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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vegan in Phoenix

David and I spent the last few days up in Phoenix.  He was busy with  continuing education courses all day, so I decided to visit with my sons, hike in the gorgeous Phoenix Mountain Preserve and check out the vegan eats.   I did a little advance research (thanks happycow.net) and we had some great meals.  I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to be vegan in Phoenix.

We were staying at the Hyatt Regency downtown which has its own Einstein Bagels.  Bagels with peanut butter and soy lattes for breakfast.  Okay so it was a little white flour/sugar-laden but we were just glad that we didn’t have to wander out at 6 am to find something to eat.  Never mind, it was delish.

When I lived in Scottsdale, downtown Phoenix was in a bit of a sorry state foodwise.  In recent years though, ASU has moved several of its schools to the downtown campus and restaurants are opening all over the place.  There was a totally different vibe.  I met David for lunch on the first day at a casual salad place called “Bowl of Greens”:

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As you might expect, a place like this has lots of vegan options as well as a juice bar.  We ordered up some green juice (to offset the bagel and Jif breakfast), and I had a falafel wrap and David had a mediterranean platter with the usual assortment of falafel, hummus and baba ganoush.  Tasty and filling. Their website is here.

For dinner we scoped out a tapas place on the “waterfront” (canal actually) near Old Town Scottsdale called “Tapas Papa Frita”, (website here) and Michael met us there.  I checked out the menu in advance and was pretty sure we could piece together enough small plates for dinner.  It was a gorgeous evening and we sat out on the lovely patio:

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Michael chose a few non-veg items, but we all shared chipotle hummus with toast, mushrooms in sherry sauce, eggplant, pepper and tomato over toast, chickpea and spinach dip and veggie paella.  Except for the noise of the flamenco dancers inside (what a racket!) it was really delightful.  Our two bottles of Malbec made for a pricey dinner but the food was good and the company was great.  I would recommend it.

On day two, I headed out to hike with Sam and Deacon (the granddog).  We had a great time, and the mountain preserve was in full bloom and gorgeous.  After the hike, with dog in tow, we headed over to Chipotle (is that ever not a good idea when you’re vegan?) and I chowed down on my favorite, the Sofritas (spicy braised tofu) salad.  Yum.

For dinner, David and I returned to an entirely vegan place called “Green”:

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I love when I am able to order anything on a menu ( The vegan folks out there definitely know what I mean!). We started with hummus and spring rolls. David had a Kung Pao bowl and I had a tofu peanut salad.  This place is very casual and the food is tasty. You can take at look at their menu here.

But our favorite vegan find of the weekend had to be the “Pomegranate Cafe”. This fantastic vegan restaurant was conveniently located on our drive home to Tucson, right off the I-10.  The drive from Phoenix to Tucson is pretty much a  vegan wasteland (i.e. have those Lara Bars handy) so we were thrilled to discover this restaurant just 20 minutes south of downtown Phoenix.  Pomegranate Cafe is located in a strip mall (like most things in Phoenix) and here’s a photo of the outside:
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This cafe has a huge menu of juices, smoothies, sandwiches, wraps, bowls and salads.  The place was hopping, and there was a really diverse crowd.  We sat inside and opted for waiter service (you can order at the counter).  We started with green juice, then I ordered the “Athena bowl” (kale, hummus, falafel and other crisp veggies) and David tried the jackfruit sliders which were delicious.  We had been meaning to try jackfruit which is a common ingredient in vegan shredded barbecue sandwiches.     I’m definitely going  to track down some cans of jackfruit and try making this dish myself.

We travel frequently from Tucson to Phoenix, and I’m thrilled that we found this fantastic eatery en route.  If you want to read more about the Pomegranate Cafe you can check out their website here.

Unlike our last trip to Las Vegas, this visit to Phoenix was full of good times and good vegan eating.  Another reason to love Arizona :)

Plant Pure Nation- Let’s Go!

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For too long, the people and organizations profiting from our poor health have controlled the information given to the public. Most people have no idea of the enormous control they have over their health. The only way to reach these people in an environment controlled by special interests is through a grassroots, bottom-up approach.

The above quote is taken from the Plant Pure Nation website.

I just donated to my first ever kickstarter campaign and I was proud to do it.  The amazing folks who created this documentary are looking for additional funding to expand their film’s release in the United States.   We’ve known for a long time that a whole foods, plant-based diet is the optimal choice for good health.  The movie, “Forks Over Knives” showed how a plant-based, whole foods diet can reverse heart disease and eliminate a host of  “lifestyle” diseases that are rampant in our society.  If you haven’t seen Forks Over Knives you can download it here.

If such compelling evidence exists, why haven’t we heard about it?  Such important information should be front page news and part of every discussion with health care providers.  Yet it is not.  Plant Pure Nation addresses this extremely important issue.

I agree that a “grassroots, bottom-up approach” is the only way to make significant change. Please go to the Plant Pure Nation  website, read about their mission and consider contributing to the kickstarter campaign.  You can link to it all here.

Let’s start raising awareness together.

Some Good News

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As an ethical vegan living in our world, I can feel very stressed and sad.   Once I got to a place of believing that breeding animals for the purpose of killing them for our own pleasure was morally wrong, I’ve been on a journey of figuring out how to live comfortably in our society with others who feel differently than I do.  Trips to the mall and restaurants, watching television and visiting with friends and family all have the potential to make me feel sad and frustrated with the enormity of the changes that need to happen in order to help the animals, the planet and ourselves.

According to Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, an animal advocate and author of many books about veganism, there are “stages” of being vegan, and feeling outrage, sadness and isolation are typical steps in the journey.  Colleen is a role model for me.  She is a compassionate truth teller who is a force for positive change.  She has found a way to unapologetically communicate what she believes and at the same time bring compassion to every interaction she has.  If you’d also like to be inspired by Colleen, you can visit her website here.

For me, meditation, hiking in nature and seeking out like-minded people all mitigate the “vegan in a non-vegan world” stress I can feel.  But recently I discovered another way to find balance, and that is to not only pay attention to all the bad news out there, but also to pay attention to the good news.  The seeds of change are all around us.

Today I’d like to call your attention to an article from the Washington Post online that David forwarded to me a few days ago.  The title is

Can This Company Do Better Than The Egg?

The article is about the California-based company, Hampton Creek (their logo is pictured above).  The mission of the three enterprising vegan owners is to create a plant-based egg substitute.  If the name of this company sounds familiar to you it’s because they already produce “better than egg” products like these:

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What’s I find so compelling about this company is that their intention is to compete for a major piece of the mainstream food services industry. Their ultimate goal is not to create a successful niche business, but to work with large companies that might be open to replacing eggs in their products.  As we all know, if companies like Kraft and General Mills can make their products more cheaply without compromising taste they will do it.  I’m intrigued by how these guys are trying to use free market economics to further their vegan agenda.  It’s such a bold strategy. There is much about what these entrepreneurs are doing that is exciting, and if their vision becomes a reality, it could have a large negative impact on the demand for eggs which will help both the chickens and the environment.  To read the entire Washington Post article, click here.

I know many people who are very conscious about where they buy their eggs and I even know some folks who raise their own chickens. I see this as a positive step, certainly when compared to factory farming situations, but what happens when these same folks buy snack foods or eat out?  The eggs (factory-farmed to be sure) are absolutely everywhere.  I know, because I spend a lot of time reading labels these days.  The idea that there’s a product in the pipeline that might change all this is indeed very good news.

I will continue to keep a look out for inspiring and encouraging news from the vegan world and share it with my readers.  But I’d also love to hear from you.

Do you have any good news to share?

The Veal/Dairy Connection

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Do you know anyone who eats veal?  I don’t.  Consumption of veal in the United States has indeed fallen dramatically over the last few decades.  Back in the 1980’s  horrendously cruel veal farming practices were broadly and publicly exposed.  Once the public learned of these atrocities many people gave up veal for good.  This is excellent.  The fewer baby cows torn from their mothers at birth, crated or penned, fattened up and inhumanely slaughtered the better.

I imagine that many folks reading this opening paragraph are nodding along and feeling glad that they at one time decided to stop eating veal.  It surely does feel good to connect with our compassionate natures.

Before going vegan I never ate veal, mostly because I didn’t like it.  What I’ve learned over the last several months, however, is that the veal industry is a complete by-product of the dairy industry.  Not only did I not know that, but I’m realizing that most people I share it with don’t know it either.  And several of these people stopped eating veal for ethical reasons years ago.

Here’s how the system works.  In order for female cows to lactate they need to continually become pregnant and give birth.  I know that seems obvious but who really thinks about it? The cows are forcibly impregnated and they give birth approximately once a year.  So, what happens to their babies?  In factory farm operations where most of our milk is produced, all of the babies are removed from their mothers (their milk is for our consumption after all) right after they are born.  The female calves will live the same lives as their mothers giving birth and producing milk until they can’t physically do it anymore (they will then probably become hamburger meat), and the male babies will most likely be sent to veal farms where conditions may be only marginally better than they were back in the 1980’s.

I read a bunch of articles about the dairy/veal connection and it’s incredibly bleak and sad.  Ultimately there’s no avoiding the fact that every veal calf is born to a dairy cow mother.  In my online search I found that some veal producers actively promote the dairy/veal connection suggesting that by eating veal we are indeed supporting the dairy industry. Check out this excerpt taken the Strauss Farms website (click here for the link)

Q: How does group raised veal support the dairy industry?
A: Dairy cows must calve every year in order to maintain milk production. Heifer (female) calves, are raised to re-enter the herd as milking cows. Bull (male) calves, provide little to no value to dairy farmers. The formula-fed veal industry evolved by utilizing a by-product of the cheese industry (whey) and a by-product of the dairy industry (bull calves). The flavor and texture of meat from dairy breeds is not desirable, and therefore they are not typically marketed as beef. Raising them as veal supports the dairy industry, which provides us with delicious ice cream, lattes, and cheese.

Happy veal and lots of lattes.  I’ll pass on the whole unholy alliance.