Eating Vegan in Venice

We arrived in Venice and the first thing we needed after an overnight plane ride (that luckily had a vegan option of lentils, quinoa, and salad to start then some kind of beet and kale mixture over brown rice) we were ready for our first Italian meal. We left the hotel and wandered to a popular area that was crowded with tourists and had many restaurants. We finally chose one because it didn’t have pictures of the food on the menu and the pizza was not impressive.

That night we were hoping for a better meal and went to recommended Osteria da Alberto and the food was fantastic. It was our best meal in Venice and the only place for dinner I’d really recommend going in Venice. I had a grilled vegetable starter and pasta pomodoro. They were both really flavorful and the pomodoro had a depth of flavor that so far might be the best I’ve had.

While we were there we asked our waiter his favorite pizza places and he mentioned Rossopomodoro which is a chain in Venice, but had great food and was near St. Mark’s Square were we had a tour the next day. We made our way and found it and the difference in pizza from the day before was night and day. The crust was thin but chewy and light, the sauce was flavorful and I added mushrooms to my pizza marinara. Luckily for vegans, Italy already had pizza marinara that doesn’t have cheese on it so I had a lot of that with grilled veggies added. This was one of the best pizzas I’ve had.

For breakfasts, we ate at our hotel buffet where I generally got toast with fresh fruit and one day I got the fruit, granola, and they had soy and rice milk. We also went to Carpaccio for dinner where I had grilled veggies and pasta pomodoro, it wasn’t as great as Alberto. Also we went to Il Barbacani and I ordered the veggie burger which was more like a potato patty with poppy seeds ( my worst meal.)

The food in Venice was pretty touristy and hard to come across amazing ingredients and meals like in other places in Italy. I’m sure there are great local places that are good but we didn’t find many there. I’m still eating a lot of veggie pizza and pasta pomodoro now that I’m in Positano, so there’s vegan options you can find anywhere in Italy without much effort. That post will be coming soon!

Let’s Get Physical (exams)

Last year I got a physical right before going vegan and everything was normal, which is good, but I wanted to see how much better it could be. I was doing high-intensity workouts almost 6 days a week for 6 months before that physical and haven’t done much of that this year. I usually get my 10k steps up but only do high intensity maybe 1-2 times a week lately. I scheduled my physical and for the first time I was excited to get blood work done to see if being vegan for a year and whole food plant based for 6 months has done anything else besides the things I can see for my body. I went in for it last Monday and got checked out and got blood drawn. My blood pressure was 116/68 which has gone down from an average 120/80. My weight has gone down about 13 pounds since January and everything checked out great! It’s always reassuring to know nothing is abnormal and your body is functioning properly, especially after changing everything about what you put into it.

I just got my lab results back last night and I was thrilled with my numbers. This just proves that eating this way is beneficial to my health and that it’s possible, sustainable, and is helping me thrive and be my healthiest self. I was hoping for good numbers and was very relieved when they, in fact, were better. If eating this way can lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and bad LDL, I’m not sure why people are wasting time and money on all of these medicines to do the same things that eating plant-based can do. The proof is in the numbers, so for everyone who has been thinking vegans don’t get enough iron, protein, calcium, etc. they can be assured that it’s a great way to reach optimum health without using prescriptions to get there. The only thing I’m taking is B12.

Total Cholesterol– It went from 192 to 170. Down 22 points! In one year!

HDL Cholesterol- It went from 66 to 50 which is still in the normal range.

LDL Cholesterol- This is the unhealthy cholesterol that accumulates plaque in your arteries and can cause heart disease. My level last year was borderline at 106 so I was relieved that it’s down to 84.

Iron– 134 which is actually on the higher end of the scale of 27-159

Hemoglobin– 14. 2 and was 14. 6 last year so it’s almost the same out of the range of 11.1-15.9.

Vitamin D– It went up from 43.8 to 47.9.

B12- This is the only supplement vegans technically need to add into their diet to stay healthy because B12 can only be found in the intestinal tract of animals. It usually only starts to affect you after years of deprivation, but I take a B12 spray every morning and it helps with energy as well. My levels are up to 502 from 358.

Calcium– 9.2 from 9.7 so not a noticeable change, and I barely ever have fortified almond milk.

Protein– My protein levels stayed the EXACT same at 7.6 so I’m getting the same amount even purposefully eating a HCLF diet lower in protein and keeping it to 10% of my diet. I’m absorbing the same amount.

Triglycerides– This was the only number that didn’t look better, which makes no sense to me. It went from 99 to 178 which is still in the high normal range and my doctor wasn’t concerned and said it was normal. My guess is that it’s because I ate chinese and Mexican, two oily and higher fat meals than I normally eat, the weekend before my physical. Since triglycerides measure the fat from food in your blood I think it rose from those meals.

Overall I’m really pleased with how this lifestyle is proving to be great! It’s not only to look and feel better, but it’s for long-term health and I’m proud to be part of it.

BBQ Jackfruit Sliders

Jackfruit: a fruit that mimics pulled pork.

Intriguing! I’ve been wanting to try to make jackfruit for a while now, but it’s been intimidating me. I’ve never cooked with jackfruit, and I just learned what it was this year so where to even start? I’ve been steering clear of the mock meats since cutting out processed foods so it would be nice to have something to make BBQ sliders with that is plant based. I’ve seen the cans calling to me from the Trader Joe’s shelves and finally I answered. I looked up how to clean and cut jackfruit from a can and apparently there’s a hard core that you cut out and then you can use forks or your hands to shred the jackfruit until it’s all shreds. In this case it was already cut up in chunks so I just used my fingers to shred it and take the seeds out. You can make your own BBQ sauce to cook it in, but instead I used the easy route and used the Organic Brown Sugar BBQ sauce from TJ’s. It’s as easy as opening a can, shredding, heating with BBQ sauce in a skillet, and then serving it on a toasted bun with avocado or vegan coleslaw. Done in 10 minutes! They actually tasted like BBQ but not as chewy as meat. They have a softer texture but not mushy, but I wouldn’t overcook it. I think it’s a really great BBQ replacement and for 45 calories a cup!

BBQ Jackfruit Sliders

1 can green jackfruit, TJ’s

3/4-1 cup BBQ sauce of your choice

2-3 ciabatta rolls

Lettuce, shredded carrots, avocado for typing

1. Drain and rise jackfruit and then use your fingers to shred it and take out any seeds.

2. Add to a large skillet with the BBQ sauce and then cook over medium heat for 10 minutes until heated through.

3. Toast rolls and then top with the BBQ, and any toppings you want to add!

Simple as that! I roasted some asparagus, broccoli, and kale on the side with nutritional yeast, salt, and pepper.

Anniversary Japanese Feast

It was Josh and I’s 2nd anniversary on April 2nd so we celebrated the only way we know how- with food. We’re off to Atlantis this week so instead of going out to dinner to celebrate, we decided to stay in and have some of our favorites. This used to be our staple menu when we went to our local sushi restaurant, but since going vegan the pork dumplings and rainbow rolls aren’t options anymore so I wanted to recreate them at home. I used our “fancy” china that we’ve only used once before, our toasting glasses from our wedding, and made steamed edamame, vegetable gyozas, and vegetable sushi. I actually set the table, which is rare, and tried to make it as nice as possible.

As nice as it did look, it was really simple! The only thing I had to make myself was the sushi. I bought the frozen lightly salted steamed edamame and the frozen vegetable gyozas from Trader Joe’s so after a few minutes in the microwave the edamame was done and I dry pan fried them steamed the dumplings and served with soy and sweet chili sauce. I made avocado, cucumber, scallion, and mango rolls and avocado, cucumber, carrot, and spring mix rolls. I use short grain brown rice in my sushi and use seasoned rice vinegar to make it stick. Thanks to my cousin Allison for the prosecco! I really recommend this menu if you’re having a small dinner party because it’s easy to put together and looks really impressive. You get variety without a ton of effort.

Now off to Bahamas to try the best vegan food Atlantis has to offer! Next post will be my favorites from the resort!

Happy anniversary Joshy! 💕

Stuffed Baked Potatoes

Stuffed Baked Potatoes

Stuffed Baked Potatoes

I’ve been wanting to make this simple meal for a while and I kept putting it off, and turns out it’s a keeper. It’s minimal ingredients, only requires a few minutes of prep, and it’s really filling. I couldn’t even finish this potato!

You can make the cheesy sauce while the potatoes are baking and then throw in broccoli on parchment with sea salt and garlic powder until crispy. The potatoes take a little more than an hour on 400 and broccoli takes about 30-35. This is the recipe for the cheesy sauce I followed.

Recipe- http://eathealthyeathappy.com/life-changing-vegan-cheese-sauce-clean-glutenfree/

Spaghetti and Chickpea Balls

Spaghetti and Chickpea Balls

Spaghetti and Chickpea Balls

If you haven’t actually made any of the recipes from my blog yet, now is the time to start! You know you’ve done it right when your husband giggles like a schoolgirl after his first bite and requests this as a weekly meal! I found this recipe on Pinterest and then adjusted it for what I wanted.  You can make it as is with the link below, or follow my recipe, but this was by far the best recipe I’ve made for plant-based “meat”balls. When I tried to make them out of lentils they were mushy and fell apart, but these held together beautifully and had a great texture. They were crispy on the outside, and soft in the inside and the flavor was spot on. When rolling them, it reminded me of the chicken meatballs I used to make all of the time because the texture is similar when raw but you don’t have the nasty raw meat hands. Also, why make chicken or turkey meatballs when you can have a healthy plant based version that you know is good for you? People usually consider spaghetti and meatballs a guilty pleasure food, but with this recipe it can be as often as you want. It’s the seasonings that actually make meatballs flavorful, not the meat. No one wants to eat plain turkey balls because they’d be so bland, but chickpeas have a neutral flavor that you can add all of the same seasonings too and they taste amazing. This probably ranks in the top 5 plant based recipes I’ve tried, plus they were really easy to make and didn’t have oil or salt!

Spaghetti and Chickpea Balls

6 servings

2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed

2/3 cup rolled oats

2.5 tbsp ground flax seed + 5 tbsp water

1 tsp onion powder, onion powder, basil, and 21 Seasoning Salute

1/2 tsp black pepper

1 shallot, diced

1 tsp vegan Worcestershire sauce

1-2 jars of Rao’s Marinara Sauce (or your favorite sauce)

1 lb Brown Rice Penne Pasta (TJ’s)

nutritional yeast for topping

I know I’ve talked about Rao’s a lot on here, but honestly it’s the BEST marinara sauce I’ve ever had, including restaurant sauces. It’s on the pricier side, so when it goes on sale I buy several jars. It can be found at any big name brand grocery store. Here’s what it looks like! It does have oil in it, so I use it only sometimes.

  1. Preheat oven to 450* and combine the flax seed and water and set aside to create a flax “egg”.
  2. Add chickpeas, oats, spices, shallot, and Worcestershire in your food processor and pulse until flaky.
  3. Once flax egg is gelled, add it in with the chickpea mixture and then put processor on high until combined. It will be thick and smooth. If too sticky to roll, add more oat flour.
  4. I used a small ice cream scooper to make all the same size, and then rolled them to make them round. It made 24 chickpea balls and then add them to a parchment or silpat lined baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 25-30 min and flip them halfway through, until crispy on the outside.
  6. While cooling, boil pasta, and warm marinara in a large saucepan.
  7. Add chickpea balls to warm marinara and gently stir to combine.
  8. Top pasta with mixture and sprinkle with nutritional yeast.
Spaghetti and Chickpea Balls

Spaghetti and Chickpea Balls

The finished product! The serving size is 4 chickballs for about 130 calories. Hooray!

Original Recipe- https://www.pinterest.com/pin/146718900345101537/

To increase my iron levels, I’m going to try and incorporate more dark leafy greens, beans, tofu, and Vitamin C into my diet so my after school snack today was baked kale topped with garlic powder and nutritional yeast.

Meal planning 3.10.18

This peanut butter banana sprouted grain toast was a great way to start my Saturday! I use powdered peanut butter because it’s about half of the fat and it still tastes good. This breakfast keeps you full and I’m ready to go wedding dress shopping with my cousin today and then have a fun night getting together with about 20 family members and visit with my sister and her family who is in town. Hooray!

I meal planned some quick dinners for the week this morning and I was surprised that I can create 4 meals with 10 ingredients because my pantry is already stocked. Money saver! My birthday is Wednesday so I already know we’re going out to dinner to celebrate on Wednesday and Friday. 🎉 This is what I came up with for the other days.

Sprouted Crust Veggie Pizza– I found sprouted grain pizza crust at TJ’s yesterday which is exciting! I’m going to roast eggplant, onion, mushrooms, and kale for an oil free pizza.

Black Bean Burrito bowls– We haven’t had these in a few weeks so I’m craving them. I’m topping rice with black beans, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, salsa and guacamole.

Chickpea balls and Pasta– I found an oil free recipe to make “meatballs” out of chickpeas. They look really simple and easy to make so I’ll bake those and them combine with brown rice pasta and marinara.

Black Bean burgers and sweet potato fries– Well I never made these last week so I’m planning on making them this week. The good thing is none of the ingredients are refrigerated so they can wait.

I hope everyone has a fantastic week!