Archive for May, 2007


[recipe] Teriyaki Tofu Bites

1 package super firm tofu cut into 1/2 inch cubes (can get it at Trader Joe’s and most health food stores)*
1/2 T Sesame Oil
3/4 C Teriyaki Sauce
Sesame Seeds

Mix Sesame Oil and Teriyaki Sauce in a bowl, whisking together
Spray Large Frying Pan (or wok) with cooking spray
Pan Fry Tofu over medium heat until it is cooked and brown on all sides (takes about 20 minutes)
Add Sauce mixture to the pan and saute about 5 minutes- until the sauce is bubbling and becomes thickened
Cool the Tofu Bites in the pan or in a container without the top
Sprinkle with Sesame Seeds, Chill Overnight and serve cold

*If you can find the super firm tofu that is packed in plastic, you only need to drain it for a few minutes prior to cooking.  If you purchase more standard tofu, I recommend using the "extra-firm" variety.  You should make sure to cut it into chunks and then press it between cheesecloth or paper towels for at least an hour prior to cooking. 


Nutrition for Vegetarian Kids

With the bad press about the recent "vegan baby" case, I felt the need to point out that a vegetarian diet for kids is healthier that a meat centered diet, if some simple rules are followed to ensure adequate nutrition.  Kids that have been raised vegetarian or decide to go it later on generally maintain healthy weights and improved health.   Their risk of heart disease, stroke and certain types of cancer are also reduced. 

The reasons to go veg range from environmental, to animal welfare, to health, to non-violence or any combination of these.  You will probably see that as your child becomes more educated in these topics, the more dedicated he or she will become to the diet.

Listed below is some nutritional information to keep in mind as your child enjoys the many benefits of a vegetarian diet  (even one day a week!).  Also, there are tons of resources on the web that have great recipes, tips and information on vegetarian children.

Be sure your vegetarian or vegan tots are taking in the right nutrients:
• Younger children have smaller appetites, so serve frequent meals and snacks, using some higher-calorie refined foods, such as fortified cereals, breads and noodles.

• Milk and dairy are great sources of calcium. If your child is vegan, stock up on calcium-fortified breakfast cereals, orange juice, soy beverages, bok choy, collard greens, blackstrap molasses and legumes, such as peas, beans and lentils

• While typical vegetarian diets usually provide enough iron, it is difficult for the body to absorb it from plants. Eat foods containing Vitamin C to help with absorption. Good iron sources include fortified cereals, soybeans, legumes, potatoes baked with skin, spinach, prunes and prune juice, raisins and apricots.

• Make sure to get enough zinc through fortified whole grains and cereals, legumes, nuts, seeds and soy foods, such as tofu, soymilk and tempeh.

• Put some Omega-3 fatty acids in your diet by preparing meals with flaxseed and flaxseed oil, canola oil, walnuts, soybeans and soybean oil. Vegetarians who eat eggs can get the fatty acids there.

• Vegans should be mindful to get enough vitamin B-2, found in almonds, asparagus, bananas, legumes, sweet potatoes, tofu, wheat germ and enriched breads; vitamin B-12, found in fortified cereals and fortified milk; and vitamin D, by spending time in the sun (which helps the body make vitamin D) or by getting it in fortified cereals, soy milk or supplements.

SOURCE: University of Michigan Health System


Does the USDA have Mad Cow?

With all the recent headlines about tainted pet food (and tainted pet food fed to pigs and chickens) you would think that the USDA is going to do everything in it’s power to protect this country from contaminated food.  right?  Well, think again!  Apparently, the USDA and the FDA have "one percent" rule when it comes to food inspections.   The FDA only inspects one percent of imported food to the U.S. and the USDA only inspects one percent of cattle for Mad Cow disease.

Rule #1- don’t try to one-up the USDA.  If you are a meatpacker and want to start testing your whole herd of cattle for Mad Cow disease (because it’s the right thing to do), you could be in for some roadblocks.  You ask… who on earth would want to block you for this?  Surprisingly, the agency that is in charge of food safety is the same agency that fighting to keep meatpackers from testing all of their animals…you guessed it, the USDA.  What’s the reason?  Here’s the kicker….because the animals may have Mad Cow disease and that may hurt the meat industry.  No shit!  You just can’t make this stuff up. 

Three cases of Mad Cow have been found in the U.S. since testing started.  I am sure that if the USDA reduced the amount of cows tested to .01 percent, they could get that number down to zero.  Fewer cows tested, less Mad Cow disease, right?  **sarcasm**

read the full story (it’s short) on MSN
(interestingly, at the bottom of this link there is a "related story" on 129,000 pounds of beef recalled for E.coli)


The Worst Mistake

In May of 1987, Jarad Diamond wrote an article called "The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race" explaining how when man adopted an agricultural based lifestyle instead of sticking with hunting and gathering, we made a huge mistake.  Much of content of this article has become more prophetic in recent years and months.  Jarad who has written two best selling books "Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies" and "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed" has some interesting stuff to say about how much easier we had it as hunters and gatherers (no seriously, it’s for real).  Although this is not vegetarian related, it is probably the most natural diet that has ever existed.  If you find it or catch it, go ahead and eat it.  Here are some interesting excerpts from the article.

Agriculture’s effect on leisure time

"Are twentieth century hunter-gatherers really worse off than farmers? Scattered throughout the world, several dozen groups of so-called primitive people, like the Kalahari bushmen, continue to support themselves that way. It turns out that these people have plenty of leisure time, sleep a good deal, and work less hard than their farming neighbors. For instance, the average time devoted each week to obtaining food is only 12 to 19 hours for one group of Bushmen, 14 hours or less for the Hadza nomads of Tanzania. One Bushman, when asked why he hadn’t emulated neighboring tribes by adopting agriculture, replied, "Why should we, when there are so many mongongo nuts in the world?"

Agriculture’s influence on class systems

"Besides malnutrition, starvation, and epidemic diseases, farming helped bring another curse upon humanity: deep class divisions. Hunter-gatherers have little or no stored food, and no concentrated food sources, like an orchard or a herd of cows: they live off the wild plants and animals they obtain each day. Therefore, there can be no kings, no class of social parasites who grow fat on food seized from others. Only in a farming population could a healthy, non-producing élite set itself above the disease-ridden masses. Skeletons from Greek tombs at Mycenae c. 1500 B. C. suggest that royals enjoyed a better diet than commoners, since the royal skeletons were two or three inches taller and had better teeth (on the average, one instead of six cavities or missing teeth). Among Chilean mummies from c. A. D. 1000, the élite were distinguished not only by ornaments and gold hair clips but also by a fourfold lower rate of bone lesions caused by disease."

Inequality between sexes

"Farming may have encouraged inequality between the sexes, as well. Freed from the need to transport their babies during a nomadic existence, and under pressure to produce more hands to till the fields, farming women tended to have more frequent pregnancies than their hunter-gatherer counterparts–with consequent drains on their health. Among the Chilean mummies for example, more women than men had bone lesions from infectious disease."

Diamond highlights some interesting phenomenon that has occurred as a result of agriculture.  Arguably, these occurrences may be directly or indirectly related to agriculture, but much of what he says holds some truth to it.

The rest of the article can be found here.

Lots of vegan stuff in this week’s rundown.  Don’t worry, for the most part they’re are gentle.  Other cool things as well.

Vegan Recipes-  Amazing recipes with even more amazing pictures.  Even if you don’t plan on making all of these, the food photos are beautiful. 

Is it vegan?- This tool uses a database to tell you if the foods, medicines, household products, etc. you plan on using are vegan.  Although it is based in the UK, many of the items are inter-changable for us in the States.  It’s fun to play with.

Farming without subsidies- New Zealand doesn’t have provide subsides to farmers.  How would the US do if we followed suit?

Veganism killed that baby?-  Try malnutrition.  It doesn’t matter if the parents were omnivores or vegans, malnutrition can happen in both diets.   It is unfair to blame a vegan diet on the death of that baby.

The rise of consumer power- The tale of when consumers stand up and tell companies they’re not going to take it anymore. (e.g. Masterfoods, Disney, P&G)

Polyface Farm- A video of Michael Pollen giving a lecture about Polyface Farm (the farm detailed in his book) and its sustainable farming practices.

Three out of the top five "commodity" crops produced in the U.S. make up the main ingredients of a Twinkie (wheat, corn and soybeans).  Not surprisingly, these three commodity crops along with rice and cotton are heavily subsidized by the US government ($25 billion a year).  So let’s say I am conglomerate food manufacturer and I want the cheapest raw ingredients I can get my hands on to produce some funky product, like the Twinkie.  These are the exactly the types of ingredients I would start with.  They are cheap (the government subsidizes them) and they are plentiful (farmers grow more because they want the subsidy).  Not even Mexico can produce corn this cheaply.  American farmers are putting Mexican farmers out of business, artificially of course.

So you ask….what about the dozens of other fruits, vegetables and grains?  How are they being subsidized?  Well in short….they’re not.  And we as consumers spend more to purchase these crops.  We pay closer to what it actually costs to produce these foods.  As opposed to paying less at checkout and more at tax time. 

Of course, government subsidies are needed to help farmers.  I am not saying we should eliminate them.  There are bad years and small crops.  Farmers that supply our food chain should be able to weather bad years.  The money just needs to be divided up more.  Sure the five commodity crops would still get money, but so would smaller family farms that grow other varieties of produce.  It’s time that we as EATERS told our government what types of food we want our money spent on!  Vote with your dollars!   Check out this article on the 2007 Farm Bill.

read Michael Pollen’s article "You Are What You Grow" in the NYtimes


The Third Reason to GoVeg

One of the single most convincing reasons to adopt a vegetarian diet has just recently popped up.  Now, obviously this reason has been around for awhile, but it is just now being publicized.  What I‘m talking about is the environmental impact of an animal-based diet.   The first time I heard the connection between animal agriculture and global warming was in the report issued by the UN called "Livestock’s Long Shadow."  This one report sent the blogosphere (myself included) and news agencies into a writing fury about the environmental benefits of going veg.  Its message is extremely simple.  Going veg can help save the planet. 

When I decided to become a vegetarian in 1995, there were really only two widely stated reasons people chose this diet.  There was the animal welfare reason and the health reason, and it pretty much stopped there.  I imagine that there were more, but when people would ask why I went veg, they would only cover those two, and I didn’t really stop to investigate or explain any further. 

Things have changed. Today, with the global warming frenzy in full swing (it’s for good reason, but still a frenzy) the animal-based diet has come under scrutiny by many, including a number of environmentalists.  Now, there is a widely recognized third reason to go vegbecause you care about the environment.  The first two reasons alone are a compelling enough to make the change, but in the "Global Warming Age," vegetarianism has become much more socially accepted and encouraged, and just as importantly, its benefits are measurable on the local and global scale.

Each time we choose to go veg, we consciously make the decision to eat lower on the food chain, and therefore, more environmentally friendly, so going veg, mostly veg, partly veg or even one day a week can help.  Preserving the environment and the world we live in is not about deprivation.  It is about moderation and cutting back where we can instead of consuming where we shouldn’t.  It is about raising awareness as to how our behaviors impact the world around us and how simple actions can and do have major results. So tell your friends, spread the word…host a vegetarian dinner at your home.  In most cases, no one will miss the meat, and the impact of your action will be part of the solution instead of a contribution to part of the problem.


Vegetarians on Mars?

Last week, I posted an article on how Masterfoods, the UK manufacturer of Mars bars and other chocolate favorites, changed their recipes to include rennet from calves stomachs.  Masterfoods had decided to switch where they bought their ingredients from and the new supplier was using rennet to produce whey.  Whey does not need to be produced in this manner and most of it is actually made as a by-product of cheese manufacturing.  This is how the previous supplier produced it.

Vegetarians in the UK were outraged, and rightfully so.  They didn’t just sit around and moan about it though.  They bombarded Masterfoods with phone calls and emails telling them how pissed they were about the companies’ decision.  The Vegetarian Society also stepped in to issue statements to news outlets and raise public awareness about Masterfoods decision. 

This was an successful campaign,  Masterfoods listened to the complaints and switched their recipes back.

Fiona Dawnson, managing director of Mars UK, said, “It because very clear, very quickly that we had made a mistake, for which I am sorry. There are three million vegetarians in the UK and not only did we disappoint them, bet we upset a lot of the consumers.”

It just goes to show that companies are willing to listen and change their practices if consumers tell them what they are doing is wrong.  This is not only a win for vegetarians, it also demonstrates that people are beginning to tune in to what they are eating and demanding that companies do the right thing.  We have seen this recently with Burger King, Wolfgang Puck and some grocery store chains.

read the Masterfoods article here


Ocean Contrails

image: QuickBird satellite via Google Earth

Contrails left by airplanes are believed to be a cause for global warming.   But when boats leave contrails it’s a different story.  The NYTimes recently ran an article on shrimp boats that trawl the ocean floor.  These boat drag nets across the sea floof, killing everything in their wake and stirring up mud that kills everything else by suffocation.  These boats and the destruction they perform are photographed from space and can be seen on google earth.  As you can see, these images are pretty disturbing. 

Read the whole story at the NYTimes  (via Ethicurean)

A bunch of stuff has been hitting the news lately and I would be hard pressed to try and cover it all.  So…today is going to be story run-down day. 

EU Consumers willing to pay for animal welfare- If given a choice to buy animal welfare friendly products, many Europeans would pay more for these products.  However, the problem is being able to distiguish these products from non-welfare friendly products. (Europa Rapid)

Mock Meats: The Steaks’ a Fake-  An interesting article on mock meats and how people feel about them.  One good point mentioned in the article is that if it tastes too much like the real thing, this may actually be a bad thing….You decide. (

USDA and Food Safety- Should the USDA be responsible for the safety of our food?  One word answer…No.  Check out the story to see why.  (CSPI)

Will Vegetarians outnumber Omnivores?-  Does evolution and being a member a civilized society have anything to do with moving to a more humane diet? (

CA Spay/Neuter Law is a Good Thing- "In CA, we spent more that 250 million tax dollars last year to shelter more than 840,000 unwanted animals…more than half had to be destroyed." (nctimes)

No Vegetarians on Mars-  This week Masterfoods, the UK manufacturer of Mars candy bars like Snickers, Mars and Twix, announced that it started using calf rennet to make it’s products.  Rennet is a chemical made from calf stomachs.  I don’t know many vegetarians that eat these kinds of candy bars anyway…but this is a step in the wrong direction. (BBC News)

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