The Best Meat and Dairy Alternatives (all your old recipes need not change)

What an incredible time to be vegan.  My goodness, when I was a vegetarian fresh out on my own there was some weird hotdog/Alpo thing in a can.  That was it.  I ate a lot of burritos and spaghetti.  I learned to be creative and have always loved spices and sauces.  Now that I can add delicious plant based alternatives to dairy and meat into my cooking, my guests, and especially my husband, are always pleasantly surprised and satisfied.  It opens up a lot of opportunities for trying to recipes and expanding dinner options.  And it adds a lot more fun in the kitchen.  I don’t particularly love meat but I do enjoy the added textures and creaminess from some of the animal product alternatives now available.  It also allows us to keep our old tried and true and family recipes because we can just sub out what we need.  Food makes memories, brings people together, and creates comfort.  I have no desire to harm animals (and I am sure you don’t either) and I know that near 100% of ailments can be reversed and prevented with a plant based diet.  We won’t even go into the ecological, economical, and karma benefits.  So, here’s what’s out there!

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English muffin pizzas with Miyoko’s mozzarella, orange peppers, and olives with Caesar salad. (Try Daiya Caesar dressing)

Best Dairy Alternatives

“But I LOVE cheese,” um, everyone says.  Scientific fact that cheese affects the brain the very same as heroin.  Truth.  So, we are all actually addicted to cheese.  There are some companies coming to our rehab rescue.

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Rustic Alpine “cheese” wrapped in pie crust and baked like Brie.  Topped with homemade peach jam and served with crackers and a glass of wine….oh my.

Miyoko’s has many different varieties of cheese.  She has rounds of cheese platter ready cheese, like Rustic Alpine, Smoky Cheddar, and Truffle.  She has cheese spread.  And I love them all, whether I get them from the store or online, but what I really love is her butter.  Oh my, it tastes like the real deal.  Cooks the same, spreads the same, and it’s healthy.  No weird ingredients in any of her products.  Cashews and other delicious ingredients are fermented just like dairy to get the taste.

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Fresh popped popcorn drizzled with olive oil, and sprinkled with truffle salt, basil, nutritional yeast and Violife parmesan.

Violife is…I have no words….so damn realistic, you could fool a cheese maker.  No kidding.  (I was a cheese maker.)  Made from pea protein and other delicious ingredients, you cannot go wrong. The new cheeses do not have that weird rubber aftertaste and they melt.  Try the cheddar or provolone slices.  Make a grilled cheese on sourdough and spray the outside of the bread lightly with olive oil spray and then top with shredded parmesan.  Fry.  The best grilled cheese ever.  Their parmesan is our favorite.  I sneak it around in my purse when we go to restaurants.

And I can’t forget Kite Hill!  Best cream cheese and ricotta.  Better than dairy.

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Bakes fries with homemade cashew cheese, Beyond Meat, guacamole, and all the fixings.

Best Meat Alternatives

Beyond Meat is so convincing my daughter won’t eat it.  Try their burgers.  Try the ground.  The “chicken” is just okay.  But the beef alternatives are great.  Oh, and try the sausage!

Bob’s Mill TVP.  GMO soy will cause problems.  GMO anything will cause problems.  Soy stops bone loss and balances estrogen levels while supplying calcium and vitamin D.  Bob’s is GMO free and it cooks up in chilies or soups or nachos or whatever just like ground meat.  And it’s super cheap.

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Gardein anything.  Lord, they are good.  Always vegan.  Crab cakes (put in hoagies with homemade slaw), fish sticks (with French fries), meatballs (with Victoria Vegan sauce and pasta), meatloaf (with mashed potatoes and corn), and so much more.

I do tend to say away from the super processed, large company owned, GMO, and not-so-vegan brands like Morningstar and Boca.  Quorn is the best for chicken flavor and they are coming out with vegan options as we speak.

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The “I’ll never go vegan”ers. 

My granddaughter is funny.  Independent.  Funny.  “I don’t like vegan food.”  “I don’t want vegan food.”

We then name off dozens of foods that she likes or loves that are vegan.  Most people do not realize how easy it is and how many things are already vegan or have a vegan-ready counterpart next to it at the store or in your pantry.  Maybe we need a new name for vegan food.  How about GOOD FOOD.  I’m a good foodist.  And with the help of innovative new chefs and companies, it’s that much easier to get good food on the table.

 

The Real Face of Farming and How to Change the World

elsaWe fell in love with her instantly.  She was so small, adorably white, and cuddly.  I gave her a bottle full of milk which she took with relish and snuggled into my arms to sleep.  Her name was Elsa.

A friend of ours gave her to us out of sympathy.  Our first two goats were Katrina, who after giving birth would not have anything to do with us and we were not able to milk her, who went to live with someone new, and Loretta.  Loretta was a rotund black dwarf who came to us pregnant.  We did not know this at first.  She loved my husband.  She followed him incessantly, attempting to help him with chores.  She just adored him and we loved her too.

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We were excited, as new goat farmers, that she was pregnant.  We would make some money off of her babies and then milk her.  The buckling within her womb was too big for her and his foot punctured through her uterus.  She died a rather painful, screaming death.  Instead of deciding that perhaps animals shouldn’t be used for milk, we decided to get a gun in case we needed to put future animals out of their misery.  (We sold it a year later.)

Elsa was placed in our arms.  A three day old doe will melt anyone’s heart.  She loved to ride in our truck, windows down, music playing; she was like a puppy dog.  She went with us to speak at inner schools.  She introduced dozens of children to farming and the joy of goats.  She pranced about the living room.  She ate geraniums and loved farmer’s markets and attention.  We loved her.

Here’s the thing about farming-even sustainable, humane, compassionate farming-it’s not any of those things.  No one was more compassionate and affectionate as my husband and I, yet when you have a farm, your perceptions change.  Animals are expensive to keep, and there comes the mentality that animals have to earn their way.

IMG_0801We bred Elsa-because we had a small dairy- and she gave birth.  We whisked the baby away.  She cried and we told ourselves that animals don’t feel the same as humans, she won’t even miss the baby.  She got mastitis and huge scabs on her udders made it so that we could barely milk her.  I had to hurry because if she was in milk she was worth more than not.  I sold her for two hundred and fifty dollars to someone who drove out from New Mexico, loaded her into the minivan and was gone.

It wasn’t until later that I realized that I just sold and got rid of our beautiful Elsa.  It is not that we were heartless, we just fell into the perceptions of a small farm.  Our friends all had the same mentality, and it was just the way things were.

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The roosters were friendly.  All of our chickens were.  They had all been kissed and carried around by us or our children since they were two days old, freshly home from the feed store.  But they were not kind to the hens.  Their roughness trying to mate the chickens caused gashes in the hens’ necks and a lot of stress.  There is only one way to get rid of a rooster.  We placed them in dog kennels and took them to a nearby freelance butcher that would take care of them.  We joked and laughed and said they were heading to freezer camp.  We put up the filter, the barrier, the wall, the ignorance, that all farmers put up.  Two living beings were about to be killed.

My husband drove by and saw that they were still in their kennels two days later.  No water.  No food.  They were delivered to us in plastic bags.

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We thought chickens got their heads cut off and it would be quick and easy.  But that is not so.  Chickens are bled out.  Upside down they hang while their necks are slit.  The blood runs across their face, up their nostrils, into their eyes, until at last they succumb.

Laverne was a beautiful black hen, whose feathers shimmered green in the sunlight.  She loved to sit on my lawn chair next to me as I read.  All chickens have personalities.

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“The animals die quickly,” we told ourselves.  Hanging by one leg, having their necks slit, fearful, swinging from overhead, not understanding.  We could hear the cows lowing frantically a mile away at the slaughterhouse.  Not even the few that are dispatched by gunshot die quickly.

I had been vegetarian for twenty-seven years and vegan for two years.  I was fiercely passionate about animal rights.  We dreamed of living in the country and our friends around us all had small, sustainable, compassionate farms.  We started drinking goat’s milk.  We got our own goats.  We prayed for all girls.  Because there is no other use for male goats.  Most don’t even become dinner, they are killed and dumped in most operations.  “I don’t want to hear if the males are becoming meat!” If you knew how many times I have heard that from goat farmers.  Ignorance makes us lose our empathy.  It makes us lose ourselves.

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It is easy to put up walls so that one cannot see the personalities or the lives that are being taken in the name of country and farm living.  I told myself that it was hypocritical to be vegan because everything causes harm.  Our ancestors ate meat.  So and so is ninety and he’s fine!  Oh the reasons we come up with.  And there we were eating meat.  And in that time I watched our health flutter downwards in a spiral that could not be blamed on anything else.

Many people will decide that gluten is actually their health downfall.  Perhaps it is chronic disease, inflammation, hereditary.  I have found as a Clinical Herbalist that there is not an ailment out there that cannot be benefited by adopting a plant based diet.  In fact there is not an ailment out there that is not caused or worsened by eating meat.

But the idealic countryside of cows grazing in the hazy dawn of a country morning would not exist.  Farm animals have many good days and one bad day!  It’s the circle of life.  It’s healthier.  I never really believed the last statement as my lymph nodes grew larger and larger but one does tell themselves many things in order to justify what is not right.  I have been on both sides of the spectrum.  I can see the romanticized farming lifestyle.  But I can see and feel the karmic and physical and emotional and spiritual disaster that inevitably follows by consuming animal products.

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You see, the mothers do cry for their young.  The cows do wander out of the fields and down the street looking for their babies.  We get upset that kittens are boiled alive in China for food but not when a lobster does.  Society gets upset over a dog being eaten, but doesn’t bat an eye at lamb.  When the word cow becomes beef and sheep becomes mutton and we begin to make them less than sentient beings in our minds, we begin to fool ourselves.  We might be outraged that dogs are experimented on for cosmetics and pharmaceuticals but then feel hopeless and be a consumer anyway.  We may not wish to harm any animal but then feel overwhelmed and purchase the packaged, bleeding, unnamed meat in the grocery store.  Or maybe we buy from a sustainable, humane, compassionate farm.  Well, now you know how that turns out.

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It took me four years to realize what I was doing and what I had done.  The word “vegan” has a negative connotation to it and I thought I’d rather be ignorant than angry.  But it is not anger, you see, it is compassion.  It’s realizing what is actually going on.  It is realizing that our health and our spirit and our life will be more peaceful, and more beautiful, and healthier, and more vibrant once we let those illusions leave and let the wall down.  But I will warn you, you will begin to see things with new eyes.  You may be horrified, angry, empathetic, passionate, saddened, but we as humans were never meant to murder.  Imagine telling a small child to kill a rabbit.  It does not come naturally to us.  It is time to let the old myths go and the excuses and step into a more enlightened way of living.  Just wait and see how it changes you.

Food Fights; So What is the Perfect Diet?

 

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Eggs are bad!  Eggs are now good!  Meat is bad!  Only factory farmed meat is bad!  Meat is good!  Grains are bad!  Whole grains are good!  What?!

Let’s face it, with so many opinions out there and research proving whatever makes the most money, we can find pros or cons on any diet out there.  So let’s look at it practically.

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#1 Grains- The gluten free fad has gone way overboard in my opinion.  First it was fibromyalgia, now gluten free.  One gal told me she became gluten intolerant due to a car accident.  Ok, so let’s stop blaming our health on one sole ingredient.  I think we can all agree that donuts are not really a part of a good diet.  Super processed wheat is glue in the intestines.  I get it.  But grains have been around since Mesopotamia.  Everything is color coded in the antioxidant realm, and whole grains do their part to heal the digestive lining and is a valuable fiber and protein source for the body.  The antioxidants in brown plants are specific to killing cancer.  Don’t throw out the whole grains!

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#2 Meat- Not sure if I completely go for the idea that we are natural meat eaters.  Our canine teeth really wouldn’t help us sans weapons trying to catch and kill a rabbit.  Or eating it raw.  And let’s face it, without a weapon a deer could kick our ass.  Truth.  However, my ancestors are probably shaking their heads at me a bit whispering under their breath, “You are going to starve…”  I also know they didn’t eat meat every day.  Nor did their animals eat GMO grain before death or die a stressful, horrifying, horror movie ready death.  I don’t often crave meat but sometimes I do.  Learning to listen to the body is key.  I am not sure about all the processed ingredients in the meat substitutes, so a little farm fresh meat when I crave it is probably alright.

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#3 Vegetables- First choice, organic.  Think it’s a scam?  Grow your own, find a local farmer, go organic.  Even a little drift from other fields is not as bad as the full onslaught of chemicals on our food.  I have customers tell me they cannot eat vegetables with all seriousness.  Cruciferous vegetables really get people going.  If vegetables are causing gas and other discomfort that signals us that the body is extremely toxic.  Eat more!  Vegetables are the most essential part of a diet.  Especially greens.  Every cell repairing antioxidant comes in plant form.  Juice Plus supplements are not going to cover your bases.  Green smoothies, fresh juices, lots of color in our dishes, that is the magic elixir for health.

#4 Fruit- “Can’t have fruit, it has sugar.”  I have heard this a lot.  It contains a totally different type of sugar than processed sugar cane or the poisonous chemical fake sugar.  It does not cause a crash or mess with insulin levels.  Fruit contains many antioxidants that are specific to parts of the body to help repair and invigorate.  Fruit is good!

#5- Alcohol, caffeine, sugar- A gentleman in my shop told me that his new year’s goal is to eliminate all alcohol and caffeine from his diet.  I am no fortune teller but I could see a good binge in his future!  I said, “How about one or two cups of coffee in the morning and one drink at night?”  Moderation.  Sugar.  Hey, one teaspoon of sugar in your coffee is not going to kill you.  Raw sugar actually has quite a few minerals in it.  And that tiramisu?  Share it, enjoy it, savor it.  Just not every day.  Life is meant to enjoy.  A bit of common sense comes in handy.  What a shame that we forgot how to eat.  Forgot how to grow our food.  What happened to us?  Time to take back our human wisdom about food.

I guess the key here is trusting your own body over the “research” one can find online.  What does your body want?  Barley over Bisquick.  Organic chicken once a week over fast food.  Does it feel nourishing as you are buying it?  Does it feel nourishing as you prepare  it?  How does your body feel after you eat it?  Create your own research.  No more food fights!  Let’s just eat well, preferably with friends and family, and enjoy our year to come, nourished and well fed.