Sunday, September 29, 2013

Vanilla Rooibos Tea Latte

I discovered the Vanilla Rooibos Tea Latte at Starbucks about a year ago. I tried it a few times at Starbucks before realizing I can make it just as easy (and much cheaper) at home. Using my stainless steel tea ball infuser, loose-leaf rooibos tea, milk, and vanilla syrup, I created a warm drink to keep me cozy and relaxed in the evening.

I haven't made the Vanilla Rooibos Tea Latte since becoming vegan, so I decided to make a healthier version this morning and it is amazing! Just heat up some almond milk, steep the rooibos tea in the almond milk, and add a little agave nectar. This will definitely be my go-to evening drink this winter. It's so flavorful, yet mild and sweet.

Breakfast was a zucchini, mushroom, and spinach chickpea scramble (just a few chickpeas this time) with avocado, sesame seeds, turmeric, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper. This is definitely my lazy weekend breakfast.

I know I've been a bit quiet lately. I've been busy with work, school, pet-sitting, and HOA meetings. I've been making much of the same meals, so I need to check out Pinterest and other websites to get a kick start again. Breakfast each day has been a smoothie with almond milk, peanut butter, banana, cinnamon, ground flax seed, and chia seeds. Lunch has been either a salad or stir-fry and dinner has usually been soup or some kind of squash recipe. I definitely need to branch out! I'd like to incorporate more raw foods, so I've started reading a bit about raw diets as time allows. Facebook and Pinterest have been great resources. Since I check Facebook several times a day, I've "liked" many vegan and raw pages to keep me updated on news, events, and recipes. I'm looking forward to getting back to all the fun reading after the semester ends! :)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Spaghetti Squash with Avocado Pesto

I absolutely love spaghetti squash! It's so easy to make and the recipe ideas are endless.

Tonight's dinner was spaghetti squash with an avocado pesto sauce. I made the sauce using 1 small avocado, plenty of fresh basil, lemon juice, and a small handful of cashews. Arugula, broccoli, spinach, mushrooms, garlic, and a tomato medley finished off the dish. This was so good. :)

On another note, I had blood work done today to check my B12 levels after taking a supplement for 6 months and to check all my other levels. Everything is better than ever! I'm so happy to see such an impressive change in my overall health.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Cosmetics Update

I want to write a quick update on the foundation I purchased and told you about yesterday. It turns out I didn't like Dr. Hauschka's Translucent Makeup foundation on me at all. The foundation really didn't cover any of the natural redness I have on my face. I knew it would be a lighter cover due to its "translucent" factor, but I didn't quite realize how light that would be! Luckily, I was told I could return the makeup if I really didn't like it. Rather than drive back to Novato, I stopped by the Santa Rosa Whole Foods and they were more than helpful and returned the item for me.

I do want to mention that the Gabriel Cosmetics mascara and lip gloss that I purchased yesterday are both great and I won't be returning them!

Since I'm very low on my current (flammable!) foundation, I headed to Ulta to try the popular vegan, cruelty-free, paraben-free cosmetic line, Tarte. The Amazonian Clay 12-hour full coverage foundation in fair beige is perfect for me and I feel much better about the products I'm using. I probably stood in the Tarte section for about 30 minutes to be absolutely certain the color was an exact match and that it would cover my redness. If I'm at all unhappy with the product within the next 60 days, Ulta will return the item.

I also found a really great "Seashell Pink" cream eyeshadow by Tarte. I've never used a cream eyeshadow, but this particular one looks and feels like a regular pressed eyeshadow when it's on. I also received a free gift which includes a sample of the Tarte BB Tinted Treatment 12-hour Primer and the Amazonian Clay Finishing Powder.

I was also eyeing the "Shades of Clay" Bambeautiful Amazonian Clay Eye Shadow Palette (that's a mouthful!), but I'll wait on that for now. I'm very happy with my purchases and I'm so glad I did my research! I tried everything again when I got home and all the products are great. I also have some flexibility because both Ulta and Sephora sell this popular brand. Oh, and I noticed Tarte is having some great sales on their website!

parabens • mineral oil • phthalates • triclosan • sodium lauryl sulfate • gluten

Now on to making dinner! :)

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Fresh Garbanzo Beans, Cosmetics, and a Hot Pumpkin Beverage

I'm a bean making machine. I woke up thinking about the amazing fresh garbanzo beans I saw yesterday. The beans were still in their pods, attached to the leafy plant. I thought it was quite funny and almost naive of me to not know about fresh beans since I'm always trying new and different things. Then again, you rarely see fresh beans in grocery stores and at farmers markets (according to a quick Google search). I may try to grow these babies myself next May.

Fresh garbanzo beans

Since I couldn't get my hands on some fresh garbanzo beans/chickpeas, I decided it was about time to cook the dried black beans and garbanzo beans that I had on hand. They soaked all day and I'm cooking them now to freeze.

While I wasn't messing around with beans, I was cooking lentils! My lunch was a mix of lentils and barley with sauteed vegetables. I headed to Sonoma after lunch for a walk around the square and to check out my two favorite shops in that area - Baksheesh and Sign of the Bear Kitchenware.

My plan was to stop by the Whole Foods in Sonoma afterward to check out their makeup, but it's one of the smaller stores. Since the way back home led me to South Petaluma anyway, I drove to my favorite Whole Foods in Novato instead! Seriously, this particular store is huge and the lady who manages the cosmetics/personal care/supplement aisle is SO helpful. She really knows her stuff, so why waste time fumbling around on my own in another store? I've done some research on the makeup brands sold at Whole Foods and most of the brands are vegan. Gabriel Cosmetics and Zuzu Luxe are very popular. I purchased the Gabriel Cosmetics navy eye shadow a few weeks ago to use as my eyeliner. I love it and that's what brought me back to look at what else Whole Foods has to offer.


The world of vegan, toxic-free, cruelty-free, etc... cosmetics is complicated and I haven't been willing to jump right in only to waste my money on junk. With that said, I've been keeping my eyes and ears open for many months and I've spent several hours researching online. I've switched to a few great products, but I still have a few more products that I'd like to replace with healthier alternatives. Not only do I want healthy makeup, but I also want to use brands that are easy to find, that I can try on in person, and that won't be discontinued. That is what brought me to Whole Foods.

My current Lancome foundation looks and works great, but it scares me. The bottle even says the foundation is flammable. Yikes! After talking with my favorite lady at Whole Foods (I really should find out her name), I decided to go with a non-vegan foundation for now because it is the best color match. Dr. Hauschka's Translucent Makeup foundation will still be a huge step up from what I've been using. What makes the line non-vegan is the use of insects for color (this is nothing new in the world of cosmetics). Although it's not vegan, Dr. Hauschka’s Translucent Makeup is botanical, free of animal testing, and apparently healthier due to high quality natural ingredients. It's not cheap, so that is a concern if I go through it quickly. SEE UPDATE ON 9/15/13 (I returned the foundation)

I also picked up mascara and lip gloss from Gabriel Cosmetics. The lip gloss is an exact match to what I've been using, so I'm very happy about that. I'll try out the mascara tomorrow. Apparently it is the most popular mascara sold at Whole Foods.

If these products all work well for me, then I just need to find a couple great eye shadows and eventually a vegan foundation. I didn't see any eye shadows I particularly liked today, but I know I'll find something great soon. I think I'll finish using what I currently have and maybe head over to Bare Escentuals. Nearly all Bare Escentuals products are vegan (although not all are paraben-free), with the exception of a few items that are colored with insects. 

A few other healthy and vegan companies worth mentioning are Tarte (available at Ulta & Sephora), 100% Pure, and Juice Beauty (also available at Ulta & Sephora).


I mentioned in a previous post that I ordered deodorant from North Coast Organics after listening to a recommendation from Eco-Vegan Gal on YouTube. I used the deodorant yesterday and today. If you've followed my blog for a while now, you probably know I don't care for lavender-scented anything. Well, since lavender was my only option (they're currently sold out of the alternative, "Naked"), I went for it. It's actually not too bad because lavender essential oils were used. The effectiveness is okay, but not amazing. I think I'll use this as an everyday deodorant and occasionally use Tom's Long-Lasting Fresh Apricot deodorant. You can't beat the ingredients in the North Coast Organics deodorant, though.

NCO's Death By Lavender:
  • Coconut oil
  • Carnauba wax
  • Cornstarch
  • Baking soda
  • Essential oils

Tom's Long-Lasting, Aluminum-Free Fresh Apricot:
  • Propylene glycol (Not good - see 9/13 blog post)
  • Water
  • Sodium stearate 
  • Organic Aloe barbadensis leaf juice
  • Zinc ricinoleate
  • Glyceryl laurate
  • Natural fragrance
  • Humulus lupulus (hops) extract
  • Organic Helianthus annuus (sunflower) seed oil
  • Ascorbic acid
  • Organic Cymbopogon flexuosis oil

Hot Pumpkin Mug

I typically drink tea in the evening. I like Yogi's Detox and Skin Detox herbal teas, but I decided to switch it up tonight and try a hot pumpkin beverage!

I made Kathy Patalsky's Hot Pumpkin Mug recipe that she posted on her blog today. What a fun, healthy alternative to the refined sugar, who-knows-what-else-is-in-it pumpkin drinks that are popping up in all the coffee shops. ;)

The recipe calls for blending, boiling, and then blending the ingredients again. I followed Kathy's instructions, but I think next time I'll just whisk the ingredients by hand, heat, and drink!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Food Matters

Food Matters just posted this article on Facebook. It ties in so well with my last post. Check it out!

What In The World Are You Putting On Your Skin?

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Most Frequently Asked Question and More

I'm surprised I haven't written in the last week, but I've been busy with school, pet-sitting, and making plenty of salads and yellow soup! I'm a woman of my word, so I made sure to give you all a break from the amazing yellow soup. :) 

Let me start off by saying that I love when people ask questions about my whole foods, plant-based vegan diet. Whether someone is thinking about going plant-based or just curious, I love to offer the information I’ve learned.

So what is the most frequently asked question of vegans? Where do you get your protein?

The reason I haven’t written about protein before is because I don’t need to even think about where I get protein! Not only that, but the Standard American Diet (SAD) is protein obsessed and most Americans consume far more than what is recommended. The meat and dairy industries have brainwashed everyone to believe that we must consume enormous amounts of meat and dairy to be healthy. No wonder so many people have irregular bowel movements and experience such discomfort! If anyone gives me a hard time, I should respond with “Well, where do you get your fiber?” Not only is life in the bathroom rough, but cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity are at an all time high! Most of which can be avoided or reversed with a plant-based diet.

In Forks Over Knives, T. Colin Campbell, a biochemist and author of The China Study, wisely said “you can’t be protein deficient unless you are calorie deficient.” Protein deficiency, also known as kwashiorkor (Google it!), just isn't an issue in the US.

Only 10-35% of the calories we eat should come from protein. The higher range is for pregnant women and athletes. About 47 grams of protein is recommended for a 130 lb female and about 62 grams for a 170 lb male. Check out this article for more information: 3 Myths About Protein and a Plant-Based Diet

Many plant foods have more protein per calorie than meat. My entire diet is full of protein-rich foods like beans, lentils, edamame, tofu, nuts, nut butters, seeds (especially chia, flax, hemp, and sunflower), whole grains (oats, quinoa, rice, barley, buckwheat, etc), almond milk, fruit, avocados, leafy greens, and vegetables.

Yesterday’s meals alone were jam-packed with protein. I had protein in almond milk, a banana, ground flax seeds, cashews, fruit, leafy greens, avocado, edamame, a wide variety of vegetables, and barley. It’s just too easy!

A Few Things You May Not Know

I've found many common themes and much of the same information in all my reading over summer. Here are a few things I've learned.

Tea bags: Tea is heavily sprayed with chemicals. Always choose organic. Many tea bags are made of plastic these days and multiple studies have shown that the plastic can melt and leach into your tea. This particular article mentions that paper and plastic tea bags are both bad and choosing loose-leaf tea is your best bet.

Coffee: Coffee is dehydrating and can cause havoc on your system. If you're looking for an alternative, try herbal teas or even Teeccino, which is a caffeine-free, herbal coffee.

Cookware: Non-stick coating can leach toxins into your food and the air. Choose stainless steel, glass, or cast iron cookware to avoid all the toxins from non-stick pots and pans.

Vitamin D: The best way to get your vitamin D is to spend about 15-20 minutes in the sun each day without sunscreen (which is full of chemicals anyway!). If you're sensitive to the sun, you can always try a vitamin D supplement or drink vitamin D fortified plant milks.

Enzymes: Having a hard time digesting your food? Try enzymes! I've started taking Papaya digestive enzymes so my body doesn't have to work so hard which may lead to increased energy. The papain from Papaya is renowned for its anti-cancer and skin-cleansing properties. 

Deodorant: Nearly all deodorants are made up of multiple chemicals and harmful parabens. I've known this for years, but ignored the issue. I recently learned that parabens are often found in the tissue and tumors of breast cancer patients, so I'm on the search for an effective, paraben-free deodorant. Eco-Vegan Gal raves about North Coast Organics, so I ordered their deodorant. I'll let you know if it's any good!

Water Filter:  We all know about water filters for our drinking water, but what about for the shower? Our skin is our largest organ and we not only absorb toxins through our skin in the shower, but we breathe toxins directly into our lungs from the steam. Do yourself a favor and get a filter. I bought a new shower head a few months back for $27 and it came with two filters. You can also just buy the filter which connects in between your current shower head and pipe. When I told my mom about all this, she said her doctor told her to get a shower filter 5 years ago and she's had one this entire time. Geez, thanks for telling me!

Perfume: I never really thought about this until I read Crazy, Sexy Diet by Kris Carr, but perfume is straight-up chemicals that we enjoy spraying all over ourselves. Yikes! Goodbye perfume. I don't need to absorb any more nasty chemicals into my skin. Kris Carr recommended using natural essential oils instead. Whole Foods has a great selection!

Dry Brushing: When I first heard about dry brushing, I thought it must be for hippies! Yes, I should know better. After hearing and reading about the benefits of dry brushing over and over again, I finally decided to try it. I've used my brush for only a few days now, so I'll have to report back in a few weeks. Dry brushing buffs away dead skin, reduces cellulite, and more importantly, it improves circulation and lymphatic drainage which removes toxins from the body. 

Here are a few articles on dry brushing:

That's it for now! I'll have more tips, tricks, and information coming soon.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Best Ever Yam, Parsnip, and Plantain Soup

I made the most amazing soup tonight! I had one plantain leftover from the last soup I made that only got sweeter from hanging out on my kitchen counter. This Yam, Parsnip, and Plantain Soup is to-die-for!

  • 1 can light coconut milk + 1 can water
  • 1 small yam
  • 1 parsnip
  • 1 ripe plantain
  • 1/2 a small onion
  • 2 garlic cloves 
  • bay leaf
  • coriander
  • turmeric


Add the coconut milk and water to a large pot. Chop the yam, parsnip, plantain, onion, and garlic and add to the pot. Add the bay leaf, coriander, turmeric, and salt (optional).

Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for approximately 15 minutes. For extra sweetness, throw in 1/4 cup corn. Puree approximately 1/3 of the soup. Return the puree to the pot. Stir and serve.

I definitely ate too much because it was that good! The picture really doesn't do it justice. Good thing I'm walking to and from work tomorrow. I'll need to walk this off!

Don't worry, my next few posts won't be more yellow soup! :)

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Original Plantain Potato Soup

Guess who has plantains?? My local grocery store and I do!

I made the original Plantain Potato Soup tonight. The turmeric really does make a difference with the color. I have to say, though, that I preferred my parsnip potato soup! Tonight's soup just wasn't flavorful enough and I didn't want to add a load of salt and seasonings. I used fresh dill again and a little garlic powder, but it wasn't quite doing it for me. I will definitely use the recipe again, but I'll be sure to add parsnip or corn and use a sweeter onion (I just used an onion I had on hand).

The best part about making the soup tonight was...

My new Cuisinart Enameled Cast Iron 3-quart pot! I love it!! I will be using this so much. Who knew I could be so excited over kitchen appliances and cookware? I really didn't know or care to know much about cooking before I became vegan in February. Boy, what a transformation! I love to cook now!

I was a bit hesitant about the green color, but it seems to go very well in my kitchen. This particular enameled cast iron pot goes for $70-$80, but I got it for $35 at Home Goods. I think this was a great investment!

I headed to Bodega Bay earlier today to enjoy lunch and a short hike. I'm overdue for some exercise. It's about time I start walking, hiking, and maybe even do a bit of yoga (which I tried this afternoon!). The lunch I put together is a typical lunch for me during the week. I usually eat fruit mid-morning, then a salad at lunch.

Today's salad was arugula, spinach, sprouts, green beans, corn, kidney beans, cucumber, and avocado. Oh, and fresh dill! I'm loving dill right now!

Bodega Head was sunny and beautiful. The fog only just started rolling in as I was leaving. I loved the hike!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Plantain Potato Soup

It all started with this...

In this video, Whitney Lauritsen from Eco-Vegan Gal is making a Plantain Potato Soup from Allyson Kramer's Great Gluten-Free Vegan Eats From Around the World.

After planning to make the Plantain Potato Soup, I soon discovered my local grocery store was out of plantains. They always have plantains, but not when I want them! To substitute, I used a banana and a parsnip to create my own twist on the soup. I will definitely try the original recipe when I can get my hands on some plantains.

This soup is crazy easy to put together and cheap! After watching the video, I cut the recipe in half and still had far too much soup!

Ingredients for 1/2 of the original Plantain Potato Soup recipe:

  • 1 plantain
  • 1 yellow potato
  • 1/2 or 1 small vidalia onion (or other sweet onion)
  • 1 or 2 garlic cloves
  • turmeric for color
  • 2-3 cups water
  • salt (optional)

Peel and chop the plantain into thick coins. Chop the potato, onion, and garlic. Add all ingredients to a large pot. Add the turmeric, water, and salt. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes. Once cooked, puree half the soup and return the puree to the pot. Stir and serve.

My version of the soup was a bit different because I substituted the plantain with a banana and a parsnip. Since I was pet-sitting and cooking in someone else's kitchen, I didn't have my blender and I forgot my turmeric. I ended up mashing my soup instead and it still turned out great!! The best part was the fresh dill I sprinkled on top.

Soup is so easy. You can't mess it up! Just use what you have and get creative!

Speaking of creativity, can I just say how much I love chickpea scrambles? Well, you already know that about me! My latest adventure with these beautiful beans was a chickpea scramble with clover and alfalfa sprouts over arugula.

The scramble is mashed chickpeas with zucchini, spinach, onion, and garlic with cayenne, turmeric, fresh parsley and dill.