And then it happened...

We're just a few days away from Thanksgiving, and I've learned new depths of gratitude over the past few months. There aren't words adequate to capture what I mean, but I'll try to get close.


I spent the last part of the summer busy preparing for the birth of our baby. We did all the usual stuff: painting the nursery, assembling furniture, cleaning house, gathering tiny clothes and super soft blankies, etc. Every day, we had a "to do" list as long as my arm and it felt as though we'd never reach the end of the chores, tasks, and projects. Truth be told, we never did. 

Photo by Rachel Joy Baransi

During the last months of my pregnancy, I also turned my focus inward to prepare myself to become a mother. I spent hours each week doing prenatal yoga to strengthen my body and calm my mind. I paid close, careful attention to my diet, ensuring each day that I was getting enough protein, and remembering to take all my vitamins and supplements. What an ironic thing for a long-time vegan like myself to have to worry about! However, when my midwives told me early on in my pregnancy that I should eat between 90-100g of protein every day, I'm pretty sure I didn't believe my ears at first. But, with some quick research and a little advance preparation, it was fairly simple. I'll blog more about that in the future if there's an interest. 

Photo by Rachel Joy Baransi

Labor began in the wee hours of September 4, our due date, and I thought it was some kind of insane miracle that our baby wanted to be born on his due date. For first time mothers, that's pretty rare. However, his entrance took a little longer than expected and he wasn't actually born until the next morning. We welcomed a strong, beautiful baby boy on September 5. As you can imagine, I've had my hands full with him ever since! 

Becoming a parent is not something that happens to you when your baby is born. It begins much earlier, although it's difficult to say exactly "when" it happens. (This isn't a philosophical question about when life begins, by the way. I'm talking more about the mental and emotional changes in the parent.) It's actually a gradual process, though, as you integrate the idea of parenthood into your identity, and you slowly but surely start to realize how BIG it is. And you also realize very quickly that you'll never really understand the breadth and depth of it. It's just not something that is meant to be fully understood or absorbed. It's bigger than us.

Photo by Rachel Joy Baransi
In the coming months, I hope to blog more. Period. 

The focus of my blog won't change. I'm still committed to sharing my advice and recipes for a healthy, whole foods diet and a sustainable lifestyle. I do know that I'll want to tell you more about my vegan diet during my pregnancy, what life (and dinner) is looking like these days, and to share some of the recipes that got us through those first precious weeks when we basically lived at the intersection of Tired and Tired-er. I realize that not all of you dear readers are parents or want to be, but we all have times in our lives when we are stressed, sleep-deprived, lacking in appetite or mental capacity to be creative in the kitchen, and still very much in need of sustenance. I hope my experiences will help anyone who finds themselves dealing with those simple circumstances of this thing we call life.

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Review: GoodBelly Probiotic Drinks 12 Day Challenge

Shortly after I got pregnant, I learned that most pregnant women experience a certain degree of, erm, digestive discomfort while they grow their little bundles. Probiotic supplements are usually recommended to pregnant ladies, but I've never really been good about taking them. So, I've tried to incorporate more fermented foods and sources of "good" bacteria into my diet.

Then, as if by magic, the kind folks at GoodBelly reached out and offered to let me try their 12 Day Challenge. After learning that their entire line of products is vegan, I jumped at the chance!

GoodBelly makes probiotic drinks that come in a quart-sized carton or in two different sizes of individual "shots." Because I like to keep packaging to a minimum, I went with three different flavors of the quart-sized drinks: blueberry acai, pomegranate blackberry, and coconut water.


Day 1 - Blueberry Acai. I love the flavor of acai juice, so I already had my suspicions that I'd enjoy this juice. The natural tartness of the acai disguises the distinctive tang of the added probiotics, and makes for a really nice juice treat.

Day 2 - Pomegranate Blackberry. Less sweet and slightly more tart than the blueberry acai, this blend was also really good. I feel like this would have tasted even more amazing mixed with some bananas and fresh blackberries in a smoothie. Yum!


Day 3 - Coconut Water. I was a little skeptical about how the probiotic-infused coconut water would be, especially after seeing that it as a cloudy appearance due to all that good bacteria. So, I had to save this one for last. Guess what? It tastes just like regular coconut water, but with a little tang. I love coconut water for its electrolyte properties, so I was happy to sample this one on a day when I was feeling particularly unwell, after struggling with sinus congestion for several days. Ultimately, as with plain coconut water, I didn't enjoy drinking this concoction straight up and opted to mix it with few ounces of orange juice. Talk about a yummy cocktail of wellness!


Day 6 - After making the rotation through the flavors several times by this point, the Blueberry Acai held fast as my favorite of the bunch, even though I still liked the others as well. Nearly a week into this probiotic experiment, I wondered how I would feel. Would it impact my stomach? My appetite? My digestion? Would I feel lighter, cleaner, better, strong? Well, let's be serious. This isn't a detox cleanse or anything like that. (Don't do those if you're pregnant or breastfeeding, b-t-dubs.) So, it's silly to think that it'll completely change the way you feel, especially just halfway through the 12 Day Challenge. I don't have any complaints, though!

Day 12 - When I slurped down the last drops of my GoodBelly drinks, I have to admit I was a bit sad. That stuff was awfully tasty, and I knew that feeding my body with all those happy little probiotics was a good thing.

The verdict? The folks at GoodBelly have worked hard to make a product that is truly healthy and delicious. I really enjoyed my 12 days of yummy probiotic goodness, and will definitely pick up their products in the future. I'd really like to try the other flavors, and there are a lot of them!

Although these cartons can sometimes be pricey, I often see them on sale at my local grocery stores, and I bet that's true in your area as well. But, there's no reason not to try the 12 Day Challenge because it comes with a money-back guarantee! Check out the details here and score yourself some coupons for when you go a'purchasin!


Disclaimer: GoodBelly sent me VIP vouchers to exchange for these products. All opinions expressed are my own.


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Where did she go?

Hi lovelies! I'm back after a little (ahem, long) hiatus with some news:


Yep. Been a little busy here around the ol' verdant homestead! Instead of blogging on this site, I've had my hands tied growing a human. We still have a few months left to go, and even though there's a lot to do, I'm grateful to have the time/energy/brain power to come back to this blog I've missed so much.

Watching last week's festivities at Vida Vegan Con 2013 from afar really made me miss the blogosphere even more. I was lucky enough to attend the first VVC in 2011 and met a ton of amazing people! In my current condition (ha!), I wasn't quite feeling up to the adventure of a cross-country flight and several long days on my feet, so I sadly chose not to attend. I did resolve, however, to get back on the blogging horse post-haste!

Now that I'm here, I figured it might be nice to start with some answers to the questions that I know you all must have.

What happened to the Vegan Food Swap?
We last swapped in January, and I admittedly dropped the ball after that. I never even posted the reveal of the lovely goodies I received that month. Simply put, I was pretty overwhelmed (both physically and emotionally) with my impending motherhood and I just... sort of... stopped caring for a bit. It's amazing how your priorities can change so quickly.

Will you start the Vegan Food Swap again?
Honestly, you guys, I don't know. Orchestrating the swap each month was a lot more work than I anticipated, and I'm not sure how I can keep it up. If any of you would like to take over running the swap for U.S. residents, I'd be happy to chat with you about what's involved, and give you my endorsement if you start a swap. In the meantime, there are a few vegan swaps happening in other parts of the interwebs (like Instagram, of all places!) so I hope you feel free to check those out!

How's the pregnancy been going? 
I won't bore you with the details, but I will say happily that mama and baby are strong and healthy. Between my well-balanced, whole foods diet, some carefully chosen supplements, and regular prenatal yoga, I'm in good shape so far and plan to keep it that way for the duration.

Will the baby be vegan? 
This is a good question, and it's a topic of private deliberation between me and my partner (aka Daddy), who is an omnivore. Right now, I'm concentrating on my health and on growing a strong baby. When baby gets interested in solid foods, then we'll decide on our plan of action. There are lots of GREAT reasons to raise a vegan kid, but I also have to take Daddy's opinions and desires into account, obviously.

Will you keep writing recipes and doing product reviews for The Verdant Life? 
Yes. At least, I hope so. That's why I've decided to start blogging again now, while I am feeling good and have the energy to take it on. I may take another brief hiatus when baby comes in September (you know, so I can focus on THE most important thing!) but I do hope to incorporate regular blogging into my regular mama schedule after we all get acquainted with our new little bundle.

I do have some fun posts, new recipes, and cookbook and product reviews coming up in the near future, so stay tuned!

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Quick Weeknight Meal: Tempeh Skillet Salad

Let me start with a confession. I don't really know what to call this dish. Because it's all vegetable, some might be inclined to call it a salad. However, it starts in a skillet. Does that make it a stir fry? Can a dish be both a salad and a stir fry at the same time? What is our obsession with categorizing dishes, anyway?



Because I had to call it something, I settled on Tempeh Skillet Salad. I'd love to hear your suggestions in the comments if you have other ideas!

What I do know about this dish is that it cooks up in mere minutes, using a lot of ingredients you probably already have on hand. I also know it's high protein and relatively low carb, and could easily be gluten-free depending on the ingredients you use. This dish is a great solution for a busy weeknight, when you feel like you have no time to cook, but can't bear the thought of eating a cold salad for dinner. Oh, and did I mention it's super tasty? It is.

For simplicity's sake, this recipe is written for one healthy serving. Feel free to scale it up to feed a pair, a group, or even an army. The cooking time won't change. Promise.


Tempeh Skillet Salad 
Yield: 1 serving

1 tsp olive or coconut oil
4 oz tempeh, cut into bite-sized chunks
4-5 crimini mushrooms, sliced
1/4 green or red bell pepper, cut into strips
1/4 c cooked chickpeas
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 Tbsp soy sauce or tamari
pinch red pepper flakes
handful of mixed baby greens

  1. In a medium nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add tempeh, mushrooms, and bell pepper. 
  2. Cook 3-4 minutes before stirring with a wooden spatula, so that everything gets nice and brown on one side.
  3. Stir in chickpeas, garlic, and soy sauce, then cook 1-2 minutes until garlic begins to soften. 
  4. Remove from heat and toss in red pepper flakes. 
  5. Serve over mixed baby greens. 
Enjoy! 

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Vegan Food Swap Reveal! October 2012 edition

Typically, Vegan Food Swap reveals are posted on the last day of the month in which the swap occurred. I broke my own rule for this, the final swap of 2012, by slacking off and waiting to post the reveal two weeks late. Why? No special reason. Just life. We've all been there, right?

First off, I'd like to thank everyone who participated in the Vegan Food Swap in 2012. It was an amazing project, which I began in April, and I had no idea how popular it would become. I'm grateful to everyone who jumped in enthusiastically and stuck with the swap month after month. As the swap participants know, I've decided not to organize a swap for November and December because people will be pretty busy with end of year holidays and, frankly, organizing the swap is a lot of work and I could use a break as well. We'll start back up again in January, so feel free to register now.

My swap partner for October was Alan of The Classy Scavenger. I was excited to be paired with a member of the male minority of the Vegan Food Swap, but also because I already knew of Alan. I started following him on Instagram a while back because he's buds with Sam of The Nail That Sticks Up, who I met at Vida Vegan Con in 2011. It's a small world thing. (Also, they're also both total vegan eye candy... Did I say that out loud?)

So, I knew that Alan gets a portion of his "groceries" from places like dumpsters and salvage grocery stores. I realize that some people might think it's "gross" but I think it's true that one man's trash is another's treasure and, honestly, few things upset me more than wasted food. And many people don't realize how much food is thrown away in this country, especially by grocery stores, that is still perfectly good. This happens with produce just as much as with packaged food. Sometimes, a store just has too much stock. Other times, they dump product because it's been discontinued and the distributor isn't willing to pay to take it back. Obviously, some produce is thrown out because it's started to turn or rot, but I was amazed when I first learned that the rotten stuff makes for a pretty small percentage of the food "garbage" in the US.

I know you're all wondering, now, about what Alan sent to me in the Vegan Food Swap box! I did let him know at the beginning that I had no problem with dumpstered or salvaged foods, and gave him free license to send me whatever he wanted. Ultimately, Alan settled on a fantastic combination of packaged items from the salvage grocery, local vegan wings, and some scones that he made from dumpstered ingredients. Because Alan shopped thriftily for my package, he was able to include a LOT of different products without blowing the $20 spending limit. It's awesome to see how far a vegan dollar can stretch, if you know where to shop.

Here's the proof:

This doesn't even show everything. The vegan wings are still in the freezer! (Yes, those are vegan cupcakes in the background, waiting to be frosted.)

A selection of snacky items, including two kinds of kale chips and my favorite teriyaki sprouted sunflower seeds!

Yes, this bag is empty. I may have ripped it open as soon as I saw it. 

Some Asian sweets. I can't wait to try these!

Rice stick snacks.

A selection of Hail Merry goodies... the lemon thyme pecans are my favorite! (Yes, the almonds were consumed first.)

From savory on to sweet... Some chocolatey goodies and some carob nut butter cups. 

Fine ground black salt for vegan omelets! 

Go Raw is one of my other favorite brands. 

Alan sent several homemade scones (and posted the method here).

Vegan wings made locally in Indiana. These were frozen, so Alan carefully packaged them with a cold pack! I wouldn't normally suggest sending frozen goods, but since we are only 1 state away and he used USPS Priority Mail, we decided it might work. Luckily, the weather was pretty chilly also, so they arrived still frozen! 
I'm really enjoying my explorations through the goodies Alan sent to me, but more importantly, I hope that this helps to illustrate how it can be possibly to eat some really amazing treats without breaking your bank. Maybe you're not adventurous enough to go dumpstering yourself, but many areas have salvage or discount grocery stores that carry all sorts of vegan foods. You can end up saving a ton of money just because a manufacturer decided to redesign their packaging, or discontinue an item that wasn't selling enough, or by buying discounted products that are close to their stamped expiration dates (which I think we can all agree are pretty much irrelevant).

Thanks again to Alan for this amazing swap package!

If you want to participate in the Vegan Food Swap in 2013, we'll start again in January. You can sign up now through January 5 by filling out the registration form here.

For those who swapped in October, please link up your reveal posts below:

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Vegan Food Swap Reveal! September 2012 edition

Thanks to everyone else who continues to make the Vegan Food Swap a big success! September was our SIXTH month and I can't believe how excited everyone is to participate month after month. Each month, our group steadily grows in numbers, and I have received a lot of feedback from participants who love trying new products that challenge them creatively in the kitchen.

My package for this month came from Heather at Sunday Morning Banana Pancakes. Aside from having one of the longest blog names I've ever encountered, Heather also takes beautiful photos of her culinary creations. I've been reading her blog for some time, so I was thrilled to be randomly matched up with her this month!

Heather sent me a combination of sweet and savory treats.


Everybody's favorite, Biscoff cookies... Although, truth me told, I got more excited about the Chimes ginger chews than the cookies.


This toasted Israeli couscous with mushrooms and tomato should make for a great dinner sometime. I'm thinking about pairing it with fried broccoli and tempeh. Yum? I think so!


I love nut clusters like this for a quick pick-me-up at work, so these went right into my office drawer.


Heather also included some canned garlic scapes. I've only ever had scapes fresh (well, and then cooked) so I'm interested to try them like this!


Stuffed grape leaves like this, also called dolmas, are actually one of my favorite Mediterranean snacks. Since these come in a tin, they're great for road trips, so I might have to save these for my next trip!


There are now Vegan Food Swaps in the US (this one), Canada (this one), and the UK (this one). There has been some talk of starting up vegan food swaps in other parts of the world as well, and I'll keep you all updated if that happens!

Word of the vegan food swap is continually spreading. Just a few days ago, Vegan Mainstream did a podcast on the joys of participating in food swaps, and Stephanie posted examples of the items she's sent and received over the past couple of months. If you're curious about what people receive, you should check out the podcast, as well as my previous reveal posts, where participants link up their reveals so you can see what everyone got.

If you want to participate in the Vegan Food Swap in 2012, October is your last chance! Due to the holidays in November and December, I've decided that October will be the last month this year, and then we'll start back up again in January 2013.

So, sign up before October 5 to partake in the Vegan Food Swap for October 2012!

For those who swapped in September, please link up your reveal posts below:


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Vegan Food Swap Reveal! August 2012 edition

Is it really the end of August already? Wow!

I didn't even manage to post any new recipes in August, which makes me feel like the lamest food blogger on the planet. But don't worry, dear readers, because you didn't actually miss anything exciting. I lived August without a working stove, so I really just ate a lot of salads and almond butter sandwiches, for the most part. It was good food, but not very exciting.

The good news is that I'm cooking again, and I'll have some new stuff up for you soon. In the meanwhile, it's  Vegan Food Swap  time again! I've been hosting the US Vegan Food Swap for 5 months now and it's been a blast. Membership has been growing a little each month, and a lot of folks seem to be having a great time with it, so I'm thrilled to make it all happen.

This month, my box of goodies came from Kim S. in Charlotte, NC, who doesn't currently have a blog. Maybe if she decides to keep swapping, she'll start one. (Let the peer pressure begin!)

Kim went with a "Southern Foods" theme for this box and sent me a unique collection of "accidentally vegan" items that represent Southern food culture.


She sent some *very* Southern things, like grits and canned greens, hoppin' john, and boiled peanuts.


As well as tea bags and lemonade, so I can make my own Arnold Palmers:


And then she went off-theme a bit and included a package of spinach channa (an Indian spinach and chickpea stew):


And a collection of tea, including a couple different varieties of green tea and chai, plus some instant black coffee:


Thanks, Kim! My Southern mom would be very happy - and perhaps a bit surprised - to see all these goodies in my house!

If you're itching to be a part of the food-swapping good times, sign up for the September Vegan Food Swap by September 4! Instructions will go out the following day for Month #6 of the Vegan Food Swap!

For those who swapped in August, please link up your reveal posts below:

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