Saturday, September 10, 2011

What I Have Learned

     I never thought before starting this challenge that I would ever become vegan, let alone stick with it after this 101 Day Challenge. At that time I had initially started this challenge I had just been diagnosed with irritable bowl syndrome and high cholesterol, as well as decided to pursue a career in public relations, and needed to come up with a topic to blog about that I could show to potential employers. While I was searching for the perfect topic that I could write a blog about I was seeing a lot of doctors about my various health problems. My doctor told me to stay away from dairy products, which can be hard to digest, for a while to see if that was the cause of my frequent stomach problems, and was sequentially informed that I had high cholesterol. I normally hardly ate any meat and by cutting dairy product out of my diet I realized I would already be eating pretty much a vegan diet. That’s was when the light bulb went off and I had my blog topic; “The 101 Day Vegan Challenge”.

     I went into the challenge believing that I would only do it for 101 days until my stomach recovered, and my blog was complete.  I now know there is so much more to offer from the vegan diet and way of lifethan I had originally thought. I have seen so many improvements both in my overall physical and mental health, as well as in my daily life since starting this challenge. I have noticed little changes like the fact that I use to have really weak nails that always broke which are stronger and seem to grow twice as fast, or that my taste buds and appetite has changed so that I actually crave fresh fruits and veggies! There were also the great benefits of my new found ability to better control my irritable bowl syndrome, my zero intake of "bad" cholesterol found (only in animal products), and a leaner stomach. Not only were there tons of health benefits, but also by partaking in this challenge it has opened me up to a whole 'nother world of enviromentally conscious caring people and businesses alike. I have started pay more attention to how my actions effect my environment and those around me. Even though during this challenge my eyes were opened to many horrible things that are happening in our world, like the abuse and neglect of animals, I am finding I that have started to look at things in a more positive light then ever before. 

    I have to say that completing this personal challenge has changed my life for the better and I can't ever see myself going back, now that I have seen all the positive effects that this diet and way of life can have on a person. I encourage all of you to try it for your self and see what a difference it makes on your own life. Although this challenge is over and I will not longer be writing daily posts I will probably update this blog every so often with new recipes and things I am learning as I continue to submerge myself in the vegan way of life.

Day 101: Food Shelf Life

     As many of you well know yesterday was my last official day of my vegan challenge, and unfortunately I wasn't able to write my post until this morning due to my hectic schedule with school just coming back into session. I was determined though to stick it through and write a great conclusion in two posts for the completion of this journey.

     For my last day I decided it would be appropriate to talk about the shelf life of the food that we buy at our various grocery stores, and farmers markets. This information is important for two reasons; health and reducing waste. On one end of the spectrum is the general health concern of expired food. We all have had those moments when we look at our leftovers in the refrigerator that we made last week and wonder if it is still safe to consume without getting sick. On the other hand Americans waste roughly 14% of their food purchases, and 15% of that includes food that were still within their expiration date.

    This information is especially important for vegans who often consume a lot of fresh produce which tends to spoil relatively quickly in relation to other processed foods. In order to better plan your grocery lists so your food doesn't go bad, before you get a chance to getting around to cooking it, I would recommend checking out ShelfLifeAdvise which gives you all the information you need to know about the shelf life or your food, how to better store it so it lasts longer, as well as informs you about up to date food recall information.

    Another thing to keep in mind is that the expiration dates on a lot of the products you might pick up at the grocery store do not mean that's the exact date you can no longer safely consume that product. Expiration dates on products is about quality. By giving you a date on the product there reassuring you that by that date you will still have the best quality, but that is by no means the actual shelf life of the product. Many Food Banks and other public dining facilities for those that are less fortunate often take the food that has slightly passed that expiration date and make wonderful healthy meals for those who cannot afford it. I helped out at a food kitchen once, and they had the absolute best produce for it is always the ripest right before it is about to go bad. These public institutions by no means feeds there clientele "bad food" but is taking a step to make due with the waste that the misconceptions on what expiration dates mean produces on a daily basis.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Day 100: No-Bake Almond Oatmeal Cookies

       If you haven't realized by now I have a thing for oatmeal cookies. Tonight I had a sweet tooth craving, but low and behold I didn't have much in my kitchen for baking once again, so i decided to get creative. I cracked open my trusty cookie book "The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur" by Kelly Peloza which I talked about on day 28 to find some recipe that I could alter. I found an interesting No-Bake Cashew Oatmeal Cookie recipe, but didn't have any cashew butter or soymilk, so instead I substituted cashew butter for almond butter and almond milk for soymilk making my version of the recipe which I call the No-Bake Almond Oatmeal Cookies.

      Another thing I found to be intriguing was that initially when I read the "No-Bake" in the recipe title I immediately assumed it was raw, but interestingly enough it uses the stove top to melt the ingredients together rather than in the oven.

     While the cookies in the picture might not seem all that aesthetically pleasing don't be fooled for these are actually one of the best vegan cookie recipes I have yet to make. These cookies use are held together by the caramelized sugar in the recipe, giving it a rice crispy like texture. The best part though was the total cook and prep time time was under ten minutes!

No-Bake Almond Oatmeal Cookies
1/2 cup of flour
1/2 cup of almond milk
1 1/2 cup of raw sugar (regular sugar is fine too)
6 tablespoons of vegan margarine
1/2 cup of almond butter
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
3 1/4 cups of rolled oats

    Step 1: in a medium sauce pan dissolve the flour in the almond milk at low heat. Add the sugar and margarine then bring to boil at medium to low heat. Boil for about one minute stirring frequently. Remove from heat and add almond butter, vanilla, and oats; stirring until thick.

    Step 2: Drop the mixture in large spoonfuls onto parchment paper and let cool. For faster results you can also stick them in the refrigerator for a bit.

.Makes 3 Dozen (can can always halve the recipe as well, which I always do since I have no self control when it comes to vegan goodies)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

99: Cat and Dog Fur Sold in China

    The other day when I opened my mail I realized I had received one of those we need your money letters, that we are all so accustom to, from PETA. I was about to throw it away, since I already have a few designated charities I donate to, when this headline caught my eye "Cruelty to Cats and Dogs". A lot of people will not blink and eye when you tell them what is done to livestock before it hits there plate, but when you start telling them what is done to cats and dogs, animals you normally keep as pets, it hits them hard. This article talks about the abuse of cats in dogs in China where these animals are killed mercilessly for there fur. But it doesn't stop there, puppies and kittens in addition to adult domestic animals are killed as well for there soft pelts.

    These animals are crammed into tiny cages with one on top of another. Some investigators found cages that contained as much as twenty cats in one small cage. Often in these cages there would be dead dogs and cats among the rest that weren't able to take the strain of the transportation before slaughter. Not only are the small cages brutal, but often when unloading the trucks the cages would be tossed 10 feet from the top of trucks to the ground with no regard for the animals in side them. This would result in the animals having shattered bones from the impact alone. Not even the death of these animals are humane as they used methods such as anal electrocution, bludgeoning, kicking, strangling with wire nooses, drowning by forcing water down animals mouths with a hose, and even live skinning. The worse part is cats and dogs can actually continue to breath and blink for up to five minutes after they have been skinned alive!

      Often these animals are domestic animals that were stolen from their families and still have there collars up until they are slaughtered. Frequently fur from these animals are mislabeled and sold in the US and Europe. So if you buy fur know that you could very well be unknowingly buying the fur of someone else's beloved pet.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Day 98: Halloween

       I have found that a lot of people on various forums are already talking about what they are going to give out this year to trick-or-treaters for Halloween. The dilemma is that a lot of the traditional candy is not vegan, and the certified vegan candy is too expensive for most people to give out to a big group of kids. I have heard some people talking about possibly handing out healthy snacks which most kids tend to hate, or making homemade goodies which parents will throw out of their children’s stash any ways. So what is someone who is vegan, and doesn’t want to give out tainted candy do?

     I found this great article on VegNews website “The Official Guide to Halloween Candy” which list tons of acceptable inexpensive candy without any animal products such as Skittles, Dum-Dums, Swedish fish, Sour Patch Kids, and a lot more. Some other treats that are not listed in that article but are in fact vegan are Twizlers, Oreos, and Nutter Butters. You could also go the healthier route and hand out small bags of pretzels, microwavable popcorn (vegan of course), chips, …ect. When handing out healthier candy try and keep in mind what a kid might actually want. If it is too healthy they might just end up throwing it away. Another option is to fill their bags with other in expensive non food items like pencils, paying cards, stickers, and party favors. One really good idea someone posted on a forum was to fill little party bags with vegan candy (make sure they are wrapped), vegan stickers, and small kid friendly began pamphlets. Having a sticker on the bag is a good idea for it lets other vegan families know that the candy is most likely vegan and gets there children asking questions. On the other hand having pamphlets in the baggies could upset the children’s parents, so think about what you are putting in there. I hoped this post helped those of you who were unsure of what to hand out this Halloween.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Day 97: Recycling Box

     I told every one I was going to talk about my free nifty recycling box I got, and If you are saying to your self "how does this even relate to being vegan?" check out day 95.

     I went to one of my friends house a while back and noticed she had an awesome recycling box. Thinking of my own recycling mess at home with tons of paper bags lines up with various cans and bottles, I couldn't help myself but to find out where she obtained this awesome storage device.

     She informed me that she got it off the site Cal Recycle which offers this services to different companies in order to help promote recycling. Not only does this company offer a great recycling boxes, but they also offer free posters and stickers for companies to help promote recycling as well as all the information you need to know about recycling. So if you have the same problem like I did with piles of recycling in just a bunch of paper bags, which is a major fire hazard I may add, then you should check out this site and order your free snazzy recycling box today. 

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Day 96:Yard House

     Yesterday I went out for a late lunch at Yard House with my boyfriend's family for his mother birthday. I was a little bit worried that there would be nothing for me to eat, and wasn't looking forward to trying to negotiate with the waiter or waitress what they could take off certain dishes to make it vegan in front of his family. But to my relief I found they had a whole vegetarian section on their menu.

     I would have never guessed that this pub like restaurant would have a large vegetarian based section on their menu. The section was labeled Gardein which was what they called their chicken or beef substitute made from soy, wheat, pea proteins, vegetables, and grains. All of there regular burgers had the option of be switched to a Gardein burger, as well as included the choice of a regular or wheat bun. My boyfriend and I both decided on the Pepper Crusted Gorgonzola burger with a Gardein burger, whole wheat bun, and no cheese. The Pepper Crusted Gorgonzola Burger consisted of sauteed crimini mushrooms, caramelized onions, and spinach along with a side of garlic fries. My boyfriend took one look at his burger and said "this is the fanciest burger I have ever seen served" for it was presented elegantly on a white platter with the fries on the side in a metal cup. Not only was our meal elegantly presented, but I must say it was the best vegan burger I have ever tasted as of yet.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Day 95: Environment

       So by now if you have been reading my blog you know about a little bit of nutrition, a few vegan recipes, some great books and restaurants, as well as about the miss treatment of animals in our society, but the one thing I haven't touched on too much was how being vegan helps the environment. The other night I told my boyfriend how I was going to write my blog on this great free product to help people recycle in there homes and workplaces and he said "how does that relate to being vegan?". So instead of writing about my nifty recycling box I just got (which I will probably write about tomorrow any ways for it is really cool), I am going to write about the connection between being vegan and being environmentally conscious. Most vegans are environmentally conscious for they are aware of the negative effects that the meat and dairy industry has on our environment, as well as many of the other things people do about their daily lives. Here is a little bit, for those of you who might not already know, about the immense negative affects the meat and dairy industries have on our world.

The negative affects of meat and dairy production on out environment:

* Climate Change - Livestock from meat and dairy industries are the major source to blame for this epidemic for they are responsible for 18% percent of green house gas emissions alone, as well as 64% of anthropogenic ammonia emissions which contribute to acid rain and acidification of eco systems.

* Water - Livestock uses 8% of the world's water supply and is also one of the largest sources for water pollution from animal waste (a single cow can produce 120 pounds of wet manure a day which is the same amount of waste as 20 to 40 people produce in one day) , the antibiotics and hormones, chemicals from tanneries, fertilizers and pesticides used for feed crops, and sediments from eroded pastures. These all contribute to the "dead zones" in coastal areas, and degradation of coral reefs. Here is a fun fact, the U.S Environmental Agency estimated that 40% of america's rivers and 46% of american lakes are too polluted for fishing, swimming, and aquatic life.

* Land Degradation - Expansion of livestock production is one of the key factors of deforestation. In Latin America 70% of previous forested land is now occupied by pastures.

* Biodiversity - Since livestock production is one of the leading sources of deforestation, land degradation, climate change, pollution, and over fishing it has been speculated that it could also be one of the major sources of the loss of biodiversity.

     This is just a glimpse of what the meat and dairy industry are doing to our world. Also note that the term "livestock" refers to all farm animals including pigs, birds raised for meat, egg-laying hens, and dairy cows. If you are interested in more information you can see where I got most of my information at Vegan Outreach or get more in depth information at The Vegan Society from their article "Environment: How Your Diet Could Change the World".

Friday, September 2, 2011

Day 94: Sex

      A few days ago I came across this great clip from the new movie "Forks Over Knives" which discusses how vegan is the new Viagra. In this clip there are many different specialists talking about how when you eat a lot of meat and dairy you will start to clog you arteries. The first one to go is normally that which goes to your penis or clitoris causing erectile dysfunctions and low libido. On the other hand if you choose to eat a healthier plant based diet there will be an increased blood flow to the sexual organs. But don't take my word for it, see for your self.

      There are many different types of foods to look for to help you improve your sex life, which makes grocery shopping for healthier foods a lot more interesting. Here are some super sex foods I believe everyone should know about:

Spinach and other Green Veggies - spinach is a major source of magnesium which helps dilate the blood vessels which means there will be better blood flow to the genital area which in turn creates a greater arousal for both men and women.

Peaches and other Fruit - Men who consume 200 milligrams of vitamin C a day improve their sperm count. Watermelon is also a great super sex food for it contains citrulline which is converted to the amino acid arginine which has the same basic effect on the body as Viagra.

Oatmeal and other whole grains - eating oatmeal is one of the few natural ways to boost testosterone in the blood stream. I know, who knew? Testosterone plays a major role in sex drive as well as the intensity of orgasms in both men and women.

      Not only does eating a healthier plant based diet improve your sex drive and erections but it changes the taste of your bodily fluids. Various people have reported that vegan semen is significantly sweeter than that of a meat eaters. ( Note: I am not condoning people to have unprotected oral sex for you should always take precautions when it comes to your health) While the digestion of meat and dairy products negatively effect the taste of sperm on the other hand so does garlic, onions, brussels sprouts, and various veggie curries. You can actual purposely sweeten your semen by ingesting more fruits such as pineapple, and bananas.

       Swallowing semen is actual pretty healthy for it contains protein, zinc, sugar, and various vitamins. The only thing you have to watch out for is sexually transmitted diseases. You should always have both you and your partner tested before engaging in any sexual activities anyways so you should be pretty safe if you’re monogamous. I do not know how they tested to see what foods change the taste of semen, but my boyfriend who is currently studying to become a doctor informed me that in a lab substances can be tested to be sweet or sour by testing the ph balance. The more acidic (such as meat and dairy) the more sour the taste. The more alkaline (such as various fruits and vegetables) the more sweet the taste.  Therefore you do not need to physically taste the semen to know what foods have changed the taste. If you are interested to see the ph balance of the food you are eating, and experiment for yourself check out The Alkaline Food Chart.

Day 93: Meetup

      As I am coming to the end of my 101 day challenge I thought would be a good idea to start surrounding myself with people who have the same values so that when this challenge is over I will have the support from those around me to continue.

         Most of you already know of the greet social networking site Meetup which helps you connect with people that have your same interests. I absolutely love this site for it makes me feel like I am going to meet the clubs day, and have all these options in front of me. Recently I have been browsing through some vegan groups in my area such as Greater LA Vegan Hikers, Vegan Foodies, and Vegan Ladies of LA. I so far have gone to two events using Meetup. The first was the Animal Rights National Conference on day day 53 that was posted on the Vegan Foodies group, and the second I attended last night through the Vegan Ladies of LA group.

     Last night I went to the well known group Compassion over Killing's labor day weekend BBQ. This event was no only a get together for labor day weekend, but also a promoting event were you would get in for free if you brought a non-vegan along with you. At this event they had vegan versions of hamburgers, hot dogs, cookies, cheesecake and a lot more. I was very interested in trying these various brands of food since I have been having a hard time finding vegan hot dogs and hamburgers that I like. I tried both their hamburgers and hot dogs which were both great and was also presently suprise by the amazing vegan cheesecake they served. I have never been a fan of normal cheesecake, but I learned today that I absolutely love vegan cheesecake! The two vegan cheesecakes I was able to try were blueberry, and carrot cheesecake. My boyfriend and I got different ones so we could try both, and I must say the carrot cheesecake was my favorite for it had a very rich almost chocolaty taste to it. All in all the event was great and I got to meet a lot of interesting people that were at the height of their career and clearly loving it.

     If you are looking to get some support from people with the same values and interests I highly recommend you try and get involved through meetup or in some other way so you will feel integrated into the vegan community and get the support you need to make a difference.