Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Birthday Weekend

We spent the weekend in Carmel and Monterey for my wife's birthday. This is a shot of Carmel Bay facing north. A picture never does justice to the real thing, but I was trying to capture the waves and the varying shades of water.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Vegan and Omnivore Co-existing Peacefully

In the same issue of Newsweek (noted below), there is another interesting article: "Eat, Drink, Man, Woman (and Child)."

Men and Depression

The current issue of Newsweek magazine, dated February 26, 2007 has a cover article titled "Men & Depression: Facing Darkness."

As a man suffering from depression, I think the more information that's out there, the better. Depression takes a terrible toll on men and women, but men are often overlooked just because of the oft-quoted statistics about twice as many women having depression as men.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

100th Day of School

While not the sort of thing we make much of a big deal of in fifth grade, the grade I teach, today is the 100th day of school for us this year. I only mention it to point out my other blog: 180 Days of School. It's a collection of quotes about education and related topics that I have been doing this year. You might find it interesting.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Ditching the Dairy

From MSN Health & Fitness:

Making the Decision to Ditch Dairy

Some experts question whether milk, cheese and yogurt are essential for your diet.
By Martica Heaner, M.A., M.Ed.

Q: Your article "Good Cholesterol, Bad Cholesterol", recommends reducing saturated fats like high-fat meats and dairy. My personal trainer said that I should eliminate dairy completely. But why should it be reduced or omitted when nutrition guidelines call for two to three servings of dairy each day?

A: Eating less saturated fat, found in meat and regular dairy products like whole milk and cheese, can help control high cholesterol. Low- or no-fat dairy products are better sources of calcium and protein.

But some nutrition experts are starting to question the benefits of dairy, especially following the USDA recommendation to eat as much as three servings every single day. New York University professor Marion Nestle writes extensively in Food Politics how lobbyists have influenced the government’s nutritional guidelines. It’s the profit motive, as Nestle explains in her book “Food lobbyists, therefore, are people who ask government officials to make rules or laws that will benefit their clients’ companies, whether or not they benefit anyone else.” So, if a particular type of food gets the governments’ stamp of approval, then it's likely that sales will increase. The dairy industry spends millions promoting consumption, such as in the “Got Milk” ad campaign. Most recently there have been charges that the dairy industry is trying to boost sales by claiming that eating more dairy helps with weight control.

So is something wrong with dairy? Some say it’s a no-brainer: Only babies of various animal species drink milk, suggesting that adults of the species don’t really need it. When it comes to humans, up to two-thirds of the world’s population—including around 50 percent to 90 percent of Mexican-Americans, African-Americans, Native-Americans and Asian-Americans—are lactose-intolerant, according to the Surgeon General’s 2004 report on Bone Health and Osteoporosis, meaning that they lack or are low in the enzyme lactase, which digests milk. So they are unable to consume much milk-based food.

Plus, critics say, cow’s milk is designed for, well, calves. And because of the different biochemical composition between human and cow’s milk, babies who aren’t breastfed are given formula instead of regular cow’s milk.

Although the calcium and protein in milk are important nutrients, proof that dairy sources of calcium are required for strong bones is weak. Populations that eat little or no dairy do not have higher rates of osteoporosis.

Some studies suggest a significantly increased risk of some cancers from eating three or more servings a day of dairy, especially prostate cancer in men. This cancer link is inconclusive, however, and more research needs to be done.

Dr. Walter Willett, a Harvard University nutrition researcher and author of Eat, Drink and Be Healthy and Eat, Drink and Weigh Less, believes that dairy products are not essential, and recommends low-fat dairy or supplements as sources of calcium. (If you do take a multivitamin or calcium supplement, make sure that it also contains D.)

When it comes to bone health, calcium and vitamin D aren’t the only important nutrients that play a role: Vitamin K, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, vitamin C, zinc and other trace minerals all help form bone. If you eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, you’ll easily meet your quota of these nutrients.

So do you have to give up pizza, grilled-cheese sandwiches, ice cream, yogurt and chocolate milk? Probably not. Most populations, even if they don’t drink milk, have developed fermented milk foods such as yogurts and cheeses, so it’s not like dairy is a completely new food source. If you have problems digesting milk products—and this can worsen with age—you can find substitutes or use Lactaid.

If you are a big milk drinker and have dairy at every meal, keep an eye out on the latest research findings to stay informed. You may want to cut down. Choosing lower-fat options and holding off on the extra cheese is a smart idea when it comes to weight and cholesterol control.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Vegetable Soup

Here is another article from the San Mateo County Times:

Beef up vegetable soup without meat for hearty winter meal
By Russ Parsons, Los Angeles Times

IN the face of such recent challenges as freezing temperatures, battling the flu or recovering from the lingering effects of holiday overeating, there is nothing quite so restorative as a bowl of soup.

Few things are easier to fix than a soup made from vegetables. No long simmering of meaty bones or tough cuts, no complicated stocks.

For meat-eaters, the hardest part of making vegetarian soups is coming up with a combination of ingredients that has enough substance to make you feel like you've eaten. The best solution is beans. Because they're naturally high in protein and have a dense, meaty texture, beans fill in nicely, giving the vegetables the balance they need.

After that, though, vegetable soups are a breeze.

White Bean and Fennel Soup
Olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
2 fennel bulbs
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound dry Great Northern or cannellini beans
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup white wine
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons best-quality olive oil, divided, for garnish

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy soup pot over medium-low heat. Add onion and carrots, and cover and cook until they soften, about 20 minutes.

Trim branches and fronds from both bulbs of fennel; chop at least cup of the fronds, wrap tightly and refrigerate. Quarter 1 bulb lengthwise and cut out the solid core. Dice and add to the soup pot.

Set other bulb aside.

When vegetables in the soup pot are softened and aromatic, stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, 2 or 3 minutes. Add the beans, bay leaf and 8 cups of water. Cover and place in the oven to cook for 1 hour.

After 1 hour, remove the pot from the oven and stir in 11/2teaspoons salt. Return to oven to finish cooking until the beans are tender, another 45 minutes to 1 hour, 15 minutes. Cooking time can vary depending on the condition of the beans, so begin checking after 30 minutes.

When beans are tender, remove pot from oven. If a few beans are slightly chalky, leave the pot covered for a while and they will finish cooking in the reserved heat. If the soup loses too much moisture in the oven, add water as needed to maintain a soup-like consistency.

In a small skillet, heat 1/4cup olive oil over medium heat. Quarter the remaining fennel bulb lengthwise, but do not trim the core, so the fennel bulb will stay together. Fry the bulb until well browned on all three sides, covering tightly in between turns to avoid splattering. Remove the pan from the heat momentarily to carefully add the wine, replace the cover, and cook until the fennel is tender, about 10 minutes.

When the fennel is tender, remove from pan, sprinkle with salt and cut each quarter in half lengthwise. Add to the soup. (The dish can be prepared up to this point a day in advance and refrigerated, tightly covered.)

When ready to serve, warm soup over medium heat in a covered pot. Just before serving, stir in the reserved chopped fennel fronds. Add freshly ground black pepper to taste and more salt, if necessary. Ladle soup into warm, wide soup plates and finish each with a drizzle of the best-quality olive oil. Serve immediately.

Serves 8.

Per serving: 293 Calories; 13 grams Protein; 37 grams Carbohydrates; 12 grams Fiber; 11 grams Fat; 2 grams Saturated Fat; 0 Cholesterol; 481 milligrams Sodium.

Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World!

The following article was reprinted in the San Mateo County Times.

Book offers strict vegan ethics frosted with hedonism
By Julia Moskin, New York Times

ISA CHANDRA MOSKOWITZ, a vegan chef, does not particularly like to talk about tofu. Ditto seitan, tempeh and nutritional yeast.

"I think vegan cooks need to learn to cook vegetables first," she said last week during a cupcake-baking marathon. "Then maybe they can be allowed to move on to meat substitutes."

Moskowitz, 34, was born in Coney Island Hospital, lives in Brooklyn, and is a typically impatient and opinionated New Yorker. She can't stand how slowly most cooks peel garlic, makes relentless fun of Rachael Ray and rolls her eyes at the mention of California hippies.

But as a vegan and a follower of punk music since age 14, she is also part of a culinary movement that helped turn the chaotic energy of punk culture of the 1970s and 1980s into a progressive political force.

"Punk taught me to question everything," Moskowitz said. "Of course, in my case that means questioning how to make a Hostess cupcake without eggs, butter or cream."

The charm of Moskowitz — in person, in her cookbooks and on her public-access television cooking show, the Post-Punk Kitchen (theppk.com/shows/) — is that she makes even the deprivations of veganism and the rage of punk seem like fun. Like feminism that embraces makeup and miniskirts — the frivolous bits — Moskowitz's veganism embraces chocolate, white flour, confectioners' sugar, and food coloring.

Wearing a black "Made Out of Babies" T-shirt (it's a friend's band) above a red-and-white
checked apron, she bent maternally over a batch of strawberry cupcakes.

"Don't you just want to pinch their little cupcake cheeks?" she said.

But can a cupcake be cute and punk at the same time? In the early days of punk, bands like the Sex Pistols and the Clash were notorious for nihilism, anarchism and epic consumption of drugs and alcohol. But as punk became more political (and as bands self-destructed) in the 1990s, many punks adopted a more profoundly rebellious stance: against drugs, against alcohol and against the whole habit of mindless consumption.

"It was about purifying the movement, about being poison-free," said Ted Leo, of Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, who led the band Chisel in the 1990s. He became vegetarian in 1988 and has been vegan since 1998.

Many punks became vegetarian to protest corporate and government control of the food supply. Veganism takes vegetarianism farther into cruelty-free territory by avoiding anything produced by animals: milk, cheese, eggs, honey, etc.

"I would love to live in a world where I knew the eggs came from happy chickens," Moskowitz said. "But in Brooklyn? That's not going to happen.

"Besides, eggs are the big lie in baking. All the books say they provide structure, but that's kind of crap."

At 16, Moskowitz dropped out of the High School of Music and Art in New York to follow bands, live in squats in the East Village and cook for social justice.

"I learned knife skills by cooking for Food not Bombs," she said, referring to the activist group that protests corporate and government food policy. "But I also learned to love Julia Child and Martha Stewart. Vegan food can and must be pretty," she said, pounding a fist on the butcher-block counter.

Moskowitz's kitchen, like punk music itself, has a strong do-it-yourself aesthetic. Her husband, a carpenter, builds more shelves when the ingredients threaten to take over, the oven needs frequent coaxing to get up to temperature,

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Lemony Frosting and if Fizzle the cat wants to sit on top of the refrigerator, the cupcakes must move over.

"Here is the hideous curdled face of vegan baking," Moskowitz said, gesturing to a bowl of soy milk mixed with vegetable oil and cider vinegar. Baking, she said, has long been the final frontier for vegan cooks.

Her second cookbook, "Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World," was published by Marlowe & Co. last fall. Her first, "Vegan With a Vengeance" (Marlowe, 2005), has sold more than 50,000 copies.

"Omnivores" — that's meat-and-dairy eaters — "can't imagine baking without eggs and butter," she said. "But we use cider vinegar instead of buttermilk for tenderizing, and really good shortening for the fat, and the rest just happens." Nonhydrogenated shortening and margarine produced by Earthbalance and full-fat soy milk from Silk are her baking staples.

From them, instead of lumpy, penitential scones and muffins (the usual vegan baked goods) Moskowitz and her co-author Terry Hope Romero produce insanely fetching cupcakes with mousse fillings, butter cream frostings, chocolate ganache icings and sprinkles galore.

Moskowitz says that she has received passionate e-mail messages not only from vegans but also from parents of children allergic to eggs or dairy products, who are thrilled to find vegan baked goods that are not made with whole-wheat flour and egg substitutes and that actually taste good.

The next book by the two women, to be published in the fall, will be "the long-awaited vegan Joy of Cooking," Moskowitz said. "Vegan food is everywhere."

Moskowitz and Romero both have been vegetarian since age 16, and vegan for almost that long.
"It's kind of like being gay, in that vegans tend to remember an 'aha' moment in adolescence or childhood," Moskowitz said. "It happens when you realize that the lambs or chickens on your plate are the same as the ones at the petting zoo."

It is also like being gay in that, 20 years ago, the notion of a vegetarian teenager was far more alien than it is today.

"People used to throw chicken nuggets at me in the cafeteria," said Romero, who grew up in Plainville, Conn.

The number of adult vegetarians has remained steady at 2 to 3 percent, the Vegetarian Resource Group has found in 10 years of regular polling. But American teenagers have been taking up vegetarianism in growing numbers.

In a 2005 Harris Interactive poll for the group, 10 percent of girls ages 13 to 18 said they "never" ate meat, poultry or seafood.

In a 2006 poll of 100,000 college students by the food service giant Aramark, 30 percent of all students said that it was "very important" to them to have vegetarian food options on campus, up from 26 percent in 2004.

But punk vegans like Moskowitz and Leo acknowledge that they are still far outside the mainstream, and that the label "vegan" — unlike "vegetarian" — can still inspire a strong negative reaction.

"Any time you confront a deeply ingrained societal norm, people are going to get upset," Leo said.

Moskowitz agreed that the vegan movement is in need of a public-relations overhaul.

"I can't say there's no self-righteousness in the movement, and also, a lot of the food is awful."

She said vegans should stop whining about what they can and can't eat, and start cooking.

"When someone invites you to dinner, bring something delicious, and share it," she said.

This peaceable approach — smoothing frosting over the rough edges of rage — might be the key to Moskowitz's appeal.

"You can't stay angry forever," she said. "Either as a punk or as a vegan."

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Lemony Frosting
From "Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World" by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero (Marlowe & Co., $15.95)

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup light molasses
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup soy milk
2 tablespoons soy yogurt
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
1/4 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
1 recipe Vegan Lemony Cream Cheese Frosting (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin pan with paper cupcake liners.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, cloves and salt into a bowl and mix.
Whisk the oil, molasses, maple syrup, soy milk, yogurt and lemon zest in a separate large bowl. Add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and mix just until smooth. Fold in the chopped crystallized ginger.

Fill cupcake liners two-thirds full. Bake for 19 to 22 minutes, until a knife or toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely before frosting.

Makes 12 cupcakes.

Vegan Lemony Cream Cheese Frosting
From "Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World" by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero (Marlowe & Co., $15.95)

1/4 cup nonhydrogenated margarine, softened
1/4 cup vegan cream cheese (found in many health food stores), softened
2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest

Cream together margarine and cream cheese until just combined. Use a handheld mixer to whip while adding the confectioners' sugar in 1/2-cup batches. Mix until smooth and creamy, then mix in the vanilla and lemon zest. Keep tightly covered and refrigerated until ready to use.

Makes enough for 12 cupcakes.

Per cupcake (with frosting): 334 Calories; 15g Fat; 2g Protein; 49g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 6mg Cholesterol; 205mg Sodium.