Fitness, Transitions, Veganism

Setting Big Goals and Making Small Decisions 

I’ve really been enjoying listening to podcasts lately. After my last competition in July, I had been feeling a bit uninspired by music in general at the gym. I tried training without music and it was uncomfortable and not in the way that helps you to improve. At about the same time I was seeing more and more mention of listening to podcasts in my social media feed. So I started with The MFCEO Project with Andy Frisella. I’ve been hooked ever since. I love the way Andy delivers a no nonsense message. He owns his opinion completely, even if it’s controversial. I love listening to inspiring speakers during my training sessions.

So, what does this have to do with goal setting?

That’s something talked about a lot on The MFCEO Project and has really left an impression on me.

The MFCEO Project Podcast

In regards to wanting more (whether with fitness, success, family, etc.), you honestly need to set a big goal. Dream big. Put it out into the universe. Visualize having the things you want.

When you really put that goal out there, making the small decisions every day will be easier because you’ll be able to make those choices with the big goal in mind.

If your goal is to have better health, maybe more specifically to lower your cholesterol or blood pressure, then the actions you take every day need to lend themselves to that goal. When you grocery shop, choose foods that are going to help you reach your goal, not sabotage your efforts. Instead of watching anther episode on Netflix, go for a walk around the neighborhood. Choose water over soda. Again, all of your choices should reflect your goals.

As you make these decisions, people will notice and people will make comments. Some supportive, many judgmental.

Who cares what other people think? Those people’s reaction to the changes you are making reflect their level of comfort (or in many cases, discomfort) with themselves.
Who cares if it seems unrealistic? You’ll never know if you can achieve your goals unless you set them big and WORK toward them.

Recipes, Veganism

Beer Macaroni and Cheese

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged. Okay 2 months. But we’ve been busy! Kyle and I are all moved into our very first home! It’s coming along so nicely.

While I’ve been on hiatus, I stumbled upon a fantastic macaroni and cheese recipe on Pinterest (see the link in the recipe below). I️ loved that it included cashews AND potatoes and carrots. Cashews are a fabulous base for creamy sauces and potatoes and carrots make for the best cheesy sauces. I️ knew when I️ saw all three ingredients that I️ would enjoy this dish.

So,I️ tried it out and wow was I impressed (along with everyone who tried it; dairy-lovers included).

I’ve put my own little spin on that recipe which I think has taken vegan Macaroni and cheese to a whole new level.

Please tag me on instagram if you try this recipe! I’d love to see your version!

@confessionsofaveganmeathead

Beer Macaroni and Cheese

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

A creamy, cheesy, Macaroni and cheese recipe that also happens to be vegan.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (60 grams) raw, unsalted cashews soaked and drained
  • 1 cup (150 grams) red potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 cup (75 grams) carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 16oz. Box of pasta (elbows or cavatappi work beautifully in this dish)
  • 3/4 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 cup cashew milk
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 t onion powder
  • 1 t garlic powder
  • 1/2 t smoked paprika
  • 1/2 t ground mustard powder
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast
  • 2 1/2 T tapioca starch
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 (6 oz.) of a lager (such as Yuengling)
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 T vegan butter
  • Optional: breadcrumbs and spray oil

Directions

  1. Soak cashews for 4 hours or more in water.*
  2. Peel and chop the potato and carrot. Add to boiling water for 8-10 minutes, until just tender.* Drain.
  3. While the carrots and potatoes are boiling, add cashews, broth, cashew milk, seasonings, nutritional yeast, tapioca starch, and lemon juice to a blender.
  4. Boil water to cook pasta of choice according to package directions. Drain, but do not rinse pasta.
  5. Add cooked potatoes and carrots to the blender. Blend all ingredients extremely well.
  6. Sauté onion in vegan butter for 3-4 minutes over medium heat in a large pan. Add garlic and sauté for an additional 2-3 minutes.
  7. Add cheese sauce from blender and beer to the large pan with onions and garlic and whisk constantly over low heat until sauce becomes thick and creamy. It takes a few minutes, but it will thicken.
  8. Pour sauce over cooked pasta and mix well.
  9. Optional: put Macaroni and cheese in a baking dish and coat with breadcrumbs. Spray lightly with spray oil and broil on high for 2-4 minutes, until golden brown.


*
en’t soaked the cashews, you can boil them for 10-15 minutes but that won’t produce as smooth and creamy of a sauce as cashews that have been soaked for 4 or more hours.

*It is critical to not overcook the potatoes. If you do, the sauce will have a more gritty texture. I’ve found adding the chopped potato and carrot to boiling water for 10 minutes to work best.

*This recipe is based on the recipe from VeganHuggs : https://veganhuggs.com/vegan-mac-n-cheese/ .

Fitness, Transitions

How fitness has changed my life… for the better

We all know that exercise is a good thing for us. But how can getting up for that walk our doctors recommend really, truly, and practically impact our lives?

Before I get started, I want you to realize that I’m speaking here from first hand experience. In my short life, I’ve gained and lost over 50 pounds. 


No really. Over 50 pounds. 

Getting into a fitness routine is hard.  When you haven’t been active in a while, the thought of getting up and exerting yourself physically is not appealing. You might feel embarrassed to get out and go for that walk or dare I say it, step foot into the gym. 

Seriously though, don’t be embarrassed. When I see someone in the gym who isn’t in great shape, but they are there and working, all I can think is, ‘Hell yeah! You got this!’

So back to how fitness has changed my life. Below are the top 5 ways my life has changed for the better because of fitness. (Being a very concrete-sequential thinker, I figured the easiest way to outline the changes would be a brief, bulleted list. You’re welcome.)

  1. Strength – I know physically I’m the strongest I’ve ever been and I will continue to develop that. Mentally, I know that I can push myself in all areas of life. When you can go into the gym and push yourself to do a few more reps when your arms feel like falling off, you know that you can literally do anything in any area of your life. 
  2. Confidence – this goes along with strength, but I really do feel more confident than I ever have. Knowing I have this physical and mental  strength makes me confident in my abilities in all other areas of life. 
  3. Energy – I have so much energy! I wake up feeling like a I can conquer the world (most days). 
  4. Sleep – along with having a lot of energy, my sleep has improved immensely. I sleep soundly through the night and on the rare occasion I do wake up in the middle of the night, I’m able to get back to sleep. 
  5. Relationships – I take care of myself first which allows me to care for the people in my life. 

I could go on and on about how exercise has changed my life for the better, but I feel like these areas have been the most profoundly impacted by my exercise routine. 

So go tie up those laces. Go for that walk. Use that gym membership you’ve been paying for. Get some of these benefits in your own life. 

Recipes, Transitions, Veganism

Small changes

This week I decided it’s time to make a few more small changes. Since my show, I’ve been steadily gaining weight which is a good thing. The leanness achieved for the stage is not maintainable. As much as I love the cuts and being able to see the vascularity, I don’t feel healthy and nourished being that lean. 

I’ve gotten to a point in my ‘reverse diet’ where I know I’m at a healthy, maintainable weight. I feel physically strong, especially during my training. Now knowing that, I’m making small changes to be able to keep this weight. 

While thinking about my own small changes, I’ve been talking with family and friends about them making small changes. I’ve kind of had to take a step back. I’m promoting this plant based lifestyle because I know the benefits but I’ve been a bit impatient, especially with my own family.  I’ve forgotten how long it took Kyle and I to get to the point we are at with our diets. I realize that making this change for most people is not quick or simple. 

Making small, consistent changes will leave a lasting impact. 

I want to encourage anyone who is open to it to make small changes toward a plant based diet. But where to start?? Below are my top tips for making small changes toward transitioning to a plant based diet. 

  1. Try one new, completely plant-based recipe each week. As you try new recipes, you’ll find meals that you love (and don’t love) that will push out some of the meat based meals. 
  2. Try replacing milk or coffee creamer with plant based options. I love unsweetened cashew milk and So Delicious French Vanilla Coffee Creamer. 
  3. Stop looking at the nutritional label and start looking at the ingredient list. If  you are going to buy a packaged product, make sure you know what the ingredients actually are. If there is anything you can’t pronounce, you probably shouldn’t eat it. 
  4. Meal prep. Take one day each week to plan what meals you’ll be cooking and prepare anything you can ahead of time on that day. I typically do this on Sunday. I plan out a menu for the week, write a list, grocery shop, wash all of my produce, and prep anything I can to make week night cooking easier. 
  5. Try to use less oil. If you are sautéing vegetables, try sautéing them in water or vegetable broth. It’s not quite the same as using oil, but it gets the job done and you won’t be adding hundreds of extra calories from fat to your diet. 
  6. Try snacking on raw fruits and veggies. If you’ve become accustomed to eating more processed snacks like chips and Little Debbie snacks, it will take some time for your taste buds to adjust. Raw veggies will taste bland because they’re not doused in oil and salt and fruit won’t taste sweet since it’s got natural sugar instead of refined sugar. I promise though, your taste buds will adjust and you’ll come to love unprocessed snacks and you won’t be able to tolerate the chips and Little Debbie’s. 
  7. Drink water, tea, and coffee. But, mostly water. Add a lemon or other fruit to your water if you’re not into the plain taste of water. 

These are just a few of many tips. Like any new habit, transitioning to a plant based diet won’t be easy at first and it will take time. But, making small, consistent changes will leave a lasting impact. 

Veganism

Prepping for the storm… Vegan style

I live in Florida. I love living in Florida. I even enjoy the hurricanes. Probably because I’m not a homeowner yet. 

Kyle and I are currently living with my parents. Our lease was up at our apartment and it was insanely expensive to go month to month while we are still house hunting. So for hurricane Irma, mom and I are teaming up for hurricane prep. We’ve been to Publix quite a bit and they STILL have water and ice and just about everything else you could need for hurricane prep. 

What are our plant-based staples? 

  1. Lots of starches. Sweet potatoes, white potatoes, rice, pasta, oats, etc. All of these things can be boiled. If we do lose power, we can use the propane side of the grill to boil water to cook these things. Starches will keep you full and satisfied and they have plenty of protein. 
  2. Fresh fruit. We loaded up on apples, oranges, bananas, grapes, and melons. All of these fruits are hydrating and refreshing so they’ll be great if it heats up. Even if we lose power, we can move the fruit that needs to stay cold into the cooler full of ice. 
  3. Fresh veggies. Broccoli, bell peppers, green beans, mushrooms, spinach and onions all can be eaten raw or can be cooked, again on the grill if needed. 
  4. Water. We bought 3 gallons of water per person plus some small bottled water. Make sure you’ve got enough water for each person to have a gallon per day. We’ll have enough for 4 days if we need it. 

I’m also cooking up a few easy things to have on hand. 

  1. Pasta salad – again, cool and refreshing and easy to keep cool if needed. In my pasta salad, is whole wheat fusilli pasta, black beans, red kidney beans, navy beans, cannellini beans, onion, bell peppers, peas, broccoli and a VERY small amount of olive oil with spices to keep things from sticking. 
  2. Granola – it’s easy to make and is a tasty snack. I like making it myself so I know exactly what’s in it. I used rolled oats, maple syrup, pepitas, sliced almonds, dried cranberries, and Enjoy Life dairy-free chocolate chips
  3. Bread – we love bread in this house and let’s be honest, homemade beats packaged every time

So that’s it. Easy vegan storm prep. Good luck to all of my fellow vegans getting ready for Irma!! 

Recipes, Veganism

Fun Food Friday in First Grade

I teach first grade in a Title 1 school. I absolutely love my job. Teaching littles to read, write and become mathematicians is incredible. 

Our class has a ‘late’ lunch (by first grade standards) at 11:00 and many of my littles like to have a snack in the morning. During the first few weeks of school, I have tried to stress the importance of eating healthy snacks to my kiddos and their families. So when kids were bringing in cookies and baked Doritos, saying they were healthy, I knew it was my responsibility to do SOMETHING. 

Another teacher had shared with me a photo of  NFL defensive lineman, David Carter in a Baltimore school teaching kids about vegan foods (post linked below). I realized that was it! I could bring in truly healthy snacks for my students to try. And so, Fun Food Fridays was born! 

For the kickoff, I thought we’d try medjool dates with peanut butter. The natural kind with only roasted peanuts. Date bombs are one of my favorite snacks and with how sweet dates are I though they’d be a hit with the kids. 

As it turns out half of them LOVED the date bombs and came back for second helpings. The other half took teeny tiny bites and declared they would never eat them again. Oh well! At least they tried, right?!

The best part was taking photos of the kids reactions (sorry, won’t be posting any here) and sending them to their parents, many of whom were surprised their child would even try the dates. 

For the next Fun Food Friday, I think we’ll try purple and white carrots. Maybe some hummus, too. 

If you have any ideas for whole food, plant based, kid friendly snacks, please let me know!! There are a lot of Fridays left in this school year. 😉

Veganism

What’s so good about being vegan, anyway? 

If you ask anyone who is passionate about eating a plant based diet why they eat the way they do, they’ll typically respond with one of three answers: health, environment or ethics. Personally, my motive for eating plant based is mostly health with the environmental and ethical aspects being more of the ‘icing on the cake’. So, how does eating a plant based diet affect your health? In this post I’ll do my best to summarize the research I’ve read that has impacted my decision to eat a plant based diet. 

Chronic disease scares me. I don’t want to be told by my doctor that I’m sick with a lifestyle disease like high blood pressure or cholesterol, diabetes, etc. and that I’ll be on prescription drugs for the rest of my life. 

I’ve also experienced weight gain and that’s something I NEVER want to feel again. Physically, I felt sluggish and uncomfortable. Emotionally, I felt terrible for letting myself get that way. 

From everything I’ve read, eliminating animal and processed foods is the best and proven way to avoid chronic disease and weight gain. 

The physical, mental and emotional impact of eating plants are truly well with my soul.

It’s the only diet that research shows can prevent, arrest, or in some cases reverse cardiovascular disease.
If that’s not enough of a reason, I don’t know what else could be. Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of premature death of men and women in America. I bet you know more than one person (maybe even yourself) suffering from cardiovascular disease. In the words of Dr. Michael Gregor, “shouldn’t that make plant based eating our default diet?”
One of the biggest factors in having cardiovascular disease is the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol consumed. Cholesterol clogs the arteries and in turn restricts blood flow in the body. The ONLY source of saturated fat and cholesterol is animals products. We have absolutely no need to consume either of these things for optimal health. All of the cholesterol your body needs is produced by your liver and your body has no need at all for saturated fat.

But, where do you get your protein?
Protein is overrated. We truly don’t need as much as we’ve been led to believe. Yes, protein is essential to tissue (muscle) repair, but too much protein will put your kidneys into overdrive and all of the excess protein consumed is just excreted as waste in urine. Please remember that my hobby is bodybuilding. I do care about getting enough protein and have indeed  eaten a ‘high protein diet’, even as a vegan. As little as 7-10% of calories consumed from protein can be enough, with some people needing slightly more (I.e., people consistently breaking down their muscles – body builders, athletes, etc.). This amount of protein (and more) is easily consumed when calories are obtained from whole foods such as legumes, whole grains, and even green (non-starchy) vegetables and fruit. 

Micronutrients are abundant in a whole foods plant based diet.
But, what are micronutrients? When I refer to micronutrients, I’m generally speaking about vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and even fiber. Getting enough micronutrients aids in optimal functioning of all body systems. Plain and simple.  Your body is amazing in that if you accidentally consume too much of a micronutrient, it will almost always only absorb as much as it needs. 

With the exception of B12, you can get more than enough micronutrients in a plant based diet. Whereas a diet based on animal products is significantly lacking in micronutrients. Even the B12 in meat and dairy is artificial, given as a supplement to the animals, but more on this in another post.

Fiber. Oh glorious fiber.
Absolutely essential for regularity. While this may not be the most ladylike thing to write about, it’s hugely important to health and should be talked about more! If you aren’t ‘going’ regularly and with minimal effort, you’re not getting enough fiber. More and more research is emerging with findings that show people who eat more fiber are far less susceptible to many chronic illness because their digestive systems are functioning properly.

My kitchen is not a morgue

One thing that freaked me out when I was eating meat (and still makes me cringe to think about) was making sure my kitchen was sanitized after preparing meat. Think about it. Meat is literally a decaying body part in your refrigerator. So much potentially harmful bacteria thrives on that decaying bit of flesh. Without that in my kitchen, I don’t have to stress about cross-contamination and using bleach and other harsh chemicals to be sure all of that bacteria is dead. 

Even regardless of all those reasons, I’d still choose a plant based diet over any other diet because I just feel so good. The physical, mental and emotional impact of eating plants are truly well with my soul.

Recipes

Tempeh Bacon

I love tempeh. It is so versatile and takes the flavor of the marinade or seasoning it is cooked in. It's got a great texture. And it's fermented! It sounds strange, fermented soy beans, but eating fermented foods is great for you digestive system. Digestive health is key to good overall health.

I was inspired a few weeks ago to make a vegan BLT when I watched one of my favorite Youtubers make a tempeh BLT in her 'What I Eat in a Day' video (linked here: Sarah's Vegan Kitchen). I began furiously searching the web for a tempeh bacon recipe and was surprised to find so many! I tried this recipe from Simple Vegan Blog first and with the help of my fabulous, taste-testing mom, have tweaked the recipe to suit our taste buds.

The key to his recipe is pure maple syrup. We just happened to have this syrup that came directly from Canada which is amazing. I also tested the recipe with the Publix brand pure maple syrup and it turns out delicious as well.

The other marinade ingredients were less sodium soy sauce (I honestly just prefer the flavor of this to the regular sodium), liquid smoke, and Chipotle Tabasco sauce. The Chipotle Tabasco doesn't add too much heat, but really adds to the smokiness of the tempeh bacon.

To make the marinade, just combine 1/4 cup of the soy sauce, 1 tablespoon on pure maple syrup, 1 teaspoon of liquid smoke, and 1 teaspoon of Chipotle Tabasco. Mix this well and add the thinly sliced tempeh. Let the tempeh marinate for at least 15 minutes, but longer is always better.

Once the tempeh has marinated for at least 15 minutes, lay it out on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 12 minutes.

After the tempeh has baked for 12 minutes, turn the broiler on high for 2 minutes. Do it. I promise, it's worth it (notice the three missing pieces). And that's it. You've got vegan bacon. Perfect for a tempeh BLT or served alongside some banana pancakes.

"Tempeh

  • Servings: "2-4"
  • Difficulty: "easy"
  • Print

Ingredients


8 oz. Tempeh, sliced thinly
1/4 cup Less sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon Pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon Liquid smoke
1 teaspoon Chipotle Tabasco

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Mix the soy sauce, pure maple syrup, liquid smoke, and Chipotle Tabasco in a small container with a lid
  3. Thinly slice tempeh and add to marinade. Cover and let rest for at least 15 minutes.
  4. Place slices of tempeh on a parchment-lined baking sheet
  5. Bake for 12 minutes
  6. Turn broiler on high and broil for 2 minutes

Serve in a BLT or alongside a stack of banana pancakes.

Uncategorized

So, what are you?

“So what do you eat?”

This is my favorite question that people ask. I love talking about what I eat. I love talking about recipes. I love sharing nutritional information. I just really love food. And talking.

I do not however, love talking about my dietary label. More often than not when I discuss food with others, they want to know my label. They want to know ‘what’ I am.

This is a tough question to answer. I’m not a huge fan of labels, as there can be a lot of grey area with them. But I’ll do my best to explain the label I choose for myself.  Here it goes…

I don’t cook with animal products, but occasionally  I add dairy to my hubby’s dish if he’s asked for it. I cook most nights, but we love going out to dinner for date night on Fridays. And let’s be real, the last thing I want to do on a Friday night is cook! When I order, I avoid dairy and eggs and absolutely won’t order meat. Sometimes ordering a meal that may have been prepared with minuscule amounts of dairy and/or eggs is unavoidable. The vegetarian restaurant scene isn’t exactly a huge thing in our small town!

So how do I label myself?

For simplicity’s sake, yes, I call myself vegan. But in everyday real life, I’m just someone who eats consciously.

When I eat, I’m conscious of my health. How will the food I choose to consume impact my health (and the health of my family)?

When I eat, I’m conscious of the health of our planet. How will the food I choose to purchase impact the health of the planet we call home?

When I eat, I’m conscious of the lives of others. How will the food I choose to put in my mouth impact the lives of other animals (including other humans)?

Am I a perfect vegan? No. Absolutely not. But I’m working damn hard to be the best vegan I can be each and every day. And if I can influence one other person to eat a  few more veggies and less animal products in the process, that is enough for me.

Uncategorized

One week post show update

One week post show. I have been on such a high this week getting to indulge in things I haven’t indulged in for weeks. I’ve been getting creative with my cooking, feeling stronger in the gym, and taste-testing far too many of the dairy free Ben and Jerry’s flavors.

IMG_0166

Did I mention date night has made a comeback?! Kyle and I so enjoyed being able to go out for dinner and craft beers to one of our favorite local places last night (it isn’t exactly macro friendly, but has some plant-based options).

img_0172.jpg

Indulging is fun, but when I woke up this morning, I definitely felt like I have been going a bit overboard for a week. I didn’t have a set plan for a reverse diet and I am totally okay with that. I knew I’d give myself a week to go nuts and enjoy so many of the things I’ve been missing. But now, it’s time to get serious about my health and fitness goals again!

During this prep, I was following macros with high protein content. Up until the last month, carbs were high enough that I could still be somewhat creative with my cooking and enjoy more ‘recipes’ as opposed to bro-style foods (i.e., tofu and veggies). I knew that for where I was at and how much I still need to learn about the way my body reacts to food and cardio during prep, that following higher protein would yield the results I sought . But I also made a conscious decision to try to transition to more of a starch-based diet with less protein and fat than I’d previously been eating. For me, eating plant-based is all about health. From what I’ve read, high protein, even from plant sources, can still be damaging to my health.

So here it goes. Getting focused on eating more starchy whole foods with a lower fat and protein content. I’m interested to find out what effect it will have on my training and aesthetics.