Sunday, June 28, 2009

Rustic Vegan Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Looking for any excuse to use my new food processor yesterday, I decided to make some pie pastry. My husband, in a moment of extreme rhubarb-cravingness, had bought a large amount of rhubarb at the local market the other day. We also had some fresh strawberries on hand, so my vegan strawberry-rhubarb pie was born!

Vegan pie pastry (easiest-ever!)
2 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup sunflower oil
1/3 cup non-dairy milk (I used soy)

Place flour and salt in the large bowl of a food processor with the chopping (S) blade and pulse a few times to combine. Add the oil and pulse until the mixture resembles large crumbs. Add the soy milk slowly through the feeder tube and pulse until the mixture starts to clump together. Add a little bit of water if the mixture is still too crumbly. You may also need to scrape down the sides of the bowl and re-pulse. Scoop up a handful of dough and see if it easily forms a ball, neither too sticky nor too crumbly. When you have the desired consistency, empty the dough onto a floured surface, form into two balls, wrap in plastic and put in the fridge for 30 minutes before rolling it out.

This recipe only uses half the dough, so you can freeze the other ball of dough and use for another recipe or double the pie ingredients and have two pies!

While the dough chills in the fridge, the ingredients for the pie can be prepped and ready to go.

Pie Filling:
2 cups sliced fresh strawberries
2 cups sliced rhubarb (into about 1/2 inch pieces
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Combine ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.

Crumb Topping:
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 T sunflower oil

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar and oil and mix until fully combined and mixture resembles large crumbs.

Assembly of Pie
Roll out the dough on a floured surface, flipping over and re-flouring every time you double its size. When dough is the size of the pie plate, roll it onto the rolling pin and then unroll over the top of the pie plate.

Place the pie filling onto the pastry and top with the crumb mixture, pressing down gently. Fold over the edges of the pastry, making a rustic-looking tart or use your favorite edging style.

Bake in a pre-heated 375F oven for about 45 minutes, checking at regular intervals after 30 minutes. Pie is done when the fruit filling is bubbling and the edges of the pastry and crumb topping are a light golden brown.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Food Inc - The Movie

I'm planning to see Food Inc. tomorrow (it opened here in Toronto tonite...I rarely see movies on their opening nights). Although this movie is not geared towards supporting vegetarian or vegan eating exclusively, it will provide ample reasons to avoid eating meat, chicken and dairy products produced industrially (i.e., most of what we consume here in North America).

If the message in this movie isn't enough to provide everyone with a compelling reason to avoid processed foods and consume whole, organic fruits and vegetables produced by small organic farms, I don't know what will.

Eat fresh foods, go vegetarian, buy local!!

Here's the film's synopsis of the movie:

Food Inc.
How much do we know about the food we buy at our local supermarkets and serve to our families? Though our food appears the same—a tomato still looks like a tomato—it has been radically transformed.

In Food, Inc., producer-director Robert Kenner and investigative authors Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation) and Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma) lift the veil on the U.S. food industry – an industry that has often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihoods of American farmers, the safety of workers and our own environment.

With the use of animation and compelling graphics, the filmmakers expose the highly mechanized, Orwellian underbelly that’s been deliberately hidden from the American consumer.

They reveal how a handful of corporations control our nation’s food supply. Though the companies try to maintain the myth that our food still comes from farms with red barns and white picket fences, our food is actually raised on massive “factory farms” and processed in mega industrial plants. The animals grow fatter faster and are designed to fit the machines that slaughter them. Tomatoes are bred to be shipped without bruising and to stay edible for months. The system is highly productive, and Americans are spending less on food than ever before. But at what cost?

Cattle are given feed that their bodies are not biologically designed to digest, resulting in new strains of E. coli bacteria, which sickens roughly 73,000 Americans annually. And because of the high proliferation of processed foods derived from corn, Americans are facing epidemic levels of diabetes among adults and alarming increases in obesity, especially among children.

And, surprisingly, all of it is happening right under the noses of our government’s regulatory agencies, the USDA and the FDA. The film exposes a “revolving door” of executives from giant food corporations in and out of Washington D.C. that has resulted in a lack of oversight and illuminates how this dysfunctional political system often operates at the expense of the American consumer.

In the nation’s heartland, farmers have been silenced – afraid to talk about what’s happening to the nation’s food supply for fear of retaliation and lawsuits from giant corporations.

Our laws today are such that corporations are allowed to patent seeds for crops. As a result, Monsanto, the former chemical company that manufactured Agent Orange and DDT – in a span of 10 years – has landed its patented gene in 90% of the nation’s soybean seeds. Farmers are now forbidden to save and reusethese seeds and must instead buy new seed from Monsanto each season.

Armed with a team of employees dedicated to enforcing their seed patents,Monsanto spends millions every year to investigate, intimidate and sue farmers --many of whom are financially unable to fight the corporation.

Food, Inc. also introduces us to courageous people who refuse to helplessly stand by and do nothing. Some, like Stonyfield Farm’s Gary Hirshberg and Polyface Farm’s Joel Salatin, are finding ways to work inside and outside the system to improve the quality of our food. Others are brave men and women who have chosen to speak out, such as chicken farmer Carole Morison, seed cleaner Moe Parr and food safety advocate Barbara Kowalcyk. Their stories, both heartbreaking and heroic, serve to demonstrate the level of humanity and commitment it takes to fight the corporations that control the food industry.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Eating Clean - The Simple Salad with Baked Tofu

One of the most practical slices of dietary advice I've ever heard was from the Chef teaching the vegetarian culinary arts course I took last year.

She said that to occasionally indulge is human, and even healthy (mentally) in the long term, as long as its followed by eating extra clean for two to three days following said indulgence.

As I've been known to indulge a time or two, I decided to try to put this rule into practice and see what happened.... I think it works! Usually, if I scarf down a high sugar, high fat dessert or too much creamy-sauce pasta or have an extra glass of red wine, I have a reminder of it the next morning on that annoying electronic gizmo that I reluctantly step on in the bathroom, the scales.

So, on day one, two, and three after said indulgence I now pass by the scales, skip the processed food, and opt instead for healthy fruit and veggie snacks and properly portioned healthy homemade soups or salads for lunches and dinners. My next date with the scale usually shows no evidence of any dietary transgressions! Based on this very unscientific study, I've adopted this practice into my usual eating patterns.

Last night I attended a friend's birthday party and partook of several yummy b-day desserts that were on offer without guilt because I knew today would be eat-clean day number one.

Dinner -
The Simple Salad

4 cups mixed salad greens
2 green onions, chopped
1" english cucumber, thinly sliced

1 tsp dijon mustard
1 T lemon juice
2 T extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Assemble salad greens, cucumber and green onion in a large salad bowl.

For dressing, whisk together the lemon juice, mustard, and salt and pepper until combined. Slowly add olive oil, whisking until emulsified. Drizzle desired amount over salad.

You can use any veggies you have on hand, such as thinly sliced red or yellow peppers, zucchini, red onion, or diced tomato. I just happened to have cucumber and green onion so that's what I used today.

The salad can be served with or without topping. Today I had leftover baked tofu so I topped the salad with it. Here's the recipe, from one of my favorite vegan cookbooks, The Artful Vegan, Fresh Flavors From The Millennium Restaurant (I've abbreviated the method slightly but the recipe is unchanged):

Baked Tofu

1 pound firm tofu
1/4 cup tamari
1 tsp pure maple syrup
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
toasted sesame seeds (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Slice the tofu in half lengthwise and then in thirds across the widths, making slices about 1/2 to 2/3 inch thick.

Combine the tamari, maple syrup and sesame oil in a medium bowl, dip the tofu in the marinade and place on a baking sheet. I sprinkled sesame seeds over the tofu to make it look pretty and add a crunch, but that's not part of the original recipe....go ahead, make it your own!

Bake for 20 minutes, turning the tofu over to brush with any remaining marinade and bake for another 20 minutes or until tofu is caramel brown. Remove from oven, cool and serve.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Urban Gardener

"And so it criticized each flower,
This supercilious seed,
Until it woke one summer hour,
And found itself a weed."
-Mildred Howells, The Different Seed

It's finally the time of year in Canada for gardening, yay!

Gardening...a fancy three-syllable word for "pulling weeds"!!

As you can see, we simply could NOT ignore the weeds any more. It was time to clear the way (by nasty chemicals) for this year's organic vegetable garden.

Each year my husband and I expand our tiny vegetable patch little by little. This year we are taking it out by another foot.

We purchased our home 4 years ago from a vegetarian family who had lived there for 5 years. They, too, used no herbicides or pesticides for their organic veggie patch. For "official" certified organic status, the criteria is typically 3 years pesticide and herbicide free, but it can take a transition period of 5-10 years to become totally organic, so I'm pretty sure that it would be safe to say that our backyard goodies would now qualify as organic, yay!

Don mixes the composted organic soil from our two composters in the back yard with a small amount of local, organic sheep manure and digs it into the soil bed to add some nutrients.

Now it looks ready to plant!

This year we are planting:
  • rhubarb (actually, it comes back every year)
  • tomatoes
  • red leaf lettuce
  • mixed greens
  • swiss chard
  • green peppers
  • hot banana peppers
  • jalapeno peppers
  • chili peppers (alot of hot peppers, I know...we like it HOT! We freeze most of them and use them all winter!)
  • beans
  • herbs galore: basil, thai basil, thyme, mint, rosemary, parsley, cilantro, sage, oregano

One of my most favorite things to do after a long day at work is to come home and stroll out into the back garden and pick my dinner ingredients from the back yard with a pair of kitchen scissors and a big bowl! Paradise! These lovelies should be in the ground by the weekend. Let the growing begin!