Friendly Fire by Nathan & Jennifer Winograd

IMG_2766-238x300If you have never worked at an animal shelter, volunteered at an animal shelter, or been to an animal shelter, you may be quite shocked by Nathan and Jennifer Winograd’s book,Friendly Fire. Even if you have done any of these things, there is still much in this book that may anger you, amaze you, and ignite your passion for changing attitudes about domestic animals and their significance. We are told that cats and dogs are the animals we love, but anyone who reads this book knows better. We ignore them, neglect them, abandon them, harm them, starve them, and in some circumstances, we torment them. And far too often, we murder them, by the millions, each year.

The Shocking Truth about Large Advocacy Groups

One of the most disturbing truths revealed in the book is the role that large animal advocacy groups (PETA, ASPCA, HSUS) play in supporting some of the worst, most abusive and cruel animal shelter practices in existence. PETA is known to kill nearly all the animals they “rescue,” that total now in the thousands. Many fight the No Kill movement and have supported some of the worst shelters in the nation. This book will hopefully send the ethical donor researching their favorite charities.

The Winograds knock down all the standard arguments thrown against No Kill shelters, and they refute them all. Some of the central messages of the book are: 1)there is no excuse for killing, 2) the single best predicter of success in live release is the attitude of the Shelter Director, and 3)regressive shelters will often kill even when there are rescues that could save animals, potential fosters who could save animals, and a community that wants to save animals. The deep pockets of the some of the most well known animal charities often work against progressive changes that might save lives.

Why No Kill is a Challenge to the Status Quo

I admit to hearing and wondering about many false claims I heard about the No Kill movement, most of which were dispelled by attendance at the No Kill Conference held in the DFW area last March. But reading this book helped to increase my knowledge and concern about saving the adoptable animals and helping the No Kill message spread. While many shelters are doing better every year with live release increases, there are still times when animals get caught in a web of bureaucracy and lose precious possibilities towards finding a happy ending. In some shelters, there is such an investment in the status quo that any change is opposed in order to justify current and past practices.

If you want to impact animals in your community or elsewhere, check out what is happening in your own local shelter. And read Friendly Fire so you know the questions to ask and the tasks to undertake.

The Easy Vegan by Janet Hudson

ev-198x300When I began perusing Janet Hudson’s cookbook, The Easy Vegan, I was at first glance unimpressed. The book’s cover is beautiful and colorful, yet the inside the pages are pretty Plain-Jane. But don’t let that discourage you – no glossy pages or color photos are needed to bring delicious vegan yumminess into your home via this treasure trove of 440 recipes! I started out by sampling the recipe for Brownies(p. 250) since I had just volunteered to bake something for a vegan festival. What I liked: no palm oil products required, just vegetable oil. The brownies were moist and the texture was good. They were simple and easy to make. What I did not like: the exterior surface of the brownies was not as delicate as my favorite recipe for brownies. In any case, like all the other recipes I tried, this was simple, easy to follow and offered good results. Miss Hudson had won me over already!

Delicious Discoveries Within a Simple Cookbook

Next I tried Eggplant ‘Parmesan’ (p. 124) because I had some beautiful purple eggplant that needed to be used. I loved the texture, flavor and ease of this recipe, and especially loved that it was baked! This recipe made enough for me to enjoy twice, and had some ideas I would have never considered for eggplant – but, like her other recipes, it was so simple and quick to put together that it was no trouble at all. I already had everything needed for this one, too.

Both of the above recipes were quite good; but when I tried the Kung POW! Tofu (p.138), though, I was really delighted. This one asks for hickory syrup, which I did not have on hand, but found substituting another sweetener (agave syrup) worked quite well. In fact, this was so filled with spicy goodness – it was the kind of meal I rarely make because I imagine it would be too time consuming to create. Once again, Miss Hudson makes it easy. I had some tofu that I needed to use. It was simple to let it marinate in the spicy sauce overnight, and then quickly cook the next day. Served with rice, this would be considered a special meal at my  house — and I imagine you might think so as well. Once I find some hickory syrup I will try it again — but I doubt it could be any better.

Most of my cookbooks get recirculated rather quickly; there are so many non-vegans that need the information more than I do! But this one I will hold onto for awhile. I see that Janet Hudson has much more to teach me!

All American Vegan by Jennifer & Nathan Winograd

aavThere is nothing timid about the Winograds’ hefty book, All American Vegan. It is a large, colorful, high quality book from its glossy pages to the quirky drawings and over-sized hardbound cover. Starting out with a definition of the word vegan, this book  pitches from the tradition of American eating/thinking and takes the reader ever deeper into a vegan transformation. Somehow a sense of humor is infused into the pages which still manage to reveal, straight up, the reasons one might want to make such a transition.

Jennifer and Nathan Winograd’s Book is Full of Fun…and Information

No less hefty are the pages of information and recipes around the theme of typical Standard American Diet food, but this time without the cruelty, additives, hormones, and chemicals or cholesterol. I first tried the Blueberry Muffins, but these had a twist – maple syrup. They were by far the moistest muffins ever – they even got approval from the younger set, although they were not as sure about the maple flavoring. New things take awhile to gain acceptance, and the Winograds have used this concept wisely, by introducing new tastes and flavors in familiar settings. There were no leftover muffins!

All American Vegan – the Perfect Gift for a SAD Eater

While I have not eaten typical American food for decades, I could still appreciate this book as a great bridge to a vegan transition for many considering making the change. There are recipes for everything from vegan cream-filled spongecakes (think Twinkies®) to (American as) Apple Pie. There are sections titled “Let Them Eat Cake” and “Old Habits Die Easily.” This book is fun, and serious, and informative, all at once. Know a typical SAD eater who needs to wake up? This might be the perfect gift.

Vegan Is Love by Ruby Roth

After hearing all the controversy regarding Ruby Roth’s new children’s book, Vegan Is Love, I was surprised to open the pages of her book to beautiful, gentle images. While I liked the artwork in her first book, this book appeared much more vibrant, much more appealing. The images of animal exploitation are representational rather than graphic. While the subject matter, animal exploitation, is very disturbing, Ms. Roth has somehow interwoven concerns for others with a very empowering message: anyone can choose to make a difference in the world. Anyone can choose veganism. Anyone can choose to love others rather than harm them.

Veganism is Love Widens the Scope

Ms. Roth has been the trailblazer for children’s books that explain veganism. Her prior work, That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals, integrates the amazing qualities of our fellow beings with their plight on this planet. Where her first work was focused specifically on not eating animals, this book has a wider scope. Neither book pretends to be all inclusive, theoretical, nor scientific, yet this new book includes pages about pollution, climate change, hunger, and violence. The ability to broach such important topics in a way that is understandable to even young children is part of what makes this book significant. What Ms. Roth is espousing is nothing short of a change in our attitude and relationship with other animals, and that message cannot come too soon.

Ruby Roth is Opening Minds Toward Change

From this reviewer’s vantage point, there is little to criticize in Ms. Roth’s beautiful work. The message of Veganism Is Love is about empowerment. Ms. Roth’s books as vehicles for discussion have proven to be useful. Most of the controversy about this book seems related to the anti-vegan sentiments of the status quo, ignorance about nutrition, and fear of change rather than particulars about Veganism is Love. Those who want things to remain constant are likely to object to a legion of empowered young children questioning their world.

One thing is certain, Ms. Roth has many people talking about veganism, and that is a very good thing.

Speciesism by Joan Dunayer

jdI knew Joan Dunayer had many fans, as I often heard her works recommended on websites, Facebook and Twitter. My “Books to Read” list is very long and, while her books were on the list, they did not make it to the top until I finally received a review copy of the subject book. As soon as I began reading her excellent work, I understood why her fans wanted everyone to read her books. Speciesism is so easy to absorb, filled with fascinating information about other animals, and so accessible to most all readers that it should be one every activist as well as every non-vegan would read at some point.

Old Speciesists, New Speciesists, and Anti-Speciesist Philosophies

Ms. Dunayer first defines the term speciesism and looks at its various manifestations. At the root is the attitude of human supremacy and the denial of the individual rights or respect for the individual beings that are not human. Old Speciesism, those who advocate for human supremacy, is separated fromNew Speciesism, wherein some advocates are proposing rights for only select animals, usually those more similar to humans. What Dunayer advocates, however, is much more. She is asking for moral consideration for all sentient individuals. She advocates for the invertebrates, the crustaceans, the birds, the mammals, without prejudice, and suggests that if we err, it should be on the side of inclusion rather than exclusion.

Joan Dunayer Asks for a New Paradigm for Animals

Dunayer asks for abolitionist bans, boycotts, vegan advocacy, rights advocacy and campaigns against speciesism. Speciesists often consider other animals only as categories (gorillasbirds, fish) while seeing only humans as individuals. ”To varying degrees, all animal species overlap physically and mentally. At the same time, each animal is unique.” * Anyone familiar with her other book, Animal Equality: Language and Liberation, is aware of the signifcant contribution Ms. Dunayer has made towards heightening awareness of speciesism in language.  Her background in literature, education, and psychology has made her well-suited for writing this sensitive and respectful book. Strongly recommended.

*page 12

Vegan Pie in the Sky by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero

vpitsVegan Pie in the Sky is one cute cookbook. I know, that word, but…it is so darned cute! It is a smallish little square of colorful delights and truly mouth-watering dessert ideas. I turned the difficult task of deciding which recipe to test-drive to my grandson and he promptly chose Little Lemon Mousse Pies. Oh my. They actually turned out just like the photo, and tasted even better than either of us expected. There were quite a few steps involved, although the recipe is easy to follow and worth every step.  I tend to dive into recipes, so maybe a more organized cook might be able to end up with less dishes, but when one is approaching magnificence, who cares about the cleanup? The lemon glaze was gorgeous, and the creamy filling was wonderful. This recipe uses coconut milk, raw cashews, and of course, fresh lemon in an interesting series of combinations. I realized the women who created this little book might know a thing or two about baking; I had already lovedVeganomicon and trusted them to provide really wonderful culinary delights.

Variety and Spice in Moskowitz and Romero’s Book

Love cheesecake? Try Chocolate Galaxy Banana or Blueberry Bliss, or maybe even Raspberry Lime Rickey. There is Banana Toffee Pudding Pie or Cappuccino Mousse. There is a Maple Pecan that looks too good to eat. There are Chocolate Peanut Butter Tartlets which look like a gourmet version of peanut butter cup candy. Need a creamy topping that is dairy-free? Look at the section on toppings to find Rad WhipSweet Coconut CreamMacadamia Créme and Chocolate Drizzle. There are metric conversion  charts, too, to assist you whatever system of measure you might use. Need a special crust? Think ofVodka DoughShortbread ShellsGingersnap Crust, and Press-In Almond. There are traditional pies with a flair, and a series of appealing and easily transportable Hand Pies: Blackberry Ginger, Strawberry Field, Ginger Peach, and Blueberry Ginger. Want something unusual? How about Basil Peach, Chai-Spiced Rice Pudding, or an interesting Curry Macaroon?

Vegan Pie in the Sky is the Perfect Gift

This would make a great holiday gift for anyone who wants cruelty-free and relatively healthy treats for those special occasions. And it should be appreciated by anyone who knows a thing or two about great desserts. Or by someone who wants to wow guests at the next vegan potluck. Or maybe, someone who loves those cute little gems that keep your creativity at its peak.

Blissful Bites by Christy Morgan

bb-237x300Blissful Bites: Vegan Meals That Nourish Mind,Body, and Planet is jam-packed: it is dense with recipes, photos, and information. It is a lovely book, with glossy pages and beautiful photos throughout. There are useful tidbits of information tucked in, such as needed kitchen tools, important ingredients, and why you may want to avoid use of the allium family in your diet. There is even a section about sea vegetables for those who like to push the edges of culinary experience, yet there are many recipes that would find favor with traditional eaters. With over 175 recipes, there is something for nearly every palate.

Recipes From Easy and Delicious to Exquisite and Challenging

I happily tagged a multitude of pages to try, some based on the ingredients and some based on the lovely photographs.  First to try was the Sizzling Tempeh Bacon. The flavorings are a perfect blend, the texture delightful, and placed on a bun with Vegenaise, lettuce and freshly sliced tomatoes, it was reminiscent of the best BLT ever. Ever. This one will be used again and again.

Next up was the Lemony Lime Hummus. I have tried many hummus recipes and loved nearly all of them: those with roasted peppers, with hot and spicy elements, and those with mellow, creamy texture. But Lemony Lime and Hummus together? This was surprisingly good and one that I will also use repeatedly.  I like a bit of lime in my regular hummus, but this took the tang to a whole new level – and I loved it!

Finally, I tried the Pan Fried Tofu with Carrot Ginger Sauce. The photo of this creation was quite exquisite, and as I had a fresh loaf of Tofu on hand, it sounded like another winner. This one was bit trickier. The temperature to make a good pan fried tofu must be just right and the carrots must be cooked thoroughly before blending to result in the proper texture of sauce. The flavors do blend nicely and the finished product is lovely to behold. Just be aware this one is a bit more difficult to create.

Blissful Bites is a Bountiful Bargain!

The price for this overflowing book of vegan goodness is no more than books with much more limited information, so it seems like a bargain to boot. I had only heard a little bit about the release of this cookbook and was pleasantly delighted by its arrival in the mail. There are so many truly excellent vegan cookbooks available, the only difficulty for the vegan or vegan-curious is how to decide upon just one. If you have the means to add this one to your cookbook shelf, it will most likely become a well used source of delicious vegan meals.

Forks Over Knives by T. Colin Campbell, PhD, and Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr, MD

fokForks Over Knives is a book for human beings, aimed at helping them live healthier lives. It is about the heart disease, diabetes, and cancer that appear epidemic in our culture. It is about the curative power of a plant-based diet and the steps necessary to achieve one. Included are  brief bios of some of the major contributors to the film of the same name (Neal Barnard, MD of PCRM; Gene Bauer of Farm Sanctuary; Rip Esselstyn of The Engine 2 Diet, and many more).  There is nutritional information, a guide to reading food labels, a list of some of the problems with animal agriculture, and tips for transitioning to a new, healthier lifestyle.  It is also a book with over 125 vegan recipes to help you on your journey.

A Primer for Plant-Based Eating

This would be a good book for someone who is interested in a plant-based diet but lacks the needed information to achieve one. It only grazes over the plight of animals and does not go into any depth with environmental impacts, since this is, after all, about promoting a healthy lifestyle. However it is popularized, the book created by these two physicians has the ability to reach multitudes more people in impacting their purchasing and consuming behavior than do a myriad of grassroots activists; recent research appears to support the idea that more people may accept a plant-based diet for health reasons than any other. There is enough information about the torment of farmed animals, presented in a succinct manner, that some people are bound to learn enough to become concerned about the origins of their food. If that is not enough, there is a chapter, too, on the environmental impacts of our food choices. Again, these are a brief few pages, but it is enough to make the case that our current way of eating is not sustainable, is environmentally destructive, and needs to change. (It will be left for other authors to make the case for the cessation of human exceptionalism.)

Recipe For Change

There are recipes in many categories: breakfast, smoothies, appetizers, soups, salads and dressings, sauces and snacks, main dishes, side dishes and desserts. Most appealing to this reviewer were the many simple-to-make salad dressings, perfect for adding a bit more taste and zing to my raw food salads. There is the Quick Barbecued Tempeh which is incredibly easy and ready for the grill with only minutes of preparation (and an hour marinating). The Cherry Pineapple Cake is quick to assemble and has an interesting combination of tastes and textures. There are many contributors to the recipe section of the book, giving it a diverse view of the plant-based world of eating. Best of all, the recipes are designed to make transitioning to a plant based diet easy and healthful. However, this is not the glossy-paged colorful vegan cookbook like many that line my shelves; this book has a much wider purpose than that. Whether new to this type of diet, or a long-time vegan in search of something new,Forks Over Knives offers a healthy sampling of recipes for a better world and information for the journey to plant-based eating.

Green Is The New Red by Will Potter

gnrI have long been a subscriber to Will Potter’s blog,Green is the New Red. It keeps me updated on recent attacks on freedom of speech and provides a watch on the injustice that is attacking our right to nonviolent direct action. I had just finished reading Dara Lovitz’sbook, Muzzling a Movement, and had researched the Animal Enterprise Protection Act (1992), followed by the chilling Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (2006), so I knew to what depths large animal agribusinesses would stoop to protect their financial interests. Activists were being arrested for hosting websites and for chalking slogans on the sidewalk. Not only that, they were being placed in Communication Management Units (CMUs) to further isolate and penalize them for their nonviolent beliefs. And they were being labeled terrorists, a word that has long-term consequences for anyone convicted of it.

Potter weaves a fascinating tale that goes between actual terrorist attacks, such as the ten nail bombs exploded in Madrid, and the desperate acts of activists frustrated with a world in decline, including arson and targeting of individual exploiters and their families. As someone who is invested in peaceful, nonviolent activism, some of the reported efforts discussed in the book seemed sadly misguided; even some of the activists who once participated in arson now regret doing so. But supporting certain tactics, or criticizing the same, are not the main thrust of Potter’s book. His book, like his blog, reports on a shift in attitudes towards activism and freedom of speech that predates the attacks on the U.S. that took place September 11th, 2001.

In the new world Potter explores, being vegan is seen as radicalism, there is guilt by association only, free speech is labeled as terrorism; and CMUs have been developed to keep prisoners, and aspects of the prison system, under wraps. Eco-activists are seen as a threat in two areas: profits and tradition. The use of intimidation towards activists also reflects a perceived threat to the existing social paradigm that is expressed by eco-activists and animal rights advocates. Mr. Potter has done an admirable job of detailing an environment in which those who are trying to save the natural world are at odds with those who want to pillage and destroy her. A very good read.

Appetite for Reduction by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

The acclaimed best-selling author of Veganomicon has a new cookbook out that inludes 125 “Fat & Filling Low-Fat Vegan Recipes,” just perfect for losing that excess baggage from the holidays.  It is also dedicated to reducing animal suffering, environ-mental impact, and grocery costs. My book is an approximately 9″ x 7.5″ paperback, with a few rather ordinary color photos stuck in the middle of the book. The quality of the paper is nothing extraordinary and I would have to admit that based on physical appearance, this one was not my favorite of the lastest crop of new bookbooks. The physical characteristics of a book, while important to this writer, are often overcome by the quality of the recipes and information inside. In a nation overflowing with, well, overflowing waistlines, this book might be just the ticket to encourage some of us to dig in and slim down.

Various Vegetables in Appetite for Reduction

First up, I tried the OMG Oven-Baked Onion Rings. I have not tasted an onion ring for years, at least not the crispy, greasy type I remember from earlier days.  These are very easy to make and had the crisp without the grease. They are admittedly a bit different that the originals, but that is a good thing – the old variety would be busy clogging up arteries and adding a ton of calories, not to mention the possible use of non-vegetable oils for frying.  While a bit messy to make, this one kept to all of those promises: reduce calories, inexpensive, little environmental impact.  Then it was on to the Sweet & Salty Maple Baby Carrots.  This one takes about five minutes to prepare, then heads directly into the over for about 30 minutes. The carrots absorb the flavors of both the salt and the sweet and would be a quick way to add a “wow” factor to a special dinner for guests.  I tried them with regular carrots sliced into strips and it worked out just fine.

Isa Chandra Moskowitz Strikes Again!

Then it was on to one that was  fast and super good, one of those recipes you will want to use for potlucks (easy to transport), for sandwiches (traditional on pita bread), and for a hit of protein when you just want a salad or some greens: Baked Falafel. Warning: you may be able to pop these babies right into your mouth like popcorn (popchicks?poppeas?) so prepare for them to disappear quickly – may I suggest a double batch?  Easy, and with just a bit more dishwashing, very clean and simple to make, these overcame all doubts about the layout of the cookbook. I scooped the batter into a two tablespoon measure and they came out just right — crispy, flavorful, light and absolutely scrumptious.

On the down low, I do not appreciate cookbooks that make you turn the page for the rest of the recipe. I have a heavy glass cover on my recipe stand, and this is a real feat of maneuverability when my hands are filled with chickpeas and spices. I wish the publishers would check this kind of thing out before they print these amazing books. But it was so worth it, nonetheless. And, you have been forewarned!

Other recipes to be tried soon include Black Bean, Zucchini & Olive Tacos, Eggplant Provençal, Red Thai Tofu, Broiled Blackened Tofu and many more. She has included a Big Fat Glossary, Metric Coversions (yay!!), and nutrition tips are sprinkled generously throughout the book. Chapters range from Rub-Your-Tummy Veggies, to Full-On Salads, to Talk-Pasta-to-Me. There is an entire chapter about tricks with beans and another devoted to tempeh and tofu. Each recipe includes prep and cooking time, and gives a per-serving rundown on calories, fat, carbs, fiber, sugars, proteing, cholesterol, sodium, vitamins, calcium and iron. She has even included a further breakdown on fats: saturated and trans, too.

Best of all, she dedicated the book to “the world’s best Grandma.” You gotta love a girl like that!