Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Comfort food and compromise

"If you set out just to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time and you would achieve nothing." – Margaret Thatcher


"All compromise is based on give and take but there can be no give and take on fundamentals. Any compromise on mere fundamentals is a surrender. For it is all give and no take." – Mahatma Gandhi

Lately, I find myself reflecting quite a bit about the need to compromise in many aspects of my life. What should I compromise? How should I compromise? Of course, the most important question to ask when considering these is really why?

Ultimate Comfort Food--'Chili Mac'!
My husband and I recently celebrated our 5-year wedding anniversary in early May. You know what--this may come as a shocker--marriage is compromise! ; ) Many people who know me in life, especially as a yoga instructor are often surprised to learn that my husband, Keith is (brace yourself) an omnivorous non-yogi! Although I do all of the cooking, (which he thoroughly enjoys, mind you) he eats meat occasionally. I respect his ability to make his own decision about that. I don't preach to him about not eating meat and he doesn't preach to me about eating it. That said, he's about 85% vegan/vegetarian anyway, just by default because of how we eat at home.

After Keith and I started dating (10 years ago!) I transitioned from being vegan back to vegetarian for a few years. However, by the time we got married in 2010, I was eating mostly vegan, barely eating dairy once a week. I realized that the reason I was still even consuming it at all was out of convenience and to make it easier for other people. However, I knew I felt better when I didn't eat dairy. (I honestly never even liked eggs but would eat them in things like baked goods.) Ethically, I just didn't want to support factory farming at all anymore. So in September of 2011, I eliminated 99% of all animal products from my diet. I won't say 100% because I'm not strict about local honey and I'm sure that I'm not 'not vegan enough' for someone out there-- and I do not apologize. I just don't want to be accused of pretending to be something I'm 'not', so I will abstain from labeling myself from 'vegan' on this blog. However, recipes are promised to be vegan. Either I have to compromise myself to fit the label or the label has to compromise itself to allow me to be a member of the club. I can only speak for myself but I suspect that neither of us are willing to budge.
May 8, 2010

Getting back to Keith and I, our relationship is one of mutual respect, love and compromise. He is the yang to my yin and we are very different people in many ways. I like to think that we compliment each other in the best ways. I keep him a little bit healthier and he keeps me from becoming too rigid on my 'path.'

Keith actually really likes vegan and vegetarian food but one of the ways I compromise quite a bit is in the type of dinners that I prepare. I can't feed him broccoli, salads, tofu and quinoa every day; that would not fly. Shockingly, he actually likes those things when they're prepared well but he wants to eat filling, tasty comfort food on a regular basis. That means that sometimes I make food that is richer and heavier than I want to eat and sometimes he eats quinoa and salads. It's about compromise and balance.

When compromising, we must do so mindfully and really reflect on our highest truth. We must ask ourselves if our compromise is actually a deviation from that truth. If it IS, then it's not truly a compromise--it's a one-sided concession. That is what Keith would be doing if he went vegetarian just for me, not because he wants to or if I started eating animal products just because he does or fell back into that trap of wanting to make things easy for other people. There are many little things and big things we can compromise on in life but our values and our highest truth should never be one of them. To do so is a sure way to undermine our own physical and emotional health and well-being. When we concede instead of compromise, we try to make other people happy at our expense; our own needs get stifled and we fail to make ourselves happy. This is damaging to our self-worth and will inevitably lead to a lot of anger, resentment and negativity. We may resent the very people that we tried to please and eventually resent ourselves, since ultimately the decision of 'how' 'why' and 'what' to compromise is ours alone to make. In a true compromise, each party gives something up but both gain something from that loss; it's a decision, a meeting in the middle, a place where both parties find some way to honor their values and needs that they can live with.

In our household, compromise means eating and preparing more comfort food dishes than I sometimes want to make. I know, I have it rough, HA! So, it's unsurprising that I have quite a few original recipes for vegan mac and cheese that I look forward to sharing in the future. Today though I have something special for you-- my famous (well, only a little famous and only on Instagram, lol ) and often-requested recipe for what is now known as "Tara's Chili Mac." Lately, I've been making it gluten-free as well, so it's yet another compromise of giving Keith something filling, tasty and satisfying while not compromising my absolute standard of no animal products and presently, no gluten. I'll address my thoughts on gluten in another post for for now let's suffice to say that giving it up is an experiment to see how it affects my ongoing health issues--and that giving it up 100% for more than 10 days is kind of hard. I'm committing to a whole month. This experiment is another example of compromise--I give up eating something and maybe it will give me better health and a relief of symptoms-- or it doesn't. Either way, I gain something; I gain knowledge about body's needs and sensitivities and also expand my cooking skills and creativity as well.  Remember that compromise means we gain some else of value when we give something up. It should not be a total loss!

In relationships, both parties compromise a bit but both are gaining from the ability to peacefully build a life together while still retaining their own sense of self. It's a strong sense of self and commitment to our values that allows us to engage romantically and socially without getting lost and losing our power.  When we compromise, we remember that we are a part society and others needs are important, yet so are ours. It's about WE not ME--and WE are all equally entitled to happiness. We can notice when compromising if we have a habit of putting ourselves first or others first because like everything else in life, it's all about balance. So, food for thought right here and an opportunity to reflect...

Throwback to the day I created chili Mac
Chili Mac, however is not a compromise you will regret making, as this recipe does not compromise flavor in any way. It will allow you to get a meal on the table in about 15 minutes on a hectic night. Since it's cook-out season, you could make this dish to please your vegetarian/vegan/dairy-free/gluten-free relatives or friends and then watch all the meat eat-eaters fight them for it. It's total comfort food everyone will enjoy and no one will feel like they're compromising or missing out. This recipe calls for (organic) canned chili but feel free to sub your own homemade chili if you avoid canned anything. I usually try to but I don't mind 'compromising' from time to time if it's a higher-quality, organic canned product. It's about balance, making healthy choices regularly, not trying to be perfect!

Tara's Chili Mac


1 can of Amy's brand Spicy organic chili or 1 and 1/2 cups of your favorite homemade chili
1 and 1/2 cups of Daiya brand mozzarella or pepper jack vegan shredded cheese or your cheese of choice
A heaping 1/4 cup of salsa
1/4 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp liquid smoke
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (or to taste)
8 oz. elbow-shaped pasta, or your favorite pasta shape, gluten-free if needed


Cook the pasta according to package directions. While it's boiling, heat the chili, seasonings and salsa in a pan, stirring frequently over medium heat. When it's hot and bubbly, lower the heat a bit and stir in the cheese until it's well melted and you can no longer see individual shreds of cheese. Toss the chili mixture with the cooked pasta, coating it evenly. It was that easy. Dig in!


  • This recipe can be easily doubled or tripled as needed to feed a crowd.
  • Greener variation: try stirring in a few handfuls of some mild flavored greens such as baby spinach if you're feeling healthy! Veggie variation: make with chili loaded with veggies.
  • Daiya works really well in the dish even if you're not a fan.
  • I'm dying to try the using the vegan cheddar from 'Miyko's Kitchen.' It's a much healthier alternative to other vegan cheeses. If you're lucky enough to have your hands on that cheese, you will need to shred it by hand first. Since the cheese itself has a smoky flavor, you can probably omit the liquid smoke. I will update when I finally try this!
  • Friends have made this recipe with homemade vegan cheese sauce with great results.
  • If you chose to make this with whole wheat pasta, try Delallo brand, it is the absolute BEST!!!!


For a virtuous version of chili Mac ready to come to the rescue at any time, freeze 1 & 1/2 cup portions of your favorite homemade chili and keep all ingredients on-hand in your pantry and fridge.


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