Monday, November 26, 2012

Spice up those cold, dreary days with a slow-cooker!


When the clocks roll back and days start getting shorter and colder, it’s time to put away the grill and pull out the slow-cooker! 

Today, was my first slow-cooker meal of the season, and what a great kick-off it was—Ratatouille, that thick and robust French chunky tomato stew, full of flavorful spices, yet a low-calorie, nutrient-dense vegan meal.

I assembled my ingredients into the slow-cooker, turned it on Low at 9:00am, and headed upstairs to work.  I don’t know why, but smelling a delicious dinner simmering away in the Crock Pot seems to make my work day move along a little better—perhaps it’s that little added thrill and anticipation of what will be waiting for me at the end of the work day at 5:00!  But, it sure makes the cold, gray days of winter a bit more tolerable.

Most slow-cooker cookbooks are filled with meat dishes, so finding good vegan recipes can sometimes be a challenge.  I discovered this Ratatouille recipe last winter when I was RVing down in Arizona.  It fits my 3 1/2 quart Crock Pot perfectly, and that size slow-cooker fits nicely into my Winnebago View making this a great Vegan Vagabond meal!  

Add a few bread slices from a fresh whole wheat French baguette, and a nice glass of red wine, and “ooo la la”—a yummy and comforting meal to warm up a cold winter’s day!


Slow-Cooker Ratatouille:

adapted from: Better Homes and Gardens Low-Carb Slow Cooker Recipes


  • 2 medium onions (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 6 oz. can of tomato paste (as low-sodium as you can find)
  • 1 TB olive oil
  • 1 TB raw turbinado sugar (or other less-processed sugar)
  • 3 small cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 TSP dried basil
  • 1 TSP kosher sea salt
  • 1 TSP dried thyme
  • 1/4 TSP ground black pepper
  • 5 fresh roma tomatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 small/medium unpeeled zucchini, halved lengthwise and finely sliced
  • 3 cups of unpeeled eggplant, diced into small cubes


1. Place ingredients into a 3 1/2 quart slow-cooker in the exact sequence as listed above. 

2. After adding the spices (and before adding the fresh tomatoes), spread the tomato paste to cover the onions, but ensure the onions remain on the bottom of the pot.

3. Add the remaining ingredients and lightly pack down so that the lid will still fit firmly on top of the pot.

4. Turn the slow-cooker on Low and cook for about 7 1/2 to 8 hours.  Leave the lid on the whole time and DO NOT STIR until within the last 30-45 minutes (to allow the tomato juices to combine better with the eggplant).

5. Turn off the slow-cooker and let rest for 10-15 minutes while you warm a baguette in the oven and slice it.

6. Serve in large soup bowls. Makes about 4 cups (2 – 3 servings).

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Guest Bloggers: Charlie & Marti's Half Vegan-Versary!

Marti and Charlie in Seattle just celebrated 6 months of healthy vegan eating and generously share their experience.  Note in Charlie's weekly weight chart, at the bottom, how much faster weight came off when their vegan diet started.  Fascinating!  Enjoy:


Like many couples our circle of friends can be bundled into groups. Our three largest are all activity based. The bicycle club (where we met), the ski/outdoor club we joined ten years ago and a Lazy Daze RV group (also joined about ten years ago).

Of the three you would probably guess that the bicycle and ski/outdoor group would have the biggest affect on our overall health and you’d be absolutely correct; until this year. Sure the RV group as a whole are much more sedentary than the other two but, if not for a few friends in this group we would not have celebrated on November 1st our half year of a plant strong, vegan lifestyle.

Our friends, Paul & Kay, have been vegan for a couple years now and we started noticing their eating choices and asking a few questions. Then Tessa, another Laze Daze owner/friend announced that her entire family had been vegan for some time now and loving it! We became even more curious. So Marti emailed Tessa to ask some questions and learn more about what being a plant based eater really meant.

Tessa supplied us with a list of DVD’s to watch and books to read. We were hooked! We made up our minds to go all in around mid April. Well, it didn’t quite happen then. We had a trip to the Midwest planned and a fridge and pantry to clear out and restock. So May 1st became a more realistic starting date. Besides, I’ve always found the May Day tradition of putting a flower basket on someone’s front porch, ringing the doorbell then running and hiding, just so dang adorable even though I’ve never done it myself.

Slowly easing into a vegan diet or just trying it a few days a week seemed like a plan doomed to failure. So no ‘baby steps’ for us. I even juice fasted the first 7 days to kick start my system. We weighed ourselves every day but only recorded the average weekly weight. It just seems to make more sense and more accurate that hopping on the scale once a week.

Shopping became a new adventure and Marti loved getting some new vegan cookbooks! Lucky for us Seattle has plenty of great grocery stores where we can find any ingredient we need. Breakfast routinely became a Rip’s Big Bowl from the Engine 2 Diet book by Rip Esselstyn. One quarter cup of four different whole grain cereals, fruit, nuts and wheat germ with non dairy milk or yogurt.  Salads, soups, stews, mashed yams or sweet potatoes became regular meals. Brown rice with steamed veggies and peanut sauce to top it off is a favorite too.

All in all we are pleased with our decision to start eating plant based and thank our friends who led the way and continually support us.  We’ve lost weight, lowered our cholesterol levels, feel more energetic and have no plans to return to our former way of eating. Thanks Tessa, Kay and Paul!

Charlie's Average weekly Weight
Week---Weight---Change in lbs
3/11-3/17-----211.4.         -0.8
3/18-3/24----210.8.     -0.6
3/25-3/31----209.6.    -0.8
4/1-4/7-------208.7.      -0.9
4/8-4/14-----208.6.     -0.9
4/15-4/21----206.8.     -0.8
4/22-4/28---205.3.   -0.5
4/29-5/1--207.5.          +2.2
5/1-5/5---------202.      -5.5
5/6-5/12-------198.4.   -3.8
5/13-5/19-----197.1.        -1.3
5/20-5/26----195.7.    -1.4
5/27-6/2---192.7.   -3.0
6/3-6/9----189.2.    -3.5
6/10-6/16---186.8.  -2.4
 6/17-6/23---185.       -1.8
6/24-6/30--182.6  -2.4 
7/1---7/7----- 180.6.  -2.0
7/8--7/14----179.6    -1.0
7/15-7/21-----178.6   -1.0
7/22-7/28---178.3. -0.3
7/29-8/4-----177.2.   -1. 1
8/5--8/11------176.7  -0.5
8/12-8/18-----174.6  -2.1
8/19-8/25----175.1.  +0.5
8/26-9/1------174.8   -0.3
9/2-9/8-------175.6  +0.8
9/9-9/15------175.1.     -0.5
9/16-9/22----176.4   +1.3
9/23-9/29---177.5    +1.1
9/30-10/6----175.7    -1.8
10/7-10/13-----175.7    0.0
10/14-10/20---175.8  +0.1
10/21-10/27----177.1   +1.3
10/28-11/3---- 176.3   -0.8
Monday November 5th  174

Charlie and Marti
Seattle WA

Monday, October 22, 2012

Beans and Quinoa

There is a recipe, that I can’t find right now, in the Engine 2 Diet recipe book that calls for beans and quinoa and several other ingredients.  My pantry is always stocked with quinoa and cans of beans, and depending on what else is on hand, these two main ingredient make a great dish that has become a once a week standby in our home.  Today I used about 1 1/2 cups of cooked quinoa along with a can of drained and rinsed red beans, some diced jicama, chopped red bell pepper, chopped red onion, cilantro, toasted walnuts, and flavored balsamic vinegar.

When Tessa visited here this summer, she bought me a bottle of Bordeaux cherry balsamic vinegar from a nearby store called The Olive Tap.  This vinegar is absolute perfection and doesn’t require the addition of oil because it’s not as acidic as normal balsamic vinegar.  There are only 6 of these stores in the US (Lynne, 3 are in Illinois) but perhaps there are other shops around the country that sell flavored balsamic vinegars.

Cooking quinoa usually requires 1 cup of quinoa and 2 cups water that cooks to make 3 cups.  What to do with the leftover quinoa?  I had been wanting to experiment  and make a cereal for breakfast.  So with the leftover 1 1/2 cups, I first made about 1 cup oatmeal that I purposely undercooked for 1 minute with some water in the microwave.  To this I added about 3/4 cup frozen blueberries which naturally thawed quickly in the hot oatmeal, the quinoa,  one chopped apple (should have used 2),  2 TB brown sugar (is that a no-no?), and some chopped walnuts.  Mixed it all up and now breakfast is made for tomorrow morning.  My daughter already had a bowl and absolutely loved it. 


One of these days I will get the hang of photographing food.  Lynne gave me several pointers but it’s still difficult.

Friday, October 5, 2012

** Tom & Nancy's Success Story! **

We are thrilled Tom and Nancy are our Guest Bloggers today!  They kindly share their journey to exceptional health on a plant-based diet.  Enjoy!  (Tessa)

Tom says: 

My wife, Nancy, and I have always been fairly healthy, or at least more so than many of our peers.  We ate what we were told, to be a very healthy diet, fish, chicken, low fat dairy or soy, and lots of veggies and fruits.  We both have always been thin and have been running regularly for 30 years and exercise regularly.

It came as a surprise, when Nancy was told that she had osteopenia (now known to be a term created to sell a newly discovered drug) or the beginnings of bone loss.  The doctor prescribed Fosamax.  That started our vegan journey.  Not wanting to just treat possible bone loss, Nancy wanted to know why she would be losing bone when she had been doing everything just right.  She was not overweight, ate lots of calcium and exercised a lot.  She refused to take the Fosamax and began to study the issue.

Colin Campbell’s “The China Study” was a real eye opener.  By eating what we thought were the really good animal proteins, chicken and fish, we were actually increasing the percentage of animal protein in our diet.  Animal proteins, we found out, could be the cause of a large number of diseases and ailments.  Anybody reading this far likely already knows all of this so I will skip ahead.

Nancy thought that she would like to switch to eating plant based, mostly whole foods and asked me if I would read some of what she had been reading so that I would understand why she wanted to switch.  She told me that it might help me, since I had high blood pressure, which is really heart disease.  I had never thought of it that way, was told that it was just a normal step in aging.

I had hypertension that was slowly climbing.  The doctor wanted to just double the dosage on my blood pressure medicine.  I also had high cholesterol that was being kept somewhat under control with red yeast rice.  I have had asthma since I was an infant.    

I began doing the reading and was immediately convinced that it all made perfect sense.  I agreed to go along, to become vegan, but I told Nancy that I wasn’t going to try to convert anyone to do the same or to start preaching veganism. 

We began to study everything.  Besides “The China Study”, we found Joel Fuhrman’s “Eat To Live”, Doctors Caldwell Esselstyn (“Stopping and Reversing Heart Disease”), John McDougall, Dean Ornish and Michael Greger, all very helpful, as was the blog, “Happy Healthy Long Life” by The Healthy Librarian.  She documents the studies or sources of most every claim in her blog and is a great learning tool. 

Within the first year (I can’t recall the actual time, and we’ve been vegan for 3 years now), I was able to stop taking my blood pressure medication.  My blood pressure now is normal, without medication.  My total cholesterol went from 210, with Red Yeast Rice, down to 154 without any medication or RYR.  I have discontinued taking the 3 medications used to control my asthma, and I am therefore completely free of all medications.  We do take Dr. Fuhrman’s multi-vitamin twice a day, Vitamin D and B12.  We are both 67 and take no medicines.  We continue to run 3 times per week, 6 miles each time.

We feel the anti-inflammatory benefits of a plant based diet to be really helpful.  We regularly notice and comment, that after running races or working hard all day, no more aches and pains!   I had a hernia surgery a few weeks ago and was able to resume my running after just 3 days! 

We eat all we want and our weight stays very stable.  I think it would be hard to gain much weight eating plant based without salt, oil and sugar.  Hopefully, our good health will continue for many more years.  My only regret is that we didn’t know what harm we were doing for all those years.  As told by our government and our doctors, we were “doing everything just right”.  Now, we are in the process of reversing the damage done.

At 3 years, we are still learning.  The more we learn, the more we are convinced that this is absolutely the best thing that we can do for ourselves and our families.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Someone’s In The Kitchen…… (posted by Evelyn)

  And thankfully it’s Steve and not me.  When he cooks, it’s usually a dish that is very labor intensive and takes hours to prepare.
  Steve is skinny.  Steve needs to eat A LOT in order to not lose weight.  Lately,  I have found myself cooking more and more higher calories foods to satisfy his appetite.  And that’s not helping me because I am only down 14 pounds this year.
Solution:  On Steve’s 3-4 days off each week he is going to advance cook his own meals and because he’s not as strictly vegan as I am he can shop for and cook with cheese and whatever else he wants.  Here he is preparing lasagna rolls stuffed with an eggplant ricotta cheese mixture that I’m going to stay away from.  At the same time I have plenty of veggies and fruit on hand so his dishes won’t tempt me.
And this was my lunch today – no cooking required.  It was also my supper last night and is so easy and tasty that I’m tempted to prepare it 7 days a week. 
There’s no name for this dish because I made it up.  Take baby romaine lettuce leaves (mine came from Costco) and fill them with black beans (rinsed), some chopped green onion, diced avocado, chopped bell pepper, and top with salsa.  I did make the salsa from scratch so that it wouldn’t have salt included. The nice thing about these smaller romaine lettuce leaves is that you can easily hold them with your hand and they don’t bend.  Also on the plate is a fruit salad made with honey dew melon, apples, oranges, kiwi, and dark seedless grapes. 
   The past several months I have had blog-block and hopefully can soon get back into the swing of posting again.  In my last post I wrote about the special blood tests I was having to determine if my high cholesterol was genetic.  I also ended up seeing a cardiologist and having several other tests including a stress echocardiogram.  For the most part, results were much better than expected given my family history. Perhaps at some point I will post the details - I learned so much and there is a lot to write about.
And once again our family history of heart disease strikes.  Last week my 63 year old brother Herb had emergency bypass surgery for three arteries that were up to 98% blocked.  For the past year, I had been trying to convince him to change his diet of donuts, bags of salty nuts, and fast food junk.  He improved his diet but evidently not enough.  He admitted to me that he had a cheeseburger the day he had the chest pains and went to the emergency room.  To his credit he had lost 22 pounds this summer but has more to go.  The thing is, Herb had no other risk factors other than his horrid diet and being overweight.  His cholesterol was fairly low, low blood pressure, had never smoked (or drank), and he was very active with almost daily lap swimming and bicycling.  So now we will see if he drastically changes his diet and what affect that will have on his health. 
And a little bit off topic but I have to say it:  Last year, when my 55 year old sister went to the emergency room for what symptoms we do not know, the doctor prescribed pain pills and sent her home. (My mother found the emergency room paperwork and pills in her purse).  Five days later, she was found unconscious in her house and died that evening.  An autopsy determined she had had a heart attack 5-10 days previous.   Most probably, my sister didn’t have the classic heart attack chest pains but by now I would think doctors would be aware of the other symptoms women have and test accordingly. It just shows what we know already, that women are not taken as seriously when they go to the emergency room and so we have to be much more aggressive and vocal in these health situations.  This is why I have pushed to have the tests done to at least learn what my health status is and to try and prevent the same outcomes as so many members of my family have experienced.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A 5-day Juice Fast! (posted by Tessa)

Tessa, her Dad, and Daughter completed a 5-day Juice Fast to cleanse and lose weight.  Results are posted!  Below that, you can read the daily Vegan Vagabonds Facebook juicing posts if you're curious in how it went.  (join our Facebook page if you'd like to be inspired daily!)  

Hope this encourages you to try your own Juice Feast!

5-Day Juicing Results: in winning order in this friendly competition:

Tessa's Dad (Gary): WINNER! (Age 71- Started 1/2012 at 211 lbs mostly-plant-based diet):
Monday 197 (juicing starting weight)
Tues 193
Weds 190.75
Thurs 190 (3.55% on 7 lbs)
Fri Forgot to weigh
Sat 188 (Hooray!)
Final results: 4.6% loss of 9 lbs!!! Wow!

Jazy: (Age 17- Height 5'11", plant-eater since 8/2011)

Monday 144.4 (starting weight)
Tues 143.8
Weds 141.6
Thurs 141.0
Fri 141.0
Sat 139.8 (Terrific!)
Final results: 3.2% loss of 4.6 lbs 
<Jazy's Plant-Eater ideal weight is below is 142 lbs>

Tessa:  (Age 44- Ht 5'6" started at 140 lbs in 8/2011)
Monday 119.4 (starting weight)
Tues 118.0 
Weds 117.2
Thurs 116.2
Fri 116.0 
Sat 116.0 (Yahooey!)
Final results: 2.8% loss at 3.4 lbs 
<Tessa's Plant-Eater ideal weight is below is 117 lbs>

We all feel like winners for losing some stubborn weight and for finishing what we'd started.  All of us were pleased with our weight losses.  None of us felt overly zinging or enthusiastic on the juice feast (and sometimes we were almost whiny).  But we did it anyway and we're delighted we did.

Dad is going to continue juicing on a modified schedule.  I am going to decide it one meal at a time.  Jazy is finished juicing for awhile since she's reached her goal. (She went skipping out victoriously to search for a Homecoming Dance dress.) We are definitely careful not to eat much today on our shrunken stomachs because we don't want to feel sick from a quick change.

In case anyone else was wondering:  After eating plant-based for so long (which keeps the digestive system moving) after just 3 days of juicing, we no longer had fiber inside us to poop.  My green smoothie this morning (in the blender) started things back up again.  That's all I'm saying about that.

A big shout out to plant-eating friend, Charlie T. for juicing in solidarity with us.  Thanks!  It is amazing how helpful it is to have support when you're juicing!

Here is Dr. McDougall's chart for worldwide Plant-Eaters Ideal Weights:

HeightWt. Should Be Below* lbs.
4ft 11in91
5ft   1in97
5ft   2in100
5ft   3in104
5ft   4in108
5ft   5in112
5ft   6in117
5ft   7in122
5ft   8in127
5ft   9in132
5ft  10in137
5ft  11in142

*Fully Dressed
HeightWt. Should Be Below* lbs.
5ft   2in110
5ft   3in115
5ft   4in120
5ft   5in125
5ft   6in130
5ft   7in135
5ft   8in140
5ft   9in145
5ft  10in150
5ft  11in155
6ft    1in165
6ft    2in170
6ft    3in175
6ft    4in180
6ft    5in185
*Fully Dressed


Day 1:  Monday

Heads up! A Juice Feast is on! Anyone who wants to join my daughter, Jazy, and I (Tessa) juicing this week is welcome to jump in. We are planning to juice through Friday. 

I've never done it, but so far I have not felt hungry, which is a great thing! I'm drinking a quart mason jar full of mainly veggie, some fruit, juice for each meal and a pint as snack if needed. 

You can do whatever schedule works for you, even if it is just one day to see how you feel. I know my Dad is in too. He started this morning. Join us for some juicing fun!


Day 2:  Tuesday

Good morning, my plant-strong friends!

First up: I was asked "Why are

 you doing a juice fast" and here's my response:

I'm fasting (or juice feasting) for a variety of reasons:

I'm curious how it feels (example: hungry? exhilarating? detoxing? zinging? and do you poop during a juice fast?)

I have friends who do juice fasts and I've never done one myself- slack! Rather than keep asking them how it feels, I'm doing it myself.

I want to break food addictions: I think it's amazing how wrapped up in food we get. My primal instinct is to truly worry that I'm going to starve to death if I have to change my diet and I think that is really pitiful, yet telling. But I can power through that feeling.

So I (surprisingly easily) survived yesterdays fast without going hungry. Stocking all those veggies and fruits for juicing is a lot of work, as is juicing (30 minutes from start to finish on lunch and then snack for Jazy and me, but the time still seemed long to me), but it is worth it and I will get faster.

My weight is down from yesterday's 119.4 to 118 today, which is the lowest it has ever been as an adult, even lower than my 119 high school weight. At 5'6" Dr. McDougall says that based on worldwide plant-eaters, my ideal weight will be below 117. I believe it! I still have wads of fat on my backside. TMI!

I wonder if my weight will bounce back up at the end when I start eating food. Most people find the weight does not return if they continue our exceptionally healthy eating. Will see.

Dad is juice fasting with us, which is great support. He is quite an encouragement as this is his 2nd fast and he lost 12 pounds on his first juice fast!  Am finding juicing an easy way to get what we want quickly- that old fat to slide off so we can be our healthiest.

I feel great! The juice is surprisingly filling and I don't crave other food. I feel energetic and light. There's no zinging feeling yet, but I do feel good and I slept fine through the night. I'm always afraid of waking up hungry and having to eat at 3am, so I normally eat granola and almond milk before bed. I did drink some juice as a snack before bed and that did the trick. I slept great!

Jazy wants to buy a Homecoming Dance dress after the fast. It's a healthy, highly nutritions, very fast weight loss for her to return to her pre-summer travels weight. Her school friends were talking about a celebrity's unhealthy fast on water, cayenne powder, and honey (ugh!) and she had to talk with them again about good nutrition.

We can do it! We can reach our healthy goals!


Day 3 (Wednesday)

I feel good today! Yesterday was "Irritable Day" (detox perhaps?) but today I feel more awake, energetic, springy even! 

Tessa's weight today: 117.2!  Down from 119.4 at juicing start

Jazy has lost 3 lbs from our juice fast!

After going months at a time without losing a single pound, I'm thrilled to finally lose some loooooong term fat storage. Is it worth the trouble and inconvenience of a nutritious juice fast? YES IT IS!!!

I hope all of you making progress in your plant-based diet will share details on here too. It might feel like bragging, but others find success stories encouraging. You don't need to be anywhere near your ideal weight, and it doesn't need to be dramatic. Any progress at all will be celebrated with you! Oh yes! Please share to encourage others.


Day 4 (Thursday)

Breaking food addictions is a juice fast benefit! My stomach seemed to adjust yesterday to smaller amounts of intake, rumbling around. 

Likely my "never go hungry" slogan meant I ate TOO much food previously, which is why my weight loss has been slow. Supposedly our stomachs are supposed to growl 4 times every day.

Tessa's Weight t

oday: 116.2! (Yahoo! Finally below 117 goal for plant-eaters-see McDougall's chart from my Tuesday, 9/11 post)

Weight Recap: 8/6/11 (last year) =140 lbs.

Morning weigh-in's:
Mon= 119.4 (about to start juice fast)
Tues= 118.0
Wed= 117.2
Thu= 116.2 (that's 3.2 lbs lost during juice fast, 24 lbs since started vegan)

The shorter time between juicing and drinking it, the healthier the juice. I just juiced today's breakfast and lunch. However, my kids juice the night before so they can have breakfast ready. As long as the jar is filled and the lid on, oxidization and enzyme depletion should be minimal.

Since I started plant-strong 8/6/11, I exercise 300 calories + 3 miles worth of walking (any speed, any incline-whatever I feel like) on the treadmill 4-5 days a week and I've done about 12 classes of once a week yoga. I am not an exerciser, but it has become easier.


Friday (Day 5):  Today we admittedly plodded through.  A great lift occurred when a friend came over to juice lunch with me since I couldn't really go out to eat.  That was really supportive and she'd never had a veggie/fruit juice like that.  She said it was "Delicious!"  I encouraged her (as I attempted to do with Dad) to add more veggies to her chosen pile of sweet fruits.  Veggies to juice include celery, all leafy greens, cabbages, beets (and beet leaves which also juice red!), carrots, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, zucchinis and different kinds of squash.  

Jazy and I were very happy to take a picture of our final juice dinner!  

Having others in the house eat real food (that I helped prepare), while we sat at the table with juice was an attitude challenge, but we did it!  And we are glad that we did!

Would anyone else like to report on how your juicing or plant-strong diet is going? We LOVE to hear it!! :) 

To your EXCEPTIONAL health!