Archive for May, 2008

Oprah, Slate and Five Spice

May 22nd, 2008

For the past few days there has been talk of Oprah Winfrey going vegan for 21 days on the advice of author and advisor Kathy Freston and her book Quantum Wellness which excludes sugar, gluten, alcohol, meat, chicken, fish, eggs and cheese for a “21 Day Cleanse”.     Oprah is very influential over people, especially 40-60 year old women.   This could be good or bad, Oprah could end this at 21 days and make this the new Oprah fad diet.  She will choose the book by Freston as her book club book.  This will kick of the phase of every 40-something housewife thinking veganism is cool without looking at the longterm benefits only to stop at the 21 day mark.   Maybe I am wrong and Oprah will come to the end point only to realize how good this is for her and continue.   Either way it is good that veganism is getting the attention it needs.   Tofu will start flying off the shelves once Oprah gets started.  I have seen more than once the past day or so someone stating “Oprah goes Vegan!”, if you take vegan to mean absolutely no animal products then they are not making a true statement.  Oprah is still wearing leather.  She is wearing silk.   Nowhere has she stated she has gone vegan, just a vegan diet.  So those people should say “Oprah Eats Vegan!”, not that she consumes a vegan but, well, you understand and I am being picky.  So, to put it the proper way, “Oprah has decided to eat vegan for three weeks.”  Does this mean vegan chefs will appear for the next three weeks on Oprah?  Vegan guests?

Oprah’s blog has a link to recipes for “The 21-day Cleanse”.  One recipe, Artichoke and Oyster Mushroom Rockefeller, has alcohol listed as an ingredient.  Oversight?

Hopefully, Oprah will be able to educate people about the advantages of a vegan diet.  And maybe she’ll be able to stick with it beyond 21 days.

Also making the rounds for the last week is an article at Slate written by a vegetarian .  The writer talks of going vegetarian at 18 and announcing it to the cringes of friends and family.   While the article can be entertaining he has one glaring point that I am in disagreement with.  When mentioning bacon and whether he craves bacon he says:

“We’re not insane. We know meat tastes good; it’s why there’s a freezer case at your supermarket full of woefully inadequate meat substitutes.”

No, I don’t think or know meat tastes good, and I am not insane.  Don’t speak for all of us.  That is the most asinine  statement I have heard in some time.   If he thinks the substitutes are inadequate then why is he bothering with them?  Also, he needs to look a little harder as there are some great items that he apparently hasn’t found.  There are some good points in the rest of his little essay but that one rubs me wrong.

On the cooking front I haven’t made anything groundbreaking.  I did make stir-fry last night using whole wheat spaghetti in place of udon noodles.  It works quite well.   Just cook the spaghetti until still tough and uncooked in the middle, not quite al dente, drain and fry along with your veggies in sesame oil and the seasoning you prefer.  I used Chinese Five Spice sauce of which I bought about five jars of on my last trip to Trader Joe’s.   Five spice is overall my favorite Chinese sauce and I have made it myself but the Trader Joe’s version works well.   If you do decide to make your own you will need star anise, Szechuan peppercorns, cinnamon, cloves and fennel.  Some variations alternate fennel for ginger.  The basic recipe I use:

2 Star Anise

1 TSP Cinnamon

1 TSP Fennel

2 TSP Szechuan Peppercorns

1 TSP Cloves

Heat the Szechuan peppercorns in a dry pan for about 3 minutes over medium-high heat until you can smell the aroma.  Place all of the spices in a grinder and grind to a fine powder.  This makes enough for one use usually.   You can make in bulk and store tightly covered.  To make a sauce from the spice mixture add 1/4 cup brown sugar, 2 tablespoons of soy sauce or tamari, 2 tablespoons orange juice and 1/2 cup of water in a pan along with the spice mixture and heat until the sugar is dissolved and the sauce thickens a bit.

Now off you go to Whole Foods for some Szechuan peppercorns and be sure to watch out for Oprah fans in the tofu aisle.


Cut (Out) The Cheese

May 15th, 2008


One of the hardest things to give up when I became vegan was cheese.  I think that goes for most vegans I have talked with and most vegetarians name cheese as the one thing keeping them from being vegan.    Begin a “strict-vegetarian” and eating cheese must be met with reading labels and investigating for cheeses that do not contain animal rennet.  Most brands now use vegetable rennet as a coagulant but some smaller companies still employ the calf-intestine enzyme to set their cheeses.  You’ll find it in almost every hard cheese such as parmesan.

What is rennet and how is it produced?

From Wikipedia:

Traditional method

Dried and cleaned stomachs of young calves are sliced into small pieces and then put into saltwater or whey, together with some vinegar or wine to lower the pH of the solution. After some time (overnight or several days), the solution is filtered. The crude rennet that remains in the filtered solution can then be used to coagulate milk. About 1 gram of this solution can normally coagulate 2000 to 4000 grams of milk.

Modern method

Deep-frozen stomachs are milled and put into an enzyme-extracting solution. The crude rennet extract is then activated by adding acid; the enzymes in the stomach are produced in an inactive preform and are activated by the stomach acid. After neutralization of the acid, the rennet extract is filtered in several stages and concentrated until reaching the required potency: about 1:15000 (1 kg of rennet would have the ability to coagulate 15000 litres of milk).


Calf stomachs used for rennet production

So, you may be enjoying a bit of calf-stomach scrapings with that hunk of cheddar.   Considering that and the fact you’re just eating dried, moldy bovine-secretions why keep on eating it?  There are some good soy and rice cheeses on the market.  True, some are just like eating waxed paper but a few stand out.  Follow Your Heart makes excellent Cheddar and Mozzarella, both melt great and the Cheddar can make a mean mac and cheese.   Galaxy makes a good rice Parmesan and individual slice, but be sure to read the label as some of their products contain casein, a milk protein aids in melting.   Follow Your Heart cheese do not contain casein and melt just fine.

Also, don’t think all of those dairy cows live a great life just being milked daily.   They are kept pregnant and live short lives, average being 4 years.   Are you contributing to the cruel farming of animals by just eating dairy cheese?  Yes.

All of this leads up to a news story I saw today.   Sweetwater Valley Farm, a local Tennesssee cheese maker, has issued a statement saying one type of it’s cheese should not be eaten as it may contain Listeria.   Seems like a worthy risk to eat that nice cheesy sandwich or casserole topped with stringy goodness, doesn’t it?    Listeria can cause death in the young or elderly.    Healthy adults may be inconvenienced by headaches, cramping,  vomiting and diarrhea.  No big deal.  Teh story also mentions that if you have some of this cheese you may return it for a replacement.   Something doesn’t sound right about that.  “Here’s my chunk of Listeria, may I have another that has less bacteria?”

While were on the subject of cheese, don’t forget about Cazu Marzu!


Free Veggie Burger

May 8th, 2008


For those of you willing to go to Opry Mills or if you already frequent that area Johnny Rockets will be offering free veggie burgers (with the purchase of another sandwich, starter (fries?) and drink) for World Vegetarian Week, which is May 19 -25.  The coupon is above as well as here.   The menu says it is a “100% Soy Patty so I guess it is the Boca Vegan Burger, Boca not being one of my favorites but still, free is good.


Fresh Kittens

May 5th, 2008

Venus, our adopted-from-stray had the bright idea we needed more mouths to feed.  This is her idea of helping out around the house.




I’ve Been Away

May 5th, 2008

Away from this site for the past week at least.  I have been taking care of things outside with the garden and preparing an herb garden.  Those tasks just take time away from the little things.  We have peppers, tomatoes, okra and squash growing in the garden so far.  The herb garden is taking a little longer as we need fill dirt and some more boundary rocks before it is planting time.  Two loads of mulch later the yard is looking much better.  A large maple tree was cut down this week in the front yard as it had died on one side and was threatening to fall onto our house.  I hated to cut down a huge tree, especially since it gave much needed shade in the afternoon sun but I also didn’t want to repair a roof.   Now we are looking for fast-growing shade replacement for that area.  Hybrid poplars and weeping willows are being considered.

In the cooking department I haven’t created anything earth-shaking lately.  The past week has consited of spaghetti marinara and tempeh sausage.   Red beans and rice,  roasted corn and macaroni and “cheese” and the usual veggie burgers (Amy’s are the best).   My wife did make coconut-lime cupcakes, those are always earth-shaking.   I owe someone a recipe and/or batch of eggless cornbread.  I’ll get to that one soon.

Other than those small things nothing much going on.

We do have fresh kittens, more on that later.