Confessions of a Pumpkinaholic.

As I sit here drinking my pumpkin spice coffee from Fresh Market I can still smell the pumpkin spice pancakes I made for breakfast. And if it weren’t going to be a cool 86 degrees this afternoon I would later go and get a grande, soy, pumpkin spice latte (no whip) from Starbucks because, who are we kidding, it is the pinnacle of all things pumpkin flavored. To me, and others that shall remain unnamed, the PSL is what we look forward to all year long– not presents on our birthdays or at Christmas, not a vacation, but that first sip of pure pumpkiny-spicey-hot latte. Though, the others are still welcomed.

Now, I have to make this quick because I’m making a pumpkin shrine later, so here is the recipe to the Pumpkin Spice Pancakes.

I stumbled upon it from this cute blog. It’s not vegan (sigh) but for the pancakes, I used flax seed and water for an egg substitute and coconut milk instead of regular milk. My family couldn’t even tell I hadn’t poisoned them with egg and milk. Also, the pumpkin puree makes the batter thick, not like the pancakes we are used to that will pour of a mixing cup into a perfect circle on the skillet. So, don’t expect perfection unless you are like my best friend, then yes, expect perfection.

If you make them, let me know what you think!

Ingredients:
1¼ cups all-purpose wheat flour
2 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
¾ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
Dash of ground cloves
1 cup coconut or almond milk
½ cup pumpkin puree
1 tbsp. whole flaxseed (then grind it) and 4 tbsp. water
2 tbsp. vegetable oil or melted butter substitute

Directions:
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt and spices and stir with a fork to combine. Mix together the milk supstitute, pumpkin puree, egg substitute and oil or butter substitute in a liquid measuring cup. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk together just until combine. (The batter may still have a few lumps – that is okay.)

Once the skillet is hot (I use medium-high heat), add batter to the pan.  Let cook until bubbles begin to form on the top surface. Carefully flip with a spatula and cook the second side until golden brown, a couple of minutes more. Repeat with the rest of the batter until it has all been cooked, regreasing the pan as needed. Serve with cinnamon sugar or maple syrup.

Run 4 miles after food has settled.

See Spot Run…Slowly

A few weeks ago I noticed my complexion becoming a little, well, spotty. I had developed a colony of zits on the side of my chin. Could they have been distributed around my face for discreeteness? No– too simple. They were my own little sidekicks. As cute as that sounds, it was miz. I diagnosed myself with adult onset acne.

With diagnosis in hand, I began developing my plan of action. At first I just tried to wait it out. How long could a 26-year-old go through a second puberty, anyways? The answer:  longer than one would think, apparently.

So, after wasting my time and dignity, I decided to research natural acne remedies. I found two that were simple and cheap and ran with them! The first, we all know about but rarely do: rubbing the zit(s) with lemon juice to dry them out. I’m not sure why I didn’t use this method more often in my high school days. I guess it was just too much effort to leave my bathroom, walk down the hall, find a lemon, cut it, and take it back down the hall to my bathroom. Instead, I would put on drugstore-grade zit creams, lotions, etc. to no avail and I never learned my lesson! But I digress: now, I’m wiser and older more mature and decided to give it a go. The second remedy I experimented with was tea tree oil. You put one drop of pure tea tree oil into your face lotion and apply.

I used both acne elixirs during my morning and nighttime regimens and I literally began to see results in one day. I’m not sure which system worked better, but I wasn’t stopping either to find out! My buddies were gone within 4 days and crowd control was over. I am actually still using the tea tree oil as a preventive measure until I get my diet under control (i.e. consuming way more leafy greens and less processed vegan junk food) and will have very few to zero breakouts. At least that is the plan…

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Once You Go Black…

It’s not what you think. Get your mind out of the gutter! I’m talking about coffee! Hot, dark, delicious coffee– that I used to contaminate with creamer and Splenda. My decision to ditch them both came in two stages: The first was giving up dairy coffee creamer. Easy enough, right? “I’ll just use soy creamer,” I thought. So, I bought some, used it, and changed my mind because, well, it made my coffee taste like soy creamer. Whaddayaknow. Needless to say, I ditched it and changed my morning cup of joe routine to include just Splenda. It took a while for my taste buds to adjust, but I ended up really liking it.

Then, one day I was reading an article on Natural News and came across an article about the food industry’s most evil ingredients. You know what’s coming: Sucralose (i.e.  the main ingredient in Splenda) is the root of all evil. Well, not really, but kinda. It was discovered when scientists were trying to develop a new pesticide. Insect-free coffee– finally! “The alleged symptoms associated with sucralose are gastrointestinal problems (bloating, gas, diarrhea, nausea), skin irritations (rash, hives, redness, itching, swelling), wheezing, cough, runny nose, chest pains,palpitations, anxiety, anger, moods swings, depression, and itchy eyes” (from medicinenet.com). If that isn’t enough to make you stop using chemicals Splenda listen to this: IT HAS CALORIES! Yeah, I thought it was a “zero-calorie sweetner” too because that’s what the company advertises. Silly us! 1 Cup of Splenda has 96 calories. I wasn’t putting 1 C. of the stuff in my coffee every morning (even though I did like it on the sweet side) I used to cook with it in those larger measurements. Sucralose has also repeatedly been found to promote weight gain. More good news!

After I was exposed to this eye opening information, I quit the stuff cold turkey. Now, I just brew and pour. No additives. With this, too, it took  a while for my taste buds to adjust, but not as long as I thought! I have been drinking coffee with creamer and sweetener  for 9 years and it took about a week of drinking it black for me to settle into my new routine.

Bottoms up!

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This is Not a Joke(r)

Since I began replacing my “dirty” makeup with “clean(er)” products I have been on the hunt for the perfect* mascara. I tried a couple of different natural brands and they were ok, but that’s all–enough to reassure people I don’t suffer from Alopecia and that I really did have eyelashes. Clearly, I wasn’t satisfied. I had gone from wearing [toxic] mascara that made my eyes wide and big and if I really took my time applying it, my eyelashes a foot long to a natural brand that was sub-par. And did I mention that if I even thought about crying or so much as looked at a rain drop it would run? Yeah, not cute.

I continued my hunt (see inspiration below).

I can’t really remember where I heard about 100% Pure but I sure am glad I did! I ordered their fruit-pigmented mascara in Blueberry and I. Am. Ob.Sessed. Not only does it smell like blueberries, is vegan and, shocker, 100% Natural- it WORKS! My eyelashes look like they did during my chemical-laced mascara wearing days. PLUS it doesn’t run when rain is in the forecast. I am extremely satisfied with my 100% Pure mascara and can’t imagine why I would ever stop using it! Ahhhhhh, rest at last.

*makes my eye lashes look like Kim Kardashian’s but without toxins that will make me infertile or give me cancer.

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I’m as Free as My Hair

In an attempt to be as natural as possible, without sacrificing my appearance, I experiment every now and then. My most recent experiment was interesting and I’m glad I stepped out of my comfort zone, but it turned out it just wasn’t for me.

What did I do? Not wash my hair. For a week. I mean, I showered and conditioned from my ears down, but no cleaning agent of any kind was used on my tresses.

For the first two days I liked it. My hair had more texture and was easy to tease for that perfect amount of body I’m constantly striving for. On Day 3 it began to get sort of heavy, still easy to tease, though. Same thing on Day 4. On Day 5 I was basically putting it up in a ponytail after only an hour. It had a lot of texture and would have been really easy for me to style it some really, cool, edgy way if I had wanted to. But I didn’t. I was at work- in scrubs and New Balances: not exactly the outfit to rock a hair pompadour. On Days 6 and 7 I think I just stayed at home with it pulled up, so, no need to wash it then. My dog doesn’t judge me.

When Day 8 came, I have to say, it felt really good to shampoo my locks. Like, I didn’t want to get  out of the shower. I think I even shampooed twice.

Even though my experimenting didn’t work out I’m proud of myself for doing it. I still go one to two days in between shampoos and when I do shampoo, I use an all natural, vegan, “clean” one.

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Burgers on the Brain

I think the question I get the most when people find out I have turned over the vegan leaf (ha) is “What the hell do you eat?!” And honestly, I can’t really blame them for asking that. Before I removed all animal products from my diet I kinda thought the same thing: What does one eat if they don’t eat cheese, yogurt, ice cream, chicken, beef, milk, eggs, seafood, etc. However, now that my eyes have been opened to the great variety in a plant based diet, and I have only skimmed the surface, I think this is a ridiculous question. I eat fruits, vegetables, quinoa, soy, tempeh, almond milk, cereal, nuts, basmati rice, Mexican food, soup, salads, etc. etc. blah blah. I won’t go on and on.

One of my favorite meals is a good black bean burger. I. love. black. beans. I love them here, I love them there. I love them on a plane. I love them on a train. I love them, Sam I Am! Recently, my mom and I went to Huey’s to try their black bean burger. I was super pumped (see previous poem) to try this out. So, when my “burger” arrived I was more than slightly disappointed: it was a MorningStar Farms, frozen patty! Don’t get me wrong, MSF has a great black bean burger…that I buy at the grocery…and keep in my freezer…and cook at home! Actually, I have almost cleared them out of my freezer because they have egg whites in them which = not vegan. Anyways, Huey’s is known for their mouth watering burgers and I was really banking on getting their version of a black bean burger. Oh well…I guess if I go their again I’ll just have to stick to their onion rings. All’s well that ends well.

Raise Those Arms, Ladies!

As you may remember I started cleaning out all my “dirty” products months ago. One item that I was particularly nervous about replacing was my deodorant. I had literally been using the same deodorant for 7 years- by far the longest relationship of all my personal hygiene products! But I knew what needed to be done.

The first “natural” deodorant I bought was Tom’s. Well, I hadn’t  finished reading No More Dirty Looks at this point and so I didn’t realize that the first ingredient on the label (propylene glycol) was toxic! Like, really-seriously-wouldn’t-go-near-it-with-a-ten-foot-pole-toxic. So, not only was it almost as bad as my LTR (Long Term Relationship) deodorant it didn’t keep me dry or smelling particularly great. Needless to say, I tossed it.

The second clean deodorant I tried I am still using  today: Soapwalla Deodorant Cream. You put it on with your fingertips, let it dry, and walla (pun intended) you smell fresh, like peppermint, and stay dry all day.

Also, the creator of Soapwalla, I believe her name is Rachel, makes all of her products by hand. PLUS, it’s vegan! No animal testing! Supporting a (1) small business whose (2) product works and is (3) animal friendly? I’m just sad I haven’t been buying this deodorant for years.

Deodorant Cream

Hold the Cheese-Literally

Sooooooo, this is what, day 18 of me being dairy-free? Yes, that sounds right. All in all, it’s been fine. Really! Like I stated in an earlier post, not eating dairy is, more than anything, just an inconvenience. I made some delicious Indian food (that I don’t even know the name of) with eggplant, tomatoes, chick peas, basmati rice, and a bunch of spices that I took for lunch this week. It was filling, meat and dairy-free, and delicious! I have also been eating 5-7 fruits and veggies a day! It’s not that hard when I’m not tempted with chips, yogurt, or cheese.

I don’t feel like I am depriving myself of anything because the foods I have been eating are so satisfying and filling. Now, I have gotten a sweet tooth a few times and have gone to Whole Foods for a couple of their vegan baked goods. They have oatmeal raisin, chocolate chip, and peanut butter vegan cookies. THEY. ARE. SO. GOOD. I need to nip this habit of buying these treats in the bud-Like, NOW! It could become a very dangerous habit. Just because it’s vegan doesn’t mean it’s healthy!

By now you’re probably wondering, “Why is this post title about cheese?” I’m getting to that!

Last night my mom and I went to Mellow Mushroom for their Vegan Pizza. They have vegan cheese and everything! I was really excited to see what it tasted like melted. (Related: I bought some vegan cheese and WF and it was SICK. Like, took-a-bite-and-couldn’t-chew-it-so-I-spit-it-out sick.) I loaded up the pizza with good toppings like mushrooms, artichoke hearts, tomatoes, spinach, onions, green pepper, and tempeh. (Also related: I would not recommend doing this as EACH topping was $1.25.)

Well, sorry to say, the melted “cheese” was not much better than when it was cold. It had this weird, ultra-creamy texture to it that was just too bizarre for me to eat on a pizza. I ended up scraping it all off and eating the pizza with just the sauce and uber-pricey toppings, which tasted great.

I will continue to search for dairy-free cheeses, probably spitting them out one bite at a time.

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Herbivores are Hot

Eight days ago I became a vegan. Well, veganish. Let me explain: Six months ago I stopped eating meat (pork, beef, chicken, and turkey) after watching a documentary about the industrialization and harsh reality of how the majority of animals (99%)
raised to supply meat and dairy products to consumers are treated (e.i factory farming). I have always been an animal lover but I didn’t realize how much until I watched this film and began educating myself. Then, a few weeks ago I stopped eating fish.

After these, some say extreme, diet changes I wasn’t sure if I was going to stop eating dairy or not. I mean, no more yogurt? Cheese? Frozen yogurt? Ice cream? (I could go on). I was a BIG dairy fan. So, I thought, “One step at a time, Lauren. Don’t overwhelm yourself.” Then, one day on Oprah (don’t judge!) I saw Kathy Freston talking about her new book Veganist. I was intrigued. I bought the book and began learning about living a vegan lifestyle- at least from a dietary standpoint.

I am now a FIRM believer that eating a vegan diet is the only way to go. I won’t sit here and preach/lecture you as to why I believe this. I will, however, suggest you read Veganist and other books about veganism if for nothing else than to further your knowledge about this subject; or, maybe even become a vegan! I am clearly a novice to this new way of eating (8 days!) and as I discover new reading material and documentaries, I will obviously share them here!

Not eating dairy has been much more of a struggle and inconvenience than not eating meat or fish. As a general rule, our restaurants and options for eating out are just not designed around a vegan diet. It also takes more planning and prep time to eat a plant-based diet.

Let me end by saying that technically, I am not a vegan. I am a true Vegetarian. Vegans don’t wear leather, wool, use ANY consumer products that have been tested on animals, etc. Being vegan is a lifestyle and even though I seek out products that are cruelty free I’m sure that I have some makeup that has been tested on innocent animals. I also still wear leather and suede. It’s a process. It’s an evolution.

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Nailed It!

Anyone who knows me knows my love for a good mani/pedi. They have been my regular treat to myself for about 2 and half years, now. So, needless to say, when I learned that most of the nail polishes out there and in my cosmetics bag contain extremely toxic chemicals (including formaldehyde!) I was beyond upset. What was I going to do without my biweekly (sometimes weekly) treat to myself? But- fear not! I learned about brand of non-toxic nail polishes that offer almost as many color choises as OPI or Essie. Before I go any further, No More Dirty Looks says the OPI has cleaned up their polishes and I hope they have; however, the OPI I have seen on the shelves as as recent as 3 weeks ago still contained DPB, Toulene, and Formaldehyde. Nicole by OPI, I think is supposed to be a “clean” nail polish but Essie is dirrrrrrty.

Ok, back to the nail polish that has saved me from having to give up pampering my hands and feet: Zoya. Like, I mentioned earlier, they have TONS of colors and they are just $8! Here is something super cool they offer: color spoons. They are these little sticks with a fake nail and the nail polish already painted on them so you can see what the color really looks like in person versus on their website or in a catalog. You can order as many color spoons as you like for FREE– all you have to pay is S+H. Just talking about the color spoons gets me excited!

The following are just a few of my favorite Zoya colors: Dove, Helen, Raven, Julieanne, Lo, and Ibiza (see image below). To exemplify the fact that I didn’t give up anything by switching to non-toxic polishes, below is an example of the old navy polish I used to wear and my new Zoya color, Ibiza. They are identical! Happy Painting!

Nail Polish-Ibiza Lg

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