About Me

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Clarksville, Tennessee, United States
I have been an Ovo-Lacto Vegetarian for a few years and am considering making the switch to a full Vegan diet. I decided to become a vegetarian because I could no longer disassociate the meat on my plate from the loving, kind and peaceful animal it had once been. I have always been an animal lover, so I guess this was a natural progression. I am not a diet or nutrition expert by any means, I am just a woman on a mission to eat better, feel better and live better.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Kitchen Adventures

For Christmas I received a vegan cookbook I had really been wanting.  It is "The Mouthwatering Vegan" by Miriam Sorrell.  The recipes look delicious and the photos are simply divine.  So since I am going out to get groceries today, I think I will pick a recipe that I want to try and make sure I have everything I will need to make it.

I love trying new foods and new recipes.  When I make a recipe for the first time, I usually follow it to a "T" so that I can taste it just as the creator intended.  After that, when I'm making it again, I usually tweak a few things here and there to adjust it to my own taste and to make it my own.  Unless of course I fall in love with it just as it is. 

I don't usually cook from a recipe.  (Except when baking.  I am NOT a baker.)  My grandmother and mother didn't either.  So when I was learning how to cook growing up, I learned how to be creative, how to taste my food as I was cooking it and determine what it still needed.  There were no old, family recipes handed down to me.  I just learned by watching my mother cook and then trying to do it myself.  It taught me to be adventurous in the kitchen.  I don't have a fear of failing with it.  If it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out.  It's not a tragedy.  I just know not to do it that way again next time.  

How many of you browse through all the recipes on Pinterest?  A lot of you, right?  I know I can get stuck looking through posts on there for literally hours if I allow myself to.  But I like to try my hand at making dishes I see, whether it's online or on television.  I watch a lot of cooking competition shows, like Top Chef and Food Network Star, not just because I enjoy the shows themselves but because I watch what these chefs and cooks are doing.  What techniques do they use?  What ingredients do they choose?  I can't tell you how many little things I pick up from watching them.  And since becoming vegetarian, I love taking dishes with meat in them and figuring out how to recreate them without it and have them be just as pleasing and delicious.  I accept the challenge.  ;)

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Chilly Chili Weather

Sorry this post comes so late.  Tuesday was a busy day and time just got away from me.  It's still cold across the nation, but temps are rising and people are beginning to venture back out into the world.  Even though it was sunny here today, I just couldn't stop thinking about a nice, hot, steaming bowl of chili.  So I looked through the pantry, fridge and cupboards to see what I had on hand, and as luck would have it, I had everything I needed to make it.

How do you all feel about the meat substitutes out there?  Do you like them?  I have to say, that I have been pretty satisfied with many of them.  I love the meatless veggie crumbles!  There are several brands that make them, but of those that I've tried I haven't had one that I didn't like.  I'm not one that really needs a meat replacement in everything, but it is nice when it's something like chili and you want that familiar texture.  Certain recipes just need it, especially comfort foods.  Don't get me wrong.  I've had and made some truly delicious chili's without the crumbles, and added all kinds of different ingredients, but somehow they're never quite as comforting to me as my mom's chili was when I was growing up.  But when I just replicate her recipe substituting the crumbles and veggie broth for the meat and water, it comes out just like I remember.

So I am curious what your thoughts are on the meat substitutes.  I know some people are fine with them and use them in certain recipes and there are others that would never, ever use them.  Leave a comment and let me know your take on them.

But for now, I am off and headed to bed.  There's a really good book waiting for me.  And an orange cat.

Monday, January 6, 2014

BRRR!!! Oh Baby, It's COLD Outside!

Well, I woke up this morning to single digit temperatures and below zero wind-chills.  I thought Winter wouldn't be this cold when I moved from New York to Tennessee.  Figures, I move here and they have the coldest temperatures they've had in 2 decades.  Sheesh.  

So I was looking for a nice, belly-filling, soul-warming  and HEALTHY breakfast.  I decided on oatmeal.  Plain quick-oats made on the stove, with soy milk, cinnamon and currants.  It's really very delicious.  If I had thought ahead, I could have soaked some steel cut oats overnight for an even healthier breakfast, but I didn't.  Maybe I will do that for tomorrow morning. 

I think it's a little harder to eat healthier during the cold, Winter months because I always want the yummy comfort foods which are usually just a bit heavy on the fat and calories.  It's so much easier in the Summer when it's hot out and a nice cold, crisp salad and raw vegetables sound so perfectly delicious.  But when it's cold outside, darn it, I want warm food.  Which means I have to cook.  Which is fine, but involves a bit more.  I do like to make casseroles or big batches of soups and stews so that I can easily grab them from the fridge and heat them up for a quick meal.  

But I feel sometimes I miss the nutrition I get from the raw vegetables I get more of during the cooler months.  I will work on being more mindful of grabbing for them as quick, easy snacks throughout the day.  Then I can save the comfort foods for my meals.  Good thing I prepped a whole lot of celery and baby carrots yesterday.  If only I had some hummus.  ;) 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Vegetarian Green Chile Chicken Enchilada Casserole

Vegetarian Green Chile Chicken Enchilada Casserole with Chipotle Chile Pinto Beans

I made the Chicken Enchiladas I've been craving for dinner last night and they turned out beautifully.  They were so delicious with all the flavors of the fresh roasted chiles, the fire-roasted tomatoes, the vegan chicken strips and mushrooms.  Need I say more?  Oh yeah, and I had them with some Chipotle Chile Pinto Beans.

No need for a recipe for the beans.  I just open a can of pinto beans, drain off the top liquid, poor them into a bowl, add some garlic powder and chipotle powder (of course, you could use an actual chipotle chile out of the can and some of the adobo sauce right along with it if you like).  Then I just warm them up.  It's simple and quite tasty.  A quick and simple side to make if you're in a hurry.

Here is the recipe for the enchiladas.  Don't let the list of ingredients or prep time scare you off.  It's really quite simple, and the prep time includes the time for roasting the chiles.  And I really do believe you should take the time to do your own rather than using canned chiles.  You will get so much more flavor out of them, and you can use any type of chile you like - Poblanos, Anaheims, Big Jims, etc.  You roast them all exactly the same, just keep an eye on them so they don't burn so much that the flesh burns too.  You just want to blacken and blister the skin so it will remove easily.  They also keep perfectly in the freezer, so you can roast a lot at one time, peel them, remove the stem and seeds and dice them up and then keep them in a freezer bag in your freezer for future use.  You'll get so much use out of them because you can add them to anything.  If you've never had a green chile cheese burger (vegetarian, of course) then you really should!  They're the best!

Vegetarian Green Chile Chicken Enchilada Casserole

Serves:  6

Prep Time:  45 mins

Cook Time:  1 hour

Calories:  454 per serving

How To Roast Chile Peppers
Place them on a baking sheet in a 400 degree oven for 20 - 30 minutes, turning half-way through, until the skin is blistered and black all over.  Place the peppers in a glass bowl and cover tightly with plastic to steam. Once cooled, remove the skin, stems and seeds.  Chop up the roasted peppers and they're ready to use.

1 pkg - Meatless chicken strips (Quorn, Simple Truth, Beyond Meat, etc.)
1 can - Fire-roasted diced tomatoes
3 large - Green chile peppers, roasted and chopped
1 large - Yellow onion, diced
2 large - Portabella mushroom caps, stems removed and sliced
1/4 c - Vegetable broth
1/4 c - Plain soy milk
18 small - Corn tortillas
16 oz - Green chile enchilada sauce (Hatch, Frontera, Old El Paso, Las Palmas, etc.)
1 Tbsp - Nutritional yeast flakes
1 cube - Knorr mini cubes - garlic
1 cube - Edwards & Sons Not-Chick'n Bouillon cube
1 Tbsp - Olive oil
1 Tbsp - Oregano, dried
1/2 - 1 c - Shredded Mexican style cheese (Cheddar, Monterey Jack, or a blend, etc.)
Salt and Pepper to taste

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.  Heat olive oil in large, non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Add diced onion, a pinch of salt and cook until translucent.  Add mushrooms and continue cooking until mushrooms are tender.

3.  Add meatless chicken strips and diced tomatoes.  Cook until heated through, about 5 minutes.

4.  Add vegetable broth, soy milk, oregano, nutritional yeast, garlic cube, bouillon cube, salt and pepper.  Bring to a simmer and let thicken.  Stir in chopped poblano peppers and remove from heat.

5.  In an 11 x 9 glass casserole dish, place a couple spoonfuls of enchilada sauce and spread across the bottom of the dish to keep tortillas from burning.  Place 6 corn tortillas to cover bottom of casserole, overlapping slightly.  Spread 1/2 of chicken filling across the tortillas.  Spread a couple tablespoons of enchilada sauce across the top of the filling.  Repeat layer.  Top with last layer of 6 corn tortillas.  Pour remaining enchilada sauce over the top of the casserole, being sure to spread into each corner and along the sides so it oozes down the sides of the casserole.  Top with shredded cheese.

6.  Place casserole in oven and cook until cheese is melted and browning slightly, about 35 minutes.  Remove from oven and let set for 5 to 10 minutes.  Serve.

Top with shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, guacamole and sour cream.  Serve alongside Spanish rice and pinto beans.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Weather Woes-o Wonderful

Much of the U.S. is experiencing some very cold and snowy weather right now.  While some people enjoy getting outside in the snow, I think most of us find it the perfect time to hunker down indoors where it's warm and cozy.  And if you're anything like me it brings to mind all the wonderful winter comfort foods such as chili, stew and decadent casseroles.

Since becoming a vegetarian, I have enjoyed the adventure and the challenge of converting my lifetime favorites into vegetarian and vegan dishes.  I have always enjoyed cooking, but I have learned about so many new and delicious foods and ingredients over these past few years.  I think my food now tastes so much better than it ever did when I was cooking with meat.  I can only assume that it is because having to find different ingredients has made me more mindful of what I am eating, and in doing so, has introduced me to some things I might not otherwise have ever tried.

It is cold today.  And it's only going to get colder over the next couple of days.  We are supposed to be near 0 tomorrow, and maybe below 0 with windchill.  So as I break out my thick sweat pants and socks on this lovely, chilly Saturday, I am thinking of what delicious, cozy, soul-warming meal I should make today.  I have decided on Green Chile Chick'n Enchiladas.  Yum!  I think it has to be my favorite meal.  I thought I would miss them SO MUCH when I stopped eating meat.  So I immediately started trying new recipes to fill that void.  I made them with all kinds of vegetable combinations, including beans, corn, kale, spinach, carrots, squash, peas, mushrooms - you name it, I probably tried it.  What I found was that these new enchiladas were literally some of the most delicious I had ever had!  What?!?  How did that happen?

Today's enchiladas are being made with Simple Truth Chick'n Strips, Portabello mushrooms, onions, roasted poblano peppers, fire roasted tomatoes and a new enchilada sauce I have not yet tried made by Rick Bayless.  It should be delicious.  Mmm, just talking about it is making me hungry!

So, I hope you're lucky enough to be in a part of the world that isn't covered in ice, snow and subfreezing temperatures right now, but if you are I hope you'll join me in trying a new, delicious, vegetarian or vegan comfort food recipe to warm your souls.  Wishing you all toasty tootsies and full bellies!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Tending My Garden

I don't really do the whole resolution thing.  It always seemed a little silly to me to set some goal to achieve within a 12 month period which is usually forgotten by February and becomes a part of some running joke.  No, I would rather just make a promise to myself because I'm good at keeping my promises.  

I think a lot of women, myself included, tend to feel guilty if we put ourselves first, to make sure we're well fed and well taken care of.  We tend to put the needs and wants of others before our own, especially those with children.  If you are a parent, I think that guilt must multiply ten-fold.  Particularly the guilt hurled at you from others if your child's needs, your partner's needs, the house's needs, your job's needs (if you work), etc. are not at the very top of your priority list.  Yourself as a priority should probably fall somewhere between re-organizing the linen closet and picking up a new book of stamps.

This isn't right and it needs to change.  If we're expected to constantly give our time, devotion, dedication and attention to others, shouldn't we be giving them all our BEST SELF?   Why is that such a taboo idea?  I would like to think that everyone is getting the best version of me, not some used up, depleted and completely worn-out version.  Is that who you want to cook your dinner, to take care of the kids, to write your report, to do the laundry?  Personally, I would prefer to have someone who's really bringing their A-game for all of those scenarios.  

Well guess what?  In order to do that, to be at 100%, in order to give my best, I have to BE at my best.   Which means....drumroll please....I have to make myself a priority, too.  

So,  I am going to do a little self-cultiavation (okay, maybe a LOT) and tend to my personal "garden".  No, not that one.  Keep it clean.  I'm talking about making sure I'm eating healthy, that I'm at a healthy and comfortable weight (feeling good, not a specific number on the scale), that I'm happy, and that I'm well-rested and peaceful.  I am making myself my priority.  Yup, I said it, right up there at the top of the list.  I know, it's risky, but I've got a little bit of a rebel hidden inside me so I think I'll give it a go.  And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the promise I am making to myself.