Friday, May 30, 2014


Tonight my friend gifted me a kombucha mother.  I have never made kombucha before, so it's a whole new world!

I looked online for recipes, and this is what I ended up doing:

Step one.  Find 1/2 gallon jar. 

Step two. Boil 1/2 gallon worth of water

Step three.  Use 4 teabags or 4 tsp of loose tea and 1/2 cup of sugar (I used a mixture of herbs -- alfalfa, spearmint and calendula)

Step four. Let the tea dissolve the sugar and sit with the herbs until the water cools.

Step five.  Once the tea is cool pour into half gallon jar

Step six.  Add 1/2 cup of the kombucha liquid to the jar

Step seven.  Add the mother to the jar. 

Step eight.  Cover with a cloth and an elastic and let sit for two weeks

Step nine.  Try it :)

For more tips:

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Rough vegan guide for the transitioning vegan

Going vegan for the first time? You aren't alone.  Any question these days can fortunately be typed in to google for an answer.  Anything from social aspects of being vegan to recipes to best food replacements, and meal guidances.  I've provided below some of the shortlisted tips that I use regularly.
Reading labels and asking questions will become commonplace.
A shortcut, is that milk is often listed as an allergen on ingredient lists.  However
sometimes they do sneak in ingredients without labeling them on the ingredient list.
A few ingredients to look for : milk, butter, whey, honey, meat, egg, casein,
A few ingredients to look for that don't make them not vegan.. but in terms of looking out for your health: corn syrup, sugar, evaporated cane juice,
These sweeteners are hard to avoid, but sometimes it's possible to find options with a lesser percentage of sweetener, or added as a last ingredient instead of a first.  The sweetener with supposedly the lowest glycemic index is brown rice syrup, it's not often that it is used in products, but it does happen sometimes.
It's also good to avoid hydrogenated oils, partially hydrogenated oils, aspartame, food colors and dyes.
More on food labels

Oh and get yourself a good vegan vitamin B12 supplement :)  It's the only vitamin that is questionably less available in a vegan diet..  the vitamin is under lots of scrutiny from different 'health professionals'  My view is, that it's better to be safe than sorry.. might as well take it.

As for people who who become iron deficient on a vegan diet, my take on that, is you aren't getting enough greens, greens need to be at the bottom of the food pyramid!  :)  Followed by vegetables, then legumes and grains, then nuts and seeds (or perhaps vice versa if you are a raw foodist)  and seaweeds.


Try Pro bars or Larabars -- an easy meal on the go.
(available at Natural Grocers)

Try 3-4 fruits in the morning and a handful of nuts and seeds, for another quick time meal.

Vegan cereal 

  • Read labels! It can be tricky, and although not the healthiest option, it can be a quick way to get breakfast in.  Choose a cereal with low to even may no sugar content.  Or better the puffed grains.  They can always be mixed with cut fruit, flax nuts, seeds, raisins or other dried fruit for a more interesting variation. 
  •  Choose your vegan milk. To reduce waste from buying vegan milk, make your own.  Blend about 1/4 cup of nuts or seeds with 1-3 cups of water, depending on the thickness you like.  It's best to soak the seeds or nuts overnight, but they can also be just blended with water, and then strained by a fine sieve or nut milk bag-- to get rid of the grainy texture.  To add some sweetness, add a dollop of agave, or 2-3 dates.  Another option is to blend the meat of a young coconut with its water.  Another really easy alternative option is 1-2 tbsp of tahini with 1 banana, this makes a very thick and frothy kind of milk, that you don't need to strain.  Blend it with 1-2 cups of water depending on the thickness you like.  
Raw Oatmeal
Healthy and nutrient loaded, this meal will keep you full for a while.  Soak 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of whole groat oats overnight in 2-3 cups of water.  In the morning, drain the water, put them in the blender and again add 2-3 cups of water, with a banana, dates and cinnamon.  Blend until chunky but easily chewable.  Nut milk can be added, berries and any other additions wanted.  

Make a filling green smoothie, load it up of dark green leaves, 2-3 fruits, lemon, ginger, flax seeds, hemp seeds.. whatever you feel like!  If you like a sweeter version, make sure to add bananas, dates or nut milk.  If you feel like something savory, make a vegetable smoothie, try kale, tomatoes, avocado, green onion and lemon.  If you want more veggies for breakfast for added energy, google recipes for vegan raw soups for more ideas :)  

Other savory options include tofu scrambles with hashbrowns and steamed dark greens.  For example scrambled 'eggs' and cheesy potatoes recipe. 
Don't be afraid of eating traditional 'dinner' type dishes for breakfast, this can actually really help stabilize the blood sugar and reduce cravings for sweet dishes later in the day.  If you can, include dark greens in your breakfast, they really are the ultimate food in terms of nutrition, full of vitamins and minerals such as calcium, vitamin A, C, K omega 3's, iron, magnesium... list goes on :)

Sweet options include vegan french toast, pancakes, crepes, banana bread, toast (which could also be savory depending on the toppings :) ) 

In my mind, I don't differentiate between dinner and lunch.  

Are you used to big meals or small meals for lunch, lighter or heavier?

The traditional sandwich is always an option.  
Simplest approach:  
Whole grain bread

-- I will make something like this as a half faced sandwich,
It could also include, sprouts, dark greens, mustard, cucumber, bell pepper, sauteed mushrooms, or marinated portobello, smoked tofu (available at natural grocers), vegan cheese, vegan butter, vegan meats, marinated eggplant or eggplant bacon.

Whatever you can find in your fridge, beets plus oranges, spinach plus apples, dollop some of that cashew cheese on there.. or even just roasted sunflower seeds.  Find a good vegan dressing, it can be as simple as balsamic vinegar and oil... PS balsamic vinegar plus fresh basil plus tomato is amazing and can be added to any other salad.  If you would rather make your own creamy cashew dressing at home.. for a very filling and nutritious alternative to store bought dressings. Try ranch dressing, replace the 1 tbsp with 1 tsp of salt.  It's amazing that most recipes really go crazy on the salt :) Or replace some of the salt with nutritional yeast, zesty spice or seaweed :) Or make one yourself salt substitute.  Other options are using lemon zest, dried red pepper, and onion and garlic powders.  

One of my favorite dressings is mixing tahini with balsamic vinegar.  This makes a very quick and delicious salad dressing and stevia, agave, salt or whatever other ingredients can be added if wanted.  

Often what happens is I will have left overs from the previous day for lunch the next day... or on extremely lazy days and unhealthy days I may have: steamed vegetables plus a vegan burger, and maybe some frozen fries. Or maybe a vegan pizza,  -- Available at Lee's marketplace, Smith's Marketplace and Natural Grocers.  Or vegan pot stickers or spring rolls available at Natural grocers

Veggies -- mini bell peppers, snap peas, carrots, celery, even sometimes fresh lettuce can taste good enough to just want to snack :)  
vegan crackers -- try flax crackers
Chips and salsa 
Fruit -- my all time favorite snack, eat 3-4 fruits in a sitting if you are hungry... It's a great source of calories and energy, with high water content, fiber and nutrients!  can also be eaten with nut butter
Avocado smothered in lemon juice and maybe some nutritional yeast and pepper :)  
Peanut butter toast
Vegan bars
Banana bread
Include hummus in the snack... on bread, chips, crackers or veggies
Nuts and seeds


top ten easy vegan recipes

  1.  Quesadillas Try one of these or steam your own veggies and use the cheese recipe from here if you don't want to buy vegan cheese or make a simple cashew cheese
  2. Pizza plus salad Store bought vegan pizza or make your own
  3. Spaghetti lots of veggies and nutritional yeast It can be as simple as (4-5) blended tomatoes plus  (4-5) dates, (1/4 cup) oil, (1 tsp) oregano and other italian seasonings with garlic plus (2) zucchinis and (1 package) mushrooms, or it could be 1 can of tomato sauce, 1 tbsp white wine vinegar, 1/4 cup of chopped fresh parsley, 1 tsp of agave, 2 garlic cloves and 1 tbsp italian seasoning, 1/2 tsp salt. Or it could be prepared pasta sauce plus 2-3 zucchinis, or 1 package of mushrooms chopped.
  4. Veggie burgers Get milk free and egg free buns, vegan patties, lettuce, tomato, vegan cheese, pickles, ketchup, mustard, veganaise, eggplant bacon
  5. Stir fry and rice 1/3 cup of rice per person, rinse before cooking.  Place the rice in a pot and fill with water so the water is about an inch the rice.  The stir fry can be really easy, the veggies can be anything in your fridge-- however if eggplant or potatoes are going to be used, would be best to bake them atleast for 40 minutes prior to soften them up enough that they will be cooked through without overcooking the rest of the veggies in the stir fry. Try a seasoning mix such as this, the main idea is that, there is something sweet, savory, bitter, sour and salty within the flavorings.
  •  For example for 2-4 cups of veggies in the pot use 2-3 tbsp of soy sauce, seaweed, or nutritional yeast for salt.
  •  use 2 tbsp of dried herbs or 1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs
  • use juice of 1/2 lemon or 1/2 orange, or tamarind for the tang (add last to keep    flavor) lemon zest or orange zest can also be used
  • use garlic, onion, turmeric, chili powder, ginger or hing for bitter/strong
  • use agave, stevia, molasses, sugar, brown rice syrup or maple syrup for sweet Warning** use only a couple grains of stevia to keep it from becoming too overpowering and gross in the dish.  
             At bare minimum try something like 2-3 tbsp of soy sauce, 1-3 tsp of olive oil and 1-4 cloves of garlic minced. Feel free to add protein to this!  Tofu, seitan, tempeh, beans, chickpea tofu
6- Burritos
             Canned beans, (or made at home, soak 1/2 cup of dried beans -- note** lentils don't need soaking, for 12 hours or overnight, simmer the next day 2-3 hours.. or put the beans into a crock pot and let cook 4-6 hours on high.  They will get to be just like the ones that come in a can :) )
Cook some rice
Make some guacamole
Buy/make some salsa
It can be that simple! Or try this recipe

7- Chili
         It can be as simple as a 2 cans of tomato sauce 1-2 cans of diced tomatoes or 3 chopped fresh tomatoes, 1-2 tbsp of chilli powder, 2-3 cans of beans, 2 chopped bell peppers, 1 can of corn or corn from one corn on the cob, 1 tsp of agave, 1 tsp of molasses, 1/2 tsp to 1 tsp of salt, 1/2 tsp of paprika, 1/2 tsp of vinegar or for a little bit more involved recipes:

chili recipe
chili recipe number 2

8- Tikka Masala Tempeh
This can be served with rice and salad or steamed veggies
1-2 cups of coconut milk from a can
1-2 tbsp of tomato paste
1-2 tbsp of curry powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 onion
1 package of tempeh

Fry the tempeh and onions in the oil (garlic can also be added) until browned or onions turn clear.  Add the rest of the ingredients heat until hot.

9- Lentils and rice bake
1 cup veggie broth
2 cups tomato sauce or diced tomatoes
3/4 cups of lentils
1/2 cup brown rice
3/4 cup chopped onion
1 tsp italian seasoning
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Mix all ingredients in baking dish, cover with foil and bake
for 1 hour and 10 minutes.

10. Mix up dinners:
steamed vegetables or roasted veggies
baked potato
plus some kind of protein dish--preferably saucy such as lentil soup, beans in tomato sauce, or some other dish with mushrooms, tempeh or tofu.
If I didn't get around to cooking it may be some kind of frozen vegan food such as vegan spring rolls, dumplings, veggie burger, or other mock meat.

So, for example, baked beans + potato + steamed broccolli, vegan cheese can be added if desired...

When I have the time to properly make something, I always like to have greens as the base, asparagus, bok choy, kale, mustard greens, collards, spinach, romaine.. whatever it is, if it is a bitter green I typically like to steam it.  

Then I can make some kind of saucy protein dish, that can also act as a dressing to the salad or the cooked greens.  Sometimes like this ---

Typically the starch element of the dish -- pasta, potatoes, rice, quinoa is more of a side event of the dish.  

Out to Eat 
Ask the chef, ask the waiter.  Go for a burrito with beans without the cheese and the sour cream.  Get a salad, check to see what dressings are vegan and make sure the candied nuts don't have honey.  Find out if the chef can add extra veggies to the salad, steamed or fresh veggies -- broccoli, tomatoes, avocados, olives, peppers... Find out if the chef can add other sources of protein -- mushrooms, tofu, nuts, seeds, or beans.  

Sometimes vegan soups are available, find out about the tomato, minestrone, vegetable or even chili.  

Wraps and breads often have milk or egg products in them, check first, otherwise find out what kind of vegan sandwiches may be available or wraps.  

If at an asian restaurant, find out what dishes may have fish sauce in them, otherwise dishes such as moo shu vegetable may be safe, or other tofu plus vegetable dishes.  Dishes with a coconut base -- for example in indian restaurants will be generally more safe.

Unfortunately there area limited options out to eat, at least in non-metro areas for vegan desserts.  It's possible to find vegan desserts at whole foods, natural grocers and other health food stores.  Otherwise vegan ice cream is becoming more popular to buy at bigger food chains such as smith's marketplace and lee's market place.

Try some of these :)

If I am feeling like something sweet but I don't feel like baking... here is sometimes what I will do...

Snack on vegan chocolate chips with peanut butter
Have a toast, smear it with peanut butter and sprinkle chocolate chips on top.
Snack on just chocolate chips -- when I buy chocolate bars I tend to eat more than I do when I only have access to chocolate chips.. not sure why.

Apples with peanut butter
Bananas with peanut butter

Snack on cocoa beans

or if I have vegan ice cream available I may also have that :)

Otherwise I will just have a pear, an apple or some kind of a vegan bar -- like a lara bar or pro bar

Another option is snacking on dates, cashews or coconut date rolls -- which are really good.

That's about it!!!

Anything that isn't clear or any questions, please post a comment :)

Best guidelines from Dr. Joel Fuhrman:::

1. Eat a large salad every day.
2. Eat at least a half cup serving of beans/legumes in soup,salad or another dish once daily.
3. Eat at least three fresh fruits a day, especially berries, pomegranate seeds, cherries, plums, oranges.
4. Eat at least one ounce of raw nuts and seeds a day.
5. Eat at least one large (double size) serving of green vegetables daily, either raw, steamed or in soups and stews.

-- Consider these guidelines as thou holy protein sources, and holy calcium, mineral and vitamin sources 

Avoid these five deadliest foods:
1. Barbecued meat, processed meat, and commercial red meat
2. Fried foods
3. Full-fat dairy (cheese, ice cream, butter, whole milk) and trans fats (margarine)
4. Soft drinks, sugar and artificial sweeteners
5. White flour products.
Helpful books:

Nutritarian Handbook by Joel Fuhrman
Juice Lady's Guide for Juicing for Health, Cherie Calbom
Raw family, Victoria Boutenko
Sunfood diet success system, David Wolf
The Rainbow Diet, Gabriel Cousens --  He is certainly one of my favorites, he has a retreat center/school/healing center the tree of life, 

  • ***Note
The first two books, the authors don't talk 100% of a vegan diet, however my mind tends to block out any words on meat and other animal products, otherwise their content is good, I don't agree with Joel Fuhrman that having animal products at minimum of 1x a week is healthy -- it still can create sickness in the long run.. and if sickness is already present in the body.. it doesn't support the immune system to recover fully.... best thing, is to avoid altogether.  I don't agree with Cherie's recommendation of specific meats and other animals products. However, her juices are powerful and can definitely assist in many ailments.  Each chapter of the book addresses different illnesses.. if she mentions animal products.. replace them with veg protein sources :)

Helpful documentaries:
Forks over knives
Got facts on milk
Healing cancer from the inside out
Hungry for change
Food matters
Fat, sick and nearly dead

Earthlings--- I have not seen this one.. because I was thoroughly convinced of being vegan prior this.. however I know that this is a very powerful film on some of the wrongs we commit to animals because of our greed for their products.

Here is another film, named ALMA, addressing some of the issues with animal product consumption on our environment.

Further reading on animals and the environment

Some further readings on animal rights

Video: Animals are Persons too

NPR Diane Rehm show --interview with Steven Wise

Should a chimp be able to sue its owner? -- Article

Blog post connecting animal rights and human rights

As far as non food items are concerned, I buy all my toiletries also from health food stores,
I make sure that all products have not been tested on animals or contain animal fats in them, it's also possible to make your own products as well :)

I avoid purchasing products that contain:

  • down-- in particular feathers or down are found in comforters, blankets, coats, pillows, sleeping bags
  • fur -- trim on coats and boots in particular
  • leather -- shoes, backpacks, couches, cars, clothes, jackets, sandals, straps, belts, dolls or other ornaments
  • wool -- sweaters, socks, carpets, blankets, coats
  • silk -- dresses, shirts, sometimes pants, bags 
  • bones, 'ivory'  -- ornaments, trinkets 
  • manure -- this may be a very difficult one, especially if you have your own farm or garden, and are trying to get the right ratio of nitrogen and carbon.  However, if it is at all possible to use other composted materials from vegetables, or human recycled/composted waste, this releases some of the support of some of these agricultural practices.  Of course, using manure is better than allowing it to go to waste, but as far as possible these products ought not be purchased.  

As far as honey is concerned, many vegans do use honey, in the beginning I believed that if it mattered to some people to avoid honey, than I would make it matter to me.. even though I wasn't totally familiar with the process it takes to get honey.  

I was kind of stuck in the middle for a while in the argument, until I met my husband who is allergic to honey.  And he told me that among Buddhist monks they avoid honey.

Because it is basically 'stealing' and is bad 'karma'.  The bees have to take something like 1000 trips for a very small portion of honey.  And in replacement we feed them high fructose corn syrup.  Something in my mind didn't quite click with this relationship, and so I do the best I can to avoid honey. 

A good documentary is 
vanishing bees

The documentary enlightens upon the best reason in my mind to consume organic :)   

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Life in real time

It seems that with an ever increasing technology emphasis in our modern lives, the less interactive we have become with our communities, in our towns or regions.

I've briefly mentioned this, that I started a page on Facebook where the vegans in my town can kind of get to know each other, to form community.  Today we had our first face to face meeting to discuss some of the possibilities for enhancing vegan options where we live.

It was really great!  What is so awesome about it, is that whatever we do, will create ripples, and that will effect our community on a first hand basis.  It's really so exciting to be able to turn a virtual 2D world, on the internet, an idea to start out with, into a living thing, connections and facilitations.  Enabling the community to communicate, interact, be with nature, learn new things.  It really is so inspiring to be involved with this project.

I don't think anything else in life gives me as much satisfaction than to come up with crazy ideas, and figure out ways to manifest them.  What is the point of our minds, our hands, our speech, or ears.. if we don't use them?

The plans for the group:

1-- Help local restaurants create more plant based options.  For example recommending good vegan cheeses, giving prices and details on how to order.  Recommending good mock meats and perhaps different ways they could make dishes more interesting to plant based eaters.

2-- Start up a booth at the local farmers market.  We aren't allowed to just have an ... "Ask a vegan..." booth so, we've decided to sell baked vegan goods.  Mostly in a disguise as an "ask a vegan" booth.. :)

3--Develop a guide on eating a plant based diet in cache valley, where to eat, what to eat :)
and making that available online and at the vegan booth

4-- Documentary nights, hikes, potlucks, food demo's

Lots of fun :)

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Wild Edible Hike

Yesterday for the Cache Valley Vegan group, I had organized a hike with a friend who is an amazing ecologist/botanist/environmentalist among other things, but for now we will call him a wild food expert.

To start out the hike he talked about the basket that he had brought that had come from Indonesia.  It was made of locally sourced plant materials.  He wanted to demonstrate how strong the fibers were, and what craftsmanship can look like.  

The first plant that we talked about was Burdock:
A wild edible green that can be used best in sautee's as it's a little bitter.
I collected some for the salad to be made later :)

then there was horsemint:
used just as mint can be used-- 
As an herb for seasoning, raw or cooked :) 

Below is fireweed.  The inner stem according to others who tried them are tasty, I didn't try them, but I did try a leaf, it tasted like grass.  

As you can see, there was a pretty decent turnout for the hike!  All crowded around, eager to learn about the plants :) 

Below are a couple of pictures of a wild carrot, flowers, leaves and roots are edible.  

This was my favorite edible plant learning of the day!  Anise!  
It has a lovely sweet licorice flavor, oh so amazing and they grow in huge clumps so
you can harvest a decent amount.  They grow about the size of mint plants..  
Here is a picture of its leaves:

I was a big fan of this flower as well, the Bluebell, however after eating many of them, I think a stranger flavor kept emerging.  It was said to mentioned that it tasted like a clam.  But I thought it tasted more like a blueberry.  However, with time, I think it became tasting a little more like I imagine a clam may taste like and my interest in it, became a little less enthused.  It may be one of those acquired tastes.. you know like everything else.  I remember the first time I bought cilantro.  I loved it, and then I quickly grew really sick of it.  But then over time, with persistence I love love cilantro... so maybe it's something like that? who knows. Below is a picture:
-- These flowers at this time of year grow very close to the ground and typically are found in clumps of 2-3.

At the end of it, we all met at Natural Philosophy to have salad.

It was amazing -- I apologize for not getting up close pictures of the salad, I didn't think about it. 

They had made some raw dressings for the salad which were incredible.

They made a peanut thai dressing made from equal parts of prunes and peanuts, with blended ginger and salt.  

The kids at the salad tasting event, were a little less happy about some of the bitter qualities of the salad, but it just seems that it is highly nutritious right!! :)

Lots of fun.  

Friday, May 16, 2014

New food blog

For those interested, I've started another blog on vegan food :)