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Posts Tagged ‘eating healthy’

So it’s been a while since my last post.  A year….a very busy year filled with so many changes that those who know me understand how busy I have been.  We’ve turned our lives upside down, moved, put the kids in school (teenagers now, no more homeschooling for me) and could not be happier than we are at this very moment.  We have beautiful beaches, friendly people and great schools.

I have still not entered Vegan Land and at this point that is probably not going to happen any time soon.  I just am not ready to give up seafood.

I can say that I am healthier, happier, and feel great since all land meat has exited my diet.  I will not go back because 40 points came off of my cholesterol numbers and that’s a pretty big deal.

I eat lots of vegan meals, vegetarian meals, and pescatarian meals (my seafood).  Grill King still lights up the grill only now the meat sizes are smaller and it is not as often.  If I come across some fantastic vegan recipes and they taste wonderful, I will share them here.

Meanwhile, I am off to another journey because turning 45 has brought about some interesting happenings.  Feel free to check me out at www.waytoohot.me

Until then eat healthy, stay happy and Enjoy, Leslie

 

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I started my journey towards a healthy heart at the end of last August.  What prompted this journey was a visit to my doctor who informed me that my cholesterol was way up there and I needed to get my butt on some medication.  If you want to know the whole story, read my about me page.

Heading down the road to veganland has not been an easy one.  The only thing I have stuck to 100% is that since last August, I have not eaten any land meat.  Nothing that walks the earth has entered my mouth.  If it has hooves or a beak, it is safe from me.  I miss things like a good hamburger and bacon; the two go together quite well.

In my home I do not cook with dairy or eggs 90% of the time.  I have found some great alternatives.  I am still having trouble finding a great tasting flavored “coffee mate” and “whip cream” replacement for my morning coffee which I enjoy about 3 times a week .  I still eat seafood.  I am not ready to stop that yet.

When I go out to eat I don’t usually stress too much.  I do not order meat, however, I know that many of the things I have ordered include eggs or dairy in the ingredients.  This is what I have a hard time with, then of course there’s chocolate but that’s another story.  While recently eating out with meat eaters, I got the eye roll while I was ordering because I was asking questions.  It’s not easy because there is not this huge support system and I don’t have any vegan friends.  My husband aka “grill king” has been extremely supportive and has actually cut way back on his meat intake.  He even went with me to a vegan restaurant recently (I’ll blog about that later).

I live in a small town and recently went to one of the restaurants where I learned that the only thing I could safely order was a salad and a baked sweet potato.  All of their vegetables and beans had meat parts floating in them for “seasoning” and “flavor”.  What is up with that?  Basically, a vegetarian cannot eat there.

Now for my health status….  I recently had my blood tested again while off my medication.  I was really nervous about having this done because I did not want to hear from any family members about how I’ve been doing all this non-meat eating stuff and it hasn’t worked and blah blah blah blah blah.  The truth is I would never hear the end of it if my cholesterol was not lower and everyone would expect me to go back my meat eating ways. Not happening!!!

And the results (drum roll please)……while my cholesterol is still not as low as it needs to be, it has DROPPED 40 POINTS!!!!!!!  Yes folks, that is 40 points just from giving up land meat.  What has this done for me….it has encouraged me to continue on my path and to find a way to completely rid my diet of dairy and eggs, cut back on the oils, say goodbye to fried foods and cut back on the “whites” while adding in more whole wheats/grains.  Once I get this mastered, I’ll have that blood work done again and see if I dropped further.  The only thing I am not yet giving up is my seafood but I may limit it to twice a week.  So, I am somewhere in the middle of my journey and my blood test results have made it a happy middle.  Having a happy middle validates everything I am doing and encourages me to keep moving forward.

For all my relatives out there that have this “hereditary cholesterol gene,” take note and stop eating all that meat!!!!  That goes for you Uncle George and you Aunt Peggy and you too sister dear.  There are others;  you know who you are.  Go have something healthy and meatless instead.  I love you all.  Enjoy!!!

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I grew up in one small town and currently live in another not far from the one I grew up in.  The area is surrounded by vegetable farms, sugarcane, and cattle.  The towns are small, the people friendly, everyone knew everyone else and if you snuck out at night, your mama knew before you got home because most likely someone called her.  Why did they call her…because they knew what time your curfew was.  Friday night football games were the thing to do and afterwards you hung out in a parking lot.

Until recently, on the table of restaurants, you found salt, pepper, sugar and raw sugar (we were in style before the rest of the world).  There was no equal, sweet-n-low, etc.. because we were surrounded by sugarcane fields.  If your parents didn’t work for the industry then you knew someone that did.  The sugar industry supported the small town.  Still to this day, I DO NOT PUT THE FAKE STUFF IN MY FOOD OR DRINKS!  I want real sugar, not some fake manmade sweetener that can’t begin to compare to the real stuff and only God knows what that fake stuff is doing to our bodies.  I grew up munching on stalks of sugarcane.  After more than 40 years, I think I can safely say that sugar ain’t that bad.

Now in towns filled with vegetables, sugarcane and cattle, you can safely assume there is not any tofu to be found.  Asking for Tofu usually gets the response, “God Bless You,”  because surely that was a funky sneeze and not a real word.  Sometimes you get, “What is it?”  or  “Toe What?”  or “Is that some kind of new Martial Arts?”  It’s not always easy living where time seems to stop and people don’t get out much.  Usually it takes traveling to the “big city” 30 minutes away to be able to find what one needs for my vegan dishes.

Having not too long ago visited a Thai restaurant and walking away having had a fabulous meal, I really wanted to finally bite the bullet and cook tofu.  It’s something I have been wanting to do since taking the walk to veganland.  A place I have yet to completely reach because I made a pit stop at “Veganland by the Sea” and can’t seem to move on.  What this means is I have pretty much given up all animals and by-products except for my seafood.  This would make me a pescatarian vegetarian/part time vegan.  I am really liking this little place and do not know if I will leave it.

Anyway, at home I decide to cook tofu for the first time.  I took it out of the package and well, it looked like a big off-white sponge. Not appetizing at all.  I proceeded to cut it up into chunks.  This is what it looked like:

Chopped Firm Tofu

I don’t care who you are, the stuff looked nasty and I started getting nervous thinking there was no way this was going to tastes good.  I set it aside.  I chopped up 1/2 an onion and set that aside.  Then I mixed together 1 Tbsp brown sugar, 3 Tbsp soy sauce, 1/2 tsp kosher salt, 1 tsp ground ginger (because I didn’t have any fresh), 1/2 tsp white pepper and 1 1/2 tsp curry powder.   Then I  grabbed a big pot and put in 1 can of coconut milk, 1/3 cup coconut flakes, the chopped onion and the mix of seasonings.  I let that simmer for a little while until the onion was nice and cooked and then added the chopped tofu and about 4 cups of stirfry veggies.  Once the veggies were tender and the tofu looked okay (not sure what okay means since it was a first for me).  I served it over brown rice.  If you think you need more coconut milk, feel free to add some.

Coconut Milk Mixture

Thai Coconut Tofu Curry

Now, while I did not have any bok choy or lemongrass, two things I would have liked to add to my recipe, this turned out FANTASTIC!!!  I was so thrilled with it and the coconut curry flavor was mouthwatering.  I had never attempted to cook Tofu or Thai.  This was so good that I truly cannot wait to try it again.  The tofu chunks were delicious and took on the flavor of the dish.  I am going to have to attempt another tofu dish.  I just don’t know what.  My whole family ate it and there was just enough left over for me to have it for lunch the next day.

So if you are straddling the fence and wondering whether to Tofu or to not Tofu.  I say go for it and try it like this.  You will not be disappointed.  Enjoy!

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Visiting my sister is always fun.  This time though it took a little extra planning.  She calls me to check about the weekends menu.  Everyone, it seems, worries about what to feed the non-meat-eater.  For one meal, the kids and carnivores decided on hamburgers.  My sister and I settled on a veggie burger.  She isn’t a big meat eater.  With it went rice, steamed broccoli and corn.

Her new hubby of 10 months is a HUGE CARNIVORE and refuses to eat a meal without meat.  This is not a joke.  The man thinks it is not a real meal unless there is a carcass hunk laying next to the other stuff.  His favorite meat is chicken which totally gives me the weebie geebies.  He reminds me of Grill King before I turned his world and grill upside down by changing my diet.

While Grill King has been most accommodating with my new life change, my brother-in-law and I have had a few discussions on why I think this life change is necessary.  It is not one he understands nor do I believe it is one he could handle if my sister were to venture down the same path.

Together, he and my sister have 6 kids.  Add in my two and the two elder carnivores and well, you can see for yourself how many hamburgers it takes to fill a grill.

grilled cow carcass

It was a fun evening.  Unfortunately, my sister and I live at two different ends of the state and since Florida is extra long, there are about 7 driving hours between us.  Not always fun for the kids who miss each other the second we leave.

On another note, I recently passed the bacon test.  Real bacon is one of those things that use to make my mouth water.  The other day Grill King pulls some out for breakfast.  I gave him the look that basically asked “do you value your life?”  He said he really needed to use it up and had been putting it off knowing that I may possibly scalp him for it.  I prepared myself for the smell of the bacon frying but then I even surprised myself.  No part of me felt like ripping him limb from limb.  My mouth did not water and I had no desire to eat the plate of bacon.  While this may not seem like a big deal to most for me it was a big step forward.  Tofu anyone?

Speaking of Tofu, I need to figure out how to cook the stuff.  I looked at in the other day in the grocery store and thought about buying it but it was just way too alien to me.  I had absolutely no idea what to do with the stuff.  I recently had some at a Thai place that was fabulous.  If I could cook it like that, I would be thrilled.  I guess I just need to bite the bullet and go for it.  If anyone out there has any great recipes with tofu, please send them my way.

It’s been 8 meatless months.  I’m talking land meat here; seafood and I still have a close relationship.  We visit about once a week.  Matter of fact I was slurping some oysters down just the other day.  Do oysters have a mama?  It seems to be a controversy. Other than the occasional seafood meal , I cook completely vegan.  I cook with no dairy or eggs at home.  I don’t stress too much if I’m eating out.  Right now it just makes it easier.

My kids have handled this whole change quite well.  My daughters favorite dinner is my spinach bean patties.  My son is not huge on meat either and would rather have a plate full of all the other stuff.  Grill King eats along with us and then has the once a week land-meat craving where he chases down a grocer and comes back with either a hoof or a beak to grill.  Both the kids really enjoy fish and like I said, I cook it about once a week.

My latest fish dish (I cooked this last week) was a new one that turned out quite well.  First I cooked some hashbrowns.  Then I put the hashbrowns in a baking dish and covered them with fresh spinach.  After that I place fish filets on top that had been seasoned with salt, pepper and old bay.  On top of that went a mixture of chopped tomatoes, 2 kinds of olives, capers and a little olive oil.  Then I baked it and WOW did this come out good.  See the for yourself:

Hashbrowns covered with spinach

Ready to go in the oven.

Time to eat.

If you like fish, give this one a shot.  It’s something a little different that tastes really good.  If your a vegan or vegetarian, leave off the fish.  Either way Enjoy!

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I decided I was going to make something I have never made.  I wanted something healthy and yummy.  I was in the mood for soup which gave me many choices.  About that time, Grill King calls and is at the vegetable/farmers market down the street.  I ask him to bring home two butternut squash.

With Grill Kings arrival and  the decision made, I started searching for recipes.  Once again my kitchen was lacking some of the important ingredients in the recipes I found, so I headed down the path of experiments and managed to make a fantastically delicious soup.

First let me point out that in my 40 something years, I have never cooked a butternut squash.  What I did not know was that trying to cut and peel one would be like using a butter knife to cut through a piece of concrete.  How is it that something you are going to eat starts off as hard as that?  I was amazed and actually considered giving up, thinking there is no way this is going to turn out.

Grill King was out on the porch talking on the phone to his mom and apparently telling her what I was planning to cook, because the next thing I know he is staring at me through the glass doors with a huge smile on his face.  He walks in and tells me that his mom, who apparently has cooked butternut squash, said I was going to have a tough time cutting it.  I was actually relieved to know that this super hardness was normal.

I gladly handed the knife over to him and told him I needed it peeled and chopped.  He went to work.

2 butternut squash, peeled and chopped

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped

2 Tbsp olive oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 small onions, chopped

6 celery stalks, chopped

1 apple, chopped (because I had one)

4 – 5 cups water

Vegetable bouillon cube

salt/pepper to taste

Coat the chopped butternut squash and sweet potatoes with the olive oil.  Stir all together, then place  on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until fork tender.

Meanwhile, place the garlic, onions, celery, vegetable bouillon cube and 2 cups of water in a pot.  Saute till all are soft.  Add the baked squash, sweet potatoes and 2 more cups of water to the pot.  Mix together well and then throw in the chopped apple, salt and pepper.  Dip out a little at a time and place in a food processor.  Blend till smooth and pour in a separate bowl for holding.  Continue this step until all is blended.  Place the soup back into the pot and heat for about 5 more minutes.  It will be thick and yummy.  Add another cup of water if you want it soupier.  Taste and season more if you want.  Then Enjoy!  Give it a try, I promise you will not be disappointed.  This passed both the Grill King test and the kid test.

This recipe made 6 -8 servings depending on the size.  It could easily be cut in half.  We had it for leftovers.

My only recommendation would be to make sure you have someone with the strength of Hercules to cut through and peel the squash.  Grill Kings strength comes from the fact that he is a carnivore and uses his muscles to rip through things like hooves, beaks and varmints.  Picture a T-Rex.

Happy New Year Everyone!

Thick and Yummy Butternut Squash Soup

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I recently cooked plantains for the first time.  I don’t know what took me so long to cook them myself.  I grew up eating them often.  I ate them “Cuban style”.  The ones I cooked were “Jamaican style”.  There is a difference.

I grew up in a small town with a pretty decent Cuban population.  Going into a friends house was always a treat because I could get fantastic dishes like black beans and rice, yucca, and plantains.  We also had a couple of cuban restaurants that were very good. Two of my best friends are Cuban and when we get together for our once a year girls weekend (yes at 43 I still meet with my high school girlfriends once a year; there are 7 of us),  the “Cuban” who lives in Miami comes bearing fabulous authentic cuban cuisine and pastries.  They are to die for good.  Anyway, Cubans wait for the plantain to get black on the outside.  Basically they look really rotten.  This however makes the plantains sweeter.  They cook theirs in lots of oil (vegetable, mazola, whatever).  Those things are usually pretty greasy and need to sit on a paper towel for a while to drain.  They are sweet and they are delicious.

In the last couple of years and thanks to a friend, I have been having plantains “Jamaican style.”  I actually prefer this style because it is less greasy and just seems healthier while still maintaing that yumminess.  Jamaicans cook their plantains when they are still yellow but with lots of black spots.  Basically they look like a banana that is getting rotten.  They are easy to cook. You just cut the peel off and slice the plantains.  Place some coconut oil in a pan, just enough to cover the bottom.  It must be coconut oil because that makes it taste sooo good.  Fry the plantains on one side and once they are brown, flip them to the other side.  The coconut oil will caramelize the plantains and give them a fantastic flavor and color.  Nothing else is needed.

Plantains are in the banana family.  They are starchy though and low in sugar when compared to a banana.  Plantains are eaten more like a vegetable while bananas are eaten as a fruit.  Plantains have thicker skin and are usually longer than a banana.  Plantains are a good source for potassium, vitamin A and vitamin C.  They are high in fiber and carbohydrates.  Plantains are usually fried or baked as they are unsuitable to be eaten raw.  They keep their shape when cooked.  I have not tried to bake them but I think I will try that next.

Plantains go great with just about anything.  They passed the “Grill King” test and the “kid test”.  Even my picky eater enjoyed them.  My son, who I now refer to as the “Golden Child”  because he eats every vegan thing I  put in front of him, really liked them.  Treat them like a potato and pair them with your favorites.  Enjoy!

Plantains perfect for cooking.

A plate of fried plantains - "Jamaican style'

Plantains served with fresh green beans and brown rice.

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So the other evening the tribe decided they wanted hamburgers for dinner.  Uh Oh!  I love hamburgers or at least I use to.  I knew this would be tough. Grill King was absolutely thrilled to have that grill smoking.  It must be a man thing.  I personally believe his happiness stemmed from the fact that he was not only having meat, but that the kids would be joining him on his favorite ritual of stuffing a cholesterol laden animal part into his mouth.

I raided the fridge to see what I would have in place of hamburgers.  I found a portobello mushroom, an orange bell pepper and an onion.  I gave the top of the mushroom, a big slice of the pepper and the onion to Grill King and asked that he grilled them along with burgers (as long as they didn’t touch the burgers.)

Then I proceeded to make some hummus for the spread.  I used my basic hummus recipe which I must say is quite yummy.  The basic recipe is usually the same.  I just switch up the flavors depending on my mood.  This time in my hummus I added two big handfuls of fresh spinach and 1/2 cup of sun dried tomatoes instead of the roasted red peppers and portobellos mushrooms in my hummus recipe.  Now, about this hummus –  It was delicious, however, it was not pretty.  The spinach and sun dried tomatoes gave it a color that fell somewhere in between chicken poop and a dirty baby diaper.  Not a pretty sight.  So my advice is to not serve this at parties.  Save it for sandwiches and spreads where you and those close to you are the only ones who see it.  I took a picture of it but if I showed to you, you would go ewwww and might run for the bathroom.

When the vegetables are grilled to perfection, take the bun of your choice and lather it up with the hummus then pile on the onion, the mushroom and the pepper.  Don’t forget some lettuce.  Place the bun top on, press it all together and chow down.  I thought I would miss the hamburger but I did not.  My portobello mushroom burger was fantastic.  I did not miss out on any of the taste just the fat and cholesterol.  Gotta love that!

Served with the burgers was some roasted home fries that started as an experiment and ended up darn tasty.

3 medium potatoes, diced

Coat potatoes with 1 -2 Tbsp of olive oil or the oil of your choice, or even cooking spray

Then sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic powder, dried chopped onion, and chili powder

Stir around so all potatoes are coated

Bake at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes.  YUM!

Portobello Mushroom Burger with Roasted Home Fries

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