Thursday, August 30, 2012

Healthy Vegan Spring Rolls

I had been wanting to make a batch of spring rolls for a long time, but I guess I was just scared for some reason. I have never worked with rice paper before and I wasn't exactly sure about the rice noodles, either. Luckily, there are easy directions to follow on both packages and I pretty much was winging it from there.

Pro tip: Head to the International section of your grocery store to find the rice noodles and rice paper. I think these would be the perfect quick appetizer to bring to a party or even holiday gathering. I taught my mom how to make these recently and she had fun learning how to roll them up and actually enjoyed the tofu that was inside. My coworker mentioned she adds herbs to hers, but I just went plain on my first couple of recipes.

Spring Rolls
yields 30 rolls

1 block of tofu
teriyaki or soy sauce
1/2 bag of rice noodles (~5 oz.)
30 rice papers
1/2 small purple cabbage, chopped (~3/4 c.)
1/2 white cabbage, chopped (~3/4 c.)
1/4 head of lettuce (~3/4 c.)
6 carrots, grated

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with foil for your tofu.
2. Slice tofu into thin strips and toss in teriyaki or soy sauce.
3. Space out strips onto the cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes, tossing them over after 15.
3. After tofu is placed in the oven, boil rice noodles for three minutes. Remove and place in colander to cool until the veggie mix is prepared.
4. Chop the veggies and toss in a large mixing bowl.
5. Prepare your "rolling" station and warm a bowl of water.
6. Submerge one sheet of rice paper for five seconds and move onto a cutting board.
7. Place one slice of tofu, a palmful of rice noodles and a palmful of the veggie mix.
8. Roll the paper like a burrito, tuck the sides and finish rolling.

Once you've rolled them all, you may have some leftovers, but you can always toss this into a stir-fry at your next meal. Dip these in a homemade peanut sauce or even just soy sauce. Enjoy!

Monday, August 27, 2012

How a Vegan Celebrates a Birthday

During the days leading up to my husband's 25th birthday, there was much discussion about the food we should eat. My husband and I have not been able to visit our hometown lately due to our busy work schedules (yay for adulthood!), and so it's quite an event when we do come into town. Luckily, both of our immediate families are within a five mile radius of each other, so our trip becomes more of a reunion the entire weekend.

My mom called that week and asked if it would be good to serve quail during my husband's birthday dinner. At this point, my husband was what I like to call a "quiet" vegan. He was totally on board with my veganism (and has seen his own great results), but was not shouting it from the rooftops like me. I told mom that no, he probably wouldn't enjoy quail for dinner, and that I would take care of coordinating the meal that night. I also knew he wouldn't be able to eat any cake from the nearby stores in our hometown since it's unheard of to make a cake without an egg or two, so I started to search for another option.

At the last minute, I found a couple of stuffed pepper ideas and started to consider substitutions for them (quinoa for white rice, adding veggies instead of meats). Then I pinned some neat ideas for his vegan birthday cake and settled on making one out of fruit! I packed my bags and loaded the car with our vegan-friendly foods and headed out of Austin, Texas to our hometown about an hour south of Houston.

The next night, I looked around the kitchen in amazement as most of our family members worked together on creating a big vegan meal. I was stunned to see how excited they were about the food and was thrilled to show them what a tasty vegan meal looks like! Before we sat down to eat, we whipped up a fruit cake in less than 20 minutes and I was quite proud of the finished product.

Overall, my husband's birthday was a success. We were able to spend some quality time in the kitchen with our families, create a fruit cake masterpiece from scratch, share some delicious food and spread a little more invaluable knowledge about our lifestyle. I can only hope that our food choices will help impact the rest of our family and lead them to the same conclusions that we've come to embrace!

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

Sunday, August 26, 2012

High School Love: Eight Years Later

I wrote the following post exactly one year ago! My husband and I are celebrating eight years together and almost two years of marriage this week and I'd like to add that without his support, I would have failed at veganism on day two. He's been amazing through this whole lifestyle change, and even joined in and has benefited, as well!

I knew my husband probably before he knew me. We attended the same (very) small high school, with around 61 graduates in our class. I'm sure he knew I existed when he transferred during my sophomore year, but he definitely didn't make that apparent to me.

I'm usually super loud and outgoing, and he is the exact opposite -- quiet and shy (unless you know him, then it's a completely different story). We started passing notes during our junior year and began dating at the start of our senior year.

Seven years (and two towns) later, we are newlyweds trying to grasp the ground and settle in to life as adults and as a couple. We've seen each other literally grow older physically, mentally and emotionally. We've been each other's support system and give each other a reality check when needed.

I credit my husband for giving me the support and encouragement that I needed to pursue my passion for writing during my college career and beyond. If there's one word I have learned about love and keeping up with a healthy relationship, it's "teamwork".

Saturday, August 25, 2012

5 Things You Didn't Know About Me

I was inspired to do a short version of Happy Herbivore's 10 Things You Didn't Know About Me. So here's my list of five!

1. I have a degree in journalism and used to dream about working into the wee hours of the night in the newsroom as a reporter. Unfortunately, the economy wouldn't allow for that dream to be realized with the decrease in ad sales which resulted in job cuts in the newspaper industry. I did work at a magazine as an Associate Editor, though!

2. I've been married for close to two years and have been with my husband for eight years. We met in high school, started dating as seniors, moved off to college together and settled here in Austin, Texas over four years ago. Yowza!

3. I'm a sucker for the band Rooney. After watching the Princess Diaries at the age of 14, I was in love with the lead singer [Robert Schwartzman] who is Mia's love interest in the movie. He also happened to be the reason that I had to shut down my first blog (The Little Red Journal, version 1.0). I had discussed in length some lyrics from Bow Down Daisy Duke and this led to an embarrassing teenage drama that I'd like to soon forget. Read more about that here. Also, I still rock out to Rooney!

4. I was a terrible cook only six months ago. I'm still not an Iron Chef, but my dad liked to joke that I couldn't even boil water. Fortunately, vegan cooking is super easy and straightforward and has taught me so much (inside the kitchen and out)!

5. I love DIY projects and have an entire board on Pinterest dedicated to this. I always like to change up the custom wreaths on my door and make homemade gifts for family during the holidays.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Vegan Docs: Planeat

I'm a big fan of absorbing information through documentary form. Below are two different trailers for the same movie: Planeat. I was so intrigued with the trailers that I rented the movie on Amazon that same afternoon. The movie focuses on shifting to a plant-based diet for health and environmental reasons. A couple of the people featured in the movie are my two of my favorites: Dr. Colin T. Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn.

Even watching just the trailers I have some emotions flowing that are pretty powerful. Check out the trailers below!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Vegan Book Review: Kathy Freston's Veganist

I had been making trips to my local discount bookstore in search of more knowledge on veganism when I stumbled upon Kathy Freston's fairly new book, Veganist. A couple of months ago, I wasn't really looking for anything in particular to read, but just curious about why other people were going vegan. There's tons of reasons why people decide to change their lifestyle, and I always love to learn more about this topic.

After finishing a few other books, I finally had some time to dedicate to Veganist. The book was gentle and kind, not forceful or brash. I felt like the author really wanted to convey the positive benefits of veganism and celebrated any changes that her readers made, no matter how big or small. She also repeats the concept of "leaning" into the lifestyle of veganism and breaks the book down into 10 promises.

I've already loaned this book out to a coworker since I was so influenced by it. Even though I had already committed myself to veganism, I was struggling with a cheese relapse and it helped me understand why I didn't want to continue eating that dairy product. Freston was recently on Ellen in April 2012 talking about her new book, The Lean. I may have to go pick up a copy of that one, as well!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Wondering About a Vegan Diet?

PETA released this really great infographic below on veganism. I recently answered lots of questions regarding my vegan lifestyle and was shocked at how easy it is to have a healthful diet when switching to veganism. Most of this infographic deals with many misconceptions, including protein, calcium and iron. A well-planned vegan diet is a great way to slim down, lower your cholesterol numbers and impact the quality of your life.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Engine 2 Diet: Kitchen Rescue

After I watched Forks Over Knives (for the second time!), I was eager to learn more about switching to a plant-based diet. The next suggestion on Netflix after I finished FOK was the Engine 2 Diet: Kitchen Rescue movie. The short film (at only 52 minutes in length) is packed with great tips and recipes that anyone can master by watching it! 

As I mentioned before, the movie is available on Netflix, and features two families as they begin their plant-strong journey. Rip Esselstyn, the son of Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, goes through their refrigerators and pantries to explain why the foods he is tossing can be harmful to your health. Fair warning: even foods labeled as "vegan" can be unhealthy!

Some of the recipes featured in the video include my absolute favorites: sweet potato lasagna, fruit ice cream and veggie pizza. These were a few of my staples as I made my transition and used the "firefighter" approach to the Engine 2 Program. Check it out below and see how the Engine 2 Diet can change your life! After six months of following the program, I had some dramatic results!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Cheese and Other Foods that Make Diabetes Worse

Since my mom was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes in January 2012, I started to pay attention more to how to manage and even reverse diabetes with a plant-based diet. When I first heard of her diagnosis, I felt like it was inevitable that I would have the same diagnosis soon. My health had been on the decline for a few years already and I wasn't quite ready to make my change yet.

Once I changed my lifestyle a full six weeks later, I learned more benefits of a plant-based diet and started to share the information with my mom. Of course, it really sucks to hear that you shouldn't be eating all of the things you've been eating for half a century, but in time she started to absorb the information.

Below is a quick five-minute video on foods that diabetics should avoid and which foods they should strive to eat. Dr. Neal Barnard, author of Dr. Neal Barnard's Program for Reversing Diabetes, and also the founder of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), has been a strong supporter of a vegan diet. Check it out below!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Results of Adopting a Vegan Diet: 6 Months Later!

Today is officially my six month mark of when I changed my lifestyle. On February 13th, I stepped on the scale at my doctor's office and decided that was not a number I was happy about. More importantly, I knew my past bloodwork didn't really give me much to brag about, either. I had already seen Forks Over Knives, my mom had recently been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes (and so had her mother within the last decade) and I was ready to make a change. I picked up the Engine 2 Diet book and ran with it.

The last six months have been challenging. I tried new exercise routines, learned how to cook in bulk and even found a way to satisfy my cheese cravings after falling off the wagon and experiencing a two month relapse with the dairy product. After seeing my doctor in June and receiving some good news, I decided to forgo the cheese and haven't had any since.

Is it hard? Well, sometimes it can be challenging, especially when many people around me don't eat like I do. I slightly miss some products, but now that I've embraced all of the research and information that I've accumulated over the last six months, I now know why I don't want to eat them anymore!

I'm proud of the fact that I've encouraged and influenced some fellow coworkers, friends and family members to think twice about nutrition and have strived to spread the knowledge that I've obtained. I've smiled when people are concerned about my protein and ask me hypotheticals to see if I would fall back into my old eating habits. I've learned so much and messed up a few times, but I got back on track quickly and redeemed myself.

My husband, friends, coworkers and family have all supported me and have kept me going strong even when I feel defeated. So the results are in: I've lost 25 lbs. to date, my total cholesterol has dropped by 80 points, my bad cholesterol dropped by 60 points and my resting heart rate and blood pressure have both improved. I know my heart isn't working as hard as it had to before, my eating habits have improved and I now crave fruit and vegetables instead of greasy burgers with a side of fries.

I'm here to help if anyone has any questions about veganism and I want you to know that you can have success with it, too! Whether you're looking to lose some weight, lower your cholesterol, reverse your diabetes or any other problems that can be solved with this amazing lifestyle, just let me know! It's really worth it when you feel better, look better and are the healthiest you've ever been in your life.

August 13, 2012

Sunday, August 12, 2012

DIY Coffee Table to Ottoman

I love mid-century modern furniture. A friend of mine was clearing out some things from her house and asked me if I wanted an old table that used to hold a fish tank. Once I saw it, I was in love. The coffee table was the perfect size and had the most amazing legs on it! A year later, I bought a new coffee table and stashed the vintage one under my bed.

After a while, I started to feel really awful about this. It was such a great piece and I used it every now and then. Pinterest has been really great for me to find awesome new ideas on repurposing your current items or even just redecorating. I stumbled upon some really cool ottomans and decided to repurpose the vintage table.

I promptly visited my local Hobby Lobby and snagged a fun fabric to "reupholster" the piece, along with a 2" piece of foam. The whole process took less than 45 minutes and turned out beautifully. There was an easy DIY that I followed, but here's how it turned out!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Colin T. Campbell: Resolving the Health Care Crisis

Dr. Colin T. Campbell recently spoke at TEDx about the health care crisis here in the U.S. We spend a lot of money every year on health, and there's plenty of money to be made by the pharmaceutical companies. Not only that, but the children of today are facing some rough statistics, including an increase of childhood obesity by threefold! 

Nutrition has been highly misunderstood (by me especially) and it's starting to show in our nation in the form of Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, strokes, heart attacks and so much more. Dr. Campbell has been researching nutrition for over 40 years and compiled years worth of research in the China Study. He promotes a whole food, plant-based diet and was featured in Forks Over Knives (which is currently free on Hulu).

By adopting a plant-based (vegan) diet, Dr. Campbell has found it will prevent, suspend or cure the following diseases: cancers, heart diseases, diabetes (I and II), obesity, acne, depression and Alzheimer's, just to name a few! I've personally experienced many health benefits including losing 23 lbs. (and counting!), lower cholesterol numbers and even a boost in energy and mood.

Check out the video below if you have 20 minutes to spare! This may just change your life.

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

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Vegan in the NFL: Arian Foster

I've been purposefully keeping mum about Arian Foster's new vegan lifestyle, which he announced in early June via Twitter. However, I'm am beginning to plan out my Fantasy Football team this season and the topic is still popping up in my Google Alerts for "vegan diet". I am super psyched that he is taking a stand for what he believes in and shudder at the ignorant comments I've been reading for weeks in response to this change.

The Texans nutritionist Roberta Anding supported his decision and carefully monitors the players' diets. Here's an excerpt from the Houston Chronicle's blog:
"Arian has been one of these guys I call a seeker, looking for optimum nutrition and variety,” Anding said. “In my working with him, he has been open to a lot of strategies to get him where he needs to be, not only as a professional football player but, more importantly, as an adult man who has a child and a wife. That’s the new NFL player. I don’t think Arian is unique.”
Finally some support! Everyone else who has been writing about this topic has been attacking veganism from every angle and not fully explaining what veganism really is. I've definitely enjoyed reading the sarcastic and uninformed comments on the articles. These sparked a tiny bit of annoyance in me, but I know that veganism is really just misunderstood.

Some comments I read on this particular article were a little ridiculous. Here is one of my favorites!
"Oh Great! Get him signed to a long term contract and he goes Vegan on us! He will never hold up to the grind and the pounding. Rescind his contract until he eats a Cheesburger! At least eat chicken and turkey Arian!"
I really hope this one was a troll comment, because I had a good chuckle after I read it:
"I wasn’t born a vegan, and neither was anybody else. The only other “vegan” athlete I know is a cyclist, and he eats salmon."
The point is, Arian Foster is a grown man who is taking responsibility for his own health! I'm now following him on Twitter because he is truly inspirational in the way that he is pushing aside the negativity and criticisms. I really think he is doing this for his personal beliefs and for reasons he may not feel obligated to explain (and shouldn't have to!). In any case, I'm happy that he's made this decision, no matter what the reason, and that he has already shed some light on the topic. I've told my fellow Fantasy Football leaguers that I'd take him off their hands during the draft...

And now, I will end with this retweet from July 18th that captures his spirit perfectly:
"Meat = points. Got it. I didn't have any rollover points? RT: A VEGAN Mr.Foster?? You just lost some big points with me sir." 
Looking to go vegan? Check out these related posts below!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Basil Pesto Spread

I've been kind of addicted to buying up cookbooks that have vegan recipes. My collection is growing weekly and I have been enjoying playing around with some of the recipes. Here was a basil pesto that we made from the The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions

We originally used the pesto to scoop inside of a couple of potatoes, but we had so much left over. I ended up using the extra as a spread on my veggie burgers that week, a dip for a snack and even with some pasta. I made some slight modifications and have the recipe below that we used!

Basil Pesto Spread
yields 4 cups

1 container firm tofu (16 oz.)
1-1/2 c. fresh basil leaves
1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
3/4 tsp. salt
pepper to taste
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 large cloves of garlic
2 tsp. onion poweder
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1-1/2 tsp. agave nectar
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. thyme

1. Add all ingredients to a food processor and blend until smooth. 
2. Scoop into baked potatoes, use as a dip or even toss with fresh whole wheat pasta.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Vegan Docs: Forks Over Knives

Forks Over Knives is the film that started it all (for me)! I probably watched this for the first time nearly a year ago. I knew I wasn't in good health and I knew I needed to make a change. I was definitely impacted by the movie, but you have to be ready to embrace the information completely and accept that it's time to make a change. Unfortunately, I was not ready to make my change yet.

Then I watched it again as a refresher in early February 2012. It was all making sense to me, yet I still wasn't sure how to go from fast food to a plant-based diet. The transition seemed so scary to me. A couple of weeks later, I was in my doctor's office for my yearly checkup. I stepped on the scale and made a face. "There's no way that can be right," I thought to myself. How did I gain 25 lbs. in less than four years?!

I already knew the answer. My husband lovingly (and jokingly) refers to the previous two years of my life as being on the "Netflix Diet". I had no problem making an unhealthy food (mac n' cheese, anyone?) and then plopping on the couch to watch a movie. This just wasn't working for me anymore. And it obviously helped me pack on the pounds. After this jolt of reality, I was more than ready to embrace the change.

I had no idea where to start, but I watched the movie for a third time and just decided to jump in with both feet. Cold turkey (excuse the pun). It wasn't easy and my journey is no where near complete, but every day I'm learning more and it's all starting to make so much more sense. What if what we are eating was actually slowly killing us?! Sounds crazy, right? It's not hard to understand why everyone you know is having strokes, heart attacks, on high blood pressure medication, high cholesterol medication and even cancer seems to be popping up more often.

I urge you to take the time and watch this movie (for free!) on Hulu below. It's an amazing resource that can start you on a journey in taking charge of your own health. There's even a great companion book to help you get started and a cookbook. Take note of how you feel today. If you aren't loving life and feeling amazing, then at least consider watching this!

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

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

5 Tips for a Healthy Vegan Diet

I recently read an article with a headline that screamed, "The scary truth about vegan diets". Are you scared yet? You shouldn't be! The article discussed some people who had actually seen some declines in their health including an unusually high number number of cavities (caused by overconsumption of carbs), weight gain and even a high cholesterol. 

The article clearly stated that a balanced, well-planned vegan diet can be healthy. I'm not sure what the people they interviewed we're eating exactly, but there is definitely a way for even vegans to be severely unhealthy. I like to refer to my own diet as a whole foods, plant-based diet.

You can sit on the couch, eat a bag of chips and call yourself a vegan. There's tons of vegan "junk food" that I have seen since making my switch. These junk foods are usually processed and overindulging on them can definitely have a negative effect on your health.

Here's some ways to ensure good health!

1. Find a great vegan doctor. I felt confident in my diet until everyone thought it was "too dangerous" or bad for my health. That's when I turned to Dr. Linda Carney to monitor my health and progress while I made my switch. She is monitoring all of my bloodwork numbers, answers all of my questions and addresses any concerns I may have.

2. Take a multi-vitamin and a B12 supplement. I won't go into details (because that's another post!), but it's important to ensure you are meeting your daily nutrients. has some great information on multi-vitamins for vegans. Also, Vegetarian Times has an article about choosing the right multi-vitamin. *For this topic, please be sure to discuss this with your doctor to see what they recommend!

3. Study up. It's not a requirement that you need to read every single book out there on veganism, but find a few that speak to you and learn all that you can. You'll find it easier to understand all of the benefits and the best way to plan balanced meals. Check out my Pinterest boards for vegan documentaries and books.

4. Focus on plant-based meals and not on junk food. If you find yourself reaching for a quick fix for dinner (aka vegan burger patties every night), try out cooking a casserole-style dish on Sunday afternoon that you can eat over a few days. If you get bored easily, plan smaller, quick sides that will pair well with the entree. Looking for ideas? My Plant-Strong Pinterest board has 340+ ideas! 

5. Keep fresh fruits and vegetables on hand at all times. Craving ice cream? Pass on the vegan versions you can find in stores and opt for homemade ice creams made with fruit! We generally have fresh fruit that we've cut so it's a quick snack instead of reaching for a bag of vegan chips or other junk foods.