Monday, March 26, 2012

Recommended Veggie Dish: Quinoa & Black Beans Stuffed Peppers

I have this strange obsession with quinoa (keen-wah).  I'm not quite sure why it's developed the way that it has, considering I've only had it three times in my life.  But early last year when I was researching protein options for a low-carb lifestyle, I ran across this strangely named, ancient seed-grain-whatevertheheck.

Quinoa is packed with protein, and a complex carbohydrate.  It's so versatile - I've seen recipes for it's use in breakfast dishes (replacing oatmeal), pilafs, and salads.  It starts off this tiny little seed-like grain, and after cooking (boiling like rice), it sprouts this little curl that I have read is the germ.  You can also eat quinoa raw (replacement cornmeal in recipes) or you can encourage the sprout by just soaking in cold water for a few hours.  Quinoa.... healthy, protein packed, and cute!

Tonight was actually the first night that I cooked quinoa.  I've had a bag of it in the pantry for a little while, trying to gear up the nerve to cook it.  It's not hard at all, but you have to rinse it first and that's what was intimidating me.  It's so tiny that I knew it would be disastrous if I tried using any of my strainers - including the wire mesh ones I own.  Then I came across someone's suggestion of using an oil-splatter guard... GENIUS!!!

I have so many recipes involving quinoa.  This week I'm feeling Mexican-cuisine inspired, my absolute favorite before turning veg, and so I decided to pull up some Mexican flavored veggie dishes.  I chose to use this one from Emily and Micheal's "One Lovely Blog" (they are just the cutest, by the way), with this picture serving as the catalyst:

Photo from

I don't have a picture of them, but I also served a Southwestern-inspired side of Zucchini "fries" that turned out to be absolutely fantastic; I was very pleased!

For the stuffed peppers, I followed Emily's recipe of cooking the quinoa with a rough diced onion.  Once that was cooked I followed her method of throwing it in a bowl, with a can of drained and rinsed black beans, a can of diced tomatoes with green chilis (along with the liquid), and about a third of a can of a tomato & green chili sauce.  I forgot to add salt, and I never cook with black pepper because I don't like it.  I actually had cilantro, but forgot that as well (darn memory).  I poured the rest of the sauce into a baking dish, put in the pepper halves - I loved halving them instead of just cutting off the tops, by the way, great idea - then spooned in the quinoa mix and topped with a little freshly shredded Monterrey/Colby and Sharp Cheddar cheese.  I lightly covered the dish with aluminum foil, then put them in a 375 degree oven with the timer set for 30min.

Meanwhile, I started my Zucchini fries.  I cut a medium-sized zucchini into spears and put them into a medium sized bowl, then tossed in a little canola oil (enough to coat), some seasoned salt, chili pepper, and ground coriander.  Mixed that all together so it was coated and layered on to a baking sheet, covering with a little Monterrey/Colby cheese.  When the timer for the peppers hit 20min I popped the zucchini in.

The smells coming from my kitchen were amazing.  I had a really good feeling about this one.

When the timer beeped zero I checked the zucchini and deemed it needing just a few more minutes, took the foil off the peppers and then left everything in the oven for another 5min.  After letting everything cool off a little bit, I plated dishes for both my husband and I, and took the first intrepid bite...


Quinoa has such an interesting texture - it's like grainy yet tender all at the same time.  The spice from the chilies in the sauce and the chilies themselves added just the right amount of heat.  The flavor was just spot on Mexican, so comforting for me.  The peppers were a definitely win.  But the zucchini fries.... they were a knocked-outta-da-park HOME RUN! 

Even better, the meal - which really was a culinary stretch for my husband - was a keeper in his eyes as well.  When the man asks if there's more zucchini and goes for seconds on the peppers, that's a meal well cooked.

**Note - this meal as stated in the recipe made A TON.  I've got about half of the quinoa mixture left over, so I threw it in a ziplock baggie and froze it.  Hoping that it holds well for next use.**

***Next time I'm going to try my hand at my own enchilada-style sauce, and since fresh is always better than canned, I'll chop up my own tomatoes and chilies.  Can't wait!***

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Virtual Pinboard

Most of you have heard of Pinterest.... if you haven't, you've either been living under a rock (I will always think of the Geico commercial now when that phrase is uttered), or you have an actual life that doesn't consist of being online several hours a day.

I have a life, but much of mine is spent online.  Hence, this blog.

Being on line a lot translates to - I eventually came across the virtual pinboard, Pinterest.  I love Pinterest.

Since discovering the internet in high school, I have spent countless hours researching and connecting.  Pinterest brings both of these wonderful things together.  Before when researching, I would either write things down, bookmark them, or try to remember... which never works, because I have the worst memory ever (and it keeps getting worse as I age... and I'm only 30 at the moment, so that's a little scary!).  Now that I have Pinterest, I don't have to rely on memory to remember sites, or even to remember that I bookmarked them (or where I put the piece of paper that I wrote them down on, which also saves paper, and I'm all about Green!).  Now all I have to do is log on to my Pinterest account and look through my bookmarks.  I feel like the site was created for me (never mind that I'm about two years behind the unveiling).

One of the biggest things I pin is recipes, which makes sense, as I have been collecting recipes since I moved in with my Dad and started cooking for myself.  Which is in no offense to my Dad - he just didn't keep a house stocked with food, and as befitting a woman in her early 20's, while my Pop provided shelter, I took care of myself in all other aspects.  But I digress.....  Being able to pin a recipe to one place is so revolutionary for my being.  I try to live my life as paperless as possible, and if I don't have to print something out, and can reference the recipe on my phone - PERFECT!

With that being said, my Recipe Board on Pinterest has gotten very large.  I have pinned hundreds of different recipes.  As I look through it, I find myself thinking.... Will I ever make all of these??

At the time of this writing, I have exactly 365 recipes pinned.  My analytical mind immediately thought well, there are 365 days in a normal year.... maybe I should make an effort to make one recipe out of my board a day.  Then I started thinking  well back up a second, a lot of these recipes only I will eat, and some of the earlier ones are not vegetarian, so I won't eat them anyway.  Which led me to the latest thought, and the purpose of this blog.

Once I get to 400 recipes, which should take care of the ones I have that focus on meat, I am going to make one recipe - maybe two, depending - a week from my Pinterest board.  I'm going to write a blog entry for as many as I deem worthy (meaning, for as many as I make that I actually have the motivation to post on).  My husband is actually going to be home this weekend on both days (yay!), so tomorrow we're planning a trip to Whole Foods, where I can get some good, wholesome ingredients to start my Pinterest Recipe Board journey.

I raise an imaginary glass of wine (Girl's Night with my bestie was tonight, so the wine has already been drank) to my latest project!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A journey worth taking...

picture from

"Life is all about the journey."  How often have we all heard that phrase?  How often do we truly examine it?

When you get right down to the bottom of it, the fact is none of us will ever truly know what happens when our lives extinguish on this Earth.  We have ideas and beliefs that have been formed by spiritual faith or scientific reasoning, but not one person on this Earth can tell you with absolute certainty that THIS is what happens when you die.  We exist in this moment, at this time, and that is a truth we can all agree on.  And so, taking out what eventually will happen to our spirit when our bodies have ceased, what are we left with?  We are left with the Here and Now.  We are left with the Journey.

When people are met with the phrase "it's all about the journey," it's most often after reflecting upon the meaning of life.  If you think back to the fact that we are existing now, at this very moment, the journey being the meaning of life is absolutely true.

How can we best enjoy it then?  How can we get the most out of it?  Explore, grow, and evolve.  Sometimes we can choose the way we do these things....  And other times, the Universe (God, Nature, forces, etc.) will choose what we need.

Our journeys are unique for us.  No two paths are exactly the same.  Some of us have partnered up with another, and while we may be experiencing the same events at the same time, what we learn from them and why we are going through them are completely different from one another.  The same is true for our children.  We may bring them into this world, but we are only the nurturer and the conduit for showing them the universal values they will build upon as they grow older and begin their journey in earnest. 

We also need to remember this when we start thinking that we wish our lives were more like this or that person's.  We cannot allow ourselves to think that way, because their journey is unique to them, and they are experiencing whatever they are for their own reasons.  It does not concern you, because you have your own journey with your own unique chances to explore, grow, and evolve, that are tailored specifically for you.

Sometimes our journey takes us places that we do not want to be, or has us experience things that are heart-wrenching and horrifying.  Some things to remember during those times are that they are happening to you for a reason, and it’s not necessarily as punishment.  Someone once told me that sometimes we experience things not for ourselves but for others, meaning that we go through certain things to help another in some way.  Also remember that every experience we live through truly does make us that much stronger, that much more knowledgeable, and that much more evolved.  For the times when we look back at the choices we made and wish we would have done things differently, know that what decision you ultimately made was the right decision.  It’s natural for us to reflect and question; our human nature makes us sentimental and quizzical.  But leave it at that…  You are HERE because you are meant to be. And if HERE isn’t somewhere you want to be, if NOW is a time that is truly testing your strength, your will, your faith, remember these things above…  You will come out stronger, you will come out evolved, and maybe you will be helping someone in ways you never imagined.

Take a moment to bring your awareness in to the moment, right now.  Take a few natural breaths in and out, listen to the sounds around you, smell the air, feel what you are resting on.  The fact that you are able to do that is not something to take for granted.  We may be faced in life with paths we don’t want to go down, or experiences that make us feel helpless, but remember that they all go away, and when they do, you’ll always feel empowered.  Life is an amazing gift, and our journeys are always worth taking, even when the roads are rough and overgrown.

Recommended Veggie Dish: Baked Penne with Roasted Vegetables

Photo from

The first vegetarian dish that I made was one I adapted from a recipe off the "Eats Well With Others" blog found here.  It was absolutely delicious and now I make it at least twice a month.

I don't measure when it comes to recipes; I basically used her recipe that I linked to as a base, adding to and taking away to fit my tastes.

I cut up one green pepper, one red pepper, one zucchini, one onion, and one tomato, coated lightly with olive oil and tossed with herbs (I used a "Country Herb" grinder from Aldi's) a little salt and a sprinkle of garlic powder.  Then I sprayed a baking sheet lightly with PAM (I hate when things stick, so I take no chances!), spread out the veggies in a single layer, and roasted in a 450 degree oven for about 20-25min.

When the veggies have about 5-10min left I start heating up the sauce.  I tend to always use Newman's Own Organic Tomato & Basil, as it's my favorite ever.  Once the sauce is bubbling I will kick it down to a low simmer, adding a bit of freshly grated cheese (mozzarella, parmesan, asiago, whatever I happen to have on hand), and then when the veggies are done I'll throw those in to the sauce.  Make sure to sample a few pieces before putting all into the sauce.... Roasted veggies are super yum!

While the sauce is on a low simmer, melding all the flavors together, I will cook the pasta.  Serve with a nice red wine and maybe some homemade garlic bread and you're good to go!

Monday, March 19, 2012

My Road to Vegetarianism (a processed-food girl's journey)

The start of 2012 marked a significant change in my life.  I finally made the move to a primarily vegetarian lifestyle, after what had been years of gearing up to it.  Once I finally made the change, I found that it's not so hard, nor boring.

I, like many other Americans, was raised with a "meat and potatoes" diet concept.  A meal was not complete nor optimally nutritious without some form of animal meat product.  This conditioning was so fundamental that it continued even as I grew older and my philosophical outlook evolved to that of living compassionately and respectfully with regards to all life on Earth.  I still looked at nutrition through the veil of "common knowledge."  What also was not helping was my lack of experience in the plant-based world.  I knew the basics but never branched out beyond, and when I started to explore the option of a vegetarian lifestyle, I always shunned away believing that I didn't like vegetables enough, and how would I ever survive?

As the years went by I continued to evolve.  I questioned more and did my own research.  I was eventually led to the documentary Food, Inc., which opened my eyes to Factory Farming, a concept I had never even heard of, and surprising enough, where my food came from and how it was prepared was something I never really thought about.  In this area I followed the "ignorance is bliss" motto, and tried to not think about how the meat in my meals came to the plate. 

After watching Food Inc. I changed how I bought meat.  I will admit that although I tried very hard to buy meat from family, sustainable, and organic farms, I was not always consistent.  I still ate fast food once or twice a month because I was "in a hurry" or needed that hangover "cure-all": grease.  I would sometimes buy cheaper meat cuts with the qualifier that I was on a budget and needed to watch my spending habits.  When going out to eat I wouldn't even think to consider vegetarian options, because I was in the mindset that with the amount I was spending on a meal, I might as well "make it worth the money."  I had so many "conventional wisdom" beliefs going on in my mind and I never thought to bring them closer to examine for myself.

This all started changing for me last year.  I don't know what happened to spark it, but I began to shed those "conventional wisdom" beliefs and "common knowledge" ideas.  I began looking more towards myself for answers.  One of the areas that I started looking at was health, and how the saying that "you are what you eat" was ringing absolutely true.  I have struggled with my weight and energy level for years, and finally had come far enough in the "evolution of me" to look at my lifestyle and see where I could improve and outright remove damaging habits.  This thinking eventually led me to two additional documentaries: Food Matters and Forks Over Knives.  Both documentaries explore the benefits of a whole food, plant-based diet, eliminating processed foods and greatly reducing (if not removing completely) animal protein.  Without going in to much detail about what these documentaries are all about (I've linked the websites so you can explore on your own), after watching both of them I decided that enough was enough.  I had been seeing so much pointing in this direction already that it was time for me to make the lifestyle change I truly feel I've always been meant to do.

I will not lie - it is not always easy.  You have to be motivated to prep food, and since I was raised in a processed food world, this has been an obstacle for me.  It's so much easier to grab a box of Cheez-its or throw a frozen meal in the microwave than to bust out and start chopping all the ingredients to a big salad.  I still do eat some processed foods, but I have greatly reduced the amount and 80% of my nutrition now comes from whole grain, plant-based sources.  I have also found that by spending a couple hours on Sunday I can prep all my veggies for the week, making it easy to make my lunches and speeds up dinner.  And much to my delight my love of learning has translated into having a blast researching vegetarian recipes, cooking styles, and foods that I had never heard of or tried before.

Surprisingly,  after a few weeks of baby steps, meat was the easiest thing to eliminate.  I have reworked my mind enough that when I think of meat, I think of the animal it was and what it went through, and that is enough for me to be completely turned off.  I say I live a primarily vegetarian lifestyle because at the moment I still eat fish and seafood, but I do aim to remove that from my diet altogether.  I do not stress myself over it, however, because stress is so detrimental and I know that my changes so far have already had a huge impact not only on my spiritual being, but the environment as well.

It is a learning process, as with many things once you awaken your mind and start paying attention.  I still have problems with energy levels after I eat certain things, so I am learning to determine what causes those and try to adjust where needed.  My husband is also not a vegetarian - nor would I ever force him to be - so it is a challenge to find recipes that he will also enjoy with me.  I am very lucky that he is super supportive of my decision, and he welcomes the idea of eating healthier.  He is more than willing to eat the dinners I create - or at least try them - and so far everything I have made has been a success with him, so I'm happy about that!  Even though I am still learning and the change has not been easy, the benefits I've seen so far have confirmed my decision.  I feel lighter, healthier, and I've saved about 25% in my weekly trips to the grocery stores!

***This entry chronicles my journey into a significant lifestyle change.  I would never force my views or opinions on to anyone else, but I do encourage everyone to take a moment to look into these matters and do some of your own research, so that you can make an educated decision for yourself. ***

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Personal Vibration

What is "personal vibration"?

Those in the spiritual community are already familiar with this term.  I admit I am very novice... what IS personal vibration?  I have heard it used so often, yet I do not know what it actually is.  But I have a guess, so tonight's topic will be to explore what this means.....

I believe that the term "personal vibration" is the same as your personal energy.  When you are happy, laughing, and smiling, how does your energy feel?  Amazing, right?  You feel like you could conquer any task.... Kids driving you nuts?  Pets zapping your patience?  Bills and financial burden mounding?  Mid-term at school making you feel like you could cry?  Neighbors loud, obnoxious music driving you to insanity?  When your energy is at the level that is when you are happiest, none of that matters.  You "know" by whatever means - through intuition, God, Buddha, a "feeling" - that you will overcome it.  That is when your "personal vibration" or your energy is at it's highest.

Maybe the example of being happy and laughing isn't quite working for you... how about after a great workout?  The endorphins are pumping, your blood is rushing, even the air around you smells amazing and electrified....  or how about, well, after a loving encounter with your spouse or partner?  You feel released and at peace.  These are the moments when your energy/vibration is at it's highest point.  These are the moments when nothing else matters, because you KNOW that you are an amazing being, who can overcome any odds.

This is how I envision what "personal vibration" means.  And since everything - e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g - is made of energy, including the Earth and all that it encompasses - but let's not limit ourselves, the UNIVERSE is made up of energy, and all IT encompasses - everything has a vibration level.  That being said, everything you encounter you interact with on an energetic level.  I imagine that most of this is unseen/un-felt on human terms, but those that are more sensitive (I'm thinking animal but humans are also capable) can and do perceive these fluctuations.

So, why does all this matter?  Who the heck cares about this "hippie" energy crap anyway?

Well, reflect back on the examples I proposed earlier, and how when your energy/vibration is at its highest, you feel the best.  Imagine living your whole life this way, in every waking moment?  How amazing would that be?  Now, we are only human, and no matter your philosophical or religious outlook, you know that we will have bad days.  But the thing to remember, I think, is that on those bad days and dark moments, we need to do all we can to raise our vibrational levels, in order to be at peace again, and to help us remember that these are only emotions.... the events that take place in our lives are catalysts, but ultimately we are responsible for how we react.  Think back upon those moments in life that make you happy, and you will raise your vibrational level, which in turn will help you overcome what you are facing.

And remember, if ever the obstacle seems to be too high or too hard, ask your guides, angels, God, Spaghetti Monster - whatever you label the beings who are part of us and separate from us - for help.  Pray, if you need (which also raises vibrations... another entry for another day).  But KNOW that you CAN overcome, it may take time, but you CAN overcome, and you are never, ever, alone.

*** As I claimed, I am very new to all of this, and welcome advice, clarifications, and your own musings on the topic.... please feel free to comment! ***

Life's Purpose

Ever since I was very little, I was writing stories.  I remember when I was 7 or 8 my Mom bought me one of those bound, black and white marbled composition notebooks to write my stories in.  I still have it and love looking back at what my very young and imaginative mind came up with.  When I was a little older my Mom brought up her old, mechanical (not electric) typewriter from the basement, and for the next couple of years I could be heard clanging away on the old machine.  The first story I completed on the typewriter was one "Abominable Toilet Monster".  I have always been a horror aficionado!  I continued to write for years, moving off of the typewriter and onto computer, and occasionally writing by hand in well loved notebooks.  I wrote short stories, and started a journal, and then moved on to larger, novel length pieces - which pretty much were started and never completed.  I had always known that I was going to be a writer (actually aspired to be the next Stephen King), and planned to go to college for Creative Writing.

After high school that plan changed.  I started working and saw how much nicer it was to have money.  I started focusing on jobs and careers that would make me the most money.  Creative Writing as a major dropped by the wayside.  So did school, but that's another entry, for another time. 

I never stopped writing, however... I always did that.  Until a few years ago, when I decided to go back to school for technology.  Still working full time, and then going to night school, I entered one of the most emotionally draining times of my life.  It became even more so, when I saw what was a fantastic opportunity to get into the IT workforce.  Working 50+ hours a week in the office, and then going on-call for weeks at a time, with constant calls coming in, I once again chose money over quality, and left school to focus on work.  I became so overworked, so emotionally drained, that basically everything I loved to do fell by the wayside.  I stopped reading for fun, I stopped working out, I stopped developing my spiritual side, and I stopped writing.

At first I stopped because I didn't have any time, and I was in such a dark place emotionally that I allowed that negative thought to take over ('how can I have time to write, when I am constantly working!').  After a while the negativism continued, and my thinking morphed into 'who am I kidding?  I have been writing for years, and have yet to finish one novel.  I'm too scatterbrained to devote the time to finish one.  My writing is horrible and amateurish, who would ever want to read this crap.'  Eventually, even to this day - long after I finally found release from that emotionally draining time - those thoughts continued to dominate.  Not so much the time, but the fact that I am scatterbrained and I have yet to even finish the outline for a book (I tend to just write, I never plan - much like how I like to live my life).

Lately, however, those thoughts have been fading away, replaced with the pull to get back to business.  My unfinished stories have been calling to me, and new ones creeping up softly.  When I write I am almost in a meditative state; I honestly believe that many of my writings, if not all, have been channeled down through my higher self, with my guides happily helping.  Since I have came back to my spiritual journeying, this seems to be one of the biggest tugs that I've been feeling, and honestly, even this blog is one result of that tug.

Last night I had a pet-oriented reading with a gifted Angel Communicator, and during the reading she stopped and asked if I ever wrote.  I said I used to write for a long time but had since stopped.  She had pulled a card through which my guides were telling me that I need to get back to writing.  I said I know, thinking in the back of my mind how I am so scatterbrained and that I'm not good enough....  This morning while checking my Facebook feed for anything of note I came across a share that one of the pet pages I follow posted.  It was  promoting a book, "Angelo's Journey: A Border Collie's Quest for Home."  Instantly I felt two things after seeing it.  The first was that I wanted to read it.  The second was that I wanted to write.  I know for sure now that the time has come. 

I now understand that I will have all the help I need to stay focused and finish these stories.  All I have to do is ask.  Because when it comes to your life's purpose, your guides simply will not give up.

*** For those interested, Gina Sendef was the Angel Communicator I worked with last night.  Here is a link to her website:  I highly recommend her ***


When I think of storms, I think of the whole cycle.  The ominous darkness in the distance, rolling ever closer.  The earthy ozone scent filling the air.  The soft, rumbling thunder growing louder and louder.  The squall coming through, signaling the start of the storm with fierce winds and rain.  The loud, thunderous roars and cracks as lightening literally splits the essence of the air, over and over.  The softening of the rain as it begins to move on.  The fading rolls of thunder becoming almost meditative.  Lightening brightening the sky but leaving no sound.  Darkness slowly lifting as the clouds roll away.  The sun shining triumphant in the sky, displaying a rainbow flag.

In many ways life can be equated to a storm.  It's full of ups and downs.  Some rough patches you see coming but feel powerless to stop, some spring up out of no where. But always they will pass, eventually, and that bright sun will shine again.  In some ways I even relate to a storm; I am passionate, occasionally moody and I wear my emotions on my face, but after all is said and done I remain loving, compassionate and happy.  I like to describe myself as a down-to-earth girl with my heart in the clouds, meaning that I understand reality enough to see beyond it.

I started this blog for two reasons... to serve as a creative and mental outlet, and to help others with whatever trouble they had that led them here in whatever way it does.  My blog will be a mix of reflections and musings on my daily life, a platform to share spiritual ideas and personal enlightenment, and maybe some day I'll post some of my writing.  Maybe....

And so, if you have found yourself here, I welcome you, and thank you for reading.  I hope that my future posts will find you when you need them, and that they bring support, comfort, knowledge, and/or encouragement when you need them most.  In blog I am, Stormily Yours.