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VegWeek, Day 4: Cookbook Recs!

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I have a shorter lunch break at work today, but I thought I’d pop in quickly and share my top 5 vegan cookbooks for today’s VegWeek post. I feel these are the best cookbooks for the beginning vegan.

Top Recipes / Cookbooks

1. The Grit Cookbook: World-Wise, Down-Home Recipes by Jessica Greene and Ted Hafer: This cookbook is from my favorite restaurant, The Grit, in downtown Athens, Georgia. When I go I love to get the Golden Bowl and some Vegan Chocolate Death Cake. This is the first vegetarian cookbook I ever purchased. Not all the recipes are vegan, but all are vegetarian. I will say that some of the recipes lack clear directions and some recipes seem to have 500 ingredients, but most recipes are simple and delicious. Favorite recipes – gazpacho, hummus, spicy Thai noodles

2. Vegan with a Vengeance: Over 150 Delicious, Cheap, Animal-Free Recipes that Rock by Isa Chandra Moskowitz: A friend found this gem for me at a thrift store when I was dairy-free while nursing Atticus. The recipes are simple, delicious and it truly contains cheap ingredients. The scone recipe is so versatile; I use it as a base and I add in things to make new flavors. I’ve made pear chai, apple cinnamon, chocolate walnut, and strawberry cardamom scones. Favorite recipes – scones, best pumpkin muffin, carrot bisque

3. Appetite for Reduction: 125 Fast and FillingLow-Fat Vegan Recipes by Isa Chandra Moskowitz: This book contains nutritional information for each recipe. The baked tofu is amazing and great in stirfry, salad, or just on its own. Favorite recipes – basic baked tofu, garlicky mushrooms and kale, curry laska

4. Isa Does It: Amazingly Easy, Wildly Delicious Vegan Recipes for Everyday of the Week by Isa Chandra Moskowitz: I know I’m plugging Isa like crazy, but her cookbooks are fun and they have great directions for cooking, building your pantry, and cooking techniques. I could have easily picked a dozen recipes to share and my omnivore family has never turned down a meal out of this cookbook. Favorite recipes – chicky tuna salad sandwiches, cornbread muffins, phyllo pot pie

5. Local Bounty: Vegan Seasonal Recipes by Devra Gartenstein: The ultimate farmer’s market cookbook! Divided by seasons, each recipe uses seasonal produce in creative, simple, and delicious ways. Favorite recipes – lentils in fennel with sweet peppers, morel mushrooms with new potatoes and fresh peas, garlic and herb sauce

Let me know which cookbooks you like or which of these tickles your fancy!

VegWeek, Day 3: Stock your Pantry!

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Today for VegWeek I’m going to give you my list of products that are helpful to have on hand when transitioning to a vegetarian diet. I’ll start out with convenience items that are brand specific and then I’ll give a more generic pantry list.

Brands

Earth Balance Buttery Spread: I use this buttery spread on everything from my morning toast to baking. There are several types of spread including original, olive oil, and soy free. You can also purchase Earth Balance sticks for baking.

Vegenaise: This product is a little pricey, but worth it if you take your sandwiches to work and really like mayo. I made coleslaw the other day with Vegenaise and Sam and the kids thought I used mayo. It isn’t as thick and “fatty” tasting as mayo. In fact, I would say it is significantly superior to mayonnaise.

– Almond Milk or other alternative milks: I use which ever almond milk is on sale and I prefer the unsweetened. I use almond milk in all my baking and cooking that requires milk and I’ve never experienced any difference in the final result. My coffee drink of choice is an americano with almond milk and raw sugar; delicious and under 100 calories for a large cup. There are all kinds of “alternative” milk: soy, hemp, coconut, rice, etc…. Personally, I don’t care for soy milk on its own, but I will use it in a pinch. For making cream based soups I recommend using canned coconut milk (Thai Kitchen is the one I usually buy). It is wonderfully thick and creamy.

– Silk French Vanilla Soy Creamer: I use this coffee creamer at home and at work. I don’t have to add any sugar and it doesn’t have a weird soy after taste. Bonus Product: Silk makes an “egg”less soy nog around the Christmas holidays and I love it!

– Bars Galore: Clif, Lara, or Kind bars are great to have on hand for quick breakfasts or to put in your bag / office desk as a “hangry” prevention stash. Not all are vegan so you do have to read the labels, but I know that the Larabars print on the front if the bar is vegan. Another tip, I watch for sales and grab any coupons I can for these. There are recipes where you can make your own bars, but if you can afford it having a few on hand helps.

–  Fake Meat: I only have fake meat about twice a week; the rest of the time my protein comes from nuts, beans, tofu, or vegetables. When I do buy fake meat I watch for sales. In my city, Kroger and Publix have a fairly good selection and the products go on sale regularly. The brands I like are Quorn, Gardein, Kroger’s Simple Truth brand, and Lightlife. Sometimes I will get Boca or Morningstar products but not all of them are vegan and Morningstar DOES contain GMOs. So what “kind” of fake meat do I buy? Bacon, sausage, burgers, lunch meat, hotdogs, chick’n nuggets, ground “beef”, “meat” balls, etc…. This food can be very processed and it is expensive if you don’t buy it on sale or wait for when you have coupons. I would stick to having “fake” meat maybe two or three times a week to keep cost down.

So Delicious Ice Cream: There are several other brands I like, but this is hands down my favorite. I prefer the coconut and almond milk desserts. Last week I had Almond milk Butter pecan ice cream. OMG, it was delicious. Once again, wait for coupons and sales!

–Oreos: That’s right. Oreos are vegan. At last a food readily available that you can eat with no one pestering you.

–Endangered Species Chocolate: Several of their chocolate bars are vegan. My favorite are the holiday flavors: Dark Chocolate with Vanilla Chai and Pumpkin Spice and Almonds. Delicious chocolate and it helps the Earth with 10% of the profits go to conservation efforts.

–Nature’s Own 100% Wheat Bread: I’d love to say that I bake all my own bread, but I am a human with a full-time job and three kids. I “knead” some go-to bread for in a pinch. This brand has no preservatives AND it is vegan. Lots of store brand breads contain products derived from animal fat, eggs, or dairy.

***A Note on Cheese*** I have yet to find a vegan cheese worth the cost. They are expensive and the flavor isn’t as “cheese” like as I’d like. I’d rather make a pasta with a cashew cream sauce, put avocado on my sandwich, make tofu ricotta, or just do without.

Other Pantry Staples:

These are products that I keep stocked. There are many more products, but I just get what is cheapest and what my family enjoys. Also — this doesn’t include all of my baking items (baking powder, vanilla, etc…). You can find a more expansive list here.

– Rice: brown and jasmine

– Pasta: couscous, orzo, spaghetti, penne, and elbow macaroni

– Grains: barley, red quinoa, regular quinoa

– Beans: white, black, pinto, garbanzo, and kidney beans. I also like to keep some frozen edamame on hand

– Canned Fruit/Juices: spicy V-8, canned pumpkin, canned pineapple, craisins, raisins, pineapple juice, unsweetened applesauce

– Nuts and seeds: various nut butters, cashews, pecans, walnuts, almonds, tahini, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, pepitas

– Breakfast goods: cream of wheat, oatmeal, steel cut oats, cereal

– Frozen items: all sorts of frozen vegetables like peas, corn, broccoli, stir-fry mixes

– Spices, herbs, seasonings: vegetable broth bouillon cubes, basil, cilantro, parsley, dill, sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano, sea salt, cracked pepper, paprika, smoked paprika, ginger, garlic. I have a variety of dried and fresh.

– Other deliciousness makers: Sririacha, balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, soy sauce, mirin, sesame oil, olive oil, coconut oil, sweet chili sauce, lemon juice, lime juice, apple cider vinegar, roasted red peppers, pickles, sundried tomatoes, olives, etc…. Go crazy.

– Fruits and Vegetables because DUH

I hope that gives you some idea of what I stock in my vegan pantry. Tomorrow I’ll discuss recipes and before the end of the week I’ll explain my shopping process in detail.

Don’t forget the contest!!!

The contest!

I’m going to be giving away at least two books by the end of the week: Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals and How to be Vegan by Elizabeth Castoria. All you have to do is leave a comment, like, share, or tweet my blog posts this week. That’s it. One entry for each mode of communication (for example, if you comment, like, share on Facebook, and tweet this post you’ll get four entries). Next week I’ll use the random number generator to pick the winners.

Thanks for participating in VegWeek 2014 at Fig and Thistle!

VegWeek, Day 2: Books and Documentaries

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Welcome to day two of VegWeek at Fig and Thistle. Today I’m going to give a list of books (not cookbooks, that’s later in the week) and documentaries that helped to shape my ideas about eating animals.

Books

Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. If you read one book on vegetarianism, let it be this one. Beautifully written, well-researched, and not judgmental, Eating Animals explores not only the why of vegetarianism, but also the importance of vegetarians working to change — not eliminate — the meat industry.

The MaddAddam Trilogy by Margaret Atwood. I don’t know if Atwood intended this to be a pro-veggie novel. Pigoons are so smart and factory farming has so devastated the environment in this trilogy. I don’t see how you can read this and not see that maybe vegetarianism is a good idea.

Ishmael: An Adventure of Mind and Spirit by Daniel Quinn. I almost didn’t include this book as I haven’t read it since college. This is the book that single-handedly changed me from a Randian Objectivist (pro-selfishness and all) to a far left liberal who wants to love every living thing. If you need a book to get you out of thinking of man as superior to all living things, this is the book to do it.

How to be Vegan by Elizabeth Castoria. I picked this book up over the weekend. It is slim, friendly, informative and great for learning about veganism (and how to not be an asshole vegan) if you are a newbie.

Raising Vegetarian Children: A guide to Good Health and Family Harmony by Joanne Stepaniak and Vasanto Melina. I checked this out of the library last year when I was concerned about being vegetarian while nursing. This comprehensive guide is chock-full of recipes, tips, and health information about veganism / vegetarianism in children and infants.
 

Documentaries

Earthlings. I’ve only made it through about 15 minutes of this movie. Narrated by Joaquin Phoenix, this film is nicknamed “the vegan maker.” It is full of undercover footage of the slaughterhouses AND the dairy and egg industry. This is certainly not a film for children and I wouldn’t let my teenager watch it.

Food Inc. I think a ton of people have seen this movie. This film talks about how factory farming has made getting healthy food near impossible and you may freak out about chemicals and conspiracy theories involving your food after watching this. Food Inc underlines my point about it being impractical for everyone to turn vegetarian; it will take vegetarians and omnivores working together to change the system. This title is streaming on Netflix.

The Garden. Watch this documentary after Food Inc and be prepared to get pissed. This documentary tells the story of some south side LA gardeners working in a community garden. Do to political corruption and capitalism, their expansive garden gets BULLDOZED to the ground. I like to have folks watch this film when I am told that vegetarianism is hippie dippie love stuff. Being vegan is completely punk. Our food is controlled by giant, wealthy, evil corporations. What better way to say F.U. to corporate evil than boycotting their main product and DIYing your food?

Vegucated. This is a great beginner documentary. Funny and illuminating, Vegucated follows three people as they attempt to go vegan for six weeks. This is a great beginner film and it is appropriate for teenage audiences. This title is streaming on Netflix.

Please visit your library, Netflix, etc… and check out one of these titles. Let me know your recommendations or what you are planning on reading/watching in the comments.

And don’t forget the contest:

The contest!

I’m going to be giving away at least two books by the end of the week: Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals and How to be Vegan by Elizabeth Castoria. All you have to do is leave a comment, like, share, or tweet my blog posts this week. That’s it. One entry for each mode of communication (for example, if you comment, like, share on Facebook, and tweet this post you’ll get four entries). Next week I’ll use the random number generator to pick the winners.

Thanks for participating in VegWeek 2014 at Fig and Thistle!

VegWeek at Fig and Thistle

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Tomorrow marks the beginning of US VegWeek 2014!

To celebrate loving life and to encourage people to make small changes in their diet that makes a huge impact on the world, I’m going to join in the festivities and declare this week VegWeek at Fig and Thistle.

This week I will be focusing on books, products and links that educate and support a vegetarian lifestyle. I’ll be sharing how I grocery shop and some basic recipes. I will not be shaming people’s food choices or linking material that exposes the violence animals face at the hands of factory farming. Several of the books, links, and resources I provide will educate on the perils of factory farming. Instead, I would rather make this a positive place to learn about vegetarian/veganism and I would rather see many people make small, manageable changes that are good for the animals, our health, and our earth instead of alienating masses of people. I am even hosting a contest! More on that later.

When I tell people I am a vegetarian (or recently vegan) I am concerned that people feel awkward around me. They immediately apologize for the lunchmeat they ate in front of me, or for expressing a desire for a cheeseburger, or that time they accidentally asked if I wanted a hot dog, etc…. No one needs to apologize to me. I am not under the delusion that one day everyone will wake up and be vegan. There will always be omnivores. I would rather encourage that folks vote with their dollars to support more humane ways of eating meat, dairy, and eggs. There are several reasons why folks legitimately cannot become vegetarian. I hate it when the vegetarian community ignores this and blithely states that everyone can “goveg.” I’m not talking about protein consumption, I’m talking about poverty.

Right now my children are omnivores. We are vegetarian at home, but the children get their meals at school. I pay for daycare for Atticus and Persy Jane and their omnivore meals are included. Hope receives free lunch at school. Sam eats at the university cafeteria for free. To pack lunches for my children and husband would nearly double our grocery budget. Last year, we qualified for WIC. WIC is a program that provides supplemental nutritional assistance for women, infants, and children. We received free milk, cheese, eggs, and canned fish. I couldn’t afford to turn away free food and it is ridiculous to ask anyone to do that. Yes, beans are easy to cook and cheap, but free cheese can stretch that bean meal even further. Also, there are people who live in economically depressed areas called “food deserts.” Often there are no grocery stores and food must be bought at convenience stores where the products are more expensive and produce is nearly nonexistent. I’ve experienced something similar by not having a reliable mode of transportation until I was 28. I had to walk to the drugstore sometimes and buy what I could there. There’s also one of the few perks of working in the food industry: leftovers. Technically many restaurants bar giving away leftover food, but lucky for me the pizza shop I worked at in high school didn’t follow that. I was transient as a teenager for a space of several months. Almost 50% of my meals came from the pizza shop. Screwed up on a supreme pizza? Yay, I get to eat dinner. Bottom line: for vegetarians to smugly sit atop their Whole Foods existence and declare that those who eat animals are evil is hypocritical at best, cruel at worst. Denying people access to healthy food is an unconscionable violence in a country as rich as ours.  It is the duty of those who are able to change our system of factory farming AND find a way to feed the hungry.

If I’m not advocating veganism then what is the point of VegWeek? Well, I feel pretty passionately about ending cruelty to animals, improving working conditions for those who work in slaughter-houses (yeah, they’re bad to people, too), and empowering people to eat healthier. I would like to encourage people to make a change to their diet this week. It can be a big change or a little change. Whatever. Just change. Here are a few examples of goals you can make for VegWeek and maybe you’ll even extend those changes past VegWeek:

  1. Switch to almond, rice, soy, or hemp milk.
  2. Make your lunches vegetarian or vegan for the week.
  3. Maybe be more adventurous and try being vegan for all meals before 6pm.
  4. Try going meatless for one dinner a week.
  5. Check a vegetarian cookbook out of the library and make one recipe (Pinterest is great, too!)
  6. Use a local farm for your milk and eggs
  7. Buy EarthBalance and use it in place of butter throughout the week
  8. Visit a vegetarian restaurant.
  9. Go vegetarian (no meat or fish)
  10. Go vegan (no animal products)

All of these changes impact the lives of animals, the health of our earth, and work to change our current food system. Little changes add up if you are unable to do a big change (like going vegan).

The contest!

I’m going to be giving away at least two books by the end of the week: Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals and How to be Vegan by Elizabeth Castoria. All you have to do is leave a comment, like, share, or tweet my blog posts this week. That’s it. One entry for each mode of communication (for example, if you comment, like, share on Facebook, and tweet this post you’ll get four entries). Next week I’ll use the random number generator to pick the winners.

Thanks for participating in VegWeek 2014 at Fig and Thistle!

 

Care and Keeping of Me: Veganizing my Life

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Earlier this year I decided to write about weight loss and health once a week. My first post was supposed to be about binge eating and counting calories and instead I wrote this. My wee blog that boast three comments on a “successful” post grew enormously. I didn’t have a single negative comment, all 100 comments were encouraging. However, I quickly became a shrinking violet. Do I really want to blog about my weight so publicly? If my blog continues to grow will I have trolls? I did have a few people contact me with serious mental health issues regarding PTSD or self-harm or eating disorders. I’m kind of at a loss of what to do to help them and I decided all I could do is STRONGLY encourage them to seek professional help. I am moved by the response to that post and I hope it helps others, but I freaked out over the attention.

I’ve waited for a bit and once folks realized I mostly blog about babies and books, I’ve seen a drop in pages views, comments, and shares. Now I am comfortable again. If you joined me after my eating disorder post and you’re still here then “Hi!” (waves excitedly). We probably have more in common than eating disorders and you are most likely a kindred spirit. Thanks for sticking around.

Now that I’m comfortable blogging again, I want to address my idea concerning a regular feature on weight loss and health. The focus will not be weight loss, although that will be a part of it, because I want to write about my physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Care and Keeping of Me posts will discuss weight loss, cooking, exercise, journaling, mental health, etc…. This puts my sole focus off of the number on the scale and will encompass my entire live style change to live in a way kind to me, my family, and the environment. This week I’m discussing new project: becoming vegan.

Last year, while on maternity leave with Persy Jane, I watched several documentaries on vegetarianism, factory farming and health. I decided to become a pescatarian. After reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals last April I decided to go completely vegetarian. I have been completely vegetarian since April 5th, 2013. I have accidentally ingested meat three times since then and I can honestly say that I have no craving or desire to ever eat meat. Last year I told myself that if I went a full year being vegetarian with no health issues, cravings, or surrendering I would go vegan in April of 2014.

Eating Vegan

There are two reasons why I’m going vegan:

  1. The dairy and egg industry is every bit as cruel to animals as the meat industry. Cows are kept pregnant, separated from their young, and constantly pumped for milk. The egg industry has no use for male chicks and grinds and burns live chicks they view as extraneous. Personally, I felt that eating dairy and eggs was not eating in a kind manner. My family is still consuming dairy and eggs and I will discuss that later.
  2. Dairy is my trigger food. I crave dairy: ice cream and cheese in particular. This craving is never satiated. I can eat a large vanilla frosty and immediately want another. The more I eat, the more I want, and the worse I feel. I get stomach cramps and gas, my skin breaks out, and I feel sluggish and tired. I know this is the dairy doing it. When I was dairy-free while nursing Atticus (and for a little bit Persy Jane) my skin cleared, my stomach issues abated, I slept better, and I quit craving dairy. I have been vegan since Saturday and I’ve already lost 5 pounds. 5 pounds. I lost weight because I didn’t eat desserts, cheese, ice cream, and candy. My stomach issues are already getting better and I am less sluggish at work.

My Family and How We Eat

I’ve made the choice to be vegan and Sam has agreed on being vegetarian at home. We do not purchase meat at the grocery store. Sam eats meat at work or if her dines out and Atticus and Persy Jane eat meat at daycare. Hope has been vegetarian for over a year, but recently informed me she wanted to eat meat again. I believe that being vegetarian is a choice my kids will have to make on their own. After all, I can pack all the vegetarian food I want, but if they want to eat meat they will be able to.

I plan on writing a longer post about grocery shopping, but I’ve been using Nature’s Garden Express for the bulk of our organic produce. I also get one gallon of low-pasteurized, grass-fed milk (the mamas get to stay with their babies) and a dozen free range eggs from a local farmer. While I support veganism, I also know it is important to vote with my dollar for at least a switch to a kinder way of farming dairy and eggs.

I will keep you all updated on my progress!

 

A Whirlwind Week in Review

springbreak2014Last week was insanely busy. Hope was on spring break so I worked half-days to spend some time with her. I thought there would be downtime last week for blogging and reading and, boy, I was wrong!

Here is my week at a glance:

Monday: The day was rainy. I accomplished a fair amount of work for the four hours I was there. I grabbed some lunch at Moe’s alone because Hope wanted to Facebook chat with her friends rather than go to lunch. I read a good chunk of Alias Grace while eating a burrito and with no mess. A proud moment for sure. When I got home I had some letters and postcards in my mail box and that was a treat. Then I spent some time piddling around the house and tidying. I made some hummus and some vanilla coffee creamer. It was a quiet, homey, rainy day and I loved it.

Tuesday: Chaos descended at work. I found out 45 minutes before I left that I had to completely vacate my cubicle and find a “temporary” home in the library. Construction on new offices was beginning. While I was excited about being out of a cube and into, an office having no notice and this being the very busy end of term season led to a minor meltdown. I used every expletive I know under my breath (okay, many were uttered aloud). When I arrived home — 45 minutes late — I took Hope to lunch. Then we spend the afternoon doing chores and chatting.

Wednesday: I left work at a reasonable time and went to see Divergent with Hope. I really enjoyed the movie; it was like The Matrix meets The Hunger Games meets Harry Potter. I probably won’t read the books as I hear the next two are a disappointment, but I did enjoy the film. After the movie we went shopping for Hope’s spring formal dress. She bought a cute, strapless mint green dress. She looks adorable in it, but so grown-up!

Thursday: Work was uneventful and then I ate lunch at the cafeteria with Sam. Afterwards I went to Target with Hope for more shopping and grabbed the kids’ Easter basket supplies. I did manage to squeeze in some reading time at the coffee shop between shopping and picking up the kids from daycare. Go me.

Friday: THE BUSIEST DAY EVER. The morning started with grocery shopping at Aldi and Kroger. Then I raced home to put away groceries and shower. Then — huzzah! — one of my closest friends from college, Amanda J., called to say she was in town for our reunion. We met up for lunch and talked for ages about politics, books, and our lives. It was awesome. Then at 3 o’clock I had a hair appointment. Not only did I get my hair cut and dyed the purpliest its been, but my friend and hair dresser Jessica also did my makeup. That night Sam and I got glitzy to go to my 10-year college reunion. It was okay, I wish more English majors had been there. When we had enough of being fancy we left and went to Chili’s. We sat at Chili’s for an hour snacking on chips and talking.

Saturday: I worked at the library all day and some of my college friends (Amanda J, Sara, and Becca) stopped in and we talked and laughed for ages.

I had such a wonderful week of doing stuff with Hope and seeing friends. I will say that I am a bit tired and Sunday I took an awesome two hour nap that was much needed.

To thine own introvert-self be true, I am planning on laying low this week. I really want to finish my book, do a little writing, and pick up some knitting.