Vegan cheese: Made in PEI

This article discusses the success of a new business in Prince Edward Island, called Fresh Start Fauxmage, which makes a variety of vegan cheeses using cashews and almonds. I very much hope that this company will continue to be successful and to grow large enough to sell its products more broadly. I will certainly encourage my local health food stores to consider carrying these products. I will stock up the next time I am fortunate enough to visit Charlottetown.

Why zoos should be closed

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that I despise zoos. I have written about this topic before. I have never supported the arguments that zoos help educate people about animals which, in turn, leads to better animal welfare. The continued horrific treatment of animals around the world does not correlate to increased education. Another argument is that zoos can help preserve species that are close to extinction; I doubt the price of captivity is worth it. I would rather see animals go extinct while living their lives in their natural environments than doomed to an existence of living in cages, no matter how large. In her article, Catherine Bennett discusses the state of zoos, and particularly the efforts of zoo keeper David Gill, who has culled 500 animals.

Embracing a new skill: Sewing

I have toyed with the idea of sewing for a while now. I have spent most of my life focused on developing the mind and, frankly, dismissed most crafts as being too stereotypically female. Even as a child, my interests lay in intellectual pursuits, rather than learning how to sew or knit: I considered these activities to be too “girly.”  I still face these biases today, to be honest, but I have approached crafts from another perspective, namely that of reducing my carbon footprint. For the past 5 years, I have made all of my own cleaning products, and most of my personal-care products. I am quick to point out that I don’t do so to avoid “chemicals” as is, sadly, a myth that so many people perpetuate. Water, for example, is composed of chemicals, as are many “natural” products that we use every day, such as baking soda. I do, however, strive to use ingredients that have reduced environmental impacts; further, I wish to avoid buying unnecessary packaging. Yes, some of the ingredients I use, such as vinegar, do come in containers, but I try to buy most products in bulk, using my own containers. Nothing can be truly zero waste, of course, since bulk products come in packaging, need to be shipped, and so forth, but I do what I can to reduce my use of packaging.

My DIY products are as follows:

  • All-purpose spray cleaner
  • Laundry soap
  • Dish soap
  • Floor cleaner
  • Dusting spray
  • Fabric spray
  • Deodorant
  • Hand cream
  • Face serum
  • Lip balm
  • Face tonic
  • Leave-in conditioner

I try to use single products for several applications; for example, I use a 1kg bar of Savon de Marseille to handwash clothes, to clean counters and sinks, and to make laundry and dish soap. I use vinegar and isopropyl alcohol for all-purpose cleaning sprays and floor cleaner. I used to make my own toothpaste, but I noticed that it did not remove plaque as effectively as commercial toothpaste and, further, I have no intention of giving up fluoride, as there is plenty of scientific evidence to show its positive impact on reducing tooth decay. I use shea butter as a lip balm and night cream.

I knit and crochet household goods such as face cloths and dish cloths. I’ve made some scarves as well. I don’t tend to wear sweaters, and find that hand-knit sweaters take up too much closet space. I’ve pared down my wardrobe considerably, so I don’t want to add to what I have.

Sewing is the latest way in which I wish to reduce my environmental impact. I realize, of course, that sewing machines and their accessories are not carbon-free. Still, I embrace sewing as a way to make my own products, particularly if I can reuse materials. I prefer to learn on my own, so I am finding videos online to help me learn. My first projects have been simple: Handkerchiefs (I have not used tissues for nearly 20 years), cloth bags for the bulk store, a small pillowcase for my mini-buckwheat pillow, and a pouch to store nightwear. I  will move on to tablecloths, large pillowcases tea towels, and so forth. Eventually, I hope to make my own clothes.

I still have to deal with my years of associating crafts with stereotypical attitudes towards women. On the other hand, I find great pleasure in creating something physical, especially as this activity stands in direct contrast to the largely intellectual pursuits that have shaped most of my life.

 

Lentil and oat soup

This soup features what is perhaps an odd combination of lentils and oats. I had planned to make a simple lentil soup, but I came across a small bag of oat groats that I had received as a sample, and decided to toss them in the soup. I had no idea what to expect, but this sums up my approach to cooking: Experiment, enjoy, and learn from the results. The picture is not good, as it was taken while the soup was cooking. I didn’t take one of the finished product, but it thickened nicely. Measurements, as always, are approximate, since I never actually measure anything when I cook.

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Ingredients

2 cups dried green lentils

Enough vegetable stock to cover the lentils. I make my own stock, but use what you have.

Chopped broccoli

Diced carrots

I cup oat groats

Crushed tomatoes. I used half a 280z tin.

Thyme and sage

Salt to taste (and pepper, if you like it)

Ras el hanout spice mix. If you don’t have this, you can add some cumin, ginger, and cayenne).

Preparation

Bring to a boil, the simmer until the lentils and oat groats are tender. The soup will thicken, so add some water, if needed.

 

 

Mediterranean chickpea salad

I made the following salad for a potluck dinner. As usual, measurements are very approximate.

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Ingredients

2 cups cooked chickpeas (I cook mine from dry, but tinned are OK)

Sliced Kalamata olives

Sliced artichoke hearts. Use hearts marinated in olive oil, as the ones marinated in water don’t have enough flavour.

2 diced potatoes, roasted in olive oil, oregano, and thyme. I did not peel them

Salt, to taste.

Dressing

Olive oil

White balsamic vinegar

Mustard of choice.  I used a black olive mustard, because one can’t have too many olives.

Preparation

Mix all the salad ingredients, except the potatoes, and toss with the dressing to coat. Refrigerate for a few hours to let the flavour blend.

Before serving, add the diced roasted potatoes, and mix well. If you add the potatoes too soon, they will get soggy.

 

Penne with cabbage and collard greens

This is a rather weird combination of ingredients, perhaps, but it works. Like most of my recipes, it’s based upon what I need to clear out of my fridge. In this case, I had some collard greens that were starting to wilt. I always have cabbage in my fridge, as it’s one of my favourite vegetables. I needed to use up some vegan sour cream, as well.

penne

Ingredients

  • Thinly-sliced green cabbage
  • Diced collard greens
  • Diced shallots
  • Diced garlic
  • Sliced shitake mushrooms
  • Sweet corn (I used frozen)
  • Vegan sour cream (I used Tofutti)
  • Salt, to taste
  • Penne
  1. Steam the cabbage, collard greens, and corn  (if using frozen), until tender.
  2. While the penne are cooking, saute the shallots until transparent, then add the mushrooms and garlic.
  3. Add the steamed vegetables to the shallots and mushrooms. Season to taste.
  4. Add sour cream to the vegetable mixture until heated. If necessary, add a little soy milk to thin.
  5. Toss the sour cream sauce with the penne.

I don’t like my food spicy, but if you do, some chili or hot peppers would work well.

 

Canadian vegan cheeses

This article in the Globe and Mail discusses the growth of the vegan cheese industry in Canada. Daiya, of course, is one of the most famous vegan cheese brands in the world, and is proudly Canadian. This article discusses smaller producers of vegan cheeses, based in Toronto and London (ON); these products are not yet available on a large scale, but I live in hope that they will. There are still some very inferior cheeses that look and taste like plastic, but vegan cheese has come a very long way, and some (e.g., Sheese, in the UK, and available in some local stores across Canada) are delicious.