Tuesday, November 28, 2006

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Breakfast - A Habit

Call me boring but I think breakfast is a "serial" behavior. I tend to eat the same damn thing each morning for months on end before I move on to something else. Lately, since I am pregnant and need something immediately in my stomach upon waking, I make a smoothie for my husband and I. I thought I'd share this easy recipe for anyone else looking for a healthy, semi-sweet treat in the a.m. to break the monotony. (If you are repeat offender with morning meals)
In a blender, pour a cup of soy milk, rice milk, almond milk, whatever milk you desire. Add a big scoop of rice protein powder (at whole foods, its vegan and there is no soy in it) and one tablespoon of flax powder. I add about 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon too. Blend that up first. Add roughly 1 cup of frozen fruit. My favorites are cherries, blueberries, strawberries. You can also add half of a banana if you need it sweeter, and blend it with the liquids before you add the frozen fruit.
Really, this smoothie is super easy and tasty without making you feel like you are ingesting ice cream for breakfast. Another favorite I think I ate for months is oatmeal. Dang, you can make oatmeal sweet OR savory.
My mom is a kick. I think she ate cinnamon toast every morning for maybe 15 years. She has perfected it. First, she takes some bread and toasts it to perfection. Second, she applies the butter so every part of that toast is evenly coated and ready to soak up the shakes of cinnamon and sugar which appear to be an art piece in the making. She is an artist, after all.
My dad makes a menagerie of ingredients in different forms. He loves to mix oatmeal or healthy hot cereals with a variety of nuts and dried fruits OR have a scramble of sorts with lots of veggies and spice.

I think I may be more like my dad when it comes to eating in the a.m. I like a hearty meal that usually keeps my stomach silent until around 11 or so. If she could survive on sweets alone, mom would eat a breakfast of cocoa puffs, some waffles for breakfast with fruit on top (hold the whipped cream), and for dinner, a block of chocolate. Fair trade dark chocolate of course.

Old habits die hard, but since I chose to follow a vegan lifestyle, some habits had to die while others were born. I eat healthier than anyone I know only because I truly enjoy eating organic, local, fresh food. I try to make functioning for my physical self as easy as possible and healthy, nutritious and satisfying food is great place to start.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Dairy Fairy

Remember the load of bull that yielded a buck under your pillow when you were young? That's right, the tooth fairy. She daintily collects orphaned teeth while leaving behind a predictable dollar or two. I don't remember when this sweet myth rotted away like taffy stuck in my molars, but other mythical stories were fact until I learned otherwise as a knowledgeable adult. The little white lie I will share today is that of MILK. MILK, doing a body good, making your teeth and bones STRONG among other things. I spent some time with friends yesterday, and their lil' ones were sipping the magical white potion as their mommies sipped some bubbly. I wondered why this lie must live on. The baby in my belly ain't drinking any milk but my own, which means alternatives abound when it comes time for weaning.
Apparently the Miami Herald just ran a story about Chocolate Milk being a great way for athletes to replenish while working out. Today, a story begs to differ by dietitian Susan Levin. She says,"I suggest skipping the fat and cholesterol found in milk and sticking to water or a conventional sports drink. No one -- athlete or not -- should rely on chocolate milk for calcium, carbohydrates or protein. Plant-based foods offer a much-healthier source of vital nutrients, vitamins and minerals."

Plant-based foods vs. MILK:
"Studies have shown that vegetarians absorb and retain more calcium from foods than do nonvegetarians. Vegetable greens such as spinach, kale and broccoli, and some legumes and soybean products are good sources of calcium from plants." http://www.americanheart.org/Heart_and_Stroke_A_Z_Guide/vegdiet.html

"American women have been consuming an average of two pounds of milk per day for their entire lives, yet thirty million American women have osteoporosis. Drinking milk does not prevent bone loss. Bone loss is accelerated by ingesting too much protein, and milk has been called "liquid meat."

Nutritionists and physicians have learned that plant products are good sources of protein, iron, calcium, and vitamin D because they can be easily absorbed by the body and don’t contain artery-clogging fat. The American Dietetic Association states, “Well-planned vegan … diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including during pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence.”
From the same website above, I found this info which is VERY interesting and helpful for vegan moms or moms to be. It outlines each nutrient in question, and how to find them in plant-based foods. The first one is my favorite, because its the dreaded question for ALL vegans!

Protein—Consumption of too much protein is a much bigger issue than not getting enough. Protein deficiency is common only in countries suffering from famine. Eating too much protein, however, can lead to cancers of the colon and liver. Children can get all the protein that their bodies need from whole grains in the form of oats, brown rice, and pasta; from nuts and seeds, including sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts, and spreads such as tahini and legumes, including tofu, lentils, beans, and peanut butter.

• Iron—Some babies’ intestines bleed after drinking cow’s milk, increasing their risk of developing iron-deficiency anemia since the blood that they’re losing contains iron. Formula-fed babies should be fed a soy-based formula with added iron to minimize the risk of intestinal bleeding. Iron-rich foods such as raisins, almonds, dried apricots, blackstrap molasses, and fortified grain cereals will meet the needs of toddlers and children 12 months and older. Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron, so foods rich in both, such as green, leafy vegetables are particularly valuable.

• Calcium—Cornbread, broccoli, kale, tofu, dried figs, tahini, great northern beans, and fortified orange juice and soy milk are all excellent sources of calcium. As with iron, vitamin C will help your child’s system absorb calcium efficiently.

• Vitamin D—Cow’s milk does not naturally contain vitamin D; it’s added later. Vitamin D-enriched soy milk provides this nutrient without the animal fat. A child who spends as little as 10 to 15 minutes three times a week playing in the sunshine, with arms and face exposed, will get sufficient vitamin D because it is synthesized in the skin when the skin is exposed to sunlight.

• Vitamin B12—Whereas other primates get their necessary vitamin B12 from feces, dirt, unchlorinated water, and insects, any commercially available multivitamin will ensure an adequate amount of the vitamin for your child. Vitamin B12 is also found in fortified soy milk and many cereals.

Quite frightening tis the following but I think your knowing is going to make the milk in your life become less, uh, appetizing. Apparently the dairy industry is monitored by the USDA for a "safe milk supply." Get ready, milk can only contain 750 million or less puss cells PER LITER in order to be shipped across state borders. "In the year 2000, the average liter of milk in America contained only 323 million pus cells, according to Hoard's Dairyman, the dairy industry magazine. Author Jim Dickrell reports that the level of pus cells has been rising ever since farmers began using Monsanto's genetically engineered bovine growth hormone." Quoted from a dairy industry magazine, "When cell counts in milk exceed 200 (million per liter), the odds favor that the [udder] is infected or is recovering from infection. "
Approximately one-third of the cows being milked at any one time in America are stressed and infected. Milk from these cows contains large amounts of bacteria, virus, and pus. As a consequence, farmers must treat their herds with increased amounts of antibiotics.

Oh, and ORGANIC MILK...."The healthiest milk from the healthiest cow is naturally loaded with lactoferrins, immunoglobulins, and growth hormones. Horizon's organic milk contains animal fat and cholesterol, dioxins, and bacteria. The amount of somatic cells (pus) in organic milk is lower than milk from non-organic cows, but it's still dead white blood cells and dead bacteria. Ask yourself this question. Does organic human breast milk sound like a delicious drink for an adult human? Instinctively, most people know that there are substances in breast milk that are not intended for their adult bodies. Same goes for pig's milk and dog's milk. Same for cow's milk."

I am uncertain where to go from here. I suppose I will focus on our next holiday, Christmas, where Santa (magically fat but always fitting down the chimney) gulps down a glass of milk and cookies you leave for him. My advice, if you want good loot, skip the milk and serve up some delicious vegan chocolate chip cookies. (recipe below!)


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

"Turkeys are DUMB"

Pangs in my stomach stab as I hear this naive and just plain annoying reason for supporting the slaughtering of millions of turkeys for THANKSgiving. 45 million are cooked to each host/hostesses desire with a side of mashed potatoes and stuffing while 22 million get gobbled up for Christmas dinner. Tom Savage, an Oregon State University Animal Scientist, decided to take on this dumb turkey challenge as he grew sick of his poultry subjects constantly boraged with naive statements from the mouth that eats them. The nationally recognized poultry geneticist points out that "turkeys are smart animals with personality and character, with a keen awareness of their surroundings." He refers to the stories passed on about turkeys cocking their heads back and staring up at the sky while its raining, thus drowning themselves to death. Apparently this is a genetically-caused nervous disorder called tetanic toricollar spasms. Sadly, its the stupid humans running the factory farms who are in charge of the breeding and care which means they are to blame for genetic issues. We can also blame the farmers for the turkeys inability to fly because the birds are bred to be maxed out on the meat mass therefore they are too heavy to be able to fly. Wild turkeys can fly just fine, which means domesticated were most likely able to at some point, until they became debeaked, close quartered, dirty birds farmed by dumps like Tyson.
I visited the FARM SACTUARY in Orland California this past weekend. We celebrated our feathered friends by feeding them and treating them with the respect they deserve. Many families have volunteered to adopt turkeys from the Farm Sactuary. FS rescues farm animals from the worst farms in America, and these animals have learned to adjust to humans in a new way. There are many "turkey love stories" these families share and most include the fact that turkeys love to snuggle. There is a famous "hugging turkey" named Lydia who flaps her wings and runs up to guests that visit her at the farm. She will literally embrace you by pressing her chest against you and stretching her head and neck over your shoulder! These stories remind me of my now deceased greyhound Tai and all greyhounds that I meet. Usually these animals are handled like professional athletes while they are at the track and winning. As soon as they slow down, its time to let them loose in a field in the middle of nowhere or just shoot them or starve them to death. For the horrifying treatment some endure, the most amazing sight to see is how well these dogs take to their new moms and dads.
If only we could learn from animals and understand the unconditional love they show towards the humans that care for them even when the caretaker is abusive. Maybe its time to stop and think why you love your pet so much but eat animals that have been treated so poorly you would probably puke if you saw how that animal was raised and killed for your meal. (If you wish to know, look up MEET YOUR MEAT online and watch it) You will not forget those times as a child when your parents took you to a farm or an amusement park where you had the rare chance to get close to a goat, pig or horse. Those moments are magical because animals have that power over us. Remember those moments this Thanksgiving with your family.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

I brought this on myself....

I must admit I became very irritated today by the constant onslaught of animal/environmentally related e-mails. Certainly I end up on these e-mailing lists because I have donated money before or signed up to find out about the latest catastrophes in the animal world in hopes of educating myself. But for the sake of me caring any longer, please figure out that 10 emails a day from different causes is ridiculous. For example, at 11am came a "cute pet offer" from the Humane Society involving the purchase of some super LAME gifts for the holidays from their website. If I buy someone a membership to the Humane Society, I get a "darling" little plush dog or cat in a carrier. If someone sent this to me, I think I would either assume it was from my mother in law or that they were completely insane. I also received an update from Worldwatch Institute at 10:47 am regarding the decline in species of seafood by 2048....I think I read the same article about 5 times already earlier this week. Then, we have arriving early this morning, an offer to buy a unique gift that saves the baby seals. The International Fund for Animal Welfare promises that they offer "a price for every budget." What they don't realize is that they send me emails daily for money! Around 8am this morning I received an email from the Union of Concerned Scientists asking me to ask congress for money to protect ash trees. Now, I must give them credit, they are not asking for ANY money from me (just the government), just for participation and they also are presenting something I have NEVER even heard of whether its a seriously pressing issue or not. Susan Murray from Oceana chimed in at 1:30pm because she wants me to refuse to let big oil destroy America's oceans. Again, no money, just a petition but HELL, I have GOT to do some strategic unsubscribing to avoid frustration on a daily basis. Its not the fault of these organizations, I know they need money from somewhere. Between the mailings about the abused horses, abandoned animals, korea's dog eating, etc, I think I should keep my email sanity in check before I have to start asking for money via your computer for my psychiatric bills.
This year my efforts are going to the Farm Sanctuary where my best friend Michelle and I are volunteering at the CELEBRATION for the TURKEYS. This is a celebration of the turkey as a loving, sweet and beautiful animal instead of a dead one on the dinner table for a tryptophanatic America. My husband I sponsored a pig at the Farm Sactuary earlier this year who seems to favor eating apples and bagels. Just as I choose not to eat meat, I choose to give to one or two causes per year. I sign hundreds of petitions per year. I delete MILLIONS of emails per year. I suppose this is going to be my New Years Resolution.....the unsubscriber.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A Trip Down the Ai$le

My husband and I recently took a weekend trip to Carmel, California. After a day of activities, including dinner, I concluded that I needed some headache medicine and maybe a few bottles of water. Coveniently, Safeway just opened a brand new store across from our hotel! Mind you, I have not set foot in a Safeway for years because of the pathetic selection of organic produce and healthy foods in general. We were determined to scout out every aisle, in search of a late night snack without trans fats or high fructose corn syrup. There were bad guys everywhere! We slowly approach the refrigerated section with the dairy products and what was labeled as "HEALTH" in large letters over the transparent glass door. Taking a closer look, a SALE tag says "buy one get one free" but the product was already sold out! Yes, our favorite HEALTH FOOD, whipped cream (a.k.a whip-its) seemed to be out of stock. I can just imagine the decision making process taking place.
One development of note: Safeway now sells a house branded Organic line of snacks. That made me happy. I don't know where they get their produce. It probably travels a ridiculous distance to get to the store even if the product is grown nearby. The main distribution center receives all of the product from the farm or factory and then the trucks ship the food to the appropriate stores. I wonder if all of the hybrid car drivers who feel they really stick it to the man realize that the meals they eat from the neighborhood burger joint consumed as much oil to get to their plate as a HUMMER does in a month. I like that Trader Joe's makes the effort to carry organic produce at a low price. The downfall is that the grapes have to travel from Chile or some South American country to get here at a discount price. Oil is not only something we use in our cars people! It is estimated that the average american meal travels about 1500 miles to get from farm to plate. (CUESA stat) Try your best to buy as much local product as you can. You have a choice. Safeway is so depressing because they get paid to put items on their shelves. Marion Nestle's book FOOD POLITICS says that "116,000 packaged foods and beverages have been introduced since 1990, and these joined a marketplace that now contains 320,000 items competing for supermarket shelf space large enough to hold just 50,000." Big companies with big money will be choosing for you and your family. Fortunately, Whole Foods and independent stores like Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco do not accept money for product positioning. They feature local foods including delicious produce (Whole Foods even makes special signs to indicate "local product" in all departments of the store) and fresh baked breads or desserts. I am not sure I want to hear this "whole foods = whole paycheck" crap anymore. Control yourself, spend a bit more, eat a bit less. Quality food honestly is more satisfying and you actually might want to free yourself from the chains of a transfat, high fructose lifestyle. Oh, and huffers, check out that special on whipped cream in the health food section at Safeway.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Poopeye's Spinach

Now that all of the hoopla has died down, we can rationally discuss this spinach crap. In order to get to the leafy greens, we first have to digest a bit of the hunk of meat on your plate. E Coli appears oh so proudly in cow poop. Because of the horrid conditions cattle live in in America's factory farms, that sweet poop ends up in the meat once the animal visits the slaughterhouse. Don't fret, the meat is nuked to kill the harmful bacterias in the poop in the meat, instead of going through the process of cleaning up the slaughterhouse or farm conditions. You don't mind a little scat in your burger, do ya? I am bothered by the need to use every version of the word "poop" in a FOOD blog. I guess that is the whole point here. The specific E Coli featured in your salad last month evolved in the gut of the cattle. Grain fed cattle can house the E Coli much longer than grass fed. This naughty Mr. E Coli cannot live long the rumens of a grass fed cow. Big business is harming our food supply by combining too much of our nations food into one big processing nightmare. These days, 80% of US beef is slaughtered by only 4 companies, 75% of our precut salads are processed by 2 and 30% of our milk by just 1 company! Remember that salad is being washed in water likely contaminated by, once again, E Coli thriving and spreading like wildfire on farms. We need to stop and think about who we buy our food from. Local farmers markets help to put a face to the food, helping us to feel a bit more secure when we take a big bite of that apple or piece of salmon we should enjoy as fish will be extinct in 40 years apparently!? Seeing food in its raw beauty is the fun of browsing the kiosks of local farmers. They appreciate your business and dedicate their lives to providing delicious food that is healthy for you and your family. Can you say that about TYSON or HARRIS RANCH? Ugh.
I look forward to seeing the same faces week to week at the farmers market. I know exactly what stands to visit for all of my favorite items! My least favorite part is having to watch people test out the samples of everything. Standing in the way, chewing with their mouths open, saying how delicious those juicy strawberries are....all the cliche's I can muster. I think I might know why they provide those pointy, albeit harmless toothpicks for samples....hmmm.
Percentages and facts quoted from Michael Pollan's article in the New York Times, October 15, 2006.