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Homemade Ranch Dressing & Easy Peasy Pasta Salad

25 Jun

Two for one recipe special today! In my continued effort t learn to make my own everything from scratch, I’ve been working on perfecting condiments. Mayonaise — not yet. But I found a really great recipe for a fairly simple homemade ranch dressing.

To begin, I followed this recipe for homemade ranch seasoning. I highly recommend just making this, and mixing batches of the dressing as you need it. The seasoning keeps longer and can be used for many other things — to season couscous, burgers, or chicken breasts, or as a powder on baked tortilla chips for homemade ranch Doritos (YEAH).

To make the dressing, just mix one tablespoon of the seasoning mixture with 1/4 cup milk and about 1/3 cup mayonnaise (though I’m sure you could also use sour cream, or maybe even yogurt).

Due to my impending move, I wanted this week to make something that would both get rid of the last of my ranch seasoning and would make a big batch of something I could eat without cooking throughout the week. Hence, this super-easy pasta salad was born, a great discovery for hot summer no-cook days. I’ll provide the recipe without measurements, since I made a batch based on the proportion of “how much pasta do I have left?” which was about 2/3 of a box.

  • Pasta, cooked, drained and cooled
  • Cubed turkey breast
  • Peas (cooked with pasta for the last minute)
  • Homemade ranch dressing.

Simply wait until the pasta and peas are cool, then toss in the turkey, and mix ranch dressing to cover the whole thing. Chill at least 30 minutes.

On the Road Again

22 Jun

I hinted in a recent post that I’m hitting the road again — and by hitting the road, I mean moving, not traveling. D-Day is late next week, and so, as I enter the deep submersion phase of packing and preparing, driving, and then unpacking, I’m going to need to take a little break from the blog. I’m working to get a backlog of recipes going, so I can try to at least post one of those a week for you all, but otherwise, I’m on short hiatus until further notice.

If you’d like to see even more posts in the next few weeks, you know, you could always write one yourself! Check out the We*Meat*Again open call for guest posts here.

See you on the other side, all.

Happy Father’s Day: Hawaiian Pizza

20 Jun

In honor of Father’s Day, a few days late, I thought I’d offer this little anecdote from The Vegetarian’s Guide to Eating Meat — the book-in-progress — about the part my Dad played in my development into a foodie…sort of:

Both my father and I are incredibly picky eaters, while, for my mother and sisters, eating is a contact sport. Why anyone would bother to turn down a food they’ve never tried before is beyond their understanding. When I was growing up, they argued their position often, trying to convince my father and I that this restaurant’s Thai satay sauce didn’t really taste like tahini, or that really, a samosa is a lot like a French fry. We remained unconvinced, a fortress together. My father adamantly refuses any parmesan cheese on his pasta—in fact, refuses to eat pasta in any shape other than long spaghetti. With a father who turns down the cheese on a cheeseburger that he orders hockey puck hard, my aversions towards eggplant, lentils, broccoli, or mushrooms never seemed too strange.

Our shared food fussiness meant we were a team on the home turf, strong enough in our protests for anything too weird to invade the family dinner table. We certainly were not going to tolerate any ethnic food on our kitchen table. Once every few months, to indulge their taste for the spicy, my mother and sisters would have what they called “girls’ night out.” They would dress up a little, taking the excuse to use their curling irons to wear heels and eyeliner, and head out on the town for a more international approach to fine dining, and to catch a romantic comedy at the theater by the mall.

I stayed home with my father, relieved to have narrowly avoided getting roped into what I thought of then as far too girly a night, lucky to have missed out on the raw fish or the latest Meg Ryan flick. We’d order a couple of pizzas—plain cheese for him, Hawaiian for me—and he’d let me watch him watch ESPN while I ate off a paper plate on the living room floor. He’d drink a Sam Adams straight from the bottle while we watched the Celtics rattle the backboards at the Garden, him leaping up dramatically with each basket made. We’d laugh as I imitated him, launching myself into the air, coming down on one knee and pumping my elbow backwards, yelling yeah, baby!

These nights with my father were my private victories, my first little rebellions against the culture of womanhood, a culture that seemed to me based mostly on hair and makeup and a far too adventurous approach to food. I knew I shared more in common with my father than either of my sisters, despite the fact that they actually played on the basketball and soccer teams he coached. We liked pizza better than Indian food and we were never going to change.

I must have sensed at the time that I was missing out on something, watching them from a distance as they learned to use chopsticks and hair straighteners, wrinkling my nose at the mysterious cardboard containers they brought home, bottoms spotted with grease from thick yogurt sauces, or round aluminum plates with crumpled edges full of seaweed rolls and thin strips of ginger. My decisions not to go along with my mother and sisters were perhaps too voracious, too full of scorn. I decided I didn’t want to learn that way to be a woman—perhaps because I sensed I wouldn’t be much good at it.

I’ve branched out a bit since then, discovering an adult taste for a good California roll and a vodka martini, tuning in for my fair share of Sex and the City. But I was a quiet, clumsy girl surrounded by brassy, confident women, comfortable in heels or in the kitchen. People who met my family for the first time assumed I was adopted. Rather than be left out, branded the too-awkward tomboy, I chose a different identity for myself. My father was my closest physical analog in the family, and so I took my first steps in self-identity towards him, away from the kitchen. Away from femininity, and towards pizza off paper plates with ESPN.

What are your favorite food & family memories? Leave a comment, or email me to share your story!

Easy Teriyaki Noodles

18 Jun

A super-easy recipe post this week. This is a pretty no-frills dinner (though easy to “frill up” if you so choose) but I was pretty proud of it, the product of one of those “what do I have in the fridge” kind of lazy nights. In fact, these are all ingredients I have on hand pretty much all the time, so it was really nice to accidentally discover a new recipe I could throw into the no-effort rotation.

What You’ll Need:

  • Sesame oil
  • Garlic
  • Scallions
  • Ginger
  • Soy sauce
  • Sugar
  • Angel Hair
  • Carrots
  • Peapods
  • Cashews
Yes — This was a no-measure recipe. Sorry! Have fun with it!

How You Do It:

  1. Bring a pot of salted water to boil, and cook the angel hair according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil (probably about a tablespoon) in a large fry pan or wok over medium-high heat, 1-2 minutes.
  3. Add about a clove of minced/grated garlic, a handful of chopped scallions (whites and greens), and a few dashes of ground ginger (more if you like extra spiciness), and sauté about 2 minutes, stirring so the garlic doesn’t burn.
  4. Toss in carrots, peapods, or whatever veggies you choose, and sauté 3-4 minutes, until vegetables are slightly soft.
  5. Add about a tablespoon of soy sauce, a small pinch of sugar, and the cooked, drained angel hair pasta. Sauté to coat noodles.
  6. Add cashews and serve!

Everything here is easily substitutable — try it with whatever oil you have on hand, use rice noodles or orzo, etc. — so feel free to play around with ingredients and flavor, and let me know what else you have come up with!

Becoming Food Advocates: Liz’s Story

6 Jun

A few months back, I asked We*Meat*Again readers to leave me questions they’d like answered about me on the site. Cristina posed this question: I know you don’t like the term, but what made you become a “foodie”? Lots of people like to eat, but what makes you care about the state of food.

Hence was born our very irregular series of posts on the topic of Becoming Food Advocates, wherein I’m gathering stories by readers and friends of the blog to tell us the story of how they began to care about food. Today, we’ll hear from my good friend Liz, who writes the blog Flexitarian Writer, about her story, which began in childhood.

Becoming Food Advocates: Liz’s Story

Food & food traditions are integral to the family I was raised in. I grew up making tamales at Christmas because my parents grew up eating them (they both grew up in central Texas), not to mention the more regularly featured mole, carne asada, and homemade tortillas. The “central” part of Texas is a key detail to why I grew up with strong food traditions—even though they often came into conflict. Central Texas attracted a lot of German settlers and on my dad’s side of the family contains strong German lineage. So, I also grew up eating sauerbraten, red cabbage with apples, noodle kugel, stuffed cabbage leaves, pumpernickel and rye.

That was before our food traditions got weird. In my early elementary years, my mom told my dad that she refused to eat turkey more than once a year because she really didn’t like it. I didn’t like ham. So our Easter meal became based in Middle Eastern cuisine—things that would possibly have been eaten during the “real” Easter—yellow rice, a yogurt-honey-goat dish, bitter greens.

By the time I reached middle school, a typical week of meals (by cuisine) might have looked like:

  • Monday – Mexican (perhaps a carne verde stew or a del mar something or other)
  • Tuesday – Chinese (Americanized, cashew chicken or chicken cabbage peanut; or more traditional – a soup made of cloud ear mushrooms and tofu)
  • Wednesday – Leftovers
  • Thursday – something moderately quick, but newly cooked — chicken paragonia was a popular one, as was stroganoff
  • Friday- something with fish or vegetarian
  • Saturday – tacos
  • Sunday – Indian or leftovers

My family almost always ate dinner together—an opportunity to communicate, an opportunity to bond, an opportunity to fight. There were times I hated this tradition, particularly in high school, after a brief family-dinner hiatus where we all got home at very different times. It seemed like an opportunity to stress—and there were a variety of reasons for this, not the least of which was simply me being a teenager.

In middle and high school, I made dinner a couple of times a week—I grew up helping in the kitchen, did most of the baking by high school, and my dad and I made something of a wall that shut my mom out of the kitchen pretty effectively. She got distracted, let things burn, didn’t cook other things enough. She was better at baking—she taught me to bake and then I took off with it. Sometimes I feel guilt for taking over this aspect of the family kitchen, but my impression was that she never really enjoyed baking or cooking. My dad and I bonded over it.

This bond suffered some when I became more conscious about food. At some point in college, I became hyper-sensitive to the “food as fuel” idea and started carefully trying to monitor the things I was putting in my body so that most of it was fuel. I couldn’t always afford organic on a student budget, but I avoided things with HFCS, with a lot of sodium, and anything with more than one or two ingredients I couldn’t pronounce was definitely out of the question. When I went home, I fought with my parents over food, refused to eat some of the things put before me, questioned their choices in the grocery store.

During my second year of college, I lived with a woman who not only had Celiac’s (the inability to digest gluten), but also lactose intolerance and a couple of other intolerances I can’t remember anymore. The list of things she couldn’t eat seemed too extensive to me, so I was always asking “Can you eat this…?”

Before that, I’d never heard of Celiac’s, didn’t understand how a person could avoid wheat (because it IS in freaking everything, just like corn & soy), but shopping with her and cooking with her opened my eyes to a whole new set of food issues, and also a whole new set of food experiences as far as baking, cooking, and eating are concerned. Now, I have a close friend’s son is allergic to wheat, milk, all nuts including legume-peanuts, soy, rice and possibly eggs. In other words, every major food allergy you can have and a couple that are less common like tomatoes and strawberries and I’m not sure how they eat, or how he’ll survive to adulthood – especially  since my friend is (trying) to raise him vegetarian.

One of the things I noticed as I became more food-aware is the extent to which most people aren’t food aware (and don’t seem to care) and this boggles my mind. A coworker routinely eats chocolate-covered gummy bears, chugs energy drinks, and eats canned soup. Another coworker seems to survive on protein bars, Starbucks, and bananas.

But I think there’s also this sub-culture that cares enough about where their food comes from—how far it travels, how it was produced, if it’s in season, if it contains GMO ingredients, that food activism and awareness has become something these “I don’t care…” folks actively push against — it’s seen as a neo-liberal movement, or elitist, or as something that someone can only care about if they can “afford” good food – and we see this again and again as we point out the racial and socio-economic lines in the “obesity epidemic” – and yet there seems to be so little that we do to combat this in the soup kitchens and other places.

When I volunteered in a soup kitchen in Ames, Iowa, where I attended grad school, I watched one very thin man horde loaves of bread, which he clearly wasn’t eating. I watched as the Head Chefs struggled to prepare nutritious meals when both the pantry and fresh foods were incredibly low and struggled as a Head Chef in the same capacity several times. It sucked when my options were sandwich meats, iceberg lettuce, canned peaches—and I didn’t even necessarily have all those at the same time. And I found it incredibly frustrating that people only really donated to the kitchen’s pantry during the food-drive times of year (and mostly crap-food at that), as though people weren’t always going hungry, as though most of the people making those donations would eat the foods they donated.

When we started gleaning from the farmers market in Ames, that made a huge difference to our produce supplies and our ability to create fun new dishes that the guests enjoyed—but only a few of chefs even pretended to be up to this task. Others just shied away from the produce, because they didn’t know what to do with it or had a strong bias against a particular vegetable or fruit.

I was there often enough that regular guests noticed when I wasn’t there on the days I was supposed to be, that they asked me about other volunteers who had moved or stopped coming. A few gave me hugs. I heard updates on apartment searches and job searches, on getting a forever-failing truck fixed, on a set of estranged children. I witnessed the community that formed within the confines of the church basement turned soup kitchen, was reminded of how much food helps build community – and then saw it repeated as I volunteered on other farms around Ames, at Mustard Seed and Onion Creek.

I grew up in a world where food was integral to our family’s community, as we forged our own traditions from our food habits. But so many of the people I’ve encountered out in the world have shown me that not everyone gets to participate in that community – their diets or incomes or schedules or abilities limit their access. But the possibility for community is always there, and it’s that I try to return to, whenever I cook with friends, whenever I welcome others into my kitchen.

Interested in sharing your story of becoming a food advocate? We’re looking for all variety of stories, from people of all walks of life, whether you consider yourself a casual amateur or a gourmet chef, whether you care about the environment, nutrition, your children’s health and safety or your local butcher. If you’d like to submit your own post, here’s all you need to do:

  1. Write up the short story of your food journey. What inspired you to start thinking about what you ate and why it mattered. What your wake-up call was. What’s changed. What your challenges have been.
  2. Anything goes — nothing is too small or tangental. (But please write something new — don’t just send us a link to an already-published post.)
  3. Email this story to us: marissa@wemeatagain.com. Use the title:BECOMING A FOOD ADVOCATE STORY.
  4. If you have them, also send along 2 (or 3) photos to help illustrate your story.
  5. Include your contact information (name, what you’d like us to call you, blog address — if you have one, etc.)
  6. Be patient. We’ll get back to you ASAP — but publishing on the site may take several weeks.

Of course, if you just want to read more, Y\you can read my story here, or the first Becoming Food Advocates guest post by Steve of Or Until Golden Brown

Arugula & Goat Cheese “Ravioli”

4 Jun

This weekend, when I felt like spending some time in the kitchen, I decided to let the ingredients in the fridge speak to me. I knew I wanted to craft something vegetarian, and wanted to work with what I had.

The ingredients that automatically jumped out at me were arugula and goat cheese. I’ve been eating the two together as a lunch side lately, tossed with some homemade creamy balsamic vinaigrette. They seemed like a good pairing for the basis of a strong vegetarian dish, and I had just the pasta for it: lasagna noodles.

I’m always looking for creative new uses of lasagna noodles, because, while I really enjoy lasagna, I don’t always feel like making a dish that large. A few weeks ago, I tried, and liked this recipe for individual spinach lasagna rolls, so I wanted to use the arugula and goat cheese in a similar free form way that would require even less work on my part. I wanted to make a filling, and then just kind of throw it all together.

Hence, my fake-out arugula and goat cheese ravioli was born.

Here’s what you’ll need (for 16 ravioli):

  • Eight lasagna noodles, cooked according to the package directions
  • Your choice of sauce (I used tomato, but I think an alfredom béchamel or rose would work here too)
For the filling:
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cloves finely chopped garlic
  • 5 ounces arugula
  • 4 ounces goat cheese
  • 4 ounces grated parmesan cheese
  • Black pepper

Here’s how you do it (forgive me, when I write out recipe directions, I can only remember them in the order I actually do them. So the directions below bounce between preparing the noodles, the filling, and assembling the whole dish because that’s how it’s the most logical to me. I’m incapable of doing one thing at a time.)

  • Start cooking the lasagna noodles. Drain and lay out flat on a plate or towel to dry. While you wait, prepare the filling.
  • Heat olive oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until garlic turns golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Add arugula and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until arugula wilts, 2 to 4 minutes.Let arugula cool, then chop finely and transfer to a bowl. (I know it seems silly, and difficult, to chop wilted arugula, but it’s valuable so you aren’t picking arugula stems out of your teeth while eating.)

  • While the arugula is cooling, cut the cooked lasagna noodles into four squares each (for a total of 32 squares).
  • Preheat the oven to 375 and grease a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Lay half of the lasagna squares out along the bottom of the dish.
  • Stir the cheese into the wilted arugula, and spoon a tablespoon-sized dollop into the center of each square.
  • Cover each with another lasagna square, then spoon the sauce over the whole thing.
  • Pop it in the oven and bake about 15 minutes, until heated through. Enjoy!

I love this recipe and the idea behind it. The great part about the free-form style is that it doesn’t matter how messy you get, which is especially valuable for me in the kitchen. The building is also relatively speedy because of this. But on the other hand, you could also really easily transform it into a traditional lasagna, or the filling for a real ravioli, if you have the equipment to make those from scratch, and make it a pretty fancy, company-worthy meal.

A Conversation on Meat-Eating

30 May

A few months ago, a reader of We*Meat*Again named Heather sent me the first email below — a proposition…

I think being vegan is the ideal diet, and you disagree. Therefore, I have a fun proposal if you are up for it.

I would like to discuss the ethics of eating meat with you over email. We can go back and forth for a little while. Then, I’ll post the debate on a blog that I haven’t created yet. You can do the same at your blog.

I loved the idea of letting our ethics play out in conversation form, as it was a long series of conversations I had several years ago that led me back towards meat-eating. It wasn’t an issue or singular decision, so I thought this would be a great way to represent the myriad perspectives on the ethics of eating meat. Enjoy!

Heather

I’ll start off with animals. After all, protecting animals is the main reason I am vegan.

I think it is very important to protect animals from harm. They are defenseless, and we have the power to do anything to them that we want. But might does not make right.

Animals raised for food are almost all kept in factory farms where they are confined in tiny cages. Egg laying hens can’t even flap their wings and they stay in those cages for up to two years. Breeding pigs are kept in stalls so small they can’t even turn around.

A lot of suffering goes into producing meat, and it’s not neven a necessary food.

Marissa

I have a tangential thought, based on what you mentioned below about animals being defenseless. Of course, I know you mean domesticated livestock animals, but I wonder how this view of our obligation to protect animals might impact your views on hunting? Wild animals are certainly not defenseless, and defend themselves against predators all the time. But back to your initial thoughts…

As you mention, almost all animals raised for food are kept in extremely inhumane conditions. I completely agree, and this was the primary reason I had for becoming a vegetarian myself many years ago. I can’t abide those conditions and do not want to be a part of them. However, there is a small, and growing movement of much more small-scale humane conditions for raising animals. I’ve met and befriended many farmers and ranchers who treat their animals with love and kindness, who raise them in healthy, free-roaming conditions and who ensure their deaths are as pain- and fear-free as possible.

My view is that I can affect more positive change in the current food system by choosing to invest my meat-dollars by supporting those new, emerging models of agriculture than I can by opting out or boycotting the existing system.

There’s a lot to explore in the idea that meat isn’t a necessary food, too, but I’ll stay on topic for now…

Heather

I don’t think many animals that are hunted are able to defend themselves against hunters. Doves come to mind, as do ducks, rabbits, etc. but that’s a different issue.

I think those farms that don’t use factory farm methods are an improvement, but they still kill the animals. There is still suffering. For example, male pigs are still castrated. I think it’s an improvement, and for people who refuse to go vegetarian it’s a good alternative. But for those willing to go all the way, isn’t it preferable to not have any animals killed for the dinner plate?

Why kill if we don’t need to?

Marissa

The question at stake for me here is: what system of eating is without suffering? I think a lot of vegans and vegetarians are mistaken in the assumption that by not eating the body of an animal, they are avoiding participating in death or suffering.

A few examples: Most mainstream meat substitute products, including boxed products like Boca burgers, or tofu, are subsidiary brands produced by major multinational corporations. Boca is owned by Kraft, which also owns Oscar Meyer. Yves and Tofutown are owned by Heinz, which also owns several frozen meal brands, made with chicken contracted through Tyson (one of the worst-of-the-worst when it comes to inhumane and pollutive CAFOs).

Even on the smaller scale (for organic, locavore vegans and vegetarians) the very act of growing food often results in death. Even the most low-till farming methods neccesarily kill worms. Even the most natural pest-avoidance will likely cause the deaths of insects. And these are not non-sentient beings (I’ve always hated when people accuse vegetarians of “killing plants” — that’s just not the same thing). These are living creatures, many of which can experience pain, and have an equal right to life as a human, or a chicken, or a pig.

And so, if death is unavoidable in the process of growing and consuming food, I believe it makes the most ethical sense to be honest about it. To acknowledge the suffering I cause (in my case, in the form of an animal’s death) so that I can most responsibly invest my food dollars with producers who I know seek to actively minimize suffering.

Heather

I don’t agree that worms are equal to intelligent species like pigs, just like I don’t agree that pigs are equal to humans. However, let’s take your argument at face value. Assume that raising 8lbs of soybeans causes X number of worms and other insects to die. We can eat that 8lbs of soybeans directly and the number of insects dead is X. Or, we can feed that soy to a pig and get 1lb of meat. A farmer feeds roughly 8lbs of feed to a pig to get a pound of pork. So if we ate the vegetarian food directly, it stands to reason there would be 8 times less insects killed than in a form of food production where those crops are filtered through a pig first.

I don’t think buying vegetarian foods from a company that also sells meat is anything like buying meat from a company that sells meat. If anything, buying the vegetarian food shows these companies that there is profit to be made in plant based foods. Those companies are not going away. But if they see there is profit to be made by producing more ethical foods, that is a good thing.

So, in closing, one kills less insects that would be harmed in crop production if they eat the crops directly. Also, showing multinational corporations there is profit to be made by producing more ethical foods is a good thing.

I think those points reinforce the argument for vegetarianism.

Marissa

The flaw in the mathematical equations or soy, or corn, to meat production is that vegetarian food isn’t just soybeans. It, too, requires processing, and a balanced diet requires produce, which takes more land to grow, etc. So it’s difficult, if not impossible, to suggest that such a correlation between # of worms killed for one pound of vegetarian food is less than # of worms killed for one pound of pig. Especially because that equation still only takes into consideration animals fed a grown diet, as opposed to free-range animals.

But those small logistics aside, the more important thing is to note that we all — whether we eat meat or not — make a distinction between certain kinds of life. You acknowledge a worm > pig > human hierarchy, and the existence of such a hierarchy suggests that even vegans don’t necessarily have a problem with knowing some life died to create their food. That is much the same as my take. The real question is, why do we consider some life forms acceptable deaths and others unacceptable?

My issue with buying vegetarian foods from a company that also raises meat is that I don’t separate all those forms of suffering out. I accept that much destruction (of the earth), death and suffering (of animals, farmworkers, etc.) comes along with the process of any species attempting to feed itself. I try to minimize my participation in that suffering, because I look at the whole picture. I would rather buy a free-range, antibiotic-free, humanely-slaughtered side of beef from a local farmer who treats his workers with respect than a box of industrially-produced, long-distance, GMO-based meat substitute product from a parent corporation responsible for labor rights, clean air/water, and animals rights, violations.

If some people are vegan or vegetarian because they simply cannot stomach the idea of eating the flesh of a dead animal, I can wholeheartedly accept that. I just think it’s a personal choice, not one that, when judged in terms of the food system as a whole, is in and of itself morally superior.

Heather

Ok, I had not thought about produce requiring more to grow. But how could tree fruit affect worms in the ground? I don’t think it can.

Plus, there is no question people have lower rates of heart disease as vegetarians.

Marissa

It’s certainly true that people have lower rates of heart disease (and many other chronic health conditions) as vegetarians. But that’s because the only studies up to this point have compared a diet without meat to a diet of industrially-produced meat (even including processed meat like bologna or spam. ick.).

I’m all in favor of reducing our meat consumption as a nation dramatically. Americans far over-eat protein in general, and are especially fans of red meat, which is especially bad for the heart. But I think a diet that emphasizes fresh, whole foods and produce can include some meat and still be very healthy. In fact, the studies that have been done thus far suggest that many of the health issues associated with meat are a uniquely-industrial problem. So if we are supporting sustainable, chemical-free sources of meat, we can avoid many of those health problems.

Heather

Ok, that’s an interesting rebuttal.

We agree meat consumption should be reduced.

Basically I think there are 3 main reasons to be vegetarian, and they are:

1. There is no question that animals suffer greatly in factory farms. Anytime one buys a chicken sandwich, they are supporting that. Even when people say they eat free range meat, if they go to a restaurant or eat meat at a cookout, they are likely eating factory farmed meat. I don’t believe that people who say they exclusively eat free range meat really exclusively do. If they are telling the truth then they must eat vegetarian meals most of the time.

Even with free range meat, an animal is still killed for something unnecessary. Of course we are talking about animals like pigs, which are as intelligent as dogs. Chickens, turkeys, cows; they all are intelligent enough and aware enough to suffer and to be aware of their misery, pain and fear as they go down the slaughter line. I don’t think we can say that about worms. In fact, you can even cut a worm in half and it becomes two worms. Slice a chicken in half and she is dead.

Lastly, with grass fed cows, if we were to eat as much meat tomorrow as we do today, and all the cows are grass fed, we’d use half the country for grazing.

2. Clearly a vegetarian or vegan diet is healthier than eating meat. You did a good job of refuting my heart disease argument, but vegetarians do live longer than meat eaters on average. We have lower rates of stroke, lower obesity and all the problems that come with that, etc.

3. Meat production is an environmental catastrophe. So many more resources go into growing feed to feed to animals, and then raising, transporting and slaughtering the animals than if one just eats crops directly. There is also the issue of manure run off contaminating soil, water and air in rural communities. So much petro fertilizer has to be used to raise feed crops. It’s just a mess.

The three points together make a strong argument for being vegetarian.

Marissa

I have some responses to your three points individually, and then to the underlying assumption.

1. You’re absolutely right that choosing not to eat factory-farmed meat means absconding from meat in many situations (thought not at all restaurants), but I wouldn’t go so far as to say “most of the time.” Most of my meals are eaten at home, cooked by me. But to assume they are lying, or misinformed, isn’t necessary. You don’t have to believe they are always eating sustainable meat any more than they need to believe you are always reading ingredients list and never accidentally eating chicken fat or beef byproduct in your soup, crackers, etc.

The idea that the animal is being killed for something “unnecessary” is part of the problem I have. If an animal dies in any process of growing food (and somehow, somewhere along the line, I do believe that happens, whether worms and insects or animals slaughtered by parent companies of vegetarian products), then what kind of death is “unnecessary.” They are all, in some way, going towards a person’s eating. Couldn’t we take the next logical step and say it’s not “necessary” for humans to live any more than animals? Of course, such a position wouldn’t work. If death is inevitable, no death is unnecessary — but there is such a thing as an inhumane death or a death that happens in a way that isn’t necessary.

2. My response to the argument that vegetarians live longer than meat-eaters is the same as my response for heart disease — only because the only available data matches vegetarian against modern-day, red-meat-heavy, industrially-produced-meat eater. Vegetarian versus low-consumption, sustainable-produced, chemical-free meat-eater would look different. They may well be equal.

My response to your third point, about the environmental consequences of meat production, is similar to my response to your note about grass-fed cattle. Along with agreeing meat consumption should be reduced, we both agree on all the negatives of the current factory farming system. But if you add reducing meat consumption to attempting to reverse, undo, or change the industrial system, you can create a small-scale, sustainable system that produces less meat on less land using integrative practices that feed and fertilize the land, without the massive pollutive consequences of a factory farm. I’ve chosen to invest in the creation of that system, rather than just boycott the existing one.

At this point in our exchange, Heather threw in the towel, and admitted I had successfully rebutted all of her reasons for strict vegetarianism. I’ll close with my final response to her, which is the most important take-away:

My intention is never to get people to stop being vegetarians — just to start being more conscientious of the fact that the line between ethical/unethical eating doesn’t necessarily fall along vegetarian/meat-eating lines.

Smoothies Galore!

28 May

My sister recently requested a post with some smoothie recipe ideas, and once summer comes around, between the heat and a more regular workout routine, I put away a lot of blended fruit.

Let’s start with the basics.

Smoothies basically consist of the following components: liquid, fruit, blending agent and ice (though that last one’s optional — I’ll get to that!). There can also be a few extras, or a sweetener in some cases. Once you get that ratio figured out (and it’s easy to tweak this on the fly), it’s incredibly easy to experiment with different combinations of flavors.

Liquids: My favorites are either orange juice or non-dairy milk. I use OJ because I’m not a big fan of drinking it, and it’s a good way to squeeze in an extra serving of fruit a day. Non-dairy milks (my favorites are vanilla soy or almond milks) are a great way to add protein to a smoothie, and I don’t even like the taste of them on their own. Mixed into a smoothie, they are delicious. I’ve also used apple cider, sparkling pomegranate juice and regular milk.

Fruit: You can really make a smoothie with any kind of fruit (this week, I’m using watermelon and cantaloupe!), but I find berries to be my favorite. Other easy ingredients are bananas, mango and pineapple. The best part — if you prepare your fruit properly, and freeze it, you can skip adding ice to your smoothie (which always leads to some liquid separation issues).

Either buy bagged frozen fruit, or buy fresh and freeze it on your own (I often do this with pints of berries). Doesn’t take a lot of extra effort — just peel and chunk the fruit, then portion it into smoothie-sized servings.

Blending Agents: I use Greek yogurt almost exclusively here, though regular yogurt and ice cream serve the same purpose. Sometimes I will add rolled oats or ground flax seed, both of which give smoothies a nice creaminess, but neither will quite blend liquid and fruit on its own.

Extras: Here’s where the real fun comes in. Almost anything can go into a smoothie, and extras can really add some nutritional punch. Some surprisingly good additions I’ve tried include oats and flax seed, as mentioned above. Nuts like almonds and walnuts add protein and calories to make a smoothie more filling. Sweets and spices like honey, agave syrup, vanilla extract, cocoa powder, or cinnamon can add variety to even the same base recipe on a daily basis. My personal favorite indulgences include peanut butter and nutella!

And yes — you can even add spinach and other green veggies!

Here are some of my favorite smoothie recipes, which will give you an idea of how to use a variety of ingredients. Try them out, an then mix and match as you see fit!

My Berry Almond Power Smoothie

(never home)maker’s Chocolate Spinach Smoothie

Martha’s Strawberry-Flax Seed Smoothie

Watermelon Lime Summer Cooler

And this morning’s invention: Raspberry Nutella Smoothie

  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 3/4 cup frozen raspberries
  • 2 heaping tablespoons Nutella
  • 1/2 cup honey-flavore Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon flax seed meal

All the Recipes!

21 May

Apologies, readers, for cutting things short last week — though I hope last Monday’s nutella recipe got you through. I promise, I was hard at work on the blog. Rather than a traditional recipe post today, then, I give you: We*Meat*Again’s master recipe index.

[I know this isn't a big reveal to those of you who subscribe via RSS feed -- sorry!]

That’s right. After more than a year of writing this blog, I finally got around to cataloging all of the recipes I’ve showcased here.

[Wow, I just realized I missed my one-year We*Meat*Iversary. Should we celebrate?]

Though you can always use the site’s search bar to find something specific, now you can browse through any recipes you may have missed, neatly organized by category — and on every page there’s a link back to the main recipe site.

From anywhere on the site, just click on the Recipes tab above to access the index. Feel free to get in touch if you find anything flawed or mislabeled. Otherwise, enjoy and explore!

We’ll be back to regularly scheduled posting later this week with a review of the documentary Forks Over Knives, and — whatever you want! That’s right, I’m taking reader requests for posting topics, whether in the realm of recipe ideas, cooking or nutrition advice, or food news issues you’d like to learn more about. Drop me an email, tweet at me, or leave a comment here to let me know what you want to see this summer on We*Meat*Again!

Homemade Nutella (Four Ingredients)

14 May

I meant to do a “regular” recipe post this week. A post with a nice pork loin, some tips for grilled chicken, a pasta salad. Something normal, mainstream, everyday.

But then I made homemade Nutella.

Turns out, it’s incredibly easy to make homemade Nutella. Dangerously easy. Too easy to be good to know. So I’ll say it, right now: I will not be held responsible for any Nutella overdoses as a result of this post (mine or any of yours).

I looked at a variety of recipes online and found quite a lot of variety in terms of how people recreated the delicious chocolate hazelnut spread, so after perusing them for awhile, I decided to pull the best from all and work with what I have and, frankly, kind of wing it.

Without further ado, then, here is what I came up with:

  • 1 bag of chopped, toasted hazelnuts (1/5 cups) — of course, using raw hazelnuts that you toast yourself would be delicious, too, but this is what I had on hand.
  • 1 9 oz. bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted in a bowl the microwave
  • 1/2 cup of almond milk (or any kind of milk)
  • 1.5 tablespoons vanilla-flavored agave syrup (I might actually slightly reduce this next time. And you could easily substitute maple syrup, or honey. If you use a liquid sweetener like stevia or vanilla extract, definitely use less.)

Process the hazelnuts in a food processor, until they form a nut butter (1-2 minutes). After melting the chocolate, mix it, and all other ingredients into the food processor. Run until just smooth and fully incorporated.

Watch as hazelnut & chocolate become one!

BAM. It’s that simple.

Don’t worry if the mixture looks a little runny when it stops. The Nutella will thicken as it cools and stands, so it’s better to stop the food processor early.

Store in an airtight container, not refrigerated, for up to two weeks. And don’t cut your tongue on the blades when you lick the food processor clean.

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