Friday, January 30, 2009

Greatest Hits

I'm kinda bored and want to post on here, but I couldn't think of something profound... so, instead, I'm making a list of the top 10 new foods in my life that I love deeply. Some of them I picked up from my cleanse, others I've picked up along the way from eating vegan. All of them are simply amazing. Check 'em out:

1) Sunflower Butter- I love this more than peanut butter!

2) Hazelnut Milk- I love this more than milk! (duh)

3) Agave Nectar on pancakes- tastes just like maple syrup, but better for you!

4) Vegan Indian food- I've been buying a lot of pre-made home-style cans of chickpeas and potatoes in sauce, as well as a sauce for cooking tofu in- all are delicious and not too spicy!

5) Avocados- these I've obviously eaten before, but had no idea how much I could fall back in love with them during my week-long cleanse.

6) Gluten-free and buckwheat pancake mixes- I enjoy these better than the wheat version. I usually substitute the egg with a well-mashed banana and then throw some fruit in. Delicious with agave nectar on top.

7) Tempeh bacon- the first time I tried this, I ate almost the entire package. Now, that's a clear sign that I've found a food worth falling in love with.

8) Fingerling potatoes- Steve and I made mashed fingerling potatoes for a party, and they turned out tan colored, which I thought was kind of awesome. Plus, they have an earthy and delicious taste, and a wonderfully thick texture when mashed.

8) Stuffed Grape leaves- Oh. My. Stuffed Grape leaves. I can't say enough about this food. Pure bliss.

9) Coconut Milk Ice Cream- when I'm in the mood for something creamy and cold and sweet, Pure Decadance Coconut Milk Ice Cream calls out to me from the frozen foods section. Mmmm....

and the 10th food on my list that has changed my life for the better:

10) Yogi brand teas (decaffeinated). I'm in love. It's been months since my last straight week of coffee, and I have never been happier to wake up with a hot cup of decaf tea. I especially love their Ginkgo-IQ and Breathe Deeply tea. If I am in need a small caffeine fix though, I love their Black Chai. Amazing.

Happy Friday everyone! I hope you are inspired to try something new this weekend. I certainly am!

Monday, January 26, 2009

A Vegan Italian Honeymoon- Ambitious? Yes. Limiting? I don't think so.

Just as a quick follow up to the last post- the cleanse was great. I lasted the entire time and really feel quite rejuvenated. I highly recommend this cleanse to anyone whose body is in need of some deep TLC.

And on to the current post:

Last night my best friend and I were discussing all the lovely details of my wedding in November. We gushed about the wedding location, my color ideas for dresses, and tons of other stuff. We then got to the point of the conversation which became quite intriguing for me- the talk about our honeymoon. Steve and I are wanting to honeymoon in Italy sometime early next year. When I told my best friend (who has traveled through much of Italy) this fact, she said, "But wait... are you going to eat vegan in Italy?" To which I laughed and said, "Of course- I don't just stop every now and then." My best friend's heart sank as she said, "But what about the desserts, the pizza, the cheeses? My heart is breaking just thinking about it!" I love my best friend deeply, and I did not want to disappoint, but in this moment, I did not have a concrete answer to her concern.

And thus begins my new challenge: to prove that honeymooning in Italy as a vegan is not a limiting task. Is there a bit more effort involved? Of course- but there is always effort involved in living vegan. That's what I love about it- with a little extra effort, I have found new ways to celebrate food and have discovered food cultures I would have never even considered prior to this change. So, what should make a honeymoon in Italy any different?

I began my search this morning, and I've already found plenty of places to begin. All you have to do is google "Eating Vegan in Italy" or "Vegan Food in Italy", and do some research. My favorite link is
http://www.compassionatecooks.com/blog/2007/05/vegan-in-italy-mostly-florence-and.html, which is an article by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, a food writer and self-taught vegan cook. She really lays out for you a clear path to dining in Italy as a vegan. It got me so excited! I also include a quote of hers I used in a previous post:

"I've heard people say that eating vegan is "limiting" and "restrictive," and I couldn't disagree more. In fact, I find that it's quite the opposite. Your awareness is expanded. You try foods and cuisines you never even noticed before. The compassion you knew as a child is restored- and fully manifested. But even more than that, I find that living in such a way that we cut ourselves off from the truth, from our truth, is what's truly limiting."

So, for now- I am pumped and ready to explore and research my new challenge, and to celebrate the fact that eating vegan (in any country) can be a quite liberating experience.

Friday, January 9, 2009

A New Year Indeed

We are finally into the start of what I think will be a glorious year. I'm excited too, because on Christmas, I turned 25 years old, which is kind of monumental and wonderful. I'm also getting married this year, which is also quite a big deal apparently. :)

I had more fun at Christmastime with my family than I can even explain, and I am in serious Christmas withdrawal. How did my first vegan Christmas go? Well, it was quite interesting. Highlights include making my mom vegan dinners a few nights before Christmas, where even if something was new or strange to her, you would never know, because she just gushed about everything we ate (and laughed at her new digestive experiences from trying those new things!). I also tried to make chickpea cutlets on Christmas Day (from an awesome recipe out of Veganomicon), which turned out pretty great actually. The best part was my vegan french onion dip, which unfortunately was placed right next to the non-vegan dip (I say unfortunately because it was gone so fast I didn't get to enjoy it! My family honestly couldn't tell the difference between the two- a huge success for the vegan in the room). Mostly, I laughed a lot and just had a great time with family.

I'm super lucky, because even though my family has been through a lot- challenges, change, times where we didn't know what would happen next for us- we have come out on top and are healing. We're growing and becoming our own people, and most importantly, we are learning to embrace each other unconditionally. Which leads to one of my favorite Christmas/birthday gifts (besides my sister getting me WALL-E, one of the best movies of last year!): a tote bag from PETA that had an adorable little chick on it and read: I AM NOT A NUGGET. My brother gave this to me- and that was pretty amazing coming from him. See- my brother has always been one to challenge me at the dinner table about being vegan (always in good fun). Getting that tote bag meant that he was embracing me, even if he doesn't always agree with my choices. And that really meant a lot.

So, the title of this post is about the new year. So, let's talk about it. I have a lot of resolutions in mind, and one of them is to begin making better eating choices. Just because I've chosen veganism doesn't mean I always eat salads. I'm more apt to choose french fries over carrots, if given the choice! So, I've decided to try something really enlightening- a cleanse. Kathy Freston, the best-selling author of Quantum Wellness, appeared on Oprah a while back and convinced her to try a 21-day Vegan Cleanse. Oprah tried it, with great results. So, I thought, if Oprah could handle it, I'd give it a whirl. But the cleanse is not just about removing all animal products from your diet. You also have to remove caffeine, sugar, alcohol, and gluten. That's a lot of stuff to remove, no arguing about that. I decided to start small- only a 1-week Cleanse to get me started.

I'm already on Day 5, and I've gotta say- this has been much easier than I thought it would be.

Gluten and sugar have been the hardest for me, mostly because I already don't eat animal products or caffeine (I have a limited amount in my tea some days, but after reading Skinny Bitch, I tried my hand at giving up coffee, and I've been mostly coffee-free for over 2 months now). Gluten is in everything it seems, as is sugar in different forms. Alcohol hasn't been bad at all, because I only drink every once in a while anyway now. But yeah, gluten and sugar. Man, I didn't realize how much I was eating! Bread, pasta, sweets, pancakes, pizza, crackers, even my vanilla soy milk!

So, what have I eaten so far? Here's a list: olives, stuffed grape leaves, flax crackers, rice cakes with sunflower butter on top, lots of salads with avocado and cherry tomatoes, gluten-free pasta (who knew?), brown and wild rice, kale (I cooked it for the first time in my life!), broccoli, lots of blueberries and strawberries, tofu, potatoes, roasted yams, oatmeal with some agave nectar drizzled on top (agave nectar is like vegan honey- it's amazing), popcorn (my daily obsession), and nuts- lots of nuts! I'm even going to try a gluten-free, dairy-free pizza today. With the exception of accidentally forgetting there was caffeine in my green tea one morning, I have been really diligent. And it has paid off- I have more energy, and I can feel my body becoming more peaceful as it heals itself a little. I've also learned about a ton of new foods that I would have never tried otherwise. All in all, it's been pretty awesome.

If you wanna learn more about Quantum Wellness, Oprah includes an excerpt on her website: http://www.oprah.com/article/oprahshow/20080520_tows_quantumwellness. Also, if you do some searching on there, you can find Oprah's blog about her Cleanse experience.

I've got two more days to go. We'll see where that leads!


Happy New Year to everyone. I hope your holidays were filled with love and laughter, and that you have a lot to be thankful for this year.