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