Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Meggie - 11.22.11

We are sad to report that our girl, Meggie, passed away last evening in her sleep.  We found her this morning and it is a bad dark day for us all. She had come to us just about four years ago and was a wonderful girl.

Jakey is very sad as well and we are talking to Red Dog Farm about what we can do to ensure that he stays happy and healthy.  We don't want him to be sad or lonely. 

Here are some fond memories of Meg:

We love you, Meg.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Turkey of the YEAR!!!

WE ARE SO EXCITED!!!  Our Jakey was selected as Turkey of the Year!!!

We always knew that our Jake wss a wonderful turkey and a true ambassador but now others get to see that too.

We are so proud of our big boy!!!

Be sure to read the stories of the other turkey runner-ups and please consider taking turkeys and other animals off of your table.  This is the season for peace, love and compassion and having a cruelty-free dinner is the best way to live according to these values.

Jake - Turkey of the Year, 2011

Friday, November 11, 2011

Friends Don't Let Friends: Not Eat Tofu

Some of my friends and family who know we are vegan ask us about tofu.  Well, I just saw this great graphic from Nasoya which gives a quick overview on "what the heck is tofu exactly?!?" and thought it did a great job.  Click here to see it BIG.

I also want to add a few bits of information.  First of all, let's get a few common misconceptions out of the way. 

1.There as has been some fear around eating soy and the implications of eating too much.  That was related to Isolated Soy Proteins (ISPs) and has been shown to be mostly groundless.  But like much modified foods, it's always best to modify your intake.  ISPs have been added to many processed foods trying to boost their healthy claims or "extending" the volume or lifespan of foods like ground beef.  They do this by creating Textured Soy Protein which is a processed food, a flour that is reconstituted, itself. 

Tofu and tempeh are whole foods made made from the soy bean.  They are not isolates and you would have to eat a TON to get any issues.  So no worries there!

2. We don't eat a ton of tofu or tempeh.  And we are probably eating less ISPs than the average SAD-eating person because we eat very few processed foods.

Now, onto the good stuff! 

But first I have a confession to make.  When I was in college I had a hippie-ish roommate for a year.  I remember she made tofu once or twice and I was skeptical/disdainful.  What a fool!  (I also had a roommate that ate hummus and I thought it looked vile.  Yep, I was pretty closed-mined about food growing up. There's a lot of stuff we never tried in spite of living in very culturally diverse Miami.  Oh well.)
So, there are two big "types" of tofu which have similar labels.  This can cause some confusion and cooking fear but don't worry. It's all good.

First is the vacuum packed silken tofu.  Being shelf stable, it's good to keep a few packs on hand.

The firmer water-packed kind is a bit more crumbly.  Since the creation process is similar think of these as a brie vs feta.

But what do you do with them, you ask, and what's with this draining process.

Well, the silken you can use straight out of the pack. As noted, this can be used for dips, spreads, baking etc.  It's also what you get in miso soup and I'll even use it for a scramble. 

The water-packed version is much sturdier and absorbable.  You can press the block between your hands when you open it to get out a good amount of the water, or you can press it using a tofu press or between two flat surfaces like cutting boards.  This allows a lot of the water out, allowing your seasonings or marinade in.  Just as people inject marinades into meats,  you're adding the flavors you want to the tofu.  (We all know the flavor comes from sauces and spices.  No surprise there!)

Then you cook.  You can stir-fry, grill, pan fry, bake, kabob, add it as a filling, etc.  Pretty much whatever you want.  And as you can see from this gallery, there are a LOT of options!

One of our first recipes with tofu is making a tofu scramble.  It's now a staple and so yummy.  I typically chop and saute an onion and a tomato but you can add peppers, jalapenos, sun-dried tomatoes, etc.  Whatever strikes your fancy.  I saute this in olive oil, some Braggs, a bit of liquid smoke and Tabasco, as well as a few drops of toasted sesame oil and salt and pepper.  Mix it up this basic recipe with herbs or whatever.

When the veggies are cooked, I add drained and crumbled tofu to the pan.  You are essentially giving the tofu time to absorb the flavors and heat up so you dont' need to leave it in there very long.  But if you need extra time, just put it on low.  You won't overcook it.
Then serve!

I'll talk about tempeh later but in the meantime, here are some additional resources.

1. Colleen Patrick-Godreau's podcast on Tofu and her one on Soy (they may take a moment to load, or you listen to them on iTunes.  Her podcast is Vegetarian Food for Thought).

2. Nasoya also has a downloadable recipe book too.

3. If you want an amazing sandwich, check out the tofu sandwich at Mellow Mushroom.  I get no mayo and they add some Daiya cheese and I'm in squishy sandwich tofu heaven.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Confessions of a former Big Food Executive

A few weeks ago, I learned of a relatively new blog about food industry deception, but with an interesting twist. The blog's author is Bruce Bradley, who spent over 15 years as a food marketer at companies like General Mills, Pillsbury, and Nabisco. He has since, in his words, "become more educated about the risks and environmental impact of eating processed foods," and is now a CSA enthusiast.

Recently, I had the chance to ask Mr. Bradley about the industry, his blog, and the people behind today's processed food companies.

Q. On your website you write that you've "seen some disturbing trends in the food industry over the past 20 years." What have you found most insidious?

A. The landscape has changed dramatically since I started my career at Nabisco in 1992. In response to Wall Street profit pressures and the growing power of retailers like Walmart, the food industry has undergone a tremendous wave of consolidation and cost cutting.

This has hurt our food supply in many ways. First, huge, multinational food companies now dominate the landscape. Wielding far greater lobbying power and much deeper pockets, these companies have been very successful in stagnating food regulation. Second, cost savings have been a key profit driver for the industry, but they've had a devastating impact on both food quality and food safety. Think factory farming and GMOs, just to name a couple of examples. Third, as consumers' health concerns have increased, processed food manufacturers have become even more aggressive in making dubious health claims or co-opting fad diets to market their brands and develop new products.

The net impact of this transformed landscape has been disastrous from a public health perspective -- with obesity rates skyrocketing and a never-ending flood of food recalls.

Q. How does the food industry respond to those in the public health and nutrition arena who systematically call them out? Is there is a legitimate fear that one day "the people" will realize how unhealthy many of their products are?

A. The average person working at a food company doesn't view public health and nutrition "food cops" as a threat. In fact, they are embracing many of the ideas coming from these sources. For example, books like Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma were extremely popular when I was at General Mills, and I learned about CSAs from an R&D scientist working on one of my teams.

Now if you're talking about the Big Food company executives, I do think they feel threatened. However, most of these executives tend to dismiss those who "call them out" as wrong or misinformed, versus taking a serious look at changing their business model. After all, these executives and their companies have a huge interest in maintaining the status quo.

Q. On your blog you say, "confusion is one of the tried and true tools of the processed foods industry." Can you say more about the subtle and not-so-subtle ways these companies confuse us?

A. I think one of the main ways the processed food industry is trying to grow and defend their business is by funding self-serving research. The goal of these studies isn't to uncover "the truth" or to improve public health. Instead, the research is carefully constructed to create sound bites and statistics to help market their products or combat potential regulation. This is one of the primary ways we end up with conflicting studies that confuse consumers on what they should eat or drink.

Is this purposeful misdirection? Intent is always tough to prove, especially if you don't have firsthand knowledge. Research tends to be the work of a select few within processed food companies, and I was never part of one of those groups. That said, if you dig into these studies and their methodology, you can usually find the telltale signs of how they have "stacked the deck" in their favor.

Q. As a registered dietitian, I am very disappointed by fellow RDs who choose to work for the likes of PepsiCo and Wendy's. Have you ever felt disappointed by the behaviors of any of your food industry peers?

A. I'd be remiss if I didn't note my response is biased; not too long ago I was one of those people who worked at a Big Food company. But would I like to see more people from within the food industry take a stand for real food? Yes, I would. Nevertheless, my experience is that the vast majority of employees are good, honest people who are simply trying to "play by the rules of the game" set by food industry leaders, their lobbyists, and our government.

I prefer to focus my efforts on increasing awareness that the rules of the game aren't protecting consumers. Changing the rules is my objective, and I'm hopeful that along the way my blog and my book, Fat Profits, will help convince people from all walks of life, including those who work at Big Food companies, to join me and take a stand for real food.

Q. What are three things you think every consumer should know about Big Food?


Big Food is profit-driven. Don't be fooled into thinking a brand or the food company that owns it cares about you or your health.

Think critically. Most claims and advertising by Big Food companies are meant to manipulate you, not educate you. Read your labels and do your research.

There is no free lunch. Over the long-term, you always get what you pay for. Cheap food is very expensive once you add up the true costs -- like the taxes you pay to subsidize Big Food companies, health consequences like obesity or diabetes, the devastating harm to our environment, and the inhumane treatment of animals raised within the industrialized food system.

Read more from Bruce on his blog or follow him on Twitter.

New York Times Support Veggie Thanksgiving

Check out the New York Times promoting a veggie Thanksgiving.  They are going to have THREE WEEKS of veggies recipes online.   As I plan my Thanksgiving dinner, I'm so going to be checking this out!


Meet Turkeys, Don't Eat Turkeys!