Category Archives: Food

“How” I got pregnant . . . beyond the obvious.

I’m 17 weeks along in my pregnancy now. I had an OB appointment last week and everything is going great. Little Dude and I got to hear our baby girl’s heartbeat and I got some blood drawn. (Yes, I said baby girl!)

Since we announced our pregnancy, I’ve been asked a particular question over and over: “I thought you couldn’t have kids. What happened?” I’ve been answering this honestly and completely, because I just never know who could benefit from my experience. And since the question persists, I thought I’d share it here. It’s personal – more personal than most of my entries, but I feel that is important.

I started on birth control pills at the age of 16. I remained on them until I was 24, when my therapist said that they could contribute to depression. She recommended ditching them for a while to see if it helped, rather than simply prescribing me another medication. I did as she recommended. Two years came and went. I never saw any sign of a menstrual cycle. Nothing. Nada. During this time I also became fairly thin, diagnosed with EDNOS (eating disorder not otherwise specified), but the lack of cycle preceded the EDNOS. I feel that’s important to note. And at that time, I did NOT exercise. (I know . . . right? If you know me now that’s hard to believe.) Many people tried to blame my weight and my exercise habits for my infertility. (That was incredibly unfair to blame me. It was hurtful every time I heard it. People said these things to me off the cuff, without knowing my history. I’ve heard these comments as recently as this past year. And I am no longer skinny – not even a little. I’m smack-dab in the middle of the normal range for my height and weight. I know plenty of women who are much thinner than men who successfully bear children, and athletes who do as well. And, by the way, at that time, I ate meat. All of the meat. Red and white.)

I tried to give blood one day at the local blood bank. Typically my iron had been borderline acceptable, but that day, after testing my iron, one of the women there rushed over to me. She said, “Honey, are you on your period?” I said no, I hadn’t had one in over two years. She asked me a couple of other questions. Then she said, “You need to get to a doctor right away. Your iron is very, very low and it’s not good.” She recommended seeing my GYN.

I called my GYN that day and scheduled an appointment. The blood work came back and confirmed what the tech said. My iron levels were super low. I was referred to a local hematology/oncology office for treatment. My doctor told me that there was only one immediate solution: IV iron therapy. For the next 6 weeks I spent 4 hours on my Friday afternoons with the chemo patients, hooked up to an IV. After that, I went on daily doses of iron and had frequent follow up appointments. The threat of more IV treatments was always on the table. I took my pills daily, ate my meat, and did what the good doctor told me.

It was a struggle to keep my iron even at the bottom limit of the acceptable range.

During this time, my iron levels were the top story. The lack of a cycle was on the back burner. The docs felt that balancing out the iron should fix the lack of a cycle. After a couple of years, though, it hadn’t. At 26 years old, no one could really give me an answer. But now I was with my new boyfriend (now he’s my husband) and we weren’t ready for a baby. The doctors couldn’t tell me I WOULDN’T get pregnant, despite my lack of a cycle, so they recommend the pill again.

I went back on that thing, and it forced my body to cycle regularly. By this point I had eliminated red meat. My iron crept up ever so slightly, but not enough to really mean anything. Shortly before we got married, I cut out meat altogether. My iron crept up again, but still not significantly.

In 2009 we decided we were ready to start trying for a family. I went off the pill in November and, you guessed it, nothing happened. Usually your GYN tells you to wait 6 months before calling them, but because of my history, they said to call if nothing happened after 3 months. I really don’t think they had any hope that anything miraculous would happen. And it didn’t.

By the spring of 2010 I was at lots of appointments with my GYN and an infertility specialist 80 miles from my home. They did a battery of bloodwork and xrays and diagnosed me with Hypoestrogenic Hypogonadism. If you have ever been diagnosed with IBS, you probably went through tons and tons of tests, with lots of negative results, and in the end were told you had IBS . . . pretty much because there was no other answer. That’s how I felt here. I read the definition of my diagnosis and really didn’t feel like it answered my questions. I don’t have any of the disorders that cause it. So if kind of felt like this was the diagnosis because nothing else fit. Maybe I’m wrong about that. I probably am; I don’t have any fancy letters after my name.

Then we adopted. Let me tell you again that the adoption had nothing to do with my biology.

During my husband’s final trip to Ethiopia, I decided to play around with my diet. I was, at this point, fully vegetarian. I was having lot of gastro-intestinal issues and wondered if a food sensitivity was to blame. I had already been tested for the common food allergies and had no positive results. I decided to follow the Thrive Diet for a few weeks. Thrive is fully vegan and corn, soy, peanut, wheat and refined-sugar free. Yes, it’s very limiting, but honestly there were plenty of tasty things to eat. I felt really good while on the diet, so I knew that something (or some things) that I had eliminated was causing me issues.

When S returned, I slowly started adding those common allergens back into my diet. Corn was no problem. Soy was fine. Refined sugar was okay in small amounts. Wheat and peanuts, though, gave me stomach issues. Cutting out peanut butter was tough, mentally, but in reality it was really very easy to do. I just substituted it with almond butter and called it a day. I can tolerate almonds and other nuts in small amounts, so this worked. But wheat was tricky. My reactions weren’t severe and I had tested negative for a wheat allergy, but there was definitely some sort of relationship between wheat and my problems. I decided to do my best to eliminate it from my diet.

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After a few months I was feeling better – a lot better. The craziest thing happened too: I had my first menstrual cycle in years (without medication). It was the most random thing, and I didn’t know what to make of it. Months went by without another one, but it made me wonder. I had been suffering from anemia and nasty, nasty bouts of fatigue for years. And the infertility. I wondered if there was a common link between them? So I did what anyone would do. I Googled it. And I returned an article showing a link between gluten intolerance and all of those symptoms.

Boom.

I was sold. I ran it by a doctor friend and she said to give it a shot. So I tightened up my diet and got serious about ridding my diet of gluten. I downloaded an app to track my cycle, and over the following 3 years, it became more and more regular. It was a slow process, but I could see progress. I started seeing my mom’s oncologist/hematologist, and ran this all by him. He was convinced gluten was the problem and encouraged me to continue down this path.

When my mom died I ate whatever was available . . . which, in the hospital, was often gluten filled crap. My cycle was off for the next couple of months, but I can’t say stress didn’t play into that a little. Last year I was very consistent in my diet, and even had 3 months in a row of 30ish day cycles. I was astonished. Those months were October (the month of my last 100), November and December. I found out I was 5 weeks pregnant in early January . . . you do the math.

So . . . the bottom line is that, for me, gluten seems to be the reason that I couldn’t get pregnant. If you would have told me this 5 or 6 years ago, I would have thought you were crazy. I didn’t understand the issues that gluten can cause people. I thought gluten was super tasty. But then I realized that it wasn’t for everyone. Sure – some people can eat bagels for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, a plate of spaghetti for dinner and chocolate cake for dessert without an issue. But others cannot. Gluten intolerance manifests itself in many different ways for many different people. For me, the difference was life changing – no, life giving.

Edited to add: On a related note, my iron levels have been much better since giving up gluten and following a healthier vegan diet (by this I mean adding a greater variety of fresh veggies, beans and using predominantly cast-iron skillets for my cooking). I have not had any bouts of fatigue like I used to have either. Those bouts were awful. I would come home from work over my hour lunch and take a 45 minute nap just about every day. (I lived a mile from work.) If you know me, you know I HATE napping, but this was necessary for me to function. I had these bouts twice per year, just about every year, since I was a teenager. I had numerous blood tests done, and they always came out normal. The only downside to being a gluten-free vegan is it’s tricky to go out to restaurants!!

The weekend

I have no idea if I’ve ever done a weekend wrap-up, and I certainly don’t intend to make them a habit, but I wanted to share a few highlights with you.

The weekend got off to a great start when there was a knock on the door late on Friday. After I got the dog to relax, I went to the door and saw a package waiting for me. It was my long-awaited, much-anticipated Vitamix!

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I have it sitting on the counter but haven’t been able to use it yet. I’m super excited, though. I think I’ll be making a smoothie tomorrow!

Later that night we actually sent Little Dude to a friend’s house and went out for dinner. We rarely do this, but are trying to find a way to make it a monthly thing, especially before the baby comes. Some friends recently went to the soft opening of a new local restaurant, Vrai, and upon googling it, I found that they had vegan options. Not only did they have items that were easily modified to be vegan, but they had 3 vegan-gluten-ree options. Three! At one restaurant! Around here, that just doesn’t happen. They also had several vegan desserts . . . in fact, most were vegan and only one ice cream had dairy. I felt like it had to be in some sort of bizarro world.

Vrai was great. The atmosphere was great, and it was packed. I recognized a few people, and realized that a lot of locals were there. We were some of the few imports from across the river. The food was amazing . . . so amazing that I just ate it and really didn’t think about taking photos. I did snap one of my entree though. We split an order of brussels sprouts with crushed hazelnuts. It sounded weird but it was delicious. It came with some sort of lemon cream but we got that on the side so S could have it while I skipped it. My entree was a quinoa cake with an avocado cream, tomato jelly and a tangy cole slaw. It was super delicious, but I took a really bad picture. Sorry – I really wanted to eat it.

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S got a shrimp fettucine with a poached egg that he said was fantastic. The great meal was capped off with a ridiculously yummy vegan-gluten-free blondie with a side of sorbet. (It was supposed to be house made chocolate salted caramel but, sigh, they ran out.) The service overall was fine, but a little slow. And they overbooked their reservations, so people were waiting. But they’ve only been open for a little less than 4 weeks so I’m sure that will improve. If you live in the Lemoyne, PA area, get yourself a reservation now.

I got to squeeze in a great 7 mile run on the Appalachian Trail on Saturday morning. Unfortunately it still required gloves and a headband, but it was a nice morning so that was okay. I got in another 4 miles on Sunday on “my mountain” and it was a little better; I was in shorts, long sleeves, no gloves and no headband. Spring is coming.

We (Tree 4 Hope) held our first annual Zumbathon at our local Gold’s Gym on Saturday afternoon. I do not Zumba, but I helped at the event. It was great; we raised over $800 and everyone had a lot of fun. All of the money raised will go towards building Hope Academy. If you’ve missed out on what Hope Academy is, click here and learn how you can help.

I discovered a wonderful song a few weeks ago and ended up pairing with a guitarist at church to sing it at both Sunday services this week. I am not sharing the file of our rendition, but I just have to share the original. It’s just so good. We weren’t nearly this good, but we did our best.

So that was the weekend in a nutshell. I did a ton of other stuff, but most of it’s boring. And the busy weekend left this baby incubator exhausted, but it’s all good.

 

 

Oreo cookie cows and bum knees

If you haven’t noticed, and you probably haven’t since I rarely actually write in this blog, I get injured quite frequently. I guess I’m just a fragile-princess kind of girl. Or maybe it’s just because I do a lot of stuff that can cause injury. Since I seem to be lacking a tiara, I guess the answer must be the latter.

Two weekends ago I aggravated my knee during the Tuscarora Trails 50K. I don’t like super steep, rocky, leaf-covered, slightly slippery descents to start with, but since I had those knee problems last fall, I’ve tried to steer clear of those routes entirely. Until that day, I had succeeded. Unfortunately, there was no way around this route. I took it slow, but still could feel my knee crying out for me to stop from the get-go. In the week that followed, I ran more than I normally do during the weekdays since the munchkin I watch was on vacation. By Sunday, I had logged 50 miles – a bit of an increase over what I had been doing. Also by Sunday, my knee was bugging me.

When I woke up on Monday I had some swelling and a lot of stiffness. I decided not to run for several days, but really running wasn’t an option due to my husband’s business trip and the weather (since Little Dude would have had to ride in the stroller). As the week wore on, I grew more and more concerned about my knee. It was more painful on Thursday than on Monday. It was frustrating, but since I know what causes it, I wasn’t as worked up as I was last fall.

I decided to try 3 miles on the roads around my house yesterday morning to see how things felt. The first 2 minutes had me scared. I felt like my knee was going to give out. That quickly passed, thank God, and things began to feel better – not great, but better. Later in the day, though, it seemed to be quite pissed off. Knowing I had a 25 mile run planned for today got me pretty worried. I’m only 8 weeks out from the Laurel 70, so every long run is crucial. I had already changed the route from a challenging, rocky one with a couple of big climbs and descents to a relatively flat, smooth one.

At the start this morning I told Anne that we might run 5 or we might run 25. It was all up in the air. After a couple of miles I decided that 25 probably wasn’t a good idea, but that we’d still shoot for 20. The longer I ran, the better I felt. It was around 50 degrees but windy – OF COURSE! – so it was still a little chilly when we started. But it was clearly spring time. And I was so damned excited! I think I have a form of running-related ADHD or something. I’d be running along, chatting with Anne, and then I’d yell “GREEN GRASS!!” or “Oh my God purple flowers!!” or “Daffodils? Are those DAFFODILS popping up?” and, my favorite, “COWS! I love cows!! MOOOOOO!!!”

What am I? 5 years old?

We hit the 10-mile turnaround, and since Anne is the doctor and my “running mom”, she made the call that, for my knee’s sake, we were definitely keeping the route at 20 miles, not 25. (She made the right call but in hindsight I wish we would have continued on.) With about 8 miles to go Anne was hitting the ladies’ room and I walked on a bit to prevent my knee from getting stiff. I decided to stop to check out the cows. I had a big, dumb grin on my face as I watched them mooove around. (I couldn’t help that.) One was literally frolicking. She’s happy it’s springtime too! Anne then pointed out a cow and told me it was an “oreo cookie” cow.

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She pointed out that one that’s just left of center . . . a brown front end and butt with a white middle. I thought surely she had made up that term for her kids when they were small. But no! I googled it and found out that it’s a Belted Galloway cow and that they are commonly known as “oreo cookie cows”. Is there anything that woman doesn’t know?

After saying goodbye to the cows, we continued on our way. The remaining miles were pain free, warm, sunny and just generally wonderful. I even ditched my long sleeves and ran the last 4 miles in a tank top. WOOHOO!!!!! We encountered a bunch of day hikers, a few section hikers, and several runners also out enjoying the beautiful weather. We reached the end of the run feeling great, and checked out some ducks by the creek. All in all, it was a great run.

As I write this, I’m feasting on a super-yummy post-run meal. I like to make lots of stuff in big batches once a week so I can just throw stuff in a bowl and squirt some sriracha on it when lunch time rolls around. It makes life easy with two hungry little ones. It also makes life easy when you’re tired and HUNGRY from a long run. Today I decided to warm everything up rather than just eating it cold on top of spinach. I melted some coconut oil in my cast iron skillet and added some cubed (previously sauteed) tofu, some roasted butternut squash, some roasted broccoli and a copious amount of turmeric. (My friend Ashleigh reminded me of it’s anti-inflammatory properties so I figured it could help my knee.) I’ve never used much turmeric, and threw a LOT in the pan. Everything turned yellow-orange. At the end I threw in a little spinach just to wilt it. I put that all on a plate and squirted some sriracha on top. It was absolutely delicious!!
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I hope it’s finally spring time where you are and that you are getting out to enjoy the sunshine!

Making life a little less convenient and my quest for simplification

For years I’ve used my microwave with a little bit of suspicion. Just what were those waves doing to my food, beyond heating it. Don’t get me wrong – I loved the convenience. You could forget to thaw something and – BOOM! – it’s thawed. You could reheat last night’s dinner in 90 seconds. You could boil water for your hot chocolate. A bowl of oatmeal here, a cup of soup there, and even a faux-baked potato every once in a while. It had its uses.

As I moved towards a less processed diet, then to being vegetarian, and then to a plant-based diet, I realized that we were using the microwave a whole lot less. It was collecting a lot of dust, and was becoming an eyesore. It was the second one we had since we were married; the first one only lasted about 5 years. I didn’t like the idea of having to replace an appliance that didn’t serve much of a purpose so often.

One day, about a week before Christmas, I had planned a Christmas ornament craft that required the oven. I had three trays of food that needed to go in the oven too. My husband put something in the microwave as I hit “preheat” on the oven. I said to him, “I could live if our microwave died, but I couldn’t go a week if the oven died.” Within 90 seconds the heating element burst into flames, split in two and everything came to a standstill.

Correction: I couldn’t go 5 minutes without the oven.

We fixed the oven, but decided that when the microwave died, we weren’t replacing it. Well, July rolled around and I was nuking something that required me to stir it halfway through. After the beeper went off, I did my duty and stirred whatever it was and put it back in to finish cooking. The stupid thing died. I cursed it, unplugged it and walked it to the garbage.

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Its removal opened up a TON of counter space. Our kitchen looked so much bigger! I didn’t have to clean it, and a reduction in cleaning is always welcome.

Do I miss it? Nope. There was only one time that I wished I had it, and that was because I had a potluck at my house and someone brought something that needed thawed. (Thankfully my neighbors were home and let me use theirs.) There are definitely times when it would be quicker to throw something in the microwave than to heat it up on the stove or in the oven, but I don’t mind much at all. It’s really just a matter of minutes. And it doesn’t have that “nuked” flavor and texture that some foods get. I did find heating an entire oven to cook up my son’s chick’n nuggets or one of his rolls to be wasteful so I got a really nice toaster oven at a yard sale. SCORE!

Do you have a microwave? Do you use it? Could you live without it? Do you think I’m nuts?

Central PA is surprisingly cool

When we were in Hawaii, I told Kasey-Dee about all of the “fun” things we could do if she came to visit. Everything seemed like an awesome idea at the time. I must have really made it sound fun, because she decided to spend the holiday weekend with us. I sat down on Thursday night to decide exactly what we were going to do, and it was at that point that I had this thought: We are so lame.

All of my awesome ideas sounded dumb. She lives and works just outside of Washington DC and travels the world. How did I think she could possibly have fun in Podunk, PA? (For the record, we Pennsylvanians truly refer to our state by its abbreviation: P-A. Also, there really isn’t a town called Podunk, but there is a Camp Podunk. Leave it to PA.)

I decided to stick to my guns because, well, there weren’t really any other options. I drew up a list of things to do and cleaned the house. She arrived on Friday afternoon and we hit the ground running. Our first stop was to my friends’ farm. They are out of the country for several weeks, but I stop by often to feed their animals. I hate to waste anything, so I save all of my food waste (peels, cores, stems, uneaten food from my toddler’s plate) in gallon bags in the freezer. Every week or so I take all of the bags over for the goats, sheep and cow. They love it. Kasey-Dee is a vegetarian and huge animal lover, so I thought this would be fun. She was so excited. It was awesome.

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After that, we all went to Hershey’s Chocolate World. Chocolate World is awesome. It’s beside the amusement park, but it’s totally free. There is a huge store where you can buy all things chocolate, but there is also a “ride” that you can take to learn about how chocolate is made. There are 3 singing cows throughout the ride that sing a ridiculously catchy song. We’ve taken Little Dude to this more times than I can count and he loves it. Since it was a holiday, the park was packed. We couldn’t get into the Chocolate World lot, so we had to park further away and take a tram. Little Dude was so, so excited to ride the tram. I think it was the most fun he had all day! Kasey-Dee loved it, and just had to get her picture taken with the Hershey Kiss!

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After we got all sugared up on samples of Brookside Chocolate Covered Pomegranate Seeds (seriousy, if Brookside wants to send me stuff to eat, er….review, I am totally game), we hopped over to our amazing local brewery: Troegs.

Troegs is, in a word, awesome. They have very solid year round beers, and some awesome seasonal stuff. They also have their “scratch series”. They love to experiment with small batches, and number their scratch series sequentially. I think they are up to #152 or so right now. It’s fantastic. Their tasting room is huge, and their food is simply amazing. If you are ever in the Hershey area, you simply must check them out.

When we went to order our beer, Kasey-Dee boldly proclaimed that she didn’t like dark beer. The bartender took that as a challenge, and offered her a taste of Rugged Trail. While Rugged Trail isn’t a dark-dark beer, it’s darker than most of the lighter beers. (Brilliant statement,  I know. ) Kasey-Dee was a convert from that moment. (By Saturday night, I had her drinking Impending Descent – a Russian Imperial Stout. Yet another convert!)

2014070495193320We ordered their chickpea fritters with tomato chutney. It was absolutely amazing. I can’t even put it into words. The fritters were sort of reminiscent of falafel, but had a much different texture to them. There was also a good kick to them, which I loved. We ate everything. Yum!

Saturday morning began with a run on the Appalachian Trail, beginning at the Scott Farm Work Center in Carlisle. This was Kasey-Dee’s first experience on the AT. If you have never run the AT, you need to put it on your list of things to do. It’s awesome. It is just beautiful. That is a particularly nice section, too. We turned around at route 850 in Marysville, for a total of 12 miles.

photo 2(1)After the run, we returned to my house for lunch, but on the way home, we saw signs for “Hamfest”. I’m vegan and she’s vegetarian so neither of us eat ham, but we were intrigued. We followed the signs, but didn’t find out what Hamfest was. Apparently it was on the campus of the local community college, but it wasn’t big enough for us to see from the road. Maybe that’s a bummer, or maybe that’s luck.

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I made a kick-ass lunch. I busted out the panini press and grilled a panini for her. (I had a similar meal but without the bread). I call it my “Eggplant Pesto Stack”. First I made some garlic scape pesto. Then I caramelized some ononion.  I then roasted some eggplant slices brushed with olive oil and lightly salted at 350 for about 20 minutes (varies based on thickness). Finally, I put it all together and ate it. It was divine. (The recipe is at the end of the blog, but here’s the non-panini photo).

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Saturday afternoon was spent traipsing around Lancaster County to gawk at Amish folks and to buy PA Dutch foods. We saw tons of buggies and roadside stands. We stopped a farmers’ market and a little village shopping center in Intercourse. That’s right – the town’s name is Intercourse.

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There is also a small village somewhere in the area named Fertility, but we didn’t find it. Other towns in the area are Bird-In-Hand, Blue Ball, Ronks and Paradise. Huh?

After Intercourse (hehehe) we stumbled upon the Rumspringa Brewery and Mount Hope Estate Winery Tasting Room. S and I had been there before, so I suggested we stop and do some tastings. The wines are just ok, but pretty decent for PA wines. (Honestly our state’s wines aren’t usually that great. They are just too sweet.) The beer isn’t great, but it’s decent. Mostly it’s just fun to stop for a drink after Intercourse. (Seriously, that’s just fun to say.)

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We returned home and Kasey-Dee and I made dinner. She doesn’t cook, but that doesn’t matter. I put her to work peeling and cutting sweet potatoes so we could grill them up. I massaged some kale and made some kale chips. We threw some burgers (veggie for us, chicken for S and Little Dude) out to S and he grilled them. It was an easy, quick and healthy meal. After dinner, we headed down to the riverfront to watch the Harrisburg fireworks.

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On Sunday morning I took Kasey-Dee for a run up “my” mountain. I took her on my normal 7 mile run. The weather was perfect – 60 degrees and sunny with a light breeze. It was perfect. We followed that up with church. And then she was gone!

I was honestly surprised at how many things I had planned that we didn’t do. I tend to get kinda bored with the Harrisburg area and think that we need to move, but then I find a reason to really evaluate what this area has to offer, and I realize that it’s pretty awesome. It’s not fancy, but it has a lot to offer to many folks. You can find all sorts of things to do within an hour drive. This weekend made me really appreciate what we have here.

Eggplant Pesto Stack

For the pesto

1/4 c pine nuts
3/4 c chopped garlic scapes
1/4 c fresh basil
Juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
1/2 t salt
1/2 c extra virgin olive oil

Process all ingredients in a food processor. This will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks.

For the eggplant
1 eggplant
2 T olive oil
1 t salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Slice the eggplant into 1/2″ slices. Shake on some salt and put in a colandar to drain. Place slices on a greased cookie sheet; brush them with olive oil and lightly salt. Cook until tender, about 20 minutes,  flipping once.

For the onions
3 red onions
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 T Tablespoon olive oi

Cut the onions in half and then into thin slices. Preheat a cast iron skillet to medium. Add oil to the pan and shake until its coated. Add the onions and sugar to the pan and coat well. Cook for about 10 minutes.  Lower the beat and continue to cook for about 20-30 minutes or until they look all delicious and caramel-y.

To assemble:
Place an eggplant slice on a plate. Smear pesto on top. Add a slice of vegan mozzarella cheese (I used Teese brand) and some caramelized onion. Delicious