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Better than Chocolate Chips?

Ok, I know. It is so irritating that I haven’t blogged in so long! But as you know, I am working in the land of dissertations, and if I focus on my blog, I find I loose focus on my dissertation. But in the new year, I am going to try to find balance for both. I also want to start making some videos.

But I wanted to write to you now because it is Christmas, and I freaking miss Christmas cookies. I want to have my old cookies. I want to make goodies. Part of me just feels too overwhelmed with trying to veganize old cookie recipes or learn new ones, and so I just haven’t done it. But I found a recipe that will literally knock the Christmas Spirit into you. I based it on Dreena Burton’s Homestyle Chocolate Chip cookies, but I have a HUGE family, and I had to make some adjustments that would work for me and mine.  They are so good my husband said we should call them “Better than Chocolate Chip Cookies.” And so we do. I hope you like them!

Better than Chocolate Chip Cookies

(Doesn’t that look like an amazing cookie?)

Ingredients

2 C. Flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt (yep you really need it)
1/3 C. maple syrup
1/3 C. agave syrup (you could also just use 2/3 C. maple syrup instead of adding agave. It depends on how you roll. Agave is cheaper, so I like to half and half it for the expense).
3 tsp. vanilla
1/2 C. Canola Oil (Yes that is a heck of a lot of oil, but you can substitute all or a portion with applesauce, but the consistency will be a little different, but if you are avoiding oil–do it).
2/3 C. Dairy Free Chocolate chips.

Directions

This is literally the easiest cookie to put together. Mix the dry ingredients. Add the wet ingredients. (I mix all the wet into one measuring cup and then pour). Bake at 350 for 11 minutes on a lightly greased cookie sheet. After a minute or two, put them on a cookie rack to cool.

 

 

 

Composters, soup, and more on the way . . . Oh My!

My lovely husband helped build me a composter! I have been wanting to build one for so long. As you probably know, I have been working really hard to reduce our enviornmental footprint. It is sometimes like pulling teeth around here. I realize it is easier to just throw something in the trash, but it can be easy to recyle and now compost as well. I swear, before it is all over, we are going to major reduce our trash production. Plus we are ditching our truck (something I have wanted to do forever!) and we bought a Subaru Outback. An older model, but still way more fuel efficient. So that combined with our Yaris means we are super fuel efficient!

So back to the composter. I bought a barrel from a barrel recycling facility. Then we looked at plans on the internet, they are fairly easy to find. Of course, in the end, Robert came up with his own plan and built a far superior model. I wish I had the plans for you, but since it was a wing it, I don’t really, but I am going to give you the jest.

(1) You drill a hole in the barrel, and stick a pole through it. (2) Drill holes in the barrel for air circulation. (3) Drill matching holes in some 2×4’s. (4) Create a frame to hold the 2×4’s up. (5) Ta Da.

Alright, I am not great at writing directions for a composter, so I thought I would reward you with a soup reciepe.

Potato Soup

Ingredients

1 onion
3 carrots
3 celery stalks
1 pound of fingerling potatoes
Pinch of salt to taste
1 tsp of pepper
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
4-6 cups of vegetable broth

Directions

Saute onion, carrots, celery until onions are translucent. Add potatoes and rest of ingredients. Simmer until potatoes are cooked through.

I serve it with some hearty bread. It is fantastic for a winter day.

Tip: If your soup is too watery, add a tsbp .of cornstarch mixed with a tbsp. of water.

 

Stay tuned because I will be posting some awesome deserts this weekend to help us prepare for Thanksgiving!

Let’s get real about being Vegan and a great Breakfast Shake

It will come as no surprise that I get a lot of flack for being a Vegan. People question me about it, make fun of me, make snide comments. I have even been called, on more than one occasion, the Vegan Nazi (and trust me I’m not). At first, it really bothered me. I was so irritated by people making comments about how I needed a good burger, etc. I used to get furious, and if you are new to veganism, you will too. But I don’t get mad about it anymore.

Being vegan is awesome. It is about more than food. It is about life. It is about purpose. There is so much to it than that. This purpose is what sustains me.  I have done a lot of things that I am not proud of, but life is a journey not a single event. As I have grown up, I have realized how important it is to live my values. My whole life I’ve been a protester, and I have gone to marches and made posters, but I wasn’t completely living my values.

So many times I had tried to eat better, to loose weight, to recycle, to be an environmentalist, but I always failed. Then Veganism gave me a gift, a tool to live my values.  To me compassion is the most important thing in the world, and I get to live my compassion everyday. Of course, I have been pretty sensitive lately. Mostly because the attacks hurt sometimes. But that is just something I am learning to accept.

Veganism is a tripod: health, environment, and animals. Now I can live my desire to have a healthy life, to save the environment, and show compassion for animals. How awesome is that? I also get to eat the best food in the world! But I also understand that not everyone is ready to go 100%. That is ok too. For me, vegan is not about being judgmental. It is about inclusiveness and acceptance. So even one meal a day or a week is better than none. But I bet if you went Vegan for a week, you would be amazed at how much energy you have and how good you feel about yourself. Not only that, but now recycling seems easy, and we produce more recyclables than trash. I want to exercise. Everything seems better and easier. I think it is a combination of feeling proud of the way I eat and

 

I always need something good to eat for breakfast, and I like to drink breakfast. As some of you know, I have jaw problems, and it always hurts the most in the morning, so I like to not have to chew. I also like to eat a raw breakfast. I experiment with a lot of different things, but this drink is awesome. I love it so much. It sounds weird, but I swear it is yummo!

Breakfast shake!

Date my Banana Breakfast Shake

Ingredients

10 Pitted dates. (tip: if you aren’t using fresh dates, then soak them for about 20 minutes first)

20 ounces of coconut water

2 ripe bananas

Directions

Stick everything in a blender and blend on high until smooth. Dates can take a few minutes to blend up, so make sure you really blend them well.

This makes a lot of drink. Way more than you would expect. So be prepared to drink a lot! It lasts me until lunch.

Green Eyed Monster Smoothie

Green juice, green smoothies, green anything in liquid form always scares me. But determined to eat more greens, I tried to make a green smoothie a few months ago. But my blender was not really high powered enough, so it left chunks of green spinach. The consistency was so gross that I couldn’t even taste it. When my new Vitamix arrived, I decided to try the smoothie again. A lot of smoothies call for ginger, but I didn’t like that. I needed just a bit of sweet. So my secret ingredient is Agave. I know a lot of people try to avoid sweeteners, so this ingredient is optional. I also use coconut water because it tastes yummy, but regular water will work as well.

Basically, the fact is we could all use more greens. I can only eat so much salad a day, so a green smoothie is an easy way to go. The color is shocking and at first, I was like, “um liquid lettuce, yuck.” But the truth is that it tastes pretty good. In fact, the ol’ hubby says he could drink it all day long.

Green Eyed Monster Smoothie

Ingredients

1 Head Romaine Lettuce

2 c. baby spinach

3 celery stalks

20 ounces coconut water

1 tablespoon Agave Nectar

1 green apple

1 pear

1/2 lemon (peeled)

Directions

Put the water in the blender first (always the most liquid stuff at the bottom). Add the lettuce, spinach, and celery. Blend on high until liquefied. Add the rest of the ingredients. Blend on high until liquid and delicious. Drink it yourself or share with a friend.

I love my Vitamix Yellow Pepper Soup

To honor the arrival of the newest member of my family, a red Vitamix named Amazon Cherry, I thought I would post a wonderful reciepe for you all. First I just wanted to say that buying a Vitamix was the best thing I have done since I started down the path to Vegan. I know they are expensive, but no one blinks twice when you buy a $350 grill! I have used it everyday, multiple times a day to make everything from smoothies to soup to salad dressing. It is AWESOME, so if you are vegan, or trying to be, I recommend you have a garage sale (I sold things on ebay) or beg your mom for your birthday to get you one of these awesome machines. I got mine from QVC because they let you make payments. You can check it out here QVC VITAMIX.

Yellow Bell Pepper Soup

According to cronometer, this recipe is about 150-200 calories. I ate the entire recipe by myself in two sittings, but there is more than enough to share!

Ingredients

2 Yellow Bell Peppers
1/4 onion
1 clove garlic
1 TBSP tomato paste
2 c. vegetable stock
1/2 c. almond milk (or coconut milk, or soy milk, you choose)
1/4 c. cilantro
1/2 ear of corn
1 TBSP corn starch
salt
pepper

Directions

  1. Turn on the good ol’ broiler. Slice the peppers in half and let them sit under the broiler until the skin starts to blister and turn black (tip: let them get good and black and blistery. It really makes the skin removal process easier). Take them out of the oven and put them in a paper bag or air tight container right away, and let them sit for a few minutes. (for me this process took some practice, so don’t fret if you don’t get it right the first time). Then peel the skin off.

    Roasted Yellow peppers. I would suggest letting them get a little more black than this.

     

  2. At the same time, rough chop the 1/4 onion and 1 clove of garlic. Saute on medium heat until translucent. I don’t add any oils or anything and they work just fine.

    Saute onions and garlic until translucent (this is them right in the beginning)

  3. Put the onions, peppers, garlic, tomato paste, and stock in the blender. Blend on high for 2 minutes. Add the milk and corn starch. Blend on high for an additional 2 minutes. (The great thing about the Vitamix is it heats up the soup!) If you are not using a Vitamix or other high powered blender, blend the items until creamy, put in a sauce pan and simmer until warm.

    Soup in the blender

  4. Finally, chop up the cilantro and remove the corn from the cob. Garnish your soup. (I call it garnish, but you really need it to be super yummy. I even add more corn sometimes.

    Corn and Cilantro for topping

  5. Ta Da! Enjoy. It looks a little frothy because the Vitamix churns it up.

 

 

Not Quite Dead

My dear, dearest, wonderful followers, fans, family, friends, readers, and haters,

I would like to announce that despite my absence, I am not quite dead. I have been taking my qualifying exams for my PhD. It has been draining. All that on top of working, trying to complete one final class, staying on top of three crazy kids, and trying to somewhat enjoy the summer.

To my dismay, my blog has kinda gone to the wayside in all that. I would also like to announce that thanks to my VEGAN diet, I am looking better than ever.

That is not a photo shopped waistline. Nope it is mine. Of course, I don’t have make up on it that picture because I am travelling down a swamp in 110 degree heat. But I still think you get the picture.

I am going on a Disney cruise in a few days, so I may continue to be absent, but I promise, sometime in July, my regular posts will start back up.

The other great news is that I will be migrating to a regular webpage with a RECIPE page!!! I know how awesome all you foodies will find that.

So see ya soon.

Love, Heather

Yeah, but what do you eat with your family?

So the question I get asked the most as a Vegan is “what do you eat?” I get asked this question in varying forms: what do you eat for breakfast, what do you eat as snacks, what do you eat at a BBQ, what do you eat on Easter? So I thought I would answer the question that seems to bother people the most: What do you eat with your family (as in extended family). Right now, my extended family in the area is just my mom and dad. They are super supportive of our food choices, so they are pretty much willing to go along with whatever I choose to cook for us.

I anticipate having a little bit more of a problem with other extended family members, and I am sure you will see a post after Memorial Day weekend about eating in mixed company. But since I haven’t really had to cross that bridge with my family, I guess I don’t have an answer. I can tell you that in preparation for Memorial Day weekend, I am doing things I normally wouldn’t do like buying fake meat hot dogs and vegan marshmallows so that my kids don’t feel left out. They said they don’t care and don’t want those things, but I want to have them on stand by just in case in the moment they change their minds.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. Over the weekend we hung out at my parents’ house. Robert changed the oil on the cars, the kids swam. I decided to have a BBQ with the family. Crazy vegan says what? How do you have a barbecue in Texas without meat?

Here is our menu:
Potatoes and onions
Mixed squash (yellow squash, pattipan squash, zucchini)
Corn
Green Beans
Kidney Beans
Guacamole
Chips
Sliced radishes
Fruit Salad (pineapple, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, cantaloupe)

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see, we grilled the potatoes, squash, and corn. It was terrific. The best part is that it doesn’t require any additional butter or oil. It is absolutely delicious.

 

In fact, everyone really enjoyed the meal. My dad said he was super full, and he thought he should have eaten less! We even got to make the meal a family affair with little Mae helping in its preparation:

Mashing avocados is her very favorite thing! So I guess the answer to the question is that we sure don’t go hungry!

 

Let them eat Meat: Mushroom Taco Filling

Finally, the time for talking about my personal feelings is over. Even though I feel like I could fill up seven blogs with what I am feeling, I am going to quit boring you. Today, you get a recipe. Here is how it came into being.

My mom told me she saw a recipe for taco filling made from mushrooms. I thought it sounded pretty good, and my husband loves mushrooms. So, when we went to the store, my mom and I decided to split a package of baby portabello mushrooms. Then my 13-year-old daughter and I had a real heart to heart conversation.

She keeps saying she wants to go vegan, but she is worried she will loose weight, and she says that since she is 13 already there are certain things she just isn’t prepared to give up. She told me that she understands why we don’t eat “Fake” meat, but she thinks if the little girls and I can have oreos every once in a while, she should be able to have some fake sausage. Makes sense to me. I love it when they make well reasoned arguments! One of the things she said she missed was taco meat. So I told her about this mushroom recipe and she said she would try it.

She has never eaten a mushroom in her life, and she would never have eaten it before now, but I convinced her, and we had success! We made the tacos and she ate hers on a flour tortilla (whole wheat) with avocado, lettuce, tomato, and onion plus the mushroom mix. She said it is her new favorite meal next to Swiss Chard. So, I call that a pretty successful meal. I told her if her two favorite meals are Swiss Chard and Mushroom Meat, she is ready to be a vegan.

Here is the recipe (and photos):

1/2 pint of baby portabello mushrooms, finely chopped
1 medium onion or 2 small onions, finely chopped
1/2 yellow bell pepper, finely chopped
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper

Directions
The key is to finely chop the ingredients. Here is a photo of the mushrooms chopped before I cooked them.

Then put all the ingredients into a nonstick pan on medium heat. Saute the ingredients until they are soft. Here is the picture of it afterward.
Then you can put it in any type of taco with any type of filling that you want! It is super delicious. We put Shut the Queso Up on top as well for a nice cheese flavor.
Good luck, and happy eating!

See that pretty girl in that mirror there?

>The strangest thing has been happening to me. I haven’t really been sure about what exactly it is. Then it just kinda dawned on me yesterday. I think it is really important that I share it with you all. I think part of sharing this journey with all of you is being honest even when that honesty makes me a little vulnerable.

I have been telling all of you about how I have lost weight and blah blah. But I am by no means thin. I mean I still need to loose about 15 pounds before I’m not overweight. For my entire life since about puberty I have struggled with body issues.  At some points in my life it has been down right self loathing.

I hate to look at pictures of myself. I hate for people to touch me especially my stomach. I don’t wear swim suits; and when I do, I spend the whole time in some place of dark, dark sadness. Almost two years ago I was an event with all my friends. I don’t get to see them very often because we live all over the country. We love each other so much and wanted to take photos. There is a photo of us (with me in it) that made me just want to cry. (see below, I’m on the right in the green undershirt and black top shirt).

I honestly can’t even believe I posted that picture. That is how hard it is for me to look at it. So I do crazy things like hide behind my hair. 
You can’t see me behind all this hair right? I mean, who am I fooling? But maybe everyone is looking at the hair, right. 
Well, that person is gone. As I said, Yes, I have lost 31 pounds. So, yes, I am thinner, but I am still overweight. So here is what happened.
I was getting dressed, and I looked in the mirror, and I thought, “dang girl, you look good.” So I hopped on the scale. . . no change. That is fine. But I was trying to find the reason. So, I just went about my day. But every time I did something I thought, “Wow, you look really nice in that shirt” or those shorts or whatever. And, yes, you read that right. I actually wore shorts. I don’t think I have ever done that before. 
Then I was sitting on the couch and my husband looks different and amazing and has lost weight and he looks fantastic. I put my legs in his lap while we were watching a movie, and he says, “Dang Heather, you look so skinny.” Then we were getting ready to go to bed, and he says, “wow, you look great. . . like a different person.” 
It isn’t just that I have lost weight. My skin looks great. I mean beautiful. Not a spot on it. I haven’t even been wearing make up and it looks freaking flawless. But I just feel happier about the whole situation. I don’t hate to look at the pictures of my new self. (see below a picture of me taken a few weeks ago).

As you can see, I don’t really look that much different. But I feel great. I think I look so happy. I feel happy. I mean, let me say that again. I feel happy. Maybe it is all the nutrients in the food or maybe it is being cruelty free or maybe it is just feeling good about what I am doing, but I feel happy. I don’t feel embarrassed by that photo. I realize, I still need to loose weight. I am sure I will. But the point is that things are going in the right direction. (See photo below taken about two weeks ago).
I don’t know how it looks in this picture because that shirt is really baggy, but those are my “skinny” jeans. I need to go buy new jeans now! But more importantly, I can go out and have a good time with my family without feeling weird or like I need to hide. 
It is all because I decided to kiss cows rather than eat cows. I just feel good. I wish I could give this gift to everyone. I want to share the gift of being cruelty free and helping the environment. I for sure want to share the gift of helping your health with my friends and family, but I just wish I could share this gift of feeling happy about it with everyone I know. 
I know I have written a lot about how eating this way has affected my feeling because I can’t just eat away the pain. I have been having some issues at work, and I haven’t been able to eat away the anger. And that has been hard. Really hard. Because quite frankly, there is not enough zucchini in the world to push down and cover up anger. But I haven’t wanted to eat ice cream. I did make a banana whip the other night, and that covered up a little bit. But come one, it was bananas and raspberries! 
I have had to deal with my feelings and not with food. I think it makes me a better person. It is weird. I have been making all our meals and that makes me feel so connected to our food and to my family. I am doing good things for our local farmers by supporting them. I mean, this whole lifestyle has given me so much to be proud of and it has forced me to deal with me. And the best part is that I can deal with anger and disappointment and sadness and betrayal and hurt all without a chocolate milkshake. I can do it without salty fries. I can do it without food to cover it up. 
The result is that when I look in the mirror, I feel good about myself for the first time in my memory. But this is enough about me. I promise the next posts will be all recipes and product reviews. 

As opposed to tater tot casserole?: How our diets stack up–a real look at our nutrient intake

>I’m getting my PhD in Conflict Analysis and Resolution. Sometimes I feel like that means I can’t be angry or have conflict. But someone said something to me a few days ago that got me rip roaring mad. So mad that I barely could respond. So mad that I carried it around with me for days.

I know. . . you are thinking, “for the love of gosh woman, tell us what happened.” The same thing that happens to Vegan moms everyday. Someone asked me about what my kids are eating. But without telling you who it was because that would be rude. This person does not eat healthy and is very close to my family. This person never questioned me when I fed the kids a SAD (Standard American Diet).

Here is the conversation:

Person: “Are you making sure you monitor what the kids eat to make sure they are getting adequate nutrition?”
Me: “Yes.”
Person: “I’m serious. It is really important. I mean. Really. I mean. IMPORTANT, Heather.”
Me: “I am.”
Person: “Quit just saying that. You know are you making sure the food they eat is healthy?”
Me: “As opposed to what? Tater tot casserole?” (Tater tot casserole is something this person would feed the children)
Then with a straight face, the person said, “Yes.”

I was so mad, I actually considered taking my kids to have a blood test. Not a part of their annual physical blood test, but just a, “I’ll show you blood test.” Then I realized that was crazy. I also realized that the anger was unhealthy. But I also realized, that I needed someway to say, “look, this is what it was before, and this is what it is now.”

While all this was going on, I was just going on with my life. Two funny things happened. My daughter was required for school last year to keep a food journal for one day. Over the weekend I was frantically searching for something in the office, and I stumbled on this journal. It gave me a laugh. Then I switched from tracking my food in Livestrong to tracking it in Cron-O-meter because Cron-O-meter shows you all the vitamins.

Then it hit me. I tracked my food for years, and I have a one day food entry from a typical day from my kids. So this is what I did. I picked a day, at random from one of my “healthy” times when I was working out and eating what I considered super healthy. I am going to compare that day (April 10, 2011) with what I ate today, a normal, not trying to be healthy just eating the usual day, (May 14, 2012).

And I am going to compare what my kid wrote in her food journal which I think is from February of 2011 to what she ate today (May 14, 2012). I am going to give you the exact numbers and screen shots so you can see how we measure up. And if we fall short.

Let me add one other caveat. I add one tablespoon of nutritional yeast to their rice every night. I don’t eat the rice. That is why some of their numbers are so high and mine aren’t.

Here is a screenshot of the read outs for the kids’ day on their SAD diet (it cut off the bottom but you can see all the important stuff):

Here it is for the Vegan day:
Side By Side:
Here is the screenshot of my day on the SAD diet:

Here it is for the Vegan Day:

Side By Side:

The BAD:
You will notice on my side by side there is a column labeled, the bad. this is a column of what I ate on a normal day when I was just eating. Like travel days. Or days when I didn’t feel like cooking. It is a breakfast burrito, Cesar salad, burrito, crunch wrap, soda, and a candy bar. Yep, I ate like that. 


Things of note:
So, I am not going to detail everything we eat everyday. This isn’t a food journal. But I did detail it in my food journal; and if people doubt me, I guess I will post my food journal. I would like to note a few things, First off, on the good things, when the SAD diet wins, it barely wins. Second, on many things, I couldn’t mark them 100%, but they were really close!
Note: Please note that on the SAD diet there is a cholesterol intake. On my Vegan diet, there is not. Also, check out that fat. Not only that, but on my vegan diet, that fat is coming from things like avocado. Yummy.
I also already noted about the nutritional yeast. I love it. It is really easy to throw in rice or beans or anything really. It has a nutty flavor. Some people say it tastes like cheese, but I don’t think so. I think it tastes like salty bread crumbs a little bit, but they dissolve. It is a good flavoring. Not only that but it is packed full of B vitamins and protein.
One thing I found surprising is how yucky my kids’ breakfast is! I don’t know why, but I guess I just wasn’t paying that much attention to it even though I thought I was. We wake up super early, and I suppose it just didn’t get the attention it deserved. Now it is. We have already talked about it (on the way to hockey). We came up with an action plan, and we have solutions. Breakfast tomorrow will be jam packed with calories, protein, vitamins, and yummy stuff to help their little brains work!
I was also surprised to see that we now get MORE, yep, MORE iron, calcium, and vitamin D than they got on their SAD diet. I guess I was programmed not to think that. They did fall below the recommended value for calcium, but I am working to address that (hello breakfast).
I was a little sad to see they didn’t get 100% of the recommended value of protein. But 98% is pretty darn close! Not only that, but I am working on solutions to address it. After all, their eating habits can’t go from cookies and string cheese to fruit and nut butter overnight. It is something they are getting used to (especially that little one).
Things of note about me:
I didn’t really exercise today (10 minutes of yoga doesn’t count), so 1100 calories is probably enough. But I honestly feel like I would pop if I ate one more thing! I just can’t eat this much freaking food. I got a lot of protein, so I need to get my kids up to that level, but they won’t eat the dang beans and rice mix that I like. Ahhh… look at that sodium level (34%), that is pretty cool! I mean, I can’t believe it isn’t through the roof. It actually is probably higher because I think I sprinkled a little on my beans, but it isn’t what it used to be.
Supplements:
Anyway, I know that a lot of Vegans say you don’t have to supplement. I agree. But, I feel that we are still transitioning for the most part. I’m still trying to figure it all out some days. Especially with the kids. I am not willing to risk it. So, the girls do take a multi vitamin. It is a high quality multi vitamin. It is NOT, however, included in this chart. These charts are only our food. I am sure even if it isn’t being 100% absorbed that it is filling in the gaps. I may not have them take it forever, but I will continue having them take it for now.
When we lived in Georgia, every year at their physical, the doctor checked them for anemia and a few other things. This year, I am going to ask him to throw in B12 and a few other things. But I am going to wait to their regularly scheduled check-up.
They play hockey, they swim, the run, the laugh, they play. They are happy, they are smart, they are healthy. They are beautiful with lovely hair and skin and smiles. I think we are doing just fine, and I think this is the proof in the pudding that we are doing better than when we were SAD.