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    Vegan Apple Oat Cookies

    5 Tbs vegan butter, slightly softened (we used Earth Balance Organic Coconut Spread*)

    1/2 cup brown sugar

    1/2 tsp vanilla extract

    1/4 cup apple sauce

    1/3 cup of flour

    1/4 tsp baking soda

    1 1/4 cups of rolled oats

    1/4 cup walnuts, chopped

    1/4 cup dried apple rings, finely chopped

    *note: this does impart a slight coconut flavor, so, you can use margarine instead if you don't care for coconut

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment. Mix the butter, brown sugar, and vanilla until creamy. Add the applesauce & mix. Add the rolled oats and mix a bit more. Allow to sit for a few minutes. Add the flour and baking soda and mix once more. Finally, fold in the nuts and apples. Drop by tablespoonfuls on to the cookie sheet. Bake for around 12 minutes or until lightly browned. Makes about 16 sweet, soft, apple-y cookies. Enjoy!

    This recipe was adapted from The Big Book of Cookies by Catherine Atkinson. The original recipe calls for butter, eggs, additional white sugar, salt, and raisins. I added the nuts, and eliminated the animal products, raisins, and extra sugar.

    Posted: Jul 16 2012, 22:23 by kelly | Comments (0) RSS comment feed |
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    I Imagine a Future of Compassion - On Becoming Vegan

    Think occasionally of the suffering of which you spare yourself the sight.

    ~Albert Schweitzer

    It's not too often in this short life you have truly life-changing experiences. Maybe the opportunities for such occurrences don't come about with frequency. Perhaps our hearts aren't always open. But occasionally, the giver of such opportunity and the recipient are in synch. All planets in alignment, so to speak, and the intended message, and subsequent experience, comes across loud & clear. This past week, such an opportunity presented itself to myself and my family.

    We had the occasion to visit a place called the Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, New York. It's a beautiful place, rural (rural, anyhow to my Philadelphia-suburbs-living self), hilly, graced with wildflowers, lakes, streams, and lush woods. We came to the Farm Sanctuary thinking we would be simply visiting a zoo of sorts - a place where our children could come pet the rescued farm animals. What we left with was a far greater and deeper understanding of animals, the current state of factory farming, an introduction to the phenomenon of carnism (the human belief system that certain animals are okay to love and protect, while others are okay to kill and eat), and a real connection with farm animals that I've never in my 30-something years on this planet experienced before. Have you ever had the chance to pet and talk to a turkey (yes, a turkey)? I had the opportunity to do just that, and it was an eye-opening experience.

    Farm animals, truly, farms in general (again, being a suburban gal), have always been a bit elusive and distant to me. I'd venture to say the case is similar for most people living in the United States in the 21st century. In the US, most of us live in the suburbs or city and our encounters with farms, or farm animals, are brief and fleeting - a school field trip here, a farmer's market there. Most of our food purchases come from grocery stores, not directly from farmers. So, for the majority of North Americans, the connection with the living, feeling beings that live on farms - cows, pigs, chickens - and the food on our plates is tenuous; in some cases non-existent. Our grocery stores don't help the matter, either - there's no brilliantly colored photograph of the cow that donated her life on the wrapper of the shiny wrapped ground beef that you purchase in the store, no connection between the farm and the food. The fact is, for most folks, a bowl of cereal is a banana is a hamburger; just something to eat. The story of the cow's life before the burger doesn't even cross the mind. Of course, that being said, being a greenhorn when it comes to farming doesn't automatically correlate with ignorance surrounding food origins. For myself, being a vegetarian for over 20 years, I may not have ever spent time around a cow, but I've understood for a good long time that cows are alive, and that I wasn't comfortable eating them. But I know I'm in the minority; just look at any menu in any mainstream restaurant - the vast majority of items available for consumption are animal-based or contain animal derivatives - the names have been changed, of course. As the meat department in your local store doesn't show photographs of cows, the menu in your local restaurant doesn't call its hamburgers cowburgers. So, while the lack of physical or even suggested connection with the source of our food may not be the only motivating factor in why so many people choose animal-based diets, it certainly is a considerable factor; perhaps the most substantial. People don't see the meat on their plates as once being alive.

    One of the Farm Sanctuary's goals is to end that disconnect; to "bridge that gap most people have in understanding and empathizing with farm animals, which is a result of the fact that they rarely have an opportunity to interact with them in their everyday lives" [Bruce Friedrich] I can tell you that when you have the opportunity to: walk amongst a herd of cows out in a field and see a baby calf peeking out from around her mother's leg, have your hand licked by the rough tongue of a huge cow so incredibly gentle and receptive to human interaction, pet dozing pigs' bellies, or stroke the rough fur of a 3,000 pound bull... you don't forget the experience. It touches your soul. Vegetarian or not. Animal lover or not. You just can't help but be affected when a (former) dairy goat leans her body against your leg (not unlike my dog used to do) - connecting, communicating without words. When you walk around Farm Sanctuary - freely able to interact with the animals - that gap they're trying to bridge… doesn't feel like a gap at all.

    While at the farm, we not only had the opportunity to meet the animals face-to-face, but we also received a real education about the state of animal treatment and animal consumption in the United States. The number of animals slaughtered for consumption in this country alone (I looked the numbers up later, after getting home) is staggering, and sobering: In 2010, the USDA stat on land animals slaughtered for food (cattle, pigs, chickens/hens, and turkeys) was...

    Are you sitting down? You should be.

    10,153,000,000 Yes, that's billions (and does not include fish/sea life killed for consumption)

    While that number may be astounding, what is perhaps more astounding - and disturbing - is the knowledge that a far-too-large number of those animals (~875 million) die due to malnutrition, mistreatment, disease, injury, or outright slaughter (male chicks are discarded shortly after birth as they are not considered valuable for breeding or meat production purposes). We learned that most farm animals are slaughtered far sooner than their natural life span would dictate; and babies are routinely taken from mothers much earlier than their natural weaning age (which causes great distress to the nursing mother/baby pair, as well as increases the likelihood of illness in the babies from not having sustained breastmilk nourishment). That cows must be pregnant or lactating in order to produce enough milk to keep up with demand and are forced into a highly unnatural cycle of continuous impregnation, birth, and milking; along with hormone injections in many cases, to keep up with demand. That cows' tails are routinely docked without anesthetic in the name of hygiene. That pregnant pigs are often confined to gestation crates for the duration of their pregnancies - with barely enough room to lie down. That the living conditions of most chickens raised for meat are deplorable and sickening - extreme overcrowding, excessive feces, warehouse-like buildings with no access to outside, forced rapid growth that leads to deformities and health conditions. That many ill and injured animals are not protected against slaughter and are as such forced to suffer, often abused on their way to death. I could go on. It's sad that our society condones the mistreatment of so many animals just for the pleasure of eating.

    But still, I feel hopeful. In spite of those chilling facts, and while my heart aches for so many animals I've never met, having experienced the Farm Sanctuary's mission in person gives me hope that things are changing - and that they can continue to change for the better. Through their sanctuaries and website, they are bringing a greater awareness of animal rights to a younger generation (and my own!) by allowing people to really connect with animals in a way that most people don't have the opportunity to do. Their stories of animal rescue from abusive or neglectful situations are awe-inspiring; it was amazing to meet some of the sweet souls who have been rescued - so gentle and trusting, in spite of their past. The people working at the farm were so friendly; not judgmental, just informative. They truly care about animals, the earth, and yes, humans too.

    I left the Farm Sanctuary with my head spinning; saddened, astounded... inspired. It was a touching experience, and as I mentioned at the start, life-changing: as after leaving, and much discussion, we have decided as a family to change the way we eat to an all plant-based diet. We are migrating from being a family of vegetarians to a family of vegans - my husband, my daughter, my son, and myself. Knowing what we now know, it is the right choice, the best choice. I don't want to live making excuses for my choices when I can make a choice that doesn't require apology or defense (going vegan is easy, healthy, economical, peaceful, eco-friendly, and fun!). I know I can do better with my life, we can do better by our environment and our animal cohabitants; as a society I have hope. We can all choose not to ignore the connection between what's on our plate and the animals who have worked or given their lives (and perhaps suffered) to provide our nourishment. We can all vote with our dollars - choosing to buy and consume fewer, or even no, animal products. We can tell others about our choices, and point them in the direction of amazing places like the Farm Sanctuary. We can be heartened by knowing that our small choices - awareness of the source of your food and how those animals are treated, choices to reduce your meat, dairy, and egg consumption, to eat vegetarian, or vegan - can have large repercussions, not only on your own personal health, but on the health of the planet, the health of animals, and our collective future.

    I can imagine a future of compassion and sustainability; I teach my children that it is reachable. Can you and do you?

    If you have the opportunity, I highly encourage you to visit one of the sanctuaries to experience the animals in person, and to educate yourself about the state of farm animal treatment in our country, and the healthy, compassionate, and sustainable choice of a vegan diet.


    For more information on veganism and compassionate living:


    The Farm Sanctuary's Compassionate Communities Campaign

    Veganism in a Nutshell at The Vegetarian Resource Group

    ChooseVeg.com - Info on vegetarian and vegan living

    The Vegan Society - Become a Vegan

    Explore What Vegan Means

    Why Vegan? at the Beautiful-Vegan.com

    Top 10 Vegan Cooking Substitutes at VegNews.com

    Vegan Action

    Becoming a Vegan? Ask Dr. Weil

    On Going Vegan at VegSource.com

    Veg101: Becoming Vegan Starter Guide at The Happy Cow

    Vegan Recipes at VeganLunchBox

    Heart Attack and Women

    Hello readers; it's been a while. Today, I’m going to talk about something serious.
    1 in 3 women will develop cardiovascular disease in their lifetime and 1 in 17 women in the US will have a heart attack or hospitalization for heart disease before the age of 60.
    Heart disease is the leading cause of death in women, regardless of race.
    While waiting somwhere recently, I read a magazine featurette of a woman who had experienced symptoms of fatigue, shortness of breath, and dizziness. She mostly brushed them off, and continued on with her day. As they got progressively worse, her husband encouraged her to see a doctor, who then advised her to head to the hospital because the tests seemed slightly off. She waited at the hospital. (And waited.) While waiting, a man presented with a “typical” heart attack symptom of chest pain and was rushed ahead of her. After hours of waiting she was finally seen by a doctor, where, after more testing, determined that yes, indeed, she had a heart attack.
    After doing a bit of research online, it appears that this woman’s story is not unusual. Women are less likely to report heart attack symptoms, and when they DO report them, they are less likely to be diagnosed with a heart attack. Even when presenting with the same symptoms as men, women’s symptoms are more often diagnosed as “anxiety” than as heart disease.
    In a study at Weill Medical College of Cornell University, 230 doctors were given cases of men & women with identical symptoms; only half of the cases included “feeling anxious” or “having a stressful experience”. In the cases where stress/anxiety was included, doctors diagnosed heart disease in 56% of men compared with 18% (just eighteen percent!) of women. Men were referred to cardiologists twice as often as women and cardiac meds were prescribed to half the men, vs. 13% of the women. Gender bias at work, folks.
    A big part of the problem may be that men’s & women’s heart attack symptoms can differ dramatically. Fewer than 30% of female heart attack suffers reported having chest pain prior to their heart attack, and 43% reported having no chest pain during any phase of their heart attack. NO CHEST PAIN. And yet, according to a study done by the National Institue of Health (“Women’s Early Warning Symptoms of Acute Myocardial Infarction” Circulation. 2003) MOST doctors still consider chest pain as the most significant symptom of a heart attack in both men AND women.
    I’m not sure what to make of this. Is it possible that the popular culture belief that heart attack = chest pain (watch any TV show or movie where someone is suffering a heart attack – they immediately grab their chest & collapse, right?) is so ingrained that even doctors don’t know the facts? Yikes.
    There was a recent survey of 500 doctors, in which only 8% of family doctors were aware that men’s & women’s heart attack symptoms differ. And (are you ready?) only 17% of CARDIOLOGISTS (you know, HEART doctors) were aware of the fact that more women die from heart disease than men. What?
    Ladies, we have a problem here. Women are dying of heart attacks because they aren’t recognizing they’re having them, the people around them aren’t recognizing they’re having them, and even their doctors aren’t recognizing they’re having them.
    It’s time for some education.
    Women, men, doctors, everyone needs to be aware that the symptoms of heart attack in women can be DIFFERENT than the symptoms of heart attacks in men. We need to change the perception that chest-clutching is the main indicator of heart attack.
    Here’s how the symptoms stack up:
    Women’s Top Three Heart Attack Symptoms
    Shortness of Breath
    Unusual Fatigue
    Women also commonly experience these symptoms leading up to & during a heart attack:
    Cold Sweat
    Sleep Disturbance
    Men’s Top Three Heart Attack Symptoms
    Chest Pain
    Discomfort or pain in the arm or back
    Shortness of Breath
    If you experience ANY of these symptoms, don’t ignore them. Tell a loved one, call a doctor. Don’t shrug it off, don’t just soldier on. It may not be anxiety or indigestion. 1 in 17 of you will have a heart attack before you turn 60. That’s less than 25 years away for me, and I don’t particularly like those odds.
    So, now you know the differences. But what can we do to improve our odds at suffering cardiovascular disease? While heart disease is the number one killer of women, it’s also one of the most preventable. The basics:
    Stop smoking. (21.2 million US women smoke. Seriously?)
    Lower your blood pressure. (33% of US women have hypertension)
    Exercise. (at least 20 minutes a day; even walking counts – just move)
    Eat healthy foods. (Lots of fruits, veggies, nuts, and beans. Ditch the meat & dairy.)
    Maintain a healthy weight. (62% of women are overweight, including 33% who are obese)
    Control your diabetes. (7 – 10 million US women have diabetes)
    Don’t drink too much. (limit yourself to one alcoholic drink/day)
    Reduce stress. (Meditate. Write. Yoga. Do something you like, just for you.)
    For more information on heart disease in women:
    Posted: Jul 13 2011, 08:55 by kelly | Comments (3) RSS comment feed |
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    Filed under: Natural Health

    English Muffin Pizza Recipe

    So what do you do when you have hungry kids, not much time, and a lot of stale english muffins? Make english muffin pizzas, of course!
    These are super-easy & fun for small hands to help make. We had so much fun, in fact, that I forgot to take photos of the preparation phase! There’s plenty to do for all levels of skill – splitting the muffins, slicing veggies, spooning sauce, sprinkling cheese, shaking on spices. Makes a perfect, quick, vegetarian lunch or dinner!
    Stale English Muffins (or fresh… but seriously, if you have fresh, just toast & enjoy with butter & jam, as they are meant to be enjoyed!)

    Your favorite tomato sauce

    Shredded mozzarella (or vegan mozzarella) cheese
    Sliced veggies for toppings (we only made cheese this time, but you can add peppers, tomatos, onions, mushrooms, artichokes, olives... get creative!)

    Garlic powder, black pepper, & oregano
    Cut english muffins in half & place on a pizza pan or other surface which allows air to circulate beneath the muffins – if you like crispier crust pizza. [Note: We don’t have a pizza pan, so I baked ours on a cookie “cooling rack” which was set on a cookie sheet. You can also crumple aluminum foil, then uncrumple & line a pan (the wrinkles allow air to flow underneath)] If you like your pizza with softer crust, you can bake directly on a cookie sheet. Spoon 1 – 2 Tbs of sauce onto each muffin – spreading it out almost to the edge. Add veggies or other toppings. Top each with mozzarella cheese – remember to keep the cheese towards the middle of the muffin as it will melt & spread! Shake on garlic, pepper, and oregano to taste. Bake at 450 F for ~10 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly & pizzas are browning lightly on the edges & top. Remove & allow to cool for a few minutes. Then… enjoy!
    Posted: Jul 04 2011, 00:06 by kelly | Comments (9) RSS comment feed |
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    Christmas Cookies

    Vanilla-Almond Buttery Sugar Cookies for Christmas... or Whenever!
    1 cup of unsalted butter, softened (if you use salted, no problem, just skip the added salt, later)
    1 1/4 cups sugar
    1 egg
    1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
    1/2 tsp almond extract
    2 1/4 cups of flour (I like to use white whole wheat for pretty much everything)
    2 tsp baking powder
    1 tsp salt
    yummy sweet decorations of your choice (we used naturally colored sugar sprinkles & semi-sweet chocolate chips for toppings)
    - - - - - - - - - - - - -
    Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Cream your sugar & butter until fluffy, then add vanilla & almond (and try not to eat too much of this because you actually need it for making the cookies!), and finally the egg. In a separate bowl, mix the dry ingredients then add to the creamed mixture a bit at a time until all mixed. You don't need to chill the dough (awesome when you have kids who want the fun part to commence like, now). Divide the dough into two balls if you have a small work space like me, or one big one, if you are feeling adventurous! I used wax paper on our countertop dusted with flour & dusted the rolling pin as well. Roll the dough to 1/8 inch thickness (or whatever).
    We found our metal cookie cutters worked much better than the plastic ones - so I recommend those. Make sure to press all the way through.
    Line your baking sheet with parchment paper & set cookies on on top.
    Decorate to your heart's content, then bake for about 6 - 8 minutes - check frequently because they quickly turn brown. They're ready when lightly browned at the edges. (but still good even when they're really browned - you can always dip them in your tea!)
    Posted: Dec 23 2010, 00:00 by kelly | Comments (1) RSS comment feed |
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    Filed under: Recipes