Friday, September 28, 2012

Small Changes: Try a new cereal

You've heard it a million times, but breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

I realize a lot of people feel they don't have time to eat before work and I understand! But your body needs the fuel of a slow-burning breakfast; something that will carry you over til lunchtime.

Eating a healthy breakfast is better than nothing, but I shutter to think of people who eat in their car on the way to work. I was once driving on I95 and saw a guy eating a bowl of cereal while he was driving. Are you kidding me? For real? Who does that?

There are a couple of problems I have with eating in the car. The biggest, is that you're not really enjoying the meal, are you? You're doing what I call "trance eating" (I'm guilty of this when I eat lunch and write veganmama updates at the same time!) Trance eating is eating something mindlessly while engaging in another activity. We've all done it, I'm sure.

So this week's small change is twofold. First, find a new healthy cereal to try. Second, eat it away from the computer, the television, the car, your phone, etc.

I have talked about Uncle Sam cereal before, but it bears repeating. It's really good for you and is widely available at supermarkets or online. I get mine through I like to buy about 6 boxes are a time and get free shipping through Amazon Prime.

 Another good, inexpensive and simple cereal is Shredded Wheat or Grape Nuts, both of which are available in store-brand versions. I love that I can buy two boxes of store-brand Grape Nuts for $4.00. That's about two week's worth of breakfast.

I always encourage people to jazz up their cereal with fruit, a small handful of nuts and a teaspoon of ground flax seed (make sure it's ground).

Have fun and enjoy your mindful breakfasts next week!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Pumpkin Bread

Do you remember this post last year, where I told you about a very simple pumpkin bread?

It's so easy, it's worth a re-post :) Here goes!

Total disclaimer: at first I wasn't going to share this recipe with my readers because, 1. it's not exactly all natural and 2. I'm a baker, and using gimicky recipes just isn't my thing. However, I saw this on a trusted blog, tried it, and it was fantastic. At first you might be thinking, "this will never work!" but it does...and it's great!

Easiest Pumpkin Bread...evah.
1 box of Duncan Hines spice cake mix
16 ounce canned pumpkin (not pie mix, but just pumpkin)
1/2 t pumpkin pie spice

Mix the ingredients in a bowl. Then, spread it in a greased 8x10 pan. Bake 35-40 minutes at 350. Presto, you're done! It comes out nice and moist, the way it should be.

Optional: To jazz it up, once it's dried, drizzle with a glaze:

1 cup powdered sugar
2 T cider
1/2 t. pumpkin pie spice

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

What I Ate Wednesday

Welcome back to What I Ate Wednesday, where we take a look at what I've been cooking up in my kitchen!

Breakfast was a lovely bowl of shredded wheat, snappy grapes, strawberries and vanilla soymilk. Yum!

Lunch was a plate of baby spinach topped with tomato, mushroom, quinoa (plain) and some miso tahini dressing.

Snack was a very green smoothie! Ice, almond milk, spinach and frozen banana. So simple and easy to make!

Dinner was some homemade hummus, whole wheat pita chips, homemade hummus and wheatberry salad.

Dessert was some heavenly (!!!) Taza chocolate from the Taza Chocolate people in Cambridge, MA. Have you tried their chocolate? You can get it on line, at various stores around Boston and at Whole Foods. I picked up this bag on our visit to Barrels in Waterville, ME.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

What the Bulk?!?!? Old Fashioned Oats

I am a big fan of good old-fashioned oats. Don't you just love the packaging on Quaker oats?

I've always liked cooked oatmeal, but until about a year ago, I didn't realize you didn't have to cook oatmeal to eat it for breakfast.  I think I realized it after eating a bowl of this muesli (which is very yummy, by the way!)

So if you're wanting to incorporate old-fashioned oats into your diet, just put some in a bowl, pour some non-dairy milk on them and let them soak for about five or ten minutes. If you're feeling jazzy, add some sliced banana, chipped walnuts and a bit of cinnamon :)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Cool Stuff At Trader Joe's

Good morning!  Our area FINALLY got a Trader Joe's :)

Gone are the days of driving 45 minutes to get a TJ's fix. Now, it's a simple 15 minute drive, located at Patriot Place, home of our beloved New England Patriots. It really is a perfect location! And the front entrance has some Patriots love...

So, to celebrate the opening of our local store, I decided it would be fun (and hopefully useful!) if every Monday morning I talk about a Trader Joe's product I like.

Today's product is a fun one. I laughed out loud when I saw it because it really is one of my favorite desserts, and for $1.99 a box, why not?

Pre-sliced, chocolate dipped frozen bananas! Genius, right?

And not just for kids (although I'm still a kid, I admit!) :) I grabbed two boxes, one to eat (devour) right away and the other to have on hand for mid-afternoon pick-me-ups.

So, the next time you're in the frozen food aisle of Trader Joe's, pick up a box!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Small Changes: Lentils

Welcome back to "small changes" where I make recommendations of ways to incorporate new foods or activities into your life that (hopefully) are manageable enough to stick :)

Lentils are yummy, but I don't know a lot of people who regularly prepare them. And truth be told, I forget about them too. They're also very affordable and extremely good for you. Check it out!

So I'm going to try to start making lentils once a week, to eat as-is, or eat as a topping on a salad.

Here is a simple lentil salad recipe that I found at Natural Health Magazine:

Lentil Salad

2 cups green lentils
6 springs fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 sprig thyme, finely chopped
1 bay leaf

For the dressing:

1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 T extra virgin olive oil
3 shallots, peeled and thickly sliced
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Put the lentils in a large pot and cover them with one to two inches of water. Add the parsley, thyme and bay leaf; bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer 15 minutes, until lentils are tender but not mushy.

2. While the lentils are simmering, combine all the ingredients for the dressing and whisk briskly.

3. When the lentils are cooked, drain, then toss with the dressing. Serve warm.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Fall Apple Snack

  • 2 small apples, cored and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch thick rounds
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons peanut or almond butter
  • 2 tablespoons semisweet chocolate chips
  • 3 tablespoons granola
If you won't be eating these tasty treats right away, start by brushing the apples slices with lemon juice to keep them from turning brown.

Spread one side of half of the apple slices with peanut or almond butter then sprinkle with chocolate chips and granola. Top with remaining apple slices, pressing down gently to make the sandwiches. Transfer to napkins or plates and serve.

Source: Whole Foods

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What I Ate Wednesday

Hello faithful readers! Welcome back to What I Ate Wednesday, where we take a look at what I've been up to in the kitchen. 

Breakfast was the usual cereal with berries and grapes, with the addition of a handful of walnuts. I LOVE walnuts :)

Lunch was really fun. Baby organic spinach, raw mushrooms, tomatoes, pan-cooked tempeh "bacon" and white raisins for some sweetness!

Snack was a chocolate/strawberry smoothie topped with a scoop of old-fashioned oats. These smoothies are really filling and really satisfying mid day!

Dinner was de-licious! Stuffed grapeleaves, Gardien orange chicken and red and green tomato slices.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Veganmama On The Road: Tea

I know Tuesday is usually "what the bulk!" day, but I wanted to share some pictures from a tea cafe we visited in Waterville, Maine on Saturday. They are

You know I love tea, but I usually stick to hot tea in the fall/winter. However, when I saw this tea cafe, I was drawn by the beautiful iced teas all ready to go. A lovely mid-day treat for under $3.00!

Eye candy, right?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Veganmama on the road: Waterville, ME

This past weekend we drove up to Waterville, ME (my birthplace!) to visit my beautiful, 90-year old grandmother.  She lives right off of Main Street, and since I was a little girl, one of the things I like to do is walk up to Main Street and explore.

When my mom was a kid, Waterville's Main Street was fancy. The way small city downtowns used to be in the 1950's. It makes me sad that my children live in a world mostly made up of Targets (as much as I love Target!) and we drive everywhere, because there is nothing sweeter than walking to a small old-fashioned downtown and supporting local businesses.

So yesterday we walked downtown and checked out Barrels Community Market, located on 74 Main Street.  When I walked in, my internal dialogue went something like this, "Really? Are you kidding me? This is right here in Waterville, ME? WHAT!!! Why don't I have one of these places at home? This is where I'd work! This is my kind of place!!" Amazing!!

Let me share some pictures, and you'll know what I mean!

 How can you not love a store that has this guy out front? Not only is he cute, he's giving a double thumbs up! Extra positivity!

As if the produce doesn't just light up the room with color, the actual building and space are beautiful as well.

REAL maple syrup, my favorite natural sweetener.

 The honeycrisp apples we bought were outstanding! Hurray for fall!

 Seeds of all sorts, for those of you who garden :)

 Kicking myself for not picking up a bag of these homemade Grapenuts. Bad move, right?

 Seaweed is so great for seasoning soup stock. Not just for sushi, my friends!

 The guitar player in me loved this. An affordable, interesting hanger to hang your guitar on the wall.

Looks like a place you'd find in Brooklyn, NY, right? 

Please check out their website to learn about who they are and what they're all about :)

"Barrels was established in June of 2009 with significant public input as a true community market, where goods and services will be accessible to all members of our community. The market was named after The Barrell Block, the historic building in which it is located, and the sense of abundance and rustic charm that we seek to create in the space. Waterville Main Street, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the revitalization of Downtown Waterville, serves as the parent organization.
Today, Barrels is a nonprofit market that sells locally produced goods at affordable prices in the heart of Downtown Waterville. The market also offers a wide variety of educational and volunteer opportunities and provides a community event space to showcase an array of great programs."

Thank you, Barrels Community Market. David, it was lovely to meet you! I'll be back the next time I visit Maine!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Small Changes: Flax Seed

Today's small change recommendation is to sprinkle flax seed on your morning cereal. Start with one tablespoon and try to get up to two.

I buy ground flax seed (you want it ground so it can be absorbed!) from Bob's Red Mill and keep it in this container on the door of my fridge.

If you haven't tasted flax, don't panic. It's not bad! It has a slightly-sweet nutty flavor.

Here are some of the cool benefits you get in such a small scoop of flax: It's a boost of fiber, low in carbs, high in most of the B vitamins and an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids and Omega 6. It's also the most concentrated dietary source of lignans (which the good bacteria in our gut turn into cancer-fighting compounds).

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Living Passionately

It's funny the places life takes you in your 20's and 30's.  For me, my 20's were about college, working in a traditional office setting, graduate school, getting married and moving back to New England. My 30's have been entirely about raising two kids :) Funny how you blink and a decade has gone by...

I've spent the last twenty years thinking about who I am, what I love in the world and what I want to do when I grow up :) It used to make me feel very insecure that I didn't have a clear sense of a career path. Somewhere along the line I convinced myself I needed to have a career or one big passion to be successful in life. Now, I realize that's just not ME and it's just not true.

So, about a year ago I made a list of the things I most enjoy doing in my free time, no matter how silly they seemed.  I think it was something like this:

1. Being a vegetarian (cooking, reading about it, writing about it)
2. Playing guitar
3. Singing
4. Reading about wellness
5. Painting
6. Working out
7. Dancing
8. Making people feel good about themselves

One day last summer I woke up and had an "ah ha" moment that I am an artistic person (what my mom has been saying about me since I was in kindergarten...I should have listened to you, Mom!)
and as a result, of course I was never happy in a traditional desk job and of course I found most of the classes I took in school to be overwhelming. It took me about 38 years to realize I'm an artist and I needed to find my own unique path.

Since I'm quickly approaching 40 (wow!) I have been thinking a LOT about my journey and what my plan is. My new goals are not about making money or appearing successful to people. It's about immersing myself in the things I love, surrounded by people who love me. No matter what people think (that is not always easy!)

I've been busy writing this blog (thank you for supporting me!) but there are some other things I take very seriously:

I love to paint. I especially love to paint boats.

You can see a small sample of my paintings here:

Over the summer I decided that I loved to sing and play guitar so much that I wanted to share that energy with the young people in town. I started teaching lessons in my house under the name "Nic's School of Rock!" If you look on FB, you'll find me there under that name and can "like" me if you'd like to get occasional updates.

After my first student, I couldn't believe I hadn't considered teaching before because it felt SO right. I looked back at my list and realized it touched on three things that were important to me: guitar, singing and making people feel good. Music was my first love and has always been my friend. Seems so obvious to me now, but sometimes we get so caught up in the details of our lives that we forget to immerse ourselves in the things that make us happy, no matter how wacky they might seem to others. And you know what?

Lastly, it's so important to have people in your life who not only *get* you, but also support you and cheer you on during your short time here on earth.

Stay true to yourself and you can't go wrong.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

What I Ate Wednesday

Welcome back to What I Ate Wednesday, where we take a look at what I've been up to in the kitchen. Most of the time it's not very exciting, but I always thoroughly enjoy what I eat. I think it's also fun to show you how simple vegan eating can be. 

Breakfast was the usual cereal mix with fruit and unsweetened soymilk. Good stuff and very filling!

Lunch was some homemade hummus and tabouli, pita chips, baby carrots and amazing local tomatoes :)

Snack? Yep! A green smoothie made with one frozen banana, spinach (about a cup of fresh baby spinach), about a cup of almond milk and a handful of icecubes. Tastes like banana icecream, I swear!

Dinner was some leftover Chipotle with some more amazing tomato. When I go to Chipotle, I order the vegetarian rice bowl with brown rice, corn salsa, mild salsa, guacamole and lettuce.

Evening snack was some frozen red grapes = awesome!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

What the bulk?

The kids have been back in school now for a few days and that means coming up with creative lunch ideas five times a week!

Most of the time I give them each a sandwich, wrap or salad, a piece of fruit, something crunchy and something sweet.

One of the things they love is a very simple homemade trail mix with satisfies the crunchy/sweet thing very well! Sure, Trader Joe's (which finally opened locally, yahooooooo!!!) makes a great assortment of trail mixes, but I think it's fun to make my own. Plus, the kids enjoy being a part of it. Most of the time children really do like being asked to help.

I usually mix Cheerios, raisins, Craisins, chocolate chips (dark), raw almonds, raw sunflower seeds and pretzels. There is really no recipe here or rules, just have fun with it. I recommend making one big batch that will last for days.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Simple Cleaning Mixture

I have a confession to make. I love a clean and organized house, but I despise cleaning the tubs. Like, I hate it. I do it simply because someone has to!

Pinterest (totally addictive, by the way) occasionally has some really great cleaning tips and I recently tried one I wanted to tell you about.

Fill a spray bottle with a cup of Dawn and a cup of vinegar. Spray the tub and let it rest for one hour. Then, simply wipe it down with a wet sponge.

Not only did it work, but the Dawn really cut down the nasty smell of vinegar in the bathroom. I was impressed and will keep trying it out for a couple of weeks to see if it works as well as other cleaners. Anyone else try this?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Small Changes: White Rice to Brown

Welcome back to "Small Changes" where we talk about small things we can do to make a big impact in our lives. Don't be overwhelmed by the notion of perfect health. That's not what we're all about here :) We're about small changes that have lasting impact because they are sensible and sustainable!

I think by now we all know that brown rice has more nutritional punch than white.

It's an easy switch and I think (?) most people prefer the taste of brown rice to white. With nutty favor and a punch of fiber, you can't go wrong. And if you're out and about and find yourself at Chipotle, they offer brown rice as well as white. Go for the brown!

And if you're tired of rice, mix things up and cook up some simple whole wheat couscous, which can be found boxed in most markets, or in bulk from Whole Foods. I love cooking this because it literally takes 5 minutes and boom, you're done!

And if you're looking for an extra kick of protein and a grain getting a lot of attention, quinoa is also a fast-cooking alternative. If you'd tried and are not loving the taste, how about switching the water you cook it in to broth?