Jeff Johnson

Make Great Ethiopian Food with Kittee Berns’ Teff Love

I love Ethiopian food! Not only is it delicious and fun to eat, but it’s also healthy and very veg-friendly.

Where I live in the Midway neighborhood and along University Avenue in St. Paul we have some excellent Ethiopian restaurants–Fasika and Demera are my current favorites. And we also have some great Ethiopian markets as well. You can find fresh injera, lentils, and berbere spice blend at places like Addis Market just east of Snelling and Sherburne.

But what do you do with those ingredients? That’s where Kittee Berns’ fantastic book Teff Love: Adventures in Vegan Ethiopian Cooking comes in.


Teff Love begins with a concise overview of all the basics you need to know about Ethiopian cuisine, from descriptions of ingredients, cooking and serving techniques, and a grocery list to a brief history of Ethiopia. It turns out that members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church fast over 200 days of the year. When they break their fasts in late afternoons they are supposed to refrain from eating animal products. That’s why Ethiopian food is so veg-friendly!

The recipes are the stars of Teff Love. All my favorites from the veggie sampler platters I love to get at my local restaurants are helpfully labeled. There are recipes for Ye’Misser Wot (Red Lentils in a Spicy Sauce), Ye’Ater Kik Alicha (Split Peas in a Mild Sauce), Ye’Abesha Gomen (Tender Stewed Collard Greens), and Ye’Tikil Gomen Be’Karot (Stewed, Seasoned Cabbage with Tender Carrots in a Garlic-Ginger Sauce). You can even learn to make Injera, that delicious spongy, slightly sour flat bread that typically accompanies Ethiopian food!

Along with traditional Ethiopian recipes, there are a range of inspired adaptations and fusion offerings. You can learn to make Ethiopian style Scrambled Tofu (Ye’Tofu Enkulal Firfir) and mac-and-cheesie, garlic jojos with Ethiopian spices, and spicy lasagna roll ups. Teff (the staple Ethiopian grain that is the namesake of the book) makes a creative appearance in the dessert section – you can whip up some spiced teff snickerdoodles or mocha teff brownies!

When it came time to do some cooking, I stuck to the classics. I made some Ye’Misser Wot (Red Lentils in a Spicy Sauce), Ye’Tikil Gomen Be’Karot (Stewed, Seasoned Cabbage with Tender Carrots in a Garlic-Ginger Sauce), and Ye’Zelbo Gomen Be’Karot (Tender Kale with Carrots, Onion, and Mild Spices). The food was amazing! I’ve tried making these dishes before, but the recipes from Teff Love helped me turn out much richer versions with great depth of flavor. I’ll be digging into this book a lot!


Ye’Tikil Gomen Be’Karot

(Stewed, Seasoned Cabbage with Tender Carrots in a Garlic-Ginger Sauce)

Reprinted with permission by Kittee Berns and Book Publishing Company

Makes 4 cups

  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into sticks (1 cup)
  • ½ white or yellow onion, thinly sliced (1 cup)
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon peeled and grated fresh ginger
  • 4 cloves garlic, pressed or grated (2 teaspoons)
  • ½ teaspoon salt, plus more if desired
  • ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ green cabbage, cut into 1-inch pieces (7 cups)
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 to 2 jalapeňo chiles, seeded, veined, and cut into thin strips lengthwise
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  1. Put the carrot, onion, olive oil, ginger, garlic, and salt in a large saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently to prevent sticking or burning, until the onion is soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
  2. Stir in the turmeric, cardamom, and cloves and cook for 1 minute. Add the cabbage and water and stir well to combine. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, for 10 minutes. Add the chiles, cover, and cook until the cabbage is very tender and the carrots are soft, about 5 minutes longer. Season to taste with pepper and additional salt if desired.

Per cup: 163 calories, 1 g protein, 10 g fat (1 g saturated), 17 g carbohydrates, 19 2 mg sodium, 103 mg calcium, 5 g fiber.

What Happened at the January Board Meeting

For CAA’s Board Meeting on January 21, we once again gathered remotely. The technology worked very well, and we’re thinking of continuing this format going forward.

After reviewing updates from the Executive Director and the Communications & Events Coordinator, we discussed the results of our year-end fundraising campaign. The number of unique donors and the amount raised were both up over last year. We also reviewed a donation history report that tracks donations over time. The board was pleased to hear that our new staff person, Brita Bengtson, will take over as our bookkeeper.

Next, we turned our attention to our upcoming strategic planning session. We will be taking time in late March to discuss what kinds of objectives we see as most important for the organization. Should we focus more on outreach or on community building? Or should we focus on both? Should we concentrate on helping those who’ve transitioned to a plant-based diet stick with it or should we work on getting people who eat animals to begin eating fewer of them? And how can we measure our progress once we’ve decided on our objectives?

We’ll also be working to articulate in some detail how exactly we see each of the programs we plan to engage in as connecting with our objectives, as well as how to assess them. As a way to help with the project of planning and evaluating programs, we will be reviewing the work of Humane League Labs and Animal Charity Evaluators.

If you find this kind of work interesting, please consider participating in our strategic planning session. We’ll be meeting on Saturday, March 26.

We are still looking for board members. If you’re interested, please contact Unny Nambudiripad at and plan on attending our next board meeting, which is tentatively scheduled to follow the strategic planning session on Saturday, March 26.

What Happened at the November Board Meeting

For CAA’s November Board Meeting, we decided to gather remotely. Our hope was to explore this as an option so that we can recruit board members who may not be able to make it to the CAA community space.

We began with a discussion of the incredible success of our fourth annual Twin Cities Veg Fest. The event attracted about 2,500 people and more food vendors than ever before. We’re looking forward to moving the event to a new venue next year as a way to make room for the festival to grow.

We really like the idea of offering an event like the Twin Cities Veg Fest on the U of M campus, though, so we discussed the possibility of holding a small scale version of the festival at the U of M campus during spring semesters. We thought we could encourage U of M students to plan the event during the school year and the event itself could be held outside of Coffman Union, for example, where food trucks could park. Holding the event outside could attract lots of passersby as well.

CAA is working with a new bookkeeper who has transitioned us to new web-based bookkeeping software. This will make the business of keeping up with the finances much easier, since those who need access will be able to log in to the online site rather than make their way into the office.

We ended the meeting by discussing how it went to meet remotely. In the beginning, it was difficult to iron out some minor technological difficulties, but in the end things seemed to go pretty smoothly. We tried using video chat for the first part of the meeting and then we transitioned to a conference call for the second part of the meeting. We found video chat was best.

We’ve decided that we’ll continue with remote board meetings. Our next meeting will take place on Google Hangouts on Monday, January 21 at 6:00pm. Be sure to let us know if you’d like to join in. If interested, email Unny Nambudiripad at

What Happened at the August Board Meeting

CAA’s August board meeting began with a report from our Executive Director, Unny Nambudiripad, about some recent successful outreach events CAA has been engaged in. We leafleted at the Warped Tour and ran a pay-per-view event at Twin Cities Pride. Unny also reported on CAA’s presence at the national Animal Rights Conference in Washington D.C..

As we transition to a new internal website used to plan events and projects, a lingering worry has to do with whether we will be able to export content from this site if we find ourselves needing to make a change down he road. While there is no built in option to do this, it appears that Dave Rolsky (our treasurer) will be able to write a software program that can do this for us. Good thing we have someone with computer programming skills on the board!

We next turned our attention to the complex business of evaluating the effectiveness of our programs. Unny and Justin (our Communications and Events Coordinator) had discussions around these issues with leaders in this area at the Animal Rights Conference. One of the suggestions we look forward taking up was the idea of engaging in dialogue with members of our target audience about how to help them make more compassionate food choices. Once we have good information about those needs, we can tailor our programs to meet them. We also decided to continue making use of existing research (for example, Nick Cooney’s excellent book Change of Heart) to inform our outreach and communication efforts.

We revisited the question of board member recruitment and we decided that we will announce opportunities for volunteer board members through the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits. We also decided to explore the possibility of recruiting folks from across the country who work successfully on the kinds of issues that are central to CAA’s mission.

Our next board meeting is tentatively scheduled for Thursday, November 5 at 6pm. You should consider being a part of that meeting if you’re interested. If you’d like to participate, contact Unny Nambudiripad at

What Happened at the June Board Meeting

We began CAA’s June board meeting by briefly reviewing and unanimously ratifying the budget for the coming fiscal year. We have a growing interest in assessing our work as an organization, so we decided to have a look at donation history to begin to get a better sense of the impact of our fundraising efforts. We’ll take a look at that history at our next meeting.

Board members were then introduced to the new website where organizational information will be collected. Because of its ease of use and integration with Google services, we feel this new site will offer lots of advantages over our current wiki for everyone involved in CAA’s work.

Our discussion then turned to the difficult task of assessing the extent to which CAA should get involved in campaigns like promoting Meatless Mondays. Traditionally, CAA has focussed on organizing outreach events (like leafleting and pay-per-view) and community building events (like the Chili Cook-off and the Twin Cities Veg Fest). We see campaigns like Meatless Monday as potentially powerful ways to help reduce the amount of suffering animals endure on factory farms as well. While these campaigns can generate a lot of energy, it happens that support for them among volunteers can fade over time. In view of this, we considered the possibility of allocating more staff time to work on these efforts and drawing up contracts between staff and volunteers that lay out clearly in advance the amount of time being involved in these campaigns will require of volunteers.

We also discussed board recruitment. Board members are central to helping shape CAA’s work and we are currently looking for new board members to join us. You should consider coming to a meeting if you’re interested. Our next meeting is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, August 25 at 6pm. If you’d like to attend, contact Unny Nambudiripad at

“Standard Practices” on Factory Farms

pigs in gestation crates

Every now and then, animal advocacy groups like Mercy for Animals release undercover videos of factory farms. In fact, they released an investigation of Pipestone Systems here in Minnesota just last fall.

These undercover videos help us to see for ourselves how animals are treated in these facilities.

Eager to make us feel at ease with what they do, some producers want us to resist the idea that animals are raised on factory farms. They ask instead that we think of all farms simply as farms. No doubt they hope to encourage the kinds of images that go along with the idea of a farm – places where we are asked to think of farmers as doing what’s best for their animals. If we want an accurate image of animal agriculture, though, we’d do well to resist.

Here’s why.

We’re often asked to see the decision to move animals inside as a kindness, since inside they’re spared from extreme weather. We aren’t told that confinement helps producers save money on feed. Animals who can’t move don’t need as much food as animals who can.

And let’s think about what happens to animals inside.

Mother pigs are confined for months at a time in gestation crates, cages so small that the pigs trapped in them can’t turn around. Baby pigs have their tails and testicles cut off without pain relief. And piglets who aren’t growing fast enough or who are in need of medical care are killed by being slammed head first against a concrete floor.

Eager to put us at ease with these practices, those in the industry try to convince us that they do these things for the sake of the pigs. But they leave important parts of the story out.

We’re told gestation crates help prevent aggression that arises when sows are raised in groups. We aren’t told that research shows this aggression subsides after only a day or so and that after a week the sows form stable social groups.

Research also shows that aggression between the sows poses a threat to the producers’ bottom line — when you introduce sows into groups after they’ve been artificially inseminated there’s a risk that some embryos won’t implant.

We’re told sows in groups have higher cortisol levels than sows in gestation crates. (Cortisol is a stress hormone.) We aren’t told that cortisol levels are elevated during sex and play as well, complicating the argument that elevated cortisol levels are always a bad thing.

We aren’t invited to ask whether the brief period of aggression and the stress that comes from being able to interact meaningfully with others might be worth it for a sow when the alternative is nearly four months of confinement in a gestation crate.

We’re told that slamming the heads of baby pigs against a concrete floor is a fast and pain free way to kill them. We aren’t invited to ask why we would never consider euthanizing our cats or our dogs like that.

We’re told cutting the tails off of baby pigs prevents them from chewing each other’s tails off. We aren’t told that tail biting only becomes a problem in confinement, where the pigs being bitten are unable to run away.

We aren’t told why baby pigs have their testicles cut out. It’s done because leaving pigs intact can impact the taste of their flesh.

We aren’t told that baby pigs are denied effective pain relief in cutting off their tails and testicles because it would cost too much. Painkillers and vets to administer them, after all, aren’t free.

We’re often presented with a false dilemma. We’re told we can either save some money by eating pigs raised in these awful ways or pay more and eat pigs raised differently. We’re liable to forget the other alternative — quit eating pigs altogether.

When you hear from those in the industry about how much they care about their animals, it’s important to remember that they’re in business. It’s important to remember that what they tell you is marketing. They have a product they want to sell you and what we’re learning about animal agriculture is giving us good reason not to buy it.

Producers will point out that the practices I’ve described are standard in the industry. But this response  is empty. The fact that practices have become standard doesn’t make them morally acceptable.

It would be unthinkable to do these things to our cats or our dogs. Not only does the law forbid it but so does a basic interest in showing kindness and compassion toward our fellow creatures.

And aren’t pigs our fellow creatures too?

Jeff Johnson is a philosophy professor at St. Catherine University, an active volunteer with Compassionate Action for Animals, and a member of the CAA board of directors. This article was first posted on his Tumblr blog in response to a recent article in the Star Tribune.

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