Saturday, November 27, 2010
There's a lot in my life I am grateful for, but this Thanksgiving I am incredibly happy about one thing: having my irrepressible Freddie around.
Freddie almost died this past week. His health-- he will be 18 in December-- has been sinking steadily. He was an alert, agile, spry dog when he came to live with us at the age of 12, already a senior dog who thought he was a puppy. Freddie's heart suffered from a mitral valve prolapse and he was nearly blind with cataracts when his previous family dumped him at the shelter. Desi and I picked him up as a foster, and when no one chose to adopt him, he and we adopted each other.
Freddie's given us five-plus wonderful years of companionship, but within the past year he has slowed down. He has cancer -- a soft-tissue sarcoma that could have only been removed by amputating the limb it's growing on. But that was not an option given his heart problems and his advanced age and low physical reserves. In the last few months the tumor has grown and-- although initially painless-- it appears to now have advanced to the joint, making it difficult for him to walk and indicating pain.
When we took Freddie to the vet last Friday, she told us what we feared most: that he's in a great deal of pain and the next step, the kind one, would be to put him down. "It's cruel to let him suffer any more," she said. Hurting like never before but keen to do the right thing by our beloved baby, we numbly agreed to an appointment Tuesday for euthanasia.
Over the miserable weekend all we could talk and think about was Freddie. Were we doing the right thing? Would he forgive us if he knew? Would he know we were doing it for him?
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
So why, you're wondering, would I post a recipe for almond milk when you can just pick a carton off the shelf at any supermarket.
Well, here's why. Making almond milk at home is way, way easier than making a trip to the supermarket. Besides, things made from scratch in your kitchen just taste infinitely more delicious and -- big bonus-- they're free of all those additives and preservatives that don't make much sense, on the carton or in your tummy.
Almond milk is a great substitute for dairy milk in sweets, and if you can't eat soy for whatever reason, it is a great substitute for soymilk in beverages, including coffee and tea. It's perfect even as a drink on its own. And for Indian sweets almond milk is a better-than-perfect substitute for milk because it has no cholesterol, is lower in calories, and adds that deliciously nutty flavor that dovetails beautifully with those warm Indian spices like cardamom and nutmeg.
Monday, November 22, 2010
There is no better way to enjoy the cold weather than with a bowl of piping hot stew fragrant with savory, perennial herbs and packed with succulent vegetables.
I like adding some protein to my stews, and this time I used tempeh which is not just full of protein but also heart-healthy fiber. I cube the tempeh then dredge it in some herb-seasoned flour before sauteing it to golden-brownness in a cast-iron pan. This gives the tempeh a slightly chewy texture on the outside, and makes it really creamy and delicious on the inside.
Friday, November 19, 2010
This is one of those pasta dishes I throw together when I want something gorgeous and tasty and healthy, all in under 30 minutes.
Gee, did I just make a Rachel Ray sound byte there? Oh well... you get the idea. This dish has a ton of healthy flavors packed into it: spinach, nuts (I used cashews, but you can substitute almost any nuts or even sunflower seeds, my favorite), green beans, olives, and all the time it takes is about the time you need to boil your pasta water and cook the pasta. It's also a great dish to use up all those half-full boxes of pasta that you-- if you're like me-- have sitting around in your pantry. Just mix and match. Easy.
Better, you can add to this just about any veggie you set your mind to. Roasted eggplants, if you have a little more time, would be great in here, as would roasted bell peppers, or artichokes.
For anyone who likes to read me ramble on (can't imagine who that would be!), this post is going to be a bit of a disappointment because I'm going to cut off now and get back to all those other things I need to get done so I can have a worry-free weekend to look forward to! It's crisp and sunny outside here in DC with the temperature at a very manageable 50 degrees, and the weekend's going to be even better. Yay! Think of it, if you have similarly lovely weather in your part of the world, this is the perfect dish to throw together in a hurry so you can enjoy the rest of your day.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Holy Cow! has a Facebook page meant for those among us who want to let loose on animal rights, animal cuteness, animal smarts, animal cruelty issues and, of course, veganism. This week, I opened what seemed a thought-provoking but harmless enough (or so it seemed) discussion on a recent declaration by actress and famous vegan Alicia Silverstone that when she's at a party and drinking and comes upon a platter of cheese, she gives in to temptation and takes a little bite.
Is that so egregious, I asked?
"To me it sounds like she is being real," said one commenter, Nicole. "It's not like she is living in some vegan nation surrounded only by vegans. Sometimes you are in the real world, in a non-vegan situation and you are hungry and there is no other solid food around."
To which Priya retorted: "When the only options at a gathering are non-vegan, I choose to go hungry because I don't consider animal products "food"... I completely understand that when people are transitioning, they may consume animal products. But don't call yourself a vegan until you stop doing so."
And so on and so forth went the comments, some downright outraged, others not so much.
I wasn't surprised by those who condemned Alicia-- I understand them completely because my first reaction was very similar. We vegans tend to be a pretty ethical lot who firmly believe that it is wrong to contribute, in the smallest way, to animal suffering, and we know that some cow suffered for that teeny bite of cheese. We know we can eat deliciously and healthily without hurting animals, and we spend our lives showing the world that ours is not a difficult choice -- just the intelligent one. Therefore it just follows that those among us who do stray once in a way make us all look like we are just secretly salivating for all that animal food we chose to give up.
Then I got to thinking about Alicia's argument that she's only human, and that she doesn't want to be seen as icy and rigid. But if that is indeed how everyone perceives us vegans-- as unbending and rigid-- maybe we need to do something about changing those perceptions instead of grabbing at the cheese.
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Given how much Desi and I love our veggies, I never miss an opportunity to use them in almost everything I cook. I fold them into parathas, add them to curries, stir them into pilafs, and they never-- ever-- let my tastebuds down, adding a nutritious and delicious wallop to just about everything.
The Cabbage Rice I have for you today is a wonderful recipe to spice up plain old rice on a weekday with minimum effort. All the labor needed here is to shred the cabbage, and even that can be done in a jiffy if you happen to have a handy food processor around. The only spices used are ones you likely already have on your spice rack-- garam masala, turmeric, and chilli powder.
Saturday, November 06, 2010
There are days when even the most enthusiastic cook craves the simplest of foods. Foods that are utterly easy and incredibly fast to make and yet taste divinely delicious.
Starchy veggies like potatoes and plantains hold immense potential for the time-strapped cook. They taste amazing and are very versatile. Most of us know that about potatoes which we mash, bake, fry, boil, saute, blend and grate all around the world into bogglingly delicious dishes. But plantains, fairly common now in supermarkets, continue to be perceived as these rather exotic entities that not many among us honestly know what on earth to do with. Which is rather strange, really, when you consider the fact that bananas -- also a kind of plantain-- are the most consumed product in the world.
The plantain used for cooking is, of course, a hardier, usually larger, sibling of the yellow banana. For most cooking, you want to buy it raw, which means the skin has to be green. Ripe plantains are super-delicious and are great in sweets, and you can cook some savory dishes with them as well, but for the dish I am sharing today be sure to buy the raw, green variety.
I came up with this dish because I found a huge bag of plantains at the supermarket for under two dollars, and loving plantains as much as I do I didn't want to let go of what looked like a great bargain. But I didn't have a ton of time to spend sauteing them as I usually do, so I decided instead to roast them and let the oven do all the work.
Friday, November 05, 2010
Diwali's the time of year to go a little bit over the top, particularly with food. It is time when every Indian kitchen is overrun-- but never overwhelmed-- with sweets and savory snacks of every shape, taste and hue.
This year's Diwali dawned on me pretty suddenly, as it seems to do each year, actually. Since I'm no genius in the planning-ahead department, it was only yesterday that I woke up to the fact that I needed to get at least one really special sweet ready in time for the big day.
I pondered making laddoos, which I love and which are a true Diwali staple, but Desi is not crazy about them. So to make our Diwali sweet something we'd both really, really want to eat-- and share-- I decided on Badam Halwa, or Almond Halwa.
Badam Halwa is a rich, luscious treat that lends itself perfectly to very special occasions....like Diwali. But like the best dishes, it is also quite foolproof and requires just five ingredients (besides the garnish). Be warned that if you're not patient and balk from some heavy-duty stirring over a hot stove for nearly an hour, this is not the sweet for you.
Lots of cooks take tons of time blanching the almonds and peeling them, but I prefer to use whole almonds, skin and all, because the skins are full of flavor and aren't they good for you? Besides why do more work when you can do less?