Dealing with IBS? And Vegan picks of the week

I’m almost afraid to jinx myself, but today was a really good day.  I’ve continued to struggle with the GI/IBS/Super Long Lasting Virus problem.  Saw the GI guy on Wednesday because things were just not letting up.  He’s sort of at a loss, not sure what’s going on, but he advised some immodium and prescribed some donnatol for the pain.  Bad day yesterday, I had something fried – well, duh, Christine, really?  I had been feeling kind of well, so, I figured I was cured.  Nothing like a big belly ache to slap oneself back to reality.

Kept it on the light side today, nothing fried, nothing too spicy, nothing exotic.  Fingers are crossed for the remainder of the evening, I dared to take a little dinner.

Moving on… I’m still vegan!  My GI guy told me – no dairy.  Absolutely no dairy.  Good thing I gave it up a month ago.  Still with the same lament, man, I miss cheese.  However, eating cheese is not an option right now, so it keeps me honest.

I attended a cookie swap this afternoon, with my plate of cruelty free Christmas cookies.  My copy of “The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur” by Kelly Peloza arrived just in time for me to whip up something tasty!  I chose Candy Cane Chocolate Chip Cookies pg. 170.  I chose to make them with unbleached rappudura sugar, which made them tan and tasting a little like molasses.  I was perfectly fine with this, but if I am making them for the non-vegan crowd again, I might go with some organic white sugar.  I also liked using the unbleached sugar, because the recipe indicated that these cookies didn’t really brown and I thought the tan color might make them look a little more appealing to the masses… they baked up nice and the blend of chocolate chip and peppermint was just perfect.

Candy cane chocolate chip cookies!

Ready for the vegan picks of the week?  I wasn’t able to eat very much, so there isn’t too much to tell, but I was able to enjoy Purely Decadent Mint Chip ice “cream”.  Made with coconut milk, it was nice and creamy and did not leave me feeling like was having something imitation.  www.turtlemountain.com

Purely Decadent Coconut Milk Mint Chip

Since I was feeling better today and was able to eat something at my friend Ellen’s cookie swap, I decided to take a risk (of course) and break out my Gardein BBQ Pulled Shreds.  I knew there was no way I was going to get in an entire sandwich, so I went with half.  As usual, Gardein www.gardein.com did not disappoint.  I had it on an Ezekial bun, which kind of has it’s own distinct flavor as well.  The “meat” had an authentic texture to it and the barbeque sauce was very good, not spicy, but with some sweetness and tang!

Still haven’t been well enough to go to Yoga, but I am praying today has been the real turning the corner and I am really on the road to improvement.  Would love to get in a class this week.

Signing off now… Best wishes for a happy and healthy week to you all!

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Completed the Vegan Pledge

One month of veganism under my belt.  There are times it is very challenging, but the rewards far outweigh those challenges.  I have to be honest, though, I miss the convenience of eating cheese.  There are times where I haven’t planned and packed my food in advance, and the choices are so limited, but I try to remind myself that it is just one meal and the benefits outweigh the inconvenience.

I’m starting to get creative.  I made my first vegan twice baked potato for lunch.  First, I baked my potato.  I halved it and scooped out the inside, then mixed/mashed the potato in a bowl with some shredded vegan gourmet cheddar “cheese” www.followyourheart.com and Frontier natural products “Bac’uns” vegetarian bits www.frontiercoop.com.  Once well mixed, I put the potato, cheese and bac’un bits back into the potato shell and stuck it in the toaster oven/broiler on broil for about ten minutes.  I used a little Tofuti immitation sour cream on the side.  (Note, I am not a fan of this straight, but I think it would be good with some spices made into a dip.)  The potato was very, very tasty and cured the craving for a Wendy’s bad for me, unanimal friendly version that I was suffering from for a couple of days.

To cure my chocolate craving, I discovered Enjoy Life’s boom Choco boom rice milk chocolate bar www.enjoylifefoods.com.  It comes segmented into four squares, and one square is about all I need, as long as I savor it and don’t scarf it like a wild dog.  Thus far, there has been no scarfing!

I’ve been busy with my church tricky tray, which, if I may brag, was very successful!  I have also been battling some kind of gastrointestinal problem, which has been borderline disabling…OK, kind of debilitating, but I’ve been fighting through.  The docs say it is IBS, but I think that really means they don’t know what’s wrong with me.  Which leads me to my latest gripe:  Covering physicians.  They don’t know you, they don’t care about you and they don’t want to be bothered with you.  Example:  Friday evening, I couldn’t eat without cramping, etc.  I called the doctor.  I explain I have not eaten anything for a day.  Covering docs says, well, stay hydrated and call your doctor on Monday.  Yeah, thanks for the compassion.  Or the other advice, “if your pain is really that bad, go to the ER”.  Really?  Like I am making it up?  Thanks guys… just remember, what goes around, comes around and one day, you’re going to be in pain and miserable… OK…rant over.  The real point of bring that all up is I haven’t practiced Yoga and I need, need, need to get there at least twice this week if possible.  Once is absolutely MANDATORY!

Namaste, everyone!

My First Vegan Thanksgiving

Almost done with week 3 of the vegan pledge.  It hasn’t always been easy, but it has ALWAYS been rewarding.  I’ve never felt better.

I’ve been tempted to stray in times of “starvation”.  Most people who know me also know my dad had a heart attack last week.  The hospital was closer to work than home, so I went to visit him during my lunch hour.  The hospital had an Au bon Pain, but by the time I got there, everything was picked over and there were no vegan options.  One day my friends brought some spaghetti marinara back to the office for me, the next day I pieced things together from my “snack” drawer.  I didn’t give in and that was the most important thing for me.  I’ve found that sticking to my convictions is a much stronger motivator than simply “being on a diet”.

Sooooo, yesterday was Thanksgiving.  I had a wonderful, wonderful evening with family and I didn’t eat turkey, stuffing or any other non-vegan sides or desserts.  The earth didn’t stop spinning or fall off its axis despite my apparent blasphemy.  I ate Gardein Savory Stuffed Turk’y.  www.gardein.com  I have to admit, I didn’t try it ahead of time and having heard some horror stories about tofurk’y, I was more than a little nervous.  I read the reviews on line and felt a little better.  I baked it up, it looked and smelled good.  I warmed the gravy, which also looked and smelled good.  Packed it all up and took it to mom’s.  Warmed it in the microwave and wahlah… it was actually really good!  My husband tried a piece and he liked it too.  I mashed up a sweet potato with some earth balance, soy milk and maple syrup, but was too full from the turk’y to eat it.  I had a piece of Amy’s organic vegan chocolate cake for dessert (never too full for chocolate cake, people!).  It was To. Die. For.  You non-vegans would love it, but it is no caloric bargain.

Backtracking a bit, for breakfast, I tried two slices of Light Life Smart Bacon.  Just as Starbucks has nothing to worry about as compared to my work made soy lattes, this bacon isn’t fooling anyone… however, it fits in with my lifestyle change and it wasn’t terrible along side my vegan blueberry waffle!  I’d like to try it in a BLT or a vegan grilled cheese sandwich. 

Today Brendan and I tried the Boca Original Meatless Chicken Nuggets for lunch.  They were really good and they earned the “Brendan Seal of Approval” which is even harder to earn than Life Cereal earning the Mikey seal of approval.  Bren had his with ketchup and I had mine with a little agave dijon dressing (Skinny Bitch in the Kitch). 

I’m really not into the mock meats so much, but with the holiday and my subsequent laziness today, it was nice to have them around and its good to know there are tasty items to fall back on in times of craving and need.

The added benefit to feeling great and enjoying some mental clarity… I dropped a few pounds.  My clothes were getting tight and now they’re not!

Gotta get to Yoga… once the church Christmas Fair and tricky tray is over next Saturday, I’ll have more time to devote to my practice!

Vegan Pledge, one week down

First and foremost, I am no saint.  I haven’t given up all my vices, I’ve just modified them.  I haven’t given up iced lattes.  I have cut back and now they are soy lattes…I have Brendan’s karate classes to pay for, which is much more important than my guilty pleasure, but give them up completely?  I’m just not ready.  And, I drank vodka and cranberry last night and got buzzed.  Ha!  Also, last night, I saw some salami on a platter of antipasta.  I thought out loud, I miss salami.  But now, being removed from the situation for about 12 hours, I realize that’s not true.  I don’t miss it at all.  That response was situational and if I ate it, I would have disrespected myself.  Nothing tastes good enough to disrespect one’s self.  Nothing.

Ate publically with a group of wonderful women last night.  There was some discussion regarding my dietary choices, and I suppose since I am not suffering from an allergy or a condition that forces me to avoid certain foods, my choices are just that, choices, but it seems to me (and I could be wrong) that in the eyes of some, that makes it less important.  Which causes me to wonder, why is that so?

I do not want to eat animals or their by products anymore.  Although there is not “law” in the Bible forbidding me to do so, it is a spiritual decision for me.  Animals are living and feeling creatures capable of creating bonds with each other and with people under certain circumstances.  Dogs and cats and even birds are pets in our society.  African Grey parrots have the mental capacity of a 5 year old.  What separates a parrot from a chicken?  I’ll take it down a big notch.  Brendan has a parakeet, Buddy the Budgie.  He is a small bird, probably has a small brain, but he enjoys being spoken to and he relates on a certain level – he will definitley let you know when he is irritated about something.  He is no longer a melodic little song bird, but a demanding screetcher, lol.  What separates a chicken from a parakeet?  Why is one food and the other a pet? Because the town ordinance says you can’t have a chicken for a pet?   Or a cow or a pig (well, you can have one of those little pot bellied guys) for a pet, for that matter.  Pigs are smarter than dogs.  Let’s not forget Charlotte’s Web.  I could go on and on, I bet you get the point.  For me, animals are off limits and it is no less spiritual for me than a Jew being kosher. 

There are not enough hours in the day to discuss the disgusting and unethical practices of factory farming, so I won’t go there now, but that doesn’t mean it may not come back into the thought process and blog at a later time.

Here is the nitty gritty, so to speak.  Since giving up animals and animal by products, I feel like a new person.  I have mental clarity I haven’t had in months.  I have energy (after prying myself out from under the blankets – hey, it is getting cold outside!) and except for a wicked run of PMS, I am happier. My depression is at bay – and let me tell you, life in this economy, raising a developmentaly delayed child, blah, blah, blah, feel sorry for me – is not any rosier than it was 3-4 months ago.  I attribute this in large part to making a healthy change in my diet.  Other major contributors to my well being include a deepening faith in God and practicing Yoga (which I definitely need to do more of!) 

Deep down, perhaps there is some underlying “allergy” and/or physical “condition” after all.  And why would I need to pay a co-pay for some doctor to confirm that, when it is all plainly in front of me: eating animals and animal by products makes me feel like crap!  Not eating those things helps me to feel strong, happy and healthy! It’s not rocket science people.  If you want to disagree with my rationale for making the change, that’s fine, it’s a free country and it’s your right to your opinion.  However, one cannot argue with the results.

I do my very best not to be preachy and not to inflict my beliefs on others.  I will leave you with this parting thought, though.  If I have discovered that making some simple dietary changes has made such a profound positive difference in my life – as a loving mother, daughter, sister and friend, why wouldn’t I want the same for you?

Took The Pledge-Vegan for 30 days

Haven’t blogged in quite some time!  Hello again, my friends!  I became seriously ill with a gastrointestinal virus, it took me forever to recover, but recover I did.  I haven’t been to yoga in three weeks and I am feeling the stress creeping back into my bones… I really need to take care of that.  Thursday.  Thursday this week I will go to Yoga.  You are all my witnesses.

Undergoing a lot of self discovery, self growth and self improvement by taking the Stephen Ministry class at church.  We just finished the unit on being assertive.  Learned so much and I am thoroughly enjoying my new found assertive skills.  Also working on the church Christmas Fair Tricky Tray.  It is all coming together.  It’s like Christmas for me, even though I don’t keep the gifts.  Today we received an Amazon Kindle.  I physically jumped up and down with excitement! 

Since recovering from “THE BUG”, I moved on to a completely vegetarian lifestyle and I have to be honest, I feel awesome!  I feel so well.  All things considered, as I told a dear friend this afternoon – I’m good.  I’m in a good place, I’m strong and I’m confident.  It has been a very long time since I could say even one of those things about myself.  Hey, if you don’t like me, that’s your loss.  And guess what, it really is your loss.

So, onto the next step.  Veganism.  Wow.  I never thought I would find myself here.  At first, I thought I wouldn’t be able to give up milk and cheese.  I’ve been cutting back, cutting back and now I think I am ready.  Check that, I know I am ready.  My convictions are stronger than my cravings.  For a little extra incentive, I took the PETA pledge to be vegan for 30 days, after reading “Skinny Bitch” by Kim Barnouin and Rory Freedman.  I’m not a card carrying PETA member, but it does help me to need to feel accountable to someone or something to stay honest.  Today’s cliche:  Today is the first day of the rest of my life.  Ok, so today is the first day of my Vegan Life.

Read some recipes, thought about what I wanted to eat this week and headed out to Whole Foods.  Looking at things through new eyes, it took me about 90 minutes to make my selections.  This included plenty of label reading.   Then I headed over to my real favorite store, Trader Joe’s and picked up some more things.  I learned a valuable lesson today and I want to share it with all of you.  Never go to Whole Foods first.  I started feeling like I wasn’t going to make the trek to Trader Joe’s, I was missing football, etc. and I overpaid for a lot of things.  Go to Trader Joe’s first, get your staples and then fill in what you need from Whole Foods.  They don’t call it Whole Paycheck for nothing!  However, they have a great selection of things you might want to have.  Also, stocking my vegan kitchen for the first time was kind of costly, but I bought things I will not have to buy weekly and that should last for awhile.  Just like an omnivore kitchen… look at me, throwing around the terminology!!!  I also bought some different products to try out… mostly some veggie meats.  I am sort of on the fence regarding veggie meats.  Namely, they are processed to look and taste like something they are not.  That kind of goes against my philosophy of life.  For me, personally, I think it is OK for ME to have them on hand for something quick, or if I run into a craving, but I would prefer not to fall back on them for daily consumption.

Not only did I survive day one of the pledge, I enjoyed it and I not only feel physicially well, but even more strong and confident, and, I am downright proud of myself for sticking to my guns!

Tune in tomorrow for life, love and the vegan workday!

Bistro 55 Rochelle Park, NJ

My husband and I celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary at Bistro 55 in Rochelle Park, NJ, formerly South City Grill.  www.southcitygroup.net

                                          

Because we have a young son, we made a reservation for 6PM.  It was not very busy when we arrived, but it was steadily picking up when we were leaving, around 7:15.

When you walk in, there is a bar before you and there are two dining rooms, one to the left and one to the right.  We were seated in the right dining room, which was tastefully decorated for fall.

We wanted to share an appetizer and decided on oysters.  Bistro 55 carries east coast oysters, which we are familiar with, and west coast oysters, which we were not. 

West Coast on the left – they were from Washington state, they had a sort of creamy taste to them.  East Coast on the right – they were from Canada, and they had a more “briney” taste to them.  As loyal life long east coasters, we preferred the East Coast oysters, but both were delicious.

My husband ordered the Scottish Salmon, with a glass of Chateau St. Jean Sauvignon Blanc (Sonoma) (I had the same).  It was served with a brussel sprout and potato hash with a dijon sauce.  The salmon was cooked perfectly!

I decided to have the chicken.  It was tough to choose between the chicken and some fish, but the chicken was local and I wanted to give it a try.  It was roasted and was served over corn and chive mashed potatoes and is accompanied by grilled asparagus, which I substituted for with grilled seasonal vegetables, which turned out to be a variety of bell peppers (not pictured).  The chicken was tender and moist and absolutely fresh! Worth every bite!

Finally, time for dessert.  Bistro 55 features a variety of homemade ice creams and sorbets as well as other traditional desserts.  My husband chose the vanilla bean ice cream and coffee, which was served in a french press.  I chose pumpkin creme brulee, which was served with fresh whipped cream and short bread cookies.  Both desserts were sinfully amazing!

         

We found the service to be very good.  Everyone was very friendly, and our server, Tari, was as knowledgable as she was personable and she was ready to make recommendations and give advice on menu selections.  The total bill for our meal was $98.  The menu is eclectic, it ranges from pizzas and sandwiches/burgers (grass fed beef!) to the types of entrees that we enjoyed.

I highly recommend Bistro 55 and if you decide to visit, ask for Tari!!!

Love of Lattes

Up early and lamenting life without my mocha lattes and frappes. To make myself feel better, I looked up the calorie contents of my favorites. Listed in order of favorite status:
1. Panera frozen mocha – 570 (want a caramel instead? 700 cal)
2. McDonald’s mocha frappé – 560
3. Dunkin Donuts Ice mocha swirl latte w/skim milk -180

Well, now we know why the Dunkin Donuts is my #3, but what a caloric savings, however, that figure is minus the whipped cream.

For now, I’m sticking with the unsweetened ice tea with lemon!

Day Three – Cleanse – Elimination Diet

I think I caught Brendan’s stomach bug, not feeling so well.  The day started out well, but kind of went south after lunch.  I am keeping it liquid for now – I have dinner with my husband tomorrow evening to celebrate our 7th wedding anniversary.  We have reservations at Bistro 55 on Rte. 17, it’s a restaurant that serves seasonal and local produce.  Here are the questions of the day:

I want to embrace vegetarianism gradually, I don’t want to set myself up to fail.  I am thinking of maybe having poultry, it’s from a poultry farm near my house.  I know that veganism is not an option right now, but may be in the future.  I checked the menu on line and they have a few fish dishes. Question 1:  Should I go for the poultry if I really feel like having it, or avoid it?

The elimination diet for the cleanse does not permit refined sugar or alcohol, but when I celebrate, I like to have a few bites of a dessert and a drink.  It was bad planning on my part to start this mid-week, but I sort of forgot about the anniversary dinner. Question 2:  Do I have the drink (just one) and a few bites of dessert or do I stay true to the elimination diet?

Please take a minute and weigh in on my dilema!

No Yoga today, trying to get a sitter so I can go tomorrow morning, I really need a class!

Day Two: Cleanse – Elimination Diet

Made it through the second day! Today’s goal was to decrease caffeine – achieved. Ran a little late this morning, so I went to Whole Foods for lunch and made myself a delicious salad of quinoa, steamed kale, chickpeas and olive oil, then I warmed it up at the office. It was soooo good. Did have a chocolate craving this afternoon, I hope that fades within the next couple of days. Found myself at Panera this evening, since it was damp and rainy, I went with the vegetarian black bean soup. Backtracking just a little, I had a very good whey protein shake, from Tera’s Whey, http://www.teraswhey.com, it was Yumberry flavor http://www.yumberryusa.com.

Tera’s Whey is sweetened with stevia. It’s not very sweet, so if you like sweet, you need to add a little agave. If you are interested in Tera’s Whey, I recommend purchasing the starter pack, so you can try a little bit of everything.

No yoga today, I really miss it when I don’t get to practice.

I have to confess that giving up chicken and turkey has been challenging, more challenging than I thought it would be. 

Goal for tomorrow:  Continue decreasing caffeine.

Cleanse: Day One Elimination Diet

So proud to have stayed on the elimination diet 100%.  If you know me at all, you know that I am a Dunkin Donuts iced latte lover.  Now, I’m weaning off the caffeine, I’m just not willing to endure the brain splitting pain of going cold turkey, so it was really tough going in to the DD this morning and ordering an unsweetened ice tea.  Lately my latte poison is the mocha swirl, I found myself craving it this afternoon, but was able to push the craving aside.  Tomorrow’s goal is to go to a small unsweetened ice tea from a medium.  Also, the headache started to creep up this afternoon, so I kept it under control with a small green tea.

Lesson of the day:  If you want to sweeten your tea with a teaspoon of raw honey, you should really add it when the tea is hot, not when it is iced, otherwise it stays clumpy for awhile and is largely unappetizing, until it dissolves.

Took care of the body and soul this evening, attended my Yoga class, which I  found challenging.  I was able to get a little deeper into the poses, which are still very basic, but I was stretching really well and holding the poses longer.  I was most happy that I was able to transition from pose to pose fairly easily when we were going through the sun salutations.  I must tell you, in all honesty, there is no medication that can bring the peace and clarity of a well taught Yoga class.

      Plank 

Especially thrilled to make the transition from downward facing dog to plamk, which has been my nemesis since the beginning!  Looks easy, but it’s not! So thrilled, I am going to make plank pose the pose of the day!

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