Lulu’s Lively Vegan Burgers

My dear Friend Lulu, a Kitchen Witch of her own ilk, has taken a live-fermented Dosa recipe and transformed it into a magical Vegan Burger. With a unique blend of grains, legumes, mushrooms, herbs and spices this is a rare vegan burger in that it actually holds together. It also happens to be quite tasty and nutritious. It is great fried in a skillet or cooked on the grill or shaped into balls (baked lightly) and used for fondue. It can be eaten as a sandwich or a “steak”. As Lulu rarely makes the same thing twice, I had a hard time capturing the recipe so I have tweaked it a bit.

Basmati Mushroom Juicy Lucy

An odd creation of its own sort, Juicy Lucy’s have been making it into the world of vegan food. A healthier version, (using protein-rich mushrooms, basmati rice and pecans) this Juicy Lucy offers up a unique eating experience, stretching your taste buds to new dimensions. Indeed we are in a food evolution!

The Power of Story

Lately I’ve been pondering my effectiveness as an animal advocate. A good friend reminded me of the impact I have had and that I will never really know the full impact of my advocacy for animals. We hear time and again that a person has to hear something 3 times, 4 times, 7 times, before they remember it and take action. It doesn’t really matter if my conversation or comment was the first time or the last time that someone heard the information. What matters is that my voice played a role in them taking action that directly or indirectly made a positive difference for the animals of the world.

Our conversation led to exploring stories people live in; the things we tell ourselves. Things that allow us to continue lifestyle practices that, on some level, are not aligned with our values. When we take a close look at the troubles of the world we can easily become paralyzed into inaction.

I invite you to take a peek at how stories keep us operating from complacency and how we can lean into actions that align with our principles and actually energize us, rather than drain us.

1. Recognize what our story is. Have we come to believe that we have to drink milk in order to develop and maintain healthy bones? Do we believe that cows naturally lactate year round?

2. Understand how that story impacts our lives. If we have come to believe we need milk for strong bones, has this led us to regularly consume dairy products? Are we comfortable consuming milk from a cow because we believe she naturally lactates all year round?

3. See the story for what it is…a story! It’s something that we, with tremendous influence from society and industry, have made up and adopted as an absolute truth. We will only understand if our story is story after we educate ourselves about the truth behind the practices we have come to believe are necessary for normal, healthy living. In this process we might discover a different truth and see how this new truth inspires change in our daily practices.

Once we expand our sources of information we find that we don’t need to consume dairy to meet our calcium requirements for strong bones. A plant-based diet rich in greens, seeds and other whole foods provides the calcium we need. We also learn that cows are consistently impregnated in order to keep producing milk. A cow, like any mammal, only produces milk after giving birth. In order for cow’s milk to be available for human consumption the calves are taken away from their mothers within 24 hours of birth and given a milk substitute. The females are raised to be used as their mothers have been used and the males are raised in high confinement pens and fed an iron-deficient diet to produce pale, soft flesh for veal.

4. Recognize and believe that we get to rewrite our story and that this new story can align with our core values. If recognizing that humans do not need to consume dairy products to be healthy, and that cows don’t naturally produce milk year round, and if understanding that a mother-child bond is broken numerous times throughout the lifespan of a dairy cow does not align with our core values of peace and compassion, it may empower us to know that there are delicious and nutritious ways of feeding ourselves that do not involve the use of dairy products.

5. Take joy in rewriting the story and “leaning in” to our new practices. To do this effectively we want to be sure to remove guilt and shame from our previous choices and to take this journey one step at a time. It is of no value to step in so quickly that we become overwhelmed and give up. With an increase in plant-based milk and cheeses, the explosion of vegan cookbooks on the market, and an ever-increasing amount of vegan food offered in restaurants and natural food buffets, it is getting easier and easier to begin and maintain a plant-based diet. If we need an extra boost, we can take vegan cooking classes and receive personalized coaching. We may feel a need to jumpstart our new eating habits by having a nutritional consultation with someone who specializes in plant-based nutrition. We just may find a sense of empowerment and peacefulness that we can make a difference by living into our values.
As we continue to embrace our new practices we just might be surprised by the increased ease in our breath as we begin to live into our deeply held values.

While this is just one example of empowering ourselves to live according to our values, it can serve as a model for any area of our lives that we wish to transform. It is critical to remember that while each of us is just one person making these changes, that is all we can ever be. We serve as inspiration to others to make their own desired changes. Then we will be the ripple effect in the pond that expands to become the ripple effect in the ocean.

Have faith my friends. Follow your heart. What is one story you are telling yourself about the foods you eat? Share with us by leaving a comment on our blog.

Cashew Tempeh Spread

Straight from the New Farm Cookbook

A most delightful way to eat tempeh! It just might even make a tempeh lover out of a tempeh sceptic. Nutty, creamy, rich and hearty – the flavors of toasted cashew, steamed and grated tempeh, combined with a tofu-mayonnaise offers up a deeply satisfying spread for all reason and seasons.

Triple Crown BBQ Tofu

The BBQ Tofu I have been waiting for!  Never to get the recipe of the best BBQ Tofu I ever tasted I made a few feeble attempts at making my own sauce and quickly surrendered to the complexity of getting it just right. I resigned to never having such a delicious BBQ Tofu ever again. Until…I sunk my teeth into this. The secret is crispy yet soft tofu, made to perfection, and floated in this richly, dynamic sauce that will have your eyes rolling to the back of your head in delight.

For the Sake of Knowledge

Baby Monkeys

I’ve been reading If A Lion Could Talk; Animal Intelligence and the Evolution of Consciousness, by Stephen Budiansky. What drew me to read it was this statement on the cover-jacket:

“Budiansky…show[s] us animals for who they are, not semi-adequate humanoids but powerful, competent, fully evolved beings in their own right.”

I was excited to glean insight into how intelligence and consciousness arouse in these amazing beings. To understand this about any being would be fascinating and a privilege. And so I cuddled up with the book, excited to spend some time with the evolution of our fellow planetary inhabitants.

I was not far into the book when Budiansky referred to animal research in which numerous primates, dogs, birds and rodents are held captive in order to learn how they recognize, or don’t recognize, faces or objects. Rats and dogs are exhaustively run through mazes and other structures in an attempt to understand how their memory operates. Song birds are removed from their natural environment to assess the impact their absence has on how the remaining birds sing. ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­And on it goes.

At first one might consider this to be innocuous research and see no reason for concern about the welfare of the research subjects. Compared to medical research that often involves probing deeply into animals’ bodies and eventually killing them, this may be true. However, if you step back a bit and look at why we are doing this particular research and who benefits, then we encounter a very different conclusion.

Why are we doing this research? Think of what is required for humans and all other animals to survive or even thrive. Each inhabitant of the earth has a unique innate design and intelligence that allows it to exist in its own perfect way. Every species has what it needs to live. Knowing the evolution of and the level of intelligence and consciousness of other species is completely and utterly unnecessary. Everything is as it should be (and we can’t possibly understand how it all works on every level).

So why are we capturing animals from the wild and caging them? Putting probes into their brains to monitor cerebral activity when the size of their enclosure is altered? Why are we having them work with the principles of addition and subtraction?

We are searching for answers that we will never find, no matter how much technology we apply, no matter how many generations of animals we use, no matter how complex, comprehensive, or bizarre the research procedures are!

Comparing animals to ourselves is flawed and unnecessary. We are trying to figure out their level of intelligence by comparing it to that of an entirely different species—our own. We fabricate artificial frameworks under which we apply artificial conditions and assume we can then extrapolate information into the natural world. No matter the strategy, research will always remain limited by the fact that we created the context within the limitation of our human minds, a minuscule representation of all that creation has to offer.

Budiansky says, “Evolution, learning, the very wiring of animals’ brains and sense organs, adapt them to the cognitive demands of their physical and social environment in ways that at times put us to shame, with our reliance on consciousness and language and reason to see us through….[we could never] navigate our way home the way a pigeon can, or locate a tiny rapidly moving target the way a bat can, or calculate the distance of a Carolina wren from the tonal shifts in its song the way a Carolina wren can….So one might well argue that animals do not need the special human cognitive abilities that we possess, for they have gotten along quite well without them.”

But the very way we have learned of some of these amazing characteristics is through invasive research. So there is great discordance in this race to learn what we can about animals.

It seems we are researching to see what we can learn about animals so we can ultimately decide how we can treat them.  If they are of a certain level of intelligence we consider treating then with a little more compassion and respect. If they fall below this level of intelligence we can continue to treat them as we wish, regardless of the impact it has on them.

All of this is for what? To satisfy curious human minds? To feed egos and pocket books? Animal research is a ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­multi-billion dollar industry. It keeps a lot of individuals employed and a lot of universities and other research facilities functioning in certain capacities. Can all of this justify using animals in the name of knowledge? This question is what I find myself walking away with after reading If A Lion Could Talk.

What do you think?

How can we justify experimenting on sentient beings just to satisfy our curiosity?

Why do we think we have the right to do this?

Why have we chosen intelligence to be the basis on which we judge worthiness of a species?

I’d love to know your thoughts. Please leave a comment on my blog.

Belly Warming Enchilada Bake

This recipe was inspired by a recipe from which my dear friend Joel was inspired – one of his favorite dishes. I tinkered with it so it delights you from the moment it touches your tongue to when it warmly lands in your belly. Layers of plant-based Mock Chicken, Sour Cream, Chedda Cheese Shreds, corn tortillas and a bit of heat from green chilies and jalapeños combine to create a Belly Warming Comfort Food.

What Happens When Elephants Leave the Ring?

Elephant with Raised Trunk

You may have heard that Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey will be phasing out the use of elephants in the circus. With the announcement comes a host of questions entangled with this victory. The most immediate might be, “Why are they waiting until 2018?” or “Why only elephants?” Has there been more public outcry for elephants than there has been for other animals used in the circus? Do we believe that elephants have characteristics that other “circus” animals do not? Does this therefore justify subjecting the others to continued cruelty in circuses? Is it just a matter of time before other animals will be phased out?

These questions have yet to be answered, and they shine a light on an underlying question of Claim Humane: Can humans reach full consciousness if we continue to use animals as utility or resource?

This question suggests that by using animals as such we are engaging in unethical behavior. For argument’s sake, let’s assume it is unethical to use animals in circuses. If, in the future, we choose to stop using them in circuses, we must consider the impact this will have on the humans involved in circuses and on the circus goers.

Impact on Circus Employees

For some circus employees, a loss of work is inevitable. This begs the question, “Can drawing revenue from an activity justify participating in it?” We only have to look at the historical arc of slavery to understand that a great majority of people do not believe so. By ending slavery (as an acceptable practice) we aligned ourselves with a kinder and gentler way of being, a way that had potential to guide us towards greater compassion and consciousness.

A next logical question is how to tend to the financial needs of those who will lose their jobs. We tend to operate under the assumption that ending a practice/industry inherently means stagnation in the economy. It can, but it does not have to. We can be, and historically have been, creative in inventing new industries or redesigning existing ones. Regarding circuses, this has already begun. Consider Cirque De Soleil, a highly successful circus that uses only the amazing feats of willing humans.

Impact on Circus Goers

The ways to entertain oneself are endless, so it seems that any significant impact is self-induced. Parents often object when confronted with not bringing their children to circuses that use animals. They question if it’s fair for children to not see animals in the circus.

This begs the question, “How selfish are our entertainment habits?” A great number of circus animals are captured from the wild, often witnessing the killing of their mother. They are then repeatedly beaten and deprived of food and water in order to break their spirits so that they’ll then perform unnatural, and often dangerous, acts. (For example, elephants’ trunks are not designed to bear the weight of their bodies in a headstand).

If we are aware of this and continue to support animal-based circuses, what does that say about our level of compassion?

Impact on Society

We must also consider what we are teaching (children in particular) when we enslave and brutalize animals to perform for us. One thing we are teaching is that dominance and brutality are acceptable and worthy of perpetuating. When this mentality is overlaid onto ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­other social structures, we run the risk of this becoming a social norm. Desensitization occurs, and we are more likely to accept treating all beings with great disregard.

A final consideration is this: If we remove animals from the circus altogether, are we not losing cultural and traditional practices? The short answer is yes. And the question that this begs is how can cultural and traditional practices justify cruelty?

I’d love to know your thoughts on these questions and on the recent news of phasing out elephants from major circus shows.


Marinated Collard Ribbons

Collard RibbonsSimply collard greens in a lime marinade!  The secret is in the marination and the ribbons. Finely cut to meet the tongue just right this raw salad is lovely.  Among other nutrients, collard greens are high in vitamins A, K, B-complex and minerals including calcium. What a delicious way to include these nutrients in your diet.