Friday, April 30, 2010
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
So, to tide you over until it's done (you know you can't wait!!) I thought I'd share the conversation about nursery rhymes I had with my kiddos tonight. Dylan was singing Humpty Dumpty, which was followed up with Three Blind Mice by Kayla. So I posed the question to them, "why are so many nursery rhymes so sad and mean to animals?" Of course, they didn't know - neither do I really - but came up with an idea to reword the popular nursery rhymes to be cruelty-free!
Here's their first:
Three kind mice
Three kind mice
See how the run
See you the run
The all ran up to the Farmers wife
Who fed them some cheese and kissed them good night
Have you ever seen something so sweet in your life
As three kind mice
Hope you enjoyed it as much as they did coming up with it!
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
chopped peanuts for garnish
chopped cilantro for garnish, optional
Start rice cooking in a medium pot. Steam carrots and broccoli, checking doneness after 8-10 minutes. Veggies should be able to be pierced with a fork, but still be crispy. When done, turn off heat and leave lid askew until needed.
Heat about 1 tablespoon canola oil in a large pot. When hot, add small pinch of chile pepper flakes and warm for about 30 seconds. Then add minced garlic and cook until golden, about 30-45 seconds. Add tofu cubes, tossing to coat in oil. Saute over medium-low heat. Turn cubes when side of tofu touching pan is a golden brown, turning down heat if getting too dark. If tofu sticks, add a little more oil or a little bit of water (1 tbl or less). Continue browning tofu until most of the sides are browned and tofu is nice and crispy. Empty tofu into a large bowl and set aside, covering to keep tofu warm if desired.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
The first time he went on a sleep over there, I packed about 6 vegan Zbars in his backpack (yes, he and his friend ate them all)! I explained to her that we didn't eat meat, milk, or eggs. I initially used the allergy excuse, but as time went on and we became closer, my true reasons have come out. I've explained that we don't like the idea of how the animals are treated when raised for food. I can not tell you how supportive she's been, how open and accepting she and her husband are. We've talked about the differences between the food here and from her home. She's explained how in South America, meat is a huge part of their diet, how it is considered a privilege and sign of wealth to be able to raise animals for meat. And I have shared with her my view that if everyone were to milk their own cow and slaughter their own chickens, I would have much less an issue with using animals for food (don't get me wrong, I still think eating the dead is disgusting, but I wouldn't care so much if other people did). She always had the most delicious fruit for us, and pasta is usually what we have for dinner. Side note: when dining at others homes, if they are not so open to trying to cook a vegan dish, pasta and veggies burgers are always a welcomed suggestion!
I have another friend who is also from South America. My daughter came home from school one day with quite a story; she said this friend had taken one of the chickens who had died (ugh, yes another classroom was raising baby chicks in a glass box; more on that in another post) and eaten it. What the %^@%#?!??!?
Of course, I told her that he must have been teasing them. As I had interviewed this friend for a paper I was doing at one time, I know he is from a very large, extremely poor family. While he has a good job here, most of his money is sent home to help his brothers and sisters. In any case, I laughingly told him the story Kayla had come home with the evening before. He said "Yes, of course I did! Why would anyone let food go to waste? Now I don't have to buy dinner, and I can send more money home." I was more than a little shocked, and asked is he was concerned about disease. His response? I don't remember it exactly word for word, but it was that he had eaten much worse when growing up hungry and that he was not worried about disease - the chick had died because it was being raised in a classroom and not outdoors. He said he had raised hundreds of chickens, and that was the stupidest thing he'd ever seen. That, we could definitely agree on! In a way I am happy this went down the way it did; this was so much more a lesson for the kids that just 'raising' the chicks was (in an OMG kind of way)!
I've also talked to my grandfather about veganism. When we first went vegan, he acted as though I was crazy; I even thought he was angry with me. As soon as I pointed out that there is a huge Jewish following, he relaxed about it : ) He's also gone from calling us Veg-ins to Vaag-ans. He is a holocaust survivor, and has written an autobiography. I was recently re-reading it, for the first time since going vegan, and was amazed to finally understand why my Grandfather disapproved of veganism. It was not about the shunning of meat, but what it represents. For me, it represents cruelty, but for him freedom and riches. A few quotes from his autobiography:
"Germany in 1923 was a country in turmoil. Inflation was rampant and unless you buy food as soon as you got paid, one hour later there was nothing you could buy for that money anymore" ~ "As a refuge in Shanghai, I had to depend of "UNRRA (United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Association). The K-Rations we received were heaven sent." ~ "After 10 years of living on soups and/or non-nourishing food, the chow on the ship was fit for a king (at least for us) and it seemed impossible that so much food was available anywhere
and how much was wasted." ~ (After arriving to America) "I learned fast to distiguish between a hamburger and a steak" ~ "Foster's and other Fast Food places were interesting; I soon learned what a hot dog was all about. After all, the money I have received had to last for a while and a hot dog or a hamburger and a coke were cheap".
It really struck a cord with me. For the fist 25 years of his life, he had to survive by eating what he could get; there was no choice, no shunning of any food. Just appreciation, and satiety. So for him to overcome all he did, to survive, to give his children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren all we have is an amazing example of what fearlessness and determination can do. For his family to appear ungrateful for this opportunity must be more than upsetting for him. It must be incomprehensible at first glance.
In all three of these stories, it makes me think about the reason that people sometimes react negatively to veganism. Depending on the persons background and perspective, it can seem a ridiculous thing to do. I've also used it as a good way to show my kids that money and industrialization are not always a good thing; that even when we have things easily and readily at our hands, we must still use our common sense to decide weather participating in something is actually good or not. And these have all been excellent examples to show my children how people outside of our country live, and their connections with animals as food.
Just some food for thought.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
As Tami referenced, PETA states:
Saturday, April 10, 2010
Here is what I mean: A few years ago, I went to a self-serve, all-you-can-eat salad and soup restaurant with one of my vegan friends and her daughter, and we came to the pasta bar. She wouldn't take the marinara sauce and I thought it was because she feared there would be some dairy in it. In truth she objected to it because she was afraid there could be bone-char processed sugar in it. Because of this, she also will not buy products with nonorganic sugar in them. She has some other strict rules about what she will and won't eat. I remember thinking that maybe I should be that careful about what I ate and didn't know if I was "as vegan" as she was.
Over the years I've probably become "more vegan" in some ways, but somewhat relaxed in others. For example, it took me a while to swicth over all of our household and bathing products, cosmetics, etc to vegan ones. I remember using products, like dish soap, and thinking, "Oh, I should see if a vegan version of this exists..." and then slowly moving over to vegan counterparts of most everything in our home. At first I had no idea that veganism would extend so far into other non-food related areas of my life. I had always searched for nonanimal-tested products as a vegetarian, but that was relatively easy compared to finding vegan products! I think it was a bit overwhelming at first to veganize my life, especially with a child and all the things she needed.
Now, mostly everything in my house is vegan, with the exception of one area of products: medicine. This is one area where I have let my strict veganism slide. As you may already know, becoming vegan opens up a bunch of other paths leading to, well, shall I say, enlightenment? I'm talking about environmental consciousness, health, and social justice issues to name a few. Household cleaning products, for exapmle, tend to be better for the earth. Most articles or books on plant-based diets are going to talk the great benefits such a diet has on our Earth. When you learn about factory farming, you learn about how farm workers and the community in which the farms are located are harmed by working in or having the farm in their community. If you start researching vegan chocolate, you are bound to be educated on how fair-trade, shade-grown chocolate benefits farmers and the environment. And as you read cookbooks and other plant-based diet books, you are going to learn more about your own health and nutrition than you may have ever wanted to!
This health eductaion via veganism is what has led me to think more critically about the Western health care system. I started to think more about antibiotics, vaccinations, and all the over-the-counter and prescribed medications that are commonly used in our country, and I began to question the unquestionnable deference we have to medical practicioners and the whole medical community when it comes to such things. When my daughter was an infant, I was totally uneducated about vaccinations and thought I had to have her vaccinated. Our former pediatrician didn't tell me that vaccines were optional, or that, at the very least, that I could space out the time between my daughter's vaccinations. Like most Americans, I would just do what my doctor told me to do.
Having several bad experiences with this first pediatrician with regards to vaccinations and vegetariansim, I began a journey to see what other medical options were out there. It led me to our current pediatrician who is both an MD and a homeopathic practicioner. I love our doctor, who is totally cool with veganism, relaxed about vaccinations, and uses antibiotics as a last result and only when absolutely necessary. What she prescribes instead are homeopathic remedies, and there in lies my vegan dilemma! While I would rather give my kids homeopathic remedies over antibiotics and other nasty prescribed medications, much of the homeopathic stuff is not vegan. Some has honey, and some of the other products have lactose in them (derived from dairy). My two boys both tend to have more chronic breathing issues. Braeden--the four year old--had sleep apnea and severe snoring/difficulty breathing at night time. We tried a gluten-free diet for six months or so and it seemed to help for a while, but then came back. Whenever he would get a cold it would turn into a cough and cause him to have a hard time breathing, both at day and at night. Luckily, he has outgrown this for the most part. Now my little guy has similar problems (in fact he's wheezing right now)!
The reason I'm mentioning my children's health problems is because the main line of homeopathic remedies that help with their breathing issues contains the lactose I mentioned earlier. They're small little pellets that mix the herb, etc with a little bit of lactose (which I was told was added to sweeten the pellets). Though I give them to the kids when they need them, I still feel a bit guilty about it. Am I putting the health of my kids ahead of the well being of the cows? I guess in a way I am, but I justify my use of the remedies in several ways. First, the alternative non-alternative Western medicines probably have animal products in them, besides the God-knows-what-else is in there. Secondly, I am doing the best I can as a vegan and as a mother, and until an alternative exists to help my kids that is totally vegan, I'll compromise and use these products. Thirdly, I really don't know what else I could do in place of these remedies. I feed my kids very well the majority of the time, I don't use harsh chemicals in our home, and my kids get plenty of rest and exercise. I can't say what causes their tendency to have breathing problems for sure, but I wonder if it has to do with the lack of prenatal care and their in utero exposure to certain toxins as they grew in their birthmoms' tummies. Who knows? Plenty of kids have similar problems and had better prenatal experiences...
Anyways, for now, I'll give my kids the lactose-laden remedies and feel a little grossed out and sad about doing it. I recently told my kids that there is lactose in the pellets because I didn't want to keep it a secret any longer, and they were surprisingly fine with it, especially when I explained why we take them. I don't know if I'm more vegan or less vegan than the average plant-based person, but I do know that I am doing the best I can--or know how to do--at the moment, and for now, that's the best that I can do.
Maybe most vegans have areas in their lives where they are not as strict as they could be. My husband drinks beer even if he's not sure if it's vegan. I know friends who buy shampoo or bathroom cleaner that isn't vegan. I've eaten questionnable foods from time to time when a family member of friend has gone through the trouble to prepare something for me to the best of her ability. And I'm sure I'll slip up or make small concessions again in the future. We all have our own comfort level and some would not consider buying and consuming something with lactose in it, as I do.
I have always believed in PETA's philosophy of veganism that I heard several years ago at one of their activist conferences. I'm paraphrasing here, but the gist of their belief is that being vegan is not about being pure, it's about making compassionate choices AND showing others that it's not too difficult to be vegan. If we quibble about what may be in the bun of the veggie dog that we buy at our local ball park, we show those around us, including those making the decisions of what to sell at the park, that being vegan is just too hard and is more about perfectionism and less about doing the most for the animals that we can. I would rather show those around me that it's pretty easy to be vegan once you get the hang of it, and that you can get by just about anywhere and be happy in the process. I am not a perfect vegan, mother, or human, but on a journey to do the best I can, for the Earth, my children, myself, and the animals. =)
Friday, April 9, 2010
No discussion of a trip to a tropical location would be complete without talking about sunblock. When I first became vegan, I was content to simply use vegan products. No animal byproducts and no animal testing and the product was good enough for me. Then I came across a group called the Environmental Working Group and found out about product ratings according to risks of developing cancer, reproductive/developmental disorders, allergies, etc. They have a database (http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/) that lists thousands of products (makeup, sunblock, lotion, etc) and rates them according to safety. I must admit that knowing about this website has made me feel a lot better about choosing and using products, but that it has taken up hours of my time searching for products that are both vegan and have low scores. (Once I knew that the things I was using were toxic, I just couldn't use them anymore.) Besides the time consideration, the more pure products tend to be more expensive. A bummer, but true!
(Sweet baby skin definitely needs to be protected from the sun!)
So, one company with mostly all vegan products and consistenly low scores of toxic risks is California Baby. I use their shampoo/body wash for my kids, and I use their Fragrance Free, SPF 30+ sunblock as well (http://www.californiababy.com/no-fragrance-spf-30-sunscreen-lotion-2-9-oz.html). On our trip, I brought along a new kind of sunblock (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B001E1334O?tag=wwwewgorg-20&camp=213381&creative=390973&linkCode=as4&creativeASIN=B001E1334O&adid=1CXXHVASQF2HWQGQA5N4&
that I hadn't tried before because I liked the other products in the same line. It's called Desert Essence Age Reversal SPF 30 Mineral Sunscreen. I like this product, and it didn't make my face breakout. These two types of sunblock are mineral-based instead of chemical-based, thus their better safety-rating. The only drawback to mineral-based sunscreen is that is so thick and white that you look a little ghostly until it sinks in (and honestly, the whiteness doesn't completely away). One day I didn't use sunblock on my face and I burned my forehead. When I applied sunblock to the red area the next day, the bluish-white sunblock made me look purple! A nice beach look!
I have yet to find an everyday sunblock for my face that is both vegan and nontoxic. If any readers know of any, please comment about it because I'd love to know of it, and I'm sure others would too! =)
So, there you have it! An awesome trip to Maui, vegan style, with my three kids plus a niece in tow, and all of us survived and had fun! Now, when are you going to go?
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
The season brings out the "Humm Baby!" in our family. Give us a Giants game, warm evening, good company, great food and drinks and life just can't get any better.
When we went vegan, it was winter. It never occurred to me that veganism would reach so far into my life that even baseball was affected! Not that this is a bad thing, but the first game I watched as a vegan left me staring sullenly at my fire-less grill. It didn't help when a friend joked, "that beer's vegan, right?" WHAT?!?! Some beers aren't vegan? Shit. I swear, that is the only thing ever that made me rethink my decision!
So, I truly thought part of my life was over (the April through October part, anyways). The first thing I did was research beer (thank you Google). In case this is something you worry about here is super helpful a list: http://www.barnivore.com/. Because it's the filtration process and not the actual drink that uses animal products, it doesn't bother me personally so much. I've chosen to only purchase vegan friendly beer, but I'm an equal opportunity drinker : )
The second thing I did was look up vegan BBQ recipes. And I want to share our absolute, hands down, favorite one with you! It's vegan ribz. I know what you're thinking- - What?! Ribs? Vegan? Ohhhh yyyeeaahhh. It was my son's favorite food as an omni (I know, eeewwww!) so I was so excited to find a veg version for him!
As I've said before, I am not a inventor in the kitchen. Thank you once again to Susan V. for this amazing dish!!
Barbecued Seitan Ribz
Like Veggeroni, this seitan is baked dry rather than boiled. The results are a little spongier than Veggeroni, less dense, but I think the texture is perfect for absorbing the flavor of the barbecue sauce. You'll be amazed at how easy this recipe comes together using your favorite bottled sauce.
1 cup vital wheat gluten
2 teaspoons smoked Spanish paprika
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
2 teaspoons onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 cup water
2 tablespoons tahini or other nut butter
1 teaspoon Liquid Smoke
1 tablespoon soy sauce
about 1 cup of your favorite barbecue sauce
Preheat the oven to 350 and lightly spray an 8x8 baking dish with canola oil. Mix the first 5 ingredients together in a large bowl. Mix the water with the nut butter, Liquid Smoke, and soy sauce and add it to the dry ingredients. Stir to mix well and then knead lightly in the bowl for a couple of minutes.
Put the dough into the baking dish and flatten it so that it evenly fills the pan. Take a sharp knife and cut it into 8 strips; then turn the pan and cut those strips in half to form 16 pieces.
Put it in the oven and bake for 25 minutes. While it's cooking prepare your grill.
Remove it from the oven and carefully re-cut each strip, going over each cut to make sure that the ribz will pull apart easily later. Generously brush the top with barbecue sauce. Take it to the grill and invert the whole baking dish onto the grill (or use a large spatula to lift the seitan out, placing it sauce-side down on the grill). Brush the top of the seitan with more sauce.
Watch it closely to make sure that it doesn't burn. When sufficiently brown on one side, turn over and cook the other side, adding more sauce, if necessary. When done, remove to a platter and cut or pull apart the individual ribs to serve.
Hope you enjoy! We sure did (but enjoyed the Giants kicking butt even more!)
Sunday, April 4, 2010
Veganism is fast gaining popularity, especially where we live. But some people still don't get it, and worse yet, some people don't care as much because they see it as a choice. Shortly after our conversion, we went out to eat at a local Mexican chain restaurant. Even though I had asked for them without, the beans came with cheese and sour cream. We asked, politely, for them to be remade, which they agreed to without an attitude or problem. When the plate came back, it was obvious the sour cream and cheese had just been scraped off. CONTAMINATION ALERT!!! I again asked for the plate to be remade. The look on the waiters face clearly said, "what's the big deal? It's not like it's gonna kill you." And because I have issues with feeling badly for asking people to go out of their way, I quickly said, "oh, I am so sorry to bother you, it's just that I am really allergic". Instant attitude change! He apologized, had the plate remade, and I was totally confidant my dish was now dairy free.
Now, I do go back and forth on this. I think the word vegan has power in restaurants, and I like to use it to show that these options are wanted and appreciated. But, I am more concerned that our meals come dairy-free. So, I usually size up the waiter/waitress. If they seem like they'd be receptive to my vegan ways, I say that. If not, I default to the allergy lie.
Of course, my kids recognized the lie right way. I was holding my breath until the waiter left, hoping my kids wouldn't rat me out. Hoping I wasn't teaching them to be ashamed to say they're vegan. Hoping I didn't just forever destroy their image of their perfect, lie free mom. (HA!)
Thankfully, they kept their little mouths closed : ) As soon as the waiter walked away, I explained to my kids that yes, it was a lie, but since it was a lie that didn't hurt anyone, it was kinda okay. I explained that I just wanted to make sure my dinner came without cow secretions. I explained that not everyone knew what veganism was. Okay, not the best teaching parenting wise, but I'll take it over making a crazy vegan scene in a restaurant! For me, the important part was to make sure I was able to explain to them the 'why' of the lie.