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Category Archives: Vegan Lifestyle

Update and Spicy Juice Recipe

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Sorry everyone!  I have been unforgivably absent from A Vegan In Progress for a while now.  I’m not done – I promise!  I have a lot more that I would like to write about.  I am just really, really busy with my last semester of college.  I’m taking 16 units, while working, so I haven’t had the time to update as much as I would like.

I am also in the process of a juice fast.  I’m trying to reboot my system and detox to heal my body from the damage done by all the crap food I used to eat.  I am also in it for the weight loss, which has been great so far.  I have lost 31 pounds to date.  I’ll keep you updated on any major weight loss milestones as well as a few juice recipes here and there.  Until I’m done, I’m obviously not cooking or going out to eat, so any posts that you see (and I do have a few already planned) were from meals before my fast.

Now for my spicy juice recipe… (“recipe” is kind of used loosely here).

Amounts are up to you, depending on the number of ounces you are going for.

Juice carrots, cucumber, lime, spinach, red bell pepper, and jalapeno.  Mix it together well.

Spicy Juice | A Vegan in Progress

This just in… some Girl Scout Cookies are Vegan!

Every once in a while, I go to my wordpress reader and click on Vegan under “explore topics” so I can find new cool blogs to follow.  Today I came across this post from Insufferable Vegan that says that some Girl Scout cookies are vegan.  I’m a former Girl Scout, so I like to support the girls by buying at least a box per year.  I am thrilled to read that some are vegan because I love Tagalongs, my sister loves Thin Mints and I just figured we would never get to have them again.  According to the Girl Scouts website, there are only two bakers that make Girl Scout cookies… ABC Bakers and Little Brownie Bakers.

ABC Bakers says right on their website that their Thin Mints, Peanut Butter Patties (aka Tagalongs), Lemonades, and Thanks-A-Lot are vegan.

Little Brownie Bakers do not produce vegan cookies.  The problem for me is that the Los Angeles Girl Scouts Council buys their cookies from Little Brownie Bakers as does the Girl Scouts of California’s Central Coast Council that serves Ventura County and Santa Barbara County.  However, the Girl Scouts of Orange County Council buys their cookies from ABC Bakers.  If I’m in the area during cookie season, I’ll be on the lookout!

Check the link to the Insufferable Vegan post for more on how to find out for your area.  Based on their websites, I have compiled a list of hints as to which bakery made the cookies in case you’re not sure for your area and you happen to see a booth and need the info immediately.

  • Tagalongs will be called “Peanut Butter Patties,” Samoas will be called “Caramel deLites,” Do-Si-Dos will be called “Peanut Butter Sandwich”, and Trefoils will be called “Shortbread” so if you see those on the table, you know that their cookies come from ABC Bakers.
  • Thanks-A-Lot cookies (the ones that read “Thank You” on the actual cookie), Lemonade, and Mango Creme cookies are only sold by ABC Bakers.
  • If you see Savannah Smiles, Dulce de Leche, or Thank You Berry Munch cookies, their cookies are supplied by Little Brownie Bakers and therefore, none of them are vegan.

If you live near Orange County, you can check out ABC Bakers’ Booth Locator to find scheduled cookie booths throughout the season.

Farm Sanctuary and Farmed Animal Welfare League

I’m sure she will talk about it herself on her blog (Oh, the Veganity!), but my sister Alli just recently came home after a more than two month unpaid internship at Farm Sanctuary’s Animal Acres in Acton California.  It’s a shelter for animals rescued from the horrors of farming and animal hoarding.  If you haven’t been… you must make a trip out for one of their tours.  Having lived in the Los Angeles area for my whole life, I have never felt very connected to farm animals.  Visiting a place like Animal Acres can give you the opportunity to interact with farm animals that you may otherwise never see.

Farm Sanctuary | A Vegan in Progress

Personally, I made a connection between the friendly, curious spirits of farm animals and those of my own pets.  It is so easy to be disconnected from their plight because we don’t see it, but, visiting those animals in a happy, healthy environment can help that.  Now, when I read about the conditions they are forced to live in and the torture that they endure for the sake of our food, I can’t bear to think of contributing to it.

Anyway, Alli did very physical labor there every day and I think, for her, the rewards were so much greater than she could have imagined.  Not only did she meet some great people with passions as strong as hers, but she developed personal relationships with many of the animals she cared for.

Now, Alli is working on a non-profit startup called Farmed Animal Welfare League.  They need supporters, so please, stop by the Facebook page and like their cause!

Liebster Award

Thanks, Wholesome Hostage for nominating me for the Liebster blog award!  I’ve only been blogging for a short time, so it’s nice to be thought of.

My understanding of the Liebster Award is that it’s a chain letter of sorts to recognize other great blogs that you enjoy and an opportunity to share a little about yourself that you wouldn’t normally write about.

Liebster Award | A Vegan in Progress

LIEBSTER AWARD

1. Add the award icon to your blog!

2. Link to your nominator to say thank you.

3. Each blogger should post 11 facts about themselves.

4. Answer the questions the tagger has set for you, & create 11 questions for your nominations to answer.

5. Choose 11 up-and-coming bloggers with less than 200 followers, go to their blog, and tell them about the award.

FACTS ABOUT ME

1.  I wish I had more time for recreational reading, but college reading takes up most of that time.

2.  I don’t even particularly like to cook, but I love having something that I made from scratch to eat and share with others.

3.  I have really curly hair and was called “Felicity” for a while in high school when that show began.

4.  I have an inexplicable fondness for 90’s movies – particularly Sister Act, Jurassic Park, Father of the Bride, and Mrs. Doubtfire.

5.  I am an insane perfectionist when wrapping Christmas presents.  I always look forward to it.

6.  Dick Van Dyke is my fantasy boyfriend.  He is adorable and so super talented.  I love that I haven’t seen all episodes of the Dick Van Dyke show because they can still be a surprise.

7.  I love Disneyland and Eric and I used to have annual passes.  If you ever go there – try the vegan gumbo!!  (click here for more vegan options)

8.  I actually like my mother in law and she likes me.  How often does that happen?

9.  I love vintage clothing and accessories – particularly the 1950’s and early 60’s.  I just have a hard time incorporating it into my daily wardrobe!

10.  Adopting our two cats was one of the best decisions I have ever made.  They both bring so much happiness to my life.  Watching Noche go from being a very timid former stray to a point where he is comfortable and adventurous has been such a joy.

11.  Even though I don’t have any kids, every time I go by the Janie and Jack store in the mall, I have to go in.  Those tiny coordinated outfits are SO CUTE!

MY ANSWERS TO WHOLESOME HOSTAGE’S QUESTIONS

1. What do you hope people get out of your blog?
Originally, I thought that if I was going to go to the effort of emailing the corporate office of chain restaurants for ingredients lists, I should make that information available for anyone who needs it.  I don’t think my non-vegan husband should have to eat at vegan places or Chipotle all the time, so I have tried to figure out a number of other places with acceptable options for me.  As time has passed, I have realized that so much of this lifestyle change has been about trying new things, so I hope I inspire visitors to try something new themselves.

2. Who’s the funniest person you know?
My whole family is very funny, so we have a lot of fun when we’re all together.  When my sisters and I get together, we’re often laughing the whole time.  Number one, though, would have to be my husband, Eric.

3. What is your favorite cuisine to cook?
I love Italian food, although, I haven’t experimented with it much since I began making vegan food.  I have always wanted to conquer Indian food, but it’s rather intimidating with all of those spices!  I tend to make a lot of Asian food: kung pao seitan, lettuce wraps, pad thai, and rice bowls.

4. What is your favorite restaurant?
This is such a great question.  I have only been there once, but my recent visit to the Rabbit Hole Café has left me wanting to go back more than any other restaurant since I went vegan.

5. How do you deal with cooking for picky eaters?
I am usually the pickiest eater in the room.  I’m working on that and trying new things has made me realized that my taste buds have changed and I should have given bell peppers a second chance a long time ago!  However, I try to make everyone happy when I am cooking.  I don’t cook anything with meat (I actually never felt right about handling meat in the kitchen – even when I used to eat it) but I have on occasion sprinkled real cheese on a casserole for my husband, while using Daiya for myself.

6. Would you prefer to shop in a grocery store that gives you tons of choices for essentially the same item or limited choices?
I would prefer tons of choices.  It may take me longer to do my shopping, but I like having options.

7. Who’s your role model?
This is such a hard question to answer without sounding pretentious.  My goal is to be informed so that I may live my life truly according to my values.  I thought I cared about animal rights and welfare before… but now I’m walking the walk and saving animal lives (and my own) with every meal.  I am trying to be someone who stands up for their beliefs and constantly works to see things from the perspective of others and make decisions with them in mind, so in that way, Gandhi is my role model.  See?  Sounds pretentious.

8. Do you have a food you’re obsessed with? If so, what is it?
I go through cycles where I am obsessed with one particular food, then I overdose on it and lay off of it for a while.  My usual obsessions are clementines and edamame… pretty safe to OD on.

9. What are your thoughts on growing your own food?
I think that’s awesome if you can do it.  We live in an apartment, so it’s not practical for us, but definitely something I would like to think about in the future.  When I was a kid, my grandparents lived on an acre of property with many avocado trees, an orange tree, and strawberries.  I remember eating the strawberries right off the plant.

10. Are you competitive?
Generally, I’m not.  However, just Monday I was called competitive.  On the final day of one of my classes this semester, we were reviewing all of the readings and discussions in preparation for a paper tying together some of the themes.  She had us in groups, competing for extra credit points.  I had really prepared for the review and really wanted those points!  I guess I got carried away.

11. Do you prefer cooking savory or sweet dishes more?
I don’t make desserts very often, even though prefer to eat sweets more than savory.  I tend to cook meals – which are more savory.

QUESTIONS FOR MY NOMINEES

1.  What makes you happy?

2.  What is the best decision you have ever made?

3.  What’s your favorite snack?

4.  What’s on your holiday wish list?

5.  What’s your guilty pleasure?

6.  What do you like to do on a rainy day?

7.  What’s the most impressive meal you can make for non-vegans?

8.  What convinced you to start a blog?

9.  What is your favorite cook book?

10.  What is the biggest challenge for you in terms of your lifestyle?

11.  Who inspires you?

MY NOMINEES

Oh, the Veganity!

 

Vedged Out

Vegan Flavorista

Made of Stars

One Happy Table

That Was Vegan?

The Very New Vegan

Honey for the Bees

More Than Greens

Acciovegans

Luminous Vegans

 

Healthy Halloween Treat

This is obviously a late post, but I felt it was worth sharing.  I am in school for my liberal studies degree with a teacher preparation option.  This means that I am required to log 50 hours of observation and participation in an elementary school classroom over two semesters.  Last semester I was assigned to a kindergarten class and this semester a third grade class.  My host teacher is awesome and enthusiastic.  It’s infectious and her students are generally very motivated to learn and participate.  When students seem to lose focus or just before a big test, the teacher leads them through some simple yoga and tells them that since their right and left brains are balanced, they are at their absolute smartest and ready for the test.

Anyway, I was scheduled to observe on Halloween and wanted to bring a treat.  I figured that they were going to get enough candy, so I should bring something healthy and fun.  I can’t take credit for this idea, because I believe I saw it on Pinterest and don’t have the source, but it is awesome.  I bought two bags of clementines, washed and dried them, and drew jack-o-lantern faces on them with a sharpie.  I tried to vary the faces, making them both scary and goofy.  The kids were really excited to get a snack and happily took them to the cafeteria to eat with their lunches.  Some even requested certain faces.  My only suggestion is to keep the sharpie to a minimum – don’t draw big black smiles.  The waxy surface of the clementine peel causes the sharpie to rub off on your hands when you peel it, although not when you just hold it.  Try it out next Halloween!

Healthy Halloween Treat | A Vegan in Progress

The Question of “Humane” Farming

I have been asked by a well-meaning and genuinely curious friend about my opinion about family farms.  I explained that while they would be the lowest on my list of concerns in terms of animals raised for food, I still don’t think that they are ethical.

I recently came across the Humane Myth website and found a statement from Harold Brown, a former beef farmer who was raised on a farm.  I felt that his response was so appropriate for this question because he grew up in that environment and can relate in a way that I cannot.  Please give it a read and explore the website because it addresses the idea of “free range,” “cage free,” and “humane” farming.  Some of the stories are just heartbreaking.

“I was born on an independent family cattle farm in south central Michigan, and I have spent over half of my life in agriculture. I started out as any farm kid does who has grown up around animals. There was an indoctrination involved as to how I should relate to farm animals. My indoctrination started with my parents, then family, then community, our church, 4-H, FFA, a land-grant college, and finally, the reinforcement of advertising on TV and elsewhere that portrayed meat, dairy, and eggs as essential to human wants and nutrition. With these influences, I hardly thought twice about the things I had to do on the farm: driving cattle, castrations, dehorning, and I did my fair share of butchering too. I also worked in the dairy industry for three years. All of these life experiences have been part of a journey that has taken me from thinking about farm animals in the context of animal husbandry and as commodities, to thinking about them as something more.

I have often heard the word “humane” used in relation to meat, dairy, eggs, and other products like cosmetics. I have always found this curious, because my understanding is that humane means to act with kindness, tenderness, and mercy. I can tell you as a former animal farmer that while it may be true that you can treat a farm animal kindly and show tenderness toward them, mercy is a different matter. In 4-H, I saw many, many young people treat their animals as they would a cat or dog, actually more like a dog because it is kind of hard to lead a cat on a halter. And I saw many young people cry their eyes out when they auctioned off their animals at the end of the county fair. I always wondered about that. Why do we have a double standard?
 
As a grown man, after a personal health crisis, I was forced to look at the cause and effect of heart disease in my family. This led me down a path that really pushed me to look at the connections of my lifestyle choices. The process of looking at connections also opened another door in my mind concerning my relationship to the animals I called “food.” Opening that door was one of the scariest things I have ever done. I had been programmed throughout my life to think of farm animals in one way, now I needed to find the moral imagination and emotional courage to think about them in another way.
 
Eventually I realized that all animals, including humans, exist for their own reasons, with their own interests. This was a profound revelation for me because that nagging little voice in the back of my mind had always, since childhood, told me that I wasn’t living to my full, authentic potential, that there was something inherently wrong. All my life I had observed the community that existed in a cow herd, how they grieved for a dead calf or herd mate that had been shot by a deer hunter. I had witnessed the joy a cow experiences when she is let out into a fresh new pasture or calves running and kicking up their heels with each other in the field. I now knew for certain that regardless of the rationalizations I had created, when I killed an animal and saw that light leave their eyes, by extinguishing that divine spark, I had broken a sacred trust.
 
Nowadays I ask myself from both the perspective of the old me and the new me, what does humane mean in the way it is being used? The old me says, “That is an odd word to associate with meat, dairy, and eggs, but hey, if it sells more products, why not?” The new me asks, “Back in the day, I could, and did, raise animals with kindness and tenderness, but how did I show them mercy?” Mercy–a unique human trait of refraining from doing harm. I generally think of mercy as a blessing, too. Animals who are destined for an abbreviated life that ends in a violent death now called to my conscience and required me to show up, and where I could, show what little bit of mercy I can. Since I have made this conscious decision to show mercy, my life has been blessed a million, million times over and I have found a deep peace.
 
If I was going to be true to myself and live to my full potential I had to reevaluate, think, and choose. I chose life. So no, in my experience, there is no such thing as humane animal products, humane farming practices, humane transport, or humane slaughter.”

Making Your Produce Last

If you are anything like me, you put your freshly purchased produce in logical locations and then wonder why it’s limp/soggy/spoiled when you go to use it.  We were going through celery so often until I found a tip on Pinterest to wash and cut celery stalks, then wrap a few pieces at a time in a paper towel and then aluminum foil.  It keeps it crisp for weeks!

I created this helpful list of many produce items and their ideal conditions.  We keep it on our fridge and consult it when we bring home fresh produce.  Unfortunately, I didn’t include celery, so you’ll have to remember that one! Download and print a copy for yourself if you like!

Please feel free to comment with any other helpful tips on storing produce!

Click to download the Produce Printable

Making Your Produce Last | A Vegan in Progress

Our First European Trip!

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Our First European Trip! | A Vegan in Progress

Eric and I are departing on our first European vacation this evening.  We are flying directly into Heathrow (a 10 1/2 hour flight – gah!) and will be staying in London for two nights.  We hope to see Westminster Abbey, Parliament & Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, and a couple of good pubs while we are there.  Then we will catch the Eurostar to Paris where we will stay with our very generous friend, Harmony, for a week!  She is renting a small apartment in Montmartre, the town where Amelie was filmed.  While there, we plan to explore the beautiful neighborhoods of Paris and see the many sites.  We also have day trips planned to visit the Palace of Versailles and Disneyland Paris.

We have attempted to save for a vacation like this many times over our almost nine years together, but something always comes up that uses all of our savings (car repairs, etc).  I think what got us to make it happen this time was the invitation to stay with Harmony.  How could we pass that up?

I’ll be back to posting the week that we return.  Wish us Bon Voyage!

Visiting Animal Acres & Doomie’s Home Cookin’, Hollywood

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My sister, Alli, has talked about Farm Sanctuary’s Animal Acres in Acton since she first visited a couple of years ago. After deciding to pursue a vegan lifestyle, I asked Alli to join me on a trip to the farm. Their website describes Animal Acres as “a Los Angeles farmed animal sanctuary and compassionate learning center dedicated to rescuing and protecting farmed animals through rescue, education, and advocacy efforts.” They offer “meet and greet” tours at 11am, 1pm, and 3pm every Sunday. Our knowledgeable tour guide, Cameron, introduced us to several animals, answered our many questions, and gave us quite a bit of information.

First, we visited the pigs. Pigs are actually very social and will cuddle like this, even in high temperatures. They look like they are smiling when they’re sleeping and they love having their bellies rubbed. Cameron explained that they are also very smart. Their intelligence level is roughly equivalent to that of four year old humans and they have been known figure out how to unlatch the gates around the farm.

Visiting Animal Acres | A Vegan in Progress

The cows were also very sweet and friendly. They seemed to like all the attention from our group. This one kept licking Alli’s hand.

Visiting Animal Acres | A Vegan in Progress

The goats were sweet and outgoing. This little guy, Prince, kept lightly nuzzling his head against people, similar to what my cats, Noche and Vito, do all the time.

Visiting Animal Acres | A Vegan in Progress

Last, we went to see the birds in the courtyard. This poor turkey was so overweight that he walked like it was a real struggle for him. This chicken, contrary to his appearance, is only 6-8 weeks old. When people stroked his feathers, he closed his eyes as if he really enjoyed it.

Visiting Animal Acres | A Vegan in Progress

After our tour, we visited the gift shop where I picked up a lot of literature on vegan recipes, restaurants, and information about the animal products industries. It was an eye-opening visit and I’m sure we will be back again.

After our trip to the farm, we drove all the way to Doomie’s Home Cookin’ in Los Angeles. My husband, Eric, is a lover of hearty, meaty food. If he were ever willing to try a vegan restaurant, this is the place I would take him to. I ordered the “Chicken Parmesan” sandwich, which was delicious. The chicken replacement was nearly perfect; the only real observable difference between it and real chicken was the texture of the skin. Had I not known that it was a vegan sandwich, I would have just assumed that the chicken was over cooked. Alli had the vegan buffalo wings, which tasted pretty great, again, just with a tougher “skin” than animal meat. Finally, we took a brownie to go which was huge and tasty. We shared it with our dad, who also really enjoyed it. Pictures of the food below. We will definitely go back again!

Doomie's | A Vegan in Progress

Why and How

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Last month, I decided to become a vegan.  I knew that I wasn’t the type of person who could jump head first into the vegan pool; I needed to wade into the shallow end first.  If I forced myself to change too much at once, I was sure I wouldn’t succeed.  So, I decided to take it slowly and see it as a transition rather than an overnight change.

Since I am not taking any classes during the summer semester and I have the time, I will be reading about the subject as if it were one of my classes.

I have already started reading Diet for a New America by John Robbins, which is very informative as well as a page-turner.  I have found so far that education is the best form of motivation for me.  Now that I know just a handful of facts about the impact that a diet of animal products has on my health, the environment, the economy, and the lives of animals, I feel like I can’t possibly continue to be a part of the problem.

I recently purchased Vegan in 30 Days by Sarah Taylor, which I will follow more like thirty steps, some of which will take more than a day, and some that will be done a few at a time.  I am starting with incorporating vegan meals into my regular diet and making kind decisions whenever possible.  My end goal is to become fully used to a vegan diet, healthier than I have ever eaten before, without feeling like I am missing out on anything.

A couple of factors led to my exploration of the vegan lifestyle, beginning with my sister.  For several years now, my youngest sister, Allison, has been a vegan.

About A Vegan in Progress | A Vegan in Progress

Alli is the goddess on the left with the Vegan tattoo, that’s me on the right

She has always been very strong-willed, something that I don’t see in myself.  Over the years I have thought that she was definitely eating healthier than I was, but that I lacked the will and motivation to follow her example.  Last month I was thinking about how I needed to lose weight and adopt an all-over healthier diet, not something that I planned to stop once I got to my goal.  Because I knew that Alli had educated herself about nutrition, I asked her many questions about the effect of animal products on our bodies.  Lucky for me, she was in the middle of a speech class and had prepared a speech on that very subject.  Her brain was full of facts and statistics that she shared with me.

After doing online research, my compassion for animals really came into play.  The more I thought about it, the more I felt that it was just wrong to regard some animals as companions and others as food.  My husband, Eric, and I have two rescue cats, who have improved our lives equally as much as we have theirs.

They have very apparent feelings, intelligence, and personalities.  It just seems unfair to allow them happy, healthy lives, but treat other species with similar characteristics as if they are no more than products.  These elements convinced me that I had to make this change in my life.

My thinking in creating this blog is that sharing the journey with others will keep me more accountable and motivated.  My intent is not to preach or even motivate others, but simply to share what I have learned and experienced.  I will post recipes that I try, restaurants that I visit, compelling facts that I come across, and challenges that I face.

Thank you for visiting!  Most of all, thank you to my sister Alli, for being a great source of inspiration, knowledge, and support to me.