Laughs For Lives Fundrasier (or, For the Voiceless)

When listening to an advocate speak with passion and conviction about animal rights, it is impossible for me to remain dry-eyed. I have always been emotional, but there is something inimitably poignant about the fight for the freedom of animals; it is this ‘something’ that has resonated with me to such an extent that I have been moved to go vegan and to live the most compassionate life I possibly can. When Melissa, the surprisingly young founder and chief caregiver behind Farm Animal Rescue and Rehoming Movement, first took the stage to speak at the FARRM Laughs for Lives fundraiser last Friday March 20th, her voice shook with palpable emotion. Yes, some of it may have been the nervousness of speaking in front of a very full house. However, as she moved through the lines on the piece of paper she held, it was obvious to all in attendance that the words this young woman was speaking were not just from her heart, but pulled from the ethers, from the voiceless plight of the animals she battles on behalf of. By the time Melissa was finished her speech, I was not the only one wiping tears from my cheeks; even the most stoic spectator was touched.

When it comes to veganism it is very easy to get caught up in the more palatable concerns of the movement. We like to talk about what to eat, what recipes we should try, what vegan substitutes are available to satisfy any lingering omnivorous cravings. It can be easier than it should be to forget about the true root of veganism, which is the abstention from non-vegan products and materials as a form of activism in defence of the billions of animals brutally slaughtered for human consumption every year. Yes, there were long banquet tables laden with delicious vegan foods to savour at the fundraiser on Friday. There was fantastic music and comedy to help us all relax and enjoy ourselves after a long workweek. A cash bar was also available for those wishing to indulge in Friday night drinks. But, it was Melissa’s impassioned calls for mercy and compassion towards all living creatures that continue, days later, to echo in the chambers of my heart. Those selfless and full-of-heart people like Melissa who work so tirelessly to protect the vulnerable inspire me, and I am so thankful for them.

Simple Fruit Smoothie (Or, It’s Pretty Easy Being Green)

smoothie

I wouldn’t exactly call this a recipe… more like the throwing of various yummy things into a blender together just to see what might happen. It turned out tasty, though, so I thought I would share :) This is my easy Friday morning smoothie.

1 heaping cup chopped kale (no such thing as too much)
2 ripe bananas
1 cup frozen raspberries
1 cup frozen strawberries
1.5 cups pineapple juice
¼ cup almond milk
1 tbsp. of agave nectar

Optional: 3 tsp of chia seeds

Peel kale leaves from their stalks; either rip or chop the leaves into smaller pieces. Put all ingredients into blender. Blend, starting on lowest setting and then gradually increasing speed, until you have a beautifully smooth concoction. This makes enough for two big smoothies, so save half in a mason jar for the next day and enjoy the other one instantly!

Just a note: I add 3 tsp of chia seeds, but that might be too much crunch for you when combined with the raspberries. I just like to add the extra protein.

Approximate Nutritional Info Per Serving

Calories: 325
Fat: 8.4g
Protein: 4.85g
Carbs: 77.1g

My First Giveaway! (or, What’s Mine Is Yours!)

As some of you may or may not know, I started my very own Seed page on Facebook in order to better interact with others of the veggie community. To celebrate the people who take time out of their busy days to make compassionate choices, to live mindfully, AND to read my ramblings, I am having my very first giveaway. To be entered in the draw, all you need to do is like Seed on Facebook before March 30th, 2015 – its that easy!

Now for the good part – the prize!

rescuechoc1I came across Rescue Chocolate several months ago and knew that they would be a fantastic company to support. Not only do they donate all their profits to charity, they make VEGAN CHOCOLATE. Yes, please! So, my first giveaway will be for the 4 Paw Collection of Rescue Chocolates, wrapped all nice with a pretty red bow. Rescue Chocolate
As per the Rescue Chocolate website, “Our delectable hearts, bonbons, and organic chocolate bars are all vegan-friendly, kosher, and handcrafted in Brooklyn.” Sounds pretty darn good to me. And again, all you need to do is like Seed on Facebook before March 30th and your name will be entered in the draw, which will take place March 31st.

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Food Prep (or, To Err is Human, to Prep, Divine)

There is no such thing as perfection (sorry, Kanye), especially when it comes to regular folk making their way through the world. Look at me for example. Sure, I have a few selling points when it comes to my personality (I’m cute, I’m sweet, I’m good at celebrity trivia), but it is the nature of my species to be flawed, and when it comes to flaws, I’m no different than anyone else. Yes, I cry too much during romantic movies; and okay, I do sometimes think my taste in books (and music, and TV) is superior to that of others; no, I don’t want to share my popcorn with ANYONE when I’m at the movies; and fine, I admit it… I’m lazy.

I consider laziness my most troublesome fault, mainly because in all my encounters with people who are living a healthy, vibrant, vegan lifestyle – the kind of people I long to emulate –  I found these individuals to be highly motivated ‘doers’ who put as much time into their own well being as they do into all other areas of life. One of the places where successful, trim, and energetic people take extra time in their own lives is with the food that they eat. Food, as we’re coming to understand more and more these days, is a game-changer when it comes to our health and wellness. What we consume does more than just satisfy cravings or curb hunger pangs – it affects how our body feels and how it functions, from the tips of our toes to the roots of our hair.

This is where food prep(aration) comes in handy when striving to live a healthful life. Ultimately, food prep allows a person to do as much advanced meal preparation as possible when they have the free time to commit to it so that during the week, when most of us are exhausted by work and family and commitments, there are healthy meal options available that involve little to no energy to get from fridge to table. In the past I have allowed my previous lack of forethought and planning to result in many an unwise food choice, made on a stressful day, when its half past six and I have a desperately empty stomach. This is why the importance of food prep cannot be understated. While I’m sure there are others who can put all this more eloquently, here is my own simple approach:

First, I look at a LOT of recipes. I love recipes. I hoard recipes. I keep a digital folder of yummy-sounding dishes on my computer, and I also collect cookbooks and veggie magazine (like Laika). Then, on the weekend – usually Saturday afternoons – I peruse my collection, flip through the flagged pages of my various sources, and pick out a handful or two of recipes that I either want to try, or have tried before and want to make again.

Next, I whittle my options down by asking myself the following questions:

* what ingredients does the recipe call for that I already have
* what ingredients will I need to purchase
* how much do I have budgeted to spend on groceries for the coming week
* how easy to store/freeze are the recipes
* and lastly, how adventurous do I feel?

Best case scenario, I end up with a few good meal choices that I know I can afford, that I am confident I will enjoy, and that I trust to be nutritionally sound. These foods I decide to make will be in batches large enough to portion out, with half going into the ice box for longevity. A few simple entrees that are easily pulled out of the freezer can be mixed and matched with other easy meals like toasted sandwiches, tossed salads, and quick foods like oatmeal and veggie burgers, to keep your diet varied and appetizing.

Then, I make my grocery list and do the shopping. This step involves getting up off the couch, so its not exactly my favourite part. Don’t forget – it is important to check the contents of your refrigerator and pantry cupboards regularly – not just to get rid of any funky smells or ancient dried goods, but to see what you have, what you can use, and what you need. You might be able to cut a few things off of your grocery list if you find suitable substitutes already in stock. Fortunately, the grocery shopping itself is much more fun that cataloging the contents of one’s kitchen.

groceries

Sundays are usually my cooking day. I take over the kitchen, occupying every square inch of counter space I have, and group my supplies by recipe. I’m no pro at cooking, so when I actually get to preparing my meals, its pretty much guaranteed that a mess will be made.  But that’s okay – its my space, right? And at the end of all the washing, rinsing, cutting, dicing, peeling, simmering, sauteing, and baking, what is a pile of dishes and a dirty counter compared to a ready supply of nutritious meals for the week?

Now, obviously, I’m no expert. I’m just taking things day by day and doing my very best. But, I’ve been finding a lot of success with my eating and diet now that I’ve started paying more attention to fixing and preparing good, hearty foods for meal time, and by doing so in advance..

What are some of your favourite make-ahead meals?

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Book Review: Eating Animals

About five years ago I picked up a discounted hardcover copy of Jonathan Safran Foer’s nonfiction book, Eating Animals. I never did end up reading it – I kept putting it off until it was eventually purged in one of my many moves. But, the existence of the book stuck with me, and when I re-committed to living vegan it was the first veggie non-cookbook I picked up. To say that Eating Animals has changed my life would be a bit dramatic. I’ve been obsessed with the injustices of the factory farm industry for the last year, so there was little in the nearly-300 hundred pages that fully shocked me. What this book did, though, was educate me on a system of cruelty in the most intelligent and thought-provoking way.

eatinganimals

If you’re coming into veganism or vegetarianism motivated more by health concerns that anything, you might not know exactly what factory farming is. If you’re an animal lover, but an omnivore, you might have an idea of where your food comes from, but prefer not to think about it. If you’re already an ethical vegan or vegetarian, you might not know the statistics that Jonathan Safran Foer digs up during his research, but you know the gist. Well, this book is for all of us. No matter what your stance on eating meat, you will find words in this book that resonate with you.

Safran Foer does the unthinkable – he, while himself a vegetarian – shares the wealth of information he has accumulated over a three year period with a mostly-unbiased, kindly and entirely human perspective on our own species’ strengths and our faults. He speaks at length on the importance of food to our culture, to our traditions, and the role food plays in evoking and preserving precious memories of the past.

“Our decisions about food are complicated by the fact that we don’t eat alone. Table fellowship has forged social bonds as far back as the archaeological record allows us to look. Food, family, and memory are primordially linked. We are not merely animals that eat, but eating animals.” (page 194)

The author understands that choosing not to eat meat, while being the ethically sound choice when confronted by the nightmarish magnitude of the damage that factory farms are causing to our planet and to the billions of animals slaughtered in its wake, is not as simple as some vegan idealists might like everyone to think. And that is something that I can relate to.

I did not stop eating meat because I didn’t like the taste. Trust me. I’m not one of the lucky ones who is revolted by the smell of a steak barbecuing, the aroma of fatty pork sizzling on the stove, or the scent of a perfectly seared salmon steak. But, I am fully conscious. I am awake to the reality of where those foods came from. I cannot divorce myself from the truth – that the chunks of chicken in my favorite chicken salad sandwich are the bodily remnants of a living, breathing creature. She had a beating heart. She had the ability to experience joy. The desires of my taste buds are not worth the knowledge that I am responsible for her death.

Eating Animals is an incredible read. I am so impressed with Jonathan Safran Foer’s ability to craft a treatise that does not alienate anyone, regardless of where they stand on living meat-free. He even goes so far as to advocate for traditional heritage farming, if only as an alternative to factory farming.

I would recommend this book to absolutely everyone, and will endeavor to share it with whomever will listen as I continue on my vegan journey.

On Sandwiches (or, War of the Cheeses)

UPDATE:  So, the GO Veggie! slices I’ve been eating are NOT vegan. I’ve had several kind people correct me on this. I’ll definitely be sharing a post soon about the importance of ALWAYS checking the ingredients list. I took it for granted from the name that these cheese slices were vegan, but they actually contain casein, which is an animal protein. I apologize for misrepresenting this product.**

 

Okay. SO. I might be one of the few people to feel this way, but I honestly cannot stand Daiya cheese. No more hemming and hawing for me. I have now tried Daiya in four formats (cream cheese, block cheddar, sliced cheddar, and sliced swiss) as well as combined into two recipes and no matter how badly I wanted to be able to, I couldn’t – just couldn’t – stomach it. Maybe my dislike for these products stems from having eaten dairy cheese too recently to not compare the Daiya to it. Does a longer distance between tasting “real” cheese and tasting Daiya cheese make a difference in one’s enjoyment of the latter?  I may have to try Daiya a little further along down the road to test this theory.

For now, though, I’m quite happy to trumpet my enjoyment of a different cheese brand, Go Veggie! Cheese. I buy their cheddar-style cheese slices from Safeway (I’m miles away from the nearest Planet Organic or Earth’s General Store, so I take what I can get) and not only do I find the packages of slices reasonably priced, I also find that they taste almost exactly like the processed cheese slices I used to eat in my omnivore days.

GO Veggie!

I love sandwiches, and the Go Veggie! cheese slices help make for a hearty breakfast, lunch, or dinner (sandwiches are perfect any time of the day, IMHO). When constructing one of my beloved sammies I like to start with some Veganaise slathered atop a vegan bagel (no L-cysteine for me, thanks). Next, I lay on the piece of cheese – or two if I’m feeling fancy-free –  and then I top the cheese with a little lettuce, a slice of tomato, a couple of rings of white onion, and lots and lots of alfalfa sprouts! So good, and so filling. That was actually the only way I’d tried Go Veggie! slices until this week when I FINALLY attempted to make one of my former favourite foods, the grilled cheese sandwich. I love grilled cheese sandwiches, so much so that I don’t even want to tell you how many I could eat in one sitting (hint: it’s not pretty). I had tried with Daiya sliced cheese early last year and it was so awful I hadn’t felt inspired to try again. Thankfully, this much-overdue second attempt turned out fantastic. Crispy, buttery, gooey and perfect, I found myself in grilled cheese heaven. Thanks, Go Veggie! for rockin’ my world.

gilledcheese

“Pulled” Carrots (or, They Can’t All Be Winners)

I’m not sure if I’m unique in this, but I’ve never tried pulled pork. Not once. Not ever in my life. I remember a little while ago it seemed like pulled pork was EVERYWHERE – featured in every fast food restaurant able to afford mainstream TV advertising (Subway, I’m looking at you). The taste never appealed to me though, so I left the phenomenon untouched until recently, when I found a vegan version of pulled pork that used carrots as the main component rather than the flesh of an innocent animal.

The recipe, which you can find here – http://www.thekitchn.com/stewed-carrots-the-new-pulled-pork-old-ingredient-new-trick-215252 – is very simple. So simple that it would take someone pretty ridiculous to mess it up. What has two thumbs and can’t make pulled carrots? This guy!

Let’s start from the beginning. The recipe called for carrots (natch), and uninterested in the time-consuming process of cutting said carrots into matchsticks I thought I’d go for the spiralizer suggestion. Except, I don’t have a spiralizer. So, I used my regular veggie peeler to make long, flat strips of carrot. I sautéed some onion and garlic in oil until it was nicely aromatic, and then added a honey garlic barbecue sauce I found in the fridge (fully vegan) along with the carrots. I made sure there was enough sauce to make a mixture that bubbled as it cooked, and left the pan on the stove for a good fifteen minutes over  medium-high heat.

pulledcarrots

After stirring the carrots a few times, I decided they were sufficiently cooked through. I swiped a touch of vegan margarine on a hamburger bun, then piled some of the stewed carrots on top. Adding the extra thickened sauce as recommended, along with a touch of salt and pepper, the finished product LOOKED good. Sadly, it did not taste the way I’d hoped.

pulledcarrotsandwich

I’m not sure if I didn’t let the carrots cook long enough, but they were still tough to bite into, not soft at all like I’d been expecting. And, the barbecue sauce I used did not suit the dish – much too sweet when combined with the natural sweetness of the carrots. I finished the sandwich, but more out of duty than enjoyment. I COULD try this recipe again, with a longer cooking time and a different sauce, but really don’t feel motivated to do so. Has anyone else tried something similar that worked?