Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Gary Yourofsky's Speech

Gary Yourofsky has spoken to thousands of students about the true meaning of animal rights.

Gary's powerful and enlightening message has been heard by more than 60,000 students in 170 middle schools, high schools and universities nationwide,

Gary uses thought-provoking prose, inspiring stories, indisputable facts, quotes from Pythagoras, William Ralph Inge and other great thinkers, plus graphic footage from slaughterhouses (land and sea), to ask people to be kind to animals and, ultimately, go vegan.

Gary lectures only to schools and universities. He does not charge and he has nothing to sell to you.

If you are thinking about cutting out animal products, you need to watch this video. If you choose to eat and exploit animals, you should watch this video. At least own your choice and that way you can be comfortable in the choice you've made.

Be brave. Watch this.

The 30 minute Q&A session after the lecture.

Gary's website.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Building The Perfect Salad

Ah, salad. There are some of you who love a good salad while the mere mention of a plate full of the colorful stuff strikes fear into the heart of veggies haters! What is the perfect salad? The one you'll actually eat.

You should be eating a good 6 - 8 cups of veggies a day. Raw is best because then you get the full nutrient value. Salads are a great start to a healthy meal. A small side salad not only helps give you the vitamins and minerals you need but it can also help to control your appetite for the meal following it.

I've chosen to use Bed, Bath & Beyond links for certain products as most people have access to this chain store and you can use those 20% off coupons! At the very least, you can see what I'm talking about and then find them locally.

The best greens are the ones you like and will actually eat so determining that will help you look forward to a great salad. Dark greens are best nutritionally but if you only like iceberg then eat that! Give other greens a try tho. I love romaine, spinach, spring greens and butter/bibb lettuce best but when it comes to my ginger dressing, only iceberg will do. There are different greens for different needs and tastes. Experiment. You can also buy mixed bags of greens but it's much less expensive to buy the various kinds and make your own blend.

One thing I recommend buying and using is a lettuce knife. It's made of a plastic material. A regular knife that is metal will cause your greens to brown so don't use a regular knife if you're pre-cutting greens for later use. They are inexpensive and they are also great to use on brownies or sticky bar type cookies.

I also recommend getting a salad spinner. Moisture is what ruins greens.. so wash them, spin them dry and store them properly! Then you just have to remember to eat them!

The heart and soul of a great salad are the veggies!  Again, toss in what you like. Shredded carrots, chunked up cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, sliced mushrooms, chopped green onion, diced celery, broccoli and cauliflower, red pepper slices, zucchini ribbons, peas, corn, the choices are practically endless!  Go for a rainbow of colors and choose based on texture and crunch!

A little prep work in this area will make your life much easier. I always buy my salad goodies and spend a half hour chopping stuff up and placing it back in my fridge. This way you have a sort of salad bar available whenever you want a salad. It's much easier and quicker to grab the pre-chopped stuff and toss a salad together! One thing I've found is that using my food processor to thinly slice or grate veggies makes for a fun salad!
Bonus - those prepared veggies can be used in your brown rice stir fries too!

Some people like fruit in their salads. (I'm not one of them. I prefer my fruit on the side) but some faves are chopped apple, mandarin oranges, grapes, apples and thin sliced strawberries. Whatever gets you eating the greens is alright by me!

Beans & Natural Good Fats
All salads should have beans! It's a great source of protein. My favorites for salads are garbanzo (chickpeas) or black beans but you can use any bean you enjoy. I also recommend adding in some good fat sources like avocado or olives. Some people also enjoy sprinkling ground flax seed onto their salad. Tempeh bacon, cooked crisp and added to a salad is the best damn thing ever. Trust me on this!

Nuts & Seeds
Sunflower seeds, walnuts, sesame seeds and sliced almonds are all terrific texture builders for salads. They also give you some protein and natural oils that your body needs and will love.

I'm a huge crouton fan. I make my own. Croutons give a salad a fabulous crunch and texture and I really miss them if I don't have them. Processed and packaged croutons from the store are loaded with HFCS,weird preservatives, chemicals and strange ingredients. They also taste like bark. Making your own is so easy that you really don't even need a recipe. You can use any kind of bread. I've even used sandwich bread. I prefer whole wheat, sourdough or french bread. I will also take stale (not moldy) or leftover bread, cube it and freeze it. Then I have bread ready to make croutons whenever I want and I'm not wasting bread.

My 'recipe':

Just cube up whatever loaf of bread you choose, put it in a big bowl and set aside. Then, in another bowl mix up about 1/2 cup olive oil and you can also toss in a tbsp of melted vegan 'butter' if you want a buttery taste but the olive oil is great on it's own. Then, just add in whatever flavors you like. I like to use 'Spike', garlic powder and a few mixed herbs. Blend that together and pour it over the bread pieces and toss to coat. Spread on a cookie sheet with sides and bake at 350 degrees until toasted. Stir them every 5 or 10 minutes to keep them from burning. Once cool, store them in a ziplock baggie with as much air removed as possible.

Edited to add: Here is a recent post with an actual recipe.... click here

Other Crunchies

Crushed tortilla chips, broken up pita chips, and crispy Asian noodles are all great in salads. just watch the ingredient listing and don't buy crappy kinds full of weird stuff. You can find healthy versions.

A perfectly healthy salad can turn horribly wrong if you top it with the wrong dressing! Did you know that some dressings have upwards of 100 to 200 calories in a 2 tbsp serving? Do you really only use 2 tbsp? Probably not. First off, learn to measure your dressing. Put it in a small side cup and then dip your fork in it and then spear the salad. You can also take the pre-portioned amount and toss your salad with the dressing to get it evenly distributed. Don't let your healthy salad turn into a Big Mac by going crazy with the dressing.

Also, don't overdue the dressing. Dressing is meant to enhance the flavor of the veggies, not drown them.  Vegetables taste so good on their own that you want their individual flavors to shine thru... you want them all at the party so don't overwhelm them with a heavy dressing placement.

The body prefers that you have a little fat when you eat veggies so if you are using a dressing without oil, make sure you toss in avocado and nuts to keep your body happy!

Homemade is best... not only in taste but in nutrition. The ingredient listing on a bottle of processed dressing is scary and disgusting (and all the sugar!) so if you absolutely refuse to make your own, at least splurge on the dressings you'll find in the health aisle or check out the refrigerated ones at the supermarket. Always opt for all-natural.

I like to use a Magic Bullet type blender to make most dressings. There are a few brands on the market and they can be used for many things so they are a nice tool to have. These type of mini blenders can emulsify oiled dressings to make them creamy. You can try using a blender but they are usually too big to get the job done properly.

Here are a few of my fave dressings:

Vegan Caesar Dressing

¼ cup sliced raw almonds
1 to 2 cloves chopped garlic
½  cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (I used bottled)
2 teaspoons capers
½  cup vegan (egg-free) mayonnaise (I like Vegenaise)
½ tsp vegan Worcestershire sauce
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place almonds, garlic and olive oil in a blender and pulverize until mostly smooth. Add lemon juice, capers, mayonnaise, salt and pepper and puree until smooth. If a thinner dressing is desired, add more lemon juice, water or olive oil.

Julie’s Balsamic Dressing
(from Skinny Bitch Everyday Cookbook)

½ c olive oil
¼ c balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic (minced)
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp agave nectar
1 tsp strawberry jam (I’ve also used raspberry)

1 tsp salt (plus more to taste if needed)
¼ tsp pepper (plus more to taste if needed)
1 tsp herbes de provence
¼ tsp dried thyme
½ tsp ground mustard
¼ tsp ginger
¼ tsp dried sage
¼ tsp ground nutmeg

I blend it all in my Bullet blender and then I add in some water. It's rather thick once it's blended so thin it with water until it's the consistency you prefer. It will emulsify and change to a lighter color. The recipe says to whisk together tho so you can decide how you'd prefer it. I also sometimes add more jam and agave depending on how I am feeling. If you want it sweeter, add in more to taste.

Also.. since I make this so often… I will measure out multiple servings of the herbs and baggie it so all I have to do is add an herb pack to the wet ingredients… takes less time.

Engine 2 Basics Dressing (no oil)

I know this sounds really weird but once I tried this, I started craving it. I love this dressing and it has no oil!

2 tbsp nutritional yeast
1 tbsp tamari (soy sauce)
1 tbps mustard (I like dijon)
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Juice of 1 orange, lime or lemon (abt 3 tbsp)
1 tbsp agave nectar, honey or maple syrup (I leave out)
1 tsp of vegetarian Worcestershire sauce (look for one without anchovy)
1 tbsp wheat germ (I used flax seed instead)
Water to desired consistency

Mix all together. I prefer to emulsify it in the Magic Bullet.

Benihana Ginger Dressing - serve this on iceberg with a slice of tomato! it's just like you get at the Japanese places! Serve with your brown rice & veggie stir fry! 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Veggies Are Not The Enemy!

I am often very saddened by the amount of veggie hate I encounter on a regular basis and I blame parents. Generation after generation of parents have forced children to consume mushy canned veggies before leaving the dinner table and that is wrong. This forced eating turns some people into veggie avoiders and then they raise their kids to never even eat veggies! I'm here today to tell you that veggies are amazing and good and if you find a way to give them a second chance, you could find that the hate in your heart can replaced with an understanding... maybe you won't end up loving veggies but you can at least be friends.

I personally love many veggies - carrots, peas, green beans, brussels sprouts, onion, tomatoes, mushrooms, zucchini, spinach, kale and so many more but others are just 'eh' for me, which means that I probably won't buy them and make them at home but I'd eat them if I were out someplace and happened upon them.  With the exception of zucchini, I'm not a big fan of squash so that is an 'eh' veggie for me. Don't love it, don't hate it. I pretty much like all other veggies.

I have one veggie hate confession to make. I only have one veggie I despise with every fiber of my being and I will not, under any circumstances eat this veggie.. I hate the flavor of it and I think it destroys any food it comes into contact with so it isn't something I can even pick out of a dish because it's ruined if it has this veggie in it and that veggie is the green pepper!

I'll eat red, yellow and orange peppers but green is non-negotiable! Green peppers are unripe peppers.. so if you eat them, you are eating peppers that aren't finished! Red peppers have more vitamins and nutrients and contain the antioxidant lycopene. The level of carotene is nine times higher in red peppers. Red peppers have twice the vitamin C content of green peppers. Also, one large red bell pepper contains 209 mg of vitamin C, which is almost three times the 70 mg of an average orange.

The best way to start with veggies is fresh, of course. Fresh veggies (organic if you an afford them) are the building blocks of a solid, healthy diet. You should be eating (and enjoying) a ton of veggies everyday!

Frozen veggies can be a great second choice. My favorite frozen veggie is corn. All the work is done for me and all I have to do is warm it up or thaw it to toss into dishes! Frozen can be great if you can't get fresh but some veggies lose their crispness when frozen and you have to make sure you aren't buying veggies packed with crappy ingredients that take away from their goodness - like cheese or butter sauce.

The worst thing that ever happened to us - canned vegetables. Yes, they can be convenient but they taste horrible. Veggies are meant to crunch and snap. They aren't meant to disintegrate into pulpy piles in our mouths. You should have to chew veggies, not swallow them like pudding. Our teeth are specifically made to chew plants, so use them! Canned veggies shouldn't be a choice at all, if you can help it. I don't mind canned spinach but I rarely use canned veggies at all.

So, how to reintroduce veggies back into your life?

A Daily Smoothie.

Blend together the following in a blender:
1 cup of unsweetened nut milk (or use homemade almond milk sweetened with dates!)
a scoop of your fave protein powder (I prefer hemp)
1/2 cup berries or tropical fruit (frozen is great in this case, it acts as ice)
1 TBSP flax seed
1/2 banana (frozen will give it a shake consistency)
a handful of spinach
* you may need a couple ice cubes if you are using non-frozen fruit.

wait.. spinach in a smoothie? yep! It's fabulous! First off, you won't really taste it and you'll be drinking a full serving of veggies in there! When I buy a big container of spinach, I'll eat it fresh for a few days and when it starts to wilt, I'll pop the rest in the freezer and then I can grab a small handful and toss it into my smoothies. It keeps for a long time that way. Other optional additions to your smoothie can be Maca powder, Cacao powder, Chia seeds, and whatever supplements you want. You can pack a whole lotta goodness into a shake every day! You could even make that your daily breakfast! It's quick and easy.

Make Up For Lost Time
I want you to make peace with your parents veggie mistakes. I want you to wipe the slate clean and start over when it comes to veggies! I want you to re-try a veggie you have a hatred for once a week. Pretend you've never had it. When you start with fresh veggies you have endless cooking options but the easiest way is to roast them because I don't think I've found a veggie yet that isn't delicious roasted.

Take a cookie sheet and place a piece of foil on it and mist it with oil (or use a quick spray of cooking spray) then lay out whatever veggies you are trying on to the foil. You can also mix in a variety of them!. Then drizzle or mist olive oil over the veggies and sprinkle with sea salt. You can also add any herbs and spices you want. then, cook at about 400 degrees (turning once in awhile to prevent burning) until the veggies are fragrant and fork tender. They should be able to be pierced with a fork but shouldn't be mushy. Different veggies cook at different speeds... potatoes and carrots take longer than asparagus and mushrooms so you may need to cook the harder veggies for a bit first and then add the ones that cook faster.

Some veggies, like carrots and onions will caramelize and turn into sweet gems of deliciousness while others blossom in flavor. A good example of that is broccoli. Broccoli is ok raw but steam it for a couple minutes and it is really delicious.

You need to experience veggies on their own.. so avoid dumping sauces on them or hiding them in other foods. Veggies actually taste really good. Once you've started eating healthy and removed sugar and processed foods from your diet, your taste buds will re-emerge and come to life again. You'll find that you prefer less salt too!

Steaming is great for broccoli and cauliflower. I love to saute green onions, mushrooms and peas to add to my brown rice for a quick stir fry. My favorite way to eat green beans is sauteed with a little hoison sauce, an Asian sweet soy type sauce. I love corn and baked potatoes with a little sea salt, fresh ground pepper and Earth Balance buttery spread. I love sweet potatoes with a little Earth Balance, cinnamon and maple syrup. Speaking of potatoes, you can toss whole potatoes (regular and sweet) into your crockpot and bake them that way. Cook on high for a few hours and you have perfectly baked taters!

There are tons of other ways to enjoy veggies. Get on the internet and google for veggie specific recipes!

Find Your Inner Bunny!

Your parents may have started your aversion to veggies but if you continue to hate veggies then that is on YOU. As we grow up and mature, tastes change so things you didn't like in the past may become a new favorite but you'll never know if you don't try those things at different times in your life.  I'm guessing the store is full of veggies you haven't even tried and maybe feel a little intimidated to bring home and that's ok! Just google a veggie you are interested in and find a few recipes to test out. Ask friends if they have a fave way to make that veggie and get recipes! If you have kids, start a weekly veggie project... choose a new veggie each week, research it, buy it and have everyone try it!

A gorgeous salad is the obvious choice for eating raw veggies. I'll be posting about building the perfect salad in my very next post! Stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

I simply can't comprehend it

One thing that frustrates me is when people are so willing to take dangerous pills, have risky surgeries to correct heart disease, replace organs and actually have body parts removed, inject themselves with the urine of pregnant women (gross, right?) or go on crazy diets where you eat 14 jars of baby food a day, live only on weird canned chemical drinks or give up whole groups of foods like carbs or fruit (really? fruit? that makes sense to people?) to lose weight or cure disease but no one seems willing to simply eat the correct way.

I don't understand it. It's so simple and it won't cost you thousands of dollars or require you to attend meetings, count calories, deprive yourself, allow doctors to cut into you or introduce harmful drugs into your body. Think of the money you'll save!

Eating plant based foods means you can stop counting calories because if you only eat the foods that are good for you and nourish you then you don't have to worry about how much you eat. Choose to eat whole, fresh foods and give up the processed, sugary and chemical-laden garbage that make up the Standard American Diet (SAD as we call it).

Just stop. It's a choice that you need to make. Today.  You can choose to start eating a healthy diet and you can choose to give up eating crappy food. It really is true that you are what you eat so do you want to be cancer and diabetes and heart disease or would you rather be vibrant and happy and feeling great?

Don't go into your future thinking you have to get sore and tired and start taking medications to keep yourself alive... embrace food for the medicine it is! 

You only get one body and you are probably treating it like complete shit. It's there for you and will do amazing things if you only give it the fuel it needs to function properly. Your body wants to work for you, not against you... but it can only give you as much as you're giving it.

Start eating every few hours to keep your energy up and enjoy eating all day long! Stop buying shit! If you don't buy it, you can't eat it! Only allow yourself to eat the foods that are good for you like veggies, fruits, whole grains, nuts and beans! You will feel better, look better, your attitude will change, your outlook will change and you'll be fighting and preventing disease!  The earth provides us with all the nutrients we need in plant life (yes, including calcium and protein!).... where exactly do you think the animals get the nutrients? FROM PLANTS... so cut out the middle men (animal products) that are killing you with saturated fat, cholesterol and hormones and choose to live without any bad karma.

Knowing that you are living without cruelty is a big game changer as well. It's a great feeling knowing you are not contributing to the suffering of other beings. It fills up your heart like you wouldn't believe.

Embrace your fellow earthlings ... they don't deserve any less than you do.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Vegans Eat More Than Just Salad.

One of the first things I am asked when people find out I'm vegan is 'If you don't eat animals... what do you eat?' ... that question makes me laugh because it's more about what I don't eat. I just don't eat any foods that contain ingredients from animals. I don't eat meat or broth or dairy foods. I don't eat eggs, honey or gelatin, I don't eat seafood.. and yes, fish and crustaceans are animals, believe it or not. Of course, as a clean eating vegan I've gone a step further and I've chosen not to consume processed foods and refined sugar. I've also cut way back on processed oils.

What's left? Everything else!

  • veggies
  • fruits
  • oatmeal
  • beans
  • barley juice
  • hemp protein shakes
  • seeds & nuts
  • nut milks & nut butters
  • whole grains like brown rice and quinoa
  • whole grain products like breads, pastas and cereals
  • natural sweeteners like maple syrup and brown rice syrup
  • tofu and tempeh
  • amazing ethnic foods like mediterranean, japanese and others
  • lots more!

I often get asked if I miss anything being a vegan.. I really don't. I've been able to create healthy vegan alternatives to pretty much anything I'm craving. If anything, I miss the convenience of being able to eat anywhere.. if you eat crappy food, you can always find food wherever you go. If you eat healthy, you better bring your own food unless you are lucky enough to live in a big city that has lots of vegan options.

I enjoy cooking but what I enjoy more is knowing exactly what is in my food and how those ingredients affect my mind, body and moods. I enjoy knowing that what I consume is nurturing me instead of harming me and I enjoy fueling my body instead of slowing it down.

Often, people think I'm suffering in some way by not eating animals but by being vegan I've discovered so many amazing new foods and recipes. I've had fun learning new things and meeting some amazing people.

When you're sure that your lifestyle choices are true and good.. it's easy to live the life you've chosen and it feels good.

* The food shown here (salad, hummus and falafel) is from our favorite mediterranean restaurant! Please support local businesses instead of chains.

The Road So Far

July 2003 had been an important summer for me. I had spent a full year on Weight Watchers and I had made my goal to lose 50 lbs. WW taught me how to portion foods and how to be able to eat real food in the real world but WW didn't teach me nutrition. WW basically teaches you that you can have anything you want as long as you portion well... it really doesn't teach you what you should eat.

One day, I was sitting in my kitchen eating a piece of grilled chicken and one of my dogs was nearby, staring at me, begging. All of a sudden, a thought entered my head, a thought I had never had before in all my 33 years - 'you'd never eat a dog so why are you eating a chicken?'

That day it seemed like my brain had suddenly turned itself on and was actually functioning. Of course I knew meat came from animals but I guess I hadn't ever given it a second of thought. Not one second.

The next day, I was vegetarian.

I was an overnght vegetarian too... there was no back and forth or easing into it. I did it full-on and the dead flesh of an animal didn't pass my lips after that day. I still continued to eat dairy products and eggs. I figured since no animal was killed for those products then they must be ok. I lived happily in that fairytale land for 7.5 years.

However, I had started to gain back some of the weight I had worked a full year to lose and altho I knew it was happening, I didn't do much to stop it and before I knew it, I had regained about 30 lbs of the 50 lbs I had lost. I was unhappy and mad at myself for letting it happen.

In May 2010, Weight Watchers was no longer working for me. It's a great program but progress just flat out stopped for me and I was frustrated. I'd lose a couple pounds and gain them back. I started to look at other diet programs and plans. I found Jackie Warner and I bought her book "This Is Why You're Fat" and the information in that book started me on a journey to find out what kinds of food I should be eating and shouldn't be eating and why. Jackie's plan was based on 'Clean Eating' which led me to the Eat Clean Queen herself, Tosca Reno.

I picked up Tosca's book and quite a few books on nutrition and I ultimately discovered that many of my problems were do to processed foods, dairy products and refined sugar. I discovered that processed foods are full of chemicals, dyes and crap that no one should ever be consuming. I discovered that sugar is a toxin that is poisoning us. It's added to practically everything. I discovered that dairy can cause terrible diseases and lead to obesity.

I finally opened my head to the fact that the dairy industry was cruel and that it wasn't ok to consume dairy products and eggs. I learned that in order for a cow to give milk... she had to be pregnant, just like a human and that her baby is stolen from her at birth (and sent to become another dairy cow like herself or to slaughter as veal) because then the milk can be given to humans to drink. Cows don't just produce milk, folks. I learned about the horrific treatment at egg farms and how cage free and free range certainly don't mean cruelty free.

The more information I read, the more I discovered that the way to be healthy and fit and free from disease is to follow a 100% plant based diet. To test my theory I decided to go dairy free and egg free for a week and I told myself that if I didn't notice any differences then I'd go back to eating dairy products and eggs.

That day was August 6, 2010

Once I had shed the dairy and eggs it was like a fog was lifted. I started feeling better, (less headaches, more energy, better overall well being, no stomach problems) looking better (no skin issues, I thinned out) and I had a clear conscience because nothing I consumed was hurting an animal in any way. Nothing.

I'm down 18 pounds and I'm in the normal range for my height and my BMI is also normal. I'd like to lose another 7 lbs but I'm not stressing over it. My cholesterol numbers are excellent.

My goals are simple.. to look good in my clothes, to be free from disease, to be free from prescription medication as I grow older and to feel great. I am 41 now and I've come a long way since my epiphany at 33!

This blog is to help you start your journey to better health and a plant based diet.