Ruby Roth: Vegan children’s book author

Ruby Roth is an acclaimed author who has written and illustrated several amazing children’s books about animals and veganism. I’ve given her books as gifts because the images captivate and the messages are perfectly age-appropriate. They’re a great launching point for discussing animal issues with kids.

V is for Vegan is great introduction to veganism for the younger set (3-7), and That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals is a more in-depth look at veganism for older kids (6-9). Vegan is Love is a terrific look at human-animal relationships and how you’re never too young to put compassion into action (7-10). Learn more about her work at

ruby roth

A few months ago I had opportunity to attend a lecture by Roth, where she explored the transformative power of veganism on society and the individual (children included!). She examined pop culture, the media response to her books, and talked about challenges of being vegan and raising vegan kids.

The lecture was very eye-opening! I’ve been a vegan for over 15 years and thought I’d seen it all—but Roth wowed me with info I didn’t know, such as how public thinking about health, children, and animals is shaped.

The toughest part of being vegan is often the pressure people face from well-meaning friends, family, and medical professionals. Just as her books do, Roth encouraged parents to involve their children in conversations about healthy eating and animal rights. Children are smarter than we give them credit for and will appreciate veganism when they understand it well.

To see Ruby Roth take on the media, check out the videos below.

They’re great examples of the fear-mongering among mainstream media and the normalization of eating animals and exploiting them in many other ways. Fortunately Ruby Roth has given us great tools to help children to “love deeply, think critically, and act responsibly.”


The Awareness

The Awareness, a novel by Gene Stone and Jon Doyle, is an exciting tale that follows four animals—a traveling circus elephant, a pet dog in New York, a pig in a factory farm, and a bear in the forest—as they each become “aware.”awarenessOn one specific day, all the mammals of the world gain a level of consciousness they’ve never had before. They are aware of human-animal relationships, they talk, they plot, and they begin a war against humans.

Each of the storylines in the book follow animals with unique and different relationships to humans: pet, slave, food, wildlife. Readers get a wonderful glimpse into the thoughts and conflicts the animals face as they talk through their dilemmas.

The animals talk to each other and to humans. The events and actions were the stuff of fantasy, but this story was so believable. I’ve always talked to animals, and I love stories involving talking animals, so suspending my disbelieve came easily.

The animals’ own stories are complex and gripping and I couldn’t put this book down. It’s a great book that gets one thinking about the lives of animals, their emotions, and our relationship to them. But it’s also a great story that will keep you reading to see what’s next.

Visiting the Cherokee Rose Inn

It’s no secret that Portland is a very vegan friendly city. But not everyone knows about a true gem, the all-vegan Cherokee Rose Inn, tucked away in Southeast Portland.

cherokee rose inn

photo c/o Cherokee Rose Inn

I usually stay in a hotel downtown when I visit Portland. To mix things up, on my latest trip to Rose City, hubby and I visited this lovely B&B.

Staying in a big house in a real neighborhood made us feel like locals. The inn is a true bed and breakfast, and is walking distance to Belmont Street, where you can eat and drink your fill of vegan food and libations at the Sweet Hereafter, and also not far to Stark Street, home of the world’s first vegan mini-mall: Sweet Pea Baking CompanyHerbivore Clothing, Food Fight Grocery, and Scapegoat Tattoo.

Proprietor sandy Miller is a welcoming host and strikes the perfect balance. She’s hospitable, but respected our privacy. A long-time vegan, she’s done a wonderful job decorating her beautiful home and providing creature comforts in the two upstairs guest rooms, sitting room, and bathroom. We stayed in the Eagle room, a spacious room with queen-sized bed, walk-in closet, and extra trundle bed.

We had already planned to eat our way through Portland’s many vegan restaurants, and were we ever delighted with Sandy’s breakfasts! We had Belgian waffles with coconut whipped cream and homemade sausage patties the first day–and coffee, tea, and freshly squeezed orange juice!

The second morning, we were treated to down-home Southern cooking, vegan style: biscuits and gravy, black-eyed peas, grits patties, greens, fruit–and of course that great OJ!

The Cherokee Rose Inn is a place you’ll be glad you visited. Next time you’re in Portland, stop by and tell Sandy, and her little dog Hamish, I say hi!

at the front door of the Cherokee Rose

Miyoko’s Kitchen: A vegan cheese game-changer

It happened again. I served Miyoko’s Creamery to a vegan friend today and:

“What is this? Where can I get some? Oh wow!”

miyoko's on a cracker

On New Year’s Eve, the same thing happened. I brought a wheel to a party and the omni host declared it the best thing she’s ever eaten. She promptly went in on an order with me.

Let me take a step back. Miyoko Schinner is a gourmet vegan food goddess who literally wrote the book on Vegan Artisan Cheese. People have been making and raving about her delicious vegan cultured nut recipes, but like many good things, they take time to make. Cheese doesn’t age in a day!

Luckily for people like me, who crave instant gratification, Miyoko began selling her creations.

miyoko's creamery

Every time I serve Miyoko’s, people gobble it up. It’s a great way to show non-vegans that vegan food is delectable. The vegans who try it are happy to have a cruelty-free savory cheese in their lives once again. It truly is a game changer.

When I share a wheel of Miyoko’s, I usually pick a spreadable style like Classic Double Cream Chive or Double Cream Sundried Tomato Garlic. I think these are my favorite. They’re very versatile. In addition to tasting great on a cracker or bagel, they make the best cheesy mashed potatoes or mac and cheese. I used Miyoko’s in the recipe for this dish.

mac n cheese made with miyoko's

Rustic Alpine is a sharp, harder cheese that I ate on crackers and crispy, toasted bread. The Smoked Chive Farmhouse is a smoky hard cheese that, while not bacon-y at all, will get you over any bacon cravings. The satisfaction is in the wood-smoked flavor. French Truffle is a real treat. It’s earth and mushroomy and tasted great spread of a cracker. Or, like I did with half a wheel, make a mushroom stroganoff dish.

pasta with Miyoko's

Those are only five of the flavors you can find on Miyoko’s site. She has others too that I will definitely be trying. Miyoko’s ships throughout the continental US. Orders arrive in two days, icy cold and safe in an insulated box. You can freeze the cheese, which is a great incentive to stock up.

The trouble is, you might eat it all right away!

Plant-based Diet 101

I just finished reading a book by Luke Jones. You might recognize that name: I featured Luke in my vegan profile segment recently. Luke runs the site Hero Health Room, a blog about plant-based living, sustainability, mindfulness and exercise.

Plant-based Diet 101

Luke recently published a book called Plant-based Diet 101: The Ultimate Guide to Healthy, Sustainable Eating Habits. I just finished reading it, and I highly recommend it–especially if you’re new to (or considering) a plant-based diet or if you’re a vegan who isn’t eating as healthy as you think you should (after all, cola and cookies can be vegan, but they’re certainly not healthy).

The book is very digestible (pun intended) and covers health basics like what to eat, what to avoid, and whether supplements are necessary. Luke covers costs, health concerns, and even topics like how to eat in restaurants and deal with skeptical friends and family members.

Luke has a great, conversational writing style, which made reading the book feel like a trusted friend was helping me. It’s not preachy nor is it judgmental. Of course I’m a proponent of a plant-based lifestyle and I sometimes want to bash people over the head with my ideas. Luke doesn’t do that. It’s clear that he’s researched the topic well (and has loads of references and resources to support his findings), but he allows readers to make their own decisions. I like how Luke shares a plan for easing into a plant-based diet and sets readers up for success.

The main focus of the book is health and wellness but Luke also addresses the environmental and ethical angles of eating a whole-food, plant-based diet. It’s an excellent primer.

You can download the book from Luke’s site. It’s only $5, making this the most affordable investment in your health that I can think of.

Champs Diner in Brooklyn

My parents and I were recently in NYC again so we retraced our steps from last year on a quest to eat at Food Swings again. Sadly, the storefront was boarded up and Food Swings was nowhere to be found. I did what anyone else in my position would have done. I went to Vaute Couture, the vegan clothing shop down the street, for ideas. The sales associate gave us a hot lead: “Go to champs,” she said. “And order the mozzarella sticks.”

So we did (but not before cuddling with Pepper, aka Concerned Dog, and buying a tank top (hey, I’m easily distracted).

Champs Diner is an all-vegan restaurant not too far from Vaute Couture in the Williamsburg neighborhood. My parents and I didn’t have to wait long before a booth opened up. As instructed, we got the mozzarella sticks.

champs mozzerella sticks

They were  fantastic! breaded, fried, and ooey, gooey. I also had a no-tuna melt. Again, fantastic fare. Filling, delicious, and vegan. My criteria!

champs tuna melt

My parents shared French toast. We didn’t even care how Champs worked their magic–just bring it on!

champs french toast

Not shown: The mint chocolate ice cream. We ate it too fast to capture on film.

I love travelling, meeting other vegans, and discovering new places to eat. Brooklyn is a fantastic, vegan-friendly place and Champs exceeded our expectations. If you’re ever in the area, you’ve gotta go!

Farm Dog Naturals review and giveaway

I met up recently with Rita Hogan, cofounder of Farm Dog Naturals, an all-natural, all-vegan line of herbal dog care products. I got to test some of the products and I’m also offering a giveaway so you can try them too!

Farm Dog products

Farm Dog Naturals offers safe, effective herbal remedies for dogs. All products are natural, sustainable (herbs are grown on a local herb farm), free of animal products and GMOs. I love supporting small businesses with ethical practices, so I was thrilled to take home a sampling of their wares.

Farm Dog odor control products

Relief is a pet urine and odor remover–and it smells like lavender! It’s ideal for removing (not masking) odors left from accidents. I sprayed it on Frankie’s dog bed and in the litter boxes. A few spritzes in my car got rid of the dog odor in there. Frankie wanted to help test the product too so, as if on cue, he rolled around in bird poop. I wiped him off and deodorized him! That’s how gentle and safe the products are. Of course I kept the spray away from his eyes.

Relief is sold in a 24 oz bottle with a small amount of concentrated formula in it. Just add water and you’ve got your supply. When you need more, you can order a refill–the concentrate in a small bottle. Farm Dog encourages reusing containers (plus, it cuts down on shipping costs). Brilliant!

Rejoice is a smudge stick handcrafted from California white sage. I lit my stick and waved it around to get rid of kitty litter odors and what I call “old dog smell.” It’s great for getting rid of cooking odors too.

Farm Dog salves

Salvation and Restore are two salves that every dog should have. Salvation soothes irritated skin and sore paw and is great for tender ears and crusty noses. It speeds healing and hair regrowth and helps heal topical yeast in ears, wrinkles and in between toes. Restore is great for wounds, hot spots, itchy skin, flea dermatitis, and lick granulomas. It stops itching on contact.

I love that there are natural products for common issues that we often run to the vet for. Why put a dog on antibiotics, steroids, or other harsher regiments? I personally don’t like to go to the doctor for every little thing. Having a few safe tricks in my pocket to help my dog (and help him avoid the vet) is wonderful.

Farm Dog stress reliever

Relax is a stress and anxiety remedy that is applied directly to a dog’s ear flaps and neck. It’s great for nervous dogs, especially before fireworks, thunderstorms, a trip to the vet, or when company comes over.

I really appreciate their minimal packaging and how 2% of each sale goes toward a tree-planting initiative at Sound Forest.

Farm Dogs was founded in 2007 by two like-minded women. Rita, whom I met with, was working in pug rescue in Tennessee when she met Lynn, the owner of an all-natural dog supply store and dog wash. They had similar needs for natural, sustainable dog products and decided to fill the void themselves.


To enter the giveaway, like or comment on this post, on the Instagram write-up, on my Facebook page or tweet @jeaniebellini and tell me why you’d like to try Farm Dog Naturals (use the hashtag #Farmdognaturals in your tweet).

Farm Dog giveaway

On June 5th, 2014, I’ll randomly select a winner from the entries and I’ll send the winner the sample package: a 4 oz bottle of Relief, a mini Rejoice smudge stick, 1 oz jar of Salvation, a 1 oz jar of Restore, and a 1 oz container of Relax. Open to US residents.

If you don’t win, you can look for Farm Dog Naturals at one of the retailers listed on their site, or order directly from Farm Dog Naturals.

Beyond Meat: Chicken-free strips

I spiced things up in the kitchen recently with Southwest style chicken-free strips by Beyond Meat.

I first learned about this company when I read a blog post about the future of food by Bill Gates. Gates is financially backing Beyond Meat, in part because he recognizes that increasing meat consumption is bad for the environment. The global population is growing, and as people become more affluent, they often transition to western-style diets. That’s neither healthy nor sustainable.

I searched for Beyond Meat at my local Whole Foods and ended up getting a couple of ready-made wraps for a picnic. So yummy! Until now, I hadn’t cooked with it, so I gave it a whirl.


I made a simple stir-fry using red pepper, broccoli and zucchini, added spices and the Beyond Chicken strips, which I’d cut into cubes.

stir-fry in progress

Beyond Chicken is made primarily with non-GMO soy and peas. It’s a complete protein, has plenty of fiber, and isn’t loaded with fat or cholesterol (in fact, it has no cholesterol, saturated or trans-fat and is just 5% fat).

I served my stir-fry over a rice pilaf for a quick, simple, and delicious meal. I’m going to try their beef-free crumble next for a taco meal!

simple dinner

I like that technology is helping reinvent meat and that through technology we can harness plants to create healthy delicious meat alternatives. It has a lot of potential in developing nations too, not just on the plates of people in the developed world.

Biz Stone, vegan and founder of Twitter, is also financially invested in Beyond Meat. Perhaps the future of meat is vegan.

The Lucky Ones

I recently finished reading The Lucky Ones: My Passionate Fight for Farm Animals. What a great read! I hope you read it too. In the book, author Jenny Brown tells the story of how she started Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary.

the lucky ones book

It’s more than just an account of founding and running a sanctuary though. The story starts when Jenny was a kid. It chronicles her cancer diagnosis, her rebellious teens, and her awakening to the food system and the cruelty billions of animals endure in the name of taste buds.

I enjoyed reading about Brown’s first career in television production and how her video skills and veganism merged into a foray into undercover video work at stockyards.

The book has heartbreaking moments but her humor kept me reading. I was in awe of her bravery and compassion.

Like many vegans, one animal is often the catalyst for change. Jenny’s cat Boogie, and the love they shared, influenced the authors shift from typical food consumer to vegan activist.

Throughout the book, I also got to learn about some of the animals at Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary too. I loved learning about them and reading the “happy endings.” It tempered the cruel realities most farmed animals face.

As with any memoir, the author can’t invent the ending. This is real life. However, I’m glad it’s a love story too. I was rooting for Jenny Brown and I enjoyed the personal plotlines as well as the information about animals and running a sanctuary.

The Lucky Ones is a page-turner and I’ve given copies as gifts to a few people. It will open people’s eyes to factory farming, small-scale farming, and the myths of humane slaughter in a way that a conversation might not.

We Animals

Last summer, as part of a Kickstarter fundraiser, I contributed to getting the book We Animals printed. For my donation, I received a copy of the book, which arrived in December.

We Animals is a gorgeous, hardcover photo book by award-winning photographer Jo-Anne McArthur. She also wrote the accompanying text that explains the circumstances in each picture. It’s beautifully written.

we animals book cover

McArthur spent years travelling the globe, documenting the plight of animals in human environments. She covers animals raised for food, clothing, used in entertainment and research, as well as rescued animals.

Her photos draw viewers in and help make a connection to the animal subjects in them. The photos aren’t all easy to view, but they all tell a story that needs to be shared. If they must endure it, the least we can do is acknowledge it.

Bearing witness–observing but not necessarily being able to help–is a key part of the book. McArthur travelled to factory farms, fur ranches and zoos. What can one do other than promise those animals that they will not be forgotten–that their message will be shared and that someone will fight for them and others like them?

Every animal lover should own a copy of this book. Mine is on the coffee table and is a great conversation starter when guests come over.

Jo-Anne McArthur is the subject of the documentary The Ghosts in Our Machine, by Liz Marshall. When I get a chance to watch that, you can bet I’ll share my thoughts with you.