Saturday, October 25, 2014

An October Food & Exercise Update & Kittehs

October has been a busy month! We participated in another 5K, this was focused on Autism Awareness in Greenville, NC. We participated with a BUNCH of kids who were part of a running club (I had no idea such a thing existed for kids!) and it was so inspiring to see these kids take part of a 5K (and completely kick our butts along the way! lol)... It was a really fun event! Michael and I both finished around 49 minutes which was a record for us! I had burning lungs, but it felt really good to shave 6 minutes off my time from the September 5K! 

This month was also a milestone for us as Michael and I celebrated 10 years of marriage! It's gone by so fast, and it's fun to look back on the blog, because we had only been married 3 years when I started writing Ginger Lemon Girl... so we've grown along with this blog! 

It also marked a month of a huge change in our way of eating. I decided to start following a "whole-foods-plant-based-low-oil" eating plan. Basically the "McDougall Plan" if you're familiar with vegetarian/vegan doctor programs. Of course I follow the plan the best way I can with a gluten intolerance and a soy allergy, so I'm definitely not 100% McDougall, but very close. I decided with my Dad's medical history of heart problems and other health issues that it was time to make a permanent change. And somehow, it's been relatively easy. Much easier than I thought it would be. 

I also had a recent check up at my doctor's office and I had lost 11 pounds since my visit in late August and my blood pressure was the lowest it's ever tested in the past 10 years. My doctor said that I may even be able to go off one of my blood pressure medications very soon! So I feel very good about this dietary decision. I feel like I'm headed in the right direction to regain my overall health and I feel like I'm truly feeding my body well. I'm also incredibly thankful my husband is so supportive and willing to eat most of the "new" foods in our menu rotation! :-) 

I thought I'd share a sample of some of the things from our kitchen the past few weeks. Most don't have a specific recipe... just things I threw together to make a quick meal. I have not used any animal products in over a month and for my spiritual and religious beliefs...along with my health, it's just been a really great decision. 

 Rice chex with almond milk, sliced almonds, and blueberries... loaded cereal is always a favorite breakfast or snack! 

One of my favorite snacks right now is just plain 'ol drained & rinsed canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans). I could make them from scratch, but the canned variety from Harris Teeter is so easy! This snack is what seriously pulled me through the first week of being vegan. I think I probably ate at least 3 cans!

 In some ways after I had spend so much time and energy writing cookbooks the past few years I was "over" cooking and prep work. I just didn't want to do it anymore, it was major burnout... but changing my way of eating has given me a new energy in the kitchen and helped me to enjoy cooking again! This is the prep for kale & potato hash, one of my favorite breakfasts! Chopped potatoes, mushrooms, kale, green pepper, onions, and there's garlic in there somewhere!

The finished hash! I served it with salsa and half an avocado per serving. One of the keys to following a "McDougall" type plan is to eat as many whole-food, plant-foods as possible with no added oils. McDougall recommends that the fats in your diet come from whole food sources such as avocado, seeds, or nuts. I limit these foods because I'm trying to lose weight, but include one or two servings a week. 

A rare treat! I doubt these muffins were actually vegan or oil-free, but they WERE GLUTEN-FREE and this was from a meal out at Sweet Tomatoes in Raleigh, NC! Recently they have started offering a limited selection of gluten-free baked goods occasionally and these were gluten-free maple nut muffins. They were absolutely delicious and I was so impressed with Sweet Tomatoes offering a gluten-free baked good for those with celiac or gluten sensitivity.

My salad from our meal out at Sweet Tomatoes. It's amazing to me that I can enjoy a salad without eggs or cheese on it. I honestly never thought that was something I could do long term. But I feel SO GOOD with this way of eating, that I really don't miss the animal proteins at all. They even had gluten-free chilled brown rice pasta on the salad bar! This salad was early in my journey, so the dressing was not dairy-free (at least I don't think it was)... now I'm usually dressing salads with red wine vinegar, or apple cider vinegar, or a homemade tahini lemon dressing... and freshly ground salt & pepper.

 This was a "no-meat" loaf... in which Michael was seriously heavy-handed on the ketchup! haha! This recipe was from the Happy Herbivore cookbook, it was called "The Hippie Loaf" created for a friend who had celiac disease. We honestly were not big fans of this version of a no-meat loaf. I prefer this version that I tried several years ago... however, the mashed potatoes were made from yukon gold potatoes and simply mashed with Harris Teeter vegetable broth, a little nutritional yeast, and lots of added garlic and onion seasoning... we ate the entire pot. I love not feeling guilty about eating mashed potatoes!

For breakfast and sometimes lunch I often have veggie sandwiches loaded with hummus, sliced red peppers, sliced mushrooms, alfalfa sprouts, sliced tomatoes, sliced cooked potatoes, spinach, kale, etc... all put between two slices of gluten-free bread for me... it's filling, healthy, and is a perfect vegan "fast food" meal. McDougall recommends making your own hummus without any added oils and limited tahini (or no tahini)... because I live in the real world and I'm just trying to get through my 9-5 everyday, I use Food Lion's Taste of Inspirations types of hummus. They don't have a lot of added oil (and are definitely not swimming in it like some brands) and I use gluten-free bread from the store that does have egg whites. It's important to me to share this because while it doesn't follow the McDougall plan completely, it's close and it's still a very healthy way to eat and it works for my personal time limitations. I truly believe you have to make a plan work for you the best way you can. Otherwise, how will you stick with it? For these sandwiches, I try to slice & prep any ingredients and have them ready in the fridge for a quick meal anytime during the week. Hummus has become my mayonnaise and I LOVE slathering it on these sandwiches!

This was a meal I made a few nights ago and it would be a really great idea for the holidays. I had bought two medium-sized acorn squashes and I wanted to fill them with something other than rice (I've eaten a lot of rice! lol)... so I decided to make a stuffing with some of the gluten-free bread we had, chopped spinach, chopped & roasted chestnuts, celery, onions, sunflower seeds, and poultry seasoning. I used vegetable broth as the "binder" for the stuffing and this meal was THE BOMB! It would definitely be a great meal for the holidays, it tasted a lot like my favorite Thanksgiving stuffing, without feeling guilty about carb overload!

This was a comfort food night. I wanted something soupy with potatoes, so we made an easy succotash stew. Just peeled & boiled red potatoes and added a can of corn, tomatoes, and lima beans to the potatoes and cooking broth. I actually made this at my mother-in-law's house and everyone seemed to enjoy it for a late dinner that night.

Dinner out for our anniversary! I can't give up sushi, so I made the decision to have veggie sushi that night and it was delicious! I had two orders of avocado sushi, and one order of a veggie roll which included avocado, cucumbers, and two types of Japanese pickles. I was a very happy camper. This was a cornerstone meal to me because I really wanted to "cheat" and order my favorite Philly roll with smoked salmon and cream cheese... but I stuck to my plan and it worked and I felt great after our dinner. 

Along with the food changes, walking has become my favorite form of both meditation and exercise. I walk 4-5 days out of each week and it's easier on some days than others. But it's slowly becoming a habit I love and something I look forward too. At first I walked most mornings around 4:30am because my work schedule had changed and that forced me to get up earlier. However... as it's gotten colder in the mornings, I've gotten lazy and become a wimp... and now generally walk at the duck pond at work around 10am. Either way... it's happening and I'm glad! I love getting that daily dose of fresh air, stretching my legs, and having that time to be thankful and meditative for the day ahead.

And last but not least... PIZZA! And that's a vegan pizza no less! This is definitely a treat because it has Daiya vegan (and gluten-free and soy-free) cheese on it, and the crust has added oil, but I can't give up pizza out occasionally and I'm just thrilled I can still get it and enjoy it and not feel guilty about it. My favorite place to get pizza is Zpizza, but Mellow Mushroom now has a vegan, gluten-free crust available as well. To be MORE McDougall compliant, I can easily leave off the Daiya and just have a tomato sauce & veggie pizza. It dawned on me about 2 months ago that over the past year I had not ordered a pizza with meat. There have been many small changes in my eating along the way that have enabled this change to come at the right time. And apparently over the past year, I've preferred a veggie pizza every time! This must be why! :-) 

And because I've been suck a slacker in my posting schedule, I thought I'd share some kitteh pictures with  you! Enjoy! 

Mollie in her favorite place lately, snuggled next to Michael in his chair.  

Max & Maya, lifelong snuggle buddies

 Max is not so much of a lapcat, but he will sit in the cat tree and stare at you intently for hours! It can be kind of creepy some days... lol!

 This is my mother-in-law's cat Tobie. He loves to sit in the fabric between her foot rest and chair when she's dozing in the living room! 

Charlie & Whiskey... these boys are bestest buddies and it's a rare day to find one not next to or on top of the other! 

Have a wonderful week! 

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