what vegans eat

I posted earlier in the week about our Veganuary experience — so far, so good. Today, for football playoffs, we made quite the vegan spread. I texted my parents — their doctor has recommended they go plant-based for years, but they think all she wants them to eat involves kale and salads. I wanted to prove them wrong — that there is more than meets the palate than just bowls of raw vegetables. Enter our football food:

From top left: vegetable pizza (served cold: broccoli, cucumbers, carrots, peppers, Kite Hill ranch dip, and vegan cheese); homemade egg rolls (with broccoli slaw & mushrooms) and four dipping sauces; salsa and Siete queso (with RoTel tomatoes); buffalo dip (made of cashews, artichokes, and buffalo sauce); and spinach-artichoke dip.

It was quite the spread and while I am not certain how vegan we will remain after our month-long challenge, I think these recipes will make their way into our standard rotation. (In truth, the spinach artichoke dip has been in our regular rotation for years.)

My parents are curious now, though, so I think that’s good — they want us to make this stuff when they come to visit next. I feel like them admitting curiosity is a step in the right direction to them taking their doctor’s orders.

veganuary, part 1

So, my husband and I are smack dab in the middle of Veganuary; typically, we start the year doing a Whole30 and I know many who do ‘dry January’. W30 is our usual way to kick off the year by nourishing our body and lessening the sugar intake after the holiday season where my favorite breakfast/lunch/snack/dessert involves my mom’s peanut butter Hershey Kiss cookies. They are amazing.

Usually, by week 2.5, I’ve stopped eating on the W30 because I am not a big meat eater. This year, I’d read about Veganuary and this seemed more up my alley because I love carbs and I love vegetables. So far, it has been great. Unlike W30, if you slip up, you do not have to start from the beginning; with the exception of two incidents (pizza and carrot cake), I have remained 100% vegan.

I am doing a lot of cooking but not any more than usual — one thing that I’ve been more mindful of is lunch. I am typically awful about making and eating lunch. I’ve been doing a lot of pb&j on sprouted bread and also, baked potatoes. They’re not the most exciting lunches but I’m actually eating lunch daily and not waiting until 3PM to do it. I’ve also been having dessert oranges after nearly every meal. It’s my favorite thing about winter — I just love oranges and I have the kids hooked on dessert oranges too.

Dinners feel really nutritious. I’ve been using mirepoix that I buy precut from the grocery store. I NEVER use onions in my cooking because I don’t like them but these are diced in small pieces and I’ve been reading about health benefits, so I’ve been using this in pretty much every meal. The kids don’t seem to notice. I’ve kept at not eating beans more than a couple of times a week; I’ve been trying to keep soy products to once a week; and buns (veggie burgers are delicious) and pasta, once or twice a week; and then soup. It’s a pretty well-balanced offering, I think and isn’t much different than how we’d typically eat except there are is not meat or cheese.

Last weekend, my husband wanted football food for the playoffs. We made our usual lineup of buffalo (chicken-less) dip where we used cashews, artichokes, and hot sauce. I was skeptical but this dip was outstanding and literally tasted like the chicken and cheese laden dip does. SO GOOD. We also made a spinach-artichoke dip; we use the recipe from TrueRoots and just had to make a couple tweaks (almond yogurt; vegan mayo). These dips were fantastic and I think we may make them again this weekend.

So, the food piece has been good. A few other benefits we’ve noticed — better sleep, more energy, less anxiety, and something my husband brought up at dinner tonight: nail health. He’s noticing his recovery time is better and I’m noticing that exercise is easier for me as well.

Overall, we are both pleased with the first half of this month and I’m looking forward to reporting on the second half. I hope it continues just as well.

happy new year

It is officially 2020 — I don’t know about you, but the idea of staying up until the ball drops is not particularly appealing to me at this age. I was asleep before 10PM and I have no regrets.

Today marks the first of the year and with the first, a lovely dietary challenge. Typically, my husband and I do the Whole30 in January and it’s something we look forward to. What’s not to appreciate about loading up your body with nutrients and nourishing what was is left behind of a month of sugary, boozy indulgences?! This year, though, we are trying something different: Veganuary.

I almost can’t believe this myself except that aside from our Whole30 rounds, I lean more toward vegetarianism than that carnivore life. I do like steak but easily pass on chicken and do not eat pork. This seemed like a good way to test out this lifestyle and see how it makes us feel. I’ve done a ton of reading on it and spoke with my doctor at my last physical. I am to follow up with her after our month to make whatever adjustments may be needed if we choose to adopt this long-term (figuring out B12 basically).

I am at the point in my life where I need to be making my physical health more of a priority. We don’t eat a lot of junk foods and I rarely drink — I consume plenty of water and exercise (though not as regularly as I should), so I really want to be more intentional with this in the coming year. In some of the books I’ve read, they talk about how diet is more responsible than heredity for things like heart disease and this is the primary driver of our vegan test. We really want to see if we can live a more plant-based life because we don’t want to struggle with some of the health issues our parents have.

My other January challenge is going to be to get back more in the swing of yoga. I’d like to challenge myself to set aside even just 10 minutes to reset each day. I also want to get back to taking classes during the week and plan to use my ClassPass for studios closer to my house than my typical place in Boston (though I will be heading there on weekends to practice). For me, practicing yoga definitely makes me a better wife, mother, and overall person. I need to keep this in mind when I am feeling frazzled and am fighting the reset my body so clearly needs.

For the first time on a vacation, I went to yoga. We spent the last few days of the year in DC and it’s always something I’ve talked about but this trip, I did it. I walked a mile to a POWER yoga class and IT.WAS.AWESOME. The class only had two other attendees because it was just days after Christmas, so I basically had a private class. It felt great to sweat it out on the mat and then take a leisurely stroll back to the hotel before heading to the National Zoo. This is something I’d like to keep striving for — at least one or two yoga classes a trip to keep me centered and reflective of my gratitude.

I’m hopeful that a few trips are in the cards for this year: Another DC adventure (with a side of yoga and my cousin’s college graduation), a trip to PA with the kids where they get to run around my parents’ farmette and head into Pittsburgh for a Pirates’ game, and hopefully a trip to Florida or some other place in south when the weather starts to change next fall. Travel is something super important to me and I’m fortunate to do a fair bit of it. I’d like to keep that momentum moving forward this year because it is something that allows me to feel like me as a person, not just me as a mom.

I don’t tend to make resolutions or set too many goals for myself for the coming year. Last year, I established a great routine with diet and exercise. I was able to keep that routine going until our Disney vacation and then getting back into the swing of things with yoga became increasingly difficult — there was always something going on in Boston that I had to plan around: races, wedding, and summer traffic in general. I’m hoping that with ClassPass, I’ll be able to maintain that schedule closer to home.

The last piece and, possibly the most challenging, is to figure out what I want to do when my son starts school. I started in a library program and while I did enjoy one of the classes I took, I am not certain that librarians’ roles in schools is what I am really looking to do. I feel like my career life is at a standstill and I’m not certain how to really navigate it. I am scheduled to take two classes in the spring but may cut that back to one only. I am really at a crossroads here… Aside from this piece, I look forward to moving through the year with intention, purpose, and kindness leading the way.

 

end-of-year goals

About halfway through November, I realized I didn’t set any written goals aloud but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been working towards some. I recently met with a nutritionist who I talked to about trying to lose enough weight to get within my healthy zone — I know that more than weight counts for health and I’ve been definitely working on my health this year. I have lost twenty pounds with minimal effort and have maintained that loss through many trips and even more cupcakes. Still, I want to match that loss in 2020.

With the nutritionist, she recommended I actually increase my carbs intake. I’m certainly not on a low-carb diet and I eat lots of potatoes but she recommended using more oats, brown rice, and pastas. I also talked to her about incorporating more plant-based meals into my life. Before I met my husband, I rarely ate meat because I won’t touch raw meat and thus won’t cook it — it’s really easy to eat plant-based when you refuse to handle any proteins. I decided to largely go back to that (and take my family with me). My husband was easily on board because so many of his runner friends told him that moving toward a plant-based diet would help improve his running time.

Incorporating more grains and eating less meat kind of go hand-in-hand in my mind, so this has been a fairly simple transition. Trader Joe’s makes it easy enough to buy meatballs if the kids want to add meat to a pasta dish and last week, we bought a rotisserie chicken and my husband broke it down so that there was the option of adding chicken. 11 & 13 (especially) are big on meat eating; 4 is like me — he could take it or leave it. This is a central part of our end-of-year goals; basically, intuitive eating with foods and nutrients.

Additionally, I have been focusing on moving more. I have struggled to get into a routine and my nutritionist asked why I felt the need to be in a routine. She suggested I look into ClassPass, which has been great. My old yoga studio in the city participates, as do several in my immediate area — these classes coupled with my gym membership on campus and my at-home cardio equipment and weights should have me covered. So, my goal is to get to at least two yoga classes a week — I can typically fit them in on weekends and then take further advantage on days my husband works from home. On other days, I can just do cardio at home or use the spin bikes/Expresso workouts at the gym.

So, my goals around fitness are to keep on this path — do what I feel like doing and if I don’t feel like doing anything, try to talk myself into getting in a 10-min yoga video or a mile run. So far, this has been working for me and I’m hoping to continue to push forward with continuing this way.

Lastly, I’ve been straightening my hair more regularly, which has given me a big boost — hair, eyeliner, and mascara accompanied by high-waisted ‘mom jeans’ and crop sweaters.

With all this being said, here’s to ending 2019 in such away that encourages me to keep eating carbs and plants, moving my body in ways that push boundaries and ways that make me feel healthy, and getting myself ready for tasks like the grocery store.

bad medicine

Last weekend, 4 and I went on an adventure to our nation’s capital: There, we visited playgrounds, went to the National Zoo with friends, and dined at TrueFood more than once — we also ate doughnuts and pizza! It was a really decadent weekend, full of mommy-4 time and I loved every second of it. 4 is now an expert at train travel and taxi travel (thanks to the RideSafer) — the number of compliments he gets at the airport for getting his own bin and putting his backpack and jacket in show his savvy when it comes to air travel.

Along our journey from northern VA to the zoo, we got out at Farragut West and walked around for a bit. We were running early and I wanted to show 4 where I used to work (across the street from the WhiteHouse). I pushed him in his stroller a bit and we made our way back to Farragut North to take the red line train to Woodley Park. We took the elevator down to the lower level and then went to board the next elevator to the train platform when we ran into our first joint encounter with a woman who was clearly in a space. Of course the elevator wasn’t working, so we turned around and had an employee turn off the lock so we could access it. As we waited for the elevator, the woman had a very boisterous moment which was followed by taking pills.

All in all, 4 was exposed to language and activity I’d rather not him see but realized that at some point I would need to address. Given 4’s life experiences, I always want to have an open line of communication when it comes to drugs and experimentation. This is something my husband and I have spoken about tirelessly and always figured we’d start addressing this deliberately at an early(ish) age. So, when 4 asked why the woman was screaming, I took it as a chance to open the doors of communication.

I wasn’t sure how to really approach the idea of drug abuse, but given that two of my cousins and an uncle lost their lives to overdose, I felt like I could deliver information about the habit/behavior without judgment/lessening the value of the person; thus, I introduced him to the term of ‘bad medicine’ and I explained that sometimes people take bad medicine because they want to feel a certain way or feel better about things but instead it makes them sick. Then, we talked about how we can’t take Zarbees (honey cough syrup) when we aren’t sick because it won’t work the right way with our bodies.

Keeping things in line with 4’s understanding and allowing the lines of communication to remain open are of the utmost importance when discussing such heavy matters. Considering, he has been talking about this since shows that he is processing what we talked about and what he saw — which leaves me hopeful that as he grows, he will continue to work to understand the epidemic facing our society, show empathy, and make the best choices he can.

cry when you get home

Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of taking 4 to DC to celebrate his birthday (belatedly) by visiting BeiBei at the National Zoo. We had a blast and I logged nearly 25 miles on foot over the course of the four days there. Traveling with a toddler isn’t all panda bears and doughnuts, though; my son goes to bed at 7:30PM each night and we try to stay on schedule when traveling, thus I had a bit of time to read on my phone in the dark each night (because if I went to bed at 7:30, I’d be up and ready to party by 3AM).

One article I read over the weekend was about teacher burnout in urban school settings: https://www.inquirer.com/opinion/commentary/teachers-therapy-trauma-philadelphia-20191107.html

In this article, it was mentioned that a PD session implored teachers to be strong for their students and thus need to maintain their cool until the school day ends. This brought back so many memories of behaviors and conversations I’ve had with fellow teachers I’ve worked with.

When I started teaching, I loved the work I did — I spent countless hours planning and reading and preparing and prepping for my students’ success. After two years in DC Public Schools, I learned of an opportunity in northern VA that would cut my commute and seemed like a similar enough fit. I took my skills there and eventually became a department chair before leaving for MA. I’ve been teaching at the community college level for the last nine years and still have the same emotional load to carry as I did when I first began.

For years, I’d cry the duration of my morning and/or afternoon commutes. The weight of my students’ plight sat heavy in my heart and many days, I couldn’t really handle the thought of what a weekend or school vacation brought to their lives. My physical and mental health suffered and I used many sick days battling illness and/or tears. I thought that when I transitioned to higher education, I’d leave behind all of the fret I dreaded each day.

I was wrong.

The last two years have increased my stress-load; especially last year when I had a handful of students who partook in a form of self-harm. Again, managing the emotional load took a toll on me — I was drained of energy and filled with dread to take on my days. In some ways, I’m grateful that students are more aware and willing to share their experiences so that they can receive the help they so dearly need; on the other hand, the empath in my really struggles to separate the school day with my personal life.

Taking time off to figure out how to move forward career-wise has been good for me. I’ve been able to spend tons of time with my family and am in a much better headspace (I’m sure all of the yoga helps with this too). I am wondering how the emotional load changes when moving away from urban education and into more suburban settings. Believe me, I understand that all districts have their issues — I’m just trying to figure out how to balance the emotional load with the work and personal loads.

I am hoping that this time I am using to stay at home with 4 and reflect and take classes will help guide my thoughts and release my mind so that I’m fresh to go when 4 is ready to start kindergarten; until then, I’ll keep getting myself into healthy habits so that I can be set up for as much emotional and physical success as possible when the time comes.

meal of the week

I have been trying to think about how I could blog about our meals — I enjoy keeping a running record of our favorite things and always enjoy reading other people’s favorite meals. This week, I am going to showcase my favorite breakfast: Stuffed Acorn Squash.

This recipe is from True Roots (P11) and always feels like such a decadent choice for Sunday brunch — there are only four ingredients and with sugar-free sausage, it can be Whole30 & Paleo. Sausage, Celery, Egg, and Acorn Squash complete this dish — we always sprinkle with hot sauce too.

Bonus: You get to eat out of an acorn squash!

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This is one of those meals that you eat for brunch and you’re full throughout the way but there’s no guilt with any side dishes, be them fruit or mimosas because you’re putting so many nutrients in your system to start the day.

We will probably make these again this coming weekend because we enjoy them so much and we know the kids will have a nice, healthy filling meal before our family date date takes over and everyone is filled to the brim with sugar.

What are some of your favorite breakfasts?