Brief hiatus

Due to some personal matters, I’ll be stepping away from the blog this week (retroactive to Monday obviously) and likely next week as well. I’ll be back soon though, don’t worry!

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Apologies and Addendums

First, my apologies for the lack of a post on Wednesday. We’re still in the grieving process over here and I couldn’t bring myself to write anything. I also didn’t do the weigh-in because we’ve been eating far from healthy and–sadly–broken vegan a few times over the course of the week. It’s just so much easier when you don’t feel like cooking your own food, which is unfortunate. We both feel terrible about that, and have rededicated ourselves to the vegan lifestyle.

There are bumps in every road.

Secondly! After more experimentation (I found the casserole I originally posted a little bland for my tastes) I’d recommend the following additions to the crumble and the sweet potatoes:

Crumble:

  • 1/4 cup cinnamon
  • 1/8 cup ginger

Sweet Potatoes:

  • 1/2 cup cinnamon
  • 1/8 cup ginger
  • 1/8 cup chili powder

Also, trying it with the applesauce at 4 ounces to replace two eggs, it works wonderfully. So no need to go buy egg replacer if you don’t have it already! I know this post comes a little late for Thanksgiving and would have been better suited for Wednesday, but I wanted to make sure I shared with you guys.

 

In Memorium — Elsa

So I know I said I would post up that curry bake recipe, but after I posted up the sweet potato casserole Saturday morning some heart wrenching and life shattering things took place. We’ll make it eventually, I promise, because I love curries. But today’s post is a bit more personal. A bit of therapy for myself.

January 2011 – November 17, 2012

(From a post I made Saturday evening to another location)

We were throwing out some leftovers Tuesday that had onion in them and spilled some on the floor; before we could clean it up she managed to gobble up at most three ounces of onion, but I think even a little less than that. The day she ate the onion she acted like she wasn’t feeling well but the next day and through Friday she was feeling better.

This morning was different. She was very lethargic and her gums were extremely pale. We immediately took her to my normal vet only to discover he wasn’t there this weekend due to a conference. We took her to another nearby vet his receptionist suggested. She walked inside fine, but while I was filling out paperwork she just laid down and wouldn’t get up. She was breathing very heavy and ragged breaths.

A vet tech came and picked her up and carried her back, the doc was between patients and she was obviously in distress. After a couple of minutes he came out and explained that she was suffering from severe anemia and kidney complications, both due to the onion toxicity killing off her red blood cells. This reduced oxygen to her organs and also flooded her kidneys with dead red blood cells.

He told us we needed to get her to a nearby emergency clinic immediately if cost isn’t a concern (he said it would likely be $2,000+) for an oxygen tank and blood transfusion, because all he could provide was supportive care via an oxygen mask. I remember vividly the moment I realized how serious this truly was–he said, “if she makes it through today, she should be okay.” With that, he went back while we called family.

We quickly secured funding from family members, within 3 minutes, but in that time things changed. Her heart had stopped and the vet was trying to get it restarted. He was unsuccessful, and told us the almost certain cause of death was anemia related complications due to the onion toxicity.

This was a lab/malamute mix, close to or over a hundred pounds. She was in great health and less than two years old. It was no more than a few ounces of cooked onion, and it killed her.

Surviving Thanksgiving

So we’re a couple of weeks out from Thanksgiving here in the states and this will be my first as a vegan. It will be difficult. My mother’s dressing is amazing, but it also has turkey and turkey stock in it. The turkey itself is of course always the centerpiece of the Thanksgiving meal. Thanksgiving is probably the hardest holiday for a vegan–at least I think it will be for me.

All hope is not lost, however! There are vegan/vegetarian options for Thanksgiving, and I’ll be trying my hand at veganizing a few traditional Thanksgiving dishes. Last year I made an awesome vegan-friendly sweet potato casserole, and I shall be creating that again this year for my office’s Thanksgiving potluck at the end of this week. The fiancee is planning to make a curry bake–a less traditional Thanksgiving option for sure but still delicious.

Later this week I’ll post up the sweet potato casserole recipe and some pictures of it. In the meantime, what are some of your favorite vegan-friendly Thanksgiving dishes?

 

Parents meet; Xbox controller and Leo Strauss are casualties.

This evening my parents and my fiancee’s parents met for the first time. We all had dinner together over at her parents’ house and I think it went well. Her mother was very nice and prepared several vegan-friendly options for us, such as a TVP and rice casserole, some delicious grilled veggies, baked potatoes, and a great chocolate-banana oatmeal cake. It’s great that she did too, because we were going to bring something vegan just to be safe but totally spaced on making it last night. Whoopsie.

It would be nice to say that her parents were always so supportive of her vegan diet, but it’s great that they’ve come around. My parents are relatively supportive, but it isn’t like they really have much choice in the matter considering I’m in my late twenties and not living with them. The one concern my dad harps on, and given my family history it is a valid one, is making sure I get enough B12. My grandfather later in life suffered from major B12 absorption issues that the doctors believe contributed to him developing dementia and other ailments in his last several years. Apparently that sort of issue can be genetic, and as any vegan can tell you it can be very difficult to get a significant quantity of B12 in foods from anything but animal sources.

In case you didn’t know (I didn’t until recently), this isn’t because animal sources are inherently the only place we can get B12. It isn’t proof of a need for meat in our diet. Rather, it is a result of our modern farming methods–we work the ground so hard to produce such huge quantities of certain crops, and as a result the soil becomes fatigued and is no longer replenished naturally with B12 that then becomes integrated into the plants grown in that soil. In healthy, vibrant soil there is plenty of B12 available to create plants that match the B12 needs of human beings.

Anyway, on to the casualties… When we got home we discovered that Abigail decided she wanted to destroy quite a few things around the house after she freed herself from her crate in some as-yet-to-be-determined manner. Among the dead were my copy of The City and Man, a wireless xbox controller, and some sandals. Injured were two remotes and a couple of pairs of sandals. Could’ve been worse, but she’s certainly proven she can’t be left unsupervised quite yet. Shame too, because I was planning on letting her stay out tonight while we slept since she’d been stuck in her crate all day.

Meet the family

So as I said in my introductory post, I recently became engaged. My fiancée (it still feels odd calling her that rather than girlfriend) and I have been living together since March of this  year officially, though more nights than not we stayed together for quite a while before that. We don’t have any human children yet–that will come at some point after we get married. But what we do have is an amazing family of companion animals–none of whom we purchased through puppy or kitten mills.

ISABELLE (IZZY)

Before I met my fiancée, I had my rat terrier Isabelle. She and I came together in July of 2007 when I was with my previous girlfriend. Growing up my family always had dogs around; when that girl and I moved in together in January 2007 we only had a cat and I immediately began to miss that canine companionship. Eventually I contacted the Protective Animal League, a rescue/re-home group, and they brought out Bell (as she was called then) to meet me and my apartment. We meshed well, and she’s been with me ever since.

Her’s is actually a rather sad story from the human side of things. From what I was told, Bell and her sister Tinker (haha, get it?) had been owned by an elderly couple. They were more the husband’s dogs and he apparently passed away. The wife didn’t have the strength to take care of them after his death because they just reminded her too much of her husband. So she called P.A.L. and gave the ladies up for adoption.

KEELY (KEEBS)

Before we met, my fiancée had two cats. Keely was the first of these and  they came together in the spring of 2009. She wanted to go look at another cat she found online with her mother since she was at college. Initially her mother said no but came around a short while later, but they agreed the cat she’d found wasn’t a good fit. She suspects it was because she’d lost her favorite companion Smokey to cancer a little over a year earlier and her mother knew how much she yearned to have a companion.

Instead, her mother suggested they go to Operation Kindness, the oldest and largest no kill shelter in north Texas. There she met Keely, recovering from her spaying, and they fell in love–only to later discover that Keely is a much feistier cat when she isn’t in recovery. She still has her cuddly moments though, but they’re pretty limited.

ASPARAGUS (GUS)

Her second cat. The sewer cat. While she was in college her roommate heard meowing from the sewer while walking her dog during the evening and investigated. My fiancée eventually joined her and they spent nearly two hours trying to get the cat out. Animal control couldn’t even get the cat out as the attempts stretched over the next two days. Eventually the neighbor provided a live trap and they fed it into the sewer with some cat food, and within half an hour the cat was in the trap and very unhappy.

The kitten, the white and brown little boy above, had a long recovery as he had to be treated for quite a few pests and parasites, as you might imagine. Her mother initially resisted keeping him over the phone, but fell in the love the moment she saw him. He’s been with her ever since, and her mother has been offering to steal him ever since.

ELSA (ELSIE)

My fiancée decided while she was living on her own that she would feel more comfortable with a dog around, both for the friendship a dog offers and as protection to dissuade potential burglars. She’d always wanted a dog growing up but her mother declined, so once she got out on her own she wanted to finally get a canine companion. For her new friend she turned again to the wonderful people at Operation Kindness.

And out she came with Elsa, an eight month old lab/husky mix (so they said). We now suspect, as she approaches two years of age and full size, she is actually a lab/malamute mix. Either way, she was a second adoption–apparently after she originally came into the shelter she was adopted but returned. I can’t imagine why anyone would return such a wonderful dog, but their loss has definitely been our gain.

JELLA (JELLYBEAN)

Jella was pretty much foisted upon my fiancée, but I honestly don’t think she minds too much. Her step grandmother invited  her to come see this beautiful cat her friend had found. From there she basically guilted her into taking the cat as the only other option was surrendering it to the shelter in her small town. She’s rather bipolar at times, very aloof for days on end and other days refusing to be anything but the center of attention.

WU

TANG

Wu and Tang (named by my friend) were found by my fiancée on the side of the road in a box along with one other kitten, abandoned. She took them to a vet but, since only one was sick, they refused to take these two. She brought them home with every intention of finding them new homes, but instead we kind of fell in love with them.

Wu is elusive. The picture above is about the best photo you’re going to ever get of him because he flees when people come within five or six feet of him. Tang is the exact opposite; she is one of the mushiest cats I’ve ever seen.

ABIGAIL (ABBY)

This young lady is both the youngest and newest addition to our family. We were leaving for work one morning and when we opened the garage door this little girl was standing outside. Neither of us could stomach just leaving her there, so we made the decision to herd the puppy into the garage, put down a little food and water, and I took her to work. I returned home and took the puppy to the vet, who said they couldn’t take it. I took her to the shelter next door but they didn’t open until eleven–this was a quarter to nine. I was stuck with this pitiful thing staring up at me for more than two hours.

By the time the shelter opened it was basically a done deal. I took her inside and had them check her for a chip–none. She didn’t have a collar, she was covered in fleas… Obviously a stray or feral puppy, abandoned prior to two months of age. I told them where I’d found her and they told me I had to take her to a different shelter because it was the wrong city and they were city owned.

I couldn’t do it. She came home with me, we got her fleas taken care of, and I took her to the vet to get her health checked out. Not quite a week after we found her, she weighed 9.2 pounds. Now she’s a little over 50, about six months later. She’s also one of the sweetest dogs I’ve ever had in my life, even though she’s a supposedly “aggressive” pit bull (though also mixed with lab, the vet is pretty sure).

So… That’s our family! Pretty crazy, right? It wasn’t on purpose, but I wouldn’t have it any other way now. Better they’re living happy and healthy lives with us than wandering the streets or put to death in a shelter.

A special WORLD VEGAN DAY post! – Bibimbap “Meguk-style”

First and foremost I want to wish you all a very happy World Vegan Day!

This is my first since I just turned vegan a few months ago, and it is great to see the growing number of vegans (such as myself) and the increasing knowledge of that for which vegans stand. What’s not to love about a healthy, cruelty-free diet, right? But I understand it’s a hard transition for some, for example I would never in a million years expect my parents to go vegetarian, let alone vegan (though Dad doesn’t like milk or eggs–so at least there’s that…I guess).

Another great thing about the proliferation of the vegan diet into the mainstream is the fact that within five minutes drive of the office there are TWO vegan friendly restaurants we can go to for lunch! Both are Asian-oriented, as so much vegan food is (which I love, by the way), and both introduced us to a Korean dish named bibimbap. According to wikipedia, it is:

[…] a signature Korean dish. The word literally means “mixed rice”. Bibimbap is served as a bowl of warm white rice topped with namul (sautéed and seasoned vegetables) and gochujang (chili pepper paste). A raw or fried egg and sliced meat (usually beef) are common additions. The ingredients are stirred together thoroughly just before eating. It can be served either cold or hot.

One of the two restaurants is a vegan buffet, which is amazing and offers a cold version. While this is delicious, I prefer the hot version served at the other restaurant that, while not vegan, offers vegan-friendly options in both type of bibimbap and sauces. My fiancee’s favorite is the Vietnamese peanut sauce; I’m torn between that and the Thai sweet chili lime sauce. Suffice it to say, they know us by name at both establishments.

Eventually I decided, hey, I can make this at home! Seems easy enough! I’ve made several variations and tried a few different sauces, but for our home bibimbap, which I call Meguk-style because Meguk is the Korean word for the United States, the peanut sauce seems to work best.

Some say that, in a bit of folk etymology, this is why soldiers during the Korean war began calling the Koreans ‘gooks’ (which has now, of course, become a bit of a racial slur)–when they saw the American soldiers they would run up yelling, “Meguk! Meguk!”–‘American! American!’ And of course we being the pompous people we are, we assumed they were speaking to us in English and identifying themselves as ‘gook.’ I don’t know if that’s the officially theory or anything, but it’s one I’ve heard. It’s fun to be open to new ideas, even if sometimes they lead you to discussing racial slurs on a vegan blog.

Such is life!

Anyway! So here is my vegan, Meguk-style bibimbap!

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First off, the peanut sauce. The recipe I more-or-less followed can be found at Fat Free Vegan.

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The veggies assembled! One yellow onion, one green bell pepper, one yellow squash, one broccoli crown, a handful of baby carrots, a third of a big head of red cabbage, three garlic cloves, one bunch of lacinato kale, and some baby spinach.

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The first veggies prepped for the wok and the garlic poised for pressing. I used a tiny bit of canola oil. Also not pictured, because it’s utterly boring, is the white rice I started as well. I just followed the package instructions on that, so I’d suggest you do the same. You can use other rices too–the place we go that serves it hot has a house rice that is jasmine rice cooked in sesame oil. Delicious!

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While all that cooked to soften the harder veggies, I prepped the second batch for the pan. I like staggering their addition so you don’t end up with either way undercooked onions and carrots or way overcooked other vegetables that take far less time.

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Everything so far getting all tasty and delicious. Poverty stove, woo!

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Keep on chopping! I let the other veggies cook for a few minutes before I started cutting these up because I didn’t want to end up cooking them down TOO much.

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Pan is getting full… Wilt kale, wilt!

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And on with the baby spinach!

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Bibimbap assembled, premix. Rice on bottom, followed by veggies topped with the peanut sauce.

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And all mixed up, ready for eating! Yum! Including cooking the rice it only takes twenty or so minutes too, so it’s a great way to get some delicious veggies and a great Asian flavor on a busy evening.

The variations are endless, you can mix in all sorts of different things. Corn, peas, mushrooms, chickpeas, and all sorts of yummy vegetables are available as mix-ins at the restaurants. Really you can throw in just about anything you like, even some grilled tofu maybe! I’ll have to show you guys that sometime soon too.

One last thing before I’m done. You should all check out the Virtual Vegan Potluck going on over at Vegan Bloggers Unite (and literally more than 100! other blogs spread out across the vast blogosphere). It is an amazing thing and I believe it will take me several days to digest–mentally and physically–the full awesomeness of the recipes offered up by these amazing and creative bloggers!

Anyway, enough from me! I’m not even supposed to be here today!

Happy World Vegan Day!

Wednesday Weigh-In, Halloween edition!

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(unedited) Mambas photo courtesy flickr

So I’m still sick, which sucks, but I’m getting better. Haven’t really done much of anything the last few days as a result, but I also haven’t been eating very much. This has resulted in a weigh-in of 243.4 today, but I will take zero credit for that weight loss since it’s mostly just from being sick.

That said, if I’m feeling up to it this afternoon I will begin the couch-to-5k program. Then we’ll spend the evening watching all the kids in the neighborhood trick or treating. Growing up I always loved Halloween, I think it may be my favorite holiday. Going vegan takes some of the awesome out of the holiday though, have to be honest. So many of my favorite candies aren’t vegan, and this makes me sad. Sure, there are vegan candies out there (a good list is available here from Veg For Life), but I miss things like Twix, M&Ms, Almond Joys, etc.

But since there ARE vegan friendly candies, that will be what we’re passing out this evening. And maybe eventually I’ll figure out some vegan recipes for some of my old favorites–but of course in our hyper-sensitive and hyper-paranoid society it would be pointless to pass out homemade candies to the neighborhood kids… That’s just like asking their parents to throw away the ingredients for me.

So what is your favorite vegan and non-vegan Halloween candy? For me the favorite non-vegan would have to be almond joys… Favorite vegan candy may be Mambas–possibly Twizzlers. But only the cherry/strawberry, can’t stand the dark Twizzlers.

Well that figures…

Over the course of yesterday I was feeling worse and worse–sinuses kept getting more and more swollen and throat got scratchier and scratchier. Woke up this morning to what feels like a full-blown sinus infection. Ugh. I’m trying to decide if I can bring myself to start the couch to 5k program today despite how I feel, and I’m leaning toward putting it off because I think that might kill me today.

I did have like three oranges, an apple, some grapes, and a little soy milk blended together for breakfast, maybe that combined with some benadryl can knock this thing out. If not I might have to go to the doctor. I hate doctors!

Introductions/Plans

Hi there. My name is Jeff and I went vegan pretty much on my 27th birthday, just a few months ago.

My road to this point has been an interesting one; growing up I lived in a pretty typical lower middle class Texan family that lived on fast food, Tex-Mex, steak, and potatoes–in that order. As you might imagine, my parents and I were also significantly overweight. It was a struggle throughout my adolescence and by my junior year of high school I was up around 320 pounds. Over the next two summers–and the intervening school year–I dropped down to about 195 by my eighteenth birthday.

But my method of weight loss was poor, and I inevitably fell into old habits, and gained the weight again. Up and down I’ve gone over the last decade. As I sit today I weigh 247 pounds, down about 30 pounds from where I was when I met the woman to whom I recently became engaged. We met in early 2011, began dating in March of 2011, and through quiet and completely non-pushy methods she somehow turned this long-time omnivore-leaning-more-carnivore into a vegan. The conversion came about two months ago, and in that span I can already feel a difference in my overall health and have seen some movement on the scale.

Now, however, I’ve come to realize that I need to do more than just eat right. Don’t get me wrong, I love the vegan diet–it is full of variety and completely cruelty free. I’m not going to go on any kind of rant about it being better for you or anything like that. It’s a good diet for me, and aside from B12 (which I take a vegan-friendly supplement for) I get everything I need nutrition wise out of my diet–including protein. But diet alone isn’t going to get me where I want to be.

I’ve decided to begin an exercise regiment called the ‘Couch-to-5k Running Program,’ which is designed to slowly work up over several weeks to jogging a full three miles (roughly 5k) without stopping. Starting tomorrow evening I’ll begin the program and do it every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Following this I intend to do the similar Pooch to 5k program on the same M/W/F schedule, because my girl Izzy isn’t getting any younger and she needs to be healthy too.

That will be a total of 21 weeks focusing pretty much exclusively on cardio. By then hopefully I will have lost a significant amount of the weight I hope to lose. Then I will begin the Lifehacker Workout, again following the same M/W/F schedule. This will be continuous, slowly building up that monster Deck of Cards Wednesday workout to the point where, maybe someday, I can actually do a full deck. I think at the start I’ll be lucky to make  it through a quarter of the deck.

So… Why, you ask?

GOALS

SHORT TERM:
– Complete a three mile jog in half an hour or less by December 31, 2012 (beginning of week 9, Couch-to-5k)
– Lose 25 or so pounds by my 10-year High School Reunion (not sure when that is, exactly)
– Lose 50 or so pounds by my Wedding Day (tentatively set for 11/30/2013)

LONG TERM:
Avoid, as much as possible, arthritis, dementia, and other physically and mentally debilitating diseases.
– Live actively enough in old age to horseplay with my grandchildren.
– Live long enough and alertly enough to see the tricentennial (July 4, 2076–I’ll be 91)

These aren’t my only goals; I’m sure I’ll come up with other goals and landmarks to celebrate along the way. But at this instant those represent my ‘big picture’ goals.

So, how will this blog be formatted? What am I going to show you?

Not sure exactly. I’ve decided that Wednesday I will have a Weigh-In Wednesday post where I do my weekly weigh-in. Beyond that I’m really not sure exactly. I do know I’ll follow the same M/W/F schedule as my workouts–though if doing both the workouts and the blogs in one evening becomes overwhelming I may shift the blog to Tu/Th/Sa. We’ll figure that out as we go, I suppose. Probably going to post workout updates, meals/recipes, vegan news, etc.

We’ll see where it goes. I just hope you’ll join me for the ride.