Where I vegan.


My big catch of fish! I was fly fishing (waders and all) and I believe these are rainbow trout.

This was my front yard growing up.

I grew up eating meat. I grew up in a family of hunters. I grew up on a lake. My dad owned (owns) several hunting rifles, fishing poles, filet knives etc… We also owned an ice fishing shanty. EVERY prom, homecoming, special occasion picture of my sister and I growing up are in front of our fire-place and underneath some mounted fish that our dad had caught.

Me, my sister and a family friend…under the fish:)

My sister Emily, years later…prom?…we have added more fish!!!!

My sister once walked into our dark garage straight into the carcass of a deer. On more occasions than I can count my mom cooked dinner while my dad fileted still flopping fish on the kitchen table. I will refrain from posting any hunting pictures…your welcome.

Vintage Dad

I have only choked once in my life…on a squirrel bone…yes, a squirrel bone. My dad held me up by my ankles and shook me until it dislodged (I’m sure he learned that technique from the Red Cross:)).

One of my favorite snacks growing up was chicken necks, gizzards and hearts. I remember sitting on our front porch with a bowl of them and a salt shaker…. Keepin’ it classy!!!

You can’t make this stuff up.

I say all of this to say, I have not always been a vegan. In fact, I was far from it for most of my life. I did not grow up in a family of “tree huggers” that set me on the path of healthy eating.  One of my specialties while I was in college was a hot plate meal of ground beef, beef rice ‘r’ roni, a can of corn and melted cheddar cheese on top. I loved my #2 meal from McDonald’s, 2 cheeseburgers, fries and a diet coke (of course) for $2. I loved it, had it my way, nacho supremed it and then some.  A healthy salad was iceberg lettuce, cheese and heaps of ranch dressing.

I dabbled while I was in college with a vegetarian diet, mostly for weight loss. Then, just decided that I liked food too much and started eating the way I normally had. Just to set the record straight, I can throw down. I love food, I love to eat. I think about food quite a bit, it is very important to me. I have never been one of those bird eaters who diet.

I have never worried so much about my weight, I have been blessed with some great genes. However, once I started working in an office environment where food seemed to just materialize I gained about 10 pounds and my cholesterol hit 211. I remember my Dr. telling me to lay off the butter… so that was all I did.

Then, when I was pregnant with my second child I developed an aversion to meat. I could barely look at it without wanting to hurl. I have always had a love of animals and just preferred not to think about where my food came from. The more I read about meat production and consumption the more it made sense to me. It started to become difficult to turn a blind eye. You know better, you do better, or so I have heard:)

Finally, I ended up seeing a television show produced by Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me) called 30 days. This particular episode centered on animal rights. It was my tipping point and I decided right there and then that I was done with animal products. I knew too much to turn my back any longer.

My reasons for going plant-based started there and have grown exponentially since then. The more I learned about the benefits going vegan had on animals, the environment, world hunger and most notably our health and wellness the more passionate I became. This was no longer a lifestyle, this was a crusade. I not only felt better than I ever had health wise, I also ate with a clear conscience. Not only did I not miss meat or cheese for that matter, I loved the new foods I was eating. I realized that I had the tools to help others change their habits as well. If this gizzard eating, squirrel choking girl can do this, anyone can!

I will be sharing in the weeks to come some reasons to check out plant-based living. The impact you can have on our planet. The myriad of ways you can shape the future of humanity. Ways that you can virtually bullet proof yourself against most of the diseases that plaque our great Country.

Keep reading my friends!

Much Love,

Your Vegan Friend

Piece Meal


Hi All!

I just returned from a fabulous girls beach vacation with eight of my girl friends. It was refreshing, relaxing, fun and inspiring. Nothing like a few days away to renew your mind and heart.

Yesterday was my first full day home and I didn’t have much time (or motivation, for that matter) to go through the pantry and make a grocery list. We still had to eat something for dinner so this is what I came up with.

This is what I found in the fridge, freezer and cabinets.

I had half an onion that was wrapped in foil, some garlic cloves, sweet potato, canned diced tomatoes, canned black-eyed peas and some frozen collards and corn. Along with some spices I decided to make a black-eyed pea and collard green soup with baked sweet potato fries. I didn’t have quite enough frozen collards so I added the corn in for some extra bulk.

I simply sautéed the onion and garlic over medium heat, then added all of the other ingredients. A teaspoon of turmeric, a dash of cayenne and some salt to taste. Bring to a boil and simmer until collards are tender (maybe 10 minutes).

 

Simmering Soup

For the sweet potato fries, cut the potatoes in to fry like wedges, spray with cooking spray and season as desired. I use Spike, it’s a low sodium all-purpose seasoning that can be found in most grocery stores. It adds great flavor and has far less sodium than any conventional fry would. Bake at 400 degrees for around 15 minutes, turn once at around the 7 minute mark.

Sweet Potatoes, cut, seasoned and ready to bake!

Voila! A pantry dinner in around 30 minutes that is healthy, inexpensive and satisfying.

Yummy dinner!

Some of my best meals come from the simplest ingredients. I will write more about my trip and the yummy pasta meal we shared later this week. Until then, enjoy the crisp fall weather!

 

Much Love,

Your Vegan Friend

 

 

Delusions of Grandeur


Last night I was inspired. Most of the time my inspirations are fueled by my stomach and this was no exception. My mom and I had gone to the movies and had to pass an Asian fusion restaurant on our way to the car. Even though we had leftover lasagna ready and waiting for dinner, I could not get teriaki out of my head. So I surveyed my pantry and fridge and came up with a plan.

My brain does not work like a normal person’s (at least that is my impression) when I get inspired, I go to extremes. In my head, I do not only imagine the dish I am about to prepare, but the beautiful picture I will take of it, the sounds of my family oohing and ahhing over how amazingly delicious it tastes and my subsequent blog post that will of course, lead to me cooking said recipe on Ellen. Seriously, who does this? ? ?

All was going well, the sauce for my teriaki tempeh smelled amazing and my peanut noodle recipe was well on it’s way. Then, as I shook some red pepper flakes into the pan for my sauteed kale it took a turn. The top came off the spice jar spilling the entire full bottle of very spicy red pepper into the pan of freshly chopped garlic. This led to me frantically scraping out that pan, while my tempeh started to burn and my noodles overcooked. Gone was my beautiful dish and future appearance on Ellen. What I was left with were sticky, soggy noodles that had a weird after taste, mouth searing kale and some slightly crispy yet still edible Tempeh. My husband was now of the expert vegan opinion that, the tempeh sauce would taste much better on tofu and my son was gagging over the noodles. We ate what we could and then snacked on tortilla chips and salsa later:)

I say all of this to say that all of our cooking adventures won’t turn out to look like magazine covers. Our kids (or husbands/wives) may hate some of our food and some of our creations will be just plain duds. I always take pictures of my pretty food, I almost never document the duds, but that does not mean there have not been plenty of them! The point is to try new things, live and learn. Figure out what works and what doesn’t and have fun! I won’t be making those noodles again, I will always hold the top of my spice jars as I sprinkle and I will try the teriaki sauce over tofu next time. However, I won’t stop getting inspired and dreaming big. Tonight I am going to practice warming up leftovers while tap dancing to the oven timer…America’s Got Talent here I come:)!

Much Love,

Your Vegan Friend

Not so picture perfect tempeh over microwaved frozen broccoli.

It’s just that simple…


 

I have recently been involved in 3 very large and very stressful moves. We have all heard the phrases, “you can’t take it with you”, “money can’t buy happiness” and I even heard this recently, “hearses don’t pull u-hauls”. After these past few weeks I would like to add another. “Stuff does not make you happy, it just makes moving more of a hassle”. TRUTH!!!!

Our third (and final for a long while) move was into a much smaller space than we are used to as a family of four. We decided (as former NYC dwellers) that we would simply pretend that this new small space was the largest NY apartment we have ever had and be grateful we have any space at all. Thus far, this attitude has served us well and we are very content in our quaint abode. Surprisingly, I have not once missed my dining table and multitude of chairs (and a bench) or my king sized bed. I have not missed my china, my rugs or the many other belongings that we locked inside a storage unit. In fact, when we pulled down the gate on all of our stuff, I felt relief.

I am not surprised that I don’t miss my things necessarily. We all know fundamentally that home is where our family is, not where our stuff resides. What I am surprised at,  is how much I have worried over the years about keeping and acquiring more stuff. I am disappointed that I believed this lie that more things would somehow complete my “home”, my life or my family. I would say a good 70% of what I own is in storage and still, as I type this, I have more than most around the world could ever aspire to have. My goal in writing this is not to say that having things is wrong or bad, nor is having space. At some point I hope to have more square footage. I am simply saying that we need a lot less than we think we need to feel content.  So….

What does all of this  have to do with a vegan blog? I am oh so happy you asked that question:)! In thinking about what we eat each day, we can adopt this same attitude. Less is more. No, not less FOOD, less stuff in our food. When we de-clutter our recipes, our pantries and our minds when it comes to eating everything becomes more simple.

Whole food is best for optimal health. The less that is added to this food, the better. Not only is it better for you, it is also better for your wallet. When we simplify our grocery lists  to include veggies, fruits, leafy greens, vegetables, beans, grains etc… our pocket books and our waist lines thank us. Something amazing will happen. Our wallets get bigger and our waistlines get smaller!!! Eating healthy is not expensive, if you don’t complicate it with processed food.

Here is a recipe that I made this week. It cost me approximately $1.75 per person. It is full of protein, fiber, healthy fat, antioxidants and vitamins. My family loved it! Not only that, it was EASY. Maybe 20 minutes from start to table (and some of that was for the pretty presentation, so I could post it here).

Black Bean Quinoa (Keen-Wah) Tacos

1 Box of Quinoa (I bought mine at Wal-Mart) – I make the whole box and use it throughout the week on salads or in other recipes.

Quinoa cooking tip: My Bolivian mother-in-law, who was making quinoa before quinoa was cool taught me to toast it in the pan before I add the water. This gives it a fuller and more nutty flavor.

1 Can Black Beans (double this if you want leftovers)

1 tsp chili powder

2 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp onion powder

a dash of cayenne pepper

Salt to taste

1 package Corn Tortilla’s ( I bought a large package at Wal-Mart for $1.58 and have 1/2 the bag left)

Make the Quinoa according to the box directions.

Pour the black beans in a small pan and add all spices. Cook on medium to low heat.

Build your tacos. We used spinach, green olives, tomatoes, jalapeno’s, avocado and green salsa. You can use whatever fresh toppings float your boat. Just make sure to include lots of colorful veggies.

Spicy Vegan Ranch  (optional)

1/2 cup low-fat vegan mayo (such as Naysoya brand found at Kroger, Publix or Whole Foods)

Season to taste with garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, cumin and cayenne pepper.

I like to add a little dill pickle juice or white vinegar to give it a true ranch flavor.

 

3 of these filled me up completely and I served watermelon for dessert:) I used the leftovers of this yummy dinner to make “Huevos” Rancheros with tofu scramble for breakfast the next morning, YUM!

In the next few weeks I will be sharing more easy, cheap and healthy plant based recipes that I hope you will all add to your menu’s. Let’s all  look at ways to simplify our lives and diets this week.   As always thanks so much for reading and please feel free to email me anytime with questions you may have.

Much Love,

Your Vegan Friend

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A Time for Everything


Hello All! I am back from vacation and ready for all things routine!

I am starting a new routine this week. Shaking up our routines can be a great thing. Our bodies and minds plateau after a while and a shake up can revitalize workouts. I am going back to some Pilates, yoga and trying my legs at spin class. I even borrowed a Pure Barre DVD that literally kicks my behind when I can’t leave the house. New recipes are also on the agenda. This week I am going to try to recreate a black-eyed pea and collard green soup from Whole Foods and a grilled zucchini I had while on vacation (aka, parenting with palm trees)…if you pack children and a food processor it’s not a vacation:) I’ll post the recipes if they work.

In other news. This is a sentimental week. My sweet little girl will start kindergarten on Thursday. That in and of itself is very bittersweet. It’s odd to send your child that you have held in your arms and watched almost everyday of their lives off to someone elses care. This week also marks the one year anniversary of the death of a very dear friend of mine and my husbands.

Both of these events have caused some reflection on time. The past six years with my little girl seem to have flown by. All of a sudden, I feel as though I need more time, just a few more days, hours, weeks… more time to teach, instill confidence and give endless hugs and kisses. I know my time to do these things has not ended with my daughter, but things will undoubtedly change. I miss my friend. I miss him most for his wife and his young children who still need him so much. I hate that he doesn’t have more time. But, we do.

We have time to live. I not only have time to love up on my children, I have time to make my life the best it can be. I’m here. While we are here why not live well. Eat well, take care of the bodies we have been given. My friends untimely death taught me that I can’t in good conscience take my life or health for granted.

I don’t say all of this to preach. Just to reflect in print. I hope that the start of this new school year can bring about positive change for us all. Kind of a New Years do over if you will. Kick those bad summer habits to the curb and use the fall routine as a kickstart to some healthier choices.

Here’s to looking ahead and savoring our precious time.

Much Love,

Your Vegan Friend

Tofu: Tastes just like chicken…except it doesn’t.


I recently made dinner with a good friend of mine and left the leftovers at her house. Her husbands response after eating said leftovers was “I didn’t think you ate good food”. Not only did he enjoy the dinner but he requested it again. This is a wonderful compliment to me and the way that I eat. I didn’t take offense at this comment because I know this is how many people feel. So, I am making it my mission in every circumstance I can to prove that vegan food is not only a healthy choice but tastes good as well.

The title of this post says it all. My coconut ice cream does not taste like dairy ice cream, but just because it’s different doesn’t mean it is not good. I have learned to enjoy the new tastes and textures that my diet has to offer. As a friend of mine who recently went vegan said, so many more options open up to you when you adopt this way of eating. You are suddenly thinking outside of the box and figuring out that there is more to vegan eating than so-called “rabbit food”.

The recipe I made for my friend and her husband was a tempeh (tem(Pay)) Marsala over rice. It is hearty and delicious but does not taste like chicken. I also recently made a vegan deep dish pizza with cashew cream sauce instead of cheese. The cashew cream was simple and just plain delicious, didn’t taste like cheese, but we certainly didn’t miss it! I ate that meal with two cheese lovers and they both agreed with me (as did my hubby who ate more than I bet he would care to admit). We also ate a wonderful Fennel Salad, click link for recipe. I make lasagna with tofu “ricotta”, faux egg salad, tofu breakfast scrambles, some mean mashed potatoes and many vegan cookies, cakes and the like. I am deprived of nothing and don’t miss much.

I say all of this not to convert all of you wonderful and much appreciated readers into vegans, but to say have no fear! Try some new things with an open mind. It will not necessarily taste like what you are used to, but you are certain to enjoy it. Who knows, before you know it you may start making more veg centered meals.

There are some links to click above for recipes. I will post the Tempeh Marsala and Pizza recipes once I have perfected them. To tide you over in the meantime here is one of my favorite non-healthy vegan recipes. These are dangerous so make sure you SHARE:)

Link for the cookies. Hint: I use regular cocoa and 3/4 cup of chocolate chips.

Much Love,

Your Vegan Friend