Sunday, January 31, 2010

Birthday gifts for mom

I'll be honest, I kinda got this idea from Alicia Silverstone's Kind Life website. She made a post a few days back (January 25th) about giving homemade gifts. My mom's birthday is tomorrow, so awesome timing! I decided to whip up a few vegan treats from The Kind Diet for her. With the help of my little sis, we made crispy almond butter treats, almond butter cups, and some soup for dinner! Boy am I glad she came over, it was a lot of work, but definitely worth it.




So I got a little lazy when it came to prettying them up, I was pretty tired from all that cooking. Mom will love it, though, I think!

Prettiness to come

I'm working on a photoshop project in my Graphic Design class, so this blog will soon have a sweet new background! I can't wait to finish it!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Why I haven't been posting much recently (OH AND CUPCAKES):

I started some classes on the 19th, so a large chunk of my free time is going to that. I also got addicted to The Sims 3, so right now I'm trying to make little Evelyn and Tony be boyfriend/girlfriend in a third game, while mastering all their skills. It's important stuff! That was sarcasm if you didn't catch it. I'm enjoying it, though. Anyway, once I figure out a stable daily schedule for myself and wear myself out a bit on The Sims, I should be back posting regularly again.

I leave you with this!
Yes, there is a God! I don't know what exactly causes my ridiculous attraction to cupcakes; I don't much care for regular cake. I think it's somehow hardwired into the female brain to love them. They're so visually appealing and tasty! Before I went vegan, Sprinkles was a nice guilty pleasure for the ladies of my family. I became a fan of them on facebook, and I have to admit, I felt a tinge of sorrow everytime I saw the delicious pictures. Fortunately, now I can indulge once again! They started making a delicious red velvet vegan cupcake (red velvet is my favorite anyway)! I dragged Tony in the pouring rain to Sprinkles last night after I found out about them. Holy crap, best cupcake I've ever had! Vegan or not, you've got to give them a try!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Grocery Day!

Miso soup with carrots, daikon, celery, and kale and quinoa with fresh basil. The homemade miso is my new favorite food. Both recipes were my own inventions, but I combined things I saw in some of Alicia's recipes to come up with them.

Amazingly good peanut butter rice treats. Super easy to make, too! This recipe I took straight from The Kind Life. Thanks Alicia!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Disaster Meal

I've always loved Macaroni Grill, and now I live right next to one. Excited, I looked at their menu online the other day and was happy to see many new seemingly vegetarian, or even possibly vegan items. So, Tony and I decided to try it last night. What a mistake.

I first ordered a cup of the Pasta e Fagioli soup. It sounded great: cannelloni beans and pasta, mmm! I asked the waitress if the soup base was vegetable stock or chicken stock. She replied vegetable, hurray! Then the soup came... with a nice little pile of cheese on top. Ugh, I felt my heart sink a little. Ok, not a huge deal, a little cheese won't kill you or an animal, I thought. So I ate the soup, which was actually really good.

For the rest of my meal, I ordered the warm spinach salad with no cheese. When it came, I looked down in the dim light and saw a strip of something odd. Maybe a caramelized onion? Nope. A piece of prosciutto, Italian bacon. Oh my god, has it really been that long that I forgot prosciutto was a meat, not a cheese? Dead pig. On my plate. My fault. Nausea. I did my best to eat around it, and not waste my food. But still I knew there was pig fat on my spinach, and I wanted to cry. In fact, I almost did cry a few times. I still keep apologizing to the poor pig in my head for its sacrifice and suffering. I named him (or her) Spinach. Creative, right?

It's one thing to watch my family eat veal. While slightly horrifying, I can remove myself from that. But to have meat on my own plate... That hasn't happened since my dad threw turkey on my plate at Thanksgiving, despite my assurances that I didn't want any. I learned something, at least. I need to be more clear about my dietary concerns when ordering at restaurants. I hate to be a bother, but it's worth it in cases like last night. I'M SO SORRY SPINACH THE PIG!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Vegan Starbucks Fare!

I'm great at completely ignoring things... Like all the things in the new displays Starbucks has had up the past few weeks. I noticed the vegan cookies pretty quickly, but meh, they looked dry. I can make tastier cookies myself, I figured. I also noticed the dried fruit. Organic dried mangoes ingredients: organic mangoes. Score! Today, however, I finally noticed the granola. Why didn't I notice it sooner!? Not only is it delicious, IT'S SWEETENED WITH AGAVE INSTEAD OF SUGAR. The little child inside if me is doing backflips right now! The company that makes the granola looks like it got a start similar to a lot of other vegan companies I've read about. One of the owners cured her Multiple Sclerosis with a raw food diet, so she started coming up with raw vegan snacks that her friends and family loved. The end result? The company Two Moms in the Raw, which so far makes sea crackers and granola. While I haven't tried the sea crackers, I gotta say, you MUST try the granola. It's to die for!


Monday, January 18, 2010

Thoughts on Avatar


Yesterday, my Tony took me to see Avatar. That movie deserves every bit of praise it gets! I know what you're thinking, what does Avatar have to with being vegan? As I watched, I found several parallels to our treatment of animals and the planet. Sorry in advance, this post is not as lighthearted as usual.

The alien race of Pandora, the Na'vi, live with an immense reverence for their planet and all the creatures on it--I wish we could say the same. Anytime they kill an animal, they say a sort of prayer for it to release its spirit back into the earth. They believe in an interconnected transfer of energy between all living creatures on Pandora. Hmm, that sounds familiar! That sounds like much of what I've been reading about macrobiotics. On Alicia Silverstone's macrobiotic Kind Diet, supposedly you gain a sense of interconnectedness with the world around you. Same with concentrated and continued yoga practice. Maybe it sounds silly, but I believe in these things. I am not yet on a macrobiotic vegan diet, but by simply cutting out meat and dairy and practicing yoga, I do feel a greater sense of being a part of the world around me. And believe me, that came as a huge and welcome change. Before, I always felt like an outsider, looking in on a foreign world. The idea with the Kind Diet is that you put clean, unprocessed (and preferably local) foods in your body, and feel the sustained and calm energy they give you. How beautiful.

No surprises here, the humans came to Pandora to take a precious metal, and the "savage natives" lived on top of it. So what do they do? Bulldoze and burn down sacred forests that helped the Na'vi connect to their planet. They bomb their home and wage war on the natives as a precaution before they can gather and strike back. It's typical. We do it to our own planet. What is the resource in the real world case? Cattle. So we bulldoze rain forests, the lungs of the earth, to give cattle a place to graze. We kill off a myriad of species as we destroy their homes. Not only that, the cattle are given ridiculously small areas to roam (on which the fertile layer of topsoil is ruined so plants can no longer grow; it takes as much as a century to get the topsoil back), they're fed unnatural foods such as corn and dead animals (they eat grass naturally), they're pumped full of antibiotics and growth hormones, then they're ushered off to the slaughterhouse at a young age. They aren't treated like animals; they are simply commodities. And what's the point? As far as I'm concerned no animal NEEDS to die for me to live. I don't want that blood on my hands anymore, and that's the initial reason I made the changes I made. Each dead animal is a dead individual that the world can never get back.

I hope we start taking into account the damage we're doing to our planet before it's too late. We need to stop killing billions of animals each year, stop breeding monstrously genetically mutated animals, stop dumping their toxic waste in rivers, stop keeping them in such poor conditions that they're all sickly or injured, stop wasting massive amounts of water for the small profit of a few pounds of meat, stop wasting the majority of our grains on feeding factory animals (it takes an average of 7 lbs of grain to produce 1 lb of meat). It's time to wake up and act more responsibly!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Real food, junk food, and scary food

Today I have lots of food pics to share! (And that's the best kind of pics, right?) First off, I think this is the best vegan dish I've thrown together just from crap in my fridge/pantry. I dragged my love to Whole Foods last weekend for a few things, and talked him into buying me some organic tempeh to try (tempeh is a fermented form of soy with a grainy texture that somewhat resembles ground meat). I thought it looked like a great thing to toss in a pot of chili. I was right! After cooking the tempeh for a minute in the bottom of the pot, I added a little canned tomato sauce, canned diced tomatoes, and a can of mixed kidney beans (all organic, of course!). I seasoned it up with some fresh lime juice, cayenne, cumin, fresh cilantro, and a dash of garlic salt. To go along with the chili, I cooked up some rice, to which I also added fresh lime juice, chopped cilantro, and lime zest. Sprinkling chopped scallions on top perfected the meal. Mmmmmmm, it was probably the best thing I've ever made myself. Well, aside from my cookies that is! I took the leftovers over to my mom and sis--they loved it, too! Mom is a tiny woman; she really does not eat much, but she finished off most of the large bowl by herself. I take that as a hefty compliment. My boyfriend was out of town for work, so I recreated the meal for him the next night.

The night I took leftovers to mom's, Care made us all some brownies from a vegan recipe she found and tried before. Me and Care, together, making sweets... who woulda thought? In case you haven't figured it out yet, my family has a bit of a sweet tooth! Oddly enough, I make cookies and things way more often now that I'm vegan. I suppose that's for a few reasons: out of excitement that I can, knowing that while it may not be healthy, it's still healthier (not to mention the extra room in my diet for "naughty" things if I so desire), and I want my family and friends to see that I'm not missing out on anything! I share my treats with them, and so far they've received nothing but praise (which in my dad's case comes in the blunt form, "Tastes like a cookie.") By the way, I've gone from 108 to 103 so far on my new diet full of chocolate, coconut ice cream, and other goodies. Jealous?

Ok, so the last item for today. Reading more into The Kind Diet (which I've now almost finished!), Alicia mentions over and over something called umeboshi plums. She uses them to re-balance herself after having things like sugar or processed foods. She even says that when she was introduced to them, sucking on half of one cured her hangover! Sounds like a miracle food, right? Well, Tony (my bf) and I went out to the Asian market by our apartment this morning to peruse the isles for these plums and any other cool finds suitable to the superhero diet. Holy crap did they have a large vegetarian frozen section, with everything from fried tofu to vegan fish, shrimp, and even vegan peppercorn steak! Anyway, eventually we found them, but I must say I'm a bit scared. Umeboshi plums are pickled plums. Pickled plums. Hmm. I'll let you know when I gather up the courage to try one.

Friday, January 15, 2010

I want to be a superhero!

Ok, so! Continuing into The Kind Diet: A Simple Guide to Feeling Great, Losing Weight, and Saving the Planet, I am COMPLETELY in love with the whole idea presented. Alica offers three levels in her book: flirting, vegan, and superhero. Flirting is trying a few substitutions (veggie meals every other day, fish instead of other meats, whole grains instead of white, green tea rather than coffee). That's where I left off in the book right now and where I'd say my boyfriend is as far as eating right now. He won't attempt vegan with me, but he also doesn't ask me to prepare him any meat when I make dinners. My goal is to get him to try cutting out all but fish (as it is the easiest animal protein for us to digest) for a month, then let him choose how he wants to eat from there. That's a fair compromise, right? I know I can be a little too pushy with him, but he can also be a little too skeptical and stubbornly resistant!

The idea behind the superhero diet seems almost romantic. I love that Alicia gets into how different foods affect us on physical, mental, and emotional levels. Mmm science! Anyway, once you're free of meat, dairy, and other processed foods, she says you can feel a huge difference. If you try them again after your body adjusts to life on natural plant foods, she says you'll notice how bad your body feels. I haven't made it into the superhero section yet, but I hope I can achieve either superhero or at least somewhere between vegan and superhero. Supposedly as a superhero you become more energetic, lighter, happier, centered and balanced, and more in tune to the effect things you eat have on you.

Personally, I may have a hard time giving up sugars, though I am fond of the alternatives (brown rice syrup, maple syrup, agave nectar, nom nom!). I hope that by learning more about vegan baking, I can eventually start adjusting recipes to use these other sweeteners. Right now I'm simply using organic sugars, since they aren't processed using animal products like regular white sugar may be. The problem white sugar and organic sugars have in common is that they are stripped of the other nutrients naturally found in the plants from which they come. If you nibble on the sugar cane plant, your body will not have trouble processing the sugar because of the balance with other nutrients.

My other huge addiction is coffee! Fortunately, I've made progress on both the sugar and coffee fronts in the past few months. I've gone from having a triple shot latte on a daily basis to a single shot latte, green tea, or even herbal tea. I've also cut out a lot of sugar. I used to get sugary vanilla lattes, which I've replaced with a plain and simple soy latte. When I need a little sweetener in my tea or oatmeal, I use agave nectar. Agave nectar is a gift of nature! It has a low glycemic index, meaning it won't cause your insulin to spike like sugar does. (When your insulin spikes, your body is signaled to store fat.) Alicia says brown rice syrup is her sweetener of choice (she uses agave nectar sparingly due to its more concentrated sweetness) because of how it makes her feel after eating. I'll have to grab some next time I shop. I've only tried it once before in the yummy vegan baklava my little sis made as a Christmas snack (which was a godsend considering I spent the day walking around a house littered with plates of non-vegan cookies, cakes, and candies--thanks Care!).

Wow, I had more to say than I thought! I advise everyone to pick up a copy of The Kind Diet. It'll change your life!!! Or at the least, it will get you thinking more about what your food is doing to your body.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Monopoly Monster

Ok, so this post has absolutely nothing to do with being vegan, but I thought this picture was just too freakin adorable. I had to share it! Here is my extremely well-trained cat (ha)


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Kind Life and Cooking Classes (oh, and more cookies!!)

I started The Kind Diet: A Simple Guide to Feeling Great, Losing Weight, and Saving the Planet today. So far I'm loving it. I get to learn about a macrobiotic vegan diet, which sounds incredibly healthy! Anyhow, I decided to check out the website Alicia started to go along with the book, The Kind Life. On the front page, she made a post about Christina Pirello's macrobiotic vegan cooking classes in Philadelphia. !!! I would kill to be in those classes! Well, okay, maybe not kill considering I refuse to even eat animals, but boy do I wish I could somehow attend them. If only I wasn't broke and living in Texas. Perhaps once I find a job I can save up for one of the 3-day weekend classes.

Last night, my Care Bear and I made more cookies! This time we attempted sugar cookies, again with wheat flour. They turned out ridiculously delicious, especially with the royal icing. I am a lime freak, so I added lime juice to the icing rather than lemon, which I think gave it a uniquely amazing taste. I learned something from my past two cookie recipe experiences. While both still turned out delectable, substituting in wheat flour tends to make them a bit more dry. I looked into it some online, and it appears wheat flour absorbs more liquid than white. I found a great solution, though -- organic white wheat flour. White wheat flour comes from white wheat (duh) rather than the traditional red wheat, and it is lighter and more similar in taste to "normal" white flour, while maintaining the fiber and nutrition of traditional whole wheat flour.

I forgot to take a picture before digging in, but here are Care's and my addictive little sugar cookies:

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Peanut Butter Cookies!


Friday night, my wonderful baby sister, Carolyn, and her husband, Alex, came over for a little late night snack. For one of my Christmas gifts, my mom bought me The Joy of Vegan Baking: The Compassionate Cooks' Traditional Treats and Sinful Sweets. With the book's help, Care and I whipped up these fantastic whole wheat flour vegan peanut butter cookies (are those enough modifiers to describe one kind of cookie?). They sure went fast! I also tried the recipe a week or so ago, substituting fresh crushed almond butter from the fancy whole foods machine for the peanut butter. OH MY GOODNESS, the aroma was out of this world. The taste? Heaven!

(Please excuse the Fall paper plate leftover from packing Thanksgiving cakes!)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Endangered Species Chocolate

I figured today I'd share a cool brand of one of the things I absolutely can't live without: CHOCOLATE!!! Endangered Species Chocolate makes several fancy varieties of vegan dark chocolate (dark chocolate in general is usually vegan, rejoice!), and they donate 10% of their net profits "to help support species, habitat and humanity." What could be better!? I get my chocolate fix and donate to charity at the same time.

Now here's the real kicker: dark chocolate, as long as you consume it in small quantities, can actually contribute to your health! One of the first resources I turned to upon my decision to give up meat is Vegetarian Times magazine. I picked up a special of theirs on 25 healing foods. Guess what, dark chocolate was one of them (you can't imagine how ecstatic I was)! According to the magazine, dark chocolate is not only loaded with antioxidants, but also contains flavonols called procyanidins and epicatechins (don't ask me for pronunciations). These are the main flavonols in cocoa and "can improve heart health by reducing both blood pressure and cholesterol levels--and these compounds may also lift your mood."

An ounce a day keeps the doctor away?

Endangered Species Chocolate

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer

I haven't finished this book yet, but I cannot stress enough what an impact it has on me every time I pick it up. I actually found out about Eating Animals while reading about Natalie Portman (I totally have a girl-crush on her). The book spurred her to push from a long-time vegetarian to vegan.

Jonathan Safran Foer, the author, had long been back and forth between vegetarian and meat-eater. He started research for his book for the birth of his first son, so he could figure out his diet dilemma once-and-for-all and the best way to raise his child. I am absolutely amazed by the amount of numerical and statistical facts, first-hand accounts, and Foer's own work experiencing multiple types of farms and a small slaughterhouse (he couldn't get into the industrial slaughterhouses, no one can).

Eating Animals graphically covers the ethical dilemma and ecological damage caused by factory farms and slaughterhouses. It infuriates me as I read about large factory farm-owning companies dumping millions of gallons of waste into rivers. It tugs at my heart reading about the painful lives and horrific deaths factory animals are condemned to endure. I can't believe companies legally get away with their irresponsible genetic manipulation (many of the animals raised in factory farms are so genetically altered they can no longer survive outdoors, walk, reproduce, etc) and overuse of antimicrobials (we use them sparingly, but factory animals are pumped full of them) to make a profit off living animals. Their profit comes at such a hefty price to the world.

I suggest this book to everyone; in fact, I believe it should be required reading! All people should know where and how they get their food, so they can make educated consumption choices. I plan on passing around my copy to anyone that will give it a read.

Monday, January 4, 2010

My first blogspot post... over a year after subscribing

Hello! I made this blog a while ago as a place to jot down and explore thoughts and questions I had in regards to life and the world around me. Finally, I've come to put it to use, as I'm about two months into the greatest journey of my life so far: I decided to become vegan.

I'll start at the beginning. Way, way back. I always grew up with pets, which I think was essential in developing the (possibly excessive) compassion and love I have for animals. We had a cat, Frisky, from before I was born, until I was about 15. I also had a bird, a parakeet, that I was extremely close to. Priscilla was a gift for my tenth birthday, and unfortunately he (yes, Priscilla was a he) died young, just three years later. I was incredibly sad, completely devastated. It possibly sparked the onset of a ten year bout of depression. A year and a half ago, I met my current boyfriend. A month into our relationship, we went out to play some pool, and passed by a yard which encased an adorable gray kitten. I stopped at the fence oohing and awwing, trying to coax the kitty towards us. He realized how incredibly, ridiculously much I loved cats, and offered to buy and house one for me after that (I was staying with my parents, who would not have another cat in their house). After that Miss Merryweather, also known simply as Kitty, came into my life. I love her to death, and I tell her every morning that she is my inspiration.

I still remember being horrified as a child discovering that the eggs I ate were chicken eggs. My parents consoled me, "They were the duds, they wouldn't hatch anyway." I took their word for it, as children do with parental explanations, and didn't think about it again for a long time. About a year or two ago, one of my sisters (I have three!) read Skinny Bitch, which prompted her to begin living more vegan, or at least vegetarian. Despite the relatively short duration of her veganism, she still continues to avoid animal products more often than not. She also piqued my interest in the subject along with getting my parents somewhat accustomed to the lifestyle. At that point, I decided that I, too, wanted to quit using animal products. Having no income of my own, however, the idea quickly faded, as I didn't want to be a burden on those taking care of me. I also fell prey to the false advertising of the meat industry, and did not understand how Beth would get all her protein!

Now, the moment that resparked my desire to give up meat! It is really quite silly to describe... I was watching an episode of Survivor (one of my favorite shows!). They always give out chickens as a prize for one of the reward challenges, so that they can lay eggs and provide protein for the Survivors. Usually, one of the Survivors talks to and spends time with the chickens, almost like companion pets. As the end of the game closed in, the Survivors became hungrier and decided to kill one of the chickens to eat. One of them exclaimed that she did not want to be there when they killed it or see it running around bloody and headless. That's when it clicked in my head. THAT is what I'm eating. I finally made the connection between the chicken I eat and the chicken animal. Of course we all KNOW that chicken comes from chicken, but I had forgotten what that really meant.

Yet I still wasn't quite ready... My parents thought it was a stupid idea: "Oh, don't do like Beth did!" My boyfriend was okay with it, but not particularly encouraging. Fortunately, one person told me to quit eating meat if I felt it was right, and that was all the push I needed. After that conversation, I finished off the half of a chicken sandwich I had waiting in the fridge, and have not since touched any form of meat but fish (making November 11th my first day of pescetarianism).

But obviously that's not where my story ends! Today I am vegan, not pescetarian. I started doing a lot of research. I wanted to make sure I knew what vitamins and minerals I'd have a harder time getting in my diet, as well as sources of them. After finishing my first book on vegetarianism (Being Vegetarian for Dummies... yes, I went for something obvious), I was sold on veganism. That book didn't get much into the environmental problems associated with a meat diet; it was more of a nutritional aid. From a nutritional standpoint, veganism seemed (and seems) the best option. I continued my research, looking into PETA and other books. The more I learn, the more infuriated I become at the inhumane, irresponsible practices of the meat industry, and even the government for permitting them.

I mentioned previously a ten year bout of depression. In combination with other factors, doing something I'm so incredibly proud of (going vegan!) has finally brought an end to my depression. I am 24 and excited to get back to a life that I actively participate in, rather than passively letting life pass me by. I hope to continue researching, find many ways to contribute to change, and help (nicely, not forcefully) others to see the light. I intend to use this blog to jot down recipes, review books, share my cool new vegan finds, etc. I WANT TO SAVE THE WORLD!