sorry ’bout it

Aside
vegetarian lent challenge - before and after

vegetarian lent challenge – before and after

Obviously Lent is over and has been for a while now. A career change, a broken computer and life in general have prevented me from blogging lately. I’ll get better about that.

I’m proud to say I completed my challenge with only a couple of minor slip-ups and feel better having done it. The challenge taught me to be more aware of what I eat, to take more time and effort to live healthier and that by doing so you can have a positive influence on those who surround you.

Once the challenge was officially over I opened the envelope I had sealed 40 days prior and compared measurements. I measured only slightly less and according to the evil scale I technically only lost one pound. But that’s okay because I still feel like my body is  different and I feel better which was the whole point to begin with!

I’m happy I challenged myself and am continuing on a path of positive change.

 

truckin’ along – days 31-35

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I’m really getting used to this. It’s much easier than I expected it to be and I have to say I’m honestly not missing meat. I’ve been keeping myself pretty busy with rediscovering my love for cooking. In the past few days I’ve made jalapeno mac and cheese, pasta primavera, potato and leek soup, baked falafel with feta dip and some beet and barley risotto. All of which was delicious if I do say so myself.

I’ve been a long-time emeals user but they have really been a lifesaver over the past few weeks. They have a vegetarian meal plan that gets emailed to me once a week with seven different meals, recipes and a shopping list. Most of the recipes I’ve tried have been really good and you can easily substitute items you don’t like. If you haven’t checked them out yet, I highly recommend it.

And now I head into the home stretch…

To read more about my Vegetarian Lent Challenge, click here.

Baked Falafel with Feta Dip

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I love falafel. It’s my go-to festival food and I’ve made it a few times myself. I’ve always used the falafel mix from a box and then fried it in an obscene amount of oil. Thankfully I stumbled across this great recipe for baked falafel from How Sweet It Is and I don’t think I can go back to the box mix now.

The recipe says this should take a total of 30 minutes but it took me about an hour. This is mostly because I have a terrible food processor and I kept having to switch back and forth between that and my blender. The next item on my shopping list!! Despite it all these came out great and the feta dip went along with them perfectly.

Falafel Ingredients

2 (14 oz) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
4 garlic cloves, chopped
4 green onions, sliced
1 large egg
1 lemon, juiced
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped *I didn’t have fresh cilantro so I used a teaspoon of dried
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 cup whole wheat or all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

20140409-093656.jpgMethod for Falafel

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a food processor, combine the chickpeas, garlic, onions, egg, lemon juice, parsley, cilantro, oil, salt, pepper, cumin and paprika. Pulse a few times until crumbly but not pureed. Add in half of the flour and baking powder and pulse a few more times until combine. Repeat with remaining flour and baking powder. *I forgot to add in the second half of the flour and baking powder. They turned out fine anyway.

Once the mixture is combined, scoop out about 2 tablespoons worth and form it into a small patty or ball. Place the falafel on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes, until slightly crisp on top and cooked through.

Spicy Feta Dip Ingredients

1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
8 ounces feta, crumbled
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
fresh parsley + crushed red pepper for garnish

Method for Spicy Feta Dip

In the same food processor (I just wipe/wash mine out while the falafel are baking), add the yogurt, feta, olive oil, salt, pepper and cayenne. Pulse and blend until combined, scraping down the sides if needed. I don’t blend the feta completely because I like a bit of texture, but you can do so if you’d like. Scoop the feta into a bowl and give it an extra drizzle of olive oil. Garnish with the parsley and a sprinkle of crushed red pepper.

To read more about my Vegetarian Lent Challenge, click here.

 

Jalapeno Mac & Cheese

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When we ate at The Mill a few weeks ago, my husband ordered their special side of jalapeno mac and cheese. It was really good and he’s been talking about it ever since. We had our first cookout of the season on Saturday and what better time to try to replicate it?

I searched around for some recipes ranging from the super easy to some really complicated ones. Although The Mill’s dish had bacon in it, I had to leave it out to stay true to my Challenge. I finally settled on this recipe from Kitchen Treaty. It had enough heat to satisfy the hot heads but not too much so my son and I couldn’t eat it. Everyone seemed to enjoy it. I’m sorry I don’t have any pictures of the finished product but rest assured it was delicious and there weren’t any leftovers!

The recipe and my notes can be found below.

jalapeno mac n cheese ingredientsIngredients

8 oz. pasta of choice
3 tablespoons butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon dry mustard
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2½ cups milk *I used 2%
1 cup plus ½ cup grated smoked cheddar cheese, divided
1 cup plus ½ cup medium cheddar cheese, divided *I couldn’t find smoked cheddar so I used sharp and mild cheddar
2 medium jalapeno peppers, stems removed and finely diced (include seeds for spicier chili; leave them out for a milder version) *I left seeds in one of the peppers and it was plenty spicy
1 teaspoon jalapeno Tabasco sauce (or more to taste)

 

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Boil the pasta until al dente, according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cool water to stop the cooking, drain.
2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the flour, dry mustard, salt, and black pepper. Whisk constantly over medium heat for about three minutes.
3. Continue stirring with the whisk and slowly pour in the milk. Whisk frequently for about 5 minutes, and then constantly for another 5 minutes or so, until the sauce heats and thickens.
4. Remove from heat and stir in 1 cup of the smoked cheddar, 1 cup of the medium cheddar, jalapeno peppers, and Tabasco sauce, stirring until the cheese has melted.
5. Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta and toss gently until coated.
6. Add half the noodles to a two quart casserole dish and sprinkle on half of the remaining cheeses. Add the remaining pastas and sprinkle on the remaining cheese.
7. Bake at 375 degrees for about 25-30 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown.

 

it’s time for me – days 27-30

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It’s not unusual for a wife and mom to care for her family before she cares for herself. Taking care of my boys is my top priority and often that means I don’t have a lot of time or energy for me.

I’m trying to carve out more time for myself because I think it’s important to be the best possible version of me for the sake of my family. I let things slip for so long and I got to a point where it was taking a major toll on my mood.  I want and need to feel better because it’s the only thing that’s fair for my son and everyone else I love.

First thing on the agenda was to get everything that might be ‘wrong’ checked out and fixed. This involved getting a physical and checking my levels, going for an eye exam and treating myself to a much-needed massage. Thankfully my health is excellent with the exception of a Vitamin D deficiency (who doesn’t have that, honestly?) and an odd eye-muscle condition called esophoria. Never heard of it? Me either. I’m just glad to have a reason behind my headaches now, even if it means I need glasses.

The last item on the list may sound frivolous but I injured my shoulders almost four years ago and never got them dealt with. Constantly lifting a 35+ lb. two year old doesn’t help things either. My friend, who works at a massage clinic, has been on me for a while to get it taken care of and coined the affectionate term “action-figure shoulders” to describe them.

Now that I have some long un-answered questions answered and I’m feeling a bit more relaxed, I’m ready to do more ‘me’ things. I’m hoping that involves more time put aside for yoga, pilates, hobbies, friends, and lots of date-nights.

To read more about my Vegetarian Lent Challenge, click here.

oops – days 23-26

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Who knew Panera’s broccoli and cheddar soup was made with chicken broth? I didn’t. I ran out to grab a quick lunch yesterday and I thought I’d be safe with the soup and a Greek salad.  I didn’t find out until later when a friend pointed out that the soup used a chicken base. Doh! A little internet research and sho’nuff.  In case you’re wondering, their only true vegetarian soups are black bean, creamy tomato, and garden vegetable. I guess I shouldn’t really be surprised – of course it’s going to have a broth base. I just naively assumed it would be vegetable. It goes to show that if you want to be truly meat free you need to do your research before you order something off a menu.

I included a poll in my last post asking if fish should be considered meat. So far most of you think that is so I guess I’ll consider this my second slip. Despite these minor missteps, I still feel accomplished. I’ve been meat free for almost 30 days and I’m feeling good. This might be all in my head but I swear my skin looks better and my pores are smaller. I think I’ve lost a little weight, too but I haven’t taken any official measurements so I hope I’m not jinxing myself.

There’s something empowering about feeling in charge of what you’re body is consuming.

To read more about my Vegetarian Lent Challenge, click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I cheated a little – days 17-22

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20140325-141617.jpgThe hubby and I went on a much needed adults-only getaway this past weekend with some friends to Virginia Beach. We had a great time and got some much needed rest and relaxation. The weather was spectacular. The ocean was beautiful, calming and right outside our balcony.

I went into the weekend wondering if I could keep up with my challenge given the extra complication of traveling. I told myself I could cheat a little bit when we went out for a fancy dinner – it seemed pointless to me to go all the way to the beach and not have a little seafood. A waste of a trip, really.

On the way down we had to stop to find lunch and quickly realized there really wasn’t anywhere I could go. Popeyes? No. Arby’s? Nope. Bojangles? well, maybe an egg biscuit. We pulled into the WaWa to get some gas and some road snacks. To my surprise they had a couple of prepared options I could eat and I ended up with a container of roasted red pepper hummus and mini pita rounds. It wasn’t the best hummus I’ve ever had but it was good enough.

We saved our big fancy dinner out for Saturday night and ended up at a sushi place close to the beach, in walking distance of our hotel. Oh boy did we get sushi. We ordered anything that sounded good and it was all so delicious. I did eat some tuna, salmon and shrimp which I consider cheating. But I have had several people tell me they don’t consider fish or seafood as meat. I’m learning that vegetarianism is all a matter of opinion. What do you think?

Bacon is definitely meat and I was tempted with it a couple times this weekend. It was even served on my breakfast plate when we went out on Sunday morning but I grudgingly moved it onto my husband’s plate despite it’s delicious, beckoning smell. Now THAT was a challenge!

To read more about my Vegetarian Lent Challenge, click here.