Saturday, February 14, 2009

Closing Thoughts

When was it exactly, that I started this meandering blog of mine? A year and half ago or was it two years now? I do recall feeling very passionate about the intent, which was to educate people about the vegetarian (vegan) food choices and the cruelty behind our current standard mode of consumption as it specifically relates to the animals we raise as our main source of protein.

At one time, I considered myself an "angry vegan", so upset was I by what I had seen and read. That anger powered, in a sense, my drive. But was I really effective in changing anything or anyone?

Since adopting the vegetarian diet, my husband and sons have at different times, tried to eat a vegetarian or vegan diet. Currently, my husband is eating 90% vegetarian, but includes fish and chicken once a week. When he is out of the house, he chooses whatever he so desires at that time. My youngest son (a busy student and avid fitness enthusiast), lost too much weight, and has thus resorted to protein powders to maintain his lean frame. He also adds portions of cheese and other animal protein. My older son, also tried for a short while to eat a animal-free diet, but found it too limiting. He mentioned that in his nursing program, the educators were not supportive at all of the vegetarian diet. He has resumed an omnivorous diet.

As for me, I still aim for the vegan choices, although I have recently purchased some organic dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese) products. I am aware that organic does not mean that the dairy cows have long lives, happily grazing in a sun-dappled meadow somewhere. The organic aspect gives me some comfort knowing the cow had a natural diet during it's short life, and hence the product is free (or almost) free of hormones and additives. (My husband continues to eat milk and for that reason, I purchase the organic.) I continue to prefer the soy and almond beverages over cow's milk but have really enjoyed the addition of organic yoghurt a few times this week.

The biggest lesson that I have learned throughout this journey is that I cannot change anyone's food choices. I can be comfortable in my choices and lead by example. Getting in someone's face is certainly not my style. Even being fairly unobtrusive, I have noticed or felt, at times, that hostess' have been slightly miffed or annoyed with my refusal to eat certain dishes that they have lovingly prepared. In other instances, some have verbally stated that it is a pain in the neck to have to worry about a vegetarian when preparing a menu.

My solution to this is to always offer to bring something and I continually tell people to not worry about me - I never starve and can always eat many of the dishes on the table.

Reading an interview with a local dietitian, I could compare some of what she experienced as a dietitian to my story as a vegetarian. Her perception was that if people knew her profession, they felt slightly uncomfortable around her when eating, as they thought she might be judging. Now she keeps quiet about her profession, and finds that people are more relaxed and can enjoy their meals. This simple stance resonated with me - I have become more restrained about speaking out about my choices.

Could I ever go back to eating meat? Not likely, although recently one of my sons brought up the issue of what would happen if in my old age (and senility closing in), I was placed in a nursing home. What choices would I have then about what I ate? My answer to this was "None" but, at least for a few short years, relatively speaking, I chose to not eat animal products as one way I tried to alleviate some of the suffering in this world.

I leave you with this final quotation from the Dhammapadha, the words of the Buddha...

"One is not noble who injures living beings. One is 'noble' because one is harmless towards all living beings."

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Chickpea and Spinach Soup

2 cups uncooked brown rice
1 T olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, mined
8 oz. mushrooms, thinly sliced (approx 4 cups)
6 cups vegetarian broth (chicken flavoured or vegetable)
1/2 tsp dried rosemary, crumbled
1 can (15 oz) chickpeas, rinsed & drained
2 bags (5 oz each) baby spinach leaves
salt and pepper to taste
(optional) 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese or vegetarian Rice Parmesan

In large pan, bring 4 cups of water to boil and add rice. Return to boil then reduce heat and cover to simmer for approximately 30 minutes (do not lift the lid).

In another large pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, stirring & cooking until tender (5 minutes). Add garlic, mushrooms, again stirring and cooking until tender (5 minutes). Add broth and rosemary; bring to a boil. Cover and remove from heat.

If after 30 minutes the rice is not cooked (tender), continue cooking for up to 10 more minutes. Stir 2 cups of the cooked rice and the chickpeas into the broth, bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 5 minutes to allow flavours to blend.

Finally add spinach to broth, cooking, uncovered, until the spinach wilts (takes about a minute). Add seasoning and garnish with cheese as desired.

This recipe is enough for 4 people.

(Recipe courtesy of Whole Living / Body and Soul Publication Dec 2007)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Baked Beans with Irish Soda Bread

Baked Beans:

We really like this version of home-made baked beans. There is a little advance preparation involved though, in that the navy beans need to soak overnight. Typically, I soak about 3 cups of beans in a large bowl. The following morning, I then cook the beans in a pressure cooker. Alternatively you can skip this part and just assemble the recipe below in a slow cooker and cook the beans for 8-10 hours.

The sauce is as follows:

1 onion diced, 2 tablespoons white vinegar, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/3 cup brown sugar, 1 6 ounce can tomato paste, 4 tablespoons ketchup, 1/4 cup margarine, 2 tablespoons molasses.

Into a large rectangular baking dish (9x13), sprayed with oil, I place the diced onion and then the drained beans. In a small bowl I combine all of the remaining ingredients except the molasses. I pour this over the beans and then using some of the cooking water from the pressure cooker, I pour approximately 2 cups over the beans stirring to thin the sauce and to ensure an even distribution of sauce and beans. Finally, I drizzle the molasses on top and mix in slightly (I like the taste of molasses and it darkens the sauce a little.)

Bake in a medium -low temperature oven for 30 minutes (or less...remember the beans are already cooked).

Tonight I am serving with Irish Soda Bread; recipe courtesy of The Joy of Vegan Baking by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau.

Irish Soda Bread


2 cups nondairy milk
2 tsp white distilled vinegar
4 cups unbleached flour (or 2 cups unbleached + 2 cups whole wheat)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup non-hydrogenated nondairy butter, melted


Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit; lightly grease a 9 to 10 inch cake pan. Combine milk and vinegar and let stand 5 to 10 minutes to curdle. In large bowl, mix flour(s), baking soda and salt. Add milk and vinegar and melted butter. Combine into sticky dough. You can turn this out onto a floured board and knead approximately 12 fold overs. Place dough in prepared pan and slice a cross onto the surface. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Bread should have a hollow sound when thumped. Cool slightly before serving. (Bread will be good for 2 to 3 days...but it won't last that long. Tastes great toasted too!)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

January Slump....will not last forever.

Hopefully in a few days, weeks, I will have something worthwhile to say...but for now working on other projects, percolating ideas for 2009! Be back soon.