Archive | August, 2013

Why I never buy bottled dressing

30 Aug

Vinegar balsamico bottle isolated on white backgroundI stopped buying salad dressing a long time ago.  Well, except for that one bottle of Annie’s Goddess dressing that I read positive things about on a blog many months ago.  Like all the others, I found it lacking.  I used it once and it’s been sitting in my fridge ever since.   Besides the fact that they don’t taste very good, bottled dressings contain high amounts of trans fats, sugar, preservatives and, sometimes even carcinogens.  Seriously, read the label some time.

As is the case with many of the changes we can make to care for ourselves better, it is so easy to make salad dressing from scratch in your kitchen.  At the most basic level, you can just mix a plant-oil of your choice with some vinegar, and be done with it.  But for something a bit more tasty, add one or more of the following ingredients: dijon mustard, maple syrup, lemon juice, miso paste, salt, pepper, minced garlic, ginger, and some of your favorite spices. Sometimes I even sneak a smidgen of wheat grass or spirulina into mine.

My all-time favorite salad dressing is lemon-tahini (basic recipe here), which I make in my Vita-mix.  It takes a little more effort to blend and then clean the blender, but it’s so worth it.  If you would like something even creamier, cashews will do the trick.

It’s effort enough to make a salad – washing, chopping, mixing – so for the bit of extra time it takes to whip up a healthy and nutritious topping it seems like a no-brainer to make your own.  Do you have a favorite?


Why I don’t drink milk anymore….

14 Aug

The author in Lowell, Vermont

When I was growing up in the 1970s, my 2nd oldest sister (I had 4) hitchhiked up to Vermont one year and without really trying (things just worked out that way for her), got a job working and living on a dairy farm, tending a herd of cows.  I would visit her there from time to time, and our family remained friendly with the farmers — the Hodgemans — until they died.  That’s me in the photo hugging a newborn calf in the barn — I swear its body is there somewhere!   The Hodgeman’s ran what would be considered by today’s standards a very small farm.  Their one barn had something like 20 or 30 cows max, and Thurston had a pasteurizer right there in the front of the barn that he used to process the milk before he sold it.  Of course, Joyce always kept a pitcher of ice cold, freshly milked milk in the fridge.  Everything seemed wonderful on the farm — the air smelled crisp and clean, the green hills stretched endlessly in all directions, and the cows, which were milked by hand, seemed like an extension of the family.

According to the USDA, there are 25% fewer dairy farms in the United States today than there were in the 1970s.  Midsized family farms are disappearing, increasingly being replaced by fewer but larger industrialized, or “factory” farms where livestock is concentrated and confined to small areas.  These animals do not graze for food, food is brought to them.  Most will never feel the warmth of the sun or breathe clean air.  They are deprived of exercise, fed drugs to make them fatter and are genetically altered to make them produce more. Calves (like the one I’m hugging above) are separated from their mothers at birth — males, which are of no use to dairy farmers, are sent to slaughterhouses to become veal, while females are raised to replace older dairy cows, which are then sent to slaughter. The abuses rendered on these animals is well-documented.  Far from the convenient marketing descriptions of “happy” and “laughing” cows, these animals are doomed to short, miserable lives of immeasurable suffering.  All while the small, family dairy farms struggle to keep up.

Then there is the question of whether we even need milk at all.  Research shows that a large number of adult humans are lactose intolerant.  Many children suffer from milk allergies.  Lots of people, including me, have reported that giving up dairy has reduced or even cured life-long gastrointestinal issues.  Long touted as an important source of calcium, milk is nevertheless not the only one — there are many plant-based sources too.  Green leafy vegetables like kale, broccoli, greens and parsley are excellent.  A single navel orange contains 60 mgs.  One ounce of sesame seeds has almost the same amount (280mgs) of calcium as a cup of milk!   Soybeans? 260 mgs per cup. Almonds, white beans, figs, tofu, sunflower seeds, and whole grains such as quinoa and amaranth, too, contain calcium.

Add to this the fact that there are so many substitutes for milk in your supermarket today, and it sure does seem possible that milk could be headed for obscurity.  Almond milk, soy milk, and rice milk are the most common and all can substitute for milk in baking. I personally am partial to hemp and coconut milk, myself, and use them both as a base for smoothies and on cereal.

If you are primarily plant-dominant, or moving in that direction, it’s important to realize that milk can “hide” in all sorts of products under different names, like lactose, casein and whey, so be vigilant and read labels.

“Now I can look at you in peace; I don’t eat you any more.” ― Franz Kafka

“No evil for the non-doer.”

4 Aug

Tammy and Jim Shrier

“When Jim noticed that some pigs weren’t completely stunned before slaughter — some still fully conscious as they were hung upside down and bled out — he told his supervisor.” 

This statement is from a petition started by Tammy and Jim Shrier, slaughterhouse inspectors for the USDA.  Whether their claim — that Jim was punished for reporting inhumane conditions at a Tyson Foods slaughter house — is true or not, this petition shines light on the most important fact about how food is produced in the United States and elsewhere: it is barbaric.  As Paul McCartney once famously said, “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian.” 

You can read online, or watch on Youtube to learn more about the subject of animal rights, and if you have doubts about making a commitment to a plant-based diet, I would urge you to do so.   In a culture where we are conditioned to think of meat as a commodity and a meal rather than the involuntary sacrifice of a sentient being, it is easy  – even forgiveable — to be complacent.  But if you wish to lead a life in which you limit the amount of suffering you cause — in other words, if you are a basically good human being — it is essential to face the difficult facts and consequences of the choices we make.

In the words of the Buddha, “If there is no wound on one’s hand, one can handle poison. Poison has no effect where there is no wound. There is no evil for the non-doer.”

Related Link:
The Animal Kill Counter

Kirschner's Korner

Let's make the world a more humane place