Tag Archives: chicken

A birthday, friends, drinks and great conversation…

5 Jun

I couldn’t have asked for a better weekend. It was just perfect. On Friday, we celebrated Brady’s 10th birthday at the local bowling alley. He wanted a bowling party, so we went all out with 8 friends, 2 games of bowling, the game room, pizza, blue slushies and dirt cake (his request). We left there at 8 p.m. and came back to our house with two of the families that were at the party. We had a campfire, the kids ran around playing games, and the adults enjoyed wine and beverages with a few simple snacks. It was great to just enjoy our screen porch and the beautiful weather with good friends.

Saturday was another gorgeous weather day. (We should have been camping!) It was about 80 degrees and sunny all day. After breakfast, I got to do a little garage sale-ing with my friend Stacey. Fun! Then came home and figured out what the plan was for dinner. I needed a few things from the grocery store, so Madison and I decided to walk there. It’s about 1.5 miles there and back and we picked up her friend that lives on our street along the way. It was nice to walk with “the girls” and chat for a while. I did a little reading, helped Brady with his new K’Nex kit he got for his birthday, did a load of laundry…just kind of a leisurely day.

The kids wanted grilled shish kabobs for dinner, so I whipped up a batch of my Meaty Marinade (see my June 30, 2010 post) and poured it over a big bowl of red bell pepper wedges, onion wedges, zucchini slices and whole baby portobello mushrooms. I marinated some “happy” boneless, skinless chicken breasts from Trader Joe’s and a vegan “chicken” cutlet in it, too. Threaded onto skewers, along with some fresh pineapple chunks? Fabulous! To go alongside, I made a big fruit salad and came up with a new couscous recipe. This is super easy and is loaded with fresh herbs, making it a tasty Mediterranean-style side dish. I will definitely make it again. It was equally as good hot out of the pan as it was an hour later as I was scooping room-temperature bites out of the bowl while cleaning up. Yum!

Mediterranean Couscous
makes 6 (1/2-cup) servings
approximately 160 calories per serving*

2 tablespoons olive oil, separated
1 teaspoon minced garlic
about 1/4th of a red bell pepper, diced
1/4 cup diced onion (such as Vidalia)
1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup couscous
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian parsley
10 pitted kalamata olives, sliced
salt
freshly-cracked black pepper
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, optional

In a medium sauce pan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, peppers and onions and saute until tender and lightly browned. Add 1 cup vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Stir in the couscous. Return to a boil, cover and remove from heat. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or so then fluff with a fork. Drizzle with the balsamic vinegar and the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Stir in the fresh herbs and kalamata olives and season with salt and a generous amount of cracked black pepper. Add the Parmesan cheese, if using, and toss to blend. Remove to a serving bowl and serve immediately or at room temperature. Enjoy!
*By my own calculations of the ingredients

Ah, Sunday…sunny and warm again. Honestly, it was the perfect camping weekend and we didn’t take advantage of it! We made a big veggie omelet for breakfast and then spent the day basically just “piddling,” as my dad would say. A little cleaning here and there, some work on the pool, a quick run to Target and Lowe’s, a little work on stuff for Madison’s 6th grade recognition program (I overvolunteered….again). Oh, and baked 3 dozen vegan Oreo cupcakes for Brady to share with his classmates tomorrow. (See my March 8, 2010 post for the recipe.)

I even went easy-breezy for dinner tonight. I made my own version of the Applebee’s Oriental Chicken Salad. If you know this salad, you know it’s delicious! What’s served in the restaurant is far from vegan or “happy,” though, so I created my own recipe that’s very similar in taste. I’m calling it vegan-ish because the dressing has honey, which is not technically vegan. If you want it 100% vegan, try substituting agave. (Note – You will end up with more dressing than you need, so save it for the next day on a wrap!)

Vegan-ish Oriental Chicken Salad
makes 4 dinner-size salads

Dressing:
3/4 cup Vegenaise
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
freshly-cracked black pepper, to taste

Salad:
16-20 vegan “chicken” nuggets
4 cups thinly sliced Romaine or other mixed greens
4 cups bagged cole slaw mix or shredded cabbage
1 cup shredded carrots
1/2 of an English cucumber, sliced
2 8-ounce cans mandarin oranges, drained
3 green onions, sliced
1 cup crunchy Chinese rice noodles
1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

In a small bowl, whisk together dressing ingredients and refrigerate. Bake “chicken” nuggets per package directions. Meanwhile, arrange 1 cup lettuce and 1 cup cole slaw mix on each of 4 plates. Top each with shredded carrots, mandarin oranges and green onions. Slice the nuggets and layer on top. Drizzle with the dressing and garnish with Chinese rice noodles and toasted almonds. Enjoy!

As the weekend comes to a close, I feel relaxed and ready to tackle the week ahead. It’s the last full week of school and it’s going to be crazy! (I’m forecasting a lot of thrown-together-at-the-last-minute dinners this week!)

June 5, 2011

Summer is almost here!

26 May

I can almost feel it. We’ve had quite a few warm sunny days and LOTS of spring rainy days, but I think summer is just around the corner.

Most of my vegetable garden is planted, although the wild turkeys that visit my yard every day have decided this year that my garden is nice place to stop for a snack! About a week ago I went out to check on it and they had walked all over in my raised beds and rooted through the dirt, kicking a lot of it out of the wood frame. I don’t know if they’re eating the seeds I planted or looking for worms, but what a mess. Unfortunately, most of the seeds had been in the ground for only a week, so they hadn’t sprouted yet and I can’t tell if seeds are missing or if they will still be coming up. I’m going to have to wait a little while and then try to determine what’s left. I’m sure I will be replanting many things.

I did notice the lettuce was sprouting, which is a good thing because I have recently turned into the salad queen! For some reason, I’m finding it necessary to have a salad every day. I guess that’s a good thing! I can’t wait for all the delicious fresh veggies coming soon. (See below for my latest salad addiction.)

Because I haven’t blogged in a couple of weeks, I wanted to share a few things I’ve enjoyed recently.

On Mother’s Day, we all went to my in-laws for dinner. She, of course, made a wonderful dinner, but — the dessert was insanely simple and insanely satisfying. These were called Berry Dessert Nachos. I don’t have the recipe (which came from a diabetic cookbook of hers), but basically you build nachos out of dessert items. For the base, she took whole wheat flour tortillas and brushed them with melted butter. They were sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar and baked until they became crispy chips. Those went into the bottom of the bowl. On top of that were all kinds of fresh berries — strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries. This was all topped with a sort of sweet sour cream mixture. I’m not sure what was in it, but I think a scoop of vanilla yogurt or vegan ice cream would be just right. And then — just to blow your mind! — she sprinkled on toasted almonds and shaved a bar of dark chocolate over that. Absolutely delicious and not at all bad for you.

One of the people I most refer to for what I should be eating is cookbook author Mark Bittman. I borrowed his latest book from the library — “The Food Matters Cookbook.” (If you haven’t read his book, “Food Matters,” definitely put it on your to-read-soon list!) Last week, I made one of his new recipes, Skillet Tamales. It’s a casserole with all the flavors of tamales. The finished dish was really good and the whole family enjoyed it. I had a little trouble mixing up his corn bread topping, even though I followed the recipe exactly. In the end, it came out okay and I will probably make this again, but I need to work on the topping a little. Anyway, check out this picture of total yumminess. I topped mine with guacamole. Jason and the kids garnished theirs with shredded cheese, sour cream and salsa.

Do you ever make something to eat and then you sort of become obsessed with it? Like, you eat it for days and days and days and you keep making it all the time until you get burned out? Um…I do this pretty often. For a long time, my favorite homemade lunch was a whole wheat tortilla spread with hummus and then piled up with any kind of salad ingredients I had. I’d roll it into a wrap and enjoy. I still have those once in a while, but I went for months eating that almost every day! Well, my latest lunch addiction is Taco Salad. I made this up off the top of my head one day and now I eat it pretty often — sometimes with the vegan “chicken” and sometimes with black beans. Sometimes with guacamole and most times without. It’s so satisfying! Plus, it makes a huge plateful and is only about 300 calories.

VEGAN TACO SALAD
makes 1 serving

1 vegan “chicken” breast, thinly sliced or chopped
1 teaspoon olive oil
3 tablespoons salsa, divided
2 cups mixed greens
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/3 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
1/2 cup sliced grape tomatoes
1 green onion, sliced
2 tablespoons Newman’s Own Corn & Black Bean Salsa (addictive!!!)
1 corn tortilla, baked until crispy

Spray a small skillet with nonstick cooking spray and add the oil. Over medium heat, saute the “chicken” pieces until lightly browned. Add 1 tablespoon of salsa and stir to coat all pieces. Sprinkle with ground cumin, if desired.

Spread out the lettuce on a large plate. Drizzle with lime juice and toss to coat the lettuce. Layer on the corn kernels, grape tomatoes, green onions, and Newman’s Own Corn & Black Bean Salsa. Top with the “chicken” and the remaining salsa. Crumble the corn tortilla over all and enjoy!

Can you be vegan-ish?

5 Apr

I think that’s what I have to start referring to myself as. Vegan-ish. Not 100%, but mostly vegan.

I’m still making the majority of my meals vegan. But I do eat eggs a couple of times a week (fresh from happy chickens at a home in my neighborhood). I have, on occasion, enjoyed a small piece of humanely and sustainably-raised chicken or beef, purchased locally. Not too often, but once in a while. I’ve also been actively searching out sustainable seafood. I downloaded the National Sustainable Seafood Guide (here), which helps me choose seafood that is not overfished, is environmentally-friendly and supports healthy oceans. I’ve always enjoyed seafood and I’m glad it’s back in my diet.

I feel good about my food choices. I’m still eating lots of vegetables, fruits and whole grains. And I’m not supporting industrial animal farming in any way except dairy. Though we’ve cut way back on the milk consumption in our house, I still haven’t found a local source for it, so I’m stuck with the grocery store variety for Jason and the kids. Luckily, they like almond milk, so I keep buying it even though it’s more expensive than regular milk. I think that will be one of my goals this summer — locally made cheese and other dairy products.

But let’s get back to the vegetables. I think spring might actually arrive here in southeast Michigan sometime soon! Goodness, this weather is making us all crazy. We are 10 degrees or more below normal just about every day. I’m dying to get out into the garden and get my veggies planted! In the meantime, I’ve been experimenting with some new recipes. Some vegan, some gluten free and some vegan and gluten free. Check back often, because I’ll be posting them!

Here are a couple of recent ones that don’t require an actual recipe.

Sesame Green & Yellow Beans
Rather than the standard old steamed green beans with butter, try these for a quick side dish. Place cleaned beans in a deep saute pan with a little water. Bring to boil, cover and steam them until just barely tender-crisp. Drain in a colander and rinse with cold water. In the same saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil over medium-high heat. Toss the beans back in and give them a quick saute. Remove to a serving dish and toss with salt, pepper and toasted sesame seeds. Enjoy!

Polenta Pizzas
The kids wanted to do make-your-own pizzas Saturday night for dinner. They made theirs on regular pizza crusts, but I wanted something gluten free and vegan. I have a bag of Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free Pizza Dough mix, but just didn’t feel like messing with it. So I stared into my pantry hoping something would jump out at me. And it did! I pulled out a container of instant polenta. I cooked it per the package instructions (which takes all of 5 minutes) and poured it into a foil-lined baking dish. I spread it out evenly and placed it in the fridge to chill while I got all the pizza toppings ready to go. Once cold, I lifted the foil and polenta out of the pan and put it on a cutting board. Using a biscuit cutter, I cut it into 4″ circles and sauteed them in a little olive oil, turning once, so they were crispy on both sides. Then I used these to build my pizzas on. Though they don’t have the texture of pizza dough, they were really tasty and still had all my favorite pizza toppings. I just popped them into the oven with the kids’ pizzas so the vegan cheese got melty. Cut slightly smaller, these would be fun appetizers! Here are my combinations:

BBQ Chicken Pizza (top)
BBQ sauce + Daiya vegan cheese + red onions + sauteed vegan chicken slices + minced cilantro

Mediterranean Pizza (bottom right)
Vegan pesto mayo + Daiya vegan cheese + grilled red peppers + kalamata olives + red onion + dash of dried oregano

Sausage Pizza
(bottom left)
Pizza sauce + Daiya vegan cheese + crumbled vegan Italian sausage

Tasty enchiladas…and a week of simple cooking.

24 Jan

It’s Monday again. Blah. It’s 10 degrees out. Blah. I’m so sick of this weather, I just want to stay inside and read by the fire with a cup of hot tea all day.
Every day.

This is the kind of week that calls for warm, home-cooked comfort foods. We topped off this past weekend with vegan enchiladas garnished with lettuce, onions and salsa for dinner last night. They were warm and gooey and the spiciness seemed to heat me from the inside out! I served them with Spanish rice (recipe on March 15 blog post) and fresh pineapple and grapes. Jason and the kids topped theirs with sour cream. I topped mine with guacamole (recipe on March 4 blog post). I assembled the enchiladas in the morning and placed the pan in the fridge so all I had to do at dinnertime was pop them in the oven to bake. I usually make my own enchilada sauce and taco seasoning, but for super speedy cooking, canned enchilada sauce and a packet of low-sodium taco seasoning will work just fine (look for one without MSG).

The recipe makes enough filling to stuff about 14 corn tortillas. My 9×13 baking dish only holds 10 enchiladas, which is just the right amount for my family, so I usually put the rest of the filling in the refrigerator to be re-heated one evening for a tasty dip for tortilla chips. Feel free to make as many enchiladas as you can with the filling. You should have enough sauce. Simply adjust the amount of cheese as needed.

Also, these can be very easily converted for your cheese or meat eating family members. You can substitute regular cheese for the vegan cheese and you can substitute ethically-raised boneless, skinless chicken breast for the Gardein “chicken” patties.

Vegan Enchiladas
makes 10-14 enchiladas

2 Gardein “chicken” patties (non-breaded) or 4 oz vegan “chicken” strips
1 small onion, diced
1/2 of a green pepper, diced
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can diced tomatoes with jalapeno peppers
1 packet low-sodium taco seasoning
2 cans enchilada sauce
10 to 14 corn tortillas (6″ size)
1 cup shredded vegan cheese (or more to taste)

Coat a large skillet with non-stick cooking spray and heat over medium heat. Dice the “chicken” into tiny pieces and saute in skillet until lightly browned. Remove from pan and set aside. Re-coat the skillet with cooking spray and saute onions and green peppers until softened. (Add 1 tablespoon water if pan is too dry.) Stir in black beans, diced tomatoes with juice, and the reserved “chicken” pieces. Sprinkle taco seasoning on top and stir until well blended. Cook 5 minutes or so, until hot and bubbly. Turn off heat.

Preheat oven to 375. Spray a 9×13 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Spoon 1/4 cup enchilada sauce in the bottom and spread to cover completely.

Warm the corn tortillas between damp paper towels in the microwave (about 1 minute if stacked 5 tall). You want them soft and pliable so they don’t crack when you roll them. Pour remainder of enchilada sauce into a round, flat-bottomed bowl that is slightly larger than the corn tortillas. Lay a tortilla in the sauce and turn over to cover completely with sauce. Drain off excess and lay it in the baking dish. Spread 1/3 cup filling down the center, sprinkle with cheese and roll up. Slide it to one side of the pan, seam side down. Continue with remaining tortillas and filling, tucking them side by side in the pan. Pour remaining sauce over the top. (See picture below.)

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until sauce is bubbly. Serve with chopped lettuce, tomatoes, onions, salsa, guacamole, etc. Enjoy!

Note: You can make these in advance. Assemble all of them in the pan, cover with foil, and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature while oven preheats. Then bake until sauce is bubbly and they are heated through (may take slightly longer if they are still cold inside.)

Enchiladas ready for the oven.

The Rest of the Week:
It’s a busy week for Jason (he has meetings at the union hall on Monday & Tuesday nights and we have Cub Scouts on Thursday night), so this week’s dinners are quick, easy ones.

Here’s the menu:
Monday – Vegan Cheesy Broccoli Soup (October 21 blog post) with tossed salad and crackers
Tuesday – Grilled cheese sandwiches, oven fries and peas
Wednesday – Gyros and a new chickpea salad recipe I’ve been wanting to try (I’ll blog about it later if it’s a keeper)
Thursday – Vegan Mac & Cheese (April 7 blog post), sauteed mixed vegetables and applesauce
Friday – takeout pizza (kids’ request)

Nothing spectacular; just meals that come together quickly. All of them are kid pleasers, though, which makes my life easier!

The new year is underway

7 Jan

…and so is my new plan.

What is the new plan? For starters, losing weight has been moved to the top of the list — above the trial and error efforts I’ve been working on for controlling my high blood pressure. I can’t help but think this might be the one thing keeping me from reaching my blood pressure goals. For the past week, I’ve really focused on what I’m eating and how much. And I’ve exercised for 30 minutes, four of the last five days. So far, so good. I can’t wait to weigh in tomorrow and see how I’ve done this week.

I’ve also been doing some reading. I have loved cooking vegan recipes. I’ve tried so many new foods and learned new ways to cook just about every vegetable and grain. Last weekend, I purchased “Appetite for Reduction,” the newest book by one of the top vegan cookbook authors ever — Isa Chandra Moskowitz. I’ve read her most popular cookbook, “Veganomicon,” and I often cook from my favorite of hers, “Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.” Unfortunately, many vegan sweet treats are still high in calories and fat, so it’s time to move away from the baking for a while.

Lucky for me, Isa feels the same way. That’s why she wrote this new cookbook. It’s packed with low fat, low calorie vegan recipes. As she writes in the intro, this is not your mother’s low fat cookbook. This does not contain any fake stuff. It’s straight up, healthy cooking with grains, veggies and beans. The first recipe I made is the first recipe in her book — “Everyday Chickpea-Quinoa Salad.” I’ve only cooked quinoa once in my life and didn’t care for it. This recipe was fantastic! She said she eats this almost every day and I can see why. It’s filling, crunchy and tasty. As a matter of fact, it’s so tasty that my kids couldn’t get enough! Even my salad-hating 6-year-old went back for seconds and the other two said it was their new favorite. The dressing is to die for. We’ve already made the dressing twice and we’ve drizzled it on all kinds of stuff — even noodles. And, it’s adaptable. Start with her basic recipe but change out the quinoa for cooked rice or substitute spinach for the Romaine. I added shredded carrots to mine, but next time I’ll also add tomatoes and cucumbers. I can’t wait to whip up more of her recipes.

The other thing I read this week was an article in the January issue of Bon Appetit magazine. It was written by Mark Bittman, cookbook author and the author of “Food Matters.” It totally hit the nail on the head for me. It was exactly what I had been trying to figure out for my diet and it made total sense. He writes:

“…I decided to experiment on myself by creating a series of rules that I hoped would not only improve my health but also lead to a new, more sustainable American diet that would feature the sensibility, wisdom, and benefits of veganism and the pleasures of the omnivore way of cooking and eating.”

I love the benefits I’ve received from eating a vegan diet for the last year. And I truly have enjoyed the foods. I also 100% embrace the idea of sustainable eating and the belief that all animals should be treated compassionately, even if they are being raised for food. (I do NOT support factory farming and do not purchase meat products or eggs from my grocery store.)

Bittman explains that this philosophy is often called Flexitarian, though it is very much like the Mediterranean way of eating. He writes:

“I created a personal diet, one that was flexible enough to allow me to enjoy all of the food I love daily (and which could be adapted by others to fit their own schedules), yet one that was strict enough to really have an impact.”

He basically eats a vegan diet, with the occasional piece of meat.

This makes so much sense to me. Now, I know there will be vegans who will desert me because of this. But, honestly, the biggest struggle of my vegan year was what to do when eating somewhere other than home. It stressed me out beyond belief. I grew up in a family where meals were shared with loved ones. Great care was taken to make the meal and it was meant to be enjoyable. Let me ask you this — how enjoyable is it to go to a restaurant and have to nit-pick your way through the menu, requesting multiple changes, and ending up eating steamed broccoli (no butter), rice or noodles (no cheese or butter) and a roll (praying it wasn’t made with egg)? Trust me, there’s nothing enjoyable about it. I spent more time stressing over what to order than any person should have to, only to end up eating a pile of plain vegetables when everyone else was enjoying something they truly wanted.

And — even more stressful? Eating at someone else’s house. We get together regularly with my in-laws for Sunday dinner and games. I have to say my mother-in-law did a great job of making sure I had something to eat that was vegan, but it was often what everyone else was having but without the butter, cheese, dressing, or anything else that would have made it a wonderful dish. Most of the time I took something that I had made, or threw a veg burger into my purse so I could guarantee myself a protein. Totally stressful and completely goes against my philosophy that meals should please your senses, satisfy you, and be an enjoyable event shared with friends and family.

So Mark Bittman’s words really hit home for me. And I am giving his philosophy a try.

Right now, about 90% of my meals are vegan. I’ve had seafood on a couple of occasions, and I’m still eating eggs which I added back to my diet last fall. I also enjoyed some of my dad’s homemade chicken sausage on Christmas morning. I hadn’t had it in a year and I really missed it! I made his Michigan Dried Cherry and Toasted Almond Chicken Sausage with sustainably-raised (aka happy) chicken. It was so good and I didn’t feel guilty about eating it!

I haven’t added any dairy products back in and I don’t think I will. I know I will never drink cow’s milk again. There are so many better, healthier options out there. I wouldn’t mind eating a bite of blue cheese or feta once in a while, but I don’t have a local, sustainable-farmed source for it. So, no cheese for now (unless I’m at someone else’s house and it’s already on the salad).

So there you go. Lots of vegan meals, a small portion of ethically-raised meat once in a great while, and a lot more exercise than last year. I’m excited to see where this leads me. I’m hoping the combination of a re-vamped diet, less stress about eating, and more enjoyment when dining with family and friends will be just the thing that gets both my weight and my BP back to normal.

Even if you have no desire to go veg — please consider reducing the amount of animal products you eat. And look for a local source for your meat and eggs. Not only does that support your local farmer, the products are fresher and taste so much better.

An Eggs-ellent Breakfast

8 Oct

After my youngest cutie-pie was born, I started taking a prescription drug called Lisinopril. Lisinopril is in the ACE inhibitor class of drugs for hypertension. I took this for 5 years and it was keeping my blood pressure in check. On an unrelated visit to my regular doctor, my blood pressure reading was around 140/90 and she decided my dose of Lisinopril should be increased. Like an idiot, I didn’t question her, I just went with it. Six months later, I developed a cough that would last me almost four months before online research helped me figure out it was a side effect of the Lisinopril.

Despite the fact that the drug caused this side effect, it worked to keep my BP controlled. An ACE inhibitor blocks the formation of angiotensin II in the kidneys which relaxes the arteries, lowering blood pressure. Now, if only I could find a natural way to get the same results, right?

Enter…the egg.

The Incredible, Edible Egg? Quite possibly. A study last year at The University of Alberta, Canada, tested the effect of stomach enzymes on the proteins in a cooked egg. The result? Proteins in eggs, in combination with stomach enzymes, can produce peptides with ACE-inhibitory activity. The greatest results were found with fried eggs, although the study doesn’t state if scrambled eggs were tested.

So what does this mean for me? Well, I’m not sure yet. The results are astounding, but the study was done in a lab. It has yet to be tested on people. I avoided eggs completely until a couple of months ago. Then I allowed myself to eat a veggie burger that had egg as the binder holding it together. Once I realized how little egg I was actually consuming (the recipe used one egg and made eight burgers), I relaxed a little about it, especially since I buy my eggs from a local farm.

Many vegetarians eat eggs but don’t eat meat because of the cruelty to animals, but egg-laying hens on factory farms live a horrific life. Factory-farmed chickens live in conditions where they can’t even turn around or stand up. Happy chickens generally lay one egg a day. Factory-farmed chickens live in buildings where the lights are on for 7 hours and then off for 1 hour and then on for 7 hours and so on…to trick the hens into thinking it’s a new day so they will now lay three eggs a day instead of one a day as nature intended. It’s disgusting.

You can help put an end to that by not buying grocery store eggs. Don’t be fooled by packaging that says “cage free.” Most factory-farmed chickens are cage free — they live in window-less barns. Buy your eggs from local farms where the chickens roam in green grass. It may take some work to find one, but they’re everywhere. I buy my eggs from a farm in Ida, Michigan, but the Grand Rapids, Ohio, farmer we bought our beef from also has egg-laying chickens. You can buy his eggs directly from him or they sell them at many of the health food stores in Toledo. On a recent trip to Monette’s in Toledo, I found eggs from a local farm. I haven’t visited that specific farm, but I would almost guarantee they have *happy* chickens.

I came into this journey with the intent to try anything that might possibly get my BP under control. After reading the study from the scientists in Canada, I gave eating eggs a little more thought. Knowing that the eggs I buy are from hens who have not been mistreated and are living as nature intended, I decided the occasional egg was worth a shot. The study suggested one to three eggs a week. I’m starting with one. Everything in moderation, right?

So here’s today’s breakfast: one fried egg (using nonstick cooking spray), one vegetarian sausage, one slice of the Cinnamon Pecan bread I made yesterday, and some fresh pineapple. Delicious. If you haven’t had a vegetarian sausage, you should try one. They are surprisingly good. The one I had with breakfast is from Trader Joe’s, but you can make your own. It takes a little bit of time, but the end result is worth it. I’ve made the breakfast sausages on Vegan Dad’s website and they are tasty. You can find the recipe here. Enjoy!

Happy World Vegetarian Day!

1 Oct

“It is my view that the vegetarian manner of living, by its purely physical effect on the human temperament, would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind.” — Albert Einstein

Today is World Vegetarian Day.

World Vegetarian Day is the annual kick-off of Vegetarian Awareness Month, which ends with World Vegan Day on November 1. In 1977, October 1 was established as a day of celebration “to promote the joy, compassion and life-enhancing possibilities of vegetarianism.” It’s meant to bring awareness to the environmental, ethical, health and humanitarian benefits of living a vegetarian lifestyle.

“I am in favor of animal rights as well as human rights. That is the way of a whole human being.” – Abraham Lincoln

A meat-free diet protects the lives of animals as well as our planet’s resources. And, extensive research confirms that a vegetarian diet leads to a longer and healthier life. For me, eating is a whole lot more enjoyable knowing that no animals suffered along the way and that my choices are improving my health.

About one million people become vegetarians every year in the U.S. alone.

World Vegetarian Day invites all non-vegetarians to give meatless eating a try, even if it’s just for one day. I’m hoping you’ll give it a try. To help you out, I’m going to post a vegetarian recipe every day for the month of October. No kidding! Some of them will be vegan (no dairy or eggs) and some will be vegetarian (may contain eggs).

First up is a fabulous soup recipe. It’s a “veganized” version of the wonderful Chicken Pasta Soup at J. Alexander’s restaurant. This is one of my all-time favorite soups. I used to make it all the time until I went vegan. The restaurant’s version has chunks of chicken, penne pasta, carrots, mushrooms and sugar snap peas in a creamy broth with a hint of lemon. My mouth is watering just writing that! My version uses all those wonderful vegetables plus meatless “chicken” slices. If you’re not a fan of “fake chicken,” you can leave it out and just bump up the amount of pasta and veggies to make up for it. As for the broth, I haven’t found a canned or boxed vegetable broth yet that I like. When I was at Whole Foods last month, I bought a powdered vegetable broth in the bulk foods area. You just mix it with water. It didn’t have any “scary” ingredients, the sodium was fairly comparable to the boxed ones, and the flavor was fantastic. Very chicken-y.

I don’t want to pat my own back or anything…but…this soup ROCKS!

Creamy “Chicken” Pasta Soup
makes about 10 cups

6 cups vegetable broth, divided
1 cup sliced meat-free “chicken”
1-1/3 cups penne pasta, uncooked
1 tablespoon vegan butter (Earth Balance)
1 cup sliced celery (about 3 stalks)
1 cup sliced carrots
1 medium onion, diced
4 ounces mushrooms, sliced
3 tablespoons flour
1-1/2 cups So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut Milk
1/4 cup frozen peas
1/4 pound sugar snap peas, halved diagonally
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

In a medium stockpot, place 4 cups of broth and the “chicken” pieces. Bring to a boil. With a slotted spoon, immediately remove the “chicken” and set aside. To the boiling broth, add the pasta and cook until al dente.

Meanwhile, spray a large stockpot with non-stick cooking spray. Add the butter and allow to melt. Stir in celery, carrots and onions and saute for 3 minutes. Add mushrooms and continue to saute for another 3 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Stir in flour and allow to cook for 3 minutes while stirring. Gradually whisk in the remaining 2 cups of broth. Bring to a simmer. Add the coconut milk and the “chicken” and simmer for about 5 minutes. When the pasta is done, pour it and the cooking broth into the soup. Stir in the frozen peas. Add the sugar snap peas and simmer until they are tender-crisp. Mix in lemon juice and parsley. Season with salt and pepper. Enjoy!

Note: If you have leftovers, be aware that the pasta will absorb some of the broth and you will end up with fatter pasta and a thicker soup.