Tag Archives: vegetarian

Beyond Beef Taco Night

If you have school aged children in any sort of activities you understand the struggle of dinner.  The solution, in my house, is taco night.  A few minutes of prep with some ground beef and a bevy of on hand ingredients mean a quick dinner before running out the door to dance or soccer practice or band…you get the idea.

However, ground beef is an ethical and environmental conundrum.  Regardless of how the animal is raised the production of ground beef results in the death of a cow.  No amount of time on pasture can change this fact.  Furthermore, most cows are raised in conditions that most people find deplorable.  Feedlots and CAFOs are horrible places.  Just driving by one on the interstate can make a person consider becoming a vegan.

America just loves ground beef.  More than half of the beef we consume in this country is in the form of ground beef.  Be it hamburgers, sloppy joes, loose meat sandwiches, chili, etc. Americans eat a lot of ground beef.  Estimates are hard to come by, but the clearest numbers I have seen put our annual consumption north of 30 billion pounds of ground beef consumed in the United States per year.  Most of that ground beef (>80%) comes from feedlot cattle.

This is the market that companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are trying to disrupt with their plant based alternative “hamburgers.”  The ground beef market is not just hamburgers thought and that is where Beyond Meat’s Beyond Beef product comes into play:

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It comes out of the package looking a little bit like a brick of protein:

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After a few minutes on medium-high heat the protein begins to break up into that recognizable crumble:

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A package of taco seasoning and a little bit of water gives you a pan full of taco meat.  It all worked just like cooking a pound of regular ol’ ground beef.

So, what is the verdict?

The process is the same as cooking traditional ground beef.  That is a wash.

The flavor is…close.  The texture is…close.  I do not know if it is psychological because I knew it was not actual ground beef or if it is something in the formulation.  It was just a little off in the same way that some meatless burger patties are off.  Perhaps it is the uncanny valley of fake meat.  No longer are we in the trough of the uncanny valley where the simulated product is off by enough to make it truly disturbing.  Instead we are climbing toward true meat replacements in every facet that only lack a few traits.

This has to be what is scaring traditional meat producers into strong arming state legislatures to pass laws banning the word meat or burger or whatever from faux meat products.  When someone who is conscious of the ethical and environmental impacts of meat production is given an alternative that has none of those concerns their choice is going to be easy.  If the meat alternative is close enough in taste and texture than it is a slam dunk for a larger percentage of the population.  Like Republicans holding onto an ageing base of older, rural, white Americans at the expense of a changing national demographic the meat industry is facing an existential crisis brought on by a competitor.

Beyond Beef is not cheap.  At my local coop it cost $9.99 per pound.  Compare that to a pound of grass fed, grass finished beef produced in Minnesota that costs anywhere from $6.99 to $8.99 a pound from the same retailer.  Consider it the cost of being an early adopter.

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Friday Linkage 5/18/2018

I had contemplated making this a special “Scott Pruitt Destroys the World” edition of Friday Linkage, but thought better of it when I realized that might just depress people even more.

The question I have now that the primaries for the 2018 mid-terms are mostly done is how can Republicans defend their record?  Seriously, on what issue is the country a better place unless you are really rich?  If I am Democrat running for Congress I am hammering home that point over and over again.

On to the links…

EPA Hides Scott Pruitt’s Appearance at Mining Industry Group Meeting—I am beginning to think that Trump keeps Pruitt around because he is the only person who is in the headlines for bad stuff more than him and Trump does not care about the environment anyway.  So what is the loss?

EPA Hid Scott Pruitt’s Dinner With Climate Denier Accused Of Child Sex Abuse—How many more times are we going to have to read articles that start with “EPA hid Scott Pruitt’s…”?

Letters Reveal how Pruitt Hired an Unqualified Lobbyist to Head one of EPA’s Most Important Offices—But, what about the job creators?

Pruitt’s EPA Apparently Blocked ‘Nightmare’ Study About Water Contamination—And the hits just keep on coming.

Sulfur Dioxide Damages Lungs, and Scott Pruitt Is Letting More of It in Our Air—It does not matter how bad this schmuck behaves because he is doing the bidding of the people who are lining the Trump administration’s pockets.

Minnesota’s Top Health, Environment Officials Blast EPA Science Rule—“The proposed rule was clearly designed to undermine and disparage the important epidemiological studies that support public health protection from all pollutants, be they in the air, water, or soil.”  Well there is that.

GOP Senators Want to Exempt Giant Solar Farm Panels From Tariffs—Another genius Trump move that even the hard liners in his own party do not like for various reasons.

How to Save the Failing Nuclear Power Plants that Generate Half of America’s Clean Electricity—Natural gas is not the bridge to a clean energy future, nuclear power is the bridge.  We need to figure out a way—zero emissions credits (ZECs) just might be the ticket—to keep the existing fleet of nuclear plants in operation until rapidly deploying renewables can truly replace carbon spewing fossil fuels.

The Scientist still Fighting for the Clean Fuel the World Forgot—In an era of cheap gas—although the price is going up as I type—we have forgotten the fervor over second generation biofuels that seemed to grip the nation during the presidency of George W. Bush.  There are still some people out there trying to figure out a way to make these biofuels economical.

California will Require Solar Panels on all New Homes. That’s not Necessarily a Good Thing.—It might be better to take a more integrated approach to deploying renewables, but I do not want to argue with more solar.

California is Turning Farms into Carbon-Sucking Factories—The soil might be able to save us.

A Revolution in Hydropower makes Waves in Rural Colorado—What is great about this concept is that it is using existing manmade infrastructure to generate clean power.  No one is damning rivers or streams.

Ground Zero of Amphibian ‘Apocalypse’ Finally Found—Amphibians have been dying at spectacular rates for decades now and a source of this massacre may finally have been found.

This is the Worst Way to Become Vegetarian—This is the first time I have heard anything about the Lone Star tick or the possibility that it spreads an allergy to certain types of meat.  Is this the harbinger of our climate change dystopia?

Democracy Dies in Materialism and the U.S. is at Risk—I do not agree with everything that the author of this opinion piece said, but I do agree with the general premise that our society’s current focus on material wealth as a marker of success or fulfillment is dangerous.

Your Stoke Won’t Save Us—What if we are part of the problem and not part of the solution?

Friday Linkage 7/4/2014

For several days it has been nothing but chain saws, chipper shredders, and other power tools ringing out as people clean up from the nasty storm on Monday. The derecho left a pretty nasty wake of landscape destruction. If there was one good thing that came out of the storm it was that one of my trees I was going to have to stake to straighten is now leaning the right way. I will take what I can get given the general destruction.

On to the links…

Not Eating Meat Can Cut Your Food-Related Carbon Emissions Almost In Half—There is nothing new with regards to this study finding except that it draws some attention to the fact that our appetite for meat is destructive. If you had to make one lifestyle change tomorrow that would benefit the planet it should be stopping the consumption of meat.

China’s Hurdle to Fast Action on Climate Change—No matter what we do in the U.S., if developing countries like China and India do not act on climate change goals then the efforts we make will be too little, too late.

The Secret to Richer, Carbon-Capturing Soil? Treat Your Microbes Well—The world of microbes, regardless of the location, are an amazing wealth of scientific discovery right now. The impacts of these discoveries is impacting our health and our planet.

California Ranchers Tackle the Climate Crisis One Pasture at a Time—Meat can be part of our food system if it is raised in a way that benefits the planet. So, animals should be allowed to live on wide open pastures that are maintained as opposed to living in CAFOs. Simple.

Shrimp’s New Path to the Plate—It’s amazing how much shrimp we eat in the U.S. If we expect to keep eating shrimp it is going to have to come from farms raising captive stock.

A New Wind Turbine Generates Back The Energy It Takes To Build It In Just 6 Months—A bugaboo of the right is the claim that a wind turbine never produces more energy than it takes to manufacture. Guess what? That is wrong.

How Energy Efficiency Is Hitting It Big With The High Tech Industry—Applying the principals of data mining and analysis to efficient efforts can only yield better results in terms of reducing energy usage per dollar expended.

Where Are the Hardest Places to Live in the U.S.?—In the U.S. there is an unspoken agreement in polite society that poverty is not something to be discussed. However, the growing inequity in our society is making it necessary to have a conversation about why some people get so much and so many get so little.

Natural Resources Worth More than$40 Trillion Must be Accounted For—Do you know why companies that drill, mine, and burn fossil fuels are able to make so much money? It’s because they do not have to account for the externalities like damage to the natural resources of the world. If you can put a price on something, you can make lasting change.

Creeping Up on Unsuspecting Shores: The Great Lakes, in a Welcome Turnaround—The Great Lakes are an amazing asset in the United States and Canada. So much freshwater is locked up in these bodies of water that it is criminal we do not manage them better. The news the past couple of years has been pretty bad, but here is a little good news. Yay!

Ocean’s Nasty Plastic Garbage is Disappearing: What’s Going On?—Our understanding of the oceans is so poor. We pour trash and chemicals into the waters without a single thought to the health of the oceans. And we are surprised that we do not know what is going on? Wow, we are dumber than I thought.

After the Trees Disappear—The impacts from the emerald ash borer are going to be far reaching and permanent. Many of our forested landscapes will look considerably different once the ash trees are gone.

Drug Lord’s Rogue Hippos Taking over Colombia—Okay, the title is a little hyperbolic but the story is interesting anyway. It looks like one of Pablo Escobar’s legacies is going to be an invasive population of hippos. Strange.

Pickling Cauliflower

I have conquered pickling garlic and ginger.  The results have been good and the pickled vegetables have flown out of mason jars and into waiting mouths for the past couple of months.  I decided to “up my game” a little bit and try to pickle cauliflower.

Cauliflower may seem like an odd choice to pickle, but for anyone who has tried pickled cauliflower it is a known treat.  The problem is that a small jar of pickled cauliflower is quite expensive when you consider that the primary ingredients are so inexpensive.  This is the same logic that led me down the path of pickling both garlic and ginger.

The recipe that I started with was from Fine Cooking.  This particular recipe details how to prepare the cauliflower for shelf stable storage, which is an important trait for me.  It’s not that I am a doomsday prepper or anything, but I want to acquire the skills to preserve food in a way that is not dependent upon refrigeration.  It’s just a learning tool really.

I departed from the recipe—big surprise to those who know me—in a few ways.  First, I omitted the onion and red pepper.  In the commercial mixes of pickled summer vegetables I often dislike the onions and red peppers because the texture borders on slimy.  No slimy for me!  Second, there will be no coriander seeds in my jars.  Why?  I cannot find coriander seeds to save my life right now in eastern Iowa.  Three stores did not have them over the weekend and I have up looking.  I am sure that the product exists somewhere but I have abandoned all hope this round.

The process is real similar to pickling garlic or ginger.  That is to say, it is surprisingly easy and foolproof to make something pickled at home.  It’s really the gateway drug of home preserving because easy success just makes you want try ever more difficult projects.  Tomato sauce in the summer anyone?

In about twenty minutes, you end up with this:

Pickled Cauliflower

The turmeric really adds a yellow hue.  Compare a jar of pickled garlic packed on the same day:

Cauliflower versus Garlic

Yeah, I went a little crazy pickling this weekend.  A week from now I will noshing on pickled garlic, cauliflower, and carrots.  Sweet.

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:

Friday Linkage 7/27/2012

Some storms moved through the area on Wednesday night/Thursday morning and the temperatures went from above 100 degrees to a manageable 85 or so by Friday.  It is amazing how people’s mood changes when the temperature drops from the triple digits.  Everyone is a little less edgy right now.

On to the links…

Veganism by the Numbers—Let’s start the ball rolling with a good ol’ infographic:

Any Shoe Can be Clipless—Retrofitz has developed a system to seemingly turn any show into a clipless compatible shoe.  All right!  Maybe now I can finally fulfill my vision of SPD Chacos.

What to Buy for $5.63 in a New York Bodega—Anyone who has ever spent any time in New York City has run across the peculiar institution of the bodega.  A cross between a meeting place, restaurant, grocery store, and whatever else the owner can cram into an impossibly small place the bodega is also a place where one can indulge in junk food fantasies.

The Hidden Cost of Cheap Lobster—Looks like climate change is affecting the lobster catch in several ways.  Maybe Mitt Romney will finally get concerned when his lobster dinner is imperiled.  Probably not.

Good Eggs is the Etsy for Local Foodies—I like the concept, but I feel this is one of those ideas that will not scale beyond its hipster roots.  I do not know, I probably said the same thing about Etsy as well.

Norway Cuts Palm Oil Use 64%–Why is cutting palm oil use so important?  Because the rain forests in southeast Asia are being clear cut for palm plantations to feed to modern world’s voracious appetite for this particular fat.

Quebec City Orders Front Yard Garden Removed—Is this not one of the best looking gardens you have seen in a long time:

Why would any city official want it torn out and replaced with a monoculture of grass?

One of Denmark’s Oldest Eco Villages—Why does Treehugger taunt me with slideshows of these communities that I would so like to live in?  It’s a cruel world.

How to Rebuild the Mississippi Delta—The destruction of the Mississippi Delta is one of the late-20th Century’s environmental catastrophes that no one ever seems to talk about.  It looks like a strategic rethinking of how the entire system operates could recover some of what has been lost.

Will Falling Renewable Energy Prices do in Fracking?—This is one of those “I hope so” type of moments.  The tipping point for renewables—where the installed cost per watt is low enough to compete with cheaper forms of subsidized fossil fuels—has been rumored to be on the horizon for years.  I think we have finally seen enough installations of all types to show that the numbers now back up this belief.

Strong Storms Threaten Ozone over the U.S.—It looks like the news just keeps getting better and better with regard to climate change’s effects.  First it’s a mega drought.  Now, the ozone layer is under threat.

Fuel Economy in U.S. Hits New High in First Half of 2012—It looks like, on average, Americans are finally purchasing more fuel efficient cars and trucks.  It’s a long way from real victory when I consider how many full size trucks I see in the parking lot at work, but it’s a start.

And by the way, Herman Cain is still an ass.

Stuff I Like: Archer Farms Organic Oven Ready Whole Wheat Lasagna Noodles

Oven ready pasta noodles are one of mankind’s greatest modern day inventions.  It removes the often troublesome step of boiling lasagna noodles—I hate those little ripples on the edge—and layering limp pasta into a casserole dish.  It also turns a long prep into something that can be done in about twenty minutes if certain things are done ahead of time.

At Target I can even get organic oven ready whole wheat lasagna noodles.  Oh yeah:

Think about that combination for a moment.  A major U.S. retailer—not a traditional grocer by the way—has a private label organic whole wheat pasta.  You’ve come a long way baby.  Sometimes we do not think about the ease at which we can purchase food that matches our personal beliefs.  When I was a kid, in the oh so dark 1980s, there was no chance you could have even found organic whole wheat pasta outside of a few extra crunchy co-ops in enclaves like Berkeley or Boulder.

The fact I can get that combo in oven ready lasagna form is like manna from heaven.

This hearty vegetarian lasagna on AllRecipes.com is my go to weeknight meal to please the family and leave me with lots of leftovers for the next night.  It’s a two for one kind of dinner.