Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Being Vegan

I am sorry I have neglected this blog for the last few months, but today something happened that woke me up and made me realize what my priorities are, or at least what I would like them to be anyway.  Let me explain:

It all began in Sept. 2007 when I decided to do a 30 day raw  vegan cleanse after reading about the benefits.  I jumped in head first and began the journey that eventually changed my life and my entire outlook on things.   I don't remember having any of the withdrawals that I have read about, but I may have and just not realized what they were. After about a week, I began to feel really good physically.   At that time I had not even considered becoming vegan for life, not until my son, who has been vegan for about 8 years now, asked me if I was going to go back to eating meat and dairy.  " I don't know.  I haven't given it much thought"   He told me that if I did it would probably just contradict everything that I had accomplished during my 30 day raw journey.  OK, so I decided to take it one day at a time.   Over 5 years later, here I am still vegan and still feeling great.  But lets not dwell on the last 5 years just yet, let's get to the present.

When I got to work this morning, I opened my inbox and I saw an email from a customer, no subject, no message body; but there was an attachment.   I open the attachment to find a picture of said customer standing beside a beautiful 8 point buck that had been shot, eviscerated, and hung from a tree. The buck's eyes wide open staring back at me.  In those eyes, I could see the place where the soul of that beautiful animal had once been. In my mind I could see the carefree creature out for his morning graze, not knowing it would be his last.  I sat at my desk for several minutes with tears in my eyes and partially blamed myself for the email that had landed in my inbox.  Why blame my self you might ask?  Well partially because I don't want to offend anyone, partially because I don't want to seem overbearing and preachy.  Even though this customer and I have had many conversations over the last 5 years, I never once told him or many other customers that I am vegan and that I oppose of hunting or any other form of animal cruelty.   There are some that know of my lifestyle, but I know they are the ones that will understand and won't come back with some wisecrack.  I guess you could say I am choosy about which customers I tell about my lifestyle.  Sometimes it is just easier to let it go that to get into the whys and what fors.  I listen to them tell about their hunting and fishing trips, or the steaks they cooked on the grill over the weekend.  I hear about the luaus and the pigs on the spit, the fish in their freezers and the jerky they make, without telling them that I am against it all. The ones that I take to lunch or dinner never notice that the plates I order don't have meat,  or that I only pretend to take something from the shared appetizer platter that contains chicken tenders, wings and cheese sticks. They never noticed the one time when clients were on town and wanted to go to a local steakhouse that I sat there and pretended to eat the steak that was put in front of me, cutting it into small pieces and pushing it around on my plate while I ate only the potato and bread that was next to it. They are the customer, and I am not going to tell them that I don't want to go to that "wonderful restaurant they have been told about" because I don't eat that kind of food.  They don't know that their gifts of sausage and cheese are given out to co-workers because I just say "thank you" and never tell them that I don't eat it.

My co-workers know I am vegan, some of them taking it very seriously, and others not really getting it at all.   I have to sit and listen to their conversations daily about the meat they eat, how they cooked it and how wonderful it tasted.   Their next sentence might be how much blood pressure medication they are on.  "I know the cure for that", I want to say, but I never do.

I really love the company that I work for, and I know that they appreciate what I do.  I have one boss that actually brought me an energy bar because it was marked 'vegan' on the front of the wrapper.  He knows what veganism means to me.  Others think it is really no big deal if I were to "eat some meat just this one time".  Nope, it doesn't work that way.

I love the work that I do, but it is becoming less enjoyable because I feel I can't be completely myself in order to keep the customer happy.   It is my job to listen to them, to pretend to like what they tell me while inside I cringe at what I am hearing.

So this is the reason I vow to keep up my blog in hopes that  it will provide me the way to make a living involving what I am truly passionate about- my vegan lifestyle.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Fat Free, Salt Free Tofu Scramble

This month I am eating from The Engine 2 Diet, by Rip Esselstyn.  While the book has some wonderful recipes, it is also a great guide for adapting your own recipes.   For those of you that are not familiar with the book, the author has designed a plant strong diet that uses whole foods, whole grains and does not include oils or salt.  I can honestly tell you that you will never miss either ingredient.  

This morning I did a tofu scramble without using oil or salt.   It was absolutely de-lish!   It was quite filling too, and I had leftovers!   I can add a little salsa, a couple slices of avocado with the scramble wrapped in a sprouted grain tortilla and voila!  Lunch tomorrow!  Tofu scramble, to me, is one of those things that is even better the next day.  I did not use exact measures of the veggies, and you can add in what ever you like.  Mushrooms, zucchini, kale, etc.    I made enough for about two servings.

Tofu Scramble

1/3 pkg extra firm tofu drained and squeezed dry and crumbled
strips of red, green and yellow peppers, a good hand full will do it
chopped onion
1 small red skinned potato sliced fairly thin
Hand full of baby spinach
2 Tbs nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp garlic powder
red pepper flakes or cayenne (optional)
"fry" the veggies in a mixture of 2 teaspoons of Braggs liquid aminos and about 2 tbls water. Cover pan and cook on medium  heat until veggies are tender and liquid has absorbed. Veggies should not be too soft. 

Add the tofu, nutri, tumeric and garlic powder, saute until well blended and tofu has heated through.  Add spinach and toss mixture until spinach has wilted. 

Serve with whole grain bagel, whole grain toast or wrapped in a tortilla.  


Saturday, March 10, 2012

Khans Mongolian BBQ

Khan's Mongolian BBQ

237 4th Ave N
NashvilleTN 37219
(615) 726-2340

Rarely have I had a meal in downtown Nashville that I felt the need to write about.   Yesterday I had my first experience with Khan's.  How have I worked downtown for more than 4 years and not known what a great place this is for a good quick vegan lunch? 

I have passed by on occasion and looked through the window at the long lines, but of course it was lunchtime in downtown Nashville.   I avoided that by going early, just after 11,  and there was no line.  Just  a few others that had the same idea as me... BEAT THE CROWDS!!

This being my first visit I wasn't exactly sure how it worked but the girl behind the counter explained it all to me and before long I was "building my bowl".     The bar was well stocked with all kinds of veggie goodness... they even had tofu!!!  You choose a bowl, large or small and fill it with whatever you like.  There was freshly shredded cabbage, bok choy, broccoli, zucchini, carrots, bamboo shoots, snow peas, pineapple, and so many other things too numerous to mention. Of course there are meat choices for the omni crowd, but I didn't really pay attention to what kinds of meat selections were there.   I chose the large bowl just because I wanted to sample so many veggies.  Next time I will do the small bowl because that was a lot of food!!!

You even add your own seasonings, sauces, and oils to your liking, so you can be assured of a tasty dish.  All this is right there on the bar, and there are even recipe suggestions taped to the sneeze guard.  Pile everything you want in the bowl, take it to the counter and the chef will saute it for you.  

I took my smorgasbord of goodies to the counter and was asked what I wanted it sauteed with:  Noodles or rice.  I said that I wanted rice and the next question was "white or brown?".  Wow! a place downtown that has brown rice!  Now I am really impressed!!  I paid for my meal while the chef was sauteing.  The total came to only 6 dollars and change including tax.  They take 2.00 off if you get only veggies.

I was given a number and was told that my lunch would be ready shortly.   I picked up my freshly made lunch and headed back to the office.  When I walked in the office I was met with "Ohhhh, that smells so good! What is it?   It was good, the veggies were still nice and crunchy. The seasonings were just right.  The brown rice was perfectly cooked.   I was well satisfied.  

It was one of the best lunches I have had downtown, and I will be going back.  For those of you looking for options in downtown Nashville, check out Khan's if you haven't already.  You won't be disappointed

Sorry I don't have photos.  I took one with my cell phone but it didn't do the dish justice.  I promise to get a good photo on my next trip.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Mock Tuna Salad

Chickpeas are amazing. Keep them on had to whip up Hummus, for soups and stews, falafel, and delicious salads.   You can keep cans in the cupboard for when you need to whip up something in a hurry, but when you have the time, it is well worth it to cook them yourself.  Keep dried chickpeas on hand. Once you cook dried chickpeas, you will not go back to canned, I promise you.  Just be sure to soak them covered in water with a teaspoon of baking soda added for at least 4 hours and up to 12 hours before cooking, or do a quick soak method.  Cook extra.  They freeze well and you will always have them on hand to use in recipes.

One of my favorite ways to use them is in chickpea salad, also known as Mock Tuna Salad or Tu No Salad. (recipe below)

Mock Tuna Salad

2 cups cooked chickpeas
2 stalks celery finely chopped
2 Tbs onion finely chopped
2 Tbs sweet red pepper finely chopped
2 Tbs pickle relish (sweet or dill, your choice)
1 Tbs nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp kelp powder (optional, but gives it the "fishy" taste)
2-3 Tbs vegan Mayo
1 tsp yellow mustard
Salt and pepper to your liking

Mash chickpeas with a fork or put in food processor and pulse.  Leave some lumps, do not make it smooth like you are making hummus.  Put in a bowl with the remaining ingredients and mix well.  Refrigerate at least a couple hours to let the flavors blend.  Makes a wonderful sandwich or it is great as a tomato stuffing.
Pictured on my homemade bun.  I may share that recipe later.


Valentine's Day at Kroger

I needed to pick up a couple things at Kroger last night, but with a bit of snow and ice in the forecast, I decided  that the grocery store was not the place I wanted to be as people fought for the last of the milk, bread and eggs to avoid the possibility of perishing from starvation should the roads be impassable for a few hours.  Really, I have never figured out the attraction of French Toast or bread pudding during a snow storm. (chuckle, chuckle).   Since I don't use any of those sought after items, I needn't worry should the shelves that hold those items become bare.
Foregoing the trip last night, I decided to stop tonight on my way home for the few items I needed.  What the?????   "Did I miss something in the forecast tonight?", I thought, as I pulled into the parking lot. Snow again? You would have thought it was the eve before Thanksgiving or something.   When I enter the store through the door near the floral department I was met with wall to wall  MEN!  Everywhere! Then it came back to me.  Ah ha!   Today is Valentine's Day.   I had somehow forgotten that on the commute home.   There were men of all ages scrambling for that last minute bouquet and card.   It was quite entertaining actually, as one man picked up each bouquet that was on display near the bananas and sniffed each one.  Another looked quite exasperated and undecided between the red roses or the pink lilies.  He tossed both aside and grabbed a simple cellophane wrapped bunch of daisies.  A few didn't even give it a second thought as they just grabbed what ever their hand touched first.  Yeah,  I get it.  Just get something so Mama doesn't make you sleep on the couch tonight.  It doesn't matter that you don't know what her favorite flower is. Its the thought that counts, right? 
But dang it, I need bananas!   I don't want to get trampled in the produce department.  Hey dude!  Yeah, you with the tulips hanging from your fist.  Throw me a bunch of bananas and I will leave you to your confusion!  Thank you!  Hope you get lucky tonight!    Geez,   Let me go around the corner, grab my tofu, and get the heck out of this madness.  I managed to get through the store pretty quickly after I got past the flower riot, and when I wheeled my cart past the card aisle, surprisingly it was empty.   I was secretly glad I didn't have to worry about  any of that.   My girls will be happy as long as their food and water bowls are full and that they can curl up and snooze while I curl up with an episode of some DVR'd  T.V. show and have a bowl of veggie chili. I don't have to pretend to like the flowers that will die in a few days, or ooh and ahh over a card that mimics every other card out there, later to be thrown into a box and forgotten about.  I smile at the thought of each of those men that actually care enough to make an effort, and I hope for their sakes it really is appreciated.   I know they probably really love the woman that they are buying the flowers for. The smiles on their faces as they took their flowers through the checkout proves it.  One day, one night, one life.  
Just a quiet night for me and my girls.  Simple, just the way I like it.  Life is good.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Spring's-a-coming.......(and summer, too)

It's February.  It's cold.   The April-like days we had last week have been replace by typical February weather. Yes it's cold, but Spring is just weeks away, and here in Tennessee we have been known to go right into hot summer weather after just a few nice spring-like days.  I know spring is coming because the seed catalogs have arrived. The stores have the patio furniture and BBQ grills on display beckoning us to take them home. My tomato seedlings have popped their heads through the the soil in the little pots on my window sill. They are already about 2 inches high and should be just right for planting outside as soon as the weather allows.  Just this morning I noticed a couple of pepper plants had poked above the soil too.   My planting beds are needing a good cleaning, and as soon as the next warm dry days appear, I will tackle that chore.  It's not really a chore.  I enjoy working in the dirt, and the reward is worth it.  There is nothing like the first radish and green onion of spring on a salad of freshly picked greens, or biting into that first ripe tomato that you have watched religiously from the day it was a little yellow bloom popping out from behind the leaves of that pampered plant. The day you pick the first summer squash is not that far off.  Before we know it, there will be grass to mow, weeds to pull and summer breezes to enjoy. Shorts and flip flops will replace sweatshirts and leggings. The crickets will be chirping and the mosquitoes will be swarming. We will relax in the backyard with that glass of sweet tea taking in the sounds of the neighborhood and the smell of freshly mown grass.   Really.  It will be here before we know it.

The Vita-mix

The Vita-mix arrived a couple weeks ago.  I had put off buying one, and why I don't know.   How I ever got by without it is a mystery.  I have not failed to make up for lost time, however.  I have made soup, smoothies, peanut butter, hummus, ice cream and who knows what else in my Vita-mix. I think I have used it every day since I got it.   My latest endeavor was oat flour.  This was just a trial to see how it would work, but I am sold.  I started with a cup of steel cut oats and in seconds I had soft fresh oat flour (photo above).  This morning I tried it out and made some gluten free pancakes.  Granted I was skeptical, because a lot of the gluten free things I have tried are lacking in flavor.  Not these pancakes.  I started with a quarter cup of oat flour and added in two tablespoons each of sweet potato flour and tapioca flour; 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp baking soda and 1 tsp baking powder, almond milk to make a nice batter, and a Tbs agave nectar for a slight sweetness.  They cooked up very nicely and I served them with fresh blueberries and maple syrup,  They were yummy!

Banana Nut Muffins

There is nothing more comforting than fresh baked muffins, but these muffins are even better the next day. I make them with whatever fruit I need to use up, whether it be banana, blueberries, peaches, etc. The fruit is best for these when it is just past the point of eating fresh, but not to the point that it has to be thrown out. Really over-ripe fruit works best. I have requests for my muffins all the time from my co-workers and fellow train commuters. The recipe is one I have used for years, even before I became vegan. It has been my tried and true recipe, and once I made the switch to vegan, this was probably the first non-vegan recipe that I converted. The vegan version is much better than the original, and through my experience, the vegan versions of any recipe are always superior to the original non vegan version. I have been asked for the recipe many times, but this is one that you will have to wait for. My plan is to publish a cookbook, and this will be one of the entries.