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Book Review: Animal Rights Poetry: 25 Inspirational Animal Poems, Vol 1 by Jenny Moxham (Series, #1)

Drawng of a little girl hugging a pig next to a goose.Summary:
A collection of 25 poems focusing on a variety of animal rights issues by British animal rights activist Jenny Moxham.

Review:
I picked this up because one of the blogs I follow mentioned it was on sale (for 100% off), and I figured there had to be at least one poem in there that I would find inspirational.  Of course, there was.

The poems are mostly written in rhyme, a vibe that feels very similar to Mother Goose style children’s poetry.  Some of them worked better than others, but it’s certainly a fine style choice.  It’s easier to remember rhymes than almost any other sort of poetry.

Personally, I preferred the poems that contained solid arguments to use when debating animal rights issues.  My favorite, is this one:

FOOD FOR THOUGHT
I’ve often heard it said by folk
Who relish eating meat,
“The animals were put on Earth
For human beings to eat.”

Well if God made them just for us,
Explain it, if you can,
Why they arrived one hundred million
Years ahead of man

(location 95)

I was less of a fan of ones addressing particular events, because I think those would be less useful in more general animal rights work.  I also was surprised by how many of the poems were about Christmas.  Perhaps Christmas is a meatier affair in the UK, but in a book with only 25 poems, having five about one holiday felt like a bit much.

Overall, Moxham’s talent and passion do shine through, but a more varied and longer collection would have been more enjoyable.  Recommended to those with an interest in memorable phrases to use in animal rights work.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Amazon

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Book Review: Diet For a New America by John Robbins (Diet for a New America Reading Project, Book 1)

January 22, 2012 10 comments

Red white and blue book coverSummary:
John Robbins was born into one of the most powerful corporations in America–Baskin-Robbins.  A company based entirely on selling animal products.  Yet he took it upon himself to investigate the reality of animals products and their impact on Americans, American land, and the world overall.  This book summarizes his extensive research, including personal visits to factory farms.

Review/Discussion:
This is the first book in the Diet for a New America Reading Project 2012 I am hosting.  The project is focused on educating ourselves on the facts behind health and preventative medicine for the well-being of all Americans, an issue that I am sure we can all agree is a serious one.  If you join the project late, please feel free to come back to this post or the GoodReads group after you’ve finished the book to join in on the discussion.  And now, on to the book!

There are books that you read that are so incredibly powerful you are left almost speechless.  Simply wanting to hand out copies to everyone you know, everyone you meet and say, “Please, read this.”  I highlighted so much in my copy that I couldn’t even do my usual of posting all highlighted quotes to my tumblr.  I discovered I was practically illegally reproducing the book, hah.  😉  I thus will do my best to highlight precisely why I find this book trustworthy, why I feel inspired by John Robbins, and the most stunning facts I learned while reading the book.

Why You Should Trust This Book
As a medical librarian, I was very careful to check out Robbins’ resources for his facts, particularly for the health section, which is what this project is focused upon.  Robbins drew his research from vetted, peer-reviewed, well-respected scientific journals, including ones I routinely use in my own work, such as Journal of the American Medical Association, the British Journal of Medicine, and The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.  He also cites the studies of such organizations as the FDA, the EPA, and the National Cancer Institute.  Additionally, he conducted personal interviews with real factory farmers and scientists.  Additionally, all of his citations are in order.  You may not like the facts he reports, but they are still scientifically backed-up facts.

The fact that John Robbins researched the effects of animal derived foods on the environment and people and decided that it is bad for everyone involved is remarkable when you consider the fact that he comes from a family whose business is based entirely on selling dairy to Americans.  If the man had an innate bias, it would absolutely be on the side of carnists/omnivores, but he astoundingly conducted the research and came down on the side veg*ism.  (His family reunions must really be something…)  This not only makes me respect him, but trust him.  Somebody must be truly convinced to convert away from a business that has made his family, and presumably himself if he had agreed to take over the business, extremely wealthy.

But enough about why this book is trustworthy.  Let’s move on to discuss the astounding scientific facts revealed in the three different sections: animal rights and factory farming, health consequences of eating animal based products, and environmental consequences of meat-based diets.

Animal Rights and Factory Farming
I definitely believe this knowledge is more widely spread than when this book was first published.  I have a hard time imagining growing up in America and not coming to understand the horrors of factory farming, but you never know.  Robbins talks about the psychiatric fact that children who grow up abusing animals are more likely to become criminals in later life.  This, of course, is a basic reason to not base an entire sector of the American economy around factory farms that treat animals horribly like cogs in a machine.  Of course there are more reasons to treat animals well, such as the fact that dogs’ EEG scans are identical to human’s or that dolphins routinely save humans and other animals in the ocean or that many species of animals mate for life showing a dedication most humans can’t pull off.

The horrors of factory farming are so extensive that it’s difficult to even list them.  I feel as if I could go on and on.  Perhaps the best way is to tell you to imagine being in the most crowded elevator possible.  Now imagine that 20 of the 24 hours you’re in there it’s dark.  You’re standing on a slanted, slatted, metal floor.  The food for everyone is all on one side and is dumped in all at once and you must shove and race to get to it.  Of course it’s difficult to even call this food.  It’s a mix of shit, paper, sawdust, chemicals, and antibiotics all spiked with yet another chemical to make it smell better to you.  If you are female, then a hand periodically reaches in and artificially inseminates you, only to rip your baby away from you the instant it is born and hitch machines up to your mammary glands instead of allowing your milk to go to your baby.  If you are male, you are castrated by placing a band around your testicles until they fall off after weeks of the circulation being cut off.

That is the reality for factory farmed animals.  Even if you can manage to ignore the fact that these animals are being pumped full of chemicals and artificial growth hormones that you will then ingest yourself when you eat them or their products, that is still a horrifying way to get your food.  These animals live in terror and pain and die in terror and pain.  There is nothing natural about a factory farm.  Animals were meant to live outside and graze and nurse their babies and maybe live in a herd or a flock.  Not be caged up in situations so unnatural that they literally go crazy and cannibalize each other when they are naturally herbivores.  That is the reality of what you are supporting when you buy factory-farmed animal products.

Human Health
Ok, so maybe now you don’t believe in factory farming, but what about eating animals in general?  We were raised to believe that a healthy diet involves meat, dairy, and eggs, right?  Surely if an animal is raised organically and humanely all will be well?  Well, the meat and dairy lobbyists have done a LOT of work to hide from you the scientific studies that show their products are unhealthy for you.  If you read only a portion of this book, read the health section.  It is impossible for me in this discussion and review to make as eloquent a point as Robbins does.  I will instead sum it up for you.

In scientific studies published in reputable scientific journals such as JAMA, vegetarians have drastically less occurrence of: heart disease, all cancers, strokes, osteoporosis, diabetes, hypoglycemia, multiple sclerosis, ulcers, IBS, arthritis, kidney stones, gallstones, hypertension, anemia, and asthma.  Those who still have any of the chronic diseases are distinctly less symptomatic than the meat-eaters.  Vegans (people who consume no animal products whatsoever) have even LOWER occurrences than vegetarians.  This is vetted by multiple different studies run by different scientists in multiple nations.  Even simply comparing the data of these diseases between countries following the standard American diet and those following a primarily plant-based diet backs these statistics up.

I am sure that those of you who read the book as I did were stunned to hear that these studies have been in the reputable journals since as early as the late 1960s and 1970s and yet we have not heard about them.  Who is to blame?  The meat and dairy lobbyists of course.  What would happen to their businesses if the American people suddenly stopped following the standard American diet?  The Dairy Council provides the nutritional packets at your kids’ schools.  Think about that.

The Environment
The environmental impact of a meat-based diet has started to crop up more often recently with the increased interest in the green movement.  Essentially, Robbins primarily reiterates what I believe most of us already know.  The chemicals necessary to factory farm are bad for the whole planet.  It takes more fossil-fuel energy, more water, and more acreage to feed one person a meat-based diet than a plant-based diet.  These are things that are definitely relevant, particularly to people who don’t believe in human population control.  What I personally found most interesting in this section though was the discovery that American imports meat from Central and South American nations who have been destroying rainforest to do so, and their people are still overwhelmingly on a meat-based diet.  Thus these nations are destroying their own ecologies to support Americans’ wasteful meat-based diets.  That is just disgusting and selfish on our parts.

My Conclusion
I am honestly a bit shocked at the extent of the facts that I didn’t know when I became a vegetarian in January of 2006.  I admit I mostly became one out of an empathy for animals that I have always strongly felt, but additionally the less meat I ate, the better I felt.  Becoming a vegetarian mostly eliminated the symptoms of my IBS as the scientific studies Robbins cites showed.  But….I have a hard time imagining anyone reading the facts like this and not drastically changing their eating habits.  So many of the economic and personal problems in the US today have to do with health.  So maybe you’ve read this book and you still don’t care about animals and you still believe humans are better than them.  But don’t you want to be as healthy as you can be for your lifetime?  Wouldn’t you rather be a happy, healthy grandparent than a stooped-over one on multiple heart medications or going through chemotherapy?  Even if you don’t care about that, don’t you want to leave a healthier planet for your children and your children’s children?  The facts unequivocally show that the fewer animal products you consume, the better all of these outcomes will be.

Once we become aware of the impact of our food choices, we can never really forget. (page 379)

Source: Better World Books

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Discussion Questions:

  • Robbins believes that the scientific studies reported in the medical journals aren’t well-known because of the meat and dairy lobbies.  Do you think this is the case?  Why or why not?
  • If you do think the facts aren’t known because of the meat and dairy lobbies, how can we combat this?
  • If you don’t think the lobbyists have anything to do with the lack of public knowledge of these issues, what do you think the true cause is?
  • Do you believe the fight for organic animal farming is doing anything to help the environmental and health issues cited in the book?
  • What do you think can be done to get the meat and dairy lobbyists out of our schools?
  • Would you be willing to change your diet knowing the facts about the diseases it can cause or do you think it’s not worth the effort?
  • Do you believe money is better spent on treating the disease or preventing the disease?
  • Do you think world hunger can be successfully combated with a change in the diets of those in the first world countries?

Book Review: Born Wild by Tony Fitzjohn

December 5, 2011 1 comment

Tony hugging a lion.Summary:
Tony Fitzjohn never quite fit in in England or the middle class existence he was adopted into at a young age.  By his early 20s, he was roaming around Africa, and eventually found a job with George–the elderly Englishman famous for his belief in reintroducing lions into the wild whose efforts were chronicled in Born Free.  In his biography, Tony accounts the steps in his life that led up to his assistantship with George, the two decades he spent learning from him in Kenya, and the efforts he himself has made in Tanzania’s parks.

Review:
This autobiography (memoir?) is an example of how you can not particularly like a person but still admire and respect the work they do.  I know I would never in a million years get along with Tony.  He’s hard-headed, stubborn, a womanizer (prior to getting married in his 40s), matured very late in his life, and can be remarkably short-sighted in how his actions affect others.  And yet.

And yet he has an incredible passion for animals and the environment.  He’s faced down poachers, corrupt government employees, and charging rhinos with frankly, balls of iron.  All for the love of not just the big cats like lions and leopards, but rhinos and wild dogs as well.  I find it fascinating how his love of adventure gradually showed him that animals are not ours to use and abuse.  I wish I had had the time to copy the quote exactly from the book before I had to return it to the library, but essentially he says that we are meant to be stewards of the land that all the rest of the non-human animals need to survive and do what they’re meant to do.  He talks at length about how rhinos often don’t get as much attention because they don’t form a bond, really, with their caretakers the way orphaned big cats do, but that’s not who they are!  Rhinos are aggressive, love fighting each other.  They fight and they mate and that’s what they do and that’s beautiful because that’s who they are.  Letting animals be who they are and do what they do–that’s our real role as humans.

Of course, the animal rights message doesn’t really come out until the end of the memoir.  The beginning is Tony reflecting on his childhood and early years in Africa.  He traveled all over the continent a lot, never really sticking to one country until he met George and stayed put in Kenya for quite a while at the Kora reserve.  At times the writing when he’s recounting his life can be a bit dull.  He seems more focused on naming everyone he ever came across than in telling a story.  This holds true up until the trust sends him to AA and after that he meets his now-wife Lucy.  From then on it is as if a haze is lifted and his passion for everyone around him, the animals, and his family comes through.  I have no doubt that this is at least in part due to his no longer drinking.  It is clear that there are swaths of the prior years that he does not recall.  He even recounts one story that a friend told him when staging his intervention of him getting into a bar fight that he doesn’t even remember happening.  All this is to say, the first half or so of the book is fun bits of lions mixed in between rather dull sections of him just getting the information through to the reader that will be important later.

But the elements with the lions that hold us over in the meantime are absolutely worth it.  It is evident that through all of Tony’s flaws, he has a natural ability to work with big cats and an innate understanding and love of them.  He does not doubt their ability to feel emotions or communicate with people.

Sheba [lioness] had been so fond of her brother that when he died, she had led George to the spot, watched him bury Suleiman [her brother], and then sat on the grave for days, refusing to leave him alone. (page 112)

He also has an understanding of human society and mores and how they affect the animal world that comes through abundantly clearly:

By pushing up the price of oil, Sheikh Yamani and his cohorts had multiplied the Yemeni GDP sevenfold. A rhino-horn dagger is a symbol of manhood in Yemen, so an entire species was all but wiped out in order that a load of newly oil-rich Yemenis could have fancy dagger handles. (page 76)

When he writes of the poachers and big game hunters fighting with the environmentalists for control of the land, I was aghast at the methods both groups used.  They often would kill a big cat, cut off its head and paws, then skin it and leave it right in the environmentalists’ path.  This level of cold-heartedness and cruelty baffles me.  Although one could possibly argue that the poachers saw this atrocity as the only way out of poverty, there is zero excuse for the wealthy, white big game hunters who just callously view it as sport.

I suppose some people may see Tony’s and other western people’s work in Africa for the animals as neocolonialist.  I don’t see it that way at all.  Tony by nature of his upbringing had the wealthy connections needed to fund projects working with the animals.  When Kenya and Tanzania were caught up in civil wars and reestablishing their nations, even wealthy Africans would most likely donate that money toward people, not animals.  Plus, Tony’s work has provided stable employment to Tanzanians and Kenyans for over 20 years, as well as bringing in more tourism.  Tony himself points out that a lot of the big animals were gone due to colonial big game hunters, and he views his work as a sort of retribution for the colonial period.  I perhaps wouldn’t take it that far, but I do see his point.

One thing I will say, though, is I do view it very hypocritical that Tony sends his own children away to a wealthy boarding school in Kenya rather then sending them to the school located in the park in Tanzania that his trust set up and runs.  If it’s good enough for the Tanzanian kids, why isn’t it good enough for his own?  That stung of elitism to me.

Although the book can be slow-moving at times, the good bits make up for it.  Tony and his work for animal rights are inspirational.  His life shows how much one person can accomplish by taking it one step at a time.

I pulled myself together and thought about what George would do. Of course I knew already. George would put his head down and keep going, one step at a time. It was the way he approached everything. (page 184)

Overall, I recommend this memoir to nonfiction lovers with a passion for Africa, environmentalism, or animal rights.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Public Library

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Friday Fun! (Raw Vegan “Cheese”)

September 16, 2011 5 comments

Hello my lovely readers and a special welcome to the new ones who’ve found me through The Real Help Reading Project!!  Be sure to follow my tumblr for quotes from the books as I read them (plus fitspo, veg stuff, items on the obesity epidemic, social justice, and cute kitties).

Earlier this week I tweeted about a raw vegan “cheese” recipe I made that tasted amazeballs, and a whole slew of you who follow me over there asked for the recipe. I am ever so happy to oblige, because a) it’s yummy and b) it’s healthy.  Win/win

Sour Cream Cheese
Season with garlic, chives, your fave spices and herbs. Experiment!

1 cup cashews
1/2 cup water
1.5 Tablespoons lemon juice
Sea salt, to taste
2 inches of a leek or 4 inches of green onion
1 Tablespoon fresh dill or 1 teaspoon dried dill
1 Tablespoon fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried basil

Ready for what you do? It is literally this easy.

1.  Put all ingredients in blender or food processor.

2.  Blend.

3.  Refrigerate until chilled.

4.  Lasts up to 5 days in the fridge.

And you’re done.  Isn’t raw vegan food fun?

This recipe is from Raw Food: A Complete Guide for Every Meal of the Day by Erica Palmcrantz and Irmela Lilja.  I’d tell you the page number, but my kindle edition does not have page numbers, so….

Also, for the record, this is amazing on tacos. Amazing. Who needs shredded cheddar when you’ve got this?

Happy weekends all!!

Book Review: House of Stairs by William Sleator

June 30, 2010 2 comments

Children dancing on stairs.Summary:
Five sixteen year old orphans living in state institutions are called to their respective offices, blindfolded, and dropped off in a building that consists entirely of stairs and landings.  There appears to be no way out.  The toilet is precariously perched in the middle of a bridge, and they must drink from it as well.  To eat they must bow to the whims of a machine with odd voices and flashing lights.  It is starting to change them.  Will any of them fight it, or will they all give in?

Review:
This book was enthralling from the first scene, featuring Peter awakening on a landing intensely disoriented and frightened.  Showing a bunch of teenagers obviously in an experiment opens itself up to caricature and stereotype, but Sleator skillfully weaves depths and intricacies to them.

The writing is beautiful, smoothly switching viewpoints in various chapters from character to character.  Hints are dropped about the outside world, presumably future America, that indicate the teens are from a land ravaged by war and intense morality rules.  For instance, their state institutions were segregated by gender.  Sleator weaves these tiny details into the story in subtle ways that still manage to paint a clear framework for the type of cultural situation that would allow such an experiment to take place.

It is abundantly clear throughout the book that the teens are facing an inhumane experiment.  Yet what is not clear at first is what a beautiful allegory for the dangerous direction society could take this story is.  Not in the sense that a group of teens will be forcibly placed in a house of stairs, but that some more powerful person could mold our surroundings to make us do what they want us to do.  To remove our most basic humanity.  This is what makes for such a powerful story.

It’s also nice that friendship in lieu of romance is central to the plot.  Modern day YA often focuses intensely on romance.  Personally, my teen years were much more focused on friendship, and I enjoyed seeing that in this YA book.  I also like how much this humanizes the animals facing animal testing, and Sleator even dedicates the book to “the rats and pigeons who have already been there.”

House of Stairs, quite simply, beautifully weaves multiple social commentaries into one.  It is a fast-paced, engrossing read, and I highly recommend it to everyone.

5 out of 5 stars

Source: PaperBackSwap

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Meatfree Recipe: Sweet Curry Chickpea Casserole

The Result:
A slightly spicy but simultaneously sweet curry that fills and warms your belly.  Be sure to serve with rice and maybe naan.  Once you have the spices in stock, it’s also quite cheap!

The Recipe:
Makes 4 servings
1 can or 2 1/2 to 3 cups cooked chickpeas
1 13.5 oz can light coconut milk (double this if you’re leaving it in a crockpot all day)
3/4 cup red onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups celery, chopped
1 to 1 1/2 cups sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped (approximately 1 medium-sized sweet potato)
1 to 1 1/2 cups Granny Smith apple, chopped (approximately 1 medium-sized apple)
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 Tablespoon freshly grated ginger or 1 1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
1 1/2 Tablespoon mild red curry paste
2 teaspoon mustard seed or 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard or 1/2 teaspoon mustard (the condiment)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds or 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon allspice

If you will be baking in the oven, preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large, deep casserole dish, combine all the ingredients and stir until well-combined.  Cover and bake for 30 minutes.  Stir through, cover, and bake for another 30-40 minutes, until the veggies are tender.

If you will be using a slow cooker, combine all ingredients in the crockpot.  Set to low.  It will be ready in around 5 hours.  If you want to leave it all day, double the amount of coconut milk to 2 cans or put in one can and fill the can with water and add that to the crockpot as well.

Source: Tweaked from recipe sent to me by @InfoJennifer who in turn tweaked it from page 106 of Dreena Burton’s Vive le Vegan

Meatfree Recipe: Perfect Pizza Crust

People tend to not realize pizza’s versatility.  When it’s home-made, you can actually make sure it is quite healthy, including being low-fat and low-calorie.  It all comes down to what you put on it and what type of crust you make.  There’s red pizza (using marinara for sauce) white pizza (using olive oil and garlic for sauce) and pesto pizza (obviously using pesto for sauce).  You can put pretty much any veggie on top of pizza.  If it’s something that takes longer to cook, like broccoli, just quickly boil it for a couple of minutes to prep before slicing it up and putting it on the pizza.  Even carrots and potatoes can go on the pizza.  Just grate them up and put them on right after the sauce.  The super-thin slices couples with the sauce makes them cook by the time you take the pizza out of the oven.  Also, don’t be afraid to put beans on your pizza for extra protein!  I’ve put everything from chickpeas to black beans on mine.

It took much experimenting with many pizza crust recipes and a bit of tweaking on the one I finally found that was close to what I wanted.  The crust is the core of the pizza, so I present to you–the perfect pizza crust.

The Result:
A wonderful warm, slightly crunchy, slighty bready, tinged with rosemary crust that perfectly holds its own to however many or few toppings you want.  It works for thin or thick crust.  If you want thin crust, either roll it out super thin and use a large pizza pan or divide it into two and make two regular-sized pizzas.  For thicker crust, just roll it out to a regular pizza-size.

The Recipe:
1 cup warm water
1 packet yeast
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Tablespoon dried rosemary
2 Tablespoons olive oil
pinch of sea salt
1 1/8 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/8 cup white flour
More flour for rolling out the dough

Put the water in a large bowl.  Add the yeast and the sugar.  Allow the yeast to work for about a minute.

Add in olive oil, rosemary, whole wheat flour, and white flour.

Mix.  I use a hand-held electric dough hook, but it works by hand or with a real electric mixer too.  If you’re using a dough hook, the dough is ready when it starts to climb up the hook.  If you’re doing it by hand, it’s when the dough is no longer watery but still kind of sticky.

Put the dough in an oiled bowl in a warm location.  I use my microwave, personally.  Allow to rise for 30 to 45 minutes.  45 minutes is better, but if you’re pressed for time, 30 minutes is ok.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Prep your toppings.

Spread out flour on a surface.  Flour your rolling pin.  Plop the dough on the surface.  Flip it a few times to spread out the flour.  Roll to your desired size.

Top with whatever toppings you want.

Cook for 15 to 25 minutes.  How long depends on how many toppings you put on/what your oven is like/what mood the dough is in.

Enjoy!

Source: Tweaked recipe from Emeril Lagasse

Meatfree Recipe: Sweet Potato Salad with Apple and Avocado

The Result:
A slightly tangy, genuinely refreshing, cold, cooked veg salad that is full of nutrients and very filling!  It tastes better when it’s allowed to sit a while in the fridge.  You do need to cut up the avocado and add it just before serving to prevent the avocado from browning, however.  Perfect food to make ahead of time to eat later.

The Recipe:
Approximately 4 servings

1 ear of corn (approximately 1/4 of a cup)
1lb sweet potatoes peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/4 cup unsalted, hulled pumpkin seeds or pepitas (You can toast them or not, whatever floats your boat) or chopped walnuts
1 medium apple (any variety)
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup chopped cilantro (It’ll be fine without it if you don’t have some handy)
1/4 cup lime juice (approximately 2 limes)
2 Tbs olive oil
avocado, finely diced

Bring a pot of water to boil.  Place the ear of corn in and cook until a fork can easily stick into the kernels, approximately 7 to 10 minutes.  Drain and set aside to cool.

Place sweet potatoes in a sauce pan, cover with water, bring to a boil and boil until tender, about 3 minutes.  Drain in colander and rinse immediately under cold water to cool.  Drain well.

Cut corn kernels from the cob.

Combine apple, onion, cilantro, corn, and lime juice in a large bowl. Stir in sweet potatoes and oil.  Stir in avocado and seeds/nuts just before serving.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: Tweaked recipe from Vegetarian Times

Meatfree Recipe: Whole Wheat Zucchini Muffins

Introduction:
I am very supportive of the Meatless Mondays movement, which is indicative of the movement in general to get Americans to eat less meat.  Although I believe in vegetarianism, I whole-heartedly support any movement in that direction.  Even if a person goes from eating meat at two meals a day to eating meat at one meal a day, that’s fewer animals being killed for food a year.  It’s a step in the right direction.  I’ve been wondering what I can do to support this, so I’ve decided to periodically blog meatfree recipes that I’ve made at least once and have enjoyed.  Although I will offer sources, I generally tweak recipes a wee bit when I make them, so if you would like to see the original recipe, definitely check out the source.  First up, zucchini muffins!

The Result:
This recipe yields 12 regular-sized delicious, low-fat, low-calorie muffins chock full of nutty protein.  They make a great breakfast or snack on the go, and are yummy warm or cold.

The Recipe:
1 egg
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups grated zucchini (squeezed to remove excess liquid then stuffed into measuring cup)
1/3 cup melted butter
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
3/4 cup white flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 cup chopped almonds (you can use walnuts or pecans, pretty much any nut you have on-hand)

Preheat oven to 350F. Grate zucchini by hand or using a food processor, then gently squeeze grated zucchini to remove some of the water. Measure 1 1/2 cups (packed) zucchini for this recipe, and if you have extra, freeze it for another time.

In a medium-sized bowl, beat egg, then add vanilla and sugar and mix to combine. Stir in the grated zucchini, then the butter. Sprinkle baking soda and salt over the top of this and mix in.

In a smaller bowl, combine white whole wheat flour, cinnamon and nutmeg. Stir dry ingredients into the zucchini mixture, then fold in chopped almonds .

Spray muffin pan or individual muffin cups with non-stick spray or vegetable oil, then divide batter evenly among cups to make 12 muffins. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

5 out of 5 stars

The “Eating Healthy Is Expensive” Myth

January 6, 2010 9 comments

There is this huge misconception in American culture that eating healthy is more expensive than eating junk food.  That’s the case if you don’t want to put effort into your meals and you want to buy gourmet food, but with a bit of effort it is simply not true.  I know about the dollar study where a guy went into a grocery store to see what he could buy for a dollar, and the worst foods had the most calories, aka “bang for the buck.”  However, I’m speaking from personal experience here.

Three years ago, I went vegetarian, and everyone told me how much more expensive my grocery bills would be.  You know what?  They aren’t.  On average, I spend about $50 every two weeks on groceries, and my groceries usually wind up feeding more than one person for around 5 nights a week.  That works out to approximately $100 a month, minus eating out, which happens about once a week.

For healthy eating, you need fruits, vegetables, whole grains, protein, and other pantry needs necessary for cooking.  Whole grains are key, because they help your body feel full on fewer calories, and they are super-healthy for you too!  Let’s look at the facts on these food groups.

Fruits and Vegetables
Fresh fruits and vegetables can be a bit expensive, it’s true, but you just need to be a smart shopper when it comes to this.  Buy only what you will eat before it goes bad.  For me, this means I need to grab veggies once a week.  Also, store them properly, or they will go bad before their time.  If you really want to save money, buy fruits and veggies that are in season.  Produce that are in season are cheaper, because the stores can acquire them from closer sources.  I used this technique last night, and I found out that *all* of the produce I wanted was actually on sale, most of them for under $1 a pound.  A great resource for knowing what’s in season is eattheseasons.com, which also has an option for UK for my British readers.  For nights that you’re in more of a hurry, buy frozen fruits and veggies.  If you have more of a budget crunch, buy store brand ones.  These are cheap, and you usually can get two meals per bag.

Whole Grains
A box of whole grain pasta costs $1.29 at my local market.  That’s it, and I get at least 5 or 6 meals a box.  Whole grain rice appears expensive, but remember that a bag of it lasts a long-ass time, because it grows when it cooks.  Also invest in whole wheat flour and regular flour (you need that so it doesn’t get too heavy for some recipes).  A bag of either is around $2 in my market, and lasts months.  Any other whole grains you want are similarly priced.  It appears a lot to people, because they’re used to buying single-serving foods in the grocery store, but that $6 or $7 you’re spending on the bag of rice will make many many meals.

Protein
The most expensive proteins are the most highly processed.  This means that fake meats like tofurkey are the most expensive.  One box of tofurkey slices for sandwiches costs around $4.27 at my market.  You know what though?  It’s highly processed, and isn’t that healthy for you (though, healthier than meat).  A box of tofu, on the other hand, is usually somewhere between $1 and $2, and one box makes 4 meals.  Tempeh is similarly priced.  Beans, which you need to diversify from soy anyway, cost under $1 a can, and one can make around three meals.  If you want to go uber-healthy, you can buy bags of dry beans and cook them yourself, which is even cheaper than buying canned beans.

Other Pantry Needs
Since I’m not vegan, I do need to buy eggs, cheese, and butter, and these are usually the most expensive purchases I make.  However, one dozen eggs last me around 1.5 months.  Another purchase that, similar to the bags of rice, seems prohibitively expensive because of a single serving meal mindset is cooking oils.  Olive oil is one of the healthiest oils for you, and the bottle I bought last night cost $12 and some change.  However, one bottle lasts me at least 4 months.  Again, buy store brand.  The fact of the matter with all the pantry needs is their price can seem a bit high, but you use a little bit at a time in cooking–like with soy sauce for instance–so really per meal the cost is a few cents.

There you go. That’s my real-life shopping for healthy groceries experience.  Yes, you need to actually cook your meals instead of buying frozen and sticking it in the microwave, but trust me, it is not so hard to learn to stir-fry, sautee, and bake.  Stir-frying and pastas especially just require you to be able to stir things around in a pot.  Plus, you get the added benefit of burning some calories while making your food instead of just sitting on your butt on the couch watching tv waiting for it to heat up in the microwave.  It takes a bit of up-front cost to get your pantry equipped with the long-term use items like rice, but once you’ve done this, you’re down to buying a few quite cheap items a week, with the periodic need to replace the long-term items that never run out at the same time.  It is not too expensive to eat healthily if you know how to do it.