Saturday, May 8, 2010

Day 6: Becoming One with Nutrition

I can't believe it! I did it! I went vegetarian for a whole week, without having to count the days until I could eat meat again! I really didn't miss it. I actually looked forward to the meals I made (or ordered, as was the case a few times this week), and for the most part, enjoyed them thoroughly.

What was even more exciting to me was that because I had an objective (eating vegetarian), I paid more attention to what I was eating, instead of noshing all day on junk. I keep track of my daily calories on my iPhone, and I generally am disappointed at the end of the day when I'm way over-budget. But this week, I was within range every day. Some days I could have eaten as many as 350 more calories!

The guidelines I set for myself regarding my menu-planning and shopping worked out well, too. I only shopped for 2 days worth of meals at a time, which worked out perfectly. I shopped on Wednesday for Wednesday and Thursday's meals, and because of a crazy schedule, I still haven't made the Veggie Burgers I planned for Thursday's dinner. That ended up being Pizza Night because I had a meeting to get to, then we had leftovers on Friday, and tonight was Taco Bell because we were out and about running errands around dinnertime. So maybe I'll make those Veggie Burgers tomorrow night, or maybe they'll wait until Monday. I've got a whole chicken in my freezer that my family will go gaga over while it roasts in the oven.

As an added bonus, I found that I exercised a lot more this week. I spent countless hours out in the garden digging and planting and weeding, which actually burns quite a few calories. Then I dusted off my elliptical and used it this week, too. Amazing! My goal lately has been to drop 1½ pounds a week, and this is the first week in a very long time that I've actually accomplished it! Yay me! Will I stay vegetarian permanently? No, but I think I'm going to try to throw it into my meal-planning at least 2-3 times a week. And I'm going to stick with this 2-days-at-a-time thing. It truly has been an inspired idea.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Day 5: The Joys of Take & Bake

I love Papa Murphy's Pizza. To be specific, I love Papa Murphy's Gourmet Vegetarian Pizza. And since today was in a word, nightmarish (Ya know that one where you show up naked at school? Pretty close. For details, see, I decided tonight was the night for Take & Bake! Hooray! As I pulled out the phone to place the order, I thought I'd let Jason choose what he wanted on his side of the pizza. His typical order is pepperoni, so I was shocked when he decided he wanted to try vegetarian, too! He's not usually into trying new foods, but I guess he has been a pretty good sport this week. So I started telling him all the delicious vegetables they'd put on the pizza: zucchini, tomatoes, mushrooms (his favorite), artichokes (his other favorite), and all kinds of good things. He was pretty excited by the time we arrived to pick up our all-veggie pizza. He was even more excited when he discovered how much he liked it. Jared seemed pretty happy with it, too. He's a margherita pizza kind-of-guy. And Hayden, well, she eats just about anything, so she was content. So although I didn't prepare this meal myself (except for the baking, of course), it still turned out to be a delicious vegetarian family meal. Two very enthusiastic thumbs up. Thanks, Papa Murphy!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Day 3: Cinco de Mayo!

To be honest, I'm quite surprised at how well this whole vegetarian thing is going. I'm hardly even trying, and I haven't started missing meat yet. I'm not saying I'm making the switch permanent, let's not get crazy, but maybe 2-3 times a week wouldn't be so bad... especially for my waistline. I didn't have the energy to put the blender together for a smoothie this morning, so I joined Jason in a bowl of cereal. Not my favorite breakfast food, by the way. Lunch was my leftover risotto, which was super yummy. In honor of Cinco de Mayo, tonight's dinner was Sweet Potato Enchiladas (found the recipe at my go-to food website, which got devoured... at least by my two boys (Jared and Jason) who live for enchiladas. Me? I can take 'em or leave 'em when they're covered in red enchilada sauce. They tasted fine, don't get me wrong, but as far as enchiladas are concerned, I prefer the ones covered in the white sour cream sauce (and calories). But now let me take this opportunity to give my two-cents about tortillas. This recipe calls for corn tortillas, which I love... when they're handmade at a fabulous Mexican restaurant. The ones you buy in the store pretty much crumble in your hands when you try to maneuver them even a little bit. Do I detect some head-nodding there? Good. You understand my pain. So I started experimenting with various brands, and I finally found one I love. Never again will I purchase Mission brand corn tortillas (yuck). Instead, I highly recommend that whenever you want to make tacos or some other recipe that uses corn tortillas, you buy nothing but La Tortilla Factory's Hand Made Style Corn Tortillas. They're actually a blend of corn and wheat, and you can buy them with yellow corn or white corn, and a few other varieties as well. But they are to die for (that is, if any tortilla is worth self-sacrifice). They're soft, they roll without being soaked in oil first, and they taste scrumptious straight out of the package. And they're pretty low in calories, too. 90 calories per tortilla with only 1 gram of fat. Not too shabby. I especially love using these for fish tacos, but I'd encourage you to find your own favorite use for them. There's really only one thing I don't like about them, and that is the fact that only one store in town carries them: Raley's.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Day 2: You Gotta Try This!

Today was good. I started with a smoothie from my Juice Cookbook made from banana, yogurt, vanilla, and ground flaxseed. It wasn't my favorite, but not bad. I think it would have been better if the banana were frozen. For lunch, Jason and I shared some mac 'n' cheese. Tonight I made Spring Risotto, a recipe I found in Diabetic Living Magazine. It was much better than anticipated, and I highly recommend it, even for non-vegetarians! Even Jason liked it (and that's saying a lot because this kid doesn't like anything)! So, I've included the recipe, so everyone can try it at home. I admit, I did tweak the recipe a bit, but it was very minor.

Spring Risotto

1 tbsp olive oil
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and
chopped, or 1 onion, chopped
(I used the onion. Who buys
fennel, anyway?)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup uncooked Arborio rice
1 can (14 oz.) vegetable broth
12 ounces asparagus and/or
green beans, trimmed and cut
in 1-inch pieces (I used all
2 cups fresh arugula or spinach,
chopped (I used spinach)
1/2 cup radishes, chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, snipped
(I didn't have any, so I didn't
use this. I'll leave it up to you.)
1/4 cup fresh mint or basil,
snipped (I used mint. Super

1. In a large saucepan, heat oil
over medium heat. Add fennel
(or onion) and garlic; cook
5 minutes or until fennel is
tender, stirring occasionally.
Add the rice. Cook 5 minutes
or until rice is golden, stirring
frequently. Remove from heat.

2. Meanwhile, in a medium
saucepan, bring broth and 1 3/4
cups water to boiling. Add beans,
if using; cover and cook 5
minutes. Add asparagus, if using;
cover and cook 2-3 minutes
more or until tender. Using a
slotted spoon, transfer
vegetables to a bowl; set aside.
Reserve broth mixture in
saucepan. Reduce heat; cover
and keep broth mixture
3. Carefully stir 1 cup of the
broth mixture into the rice
mixture. Cook, stirring
frequently, over medium heat
until liquid is absorbed. Stir
another 1 cup of the broth
mixture into the rice mixture.
Continue to cook, stirring
frequently, until liquid is
absorbed. Add another 1 cup of
broth mixture, 1/2 cup at a time,
stirring frequently until broth is
absorbed. (This should take
18-20 minutes total.)

4. Stir in remaining broth
mixture. (I thought that at this
point the rice was still a little
too firm, but I'd used up all the
broth mixture, so I stirred in an
extra 1/2 cup water and stirred
until it was absorbed.
I then stirred in 2 tablespoons
butter and about 1/2 teaspoon
freshly ground lemon pepper -
you can get a mill of it at Trader
Joe's.) Cook and stir until rice
is slightly firm and creamy. Stir
in cooked asparagus and/or
beans, the arugula, radishes,
parsley, and mint. Serve

The magazine says this serves
6 at 125 calories each. Since we
used it as a main dish, it serves
3 at 250 calories.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Day 1: Who Knew Tofu Could Be So Confusing?

Jared started getting suspicious this evening when it was time to make dinner and I broke out the tofu. I pretended to ignore the raised eyebrows, and continued with my recipe plan for the evening: Vegetarian Wraps (sautéed tofu, black beans, pepper jack cheese, and fresh salsa wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla) and corn cake. Jared had gotten down two bites when I asked him if he'd read my blog this week. He stared at me a moment, then shot from the table and into the den. A few moments later, we heard a loud "Vegetarian?" coming from that direction, followed shortly thereafter with a hearty chuckle. So I guess I didn't keep the secret very well, but at least now he knows what he's in for this week. He wasn't big on tonight's dinner (he scored it a 3 out of 5), and Jason even less so (he gave it a 0). Hayden didn't seem to complain, but then she didn't have any tofu. She ate beans, rice, cheese, scraps of tortilla, and corn cake. As for me, while I wasn't big on the tofu, I blame it on the consistency. I used silken tofu, as opposed to the extra firm the recipe called for, only because that's what I had on hand. I have made this recipe before (for myself), and liked the tofu just fine that time. I still enjoyed it tonight, but yeah, the tofu was all wrong. I guess there's a reason they make silken and firm. And a reason why it hasn't hit McDonald's yet.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Week 14: Going Vegetarian!

As I stated in my earlier post, I want another shot at eating nutritiously. I think my mistake last week was that I didn't really have a plan or a clear objective, so I've come up with a nutritional focus, and some guidelines to follow within that focus.

My nutritional focus? I've decided to go vegetarian for the week. I'm actually really excited about this because I think it will force me to get creative in my cooking, and also to pay closer attention to nutrition labels and ingredient lists.

Next, I identified some of the problems I have in my day-to-day eating and meal-planning:

1. I've discovered that if I sit down and create a menu for a week, I only get through the first day or two before I give up and go with something easier or faster (too often it's Little Caesar's, which though I think it's gross, it's still only $5). This means two things: I'm not getting the nutritious meal I planned on, and the fresh food I bought goes to waste. Right now I have 3 bunches of radishes, 3 beets, 5 pounds of carrots, and a half a tub of spinach sitting in my fridge that I had every intention of using last week. And yet, there they still sit. So that's one problem I decided to address this week. I've decided to plan no more than two days at a time. Yes, this means more trips to the grocery store, but I'm out and about at least 3 days a week anyway, so it's not like I'm going to be losing gas money. The hope is to actually save money by not purchasing food that I won't be eating.

2. The second problem I've decided to address this week concerns the recipes I choose to make. Too often I choose a recipe because I have one of the main ingredients. I rarely look at the list of other ingredients until I'm making my shopping list and realize that I need to purchase 15 items just to make one recipe. Ridiculous, right? So this week, if I need to purchase more than three ingredients, I'm not making it. I've had enough of mile-long shopping lists.

3. The last problem I seem to have regularly is that I'm great at planning dinner. Not so much when it comes to breakfast and lunch. I often will grab just a Diet Coke before running out the door to take Jason to school. And while this doesn't go against any vegetarian rules, it's not exactly a healthy breakfast either. As for lunch, I usually skip it because I just can't be bothered to fix a meal for myself, and then by 4:00 I'm ravenous, so I start munching on whatever is close at hand (usually the kids snacks: granola bars, crackers and cheese, and the occasional PopTart). So this week, I'm going to start making extras at dinnertime so I can have leftovers for lunch. As for breakfast, I think I'm going to continue to do Green Smoothies or fresh juice (I do have all kinds of wonderful fruits and veggies in my fridge just waiting to be juiced, after all).

Hopefully, with at least a sort of plan in place, I won't so often resort to mindless munching and overdoing it because I'm starving. My only other concern in going vegetarian for a week is the reaction of my family. I haven't told them yet, and I don't think I'm going to. I'm just going to wait and see how they respond.

Day 6: Declaring a Do-Over

Yesterday's nutrition? Okay. I made whole-grain waffles with sautéed apples for breakfast (delicious!), had half a chicken sandwich for lunch, then made chicken korma, an Indian curry dish, for dinner (very delicious!). My calorie intake was probably higher than I'd usually like it to be (I didn't count today), but I also worked out in my garden all day digging up the hard-packed clay of my front yard, then helping Jared add gypsum and compost and peat moss and leaves over the whole thing so he could roto-till it all in. Let me just say now that I can hardly move this morning. But my point is I'm pretty sure I burned up a good portion of those calories yesterday. However, my grand total for this week isn't so stellar, so I'm calling a Do-Over. I want to get this nutrition thing down better, so I'm going to take another crack at it, but I'm going to add a little twist. But I'll tell you about that later! Happy Sunday, all!