butternut squash & black bean enchilada

A few weeks ago, my sister-in-law sent me a link to a vegetarian dish she prepared from Yummy Mummy Kitchen. Knowing that David and I were departing on the road of vegan-ism, she passed along the recipe for butternut squash & black bean enchiladas.  

Finally, after the holiday mayhem settled down, I found myself back in the kitchen tonight wondering what I should make for dinner.  It is so cold outside that I wanted the meal to be cozy but I wanted to make sure the meal focused on the veggies.  Her recommendation came to mind and I got started on the enchiladas.  The recipe was super fast and easy to prep.  Within 40 minutes, it was complete and ready to eat.  Much of that time was used to roast the butternut squash so don’t shy away from this meal, it truly is a simple recipe for someone who doesn’t mind using their hands to assemble these delicious “cheesy” enchiladas.

What do you need:

1 Greek Yogurt or Soy Yogurt (to keep it vegan)

2 jars of spicy red salsa

1 package of cheddar cheese OR Diaya “cheese” (to keep it vegan)

1 can organic black beans

12 oz chopped butternut squash

1 yellow onion, chopped

olive oil

salt & pepper

Tortillas (vegan can be found in the groceries stores too!)

Pre-heat the oven to 400 and roast the chopped butternut squash with a tablespoon of olive oil and salt and pepper.  When cooked through, mix into a bowl with the black beans and onions.  Take about a tablespoon and half of this mixture and roll it in the tortilla placing it seam side down.  I used a 4 quart pyrex baking dish.  Once the dish has the rolled enchiladas, mix together the the salsa and greek/soy yogurt.  Pour this over the enchiladas and top with the cheese/daiya.  Bake in the oven at 350 until the cheese is melted and bubbly.  Enjoy a delicious, flavorful, and simple meal!

new year’s resolutions

New Year’s Resolutions are a funny thing.  Each year we make a series of promises to ourselves.  It is a quirky tradition that I eagerly embrace as though the opportunity to remake oneself only comes once a year. There is something magical about being able to thaw out the “good side” of yourself just in time for the new year and just in time for that “good side” to finally end its hibernation.  Good bye to the “bad side.”  The side that snacks at night, the side that gossips, the side that chooses to be selfish can finally be overcome this time of year by the strength of one’s resolutions.  Of course, I am not naive and know that resolutions can also become empty promises and that habits are the hardest to change.  Yet, I believe today is the day make and believe in my the promises, to remind myself of the magic of New Year’s Eve, and to finally thaw out my inner potential that will help make 2013 another great year.

2012 was a spectacular year: Obama was re-elected, we moved out of our tiny apartment and we bought our first home, my nephew was born (and added himself to an already amazing family of brother, sister-in-law, and little niece), my best friend got married, I went to Costa Rica, made new friends, enjoyed “old” friends, spent much needed time with family, celebrated my one year anniversary with David, and so much more.  It will be bittersweet to say goodnight and goodbye to such a good year, but I am looking forward to all that 2013 will hold! 😉

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the resolutions:

1. Veggie Belly: Since taking the vegan pledge about one month ago, I have felt more lively. It is not as hard to be a veggie belly as I thought.  While I took a few days over the Christmas week to “treat” myself to holiday traditions, I am renewing my pledge to focus on veggies, my health, and my spirit. Only by balancing these alongside the day-to-day will everything else settle into place.

2. Appreciate and Foster Relationships: Having a birthday the day after Christmas teaches me a great deal about friendships.  The 26th is the nation’s post-holidays “coma” day. A day when most people can finally take the breath they have needed since Thanksgiving. Some friends call to wish me a Happy Birthday.  Each year, I am always SO surprised by this and happy to receive calls from loved ones.  This year in particular I want to make sure I honor each relationship in my life and foster them more with the gift of some TLC.

3. Save Money: Ah…this one is important. While David and I are blessed with our life together, it is always a good practice to save for a “rainy” day.  Therefore, it will be my prerogative this year to begin saving money in a conscious and consistent way.

4. Be Crafty: Nothing is better than homemade from food to a wooly hat. My friend, Skye, and her friend, Ashley, are crafting divas.  They knit, sew, cut, paste, dream, and create.  And, they have a ton of fun doing it. There is a kernel deep inside of me that wants to participate in these hobbies and crafts and therefore I am going to let this kernel grow and see what becomes of it.  Get ready world…I am going crafty!

I hope you have a wonderful New Year and that your resolutions help you stay focused, happy, and healthy in 2013.

butternut squash & chickpea salad

Cooking on Friday is a major avoidance in our house.  By the time Friday rolls around, I am so tired from a week of teaching that cooking seems like mission impossible. Dragging myself home, I am famished as though food was not consumed all day long. Not trusting myself at restaurants yet with my new diet I knew that, despite this dilemma of being too tired to cook but too hungry to ignore my tummy growls, I had to make something. Turning to my favorite food blog, Smitten Kitchen, I looked for something with minimal ingredients, maximum of flavor, and a speedy delivery time. The recipe for the warm butternut squash and chickpea salad was just the right combination of all of these elements.

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The gist of it: Dice up one butternut squash, mix in a bowl with olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and bake for about 35 minutes at 425. In another bowl, whisk together three tablespoons of tahini, 1/4 cup of lemon juice, garlic, as a dressing.  Once squash is baked through toss it in a bowl with the dressing and garnish with chopped parsley (cilantro tastes like soap to David), add a can of drained chickpeas and a half of chopped onion. Voila dinner in a jiffy!

red curry and vegetables

This evening, David and I tried a new vegan recipe adapted from the truffle honey blog.  When I am “cooking” in the kitchen, David is less a sous chef and more of an emergency responder.  Without fail there will always be some minor or major disaster in the kitchen from exploding pots to fires. I would not be cooking if I was not also making a GIANT mess of something.  At first, this was a source of great anxiety and discouragement. Why couldn’t I flow through the kitchen? Why did I cut my hands with the chopping knife? Why did I light paper on fire while reading the recipe? Why did I burn rice? Why did the pudding explode on the stove-top? Perhaps it is because I lack overall patience in my life and watching a pot doesn’t make it boil faster….so why not crank up the heat?  These messes and disasters have now become a way of life and David is quick off the couch when he hears, “Ah Help!”  Without any questions, he scans the room first for my safety and then proceeds with his rehearsed crisis management skills. Tonight, I threw red curry on the floor while sautéing onions, chopping veggies, and trying to use my body to shield the dogs from the paste on the floor. In an odd way, in the midst of the disaster we have established a rhythm to quell the incident and move on towards meal time. As Julia Child once said, “The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” This dish was delicious, disaster and all!

Saute onions in oil with garlic until translucent and fragrant 

Julienne peppers, carrots, Shitake mushrooms, and bamboo shoots

Cut a large handful of snap peas in half

Once onions are cooked through add two tablespoons of red curry paste

Add one can (14 oz) of unsweetened coconut milk, bring to boil, add in vegetables and simmer on medium-high covered for about 8 minutes. Then serve with brown rice and toasted naan. 

curried lentils and sweet potatoes

Yesterday was our first full day as vegans. It was surprisingly fun to walk through the school cafeteria and repeat my new mantra as I scanned the buffet, “You are a vegan, you are a vegan.” Upon entering, I noticed that the main hot meal was chicken quesadillas.  I quickly by-passed this selection and made a beeline for the vegetarian option. Alas, it was cheese quesadillas and those do not quite fit the vegan protocol. I tried not to panic. Thankfully, my school’s menu items are diverse and plentiful and I was able to put together a delicious meal of salad, veggies, and butternut squash soup. Having survived my first school day as a vegan, I went confidently into the kitchen to cook my first vegan meal for dinner. We chose a recipe from smitten kitchen and were delighted with how satisfying and flavorful it was. I highly recommend it to all herbivores (and anyone else who enjoys a restaurant quality meal in the comfort of one’s home!). Not to shabby for Day 1 and the pledge to this new lifestyle and eating habit has only gotten stronger.

Vegan Pledge

Today, Monday, November 26, 2012 ,David and I are officially starting an entirely whole-foods, plant based diet. Yes, you might think this is a radical approach to cut meat, dairy, and all foods that “had a face or a mother at some point” from our diet, but I am excited for this endeavor.  It most definitely will not be easy.  David and I have grown accustomed to eating meat and are too addicted to mac n’cheese. In the one year since we married, we have each gained 10 pounds of what I like to call “comfy weight.”  But, really this means that while we try to cook home most nights, we often ditch our own kitchen for something more convenient out of doors. David in particular has been categorized/demonized as a carnivore extraordinaire. Just the very idea of David eating veggies over meat will have many family and friends scratching their heads. Isn’t he from the South? Doesn’t he love his ribs, chicken wings, steaks, and burgers? Does he even eat vegetables? Ah, but little do the naysayers know that in fact this “carnivore” is a herbivore at heart. I will not be taking David down the path to vegetarianism kicking and screaming.  Rather, he is coming willingly especially after a Thanksgiving weekend in which he ate as much meat as physically possible (just shy of getting meat sweats) before this sudden and abrupt halt starting today.

Why now?  Well, why not!  Perhaps we do not want to be totally cliche by making this into a New Year’s resolution that people will inevitably be expecting us to break two weeks into the new year. Or perhaps we know that if we don’t start today then tomorrow will just never come. There is no better day then today the old saying goes. On Friday night we watched the documentary Forks Over Knives and realized that we have a great deal of information at our fingertips that has pointed us to the same conclusions made in this film. We have seen countless other documentaries, read books, blogs, and have noted that most of our doctors are vegans or vegetarians. Dr. Oz is a vegetarian, my father’s cardiologist is a vegan and my doctor has often discussed with me taking the same pledge to plant based eating as each of the individuals. So here I am making it. For some reason the commitment feels more validated when I write about it on the blog. As though each one of you will help hold me accountable or at least my writing about it will hold me accountable to it. Gorging myself on Thanksgiving and feeling bloated, full, and tight in my clothes afterwards also helped with the decision!

Yesterday was our “last hurrah” in the animal protein world. We went out for a delicious post thanksgiving brunch. Eating those eggs hit the spot.  I have always loved eating brunch and devouring as much coffee, potatoes, and eggs benedict as humanly possible. This time though I thought I would be sad as I said good-bye to my delightful, full-fat and protein rick brunch but I wasn’t.  I was actually excited to get the meal over and to start on my new path with David to more wholesome and nutrient rich eating habits. And with the last swallow, the pledge began.

Of course sticking to this pledge will require a great deal of work: planning meals, educating ourselves on the nutrients we need, and just plain ignoring/changing our old eating habits. Thankfully, I am not doing this alone. David and I will “struggle” through this dietary shift together and hopefully be lean, green, fighting machines on the other side!

Here are some helpful blogs we will be using during the transition:

Smitten Kitchen
101 Cookbooks
Oh my veggies

zesty quinoa with broccoli and cashews

We do not eat enough quinoa. Tonight we decided to correct this.  Often we are guilty of planning a meal around a particular animal protein putting the veggies and grains on the side.  While we always choose lean proteins (when we are not trying to impress dinner guests), we decided to spend this week putting quinoa and veggies on center stage.  Whenever I am unsure of how to prepare an ingredient my go to online resource is the Whole Foods site.  I stumbled across this recipe: Zesty Quinoa with Broccoli and Cashews. They are not kidding when they say this meal is “zesty!”  It was quite delicious and we are going to put it into our regular “rotation” for quick and nutritious week night meals.