Sunday, January 31, 2010


is every bit as good as it looks......
And for a single person who wants pizza...a much healthier alternative than making a whole pizza.  I used FlatOut Bread as crust and added sauce, spices, cheese and veggies. Yum indeed.

FlatOut Bread has 100 calories 2.5 grams of fat and 17 grams of Carbs  8 grams of Fiber...So Net carbs are very low. A great alternative to a regular pizza crust if you are watching your carbs.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

30 Days Meat Free

They say it takes 30 days to break a bad habit. I don't know who they are but I think they might be on to something. I am finding it much easier to be in a meat free mindset. Menu planning is becoming much easier the more meat free meals that I make and enjoy.  I have added in some soy products that I have found to be good substitutes for the real thing. No...they don't taste just like the meat...but they are tasty in their own right.  My favorite I think is the Buffalo Chicken nuggets from Morning Star.  I like to bake them, then chop them up and make a wrap with them.  A nice whole grain wrap with the nuggets , lettuce, tomatoes, onions and some homemade ranch dressing.  I was surprised at how good it was...and how easy it was to make.

I do have to say...that I truly appreciate the support that I get from friends and family. Whenever someone says, hows it going, or have you tried, or..I saw this and thought of makes me feel good. It makes me feel like I can accomplish this goal. For the most part, all of my friends have been supportive.  I get the negativity from a few but I take it in stride.  They just don't have the mind set for the journey and can't fathom why anyone else would put themselves on that path.  I like to challenge myself. How will I ever know how far I can grow as a person if I don't push myself past what I know.  My sophmore biology teacher told us that the minute something stops growing it begins to die. It was a very profound statement and it impacted me greatly.  I try to teach myself new things, to reach for new horizons so that I can grow as a person.  I don't expect everyone I come in contact with will understand that and I don't judge them for that.  Someone once said, don't compare your life with others, you have no idea what their journey is about.  I think I will leave you all with that thought.  Until next time friends.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Hand Of God

Whenever natural disasters strike, its inevitable someone will reference "The Hand of God". It makes me wonder if people only see God in destruction, You never hear someone exclaim "The Hand of God" upon seeing a rainbow or witnessing an amazing sunset.  Shameful really because...that is truly where "The Hand of God" lies. God doesn't cause bad things to happen to us. People just don't realize that every moment of every day there is a war waging, a battle of good and evil, and the prize is your soul. Evil creates bad things and waits, laughingly, while the world would blame its opponent. Why does no one ever blame Satan when there is an earthquake or a tornado. Truth be told....the Hand of Satan would be much more accurate it would seem. No my friends, The Hand of God, the same Hand that forms the flowers and the trees and each little hair on your head, is not the same Hand that would create chaos and pain, hurt and confusion.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Wyatt 1 week old

Went and did some 1 week portraits of Wyatt today. He's such a little angel. He was very patient with me taking his pictures at dinner time too.  I knitted the little hat and cocoon for him the other day and they were to small. Did I mention he weighed in at 9 lbs 15 oz at birth.  The little angel was a big boy. I'm going to knit him a pretty red one for Valentine portraits. I'll be sure to make them a lot bigger.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Sweet Part 3

I've been a little busy these past few days....spending a lot of time rocking a sweet little boy named Wyatt. He's an absolute angel. He weighed in at 9 pounds 15.5 oz.   He had a little trouble transitioning his breathing so he spent a few hours in the nursery getting things under control.  But he's doing good now.  He let Aunt Sarah take his portraits this morning. I think Mommy and Daddy are going to love this.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sweet Part 2.

I made up a pot of leftover vegetable soup for dinner. Freezer to table in 20 minutes. Gotta love that. I added some frozen shelled edamame for some extra protein.  My cousin got into town today but I thought I'd let her spend some time with her mom and son alone tonight.  And today...I got my first study unit in the mail.  I decided to take a home course in photography so that I would be forced to focus more on my craft this year. And, it never hurts to have that diploma hanging on the wall. The only thing that made this day sweeter was clocking out at work knowing that I would not have to punch back in for another 5 days. Might go in Sunday for some OT...might not. We'll see how the week goes.


I can update from my phone!!!!!

Monday, January 18, 2010


I read this today at work. Loved it and thought I would share it with my friends.

Look back and thank God
Look forward and trust God
Look around and serve God
Look within and find God

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Memory Lane

I spent a good portion of the day editing some photos. Once I learn something new in Photoshop, I have this need to try and apply it to all my photos. Some it works with, some it doesn't.   I've become a big fan of the soft focus look lately. It just feels so much warmer and more intimate.  I came across a photo from a Birthday Portrait shoot that I did a few years ago of my oldest niece. She was 16. In a few months, she'll be turning 18. Can hardly believe that the time has gone by that fast.  All those memories come flooding back. The first time I held her, first time I heard her say my name, first Christmas, first day of school. It all seems like it could have happened yesterday.  I feel sometimes like, if I blink, I'll open my eyes and it'll be her wedding day, or she'll be bringing home a baby of her own.  It goes to fast. Way to fast.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

I can't believe I made these

Spicy Black Bean Burgers.  Started thinking about grilling season because I know that will be my biggest challenge. I decided to try and find a recipe for veggie burgers that looked simple. Boy did I find it.  Found this recipe over at Looked very easy. A lot of the comments though talked about the burgers falling apart easily so I did alter the recipe a bit. OK OK I altered it because I like short cuts ;) .  It sure did make it easier and even a little spicier. You can add your choice of dried spices, veggies, herbs etc but I went with my favorite Tastefully Simple Salsa Mix.

Spicy Black Bean Burgers
1 can black beans rinsed and drained
1 egg
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup Tastefully Simple Simply Salsa Mix

Drain the beans, getting out as much moisture as possible. Mash beans. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Shape into patties (about 4). Refrigerate for at least 2 hours. (Can be frozen also) When ready to cook..preheat over to 350. Line a baking sheet with foil. Spray with non-cook spray and place burgers on foil.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, flip and bake for 10-12 minutes more.  Serve on buns topped with your choice of hamburger toppings.

I topped mine with Steak Sauce. I got that little tip from my friend Megan. What a difference it makes too. Thanks Megan. I feel very confident that grilling season will not be that big of a challenge now that I have something to fall back on.  I also bought a cookbook today. The Vegetarian 5 Ingredient Gourmet by Nava Atlas.  Lots of simple recipes to try out. I will most definitely share my adventures with those.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


I have to confess something. Until last night, I had never seen a Madea movie. Ever.  Last night I watched Diary Of A Mad Black Woman. What an incredible movie that was. I love the movie. I loved the message being portrayed, and YES ... I loved Madea.  I think what I loved most is that it made me think about things in my own life a little more. OK ..a LOT more.  Thinking about things like...the power of forgiveness.  There was a line in the movie that went something like..."You know how to tell if you've forgiven someone? If you have the chance to hurt them and you don't..then you've forgiven them."  Really made me think.  I think about the people in my life that have hurt me. Have I forgiven them? I want to believe I have because I can't think of anyone that I would hurt, given the chance. Is it enough to say though, that I would not hurt them, therefore I have forgiven them. Some wounds run deep and I am human.  Sometimes, I can un-bury that hurt in an instant if I let myself think about it. Does that mean that I haven't forgiven? I want to believe I have. I want to be a good Christian and walk in the way that God would have me walk.  Powerful things to be thinking.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Hello friends! Things are going good here. Day 12 and still meat free.  People are asking me if I am missing the meat yet.  I have to say, this is going surprisingly well so far. Granted it has only been 12 days. I imagine that the tough part will come in a few weeks when all the newness and excitement of the lifestyle change has worn out.  One of the things that I hear from people when they hear I am going meat free is...I could never do that. It's too hard.  And one of the things that I wanted to do while preparing for this was to find things that were easy, so that  the issue of to hard would not arise. I want it to be easy and relatively inexpensive so that it would be easy to stick with.  Tonight's dinner for example was a taco wrap.  I used an square wrap, spread it with some taco seasoned refried beans, added shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, onions, and sour cream and cheese, and rolled it up. Simple, cheap and very tasty. And..not only that...very nutritious. The beans were fat free, the sour cream was Daisy Lite and the wrap was a flax, oat bran, and whole wheat wrap made by Joseph's.   Very heart healthy indeed.  The biggest problem I have with wraps is eating them.  Always make a mess.  But that's what they made forks for right.  Does that look tasty or what? Washed it down with a big glass of iced tea. I'll admit..I wanted a Pepsi.  I'm trying to give up pop (soda). Let's just say...I am having a much easier time giving up the meat.  I've decided not to push as hard on the pop. One monkey at a time.  ;-)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

New Beginnings Part 2

Hello friends. Sorry I didn't get the chance to update the past few days. Some very exhausting, but good, things going on here.  I did manage to survive this round of layoffs. As nice as that is, I still feel a lot of sorrow and anxiety for those who did not. Many of whom were very good friends. I wish them well in their new endeavors, and pray for them, that God Blesses them in their new beginnings.  I missed a few days of work last week due to my little red dye incident, but thankfully I could work it out so that vacation covered most of it.  With things being  as unstable as they are, I decided it was in my best interest to get my butt into work and make up as much of that missed time as I could. I did manage to make up the entire 8 hours over the course of  Friday and Saturday. Whew.  Working 6 hours yesterday sure made for a long day though. Why? Well, as you have started to realize, 2010 seems to have a running theme of new beginnings. While some may be set on that path by events not of their making, others choose to set foot on it. Yesterday, after what seems a lifetime together, my brother and his significant other finally got married.  FINALLY! I meant to say. They have been together for about 10 years now.  My brother has a soon to be 18 year old daughter from a previous, and the two of them have a very soon to be 6 year old together. AND...they are expecting a new baby this summer.  Lots of new beginnings in their family this year. The older one will all to soon be embarking on a path to college making her own new beginning. A new life to look forward to means that the little one now will soon be the big sister in the house. A new role she is looking forward to because she is so in awe of her own big sister.
The wedding was small. Immediate family only and each of them invited 2 of their closest friends and their families.  There were about 30 people in all. It was very relaxed and informal and afterwards we all went out to dinner at a nice little Italian Restaurant.   A nice restaurant with very tasty food. ITALIAN FOOD.  I will not lie. It was all very tempting. Very very tempting. I did manage to stick with meat free choices and the waitress was very nice and patient with me. She helped me make some excellent meat free choices and I appreciated it very much.  I know it will not always be that easy.  I went with a small dish of  cheese ravioli and small dish of mostociolli.  It was served with a wonderful Italian Salad that the waitress had the pepperoni removed from and a side of garlic and pizza bread.  Incredible culinary experience.

And,,,yes....I did have a piece of the cake.  ;)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Snow Day

We're getting quite a show from Mother Nature here today.  Snow is expected to fall all day today and on through til tomorrow morning. After which, a blast of frigid arctic air will move in for about a week.  And to add to all the gloom and doom...I find out that there is a massive round of layoffs at work.  I won't know until tomorrow if I still have a job or not.  I prayed about it and left it to the Lord. He knows best. I love my job. At times some of my co-workers can be a trial in patience but overall I love my job.  If the worst happens, I know I will find another job that I love.  God works in mysterious ways and I know He will guide me where I need to be.   One only need look around to see that He is definitely in charge.  He likes to remind me that even though I do not like snow....there is beauty in everything.  I hope you'll agree.


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Perfectly Delicious

Hello there. Feeling a bit better today. Spent most of the day nibbling on oyster crackers and sipping ginger ale. Didn't want to rush back into solid foods. You know, just in case. Everything seems to have run its course though. I decided to keep to a easy to digest meal tonight and so glad that I did.  I believe I've mentioned that it has been bone chilling cold here lately. I have mentioned that, haven't I? Well what better to take the chill away than a nice hot bowl of soup. Yes I know I said chili the other night but let's pretend I didn't. ;-)
Today I brought out the crock pot and made some Tastefully Simple Perfectly Potato Cheddar Soup.   Amazing.  And before I go much further, I think I should clarify that I do not sell Tastefully Simple Products, nor get paid for the promotion of its products in any way. I just happen to be a huge fan. I am not a cook. I think I have mentioned that also. So, anything that is tasty and simple to make gets approval from me. I especially love anything I can cook in the crock pot. I have a short attention span and slow cookers are nothing short of a Godsend for me.  Perfect goodness and all I did was add water. And a little leftover broccoli. Topped it with a dollop of Daisy (Light). Look at that. Does that look delicious or what?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Agony of Red Dye #40

There is nothing to blog about today.  I have not eaten and I dare not eat.  I was up all night with ..."tummy troubles".  I will  spare you the details but lets just was a very unpleasant reminder to me to read food labels much closer.  I don't usually drink or eat anything that could contain red dyes. No Kool-Aid, no Crystal Lite, no red jello or popsicles.  And yet...I was side tracked by something I would have never guessed would have contained red dyes. Ocean Spray Crangrape.  Lesson learned. Just because it isn't red, does not mean it does not contain red dyes. I guess I was fooled by the commercials and advertisements that claim it to be natural. If it's natural then why add the dye?  Appearances. People want their food to look pretty and pay no heed to the chemicals that are added to achieve that effect.  While I was researching going meatless, I ran into a lot of articles by Michael Pollen.  Basically, to KNOW YOUR FOOD. Know where it comes from and how it was grown.  Sounds good in theory but how is the average lay person to know where those carrots in the freezer section at the grocer were grown and what chemicals might have been applied.  It's inconceivable that everyone on the planet can grow their own food. Truthfully that would be the only way to know for sure what was in your food.   So then what is the solution for city girl apartment dwellers like me? A few come to mind.

1) Farmers Markets.---The city I live in and assuredly many cities across this country, have several farmers markets. This is a good way to get not only the freshest fruits and vegetables at a substantially lower cost, it's also a chance to speak with the farmers and find out what methods they use. Some use  pesticides, some use organic methods of pest removal and some use none at all.  For those who might be interested in starting a garden themselves the local farmers market is a great place to get information.

2) Farm Co-Ops----Buy directly from the farmer for a set price. Most co-ops, you pay a fee up front and weekly or bi-weekly you have fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs delivered to you. The downside to this is that you are at the mercy of what is being grown. You get it whether you want it or not.  If you aren't to picky and like most fruits and vegetables, this option is the best value for your money.  A lot of co-ops also offer fresh eggs and even flowers.

I hope to utilize both options myself this summer. I even have plans to visit my cousin and learn some good old fashioned canning to preserve the bounty. I don't foresee I will ever go to a diet of nothing but home grown goodies but certainly every little bit of natural goods I can eat will help.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Monday Blah's

I'm about to go make dinner. I really need to use some leftovers up. I think tonight though...I am going to stir up a can of Campbell's tomato soup and have it with some focaccia bread leftover from yesterdays lunch. Might even get creative and stir in some cheese.  Yes...I have the Monday Blah's, made even worse by an incredibly long and delightful weekend.  It was very hard to get back up for work this morning.  It was much harder upon the realization that I don't have a paid holiday again until May.  Add to that, the fact that it's bone chilling cold here in the northern most part of Illinois. Gloomy indeed. I brought some of last night's leftovers for lunch and co-workers were fairly impressed.  It's not often I get that. Then meals before were standard midwest meat and potatoes.  So 4 days into this, I am not having any cravings for meat. I think mostly because I am focusing so much on finding and cooking meat free. Heaven help me if that ever stops.
One of my worries, aside from the standard protein issues most starting vegetarians have, is B vitamins.  Vitamin B12 is found mainly in animal products. I still drink milk and will eat eggs occasionally but I am afraid that I do not consume enough of either to get a fair or healthy amount of B12 in my diet. I bought something called Nutritional Yeast.  It's in a jar much like Parmesan Cheese and you sprinkle it on your food.  I'm going to try and add that once in awhile to my meals. Hopefully that will ward off the sluggish feeling some people get when they go meat free.
Since it is Monday, I would like to encourage all my friends reading to join the Meat Free Monday movement.  One night a week, give up the meat. Stella McCartney, daughter of Paul, founded this movement, and even if you don't agree with the environmental statistics, give it a try for the health benefits.
 You can learn more here.
Hope everyone has a great week and stay warm.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

I'm Strong To The Finish

I am afraid that I enjoyed dinner a little to much tonight.  My tummy is quite full and happy as I type this.   Tonight I did what I usually do, take a recipe that sounds delicious and then personalize it.  I love  Espinacas con Garbanzos--Spinach and Garbanzo beans.  But after having chili for dinner last night, decided to Italianize tonight's dinner.  I took the basic recipe for Spinach and Garbanzo Beans and left out the Cumin, I then added some pesto in it's place (LOVE PESTO) and mixed in some Roasted Garlic and Olive Oil Couscous.  By adding the couscous....I made this meal into a complete protein.

Espinacas con Garbanzos

1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 cloves Garlic minced (I buy the jars of minced and use 1 tsp)
1/2 onion diced
1 (10 oz) box frozen chopped spinach (thawed and drained)
1 (12oz) can of garbanzo beans drained
1/2 teaspoon Cumin

Heat olive oil and saute onions and garlic.  Add spinach, beans and Cumin and cook til heated.

It's a pretty easy, quick, not to mention cheap recipe. You could serve it over rice, or noodles, or even couscous as I did.   For those wanting to make it Italianized, just substitute to taste your favorite pesto recipe.
I used the Tastefully Simple Pesto Mix for this dinner but I do buy the jarred pesto mix on occasion.  I used the Near East brand of couscous. I made the whole box but added only half.

I have not been blogging about my breakfast or lunch meals because I find those meals very easy to go
meat free. I usually have oatmeal or a Nutrigrain frozen waffle for breakfast, and lunch is usually leftovers from
the night before.  Do you think I need to include these into the blog also?

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Cold Outside--Chili Tonight

It is freezing here in Northern Illinois.  Double digit negatives kind of freezing. The kind of weather that makes you thankful for not having any place to be but hanging out on the sofa and watching a movie or reading a good book. Am I right? And there is nothing like a little hint of Jack Frost's presence to put me in a mood for a steaming hot bowl of chili.  The wonderful thing about chili--there really is no right or wrong way to make it.  Beans or not. Meat or not. (but in this case...most definitely not on the meat.) I like my chili to be tongue tingling spicy.  So this recipe may not be especially appealing to those of you with a taste that leans more toward mild.

Spicy 3 Bean Chili

1/4 cup dried light kidney beans
1/2 cup small red beans
1/2 cup black beans
2 cans diced tomatoes with green chillies
2 cans chili flavored diced tomatoes
1/4 cup Tastefully Simple Simply Salsa
1 tsp ground Cumin

Soak beans overnight or do the quick soak method listed on the back of the bag of beans.  I do both because it never seems like either one is sufficient. When the beans are soft, drain and return to pot. Add the rest of the ingredients and heat until bubbly.

It's a very simple meal to make. I discovered a few months back that I could eliminate the need for chopping peppers by using the Tastefully Simple Simply Salsa mix. Most of  the products from the Tastefully Simple line are all natural. No MSG just simply dried spices,onions, garlic, peppers, etc.   If you like just a little bite in your chili...I would recommend cutting out the tomatoes with the chilies in them as they seem to be what adds the most heat to this recipe.

Do you make the most awesome chili ever? Let me know. Leave me a message and if it's in line with my year of veggie eating...I'll give it a try and blog about it!

Friday, January 1, 2010

And herein lies the challenge.

By no recognizable definition of the word am I a cook. There are many wonderful cooks in my family. Women who can throw together fabulous meals without so much as a hint of a recipe. I got the short end of the spatula when it came to the chef genes.  For my first night of meat free living, I chose a stand by comfort, macaroni and cheese. Or more precisely  Bombproof Baked Macaroni Casserole.  A friend gave me the recipe. It is from the book The Clueless Vegetarian by Evelynn Raab.  Since I rarely follow a recipe to the letter, and since I am not sure about violating copyright laws, I'll post the recipe as I made it.  There was a fairly major good on my part. I tend to want to take the easy way. Instead of making my own bread crumbs, I bought them. Probably not an issue normally but I bought the very fine ones....lets just say...what a mess. =)
I am however very adept at fixing my little errors, be they cuisine or other.  So while what you see may look good, it is most likely not how it would look were you to follow the recipe from the book. 

Bombproof Macaroni Casserole

1 small onion chopped
1 1/2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup skim milk
1 28oz can diced tomatoes
1 1/2 cups bread crums
2 tbsp butter

Preheat oven to 350. Dump all the ingredients except the breadcrumbs and butter into a casserole dish.  Cover and bake for 1 hour.   Melt butter and stir in bread crumbs. Stir for 8-10 minutes until bread crumbs are lightly toasted.  Remove cover from dish. Sprinkle bread crumbs on top of casserole back in oven to brown bread crumbs. 

*because I used the wrong breadcrumbs, they would not toast or brown correctly. I ended up melting more cheese over the top of the casserole.  It turned out yummy despite my lack of culinary skills.

New Beginnings

Well here it is. January 1st. I have been preparing for this day for months now. In a desperate attempt to shake myself from the fat laden foods of comfort, ease and routine, I decided to go one year meat free. For health reasons, I know I needed to reduce the amounts of harmful, saturated fats in my diet. As most of you know, that is much easier in theory than in practice.  Most of us were raised with those, meat and potato dinners, those bacon and egg (or sausage) breakfasts. So in order to force myself to think outside of the box when it came to my food choices, I knew that I would have to A) make it challenging and B) make it known.  I would need to do something so that a lot of people would know and there was no way I could back down and  eat a cheeseburger simply because it was more convenient. I already half-heartedly maintained a blog so I came up with the idea to blog my meat free year. The more followers, the more people who knew, the more I would be motivated and held accountable for my actions.  I'm not saying I will be 100% successful. I sure hope to be though. If at anytime during the year I stray, I WILL most certainly post it here and I hope that there will be many voices to push and guide me back onto my path. I do intend to keep milk and eggs in my diet. I don't feel as if I am educated or ready enough to cut out the essential vitamins (b12) that they offer.  Through this blog, I will share the journey. I'll post photos, recipes, tips that I find along the way.  Thanks for coming along with me on this wild new ride.