Am I Really Doing This? Making Changes To Your Diet

I’m not going to lie, I had a small freak out moment this morning when I realized that I was giving up all animal products and by-products for the next 30 days (starting tomorrow). I mean, so many of my lunch-time staples (like tuna fish and egg salad) are off the list, as is cooking with butter or grabbing a cheese stick on the way out the door!

That’s when I realized that in order to successfully complete this challenge, I needed to focus on what I could eat instead of what was off limits. Even if you aren’t going vegan for the month, this is a useful exercise for any kind of dietary changes that you plan on making. After thinking about what I could eat, I realized that a large portion of what I already eat on a daily basis qualifies as vegan fare. I simply need to be mindful of planning appropriately so that those things are readily available to me. Here’s a short list vegan foods:


  • Smoothies with soy or almond milk
  • Most cereals with soy or almond milk
  • Bagels with peanut butter and jam
  • Oatmeal with peanut butter and maple syrup
  • Pancakes or waffles with maple syrup
  • granola bars




That’s just the stuff I came up with on the fly, but I’m sure that list would be three times as long after browsing my recipes for a couple of minutes. Also, with the number of vegan substitutes out there, you can make almost anything that you would eat normally. Products such as Boca or Quorn crumbles can be put in pasta sauce to make a “meaty” sauce and they are a great sub for ground beef in taco meat. There is also vegan mayonnaise, vegan cheeses and vegan yogurts. If you’re curious about other vegan recipes, this Vegan Outreach site has a lot of information on it.

I’ll be highlighting vegan recipes all month long and I promise, none of it will contain tofu and the vast majority of it will be husband and picky preschooler approved! This is definitely going to be a challenge (especially eating out), but with a bit of planning, I should make it without a problem.


Babies and Coy Fish and Turtles, Oh My!

This past Sunday, the whole family headed out for a day at the park. We met a couple sets of friends there and between us, we had 5 boys between the ages of 2 and 5 (and baby Lexi of course). It was craziness, but it was fun, too.

Lexi hung out in her stroller and was happy as a clam just observing the bike riding, scooter riding and general shenanigans of the boys.



Once it got hot, we tried to (unsuccessfully) round everyone up so that the Irishman could read them a story (about Spiderman, naturally).


Once everyone got bored, we decided to relocate to a pond where you could feed turtles. Here’s everyone on the dock looking for the turtles.


Once they threw in a handful of Cheez-Its, the turtles came over to check things out.


There are apparently Coy Fish in the pond, too (who are also a fan of Cheez-Its).


Parker and his buddy headed over near the edge of the pond to get a closer look. Don’t worry, they were high above the water level so no fingers were at risk of being snapped off.


Lexi had fallen asleep on the way over to the turtle pond.


At least she had a nice view when she woke up!


Parker had a great time feeding and watching the turtles and since it’s very close to our house, I’m sure we’ll be back.


New Challenge and Our First Giveaway!

Lordy, where did the month go?!? So, how did everyone do in our first 30 Day Challenge? It’s totally okay if you didn’t make it all 30 days. The general point was to make exercise a priority in your life and to establish good workout habits. I hope that you all learned something this month! I got within a pound of reaching my goal and I’m pretty sure I’ll get there by the end of this week, so I’m thrilled about that.

First, let’s talk about next month’s challenge. This one is going to be a food challenge and will probably be slightly different for everyone. My personal challenge this month will be to go VEGAN FOR 30 DAYS. No cheese?!? No fish?!? No half and half in my morning coffee?!? That’s right folks, I’m giving it all up for the month of September. Actually, I’m giving it up with one exception – honey. I’m keep honey in my diet because it’s a natural sweetener and I think that there are many benefits to consuming it. Also, we buy our honey from local beekeepers and I can assure you that no bees were harmed in the harvesting of the honey.

While I realize that going vegan may not be the right fit for all of my lovely readers, I would encourage you to examine your own diet and make your own food goals. Have you always wanted to try out going vegetarian for one month? How about cutting out all fried foods? Or maybe desserts and other refined sugars are reeking havoc to your diet? Whatever it is, make sure that it’s a big enough goal that it will be a challenge for you. I have a feeling that this one may make the bigger difference for how you feel because with our bodies, when we eat junk, we feel like junk.

Now, for the giveaway! One reader will win this set of Gold’s Gym resistance bands, which make working out at home and on the road a breeze.

This kit includes:

  • 3 long resistance tubes
  • 3 resistance levels
  • 2 detachable, easy-grip rubber handles
  • Removable, adjustable nylon strap
  • Fabric sleeve to help prevent wear and tear
  • Carry bag with drawstring
  • Instructions on how to use the resistance bands

We used to use these in swimming all the time and they are a great alternative to free weights.

To enter this giveaway, follow the instructions below (ALL ENTRIES NEED TO BE RECEIVED BY MIDNIGHT ON AUGUST 31):

(1) Mandatory for entry = answer the following question in the comments below: What is your September food challenge going to be?

(2) Mandatory for entry = Subscribe to this blog on the right hand side under “Email subscription” (and let me know that you did so in the comments below.)

(3) Extra entry = “like” dailycynema on Facebook (and let me know in the comments below).

(4) Follow @dailycynema on Twitter (and let me know in the comments below).

Super simple, huh? I can’t wait to send this gift along to one of my lovely readers!

P.S. This is not a sponsored contest. Gold’s Gym has no clue who I am, I just like these bands and wanted to give away a set as a way to say thanks for reading and keeping me company on these challenges. 

Ginger and Garlic Roasted Asparagus

This was the first week back on campus for me and I completely underestimated the amount of effort it would take to have all of my ducks in a row to make sure that (1) Parker and I got out the door in time, (2) everything was ready for Lexi’s babysitter, (3) I had lectures to give to my students, and (4) everyone was fed, clothed and loved. The last couple of days, I have fallen off of the “30 Days About Me” blogging wagon (sorry!), but I have gotten in my exercise, so that’s something right?

Since I don’t have the time for a thought-provoking post today, I did want to share a recipe with you that I have been making here at the homestead quite a lot. I got it from my mother-in-law, courtesy of the Irishman’s cousin, Kim. It’s delicious and easy. Here’s what you need:

Fresh asparagus (bottoms trimmed off)
1-2 teaspoons ground ginger (real or powdered is fine)
Coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves minced garlic (the fresh stuff, not the pre-bottled stuff)

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Wash your asparagus and put it into a roasting pan. Drizzle it with oil, add in the garlic and ginger and using your hands, mix it well so that all of the asparagus is coated. Arrange the asparagus so that it is in a single layer on the pan and season it with salt and pepper.  Pop it in the oven and cook it for 15-20 minutes (depending on how crunchy you like your it). That’s it! Serve this up with any lean protein like a good steak, roasted chicken or my favorite pan-seared cod. It is delicious!

Videos of the Kiddos

So today’s question in the 30 Days About Me series was about videos you love, particularly those including you or your family. There are two videos in particular that I have watched countless of times. The first one is from when Parker was a baby and he had a case of the giggles. I dare you to watch this video and not crack a smile – his laugh is infectious! I kept that video on my desktop at my former job and every time I got stressed out, I would watch it and instantly feel better. (He really gets going around :30 seconds in).

This next video was taken just a couple of weeks ago when my baby girl first started to vocalize and babble. The inflection in her voice and her facial expressions just melt my heart.

A Recipe I Love. Okay, LOTS of Recipes I Love.

Oh boy, asking me to pick a favorite recipe is like asking me to pick a favorite child! Long time followers of this little blog know that I absolutely love cooking. Even more, I love experimenting with new recipes and trying to duplicate our favorite restaurant foods. So, instead of picking just one recipe, I thought that I would give you a “Best of…” in a series of categories. You know, kind of like my own personal recipe Oscars.

Best Breakfast
As I was browsing my breakfast recipes (and you can too by selecting a category on the right hand side, under recent posts), I was immediately drawn to my version of Cracker Barrel’s French Toast. If I’m ever going to splurge in the calorie department, whipping up a batch of french toast, smothered in pure maple syrup is definitely the way to go.

Best Baked Goods
Without a doubt, the baked good that I’m most obsessed with and proud of is my Pumpkin Gingerbread. To me, it tastes like fall (my favorite season). It’s moist, delicious and without a doubt, one of the household favorites.

Best Appetizer
So, my mother (and my yiayia before her) are Master cooks. Seriously, they are the kind of cooks where you just move out of the way and let the magic happen. I have spent most of my adult life aspiring to carry on the Greek cooking tradition and at last, I found one recipe where I could surpass my mother’s efforts. That, ladies and gentlemen, is Spanakopita. If you’ve never worked with phyllo dough before, don’t be intimidated! I make spanakopita whenever we have company or have a gathering to go to because it is always a crowd pleaser (and it looks kind of fancy).

Best Pasta Dish
We are all in love with this lasagna recipe. It is full of flavor, incredibly cheesy and it hits the spot every time I make it. Speaking of which, I need to add that to the rotation this week because my mouth is watering just thinking about it!

Best Seafood Dish
Okay, I’m sorry but I can’t pick just one here. My latest obsession has been cod and I’ve been making this Pan-Seared Cod recipe weekly! Of course, right before that, I was obsessed with this Fish and Chips recipe, which is heavenly, if high in calories.  If I’m craving salmon, my go to recipe is Poached Salmon with a Dill-Mustard sauce and if shrimp is on the menu, I’ll either go simple with an SLT sandwich or get fancy and cook my Thai Coconut Curry Shrimp. Okay, I’ll stop there. It’s hard, but I’m stepping away from the seafood recipes.

Best Sandwich
Right now, I’m loving making Basil and Tomato Paninis on a weekly basis. I’m getting all of the mileage that I can out of farm fresh tomatoes and home grown basil. Delish!

Best Soup
I had to think about this one because soup is such a seasonal thing. But, if I had to pick my absolute favorite soup, it would be my Mushroom Soup recipe, followed closely by my Tomato Bisque recipe. Oh, if you’re looking for an easy soup recipe, try this Pasta Fagioli, which is always a family favorite.

The Irishman’s Favorite Meal
In the “things my husband eats” category, his long-standing favorite is this Chicken Picatta recipe. I could make it every week of his life and he wouldn’t get sick of it.

Best Cookie
There is a tie in the best cookie category. If you were only going to try one cookie recipe of mine, I would have to recommend the White Chocolate Macadamia Nut cookies because they will knock your socks off. A very close second is my Chewy Chocolate Chip cookie recipe, which took me six months to perfect.

Best Vegan Dessert
Oh and in case you know someone who is vegan, or simply allergic to almost everything. Try these Vegan Chocolate Cupcakes. They’re the only kind I make anymore and I haven’t bothered to tell anyone in this house that they are vegan. Yes, they are that yummy.

Okay, clearly I could go on and on and on and on and on (I think you get the point), but I will stop here. I love sharing recipes and I think that good food is the one thing that unites people regardless of where they are in this world. One day (hopefully in the next few years), my mom and I plan on traveling around all of Greece and exploring the history of regional Greek dishes. The end result will be a cookbook of sorts sprinkled with history. I can’t wait!

Day 20: Something I Wish I Could Forget

This question is an easy one to answer: I really wish I could forget what donuts taste like. I haven’t had a donut in years (literally!), but I can still taste the warm, sweet glaze on the melt-in-your-mouth ball of fried dough. Why must something so bad for you taste so damn good? Part of the reason why I’ve abstained from donuts is that I don’t trust myself with them. I’m afraid that if I let myself have even one, I may find myself hiding in the pantry with the entire bakers dozen of Krispy Kreme’s. That visual alone is enough to make me stay away from them entirely.

In all seriousness though (other than donuts) there is nothing that I wish I could forget. I am a firm believer in learning from life experience. If I chose to erase any memories, regardless of how bad or painful, I would also have missed out on the lesson learned from it. That includes a lot of the horrible things that I have seen and read in my line of work (criminology). Sometimes, as I’m driving down the road, I will get struck by the thought that right now, there are children suffering beyond belief and there isn’t a thing that I can do about it. Instead of dwelling on that thought, I have to remind myself that even though there are some horrible people on this earth that do awful things, I can do everything in my power to keep my children safe and if others think that some of the precautions I take to do so put me firmly in the “paranoid” category, then they should be grateful that they haven’t seen some of the things that I have.

Well, that was exceedingly depressing. Since I don’t have any donuts to give you (and since I don’t condone emotional eating), I definitely owe you a cute picture now to counterbalance the sadness. As an aside, that’s primarily the reason that I choose to make this blog an upbeat, silly place (and it’s also why I never watch scary movies). Life can sometimes be so scary that we need to celebrate the lightness whenever we can. Now, on to the cute picture!

My daughter has really started babbling (she’s 4 months old today). What’s funny is that when she’s angry, she starts blowing bubbles during her babbles (say that five times fast). The first time she did this, I almost called Poison Control because she looked like she was foaming at the mouth! But nope, not foam, just angry bubbles. Boy, she certainly is a cutie pie (if I do say so myself).