Thursday, September 30, 2010

Gross Out!

My kids are dutiful vegans, and I'd like to keep them that way. When a commercial comes on for fast food, I point out the commercialism of it-  how the food isn't healthy, how they just give toys to kids to get their parents to spend money, etc. My kids are really good about it, and I don't think they have any desire to eat those foods. Just in case, though, I occasionally will share visual reinforcements: 

A chicken: 

Princess Tosha, Farm Sanctuary, CA 
Photo courtesy of amazing animal friend Kerrie!

Sadly, this beautiful lady passed away about a month ago. Heartbreaking as it is, I am happy to know that it was from old age and that she spent her golden years surrounded by love & friends 

The  inside of a chicken nugget: 

According to the USDA, mechanically separated poultry is "a paste-like and batter-like poultry product produced by forcing bones with attached edible tissue through a sieve or similar device under high pressure to separate bone from the edible tissue." 

A McDonald's Chicken Nugget: 

And in case that's not enough of an incentive to avoid this crap: 

Want one? EWWWWWWW!! 

B12 and Iron and Calcium, Oh My!

Awesome article on vegan baby's first year!

The following article was written by animal rights activist, vegan mother, and former PETA staffer Lauren Rainbow.

When I went vegan almost four years ago, I wasn't overly concerned about the mythological nutritional deficiencies that many people assume go along with a vegan diet. I knew about the importance of vitamin B12, calcium, and iron and knew where I could get them. In fact, it was easier than I thought it would be. When I became pregnant with my son, I was excited and firm in my conviction to raise a vegan child from conception through adolescence. Although I was always confident in my own nutrition-rich diet, I have to admit that I was slightly concerned when it came to providing my son, Danny, with everything that he would need, especially in his first five years. Looking back on my initial reservations, I now realize that I just didn't know anything about babies—although I was pretty sure that I couldn't blend up a veggie burger, put it in a bottle, and feed it to an infant.
Well, I got wise to the game and did my research. I soon learned that nearly all baby food is vegan. Most babies start out on rice cereal, bananas, apples, yams, and simple grains. Animal-derived products start to creep into most children's diets at the age of 6 months. One book I read stated that veal is a perfect first meat for a baby. Veal? Why on Earth would I want to feed my baby another baby? Even my omnivore friends balked at that one.
When Danny hit the one-year mark, the pediatrician brought up his vegan diet and began gently probing me for details about what he ate. There was no doubt that he was growing just fine; he weighed close to 24 pounds, which put him in the "sumo baby" category. I explained that he gets vitamin B12 from nutritional yeast sprinkled on toast and gets calcium from leafy greens in homemade soups. Iron is abundant in beans, which most babies love to eat with their hands. Power foods, such as fortified cereals and soy milk or yogurt, give Danny just about everything he needs in one go. While I think the pediatrician was impressed by my knowledge of nutrition, she suggested that we do a blood test to make sure that Danny was getting everything he needed. I was all for it because I wanted to be absolutely certain about something as important as his diet.
The tests showed that Danny had ample amounts of iron and B12 in his body. (I was beaming.) I wanted to know about his calcium levels but found out that there isn't a test for the calcium that builds strong bones, only for blood calcium, which is a whole different story. She said that based on the variety in his diet and his other nutritional levels, she wasn't concerned about it. So I guess I did it—I managed to get Danny through his first year without any dents, dings, or deficiencies. It's not like this was a difficult task by any stretch of the imagination, but getting through that first year of infancy can be daunting in and of itself, especially since I was assuming the responsibility of providing Danny with a healthy dietrather than relying on food schedules that are suggested in books or on bottles of Gerber baby food. It was good to know that all was well—in fact, very well.
Here is a soup recipe that is a staple in our house. It's loaded with protein, iron, calcium, and everything that's good for babies and parents. As with most homemade soups, the quantities are approximations.
2 quarts vegetable stock or water
1/2 cup dry lentils
1/2 cup dry beans (any kind)
1/2 cup dry quinoa
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 gloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
2 Tbsp. cumin
2 Tbsp. Spike seasoning
3-4 cups of your favorite chopped vegetables (yams, carrots, zucchini, broccoli, spinach, etc.)

  • Pour the vegetable stock or water in a large soup pot and bring to a boil.
  • Add all the ingredients to the mixture.
  • Simmer for about an hour or until all the beans are cooked and soft. (More veggie broth or water may be added at any time.)
  • Blend the soup in a blender until smooth.
  • Set aside a generous amount of soup for your baby and season the "adult portion" with salt and pepper, to taste.
Makes 6 servings

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

LOL's for veg kids!

Why did the tofu cross the road?
              To prove he wasn't chicken.

What do you call a militant vegan?
              Lactose intolerant.

What's the best way to keep milk fresh?
             Leave it in the cow.

What did one vegetarian spy say to the other vegetarian spy?
               We have to stop meating like this.

What does a vegan zombie eat?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Vegan in NYC? Holla!

My husband and I took a trip to NYC during Labor Day weekend, and let me say it was... AWESOME! I know that this is a vegan kids blog, but come on, parents need a little TLC, too! My amazing mom volunteered to watch our kids while we went for a long weekend to visit my cousin in NY. She recently moved to NY to go to NYU (yes, she is brilliant), and by recently, I do mean that she had only been in NY for one week before we had visited her. She was already homesick, and greatly appreciated the company of her favorite vegans (excluding our children who would beat us out).

We don't normally take lavish weekend trips, but Nate was already traveling to North Carolina (from the SF area, where we live) on business, so his flight from NC to NY was covered by his company. Kind of on a lark, we talked about me meeting him in NY, so when my mom offered to watch the kids, I seized the chance to not only be alone with my spouse, but to visit my beloved cousin, Sam, and take a huge bite out of the delicious vegan Big Apple.

And eat the Apple we did...Oh, my goodness! NYC really is a haven for vegans. I am imagining the angels singing as I write this. It really was that good. The first night, we ate at Angelica Kitchen and it was probably my favorite dinner in NY. I had this amazing Asian crepe filled with delectable goodies, including shitake mushrooms, and drizzled with a wasabi cream. Oh, yeah. Nate had a seitan wrap with a mole sauce that I recreated in my kitchen upon returning home. (Check out my photos: I was so proud of my fancy creation that I made my mom pose with her plates! She looks too young to be a grandma, doesn't she?)

My cousin, Sam, had glazed tempeh on little crostinis with a brown gravy and Yukon gold mashed potatoes. So good! Sam, by the way, is totally vegan-friendly and was just about as excited as we were to try all the good vegan food. She had only been to one vegan restaurant with us before, in San Francisco, but had happily consumed many a meal at our home. This was Sam's first try of tempeh, and she enjoyed it. It really is great to have such supportive family members!

For the two mornings we ate breakfast in NY, we ate at The Organic Grill, a vegetarian restaurant within walking distance to NYU in Greenwich Village (Angelica Kitchen was even closer to Sam's residential hall). They had great vegan omelets, tofu rancheros, waffles and drinks. (There is more on the menu, but we ate the omelets and tofu rancheros both days due to their amazing taste.) The Organic Grill has a unique way of grating their tofu to use in omelets and tofu scramble that is really good. We loved it, hence the reason behind us dining there two days in a row (even when we had to wait 25 minutes for a table on the second day).

Before we went to see the Broadway show, Promises, Promises, (which was AWESOME), we dined at Candle Cafe where we each enjoyed a different, tasty sandwich. It was really good! We also purchased some cookies to-go to eat in the show. Yum!

Sam with her decadent Tuscan Seitan Parmesan Sandwich, and my goofy Nate with his classic Tofu Club.

Our last dinner in NY was at a chic narrow place called Red Bamboo. We were actually heading toward a different restaurant when we passed Red Bamboo, and I recognized it from our online searches. A glance at the menu and we were up for a try. The dishes are mainly soy- and wheat-meat heavy with an Asian slant, as hinted at in the restaurant's name. I was in the mood for a salad because of all the eating we were doing, and it had terriyaki soy chicken in it. All of our plates were tasty, but it was perhaps one of our more indulgent meals due to the amount of processed veggie meat. I would love to have this restaurant around us to head to on occasion, but it didn't top Angelica Kitchen--for me, anyway.

Sam and I pose at Red Bamboo.

Now I've been mentioning a lot of savory meals, but who can ignore a nice sugary treat? Well, not me, and definitely not Nate! Our first sweet success was at Stogo, a relatively new all-vegan ice cream store. It is a clean-lined modern place that would appeal to anyone. I had Salted Caramel Pecan, and Peanut Butter Fudge. Sigh...I wish I was back there right now (and that's not only to escape the bickering and fisticuffs of my son and niece that I am currently witnessing). No, the two flavors I tried were AMAZING (imagine me singing that word aloud for the true effect of my joy)! The Salted Caramel Pecan was the best vegan caramel I've ever had, with just the right amount of saltiness. It was so unique and scrumptious! And, can anyone resist the divine combination of peanut butter and chocolate? Not in the Wall house. The container of Peanut Butter Fudge had a layer of fudge with crushed peanuts on top which I was lucky enough to get a chunk of in my scoop. It was crunchy, salty goodness! I would love for there to be a Stogo near me...but maybe my scale would not!

I think one paragraph is sufficient to express my love of our first vegan ice cream experience in the city that never sleeps, so on to the final stop we made before heading home to the SF Bay Area. It may have been the pinnacle of our noshing in New York. After reading many glowing Yelp reviews (many from omnivores who were "forced" to go to a vegan ice cream parlor--yuck!--but discovered that it was, after all, quite amazing) we had to make the trek on foot to Lula's Sweet Apothecary, a teeny--and I do mean teeny--ice cream parlor straight out of the 50s...except that everything was deliciously vegan. Aaah! I read that their soft serve ice cream, with one of the two flavors always being Cake Batter flavor, was to die for (except no one had to die, right?). So I got a sundae with one of the "scoops" being the Cake Batter soft serve, and the other being something with chocolate and peanut butter. The whole thing was covered in the best hot fudge I've tasted in years, topped with coconut whipped cream, peanuts and a cherry on top. It was humongous, but I somehow managed to eat the whole thing. (See photo below) It was the most remarkable ice cream experience ever! At first, the parlor only had a few people talking outside the door, and a small group of customers at the counter before us. After we ordered, the place got packed! The one place to eat inside opened up, and we were able to take our towering sundaes in to sit on the stools at the counter which looked out into the street. It was the full Lula's experience, in my opinion. When next I visit New York, this will be the first place I head to, be it breakfast, lunch or dinner time. As soon as it's open, I'll be there!

If we had brought our kids along on our trip, it would have been a TOTALLY different experience. The plane trip alone would have been a challenge. I flew alone from SF and had several delays and an aircraft switch, causing me arrive in NY six hours late. Not too fun even if you're an adult traveling alone, but very difficult for children. We walked as much as we could around Greenwich Village and its surrounding areas, and we took the subway (fun!) several places. I think that Braeden and Kaylee would have enjoyed some of the walking and all of the restaurants, especially the ice cream shops, but they would have tired out faster than we did, obviously. Cristian, who is now sixteen months, would have changed the whole dynamic of the trip, with naps, fussiness, and wanting to walk on his own. I definitely think he would have been too young to handle the trip, but Kaylee and Braeden would have been fun to have along. Nate and I did feel bad eating at places we know they would have LOVED and talked about it while we were there. We will most surely take them with us when they are a bit older. (We had to promise them this to placate them. Kaylee was very sad that she was not accompanying us and didn't understand why the two of us were going alone. Poor girl!) I think we'll be going to Sam's NYU graduation in four years with all the kids---if we are feeling especially brave and wealthy!

Until then, we'll have our memories, menus and photos to look at to remind us of one of the most incredible weekends we've had, hands-down. I will never forget the dining experiences, seeing a great Broadway show, and spending time with my cutie pie cousin. I'm adding some final pics from around NYC, because, well, why not? It was just too fun not to share. =)


Home garden=kids eat more veggies!

We have had a home vegetable garden for maybe five or six years now. We don't have a big yard; our front yard is mostly paved driveway with trees and plants along the fence, and the backyard is mostly an aggregate patio with some dirt areas near the back fence. There was a large metal storage shed in the corner of our backyard when we bought our home. It added no interest to our yard and was a place to collect junk that we'd forget was in there as soon as we put it inside. So, several years back, we got rid of the shed and Nate built pretty raised planter beds on the concrete slab that had been beneath the shed. Last summer, Nate built a three-tiered planter along the fence near the first garden. It's not a huge space by any means, but I love it!

Having a vegetable garden is so great for kids and encourages the whole family to value and enjoy eating fresh produce. My kids love to go to our local nursery and pick out plants for our garden. Helping to do the planting of the veggies is an especially wonderful experience for them. Kids get to see firsthand how plants, and vegetables, grow and change. They get to pick food right from the plant and, often, just pop it into their mouth, as they do with the little tomatoes in our garden. I think that seeing how the food grows and is "harvested" in our own little garden can help children connect to the bigger agricultural picture and begin to imagine where other fruits and vegetables come from.

I've also noticed that my kids will try, and grow to enjoy, foods they might not have been interested in. I remember last summer when I would take care of my, then 1 1/2 year old, niece, Caitlyn, three days a week. We had a good crop of cherry tomatoes growing along our driveway, right next to where I'd park my minivan. Before our tomatoes began to ripen, Caitlyn would not eat tomatoes in salads, on their own, or in any manner. As the first weeks of tomato season began to pass and Caitlyn saw my kids and I grab a couple of tomatoes from the plant while we entered and exited the car, she became curious and finally tried one. Soon, she was wiping out my supply of tomatoes!

My kids love to have the contents of the garden at their fingertips. This summer they spent hours playing in the backyard, picking tomatoes and washing them with the garden hose. Last week they borrowed a plastic knife and some bowls from the kitchen and cut a bunch of tomatoes in half for them to eat. Braeden likes to make "cilantro sandwiches," as he calls them, consisting of a lettuce leaf rolled up with cilantro inside. It's exciting for them to eat the food from the garden, especially if they get to pick it themselves. It's also a great element for them to incorporate into their pretend play.

This summer we have many times consumed a delectable sandwich that has now become Kaylee's favorite sandwich. We take pieces of whole grain bread and spread one piece with Wildwood Garlic Aoili and a little mustard. Then we spread avocado on the other slice. The beauty of this sandwich is the fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes and lettuce that we put on the sandwich. Yum! Top the veggies with a little sea salt and freshly ground pepper, and viola, you have a wonderful summertime sandwich. (Braeden and I like to sprinkle a little cayenne on ours as well.) Kaylee is quite excited when I make this sandwich for her school lunch in the fall when the tomatoes are still plentiful. (I make sure to keep the lettuce and tomato separate from the bread and let her assemble it herself in order to keep the bread from getting soggy.) I think I may make this sandwich for lunch now that I've been thinking about it!

Kaylee and Braeden enjoying our garden fresh sandwiches!
See our gorgeous tomatoes?

So, even if you have a small space to work with, try planting a garden with your children! It's economical, earth-friendly, educational and delicious...and your kids just might eat more veggies!


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The vegan sukkah Nazi

I get to use the word Nazi 'cause I'm a Jew... : ) 

And Jews build sukkahs. Without going into a lot of detail, we celebrate Sukkot, which is a holiday best described as a Jewish Thanksgiving. The sukkah is a structure we build in the yard to commemorate the 40 years the Jews spent wandering in the desert, and we decorate it with fruit and palm leaves to celebrate the season's harvest. The best part is that we eat and sleep in it for a week! Eating in the sukkah is very important, and eating good food always jives well with veganism! 

Our sukkah is still in progress of being decorated, but here is the structure: 

We are SUPER lucky to have a group of amazing volunteers come out each year to help us build ours. These volunteers come through a Jewish network and it's everyone's first time meeting. The first year, the organization offered to provide bagels and cream cheese. I wrote back thanking them, explaining that we are vegan and that I would be happy to supply tofutti vegan cream cheese and bagels. The coordinator was super sweet, said they would supply the nosh, which they did... in addition to cow cream cheese. 

Each year since, there has been non-vegan food brought into the sukkah by the volunteers. I appreciate their help so much, it is difficult to ask them not to eat in it, especially since it is such a special part of building a sukkah (and, many times there are young toddlers eating in it). But I can't shake the feeling that it's been "contaminated"! Am I being overly dramatic? Yeah, probably. But would any of them bring non-kosher food into a kosher sukkah? I bet not! Plus, as I've written before, the kids really dislike being around non-veg foods, so it makes me feel like I'm not ensuring their own home is a "safe zone" if I stay quiet. 

So what to do? Endanger the virginity of the veg sukkah, or play the vegan sukkah Nazi? Because as I've found countless times over, it's easy for people to ignore veg requests and "forget". Meaning, I would be paranoid and guarding the structure rather than enjoying it, and really, who wants that? At the same time, there are very few vegan sanctuaries in our lives, and I'd like to keep this as one. 

I think next year I will the organization to forward a nicely worded email to the volunteers from me, hoping that will ward off the issue... and if not, suck it up and deal with it. Another way to teach the kids tolerance.... 

If you're familiar with Judaism, you're aware that many Jews keep kosher - meaning, there is no mixing of dairy and meat, and that all foods are labeled "meat", "dairy", or "parve". This means TOTAL SEPARATION of meat and milk - different dishes, sinks, refrigerators, counter tops and  those food items at all meals (yep, cheeseburgers are OUT!)  Yes, it's a TON of work! And beyond me why they aren't all just vegan - let me tell you, it makes it WAY easier! : ) 

So when the Rabbi's sons asked why my kids couldn't have the snacks they brought, I tried explaining veganism. They were young, so I just said "we don't eat any meat or dairy", knowing they would be very familiar with both terms. He looked completely perplexed until I said, "oh, we only eat parve foods without eggs or fish". He smiled and said, "oh, I get it!"


Friday, September 17, 2010

Tami has returned to the blog!

Please let me apologize for my long absence from the blog! First, I was quite busy with the three plus (neighbors, cousins, niece) little ones at the start of summer and so neglected the blog, then when I was feeling like I had a little more free time to write, my laptop died! My husband did his best to fix it, but he just couldn't revive the poor thing. Next, I got an itch for an iPad and after MUCH discussion with my husband, he agreed I could buy one. I was quite excited to see all that the iPad was capable of and how well it could replace a computer. Alas, I discovered the iPad is cool, but can't do everything, including write this blog!

So, then I was left without any means to attend to the blog. Months had passed since I had a convenient way to type, and I felt pretty bad to aks my husband (he does bring home the veggie bacon, after all) for another expensive gadget. But, I finally did and he eventually succumbed to my demand. So, Wednesday night, he came home with a new laptop for me! Go Nate! Now I can write to my heart's content...well, as long as housework, grocery shopping and the children allow me to!

Some of my planned entries may be a little dated now, so bear with me. And thanks for hanging around. =)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Dandies are here!!

We were picked for the contest!!  Now, to come up with a fun, unique, YUMMY project with them! Stay tuned.....

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Horse Soccer and Slaughterhouses

My poor, poor readers. I fear I have abandoned you due to craziness of a new school year! My apologies, love, and undying devotion :-)

What's new in Vegan Land? Not much! Which is really saying something, as veganism tends to feel a demanding and dominating portion of parenting at times.

We recently went on vacation with my omni  aunt, uncle and veggie cousin. They love us and are very accepting (notice I didn't use the word 'understanding') of the vegan thing, but they don't really get it. My aunt firmly feels that it's okay to eat animals and my uncle is an avid fisherman. So, I often have to remember that acceptance and tolerance is a two-way street.

Anyways, so we're up in the mountains and my aunt has been keeping a secret surprise for us - we're going to the ranch to  watch horses playing soccer and give hay rides!

Oh, shit. My guess is that she was thinking "oh, they'll love this since they love animals so much!" Super sweet thought, and I so much appreciate the sentiment, but, umm..... no. But what's one to do? They are always so accommodating and thoughtful towards us and our lifestyle choices, and I just couldn't bring myself to turn her down. And I thought about what kind of statement it would make. Would it matter at all if I didn't attend? Besides a protest against my family, would our protest be so silent it wouldn't even matter to the animals? The answer was simple; no one would care and I would hurt others feelings.  Should I have declined? Debatable, but honestly, the guilt I feel over participating is worth the guilt I would have felt over telling my family, yet again, that they got it wrong.

So we went, and had fun. There were games and watermelon eating contests and a fun country community atmosphere. When it came time to ride the wagons, I politely declined. Since we were already there, I decided the most I could do was to help my kids - and others - realize that this was a living, breathing, feeling being. As we were waiting around, I asked if the same horse had been used all morning.... he had. The kids and I asked if we could feel him carrots and water (he was tethered and had no water!!) and the staff welcomed it. I pointed out how uncomfortable he looked with the bit in his mouth. My son decided not to ride, but my daughter did.... and liked it. She's 8, so I'm not surprised (though was a little sad). We then watched the horses play soccer (with riders on). This was hard for me, and really, I hated it. I hated that I wanted to yell at my kids and they were laughing and smiling and cheering on their favorites. I hated that I couldn't breath, waiting for one of the horses to trip over the ball. I hated watching the horses try to stay clear of the giant ball while their riders pulled and urges them towards it. I hated that the animals were being used for entertainment, and that I was allowing my kids to enjoy it.

But I guess that is okay. I think it's important that they see these things, to understand why I don;t agree with t\hem. It's vital they develop their own thoughts, opinions, and ideas around animal and human interactions. Like any other parent, I will pass down my values to them, but in the end, it is their choice.

Later, when we were driving home, I pointed out the things that made me concerned for the animals safety. I pointed out that the animals didn't seem very happy. Any my beautifully strong willed eight year old disagreed - she doesn't think the horses would play if they didn't want to and she thought they did look pretty happy.

Does this mean there are burgers in her future? Sigh... only after our field trip to the slaughter house!