A Weekend of Wedding Events

by Lisa on Tuesday: Mar 01, 2016

Now that we’re inching ever closer to the day of the wedding (4 months left!), things are really picking up in intensity when it comes to wedding planning. This weekend was a prime example of that as we packed in as many things as we possibly could while we had some free time.

Saturday was a check-in meeting with the venue. Earlier in the week, I had sent our contact some questions about logistics, etc. and we ended up with even more questions after the email exchange. It only made sense to schedule a time to go meet face to face to hash out as many things as possible. I was so happy we decided to do this because the stress has been piling up lately, and both D and I were feeling a bit lost, not knowing what we should be doing next.

This meeting helped tremendously. We talked about the timeline and overall flow of the actual day, the rehearsal, and discussed all details that we needed to order our invitations. The coordinator we met with actually complimented us on how organized and on top of everything we were. That was a relief to hear!

Sunday, we had a very fun event planned: cake tasting! When we got to the bakery, they presented us with ten (yes ten!) different flavors of cake to try, ranging from red velvet, to cannoli, to tiramisu and everything else in between. It was delicious, and we booked them to do our cake. We need to go back again to design the look of the cake, but it’s nice to have the initial booking done.

Wedding Cake Tasting

Later on in the afternoon on Sunday, we had a less fun thing to do: ordering invitations. Luckily we had prepared as much as humanly possible before going in to place our order. However, there were so many details and decisions to make, and we were there for well over an hour. I’m still a little apprehensive about all the little details coming out correct, but again, at least it’s off the list now!

What’s next? Probably outfits for the men and bridesmaid dresses. We’ll see how productive we are in March!

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If you’re married/engaged, what was your favorite part of wedding planning? Least favorite?

My Favorite Easy Go-To Vegetarian Dinners

by Lisa on Monday: Feb 08, 2016

If you’re first starting out on a vegetarian lifestyle, it can be a little challenging to build up a good list of go-to dinners that don’t contain any meat. After many years as a vegetarian who cooks most meals at home, I’ve got a good list of dinners that I can turn to at any time that I know will be delicious and easy.

Here are some of my favorite go-to vegetarian dinners!

Sauteed Veggies with Quinoa

When I’m looking for a super healthy option for dinner, I’ll turn to this recipe. It’s simple, tasty and has a nice dose of protein thanks to the quinoa. It’s really very simple: sautee a large pepper and onion with salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder.

Sauteed veggies

If I have any on hand, I’ll sometimes throw in a tablespoon of enchilada sauce to give the dish a nice Mexican flavor (my favorite!). Meanwhile, cook up a cup of quinoa according to the package directions. Then combine in a bowl! This is a very filling option, and I always feel like I made a healthy decision when I have this for dinner.

Vegetarian Burrito Bowl

This has been a staple dinner option for me for years, being a Mexican food lover. Also, when I make a burrito bowl for myself, I can easily make one for D, substituting in turkey meat for the non-vegetarian in my life. I usually saute up a few veggies and/or soy chorizo, make some guacamole from scratch and top with lettuce, salsa, cheese and sour cream. Delicious!

Spaghetti Squash and Pasta Sauce

My family is Italian, and I grew up eating pasta 2-3 times per week for my entire childhood. I still love pasta very much, and one of my favorite dinners will always be rigatoni or penne with red sauce and plenty of parm or mozzarella on top. However, when I’m looking to be more healthy, spaghetti squash (or sometimes zucchini noodles) is the way to go.

spaghetti squash

I’ve come a long way since I first attempted to make spaghetti squash, and now I just go straight to the microwave to cook it up. Some squash “noodles” topped with sauce and some cheese hits all the notes of the traditional pasta dish, since the sauce is where all the flavor is anyway. Occasionally, I’ll pair this with a tofurkey sausage.

Macaroni and Cheese with Brussel Sprouts

This option is lower on the healthy scale, but when in need of a nice, hot, comfort-style meal, I turn to homemade mac and cheese with a side of brussel sprouts. The mac and cheese is gooey and filling and instantly brings me back to my childhood. The brussel sprouts are roasted and add that much needed side of greens to this rich meal. This is great to serve for vegetarians and meat eaters alike. Who doesn’t love mac and cheese?

Mac and Cheese and Brussel Sprouts

Roasted Vegetables

The possibilities are endless with a nice pan of roasted vegetables. You can throw in any veggie you have hanging around the house. My usual options include peppers, onions, garlic, potatoes (or sweet potatoes depending on what I have), squash, brussel sprouts, and carrots coated in olive oil, salt, pepper, and onion and garlic powder.

Homemade Vegetable Soup

This recipe is adapted from a family recipe that dates back to my grandmother. Her version was chicken-based, and was what I ate growing up as my mother cooked it all the time as well. In the past few years, I’ve been able to adapt it to be vegetarian by making two simple changes: remove the chicken (obviously), and substitute the chicken broth with veggie broth. I also add in a few more spices and some garlic to up the flavors. A nice veggie soup is a perfect comfort food on cold days, and is very simple to make. You just throw everything into a pot and cook for 2 hours. I will be posting my full recipe soon!

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What’s your favorite comfort food to make at home?

Do you cook at home more often or eat out?

How to Be a Vegetarian at Tokyo Disney

by Lisa on Tuesday: Jan 26, 2016

In fall of 2014, D and I went on the biggest trip of our lives (thus far) and visited Tokyo, Japan. It was my second time visiting the country, but the first time for D. This was also the trip where we got engaged – a story I will be writing up in the next few weeks (stay tuned!). While we were there, we knew we wanted to make a stop at Tokyo Disney.

If you’re unfamiliar, Tokyo Disney is made up of two parks: Tokyo DisneyLand and Tokyo DisneySea. We decided to do one day at each park in the middle of our two week stay in the country. Since D and I have been together, we’ve gone to Disney World in Orlando many times, and it is a very important part of our relationship’s history, so we couldn’t pass up the chance to see what things were like in the Tokyo version of the parks!

Tokyo Disneyland Castle

Before we left on our trip, I did extensive research on everything we would be doing while we were away, and Tokyo Disney was no exception. As a vegetarian, I knew it would be challenging to find meals anywhere in Tokyo and thought it would be a good idea to have some restaurants inside the parks picked out ahead of time.

Thankfully, I had found several blogs during that time to help me with that process, most notably: The Honorable Rat. I think I read almost every post on his blog before we left!

I could (and probably will) do a whole post on what the parks themselves were like, but for now – let’s talk about food!

Thanks to the Honorable Rat’s post on the topic, I knew the situation going in ahead of time: There was one restaurant in each park that served one vegetarian dish. So, it is an extremely limited selection, and if you didn’t know this information going in, you’d definitely be frustrated running from place to place only to find out everything contained meat or fish!

Tokyo Disneyland

The one restaurant in Tokyo Disneyland that contains a vegetarian option is Eastside Cafe. We foolishly wandered around a little bit beforehand instead of going straight there because we were on the other side of the park. We happened to spot a pizza place called “Planet M”.

Tokyo Disneyland Planet M

I was sure I would at least find a slice of cheese pizza there, but much to my dismay (and confused agitation), I found that they only had meat pizzas, and yes, fish pizzas. Welcome to Japan, where fish pizza is more common than cheese.

It was at this point that I realized how serious the “one restaurant with one dish” recommendation would be, and we high-tailed it over to Eastside Cafe before we got too hungry.

Tokyo Disneyland Eastside Cafe Menu

Here they actually had a 3 course vegetarian option displayed in a separate menu, as pictured above. This was quite a pleasant surprise, and I thoroughly enjoyed my Italian-style lunch. I was very full afterward, and would definitely go back again. We didn’t stay long enough at the park to warrant a second meal, though if we had, I’m not sure what we would have done.

Tokyo DisneySea

DisneySea Entrance

DisneySea was our second stop, and after learning our lesson at DisneyLand, we did not bother looking at other restaurants and went straight to Ristorante di Canaletto.

DisneySea - Ristorante di Canaletto

There was a short wait here for lunch, but knowing it was our only option, we happily waited. The views outside of the restaurant were spectacular. DisneySea is breathtaking and is nothing like any of the other Disney parks when it comes to atmosphere and theming. If you’re going to go to one park over the other in Tokyo, pick this one.

DisneySea Gondolas

Ristorante di Canaletto did not have a separate vegetarian menu like Eastside Cafe, but true to word, there was exactly one dish that was meat and fish free.

Ristorante di Canaletto menu

This pasta dish was flavorful and contained a ton of fresh veggies. Side note: in Japan, there is not really a concept of “vegetarianism”, which is why it can be so challenging to find food there if you don’t eat meat or fish. At the same time, in places like Disney where there are actual vegetarian dishes, they are almost always vegan as well.

It can be challenging to find vegetarian cuisine while at the Tokyo Disney parks, but if you know exactly what you’re looking for ahead of time, you will be fine. There are also snacks around the park such as popcorn and sweets that will also be okay to eat.

In the next few weeks, I’m planning to do a similar post about what it was like as a vegetarian on our trip to Tokyo as a whole. Stay tuned for that!

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What is your favorite travel destination?

Have you ever traveled to an international Disney park?

Ever tried fish pizza??

How to Be a Vegetarian at the Holidays

by Lisa on Tuesday: Dec 01, 2015

I became a vegetarian at the young age of 16, and it just so happened to be right around Thanksgiving time. My family barely knew what a vegetarian was, let alone what to cook for me. These days, it’s become a little more mainstream, and my family has become much more knowledgeable and flexible when it comes to making meals. Every Thanksgiving, my immediate family heads over to my aunt and uncle’s house for a big family meal, and I’m thankful that I always have plenty to eat. My aunt even makes sure to make a second dish of stuffing that was cooked outside of the bird so that I can have some! I’m very lucky in that regard.

Vegetarian Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving, Christmas and even New Year’s can be very big meat-eating events. Here are some tips I’ve developed over the years for how to have a great holiday meal when you’re not partaking in the meat:

Let Others Know In Advance

If you’re attending a holiday party hosted by a friend or family member and they’re not familiar with your diet, it’s a good idea to make sure to let that person know ahead of time. It gives you a chance to let the host or hostess know just in case, and also it prevents an awkward moment at the dinner table when that person may end up feeling insulted or blindsided when you’re not eating a giant slice of turkey. I never make a big deal of this, but it’s polite and helpful to let them know.

Bring a Veggie Dish With You

This is my favorite tip: If you’re not sure there’s going to be many options for you at a holiday event, bring one (or two!) yourself. It’s always fun to do some cooking or baking around the holidays, plus this is a great chance for you to expose other people to some non-meat dishes that you love that they may also find delicious. Some great ideas: baked macaroni and cheese, a big salad, any kind of potato dish (roasted, mashed), roasted brussel sprouts, a giant pan of assorted roasted veggies – and the list goes on!

Check out the Appetizers

Appetizers are the best. They’re often the tastiest thing at a party and there are so many options that you’ll likely encounter that don’t include meat! I love a good cheese platter, and some other favorites include chips and salsa, guacamole, olives, nuts and crostini.

Side Dishes are a Vegetarian’s Best Friend

At least in my family, even if the centerpiece of a meal is a giant turkey, steak or ham, there will always be a variety of side dishes. For instance, this past Thanksgiving there were side dishes ranging from mashed potatoes and squash to lasagna (yes, lasagna! My family is Italian and big eaters, so apparently lasagna is considered a side dish). Oftentimes at these big holiday meals, there are so many side dishes to choose from that I can barely fit them all on my plate.

Host a Party Yourself!

If you have the opportunity, hosting a holiday get together can be a lot of fun, as well as a chance to control the menu. D and I are planning to host our very first Thanksgiving next year, and while it certainly won’t be meat free (we will have all the traditional foods, including turkey), I do plan on branching out and making several vegetarian friendly dishes. I’m actually very excited for a chance to experiment with some new dishes and share them with our families.

And Lastly…

Don’t forget: desserts and wine are always great meat free options to indulge in at the holidays 🙂

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Did you have any non-traditional foods at Thanksgiving this year?

What is your favorite holiday dish?

Sunday Meal Planning: Lunches

by Lisa on Tuesday: Oct 27, 2015

Whenever the weekend comes around, there’s a list of items to prep for the following week that I always try to accomplish. I find that when I’m productive over the weekend and think ahead to what’s going on, I have a much more successful week. One of the things that’s most important in that regard? Meal planning!

Since D and I moved in together many years ago, I found myself settling into a routine that ensures that both of us have healthy (or at least semi-healthy) lunches for the entire week. Because I’m a vegetarian and he is not, I make specific things for myself that he doesn’t eat and vice versa.

The most frequent lunch I make in advance for myself is salad. It’s the healthiest thing I can have for lunch, and I can prepare a big batch of it and space it out over the course of an entire week. I know that if I don’t prep something for myself, I’ll most likely end up getting lunch out or at the work cafeteria, which is undoubtedly going to be much more high calorie and unhealthy, not to mention a drain on the wallet.

Here is my process:

First I get out all the necessary supplies:

  • 5 glass tupperware containers
  • cutting board
  • salad spinner
  • chef’s knife

Sunday Meal Planning - prep

I switch up my salad ingredients every now and then, but my most common base of ingredients is romaine lettuce, tomato and bell pepper. Sometimes I’ll add in some artichoke hearts, hard boiled eggs, cheese or beets, among other things. And I always finish off the salad with deli style tofurkey, which serves as my protein.

I start by chopping up the romaine and dumping it into the salad spinner (side note: I don’t know how I ever made salads before I owned a salad spinner – totally worth it!). I then wash the leaves thoroughly in the salad spinner basket and then start the spinning process, which I keep going as I chop up the rest of the ingredients. Once the other veggies are added, I grab the tofurkey and start slicing. I make bite-sized pieces and put equal portions into each of the 5 tupperware containers. Then I take big handfuls of the salad mixture and fill the containers to the brim. I always wait to dress the salads until the day of – otherwise they would get VERY soggy.

Salad spinner

I love having pre made salads ready to go during the week. It’s so easy to just grab one in my morning rush and head off to work knowing I have a healthy meal.

Assembled Salads

For D, the majority of the time he will request sandwiches as his lunch of choice for the week. For instance, some weeks he will do ham/turkey/cheese sandwiches, and other times I will make him tuna. Occasionally though, he’ll want to do a more hearty lunch like the one I’m about to show you.

On this particular Sunday, we decided to make him some baked chicken to take for the week. We do a sort of baked/fried style, which involves coating the chicken with breadcrumbs and drizzling with olive oil before baking.

Chicken in the oven

I usually do his lunches at the same time I’m doing mine so everything gets done at once. It’s the same basic process in that I get out all the glass tupperware needed (I’ve collected enough over the years to make sure we have enough to do a full week of meals for me and a full week of meals for D with a few left over). Then I prep the chicken, bake the chicken and portion it out. Sometimes I’ll add in a little rice or cous cous if we happen to have some at the time. These are pretty hearty lunches for D and they’re perfect when he has very long work days.

Assembled chicken

Again, it makes life indescribably easier to get all the lunch prep work out of the way on a Sunday. The weeks I don’t do it are usually on the chaotic side and definitely the unhealthy side. I’m always fine tuning the system and I try to keep things interesting and varied so we don’t get sick of our lunch options. Not to mention, getting this out of the way on a Sunday makes me feel much more calm and collected about the upcoming week, no matter how busy it is.

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Do you ever do Sunday meal prep work?

What kind of lunches do you take to work?