Author Archives: Christine Najera

About Christine Najera

I am a wife and mother of four beautiful children. I graduated with a degree in English Creative Writing from the University of Central Florida.

Razzy Dazzy Yogurt Parfait

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If you are looking for a healthy snack with some crunch, look no further! Take a break with this super yummy raspberry, granola, yogurt parfait. The best part is, it’s gluten-free and vegan!Image

To make this delicious treat I use the following ingredients:

  • “Kind-Healthy Grains” Maple Walnut Clusters with Chia & Quinoa
  • “Silk Live!” Soy Yogurt. Plain or Vanilla
  • Fresh Raspberries 

ImageGive it a try and let me know what you think! What are YOUR favorite vegan yogurt toppings? 

 

Quick and Easy Channa Masala

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When you hear quick and easy and Indian food your probably thinking that’s not possible right? Well, after a lot of experimenting and having to cook dinner for my family in under 30 mins, I came up with this recipe. It may not be quick if you don’t already have these ingredients on hand and easily accessible, so make sure you are prepared before starting. I have an optional section because when I have more time for chopping I will add those ingredients but if I’m in a hurry the ingredients listed is all I use. If your not sure where to get the spices look in an Indian or West Indian grocery store. The spice blend that I use in this recipe is also one that I use in many others with small variations. The flavor and smell that the ingredients release is intoxicating. No really…sometimes you can catch me sniffing the spices even before cooking, it’s that good!! (In the picture below, instead of using rice I put the Channa Masala over lettuce and added blue corn chips on the side.)

Ingredients:

1 Large can Goya chickpeas, or 2 small cans (rinsed and drained)

2 small tomatoes, chopped or diced

1 1/2 tsp Garam Masala

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp cumin seeds

Dry oregano and basil to season

Salt to taste

Fresh cilantro for topping

1-2 Tbsp oil

Optional:

1/2 red pepper sliced or chopped

1 small onion finely chopped

4 cloves of crushed garlic

green onions

Directions:

  • In a separate small bowl mix the garam masala, turmeric and ground cumin with water to make a paste.
  • Heat the oil on medium heat.
  • Add cumin seeds and the optional garlic and onions to the oil. Heat for 1-2 minutes stirring continually.
  • Add the spice paste to the oil and stir.
  •  Add chopped tomatoes cooking for 1-2 mins.
  • Add optional green onions and red peppers
  • Add chickpeas and stir together.
  • Add about 1/2 cup- 1 cup water, enough to cover the chickpeas to boil
  • Add dry basil and oregano
  • Turn heat to Med-High and cover the pot
  • Stir every few minutes and check to make sure there is enough water to boil but don’t add too much water (don’t want to make it too watery)
  • After about 10 mins boiling, turn off heat and open the pot cover to simmer
  • Add cilantro
  • ENJOY!! 🙂

Coffee: To Drink or not to Drink…That is the Question!

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Over three years ago I gave up drinking coffee. My husband and I would drink at least 2-3 cups everyday. We spent so much money on coffee on the go. You know how that is, $4 or $5 for a cup of coffee from one of those big named cafe places. Plus coffee at home, we had to have those fancy Silk creamers to go along with our drinks, not to mention the coffee syrups to make some fancy latte’s. We wanted to change our eating habits and that included what we drank. We decided to go “cold turkey” and stop the coffee drinking. It was difficult for a week but after that we felt better and our wallet was somewhat heavier.

Well…fast forward to November of last year, the weather was getting colder and the coffee was smelling of so pumpkin-y. I thought, I can control myself, just one cup and that’s all I’ll get. Then it turned into every time I went to the book store or Target I would get one. Then one glorious day I found the best invention of all time!! Folgers makes individual coffee bags that you steep for one minute and it’s ready to go. I thought I could control my urges but that didn’t happen. I went from drinking 2-3 cups a week to 2 cups a day at home with my newly found love. At first it kept my energy up and gave me the boost I needed to get through my day. But now it gives me a sick feeling to think I need it. 

I know there is conflicting research that coffee is good for you and that it’s not. I am never sure what to believe. But I do know how it makes me feel. Like other things I have eliminated from my diet that tasted so good, the bad side effects outweigh the good. It speeds up my metabolism where I feel full of energy and not hungry, then I crash and feel instantly hungry and tired. That’s when I over eat to make up for the snacks I missed because of my coffee rush. Ugh. So I am now two days coffee free. I already feel better but I still crave the taste and the habit that I created.

I have now replaced my coffee habit with my long lost love….

Inspiration from Thich Nhat Hanh on Mindful Living

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“People sacrifice the present for their future, and life is available only in the present moment.” – Thich Nhat Hanh

While watching “Super Soul Sunday” on the OWN Network, Thich Nhat Hanh was Oprah’s guest. His words were very inspiring. He spoke about living a “mindful” life, being present in every moment of the day and night. He was explaining that being mindful meant to go throughout the day in a meditative state, reflecting on what is going on around you and staying content in the moment. He does a walking meditation everyday that reminds him to stay in the moment reciting in his head, I am home, I am home, I am home. Reminding himself that in this moment is where he should be.

He says the key to mindful living is though mindful movements, which include walking and sitting meditation. He explains mindful movements here,

  • “The mind can go in a thousand directions, but on this beautiful path, I walk in peace. With each step, the wind blows. With each step, a flower blooms.”
  • “When we walk like (we are rushing), we print anxiety and sorrow on the earth. We have to walk in a way that we only print peace and serenity on the earth… Be aware of the contact between your feet and the earth. Walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet.”
  • “The most precious gift we can offer anyone is our attention. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.”
  • “In mindfulness one is not only restful and happy, but alert and awake. Meditation is not evasion; it is a serene encounter with reality.”
  • “Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again.”

And also Mindful eating, he believes that a vegan diet helps protect the environment and the earth around us. He explains mindful eating here,

  • “Being vegetarian here also means that we do not consume dairy and egg products, because they are products of the meat industry. If we stop consuming, they will stop producing. Only collective awakening can create enough determination for action.”
  • “By eating meat we share the responsibility of climate change, the destruction of our forests, and the poisoning of our air and water. The simple act of becoming a vegetarian will make a difference in the health of our planet.”

These words are truly inspiring to me because I believe that I can retrain my thinking and begin to see life in simpler terms. By being mindful in everything I do, say, think, and eat I will feel calmer and more at peace in the chaos of the surrounding world. Going back to the quote at the beginning, ” People sacrifice the present for their future, and life is available only in the present moment.” That quote sums up what I want to ultimately change about my thinking. Life is stressful, filled with what’s happening next. If I focus on the present and what is happening in the moment, my mind will not be filled with the future and the unknown.

Life is happening right now. When that moment passes it becomes your past and remains only a memory. The only reality is the here and now. Live in this moment and begin to focus on what you do, say, think, and eat as mindful thinking and movements. Because what happens in this moment will effect the future.

Vegetarian Fun on Cinco de Mayo!

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What’s the first thing you think of when you hear it’s Cinco de Mayo? The first thing I think of is…chimichangas! I love mexican food. It’s full of flavor and color, and there are tons of vegetarian choices. But some don’t know the history behind the day, only the great excuse to eat some yummy Mexican food.

Here’s a little history, then we’ll get back to the food:

Cinco de Mayo is a Mexican holiday that celebrates the victory of the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. Not to be confused with Mexico’s Independence Day which is celebrated on September 16, 1810. Cinco de Mayo is celebrated widely in the United States by sharing food and drinks with friends and family. Let’s continue this tradition and celebrate the awesome flavors Mexican food offers!

Remember that Chimichanga I was talking about? If you haven’t had one it is so good. You can make a vegetarian chimichanga by filling a flour tortilla with beans and vegetables and top it with fresh salsa and guacamole. Typically it’s fried, and on holiday’s you should let loose a little! If you are going to fix this at home regularly you can actually bake it and the taste is still great! Here’s a great recipe I want to try from vegweb.com

Baked Vegetarian Chimichangas 

2 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can pinto beans, undrained
1 can diced tomatoes with chilies, undrained
1 can mild chiles, undrained
cumin-to taste
chili powder-to taste
1 cup cooked instant brown rice
1 can vegetarian refried beans
salsa
guacamole

Directions:

In a large saucepan, sauté garlic and onion in 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat until onion is translucent.  (Reserve rest of oil for later use.)  Add bell pepper, stirring constantly.  Add beans, tomatoes, chiles, and spices.  Turn heat down to low and let simmer for 15 minutes uncovered.

Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees F.

Spread thin layer of refried beans on to each tortilla.  Top with rice and bean mixture.  Fold each side of tortilla towards each other and roll to form a closed burrito.  Brush each burrito lightly with remaining oil.

Place burritos on nonstick or lightly greased cookie sheet.

Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.

Let cook slightly, then top with guacamole, salsa or any other toppings you like.  Enjoy!

Serves: 4   Preparation time: 25 minutes

Other great vegetarian Mexican dishes include:

(to make vegan, exclude the cheese and sour cream)

  • Vegetable Burritos, Bean Burritos (make sure the refried beans are not made with lard)
  • Vegetable Enchiladas
  • Vegetable Fajitas
  • Beans and Rice
Don’t forget these side dishes to keep your friends and family happy:
  • Corn chips
  • Guacamole
  • Salsa
  • Bean dip
  • Fried Plantains
  • Churros
Also make some fruity smoothies and put it in a festive cup for all to enjoy!
Please leave me a comment on your favorite vegetarian Mexican dish, I’d love to hear from you. Have a great day, Happy Cinco de Mayo!!

It’s not vegan food, it’s food that happens to be vegan

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What’s the first thing you think of when you hear “vegan food” or “vegetarian food”? Do you think of vegan food as that creepy stuff that has no substance or taste? I think some people get caught up with the term “vegan food” and not the actual food. I have heard many times by non-vegetarians when vegan food is mentioned, “I don’t want to eat vegan food, I’m not much into that“. What does that even mean? There is perception that vegan food is in a food group all by itself but that can’t be farther than the truth. People eat vegan and vegetarian food all the time without thinking about it. If they only realized that this is categorized as “vegan food”, hopefully they would see that’s all it is, food.

Here are some examples of vegan food that many people veg and non-veg enjoy:

  • Spaghetti and Vegetables (no meat or cheese)
  • Black Beans and Rice
  • Chili (no meat or cheese)
  • French Fries
  • Re-fried Beans (no lard) Chimichanga’s
  • Black Bean Burrito (no cheese or sour cream)
  • Hummus Wraps
  • Falafel
  • Many Indian and Asian dishes are vegan as well

There is so much more…the list could go on. What makes food vegan is excluding the animal products, mainly meat, dairy and eggs. Regular grocery stores are stocked with alternatives that can make any dish vegan. Just by substituting with soy milk, almond milk, and rice milk you can turn a recipe to vegan without anyone noticing. You can replace eggs with bananas, applesauce, ground flax seeds, tapioca flour and an alternative egg re-placer, my favorite is made by Ener-G.

While watching the Today show this morning, a vegan chef of Portia de Rossi was cooking vegan ” fried chicken”. The interesting point that the chef made was that he was not a vegan chef before working for Portia and Ellen. He found that all he had to do was substitute his recipes making them vegan. The important thing he found was that people didn’t even tell the difference.  That’s what is great about “vegan food”, it’s just food….and really good food I might add!

The Today Show Goes Vegan {Video} with recipe

Using Spices Doesn’t Always Mean Spicy!

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What makes vegetarian food taste so good is the amazing flavor. It’s all in the spice! Some people may think that adding spices will mean it will be spicy or hot. It all depends on the spices and how much you use that determines the spiciness of the dish. The best thing to do is to experiment with the spices. Add a little at a time and do a taste test. Check back for some awesome recipes that use these delicious spices!

 

Some great spices that make vegetarian food so flavorful include:

 

  • Cumin Seeds
  • Ground Cumin
  • Anise Star
  • Garam Masala
  • Chili Powder
  • Mustard Seed
  • Turmeric