Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Going Vegan....

I've toyed with the idea of going Vegan many times. My blog earlier this year is a testament to that. My sister tried to do it. She was Vegetarian for a while, but leaned more Vegan as much as possible. It was inspiring to watch. She felt good, she lost weight she'd struggled to lose, she had more energy, and the list goes on. It wasn't easy for her to eat Vegan or Vegetarian in a family of meat-eaters and finicky eaters. Here we are about two years later...and I am attempting that journey myself. In fact, we are on week four of my journey.

My sister and I were born in Texas...beef central. My father is amazing behind the grill and the smoker. My kids are full on meat and potato kids. My friends and family are all big meat eaters. Eggs were a staple for breakfast. Cheese...drool....

So why would I switch to a Vegan diet?

The majority of my life I've dealt with...constipation issues. Yes, I admitted it. This isn't a pretty topic, but it was a big issue for me. Constantly uncomfortable, stomach pains, and misery. But hey...the food was good. I would exercise, I would try to make smart food decisions, but could never break under that 200 lb. mark on the scale. So, I decided that it was time to make some changes.

This is what I've noticed so far...that little constipation issue...not really an issue any longer. I'm not miserable after I eat. That alone would be enough to convince me that this is how I should be eating, however, there is a bonus...I can get on the scale and see the numbers slowly creeping down. I have energy. And I'm having fun in the kitchen cooking things like Roasted Red Pepper Pasta, Vegan Chili, Grilled Cauliflower Steaks, Vegan Street Tacos...and the list continues to grow.

I've had my own challenges. Going out to eat with friends takes some getting used to. Most places are accommodating though. Cooking for my family isn't so easy and I end up making two versions of dinner often. I've not been perfect. I've made poor choices and reverted to having an old favorite for dinner...and my stomach and digestive system paid for it. I know that eating a more Vegan diet is going to benefit me in the long run.

Now I'm not trying to persuade anyone to eat this way. This is not a blog about why you should or shouldn't be Vegan. I believe that how you choose to eat is completely a personal decision. Everyone has their own reasons and beliefs and I am not here to chastise or condemn anyone for their choices. I also believe that everyone's body digests different foods differently. I'm not a doctor, nor do I pretend or profess to be an expert. This is purely a sharing of my journey. Nothing less, nothing more.

Now I'm off to cook some lunch up....go and enjoy your day!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Vegetable Frittata

My dad turned me on to making frittatas. It was a dish that he made many times over the years and every time it turns out a little different than the time before. Why? Because we usually just throw in whatever veggies happen to be on hand. So experiment and see what your favorite combination is!
Vegetable Frittata
2 Tbsp Olive Oil (I use flavored such as garlic or habanero flavored for a kick)
6 small baked red potatoes, diced
1 C fresh spinach
1 C chopped asparagus
1 small onion
2 garlic cloves (minced)
salt and pepper to taste
6 eggs
1/3 cup of milk
1/2 C Feta or shredded cheese of choice
Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Place onions, garlic, asparagus, and potatoes into the pan, sauté until lightly caramelized. Add in the spinach, season with salt and pepper, and cook until the spinach begins to wilt, about one to two minutes.
In a medium bowl, beat together eggs and milk. Pour into skillet over the vegetables. Reduce heat, cover, and cook for five to seven minutes, or until the eggs are firm. Top with cheese and let melt.

Another option would be to partially cook the egg and vegetable mixture on the stove, until egg retains a little liquid to it, and transfer into an oven safe dish (or cook in oven safe pan) and put in the oven at 350 degrees, cooking until eggs are fully cooked and the mixture has a lightly golden brown across the top.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Stuffed Zucchini

My parents anniversary was coming up and we typically spend some time together on that day to celebrate what was the start of our often time crazy but always loving family. Since I was going to be out of town for both their anniversary and my birthday, I decided I would cook them dinner. I knew that no matter what I made, they would love the thought and effort behind it, but of course I wanted it to be delicious too! Both of my parents have nurtured my love of cooking and I always love being able to share the finished product with them.

So for this very special meal, I decided to go with a stuffed zucchini. I'd never made it before, but saw some recipes on Pinterest that looked very good. I blended a few things from different recipes and added some things of my own and was pleased with the results.

  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • Sm white onion chopped
  • 3 large cloves garlic minced
  • 1 med red bell pepper diced
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • 4 large zucchini
  • 1 Tbsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seed crushed
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 C Italian style bread crumbs
  • 1/4 C Italian style fine shredded cheese
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Heat grill to medium heat. Slice zucchini, stems on, in half length wise. Scoop out the centers, trying to keep in tact for use in the stuffing. Set aside. Lightly salt and pepper the zucchini halves and set aside and start making the stuffing.

Place a large pan over medium heat, add olive oil and warm. Add the onion, garlic, and red bell pepper, cooking until pepper is soft and onion is transparent. At this point, put the ground turkey into the pan and cook until no longer pink. Add salt, pepper, basil, and crushed fennel seed. Add zucchini and diced tomatoes. Let simmer until zucchini softens. Drain. In a mixing bowl, add meat and vegetable mixture with bread crumbs and cheese. Combine thoroughly.

Brush edges of zucchini halves with oil. Place halved zucchini on grill for about five minutes, or until softened and grill marks appear on zucchini. Remove and allow to cool slightly before stuffing. 

Stuff zucchini with mix and return to grill to warm through. Top lightly with cheese and allow to melt. Serve alone or with side of rice, quinoa, or side salad.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Twist on a Family Favorite ~ Zuppa Toscana

My boys love the Zuppa Toscana soup at Olive Garden... or at least the version of it their aunt makes. It was always one of my favorites as well. Cream soups laden with sausage and potato? Yum. I love dairy, but unfortunately it doesn't always love me back, so I often try to find ways to cut it out where I can. While I don't know how much the changes affected my soup in the nutritional data department, I do know that the flavor was fantastic and I had two boys who left the table with empty bowls which is always a good sign. So how did I make our version of the soup? Let's get down to the nitty gritty shall we?

The Boy's Zuppa


  • 1/2 med fennel(anise) bulb, chopped
  • 1/2 med white onion, chopped
  • 3-4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup Chardonnay
  • 1 lb chicken or turkey Hot Italian Sausage
  • 1 lb chicken or turkey Sweet Italian Sausage
  • 6 sm - med russet potatoes washed, skin on
  • 1 Tbsp Italian Seasoning
  • 6 cups low sodium chicken stock
  • 1-2 bunches of kale, cleaned and chopped 
  • 2 cups Unsweetened Almond Milk

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Lower the heat and add the fennel, white onion, and garlic. Cook until transparent and starting to caramelize. Pour in the Chardonnay to de-glaze the pan. 

Add the Italian Sausage to the pan and cook thoroughly. Drain excess oil and any grease from the meat mixture. Return to pan. Add the potatoes, Italian seasoning, and chicken stock.

Bring to a boil, reduce heat and allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the potatoes become tender, careful not to over cook them. Skim off any excess grease from the surface of the soup. 

Add the chopped kale and the Almond milk. Return to a simmer. Allow to cook until the kale is wilted, about another 10 minutes. 

You are ready to serve! 

Doesn't that look delish? I have to be honest. It's not as creamy as the Zuppa Toscana that my sister introduced us to years ago, but it was still pleasing to our tummies and we left the table satisfied and smiling. If you give this recipe a try, I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. I am sure the wine addition isn't super healthy, but I love the flavor of wine in cooking. Happy eating, my friends!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Not a Vegan...but

I am currently not a Vegan. However, I will say that after a day of watching some plant-based food and vegan documentaries such as Forks Over Knives, Food Inc., and Vegucated (to name a few)...I definitely saw the appeal to eating that way. I am not going to get all preachy. Everyone's dietary choices are their own. For me, I honestly do not know if I could ever go full Vegetarian or Vegan. In part because my father is such a master of the grill. However, I am on a journey to eat cleaner and eat more of a plant-based diet for my own personal health.

All that being said...I made a journey to the library. If you follow me/friend me on Facebook or Instagram, you may have seen a picture of my haul. I went a little nuts in the book department. I had help. One of the twins helped me locate various vegan and vegetarian cook books - a list of which I am going to share with you now.

The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions - this was a pick by my son. He found it on the shelf and in what I am convinced is an uncharacteristic gesture for a teenage boy, said 'this might be good for the stuff you already love to make'

The Naked Kitchen Veggie Burger Book - I love a good veggie burger and my dad and I have decided that we would go on a mission to seek out a good homemade veggie burger recipe. My sister follows a mostly vegetarian diet, so that started our mission. Now I am arming myself for the good fight...mostly because I am a sucker for a good burger and since I've come to adore some (not all) of the vegetarian options I've tried, I'm excited to try more.

Lust for Leaf - This just looked like a fun book and in the margins of each recipe is a beverage and music pairing. The foods are geared toward picnic, potluck, and party fare, which thoroughly excites me in a work environment when chips, fat laden dips, greasy foods, and desserts seem to be the main staples.

Crazy Sexy Diet - While this has a some recipes, I did not pick this one up for the recipe aspect of it or even the 'diet cleanse' aspect of it per se. In all actuality, I picked this up for the information nestled within it's pages. Lots of facts, medical info and insight, and a dose of personal sharing from the author who was diagnosed with an inoperable cancer at the age of 31.

Dirt Candy a Cookbook - One part cookbook mixed with one part graphic novel. This honestly, just looked entertaining and different, so I grabbed it. The recipes come from an upstart New York City vegetarian restaurant.

Last but not least (because this is by far my favorite pick)....

Thug Kitchen Party Grub - What can I say about this? It grabbed me because I'd seen a comment by someone online about the Thug Kitchen. Then I started glancing through the pages while standing at the library. It is full of cursing, so if you are sensitive to that, you may want to stay away. The recipes though, shared with a dose of humor like you were talking with your rough around the edges neighbor, are short of mouth watering. There are recipes here that I think I can even get my kids to eat without too much fuss. Recipes like Cinnamon Apricot French Toast and things I can't wait to try like Roasted Beet Hummus.

So there you have it. The mother-lode of plant-based/vegetarian/vegan cookbooks that I managed to bring home from the library. Can't wait to dig in and try some of the recipes. Do you have a favorite plant-based or Vegan chef you enjoy? Give a shout out. I'm looking for inspiration as I strive to incorporate more vegetables into our meals.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Chicken Italian Sausage and Vegetable Soup

There is something very comforting about having a pot of soup simmering on the stove. Even in Vegas, with our temperatures in the unbearable range during the majority of the year, I can't live without soup. When I'm having a rough day (or week) whipping up a batch of soup is usually just the therapy I need to bring me back to center...especially this weekend when one of my boys and I are fighting some sort of nastiness that seems to be going around. Because I am trying to opt for healthier options, I've substituted regular pork Italian Sausage for a ground Chicken Italian Sausage available at my local grocer and also opted for vegetable broth (sometimes I leave the sausage out all together. Give this a shot, let me know what alterations you made to the recipe, because sometimes one little change can make a great recipe even better!

1 lb ground Chicken Hot Italian Sausage (You can use Mild if that is your preference)

1/2 bulb of Fennel sliced

3 – 4 stalks of celery

2 – 3 zucchini sliced into large pieces

2 – 3 yellow crook neck squash sliced into large pieces

1/2 medium white onion, chopped

3 large cloves of garlic minced

1 bell pepper chopped

1/2 head of cauliflower

2 – 3 handfuls of washed and trimmed spinach leaves

1 – 2 carrots (sliced or shredded)

Red or white wine (I know there are some die hard wine enthusiasts that will say you should use white since we are using a pork product and a chicken base, but I say go with what you feel like or have on hand)

5 – 6 cups of Vegetable broth (or enough to cover the vegetables) 

I Tbsp Italian Seasoning

1 – 2 Bay leaves

Salt and Pepper to taste

In a large pot add the sliced fennel, onion, garlic, carrot, celery, and the Italian Sausage. Cook on low, stirring frequently, allowing the vegetables to soften and the sausage to lose most of its pink, adding up to a 1/2 cup of wine to give added moisture and flavor, breaking apart the sausage with each stirring of ingredients. Once the sausage has cooked all the way through, add all the remaining vegetables to the pot, reserving the spinach for last. Add your seasoning (I usually omit the salt as I feel the sausage provides enough salt for my liking). Cover with broth and allow to simmer until the vegetables start to soften. Be careful not to over cook, unless you like mushy vegetables. Add the spinach and simmer until the leaves wilted. It is ready to serve!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Pity Party, Table for One... is happening. In full blown, let me throw myself on the floor and kick and scream about how unfair it is that I have no willpower. It has pulled an Elvis and left the building.

I have been really trying to stay positive, but I also promised myself that I would be real when I shared my journey. That means the good, the bad, and the ugly. I'm sure if you made it this far, you've probably guessed is a sharing of the bad. This is where I have to hang my head in shame and tell you that my unintended cheat meal has stretched into two days. TWO DAYS!

It started with a sister day...and teriyaki pineapple chicken sliders with a side of fries. Then two candy bars that I practically inhaled...and some more candy bars today. Yes I am ashamed. Truly uncomfortable in my own skin and very disappointed in myself. On top of it all I feel like crap. I can truly see how my changes in diet and exercise have impacted the way I feel. I've had no migraines, no queasy, upset stomach. And my energy level has been a lot higher. With this little derailment, I am feeling it all!

I know. It's a new day...or rather, tomorrow is a new day. Yet a good portion of us have a hard time letting go of that guilt. Especially when we feel that our good intentions have gone so far south you can't even find the humor in it. If you are like me, I can't pinpoint what makes me derail. Sometimes it's emotions, sometimes it's boredom, and sometimes it's just a serious lack of willpower. This time it truly was the latter.

The worst part about it is....the vicious cycle that it seems to create. I eat crap food...and guess what? You got it...I feel like crap. And I beat myself up. And I eat more crap food because I decide to have myself a little pity party. This is where I am right now. In the midst of my pity party. But I promise, I'm about over it....until the next one comes along. For now, I think I need to go find some vegetables and soak up some of this sugar in my system that is making me feel super queasy. I knew the journey wasn't going to be easy. I didn't let my health go to shit overnight and I can't expect it to get better without a little hard work and sacrifice on my part. There will be slip ups...obviously...but they don't have to be the nail in the coffin. Stay strong my friends.