Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Perfect Tofurky Holiday Roast

Here's a video from my friend Marina, first posted a year ago, about how to make the perfect Tofurky holiday roast. Happy Thanksgiving!

Tofurky with Apples

1 Tofurky Roast
3-4 Sweet Apples, quartered
Baste = 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup orange juice, 1/4 cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Place apples, roast (baste roast) - into casserole dish and cover
Cook in oven for:
if Frozen = 2 hours 20 minutes
if Thawed = 1 hour 20 minutes
Take out of oven and turn over and re-baste
Take off lid and place in oven for another 20 minutes
Slice thin and serve or slice and pan fry (to make it extra crispy)

Thursday, November 19, 2015

"Why I Kill" — The Story of an Article I Never Wrote

For a long time, I wanted to write an article titled "Why I Kill." This is about why I didn't.

When I lived in Vermont, my husband and I went in with some neighbors to raise and slaughter a hundred Thanksgiving turkeys. I had been vegetarian since I was a child, because I loved animals, but now, as an adult, I wanted to find out if humane meat was possible. I planned to write the article after we were done, explaining why I chose to kill the animals I ate.

All my life, when I have thought about meat, I've been very aware that it entails the death of a sentient being. That torn flesh and guts come with this. In that sense, I had always lived intimately with the gory reality of meat, so it didn't seem like such a huge step to become physically involved with it. Also, I'm constitutionally not squeamish; blood has never bothered me. So I knew I could do it. Some meat eaters who were my partners in this venture laughed, saying I'd run crying out of the room at slaughter time.

In reality, when that night came it was not me but one of them—new to farming and apparently new to the idea of all it entails—who couldn't take it and had to leave.

On many small farms that advertise humane meat, at slaughter time, turkeys are stuffed upside down into "kill cones," with their heads sticking out the bottom, so they're restrained while their throats are slit. This is necessary because otherwise they flap their wings and struggle powerfully as they feel life leaving them. It takes a while. Of particular concern to farmers is that this wing-flapping can leave unsightly bruises on the carcass. 

We didn't have kill cones, and had planned to restrain the turkeys with burlap sacks, but the birds were so strong that the sacks ripped immediately. So it became my job to wrap my arms around their bodies and keep them still as they hung upside down, bleeding out.

In a way I wish I could say that, like the squeamish meat-eater, I felt disgusted, or cried afterwards, thinking about what the birds must have been feeling. But I didn't. I knew exactly what I was getting into when I started. Maybe my crime was worse for that.

It's not that it didn't affect me. At the time, my infant son weighed about as much the turkeys (and, like them, was a few months old), and at night, lying next to him, I woke several times with a jolt, out of half-dreams that I had accidentally put him into the oven instead of a turkey. There was no guilt or sadness for the turkeys attached to these half-dreams, just fear for my son. There was the shock of wrongness too, of having crossed a line, broken a taboo, crossed out of the realm of the okay into some terrible other place.

But I was not in that terrible other place in reality. My son stayed out of the oven. I only killed the creatures who were supposed to be killed.

A few days later, when I got my hair cut, the hairdresser in our tiny rural town asked how it had been, slaughtering all those turkeys. "It really wasn't that bad," I told her. She laughed and said, "Yeah, bet you didn't feel a thing." I had the feeling it was an old, familiar joke to her. We lived among hunters and farmers; her husband hunted, and was teaching their son to do it. I laughed too, recognizing the absurdity, but, as with the oven dreams, not feeling any real sense of guilt or sadness over it. I certainly wasn't asked to feel those things by anyone I met. Most people gave us the sense we'd done something good in the world, had come down on the side of morality: raising the turkeys in big pastures, where they tussled over crab apples, socialized, enjoyed the sun. We all agreed factory farming was bad, and our aim had been to do something different, better and kinder.

I thought afterwards that we had cause to feel good about it. We'd gone through with what we planned. None of the messy business of butchering had even bothered me: plucking feathers, pulling out guts, cutting up body parts. I wondered, as I did it, if I were deficient in some way, so little did it disturb me. I watched many of the local kids who came to help us—sons of farmers and hunters—fight their fear and squeamishness. Most people I knew couldn't even bear to hear me describe the process. But they were happy to eat the turkeys if they didn't have to think about it. 

One thing did stay with me. As I played the part of a kill cone, my arms wrapped around those big bodies, holding the powerful wings closed as the warm, gentle birds struggled against death (what's the point of struggling when your throat is slit all the way across and all your blood is pouring down in two jets over your face to the ground? the futility of this struck me), I felt how how very much they did not want to let go of life.

When your body is pressed against another body, it leaves something with you. I felt how their lives were sacred, and we were taking them away.

At the time, it seemed a good thing that I had felt this. To have felt it was to have earned the meat I ate that Thanksgiving--after not eating any meat at all for over 25 years. I had honored the birds by feeling it. By helping to raise them and by experiencing their death along with them.

I didn't become vegan or even vegetarian again immediately after that, although I decided I would only eat animals I myself had raised. I killed several chickens over the next few months. But I lost the desire to write the article. I didn't want to keep killing. Over the next few years, the experience with the turkeys continued to work its way deeper into my soul.

I could kill. I had done it. I could close myself off to the horror of the blood and guts. But I had recognized and felt, next to my body, on my skin, inside myself, in some blunt way, the sacredness of life.

Having felt the birds struggle, I had to recognize that taking a life is a big deal. Dying is a big deal. For animals, as for us—as we all know if we have been with a beloved dog or cat at their deathbed. It sounds so simple as hardly to be worth saying. And it is. But I knew it then, in a way I hadn't before. Or maybe I was forced to recognize that I had always known it.

I saw that while I was free not to honor that knowledge, free to kill and eat any creature I wanted, as long as they were members of species our culture deems killable and edible, I was also free not to.

What is legal and sanctioned, even by our heroes, our parents, our religious leaders, is not always the same as what is moral. Many of the greatest crimes in history have been legal and socially sanctioned: slavery, the actions of the Nazis, and countless other forms of rape, subjugation, genocide and torture. And although these are moral crimes, those who are able to commit them outnumber those who stand against them.

This is not something that was only true long ago, when people were misguided, or is still true but only for people who are obtuse and different from us. It is true now and here and always. And alongside that rests the truth that we are given the freedom and the responsibility to decide for ourselves what is moral, what widens our circles of mercy and compassion, what nudges our world away from suffering and towards love.

The only way to do this is to look with our own eyes, and feel with our own hearts. If you kill an animal, or even watch a video of one being killed, and feel violence is being done, feel sadness or compassion for the creature being deprived of his or her life—or if you can't even watch because you are afraid you'll feel those things—then listen to that. Honor that. You can. You're free to choose.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Spiced Red Beans in Coconut Milk (Maharagwe)

Adapted from this recipe, this Kenyan dish is rich, spicy, comforting, and so easy to make.


2 T olive oil
2 onions, chopped
1 t cayenne pepper (or to taste)
2 t turmeric
1 t salt
1 can coconut milk
2 cans red kidney beans
3 chopped tomatoes, or 14 oz can diced tomatoes

Warm oil and sautee onions over medium heat in a large skillet until they begin to turn golden brown or, if you don't have time, just until they soften. Add cayanne and cook for one minute. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer until tomatoes are very soft, about 20 minutes. Serve over rice.

Ochre and Red on Red, Mark Rothko, 1957

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Chickpea Spinach Stew with Lentils an Quinoa

You want protein? Here's some protein. Also, this is so good.

Chickpea Spinach Stew with Lentils and Quinoa

A Green Thought in a Green Shade, Helen Frankenthaler, 1981

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Chicken Vegetable Stir Fry

Another recipe made with plant-based meat. We used to call it fake meat in our family, but we stopped because it's not fake—it's real food, just made from plants instead of the bodies of dead animals.

Chicken Vegetable Stir Fry

2 T canola oil
4 cloves of garlic, sliced paper-thin
1 inch fresh ginger, sliced paper-thin
1 package Gardein Mandarin chicken (sauce discarded), or 1 to 2 cups other plant-based chicken
1 chopped onion
1 chopped fresh bell pepper, or about 1 c frozen
2 10-oz packages mixed stir fry vegetables (sometimes called Stir Fry Mix, Oriental Vegetables, or Vegetable Medley: contains vegs such as sliced carrots, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower)
2 t cornstarch
1 c boiling water
1 vegetarian bouillon cube
1/4 c reduced sodium soy sauce, or other soy sauce or tamari to taste

Warm oil in skillet or wok on medium heat. Add garlic and ginger and cook until slightly browned, 3 or 4 minutes. Add chicken and cook around 5 minutes. Add onion and bell pepper and cook until soft, 3 or  minutes.

While other things are cooking, put cornstarch and bouillon cube in a bowl. Pour 1 c boiling water over slowly, stirring with a fork, until combined.

Cook frozen vegetables in microwave about 3 minutes, or until warmed though.

Add vegetables and bouillon mix to pan, along with soy sauce. Cook until everything is cooked through. Serve over rice.

Henri Matisse, Vegetables, 1952

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Kim Davis, Fishing Licenses, and Pigs

A friend recently posted this on Facebook. It was shared from the wall of Occupy Food, where it has over 14,000 likes. In case you've been living under a wifi-blocking rock, this is a reference to Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who, citing religious and moral principles, refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples even though federal law now requires her to. It's meant as an anti-Kim Davis, and anti-vegan, joke: See how crazy the world would be if we all followed our idiosyncratic beliefs instead of the law? The comments at Occupy Food show this; and the internet is full of different memes and cartoons making the same point. 

The truth is that what is moral and what is legal are not always the same. The founder of Toronto Pig Save has been charged with trespassing for giving water to dehydrated pigs in transport trucks on the way to the slaughterhouse. She's a Christian. Being told it's against the law won't stop her because she believes it's her moral duty to bear witness to their suffering (her organization posts photos and videos of the frightened pigs in the trucks) and try to alleviate it. So what's the difference between someone who ought to follow the law and keep their beliefs out of it, and someone who ought to break a law they think is unjust?

I believe the question to ask is: are they trying to widen or contract the circle of compassion? Are they trying to prevent suffering, or are they increasing suffering by denying rights they themselves enjoy to those they classify as "other"? The latter is what Kim Davis did. But it is also what our society does when we deem it legal and acceptable to harm and kill beings we classify as inferior, as not worthy of the right to life or freedom from harm.

Getting in trouble with the law on account of your beliefs is not, in itself, proof that you're right (see: Kim Davis) or wrong (see: Jesus, Ghandi, etc.) But that doesn't mean there's no way to tell right from wrong. Are you trying to spread compassion and kindness to those who have been left out, or keep it from them? I say: soldier on (probably fictional) vegan county clerk! And everyone else who stands for the disenfranchised "others" whose suffering our society would dismiss or condone.

"I love swimming, I feel so graceful in the water." Photo courtesy of Esther the Wonder Pig.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Chicken Pilaf Casserole

Most of the recipes here are pretty lean, protein-y, and free of processed foods. They feature lentils, beans, nuts, and protein-rich grains such as quinoa. But now I'm going to post a few that contain plant-based meat.

It can be nice to use sometimes to re-create comfort foods, and though it is processed, it's a heck of a lot better than meat made out of dead animals, which is full of mystery corpses, antibiotics, salmonella, feces, and suffering of all kinds. Don't say you can't be vegan because you'd have to eat processed foods. You certainly don't have to (see: most of the other recipes on this site), but if you're missing meat, do yourself a favor and have a Gardein burger or chicken casserole once in a while. 100% shit- and misery-free.

Vegan Chicken and Pilaf Casserole

Fatty, carb-y, salty goodness.

5 T dairy-free margarine, such as Earth Balance or Organic Smart Balance
4 T flour
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1.5 c nondairy milk
1.25 c veg broth (you can just use water + a veggie bouillon cube)
1 package Gardein Mandarin chicken (discard sauce packet), or 2 c of any plant-based chicken
1.5 c cooked pilaf, such as Carolina brand
1/2 lb sliced mushrooms
1 green and 1 red bell pepper, chopped
small handful chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350.

Put the chicken in the microwave for two or three minutes so it's at least partly cooked. (It will get thoroughly baked shortly, so exact timing doesn't matter now; you just don't want to add it to your dish while it's frozen solid.)

If you have a casserole dish that can go on the stovetop, melt the margarine in it. If not, use a saucepan. Add garlic and cook for 3 min. Add flour and mix thoroughly until combined. Add milk and broth slowly (at least at first) while stirring, to avoid lumps. Raise heat, bring just to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 3 minutes. Add other ingredients. Season with salt and pepper. Mix well.

If mixture is not yet in casserole dish, transfer it to one now. Cover dish. Bake in oven for 25 minutes. Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve.

Ohara Koson, Hen and Two Chicks in Grass, c. 1927
Leave chickens alone.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Baked Goods

All baked goods here.

Vincent Van Gogh, Woman Cutting Bread, 1885

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Millet Buttermilk Drop Biscuits

A basic biscuit recipe, made with millet flour. Invented on the shore of beautiful Lake Huron, near Goderich, Ontario. :)

2 c millet flour (regular wheat flour works fine, too)
1 T (=3 t) baking powder
1 t salt
6 T vegan margarine (I like Earth Balance) or oil
1 T vinegar
1 c non-dairy milk

Preheat oven to 450. Put 1 T vinegar into a cup measure and fill it up the rest of the way with nondairy milk. Mix with fork. Let sit. (This is your vegan buttermilk; works in all baking.) Meanwhile, mix dries. Put in cold butter in chunks, and mash with fork until it's like coarse crumbs. (You can also use a food processor.) Add buttermilk and stir. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until just barely showing golden brown tinge (or even just before it shows.)

via Lighthouses of Canada

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Butternut Squash Chili

1.5 cup butternut squash, cubed (you can buy it pre-cut or frozen if you like)
2 T olive oil
2 t cumin
1 T chili powder
1/2 t cocoa powder
1 t salt
1 chopped sweet onion (or 1/2 chopped regular yellow onion)
2 or more cloves garlic thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper chopped (or 1 c frozen chopped red or tricolor peppers)
1 or 2 cans black beans
14 oz diced fire roasted tomatoes (or regular diced canned tomatoes, or 1.5 c chopped fresh tomatoes)
1 c cooked brown rice, optional
a few pickled jalapeno peppers, chopped, plus a couple t vinegar from the jar, optional
handful cilantro, optional
avocado for topping, optional
crumbled tortilla chips for topping, optional
sriracha sauce, optional
roasted cherry tomatoes (leave out the basil) for topping, optional

Heat olive oil. Add squash and sautee a few minutes until browned. Add spices and stir a few seconds until fragrant. Add salt, onion and garlic and sautee until onion is translucent, a few minutes. Add peppers and sautee until soft. Add black beans, tomatoes, and optional jalapenos. Stir over medium heat about fifteen minutes or until the squash is tender. Serve with toppings.

Janet Fish, Chili Peppers, 2005

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Vegan Birthday Cake from a Mix is No Big Deal

12/11/16 Update:
The method below also works perfectly with Betty Crocker chocolate chip cookie mix. Follow the directions for using oil that are on the package. Instead of the recommended 2 T water, use 2 T nondairy milk, + another 2 T milk to replace the egg--that's 1/4 cup milk total. Mix with a teaspoon of vinegar and let sit for a few minutes, then prepare as directed.


If you don't live in a big city, it can be surprisingly hard to get a vegan birthday cake from a baker. Last year I decided to try. I know how to make one myself, but I have a hard time getting the icing to look good (I always get crumbs in it), so I thought I'd go to someone who could guarantee a nice-looking cake.

I found a lovely local baker who was willing to attempt one, but it turned into a big production! She didn't know about vegan margarine or where to find it, so I had to bring tubs of Earth Balance to her shop. (Earth Balance and Organic Smart Balance, both great, are sold at our local Shoprite and many other regular grocery stores.) She was afraid the cake wouldn't hold together, and that it would't be possible to make the icing the right consistency. This all surprised me, since I've made so many vegan cakes at home with no problem, and since many commercial icings—the ones you buy in the cake mix aisle—happen to be vegan.

I think for some people, just the idea of preparing food in a new way can be intimidating. I'm certainly not going to go bother going to a baker again, because making a vegan cake from a mix is so incredibly simple. I did this for my son's birthday recently and nobody could tell it was vegan. Several people commented that it was an especially good cake.

Vegan Cake from a Mix

vegan cake mix, such as Pillsbury (check ingredients—many are vegan)
oil, as called for on package
nondairy milk

Check directions on back of box. Instead of the water called for, measure out the same amount of  nondairy milk. Then see how many eggs are called for. Add 2 T milk for each egg. Now see how much milk you have altogether, and add 1 T vinegar for each cup. (Does not have to be exact.) Stir it well. Let it sit for five minutes or more.

Prepare mix according to directions, but leave out the water and eggs. Instead, use your milk + vinegar mixture.

Most prepared frosting is also vegan. Most sprinkles too. No big deal.

Ivan Bilibin, Cake City, 1912