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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Because food is life it is of utmost importance that we receive it with deepest gratitude. When we eat we consume life. Whether it's cabbages or cows, it's life. There isn't a meal that's taken by any creature, large or small, on the face of the great earth that's not done except at the expense of another creature's life. That's the nature of life on the plant Earth. We nourish and sustain each other with our lives. How can we not be grateful for the life that sustains us? How can we not wish to give back to the ten thousand things that which we receive? And it's in that process that the sacredness of taking a meal and the truth of the ten thousand dharmas is revealed.

John Daido Loori, CELEBRATING EVERYDAY LIFE A Zen home Liturgy

Thursday, December 7, 2006

"Our task must be to free ourselves...by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and it's beauty."

"Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances of survival for life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet."

Albert Einstein, physicist, NOBEL PRIZE 1921

Saturday, December 2, 2006

Paradigm Shifts

It has been several months now since I adopted a vegan approach to my food choices. For the most part, I would have to say that I am eating healthier than I have ever done in my life. Because I cannot fall back on readily available cheese and eggs, my intake of fruits, vegetables, grains and beans has increased substantially. This is not to say I do not have my "lazy" days - I wish I could just poach an egg (that would be so easy), but my committment is strong.

Anyhow, in hindsight, I realized how empty my decision to become vegetarian had been. By empty, I am referring to my intent. This was back in 1999 - I had recently joined a Buddhist sangha and was attending different functions with this group of "mad cool" * people. We were an eclecctic, evolving group coming from different walks of life. I loved being with them, learning the dharma with and from them and continue to do so to this day. Taking the Buddhist precepts for the first time in 2000, the first precept is one of ahimsa or non-harming. Becoming vegetarian seemed the obvious solution here and I felt rather elitist (in my quiet self-righteous way)calling my self a vegetarian. When my teacher, in a conversation at one gathering, stated that she did not eat eggs or cheese, I responded indignantly as if justifying myself, by saying I was doing enough not eating the animals! I couldn't possibly give up eggs and cheese.

Well, things change (thank goodness!). Last spring of this year, I found myself at a film fest at the local university. The documentary I was so interested in viewing was called Compassionate Consumption: A Cow at My Table. Without knowing a thing about the movie, I told myself and others that this film wouldn't resort to the shock technique. I asked a number of people to come with me just the same (in case); strength in numbers I thought! Alas due to circumstances, I found myself alone but at the last minute, my youngest son and his friend showed up. So in we went and the movie started innocently enough to begin with, but descending rapidly to heart-pounding, gut-wrenching images of what can and does happen to "downer" cows at the abbatoir.

I am a baby-boomer - I am not desensitised to violent images like my children's generation. I sat in my chair and I did not move. I thought my heart was going to explode out of my chest. So I closed my eyes. Now all I could do was hear the narration and the sounds of the animal.
For days, weeks, I was seriously upset by what I had seen. Literally, overnight I decided to eat vegan.

So what can I say about all of this? I don't like to look at upsetting things or get involved in upsetting issues. Avoid conflict at every chance; this is the way I was brought up. But it is obvious to me, that in my own experience (albeit limited) pain meant growth.

My need to be liked, to maintain my "image" have delayed me from putting some shocking images on this blog. But again, what is my intent here? It's not to give you recipes (although this is great for the already converted!). No. My intent is to encourage myself and others to open our eyes; to not turn away; to investigate. Go to www.peta.org and let the images hit you. Feel whatever you are going to feel. Maybe nothing. At least you have made a step to really seeing.

* A member of my sangha received this compliment from her son recently (I am paraphasing) "you're mad cool Mom!". We were all quite amused by this new phrase, "mad cool". I love it and hope to use it frequently. Maybe one of my sons will call me mad cool!!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Three Sister Casserole

I made this dish tonight for the family. It is a delicious, hearty casserole that I intend on making at Christmas time for the extended family gathering. (Note: I used corn grits which are grainier than the usual grocery store cornmeal. Next time I make this recipe I plan to use cornmeal and will add a post-script to this to let you know how the two results differed.)


Polenta Topping:

  • 1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 1 T chili powder
  • 3/4 tsp salt
Filling:
  • 3 T olive oil, divided
  • 1 small onion chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 large red or yellow bell pepper, cut into 1-inch dice (about 1 cup)
  • 1 lb squash (butternut) peeled, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 2 cups)
  • 1 15-oz can diced tomatoes with chillies
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (about 2 tsp)
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 15-oz can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed.
Directions:
1. To make polenta topping: Whisk together cornmeal, chili powder, salt and 4 1/2 cups water. In double boiler, over barely simmering water, cook for 40 minutes or until polenta is thick and stiff, stirring 3 or 4 times. Remove from heat.
2. To make filling: Preheat oven to 375 deg F. Heat 2 T oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook 7 minutes, or until softened, stirring often. Add bell pepper and cook 5 minutes more, stirring often.
3. Stir in squash, tomatoes, garlic, coriander and cumin. Cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in 1/2 cup water and salt. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer, partially covered, 10 to 15 minutes, or until squash is tender. Stir in beans and corn and cook 5 minutes or until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally.
4. Coat 8x11 inch baking dish with cooking spray. Spread 2 cups polenta over bottom of prepared dish. Spoon squash mixture over polenta. Smooth remaining polenta (about 2 1/2 cups) over top.
5. Score casserole into 6 squares with knife. Brush top with remaining 1 T oil. Bake 30 minutes or until heated through and top is lightly browned.

Source: Vegetarian Times, Nov/Dec 2006 issue

Maple Syrup Salad Dressing

Susan's Maple Syrup Dressing:


Whisk together 1/3 cup maple syrup, 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar, 2 T Dijon mustard and 2/3 cup olive oil.

Source: Susan Lind (co-worker @ Rotalec Inc.)

Tofu Broccoli Quiche

Ingredients:

  • 1 9in unbaked pie crust
  • 1 lb broccoli, chopped
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb firm tofu, drained
  • 1/2 c soy milk
  • 1/4 tsp dry mustard
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground red pepper
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1 T dried parsley
  • 2 T grated Parmesan or vegan cheddar cheese
Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Bake pie crust in preheated oven for 10-12 minutes.
  • Place broccoli in a steamers over 1 inch of boiling water and cover. Cook until tender but still firm, about 2-6 minutes. Drain.
  • Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Saute onion and garlic until golden. Stir in the cooked broccoli and heat through.
  • In a blender combine tofu, soy milk, mustard, salt, nutmeg, ground red pepper, black pepper, parsley and cheese; process until smooth. In a large bowl combine tofu mixture and broccoli mixture. Pour into pie crust.
  • Bake in preheated over for 35 to 40 minutes or until quiche is set. Allow to stand for 5 minutes before cutting.
Source: Thich nu Tinh Quang / BLUE HERON ZEN CENTRE

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

My Journey so far...

This past summer, my husband and I bought a share in a local organic farm for the purpose of buying fresh produce. The owners were also raising chickens and beef for those who wished to buy organic meat.
For approximately 18 weeks I would stop by after work and pick up our share. Each Tuesday around 5 o'clock, I would pull into the lane way of their farm, and slowly make my way up toward the barnyard at the back of this lovely old homestead. I enjoyed driving slowly watching the chickens flutter out of my way and then pull into my parking space. Often there were children about, with their ponies, or retrieving young animals who had escaped their pens. It seemed idyllic to me, a really healthy place to raise a family. These children would know where their food came from, both vegetables and meat. And for this reason, I respected these people as farmers and parents.
While I choose to try to follow as best I can, a vegan diet, I am quite conscious that this is my choice only.
For a while after I had made the transition from vegetarian to vegan, my attitude and mind were very judgemental and closed. I was angry about the cruelty inherent in factory-farming practice and was angry with the people around me who continued to eat meat, all the while listening to me rant and rave about the injustices in our meat-eating culture and yet not feeling the least bit compelled to make the same changes I was making. How could they be so insensitive? Why couldn't they see what I was seeing?
Well, as it was pointed out to me very gently by some friends, being close-minded and judgemental really just locked me in to my own little world. Of course, I did not want to be in that constant state of hopeless, depression, feeling that the problem was overwhelming and what could I, one little person, possibly do to change things.
Fortunately, my mood and attitude continued to evolve. I am still committed strongly to my decision to choose a vegan diet and at the same time, I accept that people around me, even my own family (shockingly!!) still want to eat meat!
This summer, when I watched the chickens, wondering about just "being" chickens, I thought "they don't know what awaits them; they are going to end up on some one's plate".
But then it dawned on me: come to think of it, I don't know what awaits me either!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Apple Spice Ring

From "The New Laurel's Kitchen" cookbook:
A moist, dense, spice cake. Excellent at this time of the year!


  • 2.1/2 cups grated apple (peeled & cored first)
  • 2 cups raisins (I used golden and sultana)
  • 1.1/2 cups boiling water
  • 3 T oil
  • 1 cup + 2 T honey
  • 1.1.2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1.1/2 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1.1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 cups whole what pastry flour
  • 1.1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 chopped walnuts (or pecans)

Preheat over to 350 deg F. Pour boiling water over apples and raisins. Top with oil and let stand for 10 minutes. Add honey & spices (including salt), then allow to cool.
Sift together the dry ingredients and add nuts. Combine with other ingredients. Pour into well-greased tube pan (or 8"x8" pan or two 4"x8" loaf pans). Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Stores well in refrigerator up to one week.

Vegan Food Guide - Daily Plan for Healthy Eating

  • GRAINS 6-11 servings
  • FRUIT 2 or more servings
  • VEGETABLES 3 or more servings
  • BEANS & BEAN ALTERNATIVES 2-3 servings
  • FORTIFIED SOY MILK & ALTERNATIVES 6-8 servings
  • OTHER ESSENTIALS Sources of Omega 3 Fatty Acids, Vitamin B12, Vitamin D

Friday, November 17, 2006

Quotation

"With every passing day, it seems to be more obvious: the mentality that underlies our culture's socio-economic system is destroying the biodiversity, climatic stability, and ecological integrity of our earth, poisoning human health and damaging communities and relationships. This underlying mentality is mandated and continually reinforced by our culture's daily meals, in which we're taught as children to disconnect from animals and the suffering we cause them, and see them as mere commodities."

Will Tuttle, PhD
VegNews, December 2006: pg 80 "Ancient Vegan Wisdom"

Easy Festive Bake

  • 1 large block tofu (300 g) OR 1 (10.1/2 oz) pkg. firm silken tofu
  • 3/4 cup chopped nuts (walnuts, cashews)
  • 2 Tbsp cornstarch mixed with 4 Tbsp water
  • 1 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 packet dried onion soup mix (1.5 oz) **
  • 1.1/2 cups chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery
  • 2 cups chopped mushrooms or 2 cans mushrooms drained
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1 tsp each oregano, ground cumin, sage, black pepper
  • 1.1/2 cups bread crumbs

In a blender (or food processor) blend until smooth tofu, nuts, cornstarch, soy sauce and onion soup mix (**I substitute McCormick's all vegetable bouillon cubes).
In a frying pan saute vegetables until onions are transparent. Stir in herbs and spices.
In a large bowl, thoroughly mix blender ingredients, cooked vegetables and bread crumbs together.
Press into a greased loaf pan. Bake at 350 deg F for 45 minutes. Let cool slightly. Turn loaf out and slice. Serve with vegetarian gravy. Also delicious cold with salad or as a sandwich filling.

(Source: Toronto Vegetarian Association, www.veg.ca, 416-544-9800)

Recommended Reading

Here is a list of books and magazine that I refer to for inspiration and education.

  1. The Food Evolution: How Your Diet Can Help Save Your Life and Our World by John Robbins.
  2. Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser
  3. The Everyday Vegan, Recipes & Lessons for Living the Vegan Life by Dreena Burton.
  4. Vegan Vittles, Recipes Inspired by the Critters of Farm Sanctuary by Joanne Stepaniak.
  5. 125 Best Vegan Recipes by Maxine Effenson Chuck and Beth Gurney
  6. Becoming Vegan, The Complete Guide to Adopting a Healthy Plant Based Diet by Brenda Davis, R.D. & Vesanto Melina, M.S., R.D.
  7. The New Laurel's Kitchen by Laurel Robertson, Carol Flinders, Brian Ruppenthal (vegetarian & vegan)
  8. VegNews Magazine (Vegetarian/News/Politics/Food/Travel/Buzz) published by Vegan News Network (monthly publication)