Thursday, December 29, 2011


The New Year is upon us now, and everyone is busy making resolutions.  I now use the word "goals" instead of "resolutions," and yes, I too, have been making my list. I have lots of little things I want to do, but was unsure what my main focus or goal would be for this year till I read a blog entry from Wendy at healthy girl's kitchen.

Wendy wrote earlier in a December blog post that the most important question you should ask yourself when you’re hungry or want to eat is, “How do I want to feel?”

She’s right on the money, I do believe, and I think this revelation is not only motivational, but empowering. I am using this question to help guide me as I enter a new year of a continued healthier lifestyle. It will not only serve as my guide on the healthier road my family and I are traveling , but personally, I think it will help me to stay on the right track and to not wander too far off into past bad habits. I am posting it on the fridge and on my bathroom mirror so that this question becomes a constant for me.


How do I want to feel?


It seems so simple, but anyone who has struggled with weight loss or health concerns because of weight knows that the struggle is never easy. Worth it, yes; easy, no.

And so, this is my top goal for the New Year: to stay true to myself and true to the answer of the question,  How do I want to feel? I honestly think that this question, and my personal answer to it, will guide me this year, and that all else health-wise will just fall into place. I have other goals for this New Year too, but this is my #1 goal: to ask myself the question frequently, and to try my best to answer honestly.

Thank you, Wendy, for asking this question in the first place.




Friday, December 2, 2011

The Most Important Meal of The Day...

Good Morning!  They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I never believed that... until now.

Growing up, as a child, teenager, and young adult, I never liked to eat when I got up in the morning.  I think part of it was due to my many allergies which often left me feeling nauseous upon waking. I would usually drink a cup of tea and go off to school. Sometimes, I'd have a piece of toast, but that was rare. I never realised what a boost a good breakfast could give me. Now, most of the time, a good breakfast will fill me up and sustain me till lunch.

Here are my favorite " get myself going " breakfasts:

My cereal of choice is old fashioned thick cut oatmeal. This is hands down my favorite breakfast. I bring 1 3/4 c water to a boil. Then I add 1 c oatmeal, 2 Tbsp. ground flax, and 1 shredded apple, and I simmer it for 5 minutes till done. In my bowl, I put 1-2 Tbsp. raisins or TJ's golden berry blend mix. If I have fresh blueberries, I sometimes use those instead of the raisins. I also add chia seeds, and slivered almonds. Then I add a little milk to the oatmeal and mix it with the other ingredients in my bowl. I top it all with about 1/2 Tbsp. toasted whole flax seeds. It is soooo yummy. As an alternative I sometimes add unsweetened applesauce and a little cinnamon. It's great that way too.

I also like to have scrambled eggs occasionally with 1 slice of whole wheat toast and an orange or banana.Once in awhile I will add a little southwest seasoning to 2 eggs, salsa, and green chilies and wrap it up in a whole wheat tortilla to make my own version of a breakfast burrito. A smoothie is good too, but I usually only have them in the spring and summer. Another breakfast I like is a yogurt topped with my Shannon"s Great Homemade Grain-ola.

The important thing is to eat something at breakfast, even something little, so you can get your metabolism going for the day.

What's your favorite breakfast?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Get Outta My Way, You Turkey!

So I haven't had a chance to write in awhile (life's been super busy), and this is the first chance I've had to write about my first vegetarian Thanksgiving.

I didn't really stress about my Thanksgiving food plate, because while I like turkey, I much prefer the accoutrements of the meal rather than the main dish. Our menu is listed below.

turkey and gravy
dressing
mashed potatoes
sweet potato casserole
corn
fresh broccoli
fresh asparagus
whole wheat rolls
cranberry relish
wine
apple pie (I only ate this dessert)
low fat cheese cake w/ fresh strawberries
pumpkin pie with maple walnut topping

I ate everything except the turkey, and  I made sure to eat slowly so as to really enjoy the flavors of my food and so as not to eat too much. I also tried to eat most of my veggies first so that I was fuller and had less room for the other  food items. And, while I didn't eat the bird (yay me for sticking to my vegetarian guns), I  didn't stick to my "normal" dietary standards of virtually no white sugar or white flour. My meal was delicious, indeed, but I paid for my white sugar and white flour indulgences afterwards by having heartburn for the first time since going free of meat ,white flour, white sugar, and processed foods. This meal was also much heavier and dense than what I'm used to eating, and I'm sure that played into the heartburn as well. Still, even with the heart burn, it was totally worth it to me to eat a traditional Thanksgiving meal...worth it to me because it was only two days (leftovers too, don't ya know). Amazingly enough, I also gained no weight from my holiday jaunt off the healthy eating reservation. Yay! I'm back to my normal healthy lifestyle eating now, though I am going pretty light this week: soups, smoothies, and salads because I still feel really full. I hope that everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving day like I did.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Motivation

I saw this on Pinterest and thought it was perfect to post on my blog. One thing I like to  do is to keep a folder on my computer of motivational songs, ideas, stories, quotes, or pictures that I can look at to keep me going. These motivational items are unique to me, but I think everyone should have a  motivational folder or notebook to back them up and keep them going.  You never know when you'll need a little UMPH!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Line Between Love and Hate

The saying goes that there is a thin line between love and hate. In regards to food, the line is getting thicker for me.

I started to eat differently than the SAD (Standard American Diet) this past February when my DH did so I could support him on his health quest. In turn, he supported me too. At first, I really liked the changes. Without all the processed crap and additives in my food, I could really taste food flavors, and I just felt better in general: fewer stomach upsets, less bloating, more energy, and a brighter outlook among other things. During the health process, I transitioned from nutritarianism to vegetarianism. I am not morally opposed to eating meat by any means, but I feel better not eating it. Things were new and interesting, and I tried lots of new recipes which was good. Some were keepers, some were not.

Over the past few months, I have used food mostly for what it was intended to be...fuel.  Food just has lost it's luster for me. It is becoming little more than a hassle, and the question what do I want to eat? is often followed by nothing sounds good. This has made the planning and shopping all kinds of difficult.  I am still eating because I have to, but oh, how I wish I could take a pill that just contains everything I need so I don't need to think about it at all. I have some more new recipes planned for this next week, but I have to say, none of it excites me...and maybe that's okay.


Maybe food simply needs to be fuel...but I must admit, it makes me kind of sad that I don't enjoy it as much as I used to. I honestly don't think it's what I'm eating, but the changes I've made that are the culprit.  In a world full of white flour and sugar, partially hydrogenated oils,high fructose corn syrup, dyes, and preservatives, where no one seems to eat like me, dinner parties and parties in general are not the same. The social aspect of food is what I am missing I guess. I mean how many people do you know who speak fondly about the great tofu meal their mom makes or her great veggie burgers? And as much as I like eating meat-free, and as many new recipes as I try, none hold a comforting place in my heart. Now, I know that I am probably better off, but it's still sometimes (and lately especially) hard to deal with.

I keep hoping that I'm just in a rut, that food will excite me once again, or at the very least sound good to me, but I don't know if it will. I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Shannon's Great Homemade Grain-ola

Grain-ola, as I call it, is a staple in our house, and I've finally devised the perfect recipe for my family.  I like to make grain-ola at home because store bought granola is often expensive and way too sweet. My grain-ola is also not clumpy like some store bought granolas so it's easier to chew. Best of all, I love knowing that my homemade grain-ola is made without preservatives, colors, or additives...and I am in control of it all :)

Grain-ola is wonderful and a rare food that all my kids like. That in and of itself is quite a feat. We use it as a topping for parfaits, fruits and cereals, and by itself as a snack food. It is also a great foundation for trail mix, and I think it would elevate a simple food like chocolate covered banana pops to a whole new level. Just sprinkle the grain-ola on top of the melted chocolate before freezing... and oila! I'll have to try that soon because I think that would also be something my kids would love.  This week, I'll be making Mama Pea's Chewy Granola Bars and substituting some of my Grain-ola for extra added deliciousness in the place of some of the oatmeal. I think it will be yummy. The possibilities for using this grain-ola are endless... 

Shannon's Homemade Grain-ola

4 c rolled oats
1 c  half oat bran, half ground flax
1 c chopped walnuts, sliced almonds, and sunflower seeds mixed (I like to use pepitas too if I have them)
1/2 c sesame seeds
1/4 c packed brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt (optional)
1/3 c vegetable oil
 1/3 c honey
1/3 c water
1 tsp vanilla
 a good swirled on top squirt of agave (1/8 c maybe-i never measure it just swirl it on top of mixture like a spiral)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Mix all dry ingredients together (oats through salt, if using). Make a hole in the middle of the dry ingredients and add vegetable oil through vanilla. Stir well. Swirl a squirt of agave on the top of the mixture in a spiral shape, and then stir again. Put parchment paper on a cookie sheet and pour grain-ola mix onto it, spreading it out on your pan with a spoon. Bake for 35-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, maybe every 10 minutes or so, so it can brown evenly. Allow to cool on stove top before putting it in an airtight container for storage.


*My kids like my grain-ola plain, but occasionally, if I mix it with dried fruit, I like to use Trader Joe's Golden Berry Blend. It is inexpensive and delicious. It is also great for oatmeal and trail mix.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Favorites

I have 2 new favorite things, and both came from Bed, Bath & Beyond. 


The first is this garbage can from simplehuman. 


Why do I love it?  We have a beagle who was constantly trying to get into the garbage can. When he did, he would drag trash out into the side yard after licking every last bit of food residue he could find. I didn't want him to get in the trash, and I didn't want him to get sick. This trash can has a simple lock that totally prevents our cute little buddy from getting into it. It is easy enough to lock and unlock that the children don't even have trouble with it. It also takes regular large kitchen garbage bags, so no need to buy specialty ones.

* * * * *

Item # 2 is Smells Begone Calming Rain Air Freshener. I was dubious because I haven't had any luck in the past with these type of solid deodorizers, but this one actually works.  Pet smells, boy smells...it helps it all. The fragrance is pleasant also and not at all overpowering.


I highly recommend both these items.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Mama Pea's Cinnamon Rolls Review

I told you to expect it, so here it is.

If you want the recipe for this, you'll have to by Mama Pea's great book, peas and thank you.
This recipe is a 4 spoon recipe, though I still may tweak it a little. It was a messy recipe to make, but well worth the effort. I used more flour than called for because my dough was super sticky (maybe it was me). I also used mostly whole wheat pastry flour and only about 1/2-3/4 cups of white all purpose flour. Using white flour at all is a problem for me because I think it's evil. Unless it's a holiday or a special "old family" recipe, I never use the stuff.  If I could, find a way not to use it at all in this recipe without compromising the recipe's flavor, I would.  Still. the cinnamon rolls turned out well. I made the dough and put together the rolls on Saturday night, then let them rise Sunday morning before baking them. They smelled great cooking and I constantly had kids come it asking if they were ready yet. Ya gotta love that!

Once the cinnamon rolls cooled slightly, I cut them apart and put them on a serving platter. I was a little worried because they seemed more dense (the result of mostly whole wheat pastry flour I'm assuming) and less "fluffy" than I wanted. After plating them, I drizzled them with icing. I used Mama Pea's icing recipe, just cutting down on the cream cheese, because my kids aren't big fans. I also used my own powdered sugar, vanilla, milk, margarine icing mixture. DH said they tasted like Cinnabons, and 2 of my 3 boys thought they were incredible. Only my healthiest eater seemed not to care for them, which is a little perplexing to me.  I refrigerated the left overs which rewarmed beautifully in the microwave (30 sec) for  breakfast again this morning. I actually thought they tasted better today than they did yesterday. My oldest said,"It doesn't matter either way, they're still amazing!"   Outta the mouth of a hungry teenager....So while I won't be making them every day, much to the chagrin of 2 of my children, they will be made again. They were much better than the ones you get in the store, bake, and spread icing on. And the best thing: I know exactly what went into them...real ingredients and lots of love.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Catchin' Up

Wow! I don't know where September went, but I've been running around like crazy ever since the month started. And now, the end is upon us. I had hoped to write more this month, but life happened and the writing just didn't. I am hoping October will be a little less busy (fingers crossed).

* * * * *
So, I lost 1 more pound last week to make 27 total. I hate that its coming off sooooooo slowly, but better slowly than not at all, I guess.  I always thought when I was a teacher that I had loads of patience...with others, yes; with  myself, NO. Once more channeling Baruka Salt, I WANT IT NOW! My goal this next week is to work on shaking things up a bit. I  think I need to confuse my body into thinking I'm doing something a little different.   One thing I need to do for sure is find a better way to get in all my daily veggies. I love vegetables, but for the past two weeks it's been harder to get them in because sometimes salads just get tiresome...even salads I like.  One thing I know for sure: stasis sucks, and I want to lose more and faster.

* * * * *

Now, I tried 3 new recipes from Mama Pea's peas and thank you.  Earlier in the week, I made my Almost Sweet Tomato's Pinto Bean and Barley Soup with Basil and made recipe # 1, Mama Pea's Cowgirl Cornbread, to go along with it. The kids and DH liked it.  I liked the flavor, but thought it was too dry. That was okay because my plan was to use it for dipping. I made my cornbread  into muffins and not in an 8 X 8 pan, so maybe that made the difference. It was not bad though, just not as moist as I would have liked.

Recipe #2 was Mama Pea's Crazy Good Hummus.  The name says it all because it is crazy good. I made this yesterday in just a few minutes time and allowed it to sit in the fridge overnight so the flavors  could meld.  It is easy to make and delicious to eat. Now, I realised when I made recipe # 3, the Crack Wrap, that I have never eaten hummus warm. Why, I have no idea because it was truly comforting and scrumptious!  I made my crack wraps with a slice of Boar's Head's Vermont White Cheddar Cheese which complimented the hummus perfectly. Man I love that Mama Pea!

I also am making her cinnamon rolls for the kiddos tomorrow morning. I am hoping for a hit with that recipe as well. I'll let you know.

The kids are calling, so be healthy and happy till next time!





Sunday, September 4, 2011

I am currently a vegetarian. How long I remain that way remains to be seen. My DH and I started out as nutritarian, but went full vegetarian in May. My reasons are not moral, but nutritional...at least for me and for right now. It is all part of the healthier lifestyle that I am striving towards. I wrote the following in a response to another blogger's comments about her family's eating habits.

On my quest to eat healthier, I was faced with the family challenge: How do I make my family eat like me and do I need to make them eat like me? I see all kinds of blogs about how whole families eat as vegans or vegetarians, and how people switched their kids over to healthier eating plans. How do I do it and should I do it are the questions.

My sister started earlier than I did on a plant strong life and so her kids are  naturally more "plant strong" programmed than mine are because they've been doing it longer and because they were younger when they started eating this way. As long as I can remember, she fed her children pretty healthily and offered them many different types of foods. In many ways, she is my nutrition hero (Tricia Mulhall Taylor, you rock!) My children are 10 and 13 so giving up the junk and making dietary changes is a lot harder for them. I'm not saying it can't be done , but should I do it? This is one of my regrets as a parent, that I didn't make them eat healthier from the get go. But, I didn't become plant strong till this year so I guess I should give myself a break. Don't get me wrong, I switched us early on to whole grains, I never fry anything any more, I don't use white flour, I think processed foods are horrible, I use very little oils (even the healthy ones), and I keep us stocked well with fresh fruits and veggies.  I often think to myself that I should just force my children into the healthy eating lifestyle that I have chosen, but I don't think that would work. I think it would push them to eat more and worse when they are not at home.

Since my kids are teens and preteens, I guess I see my role as trying to make their meals that I do make at home as healthy as possible (which I do). I am constantly changing little things here and there, tweaking our meals as best I can to make them more nutrient dense, and even sneaking healthy stuff ( like flax and chia seeds) in on them without their knowledge. I try to focus on small modifications towards healthier eating (at least with the kids) so that the change is less dramatic and more progressive towards a healthier lifestyle. I think big dramatic change would cause too much push back with a possibility of them abandoning any kind of healthy lifestyle and just doing whatever they want when they are not at home.


 I also see my role as leading by example and talking to the kids about why I am making the choices I am and how they can work to be healthier individuals.We talk about food choices and portion control as well. I am not perfect though, and we do have some "junk" in my house, but this is a process for us and I am treating it as such...at least where the kids are concerned. And just because I don't eat meat, I don't think I need to keep it from my kids. Lean cuts of chicken , fish, and turkey, as well as the once in awhile hormone free grass fed beef are good for them, I think. Everything healthy in moderation, I guess. I am also trying to incorporate more vegetarian meals into their dinner repertoire, and I  look for opportunities to substitute soy crumbles for ground beef  whenever possible, like when I make lasagna.

I don't eat meat, so should they eat it?  I don't eat sweets but should they eat them? I don't eat processed foods, so should my kids?  If I love them and want to keep them safe and help them grow up strong and healthy, should I not ban certain foods that I know to be less than stellar, nutritionally speaking?  These are questions I struggle with. I know that my kids eat better than the SAD (Standard American Diet) but not as healthy as a plant strong diet. I also know that we're moving them closer to becoming more plant strong every day. It's a process and takes time and I need to be mindful of that.
 Above all, I  know one important truth: I am doing my best, and right now, that has to be enough.





Saturday, August 27, 2011

Unfried Refried Pinto Beans and Veggie Quesadilla-Ole!

I love Mexican food. I used to make this quesadilla using refried beans from a can and a ton of cheese. Now I do it differently, but the result is still the same: delicious!
Unfried  Refried  Pinto Beans and Veggie Quesadilla

Beans:

2 cans pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 c low sodium vegetable broth
1 tsp bottled minced garlic with some of the juice
1/2 tsp Mrs. Dash Southwest Chipoltle Seasoning Blend
1/2 tsp Tony Chachere's Creole Seasoning
a couple drops of Cholula
1/4 tsp cumin

Put beans, broth, and seasonings in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil. Turn down to medium and simmer the beans. Simmer for 30 minutes or so till the beans break down and the liquid is thick. Let sit and meld for a few minutes. If you don't simmer it long enough you’ll have soupy (too wet) beans. If this is the case, you might want to remove the beans with a slotted spoon, reserving the liquid and only adding it back in if you need it for consistency. Mash for chunky refried beans or puree in a blender or food processor for smoother refried beans.


After simmering

After mashing

Next,  make your veggie mixture. Dice and combine the following:

1 shallot
1 sm squash
1 sm zucchini (I didn't use today b/c I didn't have any)
1 carrot
1/2 - 1 container mushrooms
1 c broccoli florets
1/2 c (or more or less) Trader Joe's frozen roasted corn
any other veggies you like

Mix all veggies together. Try to make sure they are are diced about the same size. Add some water for sauteing and any spices you like to season the veggie mixture. I added fresh cilantro, garlic powder, Tony Chachere's, and red pepper flakes.
Before

After

Water saute till veggies are tender. Stir a few times during sauteing. When veggies are done, if there is still water  in the skillet, use a slotted spoon to remove your veggies. The beans and the veggies can both be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge till you are ready to put your quesadilla together.

Spray 1 side of a tortilla with cooking spray. Place sprayed side down on a cookie sheet. Layer some beans and veggie mixture on top of the tortilla.If you want some cheese on it, sprinkle it on top of the veggie mixture. Note: cheese will help hold the quesadilla together and make flipping easier. If you do not use cheese, you may want to put the veggies and beans in a tortilla and wrap like a burrito. It is less messy this way. Top with another tortilla and spray the top of it with non stick cooking spray. Bake at 400 till warm and lightly brown. I usually broil mine for a bit before serving so it gets even crispier. Just be sure to watch it if you use the broiler so it won't burn. Then I flip the quesadilla over and broil the other side for just a minute. Let it cool slightly before slicing with a pizza cutter. Serve with salsa, sour cream, lettuce, guacamole, or whatever other toppings you like. Enjoy!


Friday, August 26, 2011

Shopping

So yesterday was great for me , but also really weird.

I went shopping to try to find a dress to wear to the Donny Osmond concert  on Monday (no jokes, please. Donny rocks!) ...I know, nothing like waiting till the last minute!  My procrastination was purposeful, however, because I have been losing weight and didn't want to buy something last month that wouldn't fit me now. Anyway, I went to Penney's. One note about shopping: I have always hated it. Even when I was 21 and 125 pounds, I just didn't want to take the time or spend the money...not normal for a girl, I know. I also wasn't a fashion plate (still am not). I just wore what I liked and what was comfortable. Whether it was fashionable or not, well, that's another story.

While shopping, I was leery of finding anything I thought would look good on me, because I am not happy with my body. And, when you are not happy with your body, shopping is a real bitch! Surprisingly enough, I found myself actually enjoying the shopping experience. I must have tried on 6 or 7 dresses, but, in the end, I opted for a nice skirt and top. It is stylish and cute and fashionable, but because I'm not used to wearing anything but shorts and tees here in the desert, it feels strange to wear something even slightly dressy. It just doesn't feel like me. But, I needed something to wear and so I got it.  DH likes it a lot so that is good. I'll tell you one thing:   I really could have used my sisters  for a sounding board in the dressing room rather than talking to myself, especially Jennie, because she's always had an eye for fashion. Even if it's not her style, she can always tell what looks good together.

After deciding on the skirt and top, I made one more pass by the petite section, and a cute little 90210- like baby doll dress just jumped out at me. I used to wear them all the time in college, but couldn't wrap my head around a 43 year old wearing one. I don't think I'm old, I just wondered if some things shouldn't be left in the past. I don't know. After I went home, I did nothing but think about that casual summer dress, so much that  I was a little obsessed. Not sure if  I'll go back to get it or not. Yes, I really like it. Yes, it fit. Yes, it is perfect summer desert couture. But, no, I didn't go back to get it. I actually have been avoiding buying too many new items because with losing weight, I hate to buy something, wear it once, and then out skinny it  and not be able to wear it again. I think I'd rather wait till next spring/ summer when I'm even smaller...even maybe to where I want my weight to be, because then I'll actually really get some use out of it.

The best part about shopping...drum roll please!......I got to shop in the misses section... in the misses section, NOT in the plus size section! I was thrilled! And, I wasn't in the largest  misses size which really made me feel good. I kinda felt a little out of it, like I was in shock or something. It was weird, truly. I just felt good not having a tag on my clothing that had a single number followed by an X. At least it's progress. I really needed this shopping trip too, because at  only 25 pounds down, my scale just seems to take forever to move. And, this shopping excursion was excellent motivation for me to continue my journey.

 The last think I did before going home? 

 I drove by Lane Bryant and waved goodbye.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Everything in Moderation?

Before I started this healthier eating path I'm on, I always felt like the quote, "everything in moderation..." pretty much summed up my beliefs about eating. And there is some degree of truth to the statement...but there is so much more involved than I ever realised, and even more I'm sure that I haven't learned yet.
  Maybe, the statement should be "everything healthy in moderation...." For example, I just assumed that vegetarians and vegans were super skinny and that's not always true. Even non meat eaters can over indulge in foods, even food they allow themselves to eat. At first, I just went vegetarian, and in doing that, I naturally ate less because I was filling up on more satiating, more vitamin enriched, and more fiber rich foods. All  good things. Now, I am working even more on portion control (from Web MD), since most of us Americans, whether meat eaters or not, tend to over eat. "Super size it" has become the standard, not the norm. It is a better value after all, right? Maybe for the pocketbook only, but not for health. I believe, for me at least, that I can totally still over eat foods that are good for me.That is what I am trying to avoid. Besides, I have always heard that eating less for a lengthy period of time would shrink your stomach, thus, you wouldn't want as much as you once did.  I'm not sure if that's true or not, but even if it's not, it sounds good to me. Less calories in and more sweat out. That's the key.
 One interesting thing I have found in eating healthier and not just vegetarian is that I find myself really questioning my own food choices. This can be good and bad. And, I am not a food prude, but when I order a Subway veggie sub, I almost always get baked chips with it. Of course, I am better off without them, but they are baked and keep me from reaching for another worse chip choice.  And I want chips with a sub sandwich. Conditioning? Probably, but I want it. I am always searching for healthier alternatives for those foods that I can live without, but don't want to. I mean if I'm going to eat chips, baked chips are  better than other choices I could make. An even better choice is probably to have a healthy soup or piece of fruit with my sandwich, I know. But sometimes, I need  chips. period.
What we have to do, is forgive ourselves when we maybe don't make the healthiest of food choices. We are human, after all, and none of us is perfect  100% of the time.  "Everything healthy in moderation."  That I can live with.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Go Buy Mama Pea's Cookbook

I love Mama Pea, and her cookbook is the best.  Why do I like it?
 Mama Pea is funny and often insightful. She's also very real and very down to earth.  What I love most about her cookbook are the stories that go along with each recipe.  So far, we have loved her chewy energy bars and her black bean soup.  I am so excited to try my next recipes: her crack wrap and apple cinnamon pancakes. The pictures in the book are beautiful and I love her opening section on Pantry staples. I also enjoy her little tips and tricks that she gives throughout the book. I just can't wait now for her next cookbook to come out. I urge everyone to go buy this book. And, you don't have to be a vegetarian or vegan to enjoy her recipes.
I also highly suggest checking out her blog, peas and thankyou. I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Learning Doesn't Just Occur in School

I've learned a lot since becoming a healthier eater.  I've learned even more since I became a vegetarian.  I expect to learn even more as my healthier lifestyle progresses. 
Here are some (a few) things I've learned:

  1. I don't need meat. Not only do I not need it, but I feel better physically not eating it. Will I ever change and become a pescatarian and allow myself fish, or will I ever go back to being a Nutritarian and eat lean turkey and chicken?  Right now, I don't think so, but down the road, who knows where all of this will lead. I sometimes think, "Wow, that fried chicken smells so good," but I still don't want it.  The whole thought of eating meat makes me a little nauseous to be honest. And the funny thing is that for me it is not an animal rights or moral issue, it's simply for health reasons.
  2. Processed foods mask the taste of real foods. I  am constantly surprised at how sharp and crisp the flavors of certain fruits and vegetables really are. Now that I'm not eating all the partially hydrogenated oils and freaky additives that tend to be in processed foods, the real food I eat tastes so much better to me. Even celery has a subtle flavor that I never knew it had, and fruits taste sweeter.
  3. I like greens, and you don't have to cook them with ham hocks! This recipe is proof positive of this. I never would have thought it was true. Being a southern girl, one thing I've always known is that pork fat does rule, as Emeril always says. Pork butt or hocks infiltrated many foods I grew up with, and I admit, I loved them. I am now learning that foods taste better to me when their true flavors shine through. And greens and beans (soup included) don't need pork to be delicious.
  4. Preparation is the key. I am a big believer in the 6P principle:  Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance...I can't tell you all the time and energy I have invested in searching for recipes and creating healthy meals to help aid in our healthy lifestyle change. It has been like having a full time job, to be sure. I gladly do it, but we could not be as successful without all this planning. I am still planning, trying to keep things interesting and new.
  5. Sweat is good.  I hate to sweat, as many of you know, hate it with a passion! However, as much as I hate it, I feel better after exercising.  So, while I still HATE it, sweat is  good. Period.  I really hate to admit it.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Victory at VinciTorio's

Tonight we went out to eat for our "last night before school starts" tradition.  The kids always pick, and tonight it was VinciTorio's. Just the mere mention of the word evokes strong salivation and food longing for me. It's kind of a shame that it means so much to me, but I LOVE VinciTorio's!  We all do. Everything from the music to the atmosphere to the service to the food...it's all spectacular, especially the tiramisu...

I haven't been to VinciTorio's since December of last year when we celebrated my son's 13th birthday. I was still a meat eater then and 25 pounds heavier.  Since I am now a vegetarian and only a whole wheat girl, I was worried that I wouldn't be able to eat anything on their menu. I was wrong.  I had a salad (but only ate half) and my normal chicken and pasta fettuccine with asparagus dish (minus the chicken, of course, and with whole wheat angel hair pasta in place of the fettuccine.) I never noticed before I went vegetarian how the dish's fresh asparagus simply infused the cheesy creamy sauce or how sharp the cheese sauce tasted to me. It was simply delicious. Better than the times before when I had it with chicken and white pasta. I feel like I really tasted  it tonight for the first time.  I also tasted the marinara on DH's whole wheat pasta which was light and fresh and perfectly seasoned.  I did not finish my pasta (although part of me never wanted to stop eating it.)  It was like a bottomless bowl of comfort and goodness, and the more I ate, the more I felt was still there. 

Then came dessert.  Oh tiramisu...that chocolaty, coffee, mascarpone covered mistress that tempts and taunts me...I really wanted the tiramisu. I was pleasantly full from my dinner, but I still wanted dessert.  Before we went to eat tonight, DH said that I've done such a good job, it probably wouldn't hurt me to eat the tiramisu.  Hurt me?  Probably not, but sitting there with the dessert menu in front of me, my devil and angel were both whispering in my ears, tugging at me, pulling me back and forth like I was the rope in a round of tug of war. I did want the alluring, sexy tiramisu. Score one for the devil. I was already fairly full, however, and knew the tiramisu would push me over the edge...and I did not want to feel sick. Score one for the angel. Back and forth in my ears it continued  until I stopped the insanity (as if a grown woman having dueling voices pulling her in different directions wasn't insane enough! LOL. You all know what I mean.)

The verdict: NO TIRAMISU.  I still wanted it...and badly, but what DH had said earlier made me think that if I had the luscious confection, I  would be using it, at least in part, as a reward for how good I've done so far.  I am done rewarding myself with food, so I decided not to have any dessert tonight. That does not mean that I will never have it.  It just wasn't in the cards for me tonight. Willpower, baby...sometimes it can be a real bitch. I had 2 cups of fully leaded gourmet coffee which was full boidied and comforting within itself instead of my beloved homemade VinciTorio's tiramisu. 

I feel good about my victory, while still looking forward to the day that my sweet tiramisu mistress and I will meet again.  Oh how I look forward to our next encounter!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Once Upon A Chef"s Asian Slaw with Ginger-Peanut Dressing My Way

A Main Dish Salad-Photo by Shannon

Salad is good and good for you, but I get tired of the same old salad, that is greens and veggies with some kind of dressing. I am always on the lookout for a new salad recipe so I can get in some extra vegetables while keeping eating interesting. I love my favorite taco salad, and it has become a staple salad for me. When I make my vegetarian chili, I freeze some in a muffin tin, pop them out once they're frozen, and store  the individual "chili muffins" in a large Ziploc bag, so that whenever I want taco salad, I can take out a muffin and thaw the perfect salad amount of chili.It works great.

This week, I tried a new recipe: Once Upon A Chef's Asian Slaw with Ginger-Peanut Dressing. It is great as a side dish, but I turned it into a main dish salad (see above photo by me:)  I have to say that it was pretty great. Even DH liked it. I am re-posting the recipe below along with my changes/substitutions and personal recipe review notes in blue. And don't forget to check out Once Upon A  Chef's website.

This recipe get 4 spoons.


Asian Slaw with Ginger-Peanut Dressing


Serves 6 as a side dish


Ingredients:
For the Dressing


¼ cup honey (I used half honey, half agave syrup)
¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup unseasoned rice vinegar*
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil (I put this in a 1/4 cup measure, then added vegetable oil to the top.)
1 tablespoon peanut butter (I used Skippy Natural No Need to Stir) (I used Jiff Natural Low Sodium.)
½ teaspoon salt (I did not add this.)
½ teaspoon Sriracha sauce (Thai hot sauce…optional) (I didn't have this, so I put in some Cholula.)
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger (I just sprinkled  in some ginger powder.)
1 large garlic clove, minced (I sprinkled in some garlic powder.)

For the Slaw:


4 cups prepared shredded coleslaw
2 cups prepared shredded carrots (or grated in food processor)
1 red pepper, thinly sliced into bite size pieces (I am allergic to pepper and so I left them out.)
1 cup pre-cooked, shelled edamame
2 medium scallions, finely chopped
½ cup chopped salted peanuts (you can also leave them whole)
½ cup loosely packed chopped fresh cilantro


Directions:


1. Make the dressing by combining all ingredients in medium bowl. Stir until peanut butter is dissolved. Set aside.


2. Combine all of the slaw ingredients in a large bowl. Add dressing and toss well. Let sit at least 10 minutes so vegetables have a chance to soak up the dressing. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary (I usually add a bit more salt but go by your own taste). Serve cold.


*Unseasoned Rice Vinegar is not the same as Seasoned Rice Vinegar, which has added salt and sugar. Be sure to use straight rice vinegar or else the dressing will be too salty and sweet. I've also used Brown Rice Vinegar (sold at Whole Foods) with excellent results.

I made this side dish a main dish salad by putting it on a bed of spinach & mixed greens. Then I sprinkled on a few more peanuts and broken up rice crackers for extra crunch. I think wonton strips or crispy rice noodles would be excellent toppings. I also think that next time, I will add some tiny raw broccoli florettes or maybe try it with a mixture of regular and broccoli slaw.It has all kinds of possibilities

 A note about the peanuts: They will absorb the dressing and marinate, and while they are very flavorful, they will end up getting softer, especially if you keep it more than a day or so. I think using some peanuts in the slaw and having some extra for sprinkling is the best.

A note about the dressing:  It was delicious, make no bones about it, but if you run into time constraints, I think a good substitute for the homemade dressing would be Litehouse Ginger Sesame Dressing . The flavors are very similar. I always prefer homemade whenever possible though.





Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Incredible Shrinking Woman....

The incredible shrinking woman is what I was called at football last night when I ran into a mom I haven't seen since last season. Bless her heart, she must have known I needed that! My usual answer is "Thanks, but you should see my husband!"  I am very proud of my DH...119 pounds down is awesome indeed! Woot!  Woot!  I have to remind myself though, that I am not him, and he is not me, and that not having as much to lose and being a woman, I think make my task to lose different. His journey is going well, mine....slow. 22 pounds is nothing to snivel at for sure, but much like Veruka Salt (Thanks, Laura :), "I want it NOW!"

Still, it was nice to have someone notice.

This weekend, I was the someone who noticed. I went to Layne Bryant looking for a cute dress to wear to the Donny Osmond concert DH and I are going to at the end of August. I found the cutest, sexiest, little black lace dress that I've seen in  a long time, and I loved the cut. So, thinking positively, I picked up the smallest size I could find in a Layne Bryant store and marched into the dressing room ready to try it on. My negative self talk was trying to creep into my thought pattern in a big way..."You'll never get into it, " is what I heard it taunt, but just briefly. I pushed it aside completely and decided that "What ever happens in a store dressing room, stays in a store dressing room" (except for this), and I was not going to worry about it. I wanted to find a dress because I don't do a lot of dressing up, and thought this concert might be a perfect opportunity to do so. Dress on, I chanced a glance in the mirror. Indeed, it truly was the cutest, sexiest, little black lace dress that I've seen in  a long time, and I wanted it badly...but it did not fit.  Damn! I figured if it was this loose on me now, in another 4 weeks, there's no way I'd be able to wear it...

And so, I noticed the changes in my body first hand, without the dreaded, hard to change scale trying to bring me down. It felt really funny because I still feel like a fat girl in some ways, but at that moment, I felt skinny. If only that feeling had lasted...So, I was very happy that the dress didn't fit, and sad that it didn't fit as well. It really was adorable.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

School Lunches

The famous question in my house, almost as soon as my boys get up is “What’s for dinner?” During the school year, it’s also, “What’s for lunch?”


Packing school lunches is always a quandary for me because my children all like different things and are picky about their lunch items. I am constantly searching for ways to make their lunches both healthy and tasty, which is often not an easy feat. I must admit that at certain times in the past, I have used some processed foods for them, mainly because it was quick and easy, and I was ill prepared. I am really making an effort this year to provide them with healthier, tastier lunches even though it will require more planning on my part. I can do this. I know that.


My first step in this quest has been asking the kids to tell me what things they’d like to take for lunch and what things they wouldn’t mind eating cold. I asked them their favorite main dishes, fruits, and sides to take and took notes. Now I am planning.


Another thing I am doing this year is making my own granola bars. I stopped buying any processed, pre-made bars last year because they seemed to all have HFC in them…at least the ones the kids liked did. So I’m trying to make my own as they are very good for snacks and lunches. I have 2 or 3 recipes from Mama Pea at peas and thank you that I am trying out this week.  She has quite a few recipes that I think would be good for school lunches.  I am also scouring the web for ideas to help me as I wade through this process and deal with three kids with completely different tastes and challenges. Braces are a challenge too, as well as non bulky food items for the student who has so many things to carry in his backpack that sometimes just carrying a lunch can be a hassle.

Some things I know I will do this year are


• to avoid sending processed foods as much as possible. They often contain HFC or partially hydrogenated oils and lots of sodium. Homemade food is always better if you can do it. I make no promises that I will avoid processed food 100 %, but I'm sure going to try.
• to avoid sending over sized portions. This will require a little trial and error, but I want to avoid food from being wasted if at all possible. Still, I am feeding 3 growing boys and they do eat a lot, especially when they are in a growth spurt. It is also important for me to remember that they only have 20 minutes to eat as well.
• to avoid high fat and ultra sugary foods while pushing fruits, vegetable, and whole grains.


I am really going to try to make some healthy headway with school lunches this year, and I may need to put my brain to work and be creative with my food choices, but any steps I can take toward healthier eating for all of us is a good thing.


My teenager just came in and asked what I was doing.


Me: Writing on my blog.
Him: What cha writing about?
Me: School lunches and how I can make them healthier.
Him: (half-hearted, sarcastic, and monotone, while still trying to sound a little positive) fantastic.

I wish you could have heard him and seen the look on his face. It was priceless.  LOL!


So, what do you like to send in your kids' lunch boxes? Do you have any goals for school lunches for the year?




Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Very Excited!

I got 2 new books in  the mail today: one I was anxiously awaiting, and one was a surprise. That's always fun to get a surprise. The first book I got was my pre-orederd copy of Mama Pea's new cookbook (see below). 
I am so excited that my copy has finally made it's way into my kitchen. I did my first perfunctory "thumb through."  Next will be my longer look, including reading what text comes before some of the recipes. That Mama Pea is always funny and often insightful. She's also very real and down to earth which is probably why I love her blog so much. Every time it is delivered to my inbox, I find something about her entries that I can relate too.  If you are into healthy eating or just interested in being a little healthier than you are, you will probably love her book and definitely her blog. I'm going on and on, but I am a fan. My sister, Tricia, first introduced me to Mama Pea several months ago and now our mom is also a fan since Tricia and  talk about Mama Pea and her recipeas so often. I am very excited to try some of her recipeas to see if DH and my kiddos will enjoy them.  I am always looking for good food and recipe ideas since DH and I are doing the vegetarian thing.   I think this book will fit into our new lifestyle perfectly. I got my book today...Yay!

The second book I received today was from a distant cousin of mine. Through our genealogical research, we realised that we are indeed related. Recently, I shared some family information with her and spoke to both her and her husband on a long distance conference call so we could meet "ear to ear." They are wonderful people. So today, out of the blue, she sent me the book below.

I am very excited to get this because you never know what you might learn that will help out in future searches. Debbie said she picked one up for herself and thought I might like one too. How super sweet of her to think about me!  One thing for sure, I have met some of the nicest people ever on my genealogical journey.

Two new books that I can't wait to dig into.....now if only I had the time to start right now!  I love the mail lady today!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Head Games

Quote of the day:
May they never hear me coming
by the swooshing of my thighs!


So, one of my favorite bloggers, Wendy, from healthy girl's kitchen, is rereading The Beck Diet Solution by Judith S. Beck.


Wendy says it's a book to help in "retraining your brain to think like that of a thin person."  Sounds like something everyone who struggles or has struggled with weight issues should check out. I certainly plan to. According to Wendy, one thing the book suggests you do first is to make a list of all of the reasons you want to lose weight, placing the most important reason at the top. I've seen a similar type of activity mentioned on several weight loss websites.You're supposed to reread this list throughout the day as well, I'm assuming , to keep you motivated and on trackAnd whether you share this list with anyone else, I think having clear goals gives you stronger purpose.  So, I'm off to make my list.  Maybe you will make one too.  I'm going to read the book, but I may not do each activity. Wendy will be chronicling her trip through the book in her own time on healthy girl's kitchen. If you're interested, check her out. Her website is great.

Vacation Update

I was on vacation with the family this past week in Tucson doing the southern Arizona thing. We had a blast, going to the Pima Air & Space Museum, Tombstone, and Biosphere 2, as well as shopping, playing games, and just spending some good ol' fashioned family time together. I also got the pants beat off of me in a rousing game of Nintendo Monopoly! Oh well, I've never claimed to be a real estate mogul. 
We walked a lot on this trip, which was good for my exercise, but I was a little concerned about how I'd eat once on our trip.  As it turns out, it wasn't very difficult at all. I stayed vegetarian (woo hoo!), but I also allowed myself a little space to indulge. The place we stayed had a small fridge (dorm like) which was good to keep some fruits and veggies I brought with me nice and cool. I took some Balance bars, apples, oranges, carrots & celery sticks, bananas, peanut butter, bread, V8 and mixed nuts with me. I wanted to always have something handy I could eat should I need it. I was glad I did, even though, most of it remained untouched. Always better to be prepared I say.
My big indulgences were a chimichanga which was fried (I never eat fried foods), a bottomless bowl of chips and salsa (I allowed myself as much as I wanted), and 5 Margaritas throughout the trip (soooooooo delicious...I just can't tell you).  I ate eggs, fruit, and oatmeal at breakfast, a Subway veggie sub one evening, a soup and salad bar combination,chimis (bean and cheese only...my favorite) and some tastes of kid desserts (a bite here, a bite there). I was very pleased not to stray too far  off of my dietary path. DH did well too.  I came home up only 1 1/2 pounds, which I completely attribute to my visiting aunt (wink, wink). If it weren't for the  bloating, I think I may actually have been down a little when I got home. I'm not worried though...that pound and a half excess will take care of itself once I get back to normal. All in all, I was very pleased with how well I did (Yay me)!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Weekly Menu July 10th - July 16th

Sunday: sub sandwiches & chips/ salad

Monday: pork chops, roasted veggies, beans and greens, fruit

Tuesday:  vegetable soup or lo beans and greens / kids: HM chicken strips, green beans, fruit


Wednesday: big salad with kidney beans/ vegetable soup , kids: beanie weenie, carrots, fruit


Thursday: skillet lasagna, garlic bread, carrots / buffalo tempeh wraps (new recipe-review to follow) and fruit


Friday:  frozen pizza, big salad and soup

Saturday: LO burgers/ Bocas, fries,small salad, fruit

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Almost Sweet Tomato's Pinto Bean & Barley Soup with Basil

So, about a month or so ago, DH and I went to Sweet Tomato's and had this delectable bean soup. They never post their recipes, but you can always ask for the ingredient list. That's what I did because DH loved it so much. My recreation, he said , is better than the original. Not sure if that's true, but it turned out pretty good. I like bean soup okay, but if you love bean soup, you will probably really like this recipe.

One note: I don't use any added salt when I make this because DH doesn't do added salt, however, I can't eat it without adding salt. To me, salt is a must.
 I like to eat  it with salt, a drop or two of hot sauce and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese. DH used hot sauce and Mrs. Dash.

Almost Sweet Tomato's Pinto Bean & Barley Soup with Basil

1 small pkg pinto beans (16 oz)
1 c  low sodium vegetable broth
2 c or 2 stalks sliced celery (not diced)
1-1 1/2 c sliced carrots
a heaping 1/2 c chopped red onion
2 bay leaves
2 1/2 tsp basil
1/2 c fresh chopped parsley
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
garlic powder ( I didn't measure this, but start with a couple of good shakes-you can always add more later. I wanted to used minced garlic but was out)
4 c vegetable broth
8 c water
1/3 c barley
cayenne
optional: hot sauce, Parmesan cheese, Mrs. Dash ( I especially like the tomato basil flavor, but the regular one will do.

Prepare beans as you like for cooking. You can presoak them overnight, but it is not necessary.  Sort and wash beans. Put them in a soup pot covered with water 2 inches above where the beans are. Also add 1 c vegetable broth . Bring to a boil, then turn down and simmer for 1 hour. 
After an hour or so, drain beans and rinse them. Rinse the soup pot out too to get all the foamy, dirty residue out of it.
Put beans back into the pan.  Add celery through water. Stir to mix together and bring to a boil once again. Put a lid on it, turn down heat, and simmer several hours to all day.  You want your beans to be tender and falling apart.  Add more water or broth as needed to make sure you keep a good amount of liquid in the pot. About an hour before serving, add barley, a little cayenne, and more garlic powder if needed. Simmer till its done, maybe about 45 minutes or so. It's better to start with a little cayenne and then have to add more later because you want just a little kick...nothing too overpowering. When barley is tender,  discard bay leaves and put some of the soup in a blender ( I did 1 1/2 c beans and veggies mixture & 1- 1 1/2 c. liquid). Blend to mix well, then pour back into soup pot. If it's still not the consistency you want you can blend up some more. This adds consistency to your soup and thickens it up. Stir and serve.
Use optional toppings if you choose.

I give this recipe 4 spoons. It's pretty close to the  Sweet Tomato version DH, of course, thinks it's better.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Let's Get Physical

So, we bit the bullet and moved on to the next phase in our journey to better health and wellness by joining an exercise gym. I really like the idea of joining a gym, but now dammit, I really have to go. And, they're open 24 hours, so it's not like I can complain about not being able to fit it into my schedule. So with free classes, no contract, a convenient location, and 24 hour access, I am finding it hard to make excuses. I don't like to sweat doesn't work as an excuse anymore either since I live in the desert where just a few days ago it got upwards of 118 degrees, and, in Phoenix in the summer, we are always sweating anyway. Even thinking of going to a gym again makes me start to hear Olivia singing "Physical." I hope there's no sagga bagga though :)

Today, I got a  yoga mat, and a small duffel bag as well as two tummy trimming brassiere reinforcing exercise tank tops (love them). The task now is to search for the perfect exercise bra (gotta support the Ladies after all).  I have been shopping for one without any luck. It is now, that while I normally like my ample bosom, that  I would kill to have just a little  less so I could find a bra that fits without too much rigmarole. 

I'm mapping out my classes now and making my schedule for next week of when I will go workout. My goal is 3 X a week. On my off days, at the very least, I plan to ride my bike and/or do my exercise walk DVD. When the kiddos go back to school and my schedule settles a little, I am going to see a personal trainer for tips to target the areas I want to focus on the most.

I probably would not join a gym by myself, but as with anything to do with losing weight, it's better with a buddy. Even if DH and I don't go together , we can keep each other honest by talking about it, mapping out strategies, and making sure each other is following through.  What we will give to each other is accountability and peace of mind in knowing that we are not doing this alone.

And, as with most things in life, everything is better with a friend.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

It's a Sunshine Day . . .

I have a new favorite market: the SunFlower Farmer's Market. It is a great place.You can check out the store I go to here.  It is a great place to get  fresh, all natural meats, whole grain breads made by a local bakery, and a bevy of different and sometimes exotic fruits and vegetables. The produce section alone is worth a trip.  It is like a hybrid between Trader Joe's (love it...) and Whole Foods (hate to pay for it...).  It is larger than a TJ's and smaller and less pretentious than Whole Paycheck.  What has impressed us the most is the fresh produce. It is amazing!  So if you have one near you, check it out. Even though it's not a recipe, it get 5 spoons from me.  And I have to say, that every time I walk in there, I hear the Brady Bunch singing in my head.  "It's a Sunshine Day...,"

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Favorite Taco Salad

I get so tired of just the same old salads: lettuces and veggies with beans or egg for protein.  The only variation is usually what dressing to use. Blah, blah, blah...It's no wonder salads aren't thought of as exciting or sexy foods. This week, I decided to make a taco salad (the vegetarian way) while my kiddos had tacos. I had it two times this week, and I must say that while the grilled corn is a really tasty treat in this concoction, Trader Joe's frozen roasted corn would also work well. It is filling and I don't feel deprived of that Mexican/taco flavor one bit. Best of all, it's quick, easy, and pretty healthy.

Favorite Taco Salad

mixed greens, chopped ( I used romaine, spinach, and iceberg because I'm a sucker for the crunch!)
a little diced red onion
1 chopped roma tomato
some chopped, fresh cilantro (mom, you can leave this out :)
Mix all this together in a single serving salad bowl. I use a shallow pasta bowl

1/3-1/2 c roasted corn ( I used leftovers from the weekend's grill night. Yummy!  Never underestimate the power of good grilled corn) The corn can be added warm or cold.

Sprinkle with 1-2 Tbsp. of low fat cheddar cheese if you choose (I did this the first time I made it, but not the second time. It was good either way. If I could eat nutritional yeast, I would have added a little of that)

1/2 c warmed vegetarian chili -Pour this over the top.

Break up a  few tortilla chips of your choice (baked, homemade, Tostitos, etc.) and sprinkle them on top. Sometimes halfway through eating it, I add a few more. I like the crunchiness.

Top with 1 Tbsp. lite sour cream.

Soooooo good! 4 spoons for this one.  I am also compiling a list of other salads to try.

 What's your favorite salad?