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Ahimsa

Practicing Non-Harming Toward Yourself and the World

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vegan

Oops – Something went wrong with the pie crust

In the past when I’ve written about problems I’ve had with recipes, I’ve been lucky enough to receive helpful comments about what might have gone wrong. That’s pretty much what I’m looking for with this post.

Friday night my boyfriend and I couldn’t figure out what we wanted to eat. Finally he decided he wanted a pot pie, and I thought it might be fun to make one since I’ve never done it before.

For the filling we just went with really simple, basic ingredients we already had. We chopped up some baby red potatoes and organic carrots, and tossed in some thawed peas and corn. We used Vegan Brunch‘s Mushroom Gravy (with only 1 Tbs of flour so it would be thinner), and the pie crust from January 2010’s Vegetarian Times recipe for Indian Samosa Casserole.

I had made the samosa casserole a little over a month ago, and the crust was easy and nicely flaky. You can’t get more basic – just equal parts all-purpose and whole wheat pastry flour, salt, oil and water. I had zero trouble the first time I made it, but this time it wouldn’t hold together at all. I thought I did everything in exactly the same way. The only difference I could think of was that maybe the whole wheat pastry flour was too cold. I had decided to store it in the refrigerator while I was away for winter break.

Piecing the crust together

We ended up having to take little bits of it and piecing it together over the vegetables. It almost seemed like it was too wet, but I think I used less water than the first time I made it.

It ended up tasting fine, but I wish I knew what went wrong so I can avoid the trouble in the future.

An Almost Authentic Egg Salad

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In August I moved into my first apartment after transferring to a new university, after spending two previous years living in a dorm at my old school. Dorm-living isn’t very vegan friendly, especially when you don’t have a kitchen in the building and your campus isn’t particularly concerned with providing nutritious vegan meals. I ended up eating a lot of tofu “mock” salads, styled after the chicken, egg, and tuna salads of my pre-veggie days. I rarely used a recipe, since I had grown up watching my mother whip all three salads together. When I make them I simply add vegan equivalents of her ingredients.

You can certainly argue that vegan mock chicken and egg salads are pretty much the same thing. However, I recently bought some black salt from Cosmo’s, and I was dying to use it. I’d heard that black salt provided an “eggy” flavor to tofu scrambles, but I’d never tasted it before. As soon as I pulled it out of the box, I opened the little bag and was amazed at the egg smell I encountered. After I tried a little on my finger, I was stunned. It tasted and smelled like real egg!

Here is my recipe for egg salad. The trick to a good mock egg (or chicken) salad is to measure everything to taste – I adore dill pickles, so I always add twice as much as normal people would. Use this recipe more as a guideline, and measure ingredients as you see fit. Just be careful not to add too much black salt – I have a feeling that too much would overpower any other tastes.

Not easy to get a good picture...
Not easy to get a good picture...

Almost-Authentic Egg Salad (serves 1-2)
1/2 package extra-firm tofu, crumbled
1/4 cup vegan mayonnaise (I used fat-free Nayonaise)
2 tsp Dijon or spicy brown mustard
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 dill pickle, chopped, or pickle relish to taste
2 Tbs yellow onion, minced
1/2 tsp turmeric
Dash black salt (about 1/8 tsp)
1/8 tsp paprika
Black pepper, to taste

Mix all ingredients together – season to taste. Great on a sandwich or in a pita, over a bed of greens, or just by itself! I had mine between two slices of really good whole-wheat bread, with baby spinach and a thin slice of Follow Your Heart Mozzarella cheese.

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Baltimore Schools: Meatless Mondays

Schools in Baltimore are about to have more compassionate Mondays. Baltimore City schools are joining the Meatless Monday program, the first school system in the country to do so on a regular basis. Every Monday the school system will serve it’s 80,000 students a vegetarian meal (sadly the program isn’t vegan-food inclusive, though introducing vegetarian food is a start in the right direction).

It is important for all school systems to incorporate vegetarian and vegan options in their cafeterias on a regular basis, not just one day per week. While I think it’s great that Baltimore is trying out the Meatless Monday program, I think back to my own school days and remember how hard it was to be a vegetarian at my high school.

I stopped eating meat in the tenth grade. Not vegan yet – I still ate plenty of dairy. I went to a decent-sized high school, and the cafeteria was always super crowded – to the point where standing in line meant you only got 10 out of 30 minutes to actually eat. The meals were horrendous. Before I became a vegetarian, my typical school lunches would consist of a half-cooked chicken sandwich, a slice of greasy pizza, or a huge-ass chocolate chip cookie. By not eating meat, I was reduced to the cookie, or french fries, or canned vegetables left on a heating plate. We didn’t have a salad bar, no vegetarian option (such as a veggie burger) was ever offered, and the school officials couldn’t care less what we ate.

Needless to say, being a student at my high school meant not eating healthy during the day. I’ve gotten a little off-topic I guess, but I just feel it’s really important to feed our nation’s children a nutritious, healthy meal at least once a day. And adding more vegetarian and vegan options to the menu is a great place to start.

Of balsamic vinegar, tailgate markets, and leeks

Every Saturday morning, my campus is host to a tailgate farmer’s market, with about twenty venders selling everything from fresh bread (though unvegan!), local sauerkraut and kombucha, all the veggies you could imagine, flowers, and meats. All local,  much of it is organic, and the people and vendors are incredibly nice. I wake up Saturday mornings to walk the mile or so down there and pick up a bag of fruits and veggies. Here’s my bounty for this week:

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Raspberries, eggplant, peppers, squash, leeks, bok choy, tomatoes, corn, cucumbers, and potatoes. And it only cost $20! Whenever I go I try to find something new to experiment with, and this week it was leeks. As sad as it is, I’ve never cooked with them, usually just opting for onions when a recipe calls for them. Let’s just say, I sad I never bought them before! I love their mellow flavor, and I’ve been slicing them up to put in everything.

For dinner tonight, I was craving some balsamic roasted potatoes. Last week a friend and I made balsamic roasted root veggies – beets, potatoes, and turnips – and the balsamic and olive oil coated them nicely. Since I didn’t feel like messing with beets and turnips, I just chunked up some potatoes, drizzled them with olive oil and balsamic vinegar (they were drenched in balsamic – I can never get enough), threw them on a baking sheet, and cooked them for 45 minutes. While that was cooking, I sauted my bok choy with leeks, garlic, ginger, olive oil, and bragg’s. Yummers 🙂

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I’ve come to the conclusion that balsamic vinegar tastes good on practically everything. What’s your favorite way to use it?

Tofu Scramble Hodgepodge

Tofu scrambles are my favorite easy breakfast – filling, easy, fast, and there is simply no end to ingredients you can add. Today I woke up late (thanks hangover!) and just waited until lunch time to eat. I really wanted a tofu scramble, but I didn’t want something so… breakfasty. So I added a random combination of spices and vegetables, and the result was amazing.

Sarah Kramer’s method of making a tofu scramble, from her cookbook La Dolce Vegan, is to saute the veggies in olive oil while mixing the crumbled tofu, spices, mustard, etc., in a bowl, then adding to the frying pan. I like this a lot better than my previous method of just tossing everything together in the pan. By mixing the ingredients together prior to cooking, you can make sure the tofu is coated with the flavors.

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Tofu Scramble Hodgepodge (serves 1)

1/2 block firm tofu
1 TBS extra-virgin olive oil
Small handful shredded carrot
1/4 small red onion, diced
1/2 red or green bell pepper, or both, diced
Handful baby spinach, torn into small pieces
A chunk of Gimme Lean vegan sausage, rolled into small crumbles
1/2 TBS Bragg’s liquid aminos
1 TBS nutritional yeast
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/8 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp cumin
Sprinkle chili powder (or cayenne powder)
3 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
1 clove minced garlic
1 1/2 TBS stone-ground mustard (you can also use Dijon)
Your favorite chunky salsa

Heat the oil in a frying pan on medium heat, and add the shredded carrots. Do this before you prepare the other vegetables, since they take longer to cook. They’re not suppose to be soft, but you want to make sure they cook.

Add the chopped red onion, bell peppers, spinach, sausage, garlic, and sun-dried tomatoes and saute for a few minutes, until onions start to turn translucent.

While the vegetables are cooking, crumble the tofu into a bowl. Add the Bragg’s, mustard, turmeric, nutritional yeast, curry, cumin, and chili powder. Mix together until tofu is coated, and then add to the frying pan.

Cook until tofu browns, which will probably only take a few minutes. Remove from heat, top with a dallop of chunky salsa, and serve.

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I was really pleased with the outcome. First, curry and sausage is my new love. The flavors go so well together! I can’t believe I never thought to add the two until now. I also liked the additional of a few sun-dried tomatoes, although it’s important not to add too many so they don’t become over-powering.

Onto other stuff – apparently I can bake now! I always tell people I’m horrible at baking unless I have someone helping me, but last week I baked the jelly donut cupcakes from Veganomicon, and they turned out great! And a tip for all you bakers – if you find yourself without muffin cups or veg shortening, all you’ve got to do is grease the pan with a mixture of flour and oil. Only a few of the muffins stuck to the pan and it wasn’t so bad we couldn’t eat them.

UN: Eat less meat

According to Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, the chair of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, people should eat vegetarian at least one day per week in order to have a positive effect on the outcome of global warming. He also says that this is just a starting point and that people should continue to decrease their meat consumption. Pachauri suggests that meat consumption reduction is the quickest way of changing what could be a bleak future for all of us and our future generations. “In terms of immediacy of action and the feasibility of bringing about reductions in a short period of time, it clearly is the most attractive opportunity. Give up meat for one day initially, and decrease it from there.

Dr. Rajendra Pachauri
Dr. Rajendra Pachauri

According to the UK’s Guardian, “His comments are the most controversial advice yet provided by the panel on how individuals can help tackle gobal warming.” The question we as vegans should be asking is why this is such a controversial suggestion. Environmentalists tend to take any other eco-advice as sound and quickly jump on the wagon. However, when it comes to the correlation between meat consumption and the state of this planet, these same “environmentalists” shuffle their feet like guilty children. They don’t want to acknowledge how transparent this issue is.

Unexpectedly, the meat industry is not happy with Pachauri’s comments. You see, the environmental degradation caused by the meat industry is actually our fault. From the Guardian:

“Chris Lamb, head of marketing for pig industry group BPEX, said the meat industry had been unfairly targeted and was working hard to find out which activities had the biggest environmental impact and reduce those. Some ideas were contradictory, he said – for example, one solution to emissions from livestock was to keep them indoors, but this would damage animal welfare.”

So, according to at least this representative of the meat industry (and I’m sure he’s not the only one peddling this information), we either have to choose saving our world from climate change, or we can treat animals kindly and burn on a much warmer Earth.

Or, as a third choice, we can do as Dr. Pachauri asks, and lower our meat reduction. If someone absolutely has to have meat, choose local free-range. (I know, a vegan supporting free range meat? If someone’s going to eat meat, I’d much rather it be from an animal that has at least been outside.) See Mr. Lamb, we can have both a clean planet and well-treated animals.

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