Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas 2007

Chestnut Tourtiere pictured. I discovered this recipe in the Homemaker's online magazine. As I have mentioned before, I grew up eating my mother's tourtiere and especially loved eating it on Christmas Eve after coming home from Midnight Mass.

For the last several years, I have tried a couple of "vegetarian" tourtieres. One with TVP, one with lentils and now this one with mushrooms and chestnuts. This one is the best so far!

Preparation was rather labour intensive (thankfully my husband got in on the act and took care of preparing the chestnuts). The end result though was OK (impressive enough) and the leftover pie even better a day or so after. But again, I must warn you, it does take some effort.

(Note: you can click on the highlighted Chestnut Tourtiere to go directly to the recipe. I adjusted ingredients to make this a vegan version ie. flax eggs, etc.)


This is the soup I mentioned in my last entry. As I had not purchased enough of the juices to make it twice, I substituted pear nectar and apple sauce which I had on hand, for the pineapple and orange juice in the original version. My family actually liked this combination of flavours better as it was less sweet. However, both soups were delicious and lovely to look at! Give it a try; I can almost guarantee you will love it!

2 Tbsp olive oil
2 onions, peeled & chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 tbsp ginger, peeled, finely minced
1 1/2 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp sea salt
5 cups vegetable stock
5 cups chopped sweet potato
1/4 c lemon juice
3/4 c unsweetened pineapple juice (or pear nectar)
3/4 c unsweetened orange juice (or apple sauce)
1 bar coconut cream, chopped
1. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a soup pot. Add onion, celery & ginger. Saute until soft.
2. Add curry powder and nutmeg to onion mixture. Stir and cook for a few seconds.
3. Add salt, stock and sweet potatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until potatoes are soft.
4. Add remaining ingredients and cook until coconut bar has dissolved.
5. Remove from heat and puree until smooth.
6. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add more stock if necessary to achieve desired consistency.

(Original recipe source: Refresh by Ruth Tal with Jennifer Houston).

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Fresh and Refresh

Last evening, I gathered with the members of my Buddhist community for a vegetarian / vegan potluck dinner. Our teacher, Suco T.Q. hosts these dinners throughout the year, and without fail, they are always well attended and enjoyed by all participants. The food is always top notch, with our cooks bringing out tried and true dishes or new and exciting ones.

Typically, I do a combination of both - making something I know is a winner but also experimenting with something new. Last night, I took the occasion to follow a recipe for sweet potato & coconut milk soup (from Fresh, a vegan restaurant/juice bar in Toronto). What a fabulous recipe - subtle hints of ginger, pineapple & orange, the pureed texture, the colour - my hats off to the chef who created this dish.

Another delightful dish was a swiss chard pie. I didn't get a chance to discuss the ingredients with the person who brought this, but it was delicious. From what I could tell, the two-crust pie held a filling of swiss chard and cheese but in delicate ratio - neither was overpowering (ie not to heavy on the cheese, nor the stronger chard). The result was an amazingly light pie, with this delectable filling. (I'll try to get the instructions on this next time I see this member.)

One of our sangha-mates, a marvelous cook brought several traditional Filipino desserts. I tried a rice & sesame seed patty, drizzled in a light syrup. How to describe, hmmm.....a firm, chewey, sticky, sweet "cookie" with a delicate sesame flavour and that syrup? What was that? Honey?

Oh so many dishes - all so good. If only all gatherings were like this and really. why could they not be? As my own extended family's Christmas celebrations near, I have chosen to prepare the foods that they enjoy. My dear sister-in-law, bless her heart, has taken on the job of preparing a turkey. Although this will not be a vegan dinner, I am preparing vegetarian dishes. I am not sure what it is that prevents me from preparing completely meat and dairy free dishes. But it seems to be a combination of stress & fear. Large dinners (20 people) are not my forte; thankfully, the cooks in the family do contribute each year so no one person is stuck with the immense job of creating all the dishes. But I do entertain in my personal thoughts just announcing to one and all, "there will be no turkey this year - it will be a Green Christmas!"

Friday, December 7, 2007

" The radical invents the views. When he has worn them out, the conservative adopts them."

Mark Twain

Monday, December 3, 2007

NFB of Canada - Animals

This past Sunday, I watched a DVD I had purchased from the National Film Board of Canada, called Animals. The film follows a married couple who have purchased an abandoned farm and decide to raise their own animals as well as establish an equestrian centre.

Jason Young starts out by describing himself as an animal lover but also a meat eater. Naively, he thinks that if he wants to eat the meat, he should also be able to raise the animal. He begins with a couple of pigs but quickly adds chickens, rabbits, sheep and a couple of steer. The animals are named; I immediately thought 'oh, that's a mistake'.

Throughout the four seasons that this film moves through, we see the animals thriving. But we are also treated to their demise, one by one. Jason,a rather delicate, hippy looking young man, did not appear to look like the type who would be able to go through with this (my judgment - what would someone look like who could?). I was mistaken. With the mentoring of his relatives who are also in the farming business, he learns how to kill, skin, butcher and hang the animals. Only at the very end when faced with killing his favourite animal, a young steer, does Jason completely back out.

This was by far the most disturbing image for me (and there were a few - some I could not watch and left the room). As Jason says, he got himself off the hook, but not his animal as no one has a full-grown pet steer (why not, I thought, hoping against hope that the animal would be spared). He takes the young steer to another farm, where the cow is stunned, his artery pierced and he is left, thrashing about on the cement, while his life force slowly ebbs away into a drain.

I have been with both my parents when they took their last breathes. Death came upon them peacefully, especially for my mother. I was saddened to see a different view of death in this movie.

The film ended with this image, followed by the faces of the husband and his wife, who continue to eat meat. As Jason says early in the film, farming is all about control. He continues to eat meat albeit all the more wiser for his experiences.

I cannot pass judgment on this couple; in fact I think it was rather brave of them to even attempt this experiment. They raised the animals and grew attached to them and the animals trusted them in turn. Jason was unflinching in facing whatever emotions arose when it came time to dispatch the animal.

Nevertheless, I was completely disheartened by the taking of life, if not in a detached manner, then certainly in a business like way. And why? All to simply satisfy our palates.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Triceratopped Spice Cake

Source: Foods That Don't Bite Back by Sue Donaldson

1 1/2 cups (360 ml) all purpose flour
1 cup (240 ml sugar)
1 tsp (5 ml) baking soda
1 tsp (5 ml) cinnamon
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) allspice
1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) salt
1/2 cup (120 ml) cold water
1/2 cup (120 ml) applesauce
1/3 cup (80 ml) vegetable oil
1 tbsp (15 ml white vinegar)
5 tbsp (70 ml) brown sugar
3 tbsp (45 ml) margarine
1 tbsp (15 ml) soya milk
1/2 cup (120 ml) shredded coconut

Preheat the oven to 350 deg F (175 deg C). sift and combine the flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice and salt.
In a separate bowl combine the water, applesauce, oil and vinegar.
Make a depression in the dry ingredients and mix in the wet ingredients. Beat until smooth.
Pour into an ungreased 8 in (20 cm) sqaure pan. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until lightly browned on top.
Cool before icing.
In a small pan, bring the brown sugar, margarine and soy milk to a boil. Remove from heat. Fold in the shredded coconut. Pour over cake.
(Alternative toppings: Spread a thin layer of raspberry or apricot jam over the top of the cake.)
(Alternative toppings: Before baking the cake, cover the top with an overlapping layer of thinly sliced apples, peaches or pears.)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

From The Globe and Mail - A New Lease on Life

It's 12:30 - I'm at the office, just finished my lunch and thought I would do a little surfing for the remaining time left in my break. One of my links is the Globe and Mail online newspaper.

On the main page, I found this very moving video of a documentary of a farmer from Maine (I believe). Watching this man talk and seeing his dairy herd brought back memories of my relatives' farms in Quebec. This is what farming is and should be - it is in his heart and his blood. Not only does Mr. Tibbetts talk openly about his journey as a farmer, but also as a man. Take a look - it will warm your heart on this cold November Thursday.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Potato Pancakes

This season's (Nov-Dec/07) issue of Vegnews, Tales of Paprika*, had a beautiful picture of Potato Pancakes with a dollop of sautéed mushrooms. I have always wanted to try making potato pancakes and was inspired by the photography to give it a go for tonight's dinner.

The recipe is incredibly easy, once you do the prep work and the results were very tasty. My husband has perfected his sautéed mushrooms and prepared them as a topping (he fries his caps and stems in olive oil and a little garlic until tender). Other suggested accompaniments are: vegan sour cream (ex. Tofutti's) or cinnamon laced applesauce. We each tried one with some of Quebec's finest maple syrup. I would recommend these - we loved them. (Tip: take the time to cook them for the full amount. Mine were slightly undercooked but still yummy!)

*(There is no paprika in the recipe but I might try a pinch in my next go around with these!)

Serves 4

1 1/2 lbs potatoes (3-4 potatoes)
1 small yellow onion
1 tbsp fresh parsley, minced
1/4 c unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp freshing ground black pepper
Oil for fying

  1. Peel and grate potatoes, then place in a colander set over a large bowl. Using your hands squeeze out the excess liquid from the potatoes. Pour off the liquid and place potatoes into bowl. Grate the onion and add to the potatoes along with the parsley, flour, baking powder, salt and pepper. Mix well.
  2. Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Heat a thin layer of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Take a heaping tablespoon of batter and flatten it before gently placing in into the hot oil. Make 2 or 3 potato pancakes and place into pan (do not over crowd - my pan could only hold 3 but my tablespoons were generous). Fry until golden brown on both sides turning once (about 8 minutes).
  3. Repeat with remaining potato mixture, adding more oil to the pan as needed. Remove cooked pancakes to paper towels to drain and then to oven proof plate in the oven to keep warm until the whole batch is complete.
Serve with suggested toppings (see above) and enjoy!

Friday, November 16, 2007

I don't eat this way for my health...

Call me a Pavlovian dog, but when I see a quiz, specifically ones with 10 questions or even better - 5, I am compelled to read on. My obsession must be abating. I find now, that instead of gathering the equipment needed to "take a quiz" (paper, pencil, selecting a place where I will not be disturbed) I peruse the items, with contained glee, not even bothering to sit down, reading & tallying points in my head. No mean feat, considering I am mathematically challenged!

Yesterday morning, was a perfect example. You may have noticed, if you live locally, the "Will you live to 100?" article in yesterday's Spectator. Only 5 questions. Perfect. True or False (idiot proof). It was the last one, #5, that was the clincher. You'll see why.

1. The thinner you are the longer you'll probably live (T or F).
2. Sleeping at least 8 hrs a night can add years to your life. (T or F)
3. Early retirement will protect you from life-shortening job stress. (T or F)
4. People who eat candy live longer than those who don't. (T or F)
5. Giving up meat and animal protein will increase your lifespan. (T or F)

So you can see by my high-lighted T's and F's which were the correct choices. Anyone could have passed this quiz with flying colours. Even me. They were trick questions - I was surprised by a couple of the explanations.

(1) I knew that a few extra pounds on our frames as we age is a good thing, particularly for women.
(2)I did not know that 5-7 hours of sleep was optimal (hell....some nights seem like I'm awake for 5-7 hours!!) but yes, I did know that excessive sleeping was a symptom of depression. I wouldn't call an 8 hr sleep during the night excessive nor indication of depression.
(3) Enjoy your work and you won't want to retire. The study indicated that people who retired at 65 outlive those who retired at 55. (Dam... that was my magic number.)
(4) People who indulged in a few sweet treats during the month lived on average 11 months longer (this brought to mind all kinds of amusing scenarios). As we all know, in particular dark chocolate, with it's good for the heart properties is a favourite. (Mmmmm...I keep a Cocamino Dark Chocolate bar in my desk at work and have 2 squares every day. I don't know about my heart, but my mouth says it is good.)
(5) and finally....guess who lived the shortest? Vegans. According to a German study, the moderate vegetarians (what's a moderate vegetarian?) had the longest lifespan. (But could this be offset by those 11 months in (4) above by indulging in more candy?)

The quiz was reprinted from an article published by Rodale Press, written by Amanda MacMillan. What was not provided were the sources. Amanda only included rather vague references such as "Harvard study" and "German study". I don't know who funded the studies either.

I leave you with a quote from for a "Future to be Possible" by Thich Nhat Hahn (page 107):

Some vegetarians are too extreme, and are unkind to those who cannot give up meat-eating. I am more comfortable with a meat-eater than an extremist vegetarian who is filled with self-righteousness. (as said by Sister Chan Khong).

Ouch....that hit a nerve... just a bit.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Sights & Insights

This past week has brought some interesting sights and insights. Four days a week on my way to work, I pass, twice a day, the same farms and observe who is where, doing what. The first farm I pass has a few cows, the second one has sheep and the third has horses with one donkey. On occasion, the fourth farm often has two bulls grazing peacefully. They usually disappear after a couple of weeks, as do the sheep, only to be replaced by new bulls and sheep. I wish them all well as I drive by and try to just enjoy the sight, but within that sight of course is no bull, no sheep. They are both a commodity and once they are "ripe" for harvesting, off to the abattoir they go.
Last evening while out for a coffee with my husband, we passed an empty livestock truck. A huge well maintained Volvo truck pulling the empty trailer. I felt bad and wished that the driver could find some other work. Today at work, I received a phone call from a poultry processor looking for a motor. But this time, remembering the words of my teacher, I realized that this person was also my teacher, a "Buddha". I could be with this caller without resentment, angst or judgement.
Maybe some of you have seen the YouTube video, Nora the Cat playing the piano. I recently viewed it and was watching this cat paw the keys of the piano, while in the background a piano lesson was being taught. The cat would carefully paw a key or two, lay her head down close to the keys, come up for a bit, change paws, strike some more notes. I have three cats of my own and they do not seem that interested in anything other than eating, sleeping, and staring intently at the bird feeders (mind you I do not own a piano either). Curiousity about this cat, Nora, and what compelled her to "play" with the piano got me thinking about animals, specifically how they might also be evolving just as we humans are.
Sheepishly (no pun intended), I off-handed mentioned this to my meditation teacher, Sister Tinh Quang. To my delight, she responded with the most thought provoking letter which I have attached below. I hope you enjoy reading it and that it brings a smile to your face as it did mine.

Hi, Q. Prasad.

Yes, I believe animals are evolving just like us. Some, I believe, are bodhisattvas; you've heard of animals that save people's lives, or help a child with a handicap, or help adults with emotional problems. They certainly are more forgiving than humans, and love unconditionally. A sheltie I knew, Delamantha's Desiderata (you can google her or go to, was owned by a woman I know who became a buddhist nun. When the dog was dying, at Gaden Choling Tibetan Temple, chanting was done by the monks and nuns to help her become a human in her next life. Her ashes were scattered at Dharamsala.

When I watch cats, I think ... they practice Zen better than most people. Eat when hungry, sleep when tired, and play often. I believe that all animals, except humans, have this ability to be in the moment. The ability that humans have is to have a deep understanding of the Dharma i.e. impermanence, conditioned existence, and karma. Unfortunately, they don't often know how to practice it; to bring it into the moment.

If your thinking came about as a result of watching Nora, when I was watching her I could only think that she was enjoying what she was doing. I can't help but think that animals can appreciate music. Nora loves the sound of the piano, and responds to the other people playing. Animals can appreciate beauty. Baboons have been observed going to the edge of a cliff in Africa every evening to sit and watch the sunset. I knew a Sheltie who always ran to sit beside the stereo whenever Beethoven's 5th Concerto was being played, and leaned in toward the speakers. He'd start to run from wherever he was before the previous piece of music was over, as he knew the 5th was next. Koko, the signing gorilla, was able to make up new words. For example, when she saw a duck for the first time, she was asked what it was and she signed, "water bird."

We've been so homocentric for so long, that we think that we are a higher life form. We are a different life form. My dogs could do things that I could never do, as can my cat. I can do things they can't do. Does that make me "higher?" It only makes me different.

Don't worry, I won't let you be a cat lady. Did I tell you that I know a Japanese Bobtail looking for a new home?

Sister Tinh Quang

Monday, October 29, 2007


World peace, or any other kind of peace, depends greatly on the attitude of the mind. Vegetarianism can bring about the right mental attitude for peace.

In this world of lusts and hatreds, greed and anger, force and violence, vegetarianism holds forth a way of life, which if practiced universally, can lead to a better, juster, and more peaceful community of nations.

U NU (THAKIN NU) 1907-1995
Former Prime Minister of Burma

Until he extends the circle of compassion
to all living things,
man will not himself find peace.

Albert Schweitzer, MD, PhD 1875-1965

As long as man continues to be the ruthless destroyer
of lower living beings, he will never know health or peace.
For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other.
Indeed, he who sows the seeds of murder
and pain cannot reap joy and love.

6th Century BC

People often say that humans have always eaten animals,
as if this is a justification for continuing the practice. According to this logic, we should not try to prevent people from murdering other people, since this has also been done since the earliest of times.

Isaac Bashevis Singer, 1904-1992
Author, Nobel Laureate, Holocaust survivor

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Depression & Essential Fatty Acids

The Todo Institute Newsletter (current issue) contained contained an interesting piece about depression and Omega 3 and 6 in the diet. We have all heard about EFA's or essential fatty acids, and in particular Omega 3 and Omega 6. EFA's cannot be produced by the body, hence we need to ingest them from our food choices. The recommended ratio by dietitians is 1:3 (Omega 3 to Omega 6). The typical diet in this part of the world is the reverse, 15:1 (Omega 6 to Omega 3). Apparently, this is to due to our consumption of meat, animal products and common cooking oils.

And what does all of this have to do with depression you might ask? The writer continues, referring to the April 07 issue of Psychosomatic Medicine, that researchers looked at people whose diets were high in the Omega 6 to Omega 3 ratio and found that these people manifested more depressive moods. These scientists felt that diet does have an effect on the body and even more so, for people living with depression.

You will often read that eating fish is a sure way to make sure you are getting proper EFA's, but here is an interesting point made by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine . The Omega 3 found in fish oil is not as stable as the Omega 3 found in plant sources. Fish oils tend to decompose and in doing so can release those dreaded "free radicals".

If you are following a vegan or vegetarian pyramid here are some sources of both Omega 6 and Omega 3:

OMEGA 3: flax seed (contains twice the amount found in fish oil); mustard seeds, pumpkin seeds, soya beans, walnut oil, green leafy vegetables, grains, spirulina, flax seed oil (or linseed oil) canola oil, soya oil

OMEGA 6: vegetables, fruits, nuts, grains, hemp seed, safflower oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, soya oil

One of my favourite sources is hemp seed hearts which I sprinkle on my cereal in the morning. I also use ground flax seed as well. Fortino's sells Manitoba Harvest Hemp Oil and Seeds. My son has also purchased hemp hearts in bulk at the Horn of Plenty in Dundas

If you are interested in reading the in depth details, click on the highlight links above.
I'm repeating myself here, but I highly recommend the PCRM website for interesting and useful information about a plant based diet.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Kung Pao Tofu with Broccoli and Peanuts

The Hamilton Spectator ran this recipe on Sept. 27th and I prepared it to take to my niece's Thanksgiving family dinner. The ingredient list might look rather daunting but this dish went together fairly quickly and was quite tasty. In hindsight probably not the best choice to take out (i.e. potluck), as it should be taken from stove top to table immediately. In any case, I was happy with the result and will definitely make this again.

Ingredient List

  • 1 lb (450 g) extra-firm tofu, cut into 1/2 inch slabs
  • 2 tbsp (30ml) scallion, white part only, plus 2/3 cup scallion greens, cut into 1-in (2.5cm) lengths
  • 1 1/2 tbsp (22ml) minced garlic
  • 1 1/2 tbsp (22ml) minced ginger
  • 1/2 tsp (2ml) hot chilli paste
  • 1 c (250ml) sliced water chestnuts
  • 2/3 c (160ml) chicken broth (vegetarian brand)
  • 2 tsp (10ml) low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 1/2 tbsp (37ml) rice wine or dry sherry (I used rice vinegar)
  • 2 tsp (10ml) sugar
  • 3/4 tsp (3ml) toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tsp (10ml) Chinese black vinegar or Worcestshire (I used Bragg's Liquid Amino)
  • 3/4 tsp (3ml) cornstarch
  • 3/4 lb (340g) broccoli, ends trimmed, stalks peeled
  • 1/4 c (60ml) canola or corn oil
  • 3/4 c (180ml) dry-roasted peanuts
  1. Press as much moisture out of tofu block as possible (wrap tofu in paper or cloth towel and place weight on top like a cast iron pan). While tofu is pressing, prepare the seasonings and sauce.
  2. In small bowl - mix the minced scallions, garlic, ginger and chili paste. In another bowl - place the scallion greens and water chestnuts. Set both aside. In medium bow - mix the broth, soy sauce, rice wine or vinegar, sugar, toasted sesame oil, black vinegar and cornstarch. Set aside. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cut the broccoli into bite-size pieces, cutting the stalks into 1-inch slices, on the diagonal. Boil the broccoli for 3 minutes. Drain in a colander under cold running water and place in medium bowl. Set aside.
  3. Slice the tofu into pieces about 1/2 inch (1.3cm) thick and 2 1/2 inches (6.3cm) long. Using heavy skillet, heat 1 1/2 tbsp oil on high. Place half the tofu in the pan and sear for 3-4 minutes each side until golden brown. Remove and drain. Add another 1 1/2 tbsp oil to pan and repeat with remaining tofu slices. Remove final slices and drain.
  4. Add remaining tbsp of oil to pan. Add scallion-ginger mixture and stir-fry for 15 seconds. Add scallion greens and water chestnuts and cook, stirring about 1 1/2 minutes. Add broth mixture and stir until it thickens (about 1 minute). Add the broccoli, tofu and peanuts. Toss lightly. Serve hot.
Some tips - use a really large skillet for this if you are using a couple of stalks of broccoli as I did (probably more than the recipe suggested). Also, when frying at high heat, this combo really spits - make sure you are wearing an apron and stand at arms length away from the stove!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Middle Eastern Nut Cheese

I found this recipe on the Vegetarians of Alberta website and made it as one of my contributions to our family's Thanksgiving dinner. I was expecting it to be creamier, maybe because of the word "cheese" in the recipe name, but after blending the ingredients at various settings for several minutes and fearing I was going to burn the clutch on my blender, I stopped the whirring and turned the "cheese" into a bowl. The texture, even after all this blending, was still crunchy and a bit lemony for my taste. As well, I thought it lacked body in some way. Most of the family tried it and found it good - but some suggestions were: add more garlic, try adding a bit of red curry paste. So I leave this for you to try. My opinion: interesting texture but needs more garlic and possibly a curry or chilli paste to. (I might also try blending this in a food processor to get a creamier consistency.)

This makes 1/2 cup of dip.

3 Tablespoons pine nuts, 3 tablespoons chopped macadamia nuts, 3 tablespoons chopped walnuts, juice of 1 1/2 lemons, 1/3 cup fresh parsley (or more) chopped, 1 clove garlic minced, 7 dashes Bragg's Liquid Amino, dash Nama Shoyu soy sauce.
Blend all ingredients in blender or food processor.
Serve with crudites, crackers or in sushi.

Friday, October 5, 2007


It is 7:26 A.M. and I have been up an hour and a half this fine Friday morning. Got up at 6ish to have breakkie with my husband before he left for work. It is also the Thanksgiving weekend - which means I'll be on my usual crusade to clean the house, get some groceries in, make some nice meals. Both my sons are home with their partners, and on Sunday we will join my extended family for a lovely dinner. While surfing the net, I found a lovely recipe for "Middle Eastern Nut Cheese" which I am going to try out. I will also be making a Kung Pao Tofu with Broccoli and Peanuts entree - both of these will be my contribution to the traditional turkey feast that my niece (a chef) is sure to have.
In the course of this last hour, I have visited some interesting sites but the last contained a most inspiring piece which I thought I would share with you. I believe I was on the Vegan Freak blog which is run by a married couple who are teachers at (in their words) a liberal arts college in New York state. The wife stated that in preparation for one of her classes she had found a quotation from Victor Jara, a Chilean human rights activist. I found the same quotation, as she had done on Wikipedia. Here are Victor's words about what love means...

Love of my home, my wife and my children.
Love for the Earth that helps me live.
Love for education and of work.
Love of others who work for the common good.
Love of justice as the instrument that provides equilibrium for human dignity.
Love of peace in order to enjoy one's life.
Love of freedom, but not the freedom acquired at the expense of others’ freedom, but rather the freedom of all.
Love of freedom to live and exist, for the existence of my children, in my home, in my town, my city, among neighbouring people.
Love for freedom in the environment in which we are required to forge our destiny.
Love of freedom without yokes: nor ours nor foreign.

Jara was brutally beaten, tortured and then executed for his activism. Strange isn't it how things come into our path, our view. I had never heard of Victor Jara until this morning, but when I read these words, I thought how appropriate on Thanksgiving, on this day in our lives when so many people on this globe are not free to love, to live and exist without fear.
I am thankful that this morning I was free to have coffee with my husband, that my son is free to sleep downstairs on the couch, that my other son is free to drive home today, that I am free to earn enough money to feed us all, and free to live my life surrounded by good people, loving family and friends.
May your weekend be a peaceful and joyful one. Be thankful.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Dairy Free Recipes

Courtesy of Vegetarian Times, click here for a delicious chilli recipe!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Could a vegan diet help diabetics?

If you have visited the website of Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine , you will know that Dr. Neal Barnard has studied the benefits of a vegan diet as it relates to diabetes. My brother-in-law was recently diagnosed with the disease at the beginning of the year. The diagnosis was only made after he became very ill and had to be hospitalized to get the condition under control. It has been several months since then. A couple of weekends back, I saw him at a family barbecue, which included the usual burgers, but also several colourful salads. I watched him as he injected himself with a dose of insulin before eating his meal and later asked him about this. He told me he takes approximately 4 injections a day around meals. Having known him to be a meat-eater for my history with the family (over 33 years) I did not talk to him about looking into changing his diet.
Other diabetics I know who take insulin injections, also seem to be of the mindset that it isn't what you eat that matters as long as you take your insulin. How difficult would it be, if I was in the shoes of a diabetic, to give up eating animal products if it would make a difference in how I felt and more importantly if it offered the option of getting off injections? I can only speculate that, yes I think I would give it a try if the evidence was credible.
Recently in the new publication Canadian Health & Lifestyle, a small piece on page 25 hints about the ongoing work (Eating raw may help diabetes). A study is following a group of diabetic people who for 30 days are eating a 100% vegan, organic, live and raw food diet. The objective is to reverse diabetes. Apparently, for those who completed the program (described as a roller coaster), the results were impressive. A feature film is slated for release in spring of 2008, but you can check out the website complete with trailer here. The preview seems pretty authentic - it is not easy for many people to give up meat, dairy, sugar, alcohol, etc. even if the trade-off is good health. Some of the participants dropped out because they believed it was just too tough to hang in (us humans have a way of doing just this.....believing our thoughts to be true!).
If you know of anyone who has diabetes, you might want to suggest they look into this approach.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Friday, September 14, 2007

Did you hear the story about....

A couple of weeks back, I stopped in to visit a local shop keeper who just happens to be in "production mode" (ie she's pregnant). She is a raw food vegan, so sometimes, we chat about that. Anyhow, she was relaying a conversation she had had with a co-worker and how she had reacted. The co-worker, who Jane (I've changed her name) says is an intelligent, educated woman, questioned her about whether or not she was going to breast feed her baby, given that she was a vegan and did not eat dairy products and given that human breast milk is also a mammalian milk. I found this story absolutely hilarious, it was so ridiculous. But later on as I began to think about what the woman had said, I saw a thread of logic. She built her case on the following: cows are mammals, humans are mammals, so if you are going to avoid one mammals milk then why not another? (I'm just trying to see it from her perspective.)
Well...I had to retell this story to my husband for a laugh and as he stated, "I think she's missing the point". One point (at least an obvious one) surrounding this topic is that humans are the only species that drink other animals milk (a species specific liquid produced for the sole purpose of nourishing offspring). What choice does a human baby, or any other "baby" in the animal world, have but to seek it's mother's milk? Only the human species has taken it upon themselves to interfere with this most perfect design by providing other substitutes for our own milk (infant formula and cow or goat milk for instance). Generally speaking, you don't see this happening in other species. (Yes, I know about the stories, with pictures even, of orphaned kittens being nursed by a lactating dog. ) Not to mention that other school of thought which questions why a human even needs milk, it's own mother's or any other mammal's, after the very earliest years. (As a mother who did nurse her children, I say "Thank goodness most of us our weaned to a cup in toddler hood".)
As a vegan, and I think I could say this for most other vegans, I am not avoiding "mammalian milk". I am avoiding milk so as not to support giant factory-farmed, profit-driven dairy industries which deny basic rights to the livestock in order to meet the enormous demand . Some vegans, eschew dairy products for other reasons (religious, dietary, health). But to think a "vegan" would deny her own baby, the milk that the body is producing, designed for optimal nutrition, because she avoids cow's milk, is ludicrous!
Of course, in reality, had I been the person confronted with this statement, I might have reacted as "Jane" did, rather stunned and taken aback. I chuckle to myself, as I am not usually quick on the draw and sometimes, when questioned about my dietary choices, have felt somewhat challenged and defensive (I call myself a former "angry vegan".) Fortunately, though I am feeling more confident and open to people's viewpoints and usually view it as interested curiousity. When words fail to come, then often, example is the best teacher. Hopefully, my lifestyle and demeanor can speak volumes.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

New recipes from Foods That Don't Bite Back by Sue Donaldson

Here are a few recipes with photos of some dishes I recently prepared for my sister's 50th birthday. All recipes are courtesy of Sue Donaldson's cookbook, foods that don't bite back (vegan cooking made simple).

TOFU SATAY (dish on right)

  • 1/2 cup (120ml) boiling water
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) smooth peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) tamari
  • 1 1/2 T (22.5ml) vegetable oil
  • 1 T (15ml) rice syrup
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp (10ml) fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp (2.5ml) salt
  • dash of cayenne
  • 1 lb (455 g) medium firm tofu, drained, cut into 1/4 inch (.6cm) slices

Combine all ingredients except for the tofu in a food processor and process until smooth. Lightly oil or spray the bottom of a baking dish large enough to accommodate the tofu slices in a single layer. Cover the bottom with a thin layer of the sauce. Then place the tofu slices on top. Pour the remaining sauce overtop. Marinate in the fridge for 2-3 hours minimum. Preheat the oven to 350 deg. F. (175 deg. C). Bake for 20-25 minutes.

WILD RICE WALDORF SALAD (pictured in centre at back)

  • 1 1/2 cups (360ml) wild rice/brown rice blend
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) slivered almonds
  • 1 large Granny Smith apple, diced
  • 3 T (45ml) fresh lemon juice
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 cup (240ml) celery diced
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) red onion, minced
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) currants
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) orange juice
  • 1T olive oil
  • 1T maple syrup
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp (2.5ml) ground cardamom
Prepare the rice according to package directions. Do not overcook. Place the almonds in a small frying pan and toast them over low to medium heat until lightly browned. Toss the apple with lemon juice in a large bow. Add the pepper, celery, red onion, currants and toasted nuts. Set aside. Whisk together all of the dressing ingredients.

Quinoa Corn Salad with Basil (pictured front centre)

visit and select

"Vegan Recipe of the Week"

and finally, FROSTED CHOCOLATE CAKE (at left in photo)
I have made this recipe at least twice, maybe three times. As you may remember, I absolutely love chocolate. I have been purchasing for my chocolate recipes, Camino Organic Cocoa which is also a "free trade" product.
The taste of this cake is divine and I think the Camino product is the key ingredient that makes it so good!

  • 3 cups (720ml) all purpose flour
  • 2 cups (475ml) sugar
  • 6 T (90ml) + 1 cup (240ml) cocoa
  • 2 tsp (10ml) baking soda
  • 1 tsp (5ml) + 1/8 tsp (.5ml) salt
  • 2 cups (475ml) cold water
  • 2/3 cup (160ml) vegetable oil
  • 2 T (30ml) white vinegar
  • 2 tsp (10ml) + 1/2 tsp (2.5ml) vanilla
  • 3 cups (720ml) icing sugar
  • 6 T (90ml) margarine
  • 3 T (45ml) hot water approx.
Preheat the oven to 350F (175C). Sift and combine flour, sugar, 6T (90ml) cocoa, baking soda and 1 tsp (5ml) salt in a large bowl.
In a separate bowl, combine the water, oil, vinegar, and 2 tsp (10ml) vanilla. Make a depression in the dry ingredients and mix in the wet ingredients. Beat until smooth.
Grease two 8 in (20cm) round pans and line bottoms with waxed paper. Pour the batter into the pans and bake for 30-40 minutes.
Cool, then turn out the cakes and slice each one into two layers.

Mix the icing sugar and remaining 1 cup (240ml) cocoa together. Blend in margarine, 1/2 tsp (2.5ml) vanilaa and 1/8 tsp (.6ml) salt. Add just enough hot water to give icing a spreadable consistency. This makes enough to cover the cake and three inside layers.
Variation: I use a nice raspberry jam and spread half of the jar between the cut 8in-layers. Then I spread the chocolate icing on top of one 8-in double, put the second 8-in split on top, and finish off by spreading the very top with the remaining icing. (In this four layer, the filling alternates as follows: (1) raspberry, (2) chocolate, (3) raspberry and (4) chocolate.)

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Alive (August 2007) "Down on the Factory Farm"

"You will save more animal lives in a year by giving up eating chicken and turkey than you would in 90 years of not eating pigs or 300 years of not eating cows!"

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

BBQ Portabello Mushroom Burgers & Vegetables

My son Matt (pictured) put together this fantastic meal tonight for the family (alas I only remembered that a picture would have been nice after we had devoured the food). Here are the simple directions.

Portabello Mushroom Burgers
with Grilled Veggies:

4 portabello mushrooms, marinated (10-15 mins. each side) in balsamic vinaigrette, minced garlic, olive and walnut oil.

After marinating time is done, place mushrooms on preheated BBQ (350 F) and cook for 5-8 minutes per side.

The left-over marinade was poured over sliced zucchini, sliced baby eggplant, and the portabello stems and placed in a grilling wok. Vegetables in wok were placed on one end of the grill while the portabello were cooking at the other end.

Mushroom burgers were served on the new President's Choice Multi-grain Burger First Buns along with a variety of toppings (sauerkraut, dills, Dijon, mayo & nayonnaise). I piled my grilled vegetables on top of the portabello and spread a little nayonnaise on half of the bun. Results were very juicy and tender. A big hug and thank you to Matt for a delicious vegan dinner!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

"Competition is building between grain for food...

and grain for bio-fuels, between vehicle owners and the world's poor. Guess who wins."

Gwynne Dyer is an independent journalist whose articles are published in The Spectator, my local newspaper. I read his articles periodically but always check out his subject line. Quite often I find myself drawn in just because his story is so readable, sometimes amusing, and consistently thought provoking.

Such was the case, a couple of weeks ago. The byline read Food prices are going up and staying there - I think it is worth providing you with some of the points he makes in this article.

While it may not seem the case when you are at the checkout, globally speaking, we (developed countries) have enjoyed cheap food for quite some time. This is about to change drastically and quickly. During the last 50 years (post WW II), we were spending about 1/10th of our average income on food. Dyer predicts that within the next 10 years, due to conditions ripening now, the average person will be spending 1/4 or more of their income.

Some recent signs of things to come:

  • price of corn (maize) has doubled in a year
  • wheat futures are their highest (in the last ten year period)
  • food prices in India have risen 11% in one year
  • price of corn flour in Mexico went up fourfold in January
Dyer explains the factors that are causing the increase in prices:
  • world population is growing ("about an extra Turkey or Vietnam every year") therefore demand is growing
  • more and more people are eating significant amounts of meat
  • the UN predicts that by 2016, we in the developed countries will be eating 30% more beef, 50% more pork and 25% more poultry
  • these animals eat a grain based diet; logically the demand to feed the animal will require a shift from growing grain crops for human consumption to animal consumption
  • price of grain and meat product will go up
  • U.S. farmland shifted from food production to bio-fuel (industrial corn) increased by 48% in the last 12 months
  • 1/6th of grain grown in the US is considered "industrial corn", that is corn used in the production of ethanol
  • as oil prices rise around the world, profit from a "fuel" crop as compared to a "food" crop becomes all the more attractive to the farmer
  • all of the above is happening as well in other big producers such as China and Brazil

"The stage is now set for direct competition for grain between the 800 million people who own automobiles and world's two billion poorest people." (Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute as told to the U.S. Congress last month.)

As you can see, Dyer's article isn't a feel good read. Pretty depressing. It is not going to take ten years before we start seeing more and more poor people starving. As he says, the impoverished peoples don't care about the price of meat, because they can't afford it now. But if the supplies of food grade grain is diverted to fuels for our cars and fuel to grow our flesh crops, then what chance do they have?

Very grim indeed. Let's not wait for the politicians to do something. We / I must fight the complacency that overtakes us like a gentle fog. I invite you to ponder the dilemma and search for solutions that can be carried out on the individual level. It is the first place to start.

  1. Eat local as much as possible.
  2. Eat mindfully - taking in only what you need to be healthy. (With our wide-spread restaurant servings, all you can eat buffet style establishments, gluttony has vanished from our common consciousness. Speaking of gluttony, wasn't that one of those sins I learned about way, way back in catechism classes in Grade 1 ??)
  3. Conserve energy - all of it - walk more, drive less, consume less.
  4. Go green (vegetarian or vegan) but if that is not for you yet, at least try to reduce your consumption of animal crops.
  5. Support your local eat local communities.
  6. Charity - give to those who are most impoverished - and this can start in your own community.
  7. "We may feel as weak as mice nibbling at the world's fetters. But we are many. The fetters must snap." (Brother Mark Steindl-Rast, A Listening Heart - the Spirituality of Sacred Sensuousness)

Friday, July 27, 2007

I'm back more excuses

I have been home now for almost three weeks. The trip to Viet Nam was an incredible experience. From the moment we landed in Ho Chi Minh (Saigon), greeted by our hosts, the nuns and students of Tinh That Buu Tich, to the final two days in Hong Kong - each day was filled with new sights, tastes, experiences! I had my ups and downs, from coming down with a respiratory bug (no, not SARS) to missing my family, but being on the other side of the whole thing which now feels like a dream, I can say whole-heartedly, IT WAS WORTH EVERY MOMENT!
I am completely smitten with Viet Nam - the people I met were warm, kind, generous and very helpful. The land is beautiful with lush country-side, beautiful beaches, captivating historical sites, wide, serene rivers and mist covered mountains. The two large cities that I did visit were a bit overwhelming (Saigon and Hanoi); traffic, noise, pollution were the big three challenges I had a hard time accepting. Unlike Western ways where we pretty much follow the rules of the road, it seems there, rules are (choose one): not recognizable to this Canadian, non-existent or mere suggestions. I would not drive in Viet Nam - there are many excellent drivers (actually everyone who was driving in that mayhem must have been a good driver in my opinion) that one can hire (cycle, motorbike, bus or taxi).
Our first week, as I mentioned was spent in the peace and quiet of Tinh That Buu Tich Monastery. Our hosts were Su Co Tam Khong and Su Co Tam Phat, the two nuns who run the facility for several girls. Tinh That Buu Tich is a Buddhist monastery, hence many of the students are novice nuns (but not all). Under the kind, yet firm parentage of the two Su Co's, the girls study, chant (3 times a day), garden, do laundry, make incense and basically take care of the buildings, animals and each other. While doing all of this, they still manage to be young girls, giggling, fooling around and enjoying their days. It was a joy to be amongst them and I miss them, now sitting here thinking about it.
As is customary in a Buddhist monastery, all food was vegetarian (vegan). We were (as guests) treated to three delicious, fresh meals each day. A young nun, Hue Duc, was the main cook. How, at 25 years of age, this young lady came to be such a good cook, I can only imagine. We did not eat what we typically call breakfast, lunch and dinner but rather at each of the 3 meals (morning, noon and evening), Hue Duc and a helper or two, would bring to the retreat house, a soup, rice or noodles and several assorted dishes of vegetables or tofu (there were 4 of us: Sister Tinh Quang, the Johnstones and myself), with some fruit to finish the meal.
Somehow, she managed to create an endless variety of new tastes for the duration of our visit (about 1 week). (Had I been in her shoes, I would have been stressed to the max trying to come up with all these menus!) One morning, Barbara and I, asked if we could watch her in the kitchen and learn some tips. The "kitchen" was a spotless, tiled room with a glass-doored food locker, one small table to hold the rice cooker and fruit, a wood pile and the "stove". This stove was a closed in counter which had three openings on which a large wok would sit. Underneath, was the fire box. So depending on which wok was being used, a small fire was lit under that wok. To light the second burner (so to speak) Hue Duc would pull out one of the burning sticks and move it to the next fire box. I did not see any refrigeration. (Pictures of some of Hue Duc's dishes and herself are included in this entry).
I am hoping that Hue Duc will be able to send me some of her recipes or at least instructions on how to prepare some of her dishes. I found that some of the students did understand English (especially to read) but did not have too much opportunity to practice speaking it. So, hopefully, the task of writing in English some recipes will not be to daunting for her. (Once I receive these I will post them again with pictures on this blog.)
From Tinh That Buu Tich, my companions and I joined up with an Intrepid tour group, facilitated by a competent young Vietnamese man, Toa Chu. Intrepid is an Australian tourist company, which organizes, with the assistance of local peoples, travels throughout Asia. We chose an "Original" package which took us from Saigon up the coast to Hanoi. During our ten days, as a group of twelve (maximum number per group), we traveled by plane, overnight train, bus, motorcycle, cyclo (think reverse 'rickshaw' bicycle) and overnight boat. Despite our reservations about all kinds of imagined dangers (rats on the boat, head lice from the bed linen on the train), we emerged unscathed - and dam proud of ourselves! (How many other 50-something women had traveled from Hue to Hanoi by train in a sleeper car with three other people, or floated in dreamy Halong Bay on a junk...disappointingly I did not see the anticipated rats.)
Once in Hanoi, our trip was coming to a close. We had our last group dinner and parted ways. Of the twelve of us, three quarters were from Australia - this was my first time meeting and spending time with people from Australia. They were wonderful folk and lots of fun.
Departing Hanoi, we landed in Hong Kong. What a wonder that city is. I realize this was only a teaser (two days) but a mighty impression it did make on all three of us. (Very 'civilized' traffic by the way, but lots of it!) I hope very much to go back to Hong Kong for a longer stay but with my hubbie next time. Let the planning begin.
Until next time, keep posted for more pics and recipes from the land of incense and blossoms!

Monday, June 4, 2007

Reverance for Life

Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life,
I am committed to cultivating compassion and learning ways
to protect the lives of people, animals, plants and minerals. I am
determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to support any
act of killing in the world, in my thinking, and in my way of life.

The First Mindfulness Training
Thich Nhat Hanh

More and more people are beginning to realize that the survival of our planet depends on our sense of belonging - to all other humans, to dolphins caught in dragnets, to chickens and pigs and calves raised in animal concentration camps, to redwoods and rainforests, to kelp beds in our oceans, and to the ozone layer. More and more people are becoming aware that every act that affirms this belonging is a moral act of worship, the fulfillment of a precept written in every human heart.

Brother David Steindl-Rast

(both from: FOR A FUTURE TO BE POSSIBLE by Thich Nhat Hanh)
(Parallax Press 2007)

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Simply Zen ** NEW STORE ** on Locke Street


Simply Zen is a small Canadian company dedicated to providing you with
the finest natural, eco-friendly, organic and Vegan products for every aspect of your life.
Come in to see us and learn more about our complete selection of organic and raw foods, natural body care and wellness tools. We are located at 143 Locke Street S, Hamilton
and can be reached at 905.529.1998 or by email at
Please check us out at

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Vegetarian Friends

- click here

Monday, May 28th, 2007 @ Skydragon (905-777-8102)

8:00 PM Ms Grant,writer, historian and activist based in Toronto, will be discussing her thoughts and experiences in the field of animal rights. There will be ample opportunity to debate and discuss the issues. Her recent book is titled The No-Nonsense Guide to Animal Rights, explains key issues and makes the connections between animal rights and other justice struggles and is published by Between the Lines. The protection of animal rights is more than a modern, western phenomenon. There is a long history of concern for animals around the world, and this is the concern that underlies today’s animal rights movement. . The book will be available for sale, and Catharine will be happy to sign copies. Location: Skydragon Centre , 27 King William Street, Hamilton, Region: Hamilton, Sponsor: Chapman Books, C.A.G.E.D., Compassion for Animals, the Hamilton Vegetarian Association and The Great Lakes Expo Contact Info:

Friday, May 18, 2007

So why do we eat meat?

Talking with a colleague at work this past week, the question was raised why do we eat cows (the greater context of the conversation being about how attached we are to our pets i.e. how do we decide to love one animal and eat another). This made me think about my own many years of buying, preparing and eating meat for myself and my family.

My earliest experience with meat would have been before my earliest memories. I remember my mother and father telling me that the family doctor had recommended pureed meat for me before I was a year old. This I believe, in an effort to build up my hemoglobin or some such, although I can't be sure (and Mom and Dad are both gone now).

When my own children where babies, and I started to introduce them to our food, I had this little hand cranked grinder. My husband and I thought this was the greatest gizmo - we would put a 1/2 cup of whatever we were eating, grind it up and serve it to our baby. Certainly, it was more economical as we did not buy too much jarred baby food from that point on. Somewhere around 7 to 9 months of age, our boys were eating everything from spaghetti with meat sauce to pork chops with vegetables.

The point is, we are served meat from the earliest time in our life. Whether or not our taste buds actually "like" this taste or sensation makes little difference. Right at the front of us, smiling and encouraging us to lap up every last drop is our mother or father. I am not saying this is bad parenting. What I am saying is this is conditioning that has gone on for many generations. We think meat is good. Good to eat, good for our health and therefore good for our children.

Conditioning is first, followed closely by insidious de-sensitization. So where does the "de-sensitization" come into view? At what point do children figure out that beef comes from a cow, pork from pigs, buffalo wings from chickens and on and on... (Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the tooth fairy....). Figure it out we do though, and before long we can completely disconnect the thread between the calf and the veal, the bacon and the pig, etc.

Even more odd is why we accept the whole shebang? Many of us have pets that we adore (most of the time) and consider them parts of our family. In our house alone, along with the bipeds are one dog, three cats, two ferrets and several fish!

Again, I can only explain this as conditioning. As a society, most of us are so far removed from the slaughterhouse, from the farm and so close to the grocery store and the seemingly endless supply of a variety of cellophane wrapped pieces of muscle. Not one of us ever discusses the pain and suffering involved in raising and then killing millions (yes, millions!) of animals on a daily basis. We certainly never discuss it with our children - why would we want to expose them to such horror?

It seems so strange to me now this whole culture of eating another animal's flesh. If I had been born in a Hindu culture, I would never know the experience of eating meat. But here I am - living in a meat-eating culture, living with meat eating people, surrounded by people eating meat, surrounded by mass media about eating meat, keeping meat eating animals, wearing clothing made from the skins of animals. I have spent most of my years eating and enjoying another animal's flesh.

What made the change for me? I was in the right place at the right time and I opened my eyes (believe me I wanted to close them). Once I knew, I could not go back. (I remember vividly one of my co-workers asking me the next day why would I want to watch those kind of images.)

I suspect people don't want to know so they can continue to enjoy eating their meat.

Not long ago I was asked if I had "turned" anyone in the family. I wish... but really, it can't be done (I've tried). The decision can only come from within. But I am encouraged when questioned and even challenged (although that isn't nearly as pleasant) . Questioning is a good thing. It leads to clear vision.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Earthlings (narrated by Joaquin Phoenix)

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Famous Vegetarians

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Two words that inspire rage (with footnote added)

In today's Toronto Star, section D12, the column's feature writer, Bill Taylor, wrote about the ongoing situation of a seal-hunting boat trapped in ice off the cost of Newfoundland. Well not so much about them, but about the responses people have been sending to the paper with regards to seal-hunting and the hunters themselves. To give you a taste of the mind-set, here is a sampling of what some readers are hoping will ensue for the hunters: "...we hope for a huge, sudden squall to take these barbaric savages to a watery grave..."; "There is a place in Hell for...these revel in torturing infant seals is beyond wicked." "A heartless psychopath who enjoys inflicting maximum pain and suffering on...helpless creatures."; "...serial killers start out their killing sprees by torturing animals...". I'm sure you get the gist.

I was reading this column, and thinking 'ok, these are probably animal rights activists' and I can understand some of this sentiment. I am against factory farming for it's abhorrent cruelty and lack of even the least shred of compassion for animals. People who know me (or don't know me at all) might lump me in with this group. But I would have a couple of objections with that blanket judgment.

The first thing that came to mind, when reading the article and the "violent, vituperative" responses (in Bill Taylor's words), was 'what about the consumer that drives this business; aren't they responsible, and, in no small way?' As it is for meat, eggs and milk, all huge corporate industries are driven by the endless consumer lust for the product at the cheapest price possible. We want it now, we want it for the least amount of money - and the corporations deliver. I can hardly condemn the people who work in these industries - they are cogs in the wheel. As a matter of fact, I have read reports of unthinkable cruelties inflicted on animals (chickens, cows, etc.) by workers on the kill floor. Yes, it sickened me to read and think that people could do these things, but then I wondered: if I had to work in these conditions, would I not want to be completely numbed out of my mind? How could any person do these jobs, without turning off a part of their brain? Turning off a part of the brain, where we feel compassion and pity for suffering, frightened creatures who are just as afraid to die as we all are.

I don't know what goes through a seal hunter's mind when he is clubbing a pup. But wishing that hunter dead or to suffer in an equal manner, no...I don't feel that way. Instead, I feel grateful, that I have never had to walk in their do a job like this in order to pay my bills, make my mortgage payments, feed my kids.

I feel fortunate that I am not de-sensitized to the painful images I see in the world (maybe that means I can be moved to do something about it).

I feel fortunate that I saw images that bolted me out of my seat. As a result, the further away I am from the meat-eating culture, the stranger it seems to me. Very strange (and yet I have to admit the cravings do still come and go, but this is recognized as just conditioning and past experience and I let it go).

That this industry continues today in my country does not make me proud. However, as long as there is a need for the end-product, the means to the end will continue. I don't know what the answer is either. But people need to work to provide for themselves and their families. In an area that is already economically depressed, maybe there is blessed little choice.

Footnote: check out this site
This gentleman experienced first hand seal hunting. He certainly does not come across as a "barbaric hunter" but maybe just a man who found himself in this position once and made a decision not to repeat it. His grand-daughter is my teacher.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Matt's Birthday Cake

You can't go wrong with a Moosewood recipe. Thanks to Vegetarian Times online recipes for this Deep Chocolate Vegan Cake ("a perennial favorite at Moosewood").

Chocolate cake:

  • 1.1/2 cups unbleached white flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup cold water or chilled brewed coffee
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tbs cider vinegar
Chocolate-Peanut Butter Frosting
  • 2 oz unsweetened chocolate
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 3-4 tbs water
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup confectioner's sugar
Directions: 1. Preheat over to 375F. Generously oil 8-in square or round baking pan. Dust with sifted cocoa, or line bottom of baking pan with parchment paper.
2. To make cake: sift flour, cocoa, soda, salt and sugar. In another bowl, combine oil, water or brewed coffee and vanilla. Pour liquid into dry and mix until smooth.
3. Add vinegar and stir briefly; baking soda will react with vinegar, leaving pale swirls in batter. Without wasting time, pour batter into prepared pan.
4. Bake for 25-30 mins. Serve cake from pan or when cool, transfer to plate.
5. To make frosting: in heavy pan melt chocolate over med. heat. Beat together peanut butter, water and vanilla until smooth. Beat in confectioner's sugar and add melted chocolate, mixing until blended. Spread frosting on cooled cake.

Serves 8 and only 440 calories per serving (but it's vegan!!!!!). ENJOY - IT IS DELICIOUS.

Apparently, my frequent, but necessary, lectures on nutrition are falling on deaf ears!

As I watched my eldest son spread margarine (vegan margarine, thank goodness!) on his toasted onion/cheese bagel, I asked if he got any other selections when he put a dozen bagels into the bag last night at the grocers. "Just cheese and onion and cheese". To which I replied (and here is the impromptu but profound mini lecture) "Food is a way to nourish the body, not just satisfy the taste buds." His comeback? "But they're gooooood!!"
(Where have I gone wrong, I ask myself.)


Monday, April 23, 2007

Visiting Kensington Market

Although I have lived all my life approximately one hour west of Toronto, it is only in the last several months, have I taken the opportunity to become acquainted with the charming district known as Kensington Market.
If you have a chance, I would recommend spending a leisurely afternoon there, as I did recently with a friend. Arriving just around the noon hour, we visited San Korean restaurant on Queen Street for lunch, enjoying their Spicy Tofu, with small side dishes of kimchee, rice, and soya beans in sauce.
From there, we then made our way to Kensington Market, parked the car and just started walking. The area is several city blocks, enclosed on all four sides by four major streets: Bathurst, College, Spadina and Dundas.
Within this cube are small business' catering to every possible need: fresh fruit vendors, grocers, boutiques, restaurants, bars, cheese shops, coffee shops, and on and on!
If this isn't enough, just around the corner is Chinatown, running along Spadina. Lots of interesting nooks and crannies - shopping, eating and site seeing. If people watching (and listening for there are so many different languages to be heard) interests you, this has got to be one of the best areas there is.
There are so many sights, sounds and smells - it is amazing to me to be in the middle of this huge metropolis and be stopped dead in your tracks by the fragrance of beautiful little potted hyacinths for sale in a corner store's 'garden area'.
For the occasional glimpse of the CN Tower in between small three storey buildings, you tend to forget you are in this huge modern city with monolithic skyscrapers very close by. But out of sight, out of mind. My friend, who worked in Toronto and knew the area well, led the way effortlessly - I wasn't even aware of the time until, heading back to the car just before 7PM, I realized we had walked for the whole afternoon.
This area has many restaurants, but specifically, I would like to mention that the Toronto Vegetarian Association has their office on Baldwin near McCall (within walking distance of Kensington). I have put a link to their site where you will find a very handy 'vegetarian directory' of Toronto and other areas. Not only does this directory contain places to eat, but other related business' such as Left Feet. We stopped in to see their stock of 'vegan' shoes and apparel. Another stop was at the Hibiscus Eatery. Here we enjoyed some refreshments. The owner, Joseph Tam, is the head cook and bottle washer along with his assistant. I bought a sampling of his vegan baked goods and fresh salads. And were they ever delicious!! Of course, because cooking without eggs, milk and butter is still relatively new to me, I am duly impressed when I taste cookies that are wickedly decadent.
My friend, Sister T.Q. also recommended a restaurant called Bo De Duyen on Spadina (Chinatown). This place gets her thumbs up for good food and generous portions (and it is vegetarian as well).
I hope you are inspired to visit Kensington and Chinatown sometime soon.

** Other recommendations **
  • Affinity Vegetarian Restaurant, 87 John St. S. (905-529-2598) (fine dining)
  • Himalaya, 160 Centennial Pkwy. N., (905-578-7400) (casual, offers take out)
  • Stir It Up, 128 Dalhousie St., (519-752-3873) (casual, offers take out)
I have dined at all three places and can vouch for their tasty food and charming ambiance!

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Six Arguments for a Greener Diet / June Callwood

Author: Michael F. Jacobson, Ph.D., and the Staff of the Center for Science in the Public Interest
Visit on the web at

This is not a "vegetarian" book, but rather a discussion of our environment, health, economy, government policies and how they are effected by our huge consumption of livestock and it's production via the agri-business culture.

I'm not sure if I am inspired or encouraged by the book; so far I am only a 3rd of the way through. But it is interesting, especially because Jacobson
does not claim to be a vegetarian. The evidence is presented in a pretty convincing way that evolving to a "greener" diet would be much better not only for our individual health and our society's health but for our planets survival as well.

Here is a sampling of comments that I have highlighted:

"Milk and cheese account for 21 percent of the saturated fat and 11 percent of the cholesterol in the American Diet. Cheese is now the single greatest source of saturated fat." pg. 44

" Grazing is better in many ways than feeding grain to cattle, but it still exacts environmental costs. Cattle that eat grass and roughage release more methane (a gas that causes global warming and is 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide) than cattle on a high-energy feedlot diet, because grass-fed cattle take about 10 to 20 percent longer to reach market weight. Those longer lives also mean more manure-about 3,500 to 5,000 pounds per animal (60 pounds per day). That manure, though, is dispersed widely on pastureland, enriching the soil and nourishing the growth of plant life." pg. 12

"Feeding grain to cattle makes a bad situation worse. It takes about 7 pounds of corn to put on 1 pound of weight. That's why over 200 million acres of land are devoted to producing grains, oilseeds, pasture and hay for livestock." pg. 11

What the book does not discuss is the whys and wherefores. The questions are raised ("Why are so many animals allowed to be raised in miserable conditions?) ("Why do farmers who grow crops to feed livestock receive billions of dollars in annual subsidies, hundreds of times as much as fruit and vegetable growers receive?). It is up to us though to find the answers or justification. Jacobson offers up some assistant in the final section of the book: Making Change. He discusses changing your own diet which is a start, but then flows into "Changing Government Policies". The circle is complete at this point - suggestions are made that would not only help the general health of the population, but clean up the environment, reduce suffering of the animals we raise for our consumption, help the economy and raise the nutrition of our food.

"Getting the 'why' questions answered in a way that protects humans, animals, and the environment will require the involvement of thousands of concerned citizens, non-profit organizations, concerned farmers and the local, state and national levels." "Meanwhile, each of us can quietly do our part-in our kitchens, grocery stores, farmers' markets and backyard gardens." pg. XIV

Canada recently lost one of our most inspiring, courageous and accomplished activists - June Callwood. She was many things: kind, wise, compassionate, passionate, and she got things done (I'm sure despite the inevitable fears or the hurt incurred by her critics). I have no idea whether or not she was interested in vegetarianism. It doesn't matter. A statement attributed to her (and I am paraphrasing) was 'if you see an injustice, you are no longer a spectator, you are a participant'. She is a beacon to me of what can and should be done - of what it means to see an injustice, be moved by it, and to act.

I certainly see myself as a participant - there are injustices all around us. Those that cannot speak for themselves, the impoverished and suffering peoples of our world, the millions of animals that are denied basic care & suffer greatly in their short lives only to be slaughtered for our consumption , our battered planet. All are interrelated. I pray that I will be able to arise to my fullest potential to do what I can to make this place a better home for all of us. As June said to a CBC interviewer shortly before her death when questioned about her belief in a god, answered, "I believe in kindness". This I find encouraging.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007


I have been incorporating quinoa into the family diet as an alternative to rice. The dishes have been well received by all. Here is some nutritional information on this "grain".

Quinoa can be cooked much like rice and substituted in many dishes that call for rice. It has a high protein content (12-18%) which makes it a wise staple for vegan diets. It is a complete food meaning it contains a balanced set of amino acids suitable for human consumption. Easy to digest and gluten free, a good source of dietary fibre, phosphorous, high in magnesium and iron are other benefits.

Quinoa is readily available in grocery and health food stores; I prefer to purchase it in bulk over the small convenience packaged boxes. But if you are a first time user, you might want to try a small box first. There are different colours of quinoa; the beige quinoa (pictured above) is the one that I use. I tried the red quinoa but found the flavour slightly stronger - personal preference only.

Look for recipes to follow - give it a try!

Picture Source:

Quinoa and Beans


1 tsp olive oil, 1 red onion diced, 3 cloves garlic minced, 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa, 1 1/2 cup broth (I used veg'n chicken cube), 1 tsp cumin, 1/2 t cayenne, 1 cup corn kernels, 2 (15 oz) cans black beans, rinsed and drained, 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley.

Heat oil in pan, medium heat. Saute onions and garlic. Mix in quinoa and broth, then season with cumin and cayenne, salt and pepper to taste. Bring mixture to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes. Stir in corn, then add beans and cilantro or parsley. Serve.

Quick to prepare and delicious!
Source: Rocio A.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Tofu and Kale Quiche

Source: CalciYum by David & Rachelle Bronfman

This is my favourite quiche recipe right now. The texture and taste are close to the real thing as my taste buds remember!

Preheat over to 350 F (180 C). Serves 4 to 6.

  • 1/2 tsp canola oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 8 oz each firm tofu and soft tofu crumbled
  • 1 cup packed finely chopped kale or turnip greens
  • 1 cup grated soy cheese (I also used soy feta with good results)
  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell peppers
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp tumeric
  • 9 inch pastry pie shell*
  1. In a small nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add green onions and saute for 3 minutes. Add remaining ingredients to skillet and mix together until cheese begins to soften and kale wilts slightly.
  2. Transfer mixture to prepared pie shell. Bake quiche in preheated over for 40 minutes.
* A no-fail pastry recipe: 1 1/4 cups flour, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/2 cup vegetable shortening or margarine, 3 tbsp cold water. In large bowl, stir together the flour and salt. Cut the shortening or margarine into the flour mixture and when well mixed add the water. Mix together until a ball of dough forms. Knead for a minute or two. Wrap dough in wax paper and chill for 30 minutes. Roll out into a pie crust. Makes one crust. When in a hurry, I have skipped the chilling and rolled the pastry, but you must use a very LIGHT hand when rolling the unchilled pastry. Remember the old phrase from Home Ec classes "don't work the pastry to much"? Rolling with a heavy hand might be quick and produce a pie crust that covers the entire counter, but the end result will be a heavy, don't eat the crust pastry. So far with this recipe, my crusts have turned out light and flaky.
PS>I prefer margarine rather than shortening, which might make a difference.