Friday, October 31, 2014

Witches New Year


Here I am. Again. Just like those nasty Mary Jane candies no one likes (except me!), I keep coming back. I've really struggled with the concept of this blog, thought it was silly for a middle-aged woman to write about pin-ups, to imply that I aspire to be one. I recently celebrated my 50th birthday, for goodness sake! I'm well past the age where I could be an actual model, and my body is far from pin-up perfect. And yet, I still feel saucy, sexy and playful..sometimes. I still like short skirts, garters & stockings, stiletto pumps and all things vintage. There is still a pin-up girl on the inside, waiting to emerge, if only in an..ahem..age-appropriate way. So, why can't I still blog here? Why shouldn't I embrace that flirty side of myself into middle age and beyond? No reason whatsoever. Who's going to care if I engage in a little folly, a little fantasy and fun. I need a little more fun in my life, how about you?

You all, whatever dear readers are left, have been through a lot with me. The losses. The gains. The diets. From South Beach to Jenny Craig to Weight Watchers (again & again), you've been there. You've watched me go from a meat-eater to a vegan. But aside from all of that, you've also been privy to some more personal aspects of my life. I've been more honest and open here than on my new blog, partially because I started out anonymous. Even though I now sign my real name, I still feel this is a more private place, a safe haven to share/vent/whatever I feel like doing. I think I need that right now. I miss writing. I need to journal, to sit each day and sort through the emotional crap that runs through my head, put it into words, process and move on. When I don't, I find the feelings get backlogged until they explode or, more likely, get stuffed down with food. Yes, I could just get a paper journal and write the old-fashioned way but it's not the same. I like sharing here, hoping that someone might read my little blog and relate, that my words, my story, might resonate somehow. Even if they don't post a comment, I think that mutual understanding and connection comes through somehow. And I like that.

So, as I've mentioned before, Halloween is a big day in my "belief system." To pagans, Samhain is a very sacred sabbat. It's a day to reflect, go deep and quiet, to embrace the darkness. Sure, we also celebrate, feast & drink and make merry. But for the most part it's a solemn holiday, and I honor that aspect of it.

In the past, Halloween was always spent with my daughters. We'd set up an altar for our family members who have passed. We'd make a meal, help each other with our costumes, and when the festive/secular part of the day had passed, we'd sit quietly, each in our own way, and honor the spiritual part of the day. Always, at some point, we would watch Practical Magic. It was a fun little ritual we had, just us girls, though no boy could become part of the family without having seen, and enjoyed the film! Our own little initiation ceremony..wink..

Now that my girls are grown and living across the state, we're not able to spend the holiday together. This year I just wasn't in the spirit, did minimal decorating and only because Chip insisted. My ancestor's altar isn't set up, haven't even unpacked the photos. I guess I'm just embracing the dark a little more right now. Last night I was really missing the kids and the Halloweens of the past. Chip went to bed early, so I poured myself a glass of wine, made some popcorn and loaded up Practical Magic. It wasn't quite the same, sitting by myself watching, but it did provide me a connection, a touchstone to the rituals and traditions established when my family was young. It was bittersweet, but really that's what this day is about.

Samhain is often referred to as the Witches New Year, and I treat it as such. The autumn season brings change. Like the trees shedding their leaves, I'm inclined to shed some things of my own. Unhealthy habits, negative attitudes, whatever has been weighing me down. This year is no different. I've already started to implement a few changes, nothing major, just subtle little shifts.  I'll write more about that later, but in the meantime I have a menu to plan and a house to clean in preparation for the "new year." Who knows, maybe a spirit will cross over tonight, stop by to say hello. I wouldn't want them to find us unprepared for their visit!

Happy Halloween, Blessed Samhain,

M~


Monday, April 28, 2014

I'm Baaack!

So Fully Packed photo e655f3e3-2088-4e4c-bf83-4f649dff5ae0_zps592a88ff.jpg

Whew, can't believe I've been gone so long but it's been a crazy busy month of cleaning, packing, and all of the other "junk" that comes along with moving. We still have a few more details to tend to, and one more trailer-load of "stuff" to bring up from the old house, but for all intents and purposes: we are moved!

I won't bore you with details, but if you're interested in what I've been cooking/eating/doing, you can check out my Instagram pics.

The good news: I have lost a few pounds. I guess the extra exercise helped compensate for the many take-out meals. The bad news: So much restaurant food has been costly and makes me feel sluggish and bloated, no matter what the scale says. So in an effort to get back on track, I'm resuming my Monday Menu Planning.

This week I'll be focusing on my slow cooker, using recipes from Robin Robertson's Fresh from the Vegan Slow Cooker.  

In no particular order, because I haven't yet decided which meals will be served on which days, here's what I'll be dishing up:

  • Lasagna Primavera
  • North African Chickpea Soup
  • Red Bean Gumbo
  • Slow & Spicy Sloppy Joes
  • Southwestern Stuffed Bell Peppers

I'm really looking forward to having an entire week at home, no traveling, can't remember the last time that happened!

Thanks to those of you who are still reading here..grin..I know I haven't been the most reliable blogger.

Have a great day,

Michele~







Sunday, February 16, 2014

Sunday Feb 16: The Week in Review

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Despite my best intentions and planning, the week did not turn out as expected. Chip's work schedule was super-wacky so I was eating alone several nights, relying on whatever we had in the house. I mostly lived on potato soup, roasted potatoes, veggie burger and salads.

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I ate dinner out a couple of times, too. One particular night I met my friend Susan at a Thai restaurant. I had perused the menu ahead of time, noted that though they had no tofu on the menu (strange!), they did have several vegetable dishes. I had my heart set on the Vegetable Curry until I learned that they put fish sauce in theirs. Darn it! I'm glad I inquired, but I settled for a plain bowl of brown rice & steamed veggies. I poured on a little soy sauce just for flavor. Ugh! Glad the company was wonderful because the food definitely left something to be desired.

Steamed Veggies photo 20140213_183633_zpsljdiorax.jpg

Then, of course, there was Valentine's Day. I didn't go crazy, but there were a couple glasses of wine and a tiny bowl of vegan ice cream. Saturday we met up with some friends for happy hour where I enjoyed my weekly french fry fix and shared a Bruschetta with Chip. Our friend Rob (in the foreground) works at this restaurant so he personally spoke to the cook to ensure that our appetizer was 100% vegan. So sweet of him!

 Bruschetta at Brio photo 20140215_181045_zps32esrkvu.jpg

Back to "normal" today, made a pot of chili for dinner. This is another McDougall recipe, delicious blending of traditional flavors with some Moroccan spices thrown in. Super-yummy! I didn't include the peanut butter because I didn't want the added fat, but imagine it would've added a nice flavor to the dish.
 
Chili with Yams photo 20140216_080147_zpsqrkvb1ui.jpg

Chili with Yams 

(print-friendly)


I have been using a lot of red lentils lately because they cook quickly and thicken soups and stews very nicely.  I am also very fond of yams and they go together very well in this dish. This is delicious served with fresh, warm corn tortillas or pita bread.

Preparation Time:  20 minutes
Cooking time:  55 minutes
Servings:  6-8

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 ¾ cups water
  • 3 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 4 cups peeled and chopped yams
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 2 15 ounce cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 15 ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed (I used my own pressure-cooked beans)
  • 2 tablespoon peanut butter (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice (optional)
  1. Place ¼ cup of the water in a large soup pot.  Add onion, celery and garlic.  Cook, stirring occasionally until softened, about 5 minutes.  Stir in the chili powder, paprika, cumin, cinnamon and crushed pepper.  
  2. Mix well, then add the remaining water, yams, lentils, tomatoes, and beans.  Stir to combine, bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and cook for 50 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the peanut butter, one tablespoon at a time, if using.  Season with lime juice and a bit of sea salt, if desired.
Per Serving (based on 6 servings, including peanut butter): 394 Calories; 4g Fat (8.5% calories from fat); 21g Protein; 73g Carbohydrate; 23g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 535mg Sodium. 
Note: I cooked this in the slow cooker for about 6 hours on High, turned down to warm until ready to serve. 

Hope everyone had a beauty-full weekend!

Michele~

Friday, February 14, 2014


Today is my favorite holiday. Seriously. Don't listen to my hunny when he says that whichever occasion coming up next is my favorite. Valentine's Day truly is it. It's all about romance & love, and the decorations are my favorite colors.

And you know, this holiday is not just for lovers of the human kind! Some of the best cuddles and kisses I've ever received have come from my furbabies. (shh..don't tell Chip I said that!)
 

 To avoid the holiday rush and to insure that I can have something vegan for tonight's special meal,  we are planning to have dinner at home tonight but I haven't quite finalized my menu yet.  I'm leaning toward making my Lasagna Rolls..


Or maybe keep it simple with some pasta and Chick'n Cutlets..


And for dessert, maybe some Carrot Cupcakes?




I'm still on the fence, what are you all doing for this special day?

Love,

Michele~




Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Hot Dish: Comforting Potato Soup

Rita Hayworth photo RitaHayworthbundledup_zps191cd166.jpg

While it's still warm & sunny here in Florida, I understand that many of my northern neighbors are gearing up for yet another blizzard. I hope everyone is warm & cozy and have plenty of food to last through the storm. I'll be thinking of you while I enjoy some nice comforting potato soup, wish I could share it with you all!

Potato Soup photo 20140212_182154_zps8ttebz0h.jpg         

Potato Soup

(print-friendly)
--------  ------------  --------------------------------
  •   6               cups  vegetable broth, ready-to-serve
  •   1             medium  onion -- chopped
  •   1             cloves  garlic -- minced (1 to 2)
  •   6             medium  russet potatoes -- peeled and chopped
  •   2             medium  carrots -- chopped
  •   2             stalks  celery -- chopped
  •   1             medium  zucchini -- chopped
  •      1/2           cup  fresh parsley -- chopped
  •   1           teaspoon  dried dill weed
  •      1/2      teaspoon  freshly ground pepper
  •   1               dash  salt
  1. Place a small amount of the vegetable broth in a large soup pot.  Add the onion and garlic.  Cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients, mix well, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 45 minutes, until vegetables are tender and potatoes have started to break apart.
  3. Serve with some fresh bread to dunk into the flavorful broth.
Source:
  "the McDougall newsletter."
Start to Finish Time:
  "1:00"
                                    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Makes 6 to 8 Servings; Per Serving (based upon 6 servings): 107 Calories; 1g Fat (10.0% calories from fat); 3g Protein; 23g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 1074mg Sodium.  



Chip and I both loved this soup! Great flavors, savory and filling, perfect for a winter's night. I am definitely adding this to my tried-and-true recipe file, will be making this one again.

Hope everyone is toasty warm, stay safe!

Michele~




Monday, February 10, 2014

Monday Menu Planning: Week of February 10th


Since we ate out a couple of times, I didn't get to make all of last week's recipes, so I'm rolling them over to this week, along with a couple of new dishes to try.


Off to do laundry, have a beauty-full day!

Michele~


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Dear Diary: The Week in Review


We had a pretty nice week here, lots of good, healthy food and a bit of exercise contributed to a 1-pound weight loss. Slowly but surely, I'm making progress.

Here's a couple of foodie photos from the week:

Greek Salad and Baked Potato photo 2014-02-08-18-37-23_deco_zpsqvtdzkx0.jpg
Diner Dinner: Greek salad (sans cheese) plain baked potato (I brought my own Earth Balance spread)

Italian White Bean, Kale and Potato Stew photo 2014-02-09-13-51-37_deco_zpsrz6wgnxr.jpg
Italian White Bean, Kale and Potato Stew

Roasted Potatoes photo 20140210_084020_zpsyfy8ieje-1.jpg
Everyday Roasted Potatoes, my go-to breakfast


Basket of Fries photo 20140209_160343_zpszbsdfcey.jpg
Weekly french fry indulgence (I shared!)


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Tofu Scramble with Roasted Potatoes


Well, those are the highlights, here's to the start of another great week!

Michele~

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Two Hot Dishes!

Even though it wasn't Taco Tuesday, I decided to make tacos last night. I served Chip the "traditional" hard shell kind, filling made with Boca Crumbles, while I decided to do something different.  I made up a batch of the Black Bean & Corn Salad with Lime, rolled some up into a 100-Calorie Smart & Delicious Tortilla, topped with fresh Chipotle & Tomato Salsa. Wowie! This was so much better than a plain ol' taco, I ended up having another one for lunch today.

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Tonight I decided to make Pretty Stuffed Peppers, second time around for this recipe. I gathered up all of my veggies & spices, got the rice cooking, then looked in the fridge for the cooked black beans. Oops. I only had about 7 ounces, about half of what the recipe called for. What to do? Hmm..how about tossing that leftover taco "meat" into the mix? Sure, what not! That's just what I did, and the result was deee-licous!



By the time Chip got home from work, it was too late to take nice photos of the finished product, so I'm gonna cheat and share some from the first time I made this dish. Let's just pretend they look exactly the same, ok? My Ormond house is so much lighter and brighter than the one down here, the photos are always so much nicer anyway. Below is my version of the recipe as I made it last time, feel free to improvise on the filling depending upon what's in your kitchen.

Pretty Stuffed Peppers


Ingredients

  • 1 cup brown rice, cooked by your favorite method
  • 6 medium bell peppers of your choice; I used 2 red, 2 yellow, 2 green
  • 1/4 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 15 ounces cooked black beans; if using canned, rinse and drain well
  • 1 cup seeded and chopped fresh tomato*
  • 8 slices Cheddar-style soy or rice cheese

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°.  
  2. Cut each bell pepper in half lengthwise.  Remove seeds and ribs.  Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil; add the pepper halves and blanch for about 4 minutes.  Drain and pat dry.
  3. Heat the broth in a skillet over medium heat.  Add the onion and saute for about 3 minutes, then add chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt and black pepper.  Saute for 1 minute more.  Add the beans, rice and tomato and saute for 2 minutes.
  4. Stuff bell peppers with mixture, packing them well. Top each bell pepper with a slice of cheese.  Place in an 8 x 8-inch baking dish. 
  5. Bake peppers, uncovered, for about 20 minutes.  Set the oven to broil, broil peppers for 1 to 2 minutes, until the top is browned and cheese is bubbly.
*For added flavor & spice, you can substitute a can of diced tomatoes w/green chiles (such as Ro*tel) for the chopped fresh tomatoes. I found it also added some needed moisture to the mix.

Note: I'm a bit confused by the serving size of the original recipe..there are 6 peppers, which equals 12 halves, but only 8 slices of cheese. ? However, there was so much filling there's no way it could've fit into fewer peppers. I'm leaving it as is but noting the discrepancy here. I myself just used an extra slice of cheese, put 1/2 slices on some of the smaller peppers.

Nutrition Info:

  • Calories:425
  • Fat: 8.5
  • Protein: 21.2
  • Carbohydrate: 69.1
  • Sugar 10.7
  • Fiber 15.6
  • Sodium 787

I think it's time for a nice cup of tea and a book. I haven't been sleeping well, blaming the little bit of stress I've been under, hoping a cup of Sleepytime will do the trick.

Have a beauty-full evening,

Michele

Monday, February 3, 2014

Monday Menu Planning: Week of February 3rd

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Good morning, how's everybody feeling today? I'm sure some of you are still smiling about last night's football game, others are likely crying in their coffee cups.  Me? I was in bed by 9 pm, didn't know (or cared) who won until Chip came to bed and reported the results.

In order to insert more structure and discipline into my routine, I'm going back to weekly menu planning. I will also be logging faithfully into my food journal. Both of these habits have been very helpful in the past so I need to stop being lazy and just do the stuff that works!

This week's menu features mainly recipes from PCRM's 21-Day Vegan Kickstart, which, if you read my other blog, you'll remember that I joined in last summer. If you're new to the plant-based way of eating, or simply need a bit more structure in your diet, I highly recommend this program. There are also a few from The Get Healthy, Go Vegan Cookbook by Dr. Neal Barnard and Robyn Webb.  (I'm still crushing on Dr. B., by the way) *wink*

So, without further ado, below is the plan for this week. I've provided links to the recipes (when available) but will also be posting them along with pics and reviews.

Have a great day!

Michele~


Sunday, February 2, 2014

Hot Dish: Super Bowl Snacks

by Al Moore photo AlMooreCheerleader_zps3ccbdc06.jpg

 Let me get this out of the way first thing: I hate football. Always have, always will. Numerous boyfriends and a couple of husbands have tried in vain to change my mind, attempted to "teach me the game" because then you'll "understand why it's so great" blah..blah..blah.  One even took me to the stadium, thinking surely I'd get caught up in the excitement and finally get what all the fuss is about. I ate popcorn and watched people get increasingly drunk and angry. Not my idea of a good time. However, just because I am not a fan doesn't mean I can't appreciate the Big Day in my own way: cooking and feeding. Super Bowl Sunday is a chance for me to whip up something different, a new tasty appetizer, savory snack or sweet dessert.  Even if it's just myself and the hubby, as it looks to be this year, might as well pull out all the stops and get into the spirit of the thing.

From what I understand, no football party is complete without hot wings. I can appreciate that. Before I went vegan, I loved me some chicken wings. Greasy & spicy, the hotter the better for this gal. No longer able to dig my head into the sand and ignore the plight of our feathered friends, I stopped eating all things chicken almost two years ago.  While I'm proud of my decision and will never again eat animals, I admit that I do occasionally miss some of those meaty foods. Wings are at the top of that list.  I realize, though, that what I am really longing for is not the taste of the animal (eww!) but the seasonings, spice and, especially, the experience that it provided.  Sitting around with friends, ordering up a batch of unhealthy-but-oh-so-tasty appetizers and a couple of cold beers, that's what I'm missing.  You know what? I can still do that. No animal should suffer and die for my belly or my taste buds.

Nowadays it is so easy to be vegan.  There are zillions of meat substitutes; from burgers to sausage to hot dogs, someone has come up with a plant-based alternative.  While I don't consume those faux meats on a daily basis, it's nice to know they're available should I want them.  These are also great transitional foods, especially if living with a vegan-in-training. I'm extremely proud of him for the progress he's made, for "allowing" me to keep our kitchen cruelty-free, so if keeping him satisfied means throwing a Tofurkey sausage in the skillet or a Boca burger on the grill now & then, so be it. I'm more than happy to do so.

Today I'll be whipping up some veg-friendly snacks that mimic the animal-based ones being served at  Super Bowl parties across the country. I promise the end result will be just as tasty as the originals, just a tiny bit lower in fat, calories, and totally without animal suffering. I'm going to cheat a little here, re-posting one of my recipes as well as sharing some from fellow vegan bloggers, I hope you don't mind. If you're like me and haven't quite finalized your party menu, this will give you the opportunity to plan, shop & cook in plenty of time for the Big Game.

Note: I've been saving up my extra Points Plus so that I can indulge a bit today. These recipes aren't exactly low-cal so I'd suggest picking one or two of your favorites and serving alongside a big green salad and/or veggie platter. A walk around the block before the game wouldn't hurt, either.

First up, my beloved hot wings.  These are a big hit in my family, who needs Hooters when you can whip up a batch of these babies in your own kitchen?

Oct 8.

Spicy Buffalo Cauliflower "Wings" 

  • 1 cup water or soy milk
  • 1 cup flour (any kind will work, even gluten free!)
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 head of cauliflower, chopped into pieces
  • 1 cup buffalo or hot sauce
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil or melted vegan margarine
  1. Preheat the oven to 450°F.
  2. Combine the water or soy milk, flour, and garlic powder in a bowl and stir until well combined.
  3. Coat the cauliflower pieces with the flour mixture and place in a shallow baking dish. Bake for 18 minutes.
  4. While the cauliflower is baking, combine your buffalo sauce and olive oil or margarine in a small bowl.
  5. Pour the hot sauce mixture over the baked cauliflower and continue baking for an additional 5 to 8 minutes. 
Oct 8.

Serve alongside vegan blue cheese dressing and celery sticks.




Note: This recipe produces a very spicy sauce, similar to the restaurant "Hot" version. It was too spicy for Chip who normally orders a "Medium" sauce. If you want a less intense flavor, I'd suggest adjusting your hot sauce/oil ratio. Also, next time I'll spray the baking sheet first as there was a bit of sticking, and perhaps bake a little bit longer to achieve a crisper "wing."  



For more football-friendly snacks, how about:

Warm Vegveeta Dip from Plant Powered Kitchen
Beer Soaked Fries from Edible Perspective
Fully Loaded Nachos from Lunchboxbunch
Vegan Brownies from Oh She Glows

Or perhaps you want something a little bit more filling; here's my super-simple chili that's sure to warm you up!



 I hope I've given you some "food for thought" as you plan your game day gathering.  Have a great time, and may the best team win! As for me, I'll be hiding out in my Mom Cave, will peek out to watch the commercials and the half time show.

Enjoy!

Michele