Friday, December 31, 2010

Seitan!

With a house guest for the holidays, I've been doing a lot more cooking. One of the things I decided to tackle was something I haven't done in many years; I made up my mind to whip up a loaf of seitan. I used an old favourite recipe, Jo Stepaniak's "Roasted Breast of Seitan Turkey" from Vegan Vittles. You can find it on page three of this document or find adaptations of it on various online blogs. Vegan Vittles is a great little book, however. I've used it for years and have used it often and recommend it to anyone interested in playing around with seitan or mock cheese recipes.

I first assembled the gluten flour, soy sauce, onion and garlic powder (and water) to make my dough. A little bit of kneading was all it took to come up with a nice gluten loaf in a bowl. It's important to knead it thoroughly to ensure that all of the flour gets moistened and that you don't end up with knots of hard dough from dry lumps.

I then assembled the ingredients for my marinade: olive oil, toasted sesame oil, thyme, 3 garlic cloves (instead of the two called for in the original recipe), poultry seasoning (I had no plain sage on hand and there's plenty of it in poultry seasoning) and pepper. I usually use extra virgin olive oil, but last-minute holiday shopping left me grabbing what I could at the local market when I ran out.

I mixed together the marinade's ingredients and proceeded to rub it well over the gluten loaf, which I then placed in the smaller bowl in which I'd mixed the marinade. I covered it and stuck it in the fridge overnight, occasionally pulling it out to rub the marinade in the bottom of the bowl over it again, enjoying the scent of the yummy toasted sesame oil whenever I did so.

The next day, I preheated my oven to 350F and prepared my cooking / basting liquid. I then placed the loaf and what hadn't been absorbed of the marinade into a rectangular casserole dish, poured half the basting liquid over it and popped it into the oven for an hour and 10-15 minutes, occasionally taking it out (say, every 10-15 minutes) to baste it with the liquid in the pan and adding a bit more as what was in the pan got absorbed or reduced.

When it was done, I took it out to cool it, continuing to baste it every once in a while. Once it was cool enough to handle, I sliced it into strips for later use in sandwiches and stir-fry. It turned out fairly well, albeit less "turkey"-like than the recipe's title would suggest thanks to the extra dark mushroom flavoured soy sauce I'd had on hand and used. I wasn't looking to mimic this or that taste, however, but was just looking for some cheap tasty protein to use.

This did the trick!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Hot Noodle Soup on Xmas Day

My omni guest is a huge fan of chicken noodle soup, whether his mother's or from a can. While he was squeezing in a nap after our simple veggie burger lunch, I made the following no-fail easy noodle soup, adapted from one in Dorothy R. Bates' TVP Cookbook. This stuff always reminds me of the lazy Sunday lunches when I was a kid, when Mom would pop open a can of Campbell's soup or pouch of Lipton's and serve it up with grilled cheese sandwiches.

Noodle Soup


What you need:

1 medium to large onion (red or yellow), diced

2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

6 cups water

1 cup TVP granules

2 cups noodles of your choice, broken

1 vegetable bouillon cube

salt (if any) to taste

1 Tbs dried parsley

1/3 cup good quality nutritional yeast (I prefer Red Star)

Whatcha do:

Heat olive oil in a medium-sized pan and add diced onion. Cook until onion has softened and just started to brown.

Add the water, noodles, TVP and break the bouillon cube into it. Stir well and bring to a quick boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer until noodles are on the verge of being perfect (around 10-15 minutes or maybe less depending on size of noodles you're using). Mix in parsley and when noodles are perfect, stir in the nutritional yeast until it's dissolved.

Ladle into hot bowls and top with a pinch of dried or fresh parsley for garnish.
Serves 4-6.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Latest from The Sexy Vegan

He's writing a cookbook, it seems, and I very much look forward to seeing what he slaps together. You can find out more (and check out archived videos) at his website: The Sexy Vegan.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

What Vegans Eat

I'd thought about devoting a post to some of the holiday treats being shared by vegan food bloggers online, but figured that I'd use December's "what vegans eat" post to nose around for things I'd like to try to make over the next few weeks while I entertain a house guest from Pennsylvania. There'll be no elaborate multi-course meals and no extravagant baking of sweets over and above what most would consider modest for the holidays, but the quest for eclectic noms is on nonetheless. I plan to test out a variety of new recipes, as well as to explore quick-fix meal options such as sandwiches and wraps, salads and one-pot dishes. So here are a few of the things recently (and not-so-recently) posted by vegan bloggers that have caught my eye:

I will be making seitan at some point over the holidays. There -- I said it! There's no backing out of it now. Aside from the odd gluten burger from an old Seventh-Day Adventist cookbook I picked up at a garage sale many years ago, I have not made anything even vaguely resembling seitan in well over 4-5 years, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I can make a half-decent batch of it that can be put to good use. The recipe for Hearty Beefless Stew on the Vegan Good Things blog sounds good, as well -- a bit of a change from my usual (and favourite!) Farmhouse Stew by Joanne Stepaniak. What I'd really like to try again, however, is to make some decent vegan Philly Cheese Steak sandwiches. I'd made some back in September using the PC Blue Menu Meatless Strips they sell at the Real Atlantic Superstore in my city; they're made by Gardein and are great, but are also pretty expensive considering that you can easily make 4-5 times the amount of homemade seitan for the close to the same price.

Claire's Samosa-style Twice-baked Potatoes at Chez Cayenne are definitely on my "to do" list. She had them with a curried lentil soup, but I'd be tempted to just serve these up with greens of some sort of a salad (although the soup itself looks really good and I may just be compelled to try it out separately -- lentils are just so awesome).Since they're so quick to prepare and an easy way to clear out a crowded refrigerator crisper (and since my guest enjoys them), Asian-themed stir fries tend to get thrown together at least once or twice a week when we're visiting with each other. He's a noodle-lover, so this recipe for Lo Mein from miss v's vegan cookbook will most certainly be on the menu at some point soon.

Another thing I'd sworn to myself I'd try to make this time around is cornbread. During one of my previous visits to Pennsylvania, we'd picked up some cornbread at Whole Foods and during another, a box of mix to make some. I haven't made cornbread from scratch in several years. It's not something I generally seek out, but it seems to be a favourite of my guest's, so I'll try my hand at baking some, using a recipe like this one posted by trktos at the rants & recipes blog. It should go really well with the three-bean chili I'll invariably end up improvising some morning when I hop out of bed early (although after checking out so many new blogs these past few days, I think that I've found a chili recipe that may become my new indulgence -- Slow Cooker Smoky Pumpkin Chili from the Cooking for a Vegan Lover blog.

I may try out these pasties by Vegan Dad who is back after a brief blogging hiatus. I was hoping to find a pot pie recipe, but these may do the trick. I love filled things! In fact, I may even try my hand at making this pita bread recipe from Bankrupt Vegan to fill with falafel using this recipe from Vegan Epicurean posted back in August or to make some seitan gyros.
I'm looking forward to a couple of weeks of vacation and to starting off at least a few frosty mornings sharing some mugs of hot cocoa with my house guest. Lee at The Vegan Version recommends using So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut Milk in cocoa, which sounds delicious!

Seriously, who needs cookbooks with all of these amazing vegan food bloggers plugging away? The food photos were taken from the blogs referenced, by the way. Visit them and visit them often!

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Hope

"If you want to build a ship, don't herd people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea."

- Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Friday, December 03, 2010

Vegans Gabbing it up Online

Social Networking

I spend a fair amount of time "talking" to other vegans. In the non-virtual world, at least in my immediate circle of friends, family and acquaintances, I don't get to indulge in this at all. I've met a few vegans, sure, but could I pick up the phone to call one up to head out for a soy latté to maybe bounce a couple of blog post ideas around, or to bemoan an upcoming staff lunch at the local gourmet burger joint? Not so much. I can sometimes bend my sweetie's ear, but although he's a decent sounding board when it comes to things having to do with group dynamics or trying to hone in on a point about which I want to write, his eyes glaze over noticeably after what he calls "too much AR talk".

But I
do get to communicate with other vegans on Facebook, on Twitter, in various discussion forums, by email and even by Skype. I do this daily. Sometimes we discuss educational projects in which we're involved, while sometimes we discuss news stories about animal rights issues. More often than not, we end up talking about simple details of our lives and of our respective interactions with the non-vegans around us. Vegan parents find themselves weighed down with more than the average parent's share of unwanted advice from family, friends and strangers alike and commiserate with each other. Holidays like like this past Thanksgiving invariably lead to an exchange of stories concerning family dinners. Basically, a lot of the communication that goes on is just the same sort of gabbing in which anyone would indulge, except that it generally -- or at least very often -- involves discussing veganism or animal use.

24/7 Advocacy: A Moral Imperative?


Recently, I've noticed some folks on social networking sites expressing a fair amount of indignation and irritation with some of their fellow vegans. Take Twitter, for instance: A couple of "tweeters" who'd been following me started up about what a complete waste of time it is for vegan activists to "follow" and communicate with other vegans on Twitter, and that these activists' time would be better spent offline engaging in face-to-face advocacy by talking to non-vegans. Some of the tweets I've seen along these lines have been overtly reproachful.

There is an assumption being made that vegans talking to each other online about animal rights issues and regular old life stuff don't, in fact, engage at all in offline activism. Of course, there's absolutely no evidence to back up this claim. It's a false dichotomy, ignoring the fact that
it's possible to engage in both activities--or to (gasp!) do other things altogether having nothing whatsoever to do with animal rights. Some of us actually spend some of our free time volunteering for causes that even have nothing directly to do with animal rights. Heck, some of us even spend much of our free time doing things like knitting or napping.

Yeah, that's right -- napping.

And the thing is that even if we do engage in other activities, that still wouldn't preclude initiating or participating in face-to-face advocacy at some other point during the day or over the course of a week. And ultimately, is it really another advocate's business in the first place if I spend a few minutes or even a few hours a day on the internet rather than doing 'X'?


Where and When and Who's Watching, Anyway?

A few months ago, Dan Cudahy wrote a great little essay called "On Advocacy Media Preferences" in which he examined the question of whether one forum of advocacy, online or otherwise, is more effective. His conclusion?

Of books, magazine articles, scholarly journals, blogs, forums, emails, street stalls, leaflets, event tables, speeches, presentations, casual discussion, and whatever other forms of communication might be effective, it seems to me that what is communicated and how it is communicated is far more important than where or through what media a message is communicated.
I agree with him wholeheartedly on this. One point he makes which I'd like to explore further, however, concerns what he describes as the need to target a non-vegan audience. Some advocates have too narrow an interpretation of how we can educate and the truth is that there are many ways to engage non-vegans directly, as well as many ways to engage them indirectly.

According to a blurb on Wikipedia about lurking, I'm not so sure that vegans talking to each other online aren't, in fact, doing a fair amount of indirect outreach. Lurking on the internet happens when someone registers for a discussion forum, for instance, where members exchange information with each other, but this individual -- known as a "lurker" -- doesn't jump in and ask or answer questions, but instead spends a lot of time just reading and soaking in whatever information is offered up. Research shows that "lurkers make up over 90% of online groups". So when vegans are indulging in the purported waste of time known as talking to each other about veganism (aka preaching to the choir), this means that there's a really good chance that many others are reading the anecdotes being shared and the tips being traded.

I follow around 260 "people" on Twitter, for instance. There is no way that I do -- or could -- tweet back and forth with all 260 every single day. Most of those Twitter accounts belong to real folks (mostly vegan) who spend their time gabbing with others. They end up in my Twitter time-line and I read what they have to say; if I think that I have something interesting with which to chime in, I will. Otherwise, I just lurk and learn, particularly about how other vegans handle being vegan in what is an overwhelmingly non-vegan world.
I assume that for each person following me on Twitter that there are probably many who don't jump in to discussions I try to start up, but who read the exchanges that ensue.

Those Pesky Forums

Before Facebook and Twitter, there were --
and there still are! -- online discussion forums. While some of them have been set up as communities to facilitate vegans' exchanging information and supporting each other, some of them are more inclusive and lead to debate between vegans and non-vegans, welfarists and abolitionists, and so on. Many advocates avoid engaging in online debating in such venues because it can seem pointless to rehash the same arguments over and over again. It can be exhausting. Yet, what I wrote above concerning lurkers applies just as much to old school public forums as it does to sites like Facebook and Twitter. As sociologist Roger Yates wrote in his short piece "Vegan Education on Public Forums":
it is important to remember that many people seem to read these exchanges without actually taking part in them. It is for them that contributing to public internet debates is important.
And he's right. Furthermore, a lot of these public discussion forums (particularly the ones targeting vegans or people interested in learning about veganism) provide a venue for vegans to support and encourage each other or to engage in earnest dialogue when and where differences may occur and this takes me back to the beginning of this post.

That vegans gab together isn't a lost opportunity for advocacy; others are watching, weighing our words and learning from them. Vegans gabbing together provides something more, though, and it would be unfortunate to ignore or to downplay that when vegans talk to each other online -- when we offer each other tips on the day-to-day aspects of living in a non-vegan world -- we're also helping each other to be happier vegans and helping each other to stay vegan. We're helping to build some sense of community for ourselves so some of us can feel a little less isolated or lost. In the end, it makes us better agents and advocates and that, surely, is no "waste of time".


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