A Meditation

24 Sep

There’s a longstanding joke, “How do you know there’s a vegan in the room?  Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.”  But in my experience, I almost never bring it up and yet it almost always becomes a topic of conversation.  Perhaps I have to decline the cheese tray at a party, or say no to sharing a dessert.  Like moths to a flame, someone will feel compelled to ask, “Why not?”  because even people on diets take a sliver of cheese or a bite of someone’s chocolate cake.  There is just something so weird and uncomfortable about a person not partaking in food that everyone should love and not be able to resist.  So the dreaded “V” word is dropped and boom, there goes the party.

“Wait, really?  Why?”

I don’t think I’ve ever had a truly positive experience explaining to someone why I’m vegan, which is such a shame.  I remember an aunt asking me what I thought was so wrong with dairy.  “Do you really want to know?” I asked respectfully.  “It’s kind of intense.”  “Yes, absolutely!”  She seemed really responsive, so I took the bait.  “Well, veal is a byproduct of the dairy industry, and the abuse sustained by the dairy cows is so heartbreaking that I…”  She huffed.  She didn’t really want to hear it at all.  I backpedaled immediately.  “Also, I’m lactose intolerant.”  That was an acceptable answer.

Showing empathy for animals that most people consider to be food does not go over well.  I learned really quickly that if I didn’t wanna get into it, the best answer was, “Health reasons.  I have trouble digesting animal products,” which is true, but considering how much I love alcohol and cupcakes, it’s not like I’m one to act in the best interest of my body at all times.  Responses along the lines of, “I’m just trying to do my part for the environment,” or “I love animals,” or “It just feels wrong to me,” are rarely ever tolerated because they imply that the person you are talking to does not do their part, does not love animals, and is doing something wrong.  What a wallop.  I’d get defensive, too, if I really loved my eggs in the morning.

I have no agenda.  I am on my own path, and I don’t think I’m better than anyone for being on it.  You wanna know why I’m vegan?  Because I really care about the earth but I’m the laziest person of all time.  It’s the absolute easiest way to be an activist and a good person without having to trade my car for a bike, picket city hall for change, volunteer at homeless shelters, reuse plastic baggies, foster twenty animals, or live off the grid.  I have friends who do so much good work for the community, and I absolutely believe they are better people than me.

If vegans make you uncomfortable, just remember what you’ve done to make the world a better place, and pat yourself on the back big time.  Then tell me all about it – I promise I won’t get defensive.  We might all be on our own unique paths, but we’re on this journey together, and anything we contribute to make our shared home a better place is worth its weight in gold.

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Mocha Smoothie

20 Sep

ImageSeptember in Los Angeles is just too damn hot.  When I’ve made my money and have the luxury of choosing my own schedule, you better believe that I will be on the East Coast from 9/1-9/30.  Nothing makes me more homesick than craving a change in season and instead being forced to reckon with 100 degrees, or getting sunburnt walking to and from the car.  I mean, really.

This is the time of year I should be bringing out sweaters, baking pumpkin bread, and sipping a latte without risk of breaking out into a sweat.  I want to be comforted by warmth, not suppressed by it.  Goddamnit, sun!

Okay, so all this rage really stems from me wanting a cup of coffee this morning and not being able to have it because my apartment is a furnace.  We get the rising sun so mornings are bright, which is nice, but so hot, we’re covered in sweat by 8AM.  I wandered into my kitchen, slightly delirious, and wondered, “What can wake me up, cool me down, and not taste disgusting?”

I should note here that I am usually adverse to sweet frozen coffee concoctions, due to their association in my mind to Starbucks’ “Frappucinno.”  That stupid, stupid store only uses sweetened vanilla soymilk, so even a tall frappe has enough sugar to bring on diabetes instantaneously.  Gross.

But here I was, in my kitchen, needing something.  A guest of mine had left Starbucks VIA instant coffee packets, another item that usually turns my stomach, but I’m not one to waste caffeine.  The wheels began to turn.

Mocha Smoothie
makes 1

1/2 cup unsweetened almondmilk
1/2 cup Silk Light Chocolate soymlk
1 medium frozen banana
1 packet of Starbucks VIA Colombia medium instant coffee
1/8 tsp cinnamon

In a measuring cup or bowl, stir milks until homogeneous in color.  Place frozen banana and instant coffee into blender.  Pour milks overtop and add a dash of cinnamon (about 1/8 tsp).  Blend on high until smooth.

It was love at first sip.  Sweetened only by the chocolate soymilk and banana, coffee was the predominate flavor, just the way I like it.  Instead of being icy and watered down, this was rich and creamy, filling enough for breakfast.  This is perfect if you’re on the run but usually need food and a cup of coffee to get your day started.

This is going into my morning rotation until the temperature finally cools off enough to enjoy a proper latte while curled on my couch, under a blanket.  At this rate, it’s going to be a while.

Cacao Fig Smoothie

7 Sep

I just had the loveliest smoothie that really embodies what September means to me – celebration (my birthday month!), change, and comfort. Early fall is the last hurrah for fresh figs, and yet it’s their time to shine. A touch of raw cacao compliments the earthy fruit perfectly, and I can believe I’m having a decadent treat when I swirl it all together.

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Cacao Fig Smoothie
serves 1

1 cup vanilla soymilk
6 figs, halved
1/2 frozen banana
1 tsp raw cacao
1 tsp maca (optional)

Blend ingredients together on high until smooth.

Gentle Barn

18 Aug

Wait, I have a blog?

I wish I had an actual excuse like, “I’ve been so busy!” but…that’d be a lie.  I’ve been spending a lot of my summer waiting for things to happen and then they don’t.  But my influx of television viewing has inspired me to write a few spec scripts so at least it hasn’t been a complete waste.  Perhaps.

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Buttercup, coming over to give me kisses.

One of the ways I kept from going crazy was getting out of LA.  My first mini adventure was a trip to the Gentle Barn in Santa Clarita.  It’s an animal sanctuary that gives a forever home to previously abused and/or abandoned cows, goats, sheep, pigs, horses, chickens, and turkeys, among others.  Many of them suffer the long term effects of hormones, being four times their intended size or unable to walk.  A few of the cows are blind because they were given cheap feed instead of their mother’s milk.  It’s heartbreaking to see what humans have done to them, but so incredibly amazing to have the opportunity to bond with the animals and get to know them as individuals with distinct personalities.

A goat that was rescued from a backyard butcher rested her head in my lap as I rubbed behind her ears, and I was overcome with emotion.  How could something so sweet and precious ever be seen as dinner?  We snuggled for 20 minutes in the shade.

I started this blog with the intention of committing to veganism for a year, but I’m in too deep.  I don’t think I can go back to eating brie when I know the milk was taken from a mother mourning for her baby.  I’m not going to reduce a pig to bacon when they’re smarter than most 3yo children.  I’m not a particularly moral person, but I guess I believe in the golden rule, good karma, and stewardship.  Unless I want to be treated as a commodity, I shouldn’t treat animals that way, and from here on out, I won’t.

Because we’re not so different after all.  I mean, we’re made of meat, too.

Food for Finals

19 Apr

Don’t you love the end of the semester?  Everyone is just so happy and pleasant and definitely not addicted to caffeine….

*CRASH*

I have consumed more coffee in the past few weeks than I think I have in my entire life.  I cannot wait to get off the junk and back to my tea, but finals is not the time to deal with withdrawal symptoms.  I’ve been making the rounds, and can honestly say, if you want the best latte of your life, head to Bricks & Scones on Larchmont and get “The Norma.”  It’s made with almondmilk, doesn’t taste like diabetes, and digests like a DREAM.  No upset stomach to speak of.  Apparently they serve LAMILL?  Amazing.  The soy latte at Peet’s is also a contender, since it’s not sweet, but it’s still fairly acidic.   Opt for Norma.

Moo Shu Veggies

I haven’t had the energy to play around in the kitchen lately, but I did manage to make Moo Shu Veggies from Chef Chloe‘s new cookbook, Chloe’s Kitchen.  She is SO CUTE, I can’t stand it.  The book is filled with a whole range of recipes, from comfort food to light and healthy, from fancypants to weeknight dinners.  I simplified the moo shu by opting not to make my own pancakes, and instead using packaged tortillas.  Not authentic, but still good!  I also used a coleslaw mix to avoid having to chop cabbage and carrots.  With those two cheats, the moo shu came together with ease, and I’ve been enjoying delicious leftovers for a week – it’s been keeping just fine!  It’s so easy to reheat on the skillet and assemble, I’m able to eat a healthy and filling meal between running to class and getting projects finished.  So if you’re in the throes of finals like me, take some time to cook on Sunday, and eat all week without a care in the world.  Pretty good trade off.

So yeah, I’ve been subsisting off moo shu and take-out vegetable curry leftovers for the past week, but the end is in sight.

Fried Udon Noodles

4 Mar

One of my favorite food books is Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Diet.  I remember being 10 years old and totally inspired by her commitment to animals, especially shelter dogs.  Seeing how much she’s done in the past 15 years is truly remarkable, and she continues to inspire me to do better and be kinder.  Her book is the perfect starter’s guide or refresher course to veganism, and it includes some awesome recipes, from decadent peanut butter cups to win over skeptics, to deliciously simple macrobiotic dishes that heal you from the inside out.

I’m decidedly not in the totally health conscious vegan camp at the moment, though I need to work on that as my wedding looms closer.  I still have to pour creamy dressing over greens to get my salad on, and there’s been a sale at Whole Food’s on Coconut Bliss ice cream that I’ve taken advantage of more than once.  Is it better than dairy ranch and dairy ice cream?  Yes!  But I’m no “superhero,” as Silverstone refers to eaters of her macrobiotic recipes.

But there’s one recipe of her’s that’s totally won me over, that’s both decadent AND macrobiotic: fried udon noodles (page 229).  It’s simple to prepare, and it is so delicious you’ll smack yourself.  You’ll have to buy the book to get the recipe, but I can share how I’ve altered it to make it even easier.

Fried Udon Noodles: best of both worlds

1. Instead of dry noodles, I use Annie Chun’s Organic Japanese-Style Udon FreshPak Noodles. You spend a little more time stir frying them to fall apart naturally (do not force them apart!), but you save at least 20 minutes waiting for water to boil and cooking dry noodles.

2. I use 2/3 smoky sweet paprika, 1/3 hungarian paprika, to give it a little more flavor than just straight up sweet paprika.

3. Yellow onions are so freaking yum here.

4. I recently started using Organic Emperor’s Kitchen Chopped Garlic, and I might be a convert. I used to scoff at people who used garlic from a jar, knowing how easy it was just to throw a few cloves into a mini food processor, but since mine’s on the fritz, I’ve traveled to the dark side.  It certainly saves you a prepping step and has this dish come together even faster! Just make sure your jar of garlic isn’t hiding any gross ingredients like high fructose corn syrup – it’s been known to happen.

5. Throw in whatever vegetable bits you have in the fridge to make this dish your own. Not pictured here, but I love using mushrooms when I have them around!

It takes some time for everything to cook, but due to the minimized prep, it feels super easy and doesn’t daunt me even when I’m tired on a weeknight.  If you’re interested in being kinder, whether to yourself, your family, the earth, or the animals, check out The Kind Diet and get inspired.

Making the Switch: Face Scrub

27 Feb

I’m going to do a series of posts entitled “Making the Switch,” which will focus on ridding a certain ingredient or product out of my life and replacing it with a kinder alternative. Some may not work out the way I hope, but this year is dedicated to trial and error.

LUSH's "Ocean Salt" and Kaia House Organic's "Lemon and Sugar Clarifying Scrub"

Once upon a time, I used to work part-time at LUSH in Philadelphia, and fell madly deeply in love with their facial scrub called “Ocean Salt.” And it seriously felt like you were scrubbing the grime out with all the goodness of the ocean. It’s chockfull of amazing ingredients, like a mix of fine and coarse sea salt, grapefruit infusion, seaweed absolute, extra virgin coconut oil, avocado butter, and fresh organic lime extracted in vodka.  WOW, right?  But they sneak in one little ingredient that pretty much negates everything good they put in: lanolin.

What’s lanolin?  It’s a yellow waxy substance that’s secreted by sheep to protect their wool and skin.  While it’s usually harvested from the wool and not the sheep themselves, it is still pretty nasty to think about.  Why do I need yellow sheep wax in my face scrub?  I don’t!  My skin secretes enough oil to keep me protected.  While lanolin is technically vegetarian because it’s a byproduct of wool, just do a Google search and take a look at what sheep go through to get shorn.  The wool industry is an industry more interested in making a profit than humanely shearing sheep.  While I take no issue with a small farm gently shearing their sheep in the summer, the lanolin from that wool is almost definitely not in “Ocean Salt.”  So that’s why I’m saying goodbye to my favorite facial scrub and on the search for another that can do a hell of a job without supporting big bad wool.

My first attempt is Kaia House Organic’s “Lemon and Sugar Clarifying Scrub.”  I ordered this online, sight unseen, thinking the lemon and sugar might have something in common with my beloved “Ocean Salt.”  This is a much gentler scrub that kind of smells like playdough.  But it’s vegan, mostly organic, made in the USA, and makes my skin baby soft.  No complaints with any of that!  Also, while I’m not anti-parabens (in moderation), it’s cool that Kaia products never contain them – one less thing to worry about.  After I’m done with this jar, I’ll be on the look out for a salt scrub with a little more oomph, and get back to you on what’s better.