Triumphant Return

Well, a lot has changed since my last post! I started and quit a new job and have really begun the path to a healthier lifestyle. There have already been several up’s and down’s in a very short period of time, but it’s just the beginning and hopefully things will get easier. Just tell me it will, okay?

My shortlived new job was at an eating disorder center and, wow, was it eye opening. The first day I started was cupcake night. Like me and the other residential counselors, you might be saying “WAHOO!” but for the patients, it was like we were asking them to walk into the pits of Hell. And, really, we were. Everyday was such a struggle for them. Each and every moment was a conscious effort to not think something awful about themselves, to not look in a mirror, to not look at other patients and compare, to put an entire plate of food into their mouth and to keep it there until nature took it’s course.  By the end of my shift, I had realized that while I may not have a perfect relationship with food, I don’t ever want it to be that torturous. And just like the patients made the decision to get help, I made the decision to go to the gym.

I work Tuesday-Friday, so with Monday’s off, I decided to take a private class at the gym in the morning. This was done for 2 reasons. 1. I don’t want to pretend like I’m in high school on summer vacation and sleep until noon. I mean, I do, but I don’t…because I’m 26 and that’s just (sadly) not okay anymore. 2. It’s really awesome to start the day off with a workout because you feel motivated all day. Not to mention it’s great to have accomplished something productive before 10am on a day off. I also make sure to go to the gym Tuesday-Thursday and Saturday. Lately, I’ve been missing Wednesdays. Wednesday is the day that I take two classes from 6-8. The problem is that I get out of work at 4:30. This means I have an hour to kill at home. In that hour, I quickly decide that King of Queens reruns on TBS beats working out. So, my next step is just go straight to the gym after work and either hang out or maybe even run (gasp!) on the treadmill.

Another step I’ve taken is to start writing down everything that I eat. I think it’s great to do this because it’s good to have a track record of what you’re eating. When something is off in my body, I’m learning to look to food as the reason. With the log, I can look back and say “Oh, it was probably those pieces of pizza I had for lunch today.” Which I did have for lunch today, by the way. Oops. Another reason it’s great is because it gives you accountability. Do I want to eat that brownie? Hell yes. Do I want to write it down? No, I don’t. Honestly, today I thought “I’m just going to write down 1 piece of pizza.” Um, hello? What is the point? The book is for me and I know that I ate 2! Who am I lying to? And there it was. The fact that I (probably we) lie to myself about food all the time in so many different ways. Another great reason for writing it down is it gave me an excuse to buy a new notebook. I went to Barnes and Noble and bought a small red notebook (so it could fit in my purse) that had that ever-so-popular British phrase “Keep Calm and Carry On.” Obviously it’s awesome because it’s British, but I thought the phrase really applied to the situation. Don’t panic over every mistake. Take a breath and move on!

This past weekend I watched Food, Inc. and Forks Over Knives. I’m currently reading Eating Animals. Twas a very food centered weekend. And I’ve decided (AGAIN) to step back forward into veg land. I could tell you that I’m going about it differently and that it’s hopefully going to work this time, but I’m not going to say that. Because who the hell really knows what is going to happen? I’m just going to try my best and to make a conscious effort about every bite that goes into my mouth. We’ll see where it gets me.


July 18, 2012 at 7:57 pm 4 comments

Vegan in Newburyport

Last week was unseasonably warm in New England. It was in the 80’s for most of the week, and then Mother Nature hits us with rainy weather in the 30’s for this week. She just doesn’t quit.

Since it was so beautiful and I have two days off during the week, I had to do something. Having never been to Newburyport, I decided to visit. A cute seaside town with adorable local shops and even an organic, gluten-free, vegan cafe!

After strolling about, stopping in whatever store caught my fancy (including one called Best of British. The entire country might as well been in there because everything British is the best!), I found Revitalive Cafe. It was small, with no seating in the downstairs. There was an upstairs, but I didn’t venture up to find seating, since there was seating outside and I wanted to enjoy the sun.

Having looked at the menu the night before, I decided to order the Un-Tuna Wrap, which came with a side of their homemade kale chips. I have been wanting to try some “tuna” since the beginning of this vegan journey and I figured having it at a restaurant was a safe bet. It’s described on the menu as seed-based and mixed with romaine lettuce, pickles, tomatoes, and onions. I found that the pickles overpowered the rest of the flavors in the tuna, but I like pickles, so I didn’t mind. The gluten-free  coconut flax wrap had an interesting texture and flavor. It was my first taste of gluten-free bread and I’m not sure that I liked it. It was slightly sweet (from the coconut flavoring, I assume) and it kind of just fell apart in my mouth immediately. It’s something I would have to get used to, but I’m willing to give it another try. I was very excited to try the kale chips, since I’ve seen tons of different recipes. I found these to be too salty and cheesy. If I ever make them, I’ll definitely use more garlic flavors over cheesy flavors.

Revitalive had a great menu with a ton of choices. They had a whole section of quinoa bowls, which I really wanted to try, but opted out since I’ve been eating a lot of quinoa lately. They also had a ton of very appetizing treats. There were even shelves with bags of their homemade kale chips and raw granola, raw crackers, and more. Overall, the food was not bad – it was just flavors that are still new to me. I would definitely love to go back to try something else, maybe a fresh-made smoothie, fresh-pressed juice, or quinoa bowl.

March 29, 2012 at 3:27 pm 3 comments

Asian Feast

Monday night was Asian feast! I love Chinese food, and rice, and sushi, and mmm…but none of it is very healthy and a lot of it isn’t vegan. So, it’s time to learn to make my own Asian-inspired delights! Monday’s attempt was a success.

On the menu was General Gau’s Cauliflower (officially titled Gobi Manchurian Cauliflower), Soba Noodles with Sweet Ginger Scallion Sauce, and Crispy Edamame.

The tastiest part of the meal was definitely the cauliflower. To be honest, it might not have been all that healthy since it was fried. It was dipped in a batter of whole wheat flour, corn starch, and other seasonings, then fried in extra virgin olive oil. That being said, they were definitely NOT fried as much as the General Gau’s chicken you get from the corner Chinese takeout. Plus, it was cauliflower!

The edamame was mixed with a little extra virgin olive oil, granulated garlic, pepper, and nutritional yeast (the recipe called for parmesan cheese, but I opted for the nutriyeast), then banked. SO yummy! I love eating edamame plain, but some extra flavors (especially my BFF garlic) only added to it’s natural deliciousness. If you haven’t tried edamame, you should. My mother tried it for the first time on Monday and described it as, “it’s like a nut, only it’s not.” That’s exactly it! You can buy them shelled (they look like pea pods) or you can buy them out of the shell. I always buy them frozen out of the shell because it’s easiest. Yum!

Now, the soba noodles. I’ve never cooked them before and, although I thought I followed the directions, I think I cooked them too long because the noodles were very sticky. I also wanted to cook more than the recipe called for, but I may not have made enough of the sauce. I expected them to be more saucy, which they weren’t, but they did soak up the flavors of the sauce, especially the spiciness! Next time, I just need to cook them less and sauce them more.

The only downside to this meal was that it took a LOT of various bowls and kitchen utensils. I made the biggest mess – you would think I cooked a Thanksgiving feast for the entire New England Patriots with the amount of dishes that filled the sink. Ridiculous. And it took me two hours. That’s just excessive! And in my haste to finish (since it was after 8:30 by the time it was all completed) I forgot to take any pictures! Just look at the pictures of the links above – mine would have looked almost as good.

March 14, 2012 at 2:36 am Leave a comment

Staples: Nutritional Yeast

Going vegan has been quite the journey. A lot of flip-flopping and a lot of reading. A lot of saying “Okay, let’s do this!” and then not doing it. I’m not vegan yet. I’m not even fully vegetarian. I’m experimenting. I’m looking up recipes and trying them. I’m finding out what I like and how to make it. It’s going to be a long process, but I’m okay with that.

Blogging has also been a learning process. I’ve found a lot of recipes off of some really fantastic blogs (to name a few: Clean Eating Chelsey, Chocolate Covered Katie, and Running off the Reeses – that last one isn’t really for recipes, but she’s hilarious). A lot of the blogs I’ve been reading have segments or themes, so they post on the same days and each post has a general topic or idea. Springing off of that, my newest segment is Staples. Staples posts will discuss vegan staples – ingredients, nutrients, etc that are essential to a vegan diet. As I said, I’m still learning and I’m certainly not a nutritionist, so this is just what I have learned are important to include in a vegan diet.

My first Staple post is all about nutritional yeast. First, I’d like to say it’s difficult to find, at least in my area. I don’t have a Whole Foods close and Trader Joe’s isn’t close either. There are a couple stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, but I’m not really satisfied with them. I’ve been finding a LOT of ingredients in my local supermarkets, specifically Market Basket and Hannaford; however, nutritional yeast does not exist at either store. Market Basket has employees who literally know where every single products exists. “Hi, I’m looking for ___” and they’ll find it for you. Whatever you can think of, guys. And if they don’t have it, they know they don’t have it. This was the case with nutritional yeast. I did find it at the Vitamin Shoppe! In fact, I took the last tub, and had this panicky feeling as I left that they’d never restock it.

So every blog you’ll ever read that discusses nutritional yeast will tell you that it has a nutty smell and a cheesy flavor. I’m going to tell you the same thing…because it really does. The color is not attractive. It’s yellow, but not a bright, happy, let’s-paint-the-baby-room-in-it yellow. I guess you could call it mustard. The first thing I did when I opened the container was smell it. Yep, nutty! The first recipe I used it in was the Quinoa Pizza Casserole, but it was mixed in, so I couldn’t taste it at all.

With the snow day last week and having absolutely nothing to eat, I decided to make macaroni (or pasta, for all of you that aren’t from New England) and butter. Pasta, Earth Balance, Garlic. YUM! And then I remembered every vegan blog I’ve ever read says that they sprinkle it on top of food for a parmesan flavor (and inspiration from Clean Eating Chelsey’s recent post on it). Hot diggity! Poured on a scoop, mixed it in and, yes, cheesy flavor! It was actually really tasty and I know it’ll be something I use often. Below is the exact brand I used – yum!

The reason it’s a staple is because it’s contains protein and is fortified with tons of vitamins, especially B12. It’s the one nutrient that vegans can’t get from other foods because it only comes from animal products, so it’s important to either take a supplement or eat foods that are fortified with B12. I really enjoyed the flavor and can’t wait to use it again.

March 5, 2012 at 7:44 pm Leave a comment

Snow Day!

Those crazy farmers who write the almanac…they were right! They said we wouldn’t give significant snowfall (after the crazy Halloween blizzard, of course) until February. The Leap Day Snow Extravaganza! Go ahead and take that one for free news anchors – so catchy. And guess what? Next year, yesterday didn’t even happen, so this snow doesn’t count. Accordingly, I’m pretending it doesn’t exist.

On such a snow day, one would think to spend the entire day cozy and maybe cooking? Especially since I’m slowly discovering a joy in cooking, but no, I spent the day writing and getting distracted by my adorable cats and Pinterest. Plus, we literally have no food. We live in New England and knew about this blizzard, but didn’t run frantic to the grocery store for bread and milk and other snowed-in-for-God-know’s-HOW-long essentials.

Let’s discuss what I cooked over the weekend to eat this week.

For lunches, as a side, I made Quinoa Pizza Casserole. I ate it today with leftovers from Saturday. This was my first dive into vegan cheeses. Not disappointed in the cheese at all! I find that shredded mozzarella cheese kind of has a fake cheese taste anyway, and Galaxy’s mozzarella chese has the exact same flavor. When it was baking though, I did notice that it doesn’t get as gooey-melty as regular cheese, which is a common complaint amongst vegans. As long as it tastes similar, I can get over the non-meltiness. Before I baked it, the casserole was yummy, but when I ate it on Monday (after baking, obv) it tasted burnt and just…strange. I didn’t finish it and I was so disappointed.  And I haven’t tried it again since Monday, so that was an unfortunate waste. I may have just cooked it too long, due to the non-meltiness of the cheese. I’m sure I’ll give it another go some time.

For Monday’s dinner, I made Happy Herbivore’s Hippie Loaf with mashed cauliflower and a reappearance of the ginger garlic string beans. So much went wrong with this. The cauliflower calls for milk, so I poured in my almond milk. Yeah, that milk is VANILLA flavored. So, I made vanilla, cream cheese, garlic mashed cauliflower. Sound appetizing? And to top it off, they got ice cold instantly, so when I served dinner, they were basically frozen. No one liked them. The hippie loaf wasn’t bad, but it was very plain. I’m not sure what I can do to spice it up, but I’ll figure something out because I really love quinoa. The string beans, though, did not fail.

I already know what I’m making next week, and I’m very excited. It’s pretty basic and I’m telling myself it’s a no-brainer.

On another note, I need to do a quick advertisement. My name is Briana and for years I have tried very hard to like hummus. It’s a healthy dip for vegetables. It’s spreadable on sandwiches. Everyone I know is all, “Oh, I LOVE hummus!” I’ve tried many flavors – plain (vomit), hot pepper, spinach and artichoke. They all failed me, even the artichoke one, which I still can’t believe. Hummus has rejected my efforts until I found Roasted Garlic Hummus. Rainbows spread across the sky, Heaven opened up, and God said, “Here, Briana, be at peace with hummus.” It’s from Good Neighbors and their slogan is “Hummus the way it should be.” Yes, my thoughts exactly! It’s just so garlicky and I’m truly in love. So thanks Good Neighbors for making me wish I could be your neighbor.

March 1, 2012 at 10:24 pm Leave a comment

More Cooking Success!

So I’ve had more success the past week with two new recipes! Honestly, it’s a miracle that these recipes are working out for me. And not only do I like them, but other people do, too!

On Tuesday, I made Spinach & Artichoke White Bean Chili. You can’t go wrong with artichokes. If a recipe has artichoke in it, I’m probably going to make it. I love artichokes. Every Thanksgiving, my grandmother would make stuffed artichokes. I would scoop off the stuffing and just eat the leaves – well, not eat, but whatever you do with the leaves of an artichoke. And basically, that would be my Thanksgiving. SO GOOD! And this chili? Wicked, crazy delicious. And spicy. Spicy to the point where I microwaved it for lunch at work, brought it back to my desk, and my boss asked, “What IS that?! It’s burning my nose!” I think the smell was more intense than the actual level of spiciness because I didn’t find it uncomfortable to eat. I HATE eating overly spicy foods that just burn off my tongue. This also had quite a lot of cumin. Kind of stunk up the house a bit. I might use a tad less cumin next time. Other than that, it was perfect.

On Wednesday night, I made Sweet Potato White Bean Veggie Burgers with a side of Blistered Ginger & Garlic String Beans. Apparently, I was on a white bean kick this past week.

Anyway, the burgers came out pretty good. My little sister liked the taste of these burgers more than the burgers I had made the previous week. I favored the previous burgers, though, because they had more flavor. The good thing about making your own burgers, though, is that you can add as much flavor as you want, so next time I’ll spice it up a bit more. Sweet potatoes are SO good for you, so they’re worth another shot. AND they freeze well. The recipe made nine burgers, so I froze the rest. You have to have patience making your own veggie burgers, though. They break apart very easily and I find that I need a LOT of oil to cook them. I have to pour in a fresh tablespoon every time I put a couple more into the pan. If anyone knows any secrets to cooking your own, please let me know! Still, knowing exactly what is in the burgers is worth it. There’s no preservatives or anything fake when you make it yourself.

Now, the string beans. SO FREAKIN’ GOOD. If you like garlic (um hi, I would marry garlic) then you will LOVE this recipe. My sister described the flavor as “like Auntie’s chicken wings.” My aunt is Korean and she makes these really good chicken wings. They’re so good that when I decided to go veg, I thought “Dear wings, I’m really going to miss you.” They’re killer. Man. Somehow, these very simple to make string beans mimic that flavor. SCORE! I cannot wait to make them again.

February 26, 2012 at 5:08 am Leave a comment

Discovering a liking for tofu

Since the beginning of my vegan journey, I have seen tofu as a necessary evil. It would be something that I would have to try very hard to like. And man, have I tried hard to be besties with this veg staple, but our relationship wasn’t very friendly until I discovered a recipe for Bulgogi-style tofu.

The only thing I know about actual Bulgogi is that it is Korean and some kind of meat. And it’s probably really good, considering I found the tofu recipe DELICIOUS. Can you even believe it? It is flavor packed; it’s supposed to marinate for at least 8 hours, but I had it marinating for much longer…much, much longer. But as far as I’m concerned, there is nothing wrong with that!

So apparently, tofu is something that needs to be pressed. I learned that from the recipe, but I pressed mine for way longer than necessary (because I suck at reading directions) and it was still not completely dry. So, I REALLY want (read: need) one of these – TofuXpress. It smushes the crap out of the tofu without stacking books on top of tofu and waiting an hour for it to smush. And without wasting approximately seventeen paper towels.

The other issue was that I didn’t slice the tofu thin enough, but this only excites me about making it again. This was so good on the first, clearly imperfect attempt that I can only imagine it getting tastier and tastier with each try. I enjoyed it with brown rice and a side of garlic kale.

Kale is bitter when raw. It’s so bitter that when I ate it in a salad once, I couldn’t finish the salad. Cooked, however, kale is ah-maz-ing. Smothered in garlic? To. Die. For. Plus, garlic and I are total bffs. I am in LOVE

with garlic. The only change I plan to make to this recipe is to use less Earth Balance. The recipe calls for vegan butter and olive oil, but I’m pretty sure I will be happy with using much less of both ingredients. The garlic and soy sauce flavor is plenty! A bite of tofu and kale together? Divine.

Needless to say, both of these recipes have excited me about going vegan. And both of these pictures have shown me that I really need to work on my food photography skills.

February 20, 2012 at 2:36 am 2 comments

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