National Vegetarian Month

October is National Vegetarian Month. According to Wikipedia, the purpose is to “bring awareness to the ethical, environmental, health, and humanitarian benefits of a vegetarian lifestyle. World Vegetarian Day initiates the month of October as Vegetarian Awareness Month, which ends with November 1, World Vegan Day, as the end of that month of celebration.”

As I am practicing a 7 Day Raw Food Cleanse this week, I consider it serendipitous that I began the cleanse in the month of October. Although I’ve been plant based for a couple of years, eating raw fruits and veggies this week has raised my awareness of and gratitude for this health lifestyle.

I don’t often offer reasons for why this is a great lifestyle. Instead, I prefer to live my life as an example of one who has benefitted greatly from changing my diet, and answer questions when people ask. In honor of the month, and the week I am experiencing, and truly, in honor of the extraordinary healing I have received, consider the facts below about eating more fruits and veggies.

National Vegetarian Month

Defining Vegetarian

First let’s look at the definitions of three words that are frequently used interchangeably.

Vegetarian – a person who does not eat meat, and sometimes other animal products, especially for moral, religious, or health reasons.

Vegan – a person who does not eat or use any animal products.

Plant Based – a diet based on foods derived from plants, including vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes and fruits, but with few or no animal products.

Vegetarians avoid meat but may use other animal products. Vegans strictly avoid ALL animal products including honey and beeswax, leather, silk, wool and fur, and cosmetics containing animal products or that were tested on animals. Plant based eaters choose whole foods and avoid meat, dairy, eggs and fish but may use honey or wear clothing derived from animals.

The thing all three groups have in common is that they don’t eat meat.

I classify myself as plant based. I do use organic honey, although I probably wouldn’t if producing it killed the bees, but I avoid most other animal based products in all areas of my life.

National Vegetarian Month

Why Eliminate Meat?

From Forks Over Knives:

1. Reduces inflammation in the body, lowering risks of heart attacks, strokes and autoimmune diseases.

2. Lowers cholesterol.

3. Gives the body’s microbiome a makeover, which reduces the risks for obesity, diabetes, atherosclerosis, autoimmune disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and liver disease.

4. Positively changes how our genes work, slowing the aging process.

5. Reduces risk of type 2 diabetes. Animal fat, animal-based iron, and nitrate preservatives in meat have been found to damage pancreatic cells, worsen inflammation, cause weight gain, and impair the way our insulin functions.

6. Gives the body the right kind, and right amount, of protein, reducing risk for cancer. The average omnivore in the US gets more than 1.5 times the optimal amount of protein, most of it from animal sources. Excess protein is stored as fat or turned into waste, and animal protein is a major cause of weight gain, heart disease, diabetes, inflammation, and cancer. On the other hand, the protein found in whole plant foods protects us from many chronic diseases.

7. Makes a huge impact on the health of the planet and its inhabitants. Animal agriculture is destructive to the planet. It is the single largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, and is a leading cause of land and water use, deforestation, wildlife destruction, and species extinction. About 2,000 gallons of water are needed to produce just one pound of beef in the US. Oceans are rapidly becoming depleted of fish; by some estimates, oceans may be fishless by 2048. The current food system, based on meat and dairy production, also contributes to world hunger—the majority of crops grown worldwide go toward feeding livestock, not feeding people.

Equally important, animals raised for food are sentient beings who suffer, whether raised in industrial factory farms or in farms labeled “humane.” Eating a plant-based diet helps us lead a more compassionate life. After all, being healthy is not just about the food we eat; it’s also about our consciousness—our awareness of how our choices affect the planet and all of those with whom we share it.

National Vegetarian Month

Celebrating National Vegetarian Month

I get it. Change can be difficult. My switch to plant based was initially to shift my health. As my body healed, I became aware of the other benefits that extended beyond my own health.

Here are ways you can increase your fruit and veggie intake, even if you don’t feel ready to make big changes.

• Create a Meatless Monday and/or a Fresh Food Friday meal each week, experimenting with new foods, prepared in new ways. Plant based doesn’t mean boring salads. Far from it!

• Look up recipes on Pinterest for inspiration. In the search bar type Plant Based Recipes or Vegan Meals.

• Instead of starting the day with a heavy breakfast or sugary cereals, try a fruit smoothie. Combine bananas with fresh or frozen fruit or greens and just enough water to make the smoothie pourable.

• Replace a soda, or two, with herbal teas or a fresh juice. Run your favorite fruits and veggies through a juicer and enjoy.

• Take a plant based cooking class, online or in person, and learn new ways to prepare nutritious meals.

• Plant a garden and benefit from growing your own food.

• Go grocery shopping with a friend and challenge each other to shop from the produce section only. Brainstorm together and come up with meals to create from the abundance there.

National Vegetarian Month

It’s About Life

The best way for me to celebrate National Vegetarian Month, other than taking excellent care of my health and wellbeing, is to make a positive impact on others. An opportunity appeared this afternoon, to discuss the benefits of a plant based lifestyle with a young man working in a grocery store. He studied my shopping cart and then curious, asked me good questions about why I eat the way I do.

How long have you been plant based? Why did you change your diet? Was it difficult? What about the holidays? Do you skip the turkey?

We had a wonderful conversation. His openness allowed me to be open. I wasn’t trying to force him to change. He wasn’t trying to defend his choices or ridicule mine. We simply discussed what it means to be plant based, and the impact animal agriculture is having. And we chatted about health and how crucial food is to keeping our bodies running smoothly, or not.

I appreciated him. And I am grateful for this whole month set aside to increase awareness of what it means, to individuals, to animals, to the planet, to be vegetarian, vegan or plant based.

Giving up sugar, dairy, eggs and meat isn’t a death sentence. It’s a life sentence. Long may we all live, in the greatest possible health.

National Vegetarian Month

Happy Cupcake Day Vegan Style

I love that every day of the year, there are unique holidays to celebrate. I hope to have a Year of Celebrations in the future, whenever the Divine says “go for it”. In the meantime, I occasionally choose one of these lesser known special days to enjoy. Today is Cupcake Day, always celebrated the third Monday in August. I passed over this holiday initially, however, an idea bloomed in my head and I went for it. This is my Happy Cupcake Day Vegan Style!

Happy Cupcake Day Vegan Style

Wacky Cake

When I was a child, my mom used to make a wacky cake, a delicious chocolate confection made without eggs, hence the “wacky” part. For my purposes, egg free was perfect!

I found a wacky cake recipe that was easy to adapt for a plant based eater such as myself.

Vegan Wacky Cake

1 3/4 cups gluten free flour (I used gluten free oat flour)

1 cup coconut sugar

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons light olive oil

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup cold water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drop 12 cupcake papers into a cupcake baking pan.

Mix gluten free flour, coconut sugar, salt, baking soda and cocoa powder in a large bowl, stirring until well combined. Make three wells in the dry mixture. Add olive oil to one well, apple cider vinegar to another, and vanilla to the third. Pour cold water over the top of everything. Using a wooden spoon or a spatula, hand mix batter until mixture is smooth and slightly bubbly.

Immediately pour batter into cupcake papers, dividing evenly among the 12 compartments. Bake 20-25 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in cupcake comes out clean. Top with whipped coconut cream, unsweetened dried fruit, fresh fruit or nuts.

Happy Cupcake Day Vegan Style

Happy Cupcake Day Vegan Style

The batter visually reminded me so much of Mom’s wacky cake. I sampled it by swiping a finger along the edge of the bowl, and it tasted like her cake. The kitchen smelled wonderful as the cupcakes baked while I cleaned up. I ended up baking my cupcakes for 24 minutes.

Refined sugar is not on my diet. Coconut sugar, which resembles unrefined brown sugar, or pure maple syrup or raw honey are the only sweeteners I use. So no frosting allowed for these wacky cupcakes. Instead, I topped my mini cakes with unsweetened shredded coconut and wild blueberries, thawed.

Happy Cupcake Day Vegan Style

Taste Test

The cupcakes cooled and the wild blueberries thawed while I dined on a simple veggie meal. Then it was time to sample the wacky cupcakes. They smelled wonderful! But how would they taste?

These little treasures were perfect…tender, full of chocolate flavor, and not too sweet. The shredded coconut and wild blueberries made an excellent topping. Next time I create these I want to try making my own whipped coconut cream for a topping.

Tonight, however, I could not have wished for a better treat to celebrate this special day, in my own way.

Happy Cupcake Day Vegan Style!

Happy Cupcake Day Vegan Style

International Cat Day

Today is one of those unique holidays that I could not pass up. I don’t quite qualify as a crazy cat lady, since I only have three felines, however these sweet fur babies bring amusement and joy into my life. Rilynn, Angel and Shy Boy have no idea that today celebrations them. They behave as if every day is Cat Day!

International Cat Day

International Cat Day was created in 2002 by the International Fund for Animal Welfare. It is always celebrated on August 8.

In case you don’t already know how amazing cats are, here are 10 interesting facts about felines:

1. Cats can drink sea water. Their kidneys can filter out the salt and use the water to hydrate their bodies. However, cats do not have a sweet tooth and cannot taste anything sweet. That doesn’t mean they won’t eat something sweet. I had a cat who loved powdered sugar donuts.

2. There are 88 million pet cats in the US, making them the most popular pet in the country. There are around 500 million domestic cats in the world.

3. A female cat is called a “molly” and they are mostly right handed. Male cats are called “toms” and favor the left paw.

4. Cats’ entire natural vocal range is not audible to human beings, and they tend to evolve their voice to communicate their feelings to us within our hearing range. They can make over 100 different sounds, which is 10 times more than dogs. My cat Angel is the most vocal of my three cats and has a wide range of sounds that she makes.

International Cat DayAngel is the most social cat of my three. She visits all the neighbors.

International Cat Day

5. A cat named Stubbs was the mayor of Talkeetna, Alaska, for 15 years. Another cat also ran for the position in a Mexico city in 2013.

6. Cats can jump up to five times their own height in a single bound and run at speeds of over 30 miles an hour.

7. A cat rubs against people to mark out its territory with scent glands around its face and it also licks itself to get a person’s scent off.

8. The world’s oldest cat was found  in a 9,500-year-old grave on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus . It is said that when a pet cat died in Egypt, family members would mourn by shaving off their eyebrows. Also, smuggling a cat out of ancient Egypt was punishable by death.

International Cat DayShy Boy often sleeps in a praying pose. He is a worrier.

International Cat Day

9. A posh kitty named Blackie became the wealthiest cat ever in May 1988 when its owner, Ben Rea, a millionaire antiques dealer in the UK, left the feline $12.5 million. That’s pretty good luck for a black cat.

10. Kittens tend to sleep a lot because their bodies release growth hormones only when they are asleep. By the time an average cat is 9 years old, it would have been awake for about three years of its life.

My rescue cats, siblings from the same litter who were born in the wild, have very distinctive personalities.

The black and white male, Shy Boy, is the largest of the trio and also the most timid. He is afraid of loud noises, strangers, ceiling fans in motion and the trash truck that goes by every Thursday. He has very specific habits and routines that he follows and he can be very needy. Shy Boy enjoys sitting on my lap and being cuddled.

Angel is the female with the gorgeous gray coat. She is extremely vocal and communicates by answering questions with a trilling sound. She asks questions too. The neighbors enjoy Angel’s visits and inquire about her if they don’t see her for a couple of days. She enjoys curling up on a lap as well and loves soft blankets.

International Cat DayRilynn loves to be outside and in the garden.

Rilynn is the smallest of the siblings, and the bravest and most fierce. This black and white kitty, who looks like she dipped her chin and nose into an ink pot, loves the garden and enjoys exploring. She is curious and stubborn and while she likes attention, she is the least likely to curl up on a lap. Rilynn takes it upon herself to patrol the borders of the yard and woe to any strange cat who tries to enter.

These cats came into my life five years ago as a wild litter who had not had human contact. I brought them into my house with the intention of taming them and then finding them good homes. They had other intentions and here with me they have stayed. This is their home, and I’m okay with that. I love these cats.

Happy International Cat Day Rilynn, Angel and Shy Boy. I’m glad you chose me to be your human.

International Cat Day