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!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Kristin: Adopting a Plant-Based Diet After Unexpectedly Expecting

I always enjoy hearing the stories of those who read my blog. I urge any other readers to reach out to me so that I can share your triumphs and challenges that we all face in our lives, whether it's through our plant-based journey, road to financial happiness, or our adventures into minimalism. Whatever the story, it always put a big smile on my face to know that other readers out there are relating to my own life, and are learning something in the process.

When Kristin reached out to me, I was excited to see if she'd share her story with all of you.

LRJ: What made you decide to go plant-based and change your diet?

Kristin: In the fall of 2012, my husband and I watched several food documentaries including Food FightKing CornSupersize Me, and Forks over Knives. Coincidentally, we watched Forks over Knives on Thanksgiving night. After watching that documentary, we sat down and decided to discuss trying a plant-based diet. My husband was very supportive and purchased the Forks over Knives cookbook immediately, which set me on the right path from the start.

LRJ: What kind of health problems have you experienced in the last few years and what led you to change your ways?

Kristin: In the summer of 2010, at the ripe old age of 37, I was diagnosed with hypertension and mild sleep apnea. I started taking medication for the hypertension but opted to not purchase a CPAP for various reasons. At the end of 2010, I was surprised to find out that I was pregnant. During my pregnancy, although I lost weight, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, and HELLP syndrome (Class I). I almost died the day after my emergency c-section due to the medication being given to me because of the HELLP syndrome.

 It truly wasn't until my little man was old enough to eat solid foods with us that I decided to change my eating habits. Since he has a severe dairy allergy, I couldn't see fixing two separate meals for three people. With the hypertension and my little one's dairy allergy, it really became an obvious choice to change our eating habits. Also, I was diagnosed in August of 2012 as pre-diabetic with the recommendation to start medication for that issue. Having seen my father and his father deal with diabetes in their later years, I knew I didn't want to do the same thing. Another reason for making the change.

LRJ: What have been the biggest health benefits or changes that you've noticed since changing your diet?

Kristin: Surprisingly, I've lost at least 20 pounds since changing my diet. Because of the weight loss, and eating healthier, I'm no longer pre-diabetic. And, I've been able to cut my blood pressure medication in half. In fact, I'm now taking 1/4 of the dose I was originally prescribed in 2010.

LRJ: Did you face any challenges in the beginning?

Kristin: Plenty! First, I never knew how much junk we had in our pantry until I started looking at labels and was really being challenged to watch our intake. I did start pretty simply by making only things that I felt comfortable making easily. And I'm definitely not ready for Iron Chef (I still have trouble cutting an onion), but I'm getting there. I was scared to death of all of the crazy ingredients I saw listed in the Forks over Knives cookbook! We live in a small Southern town, so I still can't find many of the ingredients. But I now have the confidence to work around any ingredient issues and utilize the internet for moral support.

Second, I didn't enjoy cooking in the least when I first started. I had no confidence so I really never knew if something was going to taste good or not each meal. Thankfully, I've been blessed with a wonderful husband who is very supportive of our change. He has definitely given me the confidence to at least attempt everything once. I will say, though, the "No-Cheese Sauce" in the Forks over Knives cookbook has been shelved indefinitely. Not going there again any time soon. :)

Third, I'm not the healthiest person on the planet. But even my healthier friends were challenging me on cutting out meat. And it seems that even now I'm often left to fend for myself because of a lack of understanding. In fact, I had someone ask me if I didn't believe that God wants us to eat meat. And I had someone else who wanted to bring us lunch one day and decided on roast beef & ham sandwiches. Not sure what you say to that except "thank you."

LRJ: Tell me about your blog, Unexpectedly Expecting. What inspired you to create this blog?

Kristin: Pregnancy. At 38, I never imagined I would be having a baby. When I titled my blog "Unexpectedly Expecting," that hit the nail on the head. We absolutely and resolutely never wanted to have children. My husband and I had been happily married for over 10 years and just didn't feel the need to "ruin" our lives with a child. We had come to a reconciliation with the Lord that it ultimately wasn't our decision but His. However, we weren't free-wheeling either... well not every time, at least. :)

So I decided to start a blog to record my growing belly along with milestones. All of our friends and family knew how strongly we felt about not having children so they sincerely wanted to know how we were handling this change in our lives. And as this country goes, you just don't live close enough to the ones you love for them to be involved in your lives. So, the blog started. Now that I have a very active toddler, it's been more difficult to get the blogs posted on a monthly basis. I do what I can and post when I have the opportunity.

LRJ: I'm childless but incredibly interested in raising my future son or daughter as a vegan. Does your son Noah like to eat plant-based meals?

Kristin: Actually, he really enjoys some of them. Obviously there are days when the food goes into the trash because he just wasn't in the mood. But since he's so young, he doesn't know what dairy products taste like due to his allergy. And, I've given him so little meat over the course of his life that he really doesn't even know it's not there. We will, on very limited occasions, give him a little chicken or hamburger, but only when we know the source of the meat. No store bought meat will enter his system if I can help it. Even today, I had some soy sliced ham on a sandwich for his lunch. He just wasn't interested in the "meat." And, he's the healthiest one of the three of us. I made most of his baby food and still make most of his food. Again, he doesn't know anything different so it really is easy with him.

LRJ: You also mentioned you were delving into minimalism. What brought you to that, and how has that affected your life?

Kristin: Interestingly, many things have brought us to that place. I worked full-time until the day I left to have Noah. When I left that day, we had planned on my going back to work at the end of my leave. How that would work, we just didn't know. By the time Noah was six weeks old, I was on the floor pleading with the Lord to make it work somehow that I wouldn't have to go back to work. (What?!) I NEVER imagined I would WANT to stay home with a child. I just didn't see that coming. So when we finally decided that I wouldn't go back to work, we really had to buckle down and see what was absolutely necessary in order to sustain our lives. My husband owns his own business so we really have to watch how we spend our money. (And his business is driven by the weather, which can be an added stress factor at times.)

Some things have been easy to cut out, like eating out and travel. We've also cut out our home phone and only have cable internet. When we cut our cable off, we thought that would be the end of our lives. But there is way more content on the internet that's free than we ever thought possible.

I even started making my own laundry detergent with your recipe. And I'm looking to make soap and shampoo soon to help cut those disposable costs. We're always looking at ways to cut out revolving expenses like our trash pickup (we can take it to a friend's dumpster) and putting up a clothesline to help cut energy costs this summer. But God has been so good to us by taking care of our finances. We actually have been able to give money to others on many occasions and are more free with our possessions than ever before.

LRJ: What advice would you give to others who are considering making a lifestyle change, whether into a plant-based diet or minimalism?

Kristin: Go slowly. I've had several people who said that based on my story they wanted to change their ways as well. I've encouraged them to take their time. I'm a stay at home mom with some time on my hands. But having come from the corporate world, I know how exhausted one gets after working all day. To try and take an additional two hours to put a meal on the table after working a full day would be maddening! Just do what you can when you can.

 If you can afford to take some short cuts, do that by buying the pre-cut veggies at the store. And don't get overwhelmed. I am definitely much faster at throwing a meal together now than I was six months ago. One thing that helps me is to always have some rice or other grain already made on hand. Brown rice takes up to 45 minutes or longer to cook. If you can have it done and in the fridge or freezer waiting for you to make your meal, all the better! Again, just take it slow and do what you can.

LRJ: You've obviously had some big changes over the last couple of years. Looking back, what would you say is your proudest accomplishment in your journey?

Kristin: This question actually brings tears of joy because my life is my proudest accomplishment (and I don't say that with pride). Obviously, without the Lord none of this would be possible. But had we not had Noah, this conversation would have never happened. There's a verse in the Bible that says, "I will give you the desires of your heart..." When we first found out about our little guy, that verse didn't make sense. A child was not the desire of our hearts. BUT we didn't know what our desires truly were. Only the Lord knew. And for that, we truly can't thank Him enough. So my proudest accomplishment is just this... life. I'm loving this life.

LRJ: Anything else you'd like to add?

Kristin: The only thing else that I would say is this: be okay with who you are. Coming from me, that's a very odd thing to say. But I'm realizing that who I am today is who I was created to be. And that's okay. Take some time and find out who you were created to be and then be okay with that person. What joy is there if we're never happy with who we are and are always striving to be somebody else? The other thing is to trust Christ in you. Take time to find out who He is. He created you, so take some time to get to know Him.

Thanks again to Kristin for sharing her story! Check out her blog, Unexpectedly Expecting, to keep up to date on her journey.

Monday, June 3, 2013

The 3 Best DIY Natural Household Cleaners

Laundry Detergent | I was tired of buying the liquid detergent from Target, and by switching to homemade detergent that takes only minutes to make, I saved $0.10 a load. When I tell most people this, they look at me strange as if to say, "A dime... Really?!" I like to make things, and this was one of the first that I learned how to create. One batch lasts me months and it does the job just fine, thank you very much! I also had a bright yellow dress dotted with pink stains from washing it with something red. This detergent completely removed all the spots.

All-Purpose Cleaner | The next thing I wanted to learn how to make was an all-purpose cleaner. There are many recipes out there, but I loved the one I found at It's quick, easy, and the bottle lasts for weeks. I'm always using it on our counters, and I used lemongrass essential oils which smells amazing after you've cleaned up the kitchen.

Dishwasher Detergent | Just a few ingredients and two minutes before you've whipped yourself up a batch of some great-smelling dishwasher detergent. This recipe worked great in our last apartment's dishwasher. Unfortunately, it wasn't working well in our new apartment, so I'll be trying out this liquid dishwasher detergent as soon as I run out of the store bought one I purchased a few weeks back.

Here's some other DIY natural cleaners that I'm looking forward to trying out soon:

Toilet Bowl Cleaner
Hardwood Floor Cleaner
Young House Love's Recipes
Matthew Stewart's Tub Scrub