Monday, February 28, 2011

REVIEW: "Eating Animals"

"Eating Animals" by Jonathan Safran Foer is a fantastic book with critical information presented well. The author doesn't overload you with statistics and figures, and writes with a very easy to read style that flows well - resulting in retention of important facts that he uncovered in his research. Could you imagine a label on a pound of shrimp that says "26 pounds of other animals were killed for each pound of this shrimp"? That's a tremendous image.

His discussion of fish revealed a lot that I did not know about the industry - and added to my recently acquired information The Zen of Fish: The Story of Sushi recently. What was particularly highlighted to me was that there is absolutely no requirement for humane killing of fish.

There are also no standards for chickens, turkeys and pigs. The author uses great images to convey information about numbers of animals and their confinement.

As a vegan for 5 years, a vegetarian eating fish only occasionally to rarely for the previous 10, and only eating "white" meat when socially compelled or required by personal relationships for the previous 20 -- I rather thought I was doing my part. I write a food blog that provides recipes for friends and strangers, feed everyone I know, help provide information about how to eat compassionately and do what I can to support others in this choice. After reading this book, I am thinking that perhaps that isn't enough - though there are so many problems in the world, one might think that working to educate people about veganism is low on the list of priorities.

However, if you look at it like this - 1/3 of all available surface land on our planet is dedicated to animal agriculture, and 30% of global warming is due to animal agriculture. This doesn't even address issues of pollution & contamination caused by animal agriculture or the devastation of species diversity in the ocean.

If our increased demand for more & cheaper animal flesh as food products is one of the largest leading causes of the destruction of our planet - what sort of legacy is that for future generations? I think the future generations can live better without a steak, hamburger, ham or turkey if it means more equitably distributed nutrition and less disease - and a better, more well fed, happier & healthier planet - for all animals, including humans. Now I just have to figure out my role in all this better than just changing my own diet and encouraging folks in my limited sphere of influence.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Green Smoothies

Recently, a friend who has a kitchen that consists of a mini-fridge & microwave (I'm not sure she has a stove!) asked me how she could get more vegetables, especially leafy greens, into her diet without all that pesky cooking & eating of solid food.  Since I am a huge fan of green smoothies, I put together my notes on green smoothies for her and after a few weeks she reports that she wakes up craving her green smoothie and her day is not the same without it!

There's a TON of information on the internet about green smoothies - lots of "recipes" and recommendations for the "correct" proportions of leafy greens and fruit and lots of information on the correct "order" to put things into the blender.

Here's my take on the Green Smoothie:
  1. Put 1 cup of cold water into the blender.
  2. Depending on size, add 3-6 leaves of kale, chard, collards and/or a handful of spinach, parsley or cilantro.  
  3. Process until all the green stuff is pulverized.
  4. Add fresh or frozen raw fruit/avocado/zucchini.
  5. Process til pulverized, adding enough water to bring up to 4 or 5 cups.
  6. (optional) Add some freshly squeezed lemon or other citrus juice (I usually keep a jar of lemon juice in the fridge)
  7. (optional) raw cacao powder, raw protein powder, psyllium husk powder
You might say "I hate kale, I can barely eat it!" but the truth is - once you make a smoothie - you won't notice the taste of the greens because they blend right in with whatever fruit or other veggies you make.  If you want it creamier, use some frozen fruit or a small zucchini/courgette.  Zucchini adds some good protein and makes anything creamy when blended.   

My favorite fruits are fresh mangos and strawberries (which I froze last fall on cookie sheets).  Here in California, mangos are cheap - you can get them 5 for $5 at Whole Foods, even.  Avocados are pretty cheap out here too - sometimes you can find the little small avocados for under $1 each, just the right size for a smoothie.  Avocados are a healthy source of fat (and you do not have to buy organic because the skins are very thick - just try to get California avos, or Mexico but stay away from stuff imported from other continents generally). Personally - I stay away from most tropical fruit.  Fresh pineapples hurt my mouth, bananas just don't taste as good here as they do in the places where they are grown. 

I try to put mostly greens into my smoothies - and I have a ton of parsley growing in the yard, so this morning is probably going to be:  chard, parsley, 1/4 avo, 3-4 frozen persimmon cubes (about 1/2 c persimmon puree) and 1 scoop raw vegan protein powder (brown rice based).

Most smoothie recipes don't include protein powder because you are getting all the natural enzymes from the raw greens to make protein - but I do this personally about every other smoothie or when I am going to make the smoothie all I eat for most of the day (and then I make more than 1 qt and drink it while I am working).

Take advantage of your raw dessert recipe leftovers for smoothies!  Recently,  I made a key lime green smoothie the other day after making up the filling for a raw key lime pie (which I was making with a recipe from the Cafe Gratitude dessert book "Sweet Gratitude") - with young coconut milk & water, avocado, lime and collard greens, plus a handful of locally harvested pineapple guava that someone gifted me at an East Bay Raw Foods MeetUp.  It was incredibly delicious!

Green smoothie keeps well in the fridge - so you could drink half and bring the other half to work to have for a mid-morning snack.  Unlike fresh green juice, it doesn't oxidize and become some awful unappetizing color.

Here are a couple of my favorite green smoothie websites -- get some ideas but don't get hung up on details, just throw some good greens into your blender, add water, whiz & enjoy!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Two Vegan Bake Sales!

Coming up this Saturday, Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary is having a vegan bake sale. Find them on Saturday from 11 to 2, on the Front Sidewalk of PETA Office, 554 Grand Avenue, Oakland.

The next EBVB is coming Saturday, February 26th! It will be held, as usual, in front of Issues Shop in Oakland, and run from 11am to 3pm.

If you're interested in doing any of these, please email

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Vegan Dining, out and about

The last two weeks I have used up my Groupons, taken advantage of discounts and felt like I totally went off my raw vegan diet (still having green smoothies for breakfast).  In truth, I'm still sticking to a mostly raw diet - lots of delicious salads, green smoothies, and other tasty things.  And, somehow, I haven't managed to gain weight.  Yay, me!

Here are some of my favorite places that I have visited in the last couple of weeks:

DONUT FARM:  first and foremost, you need to go buy your coupon for 2-for-1 salt caramel vegan donut from the Pepple's Ferry Building kiosk.  Saturday - go to the Donut Farm on San Pablo for vegan brunch (9-2:30) - the most scrumptious and tasty vegan brunch out there.  Best. Hashbrowns. Ever.

RAW DADDY FOODS: delicious raw, organic & vegan "fast" food from proprietor James Hall.  I'll be helping him out at the Temescal Farmer's market beginning Sunday (fair weather only!), so please come look me up and give these delicious treats a try.

GRACIAS MADRE:  this place is no joke.  I am in love with the gorditas de papa topped with creamy cashew sauce, avocado, sprouts and green salsa, the sweet potato chipotle empanadas enveloped in chewy flaky dough on a perfect puddle of fantastic mole sauce, awesome tortillas and killer mole enchiladas (love the kale).  Quite possibly the best Mexican food in the Bay Area, no kidding.

LEGION OF HONOR CAFE:  most amazing frites & best view from any restaurant in the Bay Area.  Those frites were totally worth six bucks, though I do wish I had a slightly larger portion, my ass thanks you for not American-sizing it.  Also be sure to get there before June to check out the "Pulp Fashion" exhibit - I'll be back to see it at least a few more times, so send me an e-mail if you want to go with me (I'm a member!).

SATURN CAFE:  some very good vegan options, lots of vegetarian options - but seriously: BEST FREAKING GARLIC FRIES EVER!  I am so not kidding.  They do not mess around with the deep fryer.

MILLENNIUM: I want to marry the dessert chef for coming up with peanut butter chocolate chip bread pudding with roasted banana ice cream.  No joke.  She's cute and likes cats, too!

ENCUENTRO: most fantastic & economical wine tasting event for Make Work Winery - 3 glasses & 3 tapas for $25, but I could not resist getting the chocolate cake. Chef Eric, Chef Lacey & Bosslady Linda do a great job - say hi to the most awesome server Liz when you go in.

WAT MONGKOLRATANARUM (aka "Berkeley Thai Brunch"):  best yellow curry in existence, giant chunks of potato and tofu puffs.  Get there early before the coeds snarf it all down.

MEZZE: I bought their Groupon because their menu specifically said "can be made vegan" on several items.  used one of my two coupons with a friend on Friday - and was very impressed by their mushroom risotto, wines by the glass selection and very tasty frites (not as good as the Legion Cafe, but I'm seeing a bad pattern here - french fries are, indeed, my achilles heel).  Looking forward to my next visit.

I haven't been to Cha-Ya on Shattuck since their remodel, but am very saddened to see that they have removed the chairs from the sushi bar, one of my favorite places to eat there.  I'm also dying to return to the Imperial Tea Court in the food mall on Shattuck -- most awesome hand pulled noodles and green onion pancake (tea is pretty good, too).  The hand pulled noodles are not available at the Ferry Bldg, so save your appetite for the Berkeley Gourmet Ghetto.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Roasted Parsnip & Escarole Salad

After 4 weeks of 100% raw, I have started reintroducing cooked foods - and decided I want to stay more "high raw" for the next 3 months.   I picked up a Mystery Box from Mariquita last week - had some incredible Castelfranco & Treviso radicchio, and two large heads of escarole.  I made a great big romaine & radicchio salad last night - but it only reminded me how much I dearly love seared or grilled radicchio (and other bitter greens).

So, for tonight's dinner - I roasted the ginormous parsnip that came in the box and put together a delicious salad, inspired by a recipe provided by Julia in the newsletter, but modified (as always).  Feel free to take inspiration and make your own version!

Roasted Parsnip & Escarole Salad

  • 1 large parsnip, scrubbed, chopped into 1" pieces (remove fibrous center near large end if necessary)
  • 1/4 c lemon juice
  • 1 small handful of parsley (enough for 1/4-1/3 chopped)
  • 2 tsp mustard
  • 2 Tb white wine vinegar
  • 1.5 c sourdough croutons (stale sourdough bread cut into 1.5" chunks works, too!)
  • 1 cup small cremini or shitaki mushrooms, halved
  • 1/4 c small capers
  • 3-4 stems of green garlic
  • 1 bunch of chinese garlic
  • 1 large head of escarole, coarsely chopped, washed & spun dry, 4-6 leaves escarole (also coarse chopped)
  • 1/3 c kalamata olives - or - grapes - halved
  • 1/3 c pine nuts
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  1.  Toss the parsnip pieces with olive oil to coat, sprinkle with salt & pepper, toss, arrange in single layer on cookie sheet or large cast iron skillet and roast at 400 till tender & chewy.  Remove from heat when done.
  2. In cuisinart or blender, combine parsley, lemon, mustard, vinegar and 2-3 Tb of olive oil (take it easy here because there's plenty of olive oil coming up!)  - reserve in a dish or measuring cup once fully blended & thickened.
  3. In a large cast iron skillet, toss the croutons to coat with olive oil and toast well.  Put aside.
  4. Add mushrooms to hot skillet and sear - don't let them get too soft!  Add capers, green garlic & chinese garlic.  Once the garlic & parsnips have gotten bright grene, add parsnips and toss to warm - transfer to another dish and reserve.
  5. Put your chopped escarole in the skillet, drizzle with olive oil, a pinch of salt & pepper.  Cook on high heat -- keep it moving by tossing gently with wooden spoons - just to wilting.
  6. Toss escarole, reserved veggies, dressing, pine nuts, croutons and olives/grapes (depending on whether you are in a salty/sweet mood).

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Kale Chips & Other Dehydrator Treats

Recently on the MSSF list, someone asked about dehydrators.  As part of the vegetarian minority in the mycology world, I had a sense that a lot of folks only use the dehydrators for drying mushrooms.  When I looked at dehydrators, I wanted to make sure that I got one that was the most versatile and useful for many different uses.  I mentioned all the different sorts of things that I make in my dehydrator and had plenty of positive responses from folks who wanted some ideas for kale chips and flax seed crackers.

I started off with a round dehydrator with a warming element in the bottom, no fan - and realized that it didn't work very well for a lot of things.  Probably if I was just drying slices of mushrooms cut to fit in the shelves, it would be ok but it just didn't dry evenly and couldn't dry faster than mold could grown on some wetter fruits.

About three years ago, I bought my Excalibur Dehydrator as a factory refurb from E-bay, and I have never regretted it.  It can handle so much more than just drying mushrooms, fruits & veggies! 

Jenn's Dehydrator Treats Primer

Teriyaki Almonds

  1. Sprout some raw almonds - make sure you rinse & change the water a couple times; of course it is better to use distilled water or water that has been boiled & cooled (I use what's in my teakettle) than straight tap but use what you have.
  2. In your Cuisinart with an S-blade - mix up a nice batter of raw dates, ginger, garlic and nama shoyu (unpasteurized soy sauce)
  3. Mix that onto the almonds, put them on a teflex sheet (or parchment paper) 
  4. Dry at 105 for several hours.  That's similar to the "I Am Spirit" recipe from Cafe Gratitude (super yummy teriyaki almonds - heck yeah!)

Kale chips:
  1. Use any kind of kale - I prefer lacinato/dino kale; you can also use other greens like spigariello or chard - wash the kale and spin dry or spread on towels
  2. Using scissors, trim out the biggest part of the stem/rib, then cut the kale into 2" pieces (more or less) 
  3. Put all kale into a bowl, drizzle with a few tsp of olive oil and massage with your fingers til softened 
  4. Mix up your "batter" - I do it in the blender - and it varies depending on what I have in the house, usually I will throw a small red onion, half a red bell pepper, several cloves of garlic, some minced ginger - all into the blender.  Add nutritional yeast & raw tahini, the juice of 1 or 2 lemons (or limes).  Taste the batter - it should be something you want to keep licking off your fingers - if it is too thin, add more nutritional yeast or tahini (raw cashew butter also works).
  5. Taste and adjust spices - when the batter tastes  FINGER LICKING GOOD (I am not kidding!) - pour it over the kale chips - not all at once.  Use a rubber spatula to gently mix and work it in with your fingers so that both sides of all kale gets covered. 
  6. Spread out the kale onto teflex sheets (or parchment paper) - in as much a single layer as you can.  
  7. Dehydrate on 115 for the first half hour or so, then reduce to 105 - or just leave at 105.

If you have any batter left over - it's great as a base for salad dressing - or get out some other greens (chard & spigariello work great for chips too).  It's a great way to get your greens!

quick cooked kale chips - just rub kale with olive oil, mix with black pepper & sea salt and put in the oven on a cookie sheet at 200 - not raw, but they crisp up super fast and make a great appetizer for a dinner party - your guests will be shocked that they just wolfed down 2 whole bunches of kale in the form of chips!  :)

Raw Crackers - I confess, I grind up my flax seeds.   Our human teeth are not tough enough to break open the flax seeds to get out all the nutrients, so my crackers are usually something like this:

  1. Grind up 1 c of flax seeds & soak in water - add water as needed - may take a few hours or overnight
  2. Soak 1 c raw almonds til they sprout, rinsing & changing water as needed
  3. When all flax & almonds are ready - grind the almonds in the cuisinart then add to the flax seeds and mix in 2-3 cups raw veg pulp from juicing carrots or other veggies, along with a little salt (I use my Kitchen Aid for this)
  4. For more flavor - put red onion, garlic, tomatoes (fresh or sun dried), parsley/cilantro/rosemary into the cuisinart and chop the heck outta them - add to the cracker "dough"  - nutritional yeast is also yummy
  5. Using clean, wet hands - spread onto teflex sheets - flaxseed crackers don't shrink as much as buckwheat crackers, so just make sure there are no bare spots on the teflex - about 1/4" thick is good
  6. Use the back of a bread knife or some kind of spatula, score the wet cracker dough on the tray to the shapes you want - big or little, square or rectangle
  7. Dehydrate 115 for first hour or so then reduce to 105 til crispy
I have made crackers with beet pulp mixed in with carrot and the cracker dough - with onions & parsley added in - looked just like meatloaf!

With the crackers - it's ok to go crazy with fresh herbs - but be careful with dried herbs and salt - you don't want your crackers to be too salty or taste too strongly of one particular dried herb (or maybe you do...  just keep in mind that dried herbs & salt don't reduce in volume like fresh herbs/veggies).

Feel free to drop a line and I'll be happy to talk you through anything.  I'm going to make a big batch of flaxseed crackers later this week if you want to come over and check out the process.