Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Reason #1 For Becoming Vegetarian + Chocolate Frosting Recipe

I am the last person I would have ever expected to become vegan. My whole life ham and bacon have been two of my favorite foods. People have laughed at me before in the past when I have talked about giving up meat because I love pork so much. It has been an interesting journey to get to this point and I wanted to talk a bit about my reasons for making such an extreme change in my diet.

Source: Chapters
The changes started for me back in March 2011. Most of my life I have tried to find ways to save the earth. I have always tried to be eco-friendly but it wasn't until 2010/2011 that I really started to research about the state of our environment and what kind of impact my lifestyle was having on it. There are lots and lots of books, websites and articles out there about this but it was The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone that really hit home for me. Below are some scary facts about the impact our meat industry has on the environment:

  • "It takes 441 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef... By comparison, it takes only 33 gallons of water to grow a pound of carrots. One 16-ounce steak uses the amount of water you need for 6 months of showers!" (The Kind Diet 2009, p.25)
  • "It takes more than 11 times the energy to create animal protein than grain protein. When you take into account the fuel used for planting, watering, and harvesting of the grain a cow eats, its transportation, the energy used by factory farms, transportation of the cows to slaughter, and then the distribution of the meat to you... the average American eats 97 pounds of beef a year, our national burger-lust requires the energy equivalent of a mere 29 billion gallons of gas!" (The Kind Diet 2009, p.26)
  • "The average American car produces 3 kilograms of carbon per day. The clearing and burning of enough Costa Rican rain forest to produce one hamburger creates 75 kilograms of carbon." (The Kind Diet 2009, p.27)
  • "In fact, cattle grazing is the number one factor in the destruction of the rain forest, and we're losing 2.4 acres of it per second. That's 144 acres per minute. Seventy-five million acres per year! Rain forest used to cover 14 percent of the earth, but now it covers only 6 percent. You see, every hamburger requires a plot of land the size of a small kitchen to be cleared." (The Kind Diet 2009, p.27)

Those are just some of the disturbing facts I learned from Alicia's book. I highly recommend it as a good source for information on being eco-friendly when it comes to eating and also for the recipes.

Reason #1 for becoming vegetarian: better for the environment. After learning all of this information I couldn't continue to eat meat knowing how much damage it was doing to our planet. I will admit that deciding to become vegetarian or vegan is a very personal decision and it can be extreme for some people. I will never try to push this lifestyle on anyone but I would like people to take a step back and think about how much meat they eat. Even just consuming less meat than normal will help lessen the strain that the meat industry puts on our planet. I saw this amazing idea online somewhere of starting "Veggie Mondays". Every Monday try to eat anything but meat all day. It's only one day to commit to and it can be a great way to incorporate some creativity and culture into your cooking and your diet.

Another way we can lighten the stress on our planet is to choose better meats. Go to local farms or farmers market. Buy meats from farmers that do not overuse antibiotics and allow their cattle to eat grass instead of corn. Not only are you supporting people in your own community but you are buying food that has traveled less than 100km to get to you instead of 1000's of kms. You're also supporting ethical food production instead of giving your money to factory farming.

One of the biggest challenges I have found since making the jump to vegetarian and then vegan has been finding good recipes. I recently tried a recipe from The Kind Diet and am in love with it. Here is Alicia's chocolate frosting (The Kind Diet 2009, p.190):

-1/2 cup (4 ounces) Earth Balance Butter
-1/2 cup agave nectar
-2 teaspoons vanilla extract
-1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
-1/2 cup soy milk powder

To make the Fudge Frosting, use a mixer to cream the butter together with the agave nectar in a mixing bowl until very smooth. Add the vanilla extract and about half the cocoa powder, mix on low speed to combine, then add the remaining cocoa powder. Add in the soy milk powder, and beat at medium-high speed until fluffy. If it is runny, refrigerate the frosting until it sets up a little.

I used this frosting on cupcakes that I made from Kim Barnouin's Skinny Bitch: Ultimate Everyday Cookbook. Keep tuned tomorrow for the cup cake recipe and "Reason #2 for becoming vegetarian".

Monday, February 13, 2012

Meditation, Love and Boy Movies

A few weeks ago I went to the open house at the Shambhala here in Halifax. They do a guided meditation for 45 minutes, tea and treats for 15 minutes and then an hour long lecture/discussion every Wednesday. The guest speaker started the talk with "I recently fell in love so I figured that would be a good topic to discuss tonight." Inside I cringed. Love has been such a source of negativity recently in my life. Thankfully though, she wanted to talk about love for everyone/everything, not romantic love.

She touched on some Buddhist principles but it was a contemplation activity she had us participate in that stuck out the most too me. We all had to sit like we were going to meditate, with our eyes clothes but instead of meditating she prompted us to think of specific people in our lives. The first was to send love to someone we care about deeply. The second was to send love to someone in our life that really needs love and support. And the third was to send love to anyone else. It could be a friend, family member, neighbour, coworker or even someone you don't particularly like.

I have done this type of exercise before. Normally at the end of a yoga practice I will dedicate my practice to someone in my life and send love to them. By doing this every time I get on my mat I have been able to infuse love into my life no matter what happens to be going on. One of my favorite quotes (don't remember where I heard it) is "Put out into the world what you want the most". By me sending out love to people every single day I guarantee that there is always love in my life.

This is something I think everyone should do. I always get a warm feeling in my chest when I focus on sending love to someone in my life. I even do this with people that I don't get a long with or don't particularly care for. By sending love to these people I find you start to have more compassion for them. Instead of criticizing them or building stories about them in your head you start to understand them more and cultivate positive energy in the relationship you have with them. There is one person in particular that I have been sending a lot of love to over the past few months. Her and I used to be good friends until a year and a half ago when we had a falling out. Words were said, feelings were hurt, trust was betrayed. The usual story. And even though I tried to repair the friendship, it has stayed shattered in tiny pieces since then. I have accepted that we will never be friends again but I still hope for the best for her and regularly send love and positivity her way. It has been one of the best learning experiences I have ever had and I highly recommend trying to send love to someone you have had a falling out with.

Source: Deviantart
Which kind of brings me to the topic of today's post: Valentine's Day. The "awesome" holiday for anyone in love and the "not so awesome" holiday for anyone not in love. This will be the first time I've been single for Valentine's day in I don't even know how long. We're talking at least 5 years here. When I first realized that I got a bit anxious. No one wants to be alone on Valentine's Day. I'll agree that it is a commercial holiday designed to make people spend money in the break between Christmas and St. Patty's Day. I know that you shouldn't need a holiday as an excuse to be romantic with a partner; that should be done any day of the year. But when coworkers started to put up heart decorations around the office it seemed like a constant reminder of how very single I am right now.

So to turn Valentine's Day on it's head I'm going to spend it with my soul mates and send love to the non-romantic relationships I have in my life. I'm going for dinner and then to a "boy movie" with two of my closest girlfriends. These girls have been the foundation in my life for the past few years. Through good times and bad these women have always been there for me. That is what a soul mate is I think. Someone that, no matter what, will always have a tissue for you when you need to cry or a bottle of wine when you need to be distracted. No matter what romance comes and goes in our lives, we will forever be each others soul mates. To these two women, I love you with my whole heart. You are both strong, smart and fierce and I'm excited to be able to spend my Valentine's Day with you two.

This Valentine's Day take a moment or two to sit, breath and send love to someone or everyone in your life, not just your romantic partner.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Staying Sad

February is always the point in winter where I start to get sick of the cold. I get sick of the snow, of scraping my car in the morning. I get sick of having to wear big winter jackets and of going through so much windshield washer fluid. If there is snow on the ground it is usually filthy by this point. It has lost it's pristine, sparkling glow that has always been able to mesmerize me with its beauty. A fresh, clean snow fall is one of the very few things I actually enjoy about winter.

Source: Deviantart
February is when I start to dream of summer. Or heck, I'd even take spring at this point. The days start to get longer and the snow starts to melt. You start to notice the sounds of birds chirping in the morning and the bright green of the tulips fighting against the snow to get some sunlight. It's the season that represents new beginnings. We get the urge to make changes in our lives; to re-invent ourselves. Normally by the time February rolls around people are starting to get restless. We want spring to happen. We want to be warm again and to look forward to the transition from winter to summer.

This year it is different for me though. I have always been the type of person to want to improve. I've never truly been happy with just being in the moment. I have always felt the need to want something more, to be something more, and to get over being sad or depressed as fast as possible. I mean, c'mon, who actually wants to be sad or depressed? Who wants to be stuck in the same old habits or be down in the dumps all the time? I think most people do everything they can to avoid feeling anything uncomfortable. I know I did for the last 24 years of my life.

But this February I have decided to change that. Instead of yearning for the warmth of the sun and the changes that spring time always brings, I want to be completely present right now. No more avoiding the uncomfortable moments. No more pretending to be happy when I'm not. I think everyone can learn a lot from just letting themselves be sad/lonely/depressed/etc. The more we try to ignore it or push past it the more it will build up inside of us. We should revel in the beauty of being sad/lonely/depressed/etc just like we revel in the beauty of being happy/joyful/content/etc. It is so cliché to say but we would never experience the highs without the lows. We would never know warmth or happiness unless we had experienced cold or sadness. But not only do we need to experience lows in order to experience the highs, I think we need to experience the lows to know that we can survive them.

Almost everyone I know lives in some kind of fear. Fear of failure, fear of being hurt, fear of letting people down. Fill in the blank for the fear in your own life. So we hold ourselves back. We would rather never take a chance at something we really, really want because we might fail. We might have to go through an uncomfortable experience. But what if we have already made it to the other side of an uncomfortable experience? What if we survived being sad/lonely/depressed/etc? I truly believe that if we stopped pretending to be happy all the time and let ourselves experience the "bad" emotions we would no longer live a life of fear. We would have no need to hold ourselves back from what we really want because we would know that yes, even if I fail and become lonely/sad/depressed, I know that I can live through it and be happy again.

It has taken me a long time to finally be ok with feeling the bad. To really give myself over to being lonely/sad/depressed. I know that it won't last forever and that I'll be better for having gone through it. So spring can take it's time IMO. I want to live in the now, in the coldness of winter with my sorrow, so that when spring time comes, I'll actually be ready for the changes it will bring.