Hidden Abundance: My Favorite Kitchen Habits for Simple, Sustainable Living

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Hello friends! Lots going on around these parts! The semester is rapidly winding down and with it comes paper presentations and refining the drafts I pumped out several weeks ago. I love this time of the semester, it allows for some good restoration and self care opportunities if you just know where to look. I thought I’d share a few of my favorite practices that have helped me keep my sanity over the past couple of months during a very busy time of year. As a health conscious vegan, I put a lot of thought and effort into the regular activities that occur in and around my kitchen. This fuels both body and mind, giving me an outlet for creativity that allows stress reduction and the opportunity to create wonderful foods that make me feel strong and invigorated.

In the wake of the holidays (in my mind this wake lasts all of January and into February with another heavily commercialized celebration on Valentine’s Day) I’ve did a lot of thinking on abundance, how to have this without a lot of materialism. Ever since moving to Florida, I’ve made the decision to live simply — to have as few material possessions as possible but to invest in quality and truly love and enjoy what I do have, to only buy what I need and to be appreciative of my access to and ability to buy these things, products, or garments. (I’m thinking I might write another larger post on this topic, thoughts?) I try and take this outlook to other parts of my life, particularly in my kitchen witchery and cleaning habits.

When slicing and dicing and putting together today’s lunch salad (a delicious bed of romaine and arugula with tomatoes, homegrown sprouts, carrots, nutritional yeast, liquid aminos, and a bit of olive oil and lots of roasted chickpeas) I thought about a few simple practices that help me live what I feel to be a simple, sustainable life. A lot of the things I do in this vein pertain to my cooking and food preparation, a key part of my happiness and wellness on several levels, but I think that these tips can be easily applied to other parts of life as well. They’re ones that make me feel happy, healthy, and most of all good about the way I live and how it impacts not only my little life but also my carbon/waste/consumption footprint. In attempt to waste less and enjoy more, I love doing these things to help further my goals toward health and eco-friendly living. Enjoy!

Broth bag

I keep a “broth bag” in my freezer at all times. It’s just a gallon-sized ziploc bag that I toss all of my veggie scraps into. Carrot/celery tips and tops, onion skins and ends, kale ribs, garlic papers, you name it! It goes in the bag! Especially since I don’t currently have access to composting in my apartment (Oh, the follies of city/urban living!) this is how I make sure those good veggie nutrients don’t go entirely to waste. When the bag is full, I dump everything into a soup pot, cover with just enough water to submerge everything, add some salt and oil, and simmer over low heat until a delicious veggie broth has formed. After it cools, I measure it out and bag it up! Then back into the freezer for later uses in soups, to cook grains and rice, and other culinary needs.

Scrap Bowl

Similarly, I keep a bowl or two in my fridge for fresher veggie scraps, like lettuce ends and kale bones, that I can toss into my daily green smoothies! I’m not currently a juicer, but this is also a great way to garner some odds and ends to run through your home juicing system as well!

Ziploc recycling

I wash out and reuse my ziploc bags over and over! It not only saves money, but let’s be honest these things never decompose! I’ve bought literally 2 boxes of them since I moved into my new place. 1 box of gallon bags, 1 box of quart.

Invest in good food storage

Jars, the aforementioned bags, tupperware, pyrex, you name it. Buy it! Keep it! Use it! Love it! Don’t waste food, the freezer is your friend!

Cleaning with Vinegar

I recently did a top to bottom all out in depth Spring clean. In the middle of winter. I bought a gallon of cheap white vinegar for the occasion and it is not only 100% natural and eco-friendly but it also does a number on grease, grime, soap scum, and mineral build ups. Safe to use around cats!

And Baking Soda

Ever do those volcano experiments in grade school where you poured vinegar into baking soda and watched the “lava” flow? That chemical reaction is great for cleaning too! I used it in my tub and sink during the Great Spring Clean of 2015 and it worked wonders.

Movements Within Your Space

 In yoga, I’ve always loved doing back bends and shoulder stands. Part of exploring these types of poses is the ability to change your perspective by looking at the world from a physically different stance than you normally would. I spend a lot of my free time in my apartment: reading, studying, writing, cooking, blogging, working out. I like to try and do different things in different areas in my apartment. Mornings I love to spend in my sunroom turned study, beginning with my first cup of coffee while it’s still dark outside and eventually closing my laptop and readings when the sun has fully risen. Workouts used to be in the same area, but with the addition of a small TV to my life (one thing I love is watching a single episode of one of my shows while I exercise) I pull my yoga mat and weights into the living room every day. I like to write at my dining room table, but I also work on my laptop on the sofa, in the study, or in bed. Fully utilizing my own space gives me a sense of ownership over it and it also changes my perspective. How does my body adapt to this task in this room? In this chair? On the floor? I love making those little changes and I love inhabiting every inch of my beautiful little space.

A good note to end on, I think. So there you have it! Just a few of the little things that I believe make me all the happier and healthier, in both body and mind! Are there any little habits you have that help you with sustainable wellness?

How the “Inspiring” Good Fatty Hurts the Body Positive Movement

Rachel in Veganland:

” In “body positive” campaigns promoted by advertisers, we are inspired to believe that it is OK to accept any womyn’s body, as long as it is feminine, healthy, and still adheres to most of our standard beauty conventions. While watching an advertisement for soap, we are given a look into a stranger’s medicine cabinet. ”

I very rarely “reblog” things here on Veganland, but this is just too great not to share. I’ve always been wary of advertising campaigns such as the Dove Real Beauty schtick. (My undergraduate Women’s Studies 101 professor pointed out that the company is owned by the same folks as Axe Body Spray which really put me in perspective.) This article is beautifully written, provides great additional links and successfully problematizes the fetishization of the curvy body, one that is still idealized and only of a certain physical, racial, and “healthy” type. This fits in perfectly with my series “The (Vegan) Body.”

Originally posted on BITCHTOPIA:

CNN, The Talk, Huffington Post and many other valuable media outlets have finally caught on to how “inspiring” a plus size body can be in the spotlight. Each conversation, blog post, and promotional spot featuring a women with no thigh-gap has one thing in common: they mention how that person is healthy and beautiful. As if their only reason for being accepted as a true fat-bodied hero is the fact that they are “fat but healthy” or “full-bodied and gorgeous.” These large-scale media outlets have opened up the gates to reveal a new cliché, “The Good Fatty,” that disparages a good cause similar to the trope of the manic-pixie-dream-girl. When Ashley Graham’s Sports Illustrated campaign is discussed, even by the model herself, they’re quick to mention  that they “know my [her] curves are sexy.” Graham’s social legitimacy is directly linked to the fact that she embodies an acceptable form of attractiveness…

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Negotiating Activism and Introversion

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This post has been in the making for several months. I first had the idea to write it back in December over my Winter break. As I was reflecting on my first semester in graduate school, I thought a lot about how my personal identities and activism meshed with my tendency toward introversion. Like a lot of my posts, this one is very personal in nature. I hope that it speaks to your whether you’re introverted or feed off of being around others. If you’re also an introvert I hope it might stand as testament to the fact that you’re not alone and there are a lot of us out there. If you’re more extroverted in nature or are somewhat of a combination of both sides of the human interaction spectrum, I hope this post might give you some insight into what it’s like for those of us who need and value some space from others. As always–feel free to reach out to me via the comments section, or via email (available in the “Contact” tab above) if you’d like to open a dialogue on these issues.

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Ok, so I’m an introvert. I’m not fond of large crowds of people, loud noises, and I’d much rather have a long one-on-one coffee session with a friend (which I was lucky enough to do this past weekend! Ok several weekends ago now…) than go out with a group of “girrlll frannds!” shopping or to a bar. I rise to the occasion with presentations and public speaking–to the point where some of the feedback I’ve gotten has really surprised me. (It’s just dealing with a bunch of people coming up to me after that is somewhat bewildering.) I spent my first few months at graduate school thinking a lot about my new location and place within academia and how it collided with my tendency toward introversion. Then I found this article from Huffington post. I posted it to Facebook. As trivial as most people likely think that is, for me it was a big deal.

Let me rephrase that: it was a HUGE, MIND-BLOWINGLY ENORMOUS PERSONAL EVENT TO POST THIS ARTICLE TO FACEBOOK! 

With the posting of the article, the façade of strictly internal pondering was gone. The walls were down and armor off.

I am an introvert.

“Think of each of us as having a cup of energy available. For introverts, most social interactions take a little out of that cup instead of filling it the way it does for extroverts. Most of us like it. We’re happy to give, and love to see you. When the cup is empty though, we need some time to refuel.”

BOOM. Me to a T. Down to the very last detail. So when you’re in a group setting (introvert or extrovert) how do you go about maintaining your personal activist agenda when that cup gets rocked or is suddenly called into question? While I’m getting better and better at it, I often find it difficult to speak up, especially in social situations. Usually this is when the contents of my social interaction cup are running low. So how do I negotiate my activism (not just vegan but queer, feminist, progressive etc.) when a lot of time it’s hard for me to expend the contents of this cup?

My introverted mantra, always in my mind: you do you.

Let me say that there are days, there are situations where speaking up just isn’t going to happen. Does that make you a bad activist? No absolutely not. For many of us, our politics (especially for many vegans) are very personal. If you ever feel that you’re in a situation where you might be verbally attacked, shamed, or made to feel badly about yourself or lifestyle in any way and you don’t think speaking up is the best course of action, don’t do it. And perhaps more importantly, DON’T BEAT YOURSELF UP ABOUT IT. If you’re in a safe space that invites dialogue and where people are interested (without being defensive) and you feel that’s a good platform to share your views by all means, go for it! If it’s just not going to happen, for whatever reason, that’s ok. You’re not a bad activist. You do you.

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If you feel uncomfortable speaking up, do it. Don’t rethink or overthink it, but go ahead and put yourself out there. The more you do it, the easier it will become. And again, if you’re in a situation where that just can’t happen for whatever reason, don’t feel badly about it. Be sure to attend to your needs. You can’t be a good activist if you’re overtired or stressed or super nervous. If you need to recharge before you go to vegan meet up group or before a rally or a show or whatever else, don’t deny yourself what you need.

This is something I’ve struggled with a lot. I’ve found that in many circumstances I push myself out of my natural comfort zone. While this can be a very positive thing that provokes new experiences and growth, sometimes it is exactly what its terminology suggest: really and truly uncomfortable. Often, that can mean unpleasant.

It always surprises me that others don’t realize my introversion. I always get the same slew of responses: “But you’re so polite/friendly/nice/personable!” First off, introversion doesn’t necessarily negate the presence of any standard social niceties or ability to be congenial in public–it only means I have to try a little harder than most to exert them. Most introverts do enjoy people for the most part, but need to balance that out with time to themselves. While I used to see this social approach as an impediment to my activism, I’ve come to see it as a useful tool. Though I don’t speak up as much as some of my friends or colleagues, when I do I make sure that I’ve really thought about what I’m saying.

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If someone asks me about my veganism/feminism/gender (neutrality) politics/queer theory etc. I’m glad to talk about things that I’m passionate about and meet that person where they are with the way I frame what I’m saying. For example, if someone’s interested in veganism, or just likes vegan food I try and talk mostly about foods rather than factory farming. If someone’s using discriminatory language, I try to speak up and tell them not only a more PC way of phrasing a term, but also how and why we should speak about certain topics differently. Respecting boundaries either physical, social, or ideological is the most comfortable way for me to approach my activism, regardless of the topic at hand. I’m a live and let live vegan, after all.

All badass cartoons found here.

Blue Corn Chilaquiles

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Whew! It’s paper writing season around here. Insane. I’ve been eating very well lately (hopefully a recent eats post coming your way soon) but hands down this is one of the best things I’ve made lately. As in holy hell, chilaquiles. Incredible. And it couldn’t be easier to make! One of those tasty meals that’s just perfect for the weekend–indulgent-feeling while maintaining healthful ingredients, pairs well with beer, (or in my case GF cherry cider) and a movie (I had fun with a few 1980s flicks this weekend: The Running Man and Deep Star Six. Both are great, if you’re looking for a flick to watch and I feel like an animal rights/factoring farming narrative and be read into the former.)

This recipes harnesses the smoky, tasty, umami-ridden goodness of chipotle peppers. I used the dried kind reconstituted (see recipe for instructions) but the kind in the can with adobe sauce would be great too. Plus you’d get adobe sauce, so what’s not to love?

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Chilaquiles

1 jar mild-medium salsa (I used Trader Joes salsa Authentica)

1 chipotle peppers,  reconstituted, ribbed and seeded2

2 c. vegetable broth, divided

1 bag blue corn chips (I used these.)

1 can pinto beans, drained and rinsed

toppings of your choice: Tofutti, Daiya, cilantro, green onions, lettuce, tomatoes, extra salsa etc.

To reconstitute the chipotles, cut a slit into each with a knife, then submerge in boiling water. The slit allows the water to seep into the interior of the peppers, which can sometimes remain dry depending on how shriveled they are. I let mine soak at least an hour to make sure they’re nice and soft.

To rib and seed your chipotles: cut off the stem end and then lengthwise, open each half and scrape the ribs and seeds out of the pepper. Be sure to avoid touching the interior too much with your hands and definitely DON’T touch your face (ESPECIALLY your eyes) while doing this. While chipotles aren’t the hottest peppers by any stretch (feel free to leave the seeds in some of all of the peppers if you like the heat) they can still cause skin irritation, especially on sensitive areas.

Toss the prepared peppers into a food processor with the entire jar of salsa and 1 cup of the veggie broth. Blend until completely smooth. Transfer to a sauce pan and slowly simmer over low heat until bubbly. Then add the bag of corn chips. I used one of the smaller bags, so I added all of them, but add as many as you can allowing for each one to get fully coated with the sauce. Simmer until the chips are tender. Meanwhile, add the additional cup of broth to a separate pan with the pintos and some salt and pepper. Simmer until heated through and the liquid as thickened and the pintos have absorbed most of it. To serve: place a heft scoop of chilaquiles on a plate and top with pintos, then desired toppings. If you’re using the Daiya, I’d recommend placing that directly on top of the chips with the pintos on top so it gets all gooey and melty. Eat immediately with a fork and plenty of napkins.

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I recommend adding as many nacho-esque toppings as you’d like including lots of salsa verde.

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The perfect end-of-the-weekend-meal to consume while watching a movie and editing a paper. That said, the next couple of weeks are pretty insane for me but I’ll be skulking around the internets mostly via social media. Happy Spring, all!