Growing babies, growing veggies, same diff.

It has been a while since I’ve posted but there really is a good reason…my husband and I are expecting! So my life has been pretty much been consumed by that the past few weeks, and I’ve been too busy trying to keep cravings under control to try any new recipes. However, I just got a new vegan pregnancy cookbook that I am excited to try new recipes out of. Between emotional eating and cravings I’ve been pretty much eating whatever I want for the past few weeks but now the free-for-all is over and it’s time to get back on track (please, someone hold me accountable for this).

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I’ve made the decision to hold off on going full vegan while I am pregnant. There are women all over the world who do stay vegan their entire pregnancy and are very successful and healthy while doing it. However, I know myself- I had a hard enough time those few weeks saying no to cheese and ice cream. Now it really is all I can think of. Cheese based foods are comfort foods to me, and try as I might I was not able to find an acceptable substitute for it. This is not to say I’m dropping the vegan thing all together, I’m still cutting out milk and egg products. I’m just not going to make myself feel guilty for eating a greek yogurt if it’s what my body is asking for at this point. And I know there are lots of ways to get protein, but with my palette being so sensitive these days I don’t think experimenting will end well. So, long story short, I’m still going to attempt to incorporate veganism into my daily life, but if I want honest-to-goodness mac and cheese I’m not going to deny myself. I will however strive to purchase local products that come from humanely raised animals and kind farmers so that I am making the best choices possible. And once this baby is out in the world, I will try again to transition to full-blown vegan.

Ok, now that that’s done, I want to brag about my garden.

My friend Tiff and I rent a box in our local community garden. It’s $25 for 6 months and they provide compost, tools and a watering system.  We started this garden On February 3rd. The first few weekends we were very good about going up and checking in on it. This is what it looked like feb 25th

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Not a bad start considering we were growing from seedings. Next pic is from March 9th

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At this point  I got a little antsy and was like “EEeeeehhhh Its never gunna grooooowwww”.  It’s not like there was an amazing miracle happening in this little wooden box or anything. Sheesh. Since apparently I am in need of instant gratification, I kind of lost interest. Plus i thought, like that wild rebel guy you chased in college, maybe if I gave it some space it would come to it’s senses and GROW UP ALREADY.  So between busy weekends and other preoccupations, we became bad garden parents. I never thought it would happen to me, I’m so ashamed!

Today I got off work early so decided to go apologize to the garden and bring in some new plant friends to play with. I didn’t know what to expect, but I had a haunting premonition that it would either be overrun with weeds or completely dead. This is what I found. 

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Holy. Cow. It lives! I couldn’t believe it! I was actually a little overwhelmed by the whole thing.  I had already started to mourn the loss of my veggie buddies and here they were, thriving without any help from me! It was really amazing. I still haven’t quite figured out what to do with the peas, clearly they are taking over the joint. I thinned them out a bit to give my lettuce a little breathing room and this was what it looked like when I left today

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A little tidier with some new additions in there as well. I’m really quite pleased and I can’t wait to make a salad out of our garden. Speaking of which, I was trying to thin out the carrots bit and I accidentally pulled one out before it’s time. My bad.

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But the effect it had on me was astounding. I looked at this little carrot in wonder and was like “Whoa, that just came out of the ground!” It felt like when I was little and would pick tomatoes out of our garden and eat them right there. They were the best tomatoes I ever tasted, because we worked so hard on that garden. I was amazed, just as I was today, that this amazing food came out of the earth right in my backyard. So that’s kind of neat. And, as freaked out as I am about bringing a kid into this crazy world, I can’t wait to see the look on the little guy’s (or gal’s) face when they experience amazing things like this for the first time. 

 

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Granola Time!

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I never would have guessed I would be the type to make homemade granola. After all, in my brain granola is made by a skinny white lady in a gunnysax skirt with dreadlocks and armpit hair (please forgive me, my narrow worldview is showing).

can you believe I couldn't find a stock photo of a hippie cooking? This will have to do.

can you believe I couldn’t find a stock photo of a hippie cooking? This will have to do.

However, after being informed by my nutritionist regarding how…un-nutritious…commercial cereals are (including the “good guy” brands like Kashi and Fiber One!) I was led to do my own research. I came to find out that “fortified” cereals are simply sprayed with a faux-vitamin mist that passes for a healthy breakfast option. Additionally, some of these make-believe vitamins and minerals are processed in such a way that they are not even available for your body to absorb. Astounding.

Anyway, learning these little factoids is what encouraged me to make my own granola. It was totally delicious and really quite easy. And so customizable!

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Ingredients:

3 cups rolled oats (go old school here, no instant stuff)

3 tbsps brown sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

1/3 c amber agave

1/4 c oil ( I used olive because that’s what I had, but you could use safflower, sunflower or vegetable)

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 c almonds ( I ran them through the food processor)

1/2 c dried fruit ( I used a tropical medley of mango, peach, pineapple, and coconut. Also ran them through the food processor so it wasn’t too chunky)

1/2 c golden raisins

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 3oo degrees

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My zombie cookie jar has his eye on you

Mix oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, ground almonds and salt in a large bowl. Set aside.

Mix agave, oil and vanilla in a medium bowl by hand until well blended. Pour over oat mix and stir until oats are covered.

Spread mixture on a baking sheet (your life will be easier if your baking sheet has a rim) and bake for 15 minutes. Stir it up a bit then bake for additionally 10-15 minutes or til nice and browned.

Pull out of the oven and let it cool a bit, mix in dried fruit while still warm so it chunks together a bit.

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Once all the way cooled, store in an airtight container.

And that’s it! So easy! This morning I had it for breakfast with some almond milk and sliced banana. OMG so good.23470150

Recipe: Quickie Tofu Scramble

So, my meals have been pretty limited on this cleanse and I’m not given too much leeway, but I did discover a delicious way to prepare tofu in the morning. To be honest, I had never attempted any kind of tofu scramble before- something about the word “scramble” weirds me out. But i was getting bored of fruit and flaxseed with tofu just warmed up, so i took some liberty (still using whole, healthy foods). Now because I’m a jerk I forgot to take photos, so I’ll supply you with pictures of adorable veggies instead. All better!

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Ingredients:

2 tsp olive oil

3 oz tofu, drained and smashed with a fork

1 bunch of spinach

 1/4 c sweet onion, diced

1 tbsp minced garlic

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

1/4 tsp Season-All

1. Warm oil in medium sized skillet over medium-high heat

2. Add spinach, sauté until it reduces down

3. Add onion and garlic, sauté until semi-clear

4. Season tofu, add to pan and heat through. If you’re diligent you can even get a lovely browned edge

If you’re really missing that eggy color, you could add some tumeric to turn it yellow. But really, eggs gross me out so it’s better for me if it doesn’t look yolky.

See? Easy Peasy! Enjoy!

What are some of your favorite vegan breakfast creations?

Mayday, Mayday! SOS!

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So, this whole thing is going well but not as well as I’d hoped. I wish I could say this switch has been easy. I wish I could say that I haven’t slipped up and eaten pizza once or twice. But that’s just not the case. Now, I’m not going to beat myself up over it because as I said in my “About Me” section I’m all about doing the very best I can and not freaking out when I mess up. But…I do feel some guilt when I eat processed foods. And even when eating vegan I’m not making the best choices (one I found out Oreo’s are vegan it was alllllll over).

You see, I have a lifelong bittersweet relationship with food. Food has alternately brought me joy and shame throughout my life. Food brings me happy memories of being with my family, memories of my Nana cooking dinner every night, birthday parties and holidays. But it also makes me feel crappy about myself. There have been times I have hidden food, or taken food and gone to a quiet place (yeah, even the storage room) where no one would judge me. Which, by the way, how self-centered is that? Why the hell would anyone care what I’m eating? I do this same thing when I’m food shopping. I’m so worried about what the cashier thinks of me when in reality they are probably thinking about their kids, when their shift ends, what they have to do when they get off work…anything but what I’m buying.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I hate eating in front of people (unless it is an eating situation like at a restaurant, or if I’m with close friends) and will often squirrel food away to my car of office so I can stuff my face in peace. And let’s not talk about my terrible sweet tooth. Sufficed to say I don’t feel like I am done eating until I have something sweet. Food is also my own way of showing love. Whenever we have parties, I take great joy in cooking several dishes to share with my friends. I love making dinner for my husband and family. Long story short, This all has contributed to my lifelong struggle with weight. And I am aware that unless I drastically change my outlook on food I will never, NEVER be the healthy person I want to be.

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Me. Every meal.

  In an effort to change my thought patterns and make my transition into veganism a little easier, I’ve enlisted the help of Healing Revolutions in Altamonte Springs FL. They have a one month program that gives you pretty much everything you need- nutritional guidance, meal planning, supplements, exercise classes (yoga, kickboxing, plyometrics and personal training sessions), a massage…plus accountability and motivation to succeed. They don’t do exclusively vegan, they will help you tidy up whatever dietary preferences you have. But since vegan is my goal that’s what we are going with.

 

Today is day one of a 14 day detox. The detox is pretty much eating fruits, veggies and protein (my protein is coming from tofu, hemp seeds, beans and chia seeds)- all whole foods, as little cooking as possible. Granted, its only 11 am, but I’m feeling pretty good  so far. Breakfast was 4 oz tofu, sauteed with a little olive oil and some salt/garlic, pineapple, blackberries and flax seed. Lunch is a giant salad with hemp seeds and oil/balsamic vinegar. Snacks are nuts/raisins in AM, carrots and parsley salad in PM. Dinner is another salad with tofu, nighttime snack is an apple. Definitely not the most exciting day of food, but all good stuff. Im also taking fiber drinks in the AM.

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So anyway, we will see how this whole thing goes. I’m nervous, but I’m not sure why. I guess I still have that mentality that I am denying myself delicious food. But honestly, I LOVE fruits and vegetables. And I really like tofu. Salads are great, watermelon is even better. So I know I have to stop with the self-sabotage. After all, this is only for two weeks. After that, I will be well armed with amazing, filling, scrumptious vegan recipes to cook. I’ll be able to experiment again and find new favorite foods. It’s a mental game that I hope to win.

Indian/Thai Inspired Crispy Tofu Lettuce Wraps – Recipe

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Oh tofu…I wish we had better relationship. I’ve always hard a hard time cooking tofu at home. The texture is weird or it falls apart or I don’t use the right seasonings…it’s just…wrong. After many disastrous tofu based dishes I think I finally got it though. This dish is inspired by this recipe from chefinyou.com ( btw? This website is awesome. You should go exploring on it) and my love of anything that resembles Indian food.

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Ingredients:

For Tofu:

1 block firm tofu, well drained (i usually put it between two small plates with several layers of paper towels, put something heavy on top like a jar of past sauce, and leave it in the fridge for at least an hour)

3/4 c cornstarch

1/4 c white cornmeal

Salt and pepper to taste

1/8 tsp Cayenne pepper

1 tsp curry powder

1 tsp garam masala

1/2 tsp chili powder

For Wraps:

Large Butter lettuce leaves

brown rice, cooked

thinly-slices carrots

whatever other veggies you want (cabbage would probably be awesome, I didn’t have any in the fridge)

Peanut sauce of your choice (I know, I’m mixing Asian countries together here. It’s Crazytown in my kitchen)

To prepare tofu:

1. Once tofu is well-drained, slice into one inch cubes

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This is what well drained tofu looks like. Apparently.

2. In a large bowl mix together the cornstarch, cornmeal and spices

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3. After it’s mixed well, toss your little tofu-bites in this mix until well covered

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4. In a large skillet, heat 1/2 c vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Once hot, throw the tofu in there and cook until browned on all sides. Approximately 2-3 minutes per side. Don’t pick up your phone and check your bank account or talk to your husband about the dog’s itchy skin at this time, because they burn fast. I learned the hard way.

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Mere seconds before i got distracted

5. Now they should be nice and crispy, put on a paper towel to drain the excess oil

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Hmm, I seem to have forgotten the paper towel. Rest assured, they were also well-drained.

6. Assemble your lettuce wrap. I put about 2 tbsp brown rice, 3-4 pieces of tofu, a few carrot shreds and a tsp of peanut sauce on each.

Enjoy! And if you try this dish, leave a comment for me so I know how you like it!

Have a vegan product you’d like me to review? Leave a comment below!

Food Review: Yogurt Alternatives

One of my staple breakfast choices when i was still eating dairy was a banana and a greek yogurt. I LOVE greek yogurt. I love that thick, rich texture with the fruit all swirled around…

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As a person who is perpetually late in the morning, it is a quick and easy meal I can grab on my way out the door. My intentions to get up early and make a smoothie or waffles is pretty much dead in the water when I hit the snooze button for the 5th time. So instead of eating a bagel every morning (which I would happily do, but it is not exactly the most nutritionally sound choice) I set out on a quest to try a few of the yogurt alternatives out on the market. While I can’t say I have found a replacement for greek yogurt, I have found something that is a suitable substitute. 

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First Up: Silk Live! Blueberry Soy yogurt

This was probably my least favorite of the three. It was thin and had a definite chemical taste. I’ve never been a fan of their soy milk, and that is because it tastes very processed for me. And at 150 calories for 6 oz of not-so-great, I’ll pass on this one next time. 

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Next: So Delicious Coconut Yogurt Passionate Mango

This one really wasn’t bad. It was very sweet, and kind of reminded me of the mango milk they have an Indian restaurants. I had high hopes that this brand would give me the creamy consistency I was wanting, since it is made of coconut, but it fell short. It is very thin, and almost has a “melts in your mouth” quality, if that makes sense. It’s 130 calories for 6 oz, which is not too shabby on the nutrition front, but it is the more expensive brand at $2.25 per cup. They do have a hell of a lot of flavors though, so there may be a need for further experimentation. 

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Lastly: WholeSoy and Co Soy Yogurt Lemon

This…this may be the answer to my yogurt-based sadness. It had a much thicker consistency, a little bit of bitterness just like greek yogurt has, just enough of a lemon taste, not too super sweet…WholeSoy Yogurt you’re my hero. It’s 160 calories for 6 oz (of course I would like the one with the most calories) and was $1.26. There are not many flavors, which is a bummer. Regardless, this brand was the clear winner in my taste test. 

 

 

Why Bother, the saga continues

In my last ranty-based post I had touched on explaining my choices to others and the responses I have gotten. Most people in my life have been nothing but supportive (my husband sometimes has a hard time but for the most part he’s backed me up. He’s on the top offender list for asking the question previously discussed though). Occasionally, it’s quite clear that my dietary choices are inconvenient for them, and they give me a little grief, but it’s been a mostly positive experience.

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Because…awww. Just awww.

However, one of the questions I have heard a few times is “Why is it wrong to eat animals? They were put here for us to eat”. This question both baffles me and give me clarity on the mindset of most people. I think it’s pretty clear that the majority of people are…well..selfish. We are kind of programmed that way. A lot of the time, our world revolves around ourselves and our very close loved ones. When we make choices, most of the time the motivation can be traced back to how that decision will affect us and make us feel. When we have a bad day, or a terrible event, or a negative personal experience, we expect that everyone will understand. You know that feeling when your hair is doing that weird flippy thing that you hate and everyone MUST be staring at you because god it’s so stupid looking and distracting and i just can’t stand it and WHAT THE $#@! ARE YOU STARING AT??

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Yeah, that’s about right

Ahem…so yes, most of us assume the world revolves around us. So why the heck ELSE would animals exist if is not for us to use their fur, eat their meat and drink their milk? In a society where everything is disposable and we want things cheap, easy and NOW it’s no surprise that we treat animals (meat/dairy types and otherwise) simply as a way to meet our needs. If animals are simply here for us to eat, why are there so many species of animal? Wouldn’t it suffice if we just had a couple types? There are 264 species of monkeys. 267 breeds of horses. There are 62,000 species of vertebrates in the world.

62,000. 62,000!! Are we really to believe that every single one of them are simply for our dining pleasure?

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You’re next human sushi bar. You’re next.

Also…if animals are only for us to eat, why do we have pets? They serve no “useful” purpose other than love, affection and companionship. Yes, I know in certain parts of the world dogs and cats are eaten. But generally not in America. Why do animals we consider pets have the privilege to live peacefully among us, but animals not usually considered as pets are assumed to be there for our consumption. People who say that cows, pigs, goats and chickens are stupid, worthless and non-social obviously have never spent time around those animals (or watched Charlotte’s Web, for goodness sake). Pigs rank #4 in animal intelligence behind chimpanzees, dolphins and elephants. Piglets learn their names by two to three weeks of age and respond when called.Chickens make sounds with actual meaning. They give different alarm calls when threatened by different predators (they have a language!). Cows are very social animals. They form large herds and will bond to some herd members while avoiding others. They “moo” and use different body positions and facial expressions to communicate with each other (facts lifted from http://www.veganpeace.com)

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The long and short of it is, you wanna eat animals? Go ahead. But please, PLEASE do not justify your choice by denying the value and beauty of the animal kingdom. Animals are not just here for us to eat. Animals are here to teach us how to live with other beings peacefully, enjoy diversity, experience unconditional love, model what a family/parent should be and teach us the circle of life. Yeah, i said it. Lion King style. Animals deserve our respect. And thats why I don’t eat them.

I’ll take a Vegan Rum and Coke, please…

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Quick post for now, I just wanted to share this awesome site that my friend Autumn brought to my attention. I had never really thought about it previously, but some brewing/spirits companies do use animal products or byproducts to flavor or filter their products. Of course it makes sense that most products that state they are honey-flavored on the label do have actual honey in them and cream based drinks (baileys, amarula, etc) do contain milk products  so would not be considered vegan-friendly, but some of them are sort of sneaky. Like Asda Vermouth which contains gelatin and casein, and Blackthorn Cider, which uses isinglass for filtering (dried swim-bladders from fish). So, this awesome site provides a HUGE list of beer, wine and liquor for your viewing pleasure. Each entry provides back up quotes from the company stating whether the product is vegan or not, and if it’s not vegan it tell you which ingredients are included. So if you are ok with consuming honey but NOT the way they do the filtration process, you can discriminate. I’m just glad to read that Kahlua, Woodchuck and Pinnacle are all vegan friendly!

Here’s the link. Enjoy!

http://www.barnivore.com/

Handy Dandy Notebook…err…sub charts!

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In my obsessive Stumbling on awesome vegan blogs and websites, I’ve come across several very helpful charts regarding vegan/vegetarian substitutions for baking and cooking. So here they are ❤

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C/O: Peta.com

Very helpful listing from Chefinyou.com that gives all kinds of substitutions (PS- this site is AWESOME- lots of good recipes that have the links to where to use subs right in the text)

http://www.chefinyou.com/egg-substitutes-cooking/

 

Sub list from AllRecipes.com- not necessarily veggie, but it has subs listed for many things you may not have in your kitchen 

http://www.allrecipes.com/HowTo/Common-Ingredient-Substitutions/detail.aspx/

Why Bother?

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As the people closest to me try to understand why I have decided to cut dairy and other animal byproducts out of my life, they ask many questions. I try to patiently and honestly explain to them why I’ve made this choice, and even if they don’t fully understand they seem to at least accept my answer with a hint of skepticism on their faces. And that’s fine- they don’t have to make these choices, and I accept their decision to eat the way that they do even if I don’t fully understand how they can be unaffected by the circumstances surrounding their food.However, there are two questions that I have heard multiple times that kind of stump me. Not because I don’t know how to answer them, but because the answers seem like such common sense that they are hard to put into words.

The first is, “Why not eat processed foods? They’re already made, the eggs/milk/whatever has already been used, what’s the difference?” First, it’s the principle of the thing. It’s true, I’m not buying the eggs and milk myself. Hell, I may have not even bought the product myself. But does that mean that it’s right for me to eat it? If you stand for something, you should stand for it all the time, not just when it’s convenient for you. Yes, I’m going to slip up. Sometimes my willpower is weak and I have that Hersey kiss. And I don’t beat myself up about it because I’m trying my best. But, if I have the strength to say no and someone goes “c’mooooonn, it’s already there. The damage is already done”, then I may make a bad choice because of that same weakness.  I just have a hard time understanding why you need to convince me to eat it. Why does it bother you so much? Could it be you do have a little flame of guilt burning somewhere in your belly that knows it’s not right to eat that stuff? Will it make you feel better if I eat it too? What is it that you need to prove? That justification is like saying “Well yeah I know this company uses child labor to create their products, but the product is already made so I’m just going to buy it”…why would you financially support a company who’s ethics are in conflict with yours?

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Second, and less important but still a factor, I’m a big girl. And I’m constantly dieting. Yeah, that cheesecake on the table is calling my name. I have a terrible, TERRIBLE sweet tooth. I do have a hard time saying no to those sorts of things. But…when I think about what had to happen to make that cheesecake, it makes saying “no” easier. I watched a documentary the other day called “Hungry for Change” and it made a very interesting point. We are constantly eating, but we are nutritionally starving. If we indulge in more whole foods and cut out the processed shit, we will have a nutrient-dense diet and get full on healthy foods and won’t crave the junk. This makes an extraordinary amount of sense to me, and helps me have a new outlook on how to eat. Even if you are not vegan or vegetarian, this is still a good rule to live by. For the past week I have been incorporating more fruits, veggies and grains in my diet and trying to do less frozen meals or processed goods, and I feel so much better. I am experiencing some headaches due to cutting out caffeine, but other than that my body is so happy. It is a bit time consuming, but if I put some time aside at night to prepare what I can for the next day, it makes things much easier.

So in response to that question, it is a matter of principle and dietary concerns. After just a week of severely reducing dairy and animal byproducts, I can feel the difference and it’s wonderful. I would challenge anyone to cut either meat or dairy and see how it makes you feel. I think this will help answer the above question. “why bother?”

Since this has gone on longer than expected, I will address the second question “Why are animals on earth other than for us to eat them?” in my next entry. Thanks again for reading!