Monday, October 27, 2008

My first month as a vegetarian

It's been one month since I've decided to cut meat out of my diet for health reasons. I haven't craved meat at all. It's been pretty easy for me to eat a plant based diet. I still have eggs and dairy in my diet, but it has to be organic to cross my lips - when I can control the origin.

My beau is extremely supportive and had even told me that I need to cut out butter which is laden in cow hormones from food not to exacerbate my condition. That made me smile.

I read labels all the time and I'm astounded at the quantity of processed foods that contain some kind of meat product. Chicken broth, lard, pork, fish, etc. It's challenging, but then I have trusted brands I turn to when I need some grub to go like Commensal or Amy's frozen lunches. I wish we had the selection available in the states in Montreal for Amy's products.. They are amazing!

Of course, I've been cooking a lot more and have been saving and eating my leftovers, being a lot less wasteful. And I have a renewed admiration for Vegans. This is a tough world to live in when animal products are pervasive through our food and other consumables.

Praise Seitan!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Nutritional Yeast - Now I get it!

Nutritional yeast was one of these weird ingredients I saw in health food stores and didn't quite know how this was used. I made the chimichanga recipe in the The Garden of Vegan book by Tanya Barnard & Sarah Kramer. The recipe called for marinating a pound of cubed tofu in nutritional yeast, braggs and water for two hours.

When I prepped the ingredients for the recipe, I drained the tofu, readying it to be pan fried. I tasted the marinated tofu.... It was delicious! Omg, what an amazing flavor. I couldn't stop eating the uncooked tofu. Luckily, I was able to make enough of it to make 4 of the 6 chimichangas.... Yum!!!

More benefits to this lovely little seasoning./. It's a great source of B12 and has a nice cheesy, "meaty" flavor. Use it!

The picture for the nutritional yeast was taken from wikipedia.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Book review: Vegan a Go Go by Sarah Kramer

I cannot lie, I've been a fan of Sarah Kramer since the day I discovered How It All Vegan. I subsequently bought all the books from her and haven't regretted any of them. This one is my favorite by far.

Starting by it's fun front cover and very small size - I carry it in my purse where ever I go, the book is fun without being preachy. Sarah tells us of her touching story of her travels and offers advice on how to be safe. Being a frequent traveler myself, I can relate to her experience and her advice.

The recipes in this book are an assembly fan subsmissions shared with her along with a couple of her own. She stays true to her promise of keeping the recipes simple enough that you can do them with items found in any convenience store, right about anywhere in North-America and Europe.

I had guests over and made for them the Mushroom Pate. They loved it so much and could not believe it did not contain any meat. They called me a week later, while I was visiting the museum to get the recipe from me. Thanks to the book's tiny size... I actually had it with me and could deliver the instructions over my cell phone.

Thanks Sarah for another great cookbook.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Eat your cereal!

I forgot just how good breakfast cereals were. I think this happened when I was weaned off frosted flakes and couldn't palate any of that cardboardish less sugary alternatives. Eventually, I stopped eating cereal for breakfast all together.

I would still eat on occasion granola with yogurt, which is absolutely delicious. Especially with sliced strawberries or bananas or both.

I jumped back onto the cereal with milk (soy) bandwagon this week. I tried the Kashi Mountain Medley with yogurt and the dried fruit got stuck in my teeth - not nice. I thought the cereal was a miss - but I tried it with soy milk. WOW! I let the cereal steep in the milk for 5 minutes while I make my morning cup of coffee, and then eat it.

I like the So Nice Original soy milk for my cereal and just every day drinking. I actually prefer using the vanilla version when I make rice pudding.

Happy morning!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Tofurkey, mashed sweet potatoes and mushroom gravy

Thanksgiving dinner was a success! On the menu, we made organic chicken with a royal rice stuffing and for me, the only veg at the table, I had the tofurkey I mention in this post. I followed the instructions for the preparation, which was simple enough. Chop up a carrot, an onion and two potatoes and place them in the baking dish. Then create a basting sauce consisting of olive oil, tamari and sage - I added my own touch and sprinkled a good dose of paprika on it. Baste the "bird" with half the basting sauce and cover with foil. Cook in a 350F oven for 75 minutes. Then remove foil, baste with remaining sauce and cook another 15 minutes.

To go with the tofurkey, I made a sweet potato mash. I steamed two peeled & cubed sweet potatoes, one regular peeled & cubed potato and 1 cup of cubed kabocha squash. When the potatoes and squash were cooked through, I mashed them with 60mls of butter and a splash of milk. I added some barbecue seasonings to bring the flavors together.

I also made a great mushroom gravy. The recipe is on the tofurkey box, but I improvised my own. I used 4 large portabello mushrooms, cubed, one onion diced, which I cooked in olive oil on medium heat for a few minutes. I then added 4 cups of vegetable broth, a splash of tamari, a splash of port wine, fresh ground pepper and a big pinch of seasoning herbs. I brought the gravy to a vigorous boil and let it reduce for about 30 minutes. I then thickened it with arrowroot powder.

The meal was absolutely delicious. If you want something extraordinary for thanksgiving or the holidays, tofurkey is a definite win!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Tempeh sandwiches are always so tasty

I discovered tempeh a few years ago when I took vegetarian cooking lessons from Bonnie - the owner of Bonnys before she opened her restaurant. She made this phenomenal wrap using marinated pan fried tempeh with sprouts, sauerkraut, soyanaise and dijon mustard.

I made a variation of on my own theme with the left over jerk tempeh I made yesterday. I used a whole wheat wrap, layered on some dijon mustard, hummus, guacamole (since I couldn't find any ready to eat avocadoes), the jerk tempeh broken into pieces, sandwich sprouts (alfalfa with mustard), sliced tomatoes and grated jalapeno gouda cheese. An amazing lunch on it's own!

Oven roasted nuts and jerk tempeh...

I've been cooking a whole lot more lately, with this whole change of diet thing. Although the cooler fall weather always sends me right back to my stove and cookbooks, so maybe the diet thing is just an excuse to get me cooking again... ;)

Last night, after finding an assortment of raw nuts at the Fruiterie 440 on Sources, I decided to oven roast them. I have fond childhood memories of my father roasting fresh almonds in the oven late at night when he was starting his spice and nut import company in the early 80's. I found this great recipe in Moosewood Celebrates' cookbook for "Harvest Nuts". The recipe consists of coating the nuts in a blend of vegetable oil (2tbsp), maple syrup(3tbsp), brown sugar(2tbsp), a pinch of paprika and a smaller pinch of cayenne pepper. Roast everything in the oven at 350F for 10 minutes, then stir the nuts to loosen from the baking sheet and roast another 8 minutes being careful not to let them burn. Needless to say these roasted seasoned nuts are just absolutely delicious! I've been munching this stuff throughout the day.

For dinner, I did a baked cabbage casserole - not anything spectacular I'm afraid, some cooked wild rice and pan fried jerk tempeh. For the tempeh, I steamed it for 10 minutes. I then sliced the tempeh in two along the wide thin side to make two large squares. I then sliced the squares into two more pieces to make 4 rectangles. I mixed dried jerk seasonings with a bit of avocado oil and brushed it onto the tempeh. I pan fried the tempeh until golden brow and served. The tempeh saved the whole meal.

By the way, if you are in the Montreal region this fall, I strongly recommend you go see the
Sympathy for the Devil exhibit at the Musee d'Art Contemporain de Montreal. I saw it today and no pun intended but it rocked! ;)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Tofurkey Located and Acquired!

Thank goodness it's Friday! Today was a great food day. It started well with a soy latte and lactose free pumpkin muffin, then for lunch some Commensal veg food and then for dinner a nice salad and some home made sweet potato and blackbean empanadas.

After work, my beau and I headed to the Ecollegey store - an organic food store - in NDG to find the coveted Tofurkey. They did not have it but directed us to a health food store called Fleur Sauvage on 5561 Monkland between Marcil and Old Orchard. This is where we found it for $10.99. I was surprised to have found it after only going to two places... I was expecting a full on hunt for two days to all the health food stores around the island of Montreal before I could locate one.

Either there are fewer veg heads on the island of Montreal than I thought or they are far more resourceful and don't go for this premade stuff.

In any case, I've found some great recipes in my Moosewood Celebrates cookbook, and am thinking of complementing my Monday Thanksgiving meal with roasted squash, a mushroom file pastry and some cracked wheat breadrolls... Delicious!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Status report on the vegetarian project

I'm at the end of week two on my vegetarian project. This week was a challenging double whammy of difficulty. I travel every other week to another city for my work. The location of the office is right in the middle of a strange industrial/housing area and the choice of dining are Tim Hortons, Subways, a Thai restaurant and a shoddy looking Mediterranean food place.

I ended up eating at the Thai restaurant - great vegetarian selection of dishes - and had the green curry with white rice. But they served me a 'vegetable' soup which I had two spoonfuls. I stopped, realizing it was some kind of beef or chicken broth. I asked the waitress if it had a meat broth to which she responded 'no, it's chicken'. I pushed back the bowl and thanked her, asking her to take it away. Chicken IS meat but I digress.

The next day I had lunch at a Boston Pizza and had the Popeye pizza. Smothered in so much cheese, I could have eaten half a pack of bacon and it would have been the same cholesterol intake.

So my learnings this week are:

-Some people think chicken doesn't qualify as meat
-Fish apparently isn't meat
-Vegetarian for a regular restaurant means anything slathered with cheese and doesn't contain chicken or beef.

If I want to eat healthy and vegetarian, I'm going to have to pack some canned meals since I don't have a fridge with me to keep perishables.

Now the big dreadful challenge... Canadian Thanksgiving....

The family wants a bird. I will have to oblige but I want to get my own tofurkey and eat it.
I've got some great cookbooks though. I'm sure I'll manage!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Taking the plunge - one day at a time

This has been a long time coming... I've been toying with the idea for a while now, as this blog reflects, my desire to become more of a herbivore. I'm keeping dairy, eggs and fish in my diet for now as I need to get into the habit of reaching for the legumes and nuts for sustenance.

I'd like to get fish out of my diet too sooner than later (making today the last time), but I'm not the only person being weened off this - I have my beau that's being supporting of my decision. I've been 6 days without meat (other than the salmon tonight - yes, I know, eating fish does not make me a vegetarian - that's why I'm deliberately not calling myself by any label yet).

I'm not doing this because dead flesh revolts me or I think cow's milk belongs to baby cows. No, none of that. Yes, I'm deeply troubled with factory farming and the cost of producing meat is depleting our world's resources at an alarming speed. The way we produce, handle, prepare and consume food needs to be revised completely - look at the listeriosis outbreak we've had in Canada these past months. I'd like to think that organic and environmentally produced livestock can be sustainable - but that doesn't justify a twice daily consumption of meat either!

My motivation comes from my health - hence the support from my significant other. Hormonally pumped chickens, pork and cows have made me sick and it's time to stop the damage and start reclaiming my health one day at a time.

I've been thumbing through my vegetarian cookbooks, reading through my veg cooking class handouts to get me back on track. I've stocked up on ready made seitan, tofu, tempeh and an assortment of beans and lentils. I have an already well stocked pantry of grains - counting rice, quinoa & barley in the party.

It's time for change. I can feel it.