Thursday, May 30, 2013

Rose's Birthday

Stay tuned for a birthday interview!  I still need to do hers.

On Rose's birthday, it happened to be a Friday, and we were invited to a Saturday morning wedding in Portland.  So that meant we were going to stay overnight in Portland, and because I really did not want to take a huge present with a lot of parts (and lose those parts before we even got home), Rose got to open a present first thing in the morning.

Later, Dave and I went to the school to help pass out cupcakes and join in on the celebration at her school.  She got to wear a pretty awesome crown all day long.  She pretty much thought it was awesome.

Later, it was Rose's turn to be in the spotlight.  She tried to have Ri join her, but alas, he was not having it.  Not at all.

Ah, well, on to reading her All About Me packet.  It was hard to hear her because she has a very quiet voice.  But it was still adorable!  At least I had helped her put the packet together so I knew what was coming next.

One area that she's loud in is her violin playing.  She did a great job playing Mary Had a Little Lamb for her class.  One of the students said, "You're really good for a first grader!"  Yes, indeed, she is really good for a first grader.

 Finally it was cupcake time.  We passed them out, everyone sang to her (one girl gave her a solo performance later on!) and Rose took the first bite.  All was well with the world.

 It was a half day, so we took the kids right from school to the car to drive to Portland.  And because we were traveling, I let them have a little McDonald's for lunch.  There is nothing I can eat at McDonalds save french fries and maybe a side salad with Italian dressing (which I'm not sure is even available anymore) so I got a Subway sandwich instead.   It was pretty good- I like mine a little spicy with jalapenos.  Their avocado was kind of bland, though.  I guess I was expecting it to be more guacamole-ish.  I wonder if it wasn't totally avocado?  At least it added some creaminess.

 After a long drive, we got to Portland and spent some time with some dear friends.  We ended up opening presents before going to dinner or having cupcakes.

 Rose loved her new outfit.  It's very Rose.

We went to dinner at Veggie Grill, a 100% plant-based restaurant.  It was totally yummy and I got to have a "chicken" burger.  Lacy was thrilled to get to eat mac and cheese.  She never gets to eat that.

We decided to take a trip to the temple.  Here's the birthday girl at the visitor's center.

And off to the temple itself...

Of course, being the Pacific Northwest, it rains a little bit.  It was raining at the temple while we visited.  Which resulted in this spectacular event.

At one point, there was even a triple rainbow!

We made our way back to our friends' house and shared cupcakes with them.  Rose had a pretty awesome birthday!

The next day, Dave and I attended the wedding at the Portland temple, and at noon it was time for us to say goodbye. We had a fantastic trip.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Alliteration and a Menu

One of my favorite unsung heroes of the vegetable world is kale.  It is so delicious!  And full of controversy! So tonight we had one of my favorite dishes involving kale:  Cosmic Cashew Kale and Confetti Quinoa.  Say it out loud. I like to leave the chickpeas part out of the name because it's so much more fun to say without it, even though chickpeas are delicious.  I love the way the name of this dish sounds!

But even more, I love the way it tastes.  I wish I had made a double batch.  Oh well.  

Cosmic Cashew Kale and Chickpeas with Confetti Quinoa
The creamy sauce made from cashews really makes this dish delightful.  It's from Fat Free Vegan, probably my #1 source for vegan recipes.  I adore her recipes!  

My 6 year old disagrees that this dish is the bees knees, however, and said that it was not a make again meal.  Too bad for her, it's going into the regular rotation.  Dave and I both love it.  And Lacy likes it okay, so there's that, too.  

Anyway, Wednesday is payday, which means that Thursday is go-to-the-bank day.  And also errand running day, because I hate to waste gas by going out more than is necessary.

So that means that Wednesday is menu planning day and grocery list writing day.  Here is what I will be serving to my family in the upcoming week:

Thursday is my busy day, so it is leftover night.  Which is a lot of fun for me because that means my kids raid the fridge and get whatever they want to eat out of it, by themselves.  I'm fostering independence!

Friday:  Curry and rice.  I don't have a recipe for this because it's so simple.  I'll do a blog post on how to make this dinner soon.  It's probably my most popular dinner with the kids.

Saturday:  Tostadas.  It's another one without a recipe.  I'm keeping my weekend menu simple!  

Sunday:  I'm thinking Chocolate Strawberry Truffle Pie in a Chocolate pie crust.  Oh, for dinner, you say?  Hm, not going to do it today.  I'm not sure what kind of a vegan meal the kids are going to come up with, but I'm sure it will be edible!  

Monday:  Tortilla Soup, once again from Fat Free Vegan.  I use kale (of course) in this recipe.  Yum!

Wednesday:  Aztec Corn Soup

Thursday:  Leftovers

Friday:  Chili  

I really want to try the Quiche with Greens recipe, probably soon because I need to use up some spinach soon.

And maybe I'll suggest the black bean and potato nachos for Sunday dinner?  Looks pretty simple and tasty.  As long as I don't have to make it, I'm happy.  

Monday, May 06, 2013

Baked Tortilla Chips

I decided to try making tortilla chips again today and this time I took pictures!  I was really, really happy with how they turned out today.  

Here's what you need:  

So simple.  6 corn tortillas (or however many will fit on your cookie sheet), a little bit of lime, and sea salt.  I used a cookie sheet lined with a silicone mat to bake them on.

Preheat your oven to 350F.  

Cut the tortillas into wedges, 6-8 per tortilla.  Squirt with a little lime and sprinkle with salt.  Put in the oven for 10-18 minutes (watch them!  The original recipe I saw called for 12 minutes, but my oven took a little longer.  16 minutes is about perfect for this size of wedge in my oven.)

Fresh and warm out of the oven!

Yum yum!  Ready to eat.

I ate mine with a little fat free refried beans and salsa.  So good, and so much healthier than using fried tortilla chips.  And cheaper, too!

This snack has Ri's seal of approval!  He loved them.  No, he did not eat jam with his chips.  The jam was out because I found it on Lacy's bed.  What does that kid do when I'm not looking?

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Vegan at a Potluck, and my first recipe!

I've been vegan about 5 weeks now and today was one of the first social gatherings with non-family members hosting I've attended since starting to eat a vegan diet.

Thankfully, the theme was a Cinco de Mayo fiesta, so that usually works out quite well for us.  We didn't find out about this party until a few hours before, so I didn't have a lot of time to plan for something delicious and wonderful.  I ended up bringing some homemade guacamole and Dave brought a meat offering (venison seasoned to be a taco stuffing).  The guac was super simple- just four avocados, mashed, a little salt, and about 1/3-1/2 cup of pico de gallo that was locally made.  It was totally gone by the end of the party, and one lovely girl, who is about 10 years old or so, raved about how delicious it was.  What a sweetie!  I told her the recipe and she told her mom how easy it was to make.  I hope she learns to make it- it's such a simple thing that is so delicious.

I was able to eat the corn tortillas, Spanish rice, and a handful of toppings, so I made myself some rice tacos and topped them with onions, cilantro and of course guacamole.  Delicious!

I smelled the wonderful looking cheesecake bars and ate them through my nostrils.  They tasted delicious!  Had I actually eaten them, I would have enjoyed it while I was in the moment, and as soon as it was in my belly, I would have regretted it.  Thank goodness for willpower, and I think my sugar addiction has been kicked!  Wahoo!

Other Cinco de Mayo discoveries:  I can make tortilla chips in my oven! Two corn tortillas has about 1.5 grams of fat, and a batch of chips is about 6 tortillas, cut into triangles.  All I did was cut them up, put them on a pan lined with a silpat (parchment paper would work fine, too), squirt them with a little lime juice, add salt, and bake.  My oven was set for 350 and they baked for 17 minutes, but other instructions I saw said to bake for 12.  So oven time will vary!  The difference between my baked tortilla chips and the recipes I've seen elsewhere is that all the other baked tortilla chip recipes I've seen call for spraying the tortilla shell with cooking spray.  I don't ever buy cooking spray (I really don't like it for a lot of reasons) so I didn't have it on hand.  So I substituted the lime.  They turned out great and they are very low in fat and calories.

I just read on that a 7 chip serving of tortilla chips amounts to 140 calories and 7 grams fat.  Doesn't sound too bad, right?  But who really only stops at 7 tortilla chips?  I know I never did!  I suppose if you counted out 7 chips, it would be just fine for a snack.  But sometimes I want to crunch on chips for a while.  Eating my entire batch of tortilla chips (and I'm estimating that one corn tortilla is about the same as 7 tortilla chips) I consumed just 300 calories and 4.5 grams of fat.  I got even less fat then the 7 chip serving of regular tortilla chips!  Had I eaten an equivalent amount of regular tortilla chips, I would have eaten around 800 calories and eaten more than 40 grams of fat!  Perhaps I would have stopped sooner with the regular tortilla chips, but learning how much more fat and calories they have is pretty shocking to me.  Eating things that are low in fat means that I can eat more food in general while consuming fewer calories.  Which means I am able to eat until I'm full without worrying that I'm going to eat too many calories.  And the result of that?  Weight loss!

When I make tortilla chips again, I'll take some pictures of the process.  It is so easy. I've only ever fried tortillas to make chips before, and this is way easier and way healthier, too!

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Busy weekend, and progress!

I've been so busy lately!  I'm getting the garden ready to plant, trying to keep my house presentable, entertaining a 3 year old all day, trying to keep my 6 and 8 year olds on track at school and with violin, and I've been cooking up a storm of healthy, nutritious, low-fat vegan meals.

I've made a ton of progress on the garden, and actually got stuff planted (finally).  Yes, I was late this year.  Oh well.  I should still get a good harvest eventually!

The progress I'm most proud of is my weight loss!  I was 40 pounds above my pre-pregnancy weight and 50 pounds above my weight at my wedding.  I still can't believe it.  But since becoming a vegan on April 1, I have lost 11 pounds so far!  So now I'm only 29 pounds above my pre-pregnancy weight, and my BMI has dropped from a 28.1 to a 26.3.  So technically still overweight, but great progress nonetheless!    I only have to lose 9 more pounds before I'm considered normal weight.

But the biggest blessing of all has been the overall feeling of healthiness I've felt since going vegan.  I'm feeling more energetic and more motivated to get things done around the house and in the garden than ever before.  My menstrual cycles have already changed for the better- after just one month!  I'm seriously amazed.  I don't have a ton of health problems, so noticing any immediate improvement to my health was surprising!

I've been losing weight at a very steady pace of 2 pounds per week.  I hope I can keep this going to that by the time I go on my vacation this summer I won't overheat.  Which happens to me easily anyway.  That's another thing I've noticed- I'm not so hot all the time anymore.  Bonus!  And since I'm going to Arizona in the summer (I'm crazy, I know), I'm all for anything that will help keep me cool.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Canned Sweet Potatoes are Evil (and recipe review: Curried Cauliflower and Sweet Potato Soup)

Several years ago, we had Thanksgiving dinner with a large group of people.  Sweet potatoes have always been my favorite Thanksgiving offering as long as I can remember.  I like them no frills:  mashed with a little butter, salt and pepper.  Well, I have had to make them vegan for the last few years so I can't use real butter, but that's okay.  They still taste almost as good without butter.  That year, the sweet potatoes were canned.  I hadn't really had canned sweet potatoes before, so I assumed they were similar to fresh sweet potatoes.

I should have known better.

My oldest, who was probably about 4 at the time, took one bite and refused to eat any more sweet potatoes.


She is 8 1/2 and still doesn't like eating sweet potatoes.  But they're still my favorite, so I can't resist making a meal with sweet potatoes every so often.  And considering yesterday was one of the last cool days before we have a mini heat wave (Monday is predicted to get to 85!  For the Pacific Northwest, that's extremely warm for May), yesterday was the perfect day to make Curried Cauliflower and Sweet Potato Soup from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen.  Fat Free Vegan Kitchen (FFV) is one of my favorite websites to find recipe ideas.  I have not once had one of her recipes fail me.  They are all so delicious!  The Curried Cauliflower and Sweet Potato Soup is no exception.

Curried Cauliflower and Sweet Potato Soup

I could eat this soup every day.  It's perfect:  cauliflower, sweet potatoes, chickpeas, and just a hint of heat.  Now Lacy especially didn't eat much of this soup so I also offered some apple and cucumber slices at the table.  I understand that sweet potatoes aren't something she enjoys, so I like to offer an additional food item.  While I'd prefer her to eat what I serve, I think more damage would be done if I forced her to "clean her plate" or eat a food she didn't like. I asked that she please eat one bite of sweet potato, which she did.  She also ate out all the cauliflower and chick peas, so there's that.

Uriah, my 3 year old, ate his entire bowl.  There was about one or two tablespoons worth of soup left in the bottom of the bowl- mostly tomatoes (his least favorite food, unless it comes in spaghetti sauce-form).  So at least *some* of my kids thought it was delicious!

I adore this soup and will make it again when the weather gets cool.  Also perhaps when I happen to realize my particular meal plan isn't going to work out for that night and I have cauliflower and sweet potatoes lying around.  Which is what happened last night.  This soup was plan B.  And what a delicious plan B it turned out to be!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Recipe Review: Green Powerhouse Pesto Plate & Raw Lemon Bars

One of my favorite flavors is fresh basil.  Too bad I can't make it grow.  I eat the heck out of basil.

RIP Basil.  I didn't even get it into the ground before it died this time.

So I was excited to see the Green Powerhouse Pesto Plate on Oh She Glows.  Doesn't it look yummy?

greengoddessbowl 2638 thumb2   Green Powerhouse Pesto Plate

Yum, right?

What I liked about the meal was that it uses millet!  I don't often get to use millet, and when I do use it, it is ground up as flour and baked.   Also:  basil!  The dressing was a pesto-type dressing made with avocado and basil.  Yum!

Dave and I loved this meal.  So good!  I thought the dressing was a bit too lemony, so I ended up adding a handful of pine nuts in the blender with the dressing to mellow it out a bit.  I will add only one tablespoon of lemon when I make this in the future.  And I will make this again when my zucchini is producing like crazy!

I like to make desserts on Mondays (for Family Home Evening, our family night).  I found this recipe on Whole New Mom which linked me back to Oatmeal With a Fork where I found this recipe for Lemon Bars.  These aren't just any lemon bars- they are grain-free, vegan and raw.  WHAT?  Oh my goodness!  I can feed that to everyone in my family!  Not only am I vegan, but my husband is allergic to wheat and several other foods, and all three kids are allergic to eggs and a few other things (and we have hens.  So Dave eats the eggs by himself).  So life gets a bit complicated around here.  I get super excited when I find a food that is safe, or easily adaptable, for my family.  And even this had to be slightly adapted for my family's allergy needs.

I saw this picture and I had to make it.


Normally I like making things fat free.  It's part of the whole Eat to Live philosophy.  These are not fat free.  Nor can they be adaptable to be fat free.  The delicious lemony topping?  Made from mostly coconut oil.

But boy, are they good!  I think I can splurge once in a while on something so delicious.  Especially since it's become necessary to hike up my pants lately.  I think I need to add a belt.  But I'm not buying new pants until I've lost the 40 pounds I intend to lose.  Well, I might buy them when I have lost 30 pounds.

Anyway, I ended up having to use hazelnuts because my husband is allergic to walnuts and my daughter is allergic to pecans, which is the substitute I used to use when recipes called for walnuts.  Hazelnuts were a good substitute and they turned out great.  I added a couple pinches of turmeric so my lemon bars were quite a bit more yellow.  Actually I added what I needed and the 3 year old decided he really would be disappointed if he didn't get to help, and I'm a sucker for his cute face so we added extra.

They were rich, to be sure, and not one of my kids could finish their entire bar.  So instead of having my own bar, I just finished up theirs.  I'll make this again when I have lemons. Well, maybe I'll wait until I drop another 10 pounds before making this again!  Indulgent?  Yes.  But worth it for a little bit of bliss! And certainly healthier than ice cream, right?