Planning Ahead: a Plant-based Plan

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Happy Tuesday everyone!  Has it really been 4 months since my last post?  I sincerely apologize; with a full time job and a full time class schedule, life can definitely get in the way of everything else sometimes.  And I won’t lie to you: these next four months are going to be even more hectic and insane than ever, so bear with me.  We will make it out alive; I promise!  

Classes officially began yesterday, though I was in and out of meetings last week as well.  Some exciting changes in my life since last we spoke:

  • I will finally be getting out of this horrendously-lit apartment at the beginning of February!  Goodbye outskirts, hello downtown!  I can’t wait to be in the heart of this great city and take part in all it has to offer!
  • I adopted a kitten!  What’s crazy is that I’m a self-proclaimed “dog-lover” to a fault, and one day at work my heart just told my head that this little guy was mine.  His name is Bran (after the character on Game of Thrones).  I figured since Bran Stark is in a wheelchair and my little one is missing a leg, they had a bit in common!  My Instagram feed (Khaleesi_Kate) is now all food/health photos and tons of pictures of Bran.  Hashtag “crazy cat lady”!

Okay, now to the good stuff!  Balancing work, school, and a life are going to be more challenging than ever in these next few months, and I know that in order to succeed, I need to make sure I make things like meals and shopping as organized as possible.  I created a meal plan for the week and hung the clipboard next to my stove.  Now I don’t have to stress about “What do I bring to campus for lunch today?” or “What the heck am I having for dinner?”  It only took me about a half hour to write it all down, and that made the shopping trip 100x easier.  With a few staples already in my kitchen, I managed to keep the bill under 30$… not bad it I do say so myself!

The menu for this morning included my hot lemon water (as always) and a kale-banana smoothie with the almond milk I made last night.  I’m a creature of habit, and I always know it’s going to be a good day when I am able to stick to my routine in the mornings.  Again, planning is key.  My morning routine looks something like this:

Stumble out of bed and wander blindly to the kitchen to turn on the stove and heat my water.  glance at my meal chart and see that a banana-kale smoothie is what’s happening this morning.  Wash 1000 mg Vitamin C and 1000 mg niacin down with a full glass of water while I pull out everything I will need from the fridge.  My counter looks something like this:

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Bran wanted to help photograph the food this morning.  He’s hiding in most of my pictures now, so be on the lookout!  As you can see, I’ve already cut up lemon slices, and everything has been prepared (I did chop the kale this morning though).  If you look in the right corner of the picture, you can see the edge of my clipboard hanging on the wall!  I sip my hot lemon water while checking emails and once I finish, I head to the kitchen to make breakfast.  If I make something like an oatmeal bake or roasted apples, I take that oven time to get my yoga on. This banana was not nearly as ripe as I prefer (the browner the better!) but the smoothie was still delicious and I always feel good about making a meal from ingredients I have prepared myself.  The jar of brown stuff in the back is almond meal.  If you remember my post about making almond milk (refresh your memory here)  I talk about making almond meal from the leftover almond “pulp”.  It’s quick, easy, and I added it to my kale-banana smoothie to up the fiber content, which is never a bad thing!  Feel free to omit this if you are using store-bought almond milk, since prices of almond meal at the grocery store are a bit outrageous.  

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1 ripe banana
3-4 leaves kale, chopped
2 tbsp almond meal (optional)
1 cup almond milk

To reiterate what I said in my previous post about almond milk, I can’t stress enough how easy and effortless this process is!  Yes, the almonds need to soak beforehand, but I did that while I was in class.  And the almond meal has to go in the oven for an hour or two… which I just read and did work for my classes while that was happening.  All in all, you probably only will spend about 10-15 minutes doing actual work.

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Today’s menu includes brown rice & broccoli for lunch, mashed sweet potatoes and steamed kale for dinner, and some carrots and hummus as a mid-day snack.  I’ll try and post as often as I can this semester, so let me know if there’s a certain health topic you want covered or an ingredient/recipe you’d like to see on here!

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Wellness Wednesday: Blue

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Conflicted.  That pretty much sums up my entire Wednesday.  This morning, I got up to go for a run (after my hot lemon water and some stretching of course!).  I got less than a mile into my run before I turned around unexpectedly, deciding I just wasn’t feeling that particular trail.  So then I run all the way back to the beginning and set out in an entirely different direction, thinking that would solve everything.  It didn’t.  Over a mile into that route, that path wasn’t right either.  Exasperated with indecision, I ended up running over to the high school and doing laps around the football field until I was good and spent.  My pace was decent according to my Nike app, but my mentality wasn’t.

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Then came time to decide which delicious blue food recipe I was going to feature today, and again I was met with conflicting emotions and indecision.  Since only one “blue” food really exists in the natural food world (with the exception of some very rare blue potatoes), blueberries were the obvious food choice.  There’s no variety in the blue category, and I hate when I’m left without a choice!  Blueberries are super delicious, though.  But what to make with them?  I usually just eat them raw, or I add them to juice and use the pulp in popsicles.  I didn’t want to juice them since I was in too much of a hurry to really be able to preserve the pulp today, so I went for a smoothie.  I don’t have a specific recipe for this one, but basically a few (like 3 or 4) heaping handfuls of spinach went into my blender, followed by my pint of blueberries from the market and some silken tofu (about half a brick).  I added about a cup and a half of unsweetened almond milk and blended that sucker till it was creamy and totally liquid.

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Man was that just what the doctor ordered after an hour of running!  Feel free to add your own sweetener to this blend (agave, honey, stevia, etc.).  A lot of people don’ t think my smoothies or juices are sweet enough, but I personally am not huge on super-sweet concoctions (I understand I’m pretty much alone in this!).  Since my first juice fast in July 2011, my cravings for sugar have gone down significantly, and I don’t always use sweeteners. Currently, I don’t even have any type of sweeteners in my home.  Like I said though, a couple tablespoons of agave may be just the key to making this smoothie your new go-to breakfast concoction!

If you head over to my good friend Allison’s Allison in Wellness Land, you’ll find some rockin’ info about blueberry nutrition on top of another awesome blueberry recipe with only two ingredients!  Allison shows how to make Blueberry-Chia Jam, and it’s crazy good! Can’t get more simple/healthy/delicious than that!

Not every day is perfect.  I’m not always a 100% up-and-at-em, vegany power superhero (as some of my friends would put it).  Some days, I wanna say screw it, just like you do, crank up Alanis Morisette, and scream at every car I see on the road, even though I know they can’t hear me.  We all have those days. While I can’t say I got a whole lot of emotional satisfaction from today, I am able to reflect on the fact that despite my moodiness, I was able to run over five miles, contribute to a very satisfying inter-professional meeting at Case, and eat some very healthy meals.  Being able to see those accomplishments in print makes my day a bit more satisfying than I thought it was!

What do you do when you’re having an off day?  Are you able to see positive actions even in the midst of conflict and indecision?  Comment below and let me know how you get over your less-than-perfect moments.

Here’s to hoping tomorrow holds less conflict and more clarity.

Stay happy, stay healthy!

Day 3- Clean Eating Cleanse: Homemade Almond Milk & Juicing with Leftovers

ImageTuesdays are to me what Saturdays are to the rest of the world with normal jobs.  I love my day off, and while it’s usually spent lounging around or moseying around town lazily with friends, I decided that today had to be a productive Tuesday.  I woke up with a mission, and I could almost hear my kitchen’s sharp, anticipatory inhalation as I entered, like it knew it was going to get quite the work out!

To go into detail about every little treat my kitchen spouted out today would take far too much time than I have to document, but in a nutshell, I made almond milk, almond meal crackers, zucchini hummus, vegetable stock, raw avocado soup, and, of course, a big jar of green juice!  Yeah, I wasn’t kidding when I said my kitchen got a workout.  I’m sure my Ninja doesn’t want to hear from me for the next week, and my oven is very thankful to finally get a little rest.

If you don’t already know how, you can read how to make vegetable stock here.  It’s one of those foods that is a totally evolving organism, looking different every time.  I know the recipe I originally posted shows pictures of a deeper colored, reddish concoction, but due to a variation of vegetables (I used pulp from a GREEN juice), this batch came out looking mean and green!  I also threw some more herbs from my garden into it, making my kitchen smell absolutely heavenly.

Now, the soup and the crackers were tasty, but that’s not what I want to focus on.  What I want to do here today is tell you about this discovery I happened upon in my research that I can’t get enough of!  Have you ever made your own almond milk? It’s super easy.  ANYONE can do it, I promise!  It tastes way better than the store-bought stuff, too!

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Almond milk is becoming more and more popular as our population continues to pursue alternatives to dairy milk.  It has entered almost every grocery store you can think of, and is absolutely delicious!  The problem?  Store-bought products like almond milk have additives like refined sugars, preservatives, and other icky stuff that I just can’t deal with while on my Clean Eating Cleanse.  I LOVE almond milk, though, and need it for many of my recipes.  What’s a girl to do?  Make her own, that’s what!  Only 2 ingredients and you’ll be good to go.  Not bad, huh?

Start with a cup of almonds.  Soak them overnight so they get nice and soft and fleshy.

Add the almonds to your Ninja (or VitaMix or whatever!) and pour 4 cups of water in.

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Blend that sucker for about a minute.  In the end, it should look like this:

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Yum.  Frothy goodness.  Side bar: I know my photos show 2 sizes of blenders, but that’s just because I thought the little one would be big enough; it’s SO not! Use the bigger container if possible, so you don’t have an almond explosion on your hands.  That’s one mess you don’t want to clean up! (well, are there any messes you really want to clean up? Probably not.)

Now comes the tricky part.  If you have cheesecloth, it’s not so tricky.  If you’re a broke mother trucker like myself, you’ll have to find a (CLEAN!) cotton t-shirt you’re willing to part with in order to strain out the almond pulp.  I used an old cotton dress:

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Line a bowl with your cheesecloth (or t-shirt, or dress!) and pour the mixture in!  squeeze the fabric to get all the water into the bowl.  Voila! Houston, we have almond milk!  Some people choose to add a bit of honey to their milk, but I’m a “less is more” kind of lady, so I keep it as is.  Make sure to store in an airtight container and use within the week!  Save the almond pulp.  There are so many awesome recipes that call for it, and it’s really expensive in stores!

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Now, in true “juice junky” fashion, let’s talk about my morning juice!  Today I juiced cucumber, celery, grapefruit, ginger, kale, and leftovers.  What are leftovers, you ask?  Well, I had vegetable soup last night, and I saved the ends of the carrots I chopped, the base of the celery stalk, even the top of the onions and green peppers I chopped.  I don’t believe in waste, so I threw it all into a Tupperware container until this morning, when it all went into my tasty breakfast! It turned out pretty great!

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Have you been cooking from scratch lately?  What other kitchen staples would you like to learn to make at home?  I’d love to do some more experimenting!

Cauliflower Alfredo

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Two short days stand between me and my Clean Eating Challenge, and I have to say I’m getting pretty excited!  I’m so pumped for this coming week, and you should be, too!  I have some great recipes and juices to share, and I can’t wait to expand my foodie experience, not to mention feel like a beast! How do I know I’m gonna feel great?  It’s simple. “I feel bloated and sick and weighed down after eating all these vegetables”….. said no one ever.  Good food does good things for your body, and cutting out the bad stuff (refined sugars, white flours, etc.) just makes more room in the diet for the good stuff!

Okay, so in anticipation of the week ahead, I may or may not have pounded down half a loaf of bread last night while searching for raw food recipes.  Bread is my kryptonite.  Well, carbs in general, but mostly bread.  I purposely don’t buy bread or pasta because if it’s in the house, I can’t help but binge on the stuff!  I think it has some to do with the fact that my Italian heritage had living on a healthy diet of spaghetti and bruschetta throughout my childhood.  They’re two of my go-to comfort foods when I’m missing home.  Bread isn’t always the most nutritionally dense food, though, and come Sunday, it’s gonna be Adios baguette and hola okra.

With carbs on the brain, I wanted to share with you one last cooked recipe before the raw ones appear on Sunday.  One of the hardest things for me to give up when I went vegan was creamy Alfredo sauce to put over my pasta.  I found a pretty tasty alternative, though, using cauliflower as the base.  Even if you aren’t the biggest cauliflower fan, you should try this!  It’s very creamy and is so good on a bowl of whole wheat pasta!

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Cauliflower Alfredo

  • 2 cups raw cauliflower, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 3 tsp Earth Balance
  • 1 cup homemade almond milk (any other non-dairy sub will work, too)
  • ½ cup non-dairy cheese of your choice, or nutritional yeast
  • 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 cup broccoli florets

Throw everything except broccoli into a pot and bring to a boil.

Simmer for about 20 minutes, until the cauliflower is very tender.

Pour everything into your Ninja, Vitamix, or other blender and completely pulverize it!

Serve your delicious new sauce over whole wheat angel hair or elbow pasta, and mix in some raw broccoli florets while you’re at it!  Enjoy!