From the News Desk

Hi Friends. I have to tell you, I’ve not been able to cook much again this week. Not by choice, certainly. I’m recovering from a leg surgery which left me with extensive bruising throughout my leg. Ugh! Today I’m even using crutches to see if it helps if I stay off the foot, which is ultra-bruised and swollen.

I collected some interesting news and facts for today.

Happy Meatless Monday! School districts including Baltimore and Detroit now implement Meatless Monday in their districts. My family may not have agreed to go vegetarian, but they know to expect this on Monday. They have agreed on whole wheat pasta, which I am so thankful for. In my opinion, Whole Foods 365 organic is the best one. I buy a lot of it. On Mondays I often make 365 pasta, mix in a jar of sauce, place in a baking dish, and top with a little mozzarella cheese. Then I bake…I also cook Morningstar not-sausage patties and crumble, to be placed on the pasta if desired..It’s an easy meal and we all like it. My runner son now wants whole grains because it will help his running (slow release of energy vs sugar spike). ^**^ ^**^ ^**^ This is me imagining jumping up and down because I can’t really do it…

I bought the October issue of Veg News a few weeks ago. It is such a good issue, I seriously have 13 page corners folded for future reference…reading ideas, recipes, or a product to consider buying.

Some interesting news from Veg News-
The USDA has estimated that in 2012 American meat consumption will decrease 12.2% from the 2007 level. Good for us!

A very informative article titled The Hunger Shame by Marla Rose discusses how world-wide increasing demand for meat along with the world population increasing to 9.1 billion by 2050 is a huge disaster in the making for feeding the world. Basically, animals eat tons of grain that could be feeding many more people than the meat feeds. What goes in does not equal the output. I find this frightening and sad when you consider that we already have hunger issues around the world.

Other news: I heard on the radio this week that 10% of Australians are vegetarians! Wow.

I know I haven’t been cooking or sharing any recipes while I’m off my feet. But do I ever have a site for you to visit, Oh She Glows, a vegan blog. You will not regret it. Go to the tab for recipes if you really want to be blown away! Angela’s recipes are a party for the eyes and super healthy. Recently she gave her recipe for toasted pumpkin seeds and tips for cooking and using Butternut squash…Oh, how I am dying to use these recipes…I do have Butternut squash coming in my delivery tomorrow and plan to cook it no matter what…hmmm, let’s pretend I didn’t say that, Mom…

Have a great week! If you try any of the recipes from Oh She Glows, please let me know how it turned out. So many choices!

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Vegan is the new vegetarian, or is it?

1994 was my first stint as a vegetarian, which lasted about a year..seems like ages ago…Clinton administration, way before 9/11, Pearl Jam and Nirvana days. I was primarily influenced to explore vegetarianism by two good friends (married), who never preached about vegetarianism, but obviously enjoyed it and never seemed to lack for great food. I still had a small apartment kitchen and minimal culinary skill, so logically I loved it when they cooked! I think I believed at the time, why not when it was probably better for one’s body anyhow and it was a bit of a challenge, a way to be different. So, eating veg was mainly for the “cool” factor I suppose. I had never been a huge meat fan, all the way back to the meticulous notes in my baby book kept by my mom (I was the oldest, what can I say?). Plus, I’ve always had an interest in nutrition, ever since my first running days in high school.

Fast-forward 16 years and here I am, definitely no longer worried about the “cool” factor, and still interested in nutrition. I decided in 2010 to look into all the information starting to seep its way into my somewhat fried/non-media influenced/post-graduate school brain–about organic foods, factory farming, etc. I now had the luxury of more time to read and watch movies such as Food Inc. What I read and learned blew me away–and along with internal questions raised by owning my first dog– I knew I never wanted to eat meat of any kind again. I was definitely a vegetarian for life this time.

I guess I’ve been internally struggling with the vegan thing since I made this decision. I had no idea vegan was the new vegetarian…Or so I recently read in this quote in a newish cookbook of mine called Quick Fix Vegan by Robin Robertson: “As a plant-based diet becomes more mainstream, ‘vegan’ has become the new ‘vegetarian’ “. I had to laugh…this was precisely how I was feeling!!! I finally make the jump to vegetarianism for good and now it’s not good enough??!! I was not even fully clear on what vegan meant when I made the change! Sure, I know celebrities had been apparently talking about it for years. But I had hardly followed any celeb news for years. But apparently now even burger-stuffing Bill Clinton was a vegan! (Disclaimer-I did not set out to tie our former president into my post repeatedly, but somehow I have!).

What have I learned through this realization? I feel that the vegan community…which I interact with through the blog world and Internet, VegNews magazine, and cookbooks, seems like an accepting community. Sure, there are über-passionate people, but I have not felt uncomfortable with that. I kind of admire activists in general. It seems in general, the vegan community (which certainly is not a club or a bunch of people with identical views, goals, or spokespersons) accepts people where they are, maybe vegetarian exploring vegan, or a person just exploring a reduction in meat consumption or better health.

I have learned that it’s ok to be where I am. I can own five vegan cookbooks and still make my own decisions about how I choose to be compassionate to animals or eat healthfully. I have also learned that eating vegan or mostly vegan is probably the most healthful way to go. Yes, it’s also awesome for the environment and yes, it’s not that hard to get protein at all. These concepts can be explored anywhere on the web. And I truly feel vegans create the best veg-friendly recipes out there. I was one of those vegetarians who overdid cheese as I cut out meat and vegan cooking provides more healthful (especially less saturated fat) options.

I have discovered through my own explorations of cooking without dairy/eggs I do feel best with minimal to no dairy products. I’m more neutral on eggs. I’m not going to force any more drastic change on my family (two kids in the teen/preteen years here) and I’m not going to grill a friend on the ingredients in her dinner rolls or of that vegetarian soup she is serving. I’m not going to make my mom or aunts any more confused about what to fix for a gathering. I will be ok with a dab of cheese in the bean dip or an egg in my muffin batter. I live in the midwest of the U.S. and I can choose how to participate in my culture, which as most cultures, includes food as an important shared phenomenon. I don’t know many vegans here, and that’s fine with me. I don’t know if there’s a name for what I am describing (my philosophy) and I really feel a name is not necessary. It’s ok and that’s where I am today.

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The “old” veg cookbook collection!

PS…this is the first post I’ve managed to create on my iPad. I still can’t get the pictures exactly where I wanted, but I hope it looks ok. I’m also curious how you feel about this topic and welcome any and all comments.

A bit of tofu success

I wanted to give an updated review on my E-Z Tofu Press. I bought this press on Amazon, after thinking about a press for over 6 months. I was drawn to this press because it was simple and did not take up a lot of space because it does not come with a plastic “box” to collect the water. You simply drain the tofu onto a plate, shallow pan, etc. The price was also much less than other choices I had come across.

I have  used my press three times now over a two-month period. I am very happy with it. It washes easily, and when you close it up by screwing the two plates as close together as you can, it stores in minimal space, which means I can keep it in an accessible spot to grab in a hurry, not in the basement like some of my cooking supplies. It presses the tofu well, although due to my own inexperience I am not sure how “tightly” I can press. I have been able to achieve an amount of pressing I like in 15 minutes, with a few progressive turns to tighten every once in a while. Each time I have measured 1/3 cup liquid released…so I am curious if I can press harder. I like to use extra firm tofu and I really don’t want it breaking up, which I had managed to do in the past when pressing tofu with heavy books and cans. I like to cook with linear cubes or “slices” of tofu. Anyways, after several uses and cleanings (by hand), there is absolutely no sign of any breakdown of the screws, plates or any component. I recommend it if you are interested in a space-saving simple tofu press at a good price.

Here are some pictures of my set-up.

Storage, on my rotating shelf where I cook. Ignore the double boiler pan never unwrapped. I use every other pan from that set!

Tofu draining. It never moves or slides downward in the press.

This week I made Sesame Tofu with Spinach,  a recipe from Moosewood Restaurant’s “Simple Suppers”, which is also posted on their website. (Find it by clicking the link). It really looked better than a lot of my previous tofu attempts and tasted great too–but not so much the next day when the seeds were softened and the tofu was less crispy…gotta eat it same day. I learned some good tips by following this recipe:

  • Sesame seeds can be “pressed” right into the moist tofu (no dipping into a liquid first)…so maybe other things can be pressed this easily too…bread crumbs, chopped nuts possibly?
  • The soy sauce and Tabasco (I skipped the Tabasco) are added in the last 1-2 minutes in the skillet and give the tofu the darker look which I like…seems like this can also be adapted to other recipes.
  • “Regular” extra firm tofu seems to hold its shape slightly better than the sprouted tofu I have tried in my other recipes with the tofu press. Both were organic tofu from Nasoya, so I think it is a fair comparison. I used the regular extra firm here.

Sesame Tofu with Spinach

Maybe I am finally getting somewhere with my tofu cooking. I don’t want to eat it every day, but I would love to work it in once a week. And for other people to actually want to eat it, ha ha.

In my next post I’m going to share about my new discovery of eco-friendly (no nasty, dangerous Teflon) non-stick cookware. If you remember how horrendous poorly my attempts to cook tofu in my stainless steel pans worked out, this is awesome. And the best part is, these pans are super reasonably priced!