2012: A Year in Review

Well, here we are, about to celebrate the end of 2012 and welcome the beginning of 2013. Can you believe it? 2013?!  Wow.

Before we usher in the new year, I want to take a minute to reflect on what a fun ride 2012 has been. Here are some highlights (and low lights?!) from the past year.

January:  I started the year with a desire to move toward a more natural, less toxic lifestyle, and I did it! This year, I successfully replaced all of my health and beauty care items to vegan and toxic goodies. It took a bit of trial and error, but I’m in a good place with all of my products. (Why did I search so long for a face wash?! Dr. Bronner’s really IS magic!)

March: I finally had my gallbladder surgery at the beginning of March; this was a decision I did not take lightly. I consulted many physicians and two surgeons, consented to numerous tests, and after considering family history, personal history, and future issues, the best decision for me was removal.  While I am concerned with scar tissue, overall, I’ve been happy with my decision. Plus, I can eat a bit more fat than before without feeling like I’m going to die. Bonus!

May: In May, I made the leap into the world of raw veganism. I had been flirting with it for years, but I finally made the decision to give it real effort this month. I even managed an 80-10-10 style diet while on vacation over the July 4th weekend. Fast-forward to December, and I’m still high-raw, but I’ve added some cooked foods (mostly veggies) back into my diet. I’ll have a future post on this soon, but I found I was under-eating, and instead of losing weight, I gained about 5 pounds over the eight or so months of being high raw. ( At first I thought my caloric intake was too high, even through spot checking calories here and there, but after tracking for the past few weeks, I realize I’ve probably been inadvertently starving myself. Oops!)

I also did my first public presentation about the wonders of a vegan diet in May. I cooked a full meal(choice of two hardy soups, choice of two hardy salads, and tons of desserts) for the 50 or so ppl in attendance and presented about two hours of information. The event was well-received, and my quickly assembled cook-book CD’s were all purchased, which set the wheels in motion for Veggie V, LLC. (I’m currently in the processes of incorporating, so I can get some product out in the public!)

June and July: Both months took me away from home for a few days on road trips. In June, I went to Chicago for the Self Work-Out in the park with my friend Ellen – a fellow vegan. Even though our trip was cut short, we got to sample a couple of vegan restaurants in Chi-town 🙂 We may be going back later in January for a Dr. Fuhrman immersion. I’ll keep you posted! In July, Mr M and I went back to a state park we visited last summer, Salt Fork, located in the south-eastern part of Ohio. It’s beautiful there! But, the weather was so freakin’ hot, we didn’t get to enjoy much of the outdoors this time (actual temps of over 100F every day!). Luckily, I planned to eat a high carb, low fat diet the four days we were gone, so I packed lots and lots of fresh fruit and veggies and had plenty to eat while we were holed up in our hotel room. Thank goodness for the mini-fridge!

August: I started a new job at the end of August, teaching at the university where I received my undergraduate degree. Adding the extra classes and driving to my schedule was tricky, but well worth it! I love working there 🙂 The students seem to like me, and I’m teaching there again next semester. Woohoo!

October: Mr M and I went on another road trip at the beginning of October. I wanted to visit the school where I may complete my PhD, so we drove  the 8 plus hours to Philadelphia. The people were nice, answered all of my questions, and the campus was beautiful. Bonus –  Whole Food’s stores everywhere! Seriously, there are five within a few miles of campus in every direction. We also went into the city one day and visited as many of the sites as we could on foot. (We kept missing the bus tours!) After Phili, we drove up to Pittsburgh with stops along the way at the Yuengling factor and Hershey’s Chocolate World. I didn’t sample any of the beer or candy, but it was fun to see both places 🙂

November: I did my second public presentation on the joys of plant-based eating. This time, I spoke informally to a plant-based diet group on campus. I got myself involved with the group after reading about them on a campus-wide email. I hope to remain active with the group this coming semester as well. (Some of the people will continue with the program, but it will mostly be new people.)

In November, we also bought a new car! This is the first new car I’ve ever purchased, and I got to choose all of the options, the color, everything! After a lot of research and a lot of test drives, we went with the Subaru Outback. And, I love it! The gas mileage is SO much better than my previous vehicle, and it has tons of awesome features.

December: This month, Mr M and I have been spending some quality time together. I have time off between semesters, and he had a bunch of vacation time left-over, so we’ve been relaxing at home a lot. I’m going to be sad when Mr M goes back to work on the second; I like having him around – even if he is snoring on the couch and junking up the recycling with empty beer bottles 😉

This year, I also continued working out regularly, but I incorporated a few more down days. In the past couple of years, I have only taken off a couple of days all year, but this year, I averaged about one day off a month. Honestly, I feel guilty when I don’t work out, but my daily life is pretty sedentary, so I really need that movement to not feel like a total slug. Since we joined a gym (a first for me!), I’ve found a new enthusiasm for the treadmill, and I love using the different weight machines. I’m still a bit intimidated to try them all, but along with my free-weight training at home (I’m still increasing my weight – woohoo!), I’m still getting in quite a few heavy weights workouts a week.

Well, there it is: 2012 in a nutshell. I have some fun things to share with you in early 2013, so stay tuned for that!

Happy New Year, everyone! Thank you for another great year. I really appreciate all of your support, and I’m continually excited to share my vegan adventure with each and every one of you!

HappyNewYear

[Photo Source]

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Sweet Potato & Lentil Burgers

I haven’t made a new veggie burger in quite a while. I actually haven’t eaten a veggie burger in quite a while. But, since it was Christmas, I thought I’d splurge a little. And, since I was able to make my burgers with three ingredients (and two were left-overs), they were super easy to make. Bonus!

Sweet Potato & Lentil Burgers

1 lg sweet potato, baked and mashed (about 1 cup mashed)

1 c cooked lentils (I used brown)

3/4 c cooked greens (I used a mix of spinach and chard)

Combine everything in a bowl until well-mixed. Add whatever seasonings you like. (I added salt and cumin.) Divide mixture into four equal parts, spake into balls, and flatten onto non-stick baking pan (or line baking pan with parchment paper or spray baking pan). Bake at 325F for about an hour or until burgers are dryer and firm. Let sit on baking tray a few minutes then remove to cool before eating.

Each of my burgers came in at just over 100 calories.

Notes:

Moisture: If your burgers are too moist, add more lentils. My burgers were kind of moist because my greens were kind of wet.

Greens: I used a mix of left-over sauteed spinach and Swiss chard. They were wilted with onion and garlic and a splash of apple cider vinegar and tamari.

Lentils: Use whatever lentils you like. I thought I had some French lentils in the pantry, but all I could find were brown; they worked fine. I probably wouldn’t use red because they breakdown so easily.

Potato: I baked a sweet potato in it’s skill until it was soft and mushy, so  I didn’t have to puree it.

Seasonings: Use whatever seasonings you like. I think curry powder might be nice.

Cooking: I chose to bake my burgers because I wanted to dry them out a bit. If you don’t want to wait an hour for them to dry and firm up, I’m sure they’ll cook up nicely in a pan.

lentils

greens

ready for patties

out of the oven

close up

 

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Merry Christmas!

Today is Mr M and my second anniversary. And Christmas Eve. So, in celebration of everything good in the world, I wish you a Merry Christmas (eve)! Or, if you don’t celebrate Christmas, I hope you’re enjoying some down-time with family and friends. Eat a vegan sugar cookie and rejoice!

Dark Chocolate Peppermint Crunch Balls

I had a hard time deciding if I should call these Dark Chocolate Peppermint Crunch Balls or Dark Chocolate Peppermint Fudge. But, since I automatically shape the majority of my desserts into balls, I guess crunch balls it is. But, you could easily spread this out into a small container and cut it into a few bites of fudge, if you’re so inclined.

Dark Chocolate Peppermint Crunch Balls

1/4 c (heaping) raw cacao (or unsweetened coco) or carob

2 TBSP cacao nibs, crushed

1 TBSP coconut oil, melted (could sub nut or seed butter or even non-dairy milk (won’t be as rich and fudgy))

1 TBSP nutritive liquid sweetener (maple syrup, agave, date paste, etc) or stevia (start w/ one pkt – about 1/4 tsp)

1 tsp vanilla

1/8 tsp peppermint extract (or more if you REALLY like peppermint)

Optional: Liquid (non-dairy milk, water, coffee, chai tea, etc) to moisten fudge mixture if needed

Combine nibs, vanilla, and peppermint extract. Set aside to soak while mixing other ingredients.

In a separate bowl, mix  cacao, sweetener, and coconut oil. Stir to combine. Add additional liquid if necessary. Mixture should be rich and fudgy. Stir nibs mix into fudgy mix. Scoop mix by cookie scooper into a container and store in the fridge or freezer. (Or spread into container and cut into squares.)

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Hot and Spicy Drinks for a Long, Cold Night

Tonight is the longest night of the year; it’s the winter solstice. It’s also the last day on the Mayan’s long calendar, which lead some to believe the end of the world was a mere clock tick away. But, it’s already tomorrow in many parts of the world, and here I am, typing away. (I guess you can save your emergency bags for another day – ha!) Coo incidentally, today is also the first day of the season we’ve had measurable snow. Woohoo! The ground is still pretty warm, so the roads are clear – thankfully – but the wind and cold temps sure make it feel like the first day of winter 😀

To help keep you warm, I’m sharing two spicy winter drinks. If you use a non-nutritive sweetener, each drink is well below 100 calories, yet each is rich, creamy, and super satisfying! And, if you’re not into warm drinks, chill ’em! Chill all of your ingredients, toss them into the blender with some ice cubes, and ta-dah, smooth, creamy, chilly goodness in a glass!

Hot Chocolate Chai

1 c brewed chai tea

1 c almond milk, plain or vanilla, unsweetened

1 TBSP carob, cacao, or coco (unsweetened and not processed with alkali)

 

Sweetener of choice: 1 TBSP liquid, nutritive sweetener (maple syrup, agave, etc) or 1 pkt (1/4 tsp) stevia or other non-nutritive sweetener

Optional: 1/4 tsp cinnamon and/or nutmeg and/or cacao nibs (crushed slightly)

Brew your favorite chai tea. While brewing, combine carob or cacao/coco powder with almond milk and sweetener either by blending or briskly whisking. After tea reaches desired level of strength, slowly add it to the chocolate mixture, whisking to combine. Sprinkle with cinnamon/nutmeg. (Option: Add cinnamon/nutmeg to drink)

Notes:

Keepin’ it Raw: Make your own almond milk, use raw cacao or carob powder, choose a raw sweetener such as date paste or raw stevia (dehydrate your own stevia leaves and process into a fine powder), and steep tea in water less than 115F. Please note, however, depending upon the brand of tea you’re using, it may or may not be raw.

Smoothie: Turn this into a smoothie by chilling the tea and blending ingredients with a couple handfuls of ice. Add protein powder and chia seeds for some some staying power.

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Spicy Chai Latte

1 c chai tea

1 c almond milk

1 c coffee (regular or decaf)

1 TBSP nutritive (maple syrup, agave, date paste, etc) or non-nutritive sweetener (stevia – liquid or powdered)

1 t vanilla

Optional: garnish with cacao nibs

Brew your chai tea and coffee. While warm, combine with almond milk, sweetener, and vanilla. Gently blend everything together (string should be fine) and garnish with cacao nibs for a chocolate kick. Serves 2 (or one giant mug)

Notes:

Keepin’ it Raw: There’s not way to make raw coffee because the beans are roasted, but you can cold brew your coffee in a French press over night in the fridge. Cold brew your tea at the same time, and don’t forget to soak your almonds, too. Warm everything before serving.

Mocha Chai Latte: Turn your Spicy Chai Latte into a Mocha Chai Latte by adding some raw cacao powder (or coco powder not processed with alkali).

Smoothie Time! Add your chilled ingredients to the blender along with some ice, chia seeds and protein powder (for staying power) and blend away.

Iced Chai Coffee: Combine your extra chai tea and left-over coffee, add some non-dairy milk, and poor over ice. A little sweetener and a dash of vanilla really brings out the flavor.

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On the Lighter Side: Pumpkin Pudding

I’ve been struggling with my diet lately. Not with what I’m eating, but with how much I’m eating. Apparently. I say apparently because I’ve gained a few pounds since October. I think I never got out of vacation mode from our road trip to PA. I tried not to get into vacation mode in the first place, but with so many Whole Foods everywhere we went, I couldn’t help myself! Well, that and the car-sickness that required pretzels. Lots and lots of pretzels. Regardless of the cause, here I am. And the only way I know to rectify the situation is to track my caloric intake for a while. I have a range of calories I try to stay between, and for months and months, I was naturally doing that. (I know because I was spot checking my intake.) So, for the next few weeks (or maybe even months), I’ll be tracking calories…again. And part of that includes lightening up some of my new favorite dishes – and reducing my fat intake. (I added some oils into my diet a while ago and increased my nut and seed butter intake.) I’m also considering adding in some beans and legumes and maybe a few gluten-free grains like quinoa (really a seed) and wild rice (really a grass). [I’ll have a post soon on the current state of my diet: raw, high-fat raw, low-fat raw, cooked, grain-free, bean-free, etc.]

To restart the lighter side of my diet, I lightened up one of my new favorite breakfasts. This recipe is full of vitamin A and beta carotene from the pumpkin (and absorbed nicely thanks to the fat in the chia seeds and almonds); gives you a nice dose of protein and EFA’s from the chia seeds (Can you say Omega 3’s?); and selenium from the almonds (in the almond milk – a mineral that can be hard to get in a primarily raw or grain-free-vegan diet). This powerhouse breakfast can be made the night before and comes in at around 200 calories for a giant bowl of goodness.

Lightened Up Pumpkin Pudding

2 TBSP chia seeds (I like to use white, but brown are fine)

1/2 c almond milk (plain or vanilla, unsweetened)

1 tsp vanilla

1 c (not packed) pumpkin puree

1 TBSP maple syrup (optional) or 1 pkt (about 1/4 tsp) stevia

Combine the almond milk, chia seeds, vanilla, and sweetener. Allow to sit for about a half hour (or longer) for the seeds to gel/thicken. Stir in pumpkin before eating. (Or, make everything ahead and eat when you’re ready.)

Notes:

Keepin’ it Raw: To make this dish completely raw, make your own almond milk from raw almonds (It only takes 5 minutes; try it!); peel, seed, grate and process the raw pumpkin into a puree; use a raw sweetener such as date paste; and sprinkle in a little vanilla powder or raw vanilla extract.

Alcohol-free Vanilla: I’ve been using TJ’s brand alcohol-free vanilla for about a year, and I love it! I’ve yet to find a cheaper source for it, either. If anyone knows of  one, please share! It’s still pretty expensive (but worth it…so far – ha!)

Chia seeds and almond milk

Sweetener

Canned Pumpkin

Ready to go!

Pumpkin Pudding (Lite)

This recipe is a lot lighter than the pumpkin pudding I was eating a couple of weeks ago – the filling for my Raw Pumpkin Cheesecake, which is great for a treat, but probably not the best idea for a daily breakfast. (But boy oh boy, cashew cream makes everything so delicious!)

Left over pumpkin? No worries. It keeps well in the fridge, OR use some of the left-over in a Pumpkin Spice Latte!

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Chai Spiced Holiday Nog

I have yet to embrace the holiday season this year. I haven’t bought a single gift (not that I have many to purchase since it’s just Mr M and me). I haven’t even bought myself anything, which is usually how it begins. (Hey. Somebody has to do it – ha!) Maybe it’s because we don’t have the tree up yet. Or maybe it’s because I work through next week and have enough work to do over break that I doubt I’ll even notice I’m not “working” for a few weeks. But, most likely, it’s because of the wacky weather here in Ohio. Last weekend, the temperature was over 60F! That’s crazy for early December. Even today, the temperature is in the 40’s and raining. Supposedly, snow and colder temps are on the way, but I’ll believe that when I see it.

Maybe I should clarify. I love winter. It’s my second favorite time of year. Fall is my first favorite time of year, but only because it means winter is coming. I love, love, love the colder temperatures of winter. And, I love me some snow! But, I HATE ice. I’ve had too many car accidents to mention due to ice, and that’s just the tip of the slippery ice-berg when it comes to the frozen wet stuff: downed power-lines, cancelled classes, falling down – ugh. Now, on the other hand, is awesome! It makes everything – even the ugliest of trash piles – look beautiful. And the way lights twinkle through the snow really sets the holiday mood. The mood of which I am lacking. Sigh.

To help get me in the spirit, I’ve been indulging in some holiday cheer in the form of chai tea. Traditionally, I haven’t been a fan of chai spice, but I found this tea recently, and I’m hooked!

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I cannot have caffeine, and I’m not a big fan of “decaffeinated” products, so any time I can find an herbal tea that makes me happy, I’m all over it. And, considering how much I love rooibos, and how much I love Numi brand teas, I figured this would be a hit. It is!  Who wouldn’t love naturally caffeine free ro0ibos chai tea?!

Combined with some vanilla almond milk and a couple of dates and/or bananas and protein powder, this holiday drink is a pure delight 🙂

Chai Spiced Holiday Nog

2 c Rooibos Chai Tea (or your favorite chai tea)

1 c vanilla almond or other non-dairy milk (or add 1 tsp of vanilla for plain milk)

1 heaping scoop of vanilla protein powder (I love Sun Warrior Blend Vanilla)

2 jumbo dates, pitted (or 4 regular size) – or another sweetener of your choice

Optional: 1 TBSP chia seeds (for thickness and a healthy dose of EFA’s)

Optional: 1 super ripe banana (fresh or frozen) for a thicker nog

Lots of ice

Add everything to blender and blend away. Garnish with cinnamon.

Notes: This amount of ingredients makes two nice servings at just over 100 calories each (with the chia seeds). Not bad for an indulgent holiday drink – with an added protein boost! If you choose to use the banana, you might want to omit the dates. I tried it with both, and it was WAY too sweet. But, if you’re making this for children or non-vegan guests,  the extra sweetness might be nice. Admittedly, the banana does add a nice touch. Additionally, if you want a thicker drink, try using a thicker non-dairy milk such as hemp or soy. I also find my homemade cashew milk is quite thick.

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