Vegetables

Lessons learned on the first day

You know how in real estate everything is location, location, location? Well, my experience the for the first day of the Vegan Experiment was missing one key thing: Preparation, preparation, preparation. I learned that planning ahead is key to my success in eating well, which of course goes hand in hand with feeling well. To sum up the first day: It wasn’t a complete failure, but not a complete success. I’ll put it this way….if you’re planning to start a Vegan Experiment, don’t keep your Mongolian beef leftovers in the fridge…especially if you haven’t stocked it with other good options. Mongolian beef was just a little too tempting, if you know what I mean….

Mongolian beef, goodbye to you! Image: blogchef.net

I was in a training class all morning, so success was inevitable. I’d packed my cut up veggies and fruits, a great lunch, and enjoyed it. It was opening the fridge at home when snack attack hit. (I’ll let you fill in the blanks with the information in the above paragraph) A big shopping trip was in order yesterday afternoon, and later today I plan to spend an hour or so cutting up some vegan deliciousness in preparation for the next few days. I’m looking for inspiration on the web. I’d love to hear any resources on vegan cooking/recipes!

My fridge on day one. Looks like a set up for failure. However, it was only a partial failure. It was partially successful, so I’ll celebrate that and start fresh. Tomorrow’s a new day~

Green smoothie

Great ingredients!

Great ingredients!

Looks different when blended!

Looks different when blended…

I am officially weird. This morning I made a green smoothie and got all excited about it! Look at these great ingredients:

Baby kale and spinach

Frozen mango

Frozen cherries

Banana

Flax seed

Coconut

Dates for sweetener

And the best part….Fresh ginger

Deliciousness in a glass. I have to admit it’s not very pretty once it’s blended.

Not pretty when blended Exhibit A

Not pretty when blended Exhibit A

It’s actually more brown than green. But we’re calling it “green” because of the greens!

Exhibit B of not so pretty when blended.

Exhibit B of not so pretty when blended.

But like many good books, you can’t judge this smoothie by its looks or the fact that it coordinates with the browns in our counter. It is utterly great tasting and I happily gulped 4 cups of greens with the yumminess of fresh ginger. Ahhhhhh, ginger. So lemony and fresh tasting. Plus it has anti-inflammatory benefits. That’s a win-win, folks!

image:http://jamarattigan.com/

Results are in: Lower Cholesterol!

The premise of the Vegan Experiment was to eat a plant-based, gluten-free diet for six weeks to lower cholesterol. My total cholesterol before the Vegan Experiment was 230. I waited until seven weeks to have it checked again, but the results were exciting!

image:http://jamarattigan.com/

image: jamarattigan.com

After just seven weeks of a complete vegan diet, my total cholesterol lowered to 200. THIRTY points lowered in less than two months with no medication. YEA!!

Celebration!!!

Celebration!!!

chopped kale

Crazy ’bout kale

Don’t know what it is about this new year, but I’m CRAZY over kale for the past couple of weeks. I think it started with my frequent visits to ohsheglows.com (and I mean very frequent visits!)

Here’s the pic that got me started on my kale kick:

photo: ohsheglows.com

sun-dried tomato kale chips          photo: ohsheglows.com

I purchased organic kale for three weeks in a row, then finally made the kale chips yesterday. I’m surely not the only person who buys (fill in the blank with various produce) every week, only to end up throwing them away 2/3 of the time?  For my kale chips I used chick peas instead of sun-dried tomatoes. Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Here are the kale chips by Christine

Here are the kale chips by me…..Christine’s kale chips

Mine was a little heavy on the topping, but not bad for a beginner! If you go to Angela’s kale chip recipe, you’ll see the recipe for the chick pea kale chips provided in the comments.

Another of my kale pleasures was Sweet Potato Kale Soup. It only took 10 minutes using the microwave. Yea!!! Epic win for my new invention. It’s been super cold and rainy here lately, which makes me want to eat soup and stay in the kitchen a lot.

My rainy and cold view from the front door. Doesn't that make you want soup?

My rainy and cold view from the front door. Doesn’t that make you want soup?

A few days ago I was ravenously hungry when I came home for a lunch break, and the weather was wet and cold. Brrrrrrrrrrrr! I remembered that there were sweet potatoes in the fridge, so I made this soup to warm up. Ahhhhhh, warm and cozy soup. Soup is good food!

10 Minute Sweet Potato Kale Soup

1 sweet potato, poke and cook for approximately 5 minutes in microwave until soft

Put cooked sweet potato in blender with:

1/4 teaspoon curry

dash of ginger

dash of sea salt

1 cup almond milk (plain, no flavor or sweetener)

1 cup vegetable broth

Then add 1 cup chopped kale, and reheat until kale wilts. Or eat it without the kale. Or add spinach. You decide, it’s your lunch :)

chopped kale

chopped kale

Lastly, is Black Bean Squash Kale Quinoa Soup. Now say that fast three times in a row. Delicious! If you have pretty toppings on the side, it makes it family friendly so that everyone can customize their bowl. Our toppings included tortilla strips (our favorite), avocado, cilantro, and tomato. Your kid might even grab the camera to snap photos….mine did!

Black bean, squash, kale soup with quinoa

Black bean, squash, kale soup with quinoa

Wait till you see the recipe and pics for this at Oh She Glows. You’ll love it….it’s worth the work! Since a plant-based diet is pretty new to me, I’m loving my New Year Kale Kick. And I didn’t even mention my kale smoothies….

portabello mushroom with vegetables

Portobello mushroom with vegetables

portabello mushroom with vegetables

This is a meal that will have you forget about what you cannot eat on a vegan diet; instead it will have you delight in plant-based foods! My friend Lynette brought this incredible meal over yesterday and I am committed to hounding her until she gives me the real recipe. See, she’s pretty creative in the kitchen so she just whipped up this deliciousness and brought it over. No recipe. Just creative awesomeness.

You’re probably thinking, Man, I wish I had friends like that. Yeah, she’s pretty wonderful!!

Since my stalking her for the recipe has only been going on for 24 hours, I’ll have to go by memory of how she did it.

portabello mushroom with vegetables

Clean out gills from Portobello mushroom and drizzle with Bragg’s Amino with a little salt and pepper. Meanwhile roast red and yellow bell pepper with chives that you’ve drizzled with Bragg’s Amino and a teaspoon of olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast until a little blackened but not burned.

Chop roasted veggies and add chopped raw zucchini and squash in a bowl. Cook mushrooms, gill side down, on same cookie sheet that peppers were roasted on. 375 degrees for 17 minutes. The Bragg’s and olive oil from veggies add flavor and caramelize a little. Mmmmmmmmmmmm.

Place Portobello on a plate, top with mixed veggies, chopped cashews, and avocado on the side. Mouth watering delight awaits you!

made me delight in plant-based foods!

Note: I’ve added the real recipe below, compliments of Lynette! :) Either she’s extremely fast and dependable, or I’m great at nagging. Either way, I couldn’t resist posting this plant-based goodness before I had the official scoop from her. Check it out:

Preheat oven to 350
Ingredients
Mini peppers (red, yellow, orange, or whatever combination you like)
Cherry tomatoes
Squash
Zucchini
Portobello Mushrooms with gills and stem removed
Chives, chopped
Olive oil
Garlic salt
Salt
Pepper
Directions
Roast cherry tomatoes and peppers (mini bell) in EVOO,pepper and salt (and or) garlic salt if desired.
Roast in 350 oven or use the broil setting.
Remove when you like what you see, chop , discard seed
Add chopped squash and zucchini
Drizzle mushrooms with olive oil and garlic salt face down in the pan you roasted peppers and tomatoes in.
Remove portobellas after 12-18 minutes.
Place cooked veggies on top, garnish (or pile) cashews on top, and avocado if you like.
Eat and enjoy.

A few favorite vegan things

This week marks six weeks of the Vegan Experiment!! I am super psyched to have stuck with it (except for a few minor incidents) for forty-two whole days! For the past week I’ve been pretty low on inspiration, probably because of several flopped recipes in a row. Add to that some poor lighting and difficulty loading pictures and you have the vegan blues. (insert harmonica playing here) Seriously, sometimes it can be pretty easy to get in a rut.

Eating a plant-based diet is an adventure, especially when I want vegan snack or convenience foods. Although I know in my head that bananas and apples are perfect portable snacks, sometimes I just want something different. And sometimes I don’t feel like putting a salad or meal together. There are a few discoveries I’m making along the way, and I’d love to hear your comments if you have favorite vegan friendly, gluten-free convenience foods! Here are some of my favorites:

This lentil meal has a great light curry flavor. I love it....and had it for dinner tonight! image: amys.com

This lentil meal has a great light curry flavor. I love it….and had it for dinner tonight!
image: amys.com

A frozen, healthful dinner is great for a night that the rest of the family is eating takeout pizza and I want something takeout-ish, too.

My very favorite frozen or convenience meal. This was a fave even before I started the Vegan Experiment. image: laziestvegans.com

My very favorite frozen or convenience meal. This was a fave even before I started the Vegan Experiment. image: laziestvegans.com

On to my favorite snack bars:

Larabar!

Larabar!

Larabars are soooooooo good….My favorite flavors are: all of them!

Another favorite is one that I hope you won’t tell me has hidden animal products, because I’m smitten:

Glutino, I heart you

Glutino, I heart you   photo: glutino.com

These are super light and crunchy, and sometimes you just want a convenient, salty, crunchy snack. Okay, more than sometimes. Which is why I wouldn’t allow myself to buy them this week. I like them a little too much and need to lighten up on the packaged stuff. Thankfully, today I had a recipe success! The winner was sweet potato kale soup…such a yummy lunch. Now if only I could upload my photos…..

What are your goals, motivation, dreams?

Aiming high and a look back

It’s been four weeks since I began the Vegan Experiment. Make that four and a half! It has been an adventure and I’m learning a ton. You may remember that I’m in the Vegan Experiment for the health benefits. My hat’s off to you folks who are vegan for ethical/moral reasons. My motives are a tad more selfish, and I salute you. I have been battling neurological symptoms for over a year that look like Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Lyme disease, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or a host of other things. It’s been a real battle, bordering on health crisis, that has propelled me to make some drastic changes.

There ya go…that’s my motivation. To find out a natural solution to feel better. To feel good again. So here goes….some lessons I’m learning in the Vegan Experiment.

1. I feel empowered making good choices on a regular basis. Notice that I said regular basis. That means I have digressed from the plan a handful of times. No perfection here. Although I have gotten off of the plan, I also jump right back on and move forward. YEA!!! This isn’t my typical M.O. My past M.O. is to feel like a failure and indulge accordingly. My new M.O.? Progress, not perfection.

2. No more medication for depression & I haven’t had any adverse effects. Yea!!!!! I was on antidepressants for over a year & was pretty apprehensive about getting off of them. My neurologist suggested a slow tapering off and I’m thrilled! I would’ve stayed on them as long as necessary, but I’m glad to take a prescription out of the equation if it wasn’t harmful.

3. Blogging is just a whole lot of fun! It’s by far my favorite aspect of experimenting with a plant-based diet. I love taking pictures, I love reflecting and writing, and it’s a great way to help stay on track.

4. I signed up for a 10k in March. This is a HUGE goal, because my symptoms have made me almost sedentary, and I’ve just picked up light exercise again in the past month. (Month? Hmmmmmm…..that seems to coincide with four weeks of a plant-based diet!) I miss running and love to have fitness goals.

Can't wait to train for 10k!

Can’t wait to train for 10k!      photo: runner.com

5. My diet is focused on anti-inflammatory foods, which means vegan and gluten-free. That’s pretty challenging at times. However, I’ve noticed that eggs and wheat products make my symptoms flare up. Good motivation to stick to the good stuff!

I’m pretty excited about the new year and looking forward to making strides forward. It’s gonna be good!

What are your goals for 2013?

P.S. I’m not a doctor or health care professional; I’m just a regular layperson who is sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. So if you’re on medication prescribed by your doc, don’t do anything foolish and stop abruptly without talking with them about it. That can cause you physical problems and we want you to feel better.

 

 

beach sunrise photo by Herschel

It’s a sandy Christmas

A sampling of our road trip snacks

A sampling of our road trip snacks

One thing’s for sure on a road trip: If you bring it in your car, you will eat it when you’re driving for 10 hours or so. So while some of our road trip snacks were good and yummy (hummus, carrots, celery, apples, bananas, peanut butter) some weren’t so great for us. (see everything else above) I guess it’s just human nature. KInd of like “If you build it, they will come” in Kevin Costner’s baseball movie;, in traveling, it’s “If you bring it, you will eat it”.

I am happy to report that if we had done no preparation or shopping it would’ve been worse, so I’m glad that there was a little forethought and thanks to you who gave suggestions! :)

We drove to the beach for a sandy Christmas, and here’s the sunrise pic that my hubby took our first morning here:

beach sunrise photo by Herschel

beach sunrise photo by Herschel

I’m also happy to report that I was asleep for the sunrise. Which is why he took the picture. I woke up a few hours later and got to enjoy a delicious bowl of oats with chopped apple and all-spice. Mmmm-mmmm. :)

Breakfast on the balcony overlooking the beach. Good morning!!

Breakfast on the balcony overlooking the beach. Good morning!!

As I enjoyed coffee and oats overlooking the beach, I watched my hubby and daughter below as they played frisbee and goofed around in the sand. Joy!!

father daughter moment

father daughter moment

The only thing that could make this Christmas better is if our son didn't have to work and could have joined us.

The only thing that could make this Christmas better is if our son didn’t have to work and could have joined us.

photo by Danielle

beach sunse

beach sunset

Relaxation and fun in the sand has been good. Our son is grown up and as he says, “When you’re in college, you gotta get your stuff done, then you can have fun”. He had to stay back so he could “get his stuff done”, so we’ve missed him. Even though family time is one of the most important things about Christmas, it’s not the main thing. The reason Christmas is on our calendar is because of Jesus. His birth and life have changed the course of history ….and me, forever. Merry Christmas!!!

137

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It’s a sandy Christmas!

road trip dilemma

How do vegans take road trips?

Dear Fellow Vegans,

I admire you. I respect you. How in the world do you take a road trip in the good ole USA if you are vegan? All of my favorite pitstops are now potential pitfalls. Buc-cee’s convenience store, Chik-fil-a, Wendy’s, Arby’s, Shell gas station stores….I am at a complete loss. Seriously, as I’m planning for some holiday fun, I am intrigued and would love some feedback from some experienced vegan-types.

Sincerely,

Christine, a six-week vegan

road trip dilemma             photo source

Road Trip Dilemma

photo source

vegan black bean chili

Black bean veggie chili, vegan style, baby!

Vegan black bean chili was the surprise ending that I never saw coming. It started out with a complete failure of a new meal that I tried, black bean burgers. Those turned out really dry and not so great. However, I’m sure you’ve heard of the expression “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”, so maybe this blog should be titled, “When newly vegan cooks make bad black bean burgers, make incredibly good chili”. I just didn’t think it had a catchy sound, so I went with a more festive sounding title!

DSC03449

After I raved for a while about how delicious this chili is, my husband said, “Hey, this is actually good!” Actually. I love this man. He’s a truth-teller in every situation, for better or for worse. Remember, he’s the brutally honest guy that you don’t ask if these jeans make you look fat unless you wanna know. And let’s face it, if we’re asking, we should probably go change clothes. Back to the dang good chili….

I cooked a bag of black beans for half a day in the crockpot. Then added some seriously chopped veggies, pureed half of the cooked beans, put it all back together with some kidney and pinto beans, a little seasoning and tomato paste, then voila….tasty vegan chili. Or vegetarian if you prefer.

vegan black bean chili

Here’s the whole scoop on my black bean veggie chili…and did I mention that it’s super low-fat for you lowering-cholesterol folks?

Christine’s Amazing 5 Star Veggie Black Bean Chili:

1Tbsp chili powder

1 tsp McCormick’s Montreal Steak Seasoning (no animals were harmed when using this incredibly good seasoning)

1 can, 6 oz. tomato paste

1 or 2 tsp cumin, depending on your taste. I use 2 tsp

2 Tbsp garlic

1 medium onion

5 stalks of chives

2 carrots

1 red bell pepper

1 bag, 16 oz. black beans, dried

6 cups vegetable broth, I use low sodium

2 cans dark red kidney beans

2 cans pinto beans or Ranch style pinto beans (I like Ranch style, it’s comfort food because that’s how Mom makes it!)

Repeat after me: The crockpot is my friend. Again: the crockpot is my friend. Seriously, I am surprised at how often I’m using the crockpot for beans and legumes. When you purchase a dried bag of beans/legumes, it’s so cheap and so easy. You throw in your crockpot with some stuff to flavor it, and go do life. Come back home, then open the crockpot lid for some heart-warming goodness. I digress….

Directions for Christine’s Amazing 5 Star Veggie Black Bean Chili: 

Admit it; you like the name, don’tcha?

Put dried black beans, 1 medium chopped onion 1 Tbsp garlic in crockpot. Let cook for a few hours until done. (Crockpots vary, but I cooked on high for about 4 or 5 hours.) I drained about half the liquid from cooked black beans. Then blend half of beans in your blender or food processor. I only blended for 3 seconds. No kidding. And they were pretty mushy.

In food processor or blender, blend chives, red pepper, and carrots.

food processor

Add veggie mixture to black beans, putting mixture in crockpot or large pot on your stove. Add cumin, 1 Tbsp garlic, tomato paste, chili powder, McCormick’s seasoning, kidney beans and pinto beans. Let simmer until veggies are thoroughly cooked. In crockpot it’s about 3 more hours, on stove it’s only about 45 minutes. Yes, there’s a LOT of magical fruit going on here. But it’s delicious and hearty. Remember what my husband said, “It’s actually pretty good!”

Burrito Fixin's

Burrito bar to please vegans and more…

Wanna please your vegan and carnivorous friends alike? A veggie burrito bar is sure to make your friends and family smile, whether they’re on a plant-based diet or if they can eat anything under the sun. A fix your own burrito bar is a great crowd pleaser if you have a group of family and friends with all kinds of dietary wants or needs.

Around here in Texas, we call these burrito fixins

Around here in Texas, we call these burrito fixin’s

veggie burrito

veggie burrito

First, employ broke college student to help you cut up all of your fixin’s. Seriously, our son is home from college and he is amazing with a chef’s knife. He cut my prep time in half. (Isn’t that punny? Get it, cut my prep time?)

Going back to lessons I learned on day one of the Vegan Experiment, I wasn’t too prepared for this whole vegan burrito gig. Somehow I forgot to purchase refried beans. I do remember looking at a can of them at the grocery store yesterday, and when I saw that lard was a main ingredient, I promptly put the can back. Apparently I forgot to get a can with decent ingredients because I had to improvise. I drained two cans of black beans, added garlic powder, and mashed as they warmed up. Around my house, I compliment my own cooking a lot. These were really tasty. Cool beans! (Get it? I’m on a roll tonight….somebody stop me!)

vegan refried black beans

vegan refried black beans

cut up everything

Our son cut up everything, and mighty well, I might add

Here are some ideas for a vegan burrito bar, but the sky’s the limit:

yellow/orange/red bell peppers

fresh chopped cilantro

brown rice

corn

guacamole

fresh chopped tomatoes

jalapeno

warmed tortillas (we served flour and also gluten-free)

Grated cheese and a little side of sour cream for the non-vegan peeps

Grated cheese and a little side of sour cream for the non-vegan peeps

If you really want everyone to smile at your burrito bar, have some cheese and sour cream for the non-vegan types. Our daughter was very happy to grate cheese so that the rest of the family could eat it. Even though there are some plant-based substitutes, I haven’t tried any that I like yet.

There you have it: a pretty easy dinner that’s sure to be a crowd-pleaser. Told ya we like Mexican food!