Now is the time of year when many people start to consider doing a cleanse or detox diet. With all the rain falling and flowers making everything fresh, it’s hard not to think about self-renewal. Over the years I have tried a few myself; from candida cleanse, juice fasts, and raw diets, to regimented cleanses out of a box. I can’t say they’ve all been successful, but I won’t say that it wasn’t worthwhile either. As far as the experts go, they are pretty divided about whether or not cleanses are beneficial.  And after trying a few I’m kind of sure it takes the guidance of an expert to really get it right. There is whole book to read if you want to do the master cleanse properly, even though the actual concoction is quite simple.  There are also times in your life when a detox diet doesn’t make sense, like if you are nursing, sick with a chronic illness, or having trouble eliminating stress and don’t have time to relax. There is one thing I can say with confidence though. It is not good to get on a cycle of binge and purge. A well seasoned detox dieter, particularly in their off season, is not necessarily healthier than someone who makes a habit of eating healthy most of the time.

the master cleanse: lemon juice, water, cayenne, and maple syrup.

If you are eating a vegan or mostly vegan diet, chances are that your insides may not need much cleansing to begin with. Most cleanses start with eliminating a group of foods, which always includes meat and dairy, and then bumping up your fiber or fresh vegetable intake. Consider it to be like keeping your house tidy all the time, as opposed to letting it get completely wasted before you clean it. If you are eating animal products, switching to an all vegan diet could be a gentler way to cleanse your body, before you make the decision to bring on a heavy duty cleanse.

For strict vegans, or if just sticking to a vegan diet for a while doesn’t make you feel better, you may want to try eliminating problem foods from your diet. For those who already eat vegan, the first step with most cleanses is to eliminate gluten, sugar, caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol from your diet.  If you are experiencing unexplained headaches, tiredness, indigestion, and sometimes depression, it might be time eliminate these culprits from your diet. Many nutritionists believe that sugar is poison and some even are starting to push for the regulation of sugar, just like alcohol or tobacco. It takes a lot out of the liver to digest refined sugar and wheat, which may explain why so many people feel better after giving them up. Do not replace sugar with chemical artificial sweeteners. Instead try using dates as a sweetener or just leave it out entirely. You might be surprised what new flavors you will come to love. Try replacing foods made from wheat, with those made from gluten-free whole grains like rice, millet and quinoa.

A sugar-free treat that you can make: pistachio and coconut stuffed dates.

There are also a good number of foods that can be added to your regular eating habits that are good for cleansing the body. Fresh juices are full of vitamins, minerals, and enzymes that help your body run clean and strong. Salads and smoothies have the same benefits as juices, but are full of raw fiber that will help to scrub out your insides. Drink herbal teas, like mint, dandelion root, burdock, and ginger. Do something to relax, breathe, or do yoga. An abundance of stress hormones can slow down the body’s natural detoxifying process. Nothing is more revitalizing to me than starting my day with a glass of fresh water mixed with lemon juice. Add cayenne to your lemon water if you need and extra kick in the morning like I often do! Make cleansing foods a part of your regular eating regimine, like this massaged kale salad on Oh She Glows! (Note: some cleanses recommend eliminating nutritional yeast from your diet and I think the tahini salad dressing tastes fine if you want to leave it out!)

Weekend Glow Kale Salad!

If you are considering doing a detox diet, please consider trying these things first. If you can’t stick to just a gluten-free and sugar-free vegan diet, then ask yourself if eliminating even more of the things you usually eat is right for you. Breaking bad eating habits can be difficult, but pushing yourself too hard can lead to relapse binges. Coupling the shock of a fast or cleanse with the shock of a bad relapse can make the body worse off than before. If you have a hard time giving up unhealthy foods, start of slowly by limiting how often you indulge- then work your way up. Make and effort to renew your long-term eating habits and avoid binging on junk with the promise to cleanse later.

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Remember last year when PETA campaigned to change the name of San Francisco’s Tenderloin District to the “Tempeh District?” That was great, wasn’t it? (Runner-up names included “Granola Flats” and “Seitan’s Lair”.) And oh, how I wish I could forget that VegNews was exposed for using edited pictures of non-vegan foods in order to promote their vegan recipes. They promised not to do it ever again. Hopefully no one else does either!

2011 was definitely the beginning of veganism hitting the mainstream. Remember when Oprah and three-hundred-something of her staff went vegan and after that, Bill Clinton? I didn’t see that coming. Bigwig celebrity vegan diets was definitely a theme of 2011. But what I see coming in 2012 is even bigger; I’m thinking we’re going to see a lot more vegan athletes and vegan bodybuilders. Venus and Serena Williams just announced their raw vegan diet. I’m guess there will probably be a few new vegan babies too!

Possibly the biggest trend on the horizon is “Flexitarianism“. No, this is not another corny reference to vegan body builders. It is a way of eating that reduces the amount of animal products consumed, without going all the way vegan. At least half of Americans are aware of the “Meatless Monday” campaign with around 27% actively trying to reduce the amount of animal products they are consuming. And the amount of meat we are consuming as a nation can be seen as plummeting in comparison to recent years.

In the media right now there is no shortage of reasons why people are striving to eat a mostly plant-based diet. Some sources are reporting that going vegan is better for the environment that going organic. Authors of the China Study report that the long-term effects of animal products on the human body are worse than smoking cigarettes.  Even the Harvard School of Public Health recently cut out dairy and made meat optional in their revision of the classic food pyramid. So perhaps being a perfect vegan isn’t in the cards for some people, but if you ask me, flexitarians can still cut it with the rest of us.

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If you ever think you are getting to the age where nothing can surprise you, then I say you aren’t being adventurous enough! I might not have even lived half as long as my grandparents yet, but I know there will always be something new for me to try.

I’ve always loved pickles. When I was a child, my grandmother told me I could be anything I wanted to be. She was talking about women’s liberation, but this  nuance was lost my 5 year-old-brain. I declared that I would be a pickle because I loved them so much! That is why it is only natural that my single most favorite new discovery of the past year was Umeboshi.

Umeboshi a day keeps the doctor away!

Umeboshi is a pickled Nanko plum. The origin of this food is Japan, where Umeboshi is served as an accompaniment to rice, green tea, sushi, and many other things. There is also Umeboshi paste, which is great in sushi, and Umeboshi vinegar, which is actually just the brine from the pickles.  Adding either of these to sauces makes them rich with sweet, floral, tart, and salty flavors. This little pink pickle is highly regarded as a super food for it’s alkalizing properties. It was even given to samurai soldiers as a part of their rations because it is believed to be a preventative and cure for fatigue and nausea. Some people recommend trying it as a remedy for your New Year’s hangover!

Ripe Nanko plums ready for pickling.

What was the best new food you tried in 2011? What will you try in 2012?

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Sometimes the most miserable thing about being vegan is dealing with non-vegan CRAVINGS. In my mind cravings often take on the form of a monster under the bed or horror movie killer knocking down the door. The victim runs, but there is no place to hide. I often have no control over my cravings. Willpower, too, can be a fickle thing; at least that is how I have come to know it. One minute you have an abundance of resolve and the next minute you’re washing down grilled cheese bites with gulps of milkshake. No?! That never happens to you? Umm, Okay don’t judge me, I only did it once!

Maybe there is not much that you can do besides compost the remainder of the offensive thing that you have just ingested, if you wake up in the midst of a somnambulant lapse of judgment. The one trick I do have up my sleeve is this: I have devised a secretly unsophisticated pairing of non-vegan cravings with yummy vegan foods. Some of them I have chosen for no reason other than it satisfied my craving once. Others are based on speculations about why my body might be craving a certain thing. I have never read anything that proves that cravings for food are directly related to nutritional contents, but I don’t think it’s ever bad to keep nutrients in mind. Of course all of these are a matter of personal taste.  Some of the items on the list are things that are arguably vegan, but are often excluded or limited the diet of one who is concerned about their health.

Portobello Steak from Happy Herbivore!

Beef - For some reason eating things like kale or broccoli cooked in tamari or soy sauce has helped me with this one. Black beans, kidney beans, and mushrooms are good for this craving too. Who doesn’t love Portobello mushroom steaks?

Candy – Dried fruits, Fruit Leather, and Smoothies

Cheese – Cashews, Avocado, Nutritional Yeast, and Daiya Cheese

Chicken – Seitan! It seems like i’ve had the most “wait this is vegan, right?” moments with seitan. Chickpeas are another substitute that has a name with the power of suggestion.

Vegan Lasagna is my comfort food.

Comfort – Sometimes the foods I am craving are because I am craving a sentiment that is attached with eating them. What is the feeling you are craving? Try to identify it and it may help you come up with a solution .

Eggs – Tofu! Tofu scramble, tofu eggless “egg” salad. Baked tofu bagel sandwiches are a breakfast time favorite of mine. I also hear one can make a mean crepe using chickpea flour!

Fish – Sushi or really almost anything with seaweed in it. Make a creamy lemon-dill aoli to go on a tempeh or tofu “fish” sandwich.  Sea vegetables are packed with trace minerals, so start experimenting with them! I bet you didn’t know that our “Hold-the-Tuna” Salad at Nature’s Express has Dulse added to it!

Fried – Indulge in something fatty, like nuts or avocado. Add a little coconut or olive oil to whatever you’re making. Try some kale chips!

Milk – Learn how to make your own milks. I love making my own raw almond milk because it tastes fresher than any milk that ever came out of a carton. Another thing I eat when I’m craving something rich and creamy is anything made with coconut milk. Tahini can make a nice creamy sauce or dressing.

Tempeh Sausage Puff Pastries!

Pork – I’ve tried some really yummy seitan and tempeh vegan sausages. The list of types of homemade vegan bacons I have tried and liked are endless: tofu, tempeh, eggplant, seitan, and coconut, to name a few.

Rich – Try curries, miso, or roasted garlic.

Sour Cream: I am convinced that guacamole would beat sour cream in a battle on any day. If you want a rich dressing or sauce you can drizzle over something, try using tahini.

Now that so much time has passed, I remember the things I used to eat and I much prefer the vegan versions. Sometimes I think I could just use a bit more reprogramming. I’ve successfully staved off a doughnut craving with a nice hearty salad. Afterwards I felt really good because I made a healthy choice. Try to establish a new set of cravings by trying new foods and eating well.

P.S. Don’t even try and make me give up dark chocolate unless you think you’d like a knuckle sandwich!

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If  you’re like me then you probably left some of your gift-getting to the last minute. Shrug off the need to do anything drastic because I’ve done all of the thinking for you! Here are a few projects that I have deemed worthy of last-ditch effort gifts for vegans and friends of vegans.

Make a journal or a book of recipes.

This project seems more complicated than it has to be. It could be as easy as punching holes and using ribbon to tie the pages together, or as complicated as sewing a binding. Whatever your skill level is you can design your own cover using fabric and recycled materials. Once you are finished with the journal you can add your favorite vegan recipes and you will have a great recipe book with room for additions. Here are instructions for making a journal.

Make a Duct Tape Wallet.

It’s pretty easy to make your own wallet out of duct tape and recycled materials.  Since many vegans avoid leather products,  a nice wallet can be hard to find.  They are pretty durable and easy to make. They make all kinds of crazy colored duct tape these days and you can use as many colors as you like. Here are some instructions.

Make your own stuffed animals.

This is a project that is good for kids, but can be cute for people of any age. Use old sweaters and shirts for material and get as creative as you want or keep it simple! We all love animals, so this is a gift that can only go endearingly awry. Check out these awesome homemade stuffies.

Find a funky container and make it into a planter.

Jars, teacups, cookie tins, and even old boots! Anything you like can be turned into a little planter for succulents and small plants. Just make sure that you use a liner if your vessel doesn’t hold water!

Mix Tape!

Who doesn’t need a little extra music to help the time go by during their holiday travels? Give your mix a theme like songs older than 30, or oldies vs. hip-hop, or good songs for singing. Collage or design your own cover for your tape or CD, or if your mix is digital, make a postcard track list to give along with it.


All else fails make cookies.

Who doesn’t appreciate a batch of homemade cookies? Add seasonal ingredients like cinnamon, peppermint, or persimmon. This is a really good gift for someone you may not know very well.  Last year I took my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe and spruced it up by adding pretzel pieces, pecans, and dried cherries. It was just right for the holidays. Here is my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe on All I do is reduce the amount of chocolate chips and add in whatever else I fancy.

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Junk Food Vegans

Author: Joel Daniel

That’s right, I said it. We’re talking about vegan junk food and bless your heart if you think that’s an oxymoron. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t know how I would have survived my vegan infancy living deep in the red states if it weren’t for some of these things I’m about to rail on. I am grateful every morning that I wake up on this coast where farmer’s markets happen every day of the week and where Avo-Quinoa Wraps are popular among people over thirty-five.

Turning vegan tends to also turn one into a label reader. For me this was an awakening in consciousness; not only to the amount of animal products needlessly used in processed foods, but also awakening to the amount of carcinogenic and nutrient leaching additives often added to our foods. Finding a meal or a snack on the go that is free of refined sugars, animal products, preservatives, or hydrogenated oils can be like finding Atlantis. This search can also lead to an awkward grocery store situation where other shoppers are disturbed by one exclaiming something like this:


Or at least it feels like I’m thinking it so loud everyone can hear my indignation.

These processed foods have made my top 5 LEAST wanted list:

Soda or Juice that contains refined sugars or high-fructose corn syrup. I like to drink juice spritzers. If you can’t find at juice spritzer, just make your own by mixing natural juice and mineral water.

Peanut Butter that contains hydrogenated oils and/or cottonseed oil. Hydrogenated oil is impossible for your body to break down and can lead to cancer.  Cottonseed oil may be toxic in larger amounts. I always choose all natural nut and seed butters with no added oils or sugars.

Chips from mainstream brands can contain really high levels of salt, as well as hydrogenated oils and flavorings that contain MSG or preservatives. It’s not like I never eat chips, but now I try to choose a brand with a simple list of ingredients like just corn or potatoes, canola oil, and little salt.

Fake Meat Products that contain hydrolysed soy or corn. Some popular brands also contain cellulose, which is just wood. Processed cellulose adds fiber and texture to foods, but does not contain any of the nutrition you would get if you ate grains, fruits, or vegetables. Choose a fake meat that is primarily made from grain like seitan, or wheat gluten, for a safer choice.

Processed Soy Products are something I like to steer clear of. I’m not jumping on the “soy is bad for you” bandwagon, but anything that starts off being good for you, then gets treated heavily with chemicals, will turn out bad for you. Avoid soy protein isolates if possible and go straight for foods that contain Tofu, Tempeh, Miso, and Tamari. I often choose rice or almond milk over soy if possible, just because I feel like soy is the go-to for most vegan food and I don’t want to overdo it. I also prefer hemp or coconut milk ice cream to soy

There are some really great indulgent foods out there for vegans, so let’s all choose healthy foods. We will live long, be strong, and be happy!

Also, holla if you love the Curry Chik-un Salad, my favorite snack on the go!

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We hosted about 30 people for a vegan Thanksgiving Potluck at my house. It was AWESOME! For many of us it was the first all-vegan holiday dinner we had ever had.

From Left to Right in the picture:

Sweet Potatoes in Maple Syrup, Cheezy Squash Casserole,  Mac and Cheeze, Seitan Roast, Ginger Pineapple Cranberry Sauce, Green Beans, Lemony Kale Salad, Pumpkin Brownies,  Citrus Collard Greens, Roasted Yams and Brussel Sprouts, Lentils, Orange and Beet Salad, and Cabbage Salad.

And there’s more….

Stuffing, Roasted Buttercup Squash with a yummy West African Cilantro Sauce, Homemade Tofurkey with Roasted Veggie Stuffing, Polenta with Baked Beans,  and Mashed Potatoes with Mushroom gravy.

There was even more food that didn’t make it into the picture: Butternut Squash Soup, Apple Pie, Raw Pumpkin Pie, Banana Rum Cheesecake.  I spent so much time stuffing my face that I forgot to snap a photo of it. My favorite was the Raw Pumpkin pie. It was made with coconut and an almond crust.

Though it’s hard to make out in the picture, I invented a Seasonal Roasted Veggie Stuffing for the Tofurkey that I will definitely make again. Here is how I did it:

Roasted Rutabega and Seasonal Vegetables

2 smallish rutabegas cubed

1 small butternut squash, cubed

2 apples, cubed

1/3 cup of tart dried fruit, like apricot, chopped.

2 TBS coconut oil

2 sprigs of fresh thyme

Salt, pepper

Preheat the oven to 350. Melt the coconut butter in a baking pan.  Toss all fruit and vegetables in coconut oil and season with thyme and any other seasonings you are using (I added a pinch of cardamom!). Bake in the oven for 25 minutes, turning half way through. When all the veggies are done, season with salt and pepper.

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I love my family. A LOT.  My brothers and sisters are beautiful, creative, hilarious, and passionate people, who still somehow manage to be very different from each other.  They are really great!  In fact, I might go as far as to say that my whole family is great. We still don’t see eye to eye on almost anything. Over the years we’ve developed a somewhat graceful way of dealing with our differences and appreciating what we share.

The Thanksgiving table can be the front lines of the battle between omnivores and vegans. One of the biggest challenges to being vegan is still finding a way to share they table with other people who might not appreciate your values. This is a valuable skill to practice. In fact even if you aren’t vegan, or your whole family is actually vegan, you may still benefit from some of these tips. We all have our differences!

Offer to help in the kitchen

Ask if you can help prepare something. Choose something that is relatively easy to vegan-ize, like mashed potatoes, roasted veggies, or desert. Make the salad heartier by adding seeds and nuts and root vegetables. If you can’t cook ask if you can put in a request for an item that your relatives make that is already vegan or already almost vegan. This might be a good opportunity to show your family how easy vegan cooking is.

Don’t argue

If the topic comes up at the table, don’t argue about it. My family still likes to give me a hard time, even though I’ve been eating vegan for six years. Try deflecting the remarks with a playful and witty remark or by changing the subject. Often when people ask you about a point of view that is conflicting to theirs, it is because they want you to hear what they think. Sometimes I like to avoid the scrutiny with a quick response to the question followed by, “What do you think about it?”

Depersonalize it

If you are being pressured into eating something that you don’t want to eat, by someone you clearly can’t see eye-to-eye with, (you know, the old, “but there’s no meat in this, just chicken!”) take the focus off your decision not to partake in what they are offering. You can say, “Thanks, but I’ve really had enough to eat”, or “It looks really delicious, how did you make it?” or “Thank you, but this dish really doesn’t sit well with me.”

Be Patient

The first holiday I shared with my family after going vegan was pretty awkward. I think they felt like I didn’t want to partake in a family tradition. Don’t expect that your family will “get it” overnight. Overtime, my family has come to understand and respect my decision. They have even learned to make a few vegan dishes that I really love! Be patient with yourself too. If you are having a hard time avoiding your Mom’s Cheesy Carrot Casserole, or Cherry Pie, the vegan police aren’t going to kick in the door and pepper spray you.  Don’t beat yourself up. Set a goal to stick to your diet at the next holiday.

Plan your own vegan gathering

Plan a meal you can indulge in sometime in the days before or after your family gathering.  If you have to eat light at your family gathering, you will have this to look forward to. Afterwards, reward yourself for your effort and commitment to healthier living!

One Response to “Tips from a vegan: How to share the table with your relatives”

  1. Jennifer Floyd says:

    These are great tips! A vegan friend of mine got married recently and asked her caterer to prepare some vegan dishes. All the vegan dishes had the same color platter. The vegans knew what was safe to eat, but no one else even noticed the difference! It might be difficult to use that technique at a family meal, but could be a useful tip if hosting.

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I have always been intimidated by cooking rice.

Rice is deceptive – it seems like it should be so easy but it is not; or it never has been for me anyway.

I tried again and again over the years to get that perfect fluffy texture that my mom always got when she cooked rice. I would ask her how she did it, she would tell me, I would try, and it never came out as good as hers. I wanted that perfect consistency, not mushy, not too soft, not too hard, just that perfect, fluffy firmness.

I eventually gave up and started a relationship with a rice cooker. Never as good as my moms, but always consistent.

I recently got motivated to  perfect a batch of rice. I cook all of the time, and the fact that I could not make a decent batch of rice without relying on my rice cooker was embarrassing.

After a few experiments and some failed attempts,  I can finally say that I can cook a batch of brown rice, without a rice cooker, almost as good as my mom. I can’t wait to make it for her the next time I see her!

I’ve made this recipe about a half dozen times now and it always comes out the same.

Makes 3 cups of cooked rice

2 cups water

1 cup brown rice

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1/4 tsp. sea salt

  • Place all ingredients in a pot
  • Stir once to combine and bring to a boil
  • Turn heat to low, place a lid tightly on the pot and simmer for 47-50 minutes (check at 45 minutes)
  • Turn off heat and fluff with a spoon


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The vegan world is opening up.

There has been a shift in the last year, mainly due to celebrities, talk show hosts, authors, and political influencers that has made veganism less weird/elitist/ granola/cult-like/bland/fill in your adjective here, and much more, just a way to eat.

People like Ellen DeGeneres, Alicia Silverstone, Bill Clinton,Oprah Kris Carr ,Carrie Underwood, Mike Tyson, Kathy Freston, Leah Michele, Steve-O, Bob Harper, and Robin Quivers have all had a positive influence on making “Vegan” seem less like a religion and more like a healthy, happy way to eat.

This bodes well for the future of the vegan  industry.

Restaurateurs, cookbook authors, personal chefs, and wellness coaches are all verticals that will benefit from incorporating a splash of vegan to their offerings.

The above areas have also proven to be successful being vegan all their own.  This will likely have people becoming more curious about where to go to learn about vegan food.

There are currently 5 schools/programs that are worth learning more about if you’re thinking about diving into the world of vegan food.

Natural Gourmet Institute

The Natural Gourmet Institute is located in New York City. They offer a 619 hour program that focuses mainly on plant based foods but also incorporates preparation techniques of seafood, eggs, and chicken.

Natural Kitchen Cooking School

The Natural Cooking School is located in New Jersey and only allows 12 people per program.

The Natural Epicurean Academy of Culinary Arts

The Natural Epicurean Academy of Culinary Arts offers a 900-hour Professional Chef Training Program. The school is located in Austin Tx. Out of all of the schools on this list, this school seems to be the most intensive. They train in the following areas: vegan, macrobiotic, vegetarian, Ayurvedic, and raw and living food.

Living Light Culinary Arts Institute

Living light is located in Fort Bragg, CA. They offer training in raw vegan cuisine.

Bauman College – Holistic Nutrition and Culinary Arts

Bauman offers  Natural Chef training (450 hours) as well as training to become a Nutrition Consultant (700 hours).

You might get some vegan teachings at Bauman but they also incorporate meat and seafood in their curriculum.

If you want to learn more about vegan cooking but you don’t want to go to school to do it, you can always look online and find people/groups who do classes on a more informal basis. and are good places to start.

Whichever the method, now is a good time to have a little vegan up your sleeve!

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