Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Spicy Vegan Chili


This is a recipe that I've made a few times and the family loves it more than the meat-based chili we used to eat.

Ingredients:

6 to 10 cups of beans with juice (I used leftover pinto and mix them with red kidney or black beans)
1 small can tomato paste
1/4 onion, copped small
1/4 cup beer or red wine
1/4 cup chili powder
1 dash of Worcestershire sauce
2 cloves minced garlic
1 TB ground cumin
1 TB dried oregano
1 TB dried basil
1 teaspoon paprika
1 TB sugar
Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions:

Mix all of the ingredients into medium sized pot under high heat and bring to boil.

Reduce heat to simmer until desired consistency or until onions are to desired tenderness - about 15 minutes.

Serve over Fritos or crackers or in a tortilla. Top with onion and soy cheese. Enjoy!

Serves 4


Jody Ortiz Author, "Bashboard Bullies" Bashboard Bullies and "The Naked Truth Bound in Scorn" The Naked Truth Bound in Scorn
http://www.truecrimebooks.us (All material on this blog copyrighted and ISBN filed. Permission to share only when including link or proper citation.)

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Vegan Potato Soup

We had this delicious soup for dinner last night and wanted to share. 

Thick and creamy vegan potato soup.

Prep time: 1 hour
Cook time: 25 minutes
Yield:

Serving size: 4
Calories per serving: 365

Ingredients:
3 cups vegetable stock vegetable stock
6 cups diced potatoes potatoes for boiling
3/4 cup nutritional yeast nutritional yeast 1/3 cup for soup, remainder for "cheesy" potato topping
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 to taste salt
1 cup whole plain almonds blanched
2 cloves garlic 

1/4 teaspoon pepper cayenne pepper 
1/4 chopped fine onion
1 - 2 large potato diced into 1 inch pieces for topping
1/3 cup chopped chives
1/2 cup peashoots can use parsley or cilantro
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil can use vegan butter instead

Directions:
1. Add almonds to a small bowl. Cover with boiling water. Cover bowl with aluminum foil and let soak for 1 hour.
2. For garnish, heat oven to 400 degrees and dice 1 to 2 potatoes for topping into 1 inch pieces. Leave skin for crunch if desired.
3. Toss in oil or vegan butter, salt, pepper, and remainder nutritional yeast not set aside for soup. Place on a greased baking sheet and roast for 15 to 25 minutes or until tender and crispy. (Remove from oven and set aside.)
4. Drain and rinse almonds onto a paper towel. Peel off the skin.
5. Peel potatoes for soup. Dice and boil in medium sized sauce pan until tender.
6. Drain water.
7. Add the boiled potato, almonds, vegetable stock, 1/3 cup nutritional yeast, and spices to a Vitamix or large food
processor. Blend until smooth and creamy, about 30 seconds in Vitamix. Add more liquid if a thinner soup is desired. Season to taste.
8. Saute onion, chives, and peashoots, set aside for garnish.
9. Pour soup from Vitamix into serving bowls. Top with crispy potatoes and garnish.
10. Serve.

**The nutritional information does not include the vegetable stock or nutritional yeast.

Jody Ortiz Author, "Bashboard Bullies" Bashboard Bullies and "The Naked Truth Bound in Scorn" The Naked Truth Bound in Scorn
http://www.truecrimebooks.us (All material on this blog copyrighted and ISBN filed. Permission to share only when including link or proper citation.)

Monday, April 28, 2014

Plant - Based Vegan Diet

Why I have gone vegan!


For the past year, I've been a fairly strict vegetarian, but eating fish once a week. Though I've noticed improvements in my health, sometimes one has to make drastic changes to obtain dramatic results, not just for myself, but also for the environment.

In my Ecology and Evolution class, I wrote a paper that discussed biodiversity and how sustainable living could be achieved on our planet. Research shows that ranches that raise livestock are more destructive than plant-growing farms. For my Ancient Humanities class, I studied Bhagavad-Gita and the Hindu religion, which centers on Brahman or a cosmic spirit, and regeneration into other living beings. As an open-minded Christian and yoga enthusiast, while writing and researching for both papers, I gained a greater awareness of my personal impact on the world around me.

My feelings on the topic were further enhanced after watching two documentaries: "Forks over Knives" and "Veducated" on Netflix. They opened my eyes. They are a must see - if for no other reason, than to gain a better perspective on how your food choices effect your health as well as the environment.

For example, by giving up fish as well as meat, I'm saving 95 lives per year. Making the switch from vegetarian to vegan will not only help with the health issues I face from Lymes and Lupus, but it will also make a larger impact on the planet.

To lend insight into my journey to this decision, I'll share the papers, including citations, that started such a big shift in my thought process. I'm hoping that my small contribution will bring about better change. I will also share my journey as I strive to learn even more.

Follow me on Twitter and Facebook for vegan recipes and organic, gratitude-filled lifestyle tips.

Biodiversity: Cultivating Sustainable Living on Planet Earth
With the current toxic status of our planet, it is possible to create a sustainable plan that will impact not only our generation, but generations to come, and allow for healthy air, water, and food to continue to be natural resources in our environment. In this paper I will provide information on the idea of sustainable living and describe how it can impact the environment and support the population at the current and projected growth rate.
According to World Population Balance’s Web site, Earth’s current resources can only sustain two billion people based on a current European standard of living. However, our planet is populated by seven billion humans, and the population is growing. This means that we are currently using more than double the amount of our resources with no recovery time in between. Our planet does not have time to recover the loss. Even the poorest countries -- who consume only a fraction of the amount of resources as industrialized countries -- are using their resources at a rate of over 10% of what they have available (World Population Balance, 2013).
Imagine that you have a glass of water sitting in front of you with a replenishment rate of one teaspoon per hour. The water is being replenished, so it may as well be used. You stick a straw into the glass and drink over two teaspoons per hour. At that rate, the glass will eventually be emptied because the rate of use is going faster than the rate of replenishment. Though it will be refilled, you could suffer from dehydration while waiting for more water. This is what happens when resources are used faster than they are created. This is what we are doing to the earth. Sadly, in the process of depleting the natural resources we are also polluting them so that the rate of replenishment will eventually stop altogether or the life-sustaining resources will become too toxic for our systems. It is imperative that changes are made that will impact our environment before it is too late. Changes made, just one person at a time, can have a ripple effect.
In order to maintain our current rate of growth without suffering devastating losses to starvation or malnutrition, going green in not only our lifestyles, but also our diets, may be the answer. Our planet is rich with nutritional foods that grow naturally without any growth hormones or antibiotics that are often given to livestock and poultry. Our “green” foods have been around for millions of years and they have sustained numerous species. Though history shows that human beings became smarter and stronger once we introduced high protein foods into our diet, the world is now much smaller and high protein foods are available in seeds, nuts, and even many of the plants that can be found at the local farmer’s market. Therefore, eating meat is now considered an option, and one that in the past few decades has become the choice that is considered unhealthy.
Additionally, the best way to help the planet and still maintain a healthy diet is by eating local. University of Florida’s Living Green program has found that on average food travels 1,500 miles from the farm to the table (University of Florida, 2006). This means that not only is the food leaving a large carbon footprint as it makes its way to a meal because it is loaded onto semi trucks that use a lot of diesel and emit pollution into the air, but it also has a high possibility of rotting and wasting during transport. With all of the people in the world who are hungry, it is unthinkable that in an effort to make money, big businesses are letting food go to waste. In the past few decades, corporations have turned to the farming industry where they take over small farms and bring in heavy equipment that causes more pollution. Farmlands that have been owned and maintained by a family for generations are going bankrupt or find themselves forced to sell their homes. By purchasing locally grown food, a local farmer has an income, which is then distributed back into the area through taxes and every day living. This promotes other local businesses and the food is healthier, fresher. Space filled with food instead of livestock, ensures that wildlife has a home.
The meat industry is another area where sustainable living can make a difference. Raising livestock takes up natural resources in grains and water, and they create greenhouse gases (Sustainable Earth, 2013). These gases have a devastating impact on the earth’s temperature near the surface, and have eradicated thousands of miles of homes for wildlife in the areas that are melting due to global warming (Starr, et al, 2008 p. 746).
By eating vegetarian, people can provide more space for wildlife and cut down on resources that are used to feed livestock that emit gases. Vegetarian diets also promote heart health and can help combat diabetes as well as a healthy lifestyle. When someone chooses to go vegetarian, they not only save the animal from the plate, but they save resources and provide habitats for countless other animals. In other words, vegetarianism saves lives, jobs, and creates a stronger community with better resources.
Though I have demonstrated how eating green and going vegetarian can help save the planet, there will of course be challenges to overcome and the biggest challenge is raising awareness to the fact that living green is more than just a slogan. Going green effects not only the environment, but also the economy. The United Nations calls it “sustainable development” (United Nations, 2011). It is for this reason that businesses and large corporations have become involved in making the green switch. Unilever is leading the way with a ten-year plan in place to use raw, sustainable materials in their products (Atwood, 2013). According to Aman Singh, the plan is too ambitious and is second in place to the importance of doubling the company’s business (Singh, 2013). These corporations need to take notice before it is too late and focus on something other than just the bottom dollar.
The situation is so vital to our survival with so many challenges ahead of us that Switzerland is just one of the countries that is stepping up and trying to set an example for change. Global warming is affecting their snowfall amounts and ruining roads, wildlife habitats, and tourism (Brown, 2013). New York City is spending $2.4 billion in building a green infrastructure in an effort to create a sustainable city (Cho, 2013). I can only imagine how our planet would change if every city in the world made such a valiant effort.
If more communities would get involved in making a change and work toward educating the general population on where our food comes from, how it gets to the stores, and what resources are used in the process, we could all make a more educated decision about what we eat. A vegetarian lifestyle is the healthy choice, not only for ourselves, but also for the world around us. Choosing to eat vegetarian saves lives—including our own.
Many people say that we were made to be carnivores and that our main source of food should come from protein. A lot of my friends define protein as meat. I say that if God intended for us to survive on eating animals and that was the only way we could live, then He would not have made so many nutritional foods that grow on their own that we are still finding to this day. I believe that sustainable living is possible and that education will be the key to the survival of our precious resources as well as our planet. There should be more programs like Peta that offer educational resources and teach communities how to feed those that they have today while planning for tomorrow. Then, we will truly be a self-sustaining planet.

Resources:
Atwood, J. (2013). How Global Corporations Can Help Meet Global Challenges. Retrieved November 3, 2013 from Live Science at http://www.livescience.com/39317-global-corporations-meet-global-challenges.html.
Brown, P. (2013). Sustainable Living Challenges the Swiss. Retrieved November 3, 2013 from Truth Dig at  http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/sustainable_living_challenges_the_swiss_20130528.
Cho, R. (2013). Just How Effective is Green Infrastructure? Retrieved November 3, 2013 from Columbia at http://blogs.ei.columbia.edu/2013/10/31/just-how-effective-is-green-infrastructure/.
Green Diets: Change Your Diet and Help the Earth. (2013). Retrieved on November 3, 2013 from http://www.isustainableearth.com/sustainable-living/green-diets-help-the-earth.
Singh, A. (2013). Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan: The Challenges of Being too Ambitious. Retrieved November 3, 2013 from The Corporate Social Responsibility Newswire at http://www.csrwire.com/blog/posts/819-unilever-s-sustainable-living-plan-the-challenges-of-being-too-ambitious
Road to Rio +20. (2011). Retrieved November 3, 2013 from United Nations at http://www.uncsd2012.org/.
Starr, C., Evers, C.A., Starr, L. (2008).  Biology: Concepts and Applications. Belmont, CA: Thompson Books.
The Nature Conservancy. (2013). Green Living Tips Retrieved November 3, 2013 from http://www.nature.org/greenliving/.
University of Florida. (2006). Living Green. Retrieved November 3, 2013 from http://livinggreen.ifas.ufl.edu/.

World Population is Three Times the Sustainable Level. World Population Balance. (2013). Retrieved on November 3, 2013 from http://www.worldpopulationbalance.org/3_times_sustainable



Bhagavad-Gita
The Hindu religion is one of purity and respect for nature and all of the beings that live within it. While most in Western religions look to an overseer such as God as their redeeming being and the one who sets the standards for humanity, Hindus look to a cosmic spirit called Brahman. The Hindus believe that within every human is a form of Brahman called Atman or Self. This is said to be “soundless, formless, intangible, undying, tasteless, odorless, without beginning, without end, eternal, immutable, [and] beyond nature” (Fiero, 2011). Bringing the two forms together—Brahman and Atman—is known as nirvana, and it is what Hindus strive to achieve.
In the Hindu religion, the only way to merge the cosmic spirit of Brahman and the inner being, or Atman, together is through the rejection of all material things. According to Fiero, the Hindus believe that the material world is filled with illusion and ignorance, and the only ways to overcome the power that the material world has on a person are through the ancient practices of yoga and meditation (Fiero, 2011). Yoga is practiced throughout the world. Those in Western religions use yoga as a form of exercise, or in an effort to relieve body pain or arthritis. Yoga uses a series of stretches that are performed in slow, deliberate movements that pull at joints and muscles and allow the body to move more freely. But to the Hindus, yoga is a form of meditation. The term yoga, meaning “to yoke,” assists the Hindu in combining the Brahman to the Atman by practicing control over both mind and body (Fiero, 2011). Hindus use the movements and breath control to become one with the cosmic spirit by delving deeply into their subconscious and focusing body and breath on the present moment, forgetting everything else around them. Westerners find this body movement and breathing exercise to be a remedy for stress relief or as a combatant for breathing issues or lack of focus.
As an example of their ever-faithful respect for living beings, most Hindus are vegetarian. In their beliefs, every living creature will regenerate after its physical form dies and it comes back as another being. That being could be an animal or a human. Upon reincarnation, the Hindu’s new physical form is chosen by the level of spiritual purity that he or she has reached in his or her current lifetime (Fiero, 2011). Due to their beliefs, they do not want to eat an animal not knowing if it is a former loved one. Additionally, harming the animal to use as food will destroy their ability to reach nirvana. To Hindus, harming a living being can be repaid in something called karma. They dedicate their lives to ensuring that their actions bring no harm to others and they work to help other beings in an effort to achieve nirvana through building good karma and avoiding bad karma. In nirvana, their Atman becomes freed from the earth and absorbed. In nirvana, they will no longer experience pain, loss, or sadness.
While Hinduism is not governed by what Westerners see as religious law or doctrine, it is only fitting that the Hindu teachings would be included within a document that Mahatma Gandhi would refer to as “the mother to whom the children (humanity) turned to when in distress,” entitled “The Bhagavad-Gita” (Sivananda, 2000). This is a lyrically written account of the Hindu’s most sacred beliefs. Each line expresses a thought and repeats common phrases such as “I call him illumined” (Bhagavad-Gita, n.d.). It was likely in existence before its first written account between the fifth and second centuries B.C.E. It is written and presented in a format that is similar to Psalms in the old testament of the Bible. In India, it is known as the “Song of God” (Fiero, 2011).
In their search for nirvana, Hindus also look outward to improve their karma and to reach enlightenment. They recognize many gods as the source for blessings and favor. In the Bhagavad-Gita, Brahman is represented by Krishna, who is said to be Vishnu reincarnated as a form of the cosmic being, Brahman. Krishna is used to converse with a war hero, Arjuna. The conversation takes place because Arjuna wants to achieve selflessness and avoid killing his own people. Within his effort and request for guidance is an example of Hindu beliefs, shedding the desire for the material world so that they can reach nirvana (Fiero, 2011).
Within the lyrics of Bhagavad-Gita, we see the Hindu form of release in verse. This type of release is also seen within many other religions as a sign of willingness to sacrifice so that one can focus on their maker or their god instead of themselves. In the first verse that is listed in the textbook summation, it states, “He [who] knows bliss in the Atman and wants nothing else” (Bhagavad-Gita, n.d.). This is an example of someone who is happy within himself or herself and does not desire the things that are outside of self, or things in the world of illusion and material items. This is someone who truly knows bliss or the earthly form of nirvana.
The next verse goes on to state that “Cravings torment the heart: He renounces cravings. I call him illumined” (Bhagavad-Gita, n.d.). A person who is consumed with the want of something in the material world has no focus on the effects of karma, on doing good deeds, or on improving him or herself. The constant focus or draw is toward that item that she or he craves.
Arjuna was concerned that a battle was on the horizon among his people; a battle that was undoubtedly brought on by a desire to own more, to have more; by greed, or by anger. In the following verses, Krishna states that a man can reach nirvana if he is not moved by any of those earthly feelings—a man that is illumined reaches nirvana by turning inward for peace, not outward for desire. Attachments become addictions leading to lust, hatred, and lack of discrimination. He said, “Not shaken by adversity, not hankering after happiness: free from fear, free from anger, free from the things of desire, I call him a seer, and illumined” (Bhagavad-Gita, n.d.).
It seems as if the Hindus strive to reach the level of tranquility that Buddhist Monks seek to achieve by not allowing anything outside of them to crack their demeanor and change their actions. It says, “The bonds of his flesh are broken. He is lucky, and does not rejoice: His is unlucky, and does not weep. I call him illumined” (Bhagavad-Gita, n.d.). These verses bring about thoughts of what Westerners call sin such as pride and depression. The Hindus see someone who is illumined as a person who can walk through life with the same outlook, regardless of circumstances, good or bad. This is further solidified in the verses as follows: “The wind turns a ship from its course upon the waters…When a man can still the senses I call him illumined” and “Water flows continually into the ocean but the ocean is never disturbed: Desire flows into the mind of the seer but he is never disturbed. The seer knows peace” and once that peace is found, “Brahman and he are one…” (Bhagavad-Gita, n.d.). Brahman only comes to a person who lives without ego and without pride and is free of living with delusion.
There is an old story about a Zen master who was accused of fathering a child with a young girl in his village. The girl accused the Zen master instead of the man who was the father. Once the child was born, the child was taken to the Zen master without argument. His only response was “Is that so?” The Zen master raised the child for a year, and then the girl admitted the true father’s identity. It was not the Zen master. Her family apologized, asking for the return of the child. The Zen master’s only response as he handed over the child was “Is that so?” That shows true enlightenment. As the Bhagavad-Gita states, the wind turned the ship from its course, but the illumined stilled his senses. 
Works Cited
Fiero, Gloria K., (2011). The Humanistic Tradition: Prehistory to the Early Modern World. New York: The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. pp. 65-66.
Sivananda, Sri Swami. (2000). Bhagavad Gita. Divine Life Society. Retrieved March 28, 2014 from http://www.dlshq.org/download/bgita.pdf


Jody Ortiz Author, "8 Simple Steps to Internet Success", "Bashboard Bullies" and "The Naked Truth Bound in Scorn"
http://www.truecrimebooks.us (All material on this blog copyrighted and ISBN filed. Permission to share only when including link or proper citation.)

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