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Hunter vs. Gatherer

I will be going to the city where I grew up in a month or two for a few days. When I left, I wasn't a vegan – I was a lapsing vegetarian. I'll be seeing a couple friends – they may not even know; one of them isn't on Facebook (gasp!).

So I've been thinking a lot about where I'll eat, how I'll eat, what I'll tell people if I eat at their homes. Do I take food with me? Am I going to be a royal pain to everyone? Most likely! But I'll take the ribbing from my brothers and I'll explain things to my friends.

One of my brothers is an avid hunter, and has been for a number of years. He only hunts what his family needs, he butchers and wraps it himself. Years ago, when I lived there, he used to give me venison from time to time and I'd cook it in a stew for my family. It was good and I enjoyed it. I wouldn't eat it now, but it was good meat and even then I felt better knowing that it hadn't been factory farmed, that up until that fateful moment when my brother saw and shot it, that deer had lived wild, not in some mass production farm living an awful life until slaughter day.

Everything is degrees. Do I want to see deer shot by hunters? No. But I really, really don't want to see cattle, and pigs and chickens living in tiny pens, some never even seeing the light of day, and then becoming someone's “healthy” dinner. I think, at the very least, we should take responsibility for what we are eating, rather than making it some else's problem. In that respect, my brother and his wife are ahead of me. They make most everything from scratch with good ingredients (I do not do this!) and when my brother wants meat for his family he goes out and gets it himself. At least that deer has a fighting chance. That deer lives in its natural habitat, eats what it's supposed to eat, has young and lives its deer life like God or Nature intended. That deer has a chance to get away from my hunter brother and if it doesn't – well it still got to be a deer.

Do I condone hunting you say? Nope. But when my son told me he'd like his uncle to teach him how to hunt I wasn't nearly as horrified as I would have been had he told me he'd gotten a job in a slaughter house, or even a factory farm. I know at least that if his uncle takes him hunting the rules will be followed and no animal will die a horrible death (yeah, I know, death is always horrible you'll say, but some are so much worse than others). Degrees.

There is an incredible disconnect going into the grocery store and buying meat that is nicely packaged on white styrofoam. You put it into your cart or your basket, and you take it home and make dinner out of it. You know it's an animal, but you didn't go out into the woods, or the plains or wherever and go get that pork chop. Cognitive dissonance. Google it. It's a thing and we've all suffered from it. There's no accountability when the “messiness” has all been done far away in some facility – then you really don't need to think about your pork chop, beyond which recipe you're going to use to prepare it.

I can remember when my kids were little, taking them to a petting zoo. They pet the piglets, and the calves, and the baby chicks and it was all lovely and we had a great time. Memories were made. Pictures were taken. It was adorable. And never once, in that entire day, did my brain remind me that an adorable animal was at home cooking in my crock pot. We went to the petting zoo, enjoyed the day and then went home and ate one.


Degrees. If my son learns to hunt, then so be it. Life is about choices and that is and will be his choice. If he bags a deer, I won't be thrilled, but I will know that he at least is making the connection about where his food comes from, and how it gets to his dinner plate. The grocery store just can't teach that kind of lesson.


Pizza on A Plant Based Lifestyle

(photos by Danielle)

Pizza is not something that you have to cut out on a plant-based lifestyle! Good news! There are so many amazing alternatives out in stores that are so amazing and that I enjoy using in many of my recipes. I have found so many recipes recently and there are still so many out there that I have not yet tried. I love doing pizza, especially when friends are over. Pizza seems to be a common food at casual gatherings, however, it can create a problem for people like myself who are unable to consume dairy. If you are the type of person who gets stomach pains from dairy, are allergic, or cut it out for ethical reasons, do not worry about it! There are so many new vegan cheeses that will not complicate your health for consuming. Also, if you are trying to stay away from the more processed ingredients, there are also so many recipes that you can make it homemade. I find a lot of recipes on youtube and Pinterest that are really helpful in finding delicious vegan recipes. 

I like to buy food from Trader Joes a lot because they have some great food that can be fun to make. I like to buy the cauliflower crust because it is on the healthier side and it is still delicious. If you do not have time to make pizza from scratch, there are also some great store-bought options that I will include below. 

Trader Joes has a great vegan cheese that I put on their pizza along with any choice of sauce. Then, you can choose your favorite toppings! 

(photos by Danielle)
(photos by Danielle)
(photos by Danielle)

For the pizza, I added bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, olives, tomatoes, and onions. I would recommend trying this because it was so delicious and colorful! I also added some bbq sauce for extra flavor. 

(photos by Danielle)
(photos by Danielle)
I also tried the Amy's roasted vegetable pizza. This one has no cheese, but you could certainly add a brand of vegan cheese, like the one from Trader Joes. 
(photos by Danielle)
(photos by Danielle)
If you want one that already comes with cheese, there is the vegan Margherita pizza, which was also delicious.

(photos by Danielle)
(photos by Danielle)
I hope you try some of these out and enjoy them! Happy Friday!

How Do You Show Appreciation?

In this week's blog, I wanted to talk about appreciation, give you a great, easy recipe and encourage you to support the effort to help pets find their forever homes!

Spinach stuffed Mushrooms recipe below

Last night I was with a group of my favorite women and we were discussing the topic of APPRECIATION and how do you show it.

 So this is my question to everyone who reads this blog. How do YOU show appreciation? What do you appreciate?

 Some people appreciate the fact that they can see because they know someone who is blind. Others may appreciate that they have a roof over their head and food in their stomach.

 In my opinion, one of the most important things is to appreciate the people in your life. Sometimes, we hear about untimely deaths or accidents and people have regrets for never telling the person they lost how much they appreciated them. This is especially fitting because Mother's Day is approaching. Many times, women especially are challenged by their Mother but never realize that maybe they were just doing the best they could with what they had. In one of my past blogs, I talked about a person being everything they are and everything they are not. This is something one of my closest friends says on a regular basis.

Most of the time, the things you may have resented the most were done out of love. What is a resentment? A few of the definitions of resentment are "bitterness, indignation, irritation or dissatisfaction". Sometimes it may take decades for someone to realize that something was done for other reasons than just to cause discontent. A great example of this is that I would never let my daughter sleep over any of her friend's houses. She" hated" me for years for "ruining her life" and not letting her do what all the other girls she knew were doing. However, now that she has three young daughters she understands the reasoning behind this and is in full support of my decision. Hopefully, her daughters will not hold this against her but as long as she held this against me. In our discussion the other night, mothers were a prevalent topic and many of the women realized exactly what their mother had done for them now that they were no longer here with them and maybe felt some regret because they never had the opportunity to acknowledge them or show some appreciation.. Don't wait until it is too late to show your appreciation. We can always look back and find the faults, but  challenge yourself to find some of the good. Whatever may have been done for you probably wasn't packaged the way you would have wanted it but there was love behind whatever they did for you.

The only perfect moms are on TV and they are only perfect because their lines were written for them as well as their children's lines. If you are a Mother or Grandmother, there will be days where you want to pull your hair out because the baby won't stop crying, the kids are running amok and you may feel like everything is totally out of control and that is where you may find yourself sounding exactly like your Mother even though you swore you never would use those same words.I am not saying you will be happy every moment of the day but every single day has at least one shining moment and that is where appreciation comes in.

I wanted to focus a little on Mothers but this holds true for everyone in your life. It is important to show appreciation. Sometimes we overlook this especially with the people closest to us because it is easy to take things and people for granted. Imagine if you woke up tomorrow and they weren't there, how would you feel if you never had a chance to thank you for everything they do or tell them how much they mean to you. This is also true in business. If you have staff, highlight a good job instead of being the boss that says you get paid for doing a good job. Thank them for everything they did that day. Like anything else the more someone feels valued, the more they want to do. On the other hand, if someone feels that they are being taken advantage of, they will start to have resentments.

For this week, I would encourage you to make a least one person in your life feel appreciated each day. Appreciation comes in many forms. It may be making a favorite meal, running an errand for them, just spending some time having a cup of coffee or even just telling them that you love them. Give your kids or grand kids some time by playing a game with them. Even your pet would appreciate your time by playing ball or taking them out for a walk.

 In my opinion appreciation is in the same category as being grateful for the people and things in your life.

Love like appreciation and gratitude is in endless supply. The more you use, the more you will have!

Nothing shows love like taking the time and making food for someone so I am sharing another one of my quick , easy recipes.

Stuffed Mushrooms

1 box large mushrooms
1 bag of spinach
1/2 onion chopped fine
Nutritional yeast
garlic powder
bread crumbs
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Clean the mushrooms with a damp cloth to remove any dirt. Gently remove the stems and chop them finely.
Steam the spinach in a bit of water under thoroughly wilted, remove from the pan, I drain thoroughly to remove all the excess liquid. (If you don't have fresh spinach, you can use frozen chopped spinach just make sure you squeeze out the excess moisture)
I then add some olive oil to the pan and heat before adding the mushroom stems and onion. Season with some garlic powder, salt and pepper. Once the onions are translucent, I then add the spinach. Depending on the moisture in the pan, I may add a bit more olive oil and bead crumbs to get the right consistency to stuff my mushrooms. Once they are stuffed with this mixture, I sprinkle the nutritional yeast on top before putting in the oven at 300 degrees. I usually leave them in until the mushroom cap is tender approximately 20 minutes.

You can also use portobello mushrooms if you want to make this more of a main course instead of an appetizer. As always I like to provide some framework and then encourage you to make this recipe your own. Please share any variations that you come up with, I am always looking for new ideas to try out.

Sorry there is not a lot of pictures, they were gone as soon as they came out of the oven.

In closing, for anyone that is friends with me on facebook, you know I am constantly sharing photos of pets that need homes, or have gotten lost or that someone found. Some people may find this annoying but I do it for a a specific reason. The more times a picture is shared, the better the chances of that animal either finding their family, or having the chance to be adopted therefore I would encourage each and every one of you out there to do the same thing. It doesn't cost you anything and you may save a life. How great is that? It is a little thing and it truly can make a big difference. We may not be able to change the world but even if we can change the world for one animal it is worth it!

Have a great week and please share any feedback you have about this week's post. I look forward to seeing your comments.

With Gratitude,


For the Vegan Munchies

Now, we all know that good little vegans only snack on healthy treats like carrot sticks and apple slices. Ha! I think not. We all get crazy munchies and junk food cravings just like everyone else, and it's actually not that hard to get your snack on with plant-based goodies. And while there are some awesome specialty products on the market, like kale chips or quinoa puffs, you can actually find a huge range of vegan snacks on your standard supermarket shelves if you know where to look.

A few of the easy-to-find vegan snacks that I'm noshing on these days.

Crispy and Salty
This is my preferred snack category and I am a complete sucker for chips or popcorn. The biggest pitfall is the ever popular cheese flavor so if you stay away from that, you'll find that most brands are free of animal products. Oh, sour cream flavors are another no-no.

Classic flavors like plain, salted, all dressed, onion, BBQ, dill pickle, and salt & vinegar, are all safe and delicious. The current trend of meat-based flavors like poutine, chili and chicken wings are all out (usually because of dairy rather than actual meat though).

Potato chips, corn chips, sunflower seeds, pretzels and non-buttered popcorn are all excellent choices. In fact, some brands of "buttered" popcorn are still vegan because they manage to get that flavor without using any real butter. Scary, but vegan. Did you know that even Doritos have a vegan variety? Their spicy sweet chili chips are free from animal products and are super tasty.

If you prefer crackers for your crunch fix, Wheat Thins and Triscuits both have a whole bunch of vegan crackers that are yummy.

Sweet and Chewy
I'm talking candy here, for the snackers with a sweet tooth. My personal favorite is the standard jujube, and as long as you read the ingredients and avoid gelatin, they're easy enough to find. Many jelly beans, licorice, jujubes, hard candy and gumdrops can be found that are vegan. Gummy candies (think bears or worms) are a little tougher as they generally have gelatin.

I suppose some people would lump chocolate in with candy but I figured it deserved a mention by itself. Dark chocolate is vegan but (obviously) milk chocolate is not, and that is by far the more common variety out there in the snack world. Chocolate-covered anything is almost always milk chocolate. Bars of dark chocolate are in any supermarket, and you might have to settle for that format to satisfy your needs. Our Bulk Barn carries a few chocolate-covered nuts and such treats with dark chocolate though, so I know they are out there.

Ice Cream
This one is a tough one since the fundamental ingredient in ice cream is cream. There are more and more non-dairy versions out there now, using coconut or cashew milk as the base. You can also find varieties of sorbet in most stores that are dairy-free, and don't have the premium vegan price tag. Chapman's has a chocolate sorbet that is excellent.

The last snacky group I'm looking at is cookies. Out of all the types of food mentioned, this is probably the hardest to find vegan without resorting to specialty stores and custom brands. Baked goods of all varieties commonly have milk or egg ingredients in them. Oddly enough, Oreos are a famous example of an "accidentally vegan" cookie that you can indulge in. Some brands of ginger snaps and graham crackers are also vegan.

My 3 Favorite Spiritual Podcast Channels

            Confession Time: In the last year or so, I have become a podcast addict. I listen to podcasts at the gym, while walking to class, while cleaning my room, even while taking a bath. It is quite an obsession. However, I think it is a good thing because some podcasts have completely changed my life. The three I am mentioning in this post, in particular, are incredibly inspirational when it comes to believing in myself, realizing what is truly important in life, and keeping my spirits high when life throws me curveballs.  

1)    Your Own Magic
      This is my favorite podcast of all time. I can honestly say it has changed the way I live my life for the better. Allie Michelle and Raquelle Mantra host this podcast channel with the intention of inspiring and empowering people to live their best life. They interview spiritual thought leaders, entrepreneurs, and visionaries from around the world to share their wisdom and knowledge on a variety of topics to help us unleash our own magic. They also have a number of episodes that are on their own, and these episodes are actually my favorites. I look forward to their new episodes every Monday so I can open my ears and my heart to what they have to share that day! There is also a Facebook group for all their loyal podcast listeners to connect with each other and make friends J I have met the most beautiful people through this group.

2)    Highest Self Podcast
      Sahara Rose is the wonderful host of this podcast channel. She is a Certified Ayurvedic, Holistic and Sports Nutritionist who is passionate about bringing ancient spiritual wisdom into our modern lifestyles. Sahara shares her stories of doing volunteer work in over 40 countries, how she got into the wellness world, and encourages listeners to follow their dreams and become their highest selves. She also interviews astounding health experts and Ayurvedic practitioners in effort to awaken people to their mind-body connection. My favorite thing about this podcast is how REAL Sahara is when telling her stories. She explains that you do not have to move to a secluded island and meditate all day to be spiritual; it is just about living in the present as your truest self and doing what makes you feel your best.

3)    The Balanced Blonde/ Soul on Fire
Hosted by Jordan Younger, a certified health coach and yoga instructor, The Balanced Blonde podcast is perfect for anyone looking to learn more about spiritual topics such as crystals, yoga, meditation, business, blogging, and all things wellness. While there are some solo episodes, Jordan mostly has guest speakers to come spread their knowledge about wellness topics. I love this channel because Jordan makes all of her interviews just sound like normal conversations you would have with your best friends at brunch. Every episode is so informational and inspires me to learn more about the wellness world. I highly recommend checking out this channel if you would like to dive more into the health aspects of the spiritual world.

          These channels have also opened my eyes to an entire world of spirituality that I never knew existed. I didn’t think I would be kind of person to drink mushroom coffee while meditating with my amethyst crystal, but here I am. I feel so much more aligned with the universe and happy with my life, and I hope these podcasts bring you happiness too! Please let me know if you listen to them and tell me your favorite podcasts in the comments below.

When It's Not A Choice

I have a seventeen year old daughter. At the age of eleven she was diagnosed with celiac disease, and a long, slow, uphill battle began. The learning curve was huge, overwhelming, and at times depressing as hell. Telling a child she can no longer have birthday cake at a party, she can't eat pizza, she has to take her own food everywhere she goes. Sleepovers become a major production. Schools trips become something that can never happen. There's a bit of a grieving process, and grieve we did – and the battle continues.

Celiac disease is much more serious than most people think. People with celiac disease have a much higher rate of bowel cancer. They suffer from infertility, they have a higher rate of mental illness (gut chemistry and the brain are closely related). My daughter suffers from severe bone loss; she has osteoporosis equivalent to a woman in her seventies. Her gut doesn't absorb nutrients properly. She has chronic low iron, and has to take a handful of different supplements every day. Her height was stunted substantially – she's five foot three and her projected height was five foot nine. We see a series of doctors in three different cities on a regular basis. There are endless tests, blood work, bone scans etc.

My daughter cheats. She admits this to me. She goes out with her friends and they order pizza, or make a box of Kraft Dinner and she has some. I struggle with this. I get it – but the health ramifications are huge, and it makes me sad and disheartened; I'm angry with her for cheating, and at the same time it breaks my heart a little; I understand that she just wants to be “normal” and eat junk with her friends and not have to pack food with her everywhere she goes. It's not a choice for her; she has an illness and it affects her life in so many ways – things that most of us just take for granted.

I want her to be healthy so I lead a double life. My daughter wants to be vegetarian, but it's really hard to get the right nutrients into her damaged body, so I often encourage her to eat meat for the calories, and some of the vitamins (B12), and for the protein. At her age she's not big on things that I would eat (beans, sprouts etc.), so while she's mainly vegetarian I buy meat for her and prepare it whenever she agrees to eat it. Many, many prepared vegetarian and vegan foods contain gluten. If she wanted to be vegan, at this point I would discourage it. It's my inner conflict and I struggle with it daily. I work full time and I admit I'm not a good “planner”, I often come home and have no idea what to feed her, or what to buy for her.

I can choose to eat whatever I want. I can choose to be vegan. I can choose to eat gluten. I can choose to not eat gluten. And while I lecture, and cajole, and beg, I don't really understand what it is to be in her position – because I'm not in that position. When I was a teenager and wanted to fit in (and don't we all want to fit in as teenager?) I just ate the pizza with everybody else. My daughter is shy, and she hates to draw attention to herself – I can relate to that – if you want attention, just tell a room full of people that you're a vegan and wait for the fun to begin! But I have a choice.

I hope that as she ages she broadens her scope and tries new things. I hope she sees that the foods I eat are really good, and I like to believe that she'll choose to look after her health and make the right choices. I hope she realizes that those slices of pizza aren't worth the damage they cause. I try to eat well in front of her, and I try to talk about good foods, nutrients, places to get protein that aren't meat, why she should eat more produce etc. I try to do all that stuff; but it's hard, and sometimes I come home from work and eat a bowl of cereal for supper.

I took my daughter to Paris a couple of years ago – land of bread and all manner of amazing baked things. And she had to walk around and see bakery after bakery and smell those amazing smells and not have any of it. That broke my heart a little bit too; because that's what Paris is famous for and it makes me sad that she had to miss out on that, and will always have to miss out on that. Sure, there's gluten free baked goods – most stores have them now – but it comes down to choices again. There are so few things that she can choose, while most of us have a gazillion food choices and we take it for granted. For her, being a vegan, or even a vegetarian is so much more difficult – so few choices. Wheat is everywhere, and in so many things, the poor kid can't even work somewhere that has flour – no restaurants, bakeries etc.

Ultimately so many things come down to choices, forced or not. Fortunately my food choices are just that – I can decide. She and I have found a cupcake place downtown that sells vegan, gluten free cupcakes. It was like winning the lottery. Small victories, but oh, so important ones. I wish fervently that restaurants and bakeries and grocery stores continue to realize that they need to offer choices, because some people have so few.


Products I Love at Trader Joes (Part 2)

If anyone loves going to Trader Joes as much as I do, they know that there are so many wonderful products there that you can find so much cheaper compared to other stores. I find so many new products that I love and my family has also been a fan of when I have prepared meals for them. We love going to Trader Joes and finding new products. It is a great store to find vegan products in as well and they are also mostly all clearly labeled. 

(photos by Danielle)

One of my all time favorite products is the tomato basil hummus dip. This has so much flavor and I love putting it in wraps, on crackers, and in pasta recipes. Let me know in the comments what you guys like using your hummus for? I have been using it in my recipes and not just as a dip and it adds so much flavor. 

(photos by Danielle)

I love all of the hummus dips that I have tried from Trader Joes and because of how wonderful the prices are, I will always load up on multiple types of hummus each time I go. 

(photos by Danielle)

I also love adding turmeric and tahini to my recipes for extra flavor and health benefits. This is great over bowls and any other meals where you want extra flavor and nutrients. Tahini can be used in a lot more than just hummus! I have also seen people put it in recipes for falafel, wraps, and in sweets as well (brownies, protein balls, etc.)! There is a flavor similar to peanut butter so if anyone is looking to try this, but they are unsure what it will taste like that is a similar flavor. 

(photos by Danielle)

I am also a huge fan of spicy foods, so I picked up some mango ginger chutney. This can be great in bowls or anything you want to add a sweet, but spicy taste to. This can be added as a sauce to have with samosas or spring rolls.

(photos by Danielle)

Another one of my favorites from Trader Joes is the cocoa almond cashew milk. These are delicious and every person I know who has tried this product has loved it! This is one of my favorite ones to buy and if you heat it up, it can also be a wonderful hot cocoa.

(photos by Danielle)

Another meal I love to make with the food I get at Trader Joes are jackfruit tacos. I usually separate and drain the jackfruit and cook it with some BBQ sauce or any other sauce. Then I will add it to tacos with any other toppings and also put on some mango salsa. My favorite tortillas are the habanero lime tortillas, I have not found anything similar at any other store, so if anyone knows any other similar foods, let me know!

(photos by Danielle)

Another thing that goes well with the salsas are the quinoa and black bean tortilla chips. These are great for dipping and I also use them for hummus.

(photos by Danielle)

I have also heard people raving about how these next two products are, but it depends on what type of flavors you like. A lot of people were comparing the flavor of the Hi Protein Veggie Burger to a fish taste. Also, when I tried the vegetable masala burger, I loved it! I would buy that again on occasion because it adds great flavor to have with some veggies. 

(photos by Danielle)

If you liked this post check out some similar ones: 
Indulgent Superbowl Friendly Meals (Part 2) -this post has the full meal on the jackfruit tacos from TJ's!

Have a wonderful weekend everyone! What are some of your favorite products at Trader Joes?