Monday, November 15, 2010

Not just for decoration...

Growing up, I loved the way my house looked from October through January. Where there was once boring old empty space, during these months there was suddenly an array of holiday decorations. It was generally about this time of the year that the Halloween/Fall decorations were put away and the Christmas decor would begin to emerge from the depths of the basement. Yes. I know it isn't even Thanksgiving yet. My mom is cuckoo for Christmas ; )

Anyway, what I didn't know then was that all of those crazy gourds and squash that were displayed around the house should NOT have been disposed of when the time came to replace them. They should have gone straight into the oven and then into my mouth. Fall and winter squash are AMAZING. This weekend I tried one of the great recipes that Eating Well featured on these babies... Sunday breakfast= baked apple waffles

Quick lunch before Sunday errands

Along with the squash we had a couscous and cabbage dish (recipe also from Eating Well). I was so consumed with the squash though that I forgot to snap a pic : \

Sliced squash and red onion courtesy of Patrick. Fall veggies may be yummy but you sure need some muscles to cut them up.

o0o0o0o0o the colors!

Delicata squash and red onion in maple dijon sauce. SUCCESS!
Ok. I'm off to think of same way I can eat the Christmas decorations before January roles around...

Monday, November 8, 2010

Crispy "UnChicken" Craving

Yes I realize I am a reading teacher who should know better than to add random prefixes to the names of various meats but I could think of no better title for today's post. Today I had a fierce and persistent craving for what can only be described as Crispy "UnChicken."

You see, it all started on Saturday...

I was returning from the annual special education teacher conference in Houston and found myself faced with a vegan's worst nightmare: airport dining. Luckily, I found a place called "Healthy Bistro" in one of the terminals (mind you it was not anywhere NEAR our gate and involved me running down many a moving walkway to get my food and still make our flight). Anyway, the so called healthy bistro did not have ANY vegetarian options but I was able to put together a ho-hum meal with their brown rice and steamed veggie sides.

When I got back to our gate (sweaty and disheveled from the Terminal Marathon), my coworkers and I had a few minutes to gobble our food before boarding the plane back to New Jersey. I was not particularly happy about my dinner selection and felt even more sorry for myself when one of my fellow teachers whipped out a Wendy's crispy chicken sandwich right across the aisle. These were my absolute FAVORITE before my adventures in clean eating began and I'll admit, I am still not completely immune to the powers of Value Meal Number 7. I munched on my brown rice but secretly wished I was the one holding the toxic but DREAMY fast food dinner...

When I awoke this morning, I knew that at least part of my day off (thank you Veteran's Day Observance) would be spent trying to find a way to satisfy my craving for something crispy and fried.

I spent the morning doing some work on the couch. While I did manage to get in some apple cider oats and a quick trip to the gym, the UnChicken recipe was never far from my mind.

Apple Cider Oats

1 small red apples
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
1 cup apple cider
1 cup old fashioned oats
1 cup almond milk

1. Slice apples into 1/2 inch chunks. Heat apple chunks in medium sauce pan with cider and pie spice until apples begin to soften (approximately 5 minutes).

2. Add oats and milk. Simmer 3-4 minutes. Top with nut butter of choice ; )

By the time dinner rolled around, I had a game plan.
Crispy UnChicken

1 block extra firm tofu (pressed and drained)
3 cups sweet and crunchy whole grain cereal of choice
1/4 cup spelt flour
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Egg substitute powder
Cooking oil of choice (I used olive oil because that is what we had)

1. Slice tofu into 1/4 inch thick strips. Sprinkle strips with sea salt.

2. Use a food processor to grind cereal. Mix cereal with flour and cayenne pepper.

3. Coat tofu strips with egg susbtitute mixture (prepare mixture according to package directions).

3. Toss sticky tofu strips in cereal/flour mixture.

4. "Fry" in a small amount of hot oil for 2-3 minutes on each side.

Mmmmm... crispy!

My plate = Crispy UnChicken with green beans and homemade mashed taters
While I know I will still sometimes dream of my old Value Meal pal, this meal was delicious (way better than the airport brown rice and steamed veggies). Plus, my body felt healthy and nourished after eating- a far cry from the nastiness I used to feel after scarfing my fast food favorite.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Boston Veg Fest!

So this past weekend I gave in to the intense feelings of homesickness that always seem to creep up around this time of year and made the trek up to New Hampshire. I'll admit, when Friday afternoon rolled around and the kiddos poured out of the school building, I almost collapsed. Getting in the car to travel for 4 hours hardly seemed appealing. However, I knew a cozy house, changing leaves, family and friends awaited on the other side. So, with pumpkin latte in hand, into the passenger seat I went- thanks for driving honey ; )

The trip was well worth it. Not only did I get to spend time with my family and TIA, the Boston vegetarian festival was also happening just a short drive away. A whole convention center filled with vegetarian goodies = one excited Beanz!

Ken and Tia sampling the toast with almond butter

We were very excited about the hummus table...


We were all cracking up about this T-Shirt. Especially because Patrick just happened to have a belly full of breakfast bacon...

Some people like 6 packs of beer. Others like 6 packs of peanut butter.... Yes, we bought the MONDO sized gift package. Gift? I think not. That's all mine baby!

My mom is turned around to listen to my inspirational speech on the joys of Dark Chocolate Dreams. She was convinced and purchases were made.


Apparently I was so excited I had some sort of seizure?

I recovered...

Mary's Gone Pretzels
I LOVE their crackers so when I saw they also make curried flavored pretzels I was very excited- Patrick had to mow over a line of hungry vegans to retrieve this sample for me. Seriously.
When we returned from the festival it was time for some Halloween Traditions. Let the Pumpkin carving BEGIN!

Notice the slight rash on the back of Bartholomew the pumpkin. Not sure what he picked up in the pumpkin patch but I hope they make some sort of cream for that... Now that's a way to scare the trick or treaters folks!

Don't look so shocked that I actually put my hands in the pumpkin goo...

Pumpkin goo is worth it if there is a promise of snacks in the future...

The final touches


Oooooh spooky.

Enough of the pumpkin bat with the rash. Where's the food?

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds = DELICIOUS Halloween movie treat
Scared Shrekless anyone?

Sunday, October 24, 2010


So as you can probably tell from my sparse postings these past few weeks, I have not been doing so great with my goals for work/life balance lately. I suppose this is to be expected. It wouldn't make sense to set goals for yourself that are easy to achieve ( I guess it also doesn't make sense then to put things on your to-do list that you have already done just so you can check them off? Oops).

While finding time to eat right and exercise have been challenging for me this month, I have not thrown in the towel. I know you were worried that I have been sitting in my closet eating Red Vines, peanut butter cups and pork chops all week but FEAR NOT. Before going vegan and committing to a healthful lifestyle, a few set backs would have sent me running for a box of E.L. Fudge cookies. I used to truly believe that if "I couldn't do it right, I shouldn't do it all." I believed that complete perfection was the only way and I consistently failed to reach the impossible bar I had set.

Now, even when things get busy, I try to remember that BALANCE not perfection is my ultimate goal. It is unfortunate that many of my meals this week came from an Amy's frozen vegan dinner box and that I didn't get to the gym everyday. It also isn't great that I haven't had tons of time for the things I enjoy such as yoga and blogging. However, it is not the end of the world.

Yesterday, I was working with one of my students who is not doing so well this year. He has a learning disability which often means he has to work twice as hard as his classmates in order to achieve success. I talked to him at Saturday school about the fact that he needs to be reading more consistently in order to grow his reading level and improve his grades. I talked way too much (as teachers sometimes tend to do). When I was finally done, I looked at him to see what his thoughts were on the situation.

He looked back at me (probably relieved that I had finally shutup) and then informed me that he already knew he needed to read more in order to reach his goal. "I have already finished two books this week," he told me proudly.

I didn't think much of the conversation at the time. It is one I have had many times over. My students often encounter setbacks and then they decide to work harder. Then they encounter more setbacks. Then they work harder. And harder. And harder. They know that if they want to achieve anything worthwhile that they will meet many struggles along the way...

As is the case with most of my moments of clarity, this student helped me to remember something important... I have not failed. I just need to work harder if I want to reach my goals. So this weekend, I tried to recommit to my goals for healthful living and work/life balance.

First, I tried to recommit to eating fun, nourishing, humane food by dining at an NYC vegan restaurant called Candle 79. The food was AMAZING and definitely inspired me to get back in the kitchen to cook up something creative ; )

My dinner:

seasonal vegetables, red pepper-coconut curry, ginger-apricot-date chutney, toasted almonds

Patrick's dinner:

cashew cream, pumpkin seeds, fresh herbs,
frizzled leeks

Side of broccoli and cauliflower

More dessert

I know what you're thinking... how does eating at a nice restaurant equal working hard? Well no worries. The next morning I woke up to some Fall Oats (with pumpkin granola and apple cider) and then headed out the door to do some ACTUAL work. I did the longest run I have done in quite some time and it felt GREAT. It made me think about setting some other goals...
Marathon maybe? Stay tuned...

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Stretching the Weekend

I knew this weekend was going to feel short because I was assigned to run detention on Friday afternoon AND we had our first week of Saturday school. This meant I had only 36 hours to relax and refresh for the upcoming work week. Rather than spending this time running around like a crazy person doing errands, school work and stuff here at home, I decided to maximize the potential of this limited time off. I crammed as many weekend pleasures into my day as I possibly could. Thus, I spent the day...

1. Sleeping in

2. Taking a nice long morning run

3. Baking pumpkin bread AND apple crisp (see below)

4. Watching the oven and drooling Waiting patiently for my treats to cook

5. Sipping a Starbucks coffee with one shot pumpkin pie syrup and soy milk... yummm

6. Reading a good book

7. Enjoying a hot lunch with my hubby

Vegetable Chowder:

4 jerusalem artichokes (washed, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks)
1 medium potato (washed, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks)
3 ears of corn (remove kernels from husks)
2 leeks (finely chopped)
2 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
6 cups water
Earth Balance
1 cup plain soy milk
salt and pepper to taste

1. Prepare all vegetables for cooking. Jerusalem artichokes are a pain in the butt a fun challenge so leave plenty of time for this (see the funny, peel resistant shape below).

2. Saute leeks in butter. Add garlic and jerusalem artichokes. Cook on medium for approximately 5 minutes of until artichokes/garlic become fragrant and leeks tender.
3. Add water and potatoes. Simmer for 25 minutes. Add corn. Simmer an additional 5 minutes.
4. Remove 3/4 of the soup and puree. Leave remaining 1/4 in its originally chunky state. Mix back together.
5. Add milk and salt/pepper. Simmer for 5 more minutes. Stirring occassionally.

6. Serve with a dallop of Tofutti Sour Cream.

Sunday Apple Crisp:
4 apples (peeled, cored and diced)
1 cup apple cider
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups oats
2 cups spelt flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon nutmeg
3/4 cup Earth Balance
1/2 cup brown rice syrup
2/3 cup maple syrup
1. Preheat over to 350.
2. Place diced apples in 9" baking pan.
3. Heat apple cider until boiling. Stir in cornstarch, vanilla extract and salt. Allow to simmer 3-4 minutes.
4. Pour cider mixture over apples.
5. Dry-roast oats, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg for 5 minutes on medium heat.
6. Meanwhile melt butter and syrups together in sauce span.
7. Pour melted mixture over oats. Mix thoroughly.
8. Pour topping over apple/cider in baking pan.
9. Cover with tin foil and bake 30 minutes. Remove foil and allow to bake another 15 minutes.