Being Vegan Doesn’t Fix Everything

When I first went vegan, I thought it would make me invincible. I envisioned myself being thinner, stronger and a whole lot healthier. Armed with the menial amount of knowledge I’d picked up when first researching a vegan lifestyle (after I’d already made the decision to go vegan), it seemed like a cure all for practically any and everything. Unfortunately, I hadn’t realized that I was heavily idealizing veganism. Yes, I still believe it is by far one of the healthiest diets that most humans can thrive on, but I was taking an unrealistic approach to what veganism was truly about. I was met with a rude awakening after a couple of events that caused me to realize that being vegan, in fact did not make me a superhero.

Throwback image of what I was supposed to look like after going vegan.

The closer I got to my one year #veganniversary, the closer I got to the realism of veganism and the fact that it was indeed an entire change of lifestyle, but it was not something that could change everything that was capable of occurring in life. In early fall of 2018, I injured my leg. The injury wasn’t life-threatening, and because of that, I continued to live my life with the same gusto I had been for the past several months. The same gusto that had allowed me to become physically, mentally and spiritually stronger. After all, a positive by-product that came out of me going vegan was that I was able to not only lose weight, but prove to myself that I had the discipline to stick with something that took work– an entire overhaul of how I approached eating but also how I approached many other aspects of my life. Losing weight was tangible evidence that I could make a change in my lifestyle and achieve my fitness goals.

The more I focused on my physical activity, the stronger I became. I was sooo diggin’ that feeling! I actually felt my body changing and felt myself being able to do things I couldn’t do before. But too much of a good thing too soon is the best way I can describe the series of events that happened next. I suffered a mild leg injury from what I eventually determined had to have been overuse of my muscles and ligaments. In my mind, I had to push myself to the limit to keep feeling and being stronger. And pushing oneself is not a bad thing, but it depends on the circumstances and the person. In my case, I was starting to push too much, too soon, not giving my body enough time to rest throughout the week.

Summer 2018. Working out 3-4 days a week, I was at my most fit since I’d started my journey.

So, I’d come to terms with the fact that I’d sprang a ligament in my hip/thigh area. And you would think that I learned my lesson. But almost two months after the initial injury, I re-injured the same spot. However, this time, it was worse. Self-diagnosing, I felt really strongly that I knew what happened. The initial injured area never fully healed and I either tore or pressured that same area even more. The first sprang wasn’t debilitating, but it was definitely painful. But this time, I was literally stopped in my tracks for almost 48 hours, limping around with a wrapped up leg in agony. My body was telling me it had had enough.

This sent me into a depressing tailspin. I knew I couldn’t work with this injury but I also couldn’t afford not to work. I wasn’t sure what to do and the thought of not working for awhile terrified me. Then, I had an epiphany. I was seriously considering possibly permanently injuring myself for the sake of a job and some money. It was true that I couldn’t afford to be out of work for long, but I could afford to let myself heal for a bit. In fact, I had to do that.

This knee brace and wrap became staples in my life. Both are covered in yellow stains from the balm I made containing turmeric, that I would rub all over my leg before wrapping it up.

I made the decision to leave where I was working. Eventually the pain started lessening in intensity but it was far from healed. I was back at work within a couple of weeks and I continued to really hone in on my homeopathic routine to help with healing. The pain is about 90% gone as of the publishing of this blog post. It just goes to show that letting “food be thy medicine” has really showed value in my life, in spite of my initial anger that being vegan didn’t make me invincible.

A more recent occurrence happened within months of me going off birth control. I decided to make the switch before going vegan actually, because remember, I had already decided to do a health overhaul — going vegan ended up being the last step. Supposedly, the body adjusts within a month after going off the pill. Hormones should be back to normal and all should be well. But for me, it didn’t happen that way. I had lived for a few years with the crystal clear skin and light periods that come as a result of birth control. I had actually forgotten what my body was like pre-pill. Well, I stopped taking the pill in late 2017. It wasn’t until almost a year later that that I experienced a full comeback of my pre-pill self. Really heavy periods and acne. A decent amount of acne. So much so that I was ashamed of myself for being so vain in my hatred of it and also surprised that I had gotten so used to having no acne so quickly, completing forgetting that this was all part of my normal before I ever started the pill. But after several long months, it was as if the birth control had finally flushed out me, taking all the lingering hormones out and now I was really me again. This was a blessing I was happy about, but I kept thinking “how can this be! Everyone on vegan Instagram has beautifully light periods and no pimples!”

Summer 2017. Chock-full of birth control hormones, I wasn’t cheesing because of my super clear skin, but I might as well have been.

But that wasn’t true. The more I explored, the more I saw many vegans with skin problems and period issues. I wasn’t alone and that was comforting. But it was another wake up call that simply being vegan doesn’t fix everything. It was also a motivator to try to find out how I could use food as medicine for these issues. Maybe I hadn’t been vegan long enough yet to notice a change in these areas. Maybe I had to wait for my body to fully detox from the hormones. Maybe I was still eating too much processed food and not enough fresh produce. Maybe I wasn’t eating the right types of produce. There were so many variables to think about. The body is essentially a giant science experiment, and I was and still am determined to figure it all out.

Through my health journey I realized I didn’t want to thrive on body-altering hormones any longer.

After I come back from Europe, I plan to start a regime with more produce to combat the severity of my menstrual cycle, along with the acne that comes along with it. I’ve heard some things about celery juice and how it can help fight acne (among many other things). It will also serve as a nice detox post decadent euro-vegan eats so I’m trying to reap all the benefits. I’ve already started using a menstrual cup and honestly, I noticed a slight difference during my first cycle using it. That may sound weird, but we as women and humans don’t give ourselves enough credit for making small changes. Bad things happening shouldn’t be considered “normal”. If you notice a positive difference after making a small change, keep going! I’m still amazed that I was able to cure a ligament sprang that felt so severe with herbs! But I shouldn’t be so surprised because people have been doing things like this for centuries. The longer I’m vegan, the longer I eat raw and fresh, the longer I stop putting man-made and chemical-filled things in and on my body, I’m certain that I’ll see amazing changes, probably beyond anything I could have ever imagined. Please stay tuned for more updates on my path to actually becoming an invincible vegan!

Edit**: As of March 21, 2019, I feel very comfortable saying that my leg is at 90%-95% when it comes to being healed. I’ve continued to do all that I can to help it get better, including using it more– something I was initially afraid to do until I recently read an article stating that the ligament will actually become stronger once it’s in use again. I plan on upping my physical activity even more soon, hopefully being back in the gym by summer. I don’t think I’ll start running again, but I will continue to listen to my body and maybe running will be something I can enjoy again by next year. I don’t want to over exert the ligament being that it’s freshly healed.

Bodybuilder image courtesy of: Pexels.com

Pills image courtesy of: Pexels.com

Creamy Butternut Squash and Chickpea Soup

Soup is my jam. But not just any soup. I don’t really like those plain, mostly thinned-out brothy-y soups. I need a hearty, chunky soup. And if there’s a thin broth, there better be a whole bunch of goodies in there and not just a few straggly pieces of noodles. Enter this amazing creation. This could almost be classified as a dump skillet meal because I had this squash in the fridge for so long I forgot about it. When I rediscovered it, it didn’t look as brightly orange as it had been, but I wasn’t in the mood to make squash so I threw it in the freezer. Then, the next day it just didn’t sit well with me and I felt like I needed to create an amazing meal with it. And outta nowhere I came up with this amazing soup. But here’s the crazy part: After I made it and let it sit for awhile, the broth ended up tasting exactly like tikka masala sauce! If you know my food vibes, I’ve mentioned a bunch of times that Indian food is hands down one of my favorites. And I’d unintentionally made the sauce to one of favorite Indian dishes! I couldn’t believe it. So a random science experiment of a creation ended up yielding not one, but two recipes. And although the sauce is very tikka “masala-y”, with the squash and chickpeas, it definitely has it’s own vibe and holds it’s own as a soup. But, feel free to only create the sauce and add some tofu or vegan chick’n cutlets for a bomb chick’n tikka masala. I mean seriously, look how far I’ve come. I went from making a tikka masala dish that included using a jarred version of the sauce, to accidentally and unintentionally making that very sauce from scratch while trying to make a completely different recipe. Started from the bottom, now I’m here!

butternut squash and chickpea soup

What You’ll Need:

  • 2 cans of chickpeas, drained (15.5 oz)
  • 4 cups cubed butternut squash
  • 3 cups fresh baby spinach (frozen spinach can also be used)
  • 1 can tomato paste (6 oz)
  • 1 can coconut milk (13.5 oz)
  • 1 tbsp. +  1 tsp. curry powder
  • 1 tbsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 heaping tbsp. salt

What to Do:

  1. Place a large pot (at least a 3 qt. pot) on low heat.
  2. Add chickpeas, squash, coconut milk, and tomato paste to pot and stir together gently until well mixed.
  3. Keep uncovered and reduce heat to a low simmer. Let soup begin to heat up and once it starts to bubble, begin adding in seasonings.
  4. Add salt, pepper, cumin, cinnamon, and curry powder to soup. Stir and mix until well blended. Let soup simmer for approximately 3-5 minutes.
  5. Add spinach to soup and mix until well blended.
  6. Continue to simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally until squash and chickpeas are tender, approximately 20 minutes.

*To Make Tikka Masala Sauce Alone*:

  1. Combine coconut milk, tomato paste and all seasonings in a pot over a simmer heat.
  2. Mix all ingredients together until well blended, and let simmer until sauce begins to bubble.
  3. Remove from heat and let sauce cool. Store sauce to use for homemade tikka masala, or for any other dishes.
  4. You can also use this sauce for my tikka masala recipe instead of the jarred sauce!

Date posted on Instagram: 12/26/18

Easy Chickpea Scramble

It’s funny how we idolize some foods but never think outside of the box with what can be done with those foods in a different context, or how we can use other foods to recreate the idolized foods. That was a lot to take in just now, but hear me out. Eggs. I used to love eggs. So many people love eggs. But eggs are actually one of the easiest foods to veganize. My favorite is definitely tofu scram, but there are also a few vegan egg substitutes on the market and if tofu isn’t your thing, there’s chickpeas. Yes, I said chickpeas. I get it, I was surprised when I first found out about chickpea scrambles too. I mean, they’re chickpeas. But, in keeping with one of my vegan mantra’s which states that most of eating is a psychological experience, visually, a decent chickpea scram can remind someone of eggs. Now the texture is a different story. That may not feel as “egg-like” but maybe an exact replica isn’t what you’re looking for.  And anyway, the secret to a really bomb chickpea scram (or any vegan egg sub) is one key ingredient: black salt. Also known as kala namak. This amazing Indian salt has a flavor that’s extremely reminiscent of eggs because of its sulfur content. But let’s not make this a science lesson (although the nerd in me does love a good science lesson!). Let’s just say that with this salt in hand, you hold the key to making anything taste like eggs. So vegans rejoice because yet again, animal harm: 0, plants providing a way: 1. And non-vegans who think they’re precious eggs can’t be replaced? Come at me.

chickpea scramble

What You’ll Need:

  • 1/2 cup chickpeas, completely drained of liquid
  • 1 tsp. oat flour
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp. black salt*
  • pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tbsp. avocado oil (or other high-heat oil like peanut or high-oleic sunflower oil)

What to Do:

  1. Add chickpeas to a medium bowl and smash them with a fork until most of the beans have been crushed (see picture below). A few solid parts are okay and actually recommended.

    smashed chickpeas for chickpea scramble
    chickpea prep for a scramble.

  2. Add oat flour to the bowl and mix into the chickpeas until well blended.
  3. Add turmeric to the mixture and mix until well blended. Set aside.
  4. Heat a saucepan over low-medium heat with the avocado oil. (I used a spray can of avocado oil and sprayed a light layer on the pan).
  5. Once hot, add the chickpea mixture to the pan and use a (non-metal) spatula or cooking tool to spread the chickpeas in an even layer, similar to a tortilla.
  6. Let the chickpea cook for about 2 minutes, then, flip and the opposite side for another 2 minutes.
  7. Start to break apart the chickpea “tortilla” into chunks, similar to scrambled eggs, and let the scramble continue to cook.
  8. Cook the chickpeas for about 3-4 more minutes in the chunky pieces or longer to achieve some browning on the chickpeas.
  9. Transfer chickpea scramble to a bowl and mix in the black salt. Then, transfer salted scramble to serving dish and add pepper to taste OR transfer chickpea scramble straight to serving dish and sprinkle with black salt and pepper.

* You can purchase black salt from several sources online. The salt is also sold in Indian and Asian markets. At the ethnic markets, you are likely to find a bulk amount for a decent price. I found a good amount on Amazon for an amazing price. Do a little research so you aren’t overcharged because it’s definitely possible to get a good deal on this amazing seasoning.

Date posted on Instagram: 12/31/18

Keeping it Clean the Eco-friendly Way

Okay. I am going to preface this post by saying that I am single. That may seem irrelevant for the topic of eco-friendly cleaning products, but it’s actually very relevant when it comes to some of the measures I’ve been taking as I attempt to continue to lower my carbon footprint on my zero-waste journey. As I mentioned in my last zero waste post, I’ve started making my own cleaning supplies and I decided that I would no longer use products that contained chemicals or ingredients that weren’t friendly to the earth or plant-derived (except for bleach, which I still use to clean and do my laundry with). That plan has been working so far.

I created two homemade cleansers and they both work well— actually, surprisingly well, when it comes to keeping things clean. I use them for general purpose cleaning, so stuff like countertops but also to clean the less grungy stuff in the bathroom (sinks and what not). One is citrus-based and the other is soap-based. The citrus-based cleanser is better for cutting through grease because citrus oil is great for greasy and grimey stuff.

IMG_4273
These babies are grease-cutting machines!

I’ve been using the citrus cleanser for several months now. I started experimenting with the recipe just a few months after I went vegan. The other solution I only started using in the past few months, after I discovered the wonders of  castile soap. Here’s the recipe for each cleanser:

Citrus cleaning solution:

  • 1:1 ratio of citrus solution* to warm or room temperature water. I use my own amber spray bottles and they hold 16 oz. of liquid, so that’s about 8 oz. (or 1 cup) of solution and 8 oz. of water.

Castile cleaning solution:

  • 2-3 tablespoons of castile soap (I use Dr. Bonner’s hemp almond castile soap)
  • about 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • the rest of the bottle is filled with warm water

You might want to adjust these ratios and amounts depending on the size of bottle you’re using, but these are pretty good general measurements.

I’ve also switched to using homemade, natural stuff to clean my laundry. The result of this was probably the biggest surprise because I’ve been washing with this solution for almost two months now and I’m being 100% honest when I say that my clothes are actually coming out cleaner and fresher with this new type of detergent. What’s in it you’re wondering? Well, it’s essentially the same mixture as the castile soap cleaning solution described above, except I add about 2-3 tbsp. of baking soda to the mix. Here’s the full recipe:

Castile laundry soap:

In a 32 oz. mason jar I combine:

  • 2-3 tablespoons baking soda
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 1 1/2 cups white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup castile soap… then close the jar and shake!

Like I said, I love this mixture for doing laundry. My clothes smell fresh. And not the way they smell when you use those popular name brand detergents. Those smell like scented

IMG-6692
My castile soap laundry detergent.

chemicals — fake floral scents and mock lavender. No, my clothes actually smell clean— like this is what clean is supposed to smell like! I may sound a little obsessive but this is what happens when you start opening your mind to what can be done with natural products and not the chemical filled stuff we’ve been conditioned to use through the use of advertising and societal influences.

Keeping my home and clothes clean with no chemicals is truly refreshing. Even though they aren’t things that we notice on a daily basis, I know big changes like better air quality are occurring with the use of less chemicals. This is, of course, important for personal health, but it’s also a big deal for me because I don’t want Atreyu (my cat!) breathing in a bunch of chemicals either.

But, there’s a small catch…

… everything hasn’t been entirely lavender and roses (cleaning and natural product pun completely intended).

Another major concern when it comes to my new vegan lifestyle is affordability— and that’s been the case from the beginning. I’ve always been more of a

2018-12-31-2-e1546280293393.png
Oranges are cheap year-round so a homemade citrus cleanser is a great investment.

budget girl, and that hasn’t changed since going vegan. I know I’m saving money when it comes to cleaning supplies— I mean, I could buy an entire barrel of oranges to make a billion batches of my citrus cleanser and it probably wouldn’t at all compare to the amount of money I might spend buying a bunch of bottles of a packaged, chemical cleansers over time. But even still, my other new cleaning innovations were signaling some red flags.

So, this is where me being single finally becomes relevant. I know, you probably forgot about that important little tidbit but I told you it’d be back. Currently, I’m doing a few loads of laundry as a single person. And cleaning as a single person. And cooking as a single person. Yes, I’m doing everything as a single person. So quantities haven’t been a huge problem so far. But, castile soap isn’t cheap. And using all that good soap for cleaning solutions and laundry was starting to add up.

So, I started researching cruelty-free and vegan detergents. As of the publishing of this blog post, I’ve narrowed it down to two brands that are ethical, contain vegan  ingredients and are cruelty-free. I’ll post what they are and what I decided to go with in another blog post. I figure now is the best time to make the switch so I can start saving more money but I’m also thinking practically for the future. When I have a family, what will be more likely to stick? I don’t wanna start doing things that get me closer to a zero-waste lifestyle now, then fall back a few steps— or a bunch of steps— or several staircases worth of steps because I made a few changes as a single gal that I couldn’t keep up with once more people were in the picture. I’m still using my castile detergent for now, but I’ll be switching over to a bulk detergent shortly. I hope my clothes will smell as clean as they have been while using the castile soap. The fact that the ingredients will be natural gives me some hope that they might. And anyhow, I thought of an idea; I can mix some of the castile soap (and maybe vinegar?) in with the bulk detergent to make it a “super-detergent”, able to rip through dirt in the blink of eye and tear apart soil particles with the snap of a finger! As for my cleaning solutions, those are actually doable labor and price-wise, and I’m 100% gonna keep making them to clean with. And finally, I don’t think I’m gonna give up bleach anytime soon, but as with everything else on this journey— baby steps.

So that’s where I’m at when it comes to cleaning my space and my clothes. It hasn’t all been easy-peasy, but then again, nothing that truly matters ever is. In fact, I remember the first time I heard about the “cheap, fast, good” diagram. It was on a t.v show, and although the show isn’t at all relevant, the purpose of that lil’ venn diagram remained with me for years and still resonates with me when I think of everything in life, because it’s truly applicable to everything in life.

**

If we want something to be cheap and fast, it ain’t gonna be the best quality. If we want something to be fast and good quality, it ain’t gonna be cheap, and if we want something to be cheap and good quality, it definitely ain’t gonna happen overnight. The point is, you can’t have all three; only two of those amazing things are achievable at one time and so there will always be some form of work required on our end— either patience, funds (monetary or otherwise), or acceptance. That’s how I’m approaching my zero-waste journey. I’ve invested in a few items like hand towels, and bottles of castile soap, knowing that in the long run these changes will reap great (quality) benefits when it comes to my health, my zero-waste goals and my overall moral feels. I’m already spending less money on things like paper towels (a product I believe is one of the biggest kept secrets as a “big money waster”) and cleaning products, and I know I’m making progress as I try to head into more of a zero-waste life for my current situation and my future, unknown life. I’m very proud of myself and I know future Tiffany is waiting to pat me on my low carbon footprint back too.

* To make the citrus solution: In a 32 oz. mason jar, I combine the peels of 5-6 medium to large sized oranges with vinegar. Make sure that the peels are free of any fruit, or that will make the solution sticky. You only want pure orange peel because it has the citrus oil in it. Once the peels are in the jar, fill the jar almost to the top with white vinegar. This mixture will yield you four cups of citrus solution, but as you use it you can add more vinegar and let the mixture become stronger over time. The same peels should last for a few months before you need to replace them. With a new batch, I let the solution sit for at least 24 hours before using it for cleaning. It should reach maximum potency after about a week.

[Edit:] As of January 21, 2019, I have decided to use detergent and other products from the Seventh Generation brand. This line of products is entirely vegan and cruelty-free. The parent company of Seventh Generation, Unilever, was at one point known for its animal testing. However, as of 2019, the company is pioneering the global ban on animal testing, and PETA has now classified them as a company that is “working for regulatory change”. The company will only perform animal testing where required by law.

** Venn-diagram chart photo courtesy of: pyragraph.com.

Unilver information courtesy of PETA: https://www.peta.org/blog/dove-earns-cruelty-free-stamp-of-approval-added-to-beauty-without-bunnies-list/

Spicy Asian Slaw

I’ve never been a fan of coleslaw. Before I was vegan, I hated coleslaw. After I became vegan, I hated coleslaw. There’s never really been any version of coleslaw that I’ve liked. Then, one day I realized that the main reason I didn’t like coleslaw was because every time I had it, it was always mushy. And I have texture issues with mushy food. As I dug deeper into my disdain for for this BBQ side dish staple, I realized another reason I didn’t like it was because I wasn’t crazy about the combo of veggies that was often found in it. So, I set out to make my own slaw, because that’s what food is all about. Creating new flavors; taking the old and breathing new life into it, reinventing dishes and creating entirely new flavors altogether. It’s taken some time, but I’m finally starting to break away from the limitations I put on myself with food. I’m making sweet tofu scrams, experimenting with the flavor of veggies and just doing whatever I want because that’s usually how the best dishes are created. A little bit of creativity, a little bit of science, and in my case, a whole lotta crazy.

What You’ll Need:

  • 1 cup shredded red cabbage
  • 1/2 cup scallions, finely chopped
  • 1 cup beets, spiralized (you can buy them pre-spiralized or spiralize them yourself)
  • 1/2 cup Bosc pear, diced
  • 3-4 tbsp. cilantro, finely chopped
  • Additional cilantro for garnish
  • 1/4 cup wasabi mayo*

What to Do:

  1. on a cutting board, slice the spiralized beets roughly to create smaller shreds and spirals. Leave some different lengths but try not to have any pieces that are more than 2-3 inches in length.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the beet spirals, red cabbage, scallion and pear.
  3. Mix until well blended.
  4. Add the wasabi mayo and mix again until mayo is well blended into the slaw.
  5. Add cilantro and mix into the slaw.
  6. Transfer slaw to a serving dish and garnish with more fresh cilantro; you can enjoy alone or as a side with another meal. I also used this slaw as a filling for some delicious summer rolls!**

* To make the wasabi mayo, combine 1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise (I used Trader Joe’s vegan spread and dressing) and 1 heaping tbsp. of wasabi paste. Mix the two items together vigorously until well blended. You can find wasabi paste in the Asian or international foods section of your local grocery, or go to an Asian market.

** This recipe is for a small batch of slaw that will yield about 2-3 servings. The dressing measurements also allow for the slaw to remain crunchy and not become soggy, even after sitting overnight. To make a larger batch, simply double the amounts of everything, but try to keep the ratios of dry and wet ingredients the same so you do not make the slaw too wet.

 

Date posted on Instagram: 12/16/18

“Earth” Oatmeal

Oatmeal is such a classic dish. It’s literally one of the oldest grains in the history of food, and not only that but it’s one versatile beast of food and you all know how I feel about food versatility. You can have it sweet or savory. You can have it for breakfast, lunch or even dinner. I mean, you can literally do whatever you want with oatmeal. But instead of fitting it into just one of the many options, why not mash it up some? This quick and easy oatmeal recipe creates a fun sweet and salty (or savory) bite. It’s funny because so many of my recipes are born out of last-minute epiphanies. I originally planned on making this only a sweet bowl. But toward the end I felt like it need something– I saw it was starting to look like a bunch of dirt (that’s where the “earth” name came from) and then I realized the salt crystals would work perfectly with the dirt effect and make it sweet and salty, another classic combo. This is one of the more delicious and comfty bowls I’ve had in awhile and I was eating a lot of oatmeal for a hot minute recently. Who knew something so simple could be so nourishing for the soul?

earth oatmeal

What You’ll Need:

  • 1/2 cup steel-cut dry oats (cheaper if you purchase them in bulk!)
  • 1/8 cup blueberries (about one handful)
  • 3-4 pitted dates, sliced lengthwise
  • 1 medium-sized ripe banana
  • 1 tbsp. chia seeds
  • 1 tbsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tbsp. nutmeg
  • 1 heaping tbsp. brown sugar*
  • 1 tsp. whole pink Himalayan sea salt crystals
  • 1/2 cup almond milk (or non-dairy milk of your choice; I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk for this recipe)
  • 1 cup water

What to Do:

  1. Heat a small to medium  pot over high heat with 1 cup of water. Bring the water to a boil.
  2. Add the oats and boil for about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Reduce heat to a low to medium heat and stir oats.
  3. Cover pot with a lid and let oats simmer for 5-10 minutes or until all (or at least most) water has been absorbed by the oats.
  4. Let the oats sit for about 2 minutes, then, remove oats from heat and transfer to a serving bowl.
  5. Pour almond milk over oats (but do not stir milk into oats yet!).
  6. Slice the into several, even-sized slices and place them on top of the oatmeal on one side.
  7. Now, start adding the toppings; place the blueberries on top of the banana slices.
  8. Place the date pieces on top of the other fruit.
  9. Carefully sprinkle the cinnamon and nutmeg along the line of fruit (as pictured) one at a time.
  10. Carefully sprinkle the heaping amount of brown sugar on top of the other spices.
  11. Sprinkle the chia seeds over the other spices and sugar.
  12. Finally, sprinkle the pink sea salt crystals over everything else. Serve and enjoy!

* Most brown sugar (and all sugar for that matter) is not vegan, unless marked otherwise. The brown sugar I used in this recipe wasn’t vegan– I already had a bulk amount of brown sugar since before going vegan and because I don’t use brown sugar that often, that is what I’ve been using because I planned on going through all products I currently have and then purchasing vegan products after those are finished (this is for financial as well as waste reasons). If you would like to make sure that you are using vegan sugar, you can use this easy recipe for brown sugar.

Date posted on Instagram: 12/6/18

I’ve Been Vegan for ONE YEAR!

So this is it. In my first update post, I had made it to the six-month mark and was so excited about it. As with most joyful events that occur in my life, I celebrated with food. I went to get some grub with a pal. My plan for this year-one anniversary was to go get some food with a pal again– but this time, I wanted to up the ante and go to a nicer, swankier spot. One where a server comes to the table and brings us all our vegan goodies. But life had different plans. I was a little disappointed at first, but instead of wallowing, I decided to hit up a slew of vegan spots and focus on my triumph of making it through the first year.

So, here are a few things I’ve done over the past year along with the emotions, revelations, realizations, and successes that have occurred.

I Went Vegan? Yes! I Went Vegan!

Only after spending countless hours (maybe more than I should) on vegan Instagram did I realize that doing week-long vegan challenges before going vegan was more of a common thing than I thought. Well, that’s how my vegan journey started. I randomly decided to do a vegan challenge but never in my wildest dreams did I think I would

curry ginger carrot soup
A curry ginger carrot soup I made during my week-long vegan challenge.

actually become a vegan. I was one of those people. You know, those people: “But bacon!” “Oh my goodness, I loooove cheese!” But I made it through most of that week okay. And along the way, something inside changed a bit. I wasn’t vegan for the trilogy of reasons yet (health, the environment and the animals) — it started out solely as a way to improve my health. When I told my then only vegan pal that I went vegan she sounded excited and happy for me, but also a bit skeptical. Maybe she sounded skeptical subconsciously, and at the time it didn’t feel great but now I totally understand it. I decided to go vegan pretty much overnight and that vegan pal is well aware that I originally wasn’t even thinking about going vegan. When we got in contact with each other, I wanted to do yoga not change my entire lifestyle. But the universe and the powers that be take us in the direction that’s best for us, so there I was– a new vegan!

To Food Blog or Not to Food Blog?

Next came the idea to take food blogging more seriously– but this idea was not without some… okay a lot of hesitation. The blog I currently have was born out of two things. The vegan Instagram page I had already been operating, but really my love of blogging. I had started a blog in the past and didn’t keep up with it because I wasn’t passionate about what I was blogging about. When I started my Instagram page, I wasn’t yet sure if blogging was in the future. I had thought about it, but as with most new ventures in my life, I

Instagram screenshot of my page
My Instagram page in all its vegan food glory and goodness.

was terrified of actually starting it (even though things are never really that scary after the fact). But eventually I decided to take the leap and start blogging about this new passion of mine– living a vegan lifestyle. And of course, once I started blogging, it wasn’t that bad. As a matter of fact, it was amazing. And even though I was a blogging novice, I realized that wouldn’t hinder me because I loved writing and I loved being vegan. And those that saw my blog would be able to feel that genuine emotion of a new vegan fumbling and figuring it all out along the way. Also, being able to look back at the collection of photos on my Insta page and my recipe posts and writings on my blog make me feel great about the progression of my vegan journey. And even better is knowing that I’m actually able to reach people, whether through Instagram or the blog, helping to spread the vegan message even more. I never imagined that I could inspire anyone by way of my own vegan journey, and to be honest, it’s still a little intimidating. But It’s a good sort of intimidation because everyone on the planet is meant to inspire everyone else in some way. When we use our talents and focus on our passions, those actions will serve as inspiration for others to do the same and that’s exactly how it should be. And I’ll admit that it feels even greater to have a passion that can lead to inspiring others to focus on bettering their health, being a voice for animals and all living creatures, and protecting the planet we all share.

I Made Vegan Food, I Bought Vegan Food — I ate A LOT of Vegan Food.

Real talk. I didn’t know how to cook before going vegan. I knew how to make basic things like spaghetti with some pasta sauce, or how to scramble eggs (pre-vegan of course). The most labor intensive thing I could make was lasagna and my specialty was actually veggie lasagna, because I preferred veggie lasagna to meat lasagna even before going vegan. But being vegan forced me to learn how to start cooking more to sustain myself and get the nutrients I needed on a vegan diet. And so I did that. And again, being able to look at my Instagram collection of photos with all the food I’ve made over the past year, it makes me really proud that I started appreciating the kitchen and what I could do in it. And yeah, a lot of my recipes included those basic ingredients I’ve always used, because I wasn’t a pro yet. I’ve even written about that. But I am slowly starting to expand my cooking repertoire, learning how to make more intricate things and cooking from scratch and it’s been so fun and such an amazing learning experience. And then there’s going out to eat. I won’t lie, if I could afford to, I would probably go out to eat everyday because I enjoy the experience of dining out. And what do ya know, I happen to live in one of the vegan food restaurant capitals of the world, having tons of vegan spots at my disposal. Unfortunately, I don’t have a ton of money at my disposal. But that didn’t stop me. I created a food budget and used that to go out so I could have the opportunity to start experiencing the vegan food scene of NYC. Everyone has their vices. For some, it’s shopping for clothes and shoes. Others enjoy going out to clubs and partaking of the nightlife. While even more others spend their money on things like traveling or collecting special things. For me, it’s food. I love buying food and I’m not ashamed to say it. So I was determined to start exploring all the NYC vegan food scene had to offer. I tried mostly fast-causal spots and that’s still where I’m at, with the latest spots I’ve hit up being Hartbreakers in Bushwick, and Rip’s Malt Shop in Fort Greene, also in Brooklyn. I enjoyed those meals for my one-year vegan anniversary, along with a trip to Dunwell Donuts in Brooklyn for some delicious doughnuts. I’ve tried some scrumptious food and have been amazed at what is being done with vegan fare. It’s insane and innovative and I know I’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg. I can’t wait to see and experience so much more vegan goodness.

I Went Raw Vegan for a Week!

I also tried going raw for a week. I already knew I was doing my health a tremendous service by going vegan, but raw veganism was like the epitome of veganism, so I thought I’d try it out. It was a fun and interesting week for sure. You can read about how it went here on my blog. I definitely want to try it again and for much longer than my original challenge which was only a week long. I had planned to do another raw vegan challenge before 2018 was finished but it didn’t pan out that way. So maybe early in the year or right before I leave for my vegan food tour I’ll do it again.

IMG_5322
I drank a lot of homemade juice during raw vegan week.

I Went to Not One, but Two Vegan Food Festivals!

I also had the amazing opportunity to go to two vegan food festivals this summer. First, I went to Black Vegfest. This was awesome for two reasons: 1) It was my first ever vegan food festival and 2) It was the first ever Black Vegfest, so it was great to be able to take part in the first installment of what would no doubt become a staple festival for vegans but particularly Black vegans and vegans of color (myself falling into both categories). The food was great and I even met some awesome folks that I kept in contact with after the festival.

Black Vegfest Shirt pic
Some of the swag I got from Black Vegfest.

Next, I went to Vegandale — based on a real location in Toronto. Tons of vegan food vendors from all over the country and even the world. I went in with a specific goal in mind: get food that wasn’t local to New York City because I could try that anytime. I wanted to try some nationwide and global fare. So I hit up those vendors, trying food all the way from Switzerland, to Chicago, to Texas, to right next door in Jersey and more. It was so fun and exciting. I could barely eat all the food I got which I chronicled over on my Instagram page, but one of my Insta-pals gave me a heads up that I should bring some takeout containers with me so that’s what I did. But even then I didn’t have food for a week like I thought I would– a couple of days was more like it because I ate continuously for both days of the festival and thereafter. I have a big appetite okay? Not that I’m apologizing for it, because my grande appetite was extremely helpful when it came to trying to eat so much food in one day. Both festivals were satisfying to say the least– for my soul, my belly and my happiness. I was thrilled to have been able to attend two major festivals in the vegan world on my first year out. Kudos to me!

Me at Vegandale
Me at the Vegandale food festival in summer of ’18

I Improved My Health Drastically, But Wasn’t Invincible.

My health improved so much after going vegan. The biggest change was in my nasal passages, which previously had been constantly blocked. Not so much like when you’re sick and badly congested, but definitely at a constant level– and I thought that was my “normal”. It wasn’t until I went vegan and more specifically I believe until I cut out dairy that my breathing passages fully opened up. I also lost weight and experienced a major decrease in the chronic headaches I once had and the colds I always used to get. Whether it was the elimination of animal derived foods or my increased intake of vitamin rich and nutritious whole foods that caused these changes, I am not sure– honestly, it was probably a combination of both. But either way, I’m certain that going vegan is the reason I feel and actually am so much healthier. But even with these major health improvements, I wasn’t invincible like I thought I was or would be after going vegan. I didn’t get sick for a long while after going vegan. I had a history of getting sick and catching colds very easily. I also went vegan in the beginning of winter. And I didn’t get sick at all that winter. The immediate rise in fruits and veggies likely did have something to do with that fateful, illness-free winter, haha. But eventually, I became human again and experienced colds and headaches. However, the fact that they came in so few and far between was still evidence enough for me that veganism was indeed my route to becoming a semi-superhero.

The Learning Continues and I’m Ready for Another Year!

After this first year I’ve learned so much about myself, my personal health, the food I eat, the products I buy and the impact that I have on those around me, the planet I live on and other living beings. Growing in perspective has been life-changing — like, it has literally changed my life. I don’t dislike or judge anyone who isn’t vegan because I was there just a year ago, but I do view life from a different perspective that I wish everyone could see life from. Still, I know that the world is purposely an ever-evolving place; one where change is indeed a constant. I’ve spoken to so many vegans who are amazed at how far vegan options have come and that gives me hope that this lifestyle and movement will continue to grow because as we all know, supply must meet demand. And if we keep demanding products that will lead to a world that is more cruelty-free and better for our health and the environment, we’ll keep getting more options that will help us achieve those things.

I love being vegan and although saying that I’ve been vegan for a year is still a little surreal knowing my history with food, I can’t wait until I am fully at peace with my own personal transformation and don’t have that surreal feeling any longer, knowing that change can also be a constant for every individual on this planet, myself included. And that even for me, someone who once, at times, ate bacon derived from pigs everyday and survived on so much unhealthy crap– starting a new life full of fresh, whole foods, and decadent, cruelty-free eats is completely possible. I’m so looking forward to year two, and three and four and beyond!