Book Review – Vegan Finger Foods
When we received a copy of the new book, Vegan Finger Foods, by Celine Steen and Tamasin Nyoes, we were very excited. We love their first book, Vegan Sandwiches Save the Day! and this one looked just as good. As I flipped thought it, i found myself getting hungrier and hungrier. The book consists of five chapters, the first one is made up of tips, a glossary of ingredients, and explanation of the icons used in the book. The rest are the food: Veggie-Centric Finger Feasts, which is pretty much what it sounds like – lots of veggies all dressed up for your party; Stuffed and Dipped - think Sauerkraut-Stuffed Seitan Rounds and Baked Buffalo Tofu Bites; Bread-Based Bites (yesssss!) filled with yumminess like Pull-Apart Pesto Bread and Spinach Swirls; and lastly, A Little Somethig Sweet - tons of mini-muffins, cupcakes and tarlets.
It was hard to decide where to start, so we ended up making a few dinners out of several recipes at once. The first meal was Sushi Rice Rolls which are rice paper wrappers filled with sushi rice, tempeh and veggies served with a super delicious sriracha sauce, along with Kale Cucumber Cups which are thick slices of cukes filled with seasoned kale and sprinkled with sesame seeds. Both were delicious and easy to make. I confess, it was hard not to snack too much while making them. The recipes for these and a write up about the meal can be found here. The second dinner we made was the Mediterranean Meatlessballs with Tomato-Thyme Gravy, which we served with Pull-Apart Pesto Bread. Another winner! I somehow managed to exercise restraint and not gorge myself on the bread before dinner. The full write-up about the meal can be found here, including the recipe for that heavenly bread.
We loved everything we tried from Vegan Finger Foods. It’s the perfect book for entertaining, or when you need to bring something to a pot-luck. The recipes are creative and fun, but most are also simple to put together, so you can make several at a time without breaking a sweat. There’s also a section of menu suggestions, which I love. (Theme party anyone?) Even if you don’t host parties or do much entertaining (we don’t), this is still a book you want in your collection. The individual items can be mixed and matched to make a full, delicious, and fun meal.
Book Review - My Gentle Barn
Everyone deserves a second chance – a chance to heal from the past, a chance to overcome abuse and neglect, a chance to learn to trust and even to love again. The Gentle Barn provides this chance not only for the rescued animals who call the farm home, but also for at-risk kids who visit them. While there, the kids learn the stories of the horses, goats, chickens, cows, pigs, and many others who came from horrible circumstances, but now live a peaceful life where they are safe and loved.
Ellie Laks, founder of The Gentle Barn, didn’t set out to start a sanctuary. In her memoir, My Gentle Barn, she tells her story of a traumatic childhood, a difficult early adulthood, and her journey with animal rescue. Knowing how difficult her start in life was makes Ellie’s story of rescue and hope that much more poignant.
Because of her past, and her recovery from it, Ellie relates to those who are most in need on a visceral level. She’d always had a strong connection with animals and began rescuing the least adoptable dogs from shelters, rehabbing them, and when possible, finding loving forever homes for them. This grew, rather accidentally, into The Gentle Barn.
My Gentle Barn tells this story – from the rescue of a goat named Mary, her first farm animal, to the unexpected notoriety resulting from the farm coming to the attention of Portia DeRossi and Ellen Degeneres. The stories of the individual animals and their recoveries from the abuse and neglect they suffered are stories of hope. They are as impactful to the reader and they are to the at-risk kids who visit the farm. Ellie made it a point to open the farm to programs who help these children because she understood the hope that would come from seeing firsthand that true healing is possible.
Ellie honestly and openly tells the stories of her struggles of learning to care for these animals who needed her help so desperately, the financial difficulties of the farm, and her personal heartbreaks along the way. The reader falls in love with each of the animals and sees them through Ellie’s eyes as the amazing and beautiful individuals they are. We worry for them when they are ill, and celebrate their recoveries. It’s easy to see why, despite struggles along the way, The Gentle Barn has succeeded – Ellie’s heart is as big as the farm she now shares with her family of humans and animals alike. My Gentle Barn is a must-read for anyone who loves animals and who believes in amazing power of hope.
Special thanks to Harmony Books for sending us this book for review.
Movie Review - GMO OMG
Genetically Modified Organisms, GMOs, have been in the news a lot in the last few years. Are they safe? Are they dangerous? Do they harm human health? Are they killing the bees? When we received an invitation to the Atlanta Premier of the movie GMO OMG, we accepted immediately.
Filmmaker Jeremy Seifert was inspired to learn more about the food we eat after the birth of his first child, much as Jonathan Safron Foer of Eating Animals fame was. At the age of three, Jeremy’s son became enamored with seeds and learned his alphabet by copying letters out of the Seed Savers catalog. Around this same time, the horrible earthquake in Haiti occurred, and upon hearing that there were Haitian farmers burning Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds rather than planting them, Jeremy set out to learn why. Why were these people, starving and desperately impoverished, burning the very seeds that would feed them? And so the journey began.
The film chronicles Jeremy - now the father of three of the cutest children ever born - and his family as they travel the country to talk to as many people as possible about GMOs and to try to answer the questions about their safety. It features interviews with farmers who grow GMO crops, organic farmers and activists who oppose the use of such crops, and former congressman Dennis Kucinich who addresses the politics of GMOs and Monsanto. Jeremy also traveled to Europe, where many countries have either put strict regulations on GMOs, including tough labeling laws, or have banned them altogether.
Filled with humor, humility, excellent music, and the aforementioned positively adorable children, GMO OMG will keep you engaged and entertained while providing invaluable information on this controversial topic. It will be screening in several cities around the country in the coming weeks, and will be available on DVD and iTunes in April. If you can catch it in the theater, please do. The screening here had an excellent panel discussion afterwards which was extremely informative, and at times, rather funny.
My Two Cents on GMO Crops
Companies like Monsanto, who produce these seeds, have told us for years that GMOs will feed the world, but in GMO OMG, experts from Rodale Institute point to a 30-year study debunking this crop yield myth. In addition, as one expert mentioned in the film, we already grow enough crops to feed approximately 12 billion people - almost double what the world’s current population is. Now, as a vegan, what is disturbing to me about that number is that 70% of the grain grown in the US is fed to animals, who will then be killed and fed to humans.
The sheer power of companies like Monsanto is daunting, infuriating, and even terrifying. Between their control over the seeds (seeds which you must buy every year as they are patented and therefore cannot be saved for the next year), the lawsuits against farmers whose crops are contaminated by neighboring farms (this constitutes an illegal use of Monsanto’s patented seed), the influence on lawmakers and threats to sue states who try to require GMO labeling, it’s hard to see what can be done to stop them. The answer, I think, is multi-faceted. Voting with your wallet is minimally effective given the sheer scope of GMOs in our food supply, but it is definitely worth doing, if for no other reason than the health of your family. Buying organic food from farmers markets, or even a local CSA, is not only better for your health, but also supports small-scale farms who want to provide quality, organic produce. Activism in the form of marches, petitions, letter-writing and similar activities is important and makes the issue more visible. The most important thing is to let elected officials know that you support stricter regulation of GMO crops and voting for representatives who follow through on these promises is essential.
One truly frightening aspect of this issue is how deeply impacted our ecosystem is by GMO crops. The very insects and weeds these crops are engineered to thwart have developed resistance, and are now more problematic than ever. For example, weeds in fields of Round-Up resistant crops have become resistant to Round Up. There are crops engineered to produce their own pesticide – which cannot be good for humans in my opinion – and now certain insects that it is supposed to kill are not only resistant, but they’re stronger than ever.
Labeling of GMO products is absolutely essential. Monsanto insists they’re safe, but won’t release their data for study, and remember this is the same company who gave us Agent Orange. As important as labeling is, as animal law expert and vegan activist Lee Hall, said to me the other day, it simply isn’t enough – the contamination of non-GMO crops into non-GMO fields is already widespread. This statement, and the resistance of certain weeds and bugs brought to mind some concepts articulated in, of all things, the 1993 film Jurassic Park. Yes. Jurassic Park. Jeff Goldblum’s character, Dr. Ian Malcom, was the voice of reason and the conscience of the story. His statement that “life finds a way” proved to be true, with disastrous results. I fear that we too are headed to disaster with GMOs unless we act swiftly. As Dr. Malcolm said, “…your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.”
Atlanta Veg Fest 2013
I want to start off this post by expressing our gratitude - gratitude first of all for Leigh, who had the vision and drive to bring a veg fest to Atlanta, and gratitude for Brett, Jennifer and Adrienne, who help bring it to fruition as members of the planning committee, each taking on major roles to make everything happen. We are also incredibly thankful for the small army of volunteers who helped us set up, work the tables and clean up afterwards. You were all rock stars and the fest simply couldn’t happen without you. All of the speakers and vendors who travel and work their butts off – you are the fest! And of course, thank you to everyone who came out to share your day with us. We are blown away by this community!
So, what about the fest? Well, the second Atlanta Veg Fest was held on Saturday, November 9 at Le Fais Do-Do. There were two rooms filled with vendors from Ahimsa Designs, who make beautiful jewelry, to Vegan Proteins, who sell vegan protein supplements like Vega. Herbivore Clothing came all the way from Portland with some of their awesome shirts (yes, I had to buy one!) and local groups like GARP and Ahimsa House educated people about their causes. The Georgia House Rabbit Society, who rescue and foster unwanted domestic rabbits, even had two bunny ambassadors on hand. I stopped to pet them every time I walked by. Upton’s Naturals came down from Chicago with tons of samples of their amazing seitan, along with coupons and cards to give to stores asking them to carry the product. I imagine every Whole Foods in the metro area will be inundated with them in the coming days! I know I got one to take to the one near our place. Want some books? Book Publishing Company was there with titles like Vegan Artisan Cheese, Eat Vegan on $4 a Day and The Ultimate Un-cheese Cookbook. Crazy Rumors had tons of yummy flavors of vegan lip balm and created a special one just for the fest. If you got a goodie bag, you were lucky enough to get a sample. There were way too many awesome vendors there for me to list them all, but we’re thankful for all of them for coming out and making the Atlanta Veg Fest what it is.
But what about the food?! There was no shortage of goodies to be had. Dough Bakery, Dulce Vegan, Mama Bakes Safe Cakes and Gluten-Free Cutie were all there with yummy sweets and samples. In addition to sweet treats, Dough of course, brought their amazing breakfast biscuits for everyone to have for breakfast along with sandwiches for lunch and samples of their holiday roasts (and a birthday cake for the fest!), and Dulce took the chill off the day with piping hot pumpkin chili. Healthful Essence brought their food truck and places like Loving Hut and Harmony had full plates available. Simply Seoul had amazing mushroom bugogi, served on steamed buns with kimchi. I wasn’t hungry, but I made sure to get one of those bad boys. There were also vendors selling hand-crafted foods like Earth Biscuit crackers and Pure Abundance cheese, both of which are amazing. We got 3 bags of crackers and were very sad that Pure Abundance sold out before we got to their table. I don’t know how I managed to not take pictures of any of the amazing food we ate – maybe because we were running around so much, most of it was eaten on the go?
So who were the speakers this year? Well, there were a bunch! So many we needed two rooms for them as well. Of course, the most well-known was Isa Chandra Moskowitz, author of the new book, Isa Does It (which is amazing and I can’t stop cooking from it) along with the core cookbooks pretty much every vegan has in his or her kitchen, Vegan With a Vengeance and Veganomicon. Oh, and maybe you’ve heard of Vegan Brunch, Appetite for Reduction, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar and Vegan Pie in the Sky and a little website called The Post-Punk Kitchen? Along with Isa we also had Dan and Annie Shannon, authors of Betty Goes Vegan, which was a result of a project to veganize the entire Betty Crocker Cookbook. And they did. Victoria Moran, author of Main Street Vegan kicked off the day with a room filled to capacity. Fran Costigan, author of Vegan Chocolate was there. If you want to impress anyone with your vegan baking skills, this is the book to do it with. Isa, Fran, Victoria and Dan & Annie also did book signings after their talks, so there were a lot of happy vegans sporting newly signed copies of their books. Afya Ibomu, author of The Vegan Soul Food Guide to the Galaxy was there, as well as Bianca Phillips, author of Cookin’ Crunk. (We have and love both of these books as well.) Christine Gurnik of Food for Life taught everyone about how to eat to fight high cholesterol, diabetes and weight issues, and Dr. Joe Esposito gave his talk on the Seven Deadly Sins of Nutrition. Oh, and lots of the speakers did cooking demos, so there were plenty of yummy samples passed around, too.
Whew. What a day. Afterwards, we relaxed at ATL Vegan Drinks, which was the fest after-party at the Artmore Hotel in Midtown. It was nice to, well, sit down and also to catch up with friends and make some new ones. We can’t wait until next year. Thank you Atlanta, for another amazing fest.