Monday, April 21, 2014

One Month Vegiversay

Last Friday, the 11th, was my one month vegiversary! (And this post has been waiting for me to edit ever since then.  Sorry.  Sometimes life has other plans for me than the ones I have made.)  Yup, I've been vegetarian for a month.  Well, pescetarian really. I am still eating fish.  I like to leave the fish option open so I have more protein sources for quick dinners for my children.  I am, however, careful about amounts and mercury levels.  Not eating meat was something I have wanted and attempted to do for a long time.

Ever since I was in second grade I have wanted to be vegetarian. My reason then was as simple as I don't want to eat an animal. I loved animals. Eating them was akin to eating Prince, my dog. It was unimaginable. I went veggie for a week. Then my mom said 'enough, [she wasn't] going to keep making me special meals each night'. I gave in because well, in second grade, that's what you do: listen to your mom. It didn't stop me, however, from announcing my vegetarianism a few more times, only for it to last equally as long. 

When I was in high school I went vegetarian and it lasted maybe a little longer, I had a bit more independence, but I didn't cook, didn't do a lot of research, and didn't grocery shop. So it still came to a point where, if I wanted to eat, I had to eat what was in front of me. You know you've said it to your kids: you get what you get and you don't get upset. My parents didn't have our catchy little saying at the time, but if they did, I'm pretty sure those words would accompany the end of my vegetarian stints. 

But I'm at a place in my life where I feel good. Things are coming together and is time to do things for me (and in this particular case, mistreated animals and everyone who can benefit from less pollution also known as everyone). 

I've been doing a lot of reading and research. I've read about the mistreatment of farm animals, the amount of protein adults and kids need, alternate ways to achieve optimal levels of protein and nutrient, family friendly recipes, environmental reasons for going, and even though I don't want to use much fake meat or soy, lists of the best fake meat alternatives. I've also been watching food documentaries on Netflix.  Some I take with a grain of salt because people always have their motives for making documentaries, but you have to admit the scenes of animal treatment are pretty convincing in and of themselves.

To strengthen your conviction:
Food Inc, on Netflix
Vegucated, on Netflix
This article comparing the environmental impact of switching to a veggie lifestyle to switching to a hybrid car.
I also have been meaning to watch Forks over Knives (but I have not yet, so I can't give a whole hearted endorsement, but I did hear it's awesome)

For recipes:
Moko Brown Vegan, on YouTube or her blog HERE - My first dinner since pronouncing my vegetarianism was adapted from her YouTube channel for "CheeseSteaks" or as we call them....sandwiches :)
The vegan zombie, on YouTube (so I've never actually made any of his meals yet, but gosh he makes veganism look so fun!)
Pinterest, of course
This recipe I adapted from YouTube for a quick chickpea salad sandwich was awesome 
The Hungry Channel has some amazing vegetarian and vegan recipes as well

For mock meat:
I don't really do mock meat, but for things like hot dog day, when the kids and I don't want to be left out fake hot dogs seems like a good idea. A lot of mock meats are soy based which I hesitate to give much to my son, but every once in a while it is ok.  Plus I'm also noticing more and more that there are non-soy based alternatives.  I don't want to belittle the great things that Peta stands for, but I feel the need to point out that I don't condone extremism, throwing paint, or causing controversy over a swatted fly.   So anyways all that being said they have this list of favorite vegan/veggie substitutes
.To find restaurants: - I love this website. It is awesome. It definitely helped me plan a couple trips and dinners. I gave shared it with some non-veggies at my work and they love it too and have shared it with others.  In fact today one of my coworkers told me today that she used it on her Spring Break trip last week and the restaurant they found using Happy Cow was probably the best meal that they had on their whole trip.  And they aren't even vegetarian!

So are you vegetarian/vegan or just thinking about incorporating a Meatless Monday into your routine?  What resources do you use or what tips can you share with the rest of us newbies?

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Best Brussel Sprouts

 My kids love brussel sprouts!  Wooooow.  I NEVER thought I would say that.  I actually can't take any credit for it.  It was all my brother.  He wanted to make dinner with my dad for the whole family one evening.  It was delish as always, but he really shocked me with his brussel sprouts- shocked the kids too!  Even I didn't like brussel sprouts until then.  Everyone enjoyed them so much, he e-mailed the recipe to my mom and me.

They are now a regular item on our weekly menu.  Being lazy cheap busy, I really simplified it.  But we all still love every bit of it.

This is all you need:

Brussel Sprouts, however many look like they will feed your family
Olive oil, a drizzle
Balsamic vinegar, regular or white, a drizzle
Salt and Pepper
**Optional: Parmigiano Reggiano and a grater

This is all you need to do:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Some people say don't wash your brussel sprouts.
I have a hard time with that.  I like to wash everything.  If you are like me and neeeed to wash everything, the key is to make sure that you dry them completely. You do not want to bake wet brussel sprouts, the water releases a chemical that causes the stinky brussel sprout smell/taste which is the reason that growing up, so many of us couldn't stand our parents' boiled brussel sprouts and why we still think we don't like them. 

Once you have your dry brussel sprouts, cut them in half (or quarters for the bigger ones).

Arrange them cut side up on a pan. Drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar over them and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. 

Put the pan in the hot oven for 30 minutes.

**If you opted to use the parmgiano reggiano, take the sprouts out after 20 minutes, grate the cheese over them and then put the pan back in the oven for the last ten minutes.

And that's all there is to it!

Enjoy watching your loved ones actually enjoy their brussel sprouts.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

These Might Just Be The Last Selfies I Take With a Three Year Old

I can't believe my baby is turning four this weekend. I'm having such mixed emotions about this. I love the way he is growing up. He's so sweet and smart. For such a little boy, he has such a big personality.  But I just can't get over the fact that he is about to be four.  I won't be the mother of a three year old any more! I know four is a great age but so is three.  I'm not usually this emotional. I don't know what this birthday is doing to me, but I'm not dealing well. I was going through some of his old clothes and as I was doing it, each piece was another tug at my heart strings. "He'll never got into this again" went from a mere statement in my head to a whole new reason to turn into a blubbering mess all over again.  I love seeing the man he is becoming, but I can't believe I won't have an itty bitty anymore!!!  I'm not usually a big selfie person, but I took the opportunity to take some of the last selfies I may ever take with a three year old for a very long time.

14 in 2014: Family Ski Trip

Okay, so I hope you didn't think I would really go all out and do an overnight, stay-in-a-cabin kind of family ski trip.  What I meant was more along the lines of "I asked for a groupon for lift tickets for Christmas so I can take the kids skiing, grab some hot cocoa, and drive back home" kind of thing. Knowing that the mountains are not going to be open for much longer, I knew it was time to finally fulfill this item on the list.  Plus my groupon expires soon.

So in order to make the trip go a little smoother,  I brought my son up to the mountain for a private lesson and some fun just with me first in order to determine his reaction.  He's the kind of guy who will either love something or hate it.  I did not want to end up out there with two kids and find out that one hates skiing, mountains, boots, going downhill, chair lifts, who knows what else.  If he hates something, he HATES it.

It turned out that he not only enjoyed it, he was super good at it!

This was us on our preemptive ski trip.

So then came time for our day long family ski trip. My daughter, who has skied before and is pretty good, decided to try her hand at snowboarding (thank you Disney channel). So I arranged for my son to meet up with his teacher for a little reminder session because he would so not want to hear it from me and I got my daughter in a group snowboarding lesson because I don't know the first thing about it.

Things went pretty smoothly while they were in their lessons. But I can't explain to you my trepidation as we approached the chair lift. Just me (basically a beginner) and two beginners. It wasn't horrible, but we had our share of struggles. The first time my son jumped off too early and ended up pretty much under the chair lift. One time my daughter's snowboard ended up twisted under my ski and we all ended up in a big heap. One time we made it off smoothly, but I didn't realize big man's ski popped off and we totally tripped the poor snowboarders on the chair behind us. But we all had fun skiing/snowboarding, eating junky food (even though I packed lunch),  and spending time together as a family.

I have to say overall it was a total WIN.

Tips and Takeaways:

 - Seriously think about getting a locker.  I decided to just put our boots on top of the locker as most other people did.  But I didn't take into account the fact that I am short. Like I had to stand on the steps adjacent to the lockers and reach over from the third step just to get our boots on there. And as more people came, our boots got pushed further back and further from the steps.  It took me a good 8 minutes to get our boots down.  Here I am on the steps, stretching, grunting and groaning like a sick cow, looking probably pretty ridiculous, until finally, for just a second, I am able to balance on the very edge of the steps with one leg outstretched to help me balance against the locker and my arm extends just far enough for the tippy tips of my fingers to grab a boot and fling it off of the locker to the floor.  Once I figured out this magical extendo-arm ability, I still had to repeat the whole ordeal 5 more times. Ugh!  Yep, I looked insane and wibbly-wobbly, but sometimes you just have to do what you have to do, right?  Well then maybe next time, I will be prepared and not have to do it at all.  We can get a nice low locker that we all can reach and this may also help prevent giant pocket syndrome.  This occurs when you have 3 neck warmers in your pocket because you know that if you didn't bring them, necks would be cold.

 - I can not give you one iota of advice about lunch.  The first time I went, I did not pack lunch so we bought lunch but were basically right next to the car.  I could have gone to the car and gotten a freezer bag I had packed in the morning.  So that is exactly what I did the second time we went, but this time we got there just as they were closing the parking lot because it was full and we had to turn around and park in the overflow lot.  It was too far away.  So the food sat in the car all day and we bought junky food and fruit at the cafeteria.

 - HAVE SO MUCH FUN!!! This is great family time.  Don't take it too seriously.  It's awesome to spend time with your kids and share your hobbies with them.  Also be prepared for them not to enjoy the same hobbies you enjoy. It happens.

What other tips can you share with me?