Category Archives: Vegan

Meet Miles The Compost Pile!

I have been feeling a little guilty ever since I put up this post, Naturally Resourceful: Getting Scrappy with Vegetables! I mentioned in that post that I was too time-crunched to have a compost heap even though it would be great for my plants and the environment.

Nothing has changed schedule-wise for me since then.  However, my passion for gardening is now completely unhinged.  (It gets me through the day, people!)   I found I was spending an enormous amount of money on compost which is so riduculous considering I was, guiltily, throwing away things all the time that can be composted.  So, I decided to save money, myself from guilt and, hopefully a little of the environment by starting a compost bin.

I decided to use this garbage pail because it has a lid and I want to keep creatures out of my bin.  I burned holes in the sides:

And the lid:

With a hot glue gun.  I do not endorse this method because melting plastic never seems like a great idea.  However, my cordless drill wasn’t charged (as usual) and I really wanted to get it done.  I waited until I could no longer smell melted plastic and then gave the can a good swabbing before I started to add compost ingredients.

There are so many good resources for what to put in compost and even more importantly, what not to, like Jeff Yeager’s Rotten Luv, I am not going to go into too much detail.  Basically, you want a 2:1 ratio of brown matter to green matter.  I used newspaper shreds for brown matter.  (I figured The NY Times was appropriate for a compost heap named Miles) and for the green matter, I put in coffee grounds, eggshells (No, I didn’t eat the eggs!), plant stems, veggie and fruit peels.

Yum!

I layered the ingredients and gave it a stir.  And that’s it.  I’ll keep adding the ingredients in that 2:1 ratio, and keep stirring it up.  Mostly,  I can just let nature turn it into Black Gold for me.  There are more significant holes in the bottom of the can.  I placed it directly on dirt in the hopes that some worms will find their way in and take up residence, further enriching Miles with their castings.

Why did I name my compost heap?  Jeff Yeager named his Gomer.  I thought it was funny.  So, I decided mine needed to be named too.  So, Miles the Pile was born yesterday May 27, 2017.  I am looking forward to seeing him and my garden grow!

Many blessings,

Cynthia

The Day After Soup

Let me apologize for the somewhat dramatic and still somehow vague title of this post. I just couldn’t think of anything else…

I went out to eat last night. The Italian food I had was quite delicious and I didn’t overindulge -I didn’t even have bread or wine- but I am having the same problem I always do the day after I eat out, salt and oil overload! Even vegetarians can’t escape the liberal generous mammoth use of salt at restaurants. I am just not used to it and feel a bit off today.

My first attempt to rebalance was to make a large smoothie:

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An all fruit smoothie has a lot of natural sugar in it but I am not sweating that because it is packed with natural fiber, vitamins, micronutrients and a high water content … which I need right now.

My next order of business was to start up a nourishing vegetable soup:

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Making a veggie soup once a week is one of the easiest ways to improve your health. You don’t even need a recipe. Chop up a few cups of colorful vegetables, throw them in a pot and cover them with broth or water, add spices, add heat and wait. I like to throw mine in my little crockpot. Heat on high and it’s ready in time for lunch, on low for dinner. Add pre-cooked beans and you have a complete meal. (I would suggest waiting until the last 20 minutes before adding any leafy greens to avoid over cooking.)

So, there are two of my picks to stay healthy during the holidays.  How do you stay in balance this time of year?

Many blessings,

Cynthia

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justdragonfly

Quick (Mostly Healthy) Tea Cookie

I was perusing YouTube the other day when I came across a quick and easy tea cookie recipe from Mary Harris on her Sprout and Blossom channel.  I thought, “Ooooo, tea cookie!  That sounds lovely and comforting.  I have to try that this weekend,” So, I did.

Two main ingredients: banana and oats, what could be simpler?  Mary’s recipe is quite healthy, as well as quick and easy, but I wanted to do the cocoa, peppermint variation.  I was concerned that the cocoa might be a little bitter with only a banana as sweetener.  So, I added a little sugar.

Here’s my variation on the Sprout and Blossom Three Ingredient Recipe:

One cup rolled oats (blended into a flour consistency)

Two small to regular mashed bananas

One teaspoon vanilla extract

One level tablespoon of cocoa powder

Two tablespoons of organic cane sugar

About 3 drops of peppermint extract

About a quarter cup of mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Mix everything together but add the chips last.  Drop teaspoons of the batter on a lined baking sheet.  Bake for approximately 20 minutes.  (Keep an eye and nose on them, as baking times tend to vary depending on your oven.). I got a dozen cookies out of this mix.

Enjoy!

Many blessings,

Cynthia

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justdragonfly

Naturally Nutritious: Beet Greens and a Smoothie Recipe

One of the nicest things about shopping at the farmer’s market is that you see the produce in its natural state. There is no way you could transport beets and other root vegetables with the greens still intact. They would rot over the thousands of miles it takes for them to be delivered. Heaven forbid should there still be any soil on a fruit or veggie in the supermarket! By the time we see them, they are the de-stemmed, triple-washed, gleaming, little, over-sanitized specimens, we expect them to be. You’d never guess that they had been grown in dirt.

Unfortunately, we miss out on the greens. Beet greens, like all greens, are high in fiber. They also contain significant amounts of vitamins K, C and A. Best of all, they are tasty! Some people find them bitter. I honestly don’t. Compared to kale, they are almost sweet… but not quite. I would say they have a fresh, green, earthy flavor. Beet greens are excellent sautéed. They can be added to soups and stews or served raw in salad. I enjoy adding beet greens to my autumn smoothies.

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Autumn Apple and Beet Green Smoothie

One Cup of Almond Milk

One Apple (cored and cut in a few pieces)

Handful of Beet Greens

Handful of Kale

One Banana

A few drops of lemon juice

Two Tablespoons of Chia Seeds

Throw all the ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth. Drink immediately. (I have begun to add the chia seeds after I pour it into a glass. Little suckers get stuck to the side of the blender if you aren’t careful!)

Do you eat the greens that come with your root vegetables? Would you? Please leave me a reply. I would love to hear from you.

Many Blessings,

Cynthia

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justdragonfly

Naturally Dairy-free: Vegan Parm “Cheese” Recipe

I mentioned in my Naturally Healthy Fat-free Snack: Baked Kale Chips post that I make a vegan Parmesan to sprinkle on my chips.     A few of you expressed interest in the recipe.  So, here it is:

Vegan Parmesan

One Cup of Cashews

One Tablespoon Dried Dill

One Teaspoon of Salt.

Throw everything in the Vitamix or high-powered blender. Grind it down until it resembles Parmesan.  Store in an air tight container for up to a week.

You may want to use less dill.  I love dill and put it on everything.  To me, it’s like the little black dress of herbs.  I can’t get enough of the stuff.  There are a lot of recipes for  vegan parm that use nutritional yeast.  That would be the way to go if you don’t like dill (which is practically impossible for me to imagine) or you don’t want green flecks in your parm.

Many blessings,

Cynthia

Please follow me on Twitter.  Also, please LIKE my Facebook Page.

justdragonfly

Natural Way to Start the Day: Summertime Smoothie

Summer is the season of the green smoothie! You can get all your ingredients fresh from the Farmer’s Market. The best foods for our bodies are the ones that are available in season. Getting fruit and veggies from the Farmer’s market ensures that they were grown locally and that they were picked when ripe.

I start every morning with a green smoothie. (When I didn’t get to make it yesterday. I really REALLY missed it!)  Here is what I have been putting in my blender lately:

Summertime Green Smoothie Recipe

Two big handfuls of Kale

The juice of a quarter slice of lemon

One peach, stone removed but skin intact

One cup of almond milk

One banana

Two tablespoons of Chia Seeds (These are rich in protein and fiber!)

I usually just throw it all in the blender and whirl it up. If I remember I will soak the chia seeds in the almond milk first. (Soaking seeds speeds up the time in which you digest them.) Most of the time, I just toss them in the blender with everything else. They still get the job done!

Another variation on this recipe that I like is to replace the peach with a few slices of melon. I try not to go overboard on the fruit. Although it is healthy, spiking your sugar first thing in the morning might have you crashing soon after you get to work.

Do you drink green smoothies in the morning? What do you put in yours? Please let me know in the comments section. I would love to hear from you.

Many blessings to All,

 

Cynthia

Please follow me on Twitter.  Also, please LIKE my Facebook Page.

justdragonfly

Lavender Muffin Update!

The lavender muffins turned out beautifully!  They are just sweet enough: a beautiful balance of vanilla and lavender.  The taste is like a little bit of edible springtime.  Yum yum yum!

Want the recipe?

I started out with Lovely Lavender Muffins from Very Hungry Vegans.

I adapted it though because I thought the maple syrup would overpower the lavender.  So, I used about a quarter to a third of a cup of agave nectar instead.  I would have preferred honey but my jar was running low and I need it for my tea tomorrow.  The agave did quite nicely and keeps the recipe strictly plant-based.  I also opted for a heaping tablespoon of coconut oil rather than a full 1/3 cup of oil.  (With all the apple sauce in the recipe, I suspect it may be possible to skip the oil altogether.)  I don’t measure vanilla extract because I love it and one tablespoon would never be enough for me!

Whether you stick to the original or use my adaptations (or your own) I am certain you will find lavender muffins to be delightful.  Added bonus, your house will smell amazing!

Love and Blessings to All,

Cynthia

 

Please follow me on Twitter.  Also, please LIKE my Facebook Page.

justdragonfly

My Plant-based Life: Am I Vegan?

Am I vegan?  Well, it depends on who you ask…  Many people do consider me a vegan because my diet includes nothing that comes from an animal.  The original intention of the Vegan Society, founded by Donald Watson in 1944, was in fact to coordinate non-dairy vegetarians who do not eat eggs.  So, in the classic definition of the word, I am a vegan.

Veganism, however, is a lifestyle that goes beyond just what one puts in her belly.  And this is where it gets confusing for me.  Vegans will go to great lengths to avoid anything that has been tinged by the commodification of animals.  So, vegans avoid leather, silk, wool and other products that may contain lanolin, beeswax or any other animal-derived ingredients.  Naturally, vegans are opposed to animal testing or activities that considered exploitive like the circus, horse-racing and horse-drawn carriages, etc.  (Most vegans also avoid honey but there is a small but vocal minority who believe that honey can be derived without injury to the bees.)

Honestly, I agree with the vegans on just about all ethical grounds.  While, I haven’t completely eliminated leather and wool from my life, I have made strides in that direction.  I also try to purchase personal care products that are free of animal-derived ingredients.  I don’t believe in animal-testing; animals being used for entertainment or burden.

I mentioned in a previous blog post that yoga was part of what inspired my renewed interest in vegetarianism.  The yoga sutras, believed to have been authored by Pantajali, include the eight limbs of yoga.  The first limb, also known as the yamas, consists of five ethical guidelines.  The first guideline is called ahimsa and means “non-violence” toward other.  This practice resonated with me right away.  It is difficult for me personally to be at peace while participating in something that I know has brought harm to another.

And this brings to me to where I do not feel coordinated some other vegans.  There is an approach by some vegans that I do not agree with at all whereby they want to make an impression on people through shame, illegal activities and sex.  Violence and aggression only begets a violent and aggressive reaction from people.  It’s not okay to put people down who have different beliefs than you.  It’s not okay for example to throw paint on people who wear fur.  I honestly believe that there will come a time where we all will understand that more can be accomplished by practicing love and compassion than force.

So, where does that leave me?  Well, usually when asked, I will describe myself as a strict vegetarian.  However, I am inclined to agree with Soren Kierkegaard’s quote:  “Once you label me, you negate me.”  The truth is I am a work in progress.  Like everyone else, I am doing the best I can with the knowledge I have at the moment.  I strive to be the healthiest, most compassionate person that I can be.  When I fail, I am most grateful for forgiveness and the compassion that is shown to me.

Love and Blessings to All,

Cynthia

Please follow me on Twitter.  My handle is @cynthialenz.  Also, please LIKE my Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/naturallyhealthyhappy

My Plant-based Life: Part Three (So long Cheese!)

My Plant-based Life: Part Three (So long Cheese!)

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome reared its’ ugly head again in December of 2009 when I was exposed to mold after moving into an apartment on the top floor of a building, that was about 20 years overdue for a new roof.  I got really sick for the first time since going veg.  After the acute stage passed, I was left with a chronic cough that I couldn’t shake.

I got out of there before the end of 2010 but my move coincided with a colossal bunch of events including my business being in its death throes, starting a new full-time job with long hours and a long commute, as well as, a professional project I had begun working on that went sour and took down several friendships with it.  I was dog tired and sad for several months.  I began getting random pains in my joints.  I was also suffering from severe insomnia at times. (As I mentioned in a previous post Yoga Nidra was very helpful in treating my insomnia.)

I got some temporary relief in the summer of 2011 by taking SAM-e.  S-adenosylmethionine is a dietary supplement that has been shown to be effective in treating arthritis, depression, fibromyalgia, MS and chronic pain.  My other big helper was adopting a four-year-old, hairy Havanese named Chauncy.  Chauncy is the kind of dog twho makes every day, a good day.

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I was still tired and my little cough persisted though.  I was hacking up great big gobs of phlegm several times a day.  I was also bloated again.  I looked like I had a bowling ball in my belly which was hard to hide with clothes.  Things got to a pivotal point in February of 2012 after I put on a seminar at work, I went home and slept for almost 15 hours straight.

I decided to take stock of my lifestyle.  I noticed my diet had gone down the crapper for several reasons: 1) I got caught up in couponing to save money and was only buying things that were on sale.  My diet mostly consisted of the only dairy I was still eating: cheap yogurt and hunks of sale-priced cheddar.  I had stopped cooking.  My dinners, after getting home late at night, were usually a hunk of cheddar, a glass of wine and bag tortilla chips with salsa. 2) My yoga practice was non-existent.  If it wasn’t for walking Chauncy twice a day, I would have gotten no exercise at all.  I knew I needed to make big changes again.

I hit Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods and bought every beautiful whole food that called out to me, regardless of price.  I felt better just looking at all that colorful fresh produce in the cart.  (I also went to the Farmer’s Market every week to get local, fresh produce all summer long.) I began studying nutrition again too.  I wanted to see if there was a natural way to deal with how I was feeling.  The library was calling every day with books and DVDs, I had reserved on the topic. One thing that kept coming up over and over was adding in more raw food.  Raw food, especially greens, cleanse the body and provide micronutrients.  I now try to eat over 65% raw fruits and veggies in my diet. (A particularly moving documentary on the power of raw food is Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days.)

The most profound change I made was giving up dairy completely.  I had long suspected that it was contributing to my upper respiratory issues but I LOVED cheese.  I used to joke that I was a cheese addict.  Then I saw Dr. Neal Barnard’s lecture on the addictive properties of chocolate, cheese, meat and sugar… turns out I actually was.  Cheese, according to Barnard, contains concentrated amounts of casein, “a protein that breaks apart during digestion to release a whole host of opiates called casomorphins.”

Giving up cheese was no joke.  I was a hardcore, daily user.  Brie, cheddar, Havarti, Fontina, raw, goat cheese…oh, it didn’t matter what kind, I dug all of it.  I am embarrassed to admit this, but I actually got weepy at the thought of never having it again.  I even went through withdrawal-type symptoms.  I was cranky, jittery and got headaches.  Then this amazing thing happened a few weeks after I stopped eating it; I started to feel great.  My sinuses cleared up.  I also stopped hacking up phlegm all the time and I was no longer bloated.  The mental haze and fatigue lifted.

So, there you have it.  I have been completely plant-based since March of 2012.  Am I vegan though?  Read my blog next week and find out.

Love and blessings to all,

Cynthia

Please follow me on Twitter.  My handle is @cynthialenz.  Also, please LIKE my Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/naturallyhealthyhappy

My Plant-based Life: Part Deux (Getting healthier)

I decided to try yoga because my body was way too run down to start jogging.  I had always been pretty flexible; so, it seemed like it might be a good fit.  Also, yoga seemed to be a series of slower movements.  So, I didn’t have to worry about being a spaz… the way I always felt in dance and aerobics classes.  Turns out, I LOVED it!  At first, I did it on my own with tapes and DVDs; then when I was brave enough, I began taking classes.  I highly recommend going to an experienced yoga instructor.  It’s always a good to have someone checking your form and giving you tips to grow your practice.

As I began learning about yoga, I found a lot of information on being a vegetarian.  Not all people who practice yoga are veg, but there seemed to be a lot of vegetarian info. in yoga magazines and books (Teaser: more on why this is this next week!).  And from what I was reading, many people found relief from the digestive orders like I had, by eliminating meat and dairy from their diet.  So, I began to experiment.

First, the red meat went.  Instantly, I started to feel better.  The bouts of diarrhea stopped.  I also stopped drinking milk.  I never liked milk.  When I was a little girl, I struggled to finish my glass of milk with dinner.  Often, I would be the last one at the dinner with Mom wiping the table down around me because it was so hard to get down.  Milk and ice cream would leave my belly so distended but I never made the connection because I thought milk was so good for you. Eventually, I stopped eating all animals, seafood, eggs and most dairy.  I felt better and better with each elimination. (No pun intended but FYI that improved too!)

As I was getting rid of these items, I had to learn to new ways of eating.    Given what some friends have referred to as my Virgo nature, I had to find out how to be a healthy vegetarian, as well as, the answers to any questions detractors might throw at me.  (Virgos don’t like to argue but, apparently, we like losing arguments even less.)  So, I officially became a nutrtion nerd, devouring books, magazines and websites on vegetarian nutrition.

Protein was something I had always heard was lacking in vegetarian diets.  Indeed, to this day, “how do you get your protein?” is the top question I am asked.  I quickly learned that protein deficiency is rarely an issue.  (And if you think about it, many of the animals, omnivores eat for protein, are actually vegetarian.)  I’ve also learned that too much animal protein is a likely contributor to chronic diseases.  I could write a whole post just on this topic alone but a few sources of veggie protein include nuts, seeds, legumes, tofu, fermented soy products and certain grains like buckwheat.

The next biggest question I get is: What do you eat?/Don’t you feel deprived?  The great irony is that I eat MORE and more varied food now that I am veg than I did when I was an omnivore.  I also still eat a lot of the same food I ate before like pasta, pizza, burritos, burgers, fries, salads etc. but of course now they are made without animal products.  I became a better cook and got more adventurous in trying new things like kale, different types of mushrooms and dandelion greens.  I finally learned how to cook beans.  I found that the more colorful my diet became, the better I felt.  A lot of my food before had been beige: chicken breast, potato, pasta, bread and margarine.  In fact, my doctors had told me to eat plain foods to keep my digestive issues at bay. After I went veg, my meals became a dazzling display of healthy lush greens with red, yellow, purple and orange veggies.  The more colorful my diet got, the better my digestion was.

My health bounced back rather rapidly after I started a yoga practice and adopted a vegetarian diet.  I lost 15 of the 20 pounds I had gained.  My energy increased significantly.  I also experienced a greater sense of emotional well-being and I felt more like myself but more on that in next week’s post… Going all the way Veg.

Love and many blessings,

Cynthia

Please follow me on Twitter.  My handle is @cynthialenz.  Also, please LIKE my Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/naturallyhealthyhappy