Saturday, August 29, 2009

Magazine Addict

I love magazines and they are probably my top guilty pleasure, on which I spend too much money and contribute to wasting paper. I am trying to use the internet as an alternative; after all, most magazines have a version of themselves online and there are so many other sites too that provide articles and pictures on the topics of my choice. There isn't a single magazine which covers all of my interests and so I buy several in order to do that, not reading every article in every publication since some do not interest me or suit me at all. I can buy magazines on art and painting, vegan topics and recipes, yoga and liberal politics/social justice articles. But what I enjoy most about magazines is a selection of variety, snippets of information about culture, fashion and home decor, mixed with serious articles on interesting topics, yoga postures, science based articles on health and food/recipes and of course I want it all tailored to me. I am not going to find it of course, which is why the internet is a better option.

Here is the magazine of my dreams. The fashion and beauty articles must be ecologically friendly, cruelty free and not involve unfair labour practices. My personal style fits a thrift-shop/bohemian/gypsy sort of esthetic which is all I want to see represented. I never wear a suit so I don't want to see fashion photos depicting them. I have an established style in home decor and gardening as well. I want images and articles on how to enhance my own style not how to decorate in white and chrome or some such cold and colourless style. Yoga poses, health information and vegan recipes, please. I am interested in artisans who make beautiful items, fiction and non-fiction books, independent films, and music and I don't want to know how to decorate tin cans to make pencil holders. I would love this to be a Canadian magazine, with Canadian sources and suppliers for products mentioned. It must be a monthly magazine because I cannot wait too long for the next issue. Real women, especially, but not exclusively, over forty should be the focus, including any models. Don't bother with a how to pick a bathing suit for your body article, it's been done a million times and I rarely wear one anyway. Once or twice a year the magazine should have travel features with beautiful photos.

If you are thinking that this magazine doesn't sound appealing to you at all and I'm ridiculous to be suggesting it, you are correct. That is why I am trying to redirect myself to the internet more often. The topics that suit my personal style are easy enough to find. But n a magazine I might turn the page and discover an article called What Your Cat is Saying when she Meows at You. Or How to Survive Your Teenager's Messy Bedroom. Those are the articles that you don't search for on the internet because you don't know that you want to read them until they are put in front of you. I just hate paying for a magazine where I don't want to read the articles selected for that volume, and yet, sitting on the couch, curled up with the cat and my laptop (which I'm doing right now) is not the same as curling up with a magazine, or the thrill of one I subscribe to arriving in the mail like an unexpected gift. It just isn't. And how do I find interesting articles if I don't know what I want to read? Oh, yes I'm whining. It is hard to let go of magazines but I see that the time is coming. I go to the library more often now and read them there. It still isn't my own couch with my own cat, but it slows down my purchasing of them.

So I will begin my exploration of magazines online and following blogs. I have already started with Style Gypsy. I have a voracious appetite for images and it just doesn't provide anything new often enough. I want what I want and I want it now, so I will have to create it for myself.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


The question most vegans are asked is, "How do you get your protein?" Not only will I answer that, I"ll tell you the questions that are more likely to impress your vegan friends with your worldly knowledge.

Protein is not hard to get and it surprises people to learn that vegetables contain . The recommended amount of protein is smaller than what most North American's consume. the World Health Organization recommends a range of 10-20% of a person's diet be made up of protein calories. This is roughly 40-64 grams of protein each day for medium sized adults who are not professional athletes. Vegetarians, especially new vegetarians might rely on dairy but that is often a fat laden source and not an option for vegans. Beans, pulses, legumes, lentils: these are terms you may be familiar with. They come dried and need soaking and cooking, or canned which need rinsing and it is optional to heat them up or use them cold because they are already cooked. There are many different flavours, colours, sizes and uses for these tasty protein sources. Although we think of peanuts as a nut, they are actually a legume, and peanut butter is a good source of protein. Actual nuts and seeds also contain protein. Almonds, pine nuts and pumpkin seeds are good sources.
My protein intake on a given day might look like this, which is just over 64 grams.
1 cup aduki (also called adzuki) beans = 17.3 grams of protein
2 tbsp peanut butter = 8 grams of protein
2 pieces of whole wheat toast = 12 grams of protein
3/4 cup tofu = 20 grams of protein
1 cup broccoli = 2.6 grams of protein
1 cup millet = 4.2 grams of protein

Interesting Facts:

* All animals get their protein from plants. Meat eaters are just getting it second hand.
*Beans, peas and lentils help the body retain calcium in the bones.

As you saw in my sample daily protein intake, some of the protein comes from grains.

The time has come to bust the myth of protein complementation. It was once believed that grains and legumes must be eaten together in the same meal to make a complete protein. I remember learning in Home Economics class that a meal of rice and peas or whole grain bread and peanut butter would make a complete protein. while those combinations are classic, I could, if I chose to, eat a spoonful of peanut butter at breakfast and a piece of whole grain bread with my dinner and it would all work out to my benefit. I am not the scientist personally busting this, just your humble reporter. The World Health Organization asserts that a variety of foods eaten over the course of the day will all add to the protein total and meet the needs of children and adults.

I haven' t even touched on the meat analogs or fake meat because I think it is kind of disgusting. Along with the fat and sodium that is typically excessive in processed foods, these products can also provide a source of protein. A couple of times a year I might it a tofu dog (they don't roast on the fire so I fry them) and I've eaten Yves veggie burgers when desperate for something to take to a bbq. Dietitians say they are acceptable in moderate proportions. I say, if you don't eat a real chicken why would you eat a fake one. Still, they help some people make the transition from meat eater to vegetarian. Eventually you can learn to make your own blends that resemble ground beef or hamburgers ad are much tastier and healthier than the store bought versions.

Okay, as I promised, its time to ask the really serious questions. While a vegan who lives on french fries an apples might not be getting enough protein, a person with a healthy variety in her diet will have no difficulty with protein sources.

How do vegans get calcium if they don't drink milk?

The answer is that most vegans use soy milk, almond milk, rice milk, hemp milk or some other non dairy drink which is fortified and this is likely to be the regular source. Aha! you say. That proves that a vegan diet isn't natural. That is another blog. Carrying on, I briefly mention that omnivores also rely on fortified foods such as cereals, vitamin D in dairy products and bottles of multi-vitamins promising radiant skin and hair or increased virility.

According to dietitians, calcium is better absorbed when consumed in small doses throughout the day.

My favourite sources of calcium are kale, broccoli, edamame, figs and almonds. Other greens, such as spinach, Swiss chard and beet greens also contain calcium but it is more difficult to absorb due to the presence of oxalates. Current research is suggestion that cooking (such as steaming) these greens destroys the oxalates but leaves the calcium. I will keep on top of that research.

Interesting Facts:

*Too much protein can rob the body of calcium.
*So can too much sodium, which is particularly found in processed foods.

Green leafy vegetables are usually good choices for calcium,especially the Chinese greens.
Legumes and tofu that is calcium set are also good choices. White beans and soybeans are very high in calcium. Almonds,and figs are good snacks. Blackstrap molasses and fortified orange juice are other foods that sneak calcium into your diet.

How do vegans get iron? Doesn't that come from red meat?

Every morning before my daily yoga I lick the cast iron frying pan. NO! JUST KIDDING! Although I have heard that cooking something acidic such as tomatoes in a cast iron pan will cause iron to leach into the food. This is considered a good thing, as opposed to teflon leaching into your food.

For pre-menopausal women, 32.4 mg of iron are recommended. For women over fifty and adult males, 1 mg is the recommendation. (Health Canada)

There are two types of iron to remember, heme iron and non-heme iron. Iron from cows, fish and fowls is both types. Vegetarian sources of iron are non-heme, which can be affected by accompanying food. Black tea, coffee, cocoa and some herb teas inhibit the absorption of non-heme iron. On the other hand, vitamin C rich beverages help you to absorb the iron. Drinking orange juice or eating and orange or grapefruit with breakfast helps with the absorption of the iron added to most breakfast cereals. If you have greens in your lasagna, the tomato sauce helps you absorb the iron in the greens. Legumes are high in iron; add leafy greens, peppers or cruciferous vegetables ( broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower). Already I'm thinking about a salad of mixed greens with chopped walnuts and dried cranberries tossed in a citrus vinaigrette and a serving of my favourite beans-garbanzos. Mmmmm....garbanzos would be good with an orange vinaigrette and served with couscous.....

Okay, iron is covered. If you want to sound really in the know, challenge a vegan to explain how she gets her vitamin B12.

Vitamin B12 helps red blood cells form and grow. It is an essential vitamin for brain, spinal cord and nerve health. This vitamin is made by bacteria and was readily available to humans in the dirt on plants, bacteria in water supplies as well as the meat of animals who ate and drank from these sources. We have sanitized our drinking water to get rid of bacteria we don't want and scrub our vegetables free of dirt. There are many good reasons for this. Always wash your fruits and vegetables to avoid contaminants that can make you quite ill, such as salmonella. Meat eaters get B12 from the flesh of the animals who took the risks of eating dirt with their grass. Only a small amount of B12 is needed each day and vegans have a few options for supplementing their diet. Vitamin B12 pills are available wherever other vitamins are sold. Milk alternatives and meat analogs are usually fortified with B12 (check the labels) and so are fortified cereals. Red Star brand nutritional yeast is a B12 fortified food as well.

Adzuki Beans and Zesty Sauce

2 cups cooked adzuki beans
1 tbsp olive oil
1-2 tbsp Braggs Liquid Soy (taste test)
1 tbsp water
1 tsp tumeric
black pepper to taste
2 tbsp Red Star nutritional yeast

Combine the sauce ingredients with the beans and warm up on low heat. Serve with greens and a whole grain of your choice.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Fashion-Most Particularly Shoes

Okay-if you actually know me in person you know I'm not a fashionista. Not by any stretch of anybody's imagination. I love to look at fashion; to me it's a cross between the circus and art a wearable Cirque de Soleil. Which is another place to see beautiful clothing. I love textiles. Colour, texture, design, all are appealing and interesting even if I would not wear it myself. I have my personal preferences and can easily flip through a fashion magazine and see nothing I would personally wear. Expressing yourself through what you wear is a luxury, a privilege in the way that buying art is a privilege. Many people who would aspire to the masterpieces must be content with the knockoffs and the posters.

So you may have noticed that I am now following a blog called Style Gypsy. I am more interested in style than fashion when it comes to how I cover my own body and am instinctively drawn to colourful, expressive, free-spirited sorts of clothing. It almost goes without saying that I have to make my choices as ethical, eco-conscious, vegan and inexpensive as I can. There will always be room for improvement and I'm always learning more. I will venture into buying vegan shoes on-line next year in 2010. In the meantime my solutions to the leather shoe problem have been varied. I own leather shoes and boots purchased before I was vegan. I still like them, they still fit and are in good shape. It would be wasteful to throw them out and I'm not financially prepared to start fresh on a whole vegan wardrobe of boots and shoes. I still wear these leather items although I admit to feeling somewhat uncomfortable about it. I have also purchased leather shoes second hand. I rationalized it by acknowledging that I was keeping the toxic tanned leather out of the landfill and that I still had no reliable source of good quality vegan shoes. Sometimes non-leather shoes are available at suppliers like Payless Shoes. These shoes aren't officially vegan and likely contain glues made from animals. I do own a pair of this type of shoe also. I love shoes. They are a beautiful thing, an art form and object of many womens' lust. My discomfort with leather and animal glues is certainly keeping me from spending too much money on shoes and yet, I am pleased at this test of my values.

The most beautiful shoes have ridiculous heel heights. I don't think I could walk comfortably in anything over three inches and even that would require me to practice at home for awhile. Given that my height is somewhere between 5'9 and 5'10, I would be well over 6' in the four inch heels that are seen most frequently on the pages of fashion magazines. I don't require that extra height and tend to feel awkward at that point. No sky-high bondage styled stilettos will make it into my wardrobe in this lifetime. My preferred shoe style is probably out of date-which gives me a perverse pleasure. As I said at the beginning, I love to look at fashion but am no fashionista. I wear what I like. If I had the regular opportunity to dress up ( LBD and all that stuff) I would splurge on a pair of those strappy high heels and strut my tall curvy stuff. How bold of me! However, the Christmas parties I go to tend to be casual affairs in someone's home where we all remove our shoes at the front door. I would be smart to contrive an outfit that suits bare feet. Or just boldly go barefoot and ankle-braceletted with my classic LBD.

I favour chunky shoes; they suit my height and curvy figure more than a daintier shoe would. A chunky heel of 2 1/2" and a squared or rounded toe suit me best. I like Mary-Janes, t-straps and ballet flats. I'm not sure that the flats look good on my narrow foot. I also love granny boots and cowboy boots. My current quest is to find a nice pair of vegan cowboy boots. (vegan cowboy is a nice oxymoron)

Women love shoes. Even the Goth, Indie and Emo girls I know don't wear just any old thing on their feet. What is it about shoes? I want to hear your shoe stories. What do you like, hate, want to buy next, or wish you could wear? Shoes won't lead to world peace, feed the hungry or cure AIDS. We have to work towards those things ourselves. What will be on your feet when you do that?

To respond to this or any of my other blog posts, click on the work comments at the bottom of the entry.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

MMMM Banana Bread, Oatmeal Brown Bread...but I have to lose twenty pounds!

You will very quickly learn that I love to bake, but unfortunately I also love to eat it. I need to lose weight, my dear friends, at least twenty pounds. I have had three slices of this delicious banana bread already and am hoping that tomorrow, when my husband comes home, he will eat all of the rest or take it to work with him. This recipe is my adaptation of a nice and simple recipe my mother-in-law gave me years ago. I like my baking to be grainy and full of nuts or seeds. The following recipe is healthy but not low in calories. I find it quite sweet and might try a little less sugar next time. The bananas are sweet enough!

Yummy Banana Loaf

1/2 cup canola oil ( healthy but it is still fat)
1 cup unrefined sugar (I might reduce it to 3/4 c next time)
3 ripe bananas, mashed
2 Tbsp soured soy milk*
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 cup ground flax
1/4 cup shelled hemp seeds

Stir together the oil and sugar. Add the mashed bananas and sour soy milk. Combine the remaining dry ingredients and stir until mixed into liquids. Spread the batter in a lightly greased loaf pan and bake 1 hour at 350 degrees F. Keep and eye on the loaf. Mine was well browned on top before the time was up so I covered it loosely with aluminum foil about half way through.

* soy milk can be soured in the same way as regular milk. In a measuring cup put 1 tsp of lemon juice. Fill to 1 cup with soy milk. Let this sit for a few minutes and it will curdle. I had approximately 2 Tbsp of sour milk left in a carton. I put in two drops of lemon juice and this worked out just fine. Baking usually requires more precise measuring than cooking does. I am not good at precise measuring and I usually get by just fine. I think this particular ingredient was one that had some room for me to play. The measurement of salt or oil or baking soda are likely more crucial.

I'm also baking my favourite bread recipe today. This one is called Oatmea Brown Bread and it is one my mother has been making for years. I don't know where it originally came from. It was possibly from an old issue of Canadian Living magazine. I have made some minor changes.

Oatmeal Brown Bread

2 1/2 cups scalded soy milk poured over 1 cup wheat germ and 1 cup rolled oats.

Dissolve 2 Tbsp yeast in 1 1/2 cup warm water mixed with 2 tsp brown sugar*

Add to the yeast mixture and stir.
1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup shelled hemp or sesame seeds
4 tsp salt

Add the soured milk mixture and stir all of these liquids and grains together.

8 cups whole wheat pastry flour or
6 cups whole wheat and 2 cups unbleached all purpose flour

Stir as much as possible and then turn out onto a floured counter and continue to incorporate the flour by kneading. Knead for about 5-8 minutes. Dough should be elastic and smooth. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl and let it rise until double in size. Punch down and if time, let it rise up again in the bowl.

Shape the dough into two loaves and place in non-stick or lightly greased loaf pans. Let it rise in the pans at least 30 minutes. Bake for 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven. If you make buns, bake for about 25 minutes.

This bread is delicious for sandwiches and as toast. It is slightly sweet, tender and full of whole grain flavour. I will have some tonight along with the kale I got at the Farmers' Market today (sauteed with garlic and ginger) and mixed garbanzo and adzuki beans in a curried mustard mix that I will be making up as I go along.

* follow the instruction on your yeast package if you are using Rapid Rise. When I use the quick rising types of yeast I just add it along with the dry ingredients.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

More cookies and what I'm having for supper tonight

It is a warm day-don't know why I am baking and cooking so much today.

Since it is so warm, I am compelled to share the latest opinions and research-yes research about drinking water. We have all been told by our mothers, our favourite magazines and possibly even some medical and health gurus that we should be drinking at least 8 8oz glasses of water a day to keep hydrated. This is one great exaggeration if not a down right myth and it will take ages to dispel it for the general public since so many people have so much to gain by its propagation. The idea of being dehydrated already by the time you feel thirst is actually inaccurate. Sure, the thirst is genuine, but does it make sense that our bodies would have evolved so inefficiently as to give a warning signal so late? It seems more likely that thirst is a warning to drink something so as to maintain hydration. Still, the companies selling water and even those selling the more ec0-friendly and human friendly aluminum or steel water bottles all have something to gain by convincing us that we should carry water around with us all day and so do the magazines who rely on these advertisers for financial reasons. Even medical experts support this idea, it has become so entrenched in western culture. Being a medical expert does not mean they are correct, since there are too many issues to be an expert in all of them and most doctors would probably prefer their patients to aim for more water rather than less just to err on the side of caution. Your GP likely doesn't have time to go into a detailed discussion on this topic with you. She is therefore more likely to say, drink plenty of water especially when you are active or in hot weather. Not bad advice, just not detailed enough to keep you from buying into the idea that you must carry around a water bottle every where you go. There is also the little mentioned fact that our bodies are able to extract water from foods and other liquids that we drink just as they can extract nutrients, sugars and fats. Of course drinking juices, sports beverages and other non-water liquids provide what may be unwanted calories.

That reminds me of another myth: the tea and coffee doesn't count as water myth. It is fine to get some of your water from tea and coffee. Although they are diuretics for people who rarely drink them, the body apparently becomes quickly accustomed and no significant water loss occurs for regular drinkers. Clear tea is a totally appropriate substitute for water, otherwise there are the calories of the cream and sugar to take into account. In case you think I'm just spouting my own opinions (which of course I love to do) I found information on this subject at these websites listed below. These are not links.

Okay-onto the food.

My son wanted chocolate chip cookies today, and of course I often make the recipe I osted earlier which is a classic chocolate chip cookie. Today I added more nutrition and there have been no complaints. I think that for him, chocolate chips are the key. This cookie recipe would be a very suitable oatmeal raisin or add coconut and call them Ranger cookies. I have a son who is difficult to get nutritional variety into so I use chocolate chips whenever possible. I don't have a trick yet for getting him to eat spaghetti sauce and I doubt that chocolate chips would help in that case.

Healthy but Still Delicious Cookies
Combine the following ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix well.

1/2 cup organic canola oil plus 1 tbsp soy lecithin *
(or 1 cup canola oil)
2 cups organic brown sugar
1/4 cup organic blackstrap molasses
1/2 cup non-dairy milk


2 cups organic whole wheat flour
1 heaping Tbsp ground flax seed
2 cups oatmeal ground in a food processor
1 cup chopped walnuts ( I ground mine to a finer texture because my son would object if he could see them)
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup fair trade chocolate chips**

The dough will be somewhat stiff and sticky. If it seems too dry, drizzle small amounts of water or non-dairy milk in as you stir. I like to roll cookies into a ball and flatten them on the cookie sheet, but this is quite a sticky dough if the lecithan is used so you may want to drop dough with a soon. Bake at 350 degrees for ten minutes. The cookies will seem very soft when you remove them from the oven. Let them sit on the cookie sheet for a few minutes to set before you remove them with a spatula to a cooling rack. I made approximately 48 cookies with this recipe.

* Lecithin is something I'm just beginning to experiment with. It is made from soy and although it is not a low calorie ingredient, it is highly emolllient and can replace some of the oil. It is considered to be highly nutritious and my research shows no negative aspects. If you are reluctant to use it I have included the regular amount of canola oil for this recipe.

**Fair Trade coca/chocolate and coffee are a priority for me although they are more expensive. I cannot justify saving money at the expense of people living in poverty because of unfair labour practices and am especially concerned about the abusive use of child labour by cocoa farms in western Africa.

Supper Tonight

I have almost got everything pre-cooked in order to have a cool summertime meal and to reduce time spent over the stove on a hot day. It is useful to have beans and grains cooked ahead of time, but I would normally want greens-kale being my favourite and the most nutritious-sauteed with mushrooms and garlic, sprinkled with lemon juice. I haven't got kale and don't want to stand over the stove, so I'm going to steam some broccoli* until it is tender-crisp kind of an oxymoron) and let it cool.

Yummy and Delicious Beans-use two kinds of beans such as garbanzo and small red, kidney or black beans. You can use canned ones drained and well rinsed, or soak and cook dried beans.** Cool the beans to room temperature or store in the fridge and use cold later on. Toss the beans with a Tbsp of flax oil and some mustard to taste. I could eat this every day-simple but yummy.

When the broccoli is steamed for a couple of minutes or until it s that oxymoronic tender-crisp and bright green, dump it into a colander and rinse it with cool water to stop the cooking process and cool it down.

To save on dishes, rinse the cooking pot with cool water and put the broccoli back in. (Not on the stove!) combine 1 tbsp flax oil***, 1 tsp lemon juice and 1 tsp nutritional yeast. Add salt to taste. Toss this dressing with the broccoli.

Since I am doing an all cold meal I will use my pre-cooked quinoa**** and put about 1 cup on my plate. Then I pile on the beans and top with the broccoli. You could sprinkle sunflower seeds on top or spice up the dressings to your liking.

* Steamed Broccoli
I am not a huge fan of raw vegetables so I usually steam them. You could use raw broccoli in this meal if you prefer it. Like the water myths about which I ranted today, people have been convinced that cooking vegetables is not good for you (I'm not even talking about raw foodists) and that vegetables are best eaten raw. Science shows that although cooking destroys some nutrients it is not significant. These studies are often done with boiled vegetables too, so lightly steamed would show even less vitamin loss. If the vegetables are boiled in a liquid that is to be kept, such as a soup or a stew, the nutrients remain in the liquid. The enzymes which are killed by heat, a fact which alarms the raw foodists, are not significant to our nutrition anyway, according to this interesting website: and so it does not matter if our vegetables are "alive" or "dead".

** Basic Bean Cooking
It is always recommended that you sort and rinse beans because theoretically there could be little stones mixed in. I have never experienced this, but I do a quick inspection and them rinse them in a colander under cool tap water, swishing them around with my hands. The beans should then be soaked in two to three times the quantity of water before cooking and there are a couple of options for this. They can be soaked overnight and cooked the next morning, soaked while you are at work or out for the day, but the general guideline is 8 hours of soaking. If you have not planned in advance, put the rinsed beans in a pot of water and bring the water to a boil on the stove. Remove the pot once the water is boiling and set it aside to sit for an hour or two. The best method of reducing/eliminating the gas caused by beans (the musical fruit) is to rinse away the soaking water before cooking. Once the soaking time is over and the beans have been rinsed again, cook them in fresh water (about twice as much water as beans) for an hour. Bring the water to a boil and then reduce to a gentle simmer for an hour.

*** Flax Oil
Flax oil is fat. so the first thing to remember is that although it is a healthy fat, it still has calories. I like to use it because they are not empty calories. Flax is a good source of vitamin E, omega 6 and especially omega 3 and has a nice light flavour. It is snot suitable for cooking or baking so I use it in dressings for vegetables or making spreads such as hummus.

****quinoa (pronounced keenwah) is a little round ancient grain which is by itself an excellent source of complete protein.It is also a source of fibre like all whole grains. It is cooked in the same way you cook rice. Rinsing it first is recommended, because it supposedly gets rid of a bitter outer residue. I have never noticed this. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil and add 1 cup of quinoa. Reduce the heat and let it simmer about 20 minutes or until all of the water is absorbed. Go ahead and peek, it will not ruin anything. This will make enough to serve four or five people. Quinoa can be used any way that rice can-salads, puddings, pilaf-and can be combined with rice to make a lovely mixed grain dish.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Lolita and My Favourite "Cheese" Sauce

Book Talk

If you love prose, admire a beautifully crafted sentence that is a work of art yet seems effortless, read Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. A couple of years ago I read a book called Reading Lolita in Tehran, by Azar Nafisi, which was an amazing insight into the lives of educated women and women desiring an education in the power hungry/male dominated/muslim extremist country of Iran. The author, a university literature professor began holding secret book club/literary classes in her home and of course a book such as Lolita was a risky choice. I had not read Lolita at the point that I read about these brave and oppressed women in Tehran, but knew that it was sexually provocative- we have all become familiar with the concept of a "Lolita" as a sexually assertive young girl- and as mentioned in the Tehran book, there is a forbidden relationship between the young girl and a man old enough to be her father.

This summer I bought my copy of Lolita, noting on the back of the book that Vanity Fair had called it the only convincing love story of our century. Love may be blind, but in this case it was Vanity Fair that experienced perception difficulty.

The protagonist, with the unlikely name of Humbert Humbert, is an anti-hero. He may be the one telling the story and he tries to gain his readers' sympathy, but he is not a good person; he is a pedophile. There are no wholly sympathetic characters in the novel, which makes it an interesting read and perhaps a challenge. Can you read a story where you don't really like anyone. Nabakov is a superb writer and his prose and his storytelling gift keep you reading. The events and the final conclusion are not as predictable as you might at first think.

Both of these books, Reading Lolita in Tehran, by Azar Nafisi and Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov are keepers on my bookshelf.

"Cheese" Sauce

I have mentioned nutritional yeast already. Here is another great recipe using that amazing ingredient. My cooking is less precise than my baking. This recipe is adaptable to your personal taste and to the quantity of ingredients you have on hand.

2 roasted red peppers
1 c raw cashews
1 T lemon juice
water as needed (approx. 1 c)
1 T tumeric
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T salt
1 c nutritional yeast

Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. I find it easiest to blend the cashews with a little bit of water until I get a nut butter consistency. You could use olive oil as well. Add the lemon juice, seasonings, nutritional yeast and roasted peppers. You can vary the consistency by adding liquid. I like to keep it thick and spreadable, then add water, non-dairy milk or oil if I'm using this as a sauce. It freezes well and can be re-heated gently or folded into a casserole and heated in the oven. I like to spread it on bread to make a grilled "cheese" sandwich. It would probably make a good dip too, although I haven't tried it that way. You could add sundried tomatoes, chives or parsley; make it your own.

My favourite uses for this sauce:
grilled sandwich
macaroni and broccoli casserole
stirred into a pasta primavera/marinara

I intend to try adding agar to solidify this and make a sliceable cheese. I'll post it if it works.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Recipes and other Thoughts

The Recipes I post here are my variations of recipes I've found in cookbooks and other websites as well as some I have created on my own. I will indicate where the original recipe came from or that that to the best of my knowledge I created this recipe myself. I have just begun this blog as of August 11, 2009. I hope to add photos with the recipes in time. I love to read cookbooks and will be unable to resist recommending the ones I like. In fact I love to read many types of books and so this blog will likely meander a little and mention other books I like too. Perhaps movies. some pictures of my garden may end up here too. I won't promise that I can be singleminded.

Where did the name come from? A silly facebook quiz gave me my "villain name" and I quite liked it. Very simple. I'm actually quite a nice person. Opinionated, but isn't everybody who writes a blog?

I originally thought of creating this blog just to spread a few vegan recipes to my friends and acquaintances. Because of that, I am not inclined to go to great lengths to explain myself to any others who stumble across this site. I am an ordinary woman in my early forties with a respectable job, a beloved spouse and son, and being the only vegan in my family, a desire to share that aspect of myself with others. Why not join a vegan club or pot-luck group or something of that sort? I'm not good at groups of people-the internet is a good place for a shy person to pretend to extroversion.

Yesterday I made chocolate chip cookies for my son and his friends to take on a trip. I don't even bother to mention that they are vegan and nobody notices or complains.
I experiment with cookie recipes often but simple is usually best. The recipe below is inspired by the Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe from How It All Vegan by Tanya Barnard and Sarah Kramer.

Chocolate Chip Cookies for the Whole Family

Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees F (I used convection bake which reduces the temperature to 350)

In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 1/2 c unrefined sugar
2 c canola oil
1 T vanilla extract
1/4 c non-dairy milk or water
Mix with a wooden spoon until combined.

In a glass measuring cup mix together 6 T ground flax
6T water
Add the flax mixture to the large mixing bowl.

In another bowl, combine 4 1/2 c flour (I use whole wheat*)
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 c fair trade chocolate chips**

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ones and stir until combined.

Cookies can be dripped by a spoon onto the ungreased baking sheets. I roll a small amount of dough in clean hands and press it flat on the baking sheet.
Bake for 8-10 minutes and cool slightly (1-2 min.) before removing to cookie racks.
This will make about 36 small/medium cookies. The dough does not spread much while baking so if you want flatter cookies, flatten them before putting them in the oven and use the shorter baking time.

* You can also use part or all unbleached flour, and/or replace 1 cup of flour with oatmeal flour (grind oats in a food processor or blender)

** I only buy fair trade chocolate and coffee. Chocolate that comes from West Africa is likely to have involved abusive child labour practices. My last internet browsing on the subject revealed that Hershey was still buying from farms using child labour. I buy Cocoa Camino products and yes they do cost more. These are my politics. You can research the subject for yourself and make your own decisions.

My Favourite Marinated Tofu

Cooking is a different practice from baking. Baking requires much more precise measurements-it is science. Cooking is art. I have been vegan for about five years (it was a gradual process so I'm not sure exactly how long) and have cooked from recipes and read enough books by now to have confidence in using ingredients that were once unfamiliar to me. My favourite of these is nutritional yeast. The brand made by Red Star is fortified with vitamin B12 which is a more difficult vitamin for vegans to get. (check you milk substitute most soy and rice brands seem to be fortified with it)

Use one block of firm or extra firm tofu and press out the excess moisture:
Remove the tofu from its package and rinse it with clean water.
Wrap the tofu in paper towel (or a clean reusable/washable towel) Place it between two plates and put something heavy such as a mixing bowl filled with dry beans on top. Leave the tofu like this in the fridge for a few hours or overnight if you can. When the tofu is drained, slice it into thin slices (about 1/2cm).

If you are really clever you prepared the marinade while the tofu was being drained.


1/4-1/2 c nutritional yeast flakes
1/4 c Bragg's Liquid soy Seasoning*
1//4c water
optional: 1 garlic clove, minced

Combine these ingredients and place in a dish with the tofu. Let marinate overnight or even a day or two.

Arrange the tofu slices in a large baking pan (I like to line it with parchment paper for quicker cleanup) and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes, turning half way through. Each side of the tofu slices will be baked a golden colour.

The tofu is delicious warm, cold in sandwiches and warm or cold in a green salad.

*Bragg's Liguid Soy Seasoning is available in regular grocer stores. It is pure liquid soy protein, with great flavour and no extra sodium like other soy sauces. It is also gluten free.

Finally, I said I wouldn't be able to avoid mentioning books. If you are a new vegetarian or vegan or want to be able to give smart answers to people who question your nutrition on a vegan diet, I highly recommend you get yourself a copy of the book by Vesanto Melina, M.Sc., R.D. and Brenda Davis, R.D. My copy is called Becoming Vegetarian the complete guide to adopting a healthy vegetarian diet

This book also includes vegan options and they have also published a book with the same title but replacing the word vegetarian with the word vegan.

I read my copy cover to cover when I first bought it and still dip into for information at times.