Hi, My Name is Kirsten, and I’m addicted to sugar….

I think that’s how it starts at AA meetings (never having been, I’m only going off what I’ve heard). Well, I’m putting it out there that I am 100% addicted to sugar, just like an alcoholic is addicted to alcohol, or a junkie is addicted to cocaine. I have made this painful discovery on my plant strong journey…and it’s a tough pill to swallow. I really like chocolate, especially good dark chocolate, and I also love the vegan treats I make, and I do enjoy good glass of wine or a craft beer. Many people are addicted to sugar, salt and/or fat (read The Pleasure Trap by Doug Lisle for more details), but most people never discover this. I’m not sure if it’s better to know you are addicted to something you love, or just be oblivious to it and just be frustrated because you can’t lose that excess weight you’ve been trying to lose for the past 15+ years.
I have learned that I am not one of those people that can have just a little chocolate and be ok with it. Nope, my brain isn’t wired that way. It’s not about will power, my brain just doesn’t have that wiring. I will continue to go back for more until it’s gone (I do that with a lot of sweet foods whether I’m hungry or not, it’s something I’m working on currently). Many of my cube-mates at work can attest to this behavior. For them it’s quite amusing…they call it “Fun Kirsten”. “Fun Kirsten” can’t help herself around chocolate and sugar, and she eats herself into chocolate oblivion while others can abstain from eating more. As I look back, it’s pretty sad and embarrassing that I do this, but I really can’t help myself. I just can’t have the stuff around. The only way I can stay away from it is to not eat any…at all. This can be tough when people bake things for special occasions. But I’m learning that it is ok to not eat something if it will lead to self destructive behaviors.
I have in the past stopped eating this ‘non-food’ as I call it (that’s the only way I can mentally separate myself from wanting this stuff). Once I’m mentally and emotionally strong enough to stay away from it, I can actually stay away from it for a very long time. It’s those special occasions that can turn in to every day events as I experienced this past fall that lead into Christmas that has now lasted into February. There is a lot going on in my life right now that is wearing me down, and that’s when it’s really tough to stay away from sugar. I just need to remember that sugar feeds cancer; I may or may not have cancer cells in my body, but if I do, I certainly don’t need to give them a reason to grow! I started this plant based journey so I could be around a long time enjoying life with my husband and grandchildren. Today I’m drawing a line in the sand, letting go of what is not serving me well anymore (as hard as that may be) and moving forward with my health.

Herbed Sweet Potato Stew and Creative Cooking

Even though I only had one day off this weekend due to teaching classes on Saturday, I was rather productive today. I’ve been experimenting with different plant based meals for breakfast and decided to try something new this week (I typically stay away from traditional ‘breakfast’ foods like cereals as they don’t fill me up and usually are loaded with sugar). Since I had these ginormous sweet potatoes on hand, I decided to make Ami Mackey’s (Plant Based Adventures) Herbed Sweet Potato Stew, with my creative twists. The recipe is easy and very yummy. I made a few adjustments based on what I had on hand (http://plantbasedadventures.com/?s=herbed+sweet+potato+stew).

Herbed Sweet Potato Stew-Kirsten’s Version
Ingredients:
5 very large sweet potatoes sliced and cut in half
4 medium yukon potatoes cut in quarters
6 small red potatoes, diced
5 stalks of celery diced
1 yellow onion diced
6 small baby carrots sliced (it’s all I had left)
1 1/2 tablespoons Herbs de Provence – herb blend
48 oz. water
Ginger Powder (maybe 1/2 tsp or less)
Onion Powder (maybe 1/2 tsp or less)
16 oz bag of chopped frozen spinach

Directions:
1. Add all ingredients except the spinach to a large stock pot or a crockpot and cook on high for about 4 hours. You can also do this on the stove, just cook until everything is tender (about an hour). I needed to use the crockpot since I had SO many potatoes. Mash some of the potatoes when cooking is finished.
2. Add the spinach and stir to combine.
3. Top with Siracha or other hot sauce (it balances the sweetness of the potatoes).
It can be frozen, but the potatoes break down a little when it heats up.

Enjoy

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No Oil Stir Fry on a Lazy Day

Sunday has been a lazy day for me. I use the term lazy rather lightly since I spent the day cooking. I made a LOT of stuff: Oatmeal for lunches, roasted chickpeas for snacks, sweet potatoes for breakfasts, salads for lunches, crackers for dinner and cupcakes. Yes…I made the Vanilla Cupcakes from Fran Costigan’s Vegan Chocolate book…AGAIN. This time I’m keeping a few more at home for my hubby, but I’ll take a few into work to share too. I also made a different frosting (from Happy Herbivore) to go on some of the cupcakes. I finished laundry today and worked on my vision board a little. So why do I feel like it was a lazy day? I wasn’t motivated to do much of anything. The cooking stuff needed to be done, and some of it just happened on a whim. Cooking is my hobby so it never feels like work. But I’ve got some busy days ahead of me in the next few months, so I’m letting myself enjoy not being motivated to do much!
I wanted to make a veggie stir fry for dinner, but also wanted to use my Vegetarian Flavor Bible for inspiration for a sauce. I decided to make some yummy gluten free brown rice/sesame crackers from Oh She Glows (http://ohsheglows.com/2011/10/17/easy-vegan-gluten-free-crackers) to go with dinner. The final verdict…it was AMAZING. I used the VFB and Happy Herbivore’s Cheater Pad Thai recipe as inspiration..tasting and adding things as I went along. I came up with a really good peanut sauce that I will use again. My hubby really loved it too!
For the stir fry I used carrots, green onions, baby Bok Choy, some swiss chard stems (leaves were in my salad), mushrooms, pea pods, red/yellow peppers, broccoli and tomatoes. I served it over brown rice which made for quite a yummy combination. I imagine it would be good on top of soba noodles too. I topped it with black sesame seeds…at the recommendation of the instructions on the spice bottle. I get my spices from The Spice House, so I know I can’t go wrong following their guidelines. Even with the richness of the peanut sauce, this dish is still light tasting since there is no oil to weigh it down.

Here’s the recipe for the sauce…measurements are estimates as I knew I wanted sweet/tangy/hot in my sauce.

Kirsten’s Plant Strong Peanut Sauce
1 1/2 TBS natural creamy peanut butter (no oil added)
1 1/2 TBS low sodium Soy Sauce (I use Tamari)
1 1/2 TBS Rice Vinegar
2 TBS Mirin (sweetened saki…really added a lot to the dish)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp ginger powder
Siracha to taste (maybe a generous 1/4 tsp)
Cilantro -chopped

Blend all ingredients using with a whisk. Adjust flavors as needed.

Stir Fry Instructions
1. Heat electric skillet to 400. Toss in matchstick carrots and a touch of veggie broth. Stir them as they get heated, to prevent them from sticking and burning (add a little more water as needed).
2. Add veggies in this order so things don’t get too mushy, but everything gets cooked al dente: carrots, pea pods, bok choy/chard stems, broccoli, peppers, green onion, mushrooms, tomatoes. The dish takes less than 10 minutes to cook.
3. Gently stir in sauce when veggies are done.
4. Place on top of rice or noodles, top with fresh chopped cilantro and black sesame seeds.

Here are photos of the meal:

Inspiration:

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Brightly colored veggies cooking:

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Final plated dish:

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Here are the cupcakes I gave my hubby as an afternoon snack with his coffee (he’s been working almost non stop lately).

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Stuffing Peppers with Plant Strong Goodness

A few weeks ago my hubby mentioned that stuffed peppers would be a good dish to have this winter. I made a mental note to buy some green peppers. As I’ve been trying to get better at staying on a budget for groceries, I’ve started using Peapod grocery delivery service again. It’s much easier for me to control my grocery spending when I see the total add up as I put things in my virtual shopping cart. I had forgotten I put green peppers in my cart and was pleasantly surprised when I unpacked 4 nice looking green peppers today. My short term memory isn’t always that good when I’ve got a lot going on!

I resurrected a stuffed pepper recipe that I made years ago with ground beef; but I don’t remember where I got it. I know it took me a while to find a recipe I liked, and I remember I liked this one. So I set out to make a whole food, plant strong version. I first made a simple tomato sauce with canned tomatoes, fresh shredded garlic, Italian seasoning and ground fennel. I blended it with my immersion blender, added some tomato powder to thicken then cooked it for about 20 minutes. I added some more tomato powder and it was done. A very easy way to make sauce!

While my brown rice was cooking, I made some of Happy Herbivore’s No Beef Broth and heated up about a cup of Engine 2 Ancient grain blend (found at Whole Foods). I blended the cooked rice, grain blend and some of the ‘broth’ to give it some good ‘meaty’ flavor. The stuffed pepper recipe has some good spices that are mixed with the rice and then I added a touch of the tomato sauce for more flavor. The peppers get blanched in hot water for a few minutes to help soften them for cooking. I had fun spooning the rice mixture into the peppers and topping with sauce. The final topping was a mixture of nutritional yeast (nooch) mixed with bread crumbs. I spooned some sauce around the peppers and baked for about 30 minutes. They turned out beautifully! I served a nice green salad and some crusty bread with it. The best part was that my husband loved them and said the meal reminded him of his childhood…stuffed peppers were a very comforting dish for him.
Here’s the recipe and some photos:

Stuffed peppers with Rice and Mixed Grains
Cook Time: 40 minutes… Recipe for stuffed peppers serves 4.

INGREDIENTS:
4 large green bell peppers
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 1/2 cup cooked rice
1 cup Engine 2 Ancient Grains Blend (heated in microwave for 3-5 minutes)
salt* optional
1/8 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon celery seeds
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
dash Vegan Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup soft bread crumbs mixed with nutritional yeast
Tomato sauce
Happy Herbivore’s No Beef Broth

DIRECTIONS

1. Wash peppers; remove stem ends, seeds, and white membranes.
2. Cook bell peppers in 1 cup of boiling lightly salted water for 4 to 5 minutes. Drain.
3. Mix rice and grain blend and about 1/3 of the no beef broth. Add paprika, celery seeds, curry powder and Worcestershire sauce and mix well. Add a little of the tomato sauce (1/3 cup maybe) to the rice mixture and mix gently until well blended.
5. Fill peppers with meat mixture and top each with tomato sauce then some of the bread crumb/nooch mixture.
6. Bake stuffed peppers at 350° for 30 minutes.

Stuffed with rice/grain blend:

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Ready for the oven:

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Plated:

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Dig in!

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