Monday, October 3, 2016

Positively Vegan is Moving

It made sense to separate the vegan part of my life out from the rest of it when I started this blog five years ago. But now, it just sort of... doesn't anymore.

While I still feel that the time I've spent and the work I've done on Positively Vegan are valid and valuable, I also feel like I've taken it about as far as I can, at least for now. There are a lot of great vegan blogs out there. And who reads them? Mostly vegans, I imagine. I hope there are a least a few mainstream readers who are interested in testing the vegan waters, and read vegan blogs, but I suspect most of those folks are hanging out in other places.

While preaching to the choir here is fun and safe, my target audience is actually thoughtful, open-minded, big-hearted non-vegans, and they aren't likely to find me here. It makes sense to me now to integrate my vegan-ness back into the rest of my life, and share it gently with anyone who's interested in good food and a good life.

What if? Isn't that one of the best questions we can ask ourselves? And if we open up to it and answer it, that's when we get to the good stuff. What if being vegan is just a normal part of a normal life? What if it can be interesting to people who aren't vegan? What if mentioning an amazing jackfruit taco truck sparks an interest in someone who normally defaults to chicken, but loves dogs and horses, and suddenly starts to consider that maybe chickens are pretty cool too, and that jackfruit is a delicious alternative? What if we stop being the different, difficult ones, and simply start bringing our freaking fabulous food to the party? Really. What if?

I'm vegan all the time, you know? It's not a thing I do that's apart from everything else I do. It's a part of everything else I do. It doesn't make me who I am. It's just a little piece of who I am. And I'm feeling the need to pull all the pieces together.

So here's the experiment. I'm not going to post here for a while. Instead, I'll post what I would normally share here on my other blog, my whole life blog, and see what happens. Everything that's already here will stay here. And I might eventually decide I was a big fat stupidhead for trying something new, and come right back here to business as usual. But that's okay. I think what I have in mind is worth trying.

If you please, follow me over to TakingTheLongWayHome. You can subscribe by email, via Feedburner, at the top of the page there. You can also add your name to my mailing list, which is the more personal route. If you're on the PV list, I won't automatically move you over to the other one, but I'd love it if you'd come along for the ride. A couple of clicks is all it takes. Come on! Be part of the adventure. Let's see how this can fly. You'll get to know me better, and might gain some insights on how we can all be awesome vegan ambassadors in the real world.

This is the last post here on Positively Vegan for a while. Maybe forever, but only time will tell that part of the story. Thank you. Thank you so much for being here, for reading and cooking and buying my books and sending me feedback and love. Why would I have done all this, built all this, if not for you? I appreciate you, yes you, the one reading this right now, more than you can ever know.

xoxo Kim

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Toaster Pancakes

I always make too much food. Always. It's not like I'm trying to cook ahead and stock up for the week. I just can't scale back my old habit of cooking for five or more people, learned first from my mom, and carried over to my own family later. Now it's just Rick and me most of the time, but I still make enough for house full of kids.

It's OK. It would be even more OK if we had something bigger than a "Barbie Refrigerator" to store leftovers in. If you've ever spent time in an RV of any kind, you know the fridge. Little. I suppose it's nice that it forces us to shop more often, so our veggies are always fresh. It just doesn't lend itself well to stocking up, storing anything extra, or freezing much more than a few ice cubes, a pint of ice cream, and a few bags of whatever else goes in a freezer. There isn't even room for vodka.

When I make pancakes, I overdo it same as I do with a pot of soup. But because I make sturdy, real food pancakes, they hold up well in a zip-bag in the fridge, which doesn't take up much more room than a bag of tortillas does. We like flat food! And we've discovered that they're great the next day, heated up in the toaster.

If you're comfortable with basic pancake construction, just throw the basics in a bowl, like I did this morning. For vegan pancakes, I use whatever flour I have around, sometimes gluten free, sometimes not, usually a blend of several different flours. I add a tablespoon or so of ground flax seed per cup of flour, about a tablespoon of baking powder, a little salt, and water. Sometimes I stir in rolled oats, chopped nuts, raisins, fruit, spices... you get it. Pancakes aren't as scientific as cupcakes. But if you want a recipe, I have some good ones for you in past posts: Peachy Pancakes, Apple Pie Pancakes, Carrot Pancakes.

Another topping option, which you see here, is an easy pear compote. Cut up two ripe pears (or more, because more is good), put them in a small saucepan with a little water. Bring it to a boil, and cook until the pears are soft. Along the way, add raisins, spices (I used pumpkin pie spice), and maple syrup or a little sugar. After it's cooked down a bit, add arrowroot to thicken.

On Pancake Day, make a big batch of batter, cook it all up, eat what you want, and then let the leftovers cool completely before putting them away in the fridge. Next day, give them a quick trip through the toaster, and you have Pancake Day II, with a lot less mess than the day before!

More food, less mess. Always good!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Learn to Speak Chinese

We have a newly opened Chinese restaurant in our neighborhood. Our meat eating friends have had good things to say about it, so we gave it a try the other night. It was Rick's choice for his birthday dinner.
Veggie Chow Mein
Duck House Chinese Restaurant doesn't appear to have a website, but I did find this page on Eater. We wandered in on a Monday night, and were greeted warmly and seated right away. I'm not sure if there's a cultural thing we don't know about, but we eventually had to flag someone down to take our order. No problem. Just something to know.

There was not a lot of English spoken, which was a good sign we'd get real Chinese food, rather than an Americanized version. And because of that, it seemed like one of those situations where it would be best to ask for "vegetarian" rather than "vegan," to avoid having to explain too much, or being misunderstood.

The word "vegetarian" worked perfectly, and our server pointed out several things on the menu that were already veggie, or could have tofu or vegetables subbed for the meat. Perfect. We ordered mixed vegetables in garlic sauce, kung pao tofu, and veggie chow mein. We also ordered rice, which we didn't need, but we like it. It was all way too much food, but when that happens, we just take it home and think of it as "grocery shopping."

Mixed Vegetable in Garlic Sauce
Everything was delicious, and I'm fairly confident it was all vegan. As I talked about in my last post, making a big ol' stinky deal over ever tiny ingredient can actually be counterproductive to the number one vegan objective of helping our animal friends. So stop it already. Be a little bit imperfect. Do your best. It's good enough.

Kung Pao Tofu
And wouldn't you know it, when it came time for the fortune cookies, the kind with a fortune on one side and a Chinese lesson on the other, I got the one that taught me how to say "vegetable!" I asked our server to tell me how to say it properly, and it turns out I would have mangled it terribly if I'd just read it phonetically.

Good Chinese food just steps from our door is going to be a great thing. Welcome to the neighborhood, Duck House. I won't be ordering the duck, but I do plan to do a lot of "vegetarian" grocery shopping there!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Salad and French Fries

You're at a restaurant with friends. Everyone is deciding whether to order the salmon or the cheeseburger or the chicken caesar... and you begin to panic that you're not going to get anything to eat until you go home. You know there's a granola bar in your bag, but you can't figure out how to smuggle it discreetly to your mouth. Everything, everything, everything on the menu has meat in it - even the salads, which just seems wrong, doesn't it?

We gotta deal with it. It's kind of a vegan nightmare, and it happens all the time. But you can get through this gracefully if you're willing to be open minded and not too bunched up about your "vegan purity."

Let's remember that we're vegan because we care. About animals, ourselves, and the planet. However, we should never expect saintly perfection from ourselves or others. Working with what we've got, the best way to be a good, compassionate vegan ambassador, while not being a big fat jerk, is to be creative, and to make the most of every dining situation.

It's good to have a fallback meal you can depend on just about anyplace. For me, when all else fails, it's salad and French fries to the rescue. You can get this satisfying combo just about anywhere. Instead of sending your server to the kitchen with a list of questions for the busy chef, simply ask that the chicken and the cheese be left off your salad, and the creamy-ranchy-whatever dressing be replaced with a nice vinaigrette. Sub ketchup and mustard (my fave), or bar-b-que sauce for mayo based dipping sauces for your fries, and you have a really good meal with minimal fuss.

I know this, because I did it about 17 times last week while staying in a lovely resort in the San Juan Islands of Washington state. Family and friends had gathered from near and far to celebrate the wedding of my daughter and her awesome now-husband. The place was gorgeous, and the restaurants had a nice selection - for everyone but Rick and me. The bride and her gracious new mother-in-law took care to see that Rick and I had beautiful vegan meals at the rehearsal dinner and wedding reception. Other than that, we ate salad and fries pretty much the whole time. It was fine. No problem. We were in a fancy resort with lovely people and incredible views. There was really nothing to complain about. And besides, we had wine!

I know what some of you are going to ask. Did they have a separate fryer for the fries? I'm pretty sure they didn't! And you know what? We didn't ask or care. While I used to boycott fries that were cooked in the same oil as meat, I now have a different point of view on this.

Sure, there might be molecules of fish essence in the oil, and therefore in your potatoes. But honestly, it's not any worse than breathing in that burger smell from your neighbor's bar-b-que. I can't prove it, but I'm sticking to my story. In my hasty research, I found a snipet from the book, I Can't Get Sick by Angelica Joy, which supports my theory that smelling something is in some ways the same as eating it. It makes sense to me that we absorb molecules from the things we smell. If there's second hand smoke, why not second hand food?

My point is not to have you all grossed out and wearing a gas mask when you go out to eat. What I'm saying is, we live in the world, not in a pristine vegan bubble. If you want to glitch out on the fries being cooked in the same oil as the fish, I will gently suggest that you get over yourself. Really.

When we order fries that are cooked in the same oil as the chicken, it's not ideal, but let's go back to the biggest reason for being vegan - compassion for our animal buddies. Whenever we buy something, we're saying, "make more of this." But ordering, eating, and paying for potatoes cooked in popcorn-shrimp-tainted oil is not saying, "make more popcorn shrimp." It's saying, "make more potatoes." Sometimes we just have to forget about our little personal vegan purity issues.

I do have backup on this. Check out this short video from the Vegan Bros (serious potty mouth warning), in which they quote from a great article by Farm Sanctuary's Bruce Friedrich. To paraphrase, our often-perceived-as-obnoxious pursuit of personal purity can actually be more harmful to animals than if we ate a tiny amount of an animal product in something like a veggie burger with egg in it, or fries cooked in meat-shared oil.

When we make a big fat hairy deal over every little ingredient and cooking process, our servers, kitchen staff, and fellow diners see veganism as prissy and difficult, which often closes their minds to the possibility of trying it out for themselves. We do a much better job of helping animals if we make veganism look fun and delicious and easy, so other people consider going vegan because of our shining example.

I have a whole chapter planned on this for my new book (Yes!), because I think it's really worth discussing. For now, if you find yourself in potentially hostile restaurant territory, order a salad the way you like it. Don't be a stingy jerk and ask for a discount because you're not having the chicken on top. And order the fries without asking about a "dedicated fryer."

You'll be doing the best you can do, you'll get to eat (yay!), and you'll be more likely to have the people around you ask you thoughtful questions about your food choices. Really darlings, that's more than good enough.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

From Hot Dogs to Fabulous Falafel

The old Der Wienerschnitzel a-frame on Meridian Ave in San Jose has started a new life as Flying Falafel. It's all vegan and gluten free, and it's a terrific addition to the Bay Area vegan food scene.

The guys running it are cheerful, speedy, and generous. The food may be fast, but it's also real, and really, really good. I went there for lunch two days in a row, and saved half of my second meal for lunch the third day.

The falafel sandwiches start with a gorgeous, soft, fluffy, warm, whole wheat pita, which is stuffed to the brim with tasty falafel, fresh and pickled veggies, tahini, and hot sauce if you want it. A similar dish (called Plate Me) is all the above on a plate, with pita on the side. The simple menu also includes a couple of other configurations of falafel, hummus, and pita, as well as dolmas, fries (added as a garnish to one sandwich, on a whim it seemed), cinnamon baklava, and banana milk shakes. Pretty darn heavenly.

Ignore the goofy old building and funky freeway neighborhood and just go there. You will be happy. I'm quite sure of it.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Wedding Week!

My daughter is getting married over Labor Day Weekend, and as MOTB, I really can't focus on anything but the wedding and the big magic bubble of happiness that surrounds all involved. It's my job to keep that intact, which I wrote about today in TakingTheLongWayHome. Read it if you want to! Link above!

I have a post scheduled to pop in next week, about some fabulous falafel I enjoyed recently. Once I come off the wedding high, I'll turn my attention back to my work. For now, I'm all about being the best MOTB ever! (And I have the best daughter ever, who is making sure Rick and I have beautiful vegan food throughout the weekend. More on that later!)

See you soon!
xoxo Kim

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

No-Fuss Lunch

I have a shelf full of vegan cookbooks. I love them. I'll keep buying them. I'll keep writing them. And... confession of a real-life hungry girl here... I hardly ever use them. While I technically have the time to make all the fancy food I want, my choice is usually to do other things, like write and make things and share whatever wants to be shared on any given day.

When I'm at home, cooking just for me, or for both Rick and myself, I really don't love to spend endless hours in the kitchen. Most of the time, I want to eat something that's really good, really good for me, and really easy to make.

Lunch seems to kerbobble people more than other meals. Entire books are dedicated to lunch, for sandwichsakes, but honestly, there's just no need to fuss about it so. Especially when you're vegan. Bring your own, and make it something you can practically throw together in your sleep.

Leftovers from the night before are always good for lunch. Favorite stand-by sandwiches, like my Baked Tofu Birthday Sandwich, or Chickpea Tuna Salad take a little more effort, but you can usually get at least a couple of lunches out of a batch.

My current favorite grab-it-fast lunch is even faster than going out for take-out. Behold the Salad Roll! A whole salad's worth of green goodness, all wrapped up in a lovely, humble tortilla. It takes about two seconds (ok, maybe 15) to make, it's infinitely variable, it's easy to stuff in your face, and it's good for you.

Spread hummus or vegan cream cheese (or both, half on each side) all the way to the edges of a flour tortilla.
Pile on a big handful of fluffy baby salad greens.
Add other veggies (chopped small) if you want to.
Drizzle with a little salad dressing and maybe some hot sauce.

Roll it all up, nice and tight, squeezing the greens in as you go.
Leave an inch or so at the edge so the hummus/cream cheese can act like glue and hold the whole thing together.
Cut the roll in half.
Eat it!
You don't need a dipping sauce, but nobody's going to tell you you're wrong if you cozy up next to a little bowl of extra dressing.

That's it. Keep it simple. Keep it good and full of goodness.
Vegan life is easy if we let it be.