My Blueberry Nights

My great Aunt Pauline brought me a huge bag of blueberries last night and I set right to work! I put a quick post on the Plant Based Junkies page and instantly had a recommendation for the Engine 2 Blueberry Dumpster Cake.  It was ridiculously easy to prepare with just a handful of ingredients you probably already have on hand. Throw the blueberries on top and bake. Voila!

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The kids liked it, although it reminded them more of a blueberry pancake. I thought it was super, especially considering there are no eggs, no dairy and no sugar added!  A sweet treat without the guilt. :)

Blueberries are soooo good for you, and now is the season. I’ve been eating them every day on my breakfast, either oatmeal or brown rice, with a little almond milk and sprinkle of brown sugar.  Yum!  But these blueberries are even better than the ones I have been buying. Plump amd juicy!! I’m sure we will eat them up in no time, although I may try to freeze some.

Get those fresh blueberries while you can!!

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Tonight, it was a new recipe: Chipotle Black Bean and Quinoa Crock-Pot Stew.  We enjoyed this, but I didn’t totally love-love it. I served it over angel hair pasta as a switch up from brown rice, and it was more like a chili, or a thick meat sauce (minus the meat, of course!) I did cook this in my new favorite gadget, the Instant Pot. It was the first time I used dried beans, and the stew cooked for 10 hours on the slow cooker setting. It was also the first time I used dried chipotle peppers. It took me a while to find them in the grocery store, but find them, I did! They start out all dried and shriveled up, but they finish up like a cooked green pepper.

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A friend of mine lent me her copy of the Forks Over Knives Cookbook; more reading to do!

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IMDb: My Blueberry Nights (2007)

Stuck On You

As I sat down to do my weekly menu planning, it was the first time in a year and a half that I actually felt a little stuck. While I try to incorporate at least one new recipe every week, with the intention of not getting bored, I was just at a loss for what to do and struggled to come up with a plan. Usually, I whip together a weekly menu in no time at all. I think I was stuck between wanting to use my new Instant Pot and not having the time to peruse recipes on the Internet. (I did manage to find one that I will make during the week.) Plus, with a lot of things going on, I was looking for easy.

And so, after much debate, my menu features black bean tacos (easy, and my husband’s favorite), black bean chipotle and quinoa stew (Instant Pot, and no, there is no such thing as too many black beans), and pasta (super easy). There’s a question mark on Thursday and I’m hoping to have leftovers!

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I purchased a beautiful zucchini at the local produce stand today and wasn’t sure what to do with it (the old favorite of breaded and fried just doesn’t do it for me any more, and I have been grilling throughout the summer). And then I remember the cute little spiraling gadget that we had purchased a few months ago. I spiraled half the zucchini and half a carrot, and then made a quick dressing of lime juice (I was out of lemons), a teeny bit olive oil (less than a teaspoon), and a few dashes of cumin and sea salt. It was absolutely delicious!!!  So so easy to make and very tasty. I’ll definitely be making this again.  Doesn’t it even look beautiful?

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Just to make sure I didn’t get stuck again, I ordered two new cookbooks!  The “Engine 2 Diet” (featuring Dr. Esselstyn’s son Rip, who is a fire fighter in Texas!) and “The New Fast Food: The Veggie Queen Pressure Cooks Whole Food Meals in Less Than 30 Minutes” (for using my Instant Pot).  Stay tuned for recipe suggestions and reviews!

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I posted this document on my Lights Cancer Action! Facebook page, but thought I should share it here also: the McDougall Diet in simplified terms. It doesn’t get any easier than a traffic light to illustrate what you should stop eating, where you need to proceed with caution, and what you can eat with abandon!

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 IMDb: Stuck on You (2003)

Well Oiled

I’ve seen many articles and posts about the benefits of oil pulling, so I wanted to try it myself. For those of you who don’t know what oil pulling is, it is, essentially, swishing coconut oil (or some other vegetable oil) in your mouth for about 20 minutes a day. You then spit it out, along with (allegedly) loads of toxins.

Oil pulling claims to have numerous health benefits, including: whiter teeth, healthier gums, increased energy, clearer sinuses, clearer skin, and improved PMS symptoms. See more at: Yoganonymous

I use words like “allegedly” and “claims” because there are also a fair number of articles tha offer a contrary opinion. There are people who swear by this, and those that think it’s nonsense. So I thought I would give it a try myself. The first time I tried it (a few months ago), I struggled with the texture of the oil (in it’s solid form) when I first put it in my mouth. It melted immediately, of course, but it was weird initially. I also had a hard time swishing for longer than 2-3 minutes. After just two days, I gave it up.

This week, however, I decided I wanted to try it again. I feel like my gums are started to recede a bit, I have a lot of tooth sensitivity, and who doesn’t want whiter teeth?? So again, I cringed with putting the solid oil in my mouth, but I kept it up and managed to do 6-7 minutes each day this week. I’m working my way up! In the post that I noted above from Yoganonymous, she suggested doing it while you are in the shower, so I may try that tomorrow to see if it gets me swishing for a longer period of time.

So far I do feel a difference with my gums. They feel healthier, and on one particularly bothersome tooth, I noticed a big difference. No change in whiteness yet, but I think I’ll keep it up for a while and see how it goes. (Oh, and one thing that made it easier? The hot temperatures the past few days melted the oil. I find it much easy to take the oil in a liquid form!)

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New recipe: Forks Over Knives Lentil Vegetable Soup
David enjoyed it; Ethan thought it was good, but not great, and I would agree with Ethan. I think it needed more seasonings (other than salt and pepper, there are no seasonings in the recipe), and perhaps it would have helped if I remembered to add the spinach at the end. The good thing was that I was able to do it in the InstantPot. Set the timer this morning to start the pot in 8 hours. It then cooked for 2 hours and put itself on “warm” afterwards. Pretty sweet!

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IMDb: Well Oiled (1947)

Grilled

Yea! My baby is home! After 10 days of being away, Ethan is finally back home. While David and I enjoyed some quality time together, the house is just not the same when Ethan isn’t here. I think this is the longest we’ve ever been apart, so I am quite happy to have him back home. He had an enjoyable vacation in Universal with his dad. He even bought gifts for us. For David: a Simpsons’ Christmas ornament with Homer stringing some lights with donuts (since David is the one who brings in all the donuts and bad snacks into the house!). For me: a coffee mug from Harry Potter…house of Ravenclaw that say “wise”… since that’s the house he thought I would belong to. That made me feel good!

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We enjoyed a nice dinner tonight… portobello burgers and corn on the cob on the grill and a delicious salad of leaf lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers from the farmers’ market. I marinated the portobellos and they were delicious! The Balsamic Marinade was excellent!

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Today started my lovely 24-hour urine collection. There has to be a better way to do this! I’m just glad to be almost done. I got a good work out on my leg muscles as I got to squat over my bucket! (Well, it’s not really a bucket, but I don’t know what else to call it.) Great visual, right?  :)

I did get my PTH (parathyroid) result back and that was in normal range. (By the way, I do always encourage everyone to get their own copies of all their test results. The lab I go to uses Health Vault, so I get an email when the results are sent to the site, and I can keep all those results electronically.

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I discovered some new resources this weekend, thanks again to my friends at Plant Based Junkies (PBJ)…

Vegan Potato and Rice Dishes by Jessica Eiss

Fat Free Vegan by Susan Voisin

And an InstaPot G-BOMBS Facebook group…I’m hoping to learn more about using my new gadget!

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IMDb: Grilled (2006)

Rice Girl

I previously mentioned that I got an Instant Pot for my birthday and I finally got a chance to use it tonight. I started with something easy: rice. Since it is a pressure cooker, I was sure to read all the instructions and safeguards since I didn’t want it to explode or anything. I then reviewed, washed and assembled the parts (not many), and was ready to roll. I added the rice and water to the pot, put the lid on and pressed the “rice” button.  That’s it.

The pot “knows” how long to cook based on the weight of the items in the pot. Instead of 45 minutes, and boiling over on the stove (which always happens to me when I make rice), my rice was done in 10 minutes, with no mess!!!  And once it finished cooking, it automatically put it on “warm” until I was ready for it. The rice came out perfectly cooked and sticky, just the way I like it. I’m looking forward to trying out some of the other features and checking out the recipe book that came with it. I’ll keep you all posted as I do.

So what did I do with all that rice? I made another McDougall recipe: Spinach-Rice Enchiladas found in this McDougall newsletter. Easy to make, although it took me a little more than the 10 minutes estimated for prep time. (Of course, I’m counting make the rice, which the cookbook assumes you had done ahead of time.)

Since I made a big batch of rice, I’m going to try some brown rice for breakfast with this recipe, using it similarly to oatmeal: Brown Rice Breakfast

I still haven’t tried my wild rice from Minnesota.  I wonder if I can make that in my Instant Pot. I’ll have to give it a shot!

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IMDb: Rice Girl (2003)

The Lab

This morning I was back to the lab (again) for a few more blood tests related to my recent ER visit for kidney pain.  Three tests: uric acid, calcium, and PTH (parathyroid hormone). Additionally, I picked up my container for a 24-hour urine collection. Oh, yay. I guess I’ll do that part on Sunday and return it to the lab on Monday. Yes, you need to pee directly into the container. I did this once before, many years ago, and I suffered from “shy bladder” since I was so worried about missing the container! Really looking forward to that, but I’m hoping all is clear on the test. If it isn’t, my urologist will be recommending that I take Allopurinol. My goal is to not end up taking any prescription meds.

I don’t go back to the urologist until the end of August, since the 24-hour collection takes 4-5 weeks to get results. I’ve been drinking a lot more water since my ER trip and am hoping that helps. (I know. Duh! I’m trying here!!)

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For my birthday, I had asked for an Instant Pot. I had never heard of such a thing before joining the Facebook group “Plant Based Junkies” but people in that group swear by it. It is a “7-in-1 Multi-Functional Cooker: Pressure Cooker, Slow Cooker, Rice Cooker, Saute/Browning, Yogurt Maker, Steamer & Warmer”. I can’t wait to try and will let you all know how it goes. (Note: there is a 6-in-1 version as well, but my hubby got me the better one, of course!) :)  Thanks, honey!

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I tried a new recipe tonight: Spicy White Bean Pitas, from Dr McDougall’s Quick & Easy Cookbook. They were pretty good, although a bit messy! The mixture that goes into the pita was a little wet and dripped through the pita. And I had trouble finding the alfalfa sprouts in the grocery store (which I now think should be optional). But other than that, the recipe was pretty good if you like spicy!

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IMDb: The Lab (2011)

Feeling Minnesota

As part of the Facebook groups and other blogs and forums I follow, I often hear about how people struggle with getting good food choices when the visit friends or family. It seems that the majority of them do not feel supported with their lifestyle choices. I have to say, quite honestly, that I have never experienced that! I have been blessed by family and friends who go out of their way to make sure that they have choices for me. They ask ahead of time, they research on their own, and they challenge themselves to make healthy options (sometimes vegan, but minimally vegetarian) for me. And they never make me feel guilty — they always seem genuinely happy to do it for me.  What more could a girl ask for?!?!

This past weekend, my husband and I traveled to Minnesota to visit friends. We had so much good, healthy food! Smoothies, oatmeal and fruit for breakfast.  Delicious salads, black bean burgers, quinoa & spinach cakes… the list goes on. And luckily, Minnesota seems to be ahead of the Pennsylvania curve when eating out. Many healthy options on the menus. The whole culture seems much more focused on organic and healthy choices. We bought some wild brown rice to take home (who knew Minnesota grew rice…?) but had to walk away from a few other things, as they would likely be confiscate by the TSA. I took a lot of business cards, though, and may just have to order some of this stuff at home.

A new salad dressing recipe from my friend, Gina:  Apple Jalapeno Jam (or any jalapeno jam) with a little bit of balsamic vinegar.  Mix that up and toss in your salad.  Delicious, and easy!!  (The jalapeno jam was one of the things I wanted to purchase, but will have to order online when I get home, or look locally.)

I’m really enjoying my long weekend in Minnesota. I’ve learned a lot about the area and have just enjoyed some relaxing time with my hubby and friends. Today I celebrate my 52nd birthday! I treasure each and every one of them, as you can never be sure you’ll have another.  Thank you, all, for the birthday wishes!!

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IMDb: Feeling Minnesota (1996)