Monday, July 30, 2012

Vegan Starter Kit

Throughout the last six months, I've been steadily gaining more information about veganism. My journey started with health concerns and has slowly evolved into something much more. When people hear I'm vegan, among other questions that they ask, I'm often asked, "Why?!" The answer, at first, was clear cut: "For health reasons!" Now, six months later, I'm finding it harder to answer. It's not just moral or health concerns. It's not a mixture of all sorts of things wrapped up into one big concern.

I found the Vegan Starter Kit site one night and was overwhelmed with info (in a good way).  I'd recommend this site to anyone who is even remotely curious about going plant-based. I even thought that "vegan" had some sort of weird connotation to it and that automatically meant you would need to move out to a communal and make your own laundry detergent (haha). The more you delve into WHY people are actually vegan (and the reasons are countless), it opens up your mind to the benefits in health, the environment, spiritually and ethically.

Looking to go vegan? Check out these related posts below!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

5 Things I've learned Through Veganism

I recently read a blog post by Lindsay Nixon of Happy Herbivore. (On a side note, if you're interested in veganism and enjoy a great blog, be sure to sign up for her newsletters!) Reading this post reminded me of myself during my first couple of months as a vegan. I was slightly pushy. Okay, I was more than slightly pushy -- maybe even annoyingly pushy. I do apologize to anyone and everyone for this. I wasn't disapproving of everyone's else meal choices as much as I was frustrated and saddened with the overall food situation of America.

Again, I'm already sounding preachy. I feel like I was in on this little secret of how terrible the food really was for our bodies and upset that others didn't quite see it yet or even want to believe it. I felt like the crazy person in the room that was trying to convince others of the information that I'd read or watched. I had hoped that I wasn't coming off this way, but I do know that I was now. Since the two-month mark, I feel I've greatly improved in this arena.

Here's a few things I have learned:

1. Change can't be forced. My attitude towards food in the first couple of months was pretty harsh. I kept thinking, "Why would anyone want to slowly kill themselves with food?!" I've since learned that I can only take control of my own health and be a silent motivator. People are put off by overbearing vegans who are snappy. I now strive to be open and informative when asked. I don't try to give unwanted information since this method does not work.

2. Not everyone wants to think about where their bacon came from. Most people (even me over six months ago!) will happily eat their crispy strips of bacon, sunny-side up eggs and a tall glass of cow's milk before thinking twice about it. Even I was blocking out animal rights when I first decided to become a vegan. When you Google "vegan", undoubtedly you will find some things that are uneasy to watch or hard to read about animals being "processed" for us to consume. It's not easy, but definitely beneficial to know where your food really comes from, good or bad.

3. I am not a doctor. However, I do have a vegan doctor who is monitoring my health very closely. I've read several books, watched countless documentaries, researched lectures from the top doctors in veganism and strive to learn as much as I possibly can about the topic. I definitely didn't do that when I was consuming fast food or gorging on chocolate! My bloodwork recently proved that yes, what I am doing is making a huge difference. With a drop of 80 points in my total cholesterol, and all of my numbers well within the healthy range (some in optimal), I know I can trust Dr. Linda Carney with my health!

4. People are just curious. When you consider that only 1% of the US population is vegan, you begin to understand why people are confused and often misinformed about this lifestyle. As friends, family and coworkers saw me with more energy and less of my "extra" pounds, I was suddenly bombarded with many questions which I tried to honestly and intelligently answer.

5. Inspiration happens when the preaching stops. A funny thing happened after I got off of my high horse. People started responding positively to my change. There seemed to be less hostility towards my new lifestyle and more genuine interest. Coworkers were noticing, friends were making the switch and even my mom started to be more receptive. To date, I've inspired five people (that I know of). I'm not attacking anything anyone else does, but I am trying to support something that can be a phenomenal benefit to everyone's health!

Moral of the story: LEAD BY EXAMPLE!

Looking to go vegan? Check out these related posts below!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Protein in a Vegan Diet

When I first decided to make my switch, I was reluctant to tell anyone. As soon as people starting to find out, I chose to be pretty open about all of it. I've recently wrote a post on different questions that I was frequently asked, but one of the top on the list was, "How do you get your protein?!"

There's plenty of information out there about how vegans actually get their protein. People tend to think that we need tons of protein every day, but that just is not true. According the Pyhsicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Americans are taking in twice the amount of protein they really need.

Too much protein?!  You've probably never heard of that. I hadn't heard of it either, but after doing more research, I was shocked to find that "too much protein" can lead to all sorts of problems, including osteoporosis, cancer, kidney stones and kidney disease, to name a few. According to Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, animal protein accelerates cancer and atherosclerosis, while plant protein does not.

Here's a few links that may help you better understand protein in a vegan diet:
The Vegetarian Resource Group: Protein on a Vegan Diet
Engine 2 Diet: Can I Get Enough Protein Eating the Engine 2 Plant-Based Diet?
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine: The Protein Myth
Mayo Clinic: Healthy diet: End the guesswork with these nutrition guidelines
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Nutrition for Everyone: Protein
Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn: Q&A Daily Protein Requirements

Looking to go vegan? Check out these related posts below!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Happy Herbivore's Nacho Cheeze

I've loved cheese ever since I was six months old. Mom likes to tell me how she and my grandma would feed me broccoli and cheese soup at that age. When I made my switch, cheese was definitely the hardest to give up. Until I gave in two months into my veganism. I was at a company party and the brie was just too tempting. I told myself I was rewarding my good behavior so far in my change. Now I'm reminded of this quote I saw on Pinterest

From months two to four into my change, I decided I would let cheese slip back in. No big deal, right? Well, I did gain back 6 lbs. of the 15 that I had so proudly lost during the two previous months. And when I went to my appointment with my doctor to get some feedback on my bloodwork, I confessed. She then gave me a five minute explanation as to why I needed to give it back up. It's been roughly 45 days and I can see the difference. I dropped the 6 lbs. I had gained and then some. 

As you can imagine, it's definitely been really hard! I had to find a replacement. Luckily, I was browsing Happy Herbivore for a cheeze recipe, and I quickly found one. Here's some pictures below of  the last batch that I made. It's super yummy and easy to whip up if you're missing cheese. I've eaten it with chips or even scooped some on top of an entree. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Vegan Inspiration & Motivation

During my five months of veganism, I've held several meaningful conversations with many people that have inspired their own personal dietary changes. A few weeks after I'd made my switch, I met up with a former coworker that I hadn't seen in a while. After she mentioned I was looking "good", I quickly proceeded to tell her about my new and exciting journey that I was on. She seemed interested, so I told her I'd help her get started if she wanted to make the same switch.

At home I was sharing little pieces of research with my husband and cooked plant-strong meals for both of us. Slowly, he started to make the same changes and eventually lost 30 lbs. during the last five months. He's now on board with our lifestyle and even stood tall during our last family visit while adhering to our beliefs and sharing his reasons as we munched on veggies and fruits.

Even at work I was holding several conversations during my lunch breaks with some coworkers and now make lunch outings to discover new vegan options offered in our city. Many of them are supportive and share interesting recipes and tidbits of research with me on a daily basis. (You guys rock!) It's been amazing to have so much support!

Most recently, I had a vegan pizza dinner and invited a friend over to share this yummy meal. We started talking about my lifestyle and I offered up my Engine 2 Diet book for them to borrow. Since then, we've made trips to the grocery store, farmer's market and shared some of our dishes straight out of the oven.

I was personally inspired by a former colleague of mine at my last job. She has been a huge supporter of my change. I only hope to be as supportive and inspiring to others. After I started thinking about all of the knowledge I've learned and attempted to share it with anyone who's interested enough to listen, I realized that my efforts have not been wasted. If you is interested in learning more or are just veg-curious, I'd be happy to help guide, inspire and motivate you.

Looking to go vegan? Check out these related posts below!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Veganism & The Environment

I've recently set up a Google Alert for "vegan diet" that usually provides me with a nice assortment of interesting information in the world of veganism. This infographic popped up recently and upon sharing it with some of coworkers, it also seemed to interest others, as well! Check out this beautiful inforgraphic here, made by

If you think you're doing good by switching to Hybrid car, here's a reality check. You can reduce your carbon dioxide emissions by a half-ton more per year if you had a vegan diet. There's some pretty stunning numbers on this infographic that can make an omnivore at least consider their current impact if not alter it!

Veganism by the numbers.
Infographic by

Looking to go vegan? Check out these related posts below!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Fruit "Ice Cream"

My family was always a huge fan of ice cream. It would be rare not to find a half gallon of Blue Bell Ice Cream in the freezer and I just never really thought about not eating it. Well, when I gave cow's milk the boot, so too did I have to give up the ice creams that I knew and loved. Instead, I started whipping up my own version.

I first saw Rip make some banana ice cream in The Engine 2 Kitchen Rescue. You can pretty much take any fruit(s) and blend them into a creamy "ice cream". Here is my easy recipe that I follow whenever I have a craving!

Fruit "Ice Cream"
yields 2 servings

2 c. fruit (peaches, bananas, pineapples, mangoes, strawberries, etc.)
1/4 c. non-dairy milk (almond milk)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
handful of almonds

1. Blend the fruit and milk until smooth.
2. Add in the vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg.
3. Top with a handful of almonds.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Metabolism Boosting Foods

I'll take a break from posting vegan stuff for one day! Here's a great "cheat" sheet for some amazing foods that can help boost your metabolism. This is a repost from my friend (Tessa, you rock!). Enjoy! 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Chocolate Tofu Pudding

I used to eat chocolate like crazy six months ago. Whether it was a Hershey's candy bar, Snicker's, Reese's or even a bag (yes, a BAG!) of semi-sweet chocolate chips, I did not care! Once I made my switch, I decided to cut my consumption way back. I couldn't be so careless anymore with chocolate! But a little bit of chocolate is good, you say? For the anti-oxidants? Yes, I know that, but when you eat tons of chocolate, the good benefits are buried beneath the gorging of the product.

Not long after I swore off chocolate candy, I had a breakdown. I needed chocolate. I began looking for a vegan chocolate pudding recipe and after trying a few, I just decided to make up my own! I brought a small cup to work and let my coworkers give it test run. Needless to say, they definitely approved. I suggest topping it with fresh strawberries and some almonds. Try it out and let me know what you think!

Chocolate Tofu Pudding
yields four small servings

1/4 block of tofu, crumbled
1/4 c. peanut butter
1/4  c. 100% cocoa powder
1/4 c. almond milk
1/8 c. coconut palm sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
four strawberries

1. Blend all ingredients in a blender or food processor. 
2. Top with almonds and strawberries.

*I generally only eat one serving of the pudding and store the rest refrigerated in a container for the next few days. This pudding keeps well and tastes great up to three days later (although mine never lasts that long)!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Happy Herbivore's Spinach Artichoke Dip

I am so glad that I discovered Happy Herbivore. Lindsay Nixon is all about plant-based, low-fat and easy to make recipes. After I "liked" Engine 2 on Facebook, they soon starting posting about Lindsay and I fell in love with her recipes. I was a terrible cook (and still a work in progress), but have found her recipes to be simple and delicious.

A while back, I pinned Lindsay's spinach artichoke dip and tried it out finally. I brought a batch to work and everyone devoured it. I used frozen spinach (half a bag) in lieu of the fresh, but it's still pretty good! With only six ingredients, it was something I could definitely handle. I suggest "liking" Happy Herbivore on Facebook so you don't miss out on any great recipes. Here's my slightly modified version of the dip!

Happy Herbivore's Spinach Artichoke Dip
yields 4 cups

6 ounces spinach, fresh (or 1/2 bag of frozen)
2 whole garlic cloves
15 ounces canned artichoke hearts quartered,dained
½ cup almond milk
3/4 cup nutritional yeast
2 tbsp whole wheat flour

1. Cook spinach in pot on high heat with a thin layer of water until dark green. If using frozen spinach, heat on stove the same way.
2. Remove from heat and drain.
3. Add spinach, garlic, artichokes and almond milk to food processor and blend until smooth.
4. Place mixture in the pot and stir in nutritional yeast and flour.
5. Cook on medium heat until warm and serve with tortilla chips.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

When "fat free" really means 100% fat

I don't know about you, but I always sprayed my pans and cookie sheets with lots and lots of Pam. It's how I grew up! You spray that pan like it's an endless bottle of spray and just go to town on it. Dietician Jeff Novick describes why "Fat Free" isn't really fat free. Chances are, you are overspraying. I've switched to cooking with vegetable broth instead of cooking spray. The video below talks about cooking with these sprays!

My doctor highly recommended his videos and he has a really great Fast Food series that I've seen only a fraction of. Below is a segment where he talks about finding foods in the store that are quick to make and healthy for you. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Veggie Pizza

A friend recently said, "I would miss pizza if I were vegan!" Fear not, this recipe has been a staple in my kitchen since I made my switch over five months ago. I never really had a recipe and ended up creating my own variation of pizza using a little trial and error. I finally have the perfect amount of mixture now for one large pizza.

No, you don't have to give up your beloved pizza if you go vegan. You just don't top it with pepperoni or cheese! Check out my fool-proof and easy recipe below.

Veggie Pizza
yields 8 slices

1/4 block of tofu
2 cloves garlic
8 baby bella mushrooms
1/4 c. onion, chopped
1/8 c. green bell pepper
1/8 c. red bell pepper
1/8 c. yellow bell pepper
1 tsp. cilantro (organic herb puree)
1 tsp. basil (organic herb puree)
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1 whole-wheat pizza crust
1 small jar of pizza sauce (use 8 oz.)
1/8 c. nutritional yeast flakes

1. Cut all the veggies.
2. Crumble tofu into bowl.
3. Stir in seasonings. Allow to marinate if you have time to allow for it!
4. Spread a layer of sauce onto the pizza crust and add layer of nutritional yeast.
6. Add veggie mixture and top with nutritional yeast.
7. Bake as directed on pizza crust packaging.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Interview with Kendan

Kendan, my husband, has been super supportive during my lifestyle change. Recently, I noticed he looked a little different. After asking him to step on the scale, we were shocked to see he had lost a total of 30 lbs. over the last five months! I'd been begging him to sit down and talk with me about why he's made the same changes and to find out how he feels about the switch.

What made you want to make this switch?
You had some pretty convincing arguments about the health stuff, so I just went along with it. It made it easier that you wanted to do it and I didn't have a problem with that.

Had you ever considered going vegan before?
In high school, I went vegetarian for a short period of time. I didn't really tell anybody about it and I just didn't eat any meat. No one really noticed. I'm not really a vegan, but have cut out many animal products -- I still have a leather belt that I wear and a leather wallet.

Have your reasons evolved since we made the switch?
It started out with health reasons but I've always been thinking about eating an animal in general. Why kill an animal to eat the meat, when you could eat something else instead? When we were at family gatherings and there was BBQ, no one else made a big deal about eating meat, so it didn't really cross my mind. It's just always been the norm.

What keeps you going strong with this lifestyle?
I've lost 30 lbs. over the last five months, so why would I go back to eating meat and animal products when I know that's what caused the weight gain in the first place?

What has been the hardest food to give up?
Every once in a while, I definitely want to have "regular" ice cream -- like Amy's Ice Cream -- or something with heavy cream fat in it.

You don't like my fruit ice cream?
No, it's good, but -- and I'm sorry to say this, but that Boston Cream Pie that Amy's had... pretty, pretty good.

Do you miss milk and eggs?
I really didn't drink milk, only with cereal and I haven't had cereal for a long time so it isn't that bad. I won't lie, I do miss eggs in baked items. The vegan carrot cake [without eggs] from Whole Foods is good.

What's the one meat that you really miss? (I hate to bring this up -- I don't want you to relapse!)
Well, when you eat the Bac'n Cheeze Burger [from Arlo's Food Truck], it is almost the same thing as a "real" bacon cheeseburger. It tastes pretty much the same, so it's not like I miss it.

This was a pretty big change for us. Has it been hard to change what you eat?
I just like food. And if the food is good, then I'll eat it. Can I cook this vegan macaroni? All this talk about food now... 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Heart Attack Proof

Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, MD, knows his stuff. As a former surgeon, he realized he was only treating symptoms of heart disease and not the disease itself. His son, Rip Esselstyn, is the frontman of the Engine 2 Diet and has endorsed a plant-based diet to help lower cholesterol and prevent other huge health problems many people face.

In this video, Dr. Esselstyn talks about becoming heart attack proof at the 2003 VegSource Healthy Lifestyle Expo.

Looking to go vegan? Check out these related posts below!
Where to Begin
Kitchen Overhaul
5 Tips for a Healthy Vegan Diet
Pinterest Plant-Strong Board
Top 5 Reactions to "I'm Vegan"
Protein in a Vegan Diet
5 Tips for Eating a Plant-Based Diet (Anywhere)
Veganism in a Nutshell (video)
5 Things I've Learned Through Veganism
Foods That Kill

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Bill Clinton on Veganism

Ellen was gung-ho about President Clinton's lifestyle change and I couldn't help but notice how Wolf Blitzer looks slightly puzzled or confused. Five years ago, President Clinton had quadruple bypass surgery and less than two years ago he was hospitalized with a clogged artery that required two stents. Months later he was down to his high school weight and eating a plant-based diet. I laughed when I watched the second video because it seems like Wolf was a little shocked or something about this diet.

They're both a quick watch and he drops several names in the second video that are worth Googling. I began my change with Rip Esselstyn's Engine 2 Diet, and his father, Caldwell Esselstyn, had a huge impact on the reversal of atherosclerosis in his patients with a vegan diet. Their names, among many others, have helped bring this information to light.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

American Fangs: Star-Spangled Banner Cover

It's the fourth of July and I'm proud to share this video that features my brother's band, American Fangs, with their cover of the Star-Spangled Banner. If you haven't checked them out yet, head on over to their website for even more awesome tunes.