Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Meatless Monday: Greek-Style Burgers

Hope everyone is on their way to Halloween recovery.  Even with yesterday being the biggest celebration of junk food for the year, we managed to have a pretty healthy dinner that is so tasty.

We started off with the recipe for  Greek-Style Quinoa Burgers but I make mine with boxed couscous instead of quinoa. I used 3/4 of the finished amount of couscous and then add an extra egg to the mixture (so two eggs total).  This makes us six burgers.
I serve these burgers with homemade tzatziki, a couple slices of cucumber and on Flatout Fold-it Breads instead of pita.  I skip the recipe given with the burger recipe.  My tzatziki recipe is based on the recipe shared by Stephanie at the Coexist Cafe.  I use the same ingredients but I actually 1/2 the amount of yogurt.  We love a strong tzatziki at our house.
On the side we've got some homemade hummus and a handful of Pretzel Crisps (Everything flavor.. my favorite with hummus).

These would also be great with some grilled or steamed veggies on the side or a nice Greek Salad.  I've also added other toppings onto my burger such as feta, hummus, kalamata olives.  Try to mix it up with what you like.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Meatless Monday: Veggie Pizza

Happy Meatless Monday!

We've got homemade veggie pizza with bell peppers, mushrooms and tomatoes in the oven. What's for dinner at your house?

Here's links to the recipes I used for the crust and sauce:
Crust: http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/homemade-pizza-dough-10000001906369/ (Cook 500° for 12 mins on perforated pizza pan).
Sauce: http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/new-york-style-pizza-sauce-10000001906371/ (this is the best sauce!!)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?

If you read nothing else that I've ever posted, please take time to this article by Mark Bittman at New York Times:  Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?  Really, I beg you.. read the article.. change your life.  This isn't about not eating meat, or just eating fish, or any fancy diets.  This is about eating real food AND saving yourself money.   It's so simple.  No tricks, no gimmicks, no lies.. real food, that is inexpensive and better for you than anything handed out a window to your car.

I know many of you won't take the time to read this, so if nothing else, review the below (info)graphic.  The following graphic is also included in this article. I came across this graphic today on a post from Ellen Jaffe Jones (author of Eat Vegan on $4.00 a Day: A Game Plan for the Budget Conscious Cook) and I'm so glad that she shared it. 

click to enlarge

Also, as a reminder, feel free to come over and follow me on Google+.  I've been continuing to share quick tips, resources and other articles that you might find interesting over there.  I'll been sharing other random things from real life.  Stop by.. say hi... after you read the article!!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Ecolabel Index

As I continue to educate myself and research food labels, I came across the Ecolabel Index website.  It's super helpful in identifying labels on not just food but all sorts of products.  As of the date of this post, the Ecolabel Index has 432 labels in 217 countries and 25 industry sectors.  Food, computers, fabrics and other various types items are all covered.  The search function works great and the descriptions of each label are not only in plain wording but they also offer a link to the organization / label's website.  So if you find a label on a product and you aren't sure what it means (if anything!), check out the Ecolabel index for more info.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

In case I forgot to mention it...

... I registered for a half-marathon race.  Me.  That's right.  I know!  Crazy, right?
I'm not sure what got into me a few weeks ago but I saw something about the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Series and decided why the hell not...  I was in a bit of a lull at the time with my work outs.  This was a few weeks after I reached my initial weight loss goal (losing 15 lbs in 8 weeks back in April) and while I was still exercising, I wasn't going at it as whole-hearted as I could have been.  So, I decided to set a new goal.  A half marathon sounded like a great idea.

I'm fortunate that a good friend of mine has been right by my side for a while in the fitness trenches.  She says I inspired her to get fit and back into exercising.  Being an inspiration to others is not something I planned on happening, but ya know what, that's pretty cool.  I'm also fortunate that this friend was willing to also throw herself to the marathon wolves and register for this event.

We've been training a bit over the last few weeks.  We are doing regular work-out routines (as usual) on our own and then doing a Sunday 'long run' together.  Here's the kicker... we're walking.  Both me and my friend are pretty new at getting back into exercise and we don't come from running backgrounds, so we decided that we would start by walking.  Now, don't get me wrong, we're not just lolly-gagging along and strolling down the road.  No way.  We are hauling ass.  Averaging 3.5-4.0 mph and last week we completed 8 miles; we've got 9 scheduled for this upcoming Sunday. 

Neither of us have ever competed in any type of run/walk/race event so we're not setting any time goals besides finishing.  We need to complete 13.1 miles in under 4 hours.  Currently, the speed is not an issue as we're averaging a 16:30 mile (just walking) and the slowest we can go to not be kicked off the course is 18:32.  Our main concern (well, mine for sure!) is stamina.  I won't lie, last week was rough.  My body definitely knew this was the farthest it had gone before.  At about done at 6.5 miles it became a little bit of a struggle but I made it through all 8 at a steady pace and, although immediately after I was sore and tired and thought I might die, I felt good later that day and the following.  Last week was also extraneous circumstances as not only was the longest distance we had done previously only 6 miles, but we missed the previous week's walk when I was feeling under the weather.

I decided to post about this today as we are 50 days away from the event.  50.  Wow.  I'm nervous, that is for sure.  I do consider trying to add running into the mix, but I'm afraid.  We all know what happened last time I tried to run and I don't want to go there again.  For now, I'm going to stick with walking and not getting hurt.  I really think we can do this.  We better do this.  We're going to do this!! 

If you're in Savannah on November 5th, come on down and cheer us on.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Downside of Learning

I keep reading and learning and educating myself and reading and watching and listening and trying to understand all that is available about food and what is going into our bodies with each bit.
It's been amazingly eye opening, but I'm learning that there is a downside to all of this learning.  Fortunately, I think it is a good downside.

I've got my brain wrapped around most of the produce issues (still working out changes in my purchasing habits but getting there) and I've cut out all meat so no issues there.  So we move onto the next big thing.  The one that I've held onto through the last eight months of life changing... fish.

I've mentioned this lightly over the last few weeks or so, but I think it might have to go.  Found this article at Sustainable Sushi that was enlightening and made me want to learn more.  So it might happen.... sigh... then I'll for sure have to think up a new name for this site.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Let's talk about Eggs

image credit: Cooking Light

As a pescetarian, I sometimes think of myself as a swimming lacto-ovo vegetarian.  I'm still eating fish, eggs and diary so I've been trying to continue to educate myself on these animal based products.  While at the grocer a few weeks ago, I spent a lot of time in the egg department.  There are so many options!  Cage Free, Vegetarian, Organic.... on and on!  I couldn't sort out what they all meant.  I knew that 'cage-free' was pretty good... so I thought.  I ended up choosing the standard, store-brand, grade A, large eggs.  I really didn't know any better, or worse, so I stuck with what I always buy. 

Coincidentally, in a recent purging day where I sorted through past issues of magazines and kept only what I needed/wanted, I came across a full article in Cooking Light (July 2009) magazine that explains the egg labels.  I was so excited!  We've touched on the food label subject a little bit previously, but I was so glad to find something more regarding eggs.  Below is a brief description and reference for various labels you might find on egg cartons.

Here's the breakdown of what I think are the good ones:

USDA Organic - Meets the USDA's standards for Organic foods - birds must be cage free with outdoor access, no antibiotics given to birds or in food and must have vegetarian diet. (more info here: http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/nop)

Certified Humane Raised & Handled - This non-profit organization is audited by the USDA and endorsed by many animal welfare groups.  Requires independent verification of proper treatment of animals. (more info here: http://www.certifiedhumane.org/)

Animal Welfare Approved - program audits and certifies family farms that utilize high-welfare methods of farming, on pasture or range.  This program is applicable to smaller egg producers so it may not be that prevalent in the local big box grocery, but look for it at farmers markets and specialty groceries (more info here: http://www.animalwelfareapproved.org/)

Here are some 'certifications' that do not, in my opinion, seem to hold much clout:

The ones we have covered before and a few other labels that are thrown out there are:
Cruelty free
Environmentally friendly
Nature’s friend
No chemicals
Vegetarian fed
Naturally Raised
No Hormones
No Antibiotics

And a couple others that you (and I) might think are awesome, but are not.
United Egg Producers Certified - According to NYU, this certification is gained by nearly 80% of all egg producers.  It only means that the caged hens are allowed water and food.  I don't think that is saying a whole lot.

Cage Free - Chickens must be out of cages with continuous access to food and water, but they may not be allowed outdoors.  This one is pretty much meaningless, too.

There are several more articles available from the July 2009 issue of Cooking Light about eggs including how to save on purchasing eggs (which, again, in my opinion, might compromise the health / ethical goals of using the able labels) and several reasons to use eggs and what they do as well as a bunch of recipes.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Article: Eat less meat

A 1942 National Livestock and Meat Board ad.  Image: Brian Bennett
A quick post just to share a recent article I enjoyed at over at Grist.

Safe, organic food too expensive? Eat less meat

Michele Simon hits on a number of excellent points regarding who food, especially meat, is big business in the US.  She also offers her opinions and restates, as we are learning more and more each day, that we there is a continued overabundance of meat in the average American diet.

Here are a couple quote highlights:

"Turns out this standard American diet of bacon and eggs for breakfast, followed by a cheeseburger for lunch and steak for dinner, has resulted in an epidemic of health problems like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, just to name a few."
 "Of course, there's no guarantee that even if meat becomes too expensive, Americans will automatically switch over to fresh vegetables and whole grains, which remain hard to find in too many areas of the country. It's entirely possible that people will just eat more Doritos and Chips Ahoy instead, which, sadly, are much more readily available. "

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Souped-up Ramen

In celebration if the back to school season, what better to share than a recipe that includes ramen!  We all love ramen-style instant noodles, right?  It is so easy and cheap and delicious.. but let's be honest, these aren't that good for us.  The noodles themselves are loaded with salt and carbohydrates and often times fried as part processing.  Let's not even get started on that powdered flavoring packet.. WOW!
Well, unfortunately, I was feeling a bit under the weather this past weekend and ramen sounded really good.  I knew we had one package left in the cupboard and decided to go for it.  Still keeping my healthy head somewhat on my shoulders, I wanted to add flavor and a bit of real food as well as leaving out the powder seasoning all together.  Traditionally, ramen has always been served with additional items such as vegetables and meats.  It is not just noodles in flavored salted water.  I used this principle when creating my ramen dish.

Here's the run down

1 package Ramen Instant Noodles (flavor doesn't matter since we are skipping the powder)
1/4 cup carrot - diced (I used 2 good sized baby carrots)
2 scallions - sliced (reserve a bit of green tops for garnish)
1/4 cup of fresh sliced mushrooms (I used 2 medium button mushrooms as this is what I had on hand)
1/2 tablespoon of Sesame Oil
1/2 tablespoon Low Sodium Soy Sauce (if desired)

Boil water as per packed directions.
When water simmers, add scallions and oil.
Once boiling, add noodles, carrots and mushrooms.
Remove from heat when noodles are done (veggies should be done too)
Transfer to bowl and top with reserved scallions and soy sauce (if desired)

Now, one ramen packet contains two servings, but I can't recall ever just eating half of the block of noodles.  Also, I don't like the soup part and I usually drain it off and just eat the noodles (this was always part of my efforts to cut back on the sodium and modified itself into an 'I just like the noodles' enjoyment).  You can do either.  By adding the oil and scallions to the water, this flavor gets infused into the water before cooking the noodles.  You can also add a little salt to the water, of course.  The carrots and mushrooms add flavor and texture as well.  Mix it up and play with what you have on hand.  Feel free to add more or less than the suggested amounts of veggies above (by now I'm sure that you've figured out most of my recipes aren't rocket science).  These ingredients were what I had so in they went.   Oh and sesame oil should be available in the ethnic food section of your local grocery.  This is an ingredient than can be a bit pricey, but I find it's really good to have on hand, lasts a while and adds a ton of flavor to Asian themed dishes that I make (and I used it to make gelato a few weeks ago too!)

Wow, I just noticed that the 'suggested serving' photo on the package of ramen shows mushrooms, carrots and what might be scallions (maybe broccoli).  Who knew I was so genius?!?!

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Let's talk about.... what?!!?

Here's a quickie for you (yes, yes, pun intended!)
I came across this post and just had to share:  Vegetarians Enjoy Oral Sex More
The post has this fun, and seemingly very true quote:
While eating a vegetarian diet is good for the planet (carbon footprint reduction) and great for you (health and it is cheaper), this could very well be the sexiest.
There is also a lot of other info and resources regarding carbon footprints and further benefits of vegetarianism.  Enjoy!

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Chocolate Eclair Cake

This post has nothing to do with pescetarianism, vegetarianism or veganism... it's main target is dessertism. My wonderful husband forwarded me this recipe today while he was at work and asked me to make it. As per my last post, I had planned on a full out cook-and-bake-o-rama for the weekend.  I did the protein / 'power' bars done yesterday (post / review to come), but plans changed, when somehow, late last night, I started not feeling very well; still not really sure what is/was going on with me. As of about 2 pm, though, I felt much improved and told Dan that if wanted to bring home the needed ingredients, that I would make this for him.

I posted the below photo on my personal Facebook page and it received several comments and interest, so I thought I would share the recipe. This originated from one of Dan's co-workers and edited just a bit below for easy of preparation and explanation.   It was really easy to do and very, very good!

Chocolate Eclair Cake

Chocolate Eclair Cake

1 cup water
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup all purposes flour
4 large eggs

2 pkgs (3.4 oz) Vanilla Instant Pudding
4 cups whole milk (to make pudding)
1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese (softened)
1 pkg (8 oz) Cool Whip topping

⅓ cup Hershey's Chocolate Syrup (for drizzling - more or less as desired)

Pre-heat over to 400°
Grease a 15x10x1 inch jelly roll pan
Pastry before topping

In a medium sauce pan, bring water and butter to a boil.  Once butter is completely melted, turn heat to low.

Add flour and stir continuously until mixture forms into dough ball.  Remove from heat.  Add eggs, one at a time and mix thoroughly until combined with dough.  Spread dough out evenly on greased pan.  Bake at 400° for 25-30 minutes until golden brown and cooked through.  Pastry will appear lumpy or bubbly. Cool completely.

Close-up of layers
While pastry cools, prepare the pudding as per package directions.  Using an electric hand mixer, beat in the softened cream cheese until completely combined with the pudding.  Spread pudding mixture evenly onto pastry.  Stir the Cool Whip topping and then spread over the pudding.  Finish by drizzling chocolate syrup over the top.

Allow to set / cool for approximately 30 minutes in the refrigerator before serving.


(side note:  I'm wondering if this might not be even just a little bit more amazing with French Vanilla pudding, or adding a tiny bit of vanilla extract into the pastry.... hmmm.. maybe next time.)

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Long Weekend Stock-up

For some reason I didn't realize until about noon today that this upcoming Monday is a holiday in the US, which means most businesses, including my job, are closed... YES!  Free day off!  I decided quickly that I'm going to take the extra time on this three day weekend and do a little cooking and baking stock-up and try out some recipes I've had on my radar for a while.

My lovely great-aunt gifted me a copy of the The Moosewood Restaurant Cooking for Health: More Than 200 New Vegetarian and Vegan Recipes for Delicious and Nutrient-Rich Dishes a while back.  I've found that it contains a couple pretty good sounding recipes for homemade veggie burgers that are freezable.  We've been sort of hooked on MorningStar Farms and I'm hoping to find a homemade alternative. Going to start with Spinach-Tofu burgers and see how it goes.

I also am going to try another one of Camilla's awesome snack bar recipes.  The Clif bars worked out so well that I can't wait to try black bean power bars too.

We've been on a big Greek-kick lately (when I say we, I mainly mean me; I cook it and Dan eats it).  Earlier this week I tried some new Greek Style Veggie burgers using couscous and made my own tzatziki sauce (with a bit of inspiration from Stephanie) (more on both of these later, I hope, when I make them again), so building from that theme, I'm also going to try to tackle pita bread (Cooking Light recipe) and hummus (recipe from a friend).

Lastly, I made some bean and bell pepper fajitas last week.. those have been requested to make and encore appearance on our menu this weekend.  Hope to have a full post on this awesome, quick, easy and so tasty recipe for you as well. 

I'm thinking I want to make some kind of vegan baked-good... like a cupcake.. anyone have a good recipe for a simple vegan cupcake with frosting?  We'll see if I get that far.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Food Labels

image source
The area that we live has several different options for grocery stores, but mostly big box stores such as Publix and Kroger.  We also have Food Lion, Sam's Club, Wal-Mart and Harris Teeter and are lucky to have a Fresh Market, although it is about 25 miles away (but close to my office).  I wish every day that we had a Whole Foods or Trader Joe's option in the area (Hilton Head Island, SC in case you wondered), but we do not and it does not appear that we will be graced with either any time soon.  Therefore, I have been forced to research and review as much as possible before I buy products.  Don't get me wrong, I know that I can find good, real food at the available stores in my area AND I know that every item at Whole Foods or Trader Joe's is not the perfect specimen of health food, but they would make it a lot easier. 

This brings me to the conundrum of food labels and the questions: What do all those labels mean?!?!  With the big box grocery stores that give me 37 different options for ketchup and 14 different kinds of eggs, how do I know which is the right choice for me?  When I'm looking for food that is good for my body and the environment how does one decipher between all the different claims.  Do I need organic or cage free or natural or grass-fed or Fair Trade or Salmon-Safe or certified something something?  With so many labels, a little research is for sure needed.  Are all these labels true?  Who is certifying these labels?  What are the standards? Do I need to pay extra for that?  My trips to the grocery store have become more like research missions than actually shopping.

Fortunately, I came across a great list from Grist that gives a quick-and-dirty run-down of what is important and what you can ignore.  Here's what they have to say:

These labels can't be used without independent verification
  • USDA Organic
  • Fair Trade 
  • Rainforest Alliance
  • Food Alliance
  • Demeter Biodynamic
  • Salmon-Safe
  • Bird Friendly
  • Certified Humane Raised and Handled
  • FishWise 
  • Non-GMO Project Verified
  • Healthy Grown Potatoes
These should be taken with a grain of salt -- they may mean something, but they don't have to:
  • Raised Without Antibiotics
  • Natural
  • Free Range
  • Grass Fed 
  • Nutri Clean Residue Free Certification
  • Marine Stewardship Council
These can be used by anybody at any time and are therefore basically meaningless:
  • Cruelty free
  • Cage free
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Nature’s friend
  • No chemicals
  • Vegetarian fed

Grist's list is based on the full article by the Audubon Magazine that is available here.  They have advised that "[t]here’s a reason for all this green branding. Since 2003 U.S. organic food sales have more than doubled, to roughly $25 billion. The booming demand for organic foods is making greenwashing more tempting—and more lucrative—than ever before."  The Audubon article provides an explanation and description for each of the labels or (so-called) certifications listed above.

And in case you need a few more references there is a great post at Treehugger and one more from Eat Drink Better.  Take an extra 15 minutes this week, before you go shopping, and review.  Maybe even print out the list above for reference.  Not only do you want to be educated on what the truth is and what you are putting in your body, but you want to make sure you aren't paying for a BS sticker that doesn't mean anything.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Non-GMO Project

"The Non-GMO Project is a non-profit organization, created by leaders representing all sectors of the organic and natural products industry in the U.S. and Canada, to offer consumers a consistent non-GMO choice for organic and natural products that are produced without genetic engineering or recombinant DNA technologies."

Looking for real food that is not genetically modified?  Yes, in fact, there is an app for that.

source: www.nongmoproject.org

Check out the other information and resources at the Non-GMO Project's website too!  Product lists, store/shopping recommendations, history, health facts and tons more about locating food that is NOT genetically modified. 

Wow... it's kind of sad that we have to spend all this time and effort looking for real food, when we would never have this problem if we hadn't effed it up in the first place.....

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Resources from the Humane Society

The internet is filled what all the information one could ever need.  Obviously, I've used it at great lengths to review information and data regarding pescetarian, vegetarian, vegan and other 'flexitarian' foods, facts and information.  I was pretty surprised, although I'm not sure why I was surprised, at the full suite of information available at The Humane Society's website regarding living meat free.

Interestingly enough, the information from Humane Society also touches on a lot of the myths that we reviewed previously.  Topics such as variety (spice up your meat-free life), flexible options (you can be a flexitarian), health (protein, calcium, and vitamins.. oh my!), desserts (Crispy Peanut Butter Treats by Alicia Silverstone!) and more are covered.  Here's a great quote from one of the articles:
"[It] doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. Whether your primary incentive is helping the environment, improving animal welfare, or addressing health concerns, you can take a significant first step by becoming a flexitarian. The term blends “flexible” and “vegetarian” to describe those who take a part-time approach to avoiding meat."
Also, and this is my favorite part, they offer a weekly email that will deliver to you every Friday which provides a meat-free recipe that you can prepare for Meatless Monday!  All the information that is provided on the Humane Society's website is also available in a convenient downloaded PDF information packet or the provide an option to request it via mail as well.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Myths About Vegetarians & Vegetarian Food

Earlier this week I ran across an awesome guest blog post by Daniel Koontz over at the Fooducate Blog.  While Daniel's post, Eight Myths About Vegetarians & Vegetarian Food, provides some amazing information that you might want to check out, I wanted to offer you my take on the myths based on the last 7 months of my meat-free life. 

Myth #1: You can’t get enough protein eating vegetarian food.
This has been a very large concern of mine since I have cut meat out of my diet.  Come to find it, it's not hard to get protein at all.  There are tons of non-meat foods such as grains, legumes (beans), nuts, vegetables and even fruits!  I also recently began using a new food logging program (app) that provides me with fat, protein and carb levels and I've been in good ranges over the last several weeks.

Myth #2: There isn’t enough fat in a vegetarian diet.
As mentioned above, according to my food logging program, I'm getting all the right amounts of fats, proteins and carbohydrates in my meat free diet.   Additionally, if you really want, you can eat all sorts of non-meat foods that are loaded with fat like ice cream, prepared foods, cheeses, snacks and other stuff.  Since I've been also targeting weight loss via my vegetarian journey, I'm more than happy to skip the fats.

Myth #3: Vegetarianism has to be all or nothing.
I've clearly proved this as I've self-proclaimed myself as a pescetarian, essentially a vegetarian that eats fish.  Also, as you have read over the last several months, I've had a little nibble of meat here and there.  A good way to start on a vegetarian diet is to try a few days a week, or even just a few meals.  (check out Meatless Monday!)  I am leaning more and more towards meat-free completely, but I'm still swishing the idea around. 

Myth #4: Vegetarian diets are limited and boring.
No even close to true!  I've cooked more exciting, fun and new dishes over the last several months than I have in ages!  Previously, I'd been stuck with a handful of dishes that I would make each week for Dan and I.  Now, its always something new.  I've even got a Thai Curry dish planned out for dinner tonight that uses coconut milk, tofu, noodles, broccoli and all sorts of spices and excitement!!  (I will admit that I haven't been cooking meals as much as I should but this is mainly due to our schedules.  Sometimes like two ships passing in the early evening, it's hard to plan weeknight meals together...  but really that has nothing to do with vegetarianism).  You've also seen all sorts of dishes that I've posted here so you know it is not meat loaf or spaghetti night at my house.

Myth #5: You can’t eat junk food on a vegetarian diet.
Uh, really?  The only junk food that I've had to say no to complete is beef jerky.  Chips, popcorn, candy, cookies... on and on.. all vegetarian!

Myth #6: Vegetarian food never fills me up.
This evening for dinner I cooked up a veggie burger and put that on a flat-bread with a slice of cheese, some mustard, mayo and ketchup, some sauteed onions, a couple hamburger dill pickle chips and a handful of romaine lettuce.  Not only was it amazing but I was super full at the end (and this only took me about 10 minutes to make).  Also, veggies are a super filler and because they are low in fat and calories (in comparison to meats), you can eat a TON without worrying too much about your intake.  Drinking lots of water helps, too.

Myth #7: Vegetarian culture is too weird. And I don’t want to wear tie-dye.
The only culture changes I've made this year, I think, are for the better.  I'm conscious of what I'm putting into my body.  I'm trying to take care of myself and get fit.  I'm educating myself on what is in food and where it comes from and I'm trying to look at the bigger picture of my impact on the enviorment, my community and all sorts of other good things.   And no, no tie-die and no big changes.

Myth #8: Vegetarians are freakish militants intent on banning all meat.
Not at all!  We'll I'm not anyway.  I can't really be a militant when the man I love and lives with me is a meat-eater.  Vegetarianism and pescetarianism wasn't for him, so he's gone back to eating meat and that's OK with me (but I'm working on ensuring that it is good meat only).  Don't get me wrong, I've been sharing my journey for months now and that is because it's working for me.  I haven't felt this good in years and I enjoy being able to educate people on what I've learned and discovered about myself and I do hope that some of the things I say or type might help someone else too.  Maybe even you?

**Check out more info from Daniel Koontz at his website: Casual Kitchen "a food blog focused on food philosophy, money-saving ideas and easy and inexpensive recipes."**

Monday, August 01, 2011

Could you live without animal products for a month.... or longer?

Over the last several months, I've often wondered this for myself.  Could I cut out all animal products from my diet and be vegan?  I've already ditched the pork, beef, chicken and other meats, with the exception of seafood (which honestly might be on it's way out the door too).  We've switch to soy milk (but still use regular half-half) and I'm buying more and more organic produce (while not animals, it makes me feel better).

But what about everything else?  Eggs, cheese, fish (omg.. including sushi!), butter, canned beans (see below), baked goods and more non-apparent animal proteins and by-products such as gelatin (please tell me that you do know what gelatin is made from, right?  if not, learn.) and honey.  Further?  Some vitamins, medicines, soaps and tons of other everyday items contain animal by-products.

Stephanie over at the Coexist Cafe just completed her own vegan  month long journey.  She was on a full out animal-free diet for 31 days.  She challenged herself and did amazing.  Check out her series of posts on her blog.  I'm not only super proud of her and her willpower but I am very inspired!

I'm leaning more and more towards this path.  Why?  I'm not sure yet.  I'm still working out my feelings on the topic and know that I would have a lot of work ahead of me if I was to make the vegan switch. Shit, I haven't even been able to be fully pescetarian, let alone vegetarian, so I have no idea what has gotten into me!

One thing that I learned this weekend and that I have mentioned previously is that besides research and knowledge and understanding, I've overlooked the basics a handful of times.  READ THE LABELS.  I ran into another failure on this front over this past weekend. 

Chicken and Pig and Fat... OH MY!!!
This one really got to me.  I know in the last 7 months I have had a bit here and there of meat but this was like a big, fat slap-in-the-face fail on my part.  It's not like the ingredients are in another language or that they are hidden by-products.  Nope... straight up animals.  I would expect that in all that I have learned this year that the last thing I would do is assume that a can of beans was vegetarian.  Stupid.  If I plan on moving toward full vegetarianism or especially veganism, I need to be seriously conscious all the time.  The icing on the cake... I still ate some of the dish that included these beans; yes, after I read the label.  I feel guilty.  Again, not sure why and still working that out, but unprepared for veg*n is an understatement.

Facts from Food, Inc.

As a follow-up from yesterday's post regarding the profound documentary film, Food, Inc., I wanted to share the following list of facts that was published in the film's press kit.  I know many will not have the opportunity to view it, so there is lot of info here that is directly from the film.  

  • In the 1970s, the top five beef packers controlled about 25% of the market. Today, the top four control more than 80% of the market.
  • In the 1970s, there were thousands of slaughterhouses producing the majority of beef sold. Today, we have only 13.
  • In 1998, the USDA implemented microbial testing for salmonella and E.coli 0157h7 so that if a plant repeatedly failed these tests, the USDA could shut down the plant. After being taken to court by the meat and poultry associations, the USDA no longer has that power.
  • In 1972, the FDA conducted 50,000 food safety inspections. In 2006, the FDA conducted only 9,164.
  • During the Bush administration, the head of the FDA was the former executive VP of the National Food Processors Association.
  • During the Bush administration, the chief of staff at the USDA was the former chief lobbyist for the beef industry in Washington.
  • Prior to renaming itself an agribusiness company, Monsanto was a chemical company that produced, among other things, DDT and Agent Orange.
  • In 1996 when it introduced Round-Up Ready Soybeans, Monsanto controlled only 2% of the U.S. soybean market. Now, over 90% of soybeans in the U.S. contain Monsanto’s patented gene.
  • Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas was an attorney at Monsanto from 1976 to 1979. After his appointment to the Supreme Court, Justice Thomas wrote the majority opinion in a case that helped Monsanto enforce its seed patents.
  • The average chicken farmer invests over $500,000 and makes only $18,000 a year.
  • 32,000 hogs a day are killed in Smithfield Hog Processing Plant in Tar Heel, N.C, which is the largest slaughterhouse in the world.
  • The average American eats over 200 lbs. of meat a year.
  • 30% of the land in the U.S. is used for planting corn.
  • The modern supermarket now has, on average, 47,000 products, the majority of which is being produced by only a handful of food companies.
  • 70% of processed foods have some genetically modified ingredient.
  • SB63 Consumer Right to Know measure requiring all food derived from cloned animals to be labeled as such passed the California state legislature before being vetoed in 2007 by Governor Schwarzenegger, who said that he couldn’t sign a bill that pre-empted federal law.
  • Corn products include: ketchup, cheese, Twinkies, batteries, peanut butter, Cheez-Its, salad dressings, Coke, jelly, Sweet & Low, syrup, juice, Kool-Aid, charcoal, diapers, Motrin, meat and fast food.
  • Corn, which is the main ingredient in animal feed, is also used as a food additive. Those products commonly include: Cellulose, Xylitol, Maltodextrin, Ethylene, Gluten, Fibersol-2, Citrus Cloud Emulsion, Inosital, Fructose, Calcium Stearate, Saccharin, Sucrose, Sorbital, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Citric Acid, Di-glycerides, Semolina, Sorbic Acid, Alpha Tocopherol, Ethyl Lactate, Polydextrose, Xantham Gum, White Vinegar, Ethel Acetate, Fumaric Acid, Ascorbic Acid, Baking Powder, Zein, Vanilla Extract, Margarine, and Starch.
  • 1 in 3 Americans born after 2000 will contract early onset diabetes; Among minorities, the rate will be 1 in 2.
  • E. coli and Salmonella outbreaks have become more frequent in America, whether it be from spinach or jalapenos. In 2007, there were 73,000 people sickened from the E. coli virus.
  • Organics is the fastest growing food segment, increasing 20% annually.

Here's one more resource for you... I love lists!
 (click image to enlarge)

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Where is the real food?

“You look at the labels and you see farmer this, farmer that. It’s really just
three or four companies that are controlling the meat. We’ve never had
food companies this big and this powerful in our history.”
– Eric Schlosser, author of “Fast Food Nation.”
As we enter August, I've come to realize how much I have not missed eating meat throughout the first seven months of 2011.  As many of you know, I started a journey this year with my husband (at his urging and suggestion) to adopt a pescetarian diet.  This diet is an octo-lavo vegetarian diet with the addition of fish, crustaceans and shell fish - in other words - I don't eat things with legs or wings (but technically crustaceans have legs).  My husband, Dan, made it through January and decided that this form of eating was not for him.  He has since gone back to a full carnivore diet while I've continued on the pescetarian path.

Then April came around and I decided that since I was being conscious about what I was putting into my body already, I might as well take it step further and work on getting healthy overall.  I've since been following a generally strict caloric in-take, while sticking with pescetarianism, as well as targeting at least three work-outs per week.  It's been a struggle and I'm not perfect but I've lost over 20 lbs, down three pants sizes, feel amazing and actually have registered for a half-marathon coming up in November.  I've got a long way to go to be as healthy as I would like, but this year has really been life-changing thus far.

So why am I providing you with the most recent updates on my journey?  Well, as I have changed my life, I've also tried to take the time and educate myself about food and fitness.  From books to magazines to blogs to social networking... I'm utilizing several resources to gain knowledge and learn about what I'm putting in my body.  During a conversation last week with a friend (who has recently adopted a vegan diet in order to naturally combat Type 2 diabetes) the documentary film, Food, Inc. came up.  While I had heard of this film previously, I had never actually seen it.  My friend had mentioned the a few topics that were covered in the film and I decided that I must see it.  That same night (Wednesday of last week), I watched the film (thank you Netflix Instant Queue!).

"Food, Inc. exposes America's industrialized food system and its effect on our environment, health, economy and workers' rights."  It is truly and eye opener.  Now, I wouldn't say that I had previously been ignorant to some of the things that happen in the American Food Industry, but I was for sure not versed in it (nor would I say now that I am fully versed either).  This documentary provides insight into chicken and beef farming, the over- and misuse of corn, industry and government cooperative corruption, waste and pollution, human rights and several other topics.

After seeing chickens that are so pumped with hormones that their legs can not develop fast enough to carry their over-sized bodies; war-ready soybeans; cows that are forced to stand knee-high and deeper in their own waste; vegetables grown in manure that is full of bacteria and chemicals, and so many other horrible sights, the main thing that I took away from this film is that I did not want to go back to eating animals.... ever... and while I can't make that promise, I can guarantee that if I do, it will be different.

As much as an animal lover as I am, the treatment of the animals (also very tough to see) was not what hit me the hardest.  The major cord of mine that was struck is that the animals that we are eating are not real animals.  They are pumped up and full of junk and genetically modified and just not real.  It's amazing science that we can make chickens with double the breast size in half the time or cows that constantly lactate, but we are doing that with hormones that are then being passed into the food we consume and then into our bodies.  Sounds yummy, doesn't it?  This film changed me and I just don't want to do it any more.  I want real food.  This goes for pretty much all food.  Produce, meats, dairy, eggs, fruits.. all of it.. I want real, natural food.  No chemicals, no hormones, no genetically modified (aka mutilated!!) organisms (GMO).  None.

So that is what I'm going to do.. continue to change and grow and learn and improve me.  I want to find local and real food sources and eat real food.  Is it going to be easy? No way.  Will I fail along the way?  Hell yes.  Will it be worth it?  I sure as shit think so.  And of course I will be keeping you updated.  I haven't set any deadlines or end-all goals, but this will be an on going project.  The next step in a life transformation.  Oh and Dan too.  I'm just as concerned about what is going into his body as mine.

If you get a chance, check out Food, Inc.  There are several different topics covered so I think each of us would take away something different, or maybe even nothing at all, and I would love to hear your views and opinions as well. 

(More information available at Hungry for Change and  TakePart

It is almost time!

You've still got plenty of time to plan a meatless meal for Meatless Monday! Check out the below for some ideas or try on of the handful of recipes that I've posted here.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Lunch Gear Give-Away

The folks over at Vegetarian Times are offering a drawing for some pretty nifty pack-your-own-lunch items.
Prize package includes:
1. Built NY’s Spicy Relish lunch tote ($30)
2. Kids Konserve Food Kozy sandwich sleeves ($23/set of 5)
3. Black + Blum Lunch Pot. ($22)
4. LunchBots Duo ($17.99)
5. To-Go Ware bamboo utensil set ($12.95).
Total prize value: $105.94.

The entry form is available here.
Swing over to their site for your chance to win!

ps.  I'm just sharing this because I love free stuff!  I have no affiliation to Vegetarian Times at all... just wanted to throw that out there!  Good luck!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Follow me...

...if you want.
I've been posting some quick articles and info over at my Google+ feed and decided that I should invite my readers (I think I have readers) to follow me.  Blog feed is published there but I've also been using this as a quick way to share info that I find around the web that may not be something I post about here.  As mentioned, things like articles, blog posts, random thoughts and other stuff.

So feel free to add me and +1 your little hearts out!  Profile link is here.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Vegan Peanut Butter Pie

Looking for a quick, light, tasty, peanutbuttery vegan pie fix?!?!

There isn't much else to say besides: MAKE THIS!  You won't regret it.
Recipe is HERE from Andy Bellatti's Small Bites.

I used Koeze's Cream-Nut All Natural Peanut Butter from our local Fresh Market (made in Grand Rapids, MI... represent! (ps. I'm originally from Michigan)).  Also, I went with a chocolate crust because, let's face it.. what is better than chocolate and peanut butter?

Instructions: add ingredients to food processor, blend, pour in pie crust, chill, enjoy!

This is so quick and easy to make and my photos DO NOT give this justice at all.
I even whipped it up with a blender (because I don't have a food processor).

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Caramel Apple Frosty™ Parfait

We have a Wendy's restaurant within walking distance from our house.  It's tempting but I've been pretty good about not visiting over the last several months.  In my previous life (ha!), we would be there almost once a week, sometimes more often.  Dan still stops here on a sort of regular basis, about once a week, and today was one of those days.  He swung by the drive through on his way home from work this afternoon.  I withheld from partaking but will admit that I stole a few fries.

His bounty from Wendy's included  a spicy chicken sandwich, large french fry, large original Frosty, large chili, and a new Caramel Apple Frosty Parfait.  When he first arrived through the door, he mentioned this parfait as just "caramel apple parfait" and I assumed that it was yogurt (similar to what McDonald's offers).  Dan offered it to me and I passed (he also offered me the chili and I think he keeps forgetting that I'm still refraining from consuming beef).  I then put together my own fruit and yogurt snack for lunch.

Mixed Berry Yogurt with Honey

Mixed Berry Yogurt with Honey

  • 1 cup fat-free, reduced sugar vanilla yogurt
  • 1/4 cup blueberries
  • 1/4 cup raspberries
  • 1/4 cup blackberries
  • 1 tsp honey

Add all ingredients to a bowl and mix well.  Feel free to adjust berry measurements to your liking.  (I just added the berries that I had on hand but this is also wonderful with other fruits as well.  I also enjoy strawberries in mine!).  Total calories on this are about 220-250 with no fat, but could vary depending on the type of yogurt and fruits you use.  You can also skip the honey to save about 50 calories.

As I enjoyed my homemade lunch/snack, I did some research on what my husband was ingesting just at the other end of the couch.  He wouldn't let me tell him the total calorie count.  It is astonishing and I'll just leave it at: It was over 10 times the amount of calories in my berry yogurt lunch

Here's the kicker for me... The Caramel Apple Frosty Parfait.

I didn't realize it was a 'Frosty' parfait until I got to the company's nutritional information and was unable to find it under the categories I had assumed it would be located (sides or value menu).  So I checked the Frosty category and low and behold... it's a frosty with apples, granola and caramel sauce.   Of course, my first thought was that Wendy's appears to be trying to make their sugary milk-shake type treat into something more 'healthy'.  Blasphemy.  I browsed around the web to see if there was any info about this product yet.  I didn't find too much except a couple reviews about the taste (of this as well as the other flavors available.. Berry and Oreo).  Then I went back to the Wendy's website and found their own description of the product:  "It’s our creamy, classic Frosty swirled with brown sugar granola, fresh red and green apple slices, and real caramel. It’s a tasty, feel-good treat."  And there it was... the two words that I was looking to find.  I couldn't imagine that a fast-food chain could add fruit to something full of sugar and chemicals without trying to make it sound like something that is good for you.  It's BS, honestly.  BS.  Wendy's must think we are idiots and sadly, maybe they are right.

I did try a bite of this product.  The granola was tasty and the apples crisp.  The frosty (vanilla flavored) was soupy and messy and for this being Ghirardelli Caramel, I wasn't impressed.  These pack 400 calories, 9 grams of fat and a whopping 57 grams of sugar.  Interestingly, the Oreo option has the same amount of calories with one less gram of sugar and one more gram of fat.  Amazing!  If you HAVE to get one of these, I would opt for the Berry option (320 calories, 48 sugars and 7 fat), but really it would be best if you skipped this all together.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Article: Benifits of Vegetarianism

Just a quick post to share the following article from Everyday Health.

A Vegetarian Diet for Heart Health

Some quick highlights:
"Vegetarian diets boast a number of health benefits, including decreasing your risk of developing metabolic syndrome, which can put you at greater risk for heart disease, diabetes, and stroke"

There are also some great tips on including more veggies in your diet:

  • Fill half your plate with vegetables at each meal.
  • Try to get about nine servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
  • Substitute nutrient-rich vegetables like leafy greens for nutrient-poor vegetables like potatoes.
And some great suggestions on meatless alternatives to breakfast, lunch, dinner and even snacks!

  • Breakfast: Instead of bacon and eggs, try a bowl of steel-cut oatmeal topped with fresh fruit, or a whole grain English muffin spread with peanut butter.
  • Lunch: Instead of a sandwich made with lunch meat, try a hearty vegetable soup and a whole-wheat burrito filled with beans.
  • Dinner: Instead of spaghetti and meatballs, try bowtie pasta with roasted garlic and eggplant.
  • Snacks and desserts: Get more nutrition into your day with a strawberry smoothie for a midday pick-me-up, or a watermelon blueberry banana split for dessert. 
Start by trying a meatless day one day a week.  See how you feel.  Probably won't be today since I'm sure many will be out BBQ meats and having a great 4th of July.  Lets shoot for next Monday for your first Meatless Monday!  Happy Independence Day America!  Enjoy!!

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Declare your Independence from Snack Food

I love snacks... love love love snacks.  Candy, cookies, chips, popcorn, ice cream... all of it.  I've been struggling to keep my snacking on the healthy side and I came across a great article this week from Lisa Cain, PhD aka Snack Girl.  Her article, titled: Evidence That Junk Food Snacking Will Shorten Your Life, covered a study done by the University of North Carolina on various rats and the effects of snacking.  (Let me say that I am not a fan of animal testing, but when they just get to each junk food all day, that sounds like animal heaven.  But seriously, please don't holler at me for the rats.. not my study.. just sharing the info...so now that that is over, lets move on.)  The study showed that when allowed, the rats would overeat not only their snack food but their regular meals as well.  Additionally, it appears that when they started snacking, they couldn't stop.  I'll leave you to review the post yourself but will highlight the following:
"Snacks are not the enemy. They are very convenient and portable- the danger is consuming too many of the bad ones. Many packaged snacks are high in salt, fat and trans-fat, and low in fiber."
In a similar article (Kids Snacking Too Much), also regarding a study done at the University of North Carolina, we learn that over a 30 year period, children are more and more likely to be snack addicts.  The caloric intake of snacks in children's diets increased by 168 calories from 1977 to 2006 and that now 27% of children's calories come from snacks.  Barry M. Popkin, PhD said the following:
"Such findings raise concerns that more children in the United States are moving toward a dysfunctional eating pattern, one that can lead to unhealthy weight gain and obesity."
Then I come across an article, in an actual print version of Men's Health that we have at our home, that talks about "6 formerly forbidden snacks that are actually good for you".  Jackpot, right?  Wrong.  This article proceeds to tell you that beef jerky and sour cream are good for you.  WHAT?!?!?!  I understand you can argue why these items might be better than others, which Men's Health does, but the claim that these are good for you I think is a little far fetched.  They also seem to be exploiting the smallest of good from things like chocolate and wine, and not balancing out the information with that downfalls of overindulgence in these items.  I've also been enlightened recently by Andy Bellatti (whose blog is amazing!) on some of the other falsehoods that Men's Health preaches about food and I'm happy to say that that magazine will no longer be coming into our house.

So what do I snack on now, you ask?  Carrots, cucumbers, hummus, string cheese, yogurt, berries, Buddy Fruit, individual serving bags of popcorn, and a whole bunch of other goods stuff.  I try to keep  my snacks to two a day, and aim to keep them at about 50 calories each, but they vary and usually never more than 100.  And no, that doesn't mean those 100 calorie snack packs of cookies and junk.  If you need snack packs, try to make your own. 

I've also recently found an app for that.. Crazy, huh? Everyday Health's Snack App gives you several categories of snacks to chose from and lists the calorie counts for each.  It also includes suggested exercises to help you burn off your snacks too!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Grilled Zucchini and Mushroom Sandwich

Being just back from a week long vacation, our wallet is looking a little slim.  This has prevented me from doing an all out grocery shop for this week so we have minimal food in our house.  This is pretty detrimental when your main source of food has become fresh produce and various other perishable items.  We all know that these are often the most expensive.  In my previous life (6 months ago), I would have had no problem stocking up on boxes of $0.69 macaroni and cheese and whatever frozen dinners were on sale that week.  Not anymore.

This financial and health conundrum leads me to get a little creative with the dinners I whip up from time to time.  Tonight was no exception.  I had picked up a couple zucchini (a staple at my house now), a container of baby bella mushrooms (on sale), and some hummus (on sale) during a trip to the grocer last week. Yesterday, during another quick stop to get fruits and veggies, I also grabbed some Foldit Artisan Flatbreads by Flatout (BOGO this week!).  These were just random items that I knew I would be able to use some way or another, be it by themselves or in a combination of things.
I felt a little like Mrs. Wizard in the kitchen tonight.  I started off with the plan to just saute the zucchini like I always do.  As I was cooking, I decided to take a look in the fridge for what else we might have in there.  Found the mushrooms and decided to saute these too.  Figured it would be a nice plate of veggies and fungus for dinner.  Score.  But then it happened.  As I was plating all my items I decided that it all might work well together... I spotted the Foldit Flatbreads on the counter and the hummus in the refrigerator entered my brain.

Here's what you need and what to do with it:

1 medium sized zucchini  - washed and sliced
2 Foldit Artisan Flatbreads (I used the Rosemary & Olive Oil flavor)
4 oz Baby Bella Mushrooms
4 tablespoons hummus (any flavor - I used plain)
Olive Oil to saute
Garlic salt
Italian Seasoning
Parmesan Cheese (the grated kind is find, such as Kraft)

Add approximately 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a pan on medium heat.  Once warm, add zucchini slices flat on the bottom of the pan.  Lightly sprinkle with garlic salt, Italian seasoning and cheese.  Saute for about 5 minutes on one side.  Flip slices over and repeat.  Once done to your liking (I leave them in until the cheese gets a little brown on one side), remove from pan individually leaving any remaining oil and seasoning in the bottom of the pan.  Add mushrooms and saute until done.  Remove from pan.  Lay out bread.  Cover each slice with 2 tablespoons of hummus.  Sprinkle each piece lightly with paprika.  Top hummus with a layer of zucchini and then a layer of mushrooms using equal amounts on each piece of bread.  Fold bread and Enjoy!

As always, play with this recipe.  Find out what you like.  Try with different flavors of hummus or different flavors of flatbread.  I was thinking this might also be amazing with some added sauteed onions and/or peppers.   Let me know if you try it out and what combos you use!

(Sorry I don't have a photo for you on this one... I didn't expect it to be blog-worthy.  Next time I make this, I'll be sure to update :)

Monday, June 20, 2011

Asian Veggie Patties

Just a quick little product review....
No joke.. these are the best!  I've been trying out various MorningStar Farms products when they go on sale at my local grocer and we've had a pack of these in the freezer for a little while.  I finally tried them out a few nights ago and they are so yummy!  Only 100 calories per patty, too!  I'm a little disappointed that the ingredient list has some random crap at the end, but overall I think a good quick, freezer friendly meat alternative.  I just microwave a patty for a minute and eat it with a bowl of steamed edamame... tada.. dinner!  The website has a handful of recipes as well.  I'll have to try some out.  If anyone else has tried the recipes or any others, let me know.... I would love your feedback!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Pesticides and Produce: Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen

We're learning more and more each day about random chemicals that have been used in and on food for a long time.  Farmers push to find the best options to grow the largest number and sized crops and chemicals, additives, fertilizers and pesticides were the answer.  At one time, no one thought that the pesticides that were sprayed on growing product would hurt anything besides pests, but come time find out, that's not true.  While the Organic Movement has bee around for over a century, it has only bee in the last 30-40 years that it has been regulated and even less time that the masses are paying attention.

So what is Organic?  Iowa State University has provided the following definition:
According to the USDA National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), organic agriculture is defined as "an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain, or enhance ecological harmony. The primary goal of organic agriculture is to optimize the health and productivity of interdependent communities of soil life, plants, animals and people." (NOSB, 1997) The term "organic" is defined by law, as opposed to the labels "natural" and "eco-friendly," which may imply that some organic methods were used in the production of the foodstuff, but this label does not guarantee complete adherence to organic practices as defined by a law. Most "natural" products do not contain synthetic products, but may have been provided conventional (synthetic chemicals used in production) food or feed (as in "natural" beef). source

Keep that label trick in mind when you go shopping the next time.  You specifically want to look for the word Organic.  By law, in the US, foods labeled as organic must meet the appropriate criteria.

The Environmental Working Group, has published this year's EWG's Shopper's Guide to Pesticides on their website.  This guide provides us with the Dirty Dozen - the top 12 produce items that we should buy organically - as well as the Clean Fifteen - the top 15 items that are OK to not buy organic.  This list may come in handy for you as it can easily identify what you might want to splurge on (the extra few cents) to buy without pesticides and chemicals and what items you can save on and buy non-organic.


There is also an awesome video from CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta where he tours a grocery store (Kroger!) and explains a little more about which produce, the costs and why its good to buy organic.  He mentions that most important thing to me which is that the pesticide levels that are measures on produce are the tested levels AFTER the foods have been power-washed.  To me, that says that my little scrub job at home isn't going to help much and I for sure want to buy any items on the dirty dozen list organically.

Looking for more info?  Check out the rest of the EWG website as well as last year's CNN Special Report: Toxic America

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Scary Truth About Movie Theater Snacks [infographic]

Review this before you head out to go see Green Lantern this weekend.... make smart choices!  Or do what I do and sneak in a bottle of water and a snack bag of baby carrots (this works for girls with purses/bags/pocketbooks.. and don't tell anyone I told you that!) or have a big salad before you go!  Our local theatre will also provide us with cups for water from the drinking fountain at no charge.

Full story and infographic here:  Scary Truth About Movie Theater Snacks [infographic]

Post-Vacation Wrap up and more

We're back from a wonderful vacation in Orlando.  Dan and I had a great time with our friends and it was an awesome experience.  Our main reason for going was that Dan competed in a gaming tournament for various fighting games.  He played Mortal Kombat 9 and there were also matches in Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Super Street Fighter 4 AE, Tekken 6, and a few others.  He's been a big gamer as long as I have know him (going on 11 years!) and my first introduction to competitive video game competitions was awesome!  We've already got another in our sights for later this year and I think I might actually give it a try this time, too.

So how did I do on the food part you ask?  Well, I think OK.  I packed on about 4 lbs but have already shed two of them since being back on Wednesday.  I stuck completely to vegetarian and pescetarian meals (with the exceptions of two small tasting bites: Greek gyro meat at local place we've wanted to try (I love Greek food) and chicken at Three Broomsticks in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios).  Where did we eat you ask?  Not half as many places as I had hoped!

Our first planned stop got cancelled.  We had a late breakfast on the road and were all still too full to have lunch.  This was a bit of a bummer as I had hoped to get in a meal at the Ethos Vegan Kitchen in Orlando.  Next time...  So we moved right ahead to our second planned stop at the Raphsodic Cooperative Vegan Bakery.  I ended up here because I had purchased a Groupon (it might have been living social) deal a few weeks in advance.  Completely worth it!  This is a quaint little shop in an odd little place in downtown Orlando, but it was awesome.  The staff was super friendly and let us him and haw over our random sampling.  We each chose a treat or two and then headed to our hotel to check-in.  We got a handful of vegan cupcakes, a few cookies and a brownie.  Each item was so yummy and they kept well too.  We did not have a refrigerator in our hotel room so the items we didn't eat right away were just stored in the bakery box. On day three, they were still pretty good.  The brownie even made it back home (with part travel in a cooler) and was amazingly tasty almost a week later.  I couldn't imagine how good it would have been if I was able to eat it the same day!  Here's our goody box:

The rest of the weekend included stops at Giordano's for deep dish pizza (another Groupon deal and it was right across the street from our hotel.. we walked! I got mushroom and broccoli!), Whole Foods for random samplings (I love their hot bar for lunch or dinner.  Gives a great chance to try many foods that you don't usually eat... and so good!), and found a Sweet Tomatoes down the road (if you have one of these in your area GO! Salad Bar Buffet with soups and other yummy food.. such a good deal!).

Salad at Sweet Tomatoes

We landed at a few other stops as well over the five days we were in Orlando.  I'll post more about some of them in a separate post (World's Largest McDonald's and food at Universal Studios).  Overall, again, had a GREAT time!  We ate a ton and really enjoyed ourselves.  I did not get in the exercise that I had hoped, but we did a lot of walking while we were there so I felt that made up for some of it.  I feel like my food choices were for sure those of a girl on vacation, but I was still conscious of what I was putting in my mouth.  The stop at Sweet Tomatoes was awesome and definitely helped flush out all that cheese from the night before at Giordano's.  Hoping to get back to Ethos in the future and will for sure be stopping at Raphsodic next time we're in town... and I didn't stop at just one cupcake... I went for two!

I've got a new fitness / weight-loss / food plan in the works for the next two moths and will keep on my mission of getting healthy.  Which leads me to mention that I think I need to change the title of this blog.  While I was hoping to keep my focus on pescetarianism, things change and so has my life over the last 6 months.  As you've noticed, while my posts still include my pescetarian diet, I seem to have moved forward.  I'm enjoying sharing health, fitness, travel and overall life info with you and I hope you feel the same.
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