Monday, January 30, 2017

My Journey Eating a Plant-Based Diet (Week 1)

***This post contains affiliate links.

This is the first post of many that you'll see over the next six months.  I've signed up to participate in a 6-month research study about eating a plant-based, nutrient-dense diet. 

Let me preface this by saying that I participated in a 9-week study last summer with great results.  I was very nervous about the protocol which allowed only one serving per week of animal products.  While I'm not a huge meat eater, I am a self-proclaimed cheese-aholic.  "How in the world would I go without cheese?" I wondered.  As it turned out, I didn't miss cheese very much (after the first few weeks anyway).  I lost 11 pounds and several inches in 9 weeks and felt great.  I even kept it up after the study ended until I injured my jaw in late summer and among other things involved in my treatment, had to go on a soft food diet.  (Let me just tell you... it's very hard to eat plant-based when you can't chew.)

So, here I am six months later with a mostly healed jaw, carrying a few more pounds and lacking the energy I had in July.  I'm so ready to jump back into this way of eating and a research study helps me with accountability as well as a wealth of information and support.

Why a plant-based diet?  Research has shown huge benefits such as decreases in the following: heart disease, inflammation, chronic pain, chronic disease, diabetes, Alzheimers, and depression (to name a few).  Check out the links below for more information:

WebMD Plant-Based Diet Benefits for Heart Health
HealthLine 5 Benefits of Eating a Plant-Based Diet

My plan each week is to share with you some helpful resources that I receive as well as links to great recipes.  It is important to note that I am not a doctor or a dietician.  Be sure to contact a medical professional before jumping into something like this.  (As participants in the study, we were all required to notify our primary care physicians.)

Here's what we are being asked to eat each day:
• At least two 1-1/2 cup servings of greens
At least four 1-1/2 cup servings of other vegetables (which could include more greens)
At least three 1-1/2 cup servings of fruits
One to two 1/2 cup servings of legumes (beans, peas, lentils)
2 tablespoons of raw nuts or seeds
1 to 2 servings of whole grains (serving =1 cup or 1 slice)
healthy fats (like olive oil) in limited amounts
1 serving per WEEK of animal products

The last bullet point is key.  Other than that one serving per week... no meat, no fish, no cheese, no butter, no milk, no half & half, no yogurt, no eggs.  Ugh!  That's what I thought last summer, but it is amazingly easy and you can't imagine how good food can taste without those things.  I'm not necessarily saying they taste better; they're just equally as good.  

My best advice is to not try to recreate familiar foods you love.  Pizza will never taste the same with "fake" cheese.  A veggie burger will never taste like the real thing.  Whatever you make, just take it for what it is.  If you like it, add it to your list of favorites.  If you don't like it, retire the recipe and move on.

The great thing is that we are allowed one serving of animal product per week.  So, if I want cheese pizza, I can have cheese pizza... once a week.

If you're interested in getting started in eating this way, begin by checking out these two resources. 

21 Day Vegan Kickstart
You have to register for the kickstart, but it's free.

Rating the Nutrient Density of Foods
Try to get a score of 250 for breakfast, 500 for lunch, and 500 for dinner.

This past week, I have been loving the following two cookbooks by Angela Liddon:

Oh She Glows Cookbook
Oh She Glows Everyday Cookbook

Here's the link to the veggie burger video:

Here are links to some of the great recipes I made in the past week.

From the Vegan Kickstart:
BBQ Portobellos
Easy Veggie Fajitas
Quinoa Pilaf
Quickie Quesadillas


From Oh She Glows and Oh She Glows Everday:
Vegetable "Cheese" Soup

Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta
Loaded Sweet Potatoes

Overnight Oats

Here's an amazing dessert:
Chocolate Banana "Ice Cream"

And here's my Green Smoothie recipe:

2 large handfuls of mild greens (baby spinach or kale)
1 1/2 cups liquid (water, almond milk, soy milk, etc.  UNSWEETENED)
1 banana
2 other fruits (I like using strawberries and blueberries)
1 tablespoon of chia seeds or ground flaxseeds (if you have a Nutribullet, you can use whole flaxseeds)

If using a Nutribullet, put everything in and blend.  If using a blender (even a Ninja), blend liquid and greens first and then add the fruit and blend again.  (Click HERE for the kind of Nutribullet I have.  I also have a Ninja, but the Nutribullet is better for smoothies.)

Be sure to join me next week for an update on my progress and more great resources. 

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Organizing Week 4—The "Launch Pad"

Last week's challenge was to organize the dining roomFor me, this was really a decorating challenge.  Since we moved into our house a few months ago, we just never got around to decorating that space and it ended up collecting "stuff".  You can see a lot more detail by watching the video.

  Here's how some of the spaces looked before:

And here's how it looks now:

Now, let's talk about the "launch pad"This is the place in the house where we grab our stuff and go and it is also the place where we dump everything when we come home.  My launch pad is a corner of the laundry room (which I will organize during another week of this challenge).  Be sure to click on the video linked above to see how it looks now.

Here's the link to the tips about organizing the launch pad at A Bowl Full of Lemons:

Click HERE to get the PDF of tasks to complete.

Join me next week, so I can show you the results of my launch pad and for the next challenge (the living room).

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Organizing Week 3—Dining Room

Last week's challenge was to organize the pantryIt felt so good to make this a functional space. So, before we talk about the week 3 challenge (the dining room), let me show you the results and share with you some of the supplies I mentioned in the video linked below.  You can see a lot more detail by watching the video.

And here's how it looks now:

Here are links to products I used to get organized:
(affiliate links)

Canister Carousel

Wire Bins
Expandable Shelf Organizer

And CLICK HERE for the printable labels on the mason jars:

Now, let's talk about the dining roomThis is an area of the house that didn't get much attention after we moved in a few months ago.  You can see what it looks like by watching the video linked above.  Really, this is a task of organizing decorative items and I'll show you how I organize my placements.

Here's the link to the tips about organizing the dining room at A Bowl Full of Lemons:

Click HERE to get the PDF of tasks to complete.

Join me next week, so I can show you the results of my dining room and for the next challenge (the "launch pad").

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Organizing Week 2—The Pantry

Last week's challenge was to organize the kitchen.  This was a pretty big job, but I'm so happy with how it turned out.  So, before we talk about the week 2 challenge (the pantry), let me show you my results and share with you some of the supplies I mentioned in the video linked below.  You can see a lot more detail by watching the video.

Dishes and glasses all in one cabinet.  I moved the shelves down so I can reach them.

All spices, vinegars, oils, etc. in one cabinet.  Those white things on the bottom left are called Swivel Stores and they hold spices.  By the way, that top shelf only holds what you can see.  I didn't put anything behind those bottles because I wouldn't be able to reach them.

I freed up some space when I moved the dishes, so I can have the bakeware in a larger drawer beside the oven.

This is called a "Best Of Station" and it is a way of gathering frequently used items onto a tray so they look organized.

Here are links to products I used to get organized:
(affiliate links)

Spoon Rest 
Bamboo Divider Boxes
Bamboo Spring-Loaded Dividers
Sink Mat
InterDesign Cabinet Door Organizer
Canister Carousel

Wire Bins
Expandable Shelf Organizer

And CLICK HERE for the printable labels:

Now, let's talk about the pantry.  When we moved into this house 3 months ago, I just never took the time to organize it.  You can take a look at it by watching the video above.

Here's the link to the tips about organizing the pantry at A Bowl Full of Lemons:

The name of the game is PURGE, CLEAN, and ORGANIZE.  Click HERE to get the PDF of tasks to complete.

Join me next week, so I can show you the results of my pantry and for the next challenge (the dining room).

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

DIY Moisturizing Hand Scrub

This is quite possibly the easiest DIY project ever.  All you need is sea salt and olive oil.  You can also add a few drops of essential oil, if you want.

Begin by mixing 1/2 cup of sea salt and 1/8 cup of olive oil.  If the mixture is too dry for your liking, add a little more olive oil.  Stir in a few drops of essential oil (optional).  Place the mixture in an airtight jar.  

To use, put a few teaspoons of the mixture in your hands and scrub.  Then rinse and pat dry.  You'll have nice, smooth hands that are nicely moisturized.

This makes a great gift!

Monday, January 9, 2017

Organizing Week 1--The Kitchen

I am participating in a 14-week home organizing challenge that started with a blog called A Bowl Full of Lemons.  Since we've only lived in this house for 3 months, I definitely need this challenge.  Join me each week for the next 14 weeks and be sure to check out my coordinating YouTube video (linked below) each week.

The owner of the blog, A Bowl Full of Lemons, came out with a new home organizing book that I highly recommend. (affiliate link)

The Complete Guide to Home Organization

Let me just say that the book really is worth purchasing. While the free  printable is a nice checklist of tasks to do, the book provides pages and pages of tips, decorating ideas, entertaining ideas, and more. 

So, for this week's challenge I'm going to get my kitchen to be a functional space.  In Tony's book, she talks about creating zones—the food preparation zone, the food storage zone, and the cleaning zone.  By creating these zones, the kitchen works like a well-oiled machine.   

If you check out the video above, you'll see the problem areas of my kitchen and my initial ideas for reorganizing.  I've picked up some great organizing supplies from Marshall's and Tuesday Morning.  I'll link them for you from Amazon. (affiliate links)

Refrigerator Storage Bin (4x14)
Refrigerator Storage Bin (8x15)
Refrigerator/Freezer Bin (8.3x12.3)
Egg Holder

Here's the schedule I will be using for the areas that will be organized: 

Here's a link to the checklists for all 14 weeks of organizing your home.  This is the checklist for Week 1.  See how detailed it is?

Tune in next week where I will show you the "before and after," but if you want to see what my kitchen looks like now, click on the link to the YouTube video above.

I hope you'll come along for this 14-week journey!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Best Ever Spaghetti and Meatballs

This recipe came to me 20 years ago as part of a wedding gift.  The gift included four pasta bowls, a box of dry spaghetti, a jar of homemade sauce with meatballs, and the recipe.  The recipe comes from my friend's Italian mom and it has been passed down over the years.  With a few variations here and there, here is the recipe I like to make.


2, 28 oz cans of crushed tomatoes
1, 8 oz can of tomato paste
1 T salt
2 T sugar
garlic powder (to taste)
basil (to taste)
oregano (to taste)
salt and pepper (to taste)
1 lb. ground beef
4 eggs
1/2 Romano cheese, plus 2 T
1 cup plain bread crumbs
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 cloves garlic, chopped

In a large pot, stir together two 28 oz cans of crushed tomatoes, one 28 oz can of water, one 8 oz can of tomato paste, one 8 oz can of water, salt, sugar, garlic powder, basil, and oregano to taste.  Bring to a simmer and make the meatballs.

Mix 1 pound ground beef with 4 eggs, salt, pepper, basil, oregano, and garlic powder to taste, 1/2 cup Romano cheese, 1 cup plain bread crumbs.  Form into balls and bake at 300 degrees for 20 minutes.  Add the meatballs to the sauce and continue simmering for 4–6 hours total. 

Halfway through, stir in 1/2 tsp. baking soda, 2 T Romano, and 2 chopped garlic cloves. 

Serve over spaghetti noodles and top with a sprinkle of parmesan or romano.



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