Tuesday, May 22, 2012

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)
Green Beans
Kidney Beans
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!

Monday, May 21, 2012

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

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!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

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. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

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.
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.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Shut the cheese up!

I don't have a photo, but I promise this recipe is amazing! I am going to steal a photo of something similar to give you an idea, but Cashew Cheese Queso Dip makes the world go round!

A few weeks ago (on Earth Day) we went to the Spiral Diner in Dallas, Texas. It is a Vegan restaurant. It is so yummy and wonderful. We had this dip platter that had a cashew based queso dip. My husband freaked out over it and wanted it. For weeks he talked about. So, I decided to take the plunge and try and try to recreate it at home.

I did some research online, and I couldn't find a recipe that I thought would not be too spicy. Plus all the recipes I found were WAY too complicated. I hate complicated recipes when they don't have to be. So, I went out on a limb and made my own. Oh my gosh, I was so nervous. But it turned out really well.

It should look something like this:

When my husband tasted my version, he said, "That's it! That's it!" He was so excited. We have a Vegan potluck coming up next week. I met a few young girls today at the Vegan Cafe who are going to attend. I thought I would whip up this queso because when you are young, you want a party dip, right?

I hope you try it and let me know how it turns out:

Shut the Cashew Queso Up!

  • 2 c. Cashews (you should soak these, because you should soak nuts when using them for nut cheese, but I didn't have time the other day, and my queso turned out fine).
  • 2 c. vegetable broth
  • 2 TBSP. white miso (white miso is mild and yummy plus it is the right color)
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1 diced onion
  • 1 diced red bell pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 TBSP chili powder
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 2 TBSP nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Juice of 1 lemon
Put the cashews, broth, miso, and cornstarch in the food processor and mix until smooth. This will probably take 5 minutes or so.

While the nuts are mixing, in a pan on medium/low heat saute the onion, bell pepper, and garlic until tender. 

After the nuts mixture is smooth, add the vegetables and remaining ingredients, mix until smooth, like queso.

Eat when warm. 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Best diet I never meant to have . . .

I might get a little flack from some of my friends for this. I'm not saying that you have to be thin to be a Vegan or that you should become a Vegan with the expressed purpose of becoming thin, but wow is losing weight a side effect.

Growing up I was very thin. Extremely thin. Then I had three kids, and then I got very sick. I gained weight. Lost weight. Gained weight. Went on every diet. Counted calories. Exercised obsessively. There is this weird thing you do when you are on a diet, you justify. I could have Whataburger Patty Melts on Saturday because Saturday was "Cheat day." I factored in a Pepsi for Breakfast into my calories. No wonder I eventually fell off the wagon.

Then I found Vegan. I have lost 31 pounds. I eat what I want, when I want. I have yet to count a calorie. I haven't changed my routine (which means I haven't added in any exercise; although I want to). And I don't want to have a "Cheat Day" or make sure I can fit in a soda for breakfast. Notwithstanding crying in a Walmart candy bar aisle, I haven't wanted to eat anything that isn't vegan. And even when that happened, it was a momentary glitch.

A few days ago I was at my mom's house, and she made cherry cheescake. I love cherry cheescake. I wasn't sure how I was going to react to seeing everyone eating it. I thought I might tear up. I thought I might break down and lick the plate. But as soon as I saw it, I didn't even want to try it. I realized that my whole way of thinking and eating had changed.

And the side effect is that I have lost weight. Something that I have wanted for a long time, and it just naturally happened. Of course, I keep saying that veganism is a triad: health, environment, and animals. The meeting of all three makes this the easiest diet to stick to and it makes your morals feel so good.

But the best news about this diet I never meant to have is that my husband decided it just may be the best diet he never meant to have too. (And since he committed to veganism just two weeks ago, he is down 12 pounds).

You read that right! My husband has made the transition. He is a changed man. As you all know, I have been struggling with how to help him make the change. He kept saying he was committed, but he was still eating meat and dairy every day. Then being the ripe tomato paid off. I just kept on trucking. I just kept giving him examples of why he should convert. I kept cooking him vegan meals, and I kept encouraging him. I told him that I would be here with support when he wanted it.

Well his biggest stumbling block is lunch. He likes to eat lunch out. No matter what he says, he likes to eat his lunch out. I was trying to make him a vegan lunch every day, but he wouldn't eat it, and he would go out and eat anyway. So, I kept telling him about how you could eat Subway --Vegan. So, I took him to Subway and bought him a Vegan sub. He liked it. Just like me, he says he doesn't even miss the meat and cheese. 

Then we went on a trip to Austin, TX to visit a friend of mine (we took pictures with the giant cow on that trip), and she and her family wanted to eat at Cracker Barrel. Not an easy feat as a Vegan, but it can be done. Robert, on the other hand, had a meat platter. He was SO sick afterward. He said, "maybe I really shouldn't have eaten meat. I just don't know if I can eat meat anymore." Then he went on a business trip to Memphis. When he got home, he confessed that he ate Subway the entire time. Of course, he can eat other things, but he is a creature of habit. I will have to teach him how to eat at other restaurants. But he said he is a vegan now too.

That means four out of five of us are converts. Just my lovely 13-year-old daughter is a hold out. She eats breakfast and dinner as a vegan. It is just lunch that is the problem for her too. I'm having a little bit more of a problem finding a lunch solution for a stubborn middle schooler who refuses to bring her lunch and her school has NO vegan options. I am hoping over the summer she eats vegan everyday and the deal is sealed with her as well. 

I guess the lesson is by setting a good vegan example, we can rub off on those we love. And sometimes when you do the right thing, the unintended side effects are really awesome!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Covering my feelings with a layer of food

If  you are a parent, then you know that one of the first things we teach our children to do is self soothe. You hear these lovely words almost from the moment a child is born. Every time a baby cries, some grandma somewhere says, "let the baby learn to soothe herself." And thus begins our lifelong quest to develop coping mechanisms. Methods of self soothing. I am going to be painfully honest in this post in the hopes that it might help someone else who is grappling with this same thing.

I have been going through a bit of a rough patch, and there is no self soothing. There is no alcohol (I'm not a drinker), there is no cigarettes (I'm not a smoker), there is no drugs (I'm not a drug user), but there was always food. I used to take a thin layer of cupcakes to cover up the hurt feelings. I mean you can fix anything with a chocolate milk shake. You can just eat it away.

And then this week happened . . . I suddenly found myself driving to the post office having a panic attack. I had to pull my car over to the side of the road. I got home and had to just lay on my couch. There I was with no self soothing mechanism. My brain was screaming out to just go get something to eat. Since I first transitioned to veganism, I haven't had cravings. I haven't really missed anything. All of a sudden I wanted the strangest things. Ranch Dressing. A hamburger. Cupcakes. Candy Bars. Cheese Puffs. Just anything to put the thin layer of food over the top.

Then my husband said, "just EAT something." So, I don't live next to a whole foods. Everything closes at 9 pm in my town, so going to the health food store was not an option. So I found myself at Walmart (yes, the dreaded Walmart) at 11 pm. I was standing on the candy aisle. Every single candy bar had something in it. EVERY SINGLE ONE. I was so upset. In that moment, for the first time in this journey, I almost broke down. I thought to myself, "I mean c'mon, what is a little milk fat compared to my mental health?" I could not eat pineapple or corn chips or an orange. I just needed something.

But then I remember reading on Choosing Raw's blog (www.choosingraw.com) that the one thing she never compromises is being vegan because it isn't just about health and it isn't just about the environment but it is about ethics. We literally are who we eat. So, I decided that I would find the most unhealthy vegan thing that is not an oreo in Walmart, and I would eat that. That would be my self soothing. I found two really awesome things.

First, again, I am not advocating shopping in Walmart. But the point is, if you need to put a thin layer of food over a panic attack, you can do it even if you have to shop at Walmart.

So I bought these little yummies. They are So Delicious Coconut Milk minis. They have 100 calories. They are awesome!!! I gave one to the husband. He ate his before I ate mine. He said, "There is no way these are vegan." But they totally are. As soon as I took a bite, I just felt like, whew. Yes. That tastes like so much better. I mean, I don't think food is the way to fix your emotional problems. But I was in a freaking crisis. This mini bar was so comforting. It reminded me that just because I am a vegan doesn't mean that I have to give up everything that is yummy and fun and bad for you. I mean, I want to eat 99% what is good for you, but sometimes it is so good to be naughty. The truth is these aren't even that naughty. The review is that these are fantastic. They even offer coupons on their website (http://www.sodeliciousdairyfree.com/products/coconut-milk-ice-creams/coconut-minis). You should totally try them. 

Then I also bought this delicious Vanilla Chai Tea. I thought maybe when I woke up in the morning it would be a nice little pick me up. I am sure I could make it homemade and someone has some fantastic recipe, but I just wanted something easy and made for me. You know. Processed. I dislike the aftertaste of most soy milk products, so I wasn't super enthusiastic about this product. But it was all the Walmart had, and I needed it. So, I thought I would give it a try. 

When I woke up this morning, I got out one of the fancy glasses my mom gave me. I poured a glass. I took a sip, and it was heaven in a glass. It was like chai, vanilla, egg nog. It was thick and creamy. It was so good I almost cried. So out of love, I gave my husband a sip. He totally freaked out. I told him it was my special treat, and not his, so if he wanted a bottle he needed to go buy his own. Ten minutes later I caught him sneaking sips of it out of the fridge. I confronted him and he said, "I need a thin layer of food too!" It was so funny. But seriously, this tea is a little expensive, but you don't need much. So I spent $4, but as long as my husband doesn't dip his tongue in it, I think it will last me three days. That is only like $1 a day for the best decadence ever!!! 

I am so glad that I didn't fall off the vegan wagon. I am so glad that I didn't grab one of those milk fat candy bars. Thank you Choosing Raw for inspiring me. Thank you So Delicious and Vanilla Chai from Bolthouse Farms for helping me find products that are even better than cruelty products. It is so awesome to know that even when I am sad, I can push down the sadness with cruelty free products that aren't that bad for me!