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Ahimsa

Practicing Non-Harming Toward Yourself and the World

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Saag Paneer and Roasted Chickpeas

Today is the first lazy day at home I’ve had in a while, so I decided to take the time to make a delicious lunch. I had some tofu and frozen spinach, so Saag Paneer seemed an obvious choice. I used the recipe from the Elizavegan blog, and it turned out great, despite my not having basic spices like turmeric and coriander (although now I have an excuse to go grocery shopping tomorrow). It was so creamy and flavorful, and filled the house with the aromatic scent of an Indian kitchen. This recipe makes so much food; I’ll be able to eat off this for a couple of days.

Saag paneer is also known as palak paneer, and is a traditional dish of India and Pakistan. Saag simply refers to greens, although spinach seems to be the most popular choice. Next time I make this dish, I’m going to try using kale. Although paneer is cheese, firm tofu makes a great substitution.¬† This dish is typically eaten with roti or rice, but I chose to serve it with quinoa, mainly for its health benefits (protein, calcium, iron, and fiber, to name just a few) and because I’d been craving it lately.

If you search the internet, you’ll find thousands of slightly different variations of this dish, including hundreds of specifically vegan recipes. I’m sure many of them are delicious, but I do recommend the Elizavegan recipe, mainly because the curry and nutritional yeast-crusted fried tofu is a delicious addition and goes so well with the spinach and coconut milk.

I also made one of my favorite snacks: roasted chickpeas. I like my snacks to be savory and salty rather than sweet, and chickpeas are much healthier than the potato chips or bread I would otherwise reach for. Versatility is the best part of snacking on roasted chickpeas – you can literally season them in hundreds of different ways. The recipe I’m sharing for you today is my favorite.

Savory Mushroomy Chickpea Snacks

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp mushroom seasoning (I used Lunds & Byerlys, which I couldn’t find online, but FungusAmongUs is great too)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Pinch of paprika
1/4-1/2 tsp salt (Truffle salt would be great here
1 tsp white truffle oil, plus more to finish

Preheat oven to 425. Line a pizza pan or baking dish with parchment.

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and toss until the chickpeas are coated thoroughly. Spread in a single layer on the parchment. Bake for 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.

When chickpeas are nice and golden, and slightly crisp, remove from oven and allow to cool a bit. Add truffle oil to taste.

And try not to eat them all at once! ūüėČ

Other than cooking, today has been  a very calm day. My boyfriend has recently gotten me into video games and lent me his PSP to play Final Fantasy Tactics, so my goal for today is to play games and eat delicious food. Sounds like a great time, right?

My Favorite Breakfast for Lunch

SURPRISE! Ahimsa is alive and kicking again!

After a tough weekend at work, I let myself sleep in this morning. So I had a nice big breakfast… for lunch. My favorite breakfast in the world is something savory, filling, and versatile – tofu scramble and tempeh bacon.

The tempeh bacon is from¬†Vegan Brunch, but if you don’t have that cookbook (and, let’s be honest, you should. It’s incredible.), recipes abound on the internet. Just like anything else, the longer you let it marinate, the better it’s going to taste.

Every vegan has their preferred method and recipe for their favorite tofu scramble. My technique involves a tip I learned from, again,¬†Vegan Brunch. It involves using a wet seasoning mix – spices and dried herbs mixed with water – and adding it to the tofu after it is browned in oil. I was in the mood for a few kalamata olives, so I decided to mix up an Italian-style herb mix (sage, basil, thyme, garlic, and salt). Of course, I also added the expected turmeric for color, black salt for the “egginess,” and nutritional yeast for the super-awesome vegan points. I finished it with fresh chopped parsley.

I love dry tofu scrambles. When I first went vegan, my scrambles were always wet, with a bit of liquid oozing out. Gross. It’s really important to press the tofu as much as time allows, and to cook the rest of the water out.

Tofu scrambles are an easy, cheap, and fast meal solution. Most importantly, a scramble is completely open to¬†customization. There is no end to the combinations of veggies and spices you can add. You could get fancy and finish it with white truffle oil; you could add Mexican spices, salsa, and guacamole; it’s great in a burrito or on a breakfast pizza; or heck, put it in stromboli.

So guys – what are your favorite tofu scramble variations?

(psst – don’t forget to like Ahimsa on Facebook!)

Stupid Beer

I have a fun, exciting story to share. Are you ready?

My boyfriend is awesome, and as a result I like to do nice things for him. Usually, that means cooking for him. So I came up with an idea for a pizza and cupcake date. I’ve been wanting to try a beer crust pizza for a while, so I used a recipe from cute and delicious. Honestly, it didn’t taste very different, so in the future I’ll probably save the beer for drinking.

Here’s the story: I didn’t have beer, so I went to Ingles this morning to pick up some, along with the other ingredients I needed. Everything was fine until I was waiting to get on the bus afterward to head home. I had the six-pack of beer in my backpack, when I felt something wet. I took it off and opened it up, only to find that one of the cans had exploded. To make things better, when I grabbed it, I got sprayed in the face by beer. So, I threw the offending can into the bushes (I know, littering is bad) and called my boyfriend whose house was only a mile away. He gave me permission to break into his house and find a new bag. I ended up missing the bus by, oh, five minutes, and had to wait another half hour for it to come by again. But on the plus side, I got to play with this awesome gal:

I smelled like beer the entire way home. Oh well.

Back to the pizza. The beer crust wasn’t the only new thing I tried. I also made some vegan pepperoni out of beets. I was skeptical until I tried one. So delicious.

I was surprised the BF like them since he hates fennel, one of the ingredients. For some reason, that fact never crossed my mind while I was making them. I suddenly thought about it while he was eating, but when I asked him about it he said he liked it. Whew.

Now it’s off to do the dishes from last night and get started on lunch. I can’t decide whether I want carrot soup or miso soup, but I’m definitely making some garlicky kale.

A couple of restaurant meals

I’ve written before about how much I adore Rosetta’s, and luckily it’s the sort of place where vegetarians and even omnivores can enjoy a nice meal. Friday my boyfriend and I had lunch there, and decided on basically the two most unhealthy items on their menu, the chili cheese fries with vegan queso and the tempalo wings.

Both were obviously delicious. I got both myself and boyfriend hooked on the tempalo wings a few months ago after ordering them for the first time. Absolutely perfect. Plus, it was a gorgeous day, and the atmosphere at Rosetta’s just makes any day better.

I don’t like eating out very often, mainly because I love to cook so much, but on occasion it’s nice to go out and have someone cook delicious food for you. One such day was a week ago when I was exhausted. The bf lives close to a wonderful Thai restaurant (which happens to be the very first place we went out together) that is just lovely. It’s curious that we’ve only been there twice considering its close proximity to his house and our love for Thai food. Last week when we were there I ordered the red curry with tofu.

It was delicious, plus the meal itself was gorgeous! I really feel like I should work on my presentation when it comes to serving meals because good food deserves to look as lovely as it tastes.

Mac n’ (Wayfare) Cheese, Burritos

I’ve been eating a lot of vegan cheese lately. I can’t stop. I loved cheese in my pre-vegan days, and when I find a vegan version I’m happy with (because we all know it isn’t exactly the same – and perhaps never will be) I eat it on almost everything. I promised reviews of the Wayfare We Can’t Say It’s Cheese, so here’s the very first.

The first thing I would make was obvious – macaroni and cheese. Any vegan cheese should be able to pass this test. I used the cheddar dip (rather than the cheddar spread which has a much thicker consistency), and stirred it into the cooked noodles.

Unfortunately I wasn’t super impressed. (Also, terribly sorry about the picture. I’m getting mighty tired of relying on my cell phone for this.) Maybe I didn’t use enough¬† cheese, because it was a little dry/not flavorful. On hindsight,¬† I probably should have added a Tbs or two of Earth Balance, but I felt like it probably didn’t need it.

Today for lunch I tried again, this time with EB, a little miso, and more cheese. It was definitely better, but I’ll stick to making VeganDad’s mac n’ cheese in the future.

Last night for dinner I decided to use the Mexi-cheddar flavor and make burritos. I even made my own tortillas! I had no idea they were so simple. Plus it’s so much cheaper since there’s only three ingredients – water, flour, and salt. I used the recipe from Bunny Junk.

I spread the Mexi-cheddar variety over the tortilla, with a chickpea-cumin-chili powder filling, some red pepper, and avocado. I wasn’t too fond of this particular flavor on its own, but it was good rolled up in a burrito.

So far, my opinion of Wayfare’s cheese products are pretty positive. Compared to the vegan cheese alternatives on the market right now, these are rather close to being the best, especially the hickory flavor, which I’ve been eating off my finger every time I walk through the kitchen.

Mexican Inspired Pizza

As readers of Ahimsa already know, my boyfriend and I are huge pizza lovers. We have it for dinner at least once a week.

Sometime last week, we were discussing pizza (I wonder how many other couples discuss food like we do on such a regular basis) and I mentioned that I would like to make a pizza where refried beans were the base rather than the standard tomato sauce. He seemed interested, and on Saturday night we made a Mexican inspired pizza.

We used a pre-made crust because it was 9:30 at night when we finally decided we were hungry. At that point, no one wants to wait an hour for dough to rise. For the refried bean base, we mixed half a can of fat-free refried beans with about half a cup of beer. Word to the wise: next time you cook refried beans, mix it with a cheap beer. I’d never done this before meeting my boyfriend, and it gives an extra-yummy dimension to the beans. Trust us.

Lately, I cannot eat a pizza without pineapple. So our “Mexican” toppings were pineapple, yellow corn, pico de gallo, garlic, and avocado. I’ve never baked avocado, so I was eager to see how it did in the oven. Thankfully, roasted avocado is rather good. The entire pizza was tasty, in fact. My boyfriend was worried that baking the beans would produce a crusty topping, but because it was only in the oven for about ten minutes, it wasn’t a problem.

Has anyone else ever tried a Mexican-themed pizza? What toppings did you use?

A Few Reviews

Great news!! I got my tax return and it was a little bit more than it’s been the last few years. As soon as I saw it had been put in my bank account this morning, I ran down to Greenlife Grocery. Not for a shopping spree (which I’m sure will come later), but just to grab a few items and look for one in particular – Amy’s new vegan Mac n Cheese. To my disappointment, however, they didn’t carry it.

Since I had planned on having that for lunch, I had to think of something else. I decided I wanted a fresh salad with some kind of pasta. I made a quick spaghetti, just enough for one serving. The sauce I used was Newman’s Own Sockarooni sauce, which is my favorite spaghetti sauce. It’s chunky with tomatoes, peppers, and mushrooms, and it has a deliciousness to it I haven’t found elsewhere.

The salad was simple: baby spinach, carrot, celery, red onion, raisins, sunflower seeds, salt and pepper. While I was at the store I stared at the multitude of dressings for at least ten minutes before I finally settled on Drew’s Goddess Dressing. I knew I would like it – Goddess dressing is my favorite, although it’s not exactly good for you.

As a snack, and because I wanted to try something new, I picked up a small bag of sweet potato tortilla chips from Food Should Taste Good. I loved the ingredient list I saw upon picking them up: just corn, oil, sweet potato, corn bran, evaporated cane juice, and sea salt. It bothers me to eat junk food because there’s usually a super long list of mystery ingredients and chemical that have no place in your body.

I was a wee bit disappointed, however. They just weren’t flavorful enough. I suspect they would be great dipped in hummus though, because the crunch was perfect.

So that’s what I had for lunch. I also have a stir-fry to share because I don’t think it needs its own post. I made it for lunch for my boyfriend the weekend before last, and both of us thought it was delicious.

The stir-fry was sliced red and yellow bell peppers, broccoli, extra-firm tofu, turmeric, cayenne, mushrooms, onions, and soy sauce served over saffron rice.

There’s the food. Hopefully it’ll get more interesting around here now that I have money to spend on food again. I was getting mighty tired of peanut butter ramen noodles.

Sassy Sandwich Bread

I will never buy another loaf of bread.

Right now, my apartment smells incredible – just like freshly baked, homemade vegan bread.

While this wasn’t my first attempt at bread, it was my first time making a loaf of bread. All I wanted was something I could make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with, which for some reason I’ve been craving for days.

Also, why don’t I use Sarah Kramer’s La Dolce Vegan more often? I usually skip it for one of my “fancier” or newer vegan cookbooks, but then I cook from it and the food is great.

For the bread I used Kramer’s Sassy Sandwich Bread. The ingredients are basic, which is great for someone with a very limited pantry. For the flour I used half whole-wheat and half all-purpose.

Besides the smell, it tastes delicious. It was a little soggy along the sides, but I think I greased the loaf pan with a bit too much oil.

In other news, my birthday is this Friday!  Yay!

Balsamic-glazed Turnips with Kale

Folks, I am so so happy to share this recipe with you. The flavors melded together so well, it was colorful, and filling. Plus it smelled fantastic while it was cooking and even on the plate. To be honest, I’m a little surprised at myself for creating it. Go me ūüėČ

Balsamic-Glazed Turnips with Kale (serves 4)

4 medium turnips, peeled and diced
2 carrots, diced
1/2 red onion, sliced thinly
1 bunch kale, stems removed and chopped
1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp ground coriander
2 Tbs balsamic vinegar, plus extra to taste
1 Tbs red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt

1. Heat oil in a pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion slices and 2 Tbs balsamic vinegar. Cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is absorbed. This will take 5-10 minutes.

2. Add the carrots and turnips. Add the red wine vinegar, and I added another splash of balsamic vinegar. Also add the salt and sugar.

3. Add 1 cup of water and cover. This will help the vegetables to cook quicker. Cook, stirring every so often, until water is almost absorbed.

4. Add the kale, and cover. Cook until liquid is absorbed. At this time, if the kale is still not done, add a little more water (1/4 cup at a time) until it is tender.

5. Serve over grain of choice (I used Israeli couscous) and drizzle with a little more balsamic vinegar.

I served this alongside broccoli with a little Earth Balance, salt, pepper, and nutritional yeast. The whole meal was completely satisfying.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Review

This is a very belated post. I finished reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life months ago, and I’ve been meaning to give a review.

The book is basically a memoir of Kingsolver and her family’s experience of living as very self-sufficient locavores over one year. They grew their own heirloom vegetables, baked their own bread, canned sauces and veggies, etc. For people who are passionate about knowing where their food originates and how it comes to their plate, this book would be an interesting read.

However, this wasn’t exactly a vegan-friendly read and it is hard for me to recommend it. The family raises their own poultry, and slaughters them in their backyard. Parts are relatively graphic. I do want to say one thing, however – I would much rather have people eating pasture-grazed meat than factory farmed. At the same time, though, it’s still completely unnecessary and cruel.

There is one major reason I don’t want to recommend this book too strongly: Kingsolver’s ridiculous rant on vegetarians and vegans. Up until page 220, I was very happy reading this book – after all, I worked at a farm market for six years and I love learning about how food is grown. But the few pages the author devotes to hating on vegetarians ruined the book for me. I wish I could reprint the whole section here, but here are a few excerpts:

Most of us, if we know even a little about where our food comes from, understand that every bite put into our mouths since infancy was formerly alive. The blunt biological truth is that we animals can only remain alive by eating other life. Plants are inherently more blameless, having been born with the talent of whipping up their own food… Strangely enough, it’s the animals to which we’ve assigned some rights, while the saintly plants we main and behead with moral impunity.

To believe we can live without taking life is delusional. Humans may only cultivate nonviolence in our diets by degree.

I’m unimpressed by arguments that condemn animal harvest while ignoring, wholesale, the animal killing that underwrites vegetal foods. Uncountable deaths by pesticide and habitat removal – the beetles and bunnies that die collaterally for our bread and veggie-burgers – are lives plumb wasted. … without it [animals for food] our gentle domestic beasts in their picturesque shapes, colors, and finely tuned purposes would never have had the distinction of existing. To envision a vegan version of civilization, start erasing from all time the Three Little Pigs, the boy who cried wolf, Charlotte’s Web, … Next, erase civilization, brought to you by the people who learned to domesticate animals.

Emphasis mine.

Those are just a few things Kingsolver says. Her argument is weak at best. She uses as ammunition a few points that anti-vegetarians have been saying for years: plants have feelings, there wouldn’t be pigs if it weren’t for people eating meat, blah blah blah. I don’t think I can express how disappointed I was in Barbara Kingsolver as I read those words. Like I said before, it ruined the book for me.

Plants do not have a central nervous system. Nor do they have a brain with which to process feelings. Therefore, they do not feel pain and are not sentient. The plant argument is tired and redundant and unfounded in science. I wish people would stop using it. It’s hard for me to take someone seriously who even brings it up.

Also, how were animals domesticated? Humans took them out of the wild and bred them. Without humans, there would still be animals, although they wouldn’t be quite what we have today. Another silly claim.

Otherwise, I enjoyed the book. I love food, and I love how it is grown. I just hope people don’t read it and believe the myths Kingsolver puts forward about veg*nism.

Snow, cake, and more jerk seitan

Asheville got another couple of inches of snow this week. Coming from the Outer Banks, even a tiny bit of snow excites me! Here’s a couple pictures of the snow:

Of course, after the 12 inches we got in mid-December, 2 inches isn’t much. But it’s still beautiful.

As long as I’ve had Veganomicon, for some reason I never noticed the Pumpkin Crumb Cake with Pecan Streusel. When it comes to sweets, I’m seriously lacking a sweet tooth. I just don’t care much for candy/cookies/etc., although I looovve baking (luckily I have a boyfriend who will eat all of my treats!). This recipe didn’t seem as if it would be overly sweet though, so I bought a can of pumpkin and made it.

It was great. Not too sweet, perfectly moist, exquisite smell. I would make this again, especially for thanksgiving. The pecan streusel topping was crunchy, and the pecan-pumpkin combination was really tasty.

Remember the jerk seitan I made a few days ago? Well, it was so good I decided to make it again, this time for two. For some reason, it tasted even better the second time around, and looked better.

jerk seitan, mashed sweet potatoes, and brown rice

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Via the EasyVegan blog, I became aware of a great interview with Ph.D and author Dr. Melanie Joy. In the interview, she discusses “Carnism.” It’s fascinating stuff. Part One/Part Two

BBQ pineapple pizza

Last weekend my friend Carol came over and we had a little pizza party at my boyfriend’s house. Carol suggested BBQ pineapple pizzas, which was great because pineapple is my second favorite pizza topping (after artichoke hearts). We spread some Carolina-style BBQ sauce over the crusts (one with a little ketchup), topped it with slices of green bell pepper, onion, garlic, and some soy curls she had bought with her. We also put some Teese on top.

This pizza was my first encounter with both soy curls and Teese. The soy curls were better than I had imaged they would be – I sort of expected something bland and chewy. However, they tasted pretty good and soon I’d like to get my own bag to use for tacos and stir-fries. The Teese was pretty good too (we used Cheddar), but I honestly think I prefer FYH or Cheezly.

The next day the BF and I went hiking near Grandfather mountain, and I took the leftover pizza for lunch. These are the only two pictures we managed to take since we didn’t think of doing it the night they were made.

Sprouting & a few interesting things

Here’s just a few things that might be interesting to you.

First, here is a very informative video about sprouting from The Renegade Health Show. I’ve been wanting to grow my own sprouts for a long time, and they make it look so easy I feel silly for not having done it sooner!

Second, photographer Peter Menzel has documented the kitchens of typical families from all over the world. It’s amazing to view the differences – the SAD of a North Carolinian family, the many fruits and veggies of a Mexican family, etc. I love peeking into the cupboards of other cultures.

Are there any Vegetarian Times readers here? I know, I know, VegNews is the vegan periodical of choice, VT also offers a number of vegan dishes in their pages. If you want to read some vintage issues, you can browse entire issues from the ’80s to 2004 on Google Books.

Feel like getting a little pissed off? Here’s an example of what goes on behind the closed doors of major food companies. I wish I could grow my own food.

Here’s some interactive info on supplements!

…and… I was very limited on food so when I decided to make dinner I just threw what I did have together. I made chapati, then made some soba noodles and topped them with sauteed garlic, onion, spinach, shredded carrot, and topped it with a drizzle of sesame oil, dried chives, chopped carrot chunks, and toasted sesame seeds. I’m also working on a curried beanball recipe which you see there, and as soon as I perfect it I’ll post the recipe on this blog.

EDIT: For some reason the YouTube video didn’t work, so I reposted it. Sorry for the error!

Kelp Noodles

In an effort to use up every last bit of food I have, I decided to finally try the kelp noodles that have been in my refridgerator for at least four months.

Kelp noodles might be more well-known to raw foodists than those of us who cook, so here’s some information. Kelp noodles are made from three simple ingredients: kelp, water, and sodium alginate. They are completely raw, low-calorie, and fat-free. For people watching their weights or people who want to consume fewer carbs, kelp noodles might be a great substitute for regular pasta. For a 4 oz serving, there are only 6 calories and 1 gram of carbohydrates! On top of all that, all you’ve got to do before eating them is to rinse them, so a great choice for people who don’t like to cook or might not have time.

Having taken into account all of the above, they might not be for everyone. I enjoyed them, but I could completely understand if some people thought them bland and worthless. They’re chewy, which I liked, but for people who are stuck on traditional noodles this is a huge difference. They don’t have much of a taste, which could also be a problem for some. And I’m also sure that there are people who will just never be ok with the simple idea of kelp noodles.

I didn’t really know what to do with them, so after rinsing I basically just threw things together. It was in no way raw though – I thawed and cooked some mixed veggies and corn. I tossed with soy sauce, cayenne powder, and toasted sesame seeds. I really enjoyed eating it.

For those of you who want to try kelp noodles, there is a lovely looking recipe over at the Renegade Health Show for kelp noodles with creamy mushroom sauce. I’ve actually had it bookmarked for a while, but found myself without the ingredients. So if you try it, let me know what you think!

Spicy Sauerkraut Potatoes

I love potatoes. I also love sauerkraut.

Eating cheaply while searching for employment has forced me to become more creative during meals. I don’t have the luxury of buying any ingredient I want, so I use what I’ve already got in the kitchen. To be completely honest, it’s sort of fun.

I wanted some potatoes for lunch, so I diced them up to fry. Then I remembered the half-can of sauerkraut left in my fridge. So I tossed them together, added a few spices, and was pretty surprised that they tasted as good as they did.

This picture fails on so many levels. It's actually quite a nice dish, but having to use a crappy cell phone camera doesn't do it any justice.

Spicy Sauerkraut Potatoes (serves 1, but possibly 2 as a side)

2 medium potatoes, diced
1 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup vegetable broth
3/4 cup sauerkraut, drained
1 chipotle pepper in adobe sauce, chopped coarsely
1/2 tsp celery seed
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp liquid smoke

Dice the potatoes, with or without peeling them (I prefer to leave the peel on). Fry in the olive oil for a few minutes over medium-high heat. Pour the vegetable broth over them, and cook until the liquid is mostly absorbed. This will take about 10-15 minutes.

Add sauerkraut, the chopped pepper, liquid smoke, celery seeds, and red pepper flakes and stir. Heat through and serve.

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