Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Butternut squash - easy peasy!

Don’t get me started about how much I love squash... and in particular, that gem among the squashes: BUTTERNUT!
Seriously – don’t.
Here you are already on my blog, though, so permit me to ramble a bit about butternut squash. If you make it through the whole post, I guarantee that you will want to run, not walk, to your nearest produce section, and buy a beautiful big, weighty, smooth-skinned, pale caramel gold butternut squash and make it for yourself this very night.
First, the skinny on nutrition. A cup of baked butternut squash has 82 calories, contains almost 60% of your daily Vitamin A, over 40% of daily Vitamin C, 13% of your thiamine, 14% of the niacin you need, and almost 9% of your daily calcium requirement! 
Fiber is, alas, negligible, but squash – winter squash in general – is REPLETE with amazing phytonutrients and other goodies.
Yes, there's lots of carbohydrate, too, but according to my go-to nutrition source:

"We think about winter squash as a very starchy vegetable—about 90% of its total calories come from carbohydrate, and about half of this carbohydrate is starch-like in its composition. However, recent research has made it clear that all starch is not the same, and the starch content of winter squash brings along with it some key health benefits. Many of the carbs in winter starch come from polysaccharides found in the cell walls. These polysaccharides include pectins—specially structured polysaccharides that in winter squash often include special chains of D-galacturonic acid called homogalacturonan. An increasing number of animal studies now show that these starch-related components in winter squash have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, as well as anti-diabetic and insulin-regulating properties."

From a health perspective eating squash is a no-brainer.  But how to cook it? It's surprising how many people are daunted by the idea of cutting a squash open and dealing with all the seeds.  And it's true that getting through the outer shell of some winter squash can be a challenge. I recently found a recipe for roasting a butternut WHOLE, and it made my day – blew my mind – changed my life!
Here’s what you do.
  • Wash the squash.
  • Place it on a baking sheet in a 400 degree oven.
  • Walk away.

When you come back about an hour later – just to check – you’ll be able to tell if you need to roast it a little more.
How to tell? The top surface will have a slight (slight) char, and you’ll be able to insert the tip of a sharp knife with ease.
A whole roasted butternut squash is HOT, so when it's done pull it out of the oven and wait about 20 minutes.  Then cut it in half, scrape out the seeds (infinitely easier when everything is soft) and feast!

I like my squash topped with just a soupcon - okay, a tablespoon full - of butter and a sprinkle of my new favorite salt: Maldon salt.   But it's also wonderful topped with a shake of ground cinnamon and a drizzle of maple syrup, or whisked into a strong brown veggie stock to make a pure and vibrantly flavored squash soup.  I even like roasted squash cold the next day - a touch of salt brings out the unctuous natural sweetness.

Low in calories - nutrient dense - ever so tasty - and even slathered in butter it's 90 percent vegan: what's not to like?

At the intersection of politics and food

As someone who tweets a LOT about climate change, I get snarky questions about whether or not I've put my money where my mouth is, and eat vegan.

Well... I have a confession to make. I am not 100% vegan. I was once, and I continue to have great respect for folks who are able to live and eat as full-on vegans. But I am also convinced that, for most people, 90 % vegan is enough to accrue a wealth of amazing benefits, not only for your health and pocketbook, but for the climate of this beautiful planet we share.

My full on, hard core vegan years were 2000 until late 2007. I looked great. I felt great. I was active and happy and had clear skin. Then one day in late November  of 2007 I was at a holiday party, having “the conversation” with someone about what I “could” and “could not” eat, and I just snapped. I’d had it with incredulous, intrusive questions about my diet. I'd had it with people exclaiming, "You'd never get ME to eat tofu!" as if I'd put them in a chokehold and was forcing a slice down their throat.  I'd had enough of answering questions like, "But you can eat chicken, right? Chicken isn't meat!"  I'd had enough of incredulity and semi-polite revulsion and people behaving as if I were trying to foist MY dietary choices off on them, when in fact the opposite was usually what was going on.

I'd had it.  Enough was enough.

And so, with no further ado, I ate a piece of Brie. And another. And then I had a sliver of ham. And by the time I got home, I realized that I had just fallen off the vegan wagon with a THUD.

While it hadn’t been particularly challenging to stay vegan while married to my dedicated carnivore husband, living with a meat eater did make it ridiculously easy to go back to eating meat once I’d given up on the vegan lifestyle. After all, I was already buying meat for R – why not just pick up two T-bones at Safeway instead of one? And why not both of us have meatloaf, rather than me make a meatloaf for him and a veggie patty for myself?

So for eight long years I ate meat, and cheese, and enjoyed myself. I spent more money than I needed to on roast beef and chicken and seafood. I horked down gallons of yogurt and cottage cheese. I slathered Brie on my baguettes. You’ll already have guessed what happened.

Yes – I gained weight. A lot of weight. Slowly but steadily I grew from a size 12/14 to a size 16 – to a size 18 – and finally, to almost a size 22. I topped 264 pounds. It was a disaster.  I'm convinced that, for me, meat wasn't as much the culprit as all the bread and sugar I was eating - but it didn't help.  And I knew all along that eating meat was horrendous for the climate.  I just didn't go back to being vegan because those steaks and slabs of Welsh cheddar just tasted too darned divine!

Then last year, I’d once again had enough again – this time, enough of being fat and uncomfortable and a hypocrite.  I'd had enough of tweeting about CO2 emissions while being such an irresponsible citizen of Earth.  I knew full well the implications of eating a meat-rich diet.  I knew about the tons and tons of emissions being released into the atmosphere from the beef and pork industries.

If you aren't aware of that connection, here's an excellent primer from Scientific American.  

It was time.  If I was going to be a climate change activist

 -- and I am, tweeting from @KiraOnClimate as well as @90pctvegan, and blogging at Hair on Fire People and The Daily Kos  in addition to this blog --

I needed to practice what I was preaching.  I needed to make a change. 

And so I made another, hopefully final, drastic change to my diet. I started eating 90% vegan.

Full disclosure - I have also switched over to a regime that eschews sugar entirely and limits grain.  That's me.  What I am explicitly advocating for on the grounds that it's better for the climate is just the 90% vegan part.  For lots of folks, 90 % vegan is much easier if you includes lots of whole grains, and I intend to do that in the recipes I post here.  My grain-aversion is my craziness, not yours.


The immediate effect was amazing. My midriff, which had bulged and billowed for years, started to pull in. I went from having a bulbous tummy to having a moderate hour glass! I almost immediately lost over 20 pounds. And I felt great – lighter and leaner, with much, much more energy.

It’s been a year since I started, and I can honestly say that eating this way just feels RIGHT for me. It’s a little bit paleo, a lot vegan, and it’s easy, tasty, and pretty cheap.

In a nutshell, this way of eating is just what it sounds like. Get 90% of your daily calories from plants, and 10% (or fewer - fewer is good, too!) from local, organic, free-range, sustainable animal sources.

Okay, you may be thinking – great. Some yappy, liberal, self-satisfied broad in Seattle lost a little weight and feels better because she eats a ton of kale and arugula.  How does that affect the planet, exactly?

The answer is simple.  It doesn't affect the planet. But it might - if enough of us do it - help reduce emissions and aid the fight against global climate change!

I got this list from Mikko Alanne, who blogged about it over at Huffington Post.  You can read it here: http://tinyurl.com/yfzh3vf

If all Americans did not eat meat for one day a week, they would save 99.6 megatons of greenhouse gas emissions, or the equivalent of removing 46 million round trip flights between Los Angeles and New York, or taking 19.2 million cars off the road for a full year.
 If everyone in the US did not eat meat for two days a week, they would save 199 megatons of greenhouse gas emissions. This would have the same effect as replacing ALL household appliances in the US with energy efficient ones. 
If all Americans did not eat meat for three days a week, they would save almost 300 megatons of greenhouse gas emissions. This would have a greater impact on the climate than replacing all US cars with Toyota Priuses.
 If everyone in the US did not eat meat for four days a week, they would save 398 megatons of greenhouse gas emissions. This would be the carbon savings equivalent of cutting the use of all electricity, gas, oil, petroleum, and kerosene in the United States in half.
 If all Americans abstained from eating meat for five days a week, they would save 498 megatons of greenhouse gas emissions. This would result in the carbon savings equivalent of planting 13 billion trees and letting them grow for ten years.
 If all Americans did not eat meat for six days a week, they would save nearly 600 megatons of greenhouse gas emissions. This would be the equivalent of eliminating the total electricity use of all households in the United States.
 And finally: If everyone in the United States ate a vegetarian diet for seven days, they would save around 700 megatons of greenhouse gas emissions. That would be the same as removing all the cars off the roads in the US.

Those numbers are stunning. But they’re also very hopeful! They mean that we as individual consumers have incredible power over what’s happening to the climate – that we can make a huge impact just by eating tasty, tempting, clean, healthful foods!

Stay tuned for upcoming posts about all three aspects of the 90 percent vegan lifestyle – featuring shopping lists and tips, recipes, and more.

Chili - it's what's for dinner!

Shaky cam!

What's more delightful in the bleak midwinter than a hearty, warming bowl of chili?

The one-pot wonder (shown in the early stages above) is 90 percent vegan, yet full of that lovely umami taste from a judicious amount of meat.

I used sustainable, local ground beef - just a half pound for the entire pot, or about an ounce a serving.  To coax even more richness out of the dish, I added mushrooms, which are well known in veggie circles for their meaty flavor.

Here's the "recipe," such as it is.

1 large tomato, diced
1 large orange bell pepper, sliced in rings
1 large green bell pepper, sliced in rings
1 large jalapeno pepper, seeded, sliced in rings
2 large onions, diced
3 ribs celery, diced
1 bunch green onions, sliced on the bias
1 lb button mushrooms, diced
1 can jalapenos packed in chipotle sauce
2 large cans peeled tomatoes packed in their own juice
1/2 lb local, sustainable, grass fed beef, ground
salt and pepper to taste
palm full of plain old chili powder

Add a dollop of olive oil to your heavy bottomed soup pot and brown the ground beef.

When it's almost completely brown, add the mushrooms and saute until they're also brown and have given up their liquid.

Add the onions and celery and saute for a few minutes - they should just start to pick up a little color.

Add everything else EXCEPT for the canned goods and saute for about 5 minutes - again, just to get things started.

Now crunch the tomatoes a little with your fingers and dump them in, along with the canned jalapenos.

Bring chili to a simmer and let it cook for at least 20 minutes to get the flavors going.  Longer never hurt anyone... and this is excellent the 2nd and the 3rd day!

Obviously, adjust seasoning to your taste.  You can add hot sauce, more chili powder, smoked paprika.... it's very much up to you.

The point is - it's chili, it's made with meat, it's delicious, and it's 90 percent vegan. For the win!

As for a picture of the completed chili?  We ate it up too fast to get a shot.

Arnold has dropped the mic

Arnold Schwarzenegger is making news today, talking about climate change and urging people go partially vegetarian.  So I thought I'd dust off this blog and see if I could add anything of value.

It occurs to me that recipes and tips might be just the prosaic, down-to-Earth help that some folks need to make the move from eating meat.  It's all well and good for celebrities to encourage dietary changes that will "save the planet" (not my favorite phrase) but actually doing something about that - actual people making actual changes - that's an entirely different story.

Americans eat a LOT of meat.  Over 270 pounds per person, per year.  While that's nowhere near as much as a steer weighs (an adult male averages over a ton) it is still a LOT of meat.  Going 90% vegan would mean reducing one's (average) consumption to just 27 pounds of meat per year - about a half pound a week, or two 4 ounce servings.

Looked at another way, if you need 2000 calories a day to fuel yourself, that means 200 of them could come from animal sources a day, more or less.

My recommendation - going 90% vegan - is just what it sounds like.  Get at least 90% of your daily calories from plants, and no more than 10% from local, organic, free-range, sustainable animal sources.

Schwarzenegger says that asking people to go completely vegan or vegetarian is asking too much, and I hate to admit it, but he's right.  As a vegan I got more than my fair share of horrified gasps and blurted comments, along the lines of "I could NEVER give up MY bacon!" and "What do you even EAT?!?!" so I know that most folks - that is, most Americans - aren't going to give up all of their animal protein.

But 90 percent vegan?  I think that's do-able.  Even 80% vegan is better for the planet than not trying to reduce your calories from unsustainable factory-farmed meat.  It’s something I think every American can do - and SHOULD do - for some pretty obvious and simple reasons. It’s good for your:



And it’s also good for the


Not sure anyone would argue that going 90% vegan is good for one’s waistline. As a 100% vegan I lost 60+ pounds - then gained those pounds right back when I tool to eating meat again.

You might think this is a pretty shallow reason to go 90% vegan – but if that’s what motivates you, who cares? Anyway, dropping that extra avoirdupois should be good for your health. Lower blood pressure, etc., etc. is a good thing!

As for your wallet – well, it’s certainly a no-brainer that you can save money if you’re not buying meat and dairy. While it is certainly possible to inflate your grocery bill if you aren't a careful shopper, eating at home more, cooking from fresh ingredients, and replacing expensive cuts of meat with whole grains and beans and tofu can make a big difference to your bottom line. The savings aspect of this will be the subject of posts explaining HOW.

Finally, while it might not be immediately apparent to many that going 90% vegan can help save our planet from global climate change, in fact, it CAN.  Here's Mikko Alanne's great blog post explaining the concept.

It's been a year since my last post, and in the interim I've been blogging over at at the Daily Kos as well as trying to keep up my own climate change blog.  Let's see if I can get my fingers flying even faster, and start posting recipes and shopping tips here!

Thanks for reading... and please (really, this time) - stay tuned!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

90pctvegan hack of the day - eggs!

Two fried eggs atop sauteed mushrooms and spinach.  Behold, the eggy goodness, the meaty umami of the mushrooms, and the Popeye levels of nutrition in the spinach!
This is 90 percent vegan. Really!

One large egg contains 6 grams of protein, and only 71 calories.  So here's 142 of my daily 240-ish calories from an animal source - and it's truly delicious!  The richness of the yolks bastes the underlying layer of veg in creamy sauce-y goodness, making a breakfast of plants into something truly decadent and amazing.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

90pctvegan hack of the day – sardines

Here’s an incredibly in-depth nutrition profile from my go-to source, World’s Healthiest Foods

One serving provides 2338% (yes, thousands) of your daily B1, 87% of the selenium you need (so watch the Brazil nut intake on a day you eat sardines), 64% of your phosphorus, 61% of your omega-3 fats, 45% of the protein you need, and a whopping 44% of your daily requirement of vitamin D!  (This isn’t YOUR, of course.  It’s an average of regular adults.  I am not prescribing anything or making ANY representation about giving you personalized advice.  J )

Pacific sardines
And they’re cheap.  On sale at Safeway last night were Beach Cliff brand sardines in mustard sauce (mmmmm – mustard) for a buck a can.  One single buck.

As for calories – according to the Beach Cliff website, a can of their sardines in mustard sauce is 140 calories! That’s well in keeping with my 10% animal/90% plant rule.

Were I not pinching pennies, I might opt for these – and here’s where the topic on climate change comes in.

How sustainable are sardines?  Well, I read here (with alarm) that they are likely already being affected by the warming of our planet. 

And the whole picture is complicated. I read that Gristpiece with a lot of interest, because it highlighted the many ways we don’t know precisely what our impact is on the food webs and ecosystems with which we share our precious planet.

And that deserves a YIKES

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Let's Make an Impact - a Delicious Impact!

I don’t think it’s controversial to state that there are quite a few people in America who think vegans and vegetarians are annoying, in the way they might find it annoying when someone pipes up that they’re “gluten-free.”
As irritating as I myself find self-promotional special-dieters of all stripes (I’m looking at you, gluten-free-for-no-reason and I’m-on-a-juice-CLEANSE people!) I can honestly say that it goes both ways.
When I was vegan, I made it a policy to Keep My Trap Shut. Because it really can be a conversation stopper to drop a lead balloon like, “Thanks, but I can’t eat cheese,” or “That looks delicious, but I’m vegan.” I generally just said “No thanks” and left it at that.
Fair dos – as a larger woman, people generally expect me to “be on a diet,” so my “no thanks” was probably mostly met with a mental “Well, of course she’s not having any – she’s a FATTIE!”
Still, it did come up. Sometimes, nothing but “I’m a vegan” works to stop coercion. “Oh c’mon – just ONE little piece?! It’s delicious! I made it with Real Butter!  It’s my Grandma Gesundheit’s recipe!  You’ll LOVE it!”
In those situations, a firm “That looks amazing, but I’m vegan, so I don’t eat butter,” was often my only recourse.
And it was in those situations that I learned that the vast majority of Americans are probably never gonna be 100%, hard core, card-carrying vegans.
Better looking food in future, I promise!

Reactions ranged from incomprehension (“Dairy doesn’t count, right?” and the divinely moronic “But chicken isn’t meat!”) to horror (“You don’t eat ANY meat?!”) to a strangely bellicose stance, as if I’d said not simply “No thanks,” but “No thanks – AND YOU CAN”T HAVE ANY EITHER!”  The belligerence was often married to a fiercely proprietary attitude (“I couldn’t LIVE without MY BACON!” or “No one’s taking away MY STEAK!”) that put me back on my heels a tad.
So what to do? If we accept the premise that not many Americans are vegetarian or vegan we know that isn’t enough people to move the dial on climate change.  
Here’s the money quote: “The just-released “Vegetarianism in America” study, published by Vegetarian Times (vegetariantimes.com), shows that 3.2 percent of U.S. adults, or 7.3 million people, follow a vegetarian-based diet. Approximately 0.5 percent, or 1 million, of those are vegans, who consume no animal products at all. In addition, 10 percent of U.S., adults, or 22.8 million people, say they largely follow a vegetarian-inclined diet.”
Not a lot of people.

But if everyone could be convinced that it’s possible to make a big impact on their carbon footprint while at the same time getting to eat at least a little of THEIR BACON – well, would that be a good thing?
I submit that it would.
The challenge, of course, is to convince not just with statistics, but with recipes. Delicious, healthy, life-affirming recipes that are 90% plants and 10% animal (organic, sustainable, cruelty-free, of course) products.
And that’s what this blog is setting out to do.  Please stay tuned for delicious foodie goodness, complete with shaky-cam bad quality pix from my trusty new iPhone 4S!