Thursday, March 31, 2011

Warm Hearty Soup

Another busy day today! I can't believe how much running around I have to do on my days off work. I'm not sure if it's because I work 13 hours when I do work, so I have to cram everything into my days off, or if it's because I'm really disorganized (I tend to think the latter is not true). Whatever the case, we had to set our alarm to get up at 10 am this morning (and it was hard to get up at that time because now that we are on night shift schedule, we didn't get to sleep until nearly 6 am). There are some things you can do while laying awake at night with insomnia, (like take one of my 17 ICU modules which each take 15 hours) but other things, and most of the things I need to get done, like shopping, farmers market, and car shop, are closed at that time of the night. In addition to my errands today, I had to go to the hospital for annual nursing competencies. We also had to drive to South Carolina to take care of the dogs we are dog-sitting, make a pit stop at the farmer's market, factor in time for The Boyfriend's part time job, I had to go to the health food store, make numerous calls for this upcoming bachelorette party, make time for the gym... phew! My car repairs got pushed to another day, again! Here's crossing our fingers for tomorrow! :)

 Breakfast was vegan overnight oats. For the past month I've been eating "raw oatmeal" for breakfast every day, and I love it. It keeps me full for hours, and I mean hours upon hours. Last night I tried something different. I put the oatmeal in a bowl with almond milk and chia seeds and put it in the fridge. Then I went to bed. This morning, I took it out, poured some extra almond milk on it, and mixed in some brown sugar. I topped it with a few slices of banana and a dollop of peanut butter. It was like my regular raw morning oats but better! They were softer and fluffier, but still raw! The chia seeds had expanded in the liquid, as is their nature. Chia seeds give you energy, stamina, and endurance. They fill you up and curb your hunger. Perhaps this is why I feel full for upwards of 6 hours after eating chia seeds.
 The above picture is my overnight oats right out of the fridge. Pour some extra milk on them...
Slice up a banana, and a dollop of peanut butter...
Mmmmm mmmm mmm....
I will probably make them like this from now on. It only takes 10 extra seconds to "prepare" it the night before, and it comes out more to my liking. The other way was fine, don't get me wrong, but my taste for raw oatmeal has matured ; )

 After breakfast we ran to the farmer's market, where I was pleasantly surprised (as always) to see how much money we saved. We got 7 bags of fresh, pesticide-free produce for 24 dollars. Included in our bags of goodies were a bag of fresh dill, a bag of fresh basil, a bag of fresh thyme, a bag of fresh mint, and a bag of fresh parsley  & cilantro. Each bag was one dollar. I can't get over how inexpensive yet fresh and delicious these herbs are! We also got plums, lemons, limes, apples, bananas, carrots, celery, romaine lettuce, zucchini, tomatoes, green beans, the list goes on and on. (For twenty-four dollars!)

 We had to make a quick pit stop at the health food store for some non-dairy cheese, and that is where I saw this bag in the check-out line. I was expecting it to be around 10 bucks, but it was only 2.99!
I can't believe I've been vegan for 3 years and I consider myself somewhat eco-friendly, yet I'm still using and throwing away plastic bags every time I go to the grocery story! This tote is so durable, so thick, so large, and so great for me. I know I will use it for years to come. After the health food store I had to go to the regular grocery store, (for items I'm not willing to spend health-food-store prices on, like rice) so I brought my bag with me. It held four plastic bags worth of groceries and it was the only bag I needed to carry out! How great is that! When I was walking out to my car, a woman was walking in with five or six of her own non-disposable, reusable grocery bags, and she knowingly smiled at me and my eco-friendly bag. It was special.

When I came home from running around I was pretty hungry, so I mixed up some french onion dried spices (which don't have any animal products in them) with my "Better than sour cream" dairy free sour cream, and dipped veggies in it.

This was the perfect snack to munch on while I cooked dinner!

 For dinner tonight we wanted something warm, comforting, and filling. It was grey and chilly today in Charlotte, and we aren't used to that. It has rained maybe a total of 6 times since I've moved here. This morning we were both sad and quiet in the car. I thought to myself, "How did I used to live like this every day in Ohio when it was grey and rainy all the time?"
 One perk about the rainy weather was that it was the perfect opportunity for soup!

Minestrone soup:

3 tablespoons oil
1 cup minced white onion
1/2 cup chopped zucchini
1/2 cup frozen cut italian green beans (i used fresh green beans from the farmer's market today. they can be canned, frozen, or fresh)
1/4 cup celery
4 teaspoons minced garlic
4 cups vegetable broth
2 cans red kidney beans (drained)
2 cans small white beans (great northern beans) (drained)
1 can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup carrot (sliced, diced, julienned)
2 tablespoons fresh parsley
1.5 teaspoons dried oregano
1/5 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
3 cups hot water
3 cups fresh baby spinach
1/2 cup small shell pasta

Heat oil over medium heat in a large soup pot. Put onions, celery, garlic, green beans, carrots, and zucchini in the oil and saute for about five minutes.
Add vegetable broth to pot, then tomatoes, beans, hot water and spices.
Bring soup to a boil, then reduce heat and allow to simmer for 20 minutes.
Add noodles and spinach last, let simmer for another 20 minutes or until noodles are soft.

 I got this recipe originally from my sister and her boyfriend. I loved it so much and have made it twice since then. It has come out stellar both times. Basically it's whatever veggies you want, some veggie broth, and a lot of good spices. I used to think I could never make homemade soup because it would just taste like water. On the contrary, this soup is so tasty it feels like you could have gotten it at a restaurant or store. I think the taste gets better the longer it sits. I usually make it and eat it hours later, or even the next night. A few comments about the ingredients: tonight, I didn't want to use my zucchini, and instead of canned tomatoes I used fresh tomatoes. Instead of dry spices I used all fresh spices because that's what I believe in and that's what I bought at the farmer's market. My point is: If you see a recipe you like but don't have all the ingredients, make it anyway. Substitute or leave out items you don't have, like canned tomatoes for fresh tomatoes, (or even substitute with tomato sauce or paste or marinara!) or lime juice for "half a lime". Do not be afraid to experiment and try! If it calls for "fresh basil" and you only have dried basil, use the dried basil, or even leave out the basil, life will go on. You will be far happier with a less-than-perfect result than you would be if you didn't try at all. Life is all about trying, learning, and trying again! It may be so awful that you pitch the whole thing down the garbage disposal, but hey at least you tried and now you know what to do differently next time!
(p.s. I have never recommended or posted about a recipe that I have ever tossed down the garbage disposal. I only post about the most delicious, highly-recommended recipes for you, all my beautiful readers!)

 I'm off to the gym, where I will mentally write tomorrow's Inspiration Friday post while I run! I have had so much feedback this week, it was as if people secretly read last week's post and were trying to drop hints so they could be in the post tomorrow! ;)  I think everyone deserves to be recognized, not only for the positive changes they are making but the things they do every day that are uplifting, joyful and kind. Each person is capable and deserving of love, remember that. If you feel you have made a positive change in your life, your eating habits, fitness goals, eco-friendly changes, attitude, or anything else, let me know and I will be more than happy to give you a shout-out!

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