Recipe of the Week

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Tofu Tikka Masala!

This dish is a take off on Paneer Tikka Masala, which I’ve never actually had.  I have had Chicken Tikka Masala which was one of my favorite Indian dishes in my pre-vegan life.  I figured that the firm tofu would work well and I was excited to try to replicate some of the delicious flavors of the dish I enjoyed.  The result was a tasty and authentic Indian dish, but not quite the same as the restaurant version.  I found the recipe for this dish on the One Green Planet website and you can take a look at it here.

I made this dish pretty much as written.  I did add a fair amount of salt and the juice of half a lemon for some much-needed acid. I had to track down some spices (cardamom pods and fenugreek seeds), but I had the rest of the long list of spices on hand.  And of course, this dish is all about the spices, sautéed in a bit of oil “until a nice aroma fills the kitchen”.  That nice aroma is likely to be filling my kitchen for the next few days 🙂

I was most impressed with the creamy consistency of this Tikka Masala.  This is all achieved using only one teaspoon of oil and a quarter cup of soy yogurt for marinating the tofu and peppers.  Like many “creamy” vegan dishes the creaminess comes from blending the slowly-cooked vegetables and spices in a high speed blender.  No butter or cream in sight.  Kind to the animals and much better for our health.

Flavor-wise I liked this dish but I think I can do better with it next time.  First, I would leave out the cinnamon stick.  This might be less authentic, but I’m just not a fan of cinnamon in savory dishes.  I should know this about myself already but I keep trying.  If this doesn’t bother you, keep the cinnamon in there.  Second, I think I cooked the spices a bit too long.  While I didn’t think they were burning I detected a slight bitterness.  Plus the color of the sauce was deeper than I expected, and I think it was from the same problem.

So I recommend this recipe.  If you have more experience cooking Indian food than I do (i.e. you can do better with the spices)  give this a try.  It’s a lot of satisfying flavor and creamy texture in a surprisingly healthy dish.

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Recipe of the Week

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Sushi!

How gorgeous is that?

Before going vegan I never ate sushi.  Never even tried it.  I wasn’t a big fish lover in general and raw fish held no appeal for me. Hmmm, maybe I was on to something.  Since going vegan I had one sushi roll at a Chinese/Thai place here in town.  I liked it well enough but wasn’t feeling the need to run right home and make my own.

Turns out though, I recently found out that my iodine is low.  I wasn’t too surprised about that mostly because I don’t use iodized salt and I haven’t been eating any sea vegetables.  Well, I do need to up my iodine and in keeping with my “food as medicine” philosophy I decided to investigate dulse flakes, nori and kelp noodles.  I thought I’d have the most luck sprinkling dulse flakes into some faux tuna salad, but on my first attempt to make a raw sunflower seed type thing, the dish was so nasty it went straight in the trash.  I just couldn’t handle the “essence of fish”.  Okay, so no dulse for me (at least not in that form).

And that brought me to option #2, the nori. And that brought me to sushi.  At least with sushi I knew that a tasty dish was possible. When I was searching for recipes, I was delighted to find that the Minimalist Baker had an easy recipe that even used a kitchen towel to roll the sushi up.  Sounded like a win to me.  You can check out the recipe and her technique here.

You can really put anything inside these rolls, and we settled on carrots, cucumber, tofu (I had some Whole Foods sesame tofu on hand), avocado and red pepper.  You can use short grain white rice to make the rolls, but we used sushi rice that we found at Whole Foods.  Interestingly I had always assumed that the “sticky” rice found in sushi had to do with the grain, but the rice is made sticky by adding a rice vinegar/sugar/salt mixture to it.  We followed this recipe exactly as written, and it worked out great.  Luckily David was on hand to do the rolling since I was all thumbs!

These little rolls were delicious.  We dipped them in a wasabi/soy sauce mixture that David whipped up and served it all with a green salad with some miso dressing:

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So while creating this dish might have been more a labor of necessity than a labor of love, I feel pretty great about how it all turned out.  I can get some of the nutrition I’ve been missing in a really tasty way, and I discovered a fun dish that I could easily serve to company.

Before I do that though, I really do need to pick up some chopsticks 🙂

Meatless Monday, A Closer Look

I’ll just say this straight out.  I’m not a fan of Meatless Monday.  As an ethical vegan, I believe that it is wrong to use animals for our pleasure.  It’s a black and white thing.  So measures such as Meatless Monday which tout the benefits of not eating  animals some of the time asks me to believe that animal exploitation and murder is okay at other times.  To my way of thinking it most certainly is not.  But, okay, no one claims that Meatless Monday is about the animals.

In society and even in the vegan community there can be a knee-jerk positive response to efforts like this one.  On the one hand it doesn’t really sound so bad.  In terms of animal suffering, isn’t any effort/reduction in consumption worth celebrating, even if there’s no intention vis-a-vis the animals?  Well, I don’t know.  I decided to put my cynicism aside and look a little closer at the Meatless Monday website to actually learn more about what they are up to.  The following is a quote from their “Global Movement” statement:

Meatless Monday is now active in 36 countries and growing because every nation can bring its unique culture, customs and cuisine to the table in meat free and vegetarian dishes.  Skipping meat one day a week is good for you, great for your nation’s health, and fantastic for the planet!

So the message is to incorporate more vegetarian dishes–like today’s featured recipe, Kadai Paneer, an Indian Cheese dish:

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(Photo from the Meatless Monday website)

 Never mind how much animal suffering was needed to produce this dish.  This dish is loaded with cheese and yogurt. I seriously question whether eating this way is “good for you”, “great for your nation’s health” or “fantastic for the planet”. We know that dairy is incredibly unhealthy and I have no idea what environmental resources are saved by chowing down on cheese rather than beef or chicken.

While I think it’s tempting to think that when folks remove meat from their diets the result might look something like this:

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when I think it might actually look more like this:

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During our transition from omnivore to vegan, David and I spent a few months being vegetarian.  While I would say that we did increase our consumption of fresh vegetables (all good) many of our meals looked like this cheese-laden eggplant parmesan.  And I had a great time creating delectable egg dishes like this quiche:

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Plenty of cheese and butter in that one as well.  Oh, and I remember very clearly that this mozzarella sandwich was a lunch staple of that period:

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Now I can completely cop to having had limited imagination and even less understanding of vegan cooking during that time, but I also think this is pretty typical.  And I look back on that stretch as not only contributing to animal exploitation and abuse (possibly even more than I did as an omnivore considering the level of abuse in the dairy and egg industries), but also eating in a way that was hardly ideal healthwise.  Consequently, promoting vegetarianism as a positive alternative to meat-eating (a la Meatless Monday) doesn’t make sense to me.

I transitioned to veganism when I had enough education to fully understand that by eating a vegetarian diet I was continuing to support the torture and killing of other sentient beings as well as the destruction of our planet.  I believe that others have the capacity to understand the facts and make similar changes.  Education and information will make this possible, but we need to tell the truth.

Every day of the week.

Recipe of the Week

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Sesame Ginger Quinoa Salad!

With the weather heating up here in Tucson we’ve been shifting our attention from stews and soups to lighter fare.  Several nights a week David and I find ourselves grazing on big salads for dinner, and a fresh quinoa salad with a dollop of hummus over greens is one of my favorite combinations.

I have a few quinoa recipes already in our rotation, but I’m always on the hunt for new recipes.  When I found this recipe, with its Asian-inspired flavors and ingredients, I decided to give it a try.  Just look how gorgeous it is!  You can link to the recipe here.

Because quinoa is such a light and fluffy grain, I prefer it to be lightly dressed.  This recipe calls for just two tablespoons each of sesame oil and rice vinegar and that’s just enough to flavor the whole dish.  The rainbow of veggies (carrots, purple cabbage, red pepper, yellow pepper and edamame) is such a visually pleasing and crunchy mix.  Minced fresh ginger adds a nice bite to the otherwise mild salad.

This salad is really versatile.  It’s hearty enough for dinner and light enough for lunch or even a mid-afternoon snack ( I’ve been munching on the leftovers while I’ve been writing this post). Plus, the vibrant colors are a great addition to any pot luck or picnic table.

So if you’re ready to lighten things up where you are, give this one a try.  And let me know if you like it!

Bey, Bey, Please Go Away!

I took a blogging break.  It wasn’t planned.  David and I did a bit of traveling to see family, and then Anne came to Tucson for a visit. After that I just wasn’t feeling inspired to blog.  Nothing like the incessant media hype/blather about Beyonce’s “vegan diet” and her new buff body, glowing skin and vegan business to get me back to my keyboard.

If you are not someone who googles “vegan news” daily like I do you might not know that not only has Beyonce lost weight on a “vegan” diet, but she and Jay Z have teamed up with their celebrity trainer, Marco Borges, to sell pre-packaged plant-based meals mail-order style.

I first heard about this enterprise when Victoria Moran had Marco Borges on her Main Street Vegan radio show.  I love this show, and if you’re interested in listening to interviews with important and inspiring voices in the vegan world this is a great place to hang out.  You can link to the site here.  When I listen to interviews, I usually peruse Victoria’s guests’ websites at the same time.  I’ve learned so much this way and been inspired by so many people working tirelessly for animals, the environment and our health.

During the interview with Borges, it was clear that he is about health, and I have no doubt that his passion for plant-based food and exercise helps people get healthier.  That’s a good thing.  I was, however, dismayed to read this blurb on the website for his mail-order food business:

Why Plant-Based? There are many reasons to go meat-free – whether it’s to help the environment, improve your health, or other reasons.

They were working very hard here to ignore the animals.  I suppose the animals are the vague “other reasons”.  This website (you can check it out for yourself here) uses the word “vegan” liberally. To me, the word vegan is first and foremost about not using any animal products.  And there is no distinction between the animals we eat, animals we wear and animals that perform for our amusement.  I have no idea what Marco Borges thinks, but if he wants to profit from positioning himself as a vegan I wouldn’t mind knowing where he stands on the animals.

As for Beyonce, it’s all an eye-roll for me.  In a recent statement to the New York Times, she emphatically states “it’s important that you know I am NOT a vegan”(article here).  Why is that so important? Perhaps she was getting tired of all the inquiries about her fur and leather habits.  Or perhaps she’s concerned about her brand and doesn’t want to be like the “people who live in Colorado and don’t use deodorant”.  Perpetuating rather than repudiating such a silly stereotype is a lost opportunity.  I found myself wondering for the umpteenth time what, if anything, these people stand for.

Oh, right, I guess it’s the money.

It’s good to be back!