Tag Archives: vegan life

Guest Blogger: VeGAL – Meatus Interruptus!

22 Dec

Please say hello to our newest guest vegan blogger Andrea. Andrea is the author of VeGal. Here she is in her own words, ” I’m a long-time plant-based endurance athlete, raising 3 sons on my own, completed 39 marathons/ultras, and a runner for Oiselle Volee team.”

You can find Andrea blogging at: VeGAL. Connect with her through social channels: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Greetings VeGALs and plant fans!  If you are a mainstream vegan like me, then chances are you deal with the issue
of animal byproducts being randomly placed in your plant foods on an ongoing basis when dining out. Chefs/cooks/food preps simply cannot help themselves when it comes to adulterating the foods from nature that we love so much.  In their eyes, they feel they are enhancing the flavor whereas we can all agree it only detracts from
the true essence that plant-based cuisine has to offer.  On many vegetarian/vegetable menu items, no where does it even indicate that there will be animal-based foods added to the dish, which is surprising nowadays with so many food allergy concerns.  For instance, it is often the case where I order a garden salad that is listed as having only lettuce, cukes, carrots, tomatoes (and other “safe” ingredients) and when it arrives, it is laden with shaved/sprinkled parmesan cheese.  I have learned to ask for salads now with no cheese, egg or bacon even if it is NOT listed on the menu. Sadly enough, there are still some naive food servers/preps out there that still have no idea what the term “vegan” actually
refers to so often times I choose the old “food allergy” excuse to drive home a point, especially when at an unfamiliar place. Don’t get me wrong…I wear my vegan identity with pride but when it comes to ordering my meal, I go to great lengths to get the order right and even then, I have to send it back due to error half the time!!!

A while back, I had written an article for VegginOutAndAbout.com, where I’m a staff writer/contributor that discusses hidden animal products in our foods, if you would like to refer to that, like chicken broth, fish stock, beef stock, milk, whey, egg yolks, egg wash, oyster sauce, anchovies, parmesan cheese, butter, casein, gelatin, etc. Many restaurants, especially chains, have an allergy menu available either on location or online which can be very helpful in providing insight into non-vegan foods we assume to be safe. It isn’t always easy, and sometimes next to impossible to find a vegan/vegan-friendly joint and the majority of our family/friends are typically omnivours so we must settle on mainstream, trying to make the best of it without drawing too much attention to ourselves.

Just this past weekend, my running partner and I were in Cocoa Beach, FL to run the Space Coast Marathon (as pacers) for our third year in a row.  A few days before the race, we looked over the dinner menu online for Fat Kahunas, a small bar/restaurant we’ve had our eye on for a few years.  The menu seemed very welcoming and the location, ideal to watch a nearby Friday night street party, so we were excited to check it out.  As soon as we were seated, we were served fresh home made hummus with olives and warm tortilla chips.  I would’ve been perfectly content eating that all night, washed down by a draft beer, of course.  But I chose to order the grilled vegetable tacos, minus the red and green peppers (I always lie and say I’m allergic since I just plain don’t like ’em), add avocado instead as my entree.  As an experiment of sorts, I refrained from mentioning the word “vegan”  while I made sure that there was NO cheese or sour cream also due to “allergies” and the waitress said NO problem.  The menu said it comes with a
teriyaki glaze which sounded safe enough for me.  So….as she sets my beautiful plate down before me, veggie soft tacos accompanied by coconut rice, black beans and fresh salsa, I noticed a red/orange sauce strewn across the entire dish, along with the teriyaki glaze.  I was immediately suspicious of a mayonnaise presence as the server explained that the chef uses his own “secret sauce” for an added touch. I only wish I would’ve snapped a photo of it! My fear was
confirmed…the sauce was mayo-based, probably mixed with sriracha…something I do with my vegan “Just Mayo” all the time. Our server apologized and offered to prepare another plate that was “vegan.”  Yes, she actually used the word after all that lol.  In the end, the food was scrumptious, especially the coconut rice, and the restaurant was very accommodating.  I schooled the server about Just Mayo being egg-free and “safe” for all patrons without compromising taste.  She said she would relay that to the chef!

As our post race meal, we headed back south to Delray Beach, FL, along famous Atlantic Avenue, to a preferred hang
out of ours, Budda Sky Bar, a departure from our usual post race beer/french fries reward. We were famished and in desperate need of fried food so we ordered vegetable spring rolls in addition to their divine mushroom dumplings and stir fried string beans.  However, much to our chagrin, when spring rolls arrived, they were nothing more than veggie egg rolls, which of course are made out of egg wonton wraps.  I proceeded to taste the inside and was unsure of the
filling.  I have encountered the  “inadvertent meat eat” with dumplings in the past so I grew weary of the contents, which looked an awful lot like ground chicken or pork.  It’s hard to distinguish ground meat!  The chef actually came out and insisted there were only vegetables, no meat inside but when we remarked how they were egg rolls, not spring rolls, there was no changing his mind about that.  He brought us a fresh batch of the same to be sure and said it’s definitely tofu inside and that he said he tries to season it so well so that it tastes like chicken, which makes it taste
better…yes, those were his words. Needless to say, I stayed away from the egg rolls altogether and embraced all the wonderful veggie options this Japanese restaurant has to offer.  Essentially, the chef’s opinion is much like so many others…everything tastes better with animal products in them.  We know better!!!

Try as we might, we will always face challenges when it comes to plant-based, cruelty-free meals but as more and more
foodies turn to plants, more and more folks in the food industry will catch on. It’s a trend that’s here to stay.  We must remain positive as well as patient in our endeavors and not get discouraged every time we have to send a meal back. Each time that we do, it actually sends a message to both chefs and servers to think outside the box, be creative, go beyond the animal byproducts,  Even if a server seems to be aware of the term “vegan,” they may not have a
clear understanding of what that actually means.  We have to simply be specific when ordering and ask questions for clarification. And just maybe, we’ll make a few of them go plant-based all the way!

Cheers!

 

Advertisements

Guest Blogger: Vegantia – Nurturing Nature

5 Dec

Please welcome our newest Vegan Bloggers Unite! guest blogger, Jen! Jen, is the author of Vegantia, and is passionate about the vegan lifestyle.

Here she is in her own words, “I am Jen, I have recently started writing because It is a way for me to express all I feel about life. I am a Vegan Mother, Wife, Friend and Befriender to people who are living with Young Onset Dementia. These are the roles that define and complete me, they are not separate roles. If someone asked me to describe myself in one word, that word would be…”Vegan” of course. Vegan is Compassion for All life. Compassion is not limited. The Animal Rights Movement is part of, not opposed to the Human Rights movement and I am a Vegan Animal Activist, In my spare time, and privileged to be a human rights activists for those living with a debilitating and misunderstood condition in my paid time. This blog is my attempt to raise awareness, educate and inform about the benefits of a Vegan Lifestyle and the humbling experience that is spending time with people for whom is just one great big challenge. The Compassion I feel means that I spend a lot of time feeling hurt and emotional pain. Writing about this helps me to process these feelings and find a way through so I can be a voice for the voiceless, Non-Human and Human.”

Welcome Jen! Please enjoy her fantastic post below.

THE PEACE OF WILD THINGS (by Wendell Berry)

When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

This poem is very pertinent to me. As may become obvious over time, like a wheel, I go through cycles of highs and lows. This poem helps to energise, inspire and focus me and helps me to feel more optimistic and determined.
As Autumn, the season of enchantment with its magical panorama of oranges, reds and yellows gives way to the bare, still beauty of winter, and nature prepares to hibernate, it is never more obvious to me that we are inextricably linked to our natural world. As the darkness of winter envelopes my part of Mother Earth, I feel my own personal darkness descend as the pain in the World threatens to engulf me.
We are microcosms of the planet. The body is made up of water and matter as is the planet. As we breathe, so does the planet and we are responsible for the breath of the planet. We are energy as is the planet. Our energetic frequencies reverberate into the planet as the planet’s energetic frequencies reverberate into us. With so much pain in the world, I can’t help feeling that the energy we transmit into the universe is negative yet she only imparts positive energy back to us, her guardians.

The sun shines not on us but in us. The rivers flow not past, but through us. Thrilling, tingling, vibrating every fibre and cell of the substance of our bodies, making them glide and sing. The trees wave and the flowers bloom in our bodies as well as our souls, and every bird song, wind song, and tremendous storm song of the rocks in the heart of the mountains is our song, our very own, and sings our love.

John Muir, Naturalist (1838 – 1914)
The poem reminds me that nature and all its beauty is a part of me/us and I/we am a part of it. The same life force that animates me/us, animates the natural world in which we live, love and thrive. I am reminded that in every moment we can appreciate the gifts that nature provides. That is the true value of nature and the true value of living in the moment.
Birds singing passionately in the early hours when I am out with my Doggy Companions can lift me away from the treadmill of my negative thoughts. I find it an extravagantly exuberant sound which lifts my spirits and warms my soul and helps me to feel more hopeful and reminds me to just enjoy what I have, what I’m doing, and who I am right now. Just as the bird song edges its’ way out of the darkness, I feel myself leaving my own darkness and depression behind, at least in that moment in the early hours!
Not everything has to have any more a purpose than that I enjoy it and that it can give me a break from the overwhelming sadness I feel at times and remind me that the most joyful things in life cost nothing! This time of the day is when I am peace and reassured; when I truly feel an integral part of the Natural World, joined to a harmonious whole rather than a separate entity. I have always found my solace out in Nature. Growing up, to escape my unhappiness, I would take my dog and walk up a hill where there was an old disused barn where we’d sit and view the world go by and experience silence and tranquillity.

When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.

John Muir, Naturalist (1838 -1914)
I believe all beings on the planet are structures and are sustained by an influx of matter and energy that starts at the sun and is channelled through plants to us. We are inextricably linked. We all share this space on the planet which helps us to feel connected to each other and the world. Unfortunately Humanity has not been respectful of our place in the natural order and believes it is entitled to subjugate the environment around it. We must reconnect with Mother Earth.
Every human has value, every molecule has value. Nature recognises this and recycles everything and finds a use for it. Humanity can help our relationship with the natural world or completely hinder it by plundering, destroying, killing, hurting and ravaging the our planet. We have guardianship of Our Planet, NOT ownership.
Our connection to Nature is inherent. We need to strive to protect Mother Earth, learn to love her and feel the rewards! By Living as naturally as possible on a plant based diet, I feel so much more at sync with the universe. I have a higher level of awareness and spirituality and I feel total connection to Mother Nature as I try to live in a way so as to preserve the many wonders the world gives us.
By being Vegan we can not only have a more positive effect on our health, but on the health of the world. Being Vegan can nourish us physically, practically and spiritually and, in turn, we can nourish our planet in so many ways as we live in the least invasive way, humbly within all creation, with respect for all beings and leading a way of life which uses the least of Mother Earth’s resources. It offers us a moral baseline for how we conduct ourselves in the world.
Veganism is a complete philosophical view point that is practical in outlook, simple to understand and aspires to the highest environmental and spiritual values. I am sure it holds the key to a future lifestyle for a humane planetary guardianship.

I am pessimistic about the human race because it is too ingenious for it’s own good. Our approach to nature is to beat it into submission. We would stand a better chance for survival if we accommodated ourselves to this planet and viewed it appreciatively instead of sceptically and dictatorially.

EB White (Author ) (1899 – 1995)
I believe that being Vegan enables me to have a higher state of consciousness because universal life flows through everything and I am not consuming the life force, physical and emotional of other beings. Those elements are being absorbed when we eat other beings, and, I believe, must reflect in our bodies; the stress, fear and terror of the slaughterhouse is the last thing these non-human animals know and that must be transmitted through their blood which must, in turn transmit negative energy when we consume the flesh and blood of that being.
Eating a plant based only diet deepens that deep sense of awe, admiration and respect I have towards Mother Earth and all the non-human beings that make her their home. We are one small part of the puzzle that is our world, and to fit in to the rest of the puzzle, we must respect our planet and ALL her inhabitants. We must open our eyes to the beauty that surrounds us and to realise how insignificant we are in the grand scheme of things. We have an interconnection and we break the connection every time we hurt, kill and consume another living being.
We ought to celebrate Nature and its ability to co-exist with us Human beings. Unfortunately, it is our intolerance that prevents us from living in harmony with the Natural World. When interests clash with ours, we seek to manage or exterminate. We just can’t help ourselves in our desire, curiosity and greed to seek dominion over every part of our miraculous world of nature.

Take Nothing but Pictures, Leave nothing but Footprints, Kill nothing but time.

We must recognise that we have a disproportionate influence on the natural world around us. We need to understand how important it is that we expend energy in a positive way, trying to understand nature and wildlife, rather than separating ourselves from it. If we do, we may find that we heal not only ourselves, but the planet too.
The natural world is a source of, pleasure, delight, beauty and reassurance. If we get out of kilter with it, we are heading for catastrophe and the associated emotional, spiritual and physical loss would be a disaster. If we all live in a way that seeks to minimise the harm to the naural environment, we will find our true nature in harmony with our environment. By giving ourselves the chance to form a relationship with the natural world, we can learn to recognise that our landscape has its own life and its own spirit. If we respect the natural world we can live in harmony with it and we can live off it.
Our ancestors lived off the land and by the seasons, and each season presented them with new challenges, but they listened to the land and the land gave them what they needed because they were in tune with nature, they were part of it.
Going back to basics means reconnecting with nature, growing our own food and protecting mother earth for us and our children. It means becoming self-sustainable and self-sufficient. We can’t do any of that if we don’t feel part of our natural environment.
We must instill a sense of empathy and responsibility in our children, towards the natural world and all living beings. It is them who will ultimately be left with our legacy of plunder and destruction. Respecting their environment is one of the most important messages we can pass on to future generations. We must encourage them to engage with wildlife, our extraordinary neighbours and be inspired by nature. Our next generation will only protect their planet if they feel part of it and not separate from it. We need to teach them to embrace their circle of compassion to embrace of beings and the whole of nature and its beauty.

I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving that he can outwit nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority.

E B White, Author, Charlotte’s Web
I used to volunteer at an amazing gardening project which supports individuals living with a mental health illness. Projects like these, which are sadly few and far between, are incredibly valuable. Life is stripped back to basics and people can discover a sense of respect and wonder for nature, and experience something different from their normal lives which can be lonely, frustrating and challenging. Gardening allows us to truly reconnect with nature and these projects offer valuable opportunities to learn, grow and increase knowledge, understanding and experience of the natural environment; An environment that gives us a world that has a past and present reality and provides opportunities to exercise and socialise.

Apathy can be starved by a single sunset

This project enables people, who may not generally have these opportunities, to be a part of something wonderful which only serves to build self- worth, a sense of purpose and the realisation that we are part of something much bigger. Being outdoors improves our psychological and physical health whether we are active or passive in our pursuit of enjoying the natural world. Garden colours and scents stimulate the brain. This project allows people to relax and enjoy the outdoors while giving them the chance to work on the land, get back to nature and find out how food is produced. There is something wonderful about going out in the morning, doing a hard day’s work and then actually seeing the results of your labour. That’s a real reward that money can’t buy and extremely confidence boosting. It can help to put problems into perspective

Keep close to Nature’s heart…wash your spirit clean

John Muir, Naturalist
Not so long ago, my husband and I chose to become eternally joined to one another! We were “joined” in a pagan hand fasting ceremony under an apple tree among all the splendour that Mother Earth had to offer! It was amazing! As we exchanged rings, we chose this speech to remind us and our friends and family of our inherent connection to Our Earth.

These rings, a token of your love for one another, will serve as a reminder that all in life is a cycle, all comes to pass and passes away and comes to pass again. May the elements bless these rings; Air for hopes and dreams; Fire for the spark of love; Water for harmony and healing; and Earth for strength.
The circle is the symbol of the sun, the earth and the universe. It is a symbol of wholeness and peace. In the form of a ring, may it stand for you as a symbol of your love for each other, looking inwards and outwards, an embrace that binds without imprisoning, a support that reassures without restricting.
By the exchange of these tokens of your love for one another, so are your lives interlaced. What one experiences, so shall the other; as honesty and love build, so will your bond strenghen and grow.
The circle is a perfect figure, without beginning, without end, with no area of weakness. It is a symbol of the Circle of Life, of death and rebirth. This shall serve as a physical reminder of your vow, and that all things begin and end and begin again. These rings shall serve to remind you that life goes on, that these moments passs. When you are engulfed in anger or in sadness, look to your hand and remember that the wheel turns forever onward, and it is love that turns the wheel.

The symbolism of the circular rings was explained by the great native American leader, Black Elk, who said:

“Everything the power of the worlds does is done in a circle. The sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball and so are the stars. The wind in its greatest power whirls. Birds make their nests in circles…………..The sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing and always coming back again to where they were. The life of a man or woman is a circle from childhood to adulthood, and so is everything where power moves.”

These words sum up our connection with Mother Earth. We are part of her, part of nature, part of the ever changing cycle of life. WE MUST STOP DAMAGING HER, STOP PLUNDERING HER RESOURCES AND HURTING HER INHABITANTS. WE NEED TO PROTECT OUR WORLD, GIVE HER TIME TO HEAL AND THEN NURTURE HER SO SHE AND US CAN LIVE AND WORK IN HARMONY. MOTHER EARTH IS OUR LIFE FORCE, WITHOUT HER AND ALL HER GIFTS TO US, WE WILL PERISH.

The forests are the flags of Nature. They appeal to all and awaken inspiring universal feelings. Enter the forest and the boundaries of nations are forgotten. It may be that some immortal pine will be the flag of a united peaceful world.

Enos A Mills, Naturalist, 1870 -1922
This weekend, Go out, be creative, FEEL GROUNDED, explore, plant, pick, taste, observe, listen, take photos and indulge in the wonder that surrounds us, the wonder that is OUR world! Tomorrow , I will be out campaigning for a Compassionate Christmas, and I believe we are going to be blessed with winter sunshine! On Sunday, I will be out in my garden pulling up my last crops of the year; Celeriac, and perhaps I can share a recipe for Celeriac soup over the next posts!
John Muir, talking about the natural environment, once observed

“Every time I bend down to pick something up, I find it is connected to something else.” There is an equivalent “ecology” to our behavior. Everything we do connects to something else; every action touches on the world around us, either close at hand and noticeable, or far away and unperceived, immediate in its effect or distant in time.”

Earths Blessings All x

Guest Blogger: A Vegan Abroad – The ‘emotional’ experiences of a plant-based life

11 Nov

And another new blogger joins the team! Please meet Rachel, author of, A Vegan Abroad, here she is in her own words, “Hi! I’m British, 22, and I’ve accidentally ended up living on a tropical island in Thailand. I work as a teacher, school manager and freelance writer whilst burying myself in fantasy books and my own worldly adventures alike!”

Follow Rachel on her blog, Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter.

When I first turned vegan almost 3 years ago, I began to experience a radical change in my emotional state that I couldn’t quite explain. For many vegans it may be a dramatic shift, or perhaps unnoticeable, or a slow, creeping emotional change that you notice all at once later down the line.

Causes for becoming vegan are varied, but a trend within the vegan community is that individuals seem to become more and more involved, often emotional, in their cause, as time goes on.

Reasons for this obviously range from research, having a more open-mind and becoming more aware of atrocities committed in animal production industries. But, it is explicitly linked to our body’s chemistry and the effects dietary changes can have on our moods and emotional levels. Today, I want to focus solely on this impact.

Put simply:

  • Our bodies have a limited capacity in processing more than one ‘complex’ task. Two tasks that happen to fall under this category are: 1. digestion and 2. conducting emotions.
  • It happens to reason, then, that when our bodies are focusing energy on, say, digesting a large meal, our ability to conduct emotion is hindered somewhat. This is something we’re all aware of, to a degree; this concept of ‘comfort eating’.
IMG_4270

Undoubtedly, this is my own vegan comfort food from Ethos in Bangkok.

  • There are particular foods that our bodies struggle more to digest: heavy junk food and meat based products being right at the top of the list, and so in delving further into the mechanics of our bodies we can trace relationships between certain dietary habits and the intensity of our emotions.

What then, does this mean for people making the switch towards plant-based eating?

It’s known that individuals changing their eating habits from omnivore-vegetarian-vegan-raw vegan are likely to experience cravings for foods they used to use, in Rozalind Gruben’s words, as an ’emotional analgesic’.

  • This, amongst other social and ‘craving’ reasons, causes many people to backtrack on their switch, as they find emotional comfort in certain foods.
  • It also brings a new way of experiencing the world into our consciousness. As the intensity of our emotions heightens, our experiences are dramatically altered: from how we react to different situations to how what decisions we make.

How to understand, accept, and deal with these things:

  • Don’t ignore the cravings, many ‘diets’ are damaging because we deprive. We say “oh, I can’t have this anymore.” Instead, examine why these products are are a negative presence in your life. The damaging affect they have on your own body, towards the environment, animals, and other people. Decide: “I won’t have this anymore!”
  • Accepting the change in your emotions is difficult, as, especially in my own culture, being emotional is often synonymous with the being ‘hysterical’ and has heavy connotations of negative behaviour. However, just imagine that you’re on a roller-coaster. It has some dips, a few peaks. Looped y-loops too, and maybe some kick-ass spirals and an underwater cave and- okay you get the picture. Life isn’t just high’s and low’s. It’s not a binary, it’s an expanse of different experience, and emotions.
  • Now, imagine that you’ve just turned vegan, and so you’re now just on a slightly different roller-coaster. The plunges and heights and dizzying turns are all still there, but everything is a little more intense. You feel it all in your body, up a notch. The anger, embarrassment, anxiety, excitement, elation, love, confidence. It’s all there to be felt, but more.

And this isn’t to paint non-vegans, or those who eat foods that are hard to digest, as unfeeling or numb to emotion or that there is any negative judgement to those who do suppress emotion for whatever reasons. There is, after all, a myriad of social and personal influences affect individual experience.

However, in being more aware of this link, we can more easily understand our emotions, and we are more readily able to accept and cope with them.

Personally, I’ve began to feel more honest both towards myself and others. My insecurities, fears, and worries are still present, however I have a more controlled handle on what I can do, if anything, and sometimes on how to simply accept these emotions as part of life. On the flip side, I’ve also learned how to appreciate, love, and connect with the world in an entirely more powerfully positive way.

How has changing towards a plant-based diet changed your outlook on life?

This article is directly inspired by Rozalind Gruben’s research and videos: x, x, x, x, and x.

Guest Blogger: New Vegan Age – Elizabeth Castoria interview

2 Jul

Please welcome back the ever wonderful Tom from New Vegan Age. Tom has been a guest blogger on VBU! a few times: Vegan CreedHarvey Diamond InterviewVegans are good for your restaurant’s business (Kim Stahler)World Vegan DayA Perfect Time to Stop eating AnimalsSupport vegan business and organizations. Please follow on New Vegan Age on the blog. Welcome back Tom!

 

Interview by Tom Epler Elizabeth Castoria is not yet a mononymic vegan like Isa or Victoria, Gene or Wayne, but with last month’s publication of How to be Vegan (Artisan, 2014), the former Editorial Director of VegNews is well on her way. The well-written, beautifully-designed handbook makes a great gift for vegan-curious friends and colleagues, since it’s fun, conversational, and informative without being preachy or pretentious.

 
This week, Elizabeth answered a few questions about her vegan journey, her tenure at VegNews, and the publication of her colorful, fact-filled new book. I recommend ordering a copy for yourself, friends, and family—even though I don’t normally encounter words like “zillion” or “nohow,” I loved How to be Vegan, because reading it felt like a conversation with a fun, enthusiastic friend.New Vegan Age: Why, when, and how did you become vegan? Did you have any close vegan friends or family members who modeled or encouraged veganism?
Elizabeth Castoria: I went vegan when I was about 17. I had already been a vegetarian for a few years before that, and then made the switch after learning more about the issues. (And, yes, I did this learning by way of the cute vegan skater dude whom I was dating at the time!) There was actually a small group of friends in my hometown who were vegan, so that definitely eased the transition.
 
NVA: How did your daily work as Editorial Director at VegNews help develop your ability to engage readers in the book’s chapters and capsules?
 
EC: Through my work at the magazine, I definitely got to develop both my writing and the ability to represent ideas visually, like the little charts and graphs in the book. It’s really fun to add another layer of content that helps convey ideas in a different way.
 
NVA: What was glamorous about your time at VegNews? Travel? Parties? What might people be surprised to learn made it difficult?
 
EC: Ha! I don’t know that I’d use the word “glamorous” necessarily. I did have the chance to meet and work with so many wonderful, amazing people in the vegan world, and report on all the completely inspiring work that they were doing. That was such a rewarding part of the job!
 
NVA: Your book tackles some difficult and serious topics (animal cruelty, nutrition, and factory farming) in an informative, yet non-accusatory and non-judgmental way. Did you ever have trouble striking that balance?
 
EC: When I first went vegan, I definitely had a different approach than I do now (admittedly, this was when I was a teenager, so I was a little bit more brash in general!). The older I get, the more I realize that people are dealing with different things in their lives—sometimes even depending on the day!—so it’s really important to just meet people where they are and provide information so that people can make their own choices. Nobody likes being yelled at or talked down to (least of all me!).
 
NVA: Well, we hope the response since publication last month has been great. Your audience for this book is non-vegans; it introduces them to our world. Since you’ve been vegan for so many years, was it ever difficult to keep that newness in mind? Did you keep a particular non-vegan friend or family member in mind as you were writing?
 
EC: That was one of the really fun challenges of writing the book—going back and re-thinking through all those questions that someone who is new to veganism would have to ask themselves. I have a number of non-vegan friends and family members, and over the years the questions they’ve asked me about how I live this way definitely all bubbled up when I was writing the book.
 
NVA: The book is fun and well-written, and the charts, flowcharts, and Venn diagrams were unusually informative and useful. (The “Food or Not Food?” pop quiz neatly summarizes what it takes many other writers—including this one—entire blogs to develop). Do you think, or even doodle, in graphic representations?
 
EC: Thank you! I really enjoyed getting to come up with the concepts for the sidebars. Making graphic elements is definitely something that I learned working on the magazine content, and I always love seeing how other publications (in print and online) use graphics to tell stories, so it does seem like an ingrained part of storytelling now. (Though, I have to say, I’m immensely grateful for the amazing job that the design team did on the graphics, because the sketches I sent over were these horribly drawn little stick figures!)
 
NVA: They’re sophisticated, with lots of great info, but somehow simple—condensed, clean, and inviting. I also really liked your meal-planning encouragement to enjoy beans, fruits, and vegetables for their own sake, and not to always seek out processed replacements for things we were accustomed to eating as omnivores. Has that appreciation come for you in time?
 
EC: You know, I love eating a variety of things—including vegan meats and ice creams and that sort of thing—but one of the main things I wanted to convey in that section was just that there are so incredibly many varieties of fruits, veggies, beans, and grains that people might not be familiar with or not be in the routine of eating. For anyone, vegan or otherwise, it’s important to try new things!
 
NVA: Agreed! Have you ever successfully introduced a friend, family member, or reader (through VegNews or this book) to veganism? How does it feel to know that, with this book, you’ll likely be doing that for strangers for years and decades to come?
 
EC: I love your vision of the future! (And I really hope you’re right—I’d love to be helpful for decades!!) All the feedback so far on the book has been really positive, which is incredibly satisfying, and it sounds as though people are finding it useful. I’ve been pleasantly surprised that even folks who have been vegan for years are getting handy tidbits out of the book. It’s all been such a fantastic experience!
 
NVA: It must be something to “cross over,” from covering authors to being covered as one. What else are you up to these days? Any interesting plans or projects on the horizon?
 
EC: I’ve been developing a new project, but it’s still very nascent, so I won’t go into it too much. The newest thing so far has been that I’ve started blogging on my website (elizabethcastoria.com), which has been a fun challenge! I’ve been creating content in the framework of other organizations for a long time, so it’s really fun to think of the kind of content that I want to create on my own. 
NVA: Thank you, Elizabeth! Please let us know when the new project is ready.

Guest Blogger: Steps in Stilettos – How I became vegan

27 Mar
Hey everyone! Put your hands together for our newest contributor Jamie, author of the blog Steps in Stilettos. Her post is about her journey into veganism.  Join Jamie on her blog, facebook page, and Twitter account. Welcome Jamie!
A little bit about how I discovered a plant-based lifestyle was when I first decided to become a vegetarian at the age of fifteen and I really started thinking about where my food came from and what I was eating.   I was in high school taking biology class and our assignment was to disect different types of insects and animals.  Looking at the insides of animals got me thinking about what exactly I was eating.  The thought made me nauseaus and I came home to declare to my parents that I was going to become a vegetarian.  Of course, they were shocked, as no one we knew ate this way.  They had no idea what to feed me and I mostly ate cereal, as I also didn’t really know what to eat.  I took a multivitamin every day because I was convinced by others that I couldn’t possible be getting adequate nutrition as a vegetarian.  However, this transition for me personally, aside from being controversial, was relatively easy because I didn’t change the way I ate, I really just cut out all forms of meat and replaced them with cheese versions.  I could still go to family and friends’ homes for dinner and was always able to eat some part of what was being served.  At restaurants, I even still had some variety of choices.  I remained vegetarian through college and began discovering the new tofu based meat substitutes that were more actively coming on the market.   However, like many Americans, I still had no clue about nutrition and what vitamins and minerals my body needed to thrive.  I was really just trying to eat as “normally” as possible while still holding onto my values.
It wasn’t until age 28 that I discovered and opened myself up to the vegan and plant-based worlds.  I remember I was stuck in the airport at work and my boss actually recommended that I read “Skinny Bitch,” a new and controversial book that had just come out, since he knew I was vegetarian.  Since I was already bored, I immediately went into the airport bookstore and bought the book.  Do you ever believe that certain moments happen for a reason?  As I get older, I believe in this more and more.   I read almost half of the book before I arrived home that night, addicted to the pages and hungry for more information!  What this book opened my eyes to was the fact that dairy cows are subjected to huge amounts of pain and suffering and that by consuming milk and dairy, I was still contributing to animal creutly.  What’s more is that I learned that animals products were actually bad for us, a completely new idea to me, and that much more nutrition could be obtained from plant-based foods.    This revelation sent me on my path to reading more books about plant-based nutrition from authors like Dr. Barnard, Christina Pirello, Dr. Esselstyn, T. Colin, Campbell, Alicia Silverstone, and more!  I kept wanting to learn more and more because this paradigm shift in thinking was fascinating to me and so different from anything I was taught growing up.  I even took classes through Cornell University in their Plant-Based Nutrition Program to earn a Certificate.  The classes and lecturers in that program are amazing and were able to give me detailed answers to everything I ever wanted to know, such as links to animal protein and diseases like cancer, how different vitamins and nutrients act in our bodies and why plant-based eating is the healthiest diet.   By surrounding myself with information and different support groups through the classes and online community, it gave me the confidence to stick with the diet and the information I needed to continue on my path of healthy living.  I love life and I want to enjoy it as much as I am able.  To me, that doesn’t necessarily mean trying to outlive everyone, it means living the days that I have with as much energy to do the things I want to do and to experience life without being sick, stuck on medicine, or in the hospital for treatments.
Becoming plant-based has changed my life for the better!  As a child and young adult, I suffered from relatively severe allergies and asthma.  I was in the hospital at least once a year for breathing treatments, had to carry an inhaler everywhere with me, and was dependent on taking allergy pills for most days of the year.   Being sick as a young child made me believe that I would be dependant on medicine for the rest of my life.  When I cut out meat products at the age of fifteen, I noticed an improvement in my asthma and allergies.  I was able to play outside and run without having an asthma attack.  I see the correlation now, but as a young adult, everyone just told me I was “growing out of my asthma” and that’s what I believed.  However, as soon as I cut out dairy products, my allergies and asthma disappeared!  I currently have no need for allergy pills and I don’t even own an inhaler!  It is so freeing being able to even say that, as I never thought it would be a possibility for me.  Asthma attacks and weazing are a distant memory of my past and something I don’t see myself having to deal with again.  These days, I feel energetic, vibrant and healthy and can be as active as I want!  It’s truly amazing!  I have taken control of my health simply by the foods that I choose to put into my mouth everyday!

Guest Blogger: Vedged Out – 20 Reasons Why Going Vegan Sucks

19 Sep

Please welcome back a vegan blogger who has a new project going on.  This blog pos is from Somer, formerly of Good Clean Food, she has a new blog called Vedged Out. Here she is in her own words, “I went vegan for health reasons 9 months ago in January. Since then I’ve lost the 20 extra pounds I was carrying around, without dieting or counting calories. I don’t have to work to maintain my weight anymore. I am completely off prescription drugs and my Ulcerative Colitis is in full remission. I’ve never felt better, and I know all of this is a direct result of my diet. I wish I would have known years ago that I could heal my own body with what I was putting into my mouth. It’s really amazing that the cure I was looking for was harnessed through plants.” Welcome Somer!

1. You start behaving like a Mormon Missionary and proselytize the benefits of a plant-based diet to everyone you know with copies of Forks Over Knives and The China Study. (Count em, 27 converts to date)

2. You spend so much time in the kitchen that you think “Maybe just this once pre-soaking my pinto beans ISN’T necessary.” Then later, you and everyone in a 12 mile radius of you seriously regrets you didn’t take the time to pre-soak.

3. You get all crunchy and granola like and start making your own soap and deodorant.

4. You get involved in things like the Virtual Vegan Potluck and you consider getting your first facebook account. ever. so that you can hang out in the top secret VVP batcave with the coolest co-horts ever, Annie and Jason.

5. You become one of those obsessed people (we’re victims, really) who can’t stop posting food porn or yet ANOTHER way to use cashew cheez in a recipe.

6. You lose weight even though you no longer count calories and you are forced to go out and buy an entirely new wardrobe.

7. After races, you recover ridiculously faster than you used to, so no-one feels sorry for you and you don’t get to take an “extra rest day” afterwards.

8. You feel like you know and love some of your blogging buddies (people you have never actually met) more than your next door neighbor.

9. You become star struck for the first time ever and start stalking celebrity Vegan Chefs like AJ and Ramses.

10. You have so much produce in your fridge, that fitting in yet another box of organic spinach in there becomes a precarious circus act. Things like ‘ears of corn’ topple out onto your head every time you open the door.

11. All of the money you saved by getting off prescription drugs goes towards your organic produce habit. You feel compelled to defend organic foods like an errant family member despite current evidence against it, because you are what you eat.

12. You start to feel “Dietarily Superior” to everyone who’s not plant based.

13. You have less no constipation, so your regular reading of “Runner’s World Magazine” gets completely cut out of your schedule.

14. Even though you are all ready a dietary outcast (1-2% of the world is vegan), you still sometimes consider going raw, high-alkaline, gluten-free or all of the above to further alienate yourself at social gatherings and restaurants.

15. You sadly realize that even though being plant-based has significantly reduced animal suffering and your carbon footprint, it has not cured your cankles or cellulite.

16. You have more kitchen gadgets than anyone you know but you can’t stop buying more, resulting in a severely receding counter-top space.

17. Your children get harassed at school because of the contents of their lunch box. Bully Child: “I thought you said your family didn’t eat meat, why are you eating a Turkey sandwich?” My child: “Um, that’s Tofurky.” Bully Child: “What’s a Tofurky?My Child to me: “Mom, do I really have to drink a green smoothie everyday at lunch? Everyone stares at me!” (Actual comments) 😦

18. You feel like you’ve broken up just a little bit with some of your closest friends because you don’t share the same values regarding foods anymore. And truth be told, they probably think you’re a little crazy.

19. You feel compelled to blog constantly about your plant based devotion. So much so that you decide to ditch your best friends over at Good Clean Food and get your own dang blog. Sorry girls.

20. You get overly excited when you have a new recipe to share, as if it’s going to change the world! Well, just maybe it will, one plate at a time.

Guest Blogger: The Barefoot Essence – Wheat, and soy ….oh my!

23 Aug

Please welcome back Jackie, author of the blog Barefoot Essence, for her hat trick appearance on VBU! Feel free to read her previous posts:  Change your diet, skip surgery and I’m a shareholder…in Community Shared Agriculture. Stay in touch with Jackie through her Facebook, Twitter and blog. Welcome back Jackie!

When I met my husband in 2003 I was about 30 pounds heavier than I am today. I tried many diets and some were successful, until I stopped following them. I lost 20 pounds or so shortly after getting married by getting a dog and becoming more physically active. I started to pay closer attention to what I ate noticed I had more energy and my clothes were getting looser.

Fast forward to pregnancy. Pregnancy was a time where I really began to pay attention to what was going in, and on my body. I was growing another body inside of me; I had a responsibility to ensure my baby was healthy. I received the extensive list of forbidden foods from my doctor. I was told to avoid cold cuts, soft cheese, fish more than once a week and undercooked meat, as these could all pose a risk to the fetus. I gained about 50 pounds with both of my pregnancies. I ate a mostly healthy diet incorporating lots of fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately I negated the healthy food effects by eating ice cream every, single, evening.

After I had Jacob, I wanted to get back to my ‘normal’ weight. I paid attention to serving size and ate as healthy as I knew how to at the time. I did a lot of walking. This was easy as we lived in Chicago at the time. I would pack up Jacob and some diapers and go for a 10-mile walk, peeking into shops and eating lunch in grassy parks. I had heard somewhere that dairy should be avoided to assist in weight loss. I replaced my huge daily glass of skim chocolate milk with soy chocolate milk and ate cheese only occasionally. I watched the weight fall off effortlessly. I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight in three months.

When Jacob was about a year old, I became more conscious of our family’s eating habits. I had to feed my son real food now. I had a responsibility. I began reading books by Michael Pollan; ‘The Omnivores Dilemma’ and ‘In Defense of Food’. His books made me question our nation’s food supply. How much processing happens to the chicken nugget in that cardboard box at McDonalds? I began arming myself with as much food education as possible. I watched the documentary ‘Food, Inc.’ and switched to mostly organic foods. I read the books ‘Skinny Bitch’ and ‘The Thrive Diet’ which both advocate an animal-free diet. Animal free? I grew up eating animals, so did my parents, didn’t we need protein from them? And milk? The milk ads on television tell us we need three servings a day. I thought back to all the ‘forbidden foods’ from my pregnancy – they were all animal products. If those foods were unsafe for me when I was pregnant, why would they be safe any other time? Hmmmmm. That was a moment of clarity. I began having more meat-free meals and still had the occasional cheese or yogurt. I felt better when I avoided meat, but I still felt bloated by the afternoon. I was also getting sinus infections several times a year and had terrible seasonal allergies. At the recommendation of a massage therapist I saw a naturopath. The naturopath asked me to document what I was eating for a week. She noticed I ate yogurt daily and suggested I go without dairy for about three weeks to see how I felt. After about two weeks without dairy I wasn’t sure if felt a difference or not, was it all in my head? Then I had a bowl of ice cream. I was instantly bloated and gassy. Nope, never doing that again. Goodbye dairy.

When I was pregnant with Talia, I ate a mostly plant-based diet, I avoided dairy like the plague and ate meat once or twice a month, usually if someone else was cooking it. After I had Talia, I ate a plant-based diet 99% of the time during my pregnancy and afterwards, and lost the weight effortlessly in two months. I say 99% because I don’t worry about that trace of egg that might be in that veggie burger on the restaurant menu.

I still felt bloated after eating whole-wheat pasta, however. I wondered if this was bothering me as well so I eliminated it for a few weeks. In one week I lost 10 pounds I didn’t even know I needed to lose! I had some fresh bread at a restaurant a few weeks later as a test, and I paid for it dearly. I consulted a naturopath again to perform food sensitivity testing. I had good suspicion these foods didn’t agree with me and the test results echoed this feeling – I was sensitive to several things, including wheat, dairy, eggs, soy, corn and peanuts.

Today, I eat a plant-based, allergen-free diet and have never felt better. You don’t realize how sick you are until you feel amazing! I don’t stress about traces of these foods in things like gluten free bread at a restaurant or in a piece of organic, fair-trade dark chocolate as they don’t seem to bother me, and having a more relaxed approach also keeps me healthy. By listening to what my body was telling me I was able to find the perfect lifestyle for me. I feel lighter, I don’t get bloated, my seasonal allergies have disappeared, I haven’t had a sinus infection in years, I think more clearly and sleep soundly. I am also still losing weight without even trying. I’m letting my body guide itself towards a natural weight …and I need to replace a lot of items in my wardrobe again.

Guest Blogger: The Global Girl – 92-Day Juice Feast Q & A – Why Do I fast?

22 Aug

Please welcome back Ndoema, author of The Global Girl, this particular post she talks about day 46 of her 92 day juice fast. If you’ve ever wanted to know about what happens during a fast this is the blog post for you. You can enjoy the first post where she shares a green juice recipe from The Global Girl with VBU! here. Please welcome back Ndoema!

Juicing photos

Today is day 46 of my second 92-day juice feast. To my surprise, since I started sharing juicing pics and tidbits on Instagram and Twitter, I’ve been flooded (in a good way) with questions about juicing and fasting.

Although theglobalgirl.com is primarily a fashion blog, I always intended to share about nutrition since it’s such a huge passion of mine! But to be honest I hadn’t planned on sharing in detail about my juice fast because I just didn’t think anybody would be that interested. I was wrong! I’ve been getting a lot of questions and requests to share my insights, tips and experience. It’s exciting to see that there is such tremendous interest for what is to me one of the most powerful healing tools available to us.

Today’s question is from @claudushia (on instagram): “Whyyyyy are you doing a juicefast? You’re itty bitty! Don’t people usually do fasts to lose weight?”

First off I like to say that I am juice “feasting” instead of juice “fasting”. And it’s more than a play on semantics. This small difference has played a big role in me even considering embarking on such an amazing journey. One of the main hurdles I faced for many years in regards to juice fasting was basically the negative connotation of deprivation and lack associated with it. I had read so much about the benefits of going on a juice fast. Of giving our body a much needed break from the all consuming digestive functions and allowing our body’s built-in healing mechanism a chance to dedicate itself 100% to clearing dead and damaged cells and creating new healthy ones. It really made sense and I knew deep inside that this was something that would be tremendously beneficial to me. I had witnessed countless amazing stories of healing and transformation from individuals who had been on a juice fast. And that alone should have been enough of a motivating factor. But… I just could not imagine going without “food” for any period of time let alone three long months. Going without “food”, is one of the most common misconceptions about juice fasting when in reality for most of us it’s perhaps the first time in our lives that our bodies receive true nourishment on a cellular level. I know this sounds like a contradiction. I will elaborate more on that in an upcoming post.

There are lots of different schools of thought regarding fasting in general and juice fasting in particular but frankly most of them did nothing for me. I found it tough enough psychologically to “survive” on fruit and vegetable juices alone, so the common emphasis on caloric restriction (meaning you need to keep your intake of food to a strict minimum by diluting your juices in water) was a major deterrent. After much searching, I eventually came across the concept of the 92-day juice “feast” (as pioneered by John Rose) which takes a radically different approach in that rather than restricting your intake of juice you actually intake large quantities of juice (between half a gallon to a gallon of juice a day) and basically approach fasting as an act of abundance rather than an act of restriction. That totally clicked with me.

That being said, I didn’t jump into a 92-day juice feast over night. It was the culmination of a gradual and natural process. I started out with the “breakfast” fast. This practice alone over the course of several years made an amazing difference healthwise. I then did several 3-day and 5-day juice fasts (mostly orange juice fasts) over the course of a year before feeling ready to embark on my first 92-day juice feast… It seemed impossible! And I’m still in shock that I completed it and that I’m back for more!

So in answer to the question, I am juice feasting for optimum health and optimum well being not weight loss. As a matter of fact, I loose very little weight on extended juice fasts. I’ve found it to be an amazingly powerful healing tool to release environmental toxins, toxic emotions and trauma on a cellular level. I’ve also found it to be a profound spiritual experience. For me it’s an amazing way to reset and release whatever might stand in the way of realizing my full potential. It is really hard to put it into words… To me it’s a practice that transcends food and the physical body. It is way bigger than that. I could never find the courage to do something like this purely for appearance sake (although I never feel more beautiful than when I’m fasting). I love my solid food wayyyy too much!

You can connect with Ndoema here:
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/theglobalgirl
Twitter: http://twitter.com/theglobalgirl
Instagram: @theglobalgirl – http://instagrid.me/theglobalgirl
Bloglovin: http://www.bloglovin.com/en/blog/3742874/the-global-girl
Tumblr: http://theglobalgirl.tumblr.com/

Guest Blogger: Lindsay is Vegan – A Day in the Life

25 Jun

With a simple name and straightforward writing style, Lindsay is Vegan is written by – you guessed it – Lindsay! Lindsay is a vegan living in Vancouver who documents her obsession and utter lack of control with delicious vegan food on her blog Lindsay is Vegan. Find her on Twitter or find her as a regular contributer on Vegan Mainstream. Please welcome Lindsay!

I write a vegan food blog where I feature my experiments with other people’s recipes and my own concoctions but I find that people are most curious about what I eat during the day. I guess it’s easy to see what I eat when I go out and buy different ingredients for a specific dish but apparently what vegans eat on the go is a complete mystery. So I thought I would give Vegan Bloggers Unite! an exclusive look into my diet of an average day! So all of you carnivores: continue reading to discover all of my vegan secrets and for all you vegans: keep reading for a thrilling day in the life of ME!

June 18th, 2012- A Day in the Life of Lindsay is Vegan

I wake up at 7:00am for an early day at work and groggily head to the kitchen while my cat verbally abuses me about (what I imagine is) the quality of her dry food. This morning I make some toast with peanut butter sprinkled with some flax seeds. I need my protein and this will fill my stomach for the next couple of hours. Plus the crunchy, chewy peanut butter is extremely satisfying first thing in the morning.

Get up and feed me. Now.

On my way to work I tell myself that I don’t need a coffee. I’m weaning myself off caffeine and can’t afford one everyone morning because it’s an unnecessary indulgence… right before I stop by Blenz for one of their perfect soy lattes.

The best part of waking up is giving up on personal pacts (I will not drink coffee…)

I instantly feel caffeinated and ready to attack my job duties when I sit down and I remember that I packed watermelon for work. Sweet, perfect, seedless, watermelon. I begin to realize that although I am caffeinated and satisfied from my peanut butter toast, I haven’t really had anything hydrating yet. So at 8:45a I decide that I NEED to eat my watermelon. I can’t risk fainting at work due to lack of H20, it would be embarrassing and I’m wearing a skirt. So I go ahead and devour my watermelon while my 2001 laptop fires up.

Watermelon: it beckons to be eaten

Around 9:30a I start eyeing my chickpea salad. I love chickpeas. If I had to live on a desert island with only 10 foods, chickpeas would be one of them. They’re filling and light and when you mix them with nuts and avocado they become satisfying like listening to Adele while drinking wine by yourself.

Rolling in the Deep: Chickpeas with hazelnuts, avocado, and artichoke hearts

However I begin to worry that I will have eaten my entire lunch before 9:00am and I’m trying to lose weight for my bachelorette party in a couple of weeks. I want people to tell me I look great but that I might be a little too skinny and then I’ll laugh and just say that I’ve been stressed and working a lot. But really I’ve been sucking lemons for dinner the past three nights. (Do not try at home)

Ultimately I decide that I have tons of time to start eating at a regular pace so that I can be smug in a bikini and eat the chickpea salad.

It’s 1:30pm and I’ve eaten my banana, a handful of almonds, some candy from my co-worker’s desk, and my stomach is ready to go again. I have 30 minutes left before I can race home and make a delicious dinner (although it’s really still lunch). It’s around this time that I begin to daydream about what exactly I’m going to eat. If Tiger Woods envisions his winning putts then I envision my perfect dinners, it’s how the elite do it.

At home I decide for fajitas (I eat them at least once a week) and dig up anything in my kitchen that I can fit inside my wraps. I decide to switch the tortillas for lettuce leaves because I’m starting to fear the image of myself in a bikini again.

Bikini-Friendly Fajitas

For the rest of the night I snack on nuts, mangos, and sparkling water. And Voila! The myth of the daily vegan has been debunked! For those of you who have always wondered, let me tell you it is a tasty and satisfying existence where every meal is treated as though it could be your last. (Unless you’re two days from your bachorlette party, then it’s basically lemon water and celery…)

Guest Blogger: Vegan Monologue – Fruit and Nut Muffins

29 May

Our newest addition to the VBU family, is Siobhán Griffin-Lloyd, she is the author of Vegan Monologue. Here she is in her own words, “I’m 29, I work in the mental health field in FL. Married to a Buddhist. Vegetarian since birth and vegan since 2004.” Please welcome Siobhán!

These muffins cost me $5.00 for the nuts and brown sugar. Scraped everything else together. Made 12.

Vegan muffins are easy to spot in the store because they are flat as a pancake on top. But they don’t have to be. A great baking trick I use solves this problem: heat oven 50 degrees hotter than what the recipe calls for. Put muffins in oven for 10 minutes at that higher setting until they form high “domes”. Then reduce heat to the proper setting and bake according to directions. This recipe uses a tomato juice to increase acidity for baking strength and to add color, but these turn out fine without it.

(makes 12 regular-sized muffins)

  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup diced walnuts or pecans, optional
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups tomato juice or blended vegetable juice (e.g., V8) (use soymilk if you don’t have this)

1) Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease and flour the wells of a muffin pan, or line the pan with paper liners, and grease the liners. (To use my dome secret, preheat at 450, then put muffins in until domed, then reduce to 400 and continue.)

2) Whisk together all the dry ingredients, including the cranberries and nuts. (Save some for the tops!)

3) In a separate bowl, whisk together the vanilla, vegetable oil, and tomato juice (or soymilk).

4) Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients; don’t over-mix, stir just until everything is moistened.

5) Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin cups, filling each nearly full. A level (to slightly heaped) muffin scoop of batter for each muffin works well here.

6) Sprinkle the tops with the reserved cranberries and nuts.

7) Bake muffins for 18 to 20 minutes, until they’re lightly browned around the edges.