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It’s all about Las Vegas…

I have to be honest Las Vegas was not on the top of my list of places to visit this year, I was thinking, London, Italy and maybe the odd trip to Florida or South Carolina… definitely not Vegas, although it was most definitely on my list of places I wanted to visit some day, just not right now.  

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Well why should the boys get all the fun, when they announced they were all getting tickets for the Furer verses Wilder fight, I announced that I would be gate crashing… and so our mini vacay was born.

What happens in Vegas will always stay in Vegas, but I’m here to give you a few hints… 

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I have to tell you the whole trip exceeded my expectations, what a crazy place to visit… as I sat last night in the Venetian Hotel sipping a rather nice glass of Sauvignon Blanc, listening to Opera singing and watching the world go by, I decided that Las Vegas was Disneyland for adults, and you know that I just love the Disneyland for kids, so why wouldn’t I just love the adult version too.

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We were all deciding which part of the vacay was our favorites, obviously Pauls most favorite part was the awesome fight he watched on Saturday evening, Florrie and Tate could not decide, there had been way too much fun to just pick one… for me it was all about the food, I am a total food snob, if I eat out and I think I could have made this better, I’m not happy, but I have to tell you from Eggslut to Eataly the food was awesome, but I do have to tell you that Hell’s Kitchen was my most favorite part, I was grinning from ear to ear the whole time, or so Paul tells me. 

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We have played a few slot machines, we didn’t win a dime, we have walked for miles and miles around hotel after hotel, we have drunk more Starbucks drinks than I care to mention, my bank balance is feeling a little lighter from the hefty price tag of each drink we bought.  We have drunk Happy Hour flights of wine with our older boys, and I have to tell you the $100 bottles of wine we got to sample definitely go down rather nicely. In all of our Las Vegas escapades I have been totally surprised and totally delighted in every way possible.

My favorite hotel by far was Ceasars Palace with the Venetian coming in a close second.  I loved the retro feel of the pink Flamingo Hotel, it felt very Vegas past to me, and I totally loved that vibe.  From cute outdoor wedding chapels to Gondolas floating through hotels, a skyline that looked just like New York to a beautiful castle that looked like it was from Disney, the Las Vegas Strip is the craziest place I have ever been to, but in a truly fantastic way.

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Now let’s talk about food and wine just a little bit more, my quick guide to great food if you ever decide to visit this fair place… Tom’s Urban had an awesome Happy Hour between 4 and 6pm, all alcohol whatever you wanted was 50% off, and when you are on the strip believe me Happy Hour is the way to go.  Eataly in the Park MGM Hotel was like a culinary trip to Italy, an upscale huge food court with an Italian flare, regional wines and delicious cheeses, they even had Happy Hour wine flights at different times of the evening, who wouldn’t want to sample a $90 bottle of red wine before they leave.  Now most of you know I mainly eat a very plant based diet when I’m at home, but these last few days I have treated myself to the most delicious cheese board, I had coddled eggs with puréed potatoes at Eggslut, well worth the 20 minute line to order, even the fresh cooked fries our children ate from the little food court were so delicious.  I did share the scallops on a puréed celeriac in Hell’s Kitchen with Lewis, and I have eaten simple delicious grilled cod with olive oil, salt and Pepper in Eataly… all absolutely delicious, I wish I could start again and eat them all over one more time.  The Crack shack had a delicious poblano and avocado scramble bowl, we’ve eaten shaved roasted brussel sprouts in Tom’s Urban and Eataly, oh and polenta frites they made were a treat for your taste buds.  

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We knew Hell’s Kitchen was a must, Dom had already been when he was on a trip with Jord a couple of years ago, so he went to bed after he stayed up all night in the Casinos… we got to Hells Kitchen earlier for brunch and Lewis joined us, we were a little disappointed not to see Gordon at the pass, as Paul had said hi to him getting in a Limo the night before, after the Boxing, we are still laughing at Paul getting the thumbs up from Gordon Ramsay as Paul shouted over to him. The whole experience in here was so professional from start to finish, our waitress could not have been nicer, the wine was on point, now I know it was brunch but when in Hells Kitchen it just had to be done, the food was absolutely amazing, Lewis raved over the beef Wellington paired with the most perfect red wine, the scallops melted in your mouth, my eggs Florentine on a beautiful green polenta cake was something I wish I could eat every single day… now if you know me well you will know I am not a desert person, but we all decided we had to at least share a couple… now don’t get me started on the sticky toffee pudding, I may be converted to a desert person after all, the chocolate mousse  cake was a master piece, and so delightfully delicious, it was hard to choose a favorite, but if I had to tell you which one… well it would totally have to be both. 

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From Casinos and arcades to beautiful warm swimming pools and gorgeous gigantic hotels The Vegas strip is well worth the trip, and if you think it’s not for kids, think again, there is something for everyone there, whether you are a big or a little kid… now if you haven’t visited this awesome place, I’m guessing your lungs will be thanking you, my one complaint is the cigarette smoke everywhere, when we walked from the sign yesterday it was so nice to be out and away from all that smoke, but with that said Las Vegas we will miss you, we weren’t quite ready to leave, it was all Pauls fault I  was all set to book a few days longer but he needed to get back to work so he can get some much needed money back in our bank account… LOL.  

So long for now… but we will be back!

VIVA LAS VEGAS!!!

Diet and nutrition, homeschooling, Photographic diary, plant based diet, recipes, Uncategorized

How much protein do you really eat?

DSC_4900-EditI have teetered on the edge of veganism for quite some time now,  I’ve committed to a total plant based diet for a month in 2019, but my biggest challenge is losing weight as I get older and keeping it off, and without eggs I think I struggle getting enough protein into my body.  The longer I don’t eat any meat, the more I want to cut all animal products from my diet, so as more and more plant based foods hit the shelves in our grocery stores here in NJ, and more and more restaurants are giving us vegan options, I am ready to commit fully.

I think it is time to really revamp my diet, I need to be adding more protein rich plant based foods into every meal that I eat, so it is time to do some more research and add a few essential protein rich foods to my grocery list.

If you are considering a more plant based diet, or you want to be totally vegan, this is what I have learned about eating more protein without eating any animal products.

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Protein is vitally important for our bodies, if you do not eat enough our health and body composition suffers immensely. It is usually recommended that an average sedentary man needs 56 grams of protein a day, and an average sedentary woman needs 46 grams of protein a day, which when you eat animal product this is easy to achieve, but when eating plant based foods this can be more difficult to achieve, especially if you are like me and avoid all soy based foods.

I have never in my life struggled with weight loss, I consider myself to have been very lucky, but as I have aged and my metabolism has changed I have noticed my weight creeping up, and despite calorie counting and eating a very clean healthy diet I still yo yo from day to day or week to week, but what I have noticed is that the weight difference can be attributed to how much food I have eaten that day, and most importantly how much protein I have eaten too.

So with all this in mind I am setting about changing my eating habits yet again. I have always struggled to eat large meals, but as I age I find I need to eat a good amount of healthy calories a day, but what I need to think about is the make up of the calories, how can I add more protein into every meal I eat.  Eating avocado on sourdough toast is not enough protein in that meal, if I average out 46 grams of protein for each day, each of the three meals I eat needs to have approximately 15 grams of protein in. If I eat two meals a day I have to add a whopping 23 grams of protein to each meal.

So lets look at some plant based foods that can give us a healthy amount of protein for each meal…

Of course soy foods are one of the highest protein plant based foods, I avoid soy for personal reasons, so I never include them in my meals but they can give you a whopping 10 – 19 grams of protein per 3.5 oz, pretty good for adding that 15 grams into every meal.

Now I do love me some lentils, green, red or French, I love lentils in everything. Lentils not only provide you with 18 grams of protein per cooked cup, they also provide you with a type of fiber that has been shown to feed the good bacteria in your colon.  I can see many more lentils appearing in my meals in the very near future.

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Garbanzo beans, chickpeas or whatever you want to call them, they are delicious and provide 15 grams of protein per cooked cup, I love, love, love them, hummus, roasted or ground into a flour to make pancakes, thicken sauces or make into a totally gluten free pizza base. Chickpeas and all other beans are most definitely a must pantry supply for adding a punch of nutrition to your meals.

Now I have been using nutritional yeast for many years now, not to be confused with yeast we use for baking.  Nutritional yeast adds some nice cheesy flavor to many meals, it is delicious in mashed potatoes and it is delicious sprinkled over pasta.  From my research I discovered that using nutritional yeast on or in my meals can add 14 grams of protein per ounce, it will also give me 7 grams of fiber… I need to be buying this in bulk and using it on everything.

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I do love to sprinkle hemp seeds on many of my dishes, they not only look pretty but they add some great nutrition to your meal. Now what I did not realize was the amount of protein these tiny little seeds could add to my food, 10 grams per ounce of completely digestible protein… I may just have to sprinkle a few more into each meal now.

When I was a child I hated green peas, I used to hate the fact my Mom put them on my plate with what seemed like every meal… Now I just love green peas with everything, how our tastes change, I love them mashed with some salt and pepper, I love them in casseroles, I love them in salads, it is fair to say that I really do love some green peas with everything these days.  Not only do these little round green peas provide you with 25% of your daily fiber and vitamin A,C and K, they are a great source of protein weighing in with 9 grams of protein per cooked cup, making them a great addition to every meal.

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Now this one surprised me, I have to be honest I bought spirulina quite some time ago, and I haven’t used it once, I am totally rethinking this, 2 tablespoons gives you 8 grams of protein, it is also an anti-inflammatory…  I may just have to add a little to our green juice in the mornings and sneak a little into casseroles here and there.

Quinoa has become a firm fave in our house, whenever I feel I need a little more protein in a meal I cook up some of this ancient grain that is totally protein packed giving us 8 – 9 grams of protein per cooked cup… definitely a staple pantry item in our house.

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I am thinking I may need to add more oats and oatmeal into our diets, I love oat milk, but as for actual oats we very rarely have them… half a cup of dry oats gives you 6 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber… oats can be added to everything from casseroles to veggie burgers and of course a good bowl of oatmeal anytime is the perfect comfort food to get you through a long cold winter.

Did you know that wild rice contains 1.5 times more protein than brown rice or basmati… now I did not, but now I do, guess what type of rice will be added to my grocery list.  One cooked cup of wild rice gives us 7 grams of protein… wow, who knew?

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Who makes chia pudding… hands up, me, me, me! 1.25 ounces of chia seeds give us 6 grams of protein, and a huge 13 grams of fiber making them a great addition to any meal, go grab some and chia pudding away.

Now we all know about nuts, seeds and nut butters, one ounce can give us between 5 – 7 grams of protein depending on the nut or seed… I always try to buy raw nuts and seeds and the most natural nut and seed butters I can find, its always a bonus if you find an organic one too.

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Finally there are protein rich fruits and vegetables, this is something I always forget, loading your plate up with them not only adds great protein but a host of other nutrition too.  Lets look at the vegetables that can give you between 4 – 5 grams of protein per cooked cup, broccoli, a firm favorite in our house, spinach, asparagus, artichokes, potatoes, sweet potatoes and brussel sprouts, these all make a regular appearance on our plates, but now I will be thinking of the protein I am adding to my plate.  Surprisingly fruits can be protein rich too giving us 2 – 4 grams of protein per cup, guava, blackberries, nectarines and bananas to name a few that can really pack a punch of nutrition.

Eating the rainbow is a must… but adding just the right of protein is just as important too, it keeps our bodies healthy and can really aid in weight loss when done correctly… now to work out the formula that is perfect for my body… wish me luck!

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No more resolutions here.

New Year… new year always finds me tearful, I don’t know why because it’s just another day, but I spend the days leading up to it being so reflective, I am a deep thinker, I am my own worst critic and I am an emotional person, I wear my heart on my sleeve, that is who I am and who I have always been. I read an article recently about being the best person we can be, about spending each day accepting who we are and growing from that… so I no longer have resolutions, but I do plan to be a better version of myself this year.

Accepting who I am is a difficult one, especially as I age, my reflection in the mirror seems strange to me, I am not the person I once was, but I have to stop avoiding my reflection and embrace it. I saw a woman in Starbucks recently, I think she was older than me, but she was me 10 years ago, her style was who I am, in that moment I told myself even as I age I need to keep me, sometimes I feel it slipping away because I no longer look like I used to, and I have always sworn to myself I would always be me, in my 60’s I’ll be lacing my DM’s and I’ll still be wearing my ripped jeans, I will always be a little boho and a little vintage because that is who I am and I am going to be that person again this year… I refuse to grow older with dignity.

I am definitely not the most organized of people, sometimes my house is not pristine and tidy, sometimes we eat pizza for dinner and sometimes my laundry pile is over flowing the hamper… this is me, but this year I am working on that, I have a schedule for everything, a schedule for housework, a schedule for home schooling and a schedule for exercise… one thing I do know about myself is, I work so much better with schedules, if it’s in writing I try to keep to it, I don’t over push myself, I believe in not stressing and doing what I can do, after all I am only one person, and Rome wasn’t built in a day.

I often feel as we accept our limitations and accept who we truly are, we achieve greater things, we take the pressure off of ourselves to be someone we are not… and through that we grow… and that is exactly what I have done, I have accepted all of my flaws, and believe me there are many, and I am learning to be just me, but I want to be a better version of me.

Food has grown to be an important part of who I am, I was anorexic in my teens, I had a love hate relationship with food, since then I have always suffered with IBS, some would say it’s a made up disease, some would say it can be miserable and believe me I never really understood I just accepted that was the way I am. In recent years I have discovered the key to being healthy is feeding our bodies with nutritional foods, I have discovered that I can help that IBS by eating well. I have always cooked from scratch, well I guess not back in the early days of being a new mom, but I have grown into the role of cook, chef, of our house, I have taught myself all about nutrition, I am in no way an expert but I do understand what we need to fuel our mind and bodies.

I have always been a menu planner, it keeps me on track and organized, but recently I have not been feeling it, whenever I sit down to work out what we will eat my mind goes blank, what do we like to eat? nothing, blank, what do I normally cook? nothing, blank. So I have devised a new system, again with the schedules, I have gone back to the olden days, when we would have egg and chips every Monday, mincemeat on a Tuesday… I have devised a plan to have days of the week for certain meals , but each week I will change up the dish, so let’s take Saturdays, I made that baked potato day, I love baked potatoes, warm comfort food to the max and the list of toppings are endless, last Saturday we had broccoli cheese on our potatoes, it was a huge success, then this weekend we are having chili topped baked spuds, you can add in some roasted vegetables to the mix, even a huge salad, same meal every Saturday but with a twist… ingenious!

Monday is casserole day, yesterday we had a pasta casserole with a colorful salad, Tuesday is Taco day… of course, think of all the different combos of tacos we can have. Wednesday is Buddha bowl day, one of my favorite meals, nutrition the max. Thursday is sandwich night, it always has been, I’m just changing it up a little… adding in a soup or a salad occasionally. Friday is pizza night, but instead of ordering in we make our pizza fresh, last week I made the pizza dough in the morning, stored it in the refrigerator during the day, took it out and let it rise for an hour, then everyone created their own pizza with lots of healthy toppings… it worked well. Well that’s if you don’t include the clear up process. Saturday is baked potato day, I think this maybe my favorite day food wise. And finally Sunday has a loose interpretation of a roast dinner… last week we had two types of pilgrims meatloaf… one with meat and one without, steamed red cabbage and tiny steamed potatoes. Each day has its own theme that can be changed and interpreted in different ways.

In life we need to accept who we are, we need to learn to not be so hard on ourselves, and in my case I need to embrace the lists, organize my life with schedules, I do know one thing, I am a much happier person when I am organized… so this year is all about embracing life… stopping and smelling the roses, enjoying beautiful sunrises at dawn, taking time to sit down and write or drawing, both things that I love to do, making time for yoga or meditating just a little bit longer, eating well and adapting to change… we need to just be ourselves, whoever we may be.

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The festive season

If you like me are trying your hardest to eat a healthy well balanced diet, the festive season can be a bit daunting… breaking that healthy eating plan, eating lots of carbs and sugars that you normally restrict, well I am hear to tell you that you can still feel festive whilst keeping on that clean healthy eating track.

After Thanksgiving I decided I am not falling into the pattern of bad eating over the Christmas period, I’m going to keep on my plan with a few little tweaks here and there, my body will most definitely thank me for it.

When we lived in England our Christmas Day meal was a big thing, I get it, the one day of the year you get to eat that great big roast dinner, turkey, all the trimmings, stuffing, roast potatoes, little sausages wrapped in bacon and in our house a big tray of Yorkshire puddings, the veggies were a side plate and not highly thought of. How times of changed for us, not only do Paul and I not eat the meat, but we don’t make roast potatoes anymore, instead they have been replaced with mashed potatoes and the side of veggies is now the star of the show, but there is also another thing that has changed, this meal is only eaten on Thanksgiving now, once Christmas Day rolls around, not only do I not want to repeat that day of preparation but I don’t want to cook that meal again either… so a new tradition has come about in our house, the Christmas Day brunch, eggs, bacon and sausages for the meat eaters, smoked salmon, lots of veggies, avocados, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms and sautéed green leaves. Piles of fluffy pancakes topped with fresh fruit and loaves of crispy sour dough bread… in the Instant Pot is a homemade, low sugar baked bean recipe… all served with a little glass of Prosecco or two. Now that is our main meal of the day… no turkey in sight, all healthy delicious, low carb and definitely low sugar, well if you take out the bread and pancakes… ha ha.

Buddha bowls are a big thing in our house, a bowl of well balanced nutrition, you have your perfectly portioned protein, next to your delicious nutritional carbs and then lots of veggies packing a big punch of vitamins, minerals and just wholesome goodness. So with this in mind I am thinking we could have a festive themed Buddha bowl this year later in the day. I love stuffed squash, so this could definitely feature in my bowl along side a crunchy raw Brussels sprout salad, for the meat eaters little turkey stuffing balls and for the non meat eaters, aka Paul and I, walnut cranberry stuffing balls, all topped with a savory dressing and a selection of crunchy nuts and seeds… sounds good, right?

Back from where I come from, Christmas cookies and big tubs of popcorn are not a thing at this time of year, our stores are filled with all kinds of mince pies and Christmas puddings, ready to be topped with delicious brandy sauce… but on my healthy eating plan, I don’t tend to gravitate towards them, so I was thinking I could make a healthy version of the mincemeat with fresh cranberries, dates and a little coconut sugar, then this could be stuffed into apples and baked in the oven, all topped with a creamy oat milk yogurt, not quite as indulgent, but just as delicious. Of course a healthy olive oil popcorn lightly sprinkled with salt is good too, a healthy festive snack if you live in the US.

NOW WHAT ABOUT THE CHOCOLATE? I hear you cry… tins of Quality Street and Roses dance about in my head, childhood memories mixed with treats of Christmas snowball drinks linger here for a while. Minature Heroes and chocolate covered Brazil nuts all feature in my Christmas’s past and present… but now I totally look at chocolate in a new way, of course we all need a treat, but the way I see it is small portions, tiny chocolates, a few mini peanut cups from Trader Joe’s here and there will never hurt, mix in some healthy raw nuts and you get a great combination, a little sweet mixed with healthy nutrients. So this will be my new treats, even over Christmas, I think a little of what you love is good for your soul, but always remember to add in the good things to help your body process them more efficiently.

The one thing you can be assured of, that is not only healthy, full of vitamin c to help you through this bitterly cold few months, tastes delicious… is satsumas, mandarins and clementines make a healthy festive treat, they always feature in Santa’s stockings, so you know they must be good… Ho Ho Ho.

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Why do we green juice every day?

Every morning Paul and I (and Mabel when she is here) drink a full glass of green juice before we put anything else in our bodies, we wait anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour to allow all the nutrition to digest and absorb, then we continue as normal with our day… it is such a great way to start the day, well that’s once you get used to the taste, which believe me takes a while.

Why I hear you all ask do we drink green juice, well according to research we should always start our day with some kind of citrus fruit to balance our PH levels after sleeping all night, also it’s an optimum time after we have fasted all night for our body to effectively absorb this power house of nutrition… I started it after I joined a group on Facebook for natural healing for psoriasis, everyone was raving about how celery juice had helped to clear the psoriasis patches they had on their bodies, so me being me, thought ‘why not give this a try’… and so my not so original green juice recipe came about.

I have been making and drinking green juice for about 4 months now, I have noticed a few things, my digestion works much better, the fiber from the juice helps to keep everything running regular, I know, I know… TMI, my skin looks and feels better, I feel so much better in myself after I’ve drunk it and I have noticed an improvement in my psoriasis patches.

SO WHAT GOES INTO THIS MAGIC GREEN NECTAR?

The first ingredient is CELERY… The benefits of celery are all right here in this link. Very low in carbs, but very high in fiber, making it perfect for those of us who are on a low carb diet for whatever reason we have. It is also a fat free food, which is always a plus in my book and it has very minimal protein value, And to top everything off, celery packs a punch with vital micro nutrients, vitamin K, vitamin A, potassium, and folate 2… a very under rated superfood.

My second ingredient is KALE… The benefits of kale can be found right here. For a vegetable kale is protein rich 3 grams to be exact, it is great on the fiber front which really helps to control your blood sugar levels. It is full of vitamin, minerals and even contains omega 3, which is most definitely important if you are managing auto immune disorders.

Last but not least, my third ingredient is LEMON… Lemons what can I say, a great way to start our day, balance our PH levels, fantastic if you are on an alkaline diet, full of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamin C and folate. When life gives you lemons jump for joy and enjoy everything about them.

Of course this is just my basic recipe, ingredients I always make sure I have in, but of course green juice can be made with anything, Trader Joe’s have a fantastic bag of greens made for juicing, when the farmer market is in full swing I have been known to add some chard leaves, radish leaves and of course fresh spinach is a power house of nutrition. Apples, clementines, pomegranate seeds, the list is endless, they add a nice sweetness, I’ve added carrots, broccoli, even a little baby cauliflower… but when it comes to green juicing my basic recipe is always the same, healthy, nutritious and after a while it actually tastes delicious.

So for anyone who is interested in green juicing this is my recipe for two people…

4 to 6 sticks of celery washed and chopped into approximately 1 inch pieces

2 cups of chopped kale, stalks included.

1 whole lemon, I roughly take off the skin, don’t worry too much, then I add the whole lemon, seeds included.

2 cups of water and ice cubes, ice cubes are optional but I really like my juice on the colder side.

Place all the ingredients in your blender jug, blitz on medium for a couple of minutes, time will vary depending on the type of blender you have. Now you can drink this with the pulp if you like, personally I sieve my juice through a strainer, of course I never throw anything away, so I keep the pulp and use it in other recipes, I have been known to make an awesome green egg white frittata for breakfast, my secret ingredient in my bolognese is green juice pulp, it adds flavor and nutrition to casseroles and it’s delicious added into a homemade broth, so never throw away that pulp, you can use it in so many things and no one will ever know it’s in there… shhh, what they don’t know will never hurt them, it will serve to make them feel better.

I always try to buy organic fresh ingredients when I can, the farmers market is my happy place, but I know it’s not always possible so here is a little tip if your fruit and vegetables are not organic, try soaking them in a solution of water and apple cider vinegar for about 10 to 15 minutes, alternatively scrub the veggies and fruit with a vegetable scrub, I use one from Trader Joe’s when I need to.

Now green juicing is an acquired taste, believe me when you first taste that juice you will think am I completely mad to be doing this, Mabel described it like salad in juice form, and not the good kind either, but the more you do it, the more your tastebuds will become accustomed to it, you might even think it is delicious one day… but there is one thing that will happen for sure… your body will most definitely thank you for it, your skin will glow, your joints will feel more supple, and your digestive system will be so very happy… so go give it a try, what do you have to lose?

Oh and don’t throw your lemon peels away, always leave a bit of flesh on them and add them to your water, you will be surprised what wonderful flavor and value it adds to your plain old water.

Since writing this a week ago, I have added in a couple more ingredients to my basic recipe, half a thumbs worth of ginger, don’t bother peeling it just throw it into the blender the way it is and then add about 1/2 teaspoon of ground turmeric dissolved in a tablespoon of boiling water, if you can get the whole root definitely use that, but if not powdered turmeric will work fine… the zing these ingredients give the juice is amazing… there is a little story behind these two new ingredients and they include Mabel and a visit to Trader Joe’s recently, she bought a little healthy power shot of juice, the ingredients were like my green juice recipe but added in were ginger, turmeric and cayenne pepper, you drink it like a shot, it is meant to help boost your immune system, well it got me thinking, I have turmeric in my cupboards and a large container of organic ginger root in the refrigerator, maybe I should add this into my recipe, and so my new new recipe is born, I’m yet to be brave enough to add a little pinch of cayenne… maybe one day... Happy juicing everyone.

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It’s all about warm Winter salads this week.

I am often asked how I balance out my menus for so many different diets… my trick is to make a dish that items can be added or taken away, and salads are perfect for this, they are also a great way to change up the seasonal vegetables… Fall and Winter Salads are delicious, lots of roasted squashes, butternut, acorn and even my favorite squash the delicata, switch it up, try different squashes to keep dishes interesting, you can even throw in some sweet potatoes or yams.

Fill your salad with lots of seasonal greens, kale is a firm favorite in my house as long as it’s finely chopped I will add, it is full of nutrition and it works well in a robust winter salad, add in some spinach, and toss in some arugula (rocket) leaves for a little peppery spice. Next on my winter salad is broccoli or cauliflower, chopped finely, again for the fussy eaters in my house, it’s raw and totally delicious, blended with the other ingredients you will hardly know it’s in there.

Add in some carbohydrates, always whole grain as Jamie would say, quinoa is high in protein, farro, barley, wild rice, brown rice, whole grain couscous… your options are limitless, switch it up add potatoes, celeriac is a great choice roasted or add a little whole grain pasta, again so many different shapes and sizes out there.

Keep your portion sizes small for carbs, balance this out with all the glorious veggies out there, you can add ribbons of carrots, chopped red onions, one of my new favorite things to bake and add to salads is the humble beet, add chopped cabbage, red or green it works so well in a robust winter salad, add in some grape tomatoes, thinly sliced asparagus spears… just have fun, think lots veggies and think about eating lots of different colors within your dish.

Well I will put my hand up and say I never used to like fruit in my salad, I don’t know what it was about the sweet and savory combination, but it definitely was not my favorite, fast forward a few years and I love it, it just goes to show if you persist you can grow to love all different kinds of foods… anyway my go to fruit for my winter salad is pomegranate, the juice as you tap those little nutrition packed seeds onto your salad add into the dish to create its own dressing, they are bright and vibrant, and most definitely add a pop of color and nutrition to your plate. Apples and pears are definitely in season right now, so think about slicing or chopping and tossing them throughout your dish to add in some sweetness.

Last but not least is your protein, well this one is easy if you are a meat eater, seared turmeric chicken Jamie Oliver style is one protein that packs a punch of flavor and is an excellent anti inflammatory aiding dish. Perfect pork belly is a fantastic protein to add to a robust winter salad. The list goes on, spicy sausages, apple sausages add a touch of Fall flavor, crispy ground beef, perfectly seared slices of steak… take your pick they are all fantastic to add to any salad dish.

Now if you are a vegetarian or vegan beans and lentils are a perfect accompaniment for your salad, black beans, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), pinto beans, kidney beans, white beans in all shapes and sizes, you can flavor them or you can just toss them in as they are. Now I am a huge lentil fan, red, green, French, I just love lentils, add them into a salad or make a soup to go on the side, they definitely are a great protein for a salad, Spring or Summer, Fall or Winter. Of course eggs are not vegan, but they are a powerhouse of nutrition, boil them and have them on the side of your salad, make an omelette to eat with your salad, either way eggs are good with everything. Avocados, what can I say, it’s protein packed along with other nutrition, it’s most definitely delicious and I know Florrie, Mabel and I could eat them all day and every day… add them to salad and you will most definitely be smiling.

In my house we are split with dressings and toppings, some of us love a good salad dressing, some of us like it creamy, some of us like it acidic, some of us even like our salad dry with no dressing… WHAT? I know that is crazy right? Whatever way we like our salad dressing, just make it healthy and delicious. I always leave my salad undressed, then everyone gets to choose how they want to eat it. Toppings are the same, some people do not like nuts, other like seeds, have fun add some crunch to your salad your way, think sesame or hemp seeds, sunflower or pumpkin seeds, nuts, nuts and more nuts, throw on whatever you have in and crunch away.

I could eat salad every day, that combined with a good yummy comforting soup is perfect Winter food for me… here are a few ideas to help plan your meals for this week, remember always have fun, get your children chopping, get them to help with each recipe, what I find in my house is if they have contributed to making our meal they are more willing to try it.

Tomato farro salad

Harvest salad

Warm Winter salad

Superb squash soup

Spiced parsnip and lentil soup with chili oil

English onion soup

Salads are a great way to eat the rainbow, they can be a complete meal with all of your food groups on one plate. Something that Jamie said in his Superfoods show was to add feta over your salad, not too much, think of it as a seasoning, that is most definitely my new way of thinking, another quick tip is to turn a can of garbanzo beans into hummus, spread it onto your plate and place your salad on top, a great protein , with great flavor… however you make your salad, have fun, chop away, different shapes and sizes, add texture and color, your body will definitely love you for it. ♥️

Diet and nutrition, plant based diet, recipes, Uncategorized

Veganuary

IMG_2722It is officially half way through Veganuary, so let me tell you how it is going…

First off let me tell you it is not as hard as I thought, there are actually so many new plant based items coming into our grocery stores, from delicious butter to perfect smelling and delicious tasting sausages from the company Beyond Meat… on our first day of Veganuary we had a rather indulgent sausage sandwich, not only was it completely plant based but it was all gluten free too… so we were off to a flying start and it was not feeling too much like a vegan diet.

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Now when it comes to cooking normally, I am definitely a cook from scratch kind of girl, no additives, natural, organic cooking… but eating a completely plant based diet and finding delicious recipes has been so easy, even Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsey are getting in on the act these days. Pinterest has become my best friend, along with Deliciously Ella, Aine Carlin and Bosh to name a few.

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What have we eaten I hear you ask… well I will give you a little food tour of our two week adventure into plant based eating… breakfasts are usually a potato and sweet potato hash with lots of healthy veggies, I have recently purchased a mung bean scrambled egg product called Just Egg, it scrambles just like eggs and tastes almost the same, its big plus is the amount of protein it adds to your diet, if Paul is traveling into the office I make him a fruit filled chia pudding with added beet powder for nutrition and topped with a little granola for crunch. Lunch is a mixture of leftovers from the night before to soup and sandwiches, soups are very easy to make vegan, substitutions are easy, nut or oat milks replace dairy milk, coconut cream or a non dairy yogurt replaces cream or half and half, garbanzo beans are a perfect replacement for chicken and butter is swapped out with a healthy oil or plant based butter. One of my new favorite lunches is Trader Joes new Crabless Jackfruit patties, with a large salad, they are so good. Dinner is where it is at, so many well thought out nutritious and really delicious recipes to chose from, one of my favorites is a skillet lasagne, but to be honest I am also loving the simple baked potato with a little vegan butter and a huge salad too. Buddha bowls have featured in many of our menu plans… simple nutritious bowls of delicious colors like a Winter buddha bowl and a  Chickpea bowl with a spicy peanut sauce. Of course it is always good to have a sweet treat and eating a plant based diet does not mean you cannot do that… like these delicious Fudgy Vegan Brownie Cookies, I did not have the aqua faba, so I substituted it for a flax egg and it worked perfectly, they were so good even my children ate them and did not suspect for even a minute that they were totally vegan.

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Now onto how I am feeling in myself… since the beginning of December when we purchased our treadmill I have lost 10 lbs, I gained 3 lbs over the Christmas period, so I guess in total I have lost 13 lbs because I had to lose that weight again, I think the combination of diet and exercise is the reason, I use the treadmill 6 days a week and have eaten a nutritional plant based diet that I calorie count each day. I have cut down my sugar intake but I am stilling enjoying a glass or two of wine, we found out that our favorite red wine is actually totally vegan and our favorite chocolate sweet treat is vegan too, so win, win when you want a little treat here and there.  Apart from a very bad reaction to some sour dough bread I bought for the first time ever in Trader Joes on Sunday, where on two separate occasions of eating it I became very sick, shaking, heart palpations, difficulty breathing and feeling so cold, I am feeling good, I have no bloating at all, my head feels very clear and very focused, I seem to have more energy than I have had for a long time.  Now Paul will tell anyone that will listen how being a vegetarian for 11 months has helped him feel better too, his health has seemed to improved a great deal. Over these past two weeks Paul has been 98% vegan, he has had no eggs and a very tiny portion of cheese when he grabbed a small slice of pizza and ate it before he realized what he had done, I too had a small slip up with some salted movie popcorn Florrie bought back from her outing with Dom, I was happily munching away when I was informed they had put butter all over it, hopefully not too much had gone on the bottom kernels.

At the moment Veganuary is going strong for Paul and I, I really don’t mind substituting vegan cheese for the odd grilled cheese sandwich to go with a large bowl of creamy broccoli soup or making a beautiful Black Bean Plantain Enchilada Bake from the Minimalist Baker, I am also good at adjusting the odd Jamie Oliver recipe and turning it into a plant based delight.

 

Diet and nutrition, Florence, plant based diet, Uncategorized

Road to getting fit and healthy…

IMG_2035As I get older my weight has spiraled, I have never had weight issues before and I do not like the loss of control over my size, so before I get any older I need to get a grip and get fit and healthy.

Over the past few years I have played around with exercise, the odd phase of Yoga with youtube, a little bit of low impact cardio, damn it I have even considered a few laps in our friends pool or on vacation enough exercise for a week or two… in reality I have never really stuck to any program of exercise since I was in my thirties.

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Diet is exactly the same, I have fluctuated from a vegetarian diet to a vegan diet, I have tried the paleo approach, I have counted calories and I have even tried to starve myself, nothing works and I have not stuck to anything with success.

So what is a girl to do… suddenly it hit me, I really need to get real, whilst on vacation a few weeks ago I decided to try out the treadmill in the hotel gym, I had no sneakers with me so I went barefooted, gross I know, but I promise I cleaned everything down after I used it.  I actually enjoyed using the treadmill each day and it was surprising how I improved even after only a few days, I followed it with a few laps in the pool and then of course some fun time with my children, I felt so much better in myself.

Which brings me to today… we now own our own personal treadmill, a bargain purchase on Black Friday, I have found a low impact cardio video on Youtube and a quick morning Yoga morning session to add to my morning routine.

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It is time to get real people and kick this middle aged body into shape… I started a loose exercise routine on Saturday and as the week has progressed it has developed and shaped its way into something I can do everyday, I can adapt it if I need to.  I have even purchased scales, something I swore I would never do as I was anorexic in my teens and obsessed with my weight… but now I am armed with a lot of research on health and nutrition I am determined to lose weight the sensible healthy way.

Today after completing 6 continuous days of exercise, 99% gluten free and plant based diet I have lost 7lbs, now I know this may not continue at this rate, but I am very happy to have it as a starting point… so how have I done it?

Every morning, I am definitely a morning exerciser, some people prefer afternoon or evenings, I like to have my routine done before I sit down to breakfast… anyway every morning I start my day with a very quick 5 minute wake up yoga session, stretching out my body, then I set an Interval training 30 minutes session on the treadmill, my usual distance is about 1.4 miles going from a slow walking pace to a slow run, believe me I couldn’t even do this when I first started, after I have recovered from my walk/run, I move onto a 20 minute low impact cardio workout to tone my muscles then finish with a 5 to 10 minute, depending on how bored my children are, mediation to focus for my day.

I have been very careful with my diet this week, I think 90% of my shopping cart this week was fresh organic produce, when my kids look in the refrigerator all they see is fruit and vegetables… and you know what this week nearly everything has been used in my nutritious buddha bowls for dinner every night.  I have been 99% plant based and gluten free, I have felt so much better, no bloating, sorry TMI, more energy and I feel much calmer.  Breakfast usually consists of vegan gf whole grain toast and something like avocado or vegan cream cheese with lots of veggies, like tomatoes, arugula or baby kale.  Lunch has been a butternut squash gf based pizza with organic tomato sauce, no cheese but lots and lots of super healthy veggies and for dinner we have eaten the rainbow, both cooked and raw in our variations of buddha bowls, if you have not tried them take a look at all the different recipes out there or create your own bowls of perfectly balanced nutrition… It is a great way to get your children eating healthier too, let them create their own bowls, F and T would fill theirs with cucumber, avocado, apples and pasta, but hey its healthy so I will be happy.

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Now I am not saying I have been perfect, I have drunk a glass or two of wine each night, I even had two pieces of a Terry’s chocolate orange and I am still having sugar in my coffee, but I have improved at one stage I could have drunk the liquor store empty of wine… well not really but you get the idea, I was also having half a bag of mini Kit Kats a night with Paul and I was drinking 3 sugars, 4 if I had a coffee from Dunkin Donuts… everyone has their vice and mine is a little sugar in my coffee each day, and of course that much needed glass of wine to end my busy hectic days.

Diet and nutrition, plant based diet, recipes

Vegan or plant based diet?

DSC_4900-EditI recently read a post on Facebook about Steve Jobs, one thing that stuck in my mind was something he said, and something I whole heartedly believe in more and more recently… ‘we need to look at food as our medicine, or one day our food will be our medicine’.

Veganism is some thing that has become hugely trendy recently, but realistically how many of the Vegans out in the world are truly vegan, do they still wear leather shoes, do they still sit on giant leather couches, I think that maybe a few still do, so truthfully I think the real term should be plant based diet, but with that being said a plant based diet is not always healthy, there are many flavored chips out there that claim to be vegan, a quick trip to five guys for fries cooked in peanut oil, is that considered vegan too?  Not in my mind, when I think vegan or plant based diet I think vegetables, healthy grains and legumes… and that is exactly the way we have been eating for quite some time now.

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In the last two weeks I have really cracked down on healthy eating vegan style… I am not going to say I have been totally a plant based diet eater as I have had a tiny amount of fish in some sushi, but I would say that 98% of my diet in 14 days has been healthy plant based gluten free foods, breakfast, lunch and dinner.

What have I discovered from plant based eating and gluten free dieting?  Well I am preparing food for a long time each day, vegan recipes can be very complex but extremely tasty, but most of all my body feels so much healthier… I have no bloating, my skin looks healthier, I can feel I have started to lose a little of the weight I have been trying so desperately to offload for quite some time now, not much but I can feel it in myself and my clothes and my mind feels clearer and more focused.

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I have always been a menu planner, so cooking plant based meals has not changed this, the only change is that my cart is filled with much more fresh organic produce and unprocessed foods than ever before.  My shopping list always includes lentils, all varieties of beans, gluten free flours from garbanzo bean flour to tapioca flour, and all the flours in between, lots and lots of fresh veggies and fruits, frozen veggies and fruit and lots of herbs and spices, fresh and frozen… it’s never cheap to eat healthily but it is definitely rewarding.

I challenged my husband to a one week vegetarian diet a few months ago, he not only accepted my challenge, but he knocked it out of the park and became a full time Vegetarian, he doesn’t want to become a fully plant based diet eater as he says he would miss cheese and eggs, and I am good with that, but in all truthfulness because I plan all his meals, breakfast, lunch and dinner including when he is at work, I would say he is 90% a plant based eater… pretty good for someone who has eaten a lot of meat his whole life.

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How does he feel after a few months of his new diet… well he has started to lose weight, slowly but he is down two holes on his belt and shorts he couldn’t wear last year now fit him.  He had health issues, which prompted my challenge, and he says he feels much healthier.  Every day I make him breakfast, lunch and dinner and to be honest he eats it all, he does not like products that pretend to be meat so it can be a challenge for me at times, I’ve made black bean burgers, walnut and mushroom meatballs, and to be fair he has eaten them but they are not his favorite… BBQ’s are my biggest challenge with him, but he recently saw a recipe for beer can cabbage cooked on the grill on Facebook that he fancied, so that is on my list to make when we get back from vacation.

Talking about vacation, what happens when you become a plant based eater and you are out and about, especially on vacation staying in a hotel.   South Carolina is famous for fried chicken and waffles, biscuits and gravy, lots of seafood and meat dishes… this will be the challenge, to keep on the healthy eating plan, it will be hard but I am setting myself the challenge, let’s see if I can do it.

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So what have I been cooking… the list is long as I like to change it up all the time otherwise I would get bored with cooking day in day out… now remember I live in a house of 10 people most of the time, 12 right now as my parents are visiting, not everyone is vegetarian or plant based, so how do I manage to juggle meals for everyone?  That was my dilemma, but I came up with a solution that seems to be working, although it is a lot of work for the chef, namely me.  I always select a vegan meal then think how can I adapt it, what meat could I add in for the meat eaters, it quite often ends up being two big skillets of food, one with meat and one without.

Here are some of my favorite recipes so far…

Low fat vegan mac n cheese

Crunchy Thai noodle salad

Vegan lentil enchiladas

Indian Frankie’s

Mid week mash and beans

Quinoa and cannellini bean soup

Vegan skillet lasagne

Vegan buffalo cauliflower tacos

Socca

Chickpea scramble

Magic green sauce

Vegan one pot Asian style pasta

Unfortunately I haven’t taken any food photos recently, but I promise going forward I will include photos of our meals.

Vegan cookbooks I recommend…

The new vegan by Aine Carlin

Mindful vegan meals by Maria Koutsogiannis

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A while ago a friend of mine suggested that I create a blog of what we eat… I am hugely into nutrition and I try my hardest to cook a balanced meal plan each week, so that got me thinking, especially as we have just started this healthy plant based diet… I thought maybe I could share our journey with you, I’ll give you ideas for meal planning for your healthy week ahead, shopping lists of foods I like to include in my refrigerator and pantry, also I can let you know what is happening and how we are feeling as the weeks go on with our diet based mainly around plants… I really hope you will all join me on this adventure and come along for the ride… but first let’s see how I handle the hurdle of a vacation in the south staying in a hotel… Happy Summer everyone.

 

Uncategorized

Changes…

Wow… It’s only taken me 45 years to realize how important our diet really is to our well being, after being an anorexic teenager and suffering from IBS on and off for many years, I am finally understanding binge eating chocolate and chips, then starving yourself is so bad for you… Duh! With recent events in our household the stress levels meant I did not eat for over a week, this has triggered the horrible symptoms of IBS to rear its ugly head again… So it’s time to squash this thing once and for all… I am very good at preaching a healthy diet to others, but to actually practice it for myself is another thing… Every morning I make an ultra healthy salad for Paul’s lunch, but then when it comes to lunch time I binge snack on all the bad things I can find because I cannot be bothered to throw a simple healthy lunch together for myself… Well it’s time to change the bad habits of a lifetime!

One of my thoughts in rehabilitating myself is to buy a juicer, it’s a thought at the moment, but maybe I will find it easier to drink lots of fruit instead of just looking at it in the bottom of my fridge … Thoughts from everyone would be appreciated here… Good, bad or just a complete waste of money? When I’m hungry and in need of a snack, I automatically reach for something unhealthy, whatever is easiest really, I don’t think oh that apple looks yummy, I will eat that!

One of the things recommended to Jordan recently by his Gastro doctor for good digestive health was Activia, probiotic yogurts, I often look at them in stop and shop, but this week I actually bought them, I am trying to have one for breakfast every day, this is my second day and I do have to say yesterday I did feel less bloated, but that may have just been my imagination because I want them to help… I will continue to have them for breakfast and see if it does help and make me feel better!

My grocery shopping has changed over recent years, we went to Trader Joes last weekend and I noted that almost half of my bill was actually organic fruit and vegetables, also my dry goods were mainly brown organic rice products or fully gluten free, our snacks were more healthy granola bars… In years past the refined processed products would have filled my cart… Much to my older children’s frustration our pantry and refrigerator is now 80% healthy organic produce and grains… Now I need to really start eating this stuff myself, not just giving it to my family, then binge eating all day on the cheese that sits in the fridge door!

I am also trying hard to reduce my stress levels… Difficult in our house, believe me… My Mum’s brother has always said ‘don’t worry about things that may never happen’, well this is my new motto in life, I have spent my whole life worrying about anything and everything, so now I am trying to live one day at a time, deal with that day and then move on… Easier said than done, but I am trying!

Have a great day… Look for the positives and not the negatives around you… And just be happy!

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