Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Guest Post: Jack & Trisha’s amazing year!

(Lynne here) I met “Santa Jack” & Trisha of Happy Times Two about a month ago when they passed thru Chicago on their “around the U.S.” RV tour.  Their vegan transformation this year has been nothing short of AMAZING (together, they’ve lost a staggering 120 lbs and counting!).  I just knew that fellow Vegan Vagabond readers would love to hear their story, so I asked Jack to write this guest blog post.  Enjoy!)



We’re Jack and Trisha, and are currently 6 months into a 7 month RV excursion around the country to celebrate Trisha’s joining me in retirement. When we started planning this trip, we were excited about seeing so much of the country, but as it’s turned out, by far the greatest gift we’ve received from this experience is a total transformation in our health, as we’ve become “mostly vegan!” I can’t begin to describe how wonderful this has been, how much better we feel physically, and how our outlook on life has changed since we started this journey.

First, a little background. All my life I’ve wrestled with being overweight, starting in childhood. Through the years I’ve done probably every conceivable diet, with some success at times, but invariably I’ve put back on the weight I had lost, and steadily gaining more. I’ve often said my closet looked like a men’s store--from slim and trim sizes all the way up to designs by Omar the Tentmaker! Even though I had run a marathon at age 35, in recent years I had become much more sedentary and less active. I started taking cholesterol and blood pressure medications years ago, and my doctors kept having to increase the dosage. In January of this year my doctor added a third BP med to my regimen, and this was pretty unsettling-- I had figured I would always be on these meds, but adding this new one was sobering.

Some “Before” pictures--DSC00300

Well, about this time we were preparing to embark on our trip and while surfing the web for tips on RVing, I ran across Lynne’s WinnieViews blog, discovering to my delight that she had the identical model RV we had recently bought. Her blog was incredibly helpful, and she was kind enough to answer many questions I had. But by far the most significant thing about her blog was her link to Vegan Vagabonds, and a gift for which both Trisha and I will be forever in her debt.

On a lark, I just started reading some of her posts on this blog, as well as those from Tessa and Evelyn and a light just went off in my head, I mean like exploded!! For reasons I can’t really explain, the picture she posted of the spinach and kale smoothie just hit me like a ton of bricks--just a sudden enlightenment moment!! I was also intrigued by her stories of weight loss due to adopting a plant based diet. I showed Trisha the picture and some of the blog posts and we both just said “Let’s do this!”

At the beginning of our trip!

So I ordered a Blendtec, and we both read Dr. Fuhrman’s Eat to Live, and were amazed at the many success stories he described. What was without a doubt the most helpful advice to us from his book, as well as from all three wonderful women who started Vegan Vagabonds was that you didn’t have to be a slave to this approach. As Lynne says, she occasionally eats non-vegan foods, just doesn’t make a habit of it anymore. We had known some vegans who were just Nazis about it and this approach was something of a turn off. But hearing that you could successfully be “mostly vegan” was just the approach both of us needed.

I had been scheduled to go back to see my doctor in February since she had been concerned about my increasing blood pressure and she wanted to monitor it more closely. We had just started this new way of eating a couple of days before my appointment and when I told her what we were doing she was just ecstatic! She told me that she and her husband eat about 80% plant based, eating some meat/fish/dairy usually on the weekends, but with this way of eating her husband had been able to get off his blood pressure medications completely.

I went back to see my doctor in March, just before we left on our trip, and in this one month I had lost 24 pounds, and my blood pressure was starting to come down! In just one month! So she told me to send her a log of my bp readings so she could decide whether to reduce my meds. It’s now been 7 months since we started eating this way and I’ve lost 80 pounds, and she has taken me off two of the three bp meds! Hopefully, by the time we get back home in another month she will be able to take me off the other meds as well. Trisha has lost more than 40 pounds, and we both just marvel at how much better we feel.

We didn’t have bikes when we started our trip, but bought some 7 speed bikes in Alabama and started riding. By the time we got to Colorado we traded these in for 24 speed bikes and we’ve done some 20 mile rides and one over 30! We’re hiking a lot and just feeling super!


And it’s been much easier to eat a vegan diet on the road than what you might expect. We brought our Blendtec on the RV and have smoothies just about every day for breakfast. When we are dry camping and can’t run the generator, we have oatmeal, with blueberries, sometimes craisins, sometimes a little honey. Our smoothies are variations of the recipe Lynne posted on this blog--we add some chia powder, sometimes a couple tablespoons of cocoa powder and use just frozen blueberries for a dark chocolate flavor/color; sometimes we add peanut butter (we have been able to find stores where we can grind our own fresh), and we’ve just experimented with different frozen fruits. When we’ve been able to get fresh berries at farmers markets or “u-pick” places, we’ve frozen those to use later.

For lunch we usually have tomato sandwiches, made with either whole wheat pita pockets or other whole grain organic breads we’ve found at health food stores along the way, usually just using one slice, open face style. We use tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, avocado, greens of any variety. We’ll usually top this off with some fresh fruit.

For supper we have a variety, lots of times with quinoa or black rice topped with steamed or grilled veggies, a salad made with whatever fresh veggies we’ve been able to find at roadside stands or farmers markets--for grilling, we like to use chunks of onion, beets, carrots, yellow and zucchini squash, sweet potatoes, peppers, cauliflower, whatever. We’ll spray a little PAM over this, use some Mrs. Dash salt free seasoning, some basil, maybe other spices, wrap it in foil and use our little portable grill out on the table at the campsite. We discovered black rice on this trip and really love it, either hot and topped with veggies, or cold added to salads; same with quinoa. I’ll often saute some tempeh, tofu or seitan to put in salads as well.

Always load up the salads with chickpeas, black beans or other types of beans, and add some seeds or nuts. We often use nutritional yeast sprinkled on salad, or over the steamed veggies, great flavor, more protein--good on corn on the cob!

For snacks we usually have carrots and hummus, some we buy and some we make, or some raw cashews or almonds and dried fruit. When we’re out hiking or biking, we take along a baggie of nuts and dried fruit, apples or oranges, and usually some Cliff Bars--the Builder Bars have a really high protein content and this really helps.

We love finding farmers markets along the way, stopping at roadside fruit and vegetable stands for whatever is fresh and in season. We’ve been able to find lots of health food stores or organic/natural grocers along the way, so we can stock up on protein powder. almond milk--unsweetened original--ground flaxseed, dried fruits (especially love white figs!). In Washington, Idaho, Nevada, Colorado and Oregon we discovered Winco grocery stores, where we found wonderful bulk items, including a hummus powder we use to make up batches of our own.

We eat mostly meals we fix in the RV, but we do eat out from time to time, usually when we want to enjoy local specialties, like sampling the seafood gumbo along the Gulf coast, Mexican food in the Southwest, or a lobster roll in Maine. When we do this we try to make sure we avoid side dishes like fries, bread, etc. We’ve had great success using Happy Cow to find vegan friendly places to eat, and it’s always a good bet that at Mexican, Indian, Thai and Vietnamese restaurants you can find several vegan choices. More and more places are responding favorably to requests to make something vegan by either withholding cheese, cream, etc. or substituting a vegan alternative.

Vegan Platter we ordered at a restaurant--

We use recipes from Eat to Live, Everyday Happy Herbivore, and the Blendtec cookbook, but more often than not, we’ll just make it up as we go along, with whatever fresh veggies we have on hand.

Delicious dinner of corn on the cob with a little salt free Mrs. Dash, salad topped with black rice and sauteed seitan--

We’ve found a brand of prepared dishes we really like, called Tasty Bite. Mostly Indian, like lentils or chickpeas, and they also have different rice varieties--great for when we’re late getting into a campground and are tired, just microwave for 90 seconds and you’re done! We make a lot of soups, using some quick dry mixes we’ve found at health food stores, some from bean mixes we brought from home. One of our best purchases was a small microwave steamer we got at Camping World, and we use that a lot. It will steam a meal of vegetables in 5 minutes or less and it’s just so easy!

Now I can honestly say I don’t find myself craving all those foods that I always have, such as ice cream, donuts, fries, etc. People ask how hard this is, and for both of us it has been so much easier than we had ever thought possible. When we go out to eat, if there simply are no vegan alternatives, we just find the closest thing we can and don’t worry about it. When we’ve visited friends along the way, we’ve let them know about our eating pattern, but have always insisted that they not go out of their way to change, and we’ve been able to do okay just eating mostly salad and veggies that are usually part of their meals, and when they have asked, suggesting things to fix that aren’t radically different from what they usually have.

All those times in the past when I would go “on” a diet, I would eventually go “off” of it, which inevitably lead to the regaining of the weight. Now, we look at this not as a diet, but just a different way of eating, and I can’t imagine ever leaving this path. There are so many benefits we’ve already experienced, and I know our lives are so much better now! Not only are we able to exercise more and more, but just simple things of everyday life are so much easier, like walking up stairs, bending down to pick something up off the floor--before, we would tend to find excuses for not doing things, but now we look for ways to be more active. It’s just made a tremendous difference in all aspects of our lives!

We had the wonderful chance to meet Lynne when we were in the Chicago area! What an inspiration she has been to us and thank you to Tessa and Evelyn as well for all your wonderful inspirational blog posts!!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

New Goodies for my RV Kitchen

I’m planning to escape Chicago this winter in my little home on wheels.  So, to prepare, I’ve been evaluating my kitchen appliances and trying to figure out which ones I might be able to leave behind, and which new ones I must buy and keep!


The first new gadget is a bit counter intuitive.  It’s a 4-quart Nesco Multi-Cooker and is a bit bigger than my previous 4-quart Crock Pot slow cooker.  So, why would I want a bigger item in my RV kitchen?  Because it can not only replace my slow cooker, but also replace my rice cooker, can steam veggies, and with it’s pressure-cooker features, can also cook a number of foods faster than conventional pots (dry beans without needing to soak them overnight first, for example).


It also has a Timer delay, so I can set it to turn on automatically when I’m out during the day, or sleeping at night.  So far, I’ve just cooked rice in it, but the rice has been fantastic and much better than my previous rice cooker.


The next new gadget was something I resisted buying for a long, long time – an Omega 8004 juicer.   I had an expensive Blendtec blender (seen behind the juicer above) and kept asking Tessa and Evelyn why I should now have to pay a few hundred more for a “one-trick-pony” dedicated appliance.  Well, after our visit in Colorado, I finally understood the value!

When I previously tried juicing in my Blendtec, the fiber remained in the juice.  While that might be perfectly fine for a fruit juice (think orange juice, lemonade, etc), it makes more nutritional green or veggie juices more difficult to drink—your body feels “full” and starts refusing to drink the amount that’s really necessary due to the fiber still being in the drink.  Compare how much easier it is to drink a large glass of water vs. a large smoothie, and you’ll get the concept here.

So the second “a ha” I finally learned—juicing is the really the easiest and fastest way to get all the dense nutrients that a vegan needs to consume daily.  Now, that doesn’t mean you must only consume juice -- although some, like Tessa, and Joe Cross (from “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead”) have done a juice fast to kick-start weight loss and boost their nutrient levels.

Over the past year, I had started getting lazy about ensuring that 1/2 my daily calories were greens and veggies.  I started sliding towards more carbs, sweets, and fruits, and as a result, gained about 10 lbs back and began feeling rather lethargic.  But now that I have the juicer, I can reduce down that mountain of daily greens and veggies I’m “supposed” to consume into a very manageable single glass of juice that now replaces one of my daily meals.  My energy levels are back and my diet feels in better balance once again. 

When I want to get more aggressive again with weight loss, I can replace more meals with juice and/or add more physical exercise to my day.

So, why did I choose the Omega vs. the Breville that was featured in “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead”?  Well, YouTube videos from this guy (as over-enthusiastic and long-winded as he might be!) were very helpful in educating me about the different kinds of juicers.  In the end, I liked the fact that the Omega’s low RPMs would be quieter, do a better job at juicing leafy greens, be a bit easier to clean, break down into a smaller package for storage, cost a bit less, and it would come with a 15-year warranty.  But the kicker?  It also comes with other inserts that allow you to convert it to a food extruder for making pasta noodles, sorbet, and even salsa!

But, back to it’s main role—juicing.  Here’s what it looks like when disassembled:


When preparing to juice, it’s incredible just how much produce it takes to make an 8 oz. glass of juice!  Here’s a bucket full of produce that is to become my morning breakfast and mid-morning snack:


It’s a 1/2 of a papaya, 1 cucumber, 1 carrot, 1 celery stalk, 1 large handful of spinach, 1 sliver of ginger, an apple, and a pear.  This juicer has a smaller feed tube than the high-speed models, so it does require a bit more cutting to prepare the food for juicing.  I cut the apple and pears into slices and discard the center seed core, but I don’t bother peeling them (as the juicer will handle that).  For the papaya, I spoon out and discard the seeds, and then just spoon out pieces of the fruit to push into the hopper (rather than trying to include the heavier rind as well).  The juicer would certainly be strong enough to still process it, but it seems easier for that particular fruit to just dispose of the rind prior to than after juicing.


Once the food is prepped, juicing is pretty simple.  Just throw the pieces into the hopper.  The juice will come out below the auger assembly, while the pulp will push out into the front bucket. 


The plunger helps push leafy greens more easily.  It has a nice gasket that helps prevent even small skinny pieces like wheatgrass from being left behind in the feed tube.


I cover the pulp collection bucket with a freezer bag to prevent the plastic from becoming discolored.  Certainly not necessary, though.  I like that you can used any old container for the juice or the pulp and don’t need to only use the supplied containers.


Finally, the end result—a delicious and nutritious green juice!  I found this recipe and a ton of others on  There are dozens of free websites out there to give you new juice ideas.

Now, what about the aftermath?  Well, it’s not really that bad to clean up.  The pulp is virtually dry and easy to dump into a trash can.  The auger and components rinse off easily in hot water.


Omega supplies a nylon brush (looks like a big toothbrush) for cleaning the metal strainer.  A few quick brushes around that under hot running water, and it’s clean as a whistle!

From an RVer perspective, the Omega’s slow motor consumes less than 200 watts, making it boondocker-friendly.  However, juicing does tend to need a fair amount of running water for washing the food, and cleaning the juicer components afterwards, so that’s something to keep in mind.

So, now that I have the juicer and am drinking more juices than smoothies these days, will my Blendtec just be staying home unused this winter?  Not a chance!  It still does a great job for hummus, salsas, food processing/grinding a variety of foods, and now something new as well—homemade almond milk!

Trying to find vegan nut milks in smaller stores out in the boonies can often be a challenge when RVing.  So, rather than do without, it’s super easy (and even more delicious) to make your own!  All you need is a high-speed blender and an inexpensive, reusable nylon nut milk strainer bag like this one:


I bought mine on Amazon for less than $10.

Making almond milk is easy, but does take a little pre-planning—you need to soak 1 cup of almonds in water for about 12 hours (overnight) to soften them.


Then, drain the soaking water and rinse the almonds in fresh cool water to remove any remaining impurities, and wash your hands well (you’ll be using them!).   Put the almonds into your blender and add about 3 cups of cold water, a dash of salt, 1 tsp of vanilla, and (optionally) up to 2 Tbsp of agave nectar or other sweetener.  Have fun and add some cocoa powder too if you’d like to make chocolate milk!

Turn the blender on, and watch as it instantly turns almonds into milk!

Now you’ll want to pour the milk out of the blender through the strainer bag into another container.  You’ll initially have a cup of liquid still in the bag with the pulp, so you’ll then want to begin squeezing the bag from top to bottom to gently squeeze the liquid out of the bag and into the container.


Once fully squeezed, the pulp in the bag will be nearly dry.  Simply turn the bag inside out to dump the pulp into the trash and rinse it off under hot water to clean it.  When all particles are removed, cover the top of a wine glass with it to allow it to air out and dry.

Store the milk in an air-tight bottle (glass works great) and shake it a bit before serving.  The milk will only stay good for a couple of days, but will have a more flavorful taste than store-bought. 



Saturday, August 24, 2013

On George W’s Stent-A poem by George Parker

Two guest posts two days in a row!   George Parker is the husband of yesterday’s guest post co-author Barbara Parker.  Don’t you just love this poem? 

George W (dubya)
Is in trouble.
His high cholesterol
May be his downfall.

He got a stent.
Not a major event,
But the long term trend
Is not his friend.

Elective stenting
Leaves me venting.
It’s a crime
That will do no time.

It’s also malpractice
(With medical taxis)
To fix one spot
When the whole system’s shot.

There is no cure,
So he must endure
Future procedures
That may leave him weaker.

There'll be more sutures
In his future
And his survival
May require a revival.

No, not religious,
But more delicious;
A plant based diet
That gives him respite.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Eating Vegan While Living in Yellowstone–A Guest Post by Barbara Parker and Danette Morse

Today we have a guest post from two ladies who, along with their spouses, are campground hosts in northwest Wyoming where as Barbara says “the rural grocery store is an hour away; in other words, REMOTE!” 

Thank you Barbara and Danette for taking the time to share with all of us your insight on how to remain mostly vegan with no grocery store nearby.


Vegan means different things to different people: juicing, organic, ‘pure,’ raw, rotation diet, ‘plant strong,’ etc. We are not experts and this is not a comprehensive discussion on all aspects of vegan eating in remote locations. This IS the experience of two vegan couples living in 24’ class C motor homes serving as camp hosts one summer in Yellowstone. One of us looks for organic products whenever possible and is particularly sensitive to the impact on animals of human choices (ethical vegan). Both of us are ‘plant strong’ (little oil, sugar, honey) but not plant perfect. Especially in a remote location, choices can be limited and one might make compromises that one wouldn’t make at home. One consolation is something Joel Fuhrman, MD writes: 10% of one’s diet can contain low nutrient foods & still provide a health promoting, disease preventing diet. (

Flexibility is important when you are away from your own environment. Remember you’re eating to be healthy, not to be stressed trying to do it right. What you want to aim for is an approximation of your values, rather than perfection. In Yellowstone, the nearest grocery store is an hour away in a small town.  Some adjustments are necessary in this situation included taking a l-o-n-g time getting to know the store at first because of the need to constantly think ’substitution’ when a desired item is not available. We found that the ethnic section of the store had some items we wanted that were not in the ‘regular’ section. We each frequently asked our fellow host to pick up items for us on her shopping trips. Being ‘plant strong’ rather than plant perfect is a variation of flexibility. If this works for you, your ‘approved list’ of choices can be expanded. (Think the 10% rule here.) Organic products may not be available or perhaps a different brand from what you prefer is the only product on the shelf. When eating out you may choose to eat coleslaw because it has cabbage and other veggies although it contains mayonnaise, or if you are tired of eating oatmeal – available for breakfast almost everywhere – you may decide on whole wheat pancakes occasionally even though they contain eggs.

Eating ‘out‘ (vegan) is possible in the Yellowstone region. This year National Parks are making a point to offer more local, healthy food items on their menus; that is the case in Yellowstone. Limited though they are, on the menu of the General Stores is a black bean burger, in the Lodges are a salad bar and a different black bean burger. The Cafeterias offer vegetable soup, a ginger noodle bowl, and a hummus wrap. At one of the cafeterias where a vegetable plate was not on the menu, simply asking for a plate of three vegetables resulted in a satisfying meal. These choices may not be up to your standards, but they do offer a night of no-cooking! The closest place outside the park also offers some options. There is a Taco Bus where one can get veggie tacos, burritos and quesadillas. (BTW, ethnic restaurants often have more vegan menu choices than standard American restaurants.)  At a pancake place, I ordered a veggie scramble without the eggs. The puzzled expression on the server’s face prompted me to explain that I prefer not to eat animal products and with that explanation, my order was submitted. (I usually make a point to explain why I am ordering this way so the server understands my rationale AND so the restaurant might begin think about accommodating future plant strong customers.) In cities a bit farther afield - two hours away - we discovered several places that offered plant strong possibilities. Using Yelp and we found health/natural food stores that had small cafés we enjoyed. On our last ‘weekend’ off we went to Jackson, WY and enjoyed the highly recommended Lotus Café. Even in Wyoming, “Beef Country,” one CAN find plant strong options.

What about eating ‘in’? Both of us couples eat in most of the time.  Knowing we would be living in a ‘remote’ location for several months, we brought with us items we didn’t think we could get locally. Our combined list includes: steel cut oats, Coaches Oats, quinoa, orzo, barley, whole wheat pastas, EnerG egg replacer, nutritional yeast, flaxseed meal, almond meal, raw nuts, arrowroot powder, tempeh, dried fruit, IZZE drinks and favorite spices.* [*Wal-Mart has, in their small-items-for-travel section, very small plastic containers that are perfect for RV spice use.]  What we found commonly here were canned and frozen beans, fruits and vegetables; seasonal produce (maybe not organic), whole wheat flour and - surprising to us – hummus, a non-cheese spread, gluten free products and tofu (not organic). Farmer’s markets are found almost everywhere in summers, but we haven’t been able to take advantage of the ones nearest Yellowstone because of our schedules. Between us – keeping in mind our space, menu and food item limitations – we brought these conveniences: slow cooker, waffle maker, griddle, toaster, immersion blender, coffee grinder, nut grinder, Yonana ice cream maker, VitaMix, rice cooker and reverse osmosis water filter. And we have used them all! As a rule of thumb for our camp host summer we planned around recipes and ingredients that would be commonly found and easy to prepare. Both of us have been delighted to find that experimentation within these limits is fun. Here’s how it works for us. Dinnertime is near. One of us consults her menu plan, checks the perishable produce and prioritizes the meal for that night from the menu plan accordingly – always making a little extra for leftovers. The other one of us goes to the refrigerator to see what needs to be used up, checks the cupboard, pantry or freezer to see what is there to supplement the produce, gets out what will work for that meal, combines those items and voila! Dinner is soon ready!

Both couples agree that we are extraordinarily lucky to have each other in this situation. It was a particular serendipity in the random chance of camp hosts to discover that we both had plant strong values and we have enjoyed sharing that with each other. She makes cookies and brings us some and I invite them for dinner when what I am making will serve a crowd. She shows me a great vegan cook(ie) book and I introduce her to Rip Esselstyn’s latest. Whatever direction our lives take after this summer, we will remember what we have shared during these months as much for our vegan values as for the inherent excitement and wonder of working in Yellowstone.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Evelyn Is Juicing

My downfall started this past winter in Mexico.  I ate bread every morning for breakfast…..with jam and margarine naturally.  Then came a snack most  nights of Craisins, nuts, and chocolate chips and then I had to make Austrian dumplings filled with apricots, and so on.  Thus all of last years work was undone.  Two weeks ago, after I saw the pictures Lynne and Tessa took of me I went into a pretty bad funk.  And the only way out of it was to make a big change.  To get a fast jump start and boost my morale I decided to juice for a while.  At this point I don’t know for how long.  I try to think of just today and my weigh in reward tomorrow morning.

This is day five of juicing and like Tessa, I had some off and on headaches for a few days,  was not liking the juice and wanted to eat. But today I feel good!  My weight loss is 6.3 pounds thus far which I know will slow down somewhat but what the heck…….I have lots of time and hopefully getting into shape once and for all will give me added quality time on earth.

For me, the juice has to meet three criteria to make the experience pleasant:  1) Be tasty 2) Be healthy 3) Be pretty.  And it is hard to meet all three at once.  Sometimes my juice tastes good but is so very ugly due to combining green and red produce.  .

Occasionally I look at juice recipes to give me ideas but I never use them – instead I just go with what I have on hand, trying to strike a balance of more vegetables than fruit.  I doubt that I’m hitting the recommended 80% vegetables and 20% fruit but this is better than doing nothing, right?


This mornings pitcher of juice made about 30 ounces and included 3 small pears, 1 green apple, 1 small stick pineapple, 1/2” of fresh ginger, 1 medium cucumber, 1 head of romaine lettuce heart, and 3 stalks of celery.


Delicious and pretty too!  Even Steve, who doesn’t know how anyone could juice for more than one meal, thought this tasted fantastic.  Next time though I will reduce the quantity of fruit and perhaps add more cucumber/lettuce because the juice is just a tad sweet.

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Vagabonds Together at Last!

While Evelyn had met both Tessa and me in-person on multiple occasions, I had only known Tessa via online exchanges.  I had originally planned to spend a few weeks in Colorado this summer, and Evelyn noted that Tessa would be coming to Colorado as well, but not until a bit later.  So, again, it looked as though we would not yet meet up.

But, my plans subsequently changed, and when I saw that it could be arranged to coincide with Tessa’s visit to Manitou Springs, I began a secret plan with Evelyn to surprise Tessa.  

Tessa and her daughter, Lia, arrived to what they thought would be a simple lunch with Evelyn and her husband, Steve.  Meanwhile, my brother and his girlfriend were driving me down from Vail.  We were running a bit late, so Evelyn had to get rather “creative” the last few minutes when her lunch entrée had come out of the oven, yet, she mysteriously refrained from serving lunch to a table of hungry vegans!

Soon, the doorbell rang, and Evelyn asked Tessa to come to the door with her.  SURPRISE!!!!  (and, yes, the plan succeeded and Tessa was, indeed, surprised!).

Evelyn, Tessa, and Lynne finally united at last!

Evelyn prepared a wonderful vegan lunch for everyone, and graciously hosted me overnight before I would travel back to Chicago the next evening.

Although our time together was short, we had great fun together.  Later in the afternoon, Evelyn took me for a great walking tour of Manitou Springs.  What an adorable little Victorian town surrounded by mountains!

That evening, we joined Tessa and Lia for a fantastic Middle Eastern meal.  Can you believe Manitou Springs has not one, but TWO Middle Eastern restaurants in town?!!  Evelyn and I both had this terrific “Vegetarian Combo Plate” featuring Tabouleh salad (lower left), Hummas (lower right), 2 Falafel balls (center), 2 stuffed grape leaves (top), and fresh, warm pita triangles.  I’m hooked!


Meanwhile, Tessa & Lia were devouring a Falafel sandwich (Tessa had been dreaming about one of these since she had tried one during her previous summer visit).


The next morning, Evelyn and Tessa decided to try out Evelyn’s old juicer, a Salton Vitamin Bar, making a refreshing orange, carrot, apple & ginger juice.  The Salton is about 1/2 the size of today’s jumbo-sized juicers, and should be compact enough to take in the RV this winter to Mexico.


After gabbing awhile, it was time for lunch on the patio at the delicious Adam’s Mountain Café’  (are you getting the impression yet that we vegan vagabonds just live to EAT?!!)


Tessa and I each had this spicy Thai salad:

while Evelyn enjoyed this savory blend of grilled veggies, almonds, and rice --


After walking our lunch off around town and chatting non-stop, by mid-afternoon, it was time for me to head home by taking a shuttle bus from Colorado Springs to catch the evening Amtrak train from Denver back to Chicago.  I was originally going to do an airport shuttle to Denver and fly home, but thought it would be more fun and unusual to take the train instead.  So, we hugged and said our farewells, and Evelyn dropped me off at the bus station.

Fast forward an hour later—the bus was running WAY late.  So late, that it was now looking like I’d miss my train in Denver (and that could become a real panic as there are no accommodations within walking distance of the train station, and I also needed to be back to Chicago for an important appointment and could not be delayed a full day).  What’s a frantic vegan to do?  Call her fellow meatless musketeers to beg for a rescue, that’s what!

Tessa fired up her little red Prius (affectionately named “Toots”), picked up Evelyn, and soon was “taking off like a rocket” to transport me up to Denver on a first-ever Vegan Vagabonds road trip!

Do these gals seem a bit obsessed with their techno-gadgets?!!!


Unfortunately, we not only hit rush hour traffic, but construction delays and a few accidents as well.  What once had seemed like a slam-dunk to get me to my train on time, was now turning into a nail-biter.  As it began looking like we weren’t going to make it, I checked the Amtrak website one last time to check on the train’s status.  Miraculously, the train was now showing 3 hours late!  YIPPEE!  Not only would I make my train after all, but we’d now have enough time to grab dinner at Tessa’s favorite vegan restaurant in Denver!  Hooray Toots!


Tessa had be raving about WaterCourse Foods, and the raves were well-deserved.  It was the best vegan/vegetarian restaurant I’ve ever eaten at!


I had a Po’ Boy sandwich made with batter-dipped artichoke hearts that looked/tasted like fried shrimp bites, topped with fresh cole slaw in a lemon caper aioli sauce on a kaiser roll.  Tessa and I had the same side dishes--  a spicy tomato curry bisque soup, and vegan mashed potatoes and gravy.  Not the healthiest low-cal meal, but a delicious special treat, for sure!


Evelyn was the “good girl” of the bunch and had an interesting and tasty, low-cal, green tomato caprese salad, while Tessa grinned with glee over her seitan roast “beef” Grinder sandwich with melted vegan swiss cheese and au jus for dipping.  Who says plant-based diets have to be depriving?!!


Thank you to my fellow vagabonds for hosting me, sharing some great restaurant finds, and rescuing me from a near-disaster with my travel!  Can’t wait until we meet up again!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Eating a Vegan Diet

Can heart disease be prevented and (usually) reversed?  Yes it can!
Are we doomed because of our genetics?  No way!  That is old information.

Taking responsibility for our own heart health, regardless of genetics, starts with learning modern nutritional research, which overwhelmingly indicates that we should be eating a whole foods, plant-based diet and avoiding all animal products (although Dr. Oz adds fish 3x/week).

Dr. Esselstyn calls Heart Disease a "Toothless paper tiger that need never exist."  To get fully up to speed, here are multiple doctors, with websites, to help with your research:

Dr. Esselystn:
"My message is clear and absolute: coronary artery disease need not exist, and if it does, it need not progress... I believe that coronary artery disease is preventable, and that even after it is underway, its progress can be stopped, its insidious effects reversed… The key lies in nutrition—specifically, in abandoning the toxic American diet and maintaining cholesterol levels well below those historically recommended by health policy experts."

Dr. Barnard: 
"The greatest advance in the understanding of heart, or cardiovascular, disease (CVD) was the discovery that this disease can be virtually eliminated by controlling three factors: cholesterol, smoking, and blood pressure...To clean up your arteries (reverse atherosclerosis), a very low-fat, no-cholesterol diet must be followed strictly. Immediate benefits, such as relief of chest pains (angina) and tolerance for more exercise, are seen within days."

Dr. Fuhrman:
"Heart disease, medical interventions and heart attack deaths can be totally prevented. You can make a decision not to die of heart disease… Most people are not aware that heart disease can be totally prevented and cholesterol levels drop radically low without drugs with my Eat To Live diet-style; a program for those who want to completely remove their risk of heart disease and not merely lower their risk a little. It is designed for those who are not satisfied with mediocrity and for those who want to know the most effective way to lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, reverse diabetes and reverse heart disease naturally."

Dr. McDougall:
"Changing to a plant-food based diet will cause a 90% reduction in the frequency of chest pain episodes (the primary reason for heart surgery) in less than 3 weeks.  Over months, actual healing of the artery disease (reversal of atherosclerosis) can be demonstrated in almost all patients who follow a low-fat, starch-based diet."

Dr. Oz:
Push past your fears by finding the joy in adopting a healthy program and by making it fun. "You absolutely can reverse and virtually eliminate heart disease by making sensible lifestyle changes," he says.

"Take Heart!  Heart Disease is Preventable" article: The University of Chicago Medicine

Dr. Dean Ornish's Program for Reversing Heart Disease is described for you by Dr. Oz and guess what it is?  A plant-based diet!  “Reverse Your Heart Disease in 28 Days”

Here's another good book to read:  "Dr. Dean Ornish's Program for Reversing Heart Disease":

Here's a book I haven't read, but it sounds like they understand that heart disease is a lifestyle disease, not a genetic death sentence:  "Reverse Heart Disease Now: Stop Deadly Cardiovascular Plaque Before It's Too Late"


This is not some wild-hair idea of mine that I am irresponsibly preaching.  The medical information is out there for those willing to research and be open-minded.

I will cheer on everyone willing to take responsibility for their health by at least changing to the cleanest diet possible, which based on science is a vegan diet, rather than blaming poor health on genetics.  Why not do everything you can to take care of your health and then, if your worst fears are confirmed and genetics get you in the end, well; you've done all you can.

Personally, if I chose not share this transformative information about heart disease that Americans so desperately need to hear, it would seem irresponsible to me.  So I will shout it from the rooftops in the hopes that someone benefits.   To your exceptional health!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Tessa's Eating Out Tips

Eating healthy vegan food at restaurants is a learned skill. While much restaurant food is overly salted, loaded with sugar, and marinated in butter, you can increase your chances of eating good food with the following tips:

  • Hungry?  Find good options: Before you go out to eat, use to find vegan-friendly places to eat. 
  • Find great options:  If you can find a specialized raw food or vegan restaurant, SCORE! You will find amazing food and chefs that can make vegetables sing! 
  • Menu Surf:  Before you go out, look up the restaurant's menu online so you can be ready to ask questions or order. 
  • Ask:  Always ask your waiter questions about meal ingredients (mayo or vinegar based?  Is it vegan?) I am okay with a very minor ingredient being non-vegan, but I try to get it removed if possible. 
  • Food Prep is Critical:  determine how a dish is prepared (baked, fried, grilled?).   I've been surprised by veggie chips that I thought were going to be raw and instead they were fried -ugh!  Always ask.
  • Substitute:  If you must remove something from a dish to make it vegan (like cheese), then substitute something else (like avocados). There should be no charge for a substitution and if it the waiter does not mentioned a charge, then it should not be on your bill and request its removal (or ask in advance if the substitution is without additional charge). 
  • Bill Reduction:  If you request to take a meat off a menu item, then ask for the bill to be lowered accordingly. Or find a vegetarian menu option and then add some items. You should not have to pay for expensive meat that you don't eat. 
  • Save an animal:  Instead of pushing meat off a dish when it comes to the table (like ordering a chicken caesar salad and pushing aside the chicken), always request that the meal come to the table without the meat. There is no need for an animal to suffer and die when you're not even going to eat it. Also, that is one less serving of meat the restaurant will need to buy from the meat industry. 
  • Design your own meal:  If you need to design your own veggie meal, scan their side dishes for any veggies that they can grill or sauté for you. The chef can put together a nice veggie plate using "all the vegetables that can be found in the kitchen."  Oftentimes, this option will not be on the menu. 
  • Side dishes:  If a side dish comes with your meal, but you can find no healthy options, then just ask if they'll steam or sauté a veggie for you. Example: I refused all the unhealthy side dishes at a cafe yesterday and was then offered steamed broccoli, which wasn't on the menu. It helps if they know you're eating healthy vegan. Don't let bad food even get on your plate or you'll be tempted. 
  • Final Requests:  After you order your food, ask for "no added oil, butter, or salt." Explain you're aiming for "healthy" - they're good with that. 
  • Facebook Suggestions:  If you love to frequent a place where vegan options are lacking, type a quick suggestion on the restaurant's Facebook page, asking them to add a couple healthy vegan options. Usually, you'll get a nice response from the restaurant and hopefully more food options in the future. 
  • Common Ground:  Places with buffets or salad bars are great places to share a meal with omnivores.
  • Ethnic restaurants often offer great vegetarian/vegan options. You might enjoy trying foods of various cultures, particularly as your taste buds change and become more sensitized over time.  Many countries have more vegetarians (often for religious reasons) than we have in the U.S.  They're great options.
  • Share the Love:  Always tell the restaurant folks that you're eating Vegan.  Why?  The more people who eat that way, the more they will cater to our healthy needs. My husband, Ned, just told me of a steakhouse in Houston that now has 2 vegan options that they didn't have just a short time ago.  (He is an awesome vegan!)
  • Be Proud:  Hold your head high when you politely request healthy vegan options!  Be proud to be a vegan, taking care of your body.  We only get one body to last a lifetime!
Healthy Bon Appetit!

Please add your own healthy restaurant eating tips in the comments.  Hope that helps

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Tessa’s 30-Day Juice Fast

Tessa’s 30-Day Juice Fast
Ended 5/27/13

What is a juice fast?
Why might you want to do a Juice Fast?
Why I did a Juice Fast
Weight Loss Goals
What made it easier?
What made it difficult?
What would I do differently next time?
Weight Loss results
Health Scan
Future Fasts
What did I learn?
Tips and Recipes

What is a juice fast?
·      A juice fast involves drinking only vegetable and fruit juice, without eating any food whatsoever. 
·      The juice is made using a juicing machine (around $150 at Bed, Bath & Beyond for the Breville JE98XL)
·      A juicer removes the insoluble fiber from the juice, leaving the juice with all the soluble fiber, antioxidants, and valuable nutrients.  By comparison, a smoothie is made with a blender and still contains all the insoluble and soluble fiber, which is highly beneficial to your body, except during a juice fast (explained below).
·      All fruits and vegetables juiced are raw and preferably organic. 
·      A person on a fast drinks 2-4 or more quarts of fresh juice everyday in place of food.  No food is eaten during the length of the fast.  Alcohol and caffeine are avoided.

Why might you want to do a Juice Fast? 

Many reasons:
·      Weight loss:

  • When your body senses that it has no insoluble fiber in the colon, it goes into survival mode to obtain glycogen from fat cells, which is why weight loss is so quick during a juice fast. 
  • Example:  Joe Cross in the “Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead” documentary movie lost 50 lbs in the first 20 days of his fast!
  • The 80% vegetable and 20% fruit juice that you make just before drinking is low-sugar, low-calorie, with no salt which enables weight loss.
  • Note:  Technically, a juice fast will move people toward their “ideal weight.”  Medically fragile people may find that juicing is their only successful method of gaining weight, if they are unable to eat (i.e. AIDS and cancer patients).
·      Cleanse:  Due to chemicals and contaminants in our food, air, water, and soil, bad food choices, etc, the liver often has been overtaxed and so fat cell store toxins, arteries are filled with plaque, and illness has worn down our immune system.  Fat cells actually store toxins away from our precious organs as a protection.  Juicing allows hyper-nutrienting of the cells, which floods the cells and allows them to release toxins.  It also enables the liver and other organs to cleanse our system, blood vessels to clear plaque, colon to empty, etc allowing rest and rejuvenation.

·      Healing:  Between 30-80% of a body’s work is required for digestion.  Because juicing requires very little to no digestion, the body has time to rest and recover, flushing out toxins from the body without overtaxing the liver and energy of the body.

There are many books (just search Amazon and your library) and documentaries ( is free to watch online, HIGHLY recommended, and just a great family movie) available to help you learn more.  See the "Resources" page of this blog (tab at the top) for direct links and information.

Why I did a 30-Day Juice Fast?

  1. I wanted to see if I could do it for that long
  2. I want to help others in their health journey and think that I need to experience it myself in order to know what I'm advising
  3. Weight loss from my derriere and hip "saddlebags" was a main goal
  4. To move toward my "ideal weight"- whatever that may be
  5. The psychology of food is fascinating and I was curious how I would feel emotionally over time when not eating food
  6. I want to be the healthiest I can be and a cleanse is a very good thing for my body

Overview:  How’d it go?

  • I was able to succeed at not eating a single bite during the juice fast
  • The fast was very hard for me- one of the hardest things I’ve ever done
  • I did not enjoy the juice fast and counted down the days until it ended
  • I do think the fast accomplished many of my goals
  • I will do more juice fasts in the future because I think they are healthful

Weight Loss Goals:

Having been a Nutritional Vegan for almost 2 years, I did not experience many detox symptoms.  But, I also did not have any great bursts of energy from juicing.  I think one must experience those lows and highs when transitioning from a bad to a good diet, rather than just from healthy vegan eating to healthy vegan juicing.

In general, I did have an overall lower energy level, which likely came from the emptying of toxins from my fat cells. 

I also felt hungry for much of the time in Days 1-20, even though I drank about 4 quarts a day.  However, Days 21-30 were much easier and required about half the juice in order to feel full (2-3 quarts a day).  I believe my stomach had shrunk by then.

What made it easier?

  • I juiced alone.  Previously, 6 months ago I did a 5-day juice fast with my daughter.  It was hard having 2 people juice at once.
  • I started juicing for LUNCH only, for more than a week in advance of the 30-Day juice fast.  This allowed me to remember how to quickly use and clean the juicer (15 minutes to wash the produce, juice, and clean up), remind me to buy lots of fresh produce, and get me in the mindset of juicing a meal.  I lost 3 lbs just during the lunch juicing week.
  • Then I added in juicing for breakfast for 2 days (while juicing lunch), which made transitioning to a total fast much easier than simply setting a date and jumping into a total fast with both feet.  This gradual method took longer overall, but greatly reduced the shock factor and made my total juice fast MUCH easier.
  • I bought some Bolthouse Farms Green Goodness prepared juice to drink in emergencies.  Since the juicer is not fun to clean, if I was late going somewhere or starving before bed, I could drink a little Green Goodness without any juicing work.  The juice is pasteurized, sugary sweet, and likely interfered with weight loss, but it saved my juice fast several times.  I will have this in the refrigerator for future fasts.
  • Occasionally my family would help me juice or wash the juicer if I was really tired, which was really nice (rare, but nice). 

What made it difficult?
As a stay-at-home Mom of three teenagers, I have a critical job of food management for my family that cannot be ignored for a month.  The first few days, preparing food for others or even smelling it was difficult.  Oddly, however, I became obsessed with preparing food during my juice fast.  I ordered many cookbooks and made a tremendous amount of food for my family.  They thought it was awesome!

Pizza was my particular passion, but I made vegan desserts and bought an Excalibur dehydrator as well, making raw food treats.  I have no idea why I enjoyed making so much food that I could not even taste.  My family thought it was the best food I’ve ever made for them. Perhaps it was some way of being involved with food, or valuing it, or controlling it.

I also loved to smell their food – oddly satisfying.  I believe my olfactory system improved during the fast.

Not eating others’ food reminded me of how I would waitress as a teenager.  I would never consider taking food off customers’ plates even if I were hungry.  It was a boundary that I would not cross and this same boundary worked in serving food to my family without tasting it myself.

Once you establish the boundary that you will not allow any fiber in your body during your fast, which would interrupt your fasting progress, then you too will find it possible to resist eating others' food.

Also, I missed having lunch with friends until I realized that I could pack my juice in an insulated water cooler.  Or I could simply drink juice prior to going out and buy a cup of herbal tea at the cafe during our visit.  After a day or two, it did not bother me to visit while others ate.

Whining and complaining did not help.  I tried that, but gave up by Day 5.  :)

Mostly, I missed going out to eat because I am a vegan foodie and really enjoy that form of entertainment.

What would I do differently next time?
When you choose a month in which to juice, try to pick one that does not include:
·      Your birthday
·      Your anniversary
·      Mother’s Day
·      Memorial Day and
·      Special end-of-year school and volunteer banquets
Personally, I will skip the month of May in my juicing future!  I do, however, like being bathing suit ready for the summer.  January would be a great month to juice.  

Weight Loss Results:
I moved toward, but not did not yet hit, my ideal weight on this 30-Day Fast.  I still have about 25% of the fat on my saddlebags and derriere remaining.  So in an emergency such as a hurricane, I could still use my fat reserves to survive for awhile.  If I continued this juice fast, I am certain that fat would continue to come off, but I am finished with the fast and will address that remaining fast in future fasts. 

My starting weight on the fast was 123.0 pounds.  
Three pounds were lost just during the lunch juice fast, down to 120.
My weight today at the end of the 30-Day Fast is 110.0 lbs. 

I am 5’6” and my ideal weight based is under 117 fully clothed (based upon Dr. McDougall’s research of 2 billion plant-eaters around the world).  A couple pounds of fiber in the colon is to be expected, so I expect my ideal weight to be around 105.  I feel that weight for my structure is healthy.  (Source: )

Health Scan:  Also indicating that juicing is healthy:  On Day 18 of my fast, I was tested on the Biophotonic Health Scanner, which measures antioxidants in the body.  My score of 81,000 was well into the Excellent range of  >50,000.  Dr. Oz’s score on that test was 75,000.  So I do believe that juicing is a very healthy way to lose weight quickly.

Future Fasts:
My Yogi, Sam, suggested that ideally people should fast one day per week and three days per month to shrink the stomach, cleanse, and be mindful of food.  I think this is a wise and reasonable idea.

So I am going to Juice every Monday, which is after the weekend and usually a day when I have little going on. 

Also, I plan to juice fast on the first Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of each month (just adding on Tuesday and Wednesday to the Monday weekly fast).  I will be flexible to switch weeks if needed.  I am, however, skipping this monthly fast for June since I just finished my 30-Day Fast.  Maybe you'd like to join me?

I plan to use juicing to avoid weight creep by acting quickly to healthily return to my desired weight.  After a 5-Day juice fast in November 2012, I was at 116 lbs and slowly increased over 6 months to 123 lbs.  It would have been far easier to keep the weight off a pound at a time.  I am hoping the weekly 1-day fasts and monthly 3-day fasts accomplish weight maintenance without the need for additional days of juicing.

What did I learn?
This fast taught me that I am stronger than I think regarding food, that I do indeed have the willpower to not eat more than I should.

I learned that I apparently had fat on my spine, on my jawbone, on ribs, and in other places that I did not realize, as it also came off - in addition to my thighs and backside.

I realized that my ideal weight is far lower than I thought it would be.  I had guessed it would be 115 lbs, but think it is likely around 105 lbs. given the fat that remains.

Sometimes, it is okay just to smell food without actually eating it.

I am now very mindful about chewing and grateful for each bite of food.

Juicing can be expensive.  Having a Co-op or Farm CSA from which to get fresh, organic veggies to juice is helpful.  I estimated my cost to be about $20 a day in organic produce for my juices.  I did not go out to eat though, so I saved money in that way.

Tips & Recipes:
My favorite juice recipe to make a quart jar of juice (or more):
An entire head of Romaine or Green Leaf Lettuce
3 celery stalks
4 carrots
Tomato or Red bell pepper
Lemon (peeled) or 1” fresh ginger root (unpeeled)

My recipe above is very healthy, but is not the most tasty.  Why?  Because fruit makes juices taste sweet and delicious, but they are very sugary, and so only 20% of a juice should be fruit.  The goal of fasting is to be healthy, not to make the most delicious juice.  Also, I wanted a variety of produce to "juice the rainbow".  If needed, a terrible recipe can be made edible by adding some of the super-sweet Bolthouse store-bought juice to your homemade juice.

Do not juice onions, whole pomegranates with skin on, red hot chili peppers, or the rinds of citrus unless you are prepared for what you now have to drink.  Bananas won't juice.  Avocados are fattening so avoid juicing.

Do try a piece of fresh ginger or a peeled lemon to add zing to your juice.

Try to make 2 juices at one time, twice a day.  Fresh juice is better than sitting overnight, but it’s okay to fill a jar to the top and put a tight lid on it for your breakfast in the morning.  You’ve reduced the oxygen that can get in and while fresh is better, if that’s what it takes to help you get through the morning, do it.

Try to drink enough juice.  You need 2-4 quarts of vegetable/fruit juice every day.  Don’t starve, but do allow your stomach some shrinking opportunity.  You will learn to feel hungry and live through it.  You will feel some detox symptoms (tired, grouchy, listless) sometimes.  Consider these positive signs that your fat cells are emptying their toxins.  Learn to listen to your body and drink some more juice when you need it.

Herbal tea is wonderful first thing in the morning and before bed.  I bought a Liver Detox Chinese tea formula for morning and enjoyed Chamomile at night.

Coconut water is another healthy drink, as is fresh water with a squeeze of detoxing and alkalizing fresh lemon juice.

Come out of the juice fast slowly or your stomach will hurt wildly.  Today I drank 1.5 quarts of juice and ate a ¼ dinner for example.  Read up on juicing before you attempt a long fast.

Some people like to start fasts with enemas or colon-hydrotherapies to jump-start the process of emptying the colon.  Again, more reading on this might help you decide if this is helpful to you.  I did not make use of these therapies, but I am open-minded.

The ability to lose 30-year-old hip fat in just 30 days of juicing is an amazing opportunity.  Only surgery could eliminate the fat faster, which I do not want.  Juicing is safe, effective, and completely within our power.  It is a wonderful health tool.