Recipe of the Week

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Sushi!

How gorgeous is that?

Before going vegan I never ate sushi.  Never even tried it.  I wasn’t a big fish lover in general and raw fish held no appeal for me. Hmmm, maybe I was on to something.  Since going vegan I had one sushi roll at a Chinese/Thai place here in town.  I liked it well enough but wasn’t feeling the need to run right home and make my own.

Turns out though, I recently found out that my iodine is low.  I wasn’t too surprised about that mostly because I don’t use iodized salt and I haven’t been eating any sea vegetables.  Well, I do need to up my iodine and in keeping with my “food as medicine” philosophy I decided to investigate dulse flakes, nori and kelp noodles.  I thought I’d have the most luck sprinkling dulse flakes into some faux tuna salad, but on my first attempt to make a raw sunflower seed type thing, the dish was so nasty it went straight in the trash.  I just couldn’t handle the “essence of fish”.  Okay, so no dulse for me (at least not in that form).

And that brought me to option #2, the nori. And that brought me to sushi.  At least with sushi I knew that a tasty dish was possible. When I was searching for recipes, I was delighted to find that the Minimalist Baker had an easy recipe that even used a kitchen towel to roll the sushi up.  Sounded like a win to me.  You can check out the recipe and her technique here.

You can really put anything inside these rolls, and we settled on carrots, cucumber, tofu (I had some Whole Foods sesame tofu on hand), avocado and red pepper.  You can use short grain white rice to make the rolls, but we used sushi rice that we found at Whole Foods.  Interestingly I had always assumed that the “sticky” rice found in sushi had to do with the grain, but the rice is made sticky by adding a rice vinegar/sugar/salt mixture to it.  We followed this recipe exactly as written, and it worked out great.  Luckily David was on hand to do the rolling since I was all thumbs!

These little rolls were delicious.  We dipped them in a wasabi/soy sauce mixture that David whipped up and served it all with a green salad with some miso dressing:

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So while creating this dish might have been more a labor of necessity than a labor of love, I feel pretty great about how it all turned out.  I can get some of the nutrition I’ve been missing in a really tasty way, and I discovered a fun dish that I could easily serve to company.

Before I do that though, I really do need to pick up some chopsticks :)

Meatless Monday, A Closer Look

I’ll just say this straight out.  I’m not a fan of Meatless Monday.  As an ethical vegan, I believe that it is wrong to use animals for our pleasure.  It’s a black and white thing.  So measures such as Meatless Monday which tout the benefits of not eating  animals some of the time asks me to believe that animal exploitation and murder is okay at other times.  To my way of thinking it most certainly is not.  But, okay, no one claims that Meatless Monday is about the animals.

In society and even in the vegan community there can be a knee-jerk positive response to efforts like this one.  On the one hand it doesn’t really sound so bad.  In terms of animal suffering, isn’t any effort/reduction in consumption worth celebrating, even if there’s no intention vis-a-vis the animals?  Well, I don’t know.  I decided to put my cynicism aside and look a little closer at the Meatless Monday website to actually learn more about what they are up to.  The following is a quote from their “Global Movement” statement:

Meatless Monday is now active in 36 countries and growing because every nation can bring its unique culture, customs and cuisine to the table in meat free and vegetarian dishes.  Skipping meat one day a week is good for you, great for your nation’s health, and fantastic for the planet!

So the message is to incorporate more vegetarian dishes–like today’s featured recipe, Kadai Paneer, an Indian Cheese dish:

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(Photo from the Meatless Monday website)

 Never mind how much animal suffering was needed to produce this dish.  This dish is loaded with cheese and yogurt. I seriously question whether eating this way is “good for you”, “great for your nation’s health” or “fantastic for the planet”. We know that dairy is incredibly unhealthy and I have no idea what environmental resources are saved by chowing down on cheese rather than beef or chicken.

While I think it’s tempting to think that when folks remove meat from their diets the result might look something like this:

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when I think it might actually look more like this:

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During our transition from omnivore to vegan, David and I spent a few months being vegetarian.  While I would say that we did increase our consumption of fresh vegetables (all good) many of our meals looked like this cheese-laden eggplant parmesan.  And I had a great time creating delectable egg dishes like this quiche:

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Plenty of cheese and butter in that one as well.  Oh, and I remember very clearly that this mozzarella sandwich was a lunch staple of that period:

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Now I can completely cop to having had limited imagination and even less understanding of vegan cooking during that time, but I also think this is pretty typical.  And I look back on that stretch as not only contributing to animal exploitation and abuse (possibly even more than I did as an omnivore considering the level of abuse in the dairy and egg industries), but also eating in a way that was hardly ideal healthwise.  Consequently, promoting vegetarianism as a positive alternative to meat-eating (a la Meatless Monday) doesn’t make sense to me.

I transitioned to veganism when I had enough education to fully understand that by eating a vegetarian diet I was continuing to support the torture and killing of other sentient beings as well as the destruction of our planet.  I believe that others have the capacity to understand the facts and make similar changes.  Education and information will make this possible, but we need to tell the truth.

Every day of the week.

Recipe of the Week

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Sesame Ginger Quinoa Salad!

With the weather heating up here in Tucson we’ve been shifting our attention from stews and soups to lighter fare.  Several nights a week David and I find ourselves grazing on big salads for dinner, and a fresh quinoa salad with a dollop of hummus over greens is one of my favorite combinations.

I have a few quinoa recipes already in our rotation, but I’m always on the hunt for new recipes.  When I found this recipe, with its Asian-inspired flavors and ingredients, I decided to give it a try.  Just look how gorgeous it is!  You can link to the recipe here.

Because quinoa is such a light and fluffy grain, I prefer it to be lightly dressed.  This recipe calls for just two tablespoons each of sesame oil and rice vinegar and that’s just enough to flavor the whole dish.  The rainbow of veggies (carrots, purple cabbage, red pepper, yellow pepper and edamame) is such a visually pleasing and crunchy mix.  Minced fresh ginger adds a nice bite to the otherwise mild salad.

This salad is really versatile.  It’s hearty enough for dinner and light enough for lunch or even a mid-afternoon snack ( I’ve been munching on the leftovers while I’ve been writing this post). Plus, the vibrant colors are a great addition to any pot luck or picnic table.

So if you’re ready to lighten things up where you are, give this one a try.  And let me know if you like it!

Bey, Bey, Please Go Away!

I took a blogging break.  It wasn’t planned.  David and I did a bit of traveling to see family, and then Anne came to Tucson for a visit. After that I just wasn’t feeling inspired to blog.  Nothing like the incessant media hype/blather about Beyonce’s “vegan diet” and her new buff body, glowing skin and vegan business to get me back to my keyboard.

If you are not someone who googles “vegan news” daily like I do you might not know that not only has Beyonce lost weight on a “vegan” diet, but she and Jay Z have teamed up with their celebrity trainer, Marco Borges, to sell pre-packaged plant-based meals mail-order style.

I first heard about this enterprise when Victoria Moran had Marco Borges on her Main Street Vegan radio show.  I love this show, and if you’re interested in listening to interviews with important and inspiring voices in the vegan world this is a great place to hang out.  You can link to the site here.  When I listen to interviews, I usually peruse Victoria’s guests’ websites at the same time.  I’ve learned so much this way and been inspired by so many people working tirelessly for animals, the environment and our health.

During the interview with Borges, it was clear that he is about health, and I have no doubt that his passion for plant-based food and exercise helps people get healthier.  That’s a good thing.  I was, however, dismayed to read this blurb on the website for his mail-order food business:

Why Plant-Based? There are many reasons to go meat-free – whether it’s to help the environment, improve your health, or other reasons.

They were working very hard here to ignore the animals.  I suppose the animals are the vague “other reasons”.  This website (you can check it out for yourself here) uses the word “vegan” liberally. To me, the word vegan is first and foremost about not using any animal products.  And there is no distinction between the animals we eat, animals we wear and animals that perform for our amusement.  I have no idea what Marco Borges thinks, but if he wants to profit from positioning himself as a vegan I wouldn’t mind knowing where he stands on the animals.

As for Beyonce, it’s all an eye-roll for me.  In a recent statement to the New York Times, she emphatically states “it’s important that you know I am NOT a vegan”(article here).  Why is that so important? Perhaps she was getting tired of all the inquiries about her fur and leather habits.  Or perhaps she’s concerned about her brand and doesn’t want to be like the “people who live in Colorado and don’t use deodorant”.  Perpetuating rather than repudiating such a silly stereotype is a lost opportunity.  I found myself wondering for the umpteenth time what, if anything, these people stand for.

Oh, right, I guess it’s the money.

It’s good to be back!

Recipe of the Week

Rigatoni Bolognese!

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This recipe is just fantastic.  But before I talk about the food I want to talk about this beautiful book:

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Gene Baur, head of Farm Sanctuary, is the face of the animal welfare movement.  There are three Farm Sanctuary locations in the US, and this organization does so much, not only to save hundreds of animals who might otherwise be slaughtered or abandoned, but to help us understand that when we kill animals for food or clothing we are killing someone, not something. You may have seen Gene Baur recently on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and if you haven’t you can see his interview here.  Great stuff.

It takes a lot to get me to buy a hardcover book, but as soon as I saw this one I knew I wanted it on my shelf.  The subtitle says it all:

The Ultimate Guide to Eating Mindfully, Living Longer and Feeling Better Every Day

“Living the Farm Sanctuary Life” makes a case for veganism by educating the reader about all the usual things (animals, environment, health) but through the stunning photographs and stories of animals being rescued from hellacious circumstances (i.e. factory farming) we come to know the individual animals and their personalities.  These stories help us see  that there is no difference between dogs and cats and cows, sheep, turkeys, chickens and pigs.  We arbitrarily create these distinctions so that we can continue eating animals that would very likely be our friends and companions in other circumstances.  As we start to understand this about our culture and ourselves it becomes more difficult to participate in the enslavement and torture of any animals.  This book beautifully illustrates that truth.

This book also contains scores of mouth-watering recipes by some of the best known vegan chefs around.  This recipe uses Gardein meatless crumbles which I had never tried before and I was delighted with how it worked out.  I actually couldn’t find the Gardein brand so I used Beyond Meat crumbles.  This recipe is a classic bolognese full of carrots, celery, onion and garlic.  I couldn’t find the exact recipe from the book online but I did find a similar version here.  Of course, I encourage you to get this book and enjoy all it has to offer, including this wonderful recipe.

As I continue to share recipes and other aspects of my vegan journey, I hope that it is becoming clear that veganism is about abundance, and not deprivation.  Yes, I eat very, very well, but I benefit mostly from knowing that the choices I make every day are consistent with what I believe.   If you love and have a deep respect for all animals, both human and non-human, and you are not vegan, please consider giving it a try.  Living our values is a beautiful and fulfilling experience.

Recipe of the Week

Mexican Bean Salad!

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As the weather warms up, I’m shifting my attention from soups and stews to lighter and cooler fare.  My love affair with beans, however, continues.  This simple and oh-so-flavorful dish gets recipe of the week honors not only because it’s delicious, but because the recipe makes enough for an army.  We’ve been eating it for days and we still haven’t seen the bottom of the bowl.  This is good though–less time cooking means more time for blogging!

Bean salad recipes abound and I think I settled on this one because it’s such a feast for the eyes.  The recipe is from allrecipes.com and you can link to it here.  This salad is all raw and I used canned beans which made it a snap to put together.  If you look over the ingredients you may see some quantities that look pretty large like a full tablespoon of salt and 1/2 cup each olive oil and vinegar.  But as Ina Garten is fond of saying “it’s a lot of salad”.  In this case she’s right.  I made the dish using the exact quantities written.  The only change I made right off the bat was to substitute garbanzo beans for cannellini beans but that’s just my taste preference.  As other reviewers noted, you can really cut the oil and vinegar by half and still have the beans well-coated, but  I actually liked having the extra vinaigrette dressing pooling at the bottom of the bowl.  I could dip in (or not) if I wanted more liquid along with the beans.  I also used Trader Joe’s fire roasted frozen corn which held up really well and added some nice smokiness.  The only change I would make next time is to reduce the amount of sugar to one tablespoon since the veggies are plenty sweet on their own.

So, if you’re ready to get your spring on or you need the perfect pot-luck dish, this bean salad will not disappoint.  Hope you’ll give it a try!

 

 

Unintended Factory Farm Drive-By

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David and I spent the weekend visiting his parents in Palm Springs.

Palm Springs is about six hours from Tucson, a straight shot on the I-10.  We decided to take a slightly different route on the way back in order to avoid the downtown Phoenix area and to get a little change of scenery.  The first leg of this Phoenix by-pass route takes you on route 85, a rural highway.  We were actually enjoying the relaxed driving and desert views (lovely palo verde trees this time of year) when I spotted what appeared to be a series of large buildings set way back off the highway.  My now- trained eye knew instantly that this was a factory farm complex.  But it didn’t take an expert (or vegan as the case may be) to clue us into the fact that we were in factory farm land.  The stench wafted into the car even with the windows closed.  I cracked the window just to get a sense of what this actually smelled like.  It was truly overwhelming and we were really nowhere near the place and driving 80 miles an hour.

Interestingly, along this same stretch of highway we also passed a large prison complex and a nuclear power plant.  You know, the places we don’t want in our neighborhood so we can all be safe (and maybe ignore that places like this exist?)

When I got home I went online, and it didn’t take long to figure out that the factory farming operation belonged to Hickman’s Family Farms, Arizona’s largest egg producer.  You can take a look at Hickman’s operations by checking out their website here.  It looks like such a happy place and such a sweet history with grandma and all.  Smiles all around.  They seem particularly proud of their incredible efficiency.  Is this what you envision when you think of an egg farm?  They are also anxious to share how impressively they have grown since those early days in grandma’s yard.  Here’s what it looks like today (in their words from their website):

Our buildings now cover 2 million square feet, equivalent to 7 football fields;
Our processing capacity for shell eggs is ¾ million eggs per hour;
We are able to will be able to break, pasteurize and package 100,000 eggs per hour;
We can boil, peel and package 50,000 eggs per hour;
We have hens and pullets in Arizona and Colorado, egg processing and distribution in Iowa, and distribution warehouses in Las Vegas, Nevada and El Centro, California;
We service customers located from Iowa to Hawaii;
We consume the production of approximately 50,000 acres of grain products a year. (That is 78 square miles.) Another way to think of it is, we use a train of grain, one mile long, every month;
Our feed mill makes a 26-ton semi-load of feed every 18 minutes;
We repurpose everything possible – including 800,000 lbs. per day of chicken manure. Our fertilize division ships organic, dried, pelletized, bagged or bulk fertilizer throughout the state and southern California;
We have about 300 full-time employees.

Oh, they are working very hard here not to say much about the chickens.   My particular favorite is “we consume the production of approximately 50,000 acres of grain products a year”. Who is “WE”?!  Well, turns out, as best I could glean from the internet (couldn’t find the info on their site), they have some four million chickens that are crammed floor to ceiling in their “lay houses”.  These chickens have their beaks sliced off and are put in “battery cages”where they stay until they die or are killed.  Bruce Friedrich of Farm Sanctuary wrote an excellent and compelling article describing the plight of the battery-caged chicken here.  He points out that 95% of egg-laying hens are housed this way in factory farms like Hickman’s.

Buying and consuming eggs directly supports this horrendous industry.  Hickman’s and others like them can crow all they want about their efficiency.  I call it a travesty.

 

 

 

 

Recipe of the Week

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Black Beans and Rice!

Really?  So much excitement over black beans and rice?  Well, yes, it’s that good, and my only criteria for a “recipe of the week” dish is that it has to taste great.  Check.

Before I get into this simple, but full-of-flavor recipe, I’d like to share a photo of my latest kitchen gadget:

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I finally had to admit that I am incapable of consistently making a good pot of rice.  Just when I thought I had those proportions down I would end up with something gummy or crunchy.  I resisted the urge to buy a rice cooker probably because its utility seemed kind of limited.  But in my vegan life, rice is a staple so it had to be done.  The good news (aside from consistently good rice) is that I found this smallish model at Bed and Bath, and with the 20% off coupon it cost less than twenty bucks.  So now I set it and forget it.

On to the beans and rice…

When I searched for a basic recipe I realized that folks out there are getting very creative with their beans and rice.  Asian- inspired, Indian-inspired, etc.  But I just wanted something that had a Mexican vibe, good flavor and a little kick.  Plus I wanted it to be an easy “any night” kind of dish.  So I settled on a recipe from the “Tasty Home” website, and you can link to it here.

Here’s a look at the ingredients–mostly items I usually have on hand:

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I followed the recipe as written except I used canned diced tomatoes with jalapeño and cilantro which added just a bit more heat.  The bean mixture starts with a quick veggie sauté:

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Once the veggies are soft, you add the rest of the ingredients and let the whole thing simmer for about 15 minutes.  Here’s what it looks like when it’s done:

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I love the color in this dish!  You can just see both how delicious it will be and how good it will be for you.  The addition of some apple cider vinegar (every dish needs some acid!!) makes this simple dish a craveable meal.  Spoon it over your perfectly cooked rice (yes!), and it’s done.

Finally, this recipe, which makes 5-6 servings, is very inexpensive and takes no time to prepare.  I used canned beans but you can cut the cost even further by making your own black beans. If you are short on money or time this recipe is definitely for you.   I hope you’ll give it a try.

 

 

Do You Have 12 Minutes?

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I finally watched the PETA video, “Meet Your Meat”, a compilation of undercover footage taken from factory farms and slaughterhouses.  Alec Baldwin does the narration. I went vegan after learning about the cruelty to animals in factory farms where the vast majority of the animals used for food in this country are bred, confined and killed.  I’ve watched many movies and read countless books on the subject but until today I couldn’t bring myself to watch this short video.   It is as graphic and sad and disturbing as I feared it would be.  I’m glad I watched it, and I want to encourage you to do the same.

These factory “farms” and slaughterhouses are tucked away in rural areas for good reason.   Visitors are not welcome at factory farms and slaughterhouses for good reason.   The factory farming industry is banking on the fact that if we can’t see what is happening behind the windowless walls we’ll assume that nothing is happening.  They know an awful lot about human nature.    See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. And the poor animals continue to suffer in the most horrific ways.

But I also know that it is in our human nature is to be kind to animals.  Most people I know profess to love animals.  We naturally turn away when we see animals being mistreated or in pain because it hurts our hearts.   But refusing to see or acknowledge the truth about where our food comes from doesn’t make the cruelty any less horrific or real.

Please watch the video.  It will only take twelve minutes of your time.

The link is here.

 

 

 

Recipe of the Week

Jalapeño Cilantro Hummus!

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I’ve been on a huge hummus kick.  My go-to lunch of late has been a tortilla slathered  with hummus and topped with roasted red peppers (from the jar) and lot of greens.  I realized recently that the tub of “Garlic Lovers” hummus I had been buying isn’t organic and I decided to try a new brand.  I found this at Whole Foods:

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I’d been specifically looking for a jalapeño/cilantro flavor so I decided to give this a try.  Turns out this was way too spicy for me.  Between that and the fact that these eight ounces cost over six dollars (!) I decided it was finally time to make my own hummus.  I picked a recipe from the Hungry Healthy Girl blog.  This isn’t a vegan blog but there is a nice collection of vegan recipes. You can link to this hummus recipe here.

These are all the ingredients you need:
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To make the hummus you just process the ingredients for a minute or two and it’s done.  Doesn’t get much easier than that!  For this recipe I took out all the seeds and ribs in the jalapeños.  The hummus is slightly spicy but the heat doesn’t overpower the cilantro, lemon and garlic.  It’s a good balance for me, but you can also easily play around with the ingredients to suit your taste.

I’m hooked.  I’m done.  Homemade hummus all the way…

Enjoy!