A Victory for Baketivism

It’s long been said amongst the vegan community that one of the biggest  (and easiest) things we can do to help open people’s hearts and minds towards adopting a cruelty-free diet is to show people that it is possible to not feel deprived, that there is no real sacrifice in  living this way and you CAN have your cake and eat it (pun intended). It’s a great activism tool for people that might not be comfortable doing other more direct things like leafletting or going to protests.

A couple of weeks ago the idea of a bake off was suggested by some members of staff on one of our inservice days at my amazing school,  the rationale being that it will put some fun in to the proceedings  and bring a sense of community. I thought that was a fantastic idea. I immediately got thinking that I should contribute something to this because this would be a fab opportunity for some baketivism, potentially showing the whole teaching staff about how delicious vegan baking could be. A few people already knew, but how awesome to show so many people in such a public setting!

I am a huge believer in the power of baketivism (a term coined by legendary vegan cookbook writer, Isa Chandra Moscovitz) and something I have been doing for a long time. Bringing in delicious baked goods has not only surprised people by how tasty they are, but many times has started a conversation about this issue. As anyone who knows me will be aware. I want to have a conversation about this issue and this is a great way to do it.

I had a lot of doubts. What if my baked goods didn’t make the cut. I wasn’t baking for myself (I am seriously  not competitive), but for the animals and if they were not good enough then I would be letting down the animals. It sometimes felt like it would be easier to not bother, then I decided that I’d suck it up and do it with all the effort I could muster.I was also up against a lot of very good bakers. Yikes.

I decided to bake three different things.  From following many blogs I knew that there were several recipes out there that were supposed to be off the hook awesome. I wanted to choose items that were especially decadent and possibly a bit fancier. I usually can’t be bothered with cupcakes. I suck at decorating and cupcakes require 2 phases, the cakes, and then the frosting. Meh!! Still, this was worth the investment of time. Thankfully we were off school for a few days so I could get ready.

My choices were;

1. Peanut butter and chocolate pillows from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar

2. Chocolate and Banana Cheesecake from Vegan Pie in the Sky

3. Chloe’s Award Winning Ginger Nutmeg-Spiced Cupcakes from Chloe’s Kitchen.

I was especially keen to try the cupcakes. Gorgeous (and amazing ambassador for vegan living) Chloe competed against 3 other bakers using conventional ingredients in a TV show on the Food Network called Cupcake Wars and won much to the shock of the cupcake community! Would I have the same success?

So, over lunch the day before the ‘Shut Your Cake Hole’ baking contest we talked about how the ‘contest’ would  look like. It was decided that there would be a panel of 4 judges and they would sample all the baked goods and rate them on presentation, taste and texture. People sampling the baked goods would pay 10,000 IPR for a small plateful of whatever they liked and would get a couple of counters. They would be able to place their counters in a cup next to the baked goods they thought were their favourites.  This would serve as the People’s Choice award. It was also decided that we were try to keep the bakers’ identity secret. I was really pleased with this because on one hand I didn’t want people to be prejudiced against vegan goods and on the other hand I wanted vegan goods to stand alongside non-vegan baked goods as equals because I truly believe that they ARE as delicious as conventionally baked goods.

So, I knew what I was cooking but it did not go smoothly. I’d never cooked any of these dishes before.  I wasn’t sure about the chocolate cheesecake. It didn’t look that great and the bottom layer looked a little gray. This is probably because it of the banana in the it but I still wasn’t happy. I also had a crisis with the cupcakes. I thought I had followed the recipe properly the day before, but as I was cooking them, there was something that was not quite right. The cupcakes were taking too long to cook and they just didn’t look right when they came out of the oven. Early this morning (the morning of the bake off) I woke up early (as usual) and realised that I had used the wrong milk. I had used (homemade) almond milk from an unlabelled bottle instead of coconut milk (which was in a similar bottle). Stoopid, stoopid, stoopid!!!! This was probably the problem. The cupcakes would have a substancially lower amount of fat using almond milk and this would probably impact the taste. The chocolate peanut butter pillows did not look anything like the beautiful pictures on PPK website or  on other blogposts I’ve seen. I changed the name to choc peanut butter cookies.

So, I made another batch of cupcakes at 5:30 in the morning of the bake off. I frosted them at home, had a panic on the way to school that the frosting would slide off the cupcakes in the heat of an Indonesian morning. Had another crisis of confidence when I thought that my frosting looked like a white dog turd.

At 10, bakers met to plate our goods and for me to dribble over my date caramel sauce and give them a dusting of cinnamon. There was a respectable amount of entries, I think about 12 in all. The judges each had a plate with each entry on it in a taster portion. As we stuffed our faces I glanced over at the judges who were taking the job very seriously. Everyone was enjoying the baked goods but I was so worried about how many counters would be in the cups?

Towards the end of our morning tea break, our enigmatic head of school, John from the judging panel announced the results. Would this be a victory for the animals or not?

Well, I was beside myself when John announced that a chocolate slice had won 3rd prize this was actually my chocolate  and banana cheesecake. Huzzah! A victory! Second place went to  a dear colleague friend of mine who won with her mini-cupcakes beautifully decorated. First place was described as a muffin with lava on top!!! Sally said “Brighde, I think it’s yours!!” And it was!!! The cupcakes won the bake off. To top it all off, the cupcakes also won the People’s Choice Award! I was so excited. Seriously excited!! This felt like a wonderful victory for the animals in my little activist’s world.

My Chocolate Banana Cheesecake and Chocolate Peanut Butter Pillows.

The winning cupcakes

Some other gorgeous entries! Some very inventive ones, for those that do not have ovens.

Sally’s beautiful mini cupcakes

People enjoying all the baked goods.

The judges’ tasting platters

John taking his role very seriously! 🙂

Much deliberating.

The judges are hard at it!

My prize to keep until the next bake off sitting proudly on my desk in my classroom.

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Oregan and Northern Californian Coast

Welcome to Oregon

Courthouse Square

If you are vegan for more than for more than five minutes, you will have a burning desire to go to Portland. Although it is not the biggest city in the US, it is seriously vegan friendly. It has many vegan only restaurants and even the omnivore ones can veganise most items on their menus. It is a seriously liberal town with all sorts of cool stuff going on especially in social justice and environmental issues. They say (I don’t know who says it but I have heard before_ that Portland is about 10 years ahead of all other cities. It’s bike friendly, public transportation is free in the city centre and cheap elsewhere, it has totally awesome festivals (we were there as Pride week was finishing up and we discovered that the world’s largest naked bike ride happened the night before we arrived)

We crossed in to Oregan state and checked in to a hotel and spent the whole afternoon exploring.

We started off with lunch at Veggie Grill.

Veggie Grill Outside!

All Hail Kale Salad

Carrot cake at Veggie Grill

It has about 12 branches in Western US and Seb was in total heaven as it was his kind of comfort food. Then we walked around Old City and Chinatown passing all the Pride parties. We sat in the park by the side of the river watching these big built heavily tattooed guys throwing up cheerleader types in some sort of amazing acrobatic feat. Dinner was at a slightly hippie yogaish macrobiotic raw place called Prasad.

Prasad food; Morrocan Bowl and Raw Pizza

Portland Architecture

Nut slice in Prasad with a copy of Veg News. Bliss!

Seb grumbled about going there, but he must have bee hungry as he ate two plates of raw crackers and sauce. Walking again through the city until we reached the tram the sun was getting low and there was the most beautiful light, again something I haven’t seen for such a long time.

Portland Architecture

The Line Up for Voodoo Doughnuts. Must have been 200 people.

Powell’s Bookshop. Supposedly the biggest bookshop in the world. It was fantastic!

I love alfresco eating and drinking. I miss it!

Public transportation that works and is cheap!

The following morning we woke up and headed to Paradox for breakfast as per Christy Morgan’s suggestion.

Paradox Cafe – Breakfast of champions

I ate the most carby protein breakfast ever of fried potatoes, tempeh and biscuits and gravy. For the non—American this might sound (and feels to me too) a little weird.  In the US it seems to be acceptable to have cake for breakfast, it is also considered normal to have biscuits (which are indeed scones or dry dumplings with gravy slathered all over them). I liked it, and I could get used to it, but it does feel a little bit too much like a traditional Sunday lunch. Paradox was located in the suburb of Belmount. We walked around for a while. We also headed to a very exciting place. The world’s first Vegan Strip mall.

Vegan Stripmall

It’s a small complex that has a bakery, tattooist, vegan grocery and clothing company. In Food Fight we picked up some of Field Roast’s deli meats, granola bars, the latest newest vegan cheese to try, coconut milk creamer and yet more raw kale chips. In Herbivore I splurged and bought myself a couple of awesome tshirts and a new handbag and wallet.

Vegan Grocery opening hours. Tee hee!

We headed up to Whole Foods to buy some bits and bobs for our 3 day stay in state parks and in the WF carpark there was a veggie hotdog stand. Seb almost punched himself in the face with excitement.

Dilemma. Which Veggie Hot Dog to have!

Stocked up coolbox for camping!

For lunch we had planned to head over to the vegan cookbook writer Julie Hasson’s food cart called The  Native Bowl. I wanted to tell her how much I admired her wonderful recipes. Those people on the 30 Day Vegan Challenge will probably remember how blown away they were with her incredible sausage invention  as well as her Choco Choc chip ice-cream recipe from The Vegan Diner. Sadly though, it wasn’t open, yet her husband was there doing some food cart maintenance. What a lovely guy! We chatted and I gushed about how her recipes were appreciated in Jakarta and how I liked her work. He promised to pass it on and gave is a choc chip macaroon. Dilemma? What to have for lunch? Oh, not to worry, there a highly veg friendly restaurant called The Laughing Planet just two blocks down the road.

Bowl at Laughing Planet

With a heavy heart we left Portland (a place where people like me are normal!!) and headed to the coast and headed south. The scenary was gorgeous. It was a bit like the Great Ocean Road in Ausralia except sadly, the weather was not great and pictures were pants. We camped in one of the coastal state forests near the sandunes where we cooked mac and cheese, vegie sausages, salad with cherries for dessert.

Our campsite looks like complete mess, but it is actually really organised.

Comfort camping food to the max. Mac and cheese and sausages.

Waking up the next day was a bit of a comedy of errors. First of all it was raining which diminishes camping enjoyment somewhat. We did our best to pack up the tent yet while I was in the shower, all hell broke loose. I came back and Seb was looking sulky and he announced that he thought he had broken his toe kicking a cement block. Upon looking at it, it certainly seemed like it was pointing in a funny direction. Was it broken or just dislocated? Normally of course one would head to the emergency room but we were in a dilemma, as we didn’t really know if Seb’s insurance was going to cover it. Should we attempt a toe manipulation ourselves to save the cash? The interweb suggested it was possible. Much (and far from informative) discussion with the insurance company later and still no clearer as to whether Seb’s insurance would cover it we headed to the emergency room terrified that the whole ordeal might cost a gazillion dollars. We mentioned to the triage nurse that we wanted to keep the bill down, also to the lady that registered us. She asked us so many questions related to not only ourselves but every aspect of Seb’s accident. It really felt like we were being questioned by the police. The registrar was surprisingly cagey about the whole cost thing. I kept on asking if there was anyway we could know the costs ahead of time so we could see what was going on. Apparently no. It’s impossible to do that. I told her that this process didn’t feel very empowering. She looked and me and said “That’s right. There’s no empowerment for the patient in medicine” I got a real sense of what it must be like for uninsured in the US and I guess anywhere where you are not covered for healthcare.The most jovial doctor took an xray and confirmed it was broken and manipulated it in to the right place (Seb was very stoic during what must have been incredibly painful). He was a cranky pants  for a little while due to the fact that this toe was going to impede our hardcore hiking plans. We pulled out his credit card to pay and they informed us that we would receive the bill in the mail. We still don’t know how much it is.

Youch!

Sulky Seb

Angry at toe

We headed south and via a short stop at an Elk Plain. Roosevelt Elk numbers were as low as 15 in the 1920s due to hunting. Their numbers are much improved now and it was such a joy to see the majestic elk grazing.  Luckily their numbers are much more improved now. I had no idea that male elks shed their antlers at the beginning of spring. What must their protein requirements be to grow a huge pair of antlers every year? I have no idea, but it must be a lot!

Through the binoculars

By lunch, the weather had cleared and we stopped for lunch by a beautiful lake.  I made Pastrami Reuben sandwiches with Field Roast’s lentil deli meats and a new non-dairy cheese by Galaxy Nutritional foods and which I heard reviewed by the ladies at Our Hen House a few weeks ago. It was by far the best non-dairy cheese I’ve tasted. I truly believe that no one could tell the difference between this grilled cheese and the regular dairy stuff. Look out for it, if you miss dairy cheese and need a replacement. I have to say that all of these technological advances in meat and dairy substitutes really excite me. While most vegans don’t really care about having real meat substitutes, having viable alternatives for meat and dairy eaters might help them make different choices which would be fantastic for the animals. I wonder what it will be like 10 years from now. A realistic non-animal derived steak? We can dream!!

An hour or so later, we hit the coast and it was so lovely driving through small towns (and crossing the border in to California).

California!

We camped in one of the Redwood State Parks surrounded by these old giant trees.  I was a little edgey about the bears but slept soundly.

Looking up in to the Redwoods

In the morning, we had a visit from a squirrel. As you can see he was heading straight for the sealed granola. Squirrels are not stoopid and they know what they like and what incredible senses of smell they have!

Squirrel’s know what they want.

Our drive was stunning. We stopped and did some short walks through the Redwood forest before finishing the day near Westport California.

Not small trees

Fallen Tree. About 100 metres long.

Last thing and top tip for camping recipe. Our dinner last night; South Western Quinoa Soup.

We Did It!

So, Wednesday marked the end of our 30 Day Vegan Challenge! We had about 10ish people who saw it through to the end and we celebrated by heading over to Kemang for some dinner.

It’s been a hard 4 weeks for the challengers. Lots of readjustments, new foods some enjoyed, some less-than-enjoyed, but the message that I am getting from the challengers is that while not all will stay plant-based, they have generally experienced:

  • The benefits of planning what they will cook in advance to ensure healthy food.
  • Some weight loss or improvements in health.
  • Increased mindfulness about where their food has come from.
  • Discovered or re-discovered a joy of cooking.

It’s been a wonderful month for me. I have throughly enjoyed it, and I am thinking about my next project. While I mull that over, I have also been getting all overcome with adorb sickness at this little picture of my adopted Orangutang, a gift from the challengers!

 

At some point in the future, I hope to feature a series of interviews from the challengers in the form of blog posts.

A Day of Vegucation

Last weekend was the third weekend of the 30 Day Veg Challenge. So far we have enjoyed a few different events. Firstly we had a supermarket tour followed by a cooking class where we learnt a few very healthy meals that could be enjoyed packed up at lunch the next day as well quick dinners that can be done after school or prepared ahead of time. We also did a class on demystifying tempeh and tofu. After missing a weekend, I decided to ask those interested to come over to my house for a day of vegucation.

We started the day with a brunch that I’d prepared. We had it all.  Tempeh bacon, cinnamon rolls, lemon yogurt, pancakes, ice cream and sausages. We followed that with a viewing of Get Vegucated and finally a cooking lesson where we focussed on baking in a vegan way.

I had a few motivations for doing today. I really wanted to make a delicious brunch for the challengers because they really deserved it. They have worked so hard in the past few weeks and have made a massive effort in not just cutting out the animal products, but have taken the time to find replacements and learn to cook in a different way. I also wanted to show them that it was possible to replicate all those wonderfully decadent brunch favourites with healthier ones. Well, I think I did an OK job as everyone seemed to enjoy them, either that or they were very polite. As a side note, I made Julie Hasson’s Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream for The Vegan Diner and it is by far, the BEST vegan ice cream I have tasted. So rich and creamy.

I also wanted to thank those that came for being open to seeing Get Vegucated. Get Vegucated is a documentary showing the journey of 3 people from different backgrounds who answered an ad on Craig’s list about going vegan. Marisa Miller Wolfson (vegan turned film-maker) wanted to see if these people would react in the same was as she did when presented with the information that helped her become vegan. I was hesitant to show this film to our little group, as I had stated from the get go that this challenge was about health, not ethics. However, as time went on, I realised that some people did have ethics as a motivator and people who started out thinking about health were starting to think about ethics too. I decided to show the movie with the trailer so people could make up their own mind about whether this was in their remit or not. There were 9 people all together and we watched the film. I’m not sure if this was the first time these wonderfully open people had seen footage of the standard agricultral practice before, but it was clear when we stopped half way through for a break that it had been shocking for at least some . I was actually a little bit surprised because in my eyes, this footage was not the worst I have seen. While the images were shocking and saddening, the context of the film gave us reason to have hope and the idea that we as a group KNOW that there is an alternative way to live and eat. I guess, when you have seen Earthlings and receive information on the latest undercover investigations that go on, perhaps one forgets how powerful seeing those images for the first time can be.

Luckily the film ended on a good note and we moved over to the kitchen where we prepared some chocolate desserts. I wanted to introduce a few different ways to cook desserts. We prepared a chocolate mousse  dates and avocado, some raw cookies made with nuts and dried fruit, some no added refined oil brownies using applesauce as the binder and also a coffee cake with spices.

We stuffed our face for the second time that day. Life was good.

Here’s Jane preparing the chocolate, avocado, vanilla and date mousse.

Here’s Lucius, Daniela’s son. Daniela has been vegan for a few months now. Lucius has recently become vegetarian because he doesn’t want to harm animals. Go Lucius!

Moi with our desserts

Daniela with the mousse

Shruti and Briony making brownies

Ildi and Shruti making cinnamon coffee cake.

30 Day Veg Challenge Part 1

I have a new look to my blog! Still a long way to go until it is how I like it, but it is getting there.

When I arrived at my new work place in August, I realised very quickly that generally, this staff was really open to new ideas and new ways of doing things. I did a lot of baking of veg treats, had a lot of discussions about veganism and realised that these people might be the first ‘group’ of people that I offer the challenge of going plant-based for a month.

After a lot of planning and preparation, we are now on day 6 of the challenge. I started the preparation in about November when I wrote the first entry on my professional blog (and had more comments than any other blog entry I have ever written) and in the daily bulletin about this challenge, that, I thought it would make a big difference in people’s health and that I would guide people through this process. I followed it up with a Christmas dinner at my house where we watched Forks Over Knives for interested participants and ate a massive Christmas dinner.

Everyone engrossed in Forks over Knives.

I also set up a Facebook group so I can pass info along, invite people to events and in total we have about 13 people from my school doing in (amongst a staff of about 100) and a couple of other friends who are along for the ride. I was blown away by the amount of people who decided to do it. While most were there to try to make changes in their eating habits to be healthier, there were others who also wanted help becoming vegan for ethical reasons. We just started last weekend. I conducted a supermarket tour to buy some essential ingredients and followed it with a cooking class   / free for all in the kitchen where we had about 11 people in the kitchen all preparing food for our first lunch the following day!

Over the course of the first week,things that have blown me away are;

1. There’s a lovely sense of camaraderie amongst the group. There are little subsections of the group who are taking in turns bring in other people lunch.

2. People are not just trying to ‘survive’ the 30 days, rather, they are learning new, techniques, replacing products and giving themselves the tools to try to keep going with this after the 30 days,

3. Heidi, Jabiz and Jacqui are blogging about the challenges and finding that their actions are being noticed and discussions are being had by the people in their various networks.

4. People are adjusting to non-dairy milk in their coffee and tea, despite them thinking it would be impossible to do so.

5. Some participants have made significant improvements to their health even just during the times when they were preparing for the challenge!

6. There have been about 5 high-speed blenders purchased from the local hardware store.

On Friday night, we went to a Turkish restaurant where we had a wonderful feast of veg foods in an omni restaurant. A little bit of a chat with the staff ahead of time showed that restaurants ARE willing to accommodate us.

We are only on day 6. Today about 8 people are coming over to my house to learn more about tofu and tempeh and we are going to cook some dishes (more than the humble stir fry) that will hopefully show they how versatile these foods can be.