Tuesday, March 31, 2015

monthly discipline: april

song pair: awake my soul by mumford and sons

january: doing things differently herehere and here.
february: just make it hereherehere and here.     
march: mostly vegan here, here, herehere and here.

am i  are you ready for it?
april: wake up before the sun five days a week

sleep has played different roles in my life, throughout my life. as a young child i resisted sleep. i wouldn't nap for fear of missing something. i was too curious to spend a few hours checked out. i still don't nap. 

as a figure skater, in adolescence, ice time was early. on weekends i woke up at dawn. though it wasn't always easy, i evolved into a morning person. my parents often made hot breakfasts, which helped wake up to the day. 

college years involved late nights and lots of sleep. i didn't schedule early classes. 

i got into a good rhythm once my working years began. my first real job was a traditional 9-5. my sleep schedule became more normalized.

in graduate school i worked at a jazz club late into the night and woke up for an internship very early in the morning. it wasn't uncommon to fall asleep at 1am and wake at 6am. this is when my life as a morning person reemerged. i was walking through life in a bit of a daze, but there was a goal in mind. i understood the importance of sacrifice for a greater good. 

my post graduate position was as the mental health coordinator at a correctional facility. i worked four 10 hour days. 6am-4pm. i was up way before the sun. those were very productive days. 

fast forward to today. i wake about 9/9:30 everyday. my southern gent and i have nontraditional schedules. it has always been a goal to not depend on an alarm clock. i find them jarring and awful. to ease into my day is a dream. some would have a hard time believing i am a work-a-holic. i am, my day just starts and ends much later than yours. southern gent works very late hours and often travels. a typical day for him ends between 10pm-2am. my weekdays end at 8:30pm. on the nights we are both home, we eat dinner around 9pm. 

though this schedule works magically for us, i am willing to deviate in april. one part of me says sleep-as-much-as-you-can. the other part says wake-up-early-and-be-even-more-productive.

experts say sleep plays an important role in brain function. i still plan to sleep well, i will simply have to adjust my dinner and bed times. to some of you, waking before the sun is a daily necessity. for me, i hope to find it enlightening. by the time some of you have read this, i will have watched the sun rise.

i have this hanging in my home office. you can have it too. 

Monday, March 30, 2015

march discipline: mostly vegan interview x 2

song pair: brighter than the sun by colbie caillat

Hello Friends! today i have the pleasure of introducing my adorable friend Kate! Kate has an incredibly joy-filled spirit. she is warm and welcoming and has the best neighborhood parties gatherings! she balances life as a working mom, running her own small business. she's kind of a big deal
the root of Kate's nutritional focus has a unique origin which led to specific disciplines and ultimately the benefit of more mindful eating.  

What is your family composition?

My family includes my husband, Nick, my seven year old son, Jack, and my almost 4 year old daughter, Eleanor. We are in the process of adopting another baby (www.kateandnickadopt.com) and hopeful that we will be matched with our birth mom soon. Also, we are super tight with my mom, Martha, and she is definitely a member of our crew. As for family members with tails, we have a mixed breed rescue named Ernest and mom recently adopted a small beagle named Fred.

How would you describe what you provide in your home kitchen?

I love to cook and try to make at least two meals around Sunday/Monday that we can enjoy during the hectic work-week. We eat some meat and fish, but I try to incorporate tons of fruits and vegetables into our meals. Like Virginia, we try to avoid processed foods as much as possible.

We had to eliminate all soy and dairy from Eleanor’s diet this year. I really try to cook meals that are soy and dairy free for the whole family so that Eleanor doesn’t feel isolated or excluded from the family meals. Since the rest of us are able to consume dairy (cheese! butter!) I have add-ins of dairy products like cheese on the table available for individual use.

What led you to this approach?

Eleanor was diagnosed with eosinophilic esophagitis (EoE) this year. Essentially, she has two main food allergies (soy and dairy) which cause her esophagus to swell and caused her to choke and vomit almost daily. Also, she was developing aversions to foods because it was painful for her to eat. She has had to undergo an upper endoscopy every 6 weeks for the past few months so that we could identify her allergens. First, we eliminated all soy and dairy and she went into remission. Yay! Next, we re-introduced soy-only which unfortunately was deemed to be a culprit, too. We have gotten phenomenal treatment and care from the fabulous folks at UNC (thanks Dr. Mir and Krisi Brackett!) and Eleanor is doing really well now. She is required to consume feeding tube formula, but we are fortunate that she can drink it orally and doesn’t require the actual feeding tube. To learn more about EoE-feel free to click the link below for more information.

Is there a product you (or a family member) struggles to resist?
For Eleanor-cupcakes are a must have! These sweet confections have been her favorite aspect of any celebration since she enjoyed her first delicious bite of frosted cake. This one has been tough to find an alternative for her.

(Her first experience with cupcakes!)

Soy is used as a substitute for dairy in many bakeries-I can’t even special order soy and dairy free cupcakes at Whole Foods. Luckily, we were able to find Noreen Fitzmaurice and her wonderful bakery-The Celiac Cakery. http://www.theceliaccakery.com/ We purchase and freeze tons and tons of Noreen’s delicious soy and dairy free cupcakes for Nora to enjoy at birthday parties and celebrations at school.

Do you find restaurant menus difficult to navigate?

We love to eat out and finding soy and dairy free alternatives for Eleanor has been a challenge. First, soy is in everything including but not limited to some ketchups, some vegetable broths, crackers and chewing gum. Second, some servers at restaurants do not understand that Eleanor has an allergy since food preferences like gluten-free diets are so popular. This can lead to issues with cross-contamination and other issues that make it challenging to eat out. To overcome this obstacle, we are identifying local places that are accommodating and have options for Eleanor to have a few choices when we dine out.

How do you choose to entertain with food?

We love to entertain friends and family. When we host people at home, I try to make all the kid foods soy and dairy free so that Eleanor can eat what the others are enjoying.

How is your family’s overall health?

We try to stay fit and healthy as a family. We strive to stay active and enjoy having fun outside and enjoying the beautiful weather we typically have in Raleigh. I am striving to have all the food in our house soy free, but it is a challenge. Soy is ubiquitous-it is everywhere! So, for now, we maintain a sort of kosher kitchen where we keep Eleanor’s soy and dairy free foods labelled separately in the fridge, freezer and pantry. That way, babysitters and visitors can easily decipher what foods are safe for Eleanor to eat.

What is your favorite cruelty free brand?

I shop at Whole Foods every week because they have the widest variety of options for Eleanor. I like their cruelty free standards for chicken and fish. I think that WF does a nice job providing information for their consumers to evaluate and determine what works for them.

Please share a favorite cruelty free recipe:

This one is tough for me because I use recipes as a general guideline. I like to make a variation of a vegetable and pasta dish that we enjoy at least once a week. Sometimes I add chicken or fish-sometimes I add tons of veggie or chicken stock to convert it into a brothy soup.

I generally start with a mirepoix mix that I buy at the store and helps me to save time while cooking during the week.

I add whatever vegetables are seasonally fresh-right now its shallots, zucchini, yellow squash, arugula, spinach, mushrooms etc. I brown the vegetables on the stovetop-adding wine and/or stock to deglaze and make a quick pan sauce. For plating, I put fresh spinach/arugula/finely cut kale or some other green in the base of each bowl and add hot pasta and the vegetables on top. Eleanor gets Daiya pea-protein “cheese” for her bowl and the rest of us grate fresh parmesan on ours. I always buy a large bunch of organic Italian flat leaf parsley at the beginning of each week. I clean it and grind it in my food processor (stems and all) and use the little bits (probably 1/4 cup) while cooking and on the plates after to add a fresh flavor to the dish. Sometimes I squeeze fresh lemon on top for something different. 

Below is a link to a “real” recipe for folks that might prefer something more structured. This salad is soy and diary free and looks fun for spring!

*One piece of advice for someone interested in more mindful nutrition*

Kate: For folks making a change as a result of food allergies, I recommend heading to local grocery stores to process what options are available. When Eleanor was first diagnosed, the change in our diet was very daunting. I spent a few hours at Whole Foods, Trader Joes and our local Harris Teeter reading labels until I was bleary eyed. Next, I bought everything that she was allowed to eat and then let her taste test to identify her favorites. Once we found some winners, I was able to isolate the brands (Daiya cheese! Enjoy Life cookies!) and buy some of them online to make it more convenient. We took it one step at a time until we built up a nice selection of foods she enjoys that are safe for her to eat. In the end, our family has definitely benefited from eating foods that are less processed and are healthier in general. This benefit has been the silver lining. 

Virginia: 1) start small, with 2 or 3 meals a week and build on that 2) read The China Study, I read it 7 years ago and it rocked my world. I got it at a yard sale in Tahoe, never thought it would be so influential in my life, it really solidified the importance of eliminating animal protein from my diet. 3) challenge yourself!! Go grocery shopping and say, "this week I'm going to not buy milk but buy almond milk instead and see how that is for me?" Or "I'm not buying chicken, I'm buying tofu instead" 4) plan ahead!!! I can't stress that enough!! Plan your vegan meals ahead of time so you know what to buy and how to prepare it!!

Wow. thank you ladies. you two challenge me to take life to the next level. 
thank you for sharing your expertise! i am proud to call you both a friend. 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

charleston fashion week

song pair: Supermodel (You Better Work) by Rupaul

as i eluded to a couple weeks ago, i surprised my niece emily with a one night trip to Charleston during fashion week. she was the perfect little travel companion. we had an incredible time living the city life for 24 hours. we parked our car and uber'd all over town. uber was a new concept to her. though she was a bit apprehensive at first, she quickly settled into the idea of getting into a strangers car and safely reaching our destination.

our first stop was a blow dry bar. we needed our hair to be 'on fleek' {teenage lingo} for dinner and the runway show later that evening.

once our loose curls were in place, we wandered the city. we bounced in a few different shops and sipped hot chocolates once the wind picked up. it was a gorgeous day and the flowers were in perfect bloom. the city was in a true buzz. i was elated to be spending the day with emily, my cheeks were sore from the smiles.

sushi has become our thing. whenever i ask Em what she's craving, she inevitably proclaims SUSHI! 

her other obsession is shirley temples. she may have had five. 

once we polished all four sushi rolls, we skedaddled over to the festivities. you would have thought you were in NYC. it is so tough to capture the experience in photos. please take a few minutes and watch this promotional youtube video. it's from 2014, but exactly what we experienced. it was epic. 

the catwalk

benefit make up bar

one of my favorite designers. lots of shopping in the lounge. 

truly an unforgettable night. after the runway show, we had gelato and found a candy store. it was an i-don't-want-this-day-to-end sort of feeling.  

this 13 year old is a very bright light in my world. i love you Em! 

Friday, March 27, 2015

march discipline: mostly vegan interview

hello friends! if you read my blog regularly you have heard a lot about Virginia, one of my soul sisters! 
i have mentioned her here, here, hereherehere & here
cultivating relationships with interesting people is something i deeply value. strong women inspire me to be strong too. 

today you will gain some words of wisdom directly from the source! 
one of my favorite things about her is that she is a health nut like me! we basically eat the same types of food however she's much more domestic than i. she's preparing indian food and i am picking up indian take-out. no shame in that. 

below are a few questions she gladly answered for one of two march discipline interviews. thank you V! 

1)     What is your family composition?
Myself, my husband Damian and our daughter Camellia. We also have 2 dogs and chickens.

2)      How would you describe what you provide in your home kitchen?
Healthy Pescatarian, I try to make most food from scratch. I bake bread, make pasta, grow fruits and veggies. I have chickens for eggs. Living in the Keys we are fortunate to have fresh fish often, which we catch ourselves or purchase from fish markets. I try to have a few Vegan meals during the week. I limit as many animal products as possible. I also limit processed foods.  If I do buy processed foods I always check to make sure there is nothing fake in it.  

3)     What led you to this approach?
Many reasons! Health being number one and the astounding evidence that a fruit and veggie based diet is so incredibly good for you (read The China Study)! Number two, being my fondness and support of the Buddhist philosophy that fundamentally we are all one and should live as close as we can to harmony. I believe that all living things deserve dignity and respect.

4)    Is there a product you (or a family member) struggles to resist? 
CHEESE!! I would be Vegan if it didn’t exist!! We don’t even have milk in the house, but cheese?? lots!!

5)     Do you find restaurant menus difficult to navigate?
I don’t find them difficult, mainly because I have been doing this for practically all of my adult life. I will say it is never a challenge to find food, but balancing protein & carbs is a bit of a challenge at certain places. My go to cuisine is Asian inspired. I NEVER EAT FAST FOOD. I cannot tell you the last time I was near a McDonalds, Chick-Fil-A, Burger King, Taco Bell etc.

6)    How do you choose to entertain with food?
 I have an Easter Egg Hunt in a few weeks with 30 people attending. I will provide a hummus and chip/bread plate, cheese/fruit plate, orzo pasta, egg salad stuffed pita (with the eggs from my chickens), smoked fish stuffed pita, pb and j sandwiches and homemade cookies.

7)      How is your family’s overall health?
We have no health issues, none of us take any medication.

8)     What is your favorite cruelty free brand?
TRADER JOES!! My most favorite place in the world! Nothing is really cruelty free unfortunately ..well except what you do at your own house….hence our chickens!

9)       Please share a favorite cruelty free recipe:
Baked Tofu, roasted sweet and regular potatoes, roasted fennel and artichoke
This recipe is so easy and awesome!! We eat this once a week!! It takes some prep. First you have to drain the tofu, I use firm or extra firm, use 2 packages. Open tofu packages and wrap tofu in 2 paper towels each or a cloth and let it sit wrapped in fridge for 4 to 24 hours, this is get excess water out. I usually do this the day before we are going to eat it. Slice tofu in 8 even slices per container so 16 total. Then marinate in soy sauce, sesame oil, citrus juice. Let sit for 4 hrs. Large dice potatoes, peel skin and large dice sweet potatoes, season with salt, pepper, olive oil….rosemary, parsley or sage is also very good on them. Dice 1 large fennel bulb and dice one frozen bag or can of artichoke (trader joes sells the frozen bags..I don’t like using cans, but it would take too long to prep fresh artichokes, but you could do that as well.) Season with salt, pepper, olive oil. Put tofu long side down on small sheet pan, sprinkle remaining marinade on it, top with sesame seeds, place on bottom of oven.  Put potatoes on large sheet pan, place on top of oven, put fennel artichoke mixture on large sheet pan, place on bottom of oven. Roast at 375 for 15 min, take out the fennel artichoke mixture. Roast another 15, take out tofu. Check potatoes, if you want them a little crispier, turn heat up to 400 and roast another 15 min. Done!! Leftovers are good for another week and the tofu is tasty cold or hot!!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

march discipline: mostly vegan

when one is not succeeding at something, it's natural to go into hiding. so i am emerging to take a breath and say i am still here, working hard at my march discipline! i believe it's important to reveal imperfection--so here is one of mine: i am failing at being mostly vegan. there it is. i am not nearly as organized and prompt with posts when i am not following a committed plan. we should talk more about failures. it's just so much more fun to talk about success. but i believe revealing flaws is crucial, it exposes our humanity. 

i relate this experience to going on youth group trips in my adolescence. my small group would be energized and motivated when we arrived home. we wanted to live pure lives, be kind to everyone and work our hardest. fast forward a few weeks and it was back to old habits. i quickly forgot my goal and mission once life got hectic.  these  disciplines keep me accountable, you keep me accountable. 

since i have little to report, i have decided to turn to friends/readers for shared knowledge. 

a few readers expressed interest in a vegan corn chowder my cousin mentioned in a comment. though the temps are slowly rising {yay} we will still have chilly evenings when a heaping bowl of soup is a good idea. she kindly sent me the recipe below, thank you Maureen!  

Vegan Corn Chowder Recipe
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
4 cup fresh corn (from 5 to 6 ears)
1/2 lb carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1 lb thin skinned potato (like Yukon gold), cut into 1/2 inch chunks
4 cups vegetable broth, divided
1 tablespoon corn starch or arrowroot
3/4 cup coconut milk, regular or lite
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Salt to taste
Fresh black pepper to taste

To garnish:
Chopped fresh chives (1/2 cup)
Thinly sliced fresh basil (1/2 cup)
Thinly sliced radish
A few extra fresh corn kernels

Preheat a 4 quart soup pot over medium high heat. Saute onion in oil with a pinch of salt until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and red pepper flakes and saute for another minute. Add corn and carrots and cook for 3 more minutes or so.

Measure one cup of the broth into a measuring cup. Mix in the cornstarch with a fork until dissolved. Set aside.

Add remaining 3 cups of broth to the pot, along with the potatoes. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, break the corn cobs in half and add them to the pot. Lower heat to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Remove corn cobs. Add remaining vegetable broth and starch mixture, and cook to thicken, about 3 minutes. Add coconut milk, black pepper, salt to taste and lime juice.

Use an immersion blender to blend about half of the soup. If you don’t have an immersion blender (get one!) then transfer about half of the soup to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth then add back to the pot. If the soup is still steaming hot, make sure to either keep the opening on top of your food processor open, or lift the lid often for steam to escape.

Taste for salt and seasoning. Serve garnished with fresh corn kernels, fresh herbs and radishes.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

march discipline: but mostly other stuff

hi guys.
i must say, ten days into the 'mostly vegan' discipline has been a debacle. i am still paying attention, just cannot seem to stay focused or away from dairy. i know preparedness is key. i haven't been prepared. sliced cheese...cream cheese...sour cream...butter...milk chocolate, oh my! the concept seems simple but it is a huge leap.

later this month, i will be interviewing friends who are dedicated to specific dietary commitments with different circumstances. i believe becoming educated is a wonderful first step. i have undoubtedly made changes, just cannot yet qualify as 'mostly vegan.'

so instead of dwelling on my weaknesses, here is a brief review of recent positives!

casino night was at the tail end of february. my dress was simple. the cut out made it a bit more interesting. i scored this lbd at Express. it's no longer available, but turns out they are a great go-to.

i also stumbled upon a feathered friend

and our collective basket raised mad funds for charity.

 we celebrated emily's 13th birthday. stay tuned for our girls trip in a couple weeks! hint: fashion

and we got to see this little guy too. this image makes my heart smile.

we toasted to my parents new and improved kitchen! it is gorgeous and so nicely stylized.

last weekend one of my dearest friends came to visit, from chicago, with her tribe of five. our time together was so natural. we have been friends for over 22 years. this visit has me reflecting on friendship. i have decided that i chose friends wisely during my high school years and am choosing friends just as wisely in my 30's. in college and in my 20's i encountered lots of people, but not my kind of people. {megan T is an exception!} but generally i attracted the wrong people. choose your friends wisely and thoughtfully. it matters. there are wonderful people in the world, don't invest in anyone who doesn't love you right back. surround yourself with great people! it truly is an intention.      

Sunday, March 1, 2015

monthly discipline: march

hello march! a new month means a new personal challenge for moi. i hope you are enjoying this as much as i am. #lifegoals

*so far so good*
january: doing things differently here, here and here.
february: just make it here, here, here and here.     

march: mostly vegan

vegetarian: no meat no fish
pescatarian: no meat yes fish
vegan: no meat no fish no dairy no eggs

i must say the first day was an epic fail. this is going to be the most difficult yet. as i am sure you have guessed, this challenge was inspired by my recent food for thought post. the reviews were certainly mixed. this was good news. it validated for me that writing honest and sometimes controversial posts are important. if it made you think twice about a food choice, i see that as a success. if you felt a little unease, i also see that as a success. basically if it evoked any feeling, i am glad. it's ok to disagree, as long as you are open to awareness. 

going completely vegan is not something i am exactly striving for. i do want to consider substitutions and discover new products. dairy is one of my favorite food groups, so eating less of it will be difficult.

march 1: 

breakfast: vegetable juice
lunch: noodles with butter and grated cheese
snack: nachos with cheese and sour cream
snack: root beer float (ice cream)

as you can see, dairy is part of almost every snack and meal i consume. typically i am way healthier than this, but it was a lazy sunday.
the foods i am proud to have eliminated are milk, yogurt and eggs in their pure form. i have started substituting the milk in my morning chai with coconut milk. these are the small changes to build on. today is a new day. wish me luck!

in other news, last week we got lots of snow! though it wreaked havoc on my office schedule, i embraced the life pause. i am having to be creative with clothing choices, as to enable boots on the daily. i am also loving my 4-wheel drive, channeling my inner youth and clocking lots of couch time. looking forward to a much more productive week ahead!

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