Monday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Can I just say that I hate daylight savings in the spring? Yeah we get another hour of daylight. But considering that DH and I went out the night before on one of those rare dates and we got up early anyway because of the kids, losing that hour wrecked me. I was walking around with stinging eyes and quite cranky.  

On the flipside, I made this vegan recipe I found in the New York Times for dinner and it was delicious! But rather than bake the beans, we ate it as soup with garlic naan, which I bought in the pita bread section of the supermarket. Again, delish!

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?  


Summer stir-fry thread

I don’t love the heat, but I love the produce of high summer. Tonight’s dinner featured a stir-fry with local onions, carrots, kohlrabi, kale, bok choi, broccoli and Iowa-made tofu. Only the soba noodles and sauce weren’t local.

Usually I make my own stir-fry sauces. One light version is an Asian marinade from Moosewood Cooks at Home. In a small saucepan heat about 1/4 cup to 1/3 cup dry sherry, the same amount of tamari or soy sauce, half that amount of rice vinegar, a tablespoon or two of brown sugar, and a few slices of peeled fresh ginger. Bring to boil, stir and simmer for a minute before removing from the heat. I soak the cubed tofu in this sauce, then add it to the rest of the stir fry a couple of minutes before serving. I like to toss in a few tablespoons of toasted sesame oil at the end too.

I also like to make a variation on the Spicy Peanut Sauce from Moosewood’s Low-Fat Favorites. This can be drizzled over almost any steamed vegetables or added to a stir-fry near the end of cooking. To make it, throw the following in a blender: about 1/4 cup peanut butter, 1/3 cup water, 1 pressed garlic clove, a little fresh chile or dash of hot sauce, 2 Tbsp cider vinegar or rice vinegar, 1 Tbsp honey, 1 Tbsp soy sauce or tamari, 1 Tbsp lemon juice and about 2 tsp chopped fresh ginger root. Moosewood says to throw in 1/4 cup of diced tomatoes, but I leave those out. If you have extra sauce, you can keep it for a couple of weeks in the fridge (tightly sealed).

Share your own stir-fry secrets in this thread.


Making the Case for Vegan Children

A friend alerted me to her friend’s new book, That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals, because she knows that I was vegetarian for many years, my husband was vegan for many years and is now a vegetarian, and my kids, for the large part, are vegetarian, too.

While I was much more militant about my vegetarianism b.c. (before children), I softened my stance because I found that pregnancy and post-pregnancy hormones gave me a lot of food aversions, like tofu. Also, I found myself in a lot more situations where there weren’t meat-free options, like kid birthday parties and school events.

But still, I never learned to cook meat so I never make it at home — and I cook almost every day. My husband rather starve than eat meat — he is still quite militant about it — but the kids and I occasionally indulge at a birthday party or a restaurant.

That’s not to say that I disagree with the content of writer Ruby Roth’s book That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals. I read enough books and seen enough documentaries to know that the factory farm industry is despicable and downright cruel to both animals and workers. But like religion, I am incapable of being pure, which leads me to my main reaction to this book.

I can’t help but wonder if it would actually convert non-vegetarians or non-vegans. The tone is a bit judgmental and guilt-inducing — very much like the bible. Let me give you an example:

Just like we do, many baby animals stay close to their parents long after they’re born. Our families warm, protect, and comfort us, preparing us for the great, big world.

On factory farms, there are no animal families. With no mama in sight, these babies live without a sense of family or safety. Animals belong in families, packs, herds, and flocks.

I do read the bible to my children so the judgmental tone doesn’t bother me. Plus, my children have already received an earful from their father about eating meat. So it isn’t outside the realm of possibility for a household like ours to own this book and read it to our children. But I wonder if a non-vegan or non-vegetarian family would read it to their children. What do you think?

At least one group of non-vegetarians have read the book: the factory farm industry. Roth struck such a nerve that Utah’s largest farming organization, the Utah Farm Bureau, is placing its own book on the bookshelves of schools. From the Salt Lake Tribune:

Utah Farm Bureau CEO Randy Parker said his organization of about 27,000 members is purchasing books to correct “eco-propaganda” messages aimed at children that assert agriculture is ravaging the environment.

“Our children are flooded with a variety of ‘go-green’ messages,” Parker wrote in the Farm Bureau’s Winter newsletter. “Children are being traumatized for not recycling an empty yogurt container or forgetting to turn off the lights.”

Parker singled out the children’s book That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals: A Book About Vegans, Vegetarians and All Living Things, as an example of “political-activist messages” his group hopes to counteract.

Roth responded with a letter of her own:

There is a fine line between education and advertising, and the cheerful schoolbooks about meat and dairy that Utah Farm Bureau CEO Randy Parker plans to place in Utah classrooms fall into the latter category (“Utah Farm Bureau launches counterattack on ‘eco-propaganda,'” Tribune , Jan. 9). Parker can criticize my children’s book on vegetarians and try to positively spin the meat and dairy industries, but his industry is being exposed, and people are going vegan.

Contrary to Parker’s belief that children are “traumatized” by “go-green” messages like recycling, as an elementary school teacher I never experienced a child who was overwhelmed by learning about the destructive nature of factory farming, let alone energy conservation. Children are not only curious about serious topics like climate change, animal rights, endangered species and veganism, but when they find that they can help solve a problem, be it animal mistreatment or pollution, simply through their choices, then action is not a question but a conclusion.

Even happy books about where meat and dairy come from expose children to the fact that the chicken on their plate is actually a chicken. When my students realized that, most wanted to go vegan.

I agree with Roth that the “traumatized” meme is over-the-top and certainly not something I have witnessed in the “eco-propagandist” enclave of Berkeley, California. If anything, my children love the outdoors and are horrified to discover there are people in the country who do not recycle. I know someday they will be horrified to learn how factory farm animals actually live.


Perfect summer salads thread

I just had the perfect lunch: a big orange local tomato sliced with olive oil, fresh basil, Northern Prairie Chevre and a little salt.

Since summer is the best time of year for salads, I thought I’d invite you to share your favorite recipes in this thread.

What do you love to pour over a leafy green salad? We’ve been getting fantastic greens from my CSA farmer, and I keep making the same dressing: grapeseed oil, a little cider vinegar, a little dijon mustard, a little honey, a little salt.

Here’s a dressing for potato salad that will suit vegans or mayonnaise-haters like me. It’s a North African dish from The Book of Jewish Food by Claudia Roden. You can also stir it into cooked carrots, or a mixture of potatoes and carrots.

A few Tbsp of lemon juice
4-5 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp paprika
pinch cayenne pepper
3 garlic cloves, crushed or finely chopped (you can go lighter on garlic if you don’t love it)
salt to taste

Combine the dressing ingredients while you are boiling potatoes, carrots or both. When veggies are tender, chop them or mash them, then mix them with the dressing in a bowl. This is a great dish for potlucks at any time of the year, because it’s good at room temperature too.


Something for vegans, something for carnivores

I watch the Food Network sometimes while I’m exercising, and in the past two weeks I’ve seen Giada and the Barefoot Contessa make risotto on their shows. They both insisted that you “have” to put cheese in your risotto, and I think they added cream as well.

I couldn’t disagree more, so I’m re-posting one of my favorite food substitutions:

To make risotto with no milk or cream, I use a tip from the Moosewood Collective’s Low-Fat Favorites cookbook. In a food processor or blender, combine a cup or two of frozen corn kernels with whatever kind of stock you will use to cook the risotto. This creates a creamy consistency, but without being as heavy as risotto with cream. It’s good for vegans or anyone cutting back on calories.

I like to stir basil pesto into my risotto right before serving, but vegans can make that without cheese as well.

For the carnivores in the Mother Talkers community: on Thursday I cooked a flank steak (local and 100 percent grass-fed) using a recipe from Cynthia Lair’s article on grass-fed beef in the March-April 2009 issue of Mothering magazine. It comes from her book Feeding the Whole Family. You use a little of the dressing as a marinade; the rest is supposed to go on a noodle salad, but I saved it to pour over the leftover meat:

2 Tbsp toasted sesame oil, 3 Tbsp tamari, 3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar, 1 Tbsp maple syrup, 1 Tbsp hot-pepper oil.

It only took a minute to stir together the ingredients, and if you don’t eat meat, you could use this dressing for a vegetarian or vegan stir-fry or noodle salad.

What have you been eating or cooking lately? I am not a big salad eater for most of the year, but I am loving the fresh mixed greens I’ve been getting from my CSA farmer this month.


Wednesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

Anne Fitten Glenn aka “Edgy Mama” listed kid-friendly fruits and vegetables she grows in her column at the Mountain Xpress. Also, you have to check out the letters to the editor her paper received for an article on chickens. The vegans and meat eaters were out in full force.

Good question: A mom at The Motherhood wondered how to get her two-year-old to stop saying “no!” and “mine!” Or, as Miss Eli would say, “ESO ES DE ELI!”

For Mother’s Day weekend, the late Janet aka “Janetle’s” daughter, Kaley, posted musings and recipes from her mother’s life at the blog Mukilteo Musings. Sweet.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Late-Night Liberty:  Nut Free, Gluten Free, and Vegan Cakes, Icing and Cookies

(originally published on Non-Toxic Kids) It sounds like the beginning of a joke:  take a nut allergic child, a child with celiac, and a vegan child, and what do you get?

The perfect storm.  Three kids, three very different needs.

Seriously, though, it is possible to please children with multiple nutiritonal challenges.  We had a small birthday party for my daughter, who is severely allergic to nuts.  She invited her buddy who has celaic disease, and another one who is a vegan.  Unless you knew about Cherrybrook Kitchen, you might be quaking with fear at the thought of how to make a cake that would be safe for all of them.  

But Cherrybrook Kitchen makes a line of Nut Free, Gluten Free, and Vegan cake mixes, icing, and cookie mixes.  For my girl, I made the Gluten Free Dreams chocolate cake. It was moist and delicious, and a certain crowd pleaser for the preschool set.  They didn’t know anything about what was missing.  The ingredient list is short, with all items listed being actual food items, not chemicals with long names.  

So, if you are planning a party for your child, and you have guests coming with one or all of the challenges listed above, try Cherrybrook Kitchen products.


Midday Coffee Break

What’s up?

Gov. David Paterson of New York is rumored to introduce legislation this Thursday legalizing gay marriage in the state, according to the New York Times.

Not surprisingly, Heather Armstrong over at Dooce raised a firestorm by explaining her unabashedly pro-vaccine stance. I can’t believe this stance is controversial.

This apple-blueberry-honey-yogurt-ginger-tart at Eat. Drink. Better. looks delish! Also in Eat. Drink. Better.: Beth Bader aka “Expatriate Chef” wrote a review of a vegan soul food cookbook.

If you would allow me one last excellent story at Eat. Drink. Better.: Whole Foods Market has said the number of people reusing grocery bags has tripled in the last year thanks to its eliminating plastic grocery bags. The natural supermarket giant said due to its bold move there were 150 million plastic bags less in our landfills.

Eco Child’s Play makes a compelling case why we should tote around metal canteens rather than plastic bottles of water.

This is amazing: Women control 45 of 80 seats in parliament in Rwanda, according to Elect Women Magazine. The African nation is the first country in the world, in which women outnumber men in parliament. Also, did you know that New Hampshire made history this last election by becoming the first state in the United States to have a female majority in the state legislature? According to Elect Women Magazine, women hold 13 of the 24 seats in the state senate.

Now onto depressing news in Elect Women Magazine: More mothers and pregnant women are being laid off in the workforce that the number of pregnancy-based discrimination complaints filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission increased by nearly 50 percent last year from a decade earlier. That number is expected to rise this year due to the economic climate, according to Elect Women Magazine.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Late-Night Liberty: Diet Edition

Prior to having my son five years ago, I was a vegetarian, and at times, vegan, for seven years. My diet in college consisted of largely rice and bean burritos, tofu and a lot of soy products like soy milk. I had the occasional serving of eggs and cheese, but I would say the legumes and soy dominated my diet.

Fastforward to my pregnancy in 2003. I had such bad morning sickness, the only foods I kept down were eggs and chicken. Because I did not know how to cook meat, I would buy the ready-made rotisserie chicken at the supermarket. Also, surprisingly, I grew a revulsion to tofu. Could not smell it or look at it.

Once I had Ari, I went back to my vegetarian diet, although I still ate a lot of eggs and dairy while I nursed him. A year after I had him, I bounced back to my pre-pregnancy weight with minimal effort. Despite the pregnancy and nursing, I did not feel like my body had changed all that much with a baby. If anything, I finally had curves!

With Eli, on other hand, my body has changed to something I do not recognize. I don’t know if it’s because I have two children, or now I am in my 30s, hormones, or some or all three. But perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the changes is I have not been able to be a complete vegetarian. I like being a vegetarian for many reasons, including environmental and moral. Yet, I crave meat.

For example, whereas once soy composed a large part of my diet with everything from tofu scramble for breakfast to soy ice cream as a late-night snack, I have had to supplement — or even replace some meals — with the “real” thing like eggs and cow’s milk. And unlike my first pregnancy and delivery, I have not been able to kick the chicken habit, although I still do not cook it at home.

For the first time, I find myself in awe of people like Newsweek writer David Noonan who recently wrote a column about being a vegan. My husband was a vegan when I first met him, and now I wonder how the heck he did it. How come I have all these cravings and food aversions and he doesn’t? Except for dairy, which he started eating out of convenience, he still eats the same foods we did in college.

This could be related, but I started taking a vitamin supplement at the insistence of my doctor. She said women in their 30s begin to experience bone loss and need at least 1,000 mg of calcium a day. My vitamin covers most of it, but I am supplementing with calcium-rich foods like broccoli and, you got it, cow’s milk and cheese. Maybe I need the animal fat simply because I am older.  

Did your diet change once you had kids or got older? How so?


Vegetarian Children

One in 200 children are vegetarian in the United States, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is the first time a federal agency has documented these numbers, according to the Washington Post.

Silverman may feel like a vegetable vendor at a butchers’ convention, but about 367,000 other kids are in the same boat, according to a recent study that provides the government’s first estimate of how many children avoid meat. That’s about 1 in 200.

Other surveys suggest the rate could be four to six times that among older teens who have more control over what they eat than young children do.

Vegetarian diets exclude meat, but the name is sometimes loosely worn. Some self-described vegetarians eat fish or poultry on occasion, while others called vegans cut out animal products of any kind, including eggs and dairy products.

Anecdotally, adolescent vegetarianism seems to be rising, thanks in part to YouTube animal slaughter videos that shock the developing sensibilities of many U.S. children. But there isn’t enough long-term data to prove that, according to government researchers.

Most children stop eating meat for animal welfare and not health reasons, according to the article. One downside to this trend is some vegetarians stock up on sweets and other empty calories, although I would argue that meat eaters do the same thing.

Are any of your children vegetarian? How do they hold up in a meat-consuming household?

My husband is a strict vegetarian — no fish or poultry either — and I cook only vegetarian foods at home. I do eat meat occasionally in restaurants, although no beef and only chicken and fish in limited amounts as my body can’t break it down as it used to. The kids eat vegetarian at home and “kid-friendly foods” — chicken tenders or hot dogs — when we are at a restaurant. I am curious as to whether they will go all veggie when they are older. We’ll see.