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Healthier Before 6

20 Sep

After nine months of Weight Watchers, I was a little tired of following the rules. I wanted to stop thinking and worrying about food and just enjoy eating. Cut to a few months later…oops. I might’ve enjoyed a little too much.

So I’m going to try something else! What if I cut out white flour and white sugar before 6PM? I’m a little inspired by Mark Bittman’s philosophy in “Vegan Before 6.” I’m already vegan 100% of the time, but what if I cut out a few of my vices until dinner time? I love pasta, bread, and cookies, but if I could just have enough willpower to wait until dinner, maybe I’ll be inspired to make better choices during the day. Breakfast is now smoothies, chopped fresh fruit sprinkled with cinnamon, oatmeal, and tofu scrambles. Lunches can be veggie (lightly!) fried rice, soup, kale salad, curries, and bowls made with whole grains, veggies, protein, and sauce. Snacks are grapes, hummus with sliced cucumbers, banana fro-yo, and apples with nut butter. I’m relying more on water and tea instead of sweetened lattes to get me through my day.

And then dinner? I can have whatever I want! How exciting is that? If I’m craving lasagna and a glass of wine, I can have it. If I want grilled cheese and a vanilla bean Dry Soda – done. A cookie before bed? Delicious. The idea is to make better, whole food choices during the day, so I’m not reaching for chocolate chip cookies every time I have a craving, because that happens a lot. Also, I don’t know about you, but I have a lot more willpower at the start of the day than at the end. If I can just tap into that until 6PM, I think I’ll notice a difference.

We’ll see how it works! I put my scale away because the weekly weigh-ins with WW were driving me nuts, so I won’t be using it as a way to track progress. All I know is that I’m not feeling that great and my jeans are a little uncomfortable. If either of those things improve in the upcoming weeks, I might be onto something. I’ll keep you posted!


Ani’s Fast Blast, a retrospective

24 Apr

I can hardly believe it myself, but I have survived 17 days of eating nothing but raw, good-for-you food, thanks to Ani Phyo, author of Ani’s 15-Day Fat Blast.  I did 17 days because I had a wedding to attend and went off the program, but stuck to eating raw foods.

Orange Vanilla Shake

Orange Vanilla Shake

What inspired me to “fat blast”? I’ve been losing weight for about 9 months at a very slow and steady rate, but hit a plateau that I just couldn’t shake.  I am not one to buy into claims of “get a new body super fast!” but I knew I needed a short change to inspire me and recharge my weight loss.  I only have a month until my wedding so it’s now or never.  Also, I love a good challenge! I tried the plan before and only lasted 4 days, so this time I was in it to win it.

The Program: Raw foods to help you detox and melt the stubborn pounds away. Smoothies, soups, salads, wraps, sushi, and desserts are all yours to be had.  The idea is not to deprive, but nourish, so you get to eat as much as you want of her prescribed foods.  And for the most part, they are delicious.  Everyone has different tastes so follow your gut and make swaps here and there as you see fit.  I know I did!  I was NOT about to blend raw broccoli into a soup (Kreamy Dill Delight), so I just added more spinach.  I also read that people were severely disappointed in the Orange Vanilla Shake, so I made it without spirulina (which is optional anyway) and was totally delighted by the outcome.  It’s that easy.

The Pros: It definitely works!  She claims you can lose up to 15lbs, and I lost 6lbs, which is still a lot for only two and a half weeks.  My jeans fit better, I’m not bloated anymore, and a lot of my cravings have pretty much been extinguished.  I learned a lot of awesome recipes that I will definitely incorporate into my not-so-raw life.  Raw sushi was a revelation!  Collard wraps and zucchini pasta are way tastier than I could’ve ever imagined.

The Cons: I lost a lot of steam near the end.  I still ate raw and used her recipes, but for the last two days, I gravitated towards simpler dishes I already had in my refrigerator instead of whipping up something all together new.  I just couldn’t get it together enough to julienne another carrot.  The detox symptoms are not a lot of fun, either.  Day 3 and Day 17 were the worst.  I felt achey, nauseous, and just exhausted, without any desire to leave the house.  She doesn’t really prepare you for that, just promises boundless energy that I never really got to enjoy fully.

In summary, if you have weight to lose but are not into calorie counting, and you hate restricting how much food you can eat, Ani’s Fat Blast will rock your world.  If you want to follow someone’s journey through the whole program, check out Raw Food Rehab, Living Girl Living Foods, and Jill’s Well.  They have lots of advice and give honest reviews of all the food!

I think vegans will have an easier time with this detox since it incorporates foods we already adore (coconut oil, nutritional yeast, miso, cashews, etc) but a well-rounded and adventurous omnivore could totally make the Fat Blast work for them.

Tonight I’m treating myself to raw pizza at Cafe Gratitude to celebrate the end of my cleanse, and I’m pretty excited! Now it’s just a matter of maintaining what I’ve lost and looking fly on my wedding day.  Smoothies for the win!

Taco Meat on the Cheap

29 Sep

I accidentally celebrated my birthday all month long, and my debit card is not pleased.  Whoops.  To get my savings account back in order, I’m tapping into my neurotic, Virgo self and making budgets and lists up the wazoo.  I now have a four page excel spreadsheet comparing prices of my most frequently purchased pantry items at 5 different stores.  When I buckle down, I go all out.

Part of my “buckle down” plan is to not spend any money on food Monday through Friday, which means I plan for the week, grocery shop over the weekend, and then avoid the siren call of Native Foods and Veggie Grill by creating even better grub at home.  I was up until 3am the other night, dreaming of tacos, kale salad, curried tofu scramble, pumpkin fritters, and baked falafel.

It’s one thing to plan it, it’s another to put it into action.  How was I going to find the time to cook five different meals to keep up with my demanding taste buds?  They need variety or they will revolt/go get take out.  Believe me, I’ve tried the “cook a big meal on Sunday and eat all week” technique and it did not end well.  So this time, I put the prep into my calendar.  I looked at the recipes, saw what needed to be done, looked at my schedule, and planned accordingly.  I’m budgeting time for it just like I would for a meeting, so I don’t come home exhausted Monday night debating whether or not to call for Thai.  Because I would definitely call for Thai.

So tonight, I made a bunch of taco meat so I can assemble whatever my heart desires throughout the week.  There are greens, taco shells, beans, rice, salsa, and some vegan sour cream and cheese leftover from when I still thought I had money to spend.  Ahh, those were the days.

When I first thought of tacos, I considered beans as a base, but I wanted to get a little more punch without breaking the bank on veggie meats.  Here is the delicious outcome.  Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP) is about $3.50/lb, and I needed less than half that to make 10 servings of taco meat.  I think I just met my new best friend.

Taco Meat
serves 10

2 cups dry TVP
1.5 tbsp coconut oil, divided
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp Better than Bouillion, No Beef Base
1 packet of Trader Joe’s taco seasoning mix (vegan, $0.79, and no scary ingredients! Jackpot)

Prep the TVP by soaking it in just under 2 cups of boiling water for at least 5 minutes, until all of the water is absorbed.

Hello world, meet rehydrated TVP. Kinda looks like oatmeal.

While waiting, dissolve the bouillon in a 1/4 cup of hot water.  Heat 1 tbsp of coconut oil (save the rest for later) over medium heat in a non-stick pan, then add the TVP, soy sauce, dissolved bouillon, and taco seasoning, stirring occasionally.

All into the pan.

After about 8 minutes, push the meat to the side of the pan and heat the 1/2 tbsp of coconut oil.  When it’s warm, toss everything together and cook for another two minutes.  You know it’s done when it stops looking wet and takes on a good crumble.

Voila! Taco meat for cheap!

Making this reminded me of helping my mom prep ground turkey for tacos.  I was warm with nostalgia when handling the taco seasoning mix and stirring everything together.  I also remember how much I hated handling the meat raw, but loved how it would transform from flesh into “food” right before my eyes.  Now I like to think what I eat is food from beginning to end, though I wouldn’t recommend munching on dry TVP!

Bucket List

3 Dec

There are the kind of people who can quit cold turkey, and then there are others who need that final goodbye. December has been dedicated to revisiting my favorite non-vegan eats and evaluating what about them I like so much, and how I can live without them starting January 1, 2012. I’ll update this post throughout the month as I cross things off or think of new ways to desecrate my body one more time. I see green smoothies in my future.

1. Umami “Earth Burger”
This was the first to cross off from my bucket list, as I haven’t had it in a really long time but remembered it very fondly. A mushroom and edamame patty topped with white soy & truffle aioli, ricotta cheese, cipollini onions, butter lettuce, and an oven-roasted tomato on a brioche bun. Seriously the best veggie burger I have ever had, but NOT vegan friendly in the least. Even if you take off the cheese and aioli, you still can’t have the bun, and who knows what other things they stuff in the patty to keep it together.

I got it with a side of tempura onion rings (I’m just going to guess and say they’re also on the no-no list, as a lot of tempura has egg in it), popped a lactaid pill, and went to town. Impression? Overwhelming. The butter in the bun was almost nauseating, I had trouble focusing. Instead of being the mind-blowing burger I had remembered, it was kinda gross and no longer my style. I’m happy to say goodbye and move on. WOOT. Shannon: 1, Non-Vegan Food: 0

2. Wawa, “Egg Salad Ciabatta with Pepper Jack”
I grew up with Wawa, the amazing convenience store on the East Coast, and as a little omnivore, the world was my oyster and I was incredibly fond of their turkey and cheese sandwich. When I gave up red meat and poultry, I had to get a little creative, and discovered my new fav – egg salad with pepper jack cheese on ciabatta. I know, it sounds weird, but I even got my mom hooked on it, it was so good. My last visit home, I decided to give this guy a whirl, for ol’ time’s sake.

IT SUCKED SO HARD. After having M Cafe’s Tofu Dill Salad, I have been ruined for all egg salads to come, and good riddance. I also felt nasty for about a day and had to do some serious green smoothie detoxing to recover. I almost feel tempted to give a point to Wawa for almost killing me, but since I can now say NO THANK YOU with confidence, I think I win. Shannon: 2, Non-Vegan Food: 0.

3. Joan’s on Third “Mac & Cheese”
Admittedly, this is the best macaroni and cheese I have ever had (hence why it’s “bucket list” quality), and I was worried I’d find nothing wrong with it. Upon further inspection, it’s not that special, even with its variety of cheeses and perfectly crusted top. It’s greasy, heavy, leaves a film in my mouth, and kinda flavorless. Also, I had to pop a ton of lactaid and digestive enzymes to get it down, but STILL I’m left uncomfortable and a little socially unacceptable (sorry, TMI, but you lactose intolerant kids know what’s up). Good not great, and definitely not worth the physical toll. I CAN DO THIS. Shannon: 3, Non-Vegan Food: 0.

4. Milk “Cookies & Cream Ice Cream Sandwich”
I used to be certifiably hooked on these delicious morsels – excellent cookies & cream ice cream squished between two chocolate macaron shells. I never had anything like it before, and considering how macarons are made, I doubt they’ll ever be vegan. My fiancé, Sam, is OBSESSED and is either eating a sandwich or straight up ice cream from Milk pretty much every day. For most of this last year, I used to stare at him with envy. Finally, I am able to break the spell. I ate one and it was…. just okay. The macaron shells are more of a novelty than anything else, and the ice cream was just so sweet, it made my teeth hurt. Have my taste buds completely changed after a year of being mostly dairy-free? I used to go nuts for this stuff! Sam often describes his experience as a “mouthgasm.” Where’s the magic now? No matter, I’m just happy to say sayonara and lose the jealous stare. Shannon: 4, Non-Vegan Food: 0

5. Izaka-Ya by Katsu-Ya
This one breaks my heart a little. It’s “our” restaurant, where we go for every celebration, from projects finished to birthdays. Sam is a picky eater, and this was one of the few places we could actually share food. Last night, we went to celebrate his birthday, and for me to bid adieu to fish. We had a feast, and I was able to recognize why sushi has been so important to me when I’ve been able to eschew everything else, including cooked fish. Being able to share food with someone I love is a big deal, and we’re having less and less common ground the more vegan I become. He doesn’t even bother ordering anything at Café Gratitude or Real Food Daily – he’ll come with me, but I’ll eat alone. It sucks! The other draw of sushi is the texture and mouthfeel, which mostly comes from fat. Thankfully, the earth has given us plenty of fat (hey avocados!) and most sushi restaurants have at least a few veggie rolls. I’m not excited to start finding out which of my apparently vegan Japanese foods actually have fish sauce or egg, but that’s why I’m devoting a year to this, because I don’t want to eat ignorantly anymore. Shannon: 5, Non-Vegan Food: 0. Winning!

6. Urth Caffe’s Coconut Custard Pie
Be still, my heart. I never considered myself a huge coconut fan, but a slice of this pie had me doing backflips. Toasted coconut, eggy custard, graham crust, and so unvegan it’s a crime. I still totally love this, but I will take that passion and use it for good – I will veganize it!! Lest trying shall kill me first. Come on, no eggs eggy custard…

I prevail! Shannon: 6, Non-Vegan Food: 0.

7. Giovanni’s Pizza
East Coast pizza – does it get any better? Giovanni’s is my absolute hometown FAV, and I’m gonna miss it. There are a few different outposts, but they’re all kitschy Italian greatness. I said goodbye to cheese pizza and mozzarella sticks on a rainy winter night, and it felt good, because greasy cheese is awesome, but it’s no longer for me. I’ve had some excellent vegan pizza back West, so I think I’ll be okay on that front. Mozzarella sticks are pretty much over, but think of all the other cheesy goodness I can get with Daiya and Teese without supporting the dairy and veal industries! Also, Doomie’s have these amazing deep fried avocados that are the best thing I ever put in my mouth. Really, I won’t be at a loss for high fat yummy junk food reminiscent of my college days. Vegan pizza will be mine! Shannon: 7, Non-Vegan Food: 0. Rock hard!!

8. Tria
I saved the best for last. My name is Shannon, and I’m a wine-and-cheese-aholic. I love Tria because I can chat with my friends for hours while snacking and sipping on delicious wine. I still adore the ritual and will miss this place, which has zero vegan options, but I can make do at home. Dr. Cow cheese is nut based and perfect on crackers. I just wish it was offered in traditional wine bars! Sigh, maybe one day.