Friday, June 3, 2016

Why I'm Scared of Vegans

Yeah, I said it. I'm scared of other vegans.

Well, because some of them are scary, that's why. Not all of them, obviously. There are loads of lovely vegans out there. But you never know. Some of them are judgmental and preachy and superior and unpleasant. Even to other vegans. And that's just creepy. Only some of them, of course. But again, you never know.

When I'm about to put myself in a situation where I'll be meeting and mingling with a bunch of vegans I don't know yet, I always make a big fat thing over wearing the right clothes (no wool, although I refuse to give up my beautiful 30 year old long black wool coat), my shoes (although there is still some residual leather in my closet), and even jewelry (my cultured pearl earrings, which I wear all the time in real life because my sister gave them to me, and because they're simple and fabulous and go with absolutely everything, are not technically vegan because they came from an enslaved oyster). One can take just about anything to extremes.

I'll admit it, I get a little crazy. I even double check my lipstick to be sure it's a well known vegan brand, in case someone should spy me sneaking a touchup. Rick rolls his eyes and laughs at me, but I take this shit seriously. First impressions matter to a Vegan Ambassador. And even though I know I shouldn't, I care.

Let me say that not one fellow vegan has ever judged me to my face. I have no idea what anyone says behind my back, but to my front, I've never gotten more than a suspicious sidelong glance for admitting something like, I care just a teensy bit more about the health of humans than the living conditions of animals. Even though I know it's not a smart thing to say, I can't seem to stop myself from blurting out some such personal confession in the midst of a group of hardcore animal rights activists. I guess I want it to be clear where I stand. In my genuine not-leather boots.

It might be better if I stay home. Or hang out with non-vegans, who in many cases actually turn out to be pre-vegans who haven't found the right inspiration yet. And that is exactly why I need to befriend interesting folks from all sides of the dinner table. The fact is, when people hang out with Rick and me long enough, not only do we form lovely friendships based on a variety of interests, we also tend to have a positive influence on how they look at their food choices.

We stopped trying to convert people a long time ago, after we noticed friendships being damaged rather than enhanced, and beloved faces glaze over rather than light up with interest in our passionately delivered sermons on how dairy hurts our bones and how self professed animal lovers who pamper their pets but still eat meat are not being honest with themselves. Gosh, really? How could that not be enthralling party conversation?

We learned the hard way. And then we thought for a while that we needed to go out and get some vegan friends. After all, they'd get us! And Portland is crawling with vegans, for-dogs-sakes. But much to our surprise, a lot of them don't get us at all. And honestly, it's just too hard to find the right vegans, because it's possible that there aren't very many out there like us.

To be clear, we care deeply about the animals of this planet, and about the planet herself. We would love to see a major shift in the way the western world eats, because we're the ones who actually have the luxury of choice, and the ability to make terrific advances and changes as a result of our choices. We know that everyone, from the animals to the humans to the planet would benefit from a more vegan mainstream, and we're heartened by the progress that's being made.

And here's the thing I never hear anyone else saying - healthy, well-fed vegans tend to be more compassionate toward themselves, each other, animals, and the planet. Healthy people are clearer headed, smarter, and make better decisions. Healthy people make other people look at them and say, I'll have what she's having. That's why I put humans first. We have to take care of us before we can tend to anyone else.

As I said, when people hang out with us, a lot of them eventually begin to change their diets. In a good way. Family members who love to cook exotic fancy stuff are now almost entirely plant-based, and still cooking exotic fancy stuff. A young friend who used to bar-b-que just about every night last summer told me he's going vegan now. For two reasons. He wants to preserve the good health he has before he gets old and has to scramble to reclaim it, and... because he loves cows. Awww. Now that's what we're after.

I don't give a hoot how or why a person goes vegan. The fact that they do, or even mostly do, is huge. Everyone benefits. I also don't make strict use of human labeling. I think it's just too picky, and kind of inappropriate, for a banner waving "animal rights" vegan to dismiss a "health" or "environmental" vegan as merely "plant-based" because they aren't waving a banner, or because they still wear leather shoes. 

Get over it, folks. Every step, even the babiest of steps, when it comes to getting people to eat more plants and fewer animals is a valid, important contribution to this whole big thing we're trying to do. We're trying to save the world! We need every little bit of help we can get!

Dear vegans, be nice to each other, be nice to yourselves, and especially be nice to your friends with the steak on the grill. They're paying attention. And we can do a lot more good by just being our awesome, well-fed, generous selves than by stuffing a million vegan pamphlets in our friends faces.

I don't want to be one of the scary vegans. I want to be the one who shares the killer cashew mac n' cheese, who brings vegan cookies to her non-vegan friends, and who even compliments them on their cute leather boots. Who knows - by next year, those friends might be wondering if they can still wear those pre-vegan boots and not eat the cow. I'm the one who's going to tell them yes.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Bok Choy with Brown Rice and Orange Sauce

This is a good thing to make when you want something beautiful, but aren't particularly inspired by the kitchen gods. I picked up a big bunch of gorgeous bok choy at the farmers market, without a clear plan for it. A couple of days later I had to use it or lose it, so this is what happened. It's as easy as it gets, and goes to show that with a few staples in the house, you can come up with some pretty awesome meals without a lot of fuss.

To make this pretty dinner, cook some brown rice and set it aside to stay warm. Cut the bok choy into whatever size pieces you like. Grate a carrot and chop half an onion if you have one.

Make some Easy Orange Sauce as follows (full recipe in my Sauce Book, but this will get the job done).
Whisk together 1/2 cup orange juice, 1/4 cup tamari, 2 T maple syrup, 1 T sriracha sauce, 1 T arrowroot powder. Set aside.

Now heat a large skillet and melt a little coconut oil in it. Add the onion and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the carrot and bok choy and cook until the bok choy is tender but still crunchy.

Stir in the sauce and cook for a minute or two more, until the sauce thickens a little bit.

Serve over rice with a sprinkle of almonds or other nuts or seeds for garnish.

If you want it any easier, you'll have to order take-out. Enjoy!

If you like this recipe, you'll love my new book! Get it on Amazon!

Friday, May 27, 2016

My Morning Meetings

Every morning (almost), before I get out of bed, I spend a few extra minutes having a "meeting" with myself. I think about how I want my day to go, and what I have lined up on the to-do list. Often dozing a little bit, I sometimes get "other input" as to what I need to get done. I've not always listened to this interruption to my Very Important Thoughts, but lately I do. I get up and write it all down. And then I add my own stuff too, in case there's time for all of it.

Ever since my little trip to the ER a few weeks ago, I've been paying more attention to what's often referred to as the "little brain" we all have in our hearts. Did you know this? There's a lot of explanation on the HeartMath website, as well as in many other places if you feel like digging around. Basically, as I understand it, which is admittedly very little so far, the heart stores and transmits information. When we say things like follow your heart, it's actually valid advice. The heart is smart!

For me, it's clear that my heart got all crazy on me because I wasn't listening to it. It finally had to kick me in the head and say, Hey there sister! I need to be in charge for a while! So OK. Not wanting to repeat any part of that adventure, I'm listening to my HeartBrain - with an open heart. And know what? I feel better than when I spend too much time in my HeadBrain trying to figure everything out for myself. A lot better.

One recent morning meeting turned up some interesting assignments. The list goes like so:

Throw out my hamster cage.
Wear blue (not red).
Draw hearts.
Be the prayer.

My HeadBrain added:
Bathe Heidi.
Invent dinner from stuff we already have.
Write a blog post (or 2).
Play the ukulele.

Surprisingly, it all got done, with no stress and many grins.

There is no literal hamster cage. No hamster either. What this meant was, Stop trying to turn your life into something normal and predictable. It isn't that. It's not going to be. There's no nine to five, no daily grind, and mostly no paycheck. Deal with it.

Sigh... Ok. I see no real alternative. I've been trying to be a hamster for a long time, and I just can't do it. So I threw out the cage, along with the little spinning, squeaking wheel and the damp sawdust.

I put on a blue dress (not the red one I probably would have opted for on a chilly spring day), and pulled out my drawing paper and pens. I got lost in drawing hearts and forgot to take Heidi out to pee.

She didn't care. She sleeps as long as we let her. Eventually I did take her out, and then gave her a nice breakfast and a bath when we came back. I cleaned up the apartment. I considered our dinner options and decided on some kind of noodles and veggies in a teriyaki-ish sauce. I wrote a good blog post. Then another one. I made more tea. I looked out the window.

I took a uke break, standing at my 5th floor windows, looking out at the clouds and cars and people. After about three years of playing on and off - mostly off - I can play three songs by heart. By Heart! Happy Birthday - always useful. I'm Into Something Good - the old Herman's Hermits hit - which is easy and adorable. And This Must Be The Place - Talking Heads - also easy, but it speaks to me. "Home is where I wanna be, but I guess I'm already there..."

And at the end of all that doing, which flowed like water, I remembered someone once saying to me, Your work is your prayer. Ah, yes. Listen on the inside. Get it done on the outside. Or sometimes not. I'm well aware of the fact that I need to get back on a money-making path again very soon. Just thinking about it makes my chest thump out of sync for a second. But right now my work, which must be my prayer (and that makes me the pray-er when I'm doing it), is to listen to my HeartBrain and simply do what I'm told.

It's getting easier. And I do like wearing blue. I'd forgotten.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Green Quinoa Pizza

I ran across this recipe for Spinach and Artichoke Quinoa Pizza Crust from SimplyQuinoa, and I had to try it as right away as possible. I didn't have everything I needed, and it was raining, and I didn't want to slog out to the store. Once in the grip of pizza lust, there's nothing to do but surrender though, right?

What does a smart city girl do in this situation? She grabs her phone and fires up the PrimeNow app from Amazon, of course! Within a couple of hours there was a nice young man at my door with a bag of groceries. How wonderfully civilized.

The original recipe calls for soaked quinoa that you don't even have to cook! The crust is made in a blender, so the quinoa is basically turned into wet flour. I made a couple of modifications because I had some cooked rice and fresh basil to use up. The bit of rice I threw in didn't hurt it a bit, and the basil added another layer of flavor.

The crust is pick-up-able, and while not really bread-like, it has a delicious consistency similar to a creamy polenta crust. And it's so green!!!

For toppings I used arugula pesto, chopped spinach, Daiya smoked gouda style cheese, fresh mushrooms, and sliced black olives. It was fabulous!

Many thanks to Alyssa at SimplyQuinoa for this recipe, and so many others. Do check out her website and blog!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Vegan Under Pressure (sometimes we do get sick)

One big selling point for going vegan is that we have a much lower risk of getting sick - both little sick, with things like colds, and big sick, with heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and cancer. But we're not immune to anything. We're still fragile little humans living in these amazingly resilient bodies. I have a friend who calls them "human suits," which I think is absolutely perfect.

Perhaps one problem with feeling so good most of the time is that we might want to ignore our body's signals when we're not feeling so good. This happened to me a couple of weeks ago.

I was in San Jose, juggling my time between my elderly father and house-and-dog sitting for my sister, with lots of freeway driving in between the two. It was hot, I was probably a bit dehydrated, and definitely a lot stressed. Suddenly, as I stood up from a rushed lunch, I was clobbered with something new that I couldn't ignore.

My heart felt like it was in four separate pieces, and each one was bouncing wildly in my chest. I could feel it on the outside, and in my pulse, and it was super scary. So what did I do? I got back in the car to run to the airport to pick up my sister. I wasn't really ignoring what was happening, but I certainly was telling it to wait a little while until I had time to deal with it.

Long (very long) story short, I later went to the ER in a friendly little hospital that decided I needed a big hospital and stuffed me into an ambulance to make the transfer. No sirens or lights, which was kind of disappointing, but at least they didn't think I was going to die on the freeway.

During my stay I was poked full of holes and filled with fluids and something to calm my heart back into a normal rhythm. I had 3 EKGs, a treadmill stress test (which became extra stressful when they decided to add some radioactive gunk to the IV gadget stuck in my arm while I was jogging along at top speed, on a steep slant, and holding on with only one hand), a CAT scan (the reason for the radioactive gunk), and an ultrasound (which I really enjoyed, actually, because I got to see my heart in cross section, looking like a happy-dancing monkey with cymbals).

They tried really, really hard to find something wrong with me, but every single test came back normal, normal, normal. There is no heart damage. I don't have diabetes or thyroid disease. I don't have lots of things, I didn't have a heart attack, and by all accounts, there is nothing wrong with me. Hooray! But still... this terrible, scary thing had happened to me, and I needed to know how to interpret it.

Nearly 24 hours after I'd walked into the first ER, I was sent home with a diagnosis of "atrial fibrillation" and a prescription for some horribly toxic meds that made me feel just awful. Not one person, of the very many who came to see me, asked me about my diet or exercise or stress load. Not one would even sort of entertain the idea that the whole thing might in some way be stress related.

Fortunately, a week later, back at home in Portland, my own doctor determined that my diagnosis was not a life sentence as a "heart patient" with a chronic condition, but more likely an isolated incident brought on by... stress. I like her better.

She told me to toss the meds and agreed with my plan to continue taking low-dose aspirin to reduce my risk of stroke, and to add some heart empowering herbs like hawthorn and motherwort. She suggested paying particular attention to hydration and electrolytes in hot weather (hello, coconut water!), as well as potassium and magnesium rich foods. And perhaps most wonderful of all, she did not suggest that I needed to add animal protein into my diet.

My first thought as I walked into the ER was, Oh crap, this is really scary. My second thought was, Oh crap, even with insurance this is going to be way too expensive. And my third thought, the one that really freaked me out was, OH CRAP, my credibility as a healthy vegan is completely shot!!!

But guess what? Two weeks later, back at home, gathering myself back together, I want it out there that yes, vegans get sick too, and it doesn't make us wrong or bad or irresponsible about our diet and lifestyle choices. What it makes us is human, in our cute little human suits.

My own instinctive diagnosis is "confused heart," or maybe "conflicted heart" or "fragmented heart." It felt like it was in pieces, all pulling in different directions, when in fact, that's exactly what's going on in my life right now. I'm trying to be in too many places, both physically and energetically, and trying to be there for too many people. The only thing that makes any sense to do right now is to pull it all back in to center, regain my balance, and let a few things manage without me for a little while.

I'm always telling my stressed out friends to "put their own oxygen mask on first." That's something I need to do for myself too. I'm no good to my dad (or my sisters, or my kids, or my friends, or my readers) if I'm not in proper alignment on the inside, (no matter how fabulous I look on the outside!). I ignored my own need to take care of myself, to keep my own balance, and to "listen to my heart" when it comes to the difficult parts of life. Well, my heart sure found a way of getting my attention.

A vegan diet can do a lot to keep us healthy, but we need to take even more personal responsibility for our own well being. I'm stubborn in not wanting to put my own needs first. A lot of us are. My trip to the medical world taught a couple of things. First, that I have no interest in staying in that world. And second, that I can do even more than eat well and exercise to keep myself healthy. I have some internal, heart-centered work to do, and now is the time to do it. I need to pay attention to me, or I won't be any good to anyone else.

Message received, with heartfelt thanks.
Love, Kim

Monday, May 9, 2016

Cupcake Jones

An easy walk or streetcar hop from our apartment, is one of our favorite stops for a sweet treat. Cupcake Jones is not an all vegan bakery, but they do make some of the best vegan cupcakes I've ever tasted. They offer three vegan flavors - Vanilla, Chocolate, and Red Velvet. I don't play favorites where cupcakes are concerned, but Rick has a special weakness for the Red Velvet.

Each cupcake is generously frosted when it's ordered, and the regular sized ones are also stuffed with some sort of delightful creamy filling. The mini size isn't filled, but the frosting-to-cake ratio is perfect. 

All this time I though the reason I loved these cakes so much was because they were not gluten free. Well, looking at the picture, I see I was wrong... How about that? Vegan and gluten free, and they taste totally amazing. I'm really quite flabbergasted.

Cupcake Jones has two locations. Ours, on NW 10th, and another on NE Alberta. The one on 10th is tiny, with no seating, so plan to get your cakes to go, and then wander off to find a good coffee place nearby. So far, not one barista has minded that we bring our own cupcakes, but they always hope we've brought an extra one for them. Everybody knows Cupcake Jones.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Panchiladas with Red Chile Sauce

Now that my sauce book is completed, I'm having fun coming up with new ways to use the sauces. Sometimes I get weird food ideas in my sleep. Sometimes they work. Quesadillas are delicious enough already, but this slightly fancier version is amazing. It's kind of like an enchilada you cook in a frying pan. Panchiladas! We had them two nights in a row, and then made them for friends over the weekend. Rave reviews. Do try this at home.

Start with a batch of Red Chile, which you already have the recipe for in your copy of Change Your Sauce, Change Your Life. If not, get it here! Or, sigh... buy a can of enchilada sauce. It won't be as good as what you make from scratch, but you'll still be well fed.

Then either make some Basic Nut Cheese, or Spicy Cashew Cheese Spread, or use your favorite vegan melty cheese. A good alternate to cheese of any kind is refried beans. If you go that way, leave out the pinto beans listed below - unless, of course, you like things super beany.

Saute some chopped veggies, such as zucchini, yellow squash, onion, and red bell pepper, stirring in a little of your Red Chile at the end of cooking - just enough to coat and season.

Open and drain a can of sliced black olives and a can of pinto beans.
Have some washed baby spinach ready to grab for the filling.
Pour some Red Chile sauce into a dish large enough to dip a tortilla in.

Heat a non-stick skillet to medium-low. Add a little bit of oil to the pan.
Now dip a tortilla (I used whole wheat) in the Red Chile, coating both sides. Let some of the excess drip back into the dish.

Lay the dipped tortilla into the hot pan and let it cook for about 3 minutes, or until it starts to brown a little bit, and is firm enough to handle.

Using a large spatula, flip the tortilla.
Quickly spread or sprinkle some cheese (or refried beans) onto the entire surface.
Place some cooked veggies, beans, olives, and spinach on half of the tortilla only.
Cover the pan with a lid and cook for about 2-3 minutes, until the outside is nicely browned and the sauce is dry.
Use your spatula to fold the empty side of the tortilla over the full side, and carefully slide your finished Panchilada onto a plate.
Garnish with a squiggle of vegan crema or sour cream and some avocado.
Repeat the process until everyone's been fed.

Red Chile, Crema, and Sour Cream recipes are all in my book! Get one and make some notes of your own!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Riding the Divide - for the Animals

While a lot of people go vegan for the sake of the animals, and lots of those folks are influential animal rights activists, few take "active" to the extreme that my friend Carrie Thompson is about to. Beginning in July, Carrie will set out on a 2-3 month long bike trek, following the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, which runs from Banff, Canada to Antelope Wells, New Mexico.

Carrie is a tough woman with a soft heart. She's riding to raise funds and awareness, in support of those she considers to be even more heroic than herself - the undercover factory farm investigators who put themselves at huge personal risk to expose animal abuse in the agricultural industry.

Carrie is a hero too, for her non-stop, upbeat approach in helping animals everywhere, and for gently educating every human in her path. While not all of us are cut out to be activists ourselves, we sometimes have the opportunity to support the work of those who are willing to do it. Here's where you can help a lot!

Carrie is in the process of planning, packing, and fundraising for her journey. She's paying for all of her own expenses herself, so all the money she raises will go directly to the organizations she's supporting. Please help her meet her goals by donating anything you can through any of the following links.

Thank you for helping one big-hearted animal lover make the world a better place for all of us!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Happy Veganversary to ME!

Today marks six years since I went from vegetarian to vegan. There's no going back! I was 52 when I made the leap, and I really truly do feel healthier, better, glowier, lighter than ever in my life.

Don't believe me? Have a look at the My Story page. I'm eternally embarrassed by the before picture. But I also like it as a good illustration of how it's never too late to change things, and of how far I've come.

That's my point today. It's not too late. If you want to test drive vegan life, make a plan and do it. Your plan should leave lots of room for adaptation as you go, but start with something that seems workable for you.

Rick was "vegan between parties" for a year or so, until he really knew in his heart, gut, and bones why he was doing it. If you need to start off that way, I'm still going to cheer you on!

To celebrate this day, which feels really big to me for some reason, I'm going to bake some Pineapple Upside Down Cupcakes.

I don't particularly like to bake, but I do particularly like to eat a special treat on a special day. And besides, I want to make something nice for Rick, who is now, all the time, vegan, even at parties.

PS - yes, "glowier" is a word. I just had my computer learn it. Use it! It's yours! You'll need it soon.