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Habit #4 Prep ahead.

This habit helps with two challenges. This first being what to cook especially on nights when you are tired. The second is produce that can be pricey, dying in your refrigerator before you get a chance to eat it. The answer is planning your menus and prepping your food right after you bring it home.

When I had to feed four children on a budget I used to plan out my menu for about 2 weeks, shop for food every two weeks, buy in bulk as much as I could and then I would do a marathon cooking day, prepping the ingredients and freezing or storing them in the refrigerator. It was a grueling day but it saved me lots of time and money. Plus we ate healthier meals.

I took the same approach with my new healthier eating plan. I plan out two weeks worth of menus then make a list with the needed ingredients. I take my list to the grocery store every two weeks and yes stick to a budget. Then every other Saturday afternoon I spend about 2 hours prepping the fresh produce. One big help is dividing romaine lettuce into leaves, washing and drying them then placing them in a large baggie or container for salads. A second head of romaine is torn and washed and spun dry then put in a second container. I am more likely to make a salad if the greens are washed and ready.

I also travel to my favorite farmers market and pick up produce in season. Here are some ideas on how to prep and preserve it from spoiling. Corn can be shucked and placed in a large baggie. Do not wash it ahead of time. I chop the tops off of beets and cook them until they are fork tender then slice and store in the refrigerator for salads. Tomatoes should sit on a window sill until you are ready to use them. Cucumbers can be peeled, sliced and refrigerated. Carrots, celery, scallions, peppers and radishes are cleaned and cut into dipping sizes. I usually make some hummus and black bean dip to accompany them. Chopping and slicing red onions and garlic are really helpful for quick dinners when I’m tired. Lately I’ve been cutting up a small watermelon and refrigerating it. It makes a great dessert on hot nights.

Finally I make sure I have a healthy sweet snack available. Fresh blueberries and a cut up pineapple are satisfying. Also, I portion almonds and raisins, 1 ounce each combined in a baggie for snacks when I want something sweet. Remember a craving only lasts for about 15 minutes so if you have something healthy prepared you are less likely to run out for ice cream.

The time is well spent because when I need ingredients for a shake they are ready. When I’m craving something sweet I have cut up fruit or an almond raisin snack. Salads are easy. This prep has really helped with sticking to my eating plan.

Try it and share your recipes and prepping techniques. I would love to hear from you.


Cannellini Bean Dip

For all of my gluten-free readers here is a dip made with canned Cannelloni beans that is simple and delicious.  Eat it with corn chips or rice crackers or even better fresh veggie sticks like celery, carrots and cucumbers.

Cannelloni Bean Dip

1 15 oz can of Cannelloni Beans, drained

1 cup of cottage cheese

1 handful of fresh basil, we used Tai Basil

Juice from one lemon

Salt and pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.  Makes about 2 cups


The 90 Day Vegetarian Adventure Comes to a Close.

It was an adventure and an educational journey that revealed much about myself and how I relate to food.  The most surprising revelation is that I am not a true Vegan.  Rather, I’m a vegetarian who limits fat to 10 gms per day and I eat nonfat dairy products which eliminates eggs.  Adding dairy takes me out of the strict Vegan diet.

There are two main reasons why I don’t eat meat.   I truly dislike the way animals are raised and slaughtered by the large producers and after eating nothing but vegetables, grains and fruit, even the smell of meat bothers me.  I’ve never noticed before that each animal tastes like it smells.  Beef has a bloody, manure taste, chicken tastes like the henhouse and goat, well I’ve not had goat meat, but I can’t get some of the cheese past my nose nor the milk.

The physical results of the Vegetarian adventure have been encouraging.  I’ve lost 15 pounds and one dress size; my total cholesterol is lower ( I’m also taking a statin) and I have more energy.  My knee pain is gone but I have to credit that to a Kenalog shot and also I know exactly what foods cause me to develop a migraine.  When I began the adventure I didn’t have a clue as to what triggered the headaches.

So the adventure was well worth the time and effort.  I will continue with the low-fat vegetarian diet.  Low fat because genetic testing recommended it and it works for me.  I’ve also learned not to worry about what other people think or say.  My family is accepting and they are enjoying the new recipes, one of which will end this article.  The excitement of doing something new is over but I have confidence that this is a diet that I will be able to maintain over the rest of my life.  To all of you who have followed my blog you have my heart-felt thanks.  Reader response made a huge difference for me.  I will close this chapter with a new recipe, and keep checking the blog, I’m on to bigger and better things!

Stir Fried Green Beans

Five handfuls of whole Green Beans, frozen are fine

1 tblsp of Olive Oil

1 tblsp of Tamari 

1/2 tsp of Garlic powder

Wok for frying

Heat the Wok and add the oil.  When the oil is fragrant but not smoking add the green beans and sprinkle the garlic powder over them.  Stir fry the beans for 5 to 7 minutes then add the Tamari  and continue to stir until the liquid is absorbed.  Serve immediately, beans should be slightly crunchy.  Serves 4


90 Day Vegetarian Adventure – Day 82 The Traveller

The recent road trip to Denver proved to be a challenge for vegetarian eating.  A few discoveries are noteworthy. For breakfast we packed protein shakes and meal replacement bars.  They make your tummy feel good when you have to eat early in the morning and they keep you from veering off the road into hash browns and sausage sandwiches.

For lunch we found at Sonic, of all places cranberry juice, sugar was added but it was a wonderful break from bottled water and orange juice.  Quiznos grilled mushrooms and onions for my veggie sub and made it to my specifications.  It was delicious.  Of course the Morningstar brand of veggie burger is available at Burger King and if I’m feeling deprived I also order the onion rings.   Finally, the old standby, Cracker Barrel has a four vegetable side dish platter with corn muffins that is very satisfying and they serve pinto beans with a really nice pickle relish.  Their Apple Iced Tea and Sweet Potato Casserole are a highlight of the menu.

Once in Denver we ate at two different restaurants.  Las Fuentes near Speer Blvd in downtown has homemade Mexican food with bean and rice fillings.  The sauces make the food extraordinary.  The Old Spaghetti Factory is a great place to eat if you are hungry and like homemade Italian food.  We ate Mizithra cheese from Greece with  browned butter on pasta, which was the best entree of the week.

Finally, we never go into the higher altitudes without our Perfect Water.  It is purified, re-mineralized, ionized, micro-structured, and oxygen rich which is very helpful when trying to walk or climb stairs in the Mile-High City.

If you have tried to eat a healthy, vegetarian diet on the road send me your finds.  I would love to hear from you.


90 Day Vegetarian Adventure Day 25 The Reasons

In reading and commenting on other Vegan and Vegetarian blogs I’ve noticed that a lot of vegetarians are what I would call aggressively mellow.  They have chosen to eat a certain way and love the results but seem to always have their armor on, defending their choices.  If my reasons are strong enough for me and I’m not offending God, who cares what others think or eat?   I don’t view eating well as a crusade, rather it is a personal choice based on past experience and study.

The past experiences have to do with always planting a vegetable garden in the spring and eating from it the rest of the year.  Fresh food from the garden to table has a flavor that cannot be duplicated in the 2 to 3 weeks that it takes to ship the food from somewhere else.  Plus, after 2 weeks at least half of the vitamin C is gone.

The study has to do with the book of Genesis in the Bible.  I’ve always been fascinated with our Creator and His methods.  The original design places us in a garden, tending it , living in it and eating the produce from it.  Nutritionists are finding that our bodies are designed to heal themselves when the right nutrients are in place.

So, your reasons for being a vegetarian are yours alone.  Relax, and take off your armor.  Enjoy your gardens and farmer’s markets.  In my view vegetables and fruits are a major miracle.  You don’t have to defend yourself or insist that others agree with you.  And you certainly don’t have to worry about what other people think.


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90 Day Vegetarian Adventure Day 10 Retro-Eating

When planning the evening meal I think about what my grandparents ate during the summer.  They raised families during the depression and lived on small farms with chickens, pigs, vegetable gardens, and a variety of fruit trees.  New potatoes cooked in their jackets, freshly picked corn on the cob and ripe tomatoes were standard fare this time of year.  This evening we had black-eyed peas, corn and collard greens from the garden.  The flavors are complementary and I feel deeply satisfied when I’m finished.  This is retro-eating at it’s finest.


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90 Day Vegetarian Adventure Day 9 Struggling

At the beginning of the week I had my blood work drawn and had a conference with my Doctor about my knees and cholesterol.  The LDL number is high enough to treat with  medication.  My knees are slightly arthritic and the left knee has a bone fragment that is floating.  Even though surgery is in the near future, a lower weight would help all of these conditions.  So, the 90 Day Vegan Adventure isn’t only about a new eating habit, it’s also about weight loss.  The catch-22 is exercising with a bum knee.  Yoga has worked for flexibility and strength but I need an inexpensive form of aerobic exercise that doesn’t cause knee pain.  Recommendations are welcome.


90 Day Vegetarian Adventure Day 2 – Eating Out

Today I worked with my husband in the Rockville area and found the most wonderful restaurant for lunch.  We decided that with the Vegan Adventure, eating in a typical American restaurant would be meat based for the most part and high in fat.  So, we stopped at a Mediterranean hole-in-the-wall that advertised falafel.  The vegetarian falafel was just what I wanted.  The vegetables and falafel were wrapped in fresh, homemade bread with a delicious yogurt sauce on the side.  I also ordered some Persian Rice Pudding which was made with saffron and rose-water.  For those of you who work in the Rockville area, the name of the restaurant is Mediterranean House of Kabob located at the White Flint Station Center.

Lesson Learned:  I love working with my husband, and when looking for good vegetarian food try Mediterranean.