Sunday, March 30, 2008

Chewey Oatmeal Cookies

This is an easy, quick oatmeal cookie recipe that can be customized for all tastes. In this house, my husband loves chocolate chips in his cookies and I love raisins in mine - so this afternoon's batch contained both! Here are the ingredients:

1/2 cup soy or vegan margarine (at room temperature)
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar (or almost 1 cup sucanat)
1/4 cup water
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 ripe banana, well mashed
1/2 cup sifted all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour (or spelt)
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (or raisins or chopped dates or chocolate chips)
(combinations of above such as 1/4 cup chocolate chips + 1/4 cup walnuts)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, cream together the margarine, sugar, water, vanilla and mashed banana. In a separate bowl sift together the dry ingredients except the last two. Add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture and blend well. Now fold in the oats + raisins, nuts etc.

Drop by spoonfuls onto baking sheet and bake for 12 to 15 minutes. (Tip: to keep cookies uniform, I use a small ice scream scoop for each cookie, and flatten each dollop slightly with a fork.)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Faux Meat Favourites

These are two of the newest products released by President's Choice, carried by Fortino's. The meatless beef strips are very realistic, if you are looking for a faux meat. Texture, colour and taste much like a well done stewing beef (as I recall); the chicken, although well liked by my family, is less "authentic" taste wise. Overall, I would recommend both products, if you are still stuck in the "meat" mode of preparing a meal.

This brings me to wonder 'why would this product be appealing to a vegetarian consumer?'. A few years back when I started down this road, my children, then in their teens, would point out to me the paradox of claiming to be a vegetarian, while still flavouring food with a vegetarian chicken or beef cube. No snappy comeback here; I had to agree that this did seem strange.

Now several years later, here I am buying "meatless" beef strips. Why? I would answer a number of reasons, the least of all, being it's a new product, marketed as such and I'm a consumer (thus prey to the sophisticated ways of corporate advertising!). I am also a person who grew up eating meat for most of my life - so the conditioning of eating meat is still strong (the memory of meals with meat as the main focus). In a family that is not completely vegetarian, these products make it a little easier to switch the traditional hunk of meat for the meatless option, especially, when the appearance, smell and taste is very much like the real thing.

Do I purchase these and use these products daily? No, not even weekly. Given all the current research, I think everyone's goal is to make fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains the main source of calories in our daily diet. It would be far to easy to slip back into the old traditional "plate" of meat (albeit meatless), potatoes and a vegetable. I try to portion my plate with the vegetables, grain or pasta first and then add a protein source (beans, tofu or soy-based meat). Many of my meals are all vegetable, grain and beans and I am fairly confident I am getting all the protein I require.

Another point to keep in mind is that these new fandango products are also just another processed food. The nutritional breakdown looks fairly good on both, but still we should be eating foods in their natural state and moving away from consumption of processed foods.

Having said that, I will continue to buy these foods periodically to add variety to meal preparation and to give feedback to the retailer and suppliers, that yes I do want to see vegetarian foods on their shelves.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Avocado Butter

My teacher, Sr. Tinh Quang, sent me this recipe which I have just tried for the first time. While in Viet Nam, she says this spread is often used instead of butter. In the temples, the garlic/onion powder is omitted. I only had garlic powder (at least I think it was garlic powder) which is the only seasoning I used - completely omitting the salt and onion powder. Also, as avocados are not the cheapest produce to buy, especially in this neck of the woods, I found a package of 5 on the discount shelves (they had reached their peak, so it was make the "butter" tonight not tomorrow.) To make just a small tub you will need the following ingredients:

  • 3/4 cups mashed avocado
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
Blend all ingredients till smooth. Keep refrigerated.


If you are a "political" animal check out this site

I listened to several one minute speechs on CFRB talk radio this morning from Toronto Centre riding candidates for an upcoming by-election. One of the speakers, Liz White, caught my attention by the content of her message. Quite openly, she stated that Bob Rae would no doubt win the seat as a Liberal, but that you could still send a message to the politicians regarding the plight of animals (domestic and wild) and our environment. The party is called Animal Alliance Environment Voters Party of Canada. This is a link to their site; I think their platform merits some attention. There were two points that surprised me (but then I'm not politically savvy): In Canada, (1) our humane laws with concerns to wildlife and domestic stock have not been amended in over 100 years and (2) our environment record is one of the worst in the world, especially the tar sands in Alberta.

I will look into this deeply as it has piqued my curiousity and I need to know.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Communication between species

Getting back into the car this evening, to drive home after a trip to Chapters, CBC Radio's "As It Happens" was playing on the car station. The announcer was speaking to (I thought) an Australian judging by the accent, but as we listened, the speaker was from New Zealand. Being interviewed, was Malcolm Smith, a conservation officer with the New Zealand Parks Ministry. Apparently, today, he and half a dozen others were confronted with a beach whaling. They valiantly tried to get the whales back into deeper water, which was just a short distance away from where they were stranded. But as is often the case, the whales and humans became exhausted and were about to give up after hours of effort.

As the drama continued, a dolphin that frequents the area, named "Moko" by the residents, came upon the sight. According to Mr. Smith, his assistants and a group of spectators on the beach, the dolphin began to emit clicks and whistles - and here is the surprising aspect, the whales, within minutes somehow maneuvered about enough to follow the dolphin a few metres, make a sharp right turn, bringing them directly into the deeper water.

To all observers, it seemed that the dolphin had been able to communicate sufficiently to the whales, and thus bring them to safety. Yet minutes prior, unable to move, push, or motivate in anyway, the humans were almost resigned to another sad beach whaling. Mr. Smith, with reservation, thought that this incident alone may indicate the ability of species to communicate. Remarking that he was unable to speak either whale or dolphin, could not say for sure what the clicks and whistles meant.

Anyhow, I just had to tell you - what a wonderful story. I do believe we can "communicate" with other species on this planet and that the reverse is true.

Here for your enjoyment is a link to a You Tube video of a rather unusual relationship between a crow and a cat. (Thank you Sr. Tinh Quang for forwarding it to me.)

Sunday, March 9, 2008

How to become an optimist (and here, I thought I already was one)

Four steps to becoming an optimist - here they are:

1. Accept that optimism does not mean "relentless cheer". It is about "engagement and persistence toward one's goals". Pessimists, it seems, are "skeptical that their own actions can lead to good results." This explains why one then gets stuck or worse, takes no steps at all. Discouragement sets in, as it seems the actions you are taking aren't resulting in the change you want to see (usually in others!).

2. Write down three positive things that happened in your day. But start the day with the intention to pay attention so that you will be aware of the good fortune that surrounds us (don't forget the mundane).("This will help convince yourself that favourable outcomes actually happen all the time, making it easier to begin taking action.") Ties in nicely with the first step - actions can lead to good results.

3. Journal but here's the shift: instead of emptying all the drivel and whining that's swirling around in your head, try envisioning a future that you desire and describe how it could come out of your present situation. (Ties in nicely with the Buddhist belief - we create our world with our thoughts.)

4. Use enthusiasm to cushion failure. (OK, I'm puzzled a little with this one. Will have to experience it to see just how this works.)

This is just what I needed - these steps were in the Toronto Star today (they sourced it from the April edition of Psychology Today). I know that I have been discouraged and wondering what good can come of this blog. Very little. But I do have a vision of the future and I have thoughts of what I can do in my present situation to educate people about the vegan or vegetarian diet. Those thoughts or dreams can take flight in action.

No matter what your goals are, if you are feeling discouraged, see if you can't tweak your approach to life with these 4 steps.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Zoglos New York Deli Style Franks

Southern Ontario was hit with a huge snow storm today. It is expected to continue into tomorrow. I'm not sure what the accumulation is at this point; let's just say a lot of snow. As we have a snow blower, I didn't have to do much shoveling, with the exception of the front and back porch. Not that it did much good, as within a few hours the wind had drifted the snow right back and even higher! My little dog, was crying to go out (as she refuses to use the litter box!), but I could not get the back door open and the sliding glass doors were frozen. Trying the back screen door again, I put my hip to it and just pushed as hard as I could. I did manage to move some snow, but only after the aluminum screen door completely separated at the seams. Oh well - at least the dog got out for her pee!

So what do you do on a snowy day like this? I made a miso-based soup, some Brownies (which turned out a little spongy) and for dinner I made myself a Zoglos deli style frank. Rather than a bun, I wrapped it in a pita pocket with sauerkraut and horseradish mustard. It was really delicious. A very quick dinner.

The Brownies, as I mentioned, were a little spongy. But this could be the result of me leaving them in the oven just a little too long. (Got talking to my neighbour who was clearing my driveway and forgot about the time.) But hey, they are chocolaty. I'm going to sprinkle some icing sugar on them to pretty them up.

Enjoy the last big storm of the season!