Saturday, June 4, 2011

Vegan parents feature #6

We have post number 6! and We hear from Valerie who has her very own blog 
Valerie will also be starting vegan cooking classes, as apart of a health coaching service since she has received her certificate from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.
I hope you enjoy reading her story as much as i did.

1: Name and age of your little person(s) and your family.

We have 5 kids total ranging in age from 23 down to 5 1/2. We're a "yours", "mine" and "ours" family.  Our 5 1/2 year old Julian(vegan since birth) is the "ours" baby. All the rest are grown and on their own.

2: Was your pregnancy vegan?

Actually no. I've been a vegetarian for 21 years now, with the last four years as a vegan. Julian was my first vegetarian pregnancy though.
I initially went vegetarian due to my research into health and nutrition and learning that there appeared to be less degenerative disease associated with those who followed a more plant-based diet.  Diabetes is also an issue in my family of origin (on both sides) and I wanted to beat the odds and avoid that risk as much as possible.   
My journey towards veganism started about 5 years ago as I became aware again through research and then the internet of what goes on behind the scenes in the production of animal products. I watched many of  those undercover slaughterhouse  videos and discovered podcasts with such persuasive voices as Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, Erik Marcus, and Howard Lyman, that opened my eyes to such an extent, that I could no longer justify supporting such a cruel industry with my money.    

My faith demands love and compassion towards all of God's creation. So, for me this is spiritual as well. 

As far as Julian goes, I was in the middle of learning all of these things when I was carrying him and soon afterwards. I would say things like, "I don't want him to have any dairy before he's at least 2".  But by the time he reached 2, I was already "ruined".  I had made the decision to raise our son as a vegan.

3: Do you have support from family/friends? If you have made new friends since becoming a vegan parent please add how you met and how helpful it’s been to have like minded friends.

I would say for the most part, yes. My convictions are stronger now as a vegan than they were when I was vegetarian and my older kids were little.  Because my reasons for my diet were strictly for health back then, I was pretty easy going about the kids eating meat sometimes and other animal products.  I even cooked meat on occassion!  I shudder as I think about it..
I also didn't really challenge the influence of friends and family very much.  I was more concerned about junk food.

Our friends and family seem pretty supportive of our vegan lifestyle. My husband, Marc actually made the decision a couple of years ago to become vegetarian in support of my convictions but eats vegan at home. Of course, that's the only way I cook! ha ha
We have made friends in the last couple of years with other vegan parents through our local vegetarian society and it helps a great deal to have that support.
It's also so nice to go to a kids party once in a while where we know that Julian can eat everything there and I don't have to think about it or make sure we bring a vegan snack "just in case."  

I discovered when I was a kid myself that I love to cook and experiment in the kitchen. That's carried over into my vegan cooking today.  As a result, I've been on a mission of sorts to prove that plant-based food(especially desserts) can be just as good if not better than those made from animal products.  So, I think I've pretty much got our omni friends convinced!

4: What do you consider to be the hardest thing about being a vegan parent and how do you handle moments when you might doubt yourself?

I guess I would have the say that so far the hardest thing would be sometimes feeling a bit of anxiety about going to an event or resturaunt where the food choices could be limited.  Julian is homeschooled, so having to confront a traditional classroom or cafeteria situation is not an issue.

5: What do you consider to be the best thing about been a vegan parent?

Wow, I would have to say that having the opportunity to teach Julian in a very practical and I think holistic way about extending compassion and respect towards all of God's creatures both animal and human. 

6: Please add any tips and favourite shopping and eating places that are child and vegan friendly?

We have some great healthfood stores here in our area of Humboldt County, Ca.  There's one vegetarian resturant, Wildflower Cafe in Arcata, but no vegan ones unfortunately.  But there are some very accomodating  places here like Rita's Mexican food and Golden Harvest in Eureka. Both of them have great vegan and kid-friendly dishes. 
Our fav Veg friendly children's books

Fruits I love and A Gift from Little Bear, by Victoria Boutenko

-Herb, the Vegetarian Dragon, by Jules Bass and Debbie Harter

-The Fruit Bowl/Vegetable Soup, by Dianne Warren, Susan Smith Jones, and Amy Lorvaag LIndman

-The Secret Life of Mitch Spinach, by Hillary Feerick and Jeff Hillenbrand

-Thats Why we Don't Eat Animals, by Ruby Roth

7: Do you have any no fail foods for your fussy eater? Or please name some of your child's favourite meals/snacks, if possible please include recipes for other
 parents to try.

Julian loves green smoothies! I've been giving them to him since he was 2. If you're not familiar with them, it's basically a fruit smoothie with fresh greens added. You can use kale,collards, spinach, chard, dandelion, etc.  When I discovered them a few yeas ago, I was amazed at the nutrient level of greens. Protein, calcium, vitamins C, A, K.  If a kid(or adult) is adverse to the green color, just add lots of berries and it turns the smoothie a more appetizing purple color.

Kid-friendly green smoothie recipe
Add to blender and blend well in order listed

-2 cups water or orange juice
-2 cups washed, chopped, or torn greens(spinach is good to start with due to it's mild flavor. If using kale or collards, be sure to remove stems first.)
-2 bananas(chopped and frozen makes the smoothie nice and frosty)
-1 mango, orange, or peach peeled and chopped.

Veggie "ribs" are also a favorite at our house. I grew up on what's known as "soulfood", so these are a real treat. I've made different versions of a recipe from Susan V of Fatfree Vegan Kitchen.

Another recipe that Julian loves are my chocolate chip cookies. They're actually gluten-free. We're not a gluten-free household(obviously, hence the seitan ribs above.) but these cookies are full of fiber,protein and good fats.

Gluten free Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 1/2 cups blanched almonds*(dry), ground finely in food processor
(as close to a powdery consistency as you can get)
2/3 cup brown rice flour
 1 tsp salt
1/3 cup yellow flaxmeal(light colored)
1/2 cup + 2 tsp agave or maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 to 1 cup fair trade vegan chocolate chips

1. Spray a large cookie sheet with a good vegetable oil spray and preheat the oven to 350.
2. In a mixing bowl, add all the ingredients in the given order.
3. Mix well.
4. Add water a couple of teaspoonfulls at time, stirring, until mixture holds together.
5. Chill cookie dough in the fridge for about 10 minutes or until stiff.
6. Drop dough on cookie sheet a teaspoon(an eating spoon) at a time and flatten slightly with a fork.
5. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes or until slightly golden around the edges.  Check often to prevent burning.
5. Let cool for 5 minutes before removing from the cookie sheet.
Makes about 2 dozen
If stored in a sealed  container they become more moist over time and the flavor instensifies.

*This recipe can be adapted with many different nuts, combinations and flavors

8: How have you have adjusted to having children? feel free to describe your style of parenting. because we know it’s not always just about veganism, being a parent is a whole new world.

Well, I would say that I adjusted a long time ago, since my oldest is 23!
But seriously though, I do feel more relaxed as a parent at this stage of my life compared to when my other kids were young.  I know more of what to expect, because I've been down this road before.  I know it's cliche', but becoming a parent changes you. Life ceases being just about "me" and forces a person(in a good way) to become more sensitive to the needs of another.

                                                         email me:   stuff-about-stuff@hotmail dot com

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