In Praise of Vegan Girls

Thanks so much to those of you who read and commented on my interview at The Lunchbox Bunch yesterday. I appreciate it!

Since the Veggie Girl Power Series is all about celebrating vegan women, I thought it would be a good day to talk my friend Melisser’s wonderful new book, The Vegan Girl’s Guide to Life.

Before I go any further, a full disclosure: I’m a little biased. See, months ago, Melisser wrote to me saying that she needed a nutrition expert to write a short, user-friendly section on the basics of vegan nutrition for the book, answering such questions as:


Honored, I said I would be happy to oblige! My short primer on vegan nutrition, then, can be found early in the pages of The Vegan Girl’s Guide to Life. In it, I offer some basic talking points (vitamin B-12, etc.). I even offer something I rarely offer on my blog: samples of what daily vegan meal plans might look like, featuring some of Melisser’s delicious recipes (NB: the reason I don’t do this on my blog is because my readers vary too much in nutrition needs for me to write prescriptively. In the case of Melisser’s book, it wasn’t hard to show readers how her recipes might fit into a balanced day of eating.):

But enough about me. My contribution is but a tiny part of this comprehensive guide to vegan living: the clothes, the beauty and skin care, the household cleaning, the DIY and craft tips, and, of course, the food. It’s also a Who’s Who of vegan women, featuring the recipe contributions and craft projects of some of the most respected vegan chefs and bloggers in the world (Isa Chandra Moskowitz, Hannah Kaminsky, Celine Steen, Julie Hasson, Kittee Berns, Kelly Peloza, and more), as well as interviews with women who are at the helm of vegan businesses. Some of my favorite interviews are with Sara Sohn, maker of the incredible Sweet & Sara vegan marshmellows:

With Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart, founder of my favorite new vegan fashion house, Vaute Couture:

And with Blythe Anne Boyd, founder of Lula’s Sweet Apothacary here in NYC:

What an inspiring group of vegan businesswomen!

It’s no great secret that the details of vegan living–from makeup to footwear–are what have proven most difficult for me. (I’ve written about it here.) Food was easy: there’s nothing I “miss” eating as a vegan, and anything I did miss at the start has faded from memory or been replaced with other foods I like. Even when I did miss certain foods, it was easy for me to say, “for the sake of animals and my own well being, it’s not a big deal to go without __________.”

Clothing, though, is a separate matter. Getting used to the idea of no longer purchasing wool, leather, and down has been very, very, very hard, and I haven’t fully gotten there. Instead, I’ve come up with various compromises: I no longer buy any new leather, wool, or down, but I’ll accept hand-me-downs and thrift store items, and I’ll also buy them used. I also haven’t thrown away my old leather boots and bags: I know it sets a poor example to wear these, but I also have a really hard time letting go of items that have served me for many years and are still wearable. It’s a struggle, and I simply haven’t resolved it for good. It’s true that throwing out shoes and bags would be financially disastrous for me: even if vegan bags and shoes are, by and large, cheaper than leather ones, they still cost money, and I can’t afford to replace my whole closet of accessories. But even as I write this, I know that a part of me is too comfortable making excuses: it’s time for me to challenge myself to be as consistently animal-conscious in my clothes shopping habits as I am in my eating habits.

That’s where Melisser’s book is such a wonderful source of inspiration! She and many of the other vegan women she features are totally savvy about vegan living in ways that go beyond food. She has shopping tips, cleaning tips, and she even runs a website, Cruelty Free Face, dedicated to animal-friendly skincare and beauty products. She’s a perfect mentor for me as I get used to the nuts and bolts of vegan living, and I can’t wait to read the Vegan Girl’s Guide to Life in full!

Of course, the first thing I did when I got the book was to gaze at the recipes. Two caught my eye immediately, and it was a lucky coincidence that I was planning on making dinner for my friend Rose that weekend. Entertaining is a great excuse to try fun new recipes! The first I tried was Melisser’s Moroccan Chickpea and Kale Tagine Over Quinoa. I added some butternut squash to it, and otherwise followed the recipe (which you’ll have to find in her book!) exactly:

Rose and I loved it!

Next, I decided to try my hand at the lovely Celine’s recipe for “Peanut Butter n’ Jelly Muffins,” which Melisser features in the book. Celine is yet another one of my favorite vegan bloggers. In fact, she’s one of the first bloggers I followed, and to this day I adore her literary sensibility, her exquisite baked goods, and her elegant photography. The recipe for the PB&J muffins is very much like the one for her regular peanut muffins, here, but instead of adding chocolate chips, you add a pocket of jam in the muffin center.

…cover them with more batter, and then bake:

The resulting muffins taste so much like peanut butter it’s uncanny, and it’s such a delightful surprise to find a little jewel of jam in the middle when you break them open:


Thank you, Melisser, for your book, your blogs, and for all you do for vegan girls everywhere. You set a wonderful example for all of us who are trying to live with compassion, and I’m personally lucky to have been a part of your book! I encourage all of my readers–especially those of you who, like me, are a little unsteady transitioning into a cruelty-free lifestyle–to check out The Vegan Girl’s Guide to Life. It’s a great resource, and a fun read.


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Categories: Uncategorized
Ingredients: Butternut Squash, Kale

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  1. This books sounds great. I love reading about such amazing ladies, yourself included. I totally admire you all, more than you will ever know. Keep being you!! Lori and I had a few bites of fish while we were home, mainly because I cannot say no to my dad, but also to see how I felt. Well to tell your the truth, I did not really enjoy it. I thought I missed it, but when it came down to eating it I was like, um I really do not miss this. haha lesson learned, hopefully

    I think I will add this book to my Christmas list.

  2. I look forward to all of the VeggiPower interviews but yours is sure to be the favorite! I love how you express all your opinions, and I’m just a big fan of you ๐Ÿ™‚
    I would love to read that book,do you know if it will be available in Mexico, or where I can get it in the web?

  3. The clothing part is SO hard. I was good, I gave away my 4 pairs of UGGS over 2 years ago, I bought synthtic pillows when the down ones were old and ready to leave my house, but finding snow shoes is damn near impossible. I found some 99% vegan ones (apparently the glue is not vegan). It is really hard though, they are not nearly as cute as some of the others! If we all just do the best we can that really matters. โ€œNever doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.โ€ -Margaret Mead

    I’m starting to rock a more raw foods lifestyle, your blog is so helpful in that!!

    Have a fantastic day!

  4. I really enjoyed your interview at the Lunchbox Bunch. I love reading interviews with people that inspire me! This book is right up my alley. I feel like the living side of being vegan – clothes, makeup, shoes etc. is not only animal friendly but so much more ECO friendly..and I am ALL about that. This book is right up my alley. Thanks for introducing it to me!!! I’m also always up for new vegan recipes. Thanks Gena ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Wow those muffins have my name on them. I’m a PB&J gal for sure… A jewel of jam in the middle of a peanut butter muffin…..YUMMMMMM….Wish I had an oven in my tiny apt here in Tokyo!

  6. What a great post, Gena! Thanks for sharing about the book…I definitely want to get a copy.

    I admire your dedication to veganism so much. I’ve been about 70% for about 6 months now, but I am really struggling with just giving it all up and going full force. I’m working on it though, and I hope to be as disciplined as you are one day.

    • Aw, Candice, thanks, but it’s not easy for anyone at first. It’s a journey! Just be gentle with yourself, and take some time to evolve slowly. That’s how we all did it. I was buying new leather as a vegan forever! Not cool, but it was just one step in my own progress.

  7. wow…I’m way behind you…but I’m trying ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve only recently become a vegeterian. The book looks great.

  8. I appreciate your wanting to be humble about your clothing. Although I think not purchasing it is the key point. Not contributing to more suffering is the goal. Give yourself some time to phase out the items still in the closet. If you really do want a reason to get rid of the leather and wool, I am sure I can look up some gruesome videos for you. I’ve seen some really bad ones of calves being skinned alive for precious “calfskin”. I am so sensitive that I have a hard time being around leather. It was someone’s skin once.

    So glad you made a wonderful contribution to the book. It’s on my wish list for sure.

    • Thanks so much B. I appreciate this coming from someone whose compassion is so deep. This is really the first year or two that I’ve been honest and tried to challenge myself about clothing, so that’s something. And I’ve seen some videos, too, but I agree that the main point is: it’s someone’s skin. Period.

  9. Hey Gena, I was just wondering about your own personal diet as well as those delicious-looking muffins! Here are my questions:

    1) Do you eat gluten? I’ve been thinking about taking a break from gluten to see if it helps with my energy levels, mood and/or digestion, and I was curious about you and gluten because of your old IBS issues.
    2) If you do, then I’m assuming you used the regular flour that the muffin recipe calls for, but do you think they would still work if I subbed a GF flour blend?

    Love your blog ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Just a note from someone who is GF, most recipes for muffins work OK with an all-purpose GF flour blend like Bob’s red mill. You can add some xantam gum if you want to help bind it.

    • Rachael,

      I sure do eat gluten! When I was in the thick of IBS diagnosis and misdiagnosis, two docs told me to eliminate it, while naturopaths all told me to eliminate it. And every time I did, I was faced with the same reality: I digest gluten just fine. Dairy, stress, overly complex meals, and fixation on my own digestion were my issues. Gluten was not!

      I’m glad that we live in a world where more and more food allergies are respected and treated, but let’s not forget that they are just that: allergies. From my point of view, there is no reason for an average person in good health to eliminate gluten, at least not if that person eats it in normal amounts. And I hate that suddenly whole wheats and other healthy glutinous foods are being treated like Cheetos or Big Macs or other kinds of junk.

      I do think it’s key to eat high quality gluten foods (like spelt, or wheatberries, or sprouted grain bread) and to eat it in moderation. Many sensitivities stem from eating too much of a certain thing, and gluten is an easy one to overdo. But I don’t think that elimination is necessary at all if you’re not a celiac sufferer.


      • It seems like I’ve seen gluten being demonized a lot lately (equating whole wheat pasta with Cheetos and other crap food, like you said). Also, I have a friend who was recently diagnosed as a Celiac, so I’ve been pondering the gluten issue a lot lately. Your comment definitely sheds a different light on it. Thanks for responding ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. the tagine and muffins look AMAZING! the book sounds cool, too. i think i’ll add it to my christmas wish-list. thanks for sharing!

  11. Thank you for introducing this book to us! Sounds like a great, informative read. Your dinner looks divine. I have no idea what I did before I learned about quinoa. It’s so versatile and easy to make. And the muffins look amazing, too. I’ll have to go check out the recipe.

  12. Congrats on your major part of this book! Can’t wait to read it. The muffins look incredible!

    As far as pre-veganism wardrobe purchases go, I think it’s our duty to wear the animal products we already own until they can’t be worn any longer. I have a leather belt that is almost ten years old and I will continue to wear it until it is worn through. Same for my sister’s very old and dirty UGG boots. I feel as though since an animal’s life was sacrificed for these products it would be more shameful to see them go to waste in a dumpster. No, it doesn’t set a great example and other vegans may judge me, but I would feel worse about throwing the belt, the boots and any other previously bought animal products away. As cheesy as it sounds, I thank the animal, wear the item in honor of it and feel proud about how far I’ve come with my purchases. This may not mesh well with the vegan world but waste does not mesh well with me.

    • Awesome perspective, Kathleen! Gives me food for thought. I hate running around in leather because I don’t like to share a pro-leather message, but that’s totally true about the waste piled upon the initial tragedy.

    • This – I genuinely don’t feel uncomfortable getting the best use possible out of something I already have. Throwing it out or even giving it to a charity shop (thrift shop) won’t bring the animal back. Why make the sacrifice even more pointless than it was to begin with? When I first went vegan I was eating old bits of meat and dairy from my freezer for some time, because throwing things away doesn’t help anyone. Re-using and fully-using are so important in helping the environment. In fact – I think I’m pretty unusual in this – but if a restaurant gets my order wrong, I’ll explain to them so they know but I’ll eat it anyway because I just can’t justify throwing food away, and I know that’s what will happen to it if I send it back!

      Personally, I’ll buy animal products from a charity shop for the same reason – recycling. I’m not sure if thrift stores are the same (I’m in the UK) but when I buy from a charity shop the profit is going to the charity who runs it, so none of my money supports the industry that killed the animal…. and I’m very keen on buying used rather than new whenever I can.

      I know people think that wearing leather etc “encourages” other people to wear leather but honestly I don’t think you can easily look at someone and guess whether their stuff is real or faux leather just by looking anyway, substitutes are pretty good these days. I’ve often suprised people when wearing vegan boots that they aren’t leather. Same with my acrylic jumpers. So if no one can tell the difference then you’re not “encouraging” anyone!

  13. I’m really looking forward to reading her book.

    I’ll have to check out your interview!

    You know, I really respect your approach to your clothes. If you were buying new leather.. well that would be hypocritical.. but by using what you have.. that is a green decision ( both for the environment and your wallet )..

  14. Gena that is so great that you were featured! Ill have to check out that book asap ๐Ÿ™‚ Im so glad that i get to catch up on your blog ive missed it so much.

  15. Hey Gena,
    I have what might seem like a really silly question, but why do vegan’s avoid products made from wool? I understand it’s an animal product, but unlike, say leather, it doesn’t mean the animals death in it’s creation, and I would have said it’s a bigger animal welfare issue for sheep NOT to be shorn in summer than to leave them with wool?

    • Not a dumb question, honey!

      Leather vs. wool is a little similar to vegetarianism vs. veganism. I’m a vegan, not a vegetarian, because it’s not only the killing of animals I object to: it’s also the causation of their suffering and the use of their products for our own purposes.

      Sheep do need to shed wool, just the way cows need to release their milk, but the argument here is that we haven’t come up with large scale practices that allow us to participate in those processes without harming the animals involved. Sure, there are some small sanctuaries where I’d guess that the sheep are shorn without any pain, but there is evidence that large scale collection and manufacturing of wool products often does involve abuse and suffering.

      There is also a more animist argument at work here, which says that it’s simply not our place to take animals products and use them for our own purposes. I’ve always found that the idea of suffering resonates more immediately with me as a vegan, but I also respect and feel the impact of this latter argument.

      Make sense?


      • Yes, the sheep have to have their tails cut in an uncomforable way. Their skin is bred to be too wooly and naturally they wouldn’t need to be shorn as much.

        AND just like dairy is linked to the hamburger and veal business, wool is linked to the lamb and mutton business.

      • Absolutely, thanks Gena! Appreciate, as always, the well reasoned and kind-to-the-questioner explanation. It’s never scary asking you stuff that I don’t yet understand xo

  16. I’m looking forward to perusing this book. I’m not much for recipes, but I like that this book has information on other aspects of vegan living. While I’m not a vegan, I see the value of this lifestyle on so many levels — ethical, financial, health, environmental.

    That said, it would be great if we could all start from zero and make purchases that 100% align with our ethics and our desires. I do think that tossing usable items is just contributing to environmental waste, so do continue to use them until you can afford to swap the animal goods out for non-animal goods. I don’t know that you’re “justifying” anything by using animal goods that you own. Just as we have a responsibility with regards to animals, we have a responsibility to the environment. Discarded clothing is the leader in the landfills.

  17. Hi Gena,

    I’ve been reading your blog a while, but haven’t commented till now. I just wanted to let you know that I related to what you talked about vis a vis leather, wool, down, etc. I too still use leather items (like shoes and bags) that I got before I was vegan. But I avoid buying these materials. I think this is okay for a couple reasons: 1) The first reason I became vegan was so that I could have less of an impact on the environment. If I threw away perfectly usable stuff and then just had to replace it, this would defeat the purpose. 2) Although there are awesome vegan bags, shoes, and fashion in general, it’s somewhat difficult to ensure that everything we are buying doesn’t have some animal by-product or cause some indirect harm to the environment.

    In my mind, thoughtful consumerism goes hand in hand with veganism.

    Anyway, thanks for your thoughts and your blog in general.

  18. Great post, Gena! I’m struggling also with finding good vegan products and hanging onto my leather items from my pre-vegan days. Shoes tend to be the hardest for me, I love boots and vegan ones in my size aren’t easy to come by. This book looks amazing, so awesome that you got to be part of it and it’s been added to my wish list. Great excuse to get rid of a non-vegan cook book I no longer use, I need to make room for this one! ๐Ÿ™‚

  19. those muffins look amazing and ive bookmarked it for the future, but i have to comment on the protein part. obviously i share your feelings about that obnoxious question and americans’ attitudes about the need for obscene amounts of protein. but im not going to comment on that now because i we are on the same page with that, so im sure your part of the book is a wonderful resource…what i wanted to tell you about was a hilarious story. i meant to email you but now im lazy and ill just post it here.
    for one of kyles MBA assignments he had to give a persuasive speech in 6 minutes with powerpoint slides convincing the audience of something. anything. it had to be short, sweet and (obviously) persuasive. after brainstorming foreverrrrrrr about what to choose he decided to try and convince the audience of his fellow classmates to eat vegan for a day. he did the presentation all by himself, and i offered little tidbits as he requested but otherwise it was his baby – probably for the best since i have WAY too much to say for a 6 minute speech. his presentation ended up winning and so he went on to present to the entire MBA class with the other top 4 winners. so part of his speech addressed the “protein” issue. he explained that vegans get enough protein from plant sources and that a diet would be lacking is a common misbelief, yadda yadda. so it went really well the second time around but then he said some douche-bag approached him after his presentation and asked him if he was vegan. he said no, he’s not (which he mentioned in the speech). then the guy goes “oh, well its really hard to get your protein.” kyle kinda gave him an inquisitive look and was like uhhhh did you listen to my presentation?
    so even if people are educated about this, apparently less than 2 minutes later they have already forgotten or ignored it altogether. naturally this is the exception as most everyone else really enjoyed learning about veganism and the health benefits and how its not as scary or hard as one thinks. but yeah, thought youd get a kick out of that. when kyle told me i couldnt help but roll my eyes. lame!

    • SO lame! But Kyle, dude, you rock hard for doing that presentation! I’m proud of you, and so is your wife. (Elise, you’re proud, right?)

      It is truly amazing how knee jerk peoples’ reaction to the protein issue is. It all goes to show how much of it is simple custom and social brainwashing, rather than balanced study of nutrition.

  20. That looks like a great book. I’ve looked at her cruelty free face website before and it’s really informative.

    It can definitely be hard to purge non-vegan items from your life! I won’t buy second-hand animal clothing or accept them as hand-me-downs, so everything I buy is vegan, but I haven’t gotten rid of all of my old stuff. I’ve managed to switch over my shoes and bags almost entirely but the biggest problem is my coats. I realized when I went vegan that every single coat I own is made of leather, wool, or down, and there’s no way I could afford to replace them all. So I wear them but whenever it is time to buy new ones I will definitely only buy vegan!

  21. I think it is great that you are living a vegan lifestyle. I don’t know if I could ever be 100% but the more I learn, the more I think it might be the lifestyle I want to lead!

  22. I dont even know where to begin this post is just so chock full of awesome stuff!

    First, your part on getting enough protein, calcium, answering all the “common” but “what about….” this or that, I am sure you nailed it and can’t wait to read it.

    And even though I just posted the other day about my overflowing bookshelves, and more books than time these days, this is a book i WILL be buying and reading. Looks awesome!

    Sweet & Sara marshmallows…been making Vegan GF Rice Krispie treats like a mad woman lately with those ‘mallows!

    Vegan Clothing line…omg I am in lust with that link.

    And the PB & J muffies…a little jelly surprise in the middle…ohhhh, how delish!

    Gena this post is just awesome, as is the book, I’m sure. I love life, tidbit, tips, suggestions for REAL living type books. This one sounds perfect for me. A mix of recipes, life stuff, and all sounds pretty low key, FUN, and dogma-free which is the only way I can ever hang with a book and finish it ๐Ÿ™‚

  23. This book looks great! I love leeanne and vaute couture, I just got a winter coat from her at a presale at Moo Shoes in NYC this past october, she is so nice!

  24. Great review! I was a recipe tester for this book, so I can attest to the deliciousness of the food featured within! I received my copy a few weeks ago & read it cover to cover in record time. Knowing Melisser, I expected it to be great, but I truly was blown away by how much useful information, fun interviews, and genius craft ideas were packed into this book! It definitely exceeded all of my expectations. It’s a perfect book for anyone & everyone, from those who are simply flirting with veganism to people who have been vegan for ages.