A Vegan Hanukkah

So, Sunday nights are known as Dinner with the Vegans night here. It started as just me, Jesse, and our friend Jeewan, but it’s slowly grown. We started it as a way to enjoy awesome vegan food and each other’s company, while hosting a rotating cast of characters over the weeks. We added a movie after dinner. We moved it from Thursday night to Sunday night. It’s grown.

Jesse decided to take on a massive dinner this past Sunday and cook us all traditional Hanukkah fare. The morning started out with us lazily rolling out of bed. I got groceries (brrr, it was cold out there!), coffee, and I made scones.

I thought my day would be spent watching shows on Netflix and creating some Christmas gifts for my family. Right now, our Netflix is skewed so strongly toward Jesse’s preferences because he’ll stay up long after I go to bed watching crazy movies. I wanted to reclaim my stake in Netflix so it doesn’t suggest things like, “80s Horror Movies,” or “Gritty Action/Adventure Sagas” or whatever. I log in and all it wants me to do is watch really bad 80s Horror films. I don’t even like scary movies!

Anyway, as the day progressed, it became apparent I was needed to help make this Hanukkah dinner happen in time. I was kind of excited – I’ve never cooked Hanukkah food before! So, Jesse got crackin’ on the Matzoh Ball Soup, wearing the only shirt suitable for the occasion.

He’s very focused in the kitchen. It’s cute. Once the matzoh was in the fridge (it has to chill for a bit), we got moving on the seaitan roast. Holy moly, it’s good. We also had it for Thanksgiving (by the way, I finally updated that post with links to all the recipes we used. It’ll take you to my Pinterest board for vegan Thanksgiving).

I was tasked with making latkes. Look at me go. I look a little confused, though.

Jesse also made kasha varnishkes, but I didn’t snap any good photos because I was covered in potato goop.

When all was said and done, we had a beautiful spread, a great group of people, and we finished the night by watching Love Actually. Such a good movie.

We were really happy with how the roast, the kasha, and the latkes turned out. The broth for the matzoh ball soup was god, but the balls were… not very ball like. I have no idea what any of it is supposed to taste like, so I was pretty happy overall. Jesse proclaimed he would make his own recipe next year, which I am really looking forward to trying.

I feel incredibly fortunate to have found such awesome people here. People who are open-minded about joining in for a night of food and fun, without worrying if there will be ribs. People who want to get together and watch sappy holiday movies are fantastic. Most of all, boyfriends who can and do cook quite often are the best. Jesse shares his background and culture with me, which makes me feel happy and loved. I like Hanukkah and I look forward to celebrating it for years to come. Happy Holidays!

All the recipes Jesse used can be found here.

Vegan Thanksgiving 2012

I’ve always hated Thanksgiving. As a kid, I was a picky eater and Thanksgiving was the king of my yearly meals I despised. Let’s be honest here, if just evaluating food by looks (which I did as a kid), Thanksgiving food is the most disgusting looking.

My sentiments about this holiday have changed over the years. Knowing the importance of gratitude, I embrace the spirit of the holiday more. When we went vegetarian, we skipped our first Thanksgiving by just going to Jamaica. We wanted a vacation and we didn’t want to deal with explaining 40 times to 40 different relatives why we couldn’t eat turkey.

This year, I was really excited. We have another friend here in Seattle who is vegan and loves cooking, so we thought, “Why not just do a vegan Thanksgiving?” and that’s what we did. It was the most delicious evening of food, friendship, and more food. I feel incredibly thankful for these two awesome cooks I got to share the table with this holiday. So, you want to see what we ate?

Yes, it was all vegan. It was all delicious (I’d tweak my lasagna recipe, the ratio of cashew cream to other ingredients was off), and I’m super happy with how everything turned out. The seitan roast was out of this world. So good.

All recipes referenced can be found here.

All photos were by my friend Jeewan Ghuman. Thanks for the awesome photography, bud.

World Vegan Day!

First, let’s talk about how much this describes my life.

Jesse and I are officially vegans. I know I mentioned that we had been struggling, but with the exception of situations in which it’s darn near impossible to eat vegan (like Jesse’s work dinners – we keep ending up at steakhouses) we opt for vegetarian. Surprisingly, lots of steakhouses have really decadent portabella mushroom dinners for the veggies.

Once you get the hang of it, being vegan really isn’t that tough. Sure, I can’t buy leather shoes and some goodies are off limits because they use animals products in the weirdest way. I couldn’t buy hiking shoes at REI a few weeks ago because even their synthetic shoes used glue with some animal derivative in it.

For those of you who are veg curious, I’ll share some of the information I consumed that helped me make up my mind.

The first step was a movie called Food Matters. It’s not pro-vegetarian propaganda. You can tell they had a very small budget. It’s just knowledge about food and how much it matters to our global health. It changed the way I look at my own illnesses. I was dealing with some really weird health issues at the time and was considering a diet change. My go-to food for any ailment in college was a McDonalds double cheeseburger, ketchup only. My, how times have changed.

This movie is still on Netflix the last time I checked.

Around the same time, Forks Over Knives was blowing up. Forks Over Knives is an extremely interesting, well-done documentary based on the China Study. This movie pushed me to try out a vegetarian diet and see if it affected my health. Spoiler alert: It did.

Then, I spontaneously bought the book Eating Animals when we were visiting San Fransisco for our anniversary. This is the book that started my move toward veganism. Morally, I had to wrestle with how I had been viewing my diet choices based on some of my values. Being a vegetarian is enough for some, but when I was faced with the facts about the impact our diets and animal consumption have on our entire global landscape from the economy to the environment, I felt I needed a change. The author also wrote Everything is Illuminated and has education as a journalist. The book is a fast read, with legitimate research, and compelling interviews from every aspect of the industry from vegan to factory farmer.

The last one is unremarkable other than the fact that I needed a swift kick in the you-know-what about how lazy I had become about begin vegetarian. I kept talking about how I was going to be vegan… eventually. Eventually seemed further and further away. I didn’t want to give up the convenience of eating out, eating cheese, and not worrying about pasta having egg in it. I had been buying cage-free eggs thinking it was OK to do. Ultimately, it was not OK if I am holding myself to an ethical code for how I choose to live my life.

This movie pushed me over the edge in a good way. I needed a nudge. It’s on Amazon Instant Video right now.

Whether it’s a concern for the environment, animal welfare, your own health, or the economic health of our country, there are a lot of reasons to consider a plant-based diet. It changed my life in ways I couldn’t even imagine and I’m very thankful I made the decision to change. Sure, some days I miss greasy hamburgers, but overwhelming that feeling is how healthy I feel, how happy I am with the way I live my life, and that’s about that.