Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Big Apple

I'm off to New York City for a few days... but check back next week. You won't believe who our next Veggie Hero is, plus we'll have an exclusive report from the Human Society of the United States' conference "Taking Action for Animals" and my tales of veggie dining in the big apple!

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Veggie Hero: Robin Robertson

If you don't own Robin Robertson's cookbook, "Vegan Planet," run out and buy one today. Then you'll begin to understand why she's this week's Veggie Hero. This classic tome has been called the vegan "Joy of Cooking." No wonder! It's filled with more than 400 recipes and other great information to help make vegan living easy and delicious! Robin is the author of 11 other great cookbooks and has been a chef, caterer and cooking teacher in addition to her food writing career. You might recognize her by-line as the author of "The Global Vegan" column for VegNews Magazine. Robin lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia, with her husband and their two cats.

Vegetarian or vegan?

How long have you been veg*n?
Going on 20 years

What inspired you to go veg?
My love and respect for animals from an early age

What's your best story of trying to find veg food?
A family gathering where one relative encouraged me to eat "just a little bit" of chicken (as if that would make it okay) and the hostess made me a "special" spinach salad so I'd have something to eat -- but put BACON dressing on it. And these were people who were supposedly understanding and aware of my food preferences. I have much better luck at restaurants!

How do you handle family holiday dinners?
After that last experience (see above) I now host all family holiday meals. If relatives want to come, that's great, if not, it just means more great vegan food for us! (Leftover stuffed seitan roast with brown gravy anyone?)

What's your favorite veg food?
It's hard to pick just one. First of all I adore all vegetables. But for specific "veg" food, I'd have to say it's a toss-up between tofu for its chameleon like ability to become whatever you want it to be and seitan for its wonderful texture and versatility. As a former restaurant chef, I especially like cooking with seitan because I can make all my old favorite sautéed dishes.

Do you have a favorite veg book?
My personal favorite is my book "The Vegetarian Meat & Potatoes Cookbook" because it was inspired by my desire to make familiar, great-tasting veg food for my husband, family, and friends. I've been gratified to learn that many people choose it to give to carnivorous friends and family in an effort to win them over. It's also been a favorite of folks on the way to going veg.

Tofu or tempeh?
Tofu, definitely.

What did you have for breakfast today?
Oatmeal with dried cranberries and a splash of soymilk. Yum.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Product Review: Breyers Pure Fruit Swirl Bars

Summer is fading away... but it's still hot enough for frozen treats! Breyers Pure Fruit Swirl Bars hit the market this season and they are wonderful! Each package of 10 bars contains blueberry-lemon, strawberry-blueberry, strawberry-orange, and strawberry-lemon flavors. And true to the name, the ingredients are pure fruit. These frosty vegan treats are just 45 calories, no fat and are widely available. Call me impressed. Good job, Breyers! Thanks for making a product that is delicious, nutritious, inexpensive and can be purchased in my local grocery store.

Grade: A+

Friday, August 25, 2006

Tomato Sandwiches

I love simple, unfussy meals that nourish me on all levels. And summer produce plays a great role in these kind of dishes. So before the summer slips away, you must eat a tomato sandwich. In my childhood, this was a rite of summer: sun-warmed, garden-fresh tomatoes, butter, mayo and crispy bacon on toasted white bread. Today, I make the sandwiches a bit differently, but the taste takes me back to the carefree summer days of youth.

Be sure to select your tomato with care. No average grocery store tomato will due for this sandwich! If you don't grow your own tomatoes, seek out a farmers market, tailgate market, roadside stand or generous neighbor for a truly ripe tomato. Try a low-acid yellow fleshed tomato or a unique heirloom for variety and deeper flavor. And to get nice clean slices, use a serated bread knife. It really works!

Natuaral white bread
Butter or soy margarine
Mayonaisse or soy replacement
Sliced tomato
Soy bacon strips cooked according to package directions
Sea salt

1. Lightly toast the bread. Spread butter on one slice and mayo on the other.

2. Pile on tomato slices and cooked soy bacon. Sprinkle with sea salt.

3. Serve with a napkin to wipe your chin!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Veggie Hero: Nava Atlas

In my opinion, Nava Atlas is one of the founding mothers of the contemporary vegetarian movement. She's been working hard for decades and hasn't slowed down a bit! She keeps us updated with news, recipes and enviable travel logs via her blog and continues to write inspiring books. Nava is the author and illustrator of many books on vegetarian cooking, most recently, "The Vegetarian Family Cookbook" and "The Vegetarian 5-Ingredient Gourmet." Her earlier books, "Vegetariana," "Vegetarian Celebrations" and "Vegetarian Soups for All Seasons" are classics. Nava has also written scores of articles on healthy cooking with natural foods, which have appeared in Vegetarian Times, Veggie Life, Cooking Light and numerous other publications.

Vegetarian or vegan?

How long have you been veg*n?
Vegetarian for decades; vegan for 4 years

What inspired you to go veg?
I was always really revolted by meat, even as a small child. But "vegetarian" was not part of the vocabulary when I was little. Then came the 1960s, so by the time I was a teen I was ready to declare that I was going veg. There was not a lot of thought behind it; I just wanted to cook my own meals. My family freaked out at first, but then everyone—including my parents—followed suit (I was the youngest in the family). Gradually, I came to appreciate the ethical, health, and environmental aspects of vegetarianism.

What's your best story of trying to find veg food?
In the mid-80s, my husband and I traveled across the U.S. so I could collect recipes and inspiration for my second book, then called "American Harvest" (the newer edition is called "Great American Vegetarian"). Finding veg food in smaller southern towns was often daunting back then. I remember stopping in at one diner and asking if their greens or beans could be made without "seasoning" which was a secret code word for "fatback." The cook just laughed and said this could not possibly be done. Somehow we survived and reached New Mexico, which was a paradise comparatively.

How do you handle family holiday dinners?
Fortunately, my family is very veg-friendly, with several vegetarians and vegans among us. Those who are not wish they were, and so they don't judge. There are a lot of good cooks in the family, and in any case, no matter how delicious, the food is secondary to the fact that various parts of the family can be together at different times.

What's your favorite veg food?
This is a tough one! I couldn't possibly name a single food item, but if forced to choose a category, I would say I just adore soups, and make them all year around (not surprising, since my book "Vegetarian Soups for All Seasons" is built around that theme—it's soon coming out in a new, veganized edition, by the way).

Do you have a favorite veg book?
This is not a veg book, but in this category I really admire Eric Schlosser's "Fast Food Nation," as it opened up a whole dialog on the food industry and how they shirk all responsibility when it comes to misinformation on health issues, the exploitation of immigrants, advertising to children, decimating the environment, abusing animals, etc. Lots of related books have come out since, which is great, and Schlosser just came out with a version of his book for teens called "Chew on This."

Tofu or tempeh?
I like tempeh, but in my family, we are all tofu freaks. My husband and I and our two teenage sons are all vegans, so we go through lots of tofu every week.

What did you have for breakfast today?
I'm a real Jewish Mother when it comes to food, so I always make sure to serve a hearty breakfast to my sons, who are still growing. But for myself, I like to just see what leftovers are in the fridge. In the summer for example, I'm always happy to have leftover salad in the morning. That's what I had today, with some whole grain bread. But if there is a noodle dish or sushi in the fridge, I am in heavan. My family thinks my breakfasts are weird, even by our standards.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Product Review: Sigg Water Bottles

I am totally hooked on Sigg Water Bottles -- and you should be, too!

As vegheads, we are concerned with our health and with what goes into our bodies. So most of us drink plenty of water. But did you know that what you store your water in can affect your health? Studies show that many kinds of plastic bottles can leach potentially toxic chemicals. For instance, polycarbonate plastic (made by Nalgene and other companies) leaches bisphenol-A, a chemical linked to increased risk of birth defects, miscarriage and prostate cancer. Scratches in the plastic, harsh detergents and boiling liquids exacerbate the leaching.

With those scary facts in mind, I often carry my drinks in glass Mason jars with sturdy handles but glass isn't always a safe option. That's where my Sigg Water Bottle comes in.

Sigg Water Bottles are Swiss made (gotta love European innovation) and come in lots of really cool designs -- from glow-in-the-dark skulls for you goths to fluffy lambs for the kids. These bottles are light, strong and leak-proof because they are extruded from a single piece of alumninum. Now, I know what you're thinking: isn't aluminum a suspect neurotoxin? Shouldn't we avoid drinking from aluminum? Right! But Sigg has that covered. The inside of the bottles are coated with a baked-on enamel finish that is safe, taste-neutral and resistant to fruit acids in juices.

You can find Sigg Water Bottles in lots of shops and online. But if you're shopping, consider buying one from Ideal Bite, a great online resource for environmentally conscious news and products. Cost is $20.

Grade: A+

Friday, August 18, 2006

Cucumber Salad

When I was growing up my family had a huge garden that produced dozens of cucumbers. My mother canned batch after batch of pickles, but she also made a refreshing cucumber salad many nights of the week during the summer. My step-dad called them "Slimy Pickles" but I think "Cucumber Salad" is a bit more appetizing, don't you? No matter what you call it, this tasty dish rounds out any summer meal. I've updated her classic recipe just for you. Enjoy!

3 cups sliced cucumbers
1/4 cup sliced white onion
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh or dried dill leaf
1 tablespoon milled cane sugar
3 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise or soy substitute

1. In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients. Toss to coat.
2. Let sit at room temperature for 10-15 minutes. Stir again.
3. Serve immediately.
4. Eat up! This dish doesn't save well so lick the bowl clean.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Veggie Hero: Joseph Connelly

You might not know Joseph Connelly's name but I bet you know his work. Joseph is the publisher and founding editor of VegNews Magazine, the hottest vegetarian publication on the news stand. VegNews, located in San Francisco, has been in the limelight alot recently. It was named one of The Chicago Tribune's 2006 "50 Best Magazines" and the 2006 winner of the Maggie Award for "Most Improved Publication." With dedicated vegan Joseph Connelly at the helm, VegNews keeps getting better and better. If you haven't checked out this sleek, sophisticated magazine, run to your bookstore and buy one now -- and thank Joseph for prooving that an "alternative" publication can be truly outstanding.

Vegetarian or vegan?

How long have you been veg*n?
Vegan 15 years (since October 1991)

What inspired you to go veg?
Many things inspired me. Losing a grandfather to colon cancer. Learning about the many negative environmental effects of meat production. And being adopted by a cat (whom I named Dog) in 1984. She pushed me over the edge...

What's your best story of trying to find veg food?
Driving cross-country in 2001 and finding veg foods everywhere: soymilk in West Virginia; tofu in Wyoming; and a sign that said "vegan pizza" in Santa Cruz, California.

How do you handle family holiday dinners?
I try to celebrate with my veg "family" as much as possible. When I'm with my kin I bring vegan dishes and skip the corpse.

What's your favorite veg food?
Savory: My partner Colleen's rice bowls. The perfect meal.
Sweet: Millennium Restaurant's Chocolate Almond Midnight

Do you have a favorite veg book?
It would be difficult to top John Robbins' classic "Diet for a New America." I read it just as I was becoming veg; it's like your first girlfriend you can never forget.

Tofu or tempeh?

What did you have for breakfast today?
Three bananas and two cups of tea

Monday, August 14, 2006

Product Review: Ben & Jerry's Sorbet

Leave it to the company who brought ultra-premium ice cream to the masses to come up with really yummy sorbet. Debuting this summer, Ben & Jerry's now has three sorbets* in their product line: Jamaican' Me Crazy, Strawberry Kiwi Swirl, and Berried Treasure. All are sweet, creamy, flavorful and have chuncks of real fruit. Delcious! In addition, all three are fat-free and low in calories. Unfortunately, all three flavors contain corn syrup, otherwise they would have recieved my highest rating. Nevertheless, I urge you to take a break from frozen dairy treats and try these fruity sorbets instead!

Grade: A

* Vegan product

Friday, August 11, 2006

Smart Menu Planning

Before you can start to cook you must have a plan! I start each week by making a menu and then creating a grocery list. After I buy groceries at the farmer's market, health food store and grocery store (whew!), I can get cooking!

You can make a week's worth of menus, too. Just break it down. Here's what I do.

Sundays -- Traditional Sunday Dinner
I often have more time to cook on Sundays, so I usually plan a Sunday Dinner for that night. Think casseroles or a New Heritage Cooking style traditional Sunday Dinner -- soy sausage, a couple of veggies and cornbread or biscuits. Yum!

Mondays -- Soup or Salad
In the summer, I love to create big salads for Monday night supper. In the winter, I serve soup, which I often make on Sunday afternoon. These quick Monday dinners are rounded out with whole grain rolls or bread.

Tuesdays -- Beans or Tofu
Classic beans and rice, stir fry tofu, beans and greens... the combinations are endless!

Wednesdays -- Pasta
Pasta is a quick and filling meal for midweek. And pasta can take a number of forms -- soba noodles with peanut sauce, rice noodles with Pad Thai, whole wheat spaghetti with marinara sauce. Yummy!

Thursday -- Sandwiches
Thursdays can busy nights at my house -- workouts at the gym, yoga class, and just being plain tired from a hectic week. Sandwiches fit the bill just fine.

Friday -- Pizza
What's better on Friday night than a homemade pizza?! Top with low-fat or soy cheese and your favorite toppings, pop in the oven and 15 minutes dinner is ready! Look for pre-made crusts in your grocer's cooler case or freezer for a truly fast meal.

Saturday -- New Recipe or Dining Out
Saturday night takes us out on the town or trying a new recipe. It's a fun way to wrap up a week of great eating.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Veggie Hero: Erik Marcus

Erik Marcus doesn't consider himself a Veggie Hero, but countless others, myself included, sure do! He embodies his convictions in a very real way. Erik is the author of two important books, "Vegan: The New Ethics of Eating" and "Meat Market: Animals, Ethics and Money." He also works tirelessly keeping scores of listeners updated on animal issues via his popular podcast Erik's Diner. His passion to protect animals is evident in all his work -- and moreover it's motivating. He spurs people to action. If that doesn't make him a Veggie Hero, I don't know what does.

Vegetarian or vegan?

How long have you been veg*n?
Almost 20 years.

What inspired you to go veg?
Slaughterhouse footage.

What's your best story of trying to find veg food?
Just last week, on my cross-country drive, I found an organic restaurant in Iowa, and the next day I ate a veggie restaurant in Laramie, Wyoming. Both of these places I found purely by luck.

How do you handle family holiday dinners?
My mother typically goes out of her way to make entirely vegan meals.

What's your favorite veg food?
I adore grilled broccoli with soy margarine.

Do you have a favorite veg book?
I think every activist needs to read Peter Singer's "Ethics Into Action."

Tofu or tempeh?
Tofu less than a couple hours old beats everything.

What did you have for breakfast today?
Rainier cherries and pistachios.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Product Review: Kashi Vive Cereal

I love many of the great flavors of Kashi brand cereal so I was excited to try their newest product, Vive Probiotic Digestive Wellness Cereal*. This breakfast treat is the only shelf-stable probiotic food on the market and was released in late July.

Designed to support the digestive system, Vive not only contains probiotics but it is high in fiber (12 grams per serving) and low in calories (170 calories per 1 1/4 cup serving). And it tastes good, too. Hints of vanilla and ginger mix with graham flavored flakes and bran twigs. Good stuff!

Grade: A

* Lacto vegetarian product

Friday, August 04, 2006

Out Sick

I'm down with the flu... but check back next week for more news, product reviews, recipes and a Veggie Hero.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Veggie Hero: Sarah Kramer

Sarah Kramer just might be the hippest vegan in all of North America. Not only is this Canadian covered with great tattoos and has a fabulous wardrobe, but she's been veg since birth! Sarah has created a cult following as author of "How It All Vegan" and "La Dolce Vegan." She continues to spread the vegan message far and wide through her Web site, blog and regular articles for VegNews and Herbivore magazine.

Vegetarian or vegan?

How long have you been veg*n?
So long I’ve lost all track of time…

What inspired you to go veg?
My Mum. I was raised veg from birth. My cats inspired me to go Vegan as an adult. I wouldn't eat my cat... why would I eat a cow?

What's your best story of trying to find veg food?
Niagara Falls about 10 years ago. Oh my god… couldn’t even find a place to serve us spaghetti and tomato sauce. Nobody had plain tomato sauce!! We ended up at a Hard Rock Café and had a crappy salad with French fries. The best part of it was when the waitress beaned my husband in the head with a giant plate and left a welt. The manager came over and they made a huge deal about it… but didn’t even comp our meal, didn’t buy our drinks. Nothing… pffft.

How do you handle family holiday dinners?
I don’t celebrate holidays. Just my birthday… it should be a national holiday… *laugh*

What's your favorite veg food?
Japanese. There’s a great restaurant in Berkeley called Cha Ya. It’s my favourite restaurant in the world… best Japanese food I’ve ever eaten. 100% vegan restaurant too.

Do you have a favorite veg book?
I love Herbivore Magazine (which sit on my book shelf like books) and I love "Vegan Freak" by Jenna and Bob Torres

Tofu or tempeh?
Oooh. Tempeh for when I’m feeling macro. Tofu for when I’m in a hurry.

What did you have for breakfast today?
It was my day off today … so my hubby made waffles and soy-sausages with a nice big cup of tea.