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Author: Nate

I’m a blue-collar, no-frills, vegan cable guy trying to show the world
how health is not just relegated to those that can afford it, or for the
typical health nut. My cholesterol was once at dangerous levels, life
defying levels, and I made the change to a plant based diet. I started
running, quit smoking cigarettes and now, in my 40’s, I am in the
best shape of my life. The bonus is, it doesn’t cost what you think it
is, all it takes is commitment to a new lifestyle and giving a care about the world around you.

Quick Bites #6: Hammer Nutrition Vegan Bar

I was super lucky to win a contest a couple weeks back on Hammer Nutrition’s Instagram page. Shortly after, two cases of Hammer Nutrition’s Vegan Protein Bar arrived and I broke one open right away. I’ve used some of their products in the past and really enjoyed them so I was looking forward to trying these bars out; they didn’t disappoint.

It’s purely ironic that this this contest happened and things worked out in my favor; I’d been searching for a way to add to my protein macros. Being constantly on the move I can’t always prepare something on the go so these bars are doing great things for my recovery right now. Between work, coaching one of my sons soccer teams, my workout routine and just the rest of life it’s not been easy to help my body recover; I’m always active.

What’s awesome about these bars is they taste incredible. They taste so good I actually feel a bit guilty sometimes. The chocolate on the outside is indulgent and the peanut butter inside is moist and not chalky. I’ve tried bars in the past that were either way to dry or they were super tough and barely chew-able.

The macro profile is pretty decent on these with 24g of carbs, 12g of fats and a solid 14g of protein. The protein is derived from peas and the sacha inchi seed. I had no idea what that was and had to look it up. It’s from a seed that grows in the rainforest and is loaded with plant based goodness. I was in the dark on this stuff for sure and am going to look more into it, with it’s nutty flavor profile it might be fun to bake with.

I’m extremely happy with these bars and can;t be more grateful to Hammer for hooking me up with them via the contest. These would be great for hikes, after a long run or for keeping in the workvan for a quick bite during the day; I know I’ve done that latter! haha!


Compassion: The New(ish) Vegan Activism

Just a few short years ago vegans were considered to be loud and obnoxious a**holes shouting at you while you shopped or dined. Now, vegans are still out there but the approach is more kind and compassionate.

image from anonymous for the voiceless websiteTake for instance the group Anonymous For The Voiceless. Quickly they’ve become a force to be reckoned with yet their approach is simple and effective. Using a method called the “Cube Of Truth”, activists in major cities (as of now over 250 cities worldwide) around the globe stand in a cube shape with signs and laptops/ iPads that are playing slaughterhouse footage. Most of them are dressed in black and they wear Guy Fawkes masks, synonymously known as the mask of hacker group Anonymous.

While it may seem intimidating to some, the “uniform” look is to make people approach the videos a bit more and not feel like they are being judged by someone. The mask gives the illusion of non-judgement since you cannot see the expression of the person wearing the mask. For some, who are still uncomfortable confronting the truth, it’s an easier way to cope. Whatever works; as long as it’s getting them to think rationally.

I think, for the most part, we’ve finally understand that veganism will never move forward if we don’t change the approach. This doesn’t mean that other activism isn’t effective. Protests against fur farms, puppy mills, horse tracks and circuses are surely worthy; they will always have a place in the movement. I think more people are coming on board because of compassionate protesting though.

image from toronto pig save siteTake for instance the vigil. While not new, the “bearing witness” vigil is getting more and more traction and more importantly, media attention. You’ve got groups like Toronto Pig Save that wait at slaughterhouses for trucks of pigs are brought in. While the trucks are transitioning the activists approach the trucks and try to show the animals inside some semblance of kindness before they are taken away. Whether it’s a loving rub on the snout or a mouthful of water, these processes are effective. What’s just as effective is the imagery created during and spread on social media after.

This may seem silly, but giving the animals that last glimpse can bring them a bit of ease. It doesn’t change the outcome, but it is worth that fleeting moment to show that animal the love they’ve never known.

There are many others ways that vegan activism is growing. Because of the kind and compassionate approach, veganism is seeing some of the strongest growth in years. Sure, there are other factors, but you have to take these things into account.

Have you ever participated in a cube of truth? How about a vigil? What was your experience like?


Mason Jar Creation: Freekeh Coconut Curry

I was getting really bored of my lunches so I decided to try something new. While perusing the aisles at the grocery store I saw a bag of a grain called Freekeh. I’ve seen it a bunch of times but, being unfamiliar with it, I always passed. It just so happened to be on sale, and being the cheap miser that I am, I bought it. I saw another package next to it, some coconut curry sauce. I didn’t buy it (penny pincher) and decided I had everything I needed at home to make it.

Again, having never prepared freekeh, I wasn’t sure if it was even the right for a curry. I assumed since rice was a grain and freekeh was a grain than it should be good, right? It was, and here’s how I prepared it with a list of what you need first. Do not be daunted by making your own curry sauce, this was my first time too and it came out fantastic. Just cook, you can do it.

Curry Sauce Ingredients
1 can coconut milk (13.5oz)
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp Braggs liquid aminos
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
pinch of crushed red pepper

Other Ingredients
1 package Freekeh 8oz (I used some from this brand http://www.freekeh-foods.com/)
1 package Lightlife Tempeh
1 package frozen petit peas

The freekeh is gonna take a bit to cook, so start that first and prepare per the instructions on the package. Depending on how you prepare you tempeh, you can either pan fry now and set aside, or cube it and cook it in the sauce after. I refer to get a little color on the outside so I cubed it and pan-fried in some coconut oil first and then put it in a bowl.

I was scared my first time doing the curry sauce too, but don’t be. It is super easy.

Add your butter to a pan and melt. Add your minced garlic and let it cook a bit, you want it to brown up. Once you’ve gotten it to where you like it add the coconut milk. Once it’s completely in liquid form you can start adding your spices and the liquid aminos. You do not have to use the crushed red pepper, I wanted a little heat so I did. Once your spices are in, whisk until they are mixed and let it come to a bit of a boil, you don’t want it cranking though. Once it gets to that point add the peas and tempeh. The peas will bring the temp back down so once it’s near boiling again bring it down to a simmer for about 15 minutes, that way the tempeh can absorb some of the flavor, and you will be done.

Now portion sizes, let’s get into that real quick. I work four 10-hour shifts, so when I make my mason jars I only make four. This recipe, broken down into four, is dense. The calories are at 525 and because of the coconut milk, the saturated fat is higher than most like it. I am in the beginning phase of trying to add some weight, so this work for me. You can probably add a 5th jar and bring that amount down quite a bit, that’s up to you though. Regardless, this meal is packed with fiber from the freekeh so that is a huge bonus. The sodium and sugar are way down. The carbs are just right. The protein is 23g per serving!

Wait, what? I thought vegans had issues with protein….

When I jarred everything up I put the freekeh on bottom of the jar and the curry on top.

That’s it folks, how easy was that?

Vegan Shaming

Instagram and other forms of social media are becoming havens for bullies.

I don’t mean just the obvious ones; this post is not intended to diminish any of those.

The bullies I’m talking about not only put people down and make them feel like all the good they’ve done is meaningless and then they try to pilfer accomplishments from them like thieves. I’m talking about vegan gate-keepers.

For instance, I was reading a post on Instagram someone had made about them dropping by a Taco Bell and grabbing a bite to eat. They were travelling and were unfamiliar with the area so they got some food where they could. This person has posted a photo of a couple burritos which they had veganized. Taco Bell has been known to be quite open to making foods vegan for customers, just ask the Vegan Bros who swear by the stuff. Taco Bell has gone to great lengths to post info on their site to help vegans eat at their places, check out https://www.tacobell.com/feed/how-to-eat-vegan to learn more.

Anyway, within minutes a follower of theirs commented about how shitty the food was and because Taco Bell sells meat and dairy products that somehow the foods the poster was eating were somehow not vegan. They continued to lambaste them for it and made them feel small. a few other followers of course stood up to the bully but it just kept going and going until finally they were blocked from the page.

The fact of the matter is — this type of shaming does absolutely nothing to move veganism forward. These types of attacks do two things:

  • First, it makes the victim of the attack feel like garbage. Maybe they second guess what they are doing. “Why am I doing this? It’d be so much easier to just go back to the old way.” The attack does nothing to move that person forward, it sets them back.
  • Second, it makes the bully look like a no ifs and buts about it, a complete a$$hole. Comments like that make the person look like an arrogant douche-bag. It’s people like this that keep so many people away from this lifestyle. I said it before, but they act like the consummate gate-keeper of veganism. They choose to define it in their own terms, and if you don’t fit inside that pretty little bullshit box than you are not a vegan. F*ck that!

My point, don’t let those people get under your skin; you do you.

It took me so long to get to this point. I used to worry if I’d ever be vegan enough. One day I decided to wake up and not give a rats ass anymore. I stopped hiding behind the “plant-based” term and I became a vegan. If I can help you get there too, get in touch.

Book Review: Mercy For Animals

I’ve been trying to figure out a way to start this review for nearly 30-45 minutes now. You see, I’ve read the book from cover to cover once already and started it again to try to pull out parts that I want to share. The problem is I’m nearly 100 pages in again and am having a hard time putting it down long enough to type this.

Nathan’s story is gripping not only because of the experiences he shares, both harrowing and courageous, but because of the compassion from where that story generates. Whether it’s from the beginning of the book and his recounting of his childhood on the family farm or to the undercover investigations he has been a part of; the narration exudes benevolence and pulls you in from the moment you start reading.

There are beings that roam this earth that shine light wherever they go. Some believe those beings are angels or Bodhisattva’s. Suffice it to say, Nathan is surely one of those people. With careful intention, he built an organization that is selfless and has one goal; to save as many animals as possible. What I think makes them different though is the seemingly minor things they do like push for more space for chickens and hens in cages and crates. It’s about pushing for more humane conditions for animals that are already part of our shameful “food supply chain”. Mercy For Animals pushes for those little things because with small steps come bigger one’s.

Speaking of “bigger one’s”…

I have not followed MFA over the years so this book opened my eyes to one of the major breakthroughs they had; and that was with Nestlé. Through tireless investigations and work MFA were able to get Nestlé to commit to the “Five Freedoms Of Animal Welfare” which are:

  1. Freedom from hunger, thirst and malnutrition
  2. Freedom from fear and distress
  3. Freedom from physical and thermal discomfort
  4. Freedom from pain, injury and disease
  5. Freedom to express normal patterns of behavior

Nestlé did this on their own after being shown evidence of just how horrific their supply chains were and how despicable the animals were treated. The company was absolutely floored by the documentation they were shown. But, they swore to implement changes and that is amazing.

The fact of the matter is, Nathan Runkle lives and breathes his convictions. There is no denying that.

I walk away from this book with not only a deeper understanding of what it means to be an animal activist, but how to be one. Nathan’s story can, and will, inspire even the most apathetic individual.

He also touches on the future of the movement and the future of food. It’s a promising future and I hope to do what I can to help make that happen. You really need to read this book, I can’t tell you that enough.

Mercy For Animals Links
Website: https://www.mercyforanimals.org/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mercyforanimals
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mercyforanimals/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/MercyForAnimals
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/mercyforanimals

Race Recap: Ragnar Trail Series Wawayanda Lake, NJ

It’s now late Tuesday night and the Ragnover is starting to wear off… not too much though and I’m definitely still missing my teammates from the weekend.

I’ve gone over what a road Ragnar is in previous posts (PA 2017, ADK 2016, Cape Cod 2016) but have yet to do a trail Ragnar and it is quite different. Rather than piling 12 runners (and two drivers) into two vans and leap frogging for over 24 hours, Ragnar Trail has a smaller team of 8 that camps out for 24 hours or so in one spot. There are three loops that are mapped out and each runner does every loop one time throughout the 24+ hour time period. There is a transition area where you meet your runner and swap a bib that is on a belt. Super simple, right?

Our team, Strong Hearts Vegan Power, put up two teams. One was a regular group of 8 and that included Jess, Alex, Sam, Dana, Libby, Brett, Kate and myself; we’d each be doing roughly 16 miles. We also had a 4 person ultra team consisting of Jay, Johnny, Marie and Aaron; those crazies would be doing twice the mileage which is basically a 50k!

We were extremely lucky to have won the REI Premiere Camp Site. What that meant was that we really didn’t need to bring a ton of camping supplies. They provided:

  • REI Kingdom Tents
  • REI Folding cots
  • REI Camp X chairs
  • REI Camp Roll table
  • GCI Slim Fold table
  • REI Alcove
  • REI Alcove Walls
  • GSI Outdoors Pioneer Table Set
  • Yeti Tundra 50 Cooler
  • Jetboil Joule Stove
  • 2-Burner Coleman Cooking Stove
  • REI French Press Coffee Maker
  • Knife and Cutting Board
  • Campsite Lanterns

How can you beat that? We just had to bring delicious vegan grub, our sleeping bags and whatever else we wanted to bring along and run our loops. I brought Leah’s homemade banana bread which has become a staple at each Ragnar (thanks love for making it), I also made a couple of slabs of seitan ribs which I’m still perfecting, but they were still a hit as well.

One of our team members, Brett, brought another alcove style tent where he created an amazing spread of vegan cookies and candies as well as some promo material that Jason Young had printed out that explained our mission statement and a little intro to veganism for those that were interested. The table (cookies) was a hit and we talked to so many people. They were amazed at how good cookies were, as if somehow them being vegan automatically made them taste like dirt or something. Well, after this weekend the secret is out, they taste FANTASTIC!

Our start time was at about 11am and our first runner was Sam. He took off and ran the green loop, which is a 3.9 mile loop that starts on the beach so it kind of saps your legs from the get go. From their it goes through some of the camping area and then onto a fire road where it’s relatively flat for a couple miles. It then merges with the yellow loop and hits a pretty good elevation gain with some gnarly rocks and roots. Shortly after it catches up with the red loops and you hit some more camps and then back to the beach to hit the transition tent.

Sam passed the bib belt to Alex and it was off to the yellow loop for Alex. The yellow loop was 5.1 miles yet that’s about all I know of it. I did the yellow loop at night so I didn’t see much of it. It was certainly more challenging than the green and it was a step up in technicality. I do remember having to walk at one point, one of the uphills was full of roots and a good amount of them were hidden under newly fallen leaves. I wasn’t looking to twist and ankle or anything so I took those sections easy.

After Alex met back up with the other loops and brought it to the transition tent it was my turn. I had the red loop for my first run of the day. The red loop weighed in at 6.7 miles and was listed as the hardest of the three. You want to talk roots? This one had roots all day long. If you weren’t picking your feet up than you were hitting the deck after a trip. Running this one in the daytime was amazing as it wrapped around Wawayanda Lake and the views were absolutely stunning. Being fall in the northeast, the leaves are changing and it’s easy to take your eyes off the roots and rocks. Yes, there were rocks too. There was this one little neat spot I really enjoyed and that was the rock bridges that went across a swampy area. This was a great run, it would have been an even better hike since it was so gorgeous.

After meeting up with the other loops it was Kate’s turn to hit course and on and one until we cycled through the team.

Comparatively speaking, this Ragnar may have been one of my favorites. I really enjoyed the way the race was put together and how it brought the teams together in a way that rushing from exchange to exchange couldn’t do. For those that went on the SHVP camping excursion over the summer, just add some trail loops and a relay and that’s what this was. It was so chill and it really allowed us to come together and enjoy the company of our teammates.

Do we want to compare the amount of sleep you actually get too? I got at least four hours during the night, that was glorious. Johnny Hero slayed us all in the sleep department though, I think the only time he was awake was when he was running! HAHA!

I love road Ragnars, do not get me wrong. I’m in for ADK as soon as the team starts putting together a roster. But I’d happily jump in on a trail one again and again. Here’s hoping us Massachusetts folk can convince the rest of the team to come do the New England trail race. That would be awesome!

I love this race!

I love this team!

Lake Wawayanda or Bust!

EXTREMELY early tomorrow morning (as in like 7 flipping hours from now) I will start my journey (5 hour drive) to Wawayanda Lake in New Jersey. What for? Only my fourth Ragnar Relay with Strong Hearts Vegan Power.

“But Nate, you do these all the time; why is this one different?”

Let me tell you!

Wawayanda Lake is part of the Ragnar Trail Series. Rather than cram into 2 vans with 6 racers (12 racers total), you camp out with 8 racers. Rather than running from point to point, Ragnar creates three different loops varying in distance. This one has the red loop at 6.7 miles, yellow at 5.1 miles and the green loop is 3.9 miles for a GRAND total of just under 18 miles in less than 24 hours.

Again, rather than drive point to point, racers run different loops . As they finish their loop they tag the next runner to start their loop. This goes on and on all through the day and night. Each racer has to finish a lap of each loop. Depending on what runner you get depends on when you do each loop. I’m pumped that I will do mine from hardest to easiest. I’d much rather get the distance done and out of the way so I can really push myself to finish strong on a shorter loop.

When we are not running we get to eat all the vegan food! My wonderful wife, once more made a couple loaves of her AMAZING vegan banana bread, I made my BBQ seitan ribs and I picked up 5 boxes of Tofurky slices. Everyone is tasked with bringing a variety of items so their will be all sorts of goodies. I can’t wait to try Dana’s Toasted Marshmallow GU Rice Krispie Bars! Ya, you read that right!

More importantly, when we are not running we get to spread the message of ethical veganism. We were lucky to have been chosen to win the REI outfitted campsite, what that means is prime location. Foot traffic should be at a high and we will be super visible. Not that a whole group of people in black with the words “Vegan Power” emblazoned on our clothing isn’t visible enough. The location will afford us time and opportunity to do things right. Thank you to Ragnar and to REI for hooking us up.

If that doesn’t answer what makes this race different, check out the video below and pay attention at the end; our team from last year makes a cameo!