Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Veggie Tacos

Veggie tacos...yum!

Well our healthy eating is going really well! I say that enthusiastically because I'm so surprised by it. Ha ha. We've ventured into "diets" before only to have crazy withdrawals and binges. I think we are learning from our mistakes, curbing our cravings, and really loving the benefits of a healthier diet. The weight loss really helps with keeping us motivated too! Funny thing, our vegetarian diet is moving quickly toward vegan, but I don't know if we'll ever really take it there. We are finding great ways to add flavor without unhealthy fats, and most of the time we don't even miss them! Take, for example, these yummy veggie tacos I've now made three times for dinner. No meat, no cheese or sour cream. Just sauteed vegetables, and whatever toppings I have on hand in a corn tortilla. The first time we ate them we had just tacos, no sides. Surprisingly satisfying.

Mexican food has to be one of my favorite things on earth...probably because I was raised on it, but mostly because it's wonderful. When I first started thinking about healthy eating it seemed like I would have to give up most of what I love about Mexican food...melty cheese, flour tortillas, non-vegetarian refried beans (that means they're fried in rendered bacon fat--sounds gross tastes amazing!), tostadas. And going vegetarian seemed to seal the deal. I thought well, I can eat beans and salsa. It's taken a long time for me to like avocados, so now I can have guacamole too. As I have expanded my horizons I've learned to add Mexican flavors to my veggies, er, veggies to my flavors...yeah that one. Trust me it's nothing fancy, but it sure is good. I'm so glad that I'm learning to eat vegetables and that pretty much anything in a (corn or whole wheat) tortilla is delectable!

I found that whenever we ate Mexican food there were little or no vegetables on the table. Unless you count salsa because as my dad says, "Salsa is a vegetable!" So, I've been making something like a black bean and corn salad with zuchinni and red bell pepper that I added as a side to our taco nights a long time ago. I love it!

This concoction has become a base for many a Mexican dish in my house, and now it has become a taco!

Veggie Tacos
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Red Bell Pepper, sliced thin
1 Green Bell Pepper, sliced thin
1/2 large Yellow Onion, sliced thin
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup Corn Kernels -- You can use frozen, canned, or fresh. I like to keep the frozen ones on hand because they taste fresher than canned and I can use them year-round.
1 cup Black Beans
1 medium Zucchini, cut in half lenthwise then sliced into 1/4 in half moons
2-3 small potatoes, diced -- I don't always add potatoes I was just craving them, so this is totally optional!

If you are using potatoes you'll want to start those first. I cooked mine separately because they take a little longer. Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium high heat till shimmering, add potatoes. Season with salt, pepper, granulated garlic, and a little bit of cumin. Cover and do not disturb while you get the peppers and onions going. Occasionally return to the pan to stir and turn the potatoes so that all sides turn golden and cook until the potatoes are soft. Try not to stir too frequently or they'll turn to mush!

Meanwhile, saute bell pepper and onions with a sprinkling of salt and pepper in 1 Tbsp olive oil till translucent. Add the garlic in at the last minute just to get it started cooking. You don't want to burn it so only cook about 30 seconds or so before you move on. Add zucchini, and if you're using frozen corn add that too and cook till zucchini is soft. (I didn't use zucchini in the tacos pictured because I didn't have any, hence the potatoes!) Finish with cumin, more salt, and pepper, then add black beans and heat through. Every measurement is to your taste so make sure you taste along the way for seasoning and use as much or as little of each vegetable as you prefer.

Once you've added the beans start on your tortillas. If you have a gas stovetop you can heat the tortillas right on the burner. If not, use a cast iron griddle or any flat pan that you've pre-heated. Use tongs so you don't burn your fingers! I like to heat them till they are nice and soft. You can pile them -- folded in half -- in a folded dish towel on a plate or keep them in a tortilla warmer till you've heated them all up. Fill each tortilla with veggies, and add whatever toppings you wish. My suggestions to try: fresh baby spinach (you won't even taste it!), avocados, salsa, chopped tomatoes, cilantro. Delish!

Veggie Tacos

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Being a Mom is Hard!

Lately I've been feeling pretty good. Alive. Ready.... Well, some days that's how I feel. Some days are much harder, less ready, and a little sleepy. But for the most part I'm doing awesome. I'm working on implementing some discipline and structure to our days besides just Zachary's nap schedule. It's amazing that coming up on his first birthday I'm just now starting to get back to my old self. Funny how long it really takes.

I'm reading a book called Desperate: Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breathe. I felt a little silly asking for it at the bookstore. I felt a little silly admitting I'm reading it. But silly is the farthest thing I feel after delving into it. It's such an honest and encouraging book. Even as I'm typing this, remembering how I felt the day I found it, I'm tearing up. I was so discouraged. I felt lost and hopeless, like "how could this be what I signed up for?!" Here's a little blurb of a blog post I was beginning at the time:

I have woken up to the realization that my life is not what I thought it would be. Not that it isn't what I want it to be, just not what I expected. You know how you have an idea of what you'll be like, look like, think like, etc when you "grow up"? Well, my life doesn't be, look, think like that at all. It is far from bad or even any kind of worse version of what I ever envisioned. It is in fact much better than I could have planned or even hoped for at some points of my adolescence.

As I look at the things I do and the way I live I am so abundantly grateful. I have an amazing hubby and two adorable boys. We lead worship at a church where we are appreciated and cared for. We live in a relatively safe town with not much to do but many people who love us.

But here's the thing: I always thought it would be...well, different. That seems to be the only word that's coming to me now.

As you can see I wasn't in the best place! I think I started that post with the intent to show how God had made my life better with my little family, but I got stuck about the end of that last paragraph and just stopped. I'm pretty sure that's when I started looking for some encouragement, anything to hold onto and found Desperate. This book has helped me realize that different is not bad. Even difficult isn't bad. Being a mom and learning to be a mom is hard. It's not something that we are necessarily prepared for. My mom was and is a great mom. She seems like a natural, but as I've talked with her about how I've been feeling she totally relates. She wasn't a natural, she just did the best she could, and I thought she was amazing! It gives me hope that my kids will one day think the same about me...HOPE. It seems to be the key.

Something I've learned is that without hope there is really no point. Not just in motherhood, but in life. Hope is what leads us. It's what draws us. I think really it's what gets us out of bed in the morning. Hope that today is going to be good, that something today is worth getting out of bed for, that my contribution to my family/job/church/community is going to matter. See, without hope days get dark, and getting out of bed just doesn't seem worth it. Hope is the opposite of, well hopelessness... Seems obvious, I know. But think about it. Hopelessness tells us that it's not worth it, that nobody cares or will be affected by our lives, that it's going to be bad, whatever it is. Hopelessness is a lie. It's a HUGE LIE that can devour you and keep you bound, desperate, and lost.

We have to find hope, true hope, The Hope, in order to go on. I don't think a person could live a long time without hope. We need it. It fuels us. As a wife and a mom my hope is that my husband and children will feel loved and cared for. I hope that they will see God in me and understand Him better for having known me. I hope to make an impact on the future generations of my family and the world. I hope that God will use me in any and every way possible, no matter how insignificant it may seem to me right now.

So what does that look like? I'm not sure! But I sure am excited to find out. I know that God will reveal things in His perfect timing. I trust that He has given me my hubby and my boys on purpose, because He knew exactly who I needed and who they needed. I hope that I will become the woman I am meant to be in the process of raising my boys to be who God intended them to be. I believe that in all things concerning me He will work them together for my good and for His glory.

Romans 5:5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Success!...Ok, Progress!

Well, our month of vegetarianism is up. It was a great month of learning how to eat some new foods and plan meals that didn't revolve around meat. I'm not gonna lie, there was definitely some meat and refined sugars eaten. But overall, I feel like we did really well. I even lost 5 pounds since the first of the month. Honestly, though I'm really down about 9 pounds from my high point after I stopped nursing. My clothes fit great, some even big! It's really nice not to feel fat and stuffed but somehow still hungry all the time.

What I'm taking away from this month is:
  • The ability to stop eating when I'm full
  • The end to incessant, thoughtless snacking
  • The realization that veggies and whole grains can not only be filling, but also delicious
  • A new outlook on health and how I want to feed my family
  • Most importantly, a renewed commitment to cut out meat and most animal products from my diet and eat healthfully and conscientiously
One of the chapters in Veganist that really surprised me was the one about spirituality. I thought it would be something that was way "out there" or that I totally didn't agree with. What I found was a whole lot of good reasons to reconsider the way I think about food and the idea that even eating is a spiritual act. It seems silly, but aren't we supposed to do everything as unto the Lord? And if I'm taking care of the "temple" of the Holy Spirit then shouldn't I be feeding it in such a way as to bring optimal health and vitality? Then there's the whole issue of eating compassionately. Even just a year ago this would have seemed like such a silly idea to me, but I feel like I'm learning to be more compassionate in every area of my life. I guess it should be no surprise that it would come into play here too.

I didn't get too creative or inventive over this first month of vegetarian cooking. I wanted to try different recipes with new vegetables (maybe) just the way they were and see how we liked them. I found some really great recipes and menus, and some not-so-great recipes. I'll do you a favor and just share the great ones here:

  • Falafel -- I've truly discovered a new love in food! This recipe I found, Sean's Falafel and Cucumber Sauce was divine! I did go ahead and fry them because why not?! I omitted the coriander since I didn't have any on hand. The second time I made them (yeah I made them twice!) I had it and added it but didn't love it. Next time I'll definitely add just a pinch. It's very lemony in flavor. Anyway, we had the falafel with whole wheat sesame pita pockets from Trader Joe's, Quinoa Tabouleh, and Roasted Broccoli. It was a surprisingly delicious meal!
  • Spring Roll In a Bowl -- I recently discovered how easy it is to make spring rolls and peanut sauce. This recipe was even easier and served as a great main dish. To cook the rice noodles simply boil water and pour over the noodles in a heat proof dish -- I used a square glass baking dish. Cover and let sit for about 10 minutes, or until tender. I loved being able to slice and dice veggies at my convenience and then just throw it all together at dinner time. I made this Best Peanut Sauce recipe and followed the advice of several of the reviews adding a little rice wine vinegar and reducing the amount of peanut butter just a little. Super good!
  • One Pot Wonder Pasta -- OMG! Soooooo easy and YUM! This recipe really shocked me. I thought there was no way it would come out like it said, but it did and it was delicious! This was the easiest pasta recipe I've ever made. I added shredded carrots in with all the other ingredients, white beans when it started simmering, and a couple handfuls of spinach in the last few minutes. I also only had reduced sodium stock so I added salt and pepper at the end. Other than that I just followed the directions. Also made this one more than once!
That about does it. Entering July has been a bit of a challenge with all the celebrating in the first week. But we're back on track this week and loving it! What's your favorite vegetarian dish?

Look it up!