Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Vegetarian gelatin

I avoid foods with gelatin and always buy vitamins and minerals in vegetarian capsules when I can. But it still bothers me that so many things -- some, like medicine, which I can’t really avoid -- contain gelatin. A press release I read recently reports that scientists have made advances in deriving gelatin from corn instead of animal by-products.

Although on the surface this is exciting news, producing this vegetarian gelatin results from modifying corn genetically. I don’t like the idea of genetically modified foods, so this tempers my enthusiasm. Personally, I don’t think we know enough about the consequences of mucking about with plant genetics to be sure that it’s safe or won’t have unfortunate nutritional consequences. And I don’t want fish DNA in my strawberries.

Still, in this case it strikes me as a lesser evil; I would rather ingest a pill containing modified-corn gelatin than gelatin derived from cow bones and hooves. What about you?

For now, you can read about cooking with vegetarian alternatives to gelatin here.

Veggies in the morning, Part 2

Did anyone catch the segment on teen vegetarians today on Good Morning America? If not you can read about it here. I didn’t see it, but from the transcript, it seems disappointing - focusing heavily on tired old issue - or non-issue - of getting enough protein.

Once more, with feeling:

As the Vegetarian Resource Group article on “Vegetarian Nutrition for TeenAgers” states: "North American vegetarian teens eating varied diets rarely have any difficulty getting enough protein as long as their diet contains enough energy (calories) to support growth."

Readers, do you still get the "Where do you get your protein?" question? If so, how do you deal with it?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Veggies in the morning

The Vegetarian Resource Group - a great resource for reliable information on vegetarianism and veganism - just sent an e-mail announcement about a vegetarian segment tentatively scheduled for Wednesday morning television:

Katie, a 15-year-old Vegetarian Resource Group summer intern, and her mother are tentatively scheduled to appear on Good Morning America on Wednesday, August 29, 2007.

Good Morning America called the VRG office in search of a girl under the age of 16 who is or wants to become a vegetarian. They were planning a taped segment for the show during which they would interview the girl and her parents. Katie and her mother recorded the interview today.

Good Morning America is on ABC from 7 to 9 a.m.

Friday, August 24, 2007

No more Vegetarian Times?

*I was shocked to read today that Vegetarian Times may no longer exist. Sort of. Apparently they are trying out a two-issue name change to Greens: "Eat Fresh. Choose Organic. Be Healthy."

This is a newsstand-only change for now, as I've already received my September issue and it had the usual Vegetarian Times masthead on the cover. I couldn't find anything about the name-change test on the Vegetarian Times Web site.

I am not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, it seems as if they are turning away from their focus and raison d'etre, as if they no longer want to be associated with vegetarianism or want to hide the concept. An executive says the magazine's concepts won't change and they won't start running articles or ads for non-vegetarian foods. Still, I'm wary. And, frankly, I don't like the new name they chose. For me, Greens brings to mind collards and spinach and a mother imploring her child to "Eat your greens!" rather than environmentally friendly living. I think Green, singular, would be a better choice, if they are determined to change. (And it's not set in stone yet.)

On the other hand, I applaud the concept of living "green" on a wider scale besides just being a vegetarian, and maybe a name change could help bring in readers who don't identify themselves as vegetarians, expanding the magazine's reach and exposing more people to the concept.

On second thought, maybe I am sure how I feel about this. I don't like it. What about you? Do you read the magazine? And what do you think about the possibility of a name change?

If you'd like to contact Vegetarian Times directly with your feelings on the matter, go here.

*In other news, I recently came across an article about a restaurateur who's planning to create a chain of all-vegetarian fast-food restaurants. This excites me, although the chances of one opening in Winston-Salem are probably slim to none.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Take me out to the ball game

Just now a friend pointed out a story I missed from in this morning's paper, about PETA naming Philadelphia's ballpark as the top vegetarian-friendly baseball stadium in America. The vegetarian cheese-steak does sound tasty. You can read the full article here.

PETA's list of the Top 10 veggie-friendly major-league parks, as well as the ones with honorable mention is available here.

PETA also compiled a list of the Top 10 vegetarian-friendly minor-league parks. North Carolina can be proud: The Durham Bulls Athletic Park was No. 1, serving veggie burgers and dogs, veggie burritos, salad and fruit cups. The full minor-league list is here.

Sports fans, have you found any good vegetarian options at local sports venues?

Friday, August 17, 2007

Veggin' Out in Boone

When a friend and I made a day trip to Boone recently, of course dining out was on the agenda. We had three possibilities in mind.

First on the list was Angelica's, a vegetarian institution in Boone. We've been there before, and enjoy its good food and definite "hippy" vibe.

Another was The Coyote Kitchen, which isn’t purely vegetarian but has a lot of vegetarian choices.

The third, for supper since it opens at 4 p.m., was the Moon Shine Cafe. The Moon Shine caught my eye because in researching Boone restaurants, I came across an article that said it had been started by the same person who formerly owned Angelica's and The Coyote Kitchen. Again, it's not a vegetarian restaurant, but the menu shows many intriguing options for vegetarians.

We ended up at The Coyote Kitchen, and enjoyed it very much. It's a small restaurant, with eye-catching art on the walls, and a colorful mural in the back. Our main dishes were delicious. Tempeh tacos were very well-seasoned; and the Moab boat, a dish of sweet potatoes, butterbeans, grilled tofu, plantains and corn, baked with cheese on top, was a harmonious combination. The cranberry chipotle and mango habanero salsas we tried were tasty, but sweet and fruity, with only a little heat. The menu also says that any dish can be made vegetarian by substituting tofu, at no extra charge.

The one misstep at the restaurant was the "guacamole." This puzzling drab-green paste only faintly resembled the rich, creamy, avocado-based dish I expected. Upon inquiry, our waiter explained that it was "garden guacamole," made from … peas. The peas are more local, good avocados are hard to get in Boone, it doesn't contain the sour cream that most places put in to stretch their guacamole, and besides, most people like it anyway, were the defenses for this. Fair enough, but it would be better to explain all this to diners before they order the stuff.

That aside, I would heartily recommend Coyote Kitchen to vegetarians in the Boone area. I would also recommend a stop by the Daniel Boone Native Gardens. This little gem is an oasis of beauty and serenity. We hope to be back in the area soon to see what is blooming there, and to visit the other restaurants on our list. Readers, are there any other restaurants in the area that we should try?

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

See you in the funny papers

Many vegetarians know that unpleasant animal products can lurk in seemingly innocent foods. Today's episode of my favorite comic strip, "Get Fuzzy," explores that idea. Rob, the strip's main human character and a longtime vegetarian, learns that there is rennet - or as another character describes it, "baby cow stomach" - in his cheddar cheese. You can read the strip in the Journal, or online here for the next 30 days.

Luckily, the episode is funny as well as educational. A friend and I analyze the strip each day, and he enjoyed it even though he isn't vegetarian. (We also talked a bit about vegetarianism and veganism as a result of the strip.) Keep watching, because I have a feeling that this may be the start of a vegetarian storyline for the week.

Meanwhile, if you would like to learn more about rennet, as well as non-dairy cheese alternatives, the Vegetarian Resource Group has a good article here.

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Flexitarian Table

A co-worker alerted me to the cookbook The Flexitarian Table: Inspired, Flexible Meals for Vegetarians, Meat Lovers, and Everyone in Between, which was published in June. I haven't had a chance to check it out yet, but it sounds as if it would be extremely handy for "sometimes" vegetarians or for cooks in households made up of vegetarians and carnivores. It contains a series of "convertible" recipes that can be made either with or without meat. For instance, the same marinade recipe can be used for both chicken and tofu, so everyone at the table can eat basically the same dish.

You can read a review of the cookbook from The Boston Globe here. There are also some tips from the author for being flexible with protein at the Philadelphia Daily News.

Do you have any tips for satisfying both carnivores and vegetarians at the same meal?


Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Your opinion counts

VegNews magazine is holding its annual Veggie Awards survey. You can go online now to cast votes for your favorite vegetarian restaurant, cookbook author, veg-friendly city, and more. By voting, you're entered into a drawing - A California Dream Veggie Getaway for two is the top prize. Other goodies include a Chocolate Lovers Gift Box and spa baskets.

Entries must be received by midnight Sept. 1. Award winners will be announced in the November/December issue of VegNews.

Good luck! And if you win that California trip and wonder who to take as a guest, remember who told you about the survey in the first place....

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Keeping up appearances

For weeks, I've been bragging on all the fresh vegetables coming in - with posts that might as well have been titled "eggcelent eggplants," "bully for basil" and so on. But last night I realized that my most pressing food issue has ceased to be, "What is the best and most succulent way to prepare this?" and has instead become, "How do I keep all this from going bad?"

So the beets that had been sitting patiently in the crisper (patience is one of beets' virtues) have become beet soup, to be stored in the freezer until further notice. The last lonely ear of corn was microwaved and devoured with plum paste. The okra ... Well, the okra has been rearranged and fretted over, and eventually I may figure out what to do with it.

There appear to be three main strategies for dealing with this overflow:

One is storing vegetables cleverly, so that they remain fresher longer in the fridge. The second is preserving them somehow for longer-term storage. The Internet contains a wealth of information on both. (The third is leaving a basket of veggies on your neighbor's porch, ringing the doorbell, and running. I didn't research this option any further, since I'm not running anywhere in this heat.)

But, back to the first option: The University of Nebraska has an exhaustive guide to harvesting and storing fresh veggies here. And, proving that food storage is an international issue, the Toronto Vegetarian Association has a page of "Tips on Buying and Storing Whole Foods" here.

North Carolina Cooperative Extension has links to a broad range of publications on "Food Preservation and Safety for Consumers, on this page. (The same page has links for commercial food safety, too - just click the link or scroll down the page to find the consumer info.)

And the National Center for Home Food Preservation has information and links on all aspects of this issue. Just ignore the stuff about smoking fish (the whole "cured & smoke" section is full of unpleasantries), and concentrate on such vital issues as chocolate-sauce safety.

Readers, do you have any failsafe tips on keeping food edible? Or – please, oh, please -- any suggestions on how to use okra?

Friday, August 03, 2007


Basil is one of my favorite herbs, with its fresh, bright flavor that works in so many dishes. Luckily it's an herb that's pretty easy to grow in the garden. (Unlike one of my other favorites, cilantro, which will have absolutely no part of our hot Carolina summers.) Though my plants aren't doing quite as well this summer as in the past, I have more than enough to add to my fresh tomato and mozzarella salads. If you have an abundance of basil, making pesto is always a great option, since it's delicious and freezes well. But if you're looking for a different way to use up some fresh basil, here's my favorite homemade salad-dressing recipe, from What's Cooking America by Linda Stradley and Andra Cook:

Lemon-Basil Vinaigrette Dressing
1 medium lemon
2 cloves garlic
1/2 c. rice vinegar
2 c. loosely packed fresh basil leaves
3 T. honey
1/4 t. salt
1 c. extra-virgin olive oil

Remove the zest from the lemon. Squeeze lemon, reserving juice. In a blender or food processor, whirl lemon zest and garlic until minced. Add rice vinegar, basil, honey and salt; whirl until basil is coarsely chopped.

With motor on, slowly drizzle lemon juice and olive oil into basil mixture. Whirl until vinaigrette has thickened slightly and basil is finely chopped.

Yield: 1 cup.

Note: This dressing is fairly tart, so you can add more honey if you want it slightly sweeter.


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Planning ahead

Vegetarians interested in animal rights might enjoy "Becoming the Change," the 22nd annual Compassionate Living Festival, which will be held Oct. 5-7 in Durham.

This year's festival will feature such speakers as Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society; panel discussions on such topics as companion animals and civil liberties; a "Vegan Chic" showcase hosted by Josh Hooten of Herbivore Clothing and author Rory Freedman; exhibits and a bookshop; and five vegan meals.

Registration is due by Sept. 21. It costs $139 a person through Aug. 31, and $169 after that. The festival is produced by the Culture and Animals Foundation, and the Animals and Society Institute, with support from several other groups.

Years ago, I attended some of the Compassionate Living Festivals when it was possible to register for a single day or for individual lectures. That does not appear to be an option this year, unfortunately.

Even if you can't make it to the festival, the Culture and Animals Foundation may be of interest. It was founded in 1985 by Tom Regan - a professor emeritus of philosophy at N.C. State University and author of the influential book The Case for Animal Rights - and his wife, Nancy.

The foundation says that it "exists to expand our understanding and appreciation of animals - improving the ways in which they are treated and their standing in human society."

"Through cultural studies, history, and philosophy, we explore our relationship with animals.

"Through arts and letters - poetry, dance, fiction, painting, theater, sculpture, music - we celebrate our unity.

"In seeing and understanding kindred animals, we see and understand a part of ourselves."