Kuri Squash & Garlic Soup

2 Nov

Last weekend, I had a group of friends over to carve pumpkins. So naturally, we sat around cooking, eating, and talking instead. These are my favorite elements of any party, the only things I really care about. I made a “spooky” playlist for the iPod and a bunch of brand-new, perfect-for-Fall dishes. But I’m not blogging about any of those today. Because my fantastic, whimsical friend Lori showed up that day with a pumpkin to carve and a red kuri squash for me to try, because it looked cool.

kuri squashI’ve never seen one of these before, have you?

I opted to roast it and turn it into a soup with a few ingredients I already had lying around. Here’s how you, too, can make Friendship Squash Soup!

1) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Halve squash and place in a glass baking dish, cut sides down. Roast for 1 hour, until squash is soft when pierced with a fork. Remove from oven, let cool, then peel and discard skin. Scrape out seeds and set aside to roast, if desired.* Resist the urge to taste gooey, marshallowey black stuff that has oozed from the squash, as it tastes horrible and is likely carcinogenic. No really – don’t eat it. Mash the squash into a Tupperware container and refrigerate for two days, until you can get around to finishing this very simple soup.

2) Roughly chop 1/2 red or white onion leftover in your fridge. Saute with 1 clove of elephant garlic or 2-3 cloves of regular garlic, and about 2 tsp roughly chopped ginger root until the onions are translucent and soft, about 15 minutes. Stir in mashed, cooked squash.

elephant garlic

3) Transfer mixture to a food processor and squeeze in the juice of 1 lime. With the processor running, slowly pour in 2 cups vegetable stock. Season to taste. Then, because the soup isn’t spicy enough and you are obsessed with garlic, roughly chop and add in some raw garlic (1/2 elephant clove or 1 regular). Key point!

4) Serve warm and garnish with toasted pine nuts or roasted squash seeds. Serves 4.

kuri squash & garlic soup

*And as an added bonus, check out this recipe roundup from The Kitchn: 12 Things To Do with Pumpkin Seeds

Such a lovely snack for work! I could get addicted to these…

roasted squash seeds

Flavor EXPLOSION Chickpea Salad!!

5 Oct

Laughter is brightest where food is best.
~Irish Proverb

Recipe Source: The Kitchn

Some people might worry that cooking vegan means sacrificing flavor, and to them I say, this salad will blow that theory right out of the water! It’s bursting with rich, exotic flavor from cumin seeds, red pepper flakes, garlic, and sun-dried tomatoes, then cooled with parsley and mint, and given a tangy boost from lemon juice and zest. It’s an amazing marriage of flavors that satisfies even picky, ADD palates like mine. That’s why I’ve decided to rename the recipe from the original Warm Chickpea Salad with Cumin & Garlic – boring! I’m sorry Kitchn, but that title did not give it justice.

chickpea salad

This salad keeps fine for a few days, over the course of which the flavors will continue to mingle. This is one of my all-time favorite lunches. Another nice thing about it is it’s low in sodium. The original recipe calls for flaky sea salt to taste, but I don’t find it necessary. For ovo-lacto vegetarians and omnivores, a handful of feta cheese is a nice complement and adds a bit of salty flavor, but it’s beautiful even without.

One word on ingredients – you really want to use cumin seeds here, rather than cumin powder. They are distinctly different in flavor as well as texture, and toasting them gives a richness that manages to not be overwhelming like cumin powder can sometimes be.

cumin seed & red pepper

Finally, a note on safety – be careful when pouring the chickpeas into the pan, as any residual liquid from draining them will sizzle in the pan and can burn you. I’m speaking from experience here!

I hope you love this salad as much as I do. 🙂

recipe

  Warm Chickpea Salad with Cumin & Garlic
Serves 2

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon whole cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes, or to taste
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 (15-oz) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
1/4 cup oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained and finely chopped
1/4 cup Italian parsley, leaves only
4-6 fresh mint leaves
1/2 lemon, zested and juiced
1/2 English cucumber
1/4 cup feta cheese, optional

Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet (cast iron is nice) over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the cumin seeds and crushed red pepper and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, for about one minute or until the seeds are toasted. The cumin will turn slightly darker in color, and smell toasty.

Turn the heat to medium low and add the garlic. Cook, stirringly frequently, for about three minutes or until the garlic is turning golden. Do not let it scorch or turn brown.

Add the drained chickpeas and the chopped tomatoes and turn the heat up to medium high. Cook, stirring frequently, until the chickpeas are warmed through and are shiny with oil. Turn off the heat.

Strip any remaining stems away from the Italian parsley. Finely mince the parsley and the mint and toss this with the chickpeas. Stir the lemon juice and zest into the chickpeas.

Peel the cucumber and cut it in half lengthwise. Scrape out (and discard) the seeds with the tip of a teaspoon or grapefruit spoon. Dice the cucumber into small, 1/2-inch square cubes. Toss the cucumber with the chickpeas. Stir in feta cheese, if using, and taste.

Refrigerate for at least an hour before eating. This salad is best after it has had a chance to sit overnight in the fridge, letting its spices and juices soak together into more than the sum of its parts. Serve slightly warm or room temperature. Really good at any temperature, actually.

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 6, Easy Banana Oat Bars

30 Sep

“None of us like to think that we can’t trust the institutions we’ve grown up with, but being a truly healthy person means exploring important issues deeply and thinking for yourself.”
-Alicia Silverstone, The Kind Diet

VegWeek_2011The Kind Diet is a book I happened upon at Borders a few years ago, but am just now getting around to reading. And so far, I love it. This is going to be a library-to-own book, for sure. I know some people feel that celebrity activists are annoying, that movie stars have no place talking about politics, or whatever. And to them I say, psshaw. Celebrities are people, too. (Yes, really!) If someone is passionate about a cause and can use his or her fame to make a significant impact in the world, I am all for it. Alicia Silverstone joins hundreds of celebrities in the vegan cause, people like Kelly Clarkson, Bill Clinton, Ellen Degeneres, Leonardo DiCaprio, Melanie Griffith, Paul McCartney, Alanis Morisette, Kevin Nealon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Joaquin Phoenix, Liv Tyler, Barry White, Kate Winslet, and many others. Her book is worth checking out, and here’s why.

kind-diet

The Kind Diet is a great intro for those who are new to vegetarianism. Silverstone presents the issues in a systematic and comprehensive way, while keeping the tone relatively light. She writes in the conversational, friendly way you might expect from her. Of course, the decision to go veg is a big deal and not to be taken lightly. It’s not a fad diet, it’s a lifestyle change, and I feel that concept honored throughout this book. Silverstone offers gentle advice for people at every stage, whether “flirting” with changing their diet, ready to go vegan, or onto the “superhero” lifestyle (macrobiotic). She also provides fab recipes for each stage, a breakdown of commercial vegan products, and a primer on natural sweeteners.

Alicia-Silverstone-cookieThis is the adorablest picture in the front of the book.
And yes, dessert recipes are included!

Silverstone describes her transition to veganism and then the macrobiotic diet this way:

“I noticed that my whole body felt lighter. I was more vibrant and spunky. I felt like my heart had sort of opened a bit and my shoulders could relax, as if an overall softening had taken place. I no longer carried heavy animal protein in my body, which takes tons of energy to digest. Plus, I didn’t have the heaviness of the suffering in me; frightened animals produce lots of cortisol and adrenaline right before slaughter, and we can become stressed from eating their meat.”
-What’s so kind about dieting?, p. 10

I’ve read about this heart-opening, compassion-growing experience in multiple places now, and I have to admit, the idea is incredibly alluring. Who doesn’t want to be a more peaceful, loving version of themselves? The thought of eating the pain and suffering of animals also resonates more than any excuse I can make for eating meat. Check this book out. Let me know what you think.

You can listen to Alicia talk about her inspiration for the book here:

Easy Banana Oat Bars

Recipe Source: Adapted from The Kitchn

When I came across this recipe last week, I knew I had to try it ASAP. It’s so ridiculously easy, and so natural, so good for you! There’s no added, refined sugar, but plenty of natural sweetness coming from dried dates and super-ripe bananas. And I was happy to discover, the two combine to create a really fantastic, slightly gritty chewiness and substance that is oh-so-satisfying.

ingredients

There aren’t too many ingredients, at least not for me, but you can add or subtract from these however you see fit. The recipe below is my adaptation of the Kitchn’s adaptation. It can be adapted further still!

banana-oat bars

These bars are great for breakfast-on-the-go, an after-school snack, a little fuel before a workout, or a not-too-guilty dessert.

Makes one 8×8-inch pan.

2 large, very ripe bananas
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 3/4 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup ground flax seed
1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt
1/4 cup pitted, chopped dried dates
1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
Cinnamon and nutmeg

Heat the oven to 350°F and lightly grease a 8×8-inch square baking dish with coconut oil or other fat.

Peel the bananas and mash their flesh in a medium mixing bowl. Mash very thoroughly until no large chunks remain; the bananas should be essentially liquid (a small food processor or hand-held blender works well for this). Mix in the vanilla extract and salt. Then stir in the oats, flax, dates, nuts, and coconut.

Pat the thick mixture evenly into the baking pan. If desired, sprinkle the top lightly with nutmeg and cinnamon. Bake for 30 minutes or until the edges just begin to crisp up.

Place the baking pan on a rack to cool. When the pan is mostly cool, cut into bars and enjoy with a glass of milk or tea.

VegWeek Day 5, Mexican-inspired Vegan Rice & Beans

29 Sep

“Let food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food.”
-Hippocrates

VegWeek_2011Welcome to Day 5 of VegWeek – we’re almost to the end! There are a number of great documentaries out on the state of our food system, and if you have Netflix, many of these are available on-demand. There’s a new documentary that just came out this year, called Forks Over Knives. It promotes a vegan diet from the health perspective. As I mentioned on Monday, health concerns are one of the reasons many people opt to reduce or eliminate animal products from their diet.

Forks-Over-Knives

Meat-eating has been linked to a plethora of diseases, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, prostate cancer, colon cancer, breast cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis. According to the film’s stats, a person is killed by heart disease every minute in the United States, and 1500 a day die from cancer – over one million combined a year. A third of people born today will develop diabetes in their lifetime.

Forks Over Knives tells the story of two doctors, Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., whose independent research ultimately brought them to the same conclusion: the simple prescription of a whole foods, plant-based diet could reverse the leading causes of death in the world today. Specifically, this diet includes whole, minimally refined fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes, and avoidance of animal-based foods such as meat, dairy, and eggs, as well as processed foods like bleached flour, refined sugars, and oil.

The film details the history of the American diet and shows how the rise in processed foods and meat consumption directly correlated with a rise in heart disease and cancer. These findings were common throughout the world, in places where the American diet is new, as well as places where meats and dairy have been scarce for a time due to war and poverty. When the meat is gone, disease decreases. When it’s back, disease is on the rise.

To further explore this idea, Dr. Campbell conducted a test with rats, to see how they responded to casein, the main protein in dairy products. The rats’ intake of casein was adjusted between of 5% and 20% of overall diet – the increase our culture has seen – at three-week intervals. Rates of cancer followed this single change, down and up and down again. “This was so provocative, this information,” says Campbell. “We could turn on and off cancer growth just by adjusting the level of that protein.”

There’s so much more valuable information in this documentary, but you’ll have to watch it to learn the rest. I hope you will. Do your research – decide for yourself.

Everyone knows the old adage, “you are what you eat.” If I think of myself being a cow or a chicken or a goat, that might not be so bad. There’s kind of a cool, reincarnationey feeling about it. When I think of myself being a frightened, abused, diseased cow or chicken or goat, it gets a bit harder to stomach. But then, think of this – you are what you eat and everything that you ate, ate. What comes to mind when you think about grazing cattle? Grass, bugs… dandelions? How about feathers, hair, skin, hooves, and blood? Manure? Plastic? All these and more get digested by factory farmed animals and show up in their meat. Chew on that next time you’re craving a burger. [Source: Union of Concerned Scientists]

you are what you eatAnother problem with our diet is the cost of food. Fast food is cheap, loaded with instantly gratifying flavor including massive amounts of sodium, which we’ve our palates adjust to, and, well – it’s fast. Convenient. Logical… There is a distinct correlation between obesity and economic status. But education and awareness could be factors, too. Here is a great article to debunk this commonly held, woe-to-us idea. Food for thought, if you will.
New York Times: Is Junk Food Really Cheaper?

Still not convinced? Eat a vegan diet and you, too, can be buff!

Vegan bodybuilders Derek Tresize and Robert Cheeke debunking the myth about plant foods and building muscle. Image via Forks Over Knives.

Mexican-inspired Vegan Rice and Beans

Rice and beans is a humble, staple kind of dish, but I never thought to make it until I caught a quick glimpse of the hottie firemen in Forks Over Knives making it. I love jasmine rice and black beans, and had a host of great companion veggies on-hand, so I decided to try it.

Rip EsselstynHonestly, though, this guy could convince me to eat almost anything.

I love how versatile this dish is, and that it’s a one-dish meal. It’s perfect for workweek lunches. Last week, I made my rice and beans with garlic, red onion, bell pepper, lime juice, avocado, and cilantro.

rice & beans

This week, I decided to try out some “El Burrito Soyrizo.” (Man, I love the name! Had to buy it.) Veggies included were shallot, bell pepper, tomatillo, tomato, lime juice, avocado, and cilantro.

soyrizo rice & beans

My preparation from the first night is below. But go ahead and experiment with this dish, and whatever veggies you have. Olives? Jalapenos? Spices? Vegan cheese crumbles? The sky is the limit!

1 cup jasmine or other rice
2 1/2 cups water
1 (14 oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 tablespoon neutral oil, such as safflower
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped into bite-sized pieces
Juice of 1 lime
1 avocado, sliced into cubes and scooped
Fresh cilantro, for garnish

Prepare rice according to package directions. Saute garlic until just lightly browned, then add in onion and bell pepper. Cook until slightly softened, between 5 and 10 minutes, then add black beans and rice to warm through. Garnish with lime juice, avocado, and cilantro.

VegWeek Day 4, Spicy-Sweet Butternut Chili

28 Sep

“Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.”
-Albert Einstein

VegWeek_2011 Aside from being cruel to animals, the grand-scale farming practices of today are destroying the earth. A few stats for you, courtesy of Peta:

*According to the United Nations, raising animals for food (including land used for grazing and land used to grow feed crops) now uses a staggering 30 percent of the Earth’s land mass. More than 260 million acres of U.S. forest have been cleared to create cropland to grow grain to feed farmed animals, and according to scientists at the Smithsonian Institution, the equivalent of seven football fields of land is bulldozed worldwide every minute to create more room for farmed animals.

*Raising animals for food is grossly inefficient. While people around the world are starving, more than 70 percent of the grain and cereals that we grow in this country are fed to farmed animals. It takes up to 16 pounds of grain to produce just 1 pound of meat, and even fish on fish farms must be fed up to 5 pounds of wild-caught fish to produce 1 pound of farmed fish flesh.

*It takes more than 2,400 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of meat, while growing 1 pound of wheat only requires 25 gallons. You save more water by not eating a pound of meat than you do by not showering for six months! A totally vegan diet requires only 300 gallons of water per day, while a typical meat-eating diet requires more than 4,000 gallons of water per day.

*It takes more than 11 times as much fossil fuel to make one calorie from animal protein as it does to make one calorie from plant protein.

*According to Greenpeace, all the wild animals and trees in more than 2.9 million acres of the Amazon rain forest in Brazil were destroyed in the 2004-2005 crop season in order to grow crops that are used to feed chickens and other animals in factory farms.

*According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the runoff from factory farms pollutes our waterways more than all other industrial sources combined. There are no meaningful federal guidelines that regulate how factory farms treat, store, and dispose of the trillions of pounds of concentrated, untreated animal excrement they produce each year. This waste may be left to rot in huge lagoons or sprayed over crop fields; both of these disposal methods result in runoff that contaminates the soil and water and kills fish and other wildlife. The concentration of parasites, bacteria, and chemical contaminants in animal excrement can wreak havoc on the ecosystems affected by farm runoff and can sicken people who live near these farms.

*Many of the millions of pounds of excrement and other bodily waste produced by farmed animals every day in the U.S. are stored in sprawling, brown lagoons. These lagoons often seep or spill into surrounding waterways and kill massive numbers of fish and other animals. The massive amounts of feces, fish carcasses, and antibiotic-laced fish food that settle below fish farm cages also contribute to water pollution and have actually caused the ocean floor to rot in some areas.

*A Consumers Union study in Texas found that animal feedlots in the state produce more than 14 million pounds of particulate dust every year and that the dust “contains biologically active organisms such as bacteria, mold, and fungi from the feces and the feed.” The massive amounts of excrement produced by these farms emit toxic gases such as hydrogen sulfide and ammonia into the air.

animal planet
Responsibility as spirituality – we are all connected.

“This food is the gift of the whole universe – the earth, the sky, and much hard work. May we live in a way that is worthy of this food. May we transform our unskillful states of mind, especially that of greed. May we eat only foods that nourish us and prevent illness. May we accept this food for the realization of the way of understanding and love.”

-The Five Contemplations
Thich Nhat Hanh
Living Buddha, Living Christ

A few years ago, I had the good luck to hear Thich Nhat Hanh speak at USD. The subject of his talk was how to create peace in the world, but for the first half of it, he talked about mindfulness in everyday life. He talked about walking barefoot and feeling the ground under your feet. He talked about eating slowly, with attention, without distractions. He talked about meditation. He spoke softly, and people were leaving the auditorium in droves. But then, almost imperceptibly, his message became exponentially larger. He said that when we eat slowly and contemplate our food, we think about where it comes from, and we touch the suffering of the world. When we eat a cow, we see how that cow suffered. We see the enormous amounts of food and water that were spent to raise it, and all the starving people in the world who do not have food or water. Our awareness then informs our choices.

His call was for personal responsibility, and many people missed the message. I think that’s a good illustration for the world at large. Most change happens slowly, in small ways, and it begins with you and me.

for the children

Vegan Butternut Squash Chili

Recipe Source: Adapted from Gluten-Free Goddess

This chili is a much more colorful and varied version of the typical meat-and-beans version you may be used to. It’s also a bit on the brothy side, kind of a cross between chili and soup.

Personally, I felt it was a bit too sweet, especially considering that the fire-roasted tomatoes and butternut squash add a little natural sweetness of their own. So I’ve omitted the agave nectar and balsamic vinegar from the original recipe, and doubled the spices. I used a poblano pepper and then ended up dumping in some Tabasco, so a combination of peppers (maybe poblano + jalapeno?) might be a good idea. And if you’re not into the heat, of course, you can try it the original way!

I also omitted the celery because I didn’t have any on-hand and don’t particularly like it, and used some fresh ginger to supplement the powdered when I ran out. Next time, I think I’ll use a trio of black, red, and white beans, rather than two cans of black. Basically – there’s a lot going on in this soup, so feel free to experiment!

vegan butternut chili

1 tablespoon neutral-flavored oil
3-6 cloves garlic, to taste, minced
2 teaspoons each: cumin, chili powder, and ginger
1 medium red or white onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, diced
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded, diced
2 cups butternut squash, cubed
3 cups gluten-free broth
1 (28-oz) can Muir Glen Fire Roasted Whole Tomatoes , diced or broken up, with juice
1 cup chopped green chiles, mild or hot, as you prefer
2 (14-oz) cans black beans , rinsed, drained
1 (14-oz) can white Northern beans , or red kidney beans, rinsed, drained
lime juice, avocado, and cilantro for garnish

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat, add the spices, and stir to heat through for a minute. Add onions and stir for 2-3 minutes, then add the remaining ingredients except the lime. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally until chili has reached the desired consistency. Add a little more broth if needed, to thin. Cook for an hour or so until all the flavors have combined and the sauce is thickened and rich.

Before serving, squeeze in the juice from half a lime; stir. Taste test for seasoning adjustments – more lime? A pinch of salt? More heat? A touch of agave? You decide.

Serves 8-10.

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!