Saturday, December 1, 2012

Christmas 2012

If I post this I get ten dollars off of my next SHutterfly order!  Ummm... yeah!? So, if you are a Christmas card recipient of mine... DON'T LOOK!! :)  Merry Christmas!!
Photo Card
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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

line in the sand.

Often I think that half the battle in life is discovering where you draw the line. Boundaries are a pretty tricky thing in general. This vegan thing entails much boundary setting, because there is so much that vegan living entails.
For instance, do I eat a product that does not contain animal product but is produced in a facility that also manufactures milk on the same equipment? Am I still a vegan if I chose to eat those products that may have shared manufacturing equipment with juice from a cow? Seems crazy right? But, it is a pretty valid question in the vegan community. Or how about the concept of sharing a kitchen with an omnivore... Am I still a vegan if I use a cutting board and knife that has been used to cut a steak?
These are both questions of definition. In my opinion it is up to each individual to draw the line where they feel is most appropriate for them, based on their values and beliefs.
In my house, I buy food if it does not contain animal product on the ingredient list. It is not necessary for an item to be "certified vegan" for me to put in my shopping cart. Part of this is due to practicality with two kiddos, partly due to financial reasons, but mostly due to the fact that I really don't feel bothered by eating food that is made on equipment that is shared with animal product. All of my kitchen gadgets (minus my food processor) have been used on animal product. I was not about to go out and buy all new stuff. And personally, I think I would be a little off-putting and inhospitable to any guests in my house (or my husband) if I told them that they could not use my stuff to make their animal product food. These are just two examples of where I "draw the line."
Most recently I discovered a new line in the sand. Since "going" vegan I have found myself trying much harder to minimize my carbon footprint and take more care with what I put in and on my body. I guess I realized that I really want to live a long and non-polluted life. Make the most out of the time God gives me I suppose. With this in mind I decided to try a non-aluminum antiperspirant. Well, I couldn't find one, so I got a deodorant from the health food store and have been using that for the past three months. It was going well, no major complaints from any of my friends or family regarding a stinky, pitty, smell. I thought hey, I could do this non-antiperspirant thing.
... And then it got warm. Summer time kind of warm. I found myself dreaming of the days when my pits wouldn't get all slobbery and gross in my tee-shirts. In fact, every time I went to the store I would eventually wind up in the deodorant section, salivating over all the delicious antiperspirant smells.
Last week I broke down and bought an antiperspirant, even though I still had some of Tom's deodorant left. Yep, I caved to the concept of vanity. I just couldn't live life feeling stinky and sweaty. At least not in the summer months.
My line has been drawn.
Of course there are people out there that would tell me in time I would grow accustomed and never look back, but I am not willing to find out if that is true for me. It just doesn't mean enough... to me.
Once I came to this conclusion I could tell I made the right decision. I have no residual guilt when I slather on my antiperspirant in the morning. In fact, just the opposite. I kind of feel silly that I even tried to go without. The one thing this experience taught me about boundaries is that sometimes you have to cross a boundary to figure out just where exactly your boundary lies.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

growing pains.

This may be a very non-food related post, and I offer my apologies upfront. Recently I have been confronted with some hard truths about myself. There are always things about myself I want to work on, but so often those things are petty. Things like, eat more greens, say the F-word less, do more yoga, run a little farther... etc. Those things, while important to a degree, have often kept me blinded from bigger, more important issues. Like issues of the heart. You know, the issues that are hardest to change and most painful to admit.
Here is what I have been confronted with. I thrive most on admiration from other people. I get my "highs" on being complimented, on being told I am right or on people admiring me. This is not inherently bad, because it is normal to appreciate a compliment. But, to have ones self-esteem wrapped up in how I think other people perceive me can be a dangerous thing. Let me tell you why...
Pleasing people is an impossible and unsatisfying way to live. It ultimately leaves me feeling empty and worthless. I will never ever be "good enough."
Take for example eating habits. It is SO easy to get on my high horse about how great it is to live vegan. It is SO easy for me to see that I have it right and other people have it all wrong. I say, "eat vegan, it is the only way to be." And of course I am going to get the support and validation from other vegans as well as other people who can see that it may be a good choice. So, all of a sudden I can get my self-worth and value based on the idea that I am right (vegan) and other people are wrong (carnivores). Or, another way to put it would be, "I am a better person because I am doing things right, and you meat eaters are not." I would say this and find a whole slew of people who would come to me and say, "right on, Vegans Rock!" BAM, instant self-esteem boost! Instant validation.
Ha. This high of being "right" does last forever. I have found this out first hand. As soon as you commit to one thing, in my case veganism you will discover a whole new way of eating or living that is actually "better" than the one you initially thought was best. Take for instance my transition from vegetarianism to vegan. I used to think that vegetarian was the way to be. Now, I have shifted my support to the vegan camp. Five months into a vegan challenge and already I am getting the message, "oh vegan is good, but... raw is really the only way to go." Holy crap! Are you kidding me with this? I have discussed this question in other blogs, but I will say it again, when is enough, enough? When can you stop and say, "I am good now."?
This post isn't about deciding when enough is enough. I have already touched on that elsewhere. This is about being careful not to let your identity rest upon the approval of others. As soon as we get into an us vs. them attitude about food or anything for that matter we are setting ourselves up for trouble.
Vegan living has to be right for me, regardless of how people perceive me for that decision. I have to be okay with my choice and who I am because of that choice. I cannot push that choice of mine onto other people. It is one thing to live a certain way and have people ask, "Why?" or "What is your purpose" or "Is it worth it?". Then I can say, this is what I believe, this is why and this is what it has done for me. People can listen to your story and have the freedom to make their own changes in their own time. The worst thing I can do is try my hardest to persuade someone to go vegan who is not ready to commit. I know from first hand experience that this only drives people further from your point.
The only reason I would try and force someone to see my point, or desperately try to persuade them to my side would be to get them to admit that they are wrong and I am right. I am looking for validation. I want to know that in the me vs. them battle I am victorious. This "winning" makes me feel important and valuable. I have the answers and you don't... nah-nah-nah-nah-nah.
The reality is, if I am truly living out my beliefs and me beliefs are based in truth, then people are going to see that and want what I have. Like a faith in God. If I am living in the love of God, my life should reflect that and others will see that I have something different or special in my life. This should make them want to meet God, not me forcing a pamphlet down their throat and telling them they are going to hell if they don't come to Church next Sunday.
I truly believe, as I said above, that the harder we try to get people to admit they are wrong the more evidence there is that what we are really trying to do is validate our own selves. Kind of like those bullies in middle school who tried really had to make nerds feel more nerdy, just to cover up their own insecurities.
Here is how I am trying to apply this to my own life. (This is simply what I am striving for, I am not saying I have arrived quite yet.) My identity is not in my vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. I am not more "right" than anyone else when it comes to eating habits. I am not special or unique because of how I chose to eat. My value is not based in how people perceive how right or wrong I am for what I consume. However, if I were to be honest I would admit that when I first started this vegan challenge I was on a big ol' high from all the compliments I got and all the admiration I was receiving for what a "strong person" I was for making the commitment. That has since faded. In the world of foodies I am no where near the top, and even if I were at the "top" it still wouldn't be enough.
So, instead of working for the approval of other human beings, I have shifted focus. I want my worth and identity to be tied up in something more, something eternal. My real worth is in Christ. He died and conquered death because He loves me more than anything. That is an identity that can never be taken from me. There will never be a new fad diet that will top that. I am secure in who I am in Christ. That needs to be enough. At least if I want to be happy. Do I believe that what I chose to eat fits with who I am as a child of God, sure. But do I believe that God loves meat-eaters just as much as He loves me?

Monday, April 19, 2010

A peak into a Vegan Kitchen

... Just for my pal Beth!

So, I have made a list of what I typically keep on hand in my kitchen. I buy produce approximately three times a month, so I try to use up the easily spoiled foods first, like kale, greens and tomatoes. Most of what I make during the week is made directly from my pantry, except New Food Friday ingredients. Most of those I end up making a special trip to the store for, just for the fun experience. Everything I buy can be found at a combination of Wal-Mart, the BX (grocery store on base) and Whole Foods.

The List
Lemon juice
Lime juice

Baby greens salad
Assortment of colored peppers (at least 3 green)
Onions (yellow and red)
Potatoes (Russet and red and Yukon gold- but I won't use nearly as many potatoes in the summer months, it is a mostly winter/fall food for us.)
Garlic (I use both fresh and pre-minced)
Carrots (baby and large)
Eggplant (I usually buy two at a time)
Ginger (I use fresh and pre-minced)
Avocado's (x3)

Almond milk (Non-sweetened)
Soy Milk (Vanilla)
Coconut creamer
Coconut yogurt
Rice Cheese
Tempeh (Two packages of the whole grain kind)
Miso (chickpea kind)
Earth Balance (vegan butter)
Almond butter
Extra firm tofu

Veggies: broccoli, corn, green beans, sweet potato fries, peas
Orange Juice
Vegan Boca Patties
Vegan Italian Sausage

Diced tomatoes
Italian Stewed tomatoes
Crushed tomatoes
Tomato paste
Tomato sauce
Premade pasta sauce
Chick peas (3 cans)
Cannelli beans (white kidney)
Kidney beans
Navy beans
Black beans
Vegetarian Refried beans
Pinto beans
Coconut milk
Roasted peppers
Sun dried tomatoes

Vegan sugar: white and brown
Peanut butter (all natural, chunky and smooth for baking)
Jelly (berry and apricot preserves)
Agave nectar
Karo syrup
Brown Rice Syrup
Maple Syrup
Oil: Coconut, Canola, Vegetable, Extra Virgin, Peanut, Sesame
Apple Cider Vinegar
Distilled white vinegar
Seasoned Rice vinegar
Cooking wines
Balsamic vinegar
Tamari (or Soy Sauce)
Raw Walnuts
Coconut (sweetened and unsweetened)
Pine nuts
Sesame seeds
Sunflower seeds
Raw Almonds (whole and sliced)
Macadamian nuts
Tapioca flour (or just plain old cornstarch can usually do the trick)
Dried Apricots
Cocoa powder
Vegan Carob chips
Nutritional Yeast (can buy in bulk at Whole Foods... good sub for Parmesan cheese)
Barbecue Sauce
Vegetable Broth
Green split peas

Whole wheat bread
Whole wheat buns
Brown rice: basmatti and long grain
Wheat germ
Pasta (at least three varieties)
Rice noodles
Polenta (I have some of it in grain form and also use the premade stuff)
Soy Flour
Flax Seeds
Flour: White unbleached, whole wheat and whole wheat pastry flour
Whole wheat tortillas
Flat bread for roll up's
7-grain cereal

Seasonings (that I can't cook without)
Sea salt
Garlic salt
Chili powder
Ground ginger
Coriander, ground
Bay leaves
Ground red pepper
Red pepper flakes

Okay, that is a pretty comprehensive list of everything that is either in my kitchen right now or on my grocery list as we speak. I would say that about a month ago my kitchen finally felt "stocked" with all the basics. So... keep in mind, building up a pantry that has all the foods you need could take up to four months to accomplish. The New Food Friday concept has helped me expand the variety of foods in my grocery cart, while avoiding feeling overwhelmed. I hope this helps.

Thanks Beth for reminding me to do this.

Oh... and day one of sugar free was just okay. I cried a little tear when I let Cutter take the last piece of chocolate cake to work. But I figured having to admit to the blog that I caved on my first day would have been far worse than not eating cake. So thanks blog for being the motivation behind my willpower.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Cashew Sour Cream Recipe

Cashew Sour Cream
(Just for my friend Amy!)

1 and 1/2 Cups Raw Cashews
1/4 Cup Lemon juice
1/2 Cup to 3/4 Cup Water
Salt, to taste

In blender, mix all ingredients on low, starting with 1/2 Cup water. Gradually get speed of blender to high. Blend until mixture is creamy (like sour cream), gradually adding more water to achieve desired consistency. Store covered in fridge.
Make it chipotle style by stirring in some chopped cilantro and chipotle peppers to the final product. Try it in chili or on a taco or fajita. This recipe makes 16 servings and you have to use it up within four days, so I would just make half a recipe to start. That way you can save your costly cashews!

Stress, Sugar and Warm Chocolate Cake (veganized)

I have written before about my love of all things sweet. Part of the joy of this vegan trip has been discovering new ways to bake the goodies that I love, without the animal ingredients. It has been a bit like a quest for me. My favorite thus far? ...Sweet Potato Brownies. Cutter loves the Double Chocolate Oatmeal cookies. The all around family fave has to be the Vegan Seven Layer bars.

Until tonight that is. I may have discovered the most delicious vegan goodie ever:

The Best Chocolate Cake.
(that is really it's name)
I am typing the recipe right now for you because some day, some time, you are going to want some chocolate cake. You will make this, and then you will thank me!
The Best Chocolate Cake
Cake Ingredients:
1 and 1/4 Cup Flour (I used cake flour and added an extra 2 TBS of flour)
1 Cup White Sugar
1/3 Cup Cocoa Powder (unsweetened)
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
1 Cup Warm Water
1 tsp Vanilla
1/3 Cup Veg Oil (sub in applesauce instead if you are looking to go healthy... but why bother?)
1 tsp Vinegar
Glaze Ingredients:
1/2 Cup Sugar
4 TBS Earth Balance (or margarine)
2 TBS Nondairy Milk (I used Vanilla Almond Milk)
2 TBS Cocoa Powder (unsweetened)
2 tsp Vanilla
(I added one cup of Sweetened Coconut to the glaze, just for kicks!)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix dry cake ingredients together in bowl. Add wet cake ingredients to dry, and mix very well. Grease 8x8 inch cake pan and pour batter on in. Bake for 30 min, or until knife comes out clean from the center. Remove from oven and cool for two hours.
After cake has cooled, proceed with cooking up your chocolate glaze. Combine all glaze ingredients in small saucepan. Heat on medium, stirring constantly until mixture begins to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for two minutes. Pour on cooled cake immediately, spreading glaze over cake quickly. Now... bust out a glass of some cold Almond Milk and ENJOY! :)
... Enjoy it like it is your last bit of sugar for awhile.
Oh wait, that is me. I spent my Sunday night cooking up some stinkin' good chocolate cake because I am saying bon voyage to sugar for awhile. 4 weeks to be precise. I need a break from sugar. Some may call it a detox, but I look at it more like a vacation from sweets. I do this from time to time. Mostly because sugar, when I abuse it, does crazy things to me.
I am the type of gal who uses sugar sort of like an addict uses crack. I use it to make me feel better when I am down, I use it to decompress after a stressful day, I use it to celebrate... the list goes on and on. There is always a good reason for a sweet treat, right?
I have noticed that during especially stressful times in my life I am more inclined to lean on sugar to get me through. It sort of provides me with an escape from reality. Why feel stressed when I can feel a sugar rush? See, I told you I sound like an addict.
I once told my drug addicted clients that the only way I could understand their addiction was to try and keep myself away from chocolate. It is HARD, I just can't seem to say no. Good thing my drug of choice is sugar, not meth, eh?
Anyhow, lately I have been feeling stressed and have noticed a sharp increase in my sugar intake. It snuck up on me too. One handful of chocolate chips can so easily turn into a batch of cookies or a scoop of delicious coconut ice cream. Before I know it I am eating dessert with breakfast, lunch and dinner. I am not to that point yet, but I am beginning to see a full blown sugar relapse on the rise, so I am getting taking a break now.
The funny thing about sugar, as I have learned from past sugar vacations, is that the more sugar you eat, the more you want it. Take sugar away for a couple of days and you barely notice that it is gone. I am not saying that a cookie no longer looks good, but I no longer think about that cookie as a mandatory addition to my meal. The first couple of days are hard. It really does sort of feel like a detox, but make it through the first week and you are golden.
So, as I sit here, about to enjoy my second piece of chocolate cake, I embrace the gift that is sugar, but am firmly aware of its power to destroy, even you, vegan sugar.
Dear Sugar baby,
It is time to put you back in your place. Thanks for helping me through this stressful time, but you are becoming an unhealthy crutch. I will reconnect with you again soon. Like in four weeks...
Sincerely your friend and foe,

Friday, April 16, 2010

Fading motivation.

I have hit the dreaded slump. You know, the slump where the novelty of a new challenge has faded and the motivation that comes with starting something exciting has somehow been misplaced. That is my slump. More and more I find myself caving into letting Hayden have non-Vegan treats while we are grocery shopping, just because it is easier. Two times this week I failed to come up with a dinner and my poor family ate tortillas and beans. And the worst, I decided to get more facts about all the scary things that soy can do to me... and instead of feeling outraged at tricky marketing ploys and inspired to cut out soy completely... I felt tired and defeated. The feeling of defeat is a definite slump indicator.

No matter what new thing I start, this slump is inevitable. In some ways though, it is a good thing. If I can make it through this "poor me" phase and come out vegan on the other side, then I know I am committed. Right? The trick is not giving up when the going gets tough. Okay, so we all learned that in kindergarten, I know, but just because I have known it for a long time, doesn't make it any easier to follow.

Thank goodness for New Food Friday though, just the opportunity I needed to jazz things up in my life. Tonight I made Cashew Sour Cream to add a little excitement to my super slump. It was easy and a great substitute for the "real" thing. I put it in my Three Bean Chili over rice, topped with avocados. (Side note: How I EVER lived without avocados in my chili is beyond me. There is just nothing that compares! Like the song that goes, "Noooothhhhing compares, nothing compares to you...", whoever sang that was totally talking about avocados in her chili.) Cutter tasted it, said it tasted too much like real sour cream for his liking. But, Cutter is a creamaphob. Won't touch anything that is white, creamy and food like. Poor guy doesn't know what he is missing. Hayden dipped his carrots in it, seemed to enjoy it. Me, I think it might even be tasty on a vegan bagel. My friend Sally the nutrition expert reports that you can also make a nacho like substance out of pine nuts. I will have to try it.

While I am on the subject of raw nuts, let me riddle you this: Why, oh why do raw nuts cost more money than roasted nuts? Don't raw nuts require minimal work as compared to the roasting and salting that other nuts go through? This makes NO sense to me. One pound of raw organic cashews were $10.99. This is no joke. 3/4 of a pound of said nuts made approximately six servings of sour cream. You can do the math exactly but to sum things up, this cashew cream cheese that I made was definitely the single most expensive dollop of sour cream I have ever ate. This doesn't take away from the great taste factor, but will most certainly be a treat I only eat on VERY special occasions. Like maybe once a year. Maybe even just once a decade.

See, it is apparent that my "slump" is effecting even my blogging. Sorry to be such a Debbie Downer, wah wahhhhhhh. The cashew sour cream is delish, go try it and just don't tell your husband what it cost. Okay? Bad advice, just save two dollars a week for the next month and make it on May 14th, in celebration of your own New Food Friday. Then you don't have to hide the Whole Foods receipt from your hubby. Not that I did or anything :).
Have a great weekend. And cheers to slumps that WILL eventually fade, leaving you feeling even more proud of the changes you have made! I hope. Wah Wahhhhhh......