Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Finding Winter Inspiration

I love the winter and the snow. It's perfect for snow-ball fights and steaming cups of tea, but it can also be rather disheartening. It's hard to find the energy to go outside for a run when it's super cold outside. It's also hard to feel cheerful when you have to stay inside because it's too icy to drive anywhere.


Because of these winter blues, I have been focusing on finding things to keep me inspired and happy during the winter months.

Here is a list of a few winter happies:

  • Dancing to music
  • Trying yoga videos
  • Following new recipes
  • Reading inspirational quotations and books
  • This amazingly delicious and lovely bowl of oatmeal: 



*Frozen blueberries are great for topping on top of oatmeal during the winter and greens really do taste great on oatmeal! 




Saturday, January 11, 2014

Vegan Omurice

At college, I used to watch Korean dramas with a group of friends. We would stay up until the wee hours of the night watching back-to back episodes on a projector in one of the classrooms of our building. One of our favorites was The Rooftop Prince, which involves time travel, romance, comedy, and jump suits.



Anywhoo, several characters in the drama were obsessed with a dish called omurice. Omurice is a very popular contemporary Korean dish. It is especially enjoyed by children.

It was created with Korean and western influences, but it's primarily eaten in Korea. In Korea, omurice is fried rice (usually with animal meat) wrapped in an egg omelet with ketchup artfully drizzled on top.

Ever since watching this drama, I wondered if I could re-create it, but make it vegan/plant-strong. That means it could not have any animal products and no added processed oils.

After months of dreaming of a healthy vegan omurice, here is a (loose) recipe for VEGAN omurice ( accompanied by some rather spectacular pictures).

Also, Please note that I don't actually know what non-vegan omurice tastes like, but I'm fairly certain this one is better. ;)

Serves 4

Shell:

The shell of the omurice was created from Lindsay Shay Nixon's recipe for a "Nomelet" in her book, "The Happy Herbivore" (you can purchase the book here). If you haven't heard of Lindsay, you should definitly check out her blog on her website. She is one of my all-time favorite bloggers.

You can also use Isa Moskowitz's online omelet recipe for the shell. Her recipes are amazing! She does use two tablespoons of  olive oil, but you can easily replace the oil with vegetable broth.


Filling:

1 white onion diced
3 cloves of garlic diced
Vegetable broth (for "frying")
1 cup of cubed white button mushrooms
1/2 cup of green peas
2 cups of diced carrots
1cup of dried brown rice steamed
salt and pepper to taste
Korean red pepper paste to taste (optional)
soy sauce to taste (optional)

  1. Cook  diced onion in an 8 inch frying pan in a little bit of vegetable broth until translucent. 
  2. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. 
  3. Add mushrooms, green peas, carrots, and brown rice and cook until carrots are somewhat soft. Add extra vegetable broth if the mixture looks too dry. 
  4. Add salt and pepper (and soy sauce and Korean paste if using) to the vegetable rice mixture. 
  5. Remove the pan from heat. 

Assembling the Omurice: 
  1. Gently remove the shell from the pie plate (If using Lindsay's recipe) or from Skillet (if using Isa's recipe) and place it on a serving plate. 
  2. Spoon the filling onto half of the shell. 

  1. Fold over the other half of the shell, making a burrito. 
  2. Garnish with ketchup and Wha-la! 







Thursday, December 19, 2013

A Minimalist Holiday



As the holidays approach I find myself thinking of the problem of stuff. In the past I accumulated a lot of stuff in the holidays that I never needed nor truthfully wanted. They were things that did not make me happy.
I also gave a lot of things to people that they didn’t really need. All this gift giving probably made them worry that they had to give me something equally nice in return. In hindsight, my giving useless gifts probably took more away from the holidays than actually made them brighter and cheerier.

I’ve been reading of all the social problems that comes with most stuff; how the workers who make them aren’t paid enough, how these real toy makers work with dangerous materials, and often in overtime, so that they don’t have time to spend with their families.



Upon reflection, this stuff collecting goes against my environmentalist and socially responsible self and that is not me at all.

This holiday season and in my everyday, I have been trying to minimize my stuff. In my stuff reflections, I’ve realized that even though I loved getting gifts in the past, the things I remembered the most were not even the gifts at all.

What I remember the most is my grandpa reading The Night Before Christmas to me on Christmas Eve night, making cookies with my grandma, and playing with my brother in the snow. People and experiences are what I remember the most and that’s true for most everyday as well.



This year, I am making a pact with myself to be less stuff oriented and use that space for adventures and people. I have already cleared out my room and it is amazing how much calmer one can feel in a useless stuff free space.

I do not think I will ever be completely stuff-less. I don’t think all gifts are bad, but I do think that I can live with less stuff.

And because I like lists here is a list of my favorite five non-stuff gifts to give:

1.     An artistically and uniquely designed coupon for a tea date at a cafĂ©

2.     A Homemade meal (plant-based of course J)

3.     A trip to a city, park, ice skating rink, or all three

4.     Membership to a fitness place or yoga studio

5.     Movie or theatre tickets 


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Thankful for a Gentle Thanksgiving

I do find Thanksgiving a bit of a challenging holiday because I like being with my non-veg family, but I also find the turkey thing awfully sad. According to the National Turkey Federation, 46 million turkeys are killed and consumed on Thanksgiving. That’s a lot of unnecessary deaths.

But instead of writing about those deaths and the woes of being a vegan among non-vegatarians/vegans I thought it would be better to write about why it’s super awesome to be weird and vegan for Thanksgiving. The following is my list of gratitude for celebrating a Gentle Thanksgiving. It is a holiday of thanks after all!


1.     Turkey Trots! According to Active.com there are 316 turkey trots held in the USA every year. They are great ways to connect with your family and community members and get the happy running endorphins. You can also spread the word of a plant-based diet by wearing a Pro-veg shirt. Some ideas: http://store.nomeatathlete.com or make your own cool design with fabric markers and paint.

2.     Family, friends, and other really kind-hearted people.


3.     Protecting the Environment. According to a recent study by Cornell University, it requires a 13: 1 ratio of energy input to food output to produce turkey meat. http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/1997/08/us-could-feed-800-million-people-grain-livestock-eat It’s empowering to think that by being veg for thanksgiving, we’re saving more energy than we would by switching a traditional light bulb with a fluorescent one.



4.      Getting to try different plant strong/vegan meals and the people who oh-so-nicely wrote them down. One of my favorite holiday traditions is Dr. Mcdougall’s stuffed pumpkin recipe: so good! http://www.drmcdougall.com/misc/2005nl/oct/051000recipes.htm


5.     Feeling Energetic! Plant foods, particularly low fat starches such as mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, whole-wheat stuffing, rice, and corn make you feel full but not sluggish like turkey or other animal foods. Oil-free plant foods improve your blood flow giving your skin a warm welcoming glow. You’ll be feeling energetic even right after your thanksgiving dinner. And you won’t feel like you gained ten pounds in one meal!



6.     Living Turkeys. These sassy and love-able ladies live at the Farm Sanctuary in Poughquag, NY.


Turkeys have been known to be as intelligent as dogs and can form long-lasting and affectionate relationships with other turkeys.

7.     Farm Sanctuaries. Farm Sanctuaries are really magical places. I always think of them as peaceful places that represent the way the world can look like if we let it. Most of them have Thanksgiving celebrations where they feed turkeys pumpkin pie J


8.     Being optimistic about ending world hunger. 40% of the world’s grain is being fed to animals instead of people. By going vegetarian/vegan it’s a vote towards using that grain to help the near 1 billion people who are currently hungry in the world.


9.     The ingeniousness that goes behind making veggie turkey sculptures.



10. Lists of gratitude.




Thursday, November 14, 2013

Behind the "Local" Label


From talking with other individuals who buy local when they can, they’ll often say this when I say that I don’t eat animals: “Well, I only eat animals and animal products if they are local and I know the animals lived happy lives.”



I was always curious about this response, I didn’t really know if local animals lived happy lives; from the Ben and Jerry’s pictures, they sure looked happy.

Last summer, I got to find out. I was staying in Vermont with a friend and we had decided to go to Shelburne Farms, one of the most popular local food spots in Vermont. Their cheese is promoted all over my University.

It was beautiful; there were peaceful picturesque fields and chickens roaming around in the front. In the main “petting” area, there were some goats, sheep, and a mother cow and her calf who were separated by a fence. There was a young woman there who was answering questions and letting the little calf suck her fingers.

She was very nice and clearly cared about the animals. Because I had read up on factory farming and animal rights, I asked what they did to the male cows once the mother gave birth. I thought that it might be different here in this seemingly idealist place than in the factory farms that I had read about. 

I was wrong. She explained that they had to separate the calves from their mothers right away because if the calf suckled, they would form a bond that would be hard to break. She said that this was the hardest part of farming life because the mother and calf would cry out to each other. She said it was even harder than shooting the excess female cows right through the head with a bullet. And the male cows…she wasn’t sure what happened to them, but she guessed that they were shipped off to become veal.

When calves are turned into veal it means they are kept in tight areas where they can’t move and they can’t develop properly. They are killed when they are only two years old.



The thing that stood out to me the most was that at the end of this explanation she said, “I wish it weren’t this way, but that’s just the way things are.” The thing is I don’t think, that’s the way things have to be. The woman who worked at Shelburne seemed as equally compassionate towards animals as any vegan I’ve ever met.

I think we don’t realize that we have more power than we think we do. Every movement starts by one person feeling that something is wrong, like the woman who works at Shelburne farms and then living and looking at the world differently. I don't think we should let our inner instinct of taking care of other beings be over shadowed by the "way things are."I think the challenge of life is not causing the least amount of harm but aiming to achieve the greatest amount of compassion. 



I do like supporting local farmers and going to farmer’s markets. I do not think that we should close off our aim of compassion just because something is labeled as “local.”

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The GMO Debate



A few times, I’ve been asked what I think about GMOs. It’s hard to form a concrete opinion on them because in terms of their environmental and human health impact, there aren’t many concrete findings, unlike with a plant-based diet.

Here are the basics:

  •   GMOs stand for “Genetically Modified Organisms”
  •   GMOs are crops that have been modified by inserting or deleting a particular gene to produce plants, animals, and microorganisms that have desirable traits.
  • Humans have been modifying crops for about 8,000 years before the introduction of “genes” from selecting which plants to plant. Traditionally, farmers chose the plants from the wild that were most resistant to pests, disease, and changing weather patterns.
  •  GMOs and what you might call “traditional” farming methods result in plants that would not exist without human interference.
  •   As of 2012, 170 million hectares of land are planted with GMOs from 28 different countries.
  •  Most of the GMOs being planted in the U.S. (the largest planter of GMOs) are corn and soy used for animal consumption (yet another reason to support a vegan lifestyle!)




Here are some risks:
  •  Genes may cross into species that are not meant to be modified in such a way, like herbicide-resistant weeds.
  • They could threaten biodiversity by competing or breeding with wild species.
  • They may harm birds, insects, or other innocent species that may consume them.
  •  There is a risk that allergy-producing genes will be inserted into unrelated stuff like genes from a peanut being inserted into a tomato.
  •  Small-scale farmers are often overstepped by the dominance of a few large seed companies.

 Here are some benefits:

  •  GMOs are more resistant to pests, disease, and severe weather than non-GMOs, so it decreases the risk of complete crop failure.
  •  GMOs have a longer shelf life so they can by transported farther distances without spoiling.
  •  GMOs could reduce the need to use pesticides and other chemicals, which may harm the environment and the farmer.



Overall, I don’t think going out of our way to avoid GMOs is really the most efficient economically, or helpful in terms of environmental protection, health benefits, or ethics.

I think the best way to at the least limit your GMO intake and take care of your health, environment, and ethics is to adopt a whole foods plant based diet. This means eating plants that are as close to their grown form as possible.

That way, you’ll avoid the GMOs that are fed to animals, since the majority of GMOs grown in the world are soy and corn used for animal feed. From my searching on the inter-webs, it seems that GMO-free foods aren’t necessarily healthy since there can be GMO-free cookies and candy. It seems to me that, health wise it’s better to buy a possible GMO apple than a GMO-free candy bar.

Environmentally, GMOs aren’t that good as mentioned by the cons above. Relatively speaking however, I think a vegan diet has a far greater positive impact on the environment than simply avoiding GMOs.

If we eat one less pound of beef a year, we save the same amount of water as we would as not showering for six months. By choosing a plant-based diet, we are also voting with our dollar to reduce the amount of land used for GMO animal feed and animals by eliminating animal products. This is significant since animal feed and farmed animals currently account for the loss of 30% of earth’s usable land mass. I don’t think choosing GMO-free is as far reaching as choosing veganism or as empowering!



And ethically speaking, GMO free foods say nothing about the way animals are being treated. It’s guaranteed to be at least somewhat humane by simply skiping the whole killing process altogether.

In conclusion, I think you can be a super healthy ethical environmentalist by being vegan without having to feel like you have to spend the extra bucks for GMO-free foods. If you can buy GMOs and it’s not that expensive, then definitely go for it! But if not, it’s still super to just go vegan/vegetarian!


Work Cited

Henning, B. (2011). Standing in livestock's long shadow: The ethics of eating meat on a small planet. Ethics and the environment, 16(2), 63. Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com/ps/retrieve.do?sgHitCountType=None&sort=DA- SORT&inPS=true&prodId=AONE&userGroupName=vol_b92b&tabID=T002&searchId=R1&re sultistType=RESULT_LIST&contentSegment=&searchType=AdvancedSearchForm&currentPos ition=1&contentSet=GALE|A271975593&&docId=GALE|A271975593&docType=GALE&role =
McClean, Margrate R. "The Future of Food: An Introduction to the Ethical Issues in Genetically Modified Foods." The Future of Food: Lethal and ethical changes. Santa Clara University. California, Santa Clara. 15 Apr 2005. Lecture. http://www.scu.edu/ethics/practicing/focusareas/medical/conference/presentations/genetically-modified-foods.html

Top ten facts about biotech/gm crops in 2012 a new overview of biotech crops in 2012. (2012). Retrieved from http://www.isaaa.org/resources/publications/briefs/44/infographic/default.asp

Woolf, A., Cheney, I., Ellis, C., & Miller, J. (2007). King corn [DVD].

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The #1 Vegan Woe




The most common vegan question is of course “Where do you get your protein?” But, after we get over the fact that yes, plants give you enough protein and realize that rhinoceros’ do indeed become that large from plants; the bigger continuous question becomes how do I deal with social situations as a vegan or aspiring vegan? Will I have any friends, or be able to eat dinner with family ever again? Will everyone think I’m a raving unshaven and judgmental hippie?



Here is some advice for if you are worried about being vegan among non-vegans and vegan/vegetarians

The key to any vegan-related social situation is to remember these three things:
1.     Your reasons for being vegan; veganism is a way of respecting our deepest values, in our health or our natural environment or for all living beings. Our values are more important than any one social situation and no one can argue with you about what’s important to you or what makes you feel good.

2.     You can NOT be perfect; It’s just not humanly possible. Being vegan doesn’t mean that you do not make mistakes, it just means that you are trying to avoid animal products as best you can. If you find out that the crackers you had were not vegan, give yourself some slack and just avoid them next time.

3.     You don’t have to know everything about veganism; Because there aren’t that many vegetarians/vegans (yet), I think we often feel like we have to know every little detail about veganism/vegetarianism in order to defend our decision to be plant based. I think that’s too much unnecessary pressure. It’s okay to say that you don’t know something. Most people (including omnivores) don’t know where they get specific vitamins like Vitamin A or B12.

At college I had a vegan friend who when I first talked to her about veganism she said with the hugest smile, “I love being vegan!” I like that. I think that more people are likely to remember your enthusiasm for a plant-based life than a list of vegetables that have calcium.



With that in mind, here are some tips for typical social situations:

You’ve been asked out to eat by a non-vegan friend, who doesn’t know that you are vegan.
·      Suggest a restaurant that you know has vegan options.
·      If they suggest a restaurant, check the menu beforehand to see what you can order or call ahead of time and ask for a vegan option.
·      Let veganism come up naturally in conversation (it often does!), seemingly by the other person. This gives you a chance to have meaningful conversations without making the other person feel like they are being judged for what they are eating.

You are asked out to a social event where you know meat will be the center of attention (like a Barbecue or Thanksgiving dinner)

Scenario 1: Animal meat doesn’t really gross you out, but you don’t know what you’ll eat.
·      Bring your own vegan dish. Just make sure to pack extra because most guests will want to try it ;)
·      Eat before you go, there will probably be some vegan side-dishes, but it’s always good to be prepared.
·      Focus on the conversations and the people you are with rather than the food that you can’t have. I remember having trouble with this, but after awhile I got better at putting people at the center of my attention.

Scenario 2: Animal meat makes you a little nauscious and really sad, so you don’t want to go, but you also don’t want to hurt the inviter’s feelings.
·      Life is short, so don’t do something that will upset you. You can politely decline and be grateful towards the person for thinking of and inviting you. I know that this has been a struggle for me at times, but I also know that I can’t be a very good friend or relative if I’m not true to myself. 
·      You can also suggest doing something together that doesn’t involve food such as going for a walk or bicycle ride or sharing a pot of tea.
·      Invite your family and friends to a vegan meal or dinner. You can host a vegan potluck, where others can try making vegan dishes, even offer up some vegan recipes if they are stuck with what to bring.




The big truth of all social gathering around food is that it is the company that is most important. The food and the day are really just fluff compared the connections that you make with people. Veganism is a great way to share what is important to you. Happy Socializing J