Saturday, November 23, 2013

How do you handle eating away from home? Survey Says....

With the holidays coming up, I wanted to get some answers from top plant based people, about how they approach social situations in different scenarios.    Here they are - I hope they help you on your journey!

This is the question I asked:

**For those who will not go off plan or compromise their diets when eating away from home** 

With all the holidays coming up, thought I'd take a little survey of "what would you do" in some different kind of social situations. How you would handle your meals - including if you would or would not tell the host/ess that you are on a different diet:

A) At an event, like a wedding/banquet seated type of event where the meal is served to you on a plate, and is pre-selected.

B) If you are invited to someone's home who doesn't really have a clue about how you eat, and they announce they will be ordering in a pizza or something similar that everyone can have

C) A holiday event/gathering where there will be a lot of holiday themed appetizers/desserts to choose from

D) When a well-meaning person/host makes something for you that obviously you cannot have (like the example of a soup made with animal broth) - do you make an exception for this, and if you won't what is your response?

And here are some of the responses:

  A) I would probably eat before leaving for the event and then push around whatever is on my plate, maybe get lucky and have a potato or veggies on the plate, possibly a side salad.  B) I wouldn't eat. I am not going to compromise what I believe in and how I eat to fall off the wagon and eat some poor food choice, especially pizza with all the dairy and oil. C) I would ask if there is anything I could bring and then create something I know I could eat.

 It's not about the food for me. It's about the party, visiting and celebrating with others. I keep this as my focus when I'm eating dinner at home or a potato in the car on my way to a party or event. I never want to miss a party or celebration because of my dietary consciousness. I love to talk, catch up, hug my friends and visit way more than eat. I'm grateful for my healthy life. I was eating all those party foods and my health was deteriorating and it was making it hard for me to go to parties. My clothes didn't fit, I felt to tired, heart burn, bloat, and depression. When I reflect back on my past life it makes those treats at a party seem very unattractive.

A) I frequently have this scenario at business luncheons. I always carry my own salad dressing so if there's a salad or a plain baked potato I can eat both. If they serve the potato with stuff already on it I'll ask the server if I can get one plain, same with the salad if it comes already dressed. Usually they're very accommodating. B) I would probably just let her know that I have doctor imposed dietary restrictions and "rather than impose on you I'll bring something I can eat." And I would take enough to share. C) Either bring something or eat before I go and assume that there will be some veggies or a fruit tray that I can eat at least some of the offerings. If it's a buffet, appetizer type situation rather than a sit down affair nobody will even notice that you're not eating. D) Once upon a time I used these occasions as an excuse to compromise, not to eat animal foods, but oily, salty, etc. Not any more. The older I get the more priority my health takes and I'm not willing to compromise. Anyone that wants to try to make me feel bad because I don't conform is not going to be a friend for long. Sounds harsh but it's just how I feel. I've come too far to go back now.

 I would not mention my preferences unless asked, and then I would minimize the importance of it since it's not my event. At A, push the food around on the plate. At B, say thanks, I'm not very hungry. At C, take my own ONLY if that is what is being done by others, otherwise, don't eat. I don't have to always be eating when other people are, something I learned the hard way...

When someone appears to be stressing over MY food, I quietly point out that this is what I do to meet my needs and reassure them that it is not a commentary on their choices.

...they need feel no responsibility for providing my food... "I'm okay, really I am!"

 For plated, I always request a vegan option. Sometimes it may just be a salad. Being an ethical vegan, I cannot accept a plate of meat. 

B. I would tell her my preferences and offer to bring something vegan to share. C. I would just make do and likely just skip the food.

 I had a friend make vegetable soup for a get together and made a point to tell me it had no meat in it so I could eat it. About half-way through the bowl I mentioned that the broth was very rich. Well, she used beef broth, "but it doesn't have any meat, just broth." What are you going to do? 

 I don't compromise, I'm talking about animal products. I have a friend who goes out of the way to make pizza or other things using vegan cheese. Even though it's not McDougall - I eat it. It doesn't happen often, but when someone goes to that trouble I'm going to have a piece.

I always assume there will be nothing I can eat anywhere, anyplace, anytime. I will not compromise and carry my own food everywhere and i mean everywhere. I couldn't care less what anyone thinks. The best compliment I've received recently was "Every time I see you, you're eating a bunch of veggies." Yep, that's right

 I told my sister-hostess to please not bother with making anything for us and we would bring our foods since DH is on a strict heart heatlhy diet and I have celiacs. It was a potluck and she put a couple of family members up to bringing food that she thought would work, but in the end, only the fruit plate worked for us. So..... we ate a lot of fruit and we ate Dr. McDougall's Heart Healthy Lentil Sloppy Joe sandwiches that I had in the cooler in the car afterwards. Seriously, because of my celiacs, that's the way it usually turns out.

 D) This is the most common situation I run into. I have some great friends, one is an outstanding cook! While she isn't plant based, she does eat quite a few dishes as so, but has been known to go heavy on the oil or add dairy (cream, etc) in her sauces. She is well meaning at all times, and some of those time I will fancy a dish of what she has created, but it's an exception, not the norm.

I had a family member make a salad that was obviously for me and she was so proud of it and described every ingredient in a loud voice and slowly to me, like I was in kindergarten, "this has KALE, Quinoa, Pinenuts, and Tomatoes, all Superfoods" and it was tossed with an oily vinaigrette! I ate it and thanked her profusely because she meant well!

 For a wedding/banquet I would personally talk to the caterers, tell them where I'm sitting and ask to either not bring me a plate; or, to bring me a plate of raw veggies (I wouldn't trust them to cook without oil). I carry balsamic in my purse. I've brought a little thermos with soup/casseroles, etc or cooked, cold taters, steamed veggies, anything really.

For a party with appetizers; seeing all the overweight, sick people stuffing their faces is enough to deter me from eating it; but, I carry fruit, veggies, if I think I'll need to munch.

I wouldn't eat anything someone else prepared unless I was planning to eat "off plan"

When people are curious about what I'm eating; I tell them. I don't preach or try to push my beliefs on them. However, I have lost over 160 lbs and my results speak for themselves. I no longer feel the need to defend myself and no one else here should either!!  If you don't protect your weight loss/health, no one else will either!

 I rarely leave the house without taking small, whole, cooked potatoes with me. They are so easy to carry, easy to eat and fill me up. Brown rice cakes are also easy to carry, have in the car. I have a Tupperware container that fits perfectly in my car cup holder and holds exactly one can of rinsed & drained garbanzo beans. Baby carrots, cut up apples, cut up cucumbers are all easy to carry.

Scenario D: I have rarely had people fix something thinking it would work for me. When they do, I don't ask what it has in it, I ask point blank but gently whether it has any animal product, salt, sugar, or oil in it and add that I am eating this way for medical reasons and that I do appreciate the effort.

I carry with me things like raw veggies and fresh fruit, steamed potatoes and baked sweet potatoes and have no problem taking them out when I need to. Today I took a container of chickpea gravy with me to a steakhouse and poured it on my sweet potato. My husband is used to it and my MIL did not even bat an eye; I was very impressed with her. I packed food in a suitcase and carried food into banquets at a conference last year because sure enough my pre ordered vegan, no fat meals were not quite the thing.

I bring my own food to all events. just the way it is and people get used to it.

 since there are six of us I can't get away with not saying anything, so we always let people know for any events that we will be eating beforehand or bringing our own food... for years we were very strict (and would still be if we saw any difference but in more recent years we are okay with some occasional white flours and/or sugar and salt) so I just always made it clear that unless it came directly from the produce section with nothing added we wouldn't be eating it... before I had a family when I went to places I used to just move stuff around on my plate and I also frequently brought a date that was happy to get extras so it was a win-win. Of course I married the one that said, oh no, I don't want to eat that stuff either, ha! What I hate is how many activities have a cost that includes food... many times too things my children are involved in they are asked to contribute money towards food

 I don't say anything about my WOE, the host/hostess have enough to deal with. I will pack my insulated food bag with my food. And yes I've done this for weddings, holidays problem so far

My family and friends already know I'll bring my own food and for other at home events I just bring it - no one seems to mind.

I won't make an exception, and in many cases I can't even if I wanted to, because of my dairy allergy. I attended a party yesterday, and the offerings were butter cake, brownies, and chips with beer cheese dip. I just had something to drink, and mostly avoided the location where the items were located. As for other, bigger events, I have been known to have just salad, and then eat something when I get home, or to tell people that I am not hungry (regardless of whether I really am), and then eat later. I just figure that I am not going to starve to death or anything, so waiting is not unreasonable.

This is my first holiday season as a McDougaller... I'm going to bring a hearty side dish and a WFPB dessert to share at each party and just eat that. I plan to knock their socks off with anything I bring, too!

 I carry potatoes every where I go and chickpeas and balsamic. However, I have no problem telling folks the way I eat and I welcome questions, disparaging remarks, etc. because it gives me the opportunity to teach and share information about healthy eating. Usually, by the time I leave, I have several e-mail addresses who want more information. And, those who want to argue go by the wayside. I do offer to send them info if they want to compare it to their scientific knowledge. Most of the time, I have had no problem taking care of myself like this. I always offer to bring a dish also. Worked good so far.

When asked for specifics or asked "why" about my food, I will simply say that it is for health reasons AND too complicated to go into at that moment but I will be happy to get with them about it another time. I want to be able to simply be part of what the host has planned.

That was quite a variety of answers - my hope is that you may identify with at least one of them and make it work for you!  


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Plant Based Cassoulet

Rancho Gordo is a specialty food shop that sells classically grown, gourmet heirloom beans.   I was blessed to receive their sampler pack, and was looking for something to make with their Classic Cassoulet Bean:  "A beautiful white runner bean developed by French farmers over generations to be the foundation of the classic cassoulet" with its original seed stock coming from Tarbes, France - as it says on the label.   Any soft white bean can be replaced in this recipe.

This was a hearty feel-good full meal.  Perfect for the cooler fall weather.

And if it weren't for some mushroom dislikers in my family, I would have added lots of fungi to this dish, which will definitely be added to the leftovers!    The heartiness of the 'shrooms would give it a bite and texture which it needs after all the meat, dairy and fat has been removed.  I loved the crumb topping with its garlicky parsley flavor.

I served it with roasted Japanese yams.

Plant Based Cassoulet

3 medium leeks
4 medium carrots, diced
3 celery ribs, diced
1-2 cups of your favorite mushrooms, sliced (optional)
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbs fresh parsley, chopped
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp ground cloves
4 cups cooked Cassoulet Beans or any cooked white bean (or 2 - 3 small cans)
2-3 cups vegetable broth (use more of less for extra moisture in cooking)

1)  Slice leeks lengthwise and chop - then place in a bowl filled with cold water, agitating the leeks until all the soil drops to the bottom of the bowl.

2)  Heat large wide pot over medium heat with an optional spray of olive oil.  Cover the bottom of the pot with a layer of vegetable broth.

3)  Scoop the leeks out of the water with your hands and place into the pot.    Add the remaining vegetables, herbs and spices except for the beans.   Cook for about 15 minutes or until all the vegetables have softened.

4)  While the vegetables are cooking, prepare the breadcrumb topping (below).

5)  After you have prepared the crumb topping, add the beans and remaining broth to the pot and cover the pot, and simmer for an additional 30 minutes.

6)  Discard the bay leaf and then either mash some of the beans with a potato masher or use a hand immersion blender blending about 1/4 of the vegetables and beans to give a creamy texture.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and cover with the breadcrumbs prior to serving.

Breadcrumb topping

4 cups breadcrumbs (I used a mixture of bread I had in the pantry with panko crumbs and chopped it in my high speed blender)
1/3 cup vegetable broth (I scooped this right out of the cooking pot)
1 Tbs garlic, crushed
1/4 cup parsley, chopped

Set oven to 400.  Stir breadcrumbs, broth and garlic together in a large bowl and spread out on a baking sheet.   Salt & pepper to taste and spray the top with olive oil (optional).   Bake for 10 minutes on top rack, and then stir the crumbs and return to the top rack to bake another 10 minutes, or until all the crumbs have browned evenly.

Remove from oven, stir in parsley and cool while the cassoulet is cooking.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

What have I been up to for the past couple of months?  Well, I've been on an organizing and planning adventure.   I joined up with some groups of hard-core organizers and planning addicts.    Needless to say, aside from probably spending too much time reading and researching and checking in with these groups, I feel like I can say that I have some direction that I was lacking before.   I have a plan.   And, I just opened up an Etsy shop for some unique printable items that I am hoping will reach a specific market that is untapped.  

My first offering is a plant-based fill in printable grocery list.   It has sections for fruits, roots, veggies, sprouts, grains, legumes and even a little area for the non-plant based eaters in your life, so they don't feel left out!  

I'm also working on something big for the holidays - I'm very excited about it!   I've run into some roadblocks because I'm not very tech savvy but thank goodness I have a very techie family to help me smooth out some of the wrinkles I've encountered!

Come check out my new Etsy page! 

xo  Sharon

Friday, August 09, 2013

Inexpensive Photo Gallery

I've been bit by the organizing bug!    I was going through some of old family photos and came across some that were really cute and gave me warm & fuzzy memories.   

When I was at the Dollar Tree - I found these nice, basic black 4 x 6 frames.    The perfect place for small frames is a small wall.     If you group the pictures together the right way, you could use a larger wall, so it depends on how they are arranged.  

I almost put them up in my office which has a couple of large bare walls, but those walls were way too large for them.   I either need a grouping of larger photos (8 x 10 or bigger) or a super large framed artwork for my big walls.    I found this little bare spot between two doors and thought it would be perfect for a vertical gallery with these small 4 x 6 frames.  

I used to think the Dollar Tree was a crappy little store, but I can spend hours in there.   Especially for organizing - love all the bins and caddies that they have - and many times they are packaged in 2-3 pieces so you are getting a great deal!  

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Being a Minimalist vs. being a Consumerist

There's a growing trend about being a minimalist.     Minimalist's goals are to live with as little as possible, and some are even living with just 100 items.     They say living with less is more freeing, and less focusing on getting more and more and relying on that for happiness.    Minimalists are on a constant quest to own practically "nothing".    Their happiness is based on the ability to live without - because even something fun or pleasurable is almost considered sinful.     Their spaces often look cold and feel uncomfortable,  and lack personality or style.  I love a great new kitchen gadget, or a variety of shirts to choose from.     When I see something that will make a part of life easier, or more fun, or make me feel a little better, there's nothing wrong with adding it to my life.   My happiness is from something deeper and I don't base it on possessions.  

On the other end of the spectrum we have consumerists.    Those who have to go out and buy the latest thing, or just keep adding to what they already have without a real purpose, or just because it's "pretty" "neat" "cool" or "pleasing to the eye".   There is no real purpose for buying other than it makes the person feel good just to look at it, so they must have it.    Some who have the unlimited resources will make sure it is brand spanking new  - while others who have more financial limitations will go on the hunt for the most inexpensive means possible to get that item, whether it is searching for the best price or buying it gently used.  Or some will just go to store after store, or garage sale after garage sale, or site after site and see something that will make them feel good and just keep buying.    They end up accumulating so much stuff that their life has become a cycle of getting the next best thing, while the old items find their way into the corners of their dwellings, unused and unappreciated.    Often it ends up as clutter, or a waste of money.    I have never been one to "keep up with the Jones'" - and find this to be very limiting and can cause a real lack of creativity in one's life. 

Part of Living Well is enjoying the things I have without trying to get rid of things that I will use for a maximum for every couple of years, and on the other hand, not hanging on to things that I have no use for and have little meaning.   So I often go through the house and purge things - donate or recycle those things that are now just taking up space in my home that someone else will could have a use for.

I have gotten a lot better about bringing things into my life.   In my younger years I used to get things just to "have" them because I like them, even if they didn't serve a real purpose in my life.   Now I like to have things that provide a use or purpose more than anything, and that keeps things in my home manageable and enjoyable without the home looking like a sterile environment with no personality, or a big cluttered mess.  

I love this example of a space with style.   There are just enough items that gives personality to a space.   A well-thought-out design, not cluttered yet not empty and boring.   A space where the resident feels happy and a guest would be very comfortable. 

Sunday, July 07, 2013

It has been about 4 years since I've blogged here.   I am picking it up again and changing the theme of this blog to reflect my current life of pursuing living well, one step at a time - to a better, fuller, more simplified life.   Encompassing a richer spiritual life, a  fulfilling family life, an organized home and a healthy eating plan are the focused building blocks to a harmonized state of being.

I look forward to sharing here what I've been up to - what's new and exciting and what's working!