Sunday, February 27, 2011

Baked Oatmeal Breakfast

Just a quick recipe this morning since we're off to church and a birthday party today.  I promise a note on my meeting with the nutritionalist later today or tomorrow.

My husband and son really don't care for mushy oatmeal, but both love it baked into cake/bars.  I've also made this as an afternoon snack for the day care kids.  I call this Oatmeal Cake, and who doesn't love cake?!?  My family likes it with blueberries and raspberries, and my day care kids like it with peaches.  (This morning it was blueberries and strawberries.)  Also good with pears and/or strawberries.  Serve it warm, or wrap individual servings in plastic wrap and put in frig for a quick, on-the-go breakfast bar.  I usually do a double batch in a 9 x 13" pan since it goes quickly around here.
2 cups oatmeal (I use quick oats)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup apple — shredded (with peel)
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup rice milk or soy milk
1/2 cup blueberries, raspberries, peaches, or fruit of your choice.

Mix wet ingredients into dry ingredients, gently fold in fresh fruit. Spread into an 8 x 8″ baking dish sprayed with pan spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 – 30 minutes. Cut into six rectangles and serve.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Toasted Orzo with Lime and Sauteed Peppers and Snow Peas

GOD MAKES GOOD FOOD. Really, God is a good cook.  There's nothing better than a big bowl of fresh veggies, or biting into a juicy summer peach.  Fresh fruits and veggies require minimal prep.  I like them cold or simply steamed.  I prefer to keep it simple.  The grilled mushrooms were a great example, and the peppers and snow peas in a simple saute is right up my alley.  (Don't over cook them, just warm them through so there's still a good crunch.)  I think too many cooks tend to over-cook, over-season, or over-sauce fresh foods. Try to resist the temptation to add to the dish!

Tonight's menu was Toasted Orzo with Lime and Sauteed Peppers and Snow Peas.  Both dishes got big thumbs up from the whole family.  The orzo recipe was taken from and the peppers and snow peas recipe was from the Williams-Sonoma cookbook "Healthy Side Dishes."  I used the list of ingredients just as they were listed, so I can't take credit for either one.  I did chop the veggies big (instead of shredding as was recommended) and I didn't cook them as long because I like crisp-tender veggies.  Both recipes were really good and the orzo was so filling.  Toasting it gave a great color and nutty flavor.   

1 1/2 T. olive oil
3 sweet/bell peppers (red, green, orange and/or yellow), seeded and cut into strips
3/4 lb. snow peas
Sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper
2 t. finely chopped chives (or dried chives)

Warm oil in a frying pan over medium heat.  Add the peppers and saute, stirring, about 1-2 minutes.  Add snow peas and saute another 1-2 minutes. Add salt and pepper and toss to mix well.  Serve garnished with chives.

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups orzo pasta
2 zucchini, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 (16 ounce) can diced tomatoes with liquid
1 ½ cups vegetable broth
1-2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1-2 teaspoons dried basil leaves
Sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste
½ cup chopped green onions
½ cup chopped fresh parsley
2 teaspoons grated lime zest
2 tablespoons lime juice

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir in the garlic and uncooked orzo pasta; cook and stir until pasta turns a light, golden color, about 5 minutes. Stir in zucchini and carrots; cook about 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, vegetable broth, Italian seasoning, and basil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer until almost all liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Stir in the green onions, parsley, lime zest, and lime juice. Remove from heat and serve hot.  

peace love chickens

I have been on this voyage to veganism for about two weeks now, and I’ve already been chastised by other vegans for a couple of my practices.  Then today I went to Hy-Vee and met with the nutritionalist (more on this later) and she asked me what “level” of vegan I am?  Who knew there were levels?  So when I got home, I jumped on the computer and Googled VEGAN:

“…somebody not eating animal products: somebody who does not eat meat, fish, dairy products, or eggs.”

"…the doctrine that man should live without exploiting animals."

“…refers either to the plant-based diet alone, or to a lifestyle that seeks to eliminate animal use entirely.”

"The word 'veganism' denotes a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude — as far as is possible and practical — all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, including humans and the environment.
In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals."

Noun: One who does not consume animal products.
Adjective: Made with no animal ingredients.

The more I read, the more confused I got.  Some vegans eat only organics.  Some vegans only eat locally grown produce. Some vegans do eat honey, but others do not.  Some eat eggs, but only those from “happy chickens” on small family farms where the chickens are allowed to roam about without supervision or curfew, attending morning yoga and practicing free love while wearing their beads and headbands and little fringed vests.  

peace  love chickens 

Okay, maybe that’s not quite true.  (How would they get those little vests over their wings anyway?)  Really, though, it seems absolutely ridiculous to me that someone doesn’t eat honey because a very small percentage of bees are stressed out and die from the beekeeper tending the hive.  I must assume that these people also do not drive their cars since bugs will die on the windshield, and they certainly don’t let their children frolic in the grass where they might accidentally crush an ant hill or step on a worm!  Do these people understand the importance of pollination to our crops—the very vegetables and fruits and grains that make up a vegan diet?
(Are you vegan and disagree with me?  There is nothing I like more than a good debate.  Bring it!)

I like that fourth definition that says “as far as is possible and practical” in the middle.  POSSIBLE and PRACTICAL.  I said before that I’m not going to throw away food in the freezer to make this voyage. I’m not going to throw a fit at a restaurant if I get butter on my sweet potato.  And I’m not going to judge you for eating whatever it is you eat.  I disagree with most extremism.  I believe we can all come to some sort of understanding and respect for each other even if we disagree.  And that holds true for our dietary choices, our religious beliefs, and our political standings.  I can respect you even though you are wrong! :  )

Anyway, I feel the need to define veganism for me.  I would encourage you to research and read and pray and decide for yourself what is best for you.  I am doing this for my health and for the health of my family and friends.  It makes me unhappy to hear about large farming practices, about the use of animals for fashion, or about the use of animals in scientific studies.  But “unhappy” is as far as I’ll go.  I’m not going to sneak into some facility in the middle of the night and let all the rats go loose because God intended them be free.  I’m not going to boycott leather shoes.  I’m not going to picket outside of a hatchery and egg farm.  That’s just not my style. 

I want to be a healthier person for my family.  I want my kids to have a strong background and understanding of what living healthfully really means. I want them to respect and care for the gifts that God has given them. And I’m hoping that my decision will spark some of you to become more aware of your eating (and living) practices.  If we all live a more meaningful and educated existence, it will make a difference.  It will make a difference to each individual, and it will also make a difference on a much bigger basis.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Family Feedback and Sweet Coconut Rice

Today's afternoon snack is Sweet Coconut Rice with Fresh Peaches.  Our family loves the Thai coconut rice we get at restaurants, so I thought I'd give it a go at home.  Two thumbs WAY UP for this one.

1 (14 oz.) can coconut milk
1 ¼ c. water
1 T. sugar
1 pinch salt
1 ½ c. uncooked white rice (Jasmine is best)
1 t. vanilla
Fresh sliced mango and/or peaches

In a saucepan, combine coconut milk, water, sugar, and salt. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Stir in rice. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20-30 minutes, until rice is tender and most of the liquid is absorbed.  Stir in vanilla and serve with sliced fruit on top of rice.

I've been talking with my family and getting their feelings and feedback on "this vegan thing" that I'm doing. 

My 2-year-old Gracie seems to be the one having the most trouble.  But I think that's because she is going through an anti-food phase in general.  She loves the fresh fruits and veggies, and she eats the hot meals I prepare.  She just does it with a wrinkled up nose.  But, you have to remember, she's 2.  She wrinkles her nose at the whole world right now.

My 8-year-old (sorry, 8 1/2 -year-old) Eli is loving it.  Eli always leaned towards the vegetarian side of life (even as a toddler), and he is truly embracing this.  He asks most days to take a vegan lunch to school.  He told me that his friends are asking him about his lunches and talking to him about vegan stuff.  He asked if we can buy soy milk in little cartons to take to school so he doesn't have to drink the cow's milk anymore.  He eats a ton of the food I make, and is really enthusiastic about meal planning, prep work and cooking.  But to be honest, I knew he would be on board from the beginning.  This is his kind of food.  He's a health nut to the core.  I would have been shocked if he reacted any other way.
My husband Buzz has also been very supportive and encouraging of MY voyage to veganism.  But he is NOT embracing the lifestyle change.  He eats vegan meals here at home--and he's "liked everything so far" and has no complaints.  But his lunches and meals out include meat and dairy and eggs.  He is only vegan WITH ME.  When he's not with me, he's a carnivore. (He is the same way with soda pop--we don't have it in the house, but he drinks it when he's out and about.)  I think his major concern is that I will eventually ask him to stop hunting.  That will never happen.  I know that he loves hunting and the time spent with his buddies.  I would never ask him to give up his favorite hobby. I love him too much for that.

But really it shocks to me to know his isn't "all in" because Buzz is the one that sees a real difference.  He has lost almost 6 pounds in less than two weeks.  He is looking slimmer and says he feels a lot better.  He's only half-vegan, but still reaping a lot of the benefits.  Even though he eats animal products, he is making an effort to cut back on them by controlling portion sizes.  He actually enjoys the food I cook, and he likes being able to eat huge amounts of food. It's just difficult to get over the mindset that a meal is a meal even if it doesn't include meat.

Buzz is also excited about the summer/growing season.  He is a green thumb kind of guy and plans on planting some good sugar snap peas here at the house.  We are hoping to help my extended family with some gardening, and we want to get involved more with farmers' markets. We are looking forward to a better variety of fresh produce. We've talked about the CSA (community supported agriculture) group we joined a couple years ago and have considered doing that again.  We loved the idea of getting a box of veggies and making it work.  He really is enthusiastic about that (and it makes me wonder if this wouldn't have been easier on him if I had started this voyage in the summer months).  I really believe that, with time, Buzz will lean further and further towards veganism. But I'm not going to push him.  I will do my best to encourage him to be healthy and happy.  And I guarantee that hunting will continue be part of his life.
I'm the last one.  And, honestly, I haven't really been affected in any negative way.  I've made some minor changes--soy milk instead of cow's milk, skipping the cheese on top of everything I cook.  But I was pretty much a vegetarian when I started this process.  I ate meat, but not all that often.  I would often cook a couple veggie/vegan side dishes to go along with a meat main dish.  I just didn't eat the meat.  So I don't feel like I'm giving up anything, but I do feel like I'm gaining health benefits.  I've lost 3 1/2 pounds in the last two weeks.  I've lost over an inch and a half off my waist.  I feel so much better.  No bloating, no uncomfortable "full" feeling.  My skin is clearing up more than it ever has.  I'm happy with this and intend to make it a life-long choice.

What I'm really concerned about is YOU!  I'm worried because I was already halfway down the road when I started this journey, and I don't think that's fair to you.  I believe the most difficult part is that first step--making a decision and then laying out your plan.  I would love to help you with that process if you want.  No pressure.  I just don't want anyone to think that a major life change is going to happen over night.  Baby steps are good.  Just cut out one thing--maybe replace milk with soy milk or cut out one type of meat.  Maybe just try adding vegan side dishes to your hunk of meat.  Or have a "meatless Monday" at your house. Baby steps, Bob.

I said from the start that I don't intend to push this on anyone.  But if you are inspired to take a baby step, let me know.  Maybe we can talk over a soy latte sometime.