Eat a Cow to Save a Cat

I’m back from my blogging break! I’ve been a bit under the weather for a couple of weeks courtesy of a virus which just kept going and going and going, making my life miserable, my throat sore and my eyes pink. I’m starting to bounce back and am now (hopefully) capable of writing something which isn’t a self-pity party. Today is warm and sunny (although it’s going to get mega hot again this afternoon), the birds are popping down to eat from the feeders, two of the cats are lying around me snoring gently, and I haven’t coughed for over an hour. Life is good 🙂

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While sitting around, with only my virus for company most of the time, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about “loving animals”. No, not in the x-rated sense of the word, more in a “Julie Andrews” kind of way. Warm and fussy feelings, cuddles, twitchy noses, that kind of stuff.  Facebook is full of videos of  cute kittens, loyal dogs, goats bouncing on trampolines and little piggies doing piggy-like things. These all have thousands of “likes” and get shared over and over again. “I love animals” people say. But what does that mean? Can someone who watches a cute cat video while munching on a chicken sandwich still claim to love animals?

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I love animals too, up to a point. The point where I stop loving them is when they stalk me, waiting to catch me off guard so they can suck my blood, giving me itchy lumps and potentially nasty diseases in return. I don’t love biting insects, and if a mosquito tries to bite me, I’m going to kill her. If that makes me less of a vegan, so be it. I hate labels anyway. But the question is, where do other “animal lovers” draw their lines?

Over the past few months (yes, it really has been that long and has required an awful lot of thought) I’ve been searching for a charity to volunteer with on a regular basis. I’ve thought about cat rescues, but was concerned that I might bring something home which would infect my cats. Dog rescues are out – hubby is horribly allergic to dogs and the mere thought of dog-hair-covered-clothing makes his eyes puff up. The parrot sanctuary sounded good, but it’s too far away and I know I wouldn’t drive the distance in the winter months. A hot contender was an animal sanctuary about a 45 minute drive from where I live. I’ve been there a few times over the years and they seem to care about the farm and companion animals they have there.  But then it came to my attention that the owners eat meat…including, of course, farm animals. My enthusiasm declined somewhat. Why rescue one pig and eat another? Why spend so much time, effort and money on improving the life of one animal while eating its cousin for lunch? That seems…odd. Not all sanctuaries are like that, I know, but it made me stop and think.

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A couple of  weekends ago was big-ticket-price garden party fundraiser for the Ottawa humane society, which is a shelter for dogs, cats and small pets. The local vegetarian and vegan group had a table at the event stocked with baked treats free from animal products, but the rest of the restaurants and vendors showcasing their goodies were serving meat. People attend such events to raise money to save animals, and happily wander around with a piece of animal on a plate in order to do so. They’ll eat a cow to save a dog. Eat a pig to save a bunny. Eat a fish to save a hamster, seemingly oblivious to the fact that they claim to “love animals” while coating one in barbecue sauce and eating  her with a side of vegetables.

Surely I can’t be the only person who finds this a bit odd?

Next time you find yourself rubbing the head of a dog or stroking a cat, why not ask yourself how far your love for animals really goes. Where’s your “love stops here” line? And while you’re thinking about animals, why not cook yourself up some good, tasty food which doesn’t involve munching on Bessy-the-Cow or Babe-the-Pig? An easy way to start is by replacing ground meat with veggie grounds or TVP (textured vegetable protein). The recipe below is fast, cheap and delicious. No bull.

Karen 🙂

Edit: I wrote this the day before Cecil the lion was killed. Check out this blog by the Mindful Mavens about it. She is also asking the question “Why do we value some animals and not others?”.  http://themindfulmavens.com/2015/07/29/on-cecil-the-lion-and-extending-our-circle-of-compassion/

Simple Chilli with Cornbread Muffins

Chilli:

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 4 tbsp good quality chili powder mix
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 225g / 8 oz veggie grounds
  • 1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 can / 2 cups cooked black beans

Muffins:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped red pepper
  • 1 cup organic flour
  • 1 cup corn meal
  • 2 tbsp raw unrefined sugar
  • 2 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp baking soda
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 cup soy milk

 Makes 12 standard or 6 jumbo muffins

  1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and cook the onions and garlic over a medium heat for 5 minutes, then add the chilli powder and cumin. Stir for 1 minute then add the veggie grounds and mix well.
  2. Add the tomatoes, oregano, salt, black pepper and tomato paste. Mix well, bring to the boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer gently for 40 minutes. Check the seasoning half way through and add more chilli powder if needed. Too hot? Add 1 tsp sugar.
  3. Stir in the beans and continue to cook for another 10 minutes and serve with tortilla chips, rice or vegan cornbread muffins.
  4. To make the muffins, heat the oven to 400’F / 200’C / Gas Mark 6.
  5. In a small frying pan, heat the oil and fry the peppers over a medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until soft. Alternatively, put in the microwave for 3 minutes. Allow to cool.
  6. Lightly grease a muffin tray or line with paper cases.
  7. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, corn meal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
  8. Stir in the applesauce and soy milk, then stir in the red pepper with its juices and remaining oil. Mix until just blended. Put into the muffin tray and bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  9. Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before serving.

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Aquafabalous!

This week, after many months of deliberating and skeptically monitoring the activity in the Facebook group “Vegan Meringue – Hits and Misses” I decided to lose my Aquafaba virginity and try making an egg-free meringue. “Can’t be done” I hear you cry. “Aqua what?” you ask. “She’s finally gone bonkers” you say, shaking your head. “It can’t be done.” But wait! It CAN be done. Meringues without eggs, made with the water from a can of chickpeas (yes, that says “a can of chickpeas”) otherwise known as aquafaba. This protein-filled liquid can be whipped up in the same way as egg whites, with surprisingly delicious results.

Before you throw your hands in the air and call me a genius, let me be clear about this. The discovery of this weird and wacky way to use the liquid from a can of chickpeas was not my own. I’ve made other discoveries of considerably less worth during my time on this planet, but I would never, ever, have thought of saving bean-juice and whipping it up with some sugar with the intention of eating it. According to the official website at http://aquafaba.com/ the idea seems to have originated with a french gentleman called Joël Roessel, who “discovered through a systematic investigation into vegetable foams, that liquid from cooked chickpeas and hearts of palm can be whipped into a foam in the same way as flax mucilage. He tested the foam by making a vegan meringue and other desserts, and anonymously shared the results on his blog at revolutionvegetale.com.” This was followed independently by a video called Le Défi FUDA chickpea challenge, released in a few months after Joël’s discovery, in which they whipped chickpea liquid into a foam and added chocolate ganache. Over in the USA a chap called Goose Wohlt  was inspired by the French video and found that a stable vegan meringue could be made if the correct techniques were used. He shared his ideas in the Facebook group “What fat vegans eat”, and as a result the group Vegan Meringues – Hits and Misses! was created. And that’s where I come into the picture 🙂 I’ve been watching creative people whipping up edible treats from aquafaba, my eyebrows raised in disbelief, until the day arrived when I said “I’ve really got to try that!”

Chickpeas are eaten regularly in my home, so finding some aquafaba didn’t pose any problems. I searched recipes, tips and tricks, asked questions in the vegan meringue group, and when I thought I had all the conflicting advice I needed I put on my apron and headed off to the kitchen with an air of grim determination. Vegan meringue, here I come!

In my quest for information one thing aquafaba lovers all agreed on was that the bowl, measuring cup and whisk should all be squeaky clean with no traces of fat – wiping them down with vinegar on a piece of kitchen paper was recommended. Chilling the aquafaba also popped up in discussions frequently. But as for the actual how to make a meringue part – that was tricky. Add the sugar at the beginning. No, fold it in at the end. Add it in small amounts during the whipping. Use granulated sugar straight from the bag. Put your sugar in your food processor before using it. Use 1 cup of sugar. 1/4 cup of sugar. The same amount of sugar as aquafaba. Bake at 250’F. Bake at 195’F. Oh boy – I was feeling a bit overwhelmed by the time I got out my whip. Whisk. I mean whisk. My electric hand whisk. Don’t try doing this unaided by the power of electricity…you’ll be there for weeks whipping away.

So, this is what I did. It might not be the best way. It might not be the right way. But the meringues were light and crispy, and broke with a sharp “crack” when I wanted to look inside.

Aquafaba Ultra-simple Meringues

Chickpea liquid from 1 can, about ¾ cup, chilled in a very clean mixing bowl
1 cup white sugar (look for a vegan brand such as Redpath)
An electric hand whisk or stand beater

Line 3 baking trays with parchment paper and heat the oven to 250’F / 130’C / Gas Mark ½. Take the chickpea water out of the fridge and start to beat, slowly adding the sugar in small quantities. Continue to beat for 15 – 20 minutes or until the mixture forms stiff peaks. Scoop the meringue and place the mounds on the baking sheets. and put in the oven for 90 minutes. Don’t open the oven door unless you really have to. When cooked the meringues should be hard to the touch. Let them sit for 10 minutes before serving. They’ll keep for up to 3 days in a tightly sealed container.

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So there you have it. This is only the beginning of my aquafaba journey, and I think it’s going to be a fun one. Why don’t you join me? Have a delicious chickpea curry for dinner and follow it with a meringue or two for a wonderful animal-cruelty-free dinner. It will be aquafabalous 🙂

Karen.