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Irish Stew

I’m not Irish, I don’t pretend to be Irish on Saint Patrick’s Day, and I don’t play someone Irish on television. No offense meant to anyone who does celebrate it; it’s just not normally a day I acknowledge in any big way. But this year I made an exception. In menu planning for the week, I thought I would try to find a recipe for a vegetarian Irish Stew to make today. True to form, I also made a number of modifications either because I didn’t have an item, or because I prefer a different ingredient.

And so, here is the link to my Vegan Irish Stew. I wish I could say the photo was mine, but it was all gobbled up before I thought to take a picture! It’s got a whole bunch of yummy vegetables, along with soy curls and lentils for health protein and meatiness. The gravy was delicious and we sopped it all up with some crust bread.

I also made some cupcakes (not vegan) with green icing and green sprinkles… for the children! Yes, I enjoyed them, too, but I really made them as a treat for my son and grandson.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

IMDb: Irish Stew (1930)

Super

It’s that time again! That day when we throw caution to the dietary winds, indulging in pizza, wings, chips, dip, and all sorts of unhealthy, yet delicious, foods. Yes, it’s Super Bowl Sunday.

We don’t typically make a big deal of the big game, although we do always watch. Our football viewing has waned over the years and, honestly, I don’t really care who wins. I will usually root for the underdogs, just because, but I think that’s the Bucs this year, and Tom Brady… So I’m torn! I guess I’ll be “that person” who just hopes it’s a good (i.e., close/interesting) game.

With the intention of making our food choices a bit more interesting, I went searching for a healthier pizza option and found a recipe using polenta as the pizza crust. Move over, cauliflower! The recipe is from the Jazzy Vegetarian Classics cookbook, but true to form, I have modified it quite a bit (no oil, different seasonings, added olives, etc.).

I have to say, it was quite yummy, and totally healthy. No added fat, with a healthy grain, fresh tomatoes, and the wonderful tang of artichokes and kalamata olives. Here’s my version: Polenta Pizza with Artichokes. So good! Enjoy!

For full transparency, we will be eating a not-so-healthy spinach and artichoke dip later… 🙂 Enjoy whatever your indulgence is today. Luckily the Super Bowl is only one day a year.

May your team win!

IMDb: Super (2005)

Juiced

Anyone else sore from shoveling snow? I was out twice today for a total of 90 minutes. As I sit here in front of my computer, I’m starting to feel certain muscles… ouch! But I do love to shovel, strangely enough. It’s great exercise and very refreshing! To all of you in the Northeast, please be careful!

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It’s been quite a while since I have done any juicing. Once upon a time, it was part of our daily routine, particularly when my son was in high school. We regularly shared a juice after school, but somehow juicing fell by the way side. The juicer takes up a lot of room on the counter, and it takes a fair amount of work to prepare and clean up.

But when your 19-year-old son says “I think we need to start juicing again”, you find room on said counter and you make it a priority. Our usual recipe includes 6-8 carrots, 2 celery stalks, 1 english cucumber, 2 oranges, 1-2 apples, and 1″ of ginger root. Unfortunately, apples and ginger were out of stock and were missing from this week’s grocery order. So we made do by adding some frozen strawberries and some minced (jarred) ginger (not quite the same, but it worked). Nothing like a huge glass of nutrients!

I know there are plant-based doctors who don’t agree with juicing (yes, it IS always better to eat whole foods and to chew them) but we have always found it to be beneficial. As someone who is perpetually dehydrated, juicing contributes to my hydration. Plus, the nutrients just always seem to boost our immune systems. I think you need to be careful about the balance of fruits and vegetables so you don’t get too much sugar, but otherwise, it works for us.

Do you juice? What recipes do you like best?

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Today’s recipe is for Chipotle-Mushroom Tacos with a lime slaw. Easy to make and very filling. The Lime Slaw adds a nice tang and some crunch. A bit of avocado and you’re good to go! Enjoy!

IMDb: Juiced (2006)

Overrated

The dreaded question of anyone who eats a plant based diet in any form (vegetarian, vegan, WFPBNO) is “where do you get your protein?” I was having this conversation with my son just today as he was eating the leftover tofu with sesame seeds from yesterday. Both the seeds and the tofu are great sources of protein!

Somewhere along the line, protein got elevated to this superior position in the world of nutrition. Not that protein isn’t an important macronutrient; it obviously is. But I think it’s been overrated in terms of its focus. I know so many people who are all about getting more and more protein in their diets, even drinking protein shakes and eating protein bars. As if more is better.

But there is such a thing as “too much”. Excessive protein can lead to a number of health conditions, including weight gain (I saw this first hand with my husband), constipation, and kidney damage. Depending on the source of your protein, other risks are cancer and heart disease.

So how much protein should you have in a day? On average, it’s 46 grams for women and 56 grams for men. (A calculation I found online said .36 grams per pound of body weight.) If you are working out, it’s slightly higher.

Most foods contain all 3 macronutrients — protein, fat and carbohydrates — in varying degrees. You are probably getting enough protein, without supplementation, if you are eating a decent diet. If you aren’t sure, use cronometer.com to track your meals for a few days to see where you are at. Too much protein could be a reason you are struggling to lose weight.

Even if you are eating a plant based diet, it’s easy to hit your protein targets. I tracked my meals from yesterday in cronometer.com, and I ate 54.9 grams of protein. It was more than targeted, but over time, it balances out, as I’m sure there are a few days I’m slightly below that number. I wouldn’t want to be any higher, though. I did want to illustrate how easy it is to get your protein, though.

Great sources of protein for plant-based diet include: soy products like tofu and tempeh, nuts and seeds, lentils, beans, quinoa, and oats.

Protein IS important; I’m not downplaying that it is critical. Not getting enough is also an issue. Protein is important in building bones, muscles, cartilage and skin. It helps oxygenate your blood and repair cells, and more. I just think the push for more and more protein can be damaging and you should really look at how much you are getting in your diet before trying to supplement and/or adding more protein foods to your diet.

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As a mentioned, a great source of plant protein is tempeh. I have shared a number of recipes with you previously using tempeh, a great meat substitute. One serving of this recipe (Tempeh Satay with Peanut Sauce) is about 30 grams of protein! That includes 4 oz of tempeh, 1 cup of rice, and 1/8 cup of peanut sauce. (A cup of broccoli is another 2.6 grams!)

Enjoy!

IMDb: Overrated (2016)

Shredded

I spent a bit of time yesterday and today going through one of the boxes I brought from the attic. It was a box from the late 1980s / early 1990s and was mostly old address books, check registers, and bank statements. I had no idea they were up there or they would have been shredded long ago, and since there are still two more boxes up there, I figured there was no time like the present to shred and pitch.

It was crazy to see how many different banks (apparently I used several over the years) actually used to put your social security number on the statement! So even though they were for accounts that no longer exist, at banks that no longer exist, in a former name, and at addresses that no longer exist, I couldn’t just toss them. (Trust me I tried to justify just throwing them out!) Many of the bank actually returned the canceled checks back then, and those also often had social security numbers on them. I guess people were more trustworthy back then. Can you even imagine writing you SSN on ANYthing these days?

It was kind of fun, and a bit nostalgic, to flip through those canceled checks. What a very different life we led back then!

Some things that amused and surprised me…

  • Paying less than $30 for electricity and only $20.80 for cable!!!
  • My shopping outlets back then? Fays, Jamesway, Hess’, PayLess Shoes, Montgomery Ward and The Globe Store. Because I worked in downtown Scranton back then, The Globe Store was my go-to for a walk at lunch. I remember, especially, buying the cutest dresses for my nieces there.
  • My rent ranged from a lowly $225 for a third floor apartment in Wilkes-Barre to $425 for a three bedroom house in Moscow.
  • Student loan payments? $107 a month.
  • Remember Book of the Month Club? I was a member! (Probably along with Columbia House music…)
  • The big hostess parties back then were Home Interiors and Princess House. I still have a lot of my PH crystal. Home Interiors definitely went bankrupt and I don’t think PH exists anymore either, but you can still buy/sell it on eBay!

It was an interesting walk down memory lane. I look forward to checking out the remaining two boxes!

Anyone else remember those things?

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I made a new recipe tonight: Miso Noodle Soup with Sesame Tofu. It was deemed a “hit” by everyone, so I will definitely be making this again. I discovered the recipe on Rabbit and Wolves, a vegan website. I have added it to my website because of the modifications I made (or will make next time I make it). This dish felt like an indulgent Asian treat; I only wish we had chopsticks to eat it!

Enjoy!

IMDb: Shredded (2005)

Stuff

Anyone who knows me at all knows that I constantly struggle with all the “stuff” in my house. As a minimalist married to a pack rat, I am always on the lookout for stuff I can throw out. I’ve never been a materialistic person and I find that the older I get, the more I want to purge.

I don’t want to leave our kids a houseful of things that they need to get rid of. It’s a big burden and a lot of work that they didn’t ask for. Plus, I get tired of moving stuff to get to other stuff. It’s just exhausting to manage.

Just today I spent some time in our attic. We are having some repairs done to our bathroom ceiling and fan, and the contractor needs to get into the attic. I went up to move things out of the way and figured I’d do a little inventory while I was up there. I found a few bins of toys and stuffed animals, more luggage than we need, an old film projector, my first wedding dress, and a few kites and other toys. All normal and reasonable items, but certainly a few items that can/should go. I found 3 boxes of bank statements from the 1980s, which I will promptly be shredding! (In all honesty, I had no recollection they were there.) There were a few comforter sets that also need to go, but the mother lode of items? 35 bags of clothing belonging to my husband! Yes, 35. When confronted, his reply was “some of the bags are small…” Really. And some of the bags are big, so there’s that!

I don’t think I even own 35 bags of clothing! All seasons of the clothing I own fit in my closet and my dresser. There is no moving spring/summer to fall/winter. It’s all out. All the time. I just don’t understand why Imelda Marcos needs all those shoes, etc.!

I try my best to employ many Marie Kondo principles: I carved out my own space (the guest room closet for my clothes, as an example), and I only ever throw out my own stuff (unless I have permission). I used to feel guilt for throwing things out that are in perfectly good condition, but a yard sale or eBay or whatever are just not likely to happen. I don’t want to just stack stuff somewhere waiting for the opportunity to get rid of it “some day”. Where I can, I do donate (especially clothing), and there are a few items that I have put on Facebook marketplace, but in general, it’s a real commitment to try to find homes for everything.

Other items require a more creative solution. For example, the many bins of photo albums I had became a few bins of photos only. I pitched all the albums and have been working off and on for a few years to scan and catalog all of those pictures, getting rid of duplicates and continuing to whittle down the space needed to house them. I do love old pictures, so I’m not about to just throw it all out, but a means to better organize was definitely needed.

I think less “stuff” equals less stress. Less to worry about. Less to clean. Less to move around. And I’m a believer that less stuff means more positive energy in your life. It allows a better flow of energy in your life and brings more of the right things to you. (Check out articles on feng shui if you want more information on that!)

I will continue to purge and organize what I can, while trying to convince my hubby that he needs to do the same. I think it’s an important part of self-care to be in an environment that is soothing and joyful. (I’ve tried just about every strategy in the book, to no avail, so I’m open to any strategies that may have worked with your own pack rats!)

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Here’s a delicious soup recipe for you. It was sent to me by my friend, Sheryl, and has been modified a bit to be oil-free and to adjust the seasonings. Vegan Tuscan Soup

IMDb: Stuff (2015)

Hit and Miss

I am always on the hunt for new recipes. Some people like to shop for clothes; I like to shop for yummy meals!

I have a large supply of vegan and vegetarian cookbooks (having donated my meat-containing cookbooks to the library). My favorites include “Isa Does It” and “Vegan with a Vengeance” by Isa Chandra Moskovitz, “Oh She Glows” by Angela Liddon, and “Chloe’s Kitchen” by Chloe Coscarelli. But there are probably 20 more cookbooks on my shelves. I love to flip through the cookbooks, looking for new recipes I haven’t tried, or reacquainting myself with a recipe I haven’t made in a while.

I do spend more time, I think, searching the internet for recipes. It doesn’t cost any money, and you only print or save what you actually want. Let’s face it, we’ve all spent money on a cookbook only to really like one or two recipes. There are thousands of places on the internet to find recipes, and let’s not forget social media. Just search on the hashtag #veganrecipes (or whatever kind of recipe you are looking for) and have a ball!

I have many go-to recipes, most of which are on my website, but I like to throw in a new recipe or two every week. I don’t want to get bored eating, or bored cooking. I am willing to try new ingredients, new seasonings, new cooking methods. It’s a great way to learn and explore.

My family, especially my son, is quick to note if it’s a new dish being served and we always have conversations about what’s in it. I can always tell, without anyone saying a word, if a dish is a hit – or a miss!

For a recipe to continue “in the rotation”, there are certain requirements. First, everyone has to like it. Really like it. If David and I like a recipe and Ethan doesn’t, why would I make that again? Ethan is actually really good about expressing if he thinks a dish belongs in the rotation.

Secondly, the taste has to be worth the effort. If it’s something that takes a lot of time (I do try to spend 30 minutes or less in preparing dinner), a lot of chopping, and a lot of pots, or uses expensive ingredients, it needs to be amazing. If it’s only “good”, I’m not willing to spend that time, energy, and money again. We’ve had every combination possible of who liked and who didn’t like the recipes that got sent to the trash.

Tonight was a dish that David and I both enjoyed. It was “really good” but not “amazing”. Ethan was unimpressed (I think it was a texture thing… maybe if the sauce was a little thinner…). And so this recipe goes to the recycling bin. White Bean Fettuccine Alfredo with Peas and Sun-Dried Tomatoes from Forks Over Knives.

Doesn’t it look like a hit, though? 🙂

IMDb: Hit and Miss (2013)

Horton Hears A Who

First of all, let me apologize for skipping a day yesterday. I broke my streak of 21 days in a row and I certainly had it on my mind to write yesterday. However, we decided to do a family game night and that certainly seemed more important. For anyone interested in a good game, we played Catan for the first time. Excellent strategic game, even if it does take a few minutes to figure out for the first time!

Yesterday I had my quarterly appointment for my hearing aid. I have been mostly skipping these because there has been no real wear and tear on my hearing aid. As most of my readers know, I started wearing a hearing aid in my left ear in 2015. It is believed that I had nerve damage to my ear from chemotherapy, similar to how some people get neuropathy in their hands or feet.

The first time I wore it, I was amazed at how certain sounds were ridiculous evident… The turn signal on my car blinked REALLY loudly. When I walked into work, the click-clacking of everyone’s keyboards was so annoying. But what happened over time is that my brain got used to those sounds and started to filter them out. Yea, brain!! It’s kind of fascinating that how your brain just gets used to what’s important to hear and what isn’t.

With the pandemic, I haven’t really been wearing my hearing aid much. (Ok, at all…) I have heard stories of people who lost their hearing aids when removing their masks. At $3700 for one aid, there’s no way I want to risk losing it. Also, I’m home all day. David is working; Ethan is doing his college thing. So there isn’t much to listen to. A hearing aid can cause discomfort; for me, it bothered the bone behind my ear, so it was just more comfortable to not wear it.

Since I had an appointment, I thought I should try to wear it a few days beforehand. Oh boy! What a difference. It was right back to those loud sounds from Day One in 2015. We have a new humidifier in the house and suddenly, all I could hear was “whoosh”ing, and all sorts of other mechanical sounds. It was like I was starting from scratch.

When I don’t wear it, despite the comfort, I do tend to struggle with background noises more often. Those noises block my ability to hear my family speaking, especially if the noise is in between us. And I’m sure they get tired of hearing me say “I can’t hear you.” I also hear things, usually those mechanical sounds, that I can’t identify and it drives me a little batty, a bit like Horton!

When I return in April, I will have a hearing test to see if my hearing has worsened at all. I think I was supposed to have that yesterday but for whatever reason he said he couldn’t do it. It ended up being a pointless trip, but at least I got a reminder about why it’s important to wear my hearing aid more often.

This cold, cold day was perfect for some Vegan Stew and Dumplings! Nothing beats dumplings with some nice gravy and veggies! Enjoy!

IMDb: Horton Hears a Who (2008)

Hot Chili

One of the things I like about winter is the simplicity in cooking. I love a good stew, soup or chili. Anything that cooks in one pot! One of my favorite chili recipes is this Pumpkin Chili. The pumpkin isn’t a strong flavor, but it gives the chili a nice, creamy texture.

This particular recipe calls for a 4 oz can of diced green chilies. Unfortunately, since I started my curbside pick up at Walmart last year, getting some of these more unusual ingredients is sometimes a challenge. (For the record, I am not a fan of Walmart, and their vegan stuff is limited, but they have been easiest and most convenient for me in this pandemic world. I am also saving a lot of money, but I do miss my Wegmans!)

I have often had to Google some substitution or another this past 10 months and so I did with my missing diced chilies, as well. I found a page that suggested poblano peppers were a good substitution. (Walmart has fresh poblanos but no canned diced chilies…?) The peppers needed to be roasted/blackened, with the skins then removed, and the remaining flesh diced. The suggestions for roasting including putting them under the broiler, grilling them on high, or just holding them over an open flame on the stove.

I thought the latter option seems like fun, and pretty easy, so that’s what I did. Luckily, I have a gas stove. I literally just sat the pepper on the stove grill and flipped it occasionally with my grilling tongs until it was blackened on all sides.

I put them in a bowl to let them cool and then I donned my latex gloves and peeled the skin off. I used my knife to scrape off some of the pieces, and then diced them up for my chili. It was actually super easy to do (although not quite as easy as opening a can…).

The chili itself comes together pretty easily, and it’s quite delicious! I serve it over rice, but you could put it over potatoes or any other grain you like.

Enjoy!

IMDb: Hot Chili (1985)

Salad Days

Often, when people think of plant-based diets, they think of eating salads all the time. Truth be told, I’m not a big salad eater. Usually it’s just from laziness — chopping, making a dressing, using up more bowls that I’ll have to wash! I do love a good salad if someone else makes it! 🙂

That said, I do prepare them from time to time, especially when I’m trying to get more greens in. One of the challenges for me was finding a dressing that is no oil / no fat that I loved. I did finally find one that sounded easy and I just modified it a bit to my liking. It’s pretty quick to throw together (see prior comment about laziness…), and I love the tang of the lemon juice and vinegar, offset by the sweetness of the maple syrup, and a dash of salt. My whole family enjoys this easy dressing.

Oil Free Lemon Vinaigrette

I also really enjoy this creamy orange dressing (can you tell I like citrus!?). It gets some fat from the cashews, unlike the lemon dressing above. So if you are watching calories or fat, the lemon dressing would be the better option. But this comes together pretty quickly in a blender, as well.

Creamy Orange Salad Dressing

And lastly, I’d like to share the 3-2-1 dressing. It’s oil free and flexible, based on your own tastes. It is 3 parts vinegar, 2 parts mustard, and 1 part sweetener. You can use your preferred options for each ingredient, play around, and come up with your own favorite. Balsamic works best, but I like a white wine vinegar. Mustard? Dijon is a good choice, but use what you like. And sweetener means maple syrup, agave, etc.; a liquid sweetener.

If you come up with any good combinations, let me know! I’d love to try them!

IMDb: Salad Days (2014)