Daiya grilled cheese contest

Do you love a good grilled cheese sandwich? Do you think you have what it takes to make a winning sandwich using dairy-free Daiya cheese?

Daiya just launched their First Annual Daiya Grilled Cheese Cook-Off, and they have a pretty sweet grand prize up for grabs: a one year supply of Daiya, a feature on the Daiya website, and mention in their upcoming digital cookbook.

Daiya

If you’d like to participate, just create your own original grilled cheese sandwich using any Daiya dairy-free cheese alternative and submit your masterpiece to the Daiya here. They’re accepting submissions through May 12, 2014.

Bonus: After the contest closes, I’ll pick someone at random to receive a free coupon for Daiya Shreds, Slices, Wedges or Spreads. All you have to do is comment below or tweet me at @jeaniebellini and tell me why your #daiya grilled cheese is a contender.

Contest is open to US and Canadian residents so get grilling’ and start commenting and tweeting!

Update (May 16th): I used an online tool to randomly generated a name from the comments and the winner of the Daiya coupon is…

Carmen

Carmen, you doubled your odds with that second comment–and it worked! I’ll contact you privately and get the coupon to you.

International Respect for Chickens Day

Today, Star Wars fan and punsters are repeating “May the Forth” be with you. I’ll add “May you go Forth with kindness for chickens.” For today is also International Respect for Chickens Day, a project launched by United Poultry Concerns.

chicken on the go at Pasado'sI’ve met many people who tell me they’ve cut back on red meat or switched from beef to chicken. Whether for health or ethics, this isn’t a good strategy. Chickens are one of the most abused animals on the planet–from the eggs we eat to the way their tiny bodies are stressed in the process of “raising” them for meat.

I’m against eating any animals, but what strikes me as odd about switching from beef to chicken is that because chickens are small, so many more lives are lost to harvest the same quantities of meat.

Here are some facts about chickens that show how wonderful they are and why they shouldn’t become a meal:

Hens are terrific mothers – Hens lay a clutch of eggs and care for them by keeping them warm under their bodies and carefully turning them over several times a day. When the checks hatch, hens protect their young and hide them under their wings when predators are around.

Roosters are great protectors – Roosters watch over their flocks, alert hens to danger, and will fight off predators. If roosters find food, they will call their families over to share the treat.a hen in Hawaii

Chickens are smart – They communicate, they can count, they express their feelings, they feel joy, pain and sorrow. They will help other animals, and if given the chance, are wonderful members of a family. They are as social and individual as any dog or cat.

I heard about a chicken who adopted a duck egg. She took care of the egg, just as she did with the other eggs she laid. When the duckling hatched, she walked him over to water, so he could swim. She loved and cared for that duck, and she knew he wasn’t a chick.

Nine billion chickens are killed for food every year in the US alone–and they are exempt from animal cruelty laws.

What to do?

  • Please don’t eat chickens or their eggs. There are so many alternatives like Beyond Chicken, Ener-G Egg Replacer. I wrote about egg substitutes earlier on this blog. And UPC has a wealth of chicken-free recipes too.
  • Contact your federal and state senators and urge them to ban debeaking and battery cages, and to include poultry under the Federal Humane Methods of Slaughter Act.
  • Tell your friends and family about how wonderful chickens are and that they shouldn’t be eaten.

May is International Respect for Chickens Month, so let’s keep the momentum and spread the word about these wonderful animals who are so mistreated.

Decorating Easter eggs

People are creatures of habit. We love rituals and traditions. Sometimes though, our old ways don’t work. If you’re a vegan and you’ve decorated eggs in the past, you might feel like you’re missing out on a family tradition.

Well, for every old way, there’s a new version. Egg decorating doesn’t have to be done on real eggs. You can use wooden, foam, or plastic eggs instead. They’re less fragile, and you might even have some lying around (all those plastic eggs you couldn’t bear to toss will come in handy now).

Wooden eggs

You can dye wooden eggs just like you can dye real eggs. They come in lots of sizes and last year after year. White vinegar, boiling water and food coloring is all your need. The awesome folks at Goose Grease Shop will show you how.

dyed wooden eggs

If detailed designs are more your style, you can go for a Persian or Ukrainian look by following the info at eHow. With acrylic paints and a small brush, you can add stripes, waves, checks, swirls and dots until you get a pattern you like.

wooden painted eggs

Ceramic eggs

There’s a specialty company called Eggnots, that sells ceramic eggs that you can paint and decorate. Their site says Eggnots are perfect for people with egg allergies, and vegan households. Love that! They even come in their own eggnot carton, complete with dying instructions.

Plastic eggs

The best part about plastic eggs is you might already have a bunch lying around. They’re nice because they often are made in two parts so you can open them and put some Easter treats inside. But first, grab a few Sharpies and color your plastic eggs with stripes, circles, bunnies, or whatever your heart desires. Squidoo.com will show you how. Plastic eggs looks great wrapped in yarn.

yarn-wrapped eggs

Styrofoam eggs

Styrofoam eggs aren’t the best choice, environmentally, but if you have some lying around–or find some at a garage sale of thrift store–snap them up for decorating. You can wrap Styrofoam eggs with yarn, cover them in paper, add fabric and ribbon to them, or embellish them with pushpins and other bling. Prefer monochromatic? Spray your eggs a solid color. Or cover them in glue and dip them in glitter!

fabric-wrapped eggs

Get creative

No matter what type of eggs you use, use your imagination. You can stamp words on your eggs, give them a patina finish, a crackle look, cover them in newsprint or tissue paper, or dip-dye them. If you need inspiration, go to Pinterest and search for wooden Easter, plastic Easter eggs or styrofoam Easter eggs and see why you find.

Have you decorated vegan eggs before? How did they turn out?

On declawing

I’ve never liked the idea of declawing a cat–claws are part of who they are. That’s why my cats have theirs. I recently watched a riveting documentary called The Paw Project and it builds an airtight argument against declawing.

anti-declaw billboard

But my first cat–a kitten I’d found in my late teens–was declawed. I sent her in to have the procedure and I can share first-hand why I’d never do that again.

I wasn’t planning to get a cat. She found me I guess you could say. I lived in an apartment that didn’t encourage pets and if cats were to be allowed, they had to be declawed. I couldn’t afford to move, and I was too selfish to rehome the cat. For her best interests, I should have found a home where she’d be allowed to remain whole.

When I brought my cat back from the vet, she was in a lot of discomfort. To see her limping and favoring her front paws broke my heart. She left bloody footprints around the apartment for a week too–my first realization that declawing isn’t a simple procedure; it’s an amputation.

Declawing consists of removing the first joint of each toe–because cat’s claws grow from the bone. My cat endured ten amputations for no good reason. She couldn’t scratch carpets, walls, or furniture, but she also couldn’t stretch and climb like a normal cat. She was indoors-only, but one afternoon I had her on a harness and leash when a dog rushed onto the property and tried to maul her. She climbed the nearest tree, but without a grappling-hook grip, she fell back toward him. By sheer luck she reached a horizontal branch on her second try.

In her old age, she wobbled on arthritic feet and stopped using her litter box. I didn’t know it at the time, but that’s common with declawed cats.

Cats need to scratch. It’s a territory marker (with both scent and visual clues). It’s good for their muscles too. I have a tall cat tree for my cats to climb and strategically placed scratching posts around my house. My cats prefer their posts to my furniture. In a few cases, I’ve had to put double-sided tape on sofa corners until they got the hint that the furniture isn’t for scratching. I trim my cats’ claws regularly too. No matter what, my cats’ wellbeing is more important than my sofa!

fistful of clawsCats’ claws are important for self-defense. They use them to fend off attackers and to make a quick getaway. Cat scratches hurt, but cat bites are more dangerous. If a cat loses her toes and claws, she’ll be more likely to bite. It’s better to adopt two kittens together (so they can roughhouse and learn about boundaries) or use toys–not hands–to play with an energetic cat.

If a cat experiences pain in the litter box (from a UTI or painful feet), he’ll likely associate the location as the source of the pain and change his behavior. With age, amputated toes often become arthritic and painful. Many cats who experience this will develop litter box issues.

Basically, removing claws doesn’t benefit the cat; it benefits only the owner. That’s why it’s unnecessary and uncalled for. If a piece of furniture is more important than a cat’s well-being, then maybe a cat isn’t the best choice. If someone is worried about junior being scratched, then adult supervision is needed. Teaching kids to play appropriately with cats, and never leaving little kids unattended with cats is the most sensible option.

Many countries and (as you’ll learn in The Paw Project) some cities in the USA have banned declawing. It’s barbaric and should be banned nationwide. I wasn’t educated on the risks and dangers of mutilating my cat with a declaw procedure. At the bare minimum, people need to know what they’re subjecting their cats to and what the outcomes are. I’m happy to report that my current vet is very anti-declawing. She won’t do the procedure. Instead, she educates cat guardians and works on changing problematic behavior.

I hope that’s the norm and that declawing will be sent to the history books.

Beyond Meat: Chicken-free strips

I spiced things up in the kitchen recently with Southwest style chicken-free strips by Beyond Meat.

I first learned about this company when I read a blog post about the future of food by Bill Gates. Gates is financially backing Beyond Meat, in part because he recognizes that increasing meat consumption is bad for the environment. The global population is growing, and as people become more affluent, they often transition to western-style diets. That’s neither healthy nor sustainable.

I searched for Beyond Meat at my local Whole Foods and ended up getting a couple of ready-made wraps for a picnic. So yummy! Until now, I hadn’t cooked with it, so I gave it a whirl.

ingredients

I made a simple stir-fry using red pepper, broccoli and zucchini, added spices and the Beyond Chicken strips, which I’d cut into cubes.

stir-fry in progress

Beyond Chicken is made primarily with non-GMO soy and peas. It’s a complete protein, has plenty of fiber, and isn’t loaded with fat or cholesterol (in fact, it has no cholesterol, saturated or trans-fat and is just 5% fat).

I served my stir-fry over a rice pilaf for a quick, simple, and delicious meal. I’m going to try their beef-free crumble next for a taco meal!

simple dinner

I like that technology is helping reinvent meat and that through technology we can harness plants to create healthy delicious meat alternatives. It has a lot of potential in developing nations too, not just on the plates of people in the developed world.

Biz Stone, vegan and founder of Twitter, is also financially invested in Beyond Meat. Perhaps the future of meat is vegan.

Instead of eggs

I’ve written about the inherent cruelty of the egg industry and why vegans don’t eat eggs. When I nix one item, I like to offer a vegan substitute, so let’s look at other ingredients that you can use instead of eggs.

Baking: To get baked goods to stick together, use applesauce, flax seeds, or a banana. Applesauce is sweet and keeps foods moist. Use 1/4 cup instead of one egg. Bananas hold baked goods together and add sweetness too. Use one small banana instead of an egg. Flax seeds will bind without the added flavor of apple or banana. Mix one tablespoon of ground flax seeds with three tablespoons of warm water and stir until it gets thick and sticky.

Ener-G Egg Replacer is a powdered product (of potato starch, tapioca and other ingredients) that has leavening properties and is a great egg alternative. 1-1/2 teaspoons of egg replacer and 2 tablespoons of water mixed together is the perfect amount to replace one egg.

Using vegan recipes will help you get the right substitutions and ratios, but after you get the hang of it, you can veganize almost any recipe. Use the ideas on this page from PETA for more substitutes.tofu scramble

Cooking: If you crave scrambled eggs, you can crumble firm tofu into a pan with onion, mushrooms, peppers, or whatever else you’d like. Add the tofu after all the other ingredients are cooked. It doesn’t need to be heated up for long. It’s ready to eat and just needs warming up really.

Tofu is bland, which means you can add your own flavor and color with turmeric, soy sauce and a touch of kala namak (Indian salt that adds an eggy flavor). Add a little Daiya vegan cheese, and you’ll never miss a traditional scramble.

I recently made a grits casserole using tofu instead of eggs and it was great! You can use tofu to make egg salad too.

I made a mock tuna salad using garbanzo beans. It was more like an egg salad. I wasn’t going to fool anyone (it didn’t completely mimic eggs), but it was a very satisfying meal. Veganaise or Nayonaise are great mayo substitutes–for salads or on sandwiches.deviled potatoes

I have yet to make vegan French toast, but I’ve ordered it in restaurants and I know if can be made with a batter of non-dairy milk, flour, cinnamon and sugar.

The heavenly potatoes I make are a delicious devilled egg substitute. If you’re really ambitious, try this version of deviled eggs.

A new product called the Vegg is on the market now. When I try it, I’ll review it here. It’s used to make vegan cakes, custard, French toast and Hollandaise sauce (and more).

More info:

Is there anything egg-related you’re craving? Do you have other egg replacement ideas?

Cheddar beer bread

When I was a university student, I made the easiest bread–but the recipe wasn’t vegan. After going vegan, I missed that bread, but I never thought to veganize it. So imagine my delight when I found a vegan version on the Daiya website.

Here’s what it looks like. Tempted? Read on!

cheddar beer bread

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Daiya Cheddar Style Shreds
  • 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp. baking powder
  • 3 tbsp. organic cane sugar
  • 1 tsp. fine sea salt
  • 1 bottle of beer, room temperature (341 mL lager or light ale)
  • 2 tbsp. dairy-free margarine, melted

ingredients

First, preheat your oven to 375 F and grease a 9” x 5” loaf pan. This is a good time to melt the margarine.

Mix together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in large bowl and then stir in the cheese. Pour the bottle of beer into the bowl and stir just until batter is moistened. I used Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. It’s a vegan beer! Don’t overmix. The batter will be lumpy. That’s okay.

Spread the batter in your loaf pan and pour melted margarine evenly over top.

Bake loaf for 35-40 minutes until golden brown and knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool loaf in pan for 10 minutes before transferring to wire rack. Cool completely before slicing.

finished bread

The bread is easy to make, foolproof, and delicious! I ate it with a hearty vegan stew. Perfect for dipping! It’s great on its own too. A yummy snack.

Vegan motorcycle jackets

I’ve already written about motorcycle safety gear for the avid rider, but what about the moto look for fashion? You won’t need to be protected, but if you want to look good and steer clear of leather, you’ve got options!

Here’s the classic James Dean style jacket–with a twist: The pleather is quilted. I love this jacket and recently got it on sale at Aeropostale. You can find a lot of faux leather options at this place. And unlike leather, you won’t have to worry about a little rain.

classic jacket

For guys, how about this faux suede moto jacket? It’s a Perry Ellis design from Nordstrom. My husband didn’t mind the faux. He was happy actually, and pointed out that a lot of high-end cars use Alicante (a durable, water-resistant faux suede) in their interiors.

faux suede

If you don’t need to replicate the look of leather but love the moto style, check out a few other options like this brown velvet version and a bright yellow cotton one. The velvet jacket is from Forever 21 and the cotton one I found (new) on eBay.

velvet and cotton

I couple of other takes include a blush pink number from JC Penney and a fabric and pleather one also from Forever 21.

leather alternatives

I recently spotted a slew of great motorcycle jackets in the Macy’s juniors department. These are by American Rag and come in a lot of great shades.

faux leather jackets

So far, most of the jackets I’ve shown are lower end, often juniors, and they’re likely faux because faux is often cheaper (for the younger demographic). But you don’t have to go cheap to go faux. Vaute Couture, the vegan fashion house out of Brooklyn, makes a great classic moto jacket in v-wool for men and women and waxed canvas, also in men’s and women’s sizes.

Vaute jackets (photo c/o Vaute Couture)

You can check out Alternative Outfitters too, a vegan online retailer, to find jackets that are cruelty-free. Other stores like Free People and ModCloth are good sources too and carry cute vegan options. Do a search on their sites for vegan or faux and you’re bound to find something.

No matter what price point or style you’re looking for, you can avoid animal skins easily, thanks to the abundant choices we have these days. Happy shopping!

No warm fuzzies with angora

I’ve often wondered about angora production. The soft, fuzzy sweaters, mitts and hats that pop up in stores each fall seem so cozy. I’ve never bought angora though.

Angora can refer to cats, goats, ferrets, but it’s the angora rabbit that people use for wool. To get angora, the animals don’t need to be killed, which is why many people don’t think about it as a cruel industry. Angora can be combed, shorn, or plucked.

What? Yes, I wrote that. Plucked! Shearing results in shorter hair, so often plucking is preferred. Angora molt every few months, and in theory, pulling loose hair from a rabbit shouldn’t hurt, but as with everything, care and welfare is abandoned when volume goes up and there’s money to be made.

Angora Rabbit from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:White_Satin_Angora_Rabbit.jpgNinety percent of angora comes from China, where there are no animal welfare standards and no oversight into the angora industry. Recent undercover video shows rabbits screaming in pain as they’re plucked. I didn’t even know rabbits could scream. It’s heartbreaking. And after being plucked, they lie in shock in their filthy cages. After 3 to 5 years of this abuse, they’re killed). You can read more about the developments here (the video is embedded but won’t play automatically, so you don’t have to watch it).

If 90% of angora comes from these conditions, it makes sense that 90% of the angora in the stores is cruelly sourced. Frankly, even shearing doesn’t look humane to me. In this video, a woman boasts about how well her rabbits are treated, but she ties up one rabbit’s legs, stretches him and rotates him like a spit pig (minus the skewer).

The video isn’t graphic per se, but it’s not how I would like to be handled on a quarterly basis. Kind or cruel, why should they live in cages to be wool-making machines? Rabbits need to forage and burrow. It’s another example of commodification. These rabbits are slaves for our fashion and treated like nothing more than money-making machines.

animals are not fabric

To quote the slogan on my new favorite sweater (from The Tree Kisser’s website), animals are not fabric.

If you want to help, here’s how:

  • Don’t wear or buy angora.
  • Ask the stores you shop at not to carry angora.
  • Sign the petitions linked to in this article and tell stores like The Gap and Zara to stop carrying angora

(Update: Zara and The Gap, along with Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein, suspended further angora purchases pending investigation. H&M and ASOS have vowed to stop selling it permanently. Pressure works! Keep on these retailers. They make money from us, so we have a say!).

6 ways to help animals this season

It’s December already and that means it’s the season of giving. In the spirit of Christmas, here are a few ways you can help animals:

Become vegan – Not eating animals is the number one thing you can do to help them. If you’re an animal lover, start your plan to transition to veganism today! You can find links on the right that will take you to sites that offer starter kits with recipes and nutritional info.

Don’t give animals as gifts – A dog or a cat is a ten to twenty year commitment. Giving an animal as a gift is giving someone a boatload of responsibility–and expenses! If someone isn’t ready for that, it’s likely their new animal will end up in a shelter. If you know someone really is ready for a companion animal, consider giving a gift certificate to a pet supply store. They’ll definitely need it when they have to feed and care for their new animal.

Adopt, don’t shop – If you’re planning to add an animal to your household, and all family members are on board, visit local shelters, rescue groups, or check out the nationwide network on petfinder.com. Contrary to what some people think, purebred and young animals are available for adoption. Then again, older animals are usually calmer and house-trained. They’re often a great choice.

Rescued animals are great, but they'll steal your heart--and your bed.

Give to charities that don’t exploit animalsGiving livestock to a poor family in a developing nation might sound noble but it’s a burden for people who can barely feed themselves. Instead of giving to organizations that give animals, consider supporting ones like Vegfam, Trees for Life, or Plenty. These groups work with local communities to provide plant-based meals, education, disaster relief, and clean water.

Sponsor an animal – What do you give someone who has everything? How about sponsoring an animal in their name? You can choose from farm animals, rescued primates, dogs and cats, or wild animals at a number of sanctuaries. Every animal rescue group needs funds, and many offer official sponsor programs, like Pig Peace, PAWS, Farm Sanctuary, Chimpanzee Sanctuary NW, Soi Dog (Thai street dog rescue), and the Performing Animal Welfare Society.

Give swag – Message gear is a fun way to give to someone, support a great cause, and spread the pro-animal message. If you know someone who supports animal causes, why not give them something from those groups? From chimpanzee wine, message mugs, cookbooks and vegan slogan T’s, there’s something for everyone.

photos (c) Herbivore

These are my ideas for helping animals during the holiday season (not that we have to limit ourselves to just December). Do you have any other ideas?