A Very Vegan Week!

Hello Everyone!  I’ve recently been inspired to return to my blog, and I know just the thing that I’ve been wanting to post.  Over the years I have posted a lot of recipes, and I hope that people have been able to create delicious meals for their families using some of my ideas!  But you may be wondering how all of this comes together within the framework of a vegan (or mostly-vegan) family.  How do you eat a healthy, hearty, delicious vegan diet over the course of a day, or a week?

Awhile ago I reviewed some food tracking websites, and my highest rating went to My Fitness Pal.  It really is great, and I’ve been using the handy dandy app on my phone to track my food for the past several weeks.  (You can read the review, but in a nutshell:  It’s free, it’s easy to use, and you can track a lot of nutrients to ensure a balanced day.)    As a result, I have a nice, detailed log of what I’ve eaten day in and day out that I can share with you!

Please keep in mind that I’m not a dietitian and I fully admit that some of my habits are not the healthiest!  (Sweet creamy coffee, I’m looking at you.)  But overall I think I do okay as a busy mom.   I get my fruits and veggies and whole grains and protein…and plenty of chocolate!  (In my defense, this was Valentine’s week so we had a lot of it around the house).   This is exactly what I ate for one week…as tempted as I was to pick and choose the healthiest days out of my food diary, that would not be realistic.  So here it is, a brutally honest look at one week of eating for this vegan!

MONDAY:

Breakfast:   Oatmeal (old-fashioned, thick cut oats) with raisins, sliced mango, vanilla soy milk, and maple syrup.   Sweet Creamy Coffee (Coffee with 1/2 cup soy milk and 2 tsp sugar).

Lunch:  Tofurky Bologna Sandwich on whole wheat bread.  A side of Trader Joe’s Kale Chips.

Afternoon Snack:  Chocolate Pirate’s Booty, a handful of mixed nuts.

Dinner:  Nut-Based Vegan Lasagna (recipe from VegNews Magazine), green salad with balsamic vinaigrette.

Evening Snack:  Banana

Exercise:  Dance Class!

TUESDAY:

Breakfast:   Grape Nuts with vanilla soy milk.  Orange Juice.  Almonds.  Sweet Creamy Coffee.

Lunch:  Leftover Chinese Food (Vegan almond “chicken” stir-fry, white rice).  2 clementines.

Afternoon Snack:  2 Banana-Oat Bundles.  Tea with 1/2 cup soy milk.  Apple slices.

Dinner:  Black Bean Enchiladas with vegan sour cream and salsa.  Baked Butternut squash. Another Banana-Oat Bundle.

Exercise:  Half-hour walk/run.

WEDNESDAY:

Breakfast:  Small fruit smoothie with hemp seeds.  Oatmeal with maple syrup and soy milk.  Creamy Sweet Coffee.

Lunch:  Raw kale salad with creamy curried almond dressing and a whole can of chickpeas. Nutritional yeast flakes sprinkled on top.  2 clementines.

Afternoon Snack:  Almonds, clementine.

Dinner:  Fettuccine Alfredo (Chloe’s Kitchen), roasted cauliflower, and Tempeh Tickle.

Evening Snack:  Peanut butter filled pretzels, a few chocolate chips.

Exercise:  Dance Class

THURSDAY:

Breakfast:  Fruit/hemp smoothie, Shredded Wheat cereal with vanilla soy milk, Sweet Creamy Coffee.

Lunch:  Big bowl of brothy vegetable soup with tofu, fried won tons, and 2 spring rolls.

Afternoon Snack:  Wasabi Roasted Seaweed Snacks, 2 Justin’s Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups.

Dinner:  Leftover Fettuccine Alfredo, vegan chicken nuggets, peas, and a chocolate truffle.

Evening Snack:  Almonds, dark chocolate.

FRIDAY:

Breakfast:   Steel-Cut Oatmeal with walnuts, maple syrup, and vanilla soy milk.   Apple slices.  Creamy Sweet Tea.

Lunch:  Leftover Lasagna (Nut-based).  Carrot Sticks.  One Wholesome Oat Snackle.

Dinner:  Thai Chickpea Almond Curry with sweet potatoes, served over brown rice.  Green Beans.  One chocolate truffle.

Exercise:  45 minute walk.

SATURDAY:

Breakfast:  Green Smoothie.  Brown Rice Pudding.

Lunch:  2 Whole wheat tortillas with vegenaise, hickory smoked Tofurky deli slices, and baby spinach.  Cinnamon-sugar almonds.

Afternoon Snack:  Cinnamon Coffee Cake (Joy of Vegan Baking)

Dinner:  Chickpea-Quinoa Pilaf (Veganomicon).  Baked Butternut squash.

Evening Snack:  Soy yogurt sprinkled with hemp seeds.

Exercise:  Taught 2 dance classes.

SUNDAY:

Breakfast:  Cinnamon Coffee Cake.  Black Tea.  Banana.

Lunch:  Veggie Grill!  Carne Asada wrap, sweet potato fries, and I split a chocolate pudding parfait with my husband.

Afternoon Snack:  2 pieces of Turkish Delight.  Tea with Silk creamer.

Dinner:  Vegan BLT:  whole wheat bread, vegenaise, lettuce, tomato, and veggie bacon.  Baked Beans.  Raw veggies.

Evening Snack:  Almonds and dark chocolate.

Exercise:  55 minute walk with the kids!

There you have it folks…what one week of vegan eating can look like!  I included my exercise just for fun, and so you can see how I might eat more on a day that I exercise a lot vs. a day that I don’t.

If you’ve never done it before, it can be very enlightening to track your food for a week…check out My Fitness Pal and give it a try!  See how well you are meeting your nutrient needs!

Posted in Reviews, Vegan Weight Loss | 2 Comments

A Very Vegan Thanksgiving

Oh my, I blinked my eyes and here we are in November!  How did it get here so quickly?

I have not been the most regular of bloggers, but I didn’t want to leave anybody hanging for those Thanksgiving plans.  Perhaps you are a new vegan and you are not sure how to make some of your favorite holiday dishes without the animal products.  Or more likely, you are not a vegan but you have a vegan guest or two who will be showing up at your holiday table.  In any case, I’m here to walk you through a very vegan Thanksgiving day.

Don’t Skip Breakfast!

Serve something wholesome and hearty like Steel-Cut Oats, Apple-Cinnamon Oatmeal, or a Tofu Scramble.  A healthy morning meal will sustain you through all those hours of food preparation and allow you to come to your holiday table without feeling famished and ready to stuff yourself!  If you want to indulge a bit and have a more festive breakfast, try Low-Fat Vegan Pumpkin Muffins*, perhaps alongside that scrambled tofu.

Honor Your Traditions

Family holiday traditions vary so much – but here’s what I grew up with on Thanksgiving:  Stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, candied sweet potatoes with marshmallows, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, and…oh yeah, turkey.  What can I say?  For me it has always been all about the side dishes.   For dessert we always had pumpkin pie, usually accompanied by one or two other types of pies…apple, pecan, berry, or whatever else a guest may have brought.  Think about what dishes are really important to your family and friends and be sure not to leave out anybody’s favorite.

Veganize It

So how do you make everybody’s favorite dishes vegan?  First, whenever the recipe calls for butter, use Earth Balance non-dairy spread.  You can bake a nice flaky pie crust with it, you can have those buttery mashed potatoes, you can put it in your stuffing, and you can melt it on your pan for candied sweet potatoes.  (Speaking of those sweet potatoes, try topping them with Dandies vegan marshmallows!)

Next, use vegetable broth instead of chicken or turkey broth.  Better Than Bouillon makes a great vegetable broth paste that will work in any recipe, and Rapunzel vegan bouillon cubes are excellent as well.  You can make a nice rich gravy by melting earth balance, whisking in some flour, and then adding vegetable broth and stirring until thick.

Last, use a nondairy milk to replace cow’s milk in any recipe.  I’m partial to a plain soy milk (not vanilla), because it is nice and thick, but plain almond milk can also be used if you don’t like soy.

The vegan at your table will appreciate any veganizing that you do – and if you can’t figure out how to make every dish vegan, try to find out what your vegan guest’s favorite dish is, and be sure to veganize that.  My mom knows how much I love stuffing, so she makes it vegan and then only puts half inside the turkey, baking the other half in a separate casserole dish for me and my family.  Maybe you would like to try her Decadent (veganized) Bread Stuffing recipe!

Buy a Field Roast

If it just won’t feel like Thanksgiving without a turkey, I recommend a product called Field Roast.  The company is based in my very own Seattle, and they use wholesome ingredients to make a chewy, savory roast that is quite satisfying.  Tofurky and Gardein also make similar products, but Field Roast is my own personal favorite.  It’s not essential for me to have this, but it’s tasty, my kids really like it, and it does provide a lot of protein.

Try Something New

In addition to the usual holiday favorites, I have some new dishes that I’ve more recently grown to love at Thanksgiving.  One is sauteed kale.  It brings such a lovely color to the table, and provides a host of essential vitamins and minerals to keep you balanced on an otherwise indulgent day.  Another new favorite is roasted brussels sprouts – just toss with some olive oil, add salt and pepper, and roast in a 400 degree oven for about a half hour.

You can also try something new when it comes to the Thanksgiving centerpiece.  If you aren’t feeling the Field Roast idea and you want something more whole foods based, try a brown rice and lentil pilaf stuffed inside a pumpkin, or stuffed inside halved acorn squash for individual servings.  Just a tip – roast the squash first, then stuff and re-roast to meld the flavors.

Leave the Guesswork Out of It!

Last but not least, we come to dessert.  For me, it just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without a slice of pumpkin pie.  Now, pumpkin pie can be a tricky recipe to veganize.  You can’t use some egg replacer powder and soy milk and come out with a good pie…it just won’t firm up.  And if you use a tofu pumpkin pie recipe, the texture will be good, but in my opinion it just doesn’t taste right.  Several years ago I tackled the vegan pumpkin pie challenge, and I think I’ve got it down – so when it comes to your beloved pumpkin pie, make it easy and just use my Homestyle Vegan Pumpkin Pie recipe.  Top with a dollup of Soyatoo whip if you want that traditional taste, or make up some whipped coconut cream for a tasty, all-natural solution.

Save the Debates for Another Day

The best part about the Thanksgiving meal is relaxing around the table with friends and family.  Whether you are vegan, an omnivore, or something in between – don’t let the Thanksgiving table become a platform for a debate.  Vegans – don’t try to convince somebody that they shouldn’t be eating that turkey when they have some in their mouths!  Omnivores – try not to put the vegan in the room on the spot by asking, “so, why don’t you eat turkey?” as they are trying to enjoy their plant-based meal.  By all means, have these conversations, just not over your holiday meal!  This is a time to relax, celebrate, and express our gratitude.  Happy Thanksgiving!

*I’ve been making these with only 1/2 cup of sugar these days, and they turn out just fine. Add a peeled, chopped apple to the mixture for a delicious variation!

Posted in Holiday Favorites | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

I’ve been Vegucated!

A few weeks ago, I had a free evening and was flipping through my Amazon Prime account on the TV looking for something interesting to watch.  I stumbled upon a documentary called Vegucated – right up my alley!  An hour and 17 minutes later, I couldn’t get the smile off my face.  It was that good!

Now, I love documentaries.  I’m a documentary-watching kind of girl.  But this one was particularly well-done, and I think just about anyone would find it to be an easy watch.  Rather than plowing through a list of compelling reasons to go veg, Marisa Miller Wolfson had the brilliant idea of asking for three volunteers to go vegan for 6 weeks, and then following them on their journeys.

I absolutely love this premise because it allows the viewer to experience the information presented in the film through the eyes of these three volunteers.   It was heartening to watch their reactions as they were exposed to new information and ideas, and to listen to the conversations that they had with each other, and with Marisa (the long-time vegan).  I’ve often thought that if more people learned about the lives and deaths of farmed animals, at least in the United States, they might feel differently about eating them…and that is exactly what happened with these three.

For example, Tesla, the 22 year old college student, said that she had fully intended to go back to her old ways after the 6 week experiment, but hadn’t expected to feel guilty about doing so!  That is so similar to my own experience!  Once you know what animals have to endure in order for people to eat their meat, dairy, and eggs, it is impossible to look at those foods the same way ever again.  Even if you don’t go vegan, or stay vegan (ahem…looking at myself and my flip-flopping history)…you just can’t eat a slice of cheese or a hamburger and feel at peace with that decision.  I could also relate to her struggles to eat vegan without any friends or family on board…after all, I first went vegan back when I was in college, and I didn’t end up sticking with it at the time.

There was another moment in the film that really struck a chord with me.  Ellen, a single mother of two, made a telephone call to an organic, free range farm and placed her call on speaker.  Her kids were giggling in the background as she began to ask a list of questions about the treatment of the animals.  Yet, as the telephone call progressed, the children’s reactions went from giddy to somber, as did Ellen’s.  It was a really good illustration of how misleading those feel-good labels like “free-range” and “organic” can be.

Along with the heavier stuff of the film, there was a lot of humor and entertainment value as well.  Brian, the bachelor from New York City, was always entertaining the crew…if you watch this film, stay through the credits and listen for his “breast milk cheese” song that he sings to none other than Dr. Joel Fuhrman, as the doctor dances along!  There is also a beautiful moment in which the group takes two “spent” hens who would be otherwise sent to slaughter, to a farm animal sanctuary, and gets to witness their first steps into a field of lush green grass.

I loved this film so much that I ended up watching it again, in full, last night!  If you have an Amazon Prime account, I urge you to watch this – it’s totally free!  If not, you can rent it from Amazon for $3.99…not so bad, and totally worth it.  Don’t worry…this isn’t 77 minutes of undercover footage of factory farms like Earthlings (though, if you have the stomach for it, I’d recommend watching that, too.)  This film is entertaining, humorous, touching, and thought-provoking.

So…go on, get Vegucated!

Posted in Film/Movie Reviews, Vegan Issues | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Sometimes it’s Good to be Bored

It was a rainy day on Sunday.  We had no plans, nowhere to go.  After being spoiled with an unseasonably sunny week of being constantly outdoors, nobody felt like going outside in the drizzly mud.  How boring, right?

Wrong!  These days are the best, because they give our creativity a chance to come out.  Our kids ended up getting the costume box out from the garage, and suddenly we had a Wolverine, a Captain America, and a Robin (Batman’s Robin, that is) bouncing around the house.    Later, all of the couch cushions and blankets in the house ended up in an elaborate tent in our living room.

My husband escaped to the bathroom and gave himself a haircut.  I went to the kitchen and rolled out a dozen homemade tortillas.   As the afternoon brought a quieter energy, our younger kids got out the poker set and became absorbed in stacking and arranging poker chips on the dining room floor, as my husband worked on his laptop at the table.  Our oldest son disappeared into his room, where he got lost in a book.   I surrounded myself with a stack of cookbooks and made up the weekly menus and grocery shopping list.

I love days like this that allow for spontaneous activities – nobody is following any plan, nobody has anywhere to be.  We are together, but we are all focused on our own things.  It’s the quiet comfort of being a family.  I also love the small little sounds – rain drizzling outside, my husband tapping at his keyboard, the clinking of the poker chips, the spontaneous chitter-chatter of the kids.

These days I fear that we have too much entertainment at our fingertips, children and adults alike!  With so much media, especially portable media, we no longer have to be bored for a minute.  As crazy as it sounds, maybe we should make more of an effort to actually get bored sometimes!

Our brains need a break.  We need time to digest the information we’ve taken in, to reflect on it, to form our own opinions.  To come up with brilliant new ideas.  To simply enjoy being with the people that we love without having to do anything in particular.

I think we all could benefit from a few moments of utter boredom.  Don’t you?

Posted in Kids, Potpourri | Tagged , , , | 5 Comments

My 2012 Weight Loss: How it’s Going

On New Year’s I announced that I was making weight loss a priority for myself this year, and I’ve been meaning to follow up with a “how it’s going” post.  But I’ve been reluctant to do so.  I had hoped to lose weight a little more quickly and continuously, and have a spectacular success story to share by this point!  But like most things in life, my weight loss journey has had its ups and downs.  I’ve had days and weeks where I felt extremely motivated, and then times where I didn’t seem to care at all.

So, in nearly three months of the new year, I’ve lost about 10 pounds.  It’s a decent amount, but if I had been more focused on weight loss I’m sure I could have lost 15 or more by now.  Oh well…I’ve heard that the more slowly you lose weight, the more likely you are to keep it off.  Hopefully that’s true!

To be quite honest, I had lost 10 pounds by the end of February, but I’ve been in kind of an “I don’t care” phase all month, so I’ve been treading water ever since.  The good news is that even when I’m not actively trying to lose weight, I tend to hold fairly steady and not gain.  But I’m feeling like the time has come for me to get back to work on the weight loss, so tomorrow I’m planning to get back to online food tracking.  Although I find it to be cumbersome, it is the most reliable way for me to make progress toward my goal.   Awhile back I reviewed some food tracking websites, and one of my highest reviews went to MyFitnessPal.com (which is 100% FREE!).   Even though I feel grumpy about it, I’m going to keep track of my food on MyFitnessPal for a few weeks, and start plowing through my next 10 pounds.

And what about exercise?

About a year ago I heard about a new kind of fitness and decided to give it a try:  pole dancing.  I know what you might be thinking:  pole dancing?  Isn’t that just for naked ladies in strip clubs?   Not anymore!  Pole dancing is actually an incredible workout and is quickly becoming a sport and art form in its own right.   I found the most amazing studio that combines the fitness aspect of pole dancing with a beautiful style of dance, and I fell in love.   For the first time in my life, I looked forward to going to an exercise class every single time, and I’ve never had any inclination to skip out!  A year later, not only am I still going strong, but I’m becoming an instructor!   What could be healthier than having exercise built into your job?  I’m so thrilled about this unexpected opportunity, I’m giddy!

Since most of our classes are not cardio-based,  I want to add some kind of aerobic exercise into my routine.  I’ve gone to the occasional group exercise class at the gym, and I’ve gone for a couple of runs, but I haven’t made it a routine yet.  Timing seems to be the challenge here.  With a toddler at home during the day and dance classes late into the evenings, I’m left with the crack of dawn to work in my cardio!  I tried it for a week, taking a 5:30 am aerobics class 4 times, and by the end I was so sleep-deprived that I couldn’t shake the headaches.  If you have any ideas for me, I would love to hear them!

So there you have it.  Ten pounds in three months is a very modest weight loss success, but if I continue at this rate, I’ll reach my 30-pound weight loss goal by October, well before the end of the year.  So I’ll continue to keep my eye on the long-term prize and keep on chugging away!

p.s.  From now on I’ll try not to bury my head in the sand, and update more frequently.  Even if my results are not fast or exciting!

p.p.s.  I apologize for the lack of photos…my camera has not been charging properly lately and whenever I go to use it, it seems to be dead.  I have some food photos on my phone but the quality is nowhere near as good!  I’ll try to work that all out soon.

Posted in Vegan Weight Loss | Tagged , , | 11 Comments

Dreena’s New Cookbook!

Just popping in for a quick post to let you know that Dreena Burton‘s latest cookbook is now available for pre-order, and will be hitting bookstores next month!

Dreena’s cookbooks are my all-time favorite vegan cookbooks around.  Her recipes are tasty, wholesome, and often simple and speedy to prepare. Like me, she is also a mom of three kiddos, so I know she understands the reality of cooking a quick and healthy dinner while simultaneously helping with homework and entertaining a toddler!

Head over to Amazon if you’d like to pre-order a copy.  You may notice that the book cover on Amazon is different – don’t worry, you have the right book!  That was the original cover idea, but the cover shown above is the finalized version (and definitely the best one, in my opinion).   I had the privilege of being one of the recipe testers for this new cookbook, so I can vouch for the fact that these are some good recipes.  In fact, some of them have already become family favorites at my house!

Last but not least, I have to mention that the gorgeous food photos on the cover and throughout the book are the work of the talented Hannah Kaminsky – head over to her blog Bittersweet and you will see just how amazing she is!

Posted in CookBook Reviews | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Is there such a thing as “Kid Food?”

Other moms say, "drink your milk." I say, "drink your kale!"

Food marketers would like us to think that there is.   With all the kid frozen dinners, kid cereals, and kid snacks that are constantly being advertised, well-meaning parents might think that they need to make something special for their children to eat, apart from what the adults are eating.  But is there any need to do this?

In my opinion, the answer is one big, emphatic, no!  Kids will eat whatever they are familiar with.  If you want your kids to be familiar with healthy foods, you have to serve them on a regular basis!  Even if that means taking out the broccoli from the stir-fry for a baby who has just moved on to solid foods, that’s a start.  But for kids older than age 2, there’s absolutely no reason why they can’t be eating that stir-fry, curry, or casserole, just like the adults are eating (minus any choking hazards.)

my 2 year old, as a baby, chowing down on some broccoli.

It’s true that small children have more sensitive taste buds than adults, and may find some foods to be too strongly flavored for their liking.  But goodness, I feel that we as a society don’t give kids nearly enough credit!  We stack the odds against them – assuming that they won’t like what we are eating, and making them something “kid-friendly” instead.  And in doing so we only reinforce the idea that what we’re eating isn’t suitable for kids – not only in our minds, but in theirs.  Anytime we refuse to serve them a healthy dish that we are eating, we are depriving them of the opportunity to acquire a taste for that food.

I would love to get the term “kid food” out of our collective vocabulary!  There is nothing unique about a child’s makeup that requires them to have pizza, hot dogs, burgers, mac and cheese, and chicken nuggets for the majority of their meals.  (If only US school systems would catch on…)  Kids can even learn to like spicy foods!  My 2 year old can go to town on the chips and salsa at a Mexican restaurant — we’ve started letting him have his own little bowl of salsa because nobody wants to share his germs and he tries to double-dip his chips!

Just for fun, I thought I would list out some of the less “kid-friendly” foods that are favorites for my three kids.

8 year old son:

  • steel-cut oatmeal
  • lentil soup
  • beets
  • sunflower seeds
  • raisin bran
  • crunchy natural peanut butter
  • raw walnuts
  • hummus
  • green salad
  • mashed sweet potatoes
  • tofu
  • green smoothies

6 year old son

  • split pea soup
  • green smoothies
  • spoon-sized shredded wheat (plain, not frosted)
  • pistachios
  • celery
  • red and yellow bell peppers
  • tofu
  • kalamata olives

2 year old son:

  • sauteed mushrooms with garlic
  • sauteed leafy greens (kale, collards, spinach, etc)
  • hummus
  • guacamole
  • tofu
  • salsa
  • green smoothies

I didn’t list any fruit because I figure most kids love fruit.  What’s not to like about fruit?  My kids get excited about summertime farmer’s markets when they can enjoy a perfectly ripe donut peach, or some fresh raspberries.   Please, let’s not bombard our childrens’ palates with so many sugary sweets that they don’t enjoy the natural delightfulness of fresh fruit!

What do YOUR kids love that is not considered “kid food?”

Posted in Kids | Tagged , , | 12 Comments