Tag Archives: vegan

Basic Oatmeal

Set Image

Years ago, the thought of a big bowl of oatmeal grossed me out.  It made me think of Goldilocks and her bowl of porridge.  Maybe the bears scared me–and not the porridge, but nonetheless, I couldn’t bring myself to eat it.

When I finally did, I used the chalky packets and a microwave. Eh. Not the best way to start a love for something new.

The good news about this basic oatmeal recipe?

It’s not nasty.

It takes 5 minutes.

It will FILL YOU UP.

In the winter months, my body craves hot meals more than smoothies and salads, so this is the perfect breakfast for me.  Add different toppings each day, and I’ll never get bored!

Far Away 2

And yes, you got that right. Winter in SC means 60 degree weather & fall-like leaves still falling. Except for tomorrow. The high is 34 degrees.  The low? 21. Twenty one.  Make up your mind, right?!

This recipe is only mildly sweet.  For me, it’s absolutely perfect.  But feel free to adjust it to your liking! Since this is a base recipe, add whatever you like to make this breakfast yours!

Suggested toppings:

Fresh fruit (blueberries are my favorite)

Dried fruit

Spices: cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, ginger

Coconut flakes

Chia Seeds

Nuts & Seeds

Organic Jam/Jelly

Close Up

So grab a blanket, a cup of coffee, your oatmeal, and enjoy this beautiful winter 🙂

Basic Oatmeal
 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup rolled or quick gluten-free oats
  • 1¼ cups unsweetened almond milk
  • ¾ cup water
  • ½ cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1.5 tablespoons maple syrup or honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • pinch salt
Instructions
  1. Combine milk, water, and oats in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently.
  2. Reduce heat to medium-low/low and cook for about 4-5 minutes.
  3. Pour into a bowl and top with desired toppings.
  4. Enjoy!

 


A Year in Review & the Top 10 Recipes of 2014!

All photo credits of our family go to Marissa Dodgen Photography.

2014 was a year, huh?  So many amazing things happened for our family. It started with some of the hardest months we’d seen yet, but took a monumental shift towards the middle of the year.  The darkest clouds have lifted, God has given us an endless supply of fresh air, and for the first time in almost three years, we feel like we can breathe.

McCall (who turned 6 last January) finished Kindergarten and started 1st grade!!! He’s completely grown.  Ahh!! He’s had a slow year in terms of food and is certainly struggling emotionally.  He only added carrots (which he won’t eat) to his list of foods.  He currently has 6 foods he can eat. We are learning how to be good parents through every age and stage of this chronic illness! He continues to be compassionate, loving, and helpful and blows us away by his maturity.

SONY DSC

I must say that it never occurred to me that McCall only added one food this year.  Whew. No wonder he is struggling.  I literally cannot imagine. Love that boy!

Our son Sawyer (who turned 3 in April) started the year continuing his formula only diet BUT starting in MAY he got to eat real food! He failed his sweet potatoes and grape trials but passed blueberries and avocados.  Two foods is such a blessing in this household.  His new nickname is Little Boy Blue. His sweet blue fingers and teeth bless our soul!  I never get mad when I step on a blueberry or find a dried blueberry in the washing machine.  For many long months, I had nothing to step on 😉 He continues to charm the world with his naturally raspy voice, large puppy dog brown eyes, and unmatchable personality.

SONY DSC

Beckham (who turned 2 in May) is sweet and mischievous and terribly two.  Andrew and I spend most of our time shaking our heads at this one.  He’s bow-legged, pigeon toed, and has the cutest lisp you’ll ever hear. But he’s just as lovable as he is crazy and quirky.  We absolutely love this life we have raising three little boys to be amazing men in this world.

SONY DSC

In fact, Andrew asked me that question last night.  Is this our purpose in the world? To raise these kids to love Jesus and do something great in the world?  I think my answer is yes.  And wouldn’t that be a life well served?  Ahh. I love pillow talk.  And my husband.  I love that man!

SONY DSC

For us, life couldn’t be better now that Andrew got a new job.  For many years, he worked swing shift work and life was indescribable. We had some years we didn’t think we’d make it through.  But this year proved tangibly that God is faithful. Andrew is an honest, hard worker who is smart and driven.  He made the right choices, even when those choices were isolating or difficult.  God blessed him with a Monday-Thursday job (and can I also mention it was a double-promotion?).  The Lord provided for us in ways we never could have imagined. God gave us the gift of a regular sleep schedule, family “dinner” every night, and holidays together without a pay cut.  I can guarantee you that if we could have made a PERFECT list for what would be ideal for our family, this would be it.

So this year, we became a family unit again. I didn’t feel like a single mom to all this craziness, and we are able to work together to live this daily life we have.

SONY DSC

When Andrew got his new job in April, it allowed me time to revive a part of me that was missing for a few years.  At my core, I’m a writer and performer, so making the full time switch to a stay at home mom and medical caretaker wasn’t really in my bones.  But the Lord guided me every step of the way and showed me how to live each day.

SONY DSC

For a while there, it was about going through the routine.  It was the only way to survive. But He knew my heart and knew what I needed. When the time was right, He brought my love back to me.  Since April, I’ve started music back and have loved every minute. (You can read about my journey here).

SONY DSC

The Lord knows my innermost being. He’s probably the only one who truly knows how big my dreams are.  A few months ago, I got a piece of advice from a very successful artist in Nashville–advice that I will always have on the edge of my heart.  He said, “Don’t ever let your heart want for something God doesn’t want for you. Be patient and trust Him.”  These words have changed my perspective on every decision I make and every single want and desire that enters the walls of my heart.

We had a GREAT year on the blog, too!  I know many people and families who have made so many changes in their lives.  The goal is to feel better and have more energy so that we can serve and love the world in an intentional way.

I’m very excited about what the new year will bring to the blog, but before we go crazy about what’s to come, let’s take a look at the top 10 recipes from 2014!  These are the ones people have LOVED, especially our family.  As you start a clean new year, add a few of these to your rotation and see what you think!

1. Buffalo Beer-Battered Cauliflower & Dairy Free Ranch Dressing

1

These little boogers have got people talkin!  From people who love spicy foods, I’ve heard nothing but great comments, with some saying they’ll never need chicken wings again.  Crazy to think, huh?  THIS should definitely be on your Super Bowl menu!

2. Chocolate Covered Rice Krispy Treats

Chocolate Covered Rice Krispy Treats

Marshmallow free. Gluten free. Simple. And CHOCOLATE? Who could resist?  These are allergen-friendly, but you’d never know!

3. Gluten Free/Dairy Free Biscuits

1

Gluten Free/Dairy Free living shouldn’t be a life without!  These biscuits have a GREAT flavor and texture.  This recipe has really changed our life this year.  It gives us the comfort in comfort food that we all need 🙂  They are perfect for breakfast or as a side to a soup or homestyle meal!

4. Pot Pies:  Veggie or Chicken (w/ gluten free/dairy free biscuit topping)

Close Up

As the winter months roll in here in SC, I crave traditional childhood meals.  Clean eating doesn’t mean you never eat casseroles or things you love.  It’s just adjusting them using the best ingredients possible. This is our recipe (which is gluten & dairy free) so that our allergy son Beckham can eat it, too.  It’s hard to tell there’s anything “different” about it!

5. Vegan Tuna Salad

Tuna Salad

I’m not usually a fan of “mock” type recipes. And in fact, I don’t like tuna or celery. But this recipe? OMG. I LOVE it.  It’s something we make on a weekly basis to always have available.  I love it on GF English Muffins with fruit for lunch, but it’s also wonderful to serve as an appetizer with some crackers and veggies.  This has been a crowd favorite for sure!  Read the recipe to see the big SECRET ingredient!

6. Lentil Potato Stew

3

This recipe is hearty, filing, and simple.  That’s a great combo for clean eating! Pair with a nice salad & our biscuit recipe, and you are good to go!

7. Smokey BBQ Broccoli Bowl

2

I love these “bowl” ideas I’ve seen floating around because they are so easy!  This is the version I love because I could literally drink BBQ sauce.  It would be very easy to add grilled chicken on top for meat lovers!

8. Maple Balsamic Stir Fry

Photo 1

Speaking of bowls, I think this one is probably my favorite recipe of 2014 (except for maybe those Buffalo Cauliflower Bites!) It’s crunchy & it’s sweet.  Beautiful!

9. Sweet & Spicy Brussels Sprouts

1

Besides the amazing Vegetable “meatloaf” I served at our Plant Strong Thanksgiving meal, these were probably the second best hit.  Oh, but there was that Kale Salad, too! Ahh!  Too many great things this year!  This side dish is packed full of flavor.  Don’t like spicy? You can omit the Sriracha no problem!

10. Walnut “Meat” Tacos with Cashew Sour Cream

2

As many of you know, I started a vegan trial (no meat, dairy, eggs, butter) in April, but that didn’t stop me from playing around with cool options for meals.  This walnut meat has the texture and flavor of taco meat, but is a great option for meat free friends, or people trying to cut down meat or red meat consumption.  I absolutely LOVE this recipe, and would love to see you try something brand new this year 🙂

 

Thanks again for a beautiful year.  This website wouldn’t mean a thing if you didn’t keep reading it, so thank YOU!  I look forward to the beauty all around in 2015!!

 

 

 


Easy Crockpot Beans with Brown Rice

When the new year rolls around, most of us are looking for that reset button.  And sometimes, we put ourselves in the doghouse, realizing how much Christmas actually cost us!

We didn’t go crazy on Christmas this year, but we love a good rice and beans meal during the week.  The benefits?  It’s cheap. It makes a lot.  It’s filling.  And did I say cheap?

These beans are full of flavor and make a nice meal–what we like to call a Rice Bowl.  We are SO original, huh? The great thing is that you can add any toppings you’d like: avocado, tomatoes, cilantro, corn, etc.

2

This meal takes less than 5 minutes to put together…a HUGE plus for this busy mom! I usually throw the beans in the crockpot at night and the rice in my rice cooker and deal with it in the morning.

If you get tired of plain ole rice and beans, have a taco night and use the leftovers on top.  Options galore!

Enjoy 🙂

A couple of notes: 

1. I buy my dried beans in the bulk section of a health food store to save money, but you can also buy them at any regular grocery store.

2. Wear gloves when cutting your jalapeno to avoid hot hands!

3. You can also use whatever type of beans you want in this recipe.  This is the combination I like, but feel free to choose your favorite.  Just make sure it adds up to 1.5 cups!

4. You can discard the big chunks of onion if you choose (after it’s done), but I love onions & prefer to eat them 🙂

Easy Crockpot Beans with Brown Rice
 
Ingredients
  • ¾ cup dried black beans
  • ¾ cup dried pinto beans
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
  • 1 onion, peeled and cut into fourths
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 4 cups water
  • 1.5 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
Instructions
  1. Put all ingredients in a crockpot.
  2. Cook on HIGH for 6-8 hours.
  3. Serve with brown rice, quinoa, and/or toppings!

 

 


Healthy Thanksgiving Ideas

Set Image

Let’s face it.  This week’s is all about food with a little family sprinkled on top.  For families like us that suffer from food allergies and food related diseases, it’s the opposite most days.  Either way, we all gotta eat, right??

Don’t scrimp on your favorites this time of year–just learn to make them a bit healthier–and maybe you won’t have eater’s remorse this go around!

Here’s a list of some of my favorites.  This is not by any means an exhaustive list out there–but you know my theory–keep it simple so you don’t get overwhelmed!

In each category, I’ve provided the link for the info!  Just click on the blue  🙂

(Thanks to Marissa Dodgen for some of these beautiful photos.  I’m sure you can tell which are hers and which are mine 😉  She’s the professional!)

Salad & Appetizers:

saladdetails

Pumpkin Hummus

Orange-Cranberry Dressing

Kale Salad

Shredded Brussels Sprouts salad

Turkey:

How to avoid a growth enhancement drug that can be ingested in many turkeys, even ones labeled “no hormones used.”

Slow roasted turkey with herbed butter (sub Earth Balance vegan butter if dairy-free)

Sweet Potatoes:

Classic casserole (contains egg & dairy)

Vegan & Gluten free option

Maple glazed (Vegan, gluten free, nut-free)

Green Bean Casserole:

Inside

My concoction that our family loves (gluten free, vegan)

Vegan, Paleo

Brussels Sprouts:

brusslesprouts2

Honey-Maple Sriracha? Yes, please!!

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes & Brussels sprouts

Balsamic Roasted Brussels sprouts

Side Dishes:

carrotsdetails

Protein Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Mac & Cheese (make gluten free by using rice or quinoa noodles)

Vegan (dairy free) Mac & Cheese

Roasted carrots with sweet tahini drizzle

Stuffing:

Butternut Squash, Brussels sprouts, and bread stuffing with apples

Classic (contains gluten, milk, egg)

Grain free (paleo)

Bread:

rolls

Vegan biscuits (contains gluten)

Vegan & Gluten free biscuits

Pull apart yeast dinner rolls (contains eggs, read comments from readers and author suggestions to make egg-free, I’ve done this successfully!)

Gluten free/dairy free yeast dinner rolls (contains eggs, read comments from readers and author suggestions to make egg-free, I’ve done this successfully!)

Sauces:

1

Mushroom gravy

Orange Cranberry Sauce

Spiced Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry-Pineapple Sauce

Desserts:

cheesecakedetails

Gluten Free-vegan pumpkin bread (add chocolate chips!)

Grain free pumpkin bars (contains eggs)

Pecan Pie bars

Gooey Pumpkin Pie Spice Latte Pudding Cake

Raw Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake

A gluten free, dairy free, egg free pie crust option

 

I hope these links help you find the perfect thing to serve this holiday season 🙂

 

 

 

 


Why I’m a Vegan, but Don’t Think You Should Be

Set Image

I’m the girl who made fun of vegetarians. To their faces (I’ll address how this came back to me later). I’m the girl who downed a 20 piece McNugget and 4 BBQ sauces in under five minutes. I’m the girl who raced to Bruster’s ice cream store at the first drop of rain for that extra free scoop. I’m the girl who had never tasted kale or quinoa or coconut.

But I’m also the girl who had dizzy spells and bloating, and constipation (just getting real here). I looked great on the outside (I credit youth and a healthy obsession with running) but was miserable on the inside, relying on Laffy Taffy and 6 Diet Cokes (true story) a day to get me through the grind.

So it’s pretty comical that I’m now the girl who is writing a blog post about being a gluten-free plant based vegan. If you’re like I was just a year ago, THAT word vegan is a crazy word, a buzz word, maybe even a four-letter word. But bear with me here. I’m going to tell you about my experiences, my story….BUT I promise I won’t tell you to become a vegan too. The pressure’s off. Just read 😉

*Being a vegan doesn’t mean you also have to be gluten-free. I’m gluten-free for medical reasons!

Definition:

Before we move on, let’s talk about what being vegan actually is so we’re all on the same page.

A vegan is a person who does not eat any animal products—including meats, butter, cheese, dairy milks, or eggs. Vegetarians, on the other hand, eat dairy and eggs but refrain from eating meats.

There are typically two types of vegans: dietary vegans and ethical vegans. A dietary vegan is one who follows the principles of vegan diet while an ethical vegan extends beyond the dietary belief and lives a vegan lifestyle, including using animal-free products, clothing, etc.

Since April 2014, I have been living what I would call a “mostly dietary vegan lifestyle.” I use the word “mostly” because there were times in this transition that I used honey in my morning tea, could not avoid butter at a restaurant (this girl can’t starve), or felt as if I would die if I didn’t eat a bite of goat cheese.

I didn’t decide to become a vegan just to be one or to go on a cliché ride on the bandwagon. In fact, I didn’t even know ONE vegan in my area at all until I started this journey. I was genuinely curious about how it would affect my energy levels, taste buds, cooking style, overall health, and skin.

These days, I’ve been calling myself a plant-based vegan because, well let’s face it, fried potato chips are vegan. Fritos, Jolly Ranchers, Dr. Pepper, and Nabisco Oreos are too. There’s plenty of junk food out there for vegans. So—I make the distinction—I’m a plant-based vegan, meaning my diet is full of various whole, real foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and [gluten-free] grains.

I was originally introduced to this concept through the documentary Forks Over Knives. I realize it’s biased and most likely slanted for a purpose, but nonetheless, I was extremely intrigued by the information presented in it.

You understand, especially if you know my family’s story.   Two of our three precious boys have a rare esophageal disease called Eosinophilic Esophagitis, and life has changed dramatically for us over the last few years. I don’t have time to go into it in this post, but feel free to check out more here. Essentially, this disease is a white blood cell disease, and my mom had Leukemia, a white blood cell cancer. I was nearly thirty and feeling stuck in-between, wondering when I’d get bad news myself. I started researching preventative measures for heart disease, cancers, and other ailments, and the consensus was more fruits and vegetables.

Our third son, Beckham, has not been diagnosed with the same disease, but he’s still egg-free, dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free, and peanut free. He eats meat, so he’s not a vegan, but I had to learn to cook dishes without using all the normal dairy & egg ingredients, so it was easier for me to eat like Beckham to save myself from having to cook another meal. I would just leave the meat off my plate, and add a salad to whatever I made Beckham. Slowly, I started feeling different, amazing, light, refreshed. I noticed when I went back to eating meat or dairy, the bloating, burping, etc. returned.

I guess I’ll never really know if I AM preventing anything. I guess time will tell me that. But I know this—I feel great, and I absolutely LOVE the food. I’m happy. And that matters to me.

What did I eat?

I know what you’re doing right now. You’re doing one of three things. 1) You’re still in shock and you think I’m crazy. 2) You assume I ate virtually nothing since April. 3) You think I must’ve hated every meal since April. Or maybe you’re a vegan, and you’re doing a little dance.  We vegans get excited about food like that.

Let me set the record straight. Yes, I’m crazy. But I think we’ve all known that for a while 😉

To address the others, I have actually eaten more food since April than I have in my entire life, yet maintained my weight. I am naturally a very petite person, and pretty much always have been. But just like everyone, I’m susceptible to gaining weight—I’m under immense pressure and stress each and every day thanks to that stupid disease that has invaded my two sweet babies. But I made a decision to use food to nurture and heal my own issues—rather than an emotional escape from my life. Eat to live, not live to eat. Whew. Let me tell you how that principle changed me.

No longer could I say, “Man, I’ve had a bad day; I deserve ice cream!” or “Man, I did awesome today. I deserve ice cream!” Food stopped being a reward for good and bad behavior. Food was just a part of my life, so if I wanted ice cream, I ate ice cream (mine is frozen bananas in a food processor).

The anxiety that food used to give me suddenly escaped. I didn’t feel pressure—I felt freedom. I could eat as much or little as I wanted depending on how I felt because I knew that everything I was eating was nutrient dense and rich, and not empty calories packing on weight and piling junk in my cells.

My perspective is unique, though. During this time, one of my sons, Sawyer, was so ill that he wasn’t able to eat food at all and drank a medical amino acid formula to survive. At 3 years old, he drank his formula for 6 months straight without the aid of a feeding tube in his stomach. He’s a rock star, and he’s one of my little heroes.

So, I had no room to complain. Each time I tasted a peach or even spinach, my soul felt so blessed to have such nourishing, simple food to eat.

And believe it or not, my taste buds have changed so much that I’m enjoying the taste of real food like never before. I no longer need four BBQ sauces to wash down the oil and salt. I taste food. Real food. And I love it.

I even tried new things that I had never eaten in my life EVER—like jalapenos, coconut, quinoa, bell peppers, beets, leeks, cauliflower, dates, kale, and many more foods!

Here a some examples of what was on my menu!

Breakfast:

Collage

Morning time is most likely the busiest time of my day for me. But, as a mom of three young boys, I guess every moment of my day is crazy! I really just feel the pressure in the mornings—everybody is going in a thousand directions. Three different breakfasts to fix, three different lunches to pack—all the while never touching anything with the same spoon or without washing my hands in between. It’s a lot to remember. So I always need something quick and easy.

The temptation is always there to skip breakfast—and with my life—I know that’s completely justifiable. But just like mama taught, breakfast is really important. For me, it’s important because it either messes up the rest of my day if I don’t get proper nutrition (headaches, dizziness, frazzled behavior) or it makes me spend more money than necessary to grab a snack while I’m out.

Before I give you some examples of what I like to eat for breakfast, let’s talk about my old breakfast routine. When I was a high school teacher, I had a 45 minute drive to work, so I ate breakfast along the way every day. On my menu? Fruit loops (try eating a bowl of cereal AND putting your mascara on in the car!), apple cinnamon pop-tarts, Boberry biscuits, Quaker granola bars, and of course, Diet Coke.

The problem here is that there was little nutrition. I had no energy because I wasn’t feeding myself anything that would give me energy. I had a sugar high until it faded, and used candy in my desk, or a diet drink during a class change to give me what I needed to keep going.

My new menu (just examples)

Blueberry oatmeal

-homemade granola & almond milk

-sprouted grain toast with almond butter & jam or Vegenaise & avocado

smoothies/pressed juices

gluten-free pancakes & maple syrup

-crepes & fruit

-apples & almond butter

 

Lunches:

Collage

I usually don’t get to sit down for lunch until about 1:30 (because I’ve got a kid to pick up at 12 and at 1—life of a mom!), so lunch has to be simple!

My favorite thing to eat for lunch is a big ole’ salad. I always have a couple different homemade dressings in my fridge because, let’s face it, you gotta have variety. Plus they are so easy to make—there’s no sense in using ones full of bad stuff when it only takes a mason jar, a few ingredients, and a shake or two. You can check out my favorites in our Salad tab!

Toppings I love on salads? Red pepper, dates (my absolute fav!), roasted chickpeas, avocados, beans, carrots, seeds, nuts—and the list could go on and on!

I also love a bowl of soup with my salad, but that can get old quickly. When I get tired of soup, I’ll change it up and have some hummus, or one of my favorite cold salads, like mock “tuna” salad, Asian salad, or cranberry-quinoa salad. These are easy to make once at the beginning of the week, and will last for a few days!

These lunches fill me up, but don’t leave me feeling bloated or tired, and I have plenty of energy to get through the afternoon!

Dinners:

Collage

This is the meal of the day where I usually get creative. Most people eat their largest meal in the morning, and the smallest meal at night, but I do the opposite. I’m just keeping in line with my crazy.

After lots of personal research, I know that digestion is one of our largest energy suckers. Our body must use so much energy to digest food, so I’d rather my body do that while I’m sleeping, not while I’m trying to get through my day. Dinnertime is probably my favorite meal of the day because it’s the one I’m most proud of.

Typical meals:

Homemade Marinara sauce over rice noodles (walnut meatballs when enough time) topped with cashew parmesan & a side salad

Homemade pizzas (either with tons of veggies and no cheese, or a homemade cashew mozzarella) on rice tortillas

Soup & Salad

Veggie burgers with roasted potatoes or homemade onion rings

Roasted veggie plates

Mexican rice bowls with fixins

Tacos with walnut taco meat and corn tortillas or lettuce wraps

FAQs:

1. Do you still eat sweets?  OF COURSE!!!! I am a former sugar addict, so I know I couldn’t do any lifestyle that didn’t allow me to eat sweets, or I would go crazy.  I make lots of healthy treats, like our Chocolate Chip Cookies or Rice Krispy Treats, or pretty much anything from Detoxinista (her vegan recipes) and Oh She Glows.

2. Do you eat chocolate?  UM, YEAH!!!!!! Chocolate technically has no dairy in it–only milk chocolate.  Chocolate actually comes from the cacao tree (pods that grow from the tree hold a sweet juice and seeds–which are the cocoa beans used to make chocolate).  I stick to a high quality organic Dark chocolate bar or Enjoy Life chocolate chips for baking.  Simply put:  I don’t live in a world in which there is no chocolate. Daily. 😉

3. What foods do you miss?  I love vegan food so much that I really don’t miss much…The few things I miss are bacon, goat cheese, and mall Chinese food (I know, right?!). I think I would have a harder time if I didn’t have the passion to create, cook, and enjoy.

4. What “milk” replacement do you use? You can use many replacements for milk including rice milk, coconut milk, hemp milk, and almond milk.  My favorite is unsweetened almond milk!  I use that to make hot chocolate and as a 1:1 replacement in baking and cooking.  Once you get the hang of it, it’s really simple!

5.  How do you make “cheesy” like recipes? There are processed vegan cheeses out there like Daiya cheese, but I’ve got to be honest–I think they are NASTY!  But there are ways to make a cheese-like flavor using cashews, nutritional yeast, and other ingredients.  My all-time favorite vegan cheesy dish is Detoxinista’s Queso Dip….seriously, it’s incredible and fools our friends every time!

SONY DSC

 

 How did I feel?

Though I haven’t been a vegan for very long, I’ve been eating extremely clean for almost two years, so a lot of my physical changes happened when I made that plunge. Nonetheless, I really did feel wonderful. I felt full, but light, rarely hungry.

All of my bloating went away, my energy levels rose, and I had very little anxiety about food (except when eating out). I ate freely, yet maintained my weight. I feel like I have a general glow about my skin, though it isn’t 100% perfect.

Emotionally, that is a different story. I am absolutely blown away at how people treated me during this journey. Maybe people in my past made fun of me behind my back, or I was oblivious. But for some reason, people took the liberty to make fun of me right to my face (payback, maybe?!). It’s crazy to me how opinionated people were about my PERSONAL DECISION to become plant-based. Hurtful, hurtful comments from people who just don’t understand, or can’t have an open mind. I realize that I’m “asking for it” since I’m so public about my journey, but I really hoped that people could have a “to each his own” kind of attitude. I’m not a pushy vegan. I cook chicken, turkey, and other meats every day for the rest of my family. I’m not against meat. I’m simply on a personal journey to find what works best for me and what gives me the best quality of life.

Obstacles:

  1. Eating outside of the home: Living in bigger, more metropolitan cities tends to be more conducive to diversity, especially with food. But in Augusta, GA, whew. It was a struggle. Because of our family situation, I eat most meals at home, but for the few times I did eat at a restaurant, it was struggle. Even once I went to my favorite farm-to-table restaurant, and talked extensively with the staff to create a meal I could eat, and they brought out a beautiful plate of veggies with a huge hunk of cheese on top. Since my journey began, we’ve had a couple places pop up (1. A vegan juice, smoothie, and lunch place—wahoo! 2. Whole Foods Market—game-changer!) that have dramatically changed my frustration levels! Ultimately, I think that eating most meals at home is actually healthier for me because I tend to only eat until I’m full, rather just eating just to eat. Plus I know how to make meals extra clean—and with restaurants, I don’t have control over that. I love that it forced ME to get in the kitchen and figure it out. I wasn’t relying on anyone else to do the work for me. I would work so hard creating a meal—that I enjoyed every single bite. Such a labor of love. For me, that is all a part of my journey, too.
  2. Cost: Well, I can’t even begin to tell you how expensive it is to eat a whole foods, plant based diet. Our grocery bill each month is monstrous. BUT, we also don’t have a typical family. I can’t make one big pot of soup for us all to eat on for a few days. Because of the boys’ disease, I make 4 separate meals at EVERY MEAL. It’s extremely stressful every single day to make sure I have all the ingredients I need to make something for everyone at every meal and every snack. So, our bill would be outrageous anyways. It has been for years. But I do believe that eating plant-strong is more expensive. Unfortunately, we live in a world where what’s good for us is expensive and what’s bad for us is cheap, so eating poorly is 100% justifiable. For me personally, my health cannot be compromised. I see my children suffer on a daily basis, and it gives me such perspective. So I honestly don’t cringe anymore when I spend $8 on a bag of cashews or $4 on a head of cauliflower. I have had a couple of random viruses and what not over the past few years, but in combination with my whole foods, plant-based diet and essential oils, I haven’t been treated by a doctor for an illness since before my 3rd son was born (and he’s almost 3!). Prior to my transformation, I was sick all the time, and had strep throat at least 2-3 times a year. I haven’t had strep throat since I changed my diet. Crazy? I don’t think so. For me, it’s confirmation.
  3. Judgmental people: I touched on this earlier, so I won’t go much into it, but for me, this was one of the hardest parts of the journey. I honestly wish people could be much more accepting of personal choice. I had to make a choice every single day to push those negative thoughts aside, and just be me. Being a vegan doesn’t mean that I look down on anything else. It doesn’t mean I don’t want to eat the food you have cooked. It just means that I’m different than you. That’s it. My husband and I live a beautiful life coexisting and respecting one another’s choices, and it works wonderfully.
  4. Community: When you walk a journey, most people long for community, to have others walking beside them—to discuss failures and successes. Without that community, your journey can be lonely, especially if you are encountering negativity on top of that. Since I don’t have a very large vegan community where I live (though I have found a few people to share with), I have turned to social media for help. My FAVORITE way to connect with other plant-strong vegans and to be inspired in a positive environment is Instagram. Oh it’s so beautiful. My point here? I could sit around and be lonely, or frustrated that I don’t have more resources in my area, but I choose to be different. I follow many vegans on Instagram and it makes me feel like I have a community around me! I also like to share my love of plant-strong food with my friends. I love to host and cook, and so I always find ways to have a group of friends over. We might grill some grass-fed burgers too, but you better believe we’ll have some killer veggies or vegan queso dip that gets people’s attention. I’ve found the best way to share my love for all things veggie is to live by example. Make awesome food. Period. (Like my Buffalo Beer Battered Cauliflower Wings & homemade ranch dressing). People can’t deny that. Share the love.

Resources:

I don’t overdo my resources because that’s overwhelming. The following people/websites happen to be my favorites because I love their ideas, food, and photography! Keep it simple. Find what you love. Seek inspiration, and go do something about it J

Kris Carr: I love following Kris’ journey because it’s almost like mine. She was a former junk food addict turned veggie lover when she was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. She’s alive & well & thriving now and sharing her knowledge with the world. I love her food tips, her books, her recipes…

Angela Liddon: I’m pretty sure all vegans know about this awesome woman over at Oh She Glows. Hands down, she has the best recipes, the best photography, and best vegan blog (in my opinion) of anyone. If you want to make some amazing recipes, this is the place to start. Plus she just came out with a cookbook, and it’s incredible. I love her positive spirit—the vibe from her site is of love. She’s definitely a person I’d like to meet one day!

Detoxinista: While this is NOT a vegan blog, she makes many vegan recipes that are SIMPLE. And that’s the key in this world, unless you have a ton of time on your hands. She’s one of my favorite places to go when looking for a dessert—hers rock! If her recipe is not vegan, she usually gives suggestions on how to modify. One of my all-time favorite vegan appetizers that fool my guests every time is her queso dip. Oh. My. Cheeze. (well, vegan cheese).

Other websites I enjoy: www.ohmyveggies.com, www.nutritionstripped.com, & www.yumuniverse.com

Even if you aren’t a vegan and/or never want to be one, these websites are still awesome!

Conclusions:

I firmly believe the reason why my vegan journey was successful was because I believed in it. I think that’s why most “diets” fail—because people are looking for a quick fix and don’t really understand WHY they are doing something. The thing about this for me is that it’s not a diet. It’s truly a lifestyle. I’m comfortable in it, and I love it.

But, I don’t necessarily think it’s for everyone. It’s time consuming. There are a lot of dishes to wash. It’s expensive. But it’s also my love, my hobby, my passion so it’s where I love to put my energy.

I actually just got off the phone with my brother, who’s also on his own personal food journey, and he described the way he felt: more energy, not hungry, feeling great….the same description of my veganism. He eats meat, but also eats a diet rich in organic fruits & veggies and no junk.

If you research food, you’ll find that there are colonies of people around the world that survive and thrive on various diets. Some groups only eat meat. Some groups only eat veggies. Some groups eat a mixture. They have little reports of disease, of cancer, of many ailments we see here in the US. What’s the common denominator here? It’s not veganism. It’s the absence of the Standard American Diet. It’s the absence of food in a box, and oil, and fast food, and food made in a lab, and refined white sugar.

My personal food philosophy is that you should do what works for YOU, not something that works for me. I believe in whole, real foods that are as close to their nature source as possible. Eat meat? Awesome! Go for a grass-fed, open range, preferably local option. Don’t eat meat? Cool! Load up on as many varieties of organic plants as you can.

Eat less from a box—and more from the earth. Whatever journey you choose, you will see a change. We aren’t destined to feel awful—to have low energy. Our bodies were designed to thrive off of food—to use food as a vehicle to give us the proper nutrition we need to have energy to work hard for our families and our communities.

People often ask me if I will continue to be a vegan. And my answer is that I don’t know. As I mentioned earlier, I’m not a vegan just to be a vegan for a label. I’m a vegan because I feel great right now. As my body changes, as I get older, that might change. And I’m willing to change with that.

As weird as it may sound, I’m so thankful for the horrible things that have happened to our family over the last few years, because it woke us up. We spend more time together in the kitchen and around the dinner table than in the car.  We support our local farmers and feel good about our personal contribution to making our community thrive.   I feel vivacious, and inspired, and passionate.  This, my friends, is what this life truly is about. For me, it took a rare disease and a journey to veganism to find it.  Be a vegan, don’t be a vegan.  But whatever you do, find a perspective and combination that makes you feel ALIVE, and live it. Live it fully and in abundance.