Recipe – Chili Mac

Today has been a rainy, gloomy day. The kind of day that makes me crave some warm comfort food (though it’s obviously not cold out, since it’s the middle of June…)

I had been wanting to try this Chili Mac recipe from Fat Free Vegan for a while now, so I decided to give it a shot. I didn’t have everything the recipe called for, though, so I had to improvise somewhat. I’ve noted my substitutions below.



2 cups elbow macaroni
1 onion, chopped – no onion, so I used onion powder
1 15-ounce can tomato sauce – I only had tomato paste
1 1/2 cups water
4 teaspoons mild chili powder*
1/4 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
10 ounces frozen corn kernels – I used canned corn
1 16-ounce can pinto or kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 to 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
5 cups thinly-sliced kale (thick stems removed before slicing) or other greens** – I used frozen spinach
salt and pepper, to taste


Cook the pasta in plenty of boiling water until tender. Drain. Sauté onion in a large non-stick pot until translucent. Add remaining ingredients, as well as cooked pasta. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve hot.


*This is chili powder, not pepper, a mixture of mild chili peppers and cumin that adds no heat to the dish. If you want it spicy, add cayenne or additional chipotle chili powder.

**If you use a faster-cooking green such as spinach, add it during the last 3 minutes of cooking.

Preparation time: 10 minute(s) | Cooking time: 30 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 6

Makes 6 servings. Per serving: 259 Calories (kcal); 2g Total Fat; (6% calories from fat); 13g Protein; 52g Carbohydrate; 0mg Cholesterol; 854mg Sodium; 9g Fiber. 139mg Calcium; 2mcg B-12. Weight Watchers 5 Flex Points.

I cooked the pasta according to the package directions, and added the frozen spinach during the last 2-3 minutes. After I drained the pasta and spinach, I mixed in all the canned ingredients and spices.

A few notes –

1. Tomato paste is way too thick and concentrated. I had to add a lot of water to thin it out, and even after adding all of the spices, it had a very tomatoey flavor.

2. *Scott* thought it was definitely missing something (probably cheese…lol). We both agreed that this would be a great dish to make using leftover chili from our usual preferred chili recipe.

30 Day Vegan Challenge – Week Two

End of week two, and I have confession to make. I’m not going to lie to myself or my readers…

I ate something that was not vegan.

I have learned that traveling and going out to eat are incredibly challenging. Plenty of places offer vegetarian options, but vegan meals are difficult to come by. And sometimes you get into a situation where you are stuck. Rather than eating a plate of lettuce, I made a judgement call, and chose vegetarian items instead.

I guess if you want to get technical, I failed the challenge. But I still have every intention of completing the whole 30 days to the best of my ability.

Baby steps… 🙂

30 Day Vegan Challenge – Week One

I’ve completed my first week of the vegan challenge! Yay!

Week one mostly consisted of upping my veggie intake, and drinking more water. I didn’t try any new recipes this week, just adapted some vegetarian recipes that I already use to make them vegan, as needed.

I did try some new products, though…

(Disclaimer: I was not compensated by any of the following companies for reviews on their products. These are my honest opinions.)

– Whole Soy & Co. Soy Yogurt- For the most part: Amazing! Blueberry is my favorite. Not crazy about the Strawberry, though. It had a distinct soy milk taste to it. When I mentioned it on Twitter (follow them @WholeSoy!), they responded immediately. Wonderful customer service!

– So Delicious French Vanilla Coconut Milk Coffee Creamer – Are we sure this isn’t dairy?! It tastes exactly the same in my coffee as the non-vegan creamer I used before! And y’all know how much coffee I drink!

Overall, I feel great! Husband says I look like I’ve lost a few in the waistline, and the scale agrees (down 2.5 lbs!)

I have some new recipes from Fat Free Vegan to try for Week 2. I’ll keep you posted! 🙂

Five foods that are surprisingly Vegan…and five that are not

Eating vegan can be a challenge. A lot of foods have hidden ingredients that are not exactly vegan-friendly. If you completely avoid processed foods, this won’t be an issue for you, but sometimes I do buy things from those center aisles at the grocery store…

Just a few of the foods that are surprisingly VEGAN!  (from Accidentally Vegan)

  • Thomas New York Style Bagels (some varieties) – I assumed that most baked goods would be off limits (made with egg & milk products), but I guess not!  Now to find a substitute for cream cheese…
  • Mission Foods Flour Tortillas – Same as the bagels.  (Homemade tortillas are obviously better, but these will work in a pinch.)
  • Ghirardelli Hot Chocolate (some varieties) – Be sure to check the label on these, but it’s nice to have the option for some yummy hot cocoa in the winter!
  • Oreos – I personally have not eaten Oreos in a very long time, but I would have thought that cream-filling had some sort of milk product in it.  (So, what IS it made of then?!)
  • Jello-O Instant Pudding (Vanilla and possibly other flavors) – This only applies to the boxed powdered “pudding desserts”, not the “pudding snacks” in the refrigerated section (they are made with skim milk).  Keep in mind that regular Jell-O is not vegan (made with gelatin).

And five foods that are NOT necessarily vegan! (from 12 Seemingly Vegan & Vegetarian Foods That Really Aren’t)

  • Beer and Wine – Some brands (many made in Britain) include an ingredient called Isinglass, which is a membrane from the bladders of tropical fish that is used to filter cloudy yeast extracts out of the brew.  Something to be aware of before your next game of beer pong!  (Luckily, the folks at Barnivore have done all the label checking for you!)
  • Sugar – Look at that bag of sugar in your pantry.  “Sugar” is all the ingredients list says.  Well, that’s good.  One ingredient, no preservatives, just sugar!  But sugar isn’t naturally white, so how does it get that way?  By being processed with bone char (made from the bones of cattle).  This includes brown sugar and confectioner’s sugar, as well.  Look for unrefined sugar (such as Sucanat and turbinado sugar) as an alternative.
  • Soy Cheese – This one really surprised me!  Many brands of soy cheese contain the milk protein, casein, which gives it a similar taste and texture as dairy cheese.  Be sure to check the label!
  • Packaged Peanuts – Peanuts are a great source of protein, but beware. Some brands of packaged peanuts (such as Planter’s Dry Roasted Peanuts) contain Gelatin.
  • Orange juice – Some brands enhance their products with Omega-3’s and Vitamin D, which sounds great, right?  Unfortunately, those vitamins and amino acids could come from fish oil, gelatin, or lanolin.  I think you should be able to tell from the label what the source of the Omega-3’s, etc. are.  (At least when I checked the Tropicana website, the ingredient list for their Pure Premium Healthy Heart OJ does say “Contains tilapia, sardine, and anchovy”.  Mmm…tilapia OJ…)

Let’s get it started! – 30 day VEGAN challenge

One of my goals for 2012 was to do a 30 day vegan challenge, inspired by The 30-Day Vegan Challenge by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau.

I mentioned this goal to a co-worker, and she was totally on-board to try it with me! So, for the month of June, we will be Vegan. No meat, no eggs, no dairy (oh, cheese, I miss you already!). I realize that being a true Vegan is not just a dietary thing, but a lifestyle change, and maybe it will lead to that. But for now, baby steps…

So, why am I doing this? Animal rights? Health reasons? A little bit of both, actually. I’ve noticed that as I’ve gotten older, I’ve gradually transitioned to a mostly vegetarian diet. I’ve also been curious to see how cutting dairy products out of my diet will affect my overall health.

More than anything, it’s just a personal challenge. I like to have “projects”, as my husband calls them. It started with planning our wedding, then decorating our house, then getting ready for a baby…and since our plans to move to a new home have stalled out, I need a goal to work toward!

Wish me luck!

Create the perfect green smoothie!

I found this on Pinterest!


Milk doesn’t have to come from a cow…

For anyone looking for an alternative to dairy milk, Women’s Health magazine did a comparison on some other options.  It’s not all inclusive, but it’s a good reference of the most popular milk alternatives in your local grocery store.

I haven’t tried all of these, but the ones I have tried are pretty good!  If you choose to continue drinking cow’s milk, its best to buy organic.  If your budget doesn’t allow for that (and I understand, organics can be pricey!), at least make sure the label says that they don’t use cows with artificial growth hormones.

(Info from: Milk, Minus the Cow – Women’s Health)

Almond Milk

Almond Breeze Original Per cup: 60 cal, 2.5 g fat (0 g sat), 8 g carbs (7 g sugars), 150 mg sodium, 1 g fiber, 1 g protein

  • Taste: Creamy, rich, and slightly nutty with a hint of sweetness
  • Pros: The least caloric of the bunch, it’s fortified with vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that fights UV damage, as well as calcium and vitamins A and D.
  • Cons: While almonds themselves are a good source of fiber and protein, the milk contains skimpy amounts of these nutrients (that’s because the milk is made by grinding the nuts and mixing with water). Almond milk is also higher in sodium than other alternatives.
  • Best in: Smoothies, coffee, and cereal


Hemp Milk

Tempt Original Per cup: 100 cal, 6 g fat (0.5 g sat), 9 g carbs (6 g sugars), 110 mg sodium, 0 g fiber, 2 g protein

  • Taste: Nutty and earthy
  • Pros: It’s naturally rich in omega-3 fatty acids—wonder nutrients for your heart, brain, and mood. Hemp milk is made with cannabis seeds, but it won’t get you high, because it lacks significant THC (the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana).
  • Cons: Depending on the brand, you may gulp only 10 percent of your daily calcium needs. It’s not a great source of protein either.
  • Best in: Mashed potatoes, muffins, and quick breads. Unobtrusive in flavor, it’s a good stand-in for cow’s milk in baked foods.

Coconut Milk

So Delicious Coconut Milk Beverage Original Per cup: 80 cal, 5 g fat (5 g sat), 7 g carbs (6 g sugars), 15 mg sodium, 0 g fiber, 1 g protein

  • Taste: Thick, creamy, and, well, coconut-y
  • Pros: It has the least amount of sodium and can be fairly low-cal—even some flavored kinds will cost you only 90 calories per serving. Plus, most brands are fortified with half a day’s worth of vitamin B12, a brain-boosting nutrient.
  • Cons: “The majority of fat is saturated,” says Lauren Slayton, R.D., founder of Foodtrainers in New York City. But at five grams per serving, it constitutes less than 8 percent of your total daily value for fat.
  • Best in: Coffee, tea, pudding, smoothies, and oatmeal—it’s a go-to thickener.


Rice Milk

Rice Dream Enriched Original Per cup: 120 cal, 2.5 g fat (0 g sat), 23 g carbs (10 g sugars), 100 mg sodium, 0 g fiber, 1 g protein

  • Taste: Light, watery, and sweet
  • Pros: The carbs. “Have a glass before or after a workout—it offers carbs to fuel and fluid to hydrate, and like a sports drink, it’s a good source of electrolytes,” says Nancy Clark, R.D., author of Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook.
  • Cons: The carbs. If you’re trying to drop a few pounds, it’s best to eat whole-grain carbs, which contain filling fiber; rice milk has zero.
  • Best in: Desserts, baked goods, pancakes, and French toast. Its natural sweetness complements indulgent foods.

Soy Milk

Silk Original Per cup: 100 cal, 4 g fat (0.5 g sat), 8 g carbs (6 g sugars), 120 mg sodium, 1 g fiber, 6 g protein

  • Taste: Faintly sweet. Some varieties have a slight tofu flavor.
  • Pros: It has almost as much protein as cow’s milk, plus plant chemicals that may help inhibit absorption of cholesterol. It’s often fortified, so shake the carton well—added calcium tends to settle at the bottom, says Zied.
  • Cons: Some studies suggest that overconsuming soy promotes breast cancer. “A good guideline is about 25 grams of soy protein per day,” says Zied.
  • Best in: Creamy soups and salad dressings, sauces, casseroles, and other savory dishes. Vanilla-flavored varieties are great in coffee or tea (or by the glass!).

Recipe: Banana Soft Serve

I just tried this ridiculously easy, and really yummy, recipe from Choosing Raw.

Banana Soft Serve

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