Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Shopping: My Challenge to Stay Cruelty-Free

This year's Christmas shopping brought new challenges—challenges that were never an issue for all the years before.  This year's shopping would be much different. For this year, I did my Christmas shopping for the first time as a vegan.  I really didn't think much about it as I headed out, but I soon was faced with decisions that would define who I 
I started my shopping a few months ago.  This year I decided that we would try layaway.  So we picked a store and went out to get it all done in one day. My husband and I decided to split the list and we each went our way throughout the store looking for gifts.  I already had an idea of the kinds of gifts I wanted for the people I was looking for. 

I was looking for handbags for the women on my list.  Every time I found one I liked, I read the label.  I think I read the label on just about every bag in the store.  It is sad that most of them have leather on some part, if not all of the bag.  What's even harder is that not all items label what they are made of.  So in that case, I would smell the bags to see if they smelled like leather. I must have looked like a crazy lady to the other shoppers. 

Needless to say, after sniffing most of the store, we finished our shopping and took them to the layaway department to leave them until they were ready for pick up eight weeks later.  Then yesterday, against my better judgment, I went out again (two days before Christmas) to see if I could find a few extra things for my husband and my daughter. 

I went to this one particular store that I thought I would be able to find what I needed without having to go anywhere else.  As I went in the store, I discovered the perfect handbag...for me! Of course I always find the perfect gifts for myself when I'm shopping for others.  It was way over budget, but I knew that I just had to have it.  So I carried it around with me as a looked for gifts. 

I found some great things for my husband and I wanted to get one more thing...a hat.  My husband loves to wear hats and I love the way he looks in them.  So I looked for one that he doesn't already have.  Then I found it! It was soft, black, sexy and I knew he would love it.  Then I read the label and it was cashmere.  I knew cashmere was made from animals but I didn't know the specifics.  So I grabbed my phone and did a search on cashmere and discovered that it has many of the same cruel practices involved with wool products. 

So I stood there for a few minutes looking at the hat, imagining my husband's face after opening the gift and how it would look of him.  For a second I thought to myself, would it be horrible if I bought this? After all, I don't eat animals and I don't buy any other animal products.  But then I saw the images of the goats and imagined what they might have endured to make this hat and I hung it back on the wall and walked away.

Then I made the really long line in the store, still carrying the handbag that I really couldn't afford.  As I stood in line, making my way to the front, little by little, I began to look more closely at this bag.  I could tell that most of it was made out of a synthetic material.  But then I noticed the strap and there it was...leather.  Or at least what I suspected to be leather.  Once again, the label did not specify the materials so I began to do what I did before, yes smell the bag.  It smelled like leather to me, but because I wanted so desperately for it to not be leather, I kept smelling it hoping that I would change my mind.  I could only imagine what the people around me were thinking. 

I came to the conclusion that it probably was leather and there again I had that conversation with myself in my mind, trying to justify why I could buy it.  But my conscience always wins and when I finally made it to the register, I gave it to the cashier and told her that I didn't want it anymore.  As I left the store, I felt a bit disappointed that I put those items back, but I also felt proud.  I was proud of myself for sticking to a commitment that I made months ago to live a life free of cruelty and suffering.  It's not always an easy way to live, but I could not have it any other way!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Three Easy Tofu Meals...Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

 Since giving up meat, tofu has become a regular part of our meals.  Years ago I never would have believed that my husband and I would become such fans of something that looks like a sponge! But as we are evolving, we are learning to love and appreciate all kinds of new foods.  We now use tofu in so many dishes, from our favorite tofu scramble to our veggie soup.  Learning to cook with tofu was challenging at first, but with much research and practice, it has become second nature.  So I would like to share three of my favorite easy tofu dishes, one for each meal of the day. If you have a fear of tofu or just don't know what to do with it, here are a few easy ways to start... 

 Breakfast: Tofu Scramble

Tofu Scramble has become a regular Sunday breakfast in my home (well, at least for my husband and I).  After giving up our traditional Sunday  breakfast of scrambled eggs, we were in search for our new Sunday tradition.  Then one day I came across a recipe for Tofu Scramble, and we have been making this on Sundays ever since.  I never imagined tofu could be such a great breakfast item, but it works and taste great!  

For this dish I use 1 pack of firm tofu, 1/2 diced onion, 1/2 diced green pepper, 1/4 cup diced mushrooms, 1 diced clove of garlic, 1 tbsp of vegan butter, 1tbsp of oil, 1 tbsp soy sauce, 2 tbsp of nutritional yeast, and salt & pepper.
To start, squeeze the excess water from the tofu—I use paper towels. Then saute the veggies in a little oil until tender. Add the garlic, stir and let cook for another minute or two. Take the tofu and break it up into small pieces and let fall into the pan. Stir, be careful not to mash up the tofu, and let cook for about 2-3 minutes. Add the vegan butter, soy sauce, nutritional yeast, salt & pepper and stir together.  Let cook for 3-4 minutes and then remove from heat.

Lunch: Tofu and Veggie Rice Bowl

This has become my quick go to lunch when I am at home during the day. I always prefer a hot cooked lunch over a sandwich or salad, so when I am home for lunch, this is what I will have.

This dish uses mostly the same ingredients from the tofu scramble. I usually make this with tofu, onions, green peppers, garlic, mushrooms, tomatoes and raisins, but you can use any veggies that you like.

There is really no specific recipe or amount of ingredients for this, I just use whatever amount I feel like having or what I have left over from before.  About 1/4 of a cube of firm tofu is enough for one person to two people. I like to cook the tofu separate and then combine when done.  I cut the tofu into cubes and cook in a saute pan with a drizzle of oil.  Make sure to turn pieces over so it cooks on both sides. Set aside when done. 
In another pan, saute sliced or diced veggies for a few minutes until almost tender.  Then add one diced garlic clove, diced tomatoes, raisins, a tsp of oregano, salt & pepper and let cook for 2-3 minutes more.  Toss in cooked tofu and serve over brown rice.

Dinner: Tofu Stir-Fry

I love making stir-fry meals. They are fast and easy to make. Even better, there are no can use just about any combination of veggies that you want. I have found a much easier and quicker way to prepare this is to use a combination of fresh and frozen veggies.

For the fresh, I use onions, carrots and mushrooms. For the frozen, you can use a pack of frozen stir-fry veggies, but I like to use one of those stir-fry meal packs, like Green Giant's Teriyaki Stir-Fry Create a Meal (it includes the sauce). This saves me from having to buy more veggies like asparagus, broccoli, snow peas and water chestnuts and sauce. If I bought all these fresh for one meal, it would cost much more and they would go bad if I didn't use them quickly.

Like the previous meal, I prepare the tofu separately and combine later.  I slice 1/2 cube of firm tofu into cubed pieces.  Then saute in a small pan with a drizzle of oil, then set aside.

In separate large pan or wok, I saute sliced onions, carrots and mushrooms in a little bit of oil in a for 2-3 minutes. Then I stir in the frozen veggies, cover and let them cook for about 5 minutes or until veggies are cooked through, stirring frequently to avoid sticking or burning. Then I remove the cover, add the sauce and tofu, stir and cover for 1-2 more minutes, then remove from heat.

Serve over brown rice and with veggie spring roll, and enjoy!