As summer approaches, grilling vegetables is a fun way to cook! This article from MSU offers several good tips for grilling veggies and fruits!
Not always easy to find stylish men's vegan shoes, but di Romeo, an Italian brand, has a nice collection!
It wasn’t long ago when I thought the way we eat was never going to change. In that time I’ve also learned never to say never. It’s apparent that a new dawn has come to our eating habits and the sun is rising on a dramatic culinary renaissance.
Vegetables, grains, fruit, and nuts are no longer ingredients for side dishes and snacks. They are becoming the main meal in thousands of different combinations and creations. Where flavor was something that was prepared for meat before grilling, it is now an art form to make vegetable meals taste amazing for even those who shun the site of green on their plates. Dairy and eggs are no longer essential ingredients in baking, as more natural ways to make cupcakes, cookies, and pies have been established and perfected. Raw desserts are just as good as their baked counterparts.
The definitions of food are rapidly changing. While original methods to replace meat were to substitute vegetable look-a-likes, such as black bean burgers, faux chicken wings, and crispy tofu bacon, now new types of meals are arising that leave meat-based comfort food behind with new inventions by ingenious and compassionate chefs and home cooks.
Even how we eat is transforming with smaller portions, less salt, sugars, and fat, and new foods for snacking in between meals such as kale chips, roasted seaweed, and more fruit. With less meat comes less need for the use of knives and greater combinations of easy-to-consume and digest foods on the plate. The concept of condiments is changing, too, as hummus or avocado replace mayonnaise and dairy-based sauces on sandwiches.
Alternative protein sources beyond soy are gaining ground such as quinoa, pea protein, garbanzos, rice protein, and lentils among others making it easier to integrate protein into meals without having it dominate the dish. The identification of life balancing foods has also sped the evolution of recipes as anti-inflammatory, probiotic, prebiotic, detox, anti-oxidant, fiber-rich, brain-boosting, skin healing, and anti-aging ingredients are demanded as important elements of every meal. It’s hard to include these benefits in a hamburger, but they can be easily combined in vegan stews, soups, and salads and be just as filling.
The need to combat chronic illness and obesity by avoiding the traditional American diet is becoming widely accepted spurring more people to try alternative ways of eating with some being healed from the most pernicious diseases simply by adopting a vegan diet. The consumption of red meat has declined several years in a row as evidence.
Lastly, we are seeing the initial growth of vegetarian and vegan communities with schools, apartments building, grocery stores, and clothing stores going meat and cruelty free. Although they are not concentrated in any particular area, eventually they will aggregate within urban areas leading to new lifestyles which will evolve and develop in a myriad of manifestations.
The warmth and glow of these changes is affecting diet, cooking, and lifestyles in wonderful ways. Even if you missed the rise of this sun, you can still bask in its benevolent rays for years to come!
Public School 244 in Queens is now all vegetarian according the this article from IBT. The school offers pre-kindergarten to 3rd grade and started serving vegetarian meals in its cafeteria for lunch a few times a week. It noticed that the students started to gravitate towards the meals and finally decided to go vegetarian every day. Studies have shown that kids perform better in school with better nutrition and this meal plan will create a wonderful environment for students to learn!
If you walk through the natural beverage section of your supermarket, you might see an abundance of products labeled as probiotic or prebiotic. It has become a big trend in food marketing lately as more awareness has been given to the benefits of aiding the good bacteria in the gut. When good bacteria outnumber bad bacteria, the body operates better. Good bacteria can be stimulated simply by diet and a healthy lifestyle.
The health of the digestive system is important for everyone. A properly functioning digestive system and gut helps fight off disease and may boost the immune system. Within the digestive system are a large amount of bacteria – some are good and some are harmful. Probiotics are good gut bacteria - microorganisms which have very beneficial properties. When the good bacteria are activated, they can help prevent health problems by keeping the digestive organs functioning the right way.
The NIH provides this summary of probiotics:
"The World Health Organization defines probiotics as "live microorganisms, which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host." The most common types of these beneficial bacteria are Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria. Previous studies indicate that probiotics may have a role in treating gastrointestinal illnesses, boosting immunity, and preventing or slowing the development of certain types of cancer."
You can take advantage of several fermented probiotic foods with a vegan diet including tempeh, miso, soy yogurt with active bacteria, kimchi, and sauerkraut.
Prebiotics are food for the good bacteria and include dietary fiber which can be supplied by many vegan ingredients including legumes and dark leafy greens. The combination of prebiotics and probiotics is called synbiotics which works to make good bacteria dominant in your system.
A healthy vegan diet can provide a synbiotic condition, especially when the combination of fresh ingredients and fermented ingredients are eaten. So even though there are many new packaged products labeled as probiotic, the best way still to aid the good bacteria in your body is to eat as many great vegetables and vegan ingredients as often as you can!
Can cooking lead to well-being? I know it can. Cooking is creativity and therein lies a key to happiness.
When we are involved in creative activities that we enjoy, we are usually living in the present. Distractions become minimized or disappear altogether. We become less conscious of things that worry us as we focus on the activity at hand. Our energy becomes concentrated on the activity and is less dispersed augmenting our awareness of the moment. Such energy may even become a passion.
When one first starts cooking there may be fears of failure, but overtime, those fears subside as a failed recipe is just one step closer to an amazing meal. In fact, as we become better at cooking, failed recipes usually don’t fail that badly and are still decent. Knowledge of ingredients, proportions, and flavors allow risk taking in a good way and minimize the creation of inedible combinations.
Most importantly, as one’s skills improve in the kitchen, one learns to undertake recipes that match those skills and don’t overwhelm with impossible challenges. We take on what we can handle, master it, and then look to the next level with eagerness and confidence further utilizing our creative and physical energy in constructive ways.
Learning to cook vegan food has led me to more happiness and well-being for all of these reasons. It can do the same thing for you! Cooking in a new way leads to new ideas and new thoughts. It produces new flavorful achievements which will be recognized immediately by you and eventually reach family and friends. Being creative in the kitchen will occasion wonderful surprises every day and be a source of inspiration and pride which is always the best therapy!
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India has long been known for its vegetarian cuisine. One of its oldest active religions, Jainism, is primarily vegetarian. Ahimsa or non-violence was popularized in India by its most famous figure, Gandhi, who was vegetarian. So it’s not uncommon for people intrigued by plant-based diets to want to visit India to see its culture and experience its delicious food. However, because of India’s geographic size, it can be hard to choose where to go.
One of the best places to see for the first time visitor is Kerala, a small state in the southwest tip of India. Kerala has several unique features that make it a fascinating and rewarding place for vegans and vegetarians to visit.
Abundance of Locally Grown Food
Kerala has three distinct topographies, separated by elevation, allowing for a limitless variety of agriculture. The lowlands are full of very lush tropical vegetation. The hot humid weather is good for growing rice, coconuts, bananas, and mangos. The landscape is dominated by rice fields and dense coconut forests. This region receives a lot of rain, especially from June to September, providing constant irrigation.
The midlands are higher in elevation where rubber trees, cashews, pineapples, and jack fruit grow in abundance. The weather is slightly cooler and green hills and deep valleys define the landscape.
The highest region is on the western slope of the Western Ghats Mountains. The main towns are at an elevation of 4000 feet above sea level, so the surrounding farms grow temperate vegetables such as corn, potatoes, and squash. Also, vast tea estates cover much of the steep landscape supplying India and the world with high quality teas.
Kerala is a very developed state and a top tourist destination. The people are friendly and highly literate. Cochin, one of the main cities to visit, has an interesting history. It’s where Vasco de Gama, the Portuguese explorer, landed in India in 1498, lured by the pepper trade. His house is still there to see. There is also an active Jewish synagogue in Cochin, built in 1568, the oldest one in India.
Kerala is home to the famous backwaters. The backwaters are a unique 900 kilometer network of inland waterways parallel to the coast. Large dikes separate the lakes from canals. On the dikes are the homes, schools, churches and shops of the villagers. People travel by canoes, ride bikes along the dikes, or take powered water taxis for transportation. One of the main crops is rice. Kerala rice is best known for its aromatic flavor. Large wooden barges were used to transport rice from the fields up the canals to the main seaport of Cochin.
One of the best ways to enjoy the bountiful array of foods grown locally is to take an overnight cruise on a traditional rice barge through the canals, rivers, and lakes around Alappuzha, a large coastal town south of Cochin. A rice barge is a long boat with a wooden hull and thatched roof covering the cabins, kitchen and viewing decks. The boats can be 80 feet long and have one or two decks. The entire boat is tied together using coir (coconut fiber) instead of nails making it eco-friendly.
For tourists, the rice barge is an inexpensive way to see the backwaters and experience the colorful rural life. An overnight rental of the boat comes with chef and crew. Lunch on the first day is served, then a snack, with dinner at night, and breakfast in the morning before returning to the jetty in Alappuzha. When we booked the boat we asked for vegan meals which was easy for the chef to accommodate using all of the locally grown ingredients - spices, curry leaf, turmeric, coconut milk, fragrant rice, and limitless vegetables and fruit.
For three great meals, we enjoyed fresh vegan food with local ingredients, including a thick vegetable curry over Kerala rice and a spicy green bean, carrot, and mango salad. For the first time traveler to India, it was a peaceful way to try its vegan cuisine while experiencing the tranquil and tropical countryside of Kerala. For a vegan traveler, it couldn’t get better!
Earth Day, April 22, falls on a Meatless Monday this year, so people will have a double incentive to eat vegan meals. Vegan is the "new green." You can do more for the planet by going vegan than you can by recycling, using cloth bags, taking short showers and walking to work. These actions are important and worthwhile, of course - but if you're serious about saving the environment, you should opt for vegan foods instead of animal flesh.
A nice essay by Heather Moore of PETA about the impact of veganism, its growing popularity, and the occurrence of Earth Day on Meatless Monday! Being vegan incorporates all aspects of the Green movement and makes caring for the environment a simple culinary decision. Everyone can do it!
'Vegan Spring' is a festival in Hanover, Germany, which took place on April 13, and had a high attendance according to this article from Deutsche Welle. Vendors sold vegan food and promoted vegan clothing and in general promoted the vegan lifestyle. Over 1000 people attended the fair which was good for vendors and a sign of the times. With veganism attracting more interest in the U.S., it's nice to see similar trends in other countries with meat-focused cuisines!
U.S. Vegetarian Week starts on April 22 and goes through the 28th. Many are preparing to take the 7 day vegetarian pledge including a couple politicians from California. California State Senator Ted Lieu and Assemblymember Das Williams both plan to give it a try which is great news!
LA has become a major hub of vegetarian and vegan activity with cool restaurants and festivals. It is nice to see the city embracing the vegan lifestyle and influencing everyone to try compassionate eating and living. The 7 day pledge of eating no meat is doable and a good way to try new meals with a plant based focus. Taste buds do change and learning to enjoy vegetables as the main course just takes trying new recipes and appreciating the flavor and freshness of well cooked food.
US Vegetarian Week has a lot of momentum behind it with more people trying veganism and vegetarianism in 2013. Hopefully the one week pledge will turn in the two weeks and then three!
Make Simple Vegan Meals