“The basic purpose of life is just to be human and to deal with life as a human being. Don’t become so bitter that someone will throw you away or so sweet that someone can eat you up.” Yogi Bhajan
Since this week I celebrated my Veganniversary I thought I would compile a list of resources that have educated and inspired me over the last 4 years. I will come back and update this list as I acquire new resources.
Online Resources, Videos & Podcasts:
I've been away all day at a conference today. I came home with only about an hour to catch up with my partner, take my pup for a walk, change and have something to eat before I head out to a meeting and to teach class. I'm not very hungry, but I know I'll appreciate having something in my stomach or I will come home ravenous tonight. Oatmeal is perfect in these situations. I like to keep some instant oats on hand for times like this. I just pop them in a bowl with some boiling water and a handful of pumpkin seeds and now I have a hearty, filling and warming dinner with little clean up. And I know it will sit well in my stomach.
First off, yes I did look up how to spell "zhuzh!"
Oats have been my go to for these colder mornings. Oats are a water soluble fiber which makes them perfect as a pre-run breakfast and they keep me feeling satisfied throughout the morning. They are also a good source of protein, but most importantly they are a good base for a variety of toppings. When you eat the same breakfast multiple days each week, it's nice to add some variety in the toppings to help mix it up.
This morning I prepared 1/3 cup dry oats with 2/3 cup water. Once tender, I poured the cooked oats into my bowl and added a splash of oat milk, 1 sliced banana, 2 Tbsp Hemp seeds, 1 heaping Tbsp dark chocolate chips, 1 Tbsp pumpkin seeds and 1 Tbsp hazelnuts. The chocolate melted and added the right amount of bitterness and sweetness. This is a new favorite and prompted me to write this this morning.
Here are some of my other favorite toppings:
How do you zhuzh up your morning oats?
Over the last few months I have been pruning and propagating my house plants. While I tend to my plants weekly with watering and removing yellow leaves, I had let them grow wildly for far too long. If you are unfamiliar with this process, propagating is taking a cutting from a plant, removing the lower leaves, placing it in water or soil (depending on the plant) and allowing it to root so that it can be replanted. The beauty of this process is if you care for your plants and propagate them when needed, you will always have plants in your home as well as plants you can offer as special gifts to others.
When I first pruned one of my pothos, however, it was a pretty severe pruning and many of the leaves on my clippings turned yellow and needed to be removed. I wondered if I did something wrong, but realized it was probably in shock from the move and needed a little more nurturing. I placed it in the window just above my altar and every day I give it a little attention and make sure that it has enough water as I encourage it a long.
As I sat at my computer this morning, I looked up and noticed another of the clippings had grown roots, seemingly overnight. It’s funny how that happens, something has been growing so slowly you don’t even see it and then suddenly there it is, you can’t miss it.
Similarly in life, there are times we need to take stock and cut back or cut out what no longer serves us. We need that fresh start to give us new life, new energy, new hope. This may prompt quick growth or change, but it may reveal some trauma that needs extra care and nurturing. Go within to provide that needed love and encouragement. Know that even if you can’t see it, a fresh root is growing beneath the surface. Nurture the root and allow it to grow strong and stable so it can support the new growth within, growth that is fresh, vital and beautiful. And then the day will come, where suddenly you will take notice of this new growth and you won’t be able to imagine yourself any other way.
Today is my 4th Veganniversary. I like to use these milestones in my life as a time to reflect...
Four years ago I stumbled upon the documentary Racing Extinction on Discovery. I was already a vegetarian, but after only watching for the first 5-10 minutes, I knew I needed to do more. When the movie was over, I was changed. Prior to watching, I couldn't imagine giving up my beloved cheese, but after watching, it was easy. The film is beautifully done and shares practical ways anyone can make an impact. For me, becoming vegan just made sense.
When I made the jump (it wasn't really a transition), I had been relying heavily on eggs and dairy in my diet so educating myself was crucial. At first I thought I could just keep eating like I had as a vegetarian but without the eggs and dairy. It wasn't that easy. Looking back, I was hungry all the time in those first months! I even lost a few pounds. I likely wasn't getting enough protein at the time. I wasn't eating much (if any) tofu, soy products and was afraid of mock meats. I enjoyed beans and legumes but they really challenged my digestion so I would eat them but then back way off. I discovered early on that raw veggies were also a challenge for me, given that it was winter, it wasn't a big deal, but did make eating out and the reliance on salads a challenge. The reality was I had a stomachache a lot for that first year. When you start eating that much fiber and increase beans and veggies significantly, this can happen. In addition, I wasn't supplementing and I ended up with a painful crack on the side of my mouth, likely due to low B12 and my first bloodwork after becoming vegan showed a vitamin D deficiency - in all fairness I hadn't been checked for that previously so I'm not sure how long it had been an issue.
Needless to say, there were a lot of reasons to quit.
But that never occurred to me. Knowledge is power and as I have mentioned before, I was committed. So I started doing my research. Thankfully there is so much information online. Watching documentaries and videos on YouTube, listening to podcasts and reading articles and blogs all made a big difference. I learned how to prepare tofu, that soy wasn't the devil, that mock meats can be really tasty, which supplements I needed to take, how to pay attention to what I'm eating and plan for the week. I studied Ayurveda which helped me understand how and what to eat for optimal digestion. I studied recipes and watched a lot of videos with vegans talking about and preparing food. Through this my challenges were normalized and my knowledge and understanding grew.
As a result, I feel strong and healthy. As a vegan, I have run 5 half marathons and my first 2 marathons in addition to a handful of other races including a 200 mile relay. Excited to share what I have learned, I began teaching cooking classes, started this website and began writing a plant based cook book. Through all of this, I work hard to stay humble, compassionate and non-judgmental maintaining the belief that eating less meat and more plants makes a difference. I hope to inspire others to taste and know how good plant based food is, to make it accessible and delicious. Overall I strive to practice ahimsa which means do no harm (in words, thoughts, actions) - to myself, to others, to animals, to the planet.
I feel excited and motivated by the changes I see in myself and in those around me and I'm inspired to know that I am making a difference. I firmly believe that every choice we make matters. When we choose to eat plants over meat we not only save animals lives, we also make an impact on the environment by contributing to fewer trees being cut down, less water and grain being consumed and reduced CO2 emissions. It doesn't require becoming 100% vegan. Just start by making small changes in your life like eating one meat free meal per day or per week. You can make a difference one meal at a time.
It's interesting when I make a commitment to do something for 40 days, sometimes the 40 days drag by and it's such a chore! Other times it just flies by effortlessly. This commitment flew by. I have enjoyed the challenge of writing daily. Many days I sat down and words just came to me. Some days I sat down and had no idea what to write, but words came. There is one day where I almost forgot! I was out of my routine and fortunately someone said something to me which reminded me that I needed to write (this was only a few days ago). I will keep up with this newly formed habit to confirm it. I enjoy the challenge and the moments of reflection. Writing and sharing used to be so scary for me, but more and more I feel emboldened by vulnerability and embrace it. Blessings.
On Christmas Eve, my mom would make this cheesy egg casserole that we would have for dinner. I loved it and this time of year, I start thinking about it and have been wanting to re-create it.
On Thanksgiving morning, every year at Urban Yoga Chicago, we have a community event where we chant mantra together and then have a potluck breakfast. Several weeks ago I got an idea for creating a more potato forward version of my mom's egg dish for our potluck.
Miyokos butter (which I have been loving lately) adds a depth of rich flavor and the store bought hash browns make this a pretty easy dish to put together. You can make the cheeze sauce in advance or use a store bought vegan cheese instead. This Cheezy Hash Brown Casserole was a hit at our potluck, the cheeze sauce definitely added a nice creamy consistency. I will definitely make this again, likely halving the recipe to serve a smaller group. Serving this with toast and vegan bacon or breakfast sausage makes for a super satisfying meal and one that you can prep the night before to bake off in the morning.
We all experience challenges and chaos in life. It's part of the human experience and provides us with an opportunity for growth and understanding. Meditation helps us through this process by giving us calm, breath and perspective. It offers an opportunity to Be, to quiet the mind, be still and to listen. I find that I'm able to explore my subconscious mind during my meditation practice. I can receive answers to my questions, process emotions and experiences deeply and safely, explore within myself, my mind, my desires. Sure, sometimes if feels like a chore, but it's something I practice daily because it has healed me, helped me grow and understand myself and softened my edges. I choose to continue moving forward on this path. For this, I Keep Up.
Taking time today to reflect in appreciation for those in my life. From my life partner to my business partner to my animals, my closest friends and dear community. I feel blessed and grateful.
I am an animal loving-Vegan runner, I practice and teach Kundalini Yoga and I love to cook and eat flavorful plant-based food.