Wild blackberry scones

There are ripe blackberries everywhere right now.  I see them as I walk down the street, along sidewalks, when I’m sitting at stoplights and driving down the highway. Most of them are out of reach or likely covered in highway soot, but there’s a path in my neighborhood where they grow that’s sparsely traveled. I’ve been waiting for them to ripen for weeks.

This morning I made blackberry scones using this recipe and substituting milk for soy milk and butter for Earth Balance and added some lemon zest. The sourness of the berries is offset by the sweetness of the scones. They’re best when piping hot.

Rise and shine, it’s breakfast (biscuit) time

An early phone call got me out of bed at a much earlier hour that I’d normally be. I took the extra time to make a scarce weekday morning breakfast. On the menu: vegan sausage biscuits with a side of muskmelon. The biscuits are delicious, yet quick and easy. A great menu item to impress guests. Vegan sausage biscuits also travel well. Make the dough the night before a road trip and bake in the morning while you’re packing for just-out-of-the-oven warm biscuits that you can wrap in foil. You’ll want to devour every crumb.

I used The Vegan Kitchen’s biscuit recipe and Yves meatless sausage patties which are ready after two minutes in the microwave.

Tastes like chicken

Today NPR Food Blog, The Salt, featured a piece about Ethan Brown, the founder of Beyond Meat, a new plant-based meat company. Brown grew up on a farm and attributes spending time with animals as a child as his inspiration to create meat-free alternatives to meat.

Over the last few years there have been several new vegetarian meat companies entering the market. Gardein is perhaps the most notable and a personal favorite. You can cook it like you would meat, using the same techniques and sauces and it has a good meat-like flavor, but it’s probably not going to fool most people. It’s also a little on the pricey side, with a bag of “Beef-less Tips” costing anywhere between $4-$5. That’s enough to make a meal for two (depending on what else is involved in your meal of course).

Unique about Brown’s company are two things. First, according to the NPR story and New York Times columnist Mark Bittman, who has also written about Beyond Meat, the product really does taste like chicken. Bittman wrote, “When you take Brown’s product, cut it up and combine it with, say, chopped tomato and lettuce and mayonnaise with some seasoning in it, and wrap it in a burrito, you won’t know the difference between that and chicken. I didn’t, at least, and this is the kind of thing I do for a living.”

Equally important is that Brown’s product is efficient to make. The product, made of pea and soy powder, carrot fiber, and flour, takes about fifteen seconds to make. And Brown’s goal is to sell it for the same price as, or less than meat, making it accessible to a wide consumer group. Given how resource intensive it is to produce meat, this sort of product could really have a huge impact on the environment, not to mention the nearly ten billion animals slaughtered in the U.S. alone each year. Beyond Meat is expected to be sold starting next month in Northern California. I can’t wait to try it!

Easy spring risotto

There’s not much better than a spring risotto and the more I make this recipe the easier it gets. You can substitute your favorite vegetables, like spring peas or butternut squash in place of the mushrooms and asparagus for a great meal any time of the year. This recipe serves 2.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 clove garlic minced
½ cup Arborio rice
1-1/2 cups water plus 1 vegetarian bouillon cube (like Rapunzel) or 1-1/2 cups vegetable broth
Half bunch, i.e. six or so stalks asparagus, ends trimmed off and cut into 1 inch lengths
1 cup chopped mushrooms
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

In a saucepan, heat olive oil on medium. Add onions and cook for 3 to 5 minutes until translucent. Add garlic and cook for 2 more minutes. Reduce heat to low. Add rice and bouillon if using, then begin adding water (or broth) half a cup at a time, stirring regularly. Once the water is absorbed, add more. Once you’ve added one cup of the water, add the asparagus, mushrooms, thyme, oregano and salt and pepper to taste. Add the rest of the water, taste and serve once all the water has been absorbed and the risotto is soft and creamy.

We enjoyed this with roasted cauliflower and an artichoke with a lemon dill dipping sauce.

If you want to help the environment, eat less meat

The following appeared in the Oakland Tribune on April 2, 2012

Earth Day is right around the corner, and many of us will be thinking about what we can do to curb our environmental impact. Taking shorter showers, installing compact fluorescent light bulbs, reusing and recycling are all great ways to take individual action. But there’s another way we can all do our part and it starts with a knife and a fork — reduce our meat consumption.

Last month, the United Nations celebrated World Water Day with the goal of recognizing global water and food scarcity issues and educating people about ways we can take personal responsibility. According to the U.N., it takes 10 times more water to produce beef than wheat.

“Producing feed crops for livestock, slaughtering and the processing of meat, milk and other dairy products … require large quantities of water,” it said. “This makes the water footprint of animal products particularly important.”

The U.N.’s advice? Eat less or no meat.

An estimated 10 billion land animals are factory farmed and slaughtered every year for food in the U.S. In addition to being a huge water user, animal agriculture is also one of the largest contributors to climate change.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, animal agriculture is responsible for nearly one-fifth of all human-induced greenhouse gas emissions.

Of course, industrial animal agribusiness has huge implications on the animals themselves.

By and large, the meat, eggs and dairy produced in the U.S. come from stock packed inside concentrated animal feeding operations, where they’re often crammed in cages to so tightly they’re unable to move.

Tens of millions of mother pigs, for example, are confined in individual cages barely larger than their own bodies, preventing them from turning around for months on end.

Factory farmed animals’ lives are wrought with suffering and bear no resemblance to the way most of us envision life on Old MacDonald’s farm.

Our meat-centric diet has had dire consequences for our health, too. Study after study shows that eating meat, eggs and dairy is consistently linked to heart disease, cancer, stroke and a host of other chronic illnesses that are plaguing our society.

To the contrary, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, legumes, nuts and whole grains leads to lower rates of obesity, blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

For further proof, look no further than former President Bill Clinton, who went on a mostly vegan diet after undergoing quadruple bypass surgery.

“I lost 24 pounds and I got back to basically what I weighed in high school. … I didn’t dream this would happen,” he told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

By choosing meat-, egg- and dairy-free options, even by just a few meals a week, we can improve our health, decrease our environmental footprint and help prevent a tremendous amount of animal suffering.

For these reasons, a group of Oakland residents — including Mayor Jean Quan, Councilwoman Nancy Nadel, Alameda County Supervisors Keith Carson and Wilma Chan, and Rep. Barbara Lee are all pledging to be vegetarian for Oakland Veg Week, April 15-21.

As a community, we can make a difference for our health, animals and the environment every time we sit down to eat.

Kristie Middleton lives in Adam’s Point and is a coordinator of Oakland Veg Week. For more information, visit www.OaklandVeg.com.