Thursday, April 29, 2010

Pizza Alternative

If you're looking for a healthy pizza that won't leave you feeling sick, this was an excellent alternative that I found! Even my daycare kids will eat this.

This was found in The Biggest Loser: 30-Day Jump Start book on page 125.

1 tube (24 oz) precooked, ready-to-heat polenta (see note), cut into 12 1/2" slices (For some reason I always end up w/more than 12 slices!)
1/4 cup low-fat marinara sauce
2 tbsp bottled pesto (or you can make your own-I use Tastefully Simple's)
1/4 roasted red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
4 artichoke hearts, thinly sliced
3/4 cup shredded low-fat or reduced-fat mozzarella or Italian cheese blend
Fresh basil or thyme

Preheat oven to 400-degrees-F.

Spray the polenta slices lightly w/olive oil cooking spray & place them on a baking sheet. Bake the polenta for 8 mins. While it's baking, place all toppings in small bowls for quick & easy assembly (optional). Turn the polenta slices over & bake for 8 mins longer. Remove the polenta from the oven & turn on the broiler.

Top each baked polenta round w/1 tsp of marinara sauce. Add 1/2 tsp of pesto, a strip of roasted bell pepper, artichoke slices, & 1 tbsp of cheese.

Broil the pizzettas for about 3 mins, or just until the cheese is melted, bubbly, and light golden. Remove the pizzettas from the oven & top them w/ the fresh herbs. Serve immediately. Leftovers reheat well the next day!

NOTES: Precooked polenta is usually found refrigerated in the produce department, or near the dried polenta in the pasta aisle.

Makes 12 servings
Per serving: 80 cal, 4g protein, 10g carbs (1g sugars), 2g fat (1g saturated fat), 5mg cholesterol, 1g fiber, 68mg sodium

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Deadly Cravings & Random Ramblings

I've finally been experiencing the deadly cravings of certain meats.

Craving #1 - My sister-in-law gave me a recipe for a killer Buffalo Chicken Dip. Anyone know a good substitute for the canned chicken that it calls for? I've been thinking about using tofu, but don't know if it will have the same effect as the shredded chicken. Really I only need the meat-substitute as a filler, because omitting the chicken would make the dip too runny. Here's the recipe, if that helps.

Craving #2 is similar to craving #1... Buffalo Wild Wings Boneless Wings. Lately I've had an infatuation with somewhat spicy things. Although, my version of spicy is usually pretty tame to most. But, I LOVE the BWW Mild Sauce, especially in their chicken wraps made w/tortillas, lettuce, cheese, tomatoes and boneless chicken wings slathered in the sauce. I know I can buy all the ingredients and make those myself and just get the sauce from BWW. But, help! What's a good substitute for the chicken?

Craving #3 I had was for something that I could actually eat... pizza. This is a craving I get a few times per month. Lately we've been ordering from Dominoes, because we have a buy 1 get 1 free coupon that doesn't expire for like a year, but every time we've ordered from them, I end up feeling completely yucky after eating it. Besides, I've always preferred Papa John's anyway. So, we ordered that instead. I got a plain cheese pizza. It was yummy going down, but again, the dreaded stomachache and day-after-heartburn set in. Conclusion... my body doesn't agree with pizza. It's unfortunate. And what's more unfortunate? That it won't stop me from eating it again. Maybe I'll learn, someday, but for now... baby steps.

In a minute, I'm going to evaluate some new food discoveries I've made on which I like and don't like, but for now, I have another poll (which no one seems to fill out, so I don't know if anyone's even reading this). When I was in Overeating Anonymous HOW, I was taught to "eat around my plate". This concept was to take 1 bite of something on your plate and then move onto the next food item on your plate and take a bite and so on. The idea was that you wouldn't fixate on any one food on your plate. In other words, it would keep you from enjoying it too much. For awhile, I thought the concept was brilliant, but in hindsight, I think it's ridiculous. Shouldn't we be doing exactly that... ENJOYING our food? Maybe if we enjoyed the food on our plate, rather than treating it light a regimen, eating disorders wouldn't be so prevalent? Just a thought. So, the poll is this: what do you think? Is it better to eat all of one thing then move onto to the next food item, or eat a bite of each thing around your plate until all the food is gone?

Now, onto my new discoveries:

1. Raw Red Peppers - I believe I stated in a previous post that I don't like raw red peppers. I was wrong. They have a sweet, watery and fresh taste to them when eaten by themselves. And a surprising spice that comes out when paired with another food. Delish!

2. Quorn - This is a brand name, rather than a food item itself. You can find it in the frozen section by the other vegetarian items. I purchased the "chicken" cutlets, which in fact, do not contain any chicken. Instead, it's a wheat protein. On the back of the package they recommend to heat it in the oven, rather than in the microwave and I must agree with them. The first time I had this, I used the microwave and it got hard and flavorless. Gross. But, since there were 2 cutlets in the package and I only ate 1, there was another left. So, I tried out the oven method... soooo much better!!! It had the texture of a chicken breast and the breading was yummy and crunchy, too! I dipped it in a little BBQ sauce and yum-o!

3. Amish Friendship Bread - I haven't made this in years so when my friend gave me a bag at my mom's group, I was so excited! I cheated, though, substituting a few healthier options and not knowing if it would turn out. It did! I used whole-wheat flour (I would recommend doing 1/2 whole wheat and 1/2 unbleached white, unless you like dense bread w/a very distinct whole wheat flavor). In place of the eggs, I used the liquid egg whites, found in the dairy section of your local grocery store. Instead of the canola oil, I used butter-flavored grapeseed oil, which I've used in baked goods before. My cousin, who had never tasted Amish Friendship Bread before, said it was the best bread he'd ever tasted.

Slight detour here... in making the Amish friendship bread and in "tasting" my food, I've discovered I don't like the whole wheat bread I've been buying at the grocery store, and I'm really interested in making my own bread now. Anyone have any tried & true whole wheat bread recipes that they'd like to share? Otherwise, I may try out Panera's loaves for sale, since I just learned that they do that (and slice it for you, too!) though it may break the bank!

4. Ok, back to my discoveries. I've never like seafood of any kind, including fish, but since that is a main source of protein for some Vegetarians and since I'm discovering that I like foods I didn't think I liked, I decided I better keep trying it. So, my BFF came into town (she recently moved 2 hours away - boo, hoo) and we went out to eat. Fish tacos always sounding appealing to me, for whatever reason, even though I didn't like fish, so I decided to order them... Tilapia Tacos, to be exact. I heard Tilapia is one of the milder-tasting fish out there, not so fishy-tasting... so I was excited to try this! It wasn't bad, but it still tasted like fish to me. :( Oh well, guess I'll keep trying.

5. Yesterday, I went to Subway. Surprisingly, there isn't much a Vegetarian can order besides the Veggie sandwich or a salad without the meat (can you even do that?). I spotted the Tuna Salad Sandwich on their menu and was hesitant to get it. I like tuna salad, but not a ton of it, but since there weren't many options, I ordered it anyway and there was a BIG helping of it on my sandwich! I ordered it with American Cheese (which tastes much better than the kind you buy at the store in the little individually-wrapped plastic, which in my opinion resembles plastic itself in flavor), lettuce, pickles and mayo (I tend to not be a big raw veggie fan) and I had them toast it. To my surprise, it was so YUM-O! I ate the entire thing, even though I was full 3" into my 6" sandwich. I will for sure be ordering that again!!!!!!

6. Lastly, for lunch today I was looking in my fridge for a protein alternative to the kids' corndogs, which I grabbed the Greek Yogurt I'd bought last week. I was shocked to discover there was something like 14 grams of protein in 1 serving! Needless to say, I'll be eating more greek yogurt as my protein substitutes! And you can buy them in different flavors in bulk at Costco.

In conclusion...

Raw Red Peppers, Oven-Made Quorn, Whole-Wheat Friendship Bread, Subway Tuna Sandwich (toasted) & Greek Yogurt = +1

Tilapia Tacos (from Jake's restaurant) = 0

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Eggplant, Eggs, Asian-veggies & canned Apricots

So last night I met a friend that I haven't seen in a really long time and we decided to go to a favorite restaurant in St. Paul, MN called Black Sea. It's the cutest little ma' and pa' shop with cheap Turkish food and excellent service and atmosphere! If you've never been there, you need to RUN, not walk, there!!!

With my new vegetarian lifestyle comes the need for trying new things. I've had eggplant maybe once before and just remember not liking it. But, since discovering that I never really "tasted" my food, I knew I should probably give it another try. My friend convinced me that fried eggplant is delicious, so I thought I'd try it. (Plus, paying $2.50 for a small order was not that much, if I ended up not liking it). To my surprise, it was delicious! It reminded me of squash, but with a sweeter taste. And I have no idea what kind of sauce they used, but it was soooo good!!! Anyway, the point of the story is: after truly TASTING eggplant, I actually like it. It's opened up a whole new world of possibilities for me... eggplant parmigiana, eggplant lasagna, etc! Oh P.S. I didn't care for the skin of the eggplant... too tough for my liking.

Poll: What Vegetarian cookbooks would you recommend (especially if they're kid-friendly)? I went to Barnes and Noble last night and my head was spinning with all the cookbooks!

So, this morning I made scrambled egg whites for my daughter and me. I'm a little weird-ed out by eggs since becoming Vegetarian. Some Vegetarians cut out all dairy and I think I've mentioned that I haven't. I don't drink cow's milk anymore, cause it just doesn't make sense to me to drink milk a) as an adult b) of another mammal and c) laced with hormones and chemicals. However, I love cheese and eggs. Or at least I did. I started researching what exactly an egg is. Gross. Look it up sometime. For those of you who thought it was sick that Tom Cruise wanted to eat the placenta that his daughter lived in while in utero... well, eggs are something like that. So, as I was eating my scrambled egg whites this morning, all I could think of was what this egg really was, or was supposed to be anyway. And mixed with the texture, well, it gagged me and I couldn't finish it.

Truth be told, Vegetarians don't necessarily eat better than meat-eaters. There are plenty of processed, not-good-for-you "treats" out there that a Vegetarian could fixate on. So, while I was making lunch, all I could think of was, "I could totally eat those donuts for lunch and no one would know. I mean I don't even LIKE these veggies." History: I forgot, quite often, to TASTE my food. Food was my drug. I was used to having a "numbing-effect" associated with putting food into my mouth. But today, I made the better decision... I decided to forgo the donuts calling my name in the pantry and silence them with the veggies instead. What a pleasant surprise! It's amazing the things you discover when you actually start enjoying your food again. I bought a bag of Archer Farms Asian-blend veggies from Target a long time ago, which had been sitting in my freezer for awhile. I decided to steam them in the bag them already come in, according to the package directions. They came out vibrant and absolutely delicious! There were mini corn-on-the-cobs, sugar snap peas, red peppers, water chestnuts and edamame. I knew I liked water chestnuts and edamame, but I never liked sugar snap peas or red peppers. But, today, they were amazing! The sugar snap peas had excellent flavor - the "picked fresh from the garden" type and had a satisfying crunch to them. The red peppers were sweet and tasted like they were fresh off the grill! Another surprising discovery... I didn't care for the baby corn-on-the-cob. I thought I would. I've liked them in the past, but I didn't.

Lastly, since it's hard to find apricots this time of the season, I bought the canned kind. Ewe. There's not much to say, other than they were pure mush and grossness. Never Again.

So, there you have it! Discovering what foods you like and don't like is fun!!!

Fried Eggplant (minus skin), Steamed Red Peppers, Steamed Sugar Snap Peas = +1
Scrambled Egg Whites, Steamed Baby Corn-on-the-Cob = 0

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


In my last post, I mentioned the process that got me to Vegetarianism. Now I want to talk about WHY I decided to do this... it started w/one reason and ended up w/many.

1. As I mentioned before, it all started from a book I was reading and my Spirit couldn't handle reading about what happened to a pig for our consumption. (See the book "Cleaving" by Julie Powell for more info) This lead me to my Pastors blog which lead me to the video mentioned in the last post. The video outraged me and I had to look away at times and was in tears by the end of it. How did I live this long and NOT know about this process? The farm factories are inhumane and unnecessary violence, torture and killing. Something I no longer want to be a part of or support.

2. The more research I did, the more I learned there were other reasons I wanted to be Vegetarian. As a Christian, I take seriously the responsibility bestowed on me, to take care of our animals and our earth. I do what I can, to the best of my ability and resources. I host recycle parties (we all bring things we no longer want and swap), I use environmentally-friendly laundry detergent and cleaning supplies, I recycle my plastics and paper and glass, etc. So, when I learned the truth about how the meat industry is affecting our earth, of course it was natural for me to chalk it up as another reason to go vegetarian. Consider this: Water needed to produce a pound of wheat = 14 gallons. Water needed to produce a pound of meat = 441 gallons. This is NOT the best use of our earthly resources. This is just ONE of many statistics. This also leads me to consider poverty in the world. If it costs less to produce plants for consumption, wouldn't that also reduce the rate of poverty in the world? This is again another command of the Bible, to care for the poverty-stricken.

3. Did you know that America is one of the only high-meat-consuming countries in the world? Why is that? And why is it that America is one of the leading countries in health-issues and obesity? “Vegetarian diets offer a number of nutritional benefits, including lower levels of saturated fat, well as higher levels of fiber, magnesium, potassium, folate, and antioxidants such as vitamins C and E and phytochemicals. Vegetarians have been reported to have lower body mass indexes than nonvegetarians, as well as lower rates of death from ischemic heart disease; vegetarians also show lower blood cholesterol levels; lower blood pressure; and lower rates of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and prostate and colon cancer.” --American Dietetic Association, June 2003 position paper. It's no secret that I've been fighting health issue after healthy issue for the past 3 years. My weight is a by-product of my insulin-resistance, a side effect of PCOS. So, the fact that vegetarian diets have lower rates of type 2 diabetes is a great appeal to me. Not to mention, vegetarians tend to thinner and overall healthier. I have to say, in the 5 days of not consuming meat, my energy level has increased significantly. I need less sleep and I'm finally getting QUALITY sleep (I used to never sleep through the night and often times have nightmares. I've slept through the night, nightmare-free almost EVERY night since giving up meat!) My mood has improved... I have more patience for my childcare kids (I own and run my own in-home childcare) and my husband. I haven't taken my anti-depressant medication in days and still feel happy! My sex drive has significantly increased and I just feel better overall. Amazing, isn't it? I'm interested to see how this change will continue affect my infertility and health issues... stay tuned!

Oh yeah, and so far, it's helped me to be more in tune w/my body... if I'm getting a headache or not feeling well, it's usually because I need to eat something. I think my body was so clouded by all the crap that I was eating, that I never really knew if I was causing my grief. Now, I know the issue and I know the cure! Amazing stuff!

4. The Bible and God are my source for everything. I never (or at least almost never) make a decision, without praying about it and feeling God's peace in my heart for the right decision. This decision has always been peaceful. I also believe that my goal in life is to mimic Jesus... be as much like Him as I possibly can, as a fallen human. Of course, I fail miserably and it's not w/o His daily help that I can even do this even minimally. So, when I started researching what Jesus ate and what the Bible says about food - I felt like my final decision needed to come from mimicking Jesus. Let me first be clear that the Bible does NOT say that we can't eat meat. In fact, it says the opposite. But, it's important to note that meat-eating wasn't "permitted" until AFTER the fall took place. This is hugely significant! In the beginning, our sole source of food came from plants. This was/is enough for humans to survive on and was God's original plan and final plan in the new world to come. But more importantly (at least for my purposes) was that Jesus was noted as eating milk, honey and fish. It is NEVER mentioned that he ate meat. It doesn't say that He didn't eat meat, it only says he feasted or ate a meal. It never specifically mentions meat. For me, since I want to mimic Jesus and I can't be fully sure that he consumed meat, I personally feel that I must only follow what I know is true... that would be that Jesus ate milk, honey and fish. So, that's what I'll do.

It also needs to be mentioned that in order for the US meat/dairy industries to keep up with production, they are injecting the animals with steroids and other unnatural hormones and chemicals. This is then passed into our food and when we consume it, it's passed into our bodies. Our bodies cannot operate at optimum if we are putting foreign, toxic substances in them, right?! So, the dairy I do consume, is strictly now organic (made w/o hormones or chemicals).

So, there you have it, in a nutshell. (No pun intended! Ha!) These are my reasons for why I became a Vegetarian. I'd like to end w/a disclaimer... these are MY reasons for making the choice to not eat meat. My reasons are for ME only and I don't necessarily think my reasons are right for every person or every Christian. It is a highly personal decision and one that each person needs to wrestle with on their own. There is no judgment towards those that disagree w/me or that choose to still consume meat. (My husband and child are amongst those still eating meat!)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Latest Tangent: Vegetarianism

Hello world! It's been awhile. I figured I'd start writing again, since something hugely significant has taken place in my life. If you've been a faithful reader of mine in the past, or if you know me at all, you know I've had struggle after struggle with food. Well, the latest "tangent" (as my mother likes to call it) is that I've become a Vegetarian. I'm going to start blogging about what I'm eating, why I'm eating it, recipes I fall in love with, Vegetarian products I like, etc. For this post, I'm going tell how I got started on Vegetarianism... I believe it was the Holy Spirit, you can believe what you want. :)

It all started with Lent. I went to church one Sunday when one of our Pastors was preaching about Lent: what it is, the history of it, why people give things up, etc. Since leaving the Catholic denomination, I never felt "lead" to give anything up. But, this sermon struck me differently and I heard that still, small voice in my head saying, "Facebook. Give up Facebook." It wasn't until I realized that I didn't WANT to give up Facebook that I knew I NEEDED to. Facebook had become a "filler" for me. I was spending all my extra time on there... looking at people's pictures, playing the games, etc. So, I obeyed and gave up Facebook.

In the 40 days I spent away from Facebook, God started revealing things to me surrounding food. Here's what I learned:

1. Facebook was a substitute. Since I couldn't spend my time on Facebook, I read books instead. My favorite book I read was Julia Child's "My Life in France". It made me reconnect w/one of my passions: FOOD! I love the entire process: shopping for the freshest & best ingredients, cooking/baking/preping the food & finally, consuming the food! I got so excited about food again!!! So hence, Facebook was a substitute - God was showing me that what I think is a good "filler" is really not the BEST filler. He knows what's BEST, He knows reconnecting w/my love for food would fulfill me more than Facebook would.

2. Next, He had me re-examine my relationship with food. I've battled with it for years... eating disorder clinics, Overeaters Anonymous, Weight Watchers, etc. God showed me that food is not the enemy! In fact, He had me ask myself, "Do I even KNOW what foods I like and don't like?" I mean, I've been so sucked into the "weight loss" side of the food, that I stopped ENJOYING my food! I ate turkey dogs, instead of hot dogs, because they were "healthier", but did I ever really TASTE what I was putting in my mouth? So, I started a food journal... not your typical, at X time I ate X and it X amount of calories, etc. BLAH! Nope, this food journal was the food item and all the properties I thought about it: what does it remind me of? Is it crunchy, mushy? Salty, sweet? Etc. WOW! What a revelation! I discovered that I LOVE green grapes and that I HATE turkey dogs! haha! I started TASTING and ENJOYING my food again! :)

3. From there, I started reading Julie Powell's book, "Cleaving". I LOVE Julie Powell, despite many people disliking her. I connect with her and relate to her on many different levels: she's been ridiculed for giving "too much information" about her life, etc. Anyway, I LOVED her book Julie & Julia (and also watch the movie like once a week!) So, this was a natural movement to read the next book. While I still like the book, I had to stop reading it one day. I was always bothered by the descriptions of her cutting through meat, bones, tendons, etc. But in this particular chapter, she witnesses and describes in grave detail, the killing & "preparing" of a pig for the US meat industry. I wept through the chapter. My Spirit couldn't handle it. I immediately felt led to start researching Vegetarianism.

So, that leads me here. I started asking fellow Vegetarians about their lifestyle & follow the blog of an old friend, who turned Vegan. I went to my Pastor's blog to read up on his biblical reasons for being Vegetarian. These things lead me to other resources and the more I learned, the more I knew that God was calling me to give up meat. I feel like this journey has been small baby steps towards this larger lifestyle change. Our God is gracious that way. So, last Friday, I gave up meat and haven't eaten it since.

Here is the video that pushed me over the edge.

Though there have been challenges the past few days, it's been fairly easy. I have to give a shout out to my amazing husband, because though not a Vegetarian, he has been extremely supportive of my decision. He always has been supportive, no matter the "tangent" I'm on. Without his support, it might be a lot harder.