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 ❤️

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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?!?!

All I Wanted Was Pizza

Ah, Pizza. Filled with gluten, cheese and meat. So lucious… So NOT a part of my healthy eating plan.

Last week I was craving pizza something fierce, but actual pizza smells gross to me now. The greasy cheese smell actually turns my stomach a bit. Such a sad state of affairs. I went to my trusted standby, Pinterest, and pulled a couple of different recipes to come up with something that fit the bill. The result was actually very tasty!


I combined several recipes to come up with the finished product. The first recipe was for the crust. Vie de La Vegan’s Lentil Pizza Crust.  It was actually very simple and delicious.

I placed 2 cups of dry red lentils in my VitaMix and blended to form a fine flour. I sifted the final results to keep the bigger, unground pieces out of the crust.

I seasoned the flour with 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp salt and 1 tsp Italian seasoning…

… although my lovely glass bottle of Organic Italian Seasoning shattered on the floor, because I am awesome like that. *sigh* I had to use a leftover plastic bottle of Walmart brand I had left in the back of my cupboard. Not ideal, but whatever!
I mixed up the dry ingredients with 2 cups of water.I placed the batter on a hot griddle and swirled it flat with the back of a spoon.

3 minutes on one side and another 2 on the other until they were done.I set them aside and made some Pumpkin Seed Pesto. Pulse 1/2 cup pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds) with 1 packed cup fresh basil leaves, 2 cloves garlic, 3 Tbsp Nutritional Yeast, and salt and pepper to taste, in the blender. The recipe calls for 1/2 cup olive oil, but I only used about one Tablespoon and the rest water. Blend but don’t liquefy.

Be sure to use fresh basil. You won’t get the same flavor using dried. I had to strip my little kitchen garden plant bare. Poor little thing!

Once it is blended you will have a nice creamy pesto. It is actually much more delicious than I had hoped!  Spoon directly onto the pre-cooked lentil pizza dough. I topped mine with fresh, thinly sliced tomatoes and sliced olives. I wasn’t sure how everyone would feel about the pesto, and since I had some leftover marinara sauce with sautéed mushrooms from the night before, I got a little creative and made a second batch with Cashew Cheese and olives.

The cashew cheese does require a bit of forethought, since the cashews need to be soaked overnight (or at least two hours) before you blend them, but I usually have cashews presoaked in my fridge since I use them so often.  The recipe says you can also boil them for 10 minutes to soften them, but it seems like that might kill some of the nutrients and I am all about the nutrients! To each his own.

Blend 1/2 cup soaked cashews (drained), 1/4 cup tapioca flour, 1 tsp lemon juice or apple cider vinegar (I prefer the vinegar and in fact used 1 Tbsp.), 1 1/2 Tbsp. Nutritional Yeast, 3/4 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. garlic and 1/2 tsp pepper in a high speed blender until smooth. You can add a bit of water if needed to get it to blend properly. Pour the mixture into a pan and place over medium heat. Stir until mixture becomes a sticky, cheese-like texture. It doesn’t take long. 

Assemble the pizzas.


Place the pizzas in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes until heated through.

We actually found the best way to eat them was a combination of the red sauce and the pesto with the cheese and toppings. It was really tasty!

A small side note that really isn’t so small for me; the end of this month marks 5 months of healthy eating. I am down 43 pounds and feeling great.

I know how much this has helped me and I sincerely hope it has been some encouragement to you, too.

Here’s to health!

Party Time

Party Time

Wow, 19 days since my last post. I have been a little busy I guess. I had a house full of family visiting and it was amazing, but didn’t leave me much time for extracurricular activities. My sister, nephew and mom were all visiting from out of state and my dad stayed the weekend to join in the fun. My house was bursting at the seams, and so was my heart.

During the nearly 2 weeks of fun, we had a chance to jointly celebrate FOUR birthdays and my daughter’s graduation from high school. It was quite a party.

I tried quite a few recipes and most were fairly successful.

We have varying degrees of veganism/healthy eating in my family now. Everybody has their own needs which makes for interesting planning. My daughter is vegan, but doesn’t mind eating sugar, wheat and soy.  My mom was treating her visit like a vegan spa week, so she was eating along with us for the most part. She, however, has soy sensitivity. My sister has wheat sensitivity and eats very healthy, but includes animal products. My daughter’s boyfriend is a full on carnivore with an abhorrence for most of our vegan treats. Hahaha. My dad loves raw vegan but doesn’t have the same restrictions we do. We all know my son would be happy to binge on Cheezits and Oreos with a big glass of milk.  What’s a girl to do???

Get creative, of course! Behold my cupcake spread! Top left: Vegan organic double chocolate cupcakes with sweet potato fudge frosting Top right: vegan strawberry cupcakes with vegan “buttercream” Bottom: raw vegan chocolate avocado mousse tarts.

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This was the vegan side of the table. Notice my beautiful, go-to party appetizer, cucumber hummus and heirloom tomato bites. Mmmmmmm. I won’t even bother showing you the other side of the table. It was a train wreck of processed crackers, sweets and animal products.

I will provide links to the Vegan Strawberry Cupcakes and the Vegan Double Chocolate Cake with Sweet Potato Chocolate Frosting. None of them were things I can eat, however. The only one I could eat was the Chocolate Avacado Mousse Tarts.  I modified them but I still wasn’t entirely pleased with the outcome. Here is what I did:

The tart crust consisted of oats, raisens, almonds and cocoa powder. I ended up adding a bit of almond butter to help is stick together. 

I pulsed it until it was nice and sticky. I pressed it firmly into the bottom of cupcake liners and stuck it into the fridge to firm up.


While those were chilling, I made the mousse. It was simple to make. Avadado, dates, cacao powder, vanilla, water and coconut oil.

Even though I am usually oil free, I did use one teaspoon of the called for 1 Tbsp. of coconut oil to help it have the proper consistency.

Once it was ready, I spooned the mousse on top of the crust.I chose to forgo the lemon cashew cream (we eat something very similar on a weekly basis in the form of vegan sour cream and vegan ranch, basically savory versions of the same recipe) and went with unsweetened Whipped Coconut Cream instead. I used Trader Joe’s 100% coconut cream. The brand at Walmart had added ingredients that I did not want.

Top tip for Whipped Coconut Cream, make sure you have NO coconut milk mixed in with the the solid cream. Mine would not whip until I blotted the last of the liquid out of the bowl, then it worked. I only used a bit on top of each tart.

The verdict? Meh.

For next time I would actually use my Almond Joy Bites recipe for the crust. I was not a fan of the raisen crust.

I would also tone down the dates in the mousse. 1 full cup was a bit too sweet for me. All in all, not bad. Next time will be better.

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Vegan Chili Mac…and TOENAILS?!?! 

Vegan Chili Mac…and TOENAILS?!?! 

My “30 minutes or less” meal game is really stepping up. I am so excited! I am building a nice little repertoire of quick and easy vegan meals that please *most* of us. Since it has been unseasonably cool in Southern California these past few months, many of my go to recipes require baking. It’s supposed to get into the triple digits in the next few days, so unless I can modify them, they are definitely going into retirement until it cools down again.

I knew I needed to find more dinner ideas so I’ve been spending a few minutes every day searching for new ones. Tonight I discovered a great pin on Pinterest that had a collection of recipes that I will be trying in the next couple of days. I let my son pick the first one. Here is the recipe:

Vegan Chili Mac by the Garden Grazer.

It’s so simple and completely delicious.  Here is what I did.  I used 2 cups quinoa macaroni and cooked it up prior to starting. I found this kind at Costco. I highly recommend it. After it was cooked, strained and set aside, I water sautéed one yellow onion with some minced garlic. Once the onions were translucent I added in the cooked pasta, 1 1/2 cups frozen corn, 1 can of drained kidney beans, 1 15 oz. can tomato sauce, 1 tsp. cumin, 3 Tbsp. nutritional yeast and 2 tsp. chili powder. I mixed and let that simmer for about 10 minutes. I sprinkled it with a bit of Himalayan pink salt.

Then, I rough chopped a couple of handfuls of baby spinach. img_3774I tossed it in, gave it a stir, covered it and let it sit on low another 3 minutes. img_3776.jpg

YUM! Even my son likes it! He and my husband did say they wouldn’t mind if I made the corn on the side (they aren’t huge fans of the sweetness mixed in, although that was my favorite part. Haha!) although they said it is fine with the corn and wouldn’t mind eating it that way again.

For next time, I would reduce the cumin just a little (maybe 1/2 tsp. instead of 1 tsp.) and I will garnish it with chopped olives and avocados.

Besides being quick, tasty and made completely on the stovetop, another huge benefit of this meal is that it is packed with protein. Quinoa pasta, corn, spinach and kidney beans all are high in protein.

I suppose you are wondering about the toenails reference? Well, that is a bit of a side note: I have been seeing some really unexpectedly awesome side effects of this new life style. I expected the reduction in weight (36 lbs and counting) and the reduction in pain (went on Guardians of the Galaxy at Disney’s California Adventure three times in a row and managed to stay until midnight) but what I didn’t expect? My nails are stronger and thicker than they have ever been. Ever.  I used to just peel my toenails instead of clipping them. (Sorry, I know that is really gross!) Now they are so strong I have to use actual clippers.  Also, my dry skin is gone. I have this glossy, healthy glow, especially on the back of my hands. They used to look like lizard skin most of the time. Surprising since I eat almost NO OIL!!!

I suppose I should mention the everything I buy now, with very little exception, is organic. Spices, fruits, veggies, grains, beans, vinegars, nuts, you name it, it’s usually organic. I do think that helps contribute to my overall improving health.

I can’t wait to share more recipes with you! Until next time.