Tag Archives: sustainability

Ten Things a Vegan Kitchen Must Have

So you’re new to veganism? Congratulations on embarking upon a journey to improve to the health of your family and our planet. They say that once you become vegan you continue to find reasons to stay vegan, and I have found that to be true. Sometimes, though the recipes you find call for what appear to be exotic ingredients. But the truth is, once you outfit your kitchen, you’ll find vegan cooking to be easy and delicious. I’ll address those exotic ingredients in another post. This post is about having the right tools for the job. These are my top ten.

  1. A Vitamix. I resisted buying an expensive Vitamix because I had a blender, and I just didn’t see the point. Boy, was I wrong! I bought mine reconditioned directly from the Vitamix website (vitamix.com) and I use it every day. Seriously. Every day. I have both the standard container that comes with it and I also bought the additional “dry mix” jar. I use the standard jar for everything from lunch smoothies to vegan salad dressings to the best hummus ever. I also make vegan iced desserts and soups that take less than ten minutes from start to finish. The dry mix jar I use for grinding coffee, flour, making matcha from my homegrown tea, turning dried peppers into cayenne powder, you name it. I can even make powdered sugar out of regular sugar, or brown sugar out of sugar and molasses. I can make cornmeal out of popcorn! The cost of the machine is nothing compared to the savings on expensive sauces, dressings and herbs. Unquestionably, a must have.

vitamix

  1. A rice cooker. I spent my formative years in Hawaii, so I am a rice eater. My husband (a Midwesterner) has to remind me now and then to bake him a potato, because I never think about it. Rice is nice. A simple, plain vanilla rice cooker is all you need, one that will cook your rice to perfection and then hold it warm while the rest of the meal is getting ready. There are expensive rice cookers with lots of bells and whistles including a steamer, but they’re not necessary. I buy all my grains in bulk, and mix them together in the canister. No one pot of rice is the same as the next. I mix together long grain brown rice, short grain brown rice, jasmine rice, wheatberries, barley, rye, bulgur, and sometimes I throw in some lentils and some dried soybeans. Scan what’s available in the grain section of your market. The result is a healthy, delicious mix that goes with almost any meal.
  1. A mandolin. There are many appliances for chopping vegetables on the market, and if you’re a vegetarian or a vegan, you probably either have or will acquire most of them. For my money, though, a mandolin is the most versatile. You don’t have to plug it in, it rinses off easily, takes up little space in the kitchen cabinet, and is always handy. Again, you can spend a lot of money on a fancy mandolin, but it isn’t necessary. Mine is old and wonderful, with interchangeable blades for grating, slicing both thick and thin, and something else that I’ve never tried. It might make matchstick potatoes, I’m not sure. In the fall harvest, I could not survive without the mandolin for slicing cucumbers for pickles, or slicing cabbages for slaw. Slicing potatoes, carrots, and other root vegetables is a breeze. The blades are sharp, though, so always use caution.

mandolin

  1. A slow cooker. This is what I made for dinner last night: 2 cans water pack jackfruit (from the Asian market), one sliced onion, one sliced green pepper, ½ cup barbecue sauce. Cook all day on low and serve over bread or on a hearty roll. Vegan Sloppy Joe’s from heaven. I threw it all in the slow cooker in the morning and it cooked on low all day. Here’s what we’re having for dinner tonight: two cans of black beans, two yams, sliced thin (on the mandolin), one package of soy chorizo sausage, and 2 cups of enchilada sauce (don’t buy it, make your own http://ohsheglows.com/2016/01/31/enchilada-sauce/ ). Let these cook on low all day and then fill a tortilla and get ready for everybody to go nuts. The slow cooker is the vegan’s best friend. There are lots and lots of vegan slow cooker cookbooks, too, to get you started on your journey.
  1. A soymilk maker. This is without doubt the biggest money saver in my kitchen. It looks like a fat coffee pot and makes a quart of soymilk in about 18 minutes from 1/3 cup of dried soybeans and some water. You can do the math on how much a quart of homemade soymilk costs, compared to what it costs in the store. Load these two ingredients into the pot, plug it in, and it cooks and grinds the beans. Mine came with a strainer and a pitcher. Strain out the soy okara (the dog loves that on her morning kibble) and voila! Delicious soy, rice, or almond milk. Dried soybeans are easily found in your health food store. I buy them in the bulk bins, and whenever possible, I get them in 25 pound bags. Between baking, our over-consumption of coffee, and morning oatmeal (made overnight every night in the slow cooker), we go through a lot of soymilk in this house.

soymilkmaker

  1. A good knife and a good knife sharpener. Vegans do a lot of vegetable chopping. There is nothing more frustrating than a dull knife. And, in fact, dangerous. We cut ourselves when the knife is dull, because we use too much pressure. Invest in a good chef’s knife and a good paring knife. Go to the knife store and spend some money, because these will last you not only for the rest of your life, but for the lives of whoever is lucky enough to inherit them. Once you have invested in fine cutlery, take care of it. Never leave a fine knife soaking in the sink. Never put it in the dishwasher. Wash it, dry it, and put it away. Have a small, simple, effective knife sharpener handy in a kitchen drawer that you can easily access to put a fine edge on your knife at a moment’s notice. You’ll be safer, and you’ll be happier.
  1. Pantry space. I know, space is always limited. But there are items that vegans use often enough that it is worth the fight for a few shelves in the garage. While I buy many items in the bulk bins at the health food store, I buy big bags (25-40 pounds) of pinto beans, soybeans, steel cut oats, and long-grain brown rice. Cooking dry beans is far more economical than opening a can. It’s good to have the option. I keep a container of “refried” beans (that I make in the slow cooker) on the top shelf in the refrigerator to add to just about everything. Not only are beans good for us, but a daily spoonful feeds the flora and fauna in our bellies so we don’t suffer from the uncomfortable gas that can occur when we only eat beans once a week or so. I buy cans of beans, tomatoes, and tomato sauce by the case as well as a few other staples that we use all the time.
  1. A library of good vegan cookbooks. I have declared a moratorium on buying vegan cookbooks. I have about twenty, and that’s enough. Although… there is always something new from one or another of my favorite authors. There are cookbooks (and websites!) for every household. Vegan casseroles. Slow cooker recipes. Standard European dishes made vegan (French, German, etc.) Ditto with Asian dishes. I have learned the wonders of Indian spices. It took me a while to get the hang of vegan baking, but with the help of a great cookbook, and some advice from friends, I can now bake with the best of them without using dairy or eggs. I annotate every recipe, always improving on it for our tastes, and I highlight ones I like in the book’s Index, so I can easily find them again. These days I’m using a different cookbook every week, so I can get more depth of insight into the author’s way of thinking.

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  1. A group of like-minded friends. So this isn’t a kitchen staple, but it is a lifestyle necessity. When I first joined the ranks of the vegan, I found a Meetup (meetup.com) group in my home town and began going to the events. I found a great community of interesting and interested people, and I learned a lot. We watched videos on nutrition, on agribusiness, we cooked together, shared tips and tricks, talked about new foods to try, and what to avoid in the grocery store. This is where I learned about the convenience of the right appliance, and the best tried and true cookbooks. I learned more about nutrition in this group than I had learned in my entire life heretofore. I found my new guru in Dr. Michael Greger (www.nutritionfacts.org), and his fact-base nutrition information. My vegan friends are happy, fun, and the light of health shines in their eyes.

The vegan lifestyle is a good one. Healthy, planet-friendly, animal-friendly, and a good choice. With the right support of friends and the right kitchen tools, this way of life can be one of the best decisions you have ever made.

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2013: Year of Sustainability

I’ve been naming my years lately. 2009 was my Year of Hesed (lovingkindness). 2010 was my Year of the Tao. 2011, my Year of Living Simply. 2012, my Year of Forgiveness. I did a lot of forgiving this past year, both of myself for my gaffes, stupid comments/acts and poking my nose into other peoples’ business, and for others who did the same to me or in my presence. I have a long way to go toward being the type of loving, non-judgmental human being I aspire to be, but a healthy dose of forgiveness goes a long way toward achieving that goal.

In 2013, I want the focus to be on sustainability.  I want to think “Sustainability!” in every area of my life, with the hope that the things that I do and say prompt others to start thinking in channels of sustainability. I’ve already begun eating a plant-based diet, as our meat and dairy production facilities are unsustainable for the world.

Theologian Matthew Fox, in his amazing book A New Reformation wrote: “Sustainability is another word for justice, for what is just is sustainable, and what is unjust is not.”

This is as good a definition of justice as I have ever heard. As “Social Justice” is one of the new buzzwords these days, I’m not sure those who promote it can define it. This is a good definition, and I hope all will eventually adopt it.

This year I will be mindful about my consumption. I will work for sustainable causes, whether it be in education, in social reform, health care, politics, or self-expression. I believe that the planet teeters on the brink of a sustainability revolution, and if I can help to push awareness over the brink, I will.

Happy New Year, everyone!

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Energy

Let me begin this post by saying that I am not a scientist. I am not schooled in engineering or any of the ways in which power is generated. I have a basic knowledge of many systems of the world, but I have no expertise. What I do have, however, is a modicum of common sense, and that is what this post is about.

It seems to me that drilling for more oil is futile. Whatever pools of it we find, it’s still a finite resource and as our population continues to explode unabated, it won’t stretch as far as we think it ought to or need it to. Ditto natural gas and all those fossil fuels. Finite. Any energy system that requires them is unsustainable. To me, it is sheer madness to be using up our fossil fuels in automobiles and airplanes at such a prodigious rate. But what’s the alternative?

Alternatives are all around us. The tides go in and out, twice a day, every day. This seems to me to be an enormous resource of power. Even the temperature difference in the oceans between the surface and thirty feet under could be used to drive a turbine. Hydro-power we know how to use; we need to figure out how to use it without damming up all the rivers. Geothermal is in its infancy, and yet what more abundant power could could there possibly be? We just need to be a little more clever about it. Run certain strips of metal through seawater and they become magnetized. Magnetism is a source of power. And, by the way, isn’t the whole world covered by a magnetic field?  Bringing the needs down to a small, local level, what if we put thick plates of steel at every intersection on thick springs that ran a turbine under the intersection? Cars driving over the plate would turn the turbine and make the electricity to run the streetlights. I bet each one of you reading this post can think of at least a dozen ways to power your house, your town, your corner of the world.

The problem with all the solutions we can think of is that the fossil fuels we are using up are still so cheap that it doesn’t pay to invest entrepreneurial money on an alternative. So what if gas goes up to $5/gallon? Oh well, fewer lattes at Starbucks, but we’ll still fill our gas-guzzlers. What if it goes up to $10/gallon?

What if there suddenly is no more gasoline? Surely somebody, somewhere will do something about that, right?

Well, the time is now, because all these fossil fuels are finite. We’re running out of them. Drilling will not help. Coal-mining will not help. Fracking will not help, not in the long run. Those are short-sighted, non-sustainable solutions to a problem that needs vision for the next two hundred years or more. Now is the time to kick these alternatives into gear and get them going so that when that day comes that the gasoline pumps run dry — and believe me, that day is coming sooner than any politician will tell you — we’ll have another way of doing things already in place. Already up and running. A smooth transition.

In this era of unfettered capitalism where greed rules the day, money is not likely to be invested into a new infrastructure of power until there is real money to be made, and that isn’t happening yet, because gasoline is still less than $5 per gallon.  We need to stop looking down at the gas pedal and look up toward the horizon.  We’re running out of fuel. Carpooling one day a week isn’t going to help. We need real, sustainable solutions, put forth by the best minds in the world (not politicians) and we need them now.

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Filed under Social Consciousness, Sustainability

Dear Mr. President:

Dear Mr. President:

As the leader of the greatest nation in the world, I implore you to set politics aside and do the right thing on a variety of issues. Forget Congress. Introduce legislation and let the angels and other celestial planetary advisers do the heavy lifting with regards to encouraging congressional members to do the right thing. Take your case to the American people. They will recognize sustainable changes when they see them.

  1. No more war. Our Department of Defense is for the defense of the citizens. It is not a department of offense. Bring our soldiers home, close foreign bases and spend that money here. War is not sustainable. It is stupid, wasteful and against every spiritual principle there is. We can take a stand of non-engagement.
  2. No more casual, haphazard and wasteful use of finite resources such as fossil fuels. This is irresponsible for our future. Put a harsh progressive tax on these resources and let that inspire and provide incentive for the great minds of American entrepreneurs to come up with inventive ways to create nonpolluting energy sources.
  3. Pollution is ruining our planet and sickening our people. Be bold in legislative regulation of pollutants, regardless of what other countries are doing. We must lead in this regard.
  4. Outlaw cigarettes. It’s crazy that we spend so much money on health care for sick smokers while subsidizing the tobacco industry.
  5. Introduce legislation that allows for term limits in congress. Your office has a term limit; so should each seat in the House and the Senate. The gridlock we are currently experiencing would never happen if there were term limits in congress.

I know that you know that this list could go on and on. We need common sense leadership with an eye not for this term or the next term or for our grandchildren, but we need a visionary who can look 500 years into the future and make plans for our planet that are sustainable. We can’t just keep kicking these cans down the road because it is politically expedient.

Be bold, Mr. President. Be brave. Lead the world.

God Bless.

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Gross National Happiness

This YouTube video will take sixteen minutes of your life but could have enormous repercussions, particularly if you repost it vigorously.

A better way is possible. It’s being done right now.

We have much to learn.

Make a difference today.

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My thesis is now available

My Master’s thesis (Applied Theology),  “Spiritual Sustainability: A Personal and Social Imperative” is now available for download on the Kindle.

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What is Justice?

With Social Justice being somewhat of a battle cry these days, I think it might be important to ask those who are working for social justice to please define it.

The word “social” is easy. The dictionary says: “of or pertaining to the life, welfare, and relations of human beings in a community.”

The situation gets a bit thornier when we try to define Justice. Normal definitions have to do with moral codes and the law. Well, are the laws defined by our moral codes? Whose moral codes do we use, and how do we define those?

There are certain values which seem to be inborn. Those shared values make us human, and in fact, allows us to become a society. But we have such clever methods of justification that we can twist almost anything into a moral code.

Just watching the nightly news will make it obvious that there are at least two sides to every story, and a different opinion for every person watching. How can we derive our laws–our system of justice–from such a diverse pool, from such an aggregate of special interests? Our opinions, and therefore our beliefs, stem in great part from our needs.

Examine, if you will, both sides of the abortion controversy. Or the death penalty controversy. Or the controversy of your choice.  On each side you will find passionate feelings and opinions, and myriad justifications for those feelings and opinions.

But is that how we should write our laws? Should the moral code of our country be dictated by the current sway of passionate feelings and opinions?

Is there an alternative?

Matthew Fox, in his book A New Reformation writes: “Sustainabillity is another word for justice, for what is just is sustainable and what is unjust is not.”

What if we built our laws, not upon feelings, opinions and scriptural interpretations, but upon sustainability? What if we projected two hundred years into the future and refused to do anything that would knowingly cause harm to our descendants, seven generations hence?

What if sustainability was the law of the land?

We might have a stable economy. We might have an educational system that addressed the needs of the students. We might have a food and water distribution system that nourished every citizen. We might have a fair taxation system that we could depend upon for the next few generations. We might have systems that would perpetuate in righteousness, and the politicians would not be able to throw the citizenry into fear so they could be re-elected, because the very way our representatives are elected would be different.

Sustainability isn’t just another buzzword for the decade. It could very well be the definition of social justice, and the salvation of our society.

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