Sunday, April 15, 2012

I've moved!

I have had to admit to myself that I'm far too busy to keep up extra hobbies, like creating and blogging about vegan recipes or crafts Anna and I have made. I need to focus my energy instead on my business. I will no longer be blogging here about my personal life. Instead I can be found at www.tzphotodenver.com/apps/blog. There I will blog about portrait sessions, weddings, techniques, and FAQ's. If you have an idea for a topic you'd like to learn more about, head on over to the blog and leave me a comment. I would really LOVE that!

Cheers!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

I'm working on integrating my blog into my photography website, so bear with me! It's too much work to keep up all these blogs separately, so I'm combingin everything into one place. It'll give me a better business presence as well. I'll post the link as soon as I'm ready!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

And so a new project begins...

This past week was midterms week as well as my last week to get my application in to start my first round of teaching internships this fall. That meant getting fingerprinted, taking said fingerprints to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, hounding a professor for a recommendation to go along with my application, and completing and dropping off all of my paperwork downtown. Who has time for all of that!? Luckily I have a daughter that is a trooper when it comes to long boring errand runs, so I was able to get it all done rather quickly. We even discovered a new park in the process on the other side of town and had an impromptu picnic lunch together.

This weekend we start the Big Family Gardening Project! S and I will be building three large raised garden beds. We're picking up materials today! I'm very excited about this. I've been wanting a full fledged garden since we bought our house, but the back corner of our lot that I designated for gardening just isn't very good quality soil. We've also been so focused on how to revive our grass. It's awful. I want to just start over from scratch, but don't have the time to do it. Solution? The garden beds we're building will cover the side of our yard with the hardest to care for grass. It's in the sun all day long and the grass just doesn't thrive once the scorching summer heat is in full swing. These garden beds will pretty up that side of the yard and have attachments for canopy and netting should we need them. Plus, they'll be so close to our back door that the veggies won't get neglected like they tend to in the back corner. That back corner will now be relegated to watermelon growing experimentation!

I will absolutely post photos of the process as we go along. Hopefully we can get the three beds completely built within the next couple of days. We seem to be so busy that if we put a project aside it lingers for months, and we can't afford to let this project linger. I have tomato and green pepper plants already sprouting in our kitchen and it's time to start planting spinach!

Do you garden? What is regularly in your garden year after year? This should be an interesting season for us. Neither S or I have ever really raised a full garden before, and I'm ordering heirloom seeds so we can start saving them every year. I have a feeling lots of learning is to be done between now and winter!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Vegan Buffalo Nuggets

Oh. My. God. I love buffalo sauce. Loooove it. In fact, I just love spicy food period. Buffalo wings don't really mesh well with a vegan diet, so visiting one of the hundreds of wing restaurants in Denver is out of the question. There is a restaurant in Denver that makes seitan buffalo wings, but I have yet to visit and try them. My cravings persist, though, so I decided to try my hand at making some at home. I very pleased with the results!

Here's what you'll need:
-1 lb. seitan (can be found near the tofu at most health food stores)
-Vegan buttery spread (Earth balance)
-Buffalo sauce (be sure it's vegan, make your own, or do like me and not care about the teensy amount of real butter in the sauce....more on my reason for that in a later post.)
-Garlic powder
-Onion powder
-Oil (I used safflower)
-Vegan ranch for dipping!

Here is what the seitan will look like in the store. There are several brands. This one was on sale :) It also has a really great flavor and texture. Even my husband, the guy who refuses to go a single meal without meat, conceded it tasted and felt very similar to chicken.
I drained the seitan and wrapped it in paper towels to squeeze out any excess water. I then tossed it in the garlic and onion powder. I don't measure stuff when I'm cooking, so just add to taste. I happen to love garlic, as does the little one, so I kind of just piled it on. Then, I fried the pieces in oil over medium heat until they started getting brown and crisp on the outside.
At this point, Anna tried some and loved them. She's not quite to the spicy-loving age of her life though, so I heaped some onto a plate for her without any sauce. To make the sauce, I melted some vegan buttery spread (again, I don't measure but according to my measuring cup it was close to 1/3 cup.) I used Wing-Time mild buffalo sauce, but to be truly vegan you should make your own or seek out a vegan version. Wing-Time does have "natural butter flavor" as one of the last ingredients on the label, but it's a good wing sauce without any additives, so I can deal with the trace amounts of butter. I added wing sauce to my melted buttery spread. Add to taste. I probably added an amount equal to or slightly more than what I had of buttery spread.
 It'll look like this:
 In a bowl, toss your seitan nuggets in the sauce. Save some sauce for dipping fries in! We had it with sweet potato fries and, holy moly, that is good!
 What are buffalo "wings" without some ranch for dipping? I used OrganicVille non-dairy ranch and was pleasantly surprised with it.
These "wings" are cholesterol free and much lower in calories than the real deal and they taste amazing! I may have to make more and try a buffalo "chicken" pizza made with daiya shreds. I will post new vegan recipes as I try them out. Now that I'm feeling more comfortable as a vegan and getting the hang of creating meals without animal products, I suspect I'll be coming up with quite a few recipes.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Early Spring Cleaning!

My house is a mess. I'm sure I could find time to clean and organize it, but it's so darn low on my list of priorities that it only happens about three days before I'm expecting visitors. The problem we have with our house is that when we bought it, we moved from an apartment that was about 1/3 the size. We still don't have enough furniture to fill it up (which is actually fine while Anna's young because it has given her space to run around or use her scooter indoors when the weather is cruddy.) All of our boxes that we didn't want to unpack? They got shoved into the awesome hidden storage closet behind our built-in bookcases. All important paperwork and user manuals? They got stashed in one of several drawers in the kitchen that have been relegated to junk. Seriously, we have so many junk drawers in our kitchen. And it isn't because we're gross. We just have a lot more room than we were ever accustomed to having. We had a total of two drawers and five upper cabinets in our old apartment. But now? This is our kitchen:
That is the photo from our agent's site because it's too messy to photograph right now. But can you see why I might be tempted to just hide stuff in drawers before people come over? There are soooo many drawers and cabinets! So, so many. If I kept them all organized I'd have several empty drawers!

The time has come to grow up, though. It just makes sense to me that while I cleanse my body I should also cleanse my home. Spring is coming up fast and I'd like to have my home deep cleaned before it arrives. I have big plans to grow tomatoes and get our landscaping in shape (finally) this year. I can't do that if I'm constantly thinking about how messy the inside of my house is. Other projects I'm hoping going to tackle this year are:
  • Convert the hidden storage room to an office for Sergej
  • Get my office space in our formal living room set up
  • Convert our sunroom to a gardening post
  • Get the basement bathroom closet re-floored and somehow rearrange the laundry room into a more useful space
  • Painting and remodeling the master bedroom and bathroom
I can't do any of those things above without tackling the clutter first. I'm setting a goal for myself of two months to get the house 100% clean and organized. It's a long time, but with my schedule I know I can't get this all done in a couple of weeks. Two months is actually quite ambitious. Throw a preschooler and husband into the mix and it's almost impossible!

Armed with free printable checklists like this one and a handy 30-day list of cleaning objectives, I think I just might succeed. I will be taking photos of my progress and posting them, if only to show everyone just how much my home resembles one that barely survived a tornado on most days. Yes, it really is that bad. I'm actually quite amazed I haven't found one of my cats lifeless under a fallen bookshellf yet. It's bound to happen one of these days.

Clock starts now! I have until May Day to make this happen.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Things you don't have to give up on a vegan diet

I like to make my lifestyle changes public because then I'm more likely to stick with them, even in a social setting. So when I'm trying to lose weight or when I went vegetarian I make sure my friends know. Then if I don't follow through I feel a little ashamed. It's good incentive! I announced my switch to a vegan lifestyle last week on Facebook. I honestly expected a lot of negative commentary on it, but surprisingly it was fairly positive. And now everyone knows what I'm trying to do and I'm working extra hard to stick to a very vegan diet.

There was one comment, however, that stuck with me. Ever since then I've been thinking about it and comparing my plates of food to this particular comment. Someone said that they disagreed with being vegan (which is completely fine with me) but then added that veganism becomes the "beige diet." I didn't ask her to elaborate, but I'm assuming she meant that there isn't a ton of variety and you miss out on proper nutrients. I'm finding that to be very false. First off, I take a multi-vitamin and this is something that everyone on any diet should be taking. I take one specific to vegans, but everyone should be taking one that fits their diet and lifestyle (and age and gender!) Everyone should follow the diet and lifestyle that is best for their particular bodies and needs. But just to clarify that I'm not starving or denying myself delicious food, here is a list of things I love that I have not had to give up (most things I was already eating just needed the cheese removed!):
  • Pizza
  • Sandwiches
  • Burritos
  • Bagels
  • Various Chinese, Thai and Indian foods
  • Pastas
  • Rice dishes
The list goes on and on. In place of eggs I use tofu to make a breakfast burrito with spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes, and whatever spices I have in my pantry. I use Boca crumbles a lot in rice and pasta dishes. Pizza pretty much just needs the cheese removed (I eat Amy's vegan pizza or make my own crust to be sure it's vegan) and most bagels at bagels shops are already vegan. My plate is consistently full of color and variety and I don't feel deprived one bit.

This is not to convince anyone that they must go vegan. It's simply to convince my meat-and-potato loving family and friends that I'm not crying in a corner because everything I'm allowed to eat is brown and tasteless. It's delicious. I'm more inclined to play around with spices and herbs now than I was before, which is always a good thing!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Vegan, Day 8

Today marks the beginning of my second week on a vegan, low-sugar diet. The first week was far easier than I expected it would be. I did slip up a couple of times. The first was while having palak paneer, an Indian dish made with spinach and paneer cheese. Definitely not vegan. The second slip was yesterday morning when I could no longer resist the temptation to have a cherry turnover at work. I immediately felt guilty. It was vegan, but chock full of sugar. I still consider the first week a success, though. With my schedule of working nights, going to school, being a mom, etc., etc., (etc., etc., etc., ....there are lots of etc.'s in my schedule!) my body really likes the short bursts of energy it gets from sugary treats. So I became accustomed to eating a few throughout the day. Every day. So cutting that down to just one in an entire week is pretty great if you ask me. Cutting it down to just one on the very week my employer decides to throw a week long celebration with free treats every day is freaking fantastic!

I didn't make it to the gym at all this past week. I started a new volunteer position and just didn't work as hard as I should have to fit the gym into my crazy life. There's no excuse for that, I know. I pay for a Kids' Club membership for Anna so that she can tag along with me and play while I work out. It's throwing money away if I don't use it, so this week I'm getting back into my rigorous workout routine.

Even without the gym, however, I lost 4.2 pounds this past week. My favorite meal has honestly been granola with almond milk and fruit. I need to explore my vegan recipe book when I have time, but I've just been throwing together whatever I can that I don't have to cook: salads, steamed veggies, couscous, quinoa that I cooked ahead, beans. It's been pretty easy.

For this week I want to improve on my flavored soy milk intake. I can get the little single-serve boxes at work and boy have I been taking advantage! They're not exactly unhealthy, but they are liquid calories that I don't particulary need. I'm hoping my incessant craving for cheese starts to go away. I am going to try to avoid buying Daiya shreds all the time. They are also not exactly unhealthy, but they're not really healthy either. I just need to get use to the idea of not having cheese on everything anymore. I really do love cheese.

So that's my first week in a nutshell. I will continue posting weekly updates on my progress. I feel like a public admission of how I'm doing is the best way for me to stay on track.