Tag Archives: vegan lifestyle

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.


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.”


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: Create Mindfully – Tofu Spring Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce

26 Nov

Put your hands together for our newest Vegan Bloggers Unite! member – Willow Moon. Willow is the author of Create Mindfully. I enjoy the variety she blogs about from vegan recipes (sometimes gluten free too!), to DIY projects, and thoughts on the vegan lifestyle as a whole.

Here she is in her own words, “Hi my name is Willow Moon. I am glad to be a part of a community of like minded people! I started my website about three weeks ago. Create Mindfully is a blog about living naturally, healing and thriving. I share posts about creating abundance, losing weight naturally, and releasing blockages and pain with tapping. I write reviews on natural beauty and food products, as well as books on healing and self development. I share vegan, gluten free and some raw recipes that are simple and easy to make. I also sell original artwork on apparel, phone and tablet cases, mugs, canvases, posters and more.”

Follow Willow on her blog, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+. Welcome Willow!

Have you ever gone to a Thai restaurant and ordered their delicious spring roll appetizers with peanut or sweet chili dipping sauce?

They are one of my favorites things to start a meal with. The spring rolls you get at a restaurant usually have carrots, cabbage, tofu (if you’re lucky) and transparent rice noodles. The transparent rice noodles are made from starch, and so is the rice wrapper. With the rice wrapper and the rice noodles, that’s a lot of carbs! If they come with the sweet chili sauce, and you like a lot of sauce, like me, that’s a bunch of sugar! Even though I love them, I don’t love the carbs and the sugar. When I’m at home I will eat the spring rolls as a meal, but I like to change it up, adding more protein and less carbs. I use brown rice spring roll wrappers instead of white. Here is my healthier version of Thai restaurant spring rolls.

cropped spring roll Serves 2-4
Peanut Dipping Sauce
Ingredients (organic when available)
You may want to double this if you like a lot of sauce like me!

  • 2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon Thai Kitchen red curry paste (or your favorite curry paste)
  • ½ cup Lite coconut milk
  • 2 teaspoons low sodium tamari (or to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon brown rice syrup


  1. Mix all ingredients with a whisk or fork until blended.

Spring Rolls
Ingredients (organic when available)

  • 4 brown rice paper wraps
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 4 tablespoons mint
  • 4 tablespoons cilantro
  • 14 oz sprouted tofu (4-6 tablespoons per spring roll)
  • coconut spray oil
  • 2 cups of water to soak the wrappers


  1. Remove water from tofu and slice into squares. I like to turn the tofu so that it is standing up, then I slice it into thirds. Then I lay it flat and slice into fourths. This way you have 12 tofu squares, which is easier to flip on the frying pan.
  2. Spray frying pan with coconut spray oil and fry tofu until golden brown. Set aside.
  3. Heat 2 cups of water in microwave.
  4. After water is heated, put the water in a large enough container to hold the brown rice paper wraps.
  5. Dip one of the wraps in the water, turning until it is pliable.
  6. Put the wrap flat on a plate and fill with ¼ each of the above amounts of the cilantro, mint, spinach, and tofu.
  7. Roll like you would a burrito.
  8. Repeat with each wrapper.
  9. Serve Peanut Dipping Sauce.


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’.

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: Vegan Unite – Interview with Vegan shop Soutache owner Dorota Nocun

23 Jul

There’s a new vegan company around called Vegan Unite, oddly enough. In their own words, “Vegan Unite is a community that believes in ethical consumerism and eco-friendly products. We are a community that sells and buys to support each other. Every little change that we make in our daily habits makes a difference and supporting someone that is like-minded makes a greater impact.”

Vegan Unite has merchant interviews and here’s with the owner of Soutache Shop. Check out their links on their site, facebook, twitter, instagram, and tumblr. Welcome Vegan Unite!

We got an interview vegan Dorota Nocun the owner of Soutache Shop on Vegan Unite.


What is the story behind your company/product?

My Mum has been a fan of soutache jewelry for a long time. However, she discovered that the majority of soutache  jewelry is made with silk, leather and other animal-derived products.

We’ve put our heads together to come up with something that is both beautiful and doesn’t cause unnecessary suffering. We managed to find non-silk braids, non-wool felt and eco/vegan friendly fake leather. We also asked our friends and relatives to give us their old/unused jewelry so we could recycle the beads and we combed through second-hand shops looking for vintage buttons. All set up and ready to go we started working on our first designs. It took me months to create anything worth showing, but my Mum made a stunning necklace on the first try! She is extremely talented and makes the majority of our designs. Some of the more intricate pieces take weeks to finish. I admire her patience.

The first soutache necklace she made was bought within days and a few months later we decided to open a store online. As far as I’m aware we are the only completely vegan shop that sells soutache jewelry. I am currently living in the UK and my Mum is back in Poland, but we make it work. I mostly manage and promote the store, Beata (my mum) spends every free minute working on the jewelry (she also has a full time job)

We are a tiny company, but we have sold to people all over the world: France, Germany, Holland, Australia, USA, UK and others. We’ve also have been featured twice in WILDFIRE – an Australian all-vegan magazine, which we are very proud of. We try to support a variety of charities whenever possible. Currently we are donating some of our jewelry to help Roxie and her 11 puppies. Please search for ‘Roxy And Her 11 Puppies Need You’ on Facebook to read her story.


Do you offer custom work?

Yes we do. Send us your idea/design and we can make it happen!


When did you start your company?

We opened our first online shop two years ago, but my Mum has been making different kinds of jewelry for years.

Where does the inspiration come from?

We both get inspired by nature, music, other cultures and the world around us. I’ve been to Poland last week and put together a few ideas. Can’t wait to see them come to life! 🙂

Where are you located and where do you ship to?

I am in the UK and my Mum is in Poland. We ship worldwide.


(Dorota Nocun & Her Mum)

When did you choose the cruelty-free lifestyle and why?

I stopped eating meat when I was 13 after I’ve seen footage from a slaughter house. Even though I was the only vegetarian I knew, and most of my relatives panicked I would die a quick and gruesome death by starvation, my parents were supportive. My Mum adapted our kitchen to my new lifestyle choices and since I became vegan two years ago she found and mastered tons of vegan recipes to cook whenever we see each other. Her vegan cheesecake is to die for! She’s been introducing her friends and our family to vegan food and lifestyle and thanks to her a number of people including my Dad and Grandma are eating less and less meat. I am very proud of her. Vegan diet is still very unusual in Poland.

I live in a 100% vegan household in Liverpool, UK, with my vegan boyfriend and our dog, Boo.

What is your favourite Vegan Snack?

There is far too many! But if I had to name one it would probably be Booja-Booja truffles. Thankfully they are quite expensive so I can’t eat them all the time, because trust me I would if I could afford it! lol

If you could have any animal as a pet, what would you pick? And why?

I share my life with a doggie, called Boo, and I wouldn’t trade him for anything. Not even for a unicorn! I love him SO very much. (Boo has been fed vegan food since he was a tiny puppy and he is in perfect health BTW)

Our Vegan Unite shop: http://www.veganunite.com/soutacheshop/

Our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/SoutacheShop/Our

Pinterest board: http://www.pinterest.com/dorotkaela/handmade-jewelry/




Guest Blogger: dfjridesbikes – I love my neighborhood

19 May

Everyone, please welcome David, he is brand new to the VBU! family. Here he is in his own words, “My name is David. I am a 23 year old vegan cyclist who enjoys cooking, coffee, and writing. I currently reside in Los Angeles California and have made the complete vegan lifestyle change at the beginning of the year. I am a nursing major who loves the outdoors and a good story.” You can check out David’s Blog where he talks about his vegan life and his love of bike riding, dfjridesbikes, check him out on Twitter as well. Welcome David!

In trying to make the best of all this free time I now have, and to justify my recent purchase of a new track bike, I find myself referring back to an article I read a few months ago.

I’ve lived in the valley for nearly eight years now. I can say that I know my way around these long streets that connect perfectly to most others running in a perpendicular direction (and some not.) What I’ve been catching myself doing is seeking other cities like the arts district in downtown Los Angeles, or to echo park for the atmosphere it provides. In reading this article I’ve begun to realize I can recreate this same type of environment in my own backyard. Now that I don’t have to get super dressed up to go and ride bikes I can explore & rediscover the cozy nooks and crannies of the valley at one point in time I was more familiar with.

As much as I love taking the Metro red line into the metropolis that is downtown, LA’s suburb has a soft spot in my heart. Being originally from Culver city I catch myself feeling nostalgic when visiting mama and entering that neck of the woods just south-east of Santa Monica. I’ll admit that after living in the valley for so long even I was apprehensive when I started reading these comparisons. I would have never thought to compare Van Nuys with Hollwood. There’s no theaters, no flashy lights, no venues. There are also no tourists in Van Nuys. Since I ride through Van Nuys every day I work to enter North Hollywood (the artsy district of the valley) I am beginning to finally understand what the writers were talking about. I’m not saying these are spot on, but a lot closer than many of us may presume.

I find that day by day I am enjoying my neighborhood more and more. Sure the valley has strong winds, and temperatures that can get to extremes (by LA standards) as opposed to our neighbors over the hill, but there is something about the peace and quiet that comes from a cozy little suburb that can’t be beat. There are city’s all over the valley that one could go for a more urban/ metropolitan experience, as well as another that gets away from it all and oversees most of the city by the mountain tops. The valley has a little bit of everything much like Los Angeles does, except were not as busy and as densely populated as everyone else.

Just today I went to Reseda to pick up lunch, catch the end of a bike race out in Encino, then finished my lunch at a nearby park only to head home after my five to ten mile, pancake flat route with little traffic and the majority of said route was on bike paths.

Some may call it boring, flat, hot, windy, and far away, but it’s home to me. It’s just close enough that if I do decide to take a trip into Downtown, Pasadena, Culver City, Koreatown, Echo Park, or Venice, chances are there is a convenient way to get there that will take under a hour of elapsed time. Not only that but places like boutique coffee shops and craft beer bars are showing up to expand their emerging horizons.

In summary, I like it here. I think I’ll stay for a little while longer.

Guest Blogger: AverageVeganDude – Living in Denial-The New American Pastime : A Vegan Makes His Case To Get Off The Standard American Diet

30 Jan

Meet our newest guest blogger, Christian, author of AverageVeganDude. Christian has a lot to say with his bio, so I’ll let him take it away!

“My blog is titled AverageVeganDude not because my health, intelligence or fitness levels are average, but in light of the fact that we are all just everyday people living average lives. Some aspects of each of our lives are better than others and some worse. My point is that the sun doesn’t revolve around any of us myself included.

Born in Italy and living most of my life in Queens, New York and Philadelphia areas, I have come in contact with the very best and worst that cuisines have to offer. Unfortunately, I have spent most of my life consuming the latter. Well, probably not the worst but close to it. Having learned much over the last few years about the human diet, I accept the label of former bad eater now. Throughout my life I slowly started to gain weight, as many of us do in our 30’s and 40’s. I began feeling pretty old at 41. I knew I wasn’t living an optimal healthy life. I could be found at the gym weekly and did all the normal things people do but to no avail. I decided this had to change. I began to read about nutrition, foods and their effects on us. The transformation that occurred in me when I started to move away from a Standard American Diet (SAD) to a predominantly raw vegan diet was nothing short of amazing. I transitioned from vegetarian to vegan to raw vegan and never looked back. At 45 I am stronger, fitter and faster than I have ever been. I owe this to the raw vegan lifestyle and a good fitness routine.

This blog is meant to help those trying to find a better life for themselves and their families. I now realize that everyone is capable of attaining this amazing state of health without pills, medications or procedures. Maybe this craziness has become the American way as of late, but it is not the sensible way. True health and a better well-being can be attained by each and everyone of us on some level. It’s time to drop the SAD and get busy living a healthy, vibrant life with the remaining time we have on this planet.”

Follow AverageVeganDude on Facebook and Twitter! Welcome Christian!


2005 Toronto Film Festival - "Elizabethtown" Premiere

“Let food be thy medicine.” – Hippocrates

News flash – Our healthcare system is not broken. There I said it. It’s actually doing a good job. Our system in overdrive doing everything it can for us by placing a huge band-aid over our nation’s populace to stop the bleeding temporarily until such a time arrives when we regain our sanity as a people. Yes, we know we eat poorly and thus place our destiny in the hands of our nation’s physicians. We use pills and medications as our real life “get out of jail free” cards. Many of us poison ourselves with the food stuffs we consume and then blame the medical community for not healing us. Yes my friends our nation is living in denial when it comes to personal responsibility for our own health and well-being.

For clarity let’s omit the word “health” and substitute “disease” in the word healthcare. I think disease-care is more appropriate since no one is obtaining real health from taking the scores of pills and medications being prescribed. We are undergoing many procedures annually to correct the results of bad eating. Sure some conditions and diseases need medical intervention we can all agree on that. Every illness will not be cured by eating a greener, healthier diet, but the majority of illness in America occur through poor diet. We should have hit rock bottom already in this crazy frenzy over the last 50 years to correct ourselves with drugs, but it seems the use of medications by Americans is a still on the rise. It is a black hole with no way out.

Today there is no shortage of television and internet health experts who have the magic pill or device to make you healthy and feel young again. This madness is just part of the norm of everyday life now. Instead of looking towards our farmers for our health we have our “responsible” doctors who can at the drop of a hat write us a prescription for Viagra, Zoloft, Zocor, Lipitor, Celebrex, and Prozac.

” The doctor of the future will give no medication, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, diet and in the cause and prevention of disease.” – Thomas A Edison

1st big stomachThe causes of our nations many illnesses are a mystery to our medical community. They do not pinpoint the origins but they sure do have the answers, medication. Illnesses like autoimmune diseases, cancers, irritable bowel syndrome as well as growths, tumors and the like are unexplainable by our healthcare establishment most of the time. Maybe this is the cause, maybe that, but no one ever says they know. We sure do need a huge band-aid to control all of these unknowns. Seldom is diet discussed when we visit our family doctor for illness. Simply because we exist we acquire cancer and kidney stones. We just happen to stumble upon these various autoimmune diseases, diabetes or heart disease. Maybe the air quality is bad where you live or possibly a chemical came in contact with you when you were a baby. It’s a big smoke screen that makes the average Joe feel helpless in securing his own fate when it comes to health. I believe the answer is simpler than our doctors lead us to believe and it’s right under our nose. It’s our mouth and what we choose to put in it.

In 2013 our physicians have become our pushers. Seldom will you leave a doctor’s office without some form of medication. We pride ourselves on the medical advances made here in America. Our medical establishment has become as American as apple pie to us. But why are we the sickest nation on earth? Why don’t we demand better from our food system and our medical community? Is apple pie really American anyhow?

When we look at our foods and their influences, the health picture gets even grimmer. We are advised by likes of Paula Deen and Guy Fieri to slather everything in oil, butter and cream. Seldom does a dish leave the kitchen that is under 1000 calories per serving. There is little or no effort to present dishes that are actually good for the human body. Even while suffering from diabetes, Deen continued to put out book after book of her unhealthy concoctions. These chefs pray to our weaknesses for a profit. Who wouldn’t love a triple layered cake loaded with chocolate and whipped cream? It’s an easy sell to us and a good many celebrity chefs are willing to give you your drug of choice. Do you enjoy ground beef? Through the miracle of food television you can visualize 100 ways to cook it and top it with everything under the sun. Sure cardiovascular disease will soon follow but hey, that is not their responsibility. They are just giving you what you want, feel good food. What network wants a chef that makes a great zucchini pasta with sun-dried tomato sauce? I mean they wouldn’t last an episode on the major networks. Healthy food is what we eat when we are on a diet for one month out of the year. It seems as if though most of us are in the process of or have already given our personal health away to doctors that we meet for 30 minutes a year who barely remember our full names. It’s crazy to think that this is the norm in our society.

I sat aghast the other night watching an episode of a show I stumbled upon called Man vs. Food where the star shoved into his mouth a plethora of fried fatty foods saturated with all kinds of grease, oils and all around badness that was enough to make Dan McDonald faint. Restaurant patrons on the show would cheer the man to consume foods that we all know are bad for his health. What will the next television craze be? Cheering on a drug addict with a needle filled with heroine to give himself the ultimate high for our amusement? Are we all living in denial here in America? Are we truly all this stupid when it comes to food and health? Sure, occasionally I will meet someone who is 5 cans short of a six-pack, but I don’t believe we can all be this moronic.

istock_000001376368xsmallSo what’s going on here?
Why are the statistics so poor here in America when it comes to our health and wellness? If we are to believe the medical and pharmaceutical industries, we have the most advanced healthcare system in the world. I am not sure if it’s the most advanced but I know we dump a lot of money into it yearly. Surely we should be the healthiest nation. Eat to your stomach’s content because we have medications for everything and anything. Does our medical community promote health or just delay the inevitable for most Americans? Is our food system toxic and creating a huge medical burden on our nation? I would say so. There is only so much blue number 2, yellow number 5 and 6, red 40, msg, gluten, high fructose corn syrup, sodium nitrate and hydrogenated fats that we can consume before we all have serious health issues. Since all of our foods are laced with this substances, we are getting a healthy dose of these toxic as well as obesity causing additives daily. These are not natural foods and thus not what humans should consume.

So what is our government’s role in solving this exponentially growing problem? We did pick them to help us out here, didn’t we? Well unfortunately this is America and everyman is out for himself. It’s up to you to figure out the total amounts of these toxic food additives you’re consuming daily, weekly and yearly. Try to figure those numbers out while taking care of your 2.3 children, working 50 hours a week and managing your home. Impossible. So what can we do? We can either do something crazy like becoming a raw vegan and just simply scrap our food system all together or keep the status quo. OK, how about a diet predominantly high in organic fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds. Is that more doable? In my opinion it is not only a more sane decision and is better than slowly watching you and your family descend into a life of illness over time.

Why should we make the change now? Well the food system isn’t going to get better anytime soon, that I can promise you. These additives and chemicals are a large part of why we are ill and why we are seeing doctors at an alarming rate. Change might come, but it will be extremely slow and might take our lifetime and before real progress happens. The big corporations still push for more advancements in all the wrong directions. With DuPont and Monsanto pushing for GMO’s and more altered crops, we will have a long fight ahead. Corporate farms and Round-Up use isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

What other alternatives do we have as a person to get out of this downward spiral? Personal responsibility is the answer. Time to take the blinders off. We need to take our own health and the well-being of our families seriously. Why would anyone think that food manufactured and put in a box for an eternity is something you want to put in your body? The majority of Americans don’t actually believe these foods are good for them. We are leading fast paced lives that make it difficult to prioritize the foods we consume daily. We are a grab and go society and obviously we are paying the price with our health. Ribs smothered in BBQ sauce and ice cream slathered in fudge are readily available at the drop of a hat at our local franchise style eatery. We call this treating ourselves after a long hard week. Treating ourselves to cardiovascular disease and cancer?

We have to stop living in denial today. Not a year from now or 5 years from now but today. We know proper human foods are not produced in a factory by the many fast food companies. Our star-studded chefs have let us all down with recipes that deserve two thumbs down when it comes to health. I am pretty sure Ronald McDonald came along a lot later than man’s first steps on this earth. Our species survived relatively well prior to the invention of the Big Mac, so I have to figure that fast foods are not necessary for our survival. So let’s get them off our plates permanently. Over 99% of nutritionists state that we should NEVER consume fast food types of products. Not once a week or twice a week but NEVER. That speaks volumes.
3rdWe all know the correct answers. We aren’t stupid. We just don’t want to display our weaknesses to these foods to others. There is shame we feel when we consume these harmful foods. We all know a bagel and cream cheese is not a meal of health, but we justify it because we cannot get off the addictive additives that are in these foods. Companies knowingly addict us. They understand what they are doing. These multibillion dollar food manufacturers have labs not kitchens that test different levels of substances meant to addict us. They have chemists who put just the right amount of msg, salts, artificial sweeteners and other additives in our foods to give us just the right high. I think we all saw these type of tactics played out in the cigarette industry years ago with nicotine. After much denial there was no doubt the companies were using this substance to hook us on their particular brand. Although I have to say Joe Camel alone could convince many to try a pack. He seemed pretty cool in his day.

We are not as dumb here in America as we might seem to the rest of the world. We are pretty bright people. Our problem is that we are hooked, period. Because of this we love hearing “research” telling us coffee is OK for us, eat your cereals soaked in cow’s milk. There are plenty of “studies” that promote consuming artery clogging beef products as well as cancer and osteoporosis causing milk products. Some of the most disease forming foods are still being heavily promoted by even our government. These are big money industries with big money lobbyists. Business in Washington comes way before the health of the Average Joe here in America. Until we get real with ourselves and say enough is enough, we will continue down this road of medications and procedures to ease the damage from the sickening foods we are eating.

Sometimes I think being a raw vegan isn’t such a hard choice when we remove our blinders and realize the cards are stacked against us if we continue down the path of a SAD diet. Think about it America, it really isn’t such a hard decision. Start with yourself, then your family and friends. Maybe get on your computer and start a blog about your new-found health and try to help your fellow Americans get off the SAD.

Now that is as American as apple pie!

Guest Blogger: Carrie on Vegan – Photo Food Journal & Vegan Delish Giveaway

21 Dec

Our newest VBU! contributor is Carrie Forrest, author of Carrie on Vegan. Here she is in her own words,”I am a graduate student in public health nutrition and I write about my recipes and adventures in healthy, plant-based living. I recently released an app for iPhones and iPads called Vegan Delish that features 60 simple, vegan recipes with all kinds of cool features like a digital shopping list and social media sharing options.” Carrie is the first contributor to have an app – how cool is that? Love how everyone is so creative and inventive. Keep in touch with Carrie on Vegan through: Facebook, Twitter, and RSS feed. Also check out Carrie’s app Vegan Delish: iTunes Preview page, website, and Facebook page. Please welcome Carrie!

Good morning and happy “What I Ate Wednesday“! Today I’ll be showing a picture of everything that I ate yesterday. It is always an interesting exercise to document everything I eat in a day, plus I hope you find it helpful in some way.

Breakfast was some leftover green smoothie with some buckwheat groats and almonds on top:

Leftover green smoothie with buckwheat groats and almonds.

I went for a hike in Palm Springs around 9 a.m. Despite cloudy skies, I thought the mountains were so pretty:

Cloudy skies in the desert.

Alan and I hiked further than we have ever gone before:

Carrie on a hike.

We then went to Costco to try and beat the holiday rush, but it was still craziness. I stocked up on all kinds of fresh fruit, frozen fruit, frozen edamame, etc. It was a huge load:

Attention Costco shoppers...

After all of that, lunch was much appreciated. I make a big romaine and vegetable salad with my Wild Blueberry Zinger Dressing, edamame and mandarin oranges for dessert:

Big lunch salad with edamame and oranges.

Here’s a closer view of the salad:

Lunch salad with peppers and broccoli.

Yesterday afternoon was spent catching up on work and doing a few errands. I decided to try using the pressure cooker again after my successful experience last Saturday night. This time, I just used brussels sprouts, collard greens, mushrooms, onions and water:

Ingredients for pressure cooker.

I checked with Jill Nussinow’s fantastic book, The New Fast Food, for the cooking times on the sprouts and the greens (don’t forget to enter to win a free copy of the ebook here!). I settled on a cooking time of two minutes for everything and I estimated about a cup of water. I added it all to the pot:

Sprouts, mushrooms, onions and water in the pressure cooker.

The chopped collards went on top:

Collard greens in the pressure cooker.

I locked on the lid, set the timer to two minutes on high pressure, and sat back and hoped it would turn out okay. I figured the worst that could happen would that the sprouts would be undercooked:

Fingers crossed that this works!

While I waited, I also made a really easy cream sauce for the veggies. After all, who wants to eat plain steamed greens? To make my typical cashew cream sauce less fattening, I substituted garbanzo beans for half the nuts in this recipe. I was so pleased with the results, the sauce was still very, very creamy and flavorful:

Cashew & Bean Sauce.

Here’s the recipe:


Cashew & Bean Sauce

6 servings


1/2 cup raw, unsalted cashews

1 cup cooked garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

1/4 cup nutritional yeast

2 teaspoons dried onion flakes

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

1/4 teaspoon dried mustard

1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes

1/2 cup unsweetened soy milk

1/2 cup white wine vinegar


Combine ingredients in a high-speed blender and process until smooth.


I used the quick-release setting on the PC when it was done and here’s what it looked like:

Cooked veggies in the pressure cooker.

I was so happy that everything was cooked to perfection! It’s not exactly a beautiful dish, but here’s what the final product looked like:

Veggies with sauce.

I’m telling you, this was a hit and I’ll be making the same exact thing tonight for dinner.

For dessert last night, I made a version of my Chocolate Cherry Bomb that I’ll be posting in ice cream form on Friday. It was so decadent and yummy:

Cherry Smoothie.

That’s it! I hope you enjoyed this photo food journal.

To wrap up today’s post, I’m doing another giveaway of my recipe app Vegan Delish! I received 50 promo codes from Apple when we did our last update and I want to share them with you. If you already own Vegan Delish, you can still enter and you can give the code to one of your friends or family members. So, I’m giving the code to 50 readers selected at random who leave a comment on this post and who do any of the following things:

1. Tweet this message to your followers on Twitter “Check out Vegan Delish, the healthy #vegan recipe app for iPhones and iPads: http://bit.ly/TNOWnc.”

2. If you already own the app, leave a review on iTunes. Note: if you downloaded the app using a promo code, then Apple won’t let you leave a review.

3. Do something else to help me promote Vegan Delish, like tell your co-workers about it. Tell me what you did. I trust you.

You can do any or all of these things, just leave a separate comment telling me what you did. You have until Sunday, December 23rd, to enter.

Thank you for all of your support!!! I hope you have a great rest of your week and I’ll see you back here on Friday.

Guest Blogger: New Vegan Age – A perfect time to stop eating animals

20 Dec

Love when we have veteran posters come back! One such contributor is Tom of New Vegan Age. Please feel free to search the blog name on VBU! to read more posts from his lovely blog. Especially Kim Stahler’s post, featured on VBU!, caught a few people’s attention. Follow New Veagn Age on: Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and of course the blog itself. Welcome back Tom!

Would you be able to kill an animal? If not, and you still eat meat, you’re not living in alignment with your values.

I know, I know. People sometimes say, “Animals kill and eat each other. We’re no different.”

Well, as one of my heroes, Harvey Diamond, first pointed out to me in his brilliant Fit For Life books, could you kill an animal yourself? Could you do what other animals do—chase it down, strangle or smother it, tear it apart with your bare hands, and swallow it raw?

This deliciously-seasoned, nutritious,
colorful holiday stuffing is but one of
thousands of delicious recipes that
prove giving up meat isn’t a sacrifice.
If you react to this question with disgust—and couldn’t or wouldn’t yourself actually go through with killing a living being—you’re already a vegetarian in belief, if not yet practice. In addition to the growing number of health and environmental reasons to turn exclusively to plants for nutrition, many vegans and and vegetarians stop eating animals because they would not ask someone else to do for them what they themselves would not do.
“I would not kill a creature,” said another of my heroes, Peace Pilgrim. “And I would not ask someone else to kill it for me, so I will not eat the flesh of the creature.”
Other signs that you might “already” be a vegetarian or vegan include:
  • You find the sight—or even idea—of a butchered animal or slaughterhouse unsettling.
  • You sometimes sense a “vague uneasiness” when you buy, order, or eat animal products.
  • You sometimes feel like you’re not living in alignment with your “true self.”
After Thanksgiving 1997, I realized I no longer wanted to have others kill animals on my behalf, and I declared that holiday the last time I’d ever eat turkey. A month later, I made Christmas the last time I’d ever eat ham. That New Year’s Day’s became a natural time to celebrate the “good luck” tradition of pork and sauerkraut with the resolution to never eat animals again.
You know, the holidays are the perfect time to give yourself, the planet, and animals this gift. It’s already a time of reflection, of renewal, of gratitude, of introspection, of compassion, and, of course, of commitment. If the thought of killing your dog or cat—or any animal—gives you a lump in your throat and a knot in your stomach, you’re already a vegetarian in belief, and you’re ready to take this exciting next step.
Best of all, there’s no sacrifice at all in being vegetarian or vegan, only the rewards of a rich variety in food, improved health, and a much lighter spirit.

Guest Blogger: Saving the World One Bite at a Time! – Let Them Eat Kale: Vegan Nutrition 101

26 Sep

Please welcome back Rachael, author of the blog Saving the World One Bite at a Time! Here’s a bit about Rachael, Rubber Cowgirl is named for her boots!  Six years ago, she read Skinny Bitch and decided to go Vegan.  Her life has never been the same!  Her health improved, her jeans got a lot smaller, she learned how to cook and how to grow a garden.  Going vegan is the most delicious way to secure your own health and protect our planet, so eat your greens! Follow Rachael on her blog, and Twitter. Welcome Rachael!

Let them eat Kale!
(If I were Queen, I would have my subjects eat a healthy diet.)
Thanks to the accessibility of recent films such as Forks Over Knives and the endorsement of celebrities like actress Alicia Silverstone and President Bill Clinton, plant-based eating is gaining popularity.  More and more people are becoming curious about the impact of diet on personal health and the world at large.
For a long time, I’ve been the only vegan that many of my friends and family know.  Having consistently advocated the health benefits of plant-based eating, I suddenly find myself their resident expert on the subject.  As you can imagine, I’m more than happy to answer any of their questions – and glad I did my research!
The first questions I get are usually about nutrition.  If you don’t eat meat, where do you get your protein and iron?  No milk?  Where does your calcium come from?  Do you suffer from a B12 deficiency?  Anemia?  What about those good fats that are only in fish?  For the veg-curious and all the newbies out there, I provide the following breakdown.
Gorillas eat plants.
Protein is easy.  All plants have protein.  Elephants eat plants.  Gorillas eat plants (and the incidental insect).  Gorillas don’t eat bacon and eggs for breakfast, cheeseburgers for lunch and fried chicken for dinner.  If they did, they’d be going extinct from heart disease rather than loss of habitat and poaching.
I don’t suggest worrying about protein; a newborn baby gets all the nutrients it needs from its mother’s milk – only 8% of its dietary intake is protein, and that baby is growing at an incredible rate.  If 8% is optimal for developing infants, the adult recommendation should certainly be less.  Eating a colorful plant-based diet with lots of variety will provide more than adequate amounts of protein for your daily needs.
Protein-rich Plant Food
Nuts, seeds and whole grains are all rich in protein.  Add some cashews or peanuts to a stir fry.  Sprinkle sesame or sunflower seeds in your salads.  Try some peanut butter on sprouted-grain toast with a glass of almond or hemp milk for breakfast.  Rice comes in many varieties – golden, rose, basmati, forbidden, wild; try out some different grains like millet, barley, buckwheat or oats, or mix up a signature blend.  Quinoa alone is a complete protein with over 8g per serving!  Legumes like lentils, soybeans and chickpeas are packed with protein.  Sample some hummus for snacks or make some delicious Chana Masala for dinner.  Soy products include tofu, tempeh, miso, milk and other dairy substitutes.  Berries have the highest protein content of any fruit.
In Latin, ferrum.  One of my favorite elements.  I was born in a town called Iron River.  The fourth most common element in the Earth’s crust, iron should be easy to find.  All dark green leafy vegetables have iron; there’s parsley, spinach, kale, swiss chard, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, broccoli and collard greens, to name a few.  Vitamin C helps your body absorb iron, so squirt a little lemon juice on your kale or add a kiwi to your green smoothie.
Clockwise from left: dried coconut, mixed rice, pumpkin seeds, red and white quinoa, sunflower seeds, buckwheat groats, green lentils, red lentils, French lentils; Center: madadamia nuts, chickpeas
All those protein-rich seeds and legumes mentioned above have iron, too.  Soy products, chickpeas (hummus), cashews, pine nuts, coconut, sesame seeds (Sesame oil! Gomashio! Tahini!) and blackstrap molasses have loads of iron.  Even baked potatoes have iron – try topping one with a drizzle of tahini and some minced fresh parsley.
Symptoms of iron deficiency include ridged or brittle fingernails and restless leg syndrome.  I used to get that jiggly-leg thing all the time before going vegan, but back then I wasn’t paying a lot of attention to my diet.  I must not be anaemic now, because my legs are restful and my fingernails are smooth and strong.  I also love me some beans-n-greens!  Ingesting too much iron can be more harmful than too little; excess iron in the bloodstream leads to the creation of free radicals, which can harm your DNA, so please be careful with supplements.  In my opinion, it’s best to get all your nutrients from your food.
Don’t you worry about iron!  Just eat your spinach, baby.

Vitamin B12 and Pro-Biotics
B12 is synthesized by neither plants nor animals; it is a product of certain micro-organisms and is found in fermented food.  B12 is required in the smallest amount of any nutrient – just ten tiny micrograms per day are enough; even fewer if B12 is supplied on a daily basis.  VeganHealth.org advises, “If relying on fortified foods, check the labels carefully to make sure you are getting enough B12. For example, if a fortified plant milk contains 1 microgram of B12 per serving then consuming three servings a day will provide adequate vitamin B12.  Others may find the use of B12 supplements more convenient and economical.”  If you choose to take a supplement, read the label to make sure it is dairy- and gelatin-free.
Nutritional yeast (those flaky yellow sprinkles with a cheesy/nutty flavor) is often fortified with B12 and is also full of protein.  Spirulina (astronaut food!) and other algae and sea vegetables have lots of important minerals and vitamins, including B12.  Try adding a scoop of spirulina powder to a green smoothie.  Kombucha is a fizzy, tangy fermented beverage dating back thousands of years; fortified with a full complement of B vitamins it provides an energy boost along with antioxidants and all kinds of probiotics for your digestive tract.  In fact, probiotics are generally found in fermented foods – pickled vegetables, like sauerkraut, and soy products like miso and tempeh; live cultures are also added to soy and coconut yogurts.
Vitamin B12 and Probiotics
If you’ve been relying on dairy products as a source of calcium, please reconsider.  Although dairy products are high in calcium, their high protein content can actually deplete calcium reserves.  Your body draws calcium from the bones to neutralize the pH of your blood if it becomes too acidic; meat and dairy are acid-forming when consumed.  Because of their low phosphorous content and alkaline nature, calcium from plant sources is much more readily utilized by the body.
So which plant foods have calcium?  You guessed it – beans and dark, leafy greens.  Almonds, oranges, kelp, blackstrap molasses and sesame are also rich in calcium.  Don’t forget your 15 minutes of sunshine – Vitamin D aids calcium absorption.  To get those D vitamins activated, you need magnesium.  Found in greens like collards and spinach, other magnesium-rich foods include okra, artichokes, dates, papaya, pumpkins and sweet potatoes.  If you want strong, healthy bones, try some almond milk and chopped dates in your breakfast cereal, or a yummy tofu and arugula salad with tahini dressing for lunch.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids
These poly-unsaturated fatty acids are considered ‘essential’ because our bodies do not synthesize them, yet they are vital for normal metabolism.  Plant sources of Omega-3 abound – 1/4 cup of walnuts has a higher concentration of Omega-3 than 4 ounces of salmon.  Let the little fishes swim!  Instead of squishing them up into ‘fish oil’ try some extra-virgin olive, sunflower, pumpkin or hemp oil; beans and winter squash also have Omega-3 in small amounts.  The highest Omega-3 concentration of all is found in flax seeds, and sea algae has high levels of Omega-3 DHA.
Flaxseed has other health benefits as well; its antioxidant-producing lignans might even help prevent cancer.  Ground flaxseed makes a great egg replacer; if you’re baking, “For one egg, simply mix 1 Tbsp flaxseed meal with 3 Tbsp water in a small bowl and let sit for two minutes.  Add to a recipe as you would an egg.”  For a good dose of Omega-3 fatty acids, add some ground flaxseed to pancakes for your next Sunday brunch or try using it in a batter for veggie tempura.
Plants are good for you!  If you eat a wide variety of fruits, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, mushrooms, vegetables from land and sea, and something fermented, you will get all the nutrients your body requires.  Try everything that’s in season.  Include as many different colors in each meal as you can.  Do your own research – satisfy your curiosity.
Here’s some recommended reading to get you started:
Diet for a New America by John Robbins
Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin
Many thanks + kisses to Gear for the delicious lunch he made me while I was writing today:
Sweet yellow onion, Yukon gold and Japanese sweet potatoes sautéed in lime-infused extra-virgin olive oil with fresh rosemary, sea salt + curry powder, served with fresh cherry tomatoes and steamed arugula.  Healthy, colorful and delicious!
Here’s wishing you Good Health and a Healthy Appetite!

Guest Blogger: Cadry’s Kitchen – What to do when the joke’s on you

21 Sep

Always great to meet new (to me) vegan bloggers. Please meet Cadry, she is the author of Cadry’s Kitchen, here she is in her own words:  “A longtime kale & chickpea enthusiast, you’ll find me cooking up delicious plant-based fare at my blog, Cadry’s Kitchen, which is also home to the only claymation cooking video on the web.  I was a recipe contributor for Vegan’s Daily Companion, the online version of 30 Day Vegan Challenge, and The Compassionate Cooks Club.  My other interests include making hand-built pottery, biking, hiking, and keeping my cats amply supplied with nutritional yeast flakes.” Follow Cadry on her blog, Facebook and Twitter. Welcome Cadry!

Someone recently found my blog by searching, “My friends tease me because I’m vegetarian. What can I do?” Hey, searcher, this post is for you!

I don’t know how often you re-watch movies of the 1980’s, but my husband and I were flipping channels a few weeks ago and came upon Roxanne. For those of you who don’t know it, it was a modern-day take on Cyrano de Bergerac, with Steve Martin playing a man named C.D. who rocked an unusually large nose. Thinking that no one could find him attractive, he wooed the woman of his dreams through his handsome friend. In one scene, a man at a gathering called Martin’s character “Big Nose.” Martin launched into what became a stand-up routine of all of the better styles of jokes at his expense that the guy could have used.

Fashionable: You know, you could de-emphasize your nose if you wore something larger. Like… Wyoming.

Sympathetic: Oh, what happened? Did your parents lose a bet with God?

Obscure: Oh, I’d hate to see the grindstone.

I’ve been writing a lot in these past few weeks about things you discover when you first go vegan, and one that definitely comes up is that you’ll hear a lot of jokes. I think there are many reasons for that, and one of the biggest is that jokes, as a tool, are used to diffuse an uncomfortable situation. When we, as people, are suddenly aware of ourselves or our habits in a way that makes us feel defensive or uncomfortable, jokes are an easy release valve. They’re a way of voicing that discomfort in a socially accepted way.

That’s understandable and something we all do in one way or another at times. However, when veganism is totally new to you, and you’re suddenly getting teased regularly at mealtimes, it can get… tiresome. Jokes also highlight beliefs that separate us and that unite us. Sometimes when you’re a new vegan and the only one in the group, jokes create an interesting us-versus-them power dynamic, which can feel very startling when you’re suddenly in the minority.

As a new vegan, what do you do? Become grumpy and have people think you’re a spoilsport? Or laugh even when the joke is at your expense? (I mean, to the bald guy, is the 10th bald joke funny? Probably not.) Plus, when a person is vegan for the animals, it can feel like the joker-in-question is not only laughing at you, but also making light of the victims of the meat, dairy, and egg industries, who you care about.

Something that worked for me when I was newly vegan and meeting up with people who were very vocal about their differing ideologies was to take it all in as if I were watching a documentary. The jabs and jokes didn’t really have anything to do with me, even though it could feel very personal. These statements said more about their views than they did about me. I tried, not always successfully, to observe with curiosity and without attachment. (This advice goes for misguided jokes. Obviously if someone is being cruel, that’s another story…)

This past summer, my husband and I went to a grill out at a public campground. It was with a group of people that we didn’t know well, most of whom I was meeting for the first time. We brought cookies to share and Field Roast sausages and vegetables to grill. We have a mini grill that we like to use on those occasions that we’ll be cooking out with people who are grilling animal flesh, especially when public grills are involved. I think it’s easier and more pleasant to have my own grill, spatula, and tongs, and then I can keep our food animal-free. Anyway, we set up our grill not far from where some guys in the group were also cooking. They noticed that we had our own grill and were inquisitive about why.

When I told them that we’re vegan one of the guys chimed in with, “Oh, so do you have room for a cow heart on your grill?” He said it as if it were a joke, but it’s kind of insensitive and aggressive when you look at the face of it. If I’d been like Martin’s character in Roxanne, perhaps this would have been the time I pulled out the many jokes I’ve heard over the years:

Classic: Oh, you’re vegan? I’m a member of PETA. People Eating Tasty Animals.

Culinary: Yeah, I love animals too. Next to the mashed potatoes.

Philosophical: If God didn’t want us to eat animals, why did he make them of meat?

Instead I smiled and said, “Nope. We don’t have any room for that.”

As has been common in these last few posts about veganism… It gets easier. First, the jokes slow way down. After a while, people run out of jokes or they’ve already said their best ones, and so it’s not an interesting topic anymore. It’s old news. Second, people get more comfortable with you being vegan. They don’t need to diffuse an uncomfortable situation, because they aren’t uncomfortable. Third, they realize you’re still the same person you always were and that you’re going to keep being vegan. There’s no reason to continue commenting on something that’s not going to change.

So now the times when I hear jokes it’s in one of two circumstances – when I’m just meeting people and it randomly comes up or when I’m with people I know very well and who are comfortable with me being vegan. In the first case, it’s easier now to give people slack. I get it. There was a time that veganism seemed very foreign to me too. The only way that I can communicate that vegans are warm, and open, and have a sense of humor is if I give the same compassion I want to receive and the same compassion I want the animals to receive. In the second, now when my close family and friends joke with me about veganism, it’s good-natured. They know I care very deeply about animals. They get it. And it feels entirely different when a joke is made that’s born out of long conversations and shared history. It’s the kind of joke that recognizes our commonality.

Oh, and one more little thing… Why did the vegan cross the road? Because he was protesting for the chicken, man!