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Updated… almost Vegan, but not quite.

I’ve made a lot of vegan meals and experimented with vegan ingredients in old favorite recipes since I’ve been back from vacation… I have to say without a doubt they have all been delicious, using egg substitutes in waffles and baking was easy, and cutting down on oil in cakes using apple sauce has worked well, although I have been doing that for quite a while… I can even say the vegan, soy free provolone cheese is ok as long as it’s melted, but it’s good for that odd craving of something melty over your pasta or in a sandwich.

I plan nutritional breakfasts for Paul to take to work with him every day, this is one of my favorites gluten free, now vegan waffles, of course if you add dairy chocolate it makes it not vegan but as Paul is in no way vegan I treated him to a few chocolate nibbles to go with the unsweetened coconut on top of his waffles. I have made him vegan, dairy and gluten free breakfast every morning for the past two weeks including a vegan omelette and he has not complained once. I try to make my breakfast for the day with enough for two then Paul has it the next day… it’s worked well so far.

I have been almost dairy free for many years now, using nut or plant based milks in everything, but I had never thought to make it myself… until I started researching this Vegan trend, it was a complete surprise just how easy it was, you take your nuts or seeds and soak them for a few hours then you blend them in a blender with water, the amount of water depends on the consistency you require, I was making a cashew nut cream so obviously the liquid was less, but the outcome was delicious and I have used it in all my recipes instead of cream or yogurt. I also made a broccoli cream soup using the same technique, as you cooked your broccoli in broth you had sunflower seeds cooking with it soaking in the broth, once the broccoli was cooked you blended everything together including the sunflower seeds giving a nice creamy soup consistency… just delicious.

Now as any Vegetarian/Vegan knows a plant based diet includes a lot of chopping and prepping and when you have a super large family you need a little helping hand… I was on Facebook one day and this super fast chopping machine was being advertised, well I’m not usually one to watch the shopping channel or get hooked into buying something on screen, but this had me hooked, Paul was trying to tell me he found chopping therapeutic, but I guess when you do it once in a while it could be, but day after day, it really is not so much fun, or indeed therapeutic, so I took the plunge and ordered it… Paul was worried I would slice my finger on the blades and his worries were not unfounded as within the first 24 hours of owning my Veggie Bullet I have sliced my thumb twice, but you learn very quickly from your mistakes. After a shaky start, slicing my thumb, using the wrong lids for slicing and spiralizing, I have finally mastered my veggie bullet and I love it, there is quite a bit to wash up but my plan is to prep my veggies once a week looking at all my recipes… onions sliced thinly in seconds, eggplant sliced in less seconds than it took me to wash it, sweet potatoes spiralized before I could even heat the oil… it’s crazy and I will use it for a weeks worth of chopping preparation each week, with only one wash up required for the whole week.

So far each recipe I have made has been very tasty and nutritious, we have had Vietnamese noodle bowls, roasted veggie bowls, green lentil and spinach curry, roasted tomato soup with roasted rosemary potatoes, creamy broccoli soup, super easy green pasta and tonight we are having black bean taquitos with an enchilada sauce… each meal I make has to be planned with precision, gluten free, dairy free and a meat protein to accompany the dish, as I cannot make everyone give up meat, even though I would secretly love that and my food budget would sigh with relief if I didn’t have to include meat. Even when I made a creamy broccoli pasta no one guessed it did not contain milk or cheese, the roasted tomato soup was full of flavor and the broccoli soup was creamy just by using sunflower seeds, so even the veggie haters in my house have enjoyed the vegan dishes plus a little meat on the side for good measure.

On a final note… I came across this Pumpkin oatmeal cookie recipe when baking with my children the other day, I’ve never used arrowroot in my baking before and I wasn’t sure about it, but these gluten free, dairy free, vegan cookies were so delicious not one person guessed quite how healthy they actually were.

Am I going to declare myself a Vegan? Not quite, my love of sushi and a good cheeseboard occasionally are something I just don’t want to give up… but on the whole, day to day it feels good to eat like this, healthy, nutrition that is plant based, it is definitely much easier than I thought to leave out the dairy, including cheese and eggs, the recipes are delicious and flavorful… so almost a Vegan is just good enough for me.

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Do we really need a label for the way choose our diet?

Food and nutrition are a very important part of my life… I was a vegetarian in my teens, but then slipped into eating meat again as I had a family to cook for… in all honesty though I really don’t love meat and it is so easy for me to not eat it at all, being a vegetarian is easy for me but I can’t fully commit as I love fish, I don’t eat a lot but I totally still have it sometimes… I guess if we have to label it, I am a pescatarian, but as I hate labels I’m not going to go there with that one.

We have just returned from a trip back to England to visit family and friends, my husbands family seem to have all become Vegans, well not all of them but two of his siblings and their families… the thing I observed about Vegans is that it really is a trend at the moment, and new Vegans, not saying all new Vegans of course, seem to have to announce to everyone that they are Vegan and talk constantly about being a Vegan, I was wondering why that is, but it also had me intrigued, I have issues with dairy myself, I’ve replaced most dairy products in my diet and have found more comfort in my digestive system, but I do eat cheese occasionally and eggs most days… so being the researcher I am I decided to see if I could replace these things from my diet completely without missing them too much.

What I have found is very interesting… it seems on first glance that most vegan recipes are nutritionally balanced, the seasoning and flavors are enhanced to give delicious flavors and my favorite beans and lentils feature heavily. Eggs are replaced with a garbanzo bean flour batter and tofu scramble, cheese flavor is replaced with nutritional yeast, totally a healthy additive to use in your cooking. Egg replacements, like flax or chia seed egg are used in baking… so I’m set to change the way I cook and bake… no label for me though as this healthy eating Mama still loves her fish occasionally.

My first day back with jet lag still looming I made two vegan soups, one for lunch and one in the evening to go with grilled sandwiches… my lunch soup was delicious, Sweet potato and rice noodle soup with broccoli and white beans success, it was delicious and my husband had no idea it was Vegan, in the afternoon I set the broccoli, 2 cups of vegan broth, 2 cups of water and raw sunflower seeds in my slow cooker, I set it to cook for 3 hours on high, the Easiest cream of broccoli and cauliflower soup recipe really was, I finished the soup by blending the ingredients for 3 minutes in my blender, replacing it into the slow cooker and adding the remaining ingredients to warm through again… it was the best broccoli soup I’ve ever made, minus the cauliflower as I couldn’t get any organic cauliflower from the grocery store. For grilled sandwiches everyone except me had warm chicken and cheese, I decided to try vegan provolone cheese slices with my gluten free bread… after I melted the cheese and toasted the bread I really couldn’t tell a lot of difference with the cheese… again another success and I have leftovers for my lunch today, another win for me.

Today we started our day with waffles, gluten free, dairy free, egg free and Vegan, I took my favorite basic waffle mix and changed it slighly…

Serves 4 people

Each serving 2 waffles 188 calories

1/4 cup almond flour

3/4 cup gluten free all purpose flour

1/2 cup cashew nut milk (use whatever dairy free milk you have in)

1/2 cup water

1 tablespoon of agave

2 teaspoons of GF baking powder

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon of vegan egg substitute and 2 tablespoons of water mixed together

1 tablespoon of milled flax seed

Blend all ingredients together until your batter is smooth… place 1/4 cup into your heated and oiled waffle make, close the lid and wait… when they are risen and golden serve with whatever you desire… as we just got back from vacation we had very little in our house, so I served ours with almond butter, cinnamon sunflower seeds and coconut toasted flakes… delicious and super nutritious.

I am now totally converted after making a vegan omelette with garbanzo bean flour, the chickpea and onion omelette is now a firm replacement for using eggs, I added nutritional yeast for a little cheese flavor and served it with toasted gluten free bread, a healthy protein packed breakfast all under 200 calories… the options are endless on this one!

It will be an interesting experiment, let’s see if anyone notices a change in the menus… I will still cook a meat protein to go with the meals, but I will be curious to see if anyone notices the very slight change… of course sushi days will still happen for me and I will still eat some gorgeous fish too, but I’m looking forward to eliminating dairy completely just for a while 🤞

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We are what we eat…

Getting older sucks… I have gained weight and I haven’t changed the way I eat, your metabolism slows down and the middle age spread begins… are you kidding me? Really?

Ok, so I admit I really do need to excercise more, but I’m a busy Mom of 8 children, I include my older ones too, from first thing in the morning until I sit down with that much needed glass of wine I’m on my feet rushing from here to there, but according to my OBGYN that’s not the type of excercise that is going to burn off those calories at my ripe old age, well he didn’t mention the ripe old part, I’ve just added it in so you get the picture… he says I need at least a 20 minute cardio routine per day that will get my heart racing, so even my gentle morning yoga routine does not fit the bill for getting my heart racing I’m afraid. Food is also important and consistency, 4-6 healthy small meals a day, well the small portions are not a problem for me as I’ve never eaten large meals, but 4-6 is a huge problem, I can go hours and sometimes forget to eat… ok so here we go, new me, I am determined to beat this middle age spread.

I love healthy foods, I love salads, I love soups, I love fish, I love veggies, I even love radishes too, so how hard can this be? 4 to 6 small portion meals/snacks a day together with a low impact cardio workout, just to start me off and some yoga to keep my joints supple. The hardest part of a carefully thought through menu plan is the prepping, to have a healthy menu for Paul to go to work with is the planning a prepping the day before… this week we are keeping it simple and doing a ‘let’s see what we can make with what we have in’ using up supplies in our refrigerator, freezer and pantry… so next week we can start a fresh in an organized way… does anyone else do this once a month, to clear out the old ready for the new?

Let’s start with Breakfasts that I can easily prepare in advance… healthy banana, oats and honey waffles, perfectly preprepared and easily transported if you have to go out…

Serves 2
One cup of gluten free oats
I cup of dairy free milk, almond or coconut (if using coconut I suggest 1/2 cup milk and 1/2 cup water)
1 egg
1/2 a banana
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon of raw honey
1 egg
1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed
1 tablespoon of extra virgin oil

Place all the ingredients in a blender and blend for about 1 minute… add 1/4 cup of the batter to a lightly oiled waffle maker and let it cook for 2-3 minute.
Serve with fresh fruit, Greek yoghurt or for a dairy free option a tablespoon of almond butter 😋

My next easy to prepare breakfast is raspberry, coconut chia pudding…

Serves 2
1/2 cup of fresh or frozen raspberries
1 cup of coconut milk
1 tablespoon of raw honey
2 1/2 tablespoons of chia seeds

Take the first three ingredients place them in a blender and let them blend for 45 seconds, divide the blended fruit milk into two mason jars then add 2 1/4 tablespoons of chia seeds, place the lid onto the jar and shake to mix the chia seeds, place in the refrigerator over night… top with a few raspberries and a tablespoon of sliced almonds 😋

Now if I’m staying in I love a slice of whole grain gluten free bread with avocado and grape tomatoes drizzled with balsamic glaze and if Paul is going to work I make him a super healthy veggie omelette ready to cook in the microwave for a couple of minutes and a piece of fruit. Another healthy on the go breakfast is a smoothie served with a hard boiled egg for protein.

Lunches are much easier when you are at home, your choice is endless, I love salad, cheese, eggs, veggies, homemade hummus and steamed veggies, but planning a healthy portioned out work lunch takes a lot of prep… 5 meals, 5 healthy carbs, 5 healthy lean proteins and plenty of veggies ready for a busy week of working… quinoa, brown sprouted rice, sweet potatoes, ground turkey meatballs, oregano chicken and Cajun pork, all leftovers from a past week dinners and lots of veggies, but when you are home you can quickly bake some sweet potatoes and Brussels sprouts with olive oil, salt and pepper, add in a little arugula and a lightly fried egg, finally whip up a Harrissa dressing… so good 😃

Heathy fish and chicken tacos are my favorite dinner option, polenta crisped salmon and chicken tenders served with warm corn tortillas, salad and a healthy mango salsa, easy healthy and filling. Dinners are always a challenge in my house, some of us need GF carb options, some of us don’t like veggies, some of us are mainly vegetarian, except for a little fish and some of us are such basic eaters that meat and plain pasta is all they will eat. Salad is my friend, I can add a protein and then a healthy carb and it covers most diets in my house… but soup season is on it’s way, although I love Summer, I personally love soups they are so versatile, healthy and can stretch your budget sideways.

Snacks are my biggest challenge for planning ahead, each time we eat we are meant to have a complex carbohydrate, a protein and a fat, so getting that right in a snack is a huge headache for me… protein bites were simple and nutritional for a snack, gf oats, almond butter, honey and then I added chopped nuts dried fruits and seeds. Another idea is brown rice cakes, and almond butter, or fruit and a handful of nuts… but with all the planning snacks still remain something I think about last and quite often forget to eat myself… I am working at it though… slowly 🙃

… and then we always need an occasional treat, I try my hardest to make these treats as healthy as possible, like lemon muffins made with yogurt and honey… light and delicious 😋

Whatever you eat, try to make it nutritional, delicious and make sure you drink plenty of water to keep you hydrated throughout the day.

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To diet or not to diet?

When I was in my teens I was totally anorexic, I think it never really leaves you completely, I always count up my intake of food each day, and roughly count the calories I have had, even now I feel its pull, but with yoga and meditation I have managed to control the need a little bit better.  I realize now the need to fuel my body with the right foods to hopefully keep me healthy and I am trying to educate my family into thinking the same way.  I have so many picky eaters its hard to fully cook a complete clean eating menu plan for each week, but I definitely try.

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I am absolutely hopeless without menu planning, I've tried not menu planning and my grocery bill goes up, my clean eating plan goes out the window and I feel terrible in myself… so for me menu planning is a way of life and will continue to be even as our children eventually move out.  I love the organization of it, I am even planning breakfast, snacks and lunch now, as Paul and I are on a semi strict carb, protein and fat diet, each meal has to contain at least one of these in healthy form, even the in-between meal snacks.

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Each week I try to focus and use recipes from different cookbooks I own, this past week I have used the Gwyneth Paltrow It's all easy cook book, one of our most surprising favorites for almost everyone was her lemon and herb pasta with cherry tomatoes, I adjusted the recipe slightly to accommodate everyones tastes, I added chopped broccoli first then added the pasta, and once I had served up the tomato haters in my house, I added them to the pan too… all in all it was a winner for the week.

 

I am all about fresh produce these days, I like to buy organic if I can, I have restarted my organic delivery just because it makes menu planning and organic shopping easier.

These rice paper wraps are a firm favorite at the moment…

Take a rice paper wrap and soak for two or three minutes in a bowl of cold water, making sure they are fully covered, whilst they are soaking chop up some crispy romaine lettuce leaves, cucumber, slice an avocado and grate some carrots, next crumble some feta cheese, and shred some chicken breast, if you want to add meat… once the wraps have softened place them onto a sheet of damp kitchen paper, fill with salad ingredients, feta and chicken if using it, wrap just like you would a burrito, keeping it as tight as you can. Serve with a dipping sauce, my favorite is sweet chili but Mabels is a balsamic glaze, the world is your dipping sauce 😋

My clean eating menu plan for this week…

Monday

Breakfast… kale, onion and feta scramble eggs

Lunch… chicken/feta Cobb style salad

Snack… fruit and almond butter

Dinner… taco style burrito bowl skillet (ground turkey and veggie version)

Tuesday

Breakfast… green smoothie with almond milk, kale and apple together with a boiled egg

Lunch… egg salad sandwich with chopped carrots on the side

Dinner vegan BBQ chili… for those meat lovers I will add shredded chicken

Snacks… Apple, celery and nuts

Wednesday

Breakfast… overnight Coconut oatmeal with berries

Lunch… protein salad

Dinner… zucchini pasta with bolognese (for those that do not like zucchini I will cook organic spaghetti

Snack… protein bites

Thursday

Breakfast… GF oatmeal blueberry waffles (easy to take out if made the day before)

Lunch… chicken quinoa salad (and a veggie version to take out with me)

Dinner… chicken/fish tacos with mango salsa and salad

Snack… protein bites

Friday

Breakfast… fruit smoothie using whatever berries and fruit I have in.

Lunch broccoli soup… yes I know it's summer, but I have a huge bag of frozen broccoli

Dinner… cheat day… Pizza Fridays

Snack fruit and nuts

Saturday

Breakfast… egg and Canadian bacon sandwiches or avaocado toast

Lunch… chickpea quinoa salad with a few fresh berries

Dinner… breakfast for dinner, GF waffles with eggs and sausages

Snack… black bean crackers and hummus

Sunday

Breakfast… overnight oats with coconut and ginger

Lunch… avocado and egg toast

Dinner… buffalo chicken and veggie pizza with salad

Snack… black bean crackers and hummus

I adapted my menu from one I found on Pinterest… wish me luck, I have never planned our eating so carefully and to every meal we eat, I am desperate to lose 10lbs, I have been doing a morning yoga session 3 days a week and now I found a simple workout program for two days, I like to give myself the weekend off, maybe just a little meditation to ease my mind and relax me… time to drink some water and start the week 😀

 

 

 

recipes

Creamy pesto and broccoli mac and cheese

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Ingredients

1 packet of pasta (I used shells)
2 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of all purpose flour
2 cups of fat free milk
1 jar of pesto
Approximately 2 cups of frozen broccoli florets (defrosted)
1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
The Pioneer Woman tomato basil salad (optional for topping the bake)

Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions, whilst the pasta is cooking melt the butter in a small pan then add in flour and mix together until incorporated over a low heat, cooking the flour slightly. Take the pan off the heat and slowly whisk in the milk, gradually adding it to the flour, butter mixture until smooth! Return the milk to a medium heat and stirring continually bring to the boil, stir until the sauce has thickened, then take off the heat and whisk in the pesto!

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Mix together the cooked pasta, broccoli and pesto sauce and pour into a baking dish, cover with the shredded cheese and bake in a 400f oven for 20 minutes!

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I served my pesto mac and cheese topped with The Pioneer Woman’s tomato and basil salad, then made a delicious treat for dessert… An apple tea bread with a warm chocolate drizzle

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ENJOY!

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Happy Wedding Day…

Yay for March… Lets hope Spring is truly on it’s way now! Here in New Jersey the sun is shining, today, friday march 1st, temperatures are meant to be slightly into the 40’s, which I know is not high, but hey it’s not freezing, so I will take it and the snow is still lingering in large dirty piles in a few places, but at least we have a kind of strawy looking grass again!

My learn a new craft is coming along, I am deeply addicted to crochet, after being a knitter for so many years now, I am discovering how much I love crochet, I love the way the finished article looks very shabby chic retro, just my style, and I love sitting with my hook and yarn and just yarn over and create a stitch , I even took my growing blanket along to the baby gym yesterday and crocheted whilst Florrie played, I got a few looks from other mothers, but hey, it beats sitting on my phone for 2 hours! Mollie Makes is a great British magazine for the avid crafter, this month has a few crochet projects worth taking a look at, so here is the link if you want a sneak peak Mollie Makes

My menu plan for the week is very basic, I have totally had a spring clean of my pantry and now there is nothing left… I love to do this occasionally, you can start afresh and know that everything in there is tidy, necessary and fresh… But what it does mean is that you don’t have a lot in to plan your weekly menu…

Sausage pasta
White turkey Chili
Dumpling and bacon soup
Tortellini pesto chicken soup
Stuffed baked potatoes with sausages
Meatball sub
Spaghetti bolognese

Sausage pasta is an old recipe I have been creating for many years, it varies each time i make it, the secret ingredient is a can of Heinz vegetarian baked beans, it just creates a totally different texture to the sauce coated pasta

Take any sausage you would like, I used polish kielbasa last night, but anything works great, slice into 1/2 inch rounds and sauté in a little olive oil with one chopped onion, after 10 minutes add whatever vegetables you would like, I used chopped broccoli and cabbage, 2 chopped cloves of garlic, a teaspoon on red chili flakes, a jar of tomato pasta sauce, 1 teaspoon of boullion, 1/4 cup of water and one can of baked beans bring to the boil, cover reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes whilst you make your pasta. Once the pasta is cooked add your sausage, vegetable mix and coat evenly, serve with garlic bread or a green salad… Very basic, but very delicious!

My shout out recipe of last week was the dumpling soup recipe from the food network not only was this recipe quick and easy, but it tasted delicious too, I used bacon instead of ham, which I think enhanced the flavor, and I also added a few wide ribbon noodles too… Try it, it was delicious… So good it’s on my menu plan for this week!

Today my friends daughter who I have known since she was 4 years old is getting married, she is a few months older than Dominic, we spent so many school holidays out and about with them I lost count, I have watched her blossom from childhood into her teenage years and now beyond… I cannot believe that she is old enough to get married, but she is… I hope she has a wonderful day and I am very sad I could not be there, sometimes the miles between us make a huge difference and sometimes they really don’t… Today is one of those days I wish I could still live in the same town and be there to watch her marry the boy of her dreams!

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Waiting for a hurricane…

Am I the only one who hates the waiting part of a hurricane arriving, I hate the not knowing, will we lose power, will the basement flood again, the questions are endless and all you can do is wait and watch! They say its going to be bad, but I personally am trying to stay positive and hope that they are wrong, very wrong in this case!

Now the big question on my mind this morning is what would be good Hurricane food… My mind goes straight to a big pot of chili and warm homemade breadsticks, but then I remember Jord is home and he won’t eat it so now I’m thinking about warm comforting food like pork ragu and parpadelle pasta in the hope that we still have power to heat it through later!

As I sit in my kitchen on my sofa by the window I hear the wind gust past our window and I look out across the garden, the world seems still to me at this moment in time, it’s like we are all holding our breath just waiting for Sandy to arrive… What will be, will be… Stay safe!

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