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It starts tomorrow

Sometimes the thing you don’t want to do is the thing you should do. To my pleasant surprise, my husband, Bryan, offered to do a cleanse with me…any cleanse of my choosing. Hmmmm. I’ve done a few that I keep going back to and they all involve green smoothies. Then, he changed the tone of the offer to a CHALLENGE. Come again??? Let’s do Fresh Start, the 21 day vegan, green smoothie challenge, spring edition.

I’ve been prepping all weekend. I’ve posted before about setting yourself up for success whenever you can. So that’s what I’ve been doing. I’m going to show Bryan how it’s done. Anyway, this is a good time for an overall cleanse- mentally and physically. It’s something I can control in this messy state of the world right now. It’s also a nice distraction.

I was not that excited initially. I started thinking about all the meat products in the freezer and the chicken breasts I just bought at a great deal. I thought about the stash of food I’ve been accumulating for months just in case the state shuts down. I could feel myself holding onto something.

As we were shopping, which took the whole weekend, my excitement began to increase. I began letting go of “BUT this” and “BUT that”. I began visualizing how good I would feel during the process. I’ve been here before. It’s going to feel great and I will be so proud of myself. I’m going to feel good, look good, sleep good, and possibly lose a few pounds in the process.

So there you have it. I spent two whole days prepping my heart out. What I like about this cleanse is that there is plenty of plant powered, delicious food. Here are some pictures of my endeavors. I’ll post a couple of times during this process so you can read about my progress.

Woke up Sunday morning and made the roasted snacks. Tamari almonds are part of a different cleanse and that’s ok because they’re vegan. LPC
Herbalicious hummus in my Vitamix blender minus the cilantro because I didn’t have any.. LPC
Decadent cashew cream which is a versatile substitute for sour cream and whipped cream. LPC
Two cashew creams were frozen for weeks 2 and 3. I will eat this with a kale salad, zucchini black bean tacos, waldorf salad…to name a few. LPC
Almond butter sauce for the asparagus snow pea stir fry with brown rice later in the week. LPC
Strawberry herb dressing for Monday’s lunch salad with mixed greens, cucumbers, avocado, and sliced almonds. LPC
Strawberry herb dressing. I labeled everything to make it easier for Bryan. LPC
Warm spiced almond milk. The coconut whipped cream is not part of the cleanse recipe, but it’s so good. I drink this often. This will be our daily night cap. Yum!!! LPC

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Cooking new recipes during COVID-19

Starting in April and lasting through May, I reduced the amount of cooking I was doing for several reasons, none of which was planned. The reduction in cooking wasn’t due to a lack of groceries either. As I’ve indicated in previous posts, I’m grateful for a well stocked pantry, deep freezer, and refrigerator/freezer.

In April, I was still getting used to teleworking and initially was finding it difficult to make time to eat in my newfound virtual reality. I continued to drink my nutitious green smoothies daily, but I’d begun relying on convenience foods. Example: Trader Joe’s fish nuggets and orange chicken paired with salads or soups.

We were also in celebratory mode for a while because my husband, Bryan’s, disability was approved. This was such a relief for him because his life has been in limbo. He deservedly received compensation for back pay which has allowed us to live comfortably during a pandemic. We’ve paid off many debts in a matter of months. We also have the emergency fund that Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman have been preaching about for years.

Also, May is a special month in that Mother’s Day and my birthday are one week apart. We celebrated with takeout from the same delicious Italian restaurant for both occasions. This was the first Mother’s Day since my mom passed three years ago that I didn’t cry.

No matter how good convenience foods and takeout foods are, I always return to craving my own cooking. Also, I didn’t like gaining a few pounds since teleworking. I know when I cook, I’m able to control how healthy the meal is and add my own flare. I’ve been tracking my calories on my Fitbit since the end of May, and thankfully, the scale is going back in the right direction.

I’ve been doing weekly meal planning…nothing fancy. There are so many YouTube videos of meal planning, shopping on a budget, and being frugal. Since shelter in place, I’ve increased my viewing of these videos exponentially. I enjoy them so much. Some youtubers have their own products to help people get organized, but I created a simple hybrid system which is tweaked here and there.

I created a master list of the foods my family enjoys. I asked them for ideas. When I get some time, I plan to type up the list, but for now, I keep track in my journal. Weekly, I write a menu I create on the dry erase board on the refrigerator. I also get inspiration for new ideas from the YouTube videos and sites I follow. Although I don’t recall what inspired me to make the vegetarian lasagna roll ups, it doesn’t matter because they were so good. My family loved them.

Spinach & ricotta lasagna roll ups with salad. LPC

On my birthday, I got to speak to one of my long time friends for a while. We were talking about everything and then the conversation inevitably landed on food. We both love to cook. I noted that I’ve never tasted mussels or oysters. A couple of days later, I began asking myself why I was limiting myself from trying these foods. Next thing you know, I was in Costco and bought a frozen bag of mixed seafood. Seafood soup popped in my head. Then, I learned something for the first time.

Seasoned seafood ready for the pot. LPC
Beautiful sauteed veggies for seafood soup. LPC
Seafood soup. LPC

Mussels are actually quite delicious. I don’t like that it’s taken me so long to learn this.

Sunny side up egg and mashed sweet potatoes. LPC

In January, while participating in the green smoothie challenge, I blogged about the importance of people setting themselves up for success. Prepping ingredients on the weekends sets me up for success during the work week. A couple of weeks ago, I roasted my last 5 or 6 sweet potatoes and mashed them with only cinnamon. There was no excuse to not have healthy options. I tried a new breakfast combination of a sunny side up egg with mashed sweet potatoes. It was delicious!

Peaches and biscuits. LPC

I caught a video of vegan, social media superstar Tabitha Brown (google her) making a vegan peaches and biscuit recipe. I’ve never heard of this combination, BUT I was inspired to try it. On Saturday, I found myself buying Fredericksburg peaches from a lady who was deaf on the corner by the park by our house. Ten dollars for a large bag.

Fresh peaches simmering in maple syrup, freshly squeezed lemon, cinnamon, and freshly grated nutmeg. LPC
Nothing says summer like fresh peaches. LPC

What a delicious treat! I was careful about ensuring I had enough calories in my daily allotment. I’ve found tracking my calories to be helpful because occassionally I get too lax. I was able to eat this treat and not worry about exceeding my calories. WIN! WIN! WIN!

I’m so glad to be back into my cooking groove. I’m even more excited to be adding new recipes to my meal rotation. Homecooking is not only healthier depending on what you’re cooking, but it’s more cost effective for your budget. Even if I can afford it, I want to live below my means and save money where I can.

What inspires you to cook? What new foods or food combinations have you tried recently? What are you cooking up this week?

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Quarantine 5, 10, 15…

I’m trying to decide if I’m worried about the 3-5 pounds I’ve picked up since quaranteening. It’s been about 9 weeks since I’ve been teleworking and I’m not moving around as much as I used to working at an office.

I adjusted my Fitbit step goal weeks ago because I just couldn’t retain a high amount of steps when I’m moving around in this small space as opposed to a 3-story, government building with large parking lots and hallways.

Because I weigh myself a few times a week (used to be daily), it’s been one of my strategies to keep my weight in check. If the scale teeters upward for over a week, I adjust my food intake and exercise regimen. However, I’ve learned over the years, it’s much easier to control your food intake rather than trying to burn off the extra calories, especially as you get older. I also can’t overlook that I’m on a new steroid medication to help my lungs. This could be contributing to extra pounds.

It’s no wonder that I’ve become more lax in my food choices with all that’s going on in the world as COVID-19 is at the forefront of everything. I know I’m not the only one. We did celebrate a big take out, Italian feast for Mother’s Day. I’ve been generally eating more convenience type foods like fish nuggets from Trader Joe’s and Panko breaded shrimp from Costco.

My family can’t get enough of my homemade chocolate chip cookies. It’s comfort food and I think most everyone’s heart and soul needs comfort right now.

Fresh baked chocolate chip cookies. LPC

So I got on the scale this morning and it was up a little. My weight tends to fluctuate daily, which is why I stopped weighing myself daily. However, I’ve noticed an upward trend. I decided to do some meal prep today and tend to focus on vegan and vegetarian foods if my weight increases in the slightest. Meal prep helps me set myself up for success because I still struggle with taking breaks during the day to eat since I’ve been teleworking. I’ll share a couple of meals I prepared this weekend.

Turkey chorizo egg muffins. LPC
Turkey chorizo egg muffins ready for the oven. LPC
Sauteed turkey chorizo…my 1st time trying. LPC

I was inspired to make the chorizo variety from the Pioneer Woman herself- Ree Drummond from the Food Network. I’ve made what I call “lil egg muffins” many times in the past using whatever ingredients I have. I knew I could remake this for way less money than the frozen item and I knew it would be delicious. I also chose to use turkey chorizo instead of pork which helps with the calories.

I tend to be low in protein and iron, so these egg muffins will be a great protein snack I can quickly warm up in between my back to back meetings.

Fennel Lentil soup. LPC

This soup is one of my ALL-TIME favorite soups to make and it’s VEGAN. I’ve posted pictures of it in previous posts. Soup is so comforting to me. This one will fill me up without lots of calories. I’m getting plenty of iron from the lentils and spinach.

Baked sweet potato, broccoli, sauteed onions and fried plaintain. LPC

Sunday’s brunch was a vegetarian play on the steak dinner I made last night. It would be vegan if it weren’t for the parmesan I sprinkled on the broccoli when I baked it earlier in the week.

Thin cut New York strip steak with sauteed onions, rice and peas with fried plaintain. LPC

I’ve restarted menu planning a couple of weeks ago mostly because we are well stocked on groceries and I want us to use them. I don’t cook Haitian foods often although it’s in my blood, so I decided to devote at least one day a week to Haitian cuisine. Rice and beans is a Haitian staple.

I made a special trip to the grocery store to purchase steak since I’ve been craving it. This could be a sign my body needs the iron so I listened. Saturday night’s steak dinner was delicious.

Marinade for two different types of steak.

A fresh marinade I tend to whip quickly in my mini food processor is fresh parsley, lots of garlic, lemon, green onion, a hot pepper of sort, extra virgin olive oil, and salt and pepper. You can use this marinade with any protein, but it’s especially good with chicken.

Sunday small portion dinner: steak, plaintains, and premade salad kit. LPC
Roasted garlic parmesan carrot fries. LPC

My husband misunderstood when I asked him to pick up carrots from Costco. He got me two large bags of baby carrots when I asked for just carrots. The expiration date was upon me, so I had to do something because I was tired of eating raw carrots. The carrot fries were good, but I think they would be better with a dip, which I haven’t found a recipe that peaks my interest yet. I’ll keep looking.

I think I have a solid plan for food this week. The only thing is my birthday is in a few days and I know what’s on the menu. I’d like to celebrate without worry. My plan is to stick to my healthy options the other days of the week and then splurge a little on my birthday. I’ll talk about exercise in a different post. I’ve been experimenting with various exercise platforms for a few weeks and it’s been fun!

Am I worried about the few extra pounds? I am a little, but in the big scheme of themes, my life is great because I’m healthy, happy, and loved by the people who matter. I’m being proactive and that’s what matters.

How are you coping? What’s one healthy habit you’re committed to doing every day?

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Foods that heal me

I might be awaiting the results from the COVID-19 test I took on Thursday, 4/9/2020, but I’m not going to lay down and let this respiratory illness kick my butt. My husband, Bryan, helped cook our delicious Easter dinner, but I also want to share the meals I made this past week that have been helping me heal.

Easter Meal small plate April 12, 2020. LPC

I haven’t had much of an appetite today, but I made sure my family had a delicious Easter dinner. With the exception of the turnip greens and cabbage medley, these aren’t necessarily the foods that heal me, but cooking does help me feel better. And dinner was simple because I couldn’t do too much. I’m grateful Bryan stepped in to complete what I started. Ham, potato salad, turnip greens and cabbage, Mexican corn, and corn bread rounded out a delicious meal.

Chicken noodle soup April 2020. LPC

Chicken noodle soup does wonders for respiratory illnesses. I made this soup on Friday and this one BLEW my mind it was so good. It consists of my homemade chicken broth, roasted chicken, egg noodles(bought at an Asian Market), mushrooms, onions, celery, garlic, fennel, red pepper, jalepeno pepper, and spices including turmeric and ginger. Do I really need to tell you why this soup is so nutritious? If you don’t know, look up the amazing wonders of each of the ingredients I listed. I have a big bowl of leftovers to carry me through a few more days.

When you need a spoon and a fork for your soup, then you’ve done good. LPC
Triple berry yogurt parfait April 2020. LPC

Gut health is so important because it impacts so many other areas of health that you wouldn’t think are connected to your gut. I’m no nutritionist, but I’ve learned there are many benefits to probiotics. And plain, organic greek yogurt is my favorite food for probiotics. I defrosted about 1/4 cup of frozen mixed berries, added a dab of maple syrup, a packet of stevia, and topped with organic granola. This parfait certainly gave my immune system a boost.

Sausage, squash, spinach, and peppers medley April 2020. LPC

The nutritional benefits of powerhouse greens and fresh produce in general is almost endless. I strive to eat mostly plant based foods. I was craving spinach and remembered I still had some beautiful organic yellow squash to add. This dish also has red peppers which contain more Vitamin C than an orange, and onions, garlic, tomato paste, chicken broth, and spices. This could be eaten with rice, quinoa, grits, or with no side at all. It could also easily become a vegan dish by omitting the sausage, adding extra greens and/or squash, and using vegetable broth or water.

Mango orange green smoothie April 2020. LPC

Of course, I drink a daily green smoothie, but when I’m particularly under the weather, I load up on produce with high concentrations of Vitamin C. In this batch, which produced 3 mason jars of smoothies, I added 2 cups of dethawed mangos, frozen bananas, an orange, chia seeds, flax seeds, collagen powder, ginger, almond milk, and organic spinach. My appetite was low today, but sipping on this green smoothie in the morning ensured I was hydrated and getting some nutrition. Drinking out of my cute owl jar also made me feel better.🦉

Cod sauteed with spinach April 2020. LPC

My main two choices for hearty fish are cod and salmon. I buy them fresh in large packs at Costo, then I portion and freeze in ziplock bags. We were done cooking and eating our Easter meal around lunch time. For dinner, I ate half of the portion of cod pictured above. I needed a good source of protein and Omega 3s and this cod is packed with both.

Hydration (water and teas) and sleep are a couple of other areas I’m also focusing on. I might be sick, but I’m doing all I can to get better. I’m looking forward to feeling better really soon.

What are you cooking this week? What are your favorite healing foods?

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2020 Health Chronicles

This time of year, I’m usually vegan, but I’m vegetarian for right now because I enjoy a little cheese and plain, greek yogurt on occasion. I’ve been craving a GOOD veggie burger. Alas, it’s that time of the month where eating out is not an option, so the next thing I knew, I found myself searching online for black bean quinoa burger recipes.

Homemade black bean quinoa burger. LPC
Black bean quinoa burgers with shredded cheddar & sauteed onions & jalepenos LPC

This recipe was easy & super tasty. Since this isn’t a cooking blog, I don’t normally provide the step by step instructions. You can do an online search for recipes yourself. My main goal with sharing my food is to inspire you to cook at home and enjoy more plant based foods.

I will say that sauteeing onions, peppers, and spices in coconut oil prior to adding to the bowl of drained, smashed black beans added a flavorful touch. I also added bread crumbs, an egg, and more spices such as cumin, chilli powder, smoked garlic powder, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and a little dab of liquid smoke.

I’ve blogged about setting yourself up for success to achieve your goals. In like fashion, I prepared another one of my vegan staples for the work week.

Vegan hash cakes ready for the oven. LPC

I got the hash cake recipe from one of my vegan cleanses. I love them because they satisfy my savory and crunchy desires. I plan to eat these throughout the work week atop a salad with a little fresh lemon juice and olive oil. The ingredients for these hash cakes are similar to the black bean quinoa burgers in that they have quinoa and beans (garbanzo and peas). The difference is the hash cake recipe includes fresh herbs (parsley and mint….I used cilantro in place of mint) and the binder is chia seeds soaked in water instead of an egg.

Roasted carrots, macaroni & cheese, french green beans in balsamic glaze. LPC

For Sunday’s dinner, I made a pot roast for my family along with the sides pictured above. The pot roast (not pictured) looked divine, but I didn’t have any. The sides were delicious.

I took advantage of the Martin Luther King holiday and scheduled an appointment with my primary care physician for my annual exam. I saw my oncologist last month. My primary care physician walked into the office asking me if I’m still doing Zumba. Everything looks great….just waiting for the blood work results. I talked to my doctor about how I work hard to stay healthy.

Yesterday, I spent a few hours sorting through my mail. I had a paper bag full of paper for the recycling bin. It’s difficult to explain, but since the time I was in graduate school (2009-2011), I’ve lost interest in sorting through mail. I think during the time, since I had to narrow my focus to survive my grueling schedule as a working mom and student, I decided to put the mail on hold. I left it to my husband, and although he means well, he isn’t nearly as detailed as I am.

Sorting, reading, and filing the mail continues to be something I’ve ignored over the years. I could blame it on graduate school and having a demanding job and family. Whatever the case, it’s time for this habit to stop.

In an effort to improve my whole health in 2020, other goals of mine are to improve my financial health and get on top of this mail.

What are you cooking up this week? What are your top goals for 2020? How’s your progress with sticking to your goals?

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What’s next on this 2020 health journey?

Now that I’ve completed the 10-Day green smoothie challenge, what’s next for me on this health journey? Well, for starters, I will use this momentum to continue to cook and eat healthy meals.

Canned goods for Sunday soup. Mango Madness green smoothie in the background. LPC

I used my homemade chicken broth (collagen benefits) as a base for my delicious vegetable soup called Flat Flush soup. Soup is my ultimate comfort food. Flat Flush soup is full of nutrition. You can do a search on the internet for Flat Flush soup recipes.

Soup prep LPC

The ingredients in my soup are: onions, garlic, a variety of peppers, carrots, sweet potatoes, cabbage, spinach, canned tomatoes, beans, parsley, cilantro, lots of spices, and chicken broth (can also use vegetable broth). Whatever healthy ingredients you have on hand for this soup will work. The cover photo was taken prior to simmering for 2 hours.

If you’ve followed my blog, you know that cooking healthy meals is not just about keeping my physical body healthy, it is a soothing, essential part of my self-care routine. I particularly needed self-care yesterday after sitting in the emergency room for hours with my husband, Bryan. I was reminded then (not that I needed the reminding) health is beyond physical health. Physical health is very important, but in order to take care of our whole selves, there are other aspects we must attend to.

Health is a state of well being that includes physical, spiritual, emotional, psychological, intellectual, social, occupational and environmental health.

It’s essential that we all take care of our whole health. It may not be feasible or make sense to tackle everything at one time. This is where goal setting, planning, and execution comes in.

On a special note, I’ve adopted a new perspective on planning in the midst of the realities of life. I’ve been following Pastor Tony Evans out of Dallas, Texas. He wrote the bible lesson plan on Detours. He says to by all means plan, but plan making a space for God’s will. Plan acknowledging, “if God wills it”. That way when life doesn’t go according to our plans, we won’t be so crushed because we know God is with us and we’ve made a space for Him.

So in 2020 I’m looking forward to setting more goals, planning, and taking care of my whole self, my whole health, bit by bit.

How about you? What are your health plans/goals for 2020? What steps have you made thus far? How are you setting yourself up for success?

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Food chronicles: November comfort

Yes, it is. This is the Sunday before Thanksgiving! If like me, home cooks from all over are thinking about, planning, and even prepping their Thanksgiving menu extravaganza. In my household, we’ve been talking about the Thanksgiving dinner since the beginning of November.

I made turkey broth with smoked turkey wings three weeks ago. I froze the delicious product. It occurred to me I may need another batch of broth since I make soups weekly and have been using up my stash. Therefore, I’ll be making another batch this Tuesday or Wednesday with the leftover roasted chicken we’ll have for dinner tomorrow. That’ll be the third batch of homemade broth I’ve made in November. My main motivation is the health benefit In case you don’t know, collagen (bone broth is a source) is amazing for hair, skin, and nails.

I wrote my Thanksgiving menu three weeks ago and reviewed it with my husband, Bryan. Since then, I’ve been strategically ensuring I have all of my ingredients. I’m not one to wait until the last minute for something this important.

Yesterday, I was so excited to pick up bags of sweet potatoes from my local grocery store at $0.14 cents per pound. Can you believe that? I bought 12 sweet potatoes for $2.10. The sweet potatoes were the only major ingredient where I waited to purchase because about a week ago a grocer told me that this deep discount was coming. We’re all looking forward to my sweet potato pies. I might do something different with the sweet potatoe side dish instead of making my usual scrumptious mashed sweet potatoes.

This year, possibly today if I’m up to it, I will do something different and make pumpkin bread. I have no idea if I have the right pumpkins considering we picked these up from our churches’ front lawn last month. No, we didn’t steal them. Our pastor told us to take them home.

Beautiful Sunday morning at church. LPC

I don’t want to waste the pumpkins, so I will make pumpkin puree for smoothies, bread, and whatever other ideas I conjure up.

Naturally, because this is turkey month, I’ve gotten caught up in sharing my ideas on the Thanksgiving meal when this blog post is REALLY supposed to be about the other comfort foods I’ve conjured up this month. You know I’ve been cooking up a storm.

I love fried plaintains, which is a Haitian staple. I don’t make them often and I’ve been thinking about why that is. It partly has to do with it being a fried food, which I tend to not consume often. And they are not just fried once, they are double fried. You fry them once, remove them from the oil, then smash them in the plaintain peel, and return them to the oil to fry again.

Plaintains are also in the carbohydrate family. I actually “googled” their health benefits recently, which caused me to gain more of an appreciation for them. They would probably be a regular part of my diet if I liked them boiled like my mom did, but I don’t. No bueno. Fried is best.

A few weeks ago, I decided to indulge and picked up two from the grocery store. I’m so glad I did.

Fried plantains or banan. LPC

Soup is the ultimate comfort food in my book. Last month, my daughter and I took a trip to an Asian Market. I stocked up on noodles and rice. The noodle prices were a bargain for the amount I purchased, but I didn’t think so much so on the rice. Regardless, I also purchased a large bag of brown jasmine rice.

Thai shrimp and noodles soup. LPC

My son and daughter loved this soup. I loved this soup. I woke up one Saturday morning with a taste and believed I could carry out a thai soup. I’m using the word “thai” loosely here, but it worked. I got to use my thai red chilli curry paste, which I’ve had for a while. It was also my first time cooking an egg in liquid. My homemade broth made this recipe SHINE.

I’ve learned the preferred method is to soak rice noodles in warm water instead of boiling them prior to adding to a dish. This epiphany has been “GAME CHANGING”!

My daughter could eat tacos everyday. She loves them. I’ve loved tacos since I was a little girl growing up in Chicago. We all love them and the combinations are limitless. In one week, I made sauteed chicken tacos with black beans, taco soup, and breakfast tacos with scrambled eggs and leftover chilli. All I can say is YUM, YUM, and YUM!!!

Sauteed chicken breasts for tacos. LPC

Sauteed chicken, black beans and pico de gallo. LPC

Finally, I don’t stray too far away from my Haitian roots and the dishes I grew up with. I pulled out my mortar and pestle or “pilon” to make rice and peas with oven fried chicken.

I used my brown jasmine rice, which entailed a longer cooking time and produced a softer texture than I’m used to, but the flavor profile was on point.

Oven fried chicken wings, rice & peas with salad. LPC

Light lesson: It just occurred to me that cooking is an expression of my creativity. I love to cook and being creative connects me to my divine source, which is probably why I enjoy being creative in this way so much. I can’t take credit for linking creativity to God because I’ve read about this before. To make this connection in my own life is reaffirming.

So what sides are you conjuring up this week for Thanksgiving. If not through cooking, how else do you express your creativity?

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It’s Finally Here!

Hi all! It’s finally here! Yippee! Fall in Texas finally came…even if for just a few days! See what I mean below. We’ll be hot again before you know it, but I’m going to enjoy it while it lasts. The weather unpredictability factor is pretty high this time of year. But I’m so happy the season has finally caught up with my meals because I’ve been cooking comfort foods for a while now. You can read more about my favorite comfort foods here and here.

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I was so excited to find canned organic pumpkin on sale for $1.50 at my local grocery store last week. I bought several cans so I can make my delicious pumpkin green smoothies. I’ve already enjoyed a batch of pumpkin/pineapple/spinach and pumpkin/mango/super greens. In all of my green smoothies, I add some power foods depending on my preference such as flax, chia, and/or hemp seeds. I choose a liquid depending on what I have a taste for such as brewed green tea, coconut water, coconut milk, almond milk or plain water. I wrote a post about my love of green smoothies a while back which you can read by clicking I love green SMOOTHIES.

In Chicago, I didn’t grow up eating pumpkins. Everyone I knew ate sweet potatoes, especially around Thanksgiving and Christmas. Over the years, I’ve become more interested in the nutritional benefits of certain foods. I’ve learned that pumpkins are very nutritious and have a high amount of Vitamin A, so when they are available at a reasonable price, I purchase them for smoothies.

I don’t remember eating sweet potatoes all year around in Chicago like I do now. I enjoy a plain baked sweet potato with a pinch of salt whenever I want – no butter and no sugar. On occasion, I also enjoy a sauteed sweet potato and onion hash as a breakfast side.

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Hardy breakfast: sauteed sweet potatoes, quinoa, eggs, & bacon. LPC

For the holidays in Chicago, family and friends made sweet potato pie and sweet potato casserole, which usually included marshmallows. We didn’t eat pumpkin pie. I do believe this is cultural because my inner circle consisted of Haitians and black or African American friends.

Sweet potato pie

My Sweet potato pie-LPC

In my first few months living in Texas as a new bride, I bought a Texas holiday cookbook. If the book weren’t so worn out, I’d share a picture. I never learned how to make the sweet potato casserole with marshmallows. My sister, Gina, makes a fabulous sweet potato casserole. I’ve had many a delicious sweet potato casserole. They tend to be really sweet as you can imagine. It’s almost like eating a dessert.

There is a recipe for mashed sweet potatoes in my Texas holiday cookbook that I’ve been making for 22 years. It’s so good, it will CHANGE YOUR LIFE! I always get compliments when I prepare it for potlucks or for my guests during Thanksgiving. It’s so simple, it’ll blow your mind. The secret ingredient that takes it over the top is brandy. Yes, indeed – ALCOHOL. The brandy allows the sweet potatoes to SHINE. Therefore, no marshmallows needed.

Thinking about my wonderful holiday recipes is making me excited for Thanksgiving, but we have a little ways to go before we get there. In the meantime, my weekends are spent prepping delicious meals for the upcoming week. I work to please my family’s palate as well as my own. Cooking is soothing for me. It is also gratifying knowing I’m doing something beneficial for my body by preparing healthy meals.

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Love, love, LOVE my simple salads. LPC

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The best mess. LPC

I had a taste for cashew cream, which is a versatile, vegan substitute for sour cream or whipped cream. It can be used for sweet or savory. I’ve come to really love cashew cream and have gotten quite good at making it. This last batch was the fluffiest I’ve ever made. I used it in my vegan Waldorf salad with apples, roasted walnuts, lemon juice, maple syrup, and cashew cream. I omitted the celery because I’m not a fan of it in the salad.

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Cashew Cream. LPC

I bet the cashew cream will taste delicious with my sweet potato pie and a dusting of cinnamon. I may try it this Thanksgiving. What do you think?

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I usually reserve stir fry for during the week because it’s quick to put together, but last Sunday, I made a scrumptious chicken stir fry with fresh pineapples and brown rice.

Mid week, I made crock pot chili before work. Here’s a funny story. I tasted all the ingredients before I left for work, so I knew it was going to be delicious after a 10-hour simmer. My trick is to layer the flavors. I was only missing the chili seasoning packet. I left a “honey do” list for my husband, Bryan, to pick up a packet at the grocery store along with hot dog buns for their chili dogs. Before I left the office, I had asked him to put a baked potato in the oven for me. I was looking forward to my chili cheese baked potato.

Of course, the chili was delicious. I grabbed my plate and loaded up my baked potato. I noticed the chili seasoning packet on the table. I asked Bryan if he bought more than one seasoning packet. He said no. I asked if he’d put the packet in the crock pot. He said no. He said I only told him to buy the chili mix, but he didn’t know I meant for him to put it in the chili. Really???

I have to admit my chili was seasoned so well I didn’t need the chili seasoning packet, but REALLY, Bryan!

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Sometimes a vegan

I borrowed the title for this post from a colleague at an office birthday party coordinated for our boss. I brought homemade “herbalicious” hummus and organic carrots and cucumber slices. She asked me if I was vegan. (I often prepare vegan dishes for work events). After a moment of reflection, my response was, “Sometimes!” She said that should be the title of my next book…”Sometimes A Vegan”. I like it.

Homemade hummus.LPC

I paused when responding to her because I prepare and eat vegan dishes often. I do love meat, but I crave vegetables. I started off on my vegan journey with various detox cleanses that I would do a couple of times a year. What I loved about my vegan cleanses is that the food was filling. I was not hungry on any of the cleanses, plus I learned how to make amazing recipes, got the added benefits of improved sleep, mental clarity and glowing skin. I’ve written several posts about my cleanses.

When I think about it, my love of vegan food has progressed from an annual cleanse for a specified duration, to participating in cleanses a few times a year, to incorporating vegan dishes into my meal rotation regularly. I have even modified some of my Haitian recipes like beans and rice to make them vegan.

For example, my mom taught me to fry a few pieces of salted pork in my beans. I’ve even tried simmering my pot of beans with smoked ham hocks in the past. However, for the last couple of years, I’ve completely omitted meat from my beans. This happened organically over time, especially after my breast cancer diagnosis. I’ve learned to load up with flavorful spices and herbs. I don’t miss the pork.

Red beans and Rice. LPC

I purchased this book at the recommendation of my green smoothie Facebook group members. LPC

I’ve been doing research lately on perimenopause and the best food choices to help manage it. I’ve been reading about how this is the time in a woman’s life (my time) to be really vigilant about nutrition and being active. As you get older, it’s not as easy to lose weight, or maintain it, for that matter. I can attest to the fact that it’s harder for me to lose weight. I can tell my body composition is changing without much effort from me. I don’t need my butt or stomach to get much bigger than they already are, but they’re trying.

Is a vegan diet sustainable as I go through perimenopause? I don’t think it is for me. One issue is I developed anemia due to heavy blood loss during my periods. Just a few weeks ago, I think I hit a milestone in how much blood I lost during just the first two days of my period. It doesn’t happen every month, but when it does, it’s significant.

I’ve read that a vegan diet may be lacking in iron, which is what I need. Don’t get me wrong, it’s true: leafy green vegetables, lentils/beans, and other vegetables have iron. However, the best type of iron absorbed by the body is “heme” iron, which is found in meat sources. Since I learned about the anemia about 6 months ago, I’ve been focused on eating more iron rich foods.

Burger with cheese, sauteed onions, arugula, fermented pickles on naan bread.LPC

So what diet is the best diet for perimenopause? I’ve found compelling research that a low glycemic diet is the best diet. This is consistent with what my primary care physician told me in December 2018. She told me to replace the bad carbohydrates with good ones and to abstain from white rice, white floor, and sweets. Now, she made the recommendations because my glucose was getting a little high, but this diet seems to have multiple benefits. I’ve gotten my glucose down. I think my apple cider vinegar tonic helped.

Now, I realize I just used the words “good” and “bad” to describe food, which I prefer not to. It would serve us all better if we looked at food with a healthier mindset such as focusing on the nutritional benefits. Also, I’m not a “dieter”. I’m working on what food choices will be the most beneficial to me. I will work on my food narrative.

Mushrooms getting ready for the air fryer. LPC

My food journey has evolved over time and I’m ok with that. My main goal is to be healthy in mind, body, and spirit. I want to have a great relationship with food and it is getting better. Ideally, I don’t want to look at certain foods as bad. I’ve always adopted the mindset that moderation is the key. Over the years, I’ve become more mindful of the types of foods I put into my body.

What are your favorite foods? I’d love to hear from you!

Breakfast: sauteed sweet potatoes, quinoa, eggs, and bacon. This hardy breakfast held us for hours as we toured two museums on Saturday, 9/21/19.LPC

Blanton Museum of Art, 9/21/19. LPC

Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, Texas..LPC

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Satisfied

Do you know that feeling when you have the first taste of a delectable item you’ve been craving? And every bite that follows proves to be more and more pleasurable…? Then, you finish the dish completely satisfied and might even shout, “That hit the spot!” Well, I had this very feeling tonight after having dreamt about my meal all day. This post is just a little taste (pun intended😁) of my enjoyment.

On Sunday, 9/1/2019, I embarked on a 7-day vegan cleanse of all plant-based, vegan meals/snacks along with green smoothies. I’ve been craving ALL produce lately. Sunday seemed like the best day to start. I planned my meals and have been prepping my heart out. Read about it in my previous post here.

This is my 3rd day on the cleanse and I had a bit of a headache. It’s not uncommon to have some detox symptoms initially. The headache went away after I took an Alleve.

My main goals for this cleanse are:

  1. Better sleep
  2. Better digestion
  3. Feel lighter
  4. Eliminate sugar cravings
  5. Clearer skin
  6. Partake of as many vegetables as I want
  7. Lose a few pounds

Roasted vegetable medley with basil pesto. LPC

Season, season , SEASON the vegetables. LPC.

My main goal for this post is to inspire you to cook and eat more healthier foods at home because it does your body and wallet good. It’s easier than you think, especially when it becomes a habit.

I hope you enjoyed a little taste of my Tuesday evening. Ciao!