Tag Archives: vegan

Friday Linkage 7/28/2017

I have been a little lax on posting some things lately and I have no excuse other than work, children, life in general…you get the idea.  My hope is to have an update on my upcoming solar photovoltaic system soon and some thoughts on other ways to really embrace a lower carbon life here in middle America.

On to the links…

Vail Resorts Promises to Eliminate Emissions, Waste and Offset Forest Impact by 2030—Welcome to the party Vail Resorts.

Trump Nominates Sam Clovis, a Dude Who Is Not a Scientist, to Be Department of Agriculture’s Top Scientist—This is what happens when you elect people who profess to hate government and expertise in general to run the government.  You get people who are unqualified for the job screwing up and then claiming afterwards, “I told you government does not work.  See?”

The Quieter Monument Battles to Watch—Donald Trump and Ryan Zinke’s assault on our national monuments is, to put it mildly, monumentally unpopular.  Remember, this is a man who can lose the popular vote  by nearly three million votes and claim with a straight face that he had the most lopsided electoral victory in history.  Nothing is beyond the pale for these people.

As Outdoor Retailer Show Packs up for Colorado, Industry Flexes Political Muscle in U.S. Land Fight—The people who love the outdoors are being heard.  The companies who make money off the people who love the outdoors are making their voices heard.  This is no small change and it represents a viable path forward to protect our access to public lands.

Are Renewables Set to Displace Natural Gas?—Europe and the U.S. are very different places, so extrapolating upon trends from on to the other is dangerous.  However, I wonder what will happen if natural gas experiences price spikes like it has in the past.  Will renewables rush to fill the void left by coal as the second choice when natural gas gets pricey?

Seven Charts Show Why the IEA Thinks Coal Investment Has Already Peaked—Coal is in all kinds of death spirals right now.  The decline in investment is a long term impediment to their being any revival in coal’s fortunes.

“Clean Coal” Is A Political Myth, Says Coal Company Owner—Robert Murray is the gift that keeps on giving.  After John Oliver went after him using public statements and other records that were readily available he just keeps on opening his mouth.  Gotta’ love a rich man with no filter…oh wait, that is the clown we have in the White House.

Peeling Back the Red Tape to Go Solar—The run around and red tape dance has been the most frustrating part of getting my solar photovoltaic system installed on my roof.  Yet, I still have more hoops to jump through once the system is actually installed.  None of it is value added and all of it costs either money or time.  Ugh.

Straus Family Creamery Powered by Cow Gas—Why don’t we have a government program to install one of these systems at every dairy farm or other large livestock operation in the United States?

This Beautiful but Toxic Weed Could Make you go Blind—Giant hogweed is no joke.  I have friends with the burn scars from the sap to prove it.

Minimalism Is Just Another Boring Product Wealthy People Can Buy—I have always found it ironic that people buy books or attend seminars about minimalism.  Shouldn’t the idea be somewhat self-apparent with a little reflection?

Debunking What the Health, the Buzzy New Documentary that Wants You to be Vegan—Veganism has become the new snake oil for a lot of people.  It will not cure all that ails us and to pretend otherwise is to traffic in the same dreck that has gotten us into this mess.

Beer Sales are Down…Especially Among the Millennials—Millennials are trying to wreck everything.

A Cut Above: Two Axe-Throwing Venues Carve Out a Niche in Denver—Axe throwing venue?  Peak hipster?

Four Ingredient Jalapeno Cashew Spread

For some reason I decided to plant a single jalapeno bush in my garden. I am not a particularly heavy user of jalapenos in my cooking at home because none of my other family members are fans of the flavor or the heat. Chalk it up to garden center optimism, which is the same syndrome that causes people to buy twice as many plant starts than they actually have space for in the garden. Guilty as charged.

In the past week or so, as the heat has been turned up outside and the weather took a turn for the dry, the jalapeno bush exploded in peppers:

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How does one take a bowl of jalapenos that are rotting away on the counter and turn them into something that is easy to eat? Enter jalapeno cashew spread. Specifically, super easy four ingredient jalapeno cashew spread.

In the handy dandy Ninja blender I combine rough cut jalapenos, a few cups of unsalted cashews, a dash of sea salt, and some very neutral vegetable oil:

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Pulse or blend that mixture until it takes on a consistency to your liking. Some people I know add more oil until it is almost smooth like peanut butter. I prefer a little coarser texture and less oil. It’s all up to you.

Another option is to use olive oil instead of a neutral vegetable oil like canola. I have yet to try olive oil as I like the jalapeno and nut flavors to come through.

What you will be left with is a bowl of spicy spread that is perfect for toasted sourdough:

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Enjoy!

Winners and Losers in the Search for Lactose Free Living, So Far

It’s been an interesting month or so since my wife and I discovered that our daughter was lactose intolerant. The most unfortunate side effect of finding out this fact is that a seven year old has developed some attachments to certain foodstuffs that she can no longer eat. Parmesan cheese anyone?

Many trips to the New Pioneer Food Coop have turned into treasure hunts for dairy-free or, at the very least, lactose free versions of foods you normally associate with the dairy aisle. Naturally, there have been some winners and losers sitting on the shelf.

Winners:

Vegan American Cheese—We do not really eat American cheese on anything other than grilled burgers and grilled cheese. It’s kind of a one-off menu item, but those grilled cheeses are damn important when it is six o’clock on a weekday and you do not have anything in the refrigerator for dinner. Granted, American cheese of the dairy variety seems to defy logic as a dairy product given its highly processed nature.

Soy Ice Cream—There was nothing quite like the look on my daughter’s face when she realized that she was not going to be relegated to fruit pops and those bizarre ice pouches. I think that we probably spent more than $20 picking up a sampler pack of different soy based frozen treats. It’s the little things that can really make a difference.

Vegan Carrot Cake—This is a New Pioneer Food Coop bakery item, so your availability may be limited. My daughter went nuts for this slice of carrot heaven. She is requesting this as her birthday cake in December.

Need Pizzeria’s Vegan Cheese Option—I do not know if it is soy or rice or nut based, but my daughter devoured a personal size pizza the other day at this new establishment. Located in downtown Cedar Rapids, Need Pizzeria will be getting my business due to the cheese option and a great selection of local beers.

Losers:

Vegan Cream Cheese—My daughter loves cream cheese and bagels. Instead of a sandwich in her school lunch she would like a bagel with cream cheese. The vegan substitute was just not working.

Still Looking:

Parmesan Cheese Alternative—Please, tell me there is something that I can use to replace the Parmesan cheese in my daughter’s diet. She may actually choose to endure the upset stomach in order to enjoy her yummy cheese.

Learning to Live Lactose Free

There have been a few times over the course of the past seven and half years of being a parent that I have been completely floored with sadness. The first two times followed the death of my parents when I realized that neither would get to watch my children grow up.

The third was late last week when my daughter told me, “Daddy, my stomach does not hurt anymore.” How did I get to this point?

A few weeks ago my wife and I noticed our daughter would have an odd smell. Not like normal body odor, but really hard to place. I should have known better than to dive deep down into the well that is health information on the internet. Pretty soon you are at the worst case scenario which is almost always a rare terminal disease.

Not so this time. Between some internet research, conversations with a family member, and some good ol’ process of elimination we concluded that our daughter might be lactose intolerant. Without telling her, because a seven year old can be hyper sensitive, we cut out the lactose. In our house this is a major ordeal. We do not eat a lot of meat, but cheese is a constant. Four cheese baked macaroni and cheese is a fall staple. Baked potato soup is one of our daughter’s favorite meals in the whole world.

Within a week the odd smell was gone. Not better. Gone. It also led to the most brutal statement ever from my daughter to me. She said she did not know her stomach was not supposed to hurt because it always felt that way. Wow, I felt like the worst parent ever. Okay, maybe not the worst parent ever but I was completely floored.

I am also amazed at the way a seven year old can police herself better than most adults when it comes to consuming lactose. She has turned down ice cream—thank you summer camp counselor for finding a Popsicle—and tells us when a party might have pizza so we can make sure there is an alternative. Other times she just goes without eating the treat with nary a complaint. On the flip side, it makes me wonder just how much better she feels if this is the level of self-control she is willing to exert.

Food is so basic and woven through so much of our life that eliminating a simple and pervasive component like lactose becomes a challenge and a treasure hunt. Now the trips to the New Pioneer Coop have become exercises in what dairy free items we can find that day. Vegan carrot cake anyone?

The biggest challenge so far? Finding a suitable replacement for Parmesan cheese. My daughter loves Parmesan cheese. For the first few years of her life she referred to it solely as “yummy cheese.” She would eat slivers cut from the block and hoard them at dinner. When someone brought out a canister of Kraft Parmesan cheese she looked at it askance and said, “That’s not yummy cheese.” Please help internet, you’re my only hope.

You Must Read—Meat Racket: The Secret Takeover of America’s Food Business

Processed foods are an easy target for lovers of food. Processed foods contain lots of salt, sugar, and fat—so succinctly described in a prior You Must Read entry—and are generally nutritionally worthless given the calorie load. However, as we turn our eyes toward making food from scratch we uncover that almost every ingredient we can get our hands on is touched by some vestige of this gigantic soul sucking menagerie known as the modern American food system.

Although the United States has no living memory of epidemic food shortages—the closest being the Depression, but those are much more endemic examples—our food system has been shaped in the past half century or so to pump out calories, regardless of the environmental, economic, or public health consequences.

9781451645811The meat we eat is no different. In Christopher Leonard’s Meat Racket: The Secret Takeover of America’s Food Business Tyson Foods and its principals are used as the lens through which to witness the transformation of the three major meat products: chicken, pork, and beef.

Don Tyson, the son of the founder of what would become Tyson Foods, may have gotten his start with chickens in Arkansas but his company—through growth and acquisition—is now the single largest player in bringing meat to the supermarkets of America. As consumers we rarely think about the meat we buy because it is not branded and labelled like the foods in the middle aisles. We do not go to the store specifically to buy IBP sirloin like we might Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. This is further obfuscated by the fact that the butcher counter appears to be a place where carcasses are brought in from a local slaughterhouse and broken down into saleable components. This could not be further from the truth. After reading this book I spent some time really scanning the meat in the refrigerated cases and the butcher counter. Imagine my surprise to see big boxes emblazoned with IBP—a subsidiary of Tyson Foods—being brought from the back. Don’t even think about the chicken patty you ate from the drive-through on the way home from work.

There was a time when the country was scared of this type of consolidation. Think about the changes after Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle was published. How is it any different now? One giant firm is able to almost single handedly control the price of chicken, pork, and beef in the United States through a series of internal levers. Don’t believe the hyperbole? Tyson Foods has been found guilty in the past of violating the fairly toothless Packers and Stockyards Act. In 2004 the company was found guilty of manipulating the price of cattle, assessed damages of $1.28 billion, and managed to wiggle free when the U.S. Court of Appeals voided the decision. So, even when the company is caught and convicted it does not matter because an Uncle Sam that is bought and paid for will step up to the place for Tyson Foods.

Anti-trust lawsuits are essentially useless anymore because big business is so entwined with the regulators and prosecutors assigned to bring such cases forward. What lawyer in the Justice Department is going to anger every major corporation in America, thus narrowing post-public service job offers from prominent DC law firms, by bringing a case against the meat cartel? What functionary in the USDA is going to spend a career hunting one of these big game targets when it is just easier to accept a job in industry after leaving civil service? The answer is…no one. Combined with the power and agency given to these corporations by the money given to political campaigns—remember, it’s really just speech according to the Supreme Court—elected officials are even worse.

Farmers and ranchers are stuck in the untenable situation of trying to remain independent of a system that has been changed to render the independent farmer and rancher obsolete. Rather it’s a system that turns them into indentured servants and sharecroppers. If allowed Tyson Foods would like to “chickenize” the entire production of meat. This is a system where Tyson owns the chickens and every aspect of production save for the low margin and risky job of raising the animals. In essence, Tyson Foods has outsourced the worst part of their business and shuffled the capital intensive raising of animals to an increasingly indebted farmer who has little or no control over their own fate.

The state of affairs regarding the consolidation of the meat industry and, therefore, where the power resides is best summed up by Leonard’s statement in the final sentence of the book referring to farmers raising livestock in America today:

Tyson is waiting to take their call, and ready to shape their future. [Page 319]

I suppose the easiest answer to the problem is to just stop eating meat at all. Maybe those vegan activists were on to something when I was in college. Heck, we eat too much meat in this country anyway.

Short of going vegan there is only one solution: remove yourself from the marketplace. Don’t eat at fast food restaurants because the meat is sure to come from Tyson Foods or one of its equally odiferous nominal competitors. If you want to eat meat source it as directly from the livestock producer as possible. It seems like this is the solution to a lot of problems related to food production in the United States, but that is because the market is fatally flawed and skewed toward major corporations. The price we pay in the grocery store goes up, yet the price paid to the farmer goes down. Who pockets the delta? Companies like Tyson Foods.

Friday Linkage 11/1/2013

I feel like I am finally getting back to a sense of normal after two months of crazy.  The next couple of weeks should bring some good project notes on some things that I have been working on and a plethora of beer related musings.  In recent weeks I have bottled a couple of batches, brewed another, and planned trips to several breweries within the region.  Good things are coming.

On to the links…

Surly Brewing Breaks Ground on New Brewery—Why is this the lead link?  Because the brewery is going to quadruple annual capacity bringing hope to those of us not living in the Twin Cities that Coffee Bender might make a trip to our environs.

Annie Leonard Shows us How to Solve Our Problems—I just love the simple and impactful way that these “sketchboard” videos lay out issues that are sometimes very difficult to process in a meaningful way.  Take a few minutes and watch with intent.  When you are done watch the Story of Stuff as well.

Shutdown Of National Parks Cost $30 Million In Just One State—It is a damn shame that anyone has to argue about the value of the National Parks.  At least the recent government shutdown highlighted the value that these parks possess.  Now, if anyone on the right actually learns the lesson it will be a miracle.

Vision of Prairie Paradise Troubles Some Montana Ranchers—When the Poppers proposed the “Buffalo Commons” many years ago a lot of people laughed the idea off as east coast elite nonsense.  It looks like the folks behind the American Prairie Reserve did not think it was such a silly idea.

Why You Should Care About Everglades Restoration—It’s hard to love a swamp and it’s even harder love Florida.  But, the ecosystem of the Everglades is very important and its restoration could be a harbinger of common sense for a state devoid of it, in general.

Natural Allies for the Next Sandy—In the future, we are going to have to consider every solution to ensuring our communities are protected from super storms.  These storms will become more common and more intense.  Bet on it.

Over 100 North Dakota Oil Spills went Unreported—The dark side of the oil boom in North Dakota is seeping out story by story, day by day.  None of it is really good.  Now we know that the safety record of these companies is pretty piss poor.  Are these the same people you want in charge of a pipeline bringing sludge from Canada across the American heartland down to Texas?  Did not think so.

Want to Stop Hunger? Shift the Food Industry to Plant Based Foods—As the ecological and economic impacts of our rampant meat eating become more and more apparent, a movement is going to grow that treats such wanton consumption with the same contempt that we have for smoking.  A guy can hope right?

Should You Eat Chicken?—Mark Bittman nails the problem on the head with the simple statement that the issue with the food system is that “We care more about industry than we do about consumers.”  In this light, decisions made by regulators make sense.  A speed up of processing lines?  Sure, why not, we’ll just tell people to cook their chicken until it resembles a Duplo block to ensure no contamination.  We should not have to handle our food like it is hazardous waste.

Organic Crusader Wants Food Labels to Spell it Out—Ronnie Cummins and the Organic Consumers Association, a Minnesota based advocacy group, have been a key player in the push to have labels that tell the consumer if genetically modified ingredients have been used.  Voters in Washington will go to the polls soon to decide the fate of a labeling measure similar to the measure that failed in California recently.

F.D.A. Finds 12% of U.S. Spice Imports Contaminated—Now it looks like the spices that we import from overseas are contaminated and adulterated at a rate that is twice that of other food contamination.  Like was said in Fast Food Nation, there’s shit in our meat.

Watchdog Warns Of ‘Dirty Dozen’ Hormone Disruptors As Scientists, Industry Argue Regulation—I remember when talking about ensuring your child had BPA free bottles was just “hippie talk.”  My search for glass bottles was treated like some kind of project in Wicca or dark arts.  Now labels proudly proclaim the chemical is not present.  Too bad these endocrine disruptors are everywhere.

Should You Be Afraid Of Your Smart Meter?—Add smart meters to the things that might be potentially dangerous.  More and more I want to live some kind of neo-Luddite, off-grid existence.

What Is Coffee’s Carbon Footprint?—I am a coffee person.  Over the years I have reduced my Starbucks habit to about once per month as a treat with my daughter, but my mornings always begin with a cup of coffee from the Aeropress.  Reading about the carbon footprint is just a buzzkill.

WalMart has More Solar Capacity than 38 States—Granted, in terms of economic size, WalMart is bigger than most states as well.  The thing that gets me is that not every roof in America is being measured for panels like the store in this picture.  When flying into Chicago’s O’Hare Airport I was struck by the acres of flat and low sloping warehouse roofs that I could see from the window of the airplane.  So much acreage that could host solar panels.

As Solar Takes Off, Utilities Fight Back in Australia—This is getting to be a common refrain.  As solar becomes more accessible, utilities see a threat to their business model.  Fighting tooth and nail they delay progress on a truly transformative power generation method.  It’s all about control.

2013 to be Record Year for Offshore Wind—The lack of progress on U.S. offshore wind hides the fact that nations around the world are making it happen.  Although the total amount installed is low compared with what is deployed on land, a growth rate of 40% per year is very sporty.  Also, offshore wind allows wind power to be deployed closer to clusters of population that need renewable energy.

Portland Swaps 163 Parking Spots for 1,644 Bike Spots—The dream of the 90s is alive in Portland.  The thing that blows me away about car parking is how much space we devote to our cars being stationary.  At my place of employment the new cubicles for employees are less than half the size of the average parking spot at the same company.  What is truly valued?

Friday Linkage 9/7/2012

Back from vacation and I am ready to go…okay not so much.  Thankfully, it was a short week due to Labor Day and with direct flights home from Denver I no longer had to endure the drive across Nebraska.  It’s a lovely state, but no one needs to experience over 450 miles of I-80.  Ever.

On to the links…

New Zealand Grants Personhood to a River—Well, I guess if a corporation can have the rights of a person, why can’t a river.  I am sure Mitt “Corporations are people too my friend” Romney would find a way to disagree because he is a corporate shill robot.

Why Have We Fallen out of Love with Organic Food—It seems like the press is loving to sound the death knell for organic food because some studies have shown it is not healthier for you.  The goal of organic food, however, was to produce food in a system that was healthier for the consumer, the producer, and the planet.  It’s about more than just the nutrients in the end product.

Why do We Hold Renewables to a Different Standard—I am sure this has something to do with the fact that a large swath of our political space is essentially owned by the fossil fuel industry, but it seems silly.  Considering the amazing amount of externalities that would negatively impact fossil fuels if accurately priced into the products, why do we offer any subsidies?  Oh wait, these companies own politicians.  My bad.

How Americans are Subsidizing Pro Sports—It’s amazing when multi-millionaire or even billionaire sports team owners cry poverty and hold the gun of leaving against the heads of cities and states.  It makes me glad that Iowa does not have a major pro sports team located in state.

Oil Washing up on Coast after Hurricane Isaac—Speaking of externalities, it looks like the oil that spewed from the wreckage of the Deepwater Horizon did not just magically disappear.  It just took a hurricane to stir things up on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico and…presto…tar balls!

Renewable Gasoline, Diesel Right Around the Corner—I know we have heard this story before with biofuels, but there appears to be some real progress away from the first generation fuels, e.g. ethanol, toward better second generation biofuels that do not fall prey to the food versus fuel debate.

Who’s Afraid of Solar PV—This is a great look at the impact of solar photovoltaic on the energy situation in Australia.  Check out the charts and see what distributed solar is doing to the demand seen at power stations during peak load periods.  Amazing.

Destroying Precious Land for Gas—When will we stop destroying every piece of land in pursuit of fossil fuels?  Hopefully it will be someday soon.

Liberia has Sold One Quarter of its Land to Logging Companies—At least the oil and gas companies do not own one quarter of the land in the U.S.  It is unfathomable the degree to which private multinational corporations have been buying up huge chunks of Africa over the past decade.

Copenhagen Bicycle Culture—Here is Copenhagen’s bicycle culture in an infographic:

More and More Baby Boomers going Vegetarian—I have seen my father, right at the beginning of the baby boom, become a vegan in his sixties.  Usually when I talk about the baby boomers it is negative.

It’s not Just Young People Giving up Ownerhship—Are we turning the corner on our obsession to own everything?  It’s one thing when hipsters choose not to own.  But when middle class suburbanites pull the trigger you know there is some serious momentum.  Bring the car sharing to Cedar Rapids baby!

Blue Zones Offer Lessons in Longevity—So-called Blue Zones, where people tend to live longer and healthier lives, are getting a lot of play recently.  The concepts behind why these people live longer and healthier seem so simple when presented as fact.

And remember: