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:
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
Put cauliflower in a large pot and cover with water or steam it until fork tender, around 5-7 minutes. Drain.
Meanwhile, sauté the minced garlic in oil over low heat for 4-5 minutes until softened and fragrant, but not browned.
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.
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.
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.
Serve with fresh minced parsley and black pepper. Add in sautéed peas, spinach, or broccoli if you like.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Every once in a while I make seitan. My husband likes the taste, and it sounds vaguely demonic. My favorite recipe is this one that is baked and tastes like a pepperoni log. So easy to make and packed with protein from vital wheat gluten and B12 from nutritional yeast. It is especially good in a sandwich with all the fixings!
I finished off the last of the Earth Balance Coconut Peanut Butter. It is pretty delicious, but I want to research the palm oil in it. I really try to avoid products with palm oil as it is present in so many products and is a major cause of deforestation. Earth Balance is a leader in having higher standards for responsible, sustainable palm oil. I hope so, because I would hate to give up their delicious butter spread!
Are one of those people who love fresh starts and New Year’s resolutions? You may have wanted to kick off the new year with a healthy habit. Veganuary was created specifically for you! With support for the whole month, there has been great success with people taking this pledge.
I started my solo challenge in March 2012 using Colleen Patrick Goudreau’s book “30 Day Challenge” as a guide. Here is how I made my change to a vegan lifestyle almost 4 years ago, and still going strong.
Locally, your vegetarian organization may be a great resource. NW Veg launched a shorter 22 day challenge on January 9. I’ve been participating as a mentor, and it has actually been a lot of fun. It has given me some renewed enthusiasm for trying recipes, and we have some great speakers and events during the challenge including Grant Butler, Dr. Michael Greger, Howard Lyman and more. Also, I was fortunate to get a very cool person as my mentee. We had a great talk, and I hope we can hit up Next Level Burger together soon with our kids. She’s been vegetarian for years, and ready to see the health benefits of cutting out dairy and eggs.
If you are reading this mid-January and think you’ve missed the boat. I would try following Oregonian food and entertainment writer, Grant Butler’s example. He chose February since it is the shortest month to try it as an experiment. Almost 6 years later and he is stronger than ever. He shared with 60 of us (vegans and aspiring vegans) his story and his tips. I’ll summarize here:
Grant Butler’s tips for Veg Challenge
1. Don’t focus on the negative. It’s not what you are missing, it is about all that you are adding.
2. Try to keep it simple.
3. Don’t focus on protein. That is always an over-inflated concern, but not a problem in reality.
4. Seek out great recipes. Cooking is great, and also trying vegan restaurants so you don’t have to think about the ingredients.
5. Do the best that you can, it isn’t about perfection.
6. Keep a food diary. (I sketch my food diary to make it fun). You can see what you might need to add to your diet.
7. Get to know your grocery’s produce manager. This is one I did not know, but apparently they have recipes they can give you and tips on cooking new vegetables.
8. B12: Take a supplement, it is the only nutrient you can’t get from plants. Many vegan milks and products are fortified with B12.
9. Keep moving! Get exercise.
Grant ended his inspiring talk by making a personal guarantee. Although losing weight and being more healthy are bonuses that can happen, there are two things that will definitely happen when you change your lifestyle: You will lower your carbon footprint and take yourself out of the mess of the animal food system.
Think about that for a moment. The most devoted meat eater normally is still against animal cruelty or unnecessary torture. There is no way to fix this without voting with our dollars, without reducing demand. Meat and dairy are incredibly resource-intensive. We face issues of drought, deforestation and species extinction- wildlife and sea animals are incredibly affected by our choices of what we put on our plates.
I am so happy that Grant is writing at the Oregonian spreading the best vegan recipes, restaurants and using his wide outreach to show how approachable vegan food can be. He is also a great mentor and resource. Here are a few of his latest favorite recipes and cookbooks.
If you have never tried a vegan diet and want a mentor, let me know. There are resources to help no matter what time of year you decide to give it a shot. You literally have nothing to lose (except possibly weight), you can try it for 3-4 weeks, and there has never been a better time to start.
I have done a lot of thinking about the word “Vegan” and what it represents, and how it is presented. I purposefully don’t talk a lot about that on this blog because the purpose of this website is to encourage non-vegans who don’t think they can become vegan.
If the word is a charged one for me, and I accept and am part of this movement, I can understand how much more weight it carries for others. I do want to be part of normalizing the idea of veganism and making it seem like something the mainstream can embrace. For example, if a stereotype in some people’s minds would be of a young, angry, tattooed radical person- then a professional, middle-aged, mother might not match that image. And yes, there are a wide variety of people who are vegan for different reasons- health, animals, environment, and for combating world hunger. Diversity is a good thing.
Part of the reason I named this blog “eat less meat” originally (now eat4thefuture) was to keep this inclusive. It is counter-productive and frustrating to have the word “Vegan” cause the people you want to reach out to immediately shut down because of their past experiences or a stereotype.
I’ve had many conversations about this with a good friend. He eats a mostly vegan diet, but is not vegan. He claims he doesn’t like the religious aspect of veganism and he won’t join.
This is very interesting to me because although veganism is a philosophy I would say, and not a religion, it does bear some similarities.
The fundamental principle that is consistent throughout all religions is “Treat others as you would be treated”. For vegans, ALL animals are included in this. If veganism were a religion, than compassion would be the foundation. For there to be true compassion, that would extend to humans as well as animals. People will fall short of perfection. People will explore veganism for different reasons.
Part of the reason that I personally struggle with the V word is that I am not a joiner of groups. I don’t go to churches or connect with design communities even within my professional circles. This independent-thinking may be partly why I was able to reject the mainstream norm of meat-eating.
Too many people have been turned off by a few vegans, and the majority of much more friendly ones need to step up their efforts to counteract this. Some of these exchanges happen in real life, but most are online. Damage is done, and it is not helping any cause. Before we criticize other people’s attempts, think about whether that is effective. If we attack and ridicule omnivores and vegetarians, than we are only speaking to other vegans (who are already on board). I can’t tell you how many times I have seen what could have been an informative opportunity escalate. A joking comment, an uniformed question, or a defensive statement is met with a harsher backlash and both parties leave with their stereotypes even more firmly entrenched.
It is not just veganism where we need to think about our approach to others. If we hope to persuade someone that our ideas have merit, use respect. The more we divide from others through our politics and religions, the less change we can make. It is so easy to say Republicans are all like this, Democrats are all like that. All this does is draw the line even deeper in the sand.
We can ALL care about the environment and the animals regardless of our religion or party affiliation. Think about it next time you create an “us” vs. “them” statement. When someone makes a derogatory statement about liberals on Facebook for example, they have just lumped everyone who falls anywhere in that spectrum into a group and pushed them away. And this is not about political correctness- believe me. For example, climate change is not a liberal issue. We all have to eat, breathe, use water, hope our kids won’t have to deal with severe consequences.
I believe I can persuade more people that the ideas of veganism are for everyone by not making the criteria so narrow. In the end, veganism is the goal, but attacking a vegetarian for not being fully vegan will never help us reach it. Don’t take the troll bait in the comments.
If you are vegan and interested in a friendly and pragmatic approach to advocacy, check out The Vegan Strategist. I felt hopeful after stumbling upon his website that there was a place for my efforts.
Wow, a very long post to explain my position. I’m sick of labels that divide us into separate groups. Be respectful. Focus on the places where our values overlap, not where they differ.