Thursday, April 12, 2012

Want to be buried in the bacon coffin? Start eating and inhaling bacon!

Ok, I know it's still April but this is not, I repeat, NOT an April fool's joke from my side. I feel obliged to apologize on behalf of humanity, folks.

This is the bacon casket. What's ironic about it is that eating - even inhaling the smell of fried bacon - might speed up the need for this fine piece of wood. Is that what R.I.P really means, Rest In Pork?

"Do you love bacon to death? Is your dying wish is to be buried in bacon?
The local company behind Bacon Salt and Baconnaise are making it happen.
J&D’s Foods has created the Bacon Coffin, what they call the world’s first bacon-wrapped casket. “Yes, this is really real,” wrote J&D owners Justin and Dave in a press release. “Bacon Coffins are finished with a painted Bacon and Pork shading and accented with gold stationary handles. The interior has an adjustable bed and mattress, a bacon memorial tube and is completed in ivory crepe coffin linens.”

The Bacon Coffins are available for $2,999.95 plus shipping. 
In the email announcing the Bacon Coffin, Justin and Dave added, “Don’t you judge us, after baconlube (bacon flavored personal lubricant), we all knew it was just going to keep getting weirder.  And yeah, your (sic) right we’re probably going to hell for this one.” Weekly World News

I wonder how many has been sold. No wonder my dog loves to take a walk around the cemetary. So what was I talking about earlier, can the smell of bacon actually boost the cancer risk? Yes. It can. If the smell by itself can get you killed, it seems like a good idea to eat something else for dinner. Let's see:

I've never tried vegan bacon strips, but I know there are plenty products available. If someone has, please give a review of this culinary experience in the comment field.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Recipe: Make your own seitan aka mock duck, it's really cheap and tasty

If you want to read the recipe directly, scroll to the bottom of this page.

This is prepared seitan (also known as "mock duck" in western grocery stores) on top of what seems to be mashed potatoes and kale. I would prefer to include it in asian wok dishes or even make fake meat loafs of it, but seitan is very flexible and sucks up the taste of whatever you put it in like a sponge, what many don't know is that it's easily made in one's own kitchen.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat. The protein is insoluble which makes it very useful in cooking. We often see the gluten as the wire-like structure in bread. Seitan is a dough of pure gluten and water and is traditionally mixed with soy sauce, kombu and ginger. Seitan is very durable and will not fall apart as easily as for example tofu or soy meat when cooking. That means it's ideal to use in barbeque, stir-fries, casseroles and as toppings.

The history of seitan
Around the 10th century in ancient China seitan became common in the vegetarian cuisine among Buddhist monks. The monks were looking for something that could replace meat in the traditional Chinese cuisine. This search resulted in two different meat substitutes. Tofu, based on the protein from soy bean. And gluten as the protein in wheat. The monks were preparing bread dough in large water bath and quickly noticed that the water was too syrupy by all the starch. And what remained was just a gummy lump of dough, which consisted of 70-80% pure protein or gluten. The Buddhist monks developed what can be described as a detailed science about how to prepare gluten to find different varieties of meat substitutes. Today the Chinese call seitan for "Mien Ching" or "Buddha food", after the Buddhist monks who came up with seitan.

The tradition of making this vegetarian alternative to meat then traveled around in Asia with the spread of Buddhist teachings. The Japanese began to cook gluten by letting it simmer in a mixture of shoyu (soy sauce), kombu (an aquatic plant) and ginger. The traditional name for gluten in Japanese is "fu". But in 1960 George Ohsawa (founder of the macrobiotic diet) began to call it seitan. Which means "wheat to simmer in shoyu."

Why eat Seitan?
Firstly, it is an excellent substitute for meat for those who already switched to a vegetarian diet. Furthermore, it is useful. Especially in comparison to other meat (although seitan does not contain anything that animal meat does, like saturated fat and cholesterol). But above all it is cheap. To 300 grams seitan, you will need about 5 dl. wheat flour. The cost will be about $ 1 (2 kilo wheat flour costs about $ 2, and then add spices and soy sauce for seasoning). 300 grams of pork or poultry costs around. $5You don't need to be a mathematician to see the difference.

Note: Smaller portions of seitan does not apply as a full source of protein. To be certain of getting full protein eat you can combine seitan with legumes and accessories that are rich in lysine, while planning their meals. Or just add soy sauce, which has a high amount of lysine as it's an derivative of soy beans.

In order to prepare seitan you only need two things. Water and wheat flour (1). And to finally complete the seitan we also need soy sauce, ginger and if you have a good asian grocery in your block - kombu.
This amount equals to approximately 2 servings. I chose "special wheat flour" because it has a slightly higher protein value than regular wheat flour. But regular wheat flour are also welcome. We need:

• 5 cups. Wheat flour Special
• some water
• 2 tbsp. soy sauce
• 1 pinch sea salt
• 1 tbsp. grated ginger or ginger powder

Start by mixing water and flour in a bowl until you get a saturated paste (2). The dough should not be sticky but also not break when you knead it. Knead the dough for 10 minutes or longer for the gluten to get going. Let the dough rest in a bowl of cold water for 2 hours (3).

When the dough has rested it's now time to wash out all the starch from the dough. We do this by kneading the dough in a warm water bath. When you knead the dough, you'll notice quickly that the water becomes cloudy and white (4). When the water has become so murky that you can not see through it then you replace it with new water. It usually takes between 7-10 water bath to wash out all starch. After a little while you will see how the gluten mass is building up as a yellow-gray stringy pulp (5). Continue to knead in the hot water bath until the stringy rubbery mass is the only thing that remains, and it no longer colors the water white (6).

In ancient China, they took care of every resource. What you can do here is to save all of the starch-rich water that remain after washing. Let all the starch fall to the bottom and carefully pour off as much water as possible and let it dry. The starch that remains in the bottom can be used for stabilizers in sauces or other cooking.

Place the dough on a small form in 10 minutes to rest (7). In the meantime, we will prepare our stock. Mix 1 liter of water, soy sauce, sea salt and ginger in a saucepan. Let it boil and when the gluten dough is ready you cut it in half and add it to the broth (8). Let everything simmer for about 1 hour. The broth shouldn't begin to boil because then the dough mass can become too "fluffy". You can also add "liquid smoke" and vegetable stock for it to taste more like smoked ham, but don't forget the say sauce since it adds a rich color to the final product and also for enhancing the protein value.

After the broth and gluten dough has simmered for approximately 1 hour, the dough has now become firm in texture, put them on a plate to cool down - they are now ready to be used in other cooking.

                                                                This is what you'll end up with. Bon appetit!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Painting eggs is just so 20th century (egg-looking cookie recipe included in this post)

So Easter is here again. I hope everyone's enjoying the holiday and spending qualitative time with your friends and relatives. In my country we eat more than 6 million eggs per hour during easter. I bet that's not even a high amount comparing to other countries. There's a lot of talk these days about eggs originating from free-range farms. But as you understand, it's simply mathematically impossible to supply this amount of eggs laid by free-range hens.

For some people, painting eggs is the only time each year when they adhere to the creative side of themselves, but hey, an egg is actually part of a hen's menstruation so why don't paint something more appetizing? Instead of painting eggs (the overwhelming majority of which come from birds intensively confined inside tiny wire cages for the entire lives), look for paper-maché or wooden eggs in craft stores to paint, decorate, and hide. You can also make egg-free egg-shaped cookies that are a fun and delicious way to fill your Easter basket with joy. Here's the recipe (courtesy Compassion Over Killing):

Easy Vegan Sugar Cookies (makes 20-24 cookies)

2¾ - 3 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 cup evaporated cane sugar
¾ cup Earth Balance (or other vegan butter)
¼ cup soymilk
¼ cup The Vegg (or other vegan egg replacer)
2 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp salt
With an electric mixer, beat together vegan butter, sugar, soymilk, The Vegg, vanilla, and salt.
Add in the flour and baking powder and mix, just until combined.
Shape dough into a log or ball and wrap in plastic. Chill for about an hour.
Preheat oven to 375° and remove dough from wrapping. If you rolled it into a log, take a sharp knife and cut rounds with 1/4” thickness. If rolled into a ball, dust your counter with flour, roll-out dough, and cut into desired shapes.
Bake on a very lightly-greased cookie sheet for 8-10 minutes until edges just start to turn gold.
Remove from oven and allow to firm on pan for 2 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Allow cookies to cool completely before glazing them.

Cookie Glaze (a great alternative to sprinkles!)

1 cup powdered sugar
1 to 2 tbsp soymilk
1 tsp almond extract (or clear vanilla extract)
½ tsp cream of tartar
vegan or natural food coloring
Mix together all the ingredients, except for the coloring, and glaze the cookies.
Add 2 to 3 drops of each color you want to use for painting to different bowls.
Dip toothpick into coloring and draw in the still-wet glaze. Allow to set (colors will spread slightly)

The Bull Who Cried

So, I feel the need to share this story. I'm not entirely certain that this background story, nor the image, is legitimate,. But everyone who has ever had a dog which always show you the greatest appreciation when you come home, or sit down next to you when you feel a bit down - you instantly know that this is a uniquely intelligent being. Or is it? I'm gonna follow up this rhetorical question in a future post regarding cetaceans (dolphins and wales, for example). Anyway, here's the story behind the image:

"Knowing it was about to be slaughtered, a bull in Hong Kong did what many people fail to realize or are skeptic about when it comes to animals - he showed emotion. As reported by "Weekly World News", a group of workers walked a bull to a packaging factory. They were about to slaughter him to make steaks and beef stews. When they were close to the front door of the slaughter house, the sorrowful bull suddenly stopped going forward and knelt down on his two front legs. The bull... was all in tears.

How did he know he was going to get killed before he entered the slaughter house? He is even smarter than people.

Mr. Shiu, a butcher recalled, "When I saw this kind of so-called "stupid" animal sobbing and with his eyes in fear and sorrow, I started trembling." "I called the rest over to see. They were just as surprised. We kept pushing the bull forward, but he just didn't want to move and sat there crying."

Billy Fong, owner of the packaging factory said, "People thought animals didn't cry like human beings. However that bull really sobbed like a baby." At that time, more than ten strong men witnessed the scene and they were all touched. Those who were responsible for slaughtering even felt more touched and teared as well.

Other workers working at the same slaughter house also came to see the crying bull. It was all packed with people. They were all shock by this scene. Three of them said they would never forget this crying bull when they slaughter other animals.

With both man and animal crying, everyone knew that nobody could kill the bull. The problem was, what should they do with him? In the end, they raised funds to buy this crying bull and sent him to a temple, where the kind monks would take care of him for life.

After the workers had made a decision, a miracle happened. A worker said, "When we promised this bull that we will not kill him, he started moving and followed us."

How did he understand people's words?

Mr. Shiu said "Believe it or not? This is real although it sounds unbelievable." No doubt, this bull changed these butchers' lives. 

Hopefully this story has in turn changed yours."

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Why love one, but eat the other?

Exceptionally cute deer incoming. Wouldn't kill one of these, ever. At least not now while my survival doesn't depend upon hunting and eating these animals, no one in the civilized (I wonder who gave us the permission to call ourselves civilized anyway, since we doesn't act as such) modern-day world we live in is, really. I might reconsider if the zombies attack, though. It's cool how the deer copies the body language of the dog. Check it out!

Dog and deer are best friends

By the way, here's an awesome "Be Veg" campaign carried out in Toronto with a lovely message that connects with the title of this blog post: Why love one, but eat the other?

It's really true, I mean, look at the first video in this post. In normal circumstances families would rather serve deer than Golden Retriever at the dinner table. Why? Who made these rules which draw the lines between what animal you can eat and which one you can't? Aren't we incredibly double standard?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Might be the 'Best Speech You Will Ever Hear'

So I just stumbled upon this guy, Gary Yourofsky. I've heard his name once or twice before in relation to animal rights activism, but have not read or seen anything of him before - until now. Apparently this lecture took place at Georgia Tech which was one of the stops on a longer college speaking tour. It is absolutely stunning, not just the content of the lecture itself, but the massive work that people has voluntarily contributed with in terms of translations. If you speak esperanto, hindi, japanese, persian, thai or vietnamese and have some time over, your help is needed. Read the video description on how to contribute.

He has a really straightforward rhetoric and pace in this talk, try not to denounce it in advance even though it makes you a little uncomfortable and it feels like it's actually you sitting in the lecture hall. He makes some great points, and even though there's one or two factual errors it's a fantastic lecture tied together beautifully. 

Here's his personal website with a lot on the philosophy surrounding veganism, and a lot of helpful practical tips.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Book tip: Vegan for Life

Vegan for Life: Everything You Need to Know to Be Healthy on a Plant-Based diet, written by Jack Norris and Virginia Messina

I stumbled upon this book in my local book shop a few weeks ago and saw to my delight that it was written last year, and my favourite doc, Dr. Greger (whom I mentioned in the previous blog post) had made a commentary on the back of it stating; "A no-nonsense guide to explode the myths, avoid the pitfalls, and maximize health on a plant-based diet. required reading for every vegan, old or new." Me, living in Europe, didn't know he was such a big name in the vegan world. I remembered when he uploaded his Latest in Clinical Nutrition 2007 video series and received a maximum of 40 views.

Peter Singer (author of Animal Liberation and Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University) also gave some words about the book: "Here is the book I have been waiting for! Now when people ask me all those questions about how you can be healthy without eating animal producs, I can tell them that they will find the answers in Vegan for Life".

Now that I've read it I have to agree with them, it's an easily digested book that covers basic vegan nutrition, topics ranging from sports nutrition to nutrition for children and elders. It also includes reference guides to cheap vegan meal planning and tasty food guides. It's highly recommended to everyone, it doesn't matter if you're just curious about veganism or has been on it for 20 years.

Buy it on Amazon for $10.98