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Hey, kids! For the last year I’ve been working with vegan cookies and recipe gathering. My new facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/cafeauxcookies. Like the page and post your own recipes or photos or cookie stories! On Twitter I am @cafeauxcookies. I welcome any and all conversation on Twitter, so stop on over! My followers are fun and lively. Contact me directly at cafeauxcookies@gmail.com.

See you around the interwebs!

With the holiday looming and just days ahead, the internet has gone crazy with links to recipes, planning, decorating and anything else to do with our American Thanksgiving.  Rather than try to produce much of my own information, I want to share links here for those of you who might not be able to monitor the net all day, or who watch different websites than I do.

I will update this list as the week progresses — I cannot stand to not share!   Enjoy, and Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

National Geographic Thanksgiving Quiz & Games
Some amazingly delicious drinks from my friends at Madtini.com
Eatdrinkbetter.com – Vegetarian Thanksgiving recipes from around the world
Whole Living – Warming fall recipes
Mini pumpkin pies for the kids to make – from National Geographic
Indiana Public Media -  Easy baked apple crisp
OrganicAuthority.com – Article about volunteering this Thanksgiving
Easy Thanksgiving side dishes from delish.com
Be the Hostess with the Mostess
Gluten-free pie crust made with coconut flour
A very nice handful of Thanksgiving links from Organic Valley
The Martha Stewart Thanksgiving Hotline Info

I’ll try to keep up with the mad amount of info crossing my computer, so check back for new links.  Yay for Turkey Day!!  I can’t wait!

Everything I do lately seems to be a little bit random, and last night’s dinner definitely was.    But I can explain:   I had chosen the two recipes I wanted to blog, and then had a huge craving for an Amy’s frozen pizza.    And one of my favorite things about living alone is that you can eat whatever you want, whenever you want, and you don’t have to explain a thing to anyone.  So my dinner last night was an Amy’s frozen pesto pizza, okra and onions, and sweet potato chips. 

I found the recipe I used for the sweet potato chips in the October 2010 issue of Vegetarian Times.  This recipe is not posted on their website yet or I would link it here.   Their recipe is for making the chips in a dehydrator, but I altered the ingredients a bit, then popped the chips into the oven.  I was really surprised at how many chips one large sweet potato makes!  

Rosemary Sweet Potato Chips

1 large sweet potato
1 T. olive oil (and more as needed)
1 T. lime juice (or lemon if you like)
1 T. dried rosemary, crushed
Salt to taste

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.

Thinly slice the sweet potato, getting the slices as thin as you can.    Place the slices into a bowl and toss with the olive oil.  I started with one tablespoon, then just added as needed.   Once your slices are coated in the oil, add the lime juice and crushed rosemary, tossing to cover.   Then sprinkle sea salt on the surface and toss again to coat.  

Spread the slices onto a cookie sheet and bake for about 15 minutes, then toss to expose uncooked surfaces and put back into the oven for another 15 minutes or so.    Cooking times will vary greatly depending on the thinness of your chips, oven variables, etc.    But I think you know when a chip is ready to be eaten.  ; )

The other recipe I made was Okra and Onions, also from the October 2010 issue of Vegetarian Times, in an article from the book The Indian Vegan Kitchen: More Than 150 Quick and Healthy Homestyle Recipes by Madhu Gadia:

Okra and Onions

2 T. canola oil
1/2 t. whole cumin seeds
1 medium onion, chopped (1.5 cups)
12 oz. frozen sliced okra, thawed
2 t. ground coriander
3/4 t. salt
1/2 t. ground turmeric
1/2 t. cayenne pepper, or to taste
1/2 t. amchoor or 1 tsp. lemon juice (I used lime)
1/2 t. sugar

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat.   Add the cumin; cook 10 seconds.   Add the onion; saute 3 minutes.   Stir in okra, then coriander, salt, and turmeric.   Also add the cayenne pepper at this point.  I just sprinkled a little bit of cayenne into the pan, I am a bit afraid of heat – I’ve ruined a few dishes making them too hot for my taste.  Cover and cook 10 minutes, stirring once or twice.   I cooked mine a tiny bit longer, uncovered, until the onions were clear and just beginning to carmelize a little.    Once the okra and onions are cooked, stir in the amchoor or lemon juice (in my case lime juice) and sugar.  

I really liked this recipe, the okra and onions have their own flavors, and then as you eat it you taste the various spices at different times, and then the sweetness of both the onions and the tiny bit of added sugar also comes through.  It’s simple, quick and delightful.

WE HAVE NOW PASSED the six months to 50 mark!    This is the final countdown to my 50th birthday and my end goal of being perfectly fit and healthy when I turn 50.   I can do this!

I spent some time getting super organized for the next six months of blogging.  I’ll be posting according to this weekly schedule:

Saturdays — Bread baking & recipes
Sundays — Soup recipes
Wednesdays — Vegetable recipes
Thursdays — Fruit recipes
Fridays — Fitness reporting

And my hope is that some of you will jump on and report your fitness activities for each week in the comments section. Either way, you’ll hear about all I did (or didn’t) do for exercise every seven days.

I’ve already found 35 delicious soup recipes and I’ll make one every Soupy Sunday, just like we did early in the year. I’ve also bought Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day, the second book by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. I don’t know about you, but months of fall and winter weekends filled with fresh-baked bread and homemade soup sound completely heavenly to me. I can’t wait to get started!

The Facebook page is still going strong — I hope you can recommend it to your friends!!   I usually post links and share videos and recipes on the page.   We also get photos posted from our friends on the page, along with links to the wall, which anyone can post at any time.   I’m all about sharing ideas, information and recipes.

I’m also still going strong on Twitter (@14monthsto50), approaching 900 followers, which I know is total babydom in Twitworld, but for me it seems like a big deal.  All I know is so much information passes over Twitter every day that I’m still astounded by it!   I love it as an information-sharing source. 

On the weight and fitness front:  I’ve lost 17 lbs. since I started this blog in January.  I want to lose at least 10 pounds more, and you know how that goes.  When I get there, I’ll probably want to lose a few more.  I’m so happy with my improved diet and health — this has truly been a lifestyle change and it is something I completely prefer.   I wish I could make everyone eat the way I do!  

I’ll be back here tomorrow with a veggie dish or two, some photos (if I can remember how my camera works) and we’ll kick this thing off!!   See ya then.   And thank you all so much for sticking with me through my hiatus — love ya!

I woke up with so many things on my mind today, things related to this blog and the reasons I started it, that I just had to share. 

On the food front, I am still very much guzzling the purple kool-aid of the organic “real food” movement.   There is a difference between organic and non-organic food, and I think it’s important to avoid chemicals, hormones and other awful things in food.   I think the thing that makes it hard for people to embrace the “bad food” idea is that nothing bad happens to you immediately when you eat bad food.  Any ill effects will be later in life, like cancers.  And since you can’t point to it and say “Oh, I got that pancreatic cancer from eating _______ for 10 years,” then it just goes on and on.   A friend of mine (to whom I’ve been talking about bad food for six months) said a couple of weeks ago (about some food evils), “This is really bad, these companies need to be held responsible, the government should be involved, people need to be told what’s going on!”  And then I told him, people ARE being told what’s going on.  But until having a healthy dinner becomes more important than getting to the kid’s soccer practice on time, no one will care.  And then he said “No, I mean they need to REALLY be told, it needs to be all over the evening news and in the papers.”  Well, guess what?  It is!   All of the bad meat stories, e-coli stories, food recalls, health issues, good documentaries, websites, groups — how many times and ways do people need to be told something before they HEAR the information?   So then we concluded it does come down to taking care of your own family and conscious purchases/lifestyle.  When enough people are doing that, then it becomes a real movement and creates real change.

So, I continue to beat my friends over the head on Facebook and Twitter, and use my dollars to vote at the checkout stand - my small way of trying to make change.  

A fun thing I’m getting to do this week is to revamp a friend’s pantry.  He’s finding it complicated to sort out his diet, and I’ve accepted the challenge.  So I first assessed what he normally buys for home, and I’m going to have him replace his unhealthy choices with healthy ones as he needs to restock.  I’m pretty excited about it for a couple of reasons:  I can blog about it and help others do the same thing with their food, and it helps me document exactly how I eat.  I’ll end up with a very good view of my exact food choices, something I’ve sort of internalized lately as it has become habit.

On the fitness front, I’ve joined a gym with a friend where I do stationary bike, rowing machine, a couple of arm machines, and a crunch machine that is KILLER.  It’s a pay-as-you-go place, perfect for me when I just don’t want to work out at home or outdoors.  I’m also still walking, my usual five mile walk a few times a week.  I bought a Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred dvd and it punishes me regularly.

I have also signed up for a couple of challenges through Twitter this month, both for dieting and losing weight, to try to keep on track for a month at a time.  Here’s what I’ve learned from that:  if I think someone else is making me do something, or even paying attention to my success at all, I won’t do it.  It’s a personal flaw, seems like.  So, while I have slowly lost a few pounds, and while I am weighing on the scale more often which I think is a good thing, I think I am more successful when left to self-monitor and not report to anyone. 

Which leads me to my next idea:  I think I am reverting to only fruits and vegetables for the next seven days.  Those of you paying any attention to me at all will remember I’ve done this before.  My reasons are 1) it’s easy to remember what to eat and grab whatever I want, whenever   2) I get plenty of nutrition, while eating no wasteful calories  3) I LOVE fruits and vegetables, and I care less for grains and nuts and legumes.  I have always been a bit of a hobbyist dieter, and evidently if I’m not manipulating, restricting, or otherwise jumping through some kind of food hoops, I’m not happy.  This will keep me entertained for a while, and I hopefully will see some quicker weight loss.  I only want to lose around 10 to 15 pounds, and you would think that would be the easiest thing in the world to do, but as I add muscle (just go along with it) my weight has reached a true plateau.  So seven days of fruits and veggies it is!

And lastly, please friends, do everything you can to be more GREEN.  Cut back on packaged products, try to use recyclable packaging, no plastic, and use responsible home and body cleansers.  Bicycle and walk places with your friends and families.  Buy local food to save on the transportation energy usage.  Read, read, read online about being green and really implement the things you read about.   The environment is not outside of us, it IS us. 

And now I bid you adieu – I’ll be back in two weeks to pick up my regular blogging schedule.  I hope you and yours are well.  Big hugs to you all!

(Forgive any typos or nonsense, I’m on an 8″ netbook in a very cold coffee shop. )

Taking a Hiatus

I will be working on a couple of other web projects for the next four weeks.   So when I return here with new articles and activities, I will be five months from turning 50!    

As you all know, the fall is a very busy time, and mine will be no different.   I will have plenty of football, holidays and perfect weather to write about.   I’m also starting a new indoor garden, using hydroponics to grow food during the winter – so more about that.   This month I will get my fitness on track, too.  I’m off to a good start so far — yay for me!

In the meantime, please follow me on Twitter (where I live) — my twitter name is @14monthsto50.  On Facebook, I post great links, photos and videos.  All of my followers are allowed to post to the wall, too.  The page name on Facebook is, aptly, 14 Months to 50.   Please feel free to email me at 14monthsto50@gmail.com

Enjoy the rest of your summer!   Stay healthy and be good to yourself.

I played around on a web project too long today and found myself starving and shaky with no plans for dinner.   I was thinking about pasta, but when I saw a couple of different kinds already open in the kitchen, I didn’t want to open a new box.   So I threw some water on to boil, with plans to blend some shells and thin spaghetti, and top it with a concoction of leftovers.

I had on hand a half zucchini, a can of black beans, and a half jar of pasta sauce. I also had some apples from my friend Lise’s tree, which would make a perfect dessert.

While the water was boiling I peeled the apples, but left them on the core.   Then I put them into a bowl and drizzled vanilla extract over them, sprinkled nutmeg and cinnamon on them, then shook a couple of spoonsful of raw sugar over the bowl.   I popped those into the microwave for three minutes.

While the apples cooked, I sliced the half zucchini onto a plate, along with a couple cloves of prechopped garlic from a jar, dried oregano and basil, and some cracked pepper and sea salt.   I set that aside until the microwave was available again.

Once the water was boiling, I put both pastas into the water.   When the apples were done, I put the zucchini dish into the microwave for three minutes, too.   I opened a can of black beans and rinsed and drained it.   Once the pasta was done, it was drained and added back to the pan, along with some olive oil, which I then tossed it in.   I added one can of black beans, and 1/2 jar of pasta sauce to the noodles and tossed.   By then the zucchini was finished microwaving and I sat down to have my delicious hot meal that didn’t take more than 15 minutes to make!

Every thing I used in the meal was organic.   The noodles and beans were from Eden Organic, the spices, herbs and pasta sauce were Archer Farms.  You gotta love that. 

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