Thursday, March 26, 2015

10 Easy Ways to Spring into a Plant-Based Diet

Spring Into A Plant-Based Diet

I often meet people who think its difficult to make a transition into a plant-based diet.  There seems to be an "all-or-none" mentality that they must go all the way and completely give up all animal based products at once.  What most people don't realize is that they are already eating a plant-powered diet! Have you ever had a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast with fresh berries, sliced bananas, or raisins?  That's plant-powered!  Have you ever had a peanut-butter and jelly sandwich?  Again...plant-powered!  I've created a list of 10 easy steps you can take to move yourself towards healthier living.  Here it is:

1.  Substitute one vegan meal per day for your non-vegan meal.  You're probably already doing this, so why not substitute two meals a day?  Think veggie chili instead of meat-based chili.  Add some veggie "meat" balls to your spaghetti with marinara instead of meat-based spaghetti sauce.   

Southwestern Baked Polenta

2.  Go to and find a vegan restaurant in your city and try it out!

3.  Instead of bacon and eggs for breakfast, try a strawberry banana smoothie, oatmeal with blueberries, sprouted whole-grain or gluten-free toast with almond butter and sliced bananas.  Sprinkle a little Ceylon cinnamon for extra jazz!
Savory Breakfast Bowl

4.  Make vegan chocolate chip cookies or fudgy chocolate chip brownies by replacing the dairy butter and eggs with non-dairy substitutes.  Use Earth Balance non-dairy butter for the butter and "flax eggs" for the eggs (for each egg called for in recipe, whip one tablespoon ground flax seeds with 3 tablespoons water).

Fudgy Chocolate Chip Brownies
5.  Watch the ground breaking documentary Forks Over will change the way you view your plate.

6.  Make your next latte a soy, rice, hemp, coconut milk, or almond milk latte.  Make your own delicious almond milk, chai pumpkin seed milk, hemp seed milk, or macadamia nut milk with no preservatives or unknown ingredients.   

Homemade Pecan Milk
7.  Make one night a week a "Make your own veggie burger night" with all the fixings.  How about some crispy oven tater-tots on the side? Experiment with various brands and styles of frozen veggie burgers from your local grocery store.  Or, use hearty  oven baked portobello mushrooms in place of the usual fiber-less meat patty.  Did you now that portobello mushrooms are 35% protein!  One of my favorite veggie burgers is Hilary's Worlds Best Veggie Burger.  
8.  The next recipe that you make that calls for "chicken broth", swap it for veggie broth.  My favorite go-to brands are Rapunzel Vegetable Bouillon and Better than Bouillon.  Try one of my favorite one pot stove-top meals......"Chik'n" Noodle Soup (pictured below) made with Soy Curls.  

Yummy "Chik'n" Noodle Soup

9.  Pulse a can of drained rinsed chickpeas in the food processor and add Vegenaise "mayo" by Follow Your Heart, mustard, and pickles for a mock tuna'll be amazed how the texture resembles what you are familiar with. 

10.  Swap out the cholesterol in dairy ice-cream for some delicious non-dairy ice-cream and frozen desserts.  There is a plethora of plant-based, non-dairy ice creams in almost every store nowadays.  My personal fave is Luna and Larry's Organic Coconut's heavenly!  Most recently out in stores is ultra delicious Cashew Milk Ice-cream by So Delicious.  They have 5 flavors (yes you read that correct! 5 flavors!!) that will tempt your taste buds....cappuccino, creamy cashew, dark chocolate truffle, salted caramel cluster, and snickerdoodle!  

I hope I have given you a starting point and some easy and fun ideas to change your diet for optimum health.  There are so many easy and delicious ways to spring into a healthy, plant-strong way of eating.  So what are you waiting for?....Go for it! 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The year of smoothie bowls!

January is a great time to look back over the year at all the great times experienced.  As we begin 2015 and I look over my photos from last year, I realize that it seems to have been the year of bowls...smoothie bowls that is! I just couldn't get enough of them.  Vacationing in Hawaii in August, signs for smoothie bowls, especially, Acai bowls could be spotted every few miles.  We had fun pronouncing the word over and over until we got it the way, its pronounced "ah-sah-eeeee".  

Ah....the mesmerizing Kauai waters where we spotted many sea turtles......

I loved my early morning runs on the beach in the South Shore of Kauai

But I really love the smoothie bowls!  In trying to remember where I had my first smoothie bowl, I think it was at Kure Juice Bar in Portland.  The first time I had their Bowl of the Gods, I thought I'd found a little piece of heaven! I love smoothies for breakfast but sometimes I feel like I could use a little more sustenance.....enter the smoothie bowl! I've seen different variations but it usually consists of a thick smoothie poured into a bowl and then added toppings such as granola, crunchy buckwheat groats, nuts and seeds, and fresh chopped fruit and/or berries.   The Bowl of the Gods uses Acai berries for the base of their smoothie along with strawberries, banana, VEGA protein, peanut butter, vanilla hemp milk, and ice. Then it is topped with bananas, seasonal berries, sliced almonds, Goji berries (which they lovingly refer to as "Happy Berries"), hemp seed granola, shredded coconut, cinnamon and agave nectar.  So....soon after having my first bowl, I had to recreate this awesome smoothie goodness at home.  My first attempt turned out as pictured:

I quickly learned that not much liquid is required, otherwise the smoothie is too soupy and the toppings once placed on top will all sink to the bottom...throw that strawberry slice a life preserver!  Actually, it's no big deal if the toppings sink, but having it more soupy makes it too drippy to eat.  

Basic Acai Smoothie Bowl Recipe

Frozen Sambazon Acai Packet 
1/4 to 1/2 cup almond milk or coconut water
1 chopped frozen banana
1 tablespoon peanut butter
1/2 cup non-dairy yogurt
1/2 to 1 cup crushed ice
A good dusting of Ceylon cinnamon
Optional: plant-based protein powder, teaspoon cacao, frozen berries

Blend all ingredients until smooth.  Top with any favorite toppings that sound good to you!
My toppings will include: slivered almonds, sliced bananas, fresh sliced strawberries when in season, fresh berries, cacao nibs, shredded coconut, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, granola, chopped almonds, buckwheat granola, goji berries, mulberries, diced apples, chopped dates, drizzle of maple syrup, Ceylon cinnamon.  

This smoothie bowl pictured below is from little vegetarian organic cafe on the North Shore of Oahu called The Beet Box Cafe.  Its located in the town of Haleiwa inside the back of Celestial Natural Foods.  I literally would eat at this cafe everyday if it was in my hometown.  When I was there I ordered the Cocoa Bowl which is Acai, banana, raw cocoa and strawberries blended with almond milk and topped with banana, hempseed granola, almonds, raw cocoa nibs and agave.  It's very crunchy and very chocolatey....and it hit the spot after a good challenging Bikram Yoga class at Bikram Yoga North Shore.    

Cocoa Bowl

In the same town as the Beet Box, was a Lanikai Juice....a juice cafe offering fresh juices, smoothies, and bowls.  I opted for the Acai Colada bowl...acai blended with banana, strawberries, pineapple and coconut milk, topped with Maui pineapple, shredded coconut and sliced bananas.  Yum-oh-yum! 

Acai Colada Bowl

Let us not forget green smoothies...enter the Kale Smoothie Bowl!  I fell in love with this bowl because of the kale-almond butter combination that stands out in every bite.  You might think, "kale and almond butter?" But if you think about it.... when you used to have peanut butter on celery sticks growing up as a snack....its kind of the same concept but we are just switching out one green veggie for another, and one nut butter for another.  Try spreading some almond butter on a kale leaf and rolling it up for a quick ultra healthy snack...yum-oh-yum!  So for my Kale Smoothie bowl, I typically like to start with a base of either coconut water or almond milk.  Then throw in a few kale leaves (stems removed) along with a heaping tablespoon of almond butter.  Then to get the creaminess, I either add a chopped up frozen banana, or some home-made soy yogurt if I have a batch on hand.  Then throw in some ice and you're good to go!  If I'm having this as a post-work out refueling meal, then I throw in a scoop of my favorite protein powder...either Sun Warrior Blend Vanilla or Vega Vanilla.  Then comes the fun part...add lots of healthy toppings!  The toppings I use on almost every bowl include cacao nibs, slivered almonds, and shredded coconut, and a good dusting of Ceylon cinnamon.

And if you forget to add ice to your worries....I accidentally did that with my Acai-Cacao bowl pictured below and the result was an ultra creamy, pudding!   For this bowl, my toppings included shredded coconut, pumpkin seeds, cacao nibs, chopped raw almonds, and Goji berries.  

Acai -Cacao "pudding" Bowl

Here's to another great year and another great year of smoothie bowls! 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Animal Sanctuary and Overnight Buckwheat Cereal

     Out to Pasture Animal Sanctuary, Estacada Oregon  

Last weekend I had the privilege of volunteering at Out To Pasture Animal Sanctuary in Estacada, Oregon. I just completed an 8 week course through NW Veg called Master Veg Program....we met weekly and each week we learned about various subjects relating to a plant based diet.  The goal of the program is to provide in-depth information on a healthy, plant-based lifestyle with each class looking at related issues of a plant-based lifestyle including implications for our health, the environment, social justice, and our relationship with animals.  

Our last class focused on issues surrounding vegan living.  This slide shows to "look for the bunny" when shopping for beauty care products.  The leaping bunny logo signifies that products bearing the logo are certified "cruelty free" under the internationally recognized Humane Cosmetics or Humane Household Products Standards.  

The other bunny is PETA's cruelty-free bunny logo....products displaying this logo are cruelty-free, meaning that they were produced without testing on animals. 

A visit to the OTP sanctuary was one of our three field trips offered through the Master Veg Program.  Part of the certification requirement  involves 16 hours of volunteer work contributed to a non-profit organization that concerns itself with one or more issues discussed during the class.  What better way than to pitch-in some volunteer hours at a animal sanctuary while getting to spend some time belly-scratching a pig! 

 The other half of my post this week is my latest breakfast obsession.....overnight buckwheat cereal.  I'm addicted to these oddly shaped little grains.  On the morning of our OTP field trip, I made myself a big bowl of overnight buckwheat cereal to get fueled up for a day of working at the sanctuary and spending some time with all the lovely animals at the farm.

So let's get right to it!  First, what the heck are buckwheat groats anyway?! Buckwheat groats are the hulled seeds of the buckwheat plant.  Buckwheat is safe for people with wheat allergies because, despite its name, it is not actually related to wheat as it is not a grass.  It is related to sorrel and rhubarb.  Once toasted, buckwheat is known as Kasha, and is a crunchy granola-type cereal.  Its a very versatile grain that can be soaked overnight, then rinsed and drained for cereal.  You can also cook buckwheat as you would brown rice or millet and serve it the same way.  But lately, my favorite way of eating it is to soak the groats overnight for a "raw" cereal in the morning.  

Just pour however much raw buckwheat groats you'd like into a bowl and cover with water.  Agitate the water a little to release any dirt or pick out any stones/rocks that may float to the top.  Let soak overnight.  In the morning, pour the groats into a fine mesh strainer and pour cold water (over the sink) over the groats for a least 3-5 minutes.  The initial water drained off will be very slimy and mucilaginous.  Don't let this bother you...after you run the water for several minutes, the water will run clear. 

Next, put the soaked, drained, and rinsed buckwheat groats in a bowl and add any toppings that you'd like!

You can't really tell from this picture but the buckwheat is in there!  Its just covered by lots of other good, healthy ingredients.  The possibilities on this cereal are endless.  Any fresh chopped fruit you have will work.  My favorite combination that I almost always use is shredded coconut, cacao nibs, and slivered almonds.  I also usually sprinkle on some type of seeds.....either hemp, chia, or pumpkin seeds.  I like to use a splash of home made plant milk..whatever I have on hand....this cereal pictured I had just made a fresh batch of chocolate-cinnamon Brazil nut milk.
To recap, any of your favorite toppings will work:

  • shredded coconut
  • slivered almonds
  • cacao powder
  • hemp protein
  • your favorite nut butter
  • fresh strawberries/blueberries or other fruit in season
  • chopped apples
  • chia/hemp/pumpkin seeds
  • cinnamon
  • agave, coconut nectar or maple syrup drizzle
  • cacao nibs
  • grated fresh ginger root
  • home made plant-based milk 
  • chopped dates
  • chopped bananas
  • chopped almonds, walnuts, or pecans
  • Goji berries
  • Mulberries 

Enjoy this hearty, mostly raw breakfast of vegan champions.  It will keep you fueled all day whether your going to a sanctuary or not!

Now lets get Out to Pasture!  

The sanctuary is owned and run by Dr. Jon and Kit Collins, both vegans and dedicated for caring and feeding abused, neglected or abandoned animals including large farm animals, pigs, rabbits, chickens, cats, dogs, llamas, turkeys, and donkeys.  When I arrived at the sanctuary, I was greeted a friendly hello and brought inside to sign a work waiver and meet Kit.  On the table inside her house, she had prepared a fabulous spread of treats for the volunteers (all vegan of course!) of home made chocolate chip cookies, soy cheese, smoke tofu, various potato chips and crackers, bread, pretzels, vegan jerky, and fruit juice.  Yum-oh-yum!!  

I was amazed at how many beautiful cats were roaming around the property!  

Various jobs were needed...I mainly helped to shovel bark shreds into wheel barrows and then haul the them to a path where other volunteers raked out the path.  On to my next job....scooping up poop in the pasture....just call me master pooper scooper!  I walked around the pasture with a bucket and a shovel and scooped up bits of manure into the bucket.  The manure will later be composted and then spread out into various areas of the pasture to help fertilize the grass.  

My fellow Master Veg student Nancy taking time to pet a black kitty nestled in the straw

This handsome goat Ike quickly made friends with me:)  

It was an awesome and uplifting day to spend with these beautiful creatures.  I am looking forward to going back and volunteering again sometime.  Work parties are scheduled on Saturdays from 1:30-4:30 throughout the year (check out their website for more info.   OTP also hosts an annual open house every July with a fee vegan BBQ, sack races, vegan cupcake walk, and more!  

I'd love to know if you try the cereal how you liked it! Leave me a comment below or as always, if you have any questions about my recipes or posts, please feel free to email me at  

Happy Summer to you All!  

Sunday, May 25, 2014

How I Healed Myself

Today I ate a whole orange, a chai tea latte, and some dark chocolate.  A year ago, I never would have attempted to eat these three foods, let alone on the same day.  A little over a year ago, I was diagnosed with Interstitial Cystitis, or "IC', also knows an Painful Bladder Syndrome.  Most people have never even heard of it, yet it effects 4 to 12 million people (women, men, and children) in the US.  Researchers have not pinpointed an exact cause but do come up with a list of "factors" that may be possible causes.  

It started out feeling like a typical bladder infection yet it never went away.  It gradually got worse and worse.  When I researched online after my diagnosis, I was stunned to find out that women can suffer from "flare-ups" (as I eventually learned to call the painful bouts) for years and years.  Years??  How could women go through this for years and not find a cure?   How did I get this?  Why me?  What caused my bladder to be so angry?

I've always been proud of myself as I eat a very healthy diet vegan diet and try to exercise daily...whether its Bikram hot yoga, step-class, spinning, hiking, or just walking on my treadmill for 10 minutes if that's all the time I have...I try to move my body daily.  I had become vegetarian in the year 2000, and then vegan in 2008.  But I had become a bit of a junk-food vegan and between the years of 2008 and 2012 added an extra 20 unwanted pounds.  I had lost weight in the past on a high protein animal diet so in January of 2012, I decided to leave my veganism behind and do a fad diet that consisted of animal protein and calorie restriction.  The result:  I lost the 20 pounds!  But I paid dearly with my health.  My bladder symptoms first emerged January 2013.  

When I was initially diagnosed, I was told that I would have to tremendously alter what I eat as diet can play a huge role in IC.  About 53% of IC patients report flare-ups related to diet, especially acidic foods.  I was given a list of foods that may "trigger flares" of IC.  Gone went all my beloved foods that I enjoy....avocados, chai tea lattes, spicy Indian food, all citrus, all tomato products, coffee, green tea, alcohol, and even chocolate!  And even if I was strict to avoid all the red flag foods, sometimes I would still "flare" regardless of my diet.  Other factors reportedly contributing to bladder pain are stress, and hormones.  I saw a urologist, gynecologist, and a urogynecologist.  They tried different methods of drug treatment including estrogen cream, pain patches, antacids, various pain-killers, even valium to calm my bladder down.  

As the flare-ups became more frequent and painful, I started weekly bladder instillations where a catheter was inserted into my bladder and then a solution is injected to "wash" the bladder.  These became increasingly painful to endure both emotionally and physically.  After 6 months of instillations and no considerable relief, I said no more.  Remarkably, I started to feel better just making this decision to stop the instillations and to take over my health.  It was at this time I came across one of the best books on IC, "The Better Bladder Book: A Holistic Approach to Healing Interstitial Cystitis and Chronic Pelvic Pain" by Wendy L. Cohan.  Ms. Cohan was herself diagnosed with IC and she gives an extremely comprehensive treatment approach and discusses how she overcame IC.   It was at this time as well that I recommitted myself to a vegan diet.  I started drinking healing teas such as the corn silk, kava, and Linden tea.  I started seeing two different  acupuncturists every week.  I started pelvic floor therapy every week as well.  And, I also sought treatment from a chiropractor and naturopath.  I am forever indebted to my naturopath.  She told me that women CAN and DO heal from IC and put me on a protocol of nutritional supplements (vitamin A, bioflavonoids, L-arginine, quercetin, plant-derived glucosamine, corn silk, kava root, and Oregon grape root) to rebuild my bladder lining.  

In November of 2013, I finally started to turn the corner.  My flare-ups became less and less frequent.  My bladder spasms were almost completely gone.  I could sleep the entire night without getting up to use the bathroom.  My naturopath cut back on the supplements and I didn't need to drink my healing teas, use my Castor oil packs or heating pads nearly as much.  Fast forward to today.  I can pretty much eat whatever I want and not flare up.  I still take a reduced dose of supplements and do monthly maintenance acupuncture.  What do I credit my healing to?  I think it was a combination of things.  But I do feel that a return to an all vegan, healthy diet played a major role.  I am forever grateful to my acupuncturists and naturopath.  I also feel that giving gratitude every day for the blessing in my life have kept my illness away.  I give thanks every day for the beautiful and caring people in my life and for the wonderful opportunities that have come my way. 
I am thankful for the birds and squirrels I see in my back yard, beautiful spring flowers, my warm soft bed and when my cat Rose comes to cuddle with me on the couch at night. 

I feel that my hot yoga played a role in my healing as well. I always felt better in the hot room and it was a time of meditation and gratitude for me...I look forward to my time in the hot room each week.  

In the beginning when I realized that this "IC" thing was real and here to stay (or at least that's what I gathered from researching online and reading stories from women that have dealt with IC for two, three or even 10 years or more), I knew that I had two choices.  I could feel sorry for myself and get depressed, or, I could be optimistic  and have faith and hope that I can beat this thing and that's exactly what I did.  I sought out alternative treatments.  Maintaining a positive attitude was key to my healing.  This is not to say that I did not come home from some of my weekly catheterizations and fall to pieces, curled up in a ball in bed sobbing and ask myself "why me?".  This did happened.  But I didn't let it rule me.  There was time to feel sad, then that time was done.  I got up the next day and started researching more and more of what other women had done to heal themselves.   I have my devoted and supportive husband to thank for a big part of my healing process.  He always stayed positive as well and supported any kind of alternative therapy I was doing at any time.  One of the best things he ever said to me on one of my really bad days was "Try to keep smiling".  Four little words...but they meant so much.   

Monday, May 5, 2014

Free Comic Book Day and Vegan Eats in Portland

Last year we heard about Free Comic Book takes place every May on the first Saturday.  Comic book stores around town give away free comic books.  My ten year old son really loves his comic books so it was a given that we'd go again this year too.  I decided to make it a fun day of vegan food as well!  

Our first stop was at Heart Coffee Roasters on East Burnside in Portland.  I had heard they have freshly made hazelnut milk...if you've read my previous posts, you know I'm a huge homemade nut-milk fan. This milk was delicious!  Nutty and creamy and foamed up well for my steamer.  (I don't typically drink caffeine drinks but I think this nut milk would make an excellent latte or cappuccino).  The milk is made weekly from a mostly raw company called  Pixie Retreat Raw'r Laboratorie and Makery, (side note....Pixie makes the most fabulous Lil die for). 
Hazelnut Milk Steamer
Our next stop before the first comic book store opened was Voodoo Doughnuts.  What would a vegan eats day in Portland be without a stop into Voodoo?  Luckily, the line was short (not outside the building yet) and we happily purchased several vegan doughnuts which were of course scrumptious.  

Our first comic book store was Excalibur.  Last year we went to Excalibur last and the line was very long and slow, so this year we decided to make it our first stop.  Excalibur is the oldest comic books store in Portland.  We got there around 9:45 and the store opened at 10.  So we happily took our place in line anxiously awaiting for the doors to open.  

Once inside, we quickly made our way to the counter and my son, husband, and myself each got to choose 6 comic books that were displayed in stacks on the front counter.  Oh what fun!  We chose several including Sponge Bob, Spider Man, Donald Duck, and Doctor Who.  The next comic book store we went to was Cosmic Monkey on Sandy Blvd.  
Since this store had already opened, the line was out the door but still went pretty quickly.  Freebies outside were Iron Man 3-D glasses..score!  Once inside, we were each allowed to choose 3 comic books.   Local artists were busy sketching away and signing their artwork.  

Grayson is a big Doctor WHO Fan

Next it was off to lunch!  We chose to head over to Los Gorditos on 12th and SE Division. 

 We LOVE this place....the food is always delicious and incredibly flavorful.  They have a separate vegan menu and they cook all their vegan items on a separate grill from non-vegan items.  

Nachos with Soy Curls

Tofu Bowl served with hot corn tortillas

Grilled Tofu Burrito

We then headed home to relax and of course, read a few comics.  Don't worry if you missed free comic book day, it will be back again next year, May 2nd, 2015!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Pecan-Mulberry Milk

I'm obsessed with making plant milk latest creation: Pecan Mulberry Milk! Sounds cool, doesn't it? Its super delicious!  Pecans have always been my favorite nut.....and, they are a great source of manganese, protein, and unsaturated fats.  They are also rich in omega-6 fatty acids.  

Before making your milk, you'll want to soak the pecans for 4-6 hours. Then place in the blender with water.  I like to use the ratio of one cup of raw nuts to about 4 cups of water.  If I want to make more of a cream-like milk, say, for adding to coffee, then I'll add half the amount of water. 

Be sure to drain and rinse your pecans after soaking. 

Place in the blender with the desired amount of water. 

After blending the nuts and water for about 20-30 seconds on high, pour the nut milk into a nut milk bag placed over a wide-rimmed bowl.  Then slowly squeeze the bag to extract the milk.

Save the pecan pulp for smoothies, muffins, crackers, or cookies!
Now what you'll want to do is rinse out your blender.  Then pour the milk back into the blender and its time to add in your flavorings.   I like to add a pinch of salt to taste, and vanilla powder or vanilla extract.  I like to use vanilla powder from Wilderness Poet.  They also sell a fun Nut Milk Making Kit complete with nut milk bag, raw almonds, and powdered vanilla. 

I added about one teaspoon of pure vanilla powder.  You can also use vanilla extract.  

The powdered vanilla will darken your milk slightly. So if you'd like, you can use vanilla extract but the powdered vanilla really enhances the flavor nicely.  

Then I added in 1/4 cup of sun-dried white mulberries from Navitas Naturals.  If you've never tried mulberries, then put that on your to-do list! They are sweet and chewy, with a unique flavor, similar in taste to dried figs.  

Mulberry Berries

Blend for about 10 more seconds and voila! You've got fresh pecan milk....oh so tasty!  

I love the little specks of vanilla powder.
A quart mason jar works nicely for storing the milk. 

Your fresh milk will keep in the fridge in a tightly sealed container for about 4-5 days.  Be sure to give the container a shake before using as it does tend to separate.  

Pecan Mulberry Milk Recipe:

4 cups fresh filtered water
1 teaspoon vanilla powder or extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup pecans
1/4 cup mulberry berries

I'd love to know if you give this milk a try and how you like it! And as always, email me with any questions and feel free to leave a comment below!  Happy Nut-Milk Making!