Monthly Archives: November 2011

Why I am Vegan . . .

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First, let me say, I am a vegan who loves food.  I love steak, cubed steak, seafood, macaroni and cheese, chicken and dumplings and all sorts of other non vegan dishes.  I am a vegan not because I do not love these foods.  On a regular basis, whether it is at a restaurant, an event where there is food, or from a friend or family member I am asked why are you a vegan?  Typically asked with skepticism and incredulity, like:  “You’re a vegan?  Really?  Why would anyone do that?”  It is also followed by interesting questions like:  “Isn’t that boring?”  (Nope.) “What about Oreos?”  (Oreos are vegan, by the way.)  “Can you still have chocolate?”  (Yes, wonderful dark chocolate.)  “How can you live without cheese?”  (I don’t.  Thank God there are vegan cheeses.)  Let me assure you that I love cheese and chocolate as much as the next person, but, for me, I am compelled to live life as a vegan on many levels.

The first reason is I tend to make healthier life decisions as a vegan.  When you are not eating dairy, eggs, or meat, it kind of funnels you to healthier choices.  I have a family history of high cholesterol.  I was already seeing evidence of that in my own life.  So I started to modify what I ate, to work toward getting to a healthy weight and adding regular exercise as a way of life.  I now get my protein and calcium from plant based sources.  And I am sure to get B-12 through vitamins and in my unsweetened almond milk.

Another reason I have chosen to live as a vegan is environmentally grounded.  It is one of the best things we can do to make a difference in the environment.  One of the single greatest contributions to greenhouse gas emissions is the animals we raise for consumption.  It is also because of this hyper consumption of animals that more and more rain forests are being destroyed to make space to raise more animals for us to eat.  It takes a lot less energy to raise crops.  Choosing to live as a vegan is an even greater environmental move than choosing to drive a hybrid.  Even choosing to go one day a week without meat makes a huge difference.

A huge reason that I am choosing to live as a vegan is both ethical and theological.  I am appalled at how the food industry has changed so much over the last 50 years.  In an endeavor to meet the high demands of overconsumption of meat, a lot of shady and horrific stuff is going down.  The way chickens, cows, and pigs are being treated is an abomination.  And when I say chickens, I am also referring to the ones that lay eggs.  And when I say cows, I am also referring to the ones that provide us milk.  I am typically asked what harm is it to get milk from cows or eggs from chickens.  Well if you are buying organic, it is definitely a better life for the chickens and the cow.  Or if you happen to have your own chickens or cow or are friends with someone who gives you eggs and milk from their own cow or chickens, this is a different story.  But most chickens who lay eggs and most cows who give us milk, are not treated as you would hope.  As for me, financially it is a challenge to always buy organic dairy.  Therefore, I have chosen to abstain.  Furthermore, it is way better for my health not to be consuming dairy.  Humans are the only animal who a) consumes milk after we are no longer infants and b) drinks milk from another animal.  Health speaking, that milk that cows produce for their calves is meant to build those calves up very fast.  Milk does not really do a body good as the slogan leads us to believe.  And because of pollution, it is becoming even more and more dodgy to consume seafood. Even as a child, I already had a high sensitivity to the dignity of all life.  Even if animals are treated with dignity, it is still hard, personally, for me to eat them.  We were told to care for the animals.  In them is life.  Living as a vegan helps me to feel at peace with the world around me.

No, I am not asking everyone to “convert” to veganism.  I will not be coming around knocking on your door, trying to convince you to change your life to be a vegan.  Nor am I condemning the rest of the world for how it eats.  Nor am I a vegan nazi who makes everyone else’s life around me miserable.  When at restaurants I do the best I can without making the server, chef, or my table companions crazy.  Living as a vegan makes me not only at peace with the world in which I live and in harmony, I holistically feel better.  (This may sound all hippy-dippy-trippy.)  Yet I truly feel healthier.  I feel a sense of shalom, of overall well-being.  I feel like I am making a difference environmentally and ethically speaking.  Living as a vegan is a life choice I have made and continue to choose to make each and every day.  A fringe benefit to adopting this vegan lifestyle (for over 100 days, now), is that I have lost over 13 pounds.

No, living as a vegan is not boring.  Actually, it is an adventure.  I am learning how to veganize the foods and things that I love.  I am thinking not only about where my food comes but also my clothing and shoes and other products that I regularly use.  This vegan lifestyle is starting to truly be holistic.  It also helps me to make healthier choices on a regular basis.  Daiya Cheese and other homemade vegan cheeses that I have experienced in restaurants have helped me to not have to live without cheese or to go through cheese withdrawal.  These cheeses are treats, though, not everyday occurrences.  Extra firm tofu has a beautiful way of mimicking eggs in thinks like scrambles, fried rice, and “egg” salad.  Ener-G (an egg replacer made of tapioca starch and potato starch) has a way of mimicking eggs in baking.  Ener-G is found in the non perishable section of certain grocery stores and health food stores.  Applesauce can also sometimes be used in baking.  The things one can do with silken tofu to mimic sour cream and pudding are amazing.  The invention of Earth Balance (vegan butter) and Vegenaise (Vegan mayonnaise) are life savers.   Nutritional Yeast Flakes work well in making things like vegan queso dip.  And there is a myriad of faux meats out there if I am really Jones-ing.  My favorites are pulled “pork” and chick’n scaloppini.  Yet I have come to, once again, really appreciate the flavors of vegetables.  To taste once again how amazing a baked potato is with just a little salt and pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice.  Do not get me wrong, I do use the pre-made vegan meats when I real am craving, but for the most part I choose not to make over processed foods a staple in my life  For those of you who have wondered or asked.  Here is a response to why I keep choosing to live as a vegan.

For more on the vegan lifestyle and what compelled me to live this way, I recommend books like The Kind Diet by Alicia SIlverstone, the documentary Food, INC., Skinny Bitch (sorry for the crass title) by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin, and Quantum Wellness by Kathy Freston, to name a few.

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Smashing Smashed Potatoes (that just happen to be vegan)

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Ingredients:

  • potatoes (I prefer small red skinned potatoes or small golden potatoes or a mixture of the two)
  • almond milk (I prefer Silk’s Unsweetened Almond Milk)
  • vegan butter (I prefer Earth Balance)
  • salt and pepper

In a pot boil (washed but unpeeled) potatoes in salted water.  While potatoes are boiling add some almond milk, butter and salt and pepper to a large bowl.  Once potatoes are fork tender, drain them in a colander.  Then add them to the large bowl that already has the other ingredients.  Hand smash ’em and incorporate all the ingredients.  Taste.  Add more milk, butter, salt and pepper as needed.  Please note that these smashed potatoes can be made ahead of time and placed in either a warming drawer or a crock pot till ready to serve hot.  If you want to move beyond the classic smashed potatoes you can always add things like vegan cheese, vegan sour cream, chives, vegan bacon, etc.

Cranberry Sauce

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Ingredients:

  • 12 oz. bag of fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup of orange juice (You can also add a bit of pineapple juice and fresh pineapple)
  • zest of 1 orange or clementine or tangerine
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1/8 of tsp of ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 of tsp of ground cloves
  • 1/8 of tsp of ground nutmeg

Dissolve sugar into orange juice.  Then add cranberries and rest of ingredients.  Reduce heat and let simmer for about 10 minutes until the cranberries have popped open.  Place in bowl in fridge over night.  Serve chilled.

Fabulous Vegetable Bean Soup

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Today was a long and busy day.  This morning I had an eye appointment.  It took 5 plus hours for my eyes to stop being dilated.  When I walked in the door at 6 PM, I thought to myself what should I cook.  I wanted something simple, quick, warm, and comforting.  After emptying the dishwasher and doing laundry, I pulled out a big pot.  In the pot (heated to medium high heat) I put a tablespoon of Earth Balance.  I finely chopped up 1 celery, and added it to the pot.  Sprinkled the celery with salt, black pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder.  In the microwave I heated 3 cups of water (3 minutes).  Then I stirred in a tablespoon of Vegetable Better Than Bouillon, until it dissolved.  Poured that over the celery that had started to cook down.  Finely, chopped up one carrot.  Added that to the pot.  Finely chopped up two potatoes.  Added that to the pot.  Added one can of Great Northern Beans.  Added water to the empty can (about half way up) to swish out any remnants into the pot.  Chopped up one Roma tomato and one regular tomato.  Added those.  Checked the seasoning. Added a little more salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder.  Lowered heat.  Simmered until veggies were tender.  And Voila it was finished in like 20 to 30 minutes.  So simple.  Yet so yummy and nutritious.  Already on my second bowl and have at least one more bowl’s worth for another meal.

Paula Dean’s Corn Casserole — Gone Vegan

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Recently when I was driving home from Duke after serving as one of the Exhibiting artists for an event, Chris (my husband) and I stopped in Savannah to stay overnight.  We decided to do our own walking tour of Savannah.  It was a Tuesday night.  We stumbled upon Paula Dean’s Restaurant:  Lady & Sons.

We assumed there would not be availability, but thought what the heck, what do we have to lose.  Lo and below, they had availability in like 45 minutes.  It was so worth the wait.  I must confess that on this night I went vegetarian not vegan.  This Southern raised girl could not resist things like macaroni and cheese and corn bread casserole.  I considered it both a trip down memory lane and a way to do research.  Out of that experience will come a few experiments.  The first was making (and veganizing) corn bread casserole.  I think this recipe would make a great side at Thanksgiving.

Ingredients:

  • 1 (15 1/4 ounce) can of whole kernel corn, drained (Can also use frozen)
  • 1 (14 3/4 ounce) can of cream-style corn (read ingredients to make sure it is vegan)
  • At this point in the recipe Paula adds in 1 (8-ounce) package corn muffin mix (recommended:  Jiffy).  Because Jiffy is not vegan, I have added a recipe below so you can make your own corn muffin mix.  The dry ingredients of the recipe below are the equivalent of the package of corn muffin mix.  This recipe can also be used to make your own Golden Sweet Cornbread.
  • 1 cup of vegan sour cream (recommend Tofutti)
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) of vegan butter (like Earth Balance), melted
  • Optional:  1 to 1 1/2 cups of vegan cheddar shreds (recommend Daiya)
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
In large bowl, stir together corn, creamed corn, corn muffin mix, vegan sour cream, and vegan butter.  Pour into a greased 9 by 13 inch casserole dish.  Bake for 45 minutes, or until golden brown.  If using the vegan cheese, remove from oven and top with cheese.  Return to oven for 5 to 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted.  (If not using cheese, leave corn casserole in oven for a total of 50 to 55 minutes.)  Let stand for at least 5 minutes.  Serve warm. (Please note that this recipe can be halved; just be sure to halve the corn muffin mix component, too.)

Golden Sweet Cornbread (For the Corn Muffin Mix component just mix the dry ingredients, the first 5 ingredients, from below and add in to the above recipe for Corn Casserole)
Ingredients:
  • 1 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 eggs worth of Ener-G egg replacer
  • 1 cup of almond milk
  • 1/3 cup of vegetable oil
Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Spray a 9 inch round pan.  In large bowl combine flour, cornmeal, sugar salt, and baking powder.  Stir in wet ingredients (egg replacer, almond milk, and vegetable oil).  Pour batter into prepared pan.  Bake in a preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes.  You will know when it is done when you stick a toothpick (or knife) in, and when you pull it out it comes out clean.