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 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 Easy Supper: Meatless Meatball Subs

400x84_g2Holy crap, it is Day 18 of VeganMofo!

Tonight supper followed a long, hard run, so I was in a hurry to throw together something quickly that would satisfy my post-run famishment.

So I threw together some Meatless Meatballs (Whole Foods’ 365 Brand):

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The fact that they are actually sold as “Meatless Meatballs” makes me giggle every time.

Heated those up in some marinara:

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First time using this, but it was quite good!

Mixed up my favorite el cheapo cheezee sauce in a separate pot:

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Chee(z)e! From my kitchen cupboard!

And stuffed it all into some wheat rolls before baking in the oven for a few minutes:

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Just a few….

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This is my Get-in-Mah-Belly Food.


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What I Ate Wednesday: Mushroom Seitan Stroganoff

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After a very long day at work involving a 3-hour meeting, I only wanted to crawl home, curl up in a corner, and nosh on some comfort food. I also wanted to pretend that it’s fall, despite the thermometer screaming otherwise. So tonight we had mushroom seitan stroganoff from Robin Robertson’s Vegan Planet. Vegan Planet is one of the first vegan cookbooks I owned, so whenever I make a recipe from it, there’s always a bit of nostalgia. (Note: There’s a new, updated version of this cookbook out this year, with over 50 new recipes. I am so jel, ya’ll.)

Made with quartered white mushrooms, bell pepper, onion, seared seitan strips, plenty of sweet Hungarian paprika, and homemade vegan sour cream, this stroganoff screams “home-cooking”. Okay, so it doesn’t scream anything (which is how I prefer my food), but it’s damn tasty, especially over pasta. The sour cream gives it a slightly tangy edge, but it’s stewy, mildly peppery goodness all the way.

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I could eat this every day.

This “What I Ate” entry brought to you by the words “tired”, “fatigued”, and “argle-bargle”.


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VeganMofo Day 15: Thai Almond Curry and Forbidden Rice

Unfortunately there are no new shiny recipes here tonight – only our attempts with a new food – forbidden rice, with a simple but delicious almond curry.

Lotus Foods Forbidden Rice

Image via: soap.com

Forbidden rice, also known as Chinese black rice, is apparently super-healthy for you, with loads of iron and vitamin E, and is full of antioxidants, comparable to blueberries. It’s also a shorter-grain rice that cooks up in 30 minutes (so take that, brown rice!)

Thai Almond Curry and Forbidden Rice

If forbidden rice falls on a black plate in the kitchen, does anyone around see it?

I wanted something light and colorful to throw over our forbidden rice, so I settled in with Dreena Burton’s Thai Chickpea Almond Curry. This curry, which hails from her book Let Them Eat Vegan, has a coconut milk and almond butter base, with red curry paste, ginger, and lime juice to breathe it to life; tender chickpeas and airy green onions and zucchini give it texture and add a punch of protein. Honestly, it’s just delicious stuff, and a beautiful golden color to boot – I could lick the pan it’s cooked in. Pairing it with the forbidden rice was a good move – it softened up the grain and its warm flavors complimented the slightly nutty taste.

Members of the family had mixed reactions to our rice – some could not believe the name, others were not enamoured with its texture and focused on stabbing their chickpeas for sport. The majority, however, realized that it was simply another form of tasty rice. With all of its nutritional benefits, I see it as something we’ll be eating again. It looks like it might also be good in these black rice tofu cakes.


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What Vegans Eat: Soup Night

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It’s been a dreary, rainy day here and the temperature dropped about 20 degrees (so, actually comfortable out). Of course, because it’s September and it’s supposed to be autumn (or nearly so – two more weeks!), I decided that the dreary rain and muddy yard is reason enough to make soup. Of course I was looking for comfort food, as well, since it’s been a Monday all around and a long day at work.

I wish I could take credit for this recipe, but I can not – this is Angela Liddon’s Broccoli & Cheeze Soup, only served in a giant family-sized bread bowl made from a large paesano loaf. It’s a soup stuffed full of broccoli, onions, celery, and potatoes, so very hearty and warming. Thanks to all the nutritional yeast, it has a wonderful tangy, cheesy flavor, and the pureed potatoes add a nice creaminess reminiscent of any milk-based cream soup. The tiny amounts of smoked paprika and cayenne give it a soft kick – but not enough to scare the kids away.

For serving, we just place the entire bowl in the middle of table, and everyone scoops out a little soup and takes some bread crusts for dipping in their individual bowls.  As the bowl empties everyone slowly tears apart the soup-soaked crust, until we’re all too stuffed to eat another bite.  One thing I particularly like about this recipe, as opposed to other vegan broccoli and cheese soups, is that the cheese sauce is made separately, with a bit reserved for drizzling over the top of each (or in our case, the) bowl. So even if I didn’t get around to devising my own recipe tonight, at least it makes for a pretty presentation.

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Weekend Review: Mistress Ginger Cooks

I spent today testing driving Mistress Ginger – or rather, Mistress Ginger Cooks, a fabulous and fun cookbook that will keep you smiling even as you whisk, whisk, whisk away at that batter in your six-inch heels. I cannot tell you how much I love this book, in all its fabulous, sparkly, lipsticked glory.

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Mistress Ginger (aka Justin Leaf) is a performance artist, dancer teacher, and caberet showgirl with so much sass and flash she’ll leave you spinning. She also happens to be very handy in the kitchen (as well as other living spaces, I hear), and has compiled a collection of recipes that will add spice to your shelf. The highlight of this book, aside from the pages and pages of photos of Mistress Ginger and her dazzling smile, is her wit and commentary, which will have you madly searching through each recipe for the juicy bits.

The book begins with a short intro section on “this thing call vegan“, in which Mistress Ginger teaches us the correct way to say vegan:

You say, ‘Oh, I just made these delicious vegan cookies,” and you say the word “vegan” as though Glinda the Good Witch herself, in her magic pink bubble, has just arisen from the depths of your consciousness and uttered the word “vegan” in a voice dripping with loving compassion.

Vegans, it is now your lifelong duty to speak the word “vegan” in just this way. Try it now, I’ll wait.

Mistress Ginger informs us that she was brought into the fold by former vegan lovers, who convinced her that although we cannot escape all the suffering in this world, we can do our best to minimize it. However, she’s quick to point out her many,  many (even omnivorous) lovers, and that the book (and veganism) is accessible to everyone (it’s right there in the subtitle, after all!) She goes on to give advice on making the vegan transition, share the staples of her vegan panty – I mean pantry!, give a primer on lesser-known vegan foods, and even provides menus to help you get started.

On to the recipes – she first plunges into breakfast foods, with a selection of smoothies, cooked grains, and the obligatory tofu scramble. You’ll also find Glamola GranolaWicked Waffles, and French-kissed Toast. From breakfast she slides effortlessly into breads, beverages, and juices, including Blueberry Stud Muffins, Naughty Naan, and Love Juice (made with cherries, apple juice, sparkling water, and Kirsch). It was here I found the Pop My Cherry Scones (pg. 40), which won the contest for first recipe tested. Made with a base of almond meal and whole wheat pastry flour, these scones feature cherries, sliced almonds, and crystallized ginger for a bit of an extra kick. We ate them straight out of the oven, piping hot and sticky sweet from the bit of sugar sprinkled on top. (Mistress Ginger advises waiting 5 minutes to be classy, but we lack restraint.)

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Next up are salads and sides, including a Threesome Salad (that’s three ingredients, but you can share it with as many people as you like) and Potent Pepitas, followed by soups, stews, and sandwiches – including a Miso Sexy Soup, Wild Child Chowder, and a ChiChi Panini. Tonight’s supper, Chickpea Wrap-In-A-Snap, was found here — it starts with a lovely chickpea salad adorned with green grapes, scallions, parsley, celery and dill, all wrapped up snug as a hug in a tortilla with a generous portion of spinach. Sadly, I do not have photos to share of these, as we were unable to contain ourselves from inhaling the food off of our plates and then fighting over who would get seconds. (Let this be a testament to Mistress Ginger’s cooking skill.)

Moving on, the book features multiple scandalous main dishes, including Scantily-Clad Squash and Tofu, a *gorgeous* Brazilian Rainbow Platter, and even a Valentine Risotto (featuring heart-shaped beets!). There’s also a section on dressings, spreads and sauces, including what looks to be a divine Shakti Spread (with red lentils, sunflower seeds, and curry seasonings), Notta Ricotta, and Coconutty Cream Cheese. The last and most generous recipe section is dedicated to sweets and desserts, including Gingersnatch Cookies and a Barbarian Torte (this looks *amazing* as is going to be featured on either the Thanksgiving or Christmas menu, I cannot wait to try it). The book wraps up with some additional vegan resources – which is completely awesome, but I was so sad to get to the end.

The best part of this book is Mistress Ginger’s infectious personality and well-tuned advice. For instance, in her Brazen Butternut Bisque (pg. 80), she advises you on not only how to attractively ladle portions into each bowl, but also in your presentation:

Make a grand entrance. Gingerly descend a long winding staircase with soup bowls in tow. If you happen to trip on your gown and take a tumble, try not to spill the soup. There’s a fine line between fancy and tacky.

All in all, this is a hilarious, warming, and highly-entertaining read. Mistress Ginger truly shows that she not only knows how to entertain our bellies, but also our souls. I am so glad to have this book in my collection, and hope you’ll consider including it in yours!