Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Veggie Hero: Lorena Mucke

Vegetarians and vegans come from a wide variety of backgrounds -- including Christianity. In my experience, Christian animal advocates tend to be overlooked in favor of some of the more colorful secular vegans and vegetarians. Today, let's try to bring this more into balance with a spotlight on Lorena Mucke, event coordinator and newsletter editor of the Christian Vegetarian Association. This organization strives to educate people about the distinct health, environmental, and animal-related advantages of plant-based eating through a respectful Christian lense. In addition, she runs a Humane Education Program in Atlanta, Georgia, called The Ethical Choices Program. Through this program, Lorena visits high schools and summer camps giving presentations regarding the issues surrounding modern agriculture.

Vegetarian or vegan?

How long have you been veg*n?
Vegetarian for 13 years (with a break in the middle… long story) and vegan 1 year.

What inspired you to go veg?
It was mainly the suffering of animals and the ethical issues surrounding meat-eating coupled with my Christian faith. Later on, the health benefits and of course contributing to restore the environment helped me remain vegan.

What's your best story of trying to find veg food?
I was visiting my family in Buenos Aires (Argentina) and they asked me to call Burger King. Over there, fast food restaurants deliver to your door… just like pizza here. I called, placed their order first and then asked the lady on the phone if they had veggie burgers. She said yes so I ordered one for me. When the order arrived my “veggie burger” was a bun with a tomato slice, some lettuce and pickles! That day, for the first time I “missed” a REAL Burger King veggie burger!

How do you handle family holiday dinners?
That’s a tough one. My husband and son are vegetarian but the rest of our family is not. We’ve learned that our best tactic is to contribute to the celebration with one or more vegetarian dishes. The first few years our relatives would make negative remarks about our choice of diet but they’ve given up and let us be. We hope that our lifestyle centered around compassion and love transcend more than our words.

What's your favorite veg food?
I love Thai curry dishes. The spicier, the better! Indian dishes are my second choice.

Do you have a favorite veg book?
Not really. I love to browse through the so many great sites on-line that have veg recipes.

Tofu or tempeh?

What did you have for breakfast today?
I had coffee with soy milk and honey. And a wheat bagel with “tofutti” cream cheese.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

In the News: Vegetables Help Protect the Brain

We know that eating vegetables is good for you -- and now there's even more proof!

Eating two to three servings of vegetables every day might help keep the mind sharp in old age, a study suggests today.

The new findings add to the scientific evidence suggesting that a diet packed with vegetables might shore up the memory and protect against Alzheimer's.

To read the entire USA Today story, click here.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

In the News: Pick Apples for Good Neurological Health, Says New Research

Newswise — For those who think that picking and eating apples this time of year is just for fun and for the great taste of America’s favorite fruit, you may want to think again. Apples and apple juice may be among the best foods that anyone could add to their diet, finds a collection of recent research studies, the latest of which was presented today at the Society of Neuroscience annual conference in Atlanta. Researchers G. Bureau and M. Martinoli from the University of Quebec a Trois-Rivieres, found that quercetin (one of the antioxidants found abundantly in apples) was one of two compounds that helped to reduce cellular death that is caused by oxidation and inflammation of neurons. An abstract of their presentation can be found at

This finding was previously confirmed not just by testing quercetin by itself, but by using apples as a whole food. Published in the May 2006 issue of Experimental Biology and Medicine, researcher Eric Gershwin, M.D., with the University of California, Davis Health System, discovered a way in which flavonoid-rich apples and apple juice protect cells from damage. Gershwin exposed human cells to an extract of apple mash made from different apple varieties, similar to outcomes presented today at the Society of Neuroscience meeting. The UC Davis researchers then challenged these cells by exposing them to tumor necrosis factor (TNF), a protein-like compound found in the body that usually triggers cell death and promotes inflammation via a mechanism called the “nuclear factor kappa B pathway” (this pathway involves chemical signaling between cells). The UC Davis research revealed that apple extract protected the cells from the normally lethal effects of TNF by interfering with this pathway that would otherwise damage or kill cells in the body. Gershwin noted that the method by which apple extract protects cells is different than that reported for other flavonoid-rich foods.

Other more recent research demonstrated how apples and apple juice can help boost neurological health, specifically in the brain. The latest study from the University of Massachusetts Lowell (UML), published in the August 2006 Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, indicates that apple juice consumption may actually increase the production in the brain of the essential neurotransmitter acetylcholine, resulting in improved memory among mice who have Alzheimer’s-like symptoms.

Neurotransmitters such as acetylcholine are chemicals released from nerve cells that transmit messages to other nerve cells. Such communication between nerve cells is vital for overall good health, not just in the brain. In addition to finding the improved levels of acetylcholine in their brains, “it was surprising how the animals on the apple-enhanced diets actually did a superior job on the maze tests than those not on the apple-supplemented diet,” remarks Dr. Thomas Shea, who led the research.

Shea, who is the director of the UML Center for Cellular Neurobiology and Neurodegeneration, published yet another study in the December 2005 Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease in which older mice (not mice with Alzheimer’s like conditions) performed significantly better on memory tests than did animals whose diet was not enriched with apple products. Both of these studies, along with similar study published by Shea in the February 2004 issue of Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging strongly suggests that apples must possess a unique mix of antioxidants that improve cognition and memory via inhibition of oxidation in the brain.

Both the UC Davis and UML studies were funded by unrestricted grants provided by the U.S. Apple Association and Apple Products Research and Education Council.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

In the News: Iceland to Resume Whaling

Iceland announced Tuesday that it would resume commercial whaling after a two-decade moratorium, defying a worldwide ban on hunting whales for their meat.

Fisheries Minister Einar Kristinn Gudfinnsson told Iceland's parliament that his ministry would begin issuing licenses to whaling ships to hunt fin and minke whales. He said the ministry would permit the hunting of nine fin whales and 30 minke whales in the year ending Aug. 31, 2007.
The government said licenses could be issued as soon as Wednesday, and that whaling ships could resume commercial whaling as early as this week.

Click here for the full story.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Halloween Food Traditions

As immigration to the United States began, individuals from the British Isles found the Appalachian Mountains immensely appealing. The rolling, mist shrouded green hills reminded them of home. As Celtic transplants created new lives in these mountains, they retained much of their folklore from the Mother land. And some of what was once traditional Celtic celebrations became enmeshed in American culture, including Halloween.

Because the Celts were semi-nomadic herdsmen and agriculturists, their holy days revolved around the changing seasons. Their most sacred holiday was Samhain on October 31. This day marked the beginning of winter, the final harvest and the time when herds were brought in to shelter from the fields. This day was considered the beginning of a new year.

By the 400 C.E., Christianity was declared the legal religion and mass conversions took place. The church adopted November 1 as All Saints Day, and October 31 as All Hallows Eve, which later was shortened to Halloween. Though people slowly converted, many of the old traditions stuck and came along to America.

For instance, the jack-o-lantern became part of the Halloween celebration compliments of the Celts. In Celtic lands, all hearth fires were extinguished and a new one kindled from the Samhain communal bonfire. Each family would carry home a coal in a hollowed out turnip. Sometimes a frightening face was carved into the turnip to scare away the marauding spirits out on that night. When the Irish immigrants arrived in America, they delighted in the size and carving potential of the native pumpkin. The fat, orange harvest vegetable was quickly substituted for the turnip.

Telling fortunes has always been a fun part of the holiday. The most popular old-world divinations for young women made use of apples. An apple was peeled in one, long paring, and then thrown over the shoulder. The peeling supposedly would land in the shape of the initial of the man the young woman would marry. Another tool used to find one’s husband entailed sticking apple seeds on girls’ cheeks, each one named for a beau. The one that stuck the longest symbolized the suitor she would marry.

And what’s Halloween without trick-or-treating? Trick-or-Treating may have had several ways of entering into popular culture. One possibility came from British Isles. During Samhain in the Old Country, the Celts hid from mischievous spirits by costuming themselves in ghoulish disguises so that wandering spirits would mistake them for one of their own and pass by without incident. Sometimes they formed parade, leading out of the village, in hopes of tricking the spirits to follow them away from their homes. In some parts of the British Isles, soul cakes were baked and staked by the door of the home. The town’s poor came begging, offering prayers for the dead in return for a soul cake. In Christian times, Church parishioners were urged to dress up as saints, angels and devils for church processions on October 31. The tradition slowly caught on and contemporary trick-or-treating as we know it grew popular during 1920-1950.

Photo credit: Burpee Seeds

Friday, October 13, 2006

Vegan Halloween Candy List

Halloween is almost upon us and store shelves are overflowing with candy selections to treat the little goblins who will come knocking on your doors later this month.

If you want to appease them in an animal-friendly way, take a look at this partial list of vegan candies before you shop. You may even find something on the list that you'd like to munch on yourself!

  • Airheads taffy
  • Blow Pops
  • Brach’s Cinnamon Hard Candy
  • Charms lollipops
  • Chick-o-Sticks
  • Cracker Jack
  • Cry Babies
  • Dem Bones
  • Dots
  • Dum-Dums
  • Fireballs
  • Hubba Bubba bubblegum
  • Jolly Ranchers (lollipops and hard candy)
  • Jujubees
  • Jujyfruits
  • Lemonheads
  • Mary Janes (regular and peanut butter kisses)
  • Now and Later
  • Pez
  • Ring Pop lollipops
  • Smarties (U.S. Brand)
  • Sour Patch Kids
  • Starburst (jelly beans and hard candy)
  • Super Bubble
  • Sweet Tarts
  • Tropical Source mini chocolate bags
  • Twizzlers
  • Zotz

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Veggie Hero: Erin Pavlina

Erin Pavlina has been helping families make healthy food choices for seven years as founder and editor of, an online magazine for vegan family living. This site is chock full of information on raising vegan children, including literally thousands of articles and reviews. It's a wonderful resource! Erin is also the author of "Raising Vegan Children in a Non-Vegan World" and "Vegan Family Favorites." She has served as an expert on vegan lifestyles at on vegan lifestyles at (Mothering magazine). Erin and her family live in Las Vegas.

Vegetarian or vegan?

How long have you been veg*n?
My husband and I went vegan together on January 19, 1997, so about 9 years now.

What inspired you to go veg?
Initially for health reasons because everyone in my extended family was having early heart attacks due to high cholesterol. After I went vegan and learned about the atrocities committed against the animals, then I was a vegan for ethical reasons as well.

What's your best story of trying to find veg food?
Whenever my husband and I travel I spend tons of time on the internet at Happy Cow and planning meticulously where we are going to eat in every city we go to. Then I call the restaurants to make sure they are still in business and confirm their hours and location. When I make out our itinerary these restaurants are always included on the list. I print out maps to and from our hotel to the restaurant or health food store, and okay, sometimes I even make of note of what I intend to order for each meal. Is that OCD?

How do you handle family holiday dinners?
We don't live near my family anymore so now we make glorious holiday feasts at home and share with vegan friends. But when we lived in Los Angeles and went to holidays with my extended family, I would just make tons of delicious vegan food and bring it. I must say that my vegan pumpkin pie is always the first pie to be eaten by everyone at Thanksgiving. Only after it's gone do people trudge on over to the other non-vegan pies that people have brought. People also go crazy for my cheese potato casserole: potatoes, vegan sour cream, vegan cheddar, veg bacon bits, green onions, and yum! Resistance is futile.

What's your favorite veg food?
I love strawberries and also sweet potatoes. But if we're going for like a specific vegan food, it would have to be vegan ice cream, particularly the Purely Decadent So Delicious products. Those are coming with me to the desert island if I should ever find myself there.

Do you have a favorite veg book?
"Diet for a New America" and "Mad Cowboy" are my two favorites. They pretty much say it all.

Tofu or tempeh?
Tough one. At home, tofu. When I'm at a vegan restaurant, definitely tempeh. Have you had the Moby Dick sandwich from Native Foods? 'Nuff said.

What did you have for breakfast today?
Tempeh salad sandwich on whole grain toast, and a banana. Wait, that sort of contradicts what I said about tofu at home. But the tempeh salad was store bought so I think that counts.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Product Review: Whirley-Pop Stovetop Popcorn Popper

As the autumn nights cool off here in the Appalachians, my nighttime snacking thoughts turn to popcorn. I love cooking and can successfully tackle just about any kitchen project except stovetop popcorn. For some reason, I can never get it right -- the popcorn turns out burned or underpopped with lots of "old maids" left in the bottom of the pot. But no more! The Whirley-Pop Stovetop Popcorn Popper is my popping salvation. Thanks to it, I make great popcorn every time.

This neat, old-fashion popper has a clip-on lid with a stay-cool wooden handle. A turn crank on the handle spins the key element: the stainless steel stirring system that keeps the corn moving across the bottom of the pan, for even heat and oil distribution, ensuring the best popping results. The lid has steam vents, to help keep the popcorn dry and crisp.

The results are wonderful -- especially if you use organic oil and popcorn. Top with some organic melted butter and sea salt and you'll be ready to munch happily away while snuggle under a blanket watching videos with your sweetie or pets.

And kettle corn? Don't even get me started! The Whirley-Pop comes with a little recipe book for kettle corn and other wonderous treat that will have you popping all winter long.