Daring to Ditch Meat & Dairy

 

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As any viewer of Cowspiracy could conclude, meat and dairy are taking its toll on the environment one factory farm at a time – and environmentalists are finally taking note! Oakland, California (because of course Californians would be the first to hop on this ethically, environmentally and health friendly lifestyle) joined up with environmental activist group Friends of the Earth to devise school lunches that would be better for the planet. While the school hasn’t gone fully vegan just yet, significant improvements have been made! Oakland schools might occasionally have meat and cheese from organic pastured dairy cows, but for the most part, it’s vegan tostadas and and tofu stir fry for days!

And as for the environmental impact, the proof is in the gelatin-free pudding! Carbon Dioxide emissions from school lunches alone decreased by 14%, which is the equivalent of taking 127 cars off the road for an entire year. Holy guacamole!!  And if anyone was wondering about the myth that veganism is more expensive, the lunch program costs fell by 1%. There might not have been physical proof that this way of eating was also healthier, but it’s a little hard to argue that beef hot dogs and pepperoni pizza stood up to rainbows of hearty, handmade, plant-based noms! Friends of the Earth stated that if every U.S school district followed Oakland’s lead, the drop in CO2 emissions would add up to be the same as taking 150, 000 cars off the roads!!! The environmental activist group is hoping the change in Oakland school lunches is just a stepping stone for more school districts to get the memo and join in on saving the earth, one meal at a time. We’re rooting for them!

Signing off for the Sentient,

Sammi

Drop that Gatorade!

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Luckily, electrolytes and hangover cures aren’t only found in artificially colored and fortified sugary drinks! And if you like your health food to taste good, you still have nothing to worry about. Watermelon is bursting with electrolytes! Sixteen ounces of watermelon juice alone has about three times as much electrolytes as Gatorade! Watermelon is also loaded with Lycopene, which protects your cells and fights off diseases! It’s additionally great as a tastier source of hydration for people like me, who can never remember to drink a glass of water every now and then. 😉

Coconut water might be a taste that takes a little getting used to, but it is definitely a drink worth paying attention to! Comparatively, coconut water has less sodium and more potassium than a sports drink and helps fight against cancer and kidney stones. If you want to add a little sweetness to your coconut water, try adding some pineapple juice or pineapple chunks to shake things up!

Give these yummy hydration replacements a try and let us know what you think!

Signing off for the Sentient,

Sammi

 

Eating Healthy on the Go!

Clean eating is an infamous travel struggle! Here are ten snacks that keep me satisfied and energized when I’m on the go!

  1. Fruit: Fruit is the easiest “fast food” there is. 😉 Wash it, cut it, and package it for the week and you have a quick snack no matter how much of a hurry you’re in!
  2. Clif bars: Clif bars feel like you’re eating a cookie that’s good for you! They’re meant for active people, so they’re especially great for hikers, cyclists and climbers who could use the extra energy & protein boost! Not all of them are vegan, though, so double check the label!
  1. Dates: Dates are also fruit, but especially handy for people in a rush. Dates may dry out a little after a month or so, but it takes them so long to actually go bad that they’re always good to keep in your glove compartment or purse for those unexpected hangry moments!
  2. Homemade trail mix: Dried fruit, nuts, vegan chocolate chips, and pretzels make a delicious and easy to eat snack anytime. Make a big batch and store it in your pantry, or throw a few handfuls into a Ziploc bag on your way out!
  3. Dips: If you have a little time before you’re on your way, quick dip boxes can be filling, healthy ways to rid yourself of some hunger. Slice up pita bread and with a few scoops of hummus, veggies with guacamole, or ciabatta bread with scoops PB&J and you’re good to go!
  4. Seeds or nuts: Seeds & nuts are surprisingly filling. They’re great in between meals, or as the “I’m bored so I’m going to eat something” snack. 😉
  5. Vegan yogurt: Thanks to food science, that yogurt container can still make its way into your lunch box. There are all sorts of vegan yogurt brands out now, from So Delicious to Kite Hill to Trader Joe’s.

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  1. Chia Pudding: Chia Pudding is so easy to make. Add fruit juice and your favorite nut milk to chia seeds in a bowl, leave it in the fridge overnight and you’re set… and so is the pudding! If you’re not up for making it at home, though, there are pre-made chia puddings sold at Whole Foods and Rainbow Blossom!
  2. Kale chips: Kale chips are ideal for long car drives! They’re easy to make, not super messy, and they even sneak greens into your diet! Make them at home, or buy Brad’s Raw Kale Chips in stores (they even sell them at certain Kroger’s)!
  3. Dark chocolate: Many dark chocolates are vegan, but always double check! Dark chocolate is on the healthier side of the sweets spectrum. It has tons of health benefits and can can also help curb a sweet tooth! My personal favorite is from the Endangered Species brand found at Kroger’s!

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Don’t listen to the rumors, eating vegan doesn’t have to be inconvenient! 🙂 We hope you give some of these snacks a try on your next busy day or roadtrip!

Signing off for the sentient,

Sammi

Compassionate Cookies for Santa

I’m sure we’ve all heard by now about vegan santa: the one who lets reindeer come along for the ride in his solar powered sleigh and refuses to eat cookies that hurt the reindeer’s animal friends! Luckily, the list of compassionate cookie choices for vegan santa is so long, he might even want to check it twice! Here are some of our favorite cruelty-free cookies!

  • Oreos
  • Chocolate chip cookies made from Half Peach cookie dough
  • Chocolate Chip, Birthday Cake, or Peanut Butter cookies made with Hampton Creek cookie dough

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  • Lemonades from Girl Scouts
  • Peanut Butter Patties from Girl Scouts
  • Thin Mints from Girl Scouts

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  • 7/11 Fudge Mint Cookies
  • Vegan Gingerbread house from Big Lots
  • Trader Joes Speculoos
  • Homemade cookies
  • Chocolate Chip cookies from Flora (or seasonal toaster pastries/meringues if you want to switch it up for Santa) found at Quills

Don’t forget to leave out a glass of almond milk and some oats for the reindeer, too!

Signing off for the Sentient,

Sammi

 

Veganism: Coming to a School Near You

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Veganism is the newest social justice movement on the block, and kids of all ages are starting to get the memo! Each new generation of kids is growing in awareness and feels more inclined to take interest in political issues. Recently, countless videos of children protesting eating animals in their households have gone viral, and it’s astounding amazing to watch kids as a whole grow in understanding and give a voice to the voiceless. The anti-animal violence front is at its peak: colleges were the first to take on guest seminars informing young adults why to go vegan, now veganism is spreading to kids all around the USA as young as sixth grade! Food or Friends is a new program backed by Vegan Outreach. This educational presentation reminds youngsters to give into the voice that tells us to love and protect our furry friends, despite how different social trends urge us to put those thoughts on the back burner for our taste buds. Vegan Outreach worked to establish an interactive and fun classroom experience, while also urging kids to push their critical thinking (and critical empathizing) skills; as they question if deterring their health, the earth they live on, and the well being of animals is worth that cheeseburger. The Food or Friends project currently is small-scale and in just a handful of cities across the United States, but I can’t wait to see this project grow so more and more kiddos can get on board and help to put an end to animal cruelty!

Signing off for the sentient,

Sammi

Thanksgiving Veganized

What better way to give thanks than celebrating lives instead of eating them? With so many vegan substitutes, it gets easier and easier every year to veganize Thanksgiving! You can even have V-Grits cater your Thanksgiving spread with vegan Turkey Pot Pie, a healthy bean & oat based Thanksgiving loaf, Mac and Cheese topped with breadcrumbs, Beans & Collard Greens, Orange Walnut Quinoa Salad, Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce, homemade Bourbon Balls and 6 packs of Elixir’s Harvest Cider Kombucha! Did your stomach just growl, too? You can even make some yummy side dishes and appetizers with our cheese line! Add spinach, artichokes, garlic powder and italian seasonings to our Mozzarella sauce for a yummy spinach and artichoke dip! Or try our Mild Cheddar sauce over broccoli or in a potato casserole! Don’t want to fuss over appetizers? Put out a bowl of our Pimento spread with veggies or crusty bread for dipping and you’re good to go!

For even more Thanksgiving options, though, there’s a whole grocery world of holiday vegan spins waiting to be explored! You can replace the dairy in homemade mashed potatoes with creamy coconut milk! Since just about every Thanksgiving side pretty much requires butter, Earth Balance always seems to do the job! Kite Hill also makes amazing vegan cream cheese and yogurt, if a recipe you want to try calls for it! Green Beans and yams can easily be made vegan, too. There are also some good lookin’ vegan turkeys out in stores! Tofurky (no, they are not made of tofu 😉 ), Gardein (featured below) and Field Roast vegan turkeys are some of the most popular out there! There are even versions that are pastry dough wrapped or filled with stuffing! Even Trader Joes has a Turkey-less Stuffed Roast! I haven’t experimented with any vegan Turkey’s personally, but they have all been reviewed to be pretty gnarly! For dessert, luckily the typical (double check allergens just to be safe!) pastry dough is vegan! Top some apple filling with a sheet of pastry dough as a crust and bam! You’ve got apple pie! In Lucky’s Market, neighbors to our line of V-Grits Cheese Sauces are rice milk and soy milk based vegan whipped cream! I haven’t gotten a chance to try it yet, but I cannot wait to drench my holiday sweets in mountains of that stuff! We hope this makes your veganized holidays a little bit easier! Happy cruelty-free eatin,’ folks!

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Signing off for the sentient,

Sammi

Atlanta VegFest

I don’t know what that “Panda” song was talking about, we were too focused on all the vegan shenanigans in Atlanta! We were so lucky to be a part of the 2016 Atlanta Vegfest! Vegfests are generally an overwhelmingly happy time for any plant eater, especially in a big city! I mean, being surrounded by thousands of vegans and eating some of the yummiest food around? Count me in! And of course, no vegan road trip is complete without checking out some of the best spots in town along the way!

Cashew in Chattanooga, Tennessee was our first stop. Donut breaks are the best kind of breaks, am I right? It was placed fittingly in a cute, trendy part of town and had some beautiful plant-strong art! We grabbed raspberry jelly filled powdered donuts and chocolate donuts with sprinkles before hitting the road again. I also got a beet and kale juice because you know, have to at least pretend I’m trying to eat healthy! The cake donuts were super moist and delicious, I would definitely recommend checking them out if you’re ever in town!

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Once we arrived in Atlanta, for Kristina and Jeff it was practically a no-brainer where to go for dinner! Cafe Sunflower brought on the class! It was a beautiful place that had vegan scallops (texture was spot on!), ah-maze-ing vegan chicken wings with sugar cane “bones,” vegan chicken enchiladas, vegan steak fajitas, and a mouth-watering dessert plate to choose from! At some point into the three appetizers, entrees, and dessert that passed on the table, I seriously questioned what tastes people think vegans could be missing out on! The next day I topped my vegan chicken enchilada leftovers with our V-Grits Mild Cheddar sauce, talk about the perfect combo! We all agreed the trip to Atlanta was worth it just for that amazing meal alone! We were even lucky enough to meet the sweetest vegan Uber driver afterwards! What are the odds!

Atlanta VegFest was beautiful, to say the least! An overcrowded room of vegans and the vegan-curious is my own personal happy place. We brought samples of Mac and Cheese, gooey with our Mild Cheddar Sauce, and crackers with our southern Pimento spread. We’re happy to say that we felt everyone there shared our same enthusiasm about our cheese line, and we even sold out of the 250 jars we brought in three bustling hours! The festival made us even more excited to be selling on Vegan Essentials hopefully by the end of next month! After we filled the vegfest-goers cheese needs, it was time to partake on the fun ourselves! We got to see the friendly face of David Carter (wearing a shirt I need in my closet), an NFL Lineman and animal activist! Carter acknowledges that veganism overlooks people of color and food deserts, and works to overcome those divides! How rad! Not to mention, he clearly puts all the vegan protein questions to shame! We also indulged in hot fudge vegan sundaes (too bad I ate mine too quick to take a picture!) and a range of vegan products from protein-loaded quinoa bites to yummy vegan meats! I couldn’t leave without snagging a new member to my vegan wardrobe, a grey scarf covered with animals by Compassion Company. On our way back home, we stopped at the Chattanooga Whole Foods for snacks and were surprised with super creamy and super pink sorbets of the fruity variety! All in all, it was a great day! We’ll definitely see you again next year, Atlanta! Thanks for the loveliest vegan noms!

Signing off for the sentient,

Sammi

Got (Vegan) Milk?: A Plant-Based Milk Guide

Dairy?! Isn’t that so like, 2011? With so many new, modern vegan alternatives, dairy is on its way to be a thing of the past! The dairy industry hides that ethically, they are even worse to cows than the meat industry. Just like a baby zebra gets milk from their zebra momma and a baby giraffe gets milk from their giraffe momma, the only breast milk humans need to receive is from their same species, not a cow’s! Milk has additionally been proven to be linked to acne, ovarian cancer, bone fragility, and more (thanks for the links, PETA!) And can you just imagine that how that one milk-discovery dude even got to finding it? Talk about weird! There are so many non-cow milks these days that it’s almost overwhelming to pick just one. And even with all those vegan milks already out there, I feel like I hear of a new type just about every week! But don’t stress! I’ve done my fair share of experimenting, and will help you find the right plant-based milk for all your dairy-free needs!

  • Coconut milk: You can always find a few cans of coconut milk in my pantry! And if you’ve seen Chef Kristina’s episode of Cutthroat Kitchen, you know how dire coconut milk can be! Coconut milk is rich, thick and creamy. It makes a great homemade whipped cream, base of a rich soup, or can even be a good binder! It has a pretty strong taste on its own, but you can throw coconut milk and coconut oil into your coffee to make it extra foamy!
  • Cashew milk: Props to the vegans who lived through the grim times before cashew milk was known to human kind! Cashew milk is my absolute favorite in any plant-based alternative. Cashew milk ice cream and cheeses (*cough cough,* V-Grits cheeses 😉 ) are what I have found to be closest in taste to the harmful dairy products we grew up loving! The ice cream (SO Delicious is my favorite) is super creamy, and has even fooled my family of omnivores. Even on its own, cashew milk is delicious in a glass. A little maple syrup goes a long way to spice it up, though!

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  • Almond Milk: Almond milk is definitely the hippest milk out right now! Every coffee shop is carrying it, even Starbucks adapted to the trend and started selling it this year! Almond milk is a little sweeter and tends to be a little thinner than the other milks. It’s also yummy on its own, but especially with a chocolate chip cookie nearby! 😉
  • Soy Milk: Soy Milk is the OG milk!! It was every vegan’s go to for any dairy alternative back in the day. Soy milk still is great in coffee, and does well as an ice cream base! Soy milk also tends to work well as a dairy-milk replacement for recipes!
  • Banana Milk: Bananas are one of the most beneficial foods for your body! This milk typically isn’t found in stores, but throw some bananas and water in a blender, and you’ve got banana milk! Banana milk is a great drink on the go to get a little extra energy and potassium boost in!
  • Hemp Milk: Hemp milk is another super healthy milk worth trying! I’ve primarily used this milk for smoothies!
  • Rice Milk: Rice Milk is low in fat and one of the least allergenic milks out there!! I’ve had rice milk over fruit, and it is yummy in or as the base of desserts!
  • Ripple: One of the newest milks on the dairy-free block is Ripple, or pea milk. If you’re wondering why they call it ripple, maybe just say pea milk out loud! 😉 Ripple is getting trendy due to having high protein levels (one gram of protein per ounce!), just like peas. I have yet to try this milk, but I can’t wait to get my hands on some!

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As stated earlier, there are an endless number of milks out there! These days people make new vegan milks just to test if a food product can be turned into a milk! Other replacements out there include hazelnut milk, macadamia nut milk, quinoa milk, oat milk, flax milk, and more! So make an ethical and healthy turn into the dairy-alternative section next time you go grocery shopping, I promise you won’t regret it!

Signing off for the sentient,

Sammi

The Truth Behind Backyard Chicken Eggs

Of all the animal products vegans choose not to consume, I think it’s safe to say that the refusal of eggs from the neighbor’s backyard chicken coop seems to stir up the most omnivore confusion! Now how do these eggs from physically healthy, home-grown, free-wandering chickens still not get a vegan’s approval?! There are a few extra things vegans have taken into consideration to keep our feathered friends as happy as can be!

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Most egg-eaters might not know that chickens are cannibals! After laying her round of eggs, a hen’s (lady chicken friend) body will be exhausted and at a complete loss of calcium. In order to restore her calcium so she can prevent herself from illness, a hen will eat some of her eggs to receive all the nutrients that are vital for her to stay healthy and disease-free. Beyond just physical health, though, these beautiful feathered birds are ridden with anxiety when their eggs are taken away from them! They could be her children, after all. Hens become so sad, in fact, that they stress themselves to lay more eggs. The hens forcing themselves to lay eggs also takes a huge toll on their immune system, but more than that, their reproductive system becomes heavily damaged and will no longer be in their control.

Like any other food-like product vegans choose not to consume, the base of why we pick tofu scramble over eggs is simple: we do not take what is not ours! Those lady-birds sure need those eggs more than we do. They certainly don’t give humans any additional nutrition, seeing as they cause an egg-xstraordinary amount of threatening build up in your arteries! And after all, eggs are pretty much just chicken periods! Gross! And with so many great alternatives like the vegan egg and tofu scramble and alternative binders like bananas, aquafaba, applesauce, the vegan egg or flax seeds, who needs the chicken periods, am I right?

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Signing off for the sentient,

Sammi

Plant-Based Food Association

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V-Grits is so lucky to be a part of the Plant-Based Foods Association! This association aims to stabilize fairness to companies that produce alternatives to animal products, such as plant-based meats and cheeses! The PBFA also makes efforts to educate consumers on why plant-based foods exist; and how they are comparatively beneficial to human health, the environment, and ethical stances. It could come as a surprise that there is a large amount of lobbying done by the animal agriculture industry, with a misleading goal of convincing consumers that animal products are a positive contributor to a healthy diet! Just in the past year, the dairy industry alone has spent an astounding $13 million dollars between lobbying and campaign donations (holy guacamole)!

In order to spread the truth about the mysteries within factory farming practices and assure plant-based companies are treated fairly, the PBFA was founded by the creator of Tofurkey to do their own sort of “lobbying.” However, rather than buying into keeping opposing companies under the radar, this association was made to assure we are still on the radar within government, media and consumer outreach. Despite the astounding growth in demand, this association acknowledges that plant-based foods are still made to be alarmingly taboo in current society, and challenges that the government needs a political revolution in order to “fix food.” The Plant Based Food Association has recently made a brief challenging Ag-Gag Law, or various laws put in place in order to limit journalism, investigation, knowledge and reports of and within animal agriculture. They have also found that the plant-based food industry has funded $13.7 billion dollars into the United States economy. An association like this is incredibly important to ensure that vegan companies are treated fairly and are well heard, especially seeing as plant-based foods are still more or less the new kids on the block, taking a stand for the animals, our health and the environment! Read more about their goals and accomplishments on their website, we could not be prouder to be a member of this awesome organization!

Signing off for the Sentient,

Sammi