New Year, New You?

New Year, New You?

I’ll be honest, I can’t stand all the “New Year, New You” nonsense that makes its way across news feeds, magazine covers and into conversations every January.  Really, people? We are creatures of habit. Unless we choose to break those habits with a concerted effort, we will keep going back again and again.

Oh, my, am I sounding a bit jaded? Well, it’s the truth. They say it takes around 2 weeks of repetition to form a new habit. So why does it takes us MANY times that to break it? We get comfortable. We don’t want to change. Even if we *think* we want to change, we give up when it gets hard or uncomfortable or even inconvenient.

Well, here’s the good news: change can happen, but the right tools must accompany you on your journey.

Here is what worked for me:

  • Finding an important reason not to fail. This one is huge. If you are only half-hearted in your attempt, your success with be less than stellar, too.
  • Finding a support system. No, this does not mean passing the responsibility of your success to others, it means laying the groundwork for keeping yourself accountable. Announcing your intentions and then setting up a contingency plan for when you are faltering is a great way to avoid pitfalls.
  • Don’t drive everybody crazy! Oh, this is a tough one. I fail at this one ALL the time. It is important, though, to remember that not everyone around you wants to hear you sing the praises of your new found lifestyle. Don’t be pushy. Don’t try and convert everyone! How long did it take you decide to make a choice for yourself? Everyone needs to work in their own time.
  • Be patient with yourself. Patient with what you will experience as you mourn the loss of your old, unhealthy lifestyle. Patient with the frustration you will encounter as you move into a new sphere of reality.  Patient with yourself if mess up.
  • Don’t give yourself an out. Patient is one thing, lenient is quite another. Set your goals and don’t budge. If you make a mistake, move on and get back to it. Don’t give yourself permission to fail.
  • Find what you like and stick with it.  Or at least find what works and stick with it. I can’t say I like most of the things I eat, but by golly, they work for me and I LOVE that!

One of the things I have struggled with in my new healthy eating lifestyle is the loss of some of my favorite foods. I know that veganizing a recipe usually results in disappointment, so I don’t do it often.

One of my favorite salads used to be a prosciutto, bleu cheese, apple salad with vinegarette and candied pecans. Obviously, most of those things are off the table for me now. I wanted one so I decided to try and give myself something that would help scratch the itch. I started with an oil free vinegarette from Healthy Girl’s Kitchen’s Big List of Oil Free Dressings.

I adapted this one:IMG_4604I didn’t have any Dijon since I finished mine up over Christmas and have yet to replace it. I also couldn’t find my Balsamic vinegar (although, I’m pretty sure I put in on the lowest shelf of my pantry instead of with the other vinegars, which is why I couldn’t find it in the rush of making dinner and trying to get my son out the door on time for youth group. Oh, well!)

I used Red Wine Vinegar, coconut aminos, and left the mustard out completely. It was good, but next time I am going to make it correctly.

I served it over a salad made with:

  • Spring Mix
  • Chopped Fuji and Winesap apples
  • Pomegranate arils
  • Chopped pecans
  • Chopped walnuts
  • Thinly sliced red onionIMG_4603

Mmmmmmm! Crisp, fresh, zingy! I can’t wait to try again with the dressing made the right way.

Until then, fight the good fight, my friends.

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Happy New Year

It’s half hour ’til midnight and I am alone. It’s wonderful. My daughter is at a friend’s house, my son is in the living with his buddies, laughing and having a blast, my husband is in the garage tinkering with something.  Everyone I love is doing something that makes them happy, and that makes me happy. There was a time I wouldn’t have felt this way.

I have learned a lot about myself recently. I have learned that I am strong. I have learned that I am capable. I have learned that I am going to be ok. It’s a great place to be.

I used to not be ok. When I was alone I would get lost in the “what ifs” and the “I should haves.” Pitiful, really.

New Year’s is a time of reflection and often a time of promised change. How many years past did I resolve to make positive changes? How many times did I fail? In the end, it doesn’t really matter. In the end, all that matters is that I am in a good place now.

I would encourage you to strive for the same thing. Whatever that looks like for you, however difficult it might be. So what will it take? A New Year’s resolution? Meh. I think they are over-rated, personally. The holidays are over, the boring part of the year is coming up, and the prospect of making drastic changes can seem tempting until real life sets in and everything goes back to status quo.

Don’t do it for the New Year. Do it because you are worth it!

Speaking of worth it…

I have been so good during the last few months, I decided the final hours of 2017 should be fun. Tonight was worth a splurge. Meet my new friend…

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Vegan Paleo Lemon Cookies by Texanerin.

Oh yes! Gluten free, refined sugar free, moist and delicious. This was a fantastic splurge. Happy New Year to me!

Ingredients:

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Directions:IMG_4585img_4586.pngIMG_4587

I used lemon juice because I didn’t have lemon extract and I doubled the lemon zest because I like the bite. The dough formed perfectly for me and I didn’t even bother with the refrigeration.

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Oh wait, I hear fireworks. Happy New Year, my friends. May God bless you in 2018.

Back for the holidays

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Merry Christmas! So how was your Thanksgiving? Mine was… very vegan.

I cooked for two days straight and the results were less than amazing. As we sat down to eat, I was exhausted, disappointed and I watched my family gamely choke down Seitan loaf (we called it Satan loaf because it was so bad, I threw it away after a single bite!), a vegananized version of my family’s traditional southern cornbread dressing (meh), green bean casserole (also meh), a non dairy version of ambrosia (so-so), homemade rolls (pretty good, but I could only have a bite due to the wheat), mashed sweet potatoes (the only really delicious thing I made), and cashew gravy. I also made traditional stuff for the rest of my family; sweet potato soufflé and Mac-n-cheese.

I took NO pictures. It wasn’t pretty. So for Christmas, I am changing my tactic. I am going to make my family all their traditional favorites and I will eat something else. I think that will work better. You live, you learn, right?

Last night I attended my favorite Christmas party of the season. Every year the amazing hostess makes huge pots of the most delicious soups; Creamy potato and and Butternut Squash.  Decidedly NOT vegan, filled with butter and cream. Mmmmmm. Even though she offered to make vegan soups, she has enough on her plate hosting the BEST party, ever, so I decided to make my own and bring it.

I came up with an amazing version of Cream of Mushroom soup that is actually super creamy and amazing. I think it is also going to revolutionize my vegan green bean casserole.

I started with A Pinch of Yum’s Creamy Cauliflower Sauce:

INGREDIENTS

8 large cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons olive oil (optional)
5-6 cups cauliflower florets
6-7 cups vegetable broth or water
1 teaspoon salt (more to taste)
1/2 teaspoon pepper (more to taste)
1/2 cup milk of choice (more to taste)

INSTRUCTIONS

Garlic: Saute the minced garlic with the olive oil (or water if oil free) in a large nonstick skillet over low heat. Cook for several minutes or until the garlic is soft and fragrant but not browned (browned or burnt garlic will taste bitter). Remove from heat and set aside.
Cauliflower: Bring the water or vegetable broth to a boil in a large pot. Add the cauliflower and cook, covered, for 7-10 minutes or until cauliflower is fork tender. Do not drain.
Puree: Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cauliflower pieces to the blender. Add 1 cup vegetable broth or cooking liquid, sauteed garlic, salt, pepper, and milk. Blend or puree for several minutes until the sauce is very smooth, adding more broth or milk depending on how thick you want the sauce. You may have to do this in batches depending on the size of your blender.

Once the sauce was finished in the blender, I chopped and sautéed 2 pounds of white organic mushrooms. 1/2 went in the blender with the sauce, to create the soup base and I stirred in the rest of the mushroom once it was done to create a chinky, delicious, super easy vegan soup that I can’t wait to make again!

As for the fact that I have been M.I.A. for so long, well, let’s just say that everything is status quo with my food. Boring, predictable and the best thing that ever happened to me. The only difference is, I have been eating a lot more soups than salads now that it is cold outside. I will try and post a couple more favorites in the coming weeks.

Weight wise, I am down 68 pounds. Woo hoo! It is now very slow and steady weight loss. I am happy with that. I have gone from a size 18 to a size 8. I feel fantastic. I am loving this whole “pain-free” living thing.

It’s worth the struggle, even during the holidays.

I hope your holidays are filled with love, joy, peace and family. 🎄


In a couple more weeks it will have been 6 months. Six LONG months, and 50 pounds lost.  It has been hard. Harder than I anticipated, at times. At the same time, it’s amazing to me that it has been six months because I didn’t give up! 

You see, I have this amazing track record of being passionate about something, then having my interest fizzle out. Of being dedicated, then apathetic. I suppose when it is your health at risk the stakes are a bit higher and failure is NOT an option. Yeah, that helps. 

So what do my days look like now that I am half a year into this?

I try and drink water first thing when I wake up.  It gets your body moving. I take my fish oil, B-12 and my half dose of anti-depressant that I will soon, hopefully, cut in half again.

If I am feeling sassy, I make almond milk hot chocolate. No sweeteners. Just heat the milk and whisk in a tablespoon of cocoa or cacao powder. 

I then make my smoothie. Yep, 6 months of hideous looking, yet nutrition filled, smoothies for breakfast. Hey, it works for me. I put in LOTS of stuff. I try and change them up a little every day, since I want to make sure I am hitting as many nutritional marks as I can.

The base is always the same, though, coconut water or cactus water, along with plain water and aloe Vera juice. Then comes a small handful of almonds or walnuts, dark leafy greens, assorted frozen fruits, and flax, hemp or chia seeds. I drink quite a bit. Between 24 and 32 ounces. 
Snacks are fresh fruits and veggies.

Lunch is always a small bowl of oatmeal with blueberries.

Dinner is usually a huge salad, now that it is hot outside. We have that 4 to 5 times a week.  I usually dress it up with beans and avadado. 

Still no caffeine, no oils, no sugar, no gluten, no animal products. 

Boring? Sure. Effective? You better believe it!


My faith has been tested, my willpower has nearly crumbled countless times, and yet I persisted. 

I cannot tell you enough, you can do this!

Stay strong, keep fighting, you are worth it. 

Sincerely,

The Reluctant Vegan ❤️

Protein Monster Vegan Enchiladas

Protein Monster Vegan Enchiladas

It has been a full five months and I am still amazed at the power of food over our bodies. I am so grateful that we have stuck with it and allowed ourselves to experience the awesome side affects that come with this way of life.

5 months ago, my first day of Veganism also coincided with the day I took my daughter to LA for a campus tour. I have shared that story before. To sum up, it was awful. I was riddled with pain, and I had a hard time walking. I barely made it up the single flight of stairs to see the upper level of the school

Last Friday was student orientation, so I accompanied my daughter, once again, to school. What a difference. We ended up walking a total of 6 miles and took a total of 18 flight of stairs.  I did it with NO PAIN!  My usually painful knees didn’t even protest a little bit, even as I was climbing. I am so in love with the energy and lack of pain!

That being said, the food is still pretty boring sometimes. I occasionally need something new.

I decided I was in the mood for enchiladas tonight. I sighed as I perused Pinterest, trying to find something that would work. I wasn’t excited about baking, since it has been hot and uncharacteristicly humid here in SoCal but I really wanted some!

Cue Protein Monster Vegan Enchaladas.

The picture was totally enticing and they seemed like something that would taste really good.

img_4030.png They also seemed easy to modify. Gluten free corn tortillas instead of flour tortillas and leave out the oil and we are good to go.

The enchalada sauce was amazingly easy to make and equally amazing in the taste department. Win!

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I bloomed the spices (sautéing them in a bit of broth instead of oil to release the flavors), then mixed in the tomato paste and oat flour to form a thick paste before thinning it out with veggie broth and simmering for about 8 minutes. So easy!
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The filling was a snap, too.  Beans, veggies, hemp seeds (which are a great source of protein) and seasonings made up the bulk of it.

img_4031-2img_4032-1I sautéed the onion and red pepper while I rinsed the beans and got together all my other ingredients.I cheated and used canned organic Roma tomatoes because I was totally out of fresh and since I was in pajama pants and did not wish to alter this highly comfortable state of affairs, running to the store was out of the question. Everything went into the pan together and I warmed it through for about 5 minutes.

I put a ladle of sauce in the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan, then spooned in the filling. I used about 5 corn tortillas to cover the top and then spooned over all the rest of the sauce over the top.

I covered mine with foil before baking for 1/2 hour, since I didn’t want them to dry out and there was no cheese to seal in the moisture.

I didn’t even bother to take a picture of the final product. It wasn’t NEARLY as pretty as the Pinterest picture. I believe I have mentioned before, I go for taste, not presentation.

We enjoyed them. Some of us more than others. I felt the filling was a little on the bland side. I try not to use too much salt, though, so I guess that goes with the territory. I covered mine with an obscene amount of jalapeños and garnished with fresh avocado. That made them awesome.

I think I might make them again.

I will definitely be making the sauce again. It was delicious! I kept sticking my finger in the pan, stealing taste after taste.

I may even make some up to use on our bean and rice bowls, just to kick them up.

Even though I find myself getting bored, occasionally, I really wouldn’t change this style of eating for the world.

If you have been considering a change in your diet for health reasons, I have three words for you.

Just do it.

Cheat Day

It finally happened… cheat day. I was dreading it, to be honest. I have shared in the past about my fear of basically imploding if I get my hands on something yummy and eating myself right back into pain and weight gain. 

It has been 5 months of ruthless, hard-line, healthy eating. No deviations, no slip ups, no cheating, NOTHING!

Last night I decided to make some vegan cookie bars. “Can you have some?” my family asked. “Well, no, but maybe I will have just a bit.”  Guess what? It was just a bit. I didn’t put a bite in my mouth and turn into a Tanzanian devil, whirling across the rest of the pan with reckless abandon.

During the prep, I took a bite of the batter (a-MAZE-ing!!!) and enjoyed it thoroughly.  Once they came out of the oven I cut myself a small square and ended up giving half of it to my son because I was completely satisfied with just a few, small bites!

I didn’t take any pictures, since I honestly didn’t think I would really be able to have any at the time, so I will just share the recipe with you. 

Almond Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars by Blissful Basil were absolutely amazing! My WHOLE family loved them. I used coconut sugar just like the recipe called for and Enjoy Life (vegan) chocolate chips. 
They came out of the oven ooey-gooey and so decadent. They are still really yummy cold, but nothing beats fresh from the oven, right?

I am really proud that I didn’t go crazy and lose my mind in proximity to a barely legal dessert. 

I also am aware that these will be a very rare treat, since they do contain sugar. But oh, what a treat!

Taking on Comfort Food

I miss comfort foods. I have Southern roots and nothing says happiness to me like fried chicken with mashed potatoes, homemade mac ‘n cheese and biscuits dripping with real butter. Yeah, since that’s not going to happen (I don’t care HOW BIG of a food magician you are, you are not replicating fried chicken deliciousness into oil-free vegan food in any meaningful way.)

I did take a stab at the mac ‘n cheese tonight and was very pleasantly surprised. It was actually really creamy and tasted close enough to the real thing that I got positive responses all the way around the table.


Butternut Squash Mac ‘n Cheese by Veggie Inspired was exactly what I was looking for. It has NO nutritional yeast (hooray!) and I had all the ingredients (including the butternut squash) already in my pantry, so I was excited to try it.
It was actually pretty simple, too!I peeled my squash, scraped out the seeds and cut it into 1″ chunks. I then cut up some sweet onion and threw them in a pot with water to boil until tender. It look close to 20 minutes since I chose to double the recipe. While those were simmering I placed blanched almonds into a bowl and covered with boiling water to soften.IMG_3955The recipe actually calls for cashews, but since my daughter is allergic I substituted it out.I loved the spices that’s this recipe called for. Garlic powder, smoked paprika, turmeric, pepper, salt and citrus (I used lime instead of lemon.) img_3957The recipe also called for nutmeg. My family usually isn’t a fan of nutmeg in savory dishes, but I usually try and follow the recipe the first time out the gate, so I did add 1/2 of the called for nutmeg. Fresh is best, but very potent, which is why I didn’t use the whole amount. I’m glad I did. It was perfect! I wouldn’t change it a bit. img_3966Once the squash and onions were soft, everything went into the blender. I blended it for quite a while, probably a good 3 minutes or so to get it light, fluffy and perfectly smooth.

I had pre-cooked the quinoa macaroni so once the sauce was creamy enough for my liking, I blended it all together.

Awesome!

The tangy zing from the citrus and mustard was just the thing my taste buds have been missing. I made a double recipe and we only have one small serving left! I served it with steamed broccoli and fresh fruit.

Everyone agreed this is going into the dinner rotation.

I also loved that this was ready in around 40 minutes, start to finish.

Also, I just busted out the size 12 pants last night. Can I get a woot woot?!?!