Category Archives: Naturally Delicious

Naturally Veggie: Tortilla Lasagna

I love tortillas and salsa!  However, given my dental issues since I fell in 2013, I have to avoid crunchy, hard food.  I started making what I call Tortilla Lasagna as a way to indulge my love of tortilla chips… all Mexican food really.

Ingredients:

Tomato Sauce

Tortilla chips

Black Beans

Salsa (I added some real grape tomato slices here as well)

Vegan Cheese

Chopped Olives to garnish

Preheat oven to 350.

I am not  going to include measurements because I usually just make it for myself in a loaf pan.  You just layer in the ingredients to fill whatever pan you are using.  (Usually I only put in a layer of each item and then eat the whole pan.)

Put in the oven for twenty minutes and voila!

It’s quick, easy and delish!  Even after my teeth are finished, I will still be enjoying this dish.

Give it a try.  Let me know what you think.

Love and Many Blessings,

Cynthia

 

justdragonfly

 

Naturally Veggie: Tater Tot Casserole. Yum!

Looking for a Meatless Monday Meal?  How ’bout Veggie Tater Tot Casserole?

My recipe

  1. One Onion
  2. Head of Cauliflower
  3. Fresh Spinach
  4. Package of Firm tofu
  5. Cup of Veggie Broth
  6. Package of Veggie Cheese
  7. Can of Cream of Mushroom (To be honest… might not have been vegan but it was organic.)
  8. Tater Tots Yeah!

Just saute some onions, then add chopped tofu when they start to soften.  I added a little veggie broth when the oil had been absorbed.

Lay it out in a casserole dish. Then layer with fresh or frozen veggies (I used cauliflower and spinach) , add 3/4 cup veggie broth, a can of mushroom soup,  Then veg cheese and top with frozen tater tots. Cover with foil,

I baked for an hour at 350 then put it up to 425 for ten minutes just to crisp up the tots a little.

So good!  I had seconds.  I think you might too.  Enjoy!

Love and Blessings to All,

 

Cynthia

 

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justdragonfly

Lavender Muffin Update!

The lavender muffins turned out beautifully!  They are just sweet enough: a beautiful balance of vanilla and lavender.  The taste is like a little bit of edible springtime.  Yum yum yum!

Want the recipe?

I started out with Lovely Lavender Muffins from Very Hungry Vegans.

I adapted it though because I thought the maple syrup would overpower the lavender.  So, I used about a quarter to a third of a cup of agave nectar instead.  I would have preferred honey but my jar was running low and I need it for my tea tomorrow.  The agave did quite nicely and keeps the recipe strictly plant-based.  I also opted for a heaping tablespoon of coconut oil rather than a full 1/3 cup of oil.  (With all the apple sauce in the recipe, I suspect it may be possible to skip the oil altogether.)  I don’t measure vanilla extract because I love it and one tablespoon would never be enough for me!

Whether you stick to the original or use my adaptations (or your own) I am certain you will find lavender muffins to be delightful.  Added bonus, your house will smell amazing!

Love and Blessings to All,

Cynthia

 

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justdragonfly

Natural Scents: Baking with Lavender

Lavender muffins are in the oven right now and they smell HEAVENLY!  Oh my goodness, I wish you could smell these.

I have been using lavender for many years.  Usually, I use the essential oil in my diffuser, blended with other oils.  (Aromatherapy sounds kind of airy fairy but if you were in the kitchen with me right now, you’d be a believer.)  I use it as a healing aid.  I put it in my bath and mix it with almond oil for massaging. I also use culinary lavender in my morning tea , mixed with Earl Grey or Lady Grey. I have even sprinkled it on vanilla ice cream (vegan, in my case) and then drizzled honey over it.  This is the first time I am baking with it though.

Oooh, there is the timer!   I’ll let you know how they turn out.  Do you use lavender or other herbs and flowers in your cooking and baking?

Love and Blessings to All,

Cynthia

 

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justdragonfly

What is The Best Protein Shake? The One You Make Yourself!

I am not generally a fan of processed foods.  There is nothing natural about cookies that have a two year shelf life or a freeze-dried shake with ingredients almost no one can pronounce.  If you want to look good, feel good and perform optimally then I believe a varied, whole foods diet is the way to go.  However, there are times when you might need a little assistance from something comes in a plastic container.

I have been dealing with one of these situations on and off since I fell.  While my jaw was wired shut, I lived on protein shakes and soup.  More recently, I had braces put on which when combined with my flipper (a retainer with a fake tooth on it) makes eating solid food on my lunch hour a bit daunting.  So, I am back on liquids and very soft (i.e. easy to remove foods) during the day.

For a while, I was regularly picking up Nearly Naked Protein Drinks, thinking they were among the better options on the market.  I noticed that I was feeling really bloated and couldn’t understand why.  Then one day, I read the label and was surprised to learn that these shakes had WHEY, as well as, soy protein in them.  Ugh, no wonder why!  Then I went on a quest to find a vegan, organic ready-made protein shake.  There are a few but they are not always that easy to find and I wasn’t convinced ready-made was even the way to go.  When was it made?  How long had it sat on the shelf?…on the truck?… at the factory???

I decided to go back to making my own.  Although, I do use protein powder sometimes for the sake of convenience (other times I will blend down tofu or throw in some vegan yogurt,) I like having control over the freshness of the other ingredients.  Quite frankly, I think they taste a lot better because you can use fresh fruit, real vanilla bean or your favorite dark chocolate.  Also, you can put it in a reusable container.  So, that is kinder to Mama Earth.  And if you use a glass container (I like Ball Jars ’cause they’re neat!) it is kinder to you because you don’t have to worry about plastic contamination.  It is also kinder to your wallet.  I can make something twice the size of the Nearly Naked Shake I was buying for far less than half the price.

Protein shake

My country-inspired protein shake.

So, next time you find yourself reaching for a pricey protein shake, why not reach for your blender instead?  All you need is a banana, a glass of almond milk, a scoop of protein powder (or half a package of tofu,) maybe a lil pure vanilla extract and then just shake shake shake…

What do you like to blend up?  I would love to hear from you.

Love and blessings to all.

Cynthia

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justdragonfly

Brussel Sprouts: A Former Hater finds…Like

I have always despised brussel sprouts.  As a vegetarian, I generally like all vegetables but not brussel sprouts.  I thought they were mean, nasty, little, bitter cabbages and I avoided them like the plague until today.

I’ve been doing research on nutrition that will support me having the best possible outcome from the dental reconstruction I will begin shortly. (I’ll get more into this in a future post.)  So, you can imagine my inner conflict when I discovered that brussel sprouts, those angry little wet balls of green slimy leaves, are loaded with vitamin K, essential to strong bones, and calcium… among many other health benefits.  Dammit!  Now, I was going to have to give those little suckers another try.

So, today with an open heart and mind, I opened a bag of fresh (well, you know, Trader Joe’s fresh) of brussel sprouts.  I dutifully cut off what remained of their little tails and split them in half.  (I learned it was good to split them in half because sometimes little creatures can be found amongst the leaves…ewwwl!)  Then I put them in a bowl full of water with three tablespoons of vinegar for ten minutes to clean them.  I rinsed them off and was ready to roast.

I figured, since I tend to like roasted veggies that, roasting might increase the odds I actually would find them edible.  I added a few tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.  Then I put the little green guys in the oven for about 25 minutes at 350 degrees.

When I checked on them, I was pleased to find them just starting to turn brown and tender but not slimy.  I cautiously put one in my mouth and began chewing.  While, I would say they definitely were mildly astringent but not at all bitter.  They were quite pleasant.  I couldn’t believe it.  I was actually enjoying brussel sprouts!

So, to any of you veggie avoiders out there (you know who you are!) you may want to give your detested dish another try.  I think prep is key when it comes to certain vegetables.  So, if you don’t like it the way your grandma made it; find a new recipe; mix it up; invent your own!  It might improve your health and make your world a little more interesting.

Love and blessings to all.

Cynthia

Please follow me on Twitter.  Also, please LIKE my Facebook Page.

justdragonfly

My Plant-based Life: Am I Vegan?

Am I vegan?  Well, it depends on who you ask…  Many people do consider me a vegan because my diet includes nothing that comes from an animal.  The original intention of the Vegan Society, founded by Donald Watson in 1944, was in fact to coordinate non-dairy vegetarians who do not eat eggs.  So, in the classic definition of the word, I am a vegan.

Veganism, however, is a lifestyle that goes beyond just what one puts in her belly.  And this is where it gets confusing for me.  Vegans will go to great lengths to avoid anything that has been tinged by the commodification of animals.  So, vegans avoid leather, silk, wool and other products that may contain lanolin, beeswax or any other animal-derived ingredients.  Naturally, vegans are opposed to animal testing or activities that considered exploitive like the circus, horse-racing and horse-drawn carriages, etc.  (Most vegans also avoid honey but there is a small but vocal minority who believe that honey can be derived without injury to the bees.)

Honestly, I agree with the vegans on just about all ethical grounds.  While, I haven’t completely eliminated leather and wool from my life, I have made strides in that direction.  I also try to purchase personal care products that are free of animal-derived ingredients.  I don’t believe in animal-testing; animals being used for entertainment or burden.

I mentioned in a previous blog post that yoga was part of what inspired my renewed interest in vegetarianism.  The yoga sutras, believed to have been authored by Pantajali, include the eight limbs of yoga.  The first limb, also known as the yamas, consists of five ethical guidelines.  The first guideline is called ahimsa and means “non-violence” toward other.  This practice resonated with me right away.  It is difficult for me personally to be at peace while participating in something that I know has brought harm to another.

And this brings to me to where I do not feel coordinated some other vegans.  There is an approach by some vegans that I do not agree with at all whereby they want to make an impression on people through shame, illegal activities and sex.  Violence and aggression only begets a violent and aggressive reaction from people.  It’s not okay to put people down who have different beliefs than you.  It’s not okay for example to throw paint on people who wear fur.  I honestly believe that there will come a time where we all will understand that more can be accomplished by practicing love and compassion than force.

So, where does that leave me?  Well, usually when asked, I will describe myself as a strict vegetarian.  However, I am inclined to agree with Soren Kierkegaard’s quote:  “Once you label me, you negate me.”  The truth is I am a work in progress.  Like everyone else, I am doing the best I can with the knowledge I have at the moment.  I strive to be the healthiest, most compassionate person that I can be.  When I fail, I am most grateful for forgiveness and the compassion that is shown to me.

Love and Blessings to All,

Cynthia

Please follow me on Twitter.  My handle is @cynthialenz.  Also, please LIKE my Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/naturallyhealthyhappy

My Plant-based Life: Part Three (So long Cheese!)

My Plant-based Life: Part Three (So long Cheese!)

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome reared its’ ugly head again in December of 2009 when I was exposed to mold after moving into an apartment on the top floor of a building, that was about 20 years overdue for a new roof.  I got really sick for the first time since going veg.  After the acute stage passed, I was left with a chronic cough that I couldn’t shake.

I got out of there before the end of 2010 but my move coincided with a colossal bunch of events including my business being in its death throes, starting a new full-time job with long hours and a long commute, as well as, a professional project I had begun working on that went sour and took down several friendships with it.  I was dog tired and sad for several months.  I began getting random pains in my joints.  I was also suffering from severe insomnia at times. (As I mentioned in a previous post Yoga Nidra was very helpful in treating my insomnia.)

I got some temporary relief in the summer of 2011 by taking SAM-e.  S-adenosylmethionine is a dietary supplement that has been shown to be effective in treating arthritis, depression, fibromyalgia, MS and chronic pain.  My other big helper was adopting a four-year-old, hairy Havanese named Chauncy.  Chauncy is the kind of dog twho makes every day, a good day.

CandCcropped

I was still tired and my little cough persisted though.  I was hacking up great big gobs of phlegm several times a day.  I was also bloated again.  I looked like I had a bowling ball in my belly which was hard to hide with clothes.  Things got to a pivotal point in February of 2012 after I put on a seminar at work, I went home and slept for almost 15 hours straight.

I decided to take stock of my lifestyle.  I noticed my diet had gone down the crapper for several reasons: 1) I got caught up in couponing to save money and was only buying things that were on sale.  My diet mostly consisted of the only dairy I was still eating: cheap yogurt and hunks of sale-priced cheddar.  I had stopped cooking.  My dinners, after getting home late at night, were usually a hunk of cheddar, a glass of wine and bag tortilla chips with salsa. 2) My yoga practice was non-existent.  If it wasn’t for walking Chauncy twice a day, I would have gotten no exercise at all.  I knew I needed to make big changes again.

I hit Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods and bought every beautiful whole food that called out to me, regardless of price.  I felt better just looking at all that colorful fresh produce in the cart.  (I also went to the Farmer’s Market every week to get local, fresh produce all summer long.) I began studying nutrition again too.  I wanted to see if there was a natural way to deal with how I was feeling.  The library was calling every day with books and DVDs, I had reserved on the topic. One thing that kept coming up over and over was adding in more raw food.  Raw food, especially greens, cleanse the body and provide micronutrients.  I now try to eat over 65% raw fruits and veggies in my diet. (A particularly moving documentary on the power of raw food is Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days.)

The most profound change I made was giving up dairy completely.  I had long suspected that it was contributing to my upper respiratory issues but I LOVED cheese.  I used to joke that I was a cheese addict.  Then I saw Dr. Neal Barnard’s lecture on the addictive properties of chocolate, cheese, meat and sugar… turns out I actually was.  Cheese, according to Barnard, contains concentrated amounts of casein, “a protein that breaks apart during digestion to release a whole host of opiates called casomorphins.”

Giving up cheese was no joke.  I was a hardcore, daily user.  Brie, cheddar, Havarti, Fontina, raw, goat cheese…oh, it didn’t matter what kind, I dug all of it.  I am embarrassed to admit this, but I actually got weepy at the thought of never having it again.  I even went through withdrawal-type symptoms.  I was cranky, jittery and got headaches.  Then this amazing thing happened a few weeks after I stopped eating it; I started to feel great.  My sinuses cleared up.  I also stopped hacking up phlegm all the time and I was no longer bloated.  The mental haze and fatigue lifted.

So, there you have it.  I have been completely plant-based since March of 2012.  Am I vegan though?  Read my blog next week and find out.

Love and blessings to all,

Cynthia

Please follow me on Twitter.  My handle is @cynthialenz.  Also, please LIKE my Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/naturallyhealthyhappy

My Plant-based Life: Part Deux (Getting healthier)

I decided to try yoga because my body was way too run down to start jogging.  I had always been pretty flexible; so, it seemed like it might be a good fit.  Also, yoga seemed to be a series of slower movements.  So, I didn’t have to worry about being a spaz… the way I always felt in dance and aerobics classes.  Turns out, I LOVED it!  At first, I did it on my own with tapes and DVDs; then when I was brave enough, I began taking classes.  I highly recommend going to an experienced yoga instructor.  It’s always a good to have someone checking your form and giving you tips to grow your practice.

As I began learning about yoga, I found a lot of information on being a vegetarian.  Not all people who practice yoga are veg, but there seemed to be a lot of vegetarian info. in yoga magazines and books (Teaser: more on why this is this next week!).  And from what I was reading, many people found relief from the digestive orders like I had, by eliminating meat and dairy from their diet.  So, I began to experiment.

First, the red meat went.  Instantly, I started to feel better.  The bouts of diarrhea stopped.  I also stopped drinking milk.  I never liked milk.  When I was a little girl, I struggled to finish my glass of milk with dinner.  Often, I would be the last one at the dinner with Mom wiping the table down around me because it was so hard to get down.  Milk and ice cream would leave my belly so distended but I never made the connection because I thought milk was so good for you. Eventually, I stopped eating all animals, seafood, eggs and most dairy.  I felt better and better with each elimination. (No pun intended but FYI that improved too!)

As I was getting rid of these items, I had to learn to new ways of eating.    Given what some friends have referred to as my Virgo nature, I had to find out how to be a healthy vegetarian, as well as, the answers to any questions detractors might throw at me.  (Virgos don’t like to argue but, apparently, we like losing arguments even less.)  So, I officially became a nutrtion nerd, devouring books, magazines and websites on vegetarian nutrition.

Protein was something I had always heard was lacking in vegetarian diets.  Indeed, to this day, “how do you get your protein?” is the top question I am asked.  I quickly learned that protein deficiency is rarely an issue.  (And if you think about it, many of the animals, omnivores eat for protein, are actually vegetarian.)  I’ve also learned that too much animal protein is a likely contributor to chronic diseases.  I could write a whole post just on this topic alone but a few sources of veggie protein include nuts, seeds, legumes, tofu, fermented soy products and certain grains like buckwheat.

The next biggest question I get is: What do you eat?/Don’t you feel deprived?  The great irony is that I eat MORE and more varied food now that I am veg than I did when I was an omnivore.  I also still eat a lot of the same food I ate before like pasta, pizza, burritos, burgers, fries, salads etc. but of course now they are made without animal products.  I became a better cook and got more adventurous in trying new things like kale, different types of mushrooms and dandelion greens.  I finally learned how to cook beans.  I found that the more colorful my diet became, the better I felt.  A lot of my food before had been beige: chicken breast, potato, pasta, bread and margarine.  In fact, my doctors had told me to eat plain foods to keep my digestive issues at bay. After I went veg, my meals became a dazzling display of healthy lush greens with red, yellow, purple and orange veggies.  The more colorful my diet got, the better my digestion was.

My health bounced back rather rapidly after I started a yoga practice and adopted a vegetarian diet.  I lost 15 of the 20 pounds I had gained.  My energy increased significantly.  I also experienced a greater sense of emotional well-being and I felt more like myself but more on that in next week’s post… Going all the way Veg.

Love and many blessings,

Cynthia

Please follow me on Twitter.  My handle is @cynthialenz.  Also, please LIKE my Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/naturallyhealthyhappy

My Plant-based Life: Part One

The most controversial word I have ever encountered is VEGAN.  Holy cow, if you want to see people get whipped up into a frenzy, just utter the word vegan in a mixed crowd and see what happens.  Militant meat-eaters will throw out phrases like “grazers” or make assumptions like, “you only eat rabbit food” or get ethical and say “vegans act like they are better than everyone else because they don’t eat animals.”  Militant vegans have thrown paint on people for wearing fur coats; accuse people of being murderers just for eating the way they have their whole life.   In short, it can get really ugly.

You and me, we’re not militant, right?  So, let’s avoid all that today, shall we?  I am going to tell you my story and what I have learned over the last 10 and a half years of being a vegetarian and living a mostly plant-based lifestyle.

I remember very distinctly the first time I considered becoming a vegetarian at seven years-old.  We were at my grandparents’ house for a barbecue and I suddenly became aware that the cheeseburger I was enjoying used to be a living, breathing animal.  I told my family that I didn’t want to eat animals anymore.  Mom informed me that I would be a vegetarian then.  “Yes, I will be a vegetarian!” I decided.

Grandpa said, “Why draw the line there?  You have to kill plants to be a vegetarian.  Why is it okay to murder plants?”  I said, “Grandpa! Plants don’t get hurt the way animals do!”  He insisted that they did.  He went onto say that whenever he mowed the lawn that he could hear the grass screaming.  Everyone (except me) had a big laugh over this and it was clear that my vegetarian goal was not going to be supported.  So, I released the idea into the summer night and didn’t think about it again for over 20 years.

All through my life, I was plagued by digestive issues ranging from gas, severe bloating, bad bouts of diarrhea, nausea and cramping.  It always seemed like something was going on but no doctor could get to the bottom of it.  Almost always I was told to use antacids or given a script for whatever new drug was out that year and sent on my way.  Complicating my digestive discomfort, I have suffered with bouts of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) on and off since I had a severe case of mononucleosis my freshmen year of college.  I also struggled with nasal allergies and chronic sinus infections.   It seemed like something was always wrong with me and it sucked because none of the traditional treatments ever seemed to work.

When I was 29, I went through the worst bout of CFS I had ever had, and was sick and tired of being sick and tired, all the time.  And for the first time in my life, I had gained a lot of weight from the lethargy induced by my illness.  Nothing I had been given by western medical practitioners had worked.  I knew that if I wanted a different result I would have to find a new way of doing things.  The two areas I had yet to delve into were diet and exercise.

To be continued…

Please check back next week for Part Two of My Plant-based Story…

Love and many blessings,

Cynthia

Please follow me on Twitter.  My handle is @cynthialenz.  Also, please LIKE my Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/naturallyhealthyhappy