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Back to School Vegan Lunch Ideas, by Susan M. Landaira, VLCE

It’s September! Along with the chilly weather (here in NY), comes the start of school. We all know how hectic this time of year can be as we try to regain some sense of a schedule. We feel the excitement surrounding new supplies, books, clothing and, of course, the infamous new lunchbox. As we send our kids off to school, we often put a lot of thought into their breakfast (and we should)! We want our little learners to have as much energy as possible to get them through all of their classes and then some. Wait! Why is little Timmy so sleepy even though he’s eaten a great breakfast? Why is Molly falling asleep in afternoon Math class? The culprit could be what is in that fancy new lunch box! When we look at children’s lunches, they tend to be filled with “fun” food. “Fun” food doesn’t always equal healthy food. Unhealthy food can lead to all sorts of problems, but a big problem for a little learner is the grogginess that comes after eating a lunch that is not filled with the energy-boosting foods our brains and bodies need after a long morning of learning.

As a teacher and a parent, I have seen first-hand what a “bad for you” lunch can do to a child’s afternoon. Students’ energy levels drop and they find it very difficult to stay on task. Studies performed by the American Psychological Association show that students who eat poorly for breakfast and at lunchtime suffer from a lack of ability to concentrate and focus. These same students become tired after lunch. Why, then, are we feeding our children highly-processed lunches full of sugar and salt? Convenience? Perhaps. However, with a little planning and “night before chopping”, your little Einstein can be on his/her way to a high-energy afternoon filled with academic achievement.

What are some ways we can “re-vamp” our children’s lunchboxes? First, be sure you are packing the lunch in containers that are environmentally safe and free of toxins. Next, find foods that are energy boosting. Finally, make them fun to eat! Children LOVE dipping foods, they love “cute” foods (ie: wraps cut into pinwheels) and they love foods that taste yummy! Here are some ideas to turn your child’s lunchbox into a box full of energy! Remember to give yourself an A+ for packing a healthy, delicious and creative lunch!

Combine some of these nutritional powerhouses for a student who maintains his/her energy throughout the afternoon! Your student, from pre-school to high school, will thank you! [Read more…]

The V-Word, by Britt LoSacco, VLCE

“Why is it pronounced veeg-in?” We were sitting around a crowded table with a large gathering of friends and family when someone suddenly posed the question.

go-vegan-chalk-art

“Yeah,” another chimed in. “Why isn’t it vedj-in? Like vegetables?”

“I’m not really sure,” I replied. “That’s just how it’s pronounced.”

“Huh, I like vedj-in better.”

“Yeah,” a third person added. “Vegan just sounds so devilish.”

I felt stunned and, to be honest, a little insulted. I searched my brain for some counterpoint, but, in being caught so off guard, my mind had gone blank. So the sentence hung there for a brief moment, without response, until the conversation veered off onto another subject. As everyone else moved on unfazed, that last word clawed at the inside of my head. Devilish. Devilish. [Read more…]

My Vegan Summer, by Victoria Moran

I’m in book mode, working the A Coach in Your Kitchen: The Official Main Street Vegan Academy Cookbook & Lifestyle Guide, with JL Fields, VLCE, and recipe contributions from MSVA graduates. All my writer energy is going there, so I thought I’d post this month in pictures. This is a panorama of my summer, immersed in vegan living and the vegan movement, and having an altogether wonderful time. I’m not happy about bidding this short and lovely season good-bye, but packing every day with wonders seems to be the best antidote to “not happy.”

IMG_4201A nighttime view of the Be Fair Be Vegan billboard in Times Square. There were two like this in Manhattan for the month of August. My husband and I stood across the street at 44th and Broadway, and he had tears. Listen here to my interview here with Be Fair Be Vegan spokesperson, Angel Flinn.

IMG_4170Farm Sanctuary Hoe Down at the Watkins Glen, NY, location — I’m flanked by Main Street Vegan Academy graduates Karrin Perez, Shana Starman, Andrew Boynton, and Mary Jo Salomon. Other grads at the Hoe Down were Danielle Legg and Kimberly Wilson.

IMG_4144I couldn’t very well go to Farm Sanctuary without taking some animal pictures!

 

IMG_4107I’m with Vaute founder and designer Leaane Mai-Li Hilgart at the opening of her flagship store on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Leanne has been an animal advocate since childhood and now she’s dressing celebrities and regular folks in wonderful cruelty-free coats, dresses, and swimwear. (My necklace says “VEGAN” and is from Sundara Jewel. The designer is Main Street Vegan Academy graduate Sande Nosonowitz.)

IMG_4088I am a big believer in whole foods, but sometimes a little processed yum has a place, too. The good people at So Delicious sent me some Coco Whip to try and I have to say, it’s quite a treat. (Click on their link and download some pretty generous coupons.)

IMG_3997On a trip to The Cloisters, the Medieval branch of the Metropolitan Museum in Upper Manhattan, I was most interested in the garden. In addition to Medieval Vegetables and Salads, there were lots of medicinal herbs. ‘Seems ours isn’t the first generation to discover “plant-based.”

IMG_3915Forbes loves to go shopping. He seems to like to do anything with the word “go” in it. William and I try to give Forbes cultural enrichment on Saturdays — all the new experiences we can think of that it seems a dog would like. Winter kind of cramps our style on that, so summer Saturdays are precious indeed.

Ayurvedic Cafe altarThe Ayurveda Cafe on the Upper West Side has become a real favorite restaurant of mine this summer. It’s affordable, satisfying, and this incredible altar greets you when you walk in. They’re a lacto-vegetarian restaurant but very accommodating to vegans.

sandwich buffeA sandwich buffet for the July Main Street Vegan Academy class. The bread is Happy Campers Gluten-Free (really good and really whole-food, not always the case with gluten-free breads), and the raw chocolate cake is from Jennifer Cornbleet’s Raw Food Made Easy for 1 or 2 People, one of my favorite cookbooks.

IMG_3963Vegetarian Summerfest is always a midsummer highlight. It’s always a pleasure to see Dr. Colin Campbell, shown here with his charming wife, Karen.

Nafsika episodeVegans have a talk show! Incredible. I’m here with Nafsika Antypas, host of Plant-Based by Nafsika, The show airs Wednesday mornings at 7:30 a.m. on FYI, an A&E channel. Other guests this season include Main Street Vegan Academy grad Adrienne Borgersen of La Fashionista Compassionista Magazine, Demetrius Bagley of Vegucated, Humane Party Presidential candidate Clifton Roberts, and John Lewis of Bad Ass Vegan, makers of the best green cookies in all the world.

Victoria Moran is the author of Main Street Vegan, The Good Karma Diet, The Love-Powered Diet, and nine other books, host of the Main Street Vegan podcast, director of Main Street Vegan Academy, and producer of an in-the-works documentary film, The Compassion Project.

Vegan Ice Creams – Five Frosty Favorites, by Vicki Brett-Gach, VLCE

Hot summers and ice cream are made for each other, and with only four or five ingredients you can whip up a fresh batch of vegan ice cream in your own kitchen.

Having an automatic ice cream machine makes the process a breeze. If you happen to be in the market, you’ll find these machines at every price point, starting under $50.

But even without one, you can have plenty of homemade frosty fun at home. It just takes a few extra steps. Start by combining ingredients well, and freezing the mixture in an airtight container until almost solid. Then remove from freezer, and break the mixture into semi-frozen chunks with a fork. Working quickly, add your mixture to a high-speed blender or food processor, whirl together for a few seconds, and serve immediately. Although the texture will be grainier, the flavor will still be great.

These are a few flavors worth making often. Each batch makes close to one quart in an automatic ice cream machine – a little less without one.

1

Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream

1 1/2 cups nondairy milk

3/4 cup fresh or frozen strawberries, pureed

1/2 cup, plus 1 tablespoon maple syrup

3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Instructions

Whisk all ingredients together in a large bowl until combined well. 

Carefully pour the mixture into the bowl of an automatic ice cream maker, and process according to manufacturer’s instructions until desired texture is achieved. Enjoy immediately, or harden further in freezer for an hour or more.

2Ginger Ice Cream

2 cups nondairy milk

3 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced

3/4 cup sucanat or organic whole cane sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Instructions

Whisk all ingredients together in a large bowl until combined well. 

Carefully pour the mixture into the bowl of an automatic ice cream maker, and process according to manufacturer’s instructions until desired texture is achieved. Enjoy immediately, or harden further in freezer for an hour or more. [Read more…]

Food and Lifestyle, by Mitzy González, VLCE

Listen to your interior. What do you want to improve? What aspects of your life deserve better care? Is there pain or discomfort in some area of your body? Are there not-so-good habits you want to reduce or stop doing? “Listen to your inner self, your inner guide.” This is one of the phrases that we use most often with patients in the clinic where I work. There is wisdom within us, possibly the solution to the problem, or at least the knowledge of what the problem is.

UnknownToday, decide to make changes. It is not yesterday or tomorrow; we need to start today. Having a better relationship with food and having a better relationship with ourselves are not drastic or dramatic changes to be completed today, just started today. Many patients tell me in the first consultation: “I need to make changes and don’t know how to start. I’ve tried many times and failed.” I ask them, and I’m asking you here: What you need today to start? What have you learned from your past attempts?

There are small changes which can bring great results. Be persistent. Promise that you will not surrender. Allow yourself to feel that inner restlessness — e.g., I need to integrate meditation or relaxation into my hurried life….It’s important that I start to have a better relationship with food in order to have a better quality of life…I need to eliminate the cigarettes, alcohol, or drugs that are controlling my life and could be slowly killing me….I want to have a better relationship with myself and the world around me, because I am worth all this and more. [Read more…]

Taking Action, by Bonnie Goodman, VLCE

Recently while at work, the most horrifying screams suddenly pierced the air of my little town. I’d never heard anything like it. Was it a child? Was it human? It was terrifying – someone was clearly in trouble.

Racing outside, there were a dozen people frozen in place, staring in the direction of the drama. You know how time seems to stand still in moments of distress like this? Everything was in slow motion as I raced past the onlookers, thinking, “Why aren’t they running, too?”

The source of the screams was a small puppy, alone in the bed of a giant pickup truck.  Her leg was tightly caught in a strap that was holding a hunting carrier in place.   Imagine taking a rubber band, and wrapping it around your finger 5 or 6 times.  Somehow, this baby was caught in that manner – and it was clear her leg would break or be lost – unless someone acted fast. Calling for help spurred others to action.  The guy from the hardware store helped me to free the little dog, who gently kissed our hands while we worked. When she was released, several witnesses approached and thanked us for taking action, “Good job – you two saved that pup’s leg!”

A couple weeks later, I was the one in need of help.

It was a freak incident that happened as I took out the trash behind our gallery. The welding shop across the alley has a wild “mouser” who is always trying to get in our shop (and who had just been fixed and vaccinated two days earlier). The little cat rushed to our back gate, but I was in the way. I don’t know if he was afraid of the wastebasket or what, but he flipped out, attached himself to my leg, and proceeded to bite furiously.

Once again time stood still; but now I was the one shrieking in shock and pain – and in slow motion, as the cat was still in attack mode and blood was everywhere, I heard the unthinkable: the neighboring restaurant closed their back door.

I remember realizing:

Oh. I’m making noise. It must be bothering someone.

(Later, I thought, what if that had been a robbery, or worse??)

But, still in slow motion, I saw two well-meaning heroes rush to my aid:  the welder’s dog and Grayson, a cat we were fostering in the gallery. They actually weren’t any help at all, but it was very nice to know they were concerned.  They were the ones to take action this time.

WWYD [Read more…]

Effective vegan advocacy – choose your audience and words wisely, by Vicki Stevens, VLCE

When I went vegan back in 1988, my doctor at the time told me I was embarking on what sounded to him like a dangerous, fad diet and he advised against it. I had nightmares in which my teeth softened and fell out of my mouth due to lack of calcium intake (since I had stopped drinking milk). I was scared of how my health might suffer, but once I had learned the horrific truth about the vast majority of modern dairy farms—that female cows were forcibly impregnated and their male babies dragged off at birth to be imprisoned in veal crates—there was no going back. Even if all my teeth fell out and my bones crumbled, I wasn’t going to be a part of such cruel animal suffering. Such is the defiance of outraged youth.

Thankfully, all these years later my bones are strong and my teeth–while crooked due to a lost retainer that I never replaced–are still firmly implanted in my gums. My big, dramatic sacrifice turned out not to be a sacrifice at all. Veganism is now a part of our popular culture, with vegan food products deemed a “strong investment opportunity” and health professionals, including medical doctors and registered dieticians, affirming that thoughtfully planned vegan diets are nutritious and health promoting. Former president Bill Clinton even credits a vegan diet with potentially saving his life.

Surprisingly, some people still loudly and persistently proclaim that all vegan diets are harmful to human health. How do you respond to people who hold such strong, contrary viewpoints? You can reference the famous China Study and other research showing the potential benefits of healthful vegan diets, such as less inflammation associated with chronic disease, decreased risk of prostate cancer in men  and better gut health. However, they will counter with research of their own. You can point out flaws in their research; in turn, they will point out flaws in yours. You can argue over the quality of each other’s studies, but have you ever tried to argue with someone who holds deeply felt religious or political beliefs that differ from your own? How did that go for you? My guess is that you didn’t make much headway in convincing the other person of the rightness of your position. [Read more…]

Speak Up, but First Go Within, by Victoria Moran

It can take courage to speak out – whether for your rights, your opinions, or for something in which you believe deeply and something you know about that not everyone does. The key to speaking with certainty and integrity is to know that what you’re saying comes from deep within you, from the core of who you are where your truth lives. Here are some questions to ask yourself before you take the stage or take a stand. And don’t just ask: wait for the answers that will well up if you’re patient. Writing in a journal is a wonderful way to access the wisdom you carry around already, and get your own customized responses to the queries that will make you speak powerfully and passionately.

  • What are my values? . . . Sometimes all it takes to know what to do or say is to call up your personal values. And because values can change, deepen, and mature, “What are my values?” is an important question to ask yourself periodically – on your birthday perhaps, or at the New Year. It’s both liberating and motivating to be so well acquainted with your values that you could recite them on demand. My husband was working with this question and announced, “My values spell ditch: discretion, integrity, tolerance, civility, humility.” He was so pleased with his discovery that he had a bracelet made with his values engraved on it. You may want to do something similar, but as long as your values are engraved on your psyche and acted on in your life, that’s enough.

    My husband William Melton

    My husband William Melton

  • What does my body have to say about this? … We come from a culture that has long mistrusted the physical body. It’s been seen as the stepchild of the soul, a necessary evil, a confusing juxtaposition of God’s handiwork and the devil’s playground. It is, rather, a vortex of intelligence. Every cell and the millions of atoms comprising each one come equipped with awareness. Your body has something in the neighborhood of 40 trillion cells – that’s quite a consulting committee. Call on it when you’re confused or undecided as to what to say or how to say it. Get in a quiet, relaxed state and ask what your body has to say about staying in the relationship, taking on the volunteer commitment, or moving to another city. Then scan your body and note its sensations. Around the area of your heart, are you picking up the excitement that says “Yes!” even if there’s also a little anxiety about doing something new? Or in your abdominal region, are you feeling something more akin to dread, the fabled “gut reaction” telling you to take another path?
  • What am I not seeing? … We all live with blinders on. They come with having a personal vantage point. And yet the answer to a how-to-say-what-I-need-to-say dilemma may lie in seeing just another millimeter of the situation. Ask, then, what you’re not seeing here. This is not a request for superhuman sight, just a slightly broader view. Often, what we’re not seeing is what we don’t want to see. Let’s say you want to talk with your boss about your discomfort on the job. If you were to see just a bit more of the picture, you might learn (or remember) that the problem isn’t the job per se, but that this job isn’t utilizing a talent you’re yearning to express. Once you see that, you can speak with surgical precision, saying what you need to say without making the other person wrong.
  • What really matters here? … What’s the priority, the unaccessorized significance in this circumstance? In his classic of the spiritual life, At the Feet of the Master, Krishnamurti writes that as we mature internally, it’s essential to discern not just right from wrong, but more important from less important. Whether it’s making your to-do list for the day and prioritizing its entries, or figuring out which impromptu demands you can tend to in this twenty-hour period and which ones will have to wait, you need to engage in this discernment, to ask yourself what really matters. Generally speaking, things with feelings – i.e., living beings, particularly those closest to you – will take precedence. You’ll learn what’s of greatest consequence to you, in this particular instance, by asking yourself what really matters.51MF9FXVC5L._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_
  • Is this a situation in which speaking out right now is the thing to do, or am I better to step back and give Life room to move? … Ask this, expecting to get a sense of what is yours to do and say and what isn’t. This is the advanced class of enlightened living. You can probably count on your fingers of one hand the number of times you’ve taken an action that was, in itself, wrongheaded, absurd, or unconscionable. Countless times, however, we’ve all acted too soon or without sufficient information, or we’ve stepped in where our input wasn’t needed, and we muddied circumstances that were already working themselves out. When you ask yourself, quietly and confidently, what your part is in a given situation, and where to wait (or exit entirely), you’ll get a clear idea of your role. If you ask the question and you still want to barge in and act against the advice of your internal coach, remind yourself that, although life is a series of little dramas, none of them needs a drama queen.

Victoria Moran is the founder and director of Main Street Vegan Academy, and the author of a dozen books including Creating a Charmed Life and Main Street Vegan. She hosts the Main Street Vegan Podcast, nominated in the “Favorite Podcast” category for the VegNews’ 2016 Veggie Awards. Please vote for your favorite veggie everything at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/veggieawards.

Victoria, at the July 2016 Main Street Vegan Academy with Christopher-Sebastian McJetters, who lectured on "Race, Class, Species"

Victoria, at the July 2016 Main Street Vegan Academy with Christopher-Sebastian McJetters, who brought the house down with his lecture, “Race, Class, Species”

 

 

Starting a plant-based cookbook club, by Diana Goldman, VLCE

I’ve heard that on average we only use three recipes from each of the cookbooks we own. Why so few? Perhaps it’s lack of time, fear of failure or something else. This is the beauty of a Cook Book Club. The club chooses a cookbook and each member prepares one recipe from the book to share at a pot-luck gathering. I love my Plant-based Cookbook Club. I’ve met a wonderful group of new friends who share the common interest in preparing and sharing delicious and healthy food. It’s a fabulous way to try more than three recipes in a cookbook and to spread the word about plant-based cuisine one mouth-watering dish at a time.

Sound appealing? Here are 6 steps for starting and maintaining a Plant-based Cookbook Club of your own:

1) Recruit Members

Find one or two friends who are enthusiastic about the Plant-based Cookbook Club idea. Each can reach out to spread the word and invite members. Consider starting a club amongst coworkers, the parents of your children’s friends, neighbors, high school classmates, sports teammates, your family, members of your religious institution or residents of your dorm.

In my case, my friend Jill and I, both vegan, read an article about a cookbook club and thought it would be fun to start one of our own. We reached out to members of our temple who have an interest in healthy eating. Our group has about 18 members. It’s not always easy to settle on a date that works for everyone, but with this many members, we tend to have 6-10 at each gathering. Whether the turnout is large or small, we always have a wonderful time.

2) Find a host, set a date and obtain RSVPs

We rely on Doodle or email to find a date that works for the majority of the group. We appreciate that Doodle allows members to leave a comment to indicate which dish they are planning to bring. This allows us to balance out the dishes between appetizers, entrees and desserts as well as avoid duplication of recipes. A shared Google document or spreadsheet would work well for this too. In our case, we take turns hosting the get-togethers.

3) Break-the-ice [Read more…]

The Omnivorous Septuagenarian’s Experience in a Vegan Home, by Carmella Lanni-Giardina, VLCE

mom

My mother enjoying Mother’s Day brunch at Candle Café West, New York, NY (May 2015)

That photo is of my mother, Effius, enjoying Mother’s Day bunch in May of last year.

This Mother’s Day, my mom fell ill. I won’t go into the particulars, but it was shocking to say the least. She hadn’t been sick, since I was born, except for the rare cold or flu. Needless to say, having to go to the hospital was a shock for everyone, especially her.

Up until that day in this May, my mom was relatively healthy, despite being a diabetic. In all her 78 years, she’s managed the disease well. She believed in a combination of Western medicine and homeopathic care. She mostly took her medicine as prescribed, while incorporating more natural treatments that worked for her. 78 years old and full of independence and spirit, my mom always did things her own way.

She even tried being plant-based for 3 months last year. That was HUGE! Granted, it was done more on a dare, but she stuck to it until she felt it was “enough” for her, whatever that means. While sitting on our couch a couple of weeks ago, she said she remembered feeling a lot better when she ate just plants.

While my mom recovers from her health battles, she has been staying with Carlo, our 2 cats and me in our one-bedroom NYC apartment. It’s been interesting. Having health restrictions and being in a vegan household (one without cable TV, mind you) has been a challenge for Mom, but she’s getting through things day-to-day.

I conducted a little interview with my mom to share her experience in living in our crazy vegan abode, and how it has impacted her as she prepares to move back to her own home.

Question: What has been the biggest challenge in living in a vegan home?

Mom: I’m not used to all the rules. Sometimes, I’m not too sure what’s vegan and what’s not. It’s not just the food: sometimes you forget where things come from, like leather in handbags. You told me there is even vegan toothpaste? How do you know these things?

Carmella: We learn something new every day. We apply that knowledge to how we live. We try to do the least harm against all animals, including us.

Mom: It’s a little too much to learn at my age. It’s your home so I follow your rules. I don’t bring meat into the home, like you asked.

Carmella: We appreciate that, but you understand why, I hope.

Mom: I’m learning.

Question: Some days you spend time at your sister’s home, which is far from vegan. You’re not eating as much meat there as you used to. Why?

Mom: You know I was never a big meat eater. Chicken and fish, usually. I just don’t care for the taste of it as much. Maybe because I’ve not been well.

Carmella: But you’ve been feeling better since you’ve left the hospital

Mom: Yes, but I don’t really want meat. and I don’t really need it. I do like most of what you and Carlo make at home. I like eating at home more. However, if your aunt makes lunch or dinner, I will eat it. Lately, she’s made me some vegetarian meals with mac and cheese or something with beans or sweet potato.

Question: Do you think diet and lifestyle changes are more difficult for someone your age versus someone younger?

Mom: I think we can change at any time. We have our own ways of doing things, but we all can change. We just have to want to do it.

Carmella: Are you planning on making changes?

Mom: I have to. Being in the hospital changes you. I have to start over.

Question: Soon, you’ll be moving back into your home. Do you think you’ll eat more plant-based meals, or even go vegan? [Read more…]