Help the Hens in Battery Cages by Replacing Your Eggs

According to the American Egg Board, the U.S. produces about 75 billion eggs per year. That enormous amount is being produced by the more than 325 million egg laying hens confined in battery cages (small wire cages stacked in tiers and lined up in rows inside huge warehouses). Those shockingly high figures only represent 10% of worldwide egg production. Of course, this kind of massive production is in response to demand. Fortunately, demand is something we all have control over when making food choices for ourselves and our families.

My food choices became much easier for me a few years ago when I realized that I was eating an embryo of another animal when I was eating an egg. I distinctly remember the moment when I cracked an egg to discover 2 yolks and immediately had the image of twins in my mind. I realized that each egg I had eaten could have been a living thing if the natural course of events would not have been interrupted by an industry who knew I would buy what they were selling. Anyone else have the Incredible Edible Egg tune in their head right now?

So if you are disturbed by my last post and do not want to contribute to the suffering of animals, a seemingly small yet amazingly effective change you can make is to reduce or eliminate eggs from your diet. To make this a simple and easy decision, I wanted to give you some wannabe vegan options that are readily available, much healthier and guilt-free.

Each one of the following is equivalent to one egg:

  • 1/4 cup plain silken or soft organic tofu ( non-organic is made from GM soy)
  • 1 organic banana (assuming the flavor goes well with the rest of the ingredients)
  • 1/4 cup organic applesauce or pureed prunes (you may want to add 1/2 tsp baking powder to offset the heaviness of the fruit)
  • 1/4 cup canned pumpkin
  • 2 Tbsp. water + 1 Tbsp. oil + 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 Tbsp. ground organic flax seed in 3 Tbsp. water (my personal favorite for baking)

If you are looking to replace egg whites in a recipe:

  1. 1 egg white = 1 Tbsp. plain agar powder dissolved in 1 Tbsp. water, whipped, chilled, and whipped again

There are also a lot of pre-made egg replacements you can buy at the grocery but I avoid using them. They have a lot of what I consider unnecessary and unhealthy ingredients because they need to be preserved in order to be shipped and sit on store shelves. It doesn’t make sense to me to replace something unhealthy with something potentially even more unhealthy because of convenience.

So, please take some small steps in the direction of compassion by using less or no eggs in your diet. I, along with all of the future hens who will be saved because of the reduction in demand, will be forever grateful.

If you want to learn more about hens in factory farms, please visit:

If you would like to see more statistics about egg production and consumption, the USDA website has very up-to-date reports and tables you can download.

Let me know if you have any thoughts and/or suggestions about egg production or using egg replacements in the comments section below, on facebook or via twitter.

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Why is everyone asking me about protein?

Since I have started telling people about becoming a wannabe vegan, I have noticed that the first question out of most people’s mouths is, “How do you get enough protein?” I am perplexed by this question because I never considered protein to be the end-all and be-all of what I choose to eat. I think maybe it is because I tend to ignore all of the meat and dairy commercials that tout themselves as the perfect food because they contain so much protein. That, along with the fact that I am healthy and energetic tells me that a vegan diet is giving my body what it needs.

But, in the interest of being well informed I decided to do a little investigation into protein. I was hoping it would give me a clear response to that common question that will inspire others to learn more about protein too and how they can make sure they are making a balanced and informed decision about what they eat. I also hoped to provide you with a response you may wish to use when you are asked that question in the future.

A Collagen Protein

So, let’s start with the basics. Protein is a catch-all term to describe the combination of amino acids in our bodies that create tissue. The amino acids are ‘building blocks’ that combine to produce different things like organs, skin, muscle and nails. Each one is unique but all are essential to good health. Our bodies can produce some of these amino acids on its own but some must be obtained through our diet. These are known as ‘essential amino acids’ and we need about 50 grams a day.

To be more accurate, the recommended daily intake of protein is 0.8 grams for every kilogram (2.2 pounds) of body weight or about 10% of your total calories. This is for normal, healthy people who do not have special circumstances to consider, like pregnant women, athletes, etc. Do the calculation for yourself to be sure what you need and then adjust if necessary.

Most sources I reviewed said that it is quite easy to get the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of protein through a varied diet of veggies, legumes and grains. Some vegan sources of exceptional amounts of protein are tempeh, seitan, soybeans, lentils, spinach and kale. Flax seed, hemp seed and spirulina are also good sources of protein that are easily worked into any diet by using them in smoothies or salad dressings. But I was still curious why everyone was making such a big deal about the whole thing. Is being protein deficient a real cause for concern?

According to the experts, it is VERY rare to be protein deficient in the US since we have numerous sources of healthy food and protein. (An exception would be someone purposely depriving themselves of all food because of an eating disorder.) If you are concerned that it may be an issue, common signs that you may not be getting enough protein are apathy, swollen legs, distended belly and flaky skin. These are caused by your body using its muscle mass as its source of protein which can start a vicious cycle of malnutrition.

Yummy Lentil Soup

But I think what more people should be worried about is getting too MUCH protein. If more than 30% of your total calories are protein you could be doing more harm than good. Your body cannot store excess protein so it must metabolize it. In order to do this, it must take calcium and water from your body. This stresses your kidneys and can cause calcium deficiency and dehydration. Unfortunately, getting too much protein is very easy to do when you are following the Standard American Diet (SAD). This combined with the fact that most meat sources also have high amounts of saturated fat make them a less than ideal food choice for someone trying to be healthy.

So, when someone asks you, “Aren’t you concerned about getting enough protein?” you can say, “No, not really. Vegetables are a great source and I make sure to eat a balanced diet that includes beans, nuts and seeds – all of which contain a lot of protein – so I’m not worried at all.” and before the pause is too long, add in, “Aren’t you worried about getting too much protein?” and see where that takes the conversation.

Let me know how using this response works out for you and if you have any other suggestions in the comments section below, on facebook or via twitter.

If you would like to calculate exactly how much protein you need, please go to The Protein Calculator.

If you would like to see a listing of foods and their protein content, you can download the USDA listing (in pdf format). If you go to the USDA website, there are a multitude of other nutritional resources and information.

2 Easy Vegan Recipes to Bring to Your Thanksgiving Celebration

In my previous post, I mentioned that I would be bringing a couple of vegan dishes to Thanksgiving. After some careful consideration, I have decided on the following recipes that are easy, vegan and perfect for Thanksgiving. I hope it gives you some inspiration to bring some yummy dishes to your celebration.

CRANBERRY CHUTNEY (via In a Vegetarian Kitchen)
Makes 8 servings

Cranberry Chutney

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup peeled, diced apple
  • 1 cup orange juice, preferably fresh
  • 1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons agave nectar or maple syrup, to taste

Directions

Place all the ingredients except the agave nectar in a deep saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cook over low heat with the lid slightly ajar for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the liquid is mostly absorbed.

Add agave nectar to taste and simmer uncovered for another 5 to 10 minutes until thick. Let the chutney cool to room temperature, then store in a sterilized jar, tightly covered but not sealed. Refrigerate until needed. Before serving, bring to room temperature.

I am going to make this beforehand and put it in some jars so that they are easily transportable (we’re driving ~600 miles). I might even make some really nice labels and put some ribbons around it so that it will be a nice looking gift.

The second dish I will bring is a Mediterranean Kale Salad. I first discovered this amazing recipe by Jennifer Cornbleet on YouTube and have made variations of it numerous times.

MEDITERRANEAN KALE SALAD (via LearnRawFood.com)
Makes 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 large kale leaves
  • 2 cups red, raw, sweet peppers
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (I have also used flaxseed oil for a nuttier taste)
  • juice from a whole lemon
  • 24 almonds or pine nuts chopped or slivered
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 24 jumbo sliced black or kalamata olives

Directions

De-vein the kale, then roll up 2 kale leaves at a time and slice thinly to make thin, long strips. Place in a bowl with olive oil, salt and lemon juice, and dig in your (clean) hands and massage the kale in the liquids. Add the remaining ingredients and mix together. Lasts for 3 days refrigerated, tastes better if left to marinate for a little bit.

Jennifer has done an incredible video showing how to make the salad. Check it out below:

Let me know if you try these out and what you think of them. I would also love to hear any other suggestions you might have for tasty vegan Thanksgiving recipes in the comments section below, on facebook or via twitter.

Is Flax Seed the Vegan Baker’s Miracle Worker?

I spent the weekend trying to find a good recipe for vegan pumpkin cookies to take to a family dinner. Unfortunately, the recipes that looked somewhat tasty had a lot of ingredients that were not very healthy – even though they were technically vegan. I finally found one that used oatmeal as the base and gave it a try. Not much success. They could be described as blobs of dough that didn’t remotely resemble anything I would normally associate with pumpkin cookies. So I went on another search to find a better recipe. What I found rocked my world!

The pumpkin cookie recipe I found called for an egg replacement for the equivalent of 2 eggs. Being a fairly novice vegan baker, I thought to myself, ‘What the heck can I use for an egg replacement that won’t have me traipsing all over creation trying to find it?’. I did a quick internet search and found what is sure to be a life changer – ground flax seed and water (can you get any more simple than that?!) is the perfect egg replacer! At first, I thought, no, this can’t be true. It seems too simple but I gave it a try. I was running out of time and needed a miracle. Flax seed delivered!

Not only did the cookies turn out really tasty, the texture of them was comparable to those Soft Batch cookies I used to inhale when I was a teenager. You remember those don’t you? The cookies that were supposed to mimic Mama’s homemade cookies right out of the oven. Heaven only knows what horrible list of ingredients were in those tasty morsels but they sure were yummy. I was so thrilled to find something that reminded me of them and were healthy!

So, here’s the scoop. If you need an egg replacer for a baking recipe in order to make it vegan all you have to do is mix 2 Tbsp of finely ground flax seed with 3 Tbsp of water for each egg you need in the recipe. Mix together and let set for a few minutes until they reach that gooey egglike texture. Then mix it with the rest of your ingredients as called for. Voila! a vegan miracle has occurred in your kitchen!

Not only are flax seeds a great egg replacer, they are great for your body! They contain Omega-3 fatty acids that help keep your heart healthy, Lignans which contain antioxidants and tons of Fiber to keep things movin’! So including them in something that people might consider an indulgence is a great way to balance the health scale a bit.

One caveat though. If you are one of those people who feels like flax seed has a strong taste you may want to add more of the spices or flavorful portions of your recipes to overcome it. My brother Justin is one of those that doesn’t really like spicy or pumpkin-y food so he really liked these cookies since the flax seed kind of overrode the cinnamon and cloves. I really like the pumpkin-y spices so I’m going to try another batch and up the cinnamon and cloves until I get the spice level I like.

In case you are curious to try it out, the recipe can be found here on Natural Papa’s Blog.

If you want to learn more about the benefits of flax seed, WebMD, Flax Seed Heath and Women’s Fitness all have great information.