No Tricks, Just Treats

This post has been mostly complete for months, so in the spirit of just doing it, I’m releasing it late rather than waiting another year. . .

My philosophy around sweets is that if I’m going to eat them (which, of course, it would be better if I didn’t), I’ll only eat ones I make.  That way I know the ingredients, and in particular I can buy organic sugars to avoid GMO beet sugar which is in all non-organic sugary foods and food-like products.  Avoiding food dyes is another great reason to make your own goodies.

IMG_2236Jack-o-lantern Sweet Potato Pies

Follow this recipe, but instead use a glass to cut the dough into circles.  For half of the dough circles, use a knife to “carve” a jack-0-lantern into the dough.  After assembling the pies, crimp the edges with a fork or moisten your finger tips with a few drops of water to seal the edge of the pie.

Peanut Butter Cups

Loaded Apples

Slice crispy green apples into thick slices or wedges and arrange (dump) on a plate.  Melt a tablespoon or so of peanut butter and drizzle over the apples.  Melt 1/4 c non-dairy chocolate chips and drizzle over the apples.  Sprinkle with shredded coconut, granola, raisins, crushed pretzels or cereal- whatever you’ve got that sounds good.

Enjoy your goodies and happy Halloween!!!

 

Stretching Your Dollar

I’d been looking out for a sale on the vegan butternut squash ravioli in the frozen section at Whole Foods, and when they finally Save_Moneywent on sale, I bought two packages.  But two packages weren’t enough to feed a family of four, so I sautéed an onion and then added micro-baked cubed butternut squash (see Squash It) and 1.5 c white beans to the cast iron pan.  I seasoned with a few minced cloves of garlic, rubbed sage, nutmeg, and white pepper then added half a cup of water and covered the pan to finish cooking the squash.  I brought a pot of water to a slow boil and added the ravioli.  Once tender I served the ravioli on top of the butternut squash mix and sprinkled minced parsley on top.  This strategy stretched the ravioli so well that there was a full serving of leftovers.

I do this with the Field Roast brand of fake meats too.  (Field Roast products only contain grains, vegetables, seasonings, and oil.)  Instead of having sausages in buns with sauerkraut, I cut up the sausages and add them to potatoes, carrots, onions, and sauerkraut.  Instead of having hotdogs in buns, I dice them up and can use one package to make both beans and franks and hot dog mac and trees – that’s two easy dinners for nights the kids have sports or the hubby needs to cook.

I also use this strategy for ingredients that I don’t want my family to eat too much of.  For example, I make this great Mock “Chicken” Salad that uses non-GMO soy patties.  Even though it’s non-GMO soy, it’s best to eat lots more whole foods than fake meats.  So I add as many grapes, apples, celery, and whatever else may work (nuts, unsweetened dried cranberries, etc) in to bulk it up with whole foods, and serve it over shredded lettuce or with lettuce cups.

 

 

Photo Credit: https://flic.kr/p/aFDkRt

R-E-S-P-E-C-T

A few months ago we got a puppy who has been a wonderful addition to our family.  I haven’t had a pet since before I was vegan, and since Cinnamon has joined our family, her personality and intelligence have really surprised me.  She’s still not entirely potty trained so she’s not the smartest dog ever, but to us, she’s the cutest and most fun.

The way Cinna looks in your eyes, it’s impossible to deny that she has a special connection with each member of our family.  Which makes it even harder for me to understand how pet lovers can eat meat.  Yes, dogs have been domesticated and cows have not.  But some pigs have been domesticated.  How is it easy for omnivorous animal lovers to draw that line?

I did not become vegan for animal rights issues.

I do think all sentient beings should be treated with respect, however.

So when I see this meme on Facebook,

Rich meme

I want to respond-

“Instead of waiting to get rich,

why not take immediate action and reduce or eliminate your consumption of animal products?”

THAT would make an immediate difference.  Because really, how many of us are going to be millionaires?

But we can all positively impact life on our planet – by making small changes starting right now.

Vacation Meals

Pulling together decent meals while on vacation can be even harder than when at home if you don’t have access to the ingredients you need.  With a little planning, though, it’s easy to be prepared and not spend the whole vacation in the kitchen.

Our vacation earlier this month was a “Big Family” vacation.  We are fortunate in that all four of our parents have big families, so whenever we get together with extended families, it’s always a big group – the more, the merrier!!   In addition to planning meals that are easy to make for a big group, we also needed meals that were easy for vegetarians and omnivores to enjoy together.  Check out the list below and give your suggestions in the comments!

Dinners

Burgers (Prepared grain burgers were a treat here)

Tacos or Rice Bowls

Rainbow Orzo

Low country boil (Field Roast sausage, beans, potatoes, carrots, and sauerkraut for the vegans)

Stirfry

Spaghetti with pink sauce

Lunches

Mac and cheez

Hot dogs (Carrot Dogs would be a good option here but we opted for Field Roast hot dogs as a treat)

Beans and franks

Sandwiches and salads

Leftovers from dinner

Breakfasts

Pancakes

Overnight oatmeal

Apple pie oatmeal

Cereal and smoothies

Fake sausage, baked hashbrowns, and toast

Desserts

Chocolate Ganache Pie

Lots and lots of chips. . .

 

Next time, I’ll do things a little differently:

  • I won’t be as worried about spending more time in the kitchen, since I can’t be out in the sun the whole day anyway.
  • Our easy meals did not have as many veggies as we usually eat, so I’ll focus a little less on fast and easy.
  • I’ll have more healthy snacks available.  Everyone was drawn to the chips- perhaps the combination of salt and dehydration or the fact that vacation sometimes means vacation from healthy eating.  Either way, having more healthy snack options will help.
  • Sharing a meal with non-vegans is a great opportunity to show that vegan food can be delicious in addition to nutritious, so I need to take more advantage of that opportunity.

I was really proud of my Big Family – those who were willing to try the vegan dishes thought they were fine, even tasty, if they even noticed they were vegan.  Between now and the next Big Family get together, I’ll be working on more recipes to showcase a whole foods plant based diet!!

A Week of Good Meals

No recent blog posts means no creative time in the kitchen lately, which I miss.  But I pulled together a good week of menus last week and wanted to share them in hopes of making it easier for you to do the same.

I prepped a few of the meals in advance- the sloppy lennys, quinoa ginger salad, and the three bean salad.  The rainbow orzo, Mexican sweet potatoes, and pasta with pink sauce didn’t require much prep so I made them during the week.  I’ve also started planning one take out night a week, with the goal of having the Hubbie take over dinner prep for that night.

Sloppy Lennys

I used red lentils this time (because they cook so much faster) and was pleased with the outcome.  They definitely have a tendency to get mushy by the end, but they are supposed to be sloppy after all.  If you prefer the lentils not to fall apart, use green or brown lentils.

Quinoa Ginger Salad

I should have halved this recipe but was gung ho about having plenty of leftovers for lunches since we hadn’t the week before.  But it was still too much as this recipe as written serves 12!!

Three Bean Salad

There were multiple versions of this in our fridge this week- some without celery, some without cilantro.  The secret to keeping it fresh was to add avocado each day to keep it fresh.

Rainbow OrzoIMG_2895

Be creative with the Rainbow Orzo- the point is that you get a variety of colors with the veggies you include.  If you don’t want to spend as much time dicing veggies, then use a larger pasta.

16 oz dried orzo pasta, cooked and drained

Assortment of diced veggies (sun dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, kale, carrots, onions, beans, broccoli, artichoke hearts, peas, cauliflower, etc.)

While the water is heating, cut or dice the vegetables.  For vegetables that require a minute or two of cooking, add them to the pasta for the last minute of boiling or saute them while the pasta cooks.  Add the veggies to a large bowl and cover with the drained pasta.  Allow the warm pasta to warm the veggies, then stir and serve.

Mexican Sweet Potatoes

This turned out to be a great fuel meal for a triathlon my husband and daughter did the next morning- very filling and reminiscent of Dr. McDougall’s Starch Solution.

1 serving

1 medium sweet potato, baked or microwaved

1/3 c cooked kidney beans

3/4 c cooked brown rice

1/2 avocado, diced

1/4 c crushed pineapple (optional)

1/4 c prepared salsa (mango salsa or tomatillo salsa are particularly good here, but use whatever you’ve got)

Once the potato is cool enough to handle, transfer it to a salad bowl and split it open.  Add the toppings in the order given.  Enjoy!

Pasta with Pink Sauce

This is literally a 10 minute meal, so it’s one I keep in reserve for a week night that requires no prep.  You can also use cooked white beans (1.5 c or 1 can) instead of the tofu.  I also do a variation called Shrek sauce where I add greens to the blender as well.

16 oz dried pasta, cooked according to directions on package

1 jar of marinara sauce or 2 cans of fire roasted crushed tomatoes

1 box of shelf stable organic firm tofu (like Mori Nu)

Optional: 2-4 cloves of garlic

While the pasta is cooking, add the tomatoes/tomato sauce, tofu, and garlice to your high speed blender.  Puree until warm and pour over drained pasta.  Enjoy!!

Tomatillo Gazpacho

Our take out meal this week was prepared tomatillo gazpacho from Trader Joes.  It was a bit spicy for the kids, so I pulled out some bread and they were fine.  Since it’s not very filling, they could add white beans to the gazpacho or eat leftover Three Bean Salad or Quinoa Ginger Salad with the meal.  If you don’t have access to prepared gazpacho, check out Shortcut Gazpacho.

Picnic Pleasers

Here are a few recipes that are great for a cookout or a potluck because you don’t have to heat up your kitchen or reheat them at the event.  Which means more time for fun!Picnic_Seurat_1884

 

Waldorf “Chicken” Salad

4 non-GMO soy patties (I use a local manufacturer, Delight)

1 batch of Miracle Naise from Fat Free Vegan (xanthan gum not necessary)

1 apple, cored and diced into small pieces

1.5 c halved grapes (quarter them if they’re large)

3 stalks celery, halved lengthwise and sliced vertically

1 t poultry seasoning

salt and pepper

Make a batch of MiracleNaise mayo using a can of artichokes as described here and refrigerate until ready to use.  The main ingredient for the MiracleNaise is patience (and a can of artichoke quarters), but the result is well worth it.  Xanthan gum isn’t necessary at all, and I even add an extra bit of water to avoid the frustration of repeatedly scraping down the sides of the blender.

Shred the soy patties in your food processor or finely dice.  Add the diced apples, grapes, celery, and seasonings.  Mix in a few scoops of the MiracleNaise and stir until combined.  Add more MiracleNaise based on the desired texture and taste.  Adjust poultry seasoning, salt, and pepper to taste.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Serve on a bed of lettuce, in lettuce ‘cups’, in a wrap, with crackers, or on a plain ol’ sandwich.

Even easier than this is Three Bean Salad, which is also really filling.

Lemony Kale Salad

1 large or 2 small bunches of kale, stripped and torn into smaller pieces

Juice of 2 lemons

1 medium beet (boiled) or 1 can of beets, julienned

1 c cooked white beans

4 clementines or 3 tangelos or navel oranges, peeled and sections halved

1/2 c pecan or walnut halves (candied if desired)

Add the kale and lemon juice to a large bowl and massage the kale for a few minutes to break down the cell walls and tenderize it.  Add the beets, beans, and oranges, stirring to combine.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.  Sprinkle the pecans or walnuts on the top of each serving.

This is similar to the Kale Ginger Quinoa Salad and Massaged Kale Salad if you’d like ideas on how to customize it to the ingredients you have available.

Strawberry Salsa

1 quart fresh strawberries, capped and diced

1 c yellow, red, and green peppers, diced small

1/4 c minced shallots or green onion

Juice of 2 limes

1 T balsamic vinegar

1/4 t organic sugar

1/2 t garlic powder

1/4 t salt

Optional 1 or 2 jalapenos, seeded and minced

Combine all ingredients.  Cover and refrigerate.  Stir before serving with homemade tortilla chips or crackers.

This is a wonderful springtime alternative to our tried and true Black Bean Mango Salsa.  Some of us don’t ever get tired of strawberries, but having them in a savory dish is quite a treat for the tastebuds!

 

Photo Credit:

A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georges_Seurat#/media/File:A_Sunday_on_La_Grande_Jatte,_Georges_Seurat,_1884.png

 

 

 

Saving time…

Saving_TimeI only had two hours to prep meals last week (not counting meal planning and the grocery shopping- just the kitchen time). However, because I had planned the meals and had purchased all ingredients by the time I started the meal prep, it was pretty straightforward and could be knocked out in one swoop.

The biggest time-saver was that I had batches of white beans and black-eyed peas already cooked in the freezer. I’m in the process of using up all my frozen beans, and then I’ll go through the cycle of making a few big batches again.

Here are the week’s menus and further below I’ll describe the advanced prep:

Quinoa Ginger Salad without onions and with avocado

Beef-like seitan with a new beef-like gravy, rice, and green beans with almonds

Black-eyed pea salad with roasted asparagus and potatoes

Breakfast for dinner

BLTs

Leftovers

 

On my prep day, I started by washing any fresh produce that wasn’t already clean and that I needed for the meal prep (fruits and lunch box veggies were washed later to save time), which, in this case, was really just kale and sweet potatoes. Then I stripped and steamed 2 bunches of kale (as it took 3 batches). While the kale was steaming, I made the dough for beef-like seitan and microwaved the sweet potatoes. As each batch of kale finished, I transferred it to a large bowl and using kitchen scissors cut it into smaller pieces. Once the kale was steamed, I steamed the seitan. I also made a batch of quinoa (2 parts water to 1 part quinoa). Once the sweet potatoes were cool enough to handle, I peeled them and cut them into bite-sized cubes. The sweet potatoes also went into the bowl of kale, along with the frozen white beans. The cooked quinoa was dumped on top of the white beans, which along with the sweet potatoes, helped them defrost. Canned beans (drained and rinsed) would have been perfectly fine too. I added ginger dressing (the non-spicy version) diluted with a bit of water to the bowl, stirred it and put it in the fridge. ginger 1

On the evening I served the Quinoa Ginger salad for dinner, I took it out of the fridge, added diced avocado, stirred it well, and served it with more ginger dressing on the side. Even though this recipe had a number of key ingredients, they are all easy to make and it easily stands alone as a meal. The avocado is my favorite as it really helps bring all the flavors together (and I just love avocado. . . and ginger sauce). I usually make a big batch of this recipe so we can enjoy it for lunch during the week too.

Once the beef-like seitan had steamed and cooled, I sliced and refrigerated it. On the evening I served it, I reheated it for a few minutes, covered, in the oven while the brown rice and fresh green beans were cooking. I started the beef-like gravy first as it was a new recipe and I wasn’t sure how well it would work; this would have been good to make on the prep day, but I didn’t have time. I cooked the green beans in a saute pan covered with a few tablespoons of water so they would steam. Once they reached the desired tenderness, I removed the lid and allowed any extra water to cook off. For the last few minutes of cooking, I added sliced almonds. I served the beef-like seitan on top of the rice with the green beans on the side and gravy for anyone who wanted it. The gravy was a big hit and made the seitan much more interesting than a slab of wheat meat. I made two lunch-sized portions and then froze the leftover seitan to use in a stew or stirfry.

For the black-eyed pea salad, I started by making the dressing (vinegar, jelly, sugar, salt & pepper) in the bowl that I would store the salad in. Then I added the black-eyed peas to the bowl and diced frozen stoplight pepper strips. I didn’t have any red onion, so I just diced yellow onion and added that to the bowl as well. I gave it a good shake and stored it in the fridge. On the evening I served it, I added diced avocado. A commitment that I had for the evening was cancelled at the last minute, so I decided to roast some asparagus that were starting to wilt and while I had the oven on, figured I’d roast some potatoes as well.

There was no advanced prep for breakfast for dinner night, so I made sure I had time that evening to make this dinner. I made baked hashbrowns (which involved dumping frozen shredded potatoes on a baking sheet, spritzing with oil and salt and baking), scrambled tofu (sauteeing a block of firm tofu with black salt and a bit of turmeric), biscuits, and spinach (from a frozen package). I wanted to add lots of interesting stuff to the tofu scramble (mushrooms, spinach, peppers) but it’s not one of my favorites anyway, so I just ate it mixed with the spinach.

The other two nights we had BLTAs (bacon/lettuce/tomato/avocado) using prepared tempeh bacon (and using up the rest of the avocado) and homemade MiracleNaise from fatfreevegan.com and then leftovers. It turned out to be a great week of meals (based on energy levels, avoidance of junk food, no last minute eating out) – thanks to the advanced planning!

 

Beef-like Gravy

1/4 c refined coconut oil

2 T flour

1 t no-beef broth concentrate (like Better than Boullion) in 1 c warm water

1.5 t vegan worcestershire sauce

1 t onion powder

pepper to taste

Melt the coconut oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat, then add the flour.  Stir with a whisk until the flour starts to smell nutty.  Slowly add the no-beef broth, whisking until smooth.  Add the vegan worcetershire and onion powder.  Turn the heat to medium low and continue to whisk in liquid (~1 c water) until the desired consistency is reached.  Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.  Gravy will continue to thicken once removed from heat.  Yield is ~2.5 c.

For added protein, add 1 c white beans and the gravy to the blender and puree until smooth, adding more broth or water as needed to reach desired consistency.  Taste and add more Braggs’s/tamari or poultry seasoning if needed.  Yield is ~3.5 c.

 

 

 

 

Photo Credit:

bit.ly/SimplyEatPlants_SaveTime

Sushi for Two

Since making sushi for two is half the work of making sushi for four, I was happy to oblige with my 13-year old daughter’s request that we have sushi while her dad and sister were out of town.  If you haven’t made sushi before, you should definitely try it because it’s fun.  But it’s certainly not something you want to try on a school night in between finishing up your work day, answering questions about homework, and shuttling kids to practice.

Supplies:

Bamboo sushi mat (these are inexpensive and make rolling sushi a lot easier)

Gallon size ziplock bag

Glass casserole dish or something similar

Wooden spoon

Cutting board

Sharp knife

Bowl of water

Ingredients for 4 rolls (assuming each person will eat 2 rolls):

4 sheets of toasted nori

1.5 c sushi rice

Splash of rice vinegar

Sprinkle of organic sugar

~1 c of leftover veggies (ex 1/2 avocado, 1 carrot, 1/2 cucumber, a few sautéed shiitake mushrooms, etc)

Toasted sesame seeds, pickled ginger, wasabi (optional)
Cook the rice as you normally cook rice and use a 1 part rice to 2 parts water ratio.  Once the rice is cooked, pour it into the glass dish and use the wooden spoon to spread it out to help it cool.  Splash a bit of rice vinegar and sprinkle a little organic sugar over the rice, then stir it around again.  Every couple of minutes, stir the rice until the rice is cool enough to comfortably handle.  While the rice is cooling, prepare your sushi roll fillings and start the miso soup (see further below).

Easy (and kid-friendly) vegan sushi rolls contain avocado, avocado and cucumber, avocado/cucumber/carrot, marinated mushrooms.  The possibilities are endless but if you’re paralyzed by the choices, just start with these simple combinations.  Slice the avocado.  Peel the cucumber, then remove the seeds and slice into strips as if you were going to dice it (but don’t).  Use a carrot peeler to produce thin strips of carrot.  Slice the mushrooms into strips (and marinate in Bragg’s liquid aminos or tamari if they are unseasoned).  If you’re ready to be adventurous, please do so as that’s the fun.  This time, we made avocado/carrot, avocado/ginger beet kraut, avocado/carrot/ginger beet kraut, and a green bean casserole roll with green beans and fried onions.  Surprisingly my daughter did not like the fried onion roll as much as the ginger beet kraut roll!

Now that the rice has cooled, you’re ready to start rolling!  Place the bamboo mat flat into the ziplock bag and seal it.  This will save you from having to clean in between the bamboo sticks each time you make sushi.  Lay the bamboo mat on a cutting board with the zipper furthest from you.  Place one sheet of nori on the bamboo mat.  Using the wooden spoon, place a scoop of rice onto the nori.  Dip your fingers in the bowl of water to prevent the rice from sticking to them, and gently press the rice down and spread it out across the nori, leaving 2 cm of nori farthest from you bare (no rice).  Add more rice and dip your fingers in the water as needed to cover all but the end section of nori with rice.

IMG_3875

If you want the rice on the outside of the roll, using both hands, gently pick up the nori and flip it over.  Add your filling across the bottom (closes to you) inch of nori.  Rinse and dry your hands.  Using the sushi mat, roll the nori and contents, applying pressure and readjusting the mat as needed.  Slippery toppings like avocado may poke out of the ends, but gently push them back in.  You need to roll the sushi tightly or it won’t cut or hold together well.

IMG_3877

At the end of the roll, moisten your fingertip and brush the bare strip of nori with water, then seal it against the rest of the roll.  Place the roll seam side down on a cutting board.  Sprinkle the roll with toasted sesame seeds, if desired.  Dip your sharp knife (I prefer a serrated knife) in the water and while holding both sides of the roll, slice the roll into whatever you consider to be bite-sized pieces.  Re-wet the knife as  needed to make clean cuts.

IMG_3241

Repeat for the remaining rolls, adjusting and improving your technique as you go.  Arrange the sushi on a platter and serve with pickled ginger and wasabi.  If this has been a breeze for you, then carve some radishes into flowers or something to decorate the plate.  My family is just happy to get good food on their plates.  If the sushi rolling doesn’t go so well, serve it as sushi salad by cutting up the nori and mixing it with the toppings and additional rice.

For extra credit and to help fill those hungry bellies, make miso soup while you’re waiting for the rice to cool.  Fill the bowls you will use with water (to ensure you have just the right volume), add to a pot, and heat.  If you’re using mushrooms, add them in.  Start with 1T miso paste and taste for desired salt content.  If you’d like, small dice some tofu into the bowls (once poured in, the warm soup will heat the tofu).  I use chiffonaded strips or small bits of spinach instead of seaweed, but it definitely looks too bland without some color in there.

Above all else, enjoy.  Enjoy the process, enjoy the experience.  And if you’re lucky enough to have a helper, enjoy your company.

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April Fool’s!!

I made a few new meals this week that I’m hoping work as well for you as they did for us.  First was an old favorite of my husband’s (Shepherd’s Pie) redone in an artful presentation especially for April Fool’s day.  (The lentils, peas and carrots are mounded underneath the mashed potatoes.)

IMG_2698

The surprise success this week was a restaurant dish I was trying to recreate- Shiitake Tofu Lettuce Cups.  I served this with baked (okay, microwaved) sweet potatoes which was a nice tradeoff for the brown rice we so often eat with Asian food.  The final new meal was an attempt to use almost entirely frozen ingredients to create a warm, hearty dish.

Easy Shepherd’s Pie

Mashed potatoes

Gravy (fat free or not)

Cooked or canned lentils

Frozen peas and carrots

Although my family loves the full version of Shepherd’s Pie made in a pie crust and baked, it’s extra work and the crust contains extra fat, so the weeknight version looks more like this.

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The mashed potatoes are the most time consuming, so start them first.  Then start the lentils, followed by the gravy.  Because I was making individual servings this week, I made all of the ingredients separately instead of combining them as I normally would have.  This was a little more work but worth it for the prank.

 

Shiitake Tofu Lettuce Cups

1 head of butter lettuce

6-8 large shiitake mushrooms, cleanedshiitake_tofu_2

1/2 block of extra firm organic tofu (the refrigerated type)

1/4 c carrot shavings, diced

1/3 c diced sweet peppers (red, yellow, green or whatever you’ve got)

1/4 c cashew pieces, toasted in a dry skillet over medium heat until lightly browned

1 T sesame seeds

Sauce

2T water

2T honey

1 T organic soy sauce or tamari

1 T Bragg’s amino acids

1 t ginger powder

1 t garlic powder

Add the sauce ingredients into a small jar and shake to mix.

Stem the shiitake mushrooms, discarding the tough parts of the stems.  Dice the caps and stems and sauté in a dry skillet over medium heat until the mushrooms exude their juices.

Add the sauce to the mushrooms, dice the tofu into small pieces and add to the skillet.  Once the mushrooms and tofu have absorbed half of the sauce, add the carrots and peppers. When the veggies are crisp tender, remove from heat.  Add toasted cashews and sesame seeds.  Serve with lettuce leaves and lots of napkins!

 

Veggie, Bean, Rice Bake

Frozen veggiesIMG_3797

Frozen or canned beans

Cooked brown rice

No-chicken veggie broth

Pour the frozen veggies and beans in the bottom of a glass casserole dish.  Add cooked brown rice to cover the veggies and beans. Pour veggie broth over the rice to almost cover the rice.  Season with pepper.  Cover and bake until heated through.  Especially if you’re using leftover rice this dish comes together very quickly however does require 15 minutes or so of baking time.  It’s one of those dishes that reminds us that simple meals can nourish us and taste good.

Notes:  Whenever I make a batch of beans, I always make a big batch and freeze the leftovers.  I do the same when processing large batches of vegetables like carrots and broccoli, which is what I used in this dish.

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Spring Cleaning for the Soul

Since the second snow this winter (with which came a near perfect batch of snow cream), I’ve been anxiously anticipating Spring.  Aside from the obvious warmer weather, I wasn’t sure why until last week when I realized that Spring has been a time of significant renewal for me over the past few years.  Perhaps it’s spending too much time inside as I’m not a big fan of cold weather, but over the past few winters I have tended to work too much, which means less fresh air and exercise and all the wonderful benefits of both.  And I realized that I’m desperate for change.  Change from what has become the norm lately.Balance

I’ve made significant changes in spring – more so than at any other time throughout the year:

  • Beginning a yoga practice
  • Training to be a Food for Life instructor
  • Starting CrossFit
  • Starting Simply Eat Plants
  • Beginning a meditation practice

I was really pleased with myself about this realization that all I needed was to toss out some habits that had taken over and replace it with — what?!?  The anxiety immediately set in of what will my renewal be for this year?

With recently starting a new job and traveling more frequently than before, I’ve definitely spent less time in the last 4 months doing the things above that make me the me I want to be.

And to top it off, all of the self-care maintenance activities are all linked, so when I’m not exercising, then I’m more tired, yet I don’t sleep as well.  When I have a headache or am tired, I am less likely to make whole food choices, so I’m not nourishing my body as well.  And travel makes it all that much more challenging.

I’ve allowed this new job to take priority over essentially everything else.  Realizing this was key and definitely the first step, but fixing it – realigning my priorities – is the key to being the best me.  Easier said than done, right?!?

I’m guessing that hopping off the hamster wheel to take better care of myself will help me be more efficient at work or maybe more patient or even more creative.  I’d like to think that choosing the right thing for me will also benefit the company I work for.  But even if not, it’s me left standing in the end.  And it’s much more important for me to have my family standing beside me than colleagues.  I work with some great people but I hope the same for them, too.  That together we can make a bigger difference by first taking care of ourselves.

So no recipes this time – I’m lowering the bar and trying not to worry about meeting expectations.  I’m choosing me first.  And I’d love to hear your advice or experiences about renewals and spring cleaning your soul.