Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Falafel and Tzatziki

As promised, I am posting one of my favourite vegetarian recipes.

Falafel originates from the Middle East. It's made from ground chick peas and is a very popular vegetarian recipe. It's commonly served in a pita with veggies.

This version is healthier than most because the falafel are baked instead of fried. Enjoy!

Baked Falafel

-1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained OR the equivalent in cooked, dry beans
-1 medium onion, finely chopped
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-2 tablespoons flour
-1/3 cup fresh parsley
-2 cloves garlic
-1 egg
-2 teaspoons ground cumin
-1 teaspoon ground coriander or 1 tablespoon of fresh cilantro
-1 dash pepper
-1 pinch cayenne pepper (omit if spice is not your thing)
-1 teaspoon lemon juice
-1 teaspoon baking powder
-1 tablespoon olive oil
-1-2 tablespoons tahini (sesame seed paste)

1.In a large bowl mash chickpeas until thick and pasty; don't use a blender, as the consistency will be too thin. In a blender/food processor, process onion, parsley, cilantro (if using) and garlic until smooth or chop finely with a knife, if you don't own a blender/food processor. Stir into mashed chickpeas.

2.In a small bowl combine egg, cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, cayenne, lemon juice, baking powder and other ingredients. Stir into chickpea mixture along with olive oil. Pre-heat the oven to 400 degress Farenheit. Form the mixture into golf ball or ping-pong sized balls.

3.Oil a baking sheet well with olive oil. Bake 10 minutes, flip CAREFULLY then bake another 10 minutes. Then broil each side for 2 minutes.
Serve falafel by itself, or with hot pita bread with veggies (lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles, etc), hummus, or tzaziki sauce.

Tzatziki Sauce

16 oz container plain greek yogurt
2 cucumbers - peeled, seeded and diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 lemon, juiced
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
3 cloves garlic, peeled

1.In a food processor or blender, combine yogurt, cucumber (if you are not sure how to seed, look it up on line-it's really easy), olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, dill and garlic. Process until well-combined. Transfer to a separate dish, cover and refrigerate for at least one hour for best flavour.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Eat Your Veggies!

Last week, on July 22, I watched Food, Inc. (http://www.foodincmovie.com) for the second time. If you haven't seen this movie yet, I highly recommend that you do. It explains our current food system in a detailed way that is both engaging and easy to understand. And if you don't think that is relevant or important for you, then I am curious to know how you are able to live without food.

After watching this movie again, I decided that I wasn't doing enough to fulfill my desire to boycott factory farms. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I aim to eat meat a couple of times a week at the most. On reason I do this is because of the many studies that highlight the benefits of a mainly vegetarian diet
(see http://www.pcrm.org/health/veginfo/vegetarian_foods.html, http://www.weightlossresources.co.uk/diet/vegetarian.htm, http://www.benefitsofvegetarianism.com)

Another reason is because of the ever-increasing usage of chemicals in mainstream meat products and the strain on the environment that copious amounts of animal waste creates. However, despite these good-intentioned reasons, I regularly find myself compromising and eating meat more often than I want to. There are several reasons for this: laziness, attempts to make things more convenient for others when I eat with them, leftovers from my roommates, etc.

So, I've decided that in order to take this commitment more seriously, it would be a good idea for me to take it to the next level for a bit. From July 23 to Aug 23, I will be eating vegetarian (with the exception of sustainable seafood every once in awhile). No chicken, no beef, no pork, no wild meat, etc, etc.

I've never actually been completely vegetarian for a length of time. I've been mostly vegetarian and partly vegetarian and not even close to vegetarian. I feel I should round out my experience. However, I fully expect that by the end of this month, I will be ready and happy to return to eating sustainable meat on occasion.

I have no moral qualms about eating meat. It's part of the natural cycle of life, or the food chain, if you prefer. (At the same time, I have no qualms at all about those who eat vegetarian. In fact, I'm very thankful that some people abstain from meat completely since others consume it so excessively.) I also believe that animals provide many benefits on farms, such as fertilizing the soil, managing natural grasses and cultivating and tilling the soil with their hooves.

Anyway, it is now July 30—my 8th day of my vegetarian journey. And, although I imagined that it would be an easy transition from doing something most of the time to doing something all of the time, that is not necessarily the case. I haven't had vivid dreams of sultry summer barbeques or anything, but I have been craving meat...not because I'm not getting enough protein, but simply because my mind is rebelling against the restriction that I can't have meat (for now).

I've been craving things I don't even really eat—salisbury steak, baked ham, anything meaty. But these cravings last a few minutes at most and then they dissipate. I fully expect that I'll last until Aug 23 and then after that, I hope I'll be able to eat meat more sparingly and with more determination to boycott factory farms.

Throughout this journey, I will have the support of some great vegetarian recipes. These are the type of recipes that meat lovers will devour without even missing the meat.

I'll be posting one of those (Baked Falafels) in the coming week. Have a good weekend and remember to eat your veggies!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Comments, Suggestions...and Guacamole!

Hello friends,

I just wanted to give a quick update. I'm on vacation right now, so look for a lengthier addition next week. First of all, I want to announce that I've changed my settings. Anyone can comment now. You don't need to have any type of account to do so. Also, I would like to encourage you to make comments! Whether you would like to agree, disagree, ask a question, make a statement, share a link, suggest a topic, etc. Your feedback is crucial to the success of this blog. Plus, if you don't comment, I'll feel like no one's reading these posts!

And by the way, please let me know if you would like to be notified by e-mail when I post a new blog entry. (I just found that option too.)

Finally, I want to share a very simple recipe with you: guacamole. It's a great dish for a snack, a party, when you have friends over, etc.

Every time I bring this guacamole any where people always say, I don't know how to make guacamole but I like it or they ask me how to make guacamole... So here is a very simple recipe that is absolutely delicious. Enjoy!


1 ripe avocado (if you squeeze the avocado it should feel a bit soft)
1 garlic clove (minced, chopped, grated however you prefer to use garlic--I press it.)
juice from half a lime
salt to taste

1.Slice the avocado in half and remove the pit and save it.
2.Scoop the contents of the avocado out of the peel into a bowl
3.Cut the lime in half and add the juice from half a lime into the bowl with the avocado
4.Mash the avocado and juice together in the bowl until you have a smooth consistency
5.Prepare the garlic clove (mince or press, etc.) and stir the garlic into the avocado and lime
6.Sprinkle top of the bowl with salt and stir again.
7.Taste and add salt or lime juice to your taste and serve.

-If you have any leftovers or want to keep it in the fridge to use later put the pit in the guacomole before adding it to the fridge and it will keep it from turning brown.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Local and Organic: Our garden

Within the food movement, it's very common to hear a debate about local vs. organic. Which is better? More affordable? More sustainable? This is a debate that I've become involved in (and changed my mind about) on numerous occasions. The solution that I've now embraced includes both of those options. And not only is it local and organic, it's also affordable: gardening.

I know, I know—it sounds complicated and time consuming but really, it's not. I recently started my own garden at a community gardening plot here in Regina and I love it! Well, let's be honest, it's been a journey. I started off excited about the idea. Then, I began to stress out. When would we plant? What would we plant? What should be planted next to each other?

It took a little time (and several conversations with others) to realize that I had no reason to get all worked up. I had to be reminded that many people garden as a way to relax and unwind. I then reminded myself that plants want to grow; it is their entire reason to exist on this earth. And, once upon a time, before we began to domesticate them, plants grew on their own and “in the wild.” Our job is simply to make it easier for them to do so.

Anyway, I'm pleased to report that our garden is doing quite well! We're already harvesting spinach, cilantro, basil and radishes from our 20 x 10 foot community garden plot! We're expecting plenty more of those items plus carrots, tomatoes, potatoes, onions, lettuce, beets, celery, peas, lemon balm, oregano and broccoli. And because our plot is so small, it takes minutes to weed, harvest, water, etc. Finally, in terms of affordability, I would challenge anyone to find a more affordable way to eat fresh foods. Organic seed packets cost around two to three dollars (for a couple hundred or more seeds) and starter plants cost anywhere from fifty cents to two dollars.

However, I would caution against starting a garden if you feel that you are lacking in basic cooking skills. Cooking your own food is definitely a key first step so that you will know what to do with all that fresh produce! Next blog post, I'll address some ideas about acquiring cooking skills (other than just googling recipes and giving them a whirl).

If you do feel fairly confident in your cooking abilities, then I strongly urge you to grow at least some of your own food. You can start off small--herbs grow very easily with minimal care and many varieties of tomato plants can be grown in a pot outside. So, even if you don't have a lot of room (like if you're living in an apartment), you can likely make space for one or two plants. (And one tomato plant will yield plenty of tomatoes.) Whatever you do though, stay calm and relaxed (unlike me) and you will soon realize how fun and beneficial gardening can be!

If you might be interested and want some more info, check out:


Friday, July 2, 2010

Truly "Green" Eggs (and Meat)

First of all, I hope you all had a Happy Canada Day, whether you spent the day celebrating (as a Canadian) or toiling away and wishing that you were Canadian!

Now, let's get down to business. In my first post, I had mentioned that food is an area with almost limitless possibilities in terms of health and sustainability and that I think it's best to start with one step/initiative and build from there. A somewhat simple initiative to take on is improving your own diet. Although this is one of those quests that never really ends, it's one that provides immediate gratification and innumerable personal rewards, such as improved health and a clearer conscious.

Today, I'm going to discuss meat and eggs. This topic was motivated by a question from one of my faithful readers. The request was to compare the sustainability of eating eggs vs. eating meat. Here's my perspective on the topic:

I believe that the key to a more sustainable world is balance and moderation. Personally, I eat eggs, meat, cheese, etc. occasionally. Although there is plenty of data to indicate that eating a completely vegetarian diet is healthier for both people and the planet, I believe that the main problem with meat is that people eat it excessively (every day or even several times a day) and that much of it is raised in factory farms that create health problems for both humans and animals due to the ever-increasing usage of chemicals and strain on the environment with copious amounts of animal waste.

I strongly support family farms and many small farmers will tell you that a healthy farm operates in a cyclical fashion, utilizing animal waste to fertilize the soil as well as making use of the foraging of cows to manage natural grasses and the impact of their hooves to help cultivate and till the soil. So my personal strategy in relation to meat is ideally to eat it no more than a couple times a week, although lately it's been more like 3-4 times per week. When I do eat it, I try to ensure that it has been sustainably produced. And whenever I buy meat to eat at home, I always buy from small local farmers who raise their animals in ethically sound and environmentally friendly ways. In my perspective, this is not only healthier for myself, the animals and the environment, it's also a good way to support a strong local economy.

In terms of eggs, they are not as land or resource-intensive as beef can be. One chicken will generally lay one egg per day. (An interesting side note is that the eggs that we eat are usually unfertilized, meaning that there are no baby chickens inside.) Also, chickens are excellent composters of organic matter. You can feed them your fruit and vegetable scraps and they will love you for it. If you consider this unnatural, consider that in the “wild”, chickens would forage for whatever they could find. In general, for a chicken (just like us) variety is the spice of life! So, because you can get one egg per day from a chicken who will happily eat your organic scraps, eggs can be a sustainable food source for people worldwide (and are especially viable for rural people with limited resources who may own their own chicken).

So, my answer to the question of whether or not eggs and meat are sustainable, is potentially yes. However, in order to be “sustainable” for me, they should ideally be classified as organic. According to http://www.thefreedictionary.com, organic is defined as “raised or conducted without the use of drugs, hormones, or synthetic chemicals.” I also seek out eggs that are free-range, which means that the animals are permitted to graze or forage outside rather than being confined to a feedlot. At the very least, eggs should be classified as free run, which means that the chickens are not kept in cages and are allowed to wander around inside an enclosed structure, such as a barn. Unlike free range animals, the chickens do not have access to the outside.

And finally, it is way less important to me that a farmer has professional organic certification because this can be quite costly for a small farm to attain. In my opinion, the best way to ensure that a farm is sustainable is by developing a relationship with the farmer, either by visiting the farm or buying your products from a friend or personal contact.

There's my two cents. I welcome (now and always) any ideas, links, different perspectives, questions and recipes about this topic and any others that I post. Thanks for reading! I look forward to your input and sharing ideas about ways to best move toward a healthier and more sustainable world!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Breakfast Burritos with Tomato-Basil Topping Recipe

I hope to post some recipes that I've enjoyed throughout my journey to teach myself how to cook healthy and socially/environmentally sustainable foods. Here's the first one. It's a pretty easy and good breakfast recipe.

2 teaspoons butter or margarine
1 russet potato, peeled and grated
1/4 cup chopped peeled onion
6 large eggs
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
4 (8-inch) flour tortillas, warmed
1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese, shredded
1 large tomato, diced
1/2 teaspoon crushed dried basil

1. In large nonstick skillet over medium heat, melt butter and sauté potato and onion until tender.
2. Pour in egg, sprinkle with pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until mixture is set. Divide egg mixture evenly between tortillas; top with cheese. Fold tortillas over egg mixture. Top with tomato mixed with basil.

Makes 4 servings

I used fresh basil and it was a delicious and easy salsa. I also combined the cheese with the eggs and put the tomato/basil sauce on the burrito toppings before folding the tortilla. Also, if you like heat, add some hot peppers to the onions and potatoes.

From: http://www.cooksrecipes.com/breakfast/breakfast_burritos_with_tomato-basil_topping_recipe.html

You Gotta Start Somewhere

I've become an advocate for healthy, environmentally and socially sustainable food for a diverse range of reasons. However, most of these reasons are connected to one underlying fact. Food connects all people and many important social issues. I firmly believe that we can address some of our most pressing societal injustices by focusing on food. Food is directly related to poverty, health, the environment, equal rights, cultural diversity and a whole host of other important social issues. So, it's a pretty big topic and there are a lot of interesting initiatives that a person can become involved with.

So, where do you start? By joining/starting a community or backyard garden? By joining/organizing a community kitchen? Joining an organization and actively advocating for Canada's first national food policy? Becoming a vegetarian or simply reducing your consumption of meat? It can start to get overwhelming when a person gets too caught up in all the possibilities and feels that there are too many to choose from. And what do you do then? Or, how can you prevent yourself from feeling that way in the first place?

It's simple, really. You just have to get started. Choose an initiative or project that sounds interesting, give it a little bit of thought (but not too much) and dive in wholeheartedly. Once you've become immersed within it for a period of time, then you can evaluate if it's the right initiative for you and whether or not you have the time or energy to devote to multiple food projects.

But before you can do any of that, before you'll figure out the perfect plan of action for food systems reform, you just need to start somewhere. So, keep the analyzing to a minimum (for now), become involved with a food initiative you feel passionate about and just go for it! And that's how I believe we can best capture the excitement of the blossoming sustainable food movement!