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Alicia Silverstone’s Raw Balls

21 May

These things – omg omg omg – are the tastiest little morsels ever. Friends who’ve tried them have said

“That’s the best thing I’ve ever tasted”

and

“Those cannot possibly be sugar-free”

and other things that were unintelligible.

Lately I’ve been making them to control my sugar cravings in the post-lunch lull at work. Dates and pure maple syrup provide benefits such as fiber, potassium, manganese, zinc, and other nutrients, and the fat and protein in the almond butter, walnuts, and almonds counteract their natural sugars, meaning I don’t have the spike (and crash) that I would with something like a cupcake. These are also very rich, so I’m satisfied with one or two. Win!

My only critique of this recipe is that it needs a better name. I had to put Alicia’s name in front of it to give it some credibility. As it is, whenever I say it out loud, I have to say it in a silly voice – because inside, I am a prepubescent. Raw balls. I digress.

I have made these two different ways. Originally, I used carob chips and processed them into a powder, because my closest health food store didn’t sell carob powder. These are sweetened with malted corn and barley. I also used toasted almond butter, which is sweetened with organic unrefined cane sugar. And, I suppose, not technically raw.

Then I wanted to make a truly refined-sugar-free version, so I processed a bar of unsweetened chocolate (100% pure cacao) and used raw almond butter, which is truly made from nothing but almonds.

Because of the fat and/or moisture content (?) in the chocolate, I wasn’t able to get a true powder consistency – it looked more like instant coffee that’s been hanging around too long – but it did the job.

The chocolate lent a bit more richness to this recipe than the carob, but I enjoy both. Of course, you could also sub unsweetened cocoa powder here. And you could use peanut butter or hazelnut butter instead of the almond… feel free to experiment!

Once all the ingredients are processed into a dough, roll it into 1″-2″ balls, then roll in a topping of your choice. I did half in unsweetened shredded coconut and half in a mixture of cocoa powder, cinnamon, and walnuts.

These get pretty mushy at room temperature, so I’d recommend eating them straight out of the fridge. And if transporting, be sure to do so in a hard, sealed container and not a Ziploc bag… not that you or I would ever make such a mushy mistake…

To your health!

RECIPE – Alicia Silverstone’s Raw Balls

Adapted from The Kind Diet, by Alicia Silverstone
Makes 10 to 12 balls.

1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup pitted dates
1/2 cup raw carob powder
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup whole almonds
1/2 cup almond butter
Optional: shredded unsweetened coconut, cocoa powder, instant coffee powder, spices, nuts – for rolling

Place the walnuts in a food processor and process until coarsely ground. Add the dates, and pulse until well combined with the nuts. Add the carob powder, syrup, vanilla extract, and salt. Process until mixture is thick and smooth. Add the almonds, and pulse a few times until combined; you want them to remain in crunchy chunks. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in almond butter with a sturdy spoon.

Form the mixture into golf-ball-size balls with your hands. Roll the balls in the topping of your choice. Place in a sealed container in the freezer until hardened.

Chocolate Raspberry Tart

9 Feb

Self-discipline implies some unpleasant things to me, including staying away from chocolate and keeping my hands out of women’s pants.
~Oleg Kiselev

When a dear friend asked me to make “something chocolatey” for his birthday, I immediately thought of my Rich Chocolate-Blackberry Torte with Raspberry Sauce. But since going flexi-vegan-vege-pescatarian, I’m reluctant to have animal products in the house. Luckily, my recent Christmas gift to myself – a vegan pie cookbook – provided a good solution.

I decided to make Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s chocolate raspberry tart with the almond crust variation. Since I had a cocoa-cinnamon-nutmeg mixture leftover from her chai spice cupcakes recipe, I decided to mix that into the crust as well.

food processor doughCrumbly, delicious almond crust is so easy to whip up in the food processor!

In her book, Ms. Moskowitz garnishes the tart with raspberries. But it’s not raspberry season, and I’ve already had a three-layer cake ruined by raspberries that molded the next day – in the summer! Since I was using frozen raspberries, I took the sauce from my former recipe and drizzled it over the top instead.

half-eaten tartThis is how the tart looks, half-decimated.

The coconut milk and coconut oil lent this ganache such an amazing creaminess, you’d never know it was non-dairy. And fear not, coconut-haters, there was no coconut flavor co-mingling with the chocolate. This tart was quickly devoured by the dozen guests at the party, super easy to make, and cruelty-free – I couldn’t be happier with it!

cafe & tartPairs well with Bailey’s coffee!

RECIPE – Chocolate Raspberry Tart

Adapted from Vegan Pie in the Sky.
Makes one 10-inch tart.

PRESS-IN ALMOND CRUST
2/3 cup sliced almonds
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cocoa
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons canola oil
3 or more tablespoons cold almond milk

CHOCOLATE GANACHE FILLING
3/4 cup coconut milk
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 tablespoons water
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup raspberries, fresh or frozen
extra fresh raspberries, for garnish (optional)

RASPBERRY SAUCE
4 oz raspberries, fresh or frozen
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon Chambord
2 teaspoons sugar

Prepare the crust.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Pour the almonds into a food processor and pulse into a fine meal, then add the flour, cocoa, cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar and salt, and pulse to combine. Continue to pulse and stream in canola oil, then pulse in 3 tablespoons of the almond milk. The mixture should hold together when pressed between your fingertips; if it still feels too crumbly, mix in one additional tablespoon of almond milk at a time.

Lightly spray a tart pan with nonstick cooking spray and sprinkle in the crust mixture. Press it into the bottom and sides of the pan.

Bake for 30 minutes or until crust is lightly browned, then set aside to cool.

Prepare the ganache.
In a small (2-quart) saucepot, bring the coconut milk, coconut oil, and water to a rolling boil.

Place the chocolate chips in a mixing bowl. In a separate small bowl, mash the raspberries into small pieces with a fork.

When the coconut milk mixture comes to a boil, remove it from the heat and pour it over the chocolate. Cover the bowl with a place or lid and let sit for five minutes. Then, whisk the mixture together to create a thick ganache. Fold in the raspberries.

Pour the ganach into the baked tart shell. Smooth with a knife of spatula, if needed. Let chill for at least two hours before cutting. If you like, add fresh raspberries to the circumference of the crust to decorate. Or, combine all recipes for raspberry sauce into a food processor until liquid, then drizzle over the tart.

Slice the tart into 16 thin slices, dipping a knife into warm water and wiping it clean after each cut.

Hippie Baklava Cake

5 Dec

Recipe Source: For the Love of Food

Baklava is my specialty – I’ve been making my great-grandmother’s recipe for years. And while I’m not at all biased in saying it is THE BOMB, and content to make it the same way over and over and over again, this take on a classic intrigued me. It’s a baklava cake rather than pastry, meaning no phyllo to wrestle with. And further, it’s gluten, soy, dairy, egg, and grain-free!

(I’m labeling this recipe as vegan, although I know some vegans do not eat honey. Unfortunately, I haven’t found a substitute that compares in flavor – agave is a neutral sweetener – and when it comes to baklava, I am a traditionalist.)

baklava cake

I also liked that this recipe calls for almond flour, as I’ve had 2.5 lbs of it sitting in my fridge for a while, neglected. I was intrigued by the use of saffron in this recipe, and happy to use the traditional rosewater, since my family recipe doesn’t call for it. Basically – nice job, Noosh! What’s not to love?!

saffron

Since there are no eggs in this recipe, chia seed meal is combined with applesauce to create a binder. (This can also be achieved with flax seeds.) If you’re thinking about Chia pets right now, you’re not far off – the edible grade of these seeds is considered a superfood, high in protein, calcium, fiber, iron, omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, and antioxidants. Chia seeds absorb water, which gives them the perfect “gloopy” texture for replacing egg. I recommend grinding the seeds fresh in a coffee or spice grinder, if you have one.

chia meal & seeds

When the chia meal, applesauce, honey, rosewater, and saffron water are combined, they’ll have a syurpy texture. Combine with dry ingredients (almond flour, baking powder, salt, cardamom, and baking powder) to form the dough.

wet ingredients texture

The texture of this dough is somewhat crumbly and moist. In the original recipe, Noosh allowed for a range of measurements for the honey, and I used the higher end. I also sifted my almond flour, and I think these two decisions made the cake very smooth, sweet, and dense. Next time, I will scale down the honey (already done below), and perhaps not sift the flour to get the more crumbly texture from her pictures.

dough texture

I love using pistachios as a garnish – the green and purple are so lovely and eye-catching, and colors you don’t often get in baked goods. Top each slice with pistachios and a slivered almond, and this makes a unique, wonderfully allergy-friendly treat!

pistachios & almonds

Just be forewarned – you’ll want to serve this cake in small pieces – it’s very rich!

baklava cake

RECIPE – Baklava Cake
(gluten, soy, dairy, egg, grain free)

1/2 cup organic applesauce (unsweetened-just apples)
1 Tbsp organic chia seed meal
1/3 cup honey
1/2 tablespoon rose water
2 cups almond flour (Trader Joe’s)/7 ¾ oz/220 g
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cardamom powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon of prepared saffron (optional)

Topping
Slivered almonds
Ground pistachios

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease either an 8” glass or parchment-lined pan.

If using saffron, grind threads with a mortar and pestle, add 1/2 tablespoon boiling water, and let sit while you go on to the next step.

In mixer bowl, beat applesauce with chia meal on high for one minute, stopping once to scrape down the sides and bottom.

Add honey, rosewater, and saffron (if using) and beat until combined.

In a small bowl, sift together the dry ingredients: almond flour, baking powder, salt, cardamom, and baking powder. Add to mixer bowl and beat just until incorporated. Stir once or twice just to make sure the bottom was mixed in.

Pour into prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes, or until top is lightly browned and toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool completely on a rack, slice in diamonds, and top with crushed pistachios and slivered almonds.

Tarte Aux Pommes (Apple Tart)

15 Nov

Good apple pies are a considerable part of our domestic happiness.
~Jane Austen

French apple tart

Recipe source: David / Daniele

Today I want to share a very special recipe for classic French apple tart. This is a simple, elegant dessert where the fruit really shines – it has only a few ingredients, and little to no refined sugar. The basic recipe lends itself to a lot of creativity, with all kinds of options for jam and fruit. I really like apples because they’re not so juicy that they make the crust soggy. And since Fall is apple season, they’re plentiful!

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

But before we bake…

Besides the obvious – deliciousness – I have another reason to get your mind on pie: the Mama’s Pie in the Sky Bake Sale.

If you live in San Diego, this annual fundraiser is just the thing to round out your Thanksgiving meal! Skip the Vons bakery and help out a good cause.

Mama's Pie in the SkyFrom the press release:
Dozens of San Diego County top chefs, caterers and bakers will lovingly prepare thousands of pies to raise much-needed funds for Mama’s Kitchen. The Mama’s Pie in the Sky Bake Sale is a Thanksgiving tradition, and is considered to be the west coast’s largest bake sale. Each $20 pie provides more than six home-delivered meals to a neighbor struggling with a critical illness such as cancer or HIV/AIDS.

All proceeds from pie sales go directly into funding thousands of free, hot and nutritious Mama’s Kitchen meals, which help ensure that no one living with AIDS or cancer will go hungry in the San Diego community.

Mama’s Kitchen hopes to sell more than 6,250 pies before Nov. 20, which will raise $125,000 and fund nearly 40,000 meals. With the rising cost of food purchased to prepare the meals delivered by volunteers to hundreds of men, women and children in San Diego County, the funds raised through the Mama’s Pie in the Sky fundraiser are needed more than ever.

Here’s how Mama’s Pie in the Sky works:

1. Visit www.mamaspies.org to purchase the Thanksgiving pies of your choice: apple, pumpkin, pecan, or no sugar added apple pies. If you have a friend or colleague selling pies, choose their name. Otherwise you can just purchase from Mama’s Kitchen directly.

2. Select a convenient pick-up location. The pies will be available for pick-up at one of 19 Wells Fargo Bank branches throughout San Diego County or at Mama’s Kitchen, located at 3960 Home Avenue, San Diego, Calif. 92115.

3. Go to the location you selected on Wed., Nov. 23 between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to pick up your pie(s) from one of our volunteers. When you open your pie, you’ll discover what baker prepared your pie.

4. To purchase a pie that will be hand-delivered to Mama’s Kitchen’s clients on Thanksgiving morning, select the “Love-A-Client” option. For every “Love-A-Client” pie purchased, the donor will receive an entry to win a 64MB iPad2.

There is still time to sell pies this year. Mama’s Kitchen is looking for individuals and groups to form teams to sell pies before Nov. 20. Volunteers also have opportunities to win prizes from generous sponsors. To sign up to sell pies, visit www.mamaspies.org.

But don’t just take my word for it! Here’s a little message from Sam “The Cooking Guy” Zien and Elizabeth Harris of Elizabethan Desserts –

The last day to purchase the handcrafted pies is Nov. 20, 2011. Fifteen dollars from each $20 pie sale is tax-deductible. Pies can be purchased online at www.mamaspies.org or by calling (619) 233-6262.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

OK! Back to the blog…

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you might know that I’m a big fan of homemade pastry crust. That is largely thanks to David, who taught me this recipe. So I thought it would be appropriate to pass on a few crust-making tips from the pro:

kitchen scaleThe scale! An essential kitchen item.

The perfect weights for this pastry dough are 200 grams of all-purpose flour, 100 grams of cold unsalted butter, and 100 grams of ice-cold water. This will make crust for an 11-inch tart. But if you insist on cheating, this was about 2 cups + 3 tablespoons flour, 1/2 cup minus 1 tablespoon butter, and just under 1/2 cup of water.

Probably, the best way to make a pastry dough is the old-fashioned way: working the cold butter into the flour, rolling it until the butter turns into thin sheets of flaky pastry goodness, then carefully and gradually working in a bit of ice-cold water. But the fastest way is in the food processor.

However you bring your crust together (don’t worry, more help below), you’ll want to turn it out on a sheet of plastic wrap, form into a disc, and freeze for at least an hour. You can see here that chunks of butter are still intact – a good thing!

wrapped pastry dough

Skipping ahead (okay, so I’m not actually in the mood to give tips tonight – check out this earlier post for step-by-step instructions!)… once your crust is in the tart pan and pre-baked, it’s on to the fun part! The filling. The base of this tart is traditionally a fruit spread, and you can use any kind you like: apricot or blackberry, pumpkin butter, or maybe even Nutella.

confiture collage

This time, I used the Bonne Maman chestnut creme I brought back from a summer trip to France. Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to find in the U.S.

You only need a thin spread (about 2 tablespoons), then you will commence layering 5 peeled, cored, and thinly sliced Granny Smith apples in a pretty design, like so:

French apple tart

If you have an apple peeler corer slicer, lucky you! You’ll save the hand cramp I got after refusing to buy a fourth one. If not, just think positively about how slicing these uniformly is going to improve your knife skills.

Granny SmithLooks sweet and innocent, right?

It can be nice at this stage to sprinkle a layer of sugar over the top of the apples before baking. Or, you can brush a light coating of light-colored jam (such as apricot) or maple syrup over the top while it’s still hot from the oven.

sugared apples

Bake at 450 degrees F for 25-35 minutes, or until the crust is slightly brown and completely firm, and apples are desiccated. Serve warm or room temperature.

French apple tart

Recipe – Tarte Aux Pommes (Apple Tart)

200 grams all-purpose flour
100 grams cold unsalted butter
100 grams ice-cold water
1 teaspoon sugar, optional
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons fruit spread of your choice
5 Granny Smith apples
2 teaspoons granulated sugar, optional
1 teaspoon nutmeg, optional

To make the dough, sift and weigh 200 grams of all-purpose flour into a large bowl, stir in sugar, cinnamon, and salt, and cut in 100 grams of cold butter. With your hands, gradually mix in 100 grams of ice-cold water until all is well combined. (This step can be done in a food processor, but be careful not to over-process the butter at this stage.) Turn the dough out onto a cold surface and with your hands, form into a disk, wrap in cling film, and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes.

Remove dough from refrigerator and turn out onto a cold surface. Roll it to a thin round disc, fold in half and then into thirds, and wrap tightly in cling film; refrigerate for another 30 minutes.

Remove dough from refrigerator and roll it one last time, as round as possible, leaving about 1″ to go up the sides of the pan. Fold the dough in quarters and place it in a 15″ tart pan with a removable base. Unfold and press the dough into all sides, using a rolling pin to trim excess dough from the top edges of the pan. Cover the top of the dough with cling film and refrigerate until ready to assemble the tart.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Peel and core apples, slice into 1/4-inch rounds, then cut in half. Remove the tart pan from the refrigerator and spread the bottom crust evenly with your preferred jam (apricot, boysenberry, or chestnut creme all work nicely).

Starting on the outer edge and moving inward, tightly overlap the apples until all slices are used. Sprinkle the entire surface with a light layer of sugar and nutmeg, if desired. (For those going sugar-free, you can brush a light layer of jam over the apples just before baking, and this will create a nice shine on the surface. I recommend St. Dalfour brand, which is only sweetened with grape juice concentrate.)

Bake immediately for 25-35 minutes, or until the crust is slightly brown and completely firm, and apples are desiccated. Serve warm or room temperature.

-apple illustration-
http://www.inkart.com/pages/food/apple.html

VegWeek Day 7, Gingerbread Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream Frosting

1 Oct

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
-Margaret Mead, American cultural anthropologist (1901-1978)

VegWeek_2011

Today is the end of VegWeek, but it’s the beginning of the rest of your life! Every day is a new day, full of decisions. If you’re interested in cooking vegan more, most, or all of the time, here are some blog resources I discovered recently. Read them. Try recipes. Find community.

Choose Veg.com
Elana’s Pantry
Fat Free Vegan Kitchen
Gluten-Free Goddess
Gluten-Free Vegan Family
Manifest Vegan
Post Punk Kitchen
Vegan Baking.net
Wheat Free Meat Free

girl hugging cowImage via Denise Rich

Change starts small… you can reduce your meat consumption by 15% simply by participating in Meatless Monday! Or if you’re ready to do more, you might consider signing up for the 21-Day Vegan Kickstart Program. Cooking at home is the most efficient and affordable way to manage your health, but I assume you might want to go out every now and then… fortunately, there are also numerous resources online for finding veg-friendly establishments!

Discover Veggie
Happy Cow.net
Veg San Diego in my ‘hood… and likely something similar in yours!

“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed.
Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”

-Arthur Schopenhauer, German philosopher (1788-1860)

For the rest of us…

Many people I know are not ready to go vegetarian, but still care about the plight of farm animals. I know these feelings are not mutually exclusive. I personally have been paying 2-3 times the price for cage-free eggs for years. Sadly, what I’ve learned is that labeling is misleading. Animals on organic, free-range farms and egg-laying hens in cage-free facilities often undergo the same abuses that non-organic, cage-free animals do. In some cases, they are actually worse off because they cannot be fed antibiotics to counteract the disease their mishandling produces.

Humane farms do exist, but they are few and far-between. Now I understand why going vegan is considered the most practical solution to the cruelty, health, and environmental concerns arising from meat-eating. However, these organizations may offer an alternative.

American Grassfed Association
Eat Wild
Humane Farm Animal Care

My hope is that we can change the future of the food industry through awareness, supply, and demand. After all, the most powerful political statement we can make is with our wallets.

sheep-loveImage via FaithFreedom.org

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream Frosting

Recipe Source: Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World

Today’s recipe comes from a cookbook I accidentally stumbled on at the library recently, and I’m so glad I did. I love cupcakes, and I love the library! There are so many amazing recipes in this collection, and I was relieved to discover that they use normal ingredients already in my kitchen. One of the factors that has made me resistant to “alternative cooking” (e.g. vegan or gluten-free) is the sheer number of specialty items I need to stock up on. For something as indulgent as baking, I’m not likely to go out of my way. But with this book, I don’t have to. Uh oh…

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Lemon Buttercream Frosting

If you’ve never done any vegan baking, I can assure you that you won’t be able to tell the difference in these cupcakes. I took them to work, and my [amazing! wonderful!] boss scoffed as he reached for one, “vegan…” That comment was shortly followed by “wow, these are really good!”

Try them for yourself. They’re perfect for Fall. And they only make 12… go on, do it. 🙂

RECIPE – Gingerbread Cupcakes

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup light molasses
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup soy milk
2 tablespoons soy yogurt
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1/4 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
(frosting recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin pan with paper cupcake liners.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and salt into a bowl and mix.

Whisk the oil, molasses, maple syrup, soy milk, yogurt, and lemon zest in a separate large bowl. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix just until smooth. Fold in the chopped crystallized ginger.

Fill cupcake liners two-thirds full. Bake for 19 to 22 minutes, until a knife or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely before frosting.

RECIPE – Lemon Buttercream Frosting

1/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup margarine, softened
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a small bowl, cream the shortening and margarine until well combined. Add the confectioners’ sugar in roughly 1/2-cup additions. After each addition of sugar add a splash of lemon juice and beat well with a handheld mixer. Add vanilla and beat for another 3 to 5 minutes until smooth, creamy, and fluffy. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.

VegWeek Day 3, Chocolate Chip Cherry Brownies

27 Sep

“The greatness of a nation… can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
-Mahatma Gandhi

Welcome to Day 3 of VegWeek!

Yesterday, I defined the different types of vegetarians, and some of the reasons people choose to limit or eliminate animal products from their diet. Today I want to address the first reason, animal cruelty. All reasons for the vegetarian lifestyle are legitimate, but to me, learning about the horrors our animals endure has been the most powerful.

Racism, Sexism – and now Carnism.

Before I get to the nitty-gritty, though, I want to share a thought-provoking article. Actually, it’s a review of a thought-provoking book that I haven’t read, but sounds interesting. The book is titled Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows. It addresses our social norms about animals, and a “belief system that supports the idea that it is normal, natural, and necessary for human beings to consume the flesh of other animals.” Dietary habits, of course, are cultural and relative. As an individual living in a connected world, with a life that impacts others, and the ability to consciously evaluate our choices, I think it’s important to look closely at those choices – especially one as profound as eating, which we do daily. Although I don’t typically get political on this blog, eating is absolutely political, and these ideas are timely. You can read the full review, “Why carnism matters,” here.

my-balogna-had-a-first-nameImage courtesy of I Can Has Cheez Burger

According to Global Patriot, “today, 54% of US food animals are concentrated on only 5% of farms. As of 2000, four companies in the United States produced 81% of our cows, 73% of our sheep, 57% of our pigs and 50% of our chickens. Globally, 43% percent of the world’s beef is raised on factory feedlots, and over half of the world’s pork and poultry is raised on factory farms.” Here’s a look into those factory farms.

Pork.

Shortly after birth, pigs born on factory farms have their ears, teeth, and tails mutilated, and are castrated without painkillers. Some bleed excessively and are left to die, just hours or days old, from these botched procedures. As they grow, they are fed a high-protein diet including growth hormone and antibiotics, that causes them to become larger than their legs and bones can support. They often cannot walk. Pigs who do not grow fast enough are brutally killed by having their heads smashed against the floor.

During transport to the slaughterhouse, pigs are so overcrowded in trucks that their limbs break from the weight of each other, and some die by heat exhaustion or freezing before they arrive. If they do survive the journey, improper stunning can mean they are conscious while having their throats slit or being boiled alive.

Source: Alec Baldwin for Peta

Beef.

Cows raised for beef do not have it any better. They endure castration and hot-iron branding without painkillers, and are beaten and abused by factory workers. In states with severe weather conditions, cows are allowed to freeze to death or die from heat stroke. On feedlots, they are crammed together in mud and feces, overfed and pumped full of antibiotics, and forced to breathe toxic fumes from their own excrement and gas. At slaughter, their throats and limbs are cut open while they are fully awake and conscious. In an interview with The Washington Post, one slaughterhouse worker said, “They die piece by piece.”

Sources: Peta and meatvideo.com

Dairy.

Like virtually all mammals, cows produce milk to feed their young. But the exclusively human habit of drinking another animal’s milk – and doing so into adulthood – has disrupted this natural life cycle. To satisfy the demand for dairy products, cows are impregnated by artificial insemination 2-3 months after giving birth, which makes them nearly constantly lactating and/or pregnant. And the normal amount of milk produced to feed a calf – roughly 16 lbs a day – has been increased to around 54 lbs a day through the use of genetic manipulation, antibiotics, and growth hormones, as well as a high-protein diet that includes other dead animals. Although a cow’s natural lifespan is 20 to 25 years, the stress and burden of this overproduction renders them useless to the industry after about 5 years, and they are slaughtered.

And what happens to the calves produced as a byproduct of this milk-manufacturing operation? They are killed or separated from their mothers at birth to be raised as beef, veal, or dairy producers. Those that keep their lives are raised on a diet that includes blood from other cows, a practice that has contributed to the spread of Mad Cow Disease.

cows milk is for baby cowsImage courtesy of Natural News

For those who are concerned about cow’s milk being unnatural for humans, never fear – science has created a solution. Genetically modified cows can now produce ‘human milk.’ Although this product hasn’t hit store shelves yet, I won’t be surprised if it does one day.

Source: Peta

Eggs.

Over 200,000,000 male chicks are killed each year in the United States. They are sorted from valuable, egg-laying female chicks within hours of hatching, and either thrown alive into a large grinding machine, or smothered/suffocated together in a large trash bin. Female chicks are routinely de-beaked to reduce pecking each other in the overcrowded cages where they are about to spend the rest of their lives. Lack of sunlight, fresh air, and room to move creates stress in the birds, who become ill and diseased, often experiencing open sores and feather loss. Like all factory farmed animals, egg-laying chickens are abused by workers.

Source: meatvideo.com

Poultry.

Chicken and turkeys raised for meat are selectively bred to increase the size of their breasts, well beyond what their bodies are designed to handle. As a result, they often become crippled and unable to walk under their own weight, or suffer heart attacks. When they become ill or are ready for transport, they are handled violently, often sustaining bruises and broken bones. At slaughter, they are strung up by their feet and paralyzed in an electrified vat of water, fully conscious. They they have their throats cut or are drowned and scalded.

Sources: Food Inc., meatvideo.com

peepsIronically, not even Peeps are vegetarian. Marshmallows contain gelatin, which is “derived from collagen, an insoluble fibrous protein that occurs in vertebrates and is the principal constituent of connective tissues and bones.” Yummy!

Foie Gras.

The term foie gras literally means “fatty liver,” and refers to a disease that causes the liver to enlarge 10 times its normal size. Ducks and geese raised for foie gras spend their lives confined to small cages where they are unable to move, and are “fed” multiple times a day by having long, metal pipes forced down their throats, depositing the food directly into their stomachs. The pipes scrape and sometimes puncture their throats. The birds’ disease and inability to move results in open sores that are fed upon by rats. Finally, the birds are slaughtered at 3 months old by having their throats cut while they are hung upside-down and conscious. Foie gras has been banned in the UK, Israel, and Switzerland. Many restaurant owners have removed it from their menus, although unfortunately, it is still considered a delicacy to many people.

Source: Roger Moore for Peta

Fish.

Over 6 billion fish are slaughtered annually in the United States. Approximately 4/5 of these are caught by trolley nets in the wild, while the other 1/5 are raised on fish farms. During ocean fishing, nets indiscriminately catch all kinds of fish and animals, including several unintended species such as dolphins, sharks, and seals. The quick ascent from deep waters causes fish to undergo painful decompression that can burst their organs and pop out their eyes. On the surface, they suffocate or are crushed under the weight of each other. Some fish are skinned or hacked to pieces on boat decks while they’re still alive. Fish farms, like factory farms, are crowded with animals and full of disease and excrement.

Sources: Peta and meatvideo.com

People.

In addition to being cruel to animals, factory farming is cruel to the people who work in them. Conditions on these farms are dirty and extremely dangerous, despite known and feasible measures that could be taken to improve them. The volume of meat, eggs and dairy these farms produce demands fast and physically demanding labor, and risk of injury is high. Factory workers are hurt, mutilated, and sometimes killed on the job, with very little protection or recourse. The bottom-line is the bottom-dollar in these establishments, and workers are commodities as much as the animals are. Many workers are poor and desperate to keep their jobs. Many are undocumented and afraid of deportation if they speak up and organize themselves. They are threatened and intimidated.

When it comes to factory farming footage, I’ve often been the most disturbed by seeing what people are capable of doing – the senseless acts, punching cows, breaking the wings of birds, hanging pigs to slowly strangle to death – and yet, the psychological toll of this cruel job is impossible to imagine. It makes the animals crazy, it makes the people crazy.

Source: Human Rights Watch. Also check out the film Fast Food Nation.

Seeing is believing.

I will warn you: This video is emotionally painful to watch. It contains graphic footage of abuse endured by pigs, cows, chickens, and fish in factory farms. I debated for a long time on posting it, but ultimately decided to include it here because it’s important. It is easy to disassociate the hamburger at a summer BBQ and the neatly wrapped chicken breast in a bright grocery store from living, breathing animals – intelligent beings that experience pain and fear, just as we do. But our disconnect from the food we eat is the single biggest factor in keeping these practices alive.

Today’s post was extremely difficult for me to write, and I thank you for reading it. I know it was heavy. It was as heavy as it’s going to get this week – and it’s out of the way now. I hope some of this information was thought-provoking for you.

To lighten the mood, I thought I’d share this article I came across a few weeks ago, about a cow that escaped a slaughterhouse in Germany. Since reading this one, I’ve seen a few others like it from years past. It’s touching to see people respond personally and emotionally to these animals – we all want our independence.
Slate: Not even the “George Clooney of cattle” could convince Yvonne to turn herself in.

Chocolate Chip Cherry Brownies

Recipe Source: Manifest Vegan

Further reward for all that heavy reading – chocolate! This is a cool recipe, yet another take on gluten-free baking that I hadn’t tried: the primary ingredient is dates. Allyson over at Manifest Vegan was not messing around when she described the batter as thick – the brownies come out a bit dense, so you’ll want to enjoy them with a tall glass of cold milk. Er, almond milk 😉

brownie batter

The really nice thing about them is the lack of added sugar. Most of the sweetness in these brownies comes from dates, with just a little extra coming from semi-sweet chocolate chips. Sadly, I found this recipe right after cherry season ended, so I used frozen cherries. I’m not sure it made a huge difference in the flavor, though.

brownie batter

I also discovered, once I started mixing the batter, that my 8×8 baking dish had been loaned out. As a result, I ended up making “brownie pie.” Of course, my friends still gobbled them up without complaint! I found the texture of these brownies we even better after about two days. Because they are so rich and filling, I actually had the self-control to let them last that long.

brownies

12 medjool dates
1/2 cup almond milk
2 1/4 cup non-dairy chocolate chips, divided
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp salt
1 cup superfine brown rice flour
1/3 cup potato starch (I subbed corn starch)
1 cup finely chopped cherries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a glass  8 x 8 inch baking pan.

Combine pitted dates and non-dairy milk into food processor and puree until very smooth.

Over double boiler, melt 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips. Pour the melted chocolate into the date mixture and blend again until super smooth. Transfer to large mixing bowl and stir in vanilla extract and salt.

Add in brown rice flour and potato starch and mix until well combined. The batter will be very very very thick. Fold in cherries and remaining chocolate chips. I used clean hands to more or less knead the mix-ins into the batter.

Press batter into pan and spread as best you can to make a uniform surface on top. Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes. Cool completely and cut into small squares.

Eat!

Oranges with Lavender and Mint

24 Aug

Recipe Source: The Kitchn

oranges
I almost feel like I’m cheating to post this recipe, but I would never have thought of it, so maybe you haven’t, either! This really is the perfect dessert – quick, simple, fresh, and healthy. It makes a beautiful presentation and feels gourmet with hardly any work. It’s the kind of recipe that makes me want to get poetic about simplicity, the purity of ingredients, food in its natural form, maybe something about the earth’s bounty and, um, being earthy… but I’ll spare you.

The only catch to it is the orange flower water, which I couldn’t find. It’s a traditional Moroccan ingredient and has a lot of fascinating applications, but around here, somewhat exotic. While on the hunt I discovered Stirrings Blood Orange Bitters instead (thanks BevMo!), which has its own delightful possibilities… I’ve already had fun splashing it into gin-tonics!

The tartness of the oranges, sweetness of the orange water and honey, and freshness of the mint complement each other perfectly, with the lavender adding a layer of floral complexity. Light and refreshing, this dessert won’t weigh you down after a full meal.

Oranges with Lavender and Mint
Serves 2

2 teaspoons orange flower water
2 teaspoons honey
1/8 teaspoon dried lavender buds
3 medium Mandarin oranges
1-2 mint sprigs

Combine orange flower water, honey, and lavender in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over low heat, stirring to dissolve the honey. Remove from heat.

Peel and cut the oranges into 1/4-inch thick slices and remove any seeds. Arrange on a plate and drizzle the syrup on top.

Garnish with mint and serve.