Friday, November 29, 2013

COOKIE SWAP 2012 AND A PUMPKIN SNICKERDOODLE RECIPE

Let the holidays begin!  Ya to the hoo!!!  I hope you're all having a lovely weekend followed by a most beautiful Thanksgiving.  I'll start by acknowledging that I haven't been doing much blogging lately, and have been meaning/hoping to update you all soon.  There is so much to be thankful for, and I'm looking forward to enjoying this season whole heartedly and with gusto!

For now, I wanted to make sure and post Cookie Swap 2012 for the record books...before Cookie Swap 2013 happens in the near future.  Oops...I guess I never did do that, did I?  Ah well.  We had a great time.  There's just nothing like the joy that Christmas brings, the smiles, the laughter, and...the cookies.  Seriously.  Enjoy...and do let me know, how does a cookie swap work in your neck of the woods?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

The 3rd Annual Cookie Swap, along with a recipe for Pumpkin Snickerdoodles.  Please excuse the photography...imperfect lighting and focus and such.  I'm over it.  :)

My mama and my sister came a bit beforehand to help.  Love these two!


Just a few treats to enjoy while chatting and waiting to swap cookies!


The cookie tables with a few of the cookies that arrived before the party!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

GUESTS WERE ASKED TO BRING
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

1.  1/2 dozen cookies/bars/treats for each guest attending (pre-packaged...ziplocs, tupperware, cellophane bags, etc...totally up to them).  I sent an Evite to confirm the number of guests ahead of time, also asking that they responded with the type of cookie they would bring (to avoid multiples of the same cookie).

2.  1 written or printed recipe for each guest in attendance

3.  1 basket/box/bag to carry home their cookie loot

*  I realize there are a million and one ways to do a Cookie Swap/Exchange.  This is just a peek into how I do mine.  We even had some gals bring cookies ahead of time in order to participate, even though they couldn't make it that evening.  So glad they could still be a part of the swap!
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

THE FUN
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

THE LOOT AND A RECIPE FOR

PUMPKIN SNICKERDOODLES
 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 


So much yummy goodness!  So thankful for the time and effort these ladies put into the making of these treats.  I have to admit, I was a bit bummed with the way my pumpkin snickerdoodles turned out.  A bit dry and thick.  Definitely a chugger...as in while eating one, you'd have to chug a glass of milk to survive.  I had actually made these cookies previously, just bite size, and enjoyed them thoroughly.  I think I wouldn't make them full size again after comparing the two.  Just a little inside scoop for ya...before you go and hand out a bunch of chuggers to your friends and family unknowingly.  


Please forgive me!  I forgot to save the inspiration link for these cookies, so I don't have the original source to credit here!  I did not make up this cookie recipe on my own and do not take credit for it. 

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles
Yield: about 3-4 dozen cookies

Ingredients:
For the cookies:
3¾ cups all-purpose flour
1½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
½ cup light brown sugar
¾ cup pumpkin puree
1 large egg
2 tsp. vanilla extract
For the coating:
½ cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
½ tsp. ground ginger
Dash of allspice

Directions:
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Whisk to blend and set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the butter and sugars on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, 2-3 minutes.  Blend in the pumpkin puree.  Beat in the egg and vanilla until incorporated.  With the mixer on low speed add in the dry ingredients and mix just until incorporated.  Cover and chill the dough for at least 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350˚ F.  Line baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.  Combine the sugar and spices for the coating in a bowl and mix to blend.  Scoop the dough (about 2½ tablespoons) and roll into a ball.  Coat the dough ball in the sugar-spice mixture and place on the prepared baking sheet.  Repeat with the remaining dough to fill the sheets, spacing the dough balls 2-3 inches apart.  Dip the bottom of a flat, heavy-bottomed drinking glass in water, then in the sugar-spice mixture, and use the bottom to flatten the dough balls slightly.  Recoat the bottom of the glass in the sugar-spice mixture as needed.  

Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes, or until just set and baked through.  Let cool on the baking sheets about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Repeat with the remaining dough.  Store in an airtight container.


As always, love my little helper.  Cookie Swap time is time for him and Daddy to enjoy being/doing something together and letting us ladies rule the house for a bit.  But first, he was so precious helping me get ready and was adamant on taking coats from the gals as they arrived.  Couldn't love him more...or his festive spirit.  What's funny is that I had just hung a couple hooks in the entry prior to the party, and after hanging coats and walking away for a time, I came back to a pile of coats on the floor and a whole ripped out of the wall.  Oops.  Improper installation.  Obviously.  Hey, I'm human.  I'd like to think that it made somebody at the party feel more human too.  :)  My Dad did come some time after and helped me install the hooks properly, so I'm assuming we won't have a repeat performance this year.  Your coats are safe with me...I hope.



Merry start to the Christmas season from our house to yours!  

Here's a peek at 2011's shindig...

I'm preparing our advent calendar to begin on Sunday.  
Little buddy is so excited!  Can't believe it's already that time of year again!  
It just doesn't seem real!  And just for a little sneak peek at our life 
update that has yet to make an appearance on the blog...


Woo hoo!!!  We couldn't be more excited!

Much love and many blessings!




Friday, May 3, 2013

HEALTHY CROCKPOT BEANS AND TACO NIGHT

With Cinco de Mayo coming up, I thought it was the perfect time to share our newly revamped, healthified taco night!  


First, can we be friends?  Okay good.  We need to be friends to move on here...because we're going to talk about beans.  And when ya talk about beans in this house, ya gotta talk about gas.  The gas we pass actually.   Enter: hilarity inappropriateness.


Have you read this book?  I bought it in high school I think...or college.  I knew one day it would come in handy for some fun evenings.  We read it and laugh...and then reread it and laugh...because we're mature like that.  Not to be outdone by the book below though.  Quite entertaining as well.  


Anyhoo, since changing the way we eat, we have noticed that the subject of gas has become very relevant.  It's kind of ridiculous how very constantly relevant it is.  In order to make us all feel a little better, my husband told me that Rip Esselstyn says you can tell how well you're eating by how loose your bowels are.  I'm here to tell you good ol' Rip is not making that up.  You're welcome.  You start eating all the awesome superpowers...legumes, whole grains, veggies, fruits...you become well acquainted with this subject!   Consider it fair warning.  


So, can we still be friends?  Okay phew!  Moving on to legit awesomeness.  Taco night has become one of our favorite meals since eliminating meat and dairy.  Truth be told, taco night has always been one of our faves.  I would cook up ground turkey breast with taco seasoning and pile my taco high with goodies...taco sauce, cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, green onions,  avocados, and sour cream.  My favorites of course being the creamy addition of the cheese and sour cream.  An easy meal that was tasty and hearty.  But, we have been able to change it up a bit so that it remains one of our favorites within this way of eating.


Let's start with the beans.  I've been using canned beans forever, but recently tried THIS crockpot recipe that was super easy and great.  We just ate the last bit that was thawed from frozen, and it tasted just as good as the day I made them.  I would add some additional seasoning next time I make a batch of these bad boys, but overall, they were perfectly wonderful just as is.


I used THIS recipe from Amy and have found her blog especially lovely and inspirational.  Her story amazing and her faith...incredible.

So along with the "refried" beans, I make a rice and bean mixture that acts as our meat substitute.  I originally just cooked brown rice in our rice cooker, and then cooked/sauteed it in homemade taco seasoning along with canned black and pinto beans.  Then I saw THIS on Amy's blog (I wanted to try something different, and she's got lots of great ideas!) and cooked up the rice and beans with taco seasoning and a can of Rotel Tomatoes and Green Chilies.  It provided quite a bump up in the spice/heat factor, and it's something I'd like to play around with a bit more.


________________________________________________________________________________________

...RIGHT NOW TACO NIGHT INCLUDES...

Whole Wheat Tortillas
Crockpot Refried Beans
Homemade Taco Seasoning
Mexican Style Brown Rice and Beans
Red Onion
Red Pepper
Green Onions
Tomatoes
Kale/Spinach/Lettuce
Cilantro (sometimes)
Guacamole (key creaminess when eliminating cheese and sour cream)
Salsa or Pico de Gallo (store bought or homemade)
Taco Sauce (medium heat...is that wimpy?)
Cowboy Caviar (occasionally...eliminate oil in recipes as it's not needed)
Cheese (a little Colby Jack for Coop...slowly eliminating)
Enchilada Sauce

________________________________________________________________________________________



We love it!  Full of flavor, full of health, full of yum!  Of course there are other mexican style recipes for beans and rice, as well as other versions of cowboy caviar and salsas that look so tasty.  This is just where we've landed for now.  Feels good.  

Still hoping to find the perfect blend of homemade taco seasoning.  The ones I've tried are good, but I haven't found the final yum yet...maybe because of the flavor difference when cooked with rice and beans as opposed to meat?  Still playing around.  What's your favorite taco seasoning recipe?



And while we're at it, what does your taco night look like?  Are there any slight changes you could make toward becoming plant strong?

Big hugs and lots of love,

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

MISCARRIAGE: REMEMBERING AND MOVING FORWARD WITH HOPE

May 1st.  May Day.

Usually, it's a beautiful day in the spring.  It conjurs up memories of leaving flowers on a neighbor's doorstep, ringing the bell, and then running away.  Beautiful blooms in every color.  A day in which the showers of April seem a distant past to the warm glow of the sun (well maybe not so much so for the pacific northwest, but this week seems promising).  A day that assures us summer is around the corner, and beauty is everywhere.  All the light seems brighter.  The warmth feels warmer.  Orange and yellow seem more vibrant than ever before.  Vacations, summer, picnics, bbqs, family get togethers, holidays...fun.  It holds such promise and joy, anticipation.

MAY 2012

Usually, it's a beautiful day.  But this particular first day of May...it's a tough one.  There isn't any getting around it.

Due to be born on this very day, we remember our precious babe lost to miscarriage in September of this last year.  I know there are so many others out there who know this pain all too well.  I won't embellish much here.  I literally can't.  There is so much to say.  Too many tears.  Such heavy emotion.  But I do want to take a moment...to pause...to remember.

MAY 2012

I know the pain of losing this baby, the often unspoken feeling that someone in our family will forever be missing, will linger in my heart for the rest of my life.  We have literally lost a family member...and are grieving this loss.  But even so, I can honestly say, I remain thankful.  The blessings still overflow, and the joy did indeed come in the morning.   It took quite a few mornings actually, but the joy did return.  I am more convinced of God's mercy and grace, knowing He is for me...for my good.  This little life that we'll never get to snuggle or meet this side of Heaven has changed me...forever affected my heart for good...even more for God, and I am grateful.  This precious little one is forever with me.

LITTLE BUDDY AND I ON OUR WAY TO PRESCHOOL IN SEPTEMBER

As a family, we are moving forward, and we remain hopeful.  Our son Cooper is a precious gift we treasure and a sweet daily reminder of God's goodness in the midst of this hurt and the desire to grow our family.  I do not take my son for granted and will always be thankful for the day he joined us and made me Mommy.  Coop fills my heart to the brim daily and is my dream come true.  It is my privilege to be his mom.  To our friends and family that have prayed for us, loved us, and supported us in this journey, we couldn't be more grateful.  It has meant the world.   We love you.

LITTLE BUDDY APRIL 2013

And now, knowing my own painful journey, I wish I could go back in time and walk right along side precious family members and friends who have experienced this loss...some more than once...loving them and being more in tune with what losing a baby to miscarriage really entails emotionally and physically.  This experience is so beyond anything I could have ever known or understood.  It can be so lonely...quiet...as if no one understands or cares...like you're living in a dark cave of despair and the world just continues on without you...and your baby.  And adding to that sometimes is just the fact that miscarriage isn't often discussed, and if it is, the conversations can be quite difficult or uncomfortable.  People don't know exactly what to say...or if they should say anything at all.  I know I didn't know what to say and have even said things (that I thought were helpful) that now I think ridiculous and so dismissive.  My deepest apologies to precious family members for not loving and supporting you more intensely...intentionally.

If someone you know loses a precious child to miscarriage, assume nothing.  Love them...support them...in any way you can.  Do it on purpose.  Don't forget them.  Ask what you can do to help.  And even better, do things for them without asking...buy them dinner, cook them dinner, drop off dessert, take care of their kids for an afternoon, send them a note, talk about the hard stuff with them, just listen, change the subject and talk about other things, help them get alone time with their spouse, grieve with them, laugh with them, let them know they are not forgotten, and make it okay to be real...to be raw.  Do everything in your power to let them know they are not alone.  It makes all the difference.

AUGUST 2012

Thank you for reading.  My prayers are with you...especially those of you who know this pain too well.  

With all my love and a hopeful heart,

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

BLACK BEAN AND QUINOA BURGERS...SOME TROUBLE CONVINCING OUR LITTLECARNIVORE

Hello dear people.  So excited to be sharing our food journey as of lately.  Did you read my last post?  Click HERE for a peek into the start of our plant strong adventure.  I feel like there's so much more to share...so much more to learn.


So here we go.  The burger post.  Black Bean and Quinoa Burgers.  I'm excited to share this because making these burgers has been a valuable learning experience for us.  It's been a lesson in trial and error, as well as a chance to discover or remember to use ingredients we haven't used much previously at all.  I will put it out there right now.  This is all new for me.  I am not a professional chef.  I haven't even hit the tip of the ice burg when it comes to whole foods/plant based diet knowledge.  I am not claiming that all bean burger knowledge is mine.  I have so much more to learn.  I am craving information.  Every time I prepare food, I want to prepare it better next time.  Our meals are constantly evolving and changing right now.  No recipe is settled as of yet.  I am simply a wife and a mom trying to do the best I can with what I'm learning.  The journey continues.


These burgers have become a staple in our lives recently as we continue on a path to eating healthfully.  As we have about a week or so of meals we are rotating, we are also hungry to try new things and explore what's out there.  There are SO many meatless and healthful burger options.  Somehow, this was our first endeavor.  We were directed to THIS recipe by our brother in law, who had also recently adapted this eating lifestyle.  He thought they were alright but could be better.  That was our starting point.  I'm always excited to get a recipe from someone, knowing they've tried it first and hear the review.  Being a guinea pig is not my favorite thing.  Hearing from him gave me  something to work with.

We've made this recipe a few times now, and each time it's gotten better.  Each time I've added ingredients, eliminated ingredients, and just hoped for the best.  It's kind of been like a food experiment.  It might help if I preface this burger recipe with a disclaimer.   A bean burger has a texture that can take some getting used to at first.  It's a bit softer and dare I say mushier.  Dude it's squished beans.  It's to be expected.  In our opinion, it's not a big deal...especially with all the fixins we pile on.  I'm not sure you can really compare these bean burgers to meat burgers though or expect to impress or convert your friends and family.  However, you might be able to open the eyes of some innocent bystanders by simply sharing the goods...and armed with information (power), they may just become a bean burger lover.  These bad boys are good and tasty in their own right, and I can say with complete certainty that I won't feel deprived or feel like I'm missing out by not eating a meat burger for the rest of my life.  These burgers have great flavor and leave you feeling full and satisfied.  The valuable, plant strong nutrients are just a bonus!


BLACK BEAN AND QUINOA BURGERS
Makes approximately 4 substantial burgers

INGREDIENTS
- 4 good sized whole grain burger buns
- 1 15oz can of black beans (rinsed and drained)
- 3/4 cup cooked quinoa* (give or take...about 1/4 cup uncooked and then cooked...explained below)
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs...any breadcrumbs (I make my own in a mini food processer...so easy!)
- 1/4 cup red pepper minced
- 1 small zucchini* grated (or half a bigger sized zucchini...ours were really tiny)
- 2 tablespoons minced onion
- 1 clove garlic minced or squirted through one of those garlic press thingamajigs OR a few dashes of garlic powder*
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin*
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon...give or take...of hot sauce (We used Frank's RedHot, and it wasn't too hot or spicy.)
- 2 big squirts of ketchup (probably about 2 tablespoons)
- Optional: Chia Seeds

LITTLE NOTES*
- Sometimes I cook 1 cup of quinoa (with 2 cups water) and use it all week.  I use 1/4th here, put some in salads, add it to soups, and include it in breakfast.  I haven't tested it out yet (sorry), but I think 1/4 uncooked quinoa is about 3/4 cooked.  I've read that several places online, and it looked about right when I was adding quinoa to this recipe the other day.
- I used garlic powder this last time, and for one reason or another, the burgers were our favorite since making them a few times before.  I think I'll use garlic powder again instead of garlic next time too.
- Zucchini was a recent addition, and I think it provided a moistness and extra dose of veg without affecting the flavor or texture at all.
- You can add ANY other seasonings to tailor the flavor of these burgers to your mood...I mean...look in your spice cupboard and go crazy...seriously.
- Some folks add an egg to meatless burger recipes as a binder.  We're avoiding eggs when possible these days and haven't needed one for the burgers to bind together successfully.

DIRECTIONS
Gather your quinoa and set aside.  Squish the beans with a fork in a big bowl.  The more squished they get, the more helpful they are in holding the burger together.  To the bean mixture, add your quinoa, breadcrumbs, zucchini, onion, garlic (powder), cumin, salt, hot sauce, and ketchup.  Mix ingredients thoroughly.  Form four equal sized burger patties that will be a good fit for your big buns.   (He he he...that made me laugh.)

Cook burgers (in a non-stick skillet if you can to avoid sticking and breaking) about 5-8 minutes per side...give or take.  Basically, hang out near the burgers.  Watch them.  The worst that would happen is they'd get too dried out I think.  I like to form a bit of a crust on ours, so it's really up to you how long you cook them.  You want them to be warmed through for sure, and you want them to hold together.  Be careful as you're flipping, as these burgers are fragile and can break VERY easily.

And toppings...or accompaniments...or fixins...whatever people call it.  It's all about the fixins!!!  The more you add, the more exciting and flavorful these burgers become.  I can personally vouch for the following toppings on these burgers.

Hummus...plain or garlic flavored
Guacamole
Avocado
Ketchup
BBQ sauce
Caramelized onion
Sauteed mushrooms
Kale/Spinach/Lettuce
Tomatoes
Red Onion
Chia Seeds

And now...THIS!!!


Ugh!  Okay, so this picture kind of grosses me out.  Just keepin' it real.  After all the information we've gained in going veggie strong, knowing my son refuses to eat these bean burgers is a big bummer.  Convincing our little carnivore has been a bit difficult.  On the night we made these burgers, we cooked up a Trader Joe's turkey burger for little buddy.  It had been a rough week with several plant strong meals he wouldn't eat.  So frustrating...and for me, emotionally draining.  Remember my thoughts in #8 HERE?  Often when he won't eat what I've made, we allow for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, along with other fruits and veggies.  I'm not sure what it is, but I'm not ready for the whole, "Eat what was prepared or go hungry," stance.  We're just not there.  Not sure if we'll ever land there, but for now, I know we're not there.  The flip side to that, though, is I also don't want to be the Mom that is cooking a separate tailored meal for every person in the family.  I mean, I just can't.  That I won't do.  And really, it's not the end of the world that he ate a turkey burger from TJ's.  What I'm aiming to do is work in his heart...help him understand the importance of health, wellness, and nutrition...why we're choosing to cook and eat a bit differently than we have in the past...have him choose health and wellness for himself when given the opportunity.   We are winning little victories here and there and experiencing breakthroughs consistently, but it's moments like this that remind me the journey never ends.  Not giving up is key.  Thankful for tomorrows.

In thinking about what's next, there are other meatless burger recipes I look forward to trying.  This recipe is simply where we started.  All it takes with meatless burgers is a little experimenting.  What we're finding is that the more we experiment with flavors and spices and/or adding or subtracting ingredients, the more fun and flavorful our meals have become.  Tailor it all to your liking!

And just a funny for you.  I find it hilarious that a few of the meals that have become staples in our house as of lately are burgers, pizza, and tacos.  Sounds so ironic to me...but when you take out the stuff that makes those meals pretty unhealthy and you taste what's left...you've got yourself a plate full of yum and a bunch of superpowers.  Amazeballs.

Big hugs and wishes for health and deliciousness!


On a personal note, I'm discovering a love for blogging that doesn't go away.  My blog is not professional, funded, or well known, but it's mine.  I've done the best with what I have and have had so much fun putting it all out there.  I mean shoot, this is the longest running journal I've ever kept.  Every other journal or diary has about 15 pages of goodness filled in...with the rest of the pages left blank.  I'm a bit bummed because those pages had such potential for awesome reading material for the grown up me.  Can you just imagine?  Do you have the amazing reading material for yourself?  Ahh you do?!  Can I read it?  Nah, that's your awesome reading material.  But seriously, somehow this blog is different.  As an adult/wife/mother, journaling is different.  Chronicling life is different.  For a time recently, I had to kind of stop for a spell.   As they should, the roles of wife, mother, and human being with limits took priority over blogging.  I was choosing sleep over blogging...the ability to function and be present with little buddy.   It was the obvious and right decision.  However, I've found myself longing for this creative outlet.   So, I've come to accept my blogging limits, and by golly, I will blog...slowly but surely...little blurbs at a time.  :)   Hallelujah!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A LIFESTYLE CHANGE: WHAT WE'RE EATING


Hi all!  We're digging right in today...taking a slice right out of our life as of lately.  This slice has to do with food.  A change.  It kind of happened all of a sudden, and I wasn't quite ready for it.  But here I am, in the thick of it...and singing its praises.

Let's start with a quick look back.  In the past, I enjoyed cooking meals like California BLTs, Asian Chicken SaladsSpaghetti with Meat Sauce, and Chicken Caesar Salads with Homemade Croutons.  We loved meaty taco night, chicken marsala, cheesy pizza, and basically indulging in whatever sounded awesome.  Bomb diggity meals with the main emphasis on yum and easy.  These days, however, our meal times are shaping up to be quite different, and we're shocking and horrifying friends left and right.  Not really...but sort of.  :)


(Thanks for your grace in looking at these pictures.  Sometimes I have time to do a little sprucing up and editing and other times, it's straight from the phone.  I haven't taken the time to do what every other blogger in the world has done...understand how to use my camera and lighting properly.  Oops.  :)  So be it.    So thanks again for your photography grace.)


Okay here we go.  At my husband's urging (Thank goodness I didn't have to drag him along miserably!), we began to take some information very seriously and aim for a whole foods, plant based diet.  Did I just say that?!?!?!  Yes, yes I did.  That just sounds extreme, doesn't it?!  Basically, we eliminated most animal proteins (meat, dairy, eggs, etc.), almost all processed foods, and intentionally ate LOADS more fruits and veggies.  To get down to it, we began eating foods that were never really in our world previously...kale or quinoa anyone?  No, we don't live under a rock.  :)

As we started this adventure a while back, we were very strict with ourselves.  My husband was especially strict with himself, while I was more likely to be the one splurging and making exceptions left and right.  In doing so, I felt so dirty...like I was cheating.  I kind of laugh about it now.  So I bucked up and got just as strict with myself.  It was tough at first, but we really wanted to notice the difference in our physical bodies, moods, energy levels, and cravings.  And let me just say, what a difference...for the better!  We both lost weight pretty quickly, and I especially noticed losing my "puffiness."  We have gained energy, felt lighter overall, and found our tastebuds have changed.  It's been a few months now, and while we're still in it to win it, we've let loose a little.  We have found a happy medium and balance we feel pretty good about sticking to for the long haul.  Like I said...a lifestyle change.  I'm sure it will continue to evolve, but in this moment...it feels great.


> > > A FEW THINGS ABOUT US < < <

1.  We love food.  Possible food snobs.  Wannabe foodies.  Not nearly experienced enough in tasting all the yum out there...but we can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that we desire deliciousness.   The idea of a lovely meal, the process of the meal coming together, finding out what it takes to create yum, making food beautiful is exciting to us.  We live in the Pacific Northwest, and our idea of a good time (amongst others) is an awesome meal prepared with the bounty from a trip to the farmer's market...opening soon in our hometown.  Woo hoo!

2.  My husband is lactose intolerant...in a big way.  Dairy and he are not good buds.  I guess you could say dairy is kind of like his nemesis.  Mortal enemy.  One sip of dairy...one bite of creamy goodness...and he beelines for the nearest bathroom...and it's not pretty.  Sorry, can we handle potty talk here?  I thought so.  He used to take pills so he could tolerate some of our faves for special occasions and such, but by golly, it just wasn't worth it.  He was left with cramps, weird tummy rumblings, and an all around yucky feeling all over.  He stopped consuming dairy all together a while back because he had had enough, dropped 15 pounds almost instantly, and was feeling at peace with it.  He's someone who can do that.  He makes a decision, and he does it.  I thought, good for you honey.  Hmmm...I should do that...maybe...or not...because...see #3.

3.  I love dairy.  Like, if I wasn't already married to my love, I might marry dairy because I love it that much.  The creaminess.  The gooeyness.  The milk.  The cream.  The cheese.  Oh cheese.  I love you cheese.  Where for art thou cheese?  I can't tell you the depth of love I have felt for dairy in my lifetime.  It runs deep.  Drinking glasses of milk a few times a day, milk with every meal, cheese as a garnish to everything. Cheese was my bud, not my nemesis.  Or at least I thought.  Yogurt, ice cream, sour cream, cream, butter...the list goes on.  Goat cheese and fig jam...a staple in my diet.  If it was dairy...I pretty much loved it.   Also, in being honest, dairy was such an easy go to with a child when it came to meals.  It just was.  Maybe some of you know what I mean.  So many options.  See how I'm speaking past tense now.  Shocking development.

4.  I have ankylosing spondylitis.  Quite a mouthful...but put simply...an autoimmune disease that affects my joints...arthritis...joint issues in the simplest terms.  Dairy is one of the worst things I can consume while having arthritis...amongst other things...or so I've read.  Mostly, doctors have just prescribed drugs...serious...expensive...drugs.  I've never seen a naturopath or a dietician (wish I would have), so it's not surprising that not one doctor I've seen has discussed diet or food as a means to improve my health.  I should have taken it upon myself...responsibility.  Power people.  I've got the power...but my how it's been wasted.  My arthritis goes in waves, and when it is bad, it is bad.  Life is not normal for me or my family when a bad wave hits.  It knocks me over and takes my boys along with it.  So there came a time when it was absolutely necessary to take the medicine.  But what the heck was I putting in my body?!  It's scary when I think about it, but when push came to shove, super serious medicine was the necessary evil...and I was thankful.  I am not on any medication right now, but it's possible I might have to take these medicines again at some point down the road.  Hoping that is far off in the distant future.  Or never.

5.  When it comes to meat, I have cooked beef probably 10 times since being married in 2003.  No joke.  We hardly cooked beef as a couple.  Lots of chicken and ground turkey, and when it wasn't chicken or turkey...it was salmon, pork, or shrimp.  But mainly chicken or turkey if meat was consumed.  We enjoyed a steak here or there, bacon, french dip, burgers, and other beefy goodies.  I'm sure there's more, but when it came time for cooking, beef was a rarity.  Oddly enough, not necessarily related to our decision to do this recently, I had stopped cooking most meat for a while before our eating habits changed more dramatically.  I was in a cooking rut, and it just made things easier.  Who knew.


6.  I could have been a vegetarian years ago.  Easily.  I love me some salad...pasta...veggies...potatoes...and cheese (see #3 above).  Yeah...I could have been a vegetarian.  I've been pushing for healthier ways of eating for quite some time in this house, but never made a big enough stink about it for the whole entire family to make it a priority...to follow through.  Bummer to admit, but it's the truth.  I also never really saw an interest from my Mr. when I would talk about it or suggest a food documentary to watch.  Not his fault; he just needed it to be his idea.  He needed some time.  Some facts.

7.  Our little buddy loves food...like closes his eyes, sways his head, rubs his belly, and says, "Mmmmmmmm!" while he's enjoying it kind of love.  He's always been a good eater and is interested in helping me in the kitchen (sometimes).  I tried to introduce and make all sorts of healthy and natural foods when he was first learning to eat, and it was awesome to see him enjoy those first tastes.  Then, I got lazy...and let things slide here and there...and little buddy learned what it was like to eat food that was easy...normal for many kids...and not quite as nutritious.  I wish it wasn't true, but it is.   As he's four years old now, he knows what he likes...he knows what's out there...he knows the possibility of yum in the tum.  Trying new things is a little trickier now.  Textures are a big deal for him, which makes trying new things so unpredictable.  He's starting to not like some of the healthy foods/vegetables he used to adore.  It is such a bummer.  We are doing our best to have him join us on this journey, but I can see the disappointment in his eyes when he sees or tastes what I've made...and it's different.  It is proving to be much more difficult than I thought.  He is a good sport, but we still have a long way to go.  I think it's mostly due to my emotional issues with food.  See below, #8.

8.  I love to please with food.  I love to watch my husband and son enjoy what I make for them.  When and if they don't, I shrivel up inside and feel so bummed...not because of how they react (because they're the sweetest and most gracious), but because of how I process it all...the time, effort, and resources that went into that meal.  I feel responsible for yum.  I long to provide positive food memories...for my son to grow up thinking there is nothing like Mom's cookin'...thinking fondly back when he's older to the yummy food in our home that was a part of joyful dinner table flavors, experiences, and conversations.  The phrase, "May I please have more?" is music to my ears.  When I think of not cooking meals we had grown to love as a family, although armed with the truth, it hurts a little...maybe a lot...definitely a lot more than I thought it would.  I've been brainwashed.  I've bamboozled myself.  Yep.  Food = happiness in my heart...but my head is changing that.  I know it sounds ridiculous.  I know that I can provide the happy food memories while cooking food with health and wellness in mind, legit deliciousness, but when PDubb shares a recipe like THIS pot roast recipe on The Food Network...with her family all sitting around the table oozing, "Mom this is so good," it stirs in me a desire to WANT THAT POT ROAST!   So random and unexpected after reading #5 and #6 right?  Ha!!!  So far on this journey, after retraining my tastebuds and retraining my body to intentionally choose health, I've found that food that used to call my name no longer does so.  I'm not joking. Some things just don't taste good anymore.  Every once in a while it does, but mostly it doesn't.  So PDubb, girl, you got me.  I think your pot roast will be a big time "splurge" one of these days, and I won't feel the tiniest bit of guilt.  We're learning that what they say is true:  it's not about living to eat...it's about eating to live.  Forget rules, forget the guilt, and don't make yourself crazy by freaking out and limiting yourself.  Just be thankful, be thoughtful, eat intentionally to fuel your body, and make health and deliciousness a priority.

9.  We have other family members attempting the whole foods plant based diet too...some who find it to be quite a challenge and could greatly benefit from making it a priority for legit health reasons.  This has served as a big inspiration for us to give it a try, especially my husband.

And can I just say, he needs new pants.  He's got saggy booty disease...or at least his pants do.  It makes me giggle.  He lost weight so quickly, his booty didn't even have a chance.  And what's more hilarious, he's so stinkin' go with the flow that we haven't even purchased new pants for him yet.  It's been months, and he's just wearing belts and wearing saggy booty pants.  Oh my practical/frugal husband.  It's time honey.  We need your booty back.

10.  From my perspective, our culture...my generation, as well as generations before me and behind me, have become numb and often oblivious...to truth, to facts, to information, to health, to nutrition, to the needs of others, to responsibility, to many things.  It is all about me...me, me, me...and it's gross.  What we want...what we've been told is good for us...what we've been told we need...what we've been told we deserve...young kids and teenagers ruling the roost...lack of respect...lack of understanding...lack of expectations...lack of parents investing in the lives of their children...lack of the ability to do so in spite of all their best efforts...people hurting and struggling, hearts turning cold.  Marketing, money, power, and what's good for a few has had great influence on what is "good" for the masses.  We decide with our emotions/heart often times far more than we learn from experience, knowledge, truth, and wisdom.  It has affected the health of our country as a whole drastically...especially children and teenagers.  I cringe at the thought of what kids in this country are being fed consistently...what has become normal.  I want to bring them home and feed them all.  (Wait!  Disclaimer:  I just bought my son a mini bag of Cheetohs the other day while shopping at Target.  We needed a distraction. It happens.  So, maybe I shouldn't be responsible for all the children. Anyhoothem...)  Hopefully, you get my drift.  Our hearts are waking up in this house to powerful information and facts...and it's a startling reality.  Our eyes are open, and they are continuing to become more wide eyed on a daily basis.


Lots to consider.  Mainly, we felt tugged to this way of eating for quite some time, and it was time we did something about it.  Our diet consists mostly of vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, quinoa, brown rice, and whole grains.   Loving it.  As I mentioned previously, we have eliminated animal proteins (making exceptions when it makes sense to us) and many processed foods...starting out very strictly and slowly finding a balance we can live with.  Now that we're not being so strict with ourselves, we are "coloring outside the lines" a little here and there...not going obsessively crazy trying to eliminate every single processed item in our pantry and cupboards.  We are making a conscientious effort to investigate and be informed...look at that ingredient list and feel good about what we're putting into our bodies.  I imagine we will take adventures one at a time as they come in the future...parties, restaurants, being served in someone else's home, holidays...but we will experience those decisions from a different point of view and a healthier perspective.   It's been quite a journey...and one we are still right in the middle of walking.  But in this moment...where we've landed as of now...it feels good.

So what are we eating?  I thought it would be fun to wet your appetite with a few pictures from our journey...mostly from my phone.  I'd actually like to take more pictures...to remind myself of successful or loved recipes, as I hope to compile a big ol' fatty food picture binder...a source of inspiration.  Funny enough, I haven't even tried too many recipes yet, as we've just modified what we were already eating to fit the "plan."  So much inspiration out there...so many recipes to try.  I'd say we have about a week's worth of meals we're rotating right now as faves...and then, when I have the energy and time, I try something new.  Still need to dig in further...get more creative...get more daring.  It can be a bit overwhelming really.  I'm finding that all it takes is the willingness to start.  Enjoy!

> > > BREAKFAST < < <

Steel cut oats, agave nectar, walnuts, bananas, and almond milk (sometimes chia seeds).  This is a hearty and filling breakfast...especially comforting because of its warmth.

Rip's Big Bowl Cereal - Berry Flavored (E2 Product Line - mentioned below), strawberries, bananas, and almond milk.  Cereal packed with a punch, full of crunch, and a dose of sweetness with fruit that curbs the appetite until lunch. 

> > > SNACKS AND SIDES < < < 

Veggies and hummus...great go to.  Who knew hummus could be so yummy?!  Not me.  I used to be a ranch dipper...like full of sour cream and mayo ranch...but not anymore.

Fruit.  Lots of it.  Enough said.  When you eat the rainbow, you eat the rainbow of nutrients our body so desperately desires.  Color = superpowers!!!


> > > RANDOM MEALS < < <

Veggie and brown rice soup.  This is my ode to chicken and rice/noodle soup.  It's pretty much the same soup that I've always made, except I swapped out chicken and chicken stock for veggie stock, added mushrooms, kale, spinach, and green onions, and called it a day.  I love it.  I have tried with success, I have tried Better than Bouillon veggie stock, but the one I tried has soy in it...and I'd love to find a great veggie stock without soy.  I would love to make my own (and hope to soon), but the convenience of a quick go to is amazing.  I tried a few other brands as well, and I literally dumped the cartons down the drain when I opened, smelled, and tasted.  Completely horrible!!! 

Veggies and rice.  We've always loved a good stir fry.  Again, same concoction I've always made but without chicken and with the addition of pineapple and ginger.  Great flavors...and it makes for a great excuse to use the chopsticks I bought on our honeymoon in Kauai. 

> > > SPLURGES, EXCEPTIONS, AND FUN FINDS < < <

It's not easy to eat out, but you do the best you can with the options available.  It's all about making it work for you and not stressing.  We love the veggie fajitas at our favorite Mexican restaurant.  They sizzle coming out just like their meaty counterpart.  Yum.

So these are not on the plan...like...at all.  But they remain.  Great dose of yum when I need it most.  Some days I eat none.  Others I eat 2 or 5 or 6 or 7, okay 10.  I've eaten 10 in a day.  It happened.  My Mom says she allows herself one a day.  Mom, who are you?!  Is that a joke?!  I am learning self control.

So excited to find these!  Delicious!!!  My husband did a happy dance when we tried these.  Finding ice cream he can fully enjoy was such a gift.  Not exactly healthy, but definitely a dessert we will be enjoying for years to come.

This is processed food we are willing to eat...yum!!!  The flavor is so good...plain or dipped in my homemade guacamole.  Need to stock up on these bad boys.

I made Coop Martha's mac and cheese a few weeks ago.  It's the bomb diggity.  Is it full of all sorts of dairy that I've eliminated from my life?  Yes.  Is it delicious?  Yes.  Was it worth it to have a bowl myself?  Yes!  I won't be making this often, but it's worth a splurge now and again...especially because it's Coop's fave.  And who am I kidding?! Mine too.  I don't want to live in a world where I can't take a bite of mac and cheese now and again...yummy, homemade cheesy, oozy, creamy goodness.

We are working on getting our four year old son on board slowly but surely.  This meal is a happy splurge every once and a while.  It's funny.  Little buddy actually seems excited...and then he requests meat, cheese, and a corn dog.  Oops.  It's awesome and hilarious to discuss health and nutrition with our son and hear him reason with us.  He's got the facts down, but his desires don't quite line up accordingly.  Crazy the grip that food can have on even a four year old.  This lifestyle change couldn't have come at a better time.

My husband spoke with a man during a lunch work meeting about all this, and this gentleman had transitioned to a vegan lifestyle a few years back.  They discussed much.  He looked at my husband funny...like he was crazy...when he mentioned we were having trouble getting our son fully on board.  Maybe he was a little more unwavering, steadfast, merciless, and unwilling to make excuses for himself decisive with his kids.  We're just not there yet.  I feel weak.  See #1, 7, and 8 above.  ;)

> > > WHAT LIT A FIRE UNDER OUR BUNS < < <

1.  Jamie Oliver - Dude can cook!  This man has a passion for real food.  He also has a passion for teaching people the difference between real food and the nasty stuff that is labeled as such.  I was especially inspired by his tv show Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, which focused on food eduction in our country.  So powerful.  Our hearts were definitely stirred.

2.  Family - We kind of got started officially while hoping to encourage family members to stick to this plan, but I had actually been learning about this way of eating from one family member in particular for quite some time.  My Mama.  She introduced me to healthy recipes, healthy ingredients, and excitement for healthy foods long before we were interested.  I owe a lot of my interest and desire for this lifestyle to her...although she might not know this.  I would give her a hard time when she talked about how yummy lentils were.  I would taste these raw date balls and then spit them out.  I just wasn't ready.  She beat me to it.  But Mama, thanks for the example!  I'm with you!!!

3.  Forks Over Knives - A powerful food documentary (with lots of recipe resources).  Oh boy did this knock our socks off and really get the ball rolling.  From the Forks Over Knives site...

The feature film Forks Over Knives examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting animal-based and processed foods.  The major storyline in the film traces the personal journeys of a pair of pioneering yet under-appreciated researchers, Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn.  

4.  The China Study - Mind blowing facts that provide encouragement and data for fact driven folks (ie - my husband!).  The following information is directly from The China Study site...

In The China Study, Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Professor Emeritus at Cornell University, details the connection between nutrition and heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Recognized as the most comprehensive nutritional study ever conducted on the relationship between diet and the risk of developing disease, The China Study cuts through the haze of misinformation and examines the source of nutritional confusion produced by government entities, lobbies, and opportunistic scientists.
5.  The Engine 2 Diet - Plant strong firefighter Rip Esselstyn, son of Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn of Forks Over Knives fame, challenged his buddy firefighters (some...dangerously unhealthy) in Texas to a 28 day plant strong diet challenge, and the results were out of this world amazing.  It led to the Engine 2 Diet.  We watched THIS E2 documentary on Netflix, and it was interesting and informative.  The website offers fun resources for kids and loads of recipes.  We've also enjoyed some of the E2 product line launched at Whole Foods stores recently.  As this product line was recently being promoted, my husband went to hear Rip speak at the Whole Foods near his office building.  He said it just made it all that more practical and real for him.  I think it was important for him as a man to see another man flourishing with this lifestyle.  Additionally, the following excerpt is straight from the Engine 2 Diet website.

The Engine 2 Diet is based on peer-reviewed, medical research science that shows a low-fat, plant-based diet can prevent, and in many cases reverse chronic western diseases — cancer, heart disease, Type II Diabetes and more — with the added bonus of healthy weight loss! All by simply changing the foods we choose to eat.

6.  Food Documentaries on Netflix - Oh boy...Have I ever watched a million food documentaries on Netflix?!  If you have Netflix, you have a plethora of resources and information available to you...food, farming, where ingredients come from, what is in food products, how animals are treated, food production, GMO foods, marketing of food, being a vegan, being a vegetarian, restaurants...all sorts of good information and stories out there.  Seek and ye shall find.  I would give you some examples, but none come to mind.  They've all melded together into one big ol' movie in my head.



Wowsers...that was a lot!  Surely, if you're interested and tugged toward this lifestyle...any part of it...even just wanting to eat healthier...all the information out there can be quite overwhelming.  It's really about starting.  Just doing something.  Making one decision.  One decision can lead to another decision, and from there it snowballs.  It only gets better and more familiar.  Easier and more practical.  Whether it seems like a bunch of bull honkey to you or a bit of inspiration, I hope it will provide some sort of encouragement in some small way to anyone feeling the nudge as we did.  The key in it all is finding what works for you, and making health a priority.

Big hugs to you and lots of love,


Related Posts with Thumbnails