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.