Thursday, April 29, 2010

Be Kind to Yourself

All you Vegans, especially new ones, know that this lifestyle takes a bit of planning.  What we don't ever want is to find ourselves in a state of lack, or with a feeling of being deprived.  As Alicia Silverstone says, (paraphrasing here) The Kind Diet is first being kind to yourself, then kind to the environment and the animals who share our world.  The whole point of this is to feel fortunate about our abundant delicious and healthy choices.  Without planning, though, we may easily find ourselves short of time and hungry, and too tired to be imaginative enough to be thrilled with a fabulous creation.

With all the sewing I have been doing lately, I am frequently lost in thought.  The other night the kids noticed it was dinner time before I did, and so I almost found myself in the unfortunate position of being hungry without a clue.  Happily, from odds and ends, inspiration struck and I was able to step away from the sewing machine and quickly come up with something which turned out to be fabulous.

We had been to a surprise birthday party over the weekend which featured a buffet of many global cuisines.  The hostess sent us home with a container of Cuban pork (I know . . . ) and an amazing pico de gallo to dress it (separate containers).  The Cuban pico de gallo is different from its Mexican counterpart in that it contains more onion, and parsley instead of cilantro.  It reminded me a bit of the Chileto we had in Nicaragua, but instead of vinegar, the flavor was bright with fresh lime juice.  So I served the pork and pico de gallo to my husband,  made Amy's organic mac and cheese shells for the kids (I know . . .) and for me, sauteed collards with shallots, and the beautiful tops of fresh beets I had bought for another recipe.  I used the leaves and the stalks.  They were all so delicious together!  For protein, I opened a can of garbanzos and topped them with the aforementioned pico de gallo!  Inspired!  And finally, green salads were served all around.

This might sound like a lot of work, so many different meals, but really, I look upon it as more of a buffet from food we already had, with just a couple of new dishes added in.  Normally my non-Vegan family members will have some of my fab food, but I think purple, or the mention of beets turned them off (they don't know what they're missing!), so in this case there was more fab food for me!  Never underestimate the potential of leftovers!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Yin and Yang

I'm not sure which is yin and which is yang, but the idea is that in life we are always met with balance in the form of contrasts:  good and evil, dark and light, easy come - easy go, you get the idea.  I always feel like there is more going on when I am met with evidence of this phenomenon, a deeper meaning, a lesson, or that it will at least all make more sense a bit further down the road.

If you follow this blog, you have already heard about my lovely raised vegetable patch, built by my husband while I was out of town with my friends, but I haven't yet told you the whole story.  In a hurry to complete the project before my return, my man was backing up perhaps a bit too quickly (I don't really know, I wasn't there . . .) and jack-knifed our flat-bed trailer against the side of my car.  So when I returned from my relaxing overnight, I was met with a fabulous place to nurture fresh veggies, and . . . a hole in my car.  What are my lessons here?  I guess I got a great opportunity to practice perspective, gratitude and kindness -- I think I passed that test pretty well.  What were my husband's lessons here?  Maybe patience, humility (at first he thought someone else had damaged the car, and only later put two and two together).  How did he pass?  I'm guessing he did well.  The kids were unscathed, nobody was injured.

There must be more to this incident that will come to light at some point.  At any rate, I am turning my car in today for repairs and will be without it for several days.  The car is just a thing, of course, but it does afford flexibility and convenience which I will be doing without for a short while (we forgot to add rental reimbursement to our insurance when we sold our jeep).  So this episode of yin and yang lessons may not be over.  I will keep my eyes open for clues to the greater meaning of this during my small season of inconvenience!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Everywhere I Go

I know this is a familiar theme, but I am still thrilled each time I see how easy it is for me to maintain my dietary standards in a variety of situations.

Last Thursday, as we looked forward to a busy weekend, we realized with all the comings and goings that we didn't have too much family time ahead.  So we grabbed the kids and went to our local Mexican Restaurant, "La Parilla".  On the drive over, I mentally geared up for how I might need to manipulate a menu item to suit my needs. I used to order Chiles Rellenos, but stuffed with cheese, that option would be out.  I also liked enchiladas, so I thought maybe I could talk the chef into stuffing them with something I now eat.  But I opened the menu and found . . . Vegetarian Fajitas!

A piping hot iron pan with a bed of sauteed onions and peppers, topped off with spinach, mushrooms and large slices of tomato!  The pan was so hot, and the veggies were so fresh, I could tell they had only been there a couple of minutes.  Slightly cooked and charred all at once.  So very yummy, and the perfect texture.  When I ordered, I confirmed I could omit the cheese and sour cream that was featured on the side, but I accepted the pico de gallo, beans, rice and lettuce.  Served with soft corn tortillas,  this delicious meal was so filling I had to take half of it home in a box.  Lunch the next day -- the gift that keeps on giving!  It really did feel like a gift to realize that even casual dining establishments care about pleasing those of us with alternative tastes.  Delicious!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Cleaning Out the Fridge

As a Vegan, I limit by choice my own selection of foods, so I keep my pantry and refrigerator fairly well-stocked with things that can be thrown together quickly and also supplies for more elaborate creations when time permits.  As such, periodically I find I need to weed out items that will expire or go bad.  Today I realized I had two blocks of firm tofu that had an expiration date in a couple of days, so I found a recipe that would put them to good use.

I chose Alicia Silverstone's "Egg Salad Sandwiches" from The Kind Diet.  I made a few changes based on items I had on hand.  Instead of regular onions I used some scallions that were on their way out.  I just pulled off the bad parts and diced the rest.  Also, the quantity of tofu I used turned out to be more, since I had 14 oz. packages instead of 12 oz.  Since mine were packed in water, I squeezed the tofu over the sink to remove as much water as possible.  Because I had more tofu, I did use a little more shoyu and quite a bit more Veganaise.  I also doubled the turmeric.  I couldn't believe how much  Alicia's recipe tastes like really good egg salad!  I am having a second helping right now.   I am impressed with this recipe and will make it again.  I feel good knowing I am using up perfectly good food before it goes to waste.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Good Morning!

What a beautiful Spring Day!  I had a quick but delicious and sustaining breakfast today of oatmeal with pecans, dates and a tiny drizzle of maple syrup.  This will be a work day.  I will be constructing my neighbor's outdoor cushion covers.  It's a good job for me, I can fit it in around laundry, exercise, housekeeping, etc.  Still, I need a day like today, with nobody around, to do the brainwork.

On another subject, Happy Belated Earth Day! (yesterday)  What did you do to celebrate/observe the occasion?  I added some French Breakfast Radish seeds to my garden.  I didn't realize they have radishes for breakfast in France, but why not?  I have sauteed collard greens for breakfast sometimes!  When I was away with my girls last weekend, my husband surprised me by creating a raised bed vegetable patch, complete with a little fence to keep some of the critters out (what a sweet guy!).  Adding to the garden seemed to be the perfect way to spend a chunk of my day yesterday as I thought about ways each of us can honor and protect the Earth -- our amazing home!  Besides the radishes, I have heirloom tomatoes, chinese long beans, crookneck squash, japanese eggplant, cucumbers, arugula, basil, dill, marjoram, thyme and cilantro.  In listing these, I am now realizing my selections have a bit of a global theme -- elements from China, Japan, France -- perfect for Earth Day!

By growing my own, I will not be contributing to the depletion of the Ozone by needing trucks and airplanes to bring me my veggies.  I will also be adding a very small amount of fresh oxygen to our atmosphere as a byproduct of photosynthesis from my little green plants.  But, closer to home, I will be reaping the benefits of a more nutrient-dense harvest, since consumption of the goodies will occur a matter of minutes after separation from the earth.  My Vegan body will put all these delicious vegetables to good use, but I look forward to sharing the bounty with family and friends as well.  What a blessing!  Have a wonderful day!

Monday, April 19, 2010

What is a Midlife Vegan?

February 11, 2010 was the first day I was Vegan.  There was no pomp and circumstance, no pronouncement of my plan to those sharing my life.  There actually wasn't even a formal plan.  I just said to myself, "I think I will try it today,"

Going back a few weeks, it all started with the episode of Oprah featuring Alicia Silverstone promoting her new book, The Kind Diet.  I was immediately struck by Alicia's wonderful energy and positive outlook.  As I listened, I realized it wouldn't take much for me to change to a Vegan diet.  I was already almost vegetarian, eating only fish and shellfish, and the occasional chicken breast (really only because I had made it for the family).  The biggest change for me would be dairy, cheese in particular.  After seeing Alicia on Oprah, I resolved to buy her book, and got around to ordering it from Amazon after a couple of weeks.  Looking back now, I realize I was not in a hurry to begin because I needed to "sit with" the decision in the back of my mind for a while.

The book arrived, serendipitously, as I was temporarily moving downstairs to the guestroom.  My poor husband had contracted some horrible respiratory distress, and was very flamboyant in his malaise, with explosive sneezes, nerve-jarring coughs and plenty of moaning and groaning.  I knew he would sleep better with me out of our room, but I was also trying to avoid catching his germ, and to get some sleep as well.  In the guestroom, without needing to consider the needs of another person for darkness and quiet, I found myself reading The Kind Diet late into the night.  I consumed it, part and parcel, in three days.  Then I went food shopping on February 11.

I will be going into more detail of my Vegan journey thus far in future postings.  I've enjoyed discovering part of the Vegan community through websites and blogs such as Alicia's The Kind Life and Lindsay Wolf's Kiss Me, I'm Vegan.  One thing I've noticed is that most of the newer Vegans are a bit younger than I.  I get the feeling that Vegans my age have been that way for a long time, and were more self-assured and confident in their 20's than I was.  I admire the strength and spirit of those young trailblazers twenty years ago and am inspired to embark on this next chapter with my own newfound midlife gumption!

Truth be told, at 44 years old, I am in very early middle age if you consider the other ladies in my family.  Doubling my age brings me to 88, still six years younger than my still-thriving grandmother.  I am already reaping health benefits from the recent change, and am also more mentally focused, balanced and inspired.  I am met with regret, however, that I didn't reach this chapter a little earlier, when I was beginning to feed my children.  As the transition is a process, though, I do have hope for the health of my family.  They are all interested in what I am doing and are gradually educating themselves about healthy foods and about the karmic destruction humans are wreaking in mass animal production.  I always offer some of my fabulous food to my children and husband alike, and usually some of it occupies a space on their plates next to their Spaghettios or macaroni and cheese.   I do not push the Vegan diet on anyone, mostly because I understand their personalities -- better led by example than by force.  But my new Vegan-clean body and mind are at peace, and as such, much better able to follow intuition and Spirit, which will lead my approach in the future.