Monday, December 23, 2013

The Biggest News Yet: We're Moving Back Home

We were visiting family the weekend before Thanksgiving last month, and as we packed up the car and started to make the trek back to Austin, my husband mentioned a position at his mom's work. To give you a little background, this weekend in particular was especially stressful for me. I had been in the hospital with my parents for my dad's heart scan. The doctor did not have to place a stent, thankfully, but he did tell my dad to lose weight. As the doctor talked about changing his medications, all I could scream inside my head were the words, "WHY AREN'T YOU TALKING ABOUT DIET?!?!"

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Happy Herbivore Light & Lean Cookbook + Giveaway

I've been a huge Happy Herbivore fan ever since I discovered Lindsay during the first few weeks of going vegan. I was amazed at how simple her recipes were and loved her personality through social media, blog posts, and reading her cookbooks. I was even honored to be featured a Herbie of the Week last year during my one year veganniversary! Overall, I highly recommend her cookbooks, and was excited to receive her latest Happy Herbivore Light & Lean.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Dad's Okra Goulash Recipe

Every time I visit my parents, there's always something ready for me to eat. My parents have been supportive of my plant-based lifestyle, and it's great to come home and see something on the stove that is vegan-friendly. Dad especially likes to cook and frequently omits meat and other animal products just so I can eat the same things they do. Without further ado, here's my dad's invention of Okra Goulash. Enjoy!

Monday, November 4, 2013

8 Things You've Missed On My Hiaitus

I'm sure my readers have noticed that I have taken another hiaitus lately. I promise I don't mean to do this! Life just sort of happens, and I've been crazy busy at work. I received a promotion and I'm now a project manager, which means more responsibility and I've found I'm a little more laid back on how I spend my free time, as a result. So my apologies to the readers out there who aren't seeing my content freshen as much as it used to!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Picking Up My New Hobby: Sewing

My husband has recently picked up his new hobby of homebrewing, and I've been toying with the idea of trying out something new, as well. For several weeks I thought about sewing, and wasn't even sure where to begin since I am an amateur. A friend let me borrow he sewing machine, but after three hours and lots of yelling via Skype with my parents.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Strategies for Staying Fit at Work

Guest Post By Cat Smiley 

Sometimes, even crack-of-dawn boot camp sessions don’t balance out an entire day of sitting in the office working nine-to-fives. Even with walking the stairs, ignoring the staff room cupcakes and trying to finish on time so that you can take your dog for a walk, the dilemma stands.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Downsizing My Closet and Nixing the Chupacabra Tee

Over the last few days, I have given much thought to my closet and everything in it. Even as I sit here, I'm thinking of letting go another shirt. For several years now (I would say at least the last five), I have almost exclusively shopped at thrift stores and Goodwill. This worked especially well for my budget, and I don't mind giving something away since it only cost $2-$9 for each piece. Most shirts I can get for less than $4 each, and shorts are only $7. Jeans are $8 each and dresses are $9 at my local Goodwill.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Progress on Our Student Loans & How We'll be Debt-Free in 2014

It's no surprise to my close friends and family that we've been aggressively attacking our student loan debt in full-force. If you're wondering how aggressive, it's now to the tune of $1,200 a month. We've now got a pulse on our budget that we keep a close eye on. By no means are we super insanely strict with our spending (we do LOVE to go out and eat some awesome vegan food here in Austin), but we know that we have a few payments to make each month to ensure we're on track.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Our [First] Experience with Bokashi Composting

A couple of months ago, my husband and I embarked on our newest journey into crunchiness. I went to our local Treehouse store and purchased a Bokashi Bin for less than $60 with Bokashi Bran. We placed it on our kitchen counter, and at the time, I was juicing more regularly, which provided plenty of food scraps to help us get started. I had been interested in it for a while, but never gave it much thought before. I actually didn't think it would make much of a difference, but after noticing our trash had to be taken out less often, I really began to take it more seriously.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Casa De Luz Review

Sometimes I find myself in a rut when it comes to eating vegan, but I've been so lucky to have Casa De Luz so close to our home. I've never experienced anything quite like it before, and I was impressed with the super clam atmosphere. Walking in, you instantly feel relaxed. You pay $12 per person when you walk in the door, and this covers a soup, salad, entree, and either tea or water.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Review of Vegan Food at Kerbey Lane Cafe

When I crave breakfast for any other meal than breakfast, we head straight to Kerbey Lane Cafe! As an omnivore, I enjoyed getting the Eggs Francisco, but since going vegan, I prefer the Vegan Breakfast Platter (pictured twice below). I'm the kind of person who always orders the same thing every time I visit a restaurant. I have no idea why I'm like that, but that's just the way it is.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Simply Raw Documentary: Curing Diabetes with a Raw Vegan Diet

It's no secret that my Type 2 diabetes seems to run in my family. In fact, that's the exact reason that I went vegan in the first place. My mom has been battling this for nearly 20 months by now, and I've been trying to convince her to look at a plant-based diet more seriously to reverse her diabetes. I have to admit, it took many months for me to even believe going plant-based would make a difference in my life, but once I finally took the plunge, I was amazed at my results.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Review of Vegan Dishes at Thai Taste

I've enjoyed living in South Austin for the last several years, and feel lucky that we have such a wide array of different culinary options within a few mile radius of our apartment. Less than a half mile away, we have Thai Taste, which never disappoints! I had never really had Thai food before, but my husband was a fan for many months before taking me there for dinner one night. There have been many nights when I would rather call in an order instead of cooking something, and they always provide large portions that can also serve as my lunch the next day.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Healthy Vegan Sloppy Joe Recipe

I'm a sucker for comfort foods, and one of those meals used to be Sloppy Joes made from a can of Manwhich with some ground beef. Since I no longer eat animal products, I challenged my husband to create a vegan version. He's tested this recipe several times, and I am in love with this. I hope you enjoy it, too!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Knocking Out Our Student Loans One at a Time

My parents definitely raised me right in that they provided me with $200 in a checking account when I was only 13 years old. Dad handed me my checkbook and taught me how to balance my account when I made small purchases. My brother and I always worked hard around the house and while we didn't earn an allowance, we did receive the occasional treats or new shirt. Aside from shopping trips with my mom and grandma, I later realized that I didn't need lots of things to be happy. Hence my adventures in to minimalism!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Benefits of Adding Greens to Your Plate

Whether you're plant-based or an omnivore, eating greens isn't just for Popeye. I could go on and on about the benefits, but that's included in the infographic from Vegan Mainstream below.

Monday, July 15, 2013

DIY Mini Banner Garland Decor

I am quite the Pinterest addict. I'll sometimes take a long break from the site, and then find myself getting sucked in to all the beautiful photos and projects that await. I loved several of the mini-banner garlands that I kept seeing and vowed to make one of my own one day. This project started over a year ago and over this past weekend, I finally finished it. I promise it doesn't take more than a couple of hours total, but you'll need some patience.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Easy Vegan Tofu Scramble Recipe

We've always been a fan of Happy Herbivore's Tofu Scramble, and eventually we began to tinker with the recipe and make it our own. We enjoy making this on weekends and eating it with some whole wheat flour tortillas as breakfast tacos. Try it out and let me know what you think!

Monday, July 8, 2013

My Look Book: Piecing Together My Perfect Future

In high school, I distinctly remember my art teacher assigning us a project for creating a sort of look book. It was more of a designer project where we found a floorplan that we liked in a design magazine, then chose images of fabric swatches, furniture and paints. That was my freshman year, and smack dab in the middle of my wild imagination for how life would be by the time I graduated college, found my amazing first job, and started the family with the man I loved. Except there was a catch: I was neither in love, nor did I have a set career in mind, and my expectations were way off.

Once I hit my senior year of high school, I began dating a guy who I would later marry. Falling in love followed and before I knew it, we were off to college together and within another year, signing our first apartment lease. Moving in with him wasn't really a tough decision at all since I knew it would save money by splitting the rent and food instead of living in the dorms again for a second year. Soon after we moved in, I began to dream about what our little apartment could one day look like. 

We only had some hand-me-down furniture, a vintage and tattered couch, our new dining room table, a couple of cheap computer desks, and my brother's old bedroom furniture. At this point in my life, I wanted to work at a magazine as an associate editor, so our mailbox was always full of magazines including Family Circle, Good Housekeeping, and Better Homes and Gardens. I felt like such a middle-aged mom subscribing to those magazines, but the homes featured inside of them were almost always stunning. 

I began to thumb through the magazines and tear out images and tidbits of info, much like that high school project I described earlier. What resulted is my heavy "Look Book" which contains bits and pieces of how I envisioned my future home. It's funny now, since I tend to laugh at how naive I was about everything, including my dream to own a home by the time I was 25. What was I thinking?! Not about student loan debt or the impossibility to even save for a down payment on a home years after working at my first job, obviously! I'm not sure why I thought it would be easy, but it's something that I can smile about now. 

While moving this last time, I grabbed the Look Book off my shelf and considered tossing it away. Before I put the book down, I opened it and felt a little nostalgic looking at it again and seeing the choices I so carefully taped inside of this book. Each page consists of cardstock and images taped to ever so gracefully to create dozens of mini-collages that represented what I thought my house would look like. It's like an imaginary fairy-tale that I was creating. I couldn't let it go, and many of those images still reflect my style. 

I saved dozens of article about finances before I even really knew how to budget, organizational tips that I still use, and omnivore recipes that I no longer crave. I don't have the heart to throw it out since I know I invested several hours compiling these together. It's interesting to look back and see how I've always been in some way a little too prepared for life and in the same sense, totally unaware of what challenges I had before me. For now, we'll keep chugging along as usual, and I'll continue striving to understand what I really want in life.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Interview with Vegan Food Is Everywhere

Even in Austin, it can be tough to find some vegan food on a whim. I often think of my favorite places, but sometimes it's either too late in the evening or probably really crowded. I was recently approached by Caroline Golinski, one of two minds behind Vegan Food Is Everywhere. I was interested in hearing more from her about the project, and how they are working with others across the world.

This is a great way to share and add vegan dishes in your city to help others find plant-based meals on a map. Check out the interview below!

LRJ: Tell me a little bit about Vegan Food Is Everywhere!

Caroline: Vegan Food Is Everywhere is a crowdsourced vegan food map. It's quite literally a map filled with vegan food. It has over 1,600 restaurant dishes mapped so far, all of which have been added by vegan food lovers around the world. Our goal is to map every single vegan dish at every restaurant in the world!

Here's how it works: you take a photo of your food when you go out to eat in a restaurant, and add it to the site. You type in which restaurant you're at, what the dish is called on the menu, and how to order it vegan, if it isn't already vegan. Then vegan food seekers can look at the map and see all the vegan dishes nearby.

You can use the website to spread awareness of just how easy it is to find vegan food, even at non-vegan restaurants; to keep track of your vegan food discoveries; to share secret or little-known vegan menu items with other vegans; and to discover awesome vegan options wherever you happen to be.

LRJ: What inspired you to create this site?

Caroline: We love exploring restaurants in our city, and are constantly finding new places that have great vegan food. Asian, Indian, and Mexican restaurants in particular, tend to have lots of veganizable dishes, and some restaurants even label vegan dishes on their menus. Yet, people of the non-vegan and newly-vegan varieties continue to claim that it's hard to dine out as a vegan.

So we built VFIE to shatter that myth, and show people just how easy it is to be vegan. We want to help new and aspiring vegans find their vegan footing, and stick with being vegan, even when they find themselves in an unfamiliar restaurant. This project makes it easy for vegans to share their knowledge of restaurant food, helping aspiring vegans to learn the ropes. We hope that VFIE will inspire people to go vegan, as they realize that it is within their grasp, because vegan food really is everywhere!

LRJ: What do you envision for Vegan Food Is Everywhere in the next couple of years?

Caroline: We envision an amazing website that's so fun and useful that people can't stop talking about it! We want VFIE to become a household name... in vegan households, anyway. But hey, if we were talked about in non-vegan households, that would be even better!

That will mean getting more dishes mapped on the site, which really depends on the community. There are several cities around the world (e.g. Toronto, Las Vegas) where folks have been doing an amazing job of filling in the map. We'd love to see similar gusto in the other major cities around the world. Although it might take some time, we won't settle for anything less than complete, global coverage of every vegan or veganizable restaurant item.

We will also be dreaming up and building more features for the website. Some features will be purely functional, and some will be downright fun (prizes, anyone?).

We do have other vegan websites we want to build as well, and there's potential that they could connect with VFIE down the road to form a network of websites that inspire people to go vegan.

LRJ: You mentioned on your site that you have some new features that you'll be offering. What are some of those features, and when can users expect them to roll out?

Caroline: Since launching VFIE, we've already released a bunch of new features: a mobile site, user accounts, a list of every dish you've added, a list of dishes you want to try, dish and restaurant comments, and many more.

Currently we're building a location search, so you'll be able to jump straight to a specific city or street. At the same time, we'll be releasing location specific URLs, so folks can share a direct link to their city.

There are a whole slew of other features we want to build as well. We are already planning to build a "vegan food newsfeed", collaborative editing of dishes and restaurants, a rating system, better social features, user rankings, an achievement system, and more. It will also be interesting to eventually incorporate flags for organic, gluten-free, non-GMO, and other food classifications, helping to draw members of those movements towards veganism, while simultaneously drawing vegans into those movements.

The timeline for these features is hard to pin down. Historically, we tend to launch one new feature every 2–4 weeks. We operate on a shoestring budget, with just one developer working on the site who does all of the design and programming, so it's difficult to predict when the new features will be rolling out. We also listen to the community for new feature ideas, and so timeline and priorities are frequently adjusted based on the feedback we're getting.

LRJ: How many people are on the VFIE team?

Caroline: As far as the programming and administration of the site, there are just two of us. Rob does the design and programming, and I handle the communications and marketing. But we do want to stress that this is a community project; we are just the stewards. We consider the VFIE team to consist of everybody who has ever contributed anything to VFIE.

LRJ: What are some of the top cities where you see activity for VFIE?

Caroline: The most active city changes every week, as new people are constantly discovering the website and excitedly mapping their cities. Right now I think the top cities are Toronto, Canada; Los Angeles, CA; Washington, DC; Las Vegas, NV; Galway, Ireland; and Melbourne, Australia.

LRJ: How can vegans around the world help build the map?

Caroline: Add dishes to Vegan Food Is Everywhere every time you go out to eat. Add those food photos from your last vacation. Add those dishes that you've been posting on Twitter and Instagram. Then share the website with everyone you know. Post it on Facebook, Twitter, your blog, any forums you frequent, and your local vegan group's site.

If you have a mobile phone, you can install our website as a web app so that you'll remember to use it when you're dining out; instructions for how to do this are on our Facebook page.

We can build all kinds of fancy new features, but ultimately it's the community who we are counting on to take this site, fill it with awesome vegan food, and shout it from the rooftops.

Editorial note: I'm excited to help put more vegan dishes on the map of Austin. We're lucky to have a vegan-friendly city and I know there are lots of dishes that I even I don't know about yet. Check out the Vegan Food Is Everywhere site and see if you have any dishes you would like to add.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Downsizing Our Lifestyle and Dining Table

One of the first things that I wanted to sell as we moved a couple of months ago was our dining room table. I'm not too attached to sentimental items, and you may think it's weird that a table would be sentimental to me, but there's a good reason. Many years ago (about six, to be exact), Kendan and I decided to move in together. Although my mom wasn't too thrilled that we were "shacking up", she took me to a local furniture store where she agreed to purchase half of a dining set for our new little apartment with me covering the second half.

I didn't have a job at the time and was focusing solely on school. Looking back, I know this definitely helped me out personally, as I was able to get out of school sooner, but that's another blog post entirely. Anyway, we walked in to the local furniture store and there were many different options. I chose a nice dark brown set with white padded seats. If I had to choose a style, I would say it was a mix between modern and traditional.

We put it on layaway and I remember putting down some money that I had received from family for the holidays. We paid a little on it each month and finally by the time we were ready to move, it was paid off. Kendan and I were probably considered minimalists back then, but only because we hadn't really owned anything before then. We had a bookshelf from Kendan's childhood bedroom, the brand new dining set, a washer and dryer set that was a least a decade old (and still have!!!), and borrowed furniture from my brother.

This dining set went though four apartment, two upholstery sessions to change out the fabric on the seats, and was slightly dinged from a couple of moves. The problem? We rarely used it! There were times I would use it when I was working on a hobby, but for the most part, it was usually holding a pile of something that it really shouldn't have. So when it came time to move, I knew I wanted to sell it and get me something much smaller since I knew my next dining area was smaller.

It had been used plenty of times, saw many good meals, and shared some laughed around it with friends and family. But when it came to actually needing a practical pice of furniture, I knew I needed something smaller to match my new lifestyle. The day that I sold the table, I called my dad and asked, "Can you make me a table?" He's probably one of the most talented people I know when it comes to creating things.

We talked for a couple of hours and I told him what I was envisioning. I talked about going retro with a formica top, but the main thing for me was size. Kendan and I wanted something small that we could put up against a wall. Something that would be perfect for a small family like ours. Dad sent me a picture two days later of the finished table and I was blown away. It was tiny and I LOVED it.

My mother-in-law painted it for us and even added a personal touch underneath the table which included some paintings of butterflies. Why, you ask? So we can tie a sheet that will hang beneath like a hammock for our unborn child.

It's the perfect little table or us, and I beg you to ask yourself the question, "What do I really need?" and "Why don't I downsize, too?!"

Friday, June 28, 2013

Vegan Acceptance in an Omnivorous Family

A couple of weekends ago, I came down to visit my family for a few events. We drove in a on Saturday morning, and are beginning to like that better instead of driving in late on Friday nights. Once I arrived to my parents' house, mom urged me to eat some vegan brownies she had made for me. A year ago, I would have fallen over and been completely taken by surprise. Now, it's almost a normal thing!

I've now been vegan over a year and half, and while it felt slow and almost torturous in the first few weeks, I wouldn't change it for a thing. My health greatly improved, my husband and I are now feeling better, and I've really been surprised by all of the changes physically, emotionally, and mentally. I now see myself in a new light and have grown more confident in who I am as a person.

When I first went vegan, I didn't tell hardly anyone. I was met with tons of skepticism and negativity. People didn't understand why I was doing this, and I actually lost many friends over this. When people started giving me hell, I just didn't want to put up with it! I recently told this to a newly-converted vegan that I know: when you go vegan, it's like you're holding up a mirror to the other people around you. You are not doing this on purpose, but many people begin to reflect on how their eat and live and sometimes that causes some reactions projected toward you. Don't let this bring you down!

I didn't visit my hometown for nearly three months after deciding to go vegan. After seeing the reactions I was getting, I didn't want to face anyone who would make negative comments about what I was doing. I finally did visit on Mother's Day 2012, and was surrounded by all of the foods I was no longer eating, including fried chicken, pea salad (with mayo, eggs, and cheese), twice-baked potatoes (with bacon, butter, sour cream, and cheese)... you get the picture! I made a vegan tofu and spinach quiche that no one ate.

Since then, I've seen a pretty big change in my family and they are more accommodating than ever before. I received vegan cookbooks for the last Christmas, mom makes vegan treats when there's a party so I can also enjoy them, and instead of dismissing where I can eat in our small town, they now naturally choose places where I have a few options. It's been great to have that support, and now it's a no-brainer when we visit. I actually have omnivore family members request certain vegan dishes and treats, so that always makes me feel like I've made progress.

I'm sure as the years go by, it will be even easier. So to all of those out there who are struggling with people accepting your new lifestyle, fear not. Eventually, whether that be weeks, months, or years, your family and friends will accept this with open arms. It won't be easy in the beginning, but you need to focus on why you are making this change, and that your health is far more important than what anyone else thinks of you or what you're doing!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Rebooting my system with juicing

I have a confession to make. Even though I've been vegan nearly a year and half by now, I still struggle with eating the right kinds of vegan foods. It's so easy to get caught up eating the same thing or defaulting to easy meals that lack some of the great foods that I started my journey with. This past Saturday, I wasn't feeling the best, and I knew I needed a reboot. I immediately watched Hungry for Change as a refresher, and then Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead right after.

My husband soon peered over my shoulder and began watching the juicing documentary, too. He showed an interest, and I knew it would be a good time to try this out with him. The last time I had watched this was probably over two years ago. I had been working in a stressful job, and thought I would give juicing a try. I promptly bought a juicer, tried it for only a few days, then gave up after deciding it was too annoying to hear my old boss joke about it non-stop. I stored the juicer in the cabinet and recently almost sold it on Craigslist, but backed out on the deal at the last minute. I knew there was a reason I still had it!

That was before my big lifestyle change, and I probably should have gone ahead and done it anyway. Who knows what would have happened. I guess it's too late to wonder those things, so instead, I've decided to give it another shot. I'm not doing the 60-day juice-only fast like Joe Cross did in his movie, but I'll be adding it in to my diet as a supplement and sort of "snack" for the times I want to reach for a [vegan] Oreo or some chik'n nuggets. That is all fine in moderation, sure, but I need to get back to my plant-based path.

So here we are! I've done this for a couple of days now, and I have to say, it feels good. The first time I did this, I found that the veggie juices I was making were somewhat tougher to swallow. The fruits are obviously easier to handle since they have a bit of sweetness to them naturally. As I type, I'm sipping on what was a carton of strawberries and two handfuls of honeydew melon. This is seriously the best combination I have found yet.

Check out the trailer for Joe's film, Fat, Sick, & Nearly Dead [available for streaming on Netflix] below. It's a must-see for anyone looking to reboot or someone facing some serious health issues. I know it sounds totally weird to juice, and I can confess that I thought the same exact thing, but there are some crazy awesome benefits, so why not give it a try?

One carton of strawberries
One and a half cucumbers
One carton of strawberries and one handful honeydew melon
Honeydew melon & strawberries combo -- the best by far!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Interview with Tofurky Founder Seth Tibbott

Since going vegan, we occasionally consume some meat alternatives and usually reach for Tofurky products. We enjoy their Breakfast Sausage links, Beer Brats, Italian Sausages, and Kielbasa. We even had a cookout for our omnivorous family members with the brats and sausages, which they enjoyed! I reached out to Tofurky to express our gratitude for making these different products for vegans everywhere and never expected such an awesome response.

None other than the founder of Tofurky, Seth Tibbott, responded to my email. I was totally shocked and amazed at how down to earth he was and he promptly agreed to answer some of my questions. I was really curious about his story and the history of Tofurky and excited to hear what led to such a successful company who hasn't lost sight of what is important (hint: their customers!). Check out how it all began and why he chose to live in a treehouse for seven years below!

LRJ: How long have you been vegan and what brought you to that decision?

Seth: I became a vegetarian, not a vegan, in 1973 after reading Francis Moore Lappe's book, Diet For A Small Planet. She beautifully explained that animals were a wasteful way to produce protein which made sense to my environmental/naturalist ears. After this initial environmental-based conversion, I looked at the health benefits and the ethics of not eating animals and the diet added up from those angles, too.

Several years later, I became a "pure vegetarian" (vegan was not a term used yet) after visiting The Farm, an intentional community in Tennessee. After that, I cycled back and forth between vegetarian and vegan diets, finally settling onto my current vegan diet which I don't plan to ever leave. Looking back, this change to plant-based foods was one of the top three decisions that I made in this life.

LRJ: Take me back 35 years and tell me how you started making tempeh as a hobby. What inspired you to start there?

Seth: When I first stopped eating meat, my mom was really worried about me getting enough protein. I told her to relax; I was eating soybeans and felt fine. At that time I was eating a lot of soy grit burgers, not the most digestable or tastiest of things, but pretty decent. When I went to The Farm in Tennessee, I learned about tempeh and bought some starter from them.

I was working in Tennessee during the hot summer of 1977 and I went home and made some tempeh right away, putting it out to incubate in a bread pan covered with tin foil in a field by Lake Nolichucky, where I was working as an environmental specialist. The next morning, a beautiful white fluffy crop of mold grew on my beans. It smelled great and I cooked it up with some silver queen sweet corn, okra, and tomatoes. It was one of the best meals of my life. I still salivate thinking about that meal!

LRJ: After you decided to focus on plant-based protein, you founded Turtle Island Foods in 1980. How big was the demand for plant protein and how did you gain your foothold with health food stores?

Seth: In 1980, the natural food movement was in its infancy in Portland, Oregon. There were about six main stores, two of which were in dark warehouse sort of spaces and not much to look at. There was also one vegan restaurant. It was pretty easy getting space in those stores. When I approached Nature's, the biggest store in town, they said, "Cool! Now we can fill up our shelves with something! Do you have any more products?" Today it's a little bit harder to place products on shelves!

Few people had heard of tempeh so there was a lot of education and demos involved, of which I personally did several hundred. My vision was centered around the fact that in college you had to make your own granola, yogurt, and other foods because none was available (except for at the hippie head shop that I worked in that sold rainbow-colored bags of granola right under the rolling papers). Five years later, there was a whole shelf of granola in every supermarket in America. I thought that tempeh would follow the same path.

LRJ: Your family helped finance some of your ventures in the beginning and you put up $2,500 of your own. What were you focusing on for those first couple of years that have helped you succeed and expand in the early 80's?

Seth: Turtle Island and Tofurky worked because they had to work. There was no "Plan B" for me. I probably should have quit somewhere after the first ten years of only making $300 or less a month but the business was never about money. Working hard, doing everything from production to sales and marketing and accounting gave me a deep respect and appreciation for the people who we now employ to do those jobs here. It's hard work producing and marketing a food product. I am grateful of everyone on our team here and I want to increase everyone's benefits and work environment here. The last 33 years have been a great learning experience; very thrilling, but also very humbling.

LRJ: Tell me about your tree house! As a minimalist enthusiast, I'd love to hear how that process was, and possible delve into that deeper in another interview/blog post. What made you decide to live in a three-story tree house, and how did that affect you personally?

Seth: When you aren't making much money, life becomes a creative game of survival. I rented the trees for $25 a month and spent about $2,000 on the treehouse that I lived very comfortably in for seven years. That comes to about $60 a month when you include utilities, or 1/5 of my monthly salary, so that was about right. I was single and did not have a family to support at that time. There were actually two other treehouses in our valley which inspired me to build mine, and we would call each other to check in when the wind would blow strong over the mountains. My treehouse was 11'x16' with a deck, sleeping loft and cupola. I had a telephone, wood stove, propane cookstove, running water, electricity and a treehouse "peehouse". All the essentials!

LRJ: When you develop new products, what kinds of things are in the back of your mind and how do you gauge what will fly off the shelves?

Seth: New product development is always a risk. It's as much intuition and art as it is science certainly, and no one ever bats 1000%. We try and stay close to our customers and listen to what they are telling us. Facebook and social media of course makes this much easier than ever to do. We also try and pay attention to what we ourselves can't get but want. Currently we have a great Research & Development team here that takes it's time and mostly gets things right.

LRJ: Looking back through the years, were there any moments that truly stand out in your mind as the biggest indicator that you and your company was headed for success?

Seth: When Tofurky hit the market in 1995, our fortunes changed. We moved from a non-profitable regional company to a slightly-profitable national company. It was pretty cool how it happened so suddenly thanks to all the media attention. I remember I was at this party of people I hardly knew around Thanksgiving. I was walking from room to room and everywhere I went I was overhearing people talking about this crazy Tofurky product. The next day I went to work and the phone was ringing off the hook. Once I had to put The Wall Street Journal reporter on hold to talk to The Washington Post! Pretty heady times for a small town guy living in a tree.

Special thanks to Seth for taking some time out of his busy life to speak with The Little Red Journal! 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Natural Cleaners & Chemerical Documentary

Like most people, I used to have 10 or 15 household cleaners under my kitchen sink. Clorox, 409, Pledge, Windex, Ajax, etc. You know what I'm talking about. I just bought what my mom had under her kitchen sink when I was growing up. I didn't think twice about what was in each one, the impact it had on the environment, or why I probably shouldn't be using it. Then a year ago, I watched the documentary Chemerical and all of that changed.

Soon after watching the film above (which is available to stream on Netflix!), I opened up the cabinets and started to look around for ways to minimize the toxic chemicals in our environment. Since then, I've fallen back on homemade cleaners and have even shared my recipes on my DIY page. If you have some free time, definitely make a note to watch this documentary, as it may open your eyes to what make be lurking in your cabinets.

Check out some of my favorite recipes here:
All-Purpose Cleaner
Laundry Detergent
Powdered Dishwasher Detergent
Liquid Dishwasher Detergent


Monday, June 10, 2013

Tropical Fruit & Spinach Smoothie Recipe

I'm terrible at eating breakfast. I mean, I would rather sleep in the extra fifteen or so minutes. I knew this wasn't a good idea, and that I needed to eat something. At my last job, I had no problem with this, as I brought in oatmeal and fruit all the time. However, my new job wasn't really ideal to eat a breakfast such as this. Drinking my breakfast was a much better solution! I've really got my smoothies down to just a few minutes to prepare and I'm flying out the door before the clock hits 9 a.m. This one is my favorite, and it's super easy, I promise!

Tropical Fruit & Spinach Smoothie Recipe
yields 24 oz

1 c. frozen fruit
1-1/2 c. almond milk
1/4 c. frozen spinach
1 whole banana
1 Tbsp. flax seed
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract

1. Toss all in blender and blend until smooth.
2. Add more milk if the smoothie is too thick to drink through a straw.
3. Put into a large cup with a lid and you're good to go!