Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Recipes: Kale Salad!

Just because I want to spread the magic, I'm going to tell you how to make kale salad.

....It's not just any salad, mind you...


...kALe sALaD!

You'll love it, I know it. If you don't, you can send it over to me and I'll eat it. :)

But seriously, I am amazed at how many palates this salad has pleased. I made this as a side dish for Xmas dinner last year, and my entire family loved it - this, coming from a family comprised of much Italian heritage! (Yes, it's a little-known fact that I grew up on my late grandmother's cooking: homemade meatballs, manicotti, lasagna, you name it.)

This salad is also a favorite among my housemates and a lot of our friends. Speaking of whom, I must credit Everett for discovering this recipe on the good ol' internets a long time ago...Thanks for passing this along to us, Everett!

Without further ado:

K a l e  S a l a d:

1 or 2 bunches of kale, rinsed and cut up
1 large carrot, chopped into slices
1 red pepper, diced
2 scallions, chopped into slices
1 4''x4'' square of baked tofu, chopped into little rectangles (Trader Joe's Teriyaki style is what I use)

1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup Vegenaise (Follow Your Heart brand)
2 TB soy sauce
2 TB rice vinegar
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt

Combine the dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Whisk thoroughly.

Toss the vegetables and the dressing together in a large salad bowl.

Then tell me what you thought!

Kale salad with a side of organic pea shoots.

The handiwork of me, Shenee, AJ, & AJ's other half. photocred.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Animal Lovers Unite: Ask Obama To Save The Turkeys!

Animal Acres' own Turkey Lurky.

This post is somewhat of a follow-up to the previous post, in which I talked about animals' poor living conditions and ill fates in the zoo system. 

If learning about what orca whales go through at Sea World made you angry, or inspired you to reach out and make a difference, or both, then here's your chance. There's this relatively new Thanksgiving tradition at the White House in which the President "pardons" two turkeys; instead of allowing them to be slaughtered for a Thanksgiving dinner feast, he sends them to Disneyland. Okay, so what's the problem, right?

Here's the thing. While the President is effectively saving two turkeys from instant death each Thanksgiving, their futures are still pretty bleak: at Disneyland, turkeys still typically die within one year of their arrival. So why doesn't the President somehow ensure that the turkeys live long, happy, healthy lives? Well, here's where you and Obama come in.

This year, Farm Sanctuary is sending a (very polite, respectful) petition to President Obama, asking him to send this year's two turkeys to their safe farm in Watkins Glen, NY. There, the turkeys will spend the rest of their years playing and, well, doing whatever turkeys like to do (I can only say that I know what Turkey Lurky likes to do, which is follow volunteers around and "talk" to them). What's certain, though, is that at Farm Sanctuary, the turkeys will be given the kindest care, and they'll never, ever be used for human dinner. But we only have until November 15th to get this petition signed, sealed, and delivered, so please, if you want to spread some gratitude and love this Thanksgiving season, sign the petition now.

I mean, really, all they need is a newly-freed turkey up in there and it'd be the best frickin' photo ever. photocredit.
And hey, if you want, you can sponsor a turkey, too! The estimable Ellen DeGeneres, the vegan celebrity spokesperson for this year's Adopt-A-Turkey Project, is telling folks "Save a life this Thanksgiving, and join me in starting a new tradition by adopting a turkey instead of eating one through Farm Sanctuary's Adopt-A-Turkey Project." Check them out. Kima is pretty adorable.

Not convinced? Read this.

And if you really wanna go all out this Thanksgiving...   


Try some Tofurky! It's 100% vegan, which makes it a compassionate alternative to the actual bird. Oh, and it's quite delicious, I must say.

To give you an idea of what Tofurkey looks like when prepared. photocredit.
If you're serious about getting a Tofurkey product for Thanksgiving, then allow me to highly recommend going for the Tofurkey "feast," which comes with dumplings. Believe me when I tell you that my omnivorous family members were practically fighting me over who got the last dumpling! That's how good it is. :)

Thanks for reading!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Zoos: Like Being Thrown in Jail Simply for Being Born?

PETA recently tweeted about a baby orca whale who was born nine days ago at Sea World in Orlando, FL.

This article broke my heart and brought me to tears. The following quotes were particularly wrenching to me:

"As Katina approached the birth of her seventh child, she watched her first-born's [dead] body lifted from the tiny pool that is their home." (credit)

"Katina is used to replenish the performing stock for Sea World, as female dogs do in puppy mills, while Tillikum, captured from Iceland and once kept in Oak Bay, is isolated in a back pool as a living sperm bank." (credit)

"Katina's baby will have a life of limitation and boredom, knowing there must be more and never to feel the ocean in a storm, the slide of kelp over skin while playing "kelping" with friends and siblings, the taste of fat chinook salmon fresh caught after a chase or see the bright anemones in sunlit water. This baby's home will be a barren concrete tank." (credit)

How often do you yearn for the salty ocean air, or the freedom to travel to a new or distant place? More applicably, how often do you feel like you just want to go home? 

What if you never could?

It's like being thrown in jail for life simply for being born. Imagining this terrifies me, this lifetime of solitude from the world one knows. Perhaps equally chilling is the constant exploitation of reproductive systems, the separation of mother and child, and the perpetual motion of this entire process. After all, zoos have been around for ages.

Zoos are intended to provide entertainment and sometimes, education, to the general public (who are paying for this, either in the form of a ticket or, I assume, through taxes). But when we really stop to think about it, zoos are more similar to haunted houses than anything else, only nothing is fake.

Here's a thought: DID YOU KNOW THAT HUMAN BEINGS USED TO BE DISPLAYED IN SOME ZOOS**!??? That's right. In both America and western Europe, people who were considered "different," namely those of non-European descent, were kept in small areas for the paying public to watch. Many of the people displayed in these zoos were short in stature and of African descent (commonly referred to as "Pygmy" peoples). Around 1904, a white, American anthropologist named William McGee thought he'd "discovered" that whites were "superior to all other races," and to "prove" this to the public, he set out to Africa, conned a group of Pygmies to come back with him, then put them on display at the 1904 St. Louis World Fair. Even though he never accomplished his goal of finding scientific proof that the Pygmy peoples were "less evolved" versions of human beings, he set the tone for racism in America and abroad. One of McGee's prized prisoners, Ota Benga, was later said to have shot himself in the head ten years after being put in this terrible anthropologist's "scientific" show. All things considered, it's not that surprising.
Human zoos. "Ethnic shows." Absolutely ludicrous, degrading, and disgusting, right? Totally and completely abominable, right?

It's like being thrown in jail for life, simply for being born.

I know that for most people, the horror of human zoos is far more terrifying and compelling than that of animals, but I bring it up to illustrate the dark similarities.

Now you might say, but animals cannot suffer like humans can, so it's not the same thing to keep them in zoos. 

Do they have to be exactly the same? Sure, there are differences between human animals and other animals, but the number of similarities is far greater. And they sure can suffer. Animals can feel pleasure, pain, and a variety of emotions. They communicate via a common language. Orca whales, as an example, live to be as old as humans and have tight family bonds.

But many species are kept from becoming extinct, thanks to the help of zoos, so zoos can't be that bad! 

To which I say, yes, while zoos can serve this important function, they also do a lot of harm to a lot of other species. Why not simply have wildlife preservations and sanctuaries for the animals who would benefit, and leave the rest to exist in their natural habitats? Why not use all the money that goes into zoos and put it toward said preservations and sanctuaries?

But what about the children? 

Educate them. Explain what happens to animals at zoos. Chances are, they'll catch on to these concepts rather quickly. Maybe they'll denounce zoos, maybe they won't, but my bet is that most kids won't be too keen on the idea of visiting a zoo once they understand. To quote the article, "Children are sensitive to injustice."

"Cowboy," a happy calf fella, makes his home at Animal Acres, a sanctuary in Acton, Ca. Here, he never has to worry about being used for veal.

What do you think about zoos? How does your dietary/lifestyle preference influence your opinion? I'd love to hear others' thoughts on this matter.

**I encourage you to watch the three-part documentary. It's eye-opening. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Just Yr Friendly Neighbourhood Spider (GOAT!)

Oh, what a disappointing morning! I wasn't able to go to Animal Acres to see all of my animal friends. I especially missed seeing the goats - have you ever spent any time with a goat? They are really pretty humorous beings, in part because of their dietary habits. Goats are browsers, which means they'll eat plants and fruits that grow up higher than the kinds of plants and fruits that grazers (such as cows, who eat grass) will eat. They're also quite curious by nature. These two traits combined means that often they'll "taste" things just to see whether or not they're food. I've had goats try to sample my clothing before, and one time, the map that my friend and old roommate, Muckford was holding! Even better, goats like to cuddle! Really, they do.

Even though I couldn't hang out with my goat pals today, I got to watch something almost as good. (Thanks to my friend, Dan, for sharing this with me!). Check out the video of these agile Ibex goats (affectionately nicknamed "Spider Goats") from Italy!

These are actually goats climbing this steep wall! photo credit.

Apparently Ibex goats originate from the Alps and are, obviously, known far and wide for their amazing, spidy-like climbing abilities. Also, they are considered wild (no kidding). Here is yet another video of their climbing, even closer-up. In it, you can see the goat licking the stone wall of the dam (aw), possibly to reach its nutritional requirements for salt.

Did I mention how impressed I am!? photo credit.

Look! It's Shenee and one of the Pygmy goats of Animal Acres!

Got any interesting goat stories? Leave a comment! I want to hear any and all things goat-related.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Fall Harvest, Peanut Butter, & Fashionable Thoughts

I can't say it enough: I love being a member of a CSA.

The weather in LA was surprisingly chilly and rainy last week. It was reminiscent of the east-coast autumns of my childhood. The perfect antidote to the cold? Soup, of course, and thanks to my CSA, I was able to make it organic, local, and fresh:

Fall Harvest Soup

-CSA yellow squash
-CSA fingerling potatoes
-CSA kale
-CSA Swiss chard
-CSA leeks
-dried lentils
-yellow onion
-organic, fresh garlic (about 3 cloves)
-sea salt
-tricolor, freshly ground pepper
-crushed red pepper & cayenne because I'm a spicy-food FREAK and can't seem to exclude this from any meal I make, no matter what.
-olive oil

farm fresh kale and Swiss chard

This soup can be made in 5 main steps. Ideally, steps 2 and 3 will be completed simultaneously in order to enhance the ease and efficiency of making your soup. Here we go:

1. Wash and chop all vegetables.

2. Boil water (with a dash of salt) and add chopped potatoes to it.

3. Rinse the lentils and then add them to a pot of boiling water. Cover the pot and allow to cook on medium or low until they are softened. I recommend following the package instructions.

4. Saute the chopped onion, leeks, and garlic. You can then add the carrots. Once all of these ingredients are softened but not totally translucent, add the chopped yellow squash and then finally the chard and the kale. The chard and the kale take the least time to soften and don't need much room to cook (much unlike the garlic, which doesn't cook well if it's added late in the saute-ing process), which is why I added them last.
the saute process

5. Once everything is softened enough, add everything (including the spices) to the pot that contains the potatoes. You may need to add more water if the water's looking low. Bring it to a boil and then allow it to simmer for as long as you wish. The longer it simmers, the more integrated and complex the flavors become. Also, a note about spices: I don't really measure these, but rather, add a little at a time and go with my palate. Just keep adding and tasting until you're satisfied. That's my philosophy. 

the pot of soup, early on in the cooking process

Some cool things about this soup:
-like I mention above, I used local, organic CSA produce, which means it was environmentally-friendly (local crops=less transportation required=less pollution) and healthy (organic=pesticide-free)
-kale and swiss chard both contain calcium. Oh, and the calcium is more absorbable than the calcium in cows' milk, just sayin'. 
-it keeps well in the refrigerator for a while, and tastes great (sometimes even better) once it's reheated (I reheat by putting it in a pot and cooking it on the stove, as we don't have a microwave at my house, but I'm sure microwaving would yield decent results, too) 

Now, don't think you need to have the exact ingredients that I used. You can make your own version of Fall Harvest Soup and it'll be wonderful! I'm mostly posting my own recipe just to encourage people to cook with whatever they have around, though I will say that the soup I made was quite tasty. But really, you can use anything: Don't have chard or kale? Try chopped spinach. Don't have fingerling potatoes? Use any old potatoes! Lentils can be substituted with white beans, pinto beans, really any legume. Maybe throw in some celery, which I would've done if I had some on hand.

Something I would highly recommend, however, is using leeks and carrots. If you don't have leeks, regular onions will do, but the subtler, softer flavor of leeks tends to cultivate greater harmony with the other ingredients as compared to the harsher flavor of regular onions. I didn't have enough leeks so I compromised and used equal parts leeks and onions. Carrots are pretty integral and I can't think of a good substitute. In French cooking, there is this concept called The Holy Trinity, which means celery, bell pepper, and onion, and is named such because it's considered the mandatory cornerstone of every French meal. My own personal Holy Trinity consists of celery, onions, and carrots, which I consider to be the foundation for any soup or stew. 

Another recipe that I want to share is something I also made the day I made the Fall Harvest Soup, and this is my Peanut Butter Banana smoothie. The autumn chill made me hungry for something a little heartier than my usual, mostly-fruit smoothies, and so I decided to go with some ingredients of the nutty and spicy variety:

Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie

-1.5 bananas (or however many you prefer), chopped and frozen
-2 TB peanut butter (I use Trader Joe's "Creamy Salted" kind), or however much you like
-2 TB Trader Joe's Vanilla Hemp Protein Powder
-1 cup (or however much you like) of Vanilla almond milk (I alternate between Pacific Natural Foods and Blue Diamond brands)

All you have to do is put the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth, creamy, and absolutely freaking delicious.

Photo Credit
Photo Credit
My finished product, which lasted approximately 45 seconds.

I've also been preparing for fall in other ways, namely, stocking up on clothing other than my Los Angeles Summer Uniform (i.e., tank top and jeans shorts, due to the hot weather). As a supporter of all things environmentally-friendly, of course I had to stop by Crossroads. Yes, yes, it is the "Gucci" of thrift stores, but whatever. It's still recycling, it's still affordable, and therefore, I still like it. I found a pretty decent jacket/coat there, which I plan to alter slightly, once I muster up the cash to join a local sewing 101 class. 
The better to hypnotize you with.

I'm a bit incensed about the continued promotion of animal products in the fashion world. It's bad enough that Gaga had to wear that god-awful meat dress (which is a whole other blog post in and of itself, although my "short" opinion is: her decision was grossly ill-informed but had an unintended positive impact on people who wouldn't have otherwise re-considered their animal-informed fashion choices). A woman I admire oh-so-much, intelligent and adorable Ellen DeGeneres, handles this best (it isn't until about 4 minutes in that she does this). Anyway, my points are, what the hell are we thinking, seeing it as cool to wear the flesh and fur of other living beings!? and, you can find plenty of recycled, and therefore not directly perpetuating of animal-informed clothing pieces (as in my 1/3-wool coat example, above) and non-animal pieces (as in my duct tape wallet example, below). 

By the way, I completely understand the argument that by wearing animal parts (as I said, the jacket I just bought is 1/3 wool, which typically comes from sheep "fur"), it sends the message that wearing animal parts is acceptable. And I know that some vegans and animal rights folks oppose even the recycled (i.e., thrift-store or already-been-worn-and-therefore-not-contributing-to-new-production) animal pieces, because of this. I am in no way advocating the use of animal products in our clothing choices by my purchasing a used 1/3 wool jacket. However, I do realize that by supporting the recycling of clothing, even those consisting of animal parts, I may or may not be perpetuating the trend of wearing animal parts. On this issue, I am very torn, but for the time being, I think it is worthwhile to support the recycling of all used materials, even if those materials originate from animals. I do not, however, support the manufacturing of new materials that are derived from animal parts. 

Right, so... In other autumnal preparatory news, as I just alluded to, my boyfriend and I decided to make duct tape wallets yesterday. It's pretty simple to do, and the special colors that we used are easy to find at your local crafts store (I tend to go to Michael's for most of my supplies). His is pretty awesome-looking, so I'll post a photo of it soon, but for now, here is my own work-in-progress: 

That's a note-to-self on my hand. My philosophy: What gets written on the hand gets done.
That's all for now. I should wind down for the night. I plan on shopping for my fall's supply of delicious, vegan skincare and cosmetics tomorrow morning. In the meantime, I'ma continue diving into False Priest (do with this what you will, music connoisseurus rex's). This particular video makes me lose my mind a little, it's so good. God.

peace and carrots,
“We try to have these “holy fuck” moments where you’re really having your mind blown, especially if you’re listening to it on headphones.” - Pitchfork. Photocredit.
P.S. I kind of really want those turquoise boots. So long as they're vegan-friendly. 
P.P.S. Yeah, I know, what the hell are they doing, wearing feathers in this photo!? And I know for fact, as I've searched far and wide for synthetic feathers, that 99.9% of feathers you see are the real deal, bona fide bird feathers. Do I still love Of Montreal, even though they're wearing that? Yes. But I also love my parents, and they eat animals. A person cannot be vegan in every breath she takes, as much as she might like it to be that way. Again, this is in no way meant to advocate or support the wearing or eating of animals. This is not to say it's okay with me that they're wearing feathers just because they're Of Montreal. This is simply to say, I like the band but I recognize the disconnect between my beliefs and theirs, as per this photo, and, I'm being honest.