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5 Tips to Become a Vegan

25 February
vegan pie

Vegan Pie

Last year I wrote about beginning to transition to a vegetarian diet.  If you are ready to take the next step and have decided this is the right choice for you, here are five ways to get started with a vegan diet. These tips follow the steps from the previous post.

Start Fading Fish from Your Diet

Fish was hard to give up because I loved sushi! I started using mock meats and substitutes such as tofu & tempeh. I used the same formula for meats and other animals; I started eating fish only three times a week for a month and only if I prepared it at home. When I went out, I would order a vegetarian or vegan meal. After a few months, I was able to only eat fish once a week and soon stopped completely.

Substitute Milk and other Dairy for Soy or Almond Milk

There are many products out there to replace dairy. I started with almond and rice milk, cheeses, ice cream, butter, etc.

Soy CreamPhoto by:  Veganbaking.net

Tofu, Your New Best Transitional Choice!

Learning to prepare and enjoy tofu can be challenging. But with the right recipes or going to the right restaurants, one can soon enjoy tofu. I found that the best tofu recipes can be found at Asian restaurants like Japanese, Korean, Chinese, etc. I also learned that the trick to preparing tofu at home is marinating it for about 4 to 8 hours in your favorite sauce. I used to copy the recipes from my favorite restaurants and prepared them at home. It’s important to know the different textures tofu is sold and how it is used. Most brands have a picture of how to use tofu depending on its texture. Silken is most commonly used in puddings and smoothies, firm and extra form for frying baking, etc.

TofuPhoto by: avlxyz

Read it: No Animal Bi-Products

Once I found out that I was allergic to dairy, I stopped consuming dairy products. However, I was not aware that hundreds of packaged foods have dairy. For example, crackers and you good-old-plain saltines have dairy. It’s important to read the labels of packaged foods even if they are labeled vegetarian.

Learn to Order Vegan Dishes in Non-Vegan/Non-Vegetarian Restaurants

Vegan Potato Green BeansPhoto by: rusvaplauke

This is one of the tips that saved me, learning how to order a healthy meal at an unhealthy restaurant. Whenever I went out to eat, I would ask the waiter/waitress for any vegan or vegetarian dishes so that I wouldn’t have to read the entire menu. I have yet to find a restaurant that doesn’t have a vegetarian or vegan alternative. If they didn’t have a dish, I would make one on my own. For example, every restaurant offers side dishes, baked potatoes, side vegetables, fruit plates, etc. So I would order three sides and a house salad which usually didn’t include meats or dairy. Because I was allergic to dairy, I would always ask for no butter or cheese in any of the side dishes and would let them know of my allergies.

One of the biggest challenges is learning to change your habits, and enjoy the transition. If it is done right, it will be very rewarding. Any time I made changes to my diet and lifestyle, I made sure to visit my doctor to monitor my health.

It is important not to judge others and preach. We’re all different and what works for one person, may not work for someone else. So love your family and friends the way they are and don’t try to convert anyone. Just because you made a choice, doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for others.

Have fun & don’t stress!

Vegan Chocolate Cake

Chocolate Cake

Recommended reading

  • Vegan with a Vengeance: Over 150 Delicious, Cheap, Animal-Free Recipes That Rock by Isa Chandra Moskowitz
  • The pH Miracle: Balance Your Diet, Reclaim Your Health by Robert O. Young
  • Vegetarian Times Vegetarian Beginner’s Guide by the Editors of Vegetarians Times
  • Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman
  • Healthy at 100: The Scientifically Proven Secrets of the World’s Healthiest and Longest-Lived Peoples by John Robbins

My Father’s Scramble Tomato, Onion, and Rice Eggs… Vegan Style

10 February
Raw Vegan "Eggs"

Raw Vegan “Eggs”

When someone doesn’t feel like making food or cooking, they order take out or go out to eat. And if budgets are tight, most of us have a recipe we make for those days when we just don’t feel creative about making food or are tired.

My dad’s recipe for those occasions was scramble eggs with rice, tomatoes, and onions. He would fry the chopped onions, tomatoes, and left over rice and throw a few whipped eggs and make a meal out of that. For many years before we became raw vegans, I would use my father’s recipe for when I felt tired and didn’t want order take out food.

I now have a raw vegan version of this recipe that is very quick to prepare and tastes amazing.

Here are the ingredients:

2 Handfuls of Almonds (hopefully sprouted)

¼ cup Flax Seed Powder

Turmeric

Organic Cumin Seed Powder

Real Salt

2 Tomatoes

½ Medium Onion

Cilantro

½ small jalapeno pepper (optional)

Olive Oil

Avocado and Shredded Romaine lettuce

Put the almonds in the food processor with the flax seed powder, turmeric, cumin, and salt. Process to a powder and set aside in a bowl.

Almond Powder and Tomatoes in Food Processor

Almond Powder and Tomatoes in Food Processor

Using the same food processor (no need to wash it), put cut tomatoes, onions, oil, cilantro, and salt to taste. Pulse to make a semi-chunky salsa and avoid making it too liquidy. If you are using the jalapeno pepper, add them to the salsa to make it as spicy as you can handle. Add the salsa to the powdered almonds and mix without making to mushy.

Mixing Powder and Salsa

Mixing Powder and Salsa

Serve over shredded lettuce, I use the lettuce to replace the rice in my father’s recipe. Slice the avocado and serve on the side. This serves two people, a tiny woman and a big Russian!

I recently added something else to this recipe; I’ve been using pumpkin seed oil and pour it over avocado. It’s delicious!

Enjoy!

Saturday Morning Green Delight

31 January
Saturday Morning Juice & Ganesh

Saturday Morning Juice & Ganesh

One Saturday morning I woke up waiting a green juice. So I took everything green out of the refrigerator and juice it. I usually don’t juice greens because I get a fantastic green juice at Josh’s Organic Garden called the “Thank God” five days a week. Not only does Josh have the best greens ever, but also their juicing method is out of the world.

So I have gotten used to drinking green juices five days a week and Saturdays they are not open. I washed all my greens and juiced them including two apples because my juicer is not as great as the one at the Juice Bar. And now it has become a tradition to wake up Saturday mornings and juice the greens.

Here is what I juice:

3 types of Kale (dinosaur, red, and green)

3 types of chard (red, yellow, and white)

Florida Romaine lettuce

Dandelion, Spinach, Collard Greens

Celery, Carrots, Cucumber

2 apples (optional)

I juice everything and put it in a jar, mix in about 2/3 of water, and some pH drops. I save half of that for my sweetie and he adds a lime/lemon to his juice, and I add the two juiced apples to mine.

And that’s our Saturday morning delight!

Thank God at Josh's Organic Garden

Thank God at Josh's Organic Garden

Blue Zones: Communities that Live a Longer and Blissful Life

12 January

I love Ted Talks and this video summarizes what I believe we all are capable of doing to live a healthier and joyful life.

I strongly believe that there are several areas in one’s existence to live a happy life, and they all connect and interact with each other. It’s not just about the food and/or exercise. Or if we are wealthy and have no financial worries, we are going to be happier. I think we all fall into a trap of thinking that if we change our eating habits, work out more, and have money all of the sudden our lives are much more contented.

Dan Buettner shows in this video what it’s been proven to work in these “Blue Zones” or communities around the world. A “Blue Zone” is an area where the population lives pass 100 years old. Dan and his team summarize 9 lifestyle tips that these communities practice to live a longer and blissful life.

I hope this video inspires you to find the path to your higher self.

Enjoy!

Pickled Onions

30 December

Picled Onions

Pickled Onions

When I was growing up, my grandfather used to make these pickled onions once a year. He would make about 1 two-gallon-size jar of these and share with the entire family. He would peel every little onion, wash them, and fill up the jar. These onions would be served with steak and other dishes.

I now eat them with salads and any other raw dish we make for lunch or dinner. I have shared them with friends and even made a few jars to give as gifts for the holidays.

Here is what you’ll need to make these pickled onions:

1 glass jar or Mason jar with cover

Small red, yellow, and white onions (enough to fill up the jar)

1 small beet per jar cut in small cubes

2 garlic cloves chopped

2 Tbs. chopped cilantro

1 small jalapeño pepper or any other hot pepper sliced

Water (enough to cover onions in the jar)

Real salt (1 Tbs. per 1 cup of water)

Peel onions and wash them. Put the garlic, hot pepper, a few of the beet cubes, and half of the cilantro at the bottom of the jar and add one tbs. of Real Salt. Fill the jar half way with the onions and add the rest of the beets, garlic and cilantro. Add the rest of the onions until the jar is full. Add one cup of water and if the onions are not covered, continue to add more water one cup at the time. Add one Tbs. of salt per each cup of water added after the first.

Cover the jar and let is sit at room temperature for four days. Each night open the jar and let the gases out. Replenish the water and salt if necessary. I put a pan under the jar in case that water comes out which happens often and that way I won’t have to clean a mess.

After the four days, put the onions in the refrigerator and use in salads, dishes, etc.

Hope you enjoy this recipe!

Raw Borsch – Beet Soup

05 December
Russian Raw Borsch

Russian Raw Borsch

One of my favorite cooked dishes was Russian borsch. It was my favorite soup to make for Denis and when we became vegetarians I stopped using beef to make it. However, when we became raw, I had a hard time finding a recipe for borsch that I liked. Finally, I invented my own and liked how it came out.  The almond milk gives it a “sour cream” feeling to it.  I have actually made this soup with golden beets as well.  So I hope you enjoy it as well!

1/2 cup of raw almonds & water (or 1 cup of raw almond milk)
1 medium size tomato
2 medium size beet
2 carrots
3/4 cup shredded cabbage
Garlic and onion to taste
Salt to taste
Olive Oil
Chopped dill

Blend the almonds and water to make almond milk. Strain the milk in a nut bag or if you want to keep the pulp, don’t strain. Poor the milk back into the blender and add one beet, one carrot, and the tomato. Add some salt, garlic, onion, and olive oil and blend until smooth. Put aside in a bowl.

Shred the other carrot and beet and add to the soup base.  I use my food processor with a shredding blade to save time. Add cabbage and dill.

Pour in serving bowls and add some olive oil on the top.

Serves two hungry adults 🙂

Making the Almond Milk/Base for Borsch

Making the Almond Milk/Base for Borsch

Raw Hummus

14 November
Mediterranean Plate

Mediterranean Plate

Whenever I don’t feel like making a complicated dish for dinner or I have run out of greens, I make this hummus I learned at this year’s Raw Spirit Fest in D.C. I also add some cut veggies, usually left over veggies, to make a “Mediterranean” dinner or plate that comes out amazing with very little effort.

1 cup of Sunflower Seeds

2/3 cup of Hazelnuts

1/3 cup of Sesame Seeds

1 Tbs. Raw Tahini

2 cloves of Garlic

2 Tbs. Bariani Olive oil

The juice of ½ Lime or Lemon

Organic Cumin seed powder and Salt to taste

½ cup water

½ cup sun dried black olives

Using the food processor, combine the seeds and nuts; add tahini, olive oil, salt, garlic, cumin, lemon or line juice and begin mixing. After most of the nuts are grind, begin adding some water until you reach the desired consistency. I personally like it very smooth and liquid, but you can decide how much water to add. Add the sun dried black olives and continue to mix in the food processor until smooth.

Cut other vegetables such as broccoli, celery, carrots, cucumbers, red peppers, etc, and serve as a meal. It takes a few minutes and everyone loves the hummus.

Raw Vegan Kimchi

29 September
Raw Vegan Kimchi

Raw Vegan Kimchi

Kimchi is one of my favorite dishes ever! I think I can eat it almost everyday. Here is my way of making raw vegan kimchi.

1 Napa cabbage or Chinese cabbage

Real Salt (first to salt the cabbage and then to salt the whole recipe)

5 to 7 cloves of garlic

Peeled Ginger to taste (I use about 1 inch square of a ginger root)

1 red pepper

1 jalapeño pepper or cayenne pepper (not powder)

1 yellow onion

1/4 cup Bariani Olive oil

Chili flakes and pepper flakes to taste

10 Scallions julienned or cut in long strips (lots of scallions is what makes this recipe)

Wash the cabbage and separate the leaves. Let the water drip off the cabbage and get a container ready to place the cabbage for the salting part of the recipe and another container to press down the cabbage. Line up some leaves on the container put salt all over. Add another layer of leaves on top and add more salt and repeat until you use all the leaves and salt every layer. Use the other container to press down the cabbage. Let sit for 8 hours or overnight until all the cabbage is soaked in the salty water. You can let it sit more time to ferment more, but it won’t probably be raw at that point. You can also choose to let it sit less time, but I find that 8 hours is just perfect. Taste the cabbage and if it’s too salty for your taste, rinse it, but if it’s fine, just dumped the residual water.

Cabbage and salt in layers

Cabbage and salt in layers

To make the paste, I like to use my juicer to mince all the ingredients for the red paste. However, you can use a vegetable chopper or a food processor for this part. So mince or chop or process the garlic, ginger, red pepper, onion, and some of the red pepper flakes or jalapeño pepper or cayenne pepper. When I put this thru my juicer using the mince blades, there is also some juice that comes out which will make the paste a bit more liquidly and that’s why I don’t have to add water to this recipe. If you use a food processor or a chopper you may have to add a few spoons of water and the olive oil. Mix this paste and taste it for flavor. Depending on the saltiness of the cabbage and of the paste, you may want to make sure they will balance each other.

Peppers and Garlic for Kimchi

Peppers and Garlic for Kimchi

Using the same washed container, spread some of the paste at the bottom of the dish and take some of the scallions and spread them over the paste… you are going to layer the cabbage and paste like a lasagna. Take some cabbage and cover the first layer of the paste, and then add some more paste and scallions over the cabbage and keep layering in that order. Once you used all the cabbage and paste, cover the container and refrigerate for a few hours (4 to 6 hours). If you have cabbage or paste left over, just add it to the sides or try to fill in every space in the container.

I get about 6 to 8 servings out of this because I use a lot of it in different salads. I like to take a cucumber and chop it small cubes to add to the kimchi.

Cucumber Kimchi Salad

Cucumber Kimchi Salad

Raw Asian Food: Miso Soup & Cucumber Spicy Noodles

28 September

Miso Soup & Noodles

Miso Soup & Noodles

One of the hardest things to give up for me was Asian food such as Japanese, Thai, and Korean. So I’ve created several recipes to make up for my favorite dishes and flavors I miss. Hope you enjoy them too!

Miso Soup

Serves 2

Water

1 inch cube ginger

2 carrots

1 Tbs. brown miso paste (unpasteurized)

Garlic, olive oil, and salt to taste

Put all ingredients in the blender and blend until mixed. Serve immediately and add cilantro to decorate.

Decorating tip: Add some avocado, sprouts, and pour some olive oil.

Cucumber Spicy Noodles

Serves 2

3 medium size peeled cucumbers

¼ red peppers sliced or julienned

½ romaine lettuce

½ jalapeño pepper or cayenne pepper (or powder)

2 Tbs. of Nama Shoyu or Braggs

Olive oil

A handful of cilantro

Sesame seeds (black if possible)

Using a spiral-slicer cut the cucumber to make noodles and put aside. In a bowl, mix the Nama Shoyu or Braggs (or both) with the olive oil, cayenne, and chopped cilantro. If using jalapeño peppers, mix in food processor. Cut the romaine lettuce and make a bed of lettuce in each plate. Put the noodles and cut red peppers on top of lettuce. Pour the dressing on each plate and sprinkle some sesame seeds and more olive oil.

Decorating Tip: you can also cut some fresh tomatoes and add to dish.

Cucumber Noodles

Cucumber Noodles

10 Tips for Raw Traveling

15 September
Computer bag, Hiking bag, and Lunch bag ready for our trip!

Computer bag, Hiking bag, and Lunch bag ready for our trip!

In the two years we’ve been vegan raw foodists we’ve travel quite often and have been able to eat what we are used to eating at home and not struggle finding food during the trip.

How do we do it? This is a very common question we get asked all the time. In the last trip we took, to DC for the RSF, I was in the plane and decided it was time to write about it. So here are my top ten tips to travel raw!

Plan Ahead

First, check the rules for traveling with foods, liquids, etc as they are constantly changing. If you travel internationally chances are it’s a bit more difficult to bring some vegetables and fruits with you are on the plane. Second, check to find the closest organic markets, local farmers markets, and raw food or vegan restaurants around the area you are staying. We love HappyCow.com because it helps us plan ahead where we will be dining once we arrive at the location. It also shows me all local markets and their contact information. Using this information, we map the places we want to go to and decide where to eat or shop for food.

Helpful tip: Write down the phone numbers and hours of operation of the places you want to visit.

Bring Your Own Food

We always carry Avocados, lettuce, and cucumbers with us for the plane ride. I also include enough fruits, nuts, and seeds for the ride.  So far, we haven’t had any issues at security. We have a lunch bag that qualifies as a carry-on where we put all our food for the plan ride. Yes! You do have to run it through the x-ray but it’s better than the “glow-in-the-dark” food at the airport.

Helpful tip: carry extra bags for compost such peels, seeds, etc.

Olive Oil

We loved our olive oil and can’t live without it. So we’ve emptied and old vanilla extract bottle that is about 2 oz and washed and filled it up with Bariani’s Olive Oil to carry with us in the plane ride. Using the foods we bring and the olive oil, we make ourselves a nice meal sometimes in the plane or at the airport while connecting.

Helpful tip: Go to any food court and ask for a plate or container to use for making your food.

Salt

This is a topic that is very delicate with most people who are healthy. Salt… we like it and we need it. We use Real Salt and carry it with us everywhere. We have it in the car, at work, in my purse, everywhere. So when we fly or travel, it’s always with us.

Helpful tip: Real Salt has a small container that can be refilled.

Traveling Lunch Bag

Traveling Lunch Bag

Water, Green Powder and pH Drops

Water is possibly the most important part of traveling. Since we can’t carry liquids anymore, the first thing we do after the security check is get water. If you are lucky, some airports carry water with a high pH that will help you keep hydrated during your trip. If you are driving, I suggest taking your own water with you in a cooler. We also use a green powder and pH drops to add to the water. This helps us stay hydrated and get all the vitamins our bodies need while traveling. We even carry lemons or limes to squeeze into the water to that it stay fresh… yes that’s more complicated, but we now carry our lemon squeezer!

Helpful tip: if you carry your lemon squeezer (like we do), take it out of the bag during security check and set it on top of your jacket so that they don’t go through your lunch bag.

Dessert

We always do desserts because if you pass the cinnamon bun stand at the airport, chances are you would be tempted to have one. If a fruit serves as dessert, bring apples and bananas as they are the easiest to carry. If you don’t consider a fruit dessert, then bring something sweet for the trip. We like to make nut and dried fruit bags for the trip. Sometimes we carry raw chocolate bars, not good if you are planning to sleep in the plane. Also, we recently discover raw cookies in a package by Go Raw and they are perfect for traveling.

Tea bags

We carry two to four tea bags to drink in the plane and ask for hot water to brew the tea. We like the Lemon Echinacea Throat Coat by Traditional Medicinals the best. Why we drink tea? Most time in planes people are sick and we don’t want to run the risk of getting sick, especially if you are not getting the food your body is used to eating while traveling.

Helpful tip: ask for two cups of hot water to brew one tea bag, they usually server the water in small cups.

Utensils and napkins

We used to ask for plastic utensils at the airport and then put them in a zip lock bag to re-use. We also shared one napkin as we like to conserve and travel as green as we possibly can. We now travel with a small kitchen towel, the size of a face cloth, and keep in the lunch bag during the trip. In our last trip to San Francisco, purchase traveling re usable utensils at Café Gratitude, but you can also buy them at Bamboo Utensil Set To-Go . Ok so you don’t need to buy anything, simply get utensils at the airport and re-use them throughout the trip.

Helpful tip: Carry your salt, utensils, and napkins in the same zip lock bag inside your lunch bag, that way when is time to make your food in the plane, everything is accessible.

Arriving late

So last year we flew on Christmas day and arrived in California at close to midnight and we had run out of the food we carried with us. All there was open in San Fran were Chinese restaurants, and we didn’t think they would carry a salad! So here’s what we did, we ran to a 24-hour drug store and looked for snacks. They actually carried some vegetables rolls and fruits as well as some nuts and seeds. We bought some bananas, water, and pecans and that was our meal. Basically, don’t get depressed, there is always something raw somewhere. Don’t give up!

If everything else fails, buy at the airport

So if you had a last minute trip and didn’t get a chance to pack your lunch bag, buy a salad at the airport. Yes, the “glow-in-the-dark” salads and fruits that have been transported there by so many hands and trucks. We’ve done it once or twice when traveling overseas and brought an avocado to complement the depressing lettuce they sell you at the airports, and we are not proud of it.

Helpful tip: carry your salt and oil and make a nice little meal.

When traveling overseas, the rules may be a little different. You may have to eat all your food before you get to the other country. I also heard a tip from Sergei Boutenko on how to travel to other countries, make a powder of dehydrated vegetables and pack it in your carry on. Ask for a cup of hot water and mix in the powder, with some salt and oil and you have a nice soup. Our local raw vegan farmers market actually sells the powder of a veggie mix that can be used for traveling. Nut bars and other raw treats help hold you until you land but will most likely dehydrate you.

As we continue to travel, we learn more tips on how to continue our lifestyle and enjoy traveling to new places. The best part of traveling raw is the faces of the people sitting next to you watching you eat! 😉

B&B in Mt. Shasta that has a Vita Mix and Dehydrator so we made pizza!

We stayed at a B&B in Mt. Shasta that has a Vita Mix and Dehydrator so we made pizza!