It's Spring, and today's a beautiful day out here in my corner of the world. The sun's shining, the birds are singing, the squirrels are frolicking...you get the picture?
Of course, not all's right with the world. Here we are, neck-deep and in some cases over our heads in a recession that's bordering on a depression. The news makes you want to scream-- unemployment, poverty, growing numbers of homeless people...how did this happen in the world's most prosperous country?
Of course, all of this is accompanied by well-coiffured, well-dressed and -- not to forget-- well-off television news show hosts advising you relentlessly on penny-pinching tactics. Give up that morning latte, clip coupons, shop the sales... Duh!
Well, I have one for you, and this one's actually good: go vegan!
Cutting out meat from your diet is a great way to cut down on grocery bills. All that animal cruelty and suffering comes at a price-- not just to the poor animals, but to you too. Staples of vegetarian diets like rice, beans and vegetables are far cheaper than meat. Plus, you can grow at least some of your own veggies if you have even a tiny piece of land or even a sunny window. On the other hand, try growing a cow at home!
And you just can't beat the tradeoff: you get to be much healthier while saving your money. Some of you might have read about this study in the papers this week that said red meat increases your chances of dying early. So why not just eat your veggies and let everyone-- animals included-- live longer?
Unless you are still in the dark ages, you have to know that vegan diets are not just about soy and tofu. In fact, vegans tend to naturally veer toward interesting and unusual foods because their world is not limited to hamburgers and steaks.
And now here's a perfect recipe to illustrate that. Mexican Rice with Stir-Fried Potatoes. Serve this up, and you'll really want to go vegan. This one is great on its own, with a salad, with a spicy curry, or even rolled up in a burrito with some refried beans.
Mexican Rice (Arroz a la Mexicana)
1 cup long-grain rice like Basmati
1 large tomato, sliced into quarters, drizzled with some salt, pepper and olive oil and roasted in a 400-degree oven for about 25-30 minutes. After the tomato cools, puree it in a blender or food processor, juices and all.
1 tbsp canola or other vegetable oil
1 onion, sliced thinly
1 bunch scallions/spring onions, both green and white parts chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups boiling water
1 medium carrot, cut in a small dice
2 large jalapeno chilies or any other fairly mild green chili pepper
Salt to taste
Fresh cilantro (coriander) for garnish
Heat the oil in a saucepan. Add the onions and garlic and cook over medium-low heat until translucent.
Stir in the carrots, chilies and spring onions and stir together.
Add the rice and the tomato puree. Mix well, then add the boiling water.
Add salt to taste.
Bring the water to a boil, then cover and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes.
Turn off and let it sit, without removing the lid, for another 10 minutes.
Potatoes with Jalapeno Chilies and Garlic
4 large yellow potatoes, boiled in their jackets until just tender, then cut into a 3/4-inch dice (don't overcook them or they will break up on you).
2 large jalapeno chilies, cut into rings (substitute with any other fairly mild chili pepper
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp vegan "butter" + 1 tsp olive oil (this is really important to get that lovely golden-brown crust)
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Salt to taste
Heat the oil and "butter" in a skillet, preferably a cast-iron one.
Add the chilies and potatoes and saute about 5 minutes until the potatoes have a lovely golden-brown color.
Add the garlic and saute another 2 minutes.
Stir in the salt and balsamic vinegar.
Garnish with fresh cilantro (coriander) if desired, and serve hot.
This one's for -- you guessed it! -- It's A Vegan World: Mexican.
My brother-in-law Naru sent out this email the other day, and usually when I see the words "inspiring" and "motivational," I hit the delete button faster than I can read the subject line. But this was my brother-in-law, so I gave it a minute, and I rather liked one part of it, because it's sometimes good to remind ourselves how lucky we are. I don't vouch for the accuracy of those statistics, but they can't be far from true. So here it goes:
If you have never experienced the danger of war or the solitude of imprisonment, the agony of torture and hunger, you are much ahead of 500 million people who live through it every day.
If you have food in your refrigerator, clothes to wear, a roof on your head and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of the people who live on this Earth.
If you can go to your place of worship without being threatened, arrested, tortured or killed, you are luckier than 3000,000,000 people in this world.
If you have money in your bank account and your wallet and some loose change in some little box, you are one of the world’s 8% well-to-do population.
Have a great weekend, everyone!