Hey Hey YEA Camp!!!!

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Hey everyone!! No I didn’t drop off the face of the earth -I was at camp! Youth Empowered Action Camp to be exact! You may recall my mentioning of it here a little while ago -well I made it and I have seriously been changed forever. This past week was filled with laughter, tears, learning, change making, and bonds that will last for the rest of my life. The gratitude I have for this past week is beyond words, and if I were to relay everything that has happened this would go down in history as the longest post ever -so I will just try to capture as much of it as I can for you all.

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This journal is filled with 50 pages of information, reflections, skills, quotes, things I want to do and books I want to read. And it doesn’t even begin to cover this week.

Let me explain YEA Camp. It is a camp designed for young people who want to change the world! Every single person there is passionate about making a difference -whether it be environmental activism, animal rights, LGBTQ equality, racism, bullying, human trafficking and so much more. We learn the skills we need to take our passions (Issues of Importance – IOI) and put them into action! It is an activist camp-but don’t think I’m about to go get myself arrested. We learned what activism truly means :finding a cause to be passionate about and actively working to make a difference.

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Just a few of the things we did at camp…;)

It took place in the Santa Cruz mountains and it was absolutely beautiful

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Each day was absolutely packed with activities – workshops, hikes, games, journaling

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I wrote a poem, inspired by the beautiful environment I was surrounded by:

Joy in my heart

beating

flowing through my veins

radiates!

inside out

to my feet

pointing and dancing

floating and leaping

the earth between my toes

connected.

to my hands

grasping, clapping

feeling

water cascades between fingertips

peaceful.

and, at last

at first

at once

to my mouth

shouts!

sings!

praises of life and love

proclaiming to all to see

to hear

then silence

a quiet joy

at one

with nature

my neighboors

myself.

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(this was the least busy day…)

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I can’t even describe to you how much I have learned and grown from this camp. I went expecting to learn about how to make a difference but I would never have imagined that my life would be changed. The love and commitment from everyone (all 28 campers and 13 staff) was so immense. We shared our goals, our accomplishments, our pains and secrets and laughs and friendships. I have become closer to these wonderful people -whom I did not know two weeks ago- than some people I have known my entire life!  Everyone did nothing but build each other up – supporting and hugging and helping each other to grow!

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I came to camp passionate about animal rights/ veganism and the environment -but I have grown to be passionate about so much more. Every single issue that people had – I want to help them make a difference. There were no age or gender barriers, no discrimination for what people thought or believed or who they were. This camp was so open and accepting and loving that I can’t wait to make this world a better place -Everyone is inherently good -this camp taught me that.

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We all wrote messages to each other on posters, much like a yearbook. Mine is now hanging in my room so I can see it every day.

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Every issue -every person and every story – is connected.

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We wrote a song! (you can listen here!! )

We made a video that I will post once its on Youtube!
And we had a lot of random dance parties 😉

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Even in the kitchen during dinner….

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We created a mandala of our perfect world -the one that we will create- full of acceptance and peace

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This week meant so much to me. Not only do I feel empowered to make a difference and appreciate so many new issues (and suddenly become more aware of our consumption -it took 5 minutes before I could let my mom put plastic straws and paper plates in our cart the other day-never again!) but I have gained so much confidence! I opened up to forty people about my struggles. I allowed myself foods (still vegan) I haven’t eaten in years. I felt truly and honestly beautiful and now I can finally allow that light that I have been hiding shine out into the world. Not only am I going to be so much more active in the issues that I care about but I have been inspired to take all that this week gave to me and I am going to share it with my community. I decided to start the first ever YEA club at my school -empowering even more students to make a difference.

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What the other campers are planning to do is incredible! They are raising funds to start a school in a third world country, petitioning to have their schools do meatless mondays, compostable lunch trays, and anti bullying programs. They are leafletting and tabling and teaching and advocating and creating their own environmental policies. One girl is planning on starting her own non profit Cow Sanctuary, and is now raising funds to save her first cow so she can learn how to take care of the beautiful creatures (You can like her FB page and learn about it here!!). Another girl has been selling cookies to raise money for donating to stop human trafficking (FB Page) and has only $300 to go before she reaches her goal of $2,000! And that is just a small portion of everything that these amazing kids are doing!

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My desire to advocate has turned from an idea to a tangible reality. I don’t want to make a difference. I WILL make a difference. I wish I could express to you everything that we did, the empowerment I received, the way I have changed, but my heart is too full to put it into words. All I can say (and keep saying) is that this week was a turning point for me. Life changing. I can do anything.

I really hope that everyone gets the chance that I did to make a difference! This was the 5th year of the camp, and there is one in California, Oregon, and Massachusetts. Go check out their  website and Facebook page to learn more, and click here for more pictures from this week!!!

A Green Life and Enchilada Casserole


When I was in Southern California visiting colleges, my views on what I wanted to do with my future took kind of a radical turn.

See, for a while now I’ve been saying I wanted to major in psychology and minor in nutritional science (or double major). I said I wanted to work in a recovery facility for girls with eating disorders, because I remembered how much more relatable and helpful those therapists were who admitted they had struggled in the past as well -it was like I could trust them more.

But I started to question myself once I visited my first college (UC Santa Barbara). I realized I have a love for the Earth. I want to learn more about it, to love it, to save it. My favorite class junior year was by far AP Envrionmental Science. I loved learning everything I did in that class, and I felt so empowered learning how much my diet helps the earth, and how much more I can do to help it. Being on a campus that was so environmentally friendly, spending a week by the ocean, being surrounded by hippies,  I realized that I don’t want to be a psychologist, sitting in an office, listening to other people’s problems (not that I don’t think they are wonderful!). I realized what I really want is to help people. To make a difference.

I got to thinking whether it was really me who wanted to work in a recovery facility, or if that was another outlet of the disorder that has plagued me. Yes, I wanted to help people, but is that the best way? Or is that simply me trying to find another outlet to let the obsession with food continue? While I love learning about nutrition, and disorders of the mind are interesting to me, is that really the best option for me to move forward from this stage in my life, to move forward from the hyper focus on food and lifestyle? Or is that me deciding, subconsciously, that I am not quite ready to let go? I am not saying that dietitians and psychologists are disordered, or that they are holding themselves back and settling. I am in awe of each and every professional for their passion to help people! They have helped me! They are incredible, and I will always be interested in those subjects. What I am saying, though, is that I realized I don’t want to spend the rest of my life focused on the same thing as my past, or be surrounded by clients that could potentially be a trigger for me, should I encounter a tough time in the future. After the final college I visited, I realized that I don’t want to focus on nutrition and health for the rest of my life, I want to spend my life making a difference in a bigger way. (After I decided this, I went and got some vegan ice cream. A large, since I decided not to focus anymore 😉 )

I want to major in environmental studies, maybe minor in sociology. I want to learn how to save the earth, I want to teach other people how they can do the same. I want to move forward in my life, to do something, to be out there, making changes, making my voice –MY voice, not any lingering disorder -heard.

After I decided this, I discovered the most amazing opportunity. It’s called Youth Empowered Action Camp (YEA), and it is a week long summer camp for youth aged 12-17 who want to make a difference in the world, whether it be animal rights, the environment, social justice, what have you. They help you develop leadership skills, knowledge, confidence and community. They help you discover your passion, and then develop a plan to make it happen. You are set up with an adult mentor to help guide you after the camp in making a difference, and are set up with local and national organizations focused on the same issues you are passionate about so that you can become an integral part of the movement. This is a program that has turned out youth with unlimited futures, making changes at their schools, speaking at public events, starting their own businesses (Ever heard of Clara’s Cakes?), and getting involved with organizations like Stop Child Trafficking Now and Compassion Over Killing. Oh, and the camp is vegan and eco friendly too. This was seriously like a break-in-the-clouds, I-absolutley-have-to-do-this moment for me, and I found out about it the last possible summer I could have. I am 17, so it is my last chance, I found out about it 3 weeks before the camp, and I managed to squeeze in and secure the last spot in the camp. I am going -I am doing this. I am changing my life -I am about to make a difference. Go check out their website here: www.yeacamp.org

And….shameless plug, if you want to help me out a bit, I could use a little help getting there 🙂 >donation site (big thanks if you want to help me:) )

Now, what does all of this have to do with enchiladas???

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Well, like myself, these enchiladas have undergone quite a bit of change…and they are green -like the environment.

That was a painful transition.

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We have been making these enchiladas (well, cheater enchiladas) for many years now, and they have evolved right along with us. Originally, you see, they were fish enchiladas with cream cheese. Instead of black beans and mushrooms, the filling was made with potatoes, onions, asparagus and mahi mahi. Instead of spreading each tortilla with refried beans, it was with cream cheese. So why in the world would I be giving you a recipe for fishy, cheesy enchiladas?

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When we went dairy free, we switched the cream cheese for tofutti. Then we went vegan. so we just switched the fish for yummy beans and mushrooms! The more we moved toward whole foods, we changed over to refried beans instead of cheese, and other brands of enchilada sauce (some of them have chicken stock and corn syrup solids-how about no) -and discovered green salsa works in a pinch!

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These are really customizable! I love them with asparagus (thats our original recipe) diced into discs, but any green veggie you have on hand works! Broccoli, zucchini, nopales (cactus), anything! Also, if you aren’t a wimp like me like spicy foods, use a medium or spicy sauce!! My sister and I are just to scandinavian to appreciate spicy (thats also why these aren’t traditional rolled enchiladas, we just aren’t that authentic haha!), so my mom has always made these mild for us! All the flavor, none of the burn! And if you really, really want to, make them the way we used to with Mahi Mahi and cream cheese -just spread each tortilla on both sides with cream cheese before layering into casserole.

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So you see, sometimes things change -diets, life paths, majors, ideas…But all that means is a chance to make something good and turn it even better!

Green Enchilada Casserole

or Green Enchilasagna, as I like to call it. But my mom said that was silly.

vegan, serves 9-12. Feel free to change to fit your diet preferences, or try it like it is!!

Filling:

  • 5-6 small/medium yukon gold potatoes, chopped
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 7-8 mushrooms (or 2-4 portabellas), diced
  • 1 4 oz can diced mild green chiles
  • 2 small/medium zucchinis or 1 bunch asparagus, diced
  • 1/2  16 oz package frozen spinach (about 8 oz)
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1-1.5 C. green enchilada sauce or green salsa (till it tastes good to you!)

Enchilada layers:

  • filling
  • 5-6 large whole grain tortillas (brown rice, teff, Ezekial, corn, etc.)
  • 1-2 cans vegetarian refried beans
  • 2-3 C. green enchilada sauce or green salsa (depending on how thick/thin you spread it)
  • non dairy cheese (optional)

Gather your ingredients

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Preheat oven to 400.

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Wash and chop your potatoes into bite sized bits and steam them

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Dice your onion and garlic and sautee them with a little veggie broth, water, or oil until the onion is translucent. Add your mushroom and continue to cook until they are all brown and fragrant and delicious. 🙂

Add your zucchini (or asparagus), then your beans, spinach, and peppers. Once the zucchini is somewhat cooked, add the steamed potatoes and enchilada sauce. Mix it all together (and whaddya get?! haha sorry)

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Now comes the fun part! In a large casserole dish, spread a layer of enchilada sauce on the bottom and sides. Add a layer of tortillas.

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Spread a layer of refried beans on the tortillas

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Then a layer of filling (about 1/2), followed by another layer of sauce, tortillas, beans…

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Repeat:)

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After your second filling layer, top with tortillas and spread the top with more sauce. Add some nondairy cheese if you would like!

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My stepdad likes the cheese, I don’t care for it.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, broiling for a few minutes at the end if you would like. We were in a rush and didn’t have time

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Also, my mom added more cheese, as you can see. I dealt. These would also be delicious with a dollop of guacamole to serve, but I was all out of avocados (the horror!!!)

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These are, without a doubt, my favorite dinner recipe. Its something we’ve been making for ages, and I watched my mom make them so many times that I didn’t even ask her for the recipe before I made it myself. They are so easy and simple to make, and incredibly delicious.

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like a fine wine like soup ( 😉 ), these babies get better with age! I’ve always thought they taste even better the next day (Yay leftovers!!), and even cold! They are delicious any way you slice ’em!

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Enjoy!!

What did/do you want to do when you grow up?

What are some dinners that have evolved through the years?

Coming soon to a post near you!

Hey guys!! I am just dropping in to say hey before I get to work on studying for finals (3 more days of school…3 days…I can do this)

I don’t have a recipe or great topic for you now, but how about a little preview of what you might expect this summer?

-I am going to go visit some colleges (so excited) in Southern California! ROAD TRIP!!! After all, in about 4 days I will officially be a senior which means I have to think about college. I am excited, but scared at the same time. I have to grow up now eeps!!

-This summer is going to include a lot of changes. My family is going to start minimalizing (ala Lindsay Nixon) our house and lives-we have so much extra stuff we just don’t need lying around, and it would just seem to help de clutter our house and de stress our brains before another school year starts. What do I mean?? Check out Lindsay’s Minimalist Monday Series

-I realized I haven’t had a post on why I eat the way I do, why eating a plant based diet is important to me. I mean, its been a passionate part of my life for two and a half years, but its also become so normal that I hardly think about needing to explain it. Still, it is important to me and I want to share why!

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And yes, I do have this shirt. Problem? 😉

-Speaking of making changes as a family, did you know that this

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is directly harmful to them?

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My mom recently learned about the effects the production and harvesting of palm oil has on the rainforest and the poor orangutans in the forest, and it is horrible and sad. I’ll save the stories and gruesome pictures (maybe I’ll post them later) but lets just say it is enough to have made us start rethinking our purchases. A lot of vegan alternatives (and junk) is made from or with palm oil and is neither sustainable nor necessary. I’ve already started making some switches on my own, I’m using coconut oil as chapstick and moisturizer instead of (even organic and cruelty free) lotions full of palm oil, and this summer, as part of our minimalizing, we are going to be switching to more whole foods and fewer items processed with palm oil. Its. In. Everything. I know this sounds all campy and hippyish, but hey, your vote starts with your wallet right?

-You all know I’m a big fan of stevia, but after some research and thinking, we are transitioning off of it this summer.

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Its hard, but necessary for a few reasons. A) the more often we use it, the more we depend on it. Because it is so sweet, it keeps triggering the sweet tooth and more is necessary! I realized this the other day when I was using erythritol to sweeten my oats instead of stevia and I noticed two things-my oats actually tasted like oatmeal and not like super sweet dessert, and wow,the amount of sweetness I needed from the stevia was WAY more than I had thought, the equivalent sweetness in sugar form would have been spoonfuls. If I wouldn’t eat that much sugar in my breakfast (not to mention tea/coffee/soy yogurt/lemonade etc.), why is it okay to eat that much stevia? I was becoming desensitized to it. Also (B) its not as healthy as it seems. Did you know that women in South America use stevia as a natural form of birth control? Obviously it does something to your hormones!! Aack! As a girl who is still growing and trying to overcome an eating disorder/get my period, I think it is really important to start introducing other natural sweeteners (sweeteners with *GASP* Calories?!?!) , in smaller/more normal quantities, that don’t mess with my hormones. Not to say I’ll be cutting it completely, I mean there are a lot of products that sweeten with stevia now even a bit (like some soy milks), but we won’t be buying it in bulk to use on the daily. And I mean, I was eating a lot of stevia daily. Not good. It’s important to get over my sweetener fears, and get my body back to normal.

These changes aren’t about more restrictions. Quite the opposite, actually. I want to get more in touch with my body, allowing myself to eat natural, whole, beautiful foods with thought and thankfulness to where they come from. More farmer’s markets and home gardens, cooking from scratch and appreciating the sources. Not getting caught up in foodie movements (although yes I will still be a foodie likely) like trying all of the bars, butters, powders, extracts, because they are there. Although thats not to say I won’t eat at fun restaurants or take part in vegan cupcakes now and then (cough cough yesterday cough). My choices aren’t about eating only “clean” foods-they are about eating for the environment. Eating for my health and my future. Eating for healing. And eating for the animals, with compassion.

-In other news (enough with the hippy-dippy activism now, sorry) I have lots of recipes coming your way soon, once I can get back into the kitchen!! Also, I’m thinking more seriously about running, it’s been my goal since freshman year to run a half marathon before I graduate High School, and so I’m looking more into that. Its a great challenge, and a lot of learning about myself is going to take place. It’s going to include overcoming a lot of fears, a lot of I can’t’s, a lot of restrictions. I will have to eat more and gain more. But ultimately, I want to prove to myself that I can do anything. I can be anything. And I can overcome anything.

What are your plans for this summer? Are you trying anything new?