Showing My Gratitude….and My First Giveaway!!!

Thank goodness typewriters are a thing of the past!!!

I think it’s pretty obvious to myself that the past week or two on this blog has been pretty amazing!!!  When I first started this blog, I had a vague idea of the direction I wanted to go, but once I took on my very first project with the Engine 2 Diet it was like my blog was telling me how to move forward.  Luckily, my blog has always had one goal in mind…to reach out to the vegans and non vegans out there and show them how easy, affordable, beneficial, fun, and healthy a vegan diet can be. The responses from all of you have been great and the support from my friends (both old and new!) has been amazing.  Every day I am motivated by each of you to keep blogging and sharing with you my journey and what I know (or what I am learning!).  And for all of this, I want to thank you and for those readers I have never met, I hope our paths cross one day so I may say it to you personally 🙂

Ever since Rip Esselstyn promoted my page recently, my audience has grown a great deal (Thanks Rip!).  Not only am I getting readers from all over, but even locally some people have taken notice.  Because of this, I recently held a contest to get at least 100 people to “Like” my Facebook page and promised a giveaway and I am definitely not one to back down over 120 “Likes” later.  My next goal is to hold a free giveaway for every 100 “Likes” and for those who follow me via Google (you see the icon on the far right hand side of the page), I will do a giveaway for every 100 people until I reach 1,000 people on each page (Facebook and Google).  So basically, you have 2 ways to join future giveaways and you potentially have 20 giveaways you can be eligible for.  I’m not really big on “geek talk” but basically my goal is to have 1,000 “Followers” on Google and 1,000 “Likes” on Facebook and for every 100 people on each site, I will have a giveaway.

Since I am just starting out and all of this is pretty much courtesy of yours truly, if anyone wants to donate giveaway items, please email me and we will work out the details.  I am willing to promote or plug any item as long as it is 100% VEGAN (this means no leather, honey, or animal testing, etc. of any kind!)

Now on to the GIVEAWAY…

I’m not technical when it comes to photos but you get the idea 😉

This particular item is VERY personal to me…If I was Oprah, this would definitely be one of my “Favorite Things” that simply makes my life easier (and healthier!).  This is the original Silpat baking mat that has more uses than I can even think of.  If you wanted an oil-free way of baking, now you have your chance!  This does great with cookies, marinated tofu, roasting veggies…the possibilities are endless and best of all, it’s reusable and the one I own is still going strong after 3 years and I have a feeling I’ll still be bragging about it for a very long time!  In order to get your chance in winning such a great product, all you have to do is “Like” my Facebook Page if you haven’t already.  If you have already joined on my Facebook page, you are already eligible!  The drawing will be done at random and to keep it fair, I am letting help me pick my winner.  The drawing will take place on Tuesday morning and I will be announcing the winner a short time after…Therefore, if you haven’t joined my Facebook Page, you have a short time to do it now!

After all this excitement, I also want to let you know that I have 2 books in the works that I will be sharing/reviewing with all of you in the VERY near future.  The first one was mentioned before, titled Sweetness Without Sugar by Wendy Vigdor-Hess and the other (the new announcement!) Unprocessed by Chef AJ
who is the founder of Healthy Taste of LA.  Both of these books should be really exciting and I can’t wait to designate my husband to take better photos of the things I create from these books 😉

Until then, I wish all of you GOOD LUCK!!!

Making Veganism Work For your Family…

Not your modern grocery cart…I wonder where she hides the box of wine?

Sometimes I try to talk myself out of looking into other people’s shopping carts.  Call me judgmental, but I tend to look over the fact that some people eat junk because they are students or bachelors/bachelorettes but it just bothers me to no end when I see a cart that is clearly controlled out of control by a mother who is in the grocery store trying to provide what she thinks is best for her family.  I’ve seen the processed foods piled high in the cart with very little produce and I also see her children begging for a super sugary item and I often wonder…Where did it all go wrong? 

Let me just admit my age right now…I just turned 30 back in April and somehow, the one thing I recalled often in my childhood is how often my family cooked for each other.  We really only used our microwave to reheat leftovers or to make popcorn.  During holidays, nothing came out of a can except for the cranberry sauce.  My family was not rich (very blue collar), and they saved money wherever they could.  Needless to say, back then the prepackaged foods were expensive and my family could not afford to eat like that except maybe once a week as a “treat”.

Now looking forward, I walk through the aisles at some of my local grocery stores and I’ll find some of the most outrageous looking processed items selling for a super cheap price like it’s going out of style.  I cringe when I see the “special” sales of soda going for 10 cases for $10….It’s even more sickening when I see the aftermath of the soda aisle (only thing missing is the tumbleweed!) when that sale goes on….

Does any store out there sell out of Kale like this???

I am pretty sure most people my age and older will admit, as major food giants master the art of making processed foods cheaper and with a longer than necessary shelf life, real food has been lost somewhere.  I’ll admit, when I first moved out on my own, I ate as much junk as I could because I never had it in abundance and somehow I was shocked on how cheap it has gotten over the years.  But these past few years, even before I became vegan back in 2008, I grew more concerned as my friends and family were getting heavier and less healthy.  Now as a vegan, my passion for food definitely goes beyond my kitchen and most vegan families I know often feel the same way.

Now the biggest myth out there is that feeding your family a vegan diet is expensive.  One of my missions on my blog is to prove to you and all the other families out there that being vegan (and a healthy one to add!) is not going to put a dent in your wallet.  In fact, you might save money or find that your grocery budget became one big colorful bouquet of different colors of produce.  Just remember that I am a housewife, which means I live in a one income household.  Although I am fortunate to have a husband who supports us very well financially where I can choose to work or stay at home, we still have to be careful about our expenses all while trying to make sure we can retire comfortably in the future.

There have been many great resources out there on the internet regarding eating vegan on a shoe string budget but no one mentions it on a very easy, family level except for one place in particular (courtesy of Meridith at  I also took the time to ask those who are connected to me via Facebook and the responses were very clear…it was not only easy but EXTREMELY accessible:

Let’s say you are making chili and use ground beef. Ground beef is anywhere from $2 to $6 a pound. If you make it meatless using canned beans, for that same $2 you could buy 4 cans of beans–way more than poundage for your buck than that $2 unhealthy ground beef. -Hilary R.
You can get some great deals on veggies and fruit at farmer’s markets…especially if you go just before closing time.- Cherry C.
I always buy my beans in bulk and cook them from scratch. So much cheaper (and healthier) than canned and really not that hard using my handy-dandy pressure cooker.- Meridith L.

Shopping at a Costco if you have one in your town is a wonderful way to get quality organic produce, affordable for one or twenty.- Teri S.
We have realzied that we use to eat out A LOT before becoming Vegan – we may spend more at the grocery store, but we eat at home so much more now. We enjoy searching the internet for new recepies and we do it together as a family to keep everyone involved. -Katherine B.
1 lb of uncooked/bagged beans…around $.87! Don’t tell me you can’t afford it 🙂 -Karen A.

Right now, I wish that same mom I saw at the store knew about my blog and could read those responses.  Sometimes when I see people like her and I wish I could offer some inspiration without coming off as self righteous.  Before I was the lovely vegan housewife you know and love today, I was working in healthcare for nearly 10 years.  I saw firsthand young business professionals in their 20’s-30’s taking high cholesterol medication.  Also, it broke my heart to see a young child who was suffering from Type 2 Diabetes and her mother bribing her with ice cream after her office visit.  Luckily, I had a few former bosses who were not the coddling type and confronted these people but I know this is not the case in most practices because after all, patients are like customers and you need to keep them happy and as we all know the truth hurts, which can damage “the business”.  Don’t get me wrong, I trust medicine to an extent- I’m just sick of the lack of tough love that they should be giving out!  If any of you out there has given out any “tough love” to anyone as a wake up call to their health, what was your approach???  Most importantly, did it work???

The Engine 2 Diet Review part 2…The Lifestyle!!!

Grab life by the kale!!!
Before I start, it’s been an exciting week (if you are a foodie) in my household…We finally discovered Spaghetti Squash and had a chance to try the Beefless Burger from Gardein, currently my favorite mock meat people!   That will be in my next blog so make sure you stick around!!!  I am now on Twitter and also have a Fan Page on Facebook so there are plenty of ways to keep in touch with your favorite vegan housewife 🙂  Also, in even more exciting news, I finally sent off my finished article to T.O.F.U. Magazine and hopefully soon I can share with all of you what I wrote about once the new issue comes out.  Now without any further delay….Here’s my take on the Engine 2 Lifestyle.  And since this review was split in two parts, I am also enclosing a recipe that is definitely worth trying 🙂

The best way to start is to go back to a couple years ago when my old vegan neighbor Meredith sought help and advice from a nutritionist.  It was cool enough that she was vegan but then she told Chuck and I that her vegan friendly nutritionist told her to cut out the oils in her foods and she mentioned about sauteing food in water or stock…I was blown away!!!  My first thought was “How dare you get rid of fat!” and “Fat is good for you as long as it’s a healthy fat, right?”  Of course, back then I thought all vegans were healthy and for the most part, thin.  Whenever I saw a fat vegan, I just figured they had bad genes or had a medical condition.  What I now know is that Meredith was way ahead of me and probably most vegans who embrace this lifestyle.  Veganism in general will without a doubt help you lose weight, but that alone is not the whole picture.  Like with any eating lifestyle, you have to consider portions, calories, fats, etc. to really make this work in your best interest.  One doctor on TV said it best that eating an orange is good for you, it’s just when you eat 500 oranges in one sitting is when you run into dietary trouble.  The Engine 2 Diet book addresses this issue very well and Rip Esselstyn did a great job making this as easy as possible.  Just look at the photo I posted above with Rip embracing those fruits and vegetables….Trust me, you will be hugging your produce good and tight well before your 28 Day Challenge is over 😉

I just want to break for a moment and mention that you do not have to be vegan in order to embark on the Engine 2 lifestyle.  Those who took the 28 Day Challenge with me for the most part were not vegan.  Some were all about the meat, oil and cheeses but wanted to see if this route was any better than the diet they were used to eating.  It amazed me how every week when I attended the support meetings that their views on veganism became more and more positive.  They no longer saw this as deprivation but saw this as an eye opener.  Non-vegans aside….Even the current vegans got a wake up call as well in their own way.  To further explain…I swear to everyone that vegans are the biggest foodies out there.  Not even touching the subject of restaurants, whenever a new vegan product comes out, we will try it and if it’s really good (in most cases it is!), we will buy so much of it that we need an extra storage unit in our house to hold it all (my pantry alone is proof of this theory!).  We will also tell our vegan friends who in turn, will do the same.  Not all vegan food is created equal and most importantly, not all vegan food is necessarily healthy.  There are the same obstacles we face that come in the form of white flour, sugar, added oils.  Also, vegans have a way of showing extreme financial support to any company (or restaurant) that has made an honest effort in making our lives easier.  Sounds all too familiar, huh???    During these weekly support meetings, it became apparent to everyone that the struggles were all the same, regardless of what you ate like before.  We all had to lean on Kristen, our Healthy Eating Specialist at Whole Foods, to make it through the 28 Days…Just luckily, Kristen always had healthy treats waiting for us every Wednesday evening and additional recipes to help us through the week 😉

To continue on to the Engine 2 Diet book, none of the claims Rip Esselstyn makes can really be disputed.  Everything he mentions in the book has a very solid medical backing, courtesy of his whole family background of doctors, especially his father, Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, who has written a similar book a while back that is still being promoted by cardiologists to this date.  Also I should add that Dr. Esselstyn was one of the driving forces that inspired former President Bill Clinton into a vegan lifestyle.  Best of all, Rip is not pushing supplements or telling you to count points.  In fact, his website gives you a good gist of his program along with posting a handful of recipes from the book.  It’s pretty clear that he wasn’t out to get rich writing this book, he was trying to save lives.  If there is one thing I would advise while reading his book is to be prepared to know a lot about Rip as a person as this at times came off as a personal book.  At times while reading it, I could hear Rip’s voice narrating as my eyes were moving with each word.  Now after taking this 28 Day Challenge, I am more mindful of what I add to my food…especially the oil.  Right now as I am typing, I have a Vegan Moussaka in the oven that was an old favorite recipe of mine (I will post a recipe if it turns out well!) but I gave it a total overhaul.  In my old recipe, I would put a generous one cup of olive oil total from start to finish…That’s of 1,920 calories and 224 grams of fat!!!  So the dish is about roughly 6 servings so you are looking at an additional 320 calories and a little over 2 grams of fat per serving in oil alone….This may sound mild to some of you but just remember that there are other ingredients to consider that will make those numbers creep up in no time.  Hopefully as you are reading this, those numbers concern you as much as it concerned me…And the healthy modifications are so simple and best of all, you are not going to miss the added oils- I promise you that! 

So even though the 28 Day Challenge has came and gone, a lot of what Rip has taught me has stuck.  He lives “Plant Strong” 100% of the time and I admire him for that.  If you look at my household currently, I would say it’s safe to say that we are currently eating Engine 2 friendly meals about 85% of the time.  Although everything we eat is vegan but I will admit, Chuck and I have indulged in a piece of non healthy sweets here and there.  But at least now we are more aware and for whatever unhealthy recipe I have saved in my MacGourmet, I can come up with a couple good healthy modifications to make it better for your waistline 😉 

So with all of this being said, I am happy I took the 28 Day Challenge and I definitely have Whole Foods Market in Charlottesville to thank, and most importantly, Kristen Rabourdin, their official Healthy Eating Specialist for making all of this happen (did I forget to mention those awesome treats she made for us during our meetings?).  Now since you have been so patient about my review of Engine 2, I am pleased to post a VERY delicious recipe, courtesy of the lovely Kristen Rabourdin…This spread was a HUGE hit at one of our meetings and it would be a crime not to share it with you!!!  This healthy dip reminds me of carrot cake and has a perfect sweet/salty ratio.  My equipment of choice is to use a really, really, really good blender, like my trusty Vitamix (worth every penny!) or a decent food processor.  If your pureeing equipment is subpar, you can always lightly steam the carrots beforehand….

Carrot Cashew Spread
3 carrots, chopped (no need to peel just a good, gentle scrub)
1 cup of raw cashew pieces, divided (Kristen used 1/2 raw and 1/2 roasted…I only had raw at my house so I just added a pinch of salt to taste)
15 dried apricots, cut into quarters (approx 1/2 cup)
Blend and add carrot juice or water as needed until you reach desired consistency (think hummus!).  Serve with whole grain crackers or bread (especially any that qualify for Whole Foods’ Health Starts Here line)
I am not the best photographer but I swear it is worth trying!!!

Bon Appetit!!! 

Engine 2 Diet Review Part 1…The Food!!!

This delicious vegan Flag Cake also had vegan vanilla pudding and extra berries as filling!

Last week while Chuck was off work, I feeling pretty distracted (especially on July 4th-hence this beautiful creation you see here!).  Although we decided to stay home and not travel too far, it seemed like every day there was something to do.  Luckily, I managed to get a few things out of the way and there’s only one thing I am still working on and that’s my article for T.O.F.U Magazine!  C-ville Vegan had its first blog post on July 8th (and another on Monday!) and although I will admit in my recent post I might have come off as harsh but I felt it was rightfully so…I was lured to a restaurant with the intention of trying a popular vegan menu item that is still advertised on their website and upon my arrival, I was told otherwise and was given a substitution I could have gotten virtually anywhere in Charlottesville.  All venting aside, yesterday was the last day of the 28 Day Challenge of the Engine 2 Diet.  During these 28 days, there was a lot of information, recipes, meetings and feedback and I felt in order to give this review the justice it deserves, it was best done in two parts and what a better way than to start off than by talking about the food!!!

French Toast using Ezekiel bread

I want to first start off by admitting that breakfast was definitely a treat when the Engine 2 Diet was involved.  The lesson I learned about breakfast while on the 28 Day Challenge was that very few cereal brands out there really do live up to their claims.  Although I consider myself an expert at reading the label for vegan ingredients, I was blown away when I was reading the nutrition labels.  I seriously have been in the dark when it came to the sugar content in most cereals!  As a result, I have now leaned a bit to brand loyalty…Kashi, Nature’s Path, Ezekiel, Barbara’s Bakery, and Uncle Sam always seem to be the safest bets (just check for all vegan ingredients!).  Cold cereals aside, the French Toast and Breakfast Tacos were really good (and easy!).  I also baked a batch of Mighty Muffins but I do believe that the portions were a bit off as I wound up making 18 muffins versus the 6 that was mentioned as the serving amount (another E2 participant mentioned the same issue)…consider yourself warned 😉  Not everyone (including me!) can cook a hot breakfast but the one thing I was inspired to do during these 28 days was to freeze my Mighty Muffins and Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes in advance so during the week if I was not in the mood for cereal then I had something in the freezer that I could give a zap in the microwave and have a hot breakfast in a snap.

Now as far as lunch/dinner recipes go in the book, some were hit or miss…The best recipes in this category were the Black Beans and Rice, which reminded Chuck and I of a Burrito Bowl at Chipotle (but better!) and the Sloppy Joes, where the recipe was a dead ringer for a Manwich!  The Mexican Lime Soup was fantastic as well and definitely deserves honorable mention.  Most people I spoke to loved the Lynn’s Meatloaf  recipe but it couldn’t hold a flame to the recipe I use.  However I converted Lynn’s Meatloaf into stuffed peppers and it was even better…So much better that my meat and potato eating (but open to vegan food) inlaws loved it 🙂  Also, the Sweet Potato and Vegetable Lasagna was definitely worth the hype but it’s definitely not a meal that will be on your table in 30 minutes or less.  There was a lot of prepwork in that recipe but the end result was worth it. 

As far as the not-so-great recipes go, the Red Beans and Kale over Quinoa was just too weird tasting (and you had to mash the beans quite a bit to thicken the sauce) and the Mac and Not Cheese was not a meal I could pass off as a vegan “Macaroni and Cheese” (now if you want a great Mac n’ Cheese recipe that works well with the omnis, just click here).  The Shepherd’s Pie recipe was decent but yet again, I have a recipe (that I will blog in the VERY near future) that I normally make as care packages for my friends who fall ill or the new moms in my church who need a good meal that requires no fuss and tastes great.  Rip’s version of Shepherd’s Pie was passable but my version is easier and can be made “E2 approved” with only a couple minor modifications that no one would ever notice.  Then there’s the Red Curry Vegetables over Brown Rice that was just plain gross 🙁  That’s saying a lot since I rarely turn down anything with curry…

Then there were snacks and desserts…The Healthy Hummus was pretty good.  It wasn’t as creamy as conventional hummus but it was definitely worthy of spreading it on a sandwich or dipping your pita pieces into.  If there was one recipe worth trying but it would make anyone cringe at the name, that prize would go to Kale Butter.  It looked like green slop but it was the best green slop I have ever had!!!  I was spreading this on crackers and if I was making a sandwich, I could definitely see myself using this as a condiment.  When I posted on Facebook that I was making Kale Butter…you wouldn’t believe the comments I got as a result!!!  But most of my friends know that although I am vegan, I am all about good food and food that I can pass off to my non-vegan friends so I have a feeling that one of them gave the recipe a shot all because of my endorsement 😉  Moving onto sweets…I really LOVED the brownies!!!  I was a bit taken by how much applesauce it called for but you would have never known once you had a taste of this chocolatey confection!  It also went great with the (super easy and better for you) Banana Ice Cream that was not mentioned in his book…needless to say, Chuck and I loved our E2 brownie sundaes 🙂  In the cookies category of the Engine 2 Diet book, hands down- the Oatmeal Cookie was far better than the Chocolate Chip.  The Chocolate Chip cookie reminded me too much of a mini cake or a scone than an actual cookie but the Oatmeal Cookie was perfection.  Also I made the Blueberry Dumpster Fire Cobbler which I mentioned in a past post that was great once I modified the recipe.

Now I know I am throwing a lot of recipes out there and a lot of reviews but during my 28 Day Challenge I was cooking a lot from the Engine 2 Diet book and it would have been nearly impossible to post each recipe individually on this blog.  Even in blogs like Julie/Julia, Julie could only blog one meal at a time and here I am making roughly on average of three Engine 2 Diet meals a day…I must say I am quite the overachiever 😉  The next book I am cooking my way through, Sweetness Without Sugar, it should be easier to post individually (with more photos!) as I am only focusing on sweets in comparison to “Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and Snacks”. The next part of this review will be my overall take of the Engine 2 Diet book and living the Engine 2 lifestyle.  But if you would like to try some of the recipes yourself, the Engine 2 Diet website has posted a few for you to try so you can see for yourself.  That should keep you busy until my next post…