Saturday, December 24, 2011

Beating Back Butter

One of the concerns that I had when we were making the switch to veganism was butter.  I love to bake and I love toast, especially toast slathered with butter and jam or cinnamon sugar.  So more than anything this was an ingredient that I worried about a bit.  But we are very luck to be vegan in a time when this is a total non-issue. 

Because there is EarthBalance!

EarthBalance is the greatest food product I know.  It comes in sticks and several spreadable varieties and because of it, I've never given the switch from dairy butter a moment's thought or concern. 

The sticks are perfect for baking and sauteing, just like dairy butter sticks.  It melts, separates and softens just like dairy butter and makes perfect flaky biscuits and pie crust too.

I've used this when making heavily butter-based cookies, like shortbread or the Mexican Wedding Cakes/Russian Tea Cakes shown below, with no change in the texture or flavor.  I've made rouxs and risotto and sauteed mushrooms too.

Here I've creamed two sticks with sugar when making the Tea Cake cookies.  Looks just the same, right?

with the added flour...

baked and nicely browned...


EarthBalance tastes and acts just like dairy butter but with out all the cruelty and cholesterol. In fact, I don't know why more bakeries and chef's don't use it exclusively.  You open up your menu to more people and reduce the negative elements. 

So, if you are ready to make some cookies (or want to make me some!) grab some EarthBalance and you are good to go!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Comic Commentary

A few thought provoking images and social commentary for you...

... and, just for the holidays...

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Meet our new girls - Butterscotch & Tellicherry

As mentioned in the previous post, our Meggie (Nutmeg) passed away on Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Jake was very sad and we knew he needed some companions.  So we spoke with Red Dog Farm, the rescue group that many of our animals have come from, to see if they had any hens who could be placed with us.  Lucky for us they did and we were able to bring home Butterscotch and Tellicherry (Telli for short) on Friday.

They are such pretty girls.  I have already taken a ton of photos of them, but here are a few...

Jake and girls get along great and he is already acting as their protector.  Telli and Butterscotch were perfect in the car home and became accustomed to their coop after just one night.

We're so happy to have new members of the family!

Welcome to Butterscotch and Telli!!!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Meggie - 11.22.11

We are sad to report that our girl, Meggie, passed away last evening in her sleep.  We found her this morning and it is a bad dark day for us all. She had come to us just about four years ago and was a wonderful girl.

Jakey is very sad as well and we are talking to Red Dog Farm about what we can do to ensure that he stays happy and healthy.  We don't want him to be sad or lonely. 

Here are some fond memories of Meg:

We love you, Meg.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Turkey of the YEAR!!!

WE ARE SO EXCITED!!!  Our Jakey was selected as Turkey of the Year!!!

We always knew that our Jake wss a wonderful turkey and a true ambassador but now others get to see that too.

We are so proud of our big boy!!!

Be sure to read the stories of the other turkey runner-ups and please consider taking turkeys and other animals off of your table.  This is the season for peace, love and compassion and having a cruelty-free dinner is the best way to live according to these values.

Jake - Turkey of the Year, 2011

Friday, November 11, 2011

Friends Don't Let Friends: Not Eat Tofu

Some of my friends and family who know we are vegan ask us about tofu.  Well, I just saw this great graphic from Nasoya which gives a quick overview on "what the heck is tofu exactly?!?" and thought it did a great job.  Click here to see it BIG.

I also want to add a few bits of information.  First of all, let's get a few common misconceptions out of the way. 

1.There as has been some fear around eating soy and the implications of eating too much.  That was related to Isolated Soy Proteins (ISPs) and has been shown to be mostly groundless.  But like much modified foods, it's always best to modify your intake.  ISPs have been added to many processed foods trying to boost their healthy claims or "extending" the volume or lifespan of foods like ground beef.  They do this by creating Textured Soy Protein which is a processed food, a flour that is reconstituted, itself. 

Tofu and tempeh are whole foods made made from the soy bean.  They are not isolates and you would have to eat a TON to get any issues.  So no worries there!

2. We don't eat a ton of tofu or tempeh.  And we are probably eating less ISPs than the average SAD-eating person because we eat very few processed foods.

Now, onto the good stuff! 

But first I have a confession to make.  When I was in college I had a hippie-ish roommate for a year.  I remember she made tofu once or twice and I was skeptical/disdainful.  What a fool!  (I also had a roommate that ate hummus and I thought it looked vile.  Yep, I was pretty closed-mined about food growing up. There's a lot of stuff we never tried in spite of living in very culturally diverse Miami.  Oh well.)
So, there are two big "types" of tofu which have similar labels.  This can cause some confusion and cooking fear but don't worry. It's all good.

First is the vacuum packed silken tofu.  Being shelf stable, it's good to keep a few packs on hand.

The firmer water-packed kind is a bit more crumbly.  Since the creation process is similar think of these as a brie vs feta.

But what do you do with them, you ask, and what's with this draining process.

Well, the silken you can use straight out of the pack. As noted, this can be used for dips, spreads, baking etc.  It's also what you get in miso soup and I'll even use it for a scramble. 

The water-packed version is much sturdier and absorbable.  You can press the block between your hands when you open it to get out a good amount of the water, or you can press it using a tofu press or between two flat surfaces like cutting boards.  This allows a lot of the water out, allowing your seasonings or marinade in.  Just as people inject marinades into meats,  you're adding the flavors you want to the tofu.  (We all know the flavor comes from sauces and spices.  No surprise there!)

Then you cook.  You can stir-fry, grill, pan fry, bake, kabob, add it as a filling, etc.  Pretty much whatever you want.  And as you can see from this gallery, there are a LOT of options!

One of our first recipes with tofu is making a tofu scramble.  It's now a staple and so yummy.  I typically chop and saute an onion and a tomato but you can add peppers, jalapenos, sun-dried tomatoes, etc.  Whatever strikes your fancy.  I saute this in olive oil, some Braggs, a bit of liquid smoke and Tabasco, as well as a few drops of toasted sesame oil and salt and pepper.  Mix it up this basic recipe with herbs or whatever.

When the veggies are cooked, I add drained and crumbled tofu to the pan.  You are essentially giving the tofu time to absorb the flavors and heat up so you dont' need to leave it in there very long.  But if you need extra time, just put it on low.  You won't overcook it.
Then serve!

I'll talk about tempeh later but in the meantime, here are some additional resources.

1. Colleen Patrick-Godreau's podcast on Tofu and her one on Soy (they may take a moment to load, or you listen to them on iTunes.  Her podcast is Vegetarian Food for Thought).

2. Nasoya also has a downloadable recipe book too.

3. If you want an amazing sandwich, check out the tofu sandwich at Mellow Mushroom.  I get no mayo and they add some Daiya cheese and I'm in squishy sandwich tofu heaven.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Confessions of a former Big Food Executive

A few weeks ago, I learned of a relatively new blog about food industry deception, but with an interesting twist. The blog's author is Bruce Bradley, who spent over 15 years as a food marketer at companies like General Mills, Pillsbury, and Nabisco. He has since, in his words, "become more educated about the risks and environmental impact of eating processed foods," and is now a CSA enthusiast.

Recently, I had the chance to ask Mr. Bradley about the industry, his blog, and the people behind today's processed food companies.

Q. On your website you write that you've "seen some disturbing trends in the food industry over the past 20 years." What have you found most insidious?

A. The landscape has changed dramatically since I started my career at Nabisco in 1992. In response to Wall Street profit pressures and the growing power of retailers like Walmart, the food industry has undergone a tremendous wave of consolidation and cost cutting.

This has hurt our food supply in many ways. First, huge, multinational food companies now dominate the landscape. Wielding far greater lobbying power and much deeper pockets, these companies have been very successful in stagnating food regulation. Second, cost savings have been a key profit driver for the industry, but they've had a devastating impact on both food quality and food safety. Think factory farming and GMOs, just to name a couple of examples. Third, as consumers' health concerns have increased, processed food manufacturers have become even more aggressive in making dubious health claims or co-opting fad diets to market their brands and develop new products.

The net impact of this transformed landscape has been disastrous from a public health perspective -- with obesity rates skyrocketing and a never-ending flood of food recalls.

Q. How does the food industry respond to those in the public health and nutrition arena who systematically call them out? Is there is a legitimate fear that one day "the people" will realize how unhealthy many of their products are?

A. The average person working at a food company doesn't view public health and nutrition "food cops" as a threat. In fact, they are embracing many of the ideas coming from these sources. For example, books like Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma were extremely popular when I was at General Mills, and I learned about CSAs from an R&D scientist working on one of my teams.

Now if you're talking about the Big Food company executives, I do think they feel threatened. However, most of these executives tend to dismiss those who "call them out" as wrong or misinformed, versus taking a serious look at changing their business model. After all, these executives and their companies have a huge interest in maintaining the status quo.

Q. On your blog you say, "confusion is one of the tried and true tools of the processed foods industry." Can you say more about the subtle and not-so-subtle ways these companies confuse us?

A. I think one of the main ways the processed food industry is trying to grow and defend their business is by funding self-serving research. The goal of these studies isn't to uncover "the truth" or to improve public health. Instead, the research is carefully constructed to create sound bites and statistics to help market their products or combat potential regulation. This is one of the primary ways we end up with conflicting studies that confuse consumers on what they should eat or drink.

Is this purposeful misdirection? Intent is always tough to prove, especially if you don't have firsthand knowledge. Research tends to be the work of a select few within processed food companies, and I was never part of one of those groups. That said, if you dig into these studies and their methodology, you can usually find the telltale signs of how they have "stacked the deck" in their favor.

Q. As a registered dietitian, I am very disappointed by fellow RDs who choose to work for the likes of PepsiCo and Wendy's. Have you ever felt disappointed by the behaviors of any of your food industry peers?

A. I'd be remiss if I didn't note my response is biased; not too long ago I was one of those people who worked at a Big Food company. But would I like to see more people from within the food industry take a stand for real food? Yes, I would. Nevertheless, my experience is that the vast majority of employees are good, honest people who are simply trying to "play by the rules of the game" set by food industry leaders, their lobbyists, and our government.

I prefer to focus my efforts on increasing awareness that the rules of the game aren't protecting consumers. Changing the rules is my objective, and I'm hopeful that along the way my blog and my book, Fat Profits, will help convince people from all walks of life, including those who work at Big Food companies, to join me and take a stand for real food.

Q. What are three things you think every consumer should know about Big Food?


Big Food is profit-driven. Don't be fooled into thinking a brand or the food company that owns it cares about you or your health.

Think critically. Most claims and advertising by Big Food companies are meant to manipulate you, not educate you. Read your labels and do your research.

There is no free lunch. Over the long-term, you always get what you pay for. Cheap food is very expensive once you add up the true costs -- like the taxes you pay to subsidize Big Food companies, health consequences like obesity or diabetes, the devastating harm to our environment, and the inhumane treatment of animals raised within the industrialized food system.

Read more from Bruce on his blog or follow him on Twitter.

New York Times Support Veggie Thanksgiving

Check out the New York Times promoting a veggie Thanksgiving.  They are going to have THREE WEEKS of veggies recipes online.   As I plan my Thanksgiving dinner, I'm so going to be checking this out!


Meet Turkeys, Don't Eat Turkeys!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Cancer vs Concessions

I went to an event today where Relay for Life was a recipient of some of the funds raised.  They had signage all throughout the event but as I was walking around I noticed that there seemed to be a huge disconnect going on.

While the small Relay for Life signs were promoting healthier eating, we were surrounded by fried brownies and sausage sandwiches and meat and fried, well, EVERYTHING!

Not quite a consistent message, huh?

And this is something that bothers me a lot... inconsistency.  A big issue that I have are animal rescue groups who do fundraisers and events where they are serving other animals. It's a connection I never thought about before I was vegan(not that I ate hot dogs and hamburgers, the main items served).

But now it bothers me a lot.  Especially when it's done by groups, groups that I work with, that not only rescue dogs and cats but also rescue cows, goats, chickens and pigs.

I have decided, that as much as want to and do support many of these rescue groups, I will absolutely NOT support them at these events.  I also make a point to tell them WHY I'm not supporting them at their events.

All animals are worthy of rescue and protection.  And those that are working to end animal cruelty and neglect need to adhere to that. They may choose to not be vegan on a personal level but at events they should absolutely be so.

Part of the purpose of these groups is education.  And there are no excuses for not serving vegan food.  There are many commercially available delicious options, including non-animal-based hot dogs and hamburgers.  Not only will you be exposing people to healthy tasty food, you will not be alienating your strongest supporters... those who have incorporated animal welfare into their entire lives.

This post is going to be a part of my response to these groups from now on.  This is a call to action!  Live according to what your mission is all about! 

Compassion for ALL ANIMALS!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Friends Don't Let Friends: Miss Oktoberfest Soft Pretzels

Eating giant soft pretzels at Oktoberfest is part of the fun annual tradition.  When we opened our new pub, we didn't want to miss out on this delicious treat.

The great thing is that, like most breads, these pretzels* are basically vegan-friendly already!

I whipped up a double batch and made them a bit smaller for easy mustard dunking.


1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 package active dry yeast

22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups

2 ounces EarthBalance (half a stick), melted

Vegetable oil, for pan

10 cups water

2/3 cup baking soda

Pretzel or kosher salt


Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour and melted EarthBalance and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size. (I have even let it sit twice as long with no adverse effect).

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil or use a Sil-pat. Set aside.

Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.

In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 or 16 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel lightly with vegetable oil sprinkle with the pretzel salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

These keep well overnight.  If they seem a bit soft the next day, just pop them in a low oven to recrisp.  You can brush with oil and sprinkle with salt again as well.

These pretzels go great with beer or as a snack.

We love them with Lusty Monk mustards...


*recipe adapted from Alton Brown via Food Network online

Friday, September 30, 2011

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Hoarding. Abuse. Neglect. The Worst of These.

I spend a lot of time thinking about the reasons why of how people hurt, use and abuse animals.  Abuse comes in so many forms and it is my hope that, if I learn the motivations or the rationale, that I can be better prepared to stop and prevent it from happening to other animals. 

These drivers are so alien to me that it is a painful mental struggle to find the mindset.  But I don't want to be dismissive of it because, at the end of the day, that is where I believe we have the greatest opportunities for change.

In some way I can "understand" abuse.  Whether you have an uncontrollable temper or you are threatening or implementing abuse of an animal to scare and control a spouse or child, I can see where this is coming from.  I don't condone it but I can fathom it.  Hoarding too, I understand.  Many of these people feel they are actually doing right by the animals.  They feel they are giving them a better life than they might have at a shelter or on the streets. Yes, they don't have a clear picture and but their motivations are generally good.

But there is one huge category I cannot wrap my head around and that is neglect.

I was reading a story today from the ASPCA about a poor pup left to suffer for weeks in an abandoned home.  The dog was forced to eat refuse - ketchup packets, razors, wood chips - as it tried to fill it's empty stomach.

The article states:

It was a devastating discovery. Last January, ASPCA Special Agents arrived at an abandoned Bronx home to find the emaciated body of a dog lying lifeless among piles of garbage and feces. A thorough investigation by our Agents led to the arrest of Cherika Alvarez. The 30-year-old was charged with abandoning her one-year-old Pit Bull, Alizé, mid November 2009.

A necropsy proved that the emaciated dog ate nothing but razor blades, bits of plastic, wood chips, garbage and ketchup packets for weeks before he died.

“This was a clear-cut case of severe and inexcusable animal neglect,” says Stacy Wolf, ASPCA Vice President and Chief Legal Counsel for the Humane Law Enforcement. “The necropsy established in horrifying detail what this dog ingested in a futile attempt to stay alive.”

Last week, with strong evidence at hand, Judge Robert Sackett found Alvarez guilty of animal cruelty. She now faces up to one year in prison and a $1,000 fine at her September 28 sentencing.

These cases render me completely baffled.  From dogs and cats left in abandoned homes or outside to starve to the animals with fur so matted it's ripping their skin to the ones covered with ticks so thickly they are being bled to death, I don't get it.

Neglect to me is willful.  There are no excuses.  You can't afford to feed or care for your animal or you have to move and can't bring it with you?  Take it to a shelter, call the animal control and let them know it's been left.  Do it anonymously if you have to.  Can't afford to take your pet to the groomer, get a pair of scissors and trim them yourself - scissors are what a dollar or two?  Heck, borrow a pair if you have to.

There is NO EXCUSE for neglect!!!  Do these people not care?  Then why did they get this animal in the first place?  Are they psychopaths that enjoy torturing animals (there is a HUGE correlation here, by the way)?  Can we use this as a basis for mental evaluations?

I just don't get it.  Not sure I ever will.  How can I understand so I can help prevent this abuse?

For now, Take Action!

If you suspect an animal may be the victim of neglect or abuse, please report it. Visit the ASPCA Report Cruelty FAQ to learn how to report cruelty in your neighborhood.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Kickstart some Compassion

I'm a big fan of Kickstarter, Happy Herbivore and compassion, so I love it when all three of those things come together (especially when it involves cute jewelry).

Our favorite Herbivore is doing a Kickstarter turning her adorable Herbie elephant logo into a sterling silver necklace.   Well, you better believe I was on-board!

Check out her project video here to learn all about it.
Her Kickstarter is fully backed but you can be sure to get your necklace by pledging still.  The program is open until September 1st.  And not only do you get the necklace but all the proceeds are going to benefit the Elephant Sanctuary.

Don't wait, reserve your Herbie today!!!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Veggie Dogs Redux

Back in January we started feeding our pups a grain, bean and veggie filled dinner and they are really thriving on it.  Well, they also get carrots for treats and there are these great sweet potato treats we get them too.  While we give them other veggies from time to time, we just found out how much they love a new treat - collard green stems! 

Both Badger and Oona crunch them right up.  Badger likes both leaf bits and stems while Oona is more about the crunchy stems.  These are now fun treats to give them anytime.  We don't have to worry about fat, salt or who-knows-what-else in commercial "treats".

Our dogs eat more veggies than most people do, especially compared to some kids we know!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Making Me Sick - Bear Bile is Torture

This is one of the saddest and most stories I've ever read or had to post.  But it's traumatized me so much that I'm sitting at my desk at work crying my eyes out over the pain, fear and desperation that these poor animals endure in the torture that is a bear bile farm.

Asiatic "moon" bears are kept in tiny cages, mainly in China and Vietnam, and they stick a metal tube into their stomachs or gall bladders and take their bile daily.

The process is so horribly painful that the bears are fitted with an iron vest, as they often try to kill themselves by hitting their stomach as they are unable to bear the pain.

The cages are so small they are crushed to near death.

But a media source in China just released the following heartbreaking story:

The Chinese media has reported on an extraordinary account of a mother bear saving her cub from a life of torture by strangling it and then killing itself.

The bears were kept in a farm located in a remote area in the North-West of China. The bears on the farm had their gall bladders milked daily for 'bear bile,' which is used as a remedy in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

It was reported that the bears are kept in tiny cages known as 'crush cages', as the bears have no room to manoeuvre and are literally crushed.

The bile is harvested by making a permanent hole or fistula in the bears' abdomen and gall bladder.  As the hole is never closed, the animals are suspect to various infections and diseases including tumours, cancers and death from peritonitis.

A person who was on the farm in place of a friend witnessed the procedures and told Reminbao.com that they were inhumane.

The witness also claimed that a mother bear broke out its cage when it heard its cub howl in fear before a worker punctured its stomach to milk the bile.

The workers ran away in fear when they saw the mother bear rushing to its cub's side.

Unable to free the cub from its restraints, the mother hugged the cub and eventually strangled it.

It then dropped the cub and ran head-first into a wall, killing itself.

Many TCM practitioners have denounced the use of bear bile in their treatment as there are cheaper herbs and synthetics that can be used in its place.

Bear bile is traditionally used to remove 'heat' from the body as well as treat high fever, liver ailments and sore eyes.

I can't understand the horror and heartbreak of this story and have to denounce the use of animals, all animals, as often as I can.  The images from these "farms" is beyond horrible.

More than 12,000 bears are currently suffering in these cruel conditions in Asia’s bear farms.  The World Society for the Protection of Animals is leading the fight against these farms.   If you can donate or speak out, it will help to shut these down sooner.

Friday, July 22, 2011

I have a dream