Sunday, April 29, 2012

Engine 2 Veggie Paninis

WARNING!  Blurry picture alert! LOL

Was in the mood for a sandwich, and this hit the spot!  It was different, but very filling and yummy!  We don't have a panini maker, but a griddle pan and 10 lb weight do the trick :)


2T homemade hummus (recipe coming soon!)
2 pieces whole wheat bread (the denser, the better!)
1/4c baby spinach
1/4c sauteed mushrooms (used no oil)
diced avocado
thin strips of red bellpepper
green onions 
small handful of cilantro
fresh lime juice, squeezed over greens

On stovetop, heat a panini griddle pan.  Spread hummus on one slice of whole wheat bread.  Layer remaining ingredients and top with other slice of bread.  Place a dinner plate on top of the sandwich, and use the handweight to press the sandwich. Your sandwich will be thick, but the hand weight will help press it evenly!  
Heat sandwich until grill marks show up and the bread is toasted to a nice, brown color.  Flip sandwich and heat on grill pan.

I thought this was a great addition to our mealplan (the kids would not agree...*sigh*)  Took a couple minutes to whip up the hummus, but took no time to assemble the sandwich!  We will be making this again...excited to try some different variations.  

Engine 2 Diet!

LOVE this book!!!  This clip from the Today Show is very helpful for anyone just starting out :)

Meal Plan for April 29-May 5

Lunch: Engine 2 Paninis with pita chips and berries
Dinner: Easy Meatless Chili 
Lunch:  Almond Butter and Blueberry Jam Sandwiches, yellow grape tomatoes, soy yogurt
Dinner:  Spicy Thai Peanut Noodles with Ginger Dressing Salad
Lunch:  LO Spicy Thai Peanut Noodles
Dinner: Quinoa Pilaf with Diced Veggies, Steamed cauliflower, Roasted Squash

Lunch:  PB Crackers, baby carrots, berries
Dinner: Gardein Mandarin Chicken with Brown Rice and Green Onions, Steamed broccoli and edamame; diced pineapple 
Lunch:  LO Mandarin Chicken
Dinner: veggie fajitas (red bellpepper, green bellpepper, Portobello mushrooms, onions) with guacamole salad and spanish rice
Lunch:  vegan BBQ Riblet, pasta salad, green beans
Dinner: Red Beans and Rice, Cornbread
Lunch:  Boca Burgers with 2x baked potatoes and carrot/raisin/apple salad
Dinner:  Red Beans and Rice (LO)

Saturday, April 28, 2012

What I'm Reading Now: Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease

I love seeing all the medical facts, rates, and percentages!  If you have seen Forks Over Knives, you are familiar with Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn (his son is Rip, who heads the Engine 2 Diet plan books and dvds) This is definitely a good book for those interested in stopping and reversing any heart damage.  While we DEFINITELY want to eat and prevents cancer/disease, heart health is kind of at the top of our list at the moment after our episode last summer!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Just a General Health Update :)

We are approaching 9 weeks of a total diet, lifestyle turn-around.  Yes-there have been days that I want to go back to and smack myself, and ask "what are you thinking?!".  Overall, it has been a fun adventure for Kyle and me to rethink our way of eating.  It has been exciting to teach the kids the value of good food choices, and how we can eat our way to a healthy lifestyle.

These are just some ideas and thoughts that I have had over the last few weeks :)

1.  My horrible, excruciating seasonal allergies and eczema are 99% gone.  At this time last year, I was on 3 pills, a prescription eye-drop, a steroid cream, and also had one cortisone shot to keep my eyes and lips from swelling.  This year-I used a $3 bottle of Clear Eyes from Walgreens to help the tiny bit of itching I experienced.  Totally blaming it on a change of what i'm putting in my body

2.  After working diligently for 1 year to lose weight, I am proud to say that I have lost 55 lbs and 30% of my total body weight.  Went from 179 to 124 in 15 months.  The thing that sucks?  You have to work at maintaining.  Just hitting your goal weight isn't enough, you have to keep at it.  Eating plant strong has allowed me to fill fuller, for longer.  I actually eat WAY more calories, yet maintain my weight beautifully!  It has been awesome :)

3.  I taste my food!  I mean-really taste it!  My taste buds have matured over the last few months as well...I have gone from hating certain foods to CRAVING them!  Bellpeppers are probably the one food I notice the them now!  I tried some non-dairy coffee creamer (in a pinch) and was disgusted at how "chemical" it tasted!  Yuck!

4.  My bowels regular! :)

5.  I see my kids making good choices and thinking about WHY we should or should not eat something...That should probably be #1.  I was not raised on a healthy diet.  I don't want to raise my kids on a typical, American diet.  It scared me to read obesity rates in children; to see the instances of Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure is terrifying!

6.  I don't crave coke!  Anyone that knows me (Ahem-Shelly...) knows that I was horribly addicted to Coke.  Any kind-pepsi, coke, dr pepper, cherry coke was my favorite!  I have done without and have no cravings for it anymore.  I tried to take a small sip about a month ago, and it hurt SO bad to swallow the *fizziness* of it.  Water or tea, please!

7.  I just *feel* good.  I had some recent health issues and found our that my iron levels were extremely low.  My doctor threatened a blood transfusion if it got one point worse.  I had all the typical symptoms:  fatigue, sleepiness, feeling tired right after waking, difficulty swallowing, headaches, heavy cycles, and mild forgetfulness.  All this was attributed to low iron, even though I ate lots of lean meats.  When deciding to go veggie, I was really nervous about it.  Without meat, we were forced to look at what we ate, and make each bite count.  I eat waaaaay more green leafy veggies than before, which contain lots of iron.  I feel a million times better, and have so much more energy than before!

8.  The cost is worth it.  Yes-we do spend more at the grocery store to eat like this.  But-I have had to remind myself that it is either A-spend money on plant strong food now, or B-pay out the wazoooo for health procedures and medicines later on in life.  I don't want my husband laying on that hospital bed, waiting for his next heart cath anytime soon.  It was a real wake up call to us.  Worth. Every. Penny.

9.  Don't fret over bad choices.  This is so much easier for Kyle than me.  I am a total junk food lover.  I admit-the Cadbury eggs were just too tempting this Easter.  I ate my fill, and got back in line afterwards.  Going into this not as a "diet", but a change of our lifestyle has made it easier to get back up, dust off, and try harder.  I have not eaten meat or straight milk/eggs, but have snuck in bits of ice cream and cheese.  Instead of beating myself up, I strive to do better.  My dairy episodes are less and less frequent as we learn to replace our meals and snacks.  A "horrible day" now is still better than a "good day" one year ago!

What I'm Reading Now: Engine 2 Diet

Kyle and I are both reading this now...I am loving it!  It has a wealth of information, not just on the plant based diet, but fitness and overall health.  The first half of the book is the background information.  The rest is made up of (awesome) recipes!  If you are familiar with the documentary Forks Over Knives, you are familiar with Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn and his approach to a cancer free, disease free way of living that is based on eating plants.  No meat, no dairy, little to no oil.  Rip Esselstyn is the son of the famous doctor, and shows you that real people can live a normal life and still eat "plant strong".

My sister in law, Pam, is also reading the book and embarking on this veggie filled journey with us.  Her blog, Honez Fam, has an EXCELLENT review of the book and some info to go along with it.  Feel free to check it out!  She wrote out everything I wanted to say, but didn't have time to think about! LOL

If you are vegan leaning and concerned about health, I would suggest this book.  I like how they don't claim to be "vegan" or "vegetarian".  Yes-they do avoid meat, dairy, and seafood, but don't replace it with many soy meat substitutes that are out there today.  It is a great read!  I am glad I added it to my collection.

Dinner Review: Gardein Mandarin Chicken

While following this diet (which I still can't figure out what to call...not quite vegan?  vegan leaning vegetarian?  95% Plant-Based?), one of the harder things for us has been those nights when you need a "quick fix".  Before, ordering fast food or take out would have been a simple solution.  I still have every take out place on my cell phone speed dial!

These days?  Not so much.  Take out options are severely limited.  We do occasionally eat sushi (crab/shrimp) but try to only go once a month or so for the time being.  We can get vegetarian options at the Mexican restaurant down the road (beans, rice, veggie fajitas) but it is so darn SALTY!  I do order a cheese free pizza loaded with veggies, but once again-not something I want to depend on.

We ended up switching around 2 dinners from the meal plan, and decided to try this.  It was around $4 at Whole Foods.  It is a package of thin sliced frozen "chick'n" that you saute and add a sweet Chinese sauce.  We served it over brown rice and topped it with green onions.  Also added edamame and broccoli (steamed).  It was amazing.  The kids loved it, which is always our big test.

Like I said earlier-we try to eat as "plant based" as possible, and I don't like to add a whole lot of processed foods, but there are just nights that it helps out SOOOO much to have things like this on hand.  It makes me feel better to think that it is still better than a Happy Meal from McDonalds.  

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Meal Plan (April 23-27)

Lunch:  LO Squash Casserole, Sweet Potato, Green Peas
Dinner:  Corn Chowder from Skinny Bitch Everyday cookbook, Salad 
Lunch:  Peanut Butter Sandwich on WW bread, fruit, yogurt
Dinner: Veggie Lasagna, roasted petite Brussels sprouts, salad

Lunch:  Chickpea Mock Tuna with crackers and Romaine lettuce
Dinner: Mandarin Chicken (Gardein brand) with brown rice and steamed broccoli 
Lunch:  Baby Carrots & Guacamole, Sliced Pear, Pita Chips
Dinner:  Mushroom and Herb couscous with sauteed mushrooms, roasted veggies 

Lunch:  Veggie Pizza with no cheese, applesauce
Dinner: Star Pasta with veggies, kale salad
Grocery Shopping Day!!!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

My Cure for a Cheesecake Craving!

1/2 clamshell of fresh strawberries, rinsed and sliced

In food processor, blend:
1/4 c Tofutti "Better than Cream Cheese"
1/2 c organic powdered sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla

1/2 c crushed Graham Cracker sticks

Separate berries into small bowls.  Pour 1T sauce over the berries, and top with crushed graham cracker crumbs.  This made 6 little cups. Was really sweet and kept me from breaking down and ordering Copeland's cheesecake! LOL

Meal Plan: April 16-22

Lunch:  Mock Chikn Salad (Whole Foods deli) with crackers and romaine, fruit salad
Dinner:  Whole Wheat Alphabet Veggie Soup, Side Salad, Roasted Asparagus

Lunch:  LO Alphabet Soup, crackers, berries
Dinner: Herbed White Beans over Rice, Sweet Potatoes, Roasted Veggies
Lunch:  LO White Beans and Rice
Dinner:  Spicy Thai Peanut Noodles, Salad with Ginger Dressing
Lunch:  Veggie Fajitas with WW Tortilla, Guacamole, Mexican Rice
Dinner: Chicken Parmesan, salad, corn
Lunch:  Pasta Salad with veggies and seeds, organic fruit strip
Dinner: Boca Burgers with Potato Salad and Baked Beans
Lunch:  ???
Dinner:  ???
Lunch: Veggie Lasagna, Salad
Dinner: PB/J or Cereal :)

Veggie Burgers?

I have always loooooved a good hamburger.  Like-really loved them.  I never ate a whole lot of other red meat, but I do love burgers.  I decided to try the Boca Vegan burger the other day, and was really surprised at how good it was.  It has a different texture, but the flavor itself is really good!  I paired it with Alexa onion rings, EEK! non-Vegan Annie's bunny macaroni, and Tofutti sour cream topped red potatoes.  It was a filling, easy meal that let me use up some of our "old diet" foods that were still in the pantry :)

So-if you are hesitant to try the Boca burgers, don't worry!  They are really good :)  Just make sure to check that they are "Vegan" on the box.  Some often use eggs to bind the ingredients, and can also include meat.

I topped mine with Veganaise, romaine lettuce, and about a tablespoon of Daiya cheddar cheese shreds (soy).  Very tasty!

Recipe: Spinach Stuffed Shells

This was really easy, really yummy, and a different way to get in a pasta dish.  It reminded me a little bit of lasagna...

1 box of large pasta shells
1 large jar organic pasta sauce
1 cup of frozen spinach, lightly steamed
"ricotta" cheese

Preheat oven to 350*

Bring 20 pasta shells to a boil in lightly salted water.

In a food processor, add 8 oz firm tofu, 1 tsp agave nectar, 1 tsp cider vinegar, and 3-4T nutritional yeast.  Blend until smooth.  Add steamed spinach and blend until creamy.

When pasta is al dente, pour into strainer, and rinse with cool water.  Pour 1/2 c pasta sauce into a glass casserole dish and cover the bottom.  Stuff spinach mixture into the shells.  I scooped my ricotta/spinach blend into a gallon Ziploc with the corner snipped to help fill the shells easily.

Layer the shells side-by-side.  Cover with the remaining pasta sauce (not pictured)  Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes, covered.

School Lunch: Peanut Butter Wrap

Easy peasy lunch for Taylor!  Whole wheat tortilla with natural peanut butter, coconut milk, yellow pear tomatoes, berries/raisins for "dessert".

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Friday, April 6, 2012

Meal Plan: April 7-13

Lunch:  Spinach and "Ricotta" stuffed shells, salad, homemade bread
Dinner:  Mock Chicken Salad, baby carrots, crackers
Lunch:  Squash Casserole (vegetarian-contains organic cream of mushroom soup)roasted Brussels sprouts, organic macaroni and cheese (vegetarian), baked sweet   potato
Dinner:  PB/J, fruit, Leftovers
Lunch:  Minestrone and salad
Dinner:  Boca Spicy Chikn Patty on Bun, Cheezy Potatoes, Asparagus
Lunch:  Mock Chikn Salad with crackers and romaine, fruit salad
Dinner:  "Breakfast for Dinner"  Whole-wheat pancakes with muscadine syrup, biscuits and  veggie sausage,smoothies, hashbrowns
Lunch:  Pasta Salad with veggies and seeds, organic fruit strip
Dinner:  Red beans and rice, cornbread
Lunch:  Leftover RB and Rice
Dinner:  Burritos with vegan taco meat, refried beans, lettuce, tomato, guac, tofutti sour cream, pico de gallo, Mexican rice
Lunch:  Leftover taco salad
Dinner:  Fants OR couscous, roasted red potatoes, onion rings, squash
Grocery Shopping Day!  Usually meal plan in the morning over coffee and pick up something for lunch.  I'm thinking pizza or sushi :)

What I'm Currently Reading


I have no words for this documentary...Heartbreaking?  Disturbing?  Lifechanging?

I originally quit eating meat for the health benefits, but at this point it goes far beyond that.

Click here to watch.

Warning:  there are extremely disturbing and violent scenes, some language from the factory workers.  Do not watch around kids :(

Whole Foods Market Haul

First of all, let me say how JEALOUS I am of those people who live near a Whole Foods.  I got to visit one for the first time today with my mother-in-law, and was amazed :)  (It was well worth the 2 HOUR DRIVE to Baton Rouge.) We have a tiny 3 aisle "natural section" at our Kroger that has been getting us by, but there are SOOO many things that we can't get there.  

Today I was able to go and pick up a few odds and ends.  We will be making another "big trip" soon, but these were some of the favorite snacks/items.  The judge?  My kids, and in order to please them, it has to be good.  These were the things that they loved best.

Almond milk pudding-tasted amazing!  Just like regular pudding cups!

Vegan Marshmallows (No icky gelatin)  Each kid got 2.  Chase and Taylor could have polished off the whole box, but Addison didn't seem to like the texture.  

These were suggested by the girl bagging our groceries.  The top one is a regular "mock chicken" salad, and the bottom one is a bit spicier, being a buffalo mock chicken salad.  Both were awesome on crackers...I ended up standing at the counter eating them, no plate! LOL

These were high suggested as the best vegan cheeses.  They supposedly stretch and melt like their dairy counterparts...we shall see!

This is an item we can get at Kroger for $4, but found it at WF for just over $2...and in a flavor that we don't carry in Alexandria!  Yay for French Vanilla coffee!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Products I Love: Pampered Chef Pineapple Slicer

This thing is the greatest!  Pineapple is my all-time favorite fruit, but it can be so darn hard to cut and slice.  This tool makes it a snap!  We probably eat 1-2 pineapples a week, and this really helps us.  Not only is it safer to cut the pineapple with, but I feel it also saves $$$ because you only cut off the inedible pieces, leaving more fruit to eat!  

Slice the top and bottom off with a knife, and use this...similar to an apple slicer, but WAY bigger LOL

 Thick, chunky slices and the inedible core

 Addison approved :)
Linkadoo to Stacie Thomas's Pampered Chef Website!

Quick Fix Dinner Idea!

Dirty Rice, BBQ Beans, Potato Salad! 

This meal was good, easy, and 99.9% vegan.  We still eat honey, and I used it to help "doctor" up canned vegetarian beans.  Also-my beloved Worcestershire sauce is technically not vegan.  It contains a tiny amount of anchovy in it!  I had a full bottle in the pantry, and rarely use it...We will finish this bottle and then try to find a vegan version to use.

Dirty Rice 

2 c cooked white rice (cooked and cooled)
1/2 package Boca crumbles
1/2 green bellpepper, 1/2 white onion, 1 large celery stalk, 1 garlic clove-all chopped and    sauteed
1 tsp Tony's seasoning
Worcestershire sauce-to taste (Gonna see if I can find a vegan version at Whole Foods)

Saute veggies/garlic, add Boca "meat" crumbles and heat.  Add Tony's and Wor. sauce.  Stir meat and rice together.  I let mine sit in the fridge, and reheated several hours later so the flavors could blend.  Is GREAT for leftovers!

BBQ Beans

1 large can vegetarian baked beans (Bush's are great!)
several drops of liquid smoke 
2T honey (*technically not vegan, but not an animal product.  I love honey!)

Potato Salad

3 organic Russet Potatoes-I peeled 2, and didn't peel the last to keep some of the nutrients
1/4 cup Veganaise
2T yellow mustard
S&P to taste
4 baby kosher dills pickles, chopped

Chop potatoes, boil, and drain.  Mix ingredients and chill :)  Easy peasy!

Gotta Get Those Veggies In

21 Day Vegan Kickstart!!!

Today's Lunch Menu:

Roasted Veggies:  butternut squash with panko breadcrumbs
                          red potatoes (which are cheap because of crawfish season! Woot!)
Near East brand couscous in "Mushroom and Herb" flavor, topped with sauteed mushrooms

Recipe: Curried Pumpkin Soup


3T Earth Balance Spread
2 Granny Smith Apples (peeled, cored, and chopped)
1 onion (chopped)
2 c Pumpkin Puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling-just the canned pumpkin)
1T curry powder
1T brown sugar
3 c vegetable stock
1/2 c white wine (i used cooking wine)
1.5 c almond milk (I used coconut milk)
S/P to taste
2T toasted pumpkin seeds, for garnish

*NOTE* The original recipe also calls for 1/4 evaporated cane sugar-I found the soup WAAAY too sweet this time.  Flavor was great, but it was super sweet.  I couldn't eat another serving.  I will not use sugar in it all all next time!!!


-Melt butter over medium heat.  Add apple and onion.  Cook until soft (About 8 minutes)  Add pumpkin puree, curry, and sugar.  Cook 2 minutes.

-Add stock and wine.  Increase heat and bring to boil.  Reduce to low, partially cover, and simmer 20 minutes.  

-Remove from heat, transfer half of soup to blender/food processor.  Pour in bowl, and blend remaining soup.  Bring back to pot when all soup is blended.  Add milk and heat.  

*Instead of burning my hand off trying to remove soup and use the food processor, I just used my immersion blender!  This will save time and pain! LOL

-Pour into serving bowls and sprinkle with pumpkin seeds (pepitas).  Was great served with French bread!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Recipe: Hearty Bean Burgers

 Recipe by Vegan Grub was found here.

This was one of the first meat replacements we tried.  Kyle really liked it, I thought it was "ok".  Given this was eaten in the first day or two of our big switch, I had steak and chicken fresh on my brain.  If I were to fix it again today, I would probably eat two! LOL

I really liked the fact that is was minimally processed.  Would a Boca Burger taste better?  Heck yeah-but those too are processed heavily.  I went into this whole thing saying I wanted to avoid a lot of processed food, and those were included.  Now, I believe they are WAAAAAAY better than a big hunk of beef, but I still don't want to get into the habit of living on Garden Burgers or Morning Star items.  In moderation, they are fine!

Hearty Bean Burgers
Makes about 4 burgers.

1 generous cup cooked kidney beans
½ cup rolled oats (not instant)
2 tbsp Kikkoman soy sauce, or to taste
¼ tsp garlic powder
few drops Colgin liquid smoke (optional)
expeller-pressed canola oil, for skillet
1 small red onion sliced into rings for topping

Drain and mash kidney beans.
Add oats.
Add soy sauce and garlic powder. If using, add about 3 drops of Colgin liquid smoke.
Mix thoroughly.
Chill 20 minutes in fridge to firm up, unless beans were stored in fridge and pre-chilled.

Make patties.
Pan-fry in oiled skillet.
Brown both sides.
Top with raw or stir-fried onions.

Serve on artisan bread smothered with Vegenaise mayo and Dijon mustard or other condiments. If you’re one of those folks who thinks cayenne hot sauce should be spattered on everything, you’re right and this is no exception.

Invent dozens of new variations, such as adding chopped baby portobello mushrooms or 1 tablespoon of barbecue sauce to the bean mixture. Portobellos provide a deep, rich flavor. By using kidney beans and rolled oats as the basic foundation for homemade burgers, the possibilities are endless.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Recipe: Mock Tuna Salad

Warning!  New Favorite Lunch Alert!  This is AH-MAZ-ING! 


1 can chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
1/4 c vegan mayonnaise (I used Veganaise)
3 baby kosher dill pickles (chopped)
1/32 c baby carrots, finely diced
S&P to taste, Sprinkle of Tony's cajun seasoning

Coarsely mash one can of chickpeas in a bowl.  Dice carrots and pickles, and add to bowl.  Spoon in mayo and stir together!  Enjoy with crackers, on a bed of baby spinach, or on a sandwich!  Wonderful stuff :)  

*I may try to add some finely diced celery next time...maybe some apple (I like both in tuna salad...)  It is a very close substitute for tuna.  Similar in taste and texture, but not fishy (obviously! LOL)  We will be making this often!