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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Transitioning to a Plant-Based Diet

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I want to share something that I am VERY passionate about right now. I want to share with you my journey to Plant-based eating. You know when you make a life change that is so huge that it is about all you can think about?  That is how I feel right now.  I share this, not to try and convince anyone to change their ways, but to help people who are going through this change like I am.  It has been a super fun transition for me, since I love experimenting with food!!

  Intro to Plant-Based EatingIntro to Plant-Based Eating

For about a year now I have been considering becoming vegetarian and even tried it for a week, but failed miserably. In the fall of 2014, I watched the Forks Over Knives Documentary on Netflix. This basically shifted my whole way of thinking.  I have always been a healthy eater- according to my previous eating standards. I love fruits and veggies and was never shy about eating them. However, I also loved cheeses, yogurt, sweets, and chicken. I have also studied and taught nutrition in the past, so I know quite a lot about this subject. I guess what really opened my mind was how little I actually knew. Since watching Forks Over Knives, I have been reading and studying all that I can get my little hands on about plant-based eating. Once you gain knowledge on a subject, you can't really give it back. Since learning about the benefits of eating this way, I have not been able to get it out of my head. I have literally lost sleep over it!  I needed to know if I could do it. So, I tried, a little at a time. I have a sister who has been a vegan for all of her adult life. I always thought is was strange, and never had a desire to follow in her footsteps. I guess all it took was some reading and research in the right places to understand where she was coming from. Now, I am on the strange list, too!

What is Plant-Based Eating?

Let's start at the beginning.  Plant-based eating is a diet that excludes all meat products and most oils. I know, it sounds crazy, radical, and impossible, right?  It is actually pretty amazing, awesome, and invigorating.  This way of eating excludes milk, meat, fish, eggs, and processed, refined foods. You can eat so many amazing things, still.. You can fill your plate with whole grains, vegetables, beans, nuts, and fruits.  You do not have to just eat lettuce at every meal and you do not feel hungry all the time.  In fact, I have been just as full and satisfied eating this way as I used to be. The goal is to focus on getting a variety of whole plant sources with each meal. I liked this image from Dr. Fuhrman (one of the books I reference later) showing what percentages of food you should be eating.


What are the Benefits of a Plant-Based Diet?

Plant-based diets are high in nutrients, vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and fiber and low in saturated fat. Eating a plant-based diet reduces your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and various types of cancer. It can ever reverse certain diseases. This diet is typically low is calories so you can eat more without gaining, will lose weight, or maintain a healthy weight.  In the China Study, ( a 20-year nutrition study discussed in Forks Over Knives) they showed that those who eat less animal products have less disease. The United States has the highest rates of most of these diseases and is also the country that eats the most animal products. While I did not have any health problems going into it, I know that making this change will help prevent me from having any o these health issues in the future. I have noticed increased energy. I also have started running again and have had such an easy time getting back into it since eating this way. I have also been losing the last few pounds of my baby weight.  

Is Plant-Based the Same as Being Vegan?

Vegan is a pretty common term, and while for the most part these two types of diets are very similar, there are a few differences between vegan and plant-based. Vegan-ism is more often more about animal rights. They do not eat any animal products, but also do not wear leather or fur. There are a lot of foods that are vegan (like Oreos and french fries) that are not healthy. Eating plant-based is about health and whole foods. It is cutting out all processed garbage from your diet and eating only foods that are whole and natural. A vegan most often will also eat a plant-based diet, though!   There are differing levels of vegetarianism and veganism. However, since most people only know the term vegan, that is what I often call myself.

How Do You Get Protein in A Plant-Based Diet?

Protein in Plant Foods 

But what about protein?  This is the first question always asked.  It is the first question I wondered, too.  When you think of protein, you always first think of meat or eggs. Did you know that there are large amounts of protein in vegetables, fruits and grains?  A cup of soybeans has 29 g. of protein. That is almost the same as a serving of chicken. Most other beans have about 10 grams of protein for 1/2 cup.  Nut are very high protein sources as well. Almonds, peanuts and cashews are all great sources. But we all pretty much know about beans and nuts. What about grains?  Quinoa has 9 grams of protein in a serving, brown rice, whole wheat, barley, oats, bulgar and amaranth are all  great protein sources. That isn't all, though!  Broccoli, spinach, corn, potatoes, peas, cauliflower, artichokes, cantaloupe, oranges, bananas, watermelon and others all contain protein. But along with the protein they are full of vitamins and minerals that increase your health naturally. I always thought that I had to combine specific plant sources in one meal (like beans and rice) to get a complete protein.  That is not the case. As long as you are eating a variety of foods, it all works out just fine. You don't have to do any special planning to make complete proteins.  

How To Make the Transition to a Plant-Based Diet

My transition has been gradual, and I still slip up sometimes. I started in the fall, around Halloween time. I have been reducing my meat intake for quite some time now, so that was not the hardest part for me. The hardest part was dairy. I decided first to start with cutting out red meat and cheese (because that seemed to me to be the worst offender in the dairy department).  So, I started slowly. I cut out a few foods at a time. After a few weeks of eating with less animal products and experimenting with new ways to make old favorites it got easier for me to cut out more. I now am eating entirely plant-based with very little sugars or oils. As for my family, they are not on the same page as me. I have been doing this alone, which can be a challenge. Luckily, my family is supportive of me. Dinnertime is the most challenging meal for me to figure out. What I have been doing, though is making meals that can easily be separated. For example, I make a stir fry with the vegetables in one pan and the meat in another. This way I am still pleasing my family while eating the way I want.

 Resources to Help you Eat a Plant-Based Diet

Like I mentioned, I have been reading like crazy. When I want to learn about a topic, there is really no stopping me!  I have compiled a list of books & websites that have helped me along on this journey.

5 Books on Plant-Based Eating:

books on plant-based eating

My Favorite Websites for Plant-Based Recipes:

There are also some pretty awesome Vegan/Plant-based cookbooks that I am beginning to collect. I am kinda a cookbook addict! This new lifestyle is fueling that addiction. :) And... I started a new Pinterest board for Plant-based recipes.

(Originally posted at my Teach Beside Me site.)

Blog Makeover

Print Friendly and PDF Yes, I know that I have SORELY neglected this little site for a very long time. I have been going through a transition in my diet this past year and have not really felt up to documenting it. But, I think I am ready!  I have been contemplating this change for some time now.  You see, I have changed to a plant-based diet. I promise I will share all of the details in the future. Right now, however, I want to share with you an incredible blog makeover deal that is happening right now at Blogelina.

They are offering to makeover 100 blogs for Mother's Day for just a $10 donation!  And, they are donating all of the profit to  How incredible is that?!  Just wanted to share!

I hope to be back soon with a face-lift & some fresh new recipes!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

EASY Irish Soda Bread

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With St. Patrick's Day coming soon, I made Irish Beef Stew this week. I wanted some bread to go along with it and decided to try out some Irish Soda Bread.  I was so surprised with how easy it was to make and also how good it was! It only has 4 ingredients!!

This bread is so fast to make. It doesn't need to rise, so it can be made at the last minute. I always think of making bread way too late for dinner. so I love a quick and easy bread.  It has a biscuit-like taste, but it hearty and crusty.  I made mine with half whole wheat flour, to make it healthier.


3 3/4 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1 2/3 c. buttermilk.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Pour in the buttermilk. (If you don't have buttermilk on hand add 1 Tbsp of lemon juice for each cup of milk and let it sit for 5 minutes or so.) Mix the dough with a wooden spoon. Dust the counter with flour and gently knead the dough. Pat it into a circle and place it on a baking sheet. Slice a criss cross on the top of the loaf before baking. 

Bake for about 30 minutes. Check it to make sure it isn't browning too quickly. If so, reduce the temperature a little. Cool slightly before eating. 

This is a delicious bread & is wonderful to make any time of year!  

Friday, February 14, 2014

Coconut Oil Chocolates

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Happy Valentine's Day!  I have some sweet little heart treats to share with you today!

I know it has been some time since I have updated here. Pregnancy & a newborn do not equal lots of creative cooking.  I am excited to start getting my body back into shape and have been experimenting with a few healthier desserts to satisfy my massive sweet tooth. Today's recipe is so delicious- it is definitely a keeper. I made coconut oil chocolates with peanut butter.  Peanut butter and chocolate are one of my favorite combos!!

This is super easy to make and definitely one you will love!

1/2 c. Coconut Oil
1/3 c. Cocoa Powder
1/2 c. smooth peanut butter
1/4 c. honey
1/2 tsp vanilla.

Melt the coconut oil and peanut butter to make mixing MUCH easier. Combine all ingredients. It will be very runny. Pour it into molds. Freeze until solid. These melt very easily and are best kept in the fridge or freezer. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Crispy Cornmeal & Parmesan Crusted Chicken

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It has been way too long since i have stopped in to share a recipe here. Pregnancy takes the creative foodie out of me, I must say...

I make this yummy parmesan chicken all the time and wanted to try something similar but without breadcrumbs. I have some cornmeal grits- the kind used to make polenta. It is a more coarsely ground cornmeal. I decided to try using that as my chicken coating for dinner last night. I absolutely loved the outcome and so did my family.   My pickiest eater loved it and asked for more!

It was incredibly quick and easy to throw together. 

2 chicken breasts 
1/2 c. cornmeal
1/4 c. parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper
1/2 tsp dried onion flakes (or powder)
Olive oil for cooking

Drizzle a little olive oil in a frying pan and start it heating.  Combine the coating ingredients into a bowl.  Cut the chicken into strips.  Dip it into the coating and cover all sides. I didn't dip the chicken into anything before, but you could use an egg white if it isn't sticking well.  Cook in frying pan until all sides are lightly browned and the chicken is cooked through. 

Serve it up hot with a few delicious sides and you have a quick & easy dinner for your family!  It is really good left-over on a salad, too!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Peanut Butter Apple Oatmeal

Print Friendly and PDF I L.O.V.E. oatmeal when it is cold outside. The Fall weather is settling in, so I needed another yummy  oatmeal recipe. This Apple Peanut Butter Oatmeal has hit the spot and I have had it three times this week.  This recipe makes enough for one very large serving, so if you want it to share with a few more people, double accordingly.


1 apple
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp coconut oil or butter
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 Tbsp peanut butter
1 tsp peanuts
1/2 c. oats
1 c. milk
1 tsp vanilla
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp ground flax

Cook apples in coconut oil until softened. Add in spices, oats, 1 Tbsp peanut butter, and milk. Cook and boil about 10 minutes.  Remove from heat. Add vanilla. Top with more peanut butter & peanuts.

Enjoy your breakfast!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Pie Fries with Apple Pie Dip

Print Friendly and PDF Want a fun and easy alternative to the traditional apple pie?  We made some little pie fries with an apple pie dipping sauce. This is easy for kids to eat & so delicious!  It's a great fall treat!

To Make the Pie Fries:

1 1/3 c. flour
5 Tbsp sugar (divided)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c. shortening
3-6 Tbsp ice cold water
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp melted butter

Blend flour, 3 Tbsp of the sugar, and salt in a medium mixing bowl. Cut in the shortening using a fork or pastry blender. Mix until crumbly.  Add in half of the cold water and stir. Add additional water 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough holds together. Flatten into a round disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 30 minutes (up to 2 days).

When ready to cook them, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Combine 2 Tbsp sugar and the cinnamon.  
Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle. Cut into strips with a pizza cutter. Place on a cookie sheet. Brush with melted butter ans sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar mixture. Bake 12-15 minutes or until lightly golden. 

For the Apple Pie Dip:

1 apple peeled & diced
1/4 c. applesauce
1 Tbsp butter
1-2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 c. brown sugar

Cook the apple in a small pan with the butter and spices until it is soft.  Add in sugar and applesauce. Cook a few minutes until bubbly. Let cool.

Happy Fall Ya'll!!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Rustic Mini Apple-Raspberry Hand Pies

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This mini pie is not made the traditional way in a pie pan. I just folded the crust over the filling and baked them on cookie sheets. The crust is a sugar cookie pie crust.  It was SO delicious that after they were gone, my son begged me to make it again.  I definitely will be!

Sugar Cookie Pie Crust:
1/2 c. softened butter (1 stick)
3 Tbsp sugar
1 large egg yolk
3 Tbsp cream or milk
1 1/2 c. flour
1/8 tsp salt (if using unsalted butter, double that amount)

Mix butter and sugar. Add in the egg yolk and cream and mix well. Mix in the flour and salt. Gather up into a ball. If it is too soft to work with, chill for about half an hour. Roll out on a lightly floured surface. This will make enough for a single 9" pie crust or 4 mini pies.  (If using in a large pie, pre-bake it at 375 for 30 minutes. Cover the edges with foil for half of the time so it does not burn.)  If making into mini pies, I used a round bowl to cut circles for my pies. Place them onto a cookie sheet. 

Apple-Raspberry Pie Filling:
3 apples peeled and chopped
1 cup frozen or fresh raspberries
1/2 cup sugar
squeeze of lemon juice
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 1/2 Tbsp. cornstarch
1-2 Tbsp water

In a saucepan, cook the apples, raspberries, sugar, cinnamon, and lemon juice. Cook over medium heat for around 10 min.

In a small bowl combine the water and corn starch. Add this to the apples and raspberries and continuously mix until the mixture has thickened.

Set aside to cool down.

Scoop the filling onto the dough and fold in half. Bake at 375 for about 20 minutes or until the crust is golden.  Top with fresh whipped cream.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Cheesy Mexican Quinoa & Chicken Casserole

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This was such a delicious and nutrition-packed dish! It was simple to put together, too!

2 c. Quinoa- cook (with broth for extra flavor) according to package directions
1 diced onion
1 diced bell pepper
1 c. sour cream
1 c. salsa
1 can drained, rinsed black beans
1 c. or can of corn
Cooked, cubed chicken (I used a can of cooked chicken to make it quicker)
1 c. grated cheddar or mexican blend cheese
2 cloves minced garlic
salt & pepper

I cooked the onions & peppers with the quinoa so they were tender. Mix all ingredients together- if you think it needs more flavor or wetness add more salsa or season with more salt & pepper. Pour into a medium sized baking dish.

Bake at 375 degrees for about a half hour, until bubbly and cooked through. 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Blueberry-Peach Breakfast Crisp

Print Friendly and PDF Do you love fruit crisp?  It has always been one of my favorite desserts, with fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream on top. . . Yum!  Well, I woke up this morning with a craving for some fruity crispiness.  I couldn't justify all of the butter and brown sugar for a meal, so I decided to try a healthier version.  Fruit Crisp for breakfast... Oh, yes!!  

In my search for recipes, nothing was quite fitting what I had in mind. After combining a little of this and a little of that, I came up with a most delicious concoction!  I had some frozen peaches and blueberries in my freezer, so that's what I used- but you could really substitute any fruit in this recipe. 

For the Fruit Filling:
1 c. blueberries
1 1/2 c. cut peaches
1/4 c. honey
1/4 c. applesauce
1 Tbsp. cornstarch

For the Topping:
1 1/4 c. oats
1 Tbsp. ground flax seed
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp softened butter
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1.2 tsp vanilla extract
dash of salt.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Mix the fruit filling and pour into a square baking dish.  Mix the ingredients for the topping and pour evenly over the top. Bake for 30-40 minutes- until bubbly and golden brown on top. 

Serve warm~ it is delicious with a little dollop of vanilla Greek yogurt on top!

This is so sweet an delicious- I may just change up my dessert one and not let anyone in on the secret...

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