Author Archives: Vegetarians of Washington

Starbucks launches Greener Stores

We may be seeing a lot more plant-based options from Starbucks in the near future thanks to its new “Greener Stores” concept – Starbucks’ sustainability campaign that aims to open 10,000 environmentally conscious stores by 2025. Starbucks is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and experimenting with sustainable, especially plant-based food and beverage options. Launched in 2017 alongside the World Wildlife Fund, the program intends to focus on promoting ethically sourced menus and prioritizing sustainable practice. That means more plant-based options.

For instance, at the Starbucks Shanghai Greener Store, over half the menu is plant-based. Oatmilk is used as the default option for most beverages. Starbucks has also introduced two new plant-based beverages, available for a limited time only – Salted Caramel Breve and Salted Caramel Flat White. The store offers a scrumptious variety of plant-based food offerings, including the debut of 15 new food items. A range of plant-based bakery, wraps, sandwiches, salads, cakes and pastries are available to satisfy customers’ craving at any time of the day.

The Greener Stores concept falls under Starbucks’ mission to cut its carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2030 and they want to enhance its new planet-positive practices in order to achieve that goal. CEO Kevin Johnson recognizes the rising demand for sustainable and plant-based options in consumers worldwide, and says that the company would strive to meet this changing demand. “If I were to say what is probably the most dominant shift in consumer behavior, [it] is this whole shift to plant-based [products],” Johnson said. “And that is a shift both in beverage and in food.”

This all sounds pretty good. But it would sound even better if its Shanghai store were followed by one in Seattle. Come on Starbucks!

Caring, courage and a little knowledge

October is National Vegetarian Month so we thought this might be a good time to talk about how you, or perhaps a close friend or relative, could actually become a vegetarian (I’m using vegetarian in the broadest sense of the word, including total vegetarian or vegan). What does it take? Of course, it’s different for each person, but there are three ingredients which are common to almost everyone, and those are caring, courage and a little practical knowledge.

Many people tell us, it’s all very well for you, but I just don’t know how to get started. So we thought we’d take this opportunity to explain what we see as the essential ingredients to becoming vegetarian. Let’s start at the beginning.

First of all, you have to care deeply enough about one or more of what we call the legs of the vegetarian table, and those legs are health, animals, global hunger, the environment and whatever spirit practice you may have.

Many people care, and some are even worried, about their health. They learn about the many health benefits of a vegetarian diet: the reduction in the risk or severity of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, several kinds of cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, thyroid disease, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson’s disease and many more. The list of diseases that a vegetarian diet helps to prevent, or even treat, is long.  If people decide that they really want to live a longer and healthier life, once they know the facts about how their diet impacts their health, they are often prepared to change their eating habits to help achieve that goal.

Others care passionately about the animals. When they learn about the reality of the harsh conditions that animals endure on factory farms, how they are regarded as nothing more than objects to be manufactured into food, they decide that they want no part of it.  They don’t want their food choices to cause an animal any hardship, and they certainly don’t want them to wind up in a slaughterhouse, and so they decide to go vegetarian as a way of saving the animals.

Some people learn that it’s the world’s growing appetite for meat that is one of the largest driving forces behind most of the food shortages and the record levels of global hunger. This is because farm animals are really food factories in reverse, returning only a small percentage of the nutrients we feed them, to us in the form of meat. They don’t want their meat-centered meals to contribute to the worldwide crisis of starvation and malnutrition that’s occurring in many parts of the world, and so they decide to switch over to a vegetarian diet, thus leaving so much more food potentially available for others.

Others care about sustaining the environment and they learn about the latest studies documenting how raising livestock is either the main, or a leading cause, of almost every major kind of environmental damage. They learn that raising meat causes more greenhouse gas emissions than all the cars, trucks, trains, planes and ships in the world put together, and so they decide to follow a greener and more eco-friendly vegetarian diet.

And last, but by no means least, many people find that choosing a vegetarian diet enhances their spiritual life. They gain increased spiritual or religious fulfillment with having a clear and informed approach to making their food choices.

Once you know enough about the impact of a vegetarian diet, and you care enough about one or more of these factors, you then have to find the courage to make the change. It takes courage to leave the safe and familiar ground of the status quo, and to change the habits of a lifetime. It takes courage to decide to eat differently from the people around you.  It takes courage to raise the issue with family and friends, and explain why you want to change your diet, and it even takes courage to try new foods, new recipes, and new restaurants. Courage is the ingredient which many people don’t realize they need, but if you can identify the fears that are holding you back, a bit of courage makes a huge difference in changing your diet.

The third ingredient to successfully making the change is a bit of knowledge.  You need to learn about the basics of nutrition.  You need to learn about the new essential food groups – fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, and how you can get all the nutrients you need, including protein, from these food groups. You need to learn about different ingredients and products – how to cook with tofu, tempeh or quinoa for example as well as convenience products such as veggie burgers and veg-dogs.  You need to find new recipes to make at home, and new restaurants where you can eat out, or at least new menu options at your favorite restaurants, before you’ll feel comfortable to start eating as a vegetarian.

Here at Vegetarians of Washington, we try to help you in all of these areas.  We give you the information you need and the encouragement that’ll help you to give vegetarian food a try.  We act as helpers and supporters, because we know that people are looking for help and not a hard time when it comes to making changes.  Our books give you an introduction to all of the facts about the legs of the vegetarian table, how to shop for healthy vegetarian food, and how to deal with family issues. And our cooking classes give you the basics of cooking some new ingredients, which you may not be familiar with. Our dinners (when there is no pandemic) enable you to taste a wide variety of delicious vegetarian meals, so that you know you won’t feel deprived. Vegfest, our annual vegetarian food festival (now scheduled for May 14 and 15, 2022), gives you the opportunity to taste from hundreds of different kinds of foods, and learn so much more. And finally our newsletter helps remind you of why you decided to go vegetarian, and gives you support and advice as you change your diet and move on with your life.

So if you’re sitting on the fence, trying to decide whether to make some changes to your diet, decide which aspect or combination you care about the most – your health, the animals, the environment, feeding the hungry or spiritual enhancement.  Learn more about it.  Then pluck up your courage, grasp the opportunities we provide, get the information you need to get started, and jump right in.  Remember though that you don’t have to do it all at once.  Find a few delicious dishes to replace your old favorites, take it step by step, and before you know it, you’ll realize that you’re pretty much a vegetarian already.  We’re here to give you a helping hand at any time.

For those who have already become vegetarian, perhaps long ago, just think back to before you were a vegetarian, and remember how you felt.  Why not reach out to someone who expresses an interest and offer to give them a helping hand. Share your favorite recipes, invite them to one of our dinners, let them know that you too were once in their shoes, and that while you’ll respect their need to proceed at their own pace, you’ll be there for them if they have any questions or need any extra help. We think that you’ll find helping others a very gratifying experience.

As more people become vegetarian, it gets easier for all of us.  There are more and more healthy vegetarian products available in the stores, more and more restaurants offering tasty vegetarian options, and more family and friends who are open to the idea and willing to support you in your decision. And of course, you’ll be helping to improve your health, save the animals, help the hungry, heal the environment and nourish your spirit. We thank you all for caring, being willing to learn and having the courage to change your diet and to help others to do the same.

Mexican recipes gone vegan

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, and because Mexican food is delicious but often loaded with cheese, we thought we’d share some creative vegan recipes for Mexican classic dishes.

Vegan Nachos

Serves 2-4

  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 14 oz. package vegan ground “beef”
  • 15 oz. can of refried beans
  • 15 oz. can of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • ½ red bell pepper, diced
  • ½ green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • Taco spice blend
  • 1 3/4 cup grated vegan cheese
  • 1 large bag of plain tortilla chips
  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF
  2. Heat the oil in a large, deep pan on medium heat. Cook the vegan ground beef until lightly browned.
  3. Add the refried beans, chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, chopped bell peppers, onion and the taco seasoning mix to the pot. Simmer and reduce for 10 – 12 minutes.
  4. While the ground mixture is simmering, arrange the tortilla chips in a shallow casserole dish.
  5. Next spoon the hot mixture over the chips and sprinkle vegan shredded cheese on top.
  6. Transfer to the preheated oven. Bake the nachos for 20 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and is lightly browned.
  7. Serve the nachos hot from the oven along with a cashew sour cream and guacamole, as desired.

Tofu Scramble Breakfast Burrito

Makes 4 large burritos. This recipe is adapted from our cookbook, The Veg-feasting Cookbook

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce (tamari)
  • 3 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small zucchini, diced
  • ½ large red or green bell pepper, diced
  • 2/3 cup peas, fresh or thawed frozen
  • 1 package (14-16 oz) firm tofu, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped

In a small bowl, whisk together the tamari and tahini and set aside.  Heat a little water in a skillet, preferably non-stick, over a medium heat.  Add onions and sauté until soft, about 5 mins. Add the garlic, zucchini, bell pepper and peas and sauté for 5 mins. Add the tofu, curry powder, turmeric and cumin and sauté for 5 more mins. Add the tamari-tahini mixture to the vegetables and tofu and heat through.

Remove from heat, add the cilantro, briefly stir to blend. Set out 4 large tortillas. Divide the scramble mixture between the tortillas in a strip on each, leaving enough tortilla clear to fold over the ends, and then roll into a burrito.

Serve with your favorite salsa and guacamole.

Yam Enchiladas

Yams are used often in cooking in Central and South America. They can grow quite large and may be sold in chunks in Latin American markets. What we call “yams” in this country are in fact a dark-fleshed variety of sweet potato. Although they’re not related to true yams, sweet potatoes make an acceptable substitute in recipes like this one.

Serves 6 to 8. This recipe is also from our cookbook, The Veg-feasting Cookbook

Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, diced
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¼ cup sweet paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon whole coriander
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1½ teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 6 tablespoons brown rice flour
  • 4½ cups tomato sauce, homemade or commercially prepared

Filling

  • 1½ pounds yam, peeled and sliced into
  • ¼-inch-thick slices (about 4½ cups)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1½ teaspoons cumin
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 15 –18 small white corn tortillas
  • 3 cups shredded almond or soy cheese
  • ¾ cup diced scallions
  • 6 tablespoons chopped black olives
  • 6 tablespoons diced green chiles
  • ¾ cup soy sour cream
  • Chopped fresh cilantro

Heat the oven to 400°F. For the sauce, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat, add the onions and sauté until they are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the paprika, cumin, coriander, chili powder, salt and bay leaf, stir to blend, and cook for 5 more minutes. Add the rice flour and the tomato sauce and whisk thoroughly. Reduce heat to low and simmer for at least 10 minutes.

For the filling, toss the yam slices with the cumin, garlic and olive oil. Bake on a baking sheet until soft, about 30 minutes. Remove the yam slices and reduce the oven heat to 350°F.

To assemble, pour one third of the sauce in the bottom of a 9 by 13-inch casserole and add one layer of tortillas. Spread half of the yams evenly in the pan, then sprinkle in half of the shredded almond or soy cheese, and half the diced scallions, olives and green chiles. Pour more sauce on top. Add another layer of tortillas, top with the rest of the yams, the rest of the scallions, olives, and green chiles, and cover with the remaining sauce. Sprinkle the remaining cheese evenly over the top.

Cover and bake for one hour, then uncover and bake until the top is browned, 5 to 10 minutes longer. Cut and serve garnished with the chopped cilantro.

Another NFL star goes vegan

Lineman Lawrence Guy

New England Patriots lineman Lawrence Guy is a 6’4″, 315-pound vegan. In fact, Guy is one of the biggest vegans in sports.

Guy switched to a vegan diet a couple of years ago and said it made his body feel better. His new vegan diet has helped him maintain his weight, feel energized, and stay fit despite the physical toll of football.

How did he make the switch? Guy and his wife decided to gradually remove meat products from their diet a few years ago, and they’ve reaped the physical benefits of the switch ever since. He explains, “My wife and I started taking out heavy red meat products and my body felt better, my joints felt better. I never really drank milk. Then we started taking out chicken. Then you go to the fish.” Now, they no longer feel groggy when they wake up in the morning, they don’t get bloated. Guy says he also no longer feels pain in his knees and joints.

The lineman incorporates vegan food into his training. For instance, after workouts, he’ll have a green smoothie or an acai bowl. His smoothies and acai bowls are made up of flax seeds, carrots, kale, spinach, mango. Throughout the day, he’ll snack on sweet potatoes, and apples to keep up his energy. Cauliflower is also a key ingredient in the meals Guy and his wife eat. They include cauliflower rice in a lot of their meals, and use it to make pizza crust with hummus topped with grilled veggies.

Lawrence Guy joins the growing list of professional athletes going vegan and being glad they did.

Vegan Bolognese in Costco

Vegan Bolognese is now available across fifty Costco stores in California and Hawaii and let’s hope in Washington as well soon. The meal is made with rigatoni, a Bolognese sauce made with vegan “beef”, herbs, and tomatoes, and topped with Violife parmesan “cheese.” The talent behind this culinary creations is a chef with a local connection, Ayinde Howell.

Ayinde’s family has a long history of creating vegan food. His parents started the vegan sandwich shop, Quickie Too, in his home town of Tacoma, which is now run by his mother and eldest sister, Afi. Ayinde himself ran former restaurant, Hillside Quickies Vegan Sandwich Shop, located in Seattle’s University District, before he moved to New York and became a celebrity chef. His sister Makini Howell runs the Plum brand restaurants in Seattle, including Plum Bistro and Plum Cafe on Capitol Hill, Plum Pantry in the Seattle Center, and Plum Burger, a vegan food truck.

Howell has become a transformational vegan chef from coast to coast. He envisions vegan cooking as a cuisine in its own right – not merely a cooking style which uses vegetables and grains to imitate fake meats and dairy. He specializes in vegan soul food, raw cuisine, and new American cooking.

Ayinde says, “Cooking satisfied one part of my need for creativity and it has always been my anchor.” However, recently he has added the performing arts as an outlet to his creativity. Ayinde has advice for the vegan chef in all of us:  “The food has to taste good, have texture, and be healthy.” 

The vegan Bolognese is yet another product in the growing vegan food industry, giving us more and more delicious, healthy, compassionate and sustainable food choices. Thank you, Ayinde, for adding some cool soul to the vegan repertoire.  We can’t wait to see what you’ll cook up next!

Vegan chicken nuggets for school lunch

Thousands of school children in six school districts in Washington and California have a new option on the lunch menu this year, Kickin’ Nuggets.  These vegan chicken nuggets are made by Rebellyous Foods, a Seattle-based startup founded by Vegetarians of Washington member, Christie Lagally.  The aim of her business is to develop affordable plant-based products for the food-service sector, focusing in particular on schools and hospitals, where they can make the biggest impact.

The nuggets are made from textured wheat with corn-based breading.  They qualify for two meat alternate credits under the National School Lunch Program and are nutritionally superior to animal-based nuggets since they’re lower in sodium and saturated fat and contain no cholesterol, hormones or antibiotics.  They also reduce the impact on the planet from raising chickens, while saving the chickens a lot of pain and suffering in the process.

“Schools play a pivotal role in shaping children’s dietary patterns, so we are thrilled to be able to offer Rebellyous Kickin’ Nuggets to help acquaint our diners with delicious plant-based options while teaching the importance of eating a wider variety of foods,” Frank Castro, Director of Child Nutrition Services at Dublin Unified School District, said. 

Let’s hope that many more school districts recognize the benefits to the children, the animals and the plant, of choosing plant-based nuggets, and they adopt the Kickin’ Nuggets more widely.

Cutting livestock by a third

There’s no fixing a climate change catastrophe without slashing the number of animals raised for food.  A new Meat Atlas 2021 report revealed that globally, the world’s five largest meat and dairy companies together account for more emissions than oil giants such as BP or Exxon.  Many people now recognize this fact, but governments appear loath to acknowledge it publicly in their policies due to pressure from large animal agriculture producers and meat-eaters.  However, one country has taken the first step in this process, and are considering cutting the number of livestock by nearly a third. 

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Helping animal ag workers transition

We’re sometimes asked what would happen to all the animal agriculture workers if we all went veg? After all, the animal agriculture industry currently employs more than 700,000 full and part-time workers in the United States alone. The answer is that hopefully they would find jobs in other industries, but it’s not so easy! These workers are unlikely to have the skills necessary for being successful in plant-based agriculture, so they need some extra help. That’s where the Brave New Life Project comes in.

Their mission is to help workers to transition out of the animal agriculture industry and into careers that are more humane, sustainable and prosperous. The BNLP is very practical organization. Its mission is to not only help the workers and their families gain better employment opportunities, but to help transition to a system of plant-based agriculture that is more sustainable for the planet as a whole. They offer free programs for sustainable agriculture, including plant food farming internships, resume building,  job application assistance, job interview coaching and connection to community resources. In addition, individuals are introduced to legal assistance services and mental health programs when needed. The goal is to provide a light at the end of the tunnel for workers who previously felt trapped.

Why do they do it? They say they love working hard to make the world a better place. And, they’re doing more than just helping the workers. They’re helping to save the animals, and preserving nature while nourishing the world.

While they work to help workers leave the animal agriculture industry, we also remember the plight of the workers still working in the meat industry, such as the slaughterhouse workers who have the most dangerous job in America.

Stella McCartney – an ethical and compassionate fashion designer

Stella McCartney

Lifelong vegetarian and fashion designer Stella McCartney, daughter of the famous Beatle Paul McCartney and his first wife Linda, has always looked to use ethical products in her clothing designs.  She avoids using fur or leather, and innovatively experiments with new fabrics to reduce the impact of her clothing on the planet.  This week her latest fashion accessory, the Stella McCartney Frayme, the world’s first bag made from a vegan mushroom leather substitute called Mylo, debuted on the fashion runway.

Mylo is made from mycelium, the network of fungal threads which grow underground to help plants decompose and support the growth of mushrooms.  It is considered essential to the ecosystem, but it is also infinitely renewable.  It was developed by material development company Bolt Threads, by reproducing mycelium in a lab using mulch, water, air and 100% renewable energy.  The process takes days, rather than the years it takes to produce animal leather.  The resulting material is soft, supple, and has the appearance of animal-derived leather.

“Our long-time partners at Bolt Threads and I have a shared passion for material innovation and launching a luxury handbag made from Mylo mycelium leather is a landmark moment not only for us, but the world. What you see on the runway today is the conscious fashion industry of tomorrow,” said Stella.

This innovation follows her launch of Reclypse sneakers in August, made from ECONYL regenerated nylon, which is sourced from pre- and post-consumer waste like fishing nets and carpet.  In April, she launched a capsule collection of t-shirts and sweatshirts made from organic cotton, in coalition with Greenpeace’s campaign to stop deforestation in the Amazon.  A famous fashion designer like Stella McCartney has a ripple effect on the whole fashion industry.  We look forward to seeing what she comes up with next.

Vitamin D – Are you in the dark?

Vitamin DAs the days grow shorter and colder at this time of year, we get much less opportunity to expose our skin to sunlight. We all need to ensure an adequate Vitamin D intake during the winter months, since it’s almost impossible to produce Vitamin D in the skin at this time of year. In fact, there’s been a lot in the news recently about Vitamin D. You may be wondering what the fuss is about, and whether vegetarians and vegans need to worry about it more than anyone else, so we’ve gathered the latest facts to help you decide what to do.

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