August 2013 Healthy Cruelty-Free Living

August  2013  Healthy Cruelty-Free Living

Meatless Monday: Baba Ghanoush Stuffed Zucchini Flowers

Zucchini Flower stuffed with Baba Ghanoush

This is another of my food experiments and I have not stopped craving this since I ate it for the first time last night. The sweet, succulent taste of zucchini flower still sits on my tongue like a gentle reminder of a delicious kiss from the food gods. I read a number of recipes utilizing zucchini flowers, but none of them sounded particularly appetizing, so I set out to create my own stuffed zucchini blossoms using ingredients from my garden.

Baba Ghanoush is a Levantine dish of mashed eggplant and seasonings.

1 pound eggplant (I used Fairytale Eggplant, which I believe MADE the flavor of this Baba Ghanoush)

2 Tablespoons fresh mint (I used orange mint)

Cut eggplant(s) in half, lengthwise, and lay out on a baking sheet. Broil for 15 minutes. Place entire eggplant (including skin) into food processor. (NOTE: This is for Fairytale Eggplant, which is much smaller than the normal eggplant you find in the stores. For larger eggplant, it is suggested by others to NOT cut your eggplant in half. Instead pierce it with a fork and broil for 30-45 minutes to soften the insides. Remove from oven and slice in half letting the insides spill out. Place only the insides of the large eggplant in your food processor the skin will be too tough.)

Add the rest of the ingredients, except olive oil, to your food processor and process. While blending, slowly add the 4 tablespoons of olive oil.

The best time to pick zucchini flowers is in the morning. They are typically open and beckoning the bees to visit and help pollinate and spread the love. The male flowers are the ones you want because the female flowers will become the zucchini fruit. You can definitely tell the difference between male and female flowers, trust me.

2 male Zucchini Flowers, stamens removed, can leave some of the stem

On medium heat, heat olive oil and sherry in a wok.

Add tomato, green onions, and herbs.

While the above ingredients are heating, stuff each zucchini flower with baba ghanoush as much or as little as you prefer. Pinch ends of flowers together and twist to hold the baba ghanoush inside the flower.

Place stuffed flowers in wok and cover with heated tomato mixture. Heat for 2 minutes. Very carefully turn the flowers over and heat for 2 more minutes.

To serve, place the stuffed zucchini flowers on the tomato mixture. Add a dollop of baba ghanoush to the plate along with a sprig of mint and a sprinkle of sunflower seeds.

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In February of last year, we started our quest to find a cruelty free toothpaste. I like brushing my teeth, it makes me feel clean. If I’m unable to shower, say like when we go camping, if I can brush my teeth I automatically feel that much cleaner. Plus, I have an amazing smile and I’d like to keep it that way. The first toothpaste we tried was TheraBreath and it was not my favorite thing to shove in my mouth. I’m glad that tube didn’t last very long. We then tried Burt’s Bees Natural Toothpaste and that was much better. The problem with Burt’s Bees, however, is that their parent company is Clorox, and Clorox tests products on animals.

Next, we found Jäsön toothpaste and the rest is history! We have tried the Powersmile ® Whitening Toothpaste and Sea Fresh ® Strengthening Toothpaste. Both leave your mouth feeling clean and fresh. I cannot say enough about how much I love this toothpaste. The best part about this toothpaste and the company that makes it is that they “Never test on animals.”

They are a member of Leaping Bunny and are also on the PETA do not test on animals list. Jäsön’s parent company is Hain Celestial Group (Leaping Bunny certified) who is also the parent company of Alba Botanica and Queen Helene.

I did some digging on the Hain Celestial Group’s website and can’t find a particular statement that claims they do not test their products, or allow their companies to test products on animals, but being certified by Leaping Bunny and PETA is a huge step when it comes to making these claims. There has to be trust from the consumer, so for now I’m going to trust them.

What I did find in my research, however, is the number of brands that Hain Celestial Group owns. There are food and beverage brands along with the personal care products that I use. I got excited when I saw the list of food brands that they own, however, some of them sell food made from animal products such as Greek Gods Yogurt and Rosetto pasta, which make cheese stuffed ravioli.

While I do still consume dairy products, I am very particular about those products and where they come from. For example, the milk we use to make our own yogurt (haven’t bought store-bought yogurt in over a year) and the cheese we buy come from local dairies that raise their cattle humanely. I can’t find a guarantee from the above Hain Celestial companies about where their milk and cheese products derive from. Therefore, I would never purchase their products. But that’s me and now I’ve gone off on a tangent. We were supposed to be talking about toothpaste!

Considering the relation between Jäsön, Hain Celestial Group, and Rosetto (for example), my first reaction is to say that I need to find a new toothpaste, but I also need to be realistic. There will always be connections to companies that we don’t agree with, or whose practices don’t jive with our way of life. Leaping Bunny and PETA both claim to trust Hain Celestial Group as a company that does not test on animals. Plus, the Jäsön brand toothpaste is one of the only brands that I can actually find in the stores that don’t test on animals. I have found them locally in Boise at Fred Meyer and I imagine that the new Whole Foods might carry some of their products as well. Did I mention that Jäsön doesn’t just make toothpaste? They also make deodorant, among other things.

I will never buy any dairy products from a Hain Celestial brand, but I already know that I like Celestial Seasonings tea (also a Hain Celestial Group brand). So, for now, I will continue to purchase Jäsön Toothpaste. They never test their products on animals and that is something that I can easily stand behind. Plus, their toothpaste is yummy.

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Vegetable Pocket a delicious camping meal

Todays Meatless Monday meal is an extra special treat. I created this for our camping trip this past weekend and was told by the husband that it was the best camping meal hes ever eaten. He even managed to offend his mom with this statement. But, lets face it, vegetarian camping food is TOTALLY AWESOME. Who knew? This was our first camping trip as pescatarians and we chose to bypass any seafood and went straight for an all vegetarian weekend. Ill be posting a different blog post about vegetarian camping, soon. For now, here is my amazing Vegetable Pocket recipe, made with all fresh ingredients straight from our garden:

Fairytale Eggplant, sliced in half (4 each)

Lay out a large rectangle of foil for each vegetable pocket that you plan on making. I made two vegetable pockets one for myself and one for the husband.

Fill half of each foil rectangle with the above ingredients, using as much or as little of each vegetable and herb as you desire. DO NOT put the olive oil or cheese in the foil pocket until cooking time.

Fold the empty half of the foil rectangle over the vegetables and crimp the three edges. This will keep in a cooler for a couple of days.

When you are ready to cook your vegetable pocket, slightly open the foil and add enough olive oil to cover the vegetables and the optional crumbled feta cheese.

Reseal your foil pocket and place on a charcoal grill. Cover grill with a lid and grill for about a half hour, or until veggies are cooked to your liking.

My goal with this meal was to cook it over the campfire, however, most of Idaho is on fire this summer so campfires in undeveloped camping areas are not permitted. We found great success cooking these over a tiny charcoal grill, so even if were not camping we can cook these at home! If you are able to have a campfire, you can place these vegetable foil pockets on a grill directly over the fire. Check it after 15-20 minutes to see how cooked your vegetables are and return it to the grill if theyre not quite done. The beauty of this meal is that you can play with it! Use different combinations of vegetables and herbs each vegetable pocket can be made to order with the person youre making it for in mind. Seriously, this was the best camping dinner weve ever had.

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My day started off as any other day. I left home at 10 minutes to 7am late started my book on tape, and sighed as I drove to work. Traffic was fairly light this Thursday morning, as many people are on vacation, or getting ready to head off for the weekend. The sun is rising in the sky later in the morning, so I had to turn on the headlights. On this long stretch of road between the freeway and my job location, I listened to my book, Of Human Bondage, by W. Somerset Maugham, enjoying the tale of Phillip and his struggle to find himself in life.

Every time I get into my car, I turn on my animal radar. Any piece of trash, or pile of leaves on the side of the road gets thoroughly inspected by my eyes. I am constantly on the lookout for animals that may have been hit and left on the side of the road. This morning was no different. Except that I actually saw something.

I was heading west at 35 miles per hour, scanning the road, and of course paying attention to the traffic around me. Up ahead, on the left hand side of the road, I saw a little brown headed dog look up. The red truck in front of me slowed down and I thought the driver had seen the dog as well, and perhaps even knew the dog. The truck made a left turn into a business driveway and didnt stop. The dog and I made eye contact. I passed him and looked in my rear view mirror thinking to myself, surely someone will stop for him. No one stopped. I drove to the next intersection, took a right and made a u-turn. The stoplight was on my side it turned green just as I reached it.

I headed east, back the way I came, looking for the dog, hoping someone had stopped. But there he was, resting in the bright green grass in front of a recently closed business, he hadnt moved from his previous position. He looked like he was just lounging in a yard waiting for someone to throw his ball so he could chase it down and bring it back. I pulled over, waiting for a couple of cars to pass and got out of my car. I approached him slowly, Hi buddy, I said.

He looked at me, panting hard, eyes wide, wondering what I was about to do. He didnt move. As I got closer, I could smell dog poo. I reached my hand out so that he could sniff it, bent down, and looked at his body. He was wet, one of his front paws was bloody. He wanted to move, but he simply couldnt. He was wearing a collar, but I couldnt check for tags. I picked him up off the wet grass and saw that he had been laying in his own shit. I dont know how long he had been there, but the distance between him and the road was far enough that he HAD to have crawled into the grass after getting hit.

I lifted him into my arms and walked him to my car. I put him on the floor of the passenger side and waited for traffic to clear so I could walk around to the drivers side. I got in my car and looked at him. He looked scared and I told him it was going to be alright. I pulled into the street, turned around, and headed west to the emergency vet, aptly named WestVet.

On the way to the vet, the dog tried to get up off the floor of my car and come to me. I put my hand out to his nose so he could sniff it and introduced myself. Im Steph, youre going to be alright.

We arrived at the vet office and I carried him in. I told the girl behind the counter that I think hed been hit by a car. She called a code yellow and a vet came running out from the back. She took him from my arms and as she headed to the emergency room, she said that she felt some bones shift he may have a broken hip.

I signed some paperwork and offered to pay for whatever they had to do xrays, surgery, anything. They told me that that wouldnt be necessary since this is a good Samaritan case. They have a fund set up for these types of cases. I started to cry at their kindness. Another vet came out from the back and said that the dog had tags, they would try to reach the owners. Once the paperwork was signed, I went to the restroom to wash the dog poo off my hands and gather myself. Looking in the mirror, my hair was disheveled and I had buttoned my sweater wrong in my hurry to not get dog poo on my work clothes. It was the type of mis-buttoning when youre left with two stray buttons hanging below the rest of your sweater line. I think hot mess described me perfectly. I washed my hands, wiped the tears from my eyes and exited the washroom, thanking the ladies at the front counter for taking care of the dog.

I took off my sweater, got in the car, and headed to work. I didnt restart my book, but drove in silence, crying all the way. I have never held an injured animal in my arms. I have never felt a dog shiver from pain, not understanding why this stranger was putting him in her car. He was a little trooper.

After arriving to work late, I spent the morning thinking about the dog. I couldnt get him out of my mind. It was everything I could do to actually do work. At 11am, I called the vet office to find out if the dog was okay. They informed me that they got a hold of the owners who had come to pick him up. All they could say was that he may have had a few broken bones. I hung up the phone and smiled.

I will probably never see this dog again and if I do, I hope it is at a park where he can chase a ball. His smell has lingered on my clothes all day, but I dont care. I saved a dog. A little brown dachshund who made eye contact with me as I passed him on the street. As I head home today, Ill scan the road again. I know I could pick out the spot and say a little blessing of healing. Then Ill wash my clothes, but never forget.

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There are a lot of animal stories in the news lately that its hard to pick a single one to write about. Most of the animal news is of the sad variety. Typically, when I see news headlines about abused animals, captive animals, or animals that just dont stand a chance at a good life, I ignore them. My excuse is always, I know whats going on. I dont need to read about it. It is hard to deal with. In these cases, one might think that ignorance is bliss, but its not. Ignorance is a lack of realization that there are bigger things going on out there. Ignorance is choosing not to see that changes need to happen in order to move forward.

Recently, I read an article about a polar bear that was found on the Arctic Island of Svalbard, dead. He appeared to have starved to death, suffering the consequences of Global Climate Change. He is probably not the first and he most likely will not be the last.

On Friday, a rare white rhino was shot dead in a Nairobi National Park for his horn.

Did you know dog flipping exists? I didnt. Dogs that are being given away on craigslist are being picked up and used as bait dogs in fighting rings, or being resold to turn a profit. Like house flipping, but with dogs, and with horrific results.

These are just things Ive read in the last couple of days. It breaks my heart. And then, there are the good articles. The stories that help heal. The stories that work as a buffer between the bad. Both sides are our reality and we have a responsibility to recognize that.

There is a donkey in Israel who was previously abused, but thanks to an animal sanctuary now wears pants.

LilyBelle, the goldendoodle, is a special dog who helps keep an eye out for her young friend. She sniffs out nuts in her food and knows the signs of a seizure to alert her owners parents.

Then there are the good stories with sad endings. A vet tech in Ohio is facing jail time for saving deer and raccoons. These animals needed help and she jumped in to save them stitching up wounds and bottle feeding them to keep them alive. According to law , however, she is in violation for keeping wild animals on her farm. If she is found guilty, the animals she has saved will likely be put down as they dont know anything but human care. Her jury trial is scheduled for August 29th. If this story touches your heart, as it has mine, here is a petition that you can sign to urge the state to grant her permits to keep the deer and raccoons. This good story needs a happy ending.

All of the above stories and more flood our news feeds. We can choose to recognize them, or we can choose to ignore them. I choose to recognize that all of these events and animal-life stories exist and I do my best help make positive changes for these animals and more. Whether it is from behind my computer monitor (signing petitions) or out there protesting a circus, I am choosing awareness.

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This dish was created by accident. I set out to make a carrot top soup and instead ended up with a creamy rice concoction. IT IS DELICIOUS! If I do say so myself. Most of the ingredients are fresh from my garden. The carrots were pulled a couple of days ago as an attempt to thin the amount of carrots I have in my garden so the left over carrots can grow to a normal carrot size. This resulted in a lot of tiny carrots with a beautifully sweet flavor. So, if you can muster up some of those types of carrots, I highly recommend it, if not, mature carrots should work just as well. Be sure to get carrots with the green tops still attached as that is what makes this risotto so carroty-licious.

I read up on carrot green tops before putting them in this recipe and learned that they are edible and have tons of potassium and are rich in Vitamin K making them very healthy for you. They have a slightly bitter taste, but do add a nice flavor to this recipe in particular. Youll want to wash thoroughly if youre not using carrot greens from your own garden as this is the part of the plant that can get sprayed with pesticides on some farms. I found this wonderfully informative website on carrots and carrot top greens which I recommend reading if youre interested in knowing how else to prepare carrot tops and also the health benefits that come with eating these greens.

Now, on to the recipe! Creamy Carrot Risotto:

2 jalapenos, chopped (leave the membrane if you like it spicy)

2 cups carrot tops, stems removed, chopped

1 large handful chives, chopped into 1-2 long pieces

On medium heat, in a stockpot, add oil, onions, garlic cloves, carrots and jalapenos. Heat until onions are translucent.

Add vegetable broth and bring to a boil

While vegetable broth is heating add carrot tops and all herbs. Stir to combine.

Once broth is boiling, stir in uncooked jasmine rice. Cover and cook for 20 minutes, stirring half way through.

Uncover, add coconut milk, reduce heat to simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve topped with kale chips, roasted almonds, basil leaves, and chopped tomatoes

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We LOVE kale chips. I became addicted about a year ago after trying them at a local vegan restaurant. My husband became addicted after my first attempt at making baked kale chips. Now we cant get enough and have already decided that well be growing a lot more kale in our garden next year. Not only is kale delicious, its also good for you. It is a great source of calcium and iron, and has tremendous amounts of vitamins K, A, and C. It is a natural antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and has glucosinolates which offers cancer preventative benefits. Bottom line: kale is amazing!

Try this recipe for a quick snack or a topper of soup, pizza, or any number of your favorite recipes. Once you taste it, I guarantee youll be wanting to bake some kale every night of the week. I know we do.

Tear kale leaves into bite-size pieces. Layer in a single layer on a cookie sheet and cook for 10-15 minutes depending on the type of kale used and how crispy you prefer it. Curly kale, for example, takes longer to bake. Once baked, place the kale in a container, add olive oil to cover the leaves, but not drown them, salt to taste, and nutritional yeast to taste. Cover your container and shake it like a Polaroid picture. Serve.

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I can’t help it, I love a clean bathroom. The smell of clean, no hair in the drain, no cat hair in the sink (our Bandit cat loves to sleep in the bathroom sink), a sparkling clean toilet, and a spotless floor. The clean bathroom doesn’t last long, but when it is clean, it is beautiful. Prior to paying attention to the products I use, Clorox Green Works Bathroom Cleaner was my go-to cleaner. I liked it because it was “green.” It is a “natural bathroom cleaner made with plant- and mineral-based cleaning ingredients.” According to their website, they are committed to a future without animal testing, but they still test some products on animals:

Clorox is committed to the welfare of animals. The vast majority of our products reach the market without testing on animals. In fact, using non-animal product safety evaluations is the norm at Clorox and animal testing is the very rare exception.

We do not conduct or ask third-parties to conduct any animal testing on products, raw materials or components of finished products unless required by federal or local regulators. And we will not license our name or the name of any of our brands to formulations of products that have been tested on animals.

We will not acquire or purchase product formulations or other products for use in our consumer products that have been tested on animals (except when such testing was done to meet the requirements of federal, state, local or other applicable regulations).

The rare exception to this policy is only when all other efforts have been exhausted to establish a products safety profile; such exceptions require senior management approval, certifying there is no other way to proceed. In those rare instances, Clorox will conduct appropriate safety testing at an independent laboratory accredited by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International (AAALAC). AAALAC promotes standards of animal welfare that exceed federal law and conducts regular inspections of their accredited laboratories.

Were working toward a future where animal testing has no role in product development. We believe that we should be able to use existing data and alternatives so animals are not involved in product safety testing. We are engaging regulators to join with us to identify and implement innovative solutions that eliminate the existing requirements to conduct animal testing, without compromising product safety. In collaboration with industry partners, were working to foster new protocols and encourage regulatory acceptance of alternatives to conventional animal testing, particularly in the area of public health disinfectant products. Since 1987, we have been working with organizations such as the Johns Hopkins Center for Alternatives to Animal Testing and the Institute for In Vitro Sciences, an independent foundation, to develop alternative testing methods.

It is very nice of them that they are working toward a better future for animals, but that doesn’t cut it for me when it comes to products that I want to use and keep in my home. So, I went in search of a company that doesn’t test ingredients or final products on animals and I found Seventh Generation. Their cleaning products work and they leave your home smelling divine and clean.

I use Seventh Generation Disinfecting Bathroom Cleaner. It creates a foamy cleaning solution that I use on every surface of my bathroom the sink, the toilet, even the tub and tiles. I only have to spray it once, wipe, and my bathroom is sparkling. It seems as though cleaning my bathroom has gotten much quicker since my switch, or it could be that I’m enjoying cleaning it more. I don’t have to scrub anything because this bathroom cleaner does the job right on the first spray. I read the reviews on this particular product and a lot of people complain about the smell, but I personally like it. It smells like clean herbs. I’m a fan of natural herb smells, so I have nothing to complain about.

Seventh Generation is a fantastic company. Of course, the best part is that they are cruelty-free:

 All of our products are certified cruelty-free, never tested on animals, and contain no animal-based ingredients as shown by the Leaping Bunny seal on our packaging.

They also support and practice sustainability within their company and are a Certified B Corporation, which requires them to meet “rigorous standards of social and environmental regulations.”

The only downfall I have come across is that their products are difficult to find in stores. For months I have been able to get my fill of Seventh Generation products at Fred Meyer, however, over the last few months, I’ve watched their product availability dwindle and the shelves at the store get overtaken by other items. The Disinfecting Bathroom Cleaner, which is my favorite, stopped appearing on the shelves and I was greatly disappointed. I liked the ease of stopping at the store on my way home from work and picking up my cleaning products. Now I have to order online.

I made my first online Seventh Generation order a couple of weeks ago, because I was out of bathroom cleaner, and it was delivered within about a week. The packaging was good nothing leaked and everything was in order. They give free shipping with orders over $50, so guess how much I spent? It is super easy to fill that shopping cart with things I need. Now all that needs to happen is better planning so that I don’t go without my cleaning supplies for more than a day. You never know when a bathroom might need a good clean.

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Costa Rica is Closing its Zoos

FANTASTIC NEWS! Costa Rica will be closing its zoos and releasing the captive animals either into the wild, or will be sending them to rescue centers and wildlife sanctuaries. All it takes is one country to get the ball rolling and others could follow suit. Thank you Costa Rica, I think its about time I come visit.

Read more here:

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It is Meatless Monday once again and tonight, I made a very special meal using ingredients from my garden.

1 large zucchini, or a few small ones depending on if youd like left-overs or not

Rinse quinoa thoroughly and drain. Put 2 cups of uncooked quinoa in the rice cooker, add 2 cups vegetable broth, and approximately 2 cups water. Add about 1 tablespoon of olive oil and set to white rice setting on your rice cooker. Cook.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Oil a casserole dish.

Slice the zucchini in half and scoop out the seeds and some meat to make a nice bowl or pocket in the heart of the zucchini use the meat as part of your zucchini stuffing. Place zucchini halves skin-side down (bowl-side up) in the casserole dish.

Chop onions, garlic, jalapenos (leave the seeds and membrane if you like it spicy), red bell pepper, and meat from the zucchini. Add to a pot or skillet with some oil and cook over medium-high heat until onions are transparent. Add parsley.

Layer optional cheese in the base of your zucchini bowl, then add the stuffing/filling.

Cover casserole dish with foil and bake at 350 degrees for approximately 30-45 minutes. The time used to cook is based on how soft or firm you like your zucchini.

Serve on a bed of quinoa with a side of fresh corn on the cob and kale chips.

Tear kale leaves into bite-size pieces. Layer in a single layer on a cookie sheet and cook for 10-15 minutes depending on the type of kale used and how crispy you prefer it. Curly kale, for example, takes longer to bake. Once baked, place the kale in a container, add olive oil to cover the leaves, but not drown them, salt to taste, and nutritional yeast to taste. Cover your container and shake it like a Polaroid picture. Serve.

Stuffed Zucchini with Kale Chips and Corn on the Cob

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