peanut butter

January 27, 2010

Last week, I craved sweets. . . and a hamburger. I took a 3-day break from not eating sweets to honor my birthday, but I haven’t stopped the vegetarianism. I discovered that one of my good friends had been a vegetarian for several months, and she pointed me to some great recipes that I will try soon and an Indian restaurant that I visited on my birthday (they have such delicacies as fried broccoli, which really tastes like chicken).

This post is primarily about peanut butter, though. I wasn’t eating chocolate, so I was fortunate to find a dessert-type snack that helped me through. I got these two original recipes from and modified with resources I had.

Peanut Butter Balls

These are so easy to make! 1/2 cup oats. 2 tablespoons sugar. 1/4 cup dried cranberries. 1/4 cup finely shredded carrots. 2 tablespoons shredded ginger. 3/4 cup peanut butter. 1/4 cup coconut. (the original recipe, which I modified quite a bit, also included sunflower seeds, which I would have added as well, but I couldn’t find them while shopping).

Mix everything together and roll them up. They are good without being rolled in coconut, but they look more festive with it. I ate all 20 of these in 3 days!

Peanut Butter Spaghetti

I got quite a reaction from this one on facebook. It’s not just peanut butter on top of spaghetti, although that’s exactly what it looks like. I bought some thin, wheat spaghetti noodles, and here’s the rest: 1/2 cup peanut butter, 1 cup hot water, 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce, 2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon sugar (use to cut the vinegar), 2 garlic cloves minced, and 1/2 teaspoon ginger (I use fresh, grated ginger). I also add some minced jalapenos. After you mix all these items, you heat them together in a saucepan, which thickens the sauce.

Next time I make pad thai, I’ll add some of this peanut sauce. When I eat some of these leftovers today for lunch, I’ll sprinkle some coconut on top to look like parmesan cheese. It is SO good.

It seems I’ve inspired a few people to become vegetarian through this process. What I hope people will take away is that variety is important, and this, like all things in life, should be an adventure. This is my excuse to eat lots of peanut butter. Yum.

Also, the point of this experiment is to get healthier. I am much more aware of meat smells permeating our society. EVERY major restaurant has that hamburger smell outside of it. I drove a few hours last week and needed to stop at a McDonald’s to use the bathroom. Outside smelled like heavenly hamburger. As I entered, the typical stale-fry smell greeted me. I am not falling for these illusions. Thank God Red Robin sent me a birthday burger (you can sign up online) and let me get a well-seasoned boca burger with all the toppings! (The five-alarm burger is by far my favorite).

I have decided to be a vegetarian until the end of March.

I read a book a few years ago I got for $1 about dieting. It says that you should try vegetarianism at least for 3 months. I love the way my body feels these days! I feel much lighter and that I have much more energy. Apparently, there are several advantages to being a vegetarian: 1) the body uses vegetarian food more efficiently, 2) lower cholesterol, and 3) being sick less. #3 is interesting. The book talks about how meat is treated with hormones and chemicals, which can make you sick. Food, Inc. made me realize some of this. (Seeing this film in December planted the seeds for vegetarianism in my heart).

Now, I realize I am not a true vegetarian (yet?). I still eat cheese, eggs, yogurt, and fish. I LOVE fish and have had sushi and salmon this past week – YUM.

I am GREAT at keeping a diet on my own at home, but getting out with people at restaurants, having them cook for you, etc. can be a bit challenging. Over the last several weeks, I have not really informed my friends of my decision. I just show up and hope that something works out! (I’m committed to not making this difficult for others).

I knew I wanted to make Tofu Pad Thai. It’s one of my favorites, and it doesn’t have to be expensive. I bought some tofu and a Taste of Thai box with noodles, which includes some sauce. If you have a bigger budget, getting the jar of sauce is a great idea. I squeeze the water like crazy out of the tofu and pour it out of my skillet as I cook it. Topped with peanuts, bean sprouts, and a squeeze of lime juice – I can eat this stuff for several nights in a row and not get bored.

A few weekends ago, a friend invited me over for dinner. As I was walking into the kitchen, she remarked, “I wish a vegetarian was here.” I was very excited to tell her I was one for now! She made pasta with butternut squash, walnuts and parmesan cheese. This, along with a pretty salad I made, was very satisfying.

The next big challenge was getting together with my sisters over this past weekend. They LOVE cooking. I already told them I wasn’t eating sweets, but neglected to mention my choice not to eat meat. Things went well. I refrained from breakfast casseroles with meat and asked her not to put pepperoni on my portion of pizza. She willingly did both, and everything was delicious!

What’s next? I’ve been looking up some new recipes, and I’m most excited about peanut butter spaghetti.

are you a vegetarian?

January 15, 2010

It must be the dreadlocks that prompt this question. In the last few weeks, my answer has been, “Yes, for now.” When I wrote my resolutions, I didn’t write a lot about food, but I knew I wanted to go into 2010 eating differently.

I started with a 3-day fast. The Lord clearly spoke to me about direction for the coming year. After, I decided that until January 21st (the day before my birthday), I was going to cut out meats, sweets, and caffeine. These last 15 days have been a huge success!

To be successful as a vegetarian (or as a person), variety is essential. I knew that if I cut sweets especially, I needed a strategy that included eating some things I liked. Three staples that have helped me immensely are 1) decaf tea & coffee, 2) wraps, and 3) smoothies.

Going from having caffeine everyday to not at all was a particular challenge, but necessary. Caffeine tends to make me hungry and jittery. I also heard that it can alter your hormones. Towards the end of 2009, my sleeping patterns were also more erratic as a result of some afternoon coffees with friends. However, I LOVE the taste of coffee and the culture of going to coffee shops to hang out and talk. Hot drinks are especially inviting during cold winters. Fortunately, I had accidentally bought some decaf chai tea at the end of last year, and a friend of mine had given me some roastaroma tea made by celestial seasonings that tastes a lot like coffee. These drinks with a bit of soy milk have been my staples for these 15 mornings. For those afternoon chats, almost every coffee shop I adore makes decaf lattes (my favorite!) that taste every bit as good as the original.

Cutting out sugar from breakfast involved a simple deduction of honey from my oatmeal. I had already cut it out of my caffeinated drinks in favor of either vanilla soy milk or now, just plain soy milk. I have found that cinnamon really helps with sweet cravings and is a great topping for oatmeal. I have also kept a supply of dried cranberries to add in. These, frozen blueberries, or chopped apples have all been delicious and enough of a variety to keep me interested in breakfast. I pair my breakfast with a half of grapefruit on some mornings when I’m feeling hungrier. I really also want to try cheddar on my oatmeal in the near future since vegetarianism (for me) has also been a rediscovery of dairy!

For lunch, I usually have soup or a wrap. My soups of choice are either split pea, tomato-basil, or my roommate’s white-bean chili. I haven’t yet made my butternut squash/sweet potato/chard soup for this season, but I know it’s coming!

Wraps bring immense variety into a diet. And once you get started with materials, they don’t take that long to make (I have lots of little tupperware containers in my fridge). My favorite filling is sweet potato, which has much nutritional value and satisfies a sweet tooth. Sweet Potatoes are very easy to heat in the microwave (for about 10-15 minutes wrapped in a wet paper towel), but I usually bake them in the oven. One sweet potato can make at least 4 or 5 wraps, which is sufficient for one week. I also include black beans, salsa, leafy greens, cheddar cheese, and whatever color bell pepper I have at the moment. All these are stuffed inside a wheat wrap. The picture on the left features a wrap with egg, spinach, salsa, hummus, yellow pepper, and cheddar cheese. Eggs are a great source of protein, which is something you miss not eating meat. Spinach provides iron, which usually comes from red meat.

It took me until now to discover that my roommate had a blender! Mine broke last year, so smoothies were definitely missed. When I cut out sweets for six months in 2006, I ate flavored yogurt to replace dessert. Because I now know that flavored yogurt has artificial sweeteners and really isn’t as good for you as plain, I decided that smoothies would be necessary to survive.

When I visited New York this past fall, I went into a very natural smoothie shop and had a spinach smoothie that was fantastic. Shockingly, for as much as Dr. Oz promotes spinach smoothies, he does not have one recipe on his website. I’m still working on mine, but I have two suggestions so far: 1) don’t add too much spinach, and 2) don’t add blueberries. The color just isn’t as pleasing and blueberries and spinach seem not to taste as well together.

Here are the ingredients from a smoothie I made today:

1 banana, 1 handful of spinach, 5 chunks of frozen mango (I definitely buy organic frozen fruit: it tastes SO much better!), a handful of frozen strawberries, soy milk (any type of juice will do), plain yogurt, and half a lime with peel. You don’t need ice when you use frozen fruit.

I got the idea to include citrus fruit peel from foster’s market in Durham. They have a delightful smoothie called blue heaven, which includes blueberries, honey, and an entire lemon. Lime tastes great with strawberry and spinach and pretty much everything else in the world. Think of all the good nutrients you’re getting! Color often indicates vitamins, so I’ve had mine for today. I even swirl some yogurt on top to give the illusion of whipped cream, which I love.

If you’re interested in more about food, you should check out my sister’s blog. Also, stay tuned for my next post, vegetarian adventures in dinner when I talk about eating with others and being vegetarian.


January 5, 2010

I had an amazing meeting this week with an artist from my church. You can look at her paintings here. I also just added her blog link to the list on the right: Eleatta’s Art.

Eleatta’s “peanut” (her personal kudos to George Washington Carver) is dreams. Her paintings are mostly based around this topic. I have long been stalking her on facebook and looking at her paintings posted there. In crucial moments, these paintings speak to me and fuel my own art. (How magnificent that I scored a print of one of her paintings for helping out!).

A few days ago, she asked me to help her film an interview in her studio for a series entitled Durham Dreams. I love that this happened so soon after I finished a painting of Durham. Eleatta is interviewing 10 key leaders in Durham and creating a painting to represent each one’s dreams for Durham. On Monday, we interviewed Sheriff Hill. He has large vision for Durham’s youth.

What was probably most valuable about this experience, though, was getting to interview Eleatta after. She had put her dream of becoming an artist on the backburner for a while (mostly to raise a family), but now, she has a studio in Durham, and it is beautiful! This was particularly inspiring to me. I do not know what God ultimately has for my life, but I’m sure that art is going to play a large role.

She shared with me a quote from Donald Trump, which I cannot quote exactly, but it says something about people who succeed in fulfilling their dreams. They are willing to deal with feeling the uncomfortable weight of their dreams. Having stepped out to pursue my dream of being a missionary, there’s this constant weight of getting there.

I would much rather experience this pressure than the sorrow of regret for never having tried.

Tenacity marks the people I have admired lately. They give their dreams a chance, even if they take awhile. They open their hearts to pain and vulnerability. They deny other things, even good things, if denial helps them reach their goals.

The scripture that came to mind as I was musing about dreams was Proverbs 13:12 “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” My friends and I have been tossing this scripture around for months. The new revelation I have about it is this: the temporary pressure on the road to fulfilling a dream really sucks, but the end result IS worth it. Without such sickness of heart as I’ve experienced this past year, I doubt I would have ever moved forward into doing all the things I’m doing now. It’s a special pressure from God that can only be alleviated by making definable steps toward fulfilled longing. It is our responsibility as human beings to figure out just what God dreams for us so we can get there.

The great thing is that no one cares as much about our dreams as God does. He cares even more than we do. For this, I am very thankful.