Sunday, February 28, 2010

Buscuits: Fluffy, Whole Grain, Vegan Goodness!

My husband, the expert biscuit maker, adjusted his famous recipe to make it vegan. A kind man who cooks - what more could you ask for? The biscuits were quite delicious. Very fluffy and soft, which can be difficult to achieve when using whole wheat flour. The trick is to use pastry flour. It's more delicate than regular whole grain flour, and it helps you get around that dense, grainy quality that can be unappetizing in certain foods. The biscuits did look a little brown (we called them poo biscuits), but our little family of four happily ate them all!

2 cups of whole wheat pastry flour
1 tbsp of baking powder
1/4 tsp of salt
1 tbsp of sugar
1/2 tsp of cream of tarter
2/3 cup of rice or soy milk (or more if the dough looks dry)
1/2 cup of olive oil

Mix the dry ingredients first, then create a well for the wet ingredients. Mix and kneed. Too much kneading can keep the biscuits from being fluffy. Roll the dough, cut with a glass or a biscuit cutter, and bake in a 450 degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes. Biscuits that are too small or cooked too long will be dry.
Buscuits: Fluffy, Whole Grain, Vegan Goodness!SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

My Vegan Experiment - Day 7

Yesterday was the last day of My Vegan Experiment. I cut eggs and dairy out of my diet for one week to see if I could hack it, and the verdict is in.... I can! And I intend to continue doing so!

It's still too early to tell if this will be a permanent lifestyle change. However, I'm ready to really dig in, learn, and give it a fair try. I'm so grateful that the 21-Day Vegan Kickstart begins tomorrow (Monday, March 1).

It wasn't nearly as much of a struggle as I thought it would be. I actually learned some profound life lessons this week, which I will share in another blog post.

On Friday I was struggling with low energy and headaches. However, yesterday I started to feel much better. Today I feel fantastic! One major difference is that I've been drinking more water. I also think I may have been experiencing a sort of "detox". A reader told me that the symptoms I was experiencing are common during the transition period, but they should subside within a short time.

Anyway, here is the last food log of my week-long experiment. Aww... I will miss doing this every day!
  • coffee with rice milk
  • black bean burritto from Chipotle with white rice (not ideal!), green peppers, onions, guacamole, lettuce and tomatoes
  • dehydrated vegetable chips from the Greenwise section at Publix - green beans, carrots, beets, taro, turnips (they were such a nice snack, and my children loved them too)
  • roasted soy nuts with sea salt (also from the Greenwise section at Publix)
  • organic Tazo Chai tea with rice milk
  • organic apple with 2 tbsp of peanut butter
  • Bolthouse Farms Vedge Juice (tastes like V8, but with better ingredients)
  • Alexia Spicy Sweet Potato Fries (they were okay, but not great)
  • a couple pieces of pop corn - it may have had butter, but I'm not sure. I ate it without even realizing it!
Thank you so much for your comments and well wishes. It is SUCH an encouragement to me and everyone else who is reading it! ☺☺☺
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Friday, February 26, 2010

My Vegan Experiment - Day 6

I'll be honest here. It's day 6 of My Vegan Experiment and I'm not exactly feeling great. Yes, I have dropped a little weight. My congestion has definitely improved. However, my energy is low, my head hurts, and I have a wicked cold sore. There may be some other explanations for these symptoms, but I'm thinking that I may not be getting all the nutrients I need.

Believe it or not, my current state hasn't detracted me from a vegan diet in the least. I actually feel more sure than I ever did that I want to change my diet. I just realized that I still have a lot to learn about the best way to go about it.

How serendipitous that the 21-Day Vegan Kickstart Program would be starting on March 1, just as I am ready to really start learning!

Here's what I ate today. I still did not drink enough water, which could be one of the reasons I feel the way I do. It was one of those days where I couldn't even take the time to get myself a drink. I also wonder if I'm eating enough. I'm not hungry exactly, but I just feel kind of weak and sluggish. Am I just going through some kind of withdrawal period?

I really need to do a nutritional analysis of what I ate.... but I'm too tired right now!!
  • coffee with rice milk
  • my perfect breakfast - this time with fresh raspberries instead of cranberries
  • orange juice
  • organic raw cashews
  • fresh strawberries
  • earl grey tea with rice milk
  • stir fry vegetables with whole grain noodles: organic bok choy, organic spinach, organic cabbage, mushrooms, red peppers, olive oil and soy sauce
  • edamame (soy beans) with olive oil and sea salt
  • cereal and rice milk
My Vegan Experiment - Day 6SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Want to Kickstart into a New Diet this Monday?

A reader told me about this 21 Day Kickstart program that starts on Monday, March 1. Basically, you enter your email address and receive daily emails that walk you through a three-week introduction to a vegan diet. It's FREE, of course.

This couldn't have come along at a better time for me. I am on day 6 of My Vegan Experiment. I'm definitely psyched about making the change, but I'm realizing that I still have a lot to learn about how to properly implement this diet. I'm hoping this kickstart program will help me hone in on the information I need to learn as well as provide the daily encouragement that helps keep me going.

This program is being offered by the non-profit organization, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), I don't know much about PCRM, so I'm a little skeptical about the credibility of their research related to nutrition. However, I'm keeping a an open mind and taking all the information with a grain of salt, as always.

If nothing else, I hope to get some new vegan recipes. I'd love the company if anyone wants to do the program with me.

Thanks to the reader who told me about this! She did the kickstart in January to get some healthy recipes for her family. She is thinking of becoming a vegetarian. Good luck on your journey to better health!
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Free Busch Gardens Pass for Preschoolers

Busch Gardens is giving away FREE passes to children under 5 to commemorate the opening of their new children's area. The pass is for Florida residents only and is good through December 31, 2010. The parents will have to pay for admission, of course (right now you can purchase an annual pass for $69). Keep in mind that children under 3 always get in for free.

Click HERE for more details.
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Thursday, February 25, 2010

My Vegan Experiment - Day 5

I almost ate a Samoa today! I was out of my predictable home environment, and I got blindsided with an offer of a Girl Scout cookie. As a former Girl Scout, how could I say no, right? I had it in my hand and was just about to eat it before I remembered that I was in the middle of My Vegan Experiment. Wamp wah. There was a moment of disappointment, but I was mostly embarrassed I had picked up the cookie and then put it back on the plate.

I think I did pretty well today with my food choices. I noticed the less sugar I eat, the less cravings I seem to have. Maybe sugar is really more of an issue for me than eggs and dairy. I also realized I'm not drinking enough water.
  • coffee with rice milk
  • my perfect breakfast - this time with fresh raspberries instead of cranberries
  • whole grain wrap with hummus, lettuce, spinach, carrots, radish, and kohlrabi (it can be hard to find an acceptable tortilla wrap, but La Tortilla Factory offers a nice soft wrap with 13 g of fiber, 8 g of protein, and no hydrogenated oil or high-fructose corn syrup)
  • orange juice
  • organic raw cashews
  • fresh strawberries
  • earl grey tea with rice milk
  • quinoa with sauteed spinach, red peppers and mushrooms
By the way, thanks to a suggestion by a reader, I'm going to give the 21-Day Vegan Kickstart a try. It starts on Monday, March 1. If you think you might be interested in trying the vegan thing, check it out!
My Vegan Experiment - Day 5SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

My Vegan Experiment - Day 4

I cheated ever-so-slightly today, the fourth day of My Vegan Experiment. I had just a little honey in some honey-mustard dip I made as part of a raw veggie tray for a family get-together. I didn't feel too bad about it because honey is not a reason why I wanted to try a vegan diet. I plan to do a little research about the honey industry and see what the health and ethical issues are. Does anyone have any input?

Anyway, having to eat in a social situation did present a few challenges, as I expected. My sister-in-law's famous chocolate chip cheesecake was alluring, but I stood firm in my resolve. It wasn't too hard. My mantra right now is this:

I will not reward myself with food. Instead, I will reward myself with a healthy body by only eating food that contributes necessary nutrients.

It's hard to imagine maintaining that kind of standard forever. However, I'm not going to think about forever right now. Just this week.

Here's what I ate today. Pretty good. I could easily stand to loose the carbonated juice. I need more fresh fruit. I also read an article today (click HERE) that got me thinking about cutting coffee. I wish they made yerba matte in k-cups.
  • coffee with rice milk
  • assorted raw vegetables: organic broccoli and cauliflower, red peppers, carrots, and lettuce
  • whole grain wrap with hummus, lettuce, spinach, carrots, radish, and kohlrabi (it can be hard to find an acceptable tortilla wrap, but La Tortilla Factory offers a nice soft wrap with 13 g of fiber, 8 g of protein, and no hydrogenated oil or high-fructose corn syrup)
  • sparking raspberry juice (no added sugar)
  • organic raw cashews
  • dried cranberries sweetened with cane juice
  • an organic orange
  • earl grey tea with rice milk
  • soup made mostly from all the odds and ends in my fridge: white kidney beans, organic whole grain brown rice, organic tomato sauce from a can, a fresh organic tomato, onion, and the green tops from the organic kohlrabi and carrots from my Sweetwater pickup.
  • cereal with rice milk
I haven't noticed any new side effects today. Everything is pretty much status quo. However, tomorrow is another day, so we'll just have to see what happens!
My Vegan Experiment - Day 4SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

My Vegan Experiment - Day 3

It's the third day of My Vegan Experiment, and I'm feeling surprisingly at ease with this lifestyle change so far. However, I think the true test will be when I step out of the daily weekday routine and I'm at a restaurant or special occasion.

I was feeling a lot of cravings today. Interestingly enough, the cravings were not for dairy or eggs, but for desserts. So I decided to have a serving of Talenti strawberry sorbet, which is certified vegan, and doesn't contain any undesirable ingredients (other than 21 g of sugar per serving). Yes, it tasted lovely, but I was not satisfied. In fact, I felt a rush of cravings for a bunch of other things I didn't need. Interesting. Instead of trying to satiate some kind of emotional urge with empty calories (and failing), perhaps I'm better off just eating foods that actually add something worthwhile to my diet. Surely I can find more constructive ways to address those emotions.

I am experiencing continuing improvements related to digestion and congestion. In addition, I may have detected a bit more energy today. It's hard to tell just based on a single day, but it was particularly noticeable because I didn't get around to having a cup of tea until about 4PM. On most days, I'd be sleeping on my feet by that time without my afternoon dose of caffeine. However, today, I felt perfectly alert without it. Nice!

In truth, the biggest benefit I'm noticing from this experiment is that I'm becoming a lot more conscious of what I'm eating. I realized just how much I was eating without even thinking about it. It really helps me to read labels carefully, write down what I'm eating, and be accountable to someone. Thanks for keeping me honest and aware you guys!

Here's what I ate today. Pretty good on the veggies. I need more beans and grains tomorrow.
  • coffee with rice milk
  • whole grain wrap with hummus, lettuce, spinach, carrots, radish, and kohlrabi (it can be hard to find an acceptable tortilla wrap, but La Tortilla Factory offers a nice soft wrap with 13 g of fiber, 8 g of protein, and no hydrogenated oil or high-fructose corn syrup)
  • sparking apple juice (no added sugar)
  • fresh strawberries
  • organic raw cashews
  • half an organic orange
  • Talenti strawberry sorbet (on sale at Publix for $4 through Wednesday), which is certified vegan
  • earl grey tea with rice milk
  • cole slaw with raw sliced almonds
  • banana
  • whole wheat toast and organic hummus
  • orange juice
My Vegan Experiment - Day 3SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Cole Slaw that Fights Cancer

I recently posted about the cancer-fighting properties of raw cruciferous vegetables, like cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage. Click HERE for an interesting article about it.

The article specifically mentions the link between crucifers and bladder cancer. Since we have a loved-one who is battling bladder cancer, I decided to come up with some tasty recipes for him.

I immediately thought of this outstanding cole slaw made by a family friend. I made it last night from an organic head of cabbage we got from our Sweetwater harvest. It was delightful! I like it so much better than the traditional mayonnaise-based cole slaws. The onions really give it a nice kick. Thanks Mrs. S for sharing!

Here's the recipe - enjoy!

1 head of cabbage sliced thin (I used a food processor)
1 small sweet onion
olive oil to generously coat the cabbage and onions
about 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon
salt and pepper

I thought some toasted almond slivers might be a nice addition. I'm going to try that for lunch today.
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Monday, February 22, 2010

My Vegan Experiment - Day 2

The second full day of My Vegan Experiment went swimmingly! I experienced some noticeable improvements with my digestion and congestion. I was pleasantly surprised that I didn't really have any strong desires for anything that was off limits.

There was one moment when I felt like I needed something, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. This is a feeling that would normally cause me to eat something that doesn't serve me well. I quickly reached for my emergency snack - organic raw cashews (from the freezer) and dried cranberries. Oddly enough, putting the cashews in the freezer and mixing them with cranberries somehow makes them taste like an amazing treat to me.

Here's what I ate today. I did better than yesterday, considering I ate more vegetables. However, at some point I need to do a nutritional analysis to see if I'm getting everything I need. I think I'm doing fine on protein. I'm just not sure if I'm hitting all the vitamins and minerals.
I did have one "oh no" moment when I realized I wasn't going to be able to have my usual homemade honey-mustard dressing. I just made it with mustard and olive oil, sans honey. It was just fine. Less sugar is certainly a good thing.
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Could it Be the Perfect Breakfast?

I had the most delicious breakfast the past two mornings. The best part is that it was really healthy. I challenge you to find a way I could make this meal better. Seriously - any suggestions?

I started with Bob's Red Mill Organic High Fiber Cereal, which is packed full of fiber (10 g), protein (8g), iron, and bunch of other stuff. It even has flax meal! See my blog post, Bob's Red Mill High Fiber Cereal $2.58 on Amazon.

Then I added:
  • a fresh cut-up banana
  • walnuts
  • dried cranberries sweetened with cane sugar
    (not high-fructose corn syrup)
  • drizzle of flax oil
That's it! I did not miss the honey because the banana was sweet enough. I did not miss the butter because the flax oil is just as good, and is a great source of Omega 3-fatty acids.

It was so delicious - it tasted like banana bread!

How could I improve this perfect breakfast? Perhaps the flax meal in the cereal and the flax oil on top may have been too much. Also, I could have used unsweetened cranberries. Hmm... what else?
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Sunday, February 21, 2010

My Vegan Experiment - Day 1

Well, I made it through the first day of my vegan experiment. It wasn't too hard, although I had a few moments of strong desire for cookies and ice cream. It was actually a good feeling to have a few extra reasons to resist the urges.

One of the main obstacles I knew I would have to face is finding an acceptable milk substitute for my coffee, tea, and cereal. I have tried all sorts of non-dairy beverages over the years, and was not pleased. However, this time I had a more open mind and stronger resolve. I'm not a big fan of the vanilla flavor varieties, which is what was always presented to me in the past. This time I tried plain rice milk. I really like it! It's not too sweet and it's delicious! It actually tastes like rice, which is kind of strange.

If you are thinking about cutting out dairy, but aren't sure about non-dairy beverages, my advice is to just keep trying until you find something that suits you. There are a lot of varieties out there, such as almond milk, soy milk, and coconut milk.

Here's what I ate the first day. I thought I would miss honey in my tea and hot cereal, but I really didn't. I definitely did not get enough vegetables. Luckily, we picked up our harvest at Sweetwater today, so that will be rectified tomorrow! I don't feel like I ate as much as I usually do, but I'm not hungry. The hearty breakfast and raw cashews in the afternoon really filled me up. I can't say I feel any different. We'll see how tomorrow goes....
  • coffee and rice milk
  • hot high-fiber breakfast cereal - walnuts, bananas, dried cranberries, flax oil
  • hummus & pita chips
  • ice tea
  • earl grey tea and rice milk
  • tabbouleh - couscous, cilantro, tomato, garlic, lemon, olive oil
  • orange juice
  • raw cashews and dried cranberries
  • cereal & rice milk
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My Vegan Experiment - Can I Hack It?

I've been toying with the idea of adopting a vegan diet (no meat, fish, dairy, eggs, or honey) for months. I finally decided to give it a fair try for one week starting today. First of all, I'd like to determine exactly how difficult it would be to make the change. Secondly, I'd like to see if it makes me feel better.

I have been a lacto-ovo vegetarian for about 6 years, meaning I don't eat meat but I do eat eggs and dairy. I actually eat a lot of eggs and dairy - especially cheese, butter, yogurt, and ice cream. Perhaps too much. So, this will be a fairly big change for me. I wonder if I can hack it?

Why go from vegetarian to vegan? Here are some of the things I hope to do by cutting out eggs and dairy:
  • Improve digestion. Approximately 75% of the world's population loses the ability to digest lactose after infancy (click HERE for some interesting statistics about lactose intolerance among different ethnic groups). Perhaps I am part of that percentage of people who are lactose intolerant, and by cutting out dairy I will have better digestion, which could improve my quality of life in lots of ways.
  • Reduce excess mucus. Although it's controversial, some people believe that dairy is mucus-producing. I figure it's worth a try to see if cutting dairy might give me some relief from the uncomfortable symptoms that come from excess mucus, such as sinus headaches and nasal congestion.
  • Lower my cholesterol. My cholesterol lingers right around 200 despite the fact that I haven't eaten meat in 6 years. Perhaps my excessive consumption of dairy products and eggs are the culprit.
  • Make room for healthier choices. When you've cut out meat, dairy, and eggs, what else is left? Fresh vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, and whole grains! Yes, there is plenty of vegan junk food, but I'm hoping that by cutting out some of my main pitfalls (high-fat cheese and ice cream), I will end up making better choices overall to fill the void. I might even loose a few pounds in the process!
  • Reduce exposure to certain chemicals. Dairy products and eggs sometimes contain things such as growth hormones, antibiotics, and coloring agents. Although there are products that claim to be free of these chemicals, they aren't always readily available or affordable.
  • Support more eco-friendly & humane farming practices. Animal farming is much harder on the environment than produce farming. Plus, the humane treatment of the animals is not exactly ideal, even when "cage-free" and "free-range" practices are used. Click HERE for information about what these labels really mean.
I know that my diet will never be perfect. However, I am determined to make little changes each day for better health - not just for me and my family, but for the environment. I am often overwhelmed and confused with all the information and research about nutrition. While it's tempting to give up and just eat whatever, I'm determined to keep trying!

I recognize that we all have to make food choices that are best for us. I am not one to judge or criticize others who don't make the same choices as I do. I just hope, as always, to exchange information with you about my experience with food so that we all might be more healthy, green and frugal. I hope to hear from you about your experiences!
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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Seminole Heights Sunday Morning Market

There is a new farmer's market in the Tampa Bay Area!

Click HERE to read about my visit to the Seminole Heights Farmer's Market on March 14.

The Seminole Heights Sunday Morning Market runs from 9AM to 1PM at Hillsborough High School, 5000 N Central Ave. It will then take place on the second Sunday of every month through May. Future market dates are March 14, April 11, and May 9.

The market is managed by Tiffany Ferrecchia, the same woman who established the Downtown Tampa Market on Fridays.

"I'd like to turn this one into a little bit more of a green market," said Ferrecchia. She said she anticipates this market will offer more local, organic, and eco-friendly products. The market will also feature live music and cooking demonstrations.

Click HERE to read about my visit to the Seminole Heights Farmer's Market on March 14.

Click HERE to visit the market website.

Click HERE for a news article about the market on
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Send Your Valentine an Eco-Friendly eCard

Click HERE for really cute Valentines you can send via email for FREE through the US Fish and Wildlife Service. They even contain great eco-friendly messages. Thanks to my mother for the link!
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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Kids 12 and younger eat free at IKEA from Saturday, February 13 to Monday, February 15. No adult purchase required. This is a $2.99 value. You pick three child items to make a meal.

In case your kids aren't hungry while you're at the store, just pick some of the
pre-packaged items (i.e., yogurt, applesauce, carrot sticks, milk, or juice) and save it for later!

If you haven't been to IKEA yet, it can be a fun way to spend a few hours. It's the most kid-friendly place I've ever shopped. They have kid's activity centers throughout the store. My boys love to "hunt" for them. The dining area has an area with kid-sized furniture and toys. There is even free child-care!

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Thursday, February 4, 2010

10% Off at Barnes & Noble

Click HERE for a 10% off coupon at Barnes & Nobel. It looks like you can combine this with the membership discount. Use the code L7D4K3X for shopping online. Expires on Valentines Day.
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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Do You Eat Saltines in Bed?

The next time you have an upset stomach or a late-night cracker craving, avoid the traditional brands that are filled with hydrogenated oils. Instead, reach for a healthier alternative, such as Late July organic crackers. They have a classic saltine and a Ritz-like cracker. Both varieties are very delicious!

Late July is sold at Whole Foods and some Publix stores. You can also click HERE to buy them in bulk at Amazon. If you buy a pack of 12 boxes, it works out to $2.50 a box.

This post is for my loved one (you know who you are) who can't go to sleep without her nightly snack of saltines. Love ya, babe!
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Tuesday, February 2, 2010

MP3 Player for Small Children $39.99

You can get a great deal on a SweetPea at ThinkGeek right now. It's marked down to $49.99 (regular price $59.99). Get an additional $10 off by using the code SWEETGEEKS.

A SweetPea is an MP3 player for children 0 to 6. My boys each got a SweetPea for Christmas from their grandparents. So far, they love it and we are very pleased with the quality. The SweetPea allows you to download any type of music or stories you like so that your children can safely listen at their leisure. It's non-toxic, made from food-grade rubber, only requires one AA battery, and is durable enough to withstand the rough treatment of a small child.

Although it's a bit slow to respond, my four-year-old can work it fairly easily. He has learned to play his favorite song over, and over, and over, and over. My two-year-old enjoys listening with his brother, but isn't very interested in pressing the buttons. Here is a picture of my two boys enjoying music time.

It's hard to tell how the SweetPeas will hold up long-term, but it feels a lot more sturdy than the Playskool Made for Me MP3 Music Player. This was a very popular toy in our house until it suddenly stopped working when we'd had it about a year. Given that the toy cost about $75, this seemed a little unreasonable. After reading online reviews, I realized this was a common problem. One positive thing I can say for Playskool is that they sent me a very nice replacement toy when I called the warranty line.

Another advantage the SweetPea has over the Playskool player is that the manufacturer appears to provide great technical support via Facebook and the Sweet Pea website. Of course, there is also a warranty. Plus, the SweetPea is compatible with the Mac and PC, whereas the Playskool player is PC only.

Thank you to Dealafina for alerting me to this discount! Dealafina has a lot of great things to say about ThinkGeek. If you aren't in the market for a SweetPea, you can use the SWEETGEEKS code for any order greater than $40.
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