I’ve Seen the (Christmas) Light!

As a parent, we all want to provide our children with a magical Christmas filled with love and memories. We also want to see their little faces light up with wonder when they wake up Christmas morning and peek under the tree.

This year, I thought I would fail. Many things have come up in 2017 that left me short on Christmas funds and I was worried. The closer December 25th came the more I felt inadequate in giving them the holiday that my kids deserved.

A few days before Christmas I sat and wrapped the four modest gifts for each of them, with both a sense of hope and a sense of sadness. But let me tell you; less really is more.

In past years on Christmas morning they would get up and jump up and down at how full the tree looked. Overwhelmed with gifts, they would start to lose steam half way through and most of their gifts were left forgotten and buried and by the next day they were bored. They wouldn’t want to play with any of their new toys and they would start to act out and appear stressed. This always frustrated me as “Santa” who has worked hard all year to give them a fantastic Christmas.

This year was so much better. We all sat together around the tree and they opened their gifts together, and while at first they looked around for more wondering “is that it?” soon it became clear that they were so happy. Every gift was appreciated and played with for long periods of time. They got games that we could all play together and we cherished that togetherness. I was so proud of them for being happy with what they got and they were so thankful. This year I learned that kids don’t need a million things under the tree to feel excited and happy. They appreciate what they have so much more when they receive a few thoughtful gifts.

So while it may be tempting to go overboard every Christmas when you see that “one more thing” that your kids will love, it’s okay to say no. It won’t do them any harm to have less; instead it might just make this your best Christmas yet.

No Longer A “Proud Vegan”

Once upon a time there was a girl who used to shout from the rooftops. She went to protests and volunteered at farm sanctuaries and conspired elaborate plans to free animals from their torture chambers. Her favorite thing to do was to educate people on the financial, social, environmental and health benefits of being vegan.

That girl is gone. While of course I will never give up my veggie ways, I no longer consider myself to be that proud vegan. After 9 years of having to explain myself over and over again and dealing with tension in relationships and at family events, after falling away from eating healthfully and having my kids go from 100% vegan since birth to asking me to buy them bacon because they eat it every other week at their Dad’s house, I’ve lost steam. The word vegan is said with disdain and even some popular youtubers say the word with a slight twitch.

The word vegan tends to make people close off their views immediately, they get defensive, or they become filled with guilt and shame. None of these are productive for education or change. It may only be a case of semantics, but words do matter.

I am proud of many things. In 2018 it is officially 9 years since I made the change to a “plant based” lifestyle. With all of the controversy and adversary the minority faces in society I am proud of that journey. I am proud that I set up a foundation for my kids to question their own choices when they are ready and a healthy base to their diet even if it is only every other week. I will still proudly wear my farm sanctuary t-shirts in public but I have retired my vegan sweatshirt (partly because it’s a fitness one and I don’t do it the honor of being fit). I’m proud that I have made some amazing vegan connections over those years, and hold those connections close. I love so many things about who I am and the choices I have made. I will continue to be plant based and I will continue to encourage a plant based lifestyle where ever people want to learn by setting an example. While by definition I will always be vegan and I am keeping the integrity of Vegan Solace as a place for everyone in the plant based lifestyle to find comfort and relatable content.

But the term “vegan” has become a negative umbrella term that many people do not understand and don’t want to learn about. It is no longer effective outside of the vegan community when it creates people to shut down or not take me seriously. I encourage you to use whatever term fits your life and makes you feel good.

What are your experiences using different terms for being a vegan?

No Excuses; 2017

Well Hi there, I haven’t seen you in a while!

…. I’ve disappeared again. I know. The truth is, I haven’t had much to write about. And without making excuses let me tell you, that things like depression and anxiety make simple every day tasks seem incredibly difficult.

And when it comes to things I am passionate about, like animal rights or the health of our environment and personal health, I’ve lost focus and hope.

I am telling all of you this today because it has been heavily on my mind, and I did not want to come back here and tell you that life got busy, because that is a cop out excuse that requires no real explanation.

I live my life honestly, so here is the honest answer to my absence.

My life is going through many personal changes. I am working two jobs, will be losing my kids a week at a time to their Dad, fighting for a relationship that I believe in with every bit of my being, and struggling with depression and anxiety.

There’s a funny thing about depression and anxiety. There is no cure. It is a constant battle of wills to get through each day. In the winter, this becomes even more difficult.

But this is a new year, and I want to continue this blog site. Here are my hopes and goals for this year, feel free to leave yours in the comments!

1. Take back my health. This includes mental health. Eating clean can have a large impact on both physical and mental health. What we eat literally becomes part of our cells, and can affect all of those feel good hormones and chemicals that flow through our body. It’s time to remember that I am in control of this part of my life, and I can change it.

2. Get outside. Having Raynaud’s (a circulation disorder) makes this a challenge in the winter, but there has to be a way to rise above it. Just dressing warmly often isn’t enough. This is the year I’m going to beat it, because being outside is an important part of who I am. Nature is everything. Being out with nature is the only place I truly feel free and at peace with myself. I’m hoping to fill this year with hikes and adventure!

3. Start following world events again. This is a big one because it really affects what I am able to write about on this blog. I had to stop many years ago because I am so passionate about what is going on in our world that I couldn’t deal with it. But 2017 is going to be a year of following my passions and making it work.

4. Make the guitar a daily practice. Last year I began lightly playing around with an acoustic guitar, with my Dad’s instruction. I’ve already forgotten what the chords are, but it is so relaxing to make music. Apparently the vibrational energy from music is good for the soul.

5. Make meaningful connections. This is the one I struggle with most, because of my anxiety. It’s really hard to put yourself out there. One way that I find is great for making meaningful connections is by volunteering. But to do that, one has to leave the comfort of their home and be willing to say “Hi, here I am. I think we have something in common and you’re a good person. Please accept me.”

Whatever your goals for 2017, they will require work and persistence. You’ve got this, compassionate friends. Let’s tackle this year with confidence and passion, and love. Take the lows with strength and patience. The storms will come, but they leave a beautiful mess and create space for new beginnings. Ride it out.

Chili Cheese, Please!

I adore versatile foods that can help stretch out the dollar! I don’t have a recipe to share with you, but this week I made chili. It was “use up everything in our freezer” chili. There were pre-cooked frozen beans that I did in a big batch cook, vegetable mixes, frozen from the garden spring onions that were given to me, vegetable quinoa and barley mixes, veggie burgers, and so on. If it needed used up, I threw it in the pot. I added a few cans of chopped tomatoes, as well as a frozen container of left over tomato sauce. I didn’t know if it was going to turn out, but I needed my freezer back in order.

Only it did turn out! It was fantastic, and even my bean-phobic 9 year old son loved the chili.
As I was packing it away, I wondered how we could use it all. The chili is great, but I only like it once in a while.

My kids love eating chili if they can use tortilla chips to eat it instead of a spoon or fork.
Chili can be used over rice or baked potatoes.
There’s always the “chili cheese dogs” (veggie dogs).
And from that, I think nacho’s or even chili smothered french fries.

But I figured none of those options will work with my kids for very long, if at all. So we’re going to stuff noodles with chili and vegan cheese, because who doesn’t love a stuffed noodle?

From one pot of chili, we can make several different meals.

And that is what I love about chili.

Vegan Shepherds Pie

Ohh how I love the pie. Not your traditional pie, but vegan shepherds pie. Everybody does it a little differently so I’ll share my own recipe with you.

I’ve never been good at paying attention to measurements, so you’ll have to wing it!

1 cup brown lentils
2 cup veggie broth
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp marjoram
3 cloves minced garlic
1 minced onion
3 stalks celery finely chopped
4 skinny carrots finely chopped
4 button mushrooms finely chopped
1 can corn
dash vegan worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper
enough potatoes peeled and quartered to fill a medium pot
grapeseed oil for frying

I started by prepping my veggies..
41 43

Then I got the potatoes into a pot of water and started to boil them.
While they were boiling, I got the lentils going. First I added the lentils and broth, followed by the thyme, cumin and marjoram. I stirred it all up to distribute the spices and added the bay leaf, then simmered the lentils for about 20 minutes until the water was absorbed.


Next I fried the garlic for about 30 seconds on low-medium heat, followed by the onions until fragrant. I added the carrots and celery, and covered the pan to cook the veggies until tender. Then I added the mushrooms and let them cook for a few minutes. Add the corn and cooked lentils, a dash of worcestershire sauce, some salt and pepper and cover it. Cook until thoroughly heated and the flavors are well incorporated.

While the flavors are mingling, mash up the potatoes. I usually add a bit of garlic margarine to mine, not mentioned in the ingredients above. Make them up however you like them.

Now just put it all together. I used small tinfoil pans to store mine in as I made one for a friend and two for myself and needed a reliable way to keep it fresh in the fridge/freezer. Layer in the lentil/veggie mixture, then top with the potatoes.

This is all that was left on my plate when I remembered to snap a pic.


Keep Being Awesome

It can be tough to live a vegan lifestyle; watching everyone around you become sick because of what they are eating but being unwilling to change for their health, the contradictions of people who are so upset about a cat who was abused or a barn fire that kills 40 cows but then they go home and eat their beefy burger or some other carcass. Then there are the environmental “activists” that speak on the pollution of transportation and factories but ignore the fact that factory farms are the primary source of methane emissions, deforestation, water pollution, and so on.

How frustrating it is to listen to these people complain about their health or become passionate about a world issue and only touch on a very very small part of it.. and when you try to provide friendly information in a non-threatening, approachable manner and the door is slammed on your face regarding those topics – it’s no wonder activists experience burn out.

There are ways to affect others without having to go through all of that.

1. Set a great example!
This one is by far the easiest way to influence people around you. If you are a beacon of shining health and fitness, you have amazing colorful appetizing food, and are friendly and open to questions then you will go far.

This is something that I am personally having success with, especially at work. The store I work in is very small, and when I heat up my food (double baked potatoes, masala wraps, rice dishes, etc) in the microwave the fragrant scent wafts through the entire store. As I sit there eating my lunch I can hear customers and coworkers alike discussing how great my food smells. Several coworkers have been drawn to the lunch room to see what it is that I am eating and if they can try some, too! They see that I am healthy and have the energy to get the tasks at hand done, and they often ask me what they can do for their own state of health.

2. Share. 
With so many people curious about what a vegan eats and all of our delicious food, it’s a good idea to bring extra. I do this a lot right now and it feels really good to share a dish that I made and everyone love it, or to see my coworkers eating fresh foods that are so healthy for them. So when I want to bring some grapes in my lunch, I will bring the entire bag and let everyone pick away at them. If I have some vegan candies to make the day a little sweeter, I bring extra to pass out – especially for the boss 😉

3. Be social.
No, I don’t mean you have to stop random people on the street and become the worlds most obnoxious extrovert. Just be open to others. So many times in the grocery store somebody will ask me about a vegetable or fruit that I am buying that they have never tried before. These can lead to really meaningful and eye opening conversations if you remain approachable and let the other person guide the conversation.

Another way to be social is to get together with other vegans or even the veg-curious through potlucks or hosting a dinner at your house. If you give people an opportunity to learn on their terms, it will happen.

And realize that it is okay to take a break. Sometimes walking away and giving yourself the time to recharge is the best thing you can do for yourself and for others; because a burnt out, frustrated vegan is not nearly as effective as a happy, patient vegan.

It’s another (cupcake) Sunday..

It’s another Sunday, and let me tell you; it’s a good one.
Not only is today going to be beautiful (a high of 9 degrees, yay!) but it is also my oldest sons 9th birthday party; to which 9 children will be attending. Are you seeing a pattern here?

Last night we made really simple cupcakes for his party using this recipe. It took all of five minutes to throw together. Then I tossed on some chocolate icing and let my son decorate them for his friends.



It’s been a weekend full of cupcakes, honestly. My four year old son was having cupcake day in his classroom so I had written it on the calendar, and when the older two went to school that day they were expecting cupcakes too. So when their Grandma picked them up they shared their disappointment as they realized only their little brother got cupcakes that day. Being the freaking cool Grandma that she is, my Mom decided she would do cupcake day with them on Friday after school while I was at work.




So on top of some really great cupcakes this weekend, we’re taking a layered chip dip to the party and some veggie dogs. The chip dip was a can of Amy’s refried beans, a layer of salsa, tofutti sour cream, and daiya cheese shreds. It’s so easy and so fantastic. I was even able to make an extra dish of it with the left over ingredients for work tomorrow!

We’re off to party!

Sunday Kid-Free Meal Prep

Every other Sunday, I am free of major commitments. It’s grocery day, and my only real day to relax before another two weeks begins. And today grocery shopping was exciting!

I’m always excited to bring home food, especially whole ingredients that I can turn into yummy dishes. But this Sunday was special because I ran into a vegetarian couple; who happen to be second cousins! We started talking about food and how for him it started as health reasons but the morality of it all sank in. We discussed how some family members are supportive and others are down right hostile. The topic of food cravings came up, and he mentioned that he sometimes misses ribs (but luckily he can get some Gardein products to fill in for the flavor sensations). I spoke to him about my occasional cravings for my Dad’s smoked turkey, and that I just get some tofu and my sweet Dad does it on the smoker for me. And it was all so refreshing.

The cashier rang through the fragrant bunch of cilantro and told me she keeps trying it but can’t seem to like it. How do you store it, anyway? I don’t know, because everything I have tried fails. We agreed that freezing it in ice cubes is the best way to store cilantro, but it’s still not as good as fresh cilantro sprinkled over a dish.

I am telling you all of this because as of late, being the passionate vegan has been discouraging. I gave up talking about it, I stopped posting on my Facebook pages, and if somebody asked me a question about it the door was slammed on me before I could get a word in. So feeling frustrated with the world, I felt alone and withdrawn. And I know that this is the reality for many of you. But hear me, fellow vegans; there are others out there that get it. I mean really get it.

And to make this weekend even more amazing, I have managed to open the eyes of a friend to the contradictions and abhorrent views of mainstream society regarding animal agriculture.

So to celebrate, I did some cooking and meal prep!

hickpea Cucumber Salad, with a homemade citrus and herb dressing. Oil free, too! This will be my go-to snack for work and when I am tempted to eat junk food. 

Another oil-free delicious meal! These double baked potatoes that are filled with nutritional yeast and green onions will be another meal for work this week. My coworkers are always sniffing around my food at lunch time, and I am looking forward to their questions this week. 

Mulligatawny soup. Mm’mm! This deeply flavored Indian soup is fantastic. This soup was (for my lazy ass) a labor of love. I was first introduced to it by a couple that opened a little soup shop downtown. They have a few vegan options on hand all the time, either freshly made to eat right there in the shop or frozen to buy and take home. When I saw it in my new cookbook, I knew it was going to be the first thing I made.

I scored this gem at the thrift store I work in for only $1.00! Might just be the best money I have ever spent.

Vegan Treats for Santa!

Ho, Ho, Ho!

No, I’m not trying to be insulting.

But YAY! Santa is coming!! And we are so so excited here that I’ve decided to be extra generous and share with you the links to all the goodies that we made for Mr. HoHo himself.


Eeeek! Aren’t you so so so hungry looking at those?

I don’t even know where to start.

1. Okay, SMORES COOKIES. Isn’t that a genius idea?! While these smores cookies turned out to be like fluffy gingerbread cookies filled with oozed marshmallow and chocolate chip morsels, they are still yummy! I think these ones are the kids favorites.
You’ll find the recipe for these at Keepin’ It Kind:

2. Raspberry Almond Thumbprint Cookies. They are so delicate tasting and fantastic for my refined adult palate! We didn’t have raspberry jam so we used strawberry, and I have to say that I don’t think it would have mattered what kind of jam we used. Pumpkin jam? Booger jam? It would have been delish either way. Well, maybe not that last way. But here’s the recipe!
Cooking Classy:

3. Powdered Not-Quite Donuts, AKA Mini Homemade Snowball Donut. Being the amateur not-so-great-cook that I am, this recipe was really easy to follow. We don’t have a mini donut pan (I wish) so we had to make do with mini muffin tins. I think I added too much of something because my donuts ended up being mini muffins in texture, and I couldn’t get the icing sugar to stick! But they are still yummy and kid approved! When we make these again (and we will) I’m thinking of rolling them in a lemon glaze, then the powdered sugar. I bet Santa is going to eat ever last crumb! 😉
Find them at Chocolate Covered Katie:

4. Snickerdoodle PB Chocolate Chex Bars! Oh my. The name of these alone makes me salivate. Have you ever had pretzels and chocolate? My Aunt used to make these amazing treats every year for Christmas; it was the highlight of my holiday. They were pretzels and cheerios and a few other dry cereal/salty-like ingredients (peanuts..) mixed together with WHITE CHOCOLATE melted over them and then broken apart into chunks. It was incredible. I can’t find vegan white chocolate, but when I saw these I figured it was close enough. The bottom turned into a chex mix soft peanut brittle, with a chocolate top. Amazing. Word of warning, don’t eat these straight out of the cold fridge – they’re hard! If they sit at room temperature, they are just right.
And if the name of this site doesn’t make you think about food, nothing will! Find these treats at Half Baked Harvest:

5. 15-minute Thin Mints… no really. They only took about 15 minutes! Alright you got me. With my lacking skills, it took me about ten minutes to de-icing the oreos (I did two full packages!) and about 10 minutes to melt the chocolate. Then 20 minutes to coat them all – it was a lot of cookies! These really are easy to make though, and a hit with my coworkers. See Santa? I’m good – I share! Still waiting for my vehicle with a big red bow on top……..no? For some extra fun lovin’ with this recipe, we used the leftover mint chocolate in the bottom of our pot and added some almond milk to make the most delicious hot chocolate and not create waste! It was so creamy.
You can make these simple tasty treats by Top With Cinnamon here:

6. Last and everyone’s favorite, No-Bake Coconut Delights.
No-bake is my ideal treat right there. I had my boss begging for the recipe and they were a hit all around. Really simple to make; though I did add some agave nectar to the food processor and did these in two half-batches to get them fine enough to hold together. Which they did, really well! For the coconut lovers in your family, these are a great no-bake option! We call them coconut snowballs!
The place to go for this recipe is Whole New Mom:

So not only did we give all of these treats to Santa, I shared them at work and made up gift boxes of all these goodies for my extended family. I wanted to include a little something extra though, so we made personalized hot chocolate mix in little jars to hand out. There are no pictures, they weren’t very pleasing to look at – especially compared to my nieces hot chocolate who really got in touch with her inner creative child and made the cutest snowman hot chocolate jars, complete with actual stick arms! We just put ours in plain plastic jars with aluminum lids from the dollar store and wrote on them with permanent marker. But they were still fun to make and when I put all these ingredients into the food processor the whole kitchen smelled like heavenly creamy chocolatey goodness. Don’t take my word for it, try out the recipe at Live Simply:

I did make a few changes to this recipe for our own convenience, using regular old organic sugar in place of the sucanat and adding a packet of vanilla sugar ( a fine sweetened vanilla powder). 

It’s Christmas!

Just a quick to message of love to everyone on the holidays.


In all the hustle and bustle it’s easy to lose sight of the true meaning of whatever it is that you celebrate. There’s enormous pressure to give the best gifts, prepare a fantastic feast, give and give until you have run dry both in your wallet, your energy and your time. It can be overwhelming.

So here I am to remind you to be thankful, have gratitude for everything in your life that is great! The holidays aren’t happy or magical for everyone. There are people out there struggling to feed their families, battling illness both physically and mentally, losing loved ones or missing them dearly, there is war and destruction and slaughter. Santa doesn’t visit everyone you know. So be thankful. If you are reading this, you have access to the internet via your home, a phone, a library, or some other amazing resources. Chances are, you have a roof over your head. You are warm. There is food in your belly.

I am thankful for all of this. I have loved ones around, even though the holidays can be bittersweet. We have everything that we need and more, and access to resources for things that we sometimes don’t have. We are healthy. We are safe. And that is enough.

I am also thankful for you, readers. It means the world to me that I can sit here and type whatever is in my heart in that moment and share those words with you. In every post I am putting a little bit of myself on the page. And you, lovely souls, are paying attention.

So Merry Happy Blessed Yule Holidays and all of that. For those that I left out, it’s not intentional. That’s just how I celebrate. You’re free to do your thang. Let love in, radiate love out, and be compassionate and kind.