Monthly Archives: November 2012

I Am Thankful

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It’s time to count blessings and multiply love.  This post is a list of things that I am thankful for:
-My boyfriend, Mike and my mother Laura for not only being supportive of my transition into veganism, but for joining me on my path by becoming vegetarians in their own time.  Way to go guys- I love you
-My “in laws” for gladly accepting both me and my vegan treats with warm expressions and open minds.
-Support that I receive from friends in the form testing all of the food that I make, going to festivals with me, listening to my new ideas, and for trying all of the funky little restaurants I find online
-My cats, (Lincoln and Mary) for happily trading my meaty leftovers for extra smooches and for loving me no matter what
-That I live in a time and place where fresh, organic produce is readily available and that I am economically able to make these choices
Harms Vegetable Farm and Sugar House my CSA that I’ve grown to love so very much
-The Worcester Public Library for housing a great number of books, especially those on vegan diet, lifestyle, and exposure of the cruelties within agri-business
-My health and how far I’ve come in terms of running ability.  And for my favorite “personal trainer” for sticking it out with me and taking it slow
Loving Hut on Hamilton Street and the kind owners that work there for always being so friendly and helpful when we go in or take out
-Everyday I get to spend on this Earth.  What a wonderful life.

Giving Thanks

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Holidays are about love and joy and giving.  (But let’s be realistic here) they’re also about planning and preparation and food.  Families gather and break (pita) bread, tell stories from the year past, and celebrate. And for those of you with a more Type A Personality Family, it’s more about what time are we meeting everyone, what should we bring, and how long do we have to stay once the conversation turns political?  Finding a happy medium can be key to having a successful and happy holiday.  Every family is different (let’s be real here, every person in every family is different) but coming together to share a nice heaping bowl of quinoa and tofurkey can be very rewarding…

But what if you’re not hosting the Thanksgiving feast and the safety that you feel within your own kitchen is thrown to the wind and the control you have over what’s going to be served for dinner has effectively been flushed down the toilet?  Here’s where it can get tricky.

Having been a meat eater at the last holiday dinner I attended at my boyfriend’s family’s house, I knew that I would need to brace myself for an interesting transitional point. I decided that introducing them to the reality of my veganism should be done months in advance.  It came up casually while we were all out to dinner for an occasion sometime in September.  An interested aunt had noticed that I had ordered a salad  and asked the waitress to please hold the meat and cheese.  Once had asked for oil and vinegar as my dressing, the conversation kind of flowed right from there.  It was a very non-confrontational discussion where people were mainly curious about the reasons (in a non-aggressive manner) and kindly contributed what they believed to be basic dietary requirements.  This, thankfully, was the perfect introduction to my new lifestyle; and so the seed was planted.

Then there was the official acceptance of the invitation (months later) that we were going to Thanksgiving dinner at their house.  I’m not sure that they remembered that I would be eating differently from years past, but I was sure to remind them (indirectly and through other family members- not by choice but by happenstance) just in case they remembered suddenly and they thought that it was their responsibility to make sure I had something to eat at their dinner table.  The last thing I want to do is show up and make veganism look unappealing by not enjoying a meal alongside everyone else.   

I’m assuming there are going to be a lot of questions regarding my choices since I’ll be seeing some of his cousins for the first time since my transition.  I’m going to use this time right before the holidays to brush up on some of the most FAQs and re-read the Vegan Society’s guide to Plant Based Nutrition so I’m ready to present my position in a way that is not offensive to anyone else that may be sitting directly beside me eating meat and/or dairy.  I will also do my best to avoid conversation about food while everyone is still at the dinner table.  Many books will tell you to avoid the conversation while eating if at all possible (or at least leave out the gory details) and say vague things like “I’m a vegan for moral reasons and the health benefits have been awesome!”  And then if someone wants to explore my choices further after the meal, I’ll be more than happy to talk about my choices.  I’m going to maintain an upbeat attitude and make sure I have my nutritional facts in order.  Arm myself with knowledge some would say. 

 I’m fortunate enough to be traveling along with 2 vegetarians to the feast anyway.  Overall, this should make for a pretty interesting dinner but I couldn’t be more excited to see how it goes!  Gobble on Mr. Turkey!  It’s vegan 2 “cheese” lasagna, Portobello risotto, and pumpkin pie galore for these veg heads!

Curious about hosting your own cruelty-free Thanksgiving?  Check out Veg News for 3 Simple Timelines for  a Stress-Free Vegan Thanksgiving

As for tonight, friends are coming over to celebrate a little early Thanksgiving celebration complete with Trader Joe’s brand stuffed tofurkey and gravy which is thankfully vegan-friendly along with some baked sweet potatoes and pan-seared asparagus.  Keep your eyes on the recipe section over the course of the next week- I promise you won’t be unhappy with the additions!

(Sistah) Sistah (Vegan)

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I’ve begun to delve into A. Breeze Harper’s Sistah Vegan for a more socio-economic perspective on vegan lifestyle.  Her introduction of the first book ever to be about “black female vegans in North America” was moving to say the least.   From what I gather, this is certainly going to be an interesting collection of accounts from women of color on the implications of food in America on culture, race, gender and all the overlaps in between.  I am excited to read on!  I was inspired by a quote in Layli Phillips’ section on Veganism and Eco-womanism and had to share.  Please enjoy with a pat on the back even for the seemingly small things you do in this world.  They count (Layli says so)!

“All movement toward greater harmlessness is of value, regardless of an individual’s starting point.”

The Slow Change of Seasons

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What a wonderful weekend spent with friends.  I was able to enjoy the splendor of Boston’s very own Arnold Arboretum  in Jamaica Plain wandering around the trees.  If you haven’t been there, go!  It’s free and beautiful and I always feel really great after a day there.  We’ve ventured out there in all seasons but winter and they have all been fantastic.  Hopefully this winter will bring another trip so I can complete my seasonal circuit! 
 
While we were in the area, we enjoyed some pizza at Peace O’ Pie  in Allston, MA.  This 100% vegan pizza place had plenty of tasty organic pizza options (that they let us mix and match) and even dessert!  I strongly recommend even for omnivores the one in our group thought the pizza was delicious!
 
Another noteworthy snack spot (this time right in my very own downtown Worcester, MA) is The Bean Counter.  Last night I had a hankering for something sweet so we set off in search for a treat to sedate my sweet tooth.  There were vegan and gluten-free options and a specialty drink menu that could be tailored to your liking.  I had a delicious oversized vanilla cupcake with sprinkles and I had to stop myself from ordering another one, reasoning that I would be back soon enough.  Great hang out spot with big comfy chairs and a nice window seat looking out onto Highland Street (perfect for people watching). 
 
What a fun time to be vegan.  The weather is changing and the earth is getting ready to freeze over for the winter.  What would I do without my farm stand on Grafton Street?  I can’t help but imagine a time where New England vegetarians and vegans would resort to all of their jarred and dried veggies from harvest, nuts and seeds,  and rely heavily on root vegetables until the thaw.  What a different world we live in now (not necessarily better just different).  I imagine it was much simpler to be in tune with what your body was telling you without all of the buzzing noise that we have now to distract us. 
 
If you’re in the mood for a laugh… check out this post I found on Vegetarians Are Evil.   By the way, is this for real?

(ju)ICE (ju)ICE BABY!

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Having successfully bombarded myself with a slew of information from the web on (nearly) everything about juicing, not withholding graphic gory details about what happens to you (from the inside out), I was exhausted to say the least.  There are all sorts of cleanses that you can purchase or take with a combination of flushing supplements.  Recipes range from all veggie to all fruit to a Master Cleanse that will rid you of build up you never knew existed.

In Casey Lorraine Thomas’ How to Juice Fast Safely, she explores various questions, for example, why juice in the first place?  Her being an acclaimed Health and Life Coach, Author, Motivational Speaker and co-founder of the Ger Juicy Cleanse as seen on CBS, I found her answers to be easily absorbable (just like the juice):

When you juice your fruits and vegetables, you remove the fiber and drink only the liquid which contains the organic hydration, nutrients, vitamins and enzymes from the plant food. Although you do need fiber in your diet, going for a certain period of time without it will give your body a chance to spend less energy on digestion. 

Around 70% of your energy every day is spent on digestion alone, so when you are eating 3 meals a day plus snacks, you are rarely giving your body a chance to direct energy to deeply cleansing the body and drawing up old acidic waste that is likely causing a whole host of symptoms.  

If you suffer from headaches, constipation, diarrhea, skin troubles, fatigue, irritability, excess weight, bloating or any other number of symptoms, your body needs some help to cleanse. The intelligent application of fasting is a brilliant way of helping you to do this.”

Some boast the effect of a 92 day Juice regiment (one day for all of the 92 elements in the body).  I decided that a 92 day Juice Cleanse may be a little bit out of my league at this stage, but I’m certainly interested in what awaits me for a much shorter, 3 day cleanse.  Some of the materials I flooded my brain with included the Joe Cross Documentary of his Journey, Fat Sick & Nearly Dead (available to stream instantly through Netflix which is what I did) where he turned his health around drastically thanks to juicing in addition to a very informative and well put together informational booklet by Angela Stokes, A Juice Feaster’s Handbook

Information on juicing is very polarized with people either shouting it’s praises from the rooftops, or saying that it’s silly to cut out all of that fiber which keeps your digestive system running smoothly anyway.  (And haven’t  I made posts bragging about how much fiber should be in your daily diet?)  I guess Election Day has me in the mood to go back and forth over some really key issues here…  (Laughter from the crowd).  But in all seriousness, see below for a little Pro/Con list that I set up just for kicks. 

Pros: (the Juicing and Raw Food site proclaims) an easy way for your body to absorb nutrients from your food while giving your digestive system a break, you’re ingesting the nutrients from more vegetables/fruits than you could eat at one time, detoxification  

Cons: Livestrong has a section by Corinne Shaw, What are the Dangers of Juicing that explains the drawbacks of juicing.  Among their list is Foodbourne illness, blood sugar regulation (due to quick absorption of the juices), upset stomach, potential weight gain, carotenemia (or an overload of beta carotene found in some vegetables)  

I’m not sure where I stand on the issue, which is part of the reason I’m looking to go on a mini-cleanse.  Well, I guess if I’m trying it then I tend to lean more toward the fact that there have to be benefits that outweigh the disadvantages right?  So be it!  The sugar from fruit certainly isn’t the reason America’s gaining more weight by the minute.   I went out yesterday and purchased my very own Dash Electric Juicer  and went to town this morning making a nice big batch of (what I’ve dubbed) breakfast juice and a lunch juice for the road (I’ve read that you’re supposed to consume the juice you make as soon as possible to avoid the growth of bacteria on your lunch however, I’m willing to chance the 4 hours it will have to sit in the refrigerator).  I’ll make a fresh batch for dinner.  **I think it’s worth noting that juicing is much different from simply using your blender to make a fruit/veggie smoothy.  In a blender, the pulp remains in tact whereas in a juicer the pulp is completely removed.  Therefore, you will not get the same cleansing effect from making batches of smoothies as compared to juices.

From what I can tell so far (and I’ve only just begun my trial this morning) everything seems to be normal with no adverse effects.  My energy level is what it was yesterday when I was eating solids, and although I wasvery hungry around lunchtime, I always am so there’s no real difference there. 

I’m not going into this expecting any life changing occurences.  I suspect that the longer cleanses come with the deeper more physical and even spiritual experience but I see this short one is more of a test for me.  To see if I have what it takes.  They say that the first 3 days are the toughest part of the cleanse and that it’s all downhill from there- we’ll see how this one goes and perhaps there will be a longer cleanse in my future.  At any rate, I’m certainly down for ridding my colon of whatever toxins that rest there. 

I just want to remind everyone that I’m not an expert nor have I sought the advice of a professional on this matter.  I am simply going off what I have read from a plethora of different sources.  I suggest you seek a doctor’s opinion before starting your own juicing regiment to avoid complications.