Friday, June 29, 2007

Veggie Booty recall alert

I stopped at the grocery store tonight, and on the organic-snack aisle was a sign announcing the recall of Robert's Veggie Booty. This is a brand I sometimes have on hand -- right now, I have a bag of their Pirate Booty -- so I immediately surfed around the Net when I got home to get details.

The FDA and Robert's American Gourmet have issued a recall of all sizes of Veggie Booty after the CDC reported 55 cases of Salmonella illnesses -- mostly in children -- linked to Veggie Booty, across 17 states. No cases have been reported in North Carolina so far. None of the other Booty products are affected by the recall -- but I don't think I'll be cracking open that bag of Pirate's Booty anytime soon.

You can read a comprehensive article at You can also find information at Robert's official site

Stuffed zucchini

I've harvested the first few tomatoes from my garden -- four smallish, lovely, red fruits from the Early Girl plant I planted in April. It's always wonderful to pick my own vegetables, but this is especially true with tomatoes. No store-bought tomato can approach the taste and freshness of one plucked from your backyard. Fresh tomatoes scream "SUMMER!" Besides the Southern staple of a tomato sandwich -- white bread, mayonnaise and a sprinkle of pepper -- my favorite way to enjoy my harvest is with a caprese salad. Mix some tomatoes with fresh mozzarella cheese (none of that sliced or grated stuff) and fresh basil (preferably from my herb garden), top with red-wine vinegar and olive oil, then sprinkle with pepper. Delicious!

The rest of the vegetable garden is lagging quite a ways behind. But I will hopefully have some zucchini in the harvest before long, so I thought I'd share my favorite summer recipe using several items I usually grow or that are easily found at farmers markets. This is adapted from a recipe in Vegetarian Planet by Didi Emmons. It can easily be made vegan by leaving out the cheese.

Stuffed Zucchini
2 medium zucchini
1-1/2 T. olive oil
1 c. chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium tomato, chopped
1/3 c. bread crumbs
1/2 c. chopped fresh basil
1/4 c. parmesan or feta cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the zucchini in half length-wise and trim the ends. With a teaspoon, carve out the center of each half, leaving a 1/4-inch thick shell and reserving the spooned-out flesh. Put the zucchini shells into a small casserole dish and add 1/2 cup water. Cover the dish with foil. Bake the zucchini for 10 minutes. Remove the dish from the oven and reduce the heat to 350 degrees.

2. Make the stuffing: Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until it softens, about five minutes. Chop the reserved zucchini flesh and add it to the pan with the garlic and tomatoes. Cook 5 minutes more. Take the skillet off the heat and add the bread crumbs, basil and cheese. Mix well and season with salt and pepper.

3. Drain the water from the casserole dish and fill the zucchini halves with the stuffing. Bake the stuffed zucchini for 15 minutes. Serve hot.

Note: You may have to adjust the amount of bread crumbs to get the right consistency, depending on the juicyness of your tomato.


Thursday, June 28, 2007

Hey Pesto!

Remember that basil I planted, several posts back? It's really taking off now that hot weather has settled in to stay. So it's time to make pesto.

I whipped up the first batch of the summer a couple days ago, and it tastes like the best ever. That's probably because in addition to the basil, it includes fresh mint and dill from friends' gardens.

Here's the recipe as it stands this week. You can substitute other herbs, too - parsley and oregano are especially good. Or, of course, you could use all basil. You can include the tender stems of any of the herbs; but remove any that seem tough or otherwise unappealing.

2 cups lightly packed basil leaves
1/2 cup fresh spinach leaves
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup fresh dill
1 sage leaf (it happened to fall off the sage plant, so I threw it in)
Three small cloves fresh garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1/4 cup pine nuts (walnuts also work well)
1 Tablespoon chickpea miso (or other light miso)
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon umeboshi plum paste (everything's better with plum paste!)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Put everything but the oil into a food processor, and pulse to chop. Then turn the machine on low and add the oil in a thin stream through the feed tube. Process the mixture briefly, stopping the machine to scrape down the sides of the work bowl if necessary, until the pesto is the consistency you like.

The pesto can be stored in the refrigerator, coated with a thin film of olive oil to keep it from browning from contact with the air. Or it can be frozen for long-term storage. I use pesto mainly on pasta or as a sandwich spread (especially with homegrown tomatoes...) Do you have any suggestions for other uses for pesto?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Farmers markets

We're entering the prime season for farmers markets, when they abound with all manner of summer harvests. I love farmers markets. It's wonderful to be able to browse fresh produce that's come directly from an area farm. You know exactly what you're getting, and you can ask questions of the person who grew what you're buying. That's certainly something you can't get in the grocery store.

The problem with farmers markets is that they're always so darn early. I am decidedly not a morning person, so I don't rouse myself out of bed early on Saturday morning nearly often enough. The early bird definitely gets the worm -- or the choicest selections, in this case -- when it comes to farmers markets.

Here are some markets in the area:

The Piedmont Triad Farmers Market in Colfax, on Sandy Ridge Road off of I-40. This is usually the one I go to on the weekend because it goes on all day. So if I don't get going until noon, I know it will still be open and there will be many farmers there. I especially enjoy going there to get herbs and other plants for my garden.

The Downtown Farmers Market, which is held on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. in Winston-Salem, on Sixth Street between Cherry and Trade streets. This is handy for me because of its hours and location near work. Today I picked up some organic squash.

The Winston Salem Retail Farmers Market at the Dixie Classic Fairgrounds is open year-round on Saturdays, 6 a.m. until 1 p.m. It's really quite shameful that I've never actually been to this one!

Casanova Coffee in Lewisville has recently begun having a small farmers market on Saturday mornings, which is handy because it's the closest to where I live. An organic farmer from Lewisville brings his produce, and it all looked fresh and wonderful when I was there last weekend. I was there about 10:45 a.m. last Saturday, and he had sold out of a lot of things already to earlier risers than me.

The Werehouse, at 211 E. Third St. in downtown Winston-Salem, has a farmers market on Saturdays from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m.

The Greensboro Farmers' Curb Market, at 501 Yanceyville St. in the old National Guard Armory building near Memorial Stadium, is open year-round on Saturdays from 6 a.m. until noon and on Wednesdays from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., May through December. I haven't been to this one, but I'm going to try to get there this Saturday because they're having VeggieFest to celebrate the season. They'll have recipe samples, door prizes and music. Sounds like fun!

Do you go to farmers markets? Are there any other ones in the area that you can recommend?

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

"The Way We Eat"

I became a vegetarian in the stacks of the Forsyth County's main public library. There, reading such books as Cleveland Amory's Support Your Right to Arm Bears and Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation, I became aware of some of the horrors systematically inflicted on animals by humans and knew that I wanted no part of them.

That was more than 25 years ago. But last week I was back at the library, and came across a newer book, co-written by Singer and Jim Mason. This book - The Way We Eat, subtitled Why Our Food Choices Matter – was published last year and made something of a stir then. You can read a review of it from Vegan Outreach, which includes links to interviews with Singer in Mother Jones, Salon and on

I hadn’t come across the book until now, and I’m glad I finally did. It looks at the ethical issues surrounding food by looking at the eating patterns of three families – one that eats the "Standard American Diet," "conscientious omnivores," and vegans – and how they affect animals, the environment and other people.

The Way We Eat clearly lays out the continuing horrors of animal agriculture. But it also examines the ethical implications of such things as organic and locally produced food, and “Fair Trade” foods. There are many factors to consider, and the most ethical path is not always clear. But Singer and Mason do offer some simple guiding principles.

Their book provides a lot of food for thought, along with fascinating information. Best of all, it is ultimately hopeful to believe that people can make a difference in the world through their food choices.

Have you read any books lately that have made a difference in how you think about your food? If so, I'd love to hear about them.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Lunch at 6th and Vine

Working downtown, I sometimes head to 6th and Vine for lunch. It's a nice, relaxed place, and I've always been a fan of their grilled-vegetable salad and portabella panini sandwich. Julie and I went there earlier this week and were surprised to see that they have changed their lunch menu, making it more like their dinner menu. There are more vegetarian options now, especially salads. The grilled-vegetable salad is gone, which is sad. But there are many other unusual -- and yummy-sounding -- vegetarian salads now: nuts and berries; watermelon-and-strawberry: poached pear; baked goat cheese; oven-roasted beet; caprese. If I'm in the mood for a light (but filling) lunch, this is where I'm going to want to head. I've got to try most of those salads! (Not the beet one, though. Eeew, beets.)

You can also sometimes find vegetarian options in their daily specials -- soup, hummus, salad, risotta or flat pizza. Make sure you ask your server, though. The day we were there, the sage-and-shitake risotto sounded like it might be vegetarian, but it wasn't. The cream of asparagus soup, however, was vegetarian.


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Hair today ...

Although I usually write about food, the vegan lifestyle encompasses much more. Many vegans (and other compassionate people, too) make a point of choosing household and personal-care products that don't involve animal suffering, such as cosmetics that don't contain animal ingredients, and that aren't tested on animals.

Fortunately, just as vegan food choices have increased dramatically in the past few years, so have cruelty-free choices. And guidance on what products are cruelty-free is available from several sources.

For example, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has lists of companies that do and don’t test on animals. It says, "Companies listed either have signed PETA’s statement of assurance or provided a statement verifying that they do not conduct or commission any nonrequired animal tests on ingredients, formulations, or finished products and that they pledge not to do so in the future." The don't-test list also indicates which companies make only vegan products.

Another Compassionate Shopping Guide lists companies that do not test finished products, formulations or ingredients on animals. Companies on this list must also "Not purchase from suppliers ingredients that have been tested on animals after a fixed cut-off date..." This list is from the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics, a group of several major animal protection groups.

With the help of information like this, my home is stocked with everything from Citra-Drain to keep my pipes clear to Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap to keep my face clean.

The only area where I'm still looking for the perfect cruelty-free alternative is hair color. I sometimes use henna, which gives good results but is time-consuming and messy to apply. (Good thing the Citra-Drain works so well, or my bathtub might still be stopped up with henna residue.)

I just found a Web site, My Makeup Mirror, with an article on how to "Color Your Hair Without Coloring the Bunny." It gives a lot of suggestions that I'll consider trying in the future. But I wonder, have any of you tried a cruelty-free hair color that you particularly like (or would recommend avoiding, for that matter)? And how important is it to you to find cruelty-free household and personal products?

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

A Bleu Review

It's always exciting to try a new restaurant. Last weekend, two friends and I made our first trip to Bleu, a recent addition to Winston-Salem's restaurant scene.

Athough the menu has just a couple of vegetarian entrees - a cheese ravioli dish; and a brie, tomato & arugula sandwich - there are more choices among the appetizers and soups and salads.

The three of us shared the trio of dips (hold the jokes; we already made them). The dips were tasty - lemon-fennel mascarpone; red pepper & spinach ricotta; and preserved tomato & leeks - and the portions generous enough that even splitting it three ways, we ended up with leftovers.

For my meal, I ordered two more appetizers - the panko-crusted tofu and the warm beet salad.

The tofu dish could easily have been a meal in itself. And at $7, it won general acclaim as the best deal of the evening. Two large slices of tofu were encased in a crisp crumb crust, with a touch of a mild miso sauce. They were accompanied by rice wrapped in sheets of nori, and a salad that tasted lightly pickled, which added a welcome bit of punch to the tofu and rice.

The beet salad, so pretty and tasty, was my favorite. The brilliantly colored cubes of beets - in both the familiar magenta version and a lighter red version - nestled atop a peppery bed of arugula. Golden raisins accented the beets' natural sweetness. A light sprinkling of cheese could be left off without impairing the bold flavors of the beets and arugula.

All in all, I was pleased. Bleu isn't a must-go destination for vegetarians, but I would be happy to go back.


Friday, June 01, 2007

The sexiest vegetarian celeb, etc.

*PETA is having a poll in which you can vote for the sexiest male and female vegetarian celebrities. It was interesting to see which stars were on the list. (I felt a little out of touch because I didn't know who some of them were.) I wish they had termed it "favorite" instead of "sexiest," because some of the choices really don't fit the latter. I mean, I like Bob Barker and Weird Al Yankovic, but are they sexy? Not so much. I also found it interesting that there were more males to choose from than females, since females tend to more likely be vegetarian.

*My new favorite discovery is Breyers All Natural Creamery-Style chocolate ice cream. It's indeed creamy and chocolately, and what's even better, it's light ice cream, with "half the fat and 20% less calories than regular ice cream." It has 120 calories and 4g of fat per 1/2-cup serving, compared to 150 calories and 8g of fat in regular ice cream. What's interesting is that they seem to be trying to hide the fact that it's light, identifying it as such only in tiny, easily missable type. While I don't think I would confuse it with a high-fat premium ice cream like Ben & Jerry's, I wouldn't have known it was light ice cream by the taste. I've always been a fan of Breyers ice cream because it doesn't have a bunch of chemical additives. Its ingredients list is always pretty short, which is a good thing to look for. Generally, the shorter the ingredient list, the more natural a food is.

* There's a short article in the June issue of Natural Health magazine about plantable packaging. Some companies, such as Pangea Organics and Cargo Cosmetics, sell products whose boxes contain seeds. Soak the box in water for a bit, then plant them in your garden, and basil or amaranth will sprout in a few weeks. What a fabulous idea! It takes recycling to a whole 'nother level.