Last month, my family and I made a big move. We left our home of over ten years, along with the city and state we love, to move to…Iowa? Cue “Is this Heaven…”
When I was little and living in Baltimore, MD, I got the surprise of a lifetime. One day, my parents pointed to the center of a U.S. map and said, "We're moving to Iowa.” My brother, sister, and I looked at each other in confusion, but nevertheless loaded into the cars and headed west. I found out later that we moved because my parents were hoping to raise us kids in a quieter and safer environment. I lived in Iowa for all of elementary, junior, and high school. I then moved back to Maryland to attend college, get married, and start a family.
My house in Maryland was also the location of our wedding and where we welcomed two children. My favorite space on the planet? My kitchen. The center, the heart, the break room. While we lived there, we made quite a few changes – the biggest being the kitchen. Leaving it this last June was so bittersweet.
*sniffle* photo taken from our house listing... (it was never this clean!)
My sous chef & taste tester
Our small, temporary house in Iowa (our current place while we search for our forever home) has a less than stellar kitchen setup. I was already anxious about where to put everything, on top of how to organize and arrange the kitchen. Moving day arrived and I unboxed my kitchen equipment, Tupperware, dried goods, and pantry staples, into our new tiny kitchen/breakroom.
PS these cabinets actually reach the moon...
Just enough room...and there's the stool for the moon cabienets
Shortly after settling in, Jules (my friend and colleague over at The Vegan Dollar) and I began working on our newest webinar: "Is that bird food?" and I was tasked with filming some kitchen hacks and recipes. I made some yummy kale chips and a green smoothie for my kids in the heart of our new home and realized: it’s not the physical space that makes the kitchen – it’s what you create inside this space that counts. I was making the same healthy and yummy foods I made in my big and spacey kitchen as I was in this tiny…eh mint green painted…kitchen. My kids would still enjoy the smoothie whether it was from a gourmet island or a folding-table-counter!
They gave the kitchen 4 stars, can't beat that
If you freeze your tofu – set it out to thaw or leave in fridge a few days before you want to make your scramble. I never think that well ahead so I typically take it out from the freezer, remove the package and set in microwave on defrost for a few min – not too long but long enough to make soft.
Squeeze out alllllll the water. I used to have a fancy tofu press but it sucked to be honest so now if I am making a scramble and I want it to be crumbles, I just squeeze it over a colander with my hands until its crumbly and mostly drained. A little moisture is fine.
Set your crumbles in a bowl and add nutritional yeast, garlic powder, and pepper. I LOVE all of these spices so I put a lot in – but your call on how much flavor you want. Mix well and set aside.
In a pan, put ¼ cup water OR veg. broth and sauté some onion and garlic, just a few minutes until you can smell the garlic and the onion is pretty soft. Sprinkle with some salt and pepper. Now add your veggies – I usually go with mushrooms, peppers, and maybe some spinach – again your call. Saute about 5 min or until veggies are cooked through. Season as you would want – I like to add a little smoked paprika.
Add in your tofu and mix around – at this point you can kind of go wild and add whatever you want – I added a scoop of salsa or some cooked black beans – and of course now is the time to add your daiya shreds if you want to add some melted cheese – not too much but enough that it’ll melt.
Let sit on the stove for about 5 min – continue stirring – and then enjoy!!
I love Earth Day and have fond memories of cleaning up parks, planting trees, and doing crafts back in the day. Of course this was all pre-pandemic, pre-kids, and pre-what is happening 2020... This year's 2020 feels like a much needed reminder we need to take care of ourselves, our planet, our neighbors, and our animal friends. Being Plant-Based for me, Earth Day can be linked back to our food choices and to be truly kind to the planet, is to leave animal-products of our plates.
About mid 2019 I finished up my Masters of Education in Humane Education and as part of my thesis I developed a series of courses to help those interested in Plant-Based Eating, Living, and Parenting. Included in those courses was an underlying theme of matching our values and our hearts with our actions and intentions. This can be directly related to our breakfast, lunch, and dinner plates. One of the best things you can do for your own health and the health of your friends and family is to eat Plant-Based and match your plate with your heart. For me, a strong value I hold is to be kind and do no harm. This is what led me towards being vegan in the first place. I didn't want to contribute to the treatment and slaughter of animals and for me it became a choice and a lifestyle change that matched my heart.
Matching your plate with your heart is not only better for your own personal health, but the science supports this as a better choice for the environment as well. I personally think it is amazing that when we look at global issues of hunger, pollution, deforestation we can find a common solution - encouraging people to leave animal products off their plates and move towards eating plant-based.
I also think the connection between today, Earth Day, and eating plant-based feels especially strong this year is that we are dealing with a health crisis. This virus is scary and is destroying families and communities. One of the best things we can do to defend ourselves is do our part to keep us strong and healthy as possible. Nobody is 100% safe from disease, but by building up our body to be strong and healthy we can give ourselves a strong foundation.
So with this Earth Day - I encourage everyone to look into plant-based eating, living, and parenting. Check out my course offerings or send me an email if you would like to learn more.
Peace, Love, and Health -
During a section of my Plant-Based Parenting course, I had the fortune of meeting a wonderful woman from NY. We connected as we are both moms navigating the Plant-Based world with our kids and spouses. Facing similar challenges: what to pack in their lunches, what about birthday parties, family gatherings, and so on. We stayed in touch after the course completed and caught up via web chat about a month after to just chat and share stories. Quickly she identified several people she knew that would be great for me to connect with and share Plant-Based with Robin, etc. I jotted down names, taking notes, and thought how great this sounds!
I ended up connecting with Pacific Roots Magazine founder. A fellow vegan/plant-based mom we found lots to chat about via messenger and given the time difference we were catching one another at odd times of the day. I had become familiar with Pacific Roots and Annika suggested we do a Podcast and talk about my page and the courses I offered.
Which brings up to my 5AM wake up call. It ended up being the perfect time to meet in person (sort of) and talk all this Plant-Based with Robin and humane education. Check out the link below for my first podcast experience! And follow Pacific Roots Magazine for more information on "global issues of animal advocacy, animal sanctuaries, environment, green city initiatives, veganic agriculture, sustainability, plant based food & more."
& now it is time for breakfast!
Well, Happy New Year (a few weeks late...)! Nevertheless, it is 2020 and who made a resolution this year? Most often this time of year is filled with television ads for diets, gyms, supplements, and more. It is a time of year to "get back on track" or "kick an old habit". Well, research shows it takes 21 days to create and/or break a new habit and research ALSO shows about 50% of people abandon their resolution before January closes out. So, these are not good odds or are they telling us something else?
Towards the end of 2019 I created a presentation that focused on "getting back to the basics" of eating healthy, sort of a reset. The presentations were well-attended and I ended up doing them through January and have a few planned for the end of February. It was really encouraging to see so many people curious about not only Plant-Based eating, but a general change in their food choices - moving away from processed foods and understanding more of what our bodies need.
The most common question I hear at these presentations is about time and money - which I totally get (as a mom of two little kids...). So, I put together some tips for everyone on how to keep healthy, Plant-Based eating easy peasy:
I cracked open Rich Roll's Finding Ultra on New Year's Eve and shut it late New Year's Day. So much of his story spoke to me, reached into my soul and shook it awake, I felt full of energy and clarity. First, if you have not yet read this book, please do so. I purchased mine on Amazon and it is also available at most public libraries (you know the place with FREE BOOKS!).
Before I go any further with my new found energy and excitement a little backstory. I have worked in the field of Death and Dying, Grief and Loss for over ten years. While in undergraduate I did an internship with a local hospice and when I graduated I worked with ALS patients, their caregivers, and colleagues in the field of neuromuscular disease clinical trials. From there I completed graduate school and began working in the field of organ, eye, and tissue donation. I was the person who sat down across from a person who had just experienced one of the worst, if not the worst, moments in their life: their loved one had died. I would present the option of organ, eye, and tissue donation and support that person and their family through that process. Along with this I would provide grief support to staff, family, colleagues, etc. etc. etc. It was never ending and I loved it...at the time. Fast forward and I was quickly fading. I could feel the weight on my shoulders as I would drive to and from a case, almost like an invisible coat draped over me. It was truly becoming unbearable. I was feeling it follow me home, looming over dinner, anxiety at bedtime, I realized my time in this field was slowly ending.
My outside of work interests also began to expand and include healthy eating, healthy living, coaching, education, and beyond. I would find myself spending all my free time researching and learning about Plant-Based Eating, downtime at work would be spent looking up the next recipe to try or new restaurant to check out. It brought me such joy and an added bonus of being super healthy for me and my family (by this time I was married and had two little boys).
Okay, I knew I needed to create an exit plan from my current job but what now? In comes the cleanse part of 2019. A very good friend of mine had done a juice cleanse a few months back and I was always curious about this and did some research - of course there was lots of New Year's promotions and I recruited my very good friend to do the cleanse along with me. I signed up for a 5-day juice cleanse through ChefV. It was really easy to do because they literally mail you the juices all ready to go, a shaker cup, protein powder, and all the instructions you need to succeed. I started the juice cleanse on a Wednesday and by the end of the day I had left my job and felt ready for the next chapter (so cliche but so true) of my life. It was good timing and I ended the cleanse on Sunday night by flying out with my youngest to visit my family who live out of state. It was a much needed step in this new year, new me, new cleanse, new mission of 2019. I spent a week playing with my nieces and nephew, making food, and just absorbing all the changes I had made and was going to make. It was a perfect week.
After my week I came home, bought this domain, uploaded tons of information, and began creating a new plan. Here's to 2019!
When I enrolled my son in day-care I was panicked about the food situation. What would they think of the meals I was sending him, would he notice other kids’ lunches looked different, would there be food trading on the down low, all of these thoughts filled my already worried-mom brain. So, in typical fashion, I started writing a list. I wrote down a list of meals my son enjoys, snacks he prefers, and any special treats we can swap a last minute birthday treat for so he won’t go without a dessert. Once I put all this down on paper, I was much more relaxed. I also arranged a meeting with the daycare, just to touch base, put a face to my list, and assure them I wasn’t sending my son to daycare with only weeds to eat. The meeting went really well and all expressed support for following my son’s food list. Luckily, his daycare puts out a monthly snack calendar so I can easily plan in advance and provide an alternate. For example, on days the school provides yogurt, I bring a non-dairy yogurt - this way he is eating yogurt along with the other kids.
During the month of January, I noticed on the snack calendar it was “dairy month”. I sighed and thought to myself, “okay better find out what this entails”. I emailed the daycare and met with the director to discuss. She was happy to meet and explained there would be a few “dairy-themed” books as well as activities, including pretending to milk a cow. So, I have to stop here, in my non-mom brain I wanted to recite a dissertation on dairy and the cruelty, abuse, negative health effects, I could go on. My mom-brain took a moment to gather thoughts and suggested an alternative activity for the kids to which the director was open. I asked and sort of implied the lack of education gained from pretending to milk a cow with rubber gloves and water and kindly suggested having the kids mash avocados and spread on toast, something to replace dairy and be fun and messy at the same time. With this activity there is an educational and nutritional component. I even offered in that moment to provide the kids with the avocados to which she graciously declined and let me know she would speak with the group and get back to me. A month later, I found out they did in fact squish avocados and smear them on bread for an activity. It literally made my year. And my son’s, because he came home a mess!
What does that mean, to match your plate with your heart? As you sit down to lunch or dinner do you ever stop to think about what is on your plate, who prepared it, or how it ended up as food? I think I can say with confidence, very few people have this reflection before diving into dinner. Take family dinner, for example, it is usually a busy time of the day as parents or caregivers are rushing to get the kids in their seats and mentally unload their day onto their spouse. Of course every family is unique and for some this time of day might only include siblings as their parent, parents, or caregiver are at work or school. At my house, this time of day is pure chaos. Almost like clockwork, my husband walks in the doors, taking his shoes off and dropping his briefcase, only to announce he has had a long day and needs to shower. Right now. He ushers our oldest into the kitchen and leaves me with the boiling pot of whatever on the stove, my one year old “organizing” my tupperware, and now my toddler who needs to use the potty. Right now.
So, you get the picture, chaos, kids, husband...oh yeah and food. The whole reason we are rushing around at this time, food. It is dinnertime and in an ideal world we would all be seated in front of a picturesque table with both kids sitting well with their hands in their laps while looking at the bowl of peas with glee. Family dinners are so important, however you manage to have them and whether they are at a table or standing at the kitchen counter, they are happening everywhere. Returning to that boiling pot of whatever, for so many families adding food prep to the list of chaos that happens around this time of day is one addition too much. But should it be at the top of the list?
Encouraging your family, friends, loved ones, colleagues, etc. to eat healthy foods is a way of saying I love you, but with food! As we sit around the dinner table or gather on the couch, the food we are eating and providing should nurture our bodies the way being around one another does, we should want to provide food that is healthy for us, not increasing our chances of heart disease or diabetes.
Making a Plant-Based pot pie is a great idea for a quick dinner and a dinner you can freeze for another day. The amount of filling you make is up to you, I typically double the filling so I can make two pies and put one away for another night. The ingredients are also pretty flexible - pick the vegetables you have on hand or like the most. A combination of frozen and fresh is fine - I usually try to have a variety of color so the pie looks really vibrant. For this pie I used:
1 potato peeled and diced
2 carrots diced
1 bag frozen green beans
1 bag frozen corn
1 can cannelloni beans (any bean will do!), drained and rinsed
yellow onion, diced (amount is up to you)
garlic, 1 clove
1/4 cup flour, 2 cups vegetable broth, and 1 cup almond milk for filling
pepper, thyme, and nutritional yeast for seasoning
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
Warm up your pan and add about 1 tbsp veg broth from your 2 cups. Add garlic and onions and cook on medium until broth begins to absorb. Add vegetables and beans, broth, almond milk, and flour - using a wooden spoon mix ingredients together. Bring ingredients to a boil and then return to medium low for 8 minutes. Add dried thyme, pepper, and nutritional yeast to taste and continue mixing. (I use a dash of pepper, about 1 tbsp nutritional yeast, and 1 tsp thyme)
When ready, scoop your mixture into your pie crusts. For this recipe I used pre-made pie crusts that are vegan-friendly. They remain in the freezer until it is time to bake and cuts down on prep time on a busy weekday evening meal.
Bake pies for 45 minutes. Allow to cool before serving or placing in refrigerator/freezer.