Recipe First Impression: Stuffed Acorn Squash

recipe fip acorn

I recently moved in to my first apartment, giving me the opportunity to try lots of new vegan recipes. So to share my culinary experiments with you, I thought I would create a series of “Recipe First Impressions.” In these posts, I will share a recipe I have never made before, recreate it, and share my finished product and opinion about it.

The first new recipe I am tackling is Stuffed Acorn Squash, using this recipe from The Roasted Root. I decided to veer away from the recipe by filling the squashes with wild rice, cranberries, apples,  pecans, and a drizzle of maple syrup. When I first picked up the acorn squashes, I was a bit nervous about how this meal would turn out, since they are a bit strange looking! But I found that they were very easy to cut open and cook. The wild rice filling was lovely and fragrant, too.

I enjoyed the combination of the buttery, nutty taste of the squash with the tart cranberries and apples. The pecans also added a nice texture. The only drawback was that I overcooked the squashes! 35 minutes as recommended in the recipe was not long enough, but the 55 minutes I cooked them for was too long. Next time, I will try cooking them for around 40 minutes.

Overall, I really liked this recipe. It was easy to make, delicious, satisfying, and healthy. It makes a festive and pretty autumn meal, and would be perfect for the holidays. I would make this recipe again, and I would recommend it to anyone interested. Below is a picture of how my stuffed squash turned out:

acorn squashhh

I hope you enjoyed this post! If you have any recommendations for what I should make next, please let me know!

Best,

Leila

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How I Cleared My Skin

How I cleared my skin 1

Since I was 11 or 12, I have been struggling with acne. Even after going vegan over a year ago, my skin was still uncooperative as ever. But this summer, I have been taking measures to clear my skin and am finally seeing results. So in case you are also struggling with skin that has a mind of its own, below are the things I do to help clear my skin.

1. Keep my hair off my face. When you have what feels like a mountain range on your face, it can be tempting to hide it behind a curtain of hair. But after consistently pulling my hair back in a ponytail or half-up half-down do to keep my hair off of my cheeks and forehead, my breakouts began to calm down.

2. Change my pillowcase. I aim to change my pillowcase every other day (1 side of the pillow per night), and it has been making a world of difference! My acne heals much better overnight when I sleep on a clean pillowcase.

3. Sleep well. Going to bed early maximizes the healing sleep your body needs to repair itself. I tend to get into the habit of staying up late and waking up late, but I have found that my skin fares much better if I go to bed earlier and wake up earlier, even if I get the same amount of sleep.

4. Don’t touch it! I am always tempted to touch or pick at acne, especially when I am stressed or nervous. Messing with pimples only makes them worse. They heal much slower, can leave scars, and can spread to nearby skin. Keeping your hands off your face makes a big difference in lowering healing time and preventing future breakouts.

5. Go bare faced. My solution to breakouts has always been to slather on a bit of concealer and head on my way. However, even the lightest coverage makeup still does more harm than good for my skin. It can feel embarrassing to leave your imperfections out in the open, but after not wearing face makeup regularly for over two months, I found that the benefits far outweigh those first few weeks of insecurity.

6. Remove my makeup. But if you do wear makeup, make sure you remove it completely. I still have clogged pores near my eyes from not removing my eye makeup thoroughly. To prevent this, I go over my eyes and face with a makeup wipe after washing it to be sure I have cleaned away every last bit of makeup.

7. Avoid trying new products. A month ago, I tried out a new concealer and almost instantly got the hugest breakout. So if you are trying to clear your skin, it is best to avoid risking aggravating it with new products. But if you must try something new, go for something more natural or something that is formulated for sensitive skin.

8. Patience. When taking steps to clear your skin, it is important to stick with it even if you do not see results right away. Healing acne takes time. With persistence, your skin will improve.

My Skincare Routine

My skincare routine 1

I have very sensitive skin, so I find that less is more when trying to clear my acne. I wash my face every evening with Yes To Tomatoes face wash, which is very natural and gentle yet formulated to fight acne. Then, I moisturize dry patches using C.O. Bigelow Rosebud Salve. In the morning, I wash my face with only water and then moisturize.

Final Tip

Remember that having acne doesn’t make you less of a person. Don’t let it get you down or stop you from doing what you love. Make efforts to be the best you you can be, but also don’t fret over every imperfection. My skin still isn’t perfect, and I don’t expect it to ever be. We all just have to learn to love and nurture our skin as it is. ❤

skin you're in

Best,

Leila

How To Cut a Mango

how to cut a mango 2Ripe and sweet mangoes are the perfect cool and refreshing summer fruit. They are also rich in vitamins A, B and C, aid in maintaining clear skin, and even have cancer fighting properties. So in case you do not know this trick, this is how to cut a mango for maximum enjoyment. 🙂

To get started, find a ripe mango and a sharp knife. If the mango is ripe, it should feel slightly soft when you squeeze it. They ripen well on a sunny windowsill.

Steps:

1. First, locate the top of the mango. To do this, hold it upright and find the knot where it attached to the tree.

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2. Using the knot for reference, place two parallel cuts about one inch apart so the pit lies between them. Cut all the way through the mango to produce 3 slices.

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3. On both end slices, place 3 parallel cuts and 3 perpendicular cuts in a checkered pattern, but do not cut through the skin. Then push up from the bottom to invert the mango skin and form cubes.

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4. On the slice with the pit, place a slit in the skin so it is easy to peel away as you eat. This also makes it easier to hold the pit.

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Now the mango is ready to eat! Happy snacking! 🙂

Best,

Leila

April Favorites

It has been a long time since I published a favorites of the month post. I have been enjoying a few things this month that I think are worth sharing, so let’s get into them:

Beauty

Josie Maran Coconut Watercolor Eyeshadow

IMG_1848With the warmer spring weather this month, I have been using my Josie Maran Coconut Watercolor Eyeshadow in Playa del Pink. It is a very nice metallic rose gold shadow that wears well as a base or on its own. Wearing it underneath shimmery champagne shadows gives an intense and radiant look. Best of all, this shadow is super light, natural, and cruelty-free!

Yes To Tomatoes Acne Cleanser & Yes To Cucumbers Body wash

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I have also been loving Yes To products this month. Their tomato acne cleanser is very nice and has been helping clear my skin. I switched from their scrub to the gel because I learned that the beads found in exfoliating products are too small to be removed by water filtration and often end up in local bodies of water. When aquatic animals as fish and turtles ingest the pellets, they may accumulate in their stomachs, causing them to die of malnourishment. I also found that the harshness of the exfoliating beads irritated my skin, so using a clean washcloth to exfoliate is kinder to both the animals and your skin.

I also love the cucumber body wash. It is gentle for sensitive skin and smells super refreshing. It is a great cruelty-free and natural dupe for Dove’s Cucumber Green Tea body wash.

Fashion 

I purchased a few items at winter clearance sales that have become staples this month.

First, I have been loving these strappy heeled booties. They are very versatile and comfortable. I also love the texture of them. They are some of the nicest vegan leather shoes I have come across.

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Second, I have been enjoying incorporating this crescent moon pendant necklace into my outfits. If you wear a lot of black like I do, a silver pendant like this one adds an eye catching touch of detail and texture.

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Third, I have been wearing this black kimono style top often this month. I love the delicate crochet sleeves and long fringe detail at the bottom. It is light and comfortable and adds a bohemian vibe to any outfit. I pair it with high waisted shorts and black maxi-skirts.

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Food

I have been eating strawberries like crazy this month. I like snacking on a bowl of them for dessert or between meals. They are also great chopped up in a bowl with bananas.

strawberries

Those are all of my favorites for this month! I would love to know what you have enjoyed during April. Hope you have a lovely May!

Best,

Leila

Vegan in College: What I Eat in a Day

what I eat in a day veganA common question among prospective vegans or students heading to college soon is, “What the heck am I going to eat?” If you eat all of your meals at a dining hall like I do, this question can be even more concerning. To hopefully provide some insight, I am going to show you everything I ate today as a vegan college student.

Breakfast

For breakfast, I ate a bowl of pineapple and strawberries, half of a grapefruit, and a banana. I also drank a glass of water. Typically, I like to have peanut butter toast, but I wanted to go running and was too drowsy to wait until afterwards to eat breakfast, so I opted for a light and energizing all-fruit  breakfast.

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Snack

After I finished my run and had gotten ready, I went to my favorite coffee shop to study for an exam. I drank a peach iced black tea and ate a banana and an apple.

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Lunch

For lunch, I ate a spinach, tomato, cucumber, mushroom, and hummus sandwich on wheat bread. Tip: hummus makes a great substitution for cheese on sandwiches and adds flavor so you need not add any additional sauces.

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I also ate a plate of veggie sushi, which contained carrots, cucumbers, and avocado.

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Another tip: Whenever I visit the dining hall, I like to take some fruit, such as apples and bananas, with me and keep them in a fruit bowl in my room. Then, if I am hungry during the day or after the dining hall closes, I have a snack on hand. I recommend keeping only healthy snacks in your dorm room so that when you are up late studying for exams or working on projects, you won’t be tempted to binge eat junk food. Am I the only one whose inhibition takes a nosedive after midnight?

Dinner

As a vegan in college, there are bound to be days when the vegan options at the dining hall are far from ideal. Today was one of those days. The only vegan entrees the dining hall in my residence hall was serving were tater tots, fries, and orange sauce. 😦 Here’s a tip for turning a tight situation around: Check the menus at other nearby dining halls (my university has an app for this). That way, you can scope out some tastier, healthier vegan options and avoid having fries for dinner.

I took a trip to another dining hall that had a rad pasta bar. I got mine with broccoli, mushrooms, grape tomatoes, marinara sauce, and soy cheese.

IMG_20150424_170406622I also ate a plate of grilled asparagus.

IMG_20150424_171232233For dessert, I ate a bowl of pineapple and strawberries.

IMG_20150424_172010634Snack

For a study snack later that evening, I ate a cashew and almond mix.

IMG_20150424_194517419That’s what I ate today! I hope that this helps to answer the question of what vegans eat, and what to eat in college.

Best,

Leila

Go Vegan for a Day on March 20th!

meatout

If you have been searching for the opportunity to give the vegan diet a try, but have lacked the incentive to dive in, here is your chance! On March 20th, you can join the thousands across the world pledging to go vegan for a day. One day does not seem like much, but only 3 vegan meals can do tremendous good for the earth and the animals. Each day, a person who eats a vegan diet saves 1,100 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 square feet of forested land, 20 pounds of CO2 equivalent, and one animal’s life!

pig and lambThe benefits of going vegan are not only amazing for the animals and environment, but also extend to your health. Choosing to eat vegan is an effortless way to go cholesterol free, cut down on fat, and eat more nutritious fruits and vegetables. But of course, there are plenty of indulgent vegan treats too, so you won’t be missing out on anything!

100% VEGAN

So whether you decide to go vegan all at once, or begin easing your way into the lifestyle a bit at a time, this is your chance to test out the waters. What are you waiting for? Pledge to go vegan on March 20th here!

Once you have pledged, check out PETA’s awesome vegan starter kit for all of the tips and tricks you will need to make your first day vegan a breeze. For some ideas about what to make, check out the recipes on my blog, such as french toast, a tofu scramble, and macaroni and cheese. And as always, let me know if you have any questions about the vegan lifestyle.

Best,

Leila

My Vegan Story

my vegan story

I am vegan. In other words, I do not eat animal products, including meat, dairy, eggs, and honey, wear animal fibers and skins, use products tested on animals, or visit places that use animals for entertainment.

But it was not always that way. Six months ago, I made the commitment to live vegan. In this post, I will share the story of how and why I went vegan. It is a very personal story and was difficult to write, but I hope that if you are interested in going vegan, this helps you put your heart and mind in the right place.

I will begin my vegan story in November of 2013, before the idea of going vegan had even entered my mind. My parents were divorced and my sister and I were caught in the middle of a custody battle. I hated that, just because I was a minor, I had no say in what was happening to me. The judges, lawyers, and psychologists who did not know me at all had more power over my life than I did. And no matter what I said or did, I was always told the same thing: I had no choice.

Through these hard times, I turned to music. In February 2014, I started listening to The Agonist, a metal band fronted by Alissa White-Gluz. I loved listening to bands with a strong female vocalist because it made me feel empowered, like for a second my life was in my own hands again.

the second

In addition to being a vocalist, Alissa White-Gluz is a passionate vegan and animal rights activist. Her passion soon began to rub off on me. I looked up to her and decided I wanted to be vegan too someday.

During the spring and summer of 2014, I began to realize that eating animals was wrong. I would feel so guilty every time I ate or prepared meat. But I was afraid to talk to my family about going vegetarian or vegan. I figured I would wait until I went to college that fall to make the change.

But my guilt continued to grow. I began to feel nauseous every time I ate meat and tried to stop. I would cook dinner for my family, eat the side dishes, and then put the meat away once my family had left.

All the while, I was in a constant mental battle with myself, fighting against what I knew was right. What if the animals died painlessly? What if I only ate meat that was hunted, so they weren’t being killed in a slaughterhouse? But deep down, I began to realize that none of the excuses I came up with could justify killing animals.

Then, I had a dream that changed everything. In my dream, I was in a forest with sunlight shining through the green leaves. I saw a deer in the trees. The deer was so detailed, that I could see the sunlight shining through her ears and the delicate veins running through them. She was not just an animal. She was someone.

But behind her, I saw a hunter.

in that moment

In that moment, animal rights became real to me. I realized that animals have their own lives, families, futures, hopes, and dreams and do not want to die. They deserve to live out their lives free from harm, just like people do. They are not objects here for us to use. They exist for their own purposes. I realized that I should not gain my nourishment from someone else’s pain and suffering if I do not have to.

I still felt shy about talking to my family, so on July 17, 2014, I wrote my family a note about my decision to stop eating meat. They were very supportive and understanding of my lifestyle change. My mom even bought tofu and tempeh for me.

But after doing research on the dairy and egg industry, it quickly became obvious that a vegetarian lifestyle was far from cruelty-free. So I decided to go vegan. July 18, 2014, 6 months ago from today, was my first day vegan.

Since then, animal rights has become my passion. I know with all my heart that animals deserve to live free from harm, usage, and exploitation, and I will never give up until they are free.

angora hurts rabbitsAfter I started college, my painful custody battle finally came to an end. I now use my experiences to strengthen my empathy for animals. Their suffering is a thousand times worse than mine, with no freedom in sight. And until the world hears their voice, I will speak for them:

Please, go vegan. I know that you care about animals, and that you could never hurt one with your own hands. I know that it is difficult to unlearn the idea that animals are here for humans to use. I know that making such a big lifestyle change is scary. But it is beyond worth it.

Living vegan means that the hundreds of animals you use and consume each year do not have to suffer any longer.

It means that mother cows get to feed and nurture their calves instead of being separated at birth.

cows reality vs hope

It means that male chicks get a chance at life instead of being ground up alive by the egg industry.

chicks reality vs hope

It means that pigs get the opportunity to show their intelligence and personality instead of becoming a meal.

pigs reality vs hope

To you, choosing between soy milk and dairy milk, a veggie burger and a meat burger, does not seem like a big deal. But to them, it means life or death.

It does not take a special person to be vegan. You don’t have to be an animal lover or health fanatic. I was just an ordinary person who decided to care. And I know you can do it too. All it takes is an open mind and a compassionate heart.

Best,

Leila