Meatless Monday – The Organ Grinder

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The cartoon image of an organ grinder (street musician) and a monkey (gimmick to draw more crowds and money) has come to mean one in power versus the one under his/her control. This Meatless Monday post looks at real life organ grinders (hunters) and monkeys (primates).

With vegetarianism and veganism trending, there is much focus on meat-free diets, its benefits and numerous recipes. But what of other perspectives? Some of the issues concerning the consumption of animal products have implications on health, ecology and the perpetuation of evil (oh that sounds so harsh!) i.e. illegal trade, corruption, etc.

As I’ve said before, animal rights issues are often discussed in conjunction with meat-free diets. Social, economic and political environments present the following as limited yet viable choices for some to earn a living:

  • elephant poaching for ivory
  • the mining of animal parts for traditional medicinal use
  • bush meat

There are those who need the money and those who have the power that make these types of animal trades possible.

Humans belong to the primate group which includes apes and monkeys and we share over 90% of our DNA with some of its members (e.g. chimpanzees). It’s the humans trading in bushmeat that is contributing to the endangered population of apes and monkeys in Africa. Bushmeat, like caviar and lobster, are elitist foods. The bush refers to the forest and meat to the animals found in it. While dealing in ‘monkey meat‘ (or other endangered species) can be lucrative to hunters, there are also unsvaoury consequences.

The recent outbreak of ebola is partially credited to the eating of infected monkeys. And as every high school science project and popular articles will attest, mass killing of animals is not environmentally friendly as it disturbs the delicate balance of ecology. People willing to pay good money for the prestige of eating bushmeat and the hunters willing to accommodate them perpetuates this illegal trade and the corruption needed to sustain it.

The burgeoning palm oil industry (an all-purpose oil used in food as well as cosmetics and cleaning products) is also endangering the habitat and population of orangutans in Borneo.

Cutting down on meat from one’s diet for one day a week, on a regular basis or forever is one thing to help discourage the business of marketable animal meat. Other things that can be done are:

  • Be the change...” Don’t eat some and there won’t be none. Clearly go monkey meatless.
  • Knowledge is power. Become aware of the issue and spread the word.
  • Get active. Seek out organizations that support the cause i.e. sign a petition, volunteer or whatever floats your boat.
  • Abstinence. Avoid products containing unsustainable palm oil and check food labels for sustainable palm oil sources.

Bushmeat Crisis Task Force
Chimpanzees & Bushmeat: 101
Orangutans and oil palm plantations
Say No To Palm Oil – What Can I Do?
Bushmeat – Ape Alliance
BBC News – Ebola: Is bushmeat behind the outbreak?

Lively Up Your Shelf – Sir, can I have some sumac?

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Sumac is a spice often used n Middle Eastern cuisine. It is actually a berry that is ground into a powder. There are many varieties of sumac, some of which are poisonous. Generally the bush that produces the white berries is poisonous while the ones with the red berries are not. It is best to buy sumac that is prepared for consumption.

‘Rhus’ is Greek for sumac and often used in the nomenclature to denote certain types of this bush.

Sumac that is native to the Mediterranean region can be found in Lebanese and Turkish cuisine, amongst others. It is sour like lemon but not as tangy as vinegar. Store-bought sumac is often processed with salt giving it a saline taste. You can find it in specialty spice shops and Middle Eastern grocery stores. Sumac is said to contain malic acid and tannic acid giving it antifungal and astringent properties respectively. It also contains antioxidants while some studies have shown sumac helps lower blood glucose in Type II diabetics and reduces cholesterol levels. Sumac is commonly found in Middle Eastern dishes like tabouli and fattoush salad, za’atar (spice mix), hummus and baba ghanoush. You can also use it:

  • to season roast vegetables such as tomatoes, potatoes and bell pepper
  • make a spice rub for tofu
  • flavour seitan donair kebabs
  • spice up guacamole or some lemon thyme zucchini fritters

Any dish containing lemon would benefit from a hit of sumac.


Meatless Monday – Quick Fixes

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This Meatless Monday takes a brief look at common substitutes for meat.

  • lentils or tvp (texturized vegetable protein) for ground beef
  • seitan (‘wheat meat’ i.e. gluten, water and seasonings) for sausages
  • medium texture tofu for scrambled eggs
  • mushrooms for meaty texture in burgers (or as the burger itself i.e. portobello)
  • tempeh for bacon

There are also certain seasonings that help recreate the look, smell and taste of familiar flavour profiles.

  • Kala namak salt has a sulphuric smell and taste. Use it to season scrambled tofu.
  • Use a pinch of turmeric to colour nut cheeses and egg-mimicking dishes e.g. chickpea ‘egg’ salad sandwiches.
  • Sage, thyme and rosemary are an ideal combo for a lentil and mushroom dressing.
  • For vegetarian/vegan un-chicken soup or to make a pseudo mac n’ cheese sauce, use nutritional yeast for that ‘umami’ flavour.

10 Vegetables That Can Substitute for meat


Orange You Glad!

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Photo by Kimberley (c)2009

Photo by Kimberley (c)2009

Gung Hay Fat Choy!
It’s the year of the Wood Sheep in the Chinese Lunar Calendar.

Each Chinese New Year is associated with an animal and an element while every New Year is marked by symbolic foods that bring luck and fortune. Popular fruits include oranges and tangerines: mandarins are associated with wealth and tangerine with ‘luck’. The orange colour denotes gold.

Health is wealth.

Oranges are also auspicious for your health. Amongst the many nutrients oranges contain, the most notable are:

  • vitamin C – immune support, iron absorption and antioxidant impact
  • herperidin – this phytonutrient is said to lower high blood pressure and cholesterol
  • soluble fibre – beneficial effect on blood glucose and cholesterol levels
  • folate – involved in DNA production and supports neural health and the heart

Nutritionally, it is more advantageous to eat a whole orange rather than drink the juice. Raw also retains more nutrients than cooked. Zest some orange peel on top of your oatmeal or muesli, use the segments in a fennel and orange salad or use the juice to make a Moroccan tagine.

The peel is beneficial and is cold-pressed to produce an essential oil. An aromatherapeutic-grade orange essential oil is used in skin care*, uplifts mood, quells anxiety and acts as a digestive aid.

*This oil can be photo-toxic. Exercise caution before applying topically and consult with a trained aromatherapist for guidance on the proper use of this oil.*

10 Good Luck Foods for Chinese New Year
How to Celebrate Chinese New Year Vegan-Style
The World’s Healthiest Foods – Oranges

Waste Not, Want Not

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Tuesday February 17th 2015
It’s Shrove Tuesday also known as pancake Tuesday and Mardi Gras. It is the day preceding Lent, the 40 day fasting period leading up to Easter. On either side of these Christian holidays is the allowable consumption of certain foods i.e. meat, dairy, eggs. Pancakes were a way to use up excess dairy and eggs so that they didn’t go to waste during this period.

Watch Your Language!
*Shrove is the past tense for the Middle English word ‘shrive‘ meaning to confess and to receive absolution
*Mardi gras is French for “fat Tuesday” (but you don’t have to take this literally!)

Pancakes are one of the oldest forms of bread and can be found in various forms throughout the world.

blini, crepe, pikelet, pancake, tortilla, chapati, lefse, banh xeo…

It is basically flat bread made by cooking batter on a griddle. Pancakes can be either sweet or savoury and are eaten as a snack or part of any meal. In the spirit of Shrove Tuesday and with multicultural inspiration, now is the time to creatively use up ingredients in your kitchen in danger of growing green fuzz.

Basic Pancake Batter

  • Equal parts milk and flour (1 cup each will yield about 12 pancakes of medium-size)
  • 1 egg (or appropriate vegan substitute e.g. chia/flax seed; puréed banana, applesauce or butternut squash)
  • 2 Tablespoons each of baking powder and granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon of vegetable oil

Whisk milk, ‘egg’ and oil together. In separate bowl, combine the remaining ingredients then add to the milk mixture. Oil a skillet or griddle pan (1-2 Tablespoons oil or butter) and heat. Add a heaping spoonful of batter and spread into circle. When it starts to form bubbles on the surface, it is time to flip to the other side. Continue cooking another few minutes until sufficiently browned.

  • Laissez les fruits rouler. Be inspired by the colours of King Cake and serve your pancakes drizzled with purple beet coulis, topped with slices of yellow banana and green kiwifruit
  • Kalinka cake. Go Russian with buckwheat pancakes spread with a thin layer of soured cashew cream and a vegetable mixture of zucchini, sun-dried tomato and raw red pepper.
  • Try a classic buttermilk pancake, popular in North America. Fluffy as a pillow, light and airy in texture yet laden with melted butter (vegetarian/vegan) and drowned in real maple syrup. Who needs dessert?
  • Classic crepe filled with nutella and bananas and drizzled with chocolate.
  • Potato pancakes using sweet potatoes and curry spice.
  • Try a Vietnamese inspired version, banh xeo, and fill with a mixture of bean sprouts, mint, cilantro, basil, garlic, green onion and tofu marinated in a soy/lime sauce.

See also,
International Pancakes Collection

Meatless Monday – Vegging Out on Viola Desmond Day

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It’s Viola Desmond Day in Nova Scotia.

Heritage Day Nova Scotia

Viola Desmond was an African Canadian business woman and unwitting pioneer for human rights in Canada. Some have compared her to Rosa Parks and the fateful incident that made her infamous in the eyes of some but admired in the hearts of many, preceded the “sitting at the front of the bus incident” by nine years. (Rosa Parks, incidentally, was a vegetarian!)

It all began by sitting in the ‘wrong’ section of a movie theatre. After purchasing her ticket, Viola sat downstairs but unbeknownst to her, local segregation custom required her to sit in the balcony. She refused to move, was kicked out of the theatre and later jailed and fined for “defrauding the government” for 1 cent-the difference in tax charged on a movie ticket between downstairs seats (reserved for white folk) and balcony seats (for ‘coloured’ folk).
More about Viola Desmond
Black History Canada
Black Cultural Centre of Nova Scotia

So you’re probably wondering when Meatless Monday and the food come in? Right now!

Though I didn’t grow up in Nova Scotia, many generations of my family did and I have visited there many times. Most recently I spent a week in Nova Scotia in August 2014. Here’s a bit about the food:

Nutrition & Travel – A Taste of Nova Scotia

There are certain foods, naturally vegetarian, that stand out to me, both from my childhood and also found in numerous Nova Scotia cookbooks: baked beans, molasses cookies, brown bread. The common thread in them all? Molasses.

Molasses is a syrup often made from sugar cane or sugar beets but can also be produced using dates, grapes or carob. It is the byproduct from the boiling process and is vegan. Any bone char used to further process the sugar is added afterwards. The more often the sugar source is boiled the less sweet it becomes. The colour also changes accordingly with light molasses tasting the sweetest, dark molasses less sweet while blackstrap molasses, produced at the third boiling, tastes quite bitter. ‘Fancy’ molasses is the commercial name for a sweet yet darker coloured molasses and is often used in baking. Molasses is sometime processed with sulphur and has often been used as animal feed. In Britain, molasses is known as ‘treacle.’

So what can a vegetarian/vegan do with molasses? I, for one, have been known to eat it on bread (who needs jam?) and eat a teaspoonful when I’m feeling a little anemic. Though there are some trace minerals in molasses it does not contain (unfortunately) the same amount of iron as spinach.

Nutrient analysis of blackstrap molasses

Other culinary applications include but are not limited to:

  • vegetarian licorice – molasses, anise flavouring and melted white chocolate. Add a little annatto or beet powder for colouring and you’ve got instant homemade licorice allsorts.
  • ginger and everything! cookies, cake, bread…
  • baked beans! A can of navy beans, a Tablespoon of molasses (blackstrap works well); a teaspoon each of prepared mustard, ketchup, apple cider vinegar, soy sauce and maple syrup; 1 garlic clove minced; a few drops of liquid smoke; and a sprinkle (or two) of paprika, ginger and summer savoury. Et voilà! you have yourself a meatless meal. Bake in a low temperature oven (250°) for a slow period of time (about 1 hour or more) and serve over Nova Scotian brown bread (also made with molasses) for a complete vegetarian protein.

Other Nova Scotia food facts:

  • Step right up and get your antioxidants! Oxford, Nova Scotia is the wild blueberry capital of Canada.
  • The phrase “the real McCoy“, meaning ‘the real deal’ or authentic, was said to have originated with the rum running industry to Lunenberg, Nova Scotia. Others, though, cite different sources for the invention of this phrase. To learn more about “the real McCoy” in Nova Scotia, click here.


Love Thy Name is Chocolate

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February 14th, Valentine’s Day
‘Tis the season for chocolate lovers!
Chocolate and caramel, chocolate and peanut butter, chocolate and raspberries, chocolate and strawberries, well chocolate with just about anything. Here are just a few other food pairings that are a match made in gastronomic heaven.

cashews and carrots
For a savoury union make a pâté. For a sweet one, you can’t go wrong with cake.


butternut squash and coconut curry
Marry a purée of roast butternut squash and coconut milk with some curry spice.


maple syrup and walnut
A little bit of protein and some carbohydrate in this combination makes for a quick and dirty version of an energy snack.


apple and cinnamon
The seductive smell of baking apples and cinnamon is a classic and popular palate pleaser. Good thing cinnamon helps to regulate blood sugar!


lemon and ginger
Drink it, bake it, eat it, inhale it. These unlikely botanical pair, a fruit and a spice, go well in both sweet and savoury dishes. Plus they are implicated in a folk remedy for the common cold.
Ideas: lemon ginger marinated tofu; gingerbread with lemon drizzle; lemon, ginger and honey beverage

And now back to my date with chocolate…checking out Divine Chocolate’s recipe section. Drool…

What’s on your list?