Friday, November 25, 2011

E2 - 28 Day Challenge Wrap-Up

So I promised a follow-up post to our conclusion of the 28 Day (not quite) Challenge.

If you've read my daily posts you know that this challenge has been just that, challenging. The kiddos, especially the littles, constantly rejected my vegan offerings and often were fed a different meal. I was hoping that the challenge would encourage some weight-loss and it didn't, not for any of us. I think this happened for several reasons. 1. I deviated from the menu on occasion based on our schedule and what I knew we would, and would not, eat. 2. We rarely added extra exercise into our day and 3. portion control. I didn't feel bad having seconds if it's a plate of veggies... maybe I should have.

Several of you have asked questions. Here are some of them....

Why Almond milk and not soy? Soy contains estrogen-like chemicals, called phytoestrogens, and heightened exposure to estrogen has been linked with increased risk of breast cancer. I've got three young daughters and two growing boys who don't need any extra estrogen.

Is regular organic milk that bad? Organic milk is a better choice than regular milk simply because it's organic BUT organic milk 1. is still dairy, and 2. is ULTRA pasteurized - the process of
heating every particle of milk or milk product to 280ºF. This kills a lot of the beneficial nutrients... think about raw veggies vs cooked veggies. Cooked veggies aren't bad for you. You just retain more of 'the good stuff' when you consume them raw.

Does raw milk have casein? yes, because casein is an animal protein.

How does eating vegan affect your grocery bill? Well, this challenge affected our grocery bill somewhat. We eat out a LOT (3-4 meals a week) but on the diet we only ate out maybe once a week. This decreased out dining out budget but increased our grocery bill. Also, because there was a menu to follow as opposed to being able to meal plan based on grocery store sales had an impact too. It's the end of the month and we're making meals from what's in the freezer and pantry. I think going forward this shouldn't change our bill too much. You can get good deals on produce if you buy what's on sale and seasonal items tend to be a little cheaper. Also, I never bought a single container of 'milk' without using a coupon (lots of which I found online & printed at home). I matched it with stores that had it on sale and saved a lot this way.

Doesn't eating all those veggies and fiber cause lots of gas? Our house has definitely been a little rooty-tooty and not so fresh-n-fruity lately. Several forums I read said that your body needs time to adjust to cleaning out your system and processing all this extra fiber. Some people said they've eaten vegetarian for many years with no relief of excess gas. I think it depends on the person?? 

What websites are good for vegan recipes? The Post Punk Kitchen has quite a few recipes as well as a forum for asking questions. VegWeb has a lot of recipes too. I like the Engine 2 website but I found several of the recipes there are incomplete, so if you see a recipe on there you'd like to try google it. Several of them have been posted on SparkRecipes and are good. There are a lot, just google it. I'll post some of my favorites as I come across them. And if you've got some good ones please share! :)

Where do you go from here? Well, we've decided to make several of these changes permanent. Like always I'll continue to cut more and more processed foods out of our diet. We've been switching all of our 'whites' to 'browns' for a while now - brown rice, whole wheat flour, sucanat - instead of their white, over-processed, nutritionally void counterparts. We've never been big beef eaters so that's not too different but we do consume a lot of chicken. I'd like to cut this back a bit and try to have more meat-less meals. Graham is consuming almost no dairy and will continue to do so. He's realized the benefits on his digestive system and doesn't want to go back. All of us will make a permanent switch to almond/coconut milk. The kids love the original almond milk so why not? Less hormones that way too. I've started doing the Apple Cider Vinegar drink. I usually add 4 tsp to a 16 oz bottle of water and drink half of it in the morning and the other half in the afternoon. A friend mixes hers with apple juice to combat the pungent taste. I don't mind vinegar so the taste doesn't bother me. The girls have had a little here and there and they don't mind the taste in water either. Dr. Mercola has a good article about ACV. Make sure you read the whole thing.

I think more than anything we've been armed with information, information that can help us make wiser decisions on what we use to nourish our bodies. I have to balance what I've learned with what the bible says about the food God has provided. I think, like always, everything in moderation. A little meat won't kill us and I could use a little bacon in my life :)

Can-solidator Cabinet Organizer Giveaway!!!

One of my favorite blogs, Life In A Shoe is doing a giveaway that has me all giddy. We all know that one of my favorite hobbies is couponing. And now, as my stockpile grows, the need for organization increases as well. I'd LOVE to have one of these can organizers. Wouldn't you? Over at Shelf Reliance they have all kinds of shelving units, from the large units you might see in a store to the small 20 can units that would fit perfect in your cabinet. Head over to Life's blog here and enter! Maybe this beauty can be yours!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

E2 - 28 Day Challenge - Days 15, 16, 17, &18

I'm several days behind in posting. I'll try to condense and sum up...

On The Menu (Which ended up being what we actually ate):
Breakfast: the usuals - Cereal, toast with fruit
Lunch: typically leftovers from the night before with salad
Dinner: Split Pea Soup, Veggie Burgers, Pad Thai, Jane's Jammin' Burritos

My Thoughts:
Surprisingly we stuck to the menu pretty well. I mean, I looked at the actual menu for those days, adjusted a little based on our schedule and the groceries I had on hand and then planned accordingly. We ate what I'd planned for the most part. The veggie burgers were a last minute time saver on a stressful day. Just some MorningStar Farms Grillers Prime frozen patties that I'd picked up a few weeks ago. I've always been a fan of their black bean burgers and these were just as tasty. The kids liked them and probably wouldn't have known they weren't 'real' burgers if I hadn't told them.

The Pad Thai turned out to be a little bit different. I went to the store on an evening run to get a few things and somewhere between the car and the store I lost my grocery list. Tried to remember everything I needed but completely forgot the veggies for this. Several of the reviews I read said that this dish turned out to be a big disappointment so I changed out a few things - I used Brown Rice Noodles instead of the traditional rice noodles because they cook like traditional white pasta. I also bought a jar of Annie Chun's Pad Thai sauce at Sprouts, which probably wasn't as healthy as the E2 version but it saved me a lot of time and was actually very good. Not too spicy so the kids liked it. I just poured it over our noodles and served it with a side of steamed brussel sprouts.

Tonight I'm making the 'jammin' burritos' and they sound like they should be pretty good - What doesn't taste good with some black beans, salsa, and guacamole slathered all over it, right?

So I think this is the end for us. 18 days is a decent run. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving with second Thanksgiving on Saturday and I think it's just going to be too hard to try to get back on the wagon. There are several reasons I think this was not the best time to try this: 1. I've got lots of small children, some of whom are picky eaters to begin with. I'm tired of the littles not eating the meals I prepare because they don't like them and then snacking all day long and I let them because I want them to eat something. 2. This time of year is SO crazy. We eat out quite a bit, way more than I did growing up and that's only going to compound with the hectic days to come. We were out running errands on Monday trying to hit the grocery store before the deluge of Turkey Day shoppers and while we were out it made since for us to stop and get lunch out. After half an hour of debating we finally just ended up at Chick-fil-a. They had a play ground so the kids could run off some energy instead of doing it in the store while I was shopping.And 3. There are so many things we get to have this time of year that we don't get any other time of the year. It's part of they I enjoy this season. So many experiences that come from what we consume and who we consume it with. I don't want to stress over "Is this vegan?" every time.

I'll try to post either later today or tomorrow a kind of summary, answer the questions I've been asked, and share some of my favorite recipes. It's been a learning experience & I've tried things I've never had before. But now, I think I'm ready for a plate of Yucatan Taco Stand chicken nachos.... 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

E2 - 28 Day Challenge Days 13 & 14

I decided to combine 2 days into one post.I figured you wouldn't mind.

On the Menu - Day 13:
Breakfast: Mighty Muffins
Lunch: Leftover Burgers & Fries
Dinner: Fajitas w/ Brown Rice and guacamole

What We Actually Ate:
Breakfast: Cereal - I didn't have all of the ingredients to make the muffins but they sound good so I will this week
Lunch: The kids had Mac-n-cheese from Central Market. I ate some pita chips & hummus
Dinner: Jason's Deli

My Thoughts:
We had a play date with friends on Friday which was so much fun. We ran some errands afterwards and I needed to stop by Central market so I gave in and let the kids share a thing of their prepared Mac-n-cheese. At this point I just want the littles to eat something and this they willingly gobbled up. We did dinner at Jason's where the littles ate PB & J, the bigs had salad bar, Graham had some kind of pasta with grilled veggies and I had a veggalatta muffalatta - hold the mushrooms, tomatoes, & of course, the cheese. It was good except the bread was really dry and crispy. I drank lots of water with my meal.

On The Menu - Day 14:
Breakfast: Lemon Cornmeal Pancakes with Raspberries
Lunch: Big Leaf Wraps
Dinner: Split Pea Soup w/ Toasted Pitas

What We Actually Ate:
Breakfast: a Banana - the kids had muffins (We participated in the St. Jude's Give Thanks. Walk. which meant leaving the house at the crack o' dawn. They served fruit and muffins at the walk)
Lunch: Grilled Veggie Fajitas on Whole Wheat Tortillas with some guac
Dinner: Well... um... I cheated....


 Shameful, I know. I'd gotten very little sleep the night before and had a headache most of the day. Graham and the kids, all but Rhys, went to play with Uncle Josh and cousin Eli. So the baby and I crashed on the couch and slept for a few hours which meant a bigger headache and a groggy fog when we got up. Graham took us to the store so I could get a few ingredients for dinner. We'd made a plan to stop by Chicken Express afterwards for a Dublin Dr. Pepper to hopefully help alleviate my headache and drowsiness. As we walked out of the store the kids asked what we were having for dinner. Split pea soup. GROAN. 

"You want to get the kids some chicken?"
"So they get chicken & we have to eat soup?"
"..... we can have chicken too."

I was set-up. Entrapment I tell ya!

Um, yeah. We're not talking 'I had a little cheese on my pizza'. We're talking full on FRIED CHICKEN, mashed potatoes WITH cream gravy and dinner rolls. We did have green beans but I can pretty much GUARANTEE they were cooked with bacon. Oh, I know. This was not good... but it tasted so good. And I got my Dr. Pepper.

My sweet husband is helping us get back on track today. We're meeting his mom for lunch and he could have very easily picked a 'non-vegan' friendly place but he choose to go to Souper Salad. "We can't cheat today" he says. Thanks hunny. And they don't know it yet but we're gonna have that soup for dinner tonight ;)

Friday, November 18, 2011

E2 - 28 Day Challenge - Day 12

On The Menu:
Breakfast: Oatmeal
Lunch: E2 Basics Tacos
Dinner: NY Times Veggie Burger & Potato Wedges

What We Actually Ate:
Breakfast: Grapefruit & Cereal
Lunch: Spaghetti
Dinner: NY Times Veggie Burger & Mixed Baby Greens

My Thoughts:
Ok. This burger was actually not half bad. Super easy to make, I just took a can of vegetarian refried black beans (The recipe called for just canned black beans but all I had were refried - these just had water and some sea salt added to them, they worked fine) a can of rotel style tomatoes with chilies, and some seasonings and combine them in a food processor - I had to borrow my mom's. The recipe called for carrots and onions which I didn't use because I didn't have. Then you stir in 2 cups of oats. Bake for 8 minutes and then flip and broil for an additional 2 minutes. They really didn't take any time at all. All the reviews I read about this burger said they held together better than any other veggie burger they'd tried to make and for us this was true as well. They also had a consistency that was closer to an actual meat burger. Not a whole lot of flavor but that can easily be remedied. Since we were having the salad as a side dish we didn't top them with many veggies. Just some bell peppers and condiments. And after finding this photo I kind of wished I'd busted out some of the guac I've got in the fridge.

I wouldn't say I've got a lot more energy than usual but I have felt a little more 'get-up'. Before, I spent most days sitting and feeding the baby or sitting and doing school or sitting and folding laundry. But now I kind of can't sit still for very long. I think my kitchen has been cleaner the past three days than it has in a while. Not a huge improvement health wise but every little bit helps.

There is also a little bit of illness floating around. I'll be interested to see if our 2 weeks of eating better helps to fend it off. Because I'm thinking if I get sick, all bets are off. ;)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

E2 - 28 Day Challenge - Day 11

On The Menu:
Breakfast: Orange & a Bagel
Lunch: Leafy Wrap
Dinner: Picadillo Burrito

What We Actually Ate:
Breakfast : Grapefruit & Bagel
Lunch: Four Star Cafe
Dinner: Roasted Red & Yellow Bell Peppers, Baked Sweet Potatoes, Mustard Greens w/ cashew sauce

My Thoughts:
Seriously. I have no idea what happened to this weeks menu but what the diet suggests and the order I wrote them down in is all kinds of whacked. I'm going to try to get back on track today.

We decided to spend the afternoon running some errands so we opted to visit daddy at Four Star for lunch. The kids all had the California club with no bacon, and only a tiny bit of turkey. The turkey was the only part Silas ate. I had some romaine with artichoke hearts, olives, and red bell peppers with the Greco dressing (lemon juice, olive oil, & seasonings). It was yummy!

I think one of the neat things about doing this is that it forces me to try new foods. Yesterday it was bok choy and soba noodles, today it's mustard greens. I know traditionally it's fried but with some bacon, which I can only imagine tastes fabulous, but ours was just boiled until it wilted and we topped it with a cashew sauce. The greens had a similar taste to brussel sprouts. The cashew sauce looked like and had a similar taste to hummus. To make it we took about a pound of cashews, a little bit of tamari, and some water to make it into a paste. It was pretty salty, I think mostly because we used regular cashews and not raw, but it was great with the greens. The sweet potatoes were HEAVEN and I didn't do a darn thing to them. I washed off the skins and then stuck them in a pyrex casserole dish and put them in the oven on 450° for about 45 minutes. We mashed them up and the kids had a little demerara sugar on theirs but I had mine plain. So creamy and good for you!

Last night I went to the store to get some more milk and I picked up a half gallon of Silk brand coconut milk. My Albertson's had it on sale for $3 and I had a coupon so it was my most cost-effective choice. This morning everyone informed me, including the child who helped me pick it out at the store, that they didn't like it. No one wants to eat their cereal, the bagels are all gone (I forgot to get more at the store), and they are all complaining about their other options. Grrr. It's going to be a long day. Part of me thinks we should just finish out the week and call it quits... I mean, 2 weeks is good right? Ugh. This is a really hard choice to make when you've got small kiddos but I know it's better to do it now than when they are teens and the habits & tastes are even harder to change.

I would like to share some of the recipes if you guys would like to try them, but I want to know which ones specifically so I'm not posting a gazillion :) What would you like me to share?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Milk. It Does A Body Good?

When we watched Forks over Knives there were several things that, when they were said, really made since to me. Either because it sounded logical or because I've experienced this myself. They drew many connections between our diet and the presence of disease. One study that hit home in a hard harsh way was the connection between consuming low or non-fat dairy products and prostate cancer. Right at 4 years ago my Grandfather passed away after battling with prostate cancer. Prior to his illness he was the picture of health. He had been in the navy as a young man and I think a lot of those disciplines stuck with him. He was very active and strong, always watched what he ate. Consumed very little red meat and what he did eat was super lean. He ate fish, lots of veggies, & took his vitamins. One thing he was also strict about was his consumption of dairy, in a low fat or non-fat form. He, like most Americans, believed that the fat in milk was bad for you but you need the calcium so reduced fat was the 'better' choice.

"The fat in milk is there for a reason, namely to help the body absorb the milk's calcium and Vitamin D; improperly absorbed calcium can be 'toxic'." - Joanna Evans of the magazine What Doctors Don't Tell You

My Grandfather wasn't a smoker nor did he have any other risk 'factors'. For me, my Grandfather is a perfect picture of these studies. The 'modified' dairy makes since in connection to his cancer. In retrospect it makes me very sad that this one, simple thing, could have given us more time together and his final years less of a struggle.

I thought this was a good article from a UK men's health magazine explaining the issue.

There is a clip in the film where they explain how your body processes milk and absorbs the calcium. It also explains how the calcium in cow's milk is not easily absorbed. When we consume milk it creates an acid-like condition in the body called metabolic acidosis. The body leaches calcium from your bones in an effort to neutralize this, causing our bones to become weak and brittle. This, based on what we've been taught (mostly by the dairy industry), seems backwards. But my mom's mom is another example of this. Now, she did smoke for MANY years which probably only compounded the issue but she drank lots of milk. She was diagnosed with osteoporosis and like so many these days, dealt with hip fractures.

Another concern with milk and dairy products is casein. Casein is the main protein present in milk and (in coagulated form) in cheese. It's commonly found in mammalian milk, making up 80% of the proteins in cow milk and between 60% and 65% of the proteins in human milk. It is used in processed foods and in adhesives, paints, and other industrial products.

In T. Colin Campbell's The China Study he describes a direct correlation between casein administered to rats and the promotion of cancer cell growth when exposed to carcinogens. One group of rats was put on a 5% protein diet and another group on a 20% protein diet. Regardless of the amount of aflatoxin (a potent carcinogen) administered to these rats, NONE of the rats on 5% protein developed foci, precursors to cancerous cell growth, and EVERY rat on 20% protein developed the pre-cancer foci. Other studies conducted by Dr. Campbell on humans confirmed this correlation between the amount of protein consumed and the promotion of cancerous cell growth. Basically, he discovered that cancer growth could be turned on and off by adjusting the amount of animal protein in the diet. Casein has also been shown to aggravate the symptoms of Autism causing many with the disease to adhere to a gluten-free casein-free diet. *

Sadly casein & rennet, another bovine derived protein, are found in TONS of stuff, just like corn, including soy and almond cheeses. This makes it pretty much impossible for anyone eating a typical American diet to stay under that 5% and is why 1 out of every 2 men and 1 out of every 3 women will get cancer.

We've been using almond and coconut milks and like them a lot. They taste great and don't cause any digestive issues for the boys. I think this is a change we'll make permanent.

More reading:
Cancer Project

* from Wikipedia

E2 - 28 Day Challenge - Day 10

On the Menu:
Breakfast: Simple Cereal
Lunch: Open-faced sandwiches w/ cannellini dip
Dinner:Gingered mushrooms, bok choy, & carrots over soba noodles

What We Actually Ate:
Breakfast: Homemade Pumpkin bread
Lunch: Spinach Spaghetti w/ leftover pasta sauce
Dinner: Bok Choy & carrots over soba noodles

My Thoughts:
My Mom was super kind and baked us some yummy pumpkin bread and that's what we ate. No clue if it was vegan but it was good. The sandwiches didn't go over very well last week so we opted to use our leftover pasta sauce and ate it on some spinach fettuccine. It was very tasty. The spinach in the noodles just added to the flavor of the pasta sauce. We'll be eating this again.

Dinner was... weird. First, I hate ginger & mushrooms so I skipped that part of the recipe. I've never eaten bok choy or soba noodles so that in and of itself was an adventure. Bok choy is a Chinese cabbage that looks sort of like a hybrid between celery and romaine lettuce in that it has a hardy stalk as well as big green leaves. I wasn't sure what part we were supposed to eat. So I had to google it. You eat the whole thing. When I sauteed it a peppery flavor seemed to appear making the dish a little spicy for the girls. The soba noodles cooked really easily, like traditional dried pasta. The instructions on the package said to rinse the noodles with cold water, so I did and assumed the noodles were supposed to be eaten cold. They looked like little gray worms. Cold little gray worms. It looked disgusting but tasted like regular noodles. The sauce for the veggies was pretty tasty and the whole thing was pretty good once we nuked it in the microwave. The carrots were my favorite part of this dish, but we will probably not be repeating this one.

It's getting really old having to battle with the little ones over food. I say battle, it's not really that harsh but almost everything I fix gets met with a grimace. All of the sudden it seems like things Silas would normally eat, like the pasta, he pushes away and says "I no like it." I don't know if it's because it looks different or because he's almost 2 or because he'd rather eat candy. I'll be beyond thrilled when the candy is all gone, hopefully by the end of the week.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

E2 - 28 Day Challenge - Day 9

My coffee woes have been appeased. It was as simple as checking the dairy case at my local Sprouts. But more about that later...

On The Menu:
Breakfast: Banana & Toasted Bagel
Lunch: Supreme Pizza
Dinner: Roasted Red Peppers, Sweet Potatoes, & galloping greens with cashew sauce

What We Actually Ate:
Breakfast: Not Vegan: Quiche with cheese & lots of veggies, strawberry scones, fruit bowl, pumpkin muffins
Lunch: Nothing - The kids munched on some snacky stuff in the afternoon but we didn't have an official meal
Dinner: Make your own pizza

My Thoughts:

Today (Day 10) is my mom's birthday & several weeks ago her very dear friend asked if I would help her execute a surprise breakfast/brunch to celebrate my mom's special day. My job was to get her over there. I had to come up with an excuse as to why my mom would need to come with me so I told her that all of the kids had a Dr's appointment and I needed her to go with me to help and she willingly did, despite the fact that her own to-do list was full. That's just the type of person she is. I picked her up and she was indeed surprised when we arrived at the surprise destination. Her friend Pam & Pam's daughter Emily (my dear friend) had prepared quite the spread of goodies. First stop was the coffee bar..... AHHHHHH.... (Imagine a scene from a movie when the heavens open up, the sun streams down like a glorious spotlight, and the Hallelujah chorus plays). There, sitting on the tray, was the answer to my problem. So Delicious Coconut Milk Creamer. I poured some into my coffee and watched it's creamy goodness fill my cup and turn my coffee from it's harsh black to a sweet, inviting latte. It was perfect. Now I don't feel like I'm depriving myself of anything. Emily said she just picked it up at Sprouts. Duh, Lori. Why don't you try looking at the non-traditional food store??? Anywoo, I grabbed my coffee and sat down at a table covered with plates and plates of beautiful food. We prayed with my mom, thanked God for his wonderful gift & enjoyed a morning of sweet fellowship with friends. On my way home I stopped by the store and this morning I got to have my 'experience' . :)

Because we'd had such a big breakfast & at a later time than usual, I just wasn't hungry for lunch. I got busy cleaning house and before I knew it the day had slipped away and it was time to start dinner. Dinner was SO easy and SO tasty. I bought some pre-made vegetarian pizza crusts at the store (a package of 5 personal sized pies for $2 - sorry I can't remember the brand). We topped them with some Bertolli organic Garlic & Olive Oil pasta sauce and then each added our own toppings. I used them all: fresh spinach, black olives, yellow bell pepper, & some veggie patty crumbled up. The kids were allowed to top theirs with some cheese but Silas still didn't eat his. He would, however, eat Izzie's (exactly the same as his). He was gobbling up the olives while I was slicing them but wouldn't touch them when they were warm on his pizza. Oh well. These were a big hit that we'll definitely have again.

Several people have asked if this diet change has affected my supply/ability to nurse Rhys. In all honesty, I haven't noticed any change at all. He's always been a great sleeper and the past two nights he's slept straight through, instead of waking up to eat at 4:30 like he had been. I came across an article yesterday about a french couple who were being charged with neglect & face life in prison because they fed their daughter solely breastmilk which because of the mother's vegan diet, was deficient in the essential vitamins A & B-12. The girl became very sick and they chose not to follow the Dr.'s advice for treatment, seeking alternative means instead. This hit a little close to home. In a separate case in Georgia early this year a
court upheld the conviction and life sentence against an Atlanta vegan couple over the death of their malnourished 6-week-old boy, who was fed a diet largely consisting of soy milk and apple juice. To me these two cases are vastly different. The first couple sound similar to Graham & me in that we don't always agree with or follow our Dr.'s advise or what the the US says typical treatment of certain ailments may be. BUT, if I saw my child wasting away I think I might reconsider my Dr's words. We've had weight issues with Silas but there are NO other indicators that there is a problem. He's happy, active,sleeps well, and blood work tests have revealed nothing to suggest he could be malnourished or have any other issues. The second couple, however, concerns me. Why in the world would you be giving your newborn apple juice? I just attended a breast-feeding class recently and they shared a study where the World Health Organization suggests you breastfeed for the first 2 years of the child's life to get the full benefits. Even the run-of-the-mill pediatrician would tell you not to give your child anything else until they are at least 4 months old. Just wondering why the couple thought that was a wise idea. So, I'm trying to be more diligent in taking my pre-natal vitamins just to cover all my bases.

Enough sharing for today. I'm off to get my second cup!

Monday, November 14, 2011

E2 - 28 Day Challenge - Day 8

On The Menu:
Breakfast: Big Bowl
Lunch: Stuffed Pita with Cannellini Dip
Dinner: Baby Greens w/ Supreme Pizza

What We Actually Ate:
Breakfast: I skipped it - Sunday mornings are just too chaotic for breakfast. I think the kids had cereal
Lunch: Spiral Diner
Dinner: Brussel sprouts, roasted new potatoes, leftovers

My Thoughts:
Sundays are always a little rough food wise just because its a busy day. We almost always eat lunch out and then are so beat when dinner rolls around it's usually something low key like leftovers or take out.

We ate lunch at Spiral Diner. It's an organic vegan restaurant on Magnolia. I've had food from there before but only as take out. This was my first time actually dining in. It was BUSY! We waited about 30 minutes for our table and were all STARVING by the time we were seated. Graham & I had the all-you-can-eat pancakes. These were SO good! Chelsea had a yummy chef salad with grilled tofu, (which she says actually tasted like chicken- I wasn't fooled but it wasn't bad) lots of veggies and a tasty homemade 'ranch' dressing. Kenzie had scrambled tofu with a side of toast and jelly. The tofu was seasoned really well. I was on tofu burn-out since our 'eatloaf the other night or I might have liked it more. Silas shared some of our pancakes and part of Izzie's grilled 'cheese'. Everyone else had a bite of her sandwich when it was nice and hot and loved it. I got my bite after it had cooled to room temp and it was a little gross. I didn't like the cheese on Chelsea's salad either. I guess I just love the real stuff too much. The girls at the table next to us had some nachos that looked really good. May have to try those next time.

Sitting there made me remember how much I love the idea of living in a neighborhood where you can just walk down the street to a neighborhood eatery which made me miss Chicago. I loved the "Granola". I'm typically a t-shirt and jeans girl myself and I love the laid-back attitude of the folks in the place... A nice slow down to the stressful pace of life... Then our waiter came over and seemed uber spaced out and several people wreaked of Patchouli, which I'm not a fan of, and I remember why I'm not that way - I like regular showers and I get extremely annoyed by those who indulge in pot smoking. You know what I'm talking about. I wanted to smack the waiter and say "Helloooooo, let's focus here." When he was taking our order it seemed like he was writing a million things down. No. Just writing REALLY SLOW.

Avoca was right across the street. A fantastic coffee shop with the roasters in house. I know, I know, but it's not cheating. Four Star serves Avoca coffee and Garold, one of the Avoca owners, is a former co-worker. Plus they are opened on nights and weekends so I don't feel ashamed for the plug. This coffee thing is really starting to get me down. I think my mom pegged it when she said it's about the experience. Sitting down with a hot cup and taking a moment to enjoy yourself. Graham was sweet and bought me some coconut milk to try. It was tasty but it just isn't as creamy. I NEED CREAM! This morning I tried a dollop of some chocolate syrup I made for our strawberries for dessert in an attempt to make it a mocha but it just didn't cut it.

Dinner was lame and unexciting. Just cleaning out the fridge, but the potatoes were pretty good.

I decided that this week I will shop for three days at a time. Last week I did a big shopping trip at the beginning of the week with a smaller trip mid-week and ended up with some things in excess and some things that just went bad before we used them because of the changes to the menu. I bought some organic grapes and had them in the fruit drawer with a million other things and kind of forgot about them. Only two days after I bought them I had to throw out the whole bunch :( I also have an extra package of hamburger buns and wraps that I have no idea what I was supposed to use them for. Hopefully this approach will prevent any waste, especially since we're going through our grocery budget pretty quickly.

E2 - 28 Day Challenge - Day 7

On The Menu:
Breakfast: Simple Cereal Bowl
Lunch: Ann's panini
Dinner: Big Salad w/ brussel sprouts and new potatoes

What We Actually Ate:
Breakfast: Simple cereal
Lunch: Big Salad
Dinner: Lynn's Meatloaf - or as I like to call it "Eatloaf" with steamed broccoli

My Thoughts:
Our lunch was pretty much just my way of trying to use up the veggies in my fridge that were about to go south. Some romaine, cucumber, a little celery, some shredded carrot, & a little spinach. We topped it with the dressing from this salad which has become one of our absolute favorites & without the bacon & feta it would be vegan too. (But lets face it, those are pretty tasty. Who'd want to exclude them?) The dressing is a simple mixture of poppy seed dressing (I used Brianni's - it's vegan) & balsamic vinaigrette (I used Newman's Own), about 70/30. YUM! We all gobbled this up.

The 'Eatloaf was a pleasant surprise. You saute some onions, garlic, and celery up and added it to some firm tofu, oats, soy sauce, ketchup, dijon mustard, and some herbs. The recipe also calls for veggie crumbles (meatless patties that come crumbled up) but I just used a few of our leftover lentil and rice patties and it worked well. It had the consistency and flavor of Stovetop stuffing. Soft, bready, and the combo of herbs must have been similar. Everyone ate this, some with extra helpings. Chelsea helped me make it so she was more willing to try it. And she liked it just fine.

I am starting to feel like we are just eating the same veggies over and over, just in slightly different forms. It does get a little old but, like with our lunch, just simply adding a super yummy and familiar dressing, made it a little more palatable.

Weight Check: I am a little frustrated. My weight hasn't changed at all. Graham's maybe a pound. I have a five pound window that I seem to float in. Some days I'm at the higher end, some days the lower. I hope that incorporating more exercise this week will help push me past that hump.

Week One Recap: Graham has noticed since pretty much Day 1 that his digestive problems are no longer and issue which further confirms what we'd previously suspected that it is connected to dairy/lactose.

I am not seeing any major or obvious changes in the way I feel but I think we're gonna stick with it... for now...

E2 - 28 Day Challenge - Day 6

On The Menu:
Breakfast:Breakfast Tacos
Lunch: Burgers w/ Sweet Potato Fries
Dinner: Starter Salad, Lynn's Meatloaf, & steamed broccoli

What We Actually Ate:
Breakfast: Breakfast Tacos
Lunch: At Grandy's (my mom's)
Dinner: Chipotle

My Thoughts:
The breakfast tacos were super easy. Just some hashbrown potatoes and some veggie breakfast sausage patties wrapped in a corn tortilla. You could probably have used some egg substitute or grilled up some veggies to go in it but I just topped mine with some salsa and called it good. The kids really like these.

We go to my mom's house most Fridays and this week was no exception. She made a fantastic spread of fruit and veggies, guacamole, hummus, & a white bean dip with some whole grain tortillas she baked up into tasty chips.

Since Graham had the day off because of the holiday we spent to afternoon running errands so dinner out was thrown into our plans. Graham and I had the vegetarian burritos with guac. Graham added the grilled veggies to his. I just went straight-up black beans and brown rice. The kids, once again, had a difficult time finding something to eat, but they stuck with it and got their own veggie tacos. And didn't eat half of them. They did eat the beans and rice and some chips. Chelsea, who doesn't like Chipotle under normal circumstances, just had a bowl of rice. :(

Graham was a little concerned that the kids aren't eating. Maybe they aren't getting enough nutrients. Part of me thinks if they'd just try some of it they'd like it. They are eating a lot of fruit, which causes other issues, but in all honesty I think they'd just prefer Halloween candy.

Friday, November 11, 2011

E2 - 28 Day Challenge - Day 5

On The Menu:
Breakfast: Hot Lap Bowl (oatmeal w/ fruit)
Lunch: E2 Basics Tacos
Dinner: Brown Rice & Lentil Burgers

What We Actually Ate:
Breakfast: Simple Cereal w/ fruit - I really like this so I don't think about changing it up to much. We will probably do breakfast tacos on Saturday when Graham is home, but for now this works.

Lunch: Chalupas - We were supposed to have this the night before and then use the leftovers to make tacos for lunch. I thought these were easier.

Dinner: Brown Rice & Lentil Burgers w/ regular old frozen white potato fries

My Thoughts:
I started my day without a headache or feeling the need to rush to the coffee maker even though I didn't get any more sleep than usual. In fact I didn't have my first cup of coffee until 4:30 when my day started to stress me out and I was starting to get the teeny-tinyist bit of a headache. I didn't even finish it before dinner. Don't know why this seems to be changing, if it's the diet or if it's just me....

Lunch was pretty good. The kids gobbled it up. I took organic corn tortillas and put them on a cookie sheet. Stuck them under the broiler for 2 minutes then pulled them out and topped them with some vegan organic refried black beans, shredded romaine lettuce, diced black olives, and a dollop of guacamole. I think I should have turned the tortillas at some point during cooking because some of them were still a little soft in the middle but all in all easy and tasty.

Dinner was interesting. I used leftover rice from our meals earlier in the week which was my first mistake. I think warm rice would have helped the burgers stay together better. I also was out of chili powder so I had to kind of make my own substitute and it wasn't quite the same. This was my first time using lentils and I was surprised at how quickly they cooked. I didn't have to soak them like beans. The recipe had you saute some onions, diced bell pepper, and garlic and add it to the beans and rice, form them into patties and bake for 15 minutes or until they are slightly firm. I had to mash the mixture up with my hands to brake up the lentils so the burger would hold. I think next time I'll add a little more seasoning and blend up the mixture in a food processor, then pan fry them like you would a black bean burger. They might stay together better as these were somewhat crumbly. But the taste was good. We topped ours with mustard and ketchup and had fries on the side. I decent alternative to McDonald's :) Silas was the only one who refused to eat is and I think part of his issue was that he was in a funk.

We are not exercise people but I think next week I'd like to incorporate some into our day, especially with the St. Jude's walk next Saturday. If you haven't checked out our page you can do so here.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Vegan Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

Photo from Original Recipe post at Oh She Glows

Vegan Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies
(see original recipe here)


  • 2 cups regular oats, divided
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup Sucanat (or brown sugar)
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp almond milk
  • 3.5 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup dried cranberries

Directions: Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a medium sized bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, 1 cup oats, cinnamon, and Sucanat (or brown sugar). Place dry ingredients in a food processor* and process for about 20-30 seconds until mixed. In a small bowl add the coconut oil and microwave for 20 seconds to soften (if necessary). In the same bowl, stir in the maple syrup**, almond milk, and vanilla, and pour into food processor. Process until the mixture is thoroughly combined. Remove bowl from processor and dump contents into a large bowl. Mix in the remaining 1 cup of oats by stirring or with hands. Fold in the 2/3 cup of cranberries. Take about 2 tbsp of dough, make a ball, and then flatten with fingers. Place on cookie sheet. Repeat.

Bake for 10 minutes and no longer. Remove from oven and let sit on baking sheet*** for 2 minutes before placing onto a cooling rack for 10-15 minutes. Makes about 16 cookies. Delicious!

You could make all kinds of adaptations to this- use different flour or dried fruit, add chocolate, nuts.... The possibilities are endless but remember that adding certain items will change whether it's vegan or not.

* I don't have a food processor so I just mixed it all by hand. The dough seemed crumbly at first but the baked cookies weren't crumbly at all.

**I used the real deal, not pancake syrup but didn't have quite 1/2 a cup so I topped it off with some honey (Which IS NOT VEGAN). The cookies did not have a maple flavor at all.

*** This is KEY. If you take them off right out of the oven they will fall apart.

E2 - 28 Day Challenge - Day 4

Green Leafy Wrap from E2 website

On The Menu
Breakfast: Strawberries on Toast
Lunch: Green Leafy Wrap & Stir-fry
Dinner: Chalupas with Salsa

What We Actually Ate
Breakfast: Simple Cereal with strawberries and bananas
Lunch: I had the green leafy wraps and the kids had chicken noodle soup w/ PB and honey sandwiches (Vegan FAIL). We ate all the stir-fry the night before so there weren't any leftovers.
Dinner: we ate out at Fuzzy's. Once again the kids had non-vegan fare (a salad with fish, shrimp tacos, cheese nachos) Graham and I had the grilled veggie burrito, without the cheese, and a side of potatoes.
Dessert: Vegan Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

My Thoughts:
I'm kind of failing at this when it comes to the kids. They've been pretty good at at least trying everything I make but there have been several times when they just won't eat it. The green leafy wraps were NOT a big hit. You blanch some collard greens, spread hummus over the leaf & top with veggies. Roll and slice. For me the hummus was a deal maker. I wasn't a fan of the taste of the collard greens (needed some bacon ;)) but the rest of it was fine. I ate mine but I didn't want to force the kiddos to eat theirs so I raided the pantry. Chelsea did make a salad and ate it before she had her soup so I felt ok about that.

I needed to run to the store to get a few things so when Graham got home we all loaded up and headed out. We saw that the new Fuzzy's on Bryant Irvin was opened so we worked it into our plans knowing that we could eat vegan there with some adaptations. The big girls were willing to forgo their favorites for their vegan counterparts but I had no idea what the littles would eat. Rather than order them something only to have it wasted I let them get nachos and then didn't feel fair about making the big girls eat vegan when the littles didn't have too. But we're going to do better on day5. I am seeing them, especially Chelsea, choose more veggies on their own. I think the healthier options will pay-off in her more than maybe the others. It was hard... REAL hard... eating my veggie burrito, that in it's own right was tasty, knowing just how good the fish tacos were that were sitting inches away. :( We agreed that next time we'll go to Chipotle instead. Less tempting to cheat. I'm learning that guacamole is a great alternative to cheese and sour cream on Mexican food.

I also skipped the late night cup of coffee and have yet to have one this morning.... no headache. Yet....

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

E2 - 28 Day Challenge - Day 3

On The Menu:
Breakfast: Simple Cereal
Lunch: Open Face sandwich w/ Hummus
Dinner: Stir Fry w/ Brown Rice

What We Actually Ate:
Breakfast: Simple Cereal
Lunch: Veggie Sandwiches - we were out of hummus so we just piled veggies on WW sandwich bread. Kenzie & I sprinkled some raspberry vinegar on ours. Very tasty.
Dinner: Stir Fry veggies and Brown Rice

My Thoughts: Today we actually stuck to the menu better than we had. I don't really have a lot to share except I'm beginning a love/hate relationship with my coffee. I LOVE my morning cup(s) o' joe and since little Rhys arrived I've also been indulging in another cup in the evening. I like something sweet (honey, agave, sugar, doesn't matter) and something 'creamy' in my coffee. A lot of times I'll heat up the milk and froth it to make a latte. I attempted this with the almond milk and it just seemed to intensify the almond taste with I didn't really enjoy in my coffee. I checked out -in passing- the 'non-dairy' creamers at Target. Every single one, liquid & powder, contained sodium caseinate, which is a milk derivative, one of the main things I'm trying to avoid. How in the world can it be called non-dairy when it contains something that comes from milk ?!?!? So I'm now on a hunt for something for my coffee. I skipped my evening cup last night and woke up in the middle of the night with a headache. I may try coconut milk. I might like the taste of that better.

Several people have been asking a myriad of questions. I'm putting together a post answering all of them. If you have a question please feel free to ask. I'd love to include them.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

The Why

The science is clear.
The results are unmistakable.
Change your diet and dramatically reduce the risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and obesity.

We've made a change & accepted the challenge of eating vegan for this month. It's not a willy-nilly decision. After watching several documentaries, reading lots of blogs and websites, and considering my personal experience, I feel like it's a wise choice. Some of the most compelling evidence comes from two Dr.'s, surprisingly both raised on cattle farms, Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn.

Dr. Campbell, a nutritional scientist at Cornell University, was concerned in the late 1960′s with producing "high quality" animal protein to bring to the poor and malnourished areas of the third world.

Dr. Esselstyn, a top surgeon and head of the Breast Cancer Task Force at the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic, found that many of the diseases he routinely treated were virtually unheard of in parts of the world where animal-based foods were rarely consumed.

Their research led them to a startling conclusion: degenerative diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even several forms of cancer, could almost always be prevented – and in many cases reversed – by adopting a whole foods, plant-based diet. Despite the profound implications of their findings, their work has remained relatively unknown to the public.

"Early in his career as a researcher with MIT and Virginia Tech, Dr. Campbell worked to promote better health by eating more meat, milk and eggs -- "high-quality animal protein ... It was an obvious sequel to my own life on the farm and I was happy to believe that the American diet was the best in the world." He later was a researcher on a project in the Philippines working with malnourished children. The project became an investigation for Dr. Campbell, as to why so many Filipino children were being diagnosed with liver cancer, predominately an adult disease. The primary goal of the project was to ensure that the children were getting as much protein as possible. "In this project, however, I uncovered a dark secret. Children who ate the highest protein diets were the ones most likely to get liver cancer..."

He began to review other reports from around the world that reflected the findings of his research in the Philippines.
Although it was "heretical to say that protein wasn't healthy," he started an in-depth study into the role of nutrition, especially protein, in the cause of cancer. The research project culminated in a 20-year partnership of Cornell University, Oxford University, and the Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine, a survey of diseases and lifestyle factors in rural China and Taiwan. More commonly known as the China Study, "this project eventually produced more than 8000 statistically significant associations between various dietary factors and disease."

The findings? "People who ate the most animal-based foods got the most chronic disease ... People who ate the most plant-based foods were the healthiest and tended to avoid chronic disease. These results could not be ignored. The idea that whole foods, plant-based diets can protect against and even treat a wide variety of chronic diseases can no longer be there are hundreds of detailed, comprehensive, well-done research studies that point in the same direction" said Dr. Campbell. In The China Study, Dr. Campbell details the connection between nutrition and heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, and also its ability to reduce or reverse the risk or effects of these deadly illnesses. The China Study also examines the source of nutritional confusion produced by powerful lobbies, government entities, and irresponsible scientists." - from the China Study website

The China Study is said to be the most comprehensive large study ever undertaken of the relationship between diet and the risk of developing disease. Most of the FDA approved studies performed in the US deal with how a specific food effects a specific ailment, for example the antioxidant Lycopene in tomatoes and it's benefit in protecting against breast and prostate cancers. For this reason the China Study is often dismissed.

It's probably no surprise that many who decide what the nutritional guidelines for our country, and work for the FDA & USDA have strong ties to corporate giants in the meat & dairy industry. This is not to induce a theory about the government, just a statement that those making our 'Food Pyramid' are not acting in an ethical & 'above-reproach' manner. This makes it difficult to trust the validity of what they say. For me anyway. If we're supposedly eating healthier, why are Americans stricken with heart disease as much as we were 30 years ago?

Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, has done a 20+ year study with advanced heart disease patients all of whom stopped the progression of the disease and 70% reversed it with a plant-based diet. Do you need to re-read that? STOPPED. ALL OF THEM. One participant in his study was diagnosed with cancer & sent home to die with a 6 month life expectancy. She changed her diet under Dr. Caldwell's supervision and 27 years later she's still going strong. 27 YEARS! His son, Rip, is an Austin firefighter who has launched what is called the Engine 2 Diet (or E2 for short), a plant based diet which his fire house whole heartedly embraced after one of their own was knocking on death's door and reversed his diagnosis with the help of this new way of eating. The Diet also incorporates Neal Barnard, MD's research with Georgetown University that proved diabetes can be reversed with a plant-based diet as well as Campbell's 20-year China Study that produced more than 8000 statistically significant associations between various dietary factors and disease.

All of these studies are discussed in the documentary "Forks Over Knives".

"Two out of every three of us are overweight. Cases of diabetes are exploding, especially amongst our younger population. About half of us are taking at least one prescription drug. Major medical operations have become routine, helping to drive health care costs to astronomical levels. Heart disease, cancer and stroke are the country’s three leading causes of death, even though billions are spent each year to "battle" these very conditions. Millions suffer from a host of other degenerative diseases. Could it be there’s a single solution to all of these problems? A solution so comprehensive but so straightforward, that it’s mind-boggling that more of us haven’t taken it seriously?" - Forks Over Knives

I am convinced that eating the right way can save your life. I would like to hope that this 28 day challenge will change our lifestyle forever and that starting my kiddos young will make it easier to make healthier decisions in the long run.

More Information:
You can read an excerpt from the China Study book here

Published studies:

Alona Pulde, M.D. And Matthew Lederman, M.D. – Transition to Health