Everyone knows how the holidays can wear you out and leave you exhausted.

This year was no exception for me and my family.  From traveling hours to spend time with my family and my husband’s, being referee to the kids on the car rides, and making so much food….it was really delicious, the whole family is exhausted.

Today while my kids are on their playdates and my husband is working at the office, I am dedicating today to myself and relaxing and distressing.



My husband got me a new book for Christmas so I plan on reading it all morning, sipping my tea, and indulging myself in a hot bath.  This afternoon I even scheduled a massage.  I haven’t had one in ages, I can’t even remember when the last time I had one was.

Even though Christmas was exhausting it was so worth it.  We had an incredible couple of days.  We went to the annual Christmas parade with a few of our family friends.  The kids had so much fun catching candy and seeing all the floats.  And we got to catch up with a few old friends while sipping hot chocolate.

On Christmas Eve we went to my husband’s family’s house for dinner.  It was great seeing everyone and watching the kids play with all of their cousins.  On Christmas day we went to my parents’ house for dinner.  I was so proud of my mom, she made an almost entirely vegetarian dinner.  It makes me so happy seeing my family embrace my lifestyle and incorporate it into their lives as well.  It was delicious, she even used some of my recipes.

Santa Claus came to our house on Christmas Eve and the kids had so much fun opening all their gifts on Christmas morning.  Hannah got EVERYTHING she wanted….her exact words. :)  Liam was so excited he got a new bike.  He wanted to ride it in the house when he first opened it…Santa wasn’t feeling that generous though.  He ended up spending all afternoon riding it up and down our street.



It was a great Christmas full of fun with our families and friends, so today is a much deserved day of relaxation for me.  Between the kid’s schedules, running around and spending as much time with them as I could, working at the restaurant, and keeping my house in order, I definitely deserve this.

Hope you had a great Christmas and take some time to relax.

Go Green and Stay Keen,


Julie

My two kids have just began winter break from school and I am so excited to spend some time with them and do some Christmas activities.  I was able to get quite a few days off from the restaurant so I can spend lots of time with them while they have a break from school.  Hannah and Liam have been looking forward to sleeping in and having fun with Mommy and Daddy.

We have a few fun things planned as a family to do with the kids off from school.  We are going to go ice skating, make our annual ornaments, making and building ginger bread houses, and going to the local Christmas parade.  It is going to be a fun filled couple weeks.

This morning I am surprised the kids with snowman pancakes to decorate.  They are really simple, I just shape the pancakes like a snowman and the kids add chocolate chips, raisins, powder sugar, and whipped cream.  It was a great way to start off the day in a fun delicious way.



We are going to go shopping for the supplies to make the Christmas ornaments this afternoon and starting to make them.  I found a bunch of good ideas on Pinterest, we will see if Liam or Hannah need some inspiration…probably not though, they always have a bunch of silly ideas to make their ornaments special. :)

It is going to be a good couple weeks full of Christmas fun and activities.  Here are some pictures of our crafts from last year.  The Popsicle stick snowmen were really easy and fun! Hannah’s ornament masterpiece was the clear bulb filled with beads, and Liam’s melted snowman was his; they were so cute.  The glitter reindeer was really easy too, just very messy.



Happy Holidays!

Go Green and Stay Keen,

Julie




Do you really know what is in your foods?  When I was first learning about vegetarianism I was naïve to what was actually in my food.  I just assumed that if it wasn't the actually meat it was vegetarian.  When I am researching, I always make sure I have a tough stomach because some of the things I have come across make my stomach turn.  It is shocking what ingredients are actually in the foods we eat all the time without thinking.

Even though I’m not vegan, I still like to be conscious about the ingredients in foods I eat and prefer my foods be free of animal byproducts.  I made a list of cringe worthy products that have animal byproducts that might make you think twice about what you are eating.


DISCLAIMER- if you have a weak stomach or just ate lunch, you might was to wait to read this until your stomach is strong enough to hear all the ingredients might be in your favorite foods.

When first beginning to research products that we not vegetarian gelatin was the first product I learned about.  Gelatin is mainly made from collagen, a protein often collected from animal skins.  Gelatin can be found in frosted cereals, yogurt, candy, some types of sour cream, and deserts.  The gelatin in deserts often comes from pig skin.

Beef fat is an ingredient many Hostess Products.  It is gross thinking a favorite sweet childhood snack contains beef fat.  The ingredient is included in the list of other oils that may or may not be used.

This is a more widely known animal product, crushed bugs are used as red food coloring.  Dried insects are boiled to produce a liquid solution that is turned into dye.  It is often called carmine or carminic acid.  YUCK

Beaver anal glands, castoreum, are common in perfumes and colognes.  I don’t want to use anal glands to smell sweet, that’s for sure.  Another use, they are used to enhance the flavor of raspberry candies and sweets.

It is more common people know Caesar salad dressing is made with anchovies, but they are in Worcestershire sauce too.  I was unaware of this until I did some research and now I avoid both sauces.

Like jelly beans or candy corn?  The shiny hard coating is make from the secretions of the female Kerria Lacca, an insect native to Thailand.  I personally don’t like any bug secretions in my candy.



These are just a few of the cringe worth products that use animal products to be more appealing and satisfying to the consumer.  After months of researching and growth I learned that animal products are in so many unexpected places and products.  I find it very interesting to learn about all the products that use weird animal parts and secretions.  Peta.org has an extensive list of animal ingredients that are in food that might shock you.

Know of any more cringe worthy products with animal products? I would love to learn more, comment to share your knowledge!

Go Green and Stay Keen,

Julie

With so many holiday parties and nights out with old friends that are back to town it’s easy to forget what you are drinking.  About a year after becoming a vegetarian, I was on the internet looking for recipes and stumbled upon a website about vegetarian beer.  It never dawned on me that what I was drinking could have animal products in it.  I was shocked at what I read!



I am not a big drinker so it never dawned on me to look at the ingredients.  What I read made me cringe; some beers are processed with isinglass, the swim bladders of fish.  I am no beer expert so I had no idea, fish bladders? I was so grossed out!  Some beers are also processed using gelatin, made from boiling skin, tendons, ligaments, and/or bones from cows or pigs.  After this I made sure to know where everything I was consuming was coming from.

The holiday season prompts many parties and dinners, I made a list of common beers that are vegetarian safe.  For a full list from PETA, click here.

Amstel & Amstel Light
Bud Light & Budweiser
Busch & Bush Light
Coors
Corona
Dogfish Head Brewing
Heineken
Michelob
Mike’s Hard Lemonade
Miller Brewing Co.
Natural Light
Rolling Rock
Samuel Adams Brewing Co.
Thirsty Dog Beer

Hopefully this list helps new vegetarians going out with old friends during the holiday season know what to order! If you have any more questions don’t hesitate to ask, I love sharing my knowledge! :)

Go Green and Stay Keen,

Julie





Cheers: Vegetarian Beers

by on 12/04/2014
With so many holiday parties and nights out with old friends that are back to town it’s easy to forget what you are drinking.  About a year...
Wow, I can’t believe that tomorrow is December already.  November has flown by, and for that matter, this year.  I can’t even grasp all the wonderful things that have happened to me and my family this year so far.  With December and winter around the corner it is the perfect time to get a little crafty around the house.  I love winter; even though I live in California I still love the cooler temps and the warm aura the season give off.




Backtracking a little bit, my thanksgiving was so wonderful.  My husband’s parents and my parents, loved their first vegetarian thanksgiving.  They were surprised by how many stereotypical thanksgiving dishes are easily vegetarian.  Needless to say, my menu was a big hit and everyone left with full stomachs.

I didn’t partake in the crazy Black Friday shopping nonsense.  I don’t know how people can do it; I hate going into stores when you can barely walk and have to fight to get something.  Although I didn’t go, one of my friends is a crazy shopper and braved the crowds…when I say she’s crazy I mean she’s crazy for waiting in a line for hours to get a few good deals.  I had her pick up a few things on Hannah and Liam’s Christmas list while she was out.  Now I have to get serious about getting gifts for the rest of the family.

I feel like I just got everything put away from thanksgiving and brought out the Christmas decorations.   I usually try to wait until December 1st but it’s so hard and I figured one day away isn’t that bad… :)  There is something about Christmas decorations that make you feel so warm and want to have a hot chocolate.  I was feeling crafty today and made a little wine bottle vases.  They are super easy to make- paint the wine bottle with two coats of primer, then two coats of your desired color; I chose gold, then spray with tacky spray (glue), and shake lose glister onto the bottle. They turned out great.  I am going to put some twigs with berries in them!





It is such a wonderful time of the year.  Although I am sad to see pumpkin flavored everything go, I am excited for all the peppermint and cranberry flavors.  :)

Happy almost December friends!

Julie

Tomorrow is December?!

by on 11/30/2014
Wow, I can’t believe that tomorrow is December already.  November has flown by, and for that matter, this year.  I can’t even grasp all the...
It’s almost thanksgiving!  I can’t wait to spend hours in the kitchen making a wonderful meal for my family…and that’s not sarcastic at all, I really can’t wait. :) I love to cook and bake, and thanksgiving gives me an excuse to go overboard in the kitchen.  This year we are having my family and my husband’s family over for thanksgiving dinner.  We have discussed with both of our families and decided we are going to have an entirely vegetarian thanksgiving.  It is going to be our parents first meatless Thanksgiving; I can’t wait to blow them away with the delicious food.

 Eating a meatless dinner on thanksgiving opens up a world of recipes possibilities!  My first thanksgiving without meat was a little strange.  I wanted to imitate all the classic thanksgiving dishes so I roasted some tofurkey and ate my fair share of mash potatoes to fill up.  But my second thanksgiving was completely different.  I had learned new vegetarian recipes throughout the year and was ready to create my own thanksgiving dinner.  There are so many great seasonal vegetables during the fall it makes it really easy to cook a yummy dinner.

As the years flew by I kept getting more creative with my thanksgiving dinner menu.  We typically go to my husband’s parents to celebrate and I bring a few of my favorite vegetarian thanksgiving dishes.  I am beyond excited to have both our families over and have some wonderful vegetarian food. 
I have begun making the menu and am super excited about it.  I still need a few more options but here’s what I have so far…DISCLAIMER these are recipes from the internet, I haven’t decided how I am going to spice them up and make them my own yet so ideas are welcome. :)

•    Butternut Squash Baked Risotto



•    Vegetarian Mushroom Gravy



•    Green Bean Casserole with Red Curry and Peanuts



•    Sweet Potato and Edamame Shepherd’s Pie



•    The thanksgiving favorite, Pumpkin Pie,
•    And obviously mash potatoes, cranberry chutney, and some roasted corn and carrots.

I love thanksgiving and all the rich and flavorful foods! I can’t wait to start cooking! In the meantime I think I am going make my family’s favorite, pumpkin cranberry cinnamon rolls to get my cooking bug out of me today.

Happy thanksgiving cooking!

Go Green and Stay Keen,

Julie

A Meatless Thanksgiving

by on 11/24/2014
It’s almost thanksgiving!  I can’t wait to spend hours in the kitchen making a wonderful meal for my family…and that’s not sarcastic at all...
Before I decided to start posting my thoughts and ideas for the world to see, I was a big fan of many blogs that were labeled “Top Mommy Blogs.”

“Top Mommy Blogs” ranks and rates the best mommy blogs based on reader’s votes.
When I took a leap of faith and published my blog, I knew that I wanted to be labeled as “Top Mommy Blog.”  Reading those blogs were what ultimately what inspired me to start my own.  I wanted connect with other vegetarian mommy’s living an environmentally conscious and green life.

A few days ago, I couldn't contain my excitement when I got the message saying I qualify to be a “Top Mommy Blog!”  My blog now features a “Top Mommy Blog” badge at the bottom of each post and on the side panel.  If you click on the badge you are voting for me and allowing me to reach out to more mommies like us and helping my raking on the “Top Mommy Blog” board.

If you like what you read or enjoy following my blog, please click on the “Top Mommy Blog” badge to help me reach out to more moms like us.

 1 click = 1 vote


You guys are the best,

Julie

I'm a Top Mommy blogger!

by on 11/18/2014
Before I decided to start posting my thoughts and ideas for the world to see, I was a big fan of many blogs that were labeled “Top Mommy Bl...
A few days ago my daughter went on a playdate with a new friend from school.  When I went to pick her up I was able to chat with her friend’s mother for a bit.  She told me that she was surprised at lunch when Hannah asked if they had any meatless options.  Now, I haven’t raised my children solely vegetarian but have given them the tools to understand a plant-based diet and a meat-based one.  I wanted them to make their own decisions.  It made me proud that Hannah asked for a vegetarian option and didn’t want to eat a hot dog or a sloppy Joe.

Hannah’s friend’s mother seemed offended that I raised my children knowing both options.  She was convinced that a vegetarian diet isn’t good for growing children and that they need meat to grow and be strong. 

After I got home I did some thinking; if people really do believe that a vegetarian diet isn’t healthy, do they know where their meat comes from?  I was taken back after the situation and saddened at the misconception.

Common misconceptions of vegetarianism frighten people and discourage them from trying it.  Understanding the true facts of a vegetarian lifestyle can change your mind and encourage a healthy change.  After everything that happened I want to debunk a few misconceptions that I believe are popular, and set the story straight.

1.    You don’t get enough protein as a vegetarian- Most people believe that meat = protein and you can’t have one without the other.  That is the farthest thing from true.  Beans, grains, nuts, and green veggies, and dairy provide plenty of protein for a vegetarian diet.  There are also protein supplements you can take if you are concerned about it.






2.    Vegetarians eat like rabbits- What’s wrong with eating like a rabbit?  They are pretty healthy aren’t they?  Although vegetarians don’t eat meat doesn’t mean they exclusively eat lettuce and carrots.  There are so many options and delicious recipes that are very filling and rich.


3.    Being a vegetarian will make you healthy and lose weight- Although vegetarians are generally thinner, you can be an unhealthy vegetarian as well.  Replacing meat with carbs like pasta and breads, lack nutritional value and hinder your body from getting proper nutrients.  You can be an unhealthy carnivore and an unhealthy vegetarian.  Vegetarians come in all shapes and sizes.

4.    Vegetarian food is expensive- Pasta, rice, tofu, beans, and seasonal fruits and vegetables are much cheaper than meat.  Some meat replacements and non-seasonal fruits and vegetables can be expensive but not nearly as expensive as meat.

5.    You’ll always be hungry- I can’t remember the last time after a meal that I was still hungry; it is usually the opposite.  The main digestible part of a pant is fiber.  Fiber keeps you full, stabilizes blood sugar levels, and full of energy.  If I do get hungry, a handful of nuts usually does the job; packed with fiber, protein and healthy fats.



I hope these debunked myths help people change their ideas of vegetarianism and do a little more research.  If you think I missed any, please share!  The more information, the more people will understand.

Go Green and Stay Keen,

Julie

Vegetarian Myths Debunked

by on 11/17/2014
A few days ago my daughter went on a playdate with a new friend from school.  When I went to pick her up I was able to chat with her friend...
Recently, I have been all about movements and initiatives for a healthy lifestyle.  I came across one on the internet yesterday while finding kid friendly recipes called The Kids Cook Monday.  It is a pretty simple initiative that encourages families to set aside the first night of every week for cooking and eating together.  It is very important to me that my family sits down for dinner and reconnects after our days apart.  Some dinners can be hard because of the restaurant but I always make sure I am home several days during the week. 



So now, not only is my family participating in Meatless Monday, but always The Kids Cook Monday.  This will be a great way to get my children into cooking healthy vegetarian meals that they enjoy.  My kids love helping out in the kitchen, when I am cooking and baking so this will give them something to look forward to every week. 

I believe that teaching young children to cook is an essential life skill they need to learn.  The joy I see on my kid’s faces when they are stirring something together or cracking an egg is priceless.  Although those helping out often turns into a kitchen mess, it is so worth it.  Cooking enforces portion sizes while they are learning about the vitamins and nutrients in the ingredients.  It also strengthens math skills, teamwork, and following instructions.  My daughter is beginning to learn about fractions in school so cooking is a subtle way to have her practice. 



Yesterday the kids had their mind made up on making a pizza…their favorite.  I like to add a subtle twist to the pizza by using a cauliflower crust.  My kids have no idea and absolutely love it, I highly recommend trying it! Here is the recipe I used to make the cauliflower crust before the kids got home.

Ingredients-
•    ½ head of cauliflower
•    1 clove of garlic, minced
•    1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
•    1 egg, beaten
•    1 tsp. basil
•    1 tsp. oregano

Instructions-
•    Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees F.  Grease a cookie sheet or pizza stone with oil.
•    Remove the stems and leaves from your cauliflower, chop it into chunks, place into food processor and pulse just the texture is similar to rice.
•    Sauté the cauliflower “rice” over medium heat until it is translucent, about 6-8 mins. 
•    In a large bowl combine the cauliflower “rice” with garlic, cheese, egg, basil, and oregano and mix thoroughly.
•    Spread the dough evenly on the greased cookie sheet or stone about 1/3 inch thick.
•    Bake for 25-30 mins until the crust is golden

When the kids got home, they spread the pizza sauce, added the cheese, and their personal favorite vegetables; green peppers, tomato chunks, carrots, olives, and mushrooms (precooked).  And then we baked our special pizza for about 5-10 min until the cheese was melted.




It was a great kid’s cook Monday and Meatless Monday in my book.  The kids had a great time making the pizza and liked eating it even better.  I think it is important to put time aside every day to connect as a family.  Our family dinners are always filled with laughter and good conversation.  A family that cooks together and eats together is a happy family.

Go Green and Stay Keen,

Julie :)

The Kids Cook Monday

by on 11/11/2014
Recently, I have been all about movements and initiatives for a healthy lifestyle.  I came across one on the internet yesterday while findi...
Today I was watching some entertainment news and was shocked to hear how much they were talking about celebrities going vegetarian and how many are vegetarian.  I guess I just haven’t kept up with these young celebrities, but man, was I excited to hear how passionate they were.  They were interviewing PETA activist Anne Hathaway about why she became vegetarian and how it has affected her life. 

Listening to this made me want to make a list of my favorite famous vegetarians.  There are so many famous vegetarians that I love so I will keep it to my top 5 so I don’t bore you. 

1.    Mahatma Gandhi was one of the most influential people in the world and continues to be even after his death. 

"...We should all be Vegetarians…Muscular Vegetarians demonstrate the superiority of their diet by pointing out that the peasantry of the world are practically Vegetarians, and that the strongest and most useful animal, the horse, is a Vegetarian, while the most ferocious and practically useless animal, the lion, is a carnivore..." -1896

2.    The great physicist, Albert Einstein was  a devoted vegetarian and one of the greatest minds of all time.
“Our task must be to free ourselves…by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.” “Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances of survival for life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.”



3.    One of the strongest women was vegetarian, Rosa Parks.  She not only was a civil rights activist credited with started the US civil rights movement, she received the US Medal of Freedom in 1996.
"For over forty years, I've been vegetarian. Growing up, my family had little money—I had health problems early in life because of poor nutrition. Eating healthy is a priority for me." -2004



4.    Leonardo da Vinci is one of my favorite artists of all time.  His work is timeless and captivating.  It is speculated and widely believed that Leonardo da Vinci was a vegetarian; in my book he is.
"…The mere idea of permitting the existence of unnecessary suffering, still more that of taking life, was abhorrent to [Da Vinci]. Vasari tells, as an instance of his love of animals, how when in Florence he passed places where birds were sold he would frequently take them from their cages with his own hand, and having paid the sellers the price that was asked would let them fly away in the air, thus giving them back their liberty." –Edward MacCurdy, The Mind of Leonardo da Vinci, 1928



5.    My favorite modern day vegetarian is Ellen DeGeneres.  I believe that she is a very influential celebrity voice of this time.  She voices her opinion and always stresses to be kind to one another. 


“I personally chose to go vegan because I educated myself on factory farming and cruelty to animals and I suddenly realized that what was on my plate were living things, with feelings.  And I just couldn’t disconnect myself from it any longer.  I read books like ‘Diet for a New America’ and saw documentaries like ´Earthlings’ and ‘Meet your Meat’, and it became an easy choice for me”

Who are your favorite famous vegetarians?

Go Green and Stay Keen,

Julie
Today is such an exciting day for me, it is my 6 year anniversary of being vegetarian!  6 years ago today was one of the most important days of my life, when I decided I would commit to something I wanted to for a while, a new healthy vegetarian lifestyle.  Thinking back, becoming a vegetarian wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be.  Although, there were ups and downs along the road where I would crave meat and think about giving up; once I got over those bumps and knew how to control cravings, I couldn’t imagine my life any other way.



 I have always been an animal lover.  6 years ago, after a Saturday afternoon spent on the internet reading and watching documentaries about animal-based diets and the meat industry, it wasn’t a hard to change my of thinking and switch to a plant-based diet.  I knew it would be good for my heath, the animals, the environment, and those around me.

In the beginning social events were difficult but after 6 years, my friends and family understand my lifestyle and have been dabbling in it as well.  I love seeing how my small dietary change, changed my entire extend family and friends outlook on food.  It is awesome going to a party and seeing a variety of fresh vegetarian options, not just put out for me, but because my family and friends genuinely enjoy them and understand the benefits of plant-based foods and diets.


Becoming a vegetarian isn’t something that changes over night, it is a full body transformation.  October 27th, 2008 was a huge day in my life.  My commitment to my health and my love for animals have helped me reach my goal and stick with it. 

I hope that with popular culture beginning to embrace a vegetarian and now vegan lifestyle, more people will try to commit to see the benefits of vegetarianism; I don’t want to keep the greatness a secret all to myself! :)  I am very proud I stuck with something for 6 years that helped change my life.  I can’t wait for many more great anniversaries and years full of learning and new food!   I wouldn’t change it for the world, I love being a vegetarian!


Go Green and Stay Keen,

Julie

This weekend was my daughter Hannah’s 8th birthday party.  She had a “spook-tacular” sleepover with her ghoully friends. :)  This was her first sleepover birthday party… it was a lot of work but they was so much fun.  It is always a struggle coming up birthday theme ideas for Hannah; luckily this year, having her birthday so close to Halloween she wanted to have a ghoully ghostly costume party. 

Fall is such a great time of the year, it made decorating for Halloween really easy.  I transformed our house a spooky fun birthday soiree.  The girls didn’t come over until dusk so I was able to decorate our yard with Tombstones and lanterns leading up to the door for a haunted welcome.  I even went all out and set up the fog machine so when we opened the door fog would come out.  The girls loved it, they came over in costumes and were immediately ready for a spooky evening.  It was a little pre trick-or-treating for them.



Coming up with party menus is second nature for me.  Hannah’s spook-tacular food was so much fun coming up with...I may have even gone a little bit overload.  Even though my children are not vegetarians they prefer a lot of meatless food so I created an eerie vegetarian menu the girls loved.
The girls devoured banana ghosts, clementine pumpkins, a veggie skeleton, apple bites, spooky black bean humus, veggie dog mummy dippers, and a spooky haunted graveyard cake on our new coffin dining table… (My husband is quite the handy man; it is incredible what he can do with ply wood, a saw, and some paint) :)  It sounds like a lot but it was all super easy to make.



Hannah came up with some great Halloween games to play in our lantern lit backyard.  They bobbed for apples, had a mummy dressing race, and she picked out a bat piñata filled with mysterious goodies.    Before they when to sleep we told ghost stories and drank apple cider.  And then of course they had to watch some Disney channel to relax to.


I am happy everything went so smoothly and Hannah had a great time.  Everything was great and so easy to make.  The girls loved my vegetarian food…I don’t even think they realized it was; the decorations were fairly inexpensive, and the best part was the girls had so much fun.  Halloween parties are great and even better when you’re celebrating your daughter’s birthday.

We had a SPOOK-TACULAR birthday! BOO! :)

Go Green and Stay Keen,

Julie


Yesterday at the restaurant I had a lovely conversation with a customer that had just converted to vegetarianism.  He dove in head first a month ago without any progression eliminating meat.  He told me he was feeling great so far but was having some serious meat cravings.  I know from experience the beginning can be difficult when you see other people eating meats around you. 
I remember those first months when everyone was eating meat around me it was hard not to think about going back, but in the back my mind I knew it was something I wanted to do.  I tried just about every meat substitute out there, some were very delicious and satisfied the little cravings and some were down right terrible.  I was happy to share my favorite meat substitutes with my customer so he wouldn’t have to go through the trial and error I did. 

In my opinion, these are the best meat substitutes.

•    If you are missing cold cuts and deli sandwiches, Tofurky Deli Slices should be your go to.  They are made from smoked wheat gluten and have many different imitated flavors.  I like the roast beef flavor, but they are all equally as delicious.  Even my non-vegetarian friends like them. 



•    Quorn brand Chick’n nuggets are incredible.  My kids love them cut up with BBQ sauce.  Quorn brand uses fermented mushrooms that give them a texture nearly identical to chicken. They are probably one of my favorite chicken replacements.



•    If you love mushrooms like I do, Gardenburger Portabella Veggie Burgers are really good.  They are primarily made of brown rice and vegetables.  I like the smoky flavor and chucky texture of the vegetables.  They do have a lot of sodium, so read the labels.



•    Amy’s Kitchen has good premade meals if you are on the go.  My son loves the black bean vegetable enchilada.  They have a selection of soups and meal starters as well.




•    Anything Morning Star Brand!! My absolute favorite are the Grillers California Turk’y burgers.  They have the perfect amount of flavor and spices and when topped with avocado and tomato; they are the most flawless burger.  I highly recommend all the products by them!


When looking for a product you like, be sure to read the labels because some brands are high in sodium and aren’t very nutritious.  Although my diet doesn’t consist largely of these meat replacements, they are a nice easy break from cooking.  Happy eating!

Go Green and Stay Keen,

Julie
On Friday I went to a good friend’s house to meet up with the girls.  It was so nice, we all brought little hor d’oeuvres and chatted over wine.  They loved the tropical popcorn balls I brought and were amazed I used agave nectar instead of honey and they tasted so good. (find the recipe below!)



As you know whole foods and farmers markets are my thing.  I am always finding ways to make recipes unique using natural ingredients.  Managing a restaurant has given me so many opportunities to learn and try new things.  Now, when I’m at home I create recipes on the fly and spice it up differently every time depending on my mood.

I use agave nectar all the time at home and in the restaurant.  We use it in a lot of the desserts and even some main courses.  There are many natural ingredients that can be used to substitute common processed ones.

Here are my favorite natural additives and replacements:

•    Agave nectar is the extract from the wild agave plant.  It is low in glycemic levels and is a natural alternative to white sugar and other sugars



•    Cacao butter is the raw pure oil from the cacao bean.  It has a rich chocolate aroma.  I love to use it in smoothies, desserts, and in just about any chocolate creation I am making.  It is easy to use because it is raw, it melts easy and blends into any type of recipe.


•    Coconut oil has become very popular recently with its many health benefits.  It is commonly used as a food product and skin moisturizer.  It has a rich buttery taste that is great for cooking.


•    Miso is a salty flavored paste made from soybeans, rice, or barley.  It is high in protein, vitamins, and minerals.  I like to use it in soups and adding it to salad dressings and sauces.


•    Tamari is a natural soy sauce made from fermented soybeans and tastes wonderful.



I believe that cooking should be a fun and freeing experience.  I take pride in making food that is good for you and delicious.  Real sustainable food nourishes not only your body but the environment as well.  Try some new substitutes and let me know what you like.

Here is the recipe for the tropical popcorn balls my friends loved.

Ingredients-
•    6 heaping cups of popped popcorn
•    ¼ cup agave nectar
•    ¼ creamy natural almond butter
•    ¼ cup finely chopped macadamia nuts
•    ¼ cup unsweetened coconut

Instructions-
•    Cover a baking sheet with wax paper to put the balls on
•    Mix the agave nectar and almond butter in a small saucepan and heat over medium heat while constantly stirring.  Keep heating until the mixture lightly bubbles and remove soon after.
•    Immediately pour the mixture over the popcorn and macadamia nuts and mix until well coated.
•    Quickly press small handfuls of the popcorn and macadamia mixture into balls and roll in shredded coconut until coated then place on baking sheet and let cool and harden.
•    Enjoy!

Go Green and Stay Keen,

Julie
Although fall is my favorite time of the year it’s one of my daughter’s most difficult times…ALLERGY SEASON.  The coughing, sneezing, runny nose, water eyes…oh the list goes on, it is terrible.  If you or someone in your family has allergies, you understand my love hate relationship with fall.



Of course I love to find natural ways for just about everything, including allergies.  My mother had allergies, I have them, my husband, and my two kids.  When I was growing up my mother was always against going to the doctor and insisted on finding ways to deal with the symptoms. I have been accustom to natural ways to rid these pesky symptoms since I was young.

This season of allergies seems so much worse than years past.  My whole family is feeling it, and my poor daughter’s nose is constantly running.  Some of my friends who have never suffered from allergies before are this year too.  I shared my preferred remedies with my friends and a few of my daughter’s friend’s mothers; so I thought I would share my natural allergy remedies with you too.

•    My grandmother swore Apple Cider Vinegar and I have used it to help with my own symptoms for years.  It supposedly helps reduce mucus production and cleanse the lymphatic system.  When I use it I mix one teaspoon of organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar into a glass of water and drink this mixture three times a day.


•    Nettle Leaf is a natural antihistamine that blocks the body’s production of histamine.  It can be purchased in different forms; pills or tea.  I prefer using the capsule form because I think it is easier and more effective. I know family members that use the tea for and mix it with other herbs to make an anti-allergy concoction.


•    Quercetin is a natural bioflavonoid that is said to help stabilize cells and keep them from releasing histamine.  Quercetin is also a known antioxidant and reduces inflammation.  I personally have not used it but I know friends that have.  It is suggested you take it 4-6 weeks before allergy season to prevent symptoms from occurring.  Quercetin is found in citrus’ and broccoli but in very small amounts, there is a supplement that is commonly taken for treating allergy symptoms.



I hope these natural supplements can help you and your family during this beautiful yet stuffy season.  If you have more natural remedies for seasonal allergies I would love to hear about them and try it out!

Go Green and Stay Keen,

Julie


Happy World Vegetarian day and the start of Vegetarian Awareness Month!  Obviously, October is one of my favorite months where I let my veggie flag fly high.  World Vegetarian Day and Vegetarian Awareness Month can be celebrated by everyone, vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike.



In case you wanted a more information, here you go!  October 1st was recognized as World Vegetarian Day by the North American Vegetarian Society in 1977 and endorsed by the International Vegetarian Union in 1978.  This day is “to promote the joy, compassion, and life-enhancing possibilities of vegetarianism.”  It brings awareness to the ethical, environmental, health, and humanitarian benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle.  Go veggie heads!

Needless to say, I make sure that all my friends and family are aware of this great month.  My non-vegetarian friends and family often ask how they can partake in this day and month if they have no desire to become vegetarian…the answer is simple, keep an open mind and try new things.  I believe it is a great time to encourage others to try a new way of living and raise awareness.

I challenge my friends, family, and readers to do little things this month that make you more aware about a vegetarian lifestyle.  Here are my five challenges for you this month…

1. Visit the official website of World Vegetarian Day to understand and learn why this day was created and how you can help.  There are so many useful resources on this site I still visit it!

2. Take some time to learn about the health, environmental and financial benefits of becoming a vegetarian.  In the US we don’t take enough time understanding where our food is coming from.
 When I take the time to learn how my food was created, what ingredients were used, and how it got into my hands, preparing it becomes an entirely new experience

3. Attend a vegetarian food festival.  With it being a dedicated month to vegetarians there are many festivals and expos everywhere.  Do a quick Google search or look in a local newspaper to see if there are any nearby.

4. Visit a vegetarian restaurant.  I might be a little biased on this one… :) but I believe when non-vegetarians visit a vegetarian restaurant they expect lettuce dishes and leaving hungry.  That is not the case at all, a vegetarian restaurant experience is unlike any other.  You’re most likely not going to be leaving hungry but with a fully stomach and a sense of satisfaction.

5. Last challenge; host a meatless dinner party!  If you are not the dinner party type, try doing Meatless Monday with your family during the month of October.  Check out my post about Meatless Monday here.



The food possibilities are endless.

I could not be happier with my decision 5 years ago to become a vegetarian.  I hope that I am able to encourage everyone to learn a little more about a vegetarian lifestyle and how it benefits you and the world around.  Raise your inner veggie flag.

Go Green and Stay Keen,

Julie