Q&A and training with Seattle’s vegan trainer Ben Greene

Are you active, vegan, a Seattle dweller and striving for optimal health in all areas of your life? Take heart, you’re not alone. More and more people are realizing that diet alone isn’t enough, and we vegans know how much we love our indulgences. Thankfully, there are now individuals in the city who can help you achieve your health/fitness goals, and I’m happy to know one of them.

Ben BerlinMeet Ben Greene. Seattleite, vegan and badass Ironman Athlete, co-author of The Vegan Athlete and the owner of Greene Multisport.

An impressive resume, right?

read more »

Crazy Sexy Adventure Cleanse recap

In case you hadn’t been following my Twitter account last month, I did indeed finish Kris Carr’s Crazy Sexy Diet Adventure Cleanse on Jan. 31. Wooo! No one was more impressed about the fact that I completed it than myself.

Never enough green juice.

Never enough green juice.

The third week of the cleanse was a breeze. My body had already been humming from consuming so much raw produce, juices, smoothies, salads and soups that it wasn’t that hard to get through the last week. My body had adjusted to consuming less and eating healthier food/more roughage, so it wasn’t hard to do so for seven more days. I still saw the light at the end of the tunnel cups of coffee with almond milk.

As time went on in the cleanse, I started to latch on to some favorite, easy-to-make recipes. As a busy human, I appreciated that Kris made some recipes that could be prepped quickly the morning of, so naturally her Green Guru Smoothie became my morning jam. With lettuce, cucumber, pear and good fats in the form of avocado, it had enough sweetness to be a tasty a.m. option. I also became fond of the Ezekiel Sprouted Grain cereal I mentioned in the last post. The amount of protein makes this stay with you, and the crunchy texture was something that I apparently missed when giving up cold cereals.

kale salad ingredients

The makings of a delicious massaged kale salad.

Simple meals of baked tofu, whole grains, steamed and raw veggies and big salads became the norm, as well as soups, the Eggless Tofu Salad, Buddha Bowl and Massaged Kale salad (recipes from the book). There were plenty of recipes in the book, but some required more time or dehydrating, (I am dehydrator-less), so I stuck with the recipes that worked well for me and this helped me succeed in finishing the cleanse.

And even more salads. I thought this one with a bit of everything was lovely.

And even more salads. I thought this one with a bit of everything was lovely.

Here are some things I learned as a result of taking on the Crazy Sexy Diet Adventure cleanse. Maybe they’ll help you if you decide to take it on one day.

Takeaways:

- When I do this cleanse again I will want to make sure that I have more time and use it to do the majority of food prep during the weekends. I struggled with meal repeats sometimes due to lack of time and knowing that I knew how to make certain things, so I feel like my experience wasn’t most representative or the best it could be. Maybe it’s because I’m a crazy person who decided to do a cleanse while working, going to grad school and living life, but I definitely suggest food prep on the weekends and juicing every other day so your cleanse goes smoothly.

- I definitely suggest starting this cleanse on a Monday. As a result of starting mine on a Thursday so it would end at the end of the month, I unintentionally made it so that the seventh day juice fast days were on a Wednesday, my busiest day of the week. Next time I want to try the one day/week juice fasts, so I will start it at the beginning of a week.

- I kind of wish I had a buddy doing the cleanse with me. Trust me, I’m not codependent, but it would’ve been great to message or talk to someone else who was going through the cleanse with you and feeling the things you were. Instead, it was my friends and coworkers who heard about all the things I was craving/missing while detoxing. Accountability is excellent, and next time it’d just be nice to have someone around who’d know what I’m talking about.

- I did this cleanse mainly without reading the 21-day guide in the back of the book. Now, I don’t know if that affected my experience at all, but since I’m not into prayers/meditations/neti-potting, I felt like I followed the cleanse well enough just taking into account the food/exercise recommendations. Next time, I may read the passages each day and write down my thoughts/experiences to get a better overall picture of how I felt on the cleanse.

Overall as I mentioned before, this cleanse was a lot easier than I’d anticipated, and not as scary as most. When I told friends I could eat tofu, Veganaise, gluten-free bread and sprouted grain cereal, they kind of shook their heads in disbelief. Clearly more challenging cleanses exist, but despite the fact that you could still have some beloved foods, this cleanse forced to be more conscious of what I was eating everyday, and helped me incorporate more greens and veggies into my diet. It’s been said before, but it’s super easy to eat unhealthily on a vegan diet. This cleanse is excellent for those who want to recharge but not totally have to restrict themselves into doing a cleanse that might set them up for failure. This one is meant to be done successfully, and I think Kris Carr gives her readers all the proper tools to do so.

Raw trail mix has become a new favorite snack as a result of the cleanse.

Raw trail mix has become a new favorite snack as a result of the cleanse.

Things I aim to keep up (for the most part) post-cleanse:

- Water with lemon every morning upon waking (no cayenne)

- Drinking a juice or smoothie everyday. Not a huge one that I did on the cleanse, but a smaller one so that I still get a burst of energy from green veggies first thing

- Having a salad every day (whether meal-sized or side-sized)

- Consuming less sugar overall, and limiting desserts to once or twice a week. Except dark chocolate, as that doesn’t count (to me)

- Focus on eating more alkaline foods than acidic. I won’t be as regimented, but I will strive to stay as close to 60% alkaline/40% acidic as possible

- Keeping my intake of gluten in check. As I mentioned before, I am pretty in love with gluten and breads, but I am in tune with how it makes my body feel, (sluggish). As hard as it’ll be, I’m going to try to keep my intake of it to a minimum so as to not inflict undue strife on my body and to focus on more whole foods instead

Overall, I loved this cleanse and would highly suggest it to anyone looking to refocus, recharge and clean up their act. If I could do it, you definitely can too. It’s all about focusing on getting back to basics and scaling back from those indulgences for a bit, which is something I think we can all benefit from once in a while, even while living our vegan lifestyles.

Did you also take on a cleanse in January? If so, which one? How’d you do, and what were some of your biggest challenges?

Crazy Sexy Diet Adventure Cleanse: week 1 & 2 recap

As of this past Wednesday, I’ve completed weeks one and two of the Crazy Sexy Diet Adventure Cleanse! Honestly, I’m super impressed with myself. In the beginning I told friends that I’d be happy if I got through week one. And here I am, now in week three of three, and totally kicking ass. If I can get over my caffeine/sugar/wheat cravings, I’m sure just about anyone can. Here’s my recap of my first two weeks on Kris Carr’s cleanse:

Week One

As I mentioned in my last post, day one of this cleanse was a bit magical. I was riding high on good vibes and visions of clear-mindedness and health. Everything was great on day one, minus the crippling caffeine headache I experienced around 4 p.m. After having some leftover green juice from breakfast and resting a bit, I felt just fine. My meals were tasty and I wasn’t hungry at any point in the day.

Day two: This was my awful, bad, no good day of the cleanse. I’ve heard some people say that day three is the worst for them, but not me. Day two was horrid. My great mood for day one? Vanished. My cravings for caffeine/sugar? Back with a vengeance. I started going off to my friend/co-worker about how much I wanted a cookie and coffee and about how tough this was. It was a totally mentally draining day, but thankfully I realized that all these feelings were normal. My body was detoxing and it was angry about it.

The Green Guru Smoothie from "Crazy Sexy Diet." so much green!

The Green Guru Smoothie from “Crazy Sexy Diet.” So much green!

To celebrate finishing week one: dinner at Chaco Canyon! I had the side house salad + a build your own grain bowl with brown rice, tahini sauce, baked tofu and all the veggies. I barely ate half the bowl.

To celebrate finishing week one: dinner at Chaco Canyon! I had the side house salad + a build your own grain bowl with brown rice, tahini sauce, baked tofu and all the veggies. I barely ate half the bowl.

The rest of the week was excellent. I made some delicious meals/salads/juices/smoothies from the book and had leftovers for days, (which is why I’m not recapping every single meal I ate – it’d get repetitive). And as the week went on, I started to feel a bit lighter, and a bit clearer. Remember how in my first post about the cleanse I said I’d be doing the one day per week juice cleanse as prescribed in the book? Well, that didn’t end up happening. See, in the book you’re to start the cleanse on a Monday and have a juice fast each Sunday, which would make it easier if you work a traditional week. But in my infinite wisdom I started the cleanse on a Thursday (I timed it just so that I would be done with the cleanse at the end of January), so that meant that my juice cleanse days would fall on Wednesday – easily my busiest day of the week as I work a full day then go to class for four hours. So, yeah. I know myself and know that I’d be cranky and irritable and not able to focus without food for a whole day, so this time around I’m not juice cleansing. I’m hoping that at some point later on in the year, I’ll do a one or few day juice fast over a weekend to try it out.

Week Two

For some reason, I struggled a bit more during week two than week one. Blame the way the stars aligned or my schedule, but things just didn’t fall into place the way that I’d hoped they would. I went out and bought all the necessary groceries that I needed for the week and struggled with finding the time to cook/prep them. As a result, I did some repeats of meals that were easy/quick (the Massaged Kale Salad and the Buddha Bowl), and everything else was cobbled together salads, grains/beans/veggies/fats combos and admittedly, some take-out (thank goodness for Veggie Grill’s cleanse-friendly salads).

Lentil soup, steamed/noochy broccoli and brown rice.

Lentil soup, steamed/noochy broccoli and brown rice.

Tofu Eggless Salad ("Crazy Sexy Diet" recipe) on gluten-free Food For Life brown rice bread with carrots for lunch. This made so much, and I happily ate leftovers for days.

Tofu Eggless Salad (“Crazy Sexy Diet” recipe) on gluten-free Food For Life brown rice bread with carrots for lunch. This made so much, and I happily ate leftovers for days.

Despite being a bit scatter-brained, I still felt awesome in week two. My desires for sugar and carbs have subsided, likely due to substituting actual fruit and drinking green tea once per day. I realized that green tea will give me a buzz and keep me up at night if I have it too late, which is a little mindblowing to this former two cups of coffee a day girl. The juices have also treated me well, but I found that having just juice or a smoothie before lunch wasn’t quite filling enough, so I added in a snack in between juice and lunch. I’m loving Ezekiel’s Flax Sprouted Grain cereal. It’s not gluten-free, but it’s allowed on the cleanse. Unlike regular cold cereal, it has tons of protein and fills me up.

Generally speaking about the cleanse, I haven’t followed Carr’s instructions entirely. Namely, I try to work out three-four days/week, but she recommends five. I try to remember to dry brush before I shower, but I don’t always, and I am not neti-potting. I also am not following her daily prayers/affirmations but am reading them. I’m just not into them. That goes for the meditation suggestion, too. In another life/time where I had infinite amounts of free time and no homework, I might actually have tried to follow the non-food aspects of this cleanse more closely to see if they helped more in terms of detoxification and an internal overall. But sadly that’s not the case right now.

Favorite cleanse snacks:

- Almond butter on Food For Life brown rice bread

- hummus on brown rice cakes

- celery and almond butter

- kale chips

- raw trail mix

Realizations as a result of the cleanse so far:

- I’m getting way more into tea. It used to be a once in a while thing that I didn’t always enjoy, but I’m experimenting more with different varietals and treating it like a grand affair whenever I have it. It helps take the pangs of no coffee away slightly.

- Hemp seeds rule. I’d never bought them before, but I love throwing them in salads and on top of bowls. So much protein and nutrients in such tiny seeds!

- Massaged kale salads also rule. I’d read about them forever and after making them, I’ve realized how easy, versatile and delicious they truly are.

- I hate to admit this, but not eating gluten is really contributing to my feeling lighter, I think. It’s total speculation as I’m not eating a lot of things I used to, but I have a feeling that a lot of it is due to laying off my beloved wheat-y bread. This hurts.

- This city is a lot more cleanse-friendly than I thought. In addition to Veggie Grill, Healeo, Chaco Canyon and Remedy Teas have all treated me well in terms of tasty snacks and meals. I’m already planning on creating a cleanse-friendly Seattle restaurant round-up post-cleanse.

Feeling good, guys. Just a few days left to go!

New Year, new starts: The Crazy Sexy Adventure Cleanse

Happy New Year! My blogging hiatus was intentional and much needed as I recovered mentally and physically after a rigorous academic and work quarter. I learned that working full-time while attending graduate school full-time is not very smart (unless you’re in a hurry to graduate, which I’m not), so I am slowing down and going to part-time status as of (this) winter quarter. During the break in December I visited Portland, cooked many delicious meals, hung with the boyfriend and cats and read for pleasure. And ate lots and lots of sweets.

Like a bite of this one: a delicious, buttercreamy Christmas cupcake from Sweetpea Bakery in PDX.

Like this one: a delicious, buttercreamy Christmas cupcake from Sweetpea Bakery in PDX.

And now it’s January again, and I’m feeling the results of holiday feasting and all those aforementioned sweets. Meaning, I’ve been pretty tired, rundown and not my normal, awesome self. For the past two years, I’ve done a sort of “clean slate” approach to food and eating in January (in 2011 I did a elimination diet that was monitored by my naturopath to check for food sensitivities, and in January 2012 I did a month of clean eating as defined by me).  I feel that it’s nice to say goodbye to the times of eating whatever I want, seriously up my intake of green veggies and fruits, and lessen all things processed and not so kind to my body at the start of a new year. I’ve been vegan for years, but as I mentioned last year that doesn’t necessarily mean that everything I eat radiates health and nutrients. So I really am digging this tradition of keeping myself in check at the start and refreshing my view of eating and creating good intentions to have good habits again.

This year will be no different, but this time I am going full-on cleanse, along with the rest of the world. I was inspired by a few things:

1) I got a juicer for Christmas!!! I’ve had this exact one on my Amazon wish list for years, and now it’s mine

juicer

2) A feature in the February 2013 issue of VegNews, which broke down different types of cleanses and shared staff members’ experiences with them. I found it really helpful when choosing mine
3) “Crazy Sexy Diet” by Kris Carr, which I picked up over my break

As of last Thursday, I’ve been following Kris Carr’s 21-day cleanse included in the book, and will also be doing a one-day juice fast each week. No caffeine, no gluten, no sugar, no processed food and no meat or dairy (natch). Prior to starting the cleanse, I wasn’t too concerned about it, as it seemed more than doable and delicious, and I’ve been right thus far.

Today marks day five (I started the cleanse on Thursday, Jan. 10 so that I could end right at the end of the month), and I’m feeling good, better than I thought I would. Day one had me so optimistic, and excited about my healthier future, and I consumed the primarily high-raw meals with gusto. I got a caffeine headache at 4 p.m., but it was nothing some green juice couldn’t fix. Day two has been the most trying day by far. I woke up, was craving coffee and toast and my mood had completely shifted to one of “screw this,” “this is hard!,” etc., much to the chagrin of those around me. The rest of the days have been great, and I’m really enjoying cooking (or not cooking) new to me foods and enjoying such fresh meals.

My first (very) green juice from the juicer.

My first (very) green juice from the juicer: the Make Juice, Not War Green Juice from “Crazy Sexy Diet” (all these food photos are made from recipes in the book).

Another first: massaged salad, the Shaved Kale Avocado Salad. So, so good.

Another first: massaged salad, the Shaved Kale Avocado Salad. So, so good.

Possibly our favorite meal from the book thus far: the Buddha bowl, filled with good fats like avocado, hemp seeds and oils.

Possibly our favorite meal from the book thus far: the Buddha Bowl, filled with good fats like avocado, hemp seeds and oils.

I am more than a little scared about the juice fasts. I’ve never done one before though I’ve been curious for years. The plan allows for easing out of them with whole foods at the end of the day, though, so I think I can handle it. The first one is this Wednesday. I’m also a little scared about making it the whole way through, as I’ve never done that before and have caved early on both past ones due to circumstances I could control (it was tough) and those I could not, (best friend was visiting and not cleansing). So here’s to accountability due to public awareness!

As I mentioned last January, this restart in terms of looking at food and health isn’t due to wanting to lose weight or reach a certain specific goal, but rather to just clean up my act and make health a priority again. It’s easy to get lost in the Mighty-O Donuts, Daiya-laden pizzas, fake meat sandwiches and what-not, and I do not begrudge anyone for having them. For they are delicious! But I personally need to scale back from time to time, and I figure that there’s no better time than the beginning of a new year. Fresh starts, clean insides. That’s my 2013 motto. Wish me luck, and I’ll be posting more about what I’m eating and how I’m doing throughout January.

Did you make any health-relevant New Year’s resolutions/goals/intentions? If so, what are they, and how are you doing thus far?

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

If you subscribe to the Tacoma Food Co-op‘s monthly newsletter, you may have seen this pop up in your email yesterday:

I wrote a short little piece about some of my favorite TFC food products, how it’s easier than you may think to be vegan and about the ways the co-op can help you if you’re considering transitioning to the diet.

In addition to the article, I also created a recipe for said newsletter. I am more of an eat-and-review type of food blogger rather than the recipe writer kind, but sometimes creativity strikes. Or, I realize I’ve got some recipes I created and have been making for years and remember that I should share them with you all. This recipe for Mediterranean Quinoa Salad pertains to the latter.

Quinoa salads (or any grain-based salad, really) are great because they are a nice change from the traditional all-greens based salad, they’re heartier, and they’re also very customizable and you can make one with whatever you have on hand. I used to make a plainer version of this for potlucks/gatherings, but last week I was feeling the nicer weather and leaning towards more Mediterranean flavors and ingredients. I think it turned out pretty well! I’ll include the newsletter copy for those who aren’t signed up yet, (and if you’re local, you should be! Sign up here).

With spring in full gear and summer coming soon, we tend to focus more on lighter, nutrient-rich meals that call for less prep, and less reliance on our ovens. This Mediterranean-inspired recipe makes use of quinoa, a nutty Incan protein-filled grain that is a great addition to salads. When combined with beans, spicy Italian parsley, red onions and a rich tahini dressing, it makes a colorful main dish or a hearty side.

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

Yields 4-8 servings, depending upon whether served as a side or main dish. Gluten-free and vegan.

Ingredients

1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
¼ bunch Italian flat leaf parsley, chopped (The original recipe called for ½ bunch, but that was a typo! If you like spicy, you can use the original amount.)
½ cup red onion, diced
2 cups baby spinach, rinsed
Grape tomatoes
Kalamata olives

Tahini dressing:

Zest and juice of one large lemon
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup tahini
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons warm water
¼-½ teaspoon sea salt

Directions

Rinse the quinoa. In saucepan, combine quinoa and water and cook over medium-high heat until boiling. Reduce the heat and simmer until water is absorbed and quinoa fluffs up, which should take 15 minutes.

Prepare the dressing while the quinoa cooks. Whisk together the lemon zest and juice, garlic, tahini, olive oil, water and salt. This might take a few minutes if your tahini was refrigerated.

Toss the quinoa, beans, parsley, red onion, and dressing. Taste for salt and add more if needed. Serve garnished with tomatoes, olives and a bit more parsley.

Enjoy!

The TFC also has their “Spring Into the Co-op” campaign happening now. Check out the website or Facebook page for more info on discounts, prizes and more goodies that you can receive by visiting the co-op five times by May 31.

Do you have any grain-based salads that you love to make during spring and summer? And do you have any fun plans for our 70-80 degree weather this weekend? Do tell!

 

 

 

Winter: the season of the sick

Since I’ve transitioned to veganism, I rarely get sick. I’m not trying to rub it in or be that stereotypical vegan, but it’s true. I get sick generally once a year, and if it lasts more than three days that is really rare. I went through 2011 without getting sick a single day.

Two weeks ago, my luck caught up with me and I came down with a sore throat. I thought it was a 24-hours max bug that I could kill with my arsenal of tricks, but alas, it hit me cold on a weekend, no less.

During the weeks/months when half of your co-workers are sniffling, your kids are around other kids with the flu/nasty bugs and all of the elements combine to weaken our systems, we have to prepare ourselves. I believe that eating a vegan diet filled with fruits, veggies and whole grains is a really solid way to boost your immune system year-round, but sometimes even that isn’t enough. We all eventually get sick, but over the years I’ve tried to green my ways and start taking more natural approaches to cold/flu treatments. Since this is that time of year, I thought I’d share my tips, tricks and products I use when I feel something coming on and when my seasonal illness is already full blown.

Note: I’m not a doctor, nutritionist or dietitian, but I have been vegan for some time and thus am familiar with vegan treatments for common illnesses. Please consult your doctor before starting a new diet, exercise or health regimen, etc.

Throat Coat Tea with Lemon, echinacea and agave

Once I started feeling sick, I went to Twitter for some advice on what I could do/take to help my sore throat. Fellow Tacoma food blogger Adrienne suggested tea with lemon, and this is one thing I’ve been doing for years, and is also a suggestion we all hear constantly while sick. I’ve recently come around to Throat Coat tea (which is wonderful because it actually does what it says) and the kind that I use actually has lemon and echinacea in it, so there’s no need to add them. I do add agave to mine as it sweetens the tea and soothes the throat more. I got this tea at Marlene’s, but I’m pretty sure you could find it at the co-op, Metro Market and Safeway, too.

Fresh juices

Anytime I start to feel the slightest sign of a bug, I run to a juice bar and grab some liquid immune boost in the form of fresh fruit and veggie juice. If you have a juicer, you’re lucky and this is super convenient! Make sure that the juice you make or buy has lots of greens in it, vitamin C-packed fruits and veggies and some herbs as well. My favorite combination from local Marlene’s includes kale, broccoli, parsley, apple, carrot, lemon and ginger, and it always makes me feel amazing. I’m sure there’s some placebo effect at play, but I know that drinking one of these at the first onset of iffy symptoms has saved me from becoming ill before. Don’t underestimate the powers of fresh juice! In Tacoma, you can also check out Smooth & Juicey for your fix.

Natural Emergen-C

Though it’s probably not necessary as take a multi-vitamin daily and try and take in more Vitamin C if ill, I like to err on the safe side and take a much higher dose of C while sick, (don’t worry, I don’t OD – you can have 8,000 mg while sick and be fine). I used to use Emergen-C but I thought it might be good to seek out a natural alternative. While combing through Marlene’s (clearly it’s my sick time safe haven), I found Trace Minerals Research Electrolye Stamina Power Paks. They come in a few flavors, and I think that taking one of these a day while sick helps me get back on track sooner.

Fire Cider

We Tacomites are lucky for many reasons, and one of which is the craft cocktail lounge nestled in the Hilltop neighborhood, 1022 South, (check out Northwest Herbivore’s great review of it here). Not only do they make fine alcoholic beverages, they’re also well known for their mocktails and house-made infusions, too. A menu staple of theirs that I was initially afraid to try due to the name is the Fire Cider, which is made of apple cider vinegar, horseradish root, cayenne, garlic, onion and ginger that has all been left to meld for six weeks. Served straight up and hot, the flavors may be much for some, but I actually love it and it truly works wonders for the ill. Over time, it’s become a staple of mine while sick. Next time you’re feeling under the weather and are in the neighborhood, you should give it a try.

Pho, Chickpea Noodle Soup, or any veggie-filled soup

You knew this one was coming, right?  Pho is definitely my favorite go-to warm, brothy soup that I crave when I’m feeling sick, but damn if a big bowl of Chickpea Noodle (recipe is from Veganomicon, but you can find it here) won’t make me feel awesome too. Liquids in any form are great while sick, so even sipping on plain veggie broth – something I’ve been known to do – is excellent when you aren’t feeling up to “regular” foods but still aim to consume some much needed nutrients.

Exercise

Many people believe the stigma that exercise is bad for them when they’re sick or think that it’ll make them feel worse, but I’ve generally found the opposite to be true. I don’t go running to the gym and hit the elliptical while ill, but I usually do try and go out for a walk once a day while sick to get up off my couch/sickbed and get some fresh air and feel human again. If you’re feeling weak this isn’t advisable, but otherwise I think getting your blood moving while fighting the illness is definitely a good thing.

And that’s what I generally do, in addition to drink lots and lots and lots of water. For some more info/suggestions about boosting your winter immune system before getting sick, check out fellow vegan blogger Molly’s tips.

Have you come down with a cold or flu yet this year? What are your tried and true ways of combating seasonal illness?

January clean eating recap

It’s February 4th, so I thought I’d give you guys a recap of how my January cleaner eating goals went. Before I break down how I did in each goal, here are some photos of what I was eating while eliminating gluten, sweets, extra caffeine, booze, etc. throughout the month.

I really did learn to respect and admire salads more in January, and this lunchtime bowl is proof. This is a variation of my “staple salad,” that I made often throughout the month. It included carrots, celery, cabbage, sunflower seeds, quinoa, kidney beans, avocado and a quick tahini/balsamic dressing. A complete delicious, filling, super healthy meal in a bowl.

As you could gather from my last post, pho has been a mainstay in our house this winter, and January was no exception. With gluten free rice noodles, tons of veggies and flavorful MSG-free broth, our local favorite Pho V&V knows exactly what we need and love.

January inevitably became the month of lentil soup making and consuming in our apartment. We love it so much that we didn’t mind at all, and it seems as though there are infinite variations on this simplistic, hearty soup variety. This is one of a few that we made for the first time, Mom’s Lentil Soup from one of our favorite vegan cookbooks, Yellow Rose Recipes by Joanna Vaught. The red wine the recipe called for added an amazing depth of flavor to the soup that we both enjoyed.

January was a month filled with smoothies of multiple varieties. Most days it was my Go-To Green Smoothie, but some days I wanted to switch it up. One Sunday when I was contemplating breakfast, I realized that I wanted something a bit lighter for the first meal of the day. I remembered we still have a ton (ton!) of canned pumpkin leftover from my fall frenzy, so we whipped up some of my rich Pumpkin Peanut Butter smoothies, and reveled in the fact that pumpkin is delicious any time of year.

More salad porn! This gigantic plate came from Marlene’s and included (but was not limited to): broccoli, peas, edamame, bell peppers, cabbage, garbanzos, cherry tomatoes, spinach, cucumber, savory baked tofu (out of this world good) and goddess dressing. I had it with a cup of vegetable soup and kombucha, and it sated me for hours. A jaunt to Marlene’s is one of my favorite local lunch indulgences.

More lentil soup for you! This is the French Lentil Soup with Tarragon and Thyme from Veganomicon. I’m not sure why we’d never made this before, but that will definitely change in the future. Spicy, peppery and even better the next day, this soup was a winner.

And lastly, a veggie platter from one of our favorite Seattle Ethiopian restaurants, Queen Sheba. We visited the restaurnat on a Seattle date night, after purchasing records at Everyday Music and books from Elliott Bay Book Company. A typical date night for us: nerdy, and filled with delicious vegan food.

Let’s review my goals, and break down how I did with each one:

- a smoothie a day, usually breakfast: This goal was easily accomplished. I love smoothies, and once I got into the groove of making them every morning, I came to crave them each day. Slowly but surely during the month, my a.m. toast cravings faded.

- one meal-sized salad a day, typically at lunch: This was one that I thought I’d struggle with, but during the first half of the month I did a great job of integrating a salad into every day, whether at lunch, with dinner, or as a snack. As the month went on and got a little busier, I struggled a bit with it (or flat out forgot, bad), but I just picked up again the next day.

- limit alcohol (I’m not a big drinker anyway, but just less when I do choose to imbibe): I did well with this goal, but I realized after the month started that I probably should’ve just eliminated beer/wine (I didn’t have any alcohol) altogether. It would not have been hard for me to do, so I felt like this was kind of a “safe” goal. I’ll keep this in mind for next time.

- less coffee, more green tea: Kicked ass, took names with this one.

- cut the sweets (this one really stings): Yes, this one did sting, but except for the Quinoa cookie from Corina on the snow day and a few squares of dark chocolate during moments of weakness, I successfully cut the sweets. I deserve a trophy or a cookie, (ha!) for being so good with this goal.

- eliminate bread/gluten as much as possible, and focus more on whole grains: Did it. Other than making pizza one night, pasta another (we ran out of gluten-free meal ideas a few nights) and drinking beer and realizing that it wasn’t gluten-free, I was good with giving up the gluten. I definitely had moments where I craved it, but I stayed strong, replaced it with a whole grain, and still felt just as satisfied, if not more.

- more fruits, vegetables and nuts as snacks: I achieved this goal for the most part. The fruit and veggie snacks are something I try and do everyday, but I struggle with eating raw nuts (that aren’t in a meal or dish) some days. I’m still working on this one, and I might be for some time, as I know how important they are.

- allow wiggle room on the weekends/here and there: Done, as referenced above.

Conclusions: Though I didn’t do as well as I could’ve with some goals, I think for the most part I successfully cleaned up my act in terms of lessening the heavier/harsher foods, and increasing the amount of healthier, whole foods I consumed. As I mentioned before, I will probably not stop eating some things that are considered vegan junk food permanently anytime soon, but I believe that evaluating your food/exercise/lifestyle choices every once in a while is a good thing. I definitely plan on doing this again in the future, but for now I’m back to my regular eating, with a few new healthier habits guiding some choices.

How are you doing with your health-related New Year’s resolutions/goals? Are you integrating new, healthier habits as a result of changing up your eating and exercise in January?

Hitting restart

Hello, and Happy New Year! Hey look, it’s 2012 and we’re still alive! Silly Mayan calendar.

If you’re anything like most people I know and/or interact with on the Internet these days, you likely made New Year’s resolutions. If you’re also like most, I bet many of you have health-based resolutions, even if you’re already vegan. People love to assume that veganism = healthy, but that’s not always so. My favorite example of why this logic is faulty is a guy I worked with in college at Native Foods in LA. He subsisted off vegan pizzas, french fries and chips. I eat lots of things that could be considered vegan junk food and probably won’t stop eating them anytime soon (except this month – more on that in a sec), but the difference between that guy and myself is I actually love fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains and seeds.

With the world starting to turn in a direction that is more vegan-friendly, it’s hard to say no to things like vegan donuts, Newman-Os, and Daiya-topped pizza simply because they exist. They’re just so good! But sometimes you need to step away from the vegan cookies and clean up your act. And January is the perfect time to do so.

I’ve attempted cleanses before, and most have ended miserably. This time last year, I started an elimination diet to see if I was allergic to certain foods (under the guidance of my naturopath) and instead of lasting the whole 21 days, I lasted 7. I think anyone who goes through a whole month or close to a month of cleansing is awesome, but I’m not quite there yet.

I don’t like the word “resolution”, but I like the word “goal” a lot. Something about the inferences of each that makes me prefer “goal” over the other, so this month, I’ve made a goal to attempt eating cleaner overall. The holidays were lovely and filled with gluten-based main dish masterpieces, Brazil nut pie and so many snacks, and I just feel like it’s time to return to basics for a bit. So without further ado, here’s my non-cleanse, non-diet plan for eating cleaner this month:

Goals:

- a smoothie a day, usually breakfast

- one meal-sized salad a day, typically at lunch

- limit alcohol (I’m not a big drinker anyway, but just less when I do choose to imbibe)

- less coffee, more green tea

- cut the sweets (this one really stings)

- eliminate bread/gluten as much as possible, and focus more on whole grains

- more fruits, vegetables and nuts as snacks

- allow wiggle room on the weekends/here and there

January will see lots of green smoothies and VitaMix usage.

This past week was my first week working on said goal, and so far, so good. I did have some gluten in the form of pizza dough/Tofurky sausage mid-week and Puffy Pillow Pancakes this weekend (post coming very soon), but still, that’s so much better than usual. I had the smoothie everyday for breakfast and successfully had a salad for one meal everyday. The salad concept was one I really thought I’d struggle with, as my boyfriend summed up my prior sentiments towards them well, “but I thought you hated salads?” Yep, it’s true. I used to be a salad hater. You have to understand that I’ve been a vegetarian and vegan for a combined 7 years now, so in the beginning my only option was often a pathetic iceberg, shredded carrots, stale croutons with sad, sad vinaigrette dressing, and I got sick of them. But gone are those days. You can get a kickass salad at many establishments now, and I’ve learned how to make some impressive ones (and dressings) at home over time, too. So if anything, this might be the month that salads earn back my respect.

I’m not a doctor/nutritionist, but I know that our cravings and tastes change as we change our habits. I’ve got a major sweet tooth, but after going the week without a sugary treat, I’m actually finding myself not getting the shakes when I don’t have one. And my sometimes present cravings for gluten (I love gluten) are gone, too. So while it’s still early in the month, I foresee this being a good experiment in terms of getting myself back on track health-wise, and setting the stage for a focused, sensible and delicious 2012.

Did you make any health-related New Year’s resolutions/goals, and if so, what are they? How are they going thus far?

The Top 5 Vegan-Friendly Grocery Stores in Tacoma

I’ve been wanting to write this post since I started this blog. And now, with Vegan MoFo forcing me to write every (week)day, I’ve decided it’s about time. Why do I want to share my favorite spots to find vegan food and personal care items, you may ask? Well, for starters, I feel that a lot of people believe that you can’t find a lot of basic vegan items in Tacoma and that you have to trek all the way up to Seattle. I hear this all the time. No, people! Give the City of Destiny some credit!

Secondly, things have gotten SO MUCH BETTER in recent years. Lightyears better, meaning there’s now more than two stores that can help you find that one pesky ingredient that you need for the pie that you need to bring to a potluck, or for cheap locally-made tofu or vegan snacks for when you’re veg friends and family come into town.

Without further ado, I give you my Top 5 vegan-friendly grocery stores in Tacoma, WA:

Photo credit: metropolitan-market.com.

5) Metropolitan Market – Nestled in the cute, almost Stepford-esque neighborhood we call the Proctor District, Metropolitan Market is part of a Northwest chain that offers up locally-grown and made goods with your standard mainstream brands mixed in. It’s a little pricier than Safeway across the street (and many other local grocery stores), but it’s a great place to grab a few specialty items every once in a while. My favorite things to purchase at Met Market are: produce (because their selection is astounding), a bowl of soup and multigrain roll on a cold day, random vegan meat analogues, (I usually run here when I’m in the neighborhood and realize I need seitan or tempeh, etc.) and wine. Yep, they have one of the best wine selections I’ve seen in town and it’s perfect for grabbing something before a party or get-together. Rows and rows of fermented grape bottled bliss.

Photo credit: www.weeklyvolcano.com.

4) Trader Joe’s – This one should surprise no one. Though it’s technically located in University Place, it’s the closest one we have and thus counts as Tacoma in my book. We make the trip every two weeks for most of our oft-used staples: olive oil, vinegars, breads, frozen fruits and veggies, canned beans, etc. I’ve been a fan of the company since I was a college student in Southern California, and it’s only gotten better for vegans over the years. They clearly mark which of their own brand’s products are vegan, are amping up pre-made salads and frozen meals (if you’re into that sorta thing) that are vegan-friendly and are one of my favorite places to buy dark chocolate and Brussels sprouts. Aside from the way too much packaging and plastic wrap they use, due to the facts that it’s affordable and well-stocked, you can’t go wrong with a TJ’s trip.

This was a good day.

3) Fred Meyer – This one may surprise some, but not those who are avid FM shoppers. We didn’t have Fred Meyer in Southern California, so moving to the Northwest helped me get acquainted very quickly. Though the company sells products from lots of not so vegan-friendly companies, they also have one of the best organic and natural foods sections I’ve come across in the state. This goes for most locations, but the 19th Street store is definitely my favorite. The first time I saw Daiya cheese in Washington state (photo above), was at this Fred Meyer. I wasn’t expecting this, but it was awesome. Great gluten-free products, focus on organics, bulk bins and spices, tofu/tempeh/frozen meals, and so many well-priced toiletry items all at a place where you can also get batteries and birthday cards later at night, Fred Meyer is pretty great.

Photo credit: activerain.com

2) Marlene’s Market and Deli – Though they’re sometimes slow to get new vegan items that everyone is dying to try, Marlene’s has a few other grocery stores beat due to their insane bulk sections, kombucha selection, deli with great vegan sandwiches, juices, soups and baked goods, the best salad bar in the city and almost every vegan personal care item you could ever dream of. Their prices are a bit higher than most so I don’t do full-on grocery trips here, but rather come in when I need a specialty item (chia or hemp seeds, supplements or vegan Worcestershire sauce), a green juice after a workout or want to take in their amazing salad bar during my lunch break. It’s true guys, I love Marlene’s.

1) Tacoma Food Co-op - Clearly, I am biased with this being my number one pick. I’d been waiting for the co-op to open since I moved to Tacoma, and now it’s here. I volunteer there and am constantly sharing news about what’s happening with them, but it’s all because I have faith in the fact that Tacoma’s first co-op has the potential to be a great one.

As they just opened and General Manager Henri Parren is eager to please all of his customers (members or not), the co-op welcomes suggestions for items they may not have in stock, or may not have thought to get. They’ve even got a handy, dandy online suggestion box where you can put in your requests without even getting out of your pajamas! Magic. Suggestions aside, TFC has had a great selection of vegan items in store since day one. They have pretty much every Field Roast product you could ever want, the best organic produce at a grocery store in the city at excellent prices, (partially because many farmers market vendors sell their produce here), every Daiya flavor (including Pepperjack) locally-made Tacoma Tofu and Small Planet Tofu spreads, Amy’s meals and Sunshine burgers, coconut, hemp, oat and more traditional vegan milks and they’re adding more items everyday. Members and individuals who shop at the co-op are only going to help it evolve and grow over the years, so I suggest you make it over there soon, and add it to your regular arsenal of grocery stores you support. The co-op works with a great deal of local companies, cooks and farmers, so you can leave the store with pride, knowing that more of your dollars are staying in our community.

What’s your favorite, vegan-friendly grocery store to shop at in your town? And if you’re in Tacoma, which stores would be in your top 5?

Go-to green smoothie

I’m not sure what the weather’s like where you are, but today I woke up and read that it was going to be 80 degrees. Now, here in the Pacific Northwest that’s strange for the first day of fall, but as someone who loves summer, I’m soaking it up as much as I can.

This morning I did have a more fall-like breakfast (pumpkin oats – that recipe will come soon, too), but I almost always have a green smoothie for breakfast. I know, they’re the “thing” these days, but I’ve started to realize why. Nutrient-dense, tasty, customizable, easy to transport and refreshing, this drink is a meal that is perfect for warmer days, but also something that you can switch up to suit your tastes and the seasons as they both change.

Green smoothies aren't always green! One ingredient change in this recipe can turn the smoothies from a purplish brown to...

more of a proper green smoothie. The first included blueberries and for this second one I switched them out for raspberries. Smoothies are like snowflakes, guys!

I’ve made a few smoothies in my day, but for breakfast, I like one that has protein, fruit, greens and a little caffeine in the form of chocolate, so I came up with my own standard. I know that some of you may think greens in a drink sounds scary, but trust me, you won’t even taste them. It’s not just good for breakfast, but also serves as a good anytime meal or post-workout snack. In the morning I love to have it with sprouted grain toast with peanut butter and a cup of coffee, but it also keeps me satisfied and full on its own for hours. I’ve mentioned it on Twitter and have gotten a few requests for it, so here it is:

Green chocolate smoothie

Yield: 1 serving

Ingredients:

2 ice cubes
2 green leaves, chopped (You can feel free to use spinach, kale, lettuce, whatever. It doesn’t matter which kind, but certain ones will give a different texture. If using spinach, the amount is a handful. I’ve been loving Lacinato kale lately.)
1 scoop/serving of chocolate protein powder  (I use Sunwarrior raw vegan brown rice protein in chocolate flavor, but any will do. If you don’t have protein powder or a chocolate flavored one, substitute 1 Tbsp cocoa powder.)
1 Tbsp chia seeds or flaxseed meal
Half a banana
1/2 c. fresh or frozen blueberries
1/2 c. almond milk
1/2 c. water
Few drops of stevia or agave, if not accustomed to the flavor of greens

Directions

Toss everything in a blender (I use a Vita-Mix but if you don’t have one, you may have to chop things up a bit more first) on high speed and serve in a glass.

Notes: This recipe doubles/quadruples perfectly. The smoothie comes out pretty smooth, but if you like a thicker smoothie, leave out the water, and use your tamper to make sure everything gets blended evenly.

What are your favorite smoothie recipes?