Thank You

I followed a link that a friend posted on Facebook that took me to a Buzzfeed video called “How to Make Vegan Junk Food.” I watched it and think the recipes look delicious; honestly, seeing how simple they were to throw together made me want to follow chef Leslie Durso (of http://lesliedurso.com/) right over a cliff and into a huge ocean of tasty yummy bad-but-good foodiness that just happens to be vegan.

Unfortunately, the comment section of the video seemed to have devolved into nothing more than a foul-name-spouting, insult-swinging battleground. I know, I know – reading comments on an internet video is enjoyable in the same way picking a scab is: it doesn’t exactly feel good, but there’s something appealing about the sensation; then, afterwards, when you’re left with a big gaping sore, all you feel is regret. But, my attention was drawn to the length of heated discourse that had sprung from what was essentially an inoffensive and completely benign video intended to spread an individual’s own tips for eating healthier (and, yes, vegan).

Something that breaks my heart that I’ve come across in all of the vegan groups I participate in online is that it seems like discussions about veganism seem to incite serious bullying. The occasions where people post about positive conversations they have had with meat-eaters do appear, but they seem to be a lot rarer than those tales of vegans who have been ridiculed for their beliefs. And I’m not saying that vegan people are perfect, because there’s more than a few who can be preachy and holier-than-thou. We’re all flawed; nobody is perfect. But there’s no excuse for bullying of any kind.

I just want to say thank you to all of my friends. Thank you for not posting offensive comments on my Facebook when I write about veganism, or when I share petitions, or when I re-share meat-free recipes that I think look delicious. Thank you for not insulting me or my choices, for not starting fights with me about our differences in opinion on certain topics, for not saying things that are supposed to be funny but that are actually hurtful. Thank you for letting me express myself without fear of reprisal.

Transitioning to veganism is turning out to be a lengthy process for me, and it is really lonely at times; I can’t imagine how it would be if I didn’t have the love and understanding of you all. .

If you’re interested in watching the mouth-watering video and picking up a few easy snack night ideas, just click here: http://www.buzzfeed.com/abefg/how-to-make-vegan-junk-food#2oyf0pd.

Good to Grill!

I’ve been planning this post for a few days, so it is purely coincidental that on a day when I’d like to talk a bit about outdoor grilling it happens to be raining heavily! Honestly, I can’t complain about the weather where I live. People joke about how Edmontonians only have two seasons – winter and construction – but this year we’ve been blessed. Much to my city’s delight, we have enjoyed a distinct spring, summer, and are in the throes of fall as I speak. Another aspect of our good fortune, at least temperature wise, is that we’ve had an early fall warm-up, reaching plus 24 degrees (celsius) a few times. This makes for some fantastic evenings outdoors around the barbecue, enjoying the changing of the leaves, the light fall breezes, and the smell of fresh-grilled foods.

Barbecue season can be tough for vegans. I’ll admit it – I’m not at that place yet where the smell of grilling meat makes me sick. SEEING it can, but the smell of seared steak sets of an instinctive hunger. I’ve heard this will pass, but in the mean time, walking through my neighbourhood the past few months has been occasionally difficult. Fortunately, while the aromas are different, putting colorful veggies on the barbecue has helped negate that undesired hunger for flesh while at the same time satisfying my gusto for the grill.

I’m including a link that has been an amazing resource for me as a beginner cook; this article and its gorgeous infographics gave me some great tips and techniques, and even a few simple recipes. Check out Robyn Medlin Lindars’ super helpful information here: http://www.fix.com/blog/how-to-grill-vegetables/. A couple of the recipes contain cheese as an ingredient but you can easily replace those with non-dairy cheeses to make them vegan, or omit the cheese altogether (which is what I prefer- a like just a dusting of nutritional yeast over the finished product).

asparagus-grill

Also, here is a link to a fantastic recipe for grilled asparagus http://carpeseason.com/grilled-asparagus-with-lemon-chive-vinaigrette/. The image above belongs to Liz @ Carpe Season, as does the recipe for Grilled Asparagus With Lemon Chive Vinaigrette. Enjoy!

Back in School

This blog post isn’t exactly about veganism, per se. More of just an update.

In September I started two courses that are part of a program offered at a college in Vermilion, Alberta. The program is called Renewable Energy and Conservation and my first two classes (taken online) are Principles of Energy and Energy and Environment. The Principles of Energy class has my brain melting with math and science – two areas where I have never excelled. I doubt anyone who knows me understands why I’m taking this course, and part of me feels the same way – why would I take a program that requires a strong knowledge of those subjects I did so miserably at in high school? You know, biology, physics, chemistry, trigonometry, calculus, etc.? If someone were to ask me ‘why’? I don’t know if I could provide an answer, other than that the realm of renewable energy interests me. I hope that one day the renewable industry will be the headliner of the show, and not just the warm-up act (so to speak).

The other class, Energy and Environment, focuses on the earth and its cycles, and how human interference has changed our ecosystems and structures and the bio- and geological processes which have made our world run so smoothly (well, until we came along). I was just learning about the carbon cycle, and I’m sorry to say that at the advanced age of 33 years, I only know understand exactly what the greenhouse effect is, and how it is causing global warming. Don’t judge- like I mentioned above, I’ve never been a science-y girl; the lack of confidence I have always had in the logical and computational abilities of my brain has kept me from thinking too hard about a lot of things. But ignorance in this case is certainly not bliss. So, now that I *get* what is happening in the atmosphere above us, I am more concerned about how we humans are contributing to the problem. Agriculture is so damaging to the earth. It scares me that while vegan and vegetarianism is growing as a movement, we are still so vastly outnumbered. I’m worried that the future of the environment is dependent on the majority, who seem mostly content with the current status quo.

I am not perfect, and I don’t even consider myself vegan yet. I am ashamed to admit that I have eaten meat in the last month, so I can’t preach to anyone. But every day I try to make the right choices, and I do my best to choose compassionately. Some days, my mind is preoccupied with selfish needs and I fail to uphold the values I aspire to. But fortunately for me so far, there’s been a next day, and that next day, I try again. That’s all I can do. If everyone in the world just TRIED, then we could make so much difference in the future of the planet.  If you’re reading this, please comment with some of the things you do in your life to make less of a negative impact on our environment.

100-Year-Old Life Hacks

There are so many ways that we, as a society, could live much simpler lives. I’ve been trying to pare down my lifestyle this year. I am much more conscious of the water I use (and potentially reuse); I do not buy as many consumer goods as I used to; I check labels and try to direct my dollars to those products that are manufactured locally, or at least in North America; I tried my hand at gardening for the first time this summer; and, I’m transitioning to living a fully vegan lifestyle.

But living simple doesn’t have to include making substantial changes to the who/what/where/when/whys of your life. I saw a list posted on Facebook (I believe by George Takei) of simple and effective tips on disentangling one’s self from different life situations and after clicking on the link was charmed by the vintage artwork and delightful content. While numbers eight and ten aren’t really up my alley, I found the remaining collection of life hacks pulled from an advertisement campaign in the 1900s to be surprisingly on-target, and let out a few “aaaahaaaa’s!” while I read. I’m especially excited to try the following tips: “How to Extract a Splinter,” “How to Light a Match in the Wind,” and “How to Make a Water Filter.” 

I think there are so many things we could learn from those that came before us – here is but a small sample!

http://guff.com/100-year-old-life-hacks-that-still-work-today/how-to-make-a-water-filter

Just disregard the fact that these hints were printed by a cigarette company and keep them tucked away in the back of your mind for whenever the opportunity to try them out arises!

Eggplant, Onion, & Tomato Stew

So, remember in my other post how I treasure one-pot meals? Here is the newest one I’ve tried.

This was my first time using eggplant in a recipe, though not the first time I’ve ever had it in my kitchen. I bought an eggplant once before (this was years ago) and had NO IDEA what to do with it. Sorry to say I likely tossed it out in frustration after cutting it open and being at a loss. I wasn’t about to make the same mistake twice – not only is wasting good food a crime against nature, it’s also a crime against a person’s wallet. 

Armed with another excellent recipe from One Green Planet I arranged all my ingredients on the counter alongside my trusty cutting board and set to work. Chopping vegetables is almost meditative for me – is that weird? With music playing and the house to myself I can easily get lost in the repetitive motions of slicing and dicing. If I was a prep cook in an actual restaurant, though, I doubt the novelty would last as long. But back to the recipe! While I had to make a special effort to pick up the eggplant from the grocery store, everything else in the recipe was already on hand. I didn’t have pink Himalayansalt so I substituted kosher salt and that seemed to work just fine. I also didn’t bother with purified water – not sure if this made any kind of difference, but I was willing to take that chance. Lastly, I added extra shallots because I like them and had some leftover from a different recipe – waste not want not!

stew2

stew 

I served the stew over plain white rice with some finely ground black pepper. Yum! 

The only thing I would change? I would definitely cut the eggplant into smaller pieces, and simmer them a little longer. Some of the chunks were still a touch stringy and tough. This made me question how interested I would be in using eggplant again, but to be fair, I will try this recipe at least once more with that little revision, to give it a fair shot. Also, next time I might consider throwing in some zucchini as well, just for a little more veggie power. 

You can find the recipe here: Eggplant Onion and Tomato Stew.

 

Light Summer Saute

I am a HUGE fan of one-pot meals. If a recipe has less than ten ingredients and can be cooked in just one pan or skillet or pot, sign me up! I like the absence of dishes to do when the cooking part is over. And, since starting my transition to veganism, cooking one-pot recipes has allowed me to flex my culinary muscles just the slightest bit and broaden my taste buds, trying out some new vegetables and spices. 

This summer, I’ve been super keen on working with asparagus. I know nothing about the vegetable, and up until this year, could not describe its smell, its taste, or its texture. Then, thanks to One Green Planet’s newsletter (a wonderful source of earth-friendly stories and information) I was provided with one of my new favourite recipes: Early Summer Light Veggie Saute. If you think the name is a mouthful, wait until you taste it!

So, not only does this recipe have asparagus, it also has my new favourite veggie zucchini (which I’d also never tried before this year). And, with only nine ingredients, the recipe fits all of my criteria. The steps are so clear and easy, there was no way I could screw this up! Okay, so maybe I did just a little… I may have overcooked (or over-sauteed, if you will) the vegetables just a touch, but that wasn’t enough to diminish the fresh, light-tasting meal that resulted. The only picture I took is of the finished product, with a side of plain white rice, packed up for my lunch. Perfection! Well, it might not look like perfection – everything is a little more brown that it probably should be – but it tasted fantastic! 

Veggie Saute

 

You can find the actual recipe (and a much more attractive image of the end result) here: http://www.onegreenplanet.org/vegan-recipe/early-light-summer-veggie-saute/

Mongolie Grill

One of my favourite restaurants as a budding vegan is the very veggie-friendly eatery  Mongolie Grill.

The way that Mongolie works is simple: after offering you your choice of soup (wonton, hot & sour, or curry lentil), the server gives you a large bowl; you take your bowl up to the ingredient bar, which borders the large round cooking surface where a group of chefs are busy at work, and you fill your bowl with whatever fresh ingredients you’d like! There is so much to choose from – tons of veggies, noodles, a variety of meats, seafood, peanuts and occasionally tofu.

Next, you add scoops of whichever mixture of sauces you desire (there are about twenty different sauce options) and then a chef takes your bowl, weighs it, and stir-fries your custom meal. The stir-fry is then served to you with your choice of rices (jasmine, coconut, plain white) or, a recent addition, rice noodles. Rice wraps are also offered to you at your table. The cost of the meal is determined by weight, so if it is your first time visiting Mongolie you might want to be a little more conservative with what and how much you fill your bowl. As an added bonus, if your bowl is veggie or vegan you receive a discount!

I visited Mongolie yesterday with my good friend Lisa and in my stir-fry I had baby corn, kale, red onions, a mountain of chickpeas, pineapple, some dried cranberries, broccoli, and mushrooms. For sauces I mixed three scoops of teriyaki sauce with one scoop of Korean peppercorn sauce and one scoop of something else that I have completely forgotten!! All the sauces I chose were fully vegan. There is a chart at the sauce station that lets you know which sauces are vegan, vegetarian, spicy, etc.I used to ask for the steamed white rice to accompany my stir-fry but the last few times I’ve switched to coconut rice and I love it! Coconut rice seems much more moist and flavorful.

Mongolie Grill stir-fry

Mongolie Grill vegan stir-fry

While I’m not sure what the full nutritional information is for my meal (who cares how many calories or how many grams of fat) I know that what I am eating is completely cruelty free and that I don’t need to worry about hidden substances in my food. I also like that there is a small reward for keeping your meal meat-less. I heartily recommend visiting a Mongolie Grill if you are lucky enough to live near one – you won’t be disappointed.

Live Clean

When making the decision to transition to living a wholly vegan lifestyle it is extremely easy to forget that being vegan involves more than just altering your diet. I have been very focused the past several months on eliminating all animal products and animal-derived products from my refrigerator and pantry that it wasn’t until this July that I finally started taking a look at the various home products I use every day.

Posts on the vegans-in-transition group I belong to on Facebook reassured me that it is completely okay to replace lifestyle products as they run out, instead of going through the home and purging everything all at once. While things have improved greatly over the last few years, vegan products do tend to run a little more expensive, and it can be difficult to match your ethics with your bankroll when it comes to buying groceries.

The first thing I’ve finished and that I wanted to choose an ethical replacement for was my shampoo and conditioner. I’ve been a long-time fan of Herbal Essences products, and was devastated a month or so ago when their name came up on a list of companies that still test their products on animals. I went to the Herbal Essences website and found on their frequently asked questions page that they vehemently deny testing on animals. While I find this very reassuring, for the time being I think I would prefer to support a fully vegan company. So, when I went shopping I chose to try Live Clean. I went with their Clean Air shampoo and conditioner, and let me tell you, I’m very impressed!

The shampoo is thick and smells amazing. It also lathers up really nicely, although not as much as my Herbal Essences did. I used about a loonie-sized drop and it covered my super long hair. The conditioner is also really nice – it doesn’t have as strong a scent but is also thick and left my hair soft and untangled. I’d also like to note that as gross as this is, I haven’t washed my hair for three days (I HAVE showered though) and my scalp isn’t greasy at all! Knowing that I’m getting use out of a great product that is also environmentally friendly makes me *that* much happier.

Conditioner2Shampoo2

 

Update August 6 2014:

After using live clean [clean air] shampoo and conditioner for the last couple of weeks I have to say I am noticing a definite improvement in my hair! My hair is lighter, and noticeably softer. I’d also like to add that the shampoo smells amazing – simple and fresh and just a little bit sweet. Love love love.