Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Connective Giving & Receiving Experiment

I had an excellent conversation with a wonderful friend today about asking for help.  My friend is also a coach and provides questions for me to ponder along with insight and inspiration that moves me forward in my pursuits and passions.  The conversation inspired this blog.  Thank you, friend.

Asking someone for help can be a fearful experience.  I always remember the joke/stereotype of the guy who'd drive his family around, in circles, all over the place, lost while on their way to vacation instead of pulling over to ask someone for directions.  

There's a certain pride to doing everything yourSelf.  To knowing, or thinking you know, everything yourSelf.  Asking for help means you're not almighty, you're not all-knowing, you're weak.  Asking for help means you're not worthy.

Now you may read the above paragraph and think "that's ridiculous!" But, for many, it's true - or made to be true.  Whether consciously or unconsciously, asking for help is most often related as a sign of weakness, of vulnerability.  And, sure, while the process of asking for help may be a vulnerable request - someone could say "yes," but someone could also say "no" and what would that mean? - I've learned it actually relates a lot more to a greater strength, willingness, and acceptance that can only benefit the connection between people and toward one's Self.

How excited have you been in the past to be able to help someone with a request or a favor?  What have you, as the Giver, gotten out of that experience?  Whatever feelings you've experienced have placed you in the Receiver role too - allowing the person who received your gift to give back an intention, a compliment, thanks, etc., and you the benefit of receiving in addition to giving.  

You see the amazing circle/cycle in action?  This is the Law of Abundance.  The more you strengthen it, the more expansive your opportunities to both give and receive become.  There's immense joy and reward in giving and receiving.  Reciprocation has always been a treasured value of mine, and it's proven to be rewarding in so many ways for the people I've helped and the people who have helped me. Asking for help is a courageous act and answering that call is the quickest way to Abundance.  Do you want Abundance in your life?

You may or may not know about my Reiki Certification Retreat fundraiser.  If not, take a quick gander at the link.  You can read about my passion, connection, and desire to make this experience a reality and the many ways you can both help by giving and benefit by receiving a gift of greater value, at the same time. (Gifts to you include coaching, Reiki, promoting/blogging, and other services.)

I'm reaching out to you with a Connective Giving & Receiving Experiment.  You are my many friends, family, Ahimsa Lifers, and other acquaintances - you total in the thousands (maybe tens of thousands, who knows!) - with this amazing world of online connections and social media in which we live.  Here's the experiment:

  • I know this experience will be tremendously valuable to me - to my spirit, my growth as an individual, my growth as a coach, my growth as someone who provides service and help.
  • We've been connected, most likely, by birth, blood, play, school, business, a common passion or pursuit or philosophy. In at least some way, we both believe in each other, support each other, respect each other, love each other.
  • I am asking each and every one of you for your help and would love to initiate the cycle of Giving and Receiving with you. (Check out Unity, Caring, Kindness, and Friendship!)
  • If everyone could help me in even the smallest way by contributing at least $1, those dollars would add up to provide me with this opportunity to explore, discover, experience, and reciprocate value to others. 1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1+1 ... and so on makes a difference.
  • In doing so, you'd be a part of such an incredible supportive and helpful whole without going beyond your means or negatively affecting yourSelf.
  • If you cannot give at least $1, or are choosing not to give at least $1 for your own valuable reasons, there are no worries or disappointments.  Your energy and support is very much appreciated and helps too.
This Connective Giving & Receiving Experiment allows for many opportunities and greater Abundance for both mySelf and for You.  Give to Receive.  Receive to earn opportunities to Give.  And continue.  If you are open to it and willing to participate in it, this is one of the greatest gifts life can provide.  

Thank you for reading, and I hope you will participate in Giving & Receiving with me.  I am grateful for you.  Please believe in me.  

I'll leave you with a few quotes from Rumi, whose words I love, and you may love also:

"And still, after all this time, the Sun has never said to the Earth, 'You owe me.'  Look what happens with love like that.  It lights up the sky."

"What you seek is seeking you."

"Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond."

"Give up to grace.  
The ocean takes care of each 
wave 'til it gets to shore.  
You need more help than you know."

"Set your life on fire.  Seek those who fan your flames."

"Give your weakness to one who helps."

"You must ask for what you really want./ Don't go back to sleep./ The door is round and open./ Don't go back to sleep."

All the best and yummiest to you.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Unprocessed by Chef AJ: Book Review & Giveaway!

We're all looking for help in some way or another.  Advice from a family member or a friend.  A film to allow us to escape.  A book to shed some light on a topic or provide valuable information.

We're always looking for a new tool to add to our personal toolbelt, a new skill for our repertoire, a new resource to make sure we have everything we need for our heads, hearts, bodies, and spirits.  

My most recent resource that I added into my life was Unprocessed: How to achieve vibrant health and your ideal weight by Chef AJ.  I've only known Chef AJ for a short time but have learned so much from her, in person and through her book.  She has really worked her way into becoming one of the premier plant-based/vegan chefs and is incredibly accessible with information and recipes.  Currently, in addition to her website, Chef AJ's Healthy Kitchen, where you can sign up for cooking classes, workshops/events, and more, you can find her teamed up with The Plant-Based Dietitian, Julieanna Hever, in the fun and tasty videocasts, "The Chef and the Dietitian," where you can follow the two making recipes from soups to salads to smoothies to dinners to desserts.  It's a big delicious video experience.

So I recently read Unprocessed, and what I love about it is that Chef AJ leads you, the reader, through simple, relatable, easy-to-understand steps to benefit your mindset and journey toward eating an unprocessed, or whole-food, plant-based diet.  Starting with her very own life story - which you'll have to read yourself! - Chef AJ takes us through what easily could be your life experience or your life experience or your life experience.  Let me tell you, I was surprised to find out a lot about what's happened in her life. AJ definitely had to overcome some major obstacles in order to discover her passion, optimal health, and happiness.  Though many challenges were thrown her way, she succeeded - and the value of plant-based eating was definitely at the core of it.

After Chef AJ connects with you, as an author, as a friend, she continues on as a guide, a teacher, and a coach, breaking through the initially-legitimate (but ultimately flimsy) excuses for not wanting to or "being unable" to eat plant-based and unprocessed.  Once you realize "She's right!" and begin to think "Well, what do I do now...?" she swoops in like a superhero(ine), providing all of the basic information on why eating an unprocessed, plant-based diet is best for you - and then helpful tips on how to make it work in your life or your life or your life.  Finally, AJ opens up the vault and you get to cash in on over 100 delicious nutrient-rich and gluten-free recipes!  

That Chipotle Corn Salsa sure looks Smokey!
(courtesy of Forks Over Knives)
Unprocessed is personal, informational, fun, and so helpful in relaying how unprocessed, plant-based eating is valuable for everyone - yes, even you and you and you.  And when you're done, you can jump right in and enjoy with simple recipes that will wow your taste buds and contribute to (and not against) your health.

Here are some favorites that I've tried or that have caught my eye and will most likely end up in my tummy sometime in the near future:

Mmm mmm soup.
(courtesy of Forks Over Knives)

That's only 8.  Which means there are over 92 more for you to enjoy. How to do that?  Well, get the book, of course!  And I'll give you a head start!  

We're giving away one signed copy of Unprocessed to the lucky raffle winner of this last giveaway of the year.  It's super simple - you may already be a pro at this - just go to the Rafflecopter widget below, sign up for free if you need to, and follow the easy directions. The more items you complete, the more raffle entries in your name, the better chance you have at winning!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

All the best and yummiest to you.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Help Me Get to Bimini!

Everyone goes through life-changing, awe-inspiring moments.  Maybe it's just a minute or maybe it's a week-long event.  Whatever it is, it's a chance to self-reflect, to dig deep within and explore your life path, your passions, and any "light bulbs" waiting to go off with a sign, a clue, a direction.

I first met Tania Marie, creator of Emerald Bridge, through a coincidental connection on LinkedIn. We immediately started up a dialogue as our energies seemed focused in the same direction.  As a Reiki Master Teacher and intuitive healer Tania works with others - through various practices - to explore, discover, and channel their passions in a compassionate, conscious, heart-based way.  (Learn more about Reiki & energy healing here.)

Tania is teaming up with an beautiful facility in the Bahamas, called the Atlantis Rejuvenation Center (ARC), to host a life-changing, awe-inspiring retreat, consisting of yoga, meditation, raw vegan cuisine, swimming with dolphins in their natural habitat, and getting certified in Reiki (plus more).  

When I found out about this retreat, I instantly felt connected to it - as it represented numerous passions of mine, a future endeavor I was learning about (Reiki certification), and a dream since I was a child (swimming with dolphins). However, life leads a certain way, and, as of this moment, I do not have the funds to make it to Bimini.  In the midst of everyday responsibilities and finances, plus handling the little (or big) pesky ones that pop up unexpectedly, I've been slowly saving up for this retreat in December.  

It's officially crunch time.  I now ask you, my wonderful family, friends, Ahimsa Lifers, for your help in making this life-changing, awe-inspiring experience a reality for me.  

I've put together a "Bimini Kickstarter," a fundraising opportunity where I can give back for everyone who helps contribute to this amazing happening, this life-changing experience. From this retreat, I will have a brand new skill/practice that I will be utilizing along with my coaching, all of which I can provide for your health & well-being.  

I have a less than ONE WEEK before the retreat (Dec. 16th-21st) and will be accepting contributions leading up until Friday, December 14th to reach my goal. The cost of the retreat comes out to $2005, which includes all accommodations and retreat activities/events, certification in Reiki I & II, FL-Bahamas round-trip charter, and departure tax (flights/transportation separate).  I'm a little more than halfway to my goal.  Please help!

Here is the contribution help link: 

Below are the different tiers of contribution for which you will receive a valuable service to thank you for your generosity: 
  1. $1 or more: A special thanks blog post & the best shout out ever on FB/Twitter*
  2. $10 or more: A special thanks + promotion (for your business, project, etc.) blog post & best shout out ever on FB/Twitter*
  3. $20 or more: A one-time coaching email. You send me a question, concern, something with which you're seeking guidance, I'll send you back feedback and action areas you can explore.
  4. $40 or more: Call to Action session - in person, by phone or Skype.  45 minute session where we can explore a specific area of your life to release blocks, seek new avenues, and take action OR 1 Reiki Session**
  5. $75 or more: Call to Action month (3 sessions) OR 2 Reiki sessions**
  6. $125 or more: Call to Action month and 2 Reiki sessions**
  7. $250 or more: 3 months of Ahimsa Life Coaching OR Call to Action and 5 Reiki sessions**
  8. $500 or more: 6 months of Ahimsa Life Coaching OR Call to Action and 12 Reiki sessions**
*Applies to all tiers of contribution (above)
**Reiki, like coaching, can be done in person or from a distance. 

Think of it as preemptively contributing to your own life, investing in valued services that will greatly benefit you.  Of course, your investment, your contribution, your help will greatly benefit me - and, for that, I express my deepest gratitude and look forward to reciprocating with the gift in the corresponding tier.

***I've added new gifts to collection.  If you're not specifically looking for coaching or Reiki services, I enjoy being creative and bringing out my silly side - hopefully you can have some fun with these!  Thinking of something else?  Let me know and we can customize a tier for your contribution.

  1. $10 or more: I will create a professional high-quality personalized birthday/holiday/greeting card for you to give to a friend, family member, or other someone in your life (maybe even for you!).  You provide me with some basic information & pictures (in pdf or jpeg form) you'd like to use, and I'll create a ready-made card for you to send (or I can send it out myself from you).
  2. $20 or more: I will create a personalized video poem or performance for a friend, family member, or other someone in your life (maybe even for you!).  You provide me with information, and I'll create a video to you liking (and laughing).
  3. $33 or more: I will write a personalized song and create a music video for you.  You send over a couple of items that you'd like in the video, any basic ideas for my creative jumping-off point, and I'll work my MTV magic.
  4. $50 or more: FOR LA (or nearby) RESIDENTS - I will cook a homemade meal for you at your place or mine, starting with a meeting to plan out a menu.  While you relax over a glass of wine or a beer or non-alcoholic beverage, I will make a delicious dinner for you, walking you through if you'd like to learn how to make it (or you can just sit back and enjoy).  You provide the food, I'll bring the drink.
  5. $75 or more: FOR LA (or nearby) RESIDENTS - I will host and/or emcee your poker night or game night, my place or yours.  I'll provide snacks, games, cards & poker chips, you bring the rest.  I'll play dealer the whole night, Rulemaster, or any other role you see fit for the event.
  6. $300 or more: I will shave my head, leaving a little bit of hair - spelling out your initials for a week.  Or the reverse, I'll have your initials shaved into a fuller/buzzed head of hair.

These new, fun gifts can be used in combination with the original 8.  For instance, for a mere $550 you can get 12 Reiki sessions plus get a walking billboard from my "your-initial" shaved head.  Or for $20, a special thanks, promotion of your business, event, project, and a high-quality personalized greeting card for an occasion of your choice.  Keep an eye out for new ones!

Thank you for helping me on my journey.

Please make sure you include your contact information so I can contact you about your gift. Because this is not an organization-based fundraiser (i.e. Kickstarter), contributions are direct and immediate.  I will send updates to all who contribute about the fundraiser's status.  If, by chance, contributions do not bring me to a total that will allow me to get to the Bimini Retreat, I will reimburse all donations within 72 hours of the official deadline (Dec. 9th).  Email me at for any further information.  

All the best and yummiest to you.  Thank you.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Live With Passion!

It's Tony Robbins' mantra, his tagline, his salutation in emails, on his website, in his audios and videos. He encourages you to not just live life but live a life full of passion, of drive, of meaning, of purpose, of motivation, of inspiration, of momentum.  He recommends you follow your dreams and lead the way there through direction and commitment.  I haven't listened to an audio or watched a video in the past few weeks, but I can still hear his raspy, powerful voice say: 
"Live... with... Passion!"

A little over a year ago, November 3rd-6th, 2011, to be exact, I attended Unleash the Power Within, one of the many premiere Tony Robbins events.  UPW consisted of four full 12+ hour days at the Los Angeles Convention Center in a large hall of 4000+ people.  Led by Tony and Joseph McClendon III, the four day immersion intends to: 

  • turn fear into power, allowing you to breakthrough limiting beliefs that have held you back in life, featured by a "Firewalk," where you walk over hot coals around 1000 degrees F (give or take a couple hundred degrees)
  • introduce you to practical psychology and the 6 Human Needs, teaching you what drives an individual to do (or not to do) something; 
  • rile up a deep sense of hunger, or drive, of willingness and want to success, achieve, and grow, and provide the forward-moving focus needed with a pumped-up community energy
  • connect mind, body, and spirit with practical action steps to thrive with vital health and fulfillment
  • introduce techniques for you to condition your mindset and produce/live an extraordinary life
Needless to say, it was a life-changing, empowering experience (that I highly recommend to you, should you have the opportunity to attend a UPW or other Tony Robbins event).  I left UPW with a strength, a focus, a direction that I never had (or trusted I had) before.  Since then,
  • I've created Ahimsa Life Coaching and developed it into a coaching business and online platform/community: working with multiple clients toward living healthier, happier, more passionate and compassionate lives; created a contest of meaning with LogoQuestions 2012, inviting Ahimsa Lifers to explore their lives through a daily meaningful question
  • I've attracted my way into becoming the Community Manager with Forks Over Knives, a powerful, acclaimed film of which I already was a great advocate, setting my work and passion into the same realm
  • I've connected with other professionals to create opportunities and appearances to share my insight, expertise, and passion and make myself more known
  • I've established a life where I dictate my time, living my days with the time freedom for which I had once yearned
  • I broke through my fear of getting involved in improv and started classes (and even performing!) at iO West
  • I've developed a more effective and active fitness routine/program, putting on muscle & weight at a greater pace; participated in a Gladiator Run, testing my physical and mental strength and ability
  • and more...
This event easily could have been a one-time happening, a flash in the pan.  However, beyond my love and faith in what Tony Robbins teaches, I knew I needed something to anchor me to moving forward, to sticking to my promise to unleash my power within and set forth in achieving my goals with passion.  The first day of the event I purchased a wrist band that reads Tony's mantra, tagline, saying, and salutation: "LIVE WITH PASSION."  I have worn this wristband every day for the past year (now a little over a year - 370 days to be exact; if you've seen me, then you can vouch it's true), and every day it's reminded me to... you know... 

And I have.  And I will continue to live with passion in my extraordinary life.

Do you LIVE WITH PASSION?  What do you feel prevents you from living a life of passion and how can you live your passions in a greater manner?  What will you do starting TODAY to ensure your life is more passionate in health, work, play, relationships, etc.?  Please share in the comments!

All the best and yummiest to you.

P.S. I've added a new wristband to keep my LIVE WITH PASSION wristband company.  It's a maxim I've promoted and lived for the past 3+ years.  Check it out:

P.P.S. Are you interested in Unleashing the Power Within yourSelf? Check out the Tony Robbins' website for more information on upcoming events (including UPW in Los Angeles, March 2013!) and valuable tools from which you can truly benefit!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Happy World Vegan Day!



I am vegan because I love life - for mySelf and for others.  I am vegan because I am an animal lover - a true animal lover - and believe that we, as humans, have no right to abuse, confine, torture, or kill animals at our own will for our own selfish, personal reasons.  I am vegan because I would never harm or eat any of the four cats that reside with me in my apartment, and, therefore, should extend the same to other animals.  I am vegan because animal foods are one of the, if not the greatest, leading cause of global warming, environment degradation, climate change due to the horrendous practices of factory farming and the animal food industry.  I am vegan because animal foods are one of the, if not the greatest, leading cause of today's deadliest diseases and chronic conditions, led by heart disease and cancer.  I am vegan because my eyes were opened to the horrors of the animal food, clothing, entertainment, and testing industries, and I no longer wanted to contribute to them.  I am vegan because I care about my health and my body and eating plant-based is the healthiest choice I can make for mySelf.  I am vegan because I care about other people.  I am vegan because I do not want to contribute to global hunger; I want to help prevent it.  I am vegan because I want to live a long life on this planet. I am vegan because I promote and live by the ideals of Ahimsa, compassion, kindness, responsibility, accountability, awareness, consciousness, prevention.  I am vegan because there are plenty of foods that are available for me to eat.  I am vegan because all of the tastes and textures of the foods I ate when growing up and of my early adulthood are available to me with the variety of delicious food options.  I am vegan because I want to help others become aware of healthier, more compassionate ways to eat and live.  I am vegan because no living beings deserve to die for another living beings' pleasure.  I am vegan because it totally aligns with my values and beliefs of doing the least amount of harm while living the fullest, most fulfilling life through my passions and dreams.  

I am vegan, and today I celebrate World Vegan Day.  Will you join me?

Why are you vegan?  What does being vegan mean to you?  Why is living vegan important for the world?

All the best and yummiest to you.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Vegan MoFo #10: Pure Unadulterated Vegan Food Porn (a.k.a.: This is what I eat)

It's been fun, Ahimsa Lifers and other Vegan MoFos.  I didn't quite live up to writing a post a day about food, but I got a solid 10 in and, let me tell you, I ate A LOT of food.  Here are the previous 9 posts for you to go back and read/drool over:
#1     #2     #3     #4     #5     #6     #7     #8     #9

Here are some of my favorite recently documented meals:

Veggie Grill Dessert Sampler - Choco Chip Cookie, Choco Pudding, Carrot Cake

SporkFoods Heart of Palm & Tofu Crab Cakes

A Quinoa Medley of my own, with sweet potatoes, mushrooms, kale, and raisins

Sage Vegan Bistro's Jackfruit Tacos

A Good Ol' Frankenstand Beer Brat

Veggie Grill's Buffalo Wings

Veggie Grill's Thai Chickin' Salad

Browned Tofu w/gravy, Sweet Potato, and Broccoli in a Pumpkin Sauce

Pumpkin Themed Meal - Brown Rice Pasta w/veggies, tempeh, topped in Pumpkin Cream w/Shock Top's Pumpkin Ale

Blackened Tempeh over Steamed Kale, with sweet potatoes

Field Roast Sausage Salad w/cherry tomatoes and avocado

DESSERT. Fried Bananas & Peanut Butter on Gluten-Free Brown Rice Bread w/melted chocolate

SporkFoods Caprese Salad - Mozzarella, Tomato, & Basil

Veggie Grill's All-American Stack & Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes

You can see from the above that I've been living my best and yummiest.

All the best and yummiest to you. 

If You Want to Fly, You Gotta Be Willing to Fall...

A simple concept, yet hard to grasp.

The baby bird being nudged out of the nest, flapping his/her wings and very ungracefully plopping on the ground.  A child standing up on wobbly legs, taking a couple of monumental steps before plopping down on his/her bottom.  A lot of plopping it seems.

If you want to fly, you gotta be willing to fall.  Any other way wouldn't be fair, right?  To just have your way, anything you want, anytime you want it? Come on.  

Hard work + trust + repetition = success.  And not always on the first try.  Very often not on the first - or second, or third through <fill in number here> - try.  But eventually.  Through that hard work & effort. Through trusting that you deserve what you're working for. Through doing it over and over and over again until it's more difficult not to do it. That's how you learn how to fly.  By falling so many times that falling gets old, and flying becomes a more natural feeling/happening.

On the other hand, fear + needing to prove something + lack of confidence = staying right where you are.  Stuck on that branch - while all the other birds are floating through the air. Being the only toddler who just crawls around all the time.  Being terrified that something bad will happen when you haven't even put the slightest effort into an attempt forward.

I've turned a new page in life.  As a kid, fear of "failure" took over in areas in which I wasn't naturally gifted.  For that reason, I never really embraced diving into a pool.  For that reason, I didn't learn how to ride a bike.  For that reason, I didn't raise my hand in class unless I absolutely positively knew the answer to the question.  My fear of falling - of failing, of showing weakness - kept me from flying, from soaring, from excelling, from living how I truly wanted to live.

A simple concept, yet hard to grasp.  But once grasped - what can you not accomplish?  Sure it takes time, sure it takes effort - but you have both, and adding the trust in yourSelf to achieve leads you to the flight of success.

For me, I walked over hot coals without burning my feet.  For me, I climbed a 15+ rope and battled through a mud run of beastly obstacles. For me, I did a headstand.  For me, I jumped excitedly into the world of improv.  For me, I got married. For me, I moved across the country. For me, I started my own business.  For me, I finally got on that bike - at least a decade later than I probably should/could have - and I wobbled and wiggled and found my balance and rode.  

It wasn't until I was willing to fall that I found mySelf succeeding.  To put mySelf in a place of Un-comfort, of discomfort, and accept whatever would happen that time, knowing deep down "I got this.  If not this time, then next, and if not next, then definitely the time after," I ensured mySelf the exploration, discovery, and growth needed to achieve.  And that's exactly what's happened.  

Whether it's something small - like talking to a stranger, running a mile without stopping, trying a new food - or something big - expressing your true feelings & asking out that girl/guy, running a marathon, skydiving - you gotta be willing to take the chance.  With proper preparation, trust, time, and effort, your wings will grow and you will soar.  

I'll see you in the skies...

All the best and yummiest to you.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Vegan MoFo #9 - Live for Live: The Joy of Raw Foods Part 2 (Choose Your Dessert!)

This one is a dessert test.  It's as simple as it comes.  Three desserts.  You rank 'em from your favorite on down.  When it comes to live/raw desserts, the flavor, creaminess, and overwhelming pleasure are all still there.  To make the dessert experience even better, raw desserts are lighter.  So much lighter.  So you can indulge in a raw dessert and not have to worry about the heaviness in your tummy, the bloat, the yucky "too rich" feeling, the "Uhhh, maybe I shouldn't have eaten the whole thing" feeling after.

Cafe Gratitude busts out the goods and, in celebration of family visiting us in LA, we decided to go for the gold with three of their most delicious delicacies.  Here they are, in random order.  Please comment below with your #1, #2, #3 and why (I'll share mine after a few comments).  If you've already tasted CG's treats, you know where it's at.  If you're just going based on visual and personal flavor/dessert preferences, get your butt to LA and meet up with us for a meal at CG. You can be sure it'll be a taste bud trip you'll never forget.

Contestant #1: Fig & Cream Topped Chocolate Mousse

Contestant #2: Mint Chocolate Cream Pie

Contestant #3: Tiramisu

What's YOUR favorite dessert?

All the best and yummiest to you.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Interviews with Ahimsa Lifers: Food w/ Chef Christine Oppenheim (#3) + Vegan MoFo #8

Mushroom = stuffed.
Now stuff yourself with this 5 star dish!
If your life is not a healthy life, why not? If your life is not a delicious life, why not?  If your life is not an easy life, why not?  Well, healthy, delicious, and easy is just what today's Ahimsa Lifer brings to the table.  Literally, she brings it to the table in the form of Avocado Nipole Timbales, Seitan Piccata, White Bean Bruschetta, Pecan Pie, Chocolate Chip Cookies, Gluten-Free Pizza, Stuffed Mushrooms, Fresh Fruit Tarts and Cupcakes and Savory Crepes and... and... whew, sorry, I think I got a bit carried away.  Talk about a typing-induced food coma.

These tasty dishes - and more! - are the creation of Chef Christine Oppenheim, of Veggie Fixation.  If you love food, Chef Christine is definitely a go-to resource for your next meal or two or ten.  She brings out the best in food and will wow you with creative, exciting, mouthwatering plant-based eats - for both the vegan and "omnivorous" eater.  Good food is good food, right?  Well, then regardless of what you choose to eat, this spectacular chef will be pleased to serve you up some spectacular food.

To celebrate Vegan MoFo, I'm so excited to introduce you to Chef Christine, so all of you Ahimsa Lifers can get to know her, all of you LA-based Ahimsa Lifers can connect with her for catering, classes, or other meal services, and everyone can find greater Ahimsa in what you eat every day.

Home field advantage. In uniform.
Chef C is ready to cook.
Ten words that paint us a picture of who Christine Oppenheim is: 
Caring, Creative, Dedicated, Determined, Friendly, Fun, Inspiring, Passionate, Snuggly, Teacher 

When did cooking/baking come into your life? What role does it play now? 
I've been cooking and baking since I was a child; I was always at my dad's side growing up, watching him while he prepared our meals and eventually started to take the reigns. Over time, my creativity in the kitchen developed and I would often use food as an excuse to bring people together. Realizing that my true passion was found in preparing delicious meals for friends and family, I decided to attend culinary school at Bauman College in Berkeley, CA for a more "formal" training. I've also worked in a couple of different vegan restaurants (as a chef, a baker, and in front of house) in Los Angeles.

How long have you been vegan?  What does eating plant-based and living compassionately mean to you?
I went vegetarian at the age of 15, so to reveal my age, that was over 16 years ago! I started gravitating towards a more organic, plant based diet after seeing Woody Harrelson's documentary, Go Further, in 2003, which heightened my awareness of the health benefits eating in such a manner. I tend to stay away from the label of "vegan" to describe myself because to me it has a sense of activism attached to it.  While I am an advocate for plant based eating and try to encourage others to live compassionately through preparing delicious meals and introducing people to amazing vegan restaurants, I am not what would be defined as an activist. I like to encourage people to come to their own conclusions with a little boost in the right direction. Eating even one plant based meal a week is good for your health, the animals and the environment. 

What separates "gourmet" from any other meal?
I think "gourmet" is really all in the terms used to describe the food, perhaps the sauces, the added ingredients and definitely the presentation. A basic dish like macaroni and cheeze can become gourmet with a different presentation. Pasta shells with creamy cheeze sauce garlic crouton topping. Then it's maybe presented with sauteed lobster mushrooms, or tomato and roasted broccoli. At the end of the day though, it's still mac and cheeze. 

How is food preparation different for: meals for yourself vs. meals for a client vs. meals for a group of 10 vs. meals for a group of 100?
Simplicious.  You know... simple and delicious.
Unless I'm recipe testing, I eat pretty boring at home most of the time. I'm perfectly content with sliced avocado next to a plate of steamed sweet potatoes and kale, with a drizzle of flax oil and sprinkle of nutritional yeast, where as I generally amp it up for my clients. As far as the services I provide, for a group of 10, I may do a multi-course plated dinner with appetizer, salad, soup, entree and dessert, where as for a larger group, it may be more along the lines of tapas style or finger foods. As a private chef, I work out of people's homes, so I really don't find myself doing parties that are larger than 25 or 30. 

Tell us about Veggie Fixation.
Veggie Fixation provides plant-based, eco-friendly private catering and seasonal cooking classes, as well as personal chef services to prepare delicious and healthy meals to clients on a regular basis. Chef Christine works to break down common misconceptions that vegan food is bland or boring through the preparation of food that is flavorful, nourishing and fun to eat, to satisfy all palates.

What are Christine's Top Tips on:
Making Food Healthy & Fun?
Find ingredients you like and experiment with them!  Eating your produce locally and seasonally is great for keeping your meals healthy, and giving you fun, changing variety. 

Buying organic/conventional?
Buy organic as much as possible. Since this can get expensive, I always encourage people to, at 
the very least, refer to the "dirty dozen" - produce with the highest amounts of pesticides - when selecting fruits and veggies.

Meals in 15 minutes or less?
Chef C in action. Don't Mess With The Chef.
If you use one day out of the week as your cook day, you can chop all your veggies, cook your grains and beans and any long cooking items so that you can prepare a quick meal when you're ready to eat.  When you're short on time, go for quinoa, pasta or quick cooking grains, simple veggies and focus on a tasty sauce! 

Shopping cost-effectively?
Buy from the bulk bins if it's an option for you; saves you money, allowing you to buy only what you need at the time. Farmers' markets often have better prices than the grocery stores, and if you go regularly and get to know the growers, they'll often be eager to give you deals. 

Ahimsa Quickfire:
Favorite whole plant foods?
Avocado, kale, broccoli 

No cow's milk/cheese needed & I still get my tasty,
gooey, Mac N Cheeze? That's a winner in my book!
Favorite meals?
"Comfort Foods": soups, Shepherd's pie, mac n cheeze, anything Thai

Favorite quotes?
I'm a fan of the Ghandi quote: "Be the change you wish to see in the world..." and Virginia Woolf's "One cannot think well, love well, sleep well if one has not dined well."

Favorite resources?
Anything written by Isa Chandra Moskovitz and Terry Hope Romero (; CIA Professional Chef books; VegNews

My dad. :)  Local vegan chefs: Dave Anderson of Madeleine Bistro; Sanae Suzuki and Eric Lechasseur of Seed (they are so wonderfully talented, supportive and inspirational!) 

Don't forget about dessert! Bon Appetit!

Here's Chef Christine's contact info:

Be sure to check out her website, blog, and keep an eye out for upcoming classes/events.  Your next new favorite meal may be a Veggie Fixation!

All the best and yummiest to you.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Farm Sanctuary's LA Walk for Farm Animals!

It's that time of year again! In fact, it's been that time of year for a little over a month now!  It's time to Walk for Farm Animals!

Every year, the leading farmed animal protection organization in the United States, Farm Sanctuary, leads Walks all over the country to help raise awareness about the plight of the millions of farmed animals who are abused, confined, and lose their lives every day for the food and clothing industry.  The Walk becomes a rally, a force of good, a massive community gathering to provide a voice for these voiceless beings and help others connect more closely with their values & beliefs (especially when 97% of Americans oppose cruelty to animals).  The Walk allows an opportunity to bring a visual of cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, sheep, goats, horses all in an open, free natural environment - living, breathing, playing, thriving. The Walk opens up opportunities to raise funds that go to rescuing farmed animals, providing urgent care and lifelong refuge, and education and advocacy efforts.

We've been a part of three Walks so far, in Rehoboth Beach, DE, New York, NY, and Santa Monica, LA, CA, and are excited for the possibility of our fourth!  Overall, we're excited to raise money for such a powerful, valuable cause close to our hearts.  The Walks started at the beginning of September and will continue through the beginning of November.  Our Los Angeles Walk is coming up just next week (yeeps!) on Saturday,                                                                                      October 27th in Pasadena.

Team Kiss Me, I'm Vegan!/Ahimsa Life Coaching asks you, you passionate Ahimsa Lifers, for your support and to please help us contribute to the animals. A sponsorship donation as little as $1 or $5 is amazing, and anything beyond is absolutely tremendous.  

You can check out our Walk sponsorship page here.  Please leave a note if you contribute so we can say thank you (or not, if you like the whole anonymous benefactor thing).
If you live in or around the LA/Pasadena area, maybe we'll get to see you!  As of this post, there are still Walks happening in Louisville, KY, Atlanta, GA, New York City, NY, Sacramento, CA, Phoeniz, AZ, Austin, TX, Dallas-Fort Worth, TX, Philadelphia, PA, and Tampa Bay, FL.  If you don't have one in a city near you or you just can't make it, there's an even easier way to get involved with the Sleep In for Farm Animals on November 3rd.

Since its inception in 1986, Farm Sanctuary, headed by founder Gene Baur, has paved the way for opening the hearts and minds of millions of people to true compassion.  This year, Peter Dinklage, of Boardwalk Empire and other television/films, is the WfFA Spokesperson. Please join Gene, Peter, the thousands of people walking around the country, and, of course, us!, in support and celebration of our beloved farmed animals. 

All the best and yummiest to you.