It's the last full work week before Thanksgiving.  What else can I really say?! This week was long and I am so glad to be home with B and Chloe Mae after a long boring week at work.  I have tried working out more this week and even ran twice.  I am ready to get this pesky thyroid under wraps and make it start working again.  I started taking selenium supplements this week and hopefully after next week I will start to see a difference.  I have also started to limit the amount of gluten in my diet.  That has been a little bit of a struggle, but it seems to be easier.

When B goes to karate (he has two black belts and is working on testing for master level) I usually don't cook anything special and if I don't have any food prepared in the fridge ready to heat up then it's usually something easy.  Sometimes that means cereal and a protein shake or a throw together salad.  This week I pretty much ate the same thing...brown basmati rice, cuban style black beans from Trader Joe's, diced tomato, chipotle salsa, and mashed avocado with lime and cracked black pepper.  Perfect balance of carbs, protein and fats post workout.

I am also happy to announce that after much searching we have found an organic co-op to join.  We had searched for a CSA that works with our schedule and hadn't found anything until we looked into Big Organic Garden.  Basically the way a CSA or co-op works is that you pay weekly or monthly for produce or other fresh items like fresh milk, cheese, etc.  Sometimes you will pay for a half share or full share or like we do for a certain size basket.  You usually don't know the specifics of your order until a couple days before pick up, but items are in season and usually locally sourced.  Our co-op selects all organic produce from local farmers, the southeast, and the US.  Because everything is sourced on the basis of availability the prices are usually lower than the grocery store and fresher because there is no middle man so to speak.

This is our lot for this week.  We received cucumbers, pears, a mix of apples, carrots, sweet potatoes, a pomegranate, small bag of cranberries and they even threw in the "poultry mix" herbs for free.  I love that we got all this ORGANIC produce for $23!  I can't wait to eat everything up.

Today we did one last shopping trip before Thanksgiving.  Since we are traveling to my parent's house in rural Tennessee for the big day a lot of the items for the salads we have to pick up and bring.  I am planning on making the cornbread stuffing, mac and cheese, chocolate fudge pie, caramel apple crisp, red wine apple cider sangria, spiced bourbon cranberry sauce, arugula salad with acorn squash and pomegranate and a beet salad with green apple.  Since we are not leaving until Wednesday I did go ahead and pick up produce for us to eat this week.

The acorn squash is for the salad, but almost everything is for eating.  I am going to roast the butternut squash tomorrow and probably a handful of the sweet potatoes.  I picked up a couple pomegranates too that I plan on cleaning and seeding tomorrow.  We picked up crab apples and satsuma oranges.  I have never tried either before but I am interested to see what they taste like.  The more my diet is plant centered and plant based the more I love veggies and fruits.  I honestly feel like when you eat fresh food you crave it and everything tastes good.

This was my little splurge today.  Anytime we are at Whole Foods Market I find it difficult to resist a sweet treat.  This little slice of heaven is a chocolate cake with chocolate ganache filling, a salted caramel layer, crispy rice bottom topped with buttercream, salted caramel drizzle and a salted caramel truffle.  YUM!  We had a deliciously healthy lunch at Chipotle so I couldn't feel too guilty about this one.  

Today before we hit all the crowds at Trader Joe's and Whole Foods I took my car to get an oil change.  We waited for-eva at Chipotle but it was so worth it.  There is nothing like their brown rice, black and pinto beans, grilled veggies, and all those yummy toppings.  I am a sucker for their pico, roasted salsa, corn salsa and guacamole.  No dairy or meat for me and it always feels good that it's so easy and delicious to be vegan at a place like that.

Since we usually have to drive about 40 minutes to a decent grocery I try to pick up items that are hard to get at Publix or even (cringes) Walmart.  Usually things like canned beans, rices, quinoa, lentils, and misc. items are what we end up bringing home.  Here is how I organize my pantry to make everything easy to find.  I usually like to organize items by category.  Cereal on the top self, baking items on the second, canned or bottled items along with nuts and seeds on the third and misc. boxes of crackers along with bins full of pasta, rice, grains, and snacks on the bottom shelf.

I love organization and plastic breathable bins allow me to put like items together.  I also like to just pull out a specific bin if I'm working on a recipe that calls for like items such as a pasta dish or granola.

Tomorrow I am working on DIY Christmas gifts, cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving, and a couple other recipes.  I can't wait to share everything with you.

Happy Weekend!

The holiday season is around the corner and Thanksgiving will be here next week.  For most of us with alternative diets or those of us that are trying to hit goals holidays that are centered around food can be difficult.  I hope these seven tips are helpful and take some of the stress out of your holiday.

1. Eat Meals the Day of Thanksgiving

Most people will starve themselves the day of to "make room" for the big meal NOT do this!  You should never skip meals or starve your body.  Not only is this bad for your metabolism, but it is so much easier to over eat when you are mad hungry.  Be sure to eat something like you normally would so you will be less likely to overeat later.

2. Watch the Snacks or the "Graze" Bar

Whether you are cooking the big meal or just hanging around you are bound to be surrounded by food.  Snacking can get you in trouble really quick and then before you know it you have ate a lot of food and you haven't even sat down at the table yet. Be mindful of snacking or grazing as I like to call it.  Appetizers and cheese and cracker trays are just as bad, so think about limiting yourself to a set amount (like two appetizers) before the meal or just stay out of the kitchen if you don't have the willpower.

3. No FAT Pants

Fess up you have a pair in your closet.  You know what I am talking about, those pants you keep in the back of your closet or bottom of your drawer because you can always fit into them no matter how your weight fluctuates.  Or maybe they are stretch or lycra, well now is not the time to wear something that will not physically tell you that you are bloated and have eaten too much.  This may not seem like much, but you will see a difference. Wear real pants to Thanksgiving dinner.

4. Bring Your Own Food

Whether you are hosting Thanksgiving dinner or going to someone's house, bringing food is always the best way to go.  If you are trying to manage or lose weight or have an alternative diet, this is the easiest way to control what you eat on the big day.  Suggest to bring a vegetable dish or healthier dessert and then at least if you will have a good option among a buffet of not so healthful options.  Being a vegetarian and whole food eater, I am getting used to not having everyone eat like me.  This Thanksgiving I am making Beet and Apple Salad as well as this Autumn Arugula Salad with Acorn Squash and Pomegrante to give me and B healthier dishes to fill up on.

5. Be Active

This may seem silly and everyone will joke about a carb coma or turkey coma, but try to go for a long walk on Thanksgiving.  Being active may mean playing football in the yard with the kids or running a couple miles before heading to where you are going for the big dinner.  Your body will thank you for staying active and you will feel better knowing you are moving and not just laying around all day.

6. Don't Deprive Yourself

The worst thing you can do is deprive yourself and quit cold turkey so to speak.  If you are a gravy lover or sweets fiend, then just limit yourself to a moderate amount.  When you tell yourself you can't have something it will make it that much more difficult for you to stay on track for the long haul.  Don't compromise your long term goals, but don't be unrealistic in your expectations for yourself.  Load up your plate with things you should be eating and then add a little bit of the things that aren't so good for you if it will keep you on track.  I like to use the two bite rule for this.  Just try two bites of the bad food and 8 times out of 10 your craving will be satisfied.

7. Have Fun! Don't Stress

Enjoy yourself and have a good time.  Thanksgiving is about family and being thankful.  Celebrate in your health and the health of those you love.  The more you stress over the food aspect of the holiday, the less time you have to enjoy your blessings.

I hope these tips help you treasure Thanksgiving and keep you from feeling like a stuffed turkey!

This weekend has been pretty relaxing and I am so thankful for that.  After everything the past couple weeks, B and I have been happy to just relax at home and keep everything low key.  I've done some cooking, laundry and yoga but that's been about it.  

Here's the meal that I whipped up last night.  Whole wheat spaghetti with homemade marinara, spinach salad with olives and tomatoes, french bread with olive oil, rosemary and cracked pepper.

I topped off my yummy dinner with a glass of white wine and a couple good cookbook reads.

We bought a bag of gala apples, granny smith apples, and concorde pears at Trader Joes for the week.  Aren't they beautiful?!

I also decided to pull out all the odds and ends meals from our freezer and cook everything for the upcoming workweek.  I cooked up rice casserole, twice baked cheddar broccoli potatoes, chocolate chip pumpkin muffins, enchilada pie, french style carrot and potato mash, and Hawaiian BBQ chicken.  I am a vegetarian but B still eats meal a couple times a week.  I love prepping meals for the week so I don't have to worry about spending money eating out or being too busy when I get home.

I decided to make some yummy gingerbread loaf this morning and we have been snacking on it all day.

Chloe has been doing a lot of this today.  Give this pit bull a lap and a blanket and she is out cold.  Nothing like napping on this gross rainy day.

I did some yoga this morning and it felt so good to do something to be active again.  I decided to do some squats and crunches too.  I am still trying to take it easy after last week, but I just want to run or spin so much.  This morning I made B and I some oatmeal with cinnamon and almond milk topped with a little brown sugar, lots of blueberries and walnuts.  We also had apples with a sprinkle of apple pie spice and a slice of gingerbread cake.

I hope everyone has enjoyed their weekend!  

Usually by the time Sunday hits most of the meals I make are just throw togethers.  These quesadillas are easy and great if you are in a pinch and short on ingredients or time.

What You'll Need:

  • 1 cup broccoli steamed, chopped into small pieces
  • 1 15 oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 small tomato, seeded and chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. onion minced
  • 1/2 tsp. each chili powder, ground cumin, and smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. dried oregano
  • 2 Tbsp. salsa
  • cheese (optional)
  • whole wheat tortillas
  • Mix all the ingredients together except the cheese and tortillas of course.

  • Once everything is mixed together place a small amount of cheese on the tortilla and then spread the mixture on the tortilla and sprinkle with a little more cheese.

  • Once the quesadillas are assembled, place them on a griddle over medium heat until the tortilla is golden brown.  Flip the quesadilla and continue until the cheese melts and both sides are golden brown.

  • Serve the quesadillas with your favorite salsa or guacamole.
  • Serves 2-4*
  • We got 2 quesadillas out of this recipe but that is only because we were crazy hungry.  You could easily get 4 servings out of this recipe.

This week was absolutely an improvement from last week.  Last week I had a huge scare with my thyroid or what I think is my thyroid.  I have been feeling pretty gross for the past little while and had a very swollen lymph node for most of last week.  I have wanted to go see a doctor but unfortunately with me starting at the new firm I don't have full insurance yet.  I have been reading about holistic approaches instead.  I have introduced kelp tablets into my diet and until I get everything worked out I am cutting back on my exercise routine for a little while.

I am an avid fruit lover for sure but I am really going to try and amp up my fruit intake.  Hopefully consuming more carbohydrates will also help me once I start working out more heavily again.

B and I miss juicing and are determined to buy a different kind of new juicer next month.  I think I have found the masticating juicer that will be perfect for us now we just have to save some money to buy it.  In the meantime however I will just enjoy cold pressed juice from Whole Foods.  There is nothing more delicious than beet juice.

On Wednesday our firm had its annual real estate department client schmooze dinner and I was so worried once I realized it would be a set menu.  It can sometimes be difficult being a vegetarian and eating out can sometimes be challenging.  We went to a fancy steakhouse and luckily the waitress volunteered to make me a large veggie plate.  I had loads of steamed broccoli and asparagus and even had sauteed spinach with garlic.  The waitress brought me so much I had plenty to take to work the next day for lunch.  I was also pretty grossed out when I saw everyone's steak and the fact that it literally took up most of the plate was appalling.  After everything I've learned it makes it difficult to not have negative feelings surrounding that much meat in one sitting. 

I made these yummy Granola Clusters at the beginning of the week and we are still eating on them.  This recipe is great because you can throw in whatever nuts or seeds you have on hand.  I used a lot of hemp seeds because they are not only very yummy but they are also a complete protein source for us vegetars.  Thanks Taralynn!  This recipe rocks!

Yesterday I prepped food like I usually do before I head to work but I decided to cut up more apples.  Yes, I know I have been eating a lot of apples this week.  I am kind of thinking of this as a sort of mini monomeal.  I cut up three gala apples and topped them with apple pie spice for a delicious mid morning snack.  I try to eat at least five small meals throughout the day.  Eating every couple hours is not only good for your metabolism and your digestive system but I find that it helps prevent overeating.

Most of my nights this past week have ended early with a snuggle session with Chloe and laying in bed before 9pm.  I will be glad when I get my thyroid situated and don't feel so exhausted.  I did some light yoga this morning and then we headed to take Chloe to her usual vet appointment.  After the appointment we headed to Trader Joes to stock up on staple ingredients for meals this coming up workweek.

I know we are all on the countdown to the holiday season and I for one could not be more excited.  Happy weekend!

With all this chilly and frankly cold weather all I want to do after a long day is head home to cozy up with a large warm bowl of soup.  I think most of us have memories of grilled cheese and tomato soup where the bread is white, the cheese very orange, and the soup from a can.  Since changing my lifestyle I have become an awesome re-inventor.  I am always taking classics that I love and re-inventing them to suite my grown up palette as well as my new health concerns.  Before I would have thought that there is no way to make a velvety tomato soup without the use of butter or cream, but now I actually prefer this one.  B and I agree that this recipe is extra tomato-y and all that tomato flavor translates to yum.

Instead of having a grilled cheese sandwich I tossed up a yummy salad.  I typically would prep everything for a salad myself but Publix had a sale on their premium bagged salads so I went with an apple, cheese and walnut one.  And if you are wondering yes you read cheese, I am not strictly a vegan but I do like to make vegan food.  Outside of French pastries and cheese  I was never really a dairy eater anyways :)

For the Soup:

  • 28 oz can organic crushed tomatoes 
  • 28 oz can organic fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 2 ribs celery chopped
  • 1 cup carrots chopped (3-4 large)
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1-2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

  • In a large pot over medium heat warm the olive oil and saute  the onion, celery and carrots until soft about 6-8 minutes.  Once the vegetables are soft add the garlic to the pot and lightly salt.
  • Add the tomatoes to the pot and bring to a boil.  Once the mixture comes to boil, reduce heat to simmer.  Use an immersion blender* to blend the soup until smooth.
  • Once the soup is smooth stir in  the sugar and half the chopped basil.  The sugar helped to cut some of the acid from the tomatoes.  Simmer the soup for 20-25 minutes to create a richer flavor.
  • After the soup has simmered stir in the remaining basil and serve.

  • Serves 6-8
*If you do not have an immersion blender use caution.  You can add the mixture to a blender or food processor, but you will need to cool the soup first.  I recommend an immersion blender because it is easy to use and clean and allows soups to  have a creamy texture without having to add dairy.

I am going to go ahead and warn you...this soup is trouble.  It is so good and so easy you will want to make it all the time.  Just be sure you keep all the ingredients on hand ;) and yes you will need a very crusty loaf of bread for all this velvety tomato goodness.


Here Are 10 of My Favorite Things:

1. Meal Prep.  I love prepping food for the freezer and the work week ahead.  Putting food in the freezer allows me to prepare food when I have time (usually on the weekends) and then pull them out for weeknight dinners.  I can usually pop them in the oven or cook in the slow cooker while I am out.  I am especially loving Fiesta Pinto Beans and Chipotle Black Bean and Quinoa Soup right now.  I will  double the recipe, mix up all the canned and chopped ingredients and freeze them in bags lying flat in the freezer.  Then I just pop then out when I want to drop in the slow cooker and add the dry beans and liquid...voila! Dinner makes itself while you are out making money.

2. Decorating our House.  I am so pleased with how my projects have turned out so far.  I have hung the canvas I painted, sconces and frames in the dining room and have started a collage of bits on the living room wall.  I still need to fill the frames, but that should be easy since we just got our engagement photo proofs back this week.

3. Apple Cider.  Fall is apple season and I love incorporating the flavor of apple cider into unexpected places.  These Whole Wheat Apple Cider Pancakes  are so tasty with this Apple Cider Syrup and I've successfully made vegan variations of both recipes.

4. Reading.  Right now I am really enjoying Michael Pollan's book In Defense of Food.  It is a great read and I highly encourage it to anyone that is food curious, loves nutrition or is making a change in their lifestyle.

5. Hot Tea.  Recently I have been trying to get off caffeine and not be so dependent on the stuff.  I have always enjoyed hot tea, but within the last week I have been drinking it basically everyday.  I believe I am having some thyroid issues, so I have been limiting caffeine to prevent inflammation.  Tazo makes some great options that are crafted for the gourmet palate.  My faves are the passion iced tea and focus blend.

6. Soup.  There is nothing better on a chilly autumn night than a cozy, steaming bowl of soup.  We have been eating everything from verde white bean soup to basic tomato.  I am even planning to whip up a batch of potato leek soup later today using almond milk and cauliflower instead of cream.  Stay tuned for the recipe...

7. Fitness Motivational Board.  I love having options when I am working out and staying fit.  Variety makes the world go round and I really enjoy having workout routines and exercises pinned in my at home gym for ease.  I have even caught B sneaking a peak of the kettlebell and tricep routines.  My Fitness Motivational Board is an absolute must.

8. Pumpkin.  There is no denying it...I am pumpkin OBSESSED.  I love it in all sorts of things this time of year from pumpkin cream cheese to pumpkin coffee cake and even pumpkin mac and cheese.  I can't get enough of the stuff and I love that pumpkin can be used in so many ways.  Sweet or savory it is the perfect addition to pasta dishes, protein smoothies and baked goods.

9. Thanksgiving Food.  It may not be "Turkey" Day yet, but who cares!  We may not be eating turkey around these parts, but you better believe we have already been enjoying all the flavors of the season.  Vegetarian Gravy is already a hit in our house.

10. Vega One Protein Powder.  This stuff rocks!  Vega One Protein Powder is great because it is vegan protein powder made from peas and other things.  I like the taste, texture and the fact that it has additional nutrition added in every scoop.  I mix it in a Mason jar with almond milk or sometimes put it in the blender with frozen fruit or anything else that sounds good.  The Vanilla Chai flavor is my favorite so far.

Happy Fall Ya'll!

So many things have happened over the last couple months and ultimately I have felt like a crazy woman.  Between planning B and I's wedding, working into my paralegal job in Midtown, spending so much of my day commuting to that same job, and staying healthy I have been stretched thin.  Thankfully I have an amazing support system that truly are unbelievable in every way and help me out where they can.  

The wedding planning is all starting to come together and I am so glad to have checked so many things off our massive spread sheet:
  • Venue...CHECK
  • Catering...CHECK
  • Photographer...CHECK
  • Dress...CHECK
  • Flowers...CHECK
  • Honeymoon...CHECK
  • Other general details...CHECK
Now, to focus on the fun stuff like to final touches, centerpieces and details.  Woohoo!

I like my new paralegal job that I started in June.  The people I work with are incredible and I even have my own large office.  The only thing I am still trying to deal with is the long commute to and from work.  Luckily the partner I work with has helped me to adjust the hours that I work, but the 1 hour and 20 minute drive one way has still been painful.  I am hoping that B and I will be able to move closer to the city within the next 1-2 years.

Over 4th of July weekend I decided to switch to being a full time vegetarian and I haven't regretted it one minute.  I decided to make the full switch after watching many documentaries regarding health benefits and cruelty to animals.  It is challenging at times, but ultimately has been wonderful for me.  Not only have I felt like I have a clear mind, but my skin has cleared, my body is stronger, and I sleep so much better.  I have also determined that any restaurant that doesn't have a vegetarian option probably isn't somewhere anyone should be eating anyways.  Sure I sometimes have to order things without the meat that comes with it or order a small salad with a couple side items, but it works for me.  B has been eating vegetarian with me too at dinner and is very supportive.  I usually will cook him meat to take with his lunch for the weekdays so he doesn't mind.  Since we have changed our diets it is all about balance.

I have missed blogging and sharing my daily struggles and victories with all of you.  I can't wait to start posting again!



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