Tag Archives: diet

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!

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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

Sub-zero temperatures mean it’s time to make SOUP!

9 Feb

If you live in the Midwest, you know what I’m talking about. This weather is absolutely ridiculous! Today’s high was 13. The low overnight tonight will be -7 and the high tomorrow is 7 with wind chills at -15 to -25. I mean…brrrr!

We’ve also been pounded with a crazy amount of snow in the last month. So far this winter, my kids have had 7 snow days and I’m expecting a snow day or delay tomorrow morning because of the extreme temperature. Every day when I pull into my driveway, I almost cry because I know the piles of snow will be here for a while. I don’t even know if it will melt before May!

On the little side porch on the left, there’s a cafe table and two chairs but you can’t see them because the snow is so deep!

There’s nothing better during weather like this than a steaming hot bowl of soup. Honestly, I could eat soup every single day, but it really hits the spot on bitter cold days like today. Yesterday I decided to veganize one of my favorite soup recipes. The original recipe is my sister’s and it appeared in my mom’s first cookbook, Of Peaches and Pansies. It’s a thick, creamy soup loaded with good stuff — Corn & Potato Chowder. A couple of easy substitutions made this meat free and dairy free, and equally as yummy as the original.

The original recipe called for diced ham. I used vegan bacon (Smart Bacon) because that’s what I had in the freezer. Next time, I’ll try a little vegan sausage. I think it will give more of that smoky, saltiness of ham that works so well with potatoes and corn.

Serve this with a salad and my gluten-free, vegan cornbread muffins (see November 5 post).

Vegan Corn & Potato Chowder
serves 6

2 tablespoons olive oil
4 strips vegan bacon or 4 ounces vegan sausage
1 onion, diced
2 cups diced potatoes (peeled)
1 red bell pepper, cored and diced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3 cups unsweetened almond milk
1 can vegan creamed corn (no salt added, if you can find it)
1 cup frozen corn kernels
salt and freshly-ground black pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large stock pot. Saute bacon and onions until onions are tender, about 8 minutes. Add potatoes, red pepper and thyme and saute for a minute or two.

Add milk and bring to a low boil. Reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are tender and soup thickens slightly, about 15 minutes. Add cream corn and frozen corn and simmer until heated through. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with minced fresh parsley, if desired.

That’s what you get for asking.

29 Jan

As we sat down for dinner on Thursday night, I reminded everyone that I would be grocery shopping after Cub Scouts that night. That meant we needed to come up with ideas for dinner for the next week. I always shop from the week’s menu so I’m not wandering aimlessly through Kroger just grabbing random stuff. Without a plan for meals, how do you even know what to buy? Aside from that, not planning ahead means running to the store several more times during the week to pick up miscellaneous items for that night’s dinner.

So I asked for ideas and they all looked at me blankly. “Okay,” I said, “here’s the deal. Everyone gets to choose one complete dinner. Whatever you pick, I will make.” Well, then everyone had an idea! Jason immediately said “brats on the grill.” I said, “Fine.” (Followed by a look of surprise from him!). Next?

Someone said “panini.” I said, “how about a soup with that?” “Tortilla Soup, please.” Done. Next?

“Can we have taco pasta?” Done.

I said, “How about something with fish?” I think in unison they said “Fish Tacos.” They’re kind of time-consuming, but I agreed, since I haven’t made them in forever.

That left one day, and a bunch of blank faces staring at me. I said, “There’s one more day and the first person who comes up with an idea gets it.” Madison immediately said, “Can we have those vegan chicken nuggets from the store?!” And Logan shouted, “with that purple sauce you made one time?!” (the blackberry-mustard dipping sauce from Eating Well magazine.) I said, “what else do you want with those?” And before anyone else could respond, Madison said “mashed potatoes!” Done.

Well, that was easy enough. Only thing is, we’re eating a lot of taco-ish meals this week! I guess that’s what I get for asking, huh? 🙂

Here’s the breakdown:
Sunday – fish tacos, southwestern slaw, fresh pineapple
Monday – grilled brats (portobello mushroom for me), grilled marinated vegetables, applesauce
Tuesday – taco pasta, salad
Wednesday – vegan chicken nuggets with dipping sauce (June 24 post), mashed potatoes, corn
Thursday – tortilla soup (October 26 post), grilled panini

I guess I’ll worry about the weekend when it gets closer.

Regarding the brats, I had planned on buying the same old Johnsonville brats I usually buy in the summer, along with a pack of vegan brats for myself and Madison. When I got to Kroger and went to pick up the brats, I couldn’t bring myself to buy them. I stood there staring at that package…knowing it was 100% factory-farmed meat. I looked at every single package there. Nothing but factory-farmed meat. I contemplated the turkey brats…for about a second…then remembered all I had read about factory-farmed turkey. Disgusting. I put them back and walked over to the health food section again. I considered vegan brats for all of us, but I knew that wasn’t what Jason had in mind when he said he wanted brats. I kept looking. I finally came across a package of Organic Prairie’s Organic Pork Bratwurst. The front of the package says “Pork used is humanely raised on family farms without antibiotics.” I bought them ($6.99 for 4 brats…not too outrageous).

When I got home, I checked out their website. Organic Farms is a co-op of family farms whose owners believe in farming ethically and sustainably, providing their animals with as much pasture time as weather will allow. Here’s the description for the bratwurst I bought:

Ours start with pasture-raised, heirloom-breed hogs that frisk in the fresh air and sun, yielding the big-hearted flavor and gusto that brats are justly famous for.

If you get a chance, and are in the market for ethically/sustainably raised meats, check out their website at www.organicfarms.com. Be sure to read the sections on pasture-fed animals and some of the descriptions of their farmers. Though I’d much rather buy locally-raised meat, I have yet to find pork raised happily. This suits me just fine for the two or three times a year that I make brats on the grill.

I’ll give you a full report on the taste of the brats after dinner on Monday!

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!

Good food and fun exercise… I’m making progress!

17 Jan

It’s been a whirlwind start to 2011 already. Not only have I been busy designing for clients, I’ve really gotten focused on exercise. I’m exercising for 30 minutes, 5-6 days a week and feeling really good!

I guess the big thing these days is to switch up your exercise routine often so your body doesn’t get “comfortable” with it. It’s called muscle confusion. So that’s what I’ve been doing. On our cable programming, under videos on demand, we have a section full of free exercise programs that you can watch whenever you want. So each day, I choose one and go with it — Jillian Michaels’ abs, Leslie Sansone’s 2 mile walk, Disco Abs with Cheryl Burke, Billy Blanks’ Cardioke, and more. They run about 30 minutes. Some days, I put on the kids’ Wii Dance Party and do a half hour of dances. I’m having a blast while working up a big sweat!

I’ve also been eating as clean and whole as possible — lots of veggies, fruit, nuts, and grains like quinoa and brown rice, and the occasional bit of fish or shrimp. For now, I’ve completely ditched the gluten, just to see what that does for me.

Apparently, something’s working. Since January 2, I’ve lost 7 pounds. Woo hoo! I also FINALLY have some energy! And on Friday when I was at Kroger, I checked my blood pressure on the machine in the pharmacy (I check it there every time I’m in the store). BP was 140/90! I’m hoping that wasn’t a lucky low reading; that maybe it’s coming down because of the exercise. Hoping.

Anyway, I don’t have any new recipes to share yet because I’ve been making easy, simple whole foods. I did make the Cauliflower Pesto Soup from Isa’s new book, Appetite for Reduction. Delish! Even the kids went back for seconds. I’ll be making that one a lot. It’s full of flavor despite having only about 4 or 5 ingredients. Plus, it’s quick and easy. I made it a little thicker than her recipe. Yummm…

Other than that, I’ve been making simple stir-fries, steamed veggies, big salads and stuff like that.

Here’s what this week’s dinner menu looks like:
Monday – shrimp & veggie kabobs on the grill + baked sweet potatoes
Tuesday – Popeye Spinach soup + cheesy quesadillas (for Jason & the kids)
Wednesday – GF penne pasta with sauteed mushrooms and onions + a big salad
Thursday – fajitas in corn tortillas (veg for me, locally-raised beef for the fam)
Friday – not sure yet – omelets? leftovers?

This past weekend, we spent a ton of time with our good friends, Kevin and Lisa. It was so much fun! We absolutely adore them — and we laugh a lot when we’re together, which is good for the blood pressure! Lisa is trying to eliminate gluten from her diet, too. She said she feels better when she doesn’t eat it, but it’s a hard diet. I told her I would make her some GF goodies. She asked for doughnuts! You know me…always up for a challenge! They’re on the top of my baking list as soon as I get my new oven (which will, hopefully, be at the end of the month).

Hope everyone’s New Year started out as good as mine. Are you still working on your resolutions?

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.