Skip to main content

Tag: animals

12 (Vegan) Days of Christmas Recipes

Plant-based recipes inspired by the popular holiday song

Search for “12 Days of Christmas recipes” on the internet, and you’ll find countless blog posts featuring loads of animal products: actual cooked hens for Day 3, egg-based dishes for Day 6, milky desserts for Day 8, and so on.

There’s absolutely no evidence that the song pays homage to the consumption of different birds on different days during the 12 Days of Christmas; rather, it was most likely a memory game played on Twelfth Night, the 12th and final night of the 12 Days of Christmas, which begins on December 25th and ends on January 6th, otherwise known as Epiphany.

Still, you will find no animals harmed in the crafting of these dishes. It was so much fun crafting this menu — making literal interpretations as well as taking creative license. You’ll see all the whys and wherefores and details about why I chose the dishes I did once you purchase!

Obviously, you can cook from this menu anytime of the year, but I was very mindful about making sure you have what you need for a single holiday dinner (appetizers, starters, mains, and desserts) or for featuring one recipe per day during the 12 days of Christmas. Enjoy!

Our inspired musical menu!

Poached Pears — A Partridge in a Pear Tree (December 25)
Chocolate Pecan Turtles — Two Turtle Doves (December 26)
Fabulous French Toast — Three French Hens (December 27)
Better-than-Chicken Vegetable Pot Pie — Four Calling Birds (December 28)
Monkey Bread — Five Golden Rings (December 29)
Eggless Egg Salad Crostini — Six Geese a Laying (December 30)
Swan Cut-out Sugar Cookies — Seven Swans a Swimming (December 31)
Potato Leek Soup — Eight Maids a Milking (January 1)
Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pink Lady Apples and Onions — Nine Ladies Dancing (January 2)
Wassail — Ten Lords-a-Leaping (January 3)
Polenta Fries + Eggless Meringue Cookies — Eleven Pipers Piping (January 4)
Butternut Squash Timbales — Twelve Drummers Drumming (January 5)

(If you’d like to understand more about why — historically — The 12 Days of Christmas started on December 25th and ended on January 6th (otherwise known as the epiphany), check out the Food for Thought podcast episodes Forbidden Meat as well Food and Feasting.)

Animal Cruelty at the Supreme Court

Maybe 100 years ago it would have been a joke, but not today. Today, the issue of animal cruelty is being heard at the highest court in the nation, and it’s no laughing matter. Join me in conversation with Josh Balk, vice president of farm animal protection at the Humane Society of the United States as we discuss why animals need to be top of mind all the time.

AFFILIATE PARTNERS

Nama Juicer — Use this link and coupon code COLLEEN10 and get 10% off my favorite juicer.

Plaine Products — Use this link and coupon code “compassion” for 15% off my favorite zero waste bath and body products.

Complement — Use this link and coupon code “joyfulvegan” and get 10% off my favorite supplements.

How to Make Delicious Bruschetta!

Black Olive and Cashew Cream Bruschetta

Can you tell Italian cuisine is on my mind? Between our trips to Italy and my Italian cuisine podcast series, I wanted to share one of my favorite recipes: bruschetta.

Traditionally, bruschetta features tomatoes and basil, but bruschetta itself just means “burnt / toasted bread,” so really, we can do whatever we want.

BUT, you can’t say broo-SHET-a. The “ch” sound in Italian is a hard “k” sound (like Chianti or Gnocchi), so it’s pronounced broo-SKET_a.

Ingredients

🌱2 tablespoons olive oil
🌱3 cloves fresh garlic, finely minced
🌱2 shallots, finely minced
🌱Salt and pepper, to taste
🌱1/4 cup pine nuts, coarsely chopped
🌱1/2 cup pitted black (or kalamata) olives, finely minced
🌱1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
🌱1 whole grain baguette, sliced
🌱Olive oil for brushing
🌱Basil Cashew Cream (see below)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 400, and line a baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper.

2. Add the oil to a large sauté pan, along with the garlic, shallots, and a pinch of salt and pepper.

3. Cook over medium heat until the shallots begin to glisten, about 5 minutes. Stir in the pine nuts and olives, and sauté for 3 minutes more.

4. Stir in the balsamic vinegar, and turn off heat.

5. Lightly brush both sides of the bread slices with oil.

6. Arrange on the prepared baking sheet, and bake until about 5 to 7 minutes.

7. Remove from the oven, and let cool for 10 minutes. Spread a generous amount of cashew cream on each bread slice, and carefully spoon the olive mixture on top.

8. Sprinkle with some minced basil.

MANGIA!

Basil Cashew Cream

Because the cashews have to soak for at least an hour, you will want to factor that in to your total prep time.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (300 g) raw cashews soaked in 3 cups (720 ml) of water for at least 1 hour or as long as overnight
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 2 tablespoons minced basil
  • ¼ cup (60 ml) water

Directions

Once the cashews have soaked, drain and rinse them in a strainer.

Place them in a food processor, along with the lemon juice, salt, pepper, and basil. Turn on the machine, and let it run for a few seconds to start combining the ingredients.

Add most of the water, and process until the mixture is completely smooth, about 2 to 4 minutes, turning the machine off periodically to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Before adding all of the water, I like first seeing what the consistency is; it’s always easier to add more than it is to take any out!

Salt, to taste. The consistency should be thick but spreadable.

For Your Modification

*Instead of basil, add chives, dill, parsley, or any combination you desire.

*Add finely chopped sundried tomatoes and/or olives instead of or along with the fresh herbs.

For Your Information

It will keep well in the refrigerator for at least 3 days.

Did you make this bruschetta recipe? Let me know what you think in the comments!

Finding a Cat Sitter When You Travel

Why My Cats Need a Companion When I’m Away From Home

In the work I do — as an animal advocate, as a vegan cookbook author, as a cat lover — I am forever debunking myths — about animal welfare, about plant-based eating, and about animals in general. And that’s fine with me. I chose this work for that very reason — to normalize compassion for animals and to normalize (and elevate) the consumption of plants (over animals). 

When it comes to cats, one of the ideas I’m constantly pushing back on is that cats are solitary, aloof creatures who are “easier” to take care of than dogs and who can look after themselves for days at a time when their people go away. While it’s true that cats are more self-sufficient (because…litter boxes) and are fine being alone for several hours a day (because…sleeping), it is simply erroneous to think that cats don’t get lonely or anxious if left alone for days at a time.

While this might seem extreme to people who don’t have cats (and maybe even to those who do), my cats have never slept a night alone, and we are consummate travelers — both domestically and internationally. In fact, I host trips around the world, so we’re often gone for weeks at a time. But even when it’s just for a weekend…it’s unthinkable to me that Charlie and Michiko wouldn’t have someone staying at the house caring for their physical and emotional needs. 

How I Find a Cat Sitter

The first thing I do when we confirm a trip is secure our cat sitters / house sitters, and I’m never relaxed until this is done. We have a regular cat sitter we tend to turn to for our trips, but because she’s not always available, I tap into our larger network of friends and neighbors. 

We’ve always been very fortunate at finding good people to stay, and while sometimes we’ve worked out a trade with a sitter, I’m also happy to pay for the peace of mind that my cats are being well cared for — not just with food and clean litter boxes but with affection, attention, and love. 

For my part, I feel much more at ease when I receive regular updates and photos, and in fact it’s one of the benchmarks that we hired an attentive and compassionate cat-sitter. I communicate this need early on, and I do the best I can to find the best person. I get references, I have them meet our cats, and I try to be as discerning as possible. 

But it’s not always perfect. Despite the 8 pages of notes I provide, anticipating everything a sitter might need while we’re gone — phone numbers of friends they can call on, the location of the emergency vet hospital, what our cats’ favorite hiding places are, etc. — there have been times when I have been more anxious than not about the person we trusted with our fur babies. Thankfully, everything has always been alright in the end.

Knowing What Your Cat Needs

I understand that everyone has different standards for the level of care they provide to their cats, and this is not to say that anyone who doesn’t have people sleep at their house when they go away is neglecting or harming their cats, but it is meant to convey the fact that while domestic cats may not necessarily be pack animals like dogs, they are companion animals. 

Of course, I say this aware that cats are individuals with different personalities and preferences and some may be more content to hang out alone more than others, but it’s just not true that cats can be left alone for days at a time with a litter box and large bowl of dry food without them feeling the absence of their people.

Cats are social beings who bond with their people and can absolutely suffer from loneliness and depression when left alone for long periods of time. 

I know my cats well enough to know this, and I know me well enough to know that *I* feel best when their routines are as regular as possible when I’m not home and that they’re getting as much affection and companionship as possible. 

What about you?

Do you have people stay at your house with your cats when you’re away?

How do you find the cat sitters you can trust and rely on?

Have you ever used a service like Trusted Housesitters?

Do you pay? Do you trade? 

Tell me in the comments below, and give some smooches to your kitties for me. 

Animal Monuments Around the World

Animals celebrated for their bravery, strength, and loyalty

In a previous podcast episode, I talked about animal burials and pet cemeteries around the world — how long they’ve been around and what they say about our feelings about and relationships with animals, especially our companion animals.

In this episode, I talk about memorials and monuments that pay tribute to animals, celebrating who they are and what they have done and remembering and honoring what they have endured,  often at the hands of humans.

These memorials — often in the form of bronze statues, stone sculptures, and towering structures — are tangible expressions of our appreciation of animals and the value their lives have. They are physical manifestations of their bravery, loyalty, strength, love, selflessness, endurance, intelligence, and beauty. And that is worth remembering.  

It was such a pleasure to research and write this episode, and it’s not even an exhaustive list. I hope you enjoy listening as much as I enjoyed researching.

AFFILIATE PARTNERS

Nama Juicer — Use this link and coupon code COLLEEN10 and get 10% off my favorite juicer.

Plaine Products — Use this link and coupon code “compassion” for 15% off my favorite zero waste bath and body products.

Complement — Use this link and coupon code “joyfulvegan” and get 10% off my favorite supplements.

My First Turkey Hug

Lydia was my first turkey hug — and she was proof that you don’t need arms to do so. 

She pressed her body so close against mine, I couldn’t tell where my heartbeat ended and hers began. I had been vegetarian for several years by then but vegan only a couple. I had had my share of kitty snuggles, cow kisses, and goat nuzzles, but I hadn’t been loved by a turkey.

22 years later, Lydia is no longer with us — she died naturally and peacefully, not from the blade of a cold knife — but to me, she will always be the ambassador for all her turkey brethren. 

It was Joseph Stalin who said that we treat one death as a tragedy but one million as a statistic, and of course he would know. And, that’s what we’re facing here.

Over 30 years an animal advocate, and I still can’t wrap my brain around the fact that we bring into this world and kill almost 10 billion land animals every year in the U.S. for human consumption. We can’t fathom that number, but we CAN connect with one. One ambassador.

One individual whose life has been spared, one individual whose body has healed, one individual who represents not only the violence that countless animals endure every moment but also the hope and healing that’s possible when other individuals intervene: the human individuals. 

If you can connect people with the value of one individual animal, you can connect them with the value of an entire species. And so I give you Lydia: curious, affectionate, playful, vocal, brave, social, protective, and sassy. Like all her turkey friends. The only difference is…you can see her. ⠀

I hope. 

Ethical Tourism and Elephants

What Ethical Tourism Is Not

I’ve had the privilege and honor of being in the presence of elephants in:

  • Thailand
  • California
  • Texas
  • France
  • Rwanda
  • Botswana

In the first four, they were in sanctuaries. In the last two, they were in the wild.

But despite what they call themselves, not all animal outfits are ethical.

As I discuss in my Food for Thought podcast episode Ethical Tourism: Avoiding Animal Cruelty While Traveling, please remember (and remind your friends and family) to avoid any outfit — both domestically and internationally — that involves / sells / promotes any of the following experiences: 

  • Elephant Rides
  • Elephant Paintings
  • Elephants in Zoos
  • Elephants in Circuses 

…or the use of elephants in any form of entertainment. 

The Red Flags of Green Washing

  • Chains
  • Ropes
  • Hooks / Bull-hooks
  • Baby elephants without their mothers
  • A place that calls itself a “sanctuary” but has elephants chained in any way or allows riding or sells paintings by elephants

Just as ivory belongs to elephants, elephants belong in the wild.

See Animals (Ethically) on a Joyful Vegan Trip!

In September 2023, we took 20 travelers on our Joyful Vegan Trip to the Loire Valley and Dordogne Valley, where we had the honor of visiting these magnificent beings in France at Europe’s first sanctuary for elephants — rescued from circuses and zoos. (Check out Elephant Haven.)

Visit JoyfulVeganTrips.com, and join us to experience the joy, abundance, camaraderie, and compassion that characterize our trips around the world with moi my amazing husband, and my incredible travel partners, World Vegan Travel

HAVE YOU BEEN TO AN ELEPHANT SANCTUARY? Please let me know in the comments below!

👇
👇
👇