Friday, July 29, 2011

Diet is not a four letter word.

Well, techinically... it IS four letters but it isn't a swear word for me.

When I say the word ‘diet’, many people have a negative reaction to that word. The word conjures up thoughts of unhappiness, deprivation, starvation and feelings of inadequate willpower.
In my life, the word ‘diet’ simply means ‘what I eat’. I’m never on what people call a diet because 95% of the food I eat is healthy and good for me so you can’t really get fat on those kinds of foods, no matter how much you eat and that naughty 5% doesn't do too much damage! 
A clean, whole , plant based diet (ie: the foods you eat)  is the true secret to losing and maintaining your weight. You nourish your body instead of destroy it. Stop putting ingredients into your body that your body cannot recognize. 
Like many people, I currently have about 7 to 10 pounds I’d like to lose. That puts me where I feel most comfortable but because I’m currently in the ‘normal’ range for my height, I haven’t really been stressing over that last 10 pounds.
If you think being on a plant based diet is difficult, restrictive or boring then you need to do a little more research!

I eat all day long (every 2 to 3 hours) and I’m rarely hungry and I’m never deprived.  I can always find a vegan version of whatever I’m craving. (Thank you Google!) It makes me laugh when people think I have a limited diet because I'm vegan. I really don't. I just don't eat animals and I don't eat garbage.
That leaves an amazing array of foods I do choose to eat!
I make many things homemade so I can control the ingredients … almond milk, nut butter, veggie and bean burgers, soups, and salad dressings. I avoid processed foods as much as possible and I also avoid refined sugars, preferring to use maple syrup, brown rice syrup and sucanat. I also use evaporated cane juice for baking.

Here is a list of things I commonly eat and drink but there are so many more things I enjoy:

Every morning I start with a big glass of ice water with barley grass juice, Natural Calm (magnesium) and lemon juice to get my body going.  I sip plain ice water thru the day.  I very rarely drink anything besides water. If I do, it will be unsweetened caffeine free tea or almond milk.

Steel cut oats or old fashioned oats with dark chocolate and walnuts or a little nut butter stirred in. I also like it with walnuts and half a banana (freeze the other half for a smoothie!)

 A smoothie with almond milk, fruit, flax seed, spinach, maca, cacao and protein powder.

 An apple with nut butter.

Homemade soup, side salad and fresh fruit. I try and make some sort of soup every week. I also freeze it.

Night out – two veggie sushi rolls and a side salad with ginger dressing. (This is the only time I ever eat white rice. If your sushi place has brown rice, get that instead!)

Homemade cashew ‘cheese’ on Triscuits.

A handful of fresh fruit and a handful of nuts.

Whole wheat pasta with a tomato sauce and lots of veggies or with lentil ‘meat’ sauce.

Chickpea cutlet with mashed potato, gravy and a veggie.

Miso soup, stir fried rice with lots of veggies and a veggie egg roll.

Vegan nachos with beans, fresh tomatoes, onions  and a vegan queso sauce.

Hummus with Triscuits and veggies.

Roasted veggie plate (just toss a bunch of veggies in the oven and roast ‘em)

Night out – Thai food – veggies, sometimes a little tofu, brown rice and a vegan egg roll.

Chia seed pudding made with almond milk and cinnamon.

Low sugar, high fiber, natural cereals with homemade almond milk. (Grape Nuts & Shredded Wheat)

Whole wheat English muffin with nut butter or no sugar fruit preserves.

Night out – Mediterranean food - hummus, falafel, and salad.

Red beans and rice, homemade guacamole and a little salsa with chips for dipping.

Whole wheat pancakes with fresh berries, walnuts and maple syrup.

Vegan mac & cheese.

Vegan ice cream topped with vegan hot fudge or vegan caramel sauce.

Panini with vegan cashew ‘cheese’ , sun-dried tomato pesto and thin sliced veggies on sourdough bread.

Homemade granola.

A dinner salad with lots of veggies, homemade croutons, beans, and walnuts.

Baked sweet potato with cinnamon, maple syrup and walnuts.

Fresh stove popped popcorn with salt and my vegan ‘parmesan cheese’.

Homemade veggie or black bean burgers on a whole wheat bun.  I make these and freeze them!

Once in a while I’ll have vegan ‘meats’ like Field Roast sausages or Lightlife Tempeh but I try to only eat those a few times a year since they are processed. I’d rather eat clean.

Chickpea salad (it’s much like chicken salad) on whole wheat bread or in a salad.

Cookout – vegan baked beans, vegan potato salad, fresh fruit and some sort of veggie burger

Bean tacos or burritos.

Chili with vegan cornbread.

Baked potato topped with vegan ‘butter’, salt, fresh mushrooms and green onions.

Night out  - thin crust pizza with mushrooms, black olives and no cheese. I like to bring my vegan nut cheese to sprinkle on top instead.

Vegan cookies, bars, cakes and other yummies!  (but not every day!)

Warm brown rice with almond milk, a little maple syrup and some cinnamon.

Junk food – yes, even I eat junk food but it may not be as junky as you’d expect. My junk foods are vegan  baked goods, Fritos, non-dairy dark chocolate, cane juice sweetened organic frosted flakes, I even snack on Cap’n Crunch once in a while! If we are out someplace and I can’t find anything else, I might have some french fries. A few times a year I’ll buy vegan ice cream or sorbet but I’m not a big ice cream eater.
Does that list sound like I'm an unhappy, deprived and bored vegan? 
Note: Always remember that junk is ok if you rarely eat it. Junk should never be kept in the house if you have any sort of self discipline issue... instead, you should have to make an effort to go and get whatever junky food you are wanting to eat and then you should buy a single serving. Surround yourself with delicious healthy foods and you can't make mistakes!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Things You Should Make Yourself - Popcorn

mmmm.. there is nothing quite like the smell of freshly popped popcorn, huh? Nothing quite like dipping your hand into a big bowl as you settle in for a movie on the couch! The crunch and the saltiness .... However... please, stop eating microwaved popcorn. It’s usually full of trans fat and sodium and if it isn’t, cooking food in a bag with radiation can’t be ok.


I'm sure there are lots of studies about how bad microwaves are but I won't bore you with them.. go Google if you must.  Right now, we are talking about how popcorn is a really healthy snack!

Popcorn is a whole grain with 1 g of fiber per cup. Popcorn provides minerals, including magnesium, phosphorus, iron, zinc and manganese. Just take it easy on the added salt and oil.

 We bought the Whirley Pop years and years and years ago and have really enjoyed having popcorn on a regular basis. There are some weeks we have it every night.  One great benefit is that everyone can season their own popcorn to their tastes.

Equipment/ingredients needed:

Popcorn maker – you can get a Whirley Pop, an air popper (your healthiest choice) or do it the old fashioned way , use a pan with a lid! Just skip those microwave poppers... cooking things you eat in a microwave just isn't healthy.

Popcorn – we prefer white corn to yellow corn. Try them all to see what you like best!

Oil – we have tried making popcorn with various types of oils and we prefer canola or coconut but use whatever you like. Coconut oil is the oil you'll want to use if you want movie theatre style popcorn. If you like the buttery flavor, use vegan 'butter' along with the oil as you are popping it.

Seasonings – salt, flavored salts or powders like onion or garlic, herb blends, nutritional yeast, melted Earth Balance spread, whatever you like on popcorn! (see below for a recipe!), If you want movie theatre style, get the bright orange salt they sell and use more than you really should. You need to add the salt while popping, not on top afterwards.

Cost:  cheap! A 2 pound bag of white popcorn is just a couple bucks.

Shelly's Vegan Mixed Nut 'Parmesan'

I use this blend on popcorn and pasta! It's really yummy.

1/3 c raw walnuts
1/3 c raw cashews
3 Tbsp roasted sunflower seeds
1 - 2 Tbsp flax seed (to your taste)
1/4 c nutritional yeast
1/4 c roasted sesame seeds (or gomashio but if you use gomashio, cut the salt out)
1 tsp sea salt

Blend in a food processor until it resembles parmesan cheese. Store in a glass shaker container.

You can also mess around with it and add in garlic powder or onion powder.. whatever you like.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

What Going Vegan Has Taught Me.... Everyone is addicted to cheese!

In this multi-part series I will talk about things that I've learned since going vegan almost a year ago.

Everyone is addicted to cheese.

When people find out I’m vegan almost every single person says “I could never be vegan because I could never give up cheese. I think I'm addicted!”

Cheese actually IS addictive.

There are studies that show dairy has addictive properties.

Here is a great article detailing dairy addiction.

But... as great as it may be, dairy is also really bad for you. It’s just  concentrated fat and cholesterol.

I thought it might be hard for me to stop eating it but once I went thru the detox of it, I was fine. I really don’t miss it now that I know how bad it is for my body and what is IN in. Do some research, it will gross you out. The easiest way for me to avoid something is to learn why I shouldn't consume it and what is actually IN these foods..... that is the best deterrent ever! 

Even tho I really never had a huge acne problem, going off dairy has totally cleared my skin (I’m guessing because dairy contains hormones that can mess with your system) and I had a sort of ‘fog’ lifted from my mind. I can’t really explain it but I feel more aware. I have less respiratory issues (I hear dairy is especially bad for you if you have asthma), I used to get rapid heartbeat but since going vegan, I haven't had that happen since and my belly is a lot flatter too!

I now make delicious snacks like creamy cashew cheese that is much like crock cheese, my own version of 'parmesan' using nuts, seasonings and nutritional yeast and some really yummy vegan queso (see below for recipe) for nachos that tastes great and it’s actually good for me!

I still enjoy mac & cheese and white saucy pasta. There are so many great cookbooks on the market and so many vegan blogs that I haven’t found anything I can’t make vegan yet, and that includes cheesy stuff!

There are also good cheese substitutes available at retail. I avoid them as much as possible since they are processed but a few times a year I will indulge in a few that I enjoy like Teese Nacho Sauce, Daiya and We Can't Say It's Cheese Hickory Spread but for the most part I let nutritional yeast give me my cheesy fix because it's healthy.

Nutritional yeast can usually be found in a health food aisle or store. The link shows you a popular brand. Another well-known brand is called Bragg's. Do not confuse it with baking yeast or Brewer's yeast - totally different product!

Give this recipe a try....

I like less salsa in mine so start adding it slowly until you get it how you want it. Serve with chips! I'm going to try making this and adding in a can of vegan chili one of these days. By the way... this recipe was actually used to create a brand of jarred  vegan queso that is being sold at Whole Foods! It's yummy.

Nutritional Yeast Queso Sauce


    1/4 cup nutritional yeast
    1/4 cup flour (I use whole wheat)
    1 teaspoon paprika (I like using smoked paprika)
    1 teaspoon salt
    Dash of garlic powder
    1 cup water
    2 tablespoons margarine (I use vegan Earth Balance sticks)
    1 1/2 cups salsa OR 1 can diced tomatoes and peppers (Rotel or other brand)

    2 tsp yellow mustard (optional)


Combine dry ingredients in a saucepan.  Add water. Whisk constantly over medium heat until mixture is thick and bubbly.  Remove from heat and add margarine. Stir until margarine is melted. Stir in can of tomatoes or salsa

Return to low heat and cook just long enough for tomatoes to heat.