Marly McMillen VGP Interview!

To close out my latest collection of amazing vegan ladies via my Veggie Girl Power Interview Series, I chat with the amazingly talented Marly McMillen, of the blog Namely Marly. Marly has so many insights and tips to share!..

Vegan Breakfast Casserole - photo and recipe by Marly

GF Molten Chocolate Cakes with berries - photo and recipe by Marly

I "met" Marly online a few years ago, her beautiful food photography and utterly delicious and creative recipes caught my eye! I was thrilled to chat with her when she featured me in an interview, she calls them "name interviews" and they are SO fun and fascinating. It really makes you think about your relationship with your own name and how it may have shaped your personality, life or even the way others first see you. Her name interviews are certainly worth browsing along with her yummy vegan recipes.

I am so happy to feature here in today's post.

Veggie Girl Power Interview: Marly McMillen,

Q1: Back to Basics. When and why did you go vegan? We love a good "this is why I went vegan" story.

Marly: I was vegetarian for several years before I even considered or understood the concept of veganism. It’s really so easy to be vegetarian nowadays, but I live in the heart of beef country so I still felt like an outlier. Then one day I read John Robbins’ book, Diet for a New America, where I learned about factory farming and the impact of animal-based products on our bodies and our environment. That planted a seed of thought; I knew then that I wanted to become vegan, but it seemed impossible.

So I decided to take little steps, beginning by giving up eggs. That was relatively easy since, if you really think about it, eating eggs is kind of disgusting. Eggs are the by-products of a bird’s reproductive system. Gross! Within a year I was down to two last strong-holds, mozzarella cheese (read…pizza!) and milk chocolate. But I was committed to making progress so I joined a local vegetarian meet-up group to meet other vegans. Right about that time they introduced us to a local restaurant that made vegan pizza. That’s what I was looking for and I took the plunge and went whole-hog (pardon the reverse pun) vegan. Soon after that I met the man who is now my husband. He had been vegan for at least a couple of years at that point. Can you believe it? Meeting a vegan in KC? My vegan diet felt like more than a new way of eating…it was a leap to a new life!

Q2: Help a Girl Out. The vegan transition can be tough for some! What sisterly advice can you give to new or transitioning vegans?

Marly: My advice is to be easy on yourself. Because I have a blog where I offer a lot of vegan recipes, I get questions from people and sometimes they express a lot of guilt over not staying strictly vegan 24/7. Here’s what I say - don’t live your life in some box living by restrictive rules. I do the best I can every day. Some days are not so good, but other days are great and those are the ones I focus on and strive for. Everything is about balance. Overall, you know you’re making decisions that are so much better for your body, animals, and the environment. It’s all good. With time your taste buds will catch up with you and you won’t even crave mozzarella cheese anymore. I promise.

Q3: Traveling Vegans. In your neck of the woods, what are the local vegan hot spots to visit/shop at/dine at? Traveling vegans want to know!

Marly: The NY Times published an article last year about how difficult it is to be vegetarian or vegan in Kansas City, which the author referred to as the “Mecca of Meat.” I think that article was wacko! Yes, Kansas City is known for its meat and BBQ, but the idea that it’s unfriendly to vegetarians is not the case. We have vegan restaurants, vegetarian restaurants, and plenty of health-food focused markets. We have farmers’ markets, international cuisine, and even a local pizza chain that serves vegan and gluten-free pizza. I don’t know what else a person could want for! So come to Kansas City, and when you do, be sure to try out some of my favorite joints. Tell them Marly sent you!

Marly’s favorite KC veggy restaurants:

* Füd, a plant-based vegan restaurant that features lots of good super foods and raw living cuisine. Their cashew soft-serve ice cream is the bomb!
* Blue Bird Bistro, Organic cuisine that highlights vegetarian, gluten-free-friendly and vegan friendly options. They have a veggie burger that always makes me smile!
* Eden Alley Vegetarian Café is one of my favorite places to eat with such a variety of vegetarian and vegan options and a dessert tray that will knock your socks off.
* Café Gratitude, Kansas City – This is a new favorite vegan eatery in Kansas City. It’s a sign that vegan eating is a great investment in the heart of the midwest.
* There are several other eateries that are not exclusively vegetarian or vegan, but are very accommodating. Like Waldo Pizza (for vegan and/or gluten-free pizza) and Blue Koi for some of the best tofu dishes around. Waldo Pizza and BlueKoi

When traveling, my favorite resource is Happy Cow. I go there to find great veg-friendly restaurants. I love testing out new places when I travel. My husband’s parents live in Phoenix part of the year so I have the great fortune of regularly going to Green in Tempe. Green is the home of vegan comfort food and if you haven’t been there yet, I highly recommend it! Their soft serve creamy desserts make it a meal to die for! HappyCow Green Vegetarian

Q4: On Food. What is a typical day of vegan eating for you? Fave eats?

Marly: I love to cook, but I typically save most of my big meal preparations for the weekend. So I’ll make a batch of cheesy tofu scramble on the weekend and have a little of that over toast for breakfast each morning.

My lunch usually involves something like a black bean burger with a great big salad on the side. I love salads. And I’m fanatical about fresh so I make a super quick salad dressing with vegan mayo, vinegar, agave nectar and whatever spice I’m in the mood for (like garlic and basil).

Dinner may include something like fried rice or my hubby’s famous “Shawnchilatas” – a mixture of black beans, rice, potatoes and corn that we serve burrito style or over a dark green leafy salad.

And what’s a day without a little dessert? For me that could be freshly popped popcorn mixed with dark chocolate chips (dark chocolate has now reigned supreme on my taste buds!). Or it might be a slice of vegan chocolate cake (again, something I typically make over the weekend and we eat throughout the week).

I have many pantry staples. Some of my favorites are ground flax seeds, nutritional yeast flakes, smoke sauce, turmeric, sage, sea salt, Sriracha and chickpeas. I have a thing for chickpeas, what can I say?

Q5: Words of Wisdom. Here is your chance to create your own quote. "Veganism is....."

Marly: Veganism is…a chance to redefine your life for yourself. Think about it. How many decisions do we make in a typical day that really are ideas or concepts we’ve adopted from others around us. This is true for the names we go by, the language we speak, all the way to the food we eat. Not all of that is bad, of course, but when life presents an opportunity to redefine things for yourself, it is a gift that should not be overlooked.

People in other countries think it’s ok to eat dogs or cats; something most of us in the U.S. would definitely frown upon. How much of your food choices are conditioned based on culture? How much do we know about how our food is produced? Taking the time to reflect on my choices led me down a path to become vegan. It’s a decision I’ve never regretted; not even when I’m passing by foods I used to love, like pizza!

Q6: On What is Hot. Share people, brands, books and more that you like to rave about.

Marly: Well, I would be remiss not to say that I love Lunch Box Bunch and Finding Vegan. Those are two wonderful resources for anyone venturing into vegan eating, whether part- or full-time. I also highly recommend Kathy Freston's books for anyone who is thinking about veganism but who is not entirely certain. If you would like to see the evidence-side of veganism, then John Robbins’ book Diet for a New America is a great read.

Jane Goodall’s books Reason for Hope and Harvest for Hope are well-written, thoughtful books about the environment, respecting animals, and how our life choices impact that. They have both been a great source of inspiration in my life.

Q7: Soapbox! Go for it ...Soapbox away...

Marly: You’re so right. This reminds me of a line from the Indigo Girls song, “Mystery” where they sing, “There must be a thousand things you would die for, I can hardly think of two.” I’m in the thousand-things category. But if you asked me to pick just one, it would be finding a way to be healthy as part of a real life. To me that means, finding new ways to add healthy options to my every-day life. Sometimes that might mean adding chickpeas to my latest cake so it has some healthy fiber or playing tennis with my hubby in the evening to have fun while working out. It doesn’t mean living on a pristine island of health, although that does sound nice.

It’s just that for me, that’s not possible. I can’t afford to pay $300 a day on “pristine” diet food or go to expensive spas on a regular basis. This is why my tag line is “where health meats life,” because I strive to find and share with my readers ways to take steps – big or small – to be healthy every day. And if you can make today a little healthier than yesterday, hurrah!

Q8: What upcoming projects are you working on? Please share!

Marly: This year I partnered with Arrowhead Mills to create gluten-free recipes. I was thrilled to be a part of that project because I really respect their brand. I’m also expanding my blog to include more green-living tips and healthy living posts, in addition to vegan recipes and interviews with people of interest. I’m also working on an e-book called 101 Things to Do with Chickpeas based on a series I’ve had going on my blog. I consider my life a continuous path of self-improvement and learning so I’m also inspired to expand my cooking and photography skills and to participate in some vegan cooking videos this year as well.

Q9. Smoothie love! I would love to hear about YOUR favorite smoothie recipe..

Marly: I love smoothies in just about any variety they come in. I’ve recently discovered Vega protein powder packets, which means my go-to smoothie right now combines a little sweet and a little healthy with the staying power of protein. Check out my Vegan Banana Protein Shake.

Q10. Do you think veganism is the diet of the future? Why?

Marly: It used to be I had to explain veganism to people as they looked at me like I might be trying to explain how to grow crops on Mars. But things are starting to change. You can hardly go anywhere lately without hearing something about veganism. So, yes, definitely veganism is the diet of the future – both for the health of the people, animals and the environment. It’s a movement I’m proud to be a part of!

Follow Marly!..
NamelyMarly blog
On Twitter
On Facebook

Be sure to read all this year's VGP interviews coming up. VGP 2013-14

VGP kickoff: Cookbook Interview Chloe Coscarelli
Simone Reyes, of Running Russell Simmons / Animal Advocate
Doron Petersan, of Sticky Fingers Bakery
Angela Liddon, of Oh She Glows website
Elizabeth Castoria, Editorial Director VegNews Magazine
Katie Higgins, of Chocolate Covered Katie
Laura Beck, of Vegansaurus and more / writer
Emily Von Euw, of This Rawsome Life website
Marly McMillen, of Namely Marly website
Sara Sohn, of Sweet & Sara Vegan Marshmallows

*all photos were provided courtesy of Namely Marly
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