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Lunch at Cumberland Brews

This past Saturday, we had our monthly community meeting for the Louisville Vegetarian Club at a local joint, Cumberland Brews.

Photo courtesy of Cumberland Brewery Website

We had a really great discussion about how to eat “vegan on the cheap” and also how to apply that to other things we consume besides what we eat (clothing, beauty products, cars, etc). I learned a lot and it was great to hear where other people are coming from. Refreshing.

We also got to eat some really tasty food!

On the recommendation of my friend Karen, I ordered the veggie burger (which is a falafel patty!) with no cheese and some fries. The lighting was not the best but here’s a small glimpse.

CbIt came on a bun with lettuce, tomato, red onion and a mushroom, plus some guacamole I happily smothered on top. Would you believe I ate everything on that plate. It got messy, but it was so good.

Once again, I am very thankful for the LVC. If it weren’t for our meeting here, I would maybe never have known how delicious the food is (I’m not much of a beer drinker). I will definitely be going back again someday!

Cumberland Brews on Urbanspoon

Louisville Vegetarian Club meets again!

I can’t believe it’s already been a month since I last posted a meeting announcement, but this coming Saturday, February 26th, the Louisville Vegetarian Club will be meeting at Cumberland Brews starting at 1:00 p.m.

Check out the invite on Facebook and RSVP if you wish to attend!

This month’s discussion will be led by Andrew, who has a food blog of his own, Jolly Green’s Kitchen 🙂 The topic is “Vegan on the Cheap” and I’m really looking forward to learning some new ways to save money while eating a vegan diet.

So many people assume that healthy, vegetarian or vegan means expensive. Sometimes that is true, especially if you rely on a lot of processed foods. But there are ways around it and the benefits of a healthy diet will save you money in the long run.

If you are in the Louisville area and you are currently vegetarian, vegan or an omnivore interested in the vegan diet, come on out and join us!

Louisville Vegetarian Club to meet this Saturday

Hello friends!

For those of you in the Louisville-Southern Indiana area, just a heads up that the Louisville Vegetarian Club is going to hold our first meeting of 2011 this coming Saturday, January 29th at 1:00 at the Zen Tea House on Frankfort Avenue.

This club formed just about a year ago and we have already done so many things together including potlucks, dinners out, bakes sales, a holiday cookie exchange and the Walk For Farm Animals!

Walk for Farm Animals

Photo courtesy of Louisville Vegetarian Club

On a personal note, I became a vegan in October 2009 for health reasons but through joining this group, I  have learned a lot about animal abuse issues, the environmental impact of the human diet and enjoyed even more health-related discussions.

I have also received a ton of support from like-minded people which has been such a blessing. Oh yeah, and I’ve also eaten more delicious food this past year than I can ever remember!

Check out the event on Facebook and RSVP if you are interested in joining us!

Also join the group 🙂

Eating Animals

This past weeked the Louisville Vegetarian Club met to discuss a book we are reading: Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer.

Many refer to this book as a “case for vegetarianism” but I’ve also heard some criticize it saying that while it does give good information, it doesn’t go far enough in making that case.

Since I am still new to the whole animal abuse side of vegetarianism/veganism, I thought it was a good introduction into some harsh realities that I wasn’t aware of prior to reading the book.

I like how Foer’s inspiration for writing this book was that he was about to become a father, therefore responsible for what another human eats. That thought has crossed my mind quite a few times in recent months, as I do plan to have children someday.

We know more about food today — what it is and where it comes from — than our parents did when we were children. I’m also glad that I turned my life around and got healthy before I had children and I have enough knowledge now to get them started off on the right foot, nutritionally.

I haven’t finished this book yet, so this isn’t a review. I just wanted to share that while my intentions for going vegan were first motivated by health, I continue to read and educate myself on the other issues as well. I find that I am constantly amazed and shocked at what I am learning about the way animals are used and treated in this country.

And once I know things like this, it’s impossible to turn those images off. And there is no way I could ever go back to eating them.

As a group, we came up with the following questions/discussion topics (we=Americans):

  • Are our desires more important than those of the animals we are eating?
  • Are we being selfish?
  • Do we eat animals because we feel superior?
  • In closing: As long as we keep eating meat, we are advocating factory farming.

The superiority thing really interested me because I am a Christian and in church you always hear about how we as humans are to have “dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” (Genesis 1:26)

Opinions will vary, but when I hear the word “dominion” I think of power. Authority. Ownership. Some translations will say “reign over” or “be responsible for.” In this same chapter God also provided seeds, plants and fruit trees for food. Green plants for the animals too.

Personally, I believe God entrusted us to take care of the Earth and the animals that live here with us. Take care of them. I do NOT believe this means we are to abuse this responsibility.

Have you read the book? What did you think?

To vegan or not to vegan

This is going to sound crazy to some of you but if you know me or you’ve been reading here for any amount of time, you know that I am constantly revolutionizing my diet. I like trying new things, taking on challenges and most of all, finding optimum health through my daily eats. Most recently I made a gradual switch to eating lower sugar, including less fruit, fewer grains servings and checking products for added sugars.

When I read Lindsey’s post earlier today about her Vegan Venture, I couldn’t help but be inspired. It just so happens that minutes before I read that, I had been sitting at my desk eating my last serving of Greek yogurt, I thought about how easy it would be to give up dairy. I think for me, dairy has become more of a habit rather than something I actually enjoy eating/drinking. I actually went through a period last summer when I thought I was lactose intolerant but it turns out sugar (and sometimes too much fiber) was really the culprit.

I also still have the food pyramid in the back of my mind at times, which tells us that we need 3 servings a day for calcium. Then I read this article on MSN Health which challenges some concepts about dairy consumption, which surprised me but I guess it shouldn’t.

Truth be told, I actually prefer soy or other nut-based milks (especially rice milk the one time I tried it). But could I go completely vegan?

What does being a vegan mean?

Veganism in a nutshell

I already don’t eat meat too often except for the occasional turkey burger, which I’m currently burnt out on since I have to use up all four servings of meat quickly when they thaw 😉 Giving up meat has never been a problem for me. I’ve done it twice just since starting this blog, including last year and back in May of this year.

I’ve mentioned before that from a cost analysis I did in a nutrition class, meat products are the most expensive things we purchase (per serving). While I don’t ever expect my husband to give up meat, by me not eating it, we have saved a lot of money and the meat we do buy lasts longer than if we both ate it. That has been another motivating factor. We are on a budget as a young married couple with our fair share of debt and I also want to show others that it is possible to be a very healthy eater and not break the bank.

But, if I were to go vegan, even just as a short-term experiment, I have to mention (again) that my number one motivation is my health. Yes, I am healthy and I eat healthy now, but I’m always looking to take things to the next level. I found this really neat post from Amanda Berne (aka the Accidental Vegetarian) where she talks about going vegan for a month and how great it made her feel (great).

This can be done the wrong way for sure. I mean, just check out this Vegan Snacks guide! I wouldn’t eat 98% of that stuff now, why on earth would I eat it because it’s vegan? Don’t let Josh see that Hot Tamales are vegan by the way! Plus I think that list is majorly outdated…do they still make Wow chips? The ones that supposedly cause “leakage?” Ew…

I would rather take Lindsey’s approach and stick to plant based foods. I hate the idea of eating a lot of fake soy products like veggie burgers and chik’n patties even though I have used these products in the past (and will use up the ones currently in my freezer). I’d rather make this an experiment with new foods and recipes that would be both fun and educational.

So what do you guys think? Should I do it?

Note that this will not be a quick switch or cold turkey. I hope to gradually make the transition and not necessarily set a time frame on it but rather follow it as my body leads me.

I appreciate any input on the topic! If you are already vegetarian or vegan what was your motivation? What inspired you to make the switch?

If you are interested in joining the challenge, visit Lindsey’s blog and let her know! You could be entered into a giveaway 😉

Hitting my stride

Yesterday was a really good day, all around. I love days like that and I try to remember them, especially when the not-so-good days come around. But luckily there haven’t been too many of those lately 🙂

I decided to be a food blogger again yesterday, so here is how the day started out for me:

Pumpkin Oats!

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This contained 1/2 cup oats heated in the microwave (gasp!) with 1/2 cup rice milk, 1/2 cup canned pumpkin. I mixed in some flax and pumpkin pie spice and then topped it with a sprinkle of brown sugar (a little goes a long way!), 2 tsbp raisins, 1 tbsp chopped walnuts, and a spoonful of Naturally More peanut butter.

I hadn’t had oatmeal in ages because Summer pretty much came to Kentucky early! But we’ve had a couple of “freak” days this week where its only been in the 50’s waking up. Once I take the dog outside for a walk, I’m definitely chilled enough for some warm, oaty goodness 🙂 I’m sure I’ll be back to smoothies before long though!

On the way to work, Mom treated me to a tall soy latte from Starbucks. I’m trying not to do soy too much but for some reason this latte just reminds me of a toasted marshmallow and it was just what I needed to get myself motivated to work. This had major caffeine-age though, so I made sure to watch it the rest of the day.

I also had a banana mid-morning to hold me over until lunch, which worked beautifully. Its amazing how eating what you want works better than eating what you think you should be having (most of the time). I’m loving it! Ugh, McDonald’s…haha.

For lunch, I had one of my new favorite vegetarian lunches…

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A sweet potato topped with black beans! Unfortunately, I was all out of sour cream at home, but soon learned I didn’t need it anyway. Some things are just better plain jane. I also had some unpictured blackberries. Ah, I almost forgot to mention…I ate lunch away from my desk!!

Yes, I am now eating a mostly vegetarian diet. This is by choice and by personal preference, there’s just something about the Spring and Summer that makes me want to eat meat less and eat fruits and veggies more. I can’t explain it really, so I’m just going with the flow. I also feel so much more in control of my eating, feeling more intuitive and balanced. Could that be related to going quasi-veggie? Maybe. I’m also getting to bed earlier and sleeping better too, hmm…

I still eat seafood as I need those good Omega-3’s and a girl can only eat so many nuts, ya know, haha. (I feel that someone out there might’ve just said “That’s what she said.” )

I think I surprise myself because I thought if I allowed myself to eat what I want, that I would choose junk or too many desserts. But that hasn’t been the case at all. I’ve been choosing some really great, fresh whole foods. I’ve been giving my body what it really wants.

Anyway, mid-afternoon, I tried this new Clif bar:

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I had really high hopes for this one but it was just okay. Actually, it left a really annoying taste in my mouth that I could hardly get rid of. So sadly, I don’t think I will get this one again. But the three that I had last week were great so I may just stick to those 🙂

Even before I ate this bar, I had been so thirsty all day. I must’ve drank my weight in water, which scares me a bit because I don’t want to overdo it. So at one point, I attempted a non-water beverage to see if that would help and it did.

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I sipped about a third of this bottle before I was satisfied. I had tried carrot juice once in the past from the Wild Oats smoothie bar (which I miss terribly, our Whole Foods doesn’t have one!) and it was kinda yuck. Of course that was ages ago before I was the self-declared health-conscious foodie I am today. This Odwalla Carrot Juice was AMAZING. It was sweeter than I expected even though all it contains is carrots. I would totally buy this again and most likely will — it was on sale! 

After work, I ran 3 miles on the treadmill because it was raining outside (boo). But it was still a good workout and I rehydrated (not that I really needed to, haha) with another Sobe Lifewater – Yumberry Pomegranate. I don’t have a pic but it was just okay too, probably won’t get it again. I like some of the other flavors much better!

I was “starving” when I got home but I managed to have enough patience to make what I really wanted instead of eating something that was quick and convenient. It contained lots of this:

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Purple Cauliflower – I immediately thought of K when I found this 🙂

I decided to make soup with it and based it off a recipe I used a while back for Cauliflower Soup. I made some substitutions from the original recipe, so I will go ahead and post this new one for the heck of it.

Purple Cauliflower Soup

1 head purple cauliflower (chopped into small pieces)

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 stalks of celery (chopped)

4 cups of water

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/4 tsp salt

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions: Heat oil in medium-large pot over medium heat. Add celery and cook for 5 minutes. Add cauliflower pieces along with 1/4 tsp salt and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Add the water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat back to medium and cover, cooking for 15 minutes. Dump contents into food processor or blender and puree until smooth and creamy consistency. Dump back into pot to keep warm. Stir in nutmeg, salt and pepper. Done!

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I had mine in a cereal-size bowl with some shredded cheese and some pita with butter. Perfect dinner if you ask me!

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So pretty, so tasty and so healthy!

Using bowls this size, I ended up with two very generous servings. If I were going to eat it more as a side to a sandwich, it would’ve made 4.

After dinner, I worked on some chores and projects around the house before dessert started calling my name. I have been eating some form of ice cream a few days a week, I think that is another summer thing. I had a coupon for this brand though so I thought I would give it a shot.

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Yum-a-licious 😉 The vanilla “rice”-cream with chocolate swirl and hazelnuts makes this stuff taste like a sundae in a cup. I would definitely purchase this again and maybe even some other flavors from Rice Dream. At my store, these are usually really expensive (like $6!) but they were on sale for $3.99 and I had a $1 off coupon so it was worth it. Hopefully they stay on sale for a while, I have another coupon!

I was left perfectly satisfied with my small dessert cup and didn’t go back for anymore desserts or snacks after this. I drank some water, went upstairs to brush my teeth, talked to a good friend and got in bed with a good book before conking out a little after 10:00. Yesterday was the model day for me!

Happy Friday, hope you have a fun weekend planned. 

Challenges, changes, etc.

All of my challenges are still going strong!

No calorie counting, mucho meal (well, dinner) planning, moderate and steady caffeine reduction and best of all NO WEIGHING! Thanks everyone who responded both on my post about no longer weighing myself and the Melissa Joan Hart story. I appreciate all of your responses 🙂

I love giving myself a new thing to focus on each week. I find that taking things one small step at a time is the best way to make them permanent changes. If I had in that first week, at the beginning of May, said to myself “Starting today, I’m going to not count calories, plan every meal, stop drinking caffeine and not weigh myself” all at once, I would’ve freaked out and been very unsuccessful at most of those things.

On the caffeine front, I have been alternating coffee with tea (both caffeinated) in the mornings. Yesterday morning, I had coffee with milk and this morning, I had Earl Grey tea. Then the rest of the day is caffeine free tea like peppermint or chamomile (my favorites). I have a lot of new brands and flavors to try so the possibilities are endless. I haven’t had any dark chocolate and have had exactly two sodas (ew, I know!) since the caffeine challenge began 10 days ago.

I have still cut back quite a bit from my original intake and I’m not having any weird withdrawal symptoms. I will continue the every other day approach for a while, then gradually switch to every 2 days and then gradually make my way into half caff or decaf coffee land. Because I really do love the TASTE of coffee and couldn’t give it up completely, no way.

Here’s another interesting development…I know I have touched on this once or twice before. But, I have not had a single bite of meat since last Thursday?! That’s a whole week! I have just found myself not wanting it at all. I haven’t avoided it or chosen junky foods in order to not eat it. I’ve just been eating lots of veggies, fruits, grains, nuts, beans, etc. and haven’t had the need for it. I’ve often called myself “The Accidental Vegetarian” and I believe I have become her again for a while. But you know what’s funny, I feel great! I might have to keep this up.

Since I’m still in Beatles mode, here is a random pic of Paul McCartney related to the subject…

Here’s the neat thing about blogs. It was almost exactly this same time last year (it was June 14th) that I wasn’t eating meat and noticed. Hmm…

My husband hates it when I do that because meat to him is like peanut butter to me, can’t live without it. But I’ve noticed that I can live without it, plus it saves money because meat by far is the most expensive thing we buy at the grocery store. And, even though I don’t do it for ethical reasons alone, there’s always that to think about too. So, why not? We’ll see.

I’m also trying to get out of that “I have to have this with that” mentality which is how I end up eating meat in the first place. I thought for a long time that you had to have meat with dinner. Well, heck, if I’m in the mood for it, I could have cereal for dinner! Its all about balance and every day does not have to be perfect.

This morning, I had a green monster and then packed my lunch which contained no vegetables. Oh well, I thought, at least I’ll get them in at dinner, totally forgetting I’d already had some with breakfast. Its important to get the appropriate number of servings for each food group but not necessary to force yourself to add something to a meal that you really don’t want to eat. So my lunch remained veggie free!

Hope you all are enjoying this short week! I still have lots to share with you (I’m so behind) so stick with me 😉

Update on vegetarian eating

Just wanted to share some insights since my last post on how I eat vegetarian unintentionally quite a bit!

I’ve gone through my meals this week and so far, the only time I had meat was that burger my husband made Monday night. Unless you count tuna, which I had at lunch on Tuesday.

I think as I’m becoming more of a natural foods eater, its easy to drift that way. I’m really into fresh fruits and veggies right now and I’m also refining (no pun intended) my whole grains selections too, I want the best! I definitely get enough protein, I eat high protein greek yogurt, tofu, seafood (tuna + salmon), nuts, nut butters, beans, etc. So I don’t feel like I’m hungry because I’m not eating meat, which has happened to me in the past.

I know I still love grilled chicken, I just haven’t had the opportunity to eat it yet this week. I also like to put turkey sausage in my spaghetti sauce whenever I have pasta for dinner.

To sum this all up, I don’t and am not going to totally avoid meat, I’m just very aware that I don’t naturally eat it or go out of my way to include it in my daily diet. I’m also going to continue to alternate between dairy milk and milk substitutes. Right now, I’m using almond breeze which is pretty good but low in protein. I usually get cow’s milk whenever my husband eats cereal, so the alternation usually depends on him. I love soy milk and really enjoyed the So Delicious coconut milk as well. I hope to try more varieties in the future!

Happy Friday 🙂

Vegetarian or just don’t like meat?

I have started to notice just over this past weekend that at least 50% of my eating is vegetarian?! Probably more. I was just sitting there on Friday and Saturday both thinking to myself “did I eat any meat today?”

I’m not freaked out by that at all, in fact I find it rather cool. I was at the grocery store with my husband this weekend and I just hated the meat section as usual. I like chicken (which we usually buy frozen), seafood (mostly salmon and tuna), and the occasional turkey, but other meat (pork, beef, etc.) really, honestly just freaks me out.

The last few times I’ve eaten pork chops at home they just didn’t “do it for me.” Then Saturday for lunch I made a really nice veggie burger wtih tomato and hummus on an English muffin and it was the best thing ever! So I’m going to stick with what I like from now on.

I don’t know for sure if I could ever go 100% vegetarian because its just my personal belief that excluding anything or eating too much of one thing just doesn’t work for me in the long run and that goes for all foods, not just meat. I find for me, its good to be balanced, which includes some meat every now and then. I do eat the occasional hamburger at a restaurant or cookout, I just don’t really like to buy and cook red meat at home.

I also like to alternate cow’s milk and dairy alternatives beause I get bored easily and like to get the health benefits from both. There are just so many alternatives out there, not just soy milk. So far I’ve tried coconut milk and have recently purchased almond milk (on sale at Whole Foods!) so I can’t wait to give that one a whirl when I finish off the 1%.

I know there are a lot of vegetarian and vegan bloggers/foodies out there so I’m just curious? Why are you a vegetarian? Is it environmental, ethical, do you just not like meat, etc?

I think for me too, not eating meat is also economical. When I was in a nutrition class a year ago, I did a 3-day food project including a cost analysis, where I determined that per serving (and meal) meat was the most expensive thing we buy every week. Hmm. I actually save money buy buying fresh produce that is in season because its cheaper then too.

I also love a lot of meat alternatives like veggie burgers, tofu, tofu or soy hot dogs, veggie sausage, etc. And not because I’m avoiding meat but because I think they taste good and I love that (most of them) aren’t full of the fat and other nasty stuff that comes in not-so-lean meats. And yet they still have the protein! 🙂

This blog post is more or less for me just a way to note to myself that this is what is happening in my diet and I kind of want to run with it. I’m not giving anything up, I’m just being more observant and open to new possibilities and alternatives that I hadn’t thought of before.

On that note, I’m hungry, so see you guys later!