Friday, April 26, 2013

A New Direction

Before I go any further, let me explain the photo above. That's Chip's new "baby," a 1974 GMC Javelin, similar to the one he drove in high school.  He purchased her last week from this nice gentleman who has been the owner for nearly 40 years.  You'll be seeing more of her in the future, but she's not really part of this story, just provides a nice visual.

Here goes. When I first started this vegan journey and decided to write about it here, my intention wasn't for this to become a weight loss blog. I've been there, done that, and while it was fun, don't need to do that again. What I wanted was a place to record my new way of shopping/cooking/dining, and to share it with others on the same path, or those who'd like to be. First and foremost, I'm an ethical vegan; I did this for the animals, and any health benefits are just icing on the proverbial cake. Of course, I had hoped that I'd lose some weight in the process, but that wasn't my main goal.  I was still doing Weight Watchers, rather half-heartedly, attempting to implement my vegan eating into their "healthy" requirements of x-number of dairy & fat servings per day.  I was also trying to encourage Chip to make changes in his own diet, for health reasons as well as for the animals.  Some days were hit, some miss, but at least I was living more compassionately and more healthfully so progress was made, just not on the scale.

Fast forward to now, over a year since going vegan.  My weight is around the same, about 40 pounds above where I should be, and I'm now ready to tackle that issue.  I want to feel and look better, of course, but I also want to be a positive example of veganism. I want to be respected and taken seriously when I promote this compassionate lifestyle, and that's easier to do when you're in better physical shape.  Unfortunate, but true: we are judged on our appearances, and mine needs some improvement.

So, I've been having conversations with my sweetie and children, friends and fellow bloggers, and have decided to make a couple of changes in my habits which will undoubtedly affect my blog. From now on, you'll no longer see:

  • Weight Watchers. It's a good, solid program and many people have been successful following it. It's just not for me, not now, not as a vegan. While they do encourage tons of veggies & whole foods, there's a lot of flexibility there and with someone who eats as much fruit & veggies as me, those "freebies" can add up to more calories than I should consume for weight loss. Also, while the meetings provide support and comraderie, a lot of time is spent sharing tips and recipes which no longer apply to me.Lastly, there's the financial impact. I'm spending over $50 per month for meetings, online tools, etc., and not using them. That money can be better spent, perhaps as a donation to my local animal shelter.
  • An abundance of fat. Notice, I didn't say NO fat/oil, just not as much.  Now that I've learned more about meat and dairy-free cooking, I can comfortably substitute some of the oil called for with lower-fat ingredients.I think that overall I have enough healthy fat from plant-based sources, I don't need to add more. 
  • Excessive dining out, except when traveling makes it a necessity.  Chip and I both agree that for the most part, we'd rather eat my cooking at home.  I can better control what goes into our meals and therefore our bodies if I'm the one doing the preparing. Though Chip has made great strides in his new way of eating, we still agree that though I will not purchase or prepare any animal products (except for Loki who's on a BARF diet) in our home, he is free to eat meat when dining out, if he so chooses, without recrimination from me.  So now & then if he gets a craving for something not-so-good-for-him, I'd much prefer that he eat it out there, in moderation, and be done with it.
  • More exercise. No, I won't be sharing pics of us working out; god forbid, how boring would that be? But I will log miles walked or calories burned, something of that nature.
What you will be seeing:
  •  Nutritional information, including calorie counts. I'm going to be using Sparkpeople to track my food intake, at least for a while, to get my bearings and figure out how much I can, and should, be eating in order to lose weight. While I don't relish the thought of logging every morsel that enters my mouth, I realize that tracking is really the key to weight loss. The old advice,"don't bite it unless you write it" wouldn't be so often repeated if it wasn't true.
  • Occasional indulgences, on special occasions or when that monthly chocolate craving hits (you ladies know what I mean).  My goal is to lose the weight and keep it off, so I've got to learn how to do this for the long haul, for real life, which includes birthdays, holidays, etc. This does not mean that every celebration is an excuse for an eating frenzy; on the contrary, I'll be seeking out healthier, lower-fat choices for my favorite treats as well as exercising portion control.
  • Recipes, my own versions.  After reading this post, I realize that though it my not be illegal per se, it's really not cool to copy someone else's recipe ver batim and put it up on your blog, especially if the author hasn't published it on the 'net his/herself! So while I may not have a bunch of original Gypsy recipes to share (yet), I can at least put my own spin on them while giving credit to the original author.   
  • Product reviews, pics of food & kids & cats & dogs & beaches, all the usual stuff you're used to me posting here.  An occasional rant will probably pop up every now & then as well. 
Ok, now that we have all of that out of the way, any questions? No? Then let's move on to food!

Based on a recipe from Lindsay Nixon's Everyday Happy Herbivore cookbook, I created this Tex-Mex Shepherd's Pie. The original recipe isn't officially published online, but here's my version, using ingredients I had on hand.

Tex-Mex  Shepherd's Pie in progress

Tex-Mex Shepherd's Pie


  • 1 14-oz can diced tomatoes of your choice (I used Delmonte Petite w/Zesty Jalapenos)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 11.5 ounces corn, frozen & thawed, canned or fresh (I used fresh)
  • 1 15-oz can beans of your choice (black, pinto, kidney, etc.) drained and rinsed
  • 3 sweet potatoes, cooked and mashed (I microwave potatoes if I'm short on time; otherwise, bake or boil til soft enough to mash)
  • hot sauce, optional
  1. Drain juice from tomatoes straight into a large skillet, adding water if necessary to cover bottom of skillet.
  2. Add onion and bell peppers, saute over high heat until green pepper starts to get tender, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and saute for a minute more.
  3. Add chili powder, cumin, oregano, a pinch of salt, a few dashes of black pepper, and stir to coat.
  4. Taste. If you'd like a hotter flavor, add a dash of hot sauce or more chili powder.
  5. Add corn, tomatoes and beans; stir to combine.
  6. Continue to cook over medium until everything is warmed through.
  7. Spoon into a casserole or baking dish, and then spread mashed sweet potatoes on top (no baking necessary).
  8. Serve with hot sauce on the table.
Note: Since I often prepare meals several hours ahead of time, I put the casserole together early in the day then popped it into the refrigerator until time for dinner.  About 30 minutes before serving, I placed in a 350 degree oven and baked until heated through and bubbling slightly. 

Instead of a casserole, you can also serve this alongside baked tortilla chips as an awesome dip!

Serves 4; per serving: 319 calories, 1.2g fat, 11.4g fiber, 8.2 sugars, 9.4g protein

Tex-Mex Shepherd's Pie  

The verdict: 

Omni-Hunny Says: While I like the flavors, I'm still not a big fan of sweet potatoes, would have preferred regular potatoes. Adding some veggie crumbles in there would've been good. Also, it doesn't really taste like a shepherd's pie to me, I think it should be called something else.  

VeganGypsy says: I agree. I'd add more spice to the mix, definitely not hot enough for me, and the combination of sweet potatoes and Mexican seasonings/ingredients seemed odd.  Maybe if I'd used black beans instead of kidney? I don't know. Overall, I prefer HH's Cajun Cornbread Casserole

I'm heading over to Sparkpeople to finish setting up my program. If any of you are members and want to "friend" me, please visit my page. I'd appreciate all the support I can get!


  1. Well holy crap! I thought your pic looked familiar but I didn't realize it's because we were "friends" from our old blogs! Lol! Too funny :)

  2. Laura, lol, how funny is that? Well, glad we found each other again. :)

  3. Me too! And by the way I loved this post. I also added you as a friend on SP :)