Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The End Is Really Just the Beginning

I wanted to give an update on my healthy journey that I started back in April 2011. That was 10 months ago! It has been a great journey with twists and turns along the way. I have learned a LOT! But the learning never stops so neither does the journey.
In April I weighed over 230 lbs. I suffered from allergies, asthma, snoring, aches and pains and other annoying issues. It wasn't just me that was suffering. My husband had been diagnosed with diabetes 2 years prior. It was time to make some changes! My goal was to lose 80 lbs.
We did make changes, big changes! We went from eating a typical western diet, to finishing all the meat in our large freezer, to eating a completely plant based diet. Also known as a vegan diet. I prefer the term plant based because many foods are vegan (oreo cookies), yet not all of them are good for you or your health.
The changes that were happening on the outside of my body were obvious. I was losing weight, my skin looked great. But the first big thing that I noticed was that my allergies disappeared! I no longer would wake up through out the night with a stuffy nose. My eyes no longer were itchy and watery through out the day. My snoring stopped. Then about 4 or 5 months into my journey I got the urge to start running! This is amazing because I HATED running. Plus it always triggered or made my asthma worse (if I was having an episode of asthma). But I couldn't resist my longing to run anymore. So I ran! I remember the first time being shocked that I didn't experience any wheezing during or after running. I have not had any breathing problems since. Actually, I've hardly even had a cold.
So how is this end really just the beginning? Well, I've lost 78 lbs. I've gone from a size 2x/22W to a size s/8! I have been waiting for those last two pounds to come off. But my body seems to think that it is right where it is supposed to be. After doing some research (I have a medium body frame) I found out that I am at a point of maintanence. Which means, I just need to maintain my current weight.
This is the point where most diets fail. You hit your mark and think, "I'm done". You stop the diet and the weight starts coming back. This why it is SO important to make lifestyle changes that you can stick with for a LIFETIME.
I have been thinking of those last two pounds for a couple of weeks now. I could cut a few of my (healthy) snacks out of my day or maybe try those shakes I hear so much about. But the truth is they are not reasonable changes that I can continue. So no, I am going to be happy and pleased with the journey! It's been great! It's been more than just physical. It's been a spiritual journey as well. I am SO thankful for God's presence in my life!
Besides, summer is around the corner. I always lose a couple pounds during the summer. :-)

Note: I wanted to also comment on my husband, Roque's progress. He is no longer taking medicines for his diabetes! He has lost over 60 lbs and continues to lose. He is now training for the Tough Mudder. May the Lord be with him, lol :-)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Spicy Chickpea Burgers

Vegan and vegetarians alike are always looking for something that comes close to replacing the hamburger. For myself, I realize that a hamburger is a hamburger. Nothing is going to really substitute for it. Which is just fine with me! I never really cared for hamburgers with the exception of In n Out Burgers.

For the vegan there are many things that we call "substitutions" for the burger. The veggie burger is the most popular. Like many, I don't really care for the store bought varieties. Most of them are not vegan anyways, having cheese and eggs in them. But these are easy to make at home (I believe I have my own recipe on here, months back). Black bean burgers may look more like beef does. But it definitely does not have the same texture. I made them once and wasn't even impressed with the flavor. I was so disappointed that I haven't attempted them again. If anyone has a recipe that they like, feel free to send it my way!

I love chickpeas (garbanzo beans). They are very versatile and are used to made a variety of meat substitutes that are pretty close to the real thing in texture. So when I saw a recipe for Spicy Chickpea Burgers I knew that I would have to give it a try. You can find the original recipe here. Of course I did make a change or two to the recipe.

Makes 12-14 burgers.

1 red bell pepper
1 large onion
30 ounces or 2 cans chickpeas (drained)
2 flax eggs (2 tbsp. flaxmeal w/6 tbsp. water)
2 tbsp cumin
2tbsp chili powder
2 tsp garlic powder
1 cup plain bread crumbs
2/3 cup vital wheat gluten
4 tsp (or more) thai spice or other hot sauce

In food processor blend onion and bell pepper until chunky. Add chickpeas and blend well. It's ok to have bits of chickpeas.

In large mixing bowl mix cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, bread crumbs, and vital wheat gluten. Add chickpea mixture, flax eggs and hot sauce. Mix well with a heavy spoon or your hands.

Form into patties and place on a cookie sheet. These have the consistency of ground beef when you are forming them. Place the cookie sheet in the freezer. Once the patties are frozen (3-4 hrs) put in a ziplock bag and store in the freezer until ready to use.

These can be grilled, pan cooked or baked. For cooking on the grill or the stove-top, keep frozen until ready to cook. If you want to bake them, defrost then bake at 375 degrees for about 20-30 minutes (10-15 minutes each side).

I will not claim that these taste like a hamburger. They don't. They taste better!

Baseball season is just around the corner. We will be eating 2-3 meals at the fields during the week. Making these in advance makes it a breeze to take them out of the freezer as needed. Just cook them up, wrap them in foil and put them in the cooler (or warmer).

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Pumpkin Pie Brownie Bites

Some of my favorite things used to be ice cream, chocolate, coffee, In n Out Burger and Taco Bell. Most of these cravings I don't experience since adopting a healthy lifestyle. It's kind of amazing that I can now easily turn my nose up to ice cream. The thought of In n Out Burger makes my stomach turn. I love that my days are so easy to start without needing a cup of coffee. For some reason that I don't understand, I still crave Taco Bell. But only if I think about it! So I don't!! The other craving that I still have is for chocolate. It's a craving that I give into at least once a month. It makes it easier to give into it when I can do so guilt free.

I found a-not so guilt free- recipe that got my chocolate craving revving a couple of days ago. You can find the original recipe here. It is getting easier to change recipes to my liking. To me, guilt free means no fat or oil. I don't count calories.

This is a two part recipe. Don't let that scare you. It is really quick and easy!

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 12 ct. muffin tin.

Brownie Pumpkin Layer:

Mix in large bowl:
1 cup canned or pureed pumpkin
1/2 cup + 3 TBSP raw sugar
1/4 cup of unsweetened applesauce
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Mix in small bowl:
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 TBSP cornstarch
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 baking soda

Add dry ingredients to wet and stir well. Add about a TBSP of brownie mixture to each muffin tin until mix is gone.

Pumpkin Pie Layer:

Mix in large bowl:
1 cup of pumpkin
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 TBSP almond milk

Mix in small bowl:
1/3 cup raw sugar
2 TBSP cornstarch
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Add wet ingredients slowly, while stirring, to dry ingredients. Mix well. Using a small measuring cup, pour enough in each muffin tin to just cover the brownie mixture, making sure you have enough for each one. Use all the mixture.

Bake for 30 minutes. Cool for 20 minutes at room temperature. Then cool in fridge to chill for 1 to 2 hrs.

This satisfied my chocolate craving!!

I have curently lost 77 lbs. That puts me 3 lbs. away from my goal!
My hubby, Roque, has lost 58 lbs. But even better that that, he is no longer taking medication for diabetes!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Not Your Traditional Ciabatta Bread

Tonight for dinner we are having BBQ Seitan and Coleslaw Sandwiches. You really shouldn't use regular ol hamburger buns for this sandwich...but I was not feeling up to searching in the local markets for the "right" bread. So I thought, "I can do this myself." I used my pizza dough recipe and inadvertently omitted the oil, without consequence!

I think these will be perfect with tonight's dinner.

5 cups whole wheat flour

2 packs active dry yeast (or 4.5 tsp from the jar)
1 tsp salt
2 cups warm water

Mix 2 1/2 cups of flour and other dry ingredients until combined. Add warm water. mix with mixer on high for 3 min. making sure it is mixing well.

Slowly add more flour and mix with a spoon. Then turn out on counter and knead while mixing in as much of the remaining flour as you can until dough is stiff and smooth.

Divide dough and cover with towel. Let rest ten minutes. Roll dough out in a rectangle shape. Not to thin. You want it to be thicker that pan pizza dough.

Spray two cookie sheets and transfer dough. Cover with towel and let rise in a warm place for 30-45 minutes.

Heat oven to 400 and bake for 20 minutes. Cut into desired sizes. Mine are generous. Slice like you would a bun.

Made 8 generous rolls.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Double Chocolate Vegan Cake

Birthdays can be a little more challenging when you can't fall back on your tried and true cake recipes. It's all new this year, as I seek vegan recipes that are special enough for that special day. This cake definitely fits in this category. Its got a great depth of flavor which makes standard cakes taste like sponges in comparison.

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup raw sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup cocoa
1 cup water
1 cup Veganaise (vegan Mayonnaise)
1/4 cup applesauce
2 tsp vanilla
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 350F.
First mix together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and cocoa in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together the water, Veganaise, applesauce, vanilla, and apple cider vinegar. Once the wet ingredients are mixed together, add them to the dry ingredients and blend with a mixer for about 2 minutes, scraping the sides as you go.
Once the dry and wet ingredients have been well mixed, pour into a greased 9x13 cake pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes. When a toothpick poked in the center of the cake comes out dry, it’s done. Let the cake cool for 10-15 minutes before frosting.


3/4 cup raw sugar
6 tbsp Soy milk
6 tbsp Earth Balance® Natural Buttery Spread
1 cup vegan chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli)

Melt together the sugar, soy milk, and buttery spread in a small saucepan over medium heat. Boil for 1 minute and take off the stove. Stir in 1 cup of chocolate chips. Stir in until the chips are completely melted. If your frosting is too runny, let it sit on your counter for about 20 minutes or refrigerate for 5-7 minutes until it's reached a good spreading consistency.

This cake is very rich, moist and full of depth. In the past (pre-vegan), I would usually have to throw out extra birthday cake. This cake was almost gone the night of the birthday. The next day it was polished off!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Some Success, Some Failures, Some Leftovers!

Thanksgiving this year was anything but traditional, and that's ok! We declined a couple of invites and decided on a low key day at home...well, low key for everyone except the person in the kitchen! It was a pretty busy day!
When we decided to have our Very Vegan Thanksgiving, I got busy on making the Thanksgiving dinner menu. I pulled recipes from Isa Chandra's Veganomicon Cookbook, Lindsay Nixon's Happy Herbivore Cookbook and other blogs and Internet websites. I will directly link all the recipes that I can and site the cookbook where I can't.

These pull apart rolls where good. I splurged and made them with all-purpose flour. They were almost too moist. These would actually be good to make the day before and then give them a 10 minute reheat at about 300 degrees. I also had to add much more flour to get the desired consistency.
I definitely think these are worth making again. Next time I will use whole wheat flour. You can find the recipe here.

This recipe was from The Happy Herbivore. It's called Pot Roast Seitan. If I ever were to make this again it would be for roasting...in the fire pit!
Unfortunately, this was the first time my family had ever tried seitan (wheat meat). BIG flop (*note to self...never try to substitute the main dish with something the family has never tried on a day when their thinking of turkey...or ham...or steak..or...).
This was very rubbery. Elijah dropped a piece and it bounced 6 ft...no, I'm just kidding! It was rubbery though! I can't imagine that anyone could like this wheat meat! But I do believe in trying something at least twice (it's two strikes and your out, with food) and I am glad I did!
We went to The People's Market today. They have an upstairs vegan deli. And of course I got my second opportunity to try seitan. OH MY GOSH! The bomb!! It was a wonderful spicy dish that reminded me of  Kung Pao Chicken. I'm in love! I need to get my hand's on that recipe!

This was a tradition dish with a twist! No mushroom soup, but all the flavor you savor. I stuck to the recipe except I used fresh green beans and precooked them before adding to the casserole. I will be making this again! This recipe is here.

 The only thing missing at this table IS the turkey. And yes, it was missed!

 I have decided that parchment paper is NOT my friend! It has messed up too many of my cooking projects. From now on it's me and the foil!
These were supposed to be chocolate coconut macaroons. But the parchment paper wouldn't let THAT happen! It was still yummy. I will make them again..with foil and cooking spray! You can find this Almond Joy treat here.

Thanksgiving plate complete with mashed sweet potatoes, stuffing, baked macaroni and cheese, scalloped potatoes.

 And of course, the pumpkin pie! This pie was simple to whip up, it's made with fresh pumpkin and tofu. It was a little too sweet for me, although everyone else seemed to enjoy it.

This was an easy whipped cream made from coconut milk. I liked it and thought it was a great compliment to the pie. But not everyone liked it. It definitely has a more distinct flavor than dairy whipped cream. I liked that this kept well in the fridge. It didn't get flat or runny. Great alternative, in my opinion!

I can't wait to give this another try. Chocolate peanut butter ice cream! I say another try because I had an ice cream malfunction. Some of my electrical outlets had blown fuses (from when the oven man was trying to fix the oven on Tuesday), but I didn't know it. So I poured my mixture into my ice cream maker (before I turned it on). When I turned it on...NO POWER! By the time I had figured it out and adapted, the blades froze to the side of maker. I had to essentially start over. Unfortunately, the maker (which started frozen out of the freezer) was defrosting. So my finished product was more icy than creamy. Even though, it is yummy and the kids are enjoying it.

So there is the honest, not always pretty, truth to our Thanksgiving this year. I'm taking votes on how the turkey should be cooked next year!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Very Vegan Thanksgiving

I am excited about Thanksgiving this year. What better time for a vegan. Thanksgiving tables are full of an array of vegetable dishes and fruit. This year we will be enjoying some new dishes at our table as well as some old favorites.

Here's our dinner menu:

Herbed Scalloped Potatoes
Mashed Spiced sweet potatoes
Green Bean Casserole
Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Pull Apart Rolls
Cranberry Sauce
Coconut Macaroons
Pumpkin Pie
Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream

Hope everyone's Thanksgiving is wonderful and a time to really realize all we have to be thankful for!