Food for Thought
“A man can live and be healthy without killing animals for food; therefore, if he eats meat, he participates in taking animal life merely for the sake of his appetite. And to act so is immoral.”
—Leo Tolstoy, Russian novelist (1828–1910)
I’ve migrated my bloggy blog over to www.hotveganmess.com. Visit me there!
On Monday I made a few dishes to use throughout the week – roasted sweet potatoes and carrots, barley and beets (from Appetite for Reduction), succotash, and baked tofu. I find that having a few sides already prepared makes dinner so much more manageable (and if dinner totally bombs I can still feed the family without resorting to fast food) and makes lunches a snap. I try to make a grain, some veggies, and a protein at the beginning of every week. I’ve been making quinoa, but the beets and barley are so yummy and so beautiful!
As I (think) I mentioned here Chris and I are going 100% vegan during Lent. I’ve been cooking vegan since October/ November, but we have still been eating omni out in the world. It’s just felt too hard to find viable vegan options in our area and I was also worried about alienating friends and family and making communal meals uncomfortable for others and unpalatable for me.
But the more I’ve learned and the more I think about it I just need to stop eating/using all animal products. So we are, at least for Lent. We’re considering it a trial run to see if we can do this successfully in our community. So far so good, I’ve eaten out twice, once at a Chinese buffet where my options were limited but fine. And we ate at Qdoba and it was fabulous. I love Qdoba anyway and always get a veggie burrito, this was the first time I asked them to hold the cheese and sour cream. Chris had veggie gumbo and bean tacos with no cheese. And the verdict? Pure awesomeness!! Yay! We can eat out and still enjoy the food! Cool! Next stop The Java Joint, which usually has a variety of vegan options and Nawab, the local Indian restaurant.
So my other issue, eating at other people’s home without being the “problem child” they have to work around. I went to a birthday/dinner party over the weekend. It was a panini party. Easy, I loaded up on hummus and veggies and it was all no big deal. I didn’t have a piece of the birthday cake, but did have clementines for dessert. No big deal.
The cooking side of things has been normal, better even. On Monday, my dinner was a hideous mess. Before I would have called Chris to grab some fast food on his way home from work. But instead, I poked through my leftovers and whipped up a quick fabulous meal. YAY!
Have you seen those “sneaky” cookbooks at the library or the bookstore? You know, they promise to show you how to sneak food into your kid’s food (and your husband’s). When I was starting my healthier food journey I picked up a couple from the library. I even had a charming, self-deprecating chat with my librarian about how I was trying to get my man to eat better.
Big mistake. One in particular was soooooooo horrible. Men, according to the book, are worse than kids (note, that means kids are bad) when it comes to eating healthy. Appealing to them using reason will never work. The only way to “save” your family is by deceiving them and “hiding” healthy ingredients in so-so food. In particular by pureeing different combinations of veggies and adding them to your recipes, by color. It’s Color Me Vegan’s evil twin.
Deception is just not a good thing. Sneaking “healthy” food is the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” of eating. And it certainly doesn’t teach your kids (or partner or yourself) about making healthier choices.
A better idea is having many conversations with your family about the food you are serving them. Explain what different foods “do” for your body. Talk about all of the different ingredients in each dish. The first thing my kids do when they sit down to dinner is try and identify all the different ingredients in their meal.
An even better idea get the whole family involved in cooking. My kids love to try the raw ingredients in a dish. Katie even tries tiny bits of the spices.
Another good idea, recognizing that not everyone likes everything. If my kids and/or husband are vehemently against something I just don’t cook it. Mushrooms are something that almost never darkens our fridge. Forcing them to eat something they don’t like will never make them like it.
All that said I do add things into dishes just to amp up the nutrition.
I almost always add corn to my chilis
Adding greens to a soups. Just yesterday I added shredded brussel sprouts to my pasta y fagioli soup.
When sauteeing greens I add something high in Vitamin C. Tomatoes and kale, Pineapple juice and collards. It takes the edge off the bitter and make the iron in the greens more accessible to your system.
And I also try to amp up William’s lunches. He’s been addicted to meat and cheese sandwiches for too long.
If he really enjoys a dinner and we have leftovers I ask him if he would like it for lunch the next day. Then we heat it up and toss it in a soup thermos.
No chips, veggies instead – he loves carrots and celery so those are my go-to additions.
Fruit is a must – and the one thing he will always eat. Apples, clementines, applesauce, strawberries,grapes, and pears. He loves them all.
First: A comment about Just Eating?, two suggested actions were to ask for help in the kitchen to reduce stress on the cook and find ways to make food prep more enjoyable. I’ve dragged my netbook into the kitchen and play tunes on Pandora while cooking, and have asked that Chris handle the dishes (which he does a lot of the time anyway), and the kids are setting the table. It’s definitely made my time in the kitchen more engaging and fun.
I recently bought Color Me Vegan, it is the most gorgeous cookbook I own. So many beautiful photos! And so much great nutritional information and ideas and tips. Today I made my first recipes from it. I used the recipes as a guide (I’m just not the best at following directions!) and this is what I came up with.
Start this first – 1 cup of quinoa, 1 1/4 cups of water. Bring to a boil in a small saucepan, and then turn to low and cook covered. Set the time for 15 minutes. Then take off cover, remove from heat and let sit. I used less than half this amount for the burritos but plan on using the quinoa in other things this week. Make a half batch if you don’t want leftovers.
1 tbl. olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 bell pepper (your choice of color, I used orange for extra pop), chopped
1 can of hominy
a couple handfuls each of frozen edamame, corn, sweet peas, and cut green beans – I just did it until my pan looked full
a few shakes of nutritional yeast, to taste
1 cup of water
Vague I know. But the beauty of this is as there are hardly any seasonings - the veggies just shine and you can make as much or as little as you want. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Once hot add the onions and saute until translucent, stirring regularly. Then add the pepper and saute for a couple of minutes. Then add the hominy, frozen veggies, water, and nutritional yeast. Continue at the medium heat until the veggies are cooked through, about 10 minutes.
Black Bean filling
1 tbl. olive oil
2 tsp minced garlic, about 2 cloves)
1 tsp minced ginger (I used bottled ginger to make things easy)
1 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 tsp curry powder
pinch of cardamon
pinch of cinnamon
1 can of black beans (about 2 cups cooked), drained and rinsed
Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Once hot add onions and saute until translucent, add bell pepper, garlic, and ginger and saute until pepper is softened. Add spices and stir for about a minute. Add black beans and heat through.
Warm the tortillas of your choice, spoon the quinoa, black bean filling, some yummy salsa (there is a cool recipe for pineapple chutney they suggest for this but I was too lazy and went with bottled salsa), some lettuce and go!
This is soooooooo quick and easy. Chris was doing the dishes while I cooked and we were done at almost the same time! Bliss!
So today I started reading “Vegan’s Daily Companion” by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. I figure since I’ve already gotten used to the reading/contemplation/action a day routine from following Just Eating? that this seems like the perfect natural progression.
The format is simple – a year’s worth of readings. Each day of the week is dedicated to a specific theme. Mondays are all about lifting up food in all its yummy glory.
Today’s reading is about kale. The first time I ever had kale was last year when I was on my green smoothie kick. That kick withered as the weather cooled, but I plan to take it up again as it gets warmer. I’ve used kale in my cooking this fall and winter and have had some success with it and some inedible stinkers. Simple steamed or sauteed kale just grosses me out!
But I have found a dish I looooooove with kale – kima! I posted about before and today I made it for the second time today and it rocked. I used the same recipe but used faux beef crumbles instead of beans and didn’t add peas and carrots as I had they were both in the biryani dish I made to go with it. Love it – biryani and kima – a match made in heaven!
Our Just Eating? workshop at church is winding down. We have two more weeks to go. Last week’s theme was “Food & the Environment” and I have to say it was hard for me to “go there.” I used to work for Greenpeace back in my early 20s, I belong to the Sierra Club, and give to a variety of environmental groups. I used to be a hardcore recycler (not so much as there is no recycling in the fabulous city of Huntington). I believe in reduce, reuse, recycle. I used to buy most of my clothes at thrift stores and consignment shops. I admit to being up and down in my “eco-consciousness” over the past 20 years but it’s always something I think about, even if I don’t always choose the most green choice.
So why was last week so hard for me. Where was the resistance coming from? I think its two-pronged. First, since we moved I have not been the most eco-conscious. In setting up our household I took the easy way out and bought cheap furniture from big box stores, I’ve bought more clothes at the mall than at the thrift stores and consignment shops for the first time in my life, I don’t recycle (except for paper). I feel like the Huntington culture has sucked all of my greenness out of me. Blah.
Second, looking at the problems on a large scale just freaks my out and makes me shut down. I just see problems and problems and problems and don’t feel like little ol’ me can fix any of them.
Talking through the second issue at our meeting I realized I need to chill. I can’t fix the world. I CAN make better choices, I CAN buy/grow organic produce – which means one more family off the corporate food bandwagon. As part of a community garden I CAN even help feed my greater community.
This is where things get cool. Our little Just Eating? group is figuring out ways to grow and share organic produce. We discussed going in together to buy a cow/pig/sheep/goat from a local organic farm. We could get organic milk/cheese/meat that would be distributed to the members of our congregation.
We also have discussed using an empty lot to create an organic community garden that would provide food for the congregation, with a share going to a non-profit – the mission, a food pantry, or a shelter that houses women who are escaping domestic violence.
And we’ve talked about all the gardeners/wannabe gardeners getting together to pool our resources and share our bounty with our congregation. We can do this so simply – just by designating a space where we can bring in our surplus produce (because you know there’s always something that just produces like crazy) and allowing anyone from the congregation to pick up what they need.
I can’t fix the world, but I can figure out ways to make healthy, organic produce available for the people I love and my local community. And that’s what I’m going to do.
A healthier me, a healthier community, a healthier planet. Yeah, that sounds good.