Monday, January 24, 2011

Where's My Wagon

Oh, I am so sorry. Here I start a new blog with all of these great intentions and get you all excited and. . . I stop posting!

Sick husband, sick kids, my part-time job (that seems more full-time than part-time sometimes), blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I guess you could say that life has been lobbing itself at me lately. Has anyone else noticed that when things get rocky, carbs and dairy seem to call your name? Loudly? Or is it just me that hears the siren song of All Things So Very Bad Yet So Very Yummy?

I did promise to keep it real on this blog, so I am just being honest: I have fallen off of the wagon. Hard.

I am not eating red meat, I am making healthy choices whenever possible (I ordered oatmeal at McDonald's last week!), and I am still making mostly detox-friendly dinners. But I have also had the following over the weekend: Coffee with with creamer, chicken in thai lettuce wraps, and. . . cheesecake. Oh, sweet, sinful, amazingly yummy cheesecake.

Want to know something? It all tasted amazing, but I don't feel good. I have headaches, feel fuzzy, and my system has alternated between being stopped up and. . . well. No need to be that honest.

Also, an interesting thing that I have noticed? I am hungry all of the time. Even after the cheesecake, I still wanted to eat. Even though I am consuming a ridiculous amount of calories and fat, it isn't satisfying. I eat something and feel. . . empty. I start foraging for something else to make me feel satiated within minutes of my last meal.

The scale has been slowing creeping back up. Nothing that anyone would notice but me, but I also notice a bit more bloat and that the jeans I so proudly fit into three weeks ago are still fitting, but not as well.

M is still going strong. I am so proud of his dedication. He was tested for celiac disease and the bloodwork came back negative, so he did add gluten back in, but he didn't love the way it made him feel.

All is not lost. I am still making a lot of healthier choices. We have gotten rid of a lot of the crap we had around the house and I have no plans to replace it. Overall, I am still eating far better than I was before, but I guess I just know how good I can feel when I eat even better.

So, I am going to rededicate myself to eating better this week. No sweets, no dairy, increasing the fruits and veggies. I am leaving gluten in for now and focusing on whole grains. But overall, I am going back to basics.

More recipes to come this week!

Friday, January 14, 2011


Heather asked some questions and I also tend to get the same questions repeatedly IRL. While recipes are important, I think it's also good to hear about the day to day experiences of eating this way and how it affects our lives beyond feeling better and losing some weight.

What Do the Kids Eat?

Emma is just starting solids. She has mostly breastmilk, an occasional supplemental formula bottle, rice cereal, and homemade, sugar-free applesauce.

Will eats mostly what we are eating, especially at dinner. However, I am still serving him dairy (2% milk, cheese, yogurt, etc.) and meat. He mostly eats chicken (the boy loves his nuggets) and turkey, he also loves his Gramma's meatloaf and she sends us home with frozen slices of it that make a great supplement to our meal. I am fortunate, in that he likes raw veggies (he'll ask for baby carrot and cucumber slices) and loves fruits (he begs for grapes and apples). He does still love Goldfish crackers and macaroni and cheese and general "kid foods" and we just try to keep those things as special treat.

I find that more and more of our choices are leaning towards organic foods for the kids. We give Will organic milk. We choose organic for fruits and veggies that I cannot thoroughly wash.


Heather asked how long it takes to put the tortilla soup on the table. I will admit that I didn't look at the clock that night, but I think maybe 30 minutes, start to serve? You do have to simmer this a bit longer than other soups, to get the tortillas to "melt" into the broth. But seriously, that soup is pretty fast and easy, it's a great starter recipe. You could even put cooked shredded chicken in it, too, if you were wanting to add a protein source.

Most meals that I make do not take any more time than meals I was making before. I have learned a lot of shortcuts along the way, like making a double or triple batch of the basic roux or roasting enough veggies for several meals at once. I also am coming up with more and more "easy" dinners to make, like the chili (that's a fast one! - you don't even have to cook the meat - you could have that one on the table in 20 minutes) and also I made some black bean tacos this week that I made in TEN minutes. Ten.

I will confess that I enjoy cooking and always have. I find it soothing to chop, slice, stir, and create. An hour in the kitchen can feel like mere seconds. I have heard there are people that feel this way about cleaning. Not me. I enjoy making the messes, but not so much the cleaning up.

Grocery Bill/Costs

While our grocery bill has stayed about the same (we are buying way less meat, cheese, dairy, junk foods, etc. BUT we are buying more fresh fruit and veggies in the off season and more specialty ingredients like vegetable stock and coconut milk), our going out bill has been reduced dramatically - to nothing. There is very little we can eat from a restaurant and it makes no sense to go out and spend money on a meal we can't eat. We were relying way too much on eating out or grabbing something on the way home through a drive-thru. When I go shopping, I use coupons, shop sales, and buy bulk when I can to save money. Overall, we are spending less money that we were before.

Are You Really A Vegan?

No. A vegan is not just dietary restriction, it is a lifestyle. Veganism is an ideology and lifestyle whose adherents seek to eliminate what they see as the exploitation of animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose. The most common reasons for veganism are ethical concerns about animal rights or welfare, health, environmental concerns, and spiritual or religious concerns. Vegan advocacy organizations generally regard animals to have some form of rights, and therefore consider it unethical to use animals in ways that infringe those rights (definition from Wikipedia). While M and I both love animals, and I cringe when I think about animals being mistreated, we haven't chosen to eat this way for that reason. We are trying to eat better and feel better.

Do You Ever Cheat?

Yes. I have. I regretted it. I actually promised you that story, so I will share it now. We went to McDonald's on New Year's Eve with some friends. I was going to have a salad, but we got in line and the Big Mac called my name. I had been talking about indulging for days. M encouraged me to eat it and I did.

Oh, I so did.

It was everything a Big Mac should be. It was Big, it was Mac. It was cheese and meat and cheese and meat and special sauce and did I mention the cheese? I face planted in that thing.

Within about ten minutes of eating it, it felt as if I had a Big Mac Boulder in my stomach. Within twenty minutes, I was on the toilet. I ended up being on the toilet for the rest of the afternoon.

Lesson learned.

Now, don't get me wrong. I don't think meat is evil. I especially don't think cheese is evil. But when you haven't had either for five weeks, it might be best to start a bit slower.

In all seriousness, I don't consider it "cheating" if I eat something that isn't "on the plan." For me, this is a not an "all or nothing" situation. My husband is a person that has to have rules. If he has a "bite" of something, it snowballs into three weeks and ten pounds later. For me, I can eat 98% great and still have an occasional bite of brownie or piece of cheese. I just try to make my occasional splurge a healthy choice. The entire goal of doing the detox was to cleanse our bodies, retrain ourselves how to eat real food, and hopefully feel a bit better in the process. As I feel I accomplished all of that (and more!), I try not to beat myself up when I make a less-than-ideal choice.

What Other Questions Do You Have For Me?

Oh, and I promise that I will post about salad dressings and pizza this week! Last week kind of got away with me!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Roasted Vegetables

This is a staple in our house lately. These veggies are so amazing. If you've never roasted vegetables, then you are in for a treat. Not only are they so simple to make, but the roasting process brings out incredible flavor.


1/4 - 1/2 c. olive oil (or even more if you are roasting a lot of veggies)

Freshly cracked black pepper

Sea salt

A variety of the following vegetables in the quantities you'd like (the quantities that I usually do are in parentheses - remember, I like to have these for leftovers, so I make enough in one roasting for at least two meals):

Roma tomatoes, thickly sliced (6) (Roma tomatoes hold up really well to the roasting process, but you can use other tomatoes if you have those on hand)

Artichoke hearts (6)

Kalamata olives, pitted and halved (two generous handfuls)

Whole button mushrooms or thickly sliced portabellas

Peeled garlic cloves (I just use a whole head, but I love me some gahlic)

Red pepper, deseeded and sliced (1)

Green pepper, deseeded and sliced (1)

Red onion, quartered (1)

Mayan sweet onion, quartered (2)


Take a large jelly roll pan (or any shallow baking sheet or baking dish, the only important thing is that it must have sides) and drizzle a general amount of olive oil on it.

Place all of your veggies (except tomatoes if you are using those) on top of the oil. Drizzle another generous portion of oil on top of those. Then salt and pepper pretty generously (I never measure, just kind of sprinkle, so it's hard for me to give measurements). You can then use a basting brush if you're shy about getting your hands dirty, but I like to just use my fingers to make sure the salt, pepper, and oil gets all over the vegetables.

Then, place the pan in the oven for 15 minutes.

At 15 minutes, remove the vegetables from the oven, use a spatula or tongs to flip them and add the tomatoes if roasting them. I also will occasionally throw some fresh basil leaves on top at this point, especially if I know I'm using the veggies for spaghetti. Add another drizzle of olive oil and put back into the oven for another 10 - 15 minutes.

Vegetables are done when they are soft and tender. They will start to get that blackened/roasted look, with a char on the edges. If you don't like the char, you can take foil and cover the veggies, which will help prevent that.

Some uses for these vegetables:

1) Added to curries, soups, spaghetti sauces, etc. (recipes coming for each of these).

2) Put between two slices of gluten-free bread with a spread of hummus.

3) On a bed of mixed greens with a sprinkle of basalmic vinegar and sunflower seeds over them (this is my favorite lunch, I could eat it every day).

4) Tossed with gluten-free pasta and a little bit more olive oil. Sprinkle with nutritional yeast.

5) Take a huge leaf of butter or romaine lettuce, add brown rice and roasted veggies for a great wrap (this one is also great to take on the go).

How do you use roasted vegetables? What others do you roast that I haven't listed here?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tortilla Soup

This is an easy dinner that is great for cold nights.


1 TBS oil
1/2 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, diced
1 TBS ground cumin
1 TBS chili powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. dried basil
1 14.5 oz. can of diced tomatoes with green chiles
2 cups vegetable stock
1 c. frozen (or canned) corn niblets
1 c. black beans
12 corn tortillas, sliced into strips
Optional 3 TBS chopped fresh cilantro (and more for garnish)


Heat oil over medium heat.

Saute onion until soft.

Add garlic and saute until fragrant.

Increase heat to medium high and add tomatoes, spices (except fresh cilantro), beans, corn, and vegetable stock.

Heat until boiling.

Reduce heat to medium and add tortilla strips.

Add cilantro 10 minutes before serving.

I served this with fresh chopped tomatoes, olives, and guacamole - extra tortilla chips for dipping! I also did a salad on the side, with mixed greens, corn, black beans, avocado, and salsa for dressing.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Let's Talk Lentils

I had never cooked with lentils prior to starting this new way of eating. Let me tell you, lentils will be a staple in my pantry moving forward, regardless of how we eat. Lentils are:

1) Economical.

2) Easy to prepare.

3) Versatile.

4) Delicious.

Here is just one of my favorite ways to prepare lentils. I have a few more up my sleeve, but this is what I am making for dinner tonight. Can't wait! I got the original recipe here (this site is phemonenal for gluten-free cooking) , but I tweaked it a bit to make it vegan. This recipe calls for red lentils, which are softer, creamier, and (for lack of a better descriptor) sweeter than brown lentils. I have used brown lentils for this, too. They are more savory and have more of a "bite" to them (they are firm, even after cooking). After using both, I much prefer the red lentils for this recipe, but the brown lentils worked okay, too, if that's what you have on hand/can find in your local grocery store. You could also add tofu to this recipe if you are eating soy and needed an extra texture to satisfy your palette. Heck, if you aren't eating vegan, adding pieces of cooked chicken to this would be amazing, too. I love finding recipes that are so delicious, I will keep making them even if/when we return to a "normal' diet.

Curry Red Lentils and Rice (Original Recipe courtesy of Jackie's Kitchen)

1. Prep.

-1 onion, diced (I used half a red onion)
-3 cloves garlic, minced (I used 1 TBS of the pre-minced garlic-in-a-jar)

2. Cook.

In a medium sauce pot, combine:

-1/2 cup red lentils, picked through and washed
-the onion
-the garlic
-1.5 cups vegetable broth
-1 15.6 oz can of coconut milk

Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. After the 25 minutes, add:

-1/2 cup dry rice (I used basmati)
-3/4 tsp sea salt
-1/4 tsp turmeric
-1/2 tsp good curry powder (I doubled this, because M and I love curry flavor)
-1/2 tsp ground coriander
-1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until the rice is tender and the liquid has been absorbed. Remove the cover from the pot and cook for another couple of minutes to dry things out a little.

4. Remove the rice and lentils from the heat. In a small pan, melt 2 Tbsps butter and stir-fry 1.5 tsp cumin seeds until fragrant and they begin to darker. Drizzle the butter-cumin mixture over the lentils and fluff with a fork. (I used 2 tbs. olive oil and flax seeds for this step. I'd like the try the cumin seeds sometime, but I liked the texture that the flax seeds added.)

This is so rich and satisying, I guarantee you will not feel as if you are on any sort of "diet." The lentils add a low-fat protein source and it is perfect for a cold night where you need something warm and filling.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Basic Roux

In looking over what M and I ate "pre-Detox," I realized that we ate a lot of things with sauces. These sauces usually started in some jar or box form or if I went crazy and made something homemade, then the sauce started with a roux. If you are not familiar with a roux, it contains flour and butter, both of which are no-no's on our eating plan.

So. . . how to make a rich, flavorful base for a sauce that will also thicken it?

Turns out, veggies are the answer.


3 TBS olive oil
1 cup diced sweet onion
2 carrots, peeled and shredded
1 green pepper diced
2 cloves of garlic minced
Enough vegetable stock to puree

Saute all ingredients except the garlic in the olive oil or medium heat until soft. You don't want to carmelize the onions, just get them tender enough to puree.

After vegetables are done, add the garlic and saute until just fragrant.

Remove from heat and allow to come to room temperature, approximately 20 minutes on the counter or you can put the sauteed veggies in a bowl and put that in the fridge or freezer to speed up the process. You don't want to blend hot things, as this can create a vacuum in your blender, which will basically "explode" when you take the lid off. Not only will this create a mess, but it can actually be dangerous if things are hot. I tell you this as someone who has cleaned this mess off of my ceiling!

After your veggies have cooled, transfer to a blender (I use my Magic Bullet) and puree them until smooth, adding a splash of vegetable stock to get things moving (but only a splash at a time, you want this mixture to be very thick - like a paste).

And now you have a roux! This will add so much flavor to your sauces and think of all of the vegetables that you are using already.

You can use this basic roux to make just about any sauce, simply by adding the appropriate spices or just changing up the veggies just a bit. We'll get to specific recipes (curry, marinara, enchilada sauce) later on, but this gives you a jumping off point. You can also use this roux to thicken soups or chilis.

I have taken to doubling or even tripling this basic recipe and then freezing it in smaller portions so that when I am ready to make dinner, I already have most of the work done!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Christmas 2010

When we started our Vegan Detox immediately after Thanksgiving, it was intitially supposed to be for one week. I was hoping to talk M into two weeks. Little did I know that he would be leading the charge to keep detoxing. . . through Christmas! I knew it would be challenging, but I was up for it.

We had dinner at the in-laws this year and it was its usual smorgasboard of gluttony, amazing, tasty, lip-smacking gluttony. There was not one thing that would be on the table that wouldn't be off limits to us. I have to stop and say that my mother-in-law has been so supportive about our efforts to eat better. Obesity runs in M's family and she wants to do everything she can to help us.

While my MIL was willing to help out, I also believed that the burden to ensure we ate healthfully on Christmas was on me. The challenges in deciding what to bring is that it had to be something that I could make here, would travel well, and that I could make a lot of so others could also eat it, but then would freeze well in case other people turned up their noses at my offering. So, I decided to bring this soup, which I adapted to make detox-friendly*. M loved this, which was surprising, since he is not a soup fan. I think it was the chunks of gluten-free bread that you stir in at the end, which makes it thicker and almost creamy. I also brought a huge salad (mixed greens with corn, black beans, cherry tomatoes, green pepper, and a cilantro-lime vinaigrette), sliced veggies, hummus, tortilla chips, and guacamole.

My SIL also made us gluten-free brownies (she didn't know about the vegan/sugar-free part of our detox). These were not vegan or sugar-free, so M politely refused them, but I couldn't resist a taste. And, ohmygoodness, those brownies were pure heaven. I highly recommend making these if you are only doing gluten-free eating/baking. The one thing I noticed, however, is that they tasted super sweet, almost too sugary. I think it's because I hadn't had any sort of sweetener for almost a month at that point. The brownies were very, very good, but just a tiny little bite was enough for me.

We tried to be as inconspicuous as possible with the fact that we were forgoing the ham and scalloped potatoes in favor of tomato soup and salad. But you want to know something? The soup was really, really good. I'm not saying it was good as in, "Oh, it was good, but too bad we couldn't have the ham." No, as in, it was so rich, satisfying, and tasty that regardless of whether or not we are eating this way next year, I think it might just become a holiday tradition for us.

The most difficult thing for me to avoid was the plate of Aunt N's famous Christmas Cookies (she makes about a dozen different varieties every year, including my nemesis; fudge) but the bite of brownie addressed my sugary cravings.

M said that it was really easy for him to eat healthfully and that he didn't really crave or miss anything. I think it helped that ham and scalloped potatoes are not his favorite meal.

*Adapted Recipe For Pappa Al Pomodoro (orginal recipe posted at the

3 tablespoons cold pressed extra-virgin olive oil (eh, just used regular olive oil here)
3 cloves garlic, crushed (I got fancy with the garlic. I roasted a head of garlic the day before, using this method. It gave the soup an amazing flavor.)
1/2 teaspoon crushed dried hot peppers
1 (12-ounce) can peeled whole tomatoes
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup water (changed this to 1/4 cup vegetable stock)
1/3 loaf day old French or Italian bread (drier the better) (I used a gluten-free/dairy free bread that I left out on the counter for a couple of days and then cut into cubes.)
20 fresh basil leaves, torn

Here is where I got creative and added to the recipe the following:
2 cups of fresh spinach
1 can of cannellini beans, drained
(I stirred both of these after I added the vegetable stock.)

In a medium pot over medium-high heat, add olive oil and crushed garlic. When the garlic flavors infuse oil, add the crushed peppers being careful not to burn them. Add the whole can of tomatoes into the pot, then using a wooden spatula cut the tomatoes into chunks. Add salt and ground black pepper, to taste. (Remember, bread chunks will be added to this so make it a bit saltier then you would like it to be.) Add water (I used the vegetable stock) and stir. This is where I added the spinach, just stirring it in until it wilts and "melts" into the broth and the can of beans. With your hands, pull the bread into bite-sized chunks, then add them to the pot. "Toss" (do not stir) bread chunks in to the soup. Add basil leaves, lightly toss, serve.

Cook's Notes:
I got this soup all the way to the "simmer" stage on my stove, with all ingredients except the bread added. Then I transferred this to my crockpot and kept it on low until we were ready to travel. Once we got to my MIL's, it just simmered on low until about a half hour before we were ready to eat. I then switched the power setting to "warm". I put out the bread chunks in a bowl next to the crockpot and a bottle of red pepper flakes so people could toss their own bread and spice it up accordingly.


Three Bean Chili

Tonight's dinner was chili. So simple and easy, so flavorful and filling.


1 TBS oil (any oil works, but I used olive oil)
1/2 red (or any color) onion, diced
1 green (or any color) pepper, diced
1 TBS chopped garlic
2 cans of diced tomatoes
1 can black beans
1 can pinto beans
1 can kidney beans
2 TBS ground cumin
1/8th tsp red pepper flakes (more or less to taste)
1 tsp salt (more or less to taste)
1/4 tsp black pepper (more or less to taste)
1 tsp chili powder (check this for gluten)
2 TBS fresh chopped cilantro (omit if you don't like cilantro - can substitute basil or oregano - use 1 tsp if using dried)
1 tube soyrizo (check this for gluten)


In a large skillet or dutch oven, saute onions and pepper in oil over medium heat until onions are transparent and soft.

Add soyrizo and break up. Add garlic at this time and cook until just fragrant.

Add remainder of spices, beans, and one can of diced tomato. Puree the other can of diced tomatoes in a blender and add.

Simmer for anywhere from 20 minutes til ready to eat.

Serve with garnishes such as diced fresh tomato and onion, fresh cilantro, soy (check for gluten) cheese, tortilla chips, olives (check for gluten), and salsa (check for gluten and sugar).

Cook's Notes
You can use any variety of beans that you'd like
You can use dried beans, simply soak overnight before preparing
I also like to serve this over a baked potato for a different yummy treat.
My husband likes things spicy, but I often try to serve Will whatever we are eating as well, so these spice guidelines will make it flavorful, but not necessarily "spicy." To make it hotter, add more chili power and pepper flakes. I usually just put a bottle of red pepper flakes and/or hot sauce at the table so M can adjust to his preferences.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Snack Ideas

Here are some of my favorite snack ideas.

Sliced apple and almond butter (check for sugar gluten).

Veggies and hummus.

Tortilla chips (check for gluten) and guacamole and/or salsa (check for sugar/gluten).

Celery and almond butter.

Lentil curls from Trader Joe's.

Almond butter & banana quesadillas:

Take two corn tortillas (check for gluten)
Spread almond butter over one tortilla
Add banana slices on top of that
Put another tortilla on top.
Fry with just a teensy bit of oil until crispy on both sides.
This is one of my favorites if I am craving something sweet. It will definitely hit the spot!

Baked banana:

Take one (or two! or more!) bananas and peel. Slice down the middle, lengthwise.
Place in oven-safe cooking dish.
Sprinkle with cinnamon and just a dash of nutmeg.
Drizzle with a splash of lemon juice.
Bake at 400 for 15 - 20 minutes.
Serve warm.
(You can dice apples and add them to this, too. This is a recipe that I used to make with butter and sugar. I'm telling you, it tastes just as good without the added sugar and fat.)

What do you like to eat for healthy snacks?

Monday, January 3, 2011

What Friends Will Say

If you are going to do a vegan detox, prepare yourself for the reactions of family and friends to be lukewarm at best. We had everything from people outright laughing at us (don't really blame them) to people accusing me of harming Emma by not eating properly while breastfeeding.

First things first, I checked with my OB and Emma's pediatrician before embarking on this detox. I wanted to make sure that both of our nutritional needs were being met. My OB's nurse looked over a sample menu for a week of meals and said, "If only everyone ate this well while breastfeeding!" My OB wholeheartedly endorsed it.

Emma's pediatrician mentioned that the increase in soy and other beans might increase Emma's gassiness. She simply said that if that happened, I should add another lean protein source in, like chicken or fish. I only noticed an increase one time, and that was after eating a soy burger, so I didn't eat one of those again.

The thing is that when people hear the word vegan followed by the word detox, they start making assumptions and don't really stop to listen to what we are eating.

I have to tell you, the very best our family has ever eaten is when we started this detox. Everything that I am making is made from scratch. Where I used to reach for a packet of this or a can of that, now I make it, myself, from whole food sources.

It does require some creativity, meal planning, and it would probably help if you enjoyed cooking, too. But that's what I am here for! I can inspire you to try new recipes, give you some knowledge on how to eat a bit better, and help you learn from my mistakes. I made some meals that missed the mark and weren't very good, to put it mildly. But I have to say, I also have made some meals that are amazing (I know, it sounds conceited, but seriously, when you make a healthy meal that tastes insanely good, it feels good, too!).

So, prepare yourself for the criticism and skepticism at first. Then watch their attitudes change as you start looking and feeling better!

Who is laughing now?