Swim in a Vat

When I worked in an office, the ladies I worked with were intelligent, quick-witted and hilarious. Working with the public affords a level of comraderie difficult to come by in other workplaces. Not only did we commiserate about difficult customers or share knowing glances on crazy busy Friday afternoons, we also belly laughed over ridiculous inside jokes.

One of these inside jokes revolved around our mutual love of specific foods and snacks. If something was stop-you-in-your-tracks delicious, we’d say, “Oh my gosh, this is so good I could swim in a vat of this and eat my way out!” Think of the scene in Patch Adams where they honor the patient’s wish to swim in a pool of noodles.

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Making a new recipe tonight for a Mexican Quinoa Bowl, the dressing caught my eye. Avocados, tomatillos, garlic, cilantro…glancing through the ingredient list I realized I had most items already on hand. After the last few meh and outright failure dinners, I was looking for something to wow the taste buds.

Little did I know, I would soon be uttering that familiar phrase…

Looks kind of like baby-poo green, but oh, my. SO DANG Good!

  • 3 small ripe avocados
  • 3 tomatillos, quartered
  • 12 sprigs cilantro
  • 1/4 onion roughly chopped
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 serrano chile pepper
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Approx 1/2 cup of water, more or less as needed to blend

Pop it all in the blender and voila! Instant yummy! The recipe called for refrigeration to let the flavors meld, and then to assemble the remaining parts of the bowl. I dipped tortilla chips in to taste test and it was all I could do to not crawl in my blender and lick it clean! Tomatillos! Where have you been all of my life?!

The rest of the bowl came together very quickly; tri color quinoa, diced cherry tomatoes, diced cucumbers, black beans, and corn. Top it all off with the avocado salsa and enjoy! Next time I may place this on a bed of mixed greens and add some sautéed peppers and onions.

After making disgusting bean burgers and so-so stirfrys, I was so excited to tell Eric that I made something vat-worthy!

Crap Week

Grit is something we military spouses have in spades, whether we want it or not.

Facing another deployment, I’m finding that they never get easier. It’s so easy to talk about deployments in abstract terms when living shore duty life. We make plans and assure ourselves that the kids will be fine, we’ll get through it, no biggie. We’ve done it before.  Then promptly push the thought immediately out of our minds because we know the time will come and it’s just too damn hard to think about, so we put the thought in the “later” box.

Later is now and the box is being ripped open.

The platitudes of “you just get stronger” sound hollow and tinny. I’ve written about the positives of deployment and the first time experience with kids, but I am smack dab in the middle of crap week (the week right before they leave where life just sucks because you know the painful “fair winds” and “see you soons” are merely days away and you keep trying not to think about it, but you can’t and did I mention it sucks?) and I don’t feel very positive.

So I’m riding the crap wave. It looks like this:

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I will get back to the pulling up my big girl britches, but right now they are scratchy and chafing.

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In an effort to feel the feels and just get through it, (as opposed to stuffing feelings and numbing out, neither of which are helpful in the long term) I made a sappy playlist. Music is therapy in many ways and why not just wallow in the awfulness for just a bit? Then I get sick of my sad self and move on with said big girl britches firmly in place. Here’s what I got:

  • Tonight I Wanna Cry – Keith Urban
  • Come Home Soon – SheDaisy
  • I Have Nothing – Whitney Houston
  • Never Tear Us Apart – INXS
  • Stay – Sugarland
  • Stay With Me – Sam Smith
  • Hurts – Emile Sande
  • Everybody Hurts – REM
  • Hearts a Mess – Goyte
  • Ship to Wreck – Florence + the Machine
  • I Can’t Stop Thinking About You – Sting
  • Nothing Compares 2 U – Sinead O’Connor
  • As Long As You Love Me – Justin Bieber
  • All I Want to Do – Sugarland
  • Can I Be With You – Todd Agnew
  • I Try – Macy Gray
  • A Little More – Machine Gun Kelly
  • Lose Yourself – Eminem
  • Shatter Me – Lindsey Stirling
  • Praying – Ke$ha
  • Take U There – Skrillex & Diplo
  • Shake it Out – Florence + the Machine
  • Rise Up – Imagine Dragons
  • Rise – Eddie Vedder
  • Faith – George Michael
  • You are the Best Thing – Ray LaMontagne
  • Circles – I see MONSTAS
  • Bird Set Free – Sia
  • Alive – Sia
  • Help Me Run Away – St. Lucia
  • Whatever It Takes – Imagine Dragons
  • (I like it When You) Smile – Harry Connick, Jr.
  • It’s a Great Day to Be Alive – Travis Tritt
  • Lay Down and Dance – Garth Brooks
  • Unstoppable – The Score

Yeah, there are some gems and guilty pleasures in there. What songs would you add to a sad therapy playlist? What helps you get through deployments and the crappy transitions weeks just before departure?

Far from Perfect. Not Even Good. 

….Tra-la-la-la-la….skipping happily through summer, making delicious vegetarian meals for my family to savor as we gather around the table for dinner every evening…after playing merrily through our warm South Texas days….

Yeah. Keep dreaming. We are also smack dab in the middle of Crap Week. What’s Crap Week, you ask? Oh, let me explain. Crap Week is defined as anywhere from 1-3 weeks for a military family right before the service person departs. We are down to the last few days. It’s a flurry of last minute preparations, last one-on-one dates with the kids, family adventures and trying to inhale as much of him as we can. Meanwhile, he’s reminding me of house duties like replacing the filters, where the water shut off valve is, and mentioning oil change schedules, blah, blah, blah, I-can’t-hear-you-because-I’m-in-denial, blah, blah, blah. In the midst of this, I decide that going meatless is genius. I’ll wait while you cease snort laughing.

Here’s what actually happened last night:

As per usual, the kids decided to lose their minds right around 3:30-4pm. Convenient considering that that is when I’m deciding on and prepping for dinner, hubby coming home, etc. (And by “etc.”, I mean finishing up a video game that I was playing with my son, but I got engrossed in, far after he’d lost interest and moved on to antagonizing his sister, who is simply trying to watch Moana for the 873rd time. At full volume.) I reluctantly shut off the game, erasing the evidence that I’d crushed my high score.

I had planned to make yummy burgers, since I’m sure poor hubby has been craving them as we adventure into meatless territory. Finding a mere 1,876 recipes for black bean vegan burgers online, I picked one based on ingredients I had on hand. Toasting the buns we had leftover from another meatless miss, I pull them out of the oven to notice tiny little green spots.

Mold. I have moldy buns. My delicious made-with-only-4-ingredients-whole-wheat buns have grown green hair patches. Luckily I have 4 more buns of the preservative-laden “sit on the shelf and not mold for 6 months” variety. I quickly pop them under the broiler to toast while I whip up my “burgers”.

Taking them out of the oven, I eye them dubiously. I look at Eric, who is also surveying the mess. I think I know in my heart of hearts how this is going to end, as does he. He puts on a brave face for me, since I’ve already tossed the first round of moldy buns – he feels bad that this will likely all end up in the trash.

Parchement paper was *supposed* to ensure crisp edges. The internet lied to me.I feel so betrayed.

I even made this yummy plate of veggie toppings for what were going to be scrumptious burgers! Sadly, Hannah mistook the purple onion for some purple cabbage and couldn’t figure out why her mouth was burning! “Why would the cabbage be so spicy, Mom?”

Note to self, don’t eat raw onions. You know, unless you like them.
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My sad, disgusting meatless bean burger.

Eric took a bite and smiled at me, chewing slowly. I looked at him and asked, “How bad is it?!”

“Just try a bite,” he said, struggling to swallow.

It should be noted that when someone smells something awful, what is the first thing they do? YES! They offer it to someone else to smell the awfulness. I believe the same could be said of taste. “This is so gross! Here, you try it!”

I bit into it.

I immediately stood up, grabbed my plate, spit my bite out, dashed over to the kitchen and dumped it all into the trash. Hannah refused to try it after our reactions, and I didn’t blame her one bit. We were all laughing at the ridiculousness.

He made a box of mac and cheese for him and Hannah. Jacob (who’d already eaten his usual dinner and was unaffected by all of this nonsense) accompanied me to Freebirds where I had a decent dinner that I didn’t have to prepare.

I’ll call it far from perfect, but funny for sure!

 

Culinary Escapades

This week we tried a vegan pulled “pork” sandwich that was featured on Tasty Vegetarian’s facebook page. WOW. The flavors did not disappoint, however the jackfruit, was …messy. (To put it mildly.)

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This thing was a beast!

Here’s the video, if you are interested:

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So weird, but fun! Side note: super glue is likely manufactured from jackfruit. This is the stickiest substance on the planet! Sheesh! I had it everywhere and had to wash my hands with a scrub brush multiple times to get it off!
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The house smelled AH. MAZING at this point, regardless of how this pile of fruit looks.

It was very tasty, but sadly, we were missing an ingredient so a trip to the store resulted in a longer cooking time. Ours came out mushy. We will be trying again, however – but this time with canned jackfruit. Once was enough of an experience for this cook!

Later I whipped up this little experiment of my own. I love tacos. LOVE them. For these, I used cauliflower for the crumbly “meat”, (sounds weird, but seriously, cauliflower is amazing in its ability to take on different flavors.) With the cauliflower seasoned and sautéed with homemade taco seasonings, I topped the tacos with some brown rice and black beans that I had left over, some fresh salsa and sliced avocado. They were divine!

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Even hubby said they were good, and he’s not a fan of tacos!

I picked up a cookbook and tried this slaw made with veganaise, a mayonnaise substitute. It was not my favorite. At all.

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May look pretty, but the dressing was gross! Veganaise gets a thumbs down from this girl.

I had made some red lentil chili the other day and it made a bazillion servings. (Recipe in the link.) It was delicious, but a bit spicy even for me – and I dig heat! I had a numb mouth and a ready glass of ice water while eating! Using the leftovers, I topped it on some mixed salad greens and added avocado and tomato to dial down the heat just a notch. Turned out pretty good!

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Gotta get those greens in!

One thing I miss with our veggie tray is ranch. Hummus is okay, and it’s growing on me – but sometimes I just prefer ranch dressing. Attempting to make a completely vegan/plant-based version and perhaps dial up the nutrition factor, I found a recipe for one here. Made with tofu and seasonings, I thought it might work well….

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…I don’t know if it was because I used more potent red onions, or the silken tofu instead of regular, but I just did not like this. Thumbs down. It didn’t taste like ranch.

I’m still experimenting with different ranch versions and am excited to find one I like! Going to try one that uses almond milk this week! Fingers crossed because I need ranch for these beautiful veggie trays!

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This $2 divided tray has been key in getting my kiddos to snack on veggies this summer. Best two bucks ever spent! I just keep it filled with whatever veggies I have on hand and set it out. It gets eaten!

And finally, made this quick lo mein last night. Super easy and came together in a flash. I added in my tofu crumbles that I like. They have the texture of mushrooms and even my hardcore carnivore hubby likes it!

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Lo mein! YUM!

I have quite a few recipes printed up for next week. I tend to gravitate toward stir fries and tacos, so we will be venturing out a bit and trying something different!

If you have a favorite plant-based recipe – share in the comments!

Food. ALL. THE. FOOD.

I love cooking and I love food. One thing that this venture into meatless eating has provided is the opportunity and motivation to find new yummy dishes! This last week did not disappoint! (Just try not to lick your screen!)

My version of a Freebirds salad bowl. LOVE.

 

Basic stir fry with Tofu. This one was sort of so-so. Okay, but not really anything to write home about.

 

A great place to eat veggie is Freebirds. They aren’t everywhere, but if you are lucky enough to live near one – oh man they are tasty, fresh and super quick when you are on the go!
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This one happens to be a “side” dish. Basic with some rosemary and roasted in the oven, but delicious!
This soup is my current obsession – and it’s really very simple. It’s different every time I make it because I never follow a recipe, and use what I have on hand. I could live on soup forever!
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Not really much to look at but it was tasty! Brown rice, black beans, diced tomatoes and seasonings made this a yummy quick lunch!

 

These Tacos were so flavorful. The “meat” was cauliflower crumbled and sautéed with cumin, chili powder, garlic powder and a few diced onions. Topped with brown rice and black beans, sliced avocado and a few tomatoes.
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Heat from the red lentil chili was high, but could easily be modified!

I have finally given up on turmeric. I have tried (about 10 times) to like it. I’m not a fan of curry, either.  It’s not something I think I’m going to continue to force myself to keep trying to like. No matter how yellow it makes the tofu, its simply not the same as scrambled eggs. I do like both saffron and turmeric in tea, however! So tea it is!

With all of these food pics, it may seem like I spend countless hours slaving in the kitchen. Not so! I do love to cook and experiment, so that definitely helps – but I’m not standing in the kitchen all day long. (Who would want to stand over a hot stove when it’s over 100 degrees outside right now in South Texas!? Blegh!) Other than figuring out a few new recipes and trying some new things, it doesn’t seem to take that much more time in the kitchen. (More often than not while eating meat I would forget to defrost something and it would take twice as long anyway!)

These last weeks have been one food adventure after another! One thing that has surprised me is how good everything tastes – and I’m not just bragging on my own cooking skills. I feel like my taste buds have been awakened, as corny as that sounds. Everything just seems to have way more flavor. (Side note: with this much fiber, you can imagine that bathroom habits have also changed. WOW! TMI, yes, but a fact of life.) More importantly, through this process – the past two weeks have been shocking in the increase in the level of energy I have. I feel more like myself than I have in a long time. (Early last week, even my hubby noticed my increased energy!) I was astonished at just how yucky I was feeling. As good as I feel now, I really don’t see how I could go back to eating any other way.

What is your favorite meatless meal?

Changes

Why all the changes?

Chopped all the hair, stopped working at the gym, vegetarianism, no alcohol….

Um…wait, what?!

That’s right. I stopped drinking. Permanently.

But having a cocktail or two is fun! Drinking responsibly is no big deal. Having a glass of wine with dinner doesn’t make you an alcoholic. There’s no harm in having a drink or two with friends! Ugh. It’s summer. The kids are home – drinking is a survival mechanism.  It’s been a long day, I DESERVE a drink, damn it. Nothing tastes so good as a cold beer after mowing the lawn. There’s just something about the smell of grass and the taste of a good, cold ale. 

I don’t know if I am an alcoholic. I know that it’s really easy for me after one drink to have five. Or ten. I guess in my mind, when I think of an alcoholic, I think of a stumbling drunk who has to go to the bar everyday. In my early 20s I was a binge drinker. Get trashed, wake up with cotton mouth and a belly full of shame. I ended up in the hospital once, broken blood vessels in my eyes from having vomited so hard it felt like I had hacked up my toenails. But that’s just part of being a twenty something, right? I never had a problem not drinking for long stretches. It has never been a compulsory thing in that way. As an introverted person, alcohol is convenient for putting on the mask of “shiny, happy, and fake-extroverted”. But, does that make me an alcoholic? A cursory Google search offers many definitions and parameters under that term.

Alcohol is a depressant. So if you are already someone who battles with depression? Yeah, alcohol is really not your friend. If you have an addictive/impulsive personality AND deal with depression? It’s definitely not a winning combo long-term. I used alcohol as a tool to deal with depression, to numb out, and to deal with uncomfortable situations. What I have really come to realize is that it’s not serving me. It doesn’t make me healthier. It adds to the grocery bill. I don’t feel good about myself when I drink. So why continue to partake?

I downloaded an app called NOMO. As in no more. It has encouragement, a counter clock tracking days of sobriety and chips you earn at milestones. Strongly rooted in AA, I have found it very helpful.

I still don’t know if I’m an alcoholic. I know that it is not a good thing for me, or for my goals. Evolution is necessary if what I’m doing is no longer productive.

The haircuts are optional.

Food Adventuring

A question I got was “So, what are you going to actually EAT if you go vegetarian?”

All of the things. You know, except for things with a face. In cattle country (aka Texas), it seems like going vegetarian is just crazy. Seriously, though – there are SO many whole food, plant-based items to eat – that are truly delicious.

My breakfast this morning was a yummy chocolate banana smoothie!
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Dear daughter had a banana, pineapple, strawberry, and mango smoothie with flaxseed and soymilk. It’s the first smoothie that she’s actually finished all gone! (She’s a soy milk convert!)

I was turned on to Dr. Greger from his appearance in the documentary films Forks over Knives and What the Health. (Check them out if you haven’t!) He also has a fabulous app for plant based diets to ensure you hit all your markers for a complete veggie diet. Super helpful!

A little light reading while dear daughter was in gymnastics. Uplifting title, no?!

I will say I’m about halfway through the book and enthralled. There is SO much info about food that I thought I knew. Love learning new (and healthy) information! The book is broken down into chapters by category: How not to die from Heart Disease, How not to Die from Diabetes, etc. Then they go into why each of the categories of food are recommended, then the how to. I think that’s the key for most of us, myself included. It’s great to read all this info, but then what do you do with that knowledge? Practical application is key!

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Part of dinner last night! Cucumber, tomato, avocado salad, garlic toast (no butter), Spanish rice. We also had chickpea barbecue sandwiches. They aren’t pictured because 1. they were ugly, and 2. no one liked them.

I think that’s the thing that I love about food and cooking: there’s always another meal to try again. There’s so many flavors to experiment with and food combinations with which to fall in love. Who cares if you don’t like one particular dish? It’s okay!

The one thing that I do find challenging is to feel like the meal is “complete”. The food pyramid/my plate influence runs deep. It’s definitely a shift to looking at veggies as the main meal instead of a side dish.

Are you a vegetarian? Flexitarian? Vegan? What do you love about veggies? Do you feel better by eating plant-based foods?