Kentucky Refugee Ministry

Compassion, safety and resources are needed now more than ever for our fellow brothers and sisters from around the globe who were forced to flee violent conditions. Donna Craig understood how important it is to stand with and support future legal American citizens, so she founded the Kentucky Refugee Ministry in 1990. The organization is a non-profit made up of over 160 workers to help refugees though their struggles and obstacles of resettlement. The KRM provides resources of every avenue to refugees in need, with the ultimate goal of creating self-sufficiency and positive integration for those they welcome into Kentucky with open arms.

Refugees have left loved ones, possessions, jobs, and the place they once called home in order to find safety. Thank goodness this local organization does everything they can do to help! The KRM works to give as much as they can back to refugees, including housing, documentation, English classes, jobs, and even legal immigration support to go through naturalization, a process I was lucky enough to watch my own dad go through in order to become a permanent U.S citizen. Within the next year, the ministry plans to welcome almost 2,000 refugees and migrants. Organizations like the KRM are built to create communities of refuge for those who were faced with far worse circumstances in their homelands, and the work of organizations like this could never make America greater. You can make a positive contribution to the Kentucky Refugee Ministry by taking action, and donating time, funds, or even household items such as furniture, bikes or instruments. The KRM even has a Family Center right here in Louisville. It doesn’t take long to pick up on Louisville’s phenomenal justice-seeking, welcoming community, so there is no doubt that we will adamantly work towards staying inclusive and keeping all victims of violence safe and our legal citizens prospering.

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Sammi

Is Dairy Cheese Vegetarian?

“Vegan? I could never give up cheese!” has become the classic go-to line for every vegetarian – and I don’t think I’ve met ever a vegan who hasn’t said the same! Cheese has been proven to be addictive, after all, due to it containing casein that triggers receptors in your brain that are linked to addiction. Surprisingly, even cheese can use parts of animals! The coagulation of the milk is the result of the use of rennet, the stomach of newborn baby cows. Eagerness to eat baby cow stomach is far and few between, and personally, eating it in cheese is definitely no less appealing! Rennet is vital to this process, because only the stomachs of young cows contain the enzyme “chymosin,” which would typically allow the calf to absorb and digest milk. The use of rennet forms curds. These curds are inevitable for several varieties of cheeses, particularly cheeses like Parmesan and Gorgonzola. In rarer instances, cheeses can be curdled with fungi as well. If the cheese is vegetarian, the maker will tend to specify on the packing that it is vegetarian or rennet free. In addition to using the stomachs of baby cows, after the dairy industry no longer has a use for the animal, the animals are sold to the meat industry for an added profit.

Even though the meat industry is heavily interlaced in with the dairy industry, there is a whole world of alternatives out there! The vegan cheese industries have picked up astronomically within the past couple of years. After all, V-Grits does what we do in order to make giving up these addictions just a little bit easier! Dairy-free cheese products are on the rise since practices of animal agriculture are coming more and more into light. Find some cruelty-free alternatives at a grocery or health store near you!

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Sammi

BAREfit Adventure Training

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Our favorite kind of business is a vegan-run business! BAREfit Adventure training is Louisville’s one and only vegan-run gym!  The gym equipment consists of recycled and repurposed materials, so your work out will be environmentally friendly while you stay active! I just recently got a membership and tried out my first couple of classes, and let me tell you, this gym is no joke! My legs practically forgot how to walk the next day, but hey, that also might be due to not stepping into a gym for two years. 😉

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The classes are set up for small groups, with different stations to help you work throughout your body. I love how the workouts are structured to focus on the endurance of our bodies and movements that could help us outside the gym, rather than solely focusing on exercises only designed to improve aesthetics of our bodies. On certain “whim days,” rather than working through a series of stations, your work out will be set up like an obstacle course! And if you need help or modifications, no worries! A skilled trainer is always there to guide you so you can push your body’s limits while you stay within your level. Along with training members, BAREfit offers assistance with meal planning and supports plant-based, non-GMO diets! And if that wasn’t enough, if you check into BAREfit on Facebook after your session, they will donate one dollar per visit towards their cause of the month! This gym has it all! The V-Grits team would definitely recommend checking BAREfit Adventure Training out for a fun, upbeat work out that has a high chance of being unlike any work out you’ve done prior!

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Sammi

How to Celebrate Your Veganversary

Veganversary?! Say that again?

A “Veganversary” is  a monumental moment for any vegan. For those who are unfamiliar with the terminology, PETA describes a veganversary as:

Veganversary (ve·gan·ver·sa·ry) n.
1.      The annual celebration of the date on which you decided to stop eating animal flesh and be a super-awesome human being
2.      The date on which you stuff your face with vegan cake and veggie burgers in order to celebrate when you decided to go vegan.

We hear ya, PETA! Here are some ways to guarantee your veganversary will be as blissful as it sounds!

  • Eat. Everything (cruelty-free, of course): Today is not the day to follow through with that oil-free diet you’ve been reading about. 😉 Stuff your face with vegan fried chicken, chocolate chip cookies, doughnuts, and everything else you were convinced you could never eat again in the name of kale!

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  • Volunteer at/Visit/Donate to an animal sanctuary: Visiting animal sanctuaries can be vital moments in any vegan’s journey. There’s no better feeling than knowing all your obstacles, awareness and activism are rescuing the sweetest little fur babies from a life scarier than a horror movie.
  • Rock your vegan apparel: The more vegan clothing you can pack into one outfit, the better! Days like this are what your Compassion Co. or Herbivore Clothing shirt are made for. Don’t hold back with the vegan leather, sassy pins, and other cute cruelty-free gear that will turn morality into the trendiest fashion statement.

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  • Talk about veganism even more to normal: “I can’t find my phone, can you call it?” “Sure, I’m vegan.” “Do you know where the bathroom is?” “All the way down to your left, but did you know you’d have healthier bowel movements when you’re vegan?” “I’m feeling a little sleepy.” “You’d definitely feel more energized if you went vegan!” There is never an inappropriate time to exclaim your veganism from the rooftops! Today is your day to be loud and proud.
  • Make a blog post about it 😉 : Or an Instagram post, or a Facebook post, or a post on any other kind of social media! Even your favorite meme from the Vegan Sidekick can go a long way. A surprising number of people, myself included, found veganism as a result of social media. The power of a single post is definitely underestimated! You never know what seeds you could be planting so animal liberation can grow!

As supporters of any social justice movement know, awareness and activism can come attached to some overwhelming moments, but nothing can compare to the happiest feeling of knowing you’re keeping our furry friends safe and protected as they deserve! Spend your next veganversary the way you earned to, or decide on the start date you’ve been planning all this time!

Signing off for the Sentient,

Sammi

Women’s March Weekend in D.C.

This past Saturday, we were reminded of the power activists can have by uniting for justice! The Women’s March in D.C was definitely one of the most memorable highlights of the recent political scene, and the perfect start to 2017. Looking out onto a sea of people filled with a willful pursuit to fight for justice and equality was not a moment worth underestimating. The march began with speakers of all backgrounds and demographics, who claimed that this was the uniting moment we all need, and that Women’s March of over 5 million people worldwide was just the beginning of the fight for women’s rights and intersectional feminism. Speakers included activists such as Angela Davis (also vegan, whoop whoop!), a determined inspiring young Sophie Cruz, and the CEO of Planned Parenthood. If that wasn’t enough, how about that extra cherry on top that dedicated feminist Emma Watson was cheering and marching on within a mile radius?! Listening and being in the presence of all these amazing women, I was feeling overwhelmingly inspired, and of course a bit starstruck! We gathered in peace and protest all through D.C, with too many justice seekers to even stay in route! The love, activism, and bond throughout America and even other countries Saturday was more than any Chair of any of the marches expected, and it was absolutely lovely.

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And of course, no vegan foodie can visit a different city without popping in the best cruelty-free eateries around town! D.C is booming with vegan-friendliness! After a thorough digging into Happy Cow, I settled on three gnarly picks! I would support Fare Well, Khepra Raw Food and Juice Bar, or NuVegan Cafe making a second Louisville location anytime!

Khepra’s was my first stop. The menu was all raw and filled with items like Buffalo Cauliflower, Blackberry Cheesecake, Avocado Nori Wraps and (my favorite) a raw vegan crab cake. The flavors and textures of all the food I had was spot on, particularly the coconut-meat based crab cake that left me shocked how realistic it was! The cheesecake tasted like ice cream, and the sides that come with a platter were practically a meal itself. The prices were great for the amount of food I got, and I felt so energized after! They even had a separate room for “Heart Touch Therapy,” which was a blend of reiki and other forms of energy movement, healing and relaxation which was a great finishing touch.

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NuVegan Cafe was the kind of place that will make you go, “Are you sure this is all vegan?!” Their fried chicken, mac and cheese and cheesecake were so spot on, if you put a bucket of each in front of me I wouldn’t be able to restrain myself! They also had cinnamon buns, taco salad, tuna salad and lasagna as their special of the day. They put the soul in soul food, and I loved their mission statement that was a reminder that they’re in it for the animals, just like us!

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The final stop in this vegan flavortown was Fare Well! Fare Well was started by the owners of the famous bakery Sticky Fingers. They had quite the morning rush so I missed the Chicken and Waffles, but was still amazed by their delicious Breakfast Nachos, French Toast Casserole, Cookie Dough Milkshake and Blueberry Danish! It had been SO long since I had a Blueberry Danish, I think I ate it in about 30 seconds! I would definitely recommend this restaurant to anyone who plans to visit in the future, and I am definitely coming back for that plate of Chicken and Waffles!

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It was quite the weekend! The feeling of activism and the smell of vegan fried chicken were in the air, and nothing ever felt so good! I’m beyond looking forward to my next visit, with plenty more activism, equality, justice and vegan noms ahead!

Signing off for the Sentient,

Sammi

Classic Vegan Cheddar Recipe

The veggie-based vegan cheddar has become a vegan staple for every new vegan! It’s nut-free, soy-free, and can even be made oil free (just up the water content)! Cheesy, healthy and  so versatile!

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Cheddar Sauce

1 medium potato

2 large carrots

¼ cup nutritional yeast

¼ cup olive oil

¾ cup water

1 tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp salt

⅛ tsp white pepper

⅛ tsp turmeric

⅛ tsp paprika

⅛ tsp cayenne

Peel potatoes. Chop potatoes and carrots. Add to a small saucepan and cover with water and a dash of salt. Boil until tender. Drain and add to a food processor with remaining ingredients. Puree.

Yield: 1 ½ Cups+

If you please, you can also use sweet potato or butternut squash as a replacement for the white potato and carrots. Throw in  sautéed onions and garlic to bump up the flavor even more! For mexican-inspired meals, spice your veggie cheddar sauce up with a little chili powder and some cumin. Try it on roasted broccoli, with macaroni or any kind of pasta, or as a dip. Mix in some salsa or roasted peppers for a queso dip!

If you’re in the mood for a creamier cheese sauce, you can buy our cashew-based V-Grits cheddar cheese sauce in select stores. Other vegan cheddars on the market include Daiya, Chao, Follow Your Heart, Heido Ho, and GoVeggie! Daiya is a great stretchy cheese, but might be a little less creamy than a typical cheddar. Chao and Follow Your Heart melt great, and Heidi Ho is perfect for a healthy, veggie based sauce with a mild cheesy flavor! If you get to experimenting in the kitchen, make our recipe at home and let us know what you think!
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Sammi

25 Signs You’re Vegan

People might not realize what all they sign up for when they go vegan, but odds are they will be quick to find out! Check out these guaranteed relatable moments for every vegan!

  • When you’re bilingual – and by that we mean you’ve learned a second language of ingredients

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  • You’re known as the person with the intense dairy allergy at your favorite Chipotle location, despite that you aren’t allergic to dairy
  • That feeling you get when the person next to you at the Whole Foods pizza counter gets the vegan pizza
  • That feeling you get when you see that person later at the check out line cashier with meat and realize they’re actually Paleo
  • When veganism opened you up to another social or political issue you never seemed to take interest in before.
  • Palm oil though?
  • When you visit a new city and would rather try out the vegan options than sight see
  • When you have a strong opinion about Gary Francione
  • When you daydream of a world that knows the difference between vegan and plant-based.
  • When you consider your first visit to an animal sanctuary to be life changing

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  • When protein is the least of your concerns!
  • You know the perfect egg replacement for that new recipe you want to veganize
  • When you can’t see your food under all the nutritional yeast
  • You’ve tried vegan meat replacements raw before because you were just too lazy to cook it first
  • When a new product catches your eye and you know to go straight to the allergens before investing any more time or interest into the product
  • When road trips with non-vegans are pretty much an endless series of Taco Bell, but you know just how to order
  • When you can predict an omnivores facial expression after saying you don’t eat honey
  • When someone you just met says they’re vegan and

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  • You’ve eaten at every vegan restaurant in town, and they all know you by name.
  • There is at least one Hampton Creek product in your fridge or freezer
  • When you’ve heard about plant feelings and potato screams on multiple occasions from self-proclaimed vegetable therapists
  • When you’ve practically forced someone into watching Earthlings
  • When seeing the astounding amount of vegan options at your mainstream grocery store has made you emotional
  • When you might forget your brother’s birthday, but will never forget your vegan ammo for vegan vs. omnivore debates
  • When you’ve had the junk food stage after realizing that vegan donuts exist
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Sammi

Louisville Animal Rights Initiative

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There’s a new animal rights group in town that’s determined to make some strides for our furry friends! The Louisville Animal Rights Initiative, or LARI, was created after myself and fellow animal rights activist Annalaura Maranville noticed there are several plant-based eating social groups in town, but there is not as much of a focus on animal welfare. Despite that we all love to get our plant-based grub on, we felt that Louisville was lacking a group solely focused on animal liberation and building community awareness about the mysteries behind animal agriculture. Louisville is bubbling with both animal lovers and activists, so it was the perfect time and place for LARI to begin its journey.

Not vegan? Have no fear! Meetings are open to anyone willing to learn, eat, and discuss, no matter how skeptical! Vegans are welcome, and omnivores are encouraged! 😉 Throughout the year, LARI meet-ups will include demonstrations, potlucks, movie screenings, Q&A sessions, protests, dinner outings, speakers, letter writing and more! Working to ban horse carriages, make Louisville foie gras free, and feeding plant-based meals to those in need are also on the agenda. We couldn’t be more excited to see what all this group can accomplish! Follow the LARI Facebook page, Meetup group or Instagram to keep up with the group’s outings and learn how you can get involved! Our four-legged pals need all the help they can get! 🙂

Signing off for the Sentient,

Sammi

The Inside Nicecream Scoop on Raw Veganism

Even though veganism is commonly referred to as a diet, there are a variety of diets within our ethical umbrella! There are junk food enthusiast vegans, oil free vegans, even Paleo vegans! Some of the healthiest vegans tend to be known as raw vegans. Raw vegans can eat just about anything… cooked under 118 degrees, that is. Typically, the longer food is cooked, the more the nutritional value of the food will decrease due to the heat. Raw food also tends to be easier to digest so your body can receive the ultimate nutrition fruits and veggies contain. From personal experience, the periods of time where I have been a raw vegan felt almost superhuman! If only vegan fried chicken didn’t taste so good! 😉 Even within raw veganism, there is a plethora of approaches. Some raw vegans prefer eating all foods simply and naturally, like the way we eat an apple. They may even start off the day with a mono-meal, or a meal consisting of a large quantity of one food, such as 5-10 bananas or 5 grapefruits. Other raw vegans have become blender wizards! Raw foodies have created raw apple pie, lasagna, bacon, cheesecake, charcuterie boards, “nicecream (ice cream made from bananas)”  and more. For vegans who enjoy eating raw without as much of the commitment, there is an additional community of people who eat raw until 4pm. Along with the classic Vitamix, dehydrators are also common to give some raw foods more of a cooked or less crunchy texture. Some legumes and grains can even be sprouted raw, too.

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If you’re interested in adding raw meals into your diet, the biggest tip I’ve picked up on is to make sure you eat a lot! Raw Doctor Doug Graham suggests for people who are interested in taking up a raw diet to redefine normal food intake, so that no one feels limited to a smaller amount of food that will have insufficient calories. Your stomach might need a little time to get used to the new amount of food intake, but it will eventually expand to accommodate this healthy, unfamiliar way of eating. Protein can be found in foods like nuts, seeds, or raw vegan cheeses. And, as always, never fear fruit! Fruit is absolutely vital for our bodies, and although it has sugar, it is necessary to keep us healthy and happy.

The benefits of raw veganism are nearly infinite. When I was raw vegan, I felt a surplus of energy like nothing I had ever felt. Loading your body full of unrefined or processed foods will nourish your body full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, among other benefits. More than that, raw food diets have been proven to be medicinal if done correctly. Raw veganism has rid people of cancer, inflamed colons, severe allergies, hypergylcemia, autoimmune thyroid disease, high cholesterol, arthritis  and more. Not to mention, fruits and vegetables sound much more appealing than medications! Raw veganism might not be the easiest or even the end goal for most people given how good vegan donuts are, but a few extra raw meals here and there couldn’t hurt!

Signing off for the Sentient,

Sammi

13 Uses for Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has become the hipster of all cooking oils! It has gained increased popularity in the past few years, but cooking is not the only way your coconut oil can be put to good use! Here are some of our favorite uses that might be a little outside the box (or jar)!

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  1. Hair: Coconut oil will make your hair soft, shiny, and bring out a little extra curliness. Just run a bit through your hair before you take a shower. Be careful not to put too much though, a little goes a long way!
  2. Moisturizer: Coconut oil alone is better than any moisturizer I’ve ever used when it comes to keeping my skin from giving into the winter weather. It even can decrease acne as an added bonus.
  3. Makeup remover/Makeup: Coconut oil can get rid of the most intense cat eyes. 😉 Just dab some on a towel and you have makeup remover that’s actually good for your skin. Or if you want to make coconut oil part of your makeup routine, it makes a great natural cheek bone highlighter.
  4. Oil pulling: Looking to detox? Oil pulling will do the trick. Swish a tablespoon of coconut oil in your mouth for around 20 minutes and spit it out (key part!) to cleanse your body of toxins and keep your teeth white and shining.
  5. Replacing butter: A healthy, creamy, but still rich and fatty smear of coconut oil makes a great substitute for your toast, pouring onto baked potatoes, topping popcorn or potentially as a recipe replacement.
  6. Allergies: Coconut oil is rumored to help out during those rough season changes! Smudge a bit in and around your nose for a little extra defense!
  7. Deodorant: When you’re in a pinch and can’t seem to find your deodorant, coconut oil comes to the rescue! It might sound a little on the hippie side, but the strong scent and antibacterial properties will get the job done!
  8. Helps sore throats: A few teaspoons of coconut oil a day could make all the difference for your soar throat or overwhelming cough.
  9. Lip balm: Similar to how coconut oil soothes skin, it also keeps your lips from being chapped, which is particularly useful during the winter season! I mix in a little beet juice for color and peppermint oil to stimulate lip blood flow when I’m feeling extra. 😉
  10. Natural Neosporin: Coconut oil can be used to soothe and help heal minor cuts, bruises, rashes or wounds. You may need a band-aid too, though.
  11. Shaving: Coconut oil might not be the most ideal shaving cream, but always serves well as a trusty backup. It’s definitely one of the most natural shaving creams out there.
  12. Sunscreen/Sunburn Remedy: Coconut oil is naturally SPF4! You might have to apply a little more than normal, but it will additionally leave your skin silky smooth.
  13. Hair Gel: I wouldn’t recommend getting to crazy with the coconut oil when it comes to hair, but the tiniest little bit can help shape your hair or add texture.

Who knew this funky, new-on-block oil had so many cool uses?! Try some of them out and tell us what you think!

Signing off for the Sentient,

Sammi