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Sunny With a Chance of Showers

Yesterday, the LT and I went to a baby shower!  I haven’t been to many, however, this had to be one of the all-time best.  It was at a Morton Grove, IL park district building.  Means basically, we had a pre-school classroom – the little people desks + big people tables + lots of blue balloons, plates, and tablecloths.  What could be more “baby shower-esque”?

I’ll tell you!

Having a gi-normous playground and basketball court right outside!  We got to eat, drink, and play all afternoon.  Plus the weather was beautiful (for Chicago); it was something like 58 degrees and sunny.

My Mother-in-Law with my niece out on the playground

The LT playing with my nephew

After all the playtime (I played P-I-G with the boys and wasn’t the first one eliminated!), we were rounded up for cake.

What a cool idea!

I thought the look of this cake was super neat.  I’ve never seen one like it before–LOVE IT!

Overall, such a fun, relaxing day.  Being outside and in the sunshine, I really did kind of forget about any problems or concerns and was simply present in the moment and thoroughly enjoying life.

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“Cheezey” Veggie Bake

I’ve been away from the blogosphere for so long now!  It feels strange to participate again…almost like I’m sharing my diary, which I guess essentially is what a blog can be.  Well, I haven’t been absent in terms of reading foodie blogs.   In fact today’s post is a recipe I made from one of my new raw food-focused, but always vegan bloggies, Averie, from loveveggiesandyoga.com.  This woman is amazing!  She works full time, is a mom of a young (adorable!) girl, Skylar, a wife, a vegan chef, and a bloggie who updates almost every day, sometimes twice!  I heart Averie!

This recipe is not raw, however, since the new year (I know, it’s March, already!), I’ve had a really tough time keeping to a raw diet.  Part of it is that I no longer work at Cousin’s IV.  Since I’m going to school full time now (working towards a Master’s in Nutritional Sciences, or maybe a PhD–think it’d be fun to have the LT call me “Doctor”!), my schedule has been really off: classes break, study, work out, drive home, back to school for another class, grocery shop, etc.  It’s just been really off.  Combine that with the fact that we just moved into a new place, I’ve been eating VERY badly.  Never un-veg, and not really un-vegan thanks to my lactose intolerance, but certainly not focusing on raw.

And I (and the world) can see the effects in my skin, which suddenly looks like I’m a sophomore in high school again.  I’ve been drinking almost daily Starbucks soy hot chocolates, which I know contain a ton of sugar and not-good-for-me ingredients.  But now Lent has begun and I’ve given them up, so I’m taking green smoothies every morning.  AND I’m heading back home this weekend to visit the fam; my little bro is up from Texas.  Maureen, my raw food sister and I have both decided that we are implementing a “Green Weekend” and planning on plenty of green lemonades (thank you Natalia Rose), greeen smoothies, and raw foods.  In fact, over the past 3 days, I’ve taken green smoothies in the morning and eaten a big old salad for lunch, and already my skin (and energy!) is reflecting the change.  Seriously, raw foods, and greens in particular are A-MAZ-ING!

So in an effort to please the LT and keep up the good vegan work at nighttime, I turned to my new ‘friend’ Averie and made this recipe: Cheezey Veggie Bake.

 

Cheezy Vegetable Bake (Vegan and Gluten Free as long as the canned soup you use is)
2 Potatoes, Diced (dice them small so they cook properly.  Or, mix and match rice, quinoa, lentils, bulger, barley, etc rather than using all potatoes )
1/2 c Carrots, Diced
1/2 c Broccoli/Cauliflower Mixture (or any other veggies you want to use up; zucchini, Brussels sprouts, turnips, parsnips, squash.  Throw it in)
1 Can Soup (any vegetable soup, Cream of Mushroom, noodle soup, whatever you have)
1/2 c Water
1 Tbsp Mrs. Dash Seasoning Blend
1/3 c Nutritional Yeast (Nooch), Sprinkled (this will not make or break the recipe if you don’t have it, but then use other cheese/cheeze)

Optional: Drizzle the whole thing with 2 Tbsp EVOO before baking
Optional: Add in 1 can of beans of your choice (I didn’t add beans because the soup I used had some beans in it and Scott doesn’t love beans)

Directions
Layer everything into a foil-lined or sprayed 9×13 pan in the order listed.  i.e. lay in the potatoes, then carrots, other veggies, pour over the soup and water, add the seasonings.

Bake at 400F for approximately 50-60 minutes, or until browned.
Optional but recommended thus Cheezy Bake: After about 35-40 minutes, add 1/4 to 1 c shredded or diced ‘cheeze‘ (I used the Daiya brand I picked up at WFM) to the top and continue to bake for another 15-20 minutes or until brown.

 

 

My Ingredients

 

 

Make sure to cut those potatoes small enough to cook evenly!

 

 

All of the ingredients added and ready to bake...

 

 

...plus I added the optional beans since the LT is working out and wanting some extra protein lately.

 

 

The final product!

 

This meal was delicious, even to the LT who is a non-vegan, but heavily vegetarian (though in the spirit of full disclosure, not entirely).  Plus, even better when factoring our move and my back to school full time-ness, this dinner is CHEAP!  This will DEFINITELY become one of our staples.  The most expensive element was the “cheese” which was about $4 at WFM, and I only used about 1/3 – 1/2 of the package.  Plus we had enough leftover for lunch for both of us and an “after work snack” for the LT the following day.

 

Thank you Averie!  xoxox

 

 

Cru Restaurant in LA

So we’re back after the big Halloween weekend in Los Angeles and we had a GREAT time.  The plane ride was fine.  I bought us some yummies at Cousin’s IV for the plane ride.  The beet chips were surprisingly good and the Love Force bar was delish.  I’d only really had Lara bars, but this was much tastier, moister, and almost creamier…they’re also about 3x as pricier!

Meagan: Beet Chips The LT: Sweet Potato Chips

Yumminess!

The LT and I arrived around 12:15am Friday night/Saturday morning and were immediately whisked from LAX to the Hermosa beach bar scene. It was so nice to smell the fresh salt water after being in landlocked Chicago since September. We also saw a 6′ tall man dressed as a chicken and dancing to Lady Gaga…priceless!

The next morning we explored Hollywood, saw Mann Grauman’s Chinese Theater, bought a magnet, watched street performers breakdance, and took pictures with the walk of fame stars.

Then it was over to Cru Restaurant in Silverlake. Gil, the LT’s friend who was hosting us, is not into raw food and is not even vegan, so I chose Cru because it does have some cooked dishes.

Cru Restaurant

We ordered the Chickpea chard Fritters to start. They came with a to-live-for sour cream with chive oil dipping sauce. All three of us dove right into these tasty morsels. The chickpeas had a nice consistency that was similar to egg.

Then it was on to the main course.
Meagan’s
Chorizo Tostada
Sunflower frijoles, salsa, jicama radish slaw, avocado, raw vegan sour cream, pumpkinseed chorizo, radish sprouts, and green cabbage on a raw corn tostada.

 

Sorry! Kinda hard to see with the iPhone camera

The LT’s
Sweet Potato Curry (vegan, cooked)

Curry with Quinoa

Gil’s
Ravioli Cruda
Cashew cheese stuffed jicama ravioli in and herbed tomato sauce with rubbed arugula salad.

I was so happy that Gil wolfed down his food. I set him up for the experience by letting him know that raw food is similar to cooked, but sometimes doesn’t have the same texture or temperature. That he should remember that this was a version of ravioli. I don’t even think he needed a ‘warning’ because he ate it right up, especially loving the cashew cheese.

On our way back to the house to change into our costumes for the night, Gil even said, “I need to remember that place as a spot to take hot chicks on a date. It’s good to switch it up every now in then.” Yay!

I’d like to give the LT a shout-out (if it’s appropriate to give the man you love a shout out!). He wasn’t feeling so good all weekend, but was a trooper and stayed out with Gil and me until the bars closed.  I’m pretty sure I danced heinously, tried to instigate a fight with random passer-bys, and may have unknowingly shoplifted a bag of Bold Flavor Chex Mix (please don’t judge!). Through all of that and a pounding headache, the LT stuck with me and ensured I didn’t get picked up for the shoplifting. (pretty sure he paid!) I love you!

Guest Post on I Like This, Not That!

Hi, Readers!

I know it’s not a raw food site, but it’s one of the funniest blogs out there.  I love seeing things the way Debbie does; she has “fun-colored glasses” that she uses to see the things around her.

Anyway, this past weekend I had an incident with an automatically flushing toilet and was immediately reminded of the “Not That!” section of her blog.  She has generously allowed me to guest post an entry here: I Like This, Not That! Automatic Toilets

And when you’re done reading it, page through to some of her other entries–just have a tissue on hand because some are REALLY funny!

Fun Colored Glasses

WFM on a Road Trip?!

This past weekend, I was in Michigan for my future sister-in-law’s bachelorette party.  Needless to say that there is no Pure Food and Wine in Ann Arbor, so my ‘tinis (as Sarma calls ’em) were not even remotely good for my body.  I’m pretty sure the “cranberry” juice in my Vodka-Soda Water-with-a-Splash-of-Cranberry-Juice was all sugar…and the rest of the drink was pretty much alcohol.  Soooo you can imagine the next day, facing a five-hour drive back to Chicago was yucky.

(Though I would like to take the opportunity to say that I was the only raw foodie at this party and despite shutting the clubs down, I was up at 9:30am with no hangover while my fellow party-goers layed in bed an watched me pack.  I honestly attribute this speedy recovery to raw foods.  Especially this past week, beginning work at Cousin’s I.V. I have eaten an extremely high percentage raw and drank some sort of juice, usually green, every day of the week.)

But I digress…back to facing the five-hour drive…Probably thankfully, due to my companions lack of get-up-and-go energy, the greasy spoon breakfast that I begged for did not happen.  So on my way home, I found a Whole Foods and hunted down a Lara Bar and some organic tangerines.  I called The LT and asked him if he needed me to pick up anything for him (as he was at my brother’s Bachelor Party in Ohio the night before).  He said,

“You’re where?!  Whole Foods?!  How are you at Whole Foods on a road trip?  Most people stop at a Chevron Gas Station and you stop at a Whole Foods!  You are a funny one…and I’d like some bananas, please.”

Aside from peeling the fruit while driving, that drive was easy-peasy.  I felt energized, light, and clear-headed by the time I reach Kalamazoo!  Sometimes taking care of yourself is not the easiest or most common path to follow, but by the end of our journey, it’s totally worth it.

Agave Is Bad for You?

I just read this article by Dr. Mercola. Now I don’t know who this person is or what his or her credentials are. For all I know, his first name could be “Doctor.” But as he claims to produce the world’s #1 natural health news letter, his assertions worried me. He claims that “agave is actually WORSE than HFCS.” (That’s High Fructose Corn Syrup)

Dr. Mercola writes that “Agave ‘nectar’ or agave ‘syrup’ is nothing more than a laboratory-generated super-condensed fructose syrup, devoid of virtually all nutrient value, offering you metabolic misfortune.” Then he goes on to claim that “while agave syrup does have a low-glycemic index, so does antifreeze — that doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Agave syrup has the highest fructose content of any commercial sweetener — ranging from 70 to 97 percent, depending on the brand, which is FAR HIGHER than high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which averages 55 percent.” Throughout the rest of the article, he provides reasons that agave is no friend to a healthy body. Read the entire piece here.

After my initial doubts about these claims, (let’s face it, I’m biased because I love, love, love raw berries mixed with some agave as a “raw” dessert) I began poking around on the internets for more info.  I found out that when producing “raw” agave, the plants are actually crushed while their sap is collected in tanks.  In order to develop the syrup’s sweet flavor, the tanks are heated to approximately 140 degrees for approx 36 hours.  (www.foodprocessing.com)  This doesn’t sound very raw to me!

Upon further ‘poking’ around, I couldn’t find much in the way of actual research vs. people’s opinions on whether raw agave is actually raw.  In the future, I will continue to use “raw agave” though as a cautionary measure, I’ll probably limit my usage of the product.  I would love to know if anyone has some cold, hard facts on the subject to help me make a final decision.

The First Day of the Rest of My Life

Today is the first day of the rest of my life. I came home this morning from my Fortune 500 company job (I worked 3rd shift). I plopped down on my couch and thought about what a big life change I am making this year. Or maybe I should say life changes. Let me give you an idea.

Over the course of the last 12 months, I got out of the Army, moved from Texas to Chicago, became engaged, found a job in a new industry (food manufacturing), and now, have quit that job. I was working 3rd shift in the world’s largest bakery. Funny for a raw foodie, huh? I loved that whenever I got out of the car at work, it smelled like cookies and cakes. However, I didn’t like working 10 hours a day plus weekends. One weekend, about a month ago, I was in a training class that I got up for at 4am. As we began to learn about the new financial system the company was switching to, my mind began to drift. I started to think about what I really wanted to do with my time.

“Self,” I said, “If this training was about ____, I would be so excited to get up at 4am. Now what should I fill in that blank with?”

Because it was a computer-base training course, I began to tune out my trainers and check my emails. From there I turned towards my usual internet hangouts, Raw Foods Blogs. Then it struck me, that if this were a nutritional seminar, I would be super-excited! And then I was super-excited! I had my answer; I filled in the blank!

Two days later, a Meet-Up group I belonged to sent out an email inquiring if anyone in the group was looking for a job in a raw food business. On the off-chance, I sent in my resume. The next day I was interviewing and was offered the job on the spot. Honestly, I was terrified to take the leap. The world’s largest bakery has job security, nice benefits, and a big, fat paycheck. This new position was my ticket into the raw food world, but at a cost: no job security, no benefits, and barely a paycheck. Scary!

But after much debate and budget-izing with the World’s Greatest Fiance, I made the leap. That’s why today is the first day of the rest of my life. I am following a dream and opening a new chapter.

As I camped on the couch watching Oprah’s “Brilliantly Aging Women” episode trying to catch a glimpse of Karyn Calabrese, one of Chicago’s prominent raw food figures, I remembered back to the week I graduated from high school. That was another life change for me. And during that week, my Nana gave me a journal and told me to write in it every day, no matter how tired I was. She wanted me record those important events and how I was feeling so that I could look back and remember all the little things that time would otherwise change in my mind or cause me to forget. So that’s why I am starting this blog.

I take so much from the raw food community: information, inspiration, and recipes, I hope to give something back. I will be as honest as I can here 1) so that I remember this time in my life; and 2) so that other nutrition-minded friends can learn and (hopefully) laugh along this new journey with me.

And now I’m off to finish making some of Ani Phyo’s Donut Holes and finish watching Karyn Calabrese on Oprah!