East Plants

Eat more Plants: A Beginners Guide

I love when people reach out and let me know that what I’m cooking and posting to instagram has inspired them to want to eat more plants (and in turn, less meat!). This is literally the best, most flattering compliment I can hear! So keep it coming.

Mushroom Stirfry

I thought I would put together a beginners guide that will help you eat more meals that are plant-based and incorporate more plants into your diet in a delicious way.  It can be overwhelming when you decide to make a change to your diet, especially when you’re eliminating something that is typically the staple of your meal (meat). When I first went vegetarian, I was honestly worried I’d be left hungry, not satisfied with a bowl full of vegetables, or turn into a carb-loading, pasta eating blob. I am a CARB girl! And don’t get me wrong – there is NOTHING wrong with eating carbs, not at all. But, you have to make sure they’re the ‘right’ Carbs and not loafs of baguettes and bowls of pasta every night….which sounds amazing!

Vegan Pizza

The purpose of this blog is to put, in one place, recipes, resources, tips and blogs to follow to get you pumped about eating more plants, trying new recipes, and getting some science behind the benefits of eating less meat. In no way do I want to judge, shame or preach – that’s not my style. I feel this lifestyle (and I truly believe it is a lifestyle) works really well for me and if you can come away with some tips that will help you feel better, than I’m all for it. Here we go!

East Plants

Easy Recipes

I’ve written countless blogs about recipes I’ve created, altered or tried. I like to cook things that use whole, plant-based ingredients, that can be found in a regular grocery store (where the hell do you get halloumi!?) and don’t take hours to make (I’ll buy my almond milk, thanks!).Here are a list of some of my favorites, plus some Pinterest recipes I’ve tried that have been spot on!

Lentil Loaf

Basil Chickpea Balls 

Ski Envy Bowl 

Soups

Buffalo Cauliflower Wings 

Buffalo Chickpea Dip

Lentil, Mushroom & Spinach Wontons  

Mushroom & Broccoli Stirfry over rice noodles 

Sauces

Soups 

Vegan Scalloped Potatoes

Vegan Crack Broccoli Tacos 

Spaghetti Squash Chow Mein

*To note, I often alter recipes a bit based on what I have on hand….I know a lot of people like to follow a recipe to a T, but the more you cook, the braver you’ll get about knowing the tastes that go well together. Feel free to follow me on Pinterest where my Work Hard Cook Hard board has all kinds of plant goodness.

Wontons

Tips & Pantry Essentials 

Eating this way is definitely an adjustment at first. It can seem that things take a bit longer to prep – with all the chopping, dicing, roasting. But once you get the hang of it, set some time aside for meal prep, it becomes easier and more fun! Here are a few tips I’d suggest as well as some pantry essentials that make cooking easier.

  • Homemade sauces are the way to go – less salt, sugar, weird stuff! Use fresh, simple ingredients to spice up your dishes.
  • Drain your tofu! Use a plate with a heavy book on it, a cast iron skillet, anything to get the water out.
  • On nights you have time, meal prep. I’ve written a number of blogs about meal prep and it truly makes a difference. Batch cook, cut veggies, roast a few things you can throw in the fridge for a meal later that week.
  • Best ‘faux meat’ I’ve found: Mornignstar black bean crumble, Tofurkey Sausages (great for BBQs), Field Roast Sausages, Sweet Earth Protein Breakfast Burritos,

A few pantry essentials (some affiliate links below on products I’ve bought):

  • Spices: cumin, red pepper flakes, dill, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder
  • Bragg Natural Liquid Aminos 16oz
  • Bragg Organic Premium Nutritional Yeast Seasoning, 4.5 Ounce
  • Sriracha & Chili Garlic Paste
  • Full fat coconut milk (in a can)
  • Coconut Oil – high heat index!
  • Flax seed – you can make flax eggs!
  • Raw pumpkin & sesame seeds – spices up salads and are so good for you
  • Almonds, Cashews and walnuts – these are expensive, but I try to have at least one on hand
  • Vegan mayo – not the most healthy thing for you, but makes a great aioli for chickpea tacos!
  • Rice vinegar, balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar

Grilled Tofurkey

Resources & Blogs I follow 

There are so many resources out there, it’s truly awesome the amount of information and people on board the veggie train. Below are some I follow and find inspiration from!

  • Rich Roll – great podcast!
  • Dr. Michael Gregor – an amazing resource for a scientific look at how plants and nutrition affect us in a positive way. He runs Nutritionfacts.org
  • Dr.Mark Hyman – another Dr. who’s spreading the veggie love & truly believes in the power of transforming you health with nutrition
  • The First Mess – a beautiful blog full of gorgeous pictures & recipes
  • Forks over knives – a great website with recipes, positive success stories and resources to inform ya on the plants – there’s also a great documentary you should check out
  • What the Health – a documentary that looks at our food and how it’s making us sick
  • Cowspiracy – dives into the sustainability of eating plants

 

These are just a few tidbits of how you can ease into (or jump straight in) to the plant-based lifestyle. I would love to hear your story, if you’ve tried any recipes, or where you are in your nutritional journey. Hope you find this guide helpful – happy cooking!

 

The Money Minded Mavens: My Inspirational Financial Group

I’ve always been frugal.  Ok, let’s not sugarcoat anything, I’m a cheapskate.  No splurging on clothes, no Lu-Lu lemon or designer threads. I don’t get giddy about shoes, have worn the same Target flats for the past three years, even to work events, and will most likely wear them until the soles wear out. No expensive makeup or beauty products, in fact don’t wear anything but Burt’s Bees face lotion and sunscreen. My hair hasn’t been cut or dyed for over a year (which I admit isn’t something I should tell anyone) and pedicures are an annual affair and in my opinion, take too long.  On vacations, we try to pick Airbnb’s that have kitchens, so we can eat breakfasts and a few meals in, while still enjoying the wonders of being in a new local. Below is a picture of me cooking dinner in Portugal! 

Why do I feel the need to refrain from indulging in any of the above? Multiple reasons, including I’d rather spend my time outside doing something badass then in a beauty salon, but mostly because I’d rather spend my money on more meaningful things. Things that will give me experience and will add to my overall happiness. 

Please do not mistake this admittance as judgement. The more I dive into the glorious world of personal finance, I’m constantly reminded that it is just that. Personal. What you choose to spend your money on is entirely, and rightfully, up to you. But have you ever considered the notion of exchanging an hour of your time chained to your desk for that pedicure or pair of Lu-Lu Lemon pants (which are over $80 dollars!!! ARE YOU KIDDING ME???? They’re workout pants people!!!!!). And there is the lone, economically minded freak. Except I now have a coven.

The Money-Minded Mavens (there are 4 of the ladies on the left) hatched out of conversations with several of my girlfriends out in Colorado, girls who are like-minded, outdoorsy, and had one goal in mind: to share information, tips, research about all things financial. Now, this is not a ‘hey, how much money/debt/investments do you have?’ kind of group. It is a circle of trust formed to empower each other, dive into the intimidating world of index funds, HSA’s, tax deferred accounts, hold ourselves accountable for moving the needle towards Financial Freedom, FIRE, working towards being debt free. These are concepts we dive into each month, bringing our own perspective, takeaways, insight and experience.  

Each member of the group came with different goals in mind, unique life perspectives and positions (some married, some with kids, some who rent, some own), but we all had the desire to learn more. One of my best girlfriends, Janine, has been on the frugal path for quite a while, and has been a dedicated Mr. Money Mustache fan for years, and really helped make the group a reality. For those who are not familiar, and don’t want to dive into the Mustachian madness, he is THE FIRE Guru, a man who retired at 30 by living frugally, investing aggressively, and thinking about the world with an efficient, non-spending mindset. The principals and practices he writes about often align with how I’ve lived my life, how the girls in the Money-Minded Mavens are living theirs. But he has only been the tip of the iceberg! The number of mentors, financial ninjas, Retired-Early podcasters I’ve been introduced to in the past 7 months (our first meeting was in October 2018) has been motivating beyond my wildest imagination. The conversations held in our group have led to life-altering decisions, eye-opening discoveries, jaw dropping realizations.

Here are four things that have had the biggest impact to date:

Tracking my expenditures

I’ve never kept a budget, never had a number in mind that I could or couldn’t spend on groceries, trips, fun, eating out, beer…..I’m frugal so I don’t go overboard, don’t eat out every meal, so I don’t need a budget. I’m still of that mindset, although a budget and knowing what you are spending your money on are two very different things. This financial group has allowed me to dive into these exact things, because you can not manage what you don’t measure.  I started tracking just that after I joined the MMM’s – putting my expenses into different categories and it’s really been eye opening and allowed me to adjust things and be aware of:

    • Where my money is going & how much I’m spending on beer, eating out, groceries
    • My everyday bills
    • How much it actually costs me to live in a month, where I could cut back and months I may have expenses that aren’t monthly (vet bills, ski passes, trips)

 

Framing up/structuring my emergency account

As a saver, I always have a pretty decent amount in liquidity, so I never really separated accounts. A number of financial gurus I follow though say that having an emergency account with one-twelve months of expenses in it allows not only for a security net, but a mental load off. You do not have to stay at an unpleasant job with such a security net. You can be confident about asking for a raise or push back when there are work-load pile ups knowing that you would be ok if your work circumstances change. This is huge. Once I knew how much my monthly expenses were, by actually tracking them, I could outline:

    • How much I felt comfortable with in my emergency account – both from a practical and mental standpoint  
    • The savings amount I could afford to invest in, once my emergency account was well-funded
    • Setting up a more aggressive account (I opened a Money Market Account, with a 2% interest rate)

Rethinking my Automation

One of the things we do on our monthly calls is go around the horn and specify any adjustments, hacks, tips we’ve taken over the last month to move the needle on our financial goals. It’s not a dollars and cents conversation, just allows us to hold ourselves accountable for the small steps we’ve taken. This has been a tremendously positive exercise for me, as it helps keep my personal finance goals top of mind. A number of ladies in our group listen to Paula Pant, a Podcaster who has a gifted financial mind and a Tweak of the Week outline we have been implementing. One of her tips mentions automating your savings by an additional 1%, which is a small amount when you think about it. By reminding myself to do this though, I’ve been able to:

      • Look at how much is going into which accounts and up almost all of them 
      • Upp my mortgage payments – shaving off several years and $10k of interest
      • Add additional funds to my brokerage account contributions (index funds baby!)
      • Start an HSA (and learning what that was) and invest the surplus

Re-think Retirement

You work all your life, collecting a pay-check, taking a few days off here and there, maybe a vacation or two a year, then you retire and lay around, not working.  I guess that’s what a lot of people think when they contemplate retiring. Or perhaps, people haven’t given much thought to retirement at all?  This financial group has really helped me re-frame the way I look at non-traditional work life. I’ve had a ‘F*&k it’ list for a long time (something that deserves its own post) and this group has allowed me to think realistically about designing what I want my ideal day to look like…..when time allows. So, with all of these like-minded people who are saving aggressively, thinking beyond the cube walls, it’s really opened me up to: 

  • Think about time in a finite way – we do not get any more of it, so start using it wisely, now
  • Plan my days, weeks, months carefully and with intention
  • Devise a plan for post-traditional work that I can work on and execute now, so when I am ready to hand it up, I have wheels in motion

 

Thinking about your own personal financial path? What tips can you lend to anyone just starting out or well on their way? I’d love to hear! Happy Saving!

 

Get Outside: The 100 hour Outside Challenge

Living in Colorado, I am outside a lot. Probably more than most. The mentality of those who have transplanted from other areas of the country seems to be: live to get outside. And we are of the same mind-set. So when I saw the post in Minimalism and your money, it struck a major chord. Especially because I’ve been contemplating, feeling guilty, and totally admitting something to myself. I have a horrible habit, one I need to break. Yes, I am a Netflix binge-watcher. And the only way I know I will be successful with cutting back to a healthy dose is to occupy my time elsewhere. I am a sucker for a good challenge, as I do find them useful in upholding a good habit and keeping myself accountable. If you blog it, it’s so. I’ve created food challengespre-surgery challenges that again incorporate food, challenges that keep you moving forward in a positive direction, Yoga challenges fueled by plants and other Yoga challenges that I partnered with friends with….needles to say, I like the commitment and external accountability.

So breaking down the challenge, I have to spend an average of 3 hours outside each day. When I sat and thought about my day though, that seems a bit challenging. Work takes up the majority, I’m an early riser, but also go to bed early, typically sleeping for 8 hours at a minimum. But, it also made me look realistically at my day, the amount of time I was wasting on the internet, watching Netflix, being unfocused. I took a hard look at the times I did grab my phone to scroll twitter or Instagram, looking at this time suck activity as robbing me of my outside time. And that made me want to restructure how I set my day up.

(Doing some porch yoga after a stressful day)

The to-do lists go on and on, but the key to making sure you get to the truly important things? Prioritize! There are professional projects and tasks I need to move forward, everyday, in my day job. There are personal things I want to get done everyday that help  as well as life things that need to happen in order for me to function (eat healthy food, do wash occasionally, shower occasionally, feed the dogs, grocery shop) and these all need to be prioritized or none of them get done. In looking at this new challenge, I had to come to the realization that wasting time in the ways I had been, won’t be an option if I wanted to accomplish this goal: 100 hours outside in the month of May.

(Rainy weather? No excuses! Get Outside!)

When you choose one thing, something inevitably goes away. In this situation, that was a good thing! By choosing to spend more time outside, I was opting for less tv, less scrolling and less wasted time, due to the fact that I am committing to being outside more. By prioritizing outside time, it’s helped me front-load my day so that I got everything I needed to get done in the beginning of my day, re-think how I’m using my down time and think about my time differently. Being outside, whether it’s doing physical activity, enjoying one of Colorado’s many mountains or trails, or enjoying the oasis Mike has created in the backyard, these are truly the things that make me the most happy. So why wouldn’t I be planning my day around them?

A recent article about Millennial Burnout talks about the importance of carving out alone time and switching off technology, two things I am in much agreement with. And the physical and mental benefits of being outside are plentiful, especially if you’re feeling stressed, anxious, squirrely. A recent post I wrote outlined what I do instead of complaining and literally picking up and going outside is the most effective way, I have found, to remove myself from negative energy.  So this challenge has all of the goodness I seek!

I’ve told a few close friends about the challenge, so we’ve started a spreadsheet to keep track of our hours, plus I’m using Strava to track my mileage. External accountability helps me stick with things, plus it’s fun to see how far and often I’m out and about. I’m posting this because I think this challenge is an amazing way to not only spend more time in the beautiful, great outdoors, but a way in which I prioritize and think about my time, so I make sure I’m spending as much of it as possible doing what I love.

How are you getting outside??