Thursday, August 29, 2013

On My Hearth: Vegetable Pad Thai

As planned, last night I made the Happy Herbivore's "Cheater" Pad Thai.  I tweaked the recipe a tiny bit, you can find the original version here


  Vegetable Pad Thai photo IMG_20130828_182222_zps90af85bd.jpg

 

Vegetable Pad Thai


 

Ingredients

  • 1/4 lb thick rice noodles
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp smooth peanut butter (I use Bell Plantations PB2 to save on fat/calories)
  • 1 tbsp sweet red chili Asian sauce
  • 1/4 tsp granulated garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger (I use fresh ginger)
  • 1/4 tsp hot sauce, or to taste
  • 3 oz bean sprouts
  • 15-ounce package of frozen stir fry vegetables, cooked according to package directions

Directions

  1. Prepare rice noodles according to package directions.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk 2 tbsp of warm water, soy sauce, peanut butter, chili sauce, garlic powder, ginger, and hot sauce together until combined. (Sauce will appear thin)
  3. Adjust seasonings to taste.
  4. Using tongs, toss prepared noodles & cooked vegetables with your newly created pad Thai sauce until all noodles are evenly coated.
  5. Plate and top with bean sprouts, chopped peanuts & a lime wedge if desired.
Serves 2 generously 

The Verdict: This was delicious! Considering the ease of preparation and minimal cooking time, I was astounded at how well it turned out.  The stir-fry vegetables are a must, I think, as they add more nutrients and volume to the dish.  This recipe created two generous portions, very satisfying.  I will definitely be making this one again!

It is 4 am here, I'm doing laundry and packing..again. As soon as Chip returns from work we will load up the car and head south.  I'll be checking in from down there later, looking forward to catching up with friends & family!

Have a wonderful day!

Michele~
 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

On My Hearth: Mixed Vegetable Curry

I've been cooking from my meal plan this week, how about you? Due to Chip's crazy work schedule (2 am - early afternoon!), he hasn't been eating at the same times or even always the same meals as I have. Working nights definitely throws one's body out of whack, but to his credit he never complains. 

So, anyway, on Monday I made the Spinach & Mushroom Lasagna, and it was a total flop. I am not criticizing the recipe author because it's possible I did something wrong, but seriously, it was awful. Incredibly dry and tasteless, I smothered it with a ton of pasta sauce and ate it anyway because I was hungry and didn't feel like preparing another meal, but the remainder of the pan went straight into the trash. Fortunately there were weekend leftovers in the fridge for Chip to eat because there's no way I'd serve this to anyone else. I don't understand why the recipe calls for regular lasagna noodles and doesn't require cooking beforehand, but by the reviews the dish turned out ok for several people. Mine, not so much. The noodles were not cooked thoroughly and still managed to be overcooked on the edges. Yuck. I definitely won't be making this one again. Moving on.. 

Last night I opted for the Mixed Vegetable Curry from Dr. Barnard's Get Healthy, Go Vegan Cookbook. I've had really good luck with his recipes so far, and this would held great promise. 

Mixed Vegetable Curry, in Progress photo IMG_20130827_171015_zps851c0160.jpg

Unfortunately, the end result, while not inedible, didn't completely satisfy either. I'm accused to coconut-milk-laden curries from Thai restaurants which I know are full of fat & calories, so I didn't expect the homemade version to taste the same. I did, however, expect more flavor. There was no extra "sauce" to wet the couscous, so it was quite dry. The curry flavors were very subtle so if you are not a fan of spicy foods, this will be perfect for you. For myself, I'll either look for a recipe with more heat, or try to tweak this one another time. The leftovers will not go to waste, though; I'll just have to add more vegetable broth or..?

Mixed Vegetable Curry photo 20130827_174011_zpse48cf2ad.jpg 


Because I haven't had my fix of Thai food, tonight I'll be making Happy Herbivore's Cheater Pad Thai. I hope you'll pop by tomorrow for my review.

Have a wonderful day,

Michele~
 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Monday Menu Planning: Cleaning Up!

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We had such a great time visiting my kids in Gainesville..


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Sunday Brunch at The Top

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Loki visiting Lucy's new house

but after a few days of little birthday-related indulgences..

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Garlic Knots & Cheese-free Veggie Pizza

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Vegan Chocolate Mocha Cupcake (thank you, Lindsey!)

It's time to clean up my diet and get back on track. I must admit, as delicious as the meals/treats were, I woke up at 3 am with a terrible tummy ache, testimony to how unaccustomed my body now is to such indulgences! 

Since I was already awake, I figured I'd get up and make wise us of the early morning quiet.  We're home in Ormond this week so I'll have plenty of time to plan/shop/chop/cook, no excuses! I don't plan on eating out all week, really craving my own cooking!

Here's five days of recipes, allowing for a couple of leftover meals:

I'm also determined to get back into my exercise routine.  If I get to the beach early in the morning I can enjoy my walk before it's unbearably hot. When that's not possible, I have my trusty treadmill as backup.

We're down one car this week, the Hybrid needed some maintenance, so I'll have to drop Chip at work and then hit the grocery store.  More java, then off I go!

Have a wonderful Monday..

Michele~

 


Saturday, August 24, 2013

What's in a Name?

Shakespeare Quote photo ShakespeareQuoteRose_zpsf10f689f.jpg  
If you're reading this blog, chances are you've already a vegan, or are considering becoming one.  Maybe you're veg-curious, or are simply looking for some new healthier recipes to add to your rotation. Unless you're a family member of mine (hi, Dad!), I don't think you're here just to look at the cute pictures of my kids and pets. Honestly, it doesn't much matter to me why you're here, I'm just happy to have you visit! While I blog partially for myself, consider it an online journal of sorts, I love sharing my food, my family, my life with others. And in turn I'm hoping that I can be a part of yours in some small way.  This lifestyle can be tough at times, it's not always easy to make the compassionate choices, day in and day out.  There are many occasions when it would be so much easier to just eat the burger offered at the bbq, give in to the ice cream temptation, take one little bite of the baked Brie.  Having a community, a place where I can turn to when things get a little bit challenging, makes these moments so much easier to handle.  Since I have yet to find that a local community that meets my needs, I'm so grateful for you here in cyberspace, specifically in the blogosphere.  If I have a question, concern, or just want to rant, I need look no further than my laptop or Smart phone, and here you are.  Thank you for that. 

Here's what I've learned over the short time I've been a vegan: there are basically two reasons one comes to this way of eating.  Health or Ethics, sometimes a combination of both.  Whether you've had a medical scare or are simply trying to improve your health, there's no doubt that going plant-based is the way to go. From Forks Over Knives to The China Study, the research proves it time & time again. In my travels, I encounter mostly this kind of vegan. On the cruise, the majority of the people were there for health reasons, only a handful of them were like me: ethical vegans, those who love animals so much that they can't bear to see them suffer, who strive to live as cruelty-free as possible. 

Now, if you've been around the plant-based community for very long, you'll know that there is a "vegan war" out there.  There are those in the ethical camp who think they're better than the health-driven folks, who feel insulted by the "plant-based" label and are quick to remind us that the Vegan lifestyle is about more than just food. I've seen some really ugly interactions on message boards and blogs, and it saddens me. Tired of the criticism and controversy, one popular cookbook author has gone so far as to not call herself a vegan anymore!

For what it's worth, here's my two cents: I don't care how you come to this lifestyle. If it's to lower your cholesterol, lose weight, or improve energy, you're at the right place. My friend Susan is a great example of this. One of the smartest, most enlightened women I know, she's taking her middle years by storm, determined to be in the best health possible. She's following a whole foods, minimally processed, veggie filled diet and while it's not yet animal-free, it's a big step from where she was before, and she's feeling awesome! I'm thrilled for her, and proud that she considers me an inspiration. 

If it's because you watched Earthlings, Vegucated, or one of the PETA films and can no longer look at a chicken as dinner, I applaud you! That was/is me, no longer able to disconnect the meat on my plate from the animals I adore, I simply couldn't contribute to their pain any longer.

No matter what led you here, the end result is the same: as a result of your choices, fewer animals will die today.  Your reward from the Universe: a healthier body & spirit.  It's a win/win, it's all good! 

I don't care if you call yourself vegan, plant-based, plant-strong, vegetarian, flexitarian, whatever.  Welcome. If there's anything I can do to help you on this journey, please don't hesitate to ask. I don't have all the answers, but I have a list of resources a mile long and if I can't help, I can find someone who can.  

Now that I have that off my chest..grin...I need to finish packing up the RV and prepare to hit the road! We are going to Gainesville today to visit my girls, I can't wait! I'm so looking forward to seeing both Kristyn and Brynna's new homes, to hang out and visit with them.  Kristyn's dad, Glenn, will be joining us so that's sure to be a lot of fun. Since this is an extended birthday celebration, the kids are taking me to a cool veg-friendly restaurant where I'm promised vegan cake, yum!! Hmm...since I've yet to blow out candles nor eat birthday cake, does that mean I'm not really 49? *wink*

Have a wonderful weekend!

Michele~

Friday, August 23, 2013

Back to School



The year was 1994. I was a young mom, driving around Suburbia in my shiny new Chrysler minivan, three kids in tow, Melissa Etheridge blasting on the radio. I had recently discovered New Age religion, folk music and butterfly gardening.  At 30 years old, I had just re-committed to a vegetarian diet and spent my days reading Vegetarian Times and searching for this newfangled "organic" produce.  Our particular town was not replete with sources for such things; my only options were to either drive 30 minutes to the Unicorn Village in North Miami (now Whole Foods) or beg my local grocer to custom order veggies for me.  Most often, it was the latter.  When I first approached my produce manager, he had no idea what the hell I was talking about. Organic? What? I turned on the charm, mine as well as my darling daughters', and convinced him to do some research.  Before too long, I was filling my shopping cart with carrots, apples, lettuce..anything he could get for me.  I daresay I wore out my welcome pretty quickly, the poor man likely rued the day he met me! It was worth it, though, to be able to feed my children pesticide-free, so important during those formative years.  







 

My kids didn't eat perfectly all the time. My pediatrician wasn't comfortable with feeding them vegetarian and I wasn't secure enough in my decision to challenge him, so I supplemented their veggies & grains with "healthier" (or so we thought) "lean meat" such as chicken & fish.  They ate the occasional chicken nugget happy meal, and once a week was Pizza Night.  There was no soda in our house, that was a treat to be enjoyed when dining out. Instead they drank (organic) juice and, Lindsey's favorite: water.  Dessert was available, snacks were encouraged, but more than likely it was fresh fruit instead of sweets at the end of meals.   









Overall, I think my girls ate well and had an active, healthy, happy childhood.  While I can't control their eating or lifestyle now that they're adults, I think their early experiences left a lasting mark.  They are all fit, healthy, health-conscious young women with a passion for cooking, eating..and life! To say I'm a proud mother is an understatement.  





Nearly 20 years later, and we've come a long way.  I can find almost everything I need for a healthy, organic, vegan diet at my neighborhood supermarket, and what can't be acquired locally can be ordered online.  So there's really no excuse for feeding our children (or ourselves!) crap food, yet I see it every day.  From the check-out lane to the drive-through line, harried parents are spending hard-earned money on highly processed, fat-filled, sugar-laden, nutrient-deficient junk food.  Packaged all pretty and promoted all to hell, these products are killing us, one bite at a time, and some folks seem oblivious to it. What you do to yourself, as a grown-up person, is up to you.  But when I see moms shoveling this crap into innocent kids, it just makes my blood boil.  


Listen, I get it. You're busy. Most families rely on two-incomes nowadays, and after working, shlepping, cleaning, etc. the last thing you want to do is stand over a hot stove. All of that chopping and preparing seems like too much work, doesn't it? So much easier to just swing by McD's on the way home from soccer practice, throw a couple of burgers at the kids in the back seat and be done with it, right? But, is it, honestly? Easier? Sure, it saves you a few minutes in the kitchen but at what cost? Aren't your kids worth the extra time it takes to prepare a healthy meal and, god forbid, sit around the table and eat it with them? 

I admit it, I was fortunate enough to be a stay-at-home mom for most of my kids' childhood.  I did work part time for our home-based business, and for a few years as a Teachers Aide at their elementary school.  But for the most part, yeah, I had the time to plan/shop/prepare three meals a day for my family.  It wasn't always easy, with three of them running around, two in diapers. I became proficient at stirring pasta while breastfeeding, not an easy feat! My then-husband was a firefighter so I was alone with them for 24 hours, every third day, no relief and very little support system. Still, I cooked. They ate. Every single day.  

If you're a busy mom or dad, struggling with this issue, how to feed your kids healthfully while preserving your own sanity, I feel for you. I really do. I've already admitted my imperfections, so I'm not gonna profess to have all of the answers. There are professionals out there who know much more than I do and I'm sure a quick google search will reveal their wisdom.  I can, however, give you a few tips that worked for me. 

Number one: Plan, plan, plan. Take an hour or two on a Sunday afternoon, perhaps while the kids are napping or, better yet, sit outside in the backyard while they play.  Grab some cookbooks,  magazines, your laptop, whatever..peruse your favorite cooking sites & blogs.  Pick at least 5 recipes, allowing for a couple of pizza or leftover nights. If you have a crock-pot, try to focus on meals that make use of it. Make a menu & a shopping list.  If you can enlist the help of a spouse or family member, leave the kids at home and head to the grocery store. Buy everything you need for the week. Come home, unpack, and if at all possible, begin the prep work.  Wash those veggies, chop them up, and store in your refrigerator. Put the recipes in a binder or folder where you can find them easily.  Dust off the Crock-pot and have it sitting on your counter, ready to go. Once the kids are in bed tonight, if you have a bit of energy left, you can even go so far as to prepare one of those slow-cooker meals, dump the ingredients into the removable crock and put into your fridge. You're done. Pour yourself a glass of wine or a cup of tea, sit back and relax. Come Monday, when the usual morning chaos ensues, you'll be prepared. You'll wake up, put the crock into the pot, plug in, turn on, and go! When you walk through the door after work, errands, whatever, hungry kids clamoring for food & attention, you'll be greeted by the scent of a home cooked meal, wafting through your kitchen. Ahh..doesn't that sound nice?

Number two: get the kid involved.  Time and patience permitting, bring them along while you shop sometimes.  If old enough, give them part of the list and their own shopping cart, let them gather up some of the items.  When you get home, have them help you unload and perhaps do a bit of prep work.  Even little ones can wash veggies and place them in containers.  When it's time to cook, let them measure/stir/whatever, and perhaps set the table.  This makes them feel part of the whole process, gives them some necessary skills for the future, and allows them to take pride in their contributions toward the family meal.  It makes the whole process more enjoyable, I think.  

Last but not least, relax. I know, easier said than done when the pressure's on, everybody's hungry and all you want to do is collapse on the couch.  But your attitude is everything. It sets the mood for the family and has a direct impact on whether or not dinner time is going to be a relaxing, peaceful experience or a stressful one.  If you're calm, they will follow suit..eventually.  And if all else fails, if the recipe flops or you forgot to defrost the tofu, so what? Laugh it off, order a pizza, eat it at the table with cloth napkins and real plates. Turn off the tv and have a conversation.  In the end, when they are all grown and out of the house like mine are, that's what you're going to remember. The time spent, the laughs shared, the stories told.  That's what matters, and those memories are worth so much more than the ones spent in the fast food drive through lane.

Michele~

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Birthday Treats

Birthday Michele & Loki photo IMG_20130819_181132_zps5a3c085a.jpg

So, yesterday was my 49th birthday.  *gulp* I honestly find that hard to believe. While I'm not usually hung up on my age, this one feels important somehow. I'm hoping I can make some positive changes in the coming year, greet the big 5-0 an even better version of myself. 

Chip was working in Melbourne so we spent the first part of the week in the RV at the campground.  

 
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We had a couple of meals out, including one really bad experience at a local Mexican restaurant. The food was tasteless, the margaritas sour & watery..yuck! When I asked for a bean burrito without cheese, I expected more than beans stuffed inside a tortilla and..nothing else.

Margarita Michele photo 20130819_130705_zpsc221b094.jpg

Bean Burrito with Rice & Coleslaw...worst ever! photo 20130819_131415_zps85d56787.jpg

Honestly, Taco Bell does a better job, which is why we ended up having lunch there the next day!

Birthday Tacos photo IMG_20130820_133838_zps69539e29.jpg

We did enjoy a wonderful dinner at Bangkok, Bangkok, a Thai restaurant & sushi bar. The steamed Tofu Rolls were the best I've ever eaten, and Chip clearly enjoyed his Spring Rolls. My Green Curry was also exceptional, would definitely dine here again.

Tofu Rolls photo 20130819_190735_zpsbeb3120f.jpg

> Chip and Spring Rolls photo 20130819_190750_zps178042ca.jpg

We were home by dinnertime last night, grabbed a couple of sandwiches and a cooler and headed to the beach. I can't think of a nicer way to end my birthday than with this gorgeous view!

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The celebration will continue this weekend as we head to Gainesville to visit with my girls and see their new homes.  In the meantime, I'm off to catch up on household chores and perhaps a bit of treadmill time!

Have a great day..

Michele~

Sunday, August 18, 2013

In Defense of Good Enough



I confess: in some areas of my life I'm a black and white, all-or-nothing kind of gal.  If I've decided to do something, I'll be diving in head first and commit my whole self to it.  My personal relationships, for example. I've always striven to be the best mother and wife I possibly could be, putting my family first, making it my life's work to create a happy and loving home. (I'm twice-divorced, so maybe that didn't work out so well, but I digress..) I also admit to being a bit of a perfectionist with some OCD tendencies.  I know it, my family knows it, and they love me anyway.  However, there are some things I've learned not to stress over, some things I simply can't control, despite my best efforts. At the ripe old age of (almost) 49, I'm not going to be a supermodel. It is unlikely that I'll ever be a size 2 again, at least not without plastic surgery and/or more time & effort than I'm willing to invest.  But that's ok, I'm willing to accept myself as I am, making some improvements where reasonable and possible, and letting go of the rest.  I'm just doing the best I can given my own circumstances, within my own personal ethics and belief system.  

Lately I've been reading a lot of "not good enough" type of posts here in Blogland, especially within the health/fitness/vegan community. There seems to be a lot of pressure to be a "better" vegan. It's not good enough to simply eat plant-based; you've also got to choose only organic, GMO-free, salt-free, oil-free, sugar-free, etc. etc. etc.  The lists go on & on. If not, you risk the wrath of the "vegan police" who pop up on blogs & discussion forums, always at the ready, just waiting to pounce and tell you what you're doing wrong. 

Well, I'm here to tell you: I do a lot of things wrong.  I consider myself vegan, yet I still have leather in my family room and closet.  They are used items, purchased before I decided to make this lifestyle change, and I have neither the means nor the desire to replace everything just yet.  I will get there someday, but in the meantime, I'm doing the best I can. 

Family room, another view photo 334043_3020484995608_676358737_o.jpg 


I prefer organic and hate GMO's, but there are commercially-prepared products in my pantry and conventionally-grown produce in my fridge. We travel a lot, and I don't always have access to a decent supermarket, much less a natural foods store.  Also, since Chip is still a vegetarian-in-training, I try to provide tasty alternatives to his omnivore favorites. If faux meats & a bit of vegan "junk food" help him transition, allow me to keep a "clean" kitchen and provide harmony in our home, I'm all for it.  I'm doing the best I can. 

Veganized Lettuce Wraps photo IMG_20130814_181910_zpsa62ad4b0.jpg
Veggie Lettuce Wraps 
 My chosen way of eating is Whole Food, Plant Based, no added fat/oil, but you'll see many pictures of restaurant meals that likely contain oil.  It's no secret that my favorite food is french fries and I indulge in them about once a week, usually alongside a veggie burger that may or may not contain a trace of eggs or milk, washed down a with a glass of wine or beer that is likely not vegan in the purest sense of the word. My hunny and I like to dine out, and I'm making the choice to compromise just a bit in order to enjoy the social time with him.  I'm doing the best I can.  

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big ol' messy veggie burger with sauteed mushrooms & onions

Like many of my friends, I dislike Wal-Mart's policies, procedures, and politics, and it goes against my grain to shop there.  Yet, sometimes I do.  They are often the only option for us when we're on the road, and I've found that they carry quite a few healthy, organic products. So, I do the best I can.  


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Recent purchase from the clearance section at Wal-Mart
 So, here I am, an imperfect vegan. A little bit chubby.  Living with a partner and a wolfdog who still consume meat (Chip, at least, prefers his cooked!).  Buying imperfectly. Eating imperfectly. Striving to live cruelty-free in this imperfect world, with the understanding that there is always room for improvement.  For now, that's simply good enough

Michele~

Friday, August 16, 2013

Happy Blogiversary!



Today marks the one year anniversary of The Vegan Gypsy's birth! It is also 4 days until my..ahem..49th Birthday, so lots to celebrate here, right?

The coming months will see a few changes in my personal life which will undoubtedly sneak into my cyber-life as well.  I expect to share more recipes, more travel, and hopefully (finally) meet my weight loss goals. 

It's been such a fun year, thank you for following along on my journey!

Michele~

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

(Mostly) Wordless Wednesday



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Simple Taco Salad

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Spaghetti Squash with Marinara

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Veggie Burger w/Sauteed Mushrooms - McK's Tavern, Daytona Beach

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Taco Salad with Homemade Chips

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Veggie Hoagie - Steagle's, Melbourne, FL

Loki at Wickham photo IMG_20130806_170217_zps00210f6a.jpg
Loki at Wickham Park - Melbourne, FL

Friday, August 2, 2013

Tales from the Road: A Mix of Central & South Florida

Ahhh..after a few days down south visiting family & friends..

Primavera Pizza photo IMG_20130728_050508_zpsb102aa9a.jpg
Primavera Pizza at DiSalvo's, Family Dinner

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Veggie Kebabs courtesy of Kristyn & Jesus' grilling expertise
followed by a couple of days at the campground in Melbourne...

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Cabo Burrito at Big Island Burritos

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Black Bean Burger at Chili's in Melbourne

We are back home in Ormond.

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My own Veggie Wrap

We're looking forward to a nice long weekend, absolutely nothing on the agenda as of yet. Perfect! What are your weekend plans?

Michele~