Posts tagged ‘inspiration’

Thinking of Thanksgiving

written by Jen

Thanksgiving has to be one of my favorite holidays. Growing up in a family of fantastic home cooks has always meant some pretty spectacular feasts. As a kid, Thanksgiving was always held at my maternal Grandmother’s house. We would start with Sweet Potato soup, a pureed soup similar to butternut squash soup but slightly thicker. Turkey was, of course, a highlight, but her creamy garlic mashed potatoes stole the show. After they retired to Florida, my mom took over hosting this holiday meal. Several new traditions were born, including a flavorful Cranberry-Apricot sauce and a crowd-pleasing French Bread Stuffing with Fennel and Sausage (both adapted from a Cooking Light cookbook). This year, I have the honor of hosting Thanksgiving in my Boston home. I will be keeping some traditions, as well as finding my own signature contribution. Here is a preview of some things that have caught Chelsea and my eyes stomachs, all brought to you from fellow bloggers!

Quinoa Salad with Butternut Squash, Dried Cranberries & Pepitas by Two Peas & Their Pod

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts with Rosemary and Garlic by Oh She Glows

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Honey and Cinnamon by My Kitchen College

Honey Butter Pumpkin Dinner Rolls by Averie Cooks

Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Bacon & Apples by Little Pink Monster

Bourbon Apple Sangria by Climbing Grier Mountain


November 25, 2013 at 6:22 pm 1 comment

Mom’s Reflections on the Vegan Challenge

You have seen my progress in the Vegan Challenge, and have occasionally heard from my parents and friend, but I thought I would give them a chance to share about their experience in their own words! One of the highlights of the month for me was recipe swapping with my mom. She taught me the basics of cooking and shared her passion of good food with me at a young age. I was excited to be able to share some of the tips I have picked up along the way with her, and am amazed by her creativity with vegan cooking! I hope you are as inspired by my mom as I am!

Somehow my daughter was able to talk my husband into going vegan for the month of January.  I don’t think he really had any idea of what he was agreeing too, but I had wanted to try going vegan for some time.  Some of my friends had done the Daniel Fast, a “spiritual fast” based on the book of Daniel in the Bible in which he ate only vegetables, fruits, and drank only water.  A “side effect” of their fasting was weight loss.  So needing to shed some pounds and really cleanse my body and mind, I thought, “Why not join him in this challenge?!”  So during the Christmas holidays, with help from my already vegetarian daughter, I prepared both my mind and my kitchen for the challenge.  She gave me tips on how to incorporate protein into each of our meals so that we wouldn’t go hungry.  I stocked my kitchen cabinets with beans, quinoa, and rice and my refrigerator with fresh vegetables and fruits.  I had recently started getting a weekly delivery of organic fruits and vegetables which proved to be a huge help during the challenge.  She took me to Whole Foods and taught me how to read labels to find all those hidden sources of off limit ingredients and introduced me to tofu and tempeh.  I replaced cow’s milk with almond milk–which I now absolutely love and will not go back to milk.  We even found some different coconut creamers for my husband’s coffee in the morning.


Spaghetti Squash with Delicata Squash, mushrooms and tomatoes. One of my first dinners on the Vegan Challenge.

For breakfast, I made oatmeal with a variety of different fruit mixed in.  I took Jen’s advice and made sure to add either almond milk or sometimes peanut butter to give the oatmeal some protein.  On the weekends, when I would normally have loved scrambled eggs, I began making hash brown potatoes, something I learned from my younger daughter.  On a recent Saturday morning, I shredded some sweet potatoes I had gotten in my organics box, added some onions and black beans, and fried them in olive oil for a delicious and filling breakfast!  I discovered a love for hummus at lunchtime, which also helped to keep me full.  My favorite quick lunch is spread some hummus on a wrap, add some mixed salad greens and diced cucumbers or any leftover grilled vegetables.  Fabulous!  I had a lot of fun finding new recipes and enjoying all the things that I could eat.  That was the best advice that Jen gave me at the start of the challenge.  It was never about what I couldn’t have but making the most of what I could have.  I made homemade pizza with caramelized onions, roasted artichoke hearts and roasted red peppers for a topping—I didn’t even miss the cheese.  I made chili with sweet potatoes instead of meat.  I even made a vegan macaroni and cheese using butternut squash and some nutritional yeast to make the “cheese sauce”.


Thai Fried Rice with sautéed Bok Choy, onions, broccoli and ginger. My last dinner on the Vegan Challenge.

So, after my thirty days as a vegan, I definitely feel better and lost 12 pounds in the process.  I learned a lot about healthy eating and filling my body with good food.  It definitely takes a bit more planning and preparation to be vegan and social settings are definitely hard.  I had friends over for dinner during the challenge and fearing that they would have to be satisfied with a weird vegan dinner, the men all admitted to having eaten meat or chicken BEFORE they came over to eat my vegan food.  So I do agree with Jen, being Vegan with Benefits is much easier.  That’s pretty much what I have been doing (significantly reducing my meat and dairy intake) since the challenge ended as well and plan to continue doing, although I do admit to having some pepperoni pizza while cheering the Giants to victory over the Patriots in the Superbowl this past weekend!  So thanks, Jen, for the encouragement and support in helping me succeed in this challenge!


Sweet Potato Chili with brown rice and Daiya cheese sprinkles

The question still remains: how did Dad fare? Well, he has been busy with a snowmobiling and business trip, but I will try to wrangle a paragraph or two of thoughts from him as soon as I can! Looking at the pictures of what my mom cooked throughout the month, I can assure you he didn’t starve!

February 9, 2012 at 4:00 pm 2 comments

WIAW With a Poem

Happy Wednesday! My week has flown by, since a good chunk of Monday was spent in the ER with my roommate (who knew washing dishes could be so dangerous?! 4 stitches and 4 hours later, she was fine!) and Tuesday catching up with school. I ate – nothing too exciting, but I still enjoyed every bite, I ran, I studied, I did yoga. A peek into my eats:


Breakfast: oatmeal cooked in water and almond milk, with pumpkin butter, raisins, cinnamon and sunflower seed butter. Morning workout: 4.5 mi run. Lunch: Pan-fried polenta, steamed Swiss chard, and black beans, topped with nutritional yeast and salsa. Dinner: Oven-roasted snap peas, pita chips, and Sriracha swirled hummus. Evening workout: 1 hr power yoga class. Pre- and post- yoga snacks: Trail mix with peanut butter filled pretzels, raisins, granola, and peanuts; a rehydrating orange and chamomile tea.

WIAW logo

The focus of this post, however, is not about me or my day. I recently received a copy of the book of poetry, Jump, written and published by the girl that I mentored in college. Even though we are no longer formerly involved in the mentorship program, we still meet up from time to time to catch up on life, her college applications, and hopes and dreams for the future. I could go on and on about how amazing she is, but I think her poetry speaks for itself. If you are interested, she has copies of her book for sale for $10 – email me ( for information about how to purchase one!

I wanted to share this poem because I think it is particularly applicable to the healthy living community. Often, healthy diets and vanity are confused. A strong motivation for what we put on our plates is purely motivated by trying to fit into a certain pair of pants or meet certain expectations. While vanity can kickstart our motivation for healthy living, it cannot stop there. If we are never satisfied with our weight or our shape, then we are not healthy. Being healthy is more than just being thin: it is about self-acceptance and loving the body you have been given, no matter the number that is written on your pants tag says. My favorite seventeen year old articulates this much better than I ever could, so I will share her words.

The Marshall’s Fitting Room

from Jump, by Yolandi Cruz

Sorry I’m late

I just came back from the most wonderful date with myself

It was love at first sight

In a Marshall’s fitting room with dancing chandeliers,

flying monkeys and a pair of frozen cacti

For the first time in my life I had butterflies in my stomach

like we were meant to be


January 25, 2012 at 6:42 am 11 comments

Woah, We’re Halfway There

Please tell me that Bon Jovi immediately popped into your head when you saw the title of this post. No? Just me? Great, well now that’s out of the way… We are already halfway through our vegan challenge, and there already some exciting results to share! First, I’ll let my friends and family do the talking, and then I’ll add my two cents at the end.

1. Do you miss meat, cheese, or dairy has much as you thought you would?
Mom: “I really don’t miss the chicken and meat as much as I do miss my eggs and cheese.  So many of my favorite vegetarian dishes have cheese.  It is also very hard, if not impossible, to eat out as a vegan.  Breakfast is also hard for me as a vegan.” (Obviously, I have failed to get my mom on the oatmeal bandwagon! ;)
Dan: “I am constantly reminded daily of things I can not eat. My internet stumbling chooses to show me new recipes of mac and cheese or McDonald’s flirtatiously reminds me of the glory that is a Big Mac. But, all in all, the craving for meat is not as bad as I thought. Although opening the fridge and knowing there’s nothing in there to eat is a downer…”
2. What is the food you have been enjoying most as a vegan?
Mom: “I don’t know if I have a new favorite food but I have been having fun trying new recipes, like using butternut squash [and nutritional yeast] to make a vegan mac and cheese.  I made the most delicious vegan pizza over the weekend with no cheese or meat in sight and Daddy and Mr. H loved it!”
Dan: “I agree… [that] quinoa is an awesome new grain I’ve never had before. However, after eating nothing but that for a week I’m now sick and tired of that nutty almost cous cous like taste. So I guess the food I’m enjoying most is vegetables?”

Dan's reaction to his vegan burrito. All in jest, though.

3. What has been the biggest struggle as a vegan?
Mom: “For me the biggest struggle is the time it takes to be a vegan; you really have to think about what you are putting in your mouth and I have been packing my lunch everyday to avoid the temptation of eating the wrong things.”
Dan: “My family, although supportive, is not doing this challenge. Therefore, they proceed to eat meat and animal products in my face. Especially my brother… he particularly enjoys watching a commercial on TV or eating pork ribs and asking, “Bro, you want some? Oh wait, that’s right… you can’t!” Furthermore there’s a lot of hidden animal products in Korean cuisine. A lot of our soups and stews may seem innocuous at first, but the soup base will call for anchovies to create a seafood broth. Things of that nature.”
4. Have you cheated (intentionally or unintentionally)?
Mom: “No cheating; I read all labels like you taught me.”
Dan: “Yes I’ve cheated. Once on the first day completely unintentionally thereby restarting the challenge the next day to maintain a full 31 days. The other at CG: where an innocent looking bowl of wheat pasta was tossed in *GASP* butter! Believe me when I say I did not taste any butter nor did I receive any satisfaction for having tasted that delicious animal product. Our beloved referee did however give me a reprieve for this transgression.”
5. How are you feeling?
Mom: “I feel great and have already lost 9 lbs!  Just think where I may be in another couple of weeks!  While I don’t think I would ever decide to become totally vegan, I do think cutting way back on animal protein is something that I will definitely stick with for the future because it is really helping me to feel better and shed some pounds.”
Dad: “Same for me and down 8 lbs.”
Dan: “There may be some truth to the medical community’s fervent support of a high fiber meal being healthy for you. I feel good nah nuh nah nuh nah nuh nuh. I knew that I would.”
My Dad did not have to say much for the questions, but did add in this really touching thought at the end. “Never ever would I have agreed to vegan vs. vegetarian.   However, it has forced an unknowing amount of discipline that I thought I was incapable of.  The love of my daughter and support of my wife has made this possible.   It is good to know that I can get my life back.” Gotta love my big teddy bear of a dad! I am proud of all of us for the changes we have made in the past two weeks, but am most proud of my dad. He had the most barriers to overcome in this challenge, and the least positive mindset. However, after seeing the first few pounds come off and realizing that my Mom was still cooking delicious dinners, his tune changed! Even over an unexpected road trip for a family emergency, he stuck to the vegan challenge – without the supervision on provision of my mom! Nothing put a smile on my face like his Saturday morning text, “Day 14.”

Dad's fruit bowl at work for healthy snacks

Needless to say, it looks like everyone is flourishing with this challenge! It has been fun for me to stay so connected with my parents, through swapping recipes with my mom and talking about changes my dad is making. Even though we won’t be permanently vegan, there have already been some huge lifestyle shifts made! My dad has a bowl of fruit on his desk at work now, so he is no longer tempted by vending machines and office snacks. My mom is bringing her lunch and focusing on eating real food. She is also keeping a food journal, which is why she has been so successful in her early stages of weight loss! All of us have certainly become more mindful of what we are eating, and our vegetable consumption has increased substantially.
How am I doing? I got over my cheese craving in the first few days, and now I am loving it! The hardest part for me is communal eating – potlucks for our weekly Bible study and desserts from classmates are much harder to navigate. Even so, I feel cleansed from all of the holiday cookies, have more energy throughout the day since I am more mindful of what I am eating, and my skin has even cleared up! I agree that I could not remain a strict vegan, but my dairy and egg consumption will certainly decrease following this experience.
Question: Did anyone’s response surprise you? How do you think we will fare over the next two weeks?

January 16, 2012 at 8:07 pm 7 comments

For the Love of Oatmeal

It is hard to start a post that I am so excited about, and has been this long in the making! My roommate and I eat impossibly large volumes of oatmeal, and never get bored with it. This shocked and surprised our friend, who challenged me to make a different flavor of oatmeal every day for a month. A chance to try to pull an oatmeal hater onto my beloved breakfast bandwagon was something I could not refuse. My roommate and I immediately brainstormed some of our favorite classic combos, as well as threw out some ideas that were a little more out of the box bowl. The project took longer than a month, since some of the flavors took more than one shot to perfect, and since even I can’t eat oatmeal 7 days a week. (Shocked gasps are leaving your mouth, I just know it). But without further to do… 30 Days of Oatmeal!


The picture links to a page that contains separate links to all of the oatmeal flavors. Some were inspired by the little instant oatmeal packets, such as Honey Walnut and Maple Pecan. Others are just classics that I turn to when I don’t want to think in the morning, like Apple Cinnamon and Peanut Butter Banana. Some are fun twists on desserts, like apple or pumpkin pie, and a few even hide some veggies! (Hint: Carrot Cake and Red Velvet Cake.) One, Raspberry Coconut, was inspired by a friend’s Facebook comment,. There are some holiday themed flavors, and some that are mild and simple for days that you don’t feel like a bold breakfast bowl. Basically, there is something for everyone! My mom, dad, sister, and roommate have taste tested and approved many, and I have loved them all.

I should get paid by an oatmeal company as their spokesperson, for I simply cannot rave enough about my favorite breakfast. It is cheap, it is healthy, and it can be so good – what’s not to love? Plus, oats are filled with fiber, which helps get rid of bad cholesterol (LDL) and boosts good cholesterol (HDL). Oats do not have to be bland or boring, as demonstrated above. They also don’t have to be packed with sugar to taste good. Most of my bowls were naturally sweetened with bananas or apple sauce, and flavored with spices and extracts. I like to cook my oats in a mixture of milk (I usually have unsweetened almond on hand) and water to add creaminess. This also adds a bit more protein to your breakfast to help it stick to your ribs longer. I have been known to have audible hunger growls on the bus on the way to school if I eat protein-poor cold cereal! I also like to cook a smaller portion of oats (1/3 cup) in a normal amount of liquid (1 cup) for a bit longer, which makes them softer and fluffier, and also gives some wiggle room for all of the add-ins to incorporate well.

Try one of the 30 flavors I posted, or make your own! Start with your oatmeal base, mix in some flavor from vanilla, cinnamon, or nut butters, add some fruit or jam for sweetness, and get creative! The options are almost endless, especially when you consider that oats are great soaked in milk overnight on warm days, or oven baked for really cold ones! Not enough ideas here for you? Check out the real Queen of Oatmeal at KERF, or CCK’s baked vegan oatmeal flavors! Jump on the oatmeal bandwagon, my friends – you won’t regret it.

January 2, 2012 at 12:12 am 5 comments

A Roommate Inspired Dinner

Every good post about your roommate starts with an embarrassing picture…IMG_4196

Roommate dinners will soon be back in full swing! I am so looking forward to these – we don’t simply share a meal but life together as we sit and talk for hours at the dining room table. I don’t think either of us realized how much we valued these times together until we no longer had them! Ten weeks apart over the summer meant 5 hours of non-stop chatter in the car as we drove back to Boston after completing the NYC triathlon.


This dinner was the brain child of my lovely roommate, a really good cook despite her lack of confidence as such. It has been so much fun watching her grow and experiment in the kitchen over the past year! She made this for us and her sister, brother, and his fiance in a tiny studio apartment in Manhattan the night before our triathlon. Limited in both space and spices, the meal still turned out wonderfully and was great pre-race fuel. I hardly changed anything when I made it again this past week in Boston. You could call it a stewed quinoa, or a quinoa and greens pilaf, or a use-up-those-veggies one-pot meal… no matter what you call it, it is really simple, tasty, and healthy! Some of the liquid from the tomatoes cooks into the quinoa, giving it more flavor. The veggies can be subbed for what you have (spinach for the kale, +/- broccoli, less onions, more carrot – whatever you would like!) You can also kick up the spiciness with a bit of Sriracha sauce, or leave it out for the more faint of heart (you can tell I like my spicy food!). Even better – one pot means easy clean up. Basically, there is no way to go wrong with this one. Learn from my roommate and try something new in the kitchen tonight!

Question: Who does most of the cooking in your house?


Marie’s Stewed Quinoa

serves 5-6

1 cup quinoa

28 oz can diced tomatoes, with liquid

1 2/3 cup water

1/3 cup chopped carrots

3/4 large onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp red chili flakes

1 tsp nutritional yeast (optional)

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 bunch kale

Mince the garlic and the onions. Sautee in olive oil in medium heat until the onions become soft. Add the carrots and tomatoes. Add the quinoa and allow to absorb the liquid from the tomatoes. Top with 1 2/3 cup water and season with red chili flakes. Cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes, until quinoa is cooked and the liquid is mostly absorbed. Before it is fully cooked, add the washed and chopped kale (or greens of choice) and allow to wilt in. Season to taste with nutritional yeast (optional) and salt. For extra spice, add Sriracha sauce after serving.

August 21, 2011 at 8:00 am 4 comments

Green Goddess

There is nothing I love more than watching someone fall in love with a healthier lifestyle. It only takes a few small changes that eventually add up into a lot of healthy habits! This recipe is what pushed my little sister over the edge to be an adventurous, veggie-cooking college student. She has found her own veggie delivery program in Philly, and says that she is excited to try new recipes and new foods as she begins to cook for herself this year! I hope that she finds inspiration from what I make with my box, as well as from her own amazing culinary creativity.


I have seen recipes for all types of green goddess dressings popping up everywhere, whether they are low-fat, vegan, gluten-free… you name it! I had some leftover cashew cream from my pasta sauce, and decided to try my own hand at it! It is a little more inspired by the flavors in pesto than in a traditional green goddess dressing, but is absolutely delicious in its own right. Plus, I got to try out my new Whole Foods purchase – nutritional yeast! This strange, flaky ingredient is super good for you – rich in B vitamins and packed with protein. It has an interesting, almost cheesey flavor, making it a perfect addition to dressings and pasta sauces! If you are not so adventurous, you can definitely try substituting a bit of grated cheese in the dressing, or just leave it out and add a bit more salt! I really like the flavor that it adds in recipes, but am not at a point to use it sprinkled over pasta. A little to earthy for me…

Try this recipe. It is really, really good. My sister exclaimed, “I just want to stick my face in it!” She had me make extra before I left, and is dreaming up ways to use it. We dipped some roasted broccoli in it, but she thinks it would make a great chip dip, or could even be a great pasta sauce.

Question: What do you think it would go well with?


Green Goddess Dip

1/3 cup basil

1/3 cup parsley

1/2 cup cashew cream

1/2 tsp nutritional yeast

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp garlic powder

Chop basil and parsley finely in a food processor. Add the remaining ingredients and combine until smooth. Adjust seasoning to taste.

August 16, 2011 at 8:00 am 3 comments

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