When thinking about a blog for the end of the year, it dawned on me that with the economic downturn, many of us need to keep food cost low. This may make you feel like you need to eat non-organic, and less healthy, foods. However, I have some pointers to keep you on a healthy diet within a modest budget. They are as follows:

1) It's best to buy at a Farmer's Market whenever possible, as discussed in an earlier blog below. It may seem expensive, but there are some tricks to get through it without much money. For one, if you wait until the end of the market’s day, most vendors will sell their stock for less, as they don't want to take it home. Another way is to ask for the greens on top of vegetables that they usually discard. With the exception of carrots, you can eat most of the greens on top of veggies, and they will provide excellent nutrients. Some of the best include beet greens, turnip greens, radish leaves, and daikon greens. Simply ask a vendor for their greens, and they usually have them in a box under the table. They will usually give you these free of charge, and you can benefit from the many healthy nutrients they offer. They can be either sautéed or steamed, and will make quite a tasty meal served with a cooked whole grain and some Tempeh.

2) Many food places will offer discounts on days. For example, Erewon's has a senior discount day on Wednesdays. Jimbo's Naturally, in San Diego, has a senior discount as well. You need to ask for these, and may be surprised at what you find. The Coop in Santa Monica often has a discount day for 10% off. Many stores offer coupon discounts so watch for these!

3) Also, buy in bulk. Many times, when you buy a case of something, they will offer an extra discount of 10%. It not only awards you with a bunch of food to eat, but you can do so in a cheaper way.

4) In general, whole grains, potatoes, and beans are affordable on a budget. These can give you healthy nutrients for little money. Add some organic Tofu or Tempeh for a hearty stew. Soups can be made from an abundance of fresh produce, including winter squashes and yams.

For future reading, I found this site with more tips and ways to eat a vegan meal on a budget: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/6-tips-to-eat-vegan-on-a-budget.html

I hope this helps you all out and keeps you in supreme health!


Ah, the internet. It dawned upon me recently just how much these eight words changed just about everything. It changed sales, going from stores to online shopping, it changed how information has been processed, and, perhaps most of all, it changed communication.

You can see just how much it has impacted society, by thinking of all the new vocabulary that has come directly from the internet itself. New acronyms have popped up that had no meaning at all ten years ago. LOL, LMAO, and SMH are examples of what I am talking about. It's even funnier when you consider that most of the time they are used, the people using them aren't even doing what they describe. People usually aren't laughing out loud when they use LOL, nor are they shaking their head when they use SMH. It's simply a term using the description of an action to show a certain emotion. People use SMH to show disbelief, and LOL to show they found something amusing. It's ironic that the more avenues we have to communicate, the more we simplify the communication process itself.

Another term never used before maybe five years ago is meme. And it's the use of meme's which made me think of this topic. Meme's (for those who don't know) are the pictures people post with words over them. Personally, while some are funny, I find the majority to actually be a bit harmful to real communication. Many topics are far too complicated to be really discussed via a meme. It seems to have simplified things to a lowest common denominator scenario. They also can be used to falsely portray an issue, using humor as an excuse.

This is an example of a meme:
Annoying Vegan

You may be wondering what this has to do with veganism, since that is the topic this blog is focused on. The answer is complicated (too complicated for a meme, ironically enough). I saw a meme recently with a pretty, “hippie” type girl on it, that stated “I'm a vegan—you know how you know? It's the first thing I'll tell you.” The point being that vegans preach their diet to everyone, much like certain religions proselytize to gain more followers.

First off, I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing to tell a person you're a vegan when first meeting them. After small talk is dispensed with, the next thing to discuss is things you are into. It can be football, or politics, or movies, but either way, people like to discuss what is important to them. Most vegans believe their food choice to be of the upmost importance, so it makes sense for them to discuss it.

On the other hand, I do find it a bit insulting to have all vegans put under an umbrella that states they are all the same in any way shape or form, especially when it's saying we are all annoying because we discuss our food choices. Think of how much the meat industry states it's claim that meat is good. It's all over billboards, television, sporting event arenas, etc. It's everywhere, yet the same people have no problem with it. This is because we are challenging their viewpoints, as opposed to blindly following a status quo. What they find annoying is merely the fact that we don't do the same thing the majority does.

Example of a pro-meat meme:
Annoying Vegan

I have to also point out that many in the vegan and vegetarian community do the same thing. On both sides, the goal of these meme's is to appeal to their base with insults to the other side. This, no matter how you cut it, is wrong. It's wrong because it reduces the conversation to an insult (much like the last Presidential election did). It's wrong because it lowers the level of debate in this country. Most of all, it's wrong because it really DOESN'T SAY ANYTHING.

I apologize if this comes off as a rant, but I think it's important to note that real conversation has to be done with a sense of respect for the other person, no matter what their viewpoint. We will never show people the benefits of a vegan diet with insults. On the other hand, it's important to see what “the other side” is really saying with their meme's, and attempt to rise above it. It's easy to simplify things to good vs. bad, but that's hardly ever the truth of the matter.

We are vegans. Be proud of that fact. But, at the same time, realize that people who eat meat aren't evil, just usually not as informed. It's good to inform them. Just try to remember that the conversation isn't that simple. It's complicated. Far more complicated then a sentence.
We talk a good amount in the vegan circles about the health benefits of a plant-based diet. And they are all true, as it is a healthier lifestyle. However, with many crops contaminated with GMO's and pesticides, there is the issue of what kind of fruit and veggies we are eating. Obviously, organic products are better than non-organic, but what to do from there?

About organic: It is always best to buy from stalls at the Farmer’s Market that say “Certified Organic”, however some local farmers say that the paperwork is too extensive and expensive, but that that they are organic, not using pesticides on their produce. With GMO’s being such a challenging issue right now, it is best to buy what you can first from Certified Organic growers, and then buy from the other growers as long as you trust them.

The truth is that it is highly important to know WHERE your food comes from. When we see something at a store, we have little idea really where they come from. I bought an organic Arkansas black apple from a Whole Foods Market recently, and, while I knew it was from Arkansas, I really had no idea about the farm it was grown on, the farmer who tended the soil, or the growing methods they used on the farm.

This is why I most always go to a local Farmer's Market to buy my produce.  At a Farmer's Market, we can develop a relationship together and get to know the farmer, and, by extension, know the produce itself better. We can ask about their growing methods, and get a better feel about our food. It also brings us closer to the food product, which makes it that more pleasurable to eat.

We are lucky in this respect. In other countries, it can be a dangerously risky enterprise to buy local vegetables (for example, click here). In America, we can usually find a market reasonably close. Not only does buying from local growers help the local economy, which it does, but it also gives us a sense of community, which is invaluable. Having that sense of community makes it a more pleasurable shopping experience, and helps us spread important information about the food products, and any issues the food industry is currently dealing with.

So, remember, whenever possible, buy local produce from a local grower.  Both the freshness and quality are lush and amazingly delicious. Rather than shipping the produce and sitting on grocery shelves for periods of time, it goes from farmer to fork. Your body’s health and your taste buds will appreciate the quality and freshness.

bon appétit

Well, dear friends, we lost the battle known as Proposition 37. Due to a campaign by Monsanto and their bio-tech bullies.. known for it's depths of deceit, the state of California has decided not to make labeling products used with GMO's mandatory.

It's a sad day, of course, but I want to make sure everyone understands one thing: this isn't over.  Sure, products will not be labeled, making it harder for those of us who are health conscious to know what's safe for us to buy. It's not a good thing, but it isn't the last.

While the war continues, we can still look for labels on many products that are marked “Non GMO verified”, and show support for the movement by buying these products whenever possible.. Farmer’s Markets are good places to shop for produce, especially if you get to know your farmers. The main products to be aware of are: Soybeans (Tofu, Tempeh) , Corn, Sugar Beets, and Zucchini. All processed foods, even those saying organic, do not have to be 100% organic unless it is
stated exactly as such on the package.

There are plenty of pluses to discuss from having Proposition 37 on the ballot. For one, the publicity surrounding GMO's, due to the proposition, was at an all time high. This means that people who had no idea what GMO's were, or the problems associated with them, have a better chance of knowing now. Since the campaign began, I've had friends and social media acquaintances ask about this food-stuff, and get educated on the problems inherent in modifying our food choices. And these aren't just people in California, but all across the nation. Public awareness has grown a great deal, which is a step in the right direction.

Second, the publicity showed many across the nation just the depths to which food
manufacturers will go to hide what they put in the food they sell. Many, even those who aren't vegetarian, are disgusted by companies spending $41 million dollars, in a near depression economy, to lie to us about our food choices. While they may not have known before, they do for sure know now what these companies really stand for, and how they operate.

Perhaps most important, politicians now know that this issue is dear to the hearts of many. It's difficult to say what this will bring, but that knowledge will hopefully get our leaders to act in our best interest, in regards to this issue. Remember, our leaders answer to us, not the other way around. It's time now to make our voices heard that much LOUDER. This is an important fight for not only
ourselves, but for our children, and our children's children.

We may have lost this battle, but it's only one in an ongoing war against GMO's. Do not forget that, and do not lose hope. We are here to fight another day. And fight we shall.

P.S. On a side note, my husband and I have been simplifying what we eat, mostly using products such as: Organic grains, beans, legumes, fruits, vegetables and nuts/seeds. We have cut out any processed food that doesn’t state “GMO free” And we are only eating out in those restaurants that we trust as being organic.  And we have never felt better!
I don't know how many of you out there follow the daily news, but if you do, you no doubt are aware of the newest in a long string of animal abuses caught on tape. This time, the culprit is Bettencourt Dairies, who have more than 60,000 cows, and is the largest dairy farm in Idaho. They supply milk to Schreiber Foods, who, in turn, is one of the companies who supply cheese products to Burger King.

The L.A.-based Mercy For Animals is the main group taking Burger King to task for the video. Their director, Nathan Runkle, accused the Miami-Dade based fast food chain of allowing a “culture of cruelty” at the farms it gets supplies from. He went on to state that “the secret ingredient in Burger King's cheese is horrific animal abuse.” And, of course, he is not wrong.

The video in question shows employees kick a cow in the face as blood drips from it's nose, along with a tractor dragging a fallen cow by a rope around it's neck across an absolutely filthy floor. Another employee jumps on the cow like it's a trampoline, and curses as he slams the cow's neck in a metal gate. All this while the cows are stuck in small pens, with broken limbs that make it impossible for them to move around without limping. (to see the video in full, go here: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=422694244446808)

I wish I could say I was shocked by this video, but truth is, I wasn't. It's not the first to come out, and I daresay it won't be the last. Unfortunately, we live in a world that sees animals merely as a means to another dollar, with no regard for their lives, their suffering, or well-being.

Let's look at the articles that are deemed “more important” (based on placement in a google news feed). Items seen as more important include the Vice-Presidential debate, who the Peace Prize may go to in Europe this year, and an ultra-important article on why Justin Bieber likes to prank people so much. Now while the first may be more important (depending on how much truth you believe either side to be telling during a debate), and the second might be credible as news since the Peace Prize has been highly discussed for years, we can all agree that the third is not so. And, once the Peace Prize is given out and the election takes place, only one remains the top news story.

Which is not to say that we should grow despondent over this fact. I'm hoping it does the opposite. Instead of taking a “no one cares, so why bother” philosophy, let's take a “make our voice heard over the bullhorns of deceit” philosophy. Let's make the voices of animal lovers heard around the world, louder than the 12 year old girls at a Justin Bieber concert. Let's make our issues important, if for no other reason than THEY ARE.

You want proof this can work? Bettencourt has already made changes, such as firing the employees in question (a dubious response at best, since I believe they aren't the only one's being abusive...just the only ones to get caught on tape), and installed video cameras in their facilities (though if they will be monitored, or even turned on, is up for question). Tyson foods has recently announced it will be doing an animal treatment audit of supplier's farms (for more, read here: http://argus-press.com/news/national/article_30194976-817f-5216-99f0-18dcef7e8b13.html). I don't know for certain if this is really an example of companies putting in time to help animals in their care, or a new way of deceit, by having supplier's conduct their own testing, in place of a governmental or other watchdog agency doing it.

Either way, it seems like some people are already listening. Now, just think of the changes we can make if we really bolster our efforts to be heard.
I love having guests for dinner! It gets me in the kitchen and allows me to express my creativity in ways I don't do when I am cooking for just my husband and I.

This Friday, a friend is driving in from Albuquerque on a road trip. I know she likes Mexican food. I also know she's a vegan ;-) Friday night is dinner and a movie.

On Wednesday, I bought some beautiful produce at Farmer's Market, and found some organic Butternut squash, so I decided to make a tray of Butternut Squash Enchiladas (a recipe found in my book).  They are easy to make and I set them up the day before baking so that I don't have a lot to do the day of entertaining.

I'm garnishing the enchiladas with green scallions and red peppers before baking.
Here's what's on the menu:
  • Mixed green salad with Macadamia Jalepeno Dressing
  • Guacamole
  • Spanish Rice
  • Enchiladas with Cashew Sour Cream
  • Blood Orange Ice Cream
Sounds tasty, right?

This week, I also decided to have a raffle for all of those vegan chefs out there cooking up their own original recipes everyday. All you have to do is let me know what was on your vegan menu the last time you had guests for dinner (use the contest form below).

PRIZE: A signed copy of my book, Vegan Bite By Bite, an Amazon/Kindle "Best Book of 2011 - Editor's Pick" (a great Mother's Day gift!)

DEADLINE:  Friday, May 6, 2012 @ Midnight

Winner will be notified and announced on Monday, May 7, 2012.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Becoming a vegan is easier than you may think when you make the conscious effort. It's about practice, not perfection. Just start by doing your best with increasing the amount of plant-based foods on your plate, and by repetition, you'll reach your goal.

Here are some reasons why you might consider a switch to a plant-based diet:

1. The age-old question: Do you really know what's in your food? You're innocent to the ignorance of agribusiness which has been described by John Robbins as an "animal Auschwitz" in his 1998 book Diet for A New America. If you only knew how your food is raised and the horrific way the animals are treated, you would reconsider. It's hard to understand why so many people that eat the Standard American Diet (SAD) do not keep an open mind to a healthier way of eating even if the scientific research warns them.

Yes, eating this way exists in many cultures so it's a matter of getting beyond this conditioning to open one's mind.

2. A higher quality of life and visible longevity. We invest in so many ways - stock market, real estate, Roth IRAs - so, how do we invest in our health? It isn't about how long you live, it's more about how you feel as long as you live.

3. Having digestion issues? Animal and dairy products take a longer time to digest. Meats in particular take up to 72 hours to digest fully because of high fat and protein content whereas plant-based foods give you more energy since all the energy isn't going into digestion. Oprah's favorite doctor, Dr. Oz, also a vegan said "A steak dinner can take you two, maybe three days to get out of your intestine. What that means is the way you digest it is basically to rot it in your intestines. On the other hand, if you eat vegetables and fruits, they're out of your system in less than 12 hours."

Vegan diets have the benefit of more fiber which helps digestibility. 

4. A plant-based diet may not be for everyone. It may only be for those who would like to do their best to prevent heart disease and cancers. I'll tell you what: Do a Google search for "harms of animal and dairy products" and do your own research. I believe everyone should choose what dietary lifestyle is best for them. I can't impress upon the importance of doing the research, however, before you choose what you eat.

5. Dairy isn't as safe as it sounds. Dairy cows are force-fed for weight gain, kept pregnant all the time, not allowed to bond with their calves, fed hormones and antibiotics…let's face it there's just nothing natural or humane about how factory farm animals are treated and raised. Dairy products leach calcium out of the bones because they are too high in protein. Dairy products also contain Casein, a milk protein scientifically documented as cancer-promoting in the book The China Study. This book should be in every medical library across the nation.

6. Phytochemicals. What are those, you ask? Phytochemicals are plant-produced compounds (commonly known as antioxidants and flavanoids) that play a role in preventing cancers, heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure, according to the American Cancer Society. Phytochemicals are present in whole plant-based foods.

With all the Mickey-Mousing of foods today, one has to really stay on top of what foods are, in fact, healthy! You're quality of life may depend on it!