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Sunday, February 27, 2011

A berry good weekend!

It's 7:15 on a Sunday night and I have to say, I had a wonderful weekend. It started out with a little vitamin D intake at the beach which called for a little beach-reading. I started a new book, The Vegan Girl's Guide To Life, by Melisser Elliot. It's full of cruelty-free crafts, recipes, clothing, and beauty secrets for living a more compassionate lifestyle. It gives some advice and encouragement on how to gracefully embrace the vegan lifestyle while spreading the word to others even though, at times, it seems like a lost cause. It's common for new vegans to be very excited about making the change and talking to others about the numerous benefits. However, sometimes it may come across a bit preachy, which is not the intention. All you can do is tell people about it, suggest some reading material, and get involved in organizations that support the cause. Knowing what I know now, it just seems silly that someone wouldn't want to become "more vegan." Another thing I did learn was that honey is not vegan. Honey bees have complex nervous systems that allows them to feel pain. And furthermore, honey is bee puke. Not to sound gross, but it's the truth. Bees are controlled by a smoker that make them unnaturally engorge themselves with honey. The swallow nectar, throw it up, eats it again, and then repeats. I have found that agave nectar is a great honey substitute.

On Saturday, I forwent my vegan ways to partake in a fondue fiesta hosted by my high-fiving friend, Traci. First of all, it was totally awesome of her to make the fiesta vegetarian. There was beer-cheese fondue and chocolate-peanut butter fondue. Everything was so delicious. It was the first time I had a good amount of cheese in over a month. There's no doubt that cheese is delicious, but after being meat and dairy free this long it didn't really sit well. And speaking of cheese, another thing you commonly hear when talking about going vegan is "well, I could never give up cheese." I was definitely one of those people. I LOVED cheese. But, thinking about where cheese comes from is enough for me to give it up. Was it hard? Sure, at first. But after a week, it was a little easier, and after two weeks, I really didn't miss it. The thing is, you really can give up cheese, you just don't want to give up cheese. Why do you think that is? Perhaps you are addicted to it. I'm not saying that in a joking way, either. Cheese contains casein which is a milk protein that has a highly addictive quality to it. In fact, cheese contains more casein that any other dairy product. If you want, conduct your own experiment. Give up cheese (and all dairy so you aren't consuming any casein) for two weeks. Give yourself just 14 days, and free yourself from the cheese-monster. I'm telling you, once it's out of your system, you won't crave it. Not to mention, there are plenty of vegan cheeses out there to try. I actually haven't experimented with any of those yet though because I honestly haven't wanted cheese. I did make an exception for myself though, for the fondue fiesta. Although food and friends is always a good time, I was looking forward to Sunday.

I met with a friend, and her friend at Darbster's, this adorable, little vegan place on the water. I had a fanTASTIC lunch and met my new boyfriend, Dalton. He has a huge head and requires a slobber-rag but his sweetness and charm made it all okay.
He's a Great Dane who's heart is as big as his head. Everyone at Darbster's was so excited and in awe to watch him walk in. Everyone pulled out their camera phones, including the executive chef. Dalton was an instant celebrity. One of the things I LOVE about Darbster's is that it is very animal-friendly, but not only that, they are not-for-profit. All of their profits go to animal charities and help spread the word about veganism. It's truly a great company with a lot of heart, which is most definitely reflected in their amazing food! Today I had a cup of avocado-cucumber-lime gazpacho with a palmcake sandwich. It was one of the best meals I've ever had. And somehow it tastes even better knowing I am helping animals. I wish I would have taken a picture of it because not only do they do a great job making delicious food, but it's always presented in such a beautiful, artsy way. I just love it.

When I got home I made Berry-Berry Strudel. I bought way too many strawberries for the fondue fiesta so I wanted to make something with them. I found a recipe in Skinny Bitch for Blueberry Strudel and thought, why not make that and add strawberries? I have to give myself a high-five for that one (so basically I clapped my hands together once, which is a bit awkward) because the strawberries and the blueberries went great together. The recipe also has lemon extract and cinnamon in it, so it's full of great flavors. It came out perfectly moist. I couldn't find the recipe for this one online, so you'll just have to get the book (which I HIGHLY recommend!) After seeing the success with my ad-libbed strawberries, I felt like I wanted to keep the ball rolling. So I closed my books and opened my cabinets.

For dinner (and leftovers for lunch) I decided to make some black beans and couscous with a little island-attitude. Last week while grocery shopping I came across this mango salsa couscous.
I just made that, according to the package directions, using olive oil in stead of butter. Then I had a can on black beans and some leftover veggies from last week's recipes. I started out by just adding some chopped garlic and jalapeno to a little bit of olive oil over low heat in a skillet. Then I added the black beans, drained and rinsed first. Sprinkled in a little southwest chipolte seasoning and sauteed for about 5 or 6 minutes. I then removed the beans from the pan and put them in a bowl off to the side. There was lots of great flavor bits leftover so I added a half of a chopped red bell-pepper and a half of a large carrot, shredded, to the pan. I let those soften up a bit and then added some ground coriander and a little cayenne pepper. After about 5 minutes over medium heat, I added the beans back to the pan and tossed it all together. Here's how it came out and the flavor combination was pretty great. It has that perfect ratio of hot and sweet flavors. This couscous is certainly one of my new faves.

So that's about all I have for now. I was really going to give you some powerful statistics that I truly think would make you think about going vegan or vegetarian, even if just for a day. However, I was so eager to get other people reading about this I quickly passed the book on to someone else so I want to make sure I get all the facts and figures right before I tell you about them.

Have a great week everyone!

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