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Hello friends, Internet surfers, and hungry people!

25 Jun

My blogging is on indefinite hiatus while I build my health coaching business. I’d love for you to visit my new website, and sign up for my newsletter(s)!

I’m currently writing a monthly newsletter with musings on what it means to live a healthy life, along with fun food facts and recipes, and a weekly newsletter with new breakfast, lunch, and dinner recipes for Meatless Monday, published every Saturday. In addition, you can sign up to be notified about San Diego live events and online/virtual events. Huzzah! That’s a lot of news for ya!

I hope you enjoy all the recipes on this little blog I loved so much. 🙂

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[Guest Post] Five easy ways to help animals

29 Nov

Writing this blog has been a transformational, eye-opening, consciousness-expanding process – more than I could have ever imagined when I haphazardly started it a couple years ago. One of my favorite surprises has been the relationships I’ve formed with fellow bloggers, some local, some not-so-local. Today I want to introduce you to one of them; Michelle from No Animals Harmed.

When I started exploring veganism, I wondered if my blog would become fully vegan recipes, and if I should rename it. I thought no animals were harmed in the making of this blog would be a fun tagline, so I googled it to see if it was already taken. That’s how I stumbled on Michelle, who had the brilliant idea first! At that time, we were even using the same layout for our blogs. The coincidence was so great that I had to laugh, and send her an email. I’ve been delighted to get to know her since, and to share this guest post with you today!

-Jen, Queen of the Spork

Michelle & OpalMichelle (human) and Opal (turkey friend) at Poplar Springs Animal Sanctuary

Five easy ways to help animals

I’ve been doing animal activism for only a few years now, but I’ve learned that the majority of people within the animal rights movement genuinely want to help animals but have no idea where to start. When you learn the reality behind the billions of animals that are raised for meat, eggs and dairy products (not to mention the other areas where animals are exploited), it’s easy to feel powerless and overwhelmed. Here are five easy and effective ways to help animals that work within your busy schedule:

  1. Sign petitions. I know many people think that signing online petitions is worthless but I promise you, many victories within the animal rights movement have been made possible because people sign petitions. Only takes two seconds and your adding your voice to the greater movement. After you sign the petition, post the petition to your Facebook and Twitter accounts (or any other social networking site), asking your friends and family to sign the petition too.
  2. Volunteer at a local animal shelter. Spending even just an hour or two at your local animal shelter on a Saturday morning is fun (you get to play with dogs and cats, what could be better?) and is also a very rewarding experience. There have also been studies done that show spending time with dogs and cats put people in a better mood. You’ll get to spend time with a furry friend while boosting your sprits. Win/win. Also, donating supplies to your local shelter is another great way to give back.
  3. Don’t support circuses that use animals in their acts. Circuses such as Ringling Bros. have a long history of animal abuse and once people learn what really happens behind the scenes, people are shocked. Elephants are smart and sensitive animals and forcing them to perform tricks definitely isn’t entertainment. Make sure to only support animal-free circuses, such as Cirque De Soleil.
  4. Write letters to TV shows and newspapers. If you’re watching a TV show and the characters are abusing animals or you see a fur ad in your local newspaper/magazine, speak up and write a letter. Tell them why it’s wrong to abuse animals or why fur isn’t fashionable. Unless citizens speak up for animals and let their TV network or newspaper that something is wrong, then they will never think anything of their mistake.
  5. Cut back your meat intake. I’m a vegan myself but I understand that veganism isn’t something everybody can instantly get on board with. I support any steps taken to reduce animal suffering and the best way to help animals is to simply leave them off your plate. Try one meatless meal each week (such as trying out Meatless Mondays), or try going a whole day without eating meat. When I was still a meat eater, I would joke that I could never be vegan. Now my choice to be vegan is one of the greatest decisions I ever made.

Michelle is a graduate of the University of Maryland with a Bachelors degree in Sociology/Social Psychology. She currently works for PETA, where she helps people, help animals. She is also the founder of No Animals Harmed, a blog dedicated to all things vegan. Michelle lives in Los Angeles, with her companion dog Callie, who is 10 pounds of nothing but love.

http://noanimalsharmed.com/
https://facebook.com/noanimalsharmed
http://twitter.com/michellevegan

You can also reach Michelle via email at michellevegan@gmail.com.

Happy New Year!

1 Jan

To all my lovely and loyal readers, I hope the holiday season has been a wonderful one for you, and the new year filled with promise. I’ve never been much for resolutions, but I do appreciate tradition. So in honor of newness, I’m starting out 2011 with a new blog layout, and a new seasonal produce guide – which sadly, has not been updated since I started this blog in the Spring!

I’ve also spent a little time thinking about posts I’d like to write this year, so here’s a little sneak peek. 🙂

Theme weeks to watch for in 2011:
* Newman’s Own Cookbook, by Paul Newman, the salad dressing guy & actor in one or two movies
* The Conscious Cook, by celebrated vegan chef Tal Ronnen
* The Simple Art of Eating Well Cookbook, a lovely Christmas present from my mother
* The ABCs of nutrition: natural sources of vitamins & minerals, a theme suggested by my wonderful friend Laura

I’m also aspiring to improve my photography and photoshop skills, delve further into social media and the food blogosphere, and write ever-more engaging and personal posts. As is evidenced by the frequency of posts tagged “Fall-Winter” these past couple months, I have been thinking a lot about eating seasonally, and I want to continue my focus on that as well. I like the idea of being in tune with the natural cycles of the earth… in the winter, we crave soups and heavy, hearty dishes, and in the summer, it’s time for watermelon and cottony dresses. Ok, well you can’t eat a dress, but that’s what I think of when I think of summer. I’ll find a way to translate it into food this year, I promise!

As always, I am open to any suggestions for recipes you’d like to see on the blog, or other feedback – I love hearing from you!

Cheers
cheers!

Coming Up: Ina Garten Week!

4 Dec

Like the author of 101 Cookbooks, I, too have a bookshelf full of cookbooks I rarely open. And like her, I am drawn by the call of cookbooks I don’t yet own. In an attempt to save money and save my bookshelf from near collapse, I’ve decided to calm my cravings at the public library. Actually, this idea came after a recent trip to the library that started with one book sought and ended with five in my hand. I’m sure you can relate.

So, I’m thinking of blogging week-long entries on the various cookbooks I check out, starting with Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Family Style.

barefoot contessa family style
Why Ina Garten? Because I love her cakes. And her style. And because I feel like she could be my mom – or the mom of the whole world, for that matter. She’s just so warm and jolly! So come back tomorrow in your bare feet for the commencement of

Ina Garten Week

San Diego Veg Week, Oct 2-9

2 Oct

Hey all! Just a quick post to let you know about San Diego Veg Week, a movement sponsored by the Animal Protection & Rescue League and others, to promote the prevention of animal cruelty, improve health, and protect the environment by exploring a vegetarian diet. San Diego’s event coincides with International Vegetarian Week, which runs from October 1-7. Why San Diego decided to be different, I cannot tell you. We’re just special that way, I guess.

SD veg week

Anyway, I’ve decided to get on board for this, as a way to force myself to explore more vegetarian meals and food preparations. I’ve been learning about the effects of animal farming on the environment for a while now, as well as the cruel ways in which most animals are raised for food, and I think it’s important to be aware of these issues as a consumer. I am not anti-meat; in fact, I am very happy as an omnivore and doubt I will ever go completely vegetarian. But I do feel good after eating a vegetarian meal, and hope to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into my diet. I think events like Veg Week are great for raising our awareness, on so many levels.

So, if you’re interested, I encourage you to visit the website and sign up for their free e-newsletter. I will also be making short posts on what I come up with for food this week.

*Cheating slightly – because I just found out about this event and already had a meat-eating weekend planned (family birthday luncheon and monthly cooking group), I will be starting my own veg week on Monday.

To all vegetarians, vegans, or “veg-curious” who may be reading, I’d love to hear about your own experiences, advice, favorite recipes, etc. So comment away! 🙂

Party time!

8 Jun

I love throwing parties. Really, really love it. Always kill myself doing it  – but love it anyway. I also happen to love David, and this past weekend was his birthday, so about two dozen friends and I got together and, after a couple months of planning and a very elaborate network of lies, we surprised him with a swingin’ party!

I’m not posting how-to’s for the individual recipes this time, but here are the details, in case you could use some inspiration for your next party. I wish I had gotten more pictures of the food, but alas… it was hectic. I would never have been ready on time if not for the great group of people who showed up early to help me with the last-minute prep. I kept apologizing to them and saying, “One of these days, I’m going to throw a party and have everything ready when people get here!!” They just shook their heads, smiled, and said “No you won’t.” Oh well.

Rat Pack

I decided to give the party a Rat Pack theme, because, well – who knew how to party better than the Rat Pack? Plus we love the music and the whole era. I had so much fun researching cocktail parties and getting into a retro mindset. I watched Mad Men, shopped garage sales and antique stores, and watched a bazillion instructional YouTube videos on vintage hair & makeup.

streamers

The lie:

Faux event created by my friend Jen – co-ed happy hour to celebrate her upcoming wedding. The wine bar was near my house, so he came over to meet me and we would go together. Psych!

surprise birthday party

The menu:

Pigs in a blanket (meat and tofu dogs in Pillsbury Crescent Roll dough)
Chips and homemade guacamole from my friend Claire
Chicken sandwiches from Daniele, David’s mother
Deviled eggs from my friend Karen
Meat / cheese / olive bites on frilled toothpicks
Spiced nuts
Waldorf salad from Rachael Ray
Popcorn from a vintagey popcorn maker David’s parents brought over
Mini cupcakes and cake balls in red velvet and spice cake
Chocolate mocha cake from Ina Garten
Retro candies
Martinis
Cardinal punch

spiced nuts & mini cupcakes

birthday cake

birthday cake

Decorations:

Streamers
Poker table
Food label tent cards
Slide show with pictures of Rat Pack, Mad Men, pin-up girls, etc.

Swingin’ playlist:

Rat Pack members Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin & Sammy Davis Jr.
Ella Fitzgerald
Louis Prima
Louis Armstrong
Peggy Lee
Brian Setzer Orchestra
Squirrel Nut Zippers
and others… great for a theme party, but this also happens to be the soundtrack to my everyday life 🙂

Games:

Mad Men-inspired advertising slogan quiz (from this list)
Charades – famous movie titles from the 1960s and earlier

quiz & paper airplaneThe slogan game was later turned into paper airplanes… my friends are such clever recyclers!

A couple signs of success from the next day…

The carnage was worse than any other party I’ve thrown. Most notable was the flattened popcorn all over the floor. The chocolate shavings (and guts thereof) were fun too!

When I resumed the five and a half-hour party playlist the next day, only two songs were left unplayed.

All the alcohol left in my fridge and freezer was a bonus. 😉

I ended up starting a cold before the party even ended, which I am still fighting four days later. BUT it was all worth it, and so much fun we are already thinking about the next party! Woohoo!

Anne Taintor

My philosophy on eating. (Hint: I like it.)

21 May

It seems that everywhere we go, we are bombarded by nutrition advice. On product labels, on the nightly “news,” on Food Network, in email blasts, and from our friends – everyone seems to have the latest and greatest tips on dieting and health.

Thanks to “scientific study” (oh, and marketing), it is now possible to find arguments in favor of any chosen vice. Addicted to coffee? A new study shows it’s good for you! Drink a little too much red wine? No problem, it prevents heart disease! Like fatty foods? [Good] fats are necessary for life! Chocoholic? Consume at least an ounce daily – the more expensive, the better!

And on the contrary, eating foods we previously considered innocuous now means asking for obesity, cancer, decreased sex drive, a third nipple, or an alien baby. It’s enough to make you give up the whole thing and go to bed with Little Debbie.

Little Debbie

BUT I do think it’s important to be conscious and deliberate about what we eat. For me, it helps to have a few general rules. They are –

1. Food should be enjoyed always and shared whenever possible.

2. In eating and in other areas of life, moderation is the best measure.

3. Learn all you can, make conscious choices, and eat with a clear conscience.

4. Every day – and every meal – is a new opportunity to make good choices.

The following I say only for myself, because I know other people’s consciences may dictate something different. Generally speaking, I say to each his own when it comes to eating – see #3.

Me, I have an instinctive reaction against any diet that completely eliminates a certain food or class of foods. Granted, I have drastically cut back on some things in my diet – I avoid high-fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, sodas, fruit juices, white bread, and any kind of bagel about 90 percent of the time. But I will not completely give up meat, eggs, dairy, cooked foods, or processed carbs for fear that I will develop an unhealthy relationship to food.

It’s undoubtedly true that some foods are healthier than others. And we also must consider the environmental impact of what we eat. But to look at a food and label it as “bad,” I think is misguided. We might say, “I can find a healthier option than this,” and that is fine. After that, we have a choice to say “so I will,” or, “but I don’t care, I want this Twinkie now.”

guinness

While it might be trite to say that life is short, it is not untrue. We only get one time around, and part of making this life great is being happy in it. Most of us aren’t scientists or doctors, we don’t grow our own food, and we can’t see into the medical advances of the future. What’s more, any one of us could get hit by a bus tomorrow. So it’s important to keep some perspective about food, and recognize that there is more to food than nutrition alone. Eating is cultural and sensual. When we eat, we nourish our bodies, minds, and emotions.

The concept of “comfort food” is powerful, and I think, not to be neglected. Sometimes there can be great power in indulging. And when indulgence is done as a conscious choice as opposed to a compulsion – as an occasional treat rather than a habitual lifestyle – I don’t see anything wrong with it. In fact, I think it’s a necessary part of being human.

If what we’re doing doesn’t make us happy, it’s appropriate to reevaluate our choices. Taking on extreme behaviors in service to an ideal is usually a setup for failure. It’s why so many people “fall off the wagon” while trying to follow a strict diet.

That is not to say that we can’t, our shouldn’t, improve our habits. We absolutely can. But developing a new habit requires a full commitment, a revamping of our state of mind. It must be done for the right reasons.

We are naturally pleasure-seeking creatures, and when we deny ourselves pleasure on a regular basis, with something as fundamental as eating, our psyches revolt.

Holding fast to a restrictive diet can also hinder social enjoyment, which violates my very first rule. If I don’t ever eat sugar, and my friend has a birthday party at the Cheesecake Factory, what am I going to do? I can politely decline to partake, potentially making others uncomfortable or apologetic. Or I can give in to temptation, only to chastise myself later on.

My point – perhaps my overall “rule” – is simply to enjoy life and be gentle with yourself. If I’ve made a choice that wasn’t the best, it’s already done – so I move on, and embrace all the choices I get to make in the future. Or as Bobby McFerrin said, don’t worry – be happy!

Pollan, In Defense of Food What do YOU think? This is such an important part of life and I know there are a lot of opinions out there. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please reply in the comment section. 🙂

As a side note, I’m currently reading this book at the recommendation of many friends. We’ll see if my views have changed by the end!