Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Veggie Lasagna- helping kick dairy to the curb!

  Want to lower your cholesterol and lose weight while eating awesome food? Well you can by following the Engine 2 Diet . I became intrigued by a whole plant based diet without added oil when I watched "Forks over Knives" . Yes, I already eat a plant based diet, however, I did have to try every vegan dessert and other vegan treat upon becoming vegan. Now, having that out of my system, I am ready for more structure and discipline around food again.

 I purchased  The Engine 2 Diet Book  and began following the recipes about a week ago. The plan is a 28-day "Save -Your-Life" diet that lowers cholesterol and burns away pounds. That is not the reason I am following it. I actually have stellar cholesterol numbers. Personally, I feel more at peace with some structure and discipline around food. While The Engine 2 Diet is a plant-based diet, it does use honey, which does not make it vegan, so be aware. Do we need to go over why honey is not vegan?

 So far, we have eaten all our meals at home, cooked for every meal, and have eaten very well! I will be blogging some of the recipes as well as tracking our spending. Eating healthy is suppose to be expense, right? I will let you decide. I think it is important to remember that you can substitute ingredients, sometimes frozen is a less expensive option, and sometimes you can omit an ingredient as well.

 One of the things I love, is that on the Engine 2 website under "Tools and Support"  you can select 1 of the 4 weeks in which a menu is planned with a generated grocery list. How easy! Or you can create your own weekly menu and generate a grocery list for each recipe you choose. Regardless if you want to follow the plan, there are some amazing plant based recipes to try!

Raise-the-Roof Sweet Potato-Vegetable Lasagna  (serves- 10-12)



1 onion, chopped
1 small head of garlic, all cloves chopped or pressed
8 ounces of mushrooms, sliced
1 head of broccoli, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 red bell peppers, seeded and chopped
1 can of corn, rinsed and drained ( I used frozen corn)
1 package of firm tofu
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon rosemary
2 jars of pasta sauce (see E2 approved Foods ) no added oil or sugar
2 boxes of whole grain lasagna noodles
16 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and drained
2 sweet potatoes, cooked and mashed
6 Roma tomatoes, sliced thin
1 cup of raw cashews, ground

Preheat Oven to 400 degrees. Saute the onion and garlic on high heat for 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook until the onions are limp and the mushrooms provide liquid - this never happened for me, so I added a bit of veggie broth. Remove them and add to a large bowl with a slotted spoon. You may need to add more broth to your pan. Saute the peppers and corn until just beginning to soften. Add them to the veggie bowl. Drain the tofu by wrapping in paper towels. Break it up directly in the towel and mix into the veggie bowl. Add  spices to the veggie bowl and combine.

To Assemble: Cover the bottom of a 9X13 in. casserole dish with a layer of sauce. Add a layer of noodles. Cover the noodles with sauce. This will save time and energy, as the noodles will cook in the oven. Spread the veggie mixture over the sauced noodles. Cover with a layer of noodles and another dressing of sauce. 

Add the spinach to the second layer of sauced noodles. Cover the spinach with mashed sweet potatoes. Add another layer of sauce, the final layer of noodles, and a last topping of sauce.

The pan will be very full! Cover the lasagna with thinly sliced Roma tomatoes. I added a bit more seasoning on top of the tomatoes.


 Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil, sprinkle with the cashews, and return to the oven for 15 minutes. Let the lasagna sit for 15 minutes before serving. 

This recipe makes 10 hardy servings. We had it for lunch for a few days and froze the rest for weeks to come. It was AMAZING. I promise you won't miss the cheese in this one!

I used all organic ingredients. The total cost was $28.62. For 12 servings the cost is $2.39 a serving. While, you could shave some cost of by omitting the cashews in this recipe - don't - it gives it a nice creamy flavor!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

My Heart Belongs to a Cow

I am not sure that vegan's are suppose to have a favorite animal. As a vegan, I am trying to save them all, as well as you and I, and the planet. In this lifetime. However, cows have stolen my heart, busted it wide open, and essentially changed my life.  My bias may come from my own guilt and thus redemption seeking for all  those years I spent uninformed, drinking milk, eating ice-cream, and gorging on cheese. Regardless, they are the beings that lifted the veil from my eyes, spoke to my heart, and called me to action. For both reasons, I am forever indebted and grateful.

We are fed  pictures of happy, healthy diary cows with their babies on bright green pastures from the billion dollar dairy industry. However, this is far from reality. This is not the reality for the mother nor her calf. Dairy cows are constantly impregnated artificially, to birth a calf so that humans can consume and profit from her milk. More disheartening is that the calves are taken away from their mothers immediately after birth. This causes severe distress for the mother as well as her calf. And this happens, over, and over, and over in the industry.

In October, I attended the first ever National Conference to End Factory Farming. A Veterinarian, Holly Cheever, shared a story of a pregnant cow. When she first became a Veterinarian, she worked on a dairy farm. One night she got a call from the farmer. The pregnant cow had given birth to a calf. However, when she came in to be milked in the mornings, she had very little to no milk.  Of course, this puzzled the farmer. At this time, this particular farmer, allowed the cow to give birth in the field, as it was more sanitary.  Within a day or so, the farmer discovered that the mother cow had given birth to two calves. This cow had been impregnated many, many times over her life. And each time, her calf was taken away. This time, she had two. She decided to keep one hidden in the woods, to go out and feed him daily, and she would let the farmer take the other calf.  Of course, Dr. Cheever, begged and pleaded that the farmer allow her to keep her calf , just this one time, after all the babies she had to see taken away.  But the farmer didn't agree,as this is not a matter of the heart, but of profits. While this story is heart breaking it also provides a glimpse into the maternal affections of a mother from another species.

This is not the only story of its type. There are many other stories of mother cows on dairy farms bellowing out wildly to try to find their babies and running after cattle trucks as they take their babies to separate farms.
Babies are taken away from their mothers everyday, so that humans can have milk. The males are sold as beef, veal being a by-product of the dairy industry, with about one million calves being used for veal. Female cows are kept to take their mothers places once she is worn out and her milk production declines.

Drinking milk, eating ice-cream, gorging on cheese - is what keeps this cycle of misery and torment going round and round. It brings up several questions we should be asking ourselves - who are we as humans, to impregnate another being? Impregnate yearly, take away her calf, so that we may drink the milk instead of her baby? Further, why would we wean ourselves off of our mother's milk to then become dependent on milk from another species? Milk which actually does not do our body good - understanding the downfalls of dairy.

For me, the answer is simple - we do not have the right to enslave, impregnate, and separate mother and child, for any reason. Especially, for a calves milk put into a glass for human consumption.  

 Watch this heart warming reunion!

Monday, March 5, 2012

extend your compassion by millions and billions!

Tufted Titmouse
One of the things we have always loved most about our home, is the screened-in deck, that extends off the dining room. However, there are times, like this morning that the love wanes. A tufted titmouse, a bird I enjoy watching, was trapped inside. While there are two doors that lead to the outdoors, the large (12X12) screened area and high ceiling can be quite tricky to a bird. Luckily, after several failed attempts to help, the bird found the doorway to freedom. I cheered the bird on as he/she flew to the highest treetop.

Most all of us are very compassionate when it comes to one being that is in distress or discomfort. It has always baffled me though, how our compassion seems to lessen as the numbers increase. We can detach when large amounts of individuals are involved since our brains cannot wrap itself around massive numbers. As we try to visualize hundreds of thousands, millions, billions - we just shutdown.

I have been following the recent incident of the 50,000 hens that were left to starve to death. It is my hope that they did not live or die in vain. For me, this story brought home the realities even deeper of  what I already knew about factory farming -  it is cruel without doubt or exceptions. The contrast is vivid as you watch the rescued hens able to scratch dirt, build nest, dust bathe, bask in the sun, and perch for the FIRST time ever! Doesn't that sound odd to you? The natural behaviors of a being, the very behaviors they were built to perform, denied for their entire lives.
  Animal Place and Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary coordinated the largest farm animal rescue in California history. More than 4,400 hens were pulled from A&L Poultry in Turlock, California after the owner left the hens without food for more than two weeks. Sign the petition to prosecute the Owner, Andy Keung Cheung
In factory farms, hens are placed cramped and crowded, in  battery cages. Sharing the cage with other hens this give each individual the the space of a sheet of paper (8.5 X11) which is actually ONE FOURTH the MINIMUM space they require (4 square feet).  So, what kind of space would 50,000 hens need as a MINIMUM to perform their basic natural behaviors? 250 acres or 100 city blocks. But yet, they are crammed into a shed. Additionally, they are not able to spread their wings, peck,scratch the earth, and never see or feel the light of the sun. These types of denials cause beings to go insane, literally, as it goes against all they are genetically made-up to do.

Can you imagine spending your entire life with your arms folded or legs crossed never able to extend them? Would you allow your companion animal to live in a cramped cage, not able to turn around, stand up, groom itself, never seeing daylight? NO! Because it is beyond cruel. Yet, we allow these acts to happen in our country, to BILLIONS of animals daily as they are raised and slaughtered for food.

Unfortunately, there are no federal laws to protect farmed animals from cruelty. The industry makes it's own rules and their practices quickly become industry standards and norms. Cruelty cases such as the 50,000 hen's case are not rare - they have become the industry standard.  As consumer's we give a "thumbs-up" to cruelties such as these every time we make a purchase of an animal based product. Supply and demand. Choose an alternative, extend your compassion today, and consider a plant-based diet. You can  Get a Free Starter Kit to help you begin. All individuals have the right and are deserving of living out the lives they were built to live; whether that is wagging their tail, folding their arms, bathing in dust, or flying to the highest tree top.