April 16, 2015

Reveling in Raw Has Moved!

Hello, beautiful people!

Just a quick post to let you know that I've moved my blog over to VeganandBeyondCoaching.com. You'll be redirected momentarily.

April 13, 2015

Russian Easter Eats

As vegans, there are many ways we can approach holiday meals. For Easter last year, my dad and I ate a meal that looked similar to what everyone else was eating (and of course, I had to add some fresh greenery). This year, I did my own thing completely. I've been eating so much raw food and feeling great because of it.

I started my day off with green juice that doesn't look green because I added beets. I've been really enjoying my juice with a light sweetness from oranges and beets. This juice was probably the closest I came to participating in Russian Easter foods because beet and horseradish sauce is traditional. I got my beets in!

I get most of my energy during the day from fruit (which is woefully lacking at the Easter table), and so I brought a beautiful meal of fruit. I played with the presentation a bit to make it more fun by making raw fruit tacos. I made a chunky mango strawberry salsa, served it in collard leaves, and topped it with a dressing that was comprised of the salsa blended with a few additional ingredients. With the abundance of salsa that I had, I actually had enough for 5 tacos! It was so filling, and everyone was commenting on its beauty. Raw living foods are the ultimate in beauty, and they give us beauty in return!

On the way home, I started to get hungry. I stopped at the natural grocery store and picked up a new brand of kale chips to try. These were Pacific Northwest "Stumptown Original" kale chips. They used hazelnuts (not cashews, yay!) and had a nice kick from the cayenne. They were pretty tasty!

In the evening, I had tacos again. This time it was black bean and red potato tacos. J never turns down tacos for dinner. I neglected to get a picture of them, but they were pretty plain looking anyway.

So, that's it for my Easter eats. Russian Easter food is so animal-centric, and I'm looking forward to the day that people begin to shift their traditions to be more aligned with the real message of the holiday. It's hard to hear joyous words proclaiming life, rebirth, resurrection juxtaposed with dead pigs in various forms and egg products which have almost completely erased the suffering that they came from. It's a disconnect though, and all it takes is one switch to flip in people's minds to see, really see, where their food came from. Then they can feast on mango tacos and kale chips (or vegan sausage and mushroom halupki) with the rest of us!

April 10, 2015

100 Days of Meditation: Challenge Complete?

I've long known of the detrimental effects that the overactive mind has on our bodies. Stress, anger, jealousy, anxiety, sadness, insecurity; all of these are examples of emotions that can harm our health. Many times, I've experienced physical reactions to these emotions as I'm sure all of you have as well. Despite my knowledge, I was never able to successfully stick to a meditation practice.

After a particularly dark winter and needing to renew the well of strength within me, I dedicated myself to 100 days of meditation. This was a snap decision, but I stuck to it each and every one of the 100 days (and each and every day since then). Not only that, but I never felt like I was forcing myself to do something. Even after that initial inspiration waned, I was witnessing such positive shifts in my life that meditation became absolutely essential in my self-care regimen. Just the same as I don't skip a day of eating or drinking water because they nourish and hydrate my body, I don't skip a day of meditation because it nourishes me, too.

It wasn't always smooth sailing. That bit of struggle is where the learning really happens. There were a handful of days in which I woke up too late and had a series of unexpected obligations pop up. Some of those days, I didn't have my meditation time until after 8pm, and I could really tell a difference in my mood by that time. Not that my mood was anything negative, but I could sense imbalance within. On other rushed, chaotic days, missing my early time affected me a lot, and I'd need meditation time badly. In those instances, I'd usually find a quiet space or just close my eyes where ever I was to practice mindfulness or do breath work.

Most of the time though, I was able to carve out time for meditation either upon waking or in the mid-afternoon. Sometimes both. Sometimes more than that. I've experimented with different meditation methods and with stimulating various senses. I've made meditation altars. I've sat in silence, clearing my thoughts peacefully each time they appeared. I've gone days meditating on the same focus, seeking healing and harmony. I've meditated in rooms, cars, busy hallways, and in my bed. I've come to appreciate the value of visualizations. I've had lucid dreams, and I read books on quantum physics that have expanded my concept of this existence in major ways.

The biggest gift that meditation has given me thus far is openness which in turn has continued to soften me. When we are open, we can give and receive freely. We are provided for. Our lives bloom into such magnificence that we think it has to reach its limit soon, but it doesn't; it just keeps on growing.

I may have completed my 100 days challenge, but I don't see anything as completed. I felt this way throughout the entire challenge. I never felt pressure to continue, nor did I feel anxious when I neared the end. A friend messaged me on Sunday and said, "Serendipitous that your 100th coincided with Easter and its message that nothing is final." I think that is such a beautiful synchronicity, and I'm happy to have friends who can point these things out when I don't catch them! Meditation will continue to bless my life with its gifts. I have an abundance of gratitude in my heart for this new path that I've embarked on.

April 08, 2015

Product Review: Heidi Ho Ne Chevre

So, it's my third vegan cheese review in as many weeks. I feel like I'm turning into a blog about vegan cheeses! It's pretty funny, you'd think my fridge is stocked to the brim with vegan cheese. But no, I rarely have them in my fridge, so enjoy the reviews while they're here! < wink >

When I saw Heidi Ho on the shelves at Whole Foods, I scooped up a tub without even thinking about it. I've heard people talking about their nacho chia cheese for a while now, and in general, I really like the ingredients that they use in their products. Potatoes, chia, blueberries, turnips. Wholesome.

I'd say this cheese is in the same vein as Punk Rawk Labs or Treeline cheese. They are all cultured cheeses made with cashews,  and they're spreadable (though Treeline does have delicious hard cheeses, too). This chevre is tangy, creamy, and nutty, and I love the crunch from the layer of crushed hazelnuts.

I tried this cheese out two ways: spread on multi-grain rice crackers and in a pasta dish. The former was a nice way to really taste the cheese and all that it had to offer. There weren't any competing flavors and really not much in the way of complementary flavors either. It was a great neutral way to try it.

The latter was an idea I had on whim. All the best ideas happen this way, right?! I actually came up with it before I even tasted the cheese. I just wanted some linguine with broccoli and chevre. I asked J to pick up some brown rice pasta on the way home, and he did me one better. Along with the pasta, he picked up a package of Beyond Meat chicken strips. It was a great addition to the dish! I simply cooked the pasta, steamed the broccoli, and dry-fried the chicken strips. I didn't want to cook the cheese since it had live cultures in it, so once the pasta was cooked, I stirred in the chevre.

The verdict? I thought it was a really great meal. There wasn't much hands on time, so it's also a dinner that a busy person could whip up in no time. Fine dining at home with ease. J says that it's the closest vegan thing to fettuccine alfredo that he's tasted. Another win in the kitchen!

April 06, 2015

Changing Seasons, Changing Diet

Raw foods make my heart sing. I always make sure to eat lots and lots of them throughout the year. But these past couple winters, the cold has really seeped into my bones. In addition to raw foods, I also craved warming soups, cooked grains, roasted sweet potatoes, and the like.

But then it's like clockwork; after the first day it even feels like spring is in the air (even if it's 30-40 degrees!), my body starts craving more raw foods. We've still had plenty of cold days, but all I want is tropical fruits, green smoothies, and gigantic salads. I haven't quite gone as far as banana soft-serve and acai bowls, but believe me it's coming! I already stocked up on acai packets during the last sale at the grocery store. Honestly, if it wasn't so cold and drafty in my house, I'd be eating an acai bowl with sliced kiwi and coconut shreds right now.

Here are some of the raw foods that I've been feasting and thriving on lately:

April 03, 2015

Product Review: Follow Your Heart Vegan Provolone Cheese

Follow Your Heart has been in the vegan cheese-making game for a long time. In my early vegan days, if you wanted vegan cheese it was either Follow Your Heart or Veganrella. My friends and I would get blocks of the Follow Your Heart mozzarella for pizzas, and I even convinced the cafe I worked at to order some so that we could offer more vegan options. It wasn't really mozz-like, but it melted and had a semi-cheesy flavor. That was enough to satisfy me, but unfortunately many of my vegan friends from back then have caved in to their dairy cheese cravings.

That's one reason that I'm so excited for all of these new vegan cheeses to come out. I've watched so many vegans (ethical vegans, too!) turn their backs on the cause because they wanted pizza. Some of them would even joke, "I'm a pizza vegan." Of course, pizza was a gateway for ice cream, eggs, and other animal products, so it didn't always stop at pizza. With all of these new vegan cheeses getting wider distribution and creating such competition for dairy cheese, I think that a lot less people are going to go back to "pizza vegan".

This provolone cheese is off the hook amazing. The taste and texture, like the chao cheese, were a lot like I remember cheese tasting. It's rich with the intense umami flavor that provolone is known for and has nice body. Comparing basic qualities of the Follow Your Heart provolone with Field Roast chao cheese, I'd say I prefer the chao. They are both a huge step forward in the evolution of vegan cheese, though, so my preference may not be yours!

I had it first unmelted in a wrap with cucumber, red pepper, parsley, and a thin layer of hummus. It was something that I'd imagine getting at a deli or cafe grab-n-go case. It wasn't necessarily anything special, but it was very satisfying.

Next, I tried it on a brown rice wrap. I melted it with some wilted spinach and folded the wrap in half. I then cut it like a quesadilla and served it with marinara sauce on the side. This was super good. I liked it so much that I had it again the next night.

J tried the last few pieces in a similar way. He made a quesadilla with some leftover mexican rice and bean mixture and hot sauce. He really loved it, too. He said that it wasn't quite as dairy-like as the chao which was good for him. The chao tasted so much like dairy that he started getting a queasy mind-body reaction from the psychological confusion.

My dad had this on a vegan burger. When I asked him how it was compared to dairy provolone, he said, "It's on par or better!". He's always looking for ways to cut down on his animal food consumption, and these new vegan cheeses are exciting him. Sometimes he likes cheese on his veggie burgers, and now he has some really great non-dairy options to choose from!

I'm throwing up a virtual high five to Follow Your Heart for reinventing their vegan cheeses so successfully!

April 01, 2015

Spring Dreaming: Petit Vour March Box

I think I was psychically channeling Petit Vour about this month's picks. Two of the items are things that I had really been wanting. To be more specific, in the week before I got this box, I noted aloud that I wanted two of these (nonspecific to the brand) things. One week later, those things were on my doorstep. Thank you, Petit Vour for tuning in to our little subconscious cosmic exchange!

Featured products:

  • Juice Beauty Stem Cellular CC Cream - I'm almost through a tube of Pacifica's BB cream. It's the only BB cream I ever tried, and I thought, "I wonder if Petit Vour will ever do a CC or BB cream in their box?" Lo and behold, there is a CC cream in the March box! I really love that it has a nontoxic SPF in it. It's a very natural-looking light coverage, subtle glow, and it's claims of cellular repair are enticing.
  • Vert Mont Perfumery Eros perfume - Another product I'm almost finished with is a custom essential oil blend that a friend made for me. The main oil in it is red mandarin which has quickly made it's way into my top 5 favorite essential oils. I'm sad that I'm almost finished with it, so imagine my excitement when I saw this perfume in my box with red mandarin as its first ingredient! It makes me smell like an woodland hippie love goddess in the best way possible. It's complex, sensual, and grounding. It's unique to any other perfume I have, and I really like it a lot. I'm considering purchasing their sample pack so I can get acquainted with the rest of their perfume line.
  • The Little Alchemist Cacao & Banana Face Glow. A face mask with clay, adaptogenic herbs, and superfoods = happy skin. The ingredient list looks like some kind of supplement-boosted smoothie I'd drink: banana, goji, maca, cordyceps, spirulina, ashwagandha, turmeric, and more. My skin was very soft and looked so radiant after using this! I love that it comes in a glass jar that I can reuse once I finish the sample. Oh, and the rest of their products look just as amazing as this one. Can I try them all?!
  • Metropolis Soap Co. lavender spearmint lip cream - Pittsburgh has still been blustery and cold for many days, so my chapped lips have welcomed any help they could get. This lip cream nourishes my lips really well. The only thing I didn't care for was the scent. I realized that while I like lavender, I don't care much for it on my lips. I've been using it, but it's not my favorite. They also have lip creams with anise or lime with spearmint which sound nice.