Mama's Veg Products 2016/17

If you follow me on Facebook or instagram (which you should, just fyi), you are already aware of my passion for animal and environmental well being. If by some strange reason you are NOT aware of that fact, here's the simplified, "quick" summary:

As of January 1st, 2016, I officially stopped eating any kind of animal flesh (aka meat lol) because I believe that the animal agriculture industry is directly responsible for multiple serious problems with our ecosystems worldwide, our health as humans and yes, "climate change" or whatever you want to call it. I care about our planet, our health and the welfare of both humans and animals."
You know, because I'm one of the idiots who lives here.

I had stopped eating beef and pork for the most part for years before I got pregnant with Jaxon, so it wasn't a huge jump for me to add chicken, turkey, fish and everything related to the list. I've always been one of those "tree hugging hippies." It's true.

I mean, we're talking about the child who watched Bambi about 100,000 times before any princess movie, and then quickly favored Pocahontas.
I've always seen things from Bambi's perspective. I still idolize the Disney Pocahontas and the messages she taught me. Ferngully, The Troll in Central Park, Babe, The Great Panda Adventure, The Lion King, Zoboomafo, Captain Planet, you name it, they were all favorites that helped shape my already sensitive and aware heart and worldview.
Basically, I was never going to grow up to be a hunter, butcher, dairy farmer or zoo employee.

That being said, I have spent all of 2016 seeking out and learning about alternatives to meat and also dairy. I understand that you can't just "give up" meat and expect to be super healthy and intelligent.
For the same reason diets don't really work, there's more to eating vegetarian or vegan than just cutting things out. The only way to truly thrive and help it stick longer than the first few months of your new year resolution, is to substitute instead of subtract.

Because let's face it,
you can't live off tortilla chips and dry salads.
You're not a rabbit, sweetie, I'm sorry.

So...without further ado, here is my much requested, "tried-and-true" list of
Mama's Favorite Cruelty Free Products

1. Beyond Meat

This is my go to. This has been a life saver and an absolute staple in my whole family's diet.
It comes frozen in bags equal to 1lb of meat, and is available at both my local Walmart and Target. You can also purchase all of their products through Amazon.
What I love about these crumbles so much is they taste good (the Feisty is my favorite because it smells like tacos and works with most of my cooking), they smell good while cooking, and these crumbles in particular actually look and feel like beef (even Josh, who loves his beef and literally has years of experience professionally cooking/grilling it, really likes this brand!).
There are several brands of beef crumbles, but Beyond Meat is my official #1 choice.
The price is fair and consistent regardless of which brand you choose.
They also make "Chicken" strips and burgers! So yeah, this was ridiculously easy to replace burger meat with. All you do is pour it onto a pan with your choice of butter or oil, heat it up and add it to any recipe you want. Tacos, chili, Hamburger Helper, sloppy joes, lasagna, spaghetti sauce, the options are endless!

2. MorningStar Farms
This brand is probably one of the biggest out there. They have everything from burgers, breakfast sausage patties, and meatballs to hot dogs, chicken tenders and steak strips! I haven't tried everything, and I've heard some folks complain that they seem to processed or not "meaty" enough, but out of the products I've tried, the black bean burgers are my favorite. You can grill them, nuke them or throw them on the stove (which is how I prefer them). You can crumble them up and throw them in a taco or burrito or you can grill them up next to the burgers on the grill at your next backyard barbecue. They take no time to cook and they are great to customize, plus they are protein packed and filling!
This is also another Josh favorite ;)

3. Lightlife Smart Deli
I ate a ton of turkey sandwiches as a kid, especially after I stopped eating beef and ham. I've found that this brand of deli "meats" is super tasty and great on sandwiches and wraps. I do have to say, if you are the type that only eats mayo and cheese on your sandwiches, these may throw you at first. I think they taste good because they have a smokey flavor that, when topped with mayo (preferably vegan mayo), pickles, lettuce, tomato and either mustard or vegan cheese, I can't tell isn't real turkey, but others may taste a difference. Regardless, I think this brand is better than ToFurkey and all their deli meats are worth a try. They are usually next to the tofu options at the grocery store, which tends to be in the produce section near the greens and salad options.

4. Gardein
Another promising meat free option that really impressed me is Gardein's fishless filet. If you pan fry them in oil or butter, they taste so good. In fact, I actually told my mom that I like their flavor and "meatiness" better than real fish! Not only that, but they have all the important fats and nutrients you get from fish, but without all the extra yuckies like hormones, radiation, mercury or cruelty!
Gardein also makes plenty of other meatless options, I've just been stuck on the fish filets haha

5. Earth Balance Buttery Spread
Now that the meats are out of the way, it's time for the dairy section, because I know this is where most people really struggle as far as going vegan goes.
There are multiple reasons to love this brand. Not only does it taste yummy, it is perfect for cooking, baking, frying and even spreading on your toast! It's also healthier for you because it's made from veggie oils instead of plastic ingredients like most margarine. Most grocery stores carry Earth Balance products, at least in my experience. Also, Earth Balance has tons of recipe ideas and cooking tips on their site, facebook, instagram and newsletters.

6. So Delicious
Speaking of brands that go beyond just great products, So Delicious was one of my first go to alternatives and I still swear by them. They have nut milks, creamers, ice cream, and now even cooking milks for baking! They picked a perfect name because their products really are SO DELICIOUS. I seriously love everything I've ever tried. And their ice cream flavors are on point.
They also share recipes and tips on their sites. They just get it and I love them all.

7. Almond Breeze
Another staple of mine, mainly because of the price, availability and variety. I usually buy the gallons of original unsweetened every two weeks because I can use it in my cooking and baking, I can pour it over my cereal, and Jaxon drinks it regularly. Almond Breeze is available at every grocery store I've ever been to, and is usually cheaper than Silk or organic cow milk. It's my recommended staple.

8. Nutritional Yeast
If you want to make homemade cheese, or cheesy sauce for your pastas, this is the key to getting that yummy cheesy flavor, plus it's packed with vitamins that meat eaters swear you won't get if you stop eating meat and dairy. HAHAHA.
Seriously though, sprinkle this in your mac and cheese, your soup, your dough, pretty much anything, and it automatically makes it delicious and super nutritious. I usually cook pasta, pour in some unsweetened almond milk, and sprinkle in some nutritional yeast and Italian spices and it turns into this magically lightweight Alfredo tasting cheesy sauce that is super yummy and filling without making me feel bloated and gassy later. I mean, do I really need to do any more convincing? It pretty much sells itself. It goes far and lasts forever and it can be found online and at pretty much any health food store. Some Walmarts might have it too.

9. Coconut Oil

Okay, you knew this was coming. No healthy vegan alternative list is complete without it.
If you don't already know, coconut oil is like the latest and greatest thing since actual sliced bread. You can cook with it, bake with it, clean with it, throw it on your hair, your skin, even your teeth!
I don't have a favorite brand because they are all the same to me. Walmart has multiple brands at all kinds of prices. I bought my most recent jar for under $4.
I'm sure you've heard enough about the magic oil, so I'll leave it at that.

10. Daiya
The reason why this is way down here is because I actually have yet to try anything from this brand. I didn't fully cut out dairy until 2017 so I'm still exploring those alternatives. I also have been extremely low on funds recently, so this pricier brand is still on my "to try" list.
I haven't heard anything bad about this brand or the products yet, though. In fact, I've had several vegans tell me that they swear by Daiya and their cheeses and spreads, so I am very excited to try it, as soon as my wallet will allow me haha.
I have seen Daiya at Walmart and most grocery and health stores.

So there it is. Mama's list of alternatives and staples for the aspiring vegan/vegetarian.
If you have any favorites, experiences or other staples, PLEASE feel free to share them!
With so many amazingly delicious options, cruelty doesn't have to be one of them.



Hello, 2017


January 1st, 2017 marked not only the beginning of a new chapter, but the 6 month mark since my handsome Roran Alexander was born.

I have a really hard time letting go of things I consider important to me.
One of those things is my babies growing up and not being able to do a damn thing to slow it down, let alone pause it, no matter how much I try to cherish and savor every moment with them.
I'm already heartbroken about him not being a newborn anymore. He's eating baby food and trying to crawl and is a pro at grabbing things dangling in front of him. He has only been here on this earth outside of the womb for 6 short months, yet I feel like it's been two weeks.
At the same time, I am quickly forgetting what it was like before his existence. My heart feels whole and complete and I have already forgotten about my worries, discomfort and pain during pregnancy and giving birth.

I am also forgetting what it was like to breastfeed either of them. I try not to dwell on it too much, because if I do, I just end up crying and beating myself up until I'm no good to anyone. I just miss it so freaking much. Maybe it's because I don't plan on having anymore babies and this whole time I've been treating everything like it's my last time. My last time being pregnant. My last time giving birth. My last time pumping. My last time feeding from me. My last time holding my own flesh and blood for the first time. I was so determined to learn from my experiences with Jax. I was convinced I would breastfeed him for at least 6 months. I wanted to make it an entire year so bad. I took a manual pump to work, I took my vitamins, I stayed hydrated, I kept everything clean, I stocked up on Mommy Milk, fenugreek, post-natal milk supply supplements, brewer's yeast, you name it. I pumped constantly and fed him every chance I could. I even had a much better attitude this time around and actually enjoyed it. 
It still wasn't enough. I still dried up. I still failed him.
Nothing I can do now. At least he is happy, healthy and just a solid mass of adorable perfection.

All that being said, I truly don't believe 2016 was any worse than any previous year. At least not personally. I mean, I did lose both of my childhood cats that were both my strong towers during my darker teen years and even though Sam never got to meet Ror, Cimmy was incredibly sweet and motherly to both Ror and Jax. Especially Jax. I miss them so incredibly much.
Regardless, I got to meet my precious Roran halfway through and my little family made it through happy, healthy and pretty much unscathed. I can't ask for much more than that. I have no hard feelings regarding 2016, other than the whole Outback tragedy, but that still didn't completely break me. I'm still good. I'm still happy. I'm still here.

And if you're reading this, you are too.
Sure, we lost a good bit of celebrities and positive influences that we knew would eventually happen. Sure, we elected a shocking and controversial president from a very depressingly short list of options.
Sure, the world hasn't become any more peaceful, merciful or compassionate toward life.
We humans have also accomplished a lot in showing that there is still hope within us and the next generation of leaders. We have a long way to go, but we still made progress. We saved lives through conservation, education and outreach. We worked hard to raise awareness to otherwise ignored injustices. We embraced ourselves and acknowledged that we need to make changes.
We are ready for 2017.
We got this. My word, my vision for 2017 is HOPE.

I have so much to look forward to from here on out. I refuse to let anything hold me back or weigh me down. I don't view 2017 as the best year ever, but I most certainly have hope for more adventures, more challenges, more victories and more life worth sharing, cherishing and living.

So, hello, 2017.
I think it's time I show you what I got.