Monday, March 2, 2015

In Like a Lion

Well, here we are in March already, can you believe it?! I'm not sure if I can relate to the old "lion/lamb" adage since we don't have true winters here in Florida, but the weather has been pretty wild here this season! We almost set record lows a couple of times, and hit 29 degrees here in Ormond Beach last month. That is pretty darned cold for us Floridians! I can feel the coming of Spring, though, and am looking forward to sunny, warm days with long beach walks. I'm tired of grey skies and unpredictable temperatures, and am really sick to death of winter foods! Since I've been getting my produce from Front Porch Pickings, I am eating more seasonally than ever before which is definitely a good thing, but I'm bored of squash, cauliflower, and kale. I'm ready for some variety, Mother Nature!

Last week I stuck pretty close to my eating plan. Tons of veggies, a few fruits, potatoes and minimal processed food.

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Lentil Taco "Meat" over baked potato with chopped tomatoes and scallions

Brussels Sprouts, ready for roasting photo 20150228_074512_zpsla9ikzuy.jpg
Brussels Sprouts, ready for roasting

I tracked most days on Sparkpeople, and went for a few walks. TMI alert: I had my period, so was feeling like crap for several days, still managed to stay mostly on program and didn't eat one bite of chocolate. Ladies, you know how hard this is, right?! I drank wine and coffee, but a little less than usual. No bread. No flour. Reduced Salt. I listened to Chef AJ's lectures and watched the DVD's. I was as compliant as I am willing to be. For example, even when Chip and I went out for date night (to celebrate our anniversary!), I avoided the happy hour snacks. No chips, nuts or bread. I didn't even go out for dinner, just ate at home. We went to a movie, and I said no to the popcorn! Instead I enjoyed the steamed edamame appetizer with a little bit of sea salt. (I love our local theater!). This was HUGE for me! To me, a movie just isn't the same without popcorn! But I did it, and I survived.

In a nutshell, here's how the week went:

The Pros:
  •  Even with the bloating and period symptoms, I dropped 2.5 pounds. Of course I am thrilled by this!
  •  I wasn't hungry and had very few cravings. I felt in control. I felt energetic and motivated, except for the two days when cramps had me sitting on the couch binge watching my favorite tv shows 
  •  My rings felt looser so I must not have been retaining as much water. 
The Cons:
  • With apologies to the Chef, I didn't care for the food on the Ultimate Weight Loss menu plan. Not only were they sort've bland, but many of them use mustard as a base. I'm not a fan of condiments overall (I know, I'm weird) and think mustard belongs on (vegan) hot dogs and pretzels. Period. 
  • The recipes made waaaaaay too much! I could've fed all of my family and still had leftovers. Seriously, each recipe made approximately 12 huge portions. I say approximately because Chef AJ does not list portion sizes which brings me to my next complaint.. 
  •  The portion sizes aren't listed, making it a challenge to figure out the nutritional content. Chef AJ intentionally leaves this out because she wants you to eat mindfully, stopping when you're full and not worry about calories. Well, that simply doesn't work for me. If it did, I wouldn't be overweight in the first place! Without portion sizes I feel out of control, and I don't want to work so hard to figure it out myself.
  •  I missed seasoning. Not necessarily pure salt, but the salty mixes I've grown to love, the ones that make my veggies and potatoes more palatable. I did order the Benson's no-salt seasoning and am waiting for it to arrive, perhaps that will help the situation. I don't have an issue with blood pressure and am only cutting back on salt because it's suggested by the experts. If I can't find a suitable replacement, I'll go back to lightly sprinkling/seasoning. 
  • As much as I love vegetables, it's tough to eat a pound of them for breakfast. I tried spinach and nearly gagged. Then I tried kale which is great but not at that volume/amount. This morning I decided one of these mixes, but when I discussed it on the UWL site, I was reminded of the salt content. Dammit! 

So, this week's plan will be much of the same, but I'll go back to the tried & true low-fat, whole food recipes such as those on Susan's website. I'll find some vegetable mixes without salt, if possible, but if not I will just deal with it. I think filling up on vegetables is more important than avoiding sodium, at least for me. I'll continue to follow the challenge and follow at my own pace, the way that is right for myself, and see what happens.

Here's what I'm planning to make:

Hope your month is off to a great start!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

February Catch-Up

Wow, it's been nearly a month since I've posted. How are you all? What have you been up to? It's been pretty busy around here, here's a few pics to catch up...

We installed a much-needed new fence..

Fence in Progress photo 20150219_134823_zpsq3wvyomm.jpg

and did a bit of landscaping, with Loki's help..

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I (finally) did a few beach walks..

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We went to Gainesville to visit the kids and celebrate Lindsey's birthday...

Chip and Loki driving photo 20150207_103047_zps2rgu850d.jpg

Lindsey's Birthday Cake photo 20150218_212623_zpsgylzvnns.jpg

Kristyn making Lindsey's Birthday Cake photo 20150218_212408_zpsfdow8a7z.jpg

Brynna, Lindsey & Cake photo 20150218_215230_zpswj7n1xjh.jpg

Lucy & Loki photo 20150218_090122_zpsedolzhna.jpg

Kristyn & Lindsey photo 20150218_173600_zpsvbbrzt5a.jpg

Oh, and as far as diet, I've kicked it up a notch. I've realized that as much as I love delicious vegan foods like this:

Kale Cafe Veggie Burger photo 20150213_123942_zpshp59tbik.jpg
Kale Cafe Veggie Burger

Lunch at Kristyn's House photo 20150218_130745_zpskygbqcc3.jpg
Soup & Sandwich lunch at Kristyn's house

Bagels photo 20150219_083115_zpsofv1egia.jpg
Bagel case, Bagels & Noodles, Gainesville

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Stir-Fry Veggies in Chile Sauce over Pasta, Billy's Tap Room, Ormond Beach

Cauliflower, Roasted photo IMG_20150125_171037_zpsp2uxq22n_1.jpg
Spicy Roasted Cauliflower

Italian White Bean & Sausage Soup photo 20150215_135118_zpsrbbwfej5.jpg
Italian White Bean and Sausage Soup

Apple Crisp photo 20150215_135314_zpsir4tn8ic.jpg
Apple Crisp 

Siam Tofu with Thai Chili Sauce leftovers photo 20150123_120411_zpsrniopp4k_1.jpg
Siam Tofu with Thai Chili Sauce leftovers, Thai Erawan, Ormond Beach

I do much better if I eat like this:

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Steamed Collard Greens and Roasted Potatoes

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Roasted Potatoes and Steamed Spinach

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Weekly Produce Delivery from Front Porch Pickings

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Steamed Kale and Chipotle-Kissed Red Bean and Sweet Potato Chili

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Baked Seasoned "Fries"

Kristyn's Pink Grapefruit photo 20150218_090005_zpsp6knax5m.jpg
Pink Grapefruit in Kristyn's yard; Gainesville

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Fresh Collard Greens ready for steaming

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Raw Cauliflower

Steamed Kale and Baked Sweet Potato photo 20150128_090536_zpsl9brqrv1_1.jpg
Baked Sweet Potato with Steamed Greens

The difference between the two styles of eating: The second group of food has no added oil and is unprocessed.  No bread. No pasta. No faux meats. Just plain food, as close to Mother Nature intended as possible.

This week I've been listening to lectures by Chef AJ and turning back to my McDougall books, experimenting with recipes and observing what happens with my body when I eat more "cleanly." What I've discovered, time and time again, is that when I eliminate the processed foods, breads and oils, I feel better. My food cravings subside. And I lose weight. I'm down 2 pounds since Monday. It may seem extreme to some, but if I'm every going to reach goal weight and achieve optimum health, I have to do what works for me, for my particular chemistry. It's not easy, and I'm not 100% compliant. While the bread and frozen "meat" products are relatively easy to eliminate, I'm not willing to give up my morning coffee with non-dairy creamer, or, frankly, my wine! I understand that these are issues for some people and maybe down the line I'll change my mind, but for now I think I can still enjoy an occasional happy hour and my one cup of java per day.

So, that's where I am right now. I'd love to hear thoughts, opinions from those of you who have tried this way of eating, I can use all of the inspiration I can get!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Wacky Week

Well, last week's eating plan got all out of whack and I only ended up cooking two of the planned meals, the Sloppy Joes and the Chipotle Black Bean Chili (below.)

Chipotle Black Bean Chili with Winter Squash photo 20150119_165143_zpsbld6yxrn.jpg

We had an out-of-town guest for a couple of days which resulted in some dining out. I couldn't capture a good pic of this dish from the Thai restaurant, but the leftovers the next day were so pretty!

Siam Tofu with Thai Chili Sauce leftovers photo 20150123_120411_zpsrniopp4k_1.jpg
Siam Chile Tofu

We also took advantage of some lovely live Sitar music one night at the Kale Cafe.

Live music at Kale Cafe photo 20150124_185231_zpszgxnhgma_1.jpg

The food was fantastic, as always. I can't tell you exactly what everything is because I just tell them to pick whatever they have and pile it on my plate. *grin* I know there are Jerk 'Shrooms and BBQ Seitan, and of course, Kale Salad.

Kale Cafe Dinner photo 20150124_185739_zpsfqjvsr0q_1.jpg

Chip at Kale Cafe photo 20150124_185747_zpsin9vqo4k_1.jpg

I also steamed a bunch of kale..

Steaming Kale photo IMG_20150122_112055_zpsqborqads_1.jpg

Including this gorgeous bag I found at my local Walmart for only $3.98! Say what you want about Walmart, I have to give them kudos for offering more healthy, organic options at very reasonable prices. For those of us on a budget and/or don't have a Whole Foods nearby, they are an invaluable resource. My favorite coffee creamer was only $1.98, a couple dollars cheaper than I've paid elsewhere.

Walmart finds photo 20150127_133927_zpsisvzxczw_1.jpg

(Oh, and Loki appreciates that they sell dog toys as well)

Loki's new toy photo IMG_20150127_135919_zpsukr712hu_1.jpg

I've been hearing a lot about cauliflower being the "new kale," and seeing lots of recipes popping up on Pinterest, etc. I've especially liked the ones involving roasting a whole cauliflower, so I decided to give it a shot. I found this recipe on a Paleo blog, and though I wouldn't normally cook with so much fat/oil, I wanted to try the recipe exactly as stated (well, minus the bacon grease, of course!) and I do believe that veggies do require a little bit of oil to prevent burning while roasting.

So I took this gorgeous head of broccoli, delivered to my door from Front Porch Pickings..

 Cauliflower, Raw photo 20150125_160734_zpsmhtpslwu_1.jpg

Marinated it..

Cauliflower, in Progress photo 20150125_161215_zpshqoopnuh_1.jpg

And popped it in the oven looking like this..

Cauliflower, in Progress2 photo 20150125_161626_zpsbcaat8mm_1.jpg

And about 40 minutes later I had this..

Cauliflower, Roasted photo IMG_20150125_171037_zpsp2uxq22n_1.jpg

Oh.My.Goodness. Not only did my house smell heavenly with all of those lovely spices wafting through, the cauliflower tasted so freaking fantastic, I could barely stop myself from devouring the whole thing! Again, not something I'd make very often given the fat content, but a definite once-in-a-while treat.

So far this week I've made chili for dinner one night, tacos for another, have been feeling a bit lazy and uninspired. Today I'll figure out the rest of the week and post once I have a plan.

Hope you're all having a great week so far, Happy Hump Day!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Monday Menu Planning - Week of January 18

Well, this past week I followed my menu plan pretty closely, with a few changes using what I had on hand.

Three Sisters Squash photo IMG_20150114_163459_zpsutoz1qsy.jpg
Three Sisters Squash

The Verdict: Omni Hunny didn't try this dish, but I thought it was delicious! I tasted the stuffing before filling the squash, found it a little bland so I added another small Chipotle pepper. That did the trick! Since I used smaller squash than called for, I had a lot leftover which would make a good burrito filling!

I did make the Grandma's Minestre but honestly wasn't thrilled with the end result and didn't snap a picture. There was something I didn't care for, some spice or combination of ingredients that made the soup bitter. *shrug* Oh, well, they can't all be winners!

I didn't get around to making the Kale and Cannellini Bean Soup but cooked a couple of other interesting dishes instead!

This gorgeous Romanesco Cauliflower arrived in my produce delivery this week, so pretty I hated to eat it! I didn't want to boil or slow cook away the bright green color, so I decided to roast it with a little bit of olive oil, pink salt, and a pinch of red pepper flakes.

Romanesco Cauliflower photo IMG_20150116_085127_zpswd8fn1nc.jpg
Romanesco Cauliflower

Romanesco Cauliflower, Ready to Roast photo 20150116_124231_zpsyoppntpj.jpg

I served it over whole wheat pasta, scrumptious! I ate much more than I should was just too good!

Roasted Romanesco Cauliflower over Whole Wheat Pasta photo IMG_20150117_061736_zpseh8zdh6i.jpg

I enjoyed those roasted veggies so much, I decided to do the same with brussels sprouts the next day.

Brussels Sprouts, ready for roasting photo 20150117_145418_zpsnva16cub.jpg

On Friday night, Chip and I got dressed up and went out for happy hour at a new restaurant in town, The 31 Supper Club.  I rarely take selfies but I was so proud that I could wear this new skirt, one size smaller!

Selfie with Lucifer photo 20150116_165552_zps1jlpyum3.jpg
Selfie w/a Lucifer photobomb

We loved the atmosphere, felt like we had stepped back in time!

Chip at 31 Supper Club photo 20150116_183340_zpsudsbcw12.jpg

Happy Hour at 31 Supper Club photo 20150116_174134_zps6aqytbjf.jpg

The Golden Vegan Chickpea Stew is based upon this recipe, but I left out the tomatoes because the idea of them in curry didn't appeal to me, and the jalapeno because I forgot to buy one at the grocery store.

Golden Chickpea Curry with Roasted Cauliflower & Spinach photo 20150117_123616_zpsprf8c0by.jpg
Golden Vegan Chickpea Stew

The Verdict: Once again, Chip chose to forego this dish. He's not a fan of curry, which is fine because I certainly am! I'd make this again but wouldn't leave out the jalapeno as this wasn't quite spicy enough for my taste buds.

I had a bunch of apples that were going soft, so I decided to use them up in an Apple Crisp.

Apple Crisp photo IMG_20150113_104235_zpst3qz73rc.jpg
Apple Crisp

The Verdict: Served warm from the oven and topped with a scoop of vegan ice cream, this was absolutely delicious! We both scarfed down a generous portion and were happy to enjoy leftovers the next day or so. While this may not be good for the numbers on the scale, it satisfied my sweet tooth for a little while, worth every calorie!

Creole-Style Jambalaya photo IMG_20150118_123844_zpsuqrvoxaj.jpg
Creole-Style Jambalaya

The Verdict: The Creole-Style Jambalaya was really tasty, more like red beans & rice than a true Jambalaya. Chip said: "I liked it but I prefer my Jambalaya." (made with Zatarain's rice mix and Tofurky sausage)

Yesterday I was all set to make the Chipotle Corn Chowder and realized I didn't have any frozen corn! Too lazy to run to the grocery store, I scrounged the fridge and pantry and realized I had all the ingredients to make the Lentil-Vegetable Soup instead.

Lentil-Vegetable Soup photo 20150119_085725_zpsob3arsp_edit_1421676408021_zpspnj7bluo.jpg
Lentil-Vegetable Soup

The Verdict: While this soup doesn't take a very pretty picture, it tasted delicious! Just a little bit too thin for me, so I served over a scoop of brown rice. Perfect for a chilly Sunday evening. Since Chip doesn't like lentils (unless I disguise them very well), he ate something else.

This week's menu will, once again, be mostly from the Fresh from a Vegan Slow Cooker book. I'm adding one recipe from Fat Free Vegan Kitchen because it looks so yummy and I have lasagna noodles begging to be used.

  • Barley Orzotto
  • Moroccan-Inspired Stuffed Winter Squash
  •  African-Inspired Peanut Stew
  • Slow and Spicy Sloppy Joes
  • Chipotle Black Bean Chili with Winter Squash
  • My Favorite Lasagna
 I'm going to try posting the recipe/reviews as I make them, time permitting, so I hope you'll check back often!

Have a wonderful day,