Worst. Blogger/Dieter. Ever.

Guys. I am awful at this. How long has it been since I posted?!?

I do have a few excuses though.

1. I moved back into school a little over a week ago and shit has been hectic. I’m in my last semester of a pre-professional degree program in Architecture, which basically makes my workload equivalent to that of a pre-law student. I’m doing my thesis, which has already consumed 4 months of my life and is about to consume 4 more. So stressful. And because I stress-eat, this challenge has been the last thing on my mind.

2. Being vegetarian at school is HARD. I mean, sure, we have a Chipotle. But have you HAD their barbacoa? How can I eat just peppers and onions and black beans and miss out on THAT? I’m going to try it though, so we shall see. I’ll update accordingly.

3. Even when cooking at my apartment, being vegetarian is insanely difficult. I should’ve foreseen this, but I was in a post-Jan-1 resolutionary haze. The thing is, I cook with my boyfriend who is a carnivore. A healthy carnivore, but a carnivore nonetheless. One of our favorites shared pastimes is cooking together, and when I can’t make meat, it kind of kills our favorite activity. We’re trying to work our way around this (Indian food definitely helps, he loves that stuff).

But that leads me to my big edit – vegetarianism isn’t working. I didn’t think it would feel like deprivation, but it does. I’m incredibly, incredibly disappointed to post this, but (and this is a big, big but) I am not giving up. I refuse to. I still have 50 pounds and 3 dress sizes to lose, and I’m not quitting until they’re gone.

I think the only path for me, though, is portion control. I’ve been reading a lot about my struggles, and I’ve realized that I can’t cut out the foods I love (such as meat) without feeling like I’m depriving myself, even if I do enjoy a vegetarian meal every now and then. What I need to do is carefully regulate my intake of everything. I know, this is a cop-out. But I’m trying to focus less on the fact that I abandoned a tenet of my yearlong challenge and more on the fact that I’m setting myself up for long-term sustainability. I’m not a terrible person, right? 😦

That being said…

I WENT TO THE GYM TODAY. Yes sir/ma’am, I went to the gym for the first time since October and it felt FREAKING AMAZING. I’m not one to champion exercise, I see it as a necessary chore. But working out (especially in this East Coast polar vortex, for some reason), felt absolutely incredible. I’m not quite where I was in October in terms of endurance and flexibility, but I will definitely get there.

I managed 4 miles on the elliptical, half a mile walking on the treadmill, and 6 reps on various ab machines (20-30 lb. weights). Very light, I know. But I’m easing myself back into it. And I’m so, so excited to keep it up. Damn, who knew working out felt so good? Of course, I’m going to hate it by tomorrow when the runner’s high wears off, but for right now…I feel a lot better about failing in vegetarianism. πŸ˜›

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Guys I have to apologize for not posting in a while. I had a ton of family over this weekend, and cooking for them was a real challenge. There are some Indians, like some members of my family who visited, who don’t eat onion or garlic. I’m a little unsure of the reason, but I think it has something to do with being grown underground. Anyway, on top of cooking vegetarian food for them, I had to concoct a recipe that also didn’t use any onion or garlic, either fresh or in powdered form. The one exception was vegetable broth Β – still not sure why.

So the following is a modified butternut squash soup recipe. My first experience with butternut squash was a few weeks before I started this blog – it was actually a risotto! And it inspired my mushroom risotto recipe because it was such a success. As my fellow East Coasters know, this past weekend was the Polar Vortex, with temperatures reaching incredible lows all over the region. What better way to stay indoors and warm yourself up than with a hearty, healthy vegetable soup? I’m pretty proud of this recipe, not only because it’s incredibly simple, but because it’s got to be one of the healthiest things I’ve made (omitting, of course, the optional heavy cream).

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Ingredients (makes 8 servings):

adapted from Sweet and Savory by Shinee

1 butternut squash (peeled, seeded, and diced into large cubes)

4 tbsps butter

30-40 baby carrots, cut in half

4-5 cups low-sodium vegetable broth

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp white pepper

1 tsp dried parsley

Salt to taste

Heat a large soup pot and melt down 4 tbsps butter. Add baby carrots and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add butternut squash and toss with melted butter before adding vegetable broth. Bring to a rolling boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Once cooked down, add 1 c. water and spices. Stir and take off the heat to cool. Once slightly cooled, puree in food process or use an immersion blender. Once entirely pureed, add 4 tbsps. heavy cream (this is optional) and stir before serving hot.

Recipe: Butternut Squash Soup

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This seems like as good a time as any to point out that I don’t believe in diets. I’ve tried so many – I’ve cut out carbs, I’ve cut out dairy (yeah, I know). Last summer I even tried a juice cleanse and only lasted 3 days before passing out. Deprivation just doesn’t cut it for me. Everything I read and hear tells me that the only way to lose weight is lifestyle maintenance. You can’t cut out a food group and expect to be able to eat it in a few months or a year. Instead you have to retrain yourself to make healthier decisions. Why, then, am I trying vegetarianism for a year? Well for me it’s not a diet, it is actually a lifestyle. And if I find it sustainable, I’ll try to maintain it for longer than one year!

That being said, this is one of my favorite healthier-but-not-diet-food recipes. I’m a risotto junkie. I order it at restaurants whenever I can, I spent a few months living on pre-packaged, reheatable varieties from Waitrose when I lived in London, and now I’ve finally taught myself how to make it from scratch. Obviously risotto, a rice-based dish, is not suitable for a low-carb diet. Luckily that’s not how I roll. I instead choose to focus on the fact that this dish involved a box full of delicious shiitake mushrooms, low-sodium vegetable broth, a minimal amount of cheese, and no heavy cream (as some varieties of risotto often have). That sounds healthy to me!

For those who have never made risotto at home, I highly recommend the experience. It’s simple to make, but it requires patience and gets easier with practice. It’s really therapeutic to stand in front of a stove on a winter day and stir steamy, brothy rice for half an hour, and my absolutely favorite part is the addition of white wine – the smell is amazing. πŸ™‚

Ingredients (makes 2 servings):

1 1/2 c. arborio rice (the kind traditionally used in risotto)

1 shallot

3 tbsp. unsalted butter

2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1/4 c. white cooking wine

32 oz. low-sodium vegetable broth

5 oz. shiitake mushrooms, sliced

Black pepper and shredded parmesan cheese to taste

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Heat a deep non-stick pan on medium and melt butter into olive oil. Finely dice shallot and add to butter/oil mixture until pieces are transparent. Add rice and toast lightly. Reduce heat to low. Add white wine, stir until it cooks off – rice should be ever so slightly cooked by now. Add 2-3 oz. of vegetable broth to rice in increments. Stir after each addition until broth is absorbed, then add the next increment. All 32 oz. are not needed, but depending on the variety of rice, strength of the stove, etc., it may take a while. Routinely taste the rice to check for doneness. Once rice tastes cooked, add shiitake mushrooms and stir. The mushrooms don’t need to be cooked, but they taste amazing when you let the rice steam them a bit. Add black pepper to taste and top with shredded parmesan cheese. Serve in shallow bowls with plenty of extra parmesan and a glass of antioxidant-full red wine! I wish I could’ve done the last part, but my eating buddy for the night doesn’t drink. Next time!

Recipe: Mushroom Risotto

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Food: Dislikes and Weaknesses

Important to know about me: I’m unfortunately a picky eater. Despite being comfortable with vegetarianism (really, I’m going strong and not craving anything right now), there are more than a few things that I refuse to eat (I know, I know), and a couple things that may spell disaster for my new healthier lifestyle. You may ask why I didn’t list any Likes, but once you eliminate dislikes and weaknesses, it’s safe to assume I like everything else. πŸ™‚

Dislikes:

Eggs – I know they’re a great source of protein, but I could never stand the smell or the texture. But I’m going to be lacking protein this year, so if I can figure out a way to mask the smell or hide egg in things, like fried rice, I may be able to stand them.

Tomatoes – I have never ever ever enjoyed tomatoes. I can eat them pureed or cooked down into sauce, but in pieces (either raw or cooked) they kind of make me gag. However I’ve become quite adept at picking them out of things, so this is just a fact of my existence now.

Bell Peppers – I don’t hate all vegetables, I swear. But store-bought green, red, and yellow bell peppers often have a really tough skin that I can’t quite stand. I find home grown or organic peppers to be a lot tastier, but as a poor college student I’m not sure I can afford those.

Coconut – I’m Indian! But I really don’t like coconut. I only bring this up because coconut is often used in savory applications in many South Indian vegetarian dishes, which would ideally be great for this challenge since many of them are incredibly healthy, but I just can’t stand them. That being said, coconut milk makes a great healthy alternative for heavy cream in many South and Southeast Asian curries and soups, so I will definitely be testing out that substitution this year.

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Weaknesses:

Potato Chips – I don’t even know how to explain how much I love potato chips, it’s that bad. They might account for a full 10% of my diet, which is gross. I need to make my potato chip intake significantly smaller. I should be having them less than once a week, if even that. Seriously, I’ll eat them in any flavor, any brand, with any meal. No limits. I need to keep them far, far away.

Indian fried snacks – all Indian people will hear me on this. They’re not healthy, they provide no nutritional value, and they are the most delicious thing in the world. There are a million different kinds, they’re all amazing. Thankfully good ones are hard to find at school, so these may be easy to avoid.

CHEESE – The worst part about cheese is that, in small amounts, it is quite healthy. Especially for someone who doesn’t drink milk regularly, cheese is a good source of calcium. Unfortunately I really, really love cheese. Any variety, though I prefer sharp cheddar. I heard somewhere that the serving size for cheese is the equivalent of 4 dice, which is much smaller than my usual intake. My biggest challenge will be eating the right amount.

If you want pizza, have it. [But] if you have too much or feel crappy afterward, own that choice. And if you don’t want to feel that way again, you know what to do.

– Sara Ramirez, Glamour Magazine

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Ingredients (makes 4-6 servings):

2 cans black beans

1 medium red onion

1 small handful cilantro (not chopped)

2 Thai green chiles

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Tortillas, cheese, sour cream, guacamole, hot sauce, etc.

Rinse and drain both cans of black beans. Make sure they are properly drained before mixing with other ingredients or the salad will be quite wet. Dice red onion, finely chop cilantro, and thinly slice Thai chiles before adding to black beans. Squeeze juice of 1/2 lemon and mix together. This salad tastes best when it’s able to sit in the fridge overnight – the cilantro and lemon really temper the sharpness of the red onion. Thinly sliced green onion is also a great addition.Β This particular recipe is one of my favorites for several reasons: it’s cheap, it’s healthy, it’s easy, and it is absolutely delicious. This is a staple of Mexican night at my house and has become such a favorite that it traveled with me to college. Black beans are cheap and easy to stock and the other ingredients are ridiculously easy to come by. I’ve experimented with lime juice instead of lemon and my boyfriend even added bacon once. Obviously that’s off-limits for me this year. This dish is also an excellent vegetarian source of protein. It substitutes so well for ground beef on Taco Night that my carnivorous roommates request it.

Recipe: Black Bean Salad

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