October 2014 - Julie Green and Keen
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