Girls’ veg weekend at the coast!

I’m finally writing about a reunion last month with my two best friends from University. I have known these women since we were about 19 years old (more or less), and well- we’re gaining on our 3rd decade of friendship. But we all look exactly the same (at least that is what we think). I am now older than my PARENTS were when I graduated from college, that is so bizarre. I feel lucky to have these forever friends, and even if we all live in different states, our states are adjoining ones. Since moving to Portland in 1999, there aren’t a lot of people in my daily life who knew me before I was married with kids, and all my “old” friends have a special place in my heart.

We’ve made it a point to get together at least once a year. Sometimes with families, sometimes just us. I found photos of the three of us in shoulder pads, stone-washed denim and big permed hair from the late 80s, and photos of all of us at each others weddings. Through marriage, kids, deaths, job changes, and other life changes, I know we all support each other. We had a lot of laughs trying to take a decent selfie for this trip, we just don’t practice enough I guess!

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Yep, seriously, this was one of our better attempts.

For this February weekend, we took over my parent’s home on the Oregon coast. And they were kind enough to leave town so that we could have it all to ourselves to talk freely (and without my mom seeing how many wine bottles we went through). Since my two friends both had some travel costs, I offered to plan and pay for the food and of course be the driver.

My friends are not vegan, and when we were planning the trip, they were really kind about saying I could make whatever I wanted.

I challenged myself to come up with food that they would hopefully enjoy, always trying to present an easy and delicious view of vegan food using whole foods. Making things that are supposed to emulate meat doesn’t really measure up to those who eat meat regularly (I’ve found). They are more satisfying for those of us who haven’t had the real thing for awhile!

My menu plan for the weekend was…

General Tso’s Cauliflower  A Chinese dish using breaded cauliflower that is baked. So good! I have written about this before.

Indian Vegetarian Korma Substituted coconut milk for the heavy cream to make it vegan. I also made some chickpea cutlets for the first time from Veganomicon, but those weren’t my favorite. However, people love those, and so I might try again and see if there was something that went awry. My friends said they liked them, but they are kind people, so what else would they say?

Korma

Vegetable Thai Red Curry I make this at least once a month, everyone loves it.

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I ended up talking to them more about my vegan ideas and philosophy than I usually do. Later, I thought about that. I try to be careful with all my friends not to cause any alarm… or maybe to appear “normal enough” so they will continue to invite me over for dinner. (-; With these friends, I am not worried that they will abandon me, even if they don’t agree with me. Because it has become a very important part of my life, it was nice to be able to share that side.

We ended up eating out only a few times over those three days. On the way to the coast, we ate at Laughing Planet. Lazy Susan at the coast, where I was personally disappointed about the lack of even a non-dairy creamer for the coffee. It is charming, but not vegan-friendly… but the other options were Pig n’ Pancake or Scoop n’ Grill which definitely weren’t better. Sweet Basil’s Cafe is the most vegan-friendly option in Cannon Beach, but they open at lunch. For dinner back in Portland, we went to Pizzeria Otto, and tried their vegan pizza- cashew “ricotta”, lemon and pumpkin seed pesto. It was really good!

Pizza

We had a pretty rainy weekend, but honestly, it didn’t matter that much. What a gift to be able to catch up on all the new developments in each others’ lives, talk about anything and everything, and reminisce. We may not talk often, but when we see each other it is like no time has passed.

I love you girls! Thank you for your friendship as we change through the years, but always remain the same at heart.

P.S. How did we forget to discuss TIM?

 


Lessons from a little bird

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This may sound silly, but I wanted to share this story.

Yesterday, I was driving slowly near my house and heard a “thunk” against the car. I was talking on speaker phone at the time, and didn’t think I was distracted, but I honestly didn’t see what it was or where it came from.

I parked and walked back to the spot hoping it was a pine cone that had flipped up, and not what I was fearing.

But, there he was, a tiny little brown bird, eyes closed, feet straight out, not moving. Mercifully, I suppose he died immediately. I took a pine branch to sweep him off the road so he wouldn’t be squashed by cars, and he was still so soft that each rotation of his small body made my stomach lurch in connection to how recently he had been living. Such a beautiful day, Spring just beginning, and it was all over for him.

I made an internal vow that I would not use speaker phone any more (which I don’t do with kids in the car anyway). Not sure if it would have made a difference, but more attention on the road is always good, and made me feel like his life did mean something.

Each life does matter, and you may think I am over-dramatic, but I don’t want to be responsible for death. Yes, I know these things happen, even in harvesting vegetables, but we can do what we can to prevent as many as possible. It made the connection for me again that I don’t like to see small birds die, so I also don’t want to be responsible for killing the birds that I can’t see. If I eat eggs or chicken, someone else is killing that bird for me.

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Later, I walked back to where I left him, near the curb, and he was gone. I would like to believe (and hope) that he had just been stunned, and woke up later. In any case, I learned something from that bird, and he strengthened my compassion.

 

 

 


The happiest place on Earth- really?

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The least hot, least crowded day in Knotts.

Usually I keep my posts not too personal. However, I am ready to share the other side of our wonderful vacation last October. Also, most of my readers at this point are my family and friends, so this is for them.

I think there must be two types of people (generally). Those who enjoy the theme park experience, and those who find it a form of torture.

I thought possibly that I enjoyed it, but now that it has been 6 months since our Disney experience I realize we fall into the other category. I was pretty traumatized by it, and I don’t think I can ever visit one again, EVER, although Star Wars and Harry Potter tempt me. If I could go on an uncrowded, not extremely hot day, for free… well, that probably won’t happen. The kids were pretty unenthusiastic by the end, and didn’t even want to buy any souvenirs.

Their favorite part was having their own room and TV in the hotel, and when we went to a friend’s house for dinner and video games.

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“Mom, can we just stay here today?” NO! Get out of the air-conditioned bliss. We’re going to go sweat our asses off at Disneyland.

So my original post was all about the veg options. I left out the 45 minute lines for rides, accidentally becoming part of a charity walk for an hour before the park opened LATE, that our kids don’t like any exciting/fun rides. or that we spent like $50 one morning on enormous Jamba juices to try to quench our thirst.

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Awkward! The only ones not with a charity group…

The best part of Disneyland for my animal lover was their petting zoo! I heard that is going away, along with other Frontier land attractions to make room for Star Wars Land. I’m glad we can do our daughter’s favorite thing near our home, for free.

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"Mom, can I just stay here in the shade and pet the animals?"
“Mom, can I just stay here in the shade and pet the animals?”

Are you a theme park person? I think it helps if you go often so you know what to do and how to maximize the fun, minimize the wait time. I’m pretty sure if there was a way we could have done this more wrong, it would have been difficult! Check opening hours, don’t leave your glasses on the ride, don’t go during a 108 degree record-breaking heat wave or get caught up in a charity event. Anyway, first world problems. I am grateful for the trip, if only for the future vacation savings for us and the kids.


Happy Leap Year and my 4th Veganniversary!

Photograph by Bianca Lavies
Photograph by Bianca Lavies

We’re updating the blog, and as I reorganized some old posts, I realized that I missed celebrating my Veganniversary. February 1, 2012 I started this journey and have consistently stayed true to this commitment. And yes, I still count myself as vegan even if I slipped up sometimes.

I really didn’t know if I would relapse, but at this point, I feel even more strongly about the movement than before. It has made a huge impact in my life, and changed how I view the world. I’m now advocating every day for the animals, the earth and my kid’s future. Not to mention, our health. In the past 4 years I have read so much, and learned even more than when I started. I now have experience in cooking plant-based meals and there are more products even then when I started.

Besides trying a new vegan restaurant to celebrate, I have a new goal to start for March. While we feel positive about veganism from a standpoint of animals, environment and health, I think our family can make improvements to our meals and cut back on processed foods and oil. If you are just beginning, meatless chicken patties and prepackaged meals can help make the transition easier. Since I have had time to fall back on that, I want to delve deeper into making our meals to include even more whole foods and less sugar.

Mostly, I just get lazy sometimes and don’t feel like planning ahead. However, I want to help some people in my community who also struggle with meal planning, so I am going to put in the effort and make healthier meals that everyone will eat. I’m pretty sure that this is one of the major stumbling blocks for a lot of people. Once you remove cheese- how do you make quesadillas, grilled cheese, and other easy items? I’m not a fan of soy-based cheeses, so this means being more creative so the recipe doesn’t NEED the cheese. I love this easy, delicious cauliflower alfredo dish for example:

Cauliflower Alfredo

Ingredients:
  • 4 cups cauliflower florets (1 small/medium cauliflower)
  • 1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened and unflavored almond milk (or non-dairy milk of choice)
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt, or to taste
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon pepper, to taste
  • Fettuccine pasta of choice
Directions:
  1. Put cauliflower in a large pot and cover with water or steam it until fork tender, around 5-7 minutes. Drain.
  2. Meanwhile, sauté the minced garlic in oil over low heat for 4-5 minutes until softened and fragrant, but not browned.
  3. In a high speed blender, add the cooked and drained cauliflower, sauteed garlic, milk, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Blend until really smooth sauce, let it run for a minute or so. Set aside.
  4. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add your desired amount of pasta and boil for the time instructed on the package. Drain pasta.
  5. Add cauliflower sauce into the empty pot and add the drained pasta. Heat over low-medium until heated enough to your liking. Salt again to taste.
  6. Serve with fresh minced parsley and black pepper. Add in sautéed peas, spinach, or broccoli if you like.

 

or using butternut squash on pizza.

I finally joined Instagram @eat4thefuture, and will be posting my illustrations over there as well. And I have made commenting easier, so if you have any suggestions, or resources… let me know!

Thanks for the comments, I love hearing from you.

I really want to insert a corny leap joke here!

My Biggest Supporter

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Sorry for the silence lately. There has actually been a lot happening, and much to write about.  There have been two big reasons for the silence.

One: I have a lot of work to do! For my design firm I have some great clients and am doing book illustrations, t-shirt designs, logos, a website and more.

Two: I just haven’t been really feeling like I have anyone reading this website.

Except… for my mother. And this post is for her.

My mom probably inspired me the most to be an artist. Since a young age, she has always given me opportunities and encouraged me. She frames my artwork, printed thank you notes that I drew, and enrolled me in art classes. She is a very creative person in her own right in so many ways: knitting, stamping, watercolor, gardening, and cooking.

She has been very supportive of my vegan lifestyle, even if she is not vegan herself. She enjoys trying new foods like tempeh, cashew cheese, and tofu and has given me some great recipes to try. She is queen of the kitchen gadgets and among other items, wanted a Vitamix before it was even on my radar. Now, it is my favorite and most-used kitchen appliance. Recently she got a spiralizer and has been making zoodles (zucchini noodles), and all sorts of interesting things. I am sure it is only a matter of time before I get one. We share recipes- successes and mistakes.

I am fortunate to have a very veg-friendly family in general. Our relatives have been great about making sure we have something to eat at all the gatherings, and choosing restaurants that have veg options too. When I visit my sister, she gets non-dairy milk and plans veg meals. Last Thanksgiving, my family even decided to have a turkey-less meal, which was so incredibly wonderful. I didn’t ask them to do this, but it was so appreciated. My mom substitutes out the chicken broth, and makes us meals.

My mom has always been encouraging of my endeavors, and I know she is my #1 supporter of everything, including this blog. It keeps me motivated to write, when I know people are reading it..

Thank you for being such a great mom, who accepts change, new adventures, and compassion. Love you!! Hope to try even more kitchen appliances and recipes with you for many more years (Instant Pot is next on my list, and cauliflower rice)!

Here is a vegan version of my mom’s delicious General Tso’s cauliflower recipe breaded in panko. It has been approved by my dad and picky kids alike.

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Plastic baggies, and why we do things we know aren’t good

As I packed the kids lunches today, I reluctantly reached for the box of clear baggies for their sliced apples, another one for their tempeh sandwich. The environment is on my mind a lot, and I read so many articles. I know what is happening (for the most part) in other parts of the world. I strive to make a difference. To me, caring about climate change, clean air, water and food means caring about all animals and people. All our issues over racism, sexism, gun restrictions, and everything is trumped by the fact that if we don’t take care of our beautiful planet, we will all be gone.

plastic-bags

Sure, it is just easier to enjoy the moment and hope that the future will work out somehow itself. Due to where I was born and the time I was born, I have enjoyed a good life. However, the really harsh part of the problems even those of us not dealing with poverty right now, is that it may not be us who pay the price, but our children. They will deal with the consequences of us not paying attention right now. In the end, the planet will be okay once it shakes us off, but we sure brought down a lot of beautiful creatures by our way of living too.

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Back to the plastic baggies… I know there is an enormous swath of ocean filled with plastic. I know that each of those baggies will be around for hundreds of years, and that wildlife are choking on them. So why would I continue to do this? There is this feeling that it can be overwhelming to try and do everything, but that is not my issue. My problem is sheer laziness. I don’t have enough reusable plastic containers, and I wasn’t good about washing reusable sacs.

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My friend told me about his parents who were raised by parents of the depression era in England. His mom would reuse his lunch bag over and over every day, she even washed out his sandwich bag. We all grew up in a time of convenience. It is easier to just grab the styrofoam or paper cup and throw it away than remember to carry a real cup with you.

bananas

Individual packaging to make lunches “easier” means we buy apples already sliced and in separate bags or plastic cups. In Portland, Oregon there is so much focus on reduce, reuse, recycle, it is probably one of the easiest places in the world to be “green”. We only have garbage pickup every other week, but compost and recycling every week. So that is a big incentive to make sure that anything that can be composted or recycled will be!

Baggies are thin and don’t take up much weight, so they get discarded. Am I a hypocrite because I take reusable bags to the grocery store but not reusable bags for all the produce I buy there?

We can’t do everything right, but the point of this rambling is, that I had an “aha” moment. I tend to focus on the consumption of animal products as that encompasses so many issues at once: animal cruelty, pollution, deforestation, water, climate change. I don’t understand how people can be aware that this is happening, but don’t stop their actions.

It is because we either need to have a real fear instilled.  Like in the depression when there wouldn’t have been enough money to be so wasteful. Or, it has to be incredibly easy and not too expensive. So, when people are deciding what to have for dinner, it is very hard for most to envision what the meal would look like without animal products. I believe if every fast food and grocery store had delicious vegan options at the same price, or less, as the animal versions, people would choose that.

I pledge to go invest in reusable tin containers so that I don’t have to feel that twinge of guilt every day. And then, I will move onto the next small thing. I will never be perfect, we can’t do everything but we can do something. I will make my carbon footprint as light as I can.

 


A positive new name for change

Eat less meat 4 all, is now Eat 4 the future! And no, I am not in love with the idea of using numerals in my name—it is just very difficult to get the domain name you want these days.

Why did I change the name? Eat less meat didn’t convey exactly what I wanted it to. Not only does meat not include fish, eggs and dairy, but most people think they are already eating less meat (which is very hard to gauge unless you try giving it up). Also, I am very passionate about the environment and climate change issues, particularly as something we all can help mitigate with our diet choices. This is what affects our children’s future. Finally, another reason to move towards a plant-based future is for health reasons—your own future.

I’m still trying new things out, so thank you to my small group of friends and fellow advocates for any feedback about what you like or don’t like. I’m on twitter, Facebook (pending blocked name change) and starting out on Instagram. It’s a work in progress, as we all are!

 


February 2, 2016: Taco Tuesday and lots of fruit

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Day two of the food drawings, and nothing makes you more aware of what you are going to eat than knowing you have to draw it. To see it visually represented has impact, and I am working on a way to share the sketches if others want to make their own visual food diary.

I ate a lot today, and much of it was not that easy to draw- rice, quinoa, I will need to work on that! Also a lot of fruit today. My favorite is “apple” bananas. Not sure about their technical name, but I ate so many in Hawaii and love them. Found them at our local Asian grocery… last time we bought tiny bananas there we had a terrible fruit fly infestation! Hoping these won’t have that issue.

I have posted my egg recipe before. Other than that, I didn’t use any recipes today. For lunch, a simple bowl with things I had in the fridge: rice from last night, beans, spinach, salsa and roasted corn. So good! For dinner, we had tacos, which was similar to having a bowl but served in a shell without rice. I added avocado for the kids, and a friend brought us delicious quinoa with vegetables. Quinoa is a seed, not a grain, and very healthy.

Today someone commented on the amount of soy we eat (mostly me). I’m going to try to keep that more balanced. I can use rice milk in cereal for example. Almond milk is good, but we don’t buy it often since it is an extremely water-intensive product.

One other note, we have pastel-colored Fiesta ware which is why many of the mugs/plates/bowls look the way they do. Not great for photographing food!


Is asking people to eat less meat enough?

Last night I went to Dr. Casey Taft’s lecture about “Motivational Methods for Animal Advocacy”. His background is focused on anti-domestic violence, and he is also a founder of Vegan Publishers. He started by saying that there isn’t actually a study which proves the best method for vegan advocacy. But, in his opinion that when we are advocating, we need to only ask people to go vegan rather than take incremental steps like Meatless Monday, Reduce meat, or go vegetarian first. He also solidly ties veganism to being solely about ethics and animals. Therefore in his opinion, to go plant-based for diet, or for environmental reasons isn’t a good option.

Obviously, I don’t agree with this approach. He did say a number of things I did agree with:

1. Be respectful and support positive changes

2. Have a listening mindset and avoid focus on winning arguments

3. Avoid aggressive advocacy and angry vegan stereotype.

4. There are stages of change (similar to smoking) that includes contemplation, preparation and action. Know when to open discussions.

There you go, we can always find a common ground with everyone.

Some interesting questions after his talk:

One person in the audience asked about his personal journey. He started doing a plant-based diet for health reasons. Then, at some point later on, a friend challenged him about ethics and he went vegan. So, for him it was an incremental change that did not start based on ethics about animals. Also, it is harder to make a decision based on animal ethics while you are actively involved in the behavior of eating animals.

I don’t think it is important for advocates to argue about the methods too much. If he can reach people solely based on animal ethics, that is great. But, what about the people who absolutely do not want to hear that message? If they are open to smaller changes, that definitely seems better than nothing at all. And vegetarians absolutely do make a difference to the lives of animals- at least to pigs, fish and some cows and chickens.

There were questions about hunters and pets that eat meat. I feel that these types of questions take us farther away from the largest issue we face. To me, this is like worrying about what we are going to wear to dinner on the Titanic. We need to deal with the iceberg first. By trying to be perfect in all things, it becomes too hard for some people to attempt.

If it was working to just ask people to go vegan, there should be more vegans in the last few decades. However, our environment is not even set up for that to happen. Most restaurants do not even offer a vegan option. We need to get a few delicious vegan options on the menu so that people can choose those. Non-dairy cheeses and plant-based meats are becoming more popular and available. We need to let people find their path, in their own way.

Towards that end, I’ve been working on several options for a new name instead of “eat less meat”. I’ve been writing this blog for awhile, and I am trying to see what is most effective and appealing to people who aren’t vegan. Keeping in mind, there are unavoidable truths that I try to bring awareness about through science and facts. If showing that the food and recipes are easy and delicious is more effective than showing articles about animal cruelty, I would like to know.

I’ve put a poll on my facebook page, and I just need 40 non-vegan people to tell me what matters to them. Thanks for any information you’d like to share, and let me know if there is some resource you’d like to see on the website going forward.

 

 


How Not to Die

Last week, I went to see Dr. Michael Gregor speak in Portland about his newest book, “How Not to Die”. I was on the fence about attending. It was a particularly dark and rainy night, definitely a lot of traffic.  But I had rsvp’d to this free event as part of the 22 day veg challenge, and thought it would make an interesting blog article if nothing else.

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Not being particularly informed about the book, or interested in the health aspect, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was happily surprised to find Dr. Gregor a very knowledgeable, and entertaining speaker. He was able to take scientific facts and studies and make it understandable for an average non-medical person. I am linking to a video that was very similar to the one I attended in Portland. It is long, but worth watching, and you can avoid the rainy drive aspect).

I did not buy his book that night because I want to have it on my kindle to share with my parents and sister. The information presented was very surprising to me. Basically, most deaths in the U.S. are preventable and related to nutrition.

He went through the top 15 ways Americans die, went through each of them and explained how a plant-based diet can prevent or reverse so many different diseases. He presented peer-reviewed studies showing how the body can heal itself.

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There were only a couple that a plant-based diet can’t help with: accidents and suicide.

Honestly, I haven’t thought about the health effects much lately. I have been so focused on the huge environmental impact that affects our future, and the plight of the animals. It made feel very good to think that in addition to those causes, a plant-based diet will help my family live a longer, healthier life. In fact, he told us that by age 10, kids can have start of fatty streaks on arteries leading to heart disease. By the 20’s the plaque is hardening.

His book is on the best seller’s list, and is completely backed up with multiple medical journals and resources. His website www.NutritionFacts.org provides all the resources and studies.

Why aren’t more doctors telling their patients that they can be helped with diet rather than just pills and surgery? Many doctors don’t believe their patients are willing to change their eating habits, even with the choice of surgery and expensive medications. I would recommend the movie Forks over Knives as further proof that a plant-based diet is an under-utilized cure for many diseases.

He ended his talk by showing the old cigarette ads. Incredibly, doctors endorsed smoking not that long ago as a healthy habit. If we wait for the government to tell us what is unhealthy or healthy (which means they need to avoid the huge bias of the animal agriculture industry), there will be so many millions of preventable deaths. There were scientists and doctors aware of the risks of smoking well before that was brought to the attention of the general public and it still took decades for that research to be mainstream.

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Could we really prolong our lives by eating a plant-based diet? I felt very good about the evidence provided, and a little amazed that there are so many benefits not only to the planet, and animals, but also to the people. If you have doubts, watch his video, read his book, watch Forks over Knives. In the end, it could even be a matter of life and death.