Friday, June 22, 2012

Bob Harper, "Reluctant Omnivore"

Bob Harper, trainer on the NBC reality weight-loss show The Biggest Loser, created a stir a few years back when he announced in various interviews and articles that he had "gone vegan."  At the time, I remember being excited over the news and hoping he'd at least mention it on the show itself, where he was often extolling the virtues of product-placed items such as Jennie-Oh turkey.  Eventually he did serve his team members a vegan meal at his house, featuring the recipes on his website.  Bob also hosted a Farm Sanctuary "Walk for Animals" and delivered one of the featured pep talks for PCRM's 21-Day Vegan Kickstart.

But somewhere along the line, he started to tweet about "cheating" by eating egg whites or other animal products.  Then he posted a blog entry about a book that was coming out this year, The Skinny Rules, with a link to a "preview" of the rules.  One of them was to include protein in every meal and to make fish the "go-to protein."  What?

Had Bob stopped being vegan?  I did a search via Google and found an article: "Bob Harper Explains Why He Quit Veganism."

His #1 reason for sneaking around and indulging in egg whites, dairy chocolate and cheese is the stereotypical “my body needed it” one.

“I still believe that a plant-based diet has tremendous health benefits but I have incorporated more animal protein into my diet,” Harper said.  “I found that my body personally got to a point where I needed something more. I used to yell at people who said that, but now all of a sudden, my body just kind of went, ‘I need something.'”
Curiously, one of the major articles identifying him as a vegan (Fitness magazine) came out after this item was released.

Now that the book is out, Bob (or staff) has been posting to his Facebook page soliciting comments about whether his followers are following the "rules" in his book.  (The subtitle for the book, by the way, is "The Simple, Nonnegotiable Principles for Getting to Thin.")  One of these recent postings was about adding protein to breakfast by adding egg whites to oatmeal.  Some of the comments below the posting were along the lines of "I thought you were vegan."  Someone responded that Bob had addressed this in his book--that he'd "had to" stop being vegan because he'd gotten "too thin."

Taking a peek into his book, I discovered that pages 18-19 have a section entitled "Animal Protein and Me."  I will quote from it at length and provide my thoughts as I go.

"Some of you who’ve read about me in the last several years and thought I was vegan will be surprised to see that I recommend animal proteins at all. There’s a personal story behind this."  "Thought I was vegan"? But you were, weren't you?

"The 'compassion' argument was a big part of my decision to go vegan--I care about treatment of animals, and I’ve read and seen the films about the conditions at many farms and slaughterhouses."  But as he will reveal in a later paragraph, he absorbed this message in a way that gives him some wiggle room.
I have also read about the health and disease-prevention benefits of reducing or swearing off animal proteins. The China Study by T. Colin Campbell is one of the most convincing studies there could be. Campbell studied Asian eating patterns for decades, and the results of his work showed in great detail that some of today’s healthiest populations are those that do not eat meat.
I will want to get back to this later.  "So, I went vegetarian, then vegan. No animal protein for me! Milk--no, I’ll take a soy latte or a soy cheese. An omelet? Only if you make it with scrambled tofu. There were veggie burgers and almond loafs and enough dal and lentils and curries and falafels to fill a stadium." I'm not sure why he affects such a flippant tone, but okay.

"It worked: my cholesterol went down. I lost weight. I felt lighter. But for me, being strictly vegan was work--I scrutinized everything I ate--but my health was clearly worth the effort."  I'm a bit gapped on why he found being vegan such work. It seems he scrutinizes what he eats anyway. Even when he's not vegan, he still has other criteria that he adheres to.   He even made that point in the Fitness magazine article I linked above:  "People always ask me how I get enough protein and other nutrients. I can get all that I need with the way that I eat -- I just have to do a little recon. No matter what diet you follow, eating right isn't easy and takes planning."

It's also noteworthy that in this case, he only posits that his "health was clearly worth the effort." No mention of the animals he's not eating or using.
But after a few years, the benefits start to wane. I was fatigued. And I was getting . . . soft, which is not a particularly good thing if you are the trainer for a show called The Biggest Loser. My own trainer, Sam Upton (who has, let’s say, the perfectly fit body--the kind trainers themselves strive for!), suggested I needed to reintroduce some animal protein to regain my muscle tone and strength.
It's not clear to me whether that suggestion from his trainer was all it took to convince him to reintroduce animal products into his diet. I would have hoped he'd consult with some of the people whose work convinced him to go vegan in the first place. He continues, "My own experience isn’t scientific but it is significant--bringing some animal protein back into my diet helped my energy levels. I stayed lean. I felt better." You will see that although he concedes it is not "scientific," he apparently sees it as "significant" enough that he advises his readers to follow his example.  And turning his back on the science that backs up The China Study.
I am a reluctant omnivore, I have to admit. I still have all the reservations about meat, about the way the animals are treated, and about its health effects. But I also believe that we are quickly changing the way we treat animals--free range has become a mainstream concept; we pass laws to make sure our animals have better living quarters; and slowly but surely, even the meat industry is getting the message about better animal husbandry and hygiene. Slowly, yes. but it’s happening. And we can take advantage of those changes for our own benefit. And for the animals: if we demand cruelty-free food, we’ll create a market for it, and thus encourage farmers to continue such improvements. The power of the eater’s purse is remarkable. Use it, I say.
I think this passage exemplifies the concerns that Gary Francione has often expressed about vegan advocacy that focuses on treatment rather than use.  Seeing labels such as "free range," "cage free," or "humane" make omnivores who want to be able to see themselves as compassionate feel more comfortable with their animal use.  And as the Humane Myth website demonstrates, these "humane" designations do not actually achieve what Bob probably thinks they do.  (Bob, if you are reading this, please visit the page!  See especially their slideshow presentations on "Happy Cows" and "Cage-Free Eggs.")* 
I still very much advocate a plant-based diet for the most part. You’ll see in my menus and recipes, I don’t ever recommend that anyone go heavy on the animal protein, but I also don’t think it is so awful to eat a steak or a breast of chicken or some cheese in an otherwise plant-heavy regimen. The country’s most lauded vegan chef, Tal Ronnen, was recently interviewed on just this conundrum. His response? “So be a vegan who eats bacon!”
"For the most part."  However, he is actively advocating that his readers not be vegan; that they consume animals and animal products (except for once a week, when they are instructed to "go meatless"--for just one day).  "I also don’t think it is so awful to eat a steak or a breast of chicken or some cheese in an otherwise plant-heavy regimen."  Awful in what sense?  My dad thinks it's hilarious to point out that the cow or pig that he's eating "isn't complaining."  No, once we are dead, we cease to complain.  From the perspective of the cow or chicken being eaten, or the cow whose milk was stolen from her (following the theft of her calf), it's pretty "awful," I think. 

As for the quote from Tal Ronnen, a "vegan who eats bacon" is a vegan who eats tempeh bacon.  Anyone who eats the kind of bacon that actually came from a pig's body?  Is not a vegan.

The final section from Bob's book on which I'd like to comment is from page 158, and is a note pertaining to his recipes:
I have tried to insert vegan and vegetarian ingredient options, but in some cases animal fats or proteins are so important that I’d be misleading you if I suggested you could get by without them. No doubt I’ll get a million e-mails disagreeing with me on this. I appreciate your input. Please tell me your recipe suggestions and I’ll give them a try! If I love your recipe, I may post it on my website. (18-19)
This passage is really insidious.  He has tried to "insert vegan and vegetarian ingredient options," but really we can't "get by" without animal fats and proteins.   As mentioned above, he is actively urging that people not be vegan. It's not enough that he's abandoned veganism for himself, it seems as though he wants to trash it altogether. 

And I can't help thinking that if only he'd reached out to people like Jack Norris, RDGinny Messina, RD, or Neal Barnard, MD when he began to feel "off," he could have tweaked his diet in such a way that he could have stayed vegan and gone back to feeling his best.  Jack Norris became a registered dietitian  specifically for the purpose of helping vegans stay vegan when they encounter health problems, by helping them tweak their diet and ensure they are getting all their essential nutrients.  He and Messina co-authored the book Vegan for Life, and Norris also maintains the site.  (Bob:  please check these resources!)

My heart sinks whenever a high-profile person who has self-identified as "vegan" declares him/herself ex-vegan and goes on to trash veganism.  I feel even worse when the person in question is somebody people look to for advice on diet and nutrition.  I cannot help but worry that his new book will dissuade people from being vegan and possibly convince people he's previously inspired to go plant-based to follow his lead back to animals and animal products.

*In case it is not clear, there is no version of animal treatment that, in my mind, makes it okay to kill, eat, or use animals.  I know people hate this comparison, but you can imagine the look on Bob's face if someone were to suggest that he should kill and eat his dog Karl?  But please stay with me for a moment.  Bob loves Karl and has treated him very well--very humanely.  By the logic of those who say it's okay to kill/eat/use animals who are treated "well," why not kill Karl and eat him?  Sure, Bob and I both live in a culture in which dogs and cats belong to a different category than cows, pigs, and chickens do, but there is no logical reason for that.  Pigs are intelligent like dogs, and there are even people who keep them as companion animals.  Chickens can learn to play video games and can also be great companions.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Thank you Mayor Jennings!

Earlier this month, the legislation to lift the ban on backyard chickens in the city of Albany passed narrowly in the common council.  Yesterday, Mayor Jerry Jennings vetoed the bill.  I applaud him.  I am one of the citizens--one of people whose "will" keeps being overlooked whenever the Chicken Coalition folks characterize their position as "the will of the people"--who contacted Mayor Jennings and urged him to veto the legislation.  I had also shared my concerns with my council member, but apparently he didn't care, as he is one of the people who voted in favor of the legislation.

Mayor Jennings has my full support for re-election.  Mike O'Brien (12th Ward, Common Council) has lost my vote.  The "chicken" people are gearing to go against Jennings for the next election.  Meanwhile, they have some council members to bully, if they are ever to get the veto over-ridden.

This from the folks who characterize themselves as the kind, gentle, progressive, pro-sustainability types.  And somehow they can't seem to be anything but nasty and dismissive about anyone who disagrees with them.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Albany Backyard Chickens Revisited

It seems the Albany Common Council's law, buildings, and code committee took up the question of the proposed lift on the backyard-chickens ban.  The proposal was passed out of committee without recommendation and will be taken up by the full Council, probably sometime in May.  As an aside, I think it's unfortunate that I keep seeing cutesy, flippant descriptions of this issue:  "pecking at the Albany backyard chicken issue"; "spirited clucking back and forth on the issue"; Metroland's tweet last night of "cluck or no cluck" and "I vote cluck."

Anyway, I will reproduce here an e-mail message that I sent to my Council representative back when I first became aware of the issue and leading up to the meeting that was held this past December, and which he was kind enough to forward to his fellow Council members:
I am a resident of the Ward 12, District 11.  It has come to my attention that on 12/6, the Common Council will hear from people who are trying to change the city laws in order to lift a ban on keeping backyard chickens.  The people who support lifting the ban cite "sustainability" and "teaching children where their food comes from" as motives for keeping chickens, while the only misgivings I've seen mentioned had to do with the nuisance of living near chickens--noise, smell--and a small mention of public-health concerns.  What has been glaringly missing is any concern for the chickens.

Almost all of the chickens that end up in backyard flocks come from hatcheries.  Hatcheries are unregulated and operate much like puppy mills.  The breeding hens are kept in cramped, dark quarters where they are denied sunlight, air, and space to move around.  Roughly 50% of their hatchlings are male chicks, and since these male chicks are unwanted, they are killed at birth--often ground alive.  Additionally, sexing of the chicks is imperfect, and something like 20-50% of the chicks sent out actually turn out to be male.  People often abandon them or drop them off at shelters that are ill-equipped to care for them.

The chicks are actually packed in boxes and sent through the mail.  These newborns are denied food, water, and light for 24-72 hours during this process, and they don't always survive the trip.

People jumping on the "raise my own chickens" bandwagon tend to view these animals as little vending machines giving them free or near-free eggs.  They are unaware of the cost of feeding chickens properly or paying for their veterinary care.  Veterinarians who treat chickens typically charge $100 for one visit.  Chickens develop serious health problems, including osteoporosis and ovarian cancer, thanks to their being bred to produce many more eggs than any wild bird ever would.  Farm sanctuaries that rescue unwanted/abandoned chickens actually hard-boil, crush, and feed the eggs back to the chickens in order to restore their depleted nutrients.  This is actually not far removed from their natural behavior, as wild chickens will eat broken eggs so they don’t attract predators. Chickens will also naturally eat their own eggs if they are calcium deficient.

In addition, chickens do not lay eggs forever.  It is quite normal for their egg production to drop off or even stop when they are at or around 18 months old.  I doubt most backyard-chicken proponents would want to continue to keep and care for their chickens once egg production had stopped.  So they are likely to abandon the birds, unload them at a shelter or, worse yet, go from backyard coop to backyard slaughter.  (I hope that at the very least our city will not allow backyard slaughter.  Imagine young children in our neighborhood having to witness someone hacking off a bird's head next door!)

Another factor to consider is the cost of regulating backyard chickens.  Municipalities are already over-burdened enforcing animal-cruelty laws when it comes to dogs, cats, and other common companion animals, as well as fielding dangerous-dog calls from the public.  Having to enforce licensing laws for the keeping of chickens and addressing related complaints when we face budget crises at every level of government would represent a highly questionable added expense.

If you're still with me, thanks for reading all this!  I cannot attend the 12/6 meeting and I hope that as my Common Council member you will take my concerns into account and perhaps share them at the meeting.
I don't know, what, if any effect I can have on this process, but I am hoping to at least get a different perspective out there.

Edit:   I suspect most of the people weighing in on this issue have given little if any thought to the hatcheries that provide most of the backyard chickens.  Please view the video below to see how hatcheries "process" the chicks that they send out.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Banana-Oatmeal Muffins

I am a little proud of these because I made up the recipe AND got my seven-year-old's seal of approval.  I use dates instead of sugar in these.

Here's what I did:

Banana-Oatmeal Muffins

1.5 c quick oats
1 c flour
1 T baking powder
1 T cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 T ground flaxseed
2 small banana, microwaved 1 minute and mashed until smooth
3/4 c dates soaked (about 5 hrs or so) in a bit less than .25 c water and food processed (dates and water) until blended
2/3 c organic soy milk
1/3 c applesauce

Preheat oven:  400 F.  Prepare muffin tins (I greased mine lightly with coconut oil).  Combine the dry ingredients and then fold in the wet.  Mix until well combined and then drop into muffin tins--about 2/3 full.  Makes 2 dozen.

Monday, December 6, 2010

VWaV "Best Pumpkin Muffins" FTW

This past weekend, for a post-run breakfast I was attending, I made a batch of the "Best Pumpkin Muffins" from Vegan With a Vengeance.  The recipe is available at theppk.  I made just a few modifications, out of necessity.  We didn't have any pumpkin puree, so I used squash instead.  I subbed applesauce for the oil (using Isa's suggested conversion of 1/2 c. oil = 1/3 c. applesauce).  I still haven't bought molasses, so once again I added a bit a agave just for the texture (but not the full amount, since agave is much sweeter than molasses).

Anyway, I had a ringing endorsement from my son.  He ate so many muffins that they were all gone by Sunday night.  Shortly before bed time, he said, "please make more muffins tomorrow."  I explained that we were all out of puree, but maybe I'd do a different recipe.  :)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Backyard Chickens in Albany, NY?

Almost three weeks ago, the "All Over Albany" blog had an entry called "Changing Albany's Chicken Laws."  A couple in downtown Albany are trying to change a nine-year-old law that bans the keeping of "farm" animals, including chickens, in the city of Albany.  The couple in question had been keeping chickens in their backyard for ten years and had been unaware of the law until code-enforcement officers showed up at their house.  The chickens now live at the Albany Free School, which is next door to the couple and is allowed to keep chickens under an "educational" variance.

The article lays out a "case" in favor of chickens and one against them.  However, the "against" segment focuses only on the potential "nuisance" factor--neighbors who don't want the smell or sound of chickens next door.  No one says a word about the ethics of animal use.  In fact, one of the comments contains the following.
Owning domestic animals for the purpose of harvest is not like owning a dog or cat or ferret. The moral contract is different -- though no less solemn -- but not everyone understands it. Those hens will age and at some point need butchering. Do you know how to do that? Maybe there'll be a guy at the farmers market to help. Still, expect a Chickens' Rights movement. Really.
"Need" butchering?  Really?  And then he's incredulous about a "chickens' rights" movement. Oh, those wacky "animal" folks, caring about chickens having rights.  Yes, as a matter of fact, I believe that chickens have the right not to be used or eaten.  I believe that non-human animals are not ours to use.

I also saw a local-news feature on the couple who want to go back to keeping chickens.  They seem nice; I'd expect them to be fellow travelers on lots of issues, such as sustainability.  But this part distresses me:
For Jen and Mike, keeping them increases their own self sufficiency and helps teach their kids where their food comes from. "We involve our kids in cleaning the coop and getting the eggs. You know, people are so far removed from where the food comes from. The only thing they carry is salmonella, and all you need is a little education about washing your hands and washing the eggs."
It saddens me that they are perpetuating in their children the idea that animals are ours to use and that they need to consume animal products.  (As an aside, I am glad that we decided against sending my son to the Albany Free School, which we had considered.  I really hate that they keep chickens.  Not only do I disagree with the message they are sending to their students, but as the parent of an egg-allergic child, I can only imagine the place to be a nightmare of cross-contamination.)  I am teaching my son the opposite.

When I first read about this initiative, I did some searching online regarding advocacy against the backyard chicken movement.  I found this from Farm Sanctuary*, but I was concerned that the message contained in their linked position statement was a little contradictory, in that it contained a part about adopting birds and making sure it is legal to do so in your area. Oppose the movement but make sure it's legal?

I wish the people pushing for backyard chickens wanted to keep them as "animal friends," as the wonderful Jay Wontdart of the "Coexisting with Nonhuman Animals" blog does.  Just check the cuteness of his "chicken" videos.

A question that I've seen come up:  If you keep chickens as companion animals, and they lay eggs anyway, what's wrong with eating the eggs?   Here's the thing.  Laying hens are mutants.  They were bred to lay ridiculous amounts of eggs--more than any equivalent wild bird ever would.  That output is terrible for them physically.  They are susceptible to osteoporosis and ovarian cancer, among other problems.  To help mitigate against such health problems, Farm Sanctuary feeds the eggs back to the chickens:
This dramatically increased egg production is very demanding on the birds’ bodies, using up a lot of nutrients, particularly calcium, which is used to build shells. At Farm Sanctuary, shelter staff collect eggs daily, hard boil them, smash them up (shells and all), and feed them back to the hens to help restore lost nutrients, especially the calcium, which is in the shells. Lack of calcium leads to broken bones, osteoporosis and formation of shell-less eggs (which can be fatal) so it is essential for the health of the birds, especially those rescued from factory farms, to consume the eggs. And, as Susie points out, “It sounds odd to a lot of people, but it is actually not far removed from their natural behavior, as wild chickens will eat broken eggs so they don’t attract predators. Chickens will also naturally eat their own eggs if they are calcium deficient.”
Can you imagine how fiercely the backyard chicken proponents would balk if the ban were lifted but included a stipulation that the eggs had to be fed back to the chickens?

On December 6, there will be a Common Council meeting where comments about this issue will be heard.  I encourage Albany vegans to contact their Common Council members to share their anti-use perspective.  For more information about Common Council, and to find your member, visit hereUpdate: In case you are not sure which ward you are in, ward maps are here. This page has a list of Common Council members listed by ward on the left-side menu.

*While I applaud the work Farm Sanctuary does in rescuing and caring for animals, I have misgivings about their support for single-issue "welfarist" campaigns--those that ultimately give a stamp of approval to certain types of use and slaughter, thus making people feel more comfortable with their exploitation.  See the "Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach" site and the "Humane Myth" site.

Vegan MoFo 30th and Final Day: Chocolate and Persistance

A week ago, I blogged  about chocolate as food for thought--and specifically my son's belief that a dose of good vegan chocolate helps him think/get ideas.  Well, he used up what I had left of the chocolate my wonderful yoga instructor gave us, so I made some of my own over the Thanksgiving break.  I didn't measure out the ingredients, but the proportions were roughly equal parts Dutch cocoa, agave syrup, and coconut oil.  Because the cocoa is roasted, my version is not 100% raw, but still pretty close.  What I did was blend the ingredients in a bowl, pour the mixture into a chocolate mold that I have (it makes little heart-shaped candies), and pop the mold into the freezer.  The results were tasty but not beautiful, as the chocolates did not come out of the mold cleanly.  Clearly, I need to experiment more.  Also, I think I'll try a bit less agave next time.  You'll almost never hear me say (or see me write) that something is too sweet.  I'm the girl who wants the corner piece of cake because it has more frosting and who finds the cake itself a bit on the bland side much of the time.  But these were a bit too sweet even for me and my sweet tooth.  But not so much so that I don't still like them.  :)

So....  Last day of MoFo.  I'm proud of myself for having blogged something for all but one of the days this month.  Before signing up for MoFo, my use of this blog was sporadic at best, and now that I'm in the habit, I think I'll keep posting here fairly regularly (though probably not every day).  I'm inspired by many awesome vegan bloggers out there who post thoughtful essays and beautiful recipes.  I know I'm not in their league by a long shot, but they give me something to aspire to.  Thanks, guys!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Vegan MoFo Day 29: Me and my food issues

Being the only vegan at work, I find people tend to be curious about what I'm eating.  I'm learning not to go into defensive mode when this happens--not to assume that as soon as I answer the "what are you having" question, my interlocutor will respond with an "Ew, gross."  More often than not, people tell me that what I'm having looks really good. 

So why do I get defensive and expect a negative reaction?  Well, that can be traced back to my K-12 days.  When my mother used to pack me a cheese sandwich on whole wheat, with alfalfa sprouts or mung beans (obviously this was long before my vegan days).  Somehow, it would happen right after I had taken a big bite out of my sandwich, so my mouth was full and I couldn't answer.  "What's THAT?!"  ::sigh::  How I hated this.  Chew, chew, chew, chew, chew.  Swallow.  Answer.  Response, "EW!"  Gah, I still get upset thinking back on this.

Adding on to the self-consciousness I got that way was a separate self-consciousness that came along with my getting extremely overweight.  I hated to eat in public because I always felt as if people were watching the fat person eat....  Gawking.  Judging.  Sometimes they actually were (one of the things that sucked about being fat!), though a lot of the time, I was just being self-conscious.

So I have my "food" issues.  Enough for a life-time subscription.  And those negative feelings flood back into me when someone asks me what I'm eating.  But I am learning to set aside the assumption that the person plans to criticize or judge.  I am learning to relax, smile, and respond.  And I am relieved at the positive responses I get.  Which reminds me how important it is for vegans to be seen enjoying our delicious vegan foods.  We're the ambassadors.  :)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Vegan MoFo Day 28: Food You Can't Seem to Keep in Stock

Is there a food that you can't seem to keep in stock in your house--no matter how frequently you buy it or how much you buy at a time?  For us, it's bananas!  I love them and definitely contribute to their erosion, but the family member who SLAMS them?  Our son.  Yup, the one who's seven.  I sometimes watch in amazement at the way this boy puts away food.  And the bananas--I just see them vanishing before my very eyes.  Do you have a food like that in your house?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Vegan MoFo Day 27: My Lazy Lunch

Lazy because it's just from items already cooked or available, waiting for me in the fridge.  My typical M.O.!  This time, it's cauliflower, collard greens, beets, olives, and brown rice.  After snapping the pic, I added nutritional yeast and soy sauce and blending it all into a mish-mash.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Vegan MoFo Day 26: Experiment Later and Pudding Meanwhile

When I'm feeling less lazy, I'll try my experimental squash pies I was planning on.  I did make the pudding that I'd planned to use as a filling, but...  well, I'm feeling lazy.  Too lazy to run almonds and dates through a food processor to form crusts for my little pies.  Yeah, I know, that's pretty lazy.  So I'm just eating the pudding as pudding.  Here's what I used:

1 15-oz can of pureed squash
1 can's worth of organic plain soy milk (filled the squash can after emptying out the squash because I wanted an equal volume of squash and soy milk)
.25 c. white chia seeds
.25 c. agave syrup
cinnamon, allspice, and ginger to taste
dash of vanilla
dash of salt

Mixed up in a blender and then poured into a container and let it set in the fridge for around 24 hours.  If I make this again, I'll probably double the agave--I just tend to like things a bit sweeter!  Anyway, it tastes pretty good.  No picture, because it's kind of pale and disappointing-looking.  ;)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Vegan MoFo Day 25: Pretty Food

One of the things that impresses me about many vegan food blogs is the beautiful presentation.  This is something I admire and, more often than not, fail at!  This is my attempt to pretty up my vanilla chia pudding.  :)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Vegan MoFo Day 24: My Next Experiment

I've been thinking about trying another experiment.  I'll use muffin tins to make little pies.  Crust will be an almond/date blend, and filling will be a squash-chia pudding I make up.  It could be an incredible failure, but I want to find out.  Tomorrow, I think I will. :)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Vegan MoFo Day 23: Almond Date Bars

These are my version of Lara Bars.  I've seen lots of similar recipes, but I've tweaked the proportions a bit to my own liking.

2 cups sliced, unroasted almonds
2 cups dried, pitted dates
cinnamon (to taste)

optional: dried, unsweetened coconut

Add the almonds to your food processor first. Sprinkle on cinnamon—I usually just do a thin band of it, about an inch wide, all around the top of the almonds. If using coconut, follow the same procedure adding a “coconut” layer. Process the almonds into a coarse powder, and then add the dates. Process until well incorporated. Remove the mixture from the processor and knead into a dough. Press into a foil-lined bread pan, fold the foil over the top, and use a flat surface (such as the bottom of a second bread pan) into the top to press and form.

Remove from pan, open the foil, and cut into desired size and shape. I either form into bars and wrap in foil, or cut into squares and drop them into a container. They can be fridged or frozen.

If you're in a chocolatey mood, you can replace the cinnamon with two tablespoons of Dutched cocoa. Sprinkle in some ground cayenne pepper if you like a little background bite to the flavor. Usually if I do the chocolate option, I find I need to add a very small amount of water to the mixture when I'm processing it.  (Carob also works very well.)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Vegan MoFo Day 22: Chocolate as Food for Thought?

Last week, I blogged about the raw vegan chocolate my yoga instructor shared with me.  This past weekend, my son told me that the chocolate helps him think and get ideas.  When I mentioned this to my husband, he said that there might be something to it.  After all, after having had some of the chocolate Friday morning, our son had done exceedingly well on his math test.  So maybe there's something to it.  We'll try a small dose of raw vegan chocolage in the mornings and see if it continues to provied food for thought. :)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Vegan MoFo Day 21: Chili Recipe

I keep meaning to post my husband's vegan chili recipe--promised days and days ago!

Vegan Chili
2 large onions, chunked, boiled until translucent
5-6 large portobello mushrooms
5-6 large red peppers
1 lb (dry) kidney beans, precooked (yields)
1 lb (dry) barley
2 large cans crushed tomatoes
Approx. 1/2 cup chili powder (we use unsalted)

Cook all the above on low heat until the barley is soft.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Vegan MoFo Day 20: I like big salads and I will not lie!

Lunch!  Romaine lettuce, tomatoes, cukes, parsley, scallions, red peppers, artichoke hearts, green olives, beets, and balsamic vinegar.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Vegan MoFo 19: MacGyver Smoothie

As I was approaching my office building this morning, it occurred to me that I had no idea what I would blog about for MoFo today.  Then, as I was climbing the stairs to my floor, I realized with a panic that I had forgotten to pack my pre-run smoothie.  Last night, I made a double batch, so I'd have one for last night's speedwork run and another for my noon "easy" run today.  But when I packed up my lunch for today, I failed to pack my smoothie.  ::sob::

We have a little newsstand/convenience store in my building, so I devised a plan for a replacement smoothie.  I keep soymilk in our shared office fridge, and we have a blender in our kitchen.  So I thought I'd buy a banana and also a trail mix so I could mine some dates for the smoothie.  Then, a terrible thought as I approached the store:  it's Friday!  More often than not, they are out of bananas come Friday.  And sure enough:  As I entered the store, I saw there were no bananas.  My next thought was that maybe I could find a replacement ingredient that would allow me to MacGyver a smoothie.

The shelves and the drink case were not promising.  But then I thought of the frozen-dessert case.  FrozFruit!  Some flavors are vegan and some are not, so I hoped for the best and had a look.  Luckily, there were strawberry FrozFruits.  I checked the ingredients to be extra sure, and while it passed the "vegan" test, unfortunately it did contain HFCS.  But the only other possible option was strawberry Italian ice--and that didn't even contain any strawberry or other actual fruit.  So I decided to go with the less-than-optimal FrozFruit.  Next, I picked up a tropical trail mix. Not only did it have dates, but it also had dried, shredded coconut--a partial replacement to my usual coconut oil.

So I mined some dates, coconut flakes, a few pineapple pieces, and sunflower seeds from the trail mix.  I put them in a container and soaked them in my usual mix of soymilk and water (.5 cup of each).  I tucked that away in the fridge and allowed the FrozFruit to thaw for a little over an hour and then stashed it in the fridge to avoid total liquefication.

Smoothie-making time arrived about 2.5 hours later.  I assembled the ingredients in the blender, mixed them up, then added my usual four ice cubes and ground them in, as well.

The smoothie ended up tasting pretty good, though sweeter than what I'm used to.  I did find that I was getting a bit of an odd aftertaste/repeating-on-me effect for maybe 15 minutes after having the smoothie, but that didn't last, fortunately.  And my run went well, too.

That was more drama than I'd prefer to have surrounding my pre-run fuel, but the upside is that my smoothie for Sunday's long run is already made.  Plus, I had something to blog about today.  :)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Vegan MoFo Day 18: Raw Vegan Yogi Chocolate

My wonderful yoga instructor, a vegan and Jivamukti teacher, does an annual Halloween class called Spooky Jivamukti.  I didn't get a chance to go this year, but he was kind enough to share with me the leftover raw vegan chocolate he'd made for the class.  He uses raw cacao, coconut oil, and agave.  Some of the chocolates also have acai or goji berries, and some have a bit of cayenne pepper.

My son is a big fan of these raw vegan chocolates, and as soon as I came through the door after yoga last night, his eagle eyes zoomed in on the foil-wrapped choccies in the mesh side pocket of my messenger bag.  He asked me what I'd brought home.  It took me a moment to realize he'd spotted the treats and guessed what they were.  :)

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Vegan MoFo Day 17: Veggie Mix = What's for Dinner

Steamed cabbage, carrots, celery, and onions + baked potato + brown rice + olives + artichoke hearts + nutritional yeast + soy sauce