Sunday, January 31, 2010

Barbecue Chicken Pizza

We've been seriously missing pizza around here, so I decided to try my hand at one. I was inspired by THIS post on the Chow Vegan blog, and it reminded me of our old omnivorous favorite from Papa John's back in the United States. That pizza had ridiculous amounts of cheese and bacon on it, and we would order one about twice per month. We ate a LOT of it. This one is vegan, so it won't exactly be the same deal, but - you know - I always felt guilty after eating that pizza. I don't think I'll feel any remorse at all for eating this one.

I bought some bok choy last week with the intention of making it my Vegetable of the Week, but it didn't work out very well because I had a visitor, we ended up eating out a lot...etcetera. So the outer leaves were beginning to look a bit wilted. I needed to use it up for something fast. I decided - what the heck - if it goes well with a sweet teriyaki glaze, it can go well with barbecue sauce. So I sliced up the green leafy sections of my bok choy and used it along with onion cut into half moons (I love onions so much that it's stupid). I sprang for a bag of Morning Star Chick n Strips, and voila! I found a vegan barbecue sauce and we were in business. Note: Be careful with Morning Star products. Not all of them are vegan. This particular product is, but many of the brand's other products contain eggs.

1:29 Project Barbecue Chicken Pizza
1 pre-made vegan Pizza Crust (or you can make your own)
1/2 of a large yellow onion, cut into half-moons
the leafy sections of 3 Bok Choy, cut into narrow strips (if you don't like greens or just don't care for bok choy, you can substitute any kind of green or omit it altogether)
1/3C Barbecue Sauce
2T vegan Butter
1/2 bag of vegan Chicken Strips, cut into a small dice
some Olive Oil for brushing the crust (optional)

Add a generous dollop of additional barbecue sauce to your chicken cubes and stir to coat. Heat the butter in a skillet or sautee pan over medium high heat. Toss the onions and bok choy greens until the onions are completely soft and see caramelization begin. The greens will wilt down considerably in this process. Remove the vegetables from heat. Spread the 1/3C of barbecue sauce evenly over the pizza crust. Distribute the chicken cubes. Add the vegetables on top. Brush the exposed crust with olive oil. Bake the pizza at 375 degrees for 25 minutes. Cut and serve.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Taco Night with The Nixes

Everyone loves tacos, so tonight I made these lovely, crunchy, tasty little fellas. They were layered with Taco Beans, Taco Rice, Pico de Gallo, Tofu Cream, and handfuls of fresh watercress leaves. Mr. Nix ate 6 of them. Yes. Six. And I'm the fat one in the family. Sigh. Oh, well. Enjoy! They were fantastic. This will easily serve 4 people.

Taco Beans
1 Can Black Beans
1 Can Garbanzo Beans
2T Canola Oil
1 T Vegan Butter
1 packet Taco Seasoning

Drain but do not rinse the cans of beans. Put them in a food processor together and pulse until you have a chunky, meat-ish consistency. Heat the oil and butter in a skillet over medium heat. Once melted, stir in the taco seasoning. Add the beans, and mash it all around until the beans are warm through and the seasoning is evenly distributed.

Taco Rice
1C White Rice, uncooked
2C Water
1 packet Goya brand "Con Culantro Y Achiote" spice (totally optional)
1/3C Cilantro leaves, chopped
2T Earth Balance
Lime Juice, squeezed from 1/2 a lime

Cook the rice*. Stir the butter, cilantro leaves, and lime juice into your rice while the rice is fresh and warm from being cooked.

*I use a microwave rice cooker, but you can cook your rice however you like. The end goal is to have about 3-4C of cooked rice when you're done. To the water you're cooking the rice in, I suggest adding the coriander and annatto seasoning from Goya called "con culantro y achiote." The ingredient list is vegan as far as I can tell, and this really adds a deeper flavor to your food (and it makes the rice a beautiful orange color that I find very pleasing). You can find it in the Mexican food section. it comes in a box that looks like a bouillon cube package. I'll include a picture of the product at the bottom of this post. If you can't find big.

Pico de Gallo
2 containers Grape or Cherry Tomatoes (about 4C)
1 JalapeƱo
1/4C Red Onion
5 cloves Garlic
1/2C Cilantro leaves
Lime Juice, squeezed from 1 whole lime (about 2-3T)
Salt to taste

Put all these ingredients into a food processor and blend until everything is evenly distributed. If you let it sit, covered, in the fridge for an hour or two beforehand, it will be even better. Make a double batch while you're at it. This stuff is fantastic for just about everything.

Garlicky Tofu Cream**
1 package water-packed Silken Tofu
5T Lemon Juice
3 cloves Garlic
1 packet Truvia sweetener
2tsp White Vinegar
1/2tsp Salt
**this recipe is just a modification of THIS ONE I found at Tasty Kitchen

Put everything in a food processor and blend until smooth. Don't just pulse it together. Let it go for a minute or two so that it gets fluffy and thick. Use on the tacos the same way non-vegans use dairy sour cream.

DON'T eat a spoonful of this and decide you don't like it. It's a condiment! It doesn't taste just like sour cream, and it isn't (in my opinion) all that tasty by itself. It is an excellent condiment, however, and I think I might be using it a lot from now on for sandwiches and salads. It was very zippy. :) Look at it like this: You might have noticed that I use cilantro in a LOT of my cooking. I love cilantro, and I cook with it almost all the time...but I've never just taken a handful of the raw leaves and eaten them alone. That wouldn't be good at all, and that's not what they're for. You wouldn't eat mustard with a spoon, right? If you would...well, I don't know what to say to you. Trust me. On the tacos? This tofu cream is heaven. Give it a go.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Peanuts, Ginger, and Lime...Oh My!

Shortly after moving to Okinawa, a neighbor introduced us to the local Thai takeout place about 10 minutes from our home on Camp McTureous. Anyone reading this who ever lived on this island at Camp Courtney or McT will know exactly which little place I'm referring to. The food is incredible...a bit overpriced, but incredible nonetheless. My favorite dish to order was the Tom Ka Gai, which is a soup made with chicken meat, chicken broth, onions, coconut milk, and copious amounts of ginger, peanuts, and garlic. Since becoming vegan, I have longed with sadness and frustration for that soup and for my total lack of knowledge in Thai cooking. How could I veganize something I never knew how to make in the first place, right?

I read dozens of recipes for tom ka gai online, but all of them were heavily dependent on the chicken for their flavor, and some of them even had dairy products as well. That didn't help me. I abandoned my quest for tom ka gai and focused on making peanut and ginger soups. Three practically inedible disasters made from online vegan recipes were the result. So, this past week, I sat down and created the following recipe. I used proportions from other Asian soup recipes to determine how much of the flavors to use, and I used my memory of the flavors in the restaurant soup along with the flavors I knew were included in traditional tom ka gai's to assemble my ingredient list. We made it tonight for dinner.

HOLY FUDGESICKLES!! (That was for you, Christina) This was a total soupgasm. I am seriously proud of myself for this recipe. I defy anyone to taste my soup next to the restaurant version and tell me the difference (you know, except that mine doesn't have any chlorinated chicken bits, fish sauce, cholesterol, or anything else bad for your body in it). If you make no other recipe from my blog...try this soup. It is just incredible. Now, you'll have to excuse me. I'm am seriously going to finish this post as fast as I can so I can go eat another bowl of this stuff before it gets cold.

Don't be intimidated by the ingredients. If you cannot find lemongrass in your produce section, you can substitute with cilantro (which I had to do this time even though we usually do have lemongrass available) or flat parsley if you don't care for cilantro. Coconut milk is available in regular 14-15oz. cans in the Mexican food section of most grocery stores. Remember that soup is your friend and very forgiving. This one has a long ingredient list, but it's very simple to make.

Enjoy and God bless!


Project 1:29 Tom Ka Gai

1T Sesame Oil
3T Canola Oil
1 Yellow Onion, chopped
5 Cloves Garlic, minced or crushed
2T Ginger Root, minced or crushed (see photo below)
1/2C Roasted Peanuts, coarsely chopped
1/4tsp Red Pepper Flakes (totally optional)
6C Water
2 Cubes Vegetable Bouillon
1/2tsp Turmeric
1/2C fresh Grape or Cherry Tomatoes, pureed or finely-chopped (do not use a canned product)
1 Can Coconut Milk
4 Servings Soup Noodles (use flat Asian soup noodles or ramen)
1/3C Lime Juice, freshly-squeezed
1/2C Lemongrass, chopped

In a large pot, warm the oils over medium high heat. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, pepper flakes, and peanuts. Toss that around a bit until the onions are softened. Pour in the water, bouillon, turmeric, and tomatoes. Bring to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer and add coconut milk and the noodles. Cover. Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the noodles are all separated and tender (see your noodle package for cooking times). Remove from heat. Toss in the lime juice and lemongrass. Stir well, and taste. Add salt to taste. Serve hot.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Explanations and Experiences over the Past Week

Where the Heck I've Been
For any or all of you...if you're out there (Hello!): We have had a visitor all this weekfrom the States, and so I have been derelict in my duties to this blog. I'll share some experiences from my days spent away from the keyboard.

First, I'm getting comfortable with admitting to people in a public way that I am now a vegan. It feels permanent and like it's going to stick, and with each "telling," I become less afraid of people's reactions and more confident in my reasons for doing all this. I am becoming a master of finding ways to eat vegan in restaurants, and I no longer feel that impulse to apologize for my dietary requirements.

The Amy & Amy & Julia Project
I ate a small portion of a special meat dish on Wednesday and, thus, consumed animal flesh for the first time in two months. I did this because it was important to my friend that we cook this dish. Months and months ago (well before I went vegan) we planned to spend an entire day in the kitchen, preparing this recipe and a watching a movie we both loved. I felt it would be incredibly rude to change our plans, and I felt it would make my friend feel that she had somehow imposed on me or hurt me if I didn't at least taste some of it after laboring over it all day in the kitchen. I won't go into detail or bother "defending" my choice to participate in this with my girlfriend of more than a decade. I had my reasons, and I felt (and still do) that they were good ones. This lady has been a friend for more than ten years. I've been vegan for two months. People who love me need time to adjust and realize that I am not a different person--that my love for them hasn't changed and that my "normal" with them is not gone forever just because I no longer eat animals. My veganism brings joy, not sadness, rejection, or judgment. I want to demonstrate the truth of that statement to my family and friends, and I can't do that if I present it to them as a life change I value above my prior promises to them, their feelings, and their relationships with me.

But back to the meat: I was not revolted as I thought I might be. It tasted just like I remembered it always tasting. The meat itself was good and the sauce that was made for it was much, much better than good (we're both excellent cooks). The mouth-feel was the first thing I noticed in a different way. I no longer like the feel of meat between my teeth. The texture was wrong and off-putting. It doesn't feel satisfying in any way to chew on meat, anymore, and being hyper-aware of what I had in my mouth just reinforced my belief that eating animals is not something I want to have in my life. That reinforcement was a huge comfort. Part of me secretly feared that, because it was going to be a tasty dish, that I would really like it and repent going vegan. I was gratified and relieved to experience the opposite. I didn't "enjoy" eating this dish. I ate a small portion of it because I felt obligated to do so. I honestly don't care if anyone approves of this or if it makes sense to anyone else or not. It made sense to me, and I gained valuable perspective and reinforcement from the experience.

In addition, my darling friend knows that I am vegan now, and going forward, she will know to assume that I won't be eating meat or dairy anymore. Because I did not blindside her or reneg on the plans we made long before I went vegan, she has accepted my choice with extreme good grace and support. She is even considering the facts that I shared with her for application to her own life. I can't find a negative anywhere in this visit, and I have nothing to reproach myself for and a great deal of confidence about how to present my new life to other loved ones in the future.

Dairy in the Curry
Next, there was another "lapse," only this one was neither calculated nor committed with my knowledge. We ordered curry, and I got a vegetable dish. Nothing in the ingredient list notified me of a non-vegan component, but then the English translations on Japanese menus are sometimes not as complete as one could wish. Turns out, my dish had copious amounts of dairy in it. The spices being so dominant, I did not notice until I'd already consumed quite a bit of cheese melted into the curry sauce. I pushed my plate away in dismay and embarrassment. Having already made a conscious and calculated choice to compromise my values the day before, I was quite angry to find I had, albeit unintentionally, done it again. I forgave myself, however, because the pain my body put me through was way, WAY worse than I deserved. Cramping, intense acid reflux pain (I suffer chronic reflux, but this was incredibly painful and much worse than my typical episodes), gas pain and pressure for hours, and 36 hours of frequent visits to the "facility." I've never reacted to dairy like that in all my life. I will wear my body's new response to lactose as a badge of honor and a reminder of the truth that humans are not designed to eat this stuff. Dairy is for cow babies...not people.

See You Next Week
So, I'll be busy spending time with my friend and her daughter until next Tuesday. After that, it will be back to business as usual in the Nix house. Everyone reading today...take care. I'll be babbling at you and posting recipes again next week.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Bok Choy and Mung Beans

This week's vegetables of the week are going to be Bok Choy and Mung Beans. The mung beans I found at the commissary come from Vietnam, and they look like tiny little black-eye peas except that they are a brilliant verdant green--almost a pine color. I can't wait to try them. Now, with these adorable full-size bok choy (I bought them because I think they MUST have been harvested within 24 hours prior to my purchasing them...totally white bases where they were cut and the leaves are just so alive and bright and firm), I have to confess that we've never tried bok choy before. They're not really all that exotic or rare. You can get them in any produce section in any grocery store I've ever seen. All the same, we've never eaten it before.

I am open to any and all recipe suggestions. I'm leaning toward a recipe I found for Thai-garlic pan/stir-fry with the bok choy and a fried rice type of "beans and rice" dish for the mung beans. That said, I'm really looking for a definitive way to eat either of these new foods, and I figured I'd ask for suggestions before diving in.

Breakfast for Bud - Tofu Scramble

One of my dearest friends in the wide world is trying to change his diet and improve his health. Having never eaten tofu, he asked me what I thought of tofu, how I liked to eat it, and for a suggestion on how to cook it. Tofu, if you think about it, is a pretty alien looking substance the first time you encounter it. It doesn't really look like food immediately upon introduction. It looks kind of like something I'd scrub my counter with, really, and that's a good way to think of tofu. Not as a cleaner, of course...but as a sponge.

Tofu is a lightly processed form of soybeans, and we refer to it as "bean curd." It's been around for - literally - millennia. We know that it's been in regular use, in pretty much the same form we use it in today, for more than 2,000 years. I'd say it's a time-tested food. We can eat it with confidence. Ha ha!

An excellent protein source, tofu is a calorie-dense and "good fat"-rich food. It is filling and good for you. How many things can you say that about? I love tofu, and I cook it a number of ways. For my friend who will soon be eating tofu for the first time, I would like to introduce it by offering my very favorite way to eat it. This recipe is also just an excellent way to meet tofu because there isn't anything else IN the recipe. It's just nothin' but tofu, Baby. So here's my favorite breakfast: The Tofu Scramble.

Basically, the idea with a tofu scramble is to replicate the textural, aesthetic, and nutritional qualities of scrambled eggs. It really does this remarkably well, and making it is very similar in practice to scrambling know without the slimy stuff and the cholesterol and the forced molting/beak cutting/menstrual cycle product issues we deal with when eating chicken eggs.

So...I have photographed the process on this, and you can click on any of the photographs to see a larger and more detailed view. When choosing tofu for this recipe, get the water-packed tofu (it will look like the package you see in my picture above), NOT the shelf-stable tofu from boxes. It will be in the refrigerated section. Keep in mind that even though I'm making this a long and detailed post, tofu scrambles can be prepared and on your plate, ready to eat, in about 5 minutes. You will also need vegan butter, onion powder, turmeric, salt, and pepper. Spice measurements are all to taste. Just sprinkle in the amounts you want of each spice.

For this recipe, you will need to buy extra-firm or firm tofu. I prefer extra-firm, and all this refers to is the structural integrity of the tofu itself. Silken or soft tofu, for example, has a creamy texture like sour cream or pudding. Extra-firm tofu can be sliced into cubes and stir-fried. See what I mean? Anyway, when you open your package of tofu, do it over the sink so that you don't get water from the packaging all over the place. Now, tofu takes on the flavors of whatever is around it, so you want to get the "flavor" of the plastic packaging off of it. We do this by just rinsing it quickly under the tap. Once you've done this, cut off about a third of the block. This is the portion we're going to cook, and you need to remove the excess water from it. Tofu is like a sponge, remember, so take two hands and start to squeeze. For our purposes, it doesn't matter if you end up tearing the block apart a bit in this process. You will be surprised at how much water comes out. Don't get obsessive about it, just a couple gentle squeezes to get the bulk of water out. Next, you need to crumble the tofu into scrambled egg-looking pieces (see pictures above).

In a small skillet, warm about 2T of vegan butter over medium heat. Throw in your crumbled tofu, onion powder, salt, and pepper. Next, you want to add your turmeric. About 1/4tsp will do it, but you can add more if you like a stronger flavor. At first, it will look orange, like the photo above left. As you stir it, it will distribute through the tofu and turn everything yellow. Once the turmeric is evenly-distributed, bright yellow, and all the tofu is warmed completely through, you're ready to serve. That's it! I eat this about 2 mornings per week with a piece of toast. It's fantastic.

Cumin-Laced Penne & Thoughts

I have been feeling a bit lethargic and sinusy over the past two days. This is hardly surprising as everyone I know on this island has either just gone through a nasty flu-like illness or is currently in the throes of it. I think the only reason I've avoided it so long is that I haven't spent much time out of doors because I've been consumed with homework from my statistics class and hiding from the sudden chilly change to the weather.

So, as dinner time approached tonight, I just didn't feel like cooking. This being the case, I decided to throw together something warm, easy, and comforting. It just had to be pasta. This meal ended up being SO spectacular, even though it was really just one of those "throw some things together" type of dishes, that I decided to share. It was amazing. I made an absolute ton of it, but all three of us had seconds, and even the juices left at the bottom of the bowl were consumed. Yep. It was that good. So...without further ado; the recipe:

1:29 Project Cumin-Laced Penne

1/2lb. uncooked Penne Pasta
1/2 can Black Beans, rinsed and drained
1 container small Cherry Tomatoes (about 10), quartered
1/2 of a Yellow Onion, chopped
1tsp finely-minced Garlic (I cheated and used the jar stuff this time)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
juice from 1/2 Lemon, about 2T freshly-squeezed
1/2C chopped fresh Cilantro (you could use flat-leaf parsley if you don't like cilantro)
3 generous shakes of Cumin (about 1/4tsp, but I didn't measure)
1/2tsp Chili Powder

Put a generous amount of salted water on to boil and get your penne started (use package directions for cooking time). While the pasta is boiling, chop your onion, tomatoes, garlic, and cilantro. In a large or high-sided skillet, heat 1T of olive oil on medium and add your onion and garlic. You don't want caramelization here, just get the onion soft and the garlic fusing with the oil. Add the cumin and chili powder. Toss it around until the aroma of the spices starts to really pop. Rinse and drain your penne. Put it straight into the skillet with your onions and garlic. Add the rest of your olive oil, using just enough to get all the pasta nicely-coated. Add in the beans and tomatoes, and turn off the heat. Just before you're ready to plate, stir in the cilantro and lemon juice. Salt to taste. It may sound like a long process, but this only took me 20 minutes from the time I started pulling ingredients out to the plate, and it was ridiculously good. You could serve this with a green salad if you wanted to, or you could add some bread if you felt a need, but we ate this as-is, and it was filling and very comforting all on its own.

In the past month or so of tremendous dietary change, some things have been happening to my body. Some are lovely and welcome. Others...not so much. I'll start with the bad so I can end on a lovely note. :) For starters, my face - especially the jaw line - has been breaking out in painful and really unattractive acne. I've even had some appear on my shoulders, which is just "ew." I've had some serious dry mouth in the mornings, which may be just a side symptom of the sinusy thing I've got going, but it started when I began eating vegan. In addition to these discomforts, I've been extremely gassy and had a vicious reappearance of my acid reflux-related chest pain. Fun, fun, and more fun...just let me tell you. have to know that these are all the exact same symptoms I dealt with when I quit smoking for an extended time a few years back (I have since relapsed), and I am recognizing all of this as a detox sort of thing. Whenever you shock your body chemically - whether it's adding something or removing something you've been using habitually for a long time (like nicotine and the chemicals of tobacco smoke or meat and dairy products), the body is bound to freak out. So, I'm taking all this in stride, but it's annoying as all hell; I won't lie.

But, lest we forget, there are a lot of great things happening with my body, too. My scalp, for one, is less oily. I used to have to wash my hair every single day because it would be oily and dirty-looking within 12-18 hours of being shampooed (and, no, it wasn't cheap shampoo or the wrong kind for my hair. I'm 35...I've been dealing with this a long time. It's not a product issue). Apparently, it was a diet-related issue! My hair stays really nice-looking all the way to the root for at least two days, now, and the resultant rest from scouring my scalp is receiving has left my hair looking way shinier and less stressed in only 6 weeks. Good stuff, right? The second great thing is that my appetite has diminished...seriously diminished. I don't get snacky. I don't feel hungry except at the times you expect yourself to be needing a meal, and even then, it's not overpowering. It's that nice sort of nudge you get that says, "Hey...why don't you go and make lunch now?" I haven't had an "Oh my God, Woman, give me food...EAT NOW" moment in weeks. That blood sugar swinging thing just doesn't happen to me anymore, and I get to satiety with less bulk of food than before. I honestly think it's the quality of the food I'm eating. I haven't eaten much crap, lately, and the crap I've indulged in was vegan crap, so it's not been loaded with animal fats. My high fructose corn syrup consumption has almost disappeared because the foods I regularly ate that contained it are all non-vegan. They hide that mess in everything, so I'm sure I've had some, but the amount is just negligible compared to what I was consuming before I made these changes.

Finally, and most exciting of all, I am losing weight for the first time in the 5 years since my back went out. Regular exercise and calorie control never worked...even when employed with consistency over a period of more than a year. My body would not release any excess weight. It was demoralizing and upsetting...and like most overweight people, I knew that no one believed me. People see a chubby woman or a fat woman and just assume she must be lying about all that exercise, and she must be chowing on Twinkies in her room at night because if she were actually doing all these things she claimed to do, she wouldn't be overweight.

I know that's what people think...and that's so hurtful, I can't even begin.

I've digressed...sorry. Anyway, the weight has dropped a bit. It's too early to throw a party and buy new clothes, but Lizzie's piano teacher noticed and gave me a really warm compliment at her lesson on Monday. I'm pretty ecstatic; I have to say.

So...have a great week, Everyone. Know that I am doing well. The family is doing great. Kioko is snoring and it's late, so I'm going to head off to bed. Make the cumin-laced pasta, and if you're considering a switch to living veggie...I can whole-heartedly and honestly tell you that this has been the most emotionally liberating experience I can recall having. Ever. Go for it.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Vegetable of the Week - Japanese Yams

I decided I should start a tradition of trying and then reviewing a new vegetable that no one in my household has ever eaten before each week. After much careful consideration, I confirmed to myself that this was an excellent plan. So here we are...and the winner this week is Japanese Yams! These heavenly little tubers have an odd and pleasing teardrop shape to them. The flesh is a very sweet marigold yellow color, and the texture is pretty similar to the yellow-fleshed sweet potatoes most Americans are familiar with. Without being fluffy or starchy sand-textured, they couldn't really be called smooth or custardy, either. It's rather a middle type of feel, and I liked them a lot.

I saw these little guys in a forlorn-looking pile all alone at the commissary getting no love. I decided I must have them. The produce guy, who knows me by sight now, stopped by while I was choosing 3 yams and asked me how I was going to cook them. I hadn't really thought about it, so he recommended using them baked. That sounded brilliant to me, so that's just what we did. I baked them, unwrapped, in the oven for an hour at 350-degrees. We churched them up with some vegan Smart Balance spread, and that was pretty much all they needed. Being ever intrepid, I tried the skin. It is not tasty like those on some potatoes, and it is tough and darn-near impossible to chew. So...leave the skin on your plate, but definitely dig in to the yellow fleshy goodness inside. They are incredibly sweet yams, and everyone really enjoyed them.

Greens and Garlic Soup

Shortly after becoming vegan, I was referred to Colleen Patrick-Goudreau's podcast, "Food for Thought" by a helpful poster at The Kind Life. She told me that Colleen's podcast would help me with a lot of my transitional questions and issues, and she was so right. If you haven't ever listened to the podcast, please do. You're really missing out. Colleen gives lessons about all kinds of issues concerning nutrition, talking about your veganism with others, the facts about animal suffering and farm conditions, and just so many other things. She tells marvelous stories, gives excellent recipes and meal suggestions, and is just an absolutely wonderful resource. If you're a vegan or vegetarian...and especially if you're a new veggie, well, you just have to go and have a listen. You can see Colleen's other work and ideas at Compassionate Cooks' website.

One of the first things I found upon visiting Compassionate Cooks' site for the first time was a video tutorial on how to make a Greens and Garlic Soup. I highly recommend watching that video because the recipe is super easy and very versatile. Being a huge fan of collard greens, I watched and became determined to make the soup for my family. So last night, we had Colleen's Greens and Garlic soup for dinner, and it was fantastic. With so few ingredients and with so little in the way of anything other than garlic as a huge "flavor," I honestly expected this to be bland and boring. I was so incredibly wrong. This stuff was amazing. You really do have to try it.

This is not my recipe, but since Colleen posted it on her site for the public, I'll go ahead and summarize it for you. You will need:

1 or 2 bunches of fresh, leafy greens (kale, mustard greens, collards, etcetera)
1 head of garlic (8-9 cloves), peeled and minced or pressed
4 small potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1T rice vinegar
8C water
1 or 2 veggie bouillon cubes
A splash (about 1-2T) of oil (we used EVOO)

In a large soup pot, heat the oil over medium high heat. Put the garlic and onion in the pot. Stir these around until the onions soften. Add the potatoes, bouillon, greens, and water. Bring this to a boil and then lower the heat, cover, and simmer for about 20-25 minutes until the greens are tender and the potatoes are cooked. Remove from heat and add the vinegar. Stir the soup and taste. Add salt and/or pepper to taste. Serve!

Below are pictures from the prep and a rather poorly-lit photo of the finished product, itself. I'm sorry I don't have a better photo of the soup. The lighting makes it look like an oily soup, but it was SO not. It was absolutely wonderful.

The Transitive Property of Pragmatism

So, lookit...I'm a pragmatist. What that means in a nutshell is that I'm a solution-oriented kind of gal. I am about getting from A to Z. I don't spend a lot of time fixated on how things should be. I'm far more obsessive about how we can move and change and repair things.

I've had a couple people express confusion with my approach to some things from the experienced vegan side of the veggie community. I have a great deal of respect for people who have been living vegan for a long time, and so I have given these people's opinions and input some serious thought. I am so grateful for all the help, advice, and lovingly-delivered information I have received and the interest and care that has been shown in my struggles and my process. So, please understand that I am not coming at this with a "tone." I just thought it might be helpful to the conversation if I explained the seeming contradiction in my whole approach to living vegan.

For me, becoming vegan was born out of two main beliefs.

My first belief is that the way we raise and slaughter animals in the United States is tragic, appalling, unnecessarily violent, and sinful. I am a Christian, and whether you share that religion with me or not, I will not mince words. I view the methods of meat, egg, and dairy production in America as a collective, mortal sin that each consumer of these products participates in every time they purchase a product that came out of that system. Above the basic horror of it all, I find the sinful nature of it most compelling because at the center of my moral compass is my faith. I believe that God is up there stomping, red-face pissed at the inhabitants of America--the most materially and naturally rich nation on planet earth--because of this fundamentally sinful system.

My second belief is that once we come to the realization that animals are being horrifically abused on CAFO's, in dairies, in egg production facilities, and in the slaughterhouses, we have a moral obligation to figure out a way to best disseminate that information to others in a useful way. I was 25 years old before I knew even the first thing about abuses in food production, so I have to wonder how many of my countrymen are still walking around in America today completely ignorant of what's going on?

I'd wager that there are millions.

So then what should the focus be? My focus is on putting an end in whatever ways I can to the very existence of CAFO's, industrial dairies, inhumane egg production, and these 13 massive slaughterhouses from which every bite of beef, poultry, and pork consumed in this nation is legally-mandated to come out of. That is my focus. Eliminating the very existence of a system like this is my focus. For the animals, for the good our national "soul," for the ecological balance in the land of my country (and, of course, the planet as a whole) and for the very health and longevity of my countrymen, the only thing I'm motivated by is moving, changing, and fixing the problem.

So how do we do that?

"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. Protect the rights of all who are helpless." Proverbs 31:8

Educating people who don't know where the steak and eggs on their plate came from is the first and most important thing. It took me ten years from the time I first heard there was animal cruelty in industrial farming to the day I was able to make enough connections between that fact and my own life to motivate me away from eating animals for real and for good. Becoming vegan was the right choice for me, but it took me a decade to learn enough, see enough, and try enough other "things" before I arrived at veganism. That's a slow freaking process! It won't take everyone that long to change (I'm pretty stubborn), but it might take some people even longer than it took me. Given that, my pragmatism screams, "There must be something else we can do in the meantime."

If, after talking to someone about the health ramifications, the ecological devastation, and the horrible conditions under which animals suffer in our nation, that person still won't commit to giving up meat? Well, I'm open to other options at that point, and none of them consist of throwing poop and epithets at the omnivore across from me. "But why not?" you may ask. Why wouldn't I want to shun and disassociate from a person who won't even try after facing and acknowledging the facts about animal consumption? Several reasons, really. First, some of these people are family members, friends, and people I love deeply. Second, some of these people will be resistant at first because of the socio-political agendas and undertones associated with vegetarianism. Thirdly, people are naturally going to be defensive and threatened when someone tells them that the way they're living their life is morally reprehensible. Finally...because whether I choose to insult and shun that person or not, they will still be out there participating in the problem. You have to accept and respect the reality of these things if you want to bring about useful change.

I'm not interested in manipulating people or tricking someone into doing something. If I can communicate to a person who is resolutely against the concept of ethical vegetarianism the facts about inhumane slaughter practices, that person might start buying organic meat and dairy from coop farmers who raise their beef and dairy cattle on natural foods, in pastures with real grass, and in relatively happy stress-free environments. If I can teach a person about what happens to egg-laying hens and about the way poultry chickens have been genetically modified, maybe that person will start buying chicken meat from a small farmer who raises unmangled, natural chickens or one who doesn't employ forced molting or other inhumane practices to get eggs from the hens. Do I, for myself, think these changes are "enough?" Obviously not. If I did, I wouldn't be vegan. Do I acknowledge that, for some people, this is all they're willing to do? Yes. Does it improve the lives of animals and put a chink in the armor of the great industrial meat machine? Yes. Does a person who cares enough to spend more time, effort, and money seeking out organics and coop-raised animal products deserve respect and patience for trying to walk in the right direction? I think they do...yes.

Every step, no matter how small, is progress. When people open up to one or two changes, they find themselves more willing over time to make a few more. That is where my hope lies. I know that my hope is well-founded because it was a series of small steps over time that led me to becoming vegan. When someone is being asked to change an entire lifetime of ingrained habit and perception, it is obtuse to the level of absurdity for the very people asking him to make the changes to insult him or disdain his progressive improvements.

The small improvements do matter, and I'd rather encourage something that matters, even a little, than do nothing. I'd rather promote giving animals happy lives instead of tortured ones. I'd rather support people feeding their children organic animal products instead of hormone and chemical-laced ones so they can grow up undamaged. I'd rather support people making a collective statement to the meat industry that our status quo is unacceptable even if I don't agree with everyone in that collective about what we should change the status quo to. If we can topple Goliath, isn't that worth trying for...even if the rock David has in the sling isn't the rock we wanted him to use?

I hope that makes sense. It's not hypocrisy. It's not a sense of defeatism. It's not a contradiction. It's pragmatism. If I can't tolerate A, but I can't have Z, then I'm willing to investigate B through Y to stimulate progress.

I have dreams about what the future can be, and I want all those dreams to come true. I truly do. Since we aren't anywhere close to seeing those dreams realized anytime soon, I want to spend my time moving closer and closing the gap. Anyway, that's how I look at the whole picture. I hope that helps to clarify where I'm sitting on all this for those of you who've been good enough to talk to me about it.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Vegan Eggs?

For those of you reading this who don't know me personally, let me explain that I love to cook. Cooking and the duties one occupies herself with in the kitchen are my passion in life. I have always been lauded for my talents in the kitchen. Several of my friends have referred to me as their own personal Paula Deen because I am both Southern like Ms. Deen and I have a mix of humor and joy in the kitchen just like she has. When I became vegan six short weeks ago, I despaired of losing my relationship with the kitchen. It is a huge part of my identity, this cooking thing, and I don't really know how to be a vegan cook.

Rather than allow such a gloomy thought to take me over, I decided that I would be proactive and study how to make this transition. A life without the joys of cooking for my family from our own kitchen would not be worth living to me. Perhaps that's a bit melodramatic, but you get the idea. I pulled out all my dusty vegan cookbooks and ordered a couple more. I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of The Joy of Vegan Baking by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, and I finally got my mitts on a copy of Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Diet. In addition to these books, I have the Low-Fat Moosewood cookbook, The Voluptuous Vegan by Myra Kornfeld and George Minot, and The Vegan Sourcebook by Joanne Stepaniak. So, anyway, I pulled these out and began looking through them. I also got online with and the Vegan Yum Yum blog. I was determined not to fail at this quest for culinary knowledge.

The most immediately helpful thing for me from all of this was learning about egg replacers. Non-dairy milks are kind of obvious. We all know about them and they're easy to find in conventional grocery stores. Replacing eggs, however, was a bit more difficult. I make a lot of cornbread and muffins and cookies and the like, so baking substitutes were a must. Today, I'd like to talk about the three egg replacers I've found, explain their differences, and tell you how to get them. So...let's talk about vegan eggs:

1.) Firm Tofu
Being Southern, I love me a good fried egg sandwich. My entire life, this has meant bread toasted with butter, a bit of egg mayonnaise, and a fried egg. OMG...yum. Let's face it, though: that's a lot of animal fat. It's been long enough, now, that just the memory of it makes my tongue feel coated and gross. I won't lie, though...egg sandwiches are freaking awesome in the taste department. The salt, the heavy nature of the animal protein, and the filling creamy quality of all that animal fat...yum. I have replaced all of that by using firm tofu for whole egg replacement. Yes. Tofu. I will do a blog post on Tofu's role in replacing the consumption of whole cooked eggs another day, but for those who don't want to wait on me, you can find recipes for Tofu "Egg" Salad, Tofu Scrambles, and Fried "Egg" Sandwiches all over the internet with a simple search.

2.) Flax Meal
I first picked up a bag of flax meal when I saw it in the gluten-free products section of the commissary in early December. I had heard that flax seeds were good for me, but I had no real idea of why that was the case. I was buying a lot of new things, then, just to try them, and I had seen flax seed products mentioned in a LOT of vegan recipes. So, I put the bag in the cart. After getting it home, I read the label more fully. It said I could use it to replace eggs in baking. I tried it in my next cornbread, and it worked! The cornbread had that same cake-like texture I had been missing in my cornbreads. I tried it in some oatmeal cookies, and they puffed right up. Flax meal, however, wouldn't work for everything. There are large brown flecks of the seed hulls and the flavor is decidedly nutty. I couldn't imagine making a custard or pie or cheesecake type of dessert with flax meal. It has it's uses. Muffins, breads, and anything "grain-ish" would be a great recipe for flax meal.

3.) Powdered Egg Replacer
There are a couple brands of egg replacer out there, but the one mentioned over and over in vegan cookbooks and blogs is Ener-G Egg Replacer. I could not find a mail order service to send me Ener-G, however, and while I was searching Bob's Red Mill website for other items, I discovered their egg replacer. I can only imagine that it works in a very similar way to the Ener-G brand, though the ingredient list is quite different. Made of soy flour and soy protein isolate as the biggest ingredients, Bob's Egg Replacer works to bind in baking recipes. I used it in waffles just this morning, and it worked very well. Bob's Red Mill products can be ordered online directly from their site (linked above), and they ship to FPO's. I received my items from them less than a week after placing the order, and that's really saying something since we live in Japan. They must've filled that order nearly immediately.

In the case of both flax meal and the powdered egg replacer, you simply use 1T of the product mixed with 3T of water for each egg in the recipe you're making. In both products, you simply stir the water in and let it sit for a minute or two. The result is a viscous, thick sort of runny paste, and it does the binding work of eggs for you as well as giving the recipe a bit of "lift." Give them a try next time you bake.

These products can seem foreign and you might feel skeptical at first. This is no time for cowardice, though! Get in there and give them a try. They are inexpensive and easy to come by once you know what you're looking for. Good prosciutto ham and authentic pancetta bacon are hard to find, too, but non-vegans don't balk at the inclusion of it in recipes. So if you want to try this out...just do it. It's cholesterol-free, and no one had their beak chopped off, underwent forced molting, or spent a life confined to a battery cage to provide it for you.

Saturday, January 9, 2010


So, I made vegan waffles for the first time ever. The batter was made from an organic whole grain mix, and I was not optimistic. It looked entirely too healthy and fibrous to taste any good. I was pleasantly surprised. I added cinnamon and vanilla to the batter as I do with every pre-made waffle or pancake batter mix. I did not add citrus, but a nice 1/4C of orange juice would've been yummy, too. These came out rather denser than I'm used to because of the whole grains. They were heavier than "normal" waffles. For that reason, I will add extra baking powder to the mix next time.

Now, we didn't come at this from a health perspective. Nuh-uh. We did this up right with butter (of course it was vegan butter! sheesh) and syrup and HUGE waffles.

They were rich and filling and absolutely delicious. Even Kioko san was allowed to try one bite. These waffles were some of the best I've ever eaten...but they had no eggs, no refined sugar, no white flour, and nothing to feel guilty about (you know, within reason, anyway). How could I have ever thought this would be deprivation?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Book, a Baby, and a Beagle

I think every vegan has a story about how they became vegan, and I think it's finally time for me to tell mine. So this blog post will be a bit longer than I normally do. I hope that's okay with you.

In my original post for this blog, I told you that my first spark towards veganism was reading John Robbins book, The Food Revolution. That was ten years ago. I was 25 years old, freshly-divorced, and living alone for the very first time in my life. I had no money, but I was not destitute. That seems to contradict, but I was poor in that special way that only young people can be. I had no money, but it was not a hardship or social obstacle, and I did not consider myself bereft. I had given up both the television and the home computer to my ex upon moving out, and I was as close to buying my own private jet as I was to being able to replace either of them. All I had for entertainment at home was a stereo, my half of the CD's, and my books. It was a peaceful, happy time despite my lack of material comfort, and it was during this period that I began to really grow up.

I believe that maturity comes not only with age (because some people could live to a hundred and still be immature), but also with introspection and circumspection. Without stopping to consider and survey both ourselves and the world we live in, life experience can net us very little in the way of wisdom. I learned to think and to look around during this period of my life, and I came out of it a better person and a more fully-realized adult. It was during this time that I first learned about how the meat industry in America treats animals, the workers that raise and slaughter the animals, and the environmental ravages they inflict upon the earth where these animals and workers are being exploited. I was horrified. I started to change my life at that point, and I never looked at the food on my plate the same way ever again. It was a powerful book, and it spurred me onto the first leg of this long journey...but I wouldn't successfully become a vegan for another decade.

I married Ashley in 2003, and our daughter, Elizabeth, was born late that same year. Thus began the next chapter of my life. I got busy. I had a lot of changes to go through. My husband is a U.S. Marine, and he was deployed to Iraq twice in the following three years. I watched Elizabeth, sometimes alone and sometimes with my husband, as she grew. I would watch my baby girl and marvel at how new everything was for her. Her body was new. Her organs were new. I realized that I was--almost solely--responsible for how she would treat that body and how she would grow--emotionally, physically, and spiritually--over the next several years. In a twist that I now view as a "God breeze," our daughter was allergic to dairy formula. After two infections in my breasts, my milk dried up early, and I could no longer breastfeed. As devastating as this was for me emotionally, all we could focus on at the time was getting nutrients into our little baby's body. We put Lizzie on a formula that our doctor recommended, but she could not tolerate it. She would projectile vomit when fed a dairy bottle, and I became concerned that she had a serious health issue to address. After two weeks of this, something had to be done. I wrung my hands as I waited for our doctor's verdict. She had good news. Elizabeth wasn't sick. She was just a human baby...and her body didn't want the milk from a cow. That was all. Doctor Hu immediately told us to switch to a soy formula. We bought a can on the way home. The first night we gave Elizabeth a soy bottle, she slept through the night--a solid 6.5 hours--and she did so every night afterward for the rest of her infancy. For the first year of her life, we called her our Little Soybean. Elizabeth no longer reacts poorly to consuming dairy (her grandparents were all appalled that she drank soy formula and continually gave her cow's milk to drink when she got old enough to drink it), but she has always been a herbivore, and she has never cared for meat of any kind. Even with those first jars of baby food, she would never condescend to eating the mixtures that contained meat. It is as if she was a born vegan, and I no longer think this was a coincidence of personality. In that first year of Lizzie's life, I pulled out Mr. Robbins book again , and read it through a second time. It was 2004...but I still wouldn't successfully become a vegan for another five years.

Shortly after Elizabeth was born, our family suffered a devastating loss. Our beloved gray and white shelter rescue cat, Kismet, was spooked one day and darted through the front door while I was carrying in a bag of groceries and Lizzie in her carrier. As soon as I could set the bag of food down and get Elizabeth secured in her crib, I raced into the street to find my cat and give her a piece of my mind for running away. She was gone. My annoyance turned immediately to fear for Kismet's safety. We had been stationed on Camp Pendleton (San Diego, CA) for only a few weeks, and Kismet was an indoor cat. She didn't know the neighborhood and we didn't, either. Her veterinary appointment to have her chip inserted and be registered with the base was scheduled for the next morning at 9am. So here we were, brand new in town with a new baby and a cat with Indiana tags and numbers on her collar. There is a large coyote population on Pendleton. We spread signs with her picture and our phone numbers. We looked and walked and called shelters and vet clinics all over the area. We never saw Kismet again. I was devastated and felt personally responsible. My only hope is that, because she is a beautiful cat, maybe someone found her and chose to keep her rather than look for her owner.

I told you this sad story so that you'll understand the happy one which follows a bit better. In 2007, on Elizabeth's fourth birthday, we moved to Okinawa, Japan to live on MCB Camp McTureous. Lizzie announced that she wanted a dog. We'd been joking, Ashley and I, for years about getting a beagle. We knew the breed's personality and shortcomings, and we felt that beagles were the only dogs for us. The problem was that I was not ready. It felt like trying to replace Kismet, and I still got very sad for her, sometimes. Having Elizabeth speak up and ask for a dog, however, made me realize that having a companion animal in the family wasn't just about me. My husband stood back and gave me room to mull it over. We brought Kioko the beagle home shortly after the new year in 2008. have to know that Kioko is the most beautiful and amazing dog I have ever known, but she was an absolutely horrid puppy. My friend, Kristi, the vet tech would laugh out loud to see me type this because she had a lot of advice for me in this area before we got Kioko ("Amy, don't get a beagle...for God's sake, anything but a beagle. They're awful!"). It's true. Beagles are horrible little dogs. Ha ha! There was no amount of puppy cute that could compensate for what Kioko and I went through together in her first year at home with us. It was bloody torture. She would not housetrain. She saw absolutely no reason why she shouldn't poop on the end of our bed and then lie down in it. We went through ear infections, respiratory infections, urinary infections, and once--by a fluke of chance that scared me out of my mind--a triple fracture in her left hind tibia. Rock bottom was the day I knelt in my bathroom, full-on weeping, as I scrubbed a fresh batch of poop out of Kioko's coat again while she serenely sat in the warm bathtub licking my face. This constant drama went on for a solid year, and you can learn more about my saga with Kioko the Wonder Beagle here if you're interested. Long story short, we went through Hell together, my beagle and I. The whole time, I would grumble and complain, honestly convinced that I believed getting a dog was a mistake. I thought I didn't like Kioko much. Then, one night, I saw her sleeping in bed with Elizabeth, and it was the most peaceful thing I had ever seen. I realized, as I stood there watching my little babies sleep together, that I have never had a relationship with an animal as special as the one I share with this little dog. I loved Kismet, but Kismet sort of took care of me if that makes sense. Kioko considers herself my dog, and she depends on me for everything. She loves our whole family, but I am the one she looks to when she is confused or frightened or hungry. I am the one she is looking to please when she goes outside to poop even though it's raining. I am the one whose absence she cannot tolerate. How could anyone not feel humbled, gratified, and flattered by that? It was spring of 2009. In less than eight months, our family would commit to becoming vegan.

I don't know why it came to pass on that particular day, but I can tell you the moment I made the firm decision to change our lives forever. It was Thanksgiving Day, and I was preparing a turkey to roast. It was no different than any previous Thanksgiving Day, but as I stood there in my rubber gloves and apron, looking at the finished and stuffed dead turkey on my counter, I was repulsed. I was covered from fingertips to elbow in butter and olive oil and flecks of various herbs from stuffing the turkey. For the first time in my life, I found the entire scenario nauseous. Kioko was in the kitchen with me and all I could think was, "We would never do this to her." I seriously felt like vomiting. Instead, I removed the gloves, washed my hands and arms, asked my husband to put the turkey in the oven, and walked out of my kitchen to breathe. I finished cooking the Thanksgiving meal, and I ate it along with everyone else, though I had very little pleasure in it. The connection had been made; the correlation between the food animals on our table and the beloved member of our family at my feet was solidified. I'll never be able to separate them, now, and I no longer want to. The next day, I told my husband that I wanted to be a vegan, because once you know--once you really know--you can never go back to pretending that you don't know.

There have been many small moments between my first reading of The Food Revolution a decade ago and today. I have flirted with vegan eating in fits and starts over the years. I have actually cried at some of the things I've learned about the treatment of animals. I have spent months at a time energetically reading veggie websites and cookbooks. I started to read the Bible for God's opinion of all this because I couldn't understand how any of this could possibly be okay with Him. None of these efforts, as genuine as they always were, ever "stuck" long enough for me to find the strength and bravery to come out of the closet and really make the changes I needed to make. It took being bonded to a totally dependent animal for me to finally put the pieces into place, and it took getting reconnected with my faith to feel the moral weight of what we, as a family, were doing at the dinner table each and every night. I know, now, that my family has Mr. Robbins' book, Elizabeth's dairy allergy, Kioko's loving presence in our home, and God, our creator, to thank for our present state of awareness and dedication.

I am vegan because of a book, a baby, and a beagle, and I can't think of a better way to honor any of them than by living this change honestly and faithfully...for the rest of my life.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Pantry Visitation Rights

So, it's been almost a month since we made the big change to vegan food, and we've been very relaxed about our approach so that shock wouldn't set in and tempt us to backtrack. We said in the beginning that instead of throwing out all the food in the house (which would have been nothing better than sheer waste in our eyes given how many people in this world are undernourished), we would gradually use up the products we already had to make room for the new foods that would be coming in.

It hasn't quite worked that way, though. I have been loathe to use any of it. I open the freezer or the pantry and find myself scouring labels, sighing, and putting it back "for another time." We never had a last, gluttonous farewell meal with meat and dairy and all that. We just...stopped eating it once the decision was firm.

So. I have a refrigerator full of turned dairy products and spoiling leftovers that I will be purging from the icebox tomorrow. I feel a compulsion to get all Martha Stewart-brand anal about it, too, and just disinfect the entire refrigerator from top to bottom. The pantry closet is another issue entirely. It is filled with cans of soup, chicken broth, gravy mixes full of whey and "powdered beef product (ew!)," among other multi-syllabic scientific chemical names. There are chips going stale in there coated with powdered dairy products. Every manner of flavored rice (all the sauce packets are full of chicken or beef bits in the powdered mixes, and quite a few have milk products in them). Tuna packets, cream of this and that soups, cereals and breakfast bars containing whey powder...and on and on. In my freezer are several pieces of beef and a packet of stew meat. There are pre-cooked, flash frozen battered and breaded chicken nuggets covered in sauce made of GMO high-fructose corn syrup. There is a box of fish filets that didn't taste any good to us when we still ate fish, frozen microwaveable dinners that no one is going to eat. In my baking and spice cupboards, I have milk chocolate bits, three bottles of multi-colored corn syrup, beef and chicken bouillon, and a candy jar full of...candy.

No wonder America is so fat and sick! Look at what we have in our home...all of it voluntarily purchased and horded away as "staples" to supplement fresh foods that I have always cooked in my kitchen. Our family actually ate a reputedly healthy diet according to pretty much everyone we know! Imagine what the pantries, freezers, and refrigerators of less health-conscious Americans contain.

We have arrived at the conclusion that these foods will not be used up. No one wants to eat it, now. The perishables will have to be tossed, and we will simply recycle the plastic containers as per usual. As for the shelf-stable foods, I will be calling around to the various chapels on island to see if there is a food program for any families in need. If not...I'll have to toss that stuff, too.

It rubs every part of me the wrong way to throw away food. I was raised not to waste, and as an adult who has now reviewed and ordered my own priorities, I still cannot stand wasteful living and excess consumption. Odd thing for a chubby woman to say, maybe, but it's true. I don't mind tossing garbage, but tossing food--even though it's food I cannot use--feels wrong. On the other side of it, however, I know that I will feel better about my home and the groceries in it. There will be room in my kitchen for the good things once the bad stuff is evacuated, and soon I can visit my pantry again in the satisfied, comfortable way I have always done before. I love to cook. I love my kitchen. I want to love my pantry again.

Think fondly of me in the next few days as I cull out and toss. It will be difficult for me to do.