Thursday, March 27, 2008

A Change of Heart

No, no worries about me having turned back from veganism! Just a decision to turn back to a focus on vegan food, its tastiness, and nutritional benefits within this blog. In a web search to find out the history behind the word, "vegan," (my in-laws wanted to know more), I found some rather crass (and uneducated) anti-vegan posts. (I'm warning you now - don't go there unless you're in a good mood!) It got me to thinking, "Wow! There are still a TON of people out there who think that vegans are undernourished, sickly....freaks!" The comments led me to realize that many people have no idea about the horrible ways that animals are treated, the disastrous effects to our planet, and the multiple health hazards they are posing to their own body.

I have reached the vegan lifestyle by reading articles and books and watching videos (like the ones linked to, above), and cannot ever imagine eating meat or animal products ever again. I often wonder how people can stop being vegetarian or vegan. How do people have their eyes opened to the truth, and then decide to ignore what their conscience has told them is morally wrong? I suppose that many "used to be vegans/vegetarians" initially switched for health reasons, and never saw the animal rights or environmental side of it.
Actually, I just read a great book (Making a Killing, by Bob Torres, author of Vegan Freak) about how our consumerism, capitalism, and social hierarchies are permitting these inequities and horrors to continue. He also points out how people can continue eating meat, even though they "know" where it comes from, because of this hierarchy that causes us to view animals as "lesser" beings. But at any rate, I figured it's time to return to the roots of this blog (teaching people about how healthy, delicious and varied vegan food is!) because there are apparently many people out there who are rather.... confused. :)
My sole post for this week is the Chickpea Cutlet, from Veganomicon. My husband and I have been on a nice spring break vacation in Florida, so I have not been cooking or baking at all! My lovely mother-in-law managed to make several delicious dishes from La Dolce Vegan, including a Mexican Casserole, Oatmeal Cookies, and stuffed sweet potatoes. And I didn't gain a pound! I whipped up these cutlets in about 35 minutes (about 5 minutes of work and about half an hour of oven time). They were chewy, dense, and rather like seitan! The flavor was a bit bland, but when I chopped my cutlet up and threw it in with the tri-color rotini and organic pasta sauce (ok, and I added the peas - why make more work to eat?), it was delish. The protein in the wheat gluten and chickpeas (in the cutlet) was the perfect portion size, with zero cholesterol and the only fat from the heart-healthy olive oil.

So, the rest of my post just consists of a couple of pictures of our trip. We saw so much wildlife there - it really felt like a vegan vacation! We saw these pelicans on the docks of the marina and they were funny creatures - almost like penguins in their walk. We went down one evening to watch the sunset, and ended up watching the pelicans diving for fish! Now that is a natural diet and habit.

Later in the trip, we visited a wonderful bird sanctuary, home to animals as exotic as the bald eagle, and as common as the crow and seagull. Staffed by volunteers and funded by donations, the Peace River Wildlife Center is an extraordinary place. It was clear how passionately the workers cared about these animals. With the way that visitors cried in delight at their beauty and sadness at their losses (many birds there have only one wing, leg or foot), it made me realize just how much I am glad to be vegan. I don't take the leg, foot, or wing of any animal, for any reason.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Ups and Downs of Spring

I always take a chance when I try a new recipe (which is every week), but when it comes from a reliable source (a good cookbook or awesome blogger), I am usually confident that it will turn out quite well.

Unfortunately, even in good cookbooks (for example, I have made several not-so-great recipes from Everyday Vegan and Candle Cafe Cookbook), there are bound to be recipes that just aren't worth making.

I wouldn't say that this recipe sucks, since that's a pretty strong word, but let's just say I was really, really disappointed. Chocolate and coconut have to be two of the best combinations ever, and when you throw in maple syrup, agave nectar, and oatmeal, what could go wrong? Well, these Choco-Coco-Oat Bars from the Urban Vegan's blog sounded soooo good and soooo easy, I thought I would whip them up to serve at my recent Sierra Club meeting. I don't know if it was the pan that I used (you can see it was a glass pie plate - my regular metal pans were all dirty), because a lot of times the pan can make a huge difference in baking. However, I measured everything very carefully, followed the very easy directions, and made sure my oven thermometer was reading the correct temperature (the gauge that came with the stove is often a little off).
The results? A topping that was sublime and decadent. And a bottom that was crumbly, under baked, and completely ....well, inedible. The top and bottom parts didn't mesh at all - they were two separate and disappointing entities. I ate some of the topping out of guilt (what a waste of ingredients!) but had to throw it out in the end. Did anyone else make this with better results? I really want to make it again, but don't dare until I figure out what went wrong.

Meanwhile, these Maple-Pecan Sticky Blondies from Eat, Drink and Be Vegan, were the complete opposite. Easy, decadent, and they came out completely perfect! One of the best desserts I have made in a loooooong time. Kind of reminded me of Isa's Macadamia Nut Blondies from Vegan with a Vengeance!

Last, but not least, I whipped up some Ethiopian Chickpea Wat from Veg News this week for dinner. It was super, super easy and soooo comforting! A kind of good-bye meal to winter, as we welcome spring....thank god!!! Not that winter was terribly hard for us this year. But as a teacher, I only got about two days off - if that! We usually get several days and enjoy the snow. I think the only major snowfall we had (beyond a dusting) was back in December! For someone who hates winter, I was pretty disappointed in the lack of pretty, white snow! So, at any rate, we're full into spring already here, so here are some non-food photos of what I am feasting my eyes on!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Hemp, Vegans, and E-Magazine

Argh! I am totally frustrated with the little snippets of incorrect information being fed to the mass public about vegans and vegetarians! Take, for instance, this recent article in E-magazine. ( (It is funny that I subscribe to this magazine, as the most environmentally-friendly magazine would not use trees, but I thought I would try it just for a year, after reading some good articles in an issue I picked up. Also, they have just online subscriptions, too).

At any rate, the article states crazy things like, "to get omega 3 from a protein plant source is far less efficient than eating a piece of fish or fish oils," and that hemp, "can be part of a diet that contains fish and lean proteins. I don't rely on plant proteins as a full energy source because they are not complete." I was baffled, annoyed, and angry. Hence, the following letter to the editor. Hopefully, this will inspire people to check their facts, and if you already know them, to write in and correct the facts, even in random magazines like Better Homes and Gardens because...people believe what they read!

Dear E-Magazine Editor,

At first, I was excited and encouraged to see your article, “The New Super Foods,” in your March/April 2008 issue. As a longtime vegetarian and vegan, I know a lot about foods like the Goji berry and hemp seeds/oil, and other seemingly, “exotic” foods. I was glad to find that other magazines are seeing the connection between healthy eating and the health of our planet. Going vegan is actually better for the environment than switching from a standard American car to a Prius! (UN Report- Livestock’s Long Shadow). However, I was quickly dismayed and angered by the incorrect information given by Esther Blum, an apparent registered dietitian, and by the author of the article, a student at Vassar.

Blum stated that hemp, “can be part of a diet that contains fish and lean proteins. I don’t rely on plant proteins as a full energy source because they are not complete.” This is complete and utter nonsense. Search any health site, speak to any knowledgeable doctor or nutritionist, and they can tell you that hemp is in fact a complete protein, containing not only the perfect combination of essential fatty acids omegas 3 & 6, but also all 20 essential amino acids, including the nine that the body cannot produce. In fact, it has higher amounts of these amino acids than egg whites, tofu and whole cow’s milk. A small amount of hemp seeds provides all these things in a form that is extremely digestible, especially compared to soy and dairy, which many people have difficulties with. In addition, all hemp products do not contain THC (your article stated that they do). Manitoba Harvest, one company recommended at the end of your article, is one such company that produces non-THC hemp. Other non-meat complete proteins (for vegans) include: amaranth, quinoa, soy, Spirulina, Red Star nutritional yeast and buckwheat. Of course, vegetarians who eat dairy and eggs can obtain non-meat proteins through these products. Fish and seafood are not vegetarian.

I also found it disturbing that Blum stated, “to get omega-3 from a protein plant source is far less efficient than eating a piece of fish or fish oils.” This is a vague and incorrect statement, according to a doctor I contacted and several other sources, as there are too many factors which affect the efficiency of omega fat absorption. In fact, fish obtain their omegas through algae! Thus, the most direct, “efficient,” route would be to eat the seaweed or algae yourself, as many people in the world do. In addition, fish products and fish oil can contain contaminants such a mercury, heavy metals, and PCBs, while plant products do not.

For years now, even the FDA and USDA acknowledge that vegan and vegetarian diets are completely healthful and provide all the necessary nutrients, including protein. Contrary to past belief, it is not necessary to eat plant foods in certain combinations in single meals, to acquire the complete protein benefits, though it is easy to do so. For example, vegetarians and vegans should combine legumes with seeds, nuts, or whole grains. This is as easy as eating hummus with whole wheat pita bread, a veggie burger on a bun, or tortillas and refried beans. In fact, you don’t even have to eat these foods at the same meal, to acquire the full nutritional and protein benefits, just in the same day.

In the future, please get your nutritional facts straight and double check such information, especially when authors are not experienced in the field.

Thank you.

Now I leave you, dear blogger, with something to brighten your day: vegan food pics!

Banana Date Scones from Veganomicon (a little dry, but good when fresh or reheated!)

Slow-Cooker Vindaloo from Vegetarian Times (spicy, quick and good!)

And easy, oh-my-god delicious and moist, Swirly Berry Brownies from Sinfully Vegan (raspberry flavor).

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Mmmm..... cookies.... although these Chocolate Macadamia Nut cookies sound fancy, they were super easy to whip up for my scrap booking (Stampin' Up) afternoon last weekend. I hate to go to someone's house and not bring something!
They were really, really good straight out of the oven, but after a couple of days they got kind of hard. They aren't very sweet - but good and chocolaty. Oh, and they came from the Candle Cafe Cookbook. I thought the book deserved a second chance after last week's tabbouleh debacle. I'm giving the book yet another chance to prove itself (after all, it has given me incredible dishes and that yummy Power Porridge, which I've been eating hot all week) with a Lentil Vegetable Soup tonight. Wish me luck!

Meanwhile (back at the ranch), my lunch this week was pretty tasty. I found some lavash bread at BJ's, of all places (that's one of those large volume discount stores with membership dues), so I thought some wraps were in order. I'm kind of hummused out.... So here's what was inside these Lentil Veggie Wraps from The Everyday Vegan: red lentil spread, green leaf lettuce, shredded organic carrots, red bell pepper strips (alas, not organic) and cucumber strips, topped with a Sweet Red Wine Vinaigrette.

Here it is, all neatly wrapped up! I further wrapped it in some parchment paper and aluminum foil, which I was able to reuse several times during the week. Unfortunately, the lentil spread left much to be desired. It was a bit dry (ok, I could have fixed that) and bland, despite my having added extra seasoning. The texture was a bit off. At any rate, I won't make that spread again, but the whole wrap was yummy, yummy! I'm using the rest of the lavash bread this week for similar wraps, this time with Dreena's very successful and delicious Cannelini Yam Hummus, from Vive Le Vegan. This particular hummus had got to be my favorite sandwich spread ever! It is slightly sweet from the yam (sweet potato- whatever!), mild from the white beans, with a great kick from the hot pepper sauce and fresh zest from the lime juice! I can't wait :)
Now, I have to end this blog with a thought about what has been nagging me for a day or so now.... because of my personal goal to lead a more peaceful life, and to make life more peaceful for those I interact with, I am attracted to news stories and discussions where peace and non-violence are the message. I was really struck by what Nicholas Burns, a top U.S. Diplomat who has just left his current job, had to say about peace, the United States, and our foreign relations. Basically, he stated that we must meet other countries halfway, show respect and interest, and rebuild our alliances, because globalization has made it impossible to solve certain problems on our own (I hate to reference Iraq here, but isn't that a good example? Imagine how much more progress we could have made by now with worldwide assistance and/or support??). A lot of fear-mongering and hatred has been aimed at foreigners, immigrants, etc, and has not helped the world's perception of us. Some people might say it shouldn't matter what others think of us, but unfortunately, if we want to get things accomplished (or get what we want) we often don't have the luxury of being the Lone Ranger.
It is funny because at the UU (Unitarian Universalist) church I have begun attending, today's sermon was "Non-Violent Communication." Timely, huh?