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.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Tofu you say?

While tofu is not my favorite vegan protein (I usually prefer beans or my selection of revered nut butters), the white chunky stuff below does occassionally make an appearance in my cooking. I have been known to enjoy a tofu scramble or slow-cooked barbeque tofu sandwich every now and then ; )

Despite my creative tofu preparation, I have not quite been able to convince the non-vegans in my life that tofu truly does have potential... until now. This week I prepared two tofu based dishes that were a hit with vegans and non-vegans alike (mostly me and Patrick- I don't get out much).

Spicy Chinese Tofu Stir Fry with Noodles:

1 block firm tofu (drained, pressed and cubed)
1/2 package soba noodles
2 cups green beans (washed and chopped in half)
1/4 cup organic soy sauce
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon red pepper
1 tablespoon agave nectar
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
Olive oil

1. Coat uncooked tofu blocks in cornstarch.

2. Saute in 1 tablespoon olive oil until pieces begin to brown. Remove from oil (about 5 minutes on each side).

3. While tofu is cooking, prepare soba noodles according to package directions.

3. Saute beans in remaining oil with crushed garlic until bright green and still slightly crispy. Add water as necessary.

4. While beans are cooking, prepare sauce by mixing water, soy sauce, tomato paste, agave, vinegar, red pepper and 2 teaspoons cornstarch.

5. When beans are done, pour the sauce over the beans and add tofu to the mixture. Serve over soba noodles.

Just in case you thought this tofu success was a one time deal, meet dish #2. This one required significantly less preparation but was certainly a hit with Patrick.

Tofu sausage on Rudi's Organic Wheat Buns
Topped with sauteed green peppers, jerusalem artichokes and cheese (dairy or vegan) of choice

*Quick note: I realize I have been posting a little less frequently now that I am in the midst of the busy school year. I am ok with this considering my main reason for starting this blog was to help maintain BALANCE. Obsessing over making sure I post hardly felt aligned with this goal. However, I have committed to posting at least 3 times per week. I think this will help me to keep healthy living at the front of my mind without making me pull my hair out because I forgot to snap a pic of my PB & J...

Don't forget about me. I'll still be here eating Veggies & Beanz : )

Monday, October 11, 2010

Traaaaaaadition. TRADITION!

Growing up, we had many family traditions around the holiday season. For Halloween we often hosted parties at the house complete with crazy costumes and yummy foods. The day after Halloween we decked the house out for Christmas while singing along to Dolly Parton and Kenny Roger's Holiday best (who says November 1st is too early?) On Christmas Eve, we saw a movie and went out for Chinese before heading to church. For 4th of July, we headed down to my uncle's house in VA where we would buy our own fireworks and put on a show in the driveway.

*The title of this post reflects one family tradition of ours that I have not yet mentioned. It may or may not involve an overplayed Fiddler on the Roof soundtrack.

Now that I am married, my family traditions have merged with Patrick's and we have started to develop our own hybrid from these memories. Here is a peek at some of our favorites from this weekend (thanks to both loving families for the inspiration).

1. Friday Taco Night (matched only by Friday Pizza Night)

2. Dinner and a movie (movie a la Netflix- dinner served at the coffee table)

This squash smelled so yummy it was hard not to just eat it by the spoonful right out of the oven : \

Creamy Cumin & Chili Squash Soup with Tomato-Basil-Kale Grilled Cheese

3. Pumpkin/Apple Picking
(followed by Hot Apple Cider and donuts of course!)

Uh-oh! I think one of those pumpkins went rotten ; )

These little ones were much more my style.

Our prized pumpkin. Patrick named him Bartholomew. Carving pictures to come (shhhh don't tell Barth).

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


This morning, my good friend Kiirsten forwarded me an article from Marie Claire called The Hunger Diaries. The article has caused quite the controversy in the food blogger world. I’ll give you the gist of it. The authors make the claim that many food blogs similar to my own claim to be about healthy living, but are in fact broadcasting a new form of disordered eating:

But behind the cutesy titles and sloganeering (Summit motto: "Bloggers for a Balanced Lifestyle") lies an arguably unhealthy obsession with food, exercise, and weight. The blogs' pages of meticulous food photographs and descriptions are often updated several times a day and immediately dissected by readers. A typical morning post documents breakfast with a photo and description—say, a smoothie of raw spinach and rice milk—followed by an afternoon report on the day's herculean exercise and an evening update on perfectly portioned snacks and dinner. Pare once chased a 10-mile run with a flourless, low-fat, black-bean "brownie." Boyle ran 22 miles and, after a day of light eating, signed off with, "I am so hungry!"

I felt the article was biased and took many quotes from these blogs out of context. None of the writers featured post every single thing they eat each day. Also, their emphasis is not on dieting or weight loss bur rather healthful, balanced living (similar to this one).

Though I obviously agree that blogs which promote disordered eating are an issue, I don’t think this particular article focused on these problematic sites. Instead, it targeted blogs that I believe present a very balanced approach. Perhaps healthy living food bloggers like myself are a little more “obsessed with healthy eating and exercise” than the average American. Is that a bad thing though? In a country struggling with an obesity epidemic, could we stand to be a little more obsessed? We are surrounded by advertisements everyday that enforce unhealthy habits- perhaps it is good that the counter movement is growing in intensity?

I think the article unfairly accuses some of these food bloggers of endorsing starvation diets and exercise dependence. I read many of the blogs mentioned and they all seem to promote a very balanced lifestyle. Reading the article made me wonder if my own words, thoughts and pictures could be misinterpreted…

I’m hoping people will comment and share their thoughts because I found the whole article very unsettling.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Way back when...

So It has been awhile since my last post and I have many stories (and yummy foods) to share with you all. Way back when, on Thursday evening, I accidentally left my computer charger at school. It had been an unexpectedly late night. I was caught in a meeting until almost 9 and had not brought any dinner with me that day. The result = too many Red Vines for dinner. Somebody brought them to the meeting and I could NOT resist. So bad but oh soooo good.

Only one problem with my Red Vine binge. I get migraines. My migraines are triggered by lack of sleep and excess sugar. Usually this is not a problem because though I don't get tons of sleep, I rarely ever eat sugar. Except for when someone brings Red Vines to a meeting...

Needless to say I awoke Friday morning with a debilitating migraine and spent the day locked in a dark room. Fun stuff. Luckily by nightfall the pain had subsided and I felt up to some cooking. Homemade veggies calzones are a great way to recover : ) I would have posted these earlier so you could enjoy them over the weekend but in my vine-induced sugar haze, I forgot my charger at school on Thursday and was out sick Friday.

Chopped tomatoes and brocollini for filling

Trader Joe's Whole Wheat Pizza Dough rolled and topped with veggies and basil

All wrapped up and ready to get cooking!

Calzone with marinara and celery sticks

The cheesy guts

If you could read my thoughts here you would know I was wondering what a Red Vine filled calzone would taste like- some people never learn...

Dipping action!

Sadly, no Red Vines for dessert. Instead I enjoyed a favorite treat from way back when...

This one had an adult/vegan twist with coconut cream filling and mint leaves on top. Yummm!

The next day, Patrick and I drove up to MA for homecoming weekend. Above is a picture of us in front of our Junior year dormitory. Way back when, this is where we met. Patrick lived below me and I couldn't stand the fact that his heavy metal music kept me up all night. I would like to say that once we started dating, I didn't mind the loud music anymore and I thought his late night Metallic habit was cute... nope. Not there yet.

For dinner, I grabbed dinner with my sister (now a fellow alum) at Moe's. Southwestern Grill. Way back when I used to order the Homewrecker burritto. It was stuffed with cheese, sour cream and guacamole and was roughly the size of my thigh. Thank you Moe's for helping me achieve the Freshman 15. This time, I opted for a lighter choice: Whole grain burritto filled with beans and veggies (sans rice, cheese and sour cream).

After a night of visiting with old friends and traveling to some way back when favorite places, Patrick and I met my mom and Ken for lunch on Sunday. We went to one of my favorite restaurants in the area, The Flying Rhino. I was excited to see some vegan choices on the menu! It seems like more and more places have this option these days : )

Szechuan veggie stirfry with rice

When we got back home after our trip, I was feeling especially nostalgic so I decided to have a go at a way back when favorite food: Au Gratin Potatoes. My mom used to make these all the time and my sister and I LOVED them. I would turn my nose up at homemade mashed potatoes in favor of this boxed-cheesy-goodness. Unfortunately, these are neither vegan nor very healthy. My version was equally as tasty but came without the added fat and chemicals.

Au Gratin Leeks & Turnips:
4 turnips (peeled and thinly sliced)
1 cup sliced leeks
1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup water
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons spelt flour
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 1/2 cups unsweetened soy milk
1 cup shredded vegan cheese (I used a mix of Daiya Cheddar and Galaxy Mozzarella)
1. Boil a pot of water. Add turnips. Simmer for 15-20 minutes.
2. In the meantime, saute leeks in oil until tender.
3. Add salt, flour, pepper, milk and water (from turnip pot) to the leeks. Cook on medium high until mixture begins to thicken.
4. Add cheese and mix thoroughly until fully melted.
5. Drain turnips and add to cheesy mixture.

Trader Joe's Meatless Meatballs with homemade vegan gravy (recipe to come)

Not from a box or a Red Vine bag but delicious nevertheless ; )