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.

Monday, December 22, 2008

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

Yesterday, I made the famous tofurkey, following the directions from the 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
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!).


  • 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.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Apple Strudel with Phyllo Pastry

If you, like me, have avoided Phyllo Pastry like the plague, I am here to tell you...avoid no longer! I have had a box of the PC phyllo pastry sitting in my freezer for some time now. Opportunity presented itself this week, when some baking was needed for a family get together. Who knows how long this box would have sat in our freezer, had I not gathered the gumption to attempt to bake with it.

I can tell you in all honesty, the apple strudel I prepared using the instructions on the box, was a huge success! Three strudels are now notched on my belt, with the latest just assembled moments ago, and baking in the oven as I type this entry. The basic recipe (veganized) is as follows, with the addition of some raisins and fresh cranberries (1/8 to 1/4 cup each), for colour and just because I love anything with raisins!

6 Tbsp vegan margarine, 1/3 cup chopped pecans, 1/4 cup plain dry breadcrumbs, 2 apples, 1/4 cup granulated sugar, 1 tsp lemon juice, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 5 sheets of phyllo pastry, 1 tbsp granulated sugar.

1. Preheat oven to 375 Fahrenheit.

2. In small frying pan, melt 1 tbsp margarine over medium heat; cook pecans and bread crumbs, stirring frequently for 3 minutes. Set aside.

3. Peel, quarter (or chop finely) apples. Combine in bowl with lemon juice, sugar, cinnamon and the pecan and bread crumb mixture.

4. Melt remaining margarine. Place sheet of phyllo on your preparation surface (I used a long sheet of waxed paper); with pastry brush apply some melted margarine. Lay second sheet on top and brush on more melted margarine. Proceed until all sheets are layered and greased.

5. Stand facing the long side of the phyllo, place the entire apple mixture on the edge closest to you (leave about 2 inches on either end clear).

6. Gently, as if rolling sushi, start rolling and compressing the apple mixture all the way across. (The wax paper helps as you can use it to guide the roll and compress the filling without handling the phyllo too much with your hands.)

7. Roll the whole ensemble, back towards you so it is in the middle of your wax paper - then gently lift, using the wax paper as a hammock and transfer over to your cooking sheet. (Leave the wax paper on your baking sheet OR use parchment paper. The wax paper will smoke a bit in your oven but not burn.)

8. If you have a little margarine left, or you can also use spray cooking oil, moisten the top surface of the strudel and sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of sugar on top. Cut vents every 2 inches along the length of the strudel.

9. Bake, covered loosely with foil, for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake for another 15 minutes.

10. Serve warm with sauce or ice cream. (I read on some website that Europeans would never eat strudel cold; always warm and with a sauce!)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Tortilla Lasagna

I picked up a copy of Company's Coming / Simply Vegetarian booklet at Fortino's the other day. It is a small collection of vegetarian and some vegan recipes, inexpensive at $4.99. Actually, I was thinking of buying a few more to hand out to friends and family who are still very apprehensive about having to prepare vegetarian dishes.

One of the recipes is this Tortilla Lasagna, which I was going to prepare with the suggested ingredients of cottage cheese and mozzarella cheese. However, my son Matt, balked at this and goaded me into sticking to my "vegan guns" so to speak. (Thanks Matt for keeping your Ma on the straight and narrow!!)

I prepared the dish with tofu and vegan cheese and lots of "Italian" spices and I must say, the result was excellent. (Even my husband tried a wedge and announced it was "OK"...high praise from him as he is not a big fan of tofu!) But really, I was pleasantly surprised and very pleased with the results.

  • 2 cups thick tomato sauce,
  • 1/2 package of veggie ground round (170 gm approx.)
  • (I used the faux chicken ground by Yves),
  • 1/2 tub (212 gm approx.) of firm tofu, crumbled,
  • 1 package vegan mozzarella cheese (284 gm size),
  • salt and pepper to taste,
  • spices (Oregano, Rosemary, white pepper) ,
  • 4 or 5 flour tortillas

Mix the tofu, vegan mozzarella, veggie ground round, spices + 1 1/2 cups of the tomato sauce. Lightly grease a 9 inch pan (a quiche dish works well), and lay the first tortilla, spread a generous amount of the mixture to cover the tortilla (about 1/3 cup), then add next tortilla, spread more of the cheese mixture, etc. until you have used up the filling. My last layer was a tortilla, but you could finish up with a cheese layer as well. Spread the final 1/2 cup of tomato sauce over the top. I added a sprig of rosemary for decoration and also drizzled just a bit of olive oil over the top. Pop into a 375 degree Fahrenheit oven and bake, uncovered for approximately 45 minutes until cheese is melted and golden. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving. Serves 6.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Isn't man an amazing animal? He kills wildlife - birds, kangaroos, deer, all kinds of cats, coyotes, beavers, groundhogs, mice, foxes and dingoes - by the million in order to protect his domestic animals and their feed. Then he kills domestic animals by the billion and eats them. This in turn kills man by the millions, because eating all those animals leads to degenerative - and fatal - health conditions like heart disease, kidney disease, and cancer. So then man tortures and kills millions more animals to look for cures for these diseases. Elsewhere, millions of other human beings are being killed by hunger and malnutrition because food they could eat is being used to fatten domestic animals. Meanwhile, some people are dying of sad laughter at the absurdity of man, who kills so easily and so violently, and once a year, sends out cards praying for Peace on Earth.
David Coats, Old MacDonald's Factory Farm

"...the way to avoid killing is to avoid having others kill for you...

Find more videos like this on Engaged Buddhists

18th Century Tibetan Buddhist Shabkar and his view on animals

Find more videos like this on Engaged Buddhists

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sprouting Beans

As mentioned in a previous entry, a couple of weeks back, I had the pleasure of a (mostly) raw dinner with a group in Guelph. The raw sprouts were delicious and I was inspired anew to try sprouting dried beans. I consulted my tried and trusted cookbook, Laurel's Kitchen and chose their simple instructions on sprouting.

  • you will need a wide mouth jar (or Mason Jar) and some cheesecloth.
  • Scoop approx. 2 tablespoons of beans and put into bowl, cover beans with water to soak overnight.
  • Drain in the morning, then put the beans into the jar and secure the cheesecloth over the mouth of the jar with an elastic band.
  • Place the jar on it's side, propped up somewhat on an angle (I used a loaf pan) with the mouth of the jar in the lowest position. I also dampened a towel and loosely wrapped this under the mouth of the jar (to prevent the beans from drying out) and then flipped the driest area back over the whole jar (like a little tent).
  • the whole contraptions can sit on your counter or you can put it into a cupboard to sit for the next couple of days.
  • twice a day, you rinse and drain (right through the cheesecloth) the beans.
  • Within 2-3 days the beans have sprouted and are ready to eat.

My friend Honey of Simply Zen recommends you don't let the "tails" get too long which they will, if you leave the beans sprouting for several days.

So far, I have sprouted chickpeas, lentils and a blended assortment (fenugreek, lentils, kalmut and adzuki beans). You can sprout from dried beans you might have in the cupboard (chickpeas, lentils) or purchase sprouting seeds like Mumm's (available at Simply Zen).

Sprouts are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals and enzymes but for me the appeal is their fresh, crunchy texture and delicious taste.

This morning, wanting to use up some kale and sprouted chickpeas I whirred together in the food processor those ingredients plus the ginger, olives, sun-dried tomates, olive oil, sunflower and pumpkin seeds and tamari sauce (same as the kale dip recipe a few weeks back). With some crackers and a nice green tea, I enjoyed an mid-morning snack, while watching the birds and squirrels just outside my kitchen window.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

NEW "Hamilton Vegetarian Association"

I am pleased to announce that Hamilton's very own Vegetarian Association has re-established itself. Their plans initially are to offer potluck get-together's, restaurant meet-ups and a directory.

For more information about upcoming activities, visit their website at

My feeling is that this is the right time for this endeavour and I pledge my full support and co-operation to the Association.

Looking forward to seeing YOU at their first POTLUCK dinner!!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

My newest dishes....thanks to my teachers Masako & Lin

Fresh Wrap with Cilantro,
Avocado, Sprouts, Julienned Carrots & Cole Slaw,
Kale Dip (see below), Lettuce, Toffuti Sour Cream.

Lightly fried tofu
(marinade - Namo Shoyu, Ginger & Basil for 1 hour)
served on bed of steamed Bok Choy

Potato / Squash Soup

Kale (or Chard) Dip:
1/2 bunch washed kale or chard leaf, stems removed, 4 slices fresh ginger, 1/4 cup each sunflower & pumpkin seeds (soak first for 2 hours), 1/2 cup olive oil, handful black olives, 1 T Namo Shoyu, 1 T sundried tomatoes. In food processor, process contents for a few seconds.

** If using kale, taste will be much stronger than with chard.**
(I have used both and prefer the more delicate chard!)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Pumpkin Pie (without the dairy!)

Thanksgiving (and Christmas too) are traditional "turkey" affairs. From my first Tofurkey experience a few years back, my vegetarian/vegan entrees have improved greatly. However, this Thanksgiving, I am off to the Big Apple with a friend. Hence din-din is in the hands of my hubby. I will set the table tomorrow before flying out, leave written instructions to take out such and such on this day. With any luck at all, when I arrive back home Sunday just around dinner time, there should be some food ready (maybe even a Tofurkey)!

Having some heart, I did prepare an apple and pumpkin pie in advance. (Both are in the downstairs freezer Honey - so take them out on Sunday morning)!! As my son's friend, Beth has a strong allergic reaction to dairy, she is always so greatful to eat any of my baking. (I thrive on this positive feedback, all the while trying to remain humble.) is a recipe for Perfect Pumpkin Pie, thanks to those two Canadian vegan pioneers Tanya Barnard and Sarah Kramer (from "How It All Vegan").

1 1/2 cups soy milk
egg replacer (to equal 2 eggs)
1 16oz can of pumpkin (I had a Stokeley's can which was only 14oz)
1/2 cup sweetener (I used 1/2 and 1/2 maple syrup & agave nectar)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp powdered ginger
1 pie crust

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit. In a large bowl, whisk together the milk and the egg replacer. Add the pumpkin, sweetener, cinnamon and ginger, and mix together well. Pour into a pie crust and bake for 30-40 minutes until centre is firm.

(Note: My oven may be off a bit, as after 40 minutes the centre of the pie was not firm. I left the pie in an additional 10 minutes. It still looked unsettled when I took it out, but after cooling for an hour or so, the filling appeared firm. When I wrapped it for the freezer, it had definitely set!)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Living with fear...

Recently on the TVA's e-newsletter, another story appeared, this time from Australia, about cruelty inflicted on farm animals. Quite often when I see these stories, my thoughts drift back to a passage in Iris Chang's book, The Rape of Nanking. You might be wondering what is the connection between war time atrocities and factory-farm cruelties, but I see a direct correlation.

In the attached link (click on the title to ready full story), animal activists posed as workers in an Australian meat processing plant. An employee was observed "viciously beating pigs with a metal rod while shouting to one of the PETA spies: "I hate them. These (expletives) deserve to be hurt. Hurt, I say!"

Chang's book talks a lot about how Japanese soldiers were indoctrinated by their commanders into thinking that the Chinese were no worthier than "pigs". Attacking the citizens of Nanking, the Japanese soldiers, on their wild orgies of raping and killing, gave no more thought than one would when butchering farm animals. I wish I had the book at hand so that I could quote the passage, but if you are curious I would recommend this historical work (although of a ghastly nature, I could not put it down....Chang's story of Nanking will stay with you long after the last page is read).

Another recent story appeared about the U.S. military using live pigs in their training. I am assuming that pigs physiologically are similar to humans, hence make good 'live' target practice. The military also claimed that they were studying the damage to the animal for medical reasons.

I have often thought that to work on an assembly line in a meat processing plant, one, must of necessity, become quite numb (even if said person, entering the doors, possessed only a grain of sensibility). Also helpful if you want to kill without interference from a conscience, is a complete shift in thinking or attitude. The object becomes a 'thing' to be despised and reviled. In turn to rid yourself of the stomach-churning revulsion you must annihilate the object. Is this how it worked for a young, poor and probably hungry soldier in Japan back in the invasion of China, or continues to work in other parts of our world today?

In my view, it matters not whether we are talking pigs or people...the tendency of the strong to dominate the weak ('dominion over') is everywhere and very close at hand. The propaganda never changes - strip the enemy (be it a chicken or a person) of any identity, at the very least any similarities between you and them. You can then go out and do your job and sleep at night.

I wonder if this really works...could I be indoctrinated so readily given the right conditions?
Makes me afraid. Very afraid.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Seitan (A Meat 'Analog')

My son was inquiring the other day about making seitan (pronounced say-tan). Seitan is a low calorie, high protein wheat gluten of which you make a dough to simmer in a broth; it can then be used in a variety of ways (sliced, chunked, ground) . Tubs of the flour are available at Fortino's in the organic section, Bulk Barn, Goodness Me and the Horn of Plenty. There are packaged, prepared setian products sold at Goodness Me and Horn of Plenty, but they are expensive for the portion size. Making your own seitan is very inexpensive and fairly quick.

As the adjective 'analog' implies, seitan has similar properties to traditional meat in dishes. It can be used in a stew (Affinity serves a mouth-watering stew with seitan chunks), ground up for chilli's or spaghetti.

Should you be looking for a meat substitute, try the following recipes.

First step is to make the Gluten dough:

1 cup of instant gluten flour
1 cup of water
1/2 tsp. salt (optional)

Add water to gluten flour and salt.
Using your hands, mix quickly to avoid the flour clumping.
Knead gently into a flat dough of about 2" thick.
Steam or boil dough for 30 minutes
for making into Seitan by following the recipe that follows.

Making Seitan:
2 tbsp. oil
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 chopped onion and 5 cloves of garlic
1-2 tsp. grated fresh ginger and thyme
2-4 cups of water or vegetable stock
1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce

Heat both oils in a pan, saute the onions, garlic, ginger and thyme
until onion is tender. Add the water, tamari and gluten.
Bring mixture slowly to boil and simmer over a very low heat
for about 45 minutes. After the seitan is ready, any broth that
didn't get absorbed may be thickened with arrowroot, cornstarch
or flour as a gravy to serve over the seitan.

(For other recipes and information about Seitan, click on the post TITLE to be connected to a site devoted to Seitan or 'kofu' as it is also known.)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I make my world with my thoughts....

Across Canada, the recent outbreak of listeriosis has prompted a massive recall of hundreds of brand name prepared meats. Last evening during the 6 o'clock news the business editor suggested that this fiasco may mean the end of the huge Maple Leaf Foods due to the potential civil lawsuits which could amount to billions of dollars. And let me not forget that at current count, 14 people in Canada have died from eating contaminated products. This count will no doubt rise as the incubation period for the bacteria once consumed is 70 days (that is...symptoms can take as long as 70 days to manifest after consumption of tainted product).

For a brief moment I felt triumphant jubilation. Yes, bring Maple Leaf to it's knees - one less slaughterhouse. OK so this was not one of my more mindful, compassionate moments....the bankruptcy of Maple Leaf Foods would have far reaching effects financially not only for it's employees, but it's customers and suppliers. (This would include my former employer who sold to peripheral business' in the huge circle of this particular meat processing plant.) Therefore much suffering would ensue from the loss of jobs. The CEO of Maple Leaf has accepted full responsibility for the contamination and offered a sincere apology to those suffering with the ill effects and to the families of those individuals who succumbed to the infection.

I also discovered in my research that listeriosis can come from not only contaminated uncooked meat but also dairy products (soft cheeses) and vegetables. Obviously we must all be vigilant in our handling and preparation of all foods to avoid any kind of contamination. Unfortunately, in this outbreak the bacteria found it's way into the product after it was cooked and processed, i.e. in the packaging section of the line.

But back to my earlier stance, albeit a smug one. Most likely if the huge Maple Leaf falls, someone else will come in to fill the spot. So no, I don't believe that the demise of one meat processor will slow down or eliminate a portion of the suffering involved in the slaughter of millions of animals that are off-loaded regularly at Maple Leaf's guarded warehouses.

However, I believe more and more passionately that my thoughts affect and create the world I live in. Hence, I choose to water a seed of hope (borrowing words from Thich Nhat Hahn) my hope, that this world, this planet will come to be one where the human population does not eat animal flesh, does not exploit animals in research, entertainment or personal pleasure.

I think I am not the only one who nourishes this hope. Regardless, people, especially my fellow-Canadians, must be giving some thought to the meat they are throwing in their shopping carts.

On a lighter note (but still deadly serious), a friend forwarded this interesting link: a blog on the London (UK) publication, Daily Telegraph. I quite enjoyed the read - established facts presented with dry wit!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Sunday, Aug. 17 Hamilton Food Not Bombs

This Sunday, August 17th and Sunday, August 24th, the Hamilton Chapter of Food Not Bombs will be preparing and offering free vegetarian meals to all hungry people. The location is Gore Park, downtown Hamilton (pictured above) King Street East between James and Hughson.

According to the advice notice I read in Mayday/Community Events, FNB describe themselves as a "non-hierarchical organizational model and are committed to social change through building democratic, compassionate community".

You are welcome to participate by contributing or serving. For more information please contact

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Lessons from my fish

You can barely see a hint of their orange-gold scales in the picture, but I assure you this pond that sits outside of my kitchen window has several large gold fish in it. They are part of the menagerie of animals that this family has taken care of for quite a few years. Normally, at such a 'Kodak' moment, the fish would be right at the surface, mouthing up at me enthusiastically. As well trained fish-owners, to reward this little display, whoever was standing at the edge, would throw in some floating pellets. The food would be gobbled up in a gold fish feeding frenzy. During these eat-as-much-as-you-can-in-60-seconds, our lone catfish, like a stealth fighter, would rise from the black depths, slowly and deliberately, taking in whatever pellets he could selvage.

Much as we got accustomed to this, we never got used to it. Thus, it was one hot afternoon, that I heard through the kitchen window, the sound of a fish breeching. Absorbed in whatever I was doing, I took mental note, but delayed going out with my bag of fish pellets. Some minutes later, I stepped out the back door and stood glued to my place, wide-eyed, as a heron ascended from my pond. Herons in my part of the world are far and few between, living as I do, in a sub-division of a large city. In my 55 years, I can honestly say I have, luckily, seen several heron out in the country, but certainly, not more than a dozen over this span. My point is, I consider herons a rare and privileged sight to see, just not in "my" pond, eating "my fish"!!

Coming around to the end of the pond, I peered into the depths (actually just about 3 feet, deep enough for the fish to winter over from December to March/April). I could not see a single fish. Frantic, I called my husband at work to tell him ALL the fish were gone and that I suspected a heron. What was he going to do? Arrest the heron?

Resigned to the fate of our little fish, we accepted the situation, discussed it with neighbours, called fellow pond owners to warn them. (You might be thinking at this point...this women has no life...and you would not be far off the mark! But be patient, there is a point to all of this.)

A day or so after the big event, I again looked into the pond and saw way, way down some colour and movement. the heron had not get them all. However, we were told by an expert (OK, he was a high school student working at the garden centre) that if a heron visits once, they will return again and again, as long as is necessary to empty the buffet table, so to speak. Acting on this advice, my husband constructed this ugly, but necessary, screened tent over the pond. One of our neighbours, thoughtfully, with care and concern, walked over with a huge mixing bowl, water sloshing over the sides and carefully emptied a brightly coloured, googly eyed rubber fish, (taken from one of his children's bath tub critters) into the water. Were it not for his hysterial laughter, I would have thought, how kind of him to do that.

So, long story short, we are now three weeks, maybe four, since the theft. We have removed the eye-sore screening from above the pond. But have our remaining fish recovered? Apparently not. They remain, traumatized it would seem, approximately 12 inches below the surface of the water. We throw food in, they get all excited and swim around crazily, but will not come up to the top, preferring to wait for the pellets to become sodden and drop down to them. This seems odd to me. Is there an "alpha" fish, so charismatic, that they have agreed to follow his/her advise to stay down low, no matter how tempting the sunshine and faces at the surface? Or, as one friend threw out, maybe they are grieving the loss of some in their clan, staying secluded for an unknown period of time. In any case, I am getting a little tired of this. A lot of work went into creating this "natural ambience" what with the back braking digging, hauling and placement of boulders, plants and moss. We like to enjoy it's features including the dozen or so gold fish frolicking about.

Nothing I do is changing the situation. I am at my wits end. We tried adding a newbie, a tiny shubunkin, thinking that a new resident, one without a background history of coming face to face with a heron beak would encourage the others to go back to their easy going, fun-loving natures. Strange... I haven't seen that little shubunkin lately either. Could they have pulled him to the dark side that quickly?

I need a fish-whisperer. Someone who can remind the fish, that yes, life is safer in the shadows, with less risk of being eaten by a heron, but there is greater joy when you leave the abyss. Someone who can coax them back up to the sun rays, to nibble again on the hyacinth roots, to nestle into the soft beds of mossy algae.

If you are gifted in such a way, able to penetrate the inner sanctum of the fish world, send me a comment as soon as possible. All suggestions are welcome; progress reports will be updated regularly.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Chocolate Chip Sesame Cookies

1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup finely chopped almonds
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup soy milk
3 Tbsp. sesame seeds
2 Tbsp. canola oil
1 Tsp. vanilla
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup amaranth flour (or soy flour) (I used barley flour...can't remember now why I bought barley flour...but it worked OK in this recipe)
1 Tsp. baking powder
1/4 Tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. In a large bowl, combine sugar, almonds, maple syrup, soy milk, sesame seeds, oil and vanilla. Beat until well mixed.

2. In a separate bowl, sift together the two flours, baking powder and salt. Gradually beat into the sugar mixture until well mixed. Stir in chocolate chips.

3. With a tablespoon, drop heaping spoonfuls of batter onto baking sheet (lightly greased). Bake for 15 minutes or until cookies brown on bottom. Allow cookies to cool before serving.

Marie's Sweet Marinade for Grilled Tofu

Marinate 1 lb block of firm tofu (quartered and cut into rectangular slices) in the following ingredients for 1 (or more) hour. Broil in oven or on grill for about 10 minutes.

3 Tbsp. melted butter (I used Canola oil instead)
3 Tbsp. honey
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. Tamari

Thanks to Sarah from the Horn of Plenty in Dundas who shared this and other recipes.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Safe, simple, effective cleaning products

Creamy Soft Scrub:

2 cups (500ml) baking soda
1/2 cup (125ml) liquid castile soap (made from vegetable oil not animal fat)
4 tsp (20ml) vegetable glycerin
5 drops antibacterial essential oil (lavender, tea tree, rosemary or any preferred)

Mix all ingredients; store in clean tub container (I used an empty margarine container).

All-Purpose Cleaner:

2 cups (500ml) white distilled vinegar
2 cups (500ml) water
20 to 30 drops or more of essential oil

Store in spray container.

I have tried both recipes now and can vouch for their effectiveness. As the picture indicates, I used Dr. Bronner's Lavender scented castile soap for the creamy scrub. In the all-purpose cleaner which works well as a glass cleaner too, I used eucalyptus essential oil.

Cleaning with wonderfully scented products in my opinion just makes the job all that more enjoyable!

Recipes from Women's Voices for the Earth website.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Non-Violence as Daily Practice

Is Meat-Eating Violence?
By partaking in eating meat, especially in the old days before prepackaged, supermarket foods, and fast food, one had to think of where to find the animal, how to kill it, how to prepare it for consumption, and then how to cook, eat and preserve it. Hence, the whole process of eating animals was ‘himsa,’ because one had to think of all this, possibly speak of it (planning the killing, etc.) and act on it by killing, preparing and eating the animal. In Indian history, we have the seminal example King Ashoka (circa 273-232 BC), who - from being a ruthless warrior - not only became a Buddhist, but also promoted ahisma and vegetarianism in his later life.

When we eat the flesh of a dead animal, we not only partake in ‘himsa’ in our own spirit, but we can also become affected by the spirit of the dead animal. In order to have been eaten the animal had to die. In dying, it felt pain, it struggled, cried, tried to continue living as long as possible. Since it was slaughtered, it died in fright, pain, mental and emotional anguish and struggle. Then it has to be skinned, gutted, processed and packaged to end up on a plate, decorated and consumed in human pleasure. In human pleasure, one does not think of the pain of the once living animals on the plate. Hence partaking in eating meat, one is not just ingesting and digesting protein and nutrients, but the feelings of violence which erupted in the animal from its unnatural death.

Author: Jennifer Polan for

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Empowering Women - Care Canada

Iam powerful! Visit

Monday, June 16, 2008

Summer Hiatus

I will be taking a few weeks off from this journal, having recently "retired" from my place of employment. It has been approximately 3 weeks since my last day. In that time, my husband and I camped in the Canadian Shield, visited our oldest son and now are spending the remaining week of his vacation time doing odd chores around the house.

As the transition is proving to be more challenging than I expected, I will be using these next couple of months to do some "inner work".

Check back with me in September, for news and updates - I am confident and excited about what may be around the corner.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

New goals - buy less, eat less, waste less!

My husband just exclaimed moments ago, that he had (by sending me a link to a blog devoted to the issue of wasted food) launched me in a whole new direction! To which I replied "you've always been my best teacher!"

What he says is true in a certain way - I think you would have to be in complete isolation not to see the big picture. It's all over the papers, on television - Burma, China, Darfur - people starving, food prices on the rise, and yet here in the West, abundant wealth - despite gas prices climbing through the roof, we still spend way to much and still waste too much. It is frightening; I feel like we are teetering on the edge of a full-blown societal collapse.

But I always calm myself down and take a look to see what can I do...and believe me, I don't look too far. The knowledge and support is out there. Last Sunday's Toronto Star had a cover story named 'Junked Food'. I won't give you the full run-down, but in a nutshell: the amount of food dumped last year in Toronto (by residential areas alone) was 210 million kilograms. A study done in the U.K. by a research group, WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) claims that less than 1/5 of the food was authentic scraps (bones, peelings etc); that 15% of the food was in the original wrapper, some thrown out before the 'use by' date.

A table within the article described the waste problem and then gave tips to avoid waste:

1. Stop doing your groceries once or every other week (we buy too much food and end up throwing it out as it rots in our refrigerators). I have always done my shopping this way but agree totally that this is a wasteful way of consuming.

2. At the table, we take too much food and then leave too many scraps on our plates.

3. Plan meals and purchase the ingredients for these planned meals (avoid impulse purchases).

4. Save leftovers (store them properly for another night's meal or lunches during the week). Much of the fruits we purchase will last longer (1 to 2 weeks) if stored in the crisper drawer in the fridge.

5. Freeze food purchases that you will not consume by the best before date.

6. Be brave - face what you have in the cupboard and refrigerator and prepare a meal! You can do it! It's only a matter of confidence.*

*The worst that can happen are complaints from the "peanut gallery" (does anyone use that phrase anymore?) and leftovers. But then, this means you have something that you can turn into a what is known, affectionately, as a "week's end soup". Who knows, the 'reincarnated' meal may taste great and get rave reviews. (Naturally, should the rave reviews be forthcoming, one must avoid the impulse to smile smugly and announce, what had just crossed their lips was the very same stuff, lovingly prepared 2 days ago, which had been the source of endless critiquing! Not that this has happened in my house. Noooo....never. Sorry....a little dry humour on my part.)

Be you a meat-eating carnivore or a strict vegan or somewhere in between, this waste issue is a responsibility that we must all share in. By addressing the causes, we can effect a change and in the process, become consumers with compassion - for the animals, human or otherwise and for our planet.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Interview with Masako and Ky

Masako & Ky
Age: 66 and 71
Vegetarian / Raw (50% Raw)

Masako and Ky can often be found at Simply Zen helping their daughter, Honey, in whatever capacity is required - customer service or tending to the newest staff member, 6 month old Jordan!

Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting Honey's father KY and Honey's little girl, Jordan. While her Mommy was busy helping out customers, Jordan perused the activity from the safety of her Grandpa's arms. Masako has mentioned that when she and Ky eventually relocate to the Hamilton area, she will prepare some authentic vegetarian food for me. (How fortunate for me, I must say. But, unbeknown to Masako, I intend to bring a notebook as I plan to glean some tips and recipes!!)

1. How many years have you practiced this way of eating?

Masako & Ky: 13 years

2. What motivated you to adopt this particular diet?

Masako & Ky: We are believers of the "Tao" philosophy (different from the Tao religion). The soul of an animal is just as important and equal to that of a human being and consuming animals would be contradictory to our belief. Eating mostly raw is very healthy, and with the gas/hydro prices going up, we are also saving money!!

3. What challenges do you face to maintain this food lifestyle?

Masako & Ky: We often do not dine out even though there are many vegetarian options now available because we do not eat garlic or onions. Otherwise it's easy for us to maintain this lifestyle.

4. If you could give tips or advice to someone new to this type of eating, what would it be?

Masako & Ky: If someone wants to adopt this particular type of eating and is having a hard time, we suggest eliminating the intake of animal products gradually.

5. What is your favourite meal quick meal to prepare?

Ky: Natto (fermented soybeans) and green salad.

Masako: I love all food, so it's hard for me to choose a favourite.

6. Have you noticed any changes in yourself since you began eating this way?

Ky: I have high blood pressure for a good number of years and it has gotten better. I have become a much more calmer person.

Masako: We both have more energy than we did before.

Links for "Natto" and "Tao" selected by me & not suggested by Masako & Ky.
Photo: 'Tao' by Andrew Illachinski.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Interview with Thich nu Tinh Quang

Name: Thich nu Tinh Quang
Age: 61

Sister Tinh Quang, is the founder and director of the Blue Heron Zen Buddhist Centre community, here in Hamilton. It is not easy to describe Sister Tinh Quang and I have only known her since 1999...but I will try!

Some time ago, on the refrigerator in the centre's kitchen, there used to be a picture of a little girl, dressed up in a cowboy outfit....turns out that this was our Sister as a young girl whose very hero was none other than Roy Rogers (and very definitely NOT Dale Evans!). That little piece of historical trivia explains a lot about Sister.

OK, she doesn't keep a horse or carry a gun.....but she is certainly one small, powerhouse of a woman who charges forth into uncharted territory and could be described as a "pistol" (although pistol and Buddhist nun in the same sentence......not sure about that!)

With training and credentials (McMaster University, Gestalt Institute) in philosophy, human resources, addictions and mental health she is well-qualified for her work. Through her mindful practice and devotion to the Buddha's teachings , she works tirelessly, with kindness and compassion, to provide accessible workshops, seminars, counseling, outreach programs, to name but a few, to help one and all awaken to their fullest human potential. A lofty goal, but with quiet dignity, she stays true to her path inspiring all.

Here is her interview.

Compassionate: How many years have you practiced this way of eating?

Sister Tinh Quang: Since 1973.

Compassionate: What motivated you to adopt this particular diet?

Sister Tinh Quang: I was asked a couple of questions by a meat-eater, who was just making an observation. "How can you be eating a pork chop while you cuddle a kitten? How do you determine which animal is okay to kill and which one isn't?" I was given pause to think. I liked pigs very much. Why was it okay to eat them? Suddenly, it wasn't okay anymore.

Compassionate: What challenges do you face to maintain this lifestyle?

Sister Tinh Quang: I try to eat as close to vegan as I can, but it is not easy. As a monastic, I must accept whatever food is offered. Luckily, I'm not given meat, but sometimes I am given eggs, or dairy by well-meaning people. I'm leaving for Mongolia in a few weeks, and though I will be with monastics for most of the time there, the first 2 days will be a challenge, as I must find my own meals. I understand that finding vegetarian in Mongolia can be quite challenging.

Compassionate: If you could give tips or advice to someone new to this type of eating, what would it be?

Sister Tinh Quang: Learn as much as you can about nutrition, without becoming to dogmatic about it. Also, get yourself some good vegetarian cookbooks or go on the web - lots and lots of blogs with recipes and information. When I became vegetarian in 1973, there were very few vegetarians around, no internet, and any cookbooks had inedible (to me) recipes. Luckily, I knew some Hindus who helped me learn to cook healthy vegetarian meals. Before consulting with them, I ate a lot of grilled cheese and French fries, and boiled everything else. Not very appetizing.

Compassionate: What is your favourite meal?

Sister Tinh Quang: I enjoy most pasta dishes. I love tofu, now that I know how to prepare it properly (that took a few years). However, my favourite meal is very simple. A bowl of miso soup with cubed tofu, sprinkled with sesame seeds or cilantro. This is followed by brown basmati rice, covered with a vegetarian Korean Bipimbop. Spicy and tasty.

Compassionate: Have you noticed any changes in yourself since you began eating this way?

Sister Tinh Quang: I have to remember back as the changes were most evident in the beginning. I had more energy, and became more aware of what I was putting into my body. Before becoming a vegetarian I would look at a field of cows and think, "oh, how nice, a field of cows". Now, when I see them I see fellow travelers on this planet, who have a right to live a natural, cow life, and have as much right to be here as I do.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Interview with Honey

Honey, pictured with her beautiful little girl, Jordan, is proprieter of
SIMPLY ZEN on Locke Street here in Hamilton. The small shop near Main Street is brimming with the most amazing selection of gifts, clothing (organic), fair trade, raw & vegan food, environmentally safe cleaning products, personal care, incense, candles, cushions.....I could go on. Tightly packed into a small space, Simply Zen is one of my favourite places to shop - for it's peaceful atmosphere, friendly, helpful staff and unique merchandise.

NAME: Honey
AGE: early 40's

How many years have you practiced this way of eating?

Honey: 27+ years, mostly RAW for 2+ years

Compassionate: What motivated you to adopt this particular diet?

Honey: The taste of non-veg items repulsed me - going raw seemed to be a natural diet to adopt after being Vegan for so long.

Compassionate: What challenges do you face to maintain this food lifestyle?

Honey: Eating out can be challenging, as well as dinner parties.

Compassionate: If you could give tips or advice to someone new to this type of eating, what would it be?

Honey: Always listen to your body and if you fall of the wagon, don't stress out about it.

Compassionate: What is your favourite food or meal?

Honey: Anything with Kale or (fresh) Coconut!

Compassionate: Have you noticed any changes in yourself since you began eating this way?

Honey: More energetic, feel much more connected to nature, and more sensitive to my environment.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Calvin was really before his time...

Click on the title window to view the whole sequence!

For my hubby and also a couple of the deer hunters in my family!!

Monday, May 5, 2008

US Food Pyramid & Vegetarian Diet

"Vegetarian diets can meet all the recommendations for nutrients. The key is to consume a variety of foods and the right amount of foods to meet your calorie needs. Follow the food group recommendations for your age, sex, and activity level to get the right amount of food and the variety of foods needed for nutrient adequacy. Nutrients that vegetarians may need to focus on include protein, iron, calcium, zinc, and vitamin B12."

Source: USDA Food Pyramid

For more tips, visit the USDA My Pyramid website.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Food Crisis Worldwide

This morning, during breakfast with my husband, I mentioned that I was getting concerned about what I am reading in the papers lately about the food crisis. More specifically, what does it mean for me and our family. I decided I would grab the articles and give you some of the statistics that our local paper is reporting.

But before I proceed, let me tell you in a nutshell how we eat (and have eaten all of our lives): (1) I have never experienced a shortage of food ever; (2) we have always had an excess of choices of food; (3) we waste food continually - be it leftovers gone bad or fresh food just not eaten in time, and gone bad; (4) we have enjoyed mostly good health when eating moderately and choosing nutritious foods, but also compromised heath at times, due to our often excessive lifestyle (consuming too much and selecting foods at the low end of the nutritious scale).

Now let me tell you about a woman living on the edge of the Sahara. She is a widow, raising her family of 3. She works to live, weaving textile and earns .50 cents a day. How is Manthita Sou coping with the her piece of the world's food crisis? She has stopped eating breakfast, has tea for lunch and serves "soupy sorghum" for dinner. Because wheat prices are up 67% in her local market, she chooses the cheaper sorghum (even sorghum is up 20% in the last 12 months). I seriously doubt that she nor her children have ever suffered from excess weight. Quite certainly, they are barely surviving which falls into the compromised health arena.

Hmmm...... looking at these two pictures, there's me, throwing away food (BUT it's in the green bin....where it gets transferred to the composting centre, which makes the waste all the more acceptable) and there is Manthita Sou with barely any food for herself and children!

The glaring statistic is that there are 1 billion people living on this planet surviving on less than $1.00 per day. "The UN World Food Program has warned of an alarming surge in hunger... This crisis, it fears, will plunge more than 100 million of the world's poorest people deeper into poverty."

What are the reasons for rising food prices?
1. Trade restrictions (export taxes, bans, etc) by the countries who produce the rice, grain, corn, wheat and soybean. This effect pressures the tight supplies and increase prices.
2. Increased demand for meat. Effect - grain crops intended for human consumption now diverted for livestock consumption to "feed" the human consumption of livestock. (1 lb of BEEF requires 7 to 8.5 lbs grain; 1 lb or PORK requires 5 to 7 lbs grain). (Are we completely stupid? This equation is just plain crazy! There isn't enough grain to go around because we are giving it to the animals that we want to eat and fueling the cars we want to drive - the big problem is, billions of us don't have cars to drive and can't afford the meat to eat.)
3. Weather (heat, drought & excessive rain) damage crops. Stocks have fallen world-wide due to weather conditions.
4. Biofuels - corn used for car fuel (ethanol). In the US back in 1997, only 5% of corn crops went into ethanol production; today, 25% is produced for ethanol. Effect - corn prices up 50% since last year. European countries importing cheaper sorghum for livestock feed (there's that meat consumption factor again). Effect - sorghum prices went up. (Sorghum is a grain widely consumed by the poorest of our fellow-men.)
5. Fuel - over the past year and a bit, a barrel of crude oil cost $61.05. A few weeks back, the same barrel cost $118.52. Effect - tremendous increase in cost to transport food around our planet. (Example: US to Japan, one year ago, freight cost was $60/ton - today it is $110/ton; US to Europe, a year ago, freight cost was $38/ton, today $75/ton.)

If you are reading this page, I know you are concerned too. We are the movers and shakers of this world....let us be action now.

UN world Food Program -
CARE International -
World Vision -

May 5, 2008: a reader also suggested this site -

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Is a vegetarian diet healthier?

Yet another article about the benefits of a vegetarian diet. We've read it all before - the conclusions are not clear....are vegetarians living longer, disease free, healthier lives because they eat so much vegetables & fruit rather than the absence of meat? Or is it because, generally-speaking vegetarians are also less likely to smoke, over-eat, etc.? To read the whole article and decide for yourself, visit the link to the web page.

Surprisingly, the author quotes
Vesanto Melina, the author of Becoming Vegetarian: The Complete Guide to Adopting a Healthy Vegetarian Diet (Wiley, 2003), as stating that small amounts of low fat meats can be a part of a healthy diet.

I'm sorry, but this misses the point for me completely. We are always talking about our health, but what about the health of the animal? Our so-called requirement for animal products, means for the average chicken or pig a life of confinement, while being fed a diet specifically aimed at fattening the animal up to marketable level in a unusually short timespan, then hauling the livestock cross-country (or even over seas) again in cramped confined quarters, often without water for lengthy stretches. Then at the end of this horrific journey, the point of no escape - the killing floors of our abattoirs. This is the point for me - the point of no return.

I've said it before, I did not stop eating meat for my health. I stopped eating meat for the animals health!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Tofu and Dip

I recently purchased a used copy of The Vegetarian Way - Total Health for You and Your Family (Virginia Messina and Mark Messina).

What a fantastic resource and cook book! If I was just starting to investigate "vegetarianism" this is one of the books I would recommend. I really enjoy reading about the science of food and this book devotes a good 80% to that very subject. The authors know of what they write - Virginia is a registered dietitian, with a MA in public health nutrition, and Mark holds a PhD in nutrition. Topics cover a wide range, from the obvious: getting started, making the transition, stocking the pantry, meal planning, etc. to pregnancy, breast feeding, the older vegetarian, children, the athlete, the teenager. Other chapters cover traveling and weight control (a perennial favourite in our culture!) The book is divided into 5 parts with a total of 24 chapters. Recipes are at the very end - a nice, varied selection - vegan, quick to prepare and so far, absolutely delicious!

This evening I prepared the Tofu with Spicy Peanut Sauce - I was very pleased with the results (a tangy alternative to ketchup).

Here are the ingredients:

  • 2 lbs firm tofu
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 5 tbsp smooth peanut butter
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 4 tbsp tamari
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 to 2 tbsp water
Cut the tofu into pieces and brush each piece, lightly, with oil. Spread in 1 layer on a cookie sheet and place under the broiler. Broil on both sides for about 10 minutes until crispy and golden brown.

In a bowl, mix all other ingredients, less the water. Then add just enough water to give the sauce a creamy consistence. Use as a sauce or dip for the fried tofu.