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Spinach & Tofu Tacos

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Spinach & Tofu tacos topped with salsa verde and chopped cilantro.

A local restaurant that we go to has weekly specials. One of their specials was called “Popeye’s Tacos” and my hubby loves them! There is nothing fancy about them but the flavors are so good. I decided to try to replicate these at home and they were a success! Here is what you’ll need to make them at home:

1 Package Extra Firm Tofu, drained and pressed

8oz Baby Spinach leaves (I used a small clamshell package but you can adjust more or less depending on your love of spinach)

1 TBSP oil

1 TBSP Earth Balance

Salt

Pepper

Corn tortillas for serving

Your favorite salsa (I used a salsa verde I had on hand but a red salsa would also do lovely here)

Fresh chopped cilantro for sprinkling.

1. Shred the tofu using a box grater. You can use a handheld grater but make sure the holes are big. Don’t attempt to use a zester, that won’t work.

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2. Heat cast iron pan over medium high heat until hot. Once the pan is hot, add in oil and Earth Balance butter. Allow oil and butter to get to temperature.

3. Once oil and Earth Balance are hot, drop in shredded tofu. Season with salt and pepper and give it a stir.

4. Let the tofu cook on one side, without stirring, until you see a nice golden color and crisp form. Once you see the golden color, flip using a thin spatula. Allow to cook on second side using the same method.

5. Once tofu is cooked, add in spinach and stir to wilt down the spinach and heat through.

6. Fill your tortillas with the spinach and tofu mix, top with salsa and any other toppings and enjoy!

These tacos would pair well with breakfast potatoes or rice and beans for an easy dinner!

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Sun & Earth

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I love their packaging, too!

I love their packaging, too!

I discovered this brand at ExpoWest earlier this spring and had the opportunity to try some of their products in my home.  I was given a bottle of dish soap, multipurpose cleaner, laundry detergent and a canister of multipurpose cleaning wipes. I immediately put these products to work to see how they fared and here is the breakdown:

Fresh Lavender Liquid Dish Soap-First, this soap smells amazing. It has a nice fresh, light lavender scent. Honestly, I didn’t mind doing the dishes because the soap smelled so amazing. Also, I am a firm believer that if the soap isn’t bubbly, it isn’t cleaning. And, this soap passed the bubble test. It foamed wonderfully and didn’t take much to get the same amount of suds that it would take from my existing cleaner. This soap got even the dirtiest of dishes squeaky clean! It also did a wonderful job cleaning plastic storage containers. I always feel like other cleaners leave behind a film, especially on plastic, and this soap didn’t!

All Purpose Spray Cleaner-As with the rest of the products, this has a light citrus scent. I love that these products didn’t have a chemical smell to them and the citrus scent was a mood lifter when I was stuck doing chores. I used this cleaner for cleaning my wood cutting board and wiping down my counters. The cleaner easily picked up any messes and left my tile counters sparkling!

Natural Laundry Detergent-I admit I was hesitant to try this because the hubby has really sensitive skin and most products leave him itchy. This detergent was so gentle, it has not caused any issues for him. Our clothes are left feeling soft and smelling wonderfully! I have used this detergent to wash our pets bedding and had great results. The smelly dog odor was gone and a light citrus scent was all that remained.

Natural All Surface Wipes-These are wonderful wipes to have handy for quick cleanup! The towelette holds up nicely to light scrubbing, too. These are perfect to keep on hand for emergencies when you are out and about as well!

Overall, I really enjoyed these Sun & Earth products! And I love the fact that all of their products are vegan, cruelty free and made in the USA. I was a big fan of another brand, who shall remain nameless, but Sun & Earth has gained a new loyal customer.

You can find out more about their product lineup or to shop online, visit their website at www.sunandearth.com.

I hope you love their products as much as I do!

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Spicy Quesadillas!

Sometimes, you just throw something together and it winds up being one of the best things ever. I just happened to go to Trader Joe’s that day and saw their awesome Chile and Onion tortillas. And I quickly realized they would make the best quesadillas. So, I picked up some soyrizo (their vegan soyrizo is back, FYI!) and headed home.

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Spicy quesadillas served with tots.

Here’s how I did it:

Ingredients

  • Trader Joe’s Chile and Onion Tortillas (2 per quesadilla)
  • Soyrizo
  • your favorite vegan cheese (I used Daiya cheddar shreds)
  • Any garnishments you’d like

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. While oven is heating, brown soyrizo in a small pan. This should take about 5 minutes. Remove soyrizo from heat once it’s browned to your liking.
  3. Take one tortilla and place it on the cookie sheet. Sprinkle your cheese all over the tortilla. Then do the same with the soyrizo. Then top with a second tortilla.
  4. Place the assembled quesadillas in the oven and about about 7-10 minutes. You want the tortilla to be crispy and the cheese melted.
  5. Remove from oven and slice into wedges. Pizza cutters work wonders here!
  6. Serve alongside garnishments and your favorite sides. Since these quesadillas are spicy, cool garnishments like non-dairy sour cream, guacamole or fresh salsa would work best.

Enjoy!

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The Oil Cleansing Method

I’ve heard of this for a while now but have put off trying it because I was afraid of it. I mean, cleaning your face with oil to get clear skin? It sounds so counter-intuitive, right? But, as I get a little older, I’ve noticed changes in my skin that my regular skin care routine just didn’t seem to address. Enter, The Oil Cleansing Method.

After much research about the method (I found this site to be the most helpful http://www.theoilcleansingmethod.com/) and different oils and blends, I finally decided to give it a go.

Since my skin tends to be really sensitive, susceptible to breakouts and redness, I chose to use grapeseed oil in my blend. I found these oils at my local Sprouts grocery store. I also picked up a glass amber bottle with dropper to make life a bit easier.

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I decided to go with a 30/70 blend, 30% Castor Oil and 70% grapeseed oil. The first few days, I mixed it up each time in a small bowl until I was sure that percentage blend would work for me. Once I knew that was the blend for me, I went ahead a mixed a bigger batch that I put into my glass bottle.

Every night, I apply my oil blend to my face. The oils work to remove my makeup (even mascara!) effortlessly. Make sure that you spend plenty of time working on areas that are prone to blemishes. If you feel any developing, spend some extra time massaging that particular area. Also, spend extra time in areas prone to blackheads. You can actually feel them being lifted out of your pores. I then take a washcloth and run it under warm water. I let that sit on my face for a few minutes, then use the cloth to wipe my face. I do this about 4 times to make sure I get everything wiped away. I use a small amount of my blend, about 3 small drops, to massage into my face after my cleansing. This helps hydrate your skin and allows for the cleansing properties of the castor oil to soak into your pores. In the morning, I wipe my face with a warm washcloth followed by 3 small drops of my oil.

I have been using this method for about 3 weeks now and I have noticed huge improvements in my skin. Just in one use, I noticed that my skin was super soft. But since then, I have noticed that some of my dark spots have lightened or completely disappeared. Any blemishes that might be under the surface don’t seem to fully develop. In addition to the increasing softness of my skin, I finally have the nice “dewy” glow that my skin never seemed to have. I highly suggest using this method for your daily skin care regimen. It gives great results without those expensive cleansers!

Try it out and let me know what you think!

 

 

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Taquitos featuring Beyond Meat

I love that there are so many vegan meat alternatives! Everyone has their own personal favorites, too. Most of the time I cook with Gardein at home because I have found Beyond Meat a bit difficult to work with. It’s tasty when I have prepared for me but I just can’t seem to cook it right at home…until now. After a few attempts, I have found the best way to prepare it, especially for taquitos, though the possibilities are endless. Here is how I did it:

Ingredients

  • 1 Package Beyond Meat Chicken Strips (any variety)
  • 1 Poblano chile
  • 4 cups veggie broth
  • 1/4 onion
  • 1 medium tomato
  • 1 Serrano chile
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Juice from 1/2 lime
  • Cilantro (about a handful)
  • Corn tortillas
  • Oil for frying
  • Garnishes i.e. guacamole, salsa verde, pico de gallo salsa, non dairy sour cream, etc.

Directions

  1. Roast the Poblano chile on the stove top until blackened on all side. Once it’s fully blackened, wrap the chile in a cloth towel or plastic bag and allow it to sweat for 5-10 minutes. Then, peel the charred skin off the chile, remove the stem and cut a slit in the side to remove the seeds. Set aside.
  2. In a medium pot, add Beyond Meat strips, broth, tomato, onion and Serrano chile. Bring to boil. Boil until the strips are swollen and are very tender.
  3. Once the strips are ready, use a slotted spoon to remove the strips. Shred the strips using two forks until all the strips are finely shredded. Put the shredded strips into a large bowl. Set aside.
  4. Using the slotted spoon, remove the tomato, onion and serrano chile from the pot and put them in your blender jar. Add the Poblano chile, cilantro, salt and lime juice. Puree until almost smooth.
  5. Add the salsa to the shredded meat and mix thoroughly.
  6. Add oil (about an inch) to pan and heat over medium heat. While this is heating, warm up your tortillas.
  7. When tortillas are warmed, fill with meat and roll up. You’ll want to work in batches here. I usually put about 5 taquitos in my pan at once. Place the taquitos, seam side down, in the hot oil. Cook until crispy on all sides (be sure to turn them to get a uniform crisp.)
  8. Remove cooked taquitos from pan and place on paper towel to drain while you cook the rest of the taquitos.
  9. Top with your favorite garnishments and enjoy!

This filling would work well with various recipes like tamales, enchiladas or use it as a base for other fillings.

Enjoy!

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The Gentle Barn

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Have you ever met a farm animal? Have you hugged a cow, rubbed a piggy’s belly or held a chicken? Most of us never have. But places like The Gentle Barn give us a place to do that. Located in Santa Clarita, CA, The Gentle Barn is home to over 160 animals (cows, pigs, chickens, horses, goats and many more!) all of whom are rescued. They are victims of animal cruelty, abuse and neglect. The Gentle Barn takes in the animals that no one else wants. They rehabilitate them with medical attention, proper nutrition and love. These animals are then given a loving place to live out their lives free from harm. It’s a long process to get these animals healthy-both in their bodies and minds. But, Ellie, Jay and their staff work relentlessly with their residents to give them the best lives possible.

Duchess, the llama, and her friends lounging in the upper barnyard.

Duchess, the llama, and her friends lounging in the upper barnyard.

My first visit to The Gentle Barn coincided with the semi-annual vegan bake sale that is held to benefit The Gentle Barn.  This is done in conjunction with the “Worldwide Vegan Bake Sale” events that take place across the country. All items for sale and supplies are 100% donated free of charge and 100% of the proceeds go to The Gentle Barn to help them continue the amazing work they do for the animals and their community. I was very excited to volunteer my time at the bake sale but I was even more excited to spend some time loving on these wonderful animals.

After working part of the morning at the bake sale, I was able to spend some time checking out the barn and it’s residents. The barn is split into upper and lower barnyard sections. The lower barnyard is where you’ll find the horses and cows (and the restrooms, snack shop, Frankenstand’s Veggie Dogs and the gift shop). The upper barnyard is home to the pigs, goats, sheep, llamas, chickens, turkeys and peacocks. At select times, there is a short presentation that is given by Ellie explaining how the barn came to be. After the presentation, the upper barnyard is open for visitors.

Bodhi, a resident of the upper barnyard at The Gentle Barn.

Bodhi, a resident of the upper barnyard at The Gentle Barn.

I absolutely fell in love with Biscuit, a 1000 pound pig, and Zeus, an 800 pound pig. Both pigs were raised to be slaughtered for meat, thus their very unnatural sizes. These gentle giants were fast asleep in their stalls but still very much enjoyed their bellies being rubbed. In fact, Biscuit legs would twitch and Zeus would grunt when you rubbed their favorite spots.

arethaHowever, there was one special animal that stole my heart. Her name is Aretha. Aretha is a cow who was rescued from slaughter. During this visit, she had only been at the barn for about 2 months and still had a long road to recovery ahead of her. She was very skittish and would stand still for a few moments to allow someone to touch her. Her brand was still visible and her ear tag remained in her ear because she was not yet comfortable enough for them to attempt to remove it. Aretha stood there and you could see the hurt in her eyes. I quietly walked up to her and pet her for a few minutes but I really just wanted to wrap my arms around her! Her “person” (each animal has a “person” who keeps an eye on them and stays with them) and I chatted for a while while I pet Aretha and she told me to go ahead and try to give her a hug. She gave me instructions on what to do and where to stand and I did. And she let me hug her! She stood there, totally still and I think we bonded. Now every time I visit the barn, she is my first stop. And I think she remembers me. She just looks at me with these eyes, like she knows who I am. Aretha has come a really long way in her recovery, allowing more visitors to pet her and spend time with her. But she is still learning to trust to that no one will ever harm her again.

I also visited their horses and donkey, Addison. I’ve always loved horses and thought they were such gorgeous beings. But they terrify me. I spent some time admiring the horses from afar (I didn’t want to try to pet one at first) but then decided to buy a bag of carrots to feed them. I fed several of the horses and spent a little extra time with Patrick. He was adorable and greedy! He literally stuck his head in my bag to get some carrots. But he was so very gentle. I also fed some carrots to his neighbor, Addison the donkey, because he was just too cute!

When visiting hours were over, I was so sad to leave. This place is so wonderful and there are so many amazing things happening here. From the work they do with the animals, to the amazing staff who volunteer their time and the animal therapy programs that help children and adults, you can’t help but fall in love with The Gentle Barn. Since our first visit, we have been back several times and every time, I am so grateful that a place like this exists.

This is Benny, a turkey that was rescued from slaughter. Benny loved to be pet under her wings. Unfortunately, Benny passed away a couple of months after this picture was taken. But, I am so grateful that she was able to live the rest of her life in such a loving place.

This is Benny, a turkey that was rescued from slaughter. Benny loved to be pet under her wings. Unfortunately, Benny passed away a couple of months after this picture was taken. But, I am so grateful that she was able to live the rest of her life in such a loving place.

The Gentle Barn is located at 15825 Sierra Highway Santa Clarita, CA 91390 and they are open for public visits on Sundays from 10am to 2pm.

Plan your visit today!

 

 

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Vegan and Cruelty Free

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Have you ever noticed the pink bunny or leaping bunny logos on scores of products from toothpaste to household cleaners. What do those logos mean? If the products are cruelty free, then they must be vegan, right? Not necessarily.

Cruelty free simply indicates that the product has not been tested on animals. There are 2 main programs that are responsible for certifying that a product is cruelty free: PETA’s Beauty Without Bunnies program and The Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetic’s Leaping Bunny program. Each website maintains a list of companies and indicate whether or not they are cruelty free certified. They work with companies to ensure that animals are not used in the testing of their products but this doesn’t mean that the product is free from animal derived ingredients. Some companies will offer vegan products within their line of products while still offering products that contain animal derived ingredients.

But, honestly, the only way to be sure that you are getting a vegan and cruelty free product is to look for both the certified vegan logo and the cruelty free logo. And, when in doubt, read the label or use one of the many smartphone apps available to help you determine if a product meets these specifications. One of my favorite iPhone apps is “Is it Vegan”. This app allows you to scan the barcode on the item right from your phone. It also allows you to search by ingredient, if you prefer. This app has come in handy many times! I would also encourage you to check your labels often-no matter how many times you’ve purchased that same product. Some manufacturers get sneaky and will change their ingredients over time. So be sure to check your labels to avoid any unwanted surprises.

And, many vegan and cruelty free brands are available at your local stores from Target to Costco. Shopping cruelty free couldn’t be any easier!

So, before you replenish your cosmetics or household items, be sure to check out some of the companies listed on the websites above. You can also check my reviews for some of my favorite products! And, then pick up a product or two on your next trip to the store!

What’s the deal with honey?

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You might hear the term “beegan” from time to time. That term refers to someone who is vegan but doesn’t abstain from the use of honey. Some vegans don’t see anything wrong with the use of honey as long as it comes from a local beekeeper instead of a commercial bee farm (yeah, those exist!). Furthermore, with the phenomenon of Colony Collapse Disorder on the rise, others feel that the increased demand of local honey will help thwart the die off of honeybees that we are currently seeing. People have even started adding beehives to their own gardens to help the wild honey bees and will often use the honey made in these hives.

And, then there is the other side of the argument. Honey is something that is made by an animal and, therefore, should not be used or consumed by humans. While honey can be viewed as a simple byproduct of a honey bee’s hard work, honey is much more than that. Honey is food for the bees so who are we to take it from them, especially after they’ve worked so hard to make it? This article, 3 Reasons Not To Eat Honey, outlines the many issues that surround our current bee population and why taking honey from is harmful to them.

The decision to use honey or not is one that each individual must make on their own. Maybe you decide to keep a beehive in your garden, purchase local honey from a bee keeper or decide that honey is not for you anymore. Either way, the fact that you are thinking about this and making a conscience decision about it is a step in the right direction.

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So you’ve decided to go vegan…now what?

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Congratulations on taking the first step to becoming vegan. Committing to a compassionate lifestyle is exciting and overwhelming all at the same time! I hope that this blog will help make your transition easier by sharing new product information, recipes, travel information and inspiration as you forge ahead in your new lifestyle. It’s quite the journey but it’s so rewarding!

Enjoy your new veggie loving life!