It Would be so Much Easier if…

I should have known better. He could have died. Was it worth the risk?

What does this have to do with the OneGreenSmoothie movement? Let me explain…

The Event

Last Sunday evening, we were winding down a pleasant weekend when I offered my youngest son his new favorite “bowl” – yogurt topped with cinnamon, fruit, and oatmeal.

It’s complicated trying to feed this primarily plant-based, allergic, and picky eater so I was relieved to have stumbled upon this easy and nutritious meal for him during a recent heat wave we’d had.

Vegan “dairy” products have improved exponentially over the past few years, primarily those that are nut and hemp-based because they are so rich, creamy and frankly, delicious! I buy several varieties of these for everyone in our family except for Mattias, who is severely allergic to nuts and hemp; he gets soy- and coconut-based dairy.

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Moments after I’d served Mattias his bowl, I hear footsteps running into the kitchen, and his trembling voice scratch out, “Mom, my throat hurts.” Bam! Everything stops.

His lips are already swollen and tears have pooled into his frightened eyes. He knows what’s coming. We rush to the cupboard to find the Benadryl, and I give him two tiny pink pills.

Minutes pass. No relief.

Oh no, I think to myself. This is it. I’m going to have to inject him with the EpiPen­­—a chilling prospect for both of us. I’d have to jab the thick needle through his pants, into his thigh muscle, and hold it firmly in place while the epinephrine flows through his veins ultimately reaching his heart, making it race wildly. It also would mean a trip to the Emergency Room and a long, late night.

I hesitate. Instead, I give him two more pink pills and pray. He brushes his teeth and takes a shower trying to cleanse away the offending allergen—cashew milk yogurt. He has hives. He crawls into bed, and we do deep breathing exercises to relax his body.

I track the amount of time passing. I cannot delay much longer. Finally, the swelling of his throat starts to ease. His breathing stabilizes. We continue the deep breathing, for my sake as much as his. Inside, I am afraid he’ll have a secondary reaction once the medicine wears off, but he refuses to sleep in my bed so I that I can keep watch over him during the night.

The Doubt

I am furious with myself! How could I, of all people, make such a dangerous mistake? Then they hit me in rapid-fire succession:

this is too hard; risky. it’s not worth it. it would be so much easier if I would just give him normal yogurt. i would make sure it’s organic, free range, humane, whatever it takes. he could use the calories. yes, it’s inflammatory, but at least it’s safe. I wouldn’t have to think, triple check labels, plan ahead…

The Dilemma

Why do I make things so much more difficult for myself and my family by seeking out plant-based milk, cheese, and yogurt? It would certainly be easier, perhaps even “safer” in our case, to stock our fridge with animal-based dairy products.

Here is what I’ve come up with:

When we first started this journey, it was all about our own personal health. I’m a health nut and actively seek out the latest research on nutrition. When I discovered that animal milk is known to be the root cause of all sorts of ailments from multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, cancer, etc., we became dairy free at home (click this link for a myriad of videos on this topic).

If you’ve read the Our Story page on this blog, you know that the documentary Cowspiracy completely rocked our world and inspired not only the creation of the OneGreenSmoothie movement, but gave us a greater sense of urgency and commitment to plant-based eating for the health of the planet.

Caring for our environment and personal health continue to be the driving forces behind our decisions and actions, but something unexpected has happened in the last year or so that has caused us greater consternation.

We’ve become more aware of the ethical dilemma of eating animals and their secretions. I’m not sure why this never factored into our consciousness before, other than ignorance or denial. But we’ve since come to appreciate that animals are sentient beings capable of bonding with humans, and feeling love, fear, stress, and pain.

Truth be told, even my kids, who were the ones pushing us to not eat animals, hadn’t made the connection with milk. Perhaps it was my motherly instincts that grew my empathy for the mother cow who’s breast milk was being taken and used to make dairy products to feed us. Although they now see that just as we love our dog, we wouldn’t drink his mother’s milk or even make yogurt or cheese with it (so why would we with that from goats or cows?), they still sometimes grumble at my efforts on dairy. Which just adds a layer of guilt to my dilemma…

A New Day

The next morning Mattias wakes with swollen eyes like he’d been in a fight; his throat is still tight. My guilt returns. The thought returns, “normal” yogurt would be so much easier!

Easier for me and my child? Yes! (and more convenient and less expensive, too!)

Easier for the mother cow and her calf? No.

Easier on our planet? No.

I vow to be more vigilant. I vow to keep taking one step at a time trying to figure out this whole plant-based way of eating, way of living. I begin anew and share this with you.

To Tell or Not To Tell

One of the impetuses for my starting the OneGreenSmoothie movement was an experience a friend shared with me. On separate occasions, she had met two women who both happened to hail from the island where she was from. She was excited to welcome them to her town so she threw a big dinner for them, serving all the traditional foods from said island. She prepared and cooked for days, planned themed decorations, cleaned house–the whole shebang.

The night of the dinner, all of the families had a grand time, except for the glaringly awkward fact that the platters of skewered chicken were still full. When my friend asked her guests about it, they sheepishly admitted that they were vegetarian.

Oh man was my friend frustrated, dare I say, even angry?! Had she known, she would have never bought and labored over all that meat. She would have happily made other veggie dishes and/or asked them to bring their favorites.

To Tell or Not to Tell…that is a common question vegetarians ask themselves, and vegans even more so. Vegetarians are generally more accepted in our society, and it’s usually pretty easy to make a meal from side dishes.

However, vegans, and I’d imagine those with gluten issues, are faced with the dilemma of speaking up about their diets and potentially causing the host anxiety and extra work. No one wants to put anyone else out, and likewise, most people are super thoughtful and want to prepare something their guests will enjoy! So all this politeness can inadvertently create awkward situations.

Our Evolution–We have been on both sides of this dilemma. When Niklas and I were first married and living in Stockholm, I was vegetarian. Already feeling like an outsider being American, I usually asked Niklas to please not mention my vegetarianism to hosts we didn’t feel comfortable “imposing” upon – like his work colleagues or perhaps new friends. But sometimes it was difficult trying to hide around the side dishes, especially on occasions when there were no sides without some ham or bacon mixed in. I remember Niklas’ sweet great-grandmother, whom I adored, chastising me for being rude. “You eat what someone puts in front of you,” she admonished. “That’s just good manners.” Ugh, how can one argue with that?!?

On the flip side, a few years ago, we had some friends in town who were dairy and gluten free. I had wanted to prepare something nice for them and anguished over it for weeks before they arrived. Granted, I am not a natural cook and would have probably stressed about it anyway, but, mainly, I was just used to “cooking” with flour and dairy–bread and cheese anyone?

Looking back on it now, I am thrilled our friends trusted us enough to share their dietary restrictions, and I was happy to accommodate them; we love these people after all, and their next visit will be a cinch to prepare for now that we have much more experience being dairy-free ourselves.

Where We Stand Today–Before starting OneGreenSmoothie, we opted not to tell people. It was one thing to say we’re trying to be the stigmatized V-word when all five of us are at ever so slightly different commitment levels, and then add the challenge that one of our children is allergic to the traditional vegan stables. It just seemed too complicated.

But with our OneGreenSmoothie project trying to highlight all the positive benefits of eating more plants, we are out in the open about our food choices. We do this with all our imperfections and the risks that entails. Perhaps, that’s why we aren’t invited over for dinner with friends as much as we were before. Maybe people fear we are judgmental of them for eating meat, which is not the case. But that’s OK, I get it.

Looping Back–Hearing about my friend’s frustrating experience, I thought we needed a forum where we all could feel comfortable discussing our life choices without the fear of being judged for them, one way or the other. That’s one of the reasons we started our OneGreenSmoothie project.

Our strategy now is to always offer to bring something plant-based to contribute to the meal or eat before we go so we can spend our time enjoying the company! Relationships are what it’s about in the end anywayJ!

So the question is…

Do you tell or not tell? Let us know in the comments below!

Thanks, as always, for all the support and encouragement so many of you have sent our way!

Susan

 

 

Keeping It Real

We recently completed a marathon week of guests. I had known about the visits for a long time (Europeans plan way ahead!) and was super excited about preparing and serving a bounty of vegan meals for each of them to showcase how delicious plant-based eating can be (and perhaps sow some tiny seeds).

First, let’s get one thing clear. Anyone who knows me for five minutes learns that I’m neither a confident cook nor an easy entertainer so adding the vegan dynamic took the stress level up a notch. But, as anyone who knows me for 5 minutes, also learns that I’m passionate about health and the environment so I was willing to push myself out of my comfort zone for the “cause”.

I had been looking through cook books and the abundance of online sources for inspiring ideas and became genuinely excited about embarking on some new culinary creations. However, our house is on the market so actually testing out any of these recipes had not transpired in real life since we constantly need to keep the house clean and free from smells.

No matter what kind of entertaining one does, it helps to have a few “tried and true” recipes that are always winners. That will be the key to my vegan entertaining in the future, however, the stars aligned for that not to happen this time.

This sweet family from Sweden were the first to arrive.

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We’ve known Mattias and Emma for almost 20 years when they worked with Niklas at Dell Nordic. Unfortunately, I was ill while they were here and could barely drag myself out of bed which threw me since I rarely get sick. Niklas totally stepped up during their stay and handled most of the entertaining and kindly offered to pick up cheese pizzas for the night they were coming here for dinner. As much as I hated to give up the chance to dazzle them with mind-blowing vegan food, I succumbed. Had we had our default entertainment recipes nailed down, I’m sure we wouldn’t have caved to convenience. There were several other factors that added to the dilemma which I won’t go into, but suffice it to say, we were stretched to capacity and then some.

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Next up were the Norwegians. You may remember our friend, “Jane” from either this post or this one back from our Paris days. They arrived on the heels of the Swedes and since a) I still wasn’t 100% and b) we had one cheese pizza left from the Swedes, we served that bad boy up. We didn’t buy any more even though the Moes can plow through one on their own in no time, but rather had it as a side in a whole buffet of colorful veggies and dips and lentils and salads and fruit. We were making progress.

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The Brazilan and Texan arrived the next day. After getting a late start from LA, they arrived after lunch so no meal for them. My old self would have served a glorified  FIKA, but I’m on a mission and offered them the OneGreenSmoothie challenge instead–and a deep dark green one to boot! Easiest entertaining ever and they were great sports about it. They’ve been vegan for 3+ years now so of course we blew off the catching up and had a deep dive on the realities and challenges for families trying to be plant based. Bottom line–don’t try to be perfect all the time.

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The following day, we had a celebration dinner for Sean (right) and Sanford from Sonos. Niklas happened to mention our beloved Cowspiracy documentary to Sean one day last January. He and his girlfriend watched it and immediately did the 30 day vegan challenge and loved the results. They are still veganish, a term I love because it gives people the flexibility to be vegan most of the time, but not feel like they have to be perfect all the time. Trust me, any and every little bit helps our health, the earth, the animals and is worthy of celebrating!

Sanford and Niklas started to play table tennis at SONOS and to level up the competition, made an agreement that whomever lost the series, would have to do something nice for the winner. Niklas won and asked Sanford if he would go meatless for a month as his act of kindness. To his credit, Sanford eagerly agreed. Not only did he take it seriously, he was dedicated until the very end! He, too, said he will continue to consume much less meat and dairy now that his “gap in knowledge” is closing as a result of his month of being vegan. sonos1

By this time, I was finally back to myself and prepared a full vegan menu to celebrate with these great guys! It was so much fun creating the food and sharing it with them to commemorate their contributions to the greater good. Not only were they good sports about the 30 day vegan challenge and the OneGreenSmoothie Challenge, they were super sweet to take on Linnea and Mattias in a rousing badminton match!

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Dare I say all those plant foods give one loads of energy!?!?

Thank you to all our guests for giving us the chance to explore entertaining as a plant based family. While we weren’t perfect, we definitely made progress and have a little more experience behind us as we progress on this endeavor.

 

 

 

Too Extreme?

My friend, Anette, wrote the following comment on the Swedish Surprise post:

I’m thinking that everyone had ice cream and your kids got broccoli!

Some background before you think she was being mean: Anette is Swedish herself. In fact, that’s how we met–through a Swedish play group when our oldest kids were toddlers. I think it’s fair to say Swedes have an obsession with ice cream, consuming even more than gelato-wielding Italians so it’s natural to serve ice cream for dessert to Swedes. And she meant it to be funny.

However, Anette’s comment sparks an interesting conversation and that’s what OneGreenSmoothie is all about–open discussions about why and what it’s like to be plant based. There are many misconceptions about vegan diets, but here are a few related to her comment:

  • veganism is extreme
  • veganism is deprivation
  • vegans don’t have fun

Extremism–veganism probably seems extreme when compared to the Standard American Diet aka SAD, but when viewed from a health perspective, the environmental impact lens, or animal welfare concern, it’s the SAD diet that is extreme in it’s over reliance on processed carbs, animal consumption, and convenience food. We all know vegetarians and if you think about it,  the step between being vegetarian and vegan is short–just the elimination of eggs and dairy so really not that “extreme”. Of course veganism is typically associated with a full lifestyle rather than just dietary, but for the sake of brevity here, let’s just stay food focused.

If you are courageous enough to watch this incredibly powerful speech , I am confident you will conclude that veganism is not the extreme, but rather the other way around. I’d love to hear your thoughts after viewing either way.

Deprivation–When first going plant based, it can definitely feel like “you can’t eat anything.” We certainly felt that way in the beginning and to be clear, we are not 100% perfect 100% of the time. However, now that we’ve been in this general mode for a year or so, we’ve realized that we’ve actually increased the variety of foods we’re eating. We have explored all sorts of beans and lentils and veggies and grains and tofus and tempehs and so much more than we ever would have considered before. See my Dallas post with the “Best Tacos Ever!”

Fun Factor–this has simply not been our experience. We still have fun, despite the grim faces in the picture I posted that elicited Anette’s comment. In fact, it’s actually been a bonding adventure for our family. We found a cool vegan-friendly restaurant, Mountain Rambler Brewery in Bishop, CA when we went skiing in Mammoth Lakes this past winter. Niklas and the twins found a vegan-friendly food spot at Magic Mountain just last month. When we travel, we go on a hunt for vegan-friendly places or at least a local Whole Foods Market. Discovering new places, food items, and recipes is all fun! Is it always easy? Not in the least. But it does get easier with experience.

Thank you, Anette, for unwittingly getting the conversation going. And to answer your question, no, the Moe kids did not get broccoli for desert! There are so many amazing vegan treats that it would be easy for anyone to be a “junk food vegan”. But we’ll leave that for another time.

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Love to hear your thoughts anytime!

 

 

 

 

Planted Seeds Sprout

Some friends we met while living in Paris visit their family in Los Angeles every summer and are great about driving up to SB to see us while they are stateside.

Usually, we spend their whole visit catching up on what each of our families have been up to, how they like their current city/country, where they are moving to next (they are still expats exploring the world), what is going on with our children, mutual friends, etc.

This year, however, while the kids were reconnecting in the waves, Lynn and I had a multi-hour discussion about our favorite RRP (Rich Roll Podcast) episodes, how their whole family has cut out beef and reduced consumption of pork, poultry, and dairy. We talked about the vegan movement and how you don’t have to be perfect to still make a huge impact. Lynn has lost 22 pounds since last April, has more energy than she can ever remember having, and just generally feels better.

She was also candid with me about her reasons for still sometimes eating animals which I appreciated. Very often people get defensive and/or go on the offensive on this topic, but we were able to have a deeply satisfying discussion that was honest, non-judgmental, and heartfelt on both sides. She is becoming more and more vegetarian, but is taking it one step at a time.

“Progress, not Perfection” is our mantra here at OneGreenSmoothie. Many people say it’s too hard to become vegan so they don’t do anything because they can’t do everything. We say, “do something!” and that something can be as easy as incorporating one green smoothie into your daily routine. The more you crowd IN plants, the less room and desire you’ll have for animals and their secretions.

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Lynn and I packing up after our marathon convo. We probably would have kept on had the wind not picked up and the temps dropped.

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She even brought us vegan chocolate!! That was one of the most personal and thoughtful gifts! Truly touched my heart!

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Juliette spent the night with us so of course we offered her a green smoothie. Let’s be honest, Linnea is not the most enthusiastic green smoothie drinker. In fact, it’s rare. But she was a good sport since her friend was game for trying one.

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And yay, they liked them!

And to think, this all started with with a few seeds planted during this past year. You never know when or if those seeds will germinate and what will grow from them. I’m so proud of and delighted for Lynn and her family and can’t wait to hear more about their progress over the next year until we meet again.

(Update: Lynn just emailed saying she hasn’t had any animal products since our conversation a week ago and feels even more incredible! She even made it to the new Chef Chloe vegan restaurant in Silverlake (Los Angeles area)).

PS Lynn’s sister, Paula, made the visit with them and she was such a good sport about hanging with our single-minded conversation. I’m secretly wondering if any seeds were planted with her. Time will tell and I’ll be sure and keep you posted next summer when they return for their annual visit:).

 

Swedish Surprise

Earlier this week, we had visitors from Sweden; friends from our Uppsala University days 23 years ago.

Swedes typically have a strong culinary culture of meat, potatoes, dairy and bread. Not being a natural cook,  I ruminated often over the past several months on what to serve them (Scandinavians in general take their vacations seriously and plan well in advance) .

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The Moe kids were wiped out from their full day of beach sports, but still, you’d think they could muster a basic smile for their mom, sheesh…

I ended up having back to back appointments during the day of their arrival so luckily had the idea of just ordering dinner from my friend, Nimita, whose Ayurvedic food is mostly vegan and all of it beyond delicious!

I decided before they arrived that I wouldn’t mention anything about the whole “vegan” thing, but rather just focus on enjoying their company.

Toward the end of the evening, however, I couldn’t help myself and said, “thanks for being such good sports about our vegan dinner.” To which they responded, drumroll please, “we’re mostly vegetarian now and were so looking forward to some good vegetarian food.”

What?!?! What?!?!

Turns out, their 15 year old daughter even wrote a paper for school about the devastating impacts of animal agriculture on our environment.

What a wonderful surprise! Things are happening, people!  Let’s keep this conversation going!

We have three more sets of visitors from assorted European countries over the next two weeks so who knows what’s in store, but I’m looking forward to finding out!

Dallas

I drafted this post the night before the tragic shootings in Dallas last week so let us first take a movement to express our deepest sorrow. Our hearts and prayers are with the people of Dallas and everyone suffering from this tragedy.

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Joakim’s volleyball team had qualified for the Junior Olympic National Championships last fall and we had been looking forward to the competition in Dallas ever since. We just returned and I thought I’d share how we fared trying to be plant based during the 5 day trip to BBQ Country.

We prepared by packing some plant based staples such as bars, oatmeal, coconut milk powder for coffee, nuts, and a greens powder.IMG_0404

The evening we landed, we were lucky enough to hitch a ride with another player and his mom over to Whole Foods. They had a fantastic raw veggie noodle bar that I should have photographed because it was as delicious as it was stunning. I’d not seen one before and have my fingers crossed that our WF in SB will create one!

They didn’t have any vegan pizza slices left as it was late, but the gal behind the counter offered to custom make us a fresh one with vegan cheese, artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, and sun dried tomatoes. Vegan cheese has come such a long way and I can honestly say it was beyond delicious! Joakim had spent the three days prior with a friend and had eaten a ton of cheese pizza and his face exploded with acne as a result so he definitely wanted to stay away from dairy. He’s vegan at home, but will eat cheese pizza if that’s his only option with friends. We also stocked up on fruit for the rest of the weekend.

The next day was a long one with 12 hours at the arena either playing, reffing, or resting. We subsided on bars, fruit and nuts because while there were several vendors advertising vegetarian options, none were actually made that day (nor the entire time we were there). The menu indicated things like “veggie wrap” or “vegetable crudites plate”, but when we tried to order, they said, “those were not made today.”

The following day we ended at noon and most of the team wanted to go to a traditional BBQ place for lunch. I pulled up the menu from the restaurant on my phone and saw that there were no vegetarian much less vegan options, so while it was incredibly awkward not to participate, we opted out. Luckily, Joakim’s friend and his mom decided to skip too, so we headed back to Whole Foods for a fabulous and fresh lunch from the salad bar!

The final day, on our way out to the airport, we headed over to an amazing taco place that actually had three vegetarian options! Seriously, we’re not just talking rice, beans and some soggy bell peppers and onions. There was Thai tofu, BBQ tofu, and Falafel with tahini sauce!

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We all agreed these were the BEST TACOS EVER — meat or otherwise! We’re still talking about them. If you are in Dallas, Houston, Fort Worth or Chicago, definitely check out Velvet Taco! You’d think we’d be able to get good vegan tacos here in health conscious California, but they are still rare. Luckily we have Mesa Verde in SB and would love to hear more local options if you know of any.

While we were gone, Niklas took the twins to Magic Mountain for their 13th birthday and they actually found a vegan friendly place in the park called Go Fresh Cafe–Nitro. The kids loved the plant based chicken which was a pleasant surprise since they claim to dislike all “fake” meats.

And when we returned, I found this on the counter…IMG_0460

Niklas had made a special vegan 4th of July BBQ for the kids. Pretty good for a former meat and potatoes Swede.

Overall, I’d say both the California and Dallas bound parts of our family did pretty well during our travels. Totally worth the extra effort, that’s for sure! Oh and the team came in 17th in the country. I think they were hoping for a better performance, but it was still a good showing.