Father’s Day Reflections

For Demetrius:

Growing up, I always felt fortunate to have lived in a home with my father. Having a dad gave me the ability to navigate through life without having to question certain things. It gave me a boost of confidence that allowed me to move through life with 10 toes down (RIP Nipsey Hussle) and know that I would be okay. It gave me the ability to turn down guys who wanted too much, to know the story behind my last name and to have my existence as a Black woman validated. As a child, I watched my dad do whatever was required to take care of us. I watched people rave over his meals and even try to get his recipes out of me & my sister after church dinners. I watched him teach himself to repair things around our house. I listened to his stories about growing up in Philadelphia in the 70s. I laughed at his funny stories while learning to respect whichever old school artist was playing in the background. And I enjoyed my first bean pie from the brothers with the bow ties when he taught me about how other Black people experienced God. So many of the things I love (cooking, history, Philadelphia Eagles, music, learning anything new) and care about have their root in our shared story. As someone who never spoke positively of their experiences with their own dad and who still carries lots of pain from that relationship, I’ve often wondered where the drive to keep his family going and thriving came from. My dad is in no ways perfect. Our family has had some very dark years over the past couple decades related to my parents deciding to divorce. Our relationship has had so many bumps, twists, turns and even dead ends at points. It’s been the cause of many a conversation with my therapist, tears, phone calls to my mom, and even difficult sacrifices for me. No choice made by a parent is without consequence and I have had to bear the weight of those consequences. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve seen what the alternative could have been. I am grateful for the positive I experienced and I am grateful I grew from the negative I experienced as a result of my relationship with my dad. I believe that at 29 years old, I can finally understand Joseph’s position. Sometimes what is meant for evil God can work out for good. To my dad, Demetrius, Happy Father’s Day. Thank you for stretching yourself to love your children. Thank you for learning to love even when you hadn’t seen it before. Thank you for showing me that Black fatherhood could be more than what the stereotypes said. Thank you for being so excited about your newest grandchild. And thank you for always telling me how proud you are of both me & my sister. We’re proud of you, too, and we know that the best is yet to come for you.

For Anthony:

As I sit in bed 31 weeks pregnant with our first child, I am in awe of the miracle of life growing inside me. My husband and I have been given the most precious gift in the world. This child that we are waiting to meet is our greatest responsibility and joy. Yet no responsibility comes without sacrifice. When we found out I was expecting in December, our joy was abundant but the reality of what would unfold hit us very quickly. During the weeks leading up to Christmas, my body started to feel like a death trap. A few days before Christmas, I went to get a massage, ate something light and made a mess all over my clothes, my husband’s car seat and a random parking lot. As someone who hasn’t experienced much illness and has been incredibly healthy and honestly, independent for most of their adult life, this was quite a shock for us both. Shortly after this, we traveled out of state for my husband’s work, only to experience the same illness magnified over a week’s time. We quickly learned that the crackers, peppermint and ginger were not helping, and that this might be more than we both expected. By the time we returned home, I had lost significant weight and needed an ER trip for dehydration. My husband stayed by my side, advocating for my care and ensuring that both I and our baby were being appropriately treated. Since our baby began growing inside me, our life has changed dramatically. Work, grocery store, home, repeat. No more dates with friends, no more hanging out after work just for the heck of it, a lot of frustration and a lot of anxiety around every meal. Sometimes tears even. That became our life. Morning (and noon and night, if I’m being honest) sickness took over to the point where he had to become our personal nurse. Constantly moving me from couch to bed to bathroom, to holding me up and bathing me in the shower, to repetitive grocery store and food runs to try to get whatever would stay in my stomach and allow our baby to grow. I’m sure he broke a record with the number of visits he made to my school this year to bring coconut water and turkey jerky, dry pasta and rotisserie chicken, Lara bars and two peaches, breakfast sandwiches and an orange juice, a toothbrush in case I left mine and bottles of alkaline water because all other water tasted bad. Driving to school became impossible for me because (you can’t vomit and drive) so he dropped me off and picked me up every single day. Some days when I felt particularly crummy, he came inside and walked me to the car. He never became upset when I wet the bathroom rugs he had just washed, when smelly things from my stomach ended up on his feet or the floor, or when I didn’t cook for 4 months straight. His prayers, hugs, wiping my tears, and understanding my moods kept me going when I questioned my body’s ability to support this child. My husband is a very private person when it comes to our family and he would never tell anyone all the things he’s done for us this year. But he has sacrificed a lot of opportunities for greater personal success to stay by our side during the day while working tirelessly through the night to make sure that both his wife and baby flourished. I know that this is what men should do, but so many don’t. They see the challenge and go the other way emotionally or even physically. I’m thankful that he didn’t. Anthony, you are the father I prayed my child would have. You aren’t afraid to say “I love you” and show your love. You are consistent and spontaneous. You are supportive and unselfish. You are gentle and strong. You are hard-working and humble. You are creative and controlled. We wouldn’t have survived this year without your love. You are an answer to my prayers and I know that the only person who will even come close to loving you as I do is our little Pumpkin. Happy 1st Father’s Day and thank you for loving us so well. The best is yet to come for us.

Don’t Sleep on Celery

Hey friends,

I hope that you’re well. I wanted to pop in to share a short post on one of my new found food friends – celery. In my house growing up, celery was used to make dressing for Thanksgiving and it was a must have in chicken soup and chicken salad. So basically, it was a sidekick just used for it’s flavor. But these days, I’m giving celery the shine it deserves.

As I’ve learned more about food, I have learned that celery is a very underrated healthy food. It is a good snack, but it also makes good juice. Here are some of the benefits I’ve found.

Celery is an anti-inflammatory food.

Because so much of what most people eat is highly inflammatory (wheat, sugar, dairy, meat), it is so important to find foods that fight inflammation. Although I try very hard to stay away from inflammatory foods, there are times when I eat them. All I can do after that is try to eat things that will fight those effects. My go-to foods are turmeric, nuts and celery. These foods keep me feeling good and ultra healthy.

Celery has a mild flavor and can easily be masked.

Every family has at least one person who grapples with taste when it comes to transitioning to a healthier lifestyle. In my family, that person is my husband. He can smell kale, wheat grass and any sort of vitamin from a mile away. When I’m drinking veggie juice, he is hiding on the other side of our apartment hoping I don’t say “baby, give this juice a try.” Well, with celery juice, I have a bit of an advantage when it comes to getting him to drink it. If I juice pineapple, orange or lemon with it, he may never even know that he is drinking celery juice. So if you’re constantly looking for ways to add more healthy foods into diets of picky eaters in your life, celery is a great way to do that.

Celery is great at cleansing the liver.

The liver is such a hard-working organ. It has over 500 tasks and is the second largest organ in the body. Some of its essential tasks include creating bile (which helps with the breakdown and absorption of fat and cholesterol), supporting blood clots, vitamin and mineral storage, etc. And when alcohol is consumed, it works double duty by filtering it out of the bloodstream. Overall, each of us needs the liver to be in good working condition. Celery is full of vitamins and minerals that can protect the liver and flush out harmful toxins.

Celery has a benefit for every part of the body.

With so many different vitamins and minerals, celery can do something awesome for every part of the body. Celery can help relieve headaches and menstrual cramps, urinary tract infections, improve sleep, encourage healthy bowel movements, help relieve gout and arthritis pain, reduce breast milk production, reduce blood pressure, increase libido, boost heart health, aid in weight loss, improve digestion, fight cancer and more. There is really no reason to not eat celery in some way, shape or form.

So when you head out to grocery shop this week, make sure to include a bunch of celery.  It’s a food that we can all use more of in our diet.

Thanks for reading,

Brittany

5 zero-waste swaps to reduce food trash

Two weeks ago, National Geographic shared a story about plastic pollution that photographer Randy Olsen has been covering for two years. In his story Planet or Plastic?, Olsen shares pictures that explain how 18 million pounds of plastic end up in our oceans each year. His photos also make it quite clear that discarded plastic wreaks havoc on the populations closest to it. At first glance, the pictures made my heart drop. I wondered if I might have used one of the water bottles pictured. I’ve never lived near a landfill or dumping sites, so plastic pollution hasn’t impacted me like it has people in the parts of India, China and lower-income communities all over the world who do. But at second glance, the pictures made me want to take responsibility.

I’ve known about the zero-waste movement since January. One day while listening to TEDx talks, I ran into a talk from Bea Johnson on how her family has produced almost zero trash in the last 5 years. This blew me away but also opened my eyes to the real problem that trash has become. What I learned since January is that the average American makes 4.4 pounds of trash everyday. This translates to just over 1,600 pounds a year and as a country, we create 254 million of trash yearly. That is enough to trash to reach the moon and back 25 times. If Americans continue to make trash at this rate, it is going to cause major issues for us down the road. China, who has traditionally purchased trash from us, has decided to no longer accept our trash beginning in January 2019. Some east African countries are considering banning second-hand clothing imports from America so to better support their own fashion industries. Things are changing and we need to change too, or else we will likely find ourselves living much closer to our trash and the problems trash brings.

So, how can we change this?

What sort of improvements can one person make?

Well, we can start by looking at the items we use differently. We can look for more sustainable, reusable and less toxic items. We can stop having a “disposable is better” mindset. We can cut back on the chemicals. We can also begin to consider the impact that products we use everyday have the environment.

How can we cut back or avoid products that require drinkable water and create toxic water during processing?

How can we reduce our consumption of animals/animal products that produce harmful gases or need a lot of valuable resources?

 How can we hold our favorite companies accountable for the pollution that they create to earn profit?

How can we reduce our plastic usage and use our money to invest in things that can be reused?

As you can see, these are the questions I have been considering for the last 5 months. And in that time, I had made a lot changes to how I shop, cook and look at everyday items. There is a lot to think about when one first becomes interested in the zero-waste lifestyle. To make things easier, I have shared 5 of my favorite zero-waste swaps that can easily help one kitchen trash. These are items that if utilized can help make huge cuts in the 4.4 pounds each person is said to produce daily. The most ideal situation would be to find these items used or second hand, but the main thing is to get started however possible.

1. tiffin or bento box

Lunch boxes and containers have always been a hot commodity among kids and adults. Even now, I take lunch to work everyday so it’s even important for me, too. I remember my parents purchasing me a new plastic lunch box every year that I was in elementary school. It was usually filled with plastic-wrapped sandwiches, fruits in plastic zipper bags and a plastic straw for my juice box. So throughout my school experience, this equals out to a minimum of 6 lunch boxes (if not more) and pounds of plastic waste that all ended up in a landfill. A great zero waste swap is a stainless steel tiffin or bento box. These containers can be filled with healthy foods and will last for years. One of my favorite food bloggers has been filling her daughter’s Planetbox with goodness for years (check it out with #realnaturalkidslunchbox). This is a swap that will keep on giving (and keep you from running through Target like a madwoman the weekend before school starts looking for a new lunch container for your child) for many years to come. 🙂

2. utensils

 

Bamboo utensils are a really great zero waste swap. In the US, it is estimated that we throw out billions of pieces of plastic cutlery each year. A study from the San Francisco Bay area found that about 67% of the trash on their streets was made up food packaging waste. We can do a lot better than this by simply using reusable utensils. This is something that I am committed to and although I generally use a metal spoon or fork from home, this bamboo set would go nicely in with any lunchbox or tiffin.

3. drinking straws

Plastic straws are everywhere! According to Plastic Pollution Coalition, Americans use 500, 000, 000 (yes, million!) plastic straws everyday. Even at restaurants that serve food on reusable dishes, they still often times give every patron a plastic straw. These straws never go away. They end up in our oceans, which ends up inside of our sea animals. A simple swap is to purchase a silicone or stainless steel drinking straw, and to also say no to plastic straws. These are easy to clean, easy to carry and will likely save thousands of plastic straws from ending up inside the oceans we so desperately need.

4. produce bags

Anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE grocery shopping. Up until recently, I never thought twice about placing every ounce of my fresh produce inside of a plastic produce bag. Because I buy lots of produce, a single trip to the grocery store could result in my using 10 or more of these in one trip! These bags never get used again and end up in the landfill quite quickly. A great solution to this is to purchase reusable produce bags. They are a one-time purchase and can prevent the need to use plastic produce bags ever again. Also, since I’m a grocery shopping pro, let me share an awesome tip. Please know that every piece of produce doesn’t need a bag. But these reusable ones are a great option for the produce that does.

5. glass jars

If you’ve noticed a trend yet, most zero-waste swaps simply require going back to what worked before we learned to simply use things once and throw them out. If your grandparents were like mine, they kept Mason jars around to use for food storage, drinking out of and for growing plants. Mason jars are fashionable now and are associated with all things southern, but when it comes down to it, they are great for storage and meal prep. I use them to hold salads, water, smoothies, soups, oatmeal, quinoa and veggie “bowls” and so many other foods. I also store my dried beans and grains. It looks great and I don’t have to buy a new one every time one gets discolored, starts to hold smells or looks old. I also don’t have to worry about anything in the jars interfering with my hormones.

If you decide to try any of these items, please let me know how things turn out for you. Small changes equal big results over time.  I am excited to hear about how incorporating these reusables saves you time, money & makes our planet a greener place. If you are interested in learning more about the zero-waste lifestyle, be sure to follow the following IGers: @zerowastehome, @zerowastechica, @going.zero.waste and @zero.waste.collective. I’ve learned so much from following each of these people/accounts.

Thanks for reading,

Brittany

 

This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you choose to purchase these items, a small amount of money will be sent to The Green Pursuit to help with maintenance and hosting fees. 

 

Getting Out of My Head

The hardest part about wanting to write is forcing myself to get the ideas out of my head and onto paper. Some of you may not have this issue, but I’m sure someone reading this can relate.

I am by nature a true overthinker. I take an ideas and boil it down into small particles, sometimes examining every possible outcome and aspect. At times, I even talk (or think) myself out of ideas because I assume everyone already knows it or they aren’t that valuable. My overthinking can be likened to the scene in Avengers: Infinity War when Dr. Strange looked into the future and found millions of possible outcomes for the situation the group was facing. The only difference is, I don’t have any super powers so my over analyzing never shows me anything new.

In this season of life, I am learning that it is okay to do my thinking on paper. I don’t have to keep the ideas bottled up until they are perfected before sharing them. I don’t have to have everything sorted out before I start to create. Ideas don’t have to be a final destination; they can indeed be a starting point. Growth can come from dialogue, but there can be no dialogue if I am not sharing ideas.

My goal for the next few months is to share more, even if I still want to ponder. There has to be a starting point and this short post (that was imagined weeks ago) is this overthinker’s step one.

Thanks for reading,

Brittany

4 Plant-Based Bloggers of Color You Should Be Following

 

Hello friends,

I hope that you are well. February is a very special month for me because it is Black History Month. Even as a young girl, I always enjoyed learning about the history of my people and our experience here in the United States. One of my favorite aspects of the experience to learn about has always been nutrition & cooking.

It’s no secret that food is an important aspect of culture, and food has played a big role in the lives of African-Americans from the time we reached this country to present. What I have always loved learning was how plant-based African-Americans had been for generations. During the least fortunate points in our history here, we were given the worst scraps of food along with the plants we grew. The beauty in who we are is that we were able to make what was supposed to be unusable taste great and continue to live on for another day.  And when we were no longer in that situation, we relied on plants because fruits and vegetables were more affordable & sustainable for people that grew their own food. I always remember my mom’s stories of how her parents always kept a large garden, with her father’s watermelons being her favorite plant that it yielded. Over the last century, so many things have changed regarding how active we are & how we get our food. Grocery stores, fewer farms, bigger cities, sedentary jobs, convenience foods, food deserts, and fast food restaurants concentrated in Black & Brown neighborhoods have all had their impact. Unfortunately for African-Americans, this has shown up in higher instances of heart disease, diabetes & high blood pressure than other groups, just to name a few. However, I am excited to see that there are many people who look like me who are (and have been for a while) embracing the plant-based lifestyle, taking our health back and getting back to our roots. I have decided to highlight a few of these bloggers, who in my opinion, have some of the best tasting plant-based recipes in the African-American community.

Jenné from Sweet Potato Soul

I’m a believer in the saying that there is a whole lot in a name. With a website name like Sweet Potato Soul, you already know the food is going to taste as good as a warm hug feels. I found Jenné’s videos on YouTube when I became serious about really trying to eat more plant-based. Because she’s from the Peach State (like me), I already knew that flavor would not be lacking in her food. I was right! In my experience, her recipes have been creative, colorful and very nutrient-dense. I also love that Jenné teams up with other food vloggers on YouTube to do videos, and also shares more of her perspective on podcasts as well. I’ve enjoyed learning about her journey to veganism and how she aims to extend her consciousness about her food into other areas such as her clothing. On Sweet Potato Soul, you will find great advice, incredible resources and plant-filled recipes that are cost-effective, flavorful and filled with so much soul. You can find Sweet Potato Soul on the website, YouTube, Instagram & more. Oh yeah, her cookbook goes live today. Check it out!

Eva from Wild Sunflower Chef

Who doesn’t love sunflowers? They’re one of my favorite flowers. In a similar vein, Eva from Wild Sunflower Chef has quickly become one of my favorite vegan/vegetarian food bloggers this year. I found Wild Sunflower Chef on Twitter, when I noticed the beautiful pictures that captured food that looked absolutely divine. I haven’t been following her journey long enough to know the whole back story, but Eva has shared pictures of her before and after switching to a more plant-based lifestyle. Before making the switch, she was overweight and definitely didn’t look her healthiest or happiest. I’m glad to know that she’s decided to share what worked in her journey to happier days with all of us. On Wild Sunflower Chef, you will find love-filled recipes that are much healthier than your Grandma ever made them. You’ll also “veganized” versions of convenience foods, such as the Vegan Big Mac & Korean Fried Cauliflower Wings on Skewers. My personal favorite is her Creamy Vegan Chicken Noodle Soup recipe. It’s perfect for cold winter nights. Feel free to find Wild Sunflower Chef on her website, Instagram & Twitter. Also, her cookbook is available on her website. Get into it!

Jada from Nourishing Your Temple

Nourishing Your Temple is more than a food blog – it’s a life blog. I found Jada’s website through following her on Instagram a couple years back. I was inspired by her Christ-centered posts, her love for her family, as well as her love of healthy food. So when she started her blog, I knew that it would be something special. On the blog, Jada shares her story of discovering a plant-based lifestyle and how it in conjunction with her faith have changed her life for the better. What I like most about the recipes on Nourishing Your Temple is that there is something good for everyone. Do you love sandwiches? Smoothies? Salads? Breakfast? Hot meals? Cold meals? They are all there. I also like that Jada cooks with her husband in mind and shares his feedback about his switch to a plant-based diet. She uses incredibly healthy ingredients and shares hacks like how to make your own plant-based protein powder. I have also enjoyed her posts where she brings in other plant-based chefs & cooks to share their recipes. If you follow her on Instagram, you can also see some of her grocery store hauls, where she breaks down how she plans to use her ingredients. I would encourage you to check out her blog yourself, and find new ways to maintain your blessing of a body. You can find Jada’s recipes at Nourishing Your Temple.

Kim at TheChicNatural

Kim at TheChicNatural is like your super dope, down-to-earth homegirl who does some of everything. From keeping her hair looking flawless to styling outfits and from studying abroad to cooking delicious food…she’s truly a Renaissance woman. I found Kim on YouTube a couple years ago. After a few hair tutorials, one of her cooking videos came on and I found out that she was vegan!  I was excited because I knew that she would have some great recipes to share. What I love about Kim’s recipes is that they’re never too complicated. She makes food that tastes and looks good, and she’s always sharing what she’s eating whether at home or out & about. On her YouTube channel, you will find videos of what she eats in a day, what she buys at the grocery store & even collaborations between other vegan vloggers. Kim makes vegan cooking easy for us all and I’ve enjoyed every recipe of hers that I have made. Be sure to check Kim out on YouTube, TheChicisNatural website, Facebook and Instagram.

I hope that you enjoyed reading about all of the amazing food and information that these ladies have to offer. Please, go to their websites, try out their recipes and support their projects. If you have other suggestions of great plant-based/vegan bloggers of color, please let me know in the Comments section. I’m always looking for new ones to follow!

In pursuit of greener eats,

Brittany

Note: All photos in this blog post belong to the aforementioned blogger’s websites. I do not own these photographs and have shared them in an effort to show the types of recipes one can find when visiting their sites.