Gluten-Free Mexican Pizza

August 19, 2013 § Leave a comment

mexican pizza with guacamole, corn, and peppers from Cooking Con Sal

This fast, fresh, healthy dish is so easy to make and completely satisfying! I used Udi’s frozen gluten-free pizza crusts. I’ve been trying to cut out gluten completely – very hard as a vegan! – so in this case they do have egg and thus this isn’t a vegan recipe. To make it vegan just use regular pizza crust, corn, or flour tortillas. I really like these pizza crusts – they are thin and crispy and don’t leave you feeling so heavy – even when you eat the whole pizza!

Mexican gluten-free pizza from Cooking Con Sal

Just pop the pizza crust in the oven according to package directions. When it is done cooking, add the toppings. I topped mine with guacamole (2 avocados, 1 minced garlic clove, chopped red onion, juice from 1/2 lime, salt, pepper), fresh non-GMO corn cut right off the cob, diced tomatoes, sliced mini-peppers, chopped red onion, and jalapeno – no extra cooking required! I love the crunch of the crisp veggies against the smooth, cool guac.

Salsa, cilantro, lime, and even black beans would also make great toppings. Cut up into smaller pieces, this would make a great little appetizer – or line everything up assembly line style for a fun dinner party. Enjoy!


My Mostly Vegan Pregnancy

June 30, 2013 § 1 Comment

That little blue plus sign – what a magical thing! Our whole world changed in an instant as we waited for it to appear and confirm our hunch that we were expecting. We didn’t have to wait long – I was “very” pregnant as the Doctor later told me – so when I did take the test, that little blue plus sign showed up immediately. Literally, there was no waiting. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Finding out we were pregnant was the most wonderful moment in my life up until that point.

I reveled in that joy all of ten minutes before going into panic mode. I tend to be a worry wart – something I hope to not pass along to my daughter! The questions came pouring in. Would I make a good mother? How was I going to juggle work and baby? What kind of pregnancy would I have? And so on…

Then there was the question of growing this baby – ensuring she got all the nutrients needed to develop into a perfect little being. I’d been following a mostly vegan diet for about a year at that point. I felt healthier than ever – despite many scoffs and concerns. But could I stay vegan and be pregnant? Was it possible to grow a perfectly healthy baby and cling to this new lifestyle I now valued so much? I was prepared to do my research and give it my best effort. I’m happy to report that despite the many eye rolls, concerns, and some just flat out rude remarks, I came to find the answer was not only yes it was possible to be vegan and pregnant, but I believe it to be a wonderful way to experience pregnancy with full vitality.


Newly pregnant

That being said, I should preface that while I strive to be vegan, I am not 100% vegan. I occasionally eat fish (maybe once a month) and sometimes dairy/egg products (in baked goods when eating out). Additionally I took a fish based DHA supplement at the end of my pregnancy – more on that later. So, I realize I can’t claim to have had a 100% vegan pregnancy – but this is my experience and I wanted to share in hopes that it helps someone like me out there looking for information. I was desperate for information those first few weeks. Silly me, I thought you find out your pregnant and you go to see the OBGYN. But turns out they won’t see you until about 8 weeks – so I had a few weeks to kill. I spent those weeks engrossed in online research. I’d never loved google so much. I read all kinds of blogs and forums on being vegan and pregnant – and was surprised at the lack of information out there. So this is my way of giving back – sharing my experience in hopes that it helps someone.

I did not have an OBGYN when we got pregnant. So first thing was to find a provider – I wasn’t sure if I wanted an OB or a midwife so I did my homework and looked around. I got a few recommendations and set out to meet them. I was concerned about what the provider was going to think of my vegan lifestyle and if I’d find someone to support me. In the end, I chose a midwife who was extremely supportive of my vegan pregnancy and encouraged me every step of the way.

I’d already been tracking my progress in this new lifestyle before getting pregnant. I had my blood drawn several times to check that I was not lacking in any area – which I wasn’t. So, I knew I was starting off on the right foot. By the time I went to see my midwife, the morning sickness had really sunk in. I had read somewhere that vegans do not get morning sickness – but I was not so fortunate – that morning sickness is actually the body ridding itself of what it doesn’t need. For me, this was totally untrue! I had absolutely no non-vegan products my first trimester and I was so nauseous all the time! There was nothing “morning” about it.

I existed solely on bagels and bread for about six weeks. I would literally go pick up a dozen bagels every few days and eat them for every single meal. I couldn’t stomach anything, couldn’t stand the slightest smell in the kitchen resulting in us eating out at every single meal, and couldn’t swallow a pre-natal vitamin without gagging. To make matters worse I was losing weight. I was really worried I was off to a bad start but my midwife assured me to just eat whatever I could keep down and not to worry too much about it. The first trimester was all about survival – just get through it! I had no choice but to trust her.


19 weeks pregnant and found out it’s a girl!

Everyone kept saying the morning sickness would pass at 12 weeks. For me, it didn’t pass until around week 18. Slowly but surely, I was able to introduce a few more foods. One week I couldn’t get enough salad – but all I wanted was lettuce and cucumber with dressing. Then there were two weeks where all I wanted was a bagel sandwich with hummus and veggies. Again my midwife assured me, whatever sounded good to just eat it. I wondered if I would crave non-vegan food as I heard this was common. I did have one week where I thought I would lose it if I didn’t get a cheese pizza. All I could think about was an ooey gooey cheesey pizza. Day and night I was obsessed with cheese pizza. Everyone told me to go for it, that I deserved it. But, I decided not to cave. The week passed and I never craved a cheese pizza again.

By about week 20, I started to feel really good. I had found my appetite and was able to eat all kinds of fruits, vegetables, beans and grains. I did my best to eat a varied diet. I still wasn’t able to swallow my prenatal vitamins very often so all nutrition was coming from food. I was beyond that awful first trimester exhaustion, finally getting into prenatal yoga, and overall feeling very good. I started getting regular massages and chiropractic adjustments which I know contributed to my overall feeling of well being and greatly reduced any back and hip pain I was experiencing. I had finally found my pregnancy “glow” which had been absent with all that morning sickness and I was just so happy!

healthy vegan pregnancy

28 Weeks

Before I knew it, we were in the third trimester. I was finally able to swallow vitamins so I did supplement in the last trimester with raw vegan prenatal vitamins and a fish based DHA. There’s a lot of mixed information about DHA and while there is a plant based version, that is one area that I just didn’t feel 100% confident so I chose the animal version.

I was finally getting big but everyone kept commenting on my figure and how great I looked. More importantly, I felt great! I was almost entirely off of caffeine, not too tired, still doing yoga, never had any swelling and overall just felt amazing. I was working towards a natural birth with a hypnobirthing instructor and feeling very confident. I was eating these frosties every day and anything else that would get my body ready for the biggest job of its life!

healthy vegetarian pregnancy

34 Weeks

This incredible feeling lasted up until the very last day. I’d heard from so many moms that being pregnant was so hard – that at the end you’re just ready to get that baby out! But for me that just wasn’t the case. Even though I couldn’t wait to meet my little girl – I really didn’t mind being pregnant at all. She did come 11 days early, but I was in no rush to get her out!

All in all, I gained a healthy 25 pounds. I’m confident my mostly vegan diet kept me in optimum shape so that I could enjoy my pregnancy. Many people would comment on how small I was and it worried me a little bit – but my midwife assured me how great both my little girl and I were doing. With each checkup, my faith in a plant based diet was renewed. I never had a single issue throughout my pregnancy. My stats were always perfect. With every checkup my midwife would comment on how well I was doing and how healthy I was.

I was so confident that just as I had a beautiful, easy pregnancy, I would have a beautiful, easy labor. I felt amazing up until the last day and was blessed with a quick, natural birth. While I did have a few surprises in the labor that didn’t go as planned (which I may or may not share at a later date), I was able to deliver her naturally and without medication just as I had intended.

vegan pregnancy

My last belly photo – 8 days before she arrived!

Most importantly – my beautiful baby girl was born perfectly healthy. She was a tiny little thing at 5 lbs. 12 oz. I was quite surprised as I am not petite by any means. She was skinny and long at 19 inches. They told me in the hospital that I may need to supplement since she was so small – but I was pleased that didn’t happen. She latched immediately and ate like a champ. Fortunately, supply has been no issue. She just kept eating and gaining weight to everyone’s delight. Three months later she has more than doubled in size, exceeding the recommended weight gain.

In the hospital the nurses kept commenting on how alert and strong she was. People seemed to be genuinely impressed. And at every doctors appointment since, people are always commenting on how strong and alert she is.

In the end, I’m happy to say I had a wonderful pregnancy. Being in optimum health throughout my pregnancy not only allowed me to grow and deliver a perfectly healthy baby – but we got to enjoy every minute of it too. I was adamant about a drug-free delivery and was blessed to be able to pull through despite some difficulties. And, nock on wood, breast-feeding and supply has not been an issue. While I can’t say with 100% confidence this is all due to eating a mostly vegan diet, I’m confident it did positively impact both me and my baby. And should I get pregnant again, I’ll remain vegan and be confident that it will produce another healthy baby just as this pregnancy did.

Back to Work – White Beans Two Ways

June 9, 2013 § 6 Comments

It’s Sunday. The last day of my maternity leave – well, technically Friday was but you get my drift. Tomorrow a new adventure begins. It’s hard to believe 3 months have already passed.

I had high hopes for my leave – hah, naive hopes at that! Sure, I wanted to bond with my daughter and relish in all things baby – that goes without saying. But I also thought I’d have time to read, organize my house (finally clean out those drawers that have been eyeing me for years), cook and blog about all kinds of new delicious vegan treats, join some mommy groups, and last but not least – exercise. Well, none of the latter happened! I did get to relish in all things baby – but as for the other stuff, forget about it! To be fair, I did clean out one drawer (woo hoo!) and I was able to blog once – but as for any other dreams I had about maternity leave, they were delusions. Had I told any moms about my plans, they would have silently rolled their eyes – and rightfully so!

But in the end, none of that matters – even though my drawers remain cluttered and books are left unread, most importantly, I had the fortunate opportunity to be home with our daughter for 3 months. Three months that I will forever treasure. Days on end of lounging around and watching her expressions change from one moment to another. Watching her discover her little self bit by bit – learning to suck her thumb, to smile, to hold on tight to my finger (my favorite). These are days I wouldn’t trade for anything – and it is beyond sad to leave as she is just starting to coo and smile.

And so as I soak in every last moment of this week – I’m filled with mixed emotions. Excited to return to work, to my colleagues, and to my projects – but devastated to leave my daughter. Excited to continue to develop myself and my career so that she will have a strong woman to look up to when she’s older – but scared at what I may be missing out on. I now know the pain that every new working mother feels.

Ironically when I started this blog, one of the things I wanted to share was how to make great, quick meals. As a working woman, this was important. As a working mom – this will be critical! Having a baby is no joke. It’s a 24-7 job. Something I could never have understood before her arrival. And as I wonder how I’ll do this job, and the job I’m paid to do – I rest upon the reassurance that this is doable – that millions of women around the world do this – all in their own way. I’m extremely fortunate to work with many of these women and I’m sure I’ll be relying on them heavily in the coming months as I set out on this adventure.  Not to mention I have THE best husband, so I’m hardly in this alone.

As I prepare myself to return to work, I’m focusing on ways to find balance in the new chaos – particularly when it comes to food. Having a newborn means lots of takeout – and we are SO over takeout! No more we beg! Homecooking is what we need. But that takes time – sometimes lots of time. So I’m looking for quick fix options that pack all the nutrition and flavor needed.

I shamefully have had these Rancho Gordo beans in my pantry for over a year. Anyone who has ordered from them will understand why this is shocking. We spent Memorial Day weekend with one of my best friends in North Carolina. Not only did we get to soak up the most amazing views at her family’s lake house – but we indulged in the most delicious home cooked meals. Watching her work her magic in the kitchen – including a pot of Rancho Gordo black beans – reignited my passion for good quality home cooking and the desire to be just a bit more of a planner. Whenever I want beans, it’s at the moment and I reach for a can. Soaking and slow cooking can seem oh-so-daunting. But it really needn’t be so – and the end product far outshines any old can of beans.

For these two dishes I used Rancho Gordo’s Runner Cannellinni bean. I cooked them in the traditional Rancho Gordo method – soaking all night in a bowl of water, then adding the drained beans to the crock pot with sauteed onion, garlic, and new water. They cooked on high for 5 hours. The resulting bean is huge and buttery – a perfect blank canvas for any pairing. We enjoyed them with spinach the first night and as a tasty salad for leftovers.

vegan spinach and beans, Rancho Gordo, cannellinni

Cannellinni Beans with Sauteed Spinach

This dish is delicious with spinach but would work well with any cooked green – kale, collards, etc. I used one box of fresh organic spinach as that’s what I had on hand but this dish would have been great with several as the spinach cooks down so much. Prepare beans according to package instructions. If using crock pot method – cook beans throughout the day so they’re ready when you get home to make dinner. Pulling this together once beans are cooked takes just minutes! Simply heat oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add spinach to hot oil and garlic if desired. Season with salt and pepper. Saute spinach until bright green and wilted, about 5 minutes. Add desired amount of beans and a little liquid the beans cooked in. Season dish with salt and pepper and serve with crusty bread broiled with vegan butter.

vegan bean salad, white bean salad, asparagus

Cannellinni Bean Salad with Asparagus

This dish is a cinch to pull together if the beans and asparagus are cooked. I had both on hand as leftovers. While we ate this right after preparing, it would be even better if it sat and marinated for an hour, or overnight.

Prepare beans according to package instructions. Roast asparagus at 400 with coconut or olive oil, salt, and pepper for 30 minutes or until tender and slightly golden on tips. Cut asparagus in one inch strips and set aside. Prepare the dressing in the serving bowl by mixing together the juice of one lemon, equal part olive oil, a few splashes of red wine vinegar, a bunch of chopped parsley, one minced garlic clove, salt, pepper, and a few dashes of red pepper flakes. Add chopped red pepper, onion, the cannellinni beans, and asparagus. Mix and enjoy!

Raise Your Sights & New Ways to Love Avocado

July 25, 2012 § Leave a comment

vegan avocado pasta

We’re on the 15th act of the 101 days of blogging challenge. Today’s revolutionary act is “Raise Your Sights: Don’t get sucked in by obsessions with six-pack abs and buns of steel. Don’t play “compare the bodies.” Fulfill your best-self vision.”

I can’t remember where I heard this but I heard someone say that we spend so much time comparing ourselves to others, and wanting their bodies, that we are never content. But the thing is, I may never be able to get killer abs or little waist like someone I see on the cover of a magazine because I have a completely different body than them. The goal should always be to be our best self. I don’t care about six-pack abs or buns of steel. What I care about is being health enough to do what I want to do and make the most of this life. Sure I want to look nice in a little black dress or show off in a bikini but I don’t need to get carried away about my waist size or biceps.

Part of being my best self today included going for a walk tonight with my dog Chloe, and making this amazing avocado pasta from Oh She Glows. I’ve been eyeing this recipe for about a year now, but truth is I really don’t love avocados. I love guacamole loaded with onions and jalapeno scooped perfectly on tortilla chips but a straight up avocado is not my friend. So, I really wasn’t sure this was the recipe for me. But with guac already being eaten with my black bean and quinoa wrap and then again as a little treat this weekend, I decided I might as well put the last avocado in the fridge to use for something other than a tortilla chip. And boy am I glad I did!

This pasta is truly exquisite. There isn’t even the faintest avocado flavor. All you get is this amazingly creamy, garlicky, slightly lemony sauce. The sauce itself was a tad hard to mix into the pasta so next time I’m going to blend a little pasta water into it before tossing to make it a bit easier to spread around. I think I’ve finally found another recipe to put my avocados to use other than guacamole. Paired with whole wheat pasta, this is a healthy, quick, delicious dinner ready in no time.


Go At Your Own Pace: Accepting Yourself and Your Choices

July 21, 2012 § 3 Comments


sprouted grain tortilla, black bean and guacamole wrap

Today’s revolutionary act part of the 101 days of blogging challenge is “Go At Your Own Pace: A healthy life is more a marathon than a sprint. So start where you are. Choose sensible, sustainable shifts over instant cures and quick fixes.”

To me, this not only means avoid fad diets in term of sustainable long term changes, but also accept yourself in the process. I’m a perfectionist and that “simple” personality trait impacts every single aspect of my life. On top of it I was raised Catholic which means no matter how I shake it, I feel guilty a lot of the time. When it comes to trying to get on the right track and set goals for myself, I get extremely frustrated if I fall short and that frustration is often masked in guilt.

Case in point: I had a really great day. After watching Food Matters last night (highly recommend!) I was excited to keep my plant based diet motivation going. I started my day with lots of water (something I don’t do enough of) and even tried hot water with lemon and cayenne for the first time. This supposedly detoxifies, gets your blood moving, and revs the metabolism. For breakfast I enjoyed my morning smoothie. At lunch I used the leftover black beans and quinoa from dinner last night and put it in a sprouted grain tortilla with guacamole and a salad. When an afternoon craving struck, I enjoyed fresh veggies and spicy hummus.

After all this great eating, where did I go wrong? Dinner. We had been out and ended up at a sushi restaurant. I know I could have ordered the tofu but in that moment I just didn’t want it so I ordered the shrimp. Once the plate came, guilt washed over me. Why didn’t I just ask for some vegetables since I didn’t want tofu? I’ve written recently about slipping on my vegan diet and the guilt that I feel afterwards.

But today I’m reminded that this is part of my journey. I need to accept it and remind myself to go at my own pace. As much as I want to be 100% vegan, every meal, every day, that has been a difficult task for me. I find that I usually end up eating fish about once a month – either due to circumstances like tonight or situations where I really truly don’t have anything else to eat. So today, I’m trying to see the good in my choices the rest of the day, and the rest of this week, and accept tonight as a slip and move on.

Don’t be too hard on yourself either. Remember tomorrow is a new day.


Be Part of the Solution: Embrace Your Potential

July 20, 2012 § 1 Comment

Remember when your parents were testing your judgement as a teen and would say, if everyone was jumping off the Empire State Building, would you? The answer was always “no” with a dramatic roll of the eyes.

But what if we remove this from the extreme examples of doing drugs, hanging with the wrong crowd, and generally getting into mischief that this question was intended for. What if we re-phrase and ask, “If no one else is willing to make a difference in this world, are you?”

Granted that is extreme, but it is valid. I was recently in a situation where someone very close to me said one person can’t make a difference. This is something that made me incredibly sad. One person can make a difference. An extremely good difference, or unfortunately in light of today’s events, one person can also make a terrible difference.

I’ve heard some people say there’s no point in not eating meat since everyone else does. Whether it be for animals, the environment, or our ever-increasing medical bills and conditions, I want to believe that one person’s food choices can make a difference.

Today’s revolutionary act part of the 101 days of blogging challenge is “Be part of the solution: It’s going to take a lot of strong, clear-headed, high-vitality people to solve the world’s problems. Be one of them.”

I feel I’ve made a difference. As I said yesterday, my husband and my mom eat a mostly plant based diet now. I haven’t given up hope on my sister 🙂 Many friends have started to reach out asking how they can incorporate this into their lives. That’s a huge difference.

Just because everyone else is eating highly processed foods, hormone plumped meats, and other junk doesn’t mean you have to. You can stand out. You can be different. You can lead. Embrace what some find weird. Find others similar to you that inspire and motivate you and never underestimate your potential to impact others.

As for my dinner plate shown above, my husband made black beans in the slow cooker last night which I mixed with some quinoa and served with a side of heirloom tomatoes. We’re making a difference one plate at a time.

See the Bigger Picture: Inspire Others

July 19, 2012 § 1 Comment

vegan, vegetables, baked tofu

I never thought about the incredible impact my undertaking a 30 day vegan challenge a year ago would have. I certainly did it in large part because of my friend, but I also think I was a tad bored. Who would have ever thought that not only would I make it those 30 days, but actually decide to stick with it?

My husband joined me along the way and lost weight. My mom gave up dairy, then meat. She’s lost weight. Her arthritis is gone. And the acid reflux she once suffered from, which can be a precursor of esophageal cancer (what her dad died from) is gone! It’s been fun to watch my mom and husband join in and tout the benefits of going meat and dairy free to others. And, I’ve had countless people reach out to me asking how they can try veganism, asking for help and support. It’s a great feeling.

I’m on the tenth act of my 101 days of blogging challenge. Today’s act is “See the bigger picture: Yes, this is about you, but your well-being also affects everyone and everything around you. When you get healthier, everybody benefits.”

We never know what impact our actions will have on others. What started as a little challenge for me has turned into a lifestyle. A lifestyle that not only protects the planet and the animals, but my health and therefore those around me.

Oh and my hubby that I said gave up dairy and meat, he made me a vegan meal tonight. Baked tofu with brown rice and veggies. Who knew these positive changes in my life would result in my husband cooking for me? It was a nice little treat.

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