Spring Cleaning Detox

In many ways, the best home cleaners are the ones that come to your house and do it for you.  Unfortunately, mine seem to have suddenly abandoned me so I’ve been doing the cleaning myself.  Also unfortunately, I’ve realized that many of my cleaners, including the “environmentally friendly” ones, don’t exactly fit the parameters of being truly green.

The first “unfortunately” happened shortly before Easter, and became dire when we were expecting company in a week and were in serious need of a cleaning.  Because we’d had cleaners for so long, I didn’t have any bathroom cleansers, though I have amassed a random assortment of items that can be used to create any number of household cleaning products–white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, castile soap, baking soda (lots and lots of baking soda).  I found this awesome recipe for my bathroom cleaning and more. It made enough to do my 2.5 bathrooms and then some.  I also used it on my stainless steel kitchen sink and coffee pot with awesome results.  Also awesome–no need for those awful plastic gloves you have to wear to protect your skin from those traditional cleaners…which made me wonder, if you have to wear gloves to protect yourself from the cleaner, is it really all that clean?

I still had some bathroom cleaner left over and thought I’d try it on my copper pots, but it didn’t really work.  But I was so flush with excitement and in the cleaning zone that I thought I’d find another make-your-own recipe for my pots.  I read that you can use a mixture of lemon juice and sea or kosher salt mixed into a paste, then rub it on and watch the magic.  My mom had gotten me a bottle of RealLemon juice ages ago.  Why?  I have no idea.  But anyway, I thought this would be a good way to try to use some of it up, so I did that instead of squeezing my own lemon juice.  Maybe not quite as eco friendly, but better than the other chemical stuff I had, and the results were amazing.  Copper never looks as good as the day you took it out of the box, but this came pretty darn close.  Added bonus–I didn’t have to wear those gloves, so I was able to really get into the hidden parts of my tea pot.  Even my clean-freak mom was impressed.

My second “unfortunately” came when I read this post on goop.com about household cleaners.  Aside from being surprised by the cleaners they highlighted in the article, I was shocked to go on the Environmental Working Group’s household cleaner database and find that things I thought were green had terrible grades.  Most disappointing was my laundry detergent–Charlie’s soap.  We got it when we were washing cloth diapers because it was so highly recommended for that purpose, and we liked the way it made our clothes feel.  We purchased the mother lode of it last Christmas, enough to supposedly last four years though I think it could last longer.  Over time, I found that it really made our whites pretty dingy, and colors tended to bleed quite a bit.  I have several things that were a mix of navy blue and a crisp white that are now a bit more blended 😦  But all in the name of saving the environment, right?  Well, it turns out it got a grade D.  Guess who will be switching detergents post haste.

I am also now obsessed with the EWG’s Skin Deep website and app.  I’ve been scanning every beauty product in my house to see how it fares, and I’m sure the other customers at the Wynnewood Whole Foods thought I was super weird holding all of these products up to my phone.  Some of the products around the house were surprisingly not terrible (my kids’ Coppertone sunscreen and our Johnson & Johnson’s baby soap, for instance), and others that I thought would be high on the safe list were not so great (my Aveda conditioner).  The terrible things have been removed, like some of the other sunscreen I had for the kids.  The not-so-great stuff will be used up then replaced; and the good will, of course, remain.

I must admit I was really surprised by the results of my latest home detox.  I thought I was up on all of the greeny stuff and was quite disappointed with myself for falling for what appears to be so much hype.  Thank goodness for groups like the EWG that help expose the truth behind the hype, and help us create a truly clean home.  Now I can truly breathe easier 🙂


My Take on All-Natural Deodorant

So the last post about bottling and tasting our home brew was supposed to be posted on my other blog–the one where I actually talk about our home brewing and terms like hydrometer, ABV%, etc., actually make sense! We do love our little brewing operation, such as it is. We’re at dopeydogbrewing.wordpress.com if you’re interested, but I’ll get back to the regularly-scheduled program now.

Suddenly, it seems to be summer in the Northeast. At least for a few days, we have bypassed Spring and gone right from winter to hitting nearly 80.  I was worried about snow a few weeks ago; now I’m worried about sunburn.  But now that it’s warming up, it seems like a good time to talk about something we really need in summer–deodorant.

As I mentioned before, when you decide to go vegan, or even just to live a more natural life free of chemicals and other weird products that our body probably wasn’t made to process, you start to question all of the things in your life. In particular, I really like to try making things at home that are normally full of chemicals and all other kinds of nasties. This led to my experience with making my own deodorant.

I found a recipe that used coconut oil, some Benzonite clay, essential oils…it smelled soooo good and was really easy to make!  I would love to say that this stuff is the best and I loved it and I’m never going back.  But honestly, using just deodorant without antiperspirant was an epic fail.  The smell was fine in cooler weather, but I was starting to notice it not being so fine with the warmer temperatures.  Plus, without antiperspirant, my sweat was leaving nasty yellow pit stains on my clothes!  I was turning into a dirty hippy, yikes!!  I’m fine being a hippy, just not a dirty one!  We use an all-natural laundry detergent that is not so great at getting out stains, keeping whites white, or keeping colors bright, so the stains aren’t going to come out in the normal wash.  While my clothes feel amazing, I’ve had to get used to a certain amount of not looking totally crisp and bright.  But pit stains are not something I plan on getting used to, so my options were to use a harsh stain remover or throw my clothes away.  Seeing as how neither one seems all that environmentally friendly, I must sadly go back to my regular antiperspirant that keeps me dry and smelling like baby powder.

I hope others have more success with make-your-own deodorant than I did.  But for now, I’m telling myself that doing the best I can doesn’t mean doing everything perfectly.

Bottling and Tasting

I am behind on my updates and this is only our second brew.  Oy.

We bottled on April 4, which now that I look at it, is probably way too late.  Happily, Ben was home to assist me on this bottling so things went quite a bit quicker.  Added bonus of making Ben do stuff–I didn’t ruin my nails and fingers trying to get the damn fermenter top off!  While Ben was working on getting the top off, I prepared the priming sugar. 

When we (finally!) got the top off, we tried to take a hydrometer reading but again the thing sank like a stone.  I can only guess that we’re waiting too long to bottle, so we’re losing a lot of volume.  But again, we have no idea what the ABV% is because we couldn’t get a good hydrometer reading.

All of this brewing–well, there have only been two, but all of this siphoning I guess–is leading to me to seriously consider an auto siphon.  We had a tough time getting the siphon going to get the beer into the bottling tub…probably the toughest time we’ve had.  There seems to be a lot of siphoning–once from the pot into the fermenting tub, then again into the bottling tub.  And if we ever getting around to buying a secondary fermenter, there’s yet another siphoning step.  Can you tell I’m trying to sell myself on the auto siphon?

We finally got the siphon going and started moving the beer into the fermenter when I reread the instructions and realized we were supposed to add the priming sugar before we transferred the beer.  Oops!  We just added it when I noticed, praying we hadn’t made a critical error.

The rest of the bottling was fairly standard.  I did the first one, Ben did the second.  When I was filling up the third, Ben tried to advise me on better technique.  I had bottled an entire brew from start to finish and he had filled one bottle.  I don’t really remember what the advice was, or if he was right or wrong.  All I remember is being pissed that he was making suggestions after one bottle…and he hadn’t even capped it!  Men, if you are reading, no matter how right you think you are, when your woman (I can’t speak for how men would feel in this situation) has already done something, and done it more often than you have, wait until you have some more experience under your belt before critiquing.

So we finished bottling.  I ended up mostly filling up the bottles and Ben did the capping.  It is the more fun part, to be sure.

We let the beer sit for about a week before trying it two nights ago.  Yet again, to our somewhat surprise, it was good!  I keep expecting to have a bad batch, but so far so good.  Of course, it’s only been two brews and we’ve used kits every time.  I like the kits, but I am anxious to feel experienced enough to try some new stuff.  I’d love to be able to recreate a Sam Adams Cherry Wheat, or maybe even a stout that does not include fish bladder (naaaaasstttyyy!!)…or something really crazy like something with kiwis and strawberries and all kids of fun fruitiness.  Wow, I sound like such a girl!

I am struggling to name this beer.  I’m thinking about something like All-American Girl Pale Ale…some sort of play on the whole “American” thing.  I’m probably trying to be too creative.  “American Pale Ale 4/2014” is probably all we really need at this point in our brewing careers, but this is the part that’s more fun to me.

While I ponder the name for this beer, I think the Easter Bunny may be paying a visit to our local home brew store to get another beer kit.  I wonder what style he’ll bring us this time…

Spring has sprung with Neuaura shoes

Finally, we’re seeing some warmer weather in the Northeast!  It was so wonderful to spend some time outside, get the garden ready, see friends and neighbors outside, and let the boys play at the park.  It also means it’s time to put away those heavy winter clothes and get out those warm-weather sun dresses and pastels.

As I transition my wardrobe, I realize how little thought I’ve given to my clothing and accessory purchases. When I decided to become vegan, I first thought it was all about eating and food.  But as I move further into it, I realize that it’s a whole lifestyle change–shoes, clothes, makeup…everything changes.  To that end, as I move from my winter wardrobe to my spring clothes, I’m moving away from leather shoes and, if necessary, replacing them with shoes that reflect my principles and ideals.  On the other hand, I live on the Main Line (think Grace Kelly).  I really don’t want to always look like the super-crunchy hippy I am at heart!

Luckily, my cheapness seems to have paid off in that area, as I discovered that many of my shoes were already not leather 🙂  Also luckily for me, my pair of very cute leather flats turned out to not only be incredibly uncomfortable, but they were also totally falling apart (note to self:  don’t buy shoes that have elastic at the back unless you want to be uncomfortable and have your big toenail create a hole in your shoe, even with going up a size).

To replace them, I wanted to buy shoes that weren’t just vegan because they were cheap.  I wanted shoes that were going to be purposely vegan, good for the environment, and would hold up for more than just a season. After a lot of research, I found these beauties shoes


They’re from Neuaura, a very cool line of shoes from a lady right here on the East Coast.  The information I found on them says they’re out of New York, but the phone number has a New Jersey area code, so it was a no-brainer to buy super-cute shoes from a fellow Jersey girl!  From what I could tell, they only come in full sizes, but these were on sale so I could be wrong.  I’d say they run a little big, but after the foot-crushing, blister-inducing shoes I had previously, a little extra room is quite welcome.

In addition to being comfortable, they are so cute!  They match pretty much everything and are so perfect for spring.  I love the stripes, and the faux suede is wonderfully soft.  Even my mom said, faux leather and suede have come so far in the past few years, why bother getting the real thing?  When it looks and feels like this, why bother indeed!

And then there’s the quality.  I’ve had them for a few weeks now and they still look great.  I’d read some questionable things about the adhesive used, but I haven’t had any problems.  The construction is great and I see myself wearing these for years.

When you decide a lifestyle that is out of the mainstream, it takes a good bit of time and effort to make the transition…and I am by no means done!  But when your research yields these kinds of results, it’s totally worth it!!

Carpe Deim

I have recently let go of a lot of anger in my life, and part of that was making peace with my Catholic school upbringing.  I only went there for high school, but it had a huge impact, and not in an entirely good way.  But I have recently come to peace with it and started thinking more about the positive impact it, and many of the nuns who taught me, had on my life. 

One such nun was Sister Michel Marie.  She taught Honors and AP Senior English.  She loved Beowulf.  She loved it so much that her nickname was Sister Grendel, after the monster in the story.  She would even take a class and read it to us in Old English.  Lucky us, she was so old that she forgot she had read it to us once and we got a second opportunity to hear it.  One time, I saw notes she was leaving on my paper, and suddenly there was this weird line.  A little note next to it said, “Sorry, I feel asleep.”  Must have been some paper 😦 

She was tough, but the more I think about it, she was probably the most interesting teacher I had.  She was old as the hills even then, but she was incredibly smart.  I’ve recently wondered what made her become a nun, as smart as she was.  Was it just a product of age and gender, or was there something more?  The more I thought about it, the more I really wanted to talk to her and tell her how fascinating I thought she was.  The nuns from my high school in NJ all retire to a Catholic nursing home about 30 minutes from me, so I kept meaning to call them and find out if Sister Michel was there, how she was, and try to schedule a time to go out and see her.

Unfortunately, we got notice today that Sister Michel had passed away.  Her funeral is Thursday.  I’m sure the meeting would not have gone the way I imagined it, she probably wouldn’t have even known who I was, but sadly, I’ll never know.  Now, all I know is that I’m disappointed with myself for not getting it together to go.  I’ll go to the funeral on Thursday.  I’m not even totally sure why, but I guess I just need to have that one last visit.

Bottom line–if there’s something you want to do, do it while you can.  Carpe diem and all that jazz…

March Madness Indeed

I was getting myself all ready to write about how I’d been having a tough week–yet more snow on Monday, kids driving me crazy with their bad eating, fights about this awesome dinner (I thought) I made, feeling like there was no way this was going to work because my kids pretty much just want to eat meat–when I realized that this had actually been a pretty good week!  I probably have about five posts that I could do based just on this week alone 🙂

First, there was the awesome Big Ten Championship basketball game–Michigan State v. Michigan.  I wouldn’t say I exactly bleed green, but I am every bit a Spartan.  Not only was it a great game, but the boys and I had a great time watching together.  We don’t watch a ton of tv, we watch even fewer sports on tv, and you don’t get a ton of MSU games living in Philly, so I don’t think they’ve ever seen it before.  It was so cute to see the little one mimicking my reactions to everything, and the big one just got into it in his own way.  He’d say, “Oh man!” every time Michigan even touched the ball.  Eventually he came up with, “Oh, barnacles!”  What?!  All three of us had a huge laugh over that one.

The game ran into our normal dinner time and my husband, not being the sports fan, was not-so-subtly showing that he was more concerned about dinner than he was about the outcome of the game.  I had been planning to make a gnocchi soup and he was quite sure that would not be happening so he started to wonder what he could make.  The recipe I’d planned seemed way more complicated than I wanted it to be, let alone what I had time for.  But, not being one to admit I’d made a mistake, I asked him to start some vegetable stock and I’d figure it out from there.  By the time the game (and our celebration) was over, the stock was boiling.  I added a package of vegan gnocchi, let it cook for a few, added some vegan scape pesto we had in the freezer, then a few handfuls of kale.  I let the kale wilt a little, and voila!  Totally delish.  The recipe is at the end of this veeeeeerrrry long post.

Thursday night is noodle night in our house, generally, so I had planned to make Pasta Italiano from Chloe Coscarelli’s cookbook.  Her header says that it’s so good, Italians use it as a barometer of friendship, as in whether the person is a good enough friend to eat pasta and beans with.  I figured it would be a fine dinner, nothing special.  Oh my gosh was I wrong!!  It’s this creamy pasta with asparagus, white beans, and cherry tomatoes.  The cream sauce is out of this world.  I was actually a little disappointed that I wasn’t home this afternoon to have the leftovers for lunch.

But there wasn’t much room for disappointment about lunch.  The boys and I took a trip into the city to visit my parents and see their new apartment.  The last time I’d been to the city, last fall, my son and I had ended up at HipCityVeg.  It’s right near Rittenhouse Square, and it’s good that it opened after I stopped working because I probably would have wanted to go there every day.  The first time I went, I had this Crispy HipCityVeg  Ranch, and the big guy had Chick’n Nuggets.  They were so good and the texture was so like meat, I really started to wonder if I’d made a mistake.  But no mistake, it’s fake and it’s fabulous!  I told my parents about it and, now that they work and live near that area, they were curious to try it so we planned to head over there for some take out before checking out their new place.

As I said, I was feeling like I was in sort of a bad mood this week, so I have been craving a burger like it’s nobody’s business.  I can’t say exactly why, because it’s not like I was even a huge burger person when I did eat meat, but I was just imagining all of that juicy goodness.  Wanting it made me feel bad, but the though of not having it made me feel almost as bad.  The visit to HipCityVeg was definitely well timed!  I had the classic burger and it satisfied every single burger craving I had.  The patty isn’t quite crumbly the way a burger is, and I didn’t have any juice (we all know what that is…yuck!) running down my arms, but it’s probably better that way anyway.  The bun was delish, lovely lettuce and tomatoes, some red onion, a few pickle slices, ketchup and mustard…what more do you need?

My dad had the Buffalo Bella–portabella with slaw, tomato, and buffalo sauce.  I tried a bite and it had a really nice spice to it.  Usually when you order those types of things, they’re never all that spicy.  But this sandwich had a nice heat.  Not enough to knock you over or anything, but it was a nice surprise.  My mom had the Bistro Bella–portbella with Dijon, tapenade, lettuce, tomato.  I didn’t try hers but she really liked it.  We all agreed that it’s nice to have a place where you can satisfy some of those junk food cravings without that, “ugh, I feel sick, why did I do that,” feeling at the end.  I’m not saying this is health food, but it’s nice to satisfy a craving in a lighter, kinder way.  It’s probably not a tourist destination-type place, not like Vedge or anything, but it’s a great little vegan joint.  And if you find yourself visiting the City of Brotherly Love and are overwhelmed by all of the cheesesteak joints, this place is definitely a port in a storm.

The only bummer, for me at least, is that they only have sweet potato fries.  I’m not a sweet potato fan and I thought they were kind of mushy when I had them on my first visit.  They come with a delicious black bean dipping sauce, but even that wasn’t enough for me to get over the sweet potato.  I decided to skip them on this trip.

This isn’t even all of the goodness of the week, but the rest is for another time.  Until then, Go Green!!

Pesto Soup with Gnocchi and Kale


4 c. vegetable stock

8 oz. vegan gnocchi

1/2 c. prepared vegan pesto (I used a scape pesto I had in the freezer but I have no idea what my recipe was!)

4 c. chopped kale (about 1 bunch)


1.  Bring the stock to a boil in a large pot over high heat.

2.  Add the gnocchi and cook according to package directions.

3. When the gnocchi are approximately 4-5 minutes from being done, add the pesto and stir to combine, then add the kale.  Stir the kale into the soup, allowing it to wilt to desired consistency.  Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a big chunk of crusty bread.


Baked Chorizo Tacos

After a long and frigid winter, we finally had a bit of a warm up here in Philly for a few days.  It was real spring weather, which, after the winter we had, felt like summer weather.  We didn’t need coats, the kids were playing outside, the sun was up late.  Aaaah, it was wonderful.

Warm weather makes me think of TexMex for dinner, or as they call it in San Diego, Fresh Mex.  When I lived in SD (in my omnivore life), I loved sitting outside on a the balcony of some bar, drinking in the warm sun and a Pacifico, munching on some chips and salsa and fish tacos.  THe memories…

For this inaugural warm-weather dinner, I was going to make chorizo tacos from The Kind Diet, which is just cooking up some vegan chorizo, then putting taco stuff on top, but that seemed so blah. I had made black bean tacos just last week so I wanted something a little more exciting for this week. That’s when I came up with the brilliant idea of baked tacos–chorizo with some veggies all wrapped up and smothered in salsa, some melty vegan cheese and pickled jalapeños on top, and finished off with fresh tomatoes and scallions. Yum, yum, extra yum!

I started by browning up some sliced onions and peppers. I like to use frozen peppers in things like this. They start out softer, so it’s easier to eat them later, but you could certainly use fresh if you prefer the crunch. It’s probably sacrilege to say I like frozen veggies, but I’ll just pray for forgiveness on Sunday.

I then added the chorizo. I used a packaged chorizo, but Kristy Turner of Keepin’ It Kind is coming out with a cookbook that will have a homemade chorizo recipe that I can’t wait to try.  I got the chorizo nice and brown, then added in some leftover cooked rice and two chopped chipotles in adobo.  As the saying goes, “some like it hot,” and we are definitely part of the some.  Chipotles in adobo add a wonderful smoky heat, but you could add fewer (or more!) or leave them out altogether if that’s too much heat.

At this point, the pan was definitely in need of some deglazing, but what could I use that would work well here?  White wine just wasn’t right, and I’m not a fan of deglazing with stock, so what could I use, what could I use?  Aha, beer!  Yes, this was my most fabulous inspiration of the dish.  Beer is fabulous with TexMex dishes, and it’s even more fabulous in TexMex dishes.  And for the ultimate in awesomeness (at least for me) we just started brewing our own beer so I had a lovely IPA of our own making in the fridge.  If I didn’t have our beer in the fridge and I made this again, I would probably use an amber Mexican beer, like Pacifico (one of my favorites).

Once all of the yummy brown bits had been picked up by the beer, and the beer had mostly evaporated, it was time to fill the tacos.  I was using large, whole wheat tortillas and thought I would only get four out of it.  I filled the first one and it seemed huge, but then I did smaller amounts for the other ones and they seemed too small.  I ended up with five, which is an awkward number and I think I could have gotten at least six.

About how much filling you want for a large tortilla

About how much filling you want for a large tortilla

Of course, after eating one, I think you could probably go on the smaller side and everyone would be satisfied.  Because I was using the larger tortillas, I was able to fold the sides as well, so it formed a nice little package.  If you use smaller tortillas, you could just roll them up, leaving the ends open.  If you’re just rolling them, you can use corn or flour tortillas.  If you want to fold them up into packages, definitely go for flour.  Corn tends to rip, at least it does for me.

I put the rolled tacos into a greased baking pan, then covered them with jarred salsa.  I used Trader Joe’s Chipotle Salsa for more heat, but you can use any jarred salsa you want.  You could even use a tomatillo salsa, but this is not the place for fresh salsa.  The tomatoes in fresh salsa would cook, and the water would be too runny but not get the tacos quite juicy and soft enough.  You want the thickness of what comes out of a jar.

I covered it all with some vegan cheese and a few pickled jalapeños, then baked it at 425º for about 20 minutes.

Fresh out of the oven

Fresh out of the oven

Once it was done, I added some chopped tomatoes and scallions, and we added avocado at the table.

Topped with goodness

Topped with goodness

I asked my husband if he had any suggestions/changes/improvements. The response, “No, it was fabulous.” I think I might try a squeeze of lime next time, and I would have liked some cilantro to go on top but ours wasn’t ready for the compost bin when I checked on it 😦  I might also try an avocado cream or guacamole instead of just chunked avocado.  Admittedly, the vegan cheese was the weak point.  I just haven’t really found a good one yet, but I’ll keep trying.

This is a really versatile dish and you can add/substitute whatever you want.  Enjoy!

Baked Chorizo Tacos


  • 1 T cooking oil of choice
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • 2 cups sliced bell peppers
  • 8 oz. vegan chorizo, crumbled
  • 1-2 chipotles in adobo, chopped (optional)
  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 4-6 oz. amber beer, about half a bottle
  • 4-6 large tortillas (more if you are using small tortillas)
  • 1 1/2-2 cups jarred salsa
  • 1 cup shredded vegan cheese, Cheddar or Monterey Jack, or a combination of the two, would work best
  • 1/4 cup sliced pickled jalapeño (optional)
  • 1 small tomato, chopped
  • 3 scallions, white and green parts, sliced
  • 1/4-1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  1. Preheat oven to 425º.
  2. Grease 9×13 baking pan.  Set aside.
  3. In a large sauté pan (not non-stick), heat oil over medium-high heat.  Once oil is hot, add onion and pepper.  Cook 3-4 minutes until soft and translucent, but not brown.
  4. Add chorizo, and cook until starting to brown and brown bits are starting to form on the bottom of the pot.
  5. Add chipotles and brown rice, stirring to combine.
  6. Add beer, stirring to pick up all of the yummy brown bits that have formed on the bottom of the pan until liquid has evaporated.  Remove from heat.
  7. Warm your tortillas in a microwave until they are soft and pliable.  You do not want them to get crisp or crunchy.
  8. Add filling to your tortillas and roll them, either forming a package by folding in the ends, or just a simple roll.  Place the filled tortillas, seam-side down, in the greased baking pan.
  9. Once all tortillas are in the baking pan, cover with the salsa and cheese.  If using, scatter pickled jalapeños on top.  Place in the oven until heated through and cheese is melted, about 20 minutes.
  10. Remove from oven and top with chopped tomato, scallions, and cilantro.
  11. Serve with avocado, sour cream, or any other toppings of your choice

Waxing Philosophical

I’ve recently started going to church again.  I was raised Catholic, and after going to Catholic high school as a liberal female in the early ’90s, I pretty much couldn’t stand it anymore.  The abuse scandals did nothing to improve my opinion of the Church.  But then Pope Francis came along and he made me feel hopeful again, and I’m just ready to let go of the anger I’ve felt for so long, so I started back.

That’s a preface to a few things that have happened recently.  The first is:  I heard a great homily at the church I tried on Sunday.  The priest talked about the three pillars of Lent–prayer, self-sacrifice, and alms giving.  The prayer part was interesting, but doesn’t relate here.  But in the self-sacrifice part, he talked about how he tries to give up Milky Way bars.  He said, “It won’t change the world, but it might change me.”  And he said the same thing about fasting/not eating meat on Fridays.  He said that by denying himself these things, he may not change the world, but he can be reminded of how fortunate he is that there are so many food options for us, and it reminds him to think of the people who don’t have those same options.  He thinks of how there are so many poor people who don’t have any food, let alone who can choose what type of food they eat. 

Sometimes I wonder if I am being ridiculous in being vegan(ish).  I mean, there are so many people who would be so happy to have food that I refuse to eat.  There are starving people out there!  Who am I to turn my nose up at food that is available to me?  But his comments made me think of it a different way.  I am doing this, partly, because I am so fortunate to have so many options and I should be focusing on how lucky I am.  Plus, I do think that cutting back on meat and dairy can save the world–by reducing the amount of grain that gets used for livestock instead of human consumption; by reducing the amount of land that gets taken up by the animals; and by showing that this lifestyle leads to better health and a longer life.

Second, even before that homily, I had decided to really re-commit myself to being vegan for Lent.  Strangely, it makes it sort of easier to not have certain things when I remind myself that I’m doing this for Lent.  I guess it’s the self-sacrifice pillar–you are doing it not only for yourself, but for something bigger than yourself.  What I really need to work on remembering during Lent is that the “something bigger” isn’t just God, but that it’s humanity as a whole.

Letting go of all of that anger that I’ve held for 20+ years and living in a way that does something great for the other beings we share this Earth with has really changed me for the better.  I feel so much lighter, and happier in a way that I haven’t felt since I was a kid.

Adventure Aquarium

I sometimes wonder why they named it Adventure Aquarium…it’s in Camden, isn’t the adventure implied?! I mean, it’s an adventure just getting there!

But honestly, my boys love the aquarium and so do I. The shark tunnel is always so cool, and the big one was finally brave enough to touch the sting rays! The little one touched one of the babies and kind of freaked out, but I was so proud of both of them. There’s a new frog exhibit, at which the little one announced, “I happy Mommy, I happy!”

As something of an animal rights activist, I do wonder if I should be against the aquarium. I mean, they’re keeping animals in small areas, when they would normally swim miles and hunt naturally. On the other hand, it’s informative for my kids and gives them a chance to see sea life close up in a way they never would otherwise. They also don’t exhibit signs of unhappiness the way other animals do in captivity. So, I like to go. It’s fun and I love seeing sea life. Many people wish humans could fly…I’ve always wished we could breathe underwater.

Anyway, we decided not to bring lunch, so there was another adventure. My boys aren’t totally off meat and dairy yet, so I ended up just getting them some pizza and they were happy. For me–a tougher time. I ended up with a container of pretzel chips and red pepper hummus. I should have gotten some veggie sticks to go along with it, but I didn’t realize how much hummus I would have. The only other vegan option was this tiny house salad for $7.79, and it was just lettuce, carrots, onions, and tomatoes. Slim pickings, for sure. A vegan contemplating the Adventure Aquarium, especially with a family, do yourself a favor and bring your lunch!

Chickpea “Tu-nah”

I was always a huge tuna fish lover.  I loved fresh tuna too, but there were periods in my life where I would live on tuna fish.  And I’ve always liked it very simple.  When I was a little girl, I just used mayo…hold the celery, hold the onions.  Sometime after college, a friend suggested Dijon mustard.  My world was forever changed!  I’ve come to accept the celery and onion in my old age, but I don’t often bother with it.  My recipe is still totally simple—tuna, Dijon, mayo.

In going plant-based, I thought tuna fish was one of those things that I’d end up having every once in a while when I was really dying for it and it was the only viable option.  Aside from it being delicious, it’s so easy—open the can, add stuff, so simple!  I really didn’t think I could find something that would be a good substitute in terms of flavor AND ease.

Enter the chickpea.  The chickpea really is the most amazing food ever, and it turns out, it’s a great substitute for tuna fish!  Open the can, mash it up, add Dijon and Vegennaise, et voila!  I added some scallions just to be a little fancy, but it really didn’t need it.  No recipe; it’s really just however you like your tuna, use chickpeas instead.  It’s definitely mushier/moister than tuna, but having mush instead of death in my mouth is a welcome trade-off!  So next time you think “tuna?”, you can say “tu-nah!”

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