A Resolution Worth Keeping

As the year comes to an end, consider adding one more resolution to your list: Meatless Monday. 

I know many of you may be thinking that dinner is not dinner without meat, or that you won’t know what to cook (more on that later), but I hope you will see that the benefits of going a day without meat far outweigh any inconveniences.


By cutting out meat just one day a week you will:

  • Reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, arthritis, and diabetes. Basically, less meat = better health. If you want to learn more about the health benefits of choosing veggies over steak check out this article by ABC News, in conjunctuon with Health.com. Or, if you’re more of a visual learner, I highly recommend the documentary What the Health on Netflix!
  • Help the environment. By cutting down on your meat consumption, you will also be reducing greenhouse gases and your water use. According to EarthDay.org, “If you eat one less burger a week, it would be the equivalent to taking your car off the road for 320 miles.” So, by skipping meat you can feel less guilty about driving to the CVS around the block when you could have walked.
  • Minimize your grocery bill. Of course, this depends on what you replace meat with. You won’t see a significant difference if you choose to go out to eat every Monday or if you replace it with fake meat.
  • Save animals. If the demand for meat lowers, less animals will need to die for our food.

OK, so maybe you’re sold on cutting down on meat, but you’re still worried about what to eat instead. Thankfully there are tons of recipes online. If you’re in the mood for a specific dish, a quick Google search can tell you how to make it vegan/vegetarian. Another useful resource for recipes is YouTube; I find that the recipes tend to be much more user-friendly than what you would find elsewhere. I recommend watching some of Caitlin Shoemaker’s videos. She has a playlist of 74 vegan recipe videos – some of which are so easy that they can be made in a dorm room!

However, if you’re not up for searching, I have a few meal ideas to share with you here. I have to warn you – I hate cooking, so these are very simple recipes and they may not satisfy the hard-to-please!

  1. Taco Night! If you usually do Taco Tuesday, switch it to Monday and take out the meat. This is my favorite thing to make and eat because it’s cheap, but still so filling and delicious! Here’s what I usually have:
    • Corn and Wheat Tortillas from Trader Joe’s
    • Black beans (canned)
    • Pico de Gallo (also from Trader Joe’s, but if I don’t want to spend the $$ I just chop up some tomatoes #broke)
    • White rice
    • Guacamole
    • *If you find you’re really missing beef on taco night, I recommend Trader Joe’s Beef-less Crumbles. The crumbles do look a bit unappetizing at first, but once they’re cooked they taste great!
    • *The taco kits that you can buy in the supermarket come with taco shells and seasoning (all completely vegan). Just add the seasoning to the beans or the beef-less crumble and you’re halfway there!
  2. Fake Meat. I go through phases with fake meat. I either don’t touch it for years or I eat it once a week. Lately, it’s been the latter and I have been really into all of Gardien’s products, which can be found in most grocery stores. Specifically, I really like their Crispy Tenders and their Mandarin Orange Crispy Chick’n. Cook any of these fake meats, then add some rice and veggies and you have a quick + easy meatless meal!
  3. Pasta. This is my go-to meal when I’m feeling lazy. It requires a long list of ingredients, so get ready! You will need:
    • Pasta (I try to buy a “healthier” pasta when I can, like gluten free or brown rice pasta)
    • Jarred sauce (be sure to check that there’s no meat in it)
    • A fresh baguette so that you don’t feel too lame
    • Vegan Parmesan cheese (or regular if you’re not trying to cut out dairy).
  4. Stir fry. Start with a base of rice and a protein (beans, tofu, or my personal favorite -seitan) and then go where you want with it! Add in some veggies and then add any kind of flavor, like soy sauce or an Indian simmer sauce (I love the goan coconut one that I discovered from Thrive Market).
  5. Pizza.  If you’re okay with dairy, you can order pizza from your local pizza place and as long as you skip pepperoni or sausage it’s meatless! So easy, right? However, if you want to save some money and opt for the dairy-free option, here’s what you’ll need:
    • Pizza crust (Almost all grocery stores carry pizza crusts, but I prefer the ones from Trader Joe’s.)
    • Jarred sauce (Don’t forget to check the label for milk or meat.)
    • Vegan cheese (There’s a bunch of different kinds, but my favorite is Daiya cheese, which can be found at Whole Food’s.)
    • Fresh basil (If you want to mix things up and get a little fancy.)

I hope this helps! Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you need help with your resolution or if you have questions about something written here.

Wishing everyone a happy and healthy new year!

For more information on Meatless Monday, visit Meatlessmonday.com



20 Things I Learned from my Mom

1546023_10153002254948940_1454609887939616400_nAwhile back I wrote a post about all of the things I learned from my dad. I knew then that I wanted to write one about my mom, but I was having a tough time coming up with a list. My dad is the lecture type (think of your typical TV sitcom dad), so it was easy to come up with twenty lessons. Thinking about what I learned from my mom required a bit more effort, but it was well worth it! I feel so lucky every day to have such amazing, loving parents.

  1. Be kind to everyone. You never know what someone else is going through.
  2. It’s never too late to try again.
  3. No matter what kind of job you have, always give it your best effort.
  4. Cake is a perfectly acceptable breakfast (…..and lunch and dinner).
  5. Life is short. Buy the shirt/shoes/bag/etc.
  6. Animals are a good judge of character. Be wary of people that dogs/cats dislike.
  7. Dance like no one is watching.
  8. Do the dishes as soon as you’re finished eating (your future self will thank you).
  9. It’s okay to choose to stay in when everyone else wants to go out.
  10. Clean with music on.
  11. Follow the big red bus (a.k.a. when the obstacle seems too great to overcome, don’t underestimate the power of distraction).
  12. Telling someone you understand what they’re going through because you have been through it too can make a world of difference.
  13. Take care of your elders.
  14. Be thoughtful – something as simple as buying someone their favorite candy bar or magazine can really make his/her day.
  15. You’re never too old to learn new things.
  16. Say what you’re feeling, but be ready to accommodate other people.
  17. Driving in the city isn’t as scary as it seems (driving at night is, haha).
  18. Crying is sometimes the best medicine.
  19. Paper planners are essential.
  20. Amazing things can happen when you put everything you have into achieving your goals.

I love you, mom!


Ten Middle Grade Books You’ll Love No Matter How Old You Are

Ten Middle Grade Books You’ll Love No Matter How Old You Are

The best part of my teaching day is the fifteen minutes of quiet reading time at the beginning of each literature class. It makes me so happy to look around and see each student focused on their book and lost in their own separate world. Once reading time is over (it kills me to break the peaceful silence), I ask students what they’re reading and whether or not they like it. If a student seems really excited about a book I try my best to read it, and nine times out of ten I am so happy that I did. Middle grade books should not be underestimated- they can make you laugh, cry, and contemplate life’s big questions.

So, whether you’re a teacher looking for new recommendations or someone curious about the genre- here are ten middle grade books you should definitely check out:

  1. Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. When I picked this book out to be a class novel I knew I would have to read it toobut I was dreading it! This book was like nothing else I had read before – Monsters? Greek gods? Fighting? No, thank you! I finally forced myself to read it and as you can probably guess, I loved it (it is number one on this list after all). In fact, I loved it so much that I went on to read the entire series!
  2. The Meaning of Maggie by Megan Jean Sovern. It’s hard not to like this book because the main character (Maggie) is so lovable. She tells readers about her daily life as she deals with her dad’s illness and works toward her big dream of becoming the president. One of my favorite things about this book (besides Maggie) is the author’s use of footnotes; they were the perfect fit for Maggie’s Type A personality! P.S. – A portion of the proceeds of this book are donated to the Multiple Sclerosis Society! 
  3. Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick. This is another one that I was reluctant to read, but ended up loving (I should probably stop judging books by their covers). In “Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie” the main character, Steven, remains sarcastic (you will laugh out loud) and lighthearted throughout the book, despite dealing with tough-to-talk-about topics like cancer.
  4. Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo. There’s no way to say this without sounding cheesy, but I just feel warm and light when reading a Kate DiCamillo book. Her stories have a certain magical quality to them -even when there is no magic involved, and this book is the perfect example of that. Raymie is a quiet and introspective character, who only wants happiness, or as she puts it, “for her soul to feel good”. The book follows Raymie as she puts her plan for happiness into action, and of course- meets a few obstacles along the way.
  5. The Trials of Apollo by Rick Riordan. “The Trials of Apollo” is similar to the Percy Jackson series, but instead of having a demigod be the center of attention, this book is all about the Greek god Apollo….except he’s not a Greek god anymore.His father turns him into a teenage boy at the start of the book and he is very unhappy about it: “I will never understand how you mortals tolerate it. You live your entire life trapped in a sack of meat, unable to enjoy simple pleasures like changing into a hummingbird or dissolving into pure light. And now, heavens help me, I was one of you – just another meat sack.”
  6. The BFG by Roald Dahl. Roald Dahl has written a lot of great books, but “The BFG” made it to this list because the the giant is such an awesome character. You will love his funny language (snozzcombers anyone?), his insightful quotes (“two rights do not equal left”), and his rebellious view on eating humans (he doesn’t, but all of the other giants do). The BFJ is funny, like most of Dahl’s books, but it also teaches readers a valuable lesson: just because something is considered “normal” doesn’t mean it’s right
  7. Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo.  Another Kate DiCamillo book (she’s soooo good!). This story follows Flora, who is obsessed with comics, and an unusual squirrel (Ulysses) on an adventure filled with superheroes, villains, oddball characters, and poetry. If I had to pick one thing I loved the most about Flora and Ulysses it would definitely be Flora’s unique catch phrase: “holy unexpected occurrences!” How cute is that?
  8. Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier. This is a graphic novel, so you could probably read it in an hour, but that doesn’t take away from how good it is. The story deals with smaller topics, like the usual growing pains, as well as bigger ones, like dealing with a relative’s illness – all while keeping it light with pictures, soft colors, and a bit of fantasy! I recommend reading this one around Halloween.
  9. The Honest Truth  by Dan Gemeinhart. This past school year I assigned “The Honest Truth” to a book club full of reluctant readers.When they finished reading it they dubbed it to be, “the best book they have ever read” (…and I did a short victory dance in my head). The book follows Mark and his loyal dog Beau as they embark on a mission to climb Mt. Rainer, despite the odds against them.
  10. Courage for Beginners by Karen Harrington. Courage for Beginners is a heartwarming story about Mysti Murphy, whose life gets turned upside down when her dad falls out of a tree. Readers will love Mysti’s take on life, heroes, and cool kids as she navigates seventh grade.

Have you read any of these? What are some of your favorite middle grade books?



When You’re Not Ready to go Vegan…

Switching to a vegan diet is one of the best decisions I have ever made. I feel a lot better, I learned to cook a lot more (as a vegetarian I relied on pasta and pizza way too much) and I am somehow happier. While my hope is that more people will start to see how amazing veganism is, I also understand that it’s a huge, often daunting step for most. So, whether you want to cut out meat, but you’re just not ready, or you can’t fathom ever saying goodbye to steak – making five small changes to your everyday diet can make a big difference- in your health, your wallet, and the environment.

  1. Switch to non-dairy milk. In what seems like just a few short years, the variety of non-dairy milk choices has increased significantly. So much so, that the dairy industry is fighting to block dairy-free milk companies from using the term “milk”. The dairy industry is losing sales, and it’s clear why. Plant-based milk (whether its almond, soy, cashew, coconut, hemp, or one of the many other choices) is easier on the stomach, much healthier (it turns out milk does not build strong bones), and there are no cows harmed in the making. While you probably will notice a difference if you’re just drinking a glass, it will be hard to tell whether it’s plant or animal based if you pour non-dairy milk into your cereal or cup of coffee.
  2. Trade your butter for Earth Balance Butter. I used to have butter and toast every morning before work, so once I became vegan butter is the first thing
    EB2I had to find a replacement for. Thank god for Earth Balance! Earth Balance “butter” can be found in just about any grocery store, it tastes exactly like real butter (I have several non-vegan friends that can attest to this), it’s non-GMO, has 0g trans fat, and best of all – it’s cruelty free. Next time you run out of butter, consider buying Earth Balance brand instead. It’s a small change that goes a long way!
  3. Buy flaxseed mealAccording to webmd.com, “King Charlemagne believed in the power of flaxseeds so strongly, that he passed a law requiring all of his subjects to consume it.” It turns out he wasn’t wrong to put so much faith in flaxseed 1236c164_goldenflaxseedmeal_f_hr– it’s filled with Omega-3 fatty acids and it has been proven to reduce the risk of certain cancers, heart disease, and diabetes. So how do you use it? Sprinkle flaxseeds on top of toast or add it to your morning smoothie- you will barely notice them, but you’ll still reap all of their benefits! Flaxseeds also make a great egg replacement (1 Tbsp flaxseed meal and 3 Tbsp water for each egg). Bake a cake using flaxseed meal instead of eggs and you can call it “healthy” ;).
  4. Switch to non-dairy ice cream at home. There are tons of dairy-free ice creams out there, and you no longer need to find the nearest Whole Foods to find one. You can find brands like SoDelicious and Ben & Jerry’s at most grocery stores. (Yes, you read that right. Ben and jerry’s now makes dairy free options of classic flavors!) If you have a Trader Joe’s near you, I recommend trying their Soy Creamy vanilla ice cream; it’s not as pricey as some non-dairy ice cream tends to be, and it comes in a bigger size! Dairy-free ice cream is just as good as the real thing, but there’s no animal products in it, so you can feel better about every bite.mm
  5. Meatless Mondays. You’ve probably heard the term “meatless Mondays”, but you might not have heard why it’s such a great step in the right direction. By skipping meat just one day a week, you can help reduce global warming and significantly improve your own health by reducing your risk of heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.

There you have it – five small steps that make a big difference. Let me know in the comments if you have any other ideas of small changes that move in the right direction!




Trader Joe’s Shopping List

The first time I stepped into a Trader Joe’s store I felt lost. I was enticed by the beachy theme and overall feel of the place, but I had absolutely no idea where anything was. I ended up wandering the store for thirty minutes and leaving empty-handed because the odd cashier setup was too intimidating. Thankfully, I have overcome my fear of the unknown and I am now a weekly shopper at Trader Joe’s (applause).

So, without further ado – my Trader Joe’s Shopping list:

1. Quinoa Bread –Quinoa bread is softer than wheat or multigrain, and healthier unnamed.jpgthan white bread – just toast, add a little (vegan) butter and it’s the perfect before-work breakfast!

2. Tofu Edamame Nuggets (or as I like to call them, ficken nuggets) – When I first became vegetarian I frequently bought, and relied on, fake meat. Fake meat is good for the transition period from carnivore to vegetarian, but it shouldn’t be included in your daily meal plan – it’s too processed. While Trader Joe’s Tofu Edamame Nuggets only have a slightly better score on Fooducate than my old go-to (Quorn Chik’n nuggets), they taste a lot better, and I love that you can see the edamame when you bite into it.

3.. Organic Brown Rice Quinoa Fuselli Pasta (also available as spaghetti pasta)unnamed-2.jpg – My older brother is a chef, so I like to say that he got all of the “cooking genes”. He can make an amazing meal with whatever he can find in the kitchen, while I will follow a recipe step-by-step, only to throw it out and order a pizza. That being said, pasta is usually my go-to meal, so making organic brown rice quinoa pasta (try saying that ten times fast!) makes me feel a bit less guilty about all of the carbs.

4. Spanakopita – While I can’t even begin to pronounce this, it’s delicious, easy to make, and high in vitamin A!

5. Chocolate Ice Cream (made with coconut milk) – I try my best to stay away from dairy (keyword: try) this is a great vegan alternative to my absolute favorite food!

6. Trader Giotto’s Kale, Sweet Potato, and Butternut Squash Pizza – I never would havunnamed-3.jpge thought to pick something like this up, but when a kind lady offers you a free taste of it (yay free samples!) you gladly accept…and then promptly buy four pies to bring home. Trust me on this one, you won’t be sorry you tried it out!

7. EnviroKidz Chocolate Choco Chimps Cereal – Yes, these are for kids, but I loveee them. They taste just like Coco Puffs, but without all of the milk and sugar – not only are these vegan and gluten free, but they are also created by a company committed to sustainability and healthy eating (1% of EnviroKidz sales goes to helping the planet).

8. Pizza “burgers” – Okay so I really like pizza (hence my hesitance to go vegan). I unnamed-4.jpgpicked these up in a rush on my way to a bbq and they quickly made it on to my list of favorites!

9. Soycutash – Sweet corn, shelled edamame, and red peppers! Delicious and a high score on Fooducate (yess!). This is meant to be eaten warm, but try it cold (it’s much better). Heat it as instructed, leave it in the refrigerator for a few hours, and then enjoy!

4-trader-joe-s-dog-treats-for-puppies-and-dogs-chicken-recipe-jerky-strips-0bda39d20a2052980a7d615067b03b1c.jpgand don’t forget that special dog in your life.

10. Chicken Recipe Jerky Strips – My dog is very picky when it comes to dog treats (that may or may not be because we fed her human food since she was a puppy), but she goes crazy for these jerky strips! At only only 1.99, it’s easy to pick a bag up every time I shop at Trader Joe’s.

What’s on your Trader Joe’s Shopping list?