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Not sure of your way around the kitchen?

Empower yourself and learn how to cook. Just like any other skill, once you learn the basics, it just takes practice. And yes, time, but it’s worth it when you can feed yourself healthy and tasty vegan food easily. Before you know it, you’ll be a highly skilled vegan cook and know what’s what in your own kitchen.

There are several cooking schools, restaruants, and other businesses around town that offer vegan cooking classes. I suggest taking hands-on classes, but it can be interesting to watch demonstrations too. Besides taking vegan cooking classes, it’s also a good idea to learn proper knife skills as a starting point. Check out the class schedules at some of the following places for more information. Enjoy and happy cooking!

Cooking Schools
The Chopping Block in Lincoln Square and River North
Fundamentals of Vegan Cooking on May 5 at the Lincoln Square location. Knife Skills offered several times a month for $40–one of the least expensive knife skills classes in town. I took this hands-on class years ago and recommend it for anyone who wants to use knives more efficiently in the kitchen.

Heat and Spice Cooking School in Uptown
Learn how to cook vegan Thai, Indian, and Mexican cuisines. I have taken the vegan Thai class and highly recommend the chef and the food. Spicy and delicious!

Cooking Fools in Wicker Park
Currently no vegan classes on the schedule, but this is where I learned to make seitan. Call and ask for a vegan class! Perhaps they will add one to there schedule.

The Wooden Spoon in Andersonville
Currently no vegan classes on the schedule. Call and ask for a vegan class.

Raw Food Preparation
Cousin’s Incredible Vitality on West Irving Park
Interested in the raw food movement? Learn how to prepare raw food and become a certified raw food chef. Check the website for upcoming classes.

Cru Cacao
This raw food catering company also teaches raw food preparation in your home.

More Classes
Lakeside Cafe in Rogers Park
No classes are currently scheduled. Check their website in the future because this local veg restaurant offers inexpensive vegan cooking classes on a wide variety of topics.

Whole Foods
Class schedules vary by location, but I have often seen vegan cooking classes offered. Some demonstrations are even free.

Cooking Shows on TV
Christina Cooks: Check your local television schedule. (It is on Saturday afternoons on my local PBS station.)

Delicious TV Totally Vegetarian with Chef Toni Fiore
Check local listing for TV schedule.

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Celebrating three years!

January 1 marked my three year anniversary of becoming vegan. In more ways than I can count, this has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. When I made the decision, it was all about the food, the clothes, and the animals. I never expected all the great people who would come into my life because of this one decision. I have met the best people over the past three years including many new friends from volunteering (my tribe) and my boyfriend from veggiedate.com (more on this later!).

If I would have known then what I know now, I would have made the decision much sooner. Something to keep in mind for the next big decision. Perhaps you are considering going vegan this year? Consider the possibility that this change will grace your life in more ways then you could ever imagine. It’s easier than ever to be vegan in this world. Check out this press release on market trends for proof. So what’s stopping you?

Questions on going vegan welcome and encouraged. Come on…give me something to write about!

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Animal Ingredients List for your iPod

The list of animal ingredients in food and beauty products is extensive, overwhelming, and can seem like a foreign language at times.

For example: Civet is an unctuous secretion painfully scraped from a gland very near the genital organs of civet cats.  Used as a fixative in perfumes. Alternatives: labdanum oil (which comes from various rockrose shrubs) and other plants with a musky scent. (from HappyCow’s Animal Ingredients List A-Z.)

Ughhh. No need to despair. Of course, you can go old school and buy the book, Animal Ingredients A-Z, Third Edition

Better yet, try this electronic version (Save some trees!) that can be downloaded to your iPod. Check out Animal Ingredients List A-Z for iPod. It’s simple to download and includes short instructions for loading to your iPod. The site sources happycow.net and The Vegan Society for the information. Download it today and the next time you are at the supermarket reading food labels, you can whip out your iPod to check questionable ingredients. Very convenient. After all, it’s easy being vegan!

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Reading material

As you may have read by now, I contemplated becoming vegan for many years. Even though I knew it was the right thing to do, I just couldn’t commit (but when I did I was there 100%). It seemed like a big deal to give up all animal products (meat, dairy, eggs, leather, wool, etc.). As much as I didn’t want animals to suffer I didn’t want to suffer either. I knew if I gave up meat and all animal products I would feel deprived if I didn’t have good, solid subsitutes. I had already given up meat but the rest was a huge leap.

Until I realized all the resources available, I couldn’t imagine myself being vegan. Once I started reading about others who made the change and finding all the resources on the internet, it became easier to envision. There are several books that got me started:

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Voices from the Garden: Stories of Becoming a Vegetarian — Short stories of others who chose vegetarianism and why. Good if you need inspiration.

Becoming Vegan: The Complete Guide to Adopting a Healthy Plant-Based Diet– Good nutritional resource. (Funny story about this book. I bought it a couple of years before I became vegan. It sat on my book shelf and then sat some more. In fact it sat there so long I started to feel it staring at me, so I got rid of it. I obviously wasn’t ready. Must have bought it too soon. So I bought it again when I was ready. Are you beginning to see how hard I thought this would be? I had it all wrong. It’s easy being vegan. Now I know.)

Living Among Meat Eaters: The Vegetarian’s Survival Handbook — Good book to help you get through your first Thanksgiving dinner with omnivores and other tricky situations.

Living Among Meat Eaters: The Vegetarian’s Survival Handbook– For those who feel like they just don’t fit in.

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You Don’t Have to Wear Ugly Shoes

Being a vegan is about more than just the food you eat. An important part of being vegan is what you wear. Vegans don’t eat or wear animal products. (Check out CowsAreCool.com to learn why leather is cruel.) It was probably harder for me initially to wrap my brain around this than it was to think about giving up cheese. Basically it went something like this…”I have to give up cute, leather shoes…I don’t want to wear ugly shoes…I’m going to have wear hippy shoes if I go vegan…Where am I going to shop?…I don’t want to wear ugly shoes!” This was my small, uninformed mind thinking these silly thoughts.

Well, guess what! You don’t have to wear ugly shoes. Cute, fun, fashionable vegan shoes are widely available for guys and girls. Yippee! I mean a girl needs her cute shoes. And, guys, you too can have cool vegan shoes. Like I said before, no one should suffer.

Vegan shoes come in all different types of materials–not just “pleather” anymore. Yep, you will find pvc but you will also find microfiber, canvas, fake suede, hemp, and many other types of fabric. So where can you get some cute vegan shoes? I have listed some web sites below but often times I have found vegan shoes in major department stores and national chains such as the Gap, Ann Taylor Loft, and Macy’s. There are lots of options out there and for all different budgets. Read the labels and look for “man made.” It’s a phrase I have come to adore.

Happy (vegan) shopping! Don’t forget to pick up some new vegan belts and purses while you’re at it!

1. Moo Shoes

2. Alternative Outfitters

3. Vegan Essentials

4. Charmone

5. Beyond Skin

6. Ethical Planet

7. Earth Vegan

8. Payless

9. Zappos (vegetarian section)

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