Heal Thyself

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As I posted on Facebook, I recently completed a certificate program in plant-based nutrition.  In case you missed it, here’s proof:

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This program was incredibly eye-opening,  and I thought I was pretty well-informed before I started.  There was so much information, not only about the nuts and bolts of plant-based nutrition (protein, carbs, fats, vitamins, minerals) but the course also provided an excellent overview about the relationship between nutrition and disease, understanding and evaluating nutrition research, and how research does and does not impact public policy.

Before I talk about the highlights of this program for me, I’d like to say that it is very possible to eat a diet free of animal products and not be particularly healthy.   Soda is vegan.  So are many processed foods like donuts, cookies, crackers and chips.  There are dozens of frozen and prepared vegan entrees full of fat and loaded with salt.   A whole foods, plant-based diet (WFPBD) eliminates all animal products as well as processed foods, sugar, and most, if not all, oils.   It includes vegetables, potatoes, beans and legumes, fruit, whole grains, nuts and seeds.  This program taught me a great deal about the relationship between nutrition and human health.  Here are the themes that stood out most for me:

Doctors Know Best-NOT

Unless your doctor is an alternative healthcare provider of some kind or a doctor who has taken this course (lots of participants were working in health care) or a similar continuing education series, I probably know more about nutrition than your physician does.  That’s not because I know it all, but because he or she probably knows next to nothing.  The fact is that nutrition is seldom taught in medical school.  Imagine your car mechanic not knowing the difference between diesel and regular gasoline!  Not so great. So, if you’re expecting your physician to educate you about the healing properties of food you’re barking up the wrong tree.  That’s also true if you’re expecting your doctor to endorse a way of eating that he or she is uninterested in trying for themselves.  It wasn’t all that long ago that doctors were recommending cigarettes to their patients and smoking themselves.  Doctors profiled in this course  sought out new ways of preventing and treating disease because their patients simply were not getting better with conventional, western approaches like pills and surgery.  They discovered that a whole foods, plant-based diet addressed the cause, rather than just the symptoms of disease. Sadly,  docs like these are in the minority, but the information is out there.  We can and must educate ourselves.

One Diet To Help Everything

There is plenty of compelling evidence that shows that eating an animal-based diet contributes to heart disease, cancer, diabetes and a myriad of other chronic diseases and conditions.  At the same time, there is also evidence that shows that switching to a whole foods, plant-based diet can slow or even reverse these diseases as well–with no side effects.  Consider  a person suffering from Type 2 diabetes.  This person might also be struggling with high blood pressure and high cholesterol.  Treating the diabetes with medication might control blood sugar but won’t touch the underlying cause which is most likely obesity and a sedentary lifestyle.  A whole foods, plant-based diet will naturally lead to weight loss while at the same time positively impact the diabetes, high cholesterol and blood pressure.  Name me a pill that can do all that!  In this program,  we heard stories of many patients who traded in their bags of pills and syringes for whole plant-based foods.  Even chronic and progressive illnesses such as MS, fibromyalgia, arthritis and asthma could be greatly helped with a change to a plant-based diet.  People eating this way routinely experienced improvements in a very short period of time, and many were able to get off all medications.

Forests, not Trees

Eating healthfully on a whole foods, plant-based diet means eating from a wide variety of foods–eating the rainbow, if you will.  If we do this, we no longer need to fuss with how much of this or that nutrient we are consuming  (with the exception of vitamin B12  which should be supplemented).  What a relief!  By eating a mix of colorful vegetables, potatoes, beans, lentils, whole grains, fruits, nuts and seeds we have it all covered.  If you’re interested in the details, there are great books out there that show typical plant-based meals and how they stack up nutritionally against options one might find in an animal-based meal.  Let’s just say there’s no comparison in terms of the good stuff.  And in case you’re wondering, yes, there’s enough protein and calcium and  omega 3 and all the rest of it.  This is a gestalt approach to eating well, rather than a vitamin here, a mineral there.  A major point made in the program was that the body is infinitely complex, and if we eat the right foods our body will do right by us.  No single nutrient, vitamin or mineral can change our overall picture. I imagine though, that most of us who begin a WFPBD need to get educated about all the plant-based foods that are out there in order to benefit from the full spectrum of nutrients available.  For me, these “new” foods were beans, lentils, ground flaxseeds, chia seeds and nutritional yeast.  Again,  we have to take responsibility for what’s on our plates.

Follow The Money

It will lead you right down a path of poor health.  The horrible state of our collective health is a direct result of money to be made by corporations, individuals and organizations at every level.  Would it surprise you to know that at one point half of the members of a committee in the FDA assigned to create new dietary guidelines for public programs (such as school lunch, hospitals and programs for women, infants and children) had ties to food industries that had a financial stake in the policy?  It’s no wonder the kids in our country eat junk in their schools.  Scientists have known for decades that milk is unhealthy, yet it’s still touted as necessary for our kids.  Dairy lobby anyone? It’s all for sale.   It’s virtually impossible to not find conflicts of interest everywhere, and the goodies go to the highest bidders.  Consider who would lose money if everyone hopped on the whole foods, plant-based bandwagon.  Hospitals that make most of their money from heart surgery,  doctors, big pharma, big agra, and supplement manufacturers to name just a few.  So if you’re thinking that your health comes first, think again.  Our poor health is very big business and there’s no money in broccoli.  This certainly explains why a recent article in the NY Times was discussing the exorbitant cost ($14,000 per year) of a new class of (much needed!) statin drugs.  So much hand-wringing about that insane number, yet not a word about the cheaper and more effective way to lower cholesterol through a plant-based diet.  Business as usual.  We get sicker and lots of people get richer.

There’s so much more to talk about when it comes to our health and nutrition, but I think the title of this post, “Heal Thyself” says it all for me.  The days of thinking that our institutions (government, medicine, education) will work tirelessly to keep us informed and healthy are long over, if they ever really existed.  But that does not mean we can’t educate ourselves and take matters into our own hands.  I am a 55 year old woman, and between my parents and two sets of in-laws there has been one quadruple bypass, two prostate cancers, two colon cancers, leukemia, liver cancer, dementia and chronic lung disease.  Two have passed away from these diseases.  While there are no guarantees when it comes to disease, this program convinced me that by switching to a whole foods, plant-based diet we can greatly reduce our risk of getting any of these diseases.  That is exciting and empowering, and I can’t think of a reason not to try.  Can you?

If you are interested in learning more about a whole foods, plant-based diet I recommend starting with the movie, Forks Over Knives, which you can access online.

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Recipe of the Week

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Balela!

We haven’t made too many new recipes lately.  During the hot summer we’ve been eating mostly salads with some combination of greens, grains, beans, hummus and avocado.  When we were taking refuge from the heat at Costco (is that anyone else’s favorite weekend errand?) we found a big container of Balela and it quickly became a favorite of David’s.  So I decided to find a recipe online and make it myself.  This way we can control how much oil and salt goes into the mix.

Have you heard of Balela?   Balela  is a Mediterranean-style bean salad.  The basic recipe is a combination of garbanzo and black beans, tomatoes (the Costco version had sun-dried), red onion, mint and parsley.  The dressing is a zesty emulsion of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and jalapeño pepper which has a lovely kick.  The recipe I used is here.  It makes enough for an army so we’ll be eating it for the next week (score!).  This would also make a great Labor Day weekend salad for a crowd.

Even though school is already back in session in Tucson (those poor kids!),  it still feels like summer to me.  I will keep sunning, swimming and eating salads.  If you’re still eating salads where you are, give this one a try.  And let me know how you like it!

Veganism–Simple, Not Easy

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I’ve spent a bit of time lately trying to decide on a name for my vegan coaching business.  Aside from having to deal with details like searching for availability of domain names (you’d be shocked what names are actually already taken!) I’ve really had to think about what I want to communicate to the public about both what I can do and what being vegan is about.  I think I’ve settled on something, but I’ll share that in a later post when I’m a little further along in my branding.

As I considered dozens of names and tag lines I wanted to be authentic in how see veganism and what aspects of this lifestyle I wanted to highlight and communicate to others.  As I went through this process the words “simple” and “easy” came up in conversation many times. That makes sense, right?  After all, suggesting that being vegan is difficult is hardly a way to induce others to sign on and give it a try.

Years ago, when I was training to be a community mental health counselor I remember working with clients for the first time, and they often lamented that making changes in their lives was not easy.  While no two situations were the same, it became clear to me that the changes people were trying to make in their lives were often simple yet seldom easy.   For a person suffering from depression, for example, the “simple” act of taking a daily walk could, in practice, be quite difficult.   As I thought about the transition to veganism I realized that it is helpful again to consider the difference between what is “simple” and what is “easy”.  And I’ve come to the conclusion that going vegan is indeed simple, yet seldom  easy.

I can sum up in just a few sentences how to be vegan.  For me, it means eliminating the use of all animal products from my life–for food, clothing, personal care, and entertainment.  It also means promoting alternatives to these things so that others can learn from my example and start to consider how to live without exploiting animals.   Once I decided to go vegan,  living this way became a pretty black and white thing.   If the food contains animals products, no thank you.  If the clothing has leather or wool or silk or down, it’s not for me.  If the product was tested on animals, I’ll pass .  No to rodeos, zoos, circuses and aquariums.  Not so complicated.

Aside from having to read labels and do a little internet research as I phased out some products and replaced them with others, the “how-to” of it all has been pretty straight forward and simple.  As I’ve become more and more educated about all the excellent alternatives to animal-based products it’s become even more simple.  And if David and I lived  in our own vegan bubble and never ventured out I would say that nothing could be easier.  That is not, however, where we live, and neither does any other vegan that I know.

I can say that what feels “not easy” about being vegan usually involves some combination of the emotional and the practical.  Here are examples of some “not easy” experiences I had just over the past few days:

-My favorite (mostly) vegan restaurant just closed.  There are very few vegan restaurants in Tucson, and The Food for Ascension Cafe downtown was the place where David and I celebrated our birthdays, brought friends and relatives and went weekly to unwind.  The calm, relaxing environment was unique among the other veg offerings in town.  We are sad, both because they could not make it work economically and also because we are really left with no comparable options where we live.  Unfortunately, for those of us who do not live in a major metropolitan area, this is all too common.  Let’s face it, for non-vegans there’s always “another place”, for us not so much.   This can feel limiting and not so easy.

-I was catching up with my friend, Diana (from Main Street Vegan Academy)on the phone yesterday and we were commenting that no one we talk to ever asks us anything about veganism.  Ever.  At all.  We wondered if this is because people fear being lectured to or simply because our veganism is too disconcerting for other people to discuss given their own food choices.  I can’t answer that one but the reality of the situation can feel stressful.   I am interested in the lives of others and like to think that I’m curious about what’s important to my friends and family.  It is the rare non-vegan who can be truly interested in my passion (veganism/animal rights) and not feel defensive, consequently I usually feel like I’m censoring myself in one way or another in most social situations.  This may be necessary for peaceful relationships, but it’s not an easy trade-off and it isn’t very interesting for me.

-Following the horrible story of Cecil, the lion, Delta Airlines decided to stop transporting dead trophy animals in their planes.  While that sounds great, my mind goes immediately to the dead animals being served for meals on that plane, because I know that each of the animals raised and killed for food suffered far more than poor Cecil. I encounter this kind of moral schizophrenia daily as it is truly everywhere and a deeply entrenched part of our culture.    I am more acutely aware of this and other forms of hypocrisy and injustice than I ever have been before.  It comes with the territory, but it’s not easy.

OK, so maybe with these examples I’m making a good case that going vegan is simple but not easy.  So what?  Why point out these difficulties?   Well, I think it’s important to be honest with others about our experience because this is the real story.  It takes commitment, perseverance, courage and a thick skin to navigate these kinds of situations.  That being said, I don’t doubt for a moment that a person committed to living a vegan lifestyle can handle them.  The transition brings about changes in our relationships with other beings (human and non-human) and sometimes these changes are challenging or painful.

Yet even with all this said, I don’t know a single person who regrets the decision to go vegan, and I think that’s because the most important changes that happen when we go vegan are the ones that happen within us as we begin to live our values.  As we live our belief in justice and compassion for animals we deepen our belief in justice and compassion for all beings including ourselves.  As our health improves we feel a desire to help others as well as the earth to heal.  Life becomes full of possibility, and we find the courage to face our own fears and step boldly forward.   We become aware of the interconnectedness of all things. This is the stuff that transcends convenience, comfort and “ease”.    And for me, that’s what makes life worth living.

 

Nobody Says It Better Than Gary Francione

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This morning I am stuck in my house because the air conditioning guy is here doing a check up on my system.  This ends up taking hours because we have three different oldish AC units, and it’s never really just a simple check up. You know how that goes.  In order to pass the time, I decided to watch a video of animal rights activist/abolistionist, Gary Francione debating about why animals have rights.  Once again I am blown away by his brilliance and uncompromising moral stance.

I became vegan after watching movies (Vegucated, Speciesism) and hearing Howard Lyman (The Mad Cowboy) speak here in Tucson.  Shortly thereafter I began immersing myself in many books on the subject of ethical veganism, and this strengthened my resolve to stop supporting animal exploitation in any way I could.  But no single person or book had quite the impact on me that Gary Francione’s “Eat Like You Care” had and continues to have.

While watching Gary debate (you can watch it here), I am reminded of the simple clarity that underlies Gary’s “veganism as a moral baseline” position.   In this debate, he suggests that if we believe that it is immoral to torture and/or kill animals for our pleasure then we ought not to be eating or otherwise using animals. Billions of animals are tortured and killed annually simply because we like the taste of animals.  We know now that it is not only possible to live healthfully without animal products, but there is ample evidence to suggest that eliminating animal products from our diets will do much to improve our health.

Gary Francione illustrates his position by talking often about Michael Vick, the NFL player who was convicted of running a dog-fighting operation.  The American public went wild around this issue, understandably vilifying Vick for torturing and killing animals for his pleasure.  The name Michael Vick became synonymous with dog-fighting and torture, and the public will probably never forgive him even though he paid his debt to society and expressed remorse.  I, and everyone I know, was sickened by the images that emerged from this story.  It was truly overwhelming that anyone could inflict this kind of torture on innocent animals for entertainment.

Yet isn’t this what happens when we eat meat, dairy and eggs?  There is at least as much suffering inflicted on farmed animals (factory-farmed or “happy”) as there was in Vick’s dog-fighting operation.  These are all sentient beings.  Any distinction we make between the dogs and the cows, chickens or pigs is speciesist and self-serving. And there’s no comparison when it comes to the scale of the torture and death.  Admittedly, when we eat animals we are usually paying other people to do the torturing and killing for us, but as we know from the law, there is no moral distinction between murdering someone and paying someone else to do it for us.  As Gary says, “we are all Michael Vick”.  In 2009 Gary wrote an Op-Ed entitled “We’re All Michael Vick” and you can read his compelling words here.

Gary Francione is a passionate, outspoken champion for the rights of animals yet he is often seen as a polarizing figure because he actively campaigns against single issue welfare campaigns (SICs).  His belief is that our time, energy and money are better spent educating people about veganism.  I happen to agree with this which is why I choose to take my advocacy in that same direction.  In addition, Gary is against any effort on the part of activists to promote “happy” animal products, because a) he doesn’t believe there is such a thing and b) he believes it enables people who might otherwise be vegan to continue to consume meat, dairy and eggs without feeling guilty.  I agree with him on this point as well.  To me, the term “humane slaughter” is a complete oxymoron.

As I continue to educate myself on all the issues pertaining to veganism (in order to be a more effective vegan coach), I often find myself mired in details surrounding nutrition facts and cooking techniques.  I anticipate that many people I work with will be going vegan “for health”, and being a resource for all of this information is certainly important.  I happen to believe that a plant-based whole foods diet is optimal for health, but it’s not difficult to find staunch proponents of other ways of eating to optimize health.  We can always find our own “expert” willing to tell us exactly what we want to hear, and at a certain point, when it comes to nutrition it’s all about who we choose to believe.

Yet this is not the case with ethics, and spending this morning online watching Gary Francione provided a much-needed and timely reminder that I do this for the animals.  If you are someone who cares about animals I strongly recommend that you read Gary’s work.  I believe it will change your life. You can get started by visiting his website here.

Thank you Gary, for speaking the words in the just the way I need to hear them.

My Neglected Blog and Recipe of the Week

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These are super simple and chewy chocolate chip cookies, but I’ll get to that in a minute…

Oh my goodness, where have the weeks gone?  It’s been about three weeks since I last posted and my “Recipe of the Week” should probably be renamed “Recipe of the Month”!  But I’m not quite ready to give up on weekly recipe postings just yet.

I have some good reasons and some not so good reasons for neglecting this blog lately (no judgment, just my own assessment).  First, I spent time in New York City attending Victoria Moran’s wonderful Main Street Vegan Academy, and now I’m a vegan lifestyle coach and educator!  Fifteen dedicated vegans from all over the country came together to learn, share and explore.  We heard from so many brilliant and committed professionals including Dr. Robert Ostfeld, Sherry Colb, JL Fields, Fran Costigan and others.  We also had time to enjoy the varied and wonderful vegan restaurants in New York, from vegan soul food at Seasoned Vegan to upscale eating at Candle Cafe West and Blossom to gazillions of options at Caravan of Dreams.

But easily the most wonderful part of the MSVA experience was sharing it with people with whom I feel a deep resonance.  I heard from many of my new friends that they sometimes feel isolated and sad.  I have certainly experienced some of that myself although both my husband and closest friend are vegan. Even before attending the academy I had begun actively seeking out like-minded friends here in Tucson and little by little I have been trying to build a community for myself. But I’m still aware of a need to scale it back or filter some of my thoughts and feelings about the animals.  At MSVA there was none of that.  While hanging with these people I could be fully open and honest.  I felt validated and understood and there is nothing better than that.  And being part of the MSVA alumni means I now have contacts and friends (I consider all MSVA grads to be friends) all over the country, and I will not hesitate to ask for their support or offer mine to them.

Another reason I’ve been neglecting my blog is because I decided, after a decade of saying “no, never”, to finally get on Facebook.  When Facebook first got going my daughter was in high school and heading off to college.  At that time getting on Facebook was a way to follow your kids to college and continue all manner of lurking.  I didn’t want any part of that.  And bearing witness to my sons’ adolescent shenanigans on Facebook didn’t seem like anything I wanted to do either.  But as Facebook morphed from the domain of kids and helicopter parents to the preeminent personal and business social network platform I knew I had to get connected.  And I’ve been enjoying my time there-too much time there actually, which is why my little blog has suffered.  It’s much easier to post pictures and share stuff than gather my thoughts and write something meaningful.  It didn’t take long for me to understand the allure of peeking into other people’s lives and letting them peek into mine.  And I did my share of “where are they now” searches.  But I think I’ve exhausted all that now, and instead I have another way of staying in touch with the people who matter to me.  And in terms of going forward with my vegan coaching, staying connected on social media is a must.  Evolution, evolution.

So on to recipes…I was going to share a recipe for a wonderful mushroom quinoa enchilada dish (you can see it on Facebook :)) but I don’t have permission yet from the author to reprint it.  If I get permission I’ll share it next week.  Regarding the cookies pictured above, I searched through lots of vegan chocolate chip cookie recipes for one that was not only delicious but super easy to make–one bowl, some elbow grease and a cookie sheet.   This recipe fit the bill and you can link to it here.  This uses coconut oil and a bit of almond milk but otherwise looks like the old Nestle Tollhouse version.  This batch came out great but I would probably use larger chips and add some nuts next time.

If you’ve got kids (or you’re still a kid!) and you need a quick and easy chocolate chip cookie recipe for all those school bake sales, this one should do the job.

Enjoy every sweet bite.

And don’t forget to “friend” me on Facebook (Lisa Slovin)

Recipe of the Week

Rigatoni Bolognese!

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This recipe is just fantastic.  But before I talk about the food I want to talk about this beautiful book:

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Gene Baur, head of Farm Sanctuary, is the face of the animal welfare movement.  There are three Farm Sanctuary locations in the US, and this organization does so much, not only to save hundreds of animals who might otherwise be slaughtered or abandoned, but to help us understand that when we kill animals for food or clothing we are killing someone, not something. You may have seen Gene Baur recently on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and if you haven’t you can see his interview here.  Great stuff.

It takes a lot to get me to buy a hardcover book, but as soon as I saw this one I knew I wanted it on my shelf.  The subtitle says it all:

The Ultimate Guide to Eating Mindfully, Living Longer and Feeling Better Every Day

“Living the Farm Sanctuary Life” makes a case for veganism by educating the reader about all the usual things (animals, environment, health) but through the stunning photographs and stories of animals being rescued from hellacious circumstances (i.e. factory farming) we come to know the individual animals and their personalities.  These stories help us see  that there is no difference between dogs and cats and cows, sheep, turkeys, chickens and pigs.  We arbitrarily create these distinctions so that we can continue eating animals that would very likely be our friends and companions in other circumstances.  As we start to understand this about our culture and ourselves it becomes more difficult to participate in the enslavement and torture of any animals.  This book beautifully illustrates that truth.

This book also contains scores of mouth-watering recipes by some of the best known vegan chefs around.  This recipe uses Gardein meatless crumbles which I had never tried before and I was delighted with how it worked out.  I actually couldn’t find the Gardein brand so I used Beyond Meat crumbles.  This recipe is a classic bolognese full of carrots, celery, onion and garlic.  I couldn’t find the exact recipe from the book online but I did find a similar version here.  Of course, I encourage you to get this book and enjoy all it has to offer, including this wonderful recipe.

As I continue to share recipes and other aspects of my vegan journey, I hope that it is becoming clear that veganism is about abundance, and not deprivation.  Yes, I eat very, very well, but I benefit mostly from knowing that the choices I make every day are consistent with what I believe.   If you love and have a deep respect for all animals, both human and non-human, and you are not vegan, please consider giving it a try.  Living our values is a beautiful and fulfilling experience.

Vegan in Phoenix

David and I spent the last few days up in Phoenix.  He was busy with  continuing education courses all day, so I decided to visit with my sons, hike in the gorgeous Phoenix Mountain Preserve and check out the vegan eats.   I did a little advance research (thanks happycow.net) and we had some great meals.  I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to be vegan in Phoenix.

We were staying at the Hyatt Regency downtown which has its own Einstein Bagels.  Bagels with peanut butter and soy lattes for breakfast.  Okay so it was a little white flour/sugar-laden but we were just glad that we didn’t have to wander out at 6 am to find something to eat.  Never mind, it was delish.

When I lived in Scottsdale, downtown Phoenix was in a bit of a sorry state foodwise.  In recent years though, ASU has moved several of its schools to the downtown campus and restaurants are opening all over the place.  There was a totally different vibe.  I met David for lunch on the first day at a casual salad place called “Bowl of Greens”:

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As you might expect, a place like this has lots of vegan options as well as a juice bar.  We ordered up some green juice (to offset the bagel and Jif breakfast), and I had a falafel wrap and David had a mediterranean platter with the usual assortment of falafel, hummus and baba ganoush.  Tasty and filling. Their website is here.

For dinner we scoped out a tapas place on the “waterfront” (canal actually) near Old Town Scottsdale called “Tapas Papa Frita”, (website here) and Michael met us there.  I checked out the menu in advance and was pretty sure we could piece together enough small plates for dinner.  It was a gorgeous evening and we sat out on the lovely patio:

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Michael chose a few non-veg items, but we all shared chipotle hummus with toast, mushrooms in sherry sauce, eggplant, pepper and tomato over toast, chickpea and spinach dip and veggie paella.  Except for the noise of the flamenco dancers inside (what a racket!) it was really delightful.  Our two bottles of Malbec made for a pricey dinner but the food was good and the company was great.  I would recommend it.

On day two, I headed out to hike with Sam and Deacon (the granddog).  We had a great time, and the mountain preserve was in full bloom and gorgeous.  After the hike, with dog in tow, we headed over to Chipotle (is that ever not a good idea when you’re vegan?) and I chowed down on my favorite, the Sofritas (spicy braised tofu) salad.  Yum.

For dinner, David and I returned to an entirely vegan place called “Green”:

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I love when I am able to order anything on a menu ( The vegan folks out there definitely know what I mean!). We started with hummus and spring rolls. David had a Kung Pao bowl and I had a tofu peanut salad.  This place is very casual and the food is tasty. You can take at look at their menu here.

But our favorite vegan find of the weekend had to be the “Pomegranate Cafe”. This fantastic vegan restaurant was conveniently located on our drive home to Tucson, right off the I-10.  The drive from Phoenix to Tucson is pretty much a  vegan wasteland (i.e. have those Lara Bars handy) so we were thrilled to discover this restaurant just 20 minutes south of downtown Phoenix.  Pomegranate Cafe is located in a strip mall (like most things in Phoenix) and here’s a photo of the outside:
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This cafe has a huge menu of juices, smoothies, sandwiches, wraps, bowls and salads.  The place was hopping, and there was a really diverse crowd.  We sat inside and opted for waiter service (you can order at the counter).  We started with green juice, then I ordered the “Athena bowl” (kale, hummus, falafel and other crisp veggies) and David tried the jackfruit sliders which were delicious.  We had been meaning to try jackfruit which is a common ingredient in vegan shredded barbecue sandwiches.     I’m definitely going  to track down some cans of jackfruit and try making this dish myself.

We travel frequently from Tucson to Phoenix, and I’m thrilled that we found this fantastic eatery en route.  If you want to read more about the Pomegranate Cafe you can check out their website here.

Unlike our last trip to Las Vegas, this visit to Phoenix was full of good times and good vegan eating.  Another reason to love Arizona 🙂

Plant Pure Nation- Let’s Go!

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For too long, the people and organizations profiting from our poor health have controlled the information given to the public. Most people have no idea of the enormous control they have over their health. The only way to reach these people in an environment controlled by special interests is through a grassroots, bottom-up approach.

The above quote is taken from the Plant Pure Nation website.

I just donated to my first ever kickstarter campaign and I was proud to do it.  The amazing folks who created this documentary are looking for additional funding to expand their film’s release in the United States.   We’ve known for a long time that a whole foods, plant-based diet is the optimal choice for good health.  The movie, “Forks Over Knives” showed how a plant-based, whole foods diet can reverse heart disease and eliminate a host of  “lifestyle” diseases that are rampant in our society.  If you haven’t seen Forks Over Knives you can download it here.

If such compelling evidence exists, why haven’t we heard about it?  Such important information should be front page news and part of every discussion with health care providers.  Yet it is not.  Plant Pure Nation addresses this extremely important issue.

I agree that a “grassroots, bottom-up approach” is the only way to make significant change. Please go to the Plant Pure Nation  website, read about their mission and consider contributing to the kickstarter campaign.  You can link to it all here.

Let’s start raising awareness together.

Some Good News

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As an ethical vegan living in our world, I can feel very stressed and sad.   Once I got to a place of believing that breeding animals for the purpose of killing them for our own pleasure was morally wrong, I’ve been on a journey of figuring out how to live comfortably in our society with others who feel differently than I do.  Trips to the mall and restaurants, watching television and visiting with friends and family all have the potential to make me feel sad and frustrated with the enormity of the changes that need to happen in order to help the animals, the planet and ourselves.

According to Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, an animal advocate and author of many books about veganism, there are “stages” of being vegan, and feeling outrage, sadness and isolation are typical steps in the journey.  Colleen is a role model for me.  She is a compassionate truth teller who is a force for positive change.  She has found a way to unapologetically communicate what she believes and at the same time bring compassion to every interaction she has.  If you’d also like to be inspired by Colleen, you can visit her website here.

For me, meditation, hiking in nature and seeking out like-minded people all mitigate the “vegan in a non-vegan world” stress I can feel.  But recently I discovered another way to find balance, and that is to not only pay attention to all the bad news out there, but also to pay attention to the good news.  The seeds of change are all around us.

Today I’d like to call your attention to an article from the Washington Post online that David forwarded to me a few days ago.  The title is

Can This Company Do Better Than The Egg?

The article is about the California-based company, Hampton Creek (their logo is pictured above).  The mission of the three enterprising vegan owners is to create a plant-based egg substitute.  If the name of this company sounds familiar to you it’s because they already produce “better than egg” products like these:

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What’s I find so compelling about this company is that their intention is to compete for a major piece of the mainstream food services industry. Their ultimate goal is not to create a successful niche business, but to work with large companies that might be open to replacing eggs in their products.  As we all know, if companies like Kraft and General Mills can make their products more cheaply without compromising taste they will do it.  I’m intrigued by how these guys are trying to use free market economics to further their vegan agenda.  It’s such a bold strategy. There is much about what these entrepreneurs are doing that is exciting, and if their vision becomes a reality, it could have a large negative impact on the demand for eggs which will help both the chickens and the environment.  To read the entire Washington Post article, click here.

I know many people who are very conscious about where they buy their eggs and I even know some folks who raise their own chickens. I see this as a positive step, certainly when compared to factory farming situations, but what happens when these same folks buy snack foods or eat out?  The eggs (factory-farmed to be sure) are absolutely everywhere.  I know, because I spend a lot of time reading labels these days.  The idea that there’s a product in the pipeline that might change all this is indeed very good news.

I will continue to keep a look out for inspiring and encouraging news from the vegan world and share it with my readers.  But I’d also love to hear from you.

Do you have any good news to share?

The Veal/Dairy Connection

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Do you know anyone who eats veal?  I don’t.  Consumption of veal in the United States has indeed fallen dramatically over the last few decades.  Back in the 1980’s  horrendously cruel veal farming practices were broadly and publicly exposed.  Once the public learned of these atrocities many people gave up veal for good.  This is excellent.  The fewer baby cows torn from their mothers at birth, crated or penned, fattened up and inhumanely slaughtered the better.

I imagine that many folks reading this opening paragraph are nodding along and feeling glad that they at one time decided to stop eating veal.  It surely does feel good to connect with our compassionate natures.

Before going vegan I never ate veal, mostly because I didn’t like it.  What I’ve learned over the last several months, however, is that the veal industry is a complete by-product of the dairy industry.  Not only did I not know that, but I’m realizing that most people I share it with don’t know it either.  And several of these people stopped eating veal for ethical reasons years ago.

Here’s how the system works.  In order for female cows to lactate they need to continually become pregnant and give birth.  I know that seems obvious but who really thinks about it? The cows are forcibly impregnated and they give birth approximately once a year.  So, what happens to their babies?  In factory farm operations where most of our milk is produced, all of the babies are removed from their mothers (their milk is for our consumption after all) right after they are born.  The female calves will live the same lives as their mothers giving birth and producing milk until they can’t physically do it anymore (they will then probably become hamburger meat), and the male babies will most likely be sent to veal farms where conditions may be only marginally better than they were back in the 1980’s.

I read a bunch of articles about the dairy/veal connection and it’s incredibly bleak and sad.  Ultimately there’s no avoiding the fact that every veal calf is born to a dairy cow mother.  In my online search I found that some veal producers actively promote the dairy/veal connection suggesting that by eating veal we are indeed supporting the dairy industry. Check out this excerpt taken the Strauss Farms website (click here for the link)

Q: How does group raised veal support the dairy industry?
A: Dairy cows must calve every year in order to maintain milk production. Heifer (female) calves, are raised to re-enter the herd as milking cows. Bull (male) calves, provide little to no value to dairy farmers. The formula-fed veal industry evolved by utilizing a by-product of the cheese industry (whey) and a by-product of the dairy industry (bull calves). The flavor and texture of meat from dairy breeds is not desirable, and therefore they are not typically marketed as beef. Raising them as veal supports the dairy industry, which provides us with delicious ice cream, lattes, and cheese.

Happy veal and lots of lattes.  I’ll pass on the whole unholy alliance.