Monday, December 12, 2011

Yes, it's vegan

It's 2:00. You have been running around all day: meetings, errands, work, playdates, what have you... and it dawns on you that you haven't had lunch yet and you're starving!

You head to the nearest eatery--a Starbucks (hey a soy latte will hold you over until you find real sustenance) and notice something that looks suscpiciously vegan: a sesame noodle "Bistro Box." A quick glance confirms your suspicions: it's vegan!

This happened to me today. I'm super excited. Vegan meals are going mainstream. It seems like yesterday that we had to peel the meat and cheese off of a sandwich in order to have a vegan meal (lettuce sandwich) because nothing else was available.

The meal was very good. The snap peas were fresh and crispy, and the noodles tasted fresh. The tofu was yummy. It was flavorful without being overly salty. I would definitely get it again.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

No time? Ideas for quick vegan meals

Pictured here is Soy Boy ravioli, jarred marinara, carrot sticks, and blanched broccoli. A yawner of a dinner but it turns out that everyone loves it and it is SO easy to make. I just boil the ravioli, put the broccoli in the water towards the end of cooking, and slice up some carrots. Both kids gobble it up (no raw carrots for the baby of course). They love plain pasta too, they don't always get excited about tofu. "Hidden" in this way, they get an extra boost of protein and calcium in the meal.

I have more nights than I'd like to admit where I don't have time to make a meal totally from scratch. Here are a few more throw-together ideas that both kiddos like, using what I like to call "healthy convenience food helpers":

- Leftover or quick-cook brown rice with mixed frozen vegetables, crumbled felafel, and a vegan jarred sauce
- Canned "no chicken noodle" soup with saltine crackers and sliced raw fruits and veggies (Emily still can't chew so she gets frozen vegetables added to the soup)
- Frozen seitan "riblets" with microwaved potatoes and a big salad (Emily gets pureed or soft-cooked veggies)
- veggie burger or nuggets with peas and sliced apples/applesauce

Any other ideas welcomed!!

Monday, October 31, 2011


Have you ever seen the show Chopped? I adore this show. The premise is, four chef contestants compete for $10,000 by cooking 3 courses (if they're not eliminated first): appetizer, main course, and dessert. The catch is, they are required to use four pre-determined "mystery" ingredients in each course. And they have a very short time to cook! After each course their dishes are judged, and one chef is eliminated. By dessert, there are two left, and the winner is declared at the end of the show.

I like Chopped so much because it shows me new cooking techniques and creative ways to put food together. What I don't like is that anything goes -- I've seen them use everything from eel to veal.

I did a quick google search and found a few references to a vegan Chopped. Check these out!

I dream of a vegan version of Chopped. So if anyone out there is in production and wants to do this, count me in! Or maybe we can find a company or organization to sponsor a Chopped-like contest where contestants have to create a vegan recipe using four mystery ingredients (red lentils, durian, turnips, and hominy, anyone?).

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Polenta Pizza and Last Minute Saute

The other day I knew I was in trouble when I opened the fridge (at 5:15pm) to find little more than aging carrots, and old (but still good) log of polenta, leftover quinoa, a few wrinkling snap peas, 1/2 bag baby spinach, a 1/2 huge onion, and condiments. In the freezer was a 1/2 bag of Meal Starters Chick'n Strips. Fortunately a (compact fluorescent) lightbulb went off in my head. What would you do with all this, to serve a family of 4? Here's what I came up with.

Polenta Pizza

I think I'll always keep a log of polenta in the fridge for this -- honestly it wasn't my favorite thing, but my husband and son loved it.

  • 1 log polenta, sliced into 1/4-inch slices
  • tomato sauce of your choice
  • Daiya mozz
  • olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wipe a thin layer of olive oil on a roasting pan to prevent sticking. Assemble the pizzas and place in pan. Bake until cheese melts.

Last Minute Saute

This is one of those recipes you would NOT take to the store with you to buy ingredients. This is a recipe you turn to when you have a bunch of leftovers you don't know what to do with. While mine had carrots, onions, spinach, snap peas, chick'n strips, and quinoa, yours can have any veggie, bean, faux meat, and/or grain. Here's how you adapt it.

Chop your veggies into bite-sized pieces or dice into small pieces. Heat a little olive oil or broth in a large saute pan. Add the veggies in order of how long they take to cook (I always start with onions and garlic). Keep stirring the veggies around on medium heat until they start to stick to the pan and/or things are looking a bit dry. When that happens, add vegetable broth, just enough so that there's a 1/8 to 1/4 inch pool at the bottom of the veggies. The broth should be boiling gently (not boiling so hard that the liquid is spattering and starting to burn). Next, add beans or faux meat and incorporate.

Now the fun begins. At this point, if you don't object to alcohol, add cooking wine. My favorite is sherry, but you can use any wine, even table wine if you want. If you prefer, use diluted flavored vinegar. Stir everything around. While that cooks, visit your spices and choose 2 or 3 that you think would best complement your dish thus far. Shake them in. (You might need to add more broth to keep the veggies moist.) Next, add the juice of a half to one lemon or lime. Blend and taste. At this point, you might be done. No? Ask yourself: does it need sweetness? If so, add a 1/2 tsp of vegan sugar. Does it need heat? Add pepper sauce or chili powder. Finally, add salt to taste, if it needs it. Keep cooking, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is completely absorbed.

Serve over leftover grains or in a sandwich wrap.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Julieanna Hever on Dr. Oz today!

Ok my timing is terrible because if you're here on the east coast, it is now too late, but if you're elsewhere, be sure to catch my friend and colleague, the wonderful and talented Julieanna Hever, the Plant Based Dietitian, on the Dr. Oz show today!

I promise to post again when they're re-running the show later in the season. And if it goes online I will post that as well.

Julieanna explains how to follow a whole-foods, plant-based diet. Her principles (and recipes!) are in her wonderful new book, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition. Check it out!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Really, are potatoes so terrible?

If you've been following the popular health news lately, you've come across a litany of articles warning us of the "danger" of the humble potato. Several advocacy groups have even gone as far as to get the USDA to consider cutting back on or completely eliminating potatoes from the school lunch. I agree the school lunch would benefit from improvements but to get rid of potatoes and keep all the other crap (chicken nugget ban, anyone?)? Sure, take away the fries, puffs, and tots but keep the whole potato please!

The well-respected (including by me, usually) Harvard School of Public Health has come out with their own version of MyPlate (coined the "Healthy Eating Plate"), where potatoes (in any form) are strongly discouraged.

In my opinion, demonizing one food (particularly a whole plant food) can lead to consumer confusion/frustration. Even though epidemiological studies have suggested that potatoes are associated with weight gain, I've yet to meet a person who lost weight by cutting out potatoes. It is only one part of the diet, and it is the diet and lifestyle overall, not the inclusion or exclusion of potatoes, that determines one's health and weight. I've personally been so annoyed by this that I've gone out of my way recently to buy (local/organic) potatoes. And fortunately, I got a couple of pounds from my CSA last week. I make them garlic mashed, roasted, and pan fried. Yum.

Here's my recipe for quick vegan mashed potatoes.

  • 2 lbs potatoes
  • 4 Tbsp trans-fat-free tub margarine like Earth Balance
  • 2 tsp seasoned salt
  • 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • unsweetened soy milk as needed (or other unsweetened plant milk)

Peel and chop potatoes into approximately 1-inch cubes. Boil until soft. Drain.

Return to pot and add margarine, salt, and yeast. Mash with a potato masher. Slowly add milk and keep mashing until at desired consistency. This shouldn't take more than a couple of minutes. Old-fashioned potato mashers work great, and leave in a few lumps, which adds authenticity. :-) Serve. (Note: If you're watching your fat intake, eliminate the margarine or use a teaspoon or two of olive oil instead.)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

How did you celebrate Food Day?

Food Day, which was yesterday, October 24th, is a celebration spearheaded by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

It was a great success around the country. The day really spread awareness about food issues and challenges, and inspired ideas for solutions. Getting people talking about food and understanding how important it is for everyone to have access to safe, nutritious foods is, to me, the ultimate drive for success.

Food Day's goals ("6 principles") are to:
  • Reduce diet-related disease by promoting safe, healthy foods
  • Support sustainable farms & limit subsidies to big agribusiness
  • Expand access to food and alleviate hunger
  • Protect the environment & animals by reforming factory farms
  • Promote health by curbing junk-food marketing to kids
  • Support fair conditions for food and farm workers
The idea is to transform the American diet by inspiring people who want healthy, affordable food produced in a sustainable, humane way. This means getting people cooking real food for their families again; having fewer people at fast food restaurants and bigger crowds at farmers markets; celebrating fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains - and supporting the farms
producing them; ensuring everyone has the option to select healthy diets and avoid diet-related health issues.

How cool is that? My town, Montclair, NJ, celebrated this day with activities at the public schools and around town such as movie screenings, apple tastings, a produce drive, and food collections for the needy. The grain and bean posters pictured here are on display at my son's elementary school; I spent a good part of the weekend making them (I'm not the most creative person so I'm rather excited about the role of my new glue gun!). I can't solve the nation's food problems, but I can help teach kids about healthy foods, so why not start in my son's school?

How about you? If you didn't know about it or didn't have time this year, start thinking about how you can make a difference in your community next year!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A tofu scramble -- what is my SECRET ingredient?

Per request, here is my tofu scramble recipe! In the past I've resisted posting it because, honestly, it's never the same recipe twice.

This is the BEST recipe for literally throwing in your leftovers. The one pictured here had the last bit of my friend Lisa's amazing bean chili and a few jalapenos from my CSA share.

Here are some favorite add-ins:

  • leftover cooked veggies
  • cooked leafy greens (try spinach for a Florentine flair!)
  • beans
  • salsa (goes especially well with black beans and chili powder for a Tex Mex delight)
  • diced cooked sweet potatoes
  • diced cooked winter squash
  • veggie bacon or sausage

I've been known to even add in leftover soup!

Now, I never claimed that this is supposed to mimic scrambled eggs. It doesn't. It started out that way, years ago, when the recipe was basically, well, tofu plus turmeric (for the yellow color) and some seasoning. But this recipe has morphed over the years, culminating into what would be more appropriately termed "Tofu Mish Mash" or "Kitchen Sink Tofu." It's healthier too, with all those delicious veggies for antioxidant and fiber power.

You will need:

  • 2 lbs firm tofu, pressed and drained
  • 1 tbsp trans-fat-free vegan tub margarine (I like Earth Balance) or veggie broth or water for sauteeing
  • 1 small or 1/2 large onion, diced (about 1 cup diced)
  • 2-3 small bell peppers (it's nice to use 3 different colors), diced (about 1.5 cups diced)
  • ***SECRET INGREDIENT!!!*** 1/2 package soy chorizo (available at Trader Joes)
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 cup Daiya cheese (I usually use Cheddar but if I'm doing a Tex Mex Scramble, I'll use the pepper jack. The Mozz is good if you're in an Italian mood.)
  • 1 tbsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp seasoned salt (MSG free)
  • 1 ripe tomato, chopped
1. Press the tofu by taking it out of the package, setting it on a large flat plate, and placing a heavy pot of water on top (balance carefully now!). The longer you do this, the firmer the result. I tend to do it for 5-10 minutes, or longer if I have a lot of "wet" add-ins.

2. Heat the margarine or broth or water over medium heat. Add the onions and peppers and saute until they start to get soft, about 5 minutes.

3. Add the tofu. Break it up with a spoon in one hand and fork in the other, as you mix it with the veggies. Try to leave a few bite-sized chunks so it's not all crumbs.

4. Add the chorizo and carefully incorporate. Warning, this step can be messy.

5. Sprinkle the yeast, cheese and spices evenly over the mixture and saute until it's one uniform color (you might need to add more turmeric) and the cheese is melted.

6. When it looks and tastes done, add the tomato and fold in and keep it on the heat for another minute or two.

Serve with whole wheat toast for a fabulous brunch. Also a GREAT filling for a wrap!

Again! Don't be shy! Other than leaving the burner on high and going to the movies, it's virtually impossible to mess up this recipe. Experiment!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Hooray for vegan bake sales

This past weekend, my local group, Montclair Vegans, held a bake sale to raise money for Vegan Outreach, one of my favorite groups. My only regret is that I didn't take a photo of the tables and tables of amazing looking baked goods, everything from spinach pockets to personal pizzas to carrot cake cupcakes to chocolate strawbrery thumbprints. I made chocolate chip cookies (photo here) and gluten free muffins (below).

This is an incredibly easy recipe for gluten free applesauce raisin muffins, using Arrowhead Mills gluten-free pancake and baking mix.

Gluten-Free Applesauce Raisin Muffins

2 cups gluten-free baking mix, such as Arrowhead Mills
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cups rice milk
3/4 cup applesauce
1/2 cup soft raisins

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with foil baking cups or well-oil-sprayed paper ones (boy do these stick to paper ones without oil spray!). Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk in the rice milk and oil until smooth and well combined. Stir in applesauce and raisins. Spoon equally into the baking cups. Bake on the center rack until lightly browned and a cake tester inserted in the center of a muffin tests clean, about 25 minutes. Turn out onto a rack to cool.


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Secrets for a Fast and Easy Tex-Mex Dinner

Tonight's dinner was fabulous. It might have tasted as if I cooked for hours, but I used several shortcuts to get it on the table pronto.

The #1 criterion I use to decide whether to make a Tex-Mex-like meal is whether I have ripe avocados. Those babies have a short window of yummy edibility! Tonight I had 2 perfect avocados and only an hour to cook, so I got busy.

I made several different things, each with its own shortcut.

I had bell peppers and onions, as usual, which are the base for a perfect veggie fajita. I also had sliced portabellos and a big eggplant, so I figured why not. I decided to marinate and oven-roast the mushrooms and eggplant, since they soak up liquid flavors, and quick-saute the onoins and peppers.

My shortcut here? I put the sliced mushrooms and eggplant in a pre-made marinade (I used Goya's Mojo, but any will do) while I sliced up the onions and peppers and got other stuff ready. Later on, I threw the mushrooms and eggplant in the oven and sauteed the onions and peppers in a bit of the same marinade plus a couple of teaspoons of powdered fajita seasoning.

This is super-easy. I always start with a chopped up onion (optional; I just love onions), which I cook up in a bit of canola oil or veggie broth. Then I add soy-based ground "beef" and the secret ingredient -- tomato salsa -- as well as a sprinkle of taco seasoning. The salsa gives it that perfect kick and tomato flavor, and the seasoning keeps it real.

So quick it's almost embarrassing to admit. I just pour canned seasoned black beans into a pot and turn on the stove. I used Trader Joes Cuban Black Beans. I also often use 365 Spicy Black Beans.

The great thing about guacamole is that you can make it without cutting any corners, and it's still quick and easy. My recipe is 2 mashed avocados, juice of 1 fresh lime, and a sprinkle of sea salt. What could be easier, or tastier?

I rounded out the meal with a few add-ins: shredded lettuce (with some finely chopped broccoli hidden in there too for some added nutrition), chopped tomatoes, Daiya pepper jack cheese, Tofutti sour cream, tortillas (whole wheat and brown rice), and chips (baked organic white is a healthful option).

The kids didn't adore everything, but they liked enough of the choices to have a really healthy (and fun!) meal. And we have plenty leftover for tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

I can't get enough of this sandwich!

Trader Joes has done it again -- I've been obsessed with this sandwich lately, and every one of the ingredients comes from TJs. (Click on the photo to enlarge the ingredients.) You can get most of them from other stores too, of course (except maybe this particular type of hummus) but I like Trader Joes for their great quality, vast selection (organic produce, organic groceries, and vegan choices abound), good customer service (usually -- this past week I encountered a poor-mannered cashier), and unbeatable prices. The edamame hummus is a great way to get in unprocessed soy protein, and it gives this spread a naturally sweet flavor. It has become my favorite hummus.

This is a perfect lunch for a busy day. It's easy to make, filling, high in protein and fiber, moderate in the good fats (thanks to the avocado and hummus), and bursting with protective micronutrients. It's also quite versatile-- note the list of substitutions below.

You will need:

  • 1 brown rice wrap (SUBS: 2 slices whole grain bread, whole grain pita or wrap)
  • 4 tbsp edamame hummus (SUBS: any hummus will do)
  • 1/2 small or 1/3 large avocado, sliced
  • 2 large slices of tomato
  • 2 large romaine lettuce leaves (SUBS: baby spinach and arugula work well here, or any raw green)

Place sandwich ingredients inside wrap or between bread. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Enough excuses! I'm officially back!

Emily is healthy, school starts tomorrow, my nights are no longer interrupted by multiple nursing sessions, and I'm a new person, new mom, new wife, new worker, and new blogger! I am also super-inspired by the recent Vida Vegan Conference -- a recent gathering of vegan bloggers in Portland, my favorite city (wish I coulda joined y'all! Shout out to Jen G. and all my pals who got to go!). I heard it was a tremendous success.

I've been blogging "in my head" for months now so I have some great ideas I'd like to share. With a family of 4 to feed (and the challenges with feeding one child with no teeth and another with multiple food allergies), I've had to be pretty creative.

A special thank-you to my loyal readers (many who continue to comment on old posts), family, and friends (you especially, JH) who have supported me through a pretty hellish year. Love ya, babes.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Gluten Free, Soy Free, Vegan Convenience Foods

Ok, I love to cook (and I've been doing my fair share lately) but some days, just the thought of lifting a pan to the stove is a bit more than I can take.

Back before my elimination diet, the solution was Takeout. (Prior to THAT it was actually dining, out, but of course that was before kids came along.) Fortunately I live in a town where vegan takeout abounds. Thai, Indian, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, Ethiopian, Mexican, all within walking distance, all cater to my vegan tooth. But in most cases, the starring roles were soy (Sesame Tofu, Masaman Tofu Curry, faux meat made of soy, etc.), wheat (pasta, burritos), and nuts/seeds (sushi with sesame seeds, curries with cashews, etc.).

Indian works pretty well but since I'm cooking my way through The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking (including an eggplant-spinach curry I whipped together for lunch today), I'm avoiding Indian restaurants for the time being.

Anyway. Convenience food. I have found some a-may-zing things for us food-sensitive vegans. I plan on indulging in these goodies well after I resume my joyful soyful diet. Here they are.

1. Whole Foods 365 Rice Crust Roasted Vegetable Pizza. I didn't expect much from a frozen pizza but WOW is this stuff good. How do they get so many veggies on there? And the rice crust... you'd NEVER know. I slather it with Mozz Daiya Cheese with 5 minutes to go in the toaster oven and I'm in pizza heaven.

2. Trader Joes Vegetable Panang Curry with Jasmine Rice. Again, I didn't expect much. I expected a weak curry, needing serious doctoring. Boy was I wrong! This entree is incredible! Rich, flavorful, and satisfying, with just the right amount of spice. Soy free, gluten free, and vegan! Unbelievable! Better than I've had at some restaurants, truly. For Dan, I add 1/2 lb cubed tofu, and there's plenty of sauce to go around. If the rice were whole-grain brown, this thing would be perfecto.

3. Imagine Foods Organic Black Bean Bisque. Ok granted, dozens of packaged soups are vegan, gluten free, soy-free, and tasty. (Yes, Amy, I'm talking about you!) But this one rocks my world. It is SO delicious; I don't just use it as a soup. I use it as a sauce for steamed veggies, as a mix-in with my quinoa, and as a base for other soups. It's that good.

4. Amy's Tamale with Roasted Vegetables. This is a great meal! It's got a nice sized tamale alongslide flavorful black beans. It's the only Amy's frozen entree that is gluten free, soy free, nut free, and vegan. I wish there were more!

5. Bahama Rice Burger. Mmmmm a spicy, hearty veggie burger free of soy and gluten! It comes in Original, Mediterranean, Pineapple-Mango, and Jerkin Spicy (mmm!) They also have "meatballs" (which I've tried -- they're pretty good) and "sausage" (which is next on my list!) They are a little dry and a little heavy. And I don't think any human stomach could tolerate one served on a gluten-free roll, so enjoy sans "bread" (I like it with the black bean bisque on top!)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Quinoa Salad with Pomegranate and Lime

Well I'm still on my elimination diet, and I've been cooking up a storm! I have some blogging catchup to do; unfortunately Emily has been in and out of hospitals and doctors' offices so updating this blog has become lower on my list of priorities.

During her "well" times, I find creating new recipes to be relaxing, rewarding, and fun. Since I am currently avoiding wheat/gluten, soy, nuts, and most seeds, it's been challenging to find scrumptious, nutrient-dense meals that will satisfy, produce optimal breastmilk, and taste delicious.

Tonight I mixed it up a little: I made dry-saute potatoes from The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking (an 800-page book that is most definitely in my top 10 cookbook collection), spicy collard greens, and this tangy, yummy quinoa salad.

I make quinoa every week. Usually I throw in sun-dried tomatoes, onions, lemon juice, and salt and pepper... sometimes other raw veggies that are aging in the crisper. This time I incorporated pomegranate seeds that I found at Trader Joes on Saturday, and I created a dressing I thought might complement them well. Here's the recipe. (Note it's salt free -- this is one of the few grain-based recipes that, in my opinion, doesn't need salt!)

1 cup quinoa, rinsed well
2 cups water
about 1/2 - 3/4 cup pomegranate seeds
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
2 small or 1 large stalk celery, diced
juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp agave nectar
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp olive oil

Cook the quinoa in the water according to package directions. Fluff and allow to cool.

Add pom seeds, sunflower seeds, and celery; toss.

In a small bowl, combine lime juice, agave, vinegar, and olive oil.

Drizzle over quinoa and toss well.


Monday, March 7, 2011

Soy-free, wheat-free, nut-free vegan breakfasts

Now that I'm following a diet free of so many wonderful yummy and nutritious things, people often ask "what's left?"

I would like to share some of my favorite products and recipes. Starting with breakfast.

Most days I start out with a bowl of oatmeal. Some people say that oatmeal is not gluten-free (and I'm not avoiding all gluten, but it is an issue so I'll mention it here), but the reason that it traditionally has not been free of gluten is due to contamination with wheat. In fact, oats made in dedicated GF facilities can be sold as "GF Oats." More on this here.

But, if oatmeal doesn't agree with you, you can always start the day with creamy millet and/or amaranth (make with a 1:4 ratio of grain to water for a creamier consistency).

On top of the oatmeal go my obligatory fruits: sliced strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries. Ground flax seeds go on next (note: I'm not eating sesame seeds, since my son is allergic and allergies run in families. But I am enjoying flax). I top it off with coconut beverage (Silk and So Delicious are 2 easily available brands), rice milk, or hemp milk.

On days I prefer a cold cereal, there are a ton of options. From crispy brown rice to GF flake cereal, I've tried several. When I want something a little sweet, I reach for Nature's Path Sunrise cereal (pictured above). I love this cereal! I also have been enjoying several wheat-free, nut-free granolas, my favorite being New England Naturals Omega Hemp & Flax. I like making a breakfast parfait with plain coconut yogurt (very sweet for a plain yogurt), berries, and granola.

Breakfast is pretty easy, once you have your allergy-free options in your fridge and pantry. And these days there's no shortage of choice.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Sick children change everything!

Where have I been, you ask? Why, taking care of Emily! The poor little thing has had quite a year so far. She is doing much better (see her sweet smiling face) but for a while there she had us pretty scared. After 5 hospital admissions and a slew of tests (including a brain MRI!), doctors still have no idea what was plaguing her.

It all began after a 10-day round of antibiotics given for a mild staph infection in late December (doctors in Florida, where we were visiting, were a bit aggressive and gave her broad-spectrum IV antibiotics). I believe that her problems were a direct result of the antibiotics, but there's really no way to prove that one way or the other.

One of her symptoms was severe vomiting, so the pediatric gastroenterologist advised me to stop nursing and give Emily an elemental formula (one based not on soy or dairy protein but built up from amino acids, oil, sugar, and vitamins/minerals). That recommendation felt like a slap in the face, given my commitment to breastfeeding and knowing that with all that she was going through, at least she was getting the benefits of my milk. I did understand that doing the switch would assist in diagnosing her with a food allergy, and, as science-minded as I am, I do have to admit that I was very happy when she refused the formula (even when she was starving due to having had fasted for a test). To make a VERY long story short, she is still being breastfed (exclusively) and never had any formula. And she has vomited only once in the last 3 weeks, a marked improvement.

No one knows whether she has food allergies. I do know that she tolerated my milk just fine for 5 months without as much as a spit-up, but in case she suddenly developed one or more (due to the antibiotics), I went on a strict elimination diet. For several weeks now, I have followed a diet devoid of soy, gluten, nuts, seeds, caffeine, and alcohol.

I have been cooking quite a bit and have created some wonderful low-allergen vegan recipes.

Being a vegan never felt that much like a sacrifice, since vegan food is so delicious, but I have to say, once you omit the wheat and soy (and nuts and sesame seeds) it gets pretty challenging. I am looking forward to being able to re-introduce some of these foods!

Meanwhile, I have been enjoying bean soups, GF pastas, fruits, GF granolas, rice products, chilis, and Indian curries.

So for a while, this blog will feature vegan, soy-free, gluten-free recipes. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Resolutions 2011

Hope you're all having a wonderful 2011 so far! This year, my resolution is to go to bed earlier. This may sound like a rather self-indulgent goal but the truth is that I do not sleep enough. And not only do I suffer for it, but my kids do too. When I'm tired, I have less patience, less capacity for work, and compromised parenting skills. And who wants to start a new activity, cook a meal, or take a walk when all you want to do is take a nap?

My perpetual exhaustion is largely a result of nighttime feedings. Thankfully, Emily is down to one feeding a night, which usually takes place between 2 and 4am. But even that relatively minor interruption in sleep, when it is night after night after night, can lead to tough days. Add to that a regular bedtime of midnight or so and needing to get up before 7am, and we have a recipe for zombie.

I am a night owl AND a morning person. I love to stretch the evening out sans children, hanging out with Dan, laughing at the TV, indulging in a novel I cannot put down, organizing a drawer or closet, watching 80's commercials on youtube, catching up on email, etc. I also love the early morning. Being outside in the fresh morning air, feeling the quiet and newness of the day, knowing you have the whole day in front of you, all can be quite invigorating. But burning that candle at both ends has finally caught up with me. I've become a molten blob of wax, and I need to get back into shape!

So I have committed to stop all non-bedtime activity by 10pm, and be IN bed by 10:30. At first I tried to be in bed by 10 but that resolution was broken on night #1. Not realistic at all. So far this year I've succeeded in being in bed by 10:30 (of course it's only been 3 nights) but already I feel a difference.

My other resolutions (less measurable, but of which I'm very mindful) include being a more effective parent, getting more work done in less time, replying to emails and phone calls in a more timely manner, telling people "thank you" rather than just feeling grateful privately, being there for friends and family in need, cooking healthful foods and exercising daily, and making time to do extra things like volunteer in my community. Hopefully sleeping more will prove to be the first step towards these other improvements.