Monthly Archives: November 2011

Simple & Not Too Sweet: Perfecting Winter With Vegan Chai

The Indian spicy sweet tea and milk beverage called chai is more than just a cupful of yummy. The spices are actually tonic herbs that soothe digestion, boost mood and reduce inflammation—which of course can all be thrown out of whack by drinking dairy milk. But you can still enjoy the flavorful brew, without the dairy, and with all the benefits using this simple vegan chai recipe.

One of the greatest elements of making chai from scratch is that it fills your home with an aroma that you simply won’t get from steeping a teabag. And by using fresh ingredients, you pull more of the medicinal benefits, too.


1 cinnamon stick
8 whole cloves
¼ of a nutmeg, grated
2 tablespoons of cardamom pods
1 half teaspoon of black peppercorns
A big 1 inch chunk of gresh ginger, grated
1 large vanilla bean sliced
1 dried red chili pepper
2 tablesoons maple syrup, agave nectar (honey is used traditionally, but not vegan) — add more if you want it sweeter, but the nondairy milk will give it an extra sweetness and you might find you like the spicy heat better than the sweet!
1-2 tablespoons loose leaf tea: traditionally black tea is used, like a good ceylon or darjeeling, but you can substitute with oolong, green, white or an herbal base like rooibos or even chamomile. Steer clear of mint, citrus or any flavored teas, though.
2 cups water
2 cups nondairy milk (almond is amazing!)


Mix water and herbs in medium saucepan and bring to low simmer for about ten to fifteen minutes. Then add the tea and let simmer for another five minutes. Strain out the solids and return liquid to the pot. Add in milk and sweetener and heat low heat until warm. Sprinkle with extra cinnamon or nondairy foam.

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What Are the Benefits of Using Organic Sugar?

Photo Credit disperced lump sugar and sugar-basin image by Maria Brzostowska from

When used in moderation, sugar can be part of a healthy diet. Indulging in the occasional sweet treat is safe for most people. But should you use organic sugar or stick to conventional? Organic sugar may offer several benefits over conventional sugar, including health and environmental benefits. If you’re interested in the benefits of using organic sugar, choose an organic sugar that is certified organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Refined Less

Organic sugar is not refined as heavily as conventional sugar or corn syrup, according to Vegetarian Organic Life. As a result, it may contain more of the vitamins and enzymes that existed in the natural sugar cane plant, from which organic sugar is made. Also, organic sugar contains more molasses, a taste that some people enjoy.

No Pesticides Used

Organic sugar sold in the U.S. must meet the requirements of the USDA to be labeled an “organic” food. According to Wholesome Sweeteners CEO Nigel Willerton, the USDA-administered National Organic Program sets specific requirements for how organic sugar cane is raised. These include raising the sugar cane without using chemical pesticides. Sugar cane used in conventional sugar, on the other hand, is frequently treated with such pesticides as paraquat to kill insects. These pesticides may linger in the finished product.

No Animal Products Used

In addition to protecting local animal populations by not treating sugar cane crops with chemical pesticides that could damage local habitat and water supply, organic sugar protects animals by removing the use of any animal byproducts in the refining process. According to Vegan Action, conventional sugar is refined in part by using animal bone char to remove color from the sugar. On the other hand, the nonanimal product milk of lime is the only ingredient used in processing organic sugar, according to Wholesome Sweeteners CEO Nigel Willerton.

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Bill Clinton Goes Vegan

Photo by Flickr User marcn

A year ago, Bill Clinton made headlines for his “almost vegan” diet. Now, he is in the spotlight again for his diet, claiming he is now 100 percent vegan.

PETA’s “Person of the Year” appears to be living up to his title by sharing his message about the health benefits of a vegan diet.

“I had played Russian roulette because even though I had changed my diet some and cut down on the caloric total of my ingestion and cut back on much of the cholesterol in the food I was eating,” Clinton said, according to the Boston Herald. “I still – without any scientific basis to support what I did – was taking in a lot of extra cholesterol without knowing it. So that’s when I made a decision to really change.”

Some studies have shown that vegans have a lower risk for developing diseases like cancer, obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

Bill Clinton not only wants to improve his own health but also the health of others. The Clinton Foundation has teamed up with the American Heart Association to provide better school lunches and promote exercise.

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The reason to become a vegan is not only for diet purpose, it will also keep us to become a healthy person and have a lower risk of sickness or diseases.

Understanding organic food labels

What do the food labels such as “organic,” “natural,” “free-range,” and “non-GMO” really mean? Understanding this terminology is essential when you’re shopping for organic foods.

The most important point to remember is that “natural” does not equal organic. “Natural” is an unregulated term that can be applied by anyone. Only the “USDA Organic” label indicates that a food is certified organic.

USDA Certified Organic Food Labels

When you’re shopping for organic foods, look for the “USDA Organic” seal. Only foods that are 95 to 100 percent organic can use the USDA Organic label.

  • 100% Organic – Foods that are completely organic or made with 100% organic ingredients. May display the USDA seal.
  • Organic – Foods that contain at least 95% organic ingredients. May display the USDA seal.
  • Made with organic ingredients – Foods that contain at least 70% organic ingredients. Will not display the USDA seal. May list specific organic ingredients on the front of the package.
  • Contains organic ingredients – Foods that contain less than 70% organic ingredients. Will not display the USDA seal. May list specific organic ingredients on the information panel of the package.

Meat and dairy labels: other terms you need to know

The organic label is the most regulated term, but when it comes to meat, we often see many other terms used. In order to make informed choices, it is helpful to know what some of these terms mean.

  • Natural – This label means “minimally processed” and that the meat can’t have any artificial colors, artificial flavors, preservatives, or any other artificial ingredients in it. Animals can still be given antibiotics or growth enhancers. For example, this term can be applied to all raw cuts of beef since they aren’t processed.
  • Grass fed – This term means that the animals are fed solely on a diet of grass or hay. These animals have access to the outdoors. Cattle are naturally ruminants that eat grass, so they tend to be healthier and leaner when fed this way. In addition, grass fed beef has been shown to have more of the healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Free-range – This means that the animals weren’t confined to a cage and had access to the outdoors. Unfortunately, the animal density can still be very high and the animals may have only short periods outside in an area that’s quite small. It is difficult to tell exactly what free-range means when you see it on meat packaging. You can contact the producer directly for clarification.
  • No hormones added – This term is allowed when animals are raised without the use of any added growth hormones. For beef and dairy products it can be helpful, but by law, poultry and pigs cannot be given hormones, so don’t pay extra for chicken or pork products that use this label.

What does “Certified Organic” mean?

Keep in mind that even if a producer is certified organic, the use of the USDA Organic label is voluntary. At the same time, not everyone goes through the rigorous process of becoming certified, especially smaller farming operations. When shopping at a farmers’ market, for example, don’t hesitate to ask the vendors how your food was grown.


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Eco-friendly holiday decorating

Wonder why our dedication to eco-friendly products wanes during the holidays? You don’t have to look far to see artificial wreaths, mass-produced plastic bows, inflatable lawn decorations and energy-sapping lights, all of which demonstrate eco-indifference.

Perhaps it’s time to apply the three R’s of sustainability — reduce, reuse, recycle — in our holiday decorating.

“Use what you have, and if you don’t have enough, then branch out,” suggested David Pippin, adjunct professor of horticulture at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College. “Bring out old decorations and make new combinations. Mix it up.”

During a Christmas Decor for the Home class held in partnership with Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Pippin inspired workshop participants to visit their attics as well as thrift stores and consignment shops before starting their holiday decorating.

“Whether it’s your old stuff or someone else’s, use it,” he said. Pippin turns sentimental into environmental as he regularly recycles old wreaths, leftover ribbons, antique ornaments and the like in his own personal decorating. Even for floral arrangements, Pippin encourages use of nontraditional holders that are on hand, such as a casserole dish, loaf pan or ordinary kitchen container.

“It just needs to be watertight if you’re using fresh greenery. And if it’s not the right color, spray (paint) it.”

Eco-savvy decorators also know to turn to nature for do-it-yourself holiday crafting. Pippin demonstrated how fresh-cut greenery, flowers and berry sprigs can be enhanced by juxtaposing nature’s “found” treasures, such as seed pods, pine cones, moss, wispy sticks and small, lichen-covered branches. Preserved botanicals, which are another eco-smart decorating option, are especially meaningful if harvested and dried from your spring or summer garden.

“After the holidays, recycle the greenery and flowers to the compost pile,” Pippin said. “Just don’t forget to save the rest for next year.”

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Christmas and New Year is around the corner, this is another good chance to be creative in decoration. Save the money and go for eco-friendly decoration.

10 Ways to Reuse Coffee Grounds

Photo by Flickr User Theogeo

Over 50 percent of Americans drink coffee on a daily basis, and among those coffee drinkers, most drink three cups a day. It adds up to at least  330 million cups of coffee a day. That’s a lot of coffee grounds. While many people throw these grounds out in the garbage, doing so only sends them to a landfill where they will decompose and release methane, a greenhouse gas.

If you have a compost pile or are lucky enough to live in a green city like San Francisco that collects compost items with the recycling and garbage bins, the grounds can be composted. The grounds are very nutrient-rich for plants that thrive in acidic soils such as tomatoes and carrots.

Used coffee grounds can also be used in do-it-yourself beauty products. To create a face cleansing mask, mix coffee grounds with mashed up avocados. For your hair, rub coffee grounds through wet hair. Rinse well. The grounds should add shine and softness to your hair.

It is also believed that used coffee grounds can repel ants and other pests. Place the grounds near entry points in your house where the animals may be able to get in, or you can use the grounds in a garden where certain pests hang out.

Coffee grounds may also be used to scour dirty dishes and as a replacement for baking soda as a deodorizer in a refrigerator.

Mix the grounds in water to create a natural brown dye.

Another favorite tip is to sprinkle the grounds over fireplace ashes. When cleaning out the ashes, you will have much less dust.

Don’t drink coffee but still want to try some of these reuse options? Ask your local coffee vendor for grounds. Even chains like Starbucks have begun putting out their used coffee grounds in packages for customers to take free of charge.

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