boozing it up, vegan style

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For the most part, I'm a pretty healthy individual. I exercise, eat healthy foods, and get as much rest as a mother of three with a business, a blog, and a tendency to over-volunteer can. I'm a "flexitarian," which, for me, it means I mostly eat vegan, but I have a slip-up on occasion. 

My major downfall? Beverages. I partake in morning coffee, and I enjoy an alcoholic beverage on a fairly regular basis. The only time I could truly abstain from either was during pregnancy and nursing. You know, we all have our vices. I always assumed alcohol was vegan (unless you're having a cream-based cocktail...duh), but a vegan friend recently set me straight and introduced me to Barnivore

The Barnivore web site states: 

It might seem weird at first, but your favorite drink might have more than just alcohol in it. Brewmasters, winemakers, and distillers may include animal ingredients in their products directly, or they might use them in the processing and filtration. When making the product, dairy, honey, and other things (including, in one case, a whole chicken dropped in the tank) are ingredients in the final recipe. When filtering the drinks prior to bottling, companies can use things like isinglass (from fish bladder), gelatin, egg whites, and sea shells, among other things. These products grab onto the impurities and make it easier to catch them in the filters, though there are many animal-free alternatives in use. 

Who knew?

Barnivore is a ginormous database of the vegan status (or not) of beer, wine, and liquor. It has over 14,000 entries. You can look up your favorite beverage by name, type, or company. The classification is simple:



Vegan Friendly



Not Vegan Friendly




If you want to know more, you can simply click on the name of the beverage, which leads you to a detailed profile. The profiles vary in content depending on how much Barnivore knows about the individual product, but, for the most part, includes the name and contact information for the producer, and who (usually Barnivore community members) has checked and double-checked the product. There will also be a description–often a company statement–about whether the product is vegan friendly. If the beverage is not vegan friendly, an explanation is provided.

Barnivore community members are constantly adding information to the site, making it better and better.  

Though they take their information seriously, Barnivore is lightheartedly run by Jason Doucette and AngelA, two vegans from Toronto who "have jobs and try to do what we can to promote a healthy, ethical, and sustainable diet to the rest of the world." 

We don't often think about a cocktail, glass of wine, or a mug of beer being a violation of our vegan lifestyle, so checking out the site can be a little bit startling for those who do partake from time-to-time. Barnivore is user friendly, filled with valuable information, and fun to read. Highly recommended for any vegan boozer, such as myself. 

You can connect with Barnivore on Facebook and Twitter





the day I purged the fridge: mixed bean and quinoa hodgepodge

I'll throw a disclaimer out right away: I'm not a chef. I'm not a food photographer. This is not turning into a food blog. What this is is a yummy recipe-ish concoction that I threw together one day with stuff left over in the fridge, and it has become a staple in our house. It's animal-friendly (vegan) in the way that it doesn't use them, and it's a complete meal. Plus, it's flexible and easy, so if you're a not-chef, like me, you can swing it. Here goes...

mixedbeanmixed bean and quinoa hodgepodge

serves any number of people over any number of days, depending on how much you want to eat

stuff you need (all approximate)

• 1 cup quinoa

• 2 cups vegetable broth

• 1 lb organic green beans

• 1 lb/1 can dark kidney beans

• 1 lb/1 can garbanzo beans

• 1/2 pound cooked lentils

• 3/4 cup Italian-ish dressing of your choice (You can make your own, or I like Trader Joe's or Annie's Naturals Tuscan Italian varieties.)

what you do with that stuff

Cook the quinoa in the vegetable broth (you can also use water, but vegetable broth will provide more flavor, plus, it's easy to make), covered, until the liquid is absorbed (15-20 minutes), then cool.

Discard the ends of the green beans and snap each bean into thirds. Steam slightly in a steamer basket or blanch (you still want them to be crunchy), then cool.

Cook the beans, unless you're using cans (I usually use organic canned beans for convenience). Feel free to substitute any type of bean you like.

Cook the lentils, if necessary (I LOVE the packaged lentils at Trader Joe' can find them in the veggie section. Much easier.)

Once everything has cooled, stir all ingredients together in large mixing bowl.

Feel free to play with the proportions to suit your dietary, taste, or texture preferences.  It keeps nicely in the fridge, so I make this big batch so I can have something to easily grab for lunches over several days. It's quite filling! The rest of my family loves this as a side dish. I sometimes eat it as-is, but I often use it as my base and add different combinations of things I have around. Some of my favorite additions:

• avocado and beets

• pecans and raisins

• almonds and apples

• over a bed of your favorite cooked greens

• over your favorite lettuce

• with a side of roasted fennel (another of my staples)

I probably would have fallen of the vegan wagon a lot more often had I not been able to reach for this nutritionally-balanced quick meal, so I'm sure to have some on hand about every-other week so that I can just grab a scoop when I'm ravenous.

my new bible: The Kind Diet

thekinddietJPGA few months ago, I borrowed Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Diet from the library, and once I hit the maximum number of renewals allowed, I hung onto the book and paid the overdue fees until a purchased copy was delivered to my doorstep. I couldn't be without it. As an aspiring vegan for reasons of health, animal protection, environmental preservation, and, well, hell, the love of a good challenge, I find myself turning to The Kind Diet on a daily basis. Silverstone's book provides coaching, inspiration, and damn good recipes, all free of judgement.

The first half of the book shares Silverstone's opinions and research about why being vegan is a good choice and how it makes her feel. It is often funny. It's thought-provoking and approachable, as if you're chatting on the couch with a girlfriend. I mean, she talks about farts. Good stuff. She discusses the benefits of particular foods and coaches the why and how of making a transition to a vegan lifestyle. I've called myself a flexitarian because I'm making mostly vegan choices but still can't tear myself away from an occasional juicy burger. Since being a vegan can seem extreme and the lifestyle has it's share of critics, it's helpful that Silverstone outlines three levels of vegans, and how to qualify: "flirting," "going vegan," and "becoming a superhero." There's something for everyone!

The second half of the book is full of delicious recipes. Silverstone has introduced me to some new ingredients I never knew existed, which is really exciting. Some of the recipes are quick and simple and have become staples for my family, such as "Christopher's Cauliflower Steaks." Some are definitely more time-consuming and labor-intensive, but since Silverstone talks a lot about experiencing the joy and sensuality of cooking, this makes sense. I have to plan ahead a bit more for these recipes, but they are worth it.

I've implemented many of the basic tips from The Kind Diet and am working my way through the recipes in the book as a huge part of my journey toward becoming vegan. Plus, it's a fun read. Everything about it is kind. To learn more about The Kind Diet and the vegan way of life, check out Silverstone's Web site, The Kind Life.

cow's milk or almond milk?

I grew up drinking and loving cow's milk. After breast feeding Porter and Campbell for eighteen and sixteen months, respectively, I happily transitioned them into a morning routine of cow's milk. My eldest (16), B, has long-loved a tall glass of the stuff with desert every evening. It has been in our lives, and it's a hard habit to shake. When my daughter, Campbell, now 4 1/2, first began breast feeding, the doctors suggested I supplement with formula because she wasn't thriving and she, in fact, was throwing up most of what I put in her. We determined that she had a dairy allergy, so any dairy I consumed was rejected by her body. Without passing judgement on those who choose formula for a variety of reasons, I was personally determined that no formula would enter the lips of my babies. And I knew I could make the sacrifices necessary to make that happen.

So I quit all dairy cold turkey, and I considered it an adventure. It was easy to give up dairy for my child, and it was fun to explore new options. I learned a lot, Campbell did better, and I discovered soy. I thought it a delicious miracle, and considered myself healthier for it. Soy has it's own issues, which I won't go into here, but suffice it to say that when I discovered those issues, I decided to take the next step in my journey. Enter almond milk.

Most of the milk I drink is part of my morning coffee. Soy in place of cow's milk was a creamy, delicious trade, and I felt healthier for it. Soy milk was sweeter than cow's milk, so I gave up sugar in my coffee. I stuck with it, even after Campbell gave up the breast. I just didn't enjoy cow's milk anymore, and it made my coffee taste rancid. The switch to almond milk was a harder sell for me. It just didn't seem as, well...milky. I tried rice milk and coconut milk and flax seed milk, which were even less satisfying. I finally settled on almond milk about a year ago, and I have since fallen in LOVE.

I have successfully converted my husband to enjoy almond milk in his morning coffee. On his cereal, he uses cow's milk and almond milk in equal proportion. With desert (taking it straight), he still succumbs to the cow.

B will drink whatever I put in front of him, but, as a teenager, he pretty much fends for himself most of the time. So when I pour him a glass, he'll happily drink almond milk. If left to his own devices, either because his brain cells have been sucked up by video games or because he likes it better or because he wants to spite me, or because his biological mother tells him I'm a hippy health freak, he'll pour himself an overflowing glass of cow's milk. Rebel.

The littles are now consistently drinking a 50/50 blend of almond milk and cow's milk. I gradually blended their cow's milk to reach that proportion, and they don't seem to notice it. But if I go a hair over 50% with the almond milk, it is promptly rejected, and fits are thrown. I'm struggling with just abolishing cow's milk altogether, or attempting to keep up the transition. They love their milk so. And I love beer. Best not to go cold turkey on either, for now. There might be fits.

I only purchase organic whole (less processed) cow's milk, so we're using the best of the worst, and I bake and cook with almond milk when milk is required. There we are.

So the ongoing saga of mind over matter and ethics and the spell of dairy in our lives continues...

This graphic that Allison's Gourmet posted is a fantastic summary of why almond milk is a much better choice for animals, the environment, and health:Image

I'd love to hear why you choose the milk you do.