Well since it’s been one week, and three days since I last set foot on Portland soil, I thought I should blog about the wonderful vegan delights I found in Portland that I could not find in FL.  These are not ALL the fabulous things we tasted and tried in Portland, just those that I KNOW we can’t get here in FL yet, so I want to promote them and hopefully get some other local vegans interested and get them into Whole Foods here in Tampa!!!

Vegan Proteins  has all sorts of protein powders and man are they yummie!  Very tasty and very healthy plant based protein to get your “protein shake” after a workout or just to add to a smoothie or shake for some added protein. 

Heidi Ho Veganics  makes nut based cheeses.  I am a huge fan of Daiya, but these cheeses aren’t just for your grilled cheese baby.  They could be used on a fruit & cheese platter for wine tasting (yes please!) Or just eaten with crackers, and yes, they melt like a charm as well.  We tried the Monterey Jack, Smoked Gouda & Chipotle Cheddar.  I am not a fan of smoked cheeses, but even the gouda was awesome.  I LOVED the Chipotle Cheddar though…just a nice spicy flavor, not too big, not fiery hot.  Delish!!  And man is it amazing on top of some Red Hot Blues chips…melted and yummie nachos!  We also tried a straight up cheesy dip, and my Mom who is a cheese whore and eats real cheese (yuck,) loved the cheese dip.  And Heidi Ho is NOT that expensive $6 for an 8 or 10 oz brick.   Well worth it!  They ship EVERYWHERE in the US too…so get on there and buy you some before I get it all!

Wilderness Poets  These guys should be called ‘nut butter seductresses’’ because they seduced me with their amazing nut butters.  They had Macadamia Nut Butter, Almond Butter, Pistachio Butter, Pecan Butter, Hazelnut Butter and MORE.  These nut butters are ALL raw and vegan and they taste tremendously different than what you will find in a store, even from a Whole Foods type store.  They are pricey, but so is Justin’s Nut Butter  and I believe sometimes you have to indulge for something you love.  Since I didn’t have really any room left to pack anything, I got two small packs of the Hazelnut butter to take home because it is THAT good. 

Uptons Natural Meats  Oh Uptons how I love you.  There are actually not many words that come to mind aside from YUM and LOVE when I think of Uptons.  Thankfully, they do sell their products online as does Food Fight! Vegan Grocery  in Portland.  Their seitan is awesome, texturally super close to real meat.  They also have Italian & Chorizo style ground meats.  Delicious.  And you can order at both of these sites, OR you can buy locally if your city has Uptons available.  (In which case I am truly jealous!)

Freshly Wild Super Foods  offers tasty kale treats.  Now for those of you just joining my blog…I LOVE Kale.  Kale IS my hero, Kale is my love in the vegan world.  If I were a vegetable, I would marry kale.  Okay, enough of that.  They have TASTY ‘original’ kale chips, which hey, those are awesome to me…I am in heaven with them.  But then I tried the ‘Must Eat Mesquite’ and I am not a barbeque or smokey flavor fan…but these were UH-MAAAAA-ZING.  Yes.  And my hubby’s favorite were the ‘Jazzy Sweet Mustard.’  Yum yum yum!! You can order online, and purchase by the case J

Petunia’s Pies & Pastries  I literally had a moment where I left my body and ascended briefly into heaven on day 1 in Portland.  I was walking through the amazing Saturday market and saw this bakery booth that had ‘vegan’ on the signage.  I thought okay, let’s see what they have that is ‘vegan.’  Well my heavenly moment happened while I was searching the signage on each delectable delightful treat, and realized they were ALL GLUTEN FREE AND VEGAN.  Okay, sit down…pull yourself UP from the floor if you haven’t.  I got a pumpkin pie cupcake.  Hello love in my mouth.  I refridgerated it and had it for dessert that night.  Even cold, fresh from the fridge, it was moist and soft and delightful on the palette.  What a delightful treat! 

Last but certainly not least, was Dave’s Killer Bread.  Now I sure wish they had this bread at home because I tried like 12 different kinds and loved them all.  ALL natural, GMO Free, NO Animal products.  AND made by a guy who was a self proclaimed “Four time loser before I realized I was in the wrong game.  Fifteen years in prison is a pretty tough way to find oneself…”  THAT inspired me to.  I believe that veganism is a second chance at helping your body!  I cannot say enough good about this bread except BUY IT! J

You’re a WHAT?  Does that mean that you eat cheese?  But you still drink milk right?  You’ll have fish though right?  Those are just some of the awesome comments I have gotten from people who hear that I am vegan for the first time.  My least favorite thing to hear, as it is incendiary to a vegan is “WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR PROTEIN?”  Plants people, plants.  Tofu is packed with protein, Kale, Collards, leafy greens.  The amount of protein most Americans consume is far more than what we actually need.  And plant protein is not loaded with fat like animal protein is.  I truly wish I could just carry DVD’s of Forks Over Knives around with me, and give them out to every person who asks me these questions. 

In fairness, I suppose I would ask the same types of questions since not so long ago, I was a meat eater.  My cholesterol was high for a person under 40 (under 35 still thank you!) and my doctor wanted me to pay attention to my cholesterol, so I stopped eating  ‘so much cheese,’ but I didn’t realize that there was cholesterol in nearly everything I ate.  Eggs, cheese, milk, chicken, etc.  YUCK!  Cholesterol coating my arteries trying to kill me early!  I never knew, until I looked, until I educated myself, how BAD my diet was.

I am not trying to say I am some body builder vegan athlete, but I am healthy.  I am still losing weight, and I still want and need to lose weight, but that is a battle I may fight as long as I live.  But my lab work looks GOOD.  Cholesterol way down, no longer ‘high’ but on the lower range of normal.  And learning how to eat via E2 is helping me to get it even lower. 

I can understand people’s reactions to HOW ARE YOU A VEGAN?!  But what makes me SO sad, is that people aren’t given information.  They don’t go to PCRM and look at how to eat a healthy diet.  They don’t have the multitude of information at their fingertips that vegans DO have.  Because you really need to research how to stay healthy and eat a well-balanced, protein, and vitamin rich diet on a vegan diet.  That is what I love so much about Engine 2, as much as it is truly vegan, with no animal ingredients, they are 100% plant based…so no processed meats, no alcohol, caffeine, etc.  As Rip says, you can still eat BAD on a vegan diet.  And for almost 2 years I did eat badly on a vegan diet, loads of refined sugar, processed foods, junk foods, etc.  Now  I am more conscious to live to eat AND eat to live, and to give my body what it needs, not just what I crave for a weak moment.  There is no point in punishing yourself for not being 100% vegan, or 100% plant based, do the best you can, but research and educate yourself.  Find out what you’re putting into your body and if you’re okay eating meat, then hey, that’s your choice. But if you need some great resources on proper nutrition:

PCRM Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine.  A view from medical professionals across the US on plant based diet. 

PETA (I am NOT a fan or supporter of PETA due to their no-kill and pitbull policies, but they have a wealth of information on their website)

Meatout Monday provides GREAT Monday recipes that are meatless, even once a week makes a difference!

Vegetarian Times also sends you great recipes, travel help, vegetarian and vegan resources

The Vegetarian Resource Group more information than you can shake a stick at!

Engine 2 Diet all about the Engine 2 diet, testimonials, recipes, etc.

Forks Over Knives the film’s website; if you haven’t seen the film start there!

Since October is vegan month of food, I thought I would talk about being a vegan.  Well, as most of you know, and I am sure have experienced, unless you’re a vegetarian or non-vegan; we ALL get asked the same questions.  Society is unfortunately very brainwashed on what they ‘should’ eat.  Heck, so was I!  I never questioned the need for a ‘glass of milk every day,’ or eating chicken because it was ‘healthy and full of protein.’  Why did I never question it?  Because the media, our parents (for the most part,) and everyone we know is like minded. 

I went through a phase in high school when I was a ‘goth girl’ and I ate as a vegetarian.  But man did I pack on the cheese!  I remember it being pretty easy to eat that way.  All until one day that I was working as a volunteer for a camp and they brought McDonald’s (aka McCruelty) hamburgers & cheeseburgers for EVERYONE.  There were no salads, heck this was like 1992 or 1993 in Florida, being vegetarian was weird as it was to people.  So…me as a starving teenager ate a cheeseburger and never looked back. 

Until many years later when I started thinking about changing my eating habits and going back vegetarian.  I was fine doing that, but I still wanted to eat fish, so I became a pescetarian.  That is someone who only eats fish.  Not a tough challenge either…since I still ate dairy.  And in FL, the land of seafood is plentiful.  I found that super easy.  Then someone I worked with talked to me about Skinny Bitch. They said don’t read it or you will become a vegan.  I said HA HA!!! I wanted to wait until I was 35, and then I was going to go ‘vegan’ for 5 years and then go back to my ways of cheese, meats, etc.  Well, at 32 2/3 I read Skinny Bitch…on 7/3/10 and just like I was told, I went COLD TURKEY.  Let me tell you…fun times because I suddenly felt like I couldn’t eat ANYTHING.  I didn’t know what to do, I had no resources, I didn’t know where I could get PROTEIN!!!!  (duhn duhn DAAAHHHH!) 

Being fairly into Twitter at the time I started finding vegans on twitter.  People who had been doing it a lot longer than me.  I started to realize that PLANTS had really great sources of protein.  AND that nearly everything had been veganized including melty, yummie, cheese by Daiya.  Like many vegans before, I assume, I went to Soy Milk, soy yogurts, etc.  I still didn’t eat a great diet by any means. 

In November of 2012 a little book called Engine 2 Diet, and a man named Rip Esselstyn changed my life.  E2 showed me that I could eat an entirely plant based diet and be totally healthy!  We did E2 hardcore, no oils, no alcohol, just plant strong.  Both my husband and I lost weight, and our taste buds were forever changed.

In the 2 years and nearly 3 months since I have been vegan, I have gone from eating mostly processed, still highly sugary, highly fattening items, to more natural plant based nutrition.  Honestly, if I pack in some quinoa, beans and kale for lunch I have SO much energy to hit the gym.  I have never looked better, or felt better in my life.  I still have weight to lose, as I struggled with weight my whole life, but eating vegan I feel great.  I don’t have lethargy or ‘food ick’ anymore.  I have energy because of my food.  I love vegetables and fruit and whole grains.  My husband is not a full vegan, meaning that if he is at work, he still goes for Pizza on Fridays, but at home he eats strictly vegan.  And he is 100% on board with raising plant strong kids because I don’t want my kids brainwashed by the American Agricultural system telling them that Kale isn’t good enough for them and they need beef and chicken.  The only beef and chicken you’ll see at our house is Bessie the cow and Betsy the pig outside living the life they deserve. 

It’s all about choices and education.  I can never imagine going back to eating the way that I ate.  I have accidentally received egg coated bread when I was told it was vegan, or regular milk at Starbucks when I ordered Soy.  Every instance, I felt like I was horribly sick within hours.  It went right through me.  I have no desire to consume animal products and I have every desire to save a life, animal or human, if I can.  This is our planet, we need to make a difference, and the first place you can start is on your plate.  I encourage you to visit some of these fantastic vegan bloggers and TRY veganism, even if it is one day per week…you are dramatically reducing your carbon footprint.

Feel like you still want ‘meaty’ foods and textures?  Try some of my favorite vegan alternatives are:

  • Gardein & Field Roast Grain Meat Company for truly amazing ‘meats’
  • Daiya for cheese, can’t live without the occassional grilled cheese & Daiya makes it yummie!
  • So Delicious for their coconut milk line of yogurts and ice creams & Turtle Mountain Ice creams!!  TO DIE FOR!
  • Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods are my go to stores for vegan products that are cheaper, as they make many on their own label (Trader Joe’s and 365 brand)
  • Amy’s Kitchen is my absolute FAVORITE Frozen food/microwave meal.  They also have my favorite vegan pizza which is their roasted veggie no cheese pizza.  The crust is amazing and the flavor is awesome!  And they label ALL their ingredient labels with (VEGAN:) right after the word INGREDIENTS so you know without hunting if it’s vegan.
  • If I lived in Portland, OR all I would eat is Dave’s Killer Bread but here in FL I love the 365 brand whole wheat pitas, Ezekial bread of any kind.  In fact, I eat their Flourless Tortilla every weekday for breakfast…a few tablespoons of Almond Butter (365 brand of course,) and a banana and that is my breakfast!

So it’s easy to get a jump start just with this information.  Educate yourself, learn and go try something meat and dairy free!!!


Today is officially the start of Vegan MoFo…i.e. Vegan Month of Food, for Blog-tober.  I am already finding some great new bloggers to follow, one of whom is right in my own corner of the world St. Pete Vegan Food Swap.  Now ‘Vegan Food Swap’ in the title as a vendor at Tampa Bay VegFest on 10/13/12 got my attention.  Yes please to local vegans, and YES please to a Vegan food swap!!!  I am thoroughly interested and committing myself now, via an internet blogging pledge, to partake in the next swap this local group does.

See, neat little things you can find when you go searching out that internet kids! 

I haven’t yet decided if I would head out to VegFest, since I just attended Portland (OR) VegFest on 9/24 and let me tell you people, this was NOT for the faint of heart.  We were FULL on samples.  That’s right, between the ice’cream’ from Vitamix, the Lara Bars, BOLD Organics Pizza, Dave’s Killer Bread, etc.  I was DONE.  But there was a local BBQ place, Homegrown Smoker, we caved in and had to try their ‘pulled pork’ with ‘mac and cheez’ and while I never was a real fan of BBQ, my hubby was and still is…the humane BBQ mind you, I have totally gotten him to stop eating piggies, as they are my favorite former meat, now favorite animal to love and adore and post cute pics of on Pinterest.  So I only had a bite of the sandwich, but I downed that mac n cheez…it was yummers people! 

So vegan or not, if you care about the planet, and want to help educate yourself a little more on vegan food, jump on the bandwagon and start following some awesome Vegan Bloggers!  A few of my favorites are: Quarry Girl & Vegan Heartland.  And my absolute favorite, and a superhero to many, Annie Shannon.  Get down on it people…get blogging and mingling and sharing!