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Our Vegan Sons And Daughters
By Brenda Shoss, Kinship Circle

As a vegan, I encounter a lot of misconceptions. I'm a protein starved bunny-hugger who doesn't shave bodily hair. Huh? I grew up as a middle class brat who mall-hopped asphalt suburbia. Now I'm a middle class mom, open-minded perhaps, but not granola crunchy.

I do not find meat repulsive. In fact, Mom's broiled pork chops and Dad's barbecued chicken elicit fond childhood memories. I simply prefer live animals over dead ones, as do my now vegetarian parents and sister. A glimpse behind the slaughterhouse wall forever ruined my cheeseburgers and turkey sandwiches. There, I saw gentle creatures slung upside down from meat hooks. I heard pigs scream like terrified children. I watched half-stabbed birds hobble through pools of blood. I will never forget the mournful look of a fully conscious cow, seconds before his throat was slit.

Six years ago, after watching the graphic HBO special, "To Love Or Kill: Man Versus Animal," I confiscated all meat products from my refrigerator and proclaimed to my surprised neighbors: "Please accept these cellophane-wrapped remnants of tortured creatures. I can never eat an animal again."

I may be a tad theatrical, but I'm no health guru. I love sweets and drink coffee and diet soda. Yet whenever I mention my vegan diet free of meat, dairy and eggs, someone ardently confesses: "Hey, I've cut out red meat!"

"Good for you," I silently think. According to Michael Klaper, M.D., author of Pregnancy, Children and the Vegan Diet, "We now live in a world of Salmonella-tainted chickens, Listeria-covered cheeses, and beefburgers laced with estrogenic hormones and residues of potent antibiotics. There are very good reasons why parents would want to raise their son or daughter without fatty and contaminated meat and dairy products pouring through the child's bloodstream each day."

The recent birth of my son prompted research into the benefits of an animal-free diet. Though I hope to foster Elijah's kinship with animals (rather than railroad him with vegan do's and don'ts) I realize he faces outdated "food facts." The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Guide Pyramid advises two to three daily servings of dairy products along with meat as a main protein source. This concept champions meat/dairy industries, but is it healthy? It ignores numerous studies linking saturated fat and cholesterol in meat, eggs and dairy products with America's lead killers: heart disease, cancer and stroke.

One of two Americans will die from heart disease. The excess saturated fat (mostly from animals) and cholesterol (completely from animals) will be the cause in almost every case. The American Dietetic Association claims that vegetarian diets reduce the risk for coronary artery disease, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, colorectal cancer, lung cancer, kidney disease, and obesity.

In a 1999 American Heart Association Scientific Sessions report, one in six teenagers' hearts showed significant blockage and the arteries of five-year-olds were clogged with fatty patches. Cancer, the number two U.S. killer, is similarly associated with our huge consumption of animal fat and protein.

Still, wary carnivores warn: "Kids won't grow big and strong without meat!" Yes, they will. They may, however, avoid contaminated meat goods, which according to the Food and Drug Administration contribute to six and a half million cases of food and six thousand deaths every year. The media regularly report new outbreaks of E. coli infection, Camplyobacter and Salmonella poisoning-all potentially fatal in children, pregnant or nursing women, and the aged.

When you serve an animal-based meal, you serve residues of growth-inducing chemicals, antibiotics, pesticides and herbicides. Factory farmers are encouraged to pump hormones and steroids into animals to maximize their economic return. Howard Lyman, a former cattle rancher and author of Mad Cowboy: Plain Truth From the Cattle Rancher Who Won't Eat Meat, describes today's mega-farms as unnatural settings where disease is rampant. Intensively confined animals ingest high doses of antibiotics to keep them alive long enough to yield milk or meat.

Over 50 percent of the antibiotics produced in the United States are sold to meat and dairy manufacturers, rather than sick people. Antibiotic abuse by farmers has led to what the scientific community refers to as Super-Bugs-Bacteria (SBB). SBB are resistant to current antibiotic therapies.

And what about milk, the American cure-all for kids? Cow's milk can cause deficiencies in iron, essential fatty acids, and vitamin E, as well as contribute to juvenile onset diabetes and colic in babies. Cow's milk, with its high levels of insulin-like growth factor (IGF-I), is associated with elevated risks for prostate cancer and breast cancer, according to a review by the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research.

American dairy farmers use Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (R-BGH) to boost milk production. BGH increases the incidence of bovine mastitis. Antibiotics administered to treat this painful inflammation of the cow's udder are passed on to humans who drink cow's milk.

Contrary to the myth that vegetarians subsist on tofu and grass, I serve hearty fare such as: Corn tacos with veggie-meat hamburger and pinto beans; oat bran muffins with vitamin fortified vanilla or chocolate soymilk; veggie cheeseburgers on whole wheat buns; pasta in red sauce with soy meatballs; oatmeal with sunflower seeds & raisins; soy-based meatloaf with mashed potatoes; veggie-bacon, lettuce, and tomato on rye bagels; or veggie-chicken stirfry in peanut sauce with cornbread stuffing.
All essential carbohydrates, fats, protein, vitamins, minerals and water are found in the Vegan Six Food Groups — Whole Grains and Starches, Legumes, Green and Yellow Vegetables, Nuts and Seeds, Fruits, Vitamin and Mineral Foods.

My kitchen is stocked with "fake meats" and calcium-rich soy/rice/almond-based milks and cheeses. I don't mind that the soy impostors resemble the real thing. Meals made with mock beef, ham, turkey, chicken, or tuna don't sacrifice living creatures.

There are 18 million American vegetarians, and that number multiplies by one million or more every year. If I can nurture Elijah's taste for food free of animal fat, I can offer him a fit body with healthy arteries and a reduced cancer risk. Better yet, he'll know the wonder of a curious pig's snout or a happy hen's purr. Call me a cow-hugger, but I'd rather love 'em than eat 'em.

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In 1996 I saw an HBO documentary, To Love Or Kill: Man Vs. Animal. It was the first time I glimpsed inside factory farms and slaughterhouses and it forever ruined my burgers and tuna. I never hated meat, its smell or taste. Still don't. But I can no longer swallow another's fear and pain. Fortunately, today's plant-based meals are downright delicious. A happy stomach convinced my husband to keep our kitchen flesh-free. Now he's full-time veg. Below are some general prep tips, based on my own vegan ventures.  ~Brenda Shoss, Kinship Circle

    Season like hamburger, chicken, steak, or any other animal meat. The olive oil captures flavors in a crispy, delicious outer edge.
    VEGETARIANISM 101: Imagine dishes you already make, replacing animal meats with veg meats. My husband doesn't share my affinity for all animals. But he does enjoy my animal-free Thai peanut "chicken," barbeque "ribs," sloppy-joes, cornbread, pumpkin muffins, "meatloaf," shepherd's pie, apple-cranberry cobbler, chocolate chip cookies, cornbread stuffing, roasted tacos, "steak" strips…
    If you're a decent to fabulous carnivore cook, you'll be a decent to fabulous veg cook.
    • Veggie Burgers: Grill in olive oil. Sprinkle burgers in garlic/onion powders, basil, and brown sugar. Ketchup lovers: Baste ketchup with seasonings, both sides of burger. Or check out great vegan sauces such as Annie's Naturals Organic Worcestershire.

    • Veggie Chicken-Style Strips / Thai Peanut: Grill strips in olive oil. Season with garlic and onion powders, basil, Asian seasonings from a speciality store…or other spices you prefer. Once veg chicken strips have crispy edges, stir in: Thai peanut sauce, a few spoonfuls of crunchy peanut butter, and a tablespoon or so of brown sugar. Let chicken strips simmer in sauce. Serve over noodles or rice cooked with Earth Balance vegan butter (the best butter-like vegan spread!

    • Veggie Steak-Style Strips / Teriyaki: Grill strips in olive oil. Season with garlic, onion powders or spices you prefer with beef. When steak strips have crispy edges, stir in teriyaki sauce. Let simmer in sauce and mix in grilled veggies. Serve over noodles, rice or cous cous lightly flavored with Earth Balance vegan butter.

    • Sweet & Sour Sloppy-Joes: You need - 1 can cranberry sauce; 12 oz. bottle of chili sauce; 2 lbs. of vegetarian hamburger crumbles; 1 medium onion, grated; 1 tsp. salt; 1/2 tsp. pepper. Crumble up veggie hamburger into small pieces. Mix all ingredients and heat slowly in a pot or deep skillet. Serve on hamburger buns.

    • Barbecue-Style Veggie Beef Chunks: Grill veg meats in skillet with light olive oil: Gardenburger BBQ Riblets + seitan (beef-like chunks). Add more barbecue sauce, sweeten sauce a bit (if you like sweet/spicy concoctions, as I do!) and any other spices used for BBQ-style. Grill till crispy around edges and serve with sweet potato fries, grilled potato chunks or other side. TIP: Add a bit of Earth Balance vegan butter with olive oil in any of above dishes, for great flavor blend with spices, sauces.

Plant-Based Proteins = Delicious! And most are stashed in mainstream grocer aisles. If not there, veg meats are at stores such as Whole Foods, Wild Oats, Trader Joe's…

    ~ BOCA Meatless Burgers (best vegan burgers!)
    ~ Trader Joe's Meatless Meatballs (vegan)
    ~ Yves Meatless Meatballs (vegan)
    Yves® Meatless Beef Burger (vegan)

    Yves® Meatless Chicken Burger (vegan)
    ~ BOCA Meatless Chik'n Nuggets (vegan)
    ~ BOCA Meatless Chik'n Patties (vegan)
    ~ Morning Star Chik'n Nuggets (has egg)
    ~ Morning Star Chik Patties (has egg)

    ~ Gardenburger BBQ Riblets (vegan)

    Tofurky® Dogs and Links (vegan)
       Tofurky Hot Dogs
       Tofurky Jumbo Hot Dogs
       Tofurky Breakfast Links
    Tofurky® Sausages (vegan)
       Artisan Sausages
       Gourmet Sausages
       Artisan Andouille Sausages
       Artisan Spinach Pesto Sausages
       Artisan Chick'N and Apple Sausages
       Gourmet Beer Brats
       Gourmet Italian Sausage
       Gourmet Kielbasa Polish Meatless Sausage

    Yves® Hot Dogs & Brats (vegan)
       Yves The Good Dog
       Tofu Dogs
       Meatless Jumbo Hot Dogs
       Yves Meatless Brats
       Meatless Jumbo Hot Dogs
       Meatless Breakfast Patties

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