Monthly Archives: October 2013

Good News! Stories We Dig From Around the Web

A round-up of VT editors’ favorite newsworthy links.

Produce companies will soon be allowed to use Sesame Street characters to market fruits and veggies free of charge. (A recent study showed that twice as many kids chose to eat an apple over a cookie when the apple had an Elmo sticker on it.) [Washington Post]

Move over, cheesesteaks! Philadelphia becomes the latest city to adopt Meatless Mondays. Not sure where to eat veg in the City of Brotherly Love? Check out our Vegging Out series. []

Forbes names “high-end vegan” as one of the top food trends of 2013. Think Tal Ronnen’s new Los Angeles restaurant Crossroads, with fancy dishes such as these scrumptious-looking artichoke “oysters.” [Forbes]

In an effort to stop animal abuse and prevent the spread of disease, Jakarta bans monkey shows. The streetside performances often involve torturous training sessions and put monkeys at increased risk of tuberculosis and hepatitis. [Huffington Post]



Copy Cat in the Kitchen: Shakshuka


After we shipped a recent issue of VT, I took a few days off. I spent the time working in the yard, shuttling Rambunctious 9-Year-Old Boy (R9B) to and from flag football games, and taking three fewer naps than I’d intended. I also realized I’d forgotten the book with the recipe I’d planned to use for this installment of Copy Cat in the Kitchen.

Fear not, dear reader, has “the world’s largest collection of vegetarian recipes” to choose from, including the Shakshuka recipe that made the cover of the June 2012 issue.

I loved this Israeli breakfast recipe when we tasted it at VT HQ last year. And I was pretty confident my Better Half (B1/2) would like it. It’s a colorful recipe, so no way Picky 2-Year-Old Girl (P2G) would clean her plate, but she likes eggs, so maybe.…

R9B was the wild card. He’ll eat eggs if they’re scrambled or if he can skip the yolks, but he generally likes his tomatoes in sauce form. You know, on pizza or spaghetti. Kid favorites.

Making the recipe was no problem. I’d once edited it, so I had no trouble following the instructions. Cooking onions and garlic bring out the raves from B1/2 and R9B whenever the aroma reaches their nostrils. The recipe came out looking much like the image on the cover. Let’s eat!

P2G looked at it and scrunched her face. She turned to me: “I don’t like it. Eat it.”

“Just eat the egg, sweetie.” (At least the whites, please.)

“No!” She turned to B1/2: “Mommy, eat it.”

B1/2 got up and rummaged through the pantry for something beige. P2G had cashews for dinner. Better that than sour cream–flavored corn puffs.

I looked at R9B. “This gets an A,” he said. The rate at which he ate it said he’d really give it a B, but he claimed he was full from inhaling sour cream–flavored corn puffs shortly before dinner. (Snacking on junk so close to dinner drives me crazy. One of these days, I’ll make some appetizers to test on the Cat Clan.) He did, however, clean his plate. And he said he’d eat it again.

B1/2’s review and recommendation was similar to those on the VT Web site: “This gets an A, but it would be an A+ if it were served over rice.”

How we got to letter grades, I’m not certain. We were probably talking about school when dinner was served. Anyway, I cleaned my plate.

There were some leftovers sans eggs when we finished. B1/2 finished the leftovers (over rice, with two eggs) the following day.

The Scorecard

Three clean plates out of four.


Cinnamon-vanilla banana milkshake [Vegan]

Most health drinks claim to taste as delicious as favorite bad-for-you food items. The worst offenders are usually protein bars and protein shakes. But with this recipe, you get all the good flavor of a milkshake and all the nutrition of a protein drink.

Become independent:

Movie on a Mission: The Ghosts in Our Machine

Photo by Jo-Anne McArthur

“As a front-line activist and photographer, I’m often in the trenches,” explains Jo-Anne McArthur, who says in the film The Ghosts in Our Machine that she feels like a war correspondent. The lyrical, often wordless, film is directed by Liz Marshall and shadows McArthur as she documents the lives of animals in research labs and in fur and factory farms. Fortunately for the viewer as well as McArthur, these investigations are balanced by her visits to Farm Sanctuary in New York, where rescued animals are rehabilitated and receive lifelong loving care. McArthur’s sense of mission is palpable in the film, as well as in her answers to questions I raised after watching The Ghosts in Our Machine.


During the sequence where you’re photographing caged foxes at a fur farm, you say you’re not there to liberate them, but to document them. How do you keep that focus?

I go in knowing that I have a limited amount of time to do the best possible work I can, all the while under very stressful conditions, what with the animals suffering so much, and the chance we could get caught. I absolutely have to remain focused. The [undercover] investigators and I put a lot of effort into planning these visits, and sometimes there are only one or two opportunities to get in there and do the work well, to try and connect with and document the animals in the most meaningful way. I have to work quickly and deliberately. All my focus is on the animals and on the photography. It’s emotional, but I deal with that later, not on-site.


You say what’s most important in your work is to create a connection between the animals you photograph and the human viewer. How do you achieve this?

When most of us take photos, we take them from a typical human eye height and from too far away. My advice for photographing animals is to get to their eye level, get close, and be patient. I try to make gentle contact with them, not by touching them but by talking to them and letting them know through my body language that I’m not a human to be feared. We look at one another. I document that gaze, and through those photos, thousands or millions of others can connect with that gaze as well. The eyes speak volumes.


In the film, you comment that the history of animal rights is changing. How so?

The use of animals is one of the most ingrained and normalized aspects of virtually all cultures, but now more than ever there is a global dialogue about animal use. From North America to China to India, Kenya, and Australia, the use of animals and animal rights is becoming part of the public discourse. We see it in the news every day now. More than ever, people aren’t only speaking up for animal rights, but are also eschewing the use of animals altogether. Consumer habits are slowly changing, and whether someone uses animals or not, we all agree that we don’t want to see them abused. Systemic abuse is being investigated, exposed, and called upon to change. So, things are indeed changing, and greater numbers of us human animals are taking part in that change.

Photo by Jo-Anne McArthur


4 Plant Foods You Should Cook Before Eating


Raw food diets are lauded by some as the healthiest way to eat. While it is certainly good to eat raw vegetables and fruits, studies show that some foods are better for our bodies when we cook them. Here are four foods that you are better off cooking:

Mushrooms  Mushrooms, even common button mushrooms, contain traces of carcinogenic compounds in raw form. The same toxin, hydrazine, is also found in portobello mushrooms, and shiitake mushrooms contain a naturally occurring fomaldehyde. Both chemicals are heat-sensitive and abolished upon exposure to heat. You might think nothing of eating a few slices of button mushrooms raw, but to get the anti-cancer effects of mushrooms, eat them cooked. A 2009 study published in the International Journal of Cancer found that regular consumption of cooked mushrooms has been shown to decrease the risk of breast cancer by 60 percent.

Corn  Cooking corn increases its antioxidant activity; when the ability to quench free-radicals was measured, cooked corn outperformed raw corn by between 25 to 50 percent! Cooking corn releases a phytochemical called ferulic acid, which is an anti-cancer superstar. Ferulic acid is present in tiny amounts in most fruits and vegetables, but it is found in very high amounts in corn. Cooking corn helps increase your body’s absorption of ferulic acid by a gargantuan 500 to 900 percent.

Tomatoes  Tomatoes are known for their high levels of lycopene, a potent antioxidant, but lycopene levels jump through the roof when tomatoes are cooked. Cornell University conducted a study in which the ability to absorb lycopene cooked at varying temperatures was measured; tomatoes were heated for 2 minutes, 15 minutes, and 30 minutes. Levels of these disease-fighting warriors went up with each incremental increase in heating.

Beans  Choking hazards aside, there are poisonous compounds present in raw beans; for instance, raw kidney beans contain a toxin that, at a level as low as 1 percent, causes death in rats within two weeks. All raw beans contain lectins, potentially toxic protein compounds that can damage the heart, kidneys, liver, and intestines; and inhibit cell digestion—yet are destroyed upon cooking. Then you can enjoy the many health benefits of beans, whether you choose a comforting bowl of three-bean chili or top a fresh salad with cooked black beans or chickpeas.

That’s a pretty simple list to remember. Another handy fact to keep in mind is that steaming veggies and making vegetable soups changes the plants’ cell structures so that fewer of your own enzymes are needed to digest the food, not more.

When you steam vegetables or make vegetable soup, the temperature is fixed at 212°F—the temperature of boiling water. Both of these cooking methods avoid the formation of heat-created toxins called acrylamides. The same cannot be said for higher-heat cooking techniques such as roasting and baking. However, roasting/toasting at low temperatures below 200°F does not create a significant level of harmful compounds.


Dear VT: Best Veg Substitutes for Bacon?

We get lots of questions from our readers. Here, VT editors respond.

Tempeh Bacon

VT reader Richard asks: ”I am switching to a vegetarian lifestyle, but I still on occasion crave meat. Just wondering if you had a good alternative to bacon? Seems to be my worst addiction.” 

Not to worry, Richard! You don’t need bacon to get that rich, smoky flavor and crisp-chewy texture. (Extra incentive to ditch it: a new study finds that eating bacon regularly could negatively impact male fertility.) You can always find veggie bacon strips in the supermarket fridge or freezer section, but if you want to get more creative, here are five easy swaps.

  • Sun-dried tomatoes The oil-packed kind adds rich, salty goodness to scrambled eggs, soups, and pastas. Use in moderation—a little goes a long way.
  • Crispy fried shallots Got oil? Got shallots? That’s all you need to make this crunchy, sprinkle-on-anything topping. (Try the ones in our Green Beans with Walnuts and Shallot Crisps.)
  • Veggie chips VT food editor Mary Margaret Chappell is all about putting BBQ-flavored Terra Chips in her CLT sandwich (chips, lettuce, tomato). Other smoky sammie add-ins: grilled tofu slices and smoked cheese.
  • Roasted mushrooms Earthy-tasting shiitakes get crispy on the outside but stay juicy on the inside. Marinate in soy sauce to up the umami factor.
  • Tempeh bacon Make it yourself with this vintage VT recipe, or whip up the crumbles in our Warm German Potato Salad. They take only 5 minutes to make!

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