The cow in the room: why we keep ignoring her

The cow takes the place of the “Elephant in the room” an English metaphorical idiom for an obvious truth that is either being ignored or going unaddressed. The idiomatic expression also applies to an obvious problem or risk no one wants to discuss.

I’m not the first to point out that animal agriculture is definitely not highlighted as a major contributor to climate change. The movie Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret does an excellent job of making that point.

There are multiple reasons we don’t hear diet choices as the number one change you can make to help climate change. One of the main ones being that the dairy, beef, egg industries do NOT want us to know the impact because they profit from our ignorance. They influence the government and large environmental organizations. To speak up against them is serious. Ag gag laws specifically target this and try to prevent activists from filming how they actually produce the source of our food!

We allow this to happen because it is easier to just ignore the consequences… ignorance is bliss. Who wants to think about how calves are born and immediately taken away from their mothers so we can use their milk, or how all the male baby chicks are ground up. And those aren’t even the environmental reasons. These factory farms are contaminating our water without commiserate penalties, they are allowed to use natural resources for free or a fraction of the cost. We are destroying everything for the sake of chicken, bacon, hot dogs, and hamburgers.

Besides animal cruelty and environmental impact, even for health reasons people would rather make other other choices than change their diets. Doctors know this, and in many cases will prescribe drugs and surgery instead of trying to have the patient stick to a plant-based diet. Watch Forks over Knives to learn more about how diabetes, heart disease and other issues can be reversed by eating plant-based.


I’m writing this article today since I finally saw the National Geographic Magazine Climate Change issue (November 2015). I was excited to see what it would say. The first section: How YOU can affect climate change.


This section highlights building a tiny house to live in. Small icons have other ideas like composting, not driving two days a week or washing clothes in cold water.


The next page, very small at the bottom. “If meat were dropped from diets globally, the reduction in CO2 emissions would almost equal total U.S. annual emissions.”

So, basically, this enormous environmental change we can make without changing homes is treated as a caption.

Smaller homes is a great idea, but practically speaking, here is a bigger impact each of us can make every day, three times a day that gets very little publicity. It has been gaining awareness, and I really hope to see that continue. On a practical level every restaurant should vegan options, and delicious plant-based cheeses and meats need to become more available and less expensive in grocery stores. The cow in the room isn’t going away.


January 6, 2016- so good I ate it twice

I’ve noticed that I am feeling much more comfortable now experimenting with recipes. Yesterday was one of those scraping-the-barrel days, where I used whatever was in the fridge and made substitutions freely. For breakfast I made an “egg” sandwich loosely based on a Benedict recipe. Marinated tofu slices with vinegar, soy sauce and olive oil. With some salt, on a sandwich with a little tofutti cream cheese it tasted divine. In fact, I chose to eat a second one for lunch. The olive bread was a good addition.

For dinner I planned to make a Boboli pizza, but didn’t want to use tomato sauce. Instead I created my own pesto using spinach leaves, garlic, a little lemon, olive oil and walnuts. In the middle of making the pesto, I discovered I only had about 6 nuts. I found some hemp seeds and put those in. I then discovered I had nothing for toppings! I scrounged around and sliced potato very thinly, used some sun-dried jar tomatoes and fried up some beefless strips. It turned out really tasty, almost like a gourmet Pizzacato pizza.

A new smoothie recipe using apple, blueberries and lemon sounded particularly good. It made enough for the whole family, not one person as the recipe indicates. Nice break from the banana/spinach/almond milk smoothies I usually make.



Jan 5, 2016

Yesterday the kids scored an extra snow day! Two more vacation days for winter break (besides the three we took for Hawaii before that). I didn’t eat much today since with hot yoga I really need an empty stomach. It looks like I forgot to label my lunch- leftover minestrone soup and another slice of delicious Grand Central Bakery multi-grain bread. Green smoothies aren’t that exciting to illustrate so I broke down what goes into it this time. For our Taco Tuesday, I tries a new plant meat- Gardein beef tips. They worked great in the tacos, as would “beef” crumbles.


Jan 4, 2016: Snow day!

All schools in Portland were closed on Monday (due to some ice on the roads), for the first day after winter break. My 11-year-old son got up early, cheering and ran to the hill near our house with a sled. My 13-year-old daughter slept until approximately noon, disappointed she couldn’t see her school friends. They have very different personalities.

This was another day I was grateful to work from home! I tried making a new “egg” sandwich using hempfu. Found this in Whole Foods on sale. It resembles tofu, but made out of hemp and came already pre-seasoned with chimichurri.

My son and I liked it, husband really didn’t like it, daughter wouldn’t try it. We probably won’t be buying it again. For lunch I made a hearty vegetable minestrone using all the vegetables I had practically, even some green pepper (not listed). I cook my noodles separately so they don’t absorb too much of the broth. For dinner there were Morningstar griller burgers. I really like these, and they are easy. Once you add lettuce, tomato, relish, mustard, mayo and ketchup as I do, it tastes even better. We try to eat a majority of plant-based rather than processed foods, but the kids really like the veggie meats.




January 3, 2016- Vegan Brunch recipes

Sunday was a special day because I actually planned and made recipes from a vegan cookbook. We invited friends over, and I thought I should make something special. I used Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s Vegan Brunch for inspiration. It had a new vegan cinnamon roll recipe, roasted potato variation using curry powder, and the main course was tempeh sausage puffs. We had fruit salad as well. Although it turned out well, I wouldn’t use whole wheat flour again for the cinnamon rolls. I’m still looking for a “go-to” favorite recipe, but it was fun to try these.


Veg Vacation: Hawai’i


I have a LOT of photos of these crashing waves, and a video. Powerful forces.

Hawai’i is our family’s favorite vacation destination. Since we live on the West Coast, it is not too far away and we get to enjoy some warm, sunny weather as a nice break from our often rainy climate. But, the best part of Hawai’i in my mind is the relaxation factor. There is a laid-back vibe and we skip the stress that inherently is part of big cities. We have been to Maui twice (once with kids), and Kaui’i twice (once with kids). This was our first trip to the Big Island, and the first trip in December. It worked out great this year as December hit record rainfalls in Portland, and Hawai’i delivered consistent 82 degree sunny weather (except for Volcano area).

Walking through the crater- we got very wet, but no crowds!

I planned this trip in June and made all travel arrangements then, so it was kind of fun to rediscover my plans 6 months later. We flew into Kona and spent 3 nights there. Then, went to Hilo side and stayed right at the Volcano for 3 nights, and finally back to Kona the day before we flew home. Except for the last night, we stayed in condos (VRBO) and only ate in restaurants a handful of times. We had 2 tickets free thanks to using credit card points, and one very reduced ticket ($200), so flights were very affordable, as was the lodging booked so far in advance.

Amazingly affordable cottage in Volcano.

The most expensive part of Hawai’i was buying food!

We used Yelp and Happy Cow to find vegetarian and vegan options. I don’t think any of them were particularly Hawaii’an foods. I tend to think of those as pork and seafood. Pineapple, papayas, avocados, and my new favorite fruit: apple bananas were the best local finds. Overall, I saw some very positive steps towards vegan options that I don’t remember seeing on our last trips. Kailua-Kona had many great options, and there were some Whole Foods-type grocery stores on both sides that had tofu and vegan products.

Acai bowl in Kona

This trip was all about experiences rather than food-focused. We did a lot of activities! Some highlights were: a snorkel boat ride (holiday gift from my mother-in-law) where we saw tropical fish and dolphins, submarine ride for the guys, sunset horseback ride for the girls, star-watching on Mauna Kea, walking through volcano craters in the tropical rain, seeing sea turtles up-close on a black sand beach, and touching a seahorse.

Horseback ride at sunset in Kohalo

Things we didn’t do that we hopefully can return for: swimming with Manta Rays, seeing whales, seeing lava up close, more beaches!

After our speed boat ride: new hairdo!

It was a very special trip, and despite one bad teenager day, we all got along great and had fun together (it is feeling like as kids get older this will be more rare). When we were picking what we liked best, my husband likes the nature/wilderness hikes, my daughter likes horses, my son likes submarines and I like seeing animals in nature.

Saw a lot of turtles at black sand beach, this one was very close.

From an artistic sense, it was inspiring to see the different forms in which the lava cooled. I loved the ruggedness of this landscape even more than I appreciated the gorgeous lushness of Kauai. I can’t explain why, it was just wild and powerful.


Climate change seemed very real there with the oceans all around us. The coral was mostly blanched white near shorelines, with a lot less fish than I remembered from 15 years ago on our first trip to Kauai. Black lava covered much of this newer island with persistent flowers and plants poking through every crack, reminding me that Earth will regain it’s balance with or without us. On the Big Island nature is prominent, and buildings and roads move based on the direction the lava flows. Tourism is vital to their economy with the fish being both the main attraction and served up as dinner.

Bottlenose dolphins swimming near our boat

For our last full day there, we went to a seahorse center and learned how this organization is trying to save these wondrous, endangered creatures by breeding them specifically for pet stores so people will stop taking wild seahorses from the ocean to pet stores where 99% will die. I think this is a good thing overall. Arguably, it would be best if they could just live in the ocean and not in an aquarium. But keeping them from complete extinction is a good thing too and gives the wild seahorses a chance.

Sunset at Mauna Kea
Sunset at Mauna Kea- very cool to be above clouds before star-viewing.

I was reminded that these oceans are the home to so many magnificent creatures. It is THEIR home and they have no control over what we are doing to them. There is a lack of understanding all the connection we humans have to our environment. The islands are a very special place with so many climates and species of flowers and wildlife. I feel very fortunate to have been able to experience nature’s amazing diversity and beauty and once more witness what our Earth provides us without man’s influence. I had an overwhelming feeling of gratitude and humility on this vacation. Humbled that we were fortunate enough to be able to take this vacation, and how we truly owe it to the other humans and animals on this planet to do what we can to have a positive impact. Simply because we are able to do so.



January 2, 2016

I wrote about Yumm bowls last September, always a hit. There is a theme of eating a lot of chocolate lately. I think I am almost through all the chocolate. Eating the last lollipop as I write this post. Fortunately, cutting out chocolate is not not one of my New Year’s resolutions.


January 1, 2016

Happy New Year! I’m kicking off the new year by reviving the food sketches. I’ve been thinking about doing them again for fun and drawing practice, and a friend told me she enjoyed them. More than anything, it gives some insight for those wanting to eat a plant-based diet some idea of what they could actually eat.