Vegetarian Culinarian

Recipes and resources for food lovers going green, local, and compassionate.

This New Year

“O Son of Spirit! Noble have I created thee, yet thou hast abased thyself. Rise then unto that for which thou wast created.” Baha’u’llah

One of the things that being a vegetarian helps me to do is become more of who I want to be. I am forced, with each seemingly small choice, to become who I am inside. Each step has been a struggle against what is easy. It is standing in a grocery store aisle with no rennet-free cheese available, with a pizza planned for dinner. It is being offered a s’more with gelatin-containing marshmallows when I’m craving gooey chocolate. It is reading every ingredient when I’m tired and short on time. It is being hungry sometimes. It is asking an impatient waiter  for an ingredient rundown. It is driving to another store when the Target I’m at doesn’t sell cruelty-free shampoo. It is inconveniencing family and friends, and defending my choices. It is “giving up” things, one at a time, that my body never really wanted anyway. But at each juncture, I have found I can’t bring myself to support pain, slaughter, and torture, be it of humans or animals. I think of their eyes when they are scared, alone, fearful, in pain.  I can’t say that any desire or convenience in my life warrants the fear, pain, torture, or slaughter of another.

Our forefathers, our ancestors, were amazing. Obviously, their ingenuity and survival skills resulted in us all being here today. But I think that society grows and progresses with each generation. We aren’t one species scrambling for a foothold in an imposing, scary world – we aren’t clawing our way to the top. We’re here. And our survival has been so successful that we are the detriment of others. As a species, our position is safe enough for us to look around and reexamine our position, our purpose, and our habits. Doing things just because we have the power to do them or because our forefathers did them that way isn’t worthy reasoning anymore. We can’t build our choices on such a foundation.

The way I interpret the quote above is that we are created noble beings, and every small choice we make in our lives can uncover more of that nobility. Every choice either moves forward our ever-advancing civilization or hinders its progress. Sometimes supporting the status quo and simply going about life as usual hinders that progress, if we aren’t thinking about the choices we’re making. I don’t have a New Year’s Resolution in the scheme of resolving to make a radical 180 degree pledge. It is a good time, though, to think about re-committing to making each small choice with awareness and purpose, so that we can rise unto that for which we were created.

Image: Paul Brentnall /


Rebecca’s Vegan Holiday Peppermint Mocha


My mom’s Starbucks order: grande decaf mocha with six pumps peppermint, no whip. Six pumps tastes like a shocking toothpaste shot to me, but to each his own. 🙂 I thought I would create a more healthful version for her. It’s easy, fast, wholesome, vegan, and very cheery. Happy Holidays, Mom!

Rebecca’s Vegan Holiday Peppermint Mocha Recipe

For each cup of mocha:

1. Combine two heaping spoons good quality cocoa powder (or to taste – as a chocoholic, I like to use two tablespoons but others in my family prefer as little as one teaspoon) with enough agave nectar (or other liquid sweetener, such as date syrup or maple syrup) to make a smooth paste.

2. To this homemade chocolate syrup/paste, gradually whisk in a cup of soy, almond, rice, oat, or quinoa milk. I like the nuttiness of almond milk for hot cocoa and mocha.

3. Heat for two minutes in the microwave or stir in a saucepan over medium heat on the stovetop. Taste, and adjust by adding more milk if the sweetness or chocolate is too strong, or by adding more cocoa blended with liquid sweetener if it is not strong enough. Continue to heat and stir.

4. Once it’s warm and frothy, add a spoon of instant coffee or espresso granules (I like to use Starbucks Via, but my mom prefers a decaf instant coffee) and a drop (or two) of peppermint extract. My mother-in-law likes to top with a non-dairy whipped topping and top with chocolate shavings or sprinkles.

P.S. This is 2 Weight Watchers Plus Points if you use agave nectar, which is a free sweetener. How sweet is that? 🙂

Compassionate Holidays Begin with Vegan Baking


The rule to remember when substituting for eggs, dairy, meat, fat, sugar, and/or animal by-products is that what you put in should function the same way (leaven, bind, tenderize, provide structure, etc.) in the recipe as what you take out.

Some products you can substitute cup for cup, as in, for example, soy or rice milk for dairy milk. Other ingredients need to be replaced by two ingredients to achieve the same function. For example, you’d need to replace buttermilk with a combination of non-dairy milk and lemon juice or vinegar. Some substitutions may require that you lessen or increase other ingredients in the recipe to compensate. For example, if you substitute oil for butter in a cake recipe, you’ll use only 7/8 cup oil for every cup of butter, and you’ll need to increase the sugar and egg substitute to avoid creating a heavy texture. Sometimes a substitute you may use to replace something in one recipe won’t work in another. For example, ground flaxseed mixed with water is a great substitute for eggs in baked goods, but won’t work in recipes where eggs create the structure of the food, as in meringues or cheesecakes, or in flourless cakes and cookies that rely on eggs for structure.

Use a great guide:
The absolute best, most comprehensive resource I can recommend for substitutions is The Complete Guide To Vegan Food Substitutions, by Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman. Their guide covers substitutes for dairy, eggs, meat, animal by-products (honey & gelatin), gluten, soy, sugar, and fat. They walk you through how and what to substitute, and provide convenient substitution tables. Each section of substitutions gives you a sample of an “ordinary” recipe, like one from a Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, which has yucky ingredients swapped out for healthy, vegan ones. They also provide great recipes for staples, such as a gluten-free baking mix, eggless mayo, and seitan, as well as meals, desserts, and baked goods, such as their versions of shepherd’s pie, chocolate pie, and gingerbread cake. These are not hockey puck granola recipes. I am serious when I say these are better that what our society has grown up on. The switch to real, chemical-free, pain-free ingredients creates refreshing, delicious food.

Get it here:
It is also available on Kindle and iBooks, so there is no excuse not to have this amazing resource in your kitchen.

Get info online:
To get an idea of the role of different baking ingredients, you can check out FoodWorks.
(Note that the sweetener section is not complete; it leaves out agave nectar, date sugar, and maple syrup, among other alternatives.)

Cook’s Thesaurus, at, is another great resource for looking up ingredients, their functions, and possible substitutions.

The Post Punk Kitchen has a very informative, refreshingly-written piece on baking substitutions for vegans and when each substitute works best. You can find it here:

Try substitutions I’ve used:

Replacing Milk (cup for cup):
*Coconut milk
*Soy milk
*Almond milk
Note: You can make your own. Blanch a 1/2 cup of raw, organic almonds, then slip the skins off when cool. It doesn’t hurt to leave the skins on, but they can have a bitter aftertaste. Blend up your almonds and 2 cups or so of filtered water, depending on how thick you like your milk. You may need to stop and stir, then blend again. Strain out the nuts that are leftover using a mesh filter. If you’re using the almond milk for a savory recipe, I wouldn’t add anything else, except perhaps a pinch of salt. If you’re drinking it or using it for baking, you can add agave nectar or date or maple syrup to taste.
*Rice milk
Note: Read this article from Vegan Reader about the connection between Rice Dream brand and Monsanto. It also provides a great, easy recipe for making your own rice milk.

Replacing Buttermilk:
Buttermilk acts differently than milk in recipes and can’t be replaced with milk alone. The acid in it reacts with baking soda to help baked goods rise. If your recipe calls for buttermilk, replace it cup for cup with
*1 cup of any milk alternative plus 1 tbsp lemon juice or vinegar

Replacing Cream:
*Tal Ronnen’s Cashew Cream
Note: The recipe is available in his amazing book, the conscious cook, and also on his website,, where you can watch a video of Tal preparing it himself.
*Coconut cream

Replacing Butter:
*Earth Balance (available at Whole Foods)
*Coconut Oil (solid at room temperature, available at Whole Foods)
*Vegetable Shortening (Celine & Joni recommend subbing 3/4 c shortening for every cup of butter a recipe calls for.)

Replacing Oil:
*Date paste
*Mashed avocado
*Mashed beans thinned with water or liquid sweetener

Replacing Eggs:
*For each egg replaced: Mix 1 tbsp ground flaxseed and 2-3 tbsp water, let sit a few minutes until thickened
Note 1: Use this in baked goods like cookies and cakes but not recipes in which the eggs provide much structure, like flourless cakes and cookies, meringues, etc.
Note 2: Buy whole flax seeds & grind them yourself in a cleaned-out coffee grinder, as ground flax easily goes rancid on store shelves – if you grind more than you end up needing, refrigerate unused portion in airtight container or plastic zip bag. Store unused flaxseeds in the freezer.

*Egg replacer, such as Orgran Gluten Free No Egg Natural Egg Replacer
Note: This comes in powdered form. It is used by mixing the powder with water, and can also be used straight in some recipes. Details for each brand differ. I get mine at Whole Foods.

Follow this link to the Post Punk Kitchen for a more comprehensive list for egg replacement, as well as which substitutes can be used in which sorts of recipes:

Replacing Sugars:
If you decide to use granulated replacements in place of liquid sweeteners, or liquid sweeteners in place of granulated, your ratio of dry to wet ingredients will change, and you’ll need to adjust your recipe accordingly by increasing or decreasing your other liquids.

Replacing Granulated Sugar (refined white sugar isn’t vegan, as it is usually filtered with animal bone)
*Less refined sugar, such as Sugar In the Raw or Sucanat
*Brown sugar
*Molasses sugar
*Date sugar
Note: You can make this yourself by drying the dates (pits removed) in the oven at 400 degrees for 10 minutes then grinding.

Replacing Liquid Sweeteners (corn syrup, honey, etc.)
*Agave nectar
Note: Agave is great because it has a low glycemic index. This means it doesn’t spike your blood glucose levels like ordinary sugars do.
*Date syrup (I started using this after my recent move to teach at an international school in the Middle East. I love it because it has an earthy sweetness that is less sharp than refined sweeteners. It’s made of dates boiled in water.)
*Maple syrup (real, not the pancake stand-in)
*Celine and Joni mention using brown rice syrup or fruit syrups, which I haven’t yet tried.

Replacing Meat (in sausage rolls, cornish pasties, pot pies, etc.)
*Mushrooms (never underestimate the mushroom’s ability to mimic meat’s chewy mouthfeel or its ability to absorb any flavor it’s simmered in!)
*Chopped walnuts
*Soy meat substitutes (such as MorningStar Farms Veggie Sausage Patties)
*Tofu or tempeh
*Mycoprotein such as Quorn brand (I LOVE this stuff)
*Quinoa & lentils (both great sources of protein, and although quinoa is fluffy, like rice, mixed with lentils it can sub in baked goods where you might use ground meat)
*Beans (whole or mashed)

Alternatively, don’t bother subbing, and use great recipes instead:
I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention Vegan Baking Classics by Kelly Rudnicki. Because baking (in our society, at least) is so synonymous with eggs and dairy, oftentimes our attempts at recreating childhood favorites sans eggs and milk end up in the trash. If you want proven, scrumptious, like-you-had-at-home baked goods without the bother of reading up and testing new recipes, this baking book is an absolute must-have. Kelly began creating recipes for her son, who is fatally allergic to nuts, dairy, eggs, and legumes. Because she has five children to feed, she doesn’t use expensive or hard-to-find ingredients. These are recipes created by the drive a mother has for her children, and the necessities of low-cost, wholesome, easily accessible baked goods. Her first cookbook, The Food Allergy Mama’s Baking Book, was snapped up by vegans. This second baking book is a response to the demand.

Get it here:
Vegan Baking Classics is also available on iBooks and as a Google ebook.

Vegan Pumpkin Nog


I was on Our Family Eats last night, and found an awesome homemade pumpkin creamer. Loving autumn and all things pumpkin, I was ecstatic to find this idea of using pureed pumpkin in coffee, instead of buying the heavily-sugared stuff from Starbucks. I didn’t have all of the ingredients though (the dairy or maple syrup), so I mixed up mine with soy milk and agave nectar. It was incredible, and by itself tasted like a thick, creamy pumpkin eggnog, sans egg. Who needs to add coffee? 🙂 I’ve had three cups of it today, and the day isn’t over yet.

Basic ingredients:
soy milk
pureed pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
agave nectar
autumn spices such as cinnamon, clove, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg

The ratios are up to you and your individual tastes. You may like more or less pumpkin, more or less agave nectar, and you’ll probably use the spices you have on hand. If you have a pumpkin pie spice, that would work, too. Here’s what I do for an individual cup:

Into a mug, add 1/4 to 1/2 cup pureed pumpkin (I used the 365 Organic brand). I’d start with 1/4 then add more if it wasn’t thick enough. Mix in a tiny pinch each of ground clove, ground nutmeg, and ground ginger, and a pinch each of cinnamon and ground cardamom. I would opt on the teeny tiny side and then you can add more spice if you need to. If you mix the spices in with the pumpkin first, it will help them to incorporate into the cold soy milk. Not to worry if you don’t have all of those spices sitting around. You can also just use cinnamon, or any combination. Fill the rest of the mug with cold soy milk (I’m sure almond would work, too). Mix with a mini-whisk, then add a few tablespoons of agave nectar to taste. I squirt my in straight from the bottle. I haven’t tried it with maple syrup or honey, but I’m sure those would work, as well. Happy Autumn!

Airlines, Airports, and the Vegetarian


Airlines, Airports, and the Vegetarian

I’m about to embark on yet another flight – a long, 12 hour one. My preparations by now are almost mechanical; the checklist in my head honed from the need to protect myself when I venture into the meat-eater’s world. It is frustrating to be stuck somewhere, hungry, with limited options and few sympathizers. I thought a rundown of my experiences and planning tips might be of use to some of you out there. I would also love to hear tips from other traveling vegetarians.

On the airplane:
If your flight is long enough to offer an in-flight meal, airlines will allow you to reserve a vegetarian or vegan meal. I’ve done both; the vegetarian options have usually included some sort of cheesy, vegetable pasta such as lasagna (though flight attendants usually can’t verify that the cheese is rennet-free), or a boiled egg and muffin for breakfast, but airlines (even international ones) seem at a loss for vegans, whose meals often include the standard fare minus animal foods. This has left me with plates of lettuce and bread many a trip. Only one memorable flight (to Hawaii) afforded me the opportunity to sample a hummus & olive platter, which was delicious and nourishing (and $9.00).

At the airport:
Airports offer little more. If you are lucky enough to find a Burger King, a BK Veggie Burger made with a Morningstar Farms Veggie Patty is a filling vegan option if you hold the mayo. Some airports, like Houston’s, are almost anti-vegetarian in their limited choices and meat-scented corridors. You can assuage your hunger with snacks from one of the many over-priced airport shops – granola bars, chips, and the like – or Starbucks offerings like scones, oatmeal, or the cage-free egg-white and spinach wrap. When I’m taking a short flight, and am hungry enough that I don’t care about overpaying, these are doable options. However, when I’m traveling ten or twelve hours, I need to plan ahead.

Packable, cheap, security-friendly food options:

Subway. Get a footlong veggie sub on your way to the airport. Yes, it can go through security. This sub is two meals, complete with protein, just-baked bread, and fresh veggies of your choice. Alternately, you can make sandwiches at home, but I’ve found that meat substitutes like soy chicken patties tend to get stiff and chewy shortly after heating, while Subway’s veggie patties stay moist and tender longer.

Hummus. Good-for-you protein that is filling and delicious. Your typical carton of Sabra Hummus can’t go through security, though, so you’ll need to head to Whole Foods and get the dry hummus mix from the bulk bin section. I sprinkle in some chile flakes and dried parsley, as well. This dry mix is lightweight, takes up very little room, and is security-friendly. Once on the plane, either ask the attendant for a cup of water or use water from your water bottle (which you filled after going through security). I take along a pack of crackers (like Triscuits) with which to dip the hummus, and a container of olives (from which the liquid has been drained).

Oatmeal and fruit. I don’t use instant oatmeal at home, but a packet of oatmeal is another easy-to-carry, lightweight, packable meal which is security-friendly and can be mixed with hot water once on the plane. Check the nutrition labels at the store; some brands are infinitely better for you than others. Bring along cheap, potassium-packed bananas or a box of raisins to mix in.

Snacks. Once again, Whole Foods bulk bins come in handy as a cheap way to bring along organic nutrition. Mix your own trail mix using your favorite dried fruits and nuts. I also get fruit leather and limited-ingredient animal crackers from Whole Foods.

Drinks. Bring along your water bottle, which can be filled after going through security. I pack my own non-dairy creamer for the flight because oftentimes the only creamer option for coffee or tea is half and half. I also bring individually-wrapped Yogi tea bags. Tea bags are another little luxury that are light-weight and security-friendly, and infinitely better than what you’ll be offered on the plane. Alternately, there are many drink choices at the airport gift shops if you’re willing to pay.

Foods you can’t bring:
Unfortunately, many go-to travel food choices aren’t options at the airport. Anything liquid-like won’t go through security. This includes individual packs of applesauce, yogurt, peanut butter, veggie dip, and protein shakes. You can sometimes find these items in gift shops after security, but they will be pricey, and your brand choices will be limited. (For example, Yoplait Go-Gurt tubes are widely available, but contain gelatin.)

What else to pack in your carry-on:
*To-Go Ware Bamboo Utensils. Eco-friendly, reusable, beautiful. I have three of these sets, and don’t go anywhere without at least one. A set includes a bamboo spoon, fork, knife, and chopsticks. Invaluable when you pack your own food and need to mix up hummus or eat oatmeal!
*Dr. Bronner’s Liquid Castile Soap. You can buy a 1 oz container of it which will fit into your allowed 1 quart ziplock bag of liquids (remember that each item in your 1 quart bag cannot be more than 3 oz.), or you can buy a larger bottle, and pour some soap into a small travel container. You’ll use this for everything – washing utensils or containers, hands, and face. Great for sensitive skin, cruelty-free, vegan, and biodegradable.
*Yes to Cucumbers Facial Towelettes. Grab a small travel pack at Target for a few bucks. These are great face refreshers for after a long flight, require no rinsing, and are security-friendly. I also use them as regular wipes to clean my hands and tray table before a meal. Great for sensitive skin, cruelty-free, vegan, and biodegradable.
*Tupperware. These reusable products are airtight, recyclable, and BPA-free. They don’t leach when filled with hot food or liquid or when microwaved. They are great for after the flight, too, when you need a reusable, microwaveable container for your restaurant leftovers. Tupperware products I carry with me include: water bottle, Vent n’ Serve sealable mug (useful for oatmeal, cereal, coffee, tea, soup, hummus, leftovers), and sealable snack containers for my homemade bulk snack mixes.

I also couldn’t live without:
*Happy Cow. This searchable website is a guide to vegetarian and vegan restaurants and health food stores the world over. **As Valerie mentioned in the comments section, this is also an ipad app!!**
*VeganXpress. This ipad app is a great guide for figuring out what is and isn’t vegan at many fast food chains and restaurants.

Garden Lasagna (vegan)

My favorite recipes are loose guidelines – the sort my grandma and mom passed down. Our family’s muffin recipe calls for a cup of smashed fruit, for example, and any fruit will do. It calls for half a cup of moistener – could be oil, applesauce, smashed banana, or butter. You get to use your creativity, but you know you’ll come out with something delicious…

This lasagna recipe is like that. Use your favorite vegetables. It is lighter and more vegetable-y  than it is saucy or cheesy. If you want it to be heartier, choose lots of different mushrooms for your vegetable layer, for flavor and texture, and use a hearty, thick bottled sauce.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Basically, you’ll create pasta sheets, sauce, vegetable filling and “cheese”.  Alternate in layers, beginning with sauce on the bottom, then pasta sheets, then veggies, then cheese, until your pan is filled up. Top with either the sauce or the veggies. The “cheese” is best used up in one or two layers at the most, midway through. Bake, covered for 30 minutes or until everything is heated through (might take 45 minutes). I sometimes take the cover off after the 30 minutes, and heat an additional five or ten if the vegetables have released a lot of moisture that I want to evaporate.

1) Pasta Sheets: To create your own, follow this recipe. I haven’t tried to find vegan pasta sheets at the store, but I’m sure they’re out there. If you can recommend any, leave a comment! 🙂

2) Sauce: To create your own, follow this recipe. You can also use your favorite jarred sauce, although watch out for high sodium and added high fructose corn syrup (just read the ingredients label to ensure you’re choosing a healthful sauce).

3) Vegetable Filling: The amount you need depends on the size of your pan, and the vegetables you need depend on your tastes. For  a 9″ x 13″ pan, I saute a chopped onion in olive oil until it is translucent, then I add garlic, a chopped eggplant, one bunch of kale, chopped, a few handfuls of fresh green beans, chopped, and a package of mushrooms, (in that order) and I usually end up with a few cups extra, which I save and add to a stew or use to make extra individual lasagnas. I just undercook the veggies, knowing that they’ll cook more in the oven. If you are using something that cooks quickly, like spinach, don’t add it to your saute – the 30 minutes in the oven will be enough. Add it directly to the vegetable layer as you’re layering.

4) Cheese: I tear one block of extra firm tofu into shredded, uneven chunks  about an inch each, then sprinkle liberally with lemon juice and sea salt to taste and let sit while making the sauce and veggie filling. The tanginess of the lemon juice and saltiness of the sea salt help mimic ricotta, especially once it is next to the vegetables and sauce. I usually only do one layer of the “cheese”.


Photo Credits: Simon Howden

Pasta Dough From Scratch

Here are two from-scratch pasta dough recipes that I use all the time- one vegan, one vegetarian, both by wonderful chefs. It is easy to experiment with pasta flavors – incorporate flavors that mesh well with the sauce you’re going to use (like garlic, spinach, or basil for a pesto sauce, or red chile for a marinara). Try chopped fresh herbs, like basil and oregano, or powdered spices like garlic and red chile powder. You’ll have to experiment according to your tastes, but I’ve found that if I’m using fresh herbs, I need a few tablespoons at least, whereas if I’m using powdered spices, I’ll use one or two teaspoons or so of all of them combined. It also depends on how fresh your powdered spices are. Fresh spices are obviously stronger, and so you’ll need to use less. Knead your herbs into the dough or, if using spices, premix into the flour before creating your egg well.  Keep in mind that fresh pasta, while tasting better, will also fall apart more easily if boiled too long. Remember that pasta continues to cook unless you rinse well with cold water after straining.


Tal Ronnen Vegan Pasta Dough Recipe – Utilizing tofu in place of traditional eggs

From the indispensable the conscious cook

4 ounces silken tofu

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon red palm oil

½ teaspoon sea salt

2 cups semolina flour, plus more for dusting

Pasta dough: Place all ingredients except flour in a food processor with 2 tablespoons cold water and process on high for 1 minute.

Gradually add the flour, ½ cup at a time. It may be necessary to add a bit more water to make a smooth dough. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for 5 minutes. Wrap or cover, and sit in fridge to rest for 30 minutes.


Tyler Florence Pasta Dough Recipe

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

1 teaspoon salt

3 large eggs, plus 1 for egg wash

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Cornmeal, for dusting

Combine the flour and salt on a flat work surface; shape into a mound and make a well in the center. Add the eggs and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to the well and lightly beat with a fork. Gradually draw in the flour from the inside wall of the well in a circular motion. Use 1 hand for mixing and the other to protect the outer wall. Continue to incorporate all the flour until it forms a ball. [Note: Don’t skip the step of making a well with the flour and slowly incorporating the flour into the egg – if you try to combine it all at once, it will not form a smooth, pliable dough.] Continue as directed above.  Sprinkle some flour on work surface, knead and fold the dough until elastic and smooth, this should take about 10 minutes. Brush the surface with the remaining olive oil and wrap the dough in plastic wrap; let rest for about 30 minutes to allow the gluten to relax.


Wondering what to do with your dough?

Watch a video about how to use a pasta machine.

Photo Credits:Dan at

Animal Welfare Awareness

There is no doubt that the best way to care for animals is not to use them at all – to adopt a vegan lifestyle…

…but everyone out there is on a continuum, progressing in understanding according to their own awareness and the development of their empathetic capacities. I know hunters who feel nothing when they kill animals. Some friends own ranches and are emotionally removed from the slaughtering process. Other friends eat meat, but readily admit they could not kill animals themselves or watch the animals being killed. Some friends have reasons for eating some meat (like fish) but not others (like veal).  Friends and family in Tonga eat dogs, while friends from India balk at the idea of eating cows, which are sacred to them. Others will not eat meat, but will still eat cheese made with rennet (the lining of a calf’s stomach).  Some still buy sugar filtered with animal bone. A few are acutely aware of where everything they buy comes from – down to the tires on their bicycles (some tires are not vegan) – and ensure that nothing they purchase was produced in any way through animal slaughter or with animal materials. I never buy cleaning or bath products that have been tested on animals. What I’ve seen in almost everyone is the struggle that occurs when one becomes aware of another being’s suffering. Everyone deals with it differently, in their own time, in all sorts of ways – from shutting their eyes to campaigning for PETA and all of the life changes in between. But the paradigm shift always begins with that first gleaning of awareness.

There are some great websites out there that help us grow our awareness, allow us to use our purchasing power to change farming and experimentation practices, and help us make the most compassionate choices wherever we currently are on the continuum.

The Animal Rescue Site

Animal Rescue Site – The animal rescue site provides funding support for The Fund for Foundationthe International Fund for Animal Welfare, and the the North Shore Animal League America.  Click for free each day, and sponsors will donate money towards food and care of rescued animals. In addition, sign petitions, send e-cards, shop for fair trade gifts (proceeds go towards fund), and read animal rescue stories.

Animal Welfare Approved “The Animal Welfare Approved program audits and certifies family farms raising their animals humanely, outdoors on pasture or range…Animals are raised outdoors on pasture or range on true family farms with the ‘most stringent’ humane animal welfare standards according to the World Society for the Protection of Animals. Annual audits by experts in the field cover birth to slaughter. AWA is able to offer this certification and technical and marketing services to farmers at no charge. Because AWA is not financially dependent on farmer fees, the program is unbiased and completely transparent.” Find AWA farms and products in your area, and read about the science and research behind AWA’s standards.

Better World Shopper This great, research-based website ranks products and companies according to social and environmental responsibilities, including animal welfare. The link will take you to the dairy ratings, but you can look up seafood, meat, and fast food, in addition to non-food items like cosmetics.

Cornucopia Institute publishes scorecards for companies and farms. Review the organic egg scorecard, and dairy scorecard,in addition to their organic soy scorecard.

Eat Well Guide Find sustainable, organic restaurants, caterers, bakers, gardens, co-ops, and farmers in your area, and avoid factory farming altogether.

Farm Sanctuary “works to protect farm animals from cruelty, inspire change in the way society views and treats farm animals, and promote compassionate vegan living.” Participate in rescue and adoption of farm animals, understand the issues underlying factory farming, and get involved with current bills and campaigns.

Global Animal Partnership is “a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 2008 [which] brings together farmers, scientists, ranchers, retailers, and animal advocates—a diverse group with the common goal of wanting to improve the welfare of animals in agriculture.” This group has introduced the 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating Standards.

Living Cruelty Free The blog title speaks for itself. Lots of resources here, including more in-depth details than you’ll find at some other sites. For example, Better World Shopper lists The Body Shop as one of the top 20 overall companies for ethical practices, but Living Cruelty Free actually digs a bit deeper to find that while The Body Shop does not test on animals, it is a subsidiary of L’Oreal, which does test on animals.

Local Harvest Find small local farms, farmers’ markets, and the CSA closest to you, and avoid factory farming altogether.

Maple Farms Sanctuary -Check out this amazing animal sanctuary submitted by Jake Johnston from Play With My Food. “Maple Farm Sanctuary is an animal sanctuary providing lifelong homes for abused, abandoned and unwanted farmed animals while promoting veganism and respect for all life through public information. Maple Farm Sanctuary has taken in a fraction of the billions of farmed animals that are bought, sold, tormented and slaughtered by the meat, dairy and fur industries.”

PETA – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals provides this invaluable list of companies that do and don’t test on animals.

Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine– This non-profit organization of members of the medical community is focused on research-based preventative medicine (they offer a Vegetarian Starter Kit towards this end) as well as encouraging and campaigning for higher ethical standards in medical research. They have successfully persuaded several universities to cease the use of animals for medical school training and in experimentation.

Whole Foods 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating Standards provide consumers with information about the animals their products come from, ranging from Step 1: No Crates, No Cages, to Step 5: Animal Centered (Entire Life on Same Farm). They are working with Global Animal Partnership in launching this effort.

World of Good This online store by eBay “brings you thousands of Animal Friendly, People Positive, and Eco Positive products and listings that Support a Cause – 100% verified by independent Trust Provider organizations and labeled with Goodprint statements that show your positive purchase impact.”

Do you know of other resources that help us make compassionate choices? I’d love to hear from you!

Photo Credits: Peter Haken

Foods for Fasting

People have fasted for centuries for many different reasons. As a Baha’i, I participate in the fasting tradition, and abstain from all food and drink from sunrise to sunset between March 2nd and March 20th. In addition to reminding us that we are truly spiritual beings, fasting can help us regain balance in our eating habits. It forces us to eat purposefully, and to choose what we eat wisely. My first fast over 15 years ago didn’t go well because I didn’t fast practically – I thought that spiritual help would come and I wouldn’t have to pay attention to what I ate before the sun came up and after it went down. I’ve realized by now that we are given intellect for a reason! In addition to using prayer, meditation, and yoga to refocus spiritually, I regain balance in my eating habits through purposeful choices, as well.

Here is what I do:

*Remember that because calorie intake is reduced, all calories count. Cut out all empty calories during the fasting period. This includes processed foods (like soda and frozen dinners) and high glycemic index foods (like white bread), which don’t provide a lot of nutrients for the calories you’re eating and don’t last as long in your body as low glycemic foods (e.g. whole grains). Click on the glycemic index link above for more information.

*Hydrate wisely. Because of its high caffeine content, coffee dehydrates your body. If you’re one of those whose only liquid in the morning is in the form of coffee, you should probably consider rethinking this habit during the fasting period. I love coffee, but can get too dependent on the caffeine, and my yearly fast helps me break that caffeine addiction. Each morning I drink a few cups of tea, water, and Gatorade. Gatorade (or any other drink with elecrtolytes) helps my body stay hydrated throughout the day, which greatly reduces dehydration headaches.

*Include whole grains and fiber in your breakfast. Whole grains take longer to break down, and therefore keep you feeling full longer. Oatmeal (whole oats – not instant) is a great breakfast for the fasting period. I’ll microwave half a cup of oats, 1 cup of water, and a quarter cup of raisins and pecans at 50% power for five or six minutes, then stir and add a bit of honey and sea salt.

*Include protein in your breakfast.  I am sure to include lots of protein for breakfast to keep up my energy supply for the day. I’ll have a soy sausage patty, eggs, yogurt, bean burrito, chocolate soy milk, or soy protein shake in addition to a bowl of oatmeal with raisins and nuts.

*Break your fast slowly. When the sun goes down, I purposefully break my fast with water or tea, instead of gorging (as my hunger sometimes urges me to do!) on whatever is to be had. Friends of mine break their fast with broth or juice. Rehydrate with fluids, and then go ahead with your meal.

*Plan ahead. I try to plan out a few meals that will be quick to prepare and ensure I have the ingredients on hand. If I don’t do this, then I end up eating whatever junk can be had at the end of the day. Here are some quick meals I make during the fasting period that are packed with nutrients, fiber, and whole grain:

Bean Burritos – vegan: Saute onion in olive oil until translucent, then add a few cloves of chopped garlic or a few teaspoons of granulated garlic or garlic powder. Stir in either chopped green chile or dried red chile flakes, to taste. If you can’t get find good green chile (not canned!) I would go with the dried red chile flakes, which are easier to find. At this point, if I’m in a hurry, I’ll add two or three cups of prepared beans, either from the crock-pot or canned. If I have a bit more time, I’ll add in some other vegetables I have on hand in with the onions, such as zucchini, summer squash, corn, and tomatoes. Saute until zucchini is crisp-tender, then add in the beans. Stir to heat through, then remove from heat. Salt to taste, then wrap in whole wheat tortillas. If you’re not vegan, you can top with sour cream, yogurt, or cheddar cheese.

Egg Fried Rice – can be vegan (substitute egg beaters for egg): Prepare a cup of basmati, jasmine, or brown rice according to package directions or in the rice cooker to yield two cups. In a frying pan or wok, saute a chopped onion in olive oil until translucent. Add a few diced carrots and peas, and a handful of edamame, saute a few minutes more. Add in sliced mushrooms, then the rice. You may need to add a bit more oil at this stage. After everything is stirred through, make a well in the center of the rice, and break in one or two eggs. Scramble quickly, breaking the egg up into small bits, and then incorporate in with the rest of the rice. Remove from heat. Sprinkle over with sesame oil and Bragg’s Liquid Aminos, and top with sliced green onion.

Pilau -vegan – Prepare a cup of basmati rice according to package directions or in the rice cooker to yield two cups. In a frying pan or wok, saute a chopped onion in olive oil until translucent. Add a handful of raisins and/or chopped dates, and a handful of chopped nuts such as almonds or pecans. Saute through, and sprinkle with sea salt, a 1/4 tsp turmeric, 1/8 tsp clove, 1/4 tsp cardamom, and a 1/4 tsp cumin. Stir in the rice, adding oil if necessary. Taste, and adjust seasonings, adding salt if necessary, and increasing other spices to your liking. Set aside. Saute cubed extra-firm tofu in vegetable oil until golden on all sides. Drain and sprinkle with salt. Add to the rice. Eat with flatbread and a garden salad.

Quelites (beans and spinach) – vegan: Chop an onion and saute in olive oil until translucent. Add a few cloves of diced garlic or a few teaspoons of granulated garlic or garlic powder. Add in a few cups of prepared pinto or red kidney beans, either from a can (in this case, use two cans) or homemade. Stir through to heat, and add a few teaspoons of dried red chile flakes (to taste) and a bag of fresh spinach. Heat through just until the spinach wilts. Eat with whole grain tortillas or flatbread.

Whole Wheat Penne Pasta – vegan: Saute a diced onion in olive oil until translucent. Add a few cloves of diced garlic or a few teaspoons of granulated garlic or garlic powder. Dice up a few cups (total) of whatever vegetables are in season where you are. For me this includes summer squash, zucchini, broccoli, and carrots. Saute the vegetables in with the onion and garlic, adding olive oil if necessary. Set aside. Add in a rinsed can of beans of your choice, or chop extra-firm tofu into 1-inch cubes, then saute in oil until browned on all sides. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Set aside. Prepare whole wheat penne according to package directions. When drained, add the pasta to the vegetables and beans or tofu. Sprinkle with sea salt to taste, then squeeze over with lemon juice and add in either fresh chopped rosemary or fresh basil or red chile flakes.

Do you fast? If so, do you fast for a cause or a religious tradition or health? Do you have special meals that cleanse or sustain? I’d love for you to share!

Photo Credits: lobster20 at

Green Bay Guacamole & Steelers Salsa (with Homemade Tortilla Chips)

Green Bay Guacamole

Can this be called a recipe? We love guacamole in New Mexico… I have been eating this since I was a child. One of my favorite snacks is a homemade griddled tortilla filled with smashed avocado and roasted green chile, sprinkled with sea salt. Yum! This recipe is dedicated to my brother in Colorado, who is at this moment decked out in Green Bay gear, whipping up good things in his kitchen, heart beating in anticipation of the upcoming game… Go Green Bay!

Start with the amounts given, then adjust accordingly to taste.

4-6 avocados, depending on size of avocado

1 – 2 tsp salt

1 – 2 jalapeños (more or less depending on how hot you can take it)

squeeze of juice from 1/2 a lime or lemon (this adds taste but also ensures your guacamole won’t turn brown, so don’t skip it!)

1 tsp garlic powder or 1 clove garlic, crushed and minced.

To obtain avocado flesh, make an incision around the avocado long-wise (your incision will cut through the part where the stem was) through to the pit. Twist each half of the avocado in opposite directions in order to separate the halves. You should now have two little bowls of avocado. Scoop the flesh out of each with a spoon (after removing the pit from one) and mash (I like my guacamole chunky, so I don’t mash too much). Repeat with all avocados. Add the squeeze of lemon or lime juice, salt, and garlic. Mince the jalapeños (wearing gloves if you have them – if you don’t, be sure that you don’t rub your eyes or nose later on…) and then add them to the avocados. Taste, then adjust, adding more salt or jalapeños if necessary. If you’ve already added too much salt or too many jalapeños, add in another avocado.

The following recipes for Salsa Verde and Homemade Tortilla Chips are from Vegetarian Planet by Chef Didi Emmons. I absolutely love this resource, which includes whole food recipes for everything from Spelt Walnut Bread to Thai Tofu with Red Curry Sauce over Coconut Scallion Rice to Chocolate Blackout Pudding. I especially love that whole pages of informational sections are included, such as how to cook various grains and differences in taste, texture, and cooking times of various Chinese noodles.

Salsa Verde

2 quarts water

1 lb tomatillos, husked

3 large garlic cloves

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 cup lime juice (from 2 limes)

1 1/2 tsp sugar

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

1/2 to 1 jalapeño pepper, minced [Note: I use 2]

1/2 tsp salt

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. Bring water to a boil in a saucepan. Add the husked tomatillos, boil for 3 minutes. Drain, and put into a blender or food processor.

2. Add remaining ingredients to the tomatillos. Blend or pulse for only a few seconds, leaving the salsa chunky. Store in a sealed container up to 4 days.

Makes 3 cups salsa.

Homemade Tortilla Chips

Didi’s recipe calls for flour tortillas, however, corn tortillas are what we use in New Mexico…

Take a short stack of tortillas. Four tortillas will make 24 chips, so adjust accordingly.

Cut the stack in half, then cut each half into 3 wedges. Heat a large griddle over medium-high heat. Coat with 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Lay the tortilla wedges on the griddle, salting generously, and let sit 5 minutes, adjusting the heat to ensure the tortillas don’t burn. Once they are golden, remove them and let them dry on paper towels.  Serve as soon as possible.

Photo Credits: Michal Marcol