Saturday, February 27, 2010

Tempeh and Green Beans in a Cremini-Miso Gravy with Corn and Scallion Quinoa



Paul and I have decided to up our workout game. Before you congratulate us too much, all this means is that we are moving from a total sloth-like state to one in which we break a sweat on the treadmill every now and again (as an aside, winter needs to be over because I really and truly despise staring at a wall while I run).

I really know nothing at all about fitness. It's kind of embarrassing, actually. And I hate being sweaty (although I'm slowly learning to love the feeling that follows an extra long run).

I like eating though. I really, really like eating. And I hear a lot about the importance of protein post-workout. So while I am in plank position and spitting out every curse word that I have ever heard in my life (English or otherwise) I like to think about all the protein-rich food I get to eat at dinner.

My favourite in-YO-face-lovehandles-and-diabetes protein source is quinoa. We've been eating a lot of it lately. So, Thursday night was a Vegan Express night, with this quinoa-corn-scallions dish and an amazing, amazing, amazing combo of tempeh, veggies and miso mushroom gravy.

For the record, it's supposed to be a shiitake-miso and not a cremini-miso but I nearly had a heart attack when I saw the price of shiitakes last week and decided to improvise.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The "But I Thought I Hated Salad" Salad



Veteran readers of this blog are probably well aware of my fussiness with regard to salads. I try not to hate things, but man have I hated some salads. I always found them quite boring and something you ate because it was good for you and not because you could ever possibly like something so monotonous.

Nowadays I am aware that just because something classifies as a salad it does not mean that it is good for you - take a look at what some fast food restaurants call salad. I have also learned that there are salad options other than simply drenching lettuce and cucumber in prepackaged Italian dressing. Yes, I have learned that even I, the former anti-salad advocate of the Great White North, can get excited about salad. Even in the dead of winter, when the last thing most of us up here want to do is eat cold vegetables.

I couldn't think of a decent name for this salad because of its somewhat diverse characteristics. It came to be after trying several similar recipes, but not being completely satisfied with the results. It's kind Waldorf-y in nature because of the fruit and vegetable combo, but there is no mayo (vegan or otherwise) present and so it's not a true Waldorf salad.

I'll just let you name it for yourselves. But really, I love this damn salad and I've never really felt this way about raw produce before, so I really think you should try it. It made a great companion to shepherd's pie at dinner the other night, but it's got so much flavour that it would even be great with nothing more than a couple slices of garlic bread.



The "But I Thought I Hated Salad" Salad

*Makes 4 large servings and 6-8 small servings

INGREDIENTS:

Salad:
4 cups baby spinach
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
1 orange (peeled and as much of the white skin as possible removed), chopped into bite size pieces
1 red delicious apple with peel, cored and chopped into bite size pieces
1/4 cup pecan or walnut pieces (go with pecan, if you can!)

* I wish I had discovered this gem for the holidays, because dried cranberries would go wonderfully. Raisins would, too!

Dressing:
1/8 cup pecan pieces
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp raw cane sugar (agave nectar would also work, but decrease to 1 1/2 tbsp)
1/2 tsp dried mustard
Hot sauce to taste (we used Frank's, and we used a lot)

DIRECTIONS:

1) Assemble the salad items.

2) Combine all dressing ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Taste and see if you want to increase the hot sauce or the sugar.

3) Pour dressing over the salad mixture and toss thoroughly.


This is barely a recipe, it's so easy.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Book Review: Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer



I'm not really "up" on veg*n literature and media. I still have yet to get through all of Earthlings. While I can say that I was a herbivore in-the-making for years, believe it or not watching and then reading Fast Food Nation was what finally pushed me to go vegetarian. And that is as moderate as it gets, as Eric Schlosser isn't even vegetarian. It was only after I was vegetarian that I had more direct contact with literature on the horrors of the factory farm and its implications for human rights and the environment. (For the record, what finally turned me vegan was a plate of 3-cheese nachos at the beach that made me violently, violently ill).

I know I should be more aware of the research and I try to be. I was far more active in this regard when I very first embarked on veg*sm, as I needed to learn and I needed to stay motivated. Watching a chicken get her beak ripped off makes one a lot less likely to stop at KFC for dinner (at least I hope it does?).

I just have a very strong emotional and physiological reaction when interacting with the information. It makes me distressed and depressed (like it should, really). It garners within me not only a sense of helplessness but also puts me in a state of hostility toward the way our world works. Neither of which I believe are healthy or productive to promoting something I am so passionate about. I know this is not an appropriate excuse. If an omnivore told me that learning about factory farming makes them uncomfortable I would tell them to suck it up buttercup - if they wanted to continue supporting the industry by eating meat and dairy or, alternatively, stop eating meat and dairy.

If you're vegan, is it okay if you're not up-to-date on all the animal cruelty information that exists? If it makes you hostile and disenchanted, like it does me?

While I like to think of myself as having a right to not suffer psychological discomfort because I already AM vegan, I am aware that this logic is flawed and there is always more we can be doing for the causes we believe in. And I am flawed. But know that I am trying, even if it is just a matter of keeping this silly little blog to show people that we vegans love to eat and have fun and carry on like everyone else...my mission here is nothing more than showing people that going vegan is not an impossibility, nor is it difficult. And in the meantime I am so thankful for the men and women out there that are much stronger than I, that are either more psychologically stable or are more willing to sacrifice that sense of comfort in order to get our message out there. I am inspired, everyday.

I had been meaning to read this particular contribution to veg*n research since it came out a few months ago and have finally gotten around to it. I wasn't sure what to expect. I wasn't sure how extreme or moderate it would be. I was scared it was going to be really graphic (which at times it is, although not as much as other vegan literary works). But Jonathan Safran Foer is one of my favourite fiction authors (Everything is Illuminated is so, so, so incredible) and when I learned he was writing a book called Eating Animals I knew it was something I couldn't miss.

The book details much of which most of us vegans already know (but the general public may not) - the horrific conditions of factory farms, the shit that's in the meat people consume on a daily basis (what I say shit I am not being crass, I literally mean shit), the resulting environmental degradation and the devastating impact on human health and wellbeing. He also touches on the outright ridiculousness of such terms as "free range" and "family farm" (which more often than not actually stand for the direct opposite of that which you think they stand for).

What I particularly appreciate about this book is Foer's control and his attempts at respect for those he is working with, regardless of their particular stances. This is by no means an easy task, especially for someone who, by virtue of embarking on this research, comes to them with a particular stance on a certain issue. Personally, I'm not sure how I would react confronting a rancher as he is hauling cattle off to a slaughterhouse. While (to my knowledge) Foer is vegetarian (and not vegan), I still think this book raises very important questions yet is not hostile in the slightest and is subsequently more easily accessible to mainstream (read: non-vegan) audiences. A characteristic I find very important, as we vegans often build walls around ourselves, rendering us difficult to approach at times.

His moderate stance may be a source of criticism among other vegans, but I find it to be a strength in this case. Foer is inquisitive but respectful and does his best to represent the vegan - vegetarian - animal welfare advocate - omnivore (and whatever else) spectrum. As opposed to the black-or-white notion that vegans and omnivores always have been and always will be polar opposites, Foer talks with a vegetarian rancher and a vegan slaughterhouse builder (which I admit I scoffed at when reading the chapter headings but closed the book with a far less extreme response) and a host of folks in between that are omnivores but fight diligently for legitimately humane treatment for the animals our society demands to eat.

There has been some criticism regarding Foer's focus on his own thoughts and feelings as he engaged in this research as opposted to strict statistics, facts and discussions on ethics. Maybe it's because I'm a blogger and spend my time here discussing my own experiences and thoughts (as opposed to any kind of scientific research), but I like this aspect of his book. I find it personable. It shows personal struggle: a new father grappling with the issues we all encounter three times a day when we sit down to eat. I don't think it's fair to fault him for this.

I really appreciated the struggles he faced regarding dietary choices as a result of becoming a father. I don't have children, but I would imagine when you have a baby you take nothing for granted. You take no one's word for it. You want to provide the best possible life for that child and you begin thinking about things you didn't think about before. Foer, like pretty much every other parent, is asking these questions because he wants to provide for his son, not necessarily because he wants to start a revolution. At the end of the day, we are all just trying to survive and be good. No matter how often you were told how special you were as a kid, the god honest truth is that the vast majority of us are just average. Ordinary. Most of us aren't going to change the world. But we have the capacity to change OUR worlds and the worlds of those around us, those we love, our children. There is no fault in trying to genuinely take care of your family and admit that that is your purpose for taking part in what you take part in, as Foer does within this book.

Questioning giving meat and dairy to children is a very recent phenomenon and still far from the norm, so while we vegans think of Foer as a moderate, I'd imagine the majority of the public would consider him an extremist liberal for not feeding his child meat. I can't count how many newspaper articles I've read equating veganism with neglect - yet no one questions the hormone and antibiotic-laden food-esque substances we attain at the drive thru and supermarket freezer aisle that we willingly allow our children to consume on a weekly, often daily, basis. Foer serves as a voice for all of us trying to make the best decisions for our families, even though the best decision is not always the one we like the most or the one that is easiest to achieve.

What I find to be a particular strength of this book is Foer's acknowledgement of eating as a profoundly social act. All of our stories, the ones signifying who we are and where we came from, in some way or another pay hommage to the act of breaking bread. Because eating is so definitive of our history, our culture and our identity, deciding to refrain from eating those things that once were a part of the very fiber that makes you YOU means breaking tradition. And often grieving the loss of that tradition.

Changing the way you eat means changing who you are. It means calling attention to yourself as someone who has changed; it means potentially offending the people who you love and who love you and are showing you their love by giving you a plate of food that you ate your whole life but now have decided not to. Being vegan means I'll never get to have my grandma's schnitzel again, or my sister-in-law's Christmas turkey, or my mom's rolo cheesecake, things that came to define certain times and events in my life. While we vegans often keep our guard up regarding how we feel about sacrifice (in an effort to keep the "veganism is so hard" claims at bay) and instead focus on how awesome veganism is (and it is), I think it is fair for us to grieve the loss of certain aspects of ourselves while celebrating our new life paths.

I developed an interest in going vegetarian (and later vegan) as an extension of my stance on human rights, only to later develop an awareness of animal issues. As such, I am deeply offended when someone asks me how I can care more about animals than I do about people. It surprises me that people fail to see the connections between our overly indulgent western factory-farmed-meat-based diet and the plight of millions of humans in the developing world. And the abuses of the poor right here at home in the name of providing cheap meat. And the abuses of those not-so-poor who are now test subjects in the "how much crap can we put in this and still call it food" corporate experiment. I thoroughly appreciate Foer's focus on not only animal rights, but the profound connection between animal rights and human rights.

The time of ignorance is over. There is enough literature out there now (if Foer is too moderate for you, try Slaughterhouse). We have now moved into a time of indifference - or have we all? Foer reminds us that history is not destiny, and we vote for the treatment of animals (and the treatment of our environment and the treatment of ourselves and other humans) with our forks.

Although he is not vegan (and I hope he'll consider it in the future), I give this book the This is Vegan: Seal of Approval. I recommend books to people all the time, and if you only take one of my suggestions, please let it be this one. If you live in the area I'll happily lend you my copy so that you can read it (just ignore the rainbow of highlighted sentences and my sloppy writing in the margins). Also check out Everything is Illuminated, because it is just so cool.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Everything But the Kitchen Sink: A Soup and A Rice Dish

Two very easy ways to clean out your refrigerator crisper:



Ever since I began making soups fresh, I have found myself repulsed by canned soups (with the exception of Amy's Organic, especially the Minestrone and the Lentil!). Why do canned soups all taste the same, regardless of the flavour? And why the hell is Campbell's "vegetable soup" made with beef broth?! Not to mention my particular peeved-ness regarding the leniency with which "health checks" are handed out to products.

I like to make fancier soups (like roasted garlic and miso butternut squash) but sometimes you just want something hearty on a cold day. And sometimes you have several veggies with highly questionable freshness left over from last week's grocery run and you need to use them up immediately. That is what happened here.

Carrots, celery, a tomato, kidney beans, onion, mushrooms, leftover roasted butternut squash from the night before. And barley, because nothing says "Hey it's winter let's put some hair on that chest!" quite like barley. In an organic veggie stock, with some dried dill and fresh cracked black pepper thrown in for good measure at the end. This is very loosely based on a recipe found in Vegan Soups & Hearty Stews for All Seasons, but I had to improvise because it was Day 8 without a trip to the supermarket and our fridge and pantry were looking pretty pitiful.



This rice dish is from How it All Vegan and it is referred to as "Kieran's Favorite Rice", after a child the authors know. I don't know Kieran, and so I thought it would be a tad creepy for me to refer to this as "Kieran's Favorite Rice". So I'm instead going to call it "Everything But the Kitchen Sink" rice. It's another fridge-cleaner, as you can put pretty much any vegetable you're looking to get rid of into the mix and it will be fine. Except maybe rutabaga. That would be weird.

This is a very plain dish, involving minimal spice and ingredients and I think that is the best part about it. I can see why Kieran likes it so much, as it is a great way to get children and other notoriously picky eaters to consume some veggies while not freaking out because "omggzzz vegans eat SUCH weird things!". It is absolutely perfect for someone who is transitioning to a vegan lifestyle and has no idea what nutritional yeast, miso paste, wheat gluten and tempeh are (ah, wasn't it just yesterday that I didn't know you needed to COOK dried lentils before using them?). I really like How It All Vegan for its simplicity with regard to ingredients and I think it makes a perfect transition or vegan family cookbook.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Whole Wheat-Flax-Mixed Berry-Banana Pancake Extravaganza!



Today is Ash Wednesday. Meaning yesterday was Shrove Tuesday, better known as Fat Tuesday or Pancake Tuesday. And I completely forgot about it until I saw "PancakeDay" trending on Twitter.

(It appears that social networking is beginning to infultrate all levels of my awareness. It's like something doesn't exist until someone has tweeted about it. I feel very sorry for myself.)

Shrove Tuesday is the day before Ash Wednesday, which is the official start of Lent. It's dubbed Fat Tuesday because it allows for one last day of gluttony before fasting for the forty days preceding Easter. Pancake Tuesday came about because (apparently) back in the day people used Fat Tuesday to get rid of all the items that would spoil over Lent (things like eggs, milk, lard - yes, I said LARD - which can be conducive to pancake-making, and heart attacks, but are not our concern here).

While I am a self-declared agnostic these days, I was raised in the Catholic Church AND the Catholic school system here in southern Ontario (both elementary school and high school) and so I didn't even have to look that information up. Every year, Lent and Easter were the big show for us Catholics.

I'm not sure if anyone out there does a full-on Lenten fast anymore. I'm sure some people do. When I was growing up it wasn't really a fast at all, you just weren't supposed to eat mammals or birds on Fridays. God apparently doesn't care about fish though, because you could eat all the sea creatures you wanted. Not that any of this is about God caring; it's about people sacrificing to acknowledge and mimic the struggles Jesus had while wandering the desert. Which is kind of weird, actually, because how many fish are there in the desert? And what about all the animals that are forced to sacrifice the other 325 days of the year? And why don't fish get a 40-day break too? These questions plagued me even when I was little, and long before I was a vegan.

(Tracy Jordan said it best, I think, when asked why Catholics don't eat meat on Fridays: "I'll tell you why. Because the Pope owns Long John Silvers.")

If I sound a wee bit hostile about this it's because I am. I partially blame this mentality of "You can have all the fish you want on Fridays and God will still love you, just no chickens/cows/pigs/etc." for encouraging people to be ambivalent toward the slaughter of fish AND for making people think that vegetarians eat fish, complicating our already complicated restaurant experiences (the actual term for one who eats fish but abstains from other types of meat is pescetarian). Plus, out of all of the auto-responses people contribute to vegan debates, "God gave us animals so that we could eat them" is my least favourite.

And to be silly for a mere moment, according to these rules we vegans are "fasting" all the time (not just during Lent and not just during FRIDAYS of Lent or whatever the rules of today may be). So, I'm going to to take this opportunity to equate veganism with a higher level of Catholic godliness. A small reward for having to repeatedly say, "No, I don't eat fish" throughout the course of our lives. Fair, yes?

As an aside I do know of practicing Christian/Catholic veg*ns who are similarly disturbed by this disregard for sea creatures among their religious counterparts and so I hope this will not be taken as me hating on religion. Check out the Christian Vegetarian Association for more on veg*n Christianity (they have done some amazing work). Like I said I identify as an agnostic and that in and of itself is a religious standpoint of some sort so I can't get too down on religion. I just like the opportunity to rant under the guise of sweets.

And so, back to growing up Catholic/eating pancakes on Shrove Tuesday. You still with me?

In elementary school we were encouraged to "give something up" for Lent, in lieu of the fast that no one really does anymore. So, on Shrove Tuesday we would not only have pancakes, but also contemplate what it was we were going to abstain from for the following 40 days. Candy was a popular choice among the kids. In the third grade I distinctly remember writing "I will abstain from watching Beverly Hills, 90210 for Lent" on the little pieces of perferated construction paper they handed out to us. That lasted all of two days. I'm fairly certain that I was destined to be irreligious from a very young age, as I also remember declaring one Shrove Tuesday that I was going to give up going to church for Lent. I got told, very curtly, that it "doesn't work that way".

While I can be a harsh critic of Catholicism more often than not, I do have some fond memories of growing up in the Catholic school system and I suppose I picked up on some religiously-based life lessons that I still carry with me today. But these days, the only Catholic thing about me is my excitement over pancakes on the Tuesday before Lent. And even that couldn't get me going this year, as I was feeling very lazy when I saw Pancake Day trending and decided I was going to skip out on it this year.

Paul, however, never misses a beat when it comes to breakfast food and took it upon himself to make some whole wheat and flax mixed berry pancakes.

And so your reward for listening to my religiously-oriented (and somewhat off topic) ranting is a recipe for the best pancakes EVER!

Whole Wheat-Flax-Mixed Berry-Banana-Pancake Batter

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour, sifted
2 tbsp ground flax seeds
2 tbsp raw cane sugar
2 heaping tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups rice milk (or vanilla rice milk, or other non-dairy milk, or a combination)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup mixed frozen berries (we used blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries)
1 ripe banana (mashed)

Canola oil (for greasing the frying pan)

DIRECTIONS:

1) Combine all dry ingredients (EXCEPT the flaxseeds) and set aside.

2) In a separate bowl, combine the milk, vanilla and flax seeds and whip until somewhat smooth (you can do this in a blender or food processor if you want, but it's not necessary and just creates extra dirty dishes. We didn't and it turned out fine).

3) Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Once combined, gently fold in the fruit.

4) Lightly oil a frying pan over medium-high heat. Scoop about 1/4 cup of the batter per pancake and place in the pan. Allow each side to brown (each stove/pan combo works differently - be sure to keep an eye on these buggers!).

5) Serve hot, topped with agave nectar or maple syrup.


(I am of the agave school. Paul prefers maple syrup. It's a good thing we don't have children, how on earth would we raise them?)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Be My (Vegan) Valentine



I have always had a strange relationship with Valentine's Day. As a teenager without a boyfriend I lamented the day away, harping at its commercialism and propensity to make us feel like crap about ourselves...stemming from the fact that that lousy Nick Carter simply refused to realize how great we would be together.

As a teenager with a boyfriend, candy grams sent to my homeroom gave me an heir of importance that I assure you I did not deserve and in turn lead me to believe that all those who hated V-Day were simply Bitter Bettys trying to bring us all down.

As a university student I had my first interaction with feminist literature and was thus vehemently opposed to and appalled by Valentine's Day as an extension of my Damning the Man (my senior year Sociology of Women seminar nicknamed February 14 'Heterosexist Monogamist Day', an alternative title for Cupid's Day that I'm still quite fond of and have been known to throw around, years later).

As a married woman teetering on the verge of her late 20s (gulp) I have scrapped all these extremes and am quite indifferent with regard to Saint Valentine.

I do tend to think of V-Day as a time for the new love bugs. And those who have and like to spend money. Neither of which are we. We're an old (and extremely cheap) married couple who spend their time complaining about how much it costs to see movies "these days" ($10 a person?! For real?! We wait until they come out on DVD, and then we will ONLY rent them from the corner store where they charge $2 per night).

We haven't done major gifts for Valentine's Day in years. Although, once upon a time (during the 'Heterosexist Monogamist Day' era, I believe) I commented on the cliche of buying red roses on Valentine's Day. I believe I referred to them as "uncreative", an "easy way out", and "so common that they even sell them at gas stations in February". And it never fails, every year since those words came out of my mouth, Paul comes home on Valentine's Day with a dozen red roses that he swears he bought at the gas station down the road.

I'll let you in on a little secret though....I sorta have a thing for long stem red roses. I always have. Even during the Heterosexist Monogamist Day era. I love them because they are as cliche as hotel rooms on prom night. They were the first flowers ever given to me by a boy and receiving them makes me feel like I'm a teenager again. But shhhhh...don't tell Paul.

I had planned to make a fairly uneventful dinner at home but Paul demanded that we go out and try Classic Indian in Waterloo, a restaurant we have been dying to try since Paul sold a house in the neighbourhood (and came home after every open house raving about how good it smells when you drive by).



Unfortunately, the pictures aren't very great and the ones of our main meals didn't come out at all. The restaurant was very dimly lit and there were a few couples around us having nice romantic dinners. Paul and I were already causing a bit of a scene freaking out about how great the food was, so I didn't want to also be the girl who ruined everyone's night by using the flash on her camera.

Our basic plan of attack when trying a new restaurant is this: get as much food as possible and make our own little buffet line on the table between the two of us. It's usually a few appetizers and then a couple entrees, which we then share, so that neither of us is sad if the other one picks the more delicious item.

They actually had to bring us a second table to fit everything we ordered. So when I say that we were causing a bit of a scene, I really do mean that we were causing a bit of a scene.



Masala Vada - South Indian falafel made with lentils



Onion Bhajias [Paul and I ate this so fast. I think we were both concerned that the other one was going to get to have more]



Vegetable Samosas [I've never been the biggest fan of samosas, and I think it's because the ones I have tried in the past have come from the freezer aisle...I am officially a convert]



For our mains, I got the Chenna Masala and Paul got the Veggie Madras. We loved them both but there's a special place in our hearts for the chenna masala. All of this amazing food (three appetizers and two entrees), plus a side order of naan and basmati rice came to only $40, so our frugal hearts were satisfied.

All of their food is made fresh. You can see them cooking it from behind the counter. The wait staff not only helped us pick out vegan options (of which there were an insane amount to choose from), but they also let us know that because everything is made fresh, meat and dairy items could always be left out if there was something that wasn't on the vegetarian menu that we wanted to try.

Much vegan love to Classic Indian. It goes without saying that this restaurant gets the This is Vegan: Seal of Approval.

Classic Indian
150 Wissler Road
Waterloo, ON N2K 3C6
(519) 746-1976


After dinner we headed home to a bottle of sparkling wine and a rousing round of Scattegories (I love board games. Paul hates them. He appeased me because it was Valentine's Day). I wasn't exaggerating when I said that we are an old married couple.



Dear Jackson Triggs: thank you for not using gelatin to
filter your wines.


And while I'm not much for extravagance on V-Day, I do like any excuse to bake. And buy insanely overpriced strawberries in the dead of winter just because they are red and they go with the theme of things. I love themes!



(Heart-Shaped) Strawberry Shortcake Scones with a Macadamia Creme, from Vegan with a Vengeance.


So, Heterosexist Monogamist Day '10 was pretty awesome. And I totally schooled Paul at Scattegories even though I had way more wine, so that makes it even more awesome.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Potato & Tempeh Sausage Pizza



Superbowl Sunday, aka Gorge-Yourself-With-Pizza-Day has come and gone for another year. We, like the rest of North America, had a Superbowl party that we attended and I didn't think ahead and order myself a cheeseless pizza. Well, that's not entirely accurate. I did think ahead, but I figured pizza wasn't what I wanted and Paul and I opted for veggie burgers and fries instead.

I immediately regreted my decision once the cardboard boxes started opening up. Not that the veggie burgers weren't good too. But there is something about pizza and Superbowl Sunday (I talk like I actually know something about football, when in actuality this is only the second time I have watched a Superbowl game in my entire life).

So, it was decided on Sunday night that Monday's dinner would have to be pizza of some sort, to subside the cravings that coincided with watching a game I know nothing at all about, except that it provides an excuse to take a minute and worship the greatness that is the pizza pie.

While it was undeniably a pizza craving I was experiencing (you know, the one where everything else you attempt to eat tastes like absolute piss just because it's not pizza), I was interested in something a little different than a standard issue veggie pizza. A frequenter of the foodie blogosphere, I have noticed a trend in unconventional pizza toppings in recent years. Because we vegans tend to march to the beat of our own drum, I like to think of us as forerunners in pizza-loving reform. A favourite vegan pizza topping? Potato!

I consulted my trusty copy of Vegan with a Vengeance, because Isa provides a stellar recipe for perfectly executed potato pizza, topped off with a spicy tempeh sausage medley that will make you wonder why you ever missed pepperoni. I don't know if anyone sells prepackaged tempeh sausage, but you really don't need it, as there is a recipe that is as easy as it is incredible available right within Vegan with a Vengeance (and it involves little more than a package of tempeh and some herbs/spices). Make a little extra and use the leftovers as a sandwich filler!



Admittedly I was a little nervous about this recipe, as the pizza only bakes for about 8 minutes. Having failed miserably at many a potato-baking extravaganza, I have learned that it takes a heck of a lot longer than 8 minutes to appropriately cook the little buggers. But, I put my trust in Isa, as she knows far more than I do.

Turns out the potatoes do stay a smidge harder than they would were you cooking a standard potato dish. BUT that is what gives the pizza that unique, what-could-that-possibly-be? element, while avoiding the mushy mess that potato dishes often turn into.

Other than making the dough, this pizza comes together very quickly. I barely had time to toss together a caesar salad and wipe down the countertops (you should see what a mess of the kitchen I make when tossing pizza dough). It may have been a day too late for Superbowl madness, but I think it was worth the wait.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Cream Cheeze Chocolate Chip Brownies



It's kind of ridiculous that the post I choose to follow my rant on how healthy being vegan is is about brownies. Ridiculous and AWESOME!

One of my Christmas gifts from Paul this year was Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar and I've been dying to try it since I ripped off the wrapping paper. We were on a bit of a sugar high for the first few weeks after Christmas so that was not a good time, and then all of my baking time revolved around cupcakes for Project: Cupcakes Care to the point where the last thing in the WORLD I wanted to do when all was said and done was bake another gosh darn thing.

Finally, yesterday presented an excuse to give the cookbook a good old fashioned workout, as some friends of ours moved into a new loft and invited us over for a housewarming party.

I have a rule about baking. As much as I love it, I only permit myself to bake for special occasions/holidays OR at a time when the fruits of my labour will be consumed by someone other than myself. I have no willpower. And so, if left to my own devices, it would be me and a platter of brownies writhing about on the floor.

I made a double batch of the brownies, half of which were plain chocolate and the other half cream cheeze chocolate chip.



I've read a lot of criticisms about Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar floating about teh interwebz and I don't think this recipe in particular warrants harsh criticisms. I think Isa Chandra Moskowitz is a genious in her baking apron, and I expect more of these recipes to be successes.

I'm kind of a brownie snob. I don't think that brownies should taste like chocolate cake, but I also don't like them to be too rich and dense. I think this recipe achieved that delicate balance well. And honestly, how can anything smothered in Tofutti and sugar taste bad?

I'm sure there was something further I wanted to say but it appears my brain has departed after getting home at 4am and getting up at 8am. My voice also appears to have left me high and dry, as we spent a good chunk of the night playing Catch Phrase and because my Croatian heritage prevents me from having any sort of volume control I spent the majority of the night screaming answers (that were usually very, very incorrect).

Oh! I did want to give the This is Vegan Seal of Approval to a crazy card game about planting and harvesting beans!



By the time everyone was playing this I was two glasses of red in and so I'm not going to pretend like I knew what the hell was going on, but it seemed super intense and because it is about beans I think it is vegan appropriate. I definitely looked it up online today and I am definitely going to buy it!



[KP figured out how to play said bean game; I am very jealous]

Friday, February 5, 2010

Vegan for Life



I love getting blood tests. I realize that is kind of sick and morbid, but really, I love them. I was a perfectionist when writing university finals and I am a perfectionist when it comes to getting my blood tested for vitamins and nutrient levels. I can hardly contain myself waiting the two days to get the results.

(Aside from this fascination with blood work I am a very normal person so I would appreciate it if you didn't label me a freak and call mental health on me.)

I wasn't always this way. I used to dread getting bloodwork done. To the point where I wouldn't go, and then say I forgot. One time I even lied to my doctor and swore up and down that I went but those darn nurses at the lab lost the paperwork. The transparency of that lie was definitely the purple elephant in the room when I had to return to the doctor's office.

In those days, I had a whole host of minor issues that were destined to be major issues at some point in my life. The most concerning was this ridiculous blood sugar thing I had going on, where it would spike and then drop very quickly, leaving me in a state of blind rage (Paul dubbed me 'Hungor' during these times, as the rage coincided directly with needing to be fed after a drastic drop in blood sugar levels). I also had a pretty frightening iron level and was characterized as deficient. The doc put me on these disgusting supplements that I refused to take (money well spent). I was also on a steady path of weight gain, a solid five pounds per year since Paul and I got married. Which, granted, is quite normal in our society, but not exactly a great thing. And so I spent the first years of adulthood feeling like complete and total crap.

I have been vegan for about a year and a half now and literally within the first few weeks of my journey all of the ailments (and subsequent lying about ailments) started to disappear.

People are constantly questioning how vegans can possibly have adequate levels of protein, iron, B vitamins and calcium. With me, I think the biggest concern was the iron, because I was so deficient before I was vegan (granted, to say that I ate like crap as an omnivore would be the understatement of the year). The great protein concern is the most ridiculous, as it is the easiest to achieve on a vegan diet. I'll give the critics the benefit of the doubt when it comes to the Bs, particularly B12, as it is a very misunderstood vitamin. While achieving adequate B12 levels is a concern for vegetarians and vegans, what many fail to recognize is that it is very easy to be deficient in it as an omnivore as well. The common misunderstanding is that B12 comes from animals only (and thus it is not readily available to vegans) when in actuality it comes from bacteria. There are plenty of studies being conducted on plant-based B12 sources (mushrooms and spirulina algae among the forerunners) and how they can be absorbed by the body, so the verdict is out. How vegans can get adequate interaction with this bacteria is of great debate within our community and discussing it is unfortunately above my pay grade. What I do know is that the meat and dairy industry has been riding us for years, threatening people with B12 deficiency should they stop buying their products.

Just know that these threats are empty attempts to secure your dollar. That being said, B12 is a tricky bugger that takes some work and it was the specific reason I asked for a blood test this time around.

Low and behold, my B12 (and all B vitamin levels) came back above average. My iron as well. The whole spectrum of what my doc tested came back with excellent results. The whole lot...an A+ on my favourite test for the first time in my life. Glucose levels were normal (no more HUNGOR!!!), blood pressure was in appropriate ranges and...oh, my most favourite....I've reversed the 5lb post-wedding curse and am now back to where I was pre-wedding. Holler!

So the moral of the story is, don't let anyone try and bully you out of veganism, threatening you with ailments that first of all are not vegan-exclusive (plenty of omnivores out there suffering from iron deficiency...I was one of them) and second of all these issues are easily preventable with VERY minimal effort. I don't really supplement at all, with the exception being that my rice milk (as well as any fake 'meats' you may use, like tofurky, etc.) are usually fortified with B12, iron, calcium and vitamin D. I also do have a daily multivitamin that collects dust in my cabinet because I always forget to take it. This A+ blood test is the result of nothing but being vegan, drinking water and non-dairy milk exclusively (okay, and some red wine...no more see-through lies) and eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables everyday.

I don't claim to know it all. Really, I know nothing about any of this. I'm not a scientist or nutritionist so you can take my words and do what you want with them. All I know is that I was a very hostile F student in the world of blood tests and now I'm on the Honour Roll. I don't get B12 injections. I don't really supplement. I don't panic and measure my food or attempt to make exact nutritional calculations before I make a meal. I just eat...kind of a lot, actually. I eat the rainbow, meaning I make something different for dinner every night and I don't rely on the same staples for all my meals. I go with what veggies are in season and on sale each week (and so know that the other idle threat - that veganism has to be expensive - is also a myth. This process does not cost a fortune).

I kind of want to get my blood test results tattooed on my forehead for the next person that asks me if I am anemic.

All this is great, but the journey is far from over. I've got a little bit of poundage resting around the middle (damn you, buttercream cupcakes!) and it is time for it to GO. I know how to fix it. It's really very simple. And it has nothing to do with my diet and everything to do with those running shoes staring at me from the corner of the room.

And because I'm in a cheeky, smug mood today (always dangerous and I'm sure something embarrassing will happen shortly to restore my ego to its rightful size), anyone want to play a round of Defensive Omnivore Bingo?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Tofu, Tempeh and Butternut Squash in a Slow-Cooked Peanut Mole



Alright. I don't know what the hell is going on but I've screwed up yet another meal. The second in a row. I'm starting to notice that I am the sole common denominator in these failures and thus it is highly likely that I alone am the source of the problem and not the recipes themselves. I'm also starting to think there is something wrong with my sense of taste. This meal in particular LOOKED and SMELLED incredible. I was pretty much foaming at the mouth when I walked in the door after work and lifted the slow cooker lid. And yet I didn't like the taste? I must have some wires cross in my brain or something. That is the only logical explanation.

This recipe comes from Fat Free Vegan, a recipe index that I have had next to no failures using. All of the ingredients are delicious. Tofu? Good. Tempeh? Good. Butternut squash? Sofreakinggood. The picture on Fat Free Vegan looks so delicious that (I'm not going to lie) it actually took some restraint to not lick the computer screen when I first found it.

The best part of all is that it is a slow cooker recipe. I work split shifts at the clinic on certain days, meaning we shut down for a few hours in the middle of the day but re-open again and have appointments in the early evening. On these days, slow cooker recipes are ideal: I can do all the major prep work during my extended lunch, throw everything in the slow cooker and when I get home shortly after 7pm it is just a matter of throwing everything on plates. This is like a perfect storm of recipe features, how could it go wrong?



2pm: Everything into the slow cooker



7:30pm. Everything out of the slow cooker.


I know that I put in too much cinnamon. That was Big Fail #1. But I can't for the life of me put my finger on what else went wrong or, for that matter, what it is about it that I didn't like. Maybe I was abducted by aliens and they took nothing from me but my sense of taste?

Is it just me or are things around here starting to sound less like This is Vegan and more like Kitchen Nightmares?!

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