Vegan Day 3: Keeping It Simple

Whew! I am one tired girl today! Guess I shouldn’t have stayed up extra late finishing The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani. It was such a beautiful story I just couldn’t put it down. I was actually in tears at one point. Trigiani guides you through the lives of Ciro and Enza as they both discover what it means to have family, love, and a home. It seemed no matter the circumstances, Ciro and Enza kept running in to one another until one day they decided to never live apart again.

Anyways, now to dinner!! I was glad that this dinner was an easy one since I was feeling so tuckered out. Ha! To throw this together, I just sprinkled the seitan with taco seasoning and heated it up on the stove-top for a few minutes. I topped my greens with the cooked seitan, guacamole, a few cherry tomatoes, and a little bit of salsa. Voila!

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Vegan Day 2: Pasta Time!

My morning started off right when my friends and I saw a meteor/shooting star today before 6AM on our run!  How cool! We all assumed it was a firework until Emily came across a post by Action 5 News asking if anyone caught a pic of the meteor. 🙂 Since I have little time to get ready after my morning run, I packed some granola, almond milk, peanut butter, and a banana to mix together at work for breakfast. This kept me going much better than the oatmeal yesterday!
This evening, I cooked up two recipes from Oh She Glows. The first was the Roasted Fingerling Potatoes and Brussesl Sprouts with Rosemary and Garlic. I didn’t really do anything different than her original recipe except use red-skin potatoes.

Ready for the oven!

Alongside the roasted sprouts and potatoes, I served the Tomato Walnut Basil Pasta. I really did want to try the nutritional yeast that she calls for in the sauce for this recipe, but it was too expensive to buy at Whole Foods just for the sake of experimenting. I didn’t want to be stuck with a whole tub of it if I didn’t like it! Anyways, the pasta was pretty tasty. Not sure I am a huge fan of walnuts in the sauce, but I figured I could use the protein!

Dinner is served!

I must confess, I have really been missing milk in my life. Almond milk just doesn’t make my coffee as creamy as cows milk!

Vegan Day 1: Pumpkin Curry Soup

Day 1 of this vegan week! Woohoo! I started the week off with a bowl of banana, walnut, brown sugar and almond milk oatmeal. Yum. 🙂

This evening, I experimented by roasting a pumpkin to use for soup rather than going with canned. It was quite a bit of work! That pumpkin was a bit tough to cut up. I tried to roast it like The Pioneer Woman did in her blog, but it took much longer in my oven and didn’t soften as much as I’d hoped. So, the dish ended up being a much thicker stew-like dish rather than a creamy soup – but it wasn’t bad! I think I’ll need to do a little more tweaking with this one so I won’t include a recipe this time around.

Mmm… pumpkin stew!

However, speaking of good vegan recipes, I made this lentil and polenta dish last week that was awesome! I found it in the local Memphis Health + Fitness magazine complements of Whole Foods Market. When I went to make this after picking up the ingredients at the store, I didn’t realize that it was a slow-cooker meal! Instead, I just prepped it on the stove-top and it worked out just fine. 🙂 I had to cut the recipe in half… and I still had leftovers!

Slow Cooker Lentil Stew with Polenta
(By Whole Foods Market in Health + Fitness – directions edited to cook on the stove-top.)
Ingredients:
– 1 1/2 cup brown lentils
– 2 onions, sliced
– 1 large green bell pepper, diced
– 4 cloves garlic, minced
– 1 can plum tomatoes with juice
– 1 teaspoon dried oregano
– 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
– 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
– 1 1/2 cup vegetable broth
– 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
– 1 cup quick-cooking polenta
Directions:
Cook lentils according to package directions using vegetable broth as the liquid. Saute onion, bell pepper, and garlic in a separate pan in a bit of olive oil until softened. Add tomatoes to the other vegetables and cook until it starts to simmer. Add cooked lentils, salt, vinegar, oregano, and red pepper to the tomato mixture. Simmer for 7-10 minutes. Serve on polenta! Yum!!

Vegan Challenge

Since it has been about 6 months, I revisited my “25 While 25 List” and realized I still have a lot of work to do! So, I committed to buckling down and trying to cross a few more things off. This week – it’s #13, “Go vegan for a few days”. When I told Will about my plan, he was like, “you can’t just do a couple of days, you totally need to do a week!“. Hmm. Well, I guess I have to now! After perusing some great vegan blogs like, Oh She Glows, The Vegan Stoner, and Peas and Thank You I think I was able to come up with a good plan. As long as I can resist the temptation of the ice cream social at work on Tuesday… I think I can make it happen! Haha.
When I think about my usual diet as a vegetarian, my meals are not too far from following vegan diet rules. If you are unfamiliar with the difference between vegetarian and vegan, here’s a brief comparison:
Vegetarian: Refrains from meat such as chicken, beef, and pork. May or may not also restrict fish in their diet (I don’t!). Dairy and eggs are ok.
Vegan: Eats no animal products of any kind. This means they restrict everything from steak to honey, gelatin, milk, eggs, other dairy, and in some cases beer/wine.
It’s funny to see some people’s reaction to when I say that I’m a vegetarian. Usually, they immediately assume I am a vegan, ie. “crazy person”. Ha! As you can tell from the blogs I linked above, the vegan diet is no longer just for hippies or Hindu monks!

Shopping to prep for vegan week!

Each day, I plan to post about what I ate and any good recipes I came across. Here’s my plan for dinner each day:
Monday:
Creamy Roasted Pumpkin Soup 
Tuesday: 
Tomato Walnut Basil Pasta by Oh She Glows
Wednesday: 
“Taco salad” with crumbled seitan and guacamole
Thursday:
Black bean and sweet potato tacos 
Friday:
Lentil and Squash Curry Stew by Oh She Glows
Saturday:
Dinner out – this could be a challenge!
Sunday:
Leftovers or Lentil Loaf by The Vegan Stoner

I am really excited about this experiment! It will be tough to miss out on cheese, milk, and greek yogurt for a week, but here goes! Maybe I’ll love it and never want to go back…

This Weekend: Bridal Shower and Passion Pit!

It looks like the cooler weather is here to stay! Friday was rainy and chilly – perfect for enjoying a bowl of pho after work. Yum. Also, I was definitely wishing I hadn’t forgotten gloves on my 12 mile run on Saturday! Brr! After that run I savored my very long, hot shower! Once I had psyched myself up to face the chill again, I met up with Will to shop at the last Downtown Farmers’ Market of the season. I was so sad I couldn’t volunteer one last time. 😦 However, since Will was volunteering I did get to see some of the fun pet Halloween costumes! So adorable.
After running and market time on Saturday, I headed to a bridal shower for my office-mate/fellow Dietitian, Erin. It’s always a bit fun to see everyone outside of work! The shower was a great time. (Despite the fact that I spent a lot of time trying to get creative on how to wrap Erin’s gift. Why do they even make CLEAR wrapping paper! Lol.)
Since I was the only one with a real camera, I was elected to be photographer. Here’s a few pics from the party!

Guest of honor in the middle with the lovely party hosts! 
Delicious brunch dishes. My fave was the french toast casserole. Yum!
All the lovely VA nutrition staff at the party!

After the party, I was able to get in a glorious long afternoon nap. It was much needed! Later that evening, Will cooked up dinner and we headed to Minglewood Hall for Passion Pit! To be honest, initially I wasn’t super excited to go since I had gotten a bit burned out on their Manners album. It was one of the only cds I had to play in my van the summer I worked for Americorps and did a ton of driving. The concert was much better than I thought it would be! I am really digging the stuff on their newer cd, Gossamer which just released a few months ago. I’m beginning to think this album is much, much better than Manners! Here’s one of my favorites from last night.

“Take a Walk” by Passion Pit
There they are! It’s so hard to get good pics at concerts. Oi.

Hope you did some fun things this weekend! Here’s to another great week! I seriously can’t believe that it is almost November. Where did October go???

Chicagoland

In order to get a better lay of the (Chicago)land, Will and I took a long weekend to do some exploring! We definitely took advantage of the plethora of fantastic restaurants they have there – including my first taste of true Chicago-style deep dish pizza! Yum. There is seriously so much to do in the city all the time – it’s almost a bit overwhelming. We enjoyed a couple of nights of stand up comedy, films at the Chicago International Film Fest, museums, and quality time with our Cleveland friend Chris (who just happened to also be in town)!

View of the lake from the Aquarium. 
The best part of the Aquarium – jellies!!
Caught a set of short films and one full length feature at the Film Fest!
Deep dish pizza at Lou Malnati’s!
Yum!

Farmers Market – we had to check out one of theirs of course!
Navy Pier

Water taxi time. 
City views from the river.
Great stand-up at the Laugh Factory!
View from Lakefront trail.
I spent a lovely 22 miles on the trail. The weather and views made it so pleasant!
I was happy to have Will bike alongside of me the last 4 miles. I needed the
encouragement!

Lentil tacos and macaroni-n-cheese from Nana’s. That mac-n-cheese
was divine! I may or may not have had leftovers for breakfast the next
day…

Chicago was definitely a great time. I’m feeling excited to get to spend more time there in the future! The trip felt a bit like the movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles since between the two of us, we rode all the forms of transportation! Haha. The Amtrak train from Chicago to Memphis was actually rather pleasant! Now to recover and get back in to the swing of things at work. 🙂

Pumpkin Macaroni and Cheese

Mmmm…

           Last week I had the worst craving for macaroni and cheese! I had seen some great mac-n-cheese recipes around the internet. However, the one that really caught my eye had pumpkin in the cheese sauce. What, what?!? That’s right. I put pumpkin in my macaroni and cheese… and I liked it! Haha. Because, let’s face it, when fall comes round I get just a bit obsessed with pumpkin!
           To say the least, I was pleasantly surprised by this dish! The pumpkin was very subtle and contributed to the creaminess of the sauce. Plus with the addition of the pumpkin, you can cut back a little on the cheese – saving some calories! It also adds a bit of fiber (there are 7 grams of fiber in a cup of pumpkin!) and loads of vitamin A (763% of the daily value to be exact!).
            Now I can say that I will definitely be making this dish again in the future. One word of warning though… it makes a huge batch! I had to put several containers of it in my freezer for meals later, not that I’m complaining! I used this recipe from the blog Gimme Some Oven (click for recipe!) which I found via Pinterest and I am really glad I did! The food photography is fantastic! I start drooling just scrolling through the posts. When I prepared mine, I did the quicker option and didn’t bake it with breadcrumbs – I just ate it once done cooking on the stove top (I was too hungry to wait!). I think it turned out just dandy. When I served mine up, I topped it with just a little sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. Yum! Next time around I might try making it with whole wheat noodles for even more fiber!

Loving this breakfast!

           Speaking of pumpkin, I was excited to break out the pumpkin oatmeal this week! For this bowl, I threw in currants, honey, cinnamon, and chopped pecans as my mix-ins. Delish. 🙂 Oatmeal is seriously such a versatile food. I love it! If only I could convince more of my cardiac patients to eat it. Sigh…