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


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.


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


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'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

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


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.