How Veganism Affects My Parenting

I’m a vegan. I’m a mom. Sometimes this can make things challenging.

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I believe in being honest and open with my children. I believe in speaking to them as intelligent fellow-humans who can process properly phrased answers to their questions, even if I find answering those questions uncomfortable. However my veganism can complicate this.

How? Animal welfare and food-related questions happen. Heck, in our minivan ALL kinds of questions happen! And I answer those questions but I must try to do so in a truthful, informative way that doesn’t force my vegan views on my children but allows them to make their own informed decisions for themselves. Because the best I can do as a parent is provide my children with unconditional love, honest answers, digestible information, unwavering support, solid structure, clear moral guidance, and an accepting environment that fosters their ability to be autonomous individuals.

You see, I view my veganism to be my personal choice for myself. And just as I do not believe I have the right to alter my children’s bodies because it is not my body therefore not my choice, I feel I cannot in full moral and ethical standing force them to follow my personal lifestyle path (ex: diet, religion, hobbies, sexual orientation, political beliefs, etc.) What is right for me is not right for all, even if I’d love to think it was.

When my daughter initially began asking where certain foods came from she felt conflicted between enjoying meat and feeling sad for the animals. That was a struggle I, myself, had faced for decades. So, I offered her a solution. I told her that if she felt eating meat was the right choice for her, she could eat the meat but say a prayer to the animal saying that she was sorry that it suffered and died but thanking it for filling her belly. Then she’d have to eat her entire animal-based serving so as not to have had the animal die unnecessarily. This worked for her quite well for a while.

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Now, my house is a dietary smorgasbord. My husband is a lacto-pescatarian, my daughter is a dairy-allergic pescatarian, my middle son is a peanut- and dairy-allergic omnivore, and my youngest is technically an omnivore but is naturally more of a lacto-vegetarian as he dislikes the texture of any meat beyond hot dogs and chicken nuggets (and let’s be honest, nothing in nature is the texture of a hot dog or chicken nugget.) Then there’s dairy-allergic, gluten-intolerant vegan me. We’re all doing what’s right for us as individuals.

Some vegans may have a problem with my parenting style. They may claim I am not a vegan because I am not forcing my children and husband to eat a vegan diet all of the time. That judgment is inconsequential to me. Their problem with my parenting is just that: their problem, and not my own.

Veganism is right for me, but it’s not right for everyone (even if I wish it was.) My kids have the right to choose as much as I did. Meanwhile, they’ll learn the deliciousness that veganism can offer through our meals at home.

 

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Taco Lasagna: Gluten-free Vegan Recipe

Warm, savory, creamy, cheezy layers of zesty Latin-inspired casserole topped with cool, crisp, creamy, tangy veggies. Delish!

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I mean, who doesn’t love tacos? Who doesn’t love lasagna? Put them together and you have family-pleasing, freezer-friendly, make-ahead, meal-prep’able, gluten-free, vegan deliciousness!

Ready for the recipe? Read on.

GLUTEN-FREE VEGAN TACO LASAGNA 

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Ingredients:

2 cup salsa (I used this)
1 pkg Beyond Meat Feisty Crumbles
3 cup marinara (or 1 28oz can crushed tomatoes)
2 pkg frozen corn niblets
1 Tbl cumin
1 Tbl chilli powder
1 Tbl garlic powder
1 tsp dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pkg corn tortillas
1.5 pkg Chao Original Creamy Slices
1 cup Go Veggie Vegan Cheddar Shreds
1.5 cup Just Mayo
1 pkg Kite Hill Ricotta
2 limes (juiced)
* Shredded lettuce (optional)
* 2 tomatoes (diced)
* 1/2 cup Just Mayo (optional)
* 2 Tbl apple cider vinegar (optional)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Add the crumbles, marinara (or crushed tomatoes), corn, and spices to a pan and cook — stirring often — on medium heat until heated through.

In a medium size bowl, stir together the Just Mayo, ricotta, and lime juice; mix well.

While the crumbles cook, spray a casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray, the spread a thin layer of salsa over the bottom of the pan.

Lay corn tortillas in a single layer over the salsa.

Spread 1/3 of the crumble mixture over the tortillas.

Lay Chao slices in a single layer over over the crumble mixture then top with a layer of 1/2 the ricotta mixture.

Top the ricotta mixture with a single layer of corn tortillas.

Spread another 1/3 of the crumble mixture over the tortillas, top that with a layer of Chao slices.

Spread the remaining ricotta mixture over the Chao slices then top with a final layer of tortillas.

Use the remaining crumble mixture to create an even layer on top of the tortillas then sprinkle with Go Veggie shreds.

Place the casserole dish in the oven And bake at 375°F for 30 minutes.

For best results, remove the baked lasagna from the oven, let cool for at least an hour (or refrigerate to use the next, or freeze for later use), then reheat at 375°F for 10-15 minutes.

* Optional: Mix Just Mayo and apple cider cinegar together to make a dressing then stir in the lettuce and tomatoes and top each slice of warm taco lasagna with the cool, crisp, creamy, tangy garnish salad. Yum!

Why I Dropped Meat

It’s been 6 months since I’ve eaten meat. I am but a fledgling on my journey towards what some may call veganism and others may call a plant-based diet. But, why am I taking this plant-eating path?

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As a young teen I’d wanted to become a vegetarian, feeling guilty for eating animals. As a “cradle Catholic”, I decided to give up meat for Lent one year. Knowing nothing about nutrition, it’s no surprise I wound up feeling perpetually rundown, weak, and hungry during those 40 days. (As a hormonal young teen, I’m sure that lethargy made me extra-pleasant company!) I left that herbivore stint thinking I couldn’t live without meat… that my body didn’t thrive on a meat-free diet.

Fast-forward to 3 years ago. I had my gallbladder removed in an entirely unremarkable, common surgery. Once the wounds were healed, I felt markedly better than I had for the four months preceding my operation. However, as many post-op gallbladder patients note, my digestion was off. I’d bloat, have frequent and urgent trips to the bathroom, and suffer stomach pain. It was frustrating. Some foods — like raw vegetables, legumes, greens, seeds, and nuts — I was able to help my body digest by way of regular exposure. Other foods — fatty meats like sausage, greasy hamburgers, and hot dogs — were mightily rejected. Fortunately, I was already dairy-free due to an allergy, so I didn’t struggle with that frequently aggravating food group too.

As time went on, my inability to digest meats increased. Fatty fish, processed meats, red meats, beef broth… all of it would wreak havoc on my system. Eventually, even with the help of probiotics, I was only able to eat grilled boneless, skinless chicken breast. With my diet so limited, the texture of the chicken meat eventually became unappealing. Then came a trip to our local farm park.

It’s a beautiful place, this farm, where 4-H members care for the animals. Chickens, pigs, ducks, sheep, goats, horses, rabbits, turkeys, even a couple of peacocks reside on the well-tended farm. The cows though… it’s the cows that got me.

One sunny late-summer afternoon, we took a family trip to the farm. My littlest was nursing in the baby carrier as my older two children scampered about looking at the animals. We came to the cow pasture where I saw an engorged mama cow. We had seen her bull calf a few fields over. Mama Cow’s udder was full and distended. She clearly needed to feed her calf.

As a breastfeeding, breast milk donating mother, I empathized with her. I felt her discomfort. I looked about searching for a farmhand to ask after the calf.

Just then, a farmhand entered the field, halter in hand, ready to take Mama Cow to be milked. “We’re in the process of weaning,” she explained, gently buckling the harness around mama cow’s furry head, “she’s being milked in a few minutes if you’d like to come watch. Kids love it.” She lead Mama Cow through the grass and onto the gravel path, Mama Cow’s swollen, milk-filled udder slightly impeding her gait.

That image haunts me. The painfully engorged Mama Cow, her baby boy separated from her and forcibly weaned to a bottle so that her milk could feed humans, instead of the calf for which it was intended. Later, that bull calf would likely have one of two fates: breed or burger. Mama Cow would continue to be impregnated, continue to be forcibly separated and weaned from her offspring, continue to be milked to feed humans instead of calves, continue to be used until she could give no more. Then her fate would be the slaughterhouse.

I tossed and turned that night. The mere thought of meat made me shudder. The idea of biting into a burger or steak made my stomach turn. It was dead flesh… a carcass! Was I so important that my hunger came above Mama Cow’s life or the life of her babies? Could I not eat other things to fill my belly, nourish my body in another way, and not contribute to their deaths? And with that question, my path began.

At first, I just gave up meat but still ate fish, honey, and eggs regularly. Then I gave up fish unless out of the house and faced with few other food options. Next I stopped eating eggs, not only because I realized that by eating eggs I was contributing to the eventual slaughter and consumption of the hens, as well as the deaths of roosters, but because the vegan replacements satiated my egg cravings. Then I reduced my use of honey. Eventually, I plan to stop eating fish when out and about.

I don’t judge or chastise those who eat meat. This is my path, and mine alone. I ate meat for years. I loved meat! My children and husband still eat meat (though I cook vegetarian fare 99% of the time, unless they request a specific meaty dish.) Simply put, I don’t personally want to consume carcasses. Others may do as they please.

And how do I feel six months in? I. Feel. Great! I never have that heavy “thud” in my gut after even the heaviest of vegan meals. My digestion is regular. My belly doesn’t get distended. I have more energy. I feel lighter. I no longer feel guilty. It’s perfect for me.

I am happy. I am healthy. My conscience is at ease. Our grocery bill is $50-$100 below our previous amount since dropping meat. Heck, this week we spent a measly $150 to feed our family of five for the whole week, and that includes my vegan wine. I cannot complain.

This is my abrupt yet gentle trek towards an entirely plant-based diet. “Take it slow or you’ll regret it,” advised one vegan. So I am.

5 Fast, Healthy, and Easy Vegan Meals

Eating a plant-based diet doesn’t have to be time-consuming or complex. You can eat healthy, tasty, cruelty-free food even if you’re short on culinary skill and time.

Here are five fast and easy meatless meals that’ll have even omnivores cleaning their plates.

1) Spicy Lettuce Cups: 

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Spicy Lettuce Cups

Drizzle a bit of your preferred cooking oil in a pan and heat over medium-high heat. Add 4 chopped baby portobello mushrooms to the hot pan. Once the mushrooms start to sizzle, add 1/4 cup of prepared lentils, 1 chopped avocado, and the juice of 1 lemon. Sprinkle in garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper to taste. Finish with a liberal dose of crushed red pepper flakes. Once heated through, serve the warm mixture on leaves of freshly washed Boston lettuce.

2) Broccoli-Bean Soup

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Broccoli-Bean Soup

Drizzle you preffered cooking oil in a pan. Thaw 3 cups of frozen broccoli in a pan over medium-high heat. Once heated, add 1.5 cups of vegetable stock, 2 Tbl garlic powder, 1 Tbl onion powder, 1 tsp dried basil, 1/4 cup nutritional yeast, 1 tsp smoked paprika, a dash of liquid aminos (or soy sauce), and salt and pepper to taste. Add in 1 can of drained and rinsed butter beans. Turn off heat and carefully blend the soup with an immersion blender until it reaches your desired smoothness. Optional: sprinkle with crushed red pepper flakes.

3) Barbecue Beans:

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Barbecue Beans

Add 1 cup of frozen peas and carrots to a pan over medium-high heat. Cook until thawed. Stir in 1 can of drained and rinsed beans (pinto beans and kidney beans are our favorites), 1/3 cup of vegan barbecue sauce (such as Sweet Baby Ray’s Original Barbecue Sauce), 1 tsp cumin, and 1/2 tsp chili powder. Heat for 2 minutes then serve. It is great on its own, mixed into short-cut pasta, or as shown here served as a sandwich topped with vegan mayo.

4) Raw Nut-free Kale Pesto 

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Raw Nut-free Kale Pesto

Add 1 cup baby kale, 4 Tbl extra virgin olive oil, 3 Tbl raw unsalted hulled sunflower seeds, 1 Tbl nutritional yeast, 1/2 Tbl garlic powder to a blender and blend until smooth. Stir into cooked Banza (chickpea flour) pasta and top with 3 handfuls of sliced cherry tomatoes. Sprinkle with hemp hearts for an added nutrition punch.

5) Black Bean Bowl

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Black Bean Bowl

Place 1 bag of microwaveable brown rice into the microwave and cook per the package instructions. While the rice cooks, add 1/4 chopped sweet onion to a greased pan over medium-high heat. Cook for 1 minute then add 1 chopped red bell pepper to the pan. After the vegetables have cooked for 1 minute, add 1/4 cup of frozen sweet corn to the pan to heat through. Stir in 1 Tbl garlic powder, 1/2 Tbl cumin, 1/2 Tbl chili powder, 1/2 Tbl onion powder, and salt and pepper to taste (throw in a touch of cayenne if you like some heat.). Place the rice in a bowl, spoon the bean mixture over the rice, top with 1/4 sliced avocado, squeeze the juice of 1/2 lime over top, and garnish with fresh cilantro.

Vegan Black Bean Chili and Legit Vegan Nachos

Looking for a vegan chili recipe? Searching for a way to make legit vegan nachos? We’re talking a “dairy-eating omnivores will ravage the dish” kind of recipe? I’ve got you.

When I made this flesh-free, dairy-ditching nacho dish, my omnivorous husband, 5-year-old, 3.5-year-old, and 1-year-old all cleared their plates and asked to eat it again the next day. No “eat your food!” fights for a meal almost entirely comprised of veggies? If that’s not a win, I don’t know what is!

VEGAN BLACK BEAN CHILI

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Vegan black bean chili

Ingredients:

– 1/4 vidalia onion (diced)

– 3 cloves garlic (minced)

– 1 can black beans (drained and rinsed)

– 1 can cream style corn

– 3 tomatoes (diced)

– 2 handful baby portobello mushrooms  (diced)

– 1 green bell pepper  (diced)

– 2 Tbl garlic powder

– 2 Tbl smoked paprika (yes, it must be the smoked variety)

– 2 Tbl chili powder

– 1 Tbl basil

– 1 Tbl thyme

– 1 Tbl cumin

– .5 Tbl Spike Original Magic seasoning

– .5 Tbl Braggs Liquid Aminos 

– 2 Tbl vegan barbecue sauce  (ex: Sweet Baby Ray’s Original Barbecue Sauce)

– 2 Tbl prepared yellow mustard

– salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

– Drizzle olive oil in a large stock pot and place on stove over medium heat.

– Once the oil is warm, add the onion and garlic to the pot and allow to cook while you dice the mushrooms.

– Add the diced mushrooms and let cook while you chop the pepper and tomato.

– Add the the chopped veggies and all of the remaining ingredients to the pot.

– Bring pot to a gentle boil, then immediately reduce to a simmer.

– Simmer covered on low for a minimum of 30 minutes but ideally two hours.

– Serve as is or as nachos.

LEGIT VEGAN NACHOS

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Vegan Nachos

Ingredients:

– Vegan black bean chili (recipe above)

– Tortilla chips

– 4 slices of Creamy Original Chao Slices dairy-free cheese 

Directions:

– Grab a walled baking sheet, line it with tin foil, and spray with cooking spray.

– Set the oven to broil.

– Pour the desired amount of tortilla chips on the pan.

– Cover the chips with the chili.

– Break up the Chao Slices into shreds and spread evenly over the top of the chili.

– Place the nachos under the broiler until the Chao is melted and blistered (watch carefully to avoid burning.)

– Carefully remove from oven and serve.

* optional: serve with vegan avocado crema (1 avocado blended with 1 cup Tofutti imitation cream cheese, 1/8 cup dairy-free milk, the juice of 1 lime, salt, and pepper)