Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A lesson I finally learned this Sunday....

....That whole "dedicating one day out of the week to doing all your cooking for the week thing" does not work for me. I used to think that it could but as of this past Sunday I've realized that cooking every day or every other day is much better for both my schedule and my sanity! Not only do my cooking fests take hours and hours and hours (I'm talking at least 6 :\) , I get crabby when Wednesday rolls around and I'm still eating Sunday's sweet potato chili. I love cooking/preparing new things and I am happiest when I can make at least one new thing everyday. I would much rather spend 30 minutes to an hour everyday or every other day preparing my meals instead of sacrificing ALL of my downtime on Sundays to do so. Anywhoo, here's what I made THIS past Sunday :).

Green smoothie:
a handful of mint leaves, 2 cups "power greens" (a mix of baby greens-kale, spinach, and chard), 1/2 of a lemon, 1 avocado, 1/2 of a large cucumber, 1 cup frozen strawberries, 1 date, 1 tbs flaxseed, 1 cup almond milk, ~3/4 cup water. There's a bunch of green leaf lettuce in the picture but I ended up not adding it to the smoothie.
I also added about 2 tsp of agave syrup b/c I had a feeling the smoothie would not be sweet enough on it's own.
I thought it would be fun to put it in a large coffee mug :). The mug definitely was not large enough to hold all of my smoothie! I think I did 1.5 refills. Yum :).
 I decided to try my hand at Polenta! I'd purchased a bag of corn grits  (i.e. coarse ground cornmeal ) a while back and thought it was time to put it to use. The recipe was a combination of one I found online and of the "Basic Italian Polenta" recipe that was on the bag haha.
I know, not the most enticing picture but man, it was phenomenal! I will defnitely continue making polenta on a regular basis!

Sunday dinner: "Savory-Basic-Italian Polenta" topped with vegan pepper jack cheese (thank you Daiya ) and "stir fried" veggies (the kind that goes from freezer to , pot of water on the stove, to plate).
Cooked Millet
Mushroom and kale gravy to go with the millet. Recipe here. This has become one of my favorite things to make!  
Quinoa salad! Quinoa, chick peas, carrot, red and orange sweet peppers, olives, onion, apple, sunflower seeds, spices-cumin, paprika, garlic, lemon juice. I belatedly added raisins and more olives!
Oat bar (yes, again)! I'm just so in love with this recipe.

Updates: my stove/oven is functioning again! It turns out I WAS right! Nothing was wrong with the actual stove, the gas had somehow gotten turned off in my apt building's basement. Go figure.  Also I almost succesfully stuck to my "no veggie left behind" rule.On the day I let myself go grocery shopping again, I was completely fruitless and the only veggies left in my apartment were two carrots! ( I also had 3/4 of a bag of brussel sprouts in my freezer...but those just aren't going anywhere for a while).

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Womp- a stove/oven update

I was wrong. The gas being turned off wasn't the problem. Something is actually wrong with my poor stove/oven. ::sniffle::

After some thought though, I realized I was also wrong in saying that the stove/oven is essential to my life. Maybe in the long run it is, but I can get by a few days without it. Looks like I'll be having more smoothies, salads, blended soups, and no-bake goodies than usual for a coupe of days.

The handy man is coming on Friday. yayy!

Toaster oven to the rescue...kinda

I came home from Chemistry class tonight drained and wanting something sweet. I decided to quickly whip up a variation of my favorite oat bar--a combo of rolled oats, whole wheat flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, canola oil (any mild flavored oil works really), agave (i would normally use maple syrup but i'm out), sea salt, and baking soda.

I then discovered that my oven was not working! After waiting about half an hour for it to preheat to 350 degrees, I opened the oven door and felt very little heat! With a sinking feeling, I then checked the stove top--no gas flame from any four burners. Ahh! My gas stove/oven is ESSENTIAL to my life! I hope by tomorrow morning the problem has magically remedied itself...or that they've turned my gas back on by then!

Under the circumstances, there was only one thing to do---use the toaster oven to bake my oat bar! How'd that go you ask? Well:
Kinda like that. A little burned and not in the shape of a square (b/c who can fit a baking pan in a toaster oven!?). Still, as far as taste went, it was more than satisfactory :). Thank you toaster oven.

Update: It's the next morning and my stove and oven are still not working! There's alot of construction going on around my apartment, like right around it, so I suspect my misfortune has something to do with someone messing with the gas supply as a result of that :\. It would have been nice to have gotten a warning though!

Monday, March 19, 2012

I heart Sundays

Unfortunately the chem book was just for show. Despite my best intentions, it stayed closed on that table allllll day. I did drink the tea though. Mmm :).

Although I struck out with studying, I hit a homerun with...ok I can't do it, the baseball analogy is too corny. Let's just say it was a great day for cooking!

Ingredients for my breakfast smoothie:
1/8 cup soaked Goji berries, 2 oranges, 1 banana, 1 cup homemade almond milk, 1 tbs flax oil

It wasn't green!

I let myself off the green-smoothie- hook because I had this green heavy salad for lunch:
Spring salad mix, cherry tomatoes, quinoa, dressing. I added raisins post-picture.
The dressing for the salad was homemade, I got the recipe here.  The ingredients were:

Balsamic vinegar, chili powder, onion powder, cumin, avocado, onion, clove of garlic. ( I also added some apple cider vinegar...and then water and agave nectar b/c it turned out too sour :( )

Then I had this blended green soup  for dinner:
I'm proud of this soup.  I just threw things together and it was a sucess! The "recipe" : approx 2 cups swiss chard, 2 garlic cloves, a handful of cherry tomatoes, 1 parsnip, 1/2 of a cucmber, leftover homemade salad dressing (described above), and water to blend.

I topped the soup with black beans (I'd cooked about 3 cups of them earlier in the day)  and a "drizzle" of flax oil.
With dinner I had a couple of slices of this "Chickpea Bake." I found the recipe on one of the blogs I follow and am really glad I did. I bought some chickpea flour a couple of months ago and soon found that I was not a fan of the flavor by itself. It's a winner, however, when you add some spices (and milk, and applesauce)!

Finally, I ended the day with making some Challah Bread, Sweet Potato Chili, and Lentil Salad :
So dangerous to make. Between last night and now I have consumed about 2 cups of flour :\.

Ahhh cooking (and blending and baking) :)!!!!

If I could only be so enthusiastic about chem.

Saturday, March 17, 2012


      Tonight as I was cleaning my apartment (go me J),  the words of a song playing on my laptop caught my attention. “Give Praise,” by Sherwin Gardner, a reggae gospel artiste, is one of my favorite songs and these words which came at the very end of the song  went “ Once yuh breathin’, once yuh walkin’, once yuh talkin’, once yuh movin’, understand, yuh bettah give praise to the Almighty one.” I’m sure I’ve listened to this song hundreds of times but those words have never struck me like they did tonight. 

 I was feeling kind of melancholy, for various reasons, as I was sweeping my kitchen, and had, a little while before, been thinking about how I wanted to bring up my recent noticeable struggle with envy and jealousy during prayer time at church tomorrow. So, I was sweeping, and these words played and I just thought “ true is that?”

In his book Crazy Love, Francis Chan frequently comments on our arrogance towards God.  He says two things in particular that I love, “ Could it be your arrogance that makes you think God owes you an explanation?”( pg 33) and “But to put it bluntly, when you get your own universe, you can make your own standards” (pg 34). Though these two statements don’t entirely relate to this most recent “aha” moment of mine, they speak to the same core idea. They speak to a mindset of arrogance, of disregarding the fact that God created everything, me nothing, and therefore has the right to determine how any and everything goes.  After hearing those last words of “Give Praise” I thought of my arrogance in thinking that I deserve more than I have—that I am entitled to more. When the truth is, I don’t and I’m not. Every good thing I have, my very life, is a gift from God. He’s the reason I am breathing right now. The reason I’m typing this potential post. He doesn’t owe me anything. And really, how dare I think I need or deserve something more than I have or something that someone else has.

          What God gives me, he gives me. A wonderful, loving, funny family and a particularly amazing mother, thank you God.  Health, thank you God. The opportunity to pursue my passions, thank you God. Things to be passionate about, thank you God. Fantastic, fantastic friends, thank you God. Community, thank you God. The ability to form relationships with a variety of people, thank you God.  Deliverance from crappy life situations and their resulting negative feelings, thank you God. Knowledge and access, thank you God.  Gracious professors and employers, thank you God. Several places to call “home,” thank you God. A million opportunities for laughter every day, thank you God. Money to pay rent, money to eat, money to get around Chicago, thank you God. Intelligence and a (mostly lol) sound mind, thank you God.  The ability to breathe, walk, talk, see, smell and hear, thank you God. This stunning face, thank you God. HAHA. I couldn’t resist ok?

Anyway the point is, I didn’t do anything to deserve the best things in my life and there are absolutely no reasons that I deserve God’s daily sustenance. And what I have at this moment is enough for this moment. Does that mean I’m going to stop working towards having or achieving more? That I’m going to stop asking God for things? Of course not.  I want to be healthier, happier, have a sustainable, enjoyable job, to not be concerned about where next month's rent is coming from, to not struggle with an impulse disorder, to get my PHd, to marry a fantastic man, to never have another ulcer, to have fraternal twins (one boy, one girl), to have a million blog views lol, to have everyone think I’m beautiful, smart, and hilarious, to have less hardship, uncertainty, and emotional struggles in my life, to see brokeness and pain in the lives of those I care about healed and taken away, to own a VitaMix and Excalibur food dehydrator…I don’t think there is anything wrong with desiring those things. It just becomes problematic when I see them as things I’m entitled to and when that view blinds me to the gifts I’ve already received and/or diminishes my awareness of God’s sovereignty and the rightfulness of his whim.  

 I want to specify that I don’t at all advocate an attitude of sitting back and letting life happen to you or accepting bad, unfortunate , tragic circumstances or incidents as “just God’s will.” I definitely believe there are times when God wants us to question and wrestle with Him. Rather, I say all of this from a place of really wanting something(s), trying all that I could do to have something(s), praying a lot for and trusting him with things that were completely out of my control and still not getting the result I wanted—being sad or mad about these things without realizing that well, there was/is no valid reason for me to have what I was asking for, no reason that I deserved any of it. In every good thing I desire, if God chooses to let me have it, fantastic. If not, he’s God and look at everything else he has already given me that I’m failing to be thankful for and make the most of right now!  

 I don’t have everything I want. Sometimes I feel a deep dissatisfaction that I can’t pin to a specific reason, but my life is God’s. He gives me what he wants, blessings and struggles, when he wants. And considering who I am in relation to him, a dot in this massive universe he made (a dot he loves beyond comprehensionJ), he has every right.
“I’m blessed King Jesus, you saved my life, made my life, and mold my life.”
-Give Praise, Sherwin Gardner.

Friday, March 16, 2012

No Veggie Left Behind and other randomness

Yesterday when I arrived home from what was approximately my fourth trip to the grocery store this week, went into the kitchen and was confronted by spring salad mix past its expiration date, something inside me declared, "That's it! From now on there will be no more veggies left behind!" Although they tend to be less of an issue, I added fruits to the resolution as well. I have decided that I will finish ALL of the fruits and veggies (even the frozen ones) in my apartment before I make another trip to the grocery store.  Even if thatt means eating defrosted brussel sprouts for a week straight. The way I shop for groceries, you'd think I was rolling in it ("it" being money). The truth is, if I continue with my current shopping habits I might never go hungry, but I juuust might end up homeless.
       Money for  Shopping Spree at Whole Foods > Money for Rent

My priorities are slightly skewed.

In a previous post I wrote about how much I love getting groceries. I made light of it but the truth is I might just have a litto grocery shopping addiction (ok, how many times have i said "grocery," and "shopping" already in this post?) and I get so excited about getting "new" food that I neglect to make the most of what I already have. That is no bueno.

So this is what I've got:
Swiss Chard, a few leaves each of of red kale and mustard greens, carrots, a couple of parsnips, 1.5 cucumbers, a pack of frozen spinach, 3/4 pack of frozen brussel sprouts, spring salad mix, 1.5 romaine hearts, celery, a sweet potato, 2 avocados, some beets, beet greens, 2 onions, scallion, oranges, a bunch of banans, 4 lemons, 1/2 pack frozen blueberries, ginger, 1 plantain, raisins, about 15 dates, and a 1/2 carton of cherry tomatoes ( i guess i forgot to put them in the picture).
And I will eat every last bit of it before Morse Market (or Whole Foods) sees my overexcited face again.

In other news, look what showed up in my mailbox this week!

Oh yeah :).
This is pretty much THE BEST magazine I've ever read. If I'm having a bad day a new issue of  Whole Living will make it all better. I strongly urge everyone to read it. It's not a vegan mag but it encourages being omnivorous in a life promoting way and offers a ton of information on ways to enhance your day to day living. I've learned so much from this magazine and will probably subscribe to it until I am nintey-five. And it's cheap: 10 issues for $10  here ! I guarantee you it's worth it!  Yes, I do have an ulterior motive in getting you to suscribe--I want to have the joy of being able to say "Ohmygosh have you read the latest issue of Whole Living?! What did you think of.." to someone. I will love you forever if you will become that someone for me.

Finally, some stuffs I made today:
Ready for the juicer: beet greens, 2 carrots, 1 apple, 1 stalk of celery, handful of cherry tomoatoes, 1/2 of a large cucumber, 1 beet, 1/2 meyer lemon w/ rind, 1 inch piece of ginger, 2 small garlic cloves

Mushroom gravy and quinoa salad. Best lunch all week :)


Thursday, March 15, 2012

"FC" update and new eats!

FC stands for the "foundational challenge," I wrote about in my last post. The update is that IT'S NOT GOING WELL! Although I've managed to do everything I said I would, I haven't managed to do it all on the same day :\. An hour of quiet time? Sure. With a side of cookies, candy, and chips, hold the 30 minute workout. That was my day today. Thirty minutes of exercise? You bet. On 5 hours of sleep minus quiet time. Because who can do quiet time on 5 hours of sleep? (ok, alot of people, but still). That was my day on Tuesday. SIGH.

 A very good friend of mine used to always say "My life is in shambles!" whenever I would ask how she was doing. That phrase is mine right now. I thought it on Monday as I rode the train home from a long day of volunteering and babysitting, knowing that I probably was not going to study for my chemistry test the next day, Tuesday as I shoved a Jimmy John's vegetarian (not vegan :\) sub down my throat after excusing myself from chem class early, yesterday as I stared at my spotty kitchen floor and the pile of dirty dishes in my sink, and today as I tripped over a pile of clean laundry while getting out of bed.  But it's ok, I am going to get this together.

Anywhoo, even though my diet has been faaaaaaaar from perfect this week, I did actually spend some satisfying time in the kitchen. Here is some of what came out of that time!

Smoothie, of course:
Greens: Swiss chard, mustard greens, spring salad mix, cucumber; Fruit: kiwi, banana, avocado, date, 1/2 lemon; Protein boost: 1/2 cup black beans;  Extras: chia seeds, wheat germ, flax oil; water and 1/2 cup unsweetened soymilk to blend!

Generally the amount of smoothie I try to drink daily!

Mommy would be proud-- trying my hand at some bammy and ackee:

Cassava "flour", aka, grated cassava squeezed dry
Shaped into flat 'cakes' fried a little on both sides, and soaked in soy milk...i think coconut milk would have been better. U baked them for about 20 minutes after this!
Ackee! I must admit that it was not quite the same without the saltfish. But it was still very good and I think I'll make it with the "tofish" next time (Tofish is legit ok?! It's in my jamaican vegeterian cookbook..)

Who says you can't be Jamaican and vegan?

Betchya can't guess what this is going to be! (of course you can't, no one could).  
mashed chickpeas, celery, nutritional yeast, vegan mayo, kelp granules, sweet pickle relish, onion powder, low sodium soy sauce...
Well there're many names for it, "Mock Tuna Salad," Fake-out tuna sald, Tuno Salad...The important thing is that it tastes amazingly like the real deal (and is alot better for your heart)! I will give you $5 if you make it and can honestly say that it doesn't taste just like tuna! Four...four dollars.

My attempt at preparing food for the week:
Quinoa "salad made from quinoa, chickpeas, carrots, onion, raisins, apples, paprika, cumin, garlic powder, lemon juice; homemade whole wheat bread that i nibbled on before taking the picture :\, leftover bammy and ackee, leftover quinoa, brown rice, roasted broccoli (one of the best things ever), and mock tuna salad.

Thank the Lord that it's Thursday night! Although I have a long day of trying not to strangle taking care of children tomorrow, there's no chemistry class to attend afterwards, and no babysitting or class to have to wake up for the next day! I have been saying this since January, but THIS weekend, God-willing, will be the weekend I organize my life and get caught up on everything. No more shambles for me!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Food confessions and a foundational challenge

That happened yesterday. 

I also pilfered some Cheez Its from the kid I babysit. Don’t worry, he reaaaally didn’t need them. The day before that, I had 3 Ghirardelli chocolates (the small square individually wrapped kind) and a huge apple crisp donut from good ole Dunkin’.  Today I indulged in a ginormous slice of mac and cheese pizza from Ian’s ( a great pizzeria in Chicago. I’ve also been consuming large amounts of vegan unhealthies (my new word). The list includes , but is not limited to, fries, potato chips, a yummy chocolate chip cookie dough vegan shake I had today (right before my mac and cheese pizza), and straight sugar. Yup. Right from the SUCANAT bag. And that is just a small glimpse into the disaster that my food world sometimes becomes. I know…I’m supposed to be vegan—and not just any vegan but one who eats mainly whole unprocessed foods. Unfortunately, lately, I’ve been stuck in a "wannabe" phase.

There are many reasons for this, the least of which being that I miss non-vegan food and/ or refined foods. When I’m in a good health groove I really don’t miss these foods. When I fall off however, it’s hard to get back on the right track. I’ll start my days with a large green smoothie or green juice, but will end up pooping out a subway cookie that night. Jussst kidding….I typically don’t poop at night. Haha, anyway, the reasons are usually because of bad planning, unexpected temptation, convenience, and the urge to comfort myself with old familiar foods. I really want to stress that whenever I break my optimal diet it’s not because I’ve gotten tired of it or because I miss eating the way I used to and want to eat that way again. It is usually because at the time it is just easier to resort to old habits.

 I started the year pretty well in regards to food, and for about a month I did pretty great job with eating solely plant-based, whole foods. But after those first weeks of 2012 I fell from grace (I don’t remember exactly when or why). Since then I’ve eaten vast amounts of both healthy and unhealthy foods telling myself at the start of each week that “this week” would really be the week that I started and continued eating only what I knew I should.  This has yet to be true.

A fall in diet quality usually occurs with a fall in the quality of other areas in my life—typically self-care (I mean the sleep and exercise type of self-care, not so much the grooming—although, I have been skimping on the showers…) and in my relationship with Jesus. So I’m putting my foot down, pressing the reset button and rebuilding a healthy life foundation. How? Through the 6 week challenge that I made up and decided I was really going to do today lol. From March 11 to April 21 I will eat a solely plant based, unprocessed food diet, exercise for 30 min a day, get 8 hours of sleep each night, and have an hour of quiet time each morning. I think it is a simple enough plan to commit to follow. In addition to the benefits of being well-rested and physically and spiritually nourished I think making myself do this will really help instill some discipline in my life—which I really need.  

And since I put it on my blog I’m really going to follow through with itJ. And someone out there should do this with me. We could be best friends.

Yesterday's smoothie- 1.5 cups of swiss chard, 1 large leaf of mustard greens, 1/2 of an avocado, 1 banana, 1/2 cup frozen blueberries, 1 pitted date, 1 tbs chia seeds, 1/4 tsp kelp granules, 1 tsp flax oil, 1 inch piece of ginger, 1/4 cup soy milk, water.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

"Groceries and Green Soup and Brownies oh my! "

This is getting posted a day late, so all the "today"s really mean "yesterday" :).

I've experienced many new things since going vegan. One of the best is the crazy rush I now get from grocery shopping. My chest tightens a little, my heart beat accelerates, my breathing gets a little faster, there might be a little salivary action...all from the thought of buying leafy greens. I wish I was kidding. (Actually I don't, it's great!) There are worse things right?

Today's booty from the small market in my neighborhood:
Red kale, mustard greens, swiss chard, broccoli, spring salad mix, carrots, scallion, red onion, yellow onion, red pepper, sweet potato, avocados, frozen blueberries, oranges, bananas, apples, raisins, and a small bag of brown rice. Eeeek!

No green smoothie today. But there was green juice and raw green soup instead!

1 cucumber, 2 stalks celery, 1 green pear, small piece of ginger, juiced!

Raw soup ingredients! I used 1 mustard green leaf, 1 cup salad greens, 1/2 red bell pepper, 3/4 of an avocado, 1 scallion, 2 cloves of garlic, 1/8 cup apple cider vinegar, 1/4 tsp kelp granules, dash of red chilli pepper, dash of cayenne pepper, a couple shakes of sea salt.
Blended it all with a 1.5 cups of water

The end result: 

nom nom nom

I've attempted to make a raw green soup once before and this one was definitely the better of the two trials. It was so creamy (yay avocado) ! I kept thinking that it would have been just like having a smoothie if I'd added a little sweetener to it. I don't know if that's good or bad :/. Either way, I enjoyed eating it and will keep making [many versions of] it.

And finally, to end the night, Brownies! Not just any brownies. Black. Bean. Brownies. That's right. brownies made from black beans! Who knew you could even do that?! Well you can my friend. And it's delightful.
Le Ingredients: 2 cups cooked black beans, 1/2 cup raw cacao powder, 10 dates, 1/4 cup sucanat, 3 tbs earth balance "butter", 3 flax "eggs, 1 tbs vanilla extract.

 After processing everything together for a while and then mixing in the flax "eggs" you get this:
And after baking for 35 minutes you get:
Black bean I was skeptical when I first found the recipe (to which I made a couple of changes). I thought, "c'mon, there is NO WAY you can make brownies from black beans that will actually taste like brownies. I was wrong. There IS way. These were (are, i'm still eating them hehe) really good. My only complaint is that the consistency was more fudgy than I cared for. The next time I make these I will try this recipe which uses rolled oats. I think the best part about trying this recipe was that I discovered a yummy new dessert dip in the process-- Simply black beans, dates, cacao powder and vegan butter pureed in the food processor for a few minutes. heaven. :).