Category Archives: Thoughts

Let’s “vegan” again

Hi. My name is Melissa. I am a chicken wing-aholic. And I’m not talking about vegan “chicken” wings. I’m talking CHICKEN WINGS.


We’re talking full-on Cookie Monster-style eating of chicken wings. I’m not proud of it.

The holidays have come and gone since I last posted and I have to confess that I have gone down a dark path leading back to an onmivore lifestyle. I can offer perfectly somewhat rational explanations for it, but the gist is this: I was hungry and there was a tray of Korean fried chicken wings in front of me. I went for it and didn’t barf or blow up so I just kept right on eating the chicken… and the burger… and the turkey… and the beef egg roll… and the prime rib…

And boom – here I am now, about three months after that first chicken wing, feeling gross and heavy and literally five pounds heavier.

Here’s the thing: I was pretty good for I’d say about six months or so, but I have yet to figure out how to completely eliminate eggs, seafood, and cheese from my diet. And now I am faced with the horrible thought of never eating a chicken wing ever again. So I may never be 100% vegan. I won’t beat myself up about it. But I can definitely take conscious steps toward making better food choices again. Will I die if I eat a chicken wing? Only if I choke on it or someone laces it with poison. Will I die if I eat a carrot or apple? Nope… unless I choke on it or someone laces it with poison.

This month on Turning Veganese, I’ll be reminding myself and all of you awesome readers that being vegan or even just making better food choices doesn’t have to be difficult or complicated. I’ll tell you about some great products and recipes I have discovered that help make healthy cooking and eating more fun and worthwhile. And I’ll be open about my real diet and share recipes that may include dairy or eggs or seafood — with explanations of why I add them and how the recipe is still great without it or by substituting something else.

In retrospect, I think I was spot-on in naming the blog “Turning Veganese” because it’s a continuous journey for me. I hope you’ll all stick around for the ride!



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Restaurant Reviews

I have long been a reviewer on Yelp! after the web based service saved my bacon by warning me which gluten-free menus were actually gluten-free while visiting friends in an unfamiliar city several years ago. The only thing I can think of that’s worse than being sick while being away from home is being arrested and I’m lucky never to have experienced the latter.

Brent and I routinely visit local restaurants of various specialties, nationalities or ethnicities and put them to the test for what’s gluten-free and vegan. Recently I got a response to a scathing review (mostly about customer service) from the owner of a restaurant that proved to me I can make a little difference for a kind of business that classically struggles to make ends meet. He informed me that he’d spoken to his staff about the customer service issues and would try to add a vegan option to their menu starting in the new year. I’ve been eagerly watching their online menu, awaiting the needed change so that we can give their generous drink specials another try.

Contrastingly, I also got a message from another Yelp! user, below.

For your review of: XXXXX Restaurant

Why would you go to a Colombian restaurant with the expectation that you would find a variety of items that are not even Colombian? This is not useful at all and you ruin the reputation of good restaurants. Try Colombian restaurants if you want Colombian food. What you did is akin to going to a Indian restaurant and wondering why they dont have a great steak on the menu. It seems you need to be a bit more wordly in you culinary pursuits.

Naturally I responded.

To answer your question there are 3 reasons why I would go to and review a restaurant in the manner you describe.
1. As a person with food allergies, I’m really grateful to Yelp! for reviews that inform me as to whether I’ll be able to eat at a particular restaurant without getting violently ill. I’m paying it forward.
2. As a customer, even when a menu doesn’t look promising (with respect to dietary restrictions), a good kitchen will try to accommodate the needs of a customer. This addresses a customer service issue.
3. Restaurants might not know that they can broaden their base and increase revenue by adding menu items that will entice people who might otherwise avoid trying something new because of food allergies or religious, medical or personal reasons for avoiding certain foods. This notifies the restaurant of a demand they’re not filling.

I hope that answers your questions. Thanks again for asking.

Do any of you Yelp!? What do you think of the service? Have you had an experience like this one? Another option is Vegan Food is Everywhere that also helps vegans find food. Who uses it? Do you like it?

This is Christie, signing off!

What is “Vegan”?

Typically something is vegan if it’s not an animal product. Vegans usually rationalize this choice by offering any or all of three justifications:

1. It’s better for the planet.

2. It’s better for the animal.

3. It’s better for my body.

Nothing is ever so grey as real life, even in the face of something that can seem very black and white. A question I’ve been pondering is “what about farmed shellfish?”

1. Is it better for the planet? After some research, I’ve learned that clams, oysters and mussels when farmed actually have a positive impact on their local environment when farmed. These organisms filter water of microscopic algae, plankton and other particulate from the water, leaving it cleaner than it was before the addition of the creatures. Because removing impurities from water is their food source, they require no outside food source like fish or corn meal, making them sustainable in terms of their nutritional requirements during farming. They can also be seeded on posts in shallow water, ropes in open water and bags in deeper water. These are retrieved when the bivalves are ready for consumption without bycatch or damage to the ocean floor (as opposed to dredging – the ocean’s environmental equivalent of clear-cutting a forest).

2. Is it better for the animals? Because I doubt the sentience of these organisms because of their highly simplified nervous systems. I subsequently doubt that they can suffer the was a suffocating fish can. If they’re also responsible for cleaning water, this improves the lives of other marine animals.

3. Is it better for my body? Molluscs offer a suite of nutrients that vegans often have trouble getting, including zinc and B12. The nutritional profiles of clams, mussels and oysters include copious omega-3 and -6 fatty acids, iron and protein. Unfortunately they’re also rich in cholesterol which I consider to be their only drawback.

Would I stop being a vegan if I decided to start occasionally including these organisms as food in my diet? I admit I would eat ants, grasshoppers, worms and snails if they were readily available so maybe this was inevitable. I’m curious as to what other vegans think.

This is Christie, signing off!

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Sunday Bunday in the shade!

We took the bunnies out for a romp in the grass. This is an image of our foster bunnies. They were keen to bounce around and dig holes in our verdant, lush lawn.

And here’s our forever bunny. He mostly wanted to lounge. He’s pretty good at it and we think he deserves it.

They had so much fun. Rabbits aren’t appropriate outdoor pets, particularly in a place as hot as Florida. Bunnies don’t tolerate temperatures above 75F or cooler than 55F and there are too many stray dogs, feral cats and birds of prey to make me comfortable leaving the fat little morsels outdoors unsupervised even with the protection of a hutch. Instead we keep them inside so that they can dart out from under furniture and demand attention.

This is Christie and Brent, signing off!

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Lemon Sorrel!

Whenever fiddleheads and ramps come into season, I can’t help myself. They’re so tasty! We’re revisiting a favorite, fiddlehead and ramp salad but this time we’re doing wraps instead of on top of toasted bread and including a new twist – lemon sorrel.
This particular vegetable has a light herbal fragrance and a mellow lemony flavor that compliment the savory earthy salad well. We prepared the salad as before and then combined it with the lemon sorrel in a wrap. It was DIVINE! This particular leafy green was grown here in Florida. If you find it in your local market, TRY IT!


This is Christie, signing off!

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Very Inspiring Blogger Award!

Poppy of Poppy’s Pastisserie and Bunny Kitchen graciously bestowed upon us the Very Inspiring Blogger award. Poppy is a compassionate lady and an ace baker. She’s got lots of furry and feathery friends in her house and still manages time to blog delicious goodies. I wish I could do what she does…

So, here are the rules for this award;

1. Display the award badge on your blog

2. Announce your win with a post and link to whoever presented you with the award

3. Post 7 interesting things about yourself

4. Present 15 awards to deserving bloggers

5. Drop them a comment to tip them off after you have linked them in the post

7 ‘Interesting’ things about Myself:

1.  My cholesterol hovers between 120 and 130 but has been as low as 95 since I became vegan.
2. My haemoglobin has remained in the high end of the normal range since I stopped eating animal products.

3. I love pomegranates.

4. I don’t like doing chores because it means there’s less time to spend with my beloved and the bunnies.

5. Reading a book in bed while it rains is one of my favorite activities.

6. I enjoy knitting things for my friends, but I hate the actual process of knitting.

7. I hem my own jeans.

Blogs I award:

1. Live Blissful is written by a student who transitioned to vegan through blogging. I wish I’d been younger when I became vegan, so I live vicariously through her.

2. Sophie’s Foodie Files is one of my favorite international perspectives on healthy living. She makes me feel comfortable about traveling while vegan.

3. An Unrefined Vegan is one of my favorite source for food pornography. She’s always got something delicious going on over there.

4. Cameraphone Vegan is a blog that I love because they’re always cluing me into local vegan fare. Otherwise I’d just stay at home.

5. Bentoriffic</a> is exactly what it sounds like… charming thoughtful bento boxes of compassionate delicious!

6. The Beach House Kitchen always makes me pine for a picnic on the beach with one of their delicious raw meals or delicately spiced hot dishes.

7. Veg HotPot is a vegetarian blog that often posts enticing vegan dishes (recently a pizza recipe that made my eyeballs roll back in my head with anticipation and delight.)

8. The Vegan’s Husband is a blog about a guy who loves his lady enough to adopt her eating habits and then realized it’s kind of awesome. He does occasional AWESOME beer reviews which inspired Turning Veganese to review gluten-free beers and hard cider.

9. Bessie’s Veggie Food always picks up on seasonal favorites and takes them to a while other level.

10. Whatcha Reading makes me want a hot bowl of soup and my most recent novel for a rainy day reading adventure with some comfort food.

11. Luminous Vegans has long been a favorite of mine and I don’t see than changing anytime soon.

12. My Good Clean Food is a blog that’s as beautiful as it is informative.

13. I want to eat everything on The Misfit Baker’s blog.

14. Sometimes I wish Somer’s Veged Out was my home. I want to live there.

15. Canned Time is always inventive including vegan and gluten-free recipes. I like that.

Thanks again to Poppy! This is Christie, signing off!

Sunday Bunday

Today, Vlad is here to deliver another important message to fellow vegans. A healthy lifestyle does not stop at diet, but also includes exercise!

Follow your dreams, Vlad. One day you will surely trounce that towel.

From Vlad, Christie and Brent… Peace out, my vegans.

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Off-Day Bunnday

Hey gang! We interrupt your slice of craziness to bring you a cute PSA. Apples are delicious, and good for you. If you like, share them with a friend. In our case, we share them with our flemish giant, Vlad.

Have an awesome day, a great week, and a better year!

From Vlad, Brent, and Christie… Peace out, my vegans!



Special Note : Apples are super sugary, and loads of apple for you or a rabbit can be bad. Especially bunns as they are easily diabetic. The more you know! ( ^u^)

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Sunday Bunday!

The theme of this particular Sunday bunday post is whether or not a rabbit is the right pet for you and your family. Easter is a time when rabbits are sold to unwitting buyers; they often end up dumped, dead or neglected. Education is a really important part of preventing this from happening. If people know what they’re getting into when they buy that cute puff, rabbits are less likely to be victims. I’m about to share what I’ve learned about bunnies with you, even if it’s too late.

1. Rabbits are considered exotic. Unless you live in a country where rabbits are popular pets like Germany or Japan, good veterinary care for a rabbit is extraordinarily expensive. Veterinarians who specialize in rabbit care are hard to find and a vet who is great with cats or dogs may have no idea what to do with a rabbit. Just to give you an idea, I haven’t paid less than $400 for a vet visit. Pet insurance is available for rabbits in some states starting at around $12 per month. If you get a rabbit, I would recommend it.

2. Rabbits are a long term commitment. They live 8-12 years. Think about where and with whom you’ll be living. Aggressive cats or dogs and small children can be a death sentence for a rabbit. Many apartment buildings also don’t allow pets.

3. Rabbits are high maintenance. Rabbits don’t show illness by whining or sulking like cats or dogs; as prey animals they don’t show obvious signs of distress. Since they can go from happy and healthy to dead in a matter of hours, watching them closely for subtle deviations from normal behavior is a must. This also means that you have to be able to drop everything and get your rabbit to a vet ASAP on the faintest hint something might be wrong. If you don’t have that kind of flexible schedule, consider adopting a cat. Regular nail trimming (every 6-8 weeks) and hair trimming for long haired breeds, teeth checks (twice a year by a vet) and close monitoring of food intake and litter boxes are vital to a rabbit’s health as well as diligent household cleanliness since crumbs of common human foods can be oily enough to cause a bunny serious gastric upset and possibly death.

4. Rabbits should be kept indoors. Rabbits need space to roam and exercise every day in order to stay healthy. If kept outdoors they need to be protected from wild predators, domesticated cats and dogs, humans, poisonous plants and heat. Rabbits are expert diggers and chewers so most enclosed yards aren’t enough  to keep them contained so most owners resort to wood and wire hutches. Unfortunately there are no hutches that are perfectly dog proof, so be ready for the eventuality of your rabbit [fat vulnerable morsel] being torn apart by a loose dog if you’re not ready to keep your rabbit indoors. Hutches also offer little in terms of climate control; bunnies can die of shock in temperatures over 75F or 23C. Another issue with hutches is that they’re usually too small, prevent adequate socialization with their caretakers, sufficient supervision and common wire mesh floors can seriously damage bunnies’ feet, causing excruciating pain and health problems. Optimally they can be kept indoors without a cage since adults who have been spayed or neutered are easily trained to use a litter box.

5. Rabbits must be spayed or neutered. You might think that companion bunnies should be fixed to control their incredible fertility, but this is only one small part of why they should be desexed. Rabbits are sexually mature between 3 and 5 months of age. The most common reasons people realize it is when (in no particular order) a. the rabbits forget how to use a litter box, b. male bunnies and particularly females become aggressive and territorial, c. male rabbits begin spraying and humping. These behaviors are reduced or eliminated by a spay or neuter operation as well as a significant reduction in musky odors bunnies use to communicate how attractive they are to their paramours. Intact female rabbits are also highly likely to develop cancers of the reproductive tract and can die a painful death before they’re more than a few years old. The operation usually costs between $75 and $300 dollars averaging out at around $200. Shelter adoption fees might seem pricey, but they usually include a medical exam and a spay or neuter operation which is a huge value – plus you don’t have to worry about whether or not the bunny will survive anesthesia.

6. Rabbits are destructive. Unless you’re ready to replace furniture, rugs and electronics every few months, consider the kind of work your house will need to be bunny proofed. Rabbits are notorious chewers for a reason; they’re really good at it and actually need to chew in order to grind down their teeth which are constantly growing. Rabbits also like to dig and can destroy carpets and finished floors. A few things can be done to assuage these behaviors like supervision/interaction, toys that are more appealing than your prized belongings and persistent bunny proofing. This is one of the reasons rabbits are often kept in pairs – rabbits tend to be less destructive when they’ve got a friend to socialize with and groom instead of being left alone to plot the demise of your prized antique sofa.

7. Rabbits are clean but allergies are still a concern. Bunnies are very clean (cleaner than cats); they groom themselves, can’t vomit hairballs, make dry very low odor poops and their mouths and digestive tracts harbor few bacteria that are harmful to healthy humans relative to dogs or cats. Even if a bunny digs around in its litter box, their nails are much cleaner than the average litter box trained cat. Rabbits also have no particular odor (as long as they’re fixed), unlike dogs or rodents (rabbits are lagomorphs, not rodents), though their urine can be uniquely pungent if left in litter boxes for more than a handful of days. They shed most of their fur at once. Fortunately this only happens 3-4 times a year but be prepared for an explosion of loose hair when it happens. Bunnies do require copious amounts of hay which excites the allergy response in most people just because it can be dusty or because they’re allergic to the specific content of the hay. This can be overcome by using orchard grass, timothy hay, oat hay, or any other kind of available hay that doesn’t cause a reaction.

8. Rabbits do not like to be handled. Rabbits are prey animals and usually the last thing that a wild rabbit experiences before dying is being picked up by a predator. Their skeletons are lightweight and their bodies are very muscular, allowing rabbits to run at high rates of speed. Subsequently, a rabbit can kick hard enough to break it’s own leg or back if it feels threatened. I know bunny owners who were well versed and experienced with handling their animal and have had to euthanize it after it kicked at the wrong time. Their skin is also delicate, in the environment in which rabbits evolved, this allowed them to escape a predator by leaving skin, an ear or a tail behind. This means that a well meaning child (or adult) can seriously injure a rabbit by handling it the way they might otherwise safely play with a cat or dog. Domesticated rabbits aren’t robust enough to withstand this kind of accident without immediate veterinary attention.

9. Rabbits don’t like loud noises. Rabbits warn each other of danger by dropping their well muscled badonk-a-donk behinds on the ground resulting in a loud ‘thump’ (we can hear it on the other side of our house). Loud noises distress rabbits because it prevents them from using this mode of communication, make them think there is danger when there isn’t any and/or can offend their sensitive ears. Brent is in the habit of drumming with his hands on his thighs which happens to bring our bunny to attention, anticipating danger. Homes with barking dogs, loud music, shrieking children, clattering pots and pans or other loud noises might not be appropriate for bunnies.

10. Rabbits have very particular nutritional requirements. Adult bunnies should eat a diet of unrestricted access to hay and water,  2-4 cups of fresh greens (like spring mix, cilanto, mint, dill, parsley, etc.) per 5 lbs of bunny weight and 1/4 cup per 5 lbs of bunny of timothy hay based pellets that are free of artificial colorings/dairy products/seeds/nuts/dried fruits or anything that looks like something other than boring old pellets. Fresh or dried fruit can be given as a treat but never more than 1 tablespoon per 5 pounds of bunny per day. The need for fresh greens can be expensive (we usually collect cast off carrot tops from local farmer’s markets, green grocers and juice shops) and can prevent you from leaving them alone with an automated feeder over the weekend while you travel.

TL;DR Bunnies aren’t for everyone and definitely not for your typical home with cats, dogs and/or children or for grown-ups with tight schedules or who are frequent travelers. They’re great pets for anyone who is observant, empathetic, patient (or who wants a great incentive to work on their patience and empathy), can resist the urge to scoop them up and snuggle them and has money to spare. I’m admittedly painting the dimmest view of rabbits in order to dissuade casual purchases. I obviously adopted a rabbit as an animal companion and love the fudge out of him for good reason. They are amazing animals. That may be a post for another day.

Our giant bunny is currently dating and apparently has that craggy Tommy Lee Jones thing going on that the ladies go nuts over and the gents seem to admire. We’ll find him a friend soon enough. He’s not the destructive-when-lonely type but nobody will understand him like another bunny will and we want him to be happy, particularly when he brings us so much joy (plus, he’s our super Zen master).

This is Christie, signing off!

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Vegan on a Budget

Brent and I have been entertaining the idea of trying a food stamp challenge: that is living on what the average Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP recipient does. This is partly because rising food costs affect us all and are particularly hard on the most vulnerable among us. We’re also interested in demonstrating that being vegan on a budget isn’t impossible or torturous.

The average food stamp recipient gets just $31.50 per week. I realize how much money that is when I think about my favorite oatmeal costing just a few dollars for a supply that will last several weeks. Add the raisins and agave nectar (that will last a little longer than the oats) and you’ve got a nutritious tasty breakfast for a week, for example. I also realize how little money it is when I think about how much Brent and I can spend at a Starbucks.

We’re planning to present you with receipts and nutritional profiles for our meals. I suspect that meeting nutritional requirements will be the most challenging part but I’m prepared for some creative solutions to these problems. We’ll be following B12 and the intake of zinc most closely (since vegans can have trouble getting these nutrients) but iron, calcium and protein will be among the nutrients we follow (for those skeptical carnists among us). Vitamins C, A and D are easy to get if you eat vegetables and leave your house once a day for a few minutes so we’re not too concerned about those but we’ll be watching them anyways.

We’re curious about what you’d like to see as we undertake this challenge. What should our rules reasonably include? Are fruit from local trees and condiments from take-out fair game as ‘free food’ or should we stick to our budgeted foods? Would supplements be cheating if we can budget them? We want to hear from you because you’re the ones we do all this stuff for.

This is Christie and Brent, signing off!

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