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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Just to Clarify...

Yikes... So this blog was "born" when I was pregnant with my second son and I was blogging about all things pregnancy (hence the name "Baking a Healthier Bun in the Oven").  I think it is time for a name change to go with it's makeover....especially since someone was thinking I had "news" and thought I was pregnant because of my last post--my first craving!  Which related to the first craving I have had since starting the vegan challenge. I should have been more clear. I am NOT pregnant!  

What do you think? Name change? I think so...

Topics will include health and wellness, recipes, parenting stories, and my spiritual journey which happens to be Christian.  I know some people aren't as into things spiritual, but that is how I roll, so you can skip those posts if you don't like them!  

So comments on new name ideas welcome.  I will be thinking and processing and hopefully change it soon. In the meantime, enjoy my non-pregnant posts!

In health and hilarity,

First Major Craving on the Challenge

I woke up this morning daydreaming of eggs, bacon and cheese on an English muffin.  A whole wheat one...but still...I think it is because I saw a picture of an adorable child on Facebook yesterday holding her "own egg sandwich".  So, in this case, I think it is a "random thought that has taken root" and become a craving kind of craving, instead of a "my body needs this" kind of craving.

So, what to do?

I made something similar but totally different.  I figured I needed some kind of English muffin sandwich.  I am out of tofu and tempeh at the moment, so I improvised...

Morning Breakfast Sandwich

hummus--whatever flavor you like (lemon would have been great but I only had plain)
handful of fresh spinach
Ezekiel English muffin or similar
sea salt

1. Toast English muffin to your liking.
2. Meanwhile saute your spinach.
3. Slather both sides of English muffin with hummus.
4. Place tomato on one side. Sprinkle with sea salt.
5. Put the spinach on the other side and salt if needed.
6.  Put together and eat.

This was surprisingly satisfying.  Could be a great snack or lunch too!  Just enough like a breakfast sandwich to take away the craving, but still within the confines of what I am doing here...and much HEALTHIER too!  So, even without the challenge, this is a super healthy option!

In health and breakfast sandwiches,
Nicole Harter

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Eating Out Vegan (Indian Style) and some Quick Meal Tips

Today is exactly 2 weeks into my 30 day vegan challenge!  

The latest development in my vegan challenge is my adventure in going out to eat as a vegan for the first time.  My sisters and I planned to go out to Indian place in Cumberland, RI, called "Flavours" that my little sister has been raving about. I was super excited to go out, but I have to say, I was a little timid! My usual meal at Indian restaurants are chicken tikka masala, and shrimp saag, which are both definitely not vegan. In anticipation, I looked up the menu online before I left. They had a great vegetarian selection (as many Indian restaurants do), but I was a bit unsure about the milk/egg/ghee free options.  The menu wasn't all that clear about whether or not they were "creamy" or whether they use ghee or oil.  I looked up some vegan blogs to see if they had any suggestions and I was happy to see many places have vegan curries and samosas!

When we got there, I felt a bit shy saying "I am vegan" so I started off by just asking about a select few options that we were thinking of, which were samosas and a chickpea salad and asked whether there was any meat or eggs or dairy in there.  This was a mistake.  Once we asked about a couple of items and he went back and forth to the kitchen, my sister just out and told the guy "She is vegan, what do you have?" and he was much more helpful after I guess my take-away is just to be honest and ask nicely up front and it will be okay!  So after this development, the helpful server offered a different salad option and some other options and we had an excellent meal!  We ate samosas, whole wheat vegan naan, alu tikka, alu gobi with basmati rice, and cucumber salad!  We shared family style and passed everything around the table and we had a really nice meal.  My sisters were understanding too (one of them is a vegetarian anyway!)  We will definitely have to go out more often (because my sisters are awesome company) and now that I know what options I have, I know I will be back again for more Indian!

Speaking of Indian food, I do want to share a quick meal that I made the other night when I was a bit short on time.  I had bought a "simmer sauce" from Whole Foods called "Madras curry" by Maya Kaimal.  I threw a can of chick peas, a couple of boiled cut up potatoes, and some frozen peas in there.  I simmered them all together in the sauce for 10-15 minutes and served over whole wheat couscous (quinoa or bulgur would have worked great too).  I mention this because it was a super quick, easy, healthy meal that I whipped together in less than 20.  I sometimes hear how difficult it is to put together healthy meals when you are are shorter on time, but it doesn't always have to be that way!  Here are a few things I keep on hand to help me when I am in a rush to throw together dinner:
  1. Whole wheat couscous (5 min cook time).
  2. Quinoa (15 min)
  3. Whole wheat pastas
  4. Simmer sauces
  5. Jarred tomato sauce
  6. Canned beans (I buy the Eden Organics- no salt and use kombu in it for easier digestibility). Black, kidney, pinto, navy, garbanzo, aduki are among my favorites.
  7. Frozen veggies--spinach, corn, peppers, peas
  8. Tofu
Any of these can whip up into a quick little meal that is healthy and delicious!  Enchilada sauce, wraps, and canned vegetarian refried beans makes a nice quick meal too!

In health and appetizers!
Nicole Harter

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Rules!

Happy Monday! I figured it was my challenge, so I could do what I wanted with the rules, but thought I would share just in case someone was thinking of trying it and didn't know what it would mean to try going "vegan".  I wanted to keep it simple so I that I would stick with it, so for a first timer I am being a little lenient on myself.

Here are my "rules":

  1. No meat or meat products (e.g. no chicken broth or gelatin, in addition to just "meat").
  2. No dairy or milk products.
  3. No eggs.
  4. No seafood.
  5. My cheat day is May 24th (my wedding anniversary and the day when my husband is taking me out for a fancy dinner).  Maybe that sounds "soft" but I am going to enjoy a nice no-restriction evening with my husband to celebrate our relationship and not feel bad at all!!  
  6. I wanted to do a full 30 days, so my start date was May 14th and my last challenge day is June 14th, which will net out to 30 days when you subtract the cheat day!
  7. Honey is allowed. I know it is an animal by-product, but...I am just not there.
  8. My challenge focus is on only food.  Veganism as a lifestyle that extends well beyond food, into health and beauty products with animal products and animal testing, clothing (wool, fur, silk, leather).  I am limiting the challenge to food-only.

Today is day 7 of the vegan challenge, and I really honestly don't miss anything.  I am really shocked actually.  I thought I was going to be starving and cranky and wish I could eat ice cream and eggs and curse myself for even thinking I could try something so "radical".  Radical is what I thought I would be doing, but honestly, it feels a lot less scary than how it was playing in my head before I started.

In health and happy Mondays,
Nicole Harter

Friday, May 17, 2013

Day 4

So far so good!  I am feeling highly energetic and optimistic!  I had enough energy to exercise and make it through the day today (which is saying a lot since my daughter woke us up around 5 AM).  I even got through some yard work, played tennis with my 10-year old, and went out for some socializing this morning. So I didn't sit around eating vegan bon bons!  

Today I thought I would expand a little on the thought process I went through to get to this point. Since I went through my reasons to try "go for it" yesterday, I wanted to touch on all the fears swimming in my head that almost prevented me from even thinking about it. 

Here were my reasons for NOT going vegan:

  1. I have "high protein" needs.  I will get way too hungry. Especially since I am a nursing mom...Okay, in school I saw a speaker who was a 200 lb ex-rancher who was vegan and talking about it's health benefits. I have also read some professional athletes are vegan...if they can work it, I can work it with my "high protein" needs.  I did decide to wait until baby girl was pretty close to weaning so a dramatic shift in eating wouldn't affect my milk supply.  We are close enough, so far no issues.. And, surprise, I am not that hungry...and when I do get hungry...I eat more!  Imagine that.
  2. There won't be enough for me to eat.  So, I do not think I am alone in this fear of being vegan.  But in addition, I am allergic to some nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, macadamia, black walnuts).  To further reduce my pool of foods to eat, I also don't believe in eating soy dressed in meat clothing.  Soy bacon?  Tofurkey?  Soy cheese? Doesn't really interest me, and I see them as processed foods, which I seek to avoid.  I don't mind a properly fermented soy product like tofu or tempeh, miso, soy sauce, tamari, etc., but I don't think soy milk is all that natural. some ways I truly am limited.  I recognize this and question the long term prospects of being vegan for this reason. However, I can do it for 30 days to start!
  3. I love baking too much.  Thanks to my friend Alexis, I have some really fun recipes to try! Two books worth!  Turns out this is going to be a fun challenge!  I made some vegan chocolate cupcakes this week that rivaled my normal recipe!  Sweet!
  4. Eggs.  Yeah, I have a thing for farm fresh eggs.  For some people it is cheese. I like eggs. Daily.  Long term this may or may not be a problem.  But, it may turn out that I stick to some things and not others. Time will tell.
  5. Seafood.  I like seafood even more than I love eggs.  But I eat it less often as a daily routine.  So this may not be a big deal since I won't miss on a daily basis.  
  6. Ice cream.  I love it.  I think I got the gene from my Grammy Shirley.  Luckily there are a bunch of other things to try...we'll see!  I can make some sorbets in my ice cream maker in the meantime.  Summer fruit is coming!
  7. It isn't natural to have to supplement a whole nutrient that basically only comes from animal products. (vitamin B12).  Turns out my multi-vitamin (that I was taking on/off while nursing) has plenty of it.  So I will continue to take it until done the challenge.  I have issues with supplementing anyway... that I could write a whole post about...but I am not going to hijack this one.
  8. I have heard of people being vegan for long periods of time and becoming unhealthy and malnutritioned.   There I said it.  I have personally talked to these people.  They are highly educated, so I do not believe they "weren't doing it right".  But you know...30 days won't do that and I will cross that bridge if I ever get there. I am doing my best to read information on balancing my needs and I think I will be safe...a lot safer than the guy who ate McDonalds for a month that's for sure.
  9. What if I hate it?  Um...then I can stop.  Haha, this one was pretty dumb.
  10. What if I love it?  Then I will have to change.  Change is hard.  I am still almost scared of this one.
  11. My family may criticize me.  Some of them will. Some of them won't.  Put on your big girl pants, Nicole, and ignore the nay-sayers!
  12. Going out to eat is not going to be fun anymore.  This may be true, but I rarely go out since I have little ones.  I am also going to admit that I am not including May 24th in the "challenge" and I will further explain in my next post entitled "The RULES".
So those are most of the things I was scared of when I started thinking about this...I am sure there are more, but that covers a lot of ground.  So, if you have being thinking about the prospect of trying vegan and you have some of the same fears/roadblocks/reasons, know that you are not alone.  And, while most of them (as you can see) are unresolved for me.  I am going for it anyway.  Why not?

In health and reasoning,

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Back to Blogging...

Wow, it has been 2 years since I last blogged.  What a difference 2 years makes!  Since my last post, I have had a baby and she is now 13 months.  Levi is 3 now and keeping mommy on her toes!  Being a mom of 3 with 2 so close together in age has rocked my world.  My 10 year old is busy with all his school work and extra curricular activities.  The little ones are very demanding, so what time does mommy have to shower, exercise, read a book and spend time with her husband, much less blog?  Now that the baby is over a year, things are starting to settle and I have been getting antsy to write again.  So, here I am.

My Great Vegan Experiment

So, what do I have to talk about?  Well...the thing on the top of my mind that I will be talking about for the next, oh 30 days, is that I have started a 30 day Vegan Challenge.  WHAT?  Vegan?  Nicole?  Are you kidding me?  Half of the two-person audience of my blog has closed the window and thought, "how lame".  But, this first post is going to be my reasons for trying it. So thank you if you are the one still reading :)

My reasons aren't very heroic, and some of them are pretty selfish...but here they are anyway:

  1. Boredom.  Honestly, I am getting bored with the food lately.  And I find when I change it up and restrict myself a bit in one area, than I am forced to experiment and use my imagination to expand in other areas.
  2. My friend Alexis.  She is always posting vegan articles and things on Facebook and her passion is sorta contagious.  Now, I initially would roll my eyes a little (sorry Alexis) and since I get all my meat from a farm and really opt out of the majority of factory farmed meat, I thought I was covered.  But lately I have been questioning my resolve--when I go out to eat I eat mainly fish--but sometimes I cheat. And dairy? And eggs?   I eat my home eggs from farms, but I am sure the local restaurant down the street doesn't.  Where DOES that come from?  Some of the very places I seek to avoid I suspect.  So I have been pondering this as well.  AND she sent me a couple of books.  Can't fight that, right? Now I have no excuse!
  3. Health. My husband is off dairy. I am not.  I know I should be due to it's adverse affects on my life. Also because of all the studies I have been reading linking it to cancer.  Yuck.  Time to readdress it.  
  4. My waistline.  I know, so vain.  But having 2 babies in 2 years is not usually kind to most of us in the areas of our waistlines...and hips...and thighs.  I know some women who bounce right back!  But, sadly, I am not one of those women!  I was slim (for me) when I got pregnant with Levi, now I am up 12-13 lbs.  I eat healthy but I can't seem to get my metabolism back on track and drop the last few.  I know some of it is hormonal, especially since I am not quite done nursing, but I think doing a vegan "cleanse" of sorts will help me get back on track with fruits, veggies, fiber, etc...I keep you updated on the weight thing as time goes on.
  5. My energy.  I am tired!  Kids will do that to you.  However, I know getting my diet on track will help with the diet-related lethargy too.  In the afternoons I have been turning to sugar (which doesn't help with #4).  I know it can't overcome all the sleep deprivation from the last 3+ years, but I think it will help!
  6. To do it.  Really, I have tried dairy-free and gluten-free, so why not try vegan?  If I ever have someone interested in it, I can help them find resources and know what I am talking about!  I like to help people explore food and how they affect their I usually begin with experimenting on myself!  This is my great vegan experiment.  
  7. My pastor is now vegan (I think mostly for health reasons).  Weird reason for me, right?  We chatted at a little get together and he was talking about it.  It kind of struck a cord with me and I noticed a lot of other people around me. I started paying attention to my friend Alexis' posts and I met a woman at bible study right after that who is vegan--strangely I never saw her again.  I think it's the Holy Spirit's way to kind of nudge you along.  So I started hearing about it through other people and then I heard the little voice inside prodding me along.  So, I planned on doing it ever since (this was back in December).  I woke up on Tuesday of this week and knew it was the day!
  8. A fun bonding thing with my mom.  She has been dabbling with it on/off for the last 6 months.  I figured we could do it together!  She has a couple of awesome books with some good-looking recipes.  Should be a good time!  
I told you the reasons weren't all that heroic.  I am pretty excited to talk about it...the good, the bad the ugly.  Hopefully it won't get too ugly :)  

I hope the last couple of years have been treating you well! 

In health and veganism,