Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Smoothies on my new site

What? You haven't checked out my new site yet? Well get on over there, and see my delicious green smoothie recipe.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Holy Heck, come check it out

Ok, so it isn't totally done yet. But I am ready for you to leave blogspot behind and come check me out on my new webpage:

Check out my new receipe for Yellow Bell Pepper Soup!

See ya at the new site!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

New Blog Coming

I just want to keep you updated that I haven't forgotten about any of you. I have been working on updating my new blog. It is going to be so awesome. It has recipes and tips and FAQs. It has everything you could ever want and more. That is why I have abandoned you. Well that, and I went on vacation and a close friend of mine had a run in with a hospital and I had to deal with that. But when I launch the new site on Sept. 1, you will love it. I do. :)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Not Quite Dead

My dear, dearest, wonderful followers, fans, family, friends, readers, and haters,

I would like to announce that despite my absence, I am not quite dead. I have been taking my qualifying exams for my PhD. It has been draining. All that on top of working, trying to complete one final class, staying on top of three crazy kids, and trying to somewhat enjoy the summer.

To my dismay, my blog has kinda gone to the wayside in all that. I would also like to announce that thanks to my VEGAN diet, I am looking better than ever.

That is not a photo shopped waistline. Nope it is mine. Of course, I don't have make up on it that picture because I am travelling down a swamp in 110 degree heat. But I still think you get the picture.

I am going on a Disney cruise in a few days, so I may continue to be absent, but I promise, sometime in July, my regular posts will start back up.

The other great news is that I will be migrating to a regular webpage with a RECIPE page!!! I know how awesome all you foodies will find that.

So see ya soon.

Love, Heather

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Yeah, but what do you eat with your family?

So the question I get asked the most as a Vegan is "what do you eat?" I get asked this question in varying forms: what do you eat for breakfast, what do you eat as snacks, what do you eat at a BBQ, what do you eat on Easter? So I thought I would answer the question that seems to bother people the most: What do you eat with your family (as in extended family). Right now, my extended family in the area is just my mom and dad. They are super supportive of our food choices, so they are pretty much willing to go along with whatever I choose to cook for us.

I anticipate having a little bit more of a problem with other extended family members, and I am sure you will see a post after Memorial Day weekend about eating in mixed company. But since I haven't really had to cross that bridge with my family, I guess I don't have an answer. I can tell you that in preparation for Memorial Day weekend, I am doing things I normally wouldn't do like buying fake meat hot dogs and vegan marshmallows so that my kids don't feel left out. They said they don't care and don't want those things, but I want to have them on stand by just in case in the moment they change their minds.

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. Over the weekend we hung out at my parents' house. Robert changed the oil on the cars, the kids swam. I decided to have a BBQ with the family. Crazy vegan says what? How do you have a barbecue in Texas without meat?

Here is our menu:
Potatoes and onions
Mixed squash (yellow squash, pattipan squash, zucchini)
Green Beans
Kidney Beans
Sliced radishes
Fruit Salad (pineapple, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, cantaloupe)

As you can see, we grilled the potatoes, squash, and corn. It was terrific. The best part is that it doesn't require any additional butter or oil. It is absolutely delicious.

In fact, everyone really enjoyed the meal. My dad said he was super full, and he thought he should have eaten less! We even got to make the meal a family affair with little Mae helping in its preparation:

Mashing avocados is her very favorite thing! So I guess the answer to the question is that we sure don't go hungry!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Let them eat Meat: Mushroom Taco Filling

Finally, the time for talking about my personal feelings is over. Even though I feel like I could fill up seven blogs with what I am feeling, I am going to quit boring you. Today, you get a recipe. Here is how it came into being.

My mom told me she saw a recipe for taco filling made from mushrooms. I thought it sounded pretty good, and my husband loves mushrooms. So, when we went to the store, my mom and I decided to split a package of baby portabello mushrooms. Then my 13-year-old daughter and I had a real heart to heart conversation.

She keeps saying she wants to go vegan, but she is worried she will loose weight, and she says that since she is 13 already there are certain things she just isn't prepared to give up. She told me that she understands why we don't eat "Fake" meat, but she thinks if the little girls and I can have oreos every once in a while, she should be able to have some fake sausage. Makes sense to me. I love it when they make well reasoned arguments! One of the things she said she missed was taco meat. So I told her about this mushroom recipe and she said she would try it.

She has never eaten a mushroom in her life, and she would never have eaten it before now, but I convinced her, and we had success! We made the tacos and she ate hers on a flour tortilla (whole wheat) with avocado, lettuce, tomato, and onion plus the mushroom mix. She said it is her new favorite meal next to Swiss Chard. So, I call that a pretty successful meal. I told her if her two favorite meals are Swiss Chard and Mushroom Meat, she is ready to be a vegan.

Here is the recipe (and photos):

1/2 pint of baby portabello mushrooms, finely chopped
1 medium onion or 2 small onions, finely chopped
1/2 yellow bell pepper, finely chopped
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper

The key is to finely chop the ingredients. Here is a photo of the mushrooms chopped before I cooked them.

Then put all the ingredients into a nonstick pan on medium heat. Saute the ingredients until they are soft. Here is the picture of it afterward.

Then you can put it in any type of taco with any type of filling that you want! It is super delicious. We put Shut the Queso Up on top as well for a nice cheese flavor. 

Good luck, and happy eating!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

See that pretty girl in that mirror there?

The strangest thing has been happening to me. I haven't really been sure about what exactly it is. Then it just kinda dawned on me yesterday. I think it is really important that I share it with you all. I think part of sharing this journey with all of you is being honest even when that honesty makes me a little vulnerable.

I have been telling all of you about how I have lost weight and blah blah. But I am by no means thin. I mean I still need to loose about 15 pounds before I'm not overweight. For my entire life since about puberty I have struggled with body issues.  At some points in my life it has been down right self loathing.

I hate to look at pictures of myself. I hate for people to touch me especially my stomach. I don't wear swim suits; and when I do, I spend the whole time in some place of dark, dark sadness. Almost two years ago I was an event with all my friends. I don't get to see them very often because we live all over the country. We love each other so much and wanted to take photos. There is a photo of us (with me in it) that made me just want to cry. (see below, I'm on the right in the green undershirt and black top shirt).

I honestly can't even believe I posted that picture. That is how hard it is for me to look at it. So I do crazy things like hide behind my hair. 

You can't see me behind all this hair right? I mean, who am I fooling? But maybe everyone is looking at the hair, right. 

Well, that person is gone. As I said, Yes, I have lost 31 pounds. So, yes, I am thinner, but I am still overweight. So here is what happened.

I was getting dressed, and I looked in the mirror, and I thought, "dang girl, you look good." So I hopped on the scale. . . no change. That is fine. But I was trying to find the reason. So, I just went about my day. But every time I did something I thought, "Wow, you look really nice in that shirt" or those shorts or whatever. And, yes, you read that right. I actually wore shorts. I don't think I have ever done that before. 

Then I was sitting on the couch and my husband looks different and amazing and has lost weight and he looks fantastic. I put my legs in his lap while we were watching a movie, and he says, "Dang Heather, you look so skinny." Then we were getting ready to go to bed, and he says, "wow, you look great. . . like a different person." 

It isn't just that I have lost weight. My skin looks great. I mean beautiful. Not a spot on it. I haven't even been wearing make up and it looks freaking flawless. But I just feel happier about the whole situation. I don't hate to look at the pictures of my new self. (see below a picture of me taken a few weeks ago).

As you can see, I don't really look that much different. But I feel great. I think I look so happy. I feel happy. I mean, let me say that again. I feel happy. Maybe it is all the nutrients in the food or maybe it is being cruelty free or maybe it is just feeling good about what I am doing, but I feel happy. I don't feel embarrassed by that photo. I realize, I still need to loose weight. I am sure I will. But the point is that things are going in the right direction. (See photo below taken about two weeks ago).

I don't know how it looks in this picture because that shirt is really baggy, but those are my "skinny" jeans. I need to go buy new jeans now! But more importantly, I can go out and have a good time with my family without feeling weird or like I need to hide. 

It is all because I decided to kiss cows rather than eat cows. I just feel good. I wish I could give this gift to everyone. I want to share the gift of being cruelty free and helping the environment. I for sure want to share the gift of helping your health with my friends and family, but I just wish I could share this gift of feeling happy about it with everyone I know. 

I know I have written a lot about how eating this way has affected my feeling because I can't just eat away the pain. I have been having some issues at work, and I haven't been able to eat away the anger. And that has been hard. Really hard. Because quite frankly, there is not enough zucchini in the world to push down and cover up anger. But I haven't wanted to eat ice cream. I did make a banana whip the other night, and that covered up a little bit. But come one, it was bananas and raspberries! 

I have had to deal with my feelings and not with food. I think it makes me a better person. It is weird. I have been making all our meals and that makes me feel so connected to our food and to my family. I am doing good things for our local farmers by supporting them. I mean, this whole lifestyle has given me so much to be proud of and it has forced me to deal with me. And the best part is that I can deal with anger and disappointment and sadness and betrayal and hurt all without a chocolate milkshake. I can do it without salty fries. I can do it without food to cover it up. 

The result is that when I look in the mirror, I feel good about myself for the first time in my memory. But this is enough about me. I promise the next posts will be all recipes and product reviews. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

As opposed to tater tot casserole?: How our diets stack up--a real look at our nutrient intake

I'm getting my PhD in Conflict Analysis and Resolution. Sometimes I feel like that means I can't be angry or have conflict. But someone said something to me a few days ago that got me rip roaring mad. So mad that I barely could respond. So mad that I carried it around with me for days.

I know. . . you are thinking, "for the love of gosh woman, tell us what happened." The same thing that happens to Vegan moms everyday. Someone asked me about what my kids are eating. But without telling you who it was because that would be rude. This person does not eat healthy and is very close to my family. This person never questioned me when I fed the kids a SAD (Standard American Diet).

Here is the conversation:

Person: "Are you making sure you monitor what the kids eat to make sure they are getting adequate nutrition?"
Me: "Yes."
Person: "I'm serious. It is really important. I mean. Really. I mean. IMPORTANT, Heather."
Me: "I am."
Person: "Quit just saying that. You know are you making sure the food they eat is healthy?"
Me: "As opposed to what? Tater tot casserole?" (Tater tot casserole is something this person would feed the children)
Then with a straight face, the person said, "Yes."

I was so mad, I actually considered taking my kids to have a blood test. Not a part of their annual physical blood test, but just a, "I'll show you blood test." Then I realized that was crazy. I also realized that the anger was unhealthy. But I also realized, that I needed someway to say, "look, this is what it was before, and this is what it is now."

While all this was going on, I was just going on with my life. Two funny things happened. My daughter was required for school last year to keep a food journal for one day. Over the weekend I was frantically searching for something in the office, and I stumbled on this journal. It gave me a laugh. Then I switched from tracking my food in Livestrong to tracking it in Cron-O-meter because Cron-O-meter shows you all the vitamins.

Then it hit me. I tracked my food for years, and I have a one day food entry from a typical day from my kids. So this is what I did. I picked a day, at random from one of my "healthy" times when I was working out and eating what I considered super healthy. I am going to compare that day (April 10, 2011) with what I ate today, a normal, not trying to be healthy just eating the usual day, (May 14, 2012).

And I am going to compare what my kid wrote in her food journal which I think is from February of 2011 to what she ate today (May 14, 2012). I am going to give you the exact numbers and screen shots so you can see how we measure up. And if we fall short.

Let me add one other caveat. I add one tablespoon of nutritional yeast to their rice every night. I don't eat the rice. That is why some of their numbers are so high and mine aren't.

Here is a screenshot of the read outs for the kids' day on their SAD diet (it cut off the bottom but you can see all the important stuff):

Here it is for the Vegan day:

Side By Side:

Here is the screenshot of my day on the SAD diet:

Here it is for the Vegan Day:

Side By Side:

The BAD:
You will notice on my side by side there is a column labeled, the bad. this is a column of what I ate on a normal day when I was just eating. Like travel days. Or days when I didn't feel like cooking. It is a breakfast burrito, Cesar salad, burrito, crunch wrap, soda, and a candy bar. Yep, I ate like that. 

Things of note:
So, I am not going to detail everything we eat everyday. This isn't a food journal. But I did detail it in my food journal; and if people doubt me, I guess I will post my food journal. I would like to note a few things, First off, on the good things, when the SAD diet wins, it barely wins. Second, on many things, I couldn't mark them 100%, but they were really close!
Note: Please note that on the SAD diet there is a cholesterol intake. On my Vegan diet, there is not. Also, check out that fat. Not only that, but on my vegan diet, that fat is coming from things like avocado. Yummy.
I also already noted about the nutritional yeast. I love it. It is really easy to throw in rice or beans or anything really. It has a nutty flavor. Some people say it tastes like cheese, but I don't think so. I think it tastes like salty bread crumbs a little bit, but they dissolve. It is a good flavoring. Not only that but it is packed full of B vitamins and protein.
One thing I found surprising is how yucky my kids' breakfast is! I don't know why, but I guess I just wasn't paying that much attention to it even though I thought I was. We wake up super early, and I suppose it just didn't get the attention it deserved. Now it is. We have already talked about it (on the way to hockey). We came up with an action plan, and we have solutions. Breakfast tomorrow will be jam packed with calories, protein, vitamins, and yummy stuff to help their little brains work!
I was also surprised to see that we now get MORE, yep, MORE iron, calcium, and vitamin D than they got on their SAD diet. I guess I was programmed not to think that. They did fall below the recommended value for calcium, but I am working to address that (hello breakfast).
I was a little sad to see they didn't get 100% of the recommended value of protein. But 98% is pretty darn close! Not only that, but I am working on solutions to address it. After all, their eating habits can't go from cookies and string cheese to fruit and nut butter overnight. It is something they are getting used to (especially that little one).
Things of note about me:
I didn't really exercise today (10 minutes of yoga doesn't count), so 1100 calories is probably enough. But I honestly feel like I would pop if I ate one more thing! I just can't eat this much freaking food. I got a lot of protein, so I need to get my kids up to that level, but they won't eat the dang beans and rice mix that I like. Ahhh... look at that sodium level (34%), that is pretty cool! I mean, I can't believe it isn't through the roof. It actually is probably higher because I think I sprinkled a little on my beans, but it isn't what it used to be.
Anyway, I know that a lot of Vegans say you don't have to supplement. I agree. But, I feel that we are still transitioning for the most part. I'm still trying to figure it all out some days. Especially with the kids. I am not willing to risk it. So, the girls do take a multi vitamin. It is a high quality multi vitamin. It is NOT, however, included in this chart. These charts are only our food. I am sure even if it isn't being 100% absorbed that it is filling in the gaps. I may not have them take it forever, but I will continue having them take it for now.
When we lived in Georgia, every year at their physical, the doctor checked them for anemia and a few other things. This year, I am going to ask him to throw in B12 and a few other things. But I am going to wait to their regularly scheduled check-up.
They play hockey, they swim, the run, the laugh, they play. They are happy, they are smart, they are healthy. They are beautiful with lovely hair and skin and smiles. I think we are doing just fine, and I think this is the proof in the pudding that we are doing better than when we were SAD.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Shut the cheese up!

I don't have a photo, but I promise this recipe is amazing! I am going to steal a photo of something similar to give you an idea, but Cashew Cheese Queso Dip makes the world go round!

A few weeks ago (on Earth Day) we went to the Spiral Diner in Dallas, Texas. It is a Vegan restaurant. It is so yummy and wonderful. We had this dip platter that had a cashew based queso dip. My husband freaked out over it and wanted it. For weeks he talked about. So, I decided to take the plunge and try and try to recreate it at home.

I did some research online, and I couldn't find a recipe that I thought would not be too spicy. Plus all the recipes I found were WAY too complicated. I hate complicated recipes when they don't have to be. So, I went out on a limb and made my own. Oh my gosh, I was so nervous. But it turned out really well.

It should look something like this:

When my husband tasted my version, he said, "That's it! That's it!" He was so excited. We have a Vegan potluck coming up next week. I met a few young girls today at the Vegan Cafe who are going to attend. I thought I would whip up this queso because when you are young, you want a party dip, right?

I hope you try it and let me know how it turns out:

Shut the Cashew Queso Up!

  • 2 c. Cashews (you should soak these, because you should soak nuts when using them for nut cheese, but I didn't have time the other day, and my queso turned out fine).
  • 2 c. vegetable broth
  • 2 TBSP. white miso (white miso is mild and yummy plus it is the right color)
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1 diced onion
  • 1 diced red bell pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 TBSP chili powder
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 2 TBSP nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Juice of 1 lemon
Put the cashews, broth, miso, and cornstarch in the food processor and mix until smooth. This will probably take 5 minutes or so.

While the nuts are mixing, in a pan on medium/low heat saute the onion, bell pepper, and garlic until tender. 

After the nuts mixture is smooth, add the vegetables and remaining ingredients, mix until smooth, like queso.

Eat when warm. 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Best diet I never meant to have . . .

I might get a little flack from some of my friends for this. I'm not saying that you have to be thin to be a Vegan or that you should become a Vegan with the expressed purpose of becoming thin, but wow is losing weight a side effect.

Growing up I was very thin. Extremely thin. Then I had three kids, and then I got very sick. I gained weight. Lost weight. Gained weight. Went on every diet. Counted calories. Exercised obsessively. There is this weird thing you do when you are on a diet, you justify. I could have Whataburger Patty Melts on Saturday because Saturday was "Cheat day." I factored in a Pepsi for Breakfast into my calories. No wonder I eventually fell off the wagon.

Then I found Vegan. I have lost 31 pounds. I eat what I want, when I want. I have yet to count a calorie. I haven't changed my routine (which means I haven't added in any exercise; although I want to). And I don't want to have a "Cheat Day" or make sure I can fit in a soda for breakfast. Notwithstanding crying in a Walmart candy bar aisle, I haven't wanted to eat anything that isn't vegan. And even when that happened, it was a momentary glitch.

A few days ago I was at my mom's house, and she made cherry cheescake. I love cherry cheescake. I wasn't sure how I was going to react to seeing everyone eating it. I thought I might tear up. I thought I might break down and lick the plate. But as soon as I saw it, I didn't even want to try it. I realized that my whole way of thinking and eating had changed.

And the side effect is that I have lost weight. Something that I have wanted for a long time, and it just naturally happened. Of course, I keep saying that veganism is a triad: health, environment, and animals. The meeting of all three makes this the easiest diet to stick to and it makes your morals feel so good.

But the best news about this diet I never meant to have is that my husband decided it just may be the best diet he never meant to have too. (And since he committed to veganism just two weeks ago, he is down 12 pounds).

You read that right! My husband has made the transition. He is a changed man. As you all know, I have been struggling with how to help him make the change. He kept saying he was committed, but he was still eating meat and dairy every day. Then being the ripe tomato paid off. I just kept on trucking. I just kept giving him examples of why he should convert. I kept cooking him vegan meals, and I kept encouraging him. I told him that I would be here with support when he wanted it.

Well his biggest stumbling block is lunch. He likes to eat lunch out. No matter what he says, he likes to eat his lunch out. I was trying to make him a vegan lunch every day, but he wouldn't eat it, and he would go out and eat anyway. So, I kept telling him about how you could eat Subway --Vegan. So, I took him to Subway and bought him a Vegan sub. He liked it. Just like me, he says he doesn't even miss the meat and cheese. 

Then we went on a trip to Austin, TX to visit a friend of mine (we took pictures with the giant cow on that trip), and she and her family wanted to eat at Cracker Barrel. Not an easy feat as a Vegan, but it can be done. Robert, on the other hand, had a meat platter. He was SO sick afterward. He said, "maybe I really shouldn't have eaten meat. I just don't know if I can eat meat anymore." Then he went on a business trip to Memphis. When he got home, he confessed that he ate Subway the entire time. Of course, he can eat other things, but he is a creature of habit. I will have to teach him how to eat at other restaurants. But he said he is a vegan now too.

That means four out of five of us are converts. Just my lovely 13-year-old daughter is a hold out. She eats breakfast and dinner as a vegan. It is just lunch that is the problem for her too. I'm having a little bit more of a problem finding a lunch solution for a stubborn middle schooler who refuses to bring her lunch and her school has NO vegan options. I am hoping over the summer she eats vegan everyday and the deal is sealed with her as well. 

I guess the lesson is by setting a good vegan example, we can rub off on those we love. And sometimes when you do the right thing, the unintended side effects are really awesome!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Covering my feelings with a layer of food

If  you are a parent, then you know that one of the first things we teach our children to do is self soothe. You hear these lovely words almost from the moment a child is born. Every time a baby cries, some grandma somewhere says, "let the baby learn to soothe herself." And thus begins our lifelong quest to develop coping mechanisms. Methods of self soothing. I am going to be painfully honest in this post in the hopes that it might help someone else who is grappling with this same thing.

I have been going through a bit of a rough patch, and there is no self soothing. There is no alcohol (I'm not a drinker), there is no cigarettes (I'm not a smoker), there is no drugs (I'm not a drug user), but there was always food. I used to take a thin layer of cupcakes to cover up the hurt feelings. I mean you can fix anything with a chocolate milk shake. You can just eat it away.

And then this week happened . . . I suddenly found myself driving to the post office having a panic attack. I had to pull my car over to the side of the road. I got home and had to just lay on my couch. There I was with no self soothing mechanism. My brain was screaming out to just go get something to eat. Since I first transitioned to veganism, I haven't had cravings. I haven't really missed anything. All of a sudden I wanted the strangest things. Ranch Dressing. A hamburger. Cupcakes. Candy Bars. Cheese Puffs. Just anything to put the thin layer of food over the top.

Then my husband said, "just EAT something." So, I don't live next to a whole foods. Everything closes at 9 pm in my town, so going to the health food store was not an option. So I found myself at Walmart (yes, the dreaded Walmart) at 11 pm. I was standing on the candy aisle. Every single candy bar had something in it. EVERY SINGLE ONE. I was so upset. In that moment, for the first time in this journey, I almost broke down. I thought to myself, "I mean c'mon, what is a little milk fat compared to my mental health?" I could not eat pineapple or corn chips or an orange. I just needed something.

But then I remember reading on Choosing Raw's blog ( that the one thing she never compromises is being vegan because it isn't just about health and it isn't just about the environment but it is about ethics. We literally are who we eat. So, I decided that I would find the most unhealthy vegan thing that is not an oreo in Walmart, and I would eat that. That would be my self soothing. I found two really awesome things.

First, again, I am not advocating shopping in Walmart. But the point is, if you need to put a thin layer of food over a panic attack, you can do it even if you have to shop at Walmart.

So I bought these little yummies. They are So Delicious Coconut Milk minis. They have 100 calories. They are awesome!!! I gave one to the husband. He ate his before I ate mine. He said, "There is no way these are vegan." But they totally are. As soon as I took a bite, I just felt like, whew. Yes. That tastes like so much better. I mean, I don't think food is the way to fix your emotional problems. But I was in a freaking crisis. This mini bar was so comforting. It reminded me that just because I am a vegan doesn't mean that I have to give up everything that is yummy and fun and bad for you. I mean, I want to eat 99% what is good for you, but sometimes it is so good to be naughty. The truth is these aren't even that naughty. The review is that these are fantastic. They even offer coupons on their website ( You should totally try them. 

Then I also bought this delicious Vanilla Chai Tea. I thought maybe when I woke up in the morning it would be a nice little pick me up. I am sure I could make it homemade and someone has some fantastic recipe, but I just wanted something easy and made for me. You know. Processed. I dislike the aftertaste of most soy milk products, so I wasn't super enthusiastic about this product. But it was all the Walmart had, and I needed it. So, I thought I would give it a try. 

When I woke up this morning, I got out one of the fancy glasses my mom gave me. I poured a glass. I took a sip, and it was heaven in a glass. It was like chai, vanilla, egg nog. It was thick and creamy. It was so good I almost cried. So out of love, I gave my husband a sip. He totally freaked out. I told him it was my special treat, and not his, so if he wanted a bottle he needed to go buy his own. Ten minutes later I caught him sneaking sips of it out of the fridge. I confronted him and he said, "I need a thin layer of food too!" It was so funny. But seriously, this tea is a little expensive, but you don't need much. So I spent $4, but as long as my husband doesn't dip his tongue in it, I think it will last me three days. That is only like $1 a day for the best decadence ever!!! 

I am so glad that I didn't fall off the vegan wagon. I am so glad that I didn't grab one of those milk fat candy bars. Thank you Choosing Raw for inspiring me. Thank you So Delicious and Vanilla Chai from Bolthouse Farms for helping me find products that are even better than cruelty products. It is so awesome to know that even when I am sad, I can push down the sadness with cruelty free products that aren't that bad for me!

Friday, April 27, 2012

What's in your Fridge and taking kids to the bar

I went to the grocery store (Kroger) a few days ago. I hate putting things away. I hate putting away laundry, dishes, papers, and groceries! But after I put the groceries away, I couldn't help stare in my fridge. It is just beautiful. I love seeing all the colors and options. It all looks so yummy. I just want to eat it all on the first day. I thought I would take a picture for all of you. I have been winding up the end of my last semester of my PhD classes (now it is time to start on my dissertation), and I am planning two trainings for work, so I haven't had much time to post on the blog this week. I thought this would be a fun post.

Can you spot the non-vegan item? Oh I'll just tell you and get it out of the way. There is country crock. Remember a few weeks ago I posted about the margarine I thought was vegan not being vegan . . . there it is! I just haven't gotten rid of it, but we don't eat it (you will notice it is right by the Earth Balance). 

So what is all that stuff? Here is a breakdown:

Top Right Shelf: In the containers: Kohlrabi. Homemade sunflower seed butter. whole wheat cous cous. 
Top Left Shelf: White miso. Earth Balance. The dreaded country crock (which is on its way out).
Middle Shelf: Green leafy lettuce, hummus, avocados, sprouts, romaine, red grapes, mushrooms, strawberries, spaghetti squash, watermelon, pineapple, blueberries, almond milk.
bottom shelf: lemons, corn, swiss chard, tomatoes, green grapes, pita bread, corn tortillas, whole wheat wraps.
Open drawer: orange tomato, yellow tomato, yellow pepper, red pepper, tomato, cucumbers zucchini. 
Closed drawers: radishes, green onions, ginger, cilantro, onions, carrots.

And doesn't it look delicious. 

So, my kids are obsessed with going to the food bar. We do salad bars and potato bars. And after the grocery store, I was so irritated and tired, and I just wanted something quick to eat. We decided to just do a pasta bar. 

On the pasta bar, we had whole wheat pasta, cherry tomatoes, carrots, green onions, zucchini, and yellow bell pepper. We had edamame on the side. Quick and easy. 

So the next day, I had a terrible stomach flu. My kids had it the day before, then I was hit with it. So, again, I just wanted to cook something easy. I know I am going to be scolded for my next meal, but scold away. It was delicious. 

We had basmati rice (scolding because it isn't brown, but basmati is so yummo and our neighbors from India from India gave it to me as a gift). Northern beans and Swiss Chard with sliced cucumbers and lemon pepper. It was so good. 

Both meals took about 20 minutes (only because rice and pasta have cook times) to get on the table. They were both so delicious. I loved them. The kids loved them. I guess I felt pretty good to have a beautiful fridge and a beautiful plate. 

So, what's in your fridge?

Monday, April 23, 2012

Earth Day was not a Ripe Tomato, Spiral Diner was

I fell off the planet for the weekend. I took my family on the 2 and a half hour schelp to Dallas, Texas to go to Earth Day and visit my bestest friend in the world. I was so excited because Earth Day Dallas is a huge event with lots of vendors and speakers and is rated a top family event in Texas. It is reviewed as one of the best Earth Day events in the country. Their website promised lots of interesting food, a schedule of enviable speakers, and a list of awesome vendors. It also promised to have a selection of organic and vegan food. You can find the website here

I debated about writing this post because any celebration of the Earth and trying to save the Earth is a good thing, right? And, as a dear friend pointed out, we can't do and be everything, and any small change we make is important. However, this blog is essentially about being the ripe tomato, and I feel like Earth Day Dallas passed up a chance to be ripe tomato.  But in an effort to also be the ripe tomato, I am going to start out by mentioning the things I did like.

Michio spoke at the event. He was funny and interesting. Most of what he said I have heard him say on the Discovery Channel, but I thought it was really neat to hear him in person. 

I thought it was super awesome that they had compostables receptacles. That way you had a place to put compostable trash, but I noticed a lot of people putting compostable things in the regular garbage, so it would have been nice to have educational signage about what is compostable.

A lot of exhibits were really neat. I met some really cool moms who are working for clean air. I got to talk to some neat groups working for organics and clean energy. The kids got to talk about things they think are important in environmental issues. 

Here is where they really missed the boat: the food. But I am going to get to that in a minute. First, they had balloons, plastic bottles. No water refill stations. Tons and tons of handouts and flyers printed on glossy paper (which is difficult to recycle). Then there was the food. There was no vegan food. There was no organic food. There were turkey legs, funnel cakes, the food tent labels "yoga food" sold hot dogs. There was roasted corn slathered in butter. 

The United Nations says that beef manufacturing produces more greenhouse gases than cars. You can read the article here. Not only that but they promised they would have organic and vegan foods. Not only that but I think it sent the wrong message. I think it said Earth Day is just another one day fair. You can go and have fair food and get shiny fair flyers. 

I know that Earth Day shouldn't be some Hippie fest either. I mean, you need to mainstream Earth Day so more people will want to save the Earth, but can we do that by setting a good example and not having a meat fest? Come on Earth Day Dallas, be the ripe tomato. 

After being at Earth Day Dallas all day with an apple and a bag of Vegan chips, I was starving. I was a little irritated, and when I'm hungry, I get extra irritated. So, I had heard great things about the Spiral Diner and Bakery in Dallas, and the good news is it was only 3.5 miles away!

So, me, my husband, my three kids, my friend, and her two kids headed over to the diner. We had a feast. The diner is 100% vegan. You don't even have to ask! You don't even have to question the menu items. That is awesome. When you live in East Texas, and you have to question everything, even the food the says vegan, it is amazing. 

We had the chips and party dip platter that has salsa, guacamole, and a cashew based cheese dip. I ordered the protein platter that had quinoa and black beans and avocado and tahini dressing. It was so yummy. The kids had grilled cheese. We had cheese cake and ice cream and brownies. It was awesome. I give the restaurant 5 stars. 

I told my husband that the next we go on a date, I want to drive 2.5 hours to go there! Check out their website if you live in the area.

The good news is my camera is fixed, so tomorrow, we should have a back to usual post.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Out of the mouths of babes: Review of "That's why we don't eat Animals"

I ordered "That's why we don't eat animals" from and pre-ordered "Vegan is love" by Ruby Roth. I have mentioned this before, but my husband and I have arguments about how graphic to get with the kids about why we don't eat meat. We have never had arguments about this type of stuff before--we are normally on the same page, but we just can't see to find a happy medium. Quite frankly, neither one of us seems happy with the solutions. We have a difficult time discussing this with our children and an even harder time giving them the words to use to explain themselves. I can tell you why I don't eat meat, but I presume that you are also an adult. I don't know if I can give you six-year-old words to explain it to another six-year-old child. So, I was really happy to get the book, and I am really looking forward to "Vegan is love" on the 24th.

If you are interested in purchasing the book, you can find it here. The book's website can be found here.

I thought I would give you a special treat today. I asked my children to give a little "guest blogger" review of the book in addition to my review because who better to review it than the babes it is meant for.

First Review: Heather (33 years old, mother of 3, PhD candidate). I loved the book. I thought the prose was lovely and the message was age appropriate for all children ages 0-99! I have a special love for pigs, and I got a little teary-eyed during the pig section. I especially liked how Ruby hit all three legs of the tripod of veganism: health, environment, and animals. I thought the pictures conveyed the horribleness of factory farming without being too graphic for young children. I think it set the right tone to let kids know why we don't eat animals and that this is an important and compassionate choice. I especially loved the book because as a mother of mostly vegan children, it gave me a conversation starter with my children. I needed that.

As many of you know, I have been having a particularly difficult time transitioning my 13-year-old daughter. She is resisting it, and I will not force her. I think she just loves finally having something to rebel about. However, I think in her heart she wants to be a vegan, but she just can't admit it out loud to me. Last night we ate out (something we RARELY do) and she told the waitress four separate times that she did not want chicken or cheese on her noodles. She was very clear in conveying her message that chicken and cheese were not welcome on her plate, so I think she is transitioning without admitting it to me.

Before I offer you her review, I want to set the stage a little bit. We were all sitting on the couch (me and the three girls). I started reading the book. The two younger ones were very engaged, but Maggie was looking around doing other things, not paying attention. By the third page, she had sat up, turned her entire body toward me, and was leaning forward, paying attention. Her favorite pre-vegan food is BBQ. When we read the pig page, she said, "Aww, pigs are my new favorite animals." I said, "But Maggie, pigs make ribs and BBQ sammies." She said, "Oh, that's a problem." I have a sneaking feeling she just gave up eating pigs for good.

2nd Review: Maggie (13 years old, 7th grader). I think that the book, That’s Why We Don't Eat AnimalsBy: Ruby Roth, is an amazing book that describes family and factory farming in a very sophisticated way. This book is good for describing the reasons why vegans and vegetarians decide not to eat meat. This book describes the terrible care of the animals that are raised in factory farms. It also describes how free animals live, and that they need their habitats and families to survive. In factory farms, according to Ruby Roth, animals are mistreated and taken from their homes so people can eat them without realizing what happens to those poor defenseless creatures. The picture usage was very creative and caught my attention. In my opinion this book is a very good informational text that should inspire many people to cut down their meat consumption.

3rd Review: Persephone (10 years old, 4th grade): I think the book was very heart warming. I also think if we know about the problem why don’t  we stop  it. We choose what to do, why don’t we choose to stop it. I think we should stop wasting our time killing and more time growing plants. I love your book and take it from me I love to read. So nice job.

Now back to your regularly scheduled writer! Persephone seemed really moved by the book. But she is totally transitioned to a vegetarian diet and is mostly vegan. She is the most committed to the cause already, so I think the book really ignited her activist side. Now, my six-year-old didn't write a review down, but she dictated some thoughts to me.

4th Review: Medea (6 years old, Kindergarten). I thought the book was really sad. I really like Thanksgiving and we usually eat Turkey. What are we going to do this year? (My response was, what do you want to do?) I don't think we should eat a Turkey. It is so sad that they can't fly. I wish I could fly. Does eat animals really destroy the environment? (My response was: It is one of the things that helps destroy the environment). How can we go to Earth Day and eat meat? That is so sad. I think I'm really sad for the pigs. I want to snuggle corney (our dog) so she knows how much I love her and maybe she can tell the pigs I love them too.

Obviously, we are family that loves pigs. I think you can see that we all really enjoyed the book, and we will be recommending it to others. Good job Ruby, and we can't wait to read "Vegan is love!"

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Making it work: Using ingredients you can get

I keep saying not everyone has a Whole Foods. So many times we see recipes with fancy ingredients or things we just don't have on hand, and we give up or don't want to make it.  Even more frequently we see ingredients that we simply can't afford. I call this the "take your breath away" factor of health food. The New York Times just published a blog about the challenges of going vegan (read it here). For those of us living in what I like to call the land of Wal Mart, those challenges can seem magnified. My husband said, "Well there may be some things you just have to order online." My response is--that defeats the purpose! I want to show that you can do this, you can be a Vegan, no matter where you live! So here is what you can expect from the blog in the next few weeks: Some reviews of products that you can buy locally at major stores. I don't mean health food stores or Whole Foods or even fancy pants expensive stores like Publix (for those of you in the south) or Fresh (for those of you in Texas). I mean normal stores like Target and yes, even Wal Mart.

(Here is the picture of my Haul earlier this week. Sorry about the picture quality, but it was taken with my phone. I bought all of these items at Target. Tomorrow I am going to detail why I chose these products, their cost, what they are).

As I use the products, I plan to write some reviews of them. I even plan to have my 10 year old serve as a guest blogger to share her input about the products and to give you so input from her sisters.

Back to the main part of my story. The key is to use what you can find. You need to look at recipes and try to figure out what changes you can make to suit your lifestyle. I know, I know. Easier said than done, right? Let me give you my Rice Krispies example.

I wanted to make bars for the kids' lunches. I like to pack something a little sweet. We normally pack a Kids' Cliff's Z Bar (check them out here). But to be honest, my kids were eating one in their lunch, and then they wanted one after school, and the cost was killing me! So I wanted to make some bars at home because it would be cheaper. The recipe called for whole grain, organic puffed rice. Yeah right. Try to find a box of that in my town for less than $6 for the smallest box. The closest thing I could find was Rice Krispies.

This box of cereal cost me $2.99 for the entire box. Here is why I like it: If we buy items like these Rice Krispies, then we send a clear message that there is a market for items like this.

Here is the ingredient list:

Whole grain brown rice, sugar, contains 2% or less of salt. BHT added to packaging for freshness.

Vitamins and Minerals: Iron, vitamin C (ascorbic acid), vitamin E (alpha tocopherol acetate), niacinamide, vitamin A palmitate, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine hydrochloride), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B1 (thiamin hydrochloride), folic acid, vitamin D, vitamin B12.
 Not bad, right? So this is what I used because it is what I had access to, and I actually feel pretty good about it because I feel like I'm encouraging a big company to be more Vegan friendly (even if that is wishful thinking).
So here is my BIG confession--I shopped at Wal Mart this week. I found some gift cards that we received for Christmas. I wasn't really sure what to do with them. As  you know, we try to buy from local shops and farmer's markets, etc. We do our grocery shopping at Kroger and if we need "big box" items, we normally go to Target (although I avoid it as much as possible). But then after really thinking about it, I realized I needed to consider what it is really like across America.
Before moving to Texas, we lived in Georgia. Where we lived in Georgia there was no farmer's market and if you wanted to shop and save money, Wal Mart was pretty much the only game in town. So, I decided I should try to see what I could do at Wal Mart.  I was pretty happy with what I found.
I was able to get those delicious Rice Krispies. The Almond Milk cost the same as it cost at Kroger. They had some interesting items like coconut oil. However, they were lacking in dried fruit and in seeds. They had a pretty good selection of fruits and vegetables that were reasonably priced. The best part is they clearly labeled all the produce that was grown in Texas!!! That was awesome. That gave me the choice to buy things that were grown in Texas when possible. I really appreciated that.
More than that, it really gave me inspiration that even if you only have a Wal Mart, you can buy local, you can buy healthy. There are inexpensive choices that are available no matter where you live.
Now prepare yourself in the coming days (and hopefully with a repaired camera) for some awesome product reviews and some even awesome(r) recipes! I even spoke with the kiddos last night, and they have enthusiastically signed up to be blog "interns" and give some product and recipe feedback of their own!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Forks over Knives

My camera is out of batteries and my charger is missing! I ordered a new one, but it won't arrive until Wednesday, so my haul post is going to have to wait. I also have some delicious recipe posts in the making, but I have been wanting to write a post about the movie Forks over Knives for some time. So, I thought I would take advantage of my camera being out of commission to do just that. I live in East Texas. I don't have any friends or family who are Vegans. So when I decided to pursue the Vegan path, I began doing as much research as possible. I feel very lucky that the first movie that popped up on Netflix was Forks over Knives. According to the Forks over Knives website, the movie "examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting animal-based and processed foods."

I think of Veganism as a tripod: health, environment, and animal welfare. However, with my family and friends it is difficult to approach explaining my choice to eat a plant-based diet because of environment or animal welfare; however, health is a cord I could strike. I immediately suggested my family watch the movie. When my friends, family, and colleagues approach me about my food lifestyle, the movie provides me with a conversation starter. The pre-movie conversation usually goes like this:

"Vegan, why aren't you eating meat? I love my meat [insert every meat eating argument here: I couldn't give up bacon, cheese, fish, etc]."

"I chose to become a Vegan for many reasons one of which was my health. Have you seen the movie Forks over Knives? It is a really interesting movie that is available on Netflix. Why don't you watch it this week, and then we can talk about it at the [BBQ, birthday party, dinner, swimming pool, etc] this weekend]."

Isn't that awesome!

While I do really think the movie provides a great and sound reason for switching to Veganism, what I love the most about it is it gives me a way to talk about my lifestyle with my family and friends. That is something that is so difficult. I often think I sound like a fanatic or a hippie or obsessive or a down right crazy person when discussing my choice with my meat eating, butter loving, cheese grubbing loved ones.

How does the post movie conversation go? Well, I don't think I've converted anyone to Veganism . . . yet, but the conversations go something like this:

"I watched that movie. It was CRAZY [the wow it blew my mind kinda crazy]. My favorite part was [insert some fact that resonated with them]. I'm not ready to give up all my meat, but I do think I can cut back. What do you eat?"

"You know for the kids breakfast was super easy to make the switch because they LOVE the taste of almond milk! You should give it a try, we have some in the fridge, and did you know Oreos are Vegan? You can get some great advice from the PETA and Vegan Outreach websites, let me send you the links."

Isn't that awesome too? So far, my conversations really have gone that way!

If you aren't already following a plant-based diet, you should watch this movie because it can save your life. You probably know in your heart you should be eating more plants or you wouldn't be reading my blog. This movie will give you the excuse you have been looking for to do just that. Even if you just go one day a week with no meat (come on get on board with Meatless Monday), you will be better off, and this movie will show you how changing your diet can literally save your life. The movie provides you with evidence to support changing your diet.

If you are just starting a plant-based diet, the movie will provide you with reinforced evidence to support your decision. When you start to feel your resolve waiver, the movie will provide you with the reminders of why you made the choice in the first place. I, personally, have watched it several times in order to remind myself of the important information I gleaned the first go around.

If you have been a Vegan for a long time, then you will benefit from having new information at your disposal. And you might just benefit from having the movie as a conversation starter for your non-Vegan friends and family. I have noticed that in the Vegan community, we tend to get insular because it is easier to be around other Vegans. After all, they eat the way we eat, they wear what we wear, they share our views. It is comfortable. But if we are to make a difference in the world, then we need to kick rocks and take our message to the street. Forks over Knives gives us a tool that is accessible and relate-able to anyone in order to do just that.

Some of my favorite parts of the movie were the real people who tried the new diet, the discussion of the studies done by the researchers, the realistic look at healthcare costs and its relationship to nutrition.  As we continue to discuss healthcare costs, we really should be discussing nutrition.

I was already a Vegan when I watched this movie, but it just reinforced my decision. It made me sit back and say, "ah, yes, I AM doing the right thing. I'm not crazy. This is a good thing." I know that if I can get my loved ones to watch this movie, they will also AT LEAST cut back. That is the ultimate goal, right? I do feel like this movie changed my life. Now when people say, "Why?" I say, "Have you seen Forks over Knives?"

Monday, April 16, 2012

Side Effect: Oh the emotions we feel . . .

One of the side effects of changing your diet is emotions. It isn't just a side effect of going Vegan, it is a side effect of trying to eat a more healthy, whole foods (unprocessed) diet. I want to share my emotions story with you and my theory about it. After all, as the blog title says, I'm here to share my journey with you.

I cried last night. I cried and cried. If you have read my blog, then you know a few weeks ago, I had a total melt down and cried then too. But last night was completely unexpected. My husband is having a difficult time moving into a 100 percent Vegan diet. When we transitioned to Veganism, there were some meat products left in the house. I told him and the kids that they could eat the meat products until they were gone, but once they were gone, they were gone, they're gone. Well to their shock and awe, none of them cooks, so they didn't end up eating the meat products. That means a few frozen meat products got left in the back of the freezer and were never eaten or thrown away.

(above: a picture of me and my husband at a showing of Young Frankenstein when we first transitioned to Veganism--I've lost so much weight since then!)

So to set the scene, we had a great weekend. My daughter had her birthday party, we hung out with my parents, we hung out as a family. We just had a lovely, relaxing weekend. I felt so refreshed. My husband also spent the entire weekend working on his dump truck (a project he is working on as a side business). He didn't get home last night until after 9 pm. He was tired and hungry. There was storm, so I had a headache (which I usually get when the pressure in the air changes).

He walked in the door and said, "I'm hungry." I said, "there is hummus, avocados, lettuce, rice, etc." But then I went to bed because I was tired and not feeling well. Then came the smell. The smell of meat. The smell of cooking meat. He was making hamburgers. I was fine. I called him in the room. He said, "It is fine, it is pregan." Pregan is the term we use for items we had before we became Vegan thus they are prevegan or pregan. "You said we could eat the leftover meat in the house."

I had said that. Seven weeks ago. Nevertheless, I had said that. So, I wasn't mad, really. But then he did something nearly unforgivable. He walked in the room with a hamburger, set it on the bed next to me, and said, "I made you one." I yelled at him to get it away from me. Our oldest daughter screamed that he had reached a new level of cruel, asked if I was ok, and shut my bedroom door.

As soon as the door shut, I started crying. I wasn't crying because he cooked meat. I wasn't crying for the cow or anything like that. We had that meat in the house and had agreed that he could cook it. I didn't want to eat the hamburger. I have absolutely no desire to eat a hamburger. But there I was balling on my bed. And yes, I'm still in the phase where hamburgers smell really good.

So why was I crying? Here is why I think I was crying last night and several times over the last few weeks.

For years now, I have used food to stuff down anything I was feeling. Normally, you want to eat something, you eat it. You feel happy, you eat something. You feel sad, you eat something. You want the hamburger, you eat it. I think I dulled everything with food. I pushed down every emotion with food! I stuffed myself with food. Sugar, caffeine, fat, tasty food made me feel . . . different.

In the old pregan (preVegan) days, I would have just ate the hamburger even though I wasn't hungry, even though it violated my personal convictions. Now I actually have to deal with my emotions. I can't just eat them away. I can't stuff my desire or my sadness or my anger or even my happiness in a hamburger and eat it.

The key is not to give in. I have found that the best way to deal with these unexpected emotional bursts is just to let them come. I found out that if I just let them come, they pass, and I am done and can move on. I have also found that I enjoy the happy moments in my life so much more because they aren't being punctuated by where we are going to eat. I thought something would be missing, but it isn't (but that is for a different blog post). When I first decided to transition to Veganism, many people warned about this emotional bubble outburst. I didn't really believe it would happen to me.

It really does happen. I think I am better for letting it happen. It actually makes me feel more emotionally balanced. I feel good about that. You guys help me too because I can talk to you about it. So thanks. I think that is key. You need to be able to talk to someone about it. You can always talk to me! Leave a comment and share your emotional outbursts and how you deal with them with us.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Phases of Vegan

Being a Vegan is hard. There are so many layers to veganism. You have your food. You have your clothing, furniture, toys, material possessions. And, you have the items you use to clean yourself and your house. Tackling it all at once is not advisable. I watched a youtube video about "going cold turkey." But for someone like me, someone with super, crazy anxiety, there is just too much to know, to learn. Add in living in a suburban/nearly rural environment and you are ripe for Vegan disaster.

I have talked about this before. My husband and I decided that we would do what we can. We are going to try our hardest to do our best and if we make mistakes, then we will learn from them and move on. What we are discovering, the sad truth, is that like oil, nearly everything has an animal product in it. Animal products are used in the manufacturing of everything from the obvious (bacon) to the not so obvious (bicycle tires). If you tried to extract everything in your life with an animal product in it, you would go CRAZY! It simply isn't possible. So, at some point, you have to do the best you can. After all, we all have to live in this world. I don't want my kids to stand out as totally belonging to the Wack-A-Doo family (anymore than they already do in East Texas), and I want to enjoy my life as well.

That being said, even PETA acknowledges that all animal products can't be avoided. See their statement on small amounts of animal products in food here.  Basically, we can't obsess all the time (even if we have obsessive personalities). This has to be especially true when you live in a town that doesn't have access to a wide range of "vegan" foods. Sometime you are going to have to buy bread with monoglycerides as an ingredient. Those monoglycerides may or may not be derived from an animal product, but you are still making the best choice you can. As countless Vegan websites suggest, go for whole, unprocessed foods when possible, then you don't have to worry about it!

But back to the "Phases of Vegan" and me. I realize that I don't even have the food phase down yet. Let's be honest. My mother pulled out a Triscuit and asked if I could eat it, and I had no clue. She didn't have the box, so I couldn't read the ingredients. I just said, "No thanks." Turns out I could have eaten it! But these things take time. We eat primarily fresh foods that I prepare myself, so I don't have to worry too much about it.

Then we had a dreaded moment a few days ago (you can read about the sunscreen moment here) when we ran out of body wash. First, I found out that my conditioner is NOT vegan. I repeat NOT vegan and neither is our body wash. So, we went to the store, painstakingly read all the labels and found a product that we thought met our criteria. It is produced by Dove. Then I find out that Dove tests on Animals, and so does Crest (the people who make my toothpaste). Even though I have been reading the labels, I haven't been buying Vegan products.

This brings me to phases two and three. We have already committed to making the change in our food. We are trying to cut back on our consumerism in general, and we purchase most of our items from auctions, second hand stores, craigslist, etc. When we do purchase new shoes or the like, we purchase vegan products which is pretty easy for us since Converse offers Vegan products (Yeah Converse!) Check out some other awesome Vegan Shoes at this blog Vegan Kicks. So we are cool there. The good news is that you can do the food and the clothing/material items no matter where you live.

Now, toothpaste, that is a whole new level of beast. A WHOLE NEW LEVEL. And that is the phase we are dealing with now. But the story is going to be awesome. Tomorrow I am going to do a little field research on Vegan products that are available at my local stores. After all, that is what this is supposed to be about--how you can do this too when you don't live right next door to a Whole Foods or in a major metropolitan area. So stay tuned. My next blog entry will be a haul...

Saturday, April 14, 2012

My obsession with Oreos pays off: New Frosting Recipe

I know, I know . . . I'm obsessed with Oreos. Who wouldn't be? They are delicious, processed, vegan, little treats of delight. What more could you ask for? They are the one treat that we usually keep in the house. A pack lasts me and the three girls about two weeks. What makes Oreos so delicious? Why vegetable shortening of course. So, when my frosting failed miserably a few weeks ago, I thought, "Self." Because, you know I do call myself, self. I thought, "Self, wouldn't it be awesome if you could make frosting that tastes like Oreos?" Why, yes, self, yes, it would.

So, I made that my mission. For my daughter's second, sixth birthday party this weekend, I decided to switch up my cupcake recipe and frosting recipe. The cupcake recipe was too crumbly, but the frosting was marvelous! So, I will stick with my old cupcake recipe, but the new Oreo frosting recipe.

Oreo Frosting Recipe

3 cups of powdered sugar
1/4 cup Earth Balance Margarine
1/4 cup Vegetable Shortening
1 tablespoon vanilla
1-2 tablespoons Almond Milk (as needed)

In a bowl mix powdered sugar, margarine, shortening, and vanilla. With an electric mixer on low, start mixing the ingredients together. Add the milk slowly until the frosting reaches a creamy consistency. 

The is the first Vegan recipe that I developed all on my own. I hope you enjoy it!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Obsessed with what my kids eat: Maybe more parents should

Yesterday I went on a field trip with my six year old (holy cow she is six!), and I found myself obsessing over what she was eating. I was counting up grams of protein and amounts of calcium in my head. I found myself looking up values of different nutrients in one type of bread versus another type of bread and so on.

Then it occurred to me: Before I put my kids on a mostly vegan diet, I never really thought about what they ate. I tried to make sure that they ate healthy meals, but really, I never gave it much thought. So, why am I obsessing now?

If you go online and search out information about being a vegan parent, there is so much information about how it can be bad for kids from information about B12 to vitamin D and protein. People tend to fall into one of two camps: vehemently against vegan kids or absolutely for it. I am the kinda gal who has to do the research, so I just had to keep reading. The truth is that B12 is a food additive because it comes from bacteria, but most people get it from dairy and eggs. Vitamin D is added to dairy as well. Most Americans eat too much protein. If you spend 10-15 minutes outside without sunscreen, your body makes plenty of Vitamin D, by the way.

And, many of the products we eat in our house have B12 as an additive. There are plenty of ways you can get B12--from supplements, nutritional yeast, other foods.

So, because of my new found obsession, I decided to do a side by side comparison of what my kids eat now and what they ate before the new diet (I put the values into Livestrong's my plate calorie counter). What I found out is that they eat about the same amount of protein. They eat more calcium and get more essential nutrients such as vitamin A and K and Manganese. The most important finding is that they eat less calories and less fat (with virtually no trans fats) while getting this valuable punch of nutrition.

I could only think to myself, I wish I had spent more time thinking about what we were all eating before! I don't think parents like me are the problem. I do think about it. I make sure they have access to a wide variety of foods. And I am positive they have changed their taste buds. They eat everything from turnips to Swiss chard. I rarely hear complaints. We don't have a cookie in the house, and not a single child has complained.

I'm not saying that we shouldn't have cookies. If you have read my other posts, then you know we love a good Oreo. But it isn't something that we must eat in our house everyday now. On many of the blogs, the Vegan parents say something like, "if I said I was going to feed my kids pink slime nuggets and chemicals pressed with sugar disguised as cookies, no one would say anything." That really resonated with me. We don't question if someone feeds their kids junk food diets. We rail if someone says having obese children is akin to child abuse, but then when we want to do something like go Vegan for health, ethical, and environmental reasons, then people say you might be doing something wrong. We have internalized this message so much that I have become obsessed with what my children are eating.

Here is the basic fact of the matter, my kids are healthy, they are energetic, lovely children. I am concerned about them, and I make sure that they get what they need. I may make mistakes in terms of what I feed them, but you know what, it can't be worse than a steady diet of McDonald's. So, back to the field trip that sparked this obsession. I was surrounded by five, six, and some seven-year-old children. Many of these children were already displaying the signs of an unhealthy life style (such as obesity and type II diabetes). I was sitting with my field trip group at the park, eating lunch, and I was looking at their lunches.

Let me start by telling you what Medea was eating:
Peanut butter and Vegan marshmallow fluff sandwich on whole wheat, whole grain bread.
Fruit salad with pineapple, cantaloupe, strawberries, blueberries.
Mishmash (applesauce with cinnamon).

Normally I pack a "dessert" item in her lunch like a bar or a cookie or something, but we were out. She recently told me she doesn't have enough time to eat her entire lunch so she would rather have the mishmash than the cookie. She at the fruit salad first and then the sandwich. She saved her mishmash for after she played a while. (Preview: We are going to make oatmeal energy bars so the recipe will be coming soon!)

The other children were eating one of two meals. They had either brought their meal from home or they had a school provided lunch. Let's start with the school provided lunch. The school lunch was a ham and cheese single sandwich. A bag of baked chips and an apple. Every child (three in my group) who brought a lunch from home brought a lunchable. The lunchables were ham and cheese with crackers, a Capri Sun, and a chocolate bar. Each child with a brought lunch also had it supplemented--one child had chips, one had more candy, one had a granola bar. The lunches were gross. Not a single child ate all of their sandwich, but they did eat the candy. Most of them ate at least part of the apple as well.

I noticed that some of the parents who had also chaperoned the field trip brought their kids fast food lunches. It was everywhere. I felt so overwhelmed by the fast food, processed nation that my kids live in. My 13-year-old is still giving me a hassle about how we eat, but I know in my heart that at least she gets good, whole foods at home. I hope that some of that wears off on her. Maybe the compassion component will come later.

For now, I am going to try to obsess just a little less and just to make sure that I continue to plan well rounded, yummy meals for us to eat.

On a funny note from the field trip: As one of the stations, you could be an artist. We all drew pigs and wrote "save the pigs!" I included a picture of Mae's drawing. (I wrote the words).