Vegan mac and cheese

I’ve been to a few potlucks recently and I was running out of ideas for simple, delicious dishes to bring. So I thought about veganizing a traditional baked mac ‘n’ cheese casserole. I started off following the directions on the package of pasta and strayed wildly–with great success!

Ingredients:

16 oz elbow pasta
2 cups vegan cheese*
2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 slice of bread
2 tbsp. margarine
2 tbsp. flour
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. turmeric
salt to taste

Directions:

First, I brought a large pot of water to a boil (4-6 quarts). Then I added an entire box of elbow noodles and cooked them to al dente (firm).

While the pasta was cooking, I turned half a slice of bread (I used Dave’s Killer Bread) into bread crumbs in my food processor and set it aside for the topping. Then I crumbled 2 cups of vegan cheeses in the food processor and set it aside too.

food processor

* I combined five types of cheese to create the two cups needed for this recipe: Field Roast Chao Cheese Slices in Coconut Herb; Field Roast Chao Cheese Slices in Tomato Cayenne; Daiya Jalapeno Havarti; Daiya Cheddar Style Shreds; and Sundried Tomato from Miyoko’s Kitchen. Use whatever brands and flavors of vegan cheese you prefer.

In a small pot, I melted 2 tbsp. of Earth Balance margarine and added 2 tbsp. of flour and 2 cups of vegetable broth (I used a bouillon cube to create the broth). I added chili powder, turmeric, and black pepper, set the element to low, and whisked the mixture until it thickened.

The blend of spices and spicy cheeses gave this dish a nice kick. If you don’t like a lot of spice, you can use plain cheeses and less pepper.

broth and spices

When the pasta was ready, I drained it into a colander and poured the broth mixture into the big pot where the pasta was. I added the cheeses and stirred until it was mostly melted. Then I added the pasta back into the post and mixed it up well.

Finally, I scooped the whole thing into a 9′ x 9′ glass casserole dish, sprinkled the bread crumbs over the top, and baked it uncovered on 450 F for 10 minutes.

vegan mac n cheese

I let it cool a bit, covered it up, and took it to Christmas dinner with friends. Everyone loved it–even the non-vegans. One omni even said she would have been fooled if I hadn’t told her it was vegan. A compliment for sure!

Unilever drops lawsuit against Hampton Creek

Can you believe it? A couple of months ago, industry giant Unilever sued Hampton Creek over the use of the word “mayo.” Unilever, maker of Hellman’s mayonnaise, didn’t like that Hampton Creek named their eggless product Just Mayo.

Hampton Creek is a San Francisco-based food technology company that was founded in 2011. They focus on plant-based products and they currently produce Just Mayo and Just Cookies (both vegan). By comparison, Unilever is one of the oldest multinational companies, with over 400 brands in more than 190 countries. They’re the world’s largest producer of food spreads, with over 30% market share.

In a classic David vs. Goliath scenario, Unilever sued Hampton Creek over market share and claimed Hampton Creek is falsely advertising its product as mayo, even though it doesn’t contain eggs.

just mayo

Well Big Mayo lost this battle. They dropped the lawsuit amidst a flurry of bad PR. People were infuriated at the food giant’s bullying and sided with Hampton Creek. The lawsuit actually gave Hampton Creek millions of dollars in free publicity, and may people who’d never even heard of them vowed to buy Just Mayo on principle alone!

On a side, note, I encourage people not to buy any Unilever products for one other reason: They test on animals! Here’s some info on their testing (no graphic images), and an infographic with some of their most popular brands.

unilever

So, if you haven’t already, I encourage you to try Just Mayo. You can get it at Safeway, Costco, Whole Foods, Target, Walmart, and a host of other retailers.

9 gift ideas for vegans

It’s almost Christmas, and you haven’t bought a gift for that vegan on your list. What to get? I have few ideas that will work for any gift-giving occasion.

A vegan cookbook – Many vegans love to cook. And even those of us who cook for necessity will benefit from learning new ways to make meals. Oh She Glows, Veganomicon, The Joy of Vegan Baking, and Forks Over Knives: The Cookbook are a few examples.

vegan book

Vegan books – From Novels to exposés, you’ll find great vegan reads. I loved reading Jenny Brown’s journey in The Lucky Ones. Why We Love dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows is an excellent read too. And The Chain and The Awareness are novels on my wish list.

A gift certificate to a vegan restaurant – Most cities have vegan or vegetarian restaurants. Vegans won’t turn down great vegan food. No vegan restaurants around? Indian and Thai places have vegan options, and a coffee card is another choice. A gift certificate is a good gift–and easy to mail!

Vegan jewelryChristy Robinson makes wonderful earth and animal friendly jewelry. Herbivore Clothing also carries her designs, as well as other vegan-themed necklaces. If you search Etsy for “vegan jewelry” and get lots of great options at many price points.

Message gear – What better way to promote veganism that with a shirt, hat or button? Herbivore Clothing, Farm Sanctuary, Compassion Co, Triple Threads, PETA, and The Tree kisser are just a few of the places that have great designs–from whimsical to hardcore.

messages gear

(l to r): Farm Sanctuary, Triple Threads, PETA

 

A sponsorship – What’s better than material possessions? Helping animals! Sponsoring an animal in someone’s name (or giving a donation on their behalf) is a heartfelt gift. Pasado’s Safe Haven, New Moon Farm Goat Rescue, Pigs Peace Sanctuary, and Precious Life Animal Sanctuary are all farmed animal rescues in my area. National sanctuaries and local cat and dog rescue groups will also welcome donations.

A vegan walletCouch Guitar Straps is an all-vegan line of products including men’s and women’s wallets. Handmade in LA from vintage, recycled, and deadstock materials (including old vinyl auto upholstery) these wallets are the coolest way to be green.

wallet and purse

Couch wallet and Gunas purse

A high-end purse – I’m losing track of how many vegan handbag companies there are now, but I’ll never forget to add Gunas to my list. Gunas has one of the most stylish lines around.

A Vitamix – Okay, these babies aren’t cheap, but they’re the Cadillac of blenders. If your special vegan loves smoothies, soups, and homemade hummus, springing for a Vitamix will make them a happy camper.

 

Pony rides

As a kid, I remember riding a pony around and ’round in a circle at the fair. The ride didn’t last long, and when it was over, I moved on to the next attraction. The pony, however, had to keep working.

These days, I look at pony rides differently. Sure children aren’t heavy, but the ponies slave away in a boring circle. Maybe it’s a hot day, or a cold one. Maybe they didn’t want to get packed up in a trailer and sent to the fair. Too bad. Ponies don’t have a say.

horse and pony

Their hooves can be injured, and they can suffer from ill-fitting saddles, bridles, and bits (a bit is a metal bar that people put into a horse’s mouth, behind his or her front teeth and molars, to steer and stop the animal). And equines are exempt from protection under the Federal Animal Welfare Act, leaving welfare up to local authorities.

I recently saw a horse and pony standing out in the rain on a cold day, waiting for their shift to begin. I felt so different upon seeing them compared to when I was a kid. Of course kids love ponies–I still do. But I can’t justify a life of labor and stress for a short ride.

A carousel with replica animals and chariots is a great alternative. For those of you who like more of a rush, swings will do the trick.

Wherever you go, look for the animals. Think about what their day is like–and choose animal-free entertainment.

Vegan Thanksgiving options

Being vegan doesn’t mean you have to give up Thanksgiving. In fact, a big portion of the dinner is probably vegan–or could easily be made vegan. As for the turkey? Swap out the carcass with a delicious vegan loaf!

When I think of Thanksgiving, I think of sharing precious time with family and friends. There’s no better way to show people how easy and delicious being vegan is. And if you can share your vegan food with others, they’ll know so much more about how to be vegan.

Here are some options for the holiday:

Host a dinner

Having dinner at your place guarantees you can make it an all-vegan meal and show others the joy of eating cruelty-free.

Mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, dinner rolls, soup, sweet potatoes, stuffing, and pumpkin pie are all dishes that are vegan or easily can be. Substitute butter and milk with dairy-free options and you’re set. You can find lots of vegan recipes online–even for things like gravy.

 

Field Roast, made from seitan (a wheat protein), and Tofurkey (made from soy beans), make delicious prepackaged loaves that easily take the place of a turkey on the table. Doing an online search for “vegan turkey loaf” will return great recipes for a DIY version.

Attend a dinner

There are two types of dinners I’ve attended. My favorite are ones hosted by vegans. I get to try all the food, and I get to spend time with like-minded people.

Attending a dinner with people who aren’t vegan is a great opportunity to bring a dish and show people you can still enjoy holidays and that vegan food is awesome! If being around a murdered turkey is too disturbing, plan to arrive for dessert–with your favorite vegan sweets!

Go to a vegan restaurant

Sometimes vegan restaurants will offer a Thanksgiving meal. You’ll likely have to make reservations in advance, but it will be worth it. It’s also a great chance to take friends who still eat meat and show them vegan options.

 

starter

No matter how you plan to celebrate the holiday, have fun, be safe, and enjoy the vegan food!

 

Vegan profile #5: Michael Glew

It’s time for another vegan profile! Vegans come from all walks of life and I’m using this blog to introduce you to vegans who might be very different than–or a lot like–you. Today, I’d like you to meet Michael, who has excellent tips for living vegan:

Pleased to meet you. I’m Michael and 40, but you know they say 40 is the new 22. My achey
breaky back might disagree. I have been kicking around this vegan thing for about two and a half
decades now. I could brag and say I have been vegan longer than I have not been vegan, but remember
this is not a beauty pageant or student election. Vegans don’t bother getting burdened with seniority or
street cred. Every minute, every day, every week, and every month you spend vegan you are changing
the world.

Don’t ever expect to live perfectly vegan. Mistakes will happen. You could misread a label, you might
assume a product vegan when it contains a vague dairy ingredient, maybe you eat a handful of
chicken in a biscuit crackers, or get sick and need a vaccination. Get a few cookbooks and the oops
incidents will decline.

Activism is not for all vegans. It does not negate all the good you have done by not eating animals if you decide to be more reserved. The best part is you can always change your mind later. The animals are not counting vegan points. The ultimate goal is to help animals and it takes all kinds of people with differing levels of interest and participation to make this work.

It would be a mistake to make vegan political. If you do you will lose. Politics in America is like global
thermal nuclear war. There are no winners. Don’t force it on the people around you. Believe me–curiosity will bring them to you. Be prepared to answer questions, keep cool, and offer to share your snacks.

It’s going to happen. Some fool will get his hose in knot and make some crack. Don’t be baited. Use this
phrase: “I used to (feel, think, want) the same thing. I grew up with a fishing rod in my hand, (or your
own anecdote) but then I found out about the way animals are treated in the (circus, factory farms,
rodeo, testing, etc.). It’s funny how when you talk to people like people you get stuff done.

Michael Glew with his daughter

Thank you Michael for such sound advice!

To contribute to this feature, check out the profile intro page and drop me a line.

Vegan winter boots

I’m spoiled. I live in Seattle where winter is essentially mild and wet. Any pair of rubber rain boots will do. But I grew up in Canada, where I needed warm, insulated, waterproof boots for the salt, snow, slush, and frigid temperatures. If you’re looking for vegan winter boots to keep you warm, look no further.

Women

If Winters are cold in Canada, then look to Cougar, a Canadian company. They have a few vegan styles–and they know winter!

The Canuck 3 is a tall, waterproof nylon boot that comes in black or white and is cold-rated to -30 Celsius (-22 Fahrenheit).

The Canuck by Cougar

The Cougar Como 2 is a nylon boot lined with polar plush. It’s also cold-rated to  -30 Celsius (-22 Fahrenheit) and comes in black, white, or gunmetal.

Cougar Como2 boots

Then there’s the Minty 6, a shimmery polar-lined boot. It comes in black and, my preference, a space-age gunmetal. Cold-rated to  -30 Celsius (-22 Fahrenheit).

Cougar Minty 6

There’s a great vegan shoe store in Vancouver called Nice Shoes. They ship throughout the US and Canada in case you’re not nearby. Nice shoes has an amazing assortment of all types of footwear. They sell the Baltimore by Kamik, a waterproof, nylon bootie that’s cold-rated to -40.

Kamik Baltimore boots from Nice Shoes

If you want a bit of color, check out the red Minx by Columbia. They’re lined in faux fur and are cold-rated to -32 Celsius (-25 Fahrenheit).

Minx boots by Columbia

Men

I won’t forget the fellows. I found a few styles of Men’s vegan winter boots too. Nice shoes carries Bogs, like this pair of Ultra Mid. They’re great on slippery surfaces, and are cold-rated to -40.

Bogs for men at Nice Shoes

There’s also the Utik, if you prefer a synthetic leather lace-up. Cold-rated to  -30 Celsius (-22 Fahrenheit) with neat grommet details and red piping.

Utik boots from Nice Shoes

These Kamik Canuck boots are another option. They’re at Zappos.com, a great online shopping site where you can filter for style, size, and material. The Canucks are nylon, with lots of grip and a warm lining. The toggle at the cuff keeps out the snow.

Kamik men's boots on Zappos

The Ice Patrol by Vegetarian Shoes is an amazing boot. Not only are they sturdy and rugged, but they have metal grippers that fold out of the sole and act like mini crampons. Theses come in sizes 36 through 47 so they’ll fit a wide range of people, making them a great unisex boot. Plus, Vegetarian Shoes, as the name implies, is an all-vegan company so you know you’re getting an ethical boot and supporting a vegan company.

ice patrol boot by Vegetarian Shoes

The Snowdon, also by Vegetarian Shoes, is another shoe great for anyone. Like Dr. Marten’s or Converse, these work for men and women. The snowdon has ski-boot laces and is a sturdy, three-season boot for hikes or urban treks.

snowdon boots by Vegetarian Shoes

Youth and Kids

Columbia also makes youth sizes in styles like the Minx. They’re cold-rated to -32 Celsius (-25 Fahrenheit) and are a woven synthetic textile with a faux-fur lining.

Minx youth sizes by Columbia

The Columbia Powderbug nylon boots are cold rated to and come in four cute patterns. The toggle helps keep the snow out.

Columbia youth Powderbug boots

Bogs are a great option for men, women, and especially kids (with their fun patterns and easy pull-on handles). Not all Bogs are vegan, but the kids’ boots seem to be. And who doesn’t love dinosaurs and flowers?

Bogs for kids

I hope the examples above will give you a good starting point for your winter boot shopping. Let me know what your favorite vegan winter boots are!

 

How much is that doggie in the window?

When I was a kid, my grandparents bought a dog from the House of Puppies. I never thought twice about it because Angus, as they named him, was a cute, fun puppy. Looking back, I have a few questions. Sadly, I know the answers.

Pet store puppies

Most puppies from pet stores come from puppy mills (the exception being pet supply stores that showcase adoptable dogs from local rescue groups). Puppy mills are large-scale, commercial dog breeding facilities that breed dogs repeatedly. While the puppies are sold to families, their parents suffer in dirty cages for years, often with little to no veterinary care. These places are like factory farms for dogs. A pedigree doesn’t mean a thing–dogs from puppy mills can have pedigrees and be AKC registered. Never buy a dog from a pet store, not even to “save the puppy.” You’ll just be putting money into the wrong hands and increasing demand for more dogs.

Puppy mill

Online dog sales

Buying a puppy online is a recipe for disaster. The dogs likely come from puppy mills too. A “responsible breeder” won’t sell to an unknown person and ship dogs (I put quotes around responsible breeder for reasons I’ll address below). An online purchase is opening the door to scam artists who might take your money and not deliver the “goods.” Puppies might be sick, or “not as advertised.” Many puppies die during transport. Even if  puppies make it to their destination and are healthy, online sales support a shady business that puts money before the dogs’ well-being. Don’t do it!

Backyard breeders

Smaller, non-commercial operations also abound. Maybe it’s because someone wants a litter to show the kids “the miracle of life,” or they have an idea for a “boutique dog” (cockapoo, puggle anyone?). Backyard breeders know nothing about their dogs’ genetics or how to avoid congenital issues with the puppies. Sometimes the litter was a complete accident. They often sell unlicensed puppies online, at flea markets or on Craigslist. Don’t support this irresponsibility.

Responsible breeders

This is the preferred term for people who specialize in specific breeds, selectively breed a limited amount of dogs, and are careful with regard to genetics, screens prospective owners. Responsible breeders will take back their dogs at any time for any reason (thereby keeping dogs out of shelters) and often are involved with breed-specific rescue. Of these four categories, this is the best one. Judging by the number of purebred dogs in shelters, it’s also the rarest.

Adopt don’t shop

Despite some people being relatively responsible with their dog businesses, I can’t endorse buying a dog. Why? Because 2.7 million adoptable cats and dogs are euthanized in the US every year. Almost half the households in the country have at least one dog but only 20% of the dogs were acquired through adoption. Of the 83 million dogs in homes today, 20 million were rescued. That’s great, but it also means if we don’t buy from breeders, we could clear out the shelters overnight! And not until shelters are empty would I even consider endorsing breeders.

Contrary to what a lot of people think, you can get puppies and purebreds (and purebred puppies) at shelters–25% of the dogs in shelters are purebred. And the dogs aren’t bad. They often end up in shelters because they were lost, their owners were moving, had too many other animals, had a baby, developed allergies, or couldn’t afford caring for the dog.

Which dog dies?

When someone adopts a shelter dog, they make room in the shelter for another needy dog. Conversely, when someone buys from a pet store, online, or from a breeder, they essentially let a shelter dog die. For every dog purchased, one isn’t adopted. Yeah, yeah, dogs in shelters “aren’t my problem.” but it sure is nice to help out an animal in need.

dogs at a shelter - photo by Estambar

Ready-made family member

I prefer shelter dogs because I get to meet them, assess their personalities, and adopt one that fits with my life and the other animals I live with. I’ve only adopted adult dogs, which meant I didn’t have to housetrain them, they didn’t destroy my house with chewing like puppies can, and they were already fixed and vaccinated.

When you’re considering a new addition to your family, walk past that window and straight into your local animal shelter.

When you’re the only vegan

Whether you’re the only vegan you know, or you’re a vegan with a ton of vegan friends, there’s a good chance you’re the only vegan the non-vegans in your life know.

one vegan in a crowd

I didn’t sign up to be the spokesperson for veganism, and I don’t profess to know all the details about all the issues, but I do know that I am often the “real life vegan” example for many of the people I meet and know.

I don’t take this lightly. People are curious. They watch (and sometimes judge), but mostly, they just want to learn more.

Seeds of compassion

I’ve had people express surprise that I’m vegan because I don’t fit their stereotype of what a vegan is. I’m not a hippy (not that there’s anything wrong with that). I like fashion. I’m not angry.

When people tell me they appreciate that I’m not judgmental (not a “vegan Nazi” in some people’s words), I sometimes wonder if that means I should turn it up a notch. I don’t want people to be comfortable eating meat. But I also know when people are judged, they get defensive, put up walls, and stop listening.

So I live my life, true to myself and my values and drop gentle reminders about how animals are treated and how we can help them.

Super vegan

I’m not a super vegan, don’t get me wrong. But I have to remind myself that my life is different from most people’s in subtle ways. What is abhorrent to me (wearing animal skin, eating animal flesh, testing on animals, being entertained by incarcerated animals) is either normal or a non-issue to most. It’s hard to remember that I was once like that. But it’s important to empathize with people who are lulled into believing all this is normal–it’s certainly culturally acceptable.

I have to remember that people find it strange that I think of all animals (including people) equally. That I wouldn’t eat a pig because I wouldn’t eat my dog. That a pigeon in a city park is as valuable as a soaring eagle. That dolphins shouldn’t be hunted, but neither should tuna.

The big picture

There’s a balance between compromising one’s values and coming across as relatable. When I’m out with non-vegan friends, I focus on the big picture. It’s true, that I don’t eat foods dyed with carmine (from crushed up beetles), but when dining with friends, I focus on the big issues–where the most harm is done–and how to alleviate that. I probably won’t ask the waiter if the spatula used to flip my veggie burger is the same one used for the meat patties.

Of course I don’t want that tainted spatula to touch my food, but I also don’t want to make it seem like veganism is unattainable. Everyone is different. Your concerns and responses won’t be the same as mine. But do think of the impression others get. What’s the balance?

Signs of change

When people I know tell me they are eating less meat, going vegetarian, and going vegan, I want to do back flips! Every bit helps. Every person makes a difference. I  didn’t sign up to be a vegan role model, but like it or not, I am. And you know, I like of like it!

How have you influenced the people in your life? I’d love to hear what works for you.

Global March for Elephants and Rhinos

Every 15 minutes, an elephant is killed.

Every 9 to 11 hours, a rhino is killed.

These beautiful creatures are often poached for their ivory and horns. Whether for trinkets or so-called medicine, there is no justification for their deaths.

That’s why, this Saturday, thousands of people from over 125 cities around the world are participating in the Global March for Elephants and Rhinos. The event will bring awareness to the plight of elephants and rhinos–two species whose very existence is in peril (poaching kills 35,000 elephants and over 1,000 rhinos every year).

The march will put pressure on  governments around the globe to publicly destroy their stockpiles of wildlife parts and show zero tolerance for this illegal trading. The main reason these species are in decline is because of the growing trade in tusks and horns. Here are the details for the Seattle event:

What:  Global March for Elephants and Rhinos
When:  Saturday, Oct. 4th at noon – 2 pm
Where: International Children’s Park, 700 S Lane St, Seattle, WA 98104.

Global march for elephants and rhinos

The march will be about half a mile long. Signs will be provided, but you can bring your own. For more info or to RSVP to the event, check out the event’s Facebook page.

Before the march, a lineup of speakers will inform, inspire, and entertain. Cathy Sorbo, comedian and former Seattle PI columnist, will emcee the event. Speakers include:

  • Tom Skerritt, acclaimed actor and passionate animal conservationist.
  • Wendie Wendt, Executive Director of Big Life Foundation, one of the leading organizations in the fight to stop poaching.
  • Kathleen Gobush PhD, A research scientist who worked with Save the Elephants, a key player in saving elephants in Kenya. Currently she is a Senior Project Developer with Vulcan.
  • Lisa Kane JD, a retired lawyer and author who has advocated for the welfare of captive and wild elephants locally, nationally and internationally.

My friend Scott Nelson is working with the organizers of the Seattle march to make the event a success. Scott recently founded the Endangered Species Protection Fund, a 501c3 non-profit with a focus on protecting endangered species like elephants, rhinos and tigers. The ESP Fund website had a handy march map you can use to get to the event and follow the route.

Please help bring awareness to this crisis and help stop the demand for elephant tusks and rhino horns.