Meatless Monday: Gluten-free margarita tofu with fresh pico de gallo and corn salsa

I have to confess, I didn’t make this one—my darling spouse did. The fresh pico de gallo and corn salsas are some of his specialties, so I was more than happy to relinquish my spatula and let him take over dinner. The end result was this delicious Margarita Tofu, served over cilantro lime jasmine rice, with refried pinto beans, and topped with his amazingly delicious salsas and guacamole. Here’s how he did it.

Margarita Tofu

*Nutrition facts at bottom

1 package firm (or super firm) tofu, cut lengthwise into thin strips
Garlic powder and onion powder to taste
1/3 cup sour mix—use store bought or make your own as follows:

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 cup lemon juice
3/4 cup lime juice

Mix sugar and water and cook over medium heat until well dissolved. Cool completely. Mix with lemon juice and lime juice. Store in the refrigerator.

  1. Marinate tofu in sour mix for 1–2 hours.
  2. Sauté in skillet over medium-high heat until golden brown on each side (approx. 4-7 minutes per side).

Serve over rice mixed with sour mix and cilantro to taste. Refried beans make a great side as well.

Pico de Gallo

*Nutrition facts at bottom

4 large ripe tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup red onion, finely chopped
1 jalapeno, finely chopped
juice from 2 limes
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients and chill for 1–2 hours before serving.

For corn salsa, swap out the tomato for corn. and cut back the lime juice to one lime.

If you try these recipes, let me know in the comments section how you liked them. And as always, feel free to connect with me and share on social media.

Margarita Tofu

Serving Size: 2 pieces
Servings: 5
Calories: 108
Total Fat: 4.4g
Total Carbohydrates: 7.7g
Dietary Fiber: 1.4g
Sugar: 4.3g
Protein: 10.2g
Sodium: 26.3mg

Pico de Gallo

Serving Size: approx. 1/4 cup
Servings: 12
Calories (not including parmesan): 13
Total Fat: 0g
Total Carbohydrates: 3g
Dietary Fiber: .5g
Sugar: 1.5g
Protein: .4g
Sodium: 31.3mg

Meatless Monday: Gluten-Free Crabless Cakes and Tofu Scampi

When I was a kid, I loved seafood. Even before I stopped eating meat because of my love for animals, I didn’t each much of it because I didn’t really care for it. But I would eat the heck out of some seafood. I was pescatarian for a several years before eventually leaving fish behind as well. But one of the things I’ve missed most over the years is a smooth, buttery scampi with a side of hearty crab cakes. So, today’s meatless Monday meal is a throwback to my childhood favorites, but with a gluten-free, vegetarian spin.

Crabless Cakes

1 can palm hearts
1/2 cup red onion, diced
1/2 cup green pepper diced
1/2 cup celery, diced
1/2 cup carrot, shredded
1 ear sweet corn (cut off the cob)
1/2 tbs garlic, minced
2 tsp flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1/2 cup gluten-free panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup gluten-free flour
1/2 cup water (or dry white wine)
1 flax egg (see below for instructions)
1 tsp mustard
1 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
Salt, pepper, and other seasonings to taste

*Nutrition facts at bottom

  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Use two forks to shred the palm hearts lengthwise and then cut shreds into smaller chunks (about the size of lump crab meat.
  3. Mix in onion, pepper, celery, carrots, corn, garlic and parsley.
  4. Add gluten-free flour, Old Bay, and seasonings of choice, and stir to combine.
  5. Stir in water (or wine) mustard, incorporate well.
  6. Mix in bread crumbs and flax egg.
  7. Shape into patties and bake for 20–22 minutes.

To give these a bit of a crunch around the outside, brown on the stove for 1–2 minutes on each side over medium-high heat before baking.

Serve with lemon and your choice of sauce. Sometimes, I will top these with avocado slices and drizzle with Thai sweet chili sauce.

Tofu scampi

1 package firm tofu
2 tbs butter (or vegan butter)
2 tbs olive oil
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
2 cloves garlic, smashed
Juice of 1/2 of a lemon
Salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan cheese to taste

*Nutrition facts at bottom

  1. Cut tofu into small cubes.
  2. Melt butter and olive oil together in a skillet over medium heat.
  3. Add garlic and sauté until lightly golden (1–2 minutes). Do not overcook!
  4. Add wine, pepper, crushed red pepper, and salt and let simmer and reduce for 2–4 minutes.
  5. Mix in tofu and sauté approx 4–5 minutes.
  6. Stir in lemon juice and sprinkle with parsley and parmesan.

If you try these recipes, let me know in the comments section how you liked them. And as always, feel free to connect with me and share on social media.

Crabless Cakes

Serving Size: 2 cakes
Servings: 5
Calories (not including wine): 129
Total Fat: 1.2g
Total Carbohydrates: 23.4g
Dietary Fiber: 2.8g
Sugar: 2.4g
Protein: 4g
Sodium: 389mg

Potato Fritters Nutrition Facts

Serving Size: approx. 1/4 cup
Servings: 5
Calories (not including parmesan): 191
Total Fat: 13.4g
Total Carbohydrates: 4.3g
Dietary Fiber: 1.5g
Sugar: .5g
Protein: 8.6g
Sodium: 30.2mg

Takeover Tuesday: A Journey Through Fibro & Fatigue

by Kara Leigh Miller

I was never a very healthy child. In fact, without even thinking about it too hard or long, I can easily recall half a dozen incidents of infected teeth that would swell up so bad I had trouble opening my mouth far enough to slurp soup. If anyone near me got sick, I’d undoubtedly catch it, too. I’ve had Whooping Cough, Hand/Foot/Mouth Disease, Strep throat (more times than I can count), nose bleeds that would send me to the ER, Rheumatic Fever, Sydenham’s Chorea, bronchitis, upper respiratory infections, pneumonia—you name it, I’ve probably had it. Oddly, though, I’ve never had the chicken pox… But I digress.

So, back in 2018 when I came home from attending a concert with my daughter and her friend and I got sick, I didn’t think much of it. Except, this “cold” was really severe. I wasn’t able to get out of bed for almost a week straight. My head constantly felt like someone was beating on my temples with a hammer. I lost my appetite. Had no energy. Couldn’t think clearly, let alone try to work. Then, the coughing fits started. I couldn’t walk up to the bathroom without getting winded, and then there was the time I coughed so hard I bruised a rib and couldn’t move. That was fun…

Eventually, I went to the local urgent care and was diagnosed with a sinus infection, strep throat, and a severe upper respiratory infection. With some heavy meds and a lot more rest, I finally got over all the ick.

But I didn’t. Not really.

As I said, this “cold” was different. First, I’d never been that sick before, despite all my childhood ailments. Everything about that just felt… wrong and weird. Maybe, subconsciously, I knew things weren’t ever going to be right again, but I was feeling better, so I went about with life.

Fast forward to early 2019, and I couldn’t ignore things any longer. My body was in constant pain. I was popping Tylenol like Tic-tacs, and my heating pad became my best friend. I’d wake up in the morning (after sleeping for a solid 9-10 hours) and be tired. When I did sleep, I’d twitch and jerk, and that often interrupted my sleep. I’d sit up in the morning, and my entire body would just slump with utter exhaustion. My husband and kids would want to go places and do things, and I just physically couldn’t do it without intense pain or wanting to curl up and take a nap. Focusing on anything was impossible; I felt like I was in a constant fog. And don’t get me started on what it was like every time I’d eat a meal and then have to run to the bathroom because of digestive issues.

At one point, my husband made a comment that I wasn’t the same woman he married, and that really hit home, because he was right. I’d changed—through no fault of my own—and not for the better. I was moody, miserable, forgetful, angry, depressed, tired. I hated being in my own skin.

I needed help.

After a lot of visits to the doctor, numerous tests, and a ton of tears on my part, I finally had a diagnosis: Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue.

Like me way back then, you’re probably wondering what the heck Fibromyalgia is. In the simplest terms, it’s a widespread pain disease that also affects a person’s sleep, mood, digestion, and memory.

There is no cure for Fibromyalgia, and it’s a lifelong disease. However, it can be managed, and so that’s what I set out to do. My doctor advised me to try to lose some weight, because the less weight I had on my body, the less strain on my joints and muscles, which would help with the constant pain. I was also given some really strong medication to help with the pain, but also to help me sleep better and without consistent interruptions.

Armed with all of this, I began to do my own research into this disease, and I talked to a few friends who had it. The number one piece of advice I was given? Cut the carbs from my diet. *Cue the panic* I couldn’t possibly give up my bread and pasta and candy! The horror!!

A woman and her teenage daughter stand on the front porch of a house.

This is me with my daughter back in 2017, before my diagnosis, when I was at my heaviest weight: 186 pounds.

I had a long way to go to get the pounds off and ease the pain. But, I really wanted to feel better, so with the guidance of a friend who was in my same position, I put myself on the Keto diet. I cut out 95% of the carbs from my diet, increased my protein, started drinking a lot of water, and began to exercise every day. I began my official weight loss journey in May 2019.

A healthy woman poses in a hallway with her arms in the air.

Within months, I was feeling like a new person. I had more energy, my mind was clearer, my moods had leveled out, and I’d lost 50 pounds!! By January 2020, I was down to a much healthier 136 pounds. It truly was life-changing for me.

Then, the pandemic hit, and the world was in lockdown. Working out and being active was suddenly a lot harder. My stress levels went up, and my eating habits started to slip back to my old ways. I was much more in-tune with my body, though, and I caught myself before things went too far south. But, the pain had returned, and my meds were no longer helping. So, I went back to my doctor, and she changed my medication. I bounced back quickly, and I was able to maintain my weight. Things were good again.

Fast forward to March 2022, and I’d taken a major slide backward with my disease. The pain was nearly non-existent, but the fatigue was kicking my butt. I couldn’t make it through the day without a nap—and when I say nap, I mean a 2-4 hour period where I’m dead to the world—and I’d packed on about 10 pounds that I just could not lose no matter what I did.

A woman poses leaning against her sports car in front of her house.

Back to the doctor I went! We agreed that my current medication was doing more harm than good, and so we’re now in the process of weaning me off all meds, and I’ll attempt to manage my fibro and fatigue with my diet and exercise. This is me today, happy and healthy at 144 pounds.

Kara Leigh Miller lives in Michigan with her husband, three (of five) kids, five pit bulls, and four cats. When she’s not busy writing romance novels that leave readers swooning, she’s spending time with her family, working out, or binge watching Netflix. And sometimes, she’ll even play golf with her husband, even though she totally sucks at it. Represented by Dawn Dowdle of Blue Ridge Literary Agency, Kara writes primarily young adult romance. She’s also the Editorial Direct for Anaiah Press, LLC. You can learn more about Kara and her books on her website: www.karaleighmillerauthor.com

Meatless Monday: Gluten-Free Cauliflower Steaks and Potato Fritters

Once upon a time, Oldest Child thought they hated cauliflower. Until one day, they came into the kitchen while I was cooking, lured in by the delicious smells, and asked me what I was making and could they have some. Boy were they surprised when they were handed a serving of cauliflower steak. Naturally, they loved it, and it’s been in our regular meal rotation ever since. And here’s how we do it.

Cauliflower Steak

1 medium head of cauliflower
2 tbs gluten-free soy sauce (or coconut aminos)
1 tbs olive oil
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
Salt, pepper, and other seasonings to taste

*Nutrition facts at bottom

  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Cut the cauliflower into 1/2 inch slices.
  3. Mix the soy sauce and olive oil and brush over the “steaks.”
  4. Sprinkle both sides with paprika, salt/pepper, and seasonings of choice.
  5. Lay flat on baking sheet and bake for approx. 20 minutes or until browned and soft enough to puncture with a fork.

You can grill these instead, but consider grilling them on top of foil or a plank because they crumble easily.

Once they’ve finished cooking, brush the steaks with butter (or vegan butter for dairy-free). Cover with foil and let rest for a few minutes before serving.

Potato Fritters

2 large russet potatoes, peeled and shredded
1 large carrot, shredded
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1/2 medium onion, diced
1/4 cup gluten-free bread crumbs
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
2 flax eggs (see below for additional instruction)

*Nutrition facts at bottom

  1. Preheat oven to 375°.
  2. Mix potato, carrot, celery, onion, and garlic in large bowl.
  3. Stir in flax eggs (to make 1 flax egg, combine 1 tbs flax meal w/ 3 tbs water; stir well, and let rest for 5 minutes until it takes on a similar consistency to egg whites).
  4. Mix in bread crumbs.
  5. Shape into patties and bake for 20–22 minutes.

To give these a bit of a crunch around the outside, brown on the stove for 1–2 minutes on each side over medium-high heat before baking.

I like to top these with a spicy vegan aioli (a recipe for another day) and feta cheese and serve with sliced avocado and lime.

If you try these recipes, let me know in the comments section how you liked it. And as always, feel free to connect with me and share on social media.

Cauliflower Steak Nutrition Facts

Serving Size: 1 steak
Servings: 6
Calories (not including bun/toppings): 51
Total Fat: 2.8g
Total Carbohydrates: 5.5g
Dietary Fiber: 2.5g
Sugar: 2.4g
Protein: 2.3g
Sodium: 335mg

Potato Fritters Nutrition Facts

Serving Size: 2 fritters
Servings: 6
Calories (not including bun/toppings): 77
Total Fat: 0.8g
Total Carbohydrates: 15.8g
Dietary Fiber: 1.7g
Sugar: 1.4g
Protein: 2.1g
Sodium: 42.2mg

How to Lose Weight Fast: Stop letting fear of other people’s opinions weigh you down.

A while back, I stumbled across a Tedx about body positivity on YouTube. While I wasn’t specifically looking for a Ted Talk or videos on body positivity (I was actually looking for haircare videos in an attempt to freshen up my self-care routine), the title caught my eye: Body Positivity or Body Obsession: Learning to See More & Be More.

The video resonated with me in a big way as the presenter, Lindsay Kite, talked about overcoming body shame. But it left me wondering a few things: why do we take on the weight of other people’s opinions in the first place, why do some opinions weigh more, and how can we shed that weight?

Why Do We Take on the Weight of Other People’s Opinions?

Vector illustration of sad or depressed woman sitting cornered surrounded by pointing hands. Concept of public censure and social judgement

Not a lot of people know this about me (it’s not something you really lead with in conversation), but I struggled with body dysmorphia in my teens and early twenties. Like Kite, the speaker in the Tedx video, I was an active kid and an avid swimmer. Growing up in Florida, 10 minutes from some of the best beaches in the country, I spent much of my childhood swimming. Until one day, when I was around 11, I decided I was too fat to wear a swimsuit. Some of it was from what I was seeing in magazines and on TV. I was, after all, a product of the heroin-chic beauty culture of the 90s. Some of it was due to pressure from family to be thin because they had come up in the era of Twiggy and the like, and to them, beautiful was just a synonym for skinny. But none of it was okay.

I didn’t recognize that then. I just knew I wasn’t pretty enough. Even when people called me pretty, it was backhanded: “You have such a pretty face,” or “You’d be so pretty if you lost weight.”

When I was 11, a family member put me on the Slim Fast diet. When I was 12, that same family member encouraged me to stop hanging out with two of my friends because they were overweight, and she thought I would “catch” the obesity.

Fredric Neuman, M.D. writes in this article on Psychology today that “The way people feel about themselves is formed in large part during the time of growing up by the way their parents—or other close family members—felt about them and treated them during that time.” (Neuman, 2013)

And the simple fact of the matter is that our survival as individuals depends on our being accepted into the social group. We feel pressure to conform even before we can pronounce those very words.

Why Do Some Opinions Weigh More When We Put Them On?

3D Characters standing on the scales of justice. One of them is weighed down by sins, and the other is lifted up by virtue. 3D Rendering isolated on white.

By the time I was a freshman in high school, I felt so fat and so disgusting (at 5’4” and 140lbs), that I truly believed no one could possibly find me attractive.

When a boy in my class stopped our conversation to tell me I had a pretty smile, I thought he was messing with me and immediately stopped both smiling and talking to him.

When a senior football player from my Spanish class stopped me in the hall one day to introduce me to his friends, I was certain he’d done so because they were all going to have a good laugh at the awkward freshman girl after I walked away, and I nearly crawled out of my skin to get away from them as fast as I could.

Every day, the boy who sat next to me in Drama would stop me on my way to my seat and ask me out. I was so sure he was yanking my chain, I would shake my head and continue to my seat without making eye contact. Until one day, we went through the standard routine: he asked me out and I declined. Only, this day, he followed up with, “That’s what I like about you, your confidence.” This poor boy thought I was turning him down because I was out of his league, and I was over here doing everything I could to be invisible.

So why didn’t these situations change the way I felt about myself and my body? I have some theories.

First, as anthropologist Krystal D’Costa writes in this article on the Scientific American blog, “…negative opinions held by those outside of our social networks may have less weight than others because they are less likely have an impact on future relations.” (D’Costa, 2012). In this article, D’Costa focuses on behavior in relation to reputation, but the idea is the same. These brief encounters with people who, in retrospect, clearly did not find me abhorrent weren’t enough to change my outlook because they weren’t as close to me, weren’t as large a part of my life as the people who had put those warped ideas about body image into my head in the first place. I didn’t rely on those classmates for acceptance into the family social group or even my friend group (as they were only acquaintances).

How Do We Shed the Weight?

Measuring tape wrapped around bathroom scales. Concept of weight loss, diet, healthy lifestyle.

Several more years would pass before I would feel comfortable wearing form-fitting clothing, and even in my 30s now, I still experience a significant amount of discomfort in a bathing suit at the beach.

Going back to something Kite said in her talk, “It is incredibly difficult to feel good about your body if you are judging it solely based on appearance.”

In her Tedx Talk, Kite tells us that women she surveyed who reported feeling good about their bodies all reported a past painful experience or “body image disruption.” The disruption changes the way you feel about your own body. These disruptions can have either a very negative (shame/hatred/disgust) or very positive (self-love/confidence) impact on how you feel about your body.

The key is to develop body image resilience. Lindsay Kite and her sister, Lexie, are the founders of Beauty Redefined, a nonprofit whose mission is to teach body image resilience. And there are many other amazing people doing work in this area. I’m personally acquainted with one such woman, Christina Maldonado, founder and principal photographer at Boudoir Tampa. Her mission is to help people shed the weight of unhealthy beauty standards. She’s a master at helping individuals (and couples) recognize that each and every body is beautiful through her photography.

The key takeaway I’ve gleaned from my research is that you have to make a simultaneous public and personal shift.

Putting yourself out there is the external/public piece. It can be anything that pushes your boundaries, from wearing a tank top if you’re insecure about your arms or shorts if you are uncomfortable showing your legs, to wearing a bikini in public. Anything that opens you up and makes you vulnerable to perceived criticism can be an opportunity for body image resilience.

Changing your mindset is the internal side. We have to work to love our bodies for what they can do, not how they look. We can do this through meditation, journaling, etc. and learning to filter out the unhealthy beauty messages we receive every day from the media, from friends and family, and most especially from ourselves. Because we are our own worst critics.

Something else that I don’t see many people talking about is that beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. Not every person prefers model-thin, perfectly airbrushed bodies. There is an admirer for every body type. I could be built like a caterpillar, and there would still be some human out there who goes crazy for the larval butterfly look.

Attitude self esteem icon. Cartoon of attitude self esteem vector icon for web design isolated on white background

I just need to change my mindset and put myself out there. And that’s what my wellness journey is all about. I’m learning to love myself just as I am. Every time I put myself out there, it’s that much easier the next time, easier to put myself out there and easier to love myself just as I am. I’m taking baby steps, short skirts and bathing suits and posting pictures/videos of myself for all the internet to see now. One larger goal is to have a photography session with the phenomenal Christina Maldonado. And the more I do these things, the closer I get to the finish line of loving myself wholly and completely as I am and not striving for a perceived perfection. Because we’re all already perfect enough.

Connect with me on social media to be a part of my journey.

Sources

TedxTalks. (2017). YouTube. Retrieved May 21, 2022, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uDowwh0EU4w.

D’Costa, K. (2012, June 4). What other people think about us matters here’s why. Scientific American Blog Network. Retrieved May 21, 2022, from https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/anthropology-in-practice/what-other-people-think-about-us-mattersheres-why/ 

Sussex Publishers. (n.d.). Caring what other people think. Psychology Today. Retrieved May 21, 2022, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fighting-fear/201306/caring-what-other-people-think