What this is all about...

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Tons of food reviews and some soapboxing

Hello everyone!  I had yesterday off work and it was so nice to spend some extra time with my guys.

I picked up a few new things to try and made some new recipes this weekend.  On Friday I roasted some carrots and made crispy kale--kale brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper, and then baked in the oven for about...well, I think it was ten minutes.  I gave my little guy some carrots and kale, and he poked at the kale and said suspiciously, "Mommy, it's....crunchy."  I informed him that potato chips and veggie straws are crunchy, too, but he didn't buy it.  But at least he looked at it.  I got him to eat broccoli this weekend, which was a big win for me.  The carrots and kale were pretty good, but I have this issue where I always end up dumping too much oil on things.  I can't figure out if I'm supposed to measure it or what.  I look at it and say, "Oh, that's not enough..." and then everything ends up swimming in oil, and I kill a tree in paper towels to soak some of it up.  So if anyone has any tips, I am all ears.

I found Amy's Kitchen Vegan Rice Macaroni and Cheeze at my health food store.  It was....gooey.  It's made with cheddar Daiya, which give it a really cheesy feel, but to be honest, I've been so long without cheese that anything that has a similar texture wigs me out a little.  It was also very, very heavy--22 grams of fat, 520 calories--this was vegan junk food at its worst!  I won't be buying that again.  I just can't handle that much fat in one sitting anymore.

On Saturday we made a trip to a place called Tremont Scoops--they have dairy ice cream and vegan ice cream, so we thought it would be fun to check out.  It's a little shop, very cute, and the owner was nice and explained all her vegan options to me.  All the vegan ice cream and sorbet is kept in a freezer case separate from the dairy ice cream, which is great because it lessens the chance of cross-contamination for those who have allergies.  She had vanilla Tofutti ice cream and a few fruit sorbets.  We usually only get the Trader Joe's brand of vanilla (or cherry chocolate chunk for Mommy) and sometimes the So Delicious brand.  Tofutti tastes way different--definitely much creamier than my little man is used to, with a definite aftertaste.  He once tried a Tofutti milkshake at a local restaurant and he didn't like it--and it was the same with his ice cream cone.  He licked it once and handed it to me, and then we fed his cone to the birds.  I got a sundae with chocolate and peanut butter sauces--so good but, like the mac and cheeze, so much richer than I'm used to.  I think I ate half of it.

Tremont Scoops also does vegan cakes!  I was excited.  We are going to order the marble cake with vanilla icing for my birthday.  Reviews, vegan and non, forthcoming. 

Trader Joe's soy "chicken" nuggets?  Eh.  They were okay.

My changeover to veganism is going really well.  It's been over a week since I've eaten any meat, and before that it was about a week--I've eaten chicken maybe three times in the past month.  I'm reading The China Study and Vegan: The New Ethics of Eating right now, and it's incredibly interesting reading about the extreme health benefits of being vegan.  The Dr. Dean Ornish cardiology trial was amazing!  It makes me want to strongly encourage my loved ones to minimize their animal product intake...but I haven't figured out how to do that without coming across as pushy, preachy, or psycho.  I was reading portions of Vegan to my husband this weekend and he informed me that I was depressing him with all these statistics about meat and heart disease and cancer, and I replied, "I thought knowing these things would empower you to make better food choices!" 

However, I think at first it can be so overwhelming to change your diet.  I have experience with it--I was a lacto-ovo vegetarian for several years, then I added chicken and turkey back into my diet, then I stopped eating dairy and eggs, and now I'm going vegan.  But when you've eaten the same way all your life (and have a picky palate), it's hard to even think of making a change.  Trying out new food and recipes is trial-and-error, too, and it can get discouraging and makes it easy to give up.  I seriously had to eat ten crappy vegan pizzas before I came up with a recipe I liked.  I had to figure out how to cook tofu, and I'm still battling with the kale.  But I believe it's a change worth making--even if it's a little change, it's still in the right direction--and I want to be educated so I can be empowered to make my life, my family's life, and the animals' lives better.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Vegan Cake

Well, the big 3 - 0 is coming up next week and I am searching for a vegan cake.  For the past several years, since I stopped eating dairy, I've made my own cake, but I would really like to not have to this year.  (Plus, I'm tired of my only vegan cake recipe...I need to get Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World and try out some new recipes.) 

I've been searching and so far I have found...one bakery.  That's it.  Last year I called around to a bunch of existing bakeries and asked if they made vegan or dairy-free cakes, and the answer was no.  There is a bakery in a small health food store I frequent, but to be honest, except for their vegan buckeye bliss bars, their bakery kind of stinks.  I ordered cupcakes for my mom's graduation party this summer and not only was the woman behind the counter incredibly rude to my husband and son, the cupcakes were awful.  There is one more cake place that does vegan cakes, but they do not accept small orders--only large orders for weddings and the like.  I emailed the bakery that does smaller cake orders, so we'll see how that goes.  I'm thinking about going to the farmers market tomorrow and begging the lady who makes the awesome vegan muffins to make me a cake. 

I've been a bit disgruntled with the selection of vegan food offered in my cafeteria lately.  You would think, since this is an urban university, that they would have more of a selection of vegan food, but they don't.  How easy would it be to make rice with oil instead of butter?  They offer pretty much no vegan protein in the cafeteria by my office.  The other day I didn't bring my lunch and ordered their veggie burger, which, when I asked a few weeks ago, was vegan...but then when I asked specifically about the bun, it turns out that all the bread they had available had egg or dairy in it.  I have to say, the staff in my cafeteria is wonderful--they always take the time to find out the ingredients to everything, and when I told them to just leave off the bun on the veggie burger, they brought it to me with huge, beautiful slices of tomato and lettuce.  It's a cafeteria, I understand that they have limited food choices, but I'm not asking for anything fancy.  Just beans to put on my salad or something. 

Do you know who seems to be incredibly food-allergy and vegan-friendly?  You may never guess, because I was shocked as well....Disney World!  I am so not a Disney person.  I'm really not into all the commercialism and advertising to super young children and that milk commercial on the Disney Channel bugs me for several reasons.  But my husband loves Disney World, and my son is a good age, and my husband and I are both turning 30 this fall, so we decided to go.  Originally we were looking into renting a house so we could cook, but once I started researching, I came across multitudes of parents whose children have severe food allergies and say the Disney World chefs are awesome.  It requires a bit of prep work, but I have no problem calling and chatting with the chefs about what yummy stuff they can make for us.

Hooray, three day weekend coming up!  Thank goodness.  It has been a rough week.  I'm looking forward to relaxing with my guys.

Monday, August 30, 2010

My sweet husband

As many of you know by now, my husband is not big on the vegan food.  (Or, as he calls it, "weird food.")  However, we had a date night on Friday and he surprised me by taking me to a new vegetarian restaurant called Treehugger's Cafe.  (I know, they totally stole my name.)  He proudly informed me that he "prepared" by eating a big lunch, just in case they didn't have anything he would like. 

Lo and behold, they did have chicken on the menu.  In fact, I think they had more options for an omnivore than a vegan.  Almost everything had cheese or some other sort of dairy in it, but our server was great and was able to modify my sandwich to make it vegan.  I had a portabella mushroom sandwich on tasty whole wheat artisan bread and vegan coleslaw that was surprisingly super yummy. 

My dinner, picture taken with my cell phone:

My husband had a chicken sandwich of some sort and fresh-cut french fries (which I had a few of and they were delicious).  I also got a smoothie, which I was not happy with.  Every smoothie on the menu had dairy yogurt in it, so they modified it for me, but it was completely watered down and from what I could tell by the giant chunks of ice in my smoothie, they really need to look into getting a new blender.  Plus, it was $5.  Five bucks for a watery smoothie?  Live and learn, I guess.  (Another area restaurant charges $6 for a Tofutti milkshake--however, their dairy milkshakes are about the same price.)

Today marks the anniversary of our first date--eight years ago!  Aww.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Back on the Crack

Oh, dear.  I have fallen off the wagon big-time.  I did such a great job during my 30-day challenge, felt great, lost some weight....but once those 30 days were up I fell right back into my old habits.  I have been totally overboard on the sugar.  I've been really stressed out with work and starting school and have been hitting the sugar like crazy.

It's actually so bad that I think I may have a candida overgrowth.  I can imagine what's going on in my body...no refined sugar or flour for a month, things are humming along rather nicely...then my system gets a double shot of the white stuff and stress.  I did some research online on candida overgrowth (a lot of sites call it an "infection," but I prefer to think of it as a "yeast party") and I have a lot of the symptoms.  I won't go into detail, because many of the symptoms are quite embarrassing--however, I will cop to the "sensitivity to fragrances and/or other chemicals," "sinus inflammation," and "cravings for sweets."  (My husband will probably be quick to point out the symptom of "cognitive impairment.")

There are also a lot of crazy candida detox diets on ye olde internets, but I will not be doing any of those.  (Seriously, cutting out absolutely everything except meat, eggs, and low-glycemic veggies?  Hmm, what would I be able to eat?  Lettuce?)  I am thinking about going back on my sugar detox, as one month was not enough to learn my lesson (I can just hear my husband now), and also watching the amount of vinegar I eat, since I do love my balsamic.

However, I've found that it's really hard to be vegan and completely sugar free.  And I have been doing fairly well on the vegan side of things...in fact, I've stuck to my goal of only eating meat with my family--this week I haven't eaten any meat since Sunday.  And in the long run, I think it's more important to not eat animal products than it is not to eat sugar.  Maybe someday I'll get there....when I'm out of grad school, my little boy is older, and I have my own chef....(kidding on the last one, but seriously, what busy young professional mother doesn't want her own chef?  Hmm...maybe once my little guy is old enough to use the stove and knives I can make him my own personal chef.  The kid does love to cook with me.)

Speaking of my little guy...a few days after he pondered the fate of lobsters at the grocery store, I pointed out a cricket on the sidewalk to him.  And do you know what my sweet little boy did?  He lifted up his foot to stomp on it!  I was horrified.  I yelled, "Nooooo!" and moved him away before he could follow through.  My husband about died laughing at the look on my face.  We are going to have to have a serious talk entitled, "You Only Squish Inside Bugs, Or Yell For Mommy And She Will Capture It And Take It Outside."

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Eucalyptus Oil: Not For Sissies

My previous experiences with essential oils have been to study them whilst at the health food store, sniff several, ponder if I should purchase any, and then eventually put them back and go on my merry way.  I have a list of several that I know I would use, but let me tell you, the sticker shock on the lavender oil is pretty severe. 

However, I've been dealing with this sinus-y cold-type thingy (my poor little guy is so stuffy that he's been snoring louder than Daddy) and don't want it to turn into a sinus infection.  Usually my only defense against sinus infections is a combination of my neti pot, Flonase, and prayer, but I decided to oomph it up a little and get some eucalyptus oil for steam inhalation.  

This stuff is potent!  I put a few drops in my steamy bowl of water, tossed a towel over my head, leaned in... and started coughing.  It's not an unpleasant smell, but it's very sharp and menthol-like.  I had to stir the water a few times and then I was okay.  I was going to put a few drops in my son's bathwater, but since the smell alone made my eyes water and skin burn a little, I decided against actually having it touch his skin.  I will tell you, though, this stuff works.  It really helped loosen up everything in my sinuses.  Followed by my neti pot (which has helped me so much in the sinus infection department--I used to get sinus infections 5 to 6 times a year and since I started using the neti pot (or "doing pot," as my husband likes to joke) I haven't had to go on antibiotics at all) my sinuses felt totally clear.

Ye Olde Tummy has now decided it hates nutritional yeast.  Sigh.  I've been wondering why Tummy got angry when I ate that faux boxed macaroni and cheese (called macaroni and chreese, I believe), and now I understand.  I may experiment with a few different brands, though, because I really want to make this macaroni and "cheese" casserole.  I made this totally awesome burrito-type-wrap thing last night--extra firm tofu cut in cubes, cooked in olive oil, sea salt, pepper, minced onion, and a sprinkle of nutritional yeast, along with baby portabella mushrooms sauteed in olive oil, in a whole wheat wrap that had melted Daiya faux cheese on it.  It was total yum.  I probably didn't even need the Daiya, but I have an open package and wanted to use some up.

Tonight is my first grad school class!  Eeeeeek!!!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Product review time

Several weeks ago I posted about ordering new personal care products from Aubrey Organics, and I wanted to hold off on reviewing them until I could see what they did for my skin over time.  Well, let me tell you, I can say without a doubt that they are awesome.

A little background...most treehugging redheads are fair with sensitive skin, and I am no exception.  I have a mild case of rosacea, weird combination skin, and anywhere from mild to severe acne (caused by the rosacea, according to my dermatologist, but I think my skin just thinks it's still a teenager).  I have tried a slew of skincare products, ranging from prescription-strength topical acne medication (made my skin totally freak out) to topical medications for rosacea (the sulfur smell in one made me so nauseated I had to wash my face about seven times to make it go away, and the last one I tried made my sinus issues flare up) to a wide variety of over-the-counter products, ranging in price from Neutrogena to Clinique.  Nothing has ever really worked.  If it took care of one problem, it exacerbated another, and most of them had fragrance that gave me a migraine.  However, one day I was surfing the internets and I came across reviews absolutely raving about the Vegecol line of skincare from Aubrey Organics.  I looked at their site and was very happy to see that they offered a travel set of trial sizes for their products for under $10, and then I found another site that carried it and offered free shipping, and I was sold.

I bought the Vegecol with Aloe Facial Cleansing Lotion, the Vegecol with Aloe Alcohol-Free Facial Toner, and the Vegecol with Aloe Moisturizing Cream.  My first thought upon using the cleansing lotion was, "It feels like I'm slathering my face with butter!  It's never going to get clean like this!"  However, it rinses clean (I use a washcloth because I'm so used to the "squeaky clean" feeling you get from the conventional products with SLS and the like) but doesn't make my skin immediately tight.  I instantly fell in love with the toner.  I've never been able to use toner because it burned my skin, but this uses witch hazel and is very mild--and it actually tones my skin.  Imagine that!  The moisturizing cream was a bit weird at first--I was a little put off by the bright yellow color--but it goes on nicely and feels good on my skin. 

My skin looks really good.  (Well, good compared to before.)  My redness has gone down considerably, and I have a nice glow that isn't oil or sweat.  It doesn't do much for preventing breakouts, I think, but once I have a breakout it heals it very quickly.  I ran out of my samples and had to go back to Purpose while waiting for my shipment to arrive, and my skin flipped out.  I would definitely recommend this to anyone who has the same issues I do--and Aubrey Organics also has different skincare lines for different skin types (all with the trial sample). 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tofurkey: Thy name is NEMESIS!

Last week I blogged about how much I love Tofurkey...yeah, not so much anymore.  It seems that while I love Tofurkey, Tummy down there does not and has been punishing me quite soundly.  Tummy doesn't seem to like a lot of things and lets me know about it, quite rudely, I might add.  Among Tofurkey, Tummy hates: orange juice, peanuts (well, really any nut that isn't an almond), peanut butter that hasn't been cooked or baked, eggplant, an excess of tomatoes, uncooked onions, and most packaged, processed snack foods.  In fact, just looking at a bag of Lay's potato chips makes Tummy get very, very nervous.  Oh, and dairy and eggs, of course.  I don't remember how Tummy feels about beef or pork, since it's been about 10 years, but Tummy has started to get a little pissy about poultry.  (Tummy, like Elmo, consistently refers to Tummy's self in the third person.) 

Eek, this has been a stressful week.  Classes start next week and I will be a college student again for the first time in 8 years!  I went to an orientation lunch on Tuesday and tonight there is an orientation reception, so I've been meeting a lot of people.  There's a good mix of different people in my program--some who are young professionals like me, some who are straight out of undergrad, and some who are older professionals with teenagers at home.  I had a woman ask me how I balance school, work, and having a young child...I told her I had no idea because classes haven't started yet!  I think I should be okay, at least this semester.  My class has a lot of reading, which I'm not afraid of, and only one paper.  As long as I utilize my lunch hour responsibly--i.e. reading my course materials instead of reading fiction...

I also had to pull off a fairly large event yesterday...it went pretty well, despite one attendee throwing a hissy fit about parking (no, dude, I will not pay your parking ticket because you forgot to read my email in which I TALK ABOUT PARKING) and it being approximately 1 million degrees in our outdoor reception tent.  I also wasn't thrilled with the caterers, who told me they could definitely do a vegan wrap (for me) and a gluten-free vegetarian wrap (for an attendee)...and then all we got was some lettuce.  They will be getting an email from me, make no mistake.

I received the results for my bloodwork, and everything looks good...except my vitamin D level is super low.  I've been going back and forth about what kind of vitamin D to supplement with--the D-2 is totally vegan, but a lot of research has shown that the body doesn't utilize it very well.  D-3 is not vegan, since it's made from wool, but I found "vegetarian" D-3...so I'm not quite sure what that means.  I haven't been able to find a suitable explanation on how vegetarian vitamin D-3 is produced.  My doctor was very specific, telling me to supplement with 5,000 I.U.'s of vitamin D-3 for 12 weeks and then lower it to 2,000 I.U.'s for maintenance, and since I live in a northern climate, it's really important for me to supplement correctly.  Does anyone know anything about this?

I was quite impressed that my iron level was the highest I think it's ever been--and I've only been eating poultry a few times a week.  Must be all those leafy greens.  (Which, by the way, Tummy adores.)

Monday, August 16, 2010


I am not a breakfast-food person.  My normal breakfast through the week is raw almonds and raisins eaten at my desk (or, if traffic is really bad, in the car), and sometimes oatmeal in the winter (also eaten at my desk out of a cup).  On the weekends I'll have some toast or fruit.  A lot of traditional breakfast food is heavy on the dairy and eggs, and would always upset my stomach, even when I was younger--makes sense since I discovered my intolerance to both of them.

I really like vegan muffins, but I haven't had pancakes since I cut dairy out of my diet.  I came across this recipe by Angela on Oh She Glows for vegan spelt pancakes and they looked so yummy and simple that I decided to make them for Sunday morning breakfast for my boys and me.  I omitted the protein powder and maca powder since I didn't have them and doubled the recipe.  They were tasty, my friends.  I've never used spelt flour, nor have I ever put cinnamon in pancakes, but they turned out wonderfully--light and fluffy and flavorful.  My boys had a different opinion, however.  My son liked them at first, but then decided that they had "crust" on them and wanted toast (with the crusts cut off, of course) instead.  My husband started eating them and informed me that he didn't like cinnamon, and didn't I know that after all these years?  Well...no.  I remembered that he doesn't like lemons except in pie and lemonade, but I didn't know about the cinnamon.  Then he said, "Well, they're good, once you get used to the cinnamon..."  Pause.  "These are whole wheat, aren't they?"  Yes, darling, they're whole wheat.

Anyway, more for me!  I put some Earth Balance spread and real maple syrup (first time having real maple syrup instead of the fake syrup) on my cinnamon-licious pancakes and had a party.  I will have to try to find some protein powder, because I need a hit of protein in the morning. 

We went to a local corn festival this weekend and I was highly disturbed by the food offerings.  I know it's a fair, but seriously, deep-fried Oreos?  (They also offered deep-fried Twinkies.)  They did have corn, however, and it was tasty (and not deep-fried).  I ended up winning my little guy a goldfish.  He was so excited.  We then had to buy a bowl and food, and I'm not sure how long the fish will last, and I'm not sure what we'll do if the fish kicks it.  As my husband said, "I think he's still too young to understand the circle of life."  Which then prompted a discussion about Elton John and The Lion King.

Maybe getting the fish as a pet prompted this...  My little guy and I were at the grocery store yesterday, and by the seafood counter they have a tank of live lobsters that people can buy.  We go to this grocery store once a week at least and sometimes pass by the tank more than once since it's on the way to the bathroom, but this is the first time my son really noticed it.  He said, "Are those lobsters?"  When I answered yes, he said, in a fairly neutral tone, "People eat them?"  Eek!  I said, "Yes.  But we don't eat them because Mommy thinks it's mean how they're treated."  He looked at them thoughtfully and then said, "I think it's mean, too."  Then on our way back from the bathroom (we're always at the furthest point from the bathroom when he declares he needs to go) he stood at the tank and watched the lobsters for a few minutes.  He didn't say anything else about it, but I wonder what he was thinking in that little head of his. 

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Tofurkey: The Other White Meat

To be honest, I have been afraid of trying Tofurkey.  I used to eat the Yves faux-lunchmeat when I was a vegetarian, many moons ago, but it wasn't very good so I had to hide the taste with Miracle Whip and lettuce.  However, sandwiches are really easy for me to make and keep me from visiting Marvin behind the grill in my cafeteria at work, so I gave in and grabbed some of the oven roasted-flavored Tofurkey at the grocery store.  When I was on my no-sugar challenge, I concocted turkey roll-ups--turkey laid thinly over a whole wheat tortilla (Vegenaise for me, plain for my little guy) and rolled up "like a map" (according to my son).  I subbed Tofurkey for animal turkey and voila!  Super deliciousness.  Even better when you warm up the tortilla first.  My little guy loves them...I might try the Tofurkey on him.  Or maybe add a veggie.  Tofurkey kale roll-ups?

This morning I went to my doctor's office and had blood drawn for routine bloodwork.  I figured that if I'm going to be changing my diet, I should check to make sure everything is in good working order so if I start feeling crappy, I can rule out anything that was already going on.  I've been doing research on supplements and vitamins and all that, and was pretty surprised to find out that I may already be deficient in B-12 since I eat so little animal products as it is.  My son (who eats the same amount of animal products that I currently do) drinks fortified soy milk, so I'm not worried about him (except this winter we are all taking vitamin D supplements), but I wonder about myself, especially since I'm showing some signs of B-12 deficiency.  Veganhealth.org has great information on B-12, as well as other vitamins and minerals.  The other thing I'm concerned about is my iron level.  I was very anemic when I was pregnant with my son (so anemic I developed pica and had an insane craving for ice--luckily I did not crave dirt or anything else), but my iron levels returned to normal after his birth.  I really don't want to take an iron supplement if I don't have to--they really mess up my stomach. 

I was so excited to find out that they completely remodeled one of the dining halls on campus and they are making more of an effort to have an array of vegan options.  In the cafeteria closest to me, the only thing they have that's vegan most of the time is broccoli.  I'll be eating dinner on campus once a week this upcoming semester so I'll have to check it out.  I wonder what it'll be like going to a dining hall so long after I've graduated from college...should be interesting.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The 10th thing I've learned...

Last week I talked about the things I learned from doing my no-sugar challenge, and some of them were no-brainers.  However, the one thing that the challenge made me realize was that:

10. I really want to become a vegan.

After reading delicious vegan blogs and lurking on The Kind Life forums and doing more reading and doing a lot of thinking, I know that living a vegan lifestyle is a goal that I want to attain.  However, while I'm 75% there already, going the final step and cutting out all eggs, chicken, and turkey will be difficult, especially since I need to think of my two guys, their wants and needs, and my own time constraints with working full-time, going to graduate school, and spending time with my family.  I don't have the time or resources to constantly be in the kitchen.  So, instead of jumping right in and making this another "challenge," I've decided to do this gradually, which will allow for some experimentation and trial and error. 

The first thing I'm doing is removing meat from my diet when I'm by myself.  Meaning, when I'm at work, when I'm at school, when I'm home alone (okay, that never happens).  That will cut my meat consumption down about 50%.  The second thing I want to do is to introduce meatless meals to my two men at home (this is where the trial and error will come in).  I'd love to find several meals that all three of us will enjoy that are vegan, or have easy non-vegan options (cheese on a salad for my husband, for example).  Neither one of my guys are adventurous eaters, however, so it may take some sneakiness on my part.  My husband reads my blog, so I will have to post in code or something.

Along with that second step, I'm going to continue trying new recipes and new foods to add to my diet.  I was a vegetarian (still ate dairy and eggs) for a long time, but I wasn't a healthy vegetarian.  I need to learn how to cook kale correctly, and incorporate more beans into my diet, and figure out what to do with that kombu I bought at Whole Foods last week.  I need to research supplements, and probably get bloodwork done to make sure I'm not deficient in anything.  (Okay, I left myself wide open there.)

I think this will give me a lesson in flexibility, as well as one in patience--two things I believe I still need to learn.  

Oh, and frozen bananas + coconut milk + a tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder = deliciousness in your blender!  


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Day 30: What I've learned

Today is the 30th and final day of my no sugar challenge.  I am proud to say that I only cheated once...and I learned a lot about myself, my eating habits, and what I want to do for the future.

Here's a list of the things I've learned:

1. Most processed food has (processed, cane) sugar in it.  Even if it's vegan, even if it's labeled as "healthy"--it probably has sugar in it. This whole process was a huge eye-opener, making me read labels in different ways and really making me examine what's in the food I eat.

2. Even if a food doesn't have sugar in it, it doesn't necessarily mean it's good for you.  Lay's potato chips don't have sugar in them...but they still make my tummy freak.  Alicia's chocolate peanut butter cups don't have sugar in them...but they are still filled with fat.  In that vein....

3. Everything in moderation.  I've discovered that even though I successfully cut out sugar, I still have a tendency to binge on other foods if I feel deprived.  In the beginning of my challenge, I used salt instead of sugar.  Your mind wants to compensate.  I may have been cutting my sugary calories, but I noticed at the end of my challenge that I was eating way more fats than I usually do.

4. I am an emotional eater.  The challenge really made me realize this.  I had time to contemplate why I wanted something, because I had to make it instead of simply open a package.  "Why do I want chocolate peanut butter cups?  Did I not eat enough fats today?  Or did I have a bad day and want to reward myself, or make myself feel better?"  Emotional eating is difficult.  People use food to reward themselves, and they also associate certain foods with happy occasions, such as birthdays, parties, and getting together with friends.  One of my closest friends and former college roommates would make this amazing ice cream cake for birthdays.  I clearly remember summer evenings as a child, sitting on the front porch with my family and eating Dairy Queen.  You can tell yourself over and over that food is simply fuel, but it's much, much more than that.  It's emotional, social, even spiritual.  Recognizing that and asking yourself, "Why do I want to eat that?" can really lead to some self-awareness.  Even if you eat it, you know that much more about yourself.

5. Eating whole foods helps you listen to your body better.  When I read Alicia's book and she talked about feeling "lighter" once she cut out animal products and simple carbs, I was skeptical.  Then one day, mid-challenge, I had to run for the bus, and I felt like I was flying!  This was even before I started going to the gym.  I started paying really close attention to how I felt after eating certain foods.  I realized that people into macrobiotics don't tout brown rice for nothing--it really does help you feel more balanced.

6. Even if you eat well and exercise, you're shooting yourself in the foot if you don't get enough sleep.  I need those eight hours.  My body needs to rest and heal, and my mind does, too.

7. I really miss ketchup.  I thought I'd miss ice cream more, or chocolate...but I could sub smoothies and grain-sweetened chocolate if I really wanted it.  There is no substitute for ketchup, people.   

8. I still need to eat more veggies.  I am doing great with getting enough fruit and protein...but I'm only getting about 4 servings of veggies a day, mostly in the form of baby greens salad.  It's more than I used to get, but I need to ramp it up a bit more.  I might try green smoothies (if I could get my little guy to drink those, that would be fantastic!) with a wheat grass powder or something.

9. What I eat definitely affects how I feel.  When I cheated with that delicious frozen lemonade, I felt it the day after.  I was super grumpy because I was craving more, and extra exhausted.  Not eating sugar, however, has helped me out--my son caught a summer cold and I didn't catch it from him.  This child gives me ALL his germs.  He has never once gotten sick without me getting the same thing.  My immune system is definitely stronger when I eat unprocessed foods. 

I'll talk about number 10 in my next blog, and also some of my goals....stay tuned!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Day 29: Cheater, cheater, pumpkin eater...

Yes, it is true.  I cheated.  Not with soy ice cream, or vegan buckeye bliss bars...but with lemonade.  Yes, lemonade.

Let me explain myself.  Over the weekend we went to Cedar Point, and it was hot.  And sunny.  And as a redhead, I don't do hot and sunny very well.  And while the restaurant we were at had a halfway decent salad bar (ugh, iceberg lettuce), I was starving.  I was starting to wilt.  And the little guy wanted lemonade, and it sounded soooo good.  I needed something cold with something my body could convert to glucose to get me through the rest of the day.  They had a stand with iced lemonade (pretty much an Icee, but made with lemonade) and we all got some.  And people, it was delicious.  It was so cold and tart and lemony...it was worth cheating.  Totally worth it. 

However, I was incredibly grumpy after the initial high, so that definitely showed me exactly what refined sugar does to me.  (I wish I had known all about this stuff in middle school, when I had mood swings so badly you would think I had multiple personalities.)  But I do miss lemonade, so I'll have to think of a way to make it au naturel.

So now that that unpleasant confession is out of the way, let's talk cupcakes!  I made Alicia's Favorite Cupcakes from The Kind Diet this weekend for my best friend's birthday party.  A disclaimer: if you are the type of person who doesn't like a giant mess in your kitchen ::cough my sister cough:: don't make the frosting with your child.  I think it took me longer to clean the cocoa power from all over the place than it took to make the actual frosting.  For the cupcake batter, I pretty much followed directions.  I tried to use coconut milk instead of soy...yeah, don't do that.  Once you put the apple cider vinegar in, the coconut milk starts to completely separate into chunks and looks pretty gross.  Luckily I had soy milk on hand, so I just used that.  I used a little more apple cider vinegar than the recipe called for, because I have another recipe that is similar and that one calls for one tablespoon of ACV rather than one teaspoon.  I really liked the whole wheat pastry flour--it doesn't have as dense of a texture as regular whole wheat flour, so I'm going to try it with muffins (Skinny Bitch in the Kitch has an awesome muffin recipe).  The cupcakes baked and rose very nicely--I have pictures and will have to post them once I upload them.  The fudge frosting was awesome.  I didn't have soy milk powder, which Alicia says you don't really need.  If you don't like super-chocolately-almost-makes-you-cough frosting, use the soy milk powder to cut the fudginess down.  Also, don't eat the frosting with a spoon.  Just don't.  Major tummyache ahead. 

My little guy was so excited about these cupcakes.  In the morning he went to the kitchen and pulled them off the counter (luckily they were already in a container) and brought them into the bedroom, waiting for us to leave.  When we got to the party, they had a giant bakery cake it was announced approximately 15 times that the cupcakes were vegan...and no one touched them.  My best friend, always willing to try things, had one, but mostly it was me and my son (my son hated the frosting, so he just had them without and he was happy).  I thought they were pretty good.  I make another kind of cupcake (it's my go-to recipe) with a ton of sugar, and they literally make my teeth hurt.  My best friend she liked my usual kind better, but my husband tried them and said he liked Alicia's better.  I'll have to make them again and try them out at my niece's birthday party.

I finally ate kale!  It was...chewy.  It needed to cook longer.  I also made tofu squares--extra firm tofu cut into little squares, with onion powder, turmeric, nutritional yeast, and sea salt--and it was, hands down, the best tofu I've ever made.  I usually get the tofu in the aseptic boxes, but they were all out of that kind at the grocery store, so I tried the Naysoya brand that was packed in water.  It had a great texture (instead of the slimy white mass that looks and feels like white Jell-o) and was just worlds better.  I will be getting that from now on for my sauteing needs.  I have pictures of that as well. 

I've missed the farmers' market two weeks in a row and my husband joked that they're going to put up "Missing" posters soon.  Tomorrow is the last day of my challenge and I will be reviewing the month to see what I've learned!

Friday, July 30, 2010

Day 25: Amazon

No, not the Amazon, amazon.com.  I hopped on amazon.com to see how much their maple sugar is since I can't find it around here (verdict: waaay expensivo) and I happened to look down at the bottom of the page, the section that says, "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought."  I started cracking up, because the items were things like umeboshi plums, kukicha tea, shoyu sauce, and, of course, The Kind Diet.  Kind Lifers are taking over Amazon!  And wow, who would buy a case of Fig Newmans?  That's a lot of cookies.  And what does kukicha tea taste like anyway?  And mochi?

Last night was a pizza night (my son was so excited he jumped up and down yelling, "Hooray!"--I think I will do that the next time I get to eat a chocolate peanut butter cup) and I added some fresh basil from my Aerogarden to mine.  (I have a total black thumb--one of my goals in life is to learn how to garden.  I have great success with my Aerogarden, however.  I got one for my mom for Mother's Day--she is a master gardener, my parents' yard is absolutely beautiful--and all her poor Aerogarden herbs, save the mint, either kicked it or didn't grow.  How did that happen?  Maybe the Aerogarden really is the Garden for Dummies.  Actually, I think she just got a dud box of seeds.)  Very tasty.  It's quite a heavy meal, though, so it wasn't especially conducive to my trip to the gym.

To the gym we did go, though, and I kicked up my intensity level on the elliptical machine.  I was so proud!  People at the gym probably think I'm crazy, because Jeopardy! is always on one of the televisions and I listen to music and watch the closed-captioning and answer the questions.  I could totally go on Jeopardy!.  I had a teacher in high school who actually was on Jeopardy!.

I'm gearing up for this weekend, and will update everyone on the cupcakes (we're actually making a cake, my son is insisting) when I return.  Happy Friday!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Day 24: Smoothies!

I am a big ice cream fan.  When I had to give up dairy, the first thing I did was find good soy ice cream.  However, all frozen desserts seem to have sugar in them, so I've been feeling very deprived.  I love the "mouth feel" of ice cream, or soy frozen desserts--cold, rich, creamy, perfect for hot weather.  Summer used to equal evening trips to Dairy Queen.

Last week I was grumping around the kitchen in the evening, looking for a snack.  A few days before I had tossed a ripe banana in the freezer (I forget where I read about doing that--someone somewhere suggested putting ripe bananas in the freezer, and then running warm water over the skin and peeling it and using it for a smoothie) and I decided I would try out the unsweetened coconut milk that had been on sale and make myself a smoothie.  After about 10 minutes of searching for my blender (every single part was in a different area of our apartment, go figure) I pulled out the banana.  It doesn't exactly peel--the outer layer of skin comes off and then you have to scrape off the inner layer.  That got tossed in the blender, along with frozen blueberries and the coconut milk.  IT WAS DELICIOUS.  Mmm mmm!  The frozen fruit allows you not to put any ice in it, which keeps the flavor rich and creamy.  (Also, much to my husband's chagrin, we never have ice cubes in the house.)  I have never tried coconut milk before, but it is great in a recipe.  It doesn't have that...interesting...aftertaste that soy milk does, and is richer than rice milk.  (I have yet to try almond milk.)  Since it is pretty much all saturated fat (good saturated fat, but saturated fat nonetheless) it's quite filling and definitely gives you that "mouth feel" of ice cream.  And it was really pretty.  I should've taken a picture of it.  My boys refused to try it, which was fine, because more for me!  I've made it again twice, once with another frozen banana and once with a fresh banana.  You really need a frozen banana to achieve the texture and frostiness, and you also need to make sure your frozen banana was super ripe before popping it in the freezer.  This makes it more sweet.  Hmm.  I wonder what would happen if I froze the coconut milk into ice cubes?

Tomorrow night I'm going to make Alicia's favorite cupcakes from The Kind Diet.  I was pumped when I found this recipe because it's almost exactly the same as my recipe for my son's favorite vegan cupcakes, except it uses agave nectar instead of sugar, and the the frosting doesn't use any powdered sugar.  I have also discovered, through reading fabulous vegan baking blogs, that you need to use whole wheat pastry flour in cupcakes or muffins instead of regular whole wheat, because the regular whole wheat makes your baked goods too heavy.  We'll have to see if it works (I had to search all over for whole wheat pastry flour and finally found a teeny bag at Whole Foods).  We're taking the cupcakes to my best friend's 30th birthday party--should be a fun time!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Day 23: Home stretch

I only have a week left of my sugar-free challenge!  When I started this, I thought I'd be dying for soy ice cream or something else super sweet.  I saw that soy ice cream buried in the back of my freezer last night, and I wasn't even tempted.  I thought I'd be desperately counting the days until the end...but I'm not! 

I have been feeling pretty good so far this week.  My sweet husband informed me last week that I was incredibly grumpy, and I took a look at why, as nothing was really wrong.  But I was feeling really down about not being able to eat what was "easy," and also down on myself because of the constant scale-monitoring.  After my husband hid the scale, I felt a lot better and am able to focus more on how I'm feeling rather than on what that number is doing.  I'm a complete perfectionist, and I am not a patient person, and those two things combined can make something that's supposed to be gradual, like bettering your health and/or weight loss, quite difficult.  Being able to treat myself to yummy chocolate peanut butter cups also took away that "I'm so deprived!" feeling.

I am also trying to focus on getting 8 hours of sleep every night.  As a working mother of a young child, this is not always possible, but I am the sort of person who needs sleep or I start to feel a little desperate.  I'll be taking my first graduate-level course starting the end of next month so I need to get into this habit now. 

I had a really great workout yesterday!  I'm going longer and faster and I'll be moving up to the next intensity level next time.  I finally had some music (can't find my iPod, loaded music onto my phone only to find out I had to get special headphones, and listening to people grunt next to me on the elliptical while watching closed-captioned Wheel of Fortune just wasn't getting my motor running) and I was bustin' out.  My husband got me these really nice sport earbuds.  They don't hurt my ears (I have small ears and normal earbuds are too large) and they have these things that hook over the backs of your ears to keep the earbuds in place.

I must be off, but next post I'll tell you all about my replacement for the aforementioned ice cream. 

Monday, July 26, 2010

Day 21: Still truckin'

Hello, Day 21!  I was having a rough time this weekend...weekends are extra hard for my no-sugarness, probably because I don't have the structure of my workday to help me along.  I told my husband that I was "sick of this no sugar thing!" to which he replied, "Well, you don't have to keep doing it."  However, I'm exceptionally stubborn, as my entire family will attest to, so I simply sighed and said, "No, I'll keep doing it."  So I made more chocolate peanut butter cups, tweaking the recipe a bit, and they are gooood.  I actually found graham crackers with no sugar (well, molasses, but that's not on my no-no list), and I used unsweetened coconut milk instead of rice milk, which gave the chocolate a richer taste. 

I also made this:

Fruity French Lentils from The Kind Diet.  I used strawberries instead of raspberries, and it was pretty good!  Definitely a good summer dish.  However, I don't think the orange juice in the recipe gives it enough of a kick.  I'm used to this lentils and veggies dish that I buy from the health food store, and it uses lemon juice.  So maybe next time I'll use lemon juice, or half lemon juice, half orange juice.

So, I made my husband hide the scale. I was getting a bit...obsessive...with the scale, and I think it was hurting my morale. So he hid it and informed me I wouldn't be able to get it unless I was tall....which I'm not. Aw, thanks, honey. He was also instructed to yell at me if he saw me touching my face. (I'm so high-maintenance, aren't I?) My skin has been breaking out horribly over the past week, from what I have no clue, and I am most definitely a popper, which is only making my skin worse. I have been successful in leaving my face alone for almost 2 days now, and it's healing up nicely. I also decided to try Aubrey Organics' Vegecol line of skin care--I've read so many great reviews about it helping people with super sensitive skin and rosacea. They have a little sample pack where you can try the whole line, which is great for me because I always spend money on a full bottle of something and then have a reaction to it (I even react to mineral makeup). I currently use Purpose Gentle Cleansing Wash, which was recommended by my dermatologist, but it has fragrance in it--the fragrance doesn't really bother me, but I don't like using anything with synthetic fragrance in it. The Purpose scores a 4 out of 10 hazard score on the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database, while the Aubrey scores a 2. Just as an ingredient, fragrance scores an 8. Definitely check this site out!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Day 18: Freaky fake cheese

I tried Daiya faux cheese the other night, and let me tell you, it is JUST like real moocow cheese.  It smells the same, looks the same, melts the same, and even stretches the same.  I thought it would be super exciting to eat something so close to cheese, but to be honest, it freaked me out!  Me, who used to eat melted-cheese-in-a-bowl....totally freaked out by fake cheese stretchiness.  In fact, I am so unused to cheese (it's been over 4 years since I've eaten it) that I almost choked on the stretchiness.  And my tummy reacted to it in the same way it used to react to real cheese--it was not a happy camper.  I think I prefer Follow Your Heart--it tries so hard to be cheese but it's not, it just kind of glops off your pizza--but there's something weird and space-alien-y about imitation food that's so convincing that you have to have another person try it just to be sure it's still fake.

However, I did find a convenience pizza that my little guy just loves--Amy's Kitchen Single Serve Non-Dairy Rice Crust Cheeze Pizza.  This is actually a true non-dairy pizza, with no milk parts at all.  It also has a rice crust, which to me makes it a little soggy, but my son loves because he doesn't like crust or anything hard.  It's gluten-free and sweetened with agave nectar--no refined sugars--so Mommy got to have some, too (I added the aforementioned Daiya cheese to it).  They're pricey little buggers, though, and pretty hefty on the fat, so they're definitely a once-in-awhile treat.

I also made tofu scramble again, but failed miserably this time.  I cooked the tofu too long and it got all dry and gross, and I added cannellini beans--which just don't go with tofu.  Black beans or pinto beans would probably have been a better bet, but I had cannellini beans from a kale recipe I was going to try.  I waited too long to use my kale, though, and it got all moldy in the fridge.  Sigh. 

Yesterday I was at my local used bookstore (I can spend hours in a bookstore, or the library) and I asked an employee if they had a copy of The Kind Diet.  She was so funny and honest--"No, we don't, because I can guarantee you that if we did, I would've grabbed it already!"  I told her I was also looking for the cookbook Veganomicon, and she said that it's an awesome book (they didn't have that, either).  She also recommended another cookbook to me called Laurel's Kitchen, which is a vegan cookbook from the 70's.  I think I will be asking for Veganomicon for my birthday.

The night we had pizza my little man wanted more, and I told him that he had to eat his green beans first (which is pretty much the only green thing this kid will eat) but he refused.  He insisted that he was still hungry, though, so I told him he could have something healthy, like a banana.  He said no, he wanted pizza, and I waved him towards his green beans.  A few minutes later he comes back to me and says, "Mommy, I want somefing heawfy!"  "Like what?"  He gives me his little stinker grin and says, "A popsicle!"  I just started cracking up--he did too, because whenever we laugh at something he says he thinks he's a comic genius--and informed him that a popsicle is not healthy, and told him to eat his green beans.  I'm going to have to find a green smoothie recipe or something to get more veggies into that kid.

Tomorrow is the farmers market!  I hope they have more blueberries. 

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Day 16: Ennui

Sigh.  I have a case of ennui...I am having a hard time sitting behind a desk indoors all day.  I've been missing my little guy, wanting to be home cooking and cleaning and taking care of my family.  My job is so slow right now, but somehow more stressful...I love being busy and having things to do.

Aaanyway...not much new to report on the food front.  Tonight I'm hoping to have time to make white beans and kale.  I stopped taking my calcium supplement when I started this, because it's a chewable and has sugar in it (plus tons of food dye, which I try to avoid all the time).  I should get some new supplements, just because I know I'm probably not getting enough calcium or B vitamins, but I have a secret: I can't swallow pills.  Well, I can, but I have a really hard time swallowing any pills, even the smallest ones.  I have a very small gullet, and I have this choking fear (which walks hand-in-hand with my drowning fear, and suffocating fear, and anything that would render me unable to breathe).  I remember when I first became pregnant with my son, and my sinuses freaked out and everything swelled up, and I constantly felt like my throat was closing up on me.  It was a highly unpleasant time, let me tell you.  Anyway, I need to get more dark leafy greens in my diet, hence the kale.

Natural deodorant update: I know you are all waiting to hear how smelly I am.  Well, the answer is: not at all!  As I said before, I don't exert myself much at work, but I've used my Kiss My Face Liquid Rock for working out (I apply it in the morning and don't even reapply before exercising) and I have had great results.  Last night my husband and I were sitting at the rec center and I sniffed my armpit to check on my deodorant's performance.  My husband rolled his eyes at me and said, "You don't have any shame in front of me, do you?"  To which I replied, "Honey, you watched the doctor slice me open and pull out a human being--I'm beyond embarrassment with you."  Right as I said that, this poor guy walked past and, according to my husband, looked totally freaked out by what I was saying.  He probably called everyone he knew to tell them to watch out for the crazy redhead at the gym.

I officially signed up to take the GRE in the fall....and I'll also be starting my first graduate-level class.  I am SCARED, people.  I am so anxious at the thought of trying to balance work, school, home, a young child....and I'm also worried about taking the GRE, because I haven't taken any kind of math in 12 years.  The most math I do is adding and subtracting numbers, and maybe percentages.  I guess I will be spending my lunchtimes doing math review. 

I will try to get some sunshine today to get myself out of my ahn-wee.........farewell!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Day 15: Really? Halfway through?

I can't believe I'm halfway through!  Wow!  Last night my husband informed me that my no sugar-ing is harder on him than it is on me.  *rolling eyes*  However, I can't complain because he has been super supportive and tells me how great I'm doing all the time.

Last night we went to the rec center and I did the elliptical for...wait for it....15 minutes.  Yeah, not a super long time--in college I could bust out 45 minutes no problem--but I haven't seen the inside of a fitness center in a long time so I didn't want to push it.  I am so tired today, but that's more from lack of sleep than anything else.  I need to make some more brown rice--yes, my dreaded brown rice has now become a great source of energy for me!  I really do think it has the perfect yin and yang balance.  Seriously.

As promised, here are food pictures.  I'm so jealous of the bloggers who take these totally gorgeous pictures of their creations!  I'm an amateur for sure, so don't judge me...

Tofu scramble

Sweet potato and lentil soup...this soup is really better suited for cooler weather.  I think I'm going to freeze mine until it gets more fall-ish around here.  It's also way too oily for my taste, so the next time I won't use the amount of oil Alicia recommends.

Rosemary-onion roasted potatoes--perfect for freezing!

Chocolate peanut butter cups--if you make these, use graham crackers instead of brown rice crisps.  The texture will be much nicer.  The maple sugar instead of the brown rice syrup would probably be better, too--or any granulated sugar.  I brought some into work and my office roomie loves them, weird texture and all!

Yummy fruit--peaches and blueberries from the farmers market, and sweet northeast cherries from the grocery store.

Now that I'm eating more natural foods, I really understand when Alicia talks about eating locally as well as seasonally.  The rich, heavy taste of that soup is really more suited for autumn, but the tofu scramble is made with veggies in season and bought locally--the squashes and green pepper are all at their peak right now--and is perfect for the warmer weather.  I think I'm going to try to learn more about macrobiotics, to learn more about what foods are designed to do what within your body.  For instance, mango and pineapple are from the tropics and cool your body down--I'd love to find out what warms your body up, especially with the kind of winters we've been having!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Day 14: Cooking mania!

Hello everyone!  I couldn't even remember what day I was on so I had to count on my calendar.  I am feeling great!  I am especially pumped because I lost 3 pounds last week...which, estimating with my ghetto scale, means I've lost approximately 10 pounds over the past 2 weeks.  I keep tripping over my pants because they're hanging so much lower now.  (My husband would tell me to get a belt, but really, I hate belts.  I just need to learn how to hem pants.)

I cooked so much this weekend.  It was nuts.  I went to the farmers market on Saturday morning with my little guy and got cucumbers, zucchini squash, yellow squash, blueberries, and peaches.  The blueberries are the best I've ever tasted.  Saturday afternoon I finally made tofu scramble.  Well, it was more like smooshed tofu, but it was still good.  I sauteed the tofu in olive oil, added nutritional yeast, turmeric, garlic, and a little salt, then added green pepper, yellow squash, zucchini squash, and snow peas.  My veggies to tofu ratio was a little high, but it was still delicious.  It was enough for a filling lunch (mixed with brown rice) and I had enough leftovers for 2 more meals--I had some for lunch today.  On Sunday I made a turkey breast with gravy (I didn't read the label on my chicken bouillon before I tossed it in the gravy--it had cane sugar in it so I couldn't eat it, which was probably for the best anyway), my roasted potatoes in french fry form, sweet potato and lentil soup from The Kind Diet, and chocolate peanut butter cups from The Kind Diet.  My son was my little helper, putting the cut-up potatoes in water and "mixing" them.

I've been asked for my roasted potatoes recipe, which I adapted from Betty Crocker's cookbook.  I hardly measure when I cook--only when I bake--so let me know if you want exact measurements.

-Potatoes (I've found that organic potatoes are the best)
-Rosemary (dried or fresh and chopped)
-Thyme (dried or fresh)
-Dried minced onion (if you like to chop onions, I'm sure they would be fine...but I HATE chopping onions so I never use them if I can manage)
-Sea salt (regular salt works in a pinch but I love freshly ground sea salt)
-Freshly ground peppercorns (regular pepper is fine)
-Grapeseed oil (the original recipe calls for vegetable oil, but I like grapeseed better--just make sure you use an oil that remains stable at high heat)

Scrub potatoes and cut into 1-inch cubes (or into french fry form, like I've been doing).  As you cut the potatoes, place them in a bowl filled with cold water.  After the potatoes sit in the water for awhile (anywhere from 10 minutes to a few hours, depending on what else you've got cookin'), drain them and either pat dry with a paper towel or toss them in the salad spinner.  Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.  Place the potatoes in a large bowl and add enough oil to coat.  Then dump in a lot of minced onion, a palmful of rosemary and thyme, and sea salt and pepper to taste.  Mix well.  Place the potatoes on a greased or oiled cookie sheet.  Make sure the oven is at temperature and then place the potatoes in the oven.  Cook to your desired crispness, turning over a few times.  (My husband likes crispy potatoes, so I roast mine for about 40 minutes.) 

The sweet potato and lentil soup turned out okay.  I didn't have several of the spices the recipe called for, so it was a little bland.  I also used too much water.  However, the soup smells so good and the combo of sweet potatoes and lentils is something I had never thought of before.

I had to tweak Alicia's Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup recipe.  I couldn't find maple sugar so I used brown rice syrup, and I didn't even try to find graham crackers without sugar, so I used brown rice crisps.  I had one this morning, and they were tasteeee.  However, next time I'll crush the rice crisps up more and also add a bit of vegetable shortening to the chocolate so it sets better.

I'm hoping to try a kale recipe sometime this week, and I am getting tons of super yummy recipe ideas from everyone else's blogs.  I took pictures of everything, so I will post them when I get them off my camera.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Day 11: TGIF!

For some reason this has felt like the longest week, even though I had Tuesday off.  I had a horrible migraine yesterday and things were just cranky and stressful.  But today is Friday, and I get to have date night with my hubby, and tomorrow I get to sleep in and then hit up the farmers market!

I have really been craving ice cream.  My husband asked me if I wanted dairy ice cream and I said, "No, soy," and he laughed himself silly at me.  "Oooh, you're so bad!  Soy ice cream!"  I don't even remember what dairy ice cream tastes like.  However, I certainly remember what Trader Joe's Cherry Chocolate Chunk Frozen Soy Dessert tastes like, and I miss it.  It's been so hot--maybe I will make some juice "popsicles" this weekend.  My little guy loves those.

Today was a first for me--I managed to use up all the fresh fruit in the house!  Usually I toss out at least a few brown bananas or old apples, but this morning I discovered I had one peach left in the whole place.  My son helped me finish off the organic strawberries from Whole Foods (they were on sale for $2.99...so ripe and juicy....I wish I would've gotten more!), ditto with the bananas, and all my cherries and blueberries were finished at the beginning of the week.  I had to buy an apple in the cafeteria today for lunch--the first time in 11 days I have bought something at lunch (at work--weekend don't count)!  Now, if only I could say the same for the kale waiting to be cooked...oh kale, I will get to you this weekend.

Last night we re-joined our community recreation center.  They have an awesome indoor pool complete with a kids' splash area (and a lazy river, my husband's favorite), tons of classes, and a good exercise machine area.  I have a feeling that my next 30-day challenge will have something to do with fitness.  I am also going to take swimming lessons.  For those of you who don't know me personally (and maybe even some that do), I have a huge water fear.  I almost drowned in the ocean at 16 and have been terrified of water ever since.  I'll get in it, but never above my shoulders, and I never put my head under water (which goes along with another fear of mine, not being able to breathe).  My husband loves water, however, and loves to swim, and our son is currently taking swimming lessons at the rec center with my mother-in-law--and he's turning into quite the fishy as well.  The rec center offers adult swim classes and I'm going to join the class, which starts the end of August and runs through the beginning of October.

Eek, I'm getting totally anxious just thinking about it!

(Photo Credit: Wesley Hargrave, Daily Mail)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Day 10: 1/3 of the way through!

Welcome to Day 10, everyone!  I must say, I had my doubts on if I'd get this far.  I'm feeling pretty good!  I feel a lot more steady, and my moods feel a bit more consistent throughout the day.  My skin is also looking a little better--usually during my "time of the month" my face has a freakout, but this month it was relatively tame.  I'm still having problems with rosacea, however--not sure if that will clear up a bit the longer I'm off sugar.

Last night I wanted a treat so much!  It didn't help that I was home alone with the little guy, hanging out and playing trains.  He wouldn't care if Mommy had one of those soy ice cream sandwiches, as long as he was allowed one, too....but I stayed strong, thought of my adoring public (yes, Husband, I can see you rolling your eyes), and had a half of a peanut butter and jam sandwich on Ezekiel bread, which seemed to take care of the fat and sugar I was craving.  I am not a fan of the natural peanut butters--all that gloppy oil grosses me out, and after you put it in the fridge it does not spread and destroys your bread.  However, the last time I was at Whole Foods, they had a coupon for the Earth Balance peanut butter, so I tried it.  It's really good!  To be honest, it's a healthier version of traditional, Jif-life peanut butters--sweetened with agave syrup, has some added oils and flaxseed--but I think it's great for people transitioning to healthier peanut butters.  I have the crunchy at home--I'll have to get the creamy for my guys (my husband loves Jif and also loves to quote the commercial at me--"Choosy moms choose Jif!"--which never fails to anger me because it implies that if you don't choose Jif you're just a crap mom). 

Yesterday I went to Whole Foods without a list, got overwhelmed and hurried, and managed to leave without getting what I went for--some sort of sea vegetable.  Sigh.  I don't know if they have them in any of the stores closer to me--my local grocery store may, though, because they have a decent international foods section.  I didn't see any the last time I went, but I was also attempting to keep my son from barreling down an old lady or small child with the shopping cart, so I could have missed something.  However, I did get new, natural deodorant at Whole Foods yesterday.  I switched my shampoo and conditioner to Kiss My Face Big Body last summer, and I love it.  It doesn't have any synthetic fragrances in it, which I am incredibly sensitive to, but has essential oils that smell wonderful.  I've been waffling on changing my deodorant, because I've been using the same deodorant/antiperspirant my entire life (well, since puberty), and I didn't want to be smelly.  Also, even though a lot of products are supposed to be all natural, some still contain synthetic fragrance, and I was a bit confused by all the differences in formulation.  I'm reading Do It Gorgeously, however, and the author, Sophie Uliano, has a recipe for making your own deodorant, and in it she says that lavender essential oil is great to use in deodorant because it has antibacterial properties.  I LOVE natural lavender.  Love love love!  They have these lavender sachets at Trader Joe's that you toss into your dryer and they make your clothes smell so good (our clothes all have kind of a non-smell because everything I use is fragrance-free), but not overpowering.  So I grabbed Kiss My Face's Liquid Rock in lavender, which seems to have good reviews.  Today is my first day wearing it and I am smelly-free so far (but I don't exactly exert myself at work).  It stayed wet for awhile this morning and I walked around with my arms in the air trying to figure out if it needed to dry before I put my shirt on.  Good thing my husband was still asleep, or a picture would've ended up on Facebook--me drying my armpits in front of a fan or something.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Day 9: Sea vegetables

Whenever I think of a sea vegetable, I imagine that crab guy, Sebastian (okay, I had to Wiki the name), from The Little Mermaid tending an underwater garden.  (He's wearing a sunhat and gardening gloves over his claws, and maybe wearing a little apron.)  I also think of the first (and only) time I tried to eat a sea vegetable.  It was my freshman year of college and the girls in the room down the hall from me were super into eating well.  One night they decided we would try seaweed.  Well, I did, and it was revolting.  They all laughed for about ten minutes at the expression on my face.  So, as you can see, I am not too familiar with all the sea veggies Alicia talks about in The Kind Diet.  Nori?  Kombu?  Whaa?  However, since they are supposed to be super healtherrific, I've decided to journey to the Whole Foods and try some out.  But how do I eat it?  I have a feeling that eating it plain will garner about the same reaction from me as it did in college.  (Some people experiment with drugs in college....I experimented with seaweed.  It was an honors dorm.  Go figure.)

If the first third of this challenge was about detoxing from sugar, the second third will be about trying new things and expanding my food horizons.  I have a list of things I want to make--lentil loaf, lentil soup, the mac & "cheese" that Vegan Rocker Girl posted on her blog, kale (thanks for the suggestions, everyone--they sound great!)...the list goes on and my weekend is filling up.

I have also realized that even having botched, stale-tasting treats in the house is a bad thing.  Those crispy peanut butter treats I made tasted so much like peanut butter and chocolate that I started od'ing a little on them.  I will report, however, that while a regular rice crispy treat would give me a massive headache and shaky hands if eaten on an empty stomach, these did not, so the brown rice syrup must be easier on your blood sugar levels.  Next time I will reduce the amount of syrup and actually use crisp rice instead of puffed rice....but I also recognize that the small amount of self-control I have can only handle me making these treats every so often.  They're not good to constantly have in the house.

However....I think I might just be a miracle worker.  Last night my husband and I had a long talk about....of all things....nutrition.  He told me that he would like to find something to do to make himself healthier and is trying to decide what he would like to do.  He even admitted that he has considered the possibility of...wait for it...becoming a vegetarian.  

Pause for jaws to resume position on faces

I was SHOCKED, people.  But I am so excited that my healthier eating has inspired my husband to become healthier as well.  So if anyone has any advice on how to help him re-train his palate to like veggies and "different" food, please advise!   

Monday, July 12, 2010

Day 7: The best part of waking up....is burnt rice?

I should not be permitted near a stove in the morning.  I didn't get around to lunch-making last night because I was too busy destroying Alicia's crispy peanut butter treats recipe, so 6 a.m. found me chopping carrots and cooking rice.  "Hey, I'm using a huge knife in before I'm hardly awake!  Is this advisable?"  I still have all my fingers intact, but I did drop a plate on my foot--since it's good ol' Corelle, it didn't break.  I left my pot of rice cooking away while I hopped in the shower, and when I got out, I immediately smelled the burning and ran for the kitchen.  Nothing caught on fire, but the whole apartment had a lovely scent to it and I had to toss my rice.  Plus I'm going to have fun trying to clean my pot tonight (unless my wonderful husband reads this and cleans it for me?).

Well, here we are, Day 7, and, as my Great Aunt Doris used to say, I'm still kickin'!  The weekend had its difficulties--eating out on this diet is really, really difficult, at least for the places our family usually frequents.  We muddled through, however, and on Saturday I made a delicious vegan pizza from a store-bought flatbread crust (the brand was Rustic, I think, and sourdough, and sugar free, and yummy), plain tomato sauce, and Follow Your Heart mozzarella-style soy cheese.  I didn't burn it like I usually do, and it was tasteee.  My son loved it (he also loved helping me make it), but my husband didn't want to try it.  We also hit the drive-in movie theater that night and made a bunch of popcorn with Earth Balance buttery spread and sea salt, and the little guy was so happy because he was allowed "special pop"--the Izze fruit juice "soda".  (Mommy enjoyed it, too!)

Last night I made the crispy peanut butter rice treats from The Kind Diet,  and...yeah.  My first problem, I believe, is that I used brown rice puffs, not brown rice crisps.  Makes a huge difference.  I took a picture of it, but I'm not going to post it, because a food photographer I am not and somehow my pictures of food look way grosser than the food really is. Take my word for it.  I believe I got the topping correct--a whole lotta brown rice syrup, peanut butter, and I mixed in some grain-sweetened vegan chocolate chips.  In fact, my new taste buds think that this dessert is too sweet.

Wait a second...did I just say something was TOO SWEET?  I believe I did.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I think I've finally overcome the initial crazy craving period.  While my favorite vegan bananaberry muffin taunts me every time I go into the kitchen, and while it took an enormous amount of willpower not to share my boys' lemonade at the farmers market on Saturday, I don't feel faint with hunger or totally deprived anymore.  Everything I've read says that it takes anywhere from 3 to 10 days (some say 3 to 7) to stop craving sugar, and I was expecting the full 10 since I have such a sweet tooth.  I am a bit disappointed, though, because my moods haven't evened out like I thought they would...but let's face it, it's PMS week.  I have, however, lost weight--I don't really know how much, though, because our scale is way wacky.  It's an analog scale and fluctuates about 10 pounds depending on how you stand on it.  We bought a new one over the weekend and were not happy to discover that the actual weight was 15 pounds more than the highest number from the old scale.  But we'll just see how cocky I am tonight when I have to make banana muffins for 20 preschoolers.

Now I'd like to focus on introducing new greens into my diet.  I have kale in my fridge.  How should I cook it? 

Friday, July 9, 2010

Day 4: Alejandro...just let me go!

Happy Friday, everyone!  I am so glad it's the end of the week....the weekend means date night tonight, farmers market tomorrow, and sleeping!  We're thinking of having a cooking day this weekend, so we're not scrambling for meals during the week like we have been.

Today I'm feeling much better than yesterday.  Yesterday...oh man.  The she-beast escapeth.  I was labeling envelopes at work (no matter what job I have, it will probably always include mailings) and my hands were so shaky that all my labels were crooked.  When I finally got home after picking the little guy up from my mother-in-law's and stopping at Trader Joe's, I was ready to faint from hunger.  I stood in front of the refrigerator and was SO MAD.  "I don't want to eat another freaking salad...rice is the devil....I want a glass of Very Vanilla soymilk....."  I ended up eating a turkey burger patty (again), watermelon, and a salad.  I had been having low-grade nausea the past few days, too, and had only gotten 6 hours of sleep the night before, which improved my mood even more.  I was super crabby with my husband and son and wanted to lock myself in a room where I could stomp around and moan about how I didn't want to do this anymore.  I was all, "What did I get myself iiiinto?  Why do I feel so baaaad?  Why can't I detox from this stupid sugar already?"  Stomp, pout, whine, stomp.  Slam the door for good measure.  Stomp.  (Okay, I actually didn't do any of that, because what would that teach my son?  I did pout a bit, however.)

I don't know if it was getting enough sleep, the fact that it's Friday, the weather cooling down considerably, or my body adjusting, but today I'm feeling....okay!  I tried to do the oatmeal in the morning earlier this week, but it just wasn't doin' it for me.  I picked up some raw almonds at TJ's and had those with raisins this morning and it really sustained me.  I think I need that kick of fat and protein in the morning to stabilize my blood sugar or something.  I had apple slices mid-morning and ended up going to lunch late because I wasn't totally starving.  For lunch I had the other half of my sandwich from yesterday, a salad with sugar snap peas (which I looove--so crunchy and sweet), rice, and cherries and blueberries.  True confession time: I really do not like rice.  White rice, brown rice--I am not a rice kind of girl.  Alicia recommends eating it with every meal, and in macrobiotics they claim it's the perfect food because its yin and yang is so close to balanced, but I just am not a fan.  I might be getting used to it, though, because it wasn't too bad at lunch today.  Another grain I cannot stand is quinoa (pronounced keen-wa for those of you reading who didn't know--I didn't know until I Wiki'd it).  I've tried it a few times and I hate the texture.  It looks like slimy little eyeballs to me.  I know, gross, huh?  And it tastes kind of like hose water.  Maybe I should mix it with something?

This weekend I just need to stay on track and make lots of yummy food for the week.  I might make myself a treat with brown rice syrup (which is permitted, since it doesn't crash your sugar levels up and down like cane sugar)--if I can find it.  I will have to head to the local health food store, which I am currently in a fight with because they treated my husband and son horribly there one day when my husband was picking up some bakery for me.  I need to find:

-brown rice syrup, as mentioned
-brown rice cereal puffs
-almond milk
-shiitake mushrooms
-some sort of sea vegetable
-Daiya vegan cheese (which is rumored to be way better than Follow Your Heart, which I currently use)

So wish me luck in my hunt, and I will probably not check back in until Monday.  Have a great weekend!