Monday, March 23, 2015

Meatless Monday: DIY Mayo without the Eggs

Last week I floated the idea of working towards making Meatless Monday a dairy and egg -free day. For those who missed the post, the idea stemmed from a desire to become a more ethical eater.

I proposed starting with small steps, like the ones I am taking. Last week I baked a vegan cake. This week, for my 500th blog post, I went on a quest to find more uses for the heart-healthy avocado, now in-season in California and quite reasonably priced in East Coast supermarkets. [Yes, it travels quite a distance to get from the West to the East, but then so does much of the produce this time of year.] 

After a bit of googling, I ended up at Brit + Co, an online media and e-commerce platform where I found the article “Ditch the Mayo, These 12 Recipes Use Avocado Instead.” Included in the dozen recipes was one for a simple mayonnaise, via the blog Choosing Raw

A recipe doesn’t get much easier than this:

Simple Raw, Vegan Avocado Mayonnaise

Ingredients

  • 1 medium Hass avocado, cut in half, pit removed, and flesh scooped out
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice (freshly squeezed)
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt 
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Instructions

  • Add the avocado, lemon, mustard, and salt to a food processor or high speed blender and process until well blended. Stop a few times to scrape the bowl down.
  • With the motor running, drizzle in your olive oil. Continue blending till the mixture is creamy.

Remember me for next year's St. Patrick's Day!
You won’t miss the eggs one bit! With its creamy texture and delicious taste, this would pass for premium mayo were it not for its bright green color.

The recipe calls for a Hass Avocado, currently the most popular variety of avocado, but this was not always the case. You can read more about the Hass Avocado here

Come back next week when I explain how to make a delicious, one pot vegan meal!

Happy Meatless Monday!  Have a great week.


On Mondays I often blog on food, food issues, or gardening in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.”

Monday, March 16, 2015

Meatless Monday: Start with a Cake

If you believe in reincarnation, one thing is certain. You would probably not want to come back as a chicken, and most definitely not as a male “laying” chicken. 

Those in the poultry industry, both meat and egg producers, are not generally known for treating their birds well. [The dairy industry also has many issues, but let’s stick with eggs for today.]

The deplorable conditions in many poultry operations inspired Proposition 2, the ballot measure known as “Cage-Free California” passed overwhelmingly by voters in 2008. Prop 2 required that by January 1, 2015, egg-laying hens raised in California be able to stand up, lie down, turn around, and fully extend their wings. That's correct; most of them couldn't before. 

Even if you don’t live in California, you may have noticed that some of the egg cartons in your supermarket now have labels reading “Cage-Free.” “Cage-Free” simply means that the animals do not live in cages; they may still be confined to a barn year-round and never see the light of day, admittedly an improvement to the battery cage system legal in most states in the US. Fewer are marked “Certified Humane®,” a rigorous certification received from Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC), the leading non-profit certification organization dedicated to improving the lives of farm animals in food production from birth through slaughter. The group states, “When you see the Certified Humane Raised and Handled® label on a product you can be assured that the food products have come from facilities that meet precise, objective standards for farm animal treatment.”

Pete and Gerry’s is a group of 30 small family farmers in Vermont and New Hampshire, supplying Certified Humane® products to many grocery stores in Connecticut, where I live. According to their corporate website, Pete & Gerry’s home farm was the first Certified Humane® egg farm in the country. Even at Pete & Gerry’s, however, for most of the year the chickens stay indoors.

HFAC has also defined standards for achieving their “Pasture Raised” and “Free Range Certified Humane®labels. At this time, the Happy Egg Company in San Francisco is the only 100% “Free Range” egg company in the HFAC program

Improved living conditions are a good step forward, but there is another side to the poultry industry with which many consumers are not aware.  In the February, 27, 2014 issue of The Guardian, Andy Cawthray asked the question: “How ethical are your eggs?” In the article he pointed out that “Few consumers realise that millions of day-old male chicks are killed as part of the process of egg production — even in ethical systems.”

It was a surprise to many when corporate giant Unilever announced in September that it was taking measures to remedy this practice. On their corporate site Unilever states: “We are aware of the concerns raised about global egg industry standards by which breeders of egg-laying hens eliminate male chicks…We are engaging with the egg production industry, the animal welfare community and R&D companies to develop alternative options for the current practices. We are committed to providing (financial) support to research and the market introduction of in-ovo gender identification (sexing) of eggs, a new technology that has the potential to eliminate the hatching and culling of male chicks in the poultry-breeding industry.”

In the meantime, what is an ethical eater to do?

Easy first steps include buying eggs at the farmers’ market from a farmer you know and trust or carefully reading the labels on grocery store egg cartons and buying the best choice available.

Or, you can go even further and consider what the vegans have to say. According to information from the Vegetarian Resource Group, “Vegans, in addition to being vegetarian, do not use other animal products and by-products such as eggs, dairy products, honey, leather, fur, silk, wool, cosmetics, and soaps derived from animal products. People choose to be vegan for health, environmental, and/or ethical reasons. For example, some vegans feel that one promotes the meat industry by consuming eggs and dairy products…Some people avoid these items because of conditions associated with their production.”

How about making your next Meatless Monday a dairy and egg-free day? Or trying a vegan meal? Or, maybe starting even smaller with something sure to please…like a cake? 

A vegan friend sent me this recipe. She got it from another friend who also gave her a mini version of this cake. [That’s my kind of friend!] Beyond that I do not know the recipe’s origins. What I do know is that it is very easy to make, and delicious (as well as dairy and egg free)!

One generous slice. (Not for long.)

Vegan Lemon Loaf Cake
Makes one loaf, 10 generous slices.

Ingredients for Cake
  • 3 cups oat flour (or 3 cups oats pulsed to a flour-like consistency with a food processor or blade grinder) 
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 T lemon juice (2 medium lemons seem to provide enough juice and zest for recipe)
  • 2 T lemon zest 

Ingredients for Glaze

  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 T lemon juice

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 F.
  • Add oat flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt to a mixing bowl.
  • Whisk well.
  • Add almond milk, oil, vanilla, 4 T lemon juice, and lemon zest.
  • Whisk until smooth.
  • Pour batter into greased loaf pan.
  • Bake 55-60 minutes.
  • Let cool.
  • Add 1 T lemon juice to powdered sugar
  • Whisk until a glaze forms. 
  • Spread the glaze on the cooled cake.
  • Slice and serve.

You will love it!

Happy Meatless Monday!  Have a great week.


On Mondays I often blog on food, food issues, or gardening in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.”

Friday, March 13, 2015

Fishy Friday 03.13.15

This Friday in Lent, a day when devout Catholics are eating fish instead of meat, seems a particularly appropriate time to remind everyone that the populations of cod and many other once familiar fish are in serious decline. The species of fish, its country of origin, how and by whom it was caught, or where it was farmed are all important factors to consider when making a purchase.

The most sustainable choices are not always obvious, but there are a few tools and guides to help consumers navigate these confusing waters.

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), the world’s leading certification and ecolabelling program for sustainable seafood, offers a sustainable seafood product finder on its website. Simply enter a checkmark for your retailer, hit return, and you will find the MSC products the chain offers. You can narrow the search by species and product type.

Whole Foods Markets seems to offer the largest selection and the greatest variety of both fresh and frozen products. Whole Foods has been working with the MSC since 1999, striving to source “as much Marine Stewardship Council certified sustainable seafood as possible.” MSC certified seafood is clearly marked with a blue MSC label. The chain has also instituted a sustainability rating program, presenting consumers with other choices labelled Green (from well-managed fisheries) or Yellow (from fisheries where there are some concerns). They no longer offer Red rated products (overfished, poorly managed, or caught in ways that cause harm to habitats or other wildlife). You won’t find trawl-caught Atlantic Cod at Whole Foods!

With the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Guide, the consumer entering a seafood or sushi name will receive recommendations broken into three categories: Best Choices, Good Alternatives, and Avoid. The recommendations are updated monthly. Regional pocket guides are available for printing, but I recommend downloading the Seafood Watch App to your smartphone so you can search for the most up-to-date info while you shop, wherever you happen to be.  I have been using this guide for years and have noted the recent rise of many species of farmed fish from distant lands, including Barramundi from Vietnam, to the “Best Choice” category.

Even deciphering the label on canned tuna can seem a daunting task. But with the help of Greenpeace's Tuna Shopping Guide, the  task becomes a simple one. I was happy to see my most recent purchases ranked #1 and 4. [Thanks Janey and Polly for sharing.]

I have lived in coastal New England my whole life, and sustainable fishing is an issue very important to me. For some of my other posts on this subject, read here, here, and here

Good luck hunting the best fish. And TGIF.