One of the hardest parts of being a new vegan (or even an old seasoned vegan) is trying to keep up with all the new products out there. I must have spent over $50 looking for the "right" vegan cheese my first year being a vegan and I have over 50 vegan/vegetarian cookbooks in my arsenal but not all the recipes are the greatest. I’m the first born so I’m used to being a Guinea Pig and now I’m your Vegan Guinea Pig. So here are my recommendations and critiques. Let me know what you think!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Special News Report: I LOVE BACON!!!

Well, bacon seitan that is. It must be a Christmas miracle because I have not liked one brand of faux bacon that has passed my lips in my life and I've been experimenting with faux bacon's since the late 80s/early 90s. Oh yeah, I'm that old. And yep, faux meats did exist way back in the stone ages when I was a little kid. Ok really, I'm only 33 but something about not eating pork since the 80s makes me feel very old. 

Anywho...I've heard of this brand Upton's for awhile but it just floated through my mind like many of the new vegan brands out there. Some are great and stick around forever, some are gone before you could even figure out how to pronounce their name. It would take me weeks to go through this blog and delete all the vegan products that no longer exist. But I hope that Upton's Bacon Seitan is never one those. Because for the first time ever, I have fallen in love with a faux bacon. For those transitioning to a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle and are more familiar with pork bacon than I am I will add a disclaimer now, I cannot attest to whether or not this actually taste like bacon. Although, in some ways it reminds me of turkey bacon, but it's been nearly 15 years since I had turkey bacon (see, when you throw out number like that you just sound plain old!) What I can tell you is that I love this stuff. My mind is blown, my heart is full of joy and my wallet is about to be lighter because I'm heading back to the Whole Foods where I found this stuff and buying a case today. Our Whole Foods back in Atlanta doesn't carry this box of happiness and I'm not taking any chances. This stuff is going on the plane with me. 

This Week's Rating 

Scale of 1-4 Dancing Guinea Pigs 1 meaning it is destined for the compost bin and 4 meaning it is destined for greatness

Vegan Guinea Pig gives this 4 out of 4 Dancing Guinea Pigs 

Lil' Guinea Pig gives this one 3 out of 4 Dancing Guinea Pigs

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Two books to make the Vegan Police proud

I'm generally not a fan of the vegan police. Nonetheless they pop up everywhere, testing your "veganess" and appointing themselves the judge and jury to decide whether or not you are vegan enough. They irk me in every way. I personally don't believe this form of zealous behavior does anything to help animals. By demanding companies remove the Hydroxpropyltrimonium Hydrolyzed Keratin does this really do anything for the animals? If we cut down meat consumption to a place where the price of meat rises substantially and in turn the price of meat and dairy byproducts raises substantially then you will likely see more companies opt for vegetable based additives but until then I think the fights over these tiny ingredients is a pointless one. Just one girl's opinion.

Don't get me wrong, there's no way I'm eating anything with gelatin, keratin, casein, whey or any other byproduct that comes from an animal. I read the ingredients labels like a ninja on everything that goes in my body or on my body from body wash and toothpaste to tofu and frozen vegetables. I look for the big "V" and cruelty free labels on everything I buy as well. But if I accidentally buy a lipstick that has Polyalklyene Glycol Ethers in it I'm not about to start freaking out over whether or not is was sourced from a vegetable or is partly animal. Seriously, is that any way to live. Most importantly, does it make veganism look more or less attractive to newbie or would-be vegans?

Now I bet you're wondering, how does she know all these fancy, long, chemically names? Well, I have sitting in front of me two books that guarantee to tell you the source of every single thing you could ever think to put on your body or in your body. Veganissimo A to Z: A Comprehensive Guide to Identifying and Avoiding Ingredients of Animal Origin in Everyday Products by Reuben Proctor and Lars Thomsen and Animal Ingredients A to Z by The EG Smith Collective. Back when I was a newbie vegan I found Animal Ingredients A to Z to be incredibly helpful. It didn't occur to me that marshmallows weren't vegan or that royal jelly came from insects. It's a thin book, less than 100 pages of content and I felt it got right to the point and put me on the right track. I felt empowered by the book and as I thumb through it now I see some of the pages that I earmarked and regard those early days of my vegan adventure with a bit of whimsy. The newest book on animal ingredients Veganissimo A to Z, in contrast, is almost 300 pages long and it packed with over 2,500 different ingredients. For me, this crosses over from the line of informative to overkill. From super helpful to vegan police. Everyone is different, some people might really love having 2,500 different food, beauty and home product ingredients at their fingertips at all times. I'm not one of those people. Veganissimo is a well organized, well thought out, well written collection of products and ingredients and if I was just looking up something specifically it would likely be the first place I went to but for a new vegan I think the book is just way too intimidating.

This Week's Rating 

Scale of 1-4 Dancing Guinea Pigs 1 meaning it is destined for the compost bin and 4 meaning it is destined for greatness

Vegan Guinea Pig gives this 2.75 out of 4 Dancing Guinea Pigs for Veganissimo and 3.5 out of 4 Dancing Guinea Pigs for Animal Ingredients A to Z

Lil' Guinea Pig is sitting this one out due to an inability to read more than 4 words :)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Plum Genius!

As a vegan mom I get asked constantly if my daughter is vegan or if I'm raising her vegan. I always answer proudly yes! I know many vegan mom's get bombarded with the "so, is that healthy" question but thankfully, being a pediatric dietitian has it perks in that not too many people ask me silly questions when it comes to my child's health. Although I do get the occasional "where do she get her protein" or "how do you handle that at school" as if brown-bag lunches were just invented this decade. But I digress. The funny thing is that there are a plethora of vegan, ready to eat, quick on the go options for vegan kids. The grocery store is swimming with them. 

One of my favorite vegan-friendly companies is Plum Organics. I've seen their products every where from Target and Kroger to the Piggly Wiggly (no lie). Here's a list of all of Plum Organics vegan offerings for little ones. We skipped the purees and never did the whole baby food thing but I can attest that their Little Cremes and Crunch O'Las are tasty for both kids and adults.

This Week's Rating 

Scale of 1-4 Dancing Guinea Pigs 1 meaning it is destined for the compost bin and 4 meaning it is destined for greatness

Vegan Guinea Pig gives it 3.75 out of 4 Dancing Guinea Pigs

Lil' Guinea Pig gives it 3.5 out of 4 Dancing Guinea Pigs

Plum Organics Vegan Products:

Baby Cereal Brown Rice
Baby Cereal | Oatmeal

Puree Baby Food:
Just Apples
Just Bananas
Just Mangos
Just Peaches
Just Pears
Just Prunes

Babies First Foods:
Just Butternut Squash with Cinnamon
Just Carrots
Just Sweet Peas with Mint
Just Sweet Potato

Little Cremes Super Greens | Kale, Apple & Sweet Potato
Little Cremes Super Purples | Acai, Blackberry & Purple Carrot
Little Cremes Super Reds | Pomegranate, Beet & Berry

Second Blends | Apple Carrot
Second Blends | Apple Raisin & Quinoa
Second Blends | Blueberry, Pear & Purple Carrot
Second Blends | Broccoli Apple
Second Blends | Peach, Apricot & Banana
Second Blends Pear Mango
Second Blends | Plum Berry & Barley
Second Blends | Pumpkin Banana
Second Blends | Spinach, Peas & Pear
Second Blends | Sweet Potato Mango & Millet
Second Blends | Sweet Potato, Corn & Apple
Second Blends | Zucchini Banana & Amaranth

Super Puffs | Spinach Apple
Super Puffs | Mango & Sweet Potato
Super Puffs | Blueberry & Purple Sweet Potato
Super Puffs | Strawberry & Beet
Super Puffs | Banana & Peach

Training Meals | Red Lentil Veggie | Portable Pouches

Mish Mash | Apple Cinnamon Oats & Quinoa
Mish Mash | Banana Rice & Quinoa
Mish Mash | Blueberry Oats & Quinoa
Mish Mash | Banana
Mish Mash | Peach
Mish Mash | Strawberry

Teensy Fruits Apple
Teensy Fruits Berry
Teensy Fruits Peach

Crunch 'Ola | Apple Snapster
Crunch 'Ola | Choco Chipster
Crunch 'Ola | Peanutty Pretzel

Fruit &Veggie Mashups | Beetbox Berry
Fruit & Veggie Mashups | Blueberry Blitz
Fruit &Veggie Mashups | Carrot Chop

Fruit & Veg | Shredz Blue
Fruit & Veg | Shredz Green
Fruit Shredz | Berry'licious
Fruit Shredz | Peach Peelz

Jammy Sammy | Apple Cinnamon &Oatmeal
Jammy Sammy | Blueberry &  Oatmeal
Jammy Sammy | Grape Jelly & Peanut Butter
Jammy Sammy | Strawberry Jam & Peanut Butter

Mashups | Mixed Berry
Mashups | Grape
Mashups | Green Apple
Mashups | Strawberry Banana
Mashups | Tropical

Thursday, October 10, 2013

It's Time To Let Your Inner Hippie Out For A Walk

So...I thought with my post about the Shea Moisture line of products that I was coming out as a full blown hippie. But as it turns out, there is a lot more where that came from! So I'm an "extended" breastfeeding, cloth-diapering, cloth wipes, oil instead of lotion, gardening, pesticide free, natural hair kinda girl. I admit to all of that. But somehow I thought all these things made me immune to being a hippie. I even bought my daughter shoes made out of burlap, I should have known then that I had fallen down a deep dark path and am just 1 step away from moving to a commune at this point.

I guess, now that I'm a mom I can call myself an "Eco-Mom" or "Green-Mom". That sounds a lot more young and cool than "hippie." But now I've taken the final plunge. When my free and clear laundry detergent finally ran out this week I looked at the tin of Nellie's Laundry Soap that I've been using for almost 2 years now on my daughter's cloth diapers and thought - why don't I just use that? Why the thought hadn't occurred to me earlier I will never know. Each tiny tin of Nellie's is enough to clean 100 large loads of clothes with just a tablespoon of detergent. I took a sneak peak at my clothes during the wash cycle to see if this stuff really worked and if any dirt was coming out of them at all. To my surprise there was not only dirt and grime floating in the churning water but an shiny film that almost appeared to be oily. I got on the internet and started searching. As it turns out my old free and clear detergent wasn't that free and clear at all. It contained something called optical brighteners and additive to make my clothes look brighter. This stuff was actually embedded into every little fiber of my clothes and my families clothes. The optical brighteners were the shiny swirls I saw floating around with the dirt and grime released from my clothes. And the thing is, after their first wash with Nellie's my clothes actually looked cleaner, smelled cleaner and had a different texture to them. In one wash with Nellie's Laundry Soap my clothes were freed of all the chemicals that had been building up on them wash after wash. I can't believe I was washing my kids clothes in that stuff! I feel so duped by ever being convinced that those free and clear detergents were actually natural.

So call me a Green Mom, Eco Mom, Hippie or one of my friend's new words for me a Bippie (black-hippie). I'll gladly take on any of those titles. My life has been transformed because of them and it feels so good!

This Week's Rating 

Scale of 1-4 Dancing Guinea Pigs 1 meaning it is destined for the compost bin and 4 meaning it is destined for greatness

Vegan Guinea Pig gives it 4 out of 4 Dancing Guinea Pigs

Lil' Guinea Pig gives it 4 out of 4 Dancing Guinea Pigs

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Here I Go...Eating Cookies Again

Social media has helped me learn one important thing about myself, I'm an emotional eater and my food of choice is sweets. I realized that at one point nearly everyone of my tweets and Facebook post had something to do with a cupcake, cookie or confection of some sort. In all fairness I have been pregnant and/or nursing for the better part of 3 years now and burning calories like a madwoman so for the longest time these little indiscretions made no impact on my weight. daughter has slowed down on nursing and those 600+ calories a day I used to burn breastfeeding are no longer there to help me when I decide that 3 cupcakes for breakfast is a good option because "I deserve it." And frankly, I do deserve it. Running a non-profit, writing, and mothering this is all really hard high-stress work! But I made a vow to myself to have a little more self-control when it comes to the baked goods and stuff an apple in my mouth when I really want a vegan milkshake. 

Everything was going great until I was contacted by Isabella's Cookie Company to try some of their vegan cookies. Who can turn down free cookies?! Well, not me. They shipped me out their Red Velvet and Ginger Molasses flavored cookies the next day. I figured that these would be no great temptation. Store-bought cookies shipped across the country don't exactly scream "moist and delicious." They actually sat on my counter for 2 weeks before I tried them. See, I do have will power. But on a whim I opened up the Red Velvet's one day and to my surprise they were fantastic. Soft, moist and rich. Nothing that I expected them to be. The Ginger Molasses cookies were equally good. I was able to hold on to the cookies for an additional week and they remained moist and soft. 

My daughter found these lurking in my purse one day and all I came back to find was a empty plastic bag with a red velvet cookie crumb trail. So much for our "only one cookie a quarter" rule. I have to get better at hiding my stash! 

This Week's Rating 

Scale of 1-4 Dancing Guinea Pigs 1 meaning it is destined for the compost bin and 4 meaning it is destined for greatness

Vegan Guinea Pig gives these cookies 3.5 out of 4 Dancing Guinea Pigs

Lil' Guinea Pig gives it 4 out of 4 Dancing Guinea Pigs

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