Tuesday, May 25, 2010

line in the sand.

Often I think that half the battle in life is discovering where you draw the line. Boundaries are a pretty tricky thing in general. This vegan thing entails much boundary setting, because there is so much that vegan living entails.
For instance, do I eat a product that does not contain animal product but is produced in a facility that also manufactures milk on the same equipment? Am I still a vegan if I chose to eat those products that may have shared manufacturing equipment with juice from a cow? Seems crazy right? But, it is a pretty valid question in the vegan community. Or how about the concept of sharing a kitchen with an omnivore... Am I still a vegan if I use a cutting board and knife that has been used to cut a steak?
These are both questions of definition. In my opinion it is up to each individual to draw the line where they feel is most appropriate for them, based on their values and beliefs.
In my house, I buy food if it does not contain animal product on the ingredient list. It is not necessary for an item to be "certified vegan" for me to put in my shopping cart. Part of this is due to practicality with two kiddos, partly due to financial reasons, but mostly due to the fact that I really don't feel bothered by eating food that is made on equipment that is shared with animal product. All of my kitchen gadgets (minus my food processor) have been used on animal product. I was not about to go out and buy all new stuff. And personally, I think I would be a little off-putting and inhospitable to any guests in my house (or my husband) if I told them that they could not use my stuff to make their animal product food. These are just two examples of where I "draw the line."
Most recently I discovered a new line in the sand. Since "going" vegan I have found myself trying much harder to minimize my carbon footprint and take more care with what I put in and on my body. I guess I realized that I really want to live a long and non-polluted life. Make the most out of the time God gives me I suppose. With this in mind I decided to try a non-aluminum antiperspirant. Well, I couldn't find one, so I got a deodorant from the health food store and have been using that for the past three months. It was going well, no major complaints from any of my friends or family regarding a stinky, pitty, smell. I thought hey, I could do this non-antiperspirant thing.
... And then it got warm. Summer time kind of warm. I found myself dreaming of the days when my pits wouldn't get all slobbery and gross in my tee-shirts. In fact, every time I went to the store I would eventually wind up in the deodorant section, salivating over all the delicious antiperspirant smells.
Last week I broke down and bought an antiperspirant, even though I still had some of Tom's deodorant left. Yep, I caved to the concept of vanity. I just couldn't live life feeling stinky and sweaty. At least not in the summer months.
My line has been drawn.
Of course there are people out there that would tell me in time I would grow accustomed and never look back, but I am not willing to find out if that is true for me. It just doesn't mean enough... to me.
Once I came to this conclusion I could tell I made the right decision. I have no residual guilt when I slather on my antiperspirant in the morning. In fact, just the opposite. I kind of feel silly that I even tried to go without. The one thing this experience taught me about boundaries is that sometimes you have to cross a boundary to figure out just where exactly your boundary lies.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

growing pains.

This may be a very non-food related post, and I offer my apologies upfront. Recently I have been confronted with some hard truths about myself. There are always things about myself I want to work on, but so often those things are petty. Things like, eat more greens, say the F-word less, do more yoga, run a little farther... etc. Those things, while important to a degree, have often kept me blinded from bigger, more important issues. Like issues of the heart. You know, the issues that are hardest to change and most painful to admit.
Here is what I have been confronted with. I thrive most on admiration from other people. I get my "highs" on being complimented, on being told I am right or on people admiring me. This is not inherently bad, because it is normal to appreciate a compliment. But, to have ones self-esteem wrapped up in how I think other people perceive me can be a dangerous thing. Let me tell you why...
Pleasing people is an impossible and unsatisfying way to live. It ultimately leaves me feeling empty and worthless. I will never ever be "good enough."
Take for example eating habits. It is SO easy to get on my high horse about how great it is to live vegan. It is SO easy for me to see that I have it right and other people have it all wrong. I say, "eat vegan, it is the only way to be." And of course I am going to get the support and validation from other vegans as well as other people who can see that it may be a good choice. So, all of a sudden I can get my self-worth and value based on the idea that I am right (vegan) and other people are wrong (carnivores). Or, another way to put it would be, "I am a better person because I am doing things right, and you meat eaters are not." I would say this and find a whole slew of people who would come to me and say, "right on, Vegans Rock!" BAM, instant self-esteem boost! Instant validation.
Ha. This high of being "right" does last forever. I have found this out first hand. As soon as you commit to one thing, in my case veganism you will discover a whole new way of eating or living that is actually "better" than the one you initially thought was best. Take for instance my transition from vegetarianism to vegan. I used to think that vegetarian was the way to be. Now, I have shifted my support to the vegan camp. Five months into a vegan challenge and already I am getting the message, "oh vegan is good, but... raw is really the only way to go." Holy crap! Are you kidding me with this? I have discussed this question in other blogs, but I will say it again, when is enough, enough? When can you stop and say, "I am good now."?
This post isn't about deciding when enough is enough. I have already touched on that elsewhere. This is about being careful not to let your identity rest upon the approval of others. As soon as we get into an us vs. them attitude about food or anything for that matter we are setting ourselves up for trouble.
Vegan living has to be right for me, regardless of how people perceive me for that decision. I have to be okay with my choice and who I am because of that choice. I cannot push that choice of mine onto other people. It is one thing to live a certain way and have people ask, "Why?" or "What is your purpose" or "Is it worth it?". Then I can say, this is what I believe, this is why and this is what it has done for me. People can listen to your story and have the freedom to make their own changes in their own time. The worst thing I can do is try my hardest to persuade someone to go vegan who is not ready to commit. I know from first hand experience that this only drives people further from your point.
The only reason I would try and force someone to see my point, or desperately try to persuade them to my side would be to get them to admit that they are wrong and I am right. I am looking for validation. I want to know that in the me vs. them battle I am victorious. This "winning" makes me feel important and valuable. I have the answers and you don't... nah-nah-nah-nah-nah.
The reality is, if I am truly living out my beliefs and me beliefs are based in truth, then people are going to see that and want what I have. Like a faith in God. If I am living in the love of God, my life should reflect that and others will see that I have something different or special in my life. This should make them want to meet God, not me forcing a pamphlet down their throat and telling them they are going to hell if they don't come to Church next Sunday.
I truly believe, as I said above, that the harder we try to get people to admit they are wrong the more evidence there is that what we are really trying to do is validate our own selves. Kind of like those bullies in middle school who tried really had to make nerds feel more nerdy, just to cover up their own insecurities.
Here is how I am trying to apply this to my own life. (This is simply what I am striving for, I am not saying I have arrived quite yet.) My identity is not in my vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. I am not more "right" than anyone else when it comes to eating habits. I am not special or unique because of how I chose to eat. My value is not based in how people perceive how right or wrong I am for what I consume. However, if I were to be honest I would admit that when I first started this vegan challenge I was on a big ol' high from all the compliments I got and all the admiration I was receiving for what a "strong person" I was for making the commitment. That has since faded. In the world of foodies I am no where near the top, and even if I were at the "top" it still wouldn't be enough.
So, instead of working for the approval of other human beings, I have shifted focus. I want my worth and identity to be tied up in something more, something eternal. My real worth is in Christ. He died and conquered death because He loves me more than anything. That is an identity that can never be taken from me. There will never be a new fad diet that will top that. I am secure in who I am in Christ. That needs to be enough. At least if I want to be happy. Do I believe that what I chose to eat fits with who I am as a child of God, sure. But do I believe that God loves meat-eaters just as much as He loves me?

Monday, April 19, 2010

A peak into a Vegan Kitchen

... Just for my pal Beth!

So, I have made a list of what I typically keep on hand in my kitchen. I buy produce approximately three times a month, so I try to use up the easily spoiled foods first, like kale, greens and tomatoes. Most of what I make during the week is made directly from my pantry, except New Food Friday ingredients. Most of those I end up making a special trip to the store for, just for the fun experience. Everything I buy can be found at a combination of Wal-Mart, the BX (grocery store on base) and Whole Foods.

The List
Lemon juice
Lime juice

Baby greens salad
Assortment of colored peppers (at least 3 green)
Onions (yellow and red)
Potatoes (Russet and red and Yukon gold- but I won't use nearly as many potatoes in the summer months, it is a mostly winter/fall food for us.)
Garlic (I use both fresh and pre-minced)
Carrots (baby and large)
Eggplant (I usually buy two at a time)
Ginger (I use fresh and pre-minced)
Avocado's (x3)

Almond milk (Non-sweetened)
Soy Milk (Vanilla)
Coconut creamer
Coconut yogurt
Rice Cheese
Tempeh (Two packages of the whole grain kind)
Miso (chickpea kind)
Earth Balance (vegan butter)
Almond butter
Extra firm tofu

Veggies: broccoli, corn, green beans, sweet potato fries, peas
Orange Juice
Vegan Boca Patties
Vegan Italian Sausage

Diced tomatoes
Italian Stewed tomatoes
Crushed tomatoes
Tomato paste
Tomato sauce
Premade pasta sauce
Chick peas (3 cans)
Cannelli beans (white kidney)
Kidney beans
Navy beans
Black beans
Vegetarian Refried beans
Pinto beans
Coconut milk
Roasted peppers
Sun dried tomatoes

Vegan sugar: white and brown
Peanut butter (all natural, chunky and smooth for baking)
Jelly (berry and apricot preserves)
Agave nectar
Karo syrup
Brown Rice Syrup
Maple Syrup
Oil: Coconut, Canola, Vegetable, Extra Virgin, Peanut, Sesame
Apple Cider Vinegar
Distilled white vinegar
Seasoned Rice vinegar
Cooking wines
Balsamic vinegar
Tamari (or Soy Sauce)
Raw Walnuts
Coconut (sweetened and unsweetened)
Pine nuts
Sesame seeds
Sunflower seeds
Raw Almonds (whole and sliced)
Macadamian nuts
Tapioca flour (or just plain old cornstarch can usually do the trick)
Dried Apricots
Cocoa powder
Vegan Carob chips
Nutritional Yeast (can buy in bulk at Whole Foods... good sub for Parmesan cheese)
Barbecue Sauce
Vegetable Broth
Green split peas

Whole wheat bread
Whole wheat buns
Brown rice: basmatti and long grain
Wheat germ
Pasta (at least three varieties)
Rice noodles
Polenta (I have some of it in grain form and also use the premade stuff)
Soy Flour
Flax Seeds
Flour: White unbleached, whole wheat and whole wheat pastry flour
Whole wheat tortillas
Flat bread for roll up's
7-grain cereal

Seasonings (that I can't cook without)
Sea salt
Garlic salt
Chili powder
Ground ginger
Coriander, ground
Bay leaves
Ground red pepper
Red pepper flakes

Okay, that is a pretty comprehensive list of everything that is either in my kitchen right now or on my grocery list as we speak. I would say that about a month ago my kitchen finally felt "stocked" with all the basics. So... keep in mind, building up a pantry that has all the foods you need could take up to four months to accomplish. The New Food Friday concept has helped me expand the variety of foods in my grocery cart, while avoiding feeling overwhelmed. I hope this helps.

Thanks Beth for reminding me to do this.

Oh... and day one of sugar free was just okay. I cried a little tear when I let Cutter take the last piece of chocolate cake to work. But I figured having to admit to the blog that I caved on my first day would have been far worse than not eating cake. So thanks blog for being the motivation behind my willpower.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Cashew Sour Cream Recipe

Cashew Sour Cream
(Just for my friend Amy!)

1 and 1/2 Cups Raw Cashews
1/4 Cup Lemon juice
1/2 Cup to 3/4 Cup Water
Salt, to taste

In blender, mix all ingredients on low, starting with 1/2 Cup water. Gradually get speed of blender to high. Blend until mixture is creamy (like sour cream), gradually adding more water to achieve desired consistency. Store covered in fridge.
Make it chipotle style by stirring in some chopped cilantro and chipotle peppers to the final product. Try it in chili or on a taco or fajita. This recipe makes 16 servings and you have to use it up within four days, so I would just make half a recipe to start. That way you can save your costly cashews!

Stress, Sugar and Warm Chocolate Cake (veganized)

I have written before about my love of all things sweet. Part of the joy of this vegan trip has been discovering new ways to bake the goodies that I love, without the animal ingredients. It has been a bit like a quest for me. My favorite thus far? ...Sweet Potato Brownies. Cutter loves the Double Chocolate Oatmeal cookies. The all around family fave has to be the Vegan Seven Layer bars.

Until tonight that is. I may have discovered the most delicious vegan goodie ever:

The Best Chocolate Cake.
(that is really it's name)
I am typing the recipe right now for you because some day, some time, you are going to want some chocolate cake. You will make this, and then you will thank me!
The Best Chocolate Cake
Cake Ingredients:
1 and 1/4 Cup Flour (I used cake flour and added an extra 2 TBS of flour)
1 Cup White Sugar
1/3 Cup Cocoa Powder (unsweetened)
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
1 Cup Warm Water
1 tsp Vanilla
1/3 Cup Veg Oil (sub in applesauce instead if you are looking to go healthy... but why bother?)
1 tsp Vinegar
Glaze Ingredients:
1/2 Cup Sugar
4 TBS Earth Balance (or margarine)
2 TBS Nondairy Milk (I used Vanilla Almond Milk)
2 TBS Cocoa Powder (unsweetened)
2 tsp Vanilla
(I added one cup of Sweetened Coconut to the glaze, just for kicks!)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix dry cake ingredients together in bowl. Add wet cake ingredients to dry, and mix very well. Grease 8x8 inch cake pan and pour batter on in. Bake for 30 min, or until knife comes out clean from the center. Remove from oven and cool for two hours.
After cake has cooled, proceed with cooking up your chocolate glaze. Combine all glaze ingredients in small saucepan. Heat on medium, stirring constantly until mixture begins to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for two minutes. Pour on cooled cake immediately, spreading glaze over cake quickly. Now... bust out a glass of some cold Almond Milk and ENJOY! :)
... Enjoy it like it is your last bit of sugar for awhile.
Oh wait, that is me. I spent my Sunday night cooking up some stinkin' good chocolate cake because I am saying bon voyage to sugar for awhile. 4 weeks to be precise. I need a break from sugar. Some may call it a detox, but I look at it more like a vacation from sweets. I do this from time to time. Mostly because sugar, when I abuse it, does crazy things to me.
I am the type of gal who uses sugar sort of like an addict uses crack. I use it to make me feel better when I am down, I use it to decompress after a stressful day, I use it to celebrate... the list goes on and on. There is always a good reason for a sweet treat, right?
I have noticed that during especially stressful times in my life I am more inclined to lean on sugar to get me through. It sort of provides me with an escape from reality. Why feel stressed when I can feel a sugar rush? See, I told you I sound like an addict.
I once told my drug addicted clients that the only way I could understand their addiction was to try and keep myself away from chocolate. It is HARD, I just can't seem to say no. Good thing my drug of choice is sugar, not meth, eh?
Anyhow, lately I have been feeling stressed and have noticed a sharp increase in my sugar intake. It snuck up on me too. One handful of chocolate chips can so easily turn into a batch of cookies or a scoop of delicious coconut ice cream. Before I know it I am eating dessert with breakfast, lunch and dinner. I am not to that point yet, but I am beginning to see a full blown sugar relapse on the rise, so I am getting taking a break now.
The funny thing about sugar, as I have learned from past sugar vacations, is that the more sugar you eat, the more you want it. Take sugar away for a couple of days and you barely notice that it is gone. I am not saying that a cookie no longer looks good, but I no longer think about that cookie as a mandatory addition to my meal. The first couple of days are hard. It really does sort of feel like a detox, but make it through the first week and you are golden.
So, as I sit here, about to enjoy my second piece of chocolate cake, I embrace the gift that is sugar, but am firmly aware of its power to destroy, even you, vegan sugar.
Dear Sugar baby,
It is time to put you back in your place. Thanks for helping me through this stressful time, but you are becoming an unhealthy crutch. I will reconnect with you again soon. Like in four weeks...
Sincerely your friend and foe,

Friday, April 16, 2010

Fading motivation.

I have hit the dreaded slump. You know, the slump where the novelty of a new challenge has faded and the motivation that comes with starting something exciting has somehow been misplaced. That is my slump. More and more I find myself caving into letting Hayden have non-Vegan treats while we are grocery shopping, just because it is easier. Two times this week I failed to come up with a dinner and my poor family ate tortillas and beans. And the worst, I decided to get more facts about all the scary things that soy can do to me... and instead of feeling outraged at tricky marketing ploys and inspired to cut out soy completely... I felt tired and defeated. The feeling of defeat is a definite slump indicator.

No matter what new thing I start, this slump is inevitable. In some ways though, it is a good thing. If I can make it through this "poor me" phase and come out vegan on the other side, then I know I am committed. Right? The trick is not giving up when the going gets tough. Okay, so we all learned that in kindergarten, I know, but just because I have known it for a long time, doesn't make it any easier to follow.

Thank goodness for New Food Friday though, just the opportunity I needed to jazz things up in my life. Tonight I made Cashew Sour Cream to add a little excitement to my super slump. It was easy and a great substitute for the "real" thing. I put it in my Three Bean Chili over rice, topped with avocados. (Side note: How I EVER lived without avocados in my chili is beyond me. There is just nothing that compares! Like the song that goes, "Noooothhhhing compares, nothing compares to you...", whoever sang that was totally talking about avocados in her chili.) Cutter tasted it, said it tasted too much like real sour cream for his liking. But, Cutter is a creamaphob. Won't touch anything that is white, creamy and food like. Poor guy doesn't know what he is missing. Hayden dipped his carrots in it, seemed to enjoy it. Me, I think it might even be tasty on a vegan bagel. My friend Sally the nutrition expert reports that you can also make a nacho like substance out of pine nuts. I will have to try it.

While I am on the subject of raw nuts, let me riddle you this: Why, oh why do raw nuts cost more money than roasted nuts? Don't raw nuts require minimal work as compared to the roasting and salting that other nuts go through? This makes NO sense to me. One pound of raw organic cashews were $10.99. This is no joke. 3/4 of a pound of said nuts made approximately six servings of sour cream. You can do the math exactly but to sum things up, this cashew cream cheese that I made was definitely the single most expensive dollop of sour cream I have ever ate. This doesn't take away from the great taste factor, but will most certainly be a treat I only eat on VERY special occasions. Like maybe once a year. Maybe even just once a decade.

See, it is apparent that my "slump" is effecting even my blogging. Sorry to be such a Debbie Downer, wah wahhhhhhh. The cashew sour cream is delish, go try it and just don't tell your husband what it cost. Okay? Bad advice, just save two dollars a week for the next month and make it on May 14th, in celebration of your own New Food Friday. Then you don't have to hide the Whole Foods receipt from your hubby. Not that I did or anything :).
Have a great weekend. And cheers to slumps that WILL eventually fade, leaving you feeling even more proud of the changes you have made! I hope. Wah Wahhhhhh......

Monday, April 5, 2010

like, where did the like, time go?

A whole 16 days or so have passed since my last post. It has been a glorious and hectic two weeks. My family and best friend from Minnesota were in town to watch my boys get dedicated in church. While they were here we used the opportunity to spend some time in the mountains. Breckenridge supplied some great snow and sun shiney sun and the fam provided some excellent company. It was one of the best weeks I have had in a long time.

As always I have some food-related commentary after the visit with the fam. After having such a long blogging absence, I am feeling a little pressure to come up with some inspiring words of wisdom for you. Unfortunately, I don't have any of that. But I do have a personal observation to share, you may or may not find it interesting...

Going vegan is easiest when you have support. And by support I mean, having people in your house who share your same dietary habits. Other than chips, salsa and cookies, my weakness is pizza. Ooey, gooey, cheesy steaming hot pizza is one of my all time favorite comfort foods. Since going vegan many a friend has asked how I will live without cheese. I honestly have told them that cutting out cheese hasn't been all that tough, including pizza. Until this past week that is.

I believe pizza was consumed a total of three times in my presence while my family was in town. This was difficult for me. The difficult part was not keeping myself from putting a slice in my mouth, the difficult part was not feeling angry and resentful that they were eating pizza and I wasn't. I know, anger is a pretty strong word to describe people eating food, but if i am to be honest, it was anger that I was dealing with.

After thinking on this emotional response for a bit I have come to conclude that there are a couple of things that contributed to my reaction. First, I was jealous. Jealous that they were eating what I would have loved to be eating. However, I really think that this jealousy I was feeling was an emotional reaction to what I have been taught about food.

We are taught, through the media, through family influence, through experience that getting what we want, specifically in this case food, makes us happier. This is a dangerous belief, in part, because it is true. However, it is not true all the time and like anything (think "Money can't buy happiness.") that sometimes delivers what it promises we can get caught up in a vicious cycle with wanting and needing certain foods... Thinking that if we eat pizza we WILL feel better and then getting subconsciously disappointed when we don't feel better, thus searching for something else (oftentimes more food) to make us happy. I see this ALL the time in working with addicts. They are always chasing the next great buzz. Just because a piece of pizza is associated with good times, does NOT mean that I NEED the piece to have a good time.

Let me break this down, because even I am confused now. Let me go back. Since I was very young pizza has been a way to relax and have fun on a Friday night with the family. When I was drunk in college, with my defenses down, all I could think about was a Gary's Special pizza at the end of the night. ( I felt so entitled to the drunk pizza experience that I put each and every one on my credit card. I did the math a few years back and the $15 Gary's Special really cost me, after interest and several late payments approximately $40 each. Crazy!) Pregnant and huge, the treat to myself was pizza (any ol' night of the week I felt like it). Birthday party's, lazy nights in and busy weeknights are always good excuses for a pizza. Pizza for me signals happiness, tastiness and reward. Pizza's are convenient, readily available, comforting and tasty, tasty, tasty!

For years, after going vegetarian, I always said I could NEVER give up cheese. Even the times that I dabbled with veganism during the past few years, it was always cheese that was my nemesis. I thought I had to have it to feel full, happy and content. Okay, not a big deal right? Wrong. This belief that I NEED cheese to be a happy person is a falsehood. In fact, it is so untrue it is almost ridiculous.

So, back to the emotion of anger. Anytime we are kept from the things that we think we need, an obvious emotional response is anger. Whenever we feel restricted from something, we get upset or frustrated when we don't get it. Remember when your best friend got her ten speed bike before you did? Jealousy right? Jealousy, anger, frustration, envy all these feelings come from a place of entitlement from a sense of "I deserve and need this".

Of course I could have just ate the pizza if I wanted to. That is not the point. Part of my vegan journey, I am learning, is to discover what it means to pass on some of the things in life I feel I need most. Pizza is one of those things. (Side note: most of the non-vegan foods I crave the most have more than adequate vegan substitutes. Ewey, gooey, greasy, melty vegan cheese however, is a myth. It just does not exist. This is why I believe watching others eat pizza was so difficult.)

I didn't eat the pizza that I once thought I needed. I ate split pea soup instead. Was I a little crabby about it? Yep. Did I get over it? Yep. Looking back I can honestly say that eating the pizza would not have made my wonderful vacation any better. The best part though is that I no longer feel in bondage to pizza. I have had myself a little growing experience. I can live my life with a new truth... brace yourself now:

Pizza does not equal happiness.
Hard to believe, I know.

The cool part is yes, this is about pizza, but it applies to so much more in life. How many things in my life do I go around thinking I need? Are there things I "need" that I can really live without... and still be happy? In a world where we are constantly told that "stuff" equals happiness, I am sure there are many things, other than pizza that I am in bondage to...

One thing that comes to mind is my dependency on other people's approval. What would life be like if I didn't live by how I thought people viewed me, but if I lived only for God's approval?
I am willing to bet I would find a much happier and fulfilling life.

Life truly is a journey. And there is so much to learn if I just open my eyes to each teaching experience. Funny how much there is to be gained from just a piece of pizza (other than a crazy amount of calories that is).

Saturday, March 20, 2010

random thoughts on a fast week

First, I cannot believe it is Saturday night already. I can't remember the last time I sat down to do a little bloggin'. Time has been simply put, flying. My brother just asked me on Friday if I live for the weekend. I laughed. Not because it was a silly question but because "weekends" are a thing of the past now that I am a mom. My responsibilities are the same, regardless of the day of the week. My routine is pretty much the same Sunday through Saturday. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but consistency can get a bit boring.

Good thing for New Food Friday then, right?! At least I can count on Friday night dinner prep for a little, much needed excitement. New Food Friday this week was Sweet and Sour Tempeh. It was delish. Not a kid food, but a great and filling dish for parents to enjoy with chop sticks and brown basmati rice. Yum. There were leftovers in the fridge this morning, but I opted to take Thursday's' Spring Veggie Pasta to school for lunch so that I would have the Sweet and Sour dish to look forward to for dinner. Turned out to be a great plan because I was excited about my dinner all day. For the record, the leftovers lived up to all my expectations. Why is it that food always tastes better the next day?

Speaking of school... today I had supervision. It is when all of us doing internship get together and talk about what we are learning. It is actually a really great way to spend a Saturday. I will be sad when that part of my schooling is over. Anyhow, during lunch my most beautiful friend Ericka was telling me excitedly about her most recent obsession... checking the ingredients of her fave beauty products. Turns out she stumbled upon 'cosmeticsdatabase.com' and is learning all about some of the harmful crap we slather onto our bodies every day, sometimes several times a day.

Well, of course I get all excited because I love to see other people jazzed about getting all healthy and crap and I love learning about new things. Needless to say we ended up having a big ol' conversation about the crap we put in and on our bodies.

At some point in the conversation the great question came up, "Don't you think it is possible to get a little too obsessed with that stuff? There will always be something to worry about." I responded that of course there is a learning curve as you adjust to new ways of doing things, but it gets easier over time. Changing diet, changing beauty products, changing thinking patterns, changing anything takes motivation, time and patience.

At the time I thought it was an adequate response, but if I had a pause button for life I would have used it right then and spent some time thinking the question through a bit. Since there is no pause button for life, I spent the afternoon thinking about it and have concocted a different response. My blog is now the forum for my newly formulated response.

Here is what I wish I would have said:
"It is all about supply and demand baby. As long as we as consumers continue to buy products that poison our bodies, bellies, skin and spirits, those products will continue to dominate our marketplace. I don't want my children to have to read through every label, checking for high-fructose corn syrup in their ketchup or looking for cell mutating ingredients in their face lotion. I want to send a message NOW that we don't want that crap in our food, on our bodies or in our stores. If this means being a little obsessed now, then so be it. As the saying goes, Rome wasn't built in a day. At the risk of sounding cliche, change has to start somewhere. If you settle for status quo, all you will get is status quo. And status quo just doesn't work for me, and it REALLY is not good enough for my children. Is changing hard work? Yep, most of the time. But it is the consequences of NOT changing that frighten me far more than hard work."

Yes sir, I would have said, "supply and demand baby".

I tell my clients that all our choices go into the imaginary backpack we wear. Some choices weigh more than others, depending upon the consequences of the choices we make. Some choices weigh so much you can barely walk. Some choices have no weight at all. Some choices even have the power to cancel out some of the weight of past "heavy" choices. This theory applies to food. The food you put into your body and the products you use in your daily life have the power to lighten your load or to weigh you down (quite literally). And only you get to choose what it is you put into your backpack. Ericka challenged me to examine the products in my bathroom cabinet and makeup bag. (I will let you know how it goes)

I challenge you to challenge yourself. Are you demanding the best for your body? If not, how come? It's not because you are scared of a little hard work, right?

Friday, March 5, 2010

This is a race you need to jog...

I am writing today because my heart hurts. My heart hurts for all of the young girls, young women, moms, wives, ladies and females around the world that believe their worth is somehow measured by their waist line. My heart hurts for myself and all of the years I wasted thinking that I could control my happiness by controlling what I ate, what calories I burned and what size jeans I could fit into.

I am sad because so many woman see food as the enemy, a beast that needs to be measured, calculated and restrained. I know this because I used to be that woman. I used to spend weeks eating so little and telling myself that I could get back to life (ie. eating) as soon as I reached 130 again. 130! This is a ridiculous weight for a person of my level of activity and body structure. In order to stay at 130, I literally eat just about nothing. I would laugh and say I, "I like to drink my calories." For years I did this.

Eating food of any sort was considered a guilty pleasure. And guilt is what I would feel for eating just about anything. My sense of joy came from other people telling me how small or skinny I looked. I liked how I looked when I was hungry. I liked how strong and powerful I felt when I could say no to food, depriving myself from sustenance.

When I became a vegetarian in college, I was able to harness some of my negative perceptions about food. Food slowly became something I looked at to make me more healthy. With my vegetarianism came an awareness of substance. All of a sudden I realized that what one eats has the power to define who they are and what they believe. This knowledge made me re-evaluate many of my attitudes towards food. I did not want to be defined by my ability to restrict myself from all foods, when I was beginning to realize that not all foods were "harmful". A vegetarian diet opened my eyes to the possibility that food is meant to nourish, not destroy. But this knowledge was met on my deaf ears. I was not ready to change.

About a year and a half ago, after I had Hayden I started seeing a Holistic Nutritionist. I realized I needed help when I started trying to control my diet while I was breastfeeding. If there is one thing I never want to pass on to my children it is my love/hate relationship with food. I desperately wanted to fix my food issues before they hurt Hayden.

Jessica Patterson, the nutritionist now she was amazing. In six short months I learned so much about what it means to truly "feed" my body, what balanced living looks like and how food is meant to bring joy and life not guilt. But even then I was not ready for the truth. My mind could not let go of the past. I truly believed that the only way to lose my baby weight was to eat little and work out like mad. Her "no counting calories philosophy" truly infuriated me. This sounded like a "skinny person" belief and just a cruel fairy tale for fat people like me. So I discontinued seeing her.

I have not "arrived" by any means. I am no expert. But I wanted to write today about the hope that I now have. In the past two and a half months, while on my vegan journey, I have found peace. I have found peace with my food. Food is not my enemy, food brings me a sense of joy, a sense of life. I have looked forward to the shopping, prepping, cooking, serving and eating that has gone into every meal I have cooked this year. Not once have I felt any guilt over anything I have put into my mouth. Part of this, I believe is because in my heart I do feel that animal consumption in this country is done unethically and I feel relief that I am no longer part of that destruction.

...But another part is because I have called a truce and laid down the gun to my own head. The enemy was never food, I was my own enemy. I was scared that if I stopped controlling food, it would control me. I have found just the opposite to be true. I have not counted calories once, since this year began. I have not restricted or tried to control the food I put in my mouth once, since trying on the vegan thing. I have no sense of "when this is over, then I can eat again." I feel full and satiated every day. Here is the kicker, I am still losing weight. I know this not because of an obsession with the scale, but because gradually clothes are beginning to get too big.

Of course I am not losing as fast as I did after the first baby, but I am happy. I am happy with my body in a way I have never been before. Peace is the best word to describe it. I have done the yo-yo diet, the starvation diet, the eat whatever the hell you want diet (I call that one the f-it diet), the protein diet (really tricky for a vegetarian) and the soup diet, just to name a few. Do you know what the one thing all those diets have in common? They all cause you to live for the future. You restrict now, so that you can be happy in the future. Eat less, so you can be less tomorrow. Be hungry now, so that you can fit into your jeans next week.

This is pure craziness. It is craziness because it does not last. "Diets" are not a lifestyle, they are a temporary fix to a life long problem. If you don't believe me, look at anorexics... they have made a restriction diet a lifestyle, but it inevitably will destroy them. I speak from first hand experience. If this vegan challenge had taught me one thing, it is that I want to fully experience the moment, while living for my children's children. I want to enjoy today while being at peace with what tomorrow brings.

I write this and I am filled with pure peace and joy. This is how I know I am finally on the right track. I have felt relief before when talking about food and weight, but never peace and joy. This peace and joy is a gift I want to give every single girl out there. If I could summarize what I have learned about food and weight thus far it would be this: there is NO way to sprint to the end... life is a one-man race. You need to pace yourself and settle in for the long haul. If not, you are going to miss out on one heck of a view.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


I had brown rice syrup in my coffee this morning. I am out of vegan sugar and agave nectar and I just wasn't feeling the coconut creamer chilling in my fridge. So, I went out on a limb and opened the jar of syrup that I have been avoiding for the past four months or so (something about the color or name of it, 'brown rice syrup' just has not looked appealing). It's not too bad. Sort of a more chill version of agave nectar. I would say it has a real subtle flavor. I used a teaspoon in my coffee with unsweetened almond milk and cinnamon and nutmeg sprinkled on top. I have a feeling that brown rice syrup would be a fantastic addition to a hot cup o' tea. And this afternoon I will test that hypothesis.
Recently I have begun to realize all of the time I spend being food-focused. It seems that so much of my day is spent on food: planning, shopping, unpacking, prepping, cooking, serving, eating, cleaning up after... it just goes on and on, day after day. And now with a blog, I spend time just writing about food. I realize it is a blessing to be able to have stores to shop at, money to spend on and a family to prepare food for, but I wonder if I am a little too consumed for my own good. I asked myself, "should one really spend this much time thinking about food?"
Then I read a chapter in the book, Searching for God Knows What, by Donald Miller. He is the guy who wrote Blue Like Jazz, my all time favorite non-fiction work. The chapter was about Adam in the Garden of Eden, before the fall of man. Here is a brief synopsis of what I took, I am sure I am not going to do Mr. Miller any justice, but oh well here goes anyway...
So, Adam was chilling alone in the garden and right away God knew that Adam needed someone to keep him company. Because that is God's specialty, knowing what it is we need. Well, even then though God saw how lonely Adam was, He didn't just make him Eve right away. No sir, God said to Adam, "you got work to do." We all know what Adam probably did for the next 100 years or so, he got to work naming all the animals. (If I think that planning my grocery list is tedious work, imagine naming all the species of birs? I can't even tell the difference between a sparrow and a lark... so it is a good thing this was Adam's job and not mine. If it had been my job, all the animals would be named like George Formans' children. See that is really funny if you know about George Formans kids.)
Anyways, Adam is going along naming animals, still lonely (I mean, I am sick of talking to just my kids after one day, can you imagine trying to share what is on your heart and mind with the animal kingdom? For a week? Much less one hundred years?! This Adam guy had stamina.) and then finally God says, "alright, let's put you to sleep and get to creating you a mate."
Can you imagine the excitement Adam must have felt when he opens his eyes and he finally sees the someone he has been longing for, and for a ridiculously long time I might add? The person he has been dreaming of? Has been craving?
Eve must have been the most beautiful thing he had ever laid eyes on. And better yet, she was the only one in the whole world who could fill his deep desire for relationship. Yes, God was around, but God seemed to have created us with a need to have community with other humans. Working as a counselor for 5 years now, that is just basic knowledge. It is obvious that we are designed to crave closeness to others.
I imagine that to Adam, Eve was a treasure he would guard with all of his heart. It also makes one wonder if Adam would have appreciated Eve as much if he would have just gotten her right away. What if they were created at the same time? I bet there would have been a lot more bickering while they were trying to name the animals together. God gave Adam just what he needed at just the right time. Sometimes it is the waiting for something that makes that something that much better.
This connects to food. We live in a culture where food is taken for granted every single day. We live with a McDonald's on every corner. The mystery and beauty of food has been taken from us. We don't see how it is grown, where it is grown or even, for the most part, how it is prepared. We often just see the end result and then we eat it. Even all of my trips to the grocery store and time spent prepping food pale in comparison to what my great-grandmother went through to put food in my grandma's belly.
Since going vegan, my families' diet consists of much more wholesome foods. The processed foods we have eaten in the past have significantly faded from our menu. However, with wholesome, comes time consuming. It takes much more time to rinse, soak and boil a bag of black beans than it does to microwave an Uncle Bens Instant Mexican Beans and Rice bag. Making a bowl of oatmeal takes more time than pouring a bowl of Life. And making homemade polenta takes more time than boiling a bag of pasta. Of course I am not talking about 100 years worth of time, but you get the connection.
All of the extra time and energy has been worth it for a multitude of reasons, but one of my favorite reasons is that I just enjoy my food more. Something about the delay of gratification and the work I put into my food makes my meals more delicious. Now more than ever before do I find a certain degree of joy with the food that is on my plate. It seems that everything I make just tastes better.
What I am saying is that God had it right when He made Adam wait, having to work hard and wait for what one desires (like chili that tastes better the next day) definitely is the way to go. I urge you to take time and enjoy the process that is food. Savor the shopping, chopping and eating. I promise you will discover a joy in eating that you never had before.
And I too I will remember this next time I lament over having to chop yet another carrot.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Surprise!!! It's New Food Sunday...

New Food Friday was a flop. I tried Triple Sesame Tofu. It was horrible. I would describe it as 'soggy and lacking any other redeeming qualities'. The broccoli I made with it was good, but really is there ANY way to mess up that delicious vegetable? That is a rhetorical question because the answer is a resounding "NO, of course not!" New Food Friday did teach me something though, the lesson learned being, if the recipe calls for extra-firm tofu, use extra-firm tofu. Even pressing it did not help it hold its shape when dredging it in tahini and seeds. (And, I learned that I will not make that recipe again.)
Tonight, I made up my own recipe. I had veggies to use up and put together a new dish. Cutter said as we sat down to eat, "What is this? New Food Sunday?" I laughed and said, "sure." We had Ang's Polenta and Eggplant "Lasagna." I made a marinara sauce with the veggies I had left in the fridge: red onion, green pepper, zucchini and mushrooms. I sliced up a roll of store bought polenta (That was the new food, we have never had polenta before and it was GREAT! Hayden loved it. I will make it from scratch though next time. It didn't look that complicated. Cutter described polenta as 'cheese grits' and I agree with his assessment.), and peeled and sliced up the eggplant that was looking pretty sad in my fridge. Brushed all slices with evoo and sprinkled garlic salt on them. Baked them on a greased up cookie sheet in the oven for 25 mins at 450 degrees, turning half-way through. When they were done baking I layered everything up in a glass baking dish in the following order: sauce, eggplant, sauce, polenta (some nutritional yeast sprinkled in for good measure), sauce and a bit of vegan cheese on top, just for the 'lasagna effect'. Threw it back in the oven for about 20 more mins, at 350 degrees to let things get all cozy in there and called it d.o.n.e. There were "yums" heard all 'round the table. New Food Sunday was a success!
That is what I love about food, turning "what you got left" into a delectable masterpiece. There is something so rewarding about not letting food go to waste. I suppose that is my grandma talking, but really, using what you have and making it taste good can be a real rush. I challenge you to try it!
Happy Sunday Night. And good-bye Olympics, we will see you again soon!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

a cow says... moo.

Milk, it is everywhere. Kind of like a white, creamy ghost that haunts you at every turn. One of the most difficult, okay more just annoying parts of this journey thus far has been all the incessant label reading. Still, two full months into vegan living and I am still checking, rechecking and triple checking labels. Talk about time consuming.
But I do it because just when you think it is safe to eat... BOOYA, it is not! For instance, Rice Cheeze. I haven't been eating it too much but my son loves it on a grilled "cheese" sandwich. Pricey, but a little goes a long way when you are feeding a toddler (Unless it is Oreos- those go real quick. Which by the way are vegan. Whoda thought?). Anyhow, when I bought the Cheeze the first time I must have assumed that it was vegan. It is rice cheese for goodness sake. Last night, after making Hayden the sandwich, I checked the package. Sure enough, has whey (milk protein) in it.
Whey is in just about all processed crackers and just about everything for that matter. I bought a box of graham crackers awhile back and they did not have animal product in it. So, when I needed graham cracker crumbs I just grabbed a box, not thinking I needed to check. I got home to make the most delicious treat ever and to my dismay... whey was present, looming like a goblin on Halloween.
I was making Alicia Silverstones vegan peanut butter cups for Cutter for Valentines Day. It is his favorite candy and I thought it would be a special treat. They looked so darn delicious that despite the whey, I tried one. I had to. No, really, I had to. Cutter ate 12 whole cups in just one day. Definitely a treat you will want to make someday. I will remake them for Easter, except this time I am checking the label. Cutting corners never works out well, especially when it comes to whey.
Since the vegan quest began, I have substantially cut back on the amount of processed foods that we buy. If there was one thing I should cut back on it would be the amount of tortilla chips that I buy. We eat chips and salsa on an almost daily basis. There is so much trans fat and salt in the darn things, but I love them nonetheless. I need a good substitute. I have tried eating carrots and hummus when a chips craving hits, but it doesn't seem to do the trick. Too bad there isn't whey in my favorite chips. Whey has the power to quash my cravings. Or, maybe I am just not meant to give up my chips and salsa... Oh whey, why can't you be where I need you the most?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

tofu and honey. coconuts. and boots.

Tofu and Honey.

Four days ago already was New Food Friday (It was four days when I started this post, now a full seven days have passed since the last new food friday. Things have been crazy around here and posting has been the last thing on my mind). I made Honey Mustard Tofu. It was delicious. A highly ironic new dish for a vegan since honey is NOT vegan. My reasons for making it were two-fold. First, I have a full jar of honey from 2009 that needs to get eaten. I don't want to waste it and it was a good way to use up 3/4 cup of it. Second, I had a pound of tofu in my fridge that was about to go bad. So, I made it. It was wonderful and in an attempt to finish of the jar of sweetness that our good friends the bees made, I will most likely make it again.

I discovered that really, anything fried is going to be good... even tofu. I told Hayden they were "nuggets" and he dipped the tofu chunks in ketchup and loved them. One might be surprised that I am just now discovering this little tidbit of tofu information. The truth is in all my years of vegetarianism, last Friday was the first time I ever made any tofu dish. I have had a relationship based on fear with tofu. Something about the sheer mass and texture of a big ol' block of white tofu has always intimidated me. It seemed like such a process with the draining and pressing and cutting and all. But, one night with just me and tofu and my world was rocked. The stuff isn't so scary after all. A bit labor intensive but, if it can pass as something tasty for my toddler, then it is worth all the effort.

So here is my message to you, tofu... "I will not live in fear. You don't scare me!"


Hayden and I went on a probiotic last week. I did enough research to discover a good probiotic is worth its weight in gold. So I shelled out the thirty bucks for a months supply for both of us. Even though there are probiotics available for infants, I figured since I am nursing Hudson, he is covered by my daily dose. I chose to do a Coconut kefir probiotic. Turns out coconuts are a pretty powerful fruit. Coconut kefir can actually be made easily enough. One just needs some time, young green coconuts and a kefir started pack. A few months supply can be homemade for about 2o dollars. I am planning on trying it out. I will let you know if and when I do. (It is important for me to write out my plans, sort of ups my degree of accountability. So, if in two weeks I haven't updated you on my coconut progress... get on me. See how I just passed the responsibility off on you? Humans are overwhelmingly good at making other people responsible for their life. Me? I am no exception.)

And boots.

Any of my facebook friends may recall this recent meltdown. Last Friday Hayden spent the morning throwing up for no apparent reason. (I think it was an adverse reaction to his antibiotic. Ten straight days of serious pooping and his body couldn't handle it any more and just got rid of everything in his belly in some other way. Poor baby.) Anyhow after hour one of puking, I discovered that at some point he had vomited on my one pair of brown boots. The boots that I wore everyday to internship. I picked up the boot, held it in my lap like a sick little puppy and then I cried. I cried for my boot, the loss of my morning plans, the toddler that I love who was so ill and I cried for me.

There are somethings in life, like puke on boots that I will never be able to fix with healthy food, exercise, probiotics or whatever new remedy comes along. Life cannot be fixed with a three-step plan. Life is about relationships and doing the best you can with whatever God has given you. Sometimes I forget this. That is a lie. Most days I forget this, and think that I am missing out on some sort of magic pill to make bad things go away. I get frustrated that everyone but me seems to know the secret to life. That frustration usually goes away as soon as I remember what I know to be true about life. And then I just try and smile about something, anything, because smiling just makes you feel better about everything.

I didn't try any magic cleaning product to fix my boots. I threw them away. They were crusted in salt from days spent in Minnesota winters and not worth the effort. Turns out by the end of the week I randomly found a new pair of boots, much prettier, warmer and over 60% off. Booya I said! Bring on the puke.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

every where i look i see beans...

We eat A LOT of beans in this house. Within the past week we ate green beans, great northern beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, split peas and black beans. That is like 1.5 beans per day. I repeat, A LOT of beans. Currently I have exactly one pound of black beans soaking. I have contemplated black bean soup, black bean burgers or black bean tacos.

There are so many things one can do with the beautiful versatile bean. A can of beans can even be used as a teething toy. We are starting Hudson early, establishing a healthy love of beans.

I just couldn't resist sharing this picture.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

mirror, mirror on the wall...

I forced myself to the gym the other day. In the winter the gym is just what I do. On this particular day at the gym I was slow jogging on the treadmill and despising every minute of it. I couldn't help but think about all the great things about life I was missing out on because I was trapped at the gym. It got me thinking, which is one thing I can say about the treadmill- it is good for serious thinking.

I was thinking about my relationship with the gym. The gym has always been my free ticket to eat what I want. Meaning, I can cancel out calories consumed by logging gym hours. In my past life this was a pretty fair trade because I had time to kill. Why not have an extra glass of wine or a big fat slice of cake if I am just going to burn it off later? In fact it was a perfect system. I could eat what I want and avoid being bored during daylight hours. The gym gave me a purpose and a place I needed to be. Plus, the gym was a good place to impress hot men with how tight my shorts were. I won't pretend that the gym is not a great place to flaunt ones sexuality... because that would be a farce. I even scored a date with a personal trainer for that crazy bike race guy Lance Armstrong. See? The gym really did work for me.

Now I am a mom and wife. Definitely not looking to pick up men (one is plenty for me- thank you very much), my stretch marks are not exactly something I want to flaunt and most importantly, I don't have the luxury of being selfish with my time anymore. A trip to the gym simply takes time away from a multitude of other things I would rather be doing.

It is time to face my new reality: Two hours a day at the gym is just not practical nor desirable. This leaves me with a couple of options. Option #1: be okay with carrying around extra weight. Or, option #2: figure out a way of eating that is healthy and negates the need for a whole lotta gym time. Anyone who knows me well would tell you that option one isn't really an option at all.

I suppose this is one reason why the vegan lifestyle has become more attractive to me. As much as I would like to lose weight and get back into my old jeans I am just not as motivated by my vanity as I used to be. The idea of looking a certain way no longer propels me to restrict foods or slave away at the gym. I am much more motivated by healthy, sustainable living. Having a husband and family has altered my body image and the way I view food and exercise. In short, it has changed my priorities.

I want to eat to live, not workout to eat. It is a whole paradigm shift for me. Wanting food to be a sense of nourishment and pleasure is a far cry from my old attitude that food is nothing more than a bunch of calories that need to be counted and then burned. The past month and a half of vegan living has been one of my most peaceful periods of time, in terms of my relationship with food. I firmly believe that this is due in great part to the fact that my personal beliefs about food are now congruent with how I am actually eating. Eating healthy has become a whole lot simpler now that I am at peace with what I eat.

I am discovering that when I stop battling calories, my need for the gym decreases. Oh, I still will go... because a part of me enjoys the challenge and a good sweat. Plus, I fully believe in the benefits of exercise and having an hour to myself while my boys socialize with other kids in the daycare is a good way to keep my sanity. But I strive now to go to build fitness, not to justify a second serving of extra cheese pizza.

Friday, February 5, 2010

crimson and clover...

...over and over (I want this sickness to be!) Our house is still not well. Hayden went on antibiotics on Tuesday. That makes three out of four Honeycutts all drugged up. I am grateful we have antibiotics but they still make me nervous. I try to feed my family healthy, we wash our hands, I don't let my kids make-out with strangers and still we seem to get some major illness at least once a year. This is the first time Hayden has been on antibiotics and I can say that I feel at least marginally proud of that. But I can't take full credit because I really do not know if there is anything a mom can do to fully protect her kids from germs. It always seems like there is more you could do. Example, a nutritionist friend of mine just told me about systemic enzymes and probiotics needing to be paired with antibiotics. What? When did this happen I ask? So I read about it, totally get it and understand why it is the best course of action. Then I looked at prices.

Being healthy can be REALLY expensive. And time consuming. Being healthy takes A LOT of time. Anyone who says otherwise is lying. Just remembering to get the twice a day meds into myself and my boys has proven a feat, not to mention our daily vitamins. The thought of also adding a systemic enzyme and probiotic to the regimen feels overwhelming. On top of the Vics vapor rub, humidifier and nasal lubricating. I am not saying it is impossible... just more than I am accustomed to.

I know I am making excuses because I am sure if I put my mind to it... I could make time and find money for what I call the necessary "extras." However, just typing this all makes me want to bury my head in the sand.

Bury my head in the sand? I want to believe that I am doing enough. That the vitamin I give is enough, that the humidifier is enough, that the antibiotic is enough. I want to believe that the way my mom did things was good enough. I want to believe that the way I do things is good enough. Why? Because it is easier and lets me justify the status quo. It is so much easier to write off remedies like systemic enzymes and probiotics as health quackery instead of opening up and challenging myself to new possibilities.

Balance in all the madness is what I seek. I can't try every up and coming remedy. I would kill myself trying- and ultimately miss out on a whole lotta livin'. But on the other hand, I do not want to become complacent. I want to be open to everything but wise in what I select to pursue. It sounds so simple but feels oh so complicated. I have always said that wisdom is the application of knowledge. With the Internet knowledge is not difficult to come by. You can find information on everything at any time. Since I am new to this vegan thing I often feel overwhelmed with all the new things I am knowing.

Sometimes it feels like I am a baby vegan, just opening my eyes to the possibility of what healthy living could look like for me and my family. Huh?! When I put it like that I feel more excited then I do overwhelmed. So that is my new self-story. I am just a baby vegan. I can't possibly employ all the ways to keep my family healthy, all in one day. Baby steps for this mamma. So today, I will go to Whole Foods, find the most inexpensive probiotic for us and call it an accomplishment of epic baby proportions.

As a foot note: Yesterday was New Food Friday. We had stuffed peppers. It was a new recipe and not one I will use again. However, Cutter made it and for that it may have been the most delicious dinner I ate all week (minus my Roasted Root Veggie Soup)!

Sunday, January 31, 2010


This past week was all about survival for us. No gym, no new food Friday, no work, no birthday party... nothing. Just icky, sicky grossness. The Honeycutt's had the flu and plus some. There is nothing in the world so horrible for a mom then to see her babies hurting and not be able to take that hurt away. It only doubles the pain when mommy is hurting as well. I am happy to report that we have all survived. And other than my sore throat and scratchy voice and Hudson's continuing Amoxicillin regimen we seem to be on the mend.

I really have nothing to write about. It feels as though we were sheltered from the world for the past seven days. I am just checking in. I wish I has something inspiring or interesting to report. I don't. Boo on me. In fact the most interesting thing I made food-wise this week was called Blueberry Grunt. Even my food sounded depressing. A friend said it sounded like I was eating smurfs. Ha. Blue, bubbly and delish, not a bad breakfast.

I was feeding Hudson yesterday morning and I was watching the painting guy with really curly hair on PBS (I will snail mail a dollar to the first person who can FB me his name, I can't remember). Anyhow, he was talking about how today is a good day. Then he said, "Yep, everyday is a good day. Don't believe me? Well then try missing a couple." He is so true. There is nothing like a few days of feeling ick to make you appreciate how great you feel when you don't have a stuffed nose, sore throat or killer headache.

Tomorrow is Monday and I am ready to get back into the swing of things. It will be a good day. I wish the same for you.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Pass (on) the Cheesecake

We made a random, spontaneous trip to Taos this weekend. Invited ourselves to my girlfriend's parents house in New Mexico. And made the last minute trip to try and hit some mountain powder. It was the kind of weekend that any new parents long for, the kind of weekend that is too few and far between. It was a house full of good friends, happy kids and fantastic snow right out the backyard.

I am quickly leaning that vegan eating requires an almost ridiculous amount of planning. Random, spontaneous trips already difficult with little ones, are that much more challenging with specific dietary demands. (Think going on a cruise while on a diet.) Filling my kitchen with vegan friendly food is not so bad, since I have complete control over what I put on the menu for the week. Going out into the real, non-vegan world is a different story.

All the books I have read recommend that if you are traveling you must plan ahead. Planning to include: finding vegan restaurants, informing your host of your diet needs, and pack, pack, pack the food you intend to consume. I did not do any of this. Spur of the moment meant I barely had time to put together snacks for Hayden. I did grab a few Odwalla Bars and some apples but not enough for a weekend.

You can rest assured that I ate well the entire weekend. This blog is not about that. What it is about is all the good food I "missed" out on. Being a vegetarian I am used to passing on the chicken, steak and meatballs. Other than the social implications, it is really no big deal. However, in the past I always had the side dishes to rely on. When people ask what I eat Cutter tells them I just eat "sides." Funny, but true.

I have quickly come to realize that most "sides" contain dairy of some sort. Whether it is butter on beans or parm cheese on a salad. You already feel uncomfortable that you are making your host feel uncomfortable that you are not going to eat their food, so asking for no butter on your beans takes you to a whole other level of uncomfortable-ness. (that may have been confusing... just read it again.) A vegan sitting at a non-vegan table can be a most lonely experience. Thankfully, my friends' family was most accommodating and understanding of my year long vegan quest.

However, it is unfair to expect a host to go out of their way to feed me, a surprise guest. This is why planning is SO important. It is not a hosts responsibility to cater to my specific needs. A gracious guest admires the food that others are enjoying and politely heats up the veggie patty that they brought. And when a host happens to have a vegan friendly dish... EAT UP, while making sure the host knows exactly how grateful you are! (Let me tell you... you are VERY grateful.) The moral of this story is, I must bring a cooler full of foods I plan to eat. If this is not possible then immediately I must give my host some relief by stating my intentions to hit the grocery store to get "the crazy food that I can eat." Remembering to ask permission first to use their kitchen for storage and cooking.

I am not done talking about this trip. It was an eye opening experience for me. I passed on dessert. I am NOT a dessert passer by any stretch of the imagination. I am a dessert seconds-er type person. I will shamelessly eat a second piece of pie, cake or scoop of ice cream. Shamelessly. "Life is short, eat cookies." This weekend I passed on Rocky Mountain Factory chocolates, homemade sugar cookies (decorated by adorable little kids), and here is the kicker, I passed on CHEESECAKE!

Thinking about all of the calories I saved is helpful, but there is definitely what I would call the reverse of 'Dessert Regret." The reverse of Dessert Regret is when you say no to dessert and then find yourself laying in bed that night dreaming about the delicious dessert you passed up at dinner. As if my life will never be the same because I did not eat cheesecake. It is a full three days later and I am still thinking about the cheesecake. This probably signifies a distinct psychological diagnosis, but it is the truth. Like I said, shameless.

I was a little proud that I had the self-control to say no to something that I really wanted. But then I had to check myself. In the moment I felt that I really wanted cheesecake. History of my life told me that cheesecake tastes delicious and makes me feel better. Truth though, cheesecake is not a necessity for me and although it may make me feel happy for a moment (what delicious, sugary, creamy treat doesn't?), my true happiness is not caught up in what I eat or do not eat. It wasn't really self-control that kept me from eating cheesecake it was my beliefs and convictions. What I should feel proud of is that I made a decision based on what I believe to be true.
This is a bit refreshing for me. I often make decisions based on what feels good or feels right or feels the most okay. It is difficult for me to just feel a feeling and objectively observe it. Which is strange because being a counselor is all about helping others watch and observe their feelings. I would be lying if I said that in the cheesecake moment I was actively observing my feelings about not eating cheesecake, because I wasn't. What I was really doing was telling myself how embarrassed I would be to admit on my blog that I caved and ate cheesecake before I even hit the one month mark of my journey. However, afterwards I did spend time talking with Cutter and thinking about what it really meant for me to say "no" and what feelings went into the process. Dessert is not just dessert anymore.

I learned something. To fully understand what I learned you would need to know more of my history with food, but to make things simple I will say that I learned this: I can pass on food without self-deprivation or punishment as motivation. I learned and when you learn you grow. So to celebrate, I made vegan double chocolate cookies. Delish.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Playing Catch-up

New Food Friday was four full days ago. I wouldn't even bother writing about it, since the event is sort of old news, but I can't pass up a chance to rave about the goods. But I will keep this brief.

Cutter has taken to calling New Food Friday, Freaky Friday. I like my title better. This past Friday was Cutter's choice and he picked Chickpea Patties. For Hayden's sake we are calling them Hummus Burgers (little man LOVES hummus!). Simple, delicious and oh so quick to make. I cannot believe that I have gone this far in life and not had a Hummus Burger yet. Makes me feel a little disgusted at all the money I have spent on processed veggie burgers throughout the years when I could have been having this culinary delight... homemade for one third the price!

It sounds like I am exaggerating. I am not. The recipe is essentially hummus, but after food processing, oatmeal is kneaded in and then the mixture is chilled, formed into patties and fried in a bit of EVOO. (If Rachel Ray would just give up meat, I would be set. I heart her work and passion for quick and easy food.) The texture of the patty is much like meat loaf, but the taste is distinctly veg. The frying in the oil gives the outside a crunch, which is difficult to achieve with a Boca Burger, short of burning it.

Cutter and I both give it 10 out of 10 stars. We used all the typical fixin's, minus the cheese. However, I ate the leftover patties the following day on a pile of lettuce without a bun. Easy and low fat lunch. Hayden had a few bites but said, "I don't like that." I am willing to bet that I could get him to eat them when he is in a better mood. I had a headache all day and was crabby at him. His refusal to eat my food was most likely based on his intent to get revenge for my irritability towards him earlier in the day.

If you want the recipe, let me know. I will gladly pass it along.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

compost blog post

Time has somehow escaped me. I feel like I haven't written in a long time. Blogging has become a part of my day that I look forward to. I find myself making mental notes throughout the day of things I should mention or talk about in this online forum. I guess you could say it is a good way to stay present focused and in the moment. I have become a commentator on my own life. This is a good thing right? Isn't it our ability to objectively observe our life that creates space for change?

On the subject of change I picked up an air-tight, stainless steel container for keeping my kitchen leftovers in for composting. The only thing keeping me from composting is the fifty yard walk to our future garden site which contains our compost pile. Every time I throw my leftover apple core in the garbage, I cringe. But laziness speaks and I usually listen. Well, laziness and I despise fruit flies in my house. (Flies in general, but the fruit variety especially). Hence the airtight container, I am hoping I can get by with only bringing out the compost a couple of times a week and at the same time keep the flies at bay.

We are GOING to do the garden this year. Cutter wanted to last spring, but I thought we had too much going on. So, with my recent vegan frame of mind I decided that now would be the spring to pitch in and reduce out carbon footprint. And hopefully enjoy some delicious and inexpensive homegrown goods at the same time.

Growing up my mom always worked hard at a garden. Her attempts were noble and I always appreciated the few veggies that survived the pumpkin invasion that inevitably overtook the garden by the end of the summer. I think she was trying to recreate some childhood memories. Her parents were especially good gardeners. By the time I came onto the scene here on earth and met my grandpa Earl, he was retired and his garden was his pride and joy. I can clearly remember fresh green beans, raspberry's, grapes and cucumbers. I have many good memories that surround the garden. (See my family did instill a love of more than just cookies!)

There is something nostalgic about having a garden. It is one of those 'time stands still' practices. Not many things of our ancestors have survived the technological age. Gardening has. It still takes good dirt, seeds, water and sun to make your garden grow. It really puts the convenience of our grocery stores into perspective. If I am too lazy to bring out my compost now, how would I have ever survived in a day where I needed to grow my own food for survival? Rhetorical question.

So this is the year the Honeycutt's will give it a shot. We'll see if we can make Grandpa Earl proud. Maybe he could be our garden's guardian angel. Someone has to keep the pumpkins under submission- and if I am anything like my mom, that someone will not be me. Step one of garden prep is done... I have the compost bucket and a commitment to making my garden bloom. Compost v.s Laziness, we will see who prevails.

For those of you gardening pro's out there, Facebook me your best gardening tips and advice for a newbie like myself!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

throw me a bone.

I had one of those days today. I will call it my second Monday of the week. The kind of day that suffocates you right from the moment you regain morning consciousness (after a crappy nights sleep anyhow). The said suffocation is then followed by a bad mood that stalks you into the bathroom, hangs on even after your cup of coffee and permeates the entire house like the stench of burnt microwave popcorn. Yup, that kind of day. You know what I am talking about.

Then, around 4 o'clock today it just got better. I said, "Come on God, I can't do this much more," sort of sarcastically and then... BAM. Things turned around. Imagine Moses just running into this crazy bush, burning fiercely in the desert. I felt like Moses must have felt. Okay, not that drastic but it did feel like a miracle. Angry about life one second and then peaceful the next. This I am not exaggerating. (with a word like 'exaggerating' I am super happy for spell checking. I should have left it unedited so you could have had a good laugh).

It makes me wonder how many of those miracles have happened in the course of my lifetime that I am completely unaware of. I am not talking about the obvious stuff like how many times I could have been hit by a bus, or stung by a poisonous insect, or infected with a deadly strain of bird flu? I am talking about the everyday blessings that I have been too busy to notice, too stressed to care, and too self-righteous to acknowledge.

If I can take the food I put into my mouth for granted, what else have I missed? Think about it. The miracle of food! I take it for granted that there will always be enough of it for me. It is though I feel entitled to eat what I want, when I want it. When in reality it is a blessing every day that I have cold Heinz Ketchup in my fridge and Cheerios on my shelf.

Like I said, if I can ignore the miracle that is food what else have I missed? If there was a rewind button on my life, I would press it and then watch it back in slow motion. None of this flashing before my eyes business. I want a second chance to see all that I missed and then write God a really big thank you note. There is nothing like a good ol' fashioned hand-written thank you note.

Since there is no rewind life button invented yet, probably by the time Hayden is in high school though, I will have to settle for the here and now. I bet if I looked real hard every day with my eyes wide open... just waiting for the next miracle to appear I would have a lot less stinky-burnt-popcorn-kind-of-second-Monday's. Just the premise of that thought is enticing and oh so exciting. If Oprah was reading this she would probably tell me she already had this "A-hah moment," like seven years ago. But I would tell Oprah that this is my blog and my "A-hah moment" so leave me alone. And now, as I eat this miracle we call "green apple" (well I am calling it my midnight snack) I say good night and thank you God, this is much better than a bone.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

cookie, you are my american idol.

Tonight, to celebrate the premier of my favorite television phenomenon and self admitted guilty pleasure... American Idol, I am making vegan chocolate chip cookies and popcorn, sans butter. Which is okay, since I have this amazing, super spicy Creole seasoning that is wicked hot and stands alone just fine without the meltey (delicious tasting), heart clogging substance we know as butter. I have been staving off recent cravings for sugar with some carob chips, but well it's carob. So, tonight, to reward my hard efforts of the past 12 days I am going agree with Simon, miss Paula, get annoyed by incessant ill-timed commercial breaks, and eat what is hopefully, delicious chocolate chip cookies and homemade popcorn.

Funny, how I use the word "reward." I was raised in a family/culture that praised good work with sugar, fat and homemade goodies. My grandma, mom and now myself show love for others by baking treats. My fondest memories of my grandma are centered around her cookie jar. She made the most tempting raisin cookies that to this date I have been unable to recreate.

Embarrassing Confession Time. Once the cookie jar ran dry, I would sneak down to Grandma's very scary basement (no icky spider webs or supposed ghosts were going to keep me away), and sneak/steal as many frozen cookies my chubby hands could carry. There is no way of telling how many cookies I would consume in one Sunday afternoon at Grandma's house. I can tell you this though, if good food=love, I definitely left feeling very loved (and gassy). 7 years after my grandma's death, my family still talks about how much I stank up the big blue van on the way home from Grandma's. Let's just say that massive amounts of butter (as found in the raisin cookies in question) and my boohiney are NOT a pleasant combination. With that off my chest I feel like a new woman. Thanks blog.

Moving on. My parents used food as a motivator. I was bribed with a Dairy Queen blizzard for ending my fingernail biting addiction. My brother received a Lolapaluza, the worlds largest ice cream sunday for giving up thumb sucking. And Mom's warm cookies were consistently a welcome home present from school. I bake sweets for my husband, I bake sweets for my neighbors, I bake when I am bored, when I am in need of comfort, when I need to say "thanks," and I bake when I have the ingredients in the house. This isn't a bad thing, but when I bake, I eat. Like all sugary things, once I start, stopping is difficult. Remember my all or nothing personality? Well, that includes cookies, cupcakes, friendship bread (the demon I attribute 74.3% of my last pregnancy weight gain), homemade granola... you name it I binge it.

I am opposed to sticking the label "addiction" on everything and its mom, but I can say with great certainty that I am a sugar addict. I would venture to say that most of America is, with how foods are processed, but we are talking about me here. So, back to me. Here's the justification for the diagnosis: I start and I have difficulty starting. I use sugar to change my mood. I feel guilt when I over-indulge. I feel the need to get others to be as addicted as I am, as to avoid feeling different from other "healthy" people (think peer pressure to eat a second piece of blueberry buckle). And I have hidden my sugar binges from loved ones, ashamed of my behavior. Wow, this is a hugely vulnerable topic for me.

It is my goal, that through my Vegan experiment I will learn to find more balance in the way I approach sugar. I have a belief that my addiction to sugar, like any other addiction is directly linked to several areas of my life. But one of those areas, most central is my diet. When I am consistently eating nurturing and balanced whole foods, sugar becomes less of an issue. It is easier to walk away from and not a constant thought in my head, as in, "man, I really could go for some ice cream with carmel and peanuts." With this vegan thing I am already noticing that my food choices are becoming more diverse and wholesome. Plus my focus is not on what I am putting in my mouth, but how what I am putting in my mouth affects me, my relationships and the world around me. I had this same experience when I first became a vegetarian, but somehow over the years that focus grew dim.

I don't want to completely eliminate sugar from my life, I just want to find a way to enjoy it without it controlling me. I envy those people who buy a package of Oreo's only to eat one, shelf it and forget it is there. Balance, that is what I am seeking.

Tonight, in my attempt to reach balance, I am going to revel in and enjoy the experience of making cookies without eggs and butter and then, without guilt enjoy my "guilty" pleasures, Idol and cookies. Is there really anything better than that? Let's see if I can stop after just two cookies. Hey blog, wish me luck!

Friday, January 8, 2010


It's Friday! And you know what that means... actually, you don't know what that means since I just invented it. It is New Food Friday, the day that I plan to introduce a new food or vegan recipe to my kitchen table. Today the food of choice was Tempeh. It is virtually a staple in most of the vegan cookbooks I have perused, so I decided it was a good place to start.

Cooking is not one of my favorite things. I am by no means a foodie or chef. I do love to bake, but that is simply because you always know what to expect when you combine sugar and flour with butter. Baking is happiness. Cooking is stressful, to say the least. I am one who will fall in love with the beautiful pictures in a cookbook, buy it out of lust and shelf it two weeks later. I stick to my basic recipes and that has worked just fine for me.

So, when my four new vegan cookbooks (I impulsively bought on Amazon) arrived I was like a lovestruck school girl, giddy with excitement. And then I read the recipes. I wanted to lay down and cry. So many new ingredients, it was like reading a novel in Japanese. This is quite sad when you remember that I have been a vegetarian for 7 years now. All I could think about was the horrible shopping trip it would take to make all those recipes.

You see, I am an all or nothing sorta girl. The idea of slowing building a kitchen pantry that could hold the necessary ingredients for most of those recipes is pure craziness to me. If I can't have it all at once, then why bother. Insanity, I know. I wanted to throw the books out the back door.

However, being the all or nothing gal that I am, I have a problem. I have committed to this vegan thing and that is going to mean learning some new recipes. (Because there is NO way I am going a full year without chocolate cookies. So somewhere along the line I am going to have to figure out a way to make 'em and I just spent 40 bucks on new cookbooks.) So, I invented in my head New Food Friday.

I picked up Tempeh on Tuesday, found a recipe from the Vegan Table by Colleen Goudreau that required only one other additional purchase (Vegenaise... eggless Mayo), and used nap time today to make some killer 'Curried Better- Than- Chicken Salad' sandwiches.

Mayo without eggs is not as bad as it sounds, in fact if I hadn't told my husband, he wouldn't have know. It was also surprisingly affordable, not something I was expecting. Tempeh, also affordable ($2 for 8 ounces at Whole Foods), is incredibly easy to work with. I know why it is such a staple ingredient. In just 10 words: little effort required, meat like texture and virtually no identifiable taste.

My husband gave it a 5 on a scale from 1-10. That is only because he doesn't like curry. Apparently a bad experience with Curried Baby Back Ribs in Iraq ruined it for him. Too bad because I heart curry. I was excited about the recipe, sweet with a tangy kick. Definitely something my mom will enjoy when she visits, minus the cayenne powder. This is also the type of recipe that I already have memorized. It was a good place for my overwhelmed brain to start. Good confidence booster you might say. Hayden had a big bite and said "I don't like that." I didn't expect him to, which is why he ate soy yogurt, carrots and hummus. (Little man LOVES hummus- eats it with a spoon.)

First New Food Friday was a success. And who knows, maybe with practice I could become a slow and steady wins the race kind of girl. In time.
Cheers to Friday!