Thursday, March 25, 2010

Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution

I know I am a little late to the Jamie Oliver party, but last night I finally got around to watching Jamie Oliver's TED Prize speech. After that I immediately went to Hulu to watch the first pre-season episode of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, his new show on ABC. The season is set to premiere with a two hour episode tomorrow night and I CAN'T WAIT!

To those who haven't seen it, Jamie goes to a town in West Virginia that has been deemed by the government to be the fattest in America in order to change their food culture, primarily focusing on their schools. To be honest, I wasn't sure what I thought of his approach at first. He comes on a little strong and it was more than clear that the school lunch ladies did not like him poking around on their turf. In fact, other than a pastor that is also concerned with the health of the town's residents, many others also seemed angered with Jamie and he even winds up on the front page of the town paper.

However, what struck a chord with me was the family that Jamie begins working with to change their eating habits. All of the children are overweight and the Mom serves them things like freshly fried donuts dipped in chocolate as their breakfast. She cries when Jamie tells her she is killing her children. This hit home because I was raised in much the same way. The food culture where I grew up was similar (so it is no surpise that Philadelphia and the surrounding area also ranks right up there on the fattest in America list). I grew up eating Entemann's donuts and Cocoa Krispies for breakfast. Lunch was either American cheese on white bread or whatever unidentifiable object they served in the cafeteria. Dinner was chicken nuggets with french fries or macaroni and cheese. We rarely had a salad, but if we did you can bet it was iceberg lettuce with blue cheese dressing. To be fair, we often had some green stuff, like cooked frozen spinach, canned string beans or asparagus (cooked in butter!). Sometimes we had salmon (in a dill cream sauce) or tuna (covered in parmesan cheese and fried in olive oil). We had dessert pretty much every night: double-stuffed Oreos, Chips Ahoy cookies, a piece of cake with 6 inches of icing or some other pre-packaged nightmare. You might think I had awful parents or something but they were feeding us exactly what every other family in my area was feeding their kids. It's no wonder I got so fat and have food issues to this day....and that I had my gall bladder removed at 23 years old!

If you can believe it, the following is a list of food that I either did not ever eat or didn't know existed until coming to college or, in some cases, even just a year or two ago: whole wheat bread, lentils, almond milk, brown rice, soy milk, quinoa, sushi, bulgur wheat, tofu, tempeh, seitan, falafel, any cuisine from India, Ethiopia, Japan and Thailand, brussel sprouts, kale, chard, beets, mixed greens, jicama, avocado, bamboo shoots, baby spinach, feta cheese, carrots (unless they were in a canned soup), artichokes, Greek yogurt, mung beans/mung bean sprouts, steel cut oats, polenta, brie cheese, couscous, almond butter, okra, whole wheat pasta, cannelini beans, butternut squash, chickpeas, arugula, whole wheat pizza, pesto, black beans, green tea, guacamole, hummus, dolma, blackberries, Asian pears, black grapes, chai, guava, papaya, collard greens and yuca. I am sure there are more. The good news is that most of those things make up the large majority of my diet at this point, so there's hope for others who grew up on foods similar to me.

Jamie's show is premiering at the same time that First Lady Michelle Obama has started her new Let's Move Campaign. In fact, you can sign his petition for healthier food in our schools, which he plans to take to the White House after the show airs. For all of the kids like me who were served slushies, Doritos, frozen pizza and breadsticks covered in cheese (as a main course!) in their cafeterias, I sincerely hope a change is on the horizon. I can't wait to watch and see what tomorrow night brings!

Are you watching Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution? What do you think? What types of food did you grow up eating?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Vegan Kickstart: The Conclusion

Well, my friends, the 21-Day Vegan Kickstart has come to a close! What, you might ask, have I learned over the past three weeks?

New Foods

Even though I was already a vegetarian, over the course of these 21 days I have tried or cooked with several new-to-me foods. Those include: nutritional yeast, dairy-free cheese, radishes, Earth Balance, vegan-friendly marshmallows (you HAVE to try Sweet & Sara's--way better than normal marshmallows!), tahini, black lentils, arugula, coconut milk yogurt and ice cream, bulgur wheat, hemp protein powder, cheese-free pizza, brussel sprouts and tempeh. Heck, I've even made peace with kale!

New Recipes from New Cookbooks

A HUGE benefit of doing this program has been getting myself back into the kitchen. I've cooked from Vegan Yum Yum, Veganomicon, 1,000 Vegan Recipes, The Vegan Table, The Joy of Vegan Baking, How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, Vegan Soul Kitchen and Vegan with a Vengeance. I already owned most of those cookbooks but the Kickstart got me actually using them! I also found a great recipe for Sweet Potato Quinoa Black Bean burgers on the web and made that too!

New Ideas

Every since watching "Earthlings" sometime in February, I have been on a quest to learn as much as possible. Through several vegan resource books, VegNews magazine, internet searches and other films, I've soaked up SO much new information on the agriculture industry and the way animals are treated. As much as I didn't want to learn this stuff, I am so glad I did. Ignorance is not bliss. Educating myself has been an invaluable experience.

New Habits

-I cook for myself way, way, way more than I previously did. I actually left the mall early the other day because I didn't want to eat fast food and wanted to come home and make something yummy!
-Even though I still have them from time to time, my cravings for sweets have significantly decreased.
-I read more labels.
-I'm more adventurous and more sure of myself in the kitchen.
-I eat more vegetables and whole grains.
-I've tried out cruelty-free lip balm and bought a vegan purse.
-I am WAY more conscious of what I am putting into my body.
-I've developed a green smoothie habit.
-I sought out vegan-friendly restaurants and bakeries in the area.
-I do feel lighter and like my mind is clearer.
-The sense that I could actually do this has empowered me in other areas of my life. I'm back at the gym and yoga on a regular basis.

The Downside

Unlike vegetarianism, there were a few times where I felt like veganism was pretty isolating. There was a friend's birthday where I couldn't partake of her favorite birthday cake, a work lunch where my Thai dish came covered in eggs, a work celebration I couldn't enjoy and all of my out-to-dinner experiences have been at Indian, Thai or Chinese restaurants, which is fine for 21 days but I don't know about a whole lifetime. Often a restaurant will have one or maybe two vegetarian dishes and they likely aren't vegan. It can be stressful to eat out of the house sometimes.

The other downside is that I have found that I don't like the label "vegan" and that some vegans themselves have been militant on the subject. I'm not going to toss out all of the leather shoes I currently own. I may use lip balm with honey in it. Someone may eat a vegan diet for health or environmental reasons and not just animal rights reasons and I refuse to judge them for that. I'm just not okay with people getting worked up about a label and what is or is not "going far enough" with someone else's diet.

...But will I keep it up?

Maybe. I think I will likely continue the way I was always eating. That is to say, no meat at all, no eggs except maybe in a baked good here or there, and avoiding dairy where possible since I shouldn't really have it due to not having a gall bladder and a lactose intolerance. However, I think being so strict about my diet has brought about flashbacks of other diets. I don't like feeling restricted and I don't like labels. I just want to eat fruits, veggies and whole grains 95% of the time (and maybe the occasional piece of pizza or grilled cheese) and leave it at that.

That being said, this was a great experience and I will always be thankful for what I've learned, what I've cooked and the new habits I've acquired.

{Photo credit: AuntieP}

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Vegan Kickstart: Days 19-21

It's official: I have a green smoothie obsession. I try to have one for breakfast. That way I get in a LOT of veggies and fruits and sometimes protein (yay hemp powder) before I even leave the house in the morning. It's decreased my cravings for sweets and boosted my energy levels.

I've promised myself that sometime very soon I will branch out from spinach and start adding more adventurous greens to my smoothies. I have recently been thinking I would really like to have a juicer too so that I don't have to have icy smoothies all the time.

I recently read Green for Life by Victoria Boutenko. It's full of great information on nutrition, the benefits of chlorophyll, recipes for green smoothies, etc. Looks like an updated version is on its way out-- I highly recommend it!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Vegan Kickstart: Days 17 & 18

I have a confession: for the most part, I hate vegan substitutes for meat products. I absolutely will not eat faux meat. I never ate burgers or sausage to begin with so I really don't want to eat something that looks like one. It's a total mental hurdle that I just can't seem to get over. I can't wrap my brain around mock seafood and I can't imagine eating fake lunch meat. I haven't even been able to bring myself to eat seitan (it looks too much like meat!) or soy crumbles. I'm a regular tofu, lentils and veggie kind of girl.

However, non-existent gall bladder beware, I do like the occasional cheese item. I thought that it would be very difficult to completely give up but the good news is that it hasn't been at all. It's especially good news because I haven't liked the two dairy-free cheeses I have tried, Sheese and Daiya. I opened the Sheese package and, based on color, odor and consistency, couldn't even bring myself to try it. I know, I'm the world's pickiest eater! The Daiya was a little bit better, but the cheddar style, which I had on nachos, was pretty darn salty. I still have the Italian blend in my freezer, just waiting for the time when I am craving cheesy pizza and feeling adventurous. Sometime soon I would also like to try a cream cheese substitute.

For the most part, however, I don't want to eat substitutes. I want veggies and whole grains. I do, however, worry what might happen when the time comes that I have bad cravings for a grilled cheese or a melty slice of pizza and dairy-free cheeses just won't cut it.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Words to Grow By

"Listen to the MUSTN'TS, child,
Listen to the DON'TS,
Listen to the SHOULDN'TS,
Listen to the NEVER HAVES,
Then listen close to me--
Anything can happen, child,
Anything can be."
~Shel Silverstein
{Photo credit: jared}

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Vegan Kickstart: Day 16

Today I stocked up on some groceries (including hemp protein powder and Gerb's Pumpkin Seeds, which I had seen on VegNews' blog). When I got home, I made the cran-apple muffins from Robin Robertson's 1,000 Vegan Recipes. They were pretty darn good, though not nearly as moist and tasty as Colleen's banana chocolate chip muffins. I also made steel cut oats for the very first time so that I would have something new and interesting for breakfast these next few days. I am so glad that the Kickstart has been able to get me back in the kitchen. It's something I've been wanting to get back into for awhile now and this gives me a good excuse to finally just do it!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Vegan Kickstart: Day 15

During these past 15 days, I have often been asked why I am trying out the 21-Day Vegan Kickstart. It's not an easy question to answer. Part of it is because I don't agree with killing animals or causing them suffering so that I can eat. Part of it is that a low-fat vegan diet is one of the surest ways to improve one's health through diet. And another reason, which for me is much harder to articulate, has to do with the impact of eating meat on the environment and on world hunger. This is my attempt to gather a few facts that will help me to better give voice to this concern of mine, as I see myself first and foremost as a citizen of the world with a duty to others to do the least harm and leave the smallest footprint possible.
Disclaimer: I am in no way perfect in this regard but I do what I can when I can and am constantly striving to get better at it. I also know that the source of these facts matter and that some have been questioned. I am merely gathering them here to spark conversations and as a reminder to myself.

-John Robbins told VegNews in their March/April 2010 issue that 40% of the world's grain production is used for meat production. According to the USDA Economic Research Service and Agricultural Research Service, the amount of grain needed to produce one pound of US feedlot beef is 16 pounds.

-The United Nations says that livestock production is one of the major causes of the world's most pressing environmental problems, including global warming, land degradation, air and water pollution and loss of biodiversity.

-Body + Soul magazine's latest issue focused on the benefits of reducing meat consumption. Some facts it includes are that 77% of US soybeans and 46% of US corn feed farm animals and that cows expel methane, a greenhouse gas that is 23 times more potent than CO2. Sixteen times more fossil fuels are needed to create one steak than to produce a plate of broccoli, eggplant, cauliflower and rice. Going vegan saves 1.5 tons of CO2 compared to the average American diet.

-In The Vegan Sourcebook, Joanne Stepaniak writes, "Research conducted by David Pimentel, PhD, indicates that animal agriculture accounts for more than 80 percent of annual world deforestation" and "According to Norman Meyers (a zoologist), irrigation, employed mainly for feed crops, uses more than 80 percent of US water, and agriculture in total, as reported by David Pimentel, uses almost 90 percent of freshwater consumed annually in the United States".

-According to, it takes 300 gallons of water per day to produce food for a vegan and more than 4,000 gallons per day to produce food for a meat-eater. Additionally, food for a vegan can be produced on 1/16 an acre of land and over 3 acres to produce food for a meat-eater.

-The WorldWatch Institute has some interesting facts and figures on livestock population growth and statistics on meat consumption around the world. They write, "As population grows, lowering meat consumption worldwide will allow more efficient use of declining per capita land and water resources, while at the same time making grain more affordable to the world's chronically hungry."

{Photo credit: Kris Litman}

Revelry Review: Hungry by Crystal Renn

This weekend I finished reading the book Hungry: A Young Model's Story of Appetite, Ambition, and the Ultimate Embrace of Curves by Crystal Renn, which I heard about via a CNN article a few weeks ago. Full confession: I have a huge girl crush on Crystal. I think she is absolutely gorgeous, wish I looked like her every time I see her picture AND I love, love, love that her NORMAL size body has graced the covers of so many magazines (Vogue, Elle, etc).

What I didn't know before reading the book was that she struggled with intense anorexia as she tried to lose enough weight to become and remain a "straight size" model. At 5'9, she was 95 pounds at one point. Eventually, having had enough with starvation, endless hours spent in the gym and criticism from people in the modeling industry, she became determined to get healthy. Ford modeling agency took her on as one of their plus-size models, which I find ridiculous since Crystal is a perfectly average size 12, but that's another rant for a different day. In this book, Crystal recounts her biography but also takes on the fashion and modeling industry. She comes to love her body for the size it wants to be instead of trying to force it to be smaller. The book made me like her even more.

I saw Crystal in ads for Lane Bryant (and didn't know who she was) but really became interested in her and her story after seeing this ad of her in a red bathing suit in Glamour magazine. It was so refreshing to see someone who wasn't a size 0 in their swimsuit photos. She has since appeared in their magazine and on their website many times. Apparently I wasn't the only one--this was one of the photos that caused many readers to write in and ultimately convinced Glamour to include more average-sized girls in their magazine, including the one of "The Girl on Page 194", which made national headlines. You can learn more about her from these clips from 20/20, Ellen, Good Morning America and Nightline.

And some more photos of Crystal:

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Vegan Kickstart: Days 13 & 14

I spent most of this weekend being lazy and trying to get my knee and hip to not hurt. You see, last week I had an accident that I will call The Perils of Produce.

Jesse and I were at Whole Foods before yoga, getting a few ingredients for our meals together. A corn husk that had turned to wet mush was on the floor. I didn't see it and slipped, landing with all my weight on my knee on the brick-tiled floor. At first I was embarrassed more than anything, since everyone in the produce department and at the fish counter was a witness to my clumsiness. I tried to fight back tears and finish our shopping. Against my better judgement, I still went to yoga. The next day I had a black and blue knee and thought being sore was due to yoga, so Jesse and I went to the gym. By day three it hurt to walk. My knee is still swollen and my hip is still very sore. I am hoping that it heals quickly, so I took advantage of this rainy, cold and gloomy weekend to help it along in that process.

What I did accomplish, however, was reorganizing my closet, purchasing a pair of sandals (when you are a size 11, you have to get them whenever you can!) and a new shirt, doing laundry and watching both "Precious" and "Born into Brothels". If you haven't seen either of these, you MUST immediately see them. They are so powerful. I also made green smoothies for breakfast both days, which included baby spinach, vanilla almond milk, bananas and mixed berries. Yum!

Today I made Vegan Yum Yum 's Spicy Chickpea Tomato soup again, which was perfect for this terrible weather. I also attempted making Tahini Lemon Rice and Beans, which produced my very first cookbook fail. As soon as I mixed the sauce, it separated and looked more like curdled milk. Anyone know why this might have happened? I dumped the sauce and ended up having a tortilla with spinach, red pepper and hummus for dinner instead.

Now I am perusing cookbooks to see what I might try out this week. Here are a few new cool vegan blog finds, which goes to show that I am not the only one with a vegan cookbook problem:

Pink Vegan cooks from The Vegan Table and The Conscious Cook

Scrap.Eat.Book. cooks from Veganomicon

{Photo credit: gaab22}

Friday, March 12, 2010


I'm very excited that it is the weekend! I plan to:

-Sleep lots
-Finish my taxes (which I hate but needs to be done!)
-Watch "Precious" and "Born into Brothels"
-Try out at least one new recipe
-Go to yoga and the gym
-Sip some tea and write in my journal
-Draft a (GASP!) budget for myself
-Catch up with some friends

What do the next two days have in store for you?

{Photo credit: fazen}

Vegan Kickstart: Day 12

"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated. I hold that the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man."

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Vegan Kickstart: Days 10 and 11

Jesse has been here this week so I have had a partner in vegan crime since he is trying out the Kickstart as well. Yesterday we had Maoz Vegetarian for lunch: yummy falafel on a whole wheat pita topped off with veggies and sweet potato fries!

Tonight I decided to try out two new recipes, both of which are from Vegan Yum Yum. The first was the Sweet Chili-Lime Tofu, which was hands down THE BEST tofu I've ever made. It was perfect! I will definitely make this recipe again and again. The second dish was the Crispy Sesame Kale. I am normally not a kale person but since I know how nutritious it is, I was determined to keep trying recipes until I found something palatable. Problem solved! It was pretty darn good. Serve both of those with some brown rice and you have a wonderful week night (or any night!) meal!

Our dinner!

Jesse showing off our delicious meal!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

My Kitchen Wishlist!

I call this The Wedding Prize--it's the dream equipment of bakers and housewives everywhere. I don't bake enough to justify this expensive purchase but you better believe that if I ever get married, it is going on the registry!

A bamboo cutting board. So pretty, so useful and so much better than the plastic thing I have from IKEA.

A Le Creuset dutch oven. I need this--now if only I could decide on a color and a size!

A mandoline, because who doesn't love evenly cut professional-looking vegetables??

These are cute. That's really the only reason.

A salad spinner. I forget to pick one up every. single. time. I'm at the store and I need it!

A bread machine because I have a bread making fail every time I touch flour and yeast.

A confession: I often browse the Vitamix website and think of all the crazy concoctions I could whip up with this little number! A $300-$500 blender? Not in the budget right now but one day this will be mine!

Because every time I can't fit a bottle of wine onto the top shelf of my fridge or any time I have to give up grocery space to chill wine, I think what a lovely invention this is. And I think I would drink a lot more wine if I had one!

Vegan Kickstart: Days 8 & 9

For days 8 and 9 of the Vegan Kickstart, I want to talk about a pretty hefty topic that I am hoping will spark an interesting (and respectful) discussion.

I have spent the past month or so wrestling with the concept of an all-encompassing vegan lifestyle, which was mostly sparked by the very pretty bag you see pictured to the left. It was a Chanukah gift from my Mom. You see, I wanted this bag oh-so-very-very-badly. I lusted after it for months. I was considering buying it myself, which would have made it by far the most expensive single accessory or clothes item I ever purchased for myself, so I sent it to my Mom for a second opinion. I decided to wait to see if it went on sale and lo and behold it she got it for me for Chanukah. I was SO excited to get it. But then I watched Earthlings, which showed the horrific ins and outs of the leather industry. Now when I open my closet and see this bag, I see cows' faces. Every. single. time. Terrible, no? I've been agonizing over this bag so much, which is obviously symbolic of a larger issue for me, that I bought myself a (seriously on sale) vegan and beautiful Matt & Nat bag. So far I haven't used either bag as I have to use a big tote to carry school and personal stuff right now. I still love the leather bag and right now I plan on still using it. In fact, I plan on using it day after day until it wears out.....and then not buying another leather bag ever again.

Additionally, 95% of my shoes are leather. My favorite granola contains honey. I haven't eaten any during this kickstart, but I have been thinking a lot about how I feel about honey. Until I recently purchased some Crazy Rumors lip balm, I was a Burt's Bees girl all the way, which is made with beeswax.

I know people who eat vegan and wear leather or eat honey. Some still call themselves a vegan and some simply say they "eat a plant-based diet". I'm finding that, just like in the community of people who keep kosher, there is something of a "who can out vegan who" in the veg community. For some, vegetarians just aren't making enough effort. For others, even eating one vegetarian or vegan meal a day is applauded as a step in the right direction. Figuring out where I fit into this spectrum, both now and in the future, feels very important to me. Right now I am focusing on the food aspect but these other parts also come into play since people have been asking me a lot of questions about them.

So I'm curious....if you are already vegan, how long did it take you to jump into the vegan lifestyle (i.e. more than just not eating animals or their secretions)? Has anyone else struggled with the leather or honey issues (or other similar ones)? Can someone who eats a vegan diet but wears leather still call themselves a vegan?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Vegan Kickstart: Days 6 and 7

I had such a great weekend! During my time in grad school and working full-time I often wondered (and whined) about what people do with free time. I haven't really had very much of it in three years. Now that I only have one class until graduation (May 14th!), I can finally afford to do things just for fun!

On Saturday I took myself on a mini-artist's date. I went to Borders, wrote in my journal and perused some books. I ended up getting Tal Ronnen's The Conscious Cook (man those recipes look hard but great!). I know I said I would only buy Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's Color Me Vegan and Terry Hope Romero's Viva Vegan! this year and stop amassing such a ridiculous collection of cookbooks, but I had a rare combination of a coupon, $5 worth of Borders Bucks and a partial gift card so I got this $30 cookbook for a mere $8! I may just read through it and look at the beautiful pictures until I am feeling adventurous. After that I had lunch at Java Green (yum!), took a long walk and went to yin/yang yoga at Tranquil Space (hurts so good!).

On Saturday night I had dinner with my friend Noel at Toscana Grill, which is located just outside the Courthouse metro station in Arlington. They have a very vegan friendly and organic menu (soy cheese and meats, vegan pastas, etc.) that has the vegan items clearly marked but they also have a lot of options for the meat eating crowd. I started with the minestrone soup and had gnocchi with marinara and mushrooms for dinner. The food was delicious and the staff was so friendly. They asked if we wanted to see their dessert menu. I nearly died when I asked what was vegan on it and they said, "Everything!". Not only was it all vegan but it was all from Vegan Treats bakery! If you ever have a chance to sample their desserts, you must try the peanut butter bomb cake. It is THE BEST dessert I have ever, ever had. They even took our picture for their blog! That is the dessert that legends are made of right there on the table! Pardon the cheesy grins--we also had a considerable amount of wine:

After dinner we went to see "The Blind Side", which I had been wanting to see before the Oscars. To my surprise, I thought it was really funny and cute (......could've also been the wine!).

Today I got a late start but I ended up trying out two new recipes. The first was banana chocolate chip muffins from Colleen Patrick-Goudreu's The Joy of Vegan Baking, which I've had for quite some time. They are so good and so easy to make! They have a lot of bananas in them, so I feel less guilty than I probably should about eating them!

The second recipe was the Spicy Chickpea Tomato Soup from the Vegan Yum Yum cookbook. It was the first recipe I've tried from it and if the rest are like this, I'm cooking the entire thing! Basically you first cook a mix of garlic, onion, chickpeas, tomatoes and a ton of spices in a pan and it looks like this (I almost just made some rice and ate it over that because it looked and smelled so yummy!):

Then you mix it in a blender with a few other ingredients (this was also the first recipe I've tried that called for nutritional yeast!) and voila! You have soup! I can't begin to explain to you how good this is. It's like a spicy vegan tomato bisque, which I haven't been able to enjoy since having my gall bladder out a few years ago due to the cream, but with better nutritional value. The chickpeas also add some bulk to this soup so it is filling. This is the final product:

I will definitely be making this one over and over again! Soooooooooo good. Now it's time for the Oscars!

Have a great start to the week, everyone!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Vegan Kickstart: Day 5

Today we had a meeting at my boss's house. We had lunch delivered from an Asian restaurant. I ordered a dish that was rice noodles with least that's what the menu said. Turns out it was full of eggs (like the kind that are in fried rice). Even before the kickstart, I did not eat eggs. I tried to pick them out the best I could but they were everywhere. It was either pick out what I could and eat it anyway or not eat from 8 am to 6:30 pm. My stomach has been hurting all day since lunch time. That's all I can attribute it to. And also? Eggs are slimy and gross. I never understood why people like them and I don't understand even more why anyone would add them to a noodle dish.

I've also had a mild headache for a day or two. A friend says that some people have withdrawal symptoms when they go vegan, both due to the addictive properties of dairy and because your body is detoxing. I totally believe that. I have them every year during Passover when I stop eating carbs for a week. I know this feeling will pass (and exercise has helped) but's icky.

After lunch we had a cake for my co-worker's birthday. It was a mango mousse over lady fingers with fruit on top. Not only could I not have the cake due to the dairy in it, it also had fresh fruit on top covered in gelatin to keep it from oxidizing. Sad. Today was the first day where I felt like my diet was restricting me from participating in something (even though I know that's stupid--I was still there to celebrate with her!). On the plus side, I have turned down sweets a lot this week for not being vegan, which is leading to me eating a lot healthier.

Tonight I am sipping on a green smoothie. I am going to listen to some of Colleen's podcasts. This is the first day where I felt a little bit discouraged so I could use the extra support. I am looking forward to yoga tomorrow. I need to nurture myself a little bit right now.

Have a great weekend!

The Oscars!

I am SO excited for this weekend--it's the Oscars! I think of this as my Superbowl. I try to see as many of the movies as I can beforehand. Here are my predictions, though I should warn you that I am usually wrong. You can see the full list of the nominees here. Feel free to leave me yours!

Best Movie: Avatar (though I'd like it to be The Hurt Locker, which I didn't care for too much but was still really well done)

Best Actor: Jeff Bridges

Best Actress: Sandra Bullock

Best Supporting Actor: Christoph Waltz

Best Supporting Actress: Mo'Nique

Best Director: Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker

Best Foreign Film: El Secreto de Sus Ojos-Argentina (The Milk of Sorrow was great too!)

Best Animated Film: Up

Best Documentary: Food, Inc (though I wouldn't mind if The Cove won either!)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Vegan Kickstart: Day 4

I thought it was time for a check-in with myself on this vegan journey. It's only been a few days of total veganism (I did spend about two weeks prior to that slowly weeding out dairy and eggs) but there are things I am already noticing.

1. The biggest change so far has been breakfast. I had been eating yogurt with granola prior to the kickstart. I'm not a big fan of soy or coconut milk yogurt, so I gave that up totally. I was also saddened to see that my favorite granola is made with honey. The good news is that this forced me to branch out. I've had whole wheat and flax seed toast with peanut butter and plain oatmeal with a little agave, almonds and dried cranberries this week. I also bought a ton of ingredients to try some green smoothies.

2. I feel.....lighter. I am definitely eating a lot more vegetables and paying attention to things like getting enough protein now that my yogurt is out of the mix. I haven't had the gross too full type feeling once so far. I was a little worried about eating properly (I know a vegan or two that lives off of french fries). I am improving my diet in a pretty simple way--it's much harder to find sweets that are vegan! My mind also seems sharper, if that makes sense. Life seems clearer.

3. My love for Washington, DC has been renewed. There are a plethora of vegan-friendly restaurants in this town and I'm really appreciative of that fact. It's nice to be able to try out new foods and not have to do the dishes afterwards.

4.. I'm becoming more adventurous. I bought nutritional yeast. I made brussel sprouts for the first time. I tried radishes (not sure how I never had these before!). I researched ways to veganize some favorite foods. Foreign sounding ingredients in recipes seem more like a fun challenge now and less scary. There is a growing list of recipes I can't wait to try!

5. So far I've only had one not-so-nice encounter about veganism and no cravings for cheese for far, so that's a good thing too! I suspect I will eventually want cheese, since it has some addictive properties, but for now I don't. In fact, I walked by the pizza part of Whole Foods the other night and really only the cheeseless vegan pizza looked good to me!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Vegan Kickstart: Day 3

Turtle Mountain Foods, thank you for being awesome! Last night I got the So Delicious Coconut Milk Minis. So delicious indeed. They are a smaller cousin to a dairy-free Dove bar. They are super rich from the coconut milk but since they are half the size of a regular one, they come with only half the guilt! I liked that the chocolate was pretty thick and the ice cream itself had a slight coconut taste. An added bonus is that their products have both coconut milk and soy milk varieties, so you can mix it up if you aren't crazy about getting a lot of soy in your diet. I also spied mini ice cream sandwiches at the store that I think I need to try next.

My absolute favorite ice cream is their Purely Decadent Mint Chocolate Chip. If you are craving ice cream or chocolate, I highly recommend you check it out!

Have you tried any Turtle Mountain products? If so, what did you think?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Revelry Review: Etete

This past Sunday Jesse and I went to Etete for lunch, an Ethiopian restaurant located at 1942 9th St, NW in DC. Jesse had never tried Ethiopian food so I wanted him to experience it. (Him: "Are they going to bring us silverware?" Me: "No." Him: ".....Ever??") The good news is that he really enjoyed it!

The inside of the restaurant is small but warm and welcoming. The menu is pretty extensive but typical for an Ethiopian restaurant. Clearly we weren't the only ones wanting to eat here as it was pretty full at nearly 3 pm on a Sunday afternoon. We started with a sambusa, which is basically an Ethiopian lentil-stuffed empanada. It had all sorts of spices and definitely had a kick to it.

For our main course, I got the vegetarian sampler (a little bit each of collard greens, spicy red lentils, pickled cabbage and carrots, a split pea puree, something with potatoes and carrots and a few other things that I wasn't exactly sure what they were). Jesse ordered the Yemisir Wat, a red lentil stew, which was delicious. And, of course, injera. The injera here was so light and fluffy and not the least bit greasy, which was a nice surprise. I could have just eaten the injera for lunch--it was seriously that good! I also learned from Wikipedia that the teff flour used to make injera is full of iron, which is a bonus.

This was by far the best Ethiopian food I've had in DC (and I used to think Dukem was unbeatable!). If you are in the area, I would highly recommend you check it out!

{Photo credit: Kevin L}

Vegan Kickstart: Day 2

I've been pouring over a LOT of information regarding veganism lately. The three books below are sort of my vegan bibles. So far, I have not had one question or concern that couldn't be answered by one of these three. Add in Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's Vegetarian Food for Thought podcasts (they make me SO excited to be doing this!) and I would say all of my bases are covered.

Vegan: The New Ethics of Eating by Erik Marcus was a great first stop. It provided an overview of factory farming and the dairy industry, but it's greatest strength was definitely it's description of how veganism can improve your health. Even if I didn't care at all about killing animals (which I obviously do), this book would've given me enough information to convince me to try out veganism. I also rely on the author's website, which is a portal for all things vegan, and yesterday he commented on my blog (!!!!!) about his 21-day kickstart podcasts, which I started listening to as soon as I got home from work.

If you have a question about nutrition and veganism, this book has the answer. Becoming Vegan by Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina will help you make sure you are getting adequate nutrition through well-balanced meals.

And then there is The Vegan Sourcebook by Joanne Stepaniak. This resource of all resources has the history of veganism, how to live with non-vegans, nutrition information and some recipes. This book really helped me get a better grasp of the vegan lifestyle overall.

Monday, March 1, 2010

March Goals.

I can't believe it is March already! So many possible changes and new directions on the horizon. Spring is on it's way and the sun will start to stay out longer. The cherry blossoms will soon be out in the DC area. Now that two of my three grad school classes this semester are over with, I will have considerable more free time. I want to focus on spending that time as wisely as possible.

This month my intention is to do the following:

1. Complete the 21 Day Vegan Kickstart
2. Try out at least 5 new recipes
3. Get back into a gym/yoga routine (time to work on the sweat part of the "Sweat and Save")
4. Write in my paper journal on a regular basis
5. Get a head start on my big research paper that is due May 3rd

Those seem like such simple goals but I know that they will make a huge difference in my outlook on life and my stress levels. I also think that focusing on these five things will have me in a much better place for what the coming months may bring.

Happy March, everyone!

{Photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography}

Vegan Kickstart: Day 1

Today is day 1 of the 21-Day Vegan Kickstart!

I plan to spend the next 21 days committed to not eating meat (easy peasy--I was already a vegetarian), as well as no animal by products, such as dairy or eggs. I want to blog about my experience here. I have no intention of trying to get anyone else to try the kickstart or to stop eating meat. I hope all of you continue to read this blog as I experience what it is like to live life as a vegan. I am hoping to write about everything from product reviews to recipes to revealing my struggles with this (I am sure there are bound to be some). I promise to intersperse posts on other things as well! I will need some support on this journey, so I would really appreciate only kind and/or supportive comments (and, of course, any questions you have!).

I am stocked up on vegan cookbooks, produce and a wealth of informational materials. I want to dive in head first to see how being a vegan makes me feel. I may end these 21 days deciding it's what is right for me--and I may end them just wanting to get my hands on some real ice cream.

For me, it all boils down to the simple fact that I have no good reason not to try this and a whole host of reasons why I should.

{Image credit: Y}