Friday, January 21, 2011

Retribution and Sorrow

The following is a story of accidental retribution. A rooster in India resisted being forced back into the cock-fighting ring and slit his owner's throat.

As told in The Sun:

Indian police say the "dangerous rooster" is thought to have killed Singrai Soren after being forced back into the ring soon after his last fight.

The animal had emerged victorious, but witnesses said the victim died after the feathered fiend cut his throat with razor blades attached to its legs as he tried to immediately force it into another bout.

Villagers were warned not to approach the animal cops described as "an unknown rooster with black and red feathers".

Police want to find the bird to strip it of the deadly blades he killed with, but said with so many roosters matching his description the chances of catching him were slim.
A friend of the victim, named only as Dasai, said: "The rooster tried to get away from the ring several times but Soren tried to push him into the ring repeatedly.
"This upset him and he attacked."

The razor blades were attached to the rooster to fell opponents but sliced Soren's jugular vein instead.

Those around the ring only realised what had happened when blood started pouring out of him.

Dasai said roosters are used to an hour-long break between bouts.

He said: "Most masters are satisfied with the cash reward of £28 for every fight and a dead opponent to feast on but Soren seemed unsatisfied.

"He wanted him to go into the ring within a few minutes of his first fight and that is when the rooster began to complain."

Six days on, police suspect the prized rooster is being sheltered by a rival trainer keen to put the champion bird back in the ring.

It had notched up a four fight winning streak in the village of Mohanpur.
The bolds above are my own. 

Cock fighting is nothing unique to India.  In fact my own state of North Carolina has a huge problem with this.  What you see above is the vicious cruelty and unrelenting abuse these animals are subjected too.  Most consider roosters to be mean and to like fighting but they do not.  Even a "fighting" bird wants to get out.

I think the animal fighting sports are some of the worst abuses we humans do to animals. We make them into killers through our own brutality.  Their actions are mirrors of our own inner sickness.

I was lucky enough to spend time with a rescued rooster, my Napoleon.  This is how I think of them.

Napoleon came to us as an adult but he loved to be in my arms.  He would run and jump into my lap, snuggle down and fall asleep.  He would make little purr sounds and try to protect me just like Meg and Gertie.  He nearly died protecting them from a stray dog that came into our yard.

Yes, he was feisty and temperamental but he was loving and fun. I don't wish harm on anyone but I do hope that this rooster (who doesn't even get a name) finds some peace and freedom away from the brutality of the ring.  I hope it opens some eyes for the people involved there and in this whole group of sick participants around the world.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Two great stories about low-impact, zero-waste families:

The Johnson family in CA


Amy and Adam Korst of Oregon

Check out their techniques!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Friends Don't Let Friends: Not have their cake & Eat it too

I'm a baker from way back. And a cake decorator.  I actually took 3 courses on cake decorating and have shelves of cookbooks on making things like sugar flowers and tiered cakes etc.

Devil's Food Cake
(modified from Martha Stewart)


• 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) EarthBalance, softened, plus more for pans

• 3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder, plus more for pans

• 1/2 cup boiling water

• 3 cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising)

• 1 teaspoon baking soda

• 1/2 teaspoon salt

• 2 1/4 cups sugar

• 1 Cup unsweetened apple sauce

• 2 Tbl ground flaxseeds whipped with 6 Tbl water
• 1 Tbl pure vanilla extract

• 1 cup soy milk


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease with EarthBalance or vegetable shortening three 8-inch round cake pans. Line bottoms with parchment; coat parchment. Dust with cocoa powder; tap out excess. Set aside. Sift cocoa powder into a medium bowl; whisk in boiling water until combined - a thick paste. Set aside to cool.

2. Sift together flour, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl; set aside. Put the softened EarthBalance into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until creamy. Gradually mix in sugar until pale and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add applesauce and flaxseed/water mixture , a bit at a time, mixing well between each addition; mix until well blended. Mix in vanilla.

3. Whisk soy milk into reserved cocoa mixture until combined. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture to butter mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the cocoa mixture.

4. Divide batter evenly among prepared pans; smooth tops with an offset spatula. Bake, rotating pan halfway through, until a cake tester inserted into centers comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes. Let cool in pans on wire racks 15 minutes. Turn out cakes onto racks; remove parchment and re-invert. Let cool completely.

5. Using a serrated knife or cake leveler, trim tops of cakes to make level if needed. To frost: Place the first layer on the cake plate. Spread the top of the first layer with 1 1/2 cups of frosting. Place the second layer on top and repeat process with another 1 1/2 cups of frosting. Place the remaining layer on top of the second layer, bottom side up. Spread entire cake with remaining 3 cups frosting. 

Note: See information about frosting thickness below.

Chocolate Ganache Frosting
(modified from Mrs. Millman's Chocolate Frosting)


• 24 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate morsels (Ghirardelli are my faves)

• 4 cups soy creamer

• 1 teaspoon light corn syrup


1. Place chocolate morsels and cream in a heavy saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula, until combined and thickened, between 20 and 25 minutes. Increase the heat to medium low; cook, stirring, 3 minutes more. Remove pan from heat.

2. Stir in corn syrup. Transfer frosting to a large bowl. Chill until cool enough to spread, about 2 hours, checking and stirring every 15 to 20 minutes. Use immediately.

Note: my frosting was not as thick as the original recipe produced.  I've been reading more and will test using a combination of soy cream and silken tofu which should add in more of the fat that helps to thicken this up. 

My frosting resulted in a thick ganache style frosting.  Too thin to spread but thicker than traditional ganache.  It set up on the cake after a few minutes and I ladled it on in 3 sets, collecting the run off chocolate and continuing to add it to the cake until is was mostly all used - resulting in about an inch of frosting on the top layer.

This is a very intensely chocolate cake and frosting and is very rich.  The frosting is very milk chocolate-y combined with dark cocoa of the cake.  I'm going to be doing some more experimentation but overall this was good and great for a larger group or party because you don't need to cut big slices to get your chocolate fix.

Monday, January 3, 2011

We're Going Coconuts

Last year on New Year's Day we got a great juicer.  And this year we invested in a great blender - the VitaMix Professional Series 500.  It's a beast!  I love it!

We've eaten at New York's Pure Food & Wine restaurant several times, which is amazing by the way, and finally got one of their great cook books.

So we were inspired to try out new ingredients too.  First up are Thai young coconuts.  We had to get a new cleaver to crack into these guys, but I was excited.  We have a cool supermarket here that specializes in asian and south american foods so the produce and prices are amazing.

We cracked open two coconuts and got over 3 cups of coconut water - which is a great natural source of electrolytes (much better than something like Gatorade!). Both are young but you can see their at different meat stages.  The very young one has the soft purplish meat while the second was more mature and firm.  What's cool is it comes out almost in one piece.  I had a delicious bit with chocolate for dessert.

We saved both the water and meat which can be used in a bunch of different recipes.  We added some to a fruit smoothie for breakfast today.  I usually get hungry around 10am but I've lasted until noon.  Lots of good energy!

If you want a laugh, check out the coconut opening process!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Veggie Dogs

So, we've started a new "experiment" here in the house.  Basically, our dogs love to eat veggies and often fruit.  Carrots are their particular favorites but they'll eat bites of apples and bananas, etc.  Knowing that dogs can be somewhat omnivorous (unlike cats that are obligatory carnivores, dogs are preferentially carnivores) and that many of the commercial dog foods found on the market today have a mix of vegetable and meat ingredients, we thought we would supplement their diet with fresh veggies and grains cooked ourselves.

As people spend more time and money on their pets, now fully members of the family, we are right to be concerned about the quality of their foods. The problem is there is not a lot of education on what a dog "food pyramid" should be and not a lot of transparency around the source or percentages of the ingredients in their kibble. 

We've been reading more about the meat industry and have found that not only is the meat people eat of poor quality and sanitation, what goes to our beloved pets is even worse.  What they are getting, often the scraps or 4 D's animals  - dead, downed/dying, diseased, disabled - is considered unfit for human consumption and not what I want to feed my pups.   Dog food can be substandard nutritionally, filled with corn, little meat, etc.  How are we to know that what they are getting is healthy?

We've decided, after reading a few books on the subject, to try out giving the dogs veggie meals just at dinner.   They will remain on their regular kibble for breakfast but have home-made meals at night. That way they will at least be getting what they've had in the past 50% of the time.  We've kept the ingredients simple and prepare them simply too - mostly through boiling or steaming and not adding salt or oil.  We'll probably look more into fatty supplements very soon, just to be sure we're covering all the bases.  Here is an example meal mixture:

 - Steamed carrots - carrots chopped, then steamed until soft and mashed
 - Carrot water from the steamer to add moisture
 - Black beans (or lentils or any bean) - soaked as needed, boiled until tender and mashed
 - Organic no salt/sugar puffed millet or puffed brown rice
 - Rice (brown preferred) - steamed
 - Green beans or peas - bought frozen, steamed until soft and mashed in
 - Sweet potato, pumpkin or other squash - steamed or microwaved until cooked/soft

I use my hand masher to blend all this together and add some of the saved carrot water to make it moist and sticky, very much like the consistency of canned dog food.   But there is no added salt or oils so my pups aren't gulping water after they eat.   A bonus. I make a good amount and give the dogs about 1 to 1.5 cups for their meal, so this batch will last about 3 meals for two dogs. 

I've been keeping a close eye on their energy, behavior and bathroom habits.  They haven't had any stomach issues and seem to be going #2 okay as well. 

As far as I can tell they LOVE IT!  I mean, check this out:

One of the books we read is this one - The Simple Little Vegan Dog Book.  It's not a nutritionist book.  Mostly it gives high level information and some good recipes plus foods to avoid.

After seeing how this goes and talking with our vet, we may try out a commercial food like V-Dog to replace their kibble.  But our first goal is their health.  We want to make sure our pups get what they need before any other concerns or issues.

If you have any experience with dogs eating an omnivorous or vegan/vegetarian diet, I'd love to learn more so please share.

For additional options (I have not checked these out), PETA listed Companies That Sell Vegan Dog and Cat Food:

Evolution Diet
Dog and cat kibble and canned food, ferret kibble, fish food

F&O Alternative Pet Products
Vegan dog and cat kibble and canned food

Harbingers of a New Age
Vegecat™, Vegekit™, Vegedog™, Vegepup™, and digestive enzymes

Natural Life Pet Products
Canned and kibble dog food

Nature's Recipe
Canned and kibble dog food

Newman's Own
Organic vegan dog treats

Pet Guard
Canned dog food and biscuits

Wow-Bow Distributors
Canned and kibble dog food and biscuits

Wysong Corporation
Dog and cat kibble

If you decide to prepare your own vegetarian dog or cat food, we recommend that you read Vegetarian Cats & Dogs to ensure that you understand the nutritional needs of dogs and cats. Do not rely on this factsheet for complete information. The book has several recipes and helpful hints. If your library or bookstore doesn't have it, you can order it from Harbingers of a New Age.