Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Going Vegan...The Maiden Voyage

Let me preface this post by saying I am not a total vegan and do not have any plans in the near future to become one.

Let me back up many years ago. In my pre-Ray days I had set my affections on a dairyman 11 years my senior. I actually was pursuing an agriculture field that involved ranch management and all the calving, moving pastures, fencing and the like. I was working on my family's 55 acre ranch at the time and probably in the best shape of my life - like EVER! Plus, I was a total vegetarian and subsisted mainly on beans and rice. I even gave up Oreos, granted it was for Lent, but still! At the time ranching/agriculture was of huge interest to me and I would study the various cattle diseases, feeds, conditions, etc. I won't go into the issue of the prolapsed rectum on one of the cows. Anyway, I digress...

So, when this certain dairyman announced he was buying a small dairy way up North (without me, I might add) I was disappointed. I so appreciated the milk, butter and cheese the beautiful Jersy cows provided and I thought it would fit the perfect role for me. As you can tell I think the only thing we had in common was cows!!

Fast forward 16 years later and here I am raising 2 young children with my husband Ray of 15 years.
I try really hard to incorporate healthy foods into our family meals. In fact, Ray will now even eat my veggie/tofu chili despite being, as he describes, vegetarian challenged. So then I decided I really needed to do something about my lack of exercise, health, and weight. I'm the snacker of the family and I love all the fun stuff. I think I justify it by reminding myself that I cook healthfully for the rest of the time. I started a high protein diet and working out and all that. I can honestly say, health wise, it has been the most challenging endeavor but I have begun to feel better because the sugar lows are going away a little at a time. However, Pirate's Booty remains my crack!

We are in the 2nd year of growing an organic community garden and it has improved our veggie intake considerably. I began buying local and organic foods as much as possible. If we do eat meat I buy local, grass fed, ethically raised. Basically, the Omnivore's Dilemma rocked my world in terms of the whole food industry. Did I mention Monsanto Corporation sucks?? Yes, the grocery bills tend to increase when you change your food patterns. However, the garden helps tremendously. Trader Joes helps me out a lot and Winco provides some nice bulk options for me. U-Pick fruits is another great way to save and a lot healthier. I'm hoping to utilize that option when berries come into season.

Now I have some lovely friends from my knitting group. We call ourselves Chix with Stix and we are all at different levels of knitting. We meet at a coffeehouse once a week and it is great fun to share different food ideas. I have found it to be incredibly inspiring to hear their ideas and try their recipes. Yes, many of the recipes are vegan and the ones I have been drawn to are in the baking circle of foods. I thought, how cool is that. I love baking (and eating it) and if there is a more wholesome way to go about it then I would be interested. My friend recommended this fantastic cookbook called "The Vegan Cookie Jar" and I can honestly say the recipes have been phenomenal. So far I have tried the chocolate "kitchen sink" biscotti and the peanut butter oatmeal cookies. The trick on these is the use of flax meal, non-dairy milk, (which binds with the flax beautifully) canola oil and wheat pastry flour. Sounds crazy, right? However, when you start adding things like roasted peanuts, espresso, dutch ground chocolate, vanilla, rolled oats and natural PB you get some amazing results. Yes folks, Ray is eating it and enjoying it (for the most part.) Even better the kids are eating it and enjoying it (again, for the most part.)
Now, I'm on the quest for some brown rice flour and syrup, coconut oil and agave nectar. It has been fun to experiment. Ray says its not right, this new fascination :) Funny thing is a lot of the time it is a cheaper, faster way to bake because you are eliminating all the eggs and butter.

Basically, the only vegan pursuit right now is the baking (and a few meals now and again.) It makes me totally respect the farmers who are raising sustainable, organic crops, their cattle ethically, in stress free environments, pasture fed and humanely treated. So often, our food is taken for granted in this highly processed country we live in. When you stand back and take a look, it is quite alarming.

Just trying to do my part and respect what God has given us in the best way I can.

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