I am an extrovert, an optimist, an academic, a scholar, a professor, a glorified nerd, a PhD student, an author, a vegan in the making, an amateur photographer, happy, a liberal, a lover of life, an advocate for equality, an advocate for animals, an admirable Scrabble opponent, an InstaGramer, adventurous, sarcastic at times, an iPad addict, a wannabe yogi, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a friend, and a sufferer of chronic pain.

Just a Quick Tip: If you are even craving some delicious vegan baked goods, your local Whole Foods Market is the place to go.  I frequent mine whenever I am in the mood for quick, delicious, and, let’s be honest, moderately healthy vegan desserts.  While all of their vegan sweets are good, I am particularly fond of their vegan donuts and cupcakes (pictured above).  However, I, like every person with a wicked sweet tooth, have always been quite fond of donuts and cupcakes…

I don’t know about you, but I am always searching for healthy, but amazingly delicious, vegan alternatives to foods I loved when I still consumed animal byproducts.  I am from Arizona, so one of the types of food I grew up on and love with every fiber of my being is Mexican food.  However, as plenty of you know, Mexican food is generally made with one or more of the following: cheese, butter, lard, or, well, meat.  So, finding vegan-friendly Mexican food is not always the easiest task.  In fact, there have been many occasions where I have been fed  “fake” vegan Mexican food, and gone home with a stomach ache because people often forget to mention that the dish you ordered was prepared with the use of butter, large, or chicken stock. 

Luckily, during a recent trip to San Francisco, California, I found exactly what I was looking for: a 100% vegan, 100% organic, and 1,000,000,000%* delicious Mexican food restaurant. Gracias Madre.  If you are ever in the area, you have to try it.  If you aren’t in the area, make a special trip just to eat here - yes, the food is JUST THAT GOOD.

As an added bonus, this is the brainchild of the Engelharts, who, as some of you hardcore vegans know, created the AWE-inspiring Cafe Gratitude.

*Yes, I know that 1,000,000,000% isn’t actually a thing, but the food was so good that the use of an outlandishly large, non-existent percent demonstrates my point.  Deal with it, math nerds… ;)

Thank you, Saturn Cafe, for being there to fill my stomach with delicious vegan diner food 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 
The Saturn Cafe is a fully vegetarian/vegan restaurant in Santa Cruz, California.  The food is superb - see their vegan tofu scramble pictured above - and they are open 24/7, so the Saturn Cafe has quickly become one of my favorite vegan spots in the area.

Thank you, Saturn Cafe, for being there to fill my stomach with delicious vegan diner food 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 

The Saturn Cafe is a fully vegetarian/vegan restaurant in Santa Cruz, California.  The food is superb - see their vegan tofu scramble pictured above - and they are open 24/7, so the Saturn Cafe has quickly become one of my favorite vegan spots in the area.

I will never get sick of vegan cupcakes.  Luckily, Buttercup Cakes, a vegan and gluten-free friendly establishment, is right down the street from my mom’s house in Santa Cruz, CA. 

I will never get sick of vegan cupcakes.  Luckily, Buttercup Cakes, a vegan and gluten-free friendly establishment, is right down the street from my mom’s house in Santa Cruz, CA. 

I must admit, once I started “going vegan,” I made a mental list of foods that I probably wouldn’t have the pleasure of enjoying anymore.  Pizza was at the top of that list.  I thought I would never find a satisfying vegan alternative to the cheesy delicious goodness that is PIZZA.  Let me tell you, boy was I wrong.
Vegan cheese has improved dramatically since the last time that I tried it.  In fact, the last time I had vegan cheese had to have been at least 15 years ago, and back then it was absolutely disgusting - felt like rubber and tasted like chemicals.  I swore that, after my first few encounters with vegan cheese over a decade ago, that I would never allow such a foul creation back in my mouth.  I had a similar stomach turning encounter with Tofurky many years ago, but that is a story for another day.  Regardless, wow, vegan cheese is actually really freaking good now. 
I guess I never should have expected any less.  15 years is a long time to work on perfecting something, and those years have done good things for vegan cheese.  Sure, it isn’t exactly like cheese, but it is delicious in it’s own way.  How do I know this, you ask?  Because ever since I have started “going vegan,” I have been eating loads of vegan cheese - cheese burgers, cheese fries, cheese covered tacos, and, you guessed it, CHEESE PIZZA!
I owe my willingness to eat and, as a matter of fact, new found love of consuming vegan cheese to Woodstock Pizza in Santa Cruz, CA. 
When my family was out to visit, just days after I decided to go vegan, everyone wanted to eat pizza.  I was quite upset by the suggestion at first, because it seemed pretty evil that my family would want to consume mass amounts of cheesy goodness in front of me while I had to eat some cheese-less concoction some poor bastard at the pizza place dreamed up after laughing at me for wanting a vegan pizza.  Again, much like my misguided assumption about vegan cheese, I was also wrong about that.
When I called Woodstock’s Pizza to place the order, I was pleasantly surprised when my opening line of, “so, I’m vegan…” was welcomed with, “our sauces and crusts are 100% vegan, and we can put vegan cheese on your pizza instead of mozzarella.”  WHAT?  REALLY?  Yes.  Yes, they can.  And they did.  And, much to my surprise, IT WAS FREAKING DELICIOUS.
After the order arrived, I was so overwhelmed by how delicious vegan cheese alternatives are, that I ate nearly the entire pizza all by myself.  Even more surprising, my very-non-vegan Texan family members, who like their meat fresh and cheese, well, cheesy, thought the vegan pizza tasted pretty damn good.
I may have had my reservations at first, but thanks to Woodstock’s Pizza, my eyes have been opened and my pallet has expanded to the pure awesomeness that is VEGAN CHEESE.  Maybe this “vegan” business isn’t that difficult after all… :)

I must admit, once I started “going vegan,” I made a mental list of foods that I probably wouldn’t have the pleasure of enjoying anymore.  Pizza was at the top of that list.  I thought I would never find a satisfying vegan alternative to the cheesy delicious goodness that is PIZZA.  Let me tell you, boy was I wrong.

Vegan cheese has improved dramatically since the last time that I tried it.  In fact, the last time I had vegan cheese had to have been at least 15 years ago, and back then it was absolutely disgusting - felt like rubber and tasted like chemicals.  I swore that, after my first few encounters with vegan cheese over a decade ago, that I would never allow such a foul creation back in my mouth.  I had a similar stomach turning encounter with Tofurky many years ago, but that is a story for another day.  Regardless, wow, vegan cheese is actually really freaking good now. 

I guess I never should have expected any less.  15 years is a long time to work on perfecting something, and those years have done good things for vegan cheese.  Sure, it isn’t exactly like cheese, but it is delicious in it’s own way.  How do I know this, you ask?  Because ever since I have started “going vegan,” I have been eating loads of vegan cheese - cheese burgers, cheese fries, cheese covered tacos, and, you guessed it, CHEESE PIZZA!

I owe my willingness to eat and, as a matter of fact, new found love of consuming vegan cheese to Woodstock Pizza in Santa Cruz, CA. 

When my family was out to visit, just days after I decided to go vegan, everyone wanted to eat pizza.  I was quite upset by the suggestion at first, because it seemed pretty evil that my family would want to consume mass amounts of cheesy goodness in front of me while I had to eat some cheese-less concoction some poor bastard at the pizza place dreamed up after laughing at me for wanting a vegan pizza.  Again, much like my misguided assumption about vegan cheese, I was also wrong about that.

When I called Woodstock’s Pizza to place the order, I was pleasantly surprised when my opening line of, “so, I’m vegan…” was welcomed with, “our sauces and crusts are 100% vegan, and we can put vegan cheese on your pizza instead of mozzarella.”  WHAT?  REALLY?  Yes.  Yes, they can.  And they did.  And, much to my surprise, IT WAS FREAKING DELICIOUS.

After the order arrived, I was so overwhelmed by how delicious vegan cheese alternatives are, that I ate nearly the entire pizza all by myself.  Even more surprising, my very-non-vegan Texan family members, who like their meat fresh and cheese, well, cheesy, thought the vegan pizza tasted pretty damn good.

I may have had my reservations at first, but thanks to Woodstock’s Pizza, my eyes have been opened and my pallet has expanded to the pure awesomeness that is VEGAN CHEESE.  Maybe this “vegan” business isn’t that difficult after all… :)

Why is it that some animals are pets and others are dinner? Be ethically consistent. Go vegan.

Day two of my 30-Day vegan challenge was another glowing success. It helps to be near so many awesome vegan-friendly restaurants and in a vegan-friendly community.
One of these days I am fairly certain that I will end up writing a love note/blog post about the awesomeness that is the Saturn Cafe in Santa Cruz, CA. Until then, this picture is a teaser…

Day two of my 30-Day vegan challenge was another glowing success. It helps to be near so many awesome vegan-friendly restaurants and in a vegan-friendly community.

One of these days I am fairly certain that I will end up writing a love note/blog post about the awesomeness that is the Saturn Cafe in Santa Cruz, CA. Until then, this picture is a teaser…

My day of delicious homemade vegan meals continue with vegan soft shell tacos! 
Day one of my vegan challenge = a success!  A delicious, delicious success.

My day of delicious homemade vegan meals continue with vegan soft shell tacos! 

Day one of my vegan challenge = a success!  A delicious, delicious success.

The start of my 30-day vegan challenge is shaping up very well.  I had a delicious lunch of vegan mac and cheese.  To say the least, I’m not suffering.

The start of my 30-day vegan challenge is shaping up very well.  I had a delicious lunch of vegan mac and cheese.  To say the least, I’m not suffering.

30 Day Challenge: Going Vegan

Recently, I have made quite a few changes to my lifestyle and the quality of my life overall.  I moved from my home state of 26 years, Arizona, to spend the Summer focusing on my emotional and physical well-being in the beautiful Northern California.  I abandonment the approach I have been using for over a year to “manage” (a.k.a. mask) my chronic pain with prescription pain killers in an attempt to heal my body through holistic means (i.e. Bikram yoga).  Furthermore, next month I begin pursing my goal of earning my PhD and becoming a tenured professor by starting a doctoral program in Canada.  Basically, my life is undergoing an overhaul: new places, new people, new (healthy) habits, new pursuits, new goals, new efforts into pre-exisiting goals, and… overall, a new me.  However, one part of this process that I have been neglecting is my diet.

Yes, I consider myself a vegan, because I maintain a vegan diet the majority of the time.  When a vegan option is available, I take it, and, most days, I don’t have a problem following a strict vegan diet.  That said, I continue to have little slip-ups… mostly when cheese is involved.

I have never been a sucker for milk, ice cream, milk chocolate, eggs, etc.  But cheese?  In my mind, that is an entirely different beast.  As an academic, I attend a lot of gatherings.  I don’t know what it is about academics, but when we get together wine and cheese are almost always involved.  Not just any cheese, either.  Good cheese.  Expensive cheese.  Delicious cheese.  Cheese that, in the past, I would have felt like a fool turning down. Additionally, even when I am not at gatherings, I find myself occasionally purchasing cheese or ordering cheese-based dishes.  Have you ever had a Gorgonzola tort?  I have, and it is to DIE for.  And, out of all non-vegan foods out there, cheese is the only thing I haven’t found a viable replacement for.  Vegan cheddar?  Sure.  Vegan mozzarella?  Sure.  Vegan feta?  Vegan Gorgonzola?  Tangy vegan “goat” cheese?  Not even close.

I acknowledge that most vegans would hang their heads in shame at someone like me, a convenience vegan.  Being vegan “most of the time” until someone waves a delicious block of goat cheese in front of my is simply unacceptable.  I acknowledge that.  However, I give myself credit for trying, even though plenty of my vegan comrades don’t.

I have been a vegetarian for as long as I can remember.  I truly do not have any memories of eating meat and am repulsed by the scent/sight/thought of it, but according to my mother, I didn’t develop a dietary conscience until I was 5 years old and refused meat due to being disgusted and saddened by the thought of facilitating the murder of animals to fill my stomach.  My stomach that could easily be filled by cheese, carbs, and veggies without killing any warm and fuzzy creates.  Realistically, mostly carbs and cheese.  I was a vegetarian who didn’t come around to the idea of vegetables until a few years ago.  Weird, I know.

For about a year now, I have been a convenience vegan (a.k.a. a vegan when it is convenient to be one) by ordering the vegan options when they were available, cooking dominantly vegan meals at home, using soy milk in my coffee… you get the picture.  However, it is time for me to cut the crap and become a true vegan: the vegan I have been claiming to be for quite some time now.

That said, my diet over the last year or so is like night and day.  I went from eating mostly carbohydrates and cheese to consuming a diet that consists dominantly of veggies and tofu.  Changing my diet, and my taste buds, has been a long process.  I went from being a “cheese-e-tarian” to being dominantly vegan.  I am truly proud of myself for that.  I mean, common,  three years ago I would have laughed at you for suggesting the idea of “going vegan” to me, because I was fairly certain I would starve without cheese and Morning Star Farms veggie products, all of which use milk and eggs as binding agents.  Now, I am open to the idea of giving all of those foods up in the name of sparing animals from abuse and becoming a healthier person.

So, here I am.  I have made improvements to my life in many areas thus far, but it is time to make an improvement in my diet by going vegan and making a commitment to eating cruelty-free from here on out.

I am starting with an attainable goal (i.e. 30 days) of pure vegan living.  However, I don’t see why I won’t just keep going after the first 30 days.  I haven’t bothered to research how long it takes to break a bad habit, but 30 days seems like a reasonable amount of time.

Tonight I had my last non-vegan meal: delicious, cheese covered pizza.

Tomorrow morning I begin my challenge and open the new, cruelty free chapter of my life.