Read Inspiring Interviews with Vegan individuals who have started companies, created recipes and just lead a life of compassion. Enjoy!
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT….HERE’S A RE-POST OF MY INTERVIEW WITH THE AMAZING VICTORIA MORAN!
What an honor to have had the opportunity to interview Victoria Moran. Victoria is an icon in the vegan world. She is the very passionate and compassionate founder of the Main Street Vegan Academy. She has written numerous best-selling books. Victoria’s story is awe-inspiring. I thank you, Victoria, for this interview.
VT: You are a true rock star of the vegan movement. Can you tell us a bit about how you became involved?
VM: I started out as a teenage vegetarian when even that was highly unusual. I also interviewed actual rock stars at that time and wrote articles about them for teen magazines. That led to writing for vegetarian and health publications. In 1981, I was in college and earned a fellowship for foreign study. I used it to go to the UK, where there were more vegans since the movement had started there in the 1940s, to study them from a sociological perspective. That led to my first book — and as far as I know the first book on vegan philosophy and practice ever to come from a real publisher — Compassion the Ultimate Ethic, published in 1985.
VT: How are things different now than they were when you first became vegan?
VM: People know how to pronounce the word now, and most people have some idea of what it is; at that time, the response to ‘I’m vegan’ was ‘You’re what?’ It’s been amazing to observe the growth. It started with vegan and veg-friendly books: Diet for a Small Planet, Fit for Life, Diet for a New America, Skinny Bitch. Then the documentaries came along: Earthlings, Forks Over Knives, Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead, Cowspiracy. And groups such as Peta and Mercy for Animals started to get undercover footage of animal cruelty, and PCRM and some of the plant-based physicians got real studies published on the health side. And the Internet came on the scene, spreading the vegan message like wildfire. The upshot is that although not everyone is vegan and not everyone wants to be, the society does regard this as a legitimate lifestyle choice. Because it is, and because so many non-vegans are choosing vegan foods and cruelty-free products some of the time, there is food for us to eat everywhere and making this choice is monumentally easier than it’s ever been.
VT: I find your books, informative, easy to read and inspirational. With twelve books under your belt, which one would you say was the most fun to write and which one is the first you recommend to people?
VM: You’re kind to say so. I do so much these days with the Main Street Vegan podcast and Main Street Vegan Academy and speaking all over the place that I sometimes forget that, at my core, I am a writer and always will be. Main Street Vegan is a real classic now, five years after its publication. I would recommend that one first to aspiring, new, or not so not so new vegans. It’s very comprehensive, 40 short chapters with an easy recipe at the end of each one. And book number 13 is coming — The Main Street Vegan Academy Cookbook. JL Fields is my coauthor and recipes and tips come from some 60 Main Street Vegan Academy graduates, including you. Its pub date is December 19, but people can preorder now on Amazon.
(NOTE: The Main Street Vegan Academy Cookbook is in bookstores and on Amazon at the time of this re-post.)
VT: I am ecstatic to be a graduate of the Main Street Vegan Academy and I find people all over know of the Academy and respect it. (Just as it should be.) How did the acadmy come about?
VM: I would frankly file the Academy under ‘modern-day miracle.’ I had the idea for Main Street Vegan, the book, and the publisher disliked having ‘Main Street’ in the title. I was wracking my brain for a different title and trying to write, but nothing was coming. Then I was walking up Broadway here in NYC, and there was Michael Moore, the filmmaker, who had liked a weight loss book I’d written almost a decade earlier. We started talking and one evening on a call with him I mentioned the title problem and he said, ‘They’re wrong; it’s the perfect title; let me talk to them.’ So, there was a 3-way call between this Academy Award winner, my editor, and me (you can see why I’m comfortable with the word ‘miracle’), and he convinced her that I should get to keep my title. She then had to convince her bosses and when she called a few days later to tell me that Main Street Vegan was indeed my title, a host of other ideas bubbled up inside me, and the brightest of all was: Main Street Vegan Academy, training and certifying Vegan Lifestyle Coaches and Educators. We’ve now been operational for five years and have over 250 graduates from 16 countries.
VT: Would you mind explaining your M.E.N.D. philosophy?
VM: I’m fond of acronyms because they’re easy to remember and to access. MEND is something I came up for my health presentations (I’m an ethical vegan first, but also a health vegan. To me, they’re perfectly compatible). I say, ‘What if you could mend your ways, press the delete key on what you used to eat, drink, or think, virtually impressing upon your body that none of that had ever happened?’ And the way to do this, I tell my audiences, is M-E-N-D: Meditation, Exercise, Nourishment, and Detoxification. To my mind, it’s holistic health in a syllable.
VT: While at the academy, you made some delicious food for us. What is your favorite food?
VM: It depends on when you ask me. It’s summer now and I eat a lot of simple food, a lot of raw food. Yesterday I had a nectarine that seemed like the most delicious thing I’d ever eaten. In winter, I like soups, stews, chowders, chili — heavier, more comfort foods. And I’ll share my guilty pleasure: really good chai tea, brewed with almond or soy milk. I’m thrilled that tea has antioxidants and health benefits, but I’d drink it even if it didn’t. My favorite is a powered, spiced black tea — no sugar — that I discovered at the Portland (Oregon) VegFest: Blue Lotus Chai.
VT: I could ask you a million more questions, but in a effort to keep this short, I’ll ask you if you have anything else you’d like to share.
VM: I think the biggest thing is to encourage your readers to keep on with this if they’re moving toward a vegan lifestyle and to stay with it if they’re new vegans. We are still very much a minority in the culture at large and that can be tough. Therefore, get tons of support from Meetup groups, online groups, and any other vegans in your local area. It’s worth driving 100 miles a month to have lunch with another vegan if you have to. People give up on this far more because of loneliness, isolation, and social pressure than for any other reason. I’d also recommend that you immerse yourself in vegan information on every level. If you’re in this for health, learn about the animal issues so there’s no way you could ever say, ‘Well, just this once won’t hurt.’ If you’re an animal rights vegan, delve into the joys of healthy eating and feeling amazingly well. (My husband was an ethical vegan for several years, and in January of this year, he decided to up his exercise and eat mostly raw food. He’s not only lost 60 pounds and built substantial muscle — at 65 years old! — but his hair and beard, pure white for the past eight years at least, have returned to their former sandy brown color. I would never have believed this myself had I not seen it, and if I didn’t live with him and know for a fact that he’s not using hair color.)
VT: Where can people find more about you and the Main Street Vegan Academy?
VM: Thanks for asking. The website for all my goings-on is www.mainstreetvegan.net, and the direct link to the Academy page is www.mainstreetvegan.net/academy. It is a life-changing, 5-and-a-half-day, in-person course in New York City, training and certifying people who are already vegan to help others on their vegan path. Our curriculum is based around Vegan Principles, Communication Principles, and Business Principles, and some of our grads have founded vegan businesses: Riverdel Cheese, Kat Mendenhall cowboy boots, and BrytLife Foods (vegan yogurt). We feature a stellar faculty, inspiring field trips, and unparalleled networking opportunities afterwards. Check us out: if you feel this is for you, we’d love to have you as part of the Main Street Vegan Academy family.
VT: Thank you, Victoria!!!!
VT: It is a pleasure to “chat” with Chef Bamboo and Jojo, creators of The Beet Box. I first learned of The Beet Box at the Hudson Valley VegFest when I had their green juice. It was sooo amazing! So refreshing and revitalizing. After looking at the webpage, I knew I not only wanted to try everything on their menu, but that I had to spread the word about their food, their mission and how they got started. Read on and then find them and try their food/drinks….you won’t be disappointed!
VT: Would you please tell us a bit about your company and how it got started.
Bamboo: The Beet Box is an all vegan food business. Sometimes we’re a booth, and sometimes we’re a food truck. You can find us at music & yoga festivals all over the East coast.
Jojo is from England. We were both living in Asia and met in Bali where I was working at a retreat center and Jojo was studying to become a Kundalini yoga teacher. We wanted to start a vegan business somewhere in the world, and went exploring. We were in Laos, then Thailand and ended up in the earthquake in Nepal in April 2015.
We came to the States to be with family, and were struck by how hard it was to find the kind of organic healthy food we like to eat.
We came up with the idea for The Beet Box because we want the work we do to be of value to the world. We want to help make healthy choices available and easy for people.
Jojo: I ran guesthouses in West China near Tibet for six years, that’s where I learned how to build and market my own business. In the countries I’ve lived in Asia, people eat a lot more simple whole foods, much less meat and traditionally, only children eat milk products. (We’re not really designed to be able to digest dairy as adults.) And guess what? There’s less obesity, less depression and people are happier and healthier, even though they might be considered extremely poor by US standards.
Of course, now there’s Pizza Hut and KFC in Asia more and more, and they’re starting to have the same health issues as Westerners as a result. So it’s time to reset the balance.
I truly believe in natural medicine and eating for health. There’s an Ayurvedic proverb that says, ‘With right nutrition medicine is of no need, with wrong nutrition medicine is of no use.’
We can continue to let ourselves be exploited by the food and pharmaceutical industries, or we can wake up and take responsibility for our own wellness. Of course that’s very difficult if McDonald’s is the only restaurant in your town. So we wanted to make another choice available.
Bamboo’s food tastes amazing, as well as making you feel great. When people try it and realise that, they feel confident about being able to eat better on a daily basis. Many people say they’d happily eat vegan all the time if it tastes this good. That’s what makes what we do so worthwhile.
VT: Why Vegan?
Bamboo: I started training as a chef when I was 13, starting in conventional restaurants. As a vegetarian, I was no longer comfortable cooking and serving meat.
Then I developed a heart condition, in my twenties. I decided I was done with cooking food I no longer wanted to eat for good. I stopped drinking and quit my job in a Santa Cruz pizzeria. Instead I started managing vegan food booths at events on the West Coast. That was ten years ago.
Jojo: I’ve always been interested in wellness and nutrition, as well as in yoga and Eastern Philosophy. I love animals and became vegetarian when I was 12, against my parents wishes. I’ve studied yogic dietary guidelines, which promotes a lacto-ovo vegetarian diet, I’ve practised fasting, followed raw foodism, and explored a lot of different schools of nutrition.
To me, it seems like everyone’s body has different needs and we have to find the diet that works best for us. But for us it’s important to consider how our food choices affect the Earth as a whole, and how animals are treated in the meat & dairy industry too.
The Beet Box is vegan because we care about the impact of our business on the planet, as well as on our health. There are massive environmental benefits every time we choose to eat vegan instead of meat or dairy.
Here’s some statistics just for eating vegetarian for one day, (From HuffPost.com). Eating vegan only tips the balance even further in a positive direction.
If everyone went vegetarian just for one day, the U.S. would save:
● 100 billion gallons of water, enough to supply all the homes in New England for almost 4 months;
● 1.5 billion pounds of crops otherwise fed to livestock, enough to feed the state of New Mexico for more than a year;
● 70 million gallons of gas—enough to fuel all the cars of Canada and Mexico combined with plenty to spare;
● 3 million acres of land, an area more than twice the size of Delaware;
● 33 tons of antibiotics.
If everyone went vegetarian just for one day, the U.S. would prevent:
● Greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to 1.2 million tons of CO2, as much as produced by all of France;
● 3 million tons of soil erosion and $70 million in resulting economic damages;
● 4.5 million tons of animal excrement;
● Almost 7 tons of ammonia emissions, a major air pollutant.
Jojo: We don’t just choose vegan, we choose organic wherever we can because pesticides harm the environment for all life on this planet. We also use only compostable serveware because plastic production is another massively damaging industry that we prefer not to support.
Bamboo: Our collective, Sacred Beets, is a group nomadic free spirits, musicians & fire spinners who love festival life, and have discovered that eating vibrant vegan whole foods is what gives us the energy to live the lives we love.
We’re compassionate people, we don’t want to see unnecessary suffering of any kind by humans or animals alike.
We believe a vegan plant-based diet can be an important part of the solution to the health and environmental issues we’re facing today, and help leave a better world for future generations. With The Beet Box, we have the opportunity to encourage more people to make a more positive choice with every meal we serve. And that makes us happy.
VT: Tell us about “The Beet Fleet”.
Jojo: The Beet Fleet is our troop of 1980s vehicles with everlasting diesel engines, built before the days of planned obsolescence. We couldn’t get to the festivals without them. Bamboo’s built The Beet Box food truck himself from scratch. A diesel engine can be converted to run on vegetable oil fairly easily for $1500 to $3000, and then you save on gas.
Bamboo: Our daily car is a VW golf that runs on veg-oil, and we love it. We don’t use deep fryers in The Beet Box for health reasons, but almost all the other food vendors do. We can take the waste veg oil from other food vendors and when the festival’s over we use it to get home. It’s a perfect match because otherwise they have to find a safe way to dispose of all that oil.
VT: I’ve had your juice….soooooo delicious! What is your “best seller”?
Jojo: Drinks-wise it has to be the Elephant Juice (green juice with ginger & lime) or Pink Elephant Juice (hibiscus infused with ginger & lime). I love getting people to try both the green and the pink, everyone has a different favourite. Our newest juice is Jamu Jamu, (citrus juice blended with fresh turmeric & black pepper) it’s a natural medicine drink inspired from an Indonesian recipe and people love it. All the juices are medicine – you’ll drink one in the morning and it’s like all the cells in your body come alive.
Bamboo: People usually try our signature Beet Burger first, and when they come back for more they fall in love with the Tempeh Reuben and the Philly Beet Steak – our vegan take on a Philly Cheese.
It’s often a surprise from event to event what sells most. Sometimes it’s the TBLT – the tempeh ‘bacon’ lettuce tomato sandwich, or everyone wants our kale salad.
VT: Would you like to add anything?
SB: Each year, we’re invited to more festivals, so we’re looking to expand our amazing crew.
If you have experience in food preparation, customer service, and are interested in the vegan lifestyle, we’d like to hear from you! You can find out more at www.sacredbeets.com and contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
VT: Where can we find you?
SB: Our 2018 festival season will start in May and we’re currently taking with all our favourite events. We’ll be posting our calendar on sacredbeets.com and on social media. Follow us on Facebook/thebeetbox or @thebeetbox on Instagram.
We do events in New York, like the Vegan Food & Drink festival on Randall’s Island. We go to Massachusetts for Levitate and Green River. Last year we were in Rhode Island for Newport Folk and Jazz Festivals and traveled as far as Michigan for Electric Forest.
We’ve had the amazing opportunity to interview Vegan chef, coach and now TV star, Cindy of Veganizalo! She lives in Puerto Rico where she runs Veganizalo. Her TV segments can be found on YouTube and are in Spanish, which I love! Cindy is a fellow Main Street Vegan Academy Graduate (We were classmates!). I’m excited to share all she’s done this past year.
VT: Would you please tell us why and how you became Vegan? What brought you to a Vegan lifestyle?
C: I have the weirdest story for becoming vegan. So, you know how we influence people through veganism? That’s what happened to me. My best friend was living in Cali and she became vegetarian and then vegan. So, whenever she came to visit I would make dinner for her. Back then even before she changed her lifestyle I knew the difference between veganism and vegetarianism. I always had a little bug in the back of my mind that wondered about doing it. Like most people, I thought it was too extreme to go vegan so I thought about going vegetarian. I never did. I was mostly vegetarian since I didn’t like meat that much and I could survive off non-meat meals but never considered myself part of the vegetarian community. Going back to my bestie, one day she called me and we were talking about almond milk, before it was a fad, and she shared a recipe to make it at home. I did it and boy I was so in love with it. I never liked cow milk and I had a soy milk phase back in the days. Basically, almond milk got me thinking that I could replace milk and cheeses and that was the hardest for me. I got some groceries and vegan cheeses and that’s how it started.
Shorter version- I loved making almond milk and thought about replacing cheese (biggest addiction), went out got food, stared at tofu for a long time before actually cooking it. Re-learned to eat and went vegan.
VT: Living in Puerto Rico, was it difficult to find Vegan ingredients for your recipes?
C: It was pretty easy! We have tons of things we grow and that’s when I started going to our Farmers’ Markets. We, also, have a local grocery store that is like a mini version of Whole Foods. They carry most of the stuff that I started with and I always bought something new to try when I was starting. I think more than finding the ingredients, it was replacing the ones that I had in mind with new ones that fit in with what I was doing.
VT: You are a fellow Main Street Vegan Academy graduate. Would you tell us why you travelled so far to attend the academy and what the benefits were/are for you?
C: Well N,Y is NYC after all. The big apple. I actually love NY so when I learned about MSVA I was so pumped. I actually went in 2016 but I think it was around 2013 that I learned about it. So I thought about it long enough. Around Oct 2015 I said if I don’t apply now I never will. I did. I got in and the rest was just planning and making sure that I was ready to go. I saw the Academy as an opportunity to learn more about the things I’m passionate about, also meeting fellow vegans and networking. What I’ve received from it are blessings in form of friends and an extended vegan family around the states, and opportunities to educate and be someone who has a voice in our local vegan community.
VT: Tell us about Veganizalo. The food on your webpage, Veganizalo.com, looks amazing. I see you sell at Farmers’ Markets and do catering. How was Veganizalo born?
C: Veganízalo was another project I was cooking since 2013. Then life happens and spiral into daily routines and in late 2014 I decided that I had to start somewhere and that’s when I started brainstorming to share recipes on YouTube, so it actually started as a YT channel that veganized local recipes and local favorites and I decided to do it in Spanish because it was an untapped community, most of the things around the net was in English. The thing that got attention was a sandwich spread that we do here for birthdays and that is nostalgic for most of us that go vegan (not anymore!). So that’s the reason behind the name Veganízalo is a call to action in English would be Veganize it! We launched our amazing food at our local Vegan Fest and it was a hit. We got some loyal clients, people that come from corners of the island to eat and omnivores who love our food. We’ve done small caterings and pop-ups at different locations.
VT: I’ve watched you on TV! You’re a natural! Congratulations! How’d that happen? Where can we find the videos and will you be appearing more often? Your own segment, perhaps?
C: The TV thing haha. That’s a gig that I was lucky to get thanks to a local magazine called Tu Salud. Theý’ve been around for 24 years and they’re all about promoting veganism and a healthy lifestyle. So, I know the editor because back in the days when I was a baby vegan she gave a class on raw vegan food and I was her student. Fast forward to the present we have a Vegan Mafia (not really) of local vegan chefs and entrepreneurs. So, Tu Salud is the sponsor of that spot and they invite local chefs to share recipes. I love the fact that our local TV has a spot to share vegan recipes each week. Will I appear more often? I don’t know hahaha is a matter of getting invited, I’ve been there 2 times already and I love it. It’s fun and you get to step out of your comfort zone in a fun way.
VT: What is the Vegan movement like in Puerto Rico? Are people embracing a Vegan lifestyle?
C: The vegan movement is growing like crazy. I’ve compared it with people who have been longer on this path and we all agree that in the late years is growing quickly and we are so happy. I feel so lucky because in the community I’ve found a vegan family of my own which is very important to me now that I have a little vegan at home. I want him to grow around people that are like minded and that will somehow help me explain and show what veganism is to this little person that will be learning so much in the years to come. I expect a lot of positive things in the near future.
VT: Is there anything else you’d like to add? How can people reach you?
C: I would like to thank you for this opportunity. To those new vegans, hang in there! You may be lost but you’ll learn so much and you will love the path you’ve chosen. If you’re ever around my island reach out! I love when tourists ask me where to go and get the goodies in terms of food, I love meeting vegans from around the globe. Also, share Veganizalo with those Spanish speaking friends and family. We are on YoutTube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
VT: Thank you!!!
I’d like to introduce you all to someone who is inspirational, courageous and a truly compassionate person in every sense of the word. I am proud to call Naomi Green a colleague and friend. Naomi’s story is touching and eye-opening. I couldn’t pass up a chance to chat with her regarding her story, her life and her wonderful business.
VT: Would you please tell us a bit about why you transitioned to a Vegan lifestyle?
NG: In 2014, I felt a lump in my breast and was diagnosed with Stage 2, Grade 3 breast cancer. I was told I would need to remove my left breast, go through 6 months of chemotherapy and 35 rounds of radiation. I really couldn’t even believe I had cancer because I didn’t have any of the 20 or so risk factors for developing breast cancer. And, I already ate as healthy as I knew how at the time and exercised, even jogging with my dogs, regularly. Toward the end of chemo, I asked my oncologist the serious question: “What should I be eating or what should I NOT be eating to keep cancer from coming back?” She looked me dead in the eye and told me I should eat whatever I could to keep my strength up to withstand chemo. I told her I wasn’t having any problem with the chemo whatsoever and I told her I really wanted to know what to eat and she shook her head and said there is nothing to say. So, I was forced to consult with “Dr. Google” and I came upon the documentary “Forks Over Knives,” which is available for free on Netflix. In that movie, I heard Dr. Colin Campbell. Ph.D,, Professor Emeritus of Nutritional Biochemistry at Cornell University, describe how he discovered, in all of the research he and others had done over 30 years, that animal protein in the diet turns cancer cells on and not eating animal protein in the diet turns cancer cells off. He explained how they replicated the experiments to use different types of animal proteins under different conditions and time frames and that he could even turn on and turn off cancer cells by raising and lowering the amount of protein in the diet at 3 week intervals. The documentary goes on to explain the scientific evidence for animal protein as a cause of diseases like obesity, diabetes and heart disease, too. That’s all I needed to hear and that was something I could grab onto to try to keep my cancer from coming back. The answer was to immediately clean out my kitchen of all animal products and processed foods and junk foods and I went whole food vegan overnight in December 2014. At around that same time I also watched “Crazy, Sexy Cancer” in which Stage 4 cancer survivor Kris Carr comes to that same conclusion. I also read, “Radical Remission” by Kelly Turner, Ph.D., who also cites radically changing your diet to a whole food plant-based diet as one of the 9 factors (of which I did all 9) that can really make a difference in cancer. A few months later, I visited an integrative oncologist in person, who also suggested a vegan diet and was thrilled to find out I had already done it.
VT: You are the Founder of the company, Going Vegan For Health. Would you please tell us a bit about your page and your company?
NG: So, after adopting the whole food vegan diet and regaining a feeling of power over my health and recovering from cancer treatment quickly, I wanted to scream this information from the rooftops to teach cancer survivors and other people who are struggling with high blood pressure, high blood sugar (diabetes) and high cholesterol as well as those who have genetic risk factors for these diseases that they can take back their health. I created goingveganforhealth.com to provide a place where people can read success stories about others who went vegan and had a complete health turnaround and a place where they can find easy recipes. My focus is on WHOLE vegan foods and so I teach my clients about the difference between vegan processed foods and vegan whole foods and even created a “Naturally Vegan Food Cheat Sheet” which is available on my website to show people how simple this really is. I help my clients clean out their kitchen of animal products, I help them navigate the grocery store and help them create their own personalized meal plan and even learn to read labels, handle family dinners and celebrations and eating out. I also go out into the community and provide cooking workshops to show people how delicious whole vegan food really is and how simple it can be to prepare. I travel to health food stores, yoga studios and wellness centers, hospitals, cancer support groups, doctors’ offices and even work with local non-profits and local companies to provide “lunch & learn” workshops to their employees about adding more plant foods to their diet.
VT: I find it so interesting that although you focus a lot on the health aspects of Veganism, you are definitely an ethical vegan, as well. How did that come about? Did you anticipate that when you became Vegan?
NG: I am definitely an ethical vegan but that’s not how it started. Once I felt a positive change from changing my food habits, I became open to other aspects of eating animal products. And Netflix has a way of showing you related movies to those you have already watched. It suggested “Cowspiracy” which appealed to me because I was always a staunch environmentalist,a crazy recycler and garbage picker-upper, saving every bit of coffee grounds and drop of water. When I found out the animal agriculture industry had the biggest negative effect on our planet than any other industry, it just confirmed my decision to be vegan.Then, “Vegucated” came along and I began to learn a lot more about the state of the animals, and how they come to be in the animal agriculture industry. While training for the MainStreet Vegan Academy to become a Certified Vegan Lifestyle Coach & Educator, I read a lot of books like, “Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows” and listened to a lot of podcasts about animal rights and then I watched “Earthlings,” which was the worst thing I have ever seen. Watching that cemented my conviction that being vegan is the best thing any of us can do if we want to make ourselves and the planet we share with other beings better. We become better humans by treating other beings, our own bodies and the planet with respect and dignity. I also saw another documentary titled, “A Sacred Duty” by the National Jewish Vegetarian Society which made me proud to be vegan and I highly recommend that to those who question the bible’s teachings as it relates to eating animals. But becoming an ethical vegan also helped me recover my health as it gave me a sense that what I was doing is powerful and important which helped with my strong will to overcome cancer and made me into a more positive, compassionate, caring person. I reach out to those suffering illness like I did because that’s how I found veganism and many people’s ears and eyes can be opened this way, who might not otherwise listen about animal rights or environmentalism.
VT: If you had to give someone one piece of advice regarding their daily lives, what would it be?
NG: No matter what it is, whether school, your health, the doctor, medical treatments, your food, everyday products…always do your own research and look down deep to see what else is out there just underneath the status quo, the ads, the money and what’s widely accepted, because that’s where the treasure lies. Mouth closed, eyes and ears open!
VT: Veganism obviously changed your life for so many reasons. What would you say is the biggest benefit of living a Vegan lifestyle?
NG: The biggest benefit of living a vegan lifestyle is saving your own life and at the same time saving the lives and suffering of so many animals. I bought a T-shirt recently that says simply, “Peace…Love…Vegan” and that’s really what lies at the heart of being vegan, I think.
But, the feeling of being able to vote against animal agriculture by withholding my money from it is priceless. Even though I am only one person, the grocery store can hear me loud and clear when I only shop in 3 aisles and don’t buy any of the rest of what they sell. The dairy industry is already feeling the pinch from the millions of people opting out of dairy milk and more and more vegan products are hitting the shelves. Last year the vegan population rose from 1 percent to 2 percent of the US population and that’s millions of dollars. As the saying goes, “Money talks and bullshit walks,” and that’s how we can make a change that matters.
VT: Would you like to add anything? How can people reach you?
NG: While I realize that cancer could still come back and take my life at any time, I am no longer crying about it and afraid of it. Instead I am living my life to the fullest by helping other people improve their health, overcome a cancer diagnosis and helping the animals by encouraging everyone I meet not to eat animals and showing them how to eat plants. People can reach me for personal coaching, corporate wellness consulting, scheduling workshops or even cooking parties through my Facebook page “Going Vegan For Health” via Facebook Messenger or by phone at 352-428-8988 or email at email@example.com.
VT: Thank you!!!
We had the pleasure of “chatting” with Alyse of Vegan Rob’s. They create Plant-Based goodies unlike any other! Their flavors are so unique, after reading this, you’re going to run right out and buy some…and, you should!
VT: Please tell us a bit about your company and mission.
VR: You don’t have to be vegan to enjoy Vegan Rob’s plant-based snacks! Created from ingredients of this green earth, they are addicting…with a taste that’s out of this world! All our delicious and nutritious snacks contain zero trans fats and are certified gluten-free and kosher, with many also being certified vegan. Our unique flavor lineup is sure to make your taste buds smile!
VT: Your vegan snacks come in such an amazing variety of flavors like asparagus chips and brussel sprout puffs! What inspired you to create these flavors?
VR: Legendary entrepreneur Robert Ehrlich founded Rob’s Brands in 2015. Ehrlich had already created several of the most iconic snack brands of the past generation – and wanted to launch a new global snack food focused on nutrition and compassion.
VT: Do you have a favorite flavor?
VR: There’s no way we could choose a favorite flavor – they are all delicious!
VT: Nowadays, everyone is watching out for GMOs in their food, especially snacks. Are your snacks non-gmo?
VR: Yes! All of our snacks are created with gourmet, Non-GMO ingredients.
VT: I know your company works with the community. Would you tell us about your charity work?
VR: Each of us are on our own individual journeys, yet we’re all part of a community and while positive change always starts from within, it’s what we show to the world that makes the greatest difference. That’s why Vegan Rob’s regularly donates to, and actively volunteers, for local and national charities. At Vegan Rob’s we believe that helping others and building a better world are the best qualities of all
We recently sponsored a community garden in Brooklyn, NY and hope to involve ourselves with more around the country. Additionally, we donate product to Feed the Children and Rock Can Roll.
VT: How can we purchase your products? Are they available in store? Online?
VR: Our products are available for purchase online through Amazon or directly through our website www.veganrobs.com. Additionally, we have a store locator on our website.
VT: Is there anything else you’d like to share?
VR: Love Yourself! Love Others! Live & Enjoy!
VT: How can customers reach you?
VR: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
We had the pleasure of chatting with Dr. Jeanne Schumacher, who is doing amazing things in Westchester in the Whole Food-Plant Based Movement. She runs websites, lectures, teaches and encourages the mentees in her MWL (Maximum Weight Loss) Challenge Groups. Jeanne is an inspiration and motivational. Read on for some great info on who she is, what she does and why she does it! Enjoy!!
VT: What made you first get into the Pure Haven essentials and Whole Food-Plant Based Diet?
JS: My journey began with a trip to the emergency room. I had 105° fever and my blood pressure was off the charts. I never really found out what the problem was, but the woman who attended me was not only a medical doctor, but a nutritionist as well. She started me on a plant-based journey and I haven’t looked back. Since that trip to the emergency room, I have learned about what I call the trifecta approach. It matters not only what goes in (food and drink) but what goes on your body as well.
While I was at Plantstock, which is a three-day conference at the farm of Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, I came across the company called Pure Haven Essentials. A girl who was 15 years old started this company! She had read a report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG.org). They have done a body burden test on teenagers and found them to have a tremendous load of chemicals from the personal care products they were using. She tried to find products that were not toxic, but couldn’t. So at the age of 15, she began her own company! The entire product line contains products that are not toxic to you or the environment! Check them out! www.purehavenessentials.com/jschumacher
VT: Did you start as a vegetarian and work your way into the vegan lifestyle or did you jump right in?
JS: After I got out of the hospital, I read the book to Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn. So you could say I literally jumped right in!
VT: Can you explain in greater detail what Whole Food Plant Based living consists of?
JS: People who eat a whole food plant-based diet avoid animal-based products, including meat, dairy, and eggs. Processed foods, including oil, white flour, and refined sugar is not part of this way of this lifestyle. This way of eating is based around unprocessed or minimally processed veggies, fruit, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
VT: What are the basic “do’s and don’t” for someone that is just beginning?
JS: You have to make a decision that this is something that you want to do. You need to clean out your house of foods that are not compliant and fill it with foods that are! Experiment with making your favorite recipes plant-based. Just replace the meat in your favorite chili with some extra beans, make veggie burgers instead of meat burgers, or make stir-fry with tofu instead of chicken. If you’re not someone who likes to cook, Plant Pure Nation offers amazing food that is delivered to your doorstep frozen.
The biggest “don’t” is to do a few days of this…and then “because you have been so good”.. treat yourself to something this is not part of this way of eating. In doing so, you will have a tough time reversing your health issues and your eating habits will spiral out of control.
VT: I see that you often do presentations on WFPB. What would be some advice to someone who is looking to begin this diet?
JS: The first step is to really educate yourself on what you are about to begin. One of my favorite places is to visit is the website of Dr. John McDougall (www.drmcdougall.com). It is a tremendous resource of articles, recipes, lectures, and cooking videos! He has an amazing database of resources for just about most of the major diseases people are trying to reverse (e.g heart disease, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, etc.).
Next, I would suggest you connect with a support group. Plant Pure Nation offers local groups to people that are looking to connect with other people who are eating whole food plant-based. I am the leader for the Westchester community group. We have a lot of varied events. From potlucks to cooking demonstrations to lectures… it is great to connect with other people doing the same thing as you!
Facebook offers another great opportunity for people to connect! Right now in my Facebook group, Plant Powered Westchester, we are doing 10 day challenges based on the book Dr. McDougall’s Maximum Weight Loss. We connect and support one another in this journey. My group is actually challenging a group in California, called Plant-Based Chico, to see which coast can lose the most weight! The winner holds onto the prestigious Golden Tater Award!
And last, but not least, I suggest you find six or eight recipes that really resonate with you. These will become your staple and “go to” recipes. I’m constantly trying new dishes, but I usually go back to a few that are our personal favorites.
VT: I read online you’ve been working on starting a local movement involving other restaurants. Can you explain further what that would involve? On your end and the restaurant’s end.
JS: Eating whole food plant-based is difficult to eat out. Not impossible, but it is a challenge. So I’m looking for restaurants that are willing to offer as part of their menu a section on whole food plant-based. Another option would be to offer vegan dishes that are made without the oil. Once I find these restaurants, then I will post to our local groups and let people know what is available. I’m in the process right now of planning a WFPB pop up at a local restaurant in Ossining. A pop-up is where they will offer a special menu that night, and we will advertise it around the area and let people know about it. They’re usually a lot of fun, as it’s always a good group of people and the food is pretty amazing!
VT: Why should we make the switch in our diet to the Whole Food Plant Based diet? What are the benefits? What are the cons?
JS: Eating a whole food plant-based diet can allow you to heal the body of many of the major diseases. Cultures that eat this way, have very little disease. It is amazing once you provide the right “fuel” for the body, that it can heal itself. It is so powerful!
One major thing that I’ve noticed eating this way, is that I rarely get sick. I’ve lost over 80 pounds, gotten off of three blood pressure medications as well as a thyroid medication (and my doctor told me it was impossible to heal your thyroid, and that I would be on medication for the rest my life…NOT). My husband has reversed his multiple sclerosis!
The other major benefit of eating this way is that I have a phenomenal amount of energy. My day usually starts about six 6 o’clock in the morning and I’m usually going strong until 11 o’clock that night.
The downside to eating this way is that it is very difficult to give up the foods that we love to eat. They are very addicting, and cause you to become part of the pleasure trap. To better understand this, do read the book The Pleasure Trap, by Doug Lisle. It truly explains our addiction to food.
Another downside is it’s tough to find other people that are eating this way. Especially, if you’re the only one in your household or family that eats this way.
But for me, there is no downside. I have broken my food addiction, I’ve change my health destiny, and I now connect with other people who are eating this way.
VT: Is there anything else you would like to add? How can our readers contact you?
JS: I am a health coach and would love to connect with people that are interested in what I call the trifecta approach. What we put in and on our bodies affects how we function. To help restore your body back to optimal health, people need to learn about the trifecta approach to better living. A significant convergence of evidence suggests that plant-based diets can help prevent and even reverse some of the top killer diseases in the Western world. “Healthy water” (ionized and alkaline) will maintain the homeostasis of all of the living systems, powering up the effectiveness to alkalize, detox and hydrate your body. And last, but not least, learn how to become an empowered, educated, and healthier consumer to get the toxins out of your life.
People can connect with me through my website, www.jschumacher.org, which offers a tremendous amount of resources from research to recipes to cooking videos as well as tips and tricks on how to begin and how to maintain living this way. I lecture at the Westchester Community College as well as libraries around the area and have started doing healthy immersion employee programs. Join Meetup.com Plant Powered Westchester Change Your Health Destiny to find out where I will be! You can also check under events on my website.
You can also find me on Facebook! I have two groups: Plant Powered Westchester ( to learn about living plant-based and/or to join our 10 day challenge) and Pure Haven Essentials by Jeanne (to learn about how you can get the toxins out of your life).
I’m also on Instagram and twitter @DrJSchumacher. I would love to hear from you!
We had the wonderful opportunity to speak with Emily of Whispering Tulips. If you haven’t tried Whispering Tulips handmade products…..you must! I use the Pillow Talk scrub daily on my hands and my skin feels amazing. The Yoga Mat spray is fantastic and the deodorant, well, you must try it to believe it! All-natural, nothing harmful going onto your skin or into the environment. I love that! Read on to find out more and then contact them….you won’t be sorry!
VT: Tell us about your products.
WT: Our products are all-natural, vegan, cruelty-free and always handmade. We use very few ingredients and pure essential oils to create our products. I only test my products on myself and family, never on animals.
VT: How did you get started selling them?
WT: What got me started creating my products and my brand was not being able to find any products in the store that worked for my skin and were all-natural and cruelty-free. My skin is very picky when it comes to certain ingredients found in products other people would use every single day. My skin would break out in a rash and get all blotchy; it came to the point where I hardly used anything out of fear that it would cause a reaction. For the cruelty-free aspect, I saw a PETA video (as most people do) that made me HORRIFIED to use products that were tested on animals. It came to the point that every time I went to the drug store, I would become a detective to see if it was tested on animals. It turned out, all the products I used were all tested on animals, which is not okay. The poor bunnies shouldn’t have to suffer for your eyeliner and moisturizer! As far as the all-natural aspect, you would be amazed to see what horrible things are in your products if you researched it, there are ingredients that cause cancer and illnesses in your products, but many people do not realize that these ingredients are in there. By using all natural products, you are being good to your body on the inside and the outside. Remember, your skin is the largest organ of your body, you need to protect it. In addition, whatever you put in your hair or on your skin eventually goes down the drain, we do not want toxins going down the drain!
VT: What do you use to make your products?
WT: I only use all-natural ingredients to make my products. I only use pure essential oils and products you can eat and, of course, no products that come from an animal!
VT: Can I special order product or scent?
WT: We are always happy to make you a special order product! We are always working on bringing out new products, but if there is something else you have in mind we can create that for you! People request different scents, different products, even unscented! Feel free to contact us and we will custom make your any product with any scent!
VT: Do you use your products? Which one is favorite?
WT: I love to use my products and so does my family! It is always hard to pick just one, so I’ll narrow it down to three! I love our rose scented invigorating spritz to help set my makeup, tone my face, and give myself a little pick me up! I also love our lavender aromatherapy sachets. I currently have two in my pillowcase! Finally, our Wake Up Call scented body scrub is amazing. It’s like a fresh cup of coffee for your skin. I use it all over my body while I’m in the shower or even after I wash my hands.
VT: Do you sell them locally? Where can we find you?
WT: I am currently working on getting my products into stores, but for now you can find us online and in fairs and markets! Our future fairs are Riverfest in Cornwall on June 3rd, and Compassionfest in Connecticut on July 22nd! Feel free to check them out! You can also find us on Etsy at www.etsy.com/shop/whisperingtulips
VT: Can I place online orders for delivery? How do we find you?
WT: Yes. We ship via UPS, FEDEX or USPS to anywhere within the US.
Feel free to contact us at email@example.com
Like us on Facebook at Whispering Tulips
Find us on instagram @whisperingtulipshandmade
And on etsy at www.etsy.com/shop/whisperingtulips
We were lucky enough to chat with Christine of Sweet Obsessions, a new cafe that offers vegan goodies. Her cafe is adorable and the goodies are yummy! Check it out! Read on..
VT: Why did you decide to sell vegan options at your shop?
SO: I started as a traditional baker and through the years many people gave me different requests for baked products. For a short time, I worked in a natural foods store. This is where I realized there was growing community of people who eat Vegan and/or Gluten free and there is not a lot of fresh good baked goods available for them. Some of my coworkers started asking if I could bake for them (Vegan, Dairy and Soy free, as well as Gluten free). At the time, I wasn’t sure, but I’m always up for a challenge. After doing research, finding the right flour blend and baking test batches, I was confident enough that I could indeed bake vegan and gluten free without losing flavor. The feedback was very positive. This boosted my confidence and I started converting more and more recipes to Vegan or Gluten Free. Many people encouraged me to sell my baked goods, which I did from home for a few years. When I decided to open the Cafe’ there was no question I was going to bake Vegan. The want was there for these products, but not the availability. I knew we could provide the products people were looking for.
VT: I’ve heard that your cakes are amazing! If someone wanted a vegan cake for a special occasion, is that doable?
SO: Absolutely! I’ve done many Vegan cakes. We will work together to make sure it’s the flavor and design they are looking for.
VT: You offer breakfast options that are vegan. Can you tell us a bit about your offerings?
SO: Our breakfast options are offered all day long. Who doesn’t love breakfast for dinner? We have egg sandwiches as well as a breakfast burritos. Our Vegan options are made with Daiya cheese, Follow Your Heart eggless eggs, and vegan bacon. We will also add veggies, if you would like
VT: Your cafe sells fresh juice, as well as, kombucha on tap. A vegan’s dream…fresh juice and vegan breakfast! Why juices and kombucha?
SO: When we decided to open we didn’t want to be the average cafe’. We had a few things in mind. We wanted to keep things on the healthier side and we wanted to offer items that you couldn’t get everywhere. I juice at home and I found that it was hard to find a place that made fresh juice, I figured I wasn’t the only one looking and It would be great to offer it in our cafe’. As for the kombucha, it was much of the same. I knew a lot of people drink it. I, however, did not like the taste of what’s on the shelf in bottles. When I found it on tap, I was supper excited. The taste was much better in my opinion and the fact that it’s made local in New Paltz was an added bonus.
VT: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
SO: Our cafe has a wonderful lounge area to enjoy your desserts and Free Wifi we are open 7 days a week 7am to 8 pm.
VT: How can we find you, both in person and on social media???
SO: We can be found in the New Hackensack Plaza. 1820 Route 376, Suite 11, Poughkeepsie, NY on Facebook @https://m.facebook.com/sweetobsessionscafe/ on Instagram @1sweetobsession
VT: I’d like to give a very big THANK YOU to Meredith from the CATSKILL ANIMAL SANCTUARY for taking the time to interview with me today! I visit the Sanctuary and hold a family membership and, I have to say, it is an amazing place! I absolutely love it there! I’m sure our readers, who haven’t yet been there, will be wanting to go after they read this interview. Here it is…. Enjoy!!!
VT: Please tell us a bit about your missson.
ML: We rescue animals that are farmed for food such as cows, pigs, chickens, and sheep. But the animals who find sanctuary with us are just a tiny fraction of the animals who need to be rescued. So we also focus on informing people about what life would be like for the animals if they were somewhere else. Many people have an image from Old MacDonald’s Farm that has nothing to do with what a cow’s life is actually like.
VT: On my last visit, I had wonderful vegan goodies. Do you always offer tastings?
ML: Yes! Many people imagine vegans eat either twigs and leaves or leaves and twigs. Maybe some iceberg lettuce too. We try to do a mix of fresh food made by our chefs to show how delicious vegan food really is and food like Gardein and Tofurky that can easily be found in a typical supermarket. We know some people love to cook while others rather get a head start so we like to show that both are possible.
VT: I love that you have yoga and cooking classes and lectures at the sanctuary. I think the setting is soooo peaceful and calming and conducive to learning. Can you tell us about upcoming classes?
ML: Our chefs have some fun classes coming up that both novice and experienced cooks will enjoy. They’re demonstration-style so we limit classes to ten people so that everyone has a chance to ask questions. You can visit casanctuary.org/events to see upcoming classes.
VT: Your animals have some of the biggest personalities. I could watch them for hours. Can you speak a bit about the animals and where they come from?
ML: Many of them are rescued from hoarding-like situations. Either an individual or a farm has accumulated too many animals and the authorities have been alerted to unsafe and unsanitary conditions. We’ve conducted many rescues over the years, but you never get used the stench that hits you the moment you arrive. Often, animals are malnourished and living among filth and dead bodies. It’s an experience you never get used to.
VT: Your sanctuary is different than some in that you offer adoptions. Why do you do that?
ML: Finding families to adopt an animal frees up space so that another animal can find sanctuary. But we have a rule about adoptions. The animal can only go to another home if the care they’ll receive is as good as or better than what they’ll receive at the Sanctuary. We have a thorough application process and conduct home visits.
VT: I always fall in love with the animals. What if one particular animal captures your heart, but you cannot adopt him/her? Can you sponsor that animal?
ML: Yes, we’d love for all the animals to be sponsored. You can sponsor an animal you’ve bonded with or we’ll match you with someone. As a sponsor you help pay for the cost of animal’s food, bedding, and medicine. In return, you’ll receive updates about the animal and can schedule visits to say hello in person. It’s a great gift for an animal lover in your life. You learn more at casanctuary.org/sponsor.
VT: How can your fans reach you and plan a tour?
ML: If you’re in the New York area we hope you’ll visit! We’re open for guided group tours every weekend April to October. And if you stay at our overnight guest house The Homestead, then we’ll give you a hearty vegan breakfast before you explore the grounds on your own. The Homestead welcomes guests year-round so it’s a great opportunity to visit the animals during the week when it’s quieter. Visit casanctuary.org/tours to learn more.
VT: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
ML: You can also keep up with what’s happening by following us on Facebook and Instagram!
Events | Catskill Animal Sanctuary
Catskill Animal Sanctuary invites you to reserve a room at the Homestead the night of Saturday, January 21 (or the nights of Friday, January 20 and Saturday, January 21) to join Sanctuary founder Kathy Stevens for breakfast on Sunday, January 22! After a scrumptious vegan breakfast, Kathy will then lead guests on a very special one-hour private tour of the Sanctuary. Bring along your “Where the Blind Horse Sings” and “Animal Camp” books, folks. Kathy will sign them!
Room rates are 20% off through March. Make your reservation now!
VT: Thank you for taking the time to answer a few more questions on your wonderful vegan business ventures. I always admire people who not only want to get the vegan message out there, but they do so in such compassionate (and delicious) ways. I stopped in to the Commissary on a few occasions and was delighted to see a menu filled with “yumminess”! Vegan deviled eggs, cheese and pickle platters and, of course, your delectable chocolates are some of the things on your menu alongside a very interesting soup. The soup sounds amazing, but what struck me even more is the idea behind the soup. Could you please tell us a bit about it and why you decided to do this?
L: Sure—we wanted to do all the food in the café as a sliding scale, but it gets kind of annoying to ask people every time what they want to pay, so we just did one item, the Breakfast Soup, which we have on the menu all the time as a deeply nourishing miso soup for breakfast. We wanted to make sure anyone could afford a good breakfast, so we made it a sliding scale. It’s been really well received!
VT: You already own Lagusta’s Luscious. Why did you decide to open the Commissary instead of combining the two?
L: That’s a good question. My partner, Jacob, is really passionate about coffee, and I missed making savory food, so since the chocolate shop has such great managers, we decided to let ourselves branch out a little bit with something a little different.
VT: You sell many delicious products from Miyoko’s cheeses to Anita’s yogurt. For me, it reveals a true sense of vegan community to see that you have your own yummy goodness to sell, yet you sell other products, as well. What do you see as a main focus of the vegan community?
L: Hmm, man, I have no idea! I’d like to think the vegan world is just focusing more on quality these days, instead of just having vegan versions of nonvegan things, that is small-batch producers are trying to really up the quality of our products.
VT: I want to remind people that Lagusta’s sells fine chocolates, as well as, the most delicious ice cream and drinks. I just purchased a drinking chocolate globe that I cannot wait to try. Should we be on the lookout for any special products this fall?
L: Sure, we have lots of chocolates made with local maple, apples, squash, rum, and chestnuts coming up this fall! It’s going to be great.
Hi, Everyone! Today we are “e-chatting” with Sande Nosonowitz. Sande is a fellow Main Street Vegan Academy graduate. She is a Yogi, jewelry designer and lifestyle coach. Sande has committed to a huge undertaking in the name of the vegan community. We congratulate and thank her! Read on…..
VT: My first question usually has to do with why you made this lifestyle change. What moved you to become vegan?
SN: I suffered a serious injury and illness several years ago. It was a kind of suffering I had never known. Suffering was such a big part of my life during those months, and I went through a definite spiritual transformation. I could no longer be oblivious to the suffering of others. I began to see “the videos” and read book after book after book…I was awake. I chose to change the way I lived and from that moment on, I have felt more liberated and conscious than ever before. I had unearthed an injustice so deep, that I could no longer ignore it and I knew I had to spend my life working to educate – determined to be part of the solution.
VT: As a fellow Main Street Vegan Academy graduate, I know what an amazing experience the Academy is and how much I learned from it; what did you take away from MSVA?
SN: I learned a lot at the Academy. I soaked in as much nutritional and health information as I could. I met some wonderful people who were on the same path. I started to understand how creative I could be with this certification and from there I chose to write a column (“Living & Being Vegan”), to develop a 90-minute presentation for groups (“How Veganism Heals”), to do Vegan Coaching, to start a local vegan activism group (Hudson Valley Vegan Activists)…and NOW, to co-produce a large Vegfest in the Hudson Valley scheduled for next year. MSVA was the springboard for all that I want to do and share… with this knowledge of a better way of living.
VT: Can you tell us a bit about your Yoga teaching and practice?
SN: I was spiritually drained from the corporate world. My soul was screaming for a different path. I left my corporate job in 2007 and spent a year studying yoga and working towards my yoga teacher certification. I then trained and became certified in Corporate yoga teaching, starting a business teaching yoga to the employees of local companies and organizations such as the Dutchess County Department of Health, the Cary Institute, Hudson Valley Credit Union and Marshall & Sterling. I loved doing this so much, but was side railed when I had my injury and could no longer teach yoga full time. During my studies and my practice and my teaching…I was chanting the words; Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavaintu which mean, “May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all” I was also using the word ‘Ahimsa’, which means to not harm any living being. It was hypocritical to chant these words and not be living a vegan life. My yoga practice opened me to the understanding that we are different, but not separate…and that, I believe, is the most important teaching of yoga.
VT: I’ve seen your jewelry. It’s GORGEOUS! What is the inspiration behind your jewelry?
SN: Sitting down in my jewelry studio to create a new piece is a form of meditation for me. The stones have healing properties and spiritual meaning. I love the beauty (Sundara is the sanskrit word for “beautiful” interpreted as inner beauty flowing from grace) I also started to design a line of vegan-inspired jewelry, and that is my focus now. www.sundarajewel.com
VT: Now for the moment we’ve all been waiting for….please tell us about VegFest! What an enormous and wonderful event this will be and right here in the Hudson Valley! I’m so excited!
SN: Hudson Valley Vegfest is a major expo and festival devoted to vegan living. This inaugural, annual event will highlight game-changing vegan businesses, organizations, world renowned speakers, musicians, filmmakers, plant-based chefs, health & fitness gurus and all around innovators, both local and from around the country. It is an ultimate form of vegan activism, as we are reaching out – not only to the existing vegan community, but to those untouched by the transformation of body & soul that living this beautiful vegan life offers…and we’re so excited to welcome them to our event. Everyone can check out the website and ‘Like’ the Vegfest on Facebook to stay tuned for all the incredible updates. www.hvvegfest.org
My “Living & Being Vegan” column can be read each month in the Poughkeepsie Journal’s Living & Being Magazine.
My Vegan Education, “How Veganism Heals” Presentations, Sundara Yoga & Meditation Teaching and Sundara Jewelry are all on my Sundara website: www.sundarajewel.com
The Hudson Valley Vegfest website is www.hvvegfest.org
ADDED BONUS: Sande is offering 30% off all of her Yoga-Inspired jewelry for holiday shopping. The money from these sales will help fund her vegan projects. The coupon code is: 4theanimals (yoga-inspired jewelry only.)
Elizabeth Richards and Sakran and Shaw
VT: Would you like to tell us a bit about your products?
ER: We would love to share about our business!
VT: Why did you choose to make vegan products?
ER: The choice to create vegan products was an easy one. I’d always known I wanted to go to school for fashion design while at the same time wondering how I could combine my love of animals with my passion. How could I do that? By creating a line of products that refuses to use any part of an animal for its own success. I love all animals and believe they should be celebrated and not harmed. This is why you will see various animal prints throughout the Elizabeth Richard & Sakran & Shaw lines.
VT: I’m sure you could’ve worked with so many other materials if your products weren’t vegan. (I’m glad you didn’t.) Is it hard choosing the fabrics and making sure the products are animal-friendly? What materials do you use?
ER: There are plenty of stunning metallic & fun color real leathers out there that are very eye catching and appealing to people these days. However, there are just as many fabrics that are being produced to mimic real leather or suede without hurting animals. For me, this is enough reason to not use real leather or suede.
I often use cotton canvas, vegan leather and faux suede for Elizabeth Richard handbags. All scarves through mnsakran designs are performance knit printed with organic soy ink.
VT: Do you have a mission for your company?
ER: Our mission is to have people fall in love with our products because something speaks to their personality. At that point, it’s always fun to share that our products are animal friendly and great fashion can be achieved with compassion!
VT: Where can people find your amazing purses, wallets and scarves?
ER: All of our products can be found online at
Or follow us on Facebook at
We also attend handmade events from Westchester, NY to Rochester, NY so please look at our events page for the next show so you can catch us in person !
Thank you so much for asking about our business. We love what we do and appreciate your mission!
VT: For a healthy body and mind; peace, mindfulness and a plant-based diet go hand in hand. What role would you say yoga plays in a healthy body and mind?
YM: In terms of the healthy body there is a phrase that says “we are only as young as our spine flexible.” Common-sense tells us that with a greater range of motion in our joints and our spine, and strong muscles we will move with greater ease. Well who doesn’t want that? In many ways yoga is so much more about being strong than being flexible. In addition to all of that, yoga postures move our lymphatic fluid. We have twice as much lymphatic fluid as blood in our bodies. Our Lymphatic system prevents disease and heals injuries. The deep breathing and stretching aspects of yoga help our lymphatic system to clear toxins from our body. Yoga lowers high blood pressure and it improves our posture! And this is just the beginning of the physical benefits! In terms of a healthy mind, yoga helps with anxiety, depression, mental clarity, pain management, and stress. And it’s fun. Mindfulness reminds us to be present in this moment. When we are in the present moment we can take a break from thinking about the past or worrying about the future. And that can feel great. Eating a plant-based just feels good. For people who have issues with their immune systems, a plant based diet can ease inflammation.
VT: What would you say is the major goal for your students who practice yoga?
YM: Some students focus on the physical benefits and others focus on the mental and spiritual aspects. One of the most interesting things about yoga is that no matter what draws you to the practice the other aspects can be what keeps you there. For me personally, I was drawn to the physical aspect of yoga. As embarrassing as it is to admit, I began yoga because I wanted to touch my toes. It really was that simple. And vain. I could touch my toes as a child and as an adult if I could reach down to my knees that was successful. And so I came with my own objective. And then I noticed I was becoming stronger. I noticed I had more stamina and strength. And while I was busy encouraging my hamstrings to become long enough so that I could touch my toes, I found a sweet sense of peace at the end of each yoga class. (And not simply because we were lying down in Savasana, although that was wonderful!) The sense of peace I found was within my mind. I would encourage anybody who feels they may have an interest in yoga to give it a try. Yoga is a personal conversation. So find a class or a teacher that allows you to experience feeling more connected to yourself at the end of class. If you leave a class thinking that you’re just not good at yoga, the fault doesn’t lie within you. Find another class with a different teacher. Arrive with your goal and then be open to see what happens next. You might be surprised just as I was!
VT: Your classes are calm, focused and centered around each student as an individual. As a teacher what would you like your students to take away from one of your classes?
YM: Well first of all thank you for describing my classes in that way. I certainly aim for calm but somehow or another we always wind up laughing! All the credit goes to my students who arrive willing to play! Yoga is powerful but it is not meant to be heavy. We are definitely focused and pay a lot of attention to alignment but then we are free to explore what feels best to our bodies each day. Rotator cuff injuries, vertigo, heart monitors, fibromyalgia, anxiety, non-specific crabbiness: come as you are you are – leave feeling better. I want my students to walk away feeling empowered. I want my students to remember that we can always choose our responses. The Bhagavad Gita tells us that “Yoga is the journey of the self, through the self, to the self.” Each student’s journey is their own. I feel privileged to witness that journey.
VT: If someone doesn’t have time for a full yoga class what would you recommend as a short version for daily practice?
YM: One thing that I like to do is to consider the time of day and work yoga for 5 to 10 minutes into that time of day. In the morning when you wake up before you get out of bed place both hands on your heart and breathe. Remind yourself that this is the space that you wish to move from for the rest of the day. While you are brushing your teeth choose a pose that makes sense like Tadasana, Standing Crescent, or any standing pose: root your feet to the Earth, find your breath, create good alignment and let your lower body be in the pose while the upper body is doing the arm variation of “brushing your teeth.” During your commute let the red light or the stop sign be a reminder for you to connect with your breath. While you are sitting at work during the day, root your feet to the Earth, find your breath and take a simple seated twist. When you are prepping dinner, stand in vrksasana-tree pose. Be creative and feel free to add your own suggestions in the comment area below. And at the end of the day before you go to sleep, once again place your hands over your heart and consider what you are grateful for. Feel your breath move within the space surrounding your heart.
VT: Are yoga and meditation mutually exclusive?
YM: Yoga has eight limbs. Most people practice the third limb of yoga called Asana. We practice these postures to prepare the body for meditation. We develop discipline, concentration and a strong body so that we can sit in meditation. The seventh limb of yoga is actually meditation or contemplation. This limb is called Dhyana. For me personally, this is extraordinarily challenging! You posed this relationship between yoga and meditation as a great question! So rather than being mutually exclusive, yoga is actually inclusive of meditation.
VT: As a yogi why is yoga meditation such an integral part of your life?
YM: Meditation is such an integral part of my life because it asks me to be at peace with and work with my chattering mind. It is remarkable how my mind can just keep going and going! Rather than approach my monkey mind as an adversary, as my thoughts leap from place to place, I have to learn to approach my thoughts as children who are reluctant to nap . I try not to reject the thoughts that interfere with my meditation as though they are pesky or troublesome. I have had to learn to accept them lovingly and with compassion. And then if I’m successful, I put them down for a lovely afternoon nap. There are so many different types of meditation that your students can try, I would encourage everybody to try some form of meditation. And give themselves complete permission to try a second or third type of meditation until they find one that offers them whatever it is they’re looking for.
I can be contacted on facebook at Namaste Home. And my email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Morgan’s Cat Cafe
VT: I have to tell you, I absolutely LOVE the idea of a cat cafe as a place to go to adopt a furry friend. Many cat cafe’s, however, are not vegan, which is puzzling. The fact that your cafe serves only vegan food is a true sign of your compassion and commitment to the animals. I thank you for that.
MCC: I appreciate that you recognize the added value of the Vegan café. Our entire menu is vegan—everything from our baked goods, beverages, burgers and more.
VT: How does the café work? Do I eat and then play with kitties?
MCC: As for the guidelines, we are required to keep a 2 door separation between cats and food and extra handwashing for customers. Customers can sit at the counter bar surrounding the glass enclosure and enjoy a meal or choose to enter the cat enclosure and sit with the cats.
VT: All of your furry friends are adoptable. What happens if someone wants to adopt a kitty?
MCC: If a customer wants to adopt a kitty, they go to the website and complete an application. We also offer “Kitty Trials” where a potential adopter can take a kitty home for a week and try it out. This helps both the cat and person know if it is a good match.
VT: Tell us about your volunteer opportunities.
MCC: We are fully staffed by volunteers and offer interested volunteers three different positions including “Cat Room”, “Register” and “Kitchen”.
VT: When and where can we find you?
MCC: Our hours and location can be found at the top of our website.
VT: Is there anything you’d like to add?
MCC: I would just say the feedback we get from customers is that we offer a really unique alternative to a traditional adoption venue.
VT: Thank you! Visit their site below for the amazing story of this Mother-Daughter team and their venture to find loving homes for the most adorable kitties!
Anita’s Coconut Yogurt
VT: Thank you to Anita from Anita’s Yogurt in Brooklyn for making the most delicious yogurt and for agreeing to “e-chat” with me today.
VT: I couldn’t run a vegan page without asking you first how and why you
A: My first job in the food world was as a pastry cook at a boutique West
Village bakery. The chef was phenomenal and all the desserts were
amazing, so I ate one of everything I made. Cookies, cupcakes,
pastries…you name it. That’s not really what you’re supposed to do.
You’re supposed to take a tiny taste and throw the rest away, but I
didn’t know any better. (And Colombians do not throw away food.) It was
a lot of animal ingredients; heavy cream, eggs, butter. Pretty soon it
caught up with me and I started gaining weight, and also having
digestive issues. To counteract it, my partner suggested I try veganism
for two weeks. The first two weeks were grueling—as my body detoxed. But
gradually, I felt better. And better. And better. The experiment worked
wonders and that two weeks turned into the rest of my life.
VT: I understand that you are a self-taught vegan chef and baker. How did
A: I wanted to share the benefits I’d gained from veganism with others.
Because it was next to impossible to find vegan pastry jobs at that
time, I decided to strike out on my own and start my own baking
business. Industry friends told me I was committing professional suicide
in doing so (thankfully, times changed). In the beginning, I wondered if
I’d have any customers, especially when people requested my old recipes.
I remember the last non-vegan cake I ever made. Everyone was oohing and
aaahing and going crazy over it. They served me a slice, I took a bite,
and had the overwhelming urge to spit it out. I thought; “even if they
love it, I cannot serve someone food I would not eat myself.”
VT: You founded Electric Blue Baked goods, which received rave reviews.
How did you go from a baking company to a yogurt company?
A: As a struggling baker, I said “yes” to everyone’s requests and made so
many things. Donuts, wedding cakes, tarts, focaccia, empanadas…I made it
all. Despite the great feedback, it was exhausting, messy, and
expensive. There was no profit. I lived delivery to delivery. After an
especially sleep-deprived month, I decided to close up shop and focus on
one product. It had to be simple, clean, and profitable.
Prior to veganism, yogurt was my best secret ingredient. It made batters
fluffy, frosting creamy, and was a must for cheesecake- which I was
commissioned to create by a vegan restauranteur I was consulting for.
Every nondairy yogurt I tasted was unsuitable for baking. So I made some
myself. The resulting cheesecake was a hit. And, surprisingly, so was
the yogurt. Friends and customers started asking for it. That’s when the
answer became clear. I had an out.
VT: I have to admit…I’m hooked! The creamline yogurt is sooo amazing!
What makes it so rich and creamy and unlike anything I’ve ever eaten?
A: It took two and a half years to develop the recipe from an ingredient to
the standalone product that hit store shelves in 2013. Part of what
took so long is that I was determined not to use additives. I wanted the
same level of quality as unprocessed, creamline dairy yogurt. It took
effort to source the ingredients, and figure out a combination with best
texture and flavor.
Look at the ingredients in big name nondairy yogurt. Then look at the
ingredients in a vegan pudding. They are almost identical. The only
difference is live cultures, but way down the list, in very small
proportion. I even saw a new brand packaged to look like yogurt, with no
cultures in it at all. Just sweetened goop.
The only way to get a rich, creamy texture was to cut out the junk and
make yogurt the traditional way, with just milk (in this case, coconut)
and cultures. (And the extra twist of coconut water.) The emphasis is on
quality, not a cheap price tag.
VT: Is the yogurt available in other flavors?
A: We have plain, mango, and blueberry chia.
VT: What can you tell us about your ingredients?
A: The coconut milk comes from Thailand. It is organic and contains no
additives. It was hard to find that combination but it was really
important to me to have both.
The fruit flavors are made with organic fruit and coconut blossom sugar.
It is important that they be minimally sweet so that the flavor of the
yogurt can shine.
VT: Are there any health benefits to eating your coconut yogurt?
A: Each serving has over 8 billion live cultures.* Some of them are
probiotic. You can tell the difference in the way you feel after
incorporating Anita’s Yogurt into your diet. Although this is not the
reason I created it, the effects were a huge residual bonus that took
the benefits I got from veganism to another level. Reincorporating
fermented food into my diet gave me increased levels of energy, and more
digestive comfort. It has different effects on everyone. Those are the
most noticeable for me.
Coconut has its own benefits. For example, I was caught by surprise by
how much potassium came from our pure coconut water. But for me it is
more important that customers try it and judge based on how they feel
after, and not just health claims.
*Samples tested at 4 weeks from date of manufacture.
VT: Where can we find your yogurt?
A: In all these places: www.anitas.co/where-to-buy. It is coming soon to
Whole Foods stores throughout the Northeast region.
VT: What would you say to an aspiring vegan chef?
A: When I entered the industry, culinary schools offered no vegan
curriculum and I thought them to be a waste of money. Money I’d already
spent on a Biology degree, anyway. So I got all my training in the
field, learning on the job. I advised others to do the same. Times have
changed, and now there are schools that take vegan cooking seriously. I
have little to no insight on that. So, I would actually want them to
advise me what is going on there!
I encourage vegans in general to keep an open mind. Some of the best
recipes I got for my baking business were conventional ones that called
for butter and eggs. If I had just relied on standard vegan substitutes
of the time, I never would have been challenged to create my coconut
yogurt. I’d encourage chefs to embrace the wider food community instead
of separating themselves. Smorgasburg vendors Chickpea & Olive and
Monk’s Meats have done an excellent job of this. Through their
partnerships with other vendors, you can now walk through the market and
see their influence in countless vegan options. That did not exist
before they befriended non-vegan vendors and helped them develop
plant-based menu items. With more partnerships like that we can change
the future of food.
VT: Is there anything you’d like to add?
A: Thank you for this interview, Vegan Teacher!
VT: Where can our readers reach and follow you and learn more? (website,
fb, twitter, instagram, etc.)
VT: Thank you, so much! I really appreciate it! I hope everyone tries
your yogurt! They won’t be disappointed! Have an amazing day!
VT: Thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions about Om Champagne Tea. I absolutely LOVE it and cannot wait to pass the word on to others! Enjoy!
VT: What exactly is Champagne Tea?
OM: Champagne Tea is a premium kombucha, a cultured Organic black tea. Kombucha is a symbiotic culture of beneficial bacteria and yeast (SCOBY). Champagne Tea is naturally effervescent, non-alcoholic, and 100% probiotic.
VT: My daughter has Celiac and I’ve read that kombucha can help with the side effects if gluten is eaten by mistake. Have you heard this and can you tell us the other health benefits of drinking kombucha?
OM: I believe, whether diagnosed with Celiac or not, we all suffer from the effects of eating/digesting pesticide laden, genetically modified wheat. Our gut flora has been compromised by generations of the modern diet and the lack of live foods and cultured/fermented foods. We need the active cultures to help us digest foods, and we need to eat the right foods to give us those probiotics. Champagne Tea is produced in small batches to maximize nutritional content, we are as concerned about delivering the probiotics and B vitamins and enzymes as we are about making the most delicious and satisfying drink.
We have found in our family that, while not gluten-intolerant, we are able to enjoy pasta, pizza, breads more when we are also drinking Champagne Tea. We need all the digestive help we can get!
VT: How often should we drink kombucha to receive it’s full benefits?
OM: I rid my kidneys of stones by drinking 16-32 ounces of kombucha tea per day.
We drink Champagne Tea everyday, it is our primary method of hydration. We have customers who order cases at a time because they are drinking 2-4 bottles daily. I would imagine, if one is having digestive issues, it would be prudent to drink Champagne Tea around meal times. It is, after all, a digestive aid.
Everyone can experience the immediate benefit of Champagne Tea when drinking it with a meal. We suggest starting with a 5 oz serving.
VT: I absolutely love the Original Champagne Tea. What other flavors does it come in? Do they each have their own benefits?
OM: All our flavors offer the benefits of probiotics and vitamins and minerals. When we offer flavors, we are mindful that the flavors enhance the benefits of the Classic Champagne Tea. The Classic is the straight fermented tea.
We have combined the benefits of Ginger and Turmeric in a new flavor: Ginger Turmeric. Ginger stimulates the appetite, promotes absorption of nutrients, settles nausea or air sickness, and heals cramping. Red Turmeric is our most famous ingredient: we use only organically grown Hawaiian Red Turmeric. Turmeric is an ancient anti-inflammatory and laboratories have shown that our Hawaiian Red has 3X curcuminoids than any other turmeric in the world. For us winter dwellers, it is like drinking sunshine, the color is so vibrant, the flavor so intense. We offer our customers the purest form of Turmeric (undamaged by high heat processing).
We also have combined Chaga mushroom with Korean Red Ginseng. Chaga is a birch mushroom which is used in folk medicine to treat cancer and to boost the immune system. Korean Red Ginseng is the emperor of all medicinal roots. For over 2000 years, Korean Red Ginseng has been used to improve mental functions and circulation.
We also offer a Cayenne Turmeric for those who want more intense Turmeric punch.
VT: How did you get started making Kombucha?
OM: My family and I were drinking cases of kombucha, and as we were already making kefir and yogurts, it was a natural step to making the cultured drink.
VT: Where can we find Champagne Tea?
OM: Champagne Tea is available for purchase online: www.champagnetea.com. We offer free delivery with a case order.
We are also preparing a winter ChampagneTea CSA, a sampler of 3 or 6 bottles every 2 weeks, starting in mid December through the end of April. Whether to chase away winter blues, or buttress the immune system during holidays, the CSA plan will include the SuperGreen (the superfood, wild harvested Blue Green Algae) and Reishi (another incredible healing mushroom) in addition to our usual flavors: Classic, Ginger Turmeric, Cayenne Turmeric and Chaga Ginseng.
Through Thanksgiving we are at the following Farmers’ Markets:
Wednesday, Roslyn, NY 7-1 PM
Thursday, Nyack FM, 8-2 pm
Westport, CT from 10-2 pm
Trumbull, CT from 3:30-6:30 pm
Friday, Hayground FM in Bridgeport, NY from 3-6 :30 p,
Saturday, John Jay Homestead in Katonah, NY from 9-1 pm
Sparta FM (NJ) from 9-1 pm
Sunday, Ramsey FM (NJ) from 9-2 pm
Southampton, NY from 9-2 pm
The response to Champagne Tea has been phenomenal. I think people are craving nutrition, so that when they taste Champagne Tea, yes, they are tasting with their palates, but their cells are celebrating, because finally, they have probiotic hydration!
VT: Thank you! Have a wonderful day and, if you haven’t already tried Om Champagne Tea, you must! I’m telling you…you will love it and your body will thank you!