Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Get Up, Stand Up ...

Howdy, Gnawers!
I hope you each had a wonderful weekend and have had a good start to this new week.  Even thought I have been writing less, I am still thinking of you throughout every day.  I truly hope that you are finding your way along your own journey and fighting the good fight.  I know it is hard.  Believe me ... I know.  These past few weeks have been pretty rough and they have definitely affected the momentum of my journey.  Notice I used the word "momentum" and not "drive", "progress", "hope", "resolve", or any other words like those.  This has not been a giving up by any means ... just a slowing down.  Such is life.  I believe as long as we are fighting, putting in the effort, and doing our best to better ourselves and the world, then we are right on track.

I saw this on Pinterest the other day and it definitely caught my attention...


Enlightening thought, right?  So, no giving up, Gnawers ... Nope.  We've got this!  Keep putting one foot in front of the other and remember your reasons for starting this journey in the first place.

Well, speaking of enlightening ... tonight's dinner is adapted from a recipe for Quick Kale and Quinoa Minestrone that I found on the Enlightened Cooking blog.  I was not wanting to cook tonight.  Not at all really.  I literally had to put one foot in front of the other just to get my ass from the couch to the kitchen (I can't help but think of the movie What About Bob? ... baby steps to the kitchen ... baby steps to the stove ...).  I knew I needed to cook.  I picked the easiest recipe I could find off of my list for the week and got cooking.  I was surprised by how quickly I was done making this.  Super fast and super easy.  It tasted great too!  It turned out to be a hearty Italian soup rich in flavor.  It reminded me of a soup my grandmother used to make when I was a kid.  The smell in my house took me right back to sitting on a bar stool and sipping lemonade in her kitchen while she made me lunch.  Very comforting.  This recipe also made a lot, enough to serve 6-8 people.  Even better?  The ingredients are all relatively cheap, making for a quick budget friendly meal.  Pretty sweet, eh?

One Pot Quinoa and Kale Minestrone Soup (Vegan)


Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 4 celery stalks, chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press
  • 10 cups kale, stems removed
  • 2 cans organic diced tomatoes (don't drain)
  • 1 cup dry quinoa
  • 8 cups vegetable broth
  • 1-2 tablespoons Italian herb seasoning (or to taste)
  • 2 cans cannellini beans
  • sea salt to taste
  • crushed black pepper to taste

Preparation Instructions:

1.  Heat oil over medium-high in a large soup pot.  Add onion, celery, carrots, and garlic.  Cook for about 5 minutes.


2.  Add kale and cook for another minute (kale will not cook down very much during this time).


3.  Add tomatoes with juice, quinoa, vegetable broth, and Italian herbs and stir well.  Simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes (or until quinoa is cooked), stirring occasionally.


4.  Pour one can of cannellini beans into a bowl and mash well with a fork.  Add the mashed beans and the second can of whole beans to the pot.  Simmer for another 5 minutes, or until soup is slightly thickened.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

5.  Serve and enjoy!!!





I am glad I got myself cooking tonight.  Dinner was great and I feel better about myself and my day.  Sometimes it just takes a tiny push (or a giant shove ... whatever).  Just promise yourself you will make one small change tomorrow.  Any change, no matter how small, is movement.  You can be very proud of that!  Until next time, dear Gnawers ... take good care of you!!!

PS: I have been having some problems with my site lately and have been unable to respond to comments. It makes my computer freeze after responding to one or two.  I think it is an internet problem,  Anyway, please do not think I am ignoring you!  I will answer each and every one of you as soon this gets worked out!  Thanks for your patience.  :)

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Friday, April 20, 2012

Feeling Like A Foodie Genius ...

Good evening, Gnawers!  Weeeeeeeeeeell, I had no plans on posting tonight.  I am tired and have not been feeling so hot.  So, I was just going to take it easy and cook something up tomorrow.  But, things change!  Something I can only call magical ensued in the kitchen tonight, and I just had to share.

I have been eating a lot of tofu lately.  That Tofu Xpress that I bought makes my tofu taste so good now that I don't even have to cook it.  I just eat it cubed and topped with Sriracha Chili Sauce.  It makes me a happy girl ... full too.  Well, I went to get some of this deliciousness this evening only to find that I am out of Sriracha.  "BOOOOOOOOOO,"I thought.

I stared at the tofu on my cutting board and noticed the olive oil and pink Himalayan sea salt sitting less than 6 inches from it.  "That'll do, I guess," I murmured grumpily.  I drizzled the olive oil over the tofu and topped it with the sea salt and fresh cracked pepper.  Oh my goodness, people.  The tofu soaked up the flavors so well and had the consistency of fresh mozzarella cheese.  That is when genius struck.  I started thinking about making a faux caprese salad.  I grabbed fresh basil from the fridge and a delicious ripe tomato from the wire vegetable basket on my counter and got to chopping.  With a little balsamic vinegar, my creation was complete.  Pure genius.

It turned out AMAZING.  Best caprese substitution ever!  The flavors and consistency were perfect and I felt like I was dining at a fine restaurant.  It was really SO good.  Even better is that it took less than 5 minutes to make.  This recipe is definitely going to get made a lot around my house from now on.  I bet I could even trick some of the non-veggies into eating it.  :)

Vegan Caprese Salad


Ingredients:

  • 1 large ripe tomato
  • 1/2 block extra firm tofu, drained and pressed
  • large handful fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup cold pressed extra virgin olive oil (or to taste)
  • 2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • pink Himalayan sea salt to taste
  • cracked black pepper to taste 

Preparation Instructions:

1.  Slice tofu into slices (thickness similar to that of fresh mozzarella cheese).  Set aside.



2.  Cut tomato into "slices" without cutting all the way through the bottom (see below).


3.  Stuff a slice of tofu and some bass between all the "slices".


4.  Transfer to a serving plate.  Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  Top with salt and pepper to taste.


5.  Serve and enjoy!!!





I am sure I can't possibly be the first person to think of this, so it is probably not genius at all.  But tonight ... as I was feeling crappy and not at all chef inspired ... it sure as hell seemed genius when it came to me!  I'll take it.  :)

On another note, I want to wish my dad a very happy birthday.  I am so grateful for you and can't wait to see what this new year brings.  Love you, Daddy!  Okay ...until next time, dear gnawers ... take very good care of you!!! Pin It

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Easing Back In ...

Hello again, my dear Gnawers.  I cannot thank you enough for sharing your stories, life, love, and support with me during the past two weeks.  Your messages and notes helped get me through some very rough, sad days.  I had no idea how difficult this loss would be or how much it would impact me.  As cheesy at it may sound, losing C has felt like losing a part of me.  Seriously.  I mean, that dog has been in my life since I was 15 years old.  She has been all over the country with me, sleeping by my side every single night.  I have not spent more than 4 days away from my girl in the past eight years.  She was just a part of me and something constant.  I haven't had a lot of constant in my life, but C ... C was constant.  I miss her greatly.

I have definitely been in a funk for the past two weeks.  I have slowly been pulling myself out of it over the past 2 days.  I don't think I would have tried nearly as soon without feeling as accountable as I do to each of you.  Thank you so much for that.

I finally got together a recipe list and then a grocery list.  I got my grocery shopping done late last night after work.  I had planned to cook without blogging tonight, but I just got in the flow of things and tried to keep going.  It worked.  I've decided not to blog every single day from now on.  It is a lot of pressure and a little counterproductive to my "getting a life" goal.  Not to worry, I am still planning on blogging several times a week!  :)

So, tonight, I made a delicious Lemon Garlic Roasted Asparagus Soup.  Oh. My.  It was super easy and has jumped right onto my top five favorite soups list (Yes, I have one).  It is ridiculously clean and healthy and really creamy at the same time.  Shocking, but totally true.  Serve this with some crusty bread and/or a simple salad, and you are set with a fantastic healthy simple meal.

Lemon Garlic Roasted Asparagus Soup


Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds fresh asparagus (about 3 large bunches(, ends trimmed
  • 1 large red onion, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 cups vegetable broth, divided
  • 1/4 cup raw cashews
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon crushed black pepper
  • crushed pink Himalayan sea salt to taste
  • 1/2 to 1 whole lemon, peeled and seeded 
  • 1 lemon sliced for garnish (optional)

Preparation Instructions:

1.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2.  Spread asparagus on baking sheet and place in oven for 10 minutes (sorry for the following three superfluous pictures of asparagus ... they were just too pretty not to post).  




3.  Remove asparagus from oven and flip over.  Add garlic and onion.  Put baking sheet back into oven for 5-10 minutes, or until veggies are tender.  Remove.  Set aside a few spears and an onion for garnish (optional, duh).  I also used lemon slices for garnish.


4.  While veggies are cooking, put cashews and 1/2 cup of vegetable broth in blender (VitaMix!) and blend until smooth.


5.  Add all of the roasted veggies and the remaining vegetable broth to the blender (VitaMix!).  Blend until smooth.  Add salt and pepper to taste and blend well.


6.  Garnish with asparagus spears, lemon slices, and onion slivers.  Be creative!  This part was fun! :)


7.  Serve and enjoy!!!




It turned out to be so so good.  I even went back for seconds.  Nom nom nom.  

So, my friends, that is all from me for now.  I know this is not my best post ever, but please continue to bear with me as I come out of this slightly gloomy funk.  It feels like a huge accomplishment for me to have cooked and posted tonight.  That feels good.  Really good.  I hope you have all been doing well over these past few weeks.  You have been in my thoughts!  Again, I cannot thank you enough for your kind messages and support.  Thank you for hanging in there with me too!  Until next time, dear Gnawers ... take good care of you.  


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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Pushing Pause ...

Hello, Gnawers.  I hope you are all having a great weekend!  I wanted to let you all know that I will not be posting for the next few days.  As I have mentioned in the past two posts, my sweet 17 year old dog has been ill.  She went to the vet yesterday, and the lump on her lip turned out to be a very aggressive form of cancer.  I was told that she needs to be put to sleep this week.  We are going on Tuesday.

I am full of all sorts of feelings that I have not sorted out yet, so I can't bring myself to write about them right now.  I hope that is okay.  I have a few days left with my girl, and I just want to use them to focus on her and spend that time together before she goes.  My sister is keeping my other puppy so that it is just the two of us this weekend.  I have bought her all of her favorite foods and have been spoiling her rotten.  She's already gone through at least 20 milk bones, 3 chicken breasts, and half a pack of cheese (she, my friends, is not vegan!).  I've left the back door open so that she can go in and out of the yard as much as she wants.  I also made a bed for me downstairs so that I can sleep with her since she can no longer climb the stairs.  We are just hanging out like we have done for so many years and it has been really nice.  The doctor gave her pain medicine and she seems comfortable.  I just love her so much.  It is hard to imagine not having her in my life.

Anyway, I want to keep my focus on her for these next couple of days, so I will probably not be cooking or blogging much .  I will get back to it sometime in the middle of next week.  Thank you for understanding!

Until next time, dear Gnawers ... take very good care of you!!! Pin It

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Breakfast For Dinner ...

Good evening, Gnawers!  I hope it's been a great Thursday in your part of the world!  One more day and we will all be ready for the weekend.  I know I am definitely ready for it after this busy week!

I explained in yesterday's post that I had to bail on plans with my best friend last night because I was so worried about my dog.  To make up for the time we lost, she came to have lunch with me at work today, which was a super special treat!  She and I met in the second grade and have been friends since.  She is my oldest and best friend, and I don't know what I would do without her.  She is that friend that I don't have to explain anything to because she has been there with me through it all.  She already knows everything, knows me to my core, and loves and accepts me no matter what.  She inspires me and makes me laugh, and I know I can count on her for anything.  It is so cool to reflect back on our lives and our friendship and see how much we have grown and changed, both together and apart.  It has never mattered how often we talk or don't talk ... we pick up like no time has passed at all.  She is a big reason I wanted to move home this year, and I am so very glad that I did.  Friends like her are rare, and I feel so blessed to have her in my life!

I had another super full day of clients and I was pretty wiped out by the time I got home from work.  Plus, I am still really worried about my dog and anxious to hear what the vet has to say tomorrow.  I broke down and cried about it for the first time while driving home today.  I sobbed like I haven't done in years.  You know that kind of cry where you make the messed up face, tears run down your cheeks, you make strange sounds, and can barely speak?  Yeah, it was that kind of crying.  I am actually kind of glad that I was able to do it.  I tend to hold my emotions in and do not cry very well.  So, it felt pretty good to get that out.  I am hoping that her visit to the vet will bring some answers and direction.  I will keep you posted.

With it being a bit of an emotional day, I really felt like some good comfort food tonight.  I have always loved breakfast food.  We never really ate breakfast growing up in my house.  So, when we did have a big breakfast morning, it was usually a happy occasion and we were all there.  I think that is why I love it so much.  When I started considering going vegan, I wasn't sure I could give up eggs.  How do you do a good breakfast without eggs?  That's like seeing the Pips without Gladys!  It's just not the same, right?

So, you can imagine my giddiness when I found a recipe for a Vegan Breakfast Burrito on the Happy Healthy Life website.  Using tofu in place of eggs, Kathy Patalsky (the genius behind Happy Healthy Life) created a breakfast burrito recipe that looked amazing.  Genius, right? I made a few small adjustments to the recipe, and it turned out great!  It was warm, cheesy, spicy, eggy goodness all wrapped up in a delicious sprouted grain tortilla (I used Ezekiel brand).  DELISH.  You know, I thought I was going to give up a lot of my favorite foods when I started eating mostly vegan, but I was wrong.  It turns out that their are healthier (and animal friendly) options that taste just as good if not better!  It just takes an open mind and a little effort to learn new things.  I hope you will try some new things for your health too, Gnawers! This recipe would be a great place to start ...

Vegan Cheesy Spicy Breakfast Burrito
makes 3-4 burritos


Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon Earth Balance (or other vegan butter)
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 8 oz. container of fresh mushrooms. diced
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 1 block firm tofu, drained, pressed, diced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/8 - 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (depending on how spicy you like it!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons turmeric 
  • 1 tablespoon crushed sea salt, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 3 large handfuls fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1 cup Diaya vegan pepper jack cheese, divided
  • 3-4 large sprouted grain tortillas (or whatever kind you like!)

Preparation Instructions:

1.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add butter. 

2.  Add pepper, mushrooms, and onion to skillet.  Sauté for a few minutes.


3.  Add the tofu, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, black pepper, turmeric, sea salt, liquid smoke, and apple cider vinegar.  Sauté for about 5 minutes.  Chop the tofu a bit as you go.


4.  Add in spinach and allow it to wilt.


5.  Remove skilled from heat and stir in 1/2 cup of the cheese.

 
6.  Warm your tortillas for 15 seconds each in the microwave.  Or, you can heat them in a frying pan, heating each side for about 15 seconds.  

7.  Spoon burrito filling onto each tortilla and sprinkle with a little bit of the remaining cheese.  Fold burrito style and cut in half.


8.  Serve and enjoy!  I ate mine with a little hot sauce, but salsa would have been great too!




Yum!  Yum!  Yum!  This recipe is such a yummy one! :)  Alrighty, my friends, that is all I've I got for tonight.  I hope your Fridays go smoothly and that you are all ready for a fabulous weekend!  Until next time, dear Gnawers ... take good care of you!!!
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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Cure For A Salad Sandwich Craving ...

Good evening, Gnawers!  Happy hump day to you!  Two more days until the weekend - woot woot!

After work, I was supposed to go to a painting party with my bestie tonight.  It was like a painting class with wine and hors d'oeuvres that sounded really fun. We have been looking forward to it for a month.  I was very disappointed when I had to bail on her tonight.  I haven't been sleeping well this week and I am exhausted.  Being slammed at work is not helping with that, and I just need a good night's sleep.

On top of that, I am incredibly worried about my dog, and I did not want to leave her alone tonight.  My sweet girl is almost 17 years old.  No, that was not a typo.  I said SEVENTEEN.  Crazy, right?  She is a mix between a black lab and a collie or chow (we think).  She pretty much looks like a wolf when her hair is short and a bear when it is grown out. She has been with me since high school and been through everything with me since then (and there has been a lot!).  She used to go to work with me every day when I was a nanny after college, and the kids loved her.  She's independent, loving, sweet, and an all around awesome dog.  I've taken her with me from state to state over the past several years as I completed my doctorate, internship, and post-doc.  It has always been the two of us taking on the world together.  She has shown signs of getting older over the last 4 years or so such as arthritis, graying hair, cataracts, and urinary problems, but she has always kept on kickin'.  At her last vet appointment in July, the doctor told me she had the "blood work of a two year old" and was doing well.  My girl is a trooper.

C when she was younger ...
But, after galavanting all over the country to finish my doctorate, we were finally able to move home this past July.  Since then, I have watched her decline accelerate rapidly.  She still eats an drinks, and functions well in many aspects, but she is not the same.  She now struggles to get up out of her bed and walks very timidly.  Sometimes she falls and cannot get herself up.  She seems more skittish and agitated.  She can no longer climb the stairs.  She mostly sleeps and eats.  Or, she barks at my new dog (an 8 month old who desperately wants to play with her) that she vehemently despises.  

C last week ...
Last night, I noticed from across the room that the right side of her lip was hanging down.  When I got her to come to me so I could get a good look, I saw that she had a ping pong ball sized lump in the upper part of the right side of her mouth.  It looks painful, and I can't stand the idea of her being in pain.  She seemed more uncomfortable last night and didn't seem able to get comfortable in her bed.  Every now and then she would let out a whimper out of no where too.  It broke my heart.

I have know that this time was coming, but I don't think it ever seemed real until last night.  She has been such a big part of my life, and it is hard to wrap my head around the idea of not having her with me.  I have said all along that I would not consider putting her to sleep unless I knew there was something wrong with her and she was suffering.  I am afraid that time may be coming sooner than I realized.  I have never lost a pet before, so this is all very new to me.  It is scary and heart wrenching, but there is also a hope of peace for her that I know she has not had recently.  It is almost like she waited for us to move home before she decided she was ready to go ... like she waited to see me settled and grounded ... like she knows she doesn't need to take care of me anymore.

So, that is where I am tonight, and that is why I decided to stay home rather than go with my friend to paint.  I am not sure why I shared all of that here, but it seemed like the thing to do.  Thank you for giving me space to share my life, both the good and the not so good, with you.  I am so grateful to be able to do so here.  I will keep you posted about what happens.  Please keep my sweet girl in your thoughts and prayers.

Needless to say, I wanted to make something quick and easy tonight.  Quick and easy is a necessity for all of us sometimes!  I opted for a recipe I found for a Vegan Corn Salad Sandwich on The Vegan Stoner website.  I made several changes to the original recipe to make it to my liking.  After playing around with it a little bit, I was very happy with the results.  Before I started my healthy lifestyle change, I used to love egg salad, chicken salad, tuna salad ... pretty much all sandwich type salads.  Since I am not eating those things anymore, this recipe is the perfect addition to my arsenal when I have cravings for a good salad sandwich!  Plus, it makes enough for 4-6 sandwiches, so I will be able to slap together some easy lunches to take to work for the rest of the week.  Perfect!

Corn Salad Sandwich


Ingredients:

  • 1 block soft tofu
  • 1 can organic canned corn
  • 3 large handfuls of spinach, chopped
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons Vegenaise 
  • 2/3 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1-2 teaspoons sea salt 
  • 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
  • sprouted grain bread (or your favorite!)

Preparation Instructions:

1.  Put tofu in a large bowl and mash.  Add corn, spinach, onion, and Vegenaise. Mix well.


2.  Add nutritional yeast, garlic powder sea salt, and black pepper.  Mix well.


3.  Spoon salad onto a slice of bread and top with another piece.  Cut in half.


4.  Serve and enjoy!!!



Well, that is all from me for the night, friends.  I am going to try and get to bed early as planned and have my fingers crossed for some good sleep tonight!  I hope that you each have a wonderful day tomorrow and keep on rocking on your own journey!  Until next time, dear Gnawers ... take very good care of you.


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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Phenomenal and Very Cute ...

Good evening, Gnawers!  Whew ... it has been one heck of a long day!  I had a crazy busy day at work, but it was good.  I had some really great sessions with some of my clients, and that is the most rewarding thing in the world for me.  It is such an honor that my clients allow me into the most vulnerable parts of their lives and allow me to walk with them on their journeys.  I get to witness growth and change with each and every one no matter what that looks like.  Each of their journeys are uniquely beautiful and I feel so blessed that I get to learn just as much from them (if not more) as they do from me.  I love good therapy days!

I did have to work late, but I was still able to get to the grocery store for my weekly shopping trip.  I was in and out of the joint in less than 30 minutes, and my bill was under $150.  Heck yeah, suckers!  I'm getting good!

Tonight, I decided to make a recipe for Spicy Spaghetti Squash With Black Beans and Corn that I adapted from the Whole Foods Market website.  I learned about the magic of spaghetti squash in January when I started this whole journey.  I have made several Italian style recipes using this magical veggie, all of which turned out to be magnificent.  But, I had never heard of a more Mexican style recipe using spaghetti squash.  It intrigued me, and I decided to make it to satisfy my curiosity.

It turned out to be phenomenal!  It had the delicious Mexican flavors of lime, peppers, onions, corn, and black beans, but it also felt like eating something hearty.  I even forgot the cilantro for the recipe at the grocery store today, and it was still awesome.  The cilantro would have only made it that much better.  There is always next time ... and there WILL definitely be a next time!  Added bonus?  This meal was simple and quick.  You can never go wrong with that!

Spicy Spaghetti Squash with Black Beans and Corn


Ingredients:

  • 1 spaghetti squash
  • 2 teaspoons cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup red onion, chopped
  • 2 jalapeños, seeded and minced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 can organic black beans, rinsed and drained well
  • 1 cup frozen sweet corn
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 2-3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon crushed sea salt

Preparation Instructions:

1.  Put the whole spaghetti squash in the microwave and heat for two minutes.


2.  Remove squash from microwave and cut it in half lengthwise.  Remove seeds.  Place both halves face down in a microwave safe dish with about a 1/2 cup of water.  Microwave for 12 minutes.


3.  Remove spaghetti squash from microwave and allow it to cool enough to handle it.  Use a fork to pull the spaghetti like insides from the squash.  Be careful to leave the shells of the squash intact for stuffing.  Set aside.  


4.  Heat olive oil over medium in a large pan.  Add onions, jalapeños, and red pepper.  Sauté for 2-3 minutes.


5.  Add beans, corn, and chili powder to the pan and cook for another 2-3 minutes.


6.  Add cooked squash, cilantro, lime juice, and salt to the pan.  Cook for another 1-2 minutes, or until heated through.


7.  Fill the squash halves with the filling to serve.


8.  Serve and enjoy!!!





It was so good, and how cute is it to serve it in the squash, right?  Love it.

Alright, my friends, I need to get to bed. I will be back tomorrow!  Until next time, dear Gnawers ... take very good care of you!!!
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