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It’s no secret that I’m a little in awe of the vegan lifestyle. I’m in love with the founding principle: that animals are left unharmed and allowed to live as freely as we do. And of course the numerous health benefits of a plant-based lifestyle are hard to ignore.

I do feel though, that if I gave up meat, dairy and other animal-based products, I’d be taming my passion for cooking and food. Sure, I can get excited about vegetables. As excited as I do about high quality bacon or a well-marbled steak. But vegetables have always been a part of the equation, not the full equation itself.

That being said, I’ve always wanted to give vegan eating a test run, and after a month and a half of gluttinous eating  – the turkey, stuffing, egg nog, fruitcake, ham and bread pudding extravaganza that we call the holidays – January is the month to do it.

After all, don’t we all love a fresh start in January? A cleansing of the system, a New Year’s resolution to eat a healthier diet, with more whole grains and plenty of vegetables?

My arteries need a rest from my holiday binge. They’re panting at the finish line. Well done friends, you kept me alive for 60 straight days while I shellacked your surface with LDL cholesterol. Now is your time for reward. I give you vegetables, and lots of them.

Starting on Wednesday (Jan 1) I’m going to kick off month of healthy eating. For 31 days I’m going to eat a vegan diet to see whether eating this way feels like a sacrifice or a triumph.

I’m guessing a little of both.

And I’ve been preparing. I’ve been reading through some of my favorite vegetarian and healthy living cookbooks, including the latest from The Moosewood: Restaurant Favorites, classics like Chez Panisse Vegetables, and more recent additions from vegetarian guru Yotam Ottolenghi as well as Sarah and Hugh Forte, the husband and wife team behind The Sprouted Kitchen.

I’ve also been following some great online resources for vegan receipes, including:

And I’d be amiss if I didn’t mention the inspiration that I get from one of my favorite people on Instagram, Amber (RawVeganBlonde) who blows me away on a regular basis with what can only be described as fruit and vegetable art.

So despite preparations to give up some of my favorite foods for a month, excitement has been building, I’ve been tagging recipes and making notes.

I’ve also been updating my Pinterest boards to catalog my growing collection of vegan and health-focused recipes, which you can easily follow by clicking on the links below.

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I’m shocked that bean sprouts went over so well this week. I bought them on impulse when a trip to Whole Foods yielded nothing out of the ordinary for our 52-week challenge. Hard to believe, but we’re 40 weeks into our challenge. Meaning 40 new fruits and vegetables under our belts, making it slim pickings when I head to the grocery store. But bean sprouts were new, and as much as their bland color and flavor doesn’t appeal to me, the kids shared a different opinion. They were hands down the most well-received vegetable in our challenge to date.

ME: What are these?

LAUREN: Onions?

EMMA: A kind of turkey.

ME: Yeah it kind of does look like the turkey gobbler.

ME: What does it smell like?

LAUREN: Emma ate all of hers.

EMMA: More.

LAUREN: More for me too.

ME: Slow down guys, you’re not supposed to eat it yet.

ME: It kind of smells like water to me. What about you Lauren?

LAUREN: I didn’t smell it yet. Wait, what are these mommy? I want more.

ME: Wow, you guys are fighting over them. You can each have your own bowls, I have a huge bag of them.

ME: These are called bean sprouts.

LAUREN: Oooh, I love bean sprouts!

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Let’s talk social media for a second. Because I have a confession. I used to be scared of it. I was one of the late Facebook adopters, my primary social media channel for years being Linked In. And only because my fellow business school students guilted me into getting an account. After all, isn’t that why we were all paying our hefty MBA price tags? To connect with our peers so that we’d forever have a network of contacts who would one day answer our calls about a new deal, or a new job?

And I was lousy at it, I’ll be the first to admit. I wasn’t a natural connector, I was content to get my degree, and spend the rest of my time hiking in the Berkeley hills, shopping at the farmers’ markets, and learning to cook everything from duck legs to ice cream. While I’m social and outgoing in person, I need a lot of downtime.

Apparently there’s a word for people like me, and it’s gaining popularity with the wild success of Susan Cain’s book “Quiet” (she did a killer TED talk on the subject too if you’re interested). She coined the term “ambivert” – in my case, I’m a Myers Briggs standard issue extrovert with highly introverted qualities.

Which makes social media the best thing since sliced bread. I can connect with people, which is my fundamental extroverted desire, but I can do it during quiet times. When I’m walking my dog, or standing in line at the post office. It fits into my day, seamlessly fills the cracks when I have a few minutes to spare. 

My favorite social media channel by a landslide is Instagram. While Facebook helps me stay connected with people from my past, Instagram is the ideal tool for connecting with people who share my interests today. The dog lovers, the food lovers, the lovers of all things beautiful – colored glass, approaching storms, kids in bright yellow rain boots. Every day is a visual feast.

This month I’m joining a 31 day photo challenge and linking up with friends from around the world as we tag our holiday food with #31daysofyum. We have a pretty awesome crew lined up: The smartest farm-to-table fast casual startup I’ve seen in years, Tractor Foods, the bloggers behind Eat Your Beets, The Wanderlust Kitchen, Omeletta, and Ten Thousandth Spoon, and LA catering whiz Tehra Thorp from T3 Events.

If you’re on Instagram, we’d love it if you joined us too. Just tag your food for the next 31 days with #31daysofyum. Miss a few days? No biggie, it’s just a chance to join in some holiday fever.  And if you haven’t gotten set up with an account yet, drop what you’re doing ASAP and get on it. Trust me when I say that this little app makes me light up and smile or laugh about 17 times per day. Plus or minus a few.

Here are some of my favorite food pics from Instagram over the last month, and an invitation to our challenge at the bottom. Happy December, hope to see you tagging away.

I just canceled out my vegan lunch #banana #nutella #cupcake #oops

Her croissant is eating my macaroon

Below freezing, it's an inside kind day.

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Today is a day for giving thanks. And thanks we give – for health, for family, for friendships, and happiness.

We sit down to a table laden with food. Our treasured recipes, the soup, the salads, the sides, and that most-loved Thanksgiving food of all: the turkey.

It’s easy to get swept up in the romance of Thanksgiving – the traditions, and the excitement of seeing friends or family members who we don’t often see. The meal, in all of its splendor, often becomes a reflection of what the cook did with the ingredients, not the ingredients themselves.

Sometimes I need to remind myself that it’s not just about what I’ve put on the table, but what came before that. The farmers who dedicate their lives to growing our crops, and the animals whose lives were sacrificed.

As a Canadian, I can’t vote in the US where I now make my home, so I vote with my everyday purchases. At the top of this list, comes the food that I buy. I’m not perfect when it comes to buying food. I have a weakness for junky salt & vinegar chips, and the occasional processed grilled cheese sandwich. But when it comes to buying meat, there is no question: it needs to have been humanely raised by farmers who care about the animals, and treat them well from birth to slaughter.

This year, I bought our turkey at the Knickerbocker Market in New York City. The store owner and butcher Mike is a food scientist, and knows his meat better than just about anyone I know. Having built a relationship with Mike over the years, I know that whatever I buy from him has met his own high quality standards.

A respect for food is something that I hope to pass on to my kids. Even though my kids are young, it’s important to teach them to be thankful for what we eat. I want them to understand that choosing our foods is always just that – a choice. We can pick the good stuff – the foods that have been farmed or grown with care, or we can choose the junk.

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For some reason it feels weird to be eating guava at this time of year. It seems like summer food, more appropriate for the warmer months; maybe even December or March when people start to jet off to the Caribbean and I need to quell my seething jealousy. But we spied a guava at the grocery store and thought why not. Live dangerously. 

ME: What is this called?

LAUREN: A lemon?

ME: No, not a lemon. What does it feel like?

SAM: It feels like a disgusting banana.

ME: OK, somebody’s a comedian today. What does it feel like?

LAUREN: Well it feels like….

SAM: A banana! (laughing)

LAUREN: It feels kind of rough….and kind of smooth.

EMMA: A banana!

ME: Did you smell it yet?

LAUREN: It smells like salad. Well actually it smells like salad dressing.

ME: Emma wants to smell it.

EMMA: Smells like banana!

ME: What do you think it’s going to look like on the inside?

LAUREN: Well, I think it’s going to look pinkish yellow.

ME: Did you see it?


ME: Well you guessed it!


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