Thursday, December 26, 2013

How breast-feeding led me to go vegan

Merry Christmas!  I want to start by saying that this is a very personal post.  I'm not trying to cause controversy, it's just how I feel.  I don't want to hurt animals, and I've created a life that incorporates my belief.  I don't judge anyone else for their food choices... As long as you're not eating fast food and junk food all day.  I feel that a person's diet is a part of who they are and if they're happy with it, that's what's important.  If you aren't happy with your diet, hey, that's why I'm here.

When I was pregnant, I drank raw organic milk every morning, and ate raw cheddar cheese almost daily.  I was a dedicated dairy addict.  It happens.  I know about the health benefits of raw dairy, and I thought that it would be a great thing for growing a healthy baby, which she appears to be by all measures. As I've said before, I really struggled with cravings at that time, and I knew my body was telling me it needed something, which I heard as "CHEESE!"  I stuck to only organic and raw products.  (That processed, homogenized, pasteurized crap is poison, in my opinion).  And I enjoyed it... A LOT.  

After Charlotte was born, I never once craved meat, even though I struggled with my red meat cravings while pregnant.  The one thing that kept me from going back to full-vegan, was cheese.  I actually didn't crave milk after her birth, either.  But cheese?  That was a different story.  I've met a lot of vegetarians who've said they'd be vegan if not for cheese.  I can totally understand that.  I wanted to go vegan again, but I just didn't see the harm in having a dairy product.  I mean, no one dies to make cheese, right?  Well, that's what I thought.  

I have driven past a dairy farm every morning on my way to work for years.  I always like seeing the beautiful cows eating their grass and lounging in their water hole.  To me, those big brown eyes are just gorgeous!  I've been around a lot of cows, and they are such gentle, sweet animals.  It wasn't until I came back to work in June, as a breast-feeding and pumping mommy, that things finally clicked.  I noticed the very large udders hanging from the cows, all the cows.  There wasn't a bull in sight.  I also noted there weren't any babies.  That got me thinking.  To get cow's milk, the cow has to give birth.  To give birth, the cow has to get pregnant.  How was this happening without any bulls or calves in sight?  Well, I discovered that in a lot of dairy operations, male calves are sold for veal (OMG!), and females are put back into the dairy business.  The mommy cows are impregnated "manually" by the farmers (ouch!), and kept pregnant for years until they're no longer useful.  At which point they're disposed of.  While they're being used for milk production, they're connected to painful milking machines.  Coming from a pumping mom, I would be miserable if I had to be connected to that thing against my will.  Pumping isn't comfortable.  Sometimes, it's quite painful.  I do it because it's what's best for my baby.  Will I miss doing it when she weans?  Hell, no!  I seriously doubt that Mavis the dairy cow happily steps up to her milking machine feeling like she's doing something great for humanity.  And I'm pretty positive that what she feels as the suction pulls on her udders is love.  Maybe becoming a mom has made me a big softy, but I just can't justify supporting an operation that takes babies away from their mothers and forces those mothers to be in pain day-in and day-out.   What if it was me?  It just seems heartless.  If I am to live a compassionate life, I can't be a part of it. And you know what?  I feel just fine.  I have less nasal mucus in the morning, and I'm sleeping soundly too.  I've not looked back.  So if you're struggling to give up cheese, butter or milk, hook yourself to a breast pump for a few days.  Ouch!  It'll change your prospective, trust me.  And if that doesn't work, just remember that we're the only species that consumes the milk of another species, and we consume it as adults.  It's kind of weird when you think about it.  Mothers' milk is made to make babies grow, so if you are drinking it as an adult and you have a weight issue, maybe there's a connection?  

I know people love their cheese, and this isn't meant to ruffle feathers.  I just want people to think about where their food comes from.  Consider it food for thought. 

Have a wonderful rest of the week, and eat something green. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Where have I been? And some easy, quick recipes

I know it's been a couple of weeks since my last post, but WOW, I've been busy!  As of this week, I'm an official Raw Foods Chef and Instructor.  That's right, I can now teach others (with some credibility) how to create beautiful, healthy, vibrant raw foods.  In addition, I can also certify other Raw Food chefs through the Living on Live Food program.  So, if you'd like to become a raw chef, I'd love to teach you.

With all of the holiday fun going on, plus work, and the general unpredictability of a teething eight month-old, I haven't been in writing mode.  I have, however, developed a couple of amazing recipes for you to try.  These are all vegan, some raw and very quick, ya know, since I hate to spend hours making one dish.  I sure don't mind being in the kitchen for hours, but I have recipe ADD.  So without further ado, please enjoy...

Massaged Kale Salad
(This is pretty much my kale chips without the dehydrator.)
1 bunch organic kale
1 lemon, juiced
1 tsp olive/sesame oil
1/2-1 tsp garlic powder
2 tbsp onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
Cayenne pepper to taste

Chop the kale as fine as you'd prefer.  I like mine very fine since it's easier to chew that way.  Add the lemon juice and olive/sesame oil and massage the kale with your hands until it appears bright green and evenly coated.  Then, add the garlic powder, onion, nutritional yeast, and pepper, and toss with a fork, or you hands. (Don't forget to wash your hands immediately if you toss with your hands!  We wouldn't want any cayenne pepper to get in your eyes... Or lemon juice for that matter.)  That's it!  You're done.  It's so simple.  If you want to make a more hearty salad, feel free to toss in some nuts, seeds, dried cranberries, apples, fresh herbs, etc.  

Coconut Mushroom Soup
(This soup is very savory and really helps with those post-Thanksgiving cravings.)

12 oz (or more) mushrooms, sliced thinly
1/2 medium onion, chopped finely
1 clove garlic
1 can full-fat coconut milk
1-1/2 cup water
1 vegetable bouillon cube (optional)
2 tbsp Bragg's Liquid Aminos ( or soy sauce)
1 tbsp tarragon
1 tsp sage
1 tsp rosemary

Chopped red bell pepper
Sliced green onion

In a small sauce pan, heat water to boiling and add boullion cube.  Stir until the cube dissolves.  In a blender, pour the broth, then add the coconut milk, garlic and Bragg's Liquid Aminos, with half the chopped onion and half the sliced mushrooms.  Blend until smooth.  Then, add the herbs and blend briefly.  At this point, your soup is done, just pour it into a bowl and add the rest of the mushrooms and onion.  If you'd like to soften the veggies, just add the mixture to a pan a warm over low heat until your desired softness is achieved.  When serving, top the soup with fresh chopped bell pepper, green onion, cilantro, spinach, kale, etc.  it's beautiful!  Alternately, you could make this a "green soup" by blending fresh greens into the mix.  Yum!

Miso-Ginger Salad Dressing
(This dressing is AMAZING on any type of green salad.  The flavor is so rich.)

1/2 cup olive oil
1 lemon, juiced
1 tbsp Bragg's Liquid Aminos (or soy sauce)
1-1/2 tbsp miso (any color will do)
1" piece fresh ginger, chopped very finely
1 clove garlic, chopped very finely
1/2 cup water
Black or white pepper to taste

Add all ingredients to a mason jar and shake to combine, or use a blender if you prefer smaller bits of ginger and garlic.  

Note:  Fresh miso can generally be found in the Nature's Market area of Kroger, or in the refrigerator at any Asian grocery store.  It comes as a paste and is very cheap.  It'll also keep for a very long time because it's a fermented food.  

Last night, I made a kale salad and used the miso dressing instead of my usual lemon juice and olive oil combo.  It was perfection!  

I hope these recipes will help you incorporate more gorgeous plants into your diet.  Whether you're a carnivore, omnivore, or herbivore, it never hurts to get more amazing greens. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Raw Cheesy Kale Chips

If it's possible to overdose on kale, you may find me clinging to life with drool streaming down my face very soon.  Since my return from Miami, I've been bravely tackling some dehydrator recipes that I previously found intimidating.  My favorite, and easiest by far, has been cheesy kale chips.  Kale is one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet, and also beautiful, in my opinion.  I just love the vibrant green color, so I prefer dehydrated to baked chips.  You could bake these, but they won't stay as crisp or colorful.  I don't really care how you make them, just make them.  And then eat the whole batch!

1 bunch organic kale
Juice of 1 lemon
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
Sea salt to taste

Start by breaking the kale into about 1-inch pieces.  Pour lemon juice and olive oil into kale pieces and massage until the kale is evenly coated.  Then, add the sea salt and nutritional yeast and toss.  Once that's done, just spread the kale chips onto dehydrator sheets, or just the trays without non-stick sheets, and dehydrate at 115 degrees for about 8 hours.  

This is what they look like before drying.

I've been prepping a batch at bedtime every night, and they're ready by morning.  You can't beat having a fresh batch of healthy, salty, cheesy chips to snack on at work.

...And when they're done.

This recipe takes a matter of minutes to prep, so why not add this nutritional powerhouse to your diet?  

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Living the dream... Literally.

        Charlotte is quite the world traveler after being on ten flights in the last three months.

     This past Saturday, Miss Charlotte and I, along with my mom, set out on a two day adventure to southern Florida.  I recently decided that making raw food for myself was fun, but it wasn't going to afford me the ability to help others and work from home like I've always dreamed of doing.  I need more credibility and experience if I'm going to teach others the benefits of a high-raw and natural lifestyle.  Before I got pregnant, I had been toying with the idea of going to Living Light Culinary Institute to study all things raw, but now, with a baby, a full-time job, and a home to care for, moving to California for half of the year wasn't going to work.  I had to pursue other routes.  I started researching other raw chef certifications and found a few possibilities, but settled on the Living on Live Foods course offered by Alissa Cohen.  I have her book "Raw Food for Everyone" and love it.  Some friends gifted it to me for my 29th birthday. Alissa is pretty much a genius, so who better to learn from, right?  There are three levels of this course, and I, not being one who likes waiting, found the level one class being offered this month near Miami.  As it turned out, the instructor was none other than Alissa's own sister, Stacie Cohen.  I was so excited!  I knew this would be the life-changing experience that I wanted so badly.  
                                            The lovely Stacie, showing off our handiwork.

     After arriving late on Saturday and a three-hour rental car fiasco (thank you, Dollar Rental Car for overbooking by about five hundred people), we finally found an open store, bought bananas and water, and settled into our hotel.  Of course, I didn't sleep well due to my mind running a hundred miles per hour with thoughts of how amazing the following day would be.   I also had a sinking feeling that I had forgotten something... A feeling which had hounded me all day.
     When I woke up Sunday, I realized what the sinking feeling was all about... I had forgotten the flanges for my breast pump.  Oops!  Since my mom was there to care for Charlotte during my class, it was sort of important that she be able to feed the baby while I was gone.  You wanna talk about shear terror?  That's what the feeling was at that moment.  But thanks to Target opening early on Sunday, I was able to remedy the situation at 8am for $20.  
     So, at that point, we'd had a rental car issue, I was exhausted, and I'd forgotten very important items, but everything had worked out well.  These things always happen to me, but they seem to resolve in the best possible way, which I attribute to positive thinking. 
     Around 9:45 on Sunday morning, I kissed Charlotte bye, mom wished me luck, and I headed out for what would become the most awesome day of my life, aside from Charlotte's birth and my wedding.  
     As soon as Stacie opened the door, I felt like I'd known her my entire life.  She is the most warm and welcoming person, and made myself and Wendy, the other student, feel right at home.  Due to strange circumstances, she was teaching this class at her home instead of the kitchen she usually uses as a classroom. I felt so honored to be there.  Stacie is also a well-known raw chef, so to be in her private kitchen, using her own tools felt like something truly special.  
                        Myself, Wendy, and Stacie after a long day of beautiful food creation.
     After introductions and some basics about what raw food is and why we've chosen this path, we made our way to the kitchen for an epic day of the most incredible, but also simple, food.  We started with a mock-salmon pâté made from walnuts, and "refried beans" made from sunflower seeds.  I think part of what makes me appreciate raw food is how complex flavors can be created from simple ingredients.  It's all in how you balance them.  We created guacamole and stuffed it into marinated portobello caps.  She helped us make the most beautiful marinara sauce that we enjoyed over zucchini pasta and "raw-violi" made from sliced turnip and nut-cheese.  The tomato soup we blended was so easy, but also was delicious.  I think my favorite part of the day was making raw cheese from cashews.  I can't begin to understand how cashews, lemon juice, salt, and some herbs can come together tasting just like cheese, but it does!  
                                    Beautiful zucchini pasta with simple marinara sauce.

                                                 "Raw-violi" with nut cheese pesto.

     Lastly, we HAD to make dessert.  What better way to polish off such a wonderful experience than with the rich sweetness of a date-nut torte?  Within a matter of minutes, we had a delicious gourmet dessert.  
                                                Date-nut tart with cacao and coconut.

     When all was said and done, I had learned so much.  The greatest change, though, came in the form of confidence.  Since I started exploring raw foods, I've always been a bit intimidated by what I viewed as "complex" recipes.  Now, I feel like I can conquer anything. Stacie did an amazing job of explaining how flavors come together in the blender/food processor and how to mimic textures of cooked food.  I've always been a fan of Alton Brown because of how he explains the science behind his cooking, and Stacie is similar in that way. Everything made sense by the time we were done.
     It was scary and stressful traveling so far away for only two days with such a young child, but I'm so glad that I made the leap.  I'm now planning for my level two certification, and I couldn't be happier.  You see, I realized something on Sunday.  I felt so at-home in that kitchen, and I knew that's where I was meant to be.  It was the reassurance I needed to know that this is where I belong.  I know I'm on the right track.
     We didn't fly home until Monday night, so we were able to enjoy a little bit of the city and beach.  Here are a few highlights:

We had dinner with the Palm Beach Vegetarian Society (who welcomed us right into their private party and gave mom a vegan birthday cupcake), on Sunday night at The Garden Of Vegan.  I had the wrap sampler plate featuring toona-pate, living hummus, and curried plantain. It was perfect!  I paired it with a hibiscus-ginger tea.  Mom had the zucchini fettuccini and may have been converted to raw vegan right then and there! 
We visited the beach in Boca Raton Monday morning where it was 88 degrees, windy, and absolutely gorgeous!  Coming home to snow flurries was tough.

We enjoyed raw salads and wheatgrass-hopper juice at Juice and Java in South Beach before heading to the airport.

And we had to see the beach just one last time, near the Art Deco district of Miami.

Goodbye, Miami!  I hope to visit you again soon. 

     P.S.  People in Miami are beautiful.  I thought it was just that way on TV, but it's not.  Everywhere you look, half-dressed, very fit men and women are roller-blading or running down the street. I'm going to attribute that to the perfect weather and generally more health-conscious atmosphere.  What an awesome place Miami is!


Monday, November 4, 2013

Burger night? I can make that vegan!

I had a hankering.  It was calling to me, so of course, I answered.  I've never been a big "burger gal".  However, I have had a long love affair with hot sauce.  It started with craving chicken tenders and grew over the years to a slight obsession.  I've eaten it on just about everything... Tortilla chips, popcorn.  These days, as you know, I don't eat chicken, or any meat for that matter, but I still love my hot sauce.  Sometimes, I just want something spicy and crunchy on a sourdough bun with fresh vegetables topping it off. Is that too much to ask?  Enter the buffalo tempeh burger.  This is about the most simple vegan dish that won't have you slaving on the kitchen for hours.


     It starts with some plain tempeh from any grocery store.  Mine came from Trader Joe's, the greatest store in the world!  I just cut the slab in half and then sliced down the center to make two thin patties.  For the bun, I bought these gluten-free sourdough bagel buns from the frozen section of Kroger's Nature Market.  It was the first time I'd tried these, and I was not disappointed.  They even have that chewy texture that makes bagels so special.  
     Next, I sliced a shallot and one clove of garlic into small pieces and sautéed them in a bit of coconut oil, my go-to for any high heat frying.  


     While those were going, I just quickly marinated the tempeh in a small amount of Bragg's Liquid Aminos.  It gives the tempeh a slightly salty, umami flavor to mimic meat.  I also sliced a Cherokee Purple tomato from the garden and a couple of leaves of organic romaine.  


     It didn't take long for the shallot and garlic to start browning, at which point I removed them from my skillet and replaced them with the tempeh patties.  I added just a bit more coconut oil to keep them from burning.  The joy of using my Mammaw's cast-iron skillet is that it's almost non-stick without the nasty Teflon chemicals leaching into my food.  As soon as they were nicely browned on both sides, I set them to the side and toasted my "bun" in the same pan.  
     Once everything was cooked, I assembled my masterpiece.


     Now, what goes better with a burger than hot crispy fries?  With my oven preheated to 425, I just sliced a couple of small gold potatoes into strips, tossed them in olive oil, sea salt, garlic powder, and fresh black pepper. I spread them on my baking stone and within 15 minutes, I had golden, crispy, beautiful fries.  People like to spew the nonsense that white potatoes aren't good for you, but they're actually an excellent source of vitamin C and potassium.  Plus, as a nursing mom, I need the extra carbs or my milk supply will drop.  I've experimented with this, and it's definitely true for me.  
     Here you have it!  An American Classic with all the flavor and none of the guilt.  It really was delicious and, I think, quite nice to look at.  It was my first time making this, in burger form anyway,and I'll be doing it again very soon.  This could easily become a staple meal in this house.  


Friday, November 1, 2013

Who needs chicken? Buffalo tempeh with roasted red potatoes and kale/mushroom saute

The first of the month is always the busiest time for me at work.  Add to that my duties as "fill-in" for just about anyone who goes on vacation, and it's been a very hectic couple of weeks, today being the craziest of all.  After waking up an hour early because Charlotte had new sounds she wanted to practice, I knew it was going to be a very long day.  What I didn't anticipate was only getting to nibble some walnuts and an apple for lunch.  The avocado I had packed was a sad, brown bomb when  I cut into it.  I hate when that happens.  It felt perfect and the stem spot was bright green. Very deceptive.  Surprisingly, though, I didn't get all that hungry by the end of the day.  I suppose my supper fatty breakfast smoothie held me over better than I had expected.
     After picking up Charlotte and greeting a few trick-or-treaters at my in-laws' house, we made our way home and settled in for the night.  After nursing my baby girl and coaxing her to sleep, it was time to throw together some dinner.  I was really wanting something tangy and spicy, and because I missed out on lunch, I wanted something green.  You know me...  Greens are my thing!  I had bought some organic kale a few nights ago, so I dug that out.  Plus, I still had half a block of tempeh left over from last night's dinner.  I thought buffalo tempeh sounded like a great idea.  I just love that vinegary, hot, and smokey flavor.  So, I put my iron skillet on medium, sliced the tempeh about 1/4" thick, added a tablespoon or so of coconut oil to the pan, and sautéed the tempeh until it was crispy and golden.  I set that to the side and mixed up the sauce.  Basically, some Frank's Red Hot and lots of garlic powder.  I tossed the tempeh in the sauce, and called it "done".

      While the tempeh was cooking, I also had some red potato chunks roasting in the oven on 425.  I seasoned them with olive oil, sea salt, garlic powder, and rosemary.  Since I'm breastfeeding, I've noticed that potatoes tend to help keep up my milk supply.  I'm not sure of it's something in the potatoes themselves, or if it's just the increase in carbs, but something is working to my advantage.  I try to have oatmeal or potatoes every day for that reason.  Tonight's potatoes were done when they were just starting to brown.

      When I saw that the potatoes were getting close to done, I sautéed three cloves of garlic, 1/4 of a white onion, and about 4 ounces of  baby Bella mushrooms in a little coconut oil.  Once the liquid was almost gone, I added a bit of Bragg's Liquid Aminos (wheat-free soy sauce), maybe a tablespoon or so.  Lastly, I tossed in a whole bunch of chopped kale and stirred it around until it was bright green and tender.  It was tasting pretty good, but just for a little extra pizazz, I decided to juice a lime and pour that over it.  Finally, it was time to eat.  I'm not one to try and stick with a theme in my dinner, so this may seem a bit eclectic, but it hit all the spots.  All in all, dinner took about thirty minutes to prepare.

      So now, I'm sitting here typing this and sipping on an after-dinner vanilla Sleepytime tea with a dash of honey and coconut milk, and all is right with the world.  I'm looking forward to spending a calm weekend at home playing with Charlotte and the pups... And hopefully inventing some new recipes to share with all of you.  Have a wonderful weekend and eat your veggies!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Raw Flax Crackers & Sprouted Hummus

I love hummus!  And I mean, LOVE.  I've been known to just eat it from a spoon.  Don't judge me.  I think Mediterranean food is amazing.  It's so flavorful and full of vibrant color, you just can't go wrong.  I don't find anything inherently wrong with their cuisine, with the healthy fats, fresh veggies, and moderate wine consumption.  They definitely know how to enjoy a meal.  But, being the challenge-lover that I am, I thought, "I wonder if I can make that raw?"
     Sprouting is something I took up when I decided to get healthy.  It's incredibly easy, and sprouts are about the most nutritious thing you can consume.  I've done the obvious; alfalfa and red clover, but also the more adventurous; fenugreek, lentils, peas, and now chickpeas.  When I set out to make hummus raw, I first soaked about four cups of chickpeas overnight in purified water inside my sprouting jar, which is just an oversized mason jar with a mesh lid.  Mine came from Sunshine Nutrition and cost about $7.  I realize now that four cups was too much, but as Jimmy says, I always make enough food for an army.  (I grew up in a family of five, so I learned to feed them and have leftovers for lunch.  It just stick with me once we all went our separate ways.). The next morning, I drained and rinsed them until the water didn't firm bubbles as it ran over the beans.  You want to soak seeds to remove the digestive inhibitors.  This also allows the seed to germinate.  After they were rinsed and drained well, I rested the jar on a towel on my kitchen counter at a 45 degree angle.  I left them in that spot, rinsing twice a day for two days.  After two days, I could see tiny, and I mean itty-bitty tails starting to pop up from the point of the peas.  They were ready.  

2 cups sprouted chickpeas
1/4 cup tahini, sesame paste
Juice of two or three lemons, depending on how tangy you want it
2 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon cumin
Sea salt to taste

Just blend it all and you're done!  Easy stuff.  Aside from sprouting time, it takes minutes to make.  You can add other favors to accommodate your tastes.  I like jalapeño and cilantro, but Jimmy and I love Mexican food, so it's kind of our thing.  

     Since I had my dehydrator working hard this weekend, I decided to try my hand at some flax crackers.  I mean, isn't hummus delicious on crackers?  I found a recipe online, and set to work.  They turned out beautifully, but I think next time, I'll cut back on the agave.  The flavor came through a bit much for my taste.  I wanted them more salty than sweet.  The recipe was extremely simple, and I was pleased with the results enough to make them again.  
     So, having made this time-consuming mass of raw goodness, I've been enjoying flax crackers with sprouted hummus topped with fresh Cherokee purple tomatoes from my garden.  The balance of salty, sweet, crunchy, and creamy is pretty wonderful.  If you're feeling froggy and wanna attempt the crackers, please do.  I think you'll be proud of the end product.  However, if they seem like more work than you'd care to undertake, the hummus is perfect for chopped veggies for nori wraps, heck, maybe even a sandwich. It's all up to you.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

It's the most wonderful time of the year!

It's that time of year again!  No, not the holidays.  I'm talking about pomegranate season!  Right now, pomegranates are everywhere, and even better yet, they're on sale.  "But how do you eat a pomegranate?"  Well, some might tell you to cut it in half and smack the outside with a spoon, but I find that just doesn't get all of the seeds out.  When I'm opening one, I stab the top, score the sides, and tear it apart.  When I do, all of those gorgeous, jewel-tones bits of juicy goodness start to drop onto the counter.... Or into a bowl.  Personally, I like to just gently roll the seeds out one by one while carefully peeling back the membrane.  I'm poor, so I don't want to waste a bit.  It takes a little time, and your hands will get slightly stained, but I just consider that nature's fall manicure.
     I'm a purist, so I love to just pop the seeds out and grab a spoon so that I can enjoy them while watching an old episode of The-X-Files, my most recent Netflix rerun addiction.  (I developed a crush on Mulder at ten years old, and well, it's never left me).  If you want to try something more creative, just toss them into a salad with some baby greens, green onion, avocado, and a simple oil and vinegar dressing.  The seeds will burst with sour-sweet pops in every bite.  What about you?  How do you enjoy these delicious fall fruits?

How did I get here?

I've finally done it!  I've started my blog.  Welcome.  If you're looking for information on living naturally or searching for healthy plant-based recipes, this will be your spot.  For starters, I'm Lindsey ("hello, Lindsey"), and I'm a new mom living in Middle Tennessee with my handsome husband and beautiful, sweet daughter.  I've always loved to cook and became heavily involved in the fitness game when I was a bikini model in my mid-twenties.  After years of yo-yo dieting and questionable life practices, I found myself at 28 years old, being told I would never have children without medical help.  When the doctor suggested that I take birth-control pills to help, which made absolutely no sense to me, I made the choice to take my health into my own hands, and I started researching.  I've never looked back.
     Starting right then, I cleaned up my diet, relying on mostly plants.  I started drinking green smoothies for breakfast EVERY morning, and juicing when time allowed.  By September of 2011, I had transitioned to a raw vegan diet incorporating lots and lots of leafy green veggies.  I felt better than ever, even though I actually GAINED weight... Only about five pounds, but more than I wanted.  I later realized this was my body preparing me to be fertile again.  I had been under-weight and over-exercising for years.  I truly enjoyed making and eating nothing but living, raw foods.  I also felt so at-peace not eating any animal products.  I'd experimented with vegetarianism at times, but it was always a health choice, however, after knowing the feeling of a clear conscience while eating such fresh, beautiful food, I now understand the ethical choice behind it.
     Fast forward to August 3, 2012.  I was alone at home, having no cable or Internet at the time (we had just moved to our new home in July and hadn't been very pro-active.). Laying on the couch feeling purely exhausted for the first time in months and craving potatoes, which I'd never been a huge fan of, the thought occurred to me... "Hmm... Could I be pregnant?"  You see, I'd not had a regular cycle in at least two years, so I wouldn't know if I'd missed a period.  I remembered that I'd had a pregnancy test under the bathroom sink at the old house.  So, I set to work digging through boxes.  "Hey, Lindsey, why not just go to the drug store a MILE from your house?"  Well, the thought hasn't occurred to me at the time.  After searching for about 30 minutes, I found it!  I have a massive herbal tea addiction, so luckily I didn't have to wait any longer for nature to call.  We all know what happened next, so we'll  skip the dirty details.  It didn't take long for the two pink lines to show up.  I was excited, scared, and extremely surprised!  How?  This wasn't supposed to be possible!  It was awesome, but was it true?  That's when I remembered the drug store down the street.  I bought three more tests, and all three were positive.  Once it finally sank in, I felt fear.  Not fear about being a mom, but fear about losing this little miracle before I got the chance to meet them.  If the odds were so low that I'd get pregnant, how could I have great odds if carrier the baby to term?  My husband and I agreed to wait until the second trimester to tell anyone outside of family, just to save the heartbreak of having to explain our loss later.
     But the weeks went by and I felt awesome, had energy, and didn't feel any morning sickness at all.  I did, however have cravings... Cravings for meat, cravings for dairy.  I made a deal with myself that if I was craving anything, it was because my baby needed it.  I wasn't going to feel guilty or deprive myself and my child because of dietary guidelines.  And so I ate the healthiest versions of anything I craved; grass-fed beef, free-range eggs, raw milk and cheese, and of course, tons of veggies.  When we heard her heart eat for the first time at ten weeks, I knew I was doing the right thing for her.  I had such an easy, healthy pregnancy, and in March, at 41 weeks (!) gestation, Charlotte was born.  After 37 hours of labor, she came into this world perfectly formed and healthy.  I'll fill you all in on those 37 hours and how a birth plan can be turned upside down at a later time.
     Since Charlotte's arrival,  I've never once craved meat.  I've been vegetarian these past seven months and she's thriving.  If I may say so, she's packing on the pounds at a very rapid rate, quite a chunker, my little girl.  I'm a huge believer in the power of plants to heal, but I'm not dogmatic.  I'm here to tell you that what matters is finding what works for you and being happy about it.  Losing those last ten pounds won't mean anything if you're miserable at the dinner table every night and pining for cake.  I've found my happy place, and I want this blog to help guide you to yours.  In the coming months, I'll take you all along for the ride as I pursue certifications in raw food prep and plant-based nutrition, and I'll answer your questions along the way.  Until next time, live clean and eat your veggies!