I think so and so is doing this or that diet plan – hmm… I know!  NUTELLA!!  Delicious hazelnut spread that everyone likes.  Perfect.  So I get to the aisle number 149 over at the other end of the store, and I see the Nutella.  But just as I was about to add it to my pending purchases, another jar caught my eye.  It said Justin’s, and looked like my favorite Maple Almond Butter, but it said “Hazelnut”.  Is this real, or am I hallucinating?  Justin’s makes a delicious hazelnut spread too, but theirs has no ingredients I can’t pronounce and only 1/3 the sugar?!  Is today Christmas?!  For clarity’s sake, I’ll say here that I chose the Justin’s.  [Because of course I did.]

I went to the conference room early to set up, and the spread was delightful, just as I’d imagined it.  Granted, it did take a long time to slice up all that fruit and put it all on skewers, and I may or may not have gone to bed with a stomach ache from all the pieces I “dropped” into my mouth.  Still, it was a success and it all got eaten and I am quite proud of myself.  I did, of course, post a photo on instagram.  Hashtag CANIGETARAISE?

A photo, this time of the presentation at work:

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