Friday, March 18, 2011

It's the Friday Four

Happy Friday! The weather in Nashville today is so beautiful, I've had the balcony doors open all morning. Spring has finally arrived!!!

Since it's Friday, I have decided to share with you four things I found this week and loved. My addiction to the internet is no secret. Here are four things that I hope will brighten your day and kick off your weekend!

1. Dr. Oz's 10 Weight-Loss Commandments. I should print these and tape them to the fridge. Though the article is about weight-loss, these commandments should be lifestyle rules, not just commandments. Dr. Oz's site is one of my new favorites. It is full of interesting videos, encouragement and information!

2. Tres Leches Cake. I made this yesterday. It is fantastic! Don't let the length of the page fool you. The recipe can be found in short form at the bottom and it is well worth the effort! The cake is soft and spongy, much like angel food... So, imagine angel food cake soaked in cool, sweet milk... So, so good.

3. That Should Be Me feat. Rascal Flatts. Not only is the song good, but Justin cut his hair. And Rascal Flatts isn't so bad, either!

4. All things Japan and Nuclear. Like most of the world, I've kept a close eye on my favorite news websites this week, praying for Japan and monitoring the nuclear reactors.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Quick Guide to Being a Vegetarian

Below is a quick list of my favorite vegetarian recipe resources, a list of tips for the transition into vegetarianism and a few notes about supplements. A dear friend asked me for some information and I know that a few other friends have given up meat for Lent. I hope that this post helps you all! Please feel free to ask me questions!

Check out this magazine and website.
I highly recommend Vegetarian Times magazine. I paid $15 for a one-year subscription - and I love it! The recipes are easy and it is full of healthy tips. Unlike some vegetarian and/or vegan magazines, Vegetarian Times isn't full of articles about animal cruelty (Veg News has an agenda that gets in the way of my desire to cook). Vegetarian Times focuses on recipes. They have a website, but I find it somewhat difficult to navigate through the recipes online. It's a great place to start if you do not feel ready to commit to the magazine:

Read this website. Another wonderful resource is the Whole Foods Blog. It is full of health-related articles and they frequently do a one-food special. For example, last week they featured asparagus, which is in season right now. The post had 10 asparagus-related recipes and talked about the nutrition and benefits of the vegetable. It is not a vegetarian blog, but every post with recipes in it will have some (or several!) vegetarian options. Check The Whole Foods Blog often for new posts. I read this blog every day.

Buy this book. There is one book that I LOVE because it is so simple and full of easy recipes. It's Betty Crocker Easy Everyday Vegetarian (Amazon link). It has a few appetizers but focuses mostly on main dishes. I have found that main dishes are the most challenging part of my veggie meal time. We are all so used to the meat-and-three plate, finding something to replace the meat is daunting. This book supplies the "main dish" part of meals. It has been a wonderful addition to my kitchen.

A note about shopping for vegetarian cookbooks:
Many vegetarian cook books and websites tend to be full of weird ingredients. I don't like it when every recipe has something strange and expensive that I'll never use again (like nutritional yeast. I mean, what the heck is that? There's no way I'll use it all up). So, if you do start looking at cookbooks, be sure you examine a whole bunch of recipes inside the book before you buy it. If it's full of odd ingredients that you do not recognize, chances are they will not get used up and you've wasted money on a weird food. This is why the Betty Crocker book has been so valuable. It does not use weird ingredients.

Transitioning into a Vegetarian Diet:

I made this transition over a year ago, but I still remember the challenges. To be honest, my mouth still waters when I smell steak on the grill. Some things will never change. There are a few things I learned that make the switch easier. Here they are:

Do not replace meat with fake meat. When you first give up meat, it's tempting to buy a bunch of meat-replacement foods (like veggie-ground-beef and veggie-sliced-ham). However, they taste weird and do not have the same texture. When I used these, it made me miss meat and dislike the "healthy" stuff. It was much easier for me to just eat dishes that tasted good and had no substitutes. For example, instead of putting vegetarian ground beef in chili, make the chili without meat. Now that I'm a year into it, I find myself using these substitutes a little more often. The taste and texture of real meat are no longer fresh on my mind, though. For beginners, avoiding these is a good route.

Eat your grains. I also had a hard time feeling full when I first gave up meat. Eating a salad rarely fills me up. I get hungry fast and stay hungry. The best remedy for this is to eat the "vegetarian complete meal" frequently. The Vegetarian Complete Meal is a grain, a bean, and a green. For example, make some rice and add spinach to the rice a few minutes before it's finished cooking. Cook some beans and put them on top of the rice/spinach dish. Make a lot of vegetarian chili and pour it over whole grain noodles or rice or whole grain chips. Have crackers and cheese for lunch. Eat lots of eggs with toast for breakfast. Eat oatmeal. Try barley and quinoa and other new grains. Eat rice, rice, rice. It keeps you full and helps your body to adjust to the change.

Eat your grains, but not too much. A final thing that really challenged me when I first switched was the temptation to replace my meat with a bread. It's easy to eat more rolls or toast when you don't have the filled-up feeling from bacon and chicken. I've learned that grains have a very important place in my vegetarian diet. They supply protein, fiber and nutrients that I need. As a result, I've given up the Atkin's anti-bread lifestyle. However, that does not mean that I let myself have bread with every meal. Instead, I try to buy and eat only whole grains - oatmeal, whole grain bread, whole wheat tortillas, whole grain chips and crackers - and I always eat more veggies than bread in a sitting. Some grains - rice, barley, quinoa and oatmeal - are really so good for you and it's silly to avoid them. Taking the empty place on your plate where meat used to sit and putting a big roll there instead is a very bad idea. Don't do this.

Learn where and how to eat out. Foreign food is your best bet for vegetarian options. Isn't that odd? Italian places will always have meat-free pasta and salads, Indian restaurants have lots of vegetarian options, as do most Mexican restaurants. When it comes to fast food, the same rules apply. Taco Bell will usually replace meat with beans if you ask. Deli's - like Panera - usually have veggie sandwiches, soups and panini's. Avoid most American restaurants and steakhouses. These are the places that are least likely to have vegetarian options (that's really sad). If you do find yourself in a steakhouse, check the appetizers and side dishes! I usually order a loaded baked potato (minus the bacon, of course) and some appetizer. Feel free to ask your waiter what they would recommend. More than once, my waitress has ended up being a vegetarian and was able to recommend something delicious!

About Vitamins

Take a multivitamin every day and consider adding some supplements. Vegetarian diets can begin to run low on B-vitamins. Humans get most of their B-vitamins from meat; they do not occur in the plant world very often. B-vitamins are the HAPPY vitamins. They directly affect mood and cell health, so they are very important. My whole family supplements these - usually with a liquid supplement that we squirt into our juice in the morning. They are available in pill form, as well. Look for a "B-Vitamin Complex" (link to the VitamineShoppe, my favorite vitamin store). It will have all you need. B-vitamins have such a strong affect on mood and happiness, you really should supplement them.

When it comes to a multivitamin, I take a Skin, Hair, Nails supplement. I found that this particular supplement contains extra amounts of minerals and vitamins that vegetarians need - iron, zinc, B-vitamins, D, and more. If you don't want to search for a skin/hair/nails supplement, a multivitamin for adults should be sufficient. I just wanted to share my favorite. In case you're wondering, yes, it has helped my skin, my hair, and my nails! In general, a diet rich in a variety of vegetables and grains will not lack very many nutrients.

In Conclusion:
Make an effort to eat all kinds of different foods, from mushrooms to kale, and you'll be healthy as a horse in no time! Vegetarianism is not for picky eaters. You'll need to man up and reach for the Star Fruit and Mango in the grocery. Go ahead and buy a big bag of broccoli, then find a tasty recipe for it when you get home. If you haven't had oranges in a while, buy some and snack on them! Be creative and explore!

Whatever you do, do not eat junk. Vegetarianism is your chance to learn to eat fresh foods, not processed ones. Don't forgo steak and green beans for a dinner of mac'n'cheese. It may take a little more effort to learn about new foods and it certainly takes effort to make tasty vegetables, but I promise it will be much better for your body! If you eat a lot of junk food, you will feel tired, get sick easily and gain weight. So, don't go there, okay?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Devotional: Start of Something New

Weekly, I write devotionals for my sorority. I'll post them here, as well, in hopes that they will encourage you in your walk with God!

It's the start of something new and you know what that means! Time to look back on the old and review its lessons!

I'm talking about the school year, of course. Here is a list of things I've learned over the past year. You'll likely be hearing more about these as I write devotionals this semester. Hopefully this list will spark some reflection of your own.

1. I've learned the importance of quiet time with God. As difficult as it is to do, making time for myself to read quietly, pray, and rest pays off. God rewards us in big ways when we seek Him fully. Seeking Him often means making quiet times to pray and listen to His voice. Jesus frequently separated himself from the crowds and disciples in order to spend time with God alone. So should we.

2. I've learned the importance of proactivity. In both my Christian walk and school work, getting it done now is always the best choice. Procrastination is simply not worth it when compared to the reward of being done.

3. I've learned the importance of prayer. Never before have I made a conscious effort to pray regularly. It's amazing how regular prayer increases your ability to hear God, love others and changes your attitude for the better. Regular prayer has actually resulted in less temper tantrums, less stress, and less frustration for me. It's amazing! Why didn't I realize this before?!

4. I've learned the importance of community. As Christians, we simply cannot do it alone. Christianity is not a religion we can practice by ourselves. We need others to challenge us, instruct us, inspire us and encourage us. God speaks to us through others and His Kingdom is a place full of people. It is with people that we grow and improve. It is alone that we get off track and become deceived. I must go to church. I must engage in worship and prayer with others. I must speak with other Christians. I must pursue that community, or my relationship with God stops flowing properly.

5. I've learned the importance of reading the Bible. When I started reading the Bible, I thought that it was a risky venture. Surely I'll come across some verse that makes me doubt God's love or that I won't understand. Instead, I've found that God's word teaches us who He is - inside and out. It gives me confidence, reveals more of Him to me, and is actually interesting reading. There are some pretty intense stories in there! With about 20 minutes a day - split between morning and evening readings - I'll finish the Bible on December 31st, and start again the next day. I haven't regretted a day, yet.

6. Most of all, I've learned the importance of putting God first. He has given us promise after promise to bless us, reward us, love us, provide for us... All with one stipulation: we have to put Him first. First in our time. First in our finances. First in our friendships. First in everything. Daily, I have to submit myself to Him. I have to make a choice each morning to follow God and His will for my life. Sometimes, that means I bite my tongue again and again to hold back sarcastic comments, and ask for forgiveness when they slip out. Sometimes, it means I walk through my day feeling like He is at my side, dancing with me. It's a daily choice. In surrender, there is freedom.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Homemade Bread

I confess! There has been a great lack of fresh photography on this blog lately... I give my deepest apologies and assure you that it will change just as soon as my camera batteries are charged.

In the meantime, I'd like to discuss something with you.

Homemade bread.

Few things smell or taste as good as homemade bread.

This week, I found our bread machine tucked away in the laundry room in Bowling Green. Naturally, I pulled it out and conducted a search for the accompanying recipe book.

We searched high and low.

Thankfully, it was low (under a bench in the back hallway) and we didn't have to move into sideways searching (complicated).

A few grocery purchases later, I was prepared with whole wheat flour, brown sugar, water, butter, salt and bread machine yeast. You add the ingredients to the bread machine in the order listed in the recipe book, pick the right "bread number" for what you're cooking, then press start. Four hours and twenty minutes later, you have a loaf of fresh bread.

We bought the machine from a friend who no longer wanted it. She sold it to us for $25, which is a steal for the simplicity and amount of bread the thing produces.

The wonderful part about a bread machine is its simplicity. There is none of that complicated business of kneading, covering, rising, kneading again, covering again, rising again, etc. The bread machine does all of it for you. Perhaps this is cheating. Perhaps it does not taste as good as bread done by hand might. Perhaps. But when I read recipes for real bread, I get winded. Just the idea of all that work for one loaf of carbohydrates... Wears me out.

For now, I'll just enjoy the fantastic, delicious, wonderful Raisin-Walnut Whole Wheat bread I just pulled out of the machine... It's warm and tastes fantastic with butter.

(Pretend there's a picture of delicious toasted bread with butter here).

Now, who wants to come over and eat some?

Monday, August 16, 2010

What's for Dinner?

I'm making these for dinner:

Whoops! Wrong picture!

Can you pull your eyes away from Phelps' abs long enough to see the redheaded official in the background?

That's my cousin.

This is how he spent his summer a couple years ago. He worked as Cord Control Dude for the main cameraman in the Water Cube.

Pretty cool, huh?

I thought so, too. That's why this picture is still on my desktop.

THIS is what is for dinner:

Potato Bundles, photo courtesy of

These are the changes I made to her recipe:

I diced and sprinkled the leftover green onion we had in the fridge, instead of using white onion like she does.
I skipped the extra seasonings and sprinkled a little of Mel's Seasoning Salt, which has a bit of spicy, a bit of flavor, a bit of everything. It's delicious.
I used Half'n'Half instead of heavy cream. We don't have heavy cream around here. Isn't it sad?
I used two sweet potatoes and two russets, divided up between five bundles. The potatoes I had were too large, so splitting them up made sense.

They'll be served with shredded cheese, extra butter, sour cream and other typical potato toppings. We don't eat baked potatoes very often, so I'm sure this will be a treat.

As an added bonus, I accidentally set the oven to 425 instead of 375... WHOOPS! We're about to find out if this worked....

NOTE: The potatoes were delicious! They were fantastic! Wonderful! A hit!

Go forth and cook.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Jade is the New Black

I shopped for this color all summer and finally found it! Well, that's not entirely true. Actually, I found this nail color at the beginning of the summer. Every time we went to the Cosmetic Market (and that's a frequent event for the ladies in my family), I would pick it up and look at it.

I would carry it around the store.

I would hold it up to my fingers, to my face, and stare at it for extended periods of time.

Then I would put it back on the shelf and leave.

Well, yesterday, after a bit of encouragement from Mom, I bought it. Her encouragement sounded something like this, "You better buy that nail polish. You talk about it all the time, so buy it!"

Here it is:

Jade is the New Black

That's not my hand. It's a Hand Model's hand. This hand makes me want to get a manicure.

I want a shirt this color. And earrings, and shoes, and eyeshadow. I love this color that much.

I'm going to paint my toes and fingers now. Have a happy Sunday!

Friday, August 13, 2010

My Social Networking Rules

People can get themselves into a lot of trouble with social media. I don't mean trouble like giving out your social security number or address and being robbed (though that is certainly a concern). I'm talking about social trouble. Examples include:
a) getting into a light argument in comments that quickly becomes a feud
b) insulting another person in view of all of your friends and family
c) complaining about your life so often that it darkens your reputation and the way you are perceived.
All of these do nothing for yourself and do nothing to show others who God is (if you're a Christian seeking to live for Him).

These are the guidelines I've laid out for myself. I consider facebook, twitter, social media to be a place where I can pour goodness and positivity into the lives of others. These "rules" help me accomplish that goal. Since I intend my social media to be a ministry (that is, a place where I encourage, lift, and hopefully impact others in a positive way), I've written down the things that I believe directly oppose that purpose. If you'd like to know the guidelines I use for positive social media experiences, here they are! All of these are a direct result of my mission statement (kindness always, respect, hospitality, service, encouragement, always kindness).

1. Avoid writing a negative status and if you must, make it funny. In the broad scheme of things, most of your online "friends" are probably more like "aquaintances" and they do not want or need to hear about your bad day or your pet peeves. Most of the facebook and twitter community does not care about your bad day. Sure, your close friends and family might be sympathetic - and if you make the status funny, you'll get a laugh out of others - but the majority of users will just glance over this update and think something like "well, sucks for her" or "oh, I hope the person he wrote this about doesn't see this update!" The purpose behind a status is to a) tell the world what you're up to or what is on your mind and b) entertain your readers, lift their spirits, and endear you to them. Negative-toned statuses do not accomplish either of these purposes. If you post negative statuses often enough, you'll make people think you need medical help. Not good.

2. Avoid posting your strong opinions and convictions about controversial subjects online. This tends to make enemies. Ranting and raving about political figures or topics will only alienate some readers, anger others and fire up the rest. Some will express their agreement with your position, but others will write a long response about how wrong you are. Perhaps this is the response you want, and that's fine, but for many people, facebook is not the place to discuss political or religious controversies. Once again, your posts should entertain your readers, lift their spirits and endear you to them. Generally, your daily posts will give others enough information about you to guess which direction you lean on the political scale. No need to broadcast it daily (unless you love political discussion and consider your political views a big part of your career, examples include people who study poli-sci or are running for office). Please note that I'm not saying you must be politically correct or that you shouldn't let people know your political standing. Most people like to know where you stand, but social media is no place to start arguments about politics or controversial stuff. I follow this guideline because I do not feel confident in my ability to argue my political opinions and I tend to avoid conflict.

3. Never, under any circumstances, post negatively about someone else. Even if you think you are being discrete about who wronged you, most of your regular facebook readers will be able to guess. When I see someone do this, it makes me want to avoid them at all costs. What if they were to get mad at me and post all over the social media world what a jerk I am? This is the quickest way to alienate people and lose trust with your friends. Here is another problem: posting about your conflicts with another person draws your readers into that conflict. If they know both of you, they will be pressured to pick sides. It gets even worse if you "make up" with the person - now those people who picked sides think both of you are crazy and will distance themselves from you both. Again, this is the quickest way to paint yourself as petty, immature and untrustworthy. Don't ever do this. If you must "warn" people about another, do it in person. If you insult another person on facebook, it's much more likely to taint your reputation than theirs.

4. Avoid commenting or posting on the walls of people you do not regularly interact with. It's just awkward. Obviously, since you're friends with the person, you know them well enough to comment occasionally. Frequently commenting on the statuses, wall posts, pictures of someone you rarely see, however, will probably make you look like a creeper/stalker type. Use your own discretion here. Also, never comment on someone's photos unless you're friends with the person. We all know you can see albums of people you don't even know, but they don't need to know you're stalking them.

That's about it! I didn't write these to tell you what to do. I wrote them for you in case you'd like to know how I govern my online presence. Basically, it all comes down to the following:

Social media should entertain your readers, lift their spirits and endear you to them. That's what it's all about. That's what being a Christian is all about - healing hearts, drawing people to God, showing others who God is through your actions and choices. Being kind and loving. That's all for now!