Sunday, January 09, 2011

Favorite Things

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens,
Dates and toothbrushes and no shampoo and books...

Hmm, perhaps it would sound better if Julie Andrews were singing it? For the past two years, I've posted an annual list of loves (see here and here), and I've been brimming with them for 2011 too! Here are my favorite things this year:

Note: Although I wish I could pull an Oprah and tell you to look under your seats for free products, I haven't received any compensation--financial or in the form of free products/samples--from any of the companies listed here.

Dates. Amir Hajj. Khadrawi. Peanut Butter. I have yet to find a variety of date I don't absolutely adore. I soak large Medjools for use in Date Syrup (recipe below), and always keep some on hand for quick energy. Inexpensive pitted Deglet Noors are great blended into smoothies. And caramel-rich Halawis are our family's favorite movie theater snack. I can't wait to place a huge order from The Date People--their dates are raw and veganically grown--or The Bautista Family, a family-owned and operated organic date farm.

Date syrup is my liquid sweetener of choice. It's the least processed, and can be used instead of agave nectar or simple syrup in recipes. The syrup can also be poured over pancakes or breakfast porridge, and its caramel flavor is an ideal pairing for ice cream.

Date Syrup
2 cups
Medjool dates are best here, for their high water content and ease in blending, but I often use smaller, drier Halawi dates with excellent results. For a dessert syrup, add a pinch of cardamom or cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon orange zest, or a dash of rosewater. I keep the plain version on hand for adding to raw desserts, smoothies, and anywhere agave nectar is called for.

1 cup packed dates, pitted and halved
fresh water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, or seeds scraped from 1/2" of vanilla bean (optional)

In a 2-cup measure, cover dates with water and allow to soak for at least 1 hour (firmer dates might require more soaking time). Do not drain. Fill with additional water up to the 2-cup mark, adding vanilla, if desired. Transfer to a blender, and process until completely smooth, scraping down the sides as necessary. Pour into a glass jar and cover tightly. It will appear frothy at first, but settles on sitting.

The date syrup will keep, refrigerated, for up to a month.

My Radius Toothbrush. I'm a bit of an oral hygiene aficionado, and what better way to slough off all those holiday sweets than with the perfect toothbrush? I've tried lots of them, and finally settled on the Source Replaceable Head. With handles made from recycled flax, US treasury bills, or wood (mine is the latter), most of the toothbrush lasts for ages. The replacement brushes are shaped just right, and actually make brushing a pleasure. They also work fantastically with my favorite "toothpastes": a bit of baking soda or a drop of Dr. Bronner's Peppermint Castile Soap.

Coconut Water. I'll never forget the first time I had a young coconut. I was traveling in India, and stopped at a roadside stand piled high with the green beauties. A vendor hacked off the top, inserted a straw, and the cooling liquid was bliss in the heavy heat. Many go to India in search of a guru, and it would've been difficult to find something I was more devoted to!

Coconut water is excellent for getting you through an ultramarathon, a day of skiing, or, in my case, fourteen hours of unmedicated posterior labor. I drank 12 ounces of this every hour during my son's birth, and I believe nothing else provides quicker, more effective hydration.

Opening your own young coconut is freshest, but good canned varieties abound. My favorite is Amy and Brian, but try a few to see what you prefer. Look for brands that contain no added sweeteners or chemicals.

Skipping the shampoo. I haven't used shampoo in years, and my hair has never looked better. Eliminating (or reducing) shampoo usage saves time, saves resources, and lowers the amount of waste you generate. I just condition once a week, do a scalp massage every day or so, and my hair is long, strong, and healthy. Simple. And simplicity is an easy favorite.

The World Peace Diet by Will Tuttle. When a friend of the author pressed this book into my hands and implored me to read it, it went into the bookcase and did not emerge for several years. I was already a vegan, and it sounded too airy-fairy-new-age-hippie to be a really compelling read. But I was so wrong. Tuttle's book is clear and smart, and lays out a new sort of vegan apologetic. Whether you're already vegan and want to reinforce your reasons for being so, or an omnivore who doesn't resist a practical, thoughtful challenge, I highly recommend this book.

And finally, vegan children. Okay, so this is a bit of a cheat; I have two of them.

My daughter has been vegan since conception. At three years old, she is a healthy and intensely thoughtful, compassionate child. Her father and I had experienced all kinds of childhood maladies--chronic ear infections, frequent flus and colds, even pneumonia--so we didn't know what to expect with our kids. But our daughter has been sick only twice in her lifetime (once with swine flu, which resolved itself in three days, once with two days of sniffles), which I'm very grateful for. She knows what's vegan and what isn't, and why: "We don't eat animals, because animals are our friends," and "Cow milk is for baby cows, so we don't take it away from them." We sponsor a goat at nearby Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary, and I can't wait to introduce her to all of the amazing animals there so she can understand our choices even better.

My son was born after a high-raw vegan pregnancy, and grew 3 inches in the first two months of his life, exclusively on vegan breastmilk. He is incredibly healthy and active, weirdly strong, and probably the most joyful baby I've ever met.

Choosing to raise my children vegan is one of the best decisions I have ever made. Plenty of doctors and medical organizations agree that a vegan diet is healthy for all stages of life, and it's true. Our family is thriving on it! For more inspiration and examples of vibrant vegan kids, check out these real vegan children.

Those are my favorites as we begin 2011. What are you in love with this year?


VivaciousVegan said...

Hello Joy I am so happy to see you!
I am in love with my best friend, my husband and of course my family. I am a new grandma and so I am learning each day a new deeper love. I have fallen in love with smoothies and walking more.
I wish you peace and happiness this New Year~

Carissa said...

I love your list Joy. Dates and coconut juice are two of my favorite things as well. Your children are so precious.

Jennifer said...

Your children are beautiful! I'm curious about you not using shampoo. How does this work? I know you said you do scalp massages, but do you use a tool for that? Do you have problems with oily hair? I'm so interested in this.

Vegan ninja said...

I send blessing to you and your family from a little town in the "Huasteca Hidalgense" in Mexico, for this new year.

Cherl said...

I only shampoo once a week, and just haven't taken the plunge into a no 'poo lifestyle. Do you use a scrub of any kind?

Just curious, is your husband vegan as well?

Can't wait for your book!

Maija Haavisto said...

My food love is just fresh produce at the moment. When I lived in Finland most veggies were out of my reach - not available, not affordable or only available/affordable a few weeks a year. Now in the Netherlands I can buy anything and often at just 1/10 of the price!

My sister went "no poo" about six months ago. Her hair looks greasy often and she says her scalp is sometimes itchy, just like when she still used shampoo and conditioner. But she sticks with it, because apparently the result is the same - just with less work.

Joy said...

Vivacious, so sweet to hear about your family--thanks for sharing that. Love smoothies too!

Carissa, aren't dates wonderful? I'm enjoying some from Bautista right now. The Khadrawys are so delicious, and melt in the mouth like warm brown sugar...

Jennifer, no tool for the scalp massage, and no problems with oily hair. I tried the whole baking soda scrub, vinegar rinse thing, and it was terrible!

So here's what I do. Or, More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About My Hair Routine:

Hair produces more oil in response to removing it, so the more you wash, the more oil is produced. Most of us wash frequently, so if you were to stop suddenly, the hair would look like a gulf spill. The key is to gradually reduce the frequency with which you shampoo. So, replace one weekly shampoo with just conditioner, then two, and so on, getting the hair comfortable before eliminating another shampoo. Conditioner dissolves oil and "cleanses" the hair--you do have to leave it on for a few minutes--but will never get it squeaky clean like surfactants and detergents do.

I sometimes "wash" with something like smashed fresh pineapple or spent coffee grounds, just massaging it in and rinsing before conditioning, but that's rare.

The thing that keeps hair from getting oily is the scalp massage, which distributes oil throughout the hair. Start with dry hair. First, I quickly run a brush through to get rid of any tangles. Then I just flip my head over and, using fingertips, massage the scalp for 1 minute. Then, I "pull" the oils down the first 1" of hair for another minute. Then, back to the scalp massage with fingertips, 1 more minute. Finally, I run my fingers through the length of the hair to distribute everything to the ends. My hair is long--to my waist--and I rarely have oily roots or dry ends.

I hope that makes sense!

Joy said...

Vegan Ninja, gracias por el comentario! Ojala que puedo visitar este region de Mexico algun dia. (And forgive me; my Spanish is really poor!) Besitos, J

Thanks Cherl! My Mr. is technically lacto-ovo vegetarian, but I don't think he's actually had dairy in 3 or 4 months, and no eggs in probably twice that long. Our household is vegan, so fortunately he usually just eats what I do: high-raw vegan, mostly fruit and greens.

Maija, how nice to have affordable produce, isn't it? I miss California particularly for that reason. What are some of the best fruits and vegetables you have growing in the Netherlands?

To Whom It May Concern, said...

First off, I have to say your blog has become a favorite of mine as I have been experimenting for the first time with raw foods.
I'm actually doing a research thesis for my undergrad studies at ucsd and my topic pertains to vegan food blogging.
I feel as though blogs, of any form are an interesting way to be able to connect to people of similar interests. For me, when I made the switch to veganism (a little over a year ago now) I sought out blogs as a means of a support system.

I was wondering if you could give me some insight into why you specifically keep a blog? WHy you started blogging? and what, if anything, you feel you gain from others blogs?

Any insight you could give me into the importance of blogging for you would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you for your time,

ps. Anyone who has anything to say on this topic, please feel free to email me!

Morgan@LittleHouseofVeggies said...

I havent experimented with using date syrup but I LOVE the idea of it. I need to make some from your recipe and give it a shot!

Morgan@LittleHouseofVeggies said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
georgescookie said...

not shampoo at all... hmmm interesting so how do you get rid of the build up?
will this work for African American hair?

VivaciousVegan said...

Hi again Joy, I left you a little something over at my blog, I hope you like it!

SEO Hamsphire said...


I love your blog, I have a baby daughter named Sadie (, we are not vegan but I am learning the benefits of being.


Mirella said...

What beautiful children you have! I just discovered your blog after listening to you on the Vegan Freak podcast - talking about making salad and grilled pizza. I had to come and check out your blog. I will definitely be bookmarking it, your food looks fantastic! I am already drooling over the pumpkin scones.

Shell said...

Hi Joy! I am so interested in the shampoo thing. Since going vegan I have definitely cut down on the products I buy and use and it seems I am using less and less and loving it...I don't even use deodorant anymore and I don't stink! Anyway, I am curious, do you use facial soap? Moisturizer?

Joy said...

I'm sorry I've taken so long to reply to the questions!

Georgescookie, the conditioner dissolves buildup from natural scalp oils. I'm not sure if it would work to dissolve product buildup, since I don't use product (except natural oils). The method is similar in many ways to African American hair care: treating it gently, careful cleansing, and using oils. (Check out "co-wash" for more information on this.) I think it would work really well for black hair, but you might have to modify a bit depending on whether your hair is relaxed, natural, or in locks. Relaxed hair would probably need extra care with the scalp massage to prevent breakage, and with locks, you'd have to find some way to distribute oil throughout the hair. I don't know much about the use of specific oils in African American hair, but I usually just use a bit of coconut if I need extra moisture. I would love to hear how this works if you try it.

Joy said...

Mirella, your daughter is gorgeous! Such a cutie.

Shelly, I don't wear deodorant either, except the occasional bit of baking soda. Isn't it great? I use soap on my face very rarely, like if I'm traveling and forget what I normally use. I usually cleanse with olive or coconut oil massaged on and removed with a wash cloth, or ground aduki beans or baking soda if I need to exfoliate more. I wear makeup, so I wash quite thoroughly at night, but often just splash with water in the a.m.

To moisturize, I leave on a bit of oil from washing, or use a serum I make from rose hip seed, carrot, and vitamin E oils. If I were stuck on an island with one thing, I'd bring a jar of coconut oil, since I use it for nearly everything!

Shell said...

Thank you Joy! I would love to get to this: not buying shampoos, conditioners and so many facial products! I am going to try the coconut oil, and baking soda for exfoliation. I am still considering trying the no shampoo thing, but I always give in and shampoo after a day or two!

MalRae said...


Thanks so much for the no shampoo and oil cleansing tips. I'm going to try them! Do you have any favorite resources about how-to or more info. It's so interesting!


Joy said...

Shell, going shampoo-free can be a big transition, but it's much easier if you just use conditioner instead of doing the whole baking soda and vinegar thing.

Malory, google "oil cleansing method," and you'll find some great detailed explanations. But here's what I do: Splash my face with warm water to remove mascara (my mascara comes off with only water and leaves no residue, which I love). Massage in a small amount--about 1/2 teaspoon--of oil. You can use anything from castor oil, which is very heavy, to coconut, which is light. I use a combination of almond and olive oils, or coconut if I'm traveling. Massage over skin for a minute or so, allowing the oils to emulsify the oils in your skin. Place a warm (almost hot) washcloth over your face, and gently remove the oil. Rinse the washcloth, and remove once more. I then use a shea butter moisturizer (day) or the serum I mentioned above (night) because of my climate, but you might not need anything else after the oil.

For hair, I like The Long Hair Community, which has all kinds of instructions for conditioner washing, baking soda washing (although I don't recommend this), and using less shampoo in general. I have hip-length hair, but the info is useful for short hair too.

I get loads of questions about this, so I'll probably post about it soon at In the meantime, I hope this helps!