Green Garlic Pesto

This week, we received some green garlic from our CSA. I had never used this before–it consists of very young, green garlic bulbs and their scapes.

I have been adding it to recipes such as hummus and black bean salad for a lovely flavor. I also came up with the recipe for this lovely pesto, which I ended up serving on pizza.

After I made the pesto, my 21 month old daughter was licking it from the spatula and eagerly signing “more”, which she also did as she ate the pizza. As she is certainly the toughest food critic in the house, I considered this a high compliment. We have leftover pesto that I plan to serve with pasta later this week.

Green Garlic Pesto: 

  • 3 cups of fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts (other nuts would work as well)
  • 4 green garlics–heads and scapes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Blend all ingredients in a food processor until you’ve reached your desired consistency. Taste and adjust any ingredient proportions to fit your tastes.

To make the pesto pizza, we bought organic, refrigerated pizza dough from our local grocery store. We followed the instructions for preparing it, and stretched it to fit a cookie sheet (we don’t have a pizza pan or a large oven). We then spread the dough with pesto, and topped it with mushrooms, Field Roast Apple Sage sausage, and a new mozzarella-style vegan cheese I found at Whole Foods. It’s my new favorite vegan cheese, so I’d encourage you to give it a try!

It’s not every day you find a recipe that feels sophisticated and is also loved by a toddler. If you have a recipe like that, I’d love to know!

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Vegan Cooking Without Recipes

I think one of the most intimidating things eating vegan is the idea that you’ll now need a recipe for everything. We’re used to being able to make foods without recipes–chicken and a baked potato, a cheese quesadilla, a piece of salmon with asparagus. As tempting as it sounds to keep eating that way, vegan cooking can actually be easier than you’d think.

I love looking at cooking blogs and cookbooks, but I’d also recommend thinking about what you already know how to cook and how you can “veganize” that. Start with a food you know you like that’s easy to make plant-based. Pasta, burritos, and stir fries are all good choices. Now, substitute vegan ingredients. Try nutritional yeast for cheese, and beans, tofu, or a meat substitute for protein. Before you know it, you’ve taught yourself to cook vegan, without following a complicated recipe.

A common meal for us to have in our house is pasta. We saute some crimini mushrooms in olive oil, then add a meat substitute (in this picture it’s Beyond Meat’s Beefy Crumble–which just happens to be gluten and soy free). We mix this with a jar of pasta sauce and perhaps some Kalamata olives. To add a little extra nutrition, we chop kale and add it to the last few minutes of the pasta’s cooking time. It can be sprinkled with nutritional yeast and served with a salad for a satisfying meal.

This can have endless variations–zucchini added to the sauce in the summer time, a homemade pasta sauce when you have some more time, fresh herbs from your garden.

Try it for yourself, and you’ll soon have at least one meal a week that’s both easy and vegan.

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Vegan Cheese Sauce

Eating vegan doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive. In fact, with a toddler in the house, I prefer it to be neither.

Last week, I made this delicious cheese from the blog Veggie on a Penny. I love the fact that it’s made up of potatoes and carrots, rather than cashews and/or packaged “cheese” like many vegan cheese sauces are. Not only does this make it healthy, it also makes it cheap! The recipe was easy to whip up, made a huge quantity, and my 18 month old daughter loved it mixed with macaroni and peas. I put some freshly ground black pepper on top of my bowl, just to feel a little more adult.

IMG_3035 (1)I’m also looking forward to trying it in quesadillas and on grilled cheese.

And if you have favorite easy, inexpensive vegan recipes or meal ideas that other families might want to know about, let me know!

 

Vegan for our Children

“Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.” ― Albert Einstein

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I recognize how people must view my raising my family vegan. At best, the majority of people might think I’m depriving my kids, at worst, they might think I’m malnourishing them (in fact, a well-planned–and shouldn’t every diet be well-planned–vegan diet has been deemed appropriate for all ages by the ADA). Others might think I’m imposing my own fringe beliefs on my children.

Knowing I’ll face judgment, I need to remind myself of reasons to go vegan. Every vegan probably has a certain story or statistic that cemented it for them. Here are a few of mine:

  • Meat: There are no “humane” slaughterhouses. I appreciate the people who have worked to give animals raised for food the best lives possible. However, in the end, we need to kill the happy chickens in order to have meat. These animals are not killed as they were by our hunter-gatherer ancestors. The vast majority also aren’t killed by the small family farmer. Instead, they’re packed into trucks and go through an assembly-line style slaughterhouse. There are not organic or free range slaughterhouses. Not only do I not want an animal to be killed this way, but I don’t want other humans have to kill in such large quantities every day. Slaughterhouse workers can suffer from PTSD and towns that have slaughterhouses experience higher rates of violence (take a look at this article from The Texas Observer for more information).
  • Eggs: Just as I know many people who try to eat “humane” meat, I also know many people who try to eat free range eggs. Some even raise chickens in their backyard. I so appreciate the care that many I know give their backyard chickens, and it’s definitely the best solution we have if we’re going to eat eggs. However, the core problem for me is how we get the chickens who lay the eggs. Currently, when male chicks are born, they are ground alive or suffocated, since there is no need for them. I don’t need to eat eggs to survive, so I don’t need chicks to die on my behalf. As for the question of free range eggs that are store-bought, unfortunately, the labels on the egg containers in the grocery store don’t always mean what we wish they would. For instance, “cage free” means no cages–it doesn’t mean that chickens aren’t still packed together and these chickens can still be de-beaked. “Free range” can be a large warehouse with one small door to access the outdoors.
  • Dairy: I’ve had many people say to me, “I could definitely give up meat, but not cheese.” I agree–dairy can be the biggest hurdle to going vegan. As a girl from Wisconsin, it was for me. What keeps me dairy-free is realizing the link between dairy and meat–male dairy calves are raised for veal, and old dairy cows are slaughtered. However, what really keeps me from eating that delicious cheese, is the experience of losing a child to miscarriage. I’ve never experienced such profound, unexplainable grief as that, and I had never even seen that child. In order to produce milk for human consumption, we need to constantly impregnate cows, but then take their calves from them. I’ll admit–I’ll never know exactly what cow cognition is like. But I know this, they cry when their calves are taken. As a mother, I understand this with the core of my being.

There is one over-arching reason that’s perhaps even bigger for me than these questions of cruelty: the environmental impacts of eating animals and animal products. The amount of resources it takes to produce the amount of animal products humans currently want to consume is unsustainable. Animal agriculture creates emissions that contribute to global warming; it is also the leading cause of rainforest destruction, takes vast amounts of water, animal waste pollutes our land and water, and fishing has pushed many species of marine animals to the brink of extinction. Simply put, we can feed more people, and preserve more resources, if we eat plant-based. Many would argue that instead of giving up animal products, we should move back to more small-scare farming and fishing operations. While I appreciate those who work towards solutions like those, the small-scale operations simply cannot feed our skyrocketing global demand for animal products, which is why we have to take the demand down. Way down.

All these reasons keep me vegan, and keep me believing that veganism is best for my family. However, what really keeps me vegan is parenthood itself. I want my kids to grow up believing in radical kindness, believing that individuals have power to minimize the amounts of violence in the world. I want my children to grow up believing that they can have an impact on the world by the choices they make. I want my children to be able to give their children a world as beautiful as the one we have now.

In the past, animal products were necessary for humanity’s survival, and they are still necessary in some regions of the world. However, they are no longer necessary in industrialized nations. The amazing thing about humans is their ability to change, adapt, and evolve. Our children will learn things about their place on earth beyond our wildest dreams–just think of all we’ve already learned. Kahlil Gibran writes on children in The Prophet:

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

I do not know what the house of tomorrow will be like for my children, but I want to give them the best opportunity I’m currently aware of to get to a beautiful house of tomorrow. That’s why I’m vegan. I’m vegan because I love animals, because I love the earth, but most of all, because I love humanity.

 

What’s New?

So, what’s the new in The New Vegan Family?

I am a relatively new vegan mom–my daughter is 18 months old.

While I’ve been vegan for awhile, being a parent adds a new wrinkle to it. I didn’t anticipate the fear of judgment that I’d feel for raising a child vegan. I also didn’t anticipate how much more passionate having a child would make me about veganism–I look at her and realize I want to help create a world where people are kind to the earth and animals.

I am newly pregnant with my second child–in my second trimester.

I’d like to share what I’ve learned about pregnancy, pregnancy loss, birth, and everything else that goes along with creating a new life.

I want to help those who are new to parenthood, veganism, or both.

This hasn’t always been easy for me–parenthood or veganism–and I often found myself searching for support (usually at 2 am, when the baby wasn’t sleeping). I’d like to offer that support to anyone, whether they are vegan or just looking to eat less animal products.

Writing this is a new journey for me.

I hope you’ll come along.