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Monday, December 22, 2008

Making your own Tofu-rkey from scratch.....

Yesterday, I made the famous tofurkey, following the directions from the about.com site (see sidebar link). I was very excited and anticipated an excellent result that was going to be much better than the commercial brands I had purchased in the past (those famous oblong, smooth, taupe soccer balls with the sage stuffing).

All went well initially; I pureed the five blocks of tofu in batches and lined my colander with cheesecloth. The puree went into the lined colander and I placed a plate on top, to weight it all down and left it in the garage (my outdoor refrigerator) for the night. At some point, around 3 A.M., a questioning thought popped into my head. Surely Gretchen on the video had said to add the fresh herbs, bouillon and poultry seasoning to the pureed tofu and then drain overnight. My pureed tofu was sans herbs and seasoning, however, I wasn't about to get up out of bed to go down to the kitchen and start chopping herbs at three or four A.M.

But first thing Sunday morning, I re-read the instructions and sure enough, I had missed that step. The tofu blob had by now successfully shed a fair amount of liquid, but was still workable. Quickly I pulled together the herbs and seasoning and folded it into the tofu, re-wrapped and weighted it again for an additional few hours.

Later in the day, I decided to make up some stuffing using bread cubes and an assortment of other stuff that I thought would make for a tasty bread stuffing (pine nuts, cranberries, celery, mushrooms, more fresh herbs, margarine and broth). I brought my tofu back into the kitchen and scooped out a hollow to hold the stuffing. There was enough stuffing not only to fill the tofu football but also to make another loaf pan. Once the stuffing was in place, I covered it back up with the excavated tofu, then gently but purposefully turned the product onto a greased cookie sheet.

It looked like a big 'baked Alaska' (remember those things?) but not quite as appetizing. The marinade consisted of red wine, balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard and fresh herbs. I spooned on some marinade, then placed the tofu into a 375 degree oven for 1 1/2 hours (drizzling marinade on every 15 minutes or so).

Rather quickly the tofu mound opened up with large crevices, and I began to think that something may be amiss. (I was reminded of a science project my sister Lynn had done way back in elementary school - she had made a working volcano complete with eruption....seems to me one of our cats had peed in it...but I digress.) Crevices or not, I kept to the routine, spooning the marinade over the surface and into the cracks every fifteen minutes, until the hour and a half was up. Out of the oven came a mass that now had a crusty brown surface, with large gaping gashes revealing the mushy insides and the pale creamy beige tofu. MMMMM....appetizing!

I announced to one and all that I thought the tofurkey was a complete and utter failure; my husband suggested I throw it out. This was not particularly inspiring, but he later said he was just agreeing with me and trying to be helpful.

We did start picking it apart and it wasn't all that bad taste wise, but it certainly did not look too pretty. I am now wondering if my stuffing wasn't a little too moist and maybe I should have used some commercial stove top stuffing.

Will I try this again? Oh probably (I can see my husband rolling his eyes when he reads this entry)....I usually give things a few tries before completely giving up!!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Visit the Winsome Constance Kindness Trust Foundation (link through title or picture)

If we have learned anything it is this. . . . . . . in their capacity to suffer, a dog is a pig is a bear . . . . . . . is a boy.

Philip Wollen

Whoever takes a stick
to beings desiring ease,
when one is looking for ease,
will meet with no ease after death.

Whoever doesn't take a stick
to beings desiring ease,
when one is looking for ease,
will meet with ease after death.

Udāna 2.13
http://tipitaka.org/romn/cscd/s0503m.mul1.xml#para13
Translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Calorie restriction but not the way we want......

From yesterday's Spectator, column by Gwynne Dyer's "It's almost too late to stop warming"...

  • past predictions by environmental scientists are proving to be inaccurate; based on observations during the last 2 years, climate changes are happening faster;
  • various military groups around the globe are now working on "climate change scenarios" and the effect it will have;
  • food will be the key issue; a 1 degree Celsius rise in average temperature around the world will have a profound effect on food producing, specifically in the countries closer to the equator ("includes almost all of the planet's bread baskets");
  • countries will not be able to feed their people and will not be able to buy the grains elsewhere because the world grain reserve will be empty (to date "we" have eaten 2/3 of the reserve already, leaving only 50 day's worth according to Gwynne);
  • "Starving refugees will flood across borders, whole nations will collapse into anarchy - and some countries may make a grab for their neighbours' land or water." (This is what is on the military back benches and tables - planning for this total melt-down.)

It is a pretty grim picture that Gwynne paints. It goes much further even suggesting that we are so far gone now, that emissions cutting might be to late. There are various geo-engineering band-aids in the works that may afford us additional time to cut our emissions.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Calorie Restriction and Life Expectancy

Eating fewer calories and the effect it has on our health and longevity is not a new science. I recall several years ago (20 maybe??) reading about a biosphere experiment somewhere in the warmer climes of the USA where several scientists lived together in a self-sustaining, fully-enclosed dome. I recall they ran into several problems (or lessons) with food production, climate, the agriculture, etc. The experience, may not have succeeded exactly as they had hoped for, but must have provided much new information. One of the scientists involved in this biosphere was also a big proponent of calorie restricted eating.Hence I stopped on the above site a couple of times. (Click on title to be redirected.)

No doubt it was my discomfort at seeing the two rhesus monkeys in a lab setting that made me skip by the site the first time. But I came back to it to look a little further into the story. Before I go on, you might wonder if I condone or encourage animal testing for medical research. This is not a black and white issue for me but I hope in the future, we can move from a symptom based health care system to a preventative health care system, this might alleviate much or even all, of the need for animal based experiments. Educate people so that they can prevent illness, rather than waiting for them to get sick and then treat the disease.

The story that comes with the picture is that these monkeys are at a ripe old age. However, one is aging typically as we do in our western culture and the other is maintaining a somewhat youthful level. The scientist is claiming it is the calorie restricted diet that is the key.

You will also notice the images under each monkey of human food - the one on the left of the screen is totally vegan and the dishes on the right, a typical western fare.

When I visited the home site, the scientist is actually following a calorie restricted diet himself. I can pack a fair amount of food into my little bio system throughout the day, but I don't think I overeat...maybe I do. If I was to follow a restricted diet, taking in fewer calories than I presently do now, I wonder how that would feel. How long do I want to live? Depends on quality of life I suppose....does keeping rhesus monkeys locked up in pens to live out their lives for this purpose make any sense? The people involved in this research would have much to say about the pros vs cons of this type of work....

But I really question why and to what end does this help humanity, not to mention the subjects involved.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Mincemeat Squares


I have this cookbook that I barely use anymore, but refuse to let go of. Me thinks that my sister Susanne gave it to me, (I thought for a wedding shower gift some 33 years ago), but seeing the publication date of 1979 (3 years after I married), I now wonder if she gave it to me for a birthday or Christmas gift. Anyhow, it is a self-published book called Jubilee Cookbook by the CWL of St. Stanislaus Parish here in Hamilton.

Every now and then I pull it off the shelves and leaf through the pages, which are now stained beyond belief with food, paint (somewhere along the way I had a green kitchen!), and whatever else floats about a kitchen during cooking,baking and frying, to eventually settle on any and all surfaces. The pages contain recipes for kuchens, brioche, baklava, stroganoffs, Hungarian cabbage rolls, plus the fashionable dishes of that time; example: 'lime cheese salad' (ingredients included Jello, Dream Whip, and marshmallows...mmmmm!). It gives me a chuckle to read the names and remember some of the dishes I prepared.

Coming back to December 14th, 2008....I was about to tell you that I
recently baked a batch of mincemeat tarts a few days ago. Leftover from the tarts, was about 1 cup of filling which I refrigerated, trusting that a revelation would appear in my sub-concious telling me what to do with the rest of the jar. So it was on page 143 of the Jubilee Cookbook, I re-discovered the recipe for mincemeat squares. With just a few adjustments, I created the following recipe. Results are * * * * (that's four-star!).

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup vegan shortening or margarine (Earth Balance makes both)
  • 4 oz. vegan cream cheese (Yoso or Tofutti)
  • 2 1/4 cups of sifted all-purpose flour (I split 50/50 all purpose + whole wheat)
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetarian mincemeat (I used 1 cup mincemeat + 1 chopped apple + 1 chopped pear)

Leave shortening or margarine and cream cheese at room temperature for at least 1 hour.
Mix and sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Add brown sugar and mix well. Add shortening (or margarine) and cream cheese and blend well with pastry cutter.

Spread 1/2 of mixture into bottom of 9" square pan and pat down lightly. Add mincemeat filling and spread evenly to edges of pan. Sprinkle remaining flour mixture on top, patting down lightly. Bake at 350F for 25 to 30 minutes. Cool and cut into squares or bars.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Rice Lentil Polou


Several years ago, my husband and I were part of the Baha'i community here in Hamilton. During those times, many Iranians were immigrating to Canada so we had many opportunities to try different Persian dishes. We fondly remember the delicious rice dishes, heaping platters of fragrant rice, flavoured with spices, vegetables and sometimes small amounts of meat. Of course, the prized 'tah dig' was much sought after. Tah dig was usually (in my experience) slices of potato sitting at the bottom of the pot; when the rice had cooked and was turned out onto the platter, the potato slices had by then become golden slices of crispy chips. I have just read that pita slices are used instead of potato.

The Persian rice recipe is a bit time-consuming, but well worth the effort for special dinners. For a faster and almost as tasty, and with no fat (the Persian recipe calls for oil and butter), I often make this Rice Lentil Polou from Laurel's Kitchen. My family loves it, the leftovers are delicious and it is so simple to prepare - it does take some time for cooking and includes one costly ingredient: pine nuts (but only 1/2 a cup!). Lentils are high in protein don't forget!

Ingredients: 1/2 medium onion, chopped; 1 tablespoon oil, 1 cup raw brown rice (I used basmati), 1 tablespoon tomato paste, 2 1/2 cups water or vegetable stock, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 cup raw lentils, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 cup raisins, 1/2 cup pine nuts or chopped almonds.

Directions: (use non-ferrous pot) Saute onion in oil until soft. Add rice and stir for several minutes. Combine tomato paste with water and cinnamon. Add this mixture, plus the rinsed lentils, to the rice. Bring to a boil, cover tightly, then turn heat down to very low and simmer for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350F. Add raisins, salt and nuts to rice. Mixture should still have some water, just a little; if not...add up to 1/4 cup of water. Turn rice into a greased baking dish; cover and bake for 20 to 30 minutes.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

"Dirty Little Secret"

Of the many reasons why it is a good idea to reduce or eliminate eating meat, the connection to the environment is one of the more crucial ones. Listen to Mr. Jeremy Rifkin (The Foundation of Economic Trends) speak about the impact of our taste for meat and what it is doing to our planet. His suggestion of implementing a tax on nitrous oxide and methane emissions (two global warming gases resulting from livestock production) and also a tax on meat consumption is an interesting one. According to the statistics, meat consumption is expected to increase by an alarming 50% by the year 2015, if consumer trends continue. The video is approximately 9 minutes and has been somewhat edited for this clip, however, you will have no problem following him. As Mr. Rifkin puts it, those of us living in the northern hemisphere, live high on the food chain and die of diseases of affluence, while our fellow citizens on the lower half of the earth's hemisphere are being quickly and radically marginalized and die of diseases of poverty.