If you’ve arrived at this page, then you’re probably looking to find out a bit more about me. So, with the aid of the trusty FAQ format, here’s a basic intro.
Who Are You?
Educator, writer, cookbook author, natural nutritionist. Lover of all things canine.
At present I am a college teacher who works as a part-time cooking class instructor/chef and a part-time freelance writer (I know, that’s quite a few parts). I hold a PhD in Modern American Literature, which came in really handy the one time my sweetheart and I wanted to book a hotel room for our anniversary, and we got bumped up to a suite instead of a regular room because I had the title “Dr.” on my form.
Speaking of my sweetheart, he is the guy I live with and have loved for the past decade or so. We met later in life (after each one had failed at a starter marriage), so no, we don’t have any children. We live with our two dogs (both mutts: one a Border Collie/Black lab cross, the other a Border Collie/Lab/German Shepherd cross) north of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
I refer to my guy as my HH, which stands for “Human Honey,” as opposed to my furry honeys, The Girls.
Are You a Vegan?
I follow a vegan diet. However, if I impose a strict definition that encompasses self-care products, services, and anything else that one might include in one’s life, I can’t say that every one of my choices in all of these areas is always 100% vegan. On the other hand, I don’t wear any clothing or shoes made from animals and attempt to live in a way that doesn’t support or consume animal products in my life. I’m still evolving, learning, and working on the other stuff.
My taste preference has always been for vegan foods, and my favorite cuisine is vegan. When I think of what I want to eat, vegan foods always come first to my mind. In addition, I live with someone who eats meat (and pretty much every other animal product), so we try not to impose too many labels in our house. We just are who we are and coexist peaceably (well, most of the time).
You write about vegan food exclusively. Why?
There are several reasons I write exclusively about vegan food. But first, you’ll need a bit of background.
My father was a butcher. (No, that’s not a figurative expression from a resentful kid who endured a dysfunctional adolescence—I mean that literally). An immigrant to North America, my father grew up on a dairy farm and originally wanted to be a veterinarian. When he arrived in Montreal with only 50 cents in his pocket (clearly not enough for veterinary school), he took what work he could get.
After working his way up from bagger to counter person in the deli section of a grocery store, he had a change of heart about his profession and decided to become a butcher instead (well, you still need to know all the different muscle groups on a cow for both jobs, right?). Eventually he owned his own small butcher shop in the immigrant area of town. As a result of the changing population in the Park Extension area of Montreal over the years, my dad can now say, “Lean or marbled?” and “Can I wrap that up for you?” in French, Yiddish, Italian, Greek, Russian, and Urdu. When I was a child, we ate meat every single day, twice a day on weekends.
My mother, more than anything else, was a baker. (So much so, in fact, that at her eulogy, one of the major points to be repeated about her was her amazing Chiffon Cake, both because it was astounding at almost a foot high, and also because that’s what people tended to remember about her).
To my mind, she was also an unacknowledged vegetarian, someone ahead of her time in that area. On occasions when my dad would bring home whole fish that some customer had caught and given him as a gift, my mother would refuse to cook it for him. When we ate my dad’s homemade vegetable soup, he omitted the soup bone as a courtesy to my mom so that she could enjoy it, too. And although she would occasionally consume the odd can of tuna, I think my mother’s preference was really for vegan food (yes, all you Freudians out there, I realize that is a rather interesting fact, considering what my dad did for a living.)
As to me, I seem to have inherited something from each parent. After being vegetarian, then vegan for about 15 years, I became quite physically ill. After seeing several traditional doctors and then a naturopath, having many vials of blood taken and undergoing many other unpleasant tests, I was finally told that I needed to incorporate at least some animal proteins in my diet. I never want to be that sick again; consequently, I did attempt to incorporate some animal products back into my diet at that point. On the other hand, I also most definitely inherited my mother’s preference for vegan foods, and between my distaste for meat, chicken, etc, and my increasingly powerful beliefs about how I want to treat animals and how I want to live my life, I cut them all out again after about two years. At present, I’m following a vegan diet with increased knowledge as a holistic nutritionist, and better dietary habits; so far, I’m still feeling healthy and my annual physical exams suggest that I’m managing very well this time round, with no animal products (yay!).
So, I write about vegan cooking and baking for several reasons:
1) It’s my favorite kind of food, what I love to eat, and what I enjoy cooking and eating.
2) I’ve never felt better since eating 100% vegan. I think everyone could benefit from a more vegan-leaning diet, too. We all hear about the incredible benefits of fruits and vegetables, so if I can promote those and help people incorporate them into their diets, what’s wrong with that?
3) Vegan food is more inclusive than non-vegan food. An omnivore can certainly join in on a vegan meal, but the opposite isn’t true. So presenting vegan recipes means presenting recipes anyone can enjoy.
4) When I started my baking company, Bake It Healthy, in 2005, I focused on whole, natural ingredients, assuming my customers would be those with an interest in healthy diets. I soon discovered that the bulk of my customers were either vegans or people with food sensitivities. In order to accommodate as many people as possible, I took out any last bits of honey from my recipes (which were all otherwise vegan). I’ve continued to develop recipes that way, so vegan baking is what I’m most comfortable creating.
Why did you first name your blog “Diet, Dessert, and Dogs”?
Diet: I’ve had a weight problem most of my life. An addiction to sweets, I believe, contributed largely to my many of my health problems back in 1999, the reason why I radically altered my eating habits about that time to exclude refined sugars (as well as wheat).
After studying natural nutrition at The Canadian School of Natural Nutrition, I realized how important it was to eat foods that nourish the body and help it heal. I began to eat a natural, whole-foods diet (read more about the diet here) and effortlessly lost about 25 pounds the year I was in school. I have since gained some of that back and continue to struggle with my weight. I envisioned this blog as a place to chronicle my (many) attempts to lose weight, rant about diets and dieting, gain control of my sweets addiction and learn to eat like a “normal” person.
[Update, 2012: In February, 2009, I was once again diagnosed with candida, an overgrowth of yeast in the system. I embarked on an anti-candida diet (ACD) in March 2009, which restricts much of what I can eat (read more here). Through the diet, I lost 45 pounds (some of which has since returned) and I continue to feel better, but I’m not quite there yet. I still follow a slightly less restrictive form of the ACD and will do so until all my symptoms have disappeared. In the meantime, I’m still trying to overcome that attraction to sweet foods, even when not consuming them any more.
Dessert: With a mother who was a baker, I first wielded a wooden spoon when I was about six, and have barely let go of it, except to bathe or sleep, since. When I suffered health issues because of my sweets addiction and had to cut all refined sweeteners from my life, I began to search for alternatives that I could bake that (a) didn’t contain any of the unhealthy ingredients I’d been accustomed to using; and (b) still tasted good. This quest led to a stint baking vegan desserts for a vegetarian restaurant here in Toronto, and later starting my own baking company. I still love dessert and think it can be both healthy and delicious. Just take a look at some of the recipes on this blog!
Dogs: My love of dogs dates back to my childhood (some would say all the way back to my birth, a I was born in the Year of the Dog). My HH tells me I have “dog-like qualities,” and I take it as a compliment. So, it only makes sense that our furry girls are the center of our universe.
We got Elsie first, in 2002, then Chaser about five years later. Sworn rivals at first, they’ve come to love each other (even though Chaser torments poor sweet Elsie mercilessly, constantly biting her ear and imploring her to play). Anyone who says dogs don’t have personalities clearly has never lived with a dog. In fact, our Girls have such strong personalities that I felt the need to provide them an outlet in this blog as well.
Can I reprint your recipe or photos on my site or blog?
I spend a lot of time creating original recipes and photographing them for this site. Unless otherwise specified, all the material on this site is subject to copyright. Please do not repost anything from this site without express written permission from me. If you love a recipe or photo and would like to use it, please send me an email to request permission.
Would you be interested in working with my company or reviewing my product, book, or site?
I’m always interested in working with brands whose products I like and can wholeheartedly recommend! I’d love to discuss being a product ambassador or recipe developer for you, writing sponsored posts, reviews, or giveaways, or how you can advertise on this blog.
If you are interested in working with me or have questions about ads or anything else on the blog, please send an email to rickiATrickihellerDOTcom. Thanks so much!
Any other questions?
I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to leave a comment on the blog or email me at rickiATrickihellerDOTcom. While I do my best to get back to all emails, it’s now at the point where I honestly can’t keep up any more. I apologize if you sent me an email and I didn’t respond. If it’s important and you don’t hear back from me within a week, please don’t be shy about sending me a gentle reminder!
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, therapist or scientist. All information on this site expresses my own personal ideas and experiences. I’m sorry, but I am unable to diagnose or provide medical advice.
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