Sunday, December 26, 2010

Friends Don't Let Friends: Gripe About Grits

You may not know this about me, but I'm from the South.  Sure I live in North Carolina now and, yeah, I grew up in Miami (so far south it's actually north) but I was born in Georgia and my Grammy is from a small town in South Carolina, so I grew up with sour creme cake, super sweet iced tea and grits. 

And man, do I love me some grits. 

And what's not to love, in my opinion.  Warm and soft, topped with butter and plenty of salt, they are the perfect food anytime of day.  Of course, where they shine is breakfast, because they absorb the flavors you add to them.  Scoop them up with toast, serve them with a savory tofu scramble, or on their own, they're delish.

And we're lucky enough to live right next to a very historic (founded in 1767) and kind of famous (featured in Martha Stewart's listing of artisanal specialties from around the country) grist mill - the Old Mill of Guilford. 

People from all around stop into the beautiful mill with it's tiny store to get flours, dried fruits, mixes and, of course, grits.

Now there are tons of ways people serve grits, they're a great base, but as I mentioned I love them simple - salt, Earth Balance and some fresh pepper.  But I have been known to jazz them up with olive oil and fresh rosemary too.

And cooking grits is easy.  All you need is boiling water, grits and some salt. Boil the water.  Stir in the salt and grits (see amounts by serving below). Reduce the temperature to low (be careful, they can boil over easily and dried on grits are like cement) and cook about 10 -15 minutes until the water is absorbed, stirring occasionally. Serve.

Servings -

1/2 Serving
Water - 1 Cup
Grits - 3 Tbl
Salt - Dash

1 Serving
Water - 1 and 2/3Cup
Grits - 1/3 Cup
Salt - 1/8 tsp

4 Servings
Water - 6 and 2/3 Cups
Grits - 1 and 1/3 Cups
Salt - 1/2 tsp

6 Servings
Water - 10 Cups
Grits - 2 Cups
Salt - 3/4 tsp

Just an FYI - these are pretty generous servings.  Your yield will be equal to the amount of water shown. 

Slap on some Earth Balance and enjoy!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Daily Dinner: Classic Risotto and Dijon Green Beans

We make risotto fairly often in the cooler months of the year.  It's the perfect comfort food dinner that fills you up and makes you feel all warm and cozy inside.  It's also a great base for experimentation, with sides or additions.

I like to have a good green veggie side with risotto - sometimes asparagus, a green salad or broccoli but since we made the mustards for our Christmas gifts, I've been thinking about green beans sauteed in a mustard sauce.

While the risotto was becoming magically creamy from my homemade stock, I snapped the ends off of the fresh beans and popped them in the steam for about 10 minutes - enough cook them but keep some of their crispness.  As the rice was almost finished, so were the green beans. 

To save on washing dishes I used the same pot the stock had been warming in and in that I melted over medium-low heat a few tablespoons of Earth Balance, about a 1/2 cup of white wine (the same I used for the risotto, actually) and about a tablespoon or two of Dijon mustard.  I whisked that together to combine and then tossed in the steamed green beans.

I left the beans in the sauce for a few minutes so they could absorb the flavors and served on the side.  Some fresh ground pepper and a sprinkle of kosher salt and you're done.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Daily Dinner: Pumpkin Gnocchi with Shitake and Broccoli

I need to get better about putting up more of our actual dinner and meals.  We love to cook and we love to talk about food - especially great food that just happens to be vegan too. So I'm going to try and take more pictures, even if they are phone pics, and write up what we made so you can see that we're not deprived or starving over here!

Last night we wanted to make something quick.  We had gone to World Market last week and I'd bought two packages of gnocchi.  Some gnocchi do have eggs but most shouldn't.  They come in a vacuum sealed package and these were pumpkin gnocchi. 

Gnocchi couldn't be easier to make and they are as versatile as pasta.  I personally like them in a wine-butter-garlic sauce, so that the gnocchi are nice and squishy after soaking it up.

To cook the gnocchi, boil a pot of water and when boiling, add some salt.  Bring back to a boil and drop in the gnocchi (make sure you have separated them as they will be squished together from the packaging.  They only take a few minutes to cook.  As they start floating to the top, spoon them out into your saute pan which has the sauce.

For the sauce, I melted a few tablespoons of Earth Balance (from the sticks) along with fresh grated garlic (as much as you like) and about a half cup of white wine.  I also like to add fresh squeezed lemon juice, to taste, and salt and pepper.  If you have any favorite herbs, you can add those in as well.  I have this started when I had dropped the gnocchi in the water so it is all ready to go as they are ready.

I had steamed the broccoli separately and cooked the shitakes in a separate pan (we are a divided household - I'm the mushroom lover, the hubby is not) so they could be added to just my serving.  When the broccoli is done, add it to the large saute pan as well and stir everything to cover with sauce.

Plate it up and serve with crisp romaine salad.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Silent and Still

We only expected flurries, but around mid-morning we started to get a pretty steady snow fall.  It's so beautiful in our yard and the songbirds appreciated the seed and water we put out for them every day.

Badger had the right idea and curled up near the radiator.

We didn't have a lot to do other than a friend's party so the next day we watched movies and put up our Christmas decorations.  We don't go too crazy. A wreath, a tree, our stockings and a few other pieces here and there.   But combined with the warm wood of the library, our shiny black living room mantle and some pumpkin spice candles, the rooms seemed warm and cozy.

Then we settled in for a holiday snuggle.

I love the early darkness, the light snowfalls that are still new to this Miami-bred girl, and the snuggly pups and kitties.

What's your favorite part of winter?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Birthday Bean

Today is Badger Bean's 12th birthday.
(observed - we brought him home from the Humane Society 11 years ago)
 The sweetest happiest puppy I know!

We love you, little man!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

On Veganism From a Medieval Arab Poet

I just saw this beautiful poem on Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach site.   I had to share as posted.

A reader sent me the following, written by medieval Arab poet Abu ‘L’Ala Ahmad ibn ‘Abdallah al-Ma’arri, known as Al-Ma’arri. He was born in 973 and died in 1057. He was blind. The translation was obtained from here.

I No Longer Steal from Nature

You are diseased in understanding and religion.

Come to me, that you may hear something of sound truth.

Do not unjustly eat fish the water has given up,

And do not desire as food the flesh of slaughtered animals,

Or the white milk of mothers who intended its pure draught

for their young, not noble ladies.

And do not grieve the unsuspecting birds by taking eggs;

for injustice is the worst of crimes.

And spare the honey which the bees get industriously

from the flowers of fragrant plants;

For they did not store it that it might belong to others,

Nor did they gather it for bounty and gifts.

I washed my hands of all this; and wish that I

Perceived my way before my hair went gray!

 - Al-Ma’arri

I thank the person who sent it and I share it with you as I regard it as most inspiring.
If you are not vegan, go vegan. It’s easy; it’s better for your health and for the planet.

But, most important, it’s the morally right thing to do.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Gathering

We're busy planning our menu for Thanksgiving and this year we are having the following:

Celebration Roast

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Sage Stuffing

Green Salad

Pumpkin-Garlic Rolls

Onion Gravy

Pumpkin Pie with Pecan Crust

Vanilla Ice Cream

Lavender-Mint Ice Cream

Now who's hungry???

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

VeganMoFo: Dinner and Breakfast in a Snap

I've been kind of slack about keeping up with my Vegan Month of Food posts, but here are two quick meal ideas that are perfect for when you want something comforting. 

Hopefully you are making stock, so when you want some good warming soup, you can defrost a few containers, saute up some veggies and throw in the pasta.  Here I diced up carrots, onions, leeks and tomatoes.  I then cooked them until soft in a bit of oil, salt and pepper, as well as a bit of Braggs.  I then added enough stock to cover the veggies well (make it as soupy or chunky as you like, you can always add some water) and about a cup of pasta.  Cook until the pasta is soft and you are done.

Breakfast can be a pain too. Of course, I love cereal, but on the weekends, I like a hot breakfast.  We always have oatmeal in the house so that's easy to whip up, but I ran out of my favorite topping of chopped dates.  So I added a more seasonal ingredient - apples and walnuts!

I sauteed the chopped and peeled apples and chopped walnuts in a bit of EarthBalance, ground cinnamon, brown sugar and maple syrup until the apples are soft.  Add the hot apple and sugar mixture to your cooked oatmeal and you have a delicious warm and filling breakfast.  Plus you can make extra and microwave individual portions for a fast breakfast.  Don't buy instant!

There you go!

This recipe is a part of:

Meet Turkeys, Don't Eat Turkeys!

We did this last year, and I'm happy to say we are participating again.   Farm Sanctuary does amazing work, and in honor of Jake, Meg and Gertie, we're sponsoring two turkeys this year.  I'm very thankful for the opportunity and for what they do to help animals.

Turkeys are cruelly abused for our "celebration" each year and as the caretaker of one of these gentle souls, I can't image the horror millions of turkeys go through, just to be a centerpiece on our table.

You can see the aftermath on the bodies of some of the animals that have come to the Farm.  Beaks cut and their snoods sliced off (without any care or anesthesia) as well as feet and toes docked.  Not to mention the day to day conditions they are bred into and forced to live in.

Here are our new adopted friends - Jordan and Kima. 

Jordan reminds me of our Jake and Kima looks like a sweetheart.

This year consider creating a new tradition and have a true Thanksgiving - spare the lives by taking animals out of your meal and then adopt a rescued animal at Farm Sanctuary (or donate to your favorite shelter or rescue group!)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Friends Don't Let Friends: Miss Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Do you know what a Whoopie Pie is?

I actually had not heard this term until recently because it seems to be regionally New England with Amish origins.  According to food historians, Amish women would bake these (known as hucklebucks at the time) and put them in farmers' lunchboxes. When farmers would find these treats in their lunch, they would shout "Whoopie!"

I would be in agreement with them, because the first time I tasted one from the Menonite farmers at our farmers market, I was hooked.  Soft cake sandwiching a sweet frosting filling.  Not as pretty as a cupcake but, in many ways, I think better tasting and easier to eat.

Traditionally you will find whoopie pies in chocolate, oatmeal or pumpkin.  Mostly with a white sugar frosting center but sometimes with a creme cheese frosting filling. I've also been seeing red velvet cake versions too.  These cakes are firmer than a yellow cake so they hold up to sandwiching.

Pumpkin is my favorite though. Since the sugar pumpkins have been coming in, I've made these twice. I think it is very important to use your own roasted pumpkin over canned.  The results, no matter what you are making with it, are going to be incrementally better.

Roast your pumpkin, scoop out the flesh and puree it (you can do this in advance).


3 Cups All Purpose Flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp fresh gound nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
2 1/2 Cups brown sugar (I do a mix of light and dark)
1 Cup canola oil
2 egg replacers (I use Ener-G brand)*
2 Cups pumpkin
1 tsp vanilla extract

*Note: No matter if you cook vegan or not, you should have a box of this on hand. Besides the obvious cruelty issues, eggs spoil and having a box of this on hand ensures you will have all the ingredients you need when baking.  

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. 

Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and spices in a large mixing bowl and whisk together to combine.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar, oil, egg replacer (mixed separately first, according to the box instructions), pumpkin and vanilla extract. 

Add wet ingredients to the dry and combine until well mixed.  Drop by rounded tablespoons, not too close together, on a parchment paper lined (ideal) or greased baking sheet.  You should have enough for about 24 - 30 sets.

Bake for 10 - 12 minutes or until the center springs back when lightly pressed. If you bake on parchement, you can transfer the whole sheet off of the baking sheet and onto wire racks to cool.

When thoroughly cooled, pipe or spoon on a dollop of frosting and sandwhich together.

My frosting of choice for cupcakes, cakes and Whoopie pies is the Wilton icing.  It's pure white so it takes colors perfectly and it's pretty stable. Plus you can make it in advance as well.

Wilton Frosting Ingredients:

1 16oz can of Crisco
1 2lb bag of powdered sugar
2 Tbl Meringue Powder (optional)
Pinch of salt

*Note: you can play with the amounts or add other extract flavors as you choose.  Almond is a good one too.

In a stand mixer (ideally) whip the vegetable shortening with 2 Tbl water until fluffy.  Add in half the powdered sugar, 1 Tbl of meringue powder (if applicable) and 1tsp of extract.  Blend in the mixer until well combined.  Remove from the mixer and add 2nd half of the powdered sugar, 1 Tbl of meringue powder (if applicable), pinch of salt, the other extract and 2 Tbl of water.  Blend on medium speed until well-combined.  You can add more water until the fosting is to the consistency you like for decorating or icing.


This recipe is a part of:

Top image by: Teeny Tiny Turkey
All other images by me.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Getting Ready for VeganMoFo

We're going to try and participate in the Vegan Month of Food (tracked as #VeganMoFo on Twitter).  This means we will try to post at least 20 times during the month of November about vegan food, cooking, baking and more.

We're even in the process of creating an event. If we can get it all organized, we'll be sure to share here.

Let the tasty food begin!

To see the forum of events around the web, check in here.

To see the Vegan Month of Food Flickr pool, go here.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

It's All About Intent

I just read the following article on One Green Planet:

Thanks to this illustration, a lot of people seem to have suddenly woken up to the fact that products derived from animals are pervasive in modern society. This isn’t news to most vegans, since our lifestyle choice is based on avoiding such products (to the extent practical). As expected, the reaction to this illustration has largely been focused on the conclusion the artist arrived at (i.e. “There is no such thing as a vegan”). We can only speculate about the artist’s intention for creating the illustration, but in our opinion, the conclusion seems a bit misguided.

As we (and others) have defined and discussed in the past, veganism is not about perfection. Anyone who claims to be a perfect vegan has either not done their research or is not quite sure what veganism is about. We live in a society that is built on the use of billions of animals and that isn’t going to change any time soon. The billion dollar industries that farm these animals and sell their by-products as food or raw material to other industries are not going to crumble and fall in a matter of days or months. That’s reality. But is that reason enough to do nothing? Hell no!

The question is, who manufacturers these products and who buys them? We do! Who can instrument a systematic shift in how this entire modern industrial system works? We can! As Lao-Tzu, the founder of Taoism famously put it, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”.

The moment you acknowledge there’s something wrong with the unnecessary use and exploitation of animals for human benefit, you should ask yourself what that first step can be. No matter how you look at it, the logical conclusion you will arrive at is the path of veganism and ethical consumerism. Most people consider veganism to be extreme because they don’t understand the logical process that leads people down this path. Veganism is a beginning, and what follows is a practical effort to avoid products that are derived from the exploitation of animals. Eventually, with the help of creative vegan education (including the removal of the stereotypes and misconceptions associated with the word vegan itself), we will arrive at our destination. That destination is a world where the demand for animal products has been systematically eliminated.

Or you can do nothing. The choice is yours.

The bolded emphasis above is mine.  Many people try to "trip" you up when you declare that you are vegan.  They look for ways to poke holes in your argument, which may be the original intention of the illustration, but the image has the opposite effect on me.  It just shows how pervasive and disturbing the use of animals is.  This is shown to me on a daily basis.  The remains of animals are shoved into so many different places; places where there is no good reason to have their bodies being used.

It is difficult to poke holes in my veganism because I know what my goals are.  It's about not causing any harm intentionally.  I control what I can control.  And my goal is to be compassionate... not perfect.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Gracious Gifts

Jake, Meg and Gertie are almost through with their feather moult and ready for winter.  I've been carefully collecting their best shed feathers and saving them for my talented crafting friends.

Most feathers are not naturally shed, they are ripped over and over from the live animals but these are carefully reclaimed and cleaned.

Jake's feathers range from 18" black and white stripes to delicate iridescent fluffs. Meg's are a warm nutmeg (her name inspiration) and black white Gertie's are graphic black and white.

I can't wait to see what new life these take on through the talents of others; new pieces that have a compassionate start.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


People sometimes ask us if we mind if they eat meat in front of us.  If you ask me this and you really want an honest answer, not just the answer that will make you feel okay or that society expects us to say, it's going to be: yeah, I mind.

When you see this...

I see this...

It would be like some one killing your dog or cat or child in front of you and then eating it.   Do you mind???

Let me say it again... Yeah.  I mind.  

 If that makes you feel a bit uncomfortable, then maybe it's because you know you are eating what was once a living creature that had thoughts and emotions and a will to live a happy peaceful life.  Don't apologize to me for eating it in front of me (which I also get a lot), apologize to the animals.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

As we get into winter

As we get into winter, don't buy Down, Silk, Cashmere, Shearling, and Other Animal Products Used for Clothing

Minks, foxes, and raccoons are the animals who usually come to mind when people think of animals who are killed for their fur, but countless other species are also exploited for their feathers, fur, and skins. From the tiniest silkworm to the largest llama, all animals used by the clothing industry suffer—and most pay with their lives.


Down is the soft layer of feathers closest to birds' skin, primarily in the chest region. These feathers are highly valued because they do not have quills. While most down and feathers are removed from birds during slaughter, geese in breeding flocks and those raised for meat and foie gras may be plucked while they are alive.

Plucking causes geese considerable pain and distress. One study found that the blood glucose levels of some geese nearly doubled (a symptom of severe stress) during plucking.

Typically, ducks and geese are lifted by their necks, their legs are tied, and their feathers are ripped out. The struggling birds often sustain injuries during plucking. They are then returned to their cages until they are ready to be plucked again. This process begins when the animals are 10 weeks old and is repeated in six-week intervals until the birds are slaughtered.

The eider duck is a protected species, but its feathers are sought after for bedding and clothing. The females lay eggs and surround them with feathers plucked from their own breasts. Farmers in Iceland gather more than 6,500 pounds of eider duck feathers each year. By taking these feathers, farmers are removing important insulation that the eggs need to hatch. It takes feathers from at least 80 nests to fill just one comforter.


Silk is the fiber that silkworms weave to make cocoons. The so-called "silkworm" is actually a domesticated insect who, in nature, goes through the same stages of metamorphosis—egg, larval, pupal, and adult—that all moths do. Silk is derived from the cocoons of larvae, so most of the insects raised by the industry don't live past the pupal stage, as they are steamed or gassed alive inside their cocoons.

Approximately 3,000 silkworms die to make every pound of silk. While worms can't show their distress in ways that humans easily recognize, such as screaming, anyone who has ever seen earthworms startle when their dark homes are uncovered must acknowledge that worms are sensitive; they produce endorphins and have a physical response to pain.


Cashmere is hair that is shorn from cashmere goats' underbellies. These goats are often kept on farms where they are dehorned and castrated and have their ears notched without anesthesia. Goats with "defects" in their coats are typically killed before the age of 2. Industry experts expect farmers to kill 50 to 80 percent of young goats whose coats do not meet standards. Shearing robs goats of their natural insulation, leaving them vulnerable to cold temperatures and illnesses. Many goats are sold to be slaughtered for their flesh after shearing.


Contrary to what many consumers think, "shearling" is not sheared wool; the term refers to the sheep. A shearling is a yearling sheep who has been shorn once. A shearling garment is made from a sheep or lamb shorn shortly before slaughter. The skin is tanned with the wool still on it. It can take 25 to 45 individual sheep hides to make just one shearling garment.

Karakul Lamb Fur

Also called "astrakhan," "broadtail," or "Persian wool," karakul lamb fur comes from lambs who were killed as newborns or while still in their mothers' wombs. Because their unique, highly prized curly fur begins to unwind and straighten within three days of birth, many karakul lambs are slaughtered when they are only 1 or 2 days old. In order to get a karakul fetus' hide—which is called "broadtail" in the industry and which is valued for its exceptional smoothness—the mother's throat is cut and her abdomen slashed open to remove the developing lamb. A mother typically gives birth to three lambs before being slaughtered along with her fourth fetus, about 15 to 30 days before he or she is due to be born. As many as 4 million karakul lambs are slaughtered for their fur every year.


Vicuñas, who are related to camels and llamas and live high in the South American Andes, are exploited for their wool, which is the most expensive material used to make clothing in the world. To obtain their wool, wild vicuñas are typically herded into a V-shaped "funnel trap." This process is terrifying for these shy animals. Panicked vicuñas have even been known to break their necks during herding by crashing into fences. Their ears are then tagged, without the benefit of painkillers, before the animals are restrained and shorn with electric clippers. The shearers usually only leave the hair on the animals' bellies and chests, which isn't enough to protect them from the extreme heat and cold of the Andes.


Angora rabbits are strapped to a board for shearing, kicking powerfully in protest. The clippers inevitably bite into their flesh, with bloody results. Angoras have very delicate foot pads, making life on a wire cage floor excruciating and ulcerated feet a common condition. Because male Angora rabbits have only 75 to 80 percent of the wool yield of females, they are killed at birth on many farms.


The market for alpaca wool exploded in the 1980s when South American alpacas and llamas were marketed worldwide to entrepreneurs. The craze subsided, but breeding continues, and unwanted animals are now routinely put up for auction. Llama sanctuaries and rescue operations have sprung up in the wake of the breeding craze to handle the growing number of abused, neglected animals.


Shahtoosh, often used to make shawls, is made from the endangered Tibetan antelope, or chiru. Chiru cannot be domesticated and must be killed in order to obtain their wool. Illegal to sell or possess since 1975, shahtoosh shawls did a brisk business on the black market throughout the 1990s, selling for as much as $15,000 apiece as the Tibetan antelope's population plummeted to fewer than 75,000. Despite the ban on shahtoosh in India, a thriving black market still caters to customers in London, New York, and Los Angeles who will pay as much as $17,000 for a shawl. As many as 20,000 chiru are killed every year for their wool, a rate that will wipe out the species by 2011 if left unchecked.

You can help put an end to the suffering of all these animals by refusing to wear any clothing made from the skins of animals. Check out PETA's cruelty-free clothing guide for tips on where you can find compassionate fashion.

Image and copy from PETA.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Telling the Truth

I'll admit - I'm excited to see commercials getting funded to run on the air telling the truth about the animal based foods we eat. That we eat daily without thinking about ourselves, our health, the corporations and lobbies behind them, the cost to the environment and the animals that give their lives for them.

PCRM's is a bit harder hitting and speaks to the direct negative health effects.

While Compassion Over Killing speaks about the animals.

I hope these get plenty of air time, or at least some controversy so that people will seek them out!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

2500 Calories Plus

I've been talking more and more here and on the Facebook page about dining excess.  Not just the way we eat but in the food that is being created, glorified and shoved in our faces over and over again.

I have noticed more and more some bad decadence at work from restaurants.  They are competing, I think, to see who can make us eat the worst.

Burger King's latest is a “burger” made with 4 Whopper patties, pepperoni, mozzarella cheese, marinara sauce and pesto and is coming this month to the New York City BK Whopper Bar in Times Square.

And while I know this is a gimmick, it is also real.  But why?

This 9.5" monstrosity is over 2500 calories, more than a day's worth of calories for an adult.   That alone should stop you but if it doesn't:

1. There are a hundred an forty-four grams of fat in the NY Pizza Burger.

2. There are fifty-nine grams of saturated fat in the NY Pizza Burger.

3. There are 3,780 milligrams of salt in the NY Pizza Burger (more than double the daily allowance for adults).

4. You have better ways to spend thirteen dollars.

5. You do not want to be a part of the culinary suicide that Americans are committing.

6. You want to be a role model for healthy eating.

7. Your stomach just turned at the idea of this culinary travesty.

8. You value your health, both now and in the future.

9. You do not want to participate in the methane production related to making that much meat and dairy – if in fact there is real meat and dairy used in that product.

10. You don’t have an interest in financially supporting the fast food industry’s belief that they can get rich by feeding America death-food.
I hate fast food in general, but when I see examples of garbage like this being served and idolized as food, it makes me crazy.

Do not Eat This
Tiny Green Bubble

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Can one speech make a change?

In 1992, at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, 12 year old Severn Cullis-Suzuki spoke to the delegates.  Her video, now known as "The Girl Who Silenced the World for 5 Minutes" is one of the most inspirational speeches I've ever witnessed.

Severn has been an activist for all her life. 

She continues to change the world with her work but her words, almost two decades later still inspire us to stop.  To reflect.  To CHANGE.  But can we?  Can we actually listen? And do we have the courage to act.

There is a great movie with Bill Nighy and Kelly Macdonald called "The Girl in the Cafe".  It is a love story but it gives insight into the inner-workings of the G8 Summit. In a crucial scene Gina speaks out in a situation where there is tremendous pressure to stay silent... but she can't.  You can see the discomfort in the room but in spite of that she continues to speak the simple honest words that have so much impact on those around her.  Those that have the power but are often too willing to compromise.

We should never be afraid to speak.  We cannot always change the world but we can change ourselves and how we live.  We can change our world.. and hopefully all of these individuals will become a groundswell that nothing can stand against.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tonight's Dinner: Acorn Squash Stuffed with Wild Rice Pilaf

Tonight's Dinner

Acorn squash - halved, seeded and roasted until tender
Stuffed with wild rice pilaf
Steamed broccoli
Baby greens salad with cucumbers and cherry tomatoes
topped with ginger dressing

Cut the squash in half and remove seeds, rub edges with a bit of oil so they don't stick and bake about 45 min at 400 degrees until fork tender.

In saute pan with about 2 Tbl of EarthBlance, cook chopped carrots, celery, mushrooms (optional) and 1.5 cups of wild rice blend until the veggies are soft.  Add 3 cups of vegetable stock, ground pepper and stuffing herb mix (sage is ideal) and bring to a boil.  Turn temperature to low and let simmer until rice is done.

Steam broccoli for 15 minutes.

Serve the squash filled with the rice mixture and with the broccoli on the side.  Add a green salad for a fresh addition.

Less Impact Fam(ily) Waste Notes:
Squash - no packaging
Wild Rice - from bulk bin purchased in reusable bag
Carrots - bunch in plastic packaging
Celery - rubberband
Stock - some homemade, some from veggie boullion cube w/ foil wrapper
Broccoli - no packaging
Dressing - glass jar
Salad - Bulk plastic bin
Cucumber - no packaging
Cherry tomatoes - recyclable plastic package

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Must See: Forks Over Knives

Last weekend we had the amazing opportunity to go to a screening of the documentary "Forks Over Knives" and to hear Dr. Campbell speak in person.

This movie is tremendous. 

It focuses on the very real and clinically proven health benefits of eating a plant-based diet.  The movie came out of the work of Dr. T. Colin Campbell, a nutritional scientist from Cornell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, a top surgeon and head of the Breast Cancer Task Force at the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic. 

What is amazing about this movie - and what elicited gasps throughout from the audience - is the factual proof and connections between eating animal-based food and the major health implications they cause. 

We are not talking anecdotal results, but rather proven by huge research studies, under the care of the most respected and top ranking doctors and scientists, that issues like cancer, heart disease and diabetes can be stopped and EVEN REVERSED just by switching to a plant-based diet.

This is not a movie that is showing you images of animal conditions or factory farming, although there is a bit of that, but rather it focuses on people and their evolving health and lifestyle. 

For many, if not most people, in this country this is a huge concern.  Their health and the health of their children are at risk from the way they are eating now.  There is a lot of crappy but cheap and available food shoved at you every second of every day no matter where you go.  This movie shows the connections to how this is hurting us.

Dr. Campbell spoke and answered questions after the movie.  This man is in his 80s and still runs and is 110% there mentally. 

He spoke to how the issue is NOT the way factory farming is done that creates the issues, because their studies were done with grass-fed animals (factory farming conditions just makes it even worse). That you can essentially "turn-on" and "turn-off" cancer production by eliminating meat, eggs, and especially dairy.   That we could reduce our country's health costs by 75%-80% just by making this change.

While we switched to a vegan lifestyle for animal compassion reasons, health and environmental concerns - and benefits - were also in our minds.   There is heart disease and cancer in our family backgrounds.  I don't want to eat myself into a heart attack at 50-something, you know?

It was interesting to see how influenced people were by the movie.  You could really tell that they were impacted by the message.  I hope they were inspired to go home and really think about making a change in their lives, for their lives.

Their are screenings currently being held around the country.  You can go to the site to see if there is one in your area or how to have a showing in your area.   The movie is coming out in March 2011.  I've very excited and hopeful to see a wave of people taking control of their health and wanting to make this positive change.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Messages from MUTTS

I love the MUTTS comic strip and it's creator, Patrick McDonnell.  He mixes in fun and humor with important messages about animal welfare and issues.

I appreciate that he uses his talent and influence to tirelessly work on behalf of the animals.  He is an inspiration to me.

According to the site:
McDonnell's website, muttscomics.com, promotes his animal and earth friendly philosophy. Consistent with McDonnell's concern for the environment, all of the MUTTS books are printed on recycled paper. He and his wife Karen O'Connell are vegetarian and happily reside with their formerly feral cat MeeMow.

Thank you, Patrick for the work you do.  Your strip always makes me think... and smile.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Friends Don't Let Friends: Stress Over Dinner for Guests

I think at some point and time, we realize that we have to invite people over for dinner.  Maybe for a slightly fancier dinner than just grabbing a pizza or layout out some chips and salsa.  We want to impress but we don't want to stress ourselves out so much that we miss out on the whole point of having our friends over... we want to enjoy their company.

I'm going to let you in on my favorite "company" dinner. Risotto.

Risotto is the perfect meal for when you are having guests over.  You can easily make a large batch.  It's easy to make and you can flavor it in a number of different ways.  You can prepare it bit ahead and keep it warm on the stove.  And by pairing it up with a steamed or grilled vegetable and maybe a salad, you have a beautifully presented meal.

Risotto even sounds a bit fussy and fancy but, here's a secret... it's just rice!  Okay, it's really creamy tasting and amazing rice but it's not very complicated and you can't really mess it up.  Plus it can be very inexpensive to make, which let's you have friends over more often.  

Depending on how many people you are planning to have over and what you are pairing with it, this recipe will easily serve 4 - 6 dinner portions. 

What you need is Risotto rice, a medium yellow onion, stock (homemade!!!), about 2 Tbls of olive oil, white wine and salt and pepper.  You can add any combination of other ingredients such as saffron, mushrooms, peas, asparagus whatever you want, really.

Risotto takes a bit of time but it's not complicated.  The slow cooking and slow additions of the broth are what creates the creamy texture with almost zero fat.  You don't need to add anything such as butter or cheese to accomplish the richness that risotto is known for.

Begin by chopping the onion into small, not quite minced pieces.   In a wide and deep pan, saute this in the olive oil about 7 minutes until the onions are soft.  Add 2 Cups of the risotto rice to the pan and cook that until the rice is a bit translucent with a white dot in the center, about another 5 or so minutes.  Add a 1/2 Cup of white wine to the rice and the onions and let it absorb into the rice.

While your onions are cooking have the stock warming over low heat in another pot.  I like to have about 8 cups on hand. You are going to be adding the stock to the rice about a 1/2 cup (or a good ladle-ful) at a time, slowing letting the rice absorb the liquid each time before adding more.  Stir the rice a bit after each addition and make sure to scrape along the bottom of the pan.

Once the rice has absorbed all of the stock and is completely soft, usually this takes about 30 - 40 minutes, add in any additions.  If you are adding in mushrooms or a vegetable I would recommend cooking them separately and stirring them into the cooked risotto.

And that's it!  Plate and serve.  Here is our dinner from the other night - risotto and steamed broccoli.

And here is a fancy dinner out - mushroom risotto served with grilled asparagus.

Even if you are not having people over, make the same amount. Risotto stores well and is even better the next day.   You can reheat it or you can even form the chilled risotto into small discs and fry them to serve on the top of or on the side of some tender raw or cooked greens.