New year's resolutions seem a bit silly, don't they?
I mean, why should a date on a calendar really motivate someone to make a life change? It's not as if the skies open and a band of angels starts singing as you make your brand new vow, just because it's the first of January.
Still, if you really think about it, new year's resolutions are not really a bad idea. After all, those who do make them, make ones that are going to in some way improve their lives, or others'. And there's nothing wrong with that whatsoever.
So why am I writing about new year's resolutions? Well, because I have one for you to at least consider.
I try not to vegangalize too blatantly on my blog (really, you noticed?), but I do want to take the license this time because I'm quite hopeful that even if you find it discordant, you'll resolve to forgive me in this minty-fresh new year that's about to dawn.
A lot many vegetarians I know, especially those who like me are from India, tend to be lacto-vegetarians, meaning they eat an animal-free diet except for dairy. Many truly believe they cannot live without milk products, especially butter, ghee and yogurt, because they've eaten it all their lives, and because they think milk does not require a cow to be killed.
Sorry to rain on your dinner folks, but you have no idea.
Cows (and buffaloes or whichever animal you get your milk from) do suffer, and very often die, for that milk you love. My friends and family in India are usually quite surprised when I tell them that cows and buffaloes raised for milk are subjected to abuse and torture even as we practice the double standard of worshipping cows and not eating their meat.
Sunshinemom reminded me not long ago about the cows at Aarey Milk Colony who were tethered in their sheds and left to drown after floods swamped Bombay a couple of years ago. It spurred her decision to adopt a semi-vegan lifestyle. Stories like these are shocking and make it into the headlines, but the everyday abuse cattle in factory farms suffer is equally horrifying.
PETA India did a recent investigation of cattle farms which revealed the most disgusting cruelty toward cows and buffaloes. To quote from their Web site: "Tabelas – animal factories with no provisions for health care or animal welfare – are steadily replacing small family farms. Buffaloes in Delhi's main dairy farm stand knee-deep in foul-smelling excrement, suffering from skin infections, foot disease and other illnesses... In Mumbai, calves are tightly tethered on short ropes in order to prevent them from reaching their mothers, but in their struggle to get free, they often become entangled in the ropes and strangle themselves. One dairy owner reported that half the calves die shortly after birth."
You can watch an undercover video from PETA India on the abuses of dairy cows in India here. And keep in mind, cattle abuse is not new to India either, although doubtlessly it has multiplied with the advent of factory farms: Gandhi gave up dairy decades ago after witnessing the cruel practices used to make cows give more milk.
Conscious living is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves, and in this age of information we can no longer sit back and ignore the cruel practices of the animal-food industry. What can be a better start to the new year than to begin this change in your own kitchen, with something as small as the milk bottle (or bag or jug). Try replacing the butter in your baked goods and sweets with vegetable oil or vegan "butter." Try to substitute firm tofu for paneer. And try soy milk in your cup of coffee or chai: believe me, it's a beautiful thing.
Ok, so now that I've said my piece, let me move on to today's recipe, Crunchy Almond Biscotti which (you guessed it!) does not require any animal abuse in the form of butter or other dairy products.
Biscotti, twice baked Italian cookies, are really special because, for one, they are super-easy to make, and two, because they give you the satisfaction of pulling off something really and truly exotic without much pain. And did I mention they taste absolutely gorgeous?
I've had an incredibly slow blogging month because of work, and to add to that I've been sick these last few days, but here's my new year's resolution: I'm going to blog more, much more.
Happy new year, everyone, and looking forward to many good eats in 2009!
Crunchy Vegan Almond Biscotti
1 cup almonds, chopped really small. I gave mine a whir in the food processor which gave me a mix of part-powdered, part chopped almonds and that was perfect.
Whisk together in a bowl:
3 cups whole-wheat pastry flour (can substitute with all-purpose)
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
In a bowl, mix on medium speed with a hand mixer or a stand mixer:
1 cup canola or other flavorless vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
Add to the bowl:
3/4 cup silken tofu
1 tbsp vanilla extract
Mix on low to medium speed until well-blended
Add the flour mixture to the sugar-tofu mixture gradually, until the dough comes together.
Add the almonds and stir to mix.
Shape the dough into two logs, about 10-12 inches in length and about 2 inches wide. Flatten the logs slightly.
Place on a greased cookie sheet, preferably covered with parchment paper, and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.
Keep the cookie sheet on a rack to cool. When the logs are cool enough to handle, transfer each log to a cutting board and, with a sharp, serrated knife, cut on a diagonal into 1/2-inch-thick slices.
Lay the slices flat on the cookie sheet and return to the oven.
Bake 15-20 minutes. The biscotti should feel almost firm to the touch. Transfer them to a rack to cool.
One great way to dress up these biscotti, which are great on their own, would be to dip each into some melted chocolate.
Enjoy everyone, and a very happy new year from our family of wagging tails!