Dark Chocolate Chip & Bacon Cookies

Remember me? Ya…I’m not sure if I would either. I’ve been neglectful, unreliable and seemingly nonexistent for a while.

“I’m sorry” can only go so far. And actions speak louder than words.

As a way to beg for forgiveness, I have made you something special!!! …well actually I’ve made a group of strangers at an upcoming holiday cookie exchange something special…

Side note: I’ve never been to – or heard of – a cookie exchange, but I’m pretty sure it’s just another excuse to sit around and drink wine, which is fine by me. No one really cares about the cookies – they’re just going to give them away anyway. 

BUT I’ve included the recipe and lovely pictures to accessorize it.

So, what do you say? Friends again?

Did I mention bacon AND chocolate are included?

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….I knew that would do the trick.

I bring you a little piece of heaven on earth in the form of Dark Chocolate & Bacon Cookies! Yep, I made it happen. Just for you!

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened (1 & 1/2 sticks)
  • 1/4 cup bacon grease….that’s the good stuff
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (I always add a little extra)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 & 1/4 cup flour – or you can use rice flour to make it gluten free, which is actually what I did with this recipe
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 8-10 ounces of bacon…or until you feel satisfied there’s enough in there

Step 1: cook the bacon. No one wants raw, chewy bacon with their chocolate….

Step 2: save your bacon grease and let it cool until it’s completely solid

~Turn on the oven to 375°F~

Step 3: mix softened butter, bacon grease and sugars together until fluffy/creamy

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Step 4: add in eggs and baking powder and blend well

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Step 5: add vanilla and cinnamon

Step 6: stir in bacon and chocolate chips

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Steps 7-10: taste test the dough…for obvious reasons – check for poisons, determine quality, ensure bacon to chocolate chip ratio is satisfactory. You’re also doing yourself a favor and saving time making that one (or two) extra cookies. This of course is all a go unless you have issues with raw egg in your dough…in which case you can save the taste testing for me. I’m happy to help.

Roll dough into small balls (insert appropriately inappropriate comment here) and place on a greased cookie sheet, or a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

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Bake between 8 and 10 minutes. (Mine took closer to 10) Do NOT forget to turn your oven timer on….although burnt bacon cookies do make the house smell nice.

Makes about 4 dozen smoky, sweet cookies. Bacon really does make everything better. I may try to add peanut butter to them next time.

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Genius? I’ll take it . Isn’t it nice to know that (queue music) “You’ve got a friend in me…”

Sometimes the sweetest things in life take a little elbow bacon grease.

Dark Chocolate Chip & Bacon Cookies

Dark Chocolate Chip & Bacon Cookies

*This post was inspired by:  http://foodfunlife.blogspot.com/2013/02/bacon-chocolate-chip-cookies.html

 

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I Can Can. Can You?

You know all those veggies in the previous post? Well they have to go somewhere, right? Mostly, they’re going to my stomach, which is super happy about that, but one person can only eat so many veggies…

Besides being frozen, dehydrated, put in recipes, given to the dog as treats, and given away, I have taught myself (with much help from others and from a step-by-step book) the art of canning.

My Mom and I actually went in on this project together. We acquired all of the supplies (minus a pressure cooker) and the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving. I read and learned…and then still asked for help because I am a disaster in the kitchen when it comes to cooking or preparing food at all.

For our first trick, we turned cucumbers into dill pickles. This actually was not that difficult to do. We went with a kosher pickle recipe and added a few things to it. All the ingredients, minus the spices, were from local farmer’s markets. The cucumbers were from my own garden.

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Washing off the cucumbers

Scruba, scruba, scruba

Scruba, scruba, scruba

Fresh dill from the farmer's market

Fresh dill from the farmer’s market

Garlic, bay leaf, 1/2 serrano pepper, and spices into each pickle jar

Garlic, bay leaf, 1/2 serrano pepper, and spices into each pickle jar

Klondike helped

Klondike helped

Heating jars, lids, ingredients

Heating jars, lids, ingredients

In they go

In they go

The final product

The final product

Mmmmm pickles

Mmmmm pickles

We ended up making 8 pints of pickles, which will be ready to open NEXT WEEK!!! I’m very excited to try them and see how they turn out!

In a frenzy of pickling excitement, we also made zucchini relish!! All of the zucchinis were from my garden.

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Chopped bell peppers, onion, and shredded zucchini

The spices

The spices

Ingredients

Ingredients

Toss everything in together

Toss everything in together

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Simmer

Can it! And there you have it: Zucchini relish

Can it! And there you have it: Zucchini relish

End of Summer BBQ anyone??

Canning is actually easier than I thought it would be….but I also haven’t done anything extremely difficult. I can still cross this off of my Summer Bucket List as my new learned skill.

*Pats self on back*

 

Garden To Table Goodness

I have been meaning to follow up with the Let Your Garden Grow post for a while now. Veggies are happening!! So SO many veggies. I’ve actually considered opening an zucchini stand next to the neighborhood kids’ lemonade stand….but I don’t want to steal their thunder. Although the garden has had some ups and downs, as expected, it is flourishing for the most part.

There are a few lessons I have learned along the way that only a plant could teach me (and Google when the plant won’t divulge).

  • Patience is a virtue – anyone who knows me knows that I am not necessarily the most patient person. (Those of you thinking “understatement of the century” just hush)
  • Don’t cast off something as dead, even though it may look it. My tomato plant has looked AWFUL for the past month, but still keeps giving me yellow pear tomatoes. In return, I’ll keep watering it as its reward.
  • Never trust an automated watering system. The zucchini are wilting due to lack of water. The cucumbers are sickly due to too much water. The green beans are exploding due to the right amount of water. It’s like Goldilocks, but with plants and water. Yeah, ok, that was a stretch.
  • Do NOT plant Fall veggies in the Summer. They will not do well. RIP arugula. (On the other hand, my kale and spinach are rocking it!)
  • If your neighboring community garden beds are full of rotting veggies due to lack of picking, it’s a free for all. It drives me nuts that people decide to plant and grow all this food and then let it go to waste. That’s where I come in to happily harvest those veggies for them, and either take them home, to my restaurant for use, or to the Food Bank. There are too many people who do not have food to let all of that go to waste. *Soapbox moment of the day brought to you by neglectful, lazy plant parents*
  • Carrots are deceiving. They may look ready to pick, but the joke’s on you when you pull up a tiny root instead. This goes for turnips and radishes as well. Sneaky bastards.
  • Vine plants will choke out anything else around them. Beware.
  • I LOVE the feeling of picking my dinner, or lunch, or what have you. I have a hate-hate relationship with the grocery store. Going out to the garden or out my front door to pick fresh ingredients beats it all. It’s such a good feeling to know what you’re eating, how it was grown, and where exactly it’s coming from. For me, that’s exciting.
  • I’m proud of this first garden attempt. It has gone well for the most part and has been overwhelmingly rewarding.

Here are a few things I have harvested:

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Green beans, zucchini, yellow squash, peppers, wax beans, tomatoes of all shapes and sizes, cucumbers, eggplant, turnips, carrots, snap peas, green onion, broccoli, spinach, kale, lettuce, and radishes.

My kind of ‘grocery shopping.’

Let Your Garden Grow!

There’s really nothing better than fresh vegetables.

Except for when you grow them yourself. That extra little touch of TLC and knowing exactly where your food came from makes gardening such a rewarding hobby. I can say that, because as of, well, two days ago, I am a self-proclaimed organic gardener; I’m going to go ahead and add that to my repertoire, and I have the blisters to prove it. I am so excited for the first season of growing my own food and learning what all goes in to it.

Aaron and I decided we wanted to grow our own fresh vegetables this year, and, while he has done this many many many times before, this was really my first time gardening outside of simply watering flowers. Needless to say, I didn’t really know what to do.

We started with seeds and germination stations. Lots and lots and lots of them.

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This was one of 7

Leaf lettuce, spinach, kale, green onion, yellow squash, cucumbers, arugula, beans, peas, zucchini, peppers, and carrots.

Keeping everything organic was, and is, really important to us, and we have succeeded so far, even from the seedling and germination process. We wanted no synthetics. The reality is, it doesn’t get very exciting…until you see that first tiny little green sprout – that’s when it gets real. It’s the first miniature ‘hello’ from what will be your dinner a few months down the road.

Once they got big enough, we transferred them into solo cups – yes they can be used for more than just adult frothy beverages. We put a slit in the bottom of each cup for drainage and then potted each plant individually into them. Our original labels got a little jumbled in the germination stations, so we guestimated what a few of the plants were and labeled each solo cup. Needless to say our ‘carrots’ were definitely not carrots, but peppers (which was a pleasant surprise because we thought that they had all died out). Unfortunately, the kale and spinach decided vegetable heaven was a better alternative for them. The plants can actually stay in these cups for a long time, which made it nice until we could find a home for them.

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We got extremely lucky and were able to reserve some brand new community garden beds for the season. We originally ‘rented’ two of them, but quickly got our hands on two more, as we have a ton of plants.

When we showed up, the beds were all dried out and weeded over. And that’s when the work begins. Within minutes we had broken the rake that we brought with us. Thank goodness for Home Depot. After soaking all the beds, we were finally able to pull the weeds and till the soil. To supplement the soil provided, we used Maxfield’s Organic Soil Conditioner, Maxfield’s Organic Planting Mix, and some composted manure. I bought these all at Ace Hardware.  Delish.

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The beginning

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Tilled and supplemented

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Soil, anyone?

Let me tell you, hand-tilling compacted soil is HARD.

After all the beds had beautifully tilled soil and supplements, thanks to yours truly, it was time to start the planting.

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Here’s how we broke down our garden beds:

One bed we dedicated strictly to cucumbers, because we have so many plants. We want to make our own pickles with them, too.

Cucumber bed

Cucumber bed

Pickle recipe

  • For brine: combine 3 cups water with 2-3 tbs of kosher salt, 6 tbs of white vinegar, stir until dissolved. Cut 2-3 full size cucumbers in slices or spears. Layer cucumbers in a dish or bowl (Corningware works well) with sprigs of fresh dill. Pour brine over cucumbers and grate 1-2 cloves of garlic on top. Cover and refrigerate 2 days before eating.

One bed has lettuce, beans, and arugula.

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Lettuce on left. Beans in middle. Arugula on right.

One for yellow squash, since the plants will get large.

Yellow squash bed.

Yellow squash bed

And one for zucchini and peppers.

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Zucchini on the outside. Peppers in the middle.

Obviously we still have several plants left and will be planting them in large planter buckets. And probably giving the rest away that we just don’t have room for.

After hours and hours of gardening and planting 177 vegetable plants (yes, I counted), instead of getting bored or tired, I got the urge and desire to plant EVERYTHING! So I went out and got some broccoli plants, a yellow pear tomato plant, and the last cilantro and basil plant that the nursery had. For potting soil, I used BlackGold Organic Potting Soil. I’ve turned into a planting fiend! It’s addicting!

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Broccoli

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Yellow pear tomato plant

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My one little cilantro and basil plant

I had to make myself stop and call it a day.

The hard part is done. Creating a home for the vegetables was more rewarding than I thought it was going to be and was very successful. I think I’ve found my new favorite hobby. I can’t wait to watch our garden grow!

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What a beautiful view!

Klondike helped, too!

Klondike helped, too!

Do you have a garden? What’s  your favorite vegetable to plant?

Further reading:

Organic vs. non-organic soil

Comida de Gringa

Hola amigos. ¡Feliz Cinco de Mayo! ¿Qué estás comiendo hoy (además de cerveza y tequila – yo sé que son importantes)? Hoy en día es uno de mis días favoritos para comer y beber. ¿Qué persona no ama buena comida mexicana? De verdad.

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On this lovely Cinco de Mayo (that’s the 5th of May), I thought I’d share some of my favorite family Mexican recipes. I confess, I have not personally made all of them, but I have tasted all of them, so I’m going to say that’s good enough for now.

Growing up, a staple food of Mexican-inspired goodness was green chilie. This recipe was one my Grandma came up with and passed down to my Mom, who unsuccessfully has tried to pass it on down to me. I say unsuccessfully because she has given it to me several times, but I have yet to even think about attempting it. This vat of deliciousness has been smothered on burritos, tacos, enchiladas, quesadillas, and even been eaten plain. By me. It has the perfect balance of flavors and is a great addition to just about any Mexican dish. Or by itself. The catch? This green chili is not green – it’s more reddish in color. Surprise!

Green Chilie

2 tbs oil                             2-3lbs cubed pork
1 large onion, diced        1 tbs minced garlic
1 tsp salt                            1/2 tsp pepper

Brown all of the above in a large pot, just until the pork is no longer pink.

Add the following:

2 28oz cans diced tomatoes                   2 28oz cans water
4 4oz cans mild diced green chilies      2 tbs cumin
1/3 of a 4oz can of diced jalapenos       1-1.5 tbs chilie powder

Simmer for a couple of hours, occasionally stirring to make sure it doesn’t scorch. Smother on top of homemade burritos. ¡Qué rico!

Mexican Lasagna

12 corn tortillas                                 1 can (14 or 16oz) tomato sauce
1 med onion, chopped                     4oz diced green chilies
1 cup salsa or picante sauce            1/2 tsp oregano
2 tsp chilie powder                           2 eggs, slightly beaten
1lb ground beef                                 1 tsp cumin
3 cloves garlic, chopped or minced
1/2lb grated cheddar cheese  (or more if you prefer)
1/2lb ricotta cheese (can substitute with 1 cup cottage cheese)
1 can 16oz red kidney beans, drained
1 can 8oz whole kernel corn, drained

Preheat oven to 35o

Saute ground beef in a skillet with onion and garlic until beef is fully cooked. You could use ground turkey in place of beef. Add tomato sauce, salsa, green chilies, chilie powder, cumin, corn, and kidney beans. I also add some diced jalapenos. Stir to mix and simmer on low heat for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

In a separate bowl, combine eggs, ricotta cheese, and oregano.

Arrange 6 tortillas on bottom and up sides of a lightly greased 9″ by 13″ deep-sided baking pan, overlapping as needed. Add about 1/2 of the meat mixture. Spoon egg and cheese mixture on top of meat sauce and add 1/2 of the cheddar cheese. Add a second layer of tortillas and repeat layering ingredients until you run out. (I usually do 6 tortillas on the bottom, 4 in the middle, and 2 on top followed by the last little bit of what I have left to layer)

Finish with a garnish on top if you want. I like cilantro and sliced avocado.

Bake for 30-45 minutes.

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Mexican Lasagna

Chicken Tortilla Soup

For an amazing Chicken Tortilla Soup, check out this recipe. I don’t use the roasted poblano peppers, but instead add 2 diced fresh jalapenos and 2 cans of green chilies (mild). Additionally, I add a small bag of frozen corn, and 1 can of drained and rinsed black beans. I would also add more tomato than it calls for and a little more salt. I personally stir guacamole in to my own bowl, but you can use sour cream as well. Top with cheese. Makes my tastebuds want to Salsa.

And of course you can’t celebrate Cinco de Mayo without some killer margaritas. This is my FAVORITE margarita recipe. Again, from my Grandma. Very simple. Very strong. Very perfect.

Killer Margaritas

1 cup Tequila (I personally use silver tequila – I prefer it over gold)
1/2 cup Triple Sec
2 cups Sweet & Sour Mix (I do 1.5 cups)

Put in blender with ice till foamy.

If you want, you can choose to dip your glass in Sweet & Sour then in salt…serve with a wedge of lime and enjoy!

¡FELICITACIONES! You are now fully prepared for a proper Cinco de Mayo! If you make any of these recipes, let me know how they turn out! Oh, and no skimping on the guacamole…that should be homemade too.

¡BUEN PROVECHO!

Banana-Breaded Bliss

There’s nothing that hits the spot quite like warm banana bread fresh out of the oven on a chilly-and-waiting-for-snow-on-the-last-day-of-April-even-though-it-was-70°+-yesterday-because-Colorado-has-multiple-personality-disorder day.

Growing up, my Mom made banana bread often, and there was never much of it leftover. Because I can’t summons my Mom to make me whatever I want at my beck and call, which is a huge bummer, I have got to be the banana bread queen now.

I can honestly say that before today, I have never before made banana bread. Yay for turning over a new leaf! Or banana peel.

I didn’t have my Mom’s banana bread recipe at the time, which is also my Grandma’s, so I found a different one to use:

Shrinking Kitchen’s Best Ever Banana Bread

Prep Time: 15 minutes             Cook Time: 1 hour

Total Time: 1 hour, 25 minutes

Yield: 12 slices/loaf                   Serving Size: 1 slice

Best-Ever Banana Bread {vegan-friendly, too!}

Gather

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp cinnamon
6 Tbsp margarine {I used vegan spread}
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
3 over-ripe bananas
1/4 cup non-dairy milk {I used almond milk}
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Step by step

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Lightly grease loaf pan w/cooking spray.
  3. In large bowl {i just throw everything in my stand mixer}, combine flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
  4. In another bowl, cream together margarine, brown sugar, white sugar, bananas, vanilla, milk and cider.
  5. Combine wet and dry ingredients.
  6. Pour batter in your loaf pan and bake for 60-70 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  7. Remove from oven and cool.
  8. Notes: I used my Kitchen-Aid mixer and simply added in all the ingredients as they are listed above. One bowl. Less clean-up. Delicious. WIN.

I altered a few things with this recipe. I didn’t have regular white sugar so I used coconut palm sugar. I used 2 cups of whole wheat flour instead of 1 cup of white flour. I also added sunflower seeds to mine, too.

I highly suggest that, unlike myself, you have or purchase a mixer – smashing bananas and ‘creaming’ ingredients together by hand is hard. I most definitely think I got my arm workout in for the day.

While this recipe is delicious, my roots tie me to the family recipe.

Directly copied and pasted from my email, here it is.

Banana Bread from Grandma Judy

3-4 ripe bananas
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. white sugar
1/2 c. oil  (not olive oil)
2 eggs
2 Tbs. sour milk  (put in cup and add a little white vinegar; this makes it sour)
2 c. flour
1 tsp. soda
1 tsp. salt
1/2 c. walnuts

Preheat oven to 350°
Mix brown sugar, white sugar and oil in bowl with mixer.  Add eggs and
sour milk and mix really well. Add bananas and mix really well. Add salt,
soda and flour and mix really well. Add walnuts and mix really well.

Use cooking spray in loaf pans and coat with flour.  Discard
any extra flour.  Pour in batter to about half full.  This will make 1
large loaf or 2 medium or 4 small loaves.

For a large loaf bake for about 55 minutes
For medium bake for about 50 minutes
For small bake for about 45 minutes

Check for the crack along the top and no “gooey” and golden brown.

Enjoy!

There are a ton of recipes out there. Do you have a family or favorite one? I’d love to try it out.

It’s good hot, cold, toasted, with butter, with peanut butter, with chocolate chips, with blueberries, plain, for breakfast, for lunch, for dinner, for a snack….you get the idea.

And that’s my banana-breaded bliss. Perfect for a freak winter storm warning on the last day of April.

Vegan Diaries – The Final Countdown

Originally posted on http://shrinkingjeans.net

vegan diaries

As of today, I have successfully been a vegan since March 11. That’s about 5 weeks, people! I have been diligent and faithful with minor unintentional slip-ups. And guess what? I survived! It IS possible to go vegan without starving yourself or depleting your body of the vitamins and minerals it needs. In fact, I have eaten cleaner and healthier in the past 5 weeks than I can remember doing before. I didn’t really lose weight (maybe a pound or 2), I didn’t become anemic, and I didn’t join PETA. But I did learn a great deal more about food than I ever thought was possible, and has sent me on a mission to be much more aware of what I put into my body from here on out.

As a way to commemorate my last few days of this vegan challenge, I hosted a vegan potluck where people crept out of their comfort zone and made some dang delicious vegan grub. Simply seeing that vegan smorgasbord brought me great happiness. Some of the scrumptious dishes provided (and devoured) included:

SOOOO much good food and a fun thing to share with friends. Everything turned out great and everyone enjoyed themselves, sans dairy and meat and all.

Learning and researching have been important aspects in this journey. And insanely eye-opening. Among the documentaries I watched, the articles I read, and the book I devoured, I have discovered there is a great deal more about the food industry that is not necessarily common knowlege, and not necessarily advertised. You have to search out the information, take the initiative to read and research it, and have the diligence to apply it to your every day consumption.

A few of the areas that I am much more aware (i.e. a label-reading fiend) include:

  • Corn and its many different masks. Corn is in just about everything at the grocery store, but may be labeled something different depending on its purpose in the food.
  • Sugar and sugar substitutes. Fake, real, or what have you, something sweet is added to many different products that wouldn’t even necessarily call for it. Not only am I looking for this culprit, but where exactly it is on the ingredient label. Remember, the higher up on the list, the more it makes up that particular product.
  • Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Holy yikes! They are in EVERYTHING! It’s hard to stay away, especially because they are labeled as so many different things, but chances are most of the items in your grocery cart contain them. There are organizations and companies out there who will provide labels on their products if they do not contain GMOs, such as the Non-GMO Project.
  • Enriched vs. Unenriched ingredients. Enriched flour, sugar, etc. is processed so that it is stripped of any nutritional value, but is made to have a longer shelf-life and a more concentrated flavor.
  • Artificial food dyes. This is an issue most people don’t necessarily think about. Artificial food dyes are in many foods that you wouldn’t even think of: marshmallows, pickles, chocolate pudding. Not only are most of them petroleum based, the chemical make-up can cause a whole mess of health problems. Although they may be FDA approved, in many other countries a warning label is required to inform consumers that there are unnatural food dyes added.
  • Grass fed vs. not; farm fresh vs. not; organic vs. not.

It baffles me that we must become our own educators when it comes to our food. Many people won’t. We put faith in a system with little question, because we don’t think it would fail us to the point of allowing harmful products to be obtained. That’s just wishful thinking. It’s not about the good of the society anymore; it’s about marketing and target audiences and pretty colors and enhanced flavors. It’s about the money. Bottom line. Priorities have certainly become skewed, and we’re supposed to fall victim unless we have the audacity to go beyond what we’re being sold and dig a little deeper. And I do.

As a recap, these are some of the places I got my information, education, recipes, inspiration, and motivation.

Documentaries

Books

Websites (blogs, recipes, etc.)

Additionally, when I first started this journey, I set some goals for myself. I feel I have accomplished and exceeded even my own expectations. They included:

  • Become more familiar with the vegan/vegetarian community
  • Gain an appreciation for a strict plant-based diet
  • Actually cook a few recipes from the cookbook
  • DON’T CHEAT
  • Be an inspiration (hopefully) for those interested in trying it
  • Learn – I feel like this will be happening a lot
  • Have fun!

I have most certainly learned, become appreciative, and had fun throughout this challenge. It wasn’t all easy and wasn’t all hard; it was an adjustment. My mom has told me she has started reading labels more carefully when she goes grocery shopping. I’ll count that as being an inspiration. Who knows, maybe I’ve struck something in someone else along the way, too.

What now? Honestly, I’m not quite sure. What I do know is that I will be making more educated decisions about what I eat. I also intend to severely limit my meat and dairy in-take going forward. My new goals are to buy local (when possible), stay educated about what I’m eating, continue to read labels, cut out what my body doesn’t need, eat clean, and make choices that will benefit me in the long run. Armed with information, I plan on applying it as much as possible when it comes to food choices.

Whether vegan, vegetarian, or omnivore, it’s important to educate yourself about what you’re putting in your body. If I am to take one thing from this entire experience, that would be the meat tofu of it all.