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THINKING OF GOING VEGETARIAN? (Part 1) July 5, 2012

A dear friend recently asked me, “I’m thinking of going vegetarian.  How do you suggest I start?”  I must admit I was quite flattered.  Although I am a novice at the vegan lifestyle with just ten months under my belt, I had been vegetarian for over nine years, so I feel confident I know a thing or two about it.  I am certainly no doctor, so you should always consult your own practitioner before making any big changes to your diet (gotta throw that disclaimer in there!) However I would be delighted to share my research and own experiences!

#1:  My first recommendation would be to START SLOW. Just having the interest in eating less meat is half the battle.  No one says you have to go “cold turkey” overnight.  Maybe opt for a bean burrito rather than chicken chimichangas. Substitute a minestrone soup for beef stew.  Skip the meatballs and Italian sausage on your pasta and try something like pasta primavera (food network.com has a delicious version at:  http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/pasta-primavera-recipe/index.html.)  Just find a few recipes that appeal to you, and try them out.  There are numerous sites out there with ample recipes, including:

http://allrecipes.com/Recipes/Everyday-Cooking/Vegetarian offers “top 20 vegetarian dinners”. 

http://vegetarian.betterrecipes.com  claims to be “a great resource for committed vegetarians as well as those of us who are looking to eliminate meat.”

http://vegweb.com is a site that boasts “the world’s largest vegetarian recipe community.”

I started my own Vegan Voyage with two free apps for my iPod.  One is the “21-Day Vegan Kickstart” that offers 3 weeks of menus.  The second one is called “Vegan YumYum”.  Both offer tasty plant-based dishes.

My favorite veggie blogs on my email list are:

http://www.veganbytes.com  (aka Vegan-Nutritionista), thrive30@myvega.com and http://chakra4vegetarianrestaurant.com/phoenix-vegetarian-lifestyle

All three are chock full of great health information and inspiration!

My “go-to” cookbook is one my sister, Belinda, gave me years ago, titled 1,000 Vegetarian Recipes by Carol Gelles.  Everything from appetizers to desserts is crammed in this 598 page book.  A newer book I also refer to often is Peas and Thank You: Simple Meatless Meals the Whole Family Will Love, by Sarah Matheny.  The author and one of her daughters are vegan, while the husband and second daughter are vegetarian, so the recipes aim to please both, making it friendlier to a wider audience.  The author’s witty dialogue makes this cookbook an entertaining read alone.  Both books are available through Amazon. 

My favorite magazine is Vegetarian Times.  The VT website, http://www.vegetariantimes.com, is great as well.  The magazine is delivered nine times a year, and loaded not only with vegetarian dishes, but a healthy dose vegan options as well.  You can save a few bucks on a subscription through Amazon ($12 for a year, or $20 for two years) as opposed to ordering directly through the parent site. 

I have recently discovered Pinterest (http://www.pinterest.com) as another awesome resource for meat-less recipes.  Pinterest is an online pinboard that you can share and organize things you love.  You can explore everything from Architecture to Gardening to Wedding Idea pins, or type in whatever else you are searching for.  Personally, I mostly look up crafts for kids, travel ideas, and, of course, vegan dishes!  You have to be “invited”, which is very simple by logging on through Facebook or Twitter, or just by submitting your email address. You are typically “accepted” within 24-48 hours.  Then you can start pinning away!  You make your own “boards” (like “crafts”, “recipes”, “travel”, etc.) where you then “pin” the posts that interest you most.  That way you can easily refer back to your own profile to retrieve the ideas that caught your eye.  It is a lot of fun, but I must warn you – it can be addicting! 

I am relieved to see that restaurants are finally offering more meatless dishes, or at least happy to make changes or substitutions by request.  T.G.I.Friday’s, for instance, offers a delicious new Sedona Black Bean Burger.  You can order it sans the pepper jack and cheddar cheeses for a vegan version.  A few weekends ago we grabbed a quick bite at a place called The Pita Pit in Indianapolis, IN.  Basically a made-to-order sandwich shop, they offered an array of meats, cheeses and fresh produce.  I devoured my Garden pita on wheat, with hummus and avocado extras.  They had a Spicy Black Bean pita that I am eager to try, now that I know that they are a chain restaurant!  Seasons 52 is wonderful for finer dining (for patrons looking for an extensive wine list).  I especially loved that they have Vegetarian, Vegan and Gluten-Free menus on hand.  (See my earlier Seasons 52 Review post).

So here is a starting point.  The food you eat should be a lifestyle, not a diet. Again, start slow, and don’t judge yourself too harshly if you stray from your personal goals.  Remember no one is perfect, and there is always the next meal.  Do a little research from the plethora of resources out there, and select a few recipes that make your mouth water!  Over time, you might be surprised when there are more veg-based meals on your menu than meat! 

Coming up next:  Four more suggestions for persons looking to eat Vegetarian!

Yours in Health,

Krys

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UNLESS April 18, 2012

 

After a long-anticipated wait, my children and I finally went to see one of our favorite books-turned-big-screen:  The Lorax.  It is a cute movie, and the kids and I enjoyed it.  But it was the moral of the story that is playing over and over in my head like a mantra:  UNLESS.  That night I realized this simple yet powerful word is the pivot for many of the decisions we make.

I have been reading a lot of disturbing data lately about the “pink slime” and GMO’s in food.   It would be naïve to assume that food manufacturers necessarily have human health or repercussions in mind.  Unfortunately, “wholesome” is not always the most cost-effective way to produce food.  The Uncle Ben character in the Spiderman movie famously said, “With great power comes great responsibility”. The simple truth is that money often trumps a truly “healthy” product.  Unless we pay attention, we could blindly consume foods barely fit for a dog.

In Monday night’s yoga class, Ericka shared a startling fact, quoting that approximately 75% of all illnesses are brought on by stress.  As she pointed out, today’s American society is all about “bigger-ing” ourselves:  being a supermom, having the best yard, the cleanest house, working tons of overtime to be the best employee, etc.  Idle persons may be viewed as unproductive or lazy.  When in reality, a little daily downtime is extremely beneficial.  For our own health, it is better to concentrate our efforts on just a few things that are most important to us.  Ericka said that taking a few moments out of every day to breathe in deeply and exhale completely will help to relieve some of the tension.  It then dawned on me that “UNLESS” not only applies to external obligations, but also to our inner selves as well.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am just as guilty as anyone else of overloading my proverbial plate and ignoring healthy habits.  However, now I plan to ask myself “Unless” often, and try to make a conscious effort to make necessary changes.  Unless I choose to eat foods that nourish my body I may feel sluggish.  Unless I exercise regularly, I will lose strength and stamina.  Unless I monitor my stress levels, I can make myself sick.  Unless I allow myself a few moments for deep cleansing breaths every day, I am not only cheating my over-all health, but also of a life I deserve. 

“Unless someone cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better.  It’s not.”  – Dr. Seuss

Yours in Health,

Krys

 

Seasons 52 Restaurant Review March 5, 2012

Kansas City Plaza

February 4th was a “date night”, so my husband and I had decided to use a “Kansas City Plaza gift card” we had received for Christmas. After glancing over the slew of restaurants the card applied to, Chase chose Seasons 52.  They served “American” food, and had a Wine Bar.  I had briefly skimmed the online menu found at http://www.Seasons52.com to double-check for a vegan dish before leaving the house, and was pleased to find a few that would work. 

The Seasons 52 restaurant  in Kansas City is located in the old Eddie Bauer building at 340 Ward Pkwy., in the Country Club Plaza/Brookside neighborhood.  The structure itself is an appeasing Spanish-style design, complete with an  iconic Kansas City fountain perched in front.  I liked it immediately. 

We had an 8pm reservation, and were quickly seated.  Our waiter was quite knowledgeable on wines (they have over 100 to choose from), and offered us a “taste test”, presenting 3 different reds.  We both loved number one out of the three, a Spanish wine called Monte Oton Garnacha, Campo de Borja ’09/’10, and ordered a bottle.

I don’t normally divulge my vegan eating habits to waiters, more than anything to avoid the inevitable eye-roll or audible sigh.  I am used to ordering dishes and asking them to hold the cheese, or minus the cream sauce.  However, this time, my dear Chase asked the waiter what he would recommend for a vegan.  The waiter smiled wide and said “Oh!  Just a sec!”, and cheerfully returned with… drum roll please… A VEGAN MENU.  I was floored.  How delightful to have a menu with all the guess-work taken out of it!  Not only does Seasons 52 offer a vegan menu, but they also have a vegetarian menu, a low-sodium, a gluten-free, a lactose-free, and a garlic-free menu on hand.  (Indeed, upon checking the website again at home, there is an Alternative Menus tab on the left hand side under the Menus link that diners can refer to beforehand.)  There is also a Nutritional tab, and a disclaimer that this is not an allergen-free environment. 

Seasons 52 boasts casual dining, rotating a “seasonally inspired menu” four times a year  (hence the name).  I started off my meal with the Ripe Plum Tomato Flatbread, minus the parmesan cheese.  4 pieces of toasted bread bordered neatly a neatly sliced tomato, drizzled with balsamic vinegar.  I chose the Farmer’s Market Vegetable Plate as my main entree.  This included a roasted Bosc pear, butternut squash, and a golden beet.  A triangle of Ponzu-glazed tofu and a delicious bowl of cranberry-almond tabbouleh completed the dish.  My meal was superb.  Chase chose the Roasted Shrimp, Lump Crab & Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms under Parmesan-panko crust to start off with.  The appetizer came in an escargot dish.  He joked about the not-so-existent crab lump, and voted it as only ok – not bad, but not delicious either. The stuffed mushrooms were blazing hot when served and by the time they were cool enough to eat, the entree came out, so timing was a bit off.  He had selected the Wood-Roasted Pork Tenderloin as a main course.  Chase felt the pork was rough on the outside and a bit dry; not as tender as he had expected.  He didn’t care for the accompanying polenta one bit.  He admittedly had picked the pork dish because it matched well with the wine (according to our wine connoisseur server).  For dessert, Seasons 52 offers a selection of 8 different large shot-glass size “Mini Indulgences” for only $2.50 each, which are a perfect size to satisfy the sweet tooth without feeling guilty.  Chase had the Mocha Macchiato, and I had the Market Fresh Fruit.  They were both yummy.  A cup of Roastery coffee topped off the meal. 

We both thought the portion sizes were perfect.  Only later did I realize that they strive to make every item on their menu less than 475 calories, another nice perk.  Prices were moderate, averaging from $10 – $20 per entree.  With two appetizers, two entrees, two desserts, a nice bottle of wine and coffee, our bill came to just under $100, before the tip.

There was live entertainment that evening, although we couldn’t hear it from where we were seated.  There appeared to be a lot of nice tables in the bar area so patrons would not necessarily need to “belly-up”. Perhaps next time we will request to sit there to enjoy the music. 

Although Seasons 52 is a “chain restaurant”, they are not huge, with only a handful of restaurants nationwide.  Chase is willing to give the food another chance.  And I am looking forward to returning to sample their Spring menu!

As far as rating Seasons 52, I would give them 5 stars.  Chase, however, who was not nearly as enamored as I was, only gave the food 2 stars, and the restaurant as a whole 4 stars.  We both agreed that the service was amazing, it is in a great locale, and the ambience is lovely.  Combined, we would give Seasons 52  three and a half stars out of five. 

Other critic reviews and blog posts may be viewed at:

http://www.urbanspoon.com

http://www.yelp.com

http://www.opentable.com/seasons-52-kansas-city

cowtownchow.blogspot.com

 

Introducing YOUYOGA Guest Blogger: Kristin Malara February 27, 2012

Welcome to the debut of Vegan Voyage!  My name is Krys, and I invite you to join me as I explore the ins and outs of a plant-based, and grain-based diet.  I had been vegetarian for over nine years, but decided to convert to veganism in October 2011. I have found a vegan lifestyle to be a whole new level of harmony between food and the body, and even the soul.   However, I am fully aware that no single “diet” is perfect for everyone.  Whether it is due to body type, health issues, food allergies or intolerance, family traditions or expectations, certain food inaccessibility, and/or simple likes and dislikes, it is important to eat what is best for YOU. 

This can be achieved by really listening to your body.  In my household alone, we prepare meals around dairy, peanut, tree nut, strawberry and, most recently, soy allergies.  Rather than dwell on what we can’t have, we choose to search for yummy alternatives.  I could blog on food allergies alone, but I decided to incorporate the two.  Although I will focus mainly on veganism, this blog is meant for anyone who is interested in discovering alternative substitutes to animal products, why they might be beneficial, and tasty ways to prepare them.   I also hope to discuss related subjects such as; books, movies, documentaries, websites, and restaurants (with recommended dishes).  So, no matter what your current eating habits are, I hope you can glean a thing or two from this blog as I continue on my Vegan Voyage. 

Yours in Health, Krys

 

 

Stay Tuned for my Upcoming Posts on the following topics:

  • Restaurant Review for Seasons 52
  • Restaurant Review for the Blue Koi
  • Pieces of the Protein Puzzle, from Amaranth to Tofu
  • Eating “Vegan-esque”