A traveling vegan

When I meet someone new, I introduce myself as Amber. I’m a traveling English teacher. I lived in Japan for 2 years, and am about to start my 3rd year in Spain. I love traveling, obscure sports, (ultimate frisbee and climbing via ferratas are my favorite!) art, and music. But another important aspect of my identity is my interest in veganism.

Here is me with a baby cow named Jack when I volunteered on a dairy farm in New Zealand in 2014. This cow was killed for veal a few days after this picture.

I became vegetarian in junior high school after I did a research project on animal cruelty. I was pescatarian for one year in Japan, and changed my mind and switched to veganism when I saw this video called Seaspiracy. Here’s a quote from the movie that stuck with me:

“In some cases, for every 1 kilogram of shrimp caught, up to 20 kilograms of other animals can be caught as bycatch.”

As we are enjoying our seafood, lots of other animals – whales, dolphins, turtles, unwanted fish – die unnecessarily.

My reasons for choosing a vegan lifestyle center around ethics towards animals, although improved health and lessening my impact on the environment are other factors. I recently read “Eating Animals” by Jonathan Saffron Foer which further entrenched my beliefs.

I find the dairy industry to be modern-day slavery. I volunteered on a dairy farm in New Zealand for two weeks and found the whole process to be extremely dirty and inhumane. Baby calves are separated from their mothers at birth, and mother cows are producing milk that is meant for their babies. Here is an informative and short 5-minute video about the dairy industry: Dairy is Scary.

The cows poop and pee during the process which gets everywhere. The milk is pasturized but I still remember the smell…
These cows should be drinking their mothers milk, but instead they get fed the reject milk that is inadequate for human consumption. I had a lot of fun interacting with them. They are so adorable and playful.

Easy Peasy Vegan Meal Ideas

Enough said about the ethics behind my choices, I have been extremely satisfied and physically thriving with a vegan diet. Here are some of my typical vegan meals that are cheap, easy, and delicious.

Go-to breakfasts:

Oatmeal (with lots of toppings! Cinnamon, berries, cut up fruit like apple or banana, nuts, nut butter, non-dairy milk…) You can cook them on the stove, make overnight oats, or bake them as healthy breakfast oatmeal cookies and take them on the go.

These experimental muffins (almost everything I make is experimental!) had oat flour, walnuts, mashed banana, dried fruit, and the ones on the right had corn and something else… I forget exactly haha oops.

You can also make pancakes with similar ingredients! Mashed banana, oat flour (you can make by blending oatmeal in a blender) cinnamon, non-dairy milk… and whatever other add-in’s you want.

I topped these chocolate pancakes with walnuts and peanut butter.
I made my own pancake syrup with cacao, a little maple syrup, and tahini.
Green smoothie bowl. Blend frozen banana, spinach, ginger, and plant milk (or water works too). You can try out different combinations of fruit and veggies. Add oatmeal and flax meal for added oomf. Toppings are the fun part! Top with cut up fruit, nut butter, and sprinkle on chia seeds. Or take it to go in a jar and tell everyone you’re drinking green salsa.

I’m including some other vegan breakfast ideas from my friend Kendra. Check out her instagram at @kendylouwho. She is an amazing cook!!

  • Avocado Toast: Add hummus, microgreens, tomato, TJ’s Everything Bagel Seasoning, Nutritional yeast (which is high in B12, also known as Nooch)
  • Rice cakes with toppings – nut butter & jam, hummus, avocado, cashew cheeze, tomato, mushrooms, etc.
  • Tofu Scramble: Crumble pressed tofu in a pan with onion, garlic, turmeric, salt and pepper, add some dark leafy greens (kale, chard, spinach), some soyrizo (TJ’s makes a dank one) and extra veggies you like (zucchini, corn, mushroom, tomato…)
  • Bananas/Fruit salad & coconut yogurt/granola

Yummy Lunches

Monster salads (big ones!!!) Start with a base of leafy greens -spinach, arugula, lettuce, kale (better if you massage it first!) -and layer beans, tomatoes, cucumber, olives, hummus, avocado, quinoa, rice, baked veggies, leftover pasta, or whatever you have on top! Sprinkle seeds and nuts on top.

My favorite salad dressing is tahini, lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper. I also love balsamic vinegar.

You can put the same ingredients from your salad into a wrap. Add hummus, avocado, tomato, beans, veggies, baked tofu, fake sausages, or any fake meat replacement. I find that meat replacements (seitan, tofu, tempeh) are delicious but unnecessary. Since I am usually living on a tight budget – saving my dollars for plane flights for epic trips like my solo journey to Morocco last Christmas! – I usually just buy fresh veggies, fruit, dried nuts and beans and skip the fake meat.

The hummus in the middle is made of garbanzo beans and red peppers.

Hummus is easy to make yourself! Blend soft chickpeas (canned or cooked from dry), olive oil, lemon, garlic, salt and pepper. I experiment and add eggplant, spinach, sweet potato, or whatever else I feel like… you can use other beans too! 

More lunch ideas from Kendra:

  • Rainbow sandwich: all the yummers plus avo, hummus, vegan cheeze (chao and miyokos are my fav)
  • Veggie wraps: Collard leaf with whatever filling you want (bbq lentils are a fav)
  • Chickpea “tuna” salad: smash cooked chickpeas with avo, vegan mayo, celery, shredded carrot, s&p, lemon to taste
  • Summer rolls: rice paper & colorful veggies. Mango, avo, peanut sauce, cilantro, peppers, rice noodles, tempeh, or tofu are great. These are awesome as a snack or meal when its super hot. No cooking yay!

Dinners

Quinoa or rice bowl with stir fried veggies on top (tofu, broccoli, I have a great tofu recipe. I cubed some tofu and fried it in olive oil (like 2 tbspns) and then added miso paste and peanut butter.

This bowl is lettuce topped with rice, kidney beans, sauerkraut, and peppers

Sweet potato (you can literally stab it with a fork and microwave it for 4 minutes)  or stir fry it (I cube it and steam it, and then add in kale or any leafy green… top with tahini sauce.

Tacos!!( Kendra is the taco queen) There are so many combinations. Last night’s were tempeh and cauliflower. First she roasted cut up cauli in the oven and marinated the tempeh in olive oil and a bunch of spices.

Here is a video recipe from @FromMyBowl. There are so many possibilities of taco fillings: stir-fried onion and garlic with potato or sweet potato, stir fried veggies like zucchini, peppers, mushrooms, salsa, guacamole, hummus, tofu…

My favorite vegan food bloggers:
https://www.megjosephson.com
https://frommybowl.com

Here are some resource recommendations from Kendra:

Veganomicon – a great staple of easy and tasty recipes, plus a cooking guide for every grain, bean and veggie imaginable

Post Punk Kitchen https://www.theppk.com/ – a little more fun and funky recipes. Great for parties

https://minimalistbaker.com/ – my all time favorite. Super easy, low ingredient recipes. Yum!!

https://www.veganricha.com/ – Best indian/thai vegan food. Super great for sauces and authentic south(east) asian flavors

https://www.bakerita.com/ – this is my sorority sister’s food blog and it amazing. Best desserts ever.

To conclude:

I’m not a perfect vegan (I’d say I’m 95% vegan) but I’m doing the best I can. Even if you decide to be vegan just once a week, you will be making a positive impact. There are so many vegan options now at restaurants, and it’s cheap and easy to give it a try at home. Good luck and let me know how it goes!

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