Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Vegan Cat Dilemma

People often ask me if I feed my cats vegan diet since I am vegan myself. Unfortunately, my cats are NOT vegan. Before you start calling me a devil, a hypocrite or a bad vegan, please, read why I do not believe that cats should be vegan.

I have been working in the holistic pet nutrition field for 7 years now and all my research, personal experience and a common sense point to the fact that cat are carnivores. They need meat in their diet. I love my cats and I do not want to experiment with their health or well-being. I am not going to force my personal beliefs onto my carnivorous cats. Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect vegan world. Veganism is a journey and it is not about perfection in every aspect of our lives. We just have to do our best. Veganism is about loving animals, all species. But the animals I love the most and the animals that are the closest to my heart, are my own companion animals. I care about their health, happiness and well-being. I chose to adopt carnivorous animals and that choice came with a dilemma. Should I be an abolitionist vegan and feed them unnatural diets hight in grains and other carbs, or should I feed them animal protein that is essential for their wellbeing?

I believe that humans are omnivores, in a way herbivores, and that we can easily thrive and survive on plant-based diet. There is a lot science behind these beliefs. And there is even more science behind the fact that cats are obligate carnivores. For example, cats do not have enzymes to begin the breakdown of carbohydrates in their mouths. Humans do. Cats do not have mastication (chewing) bones, they gnaw (on raw meat and bones). Humans chew their food before swallowing it. Cat's digestive system is much closer to a tiger's digestive system, everything from the stomach pH levels, length of intestine, to time needed for digesting food, indicates that cats are carnivores. They need animal protein to survive and thrive.

Since cats are obligate carnivores, they don’t need carbohydrates in their diet. Those carbohydrates include corn, wheat, soy, rice, barley and other grains. Carbohydrates can cause unneeded fermentation in cat’s bowel, which can lead to digestive disorders such as food intolerance, allergies, and inflammatory bowel disease. Some cats can also become diabetic or obese on high carbohydrate diets.

The problem with most commercial vegan and vegetarian cat foods is the high content of grains and other things that they have hard time digesting. Taurine is an essential amino-acid that cats need, and unlike other mammals, cats cannot synthesize their own taurine from other building block amino acids. Diets deficient in taurine can easily result in blindness and heart condition, even a heart failure. If you choose to feed your cat vegetarian or vegan diet, please, at least make sure you supplement the diet with taurine. I do like supplements as a help sometimes, but I am a firm believer in the importance of diet as the main thing.

When my cat Bear was eating food with grains (rice and barley), he experienced a very scary bout of IBS. He had a bloody diarrhea for days and was miserable, he was also throwing up tons. The medicine was not helping very much and his problems got worse. He lost a lot of weight and looked horrible. I decided to put him on strictly raw meat diet with some pumpkin and his stool got firm the very next day. He started feeling better and he loved his food. That was the last time I gave him any grain. That was a few years ago and he has not had any diarrhea or belly issues ever since.

As meat eaters, cats need the proper fuel to promote urinary tract function. Calories come from 3 places: protein, fat and carbohydrates. In meat, there is protein and fat, but there are little if any carbohydrates. Therefore, while a cat needs protein and fat, they do not need carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are not metabolically necessary. These carbohydrates can impact the pH level of a cat’s urine, thereby creating an environment in which crystals can form.

It is not just important to fuel cats with any protein, cats must eat species appropriate protein, such as animal flesh. Inferior proteins, including by-products and proteins that come from plants, such as corn gluten, wheat gluten and potato protein, may negatively impact urinary pH levels, such.

Proper pH may also help prevent crystal formation. Acids dissolve things. In the case of urinary crystals, along with proper hydration, the acid in the urine will help the components that form those crystals from combining to form crystals.

Most commercial cat foods are full of by-products and additives such as artificial colorings and chemical preservatives that can lead to allergies or other health problems. These foods may smell and look tasty, and your cat may even enjoy them, but they don’t offer much in the way of good nutrition. They often contribute to problems such diabetes, kidney disease, dental and digestive issues, skin allergies, hairballs and obesity. Poor quality cat foods may cost less at the register, but more in veterinary care in the long run.

The best options for your cats are low carbohydrate, grain-free diets. Because cats were originally desert animals, they tend not to drink as much water as dogs. These desert animals obtained their fluid through eating their prey. This lack of need for drinking water has been carried forward and maintained by our domestic cats. Cats who are fed primarily dry food can get dehydrated. This dehydration can lead to kidney problems. To prevent these problems and insure that your cat gets enough liquid through the day, you should supplement her dry food with either canned or raw food.

Some cats can be sensitive or even allergic to fish. Fish sensitivity often causes vomiting and/or diarrhea. Some cats can even develop urinary disease, including cystitis, crystals and stones.

Cats can be finicky eaters. Think variety when feeding your cat. Rotate brands and protein sources (cats can get bored with eating the same food every day).

I feed my Abbey and Bear all-natural, human grade ingredients (no by-product or other funky meat parts), which are also preserved naturally. I feed them foods that are high in antioxidants, probiotics, chelated minerals and skin and coat conditioners, but low in ash and magnesium. I see the great benefits of feeding premium meat-based and grain-free foods, such as less hairballs (rather lack of hairballs, which is a miracle in two long-haired cats), lower stool and urinary odor, and less poop (less litter box scooping). Their coats and beautiful and shiny.

If you are still not convinced that cats are carnivores, you can do a little test. Have you seen a tiger munching on carrots, or lion chewing on a celery? I have not. I did a little test with my Bear and Abbey several years ago. I placed a bowl of carrots and peas in one bow, a shredded chicken breast in another bowl and a mixture of both in a third bowl. The chicken breast was gone in seconds, while the bowl with peas and carrots was untouched. The bowl with a mixture of meat and veggies was interesting. The chicken was gone, but the peas and carrots remained in the bowl. They were just sitting there in a bowl, untouched. Some cats like veggies, but most will go for the meat instead. I add pumpkin to canned food for fiber and Abbey and Bear like that.
Another evidence is the fact that cats are hunters. I take care of a mini feral colony and they often kill birds and mice, sometimes to eat them, sometimes to play with them. Cats are hunters! Even my indoor cats like to catch and eat bugs sometimes......If I see them gathering around a bug, I scoop the bug into a container and release it outside. Sometimes Abbey and Bear are quicker and kill the insect before I grab the plastic container :-(
If you are a vegan and cannot deal with your cats being hunters and carnivores, then get bunnies or other similar animals as companion animals instead of cats. Dogs are semi-carnivores and can do very well on vegetarian or vegan diet, if is is well balanced. If you have a dog, try staying away from wheat and corn in their food if you can. Also, artificial flavors, colors, by-products or chemical preservatives do not belong to your dog's food. Read the labels and study ingredients.

Last week I asked my Twitter followers and friends, and all my other vegan friends if they were feeding their cats a vegan or vegetarian diet. I was very happy to hear that most of them were NOT feeding there cats vegan or vegetarian diet.
One girl is transitioning all her cats to a vegan diet because she does not want to contribute to any animal cruelty or environmental issue. Some people have tried vegan diet and their cats had major digestive issues, or did not like the taste. One guy feeds meat based diet and occasionally adds vegan food, or lets his cat catch rodents and birds. Only one girl said that she is feeding all of her cats vegan diet.
Most of my vegan friends around the world (some of them are vets or vet techs) realize that their cats are not vegetarian animals and therefore they do not force their vegan beliefs onto their cats. Cats depend on us to feed them and they cannot speak and tell us what they want so we have to make a decision for them. We are their guardians and we have a duty to ensure that they are being taken care of. It is a very personal decision to make your cat vegan or vegetarian, but before you do that, think about all the pros and cons.
It breaks my heart that I have to feed my companion animals meat, but that is the price I pay for having them.
What is your opinion?

(Some of the resources used in this post are from different books and internet articles)
The materials contained on this website are provided for general information purposes only and do not constitute sole professional advice on any subject matter. I do not accept any responsibility for any loss which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. I do not take any responsibility, either directly or implied, for any damage, injury, death, disease, illness or morbidity caused directly or indirectly to pets, their owners or the general public as a result of following the advice given in this site. The information is not intended to replace the advice of your own veterinary or doctor. Please, consult your veterinary before making any changes in your dog's or cat's diet.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Truffle Kissed Bean Soup

For this soup I used FungusAmongUs Italian Truffle Salt. It is naturally dried sea salt from the Mediterranean which is combined with 6% finely ground truffle mushrooms, resulting in extremely aromatic and flavorful salt. I also used their Mediterranean Blend Organic Melange Seasoning. It is a versatile and tasty blend of porcini mushrooms and herbs.

Truffle Kissed Bean Soup

2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes
6 cups vegetable broth
3 cups cooked white beans (baby lima or cannellini beans)
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried sage

1/2 regular salt
truffle salt for garnish

Place potatoes in a large pot and cover with vegetable broth. Bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to medium and cook 15 minutes. Add beans and cook 5 minutes, or until potatoes are fork tender. Carefully transfer the soup into a blender and puree until smooth, few small chunks are fine. If the soup is too thick, add more vegetable broth. Season with salt and place into bowls. Sprinkle each bowl of soup with truffle salt. Enjoy!

Creamy Avocado Pasta Sauce

Creamy Avocado Pasta Sauce

2 ripe avocados, peeled and pitted
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup vegan sour cream
salt to taste

In a medium bowl mash avocados using fork. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.
Stir into your favorite pasta. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Vegan Easter Chocolates by Allison’s Gourmet

You can enjoy your Easter vegan style this year and have fun! One of my favorite vegan chocolate companies, Allison's Gourmet, the beloved online vegan organic bakery, confectionary and chocolaterie, has announced the company’s newest addition to its lineup: hand-crafted artisan Easter Chocolates :-)

Just in time for the chocolate-themed holiday arriving on April 8th, you can celebrate Easter with all the flavor and quality of Allison’s vegan, organic and fair-trade chocolate bunnies and eggs, Springtime salted almond bark and signature Easter gift basket.

Vegan Easter and Springtime Gift Basket is full of sweet goodies. A
n adorable rice crispy vanilla bunny and multi-colored solid chocolate flavored eggs snuggled up with Springtime salted almond bark and chewy vegan cookies in the green "grass" of this beautiful and elegant vegan Easter basket. Made from Allison’s new, top-secret creation called “creamy dark chocolate,” ”Speckles,” the Chocolate Rice Crispy Bunny and accompanying Solid Vegan Eggs are vegan and gluten-free and just a touch softer than standard dark chocolate, closer to the look and texture of milk chocolate. “Speckles” boasts a hint of extra aromatic vanilla and crisped organic brown rice for texture, while the festively foil-wrapped eggs come in an assortment of creamy dark, raspberry and coconut flavors. All Easter Goodies are available for pre-order now, online only at Customers are welcome to choose a delayed delivery date closer to Easter.
All goods from Allison’s Gourmet are made with organic ingredients and fair-trade chocolate and are always 100% vegan.

Inspired by her long commitment to the vegan lifestyle—eschewing animal products—founder Allison Rivers Samson says that the chocolates were a long time coming, “I have dreamed for many years about offering chocolates of my own creation with varied flavors and ingredients to match the preferences of my palate.”

About Allison’s Gourmet

In 1997, Allison Rivers Samson opened Allison’s Cookies as the premiere online vegan bakery. As the business grew she added other top-notch baked goods and delectable confections to the boutique offerings, eventually changing the name to Allison’s Gourmet. An award winning company, Allison’s Gourmet has been featured in Vegetarian Times, VegNews Magazine, The Wall Street Journal; additional national media; and is endorsed by numerous celebrities.

Allison's Vegan Easter Bunnies and Eggs are on my list to buy for Easter :-) Adorable!!!

Springtime Salted Almond Bark

Monday, March 12, 2012

Porcini Seitan Cutlets

This is my personal vegan take on one of my favorite Czech foods that I used to like as child. We used to pick the mushrooms in the forest and then dry them at home. I was so thrilled when FungusAmongUs sent me some of their Organic Porcini mushrooms. I cannot get fresh Porcini mushrooms in Atlanta so my only option is to buy dried Porcini. They work in many recipes almost as good as fresh mushrooms.

Porcini Seitan Cutlets

8 small (or 4 large) seitan cutlets, drained
2 Tbs vegan margarine (I used Earth Balance Buttery stick)
1 cup dried Porcini mushrooms (I used FungusAmongUs Organic Porcini)
1/3 cup whole wheat flour (for dredging the seitan)
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/4 onion, thinly sliced
1 Tbs tamari or soy sauce
3 cups vegetable broth (I used Edward & Sons Not-Beef bouillon cubes for extra "beefy" flavor)
salt and black pepper to taste

Rinse dried Porcini mushrooms with warm water and cut into smaller pieces. Set aside.
Sprinkle each seitan cutlet with a little bit of salt, and dip in flour until evenly coated. Shake off excess flour and set aside.
In a large pot or a skillet (with a lid), melt vegan margarine over medium heat. Fry seitan in the melted margarine, until lightly brown on both sides (about 1 minute per side). Add onions and garlic and cook 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add broth, tamari and dried mushrooms. Cover and cook 5 minutes. Flip the seitan cutlets, cover and cook 5 minutes. Removed the seitan and set aside. Cover the sauce, lower the heat to medium low and cook 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add seitan cutlets back into the sauce and cook 5 minutes. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. Serve over rice, mashed potatoes or with French fries.

Stuffed Tomatoes with Israeli Couscous Pilaf

Yesterday I made this awesome recipe from Urban Vegan blog, TWICE :-) I loved it the first time so much that later that day I made another batch, but did not use the tomatoes for the second batch since we ate them all for lunch. It was still amazing without the tomatoes. I used less broth than it was recommended for cooking the couscous and it turned out fine. I always cook my Israeli couscous in less water (or broth), I put just enough to cover it and then some more since it usually does not expand that much. I cook it with the lid on like I would cook rice or quinoa and between the hot water and steam it cooks nicely. We ate the second batch warm. The trick was to marinated the kale prior to adding the couscous. I massaged the kale leaves with the dressing and let it sit for a while before blending it with the warm couscous. It was great warm, too.
I will be making this recipe often.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Sexy Vegan Cookbook (Extraordinary Food from an Ordinary Dude) Review

Many of you might be familiar with funny cooking videos on YouTube that start with "Hello, people! Sexy vegan here........" Yeah, that funny dude is Brian L Patton and he has been visually entertaining us and our taste buds since 2006. I am thrilled to see that all his hard work has finally paid off and he is now a newly publish cookbook author. I was lucky to receive a copy of his new cookbook directly from his publisher at the "New World Library". The Sexy Vegan Cookbook (Extraordinary Food from an Ordinary Dude) did not just happen overnight. Brian wasn't born an excellent cook or a vegan. He did not even know how to cook spaghetti until he was in college, his senior year! After school he moved to Hollywood and became addicted to cooking shows on TV. He would record 30 Minute Meals shows and label them "Star Trek" to camouflage them in front of his roommate (brilliant) :-) His life was not easy, he was a jobless, depressed and directionless guy who was pushing 260 pounds at 5 feet 9 inches. Around that time his passion for cooking started really taking off and he felt confident enough to serve his food to other people. He found an online ad looking for a cook to work at a small Cafe, called "On Higher Grounds". He got hired on spot despite the fact that had zero professional experience. This job did not mean just preparing dishes, it was also prepping, organizing, taking inventory, produce ordering, and shopping. basically Brian ran the cafe. He enjoyed doing this job despite all the stress that came with the responsibilities of running a cafe. However, it was not fulfilling him entirely. With the mentality more of a home cook than of a professional chef, he questioned his career path.
His friend had a small weekly vegan delivery service "Vegin' Out" at that time. Brian became part of this delivery service while still working at the cafe. After six months of cooking with Vegin' Out he accepted a full-time position with them doing marketing during the week and prepping food Sunday nights (he is the executive chef there at the moment). And then something amazing happened! He decided to try becoming vegan for a month. It happened on September 11th 2006. After the month he lost about 8 pounds and felt better than before. He decided to give this vegan diet an extra month which over time turned into years. In just the first ten months he lost sixty pounds, WOW! In late 2006 he started doing cooking shows on YouTube with the purpose of entertaining his friends and to distract himself from his Halo video game (nerd alert LOL). His cooking shows took over the internet and soon he became pretty popular in the vegan world. And now he gives us awesome recipes and great humor in a a paper form :-)

I have always enjoyed Brian's recipes (I make his "Mock Tuna salad" often) so I was thrilled to get his new cookbook. Have you ever read a cookbook and laughed so hard that you almost choked on your dinner? Well, read this book with no food in your mouth or you will end up like me, choking on your food with laughter :-)
Brian has a great sense of humor and he is not afraid to make fun of himself. His clever, sarcastic and exclusive sense of humor and his amazing cooking skills combined make this cookbook hilarious and unique. Funny Introduction, hilarious recipe names and directions, and WTF facts will make your cooking experience unforgettable. Here are just a few examples of some funny things I found in the cookbook:
*My Balls recipe
*The Tomato Killer pasta sauce recipe "This is my go-to tomato sauce. Pasta, pizza, cereal-it goes on everything. I don't kill flies or spiders, but I'll murder the crap out of some tomatoes."
*The Fat Ass sandwich

This cookbook would be an awesome gift to anyone who has a sense of humor and loves good vegan food. A great cookbook for any vegan "dude" or a "chick". Probably not the best cookbook for your Puritan grandma, elementary school library or your 10 y/o cousin though LOL

I made several of the recipes and loved every single one of them! Years of experience in creating recipes, testing recipes and cooking based on other cookbook recipes make it easy for me to read a recipe and predict if the recipe is going to be any good (not in baking though). So I read every single recipe from The Sexy Vegan Cookbook and I am confident that they will work nicely even without trying them first. The only thing I missed were desserts. No baked goodies in this cookbook :-( And the section with ice cream recipes was useless to me since I do not own an ice cream maker :-(
So if you like pizza, sandwiches, mock meats, soups, snacks, vegan comfort foods and goodies, ice cream (and own an ice cream maker) and cocktails, and have a sense of humor, this is a cookbook for you.

Here are the recipes that I tried:

Tempeh Bacon (page 32) was really nice. Smokey, flavorful and salty with a hint of sweetness. I cut it into chunks and served it over cooked quinoa and salad.

WOW!!! These fake meatballs are out of this world! Brian calls them "My Balls" (page 26) which sparked up a conversation after my husband asked what was for dinner and I replied "Brian's balls over brown rice pasta"........ LOL
When I made the balls I tried the mixture before baking it and it was so good that I ate about 1/4 of the whole batch.... It would make a fantastic tempeh and walnut pate. Next time I am making a double batch, one for the balls and one for a pate. These balls are addictive and should come with a warning "Serious addiction can develop after a first bite!".
I served Brian's balls over brown rice pasta and roasted red pepper and tomato sauce. I sprinkled everything with Parmesan Topping (page 211). Amazing meal, all flavors blended together nicely.

Parmesan Topping (page 211) is a perfect vegan parmesan cheese alternative. Cheesy, salty with a hint of nuttiness. I used the topping over pasta, including couscous and over salads. Yummy!

Avocado Toast (page 49) was scrumptious! I used Pretend Canadian Bacon (page 34) instead of the tempeh bacon suggested in the recipe.

Pretend Canadian Bacon (page 34) turned out great! I have never had the real Canadian bacon so I could not compare it to the "real' stuff, but wow, this was so good! Sweet and smokey with a touch of salt. We ate the entire batch in one day.... And by we I mean mostly me :-)

I made a potato and tofu scramble using Brian's Scramble Seasoning (page 209). The seasoning gave my scramble a wonderfully flavorful touch, with the aroma and taste of real eggs. It was not too spicy or overwhelmingly eggy, just perfect. You have to see what Brian used in this recipe to make it taste like eggs!

Order The Sexy Vegan Cookbook Here
Check out Brian's website
Follow him on Twitter
Like him on Facebook
By the way, you have to see this cute and funny song "Bacon on Ukulele" that Brian posted on YouTube

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Fiesta Kale Salad

Fiesta Kale Salad

1 bunch kale (about 9-10 large leaves)
1 red bell pepper, core and seeds removed, diced
3 tomatoes, diced
1 cucumber, peeled and diced
1/4 red onion, chopped

2 large avocados, pitted and peeled
juice from 1 lime
1/3 cup water
1/4 tsp of ground chipotle pepper (or more if you like spicy foods)

salt to taste

Remove tough stems from the kale and tear leaves into bite-size pieces. Wash the leaves and drain excess water. Place the kale into a large bowl.
Put all ingredients for the dressing into a blender and blend until smooth and creamy, adding more water if the dressing is too thick. Pour the dressing over kale leaves. Massage the dressing into kale with your hands, making sure each leaf is covered.
Add the the rest of the vegetables and toss with kale. season with salt to taste.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Stash Tea Review

STASH Tea company kindly sent me a few samples of three of their decaf and caffeine free teas to try. Here is my review:

Raspberry & White Decaf Tea
This tea is great! It smells like a raspberry jam and has a pleasantly smooth taste, with a beautiful raspberry aftertaste, and no bitterness. I really enjoyed this tea!

Lavender-Tulsi Herbal Tea

Tulsi is the most sacred herb of India. People also call it Holly Basil. It is a stress relieving, energizing tea that promotes healthy metabolism, boosts immunity and enhances stamina. In a combination with relaxing and anti-inflammatory lavender, this tea is a very healthy and holistic drink.
The aroma of this tea reminds me of my lavender bath salts. It has a very sweet, herbal taste with a slight minty aftertaste. However, the strong lavender aroma is a bit overpowering for me.

Red Berry Rooibos (Chanakara Tea)

This tea was inspired by Chakra 1. You can read more about Chakras and teas that help balance, energize and tune your Chakras here.

Uva Ursi is a wonderful herbal remedy for urinary track infections so this tea would be a good idea if you have problems with UTIs.

This tea makes a beautiful red brew with strong fruity aroma. It has a sweet berry, tangy and smooth taste.

STASH Tea company carries a wide selection of teas, teaware, gifts and treats. Learn more about their teas on their website, like them on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter