Tag: Weightloss

Back for the holidays


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:


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)


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. 🎄

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.

Fail Level…EPIC!

Fail Level…EPIC!

Oh my goodness, I am still wiping away tears. Not of sadness, though.  Oh no, I was (am) rolling with laughter.

Remember in the beginning I said I would share triumphs as well as failures? Well, here we go…

In my pre-vegan, gluten-filled days, I was an amazing baker.  My cakes were moist, light and delicious.  People would ask me to bake for them, and I would happily oblige. I liked being creative with flavor and trying new things.

Since I have been missing baked goodies, I though I would give this cake a try:

img_3546I wasn’t expecting something too incredible, but I also wasn’t expecting what I got, either.

Since I am gluten free, I went with almond flour instead of wheat flour. I looked it up and Pinterest said to use 1:1 ratio when substituting, so I did.  Yes, I added xantham gum. I mixed my dry ingredients and set aside.

I  blended up the dates, applesauce, banana and pineapple. This unappetizing looking slurry was actually surprisingly delicious.IMG_3533I grated all my fresh vegetables and mixed them in.IMG_3539It was actually starting to look really good! Even a mess is pretty when you cook with rainbow food.IMG_3541I added the dry ingredients and the chopped walnuts and raisins (since I didn’t have currants on hand.)IMG_3543I had decided to half the recipe and go with cupcakes to reduce the baking time.  I used two scoops of batter per cup.IMG_3548My house smelled like chocolate cake while it was baking. It was heavenly.  At the 20 minute mark, I opened the oven and checked them with a toothpick.  They began to deflate one by one! IMG_3552At 25 minutes they were still very wet and continues to hollow out on the middle.  I had begun to giggle. 😁 “Well,” I thought, “I guess I can use the dips in the middle to hold the frosting?”

By the 30 minute mark the tops that had puffed over were getting dry and hard. The middles were still wet and doughy. I called it good and took them out.

IMG_3556Um, no.  Just no. 😂

They actually taste pretty good. I didn’t even bother making the frosting.  This hot mess didn’t need anything else added to it.   I see some tweaking in my future.

Since this was my first gluten free baking experience, any input would be helpful. What do you think I did wrong?

Also, it wasn’t THEIR fault the cupcakes failed, so I thought I would plate one up, just for fun.  Please enjoy this work of art!  😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂IMG_3555My husband suggested maybe a sprig of mint to dress it up. Oh my goodness, I am dying!!!

Warm Custard for a Chilly Day

Warm Custard for a Chilly Day

Ah, Southern California, your fickle spring weather makes me laugh.  A couple of days ago we were in the 90’s and now I’m snuggled up under a blanket, a fire in the fire place, watching last night’s rain drying on the leaves out my window.

I was in the mood for something warm and comforting this morning for breakfast, so I gave a new recipe a try.  Louisiana Bride’s Breakfast Pumpkin Custard.

img_3492-e1494194730625.pngSince it is made with *mostly* legal ingredients, I thought I would give it a shot.

The recipe calls for 4 eggs, but since those are off limits for me, I ground chia seeds in my coffee grinder and made chia flour. I used 1/4 cup (1 Tbsp. for each egg I replaced.) IMG_3478I also used 2 very ripe bananas, 1 can of whole (full fat) coconut milk, 3 Tbsp. almond butter and spices. Since the recipe doesn’t specify quantities,  I used the following:

1/4 tsp. allspice

1/4 tsp. ginger

1/4 tsp. fresh grated nutmeg

2 tsp. cinnamon

a pinch salt

I placed all the ingredients in my blender and blended until thoroughly mixed.  I poured it in a 9×13 pan…IMG_3486…and topped with pecans.  Then, into the oven it went for 1/2 an hour at 350 degrees.IMG_3490The consistency was light, fluffy and decidedly custard-like.

We sampled it, but even though the ripe bananas added sweetness, it didn’t balance the almost astringent flavor of the pumpkin purée, so I got creative.

I made a date syrup to drizzle over the top.

4 small or 2 large dates

1/2 tsp. vanilla

1-2 Tbsp. water

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1-2 Tbsp. orange juice

Blend all ingredients, adding more water or orange juice until desired consistency and flavor is achieved.  Pour over warm custard.IMG_3491

It was better with the syrup, but for next time, I would add dates and vanilla into the custard itself as well as using  the syrup on top.

I might even up the spices and add a little grated orange zest into the batter.

Still, it was good.  I can’t wait to keep experimenting!



The Pain Journal

Sometimes you can’t appreciate where you are until you remember where you’ve been.

It’s easy to lose track of accomplishments when you are busy focusing on what you haven’t achieved. That is why I journal.

I know myself. I know that I am easily distracted from important things, and easily discouraged when I think I am not making enough progress. The bigger picture becomes hazy when I am feeling overwhelmed or tired. I journal because small daily victories are a good reminder of WHY I am doing what I am doing.

Overall, the main reason I became vegan was to control my pain.  The constant struggle of trying manage daily life while feeling like I had been beaten with a sledgehammer was horrible.  Exhaustion reigned supreme. Motrin and naps were a way of life.  Doctor’s appointments, physical therapy, and a bottle of emergency prescription pain pills were all necessary evils.

10 weeks in and I catch myself in moments of being pain free.  Not constantly, but sometimes. What a gift! My energy is returning and while I still nap occasionally, it’s because I awoke too early or stayed up too late, and not just because my body is sucking the life out of me.

I thought I would share some of my journal entries. When I started, I only documented my symptoms, because my hands hurt so badly it was difficult to write.

February 27, 2017 – End of Day 1: Tired, achy, stiff fingers, sore back, knees and hips. Sharp pains in wrists, hands, shoulders, hips, knees, feet and jaw.

March 6, 2017 – End of Day 8: Hands no longer stiff, pain reduced by 80%. Not difficult to write tonight. Jaw popped back into place, so very sore, but had been improving. Right shoulder improving. No more pain in arms. Right hip, knees and back still sore, although some improvement.

March 26, 2017 – End of Day 32: Hands stiff and sore, was very hungry today (was it the potatoes or EVOO last night?) have had ankle swelling since Day 1. Still no improvement. Back very sore, hips normal. Jaw sore. Noticeable increase in energy.

Today is May 6, 2017 – Day 69. To date I have lost 27 pounds. I have been able to put on my anniversary band that I had to take off due to swelling in my hands many months ago. I haven’t taken Motrin(or any other pain reliever) in 66 days.  My sugar cravings are completely gone. I don’t even miss it!!! I only have occasional pain in my hands and shoulders, my back is mildly sore. I cut my medication for depression in half. So much improvement! I am so thankful I didn’t give it, even when it felt like it was the hardest thing I have ever done.

If I can offer one piece of advice, it is this: IMG_3474Never give up.



Another Day, Another Recipe

Another Day, Another Recipe

Some days I wish I could just drive through and pick up dinner.  Somewhere…anywhere. Life is not that simple, however, and so my quest for fast, delicious, healthy dinners goes on.

Yesterday, I tried another recipe in my new cookbook.


This time I was smart, I snapped the pictures of the pages BEFORE I started cooking. Now don’t have to look at my smudgy, water wrinkled page, because yes, it did happen again!IMG_3455Prep was fairly simple. I used the above recipe as a jumping off point. I had a bag of oriental vegetables in my freezer, so I used those, supplemented with a few things from my fridge.IMG_3442

I used baby Bok Choy, which was tender and delicious. To prep, simply cut off the bottom of the stalk, then cut in half. Slice the bottom into small, bite sized pieces then rough chop the leaves. I had half a red onion left over from last night’s dinner, so in that went, too!IMG_3446The frozen veggies contained some mushrooms already, but I had 4 leftover mushrooms from another recipe, so in they went.

To water sauté simply place a small amount of water in the bottom of the wok and bring to a bubble.IMG_3449

I put the onions and bok Choy in first, let them cook for a minute then added in everything else.IMG_3453I tossed it around for about 5 minutes then put the cover on for another 5. When everything was tender-crisp, I threw in the spinach and let that wilt for another 2 minutes.

I blended the sauce in the blender and served it up. The wraps are VERY messy, so be prepared with extra napkins.

img_3460.jpgI thought it was good. Not mind blowing, but good. My daughter loved the sauce, I could take it or leave it. My husband is NOT a fan of sweet and savory sauces, but he did eat it. After a sample, my son opted for Better Burger leftovers instead. *sigh*

I did love that it was quick and easy.  Also, the cold crunch of the romaine wrap paired with the warm veggies was a nice blend. The sauce was creamy and I added my cayenne pepper sprinkled on after the fact to save my spice wimps the pain of too much heat.

Would I make it again? I’m not sure yet. Probably.

I will share something with you that encourages me greatly. Both myself and my vegan buddy, Melinda, have left the 200+ pound distinction behind. We are now both in the 100’s!

So raise a glass of lemon water and pass the plant food, baby! Reluctant Vegan for life.


Eat the Rainbow

This morning, I was reading a post on Lifehacker.com on what it means to “Eat the Rainbow.” The general idea is that you need to be certain you are eating as many diverse foods as possible to ensure proper nutrition.

IMG_3440As someone with lots of nutritional “don’ts,” I have to be very careful that my restrictions don’t overlap into the fruit and vegetable world.

We are blessed that we live in a time of unparalleled availability. In times past, people were restricted by seasons and geography. Not anymore. Even common grocery stores are overflowing with exotic choices any time of the year. So use it to your advantage! Eat anything and everything.

While I may not be a huge fan of dark, bitter leafy greens, they contain huge amount of protein (yes, protein!) and nutrients.  Hence my morning smoothie containing a daily dose of beautifully hidden spinach, chard and kale. I found that my bags of rather expensive greens were getting a little gross after 3 days, so I put the whole bag directly into the freezer when I get home from the store.  Since the leaves are relatively dry, the freeze up perfectly, ready to be thrown in by the handful straight into the blender.

Other veggies have become easier for me. I keep assorted chopped veggies in the fridge with mini hummus cups, ready for a quick lunch on the go. I also buy lots of different veggies (even things I don’t necessarily like!) and throw them into anything and everything I am making. Many times, a small amount of something that is less than tasty can get lost in the shuffle.

Every 3 days or so I take stock of what I have left and either make a soup, stew or jambalaya to use up any leftovers. I invested in small, glass containers with snap on lids. I freeze individual portions and label them with sharpie on blue painter’s tape.  I try not to let more than 2 or 3 frozen meals stack up.  They tend to get lost (and then eventually wasted) in the back of the freezer.

I usually only eat fruit in the mornings. It gives me a quick burst of energy and allows my body a full day to work through the natural sugars. That’s not to say I don’t ever have fruit later. Occasionally, an apple with almond butter is exactly what I need to get me through a long afternoon.

Once again, the freezer is my best weapon against falling into food ruts. I buy lots of different frozen fruits (or buy fresh and freeze them myself) and keep them available for adding into smoothies, on top of oatmeal, or blending into “ice cream.”

Dont forget herbs and spices. They add so much flavor and most of them have wonderful health properties.

Come on then, get out there and eat the rainbow!