Peas and Compassion

Cruelty-free crunchiness and shameless veg-elation.


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Happy World Vegetarian Day, Vegetarian Awareness Month, and Why I’m Fasting October 2nd

As I noted yesterday, today is World Vegetarian Day, the annual kick-off to Vegetarian Awareness month. This is an excuse for vegetarians and vegans to continue to rave over veg food, and for non-vegetarians to hug and love on the veg folk in their life (as well as consider making a few veg meals part of your diet in the coming month). October is a great month for this, as (at least in the U.S.) fall harvests are rolling in, with plenty of pumpkin, apples, artichokes, brussels sprouts, leafy greens, potatoes, and winter squash available to adorn the table. There’s also some exciting veg-related stuff going on this month, including a Goat and Sheep Fundraiser on October 11th, and the Triangle Veg Fest on October 19th, both of which are sponsored by NC’s very-own Piedmont Farm Animal Refuge. I have yet to make it out to the refuge, but it’s on my list of to-dos.

Sooner that that, however, is the October 2nd “Fast Against Slaughter”, an event led by Alex Herschaft of the Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM). I have to admit that when I first came-across this event, I was a bit skeptical at how effective such a campaign would be. I already abstain from consuming animals, which makes a tiny dent in the number of animals slaughtered each year for food (in general, over 9 billion animals are slaughtered each year, and that’s in the United States alone). For me, that’s a staggering number. I also wondered, in contemplating the fast, how physically fasting would actually help any additional animals on that day. In the past, I’ve generally taken on fasts in the context of spiritual growth (I don’t believe in fasts for “detoxification” or health). I personally believe that fasting can be a way to re-center yourself with the world, so to speak – abstaining from food for a day will lead you to identify with and develop compassion for the humans and animals on this planet who are consistently hungry.

FARM’s approach is centered around the works of Mahatma Gandhi (October 2nd is Gandhi’s birthday). Gandhi used fasting as a form of peaceful political protest; his fasting drew public attention to civil rights abuses around the world and was successfully used to promote anti-violence efforts. In this context, a Fast Against Slaughter is intended to draw attention to the fact that billions of animals are not only slaughtered each year for food, but that the majority of them are subject to egregious cruelty throughout their lives. FARM notes that food (and often water) is withheld from many animals in their transport to slaughter, which can include days on the road. These animals are already overcrowded into trucks and subjected to the high stress of being unable to move, forced to stand in their own feces and urine (or in the case of birds, are stacked such that they defecate on top of one another), and can endure extreme weather conditions, such as extreme heat in summer or negative windchills in winter. As such, many animals die during transportation.

Therefore, although a physical fast in and of itself does not save an animal from harm (unless you were planning to have meat for lunch), the public pronouncement of adopting a fast and drawing attention to what it stands for can provide visibility for issues that are often overlooked or ignored. For myself, I was led to participate in the fast in part because of my horror at the process of forced molting, which remains legal in the United States, despite much public outcry. As a bit of background, you should be aware that chickens and turkeys are not covered under the U.S. Animal Welfare Act or the Humane Slaughter Act. Whereas pigs, cows, and other land animals are provided paltry provisions under these laws, literally anything can be down to chickens and turkeys – many of these animals are simply ripped apart as they are pulled out of cages for slaughter, and high processing line speeds mean that many of these beautiful birds are not properly stunned and may remain conscious even as they are dropped into boiling water to remove their feathers. (It is sad to point out that earlier this year, the USDA recommended increasing these line speeds – despite the fact that to do so would increase these instances, as well as prove harmful for workers.) Even before the slaughterhouse, however, chickens – whether raised for meat or eggs – may be subjected to cruelties that are deemed “more efficient” for the industry. The one I find that most pertains to tomorrow’s fast, however, is forced molting.

Forced molting is a practice that actually applies to battery hens, which, when “spent” (their egg production has decreased to the point where it is not profitable to continue feeding them), are sent to slaughter. Their flesh is considered tough and bottom-of-the-barrel, but it frequently becomes a part of cheap frozen and processed foods, as well as part of the national school lunch program. Battery hens are bred to lay more than 275 eggs per year (hens naturally lay 20-30). As they age, they produce less eggs. In order to maximize profits, many farms will manipulate the hens’ environment to push the birds to lay one last big round of eggs before they go to slaughter. Naturally these birds would molt and replace all their feathers over the course of a year; most molting typically occurs at the beginning of winter, prior to the period when hens stop laying eggs. In order to induce this process in hens, the hens get a psychological shock to their system – all food is withdrawn, for anywhere from 5 to 21 days, while the lighting pattern is adjusted to simulate shorter days and longer nights. Of course, some hens die in during this period of starvation, which is considered a natural loss for the industry.

Battery Farm Hens. Image from: Wikipedia Commons

Battery Farm Hens. Image from: Wikipedia Commons

Few of us, I think, if we were raising chickens, would choose to withhold food from a creature for such an extended length of time. It is notable that this practice is banned in other countries, but not in the United States.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that thanks to the work of activists (particularly United Poultry Concerns) to bring awareness to this practice, there have been some improvements in the industry over the year. By putting pressure on the fast food industry, for instance, giants such as McDonalds and Burger King no long accept eggs from farms that practice forced molting, which has reduced the use of this practice. Other producers have simply modified the practice – instead of completely withholding food, they only severely reduce rations or provide a ratio that is significantly nutrient-deficient (so as to still achieve the desired results). Regardless, the practice of withholding food is still perfectly legal and in use by certain producers.  Note that “cage-free”, “free-range”, “free-roaming”, or “pasture-raised”, and “certified organic” eggs all allow for the use of forced molting.

Forced molting is not the only sign of our lack of compassion towards factory-farmed chickens. There is the issue of debeaking, which removes the sensitive end of the bird’s beak to prevent pecking, the horrifying cramped conditions of battery cages, as well as the well-known practice of disposing of baby male chicks (which are unprofitable to egg producers) through either suffocation, gassing, or grinding.

I realize these are not pretty things to talk about – this does not even scratch the surface, however. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has additional information on the issues with raising hens for eggs and raising chickens for meat if you’re interested in following up. That said, other farm animals – including cows, pigs, geese, turkeys, sheep, and ducks – are subject to equally abhorrent abuses, especially those raised in a factory farm setting.

For the reasons detailed above, I believe it is worth joining in the #FastAgainstSlaughter on Oct. 2nd. Going without food for a day is nothing when one considers what these animals face. Although I don’t expect anyone to join me, I do hope that you will think about these issues, and consider what compassionate choices can be made to improve the lives of animals. ♥

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VeganMoFo Day 30: I made it! Black Bean Nacho Plate

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I can’t believe it’s the last day of VeganMofo 2014 – I am simultaneously sad and elated. I have had fun reading all the great posts out there, as well as sharing my hideous photos of food (next step: improve kitchen lighting).

This morning I was listening to a great podcast from No Meat Athlete on staying motivated while running, when Matt and Doug gave two separate suggestions to switch up the landscape and double the mileage. So on this evening’s run, I decided to forgo my usual route and strike out in a new direction – with hills! At the end of things it turned out that I’d run about 4.89 miles, which while not doubling my current mileage, did tack on over a good extra mile. But I survived it, just as I have survived my first VeganMoFo!

When I came back home I felt both amazing and ravenous. Therefore, tonight’s dish is the Black Bean and Potato Nacho Plate from Oh She Glows, who is one of my favorite veg bloggers. In lieu of actual nacho chips, you essentially make some rustic home fries/chips from russet potatoes and serve a seasoned black bean filling over top, then add additional toppings of your choosing. (I went with tomatoes, avocado, cilantro, green onions, black olives, and Tofutti sour cream.)

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Basically it’s a cumin-y, salty dish over top of crispy, salty fries – so not exactly blood pressure friendly, but pretty perfect after a good run. Thank you, beautiful carb-laden potatoes and protein-rich beans, for refueling me. Thank you salt, for helping restore lost electrolytes.

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Now that VeganMofo has come to a close, I’ve been pondering what to do with this space. It seems reasonable to keep posting recipes, reviews, and news here from time to time, and I think this is as good a place as any to explore the ideas present in my first post. As far as immediate next steps go, tomorrow is World Vegetarian Day, and I’ll be participating in FARM’s Fast Against Slaughter on October 2nd. I highly recommend Alex Herschaft’s AMA on Reddit for background on that. If you’re interested in participating, you can pledge here. (I’ll be explaining my reasons in an upcoming post.)

That’s it for now – thank you for following along this Month and especially for putting up with my sad photography all month long!


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VeganMofo Day 29: @VeganDivaCooks’ Butternut Bisque

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I am ridiculously happy entering the last days of VeganMoFo; I love writing about vegan food, but 30 straight days of it is a bit exhausting! Also, I’ve lost the “t” key on my keyboard after something sticky got under the key, so it might be time for a small break (the dangers of blogging while cooking!)

Tonight’s dish is another adventure from Mistress Ginger Cooks (@vegandivacooks)- specifically, her Brazen Butternut Bisque. This is a deceptive dish – simple to throw together (at least if you buy your butternut squash pre-chopped, as I do), yet so full of flavor. Also, it’s really pretty to look at, with its cheery golden color.

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Mistress Ginger’s bisque makes use of plenty of butternut squash, pureed until creamy smooth, then garnished with sautéd shittake mushrooms revved up with Old Bay Seasoning (calling up that nostalgic bisque flavor). It also features a dazzling drizzle of paprika-laced toasted sesame-oil.

This dish is so creamy and silky, and it cements my love of shittake mushrooms with their chewy, squishy tops. It’s rich and warming, perfect for a rainy evening – Mistress Ginger obviously knows what she’s doing in the kitchen! Unfortunately I was unable to dress up in a Balenciaga gown while cooking this, per her suggestion, but we did serve this with toasted bread in order to soak up every drop – that’s just as good, right?


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VeganMofo Day 28: Rainbow Jambalaya

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You’ve probably heard the health advice to “eat a rainbow” – it’s sage advice to fill your plate with lots of plant foods, where vibrant colors are often an indicator of the nutrients hiding inside. Tonight’s supper, a plant-packed jambalaya, looked so gorgeous in the pan and is full of so many awesome nutrient-packed veggies that I nicknamed it Rainbow Jambalaya. While it does require a bit of chopping, it also pulls on the prep-friendly tastiness of vegan kielbasa, which you can buy in packs; or if you’re really adventurous and you just want to kick ass in the kitchen, then you can make your own. I personally went for the time-saver, and used good old reliable Tofurky kielbasa:

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Tofurky: Savior of vegans everywhere.

The recipe also calls for cooked brown rice and cooked lentils – I made the rice in advance tonight while I went out for a run, and the lentils I’d prepped earlier in the week for Creamy Seitan-Lentil Pasta. I’m trying to make it a habit to pre-cook grains and beans on the weekends or the night before, so that I’ll have a steady supply on hand during the week.

As for veggies, this one’s packed with onions, celery, red bell pepper, scallions, white button mushrooms, jalopeno, and fresh tomatoes. I’m sure there are others you could throw in for an even more robust meal. This is a good way to clean out your bins. The results are quite pretty:

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In hindsight, I might have added a bit of additional Cajun seasoning, but this was pretty darn good – the kielbasa, mushrooms, and lentils really gave the dish a strong umami vibe. Feel free to play around with the seasonings a bit to get it spicier, as you like (this is a child-friendly version).

Rainbow Jambalaya

Serves: 5-6 Prep time: ~30 minutes (assumes rice and lentils are pre-cooked)
Accessibility Notes: A fair amount of chopping here, but everything’s confined to one pan. You’ll need a large skillet and a good knife (and maybe a glass of white wine to help you pass the time).

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups cooked brown rice
  • 2 tsps olive oil
  • 2 Tofurky kielbasa links, diced into rounds
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1/2 large red bell pepper, diced
  • 8 oz white button mushrooms, stemmed and quartered
  • 2 medium tomatoes, diced
  • ~ 1/2 cup scallions, chopped (green parts)
  • 1 good-sized jalopeno, diced (optional)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp Cajun seasoning (or more to taste)
  • 1 cup cooked green/brown lentils
  • ~ 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Heat skillet over medium heat or flame; add 2 tsp of oil to the hot skillet and follow-up with the kielbasa rounds. Cook, 3-4 minutes, tossing the rounds to ensure that the kielbasa cooks on each side. Try not to nearly burn them, as I did.

2. When the kielbasa is finished, transfer to a small bowl or plate. In the same skillet, add the onions, celery, and red pepper to the remaining pan and cook 3-4 minutes, until softened.

3. Next add the mushrooms, tomatoes, scallions, jalopeno, garlic, and Cajun seasoning. Stir well to distribute the seasoning, and let cook ~5 minutes until the mushrooms are juicy.

4. Add in the lentils and cooked kielbasa, stirring and allowing to cook about 3 minutes, until the lentils and sausage are heated through. Add the cooked rice and stir well, making sure everything is coated.

5. Add the parsley, stirring to just mix through, then season everything with salt and pepper. Enjoy!

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VeganMoFo Day 27: Dialing it in…by going out

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Yep, it’s Day 27 of VeganMofo – the home stretch! And I’m dialing it in by going out to dinner. To be honest, our kids were unexpectedly invited to spend the night at a friend’s house, so we had an impromptu date!

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Yes, this is a terrible photo. I was rushing it – whoops!

Thanks, Kobe of Smithfield, for at least having a lovely vegetarian dish at the top of the menu (stir-fried veggies), and letting me pair it with steamed (as opposed to fried) rice. And thanks to our cook for checking to ask if I was indeed vegetarian (and also checking about eggs), and then cooking my food separately on the grill. It was much appreciated!  We also had a veggie sushi roll, but that was eaten much too quickly to be photographed.


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VeganMofo Day 26: Pumpkin Apple Muffins

These are not the prettiest muffins I have ever made. In fact, they’re not even close. However, they are perhaps some of the tastiest.

I was searching around for a fall muffin recipe and came across this gorgeous recipe for pumpkin muffins over at Connoisseurus Veg. However, I wanted something a little richer, so I basically futzed with the recipe a bit – the version below is simply a variation. Along with the pumpkin and spices, I pulled in bits of dried apples and raisins, which for me are evocative of all the flavors of fall. I also included blackstrap molasses, which adds iron and makes for a rich, moist, and dark muffin.

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These are so moist and tasty on their own, they will make a lovely breakfast without any additions. However, in keeping with the original recipe, I decided to add a little frosting – except I pulled together a creamy pumpkin frosting for drizzling (the addition of pumpkin giving it a vibrant orange hue).

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The best part of this recipe is that these muffins come together quickly and easily – almost as quick as they disappear! I had everything baked and coated in less than 45 minutes; the only downside was the clean-up.

Pumpkin Apple Muffins

Makes: 12 muffins. Prep Time: ~20 minutes + 18-20 minutes cook time.
Accessibility notes: Requires stirring, mixing, and a little chopping, but is super-easy!

Ingredients:

Muffins:

  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder + 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened soy milk
  • 2 tbsp blackstrap molasses
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup chopped dried apples

Frosting:

  • 1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked (I quick-soaked mine by boiling for 2 minutes, then letting sit for 20 minutes)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp canned pumpkin
  • 2 tbsp unsweetened soymilk

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 12-cup muffin pan with a little Earth Balance or coconut oil.

2. In a large bowl, mix the flour, coconut sugar, baking powder and baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and salt.

3. In a medium bowl, mix the canned pumpkin, soy milk, blackstrap molasses, canola oil, and vanilla.

4. Add wet ingredients to dry, then fold in the raisins and dried apple.

5. Pour into muffin tins, about 3 tbsps of batter per tin. Bake 18-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

For the frosting:

Drain the cashews and add to blender with lemon juice, vanilla, powdered sugar, and pumpkin. Blend until smooth, then add soymilk as needed to thin. Pour over muffins to serve.


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VeganMoFo Day 25: Burgers and Fries

I think that sometimes, people associate a vegan life with asceticism and sacrifice – as if we’re only able to eat iceberg lettuce or those cold, tired-looking tomatoes we are stuck with in the dead of winter. I would hope that the past 3 weeks of food reveals that I am anything but deprived. We don’t do without, we just chose to do it differently.

Today was a bit of a long day, so I decided to whip up my favorite black bean sunburgers. These are from Robin Robertson’s Quick Fix Vegan: Healthy Homestyle Meals in 30 Minutes or Less, which is true to its name. I own a lot of Robin Robertson’s books, and for good reason. Robin has a knack for combining simple flavors in new ways, usually using only a few, easy-to-find ingredients. As such, her “Quick-Fix” series takes a lot of the stress out of the kitchen. She’s recently come out with a sequel, More Quick-Fix Vegan, that I am eying closely. (Also note that her Quick-Fix Vegetarian is sneakily all-vegan.)

Anyway, enough free advertising for Robin. I love these burgers because they are 1) quick-and-easy, 2) loaded with sunflower seeds (hence the name “sunburger”), and 3) held together lovingly with some old-fashioned vital wheat gluten. Yes, they are not gluten-free. Sorry, but it works such magic here! And they are delicious – the sunflower seeds add a fullness and a rich flavor that nicely complements the black beans. These burgers are also denser than the standard veggie burger, and hence incredibly filling. Robin’s publisher has posted the recipe over here, if you are so inclined to check it out.

In addition to burgers, I made some old-fashioned home fries with sliced russet potatoes doused in a few tablespoons of olive oil, then sprinkled with salt, paprika, chili powder, and garlic powder. These are healthier and less expensive than what you’d buy in the frozen section, but they do take some extra time to prep and cook.

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I like my sunburgers with a bit of ketchup, dijon, pickles, tomato, green leaf lettuce, and vegan mayo (lately I’ve been using Hampton Creek’s Just Mayo, which is less expensive than other brands and has an amazing light mayo taste). Although they’re equally good with a bit of guacamole or avocado spread on top, or layered with pineapple salsa.

As you can see, there is no deprivation here! Just tasty food. Excuse me while I go enjoy it….