Category: Food Journey

The whole dietary change endeavor is going really well. I’m not really struggling with being vegan like I thought I would, but I can’t say that I’m having any majorly noticeable health changes either. I don’t get my cholesterol checked again until the week after next and we’ll see if my changes have made any positive difference on that front.

While I’ve been really good, I have fallen off the wagon, so to speak, a few times over the past month or so. The biggest failure was during my two youngest kids’ birthdays. They have birthdays less than two weeks apart, and our family tradition is to let them pick every meal for the day of their birthday and the day of their party. Needless to say, they aren’t vegan and their choices made mine harder, and quite frankly, I didn’t fight it.

I regretted that with Pieces’ birthday party day when I had a Red Robin hamburger for lunch and Smithfield’s fried chicken for dinner. I felt horrible the next day. My digestive system completely rebelling. So I won’t be doing that again, and I was much better behaved during Pynni’s birthday choices because of that experience even though my choices were not vegan.

My big failure to be vegan revolves mostly around fish. I can’t seem to get enough fish; sushi in particular. It is unhelpful that Whole Foods has really good sushi, and when I go there, it’s super easy to pick up a roll or some nagiri or both (depending on the selection). I guess the upshot is I’m not eating my weight in sushi when I cheat.

So not totally vegan. My problem seems to be that I don’t have any hard held moral objections to eating meat. If I could afford it, I would eat only local meat from animals I’ve looked in the eye, but that’s expensive. I do, however, support local farms as often as I can.

Also, I never really got around to committing to the Engine 2 diet. I have been mostly vegan, and except for maybe 7 cheats, I have been wholly vegetarian. I’ve stopped cooking with butter (I’d given up margarine a long time ago) and I’ve switched from olive oil to coconut oil for sautéing. I use much less oil than I used to and it’s healthier, so I’m hoping that a plus. I’ve tripled my fresh produce intake, at the very least, and I’ve been eating only whole grains. So all in all, I’ve been very happy with myself and I haven’t let any bad choices or momentary weakness derail the over all goal. Basically, I haven’t completely reverted to eating foods made with cream cheese and heavy cream after having a hamburger because why even try? So there’s that.

It remains to be seen if my efforts will have any noticeable effects with my blood work in a couple of weeks. My actions after that will be determined by the results of the tests. I can tell you that those actions will not include returning to the foods that put in the place I’m in now.



So things are moving along. My food choices have not given me cause to hang my head in shame. I do need to make a conscious effort to drink more water and I need to start keeping that food journal again. I hadn’t really made a habit of it before I left on my trip and I completely forgot about it while I was gone. Conveniently? Maybe.

I hadn’t intended for these posts to include recipes, but I find that when I come across something I’m really enjoying, I like to share. Last night’s meal falls into that category. I modified my recipe for Tortilla Soup  and made it vegan. It was, surprisingly, delicious. Through the last few weeks I have made two, not insignificant, discoveries about cooking vegan. First, it takes a lot less time to make dinner when you don’t have to cook meat all the way through. I like my veg crisp tender. I like the veg to retain that bite it has when raw. This takes much less time to achieve than when cooking meat. With that being the case, it takes double, or more, the amount of seasonings and spices to achieve the same density of flavor in the same dishes, and I’m not talking about salt here. I’m talking about using double the amount of garlic or ginger or cumin or chili powder. With less time to steep in the delicious tastes while cooking, more is more.

Anyway. My recipe for Tortilla Soup: Vegan Style::

Avocados in first, smother with soup, squeeze of lime, HOLD THE TORTILLAS!

Avocados in first, smother with soup, squeeze of lime, HOLD THE TORTILLAS!

  • 1 can vegetarian black beans; drained and rinsed
  • 1 tub extra firm tofu; remove as much moisture as you can as seen in this video then cut into cubes
  • 1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes (I only had a can of whole, peeled tomatoes so I put them through my food processor for a few seconds)(You can use fresh tomatoes, but they require cooking down and salt adding to get them to release their juices.)
  • 1 onion; diced
  • 1 poblano pepper; deseeded and deveined and chopped finely
  • 4 garlic cloves; minced
  • 1 1/2  tsps Cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 can chopped green chilies
  • 2 cups vegetable broth

Preheat oven to 400ºF

  1. Sauté  the onions, poblano pepper, garlic for 2 minutes in a small amount of coconut oil
  2. Add the tofu to the pan, followed by the cumin and chili powder. Salt to taste. Sauté for about 3 minutes.
  3. Add the chopped green chilies and the black beans. Saute for 2 minutes more.
  4. Add the tomatoes with their juices and the vegetable broth. Bring to a soft boil and reduce temp to low. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
  5. Cut small corn tortillas into 1/2 strips. Place them on a cookie sheet and bake them for 7 to 8 minutes until crisp. Keep a close eye on them because the time between not quite crisp and burned is very short.
  6. Serve with avocados and a squeeze of lime. If you aren’t vegan, you can sprinkle some Colby Jack over it. I like to assemble my bowl and put the soup over it: tortilla strips and avocado first, then ladle on the soup, and finally, top with cheese and lime juice. I like to decimate half a lime for my bowl, but you can do whatever you prefer.

Me? I don’t care much for the corn tortilla strips, but I love the avocados and lime. Seriously, you should try it with lime.

More please!

Vegan-y Veg

Well, you all know I fell off the wagon, so to speak. It wasn’t because I was having an issue with my new diet. I just made crap choices. Again and again.

Here’s the thing: I don’t want to have heart disease. I don’t want to have a heart attack before 40. I know, intellectually, what I can do to change my health trajectory. So all those failures while I was on my epic road trip? I’m not going to let them derail me. I can rationalize them all away. I can make excuses all day, but in the end, I slid back, very comfortably I might add, into the skin of the me BEFORE my last physical. The Now Me, refuses to let that derail my intentions, my focus, my goal.

So I’m back home and I’m moving in that direction. I know from past experience that whole hog isn’t a successful road for me, but just knowing my end game seems to help me make the right decisions in the here and now. I have to plan and move in a general direction before I make the leap. So I’m back to moving in the general direction.

Today, I didn’t rule the roost with my choices. I had Chick-fil-A for lunch. Really it was more out of hunger and extreme tiredness than anything else, but there you are, I made a shit decision. My sandwich was on wheat… That’s about as good as I can claim. Oh, and it was dry.

Tonight, though, I’m happy to say that I made good decisions. I chose to have a veg bowl that consisted of black beans, corn, pico, avocados and nutritional yeast. It was yummy! I also had some cooked polenta patties. This is where my non- E2 happened with this meal. I sautéed those patties in coconut oil. Not much, but any is not E2 compliant.

Last night I made a version of my signature lettuce wraps without meat. It tasted delicious, but the veg was WAY too… oh, I don’t know SMALL. I used my food processor to cut up all the veg because I was in a hurry. The result was a moderately pasty concoction that tasted like the real deal. Next time I won’t be using my food processor to chop the veg.

For now: T’s Lettuce Wraps

1/2 cup soy sauce

8 tsp fish sauce

5 tsp sugar

2 shallots finely diced

6 cloves of garlic, minced

2 jalopeno peppers, de-veined, de-seeded and finely diced

4 tblsp fresh ginger,grated

1 bag or more baby spinach cut down into “strips”

1 bag grated carrots

1 pkg sliced, fresh mushrooms diced

2 cans water chestnuts diced

1 can black beans, vegetarian, drained and rinsed

1 pkg ground Seitan

Melt 3 tbsp coconut oil in a hot wok. Add jalapeño, ginger, shallot and garlic to the oil. Sauté for about 2 minutes, until fragrant. Add “meat”: black beans and Seitan (you could add cooked lentils here if you wished). Sauté for about 4 minutes to infuse the beans and Seitan with the flavors. In a separate bowl, make the sauce: soy sauce, fish oil, sugar. (I recommend doubling this part.) (Also to make it vegan, skip the fish sauce and add the juice of 2-3 limes. To make it E2 compliant, skip the sugar and add 2 tsp of honey, sauté everything in veg broth, and use Tamari instead of Soy sauce.)  Add veg: spinach, mushrooms, carrots, water chestnuts. Cook until the spinach is wilted and the everything is heated through, about 5 minutes. Add the sauce and cook for 2-3 minutes more.

Serve with big iceberg lettuce leaves, or bibb lettuce leaves as the wraps. Fill the wraps with the filling made above and brown rice.

IMG_0777I went on a road trip to see my parents. I took my kids, my homeschool, my yarn, some E2 Happy snacks, and a bunch of good intentions. Well, the trip was great and the kids were very well behaved. I got to see my grandmother who has been in the hospital for some time. I crocheted her a hat that looked fab on her and spent a bunch of time running errands for her. It was good to see her spunk and spark, again.

We had school during the week days and the kids were great considering that it was a modified version of our workboxes. I expected a bit of an issue with Chi, but that didn’t happen. He was very amenable to the change. That is amazing. Chi. Flexible. Chi. Chill in the face of change. CRAZY and so amazing! I’ve said it here before, but homeschooling him has been the best decision I ever made.

I spent some time before my trip looking for quilt designs for a quilt my mom is making. We usually do it like this: I pick a design, find the pattern, choose the fabrics and help cut out the pieces. Mom puts all the squares together and assembles the quilt and does the quilting. She does all the sewing. Due to all the things I was in town to accomplish, that gave me several days to actually do some of the sewing.

Triangles together with thread

Triangles together with thread

It was a sort of newsflash for me. I LOVED it! And this time, I made the quilt design based on a photo I found of a quilt I liked. I took the whole project to a whole different place when picking out the fabrics. So much so, that Mom wasn’t sold on the idea until we started piecing it all together. It’s going to be really fabulous and I’ve discovered that I don’t hate sewing at all, let alone how much I thought I hated it.

Toward the end of the week, I went to watch some basketball in the 2nd and 3rd rounds of the NCAA tournament. College ball is always great and live College Round Ball is always super fun. It’s been a thing I’ve shared with my dad since junior high. There were a couple of downsides. The main one being that Rupp Arena is old and crappy and uncomfortable, but also Dad got sick and missed a couple of games. The b-ball was fun, in the end. I’m glad I went.

Rupp Arena runs Cardinal Red.

Rupp Arena runs Cardinal Red.

So that leaves us with the good intentions. So I did okay in the first few days of the trip. I wasn’t eating entirely vegan and not even close to E2 Happy, but I was making good choices. Choosing the vegetarian option, which almost always includes cheese, and the veg where possible. Admittedly, I didn’t make any special efforts, like ordering things not on the menu and giving special dietary cooking instructions to the waitstaff.

My downfall is, and has ever been, soda. I don’t like artificial sweeteners of any stripe. They are just awful tasting to me. So when I have a soda, I go all out. For some reason, when I’m drinking soda, my inhibitions in other places, dietarily speaking, gets completely shot. It’s hard for me to resist sodas when I’m on a road trip. I don’t know why, but it probably has something to do with rationalizing wanting a caffeine boost, but not wanting coffee in the middle of the day. Perfect recipe for the drinking of sodas. And this road trip was 10-ish hours to my parents’ house one day followed by 6-ish hours to my grandmother’s house the following day. Doubled for the return trips. Lots of driving. Lots of time to convince myself I could have a soda.

So I did.

The rest of the trip/visit followed suit and my good intentions paved my way into food choice hell. But, I’m home now, and I’m recommitted. I want this to work. I want to be healthier. I don’t want to have a heart attack before 40. I don’t want to end up a diabetic because I can’t give up the damn sodas. I’m working hard to not beat myself up over the lapse, and just move forward, one food choice at a time.

E2 Happy-ish

So I have this fridge and it’s full of food. Not all of it is E2 happy. So, things haven’t been as strict as I thought I’d be starting out and I will have to change that, but here’s the rub:  I can’t just throw all that food out and I can’t really afford to buy all new meals to replace ones I have the ingredients for in my fridge. So I’m just not going to.

The last two days have looked like this: coffee and E2 happy breakfast, E2 happy lunch, E2 happy snack, regular old dinner. Once the food I’ve already purchased is out of my fridge (and I’m not talking the frozen things here, but the actual full meals that I’ve planned and purchased: homemade pizza, pork carnitas, tortilla soup, breakfast for dinner), the full on E2 happiness will commence.

One thing I have noticed: I haven’t had a desire to cheat. In fact, when faced with the choice of putting shredded colby jack on my black beans bowl because “I’m having tacos for dinner, so why not?” or nutritional yeast, I’ve chosen nutritional yeast. When faced with the choice of putting milk on my oats or almond milk, I’ve chosen almond milk even though dairy is a big ingredient in the white chili I’m making for dinner that night. This may not seem big to anyone else, but it is telling to me. It tells me that I’m there. I’m ready. I’m not going to rebel against my own good intentions for myself. For me? This is HUGE.

So my E2 28 day diet calendar hasn’t yet started. I’m moving in that direction. I’m, for once in a long, long time, happy with my  choices and they weren’t hard to make. I feel like I’m setting myself up for success, and that feels amazing.

First Meal

I did research. I wrote recipe lists. I wrote menus. I wrote two grocery lists. I bought groceries.

It is the freakiest; second place to scariest, thing I’ve done EVER.

With my new menu/grocery list, I bought E2 diet apropo things. Then I made an entirely VEGAN dinner tonight.


It was de-LISH-ous.

Now it wasn’t entirely E2 friendly because, well, I used sesame oil. HEY, it was veggie stir-fry OKAY? It was Asian inspired. I stir-fried with vegetable broth! BROTH! This, my friends, isn’t stir-frying. It’s sort of a simmer/steam. I added, maybe, a teaspoon of sesame oil to my “sauce” because that’s what you do when you are cheating, but not cheating. I didn’t feel bad about it either because look, last week? Last week, I would have used three or more tablespoons of oil, probably coconut but possibly peanut, to stir-fry my veg. And I’d have added chicken. And steamed white rice.

This meal was entirely plant based, and except for the smidge of oil, it was E2 happy. Take THAT cholesterol!

I’ve also started up my food journal again. I always stop when I’m eating crap foods because who wants to make a log of that? You can see it written all over my body thankyouverymuch. Anyway. I’ve started that food journal again and yesterday was a really good day. I consumed less that 1200 calories without trying.

NOTE: I’m not really counting calories because I’m in this for the lowering of the cholesterol, but weight loss would be nice. I’m wanting this journal to show me in numbers and with hard evidence that I CAN do healthy on a regular basis. I’d like to see what the changes I’m making do to my health and then I can go back and say, “This is what I did.”

Anyway. I was floored to see that I’d eaten foods, had snacks, and wasn’t hungry all day just by switching up the types of food. I’m quite proud of myself and that helps with motivation going forward.

My whole food/plant based Pinterest recipe board (now with recipes!)

I didn’t take a picture, but here’s the recipe of the meal from last night. It’s my own creation so there is no pin.

Ginger Sesame Stir-fry

  • Veggies (whichever kind you like. I used bok choy, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, carrots, two colors of bell peppers, yellow squash, and celery) between 1 and 1.5 lbs
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce or Tamari (or you can skip this and just spritz your bowl with Bragg’s Liquid Aminos after all the cooking)
  • 1 tsp Sesame Oil
  • grapefruit juice (I cut one in half and juiced one half)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh Ginger (I recommend grating your own as opposed to buying jarred ginger. You can grate a whole root and freeze what you don’t use.)
  • 2 tsp chopped jalapeño pepper (again, freeze what you don’t use)
  • 3 garlic cloves; pressed
  • optional 1.5 tablespoons finely chopped shallots (again with the freezing)
  • 1 cup vegetable broth

Get your wok hot. Add half the veg broth along with the garlic, jalapeño pepper, ginger and shallots. Stir constantly for about 2 minutes. It will be very fragrant. Add veg and rest of the broth. Stir to coat all veg. At this point you can cover your wok and steam it, but you should stir every so often to keep the cooking even and to make sure everything get good and flavored by your spices (add more broth if you need to). In the meantime, you mix your soy sauce, sesame oil and grapefruit juice in a bowl. When your veg is done to your liking, I like mine hot but still a little crunchy, so I steamed them for about 5-7 minutes. Near the end, add your sauce and stir. Cook one minute more. Serve over steamed brown rice. Yum!