Sep 26, 2010

PFB #2: The Turtle and the Sea

Once upon a time, long long ago, there was a beautiful and rare white turtle named Keiko, who was known in her village to sing the most beautiful melodies. Sweet, innocent, and very obedient, she rarely ventured outside of her village and quiet cove, for fear of the unknown- plus her slow turtle gait didn't help either.

Day after day, she stayed in the village and entertained her family and friends with her beautiful voice. But soon, she grew bored and longed for new experiences. Although the other turtles begged her to stay, and warned her of possible dangers, she made the difficult decision to go on a journey.

So she began her trek- slowly, yet deliberately, until she finally reached the edge of her village and crossed the line into the unknown world. For days she pushed forward with her clumsy flipper-feet, alone along a sandy dirt road, passing tall wispy red pines, and stopping to munch on some tasty wild ninjin (carrots). She sang to keep herself company, and often wondered what she might discover. The sun beat down upon her, and soon turned her pure white shell to a golden hue.

On the third day, she noticed a faint sound in the distance. "Boom, swish, boom, swish!" it repeated. And, it became louder and louder as she walked towards it. "What could that be?" Keiko wondered with nervous excitement.

Suddenly, the road opened up before her. She saw a vast sky, that was crystal blue with puffy clouds, and directly below- an enormous emerald sparkling sea, with waves gently crashing onto the rocks at the water's edge. "Oh, I've never seen anything so beautiful!" she remarked aloud.

To her surprise, the sea (named Kai) answered back in a booming voice, "Why, thank you! I've been admiring your wonderful singing voice." And so for hours they chatted, and quickly became good friends. Then, Keiko had a most glorious idea. "Why don't you use your waves to make a rhythm, and I'll sing along?" "What a lovely idea," said Kai. After some practice, the pair finally made the most incredible music together. Kai would even make different rhythms for the young turtle to sing to, as she gleefully swam and floated in the sea's waters. The beautiful songs that resulted can still be heard to this day... if you listen carefully.

When Keiko returned to her village, she spread the news of the wonderful Kai, and all the turtles decided to follow suit and venture outside of their comfy village. Soon, all the turtles lived in the sea, and only returned to their village to lay their eggs, so the next generation could make the same trek that Keiko did.

The Inspiration:
This post is dedicated to my host daughter, Keiko from Japan. She left us to go back to her home country a few years ago, and we are thrilled that she will be coming back to visit us next month! On top of that, the story symbolizes her brave journey to the United States, back when she barely spoke any English... Plus, she loves turtles! :)
About This Dish:
This curry dish (called karē) is very popular in Japan. My host daughter didn't cook much, so she never made us this dish, but she did show us the instant curry mix (comes in blocks) that so many Japanese people use to make it. I would describe it as a milder curry (as compared to Indian curries), and is thick like a gravy with a unique sweetness. It almost always has potatoes, carrots, and onion, and is usually served over rice.
A Little History:
From Wiki: Curry was introduced to Japan during the Meiji era (1869–1913) by the British, at a time when India was under the administration of the British. The dish became popular and available for purchase in supermarkets and restaurants in the late 1960s. It has been adapted since its introduction to Japan, and is so widely consumed that it can be called a national dish.
The Recipe:
Instead of using the instant mix which usually contains MSG, I made this from scratch. It is essentially a sauce made from a seasoned roux as its base, which is unusual to me.  I also wanted to try making my own garam masala spice mix, which was a lot easier than I expected!  I borrowed instructions from this site.

For the Roux:
4 T. Earth Balance margarine
1 T. garam masala
1/4 C. all purpose flour
For the Rest:
1 C. finely chopped onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 C. carrots, chopped (size desired)
1 C. red or yukon potatoes, chopped (sized desired)
3 C. vegetable stock
1 T. brown sugar
salt to taste

Make the roux first by heating the margarine in a sauce pan.  Stir garam masala into melted margarine for a minute or two.  Add flour and stir until well combined.  Take off heat and set aside.  
In a large skillet or pot, saute the onions in a little vegetable oil until tender and golden.  Add carrots, and saute for a few minutes before adding the potatoes and garlic and doing the same.  Season with salt. Once a little browned, add the vegetable stock, sugar, and more salt (if needed), and simmer until carrots and potatoes are tender but still firm (al dente).  Mix in the roux and let simmer to finish.  Serve over Japanese short grain rice.
The End
Story, illustrations, and food by DJ Karma

Sep 24, 2010

Being Vegan on the Cheap, Not a Rich Man's Game!

A friend recently remarked how snobby and elitist the vegan/vegetarian community can be, and how vegan food products can be so pricey that you'd have to have an above-average income to buy into it (pun intended). And, as much as I want to disagree, the evidence at the local health food store doesn't lie.

A vegan cupcake for $4?! Whipped cream in a can for $6?! ...not to mention vegan cheese and vegan mayo, which is basically made of soy or pea protein, fat, and a thickener/emulsifyer. I recently made a comment to a young vegan college student (starving, of course), that the local health food store now carried Daiya (a very popular vegan cheese). She quickly replied that she wished she could get some, but she simply couldn't afford it on her budget.

What is this world coming to? What happened to the vegan movement upon which veganism was found? It used to be about living off the earth and preserving our natural resources- growing our own vegetables, and spreading the word about healthy living, community, and sharing. I'll admit it- I don't look like one, but I'm a hippy at heart!

The fact is, corporations have found a new growing market, and have professionals who are quite adept at luring the masses into buying their cool products with cool packaging. I'm guilty too! It's hard to resist some of those products, which offer flavor, quickly satisfy cravings, and the all-too-popular convenience. Veg magazines and food sites (even me) promote them. Isles at the market are quickly filling up with them. And it's getting harder and harder to say that a vegan diet/ lifestyle is not only healthier, but cheaper.

But the fact is, it can be- if you simply go back to the basics.

10 humble tips for going vegan on the cheap, and helping the planet:
1) The obvious- avoid pre-packaged processed foods and eat as much whole foods as possible.
2) Go organic, but only when it's on sale. Certain produce have less pesticides than others (mostly things with thick skins that you don't eat, like avocados). You can find a list here.
3) Plant a veggie garden, and go organic A LOT more often! No space? You'd be amazed at what you can grow in containers on a patio, herbs on a window sill, etc.
4) Get your neighborhood involved and exchange crops for more variety. I call this a "crop swap."
5) Buy from the bulk section (re-use bags as much as possible).
6) Shop at farmer's markets right before closing to get the best deals, and don't be afraid to bargain.
7) Don't throw away vegetable cuttings (carrot tops, onion tops, peels, etc.)- collect them in your fridge over a few days, then use them to make vegetable stock for soups, etc. If you have left over, compost for your garden.
8) Eat your greens- don't throw away beet greens, turnip greens, radish, and even carrot greens are all edible and delicious! Too fibrous for your taste? Try them in delicious smoothies blended with fruit.
9) Absolutely NO MONEY? Volunteer to feed the even less fortunate. Food Not Bombs is an organization that has provided free vegan meals to the homeless for years. Chances are, there's one in your city, if not -start one! The one I volunteer for collects day old bread from the local bakery and organic produce from the local market that would otherwise be thrown away. Perfectly good food, that can feed many people, including yourself. I know volunteers that survive on the food they get to take home on a weekly basis.
10) Shop at thrift stores, garage/yard/estate sales when possible for furniture, household items, clothes, and shoes. Post and look for good free stuff on Our city is a college town, and the end of August is when so many people move - great time to pick up free furniture and stuff... you'd be amazed at what people throw away when moving. I'm not above dumpster-diving when there's perfectly good items to be saved from the landfill! Note: just be responsible and don't make a mess for others to clean up!

And finally, be creative and make it fun! A bag of dried beans is not only cheap, but can be made into soups, stews, dips, casseroles, "meat"balls, cookies, cakes, etc. etc. etc.!

Have something to add? Let us all know about it in comments!

P.S. I've been on a recipe hiatus, but will be back soon!

Sep 18, 2010

Anthony Bourdain Hates on Vegetarians, Makes Me Think...

I went with friends to see Anthony in Sacramento last night with excitement and a bit of trepidation, knowing his views on vegetarians. Yes, I am a fan of his show, and I know that's like Debbie Gibson saying she's a fan of Marilyn Manson, but I'll admit, it's true. I like his snarky banter and love to see where he travels and the cultural foods.

The show began with him jumping into his witty and snarkalicious self, as he joked about the various Food Network personalities, "What's a 40 year old doing with a pair of sunglasses permanently attached to the back of his head?" (about Guy Fieri- hilarious!). Then he talked about his experience on Top Chef and how it wasn't fixed (good to know!). He talked about traveling, and the fact that he's only gotten sick twice in all the years he's been doing the show (impressive).

And then it came to the time that I was dreading. He began by saying that he had some good tips if you're going to travel: You're stupid to go to Starbuck's, Hard Rock Cafe, or if you come back with a "Planet Hollywood, Rome" T-shirt; dress appropriately and not like a tourist, and don't go to a mosque wearing Daisy Duke's; Don't go to the restaurant where the tour bus from Sacramento is parked, and eat every cultural food in sight.

Why, he said, would you not want to experience all that a new culture is offering you? People take great pride in the food from their region, and many times will make something with their own two hands that was a preparation passed down from generations of tradition- just to share it with you. Again, how can you not eat everything in sight? "...which is why I don't understand vegetarians..." (Oh, no- here it comes!)

He went on to basically say that you should denounce your vegetarianism when you travel so you can experience all that culture has to offer... even if it's a plate full of dead puppy heads (gasp!). Otherwise, "it's just rude." He continued by saying personal ethics (when it comes to being vegetarian) should be thrown out the window, with the exception of religious beliefs.

Now I don't know about the rest of you, but my choice of being vegan is not a mere preference. The reason I'm vegan is rooted in some very emotional and spiritual feelings about animals and my relationship with them. When I see meat on my plate, I think about my involvement in killing that animal, and I literally get a knot in my stomach. Does that not liken veganism/vegetarianism to the conviction and spirituality of a religion?

On the other hand, what Anthony said did make me think. There would be situations while experiencing different countries, and being respectful to their cultures that would persuade me to sample an animal product for the sake of not only the culinary experience, but the culture's deep appreciation of that food and where it came from. It would require some serious deliberation on my part, but I think there could be exceptions made.

But, I'm sorry Anthony- there's no way in hell I'd eat a puppy, even if a 100 year-old great grandmother and queen of a remote village prepared it, and was sitting there amongst all the other villagers, huddled around me and anxiously awaiting my first bite. I think I would rather offend them all and run like hell. There's gotta be a line drawn somewhere!

Sep 14, 2010

Project Food Blog: Jam Master Jay Meets Martha Stewart

I'm "a vegan DJ with a passion for food," as my headline reads above. Most who have visited this blog don't know the "DJ" side of me very well- mainly because I've chosen to focus more on the food. This online identity of mine does raise questions. Why should I even mention the "DJ" part of my life? After all, what does DJing and cooking have to do with one another?

For me, they're just two creative outlets in my life -two outlets of opposite extremes. I mean, Jam Master Jay meets Martha Stewart kind of extreme. How to marry them into one little blog has, believe me, been a challenge- one that I usually end up ignoring with a shrug.

When people ask me what I do, I'll admit it's wierd. "I own a DJ company... and, uh... write vegan recipes..." It doesn't exactly flow. But after pondering this juxtaposition of self identity for a while, it started to make sense...

Cooking requires mixing and blending harmonious ingredients to produce a tasty and enjoyable dish.

DJing requires mixing and blending harmonious songs to produce enjoyable listening and good entertainment.
Cooking is a hands-on activity, with a lot of precise chopping, slicing, and dicing.

DJing is a hands-on activity, with a lot of precise button-pushing, record-handling, and "scratching."

And besides, good music and good food always seem to come together.

And, experts agree:
"If music be the food of love, play on."
-William Shakespeare
"Good food is like music you can taste..."
-Remy the Rat, Ratatouille

Ok, so maybe I've made my point, or maybe I'm reaching a bit. The reality is that I put my creativity into two very different things, and sometimes...they become a part of one another.

Can you guess these songs?

♫ Let's groove tonight, share the spice of life. Baby slice it right. We're gonna groove tonight. ♫
♫ Seems like everywhere I go, the more I see the less I know, but I know one thing, that I love you. ♫

♫ Take time to make yourself feel good, and you do whatever you want. 'cause you can now, in my world... ♫

How do you think you did?

Sep 4, 2010

The Most Awesome Dog Video I've Ever Seen!

Feeling depressed?  Had a hard day?  Watch this video- you won't stop smiling!  Honestly, this dog is definitely having the time of her (or his) life!

Thanks, Mark for sending this to me! :)

Sep 3, 2010

Eggs, Salmonella, and an Upcoming Project in Molecular Gastronomy

"With more than half a billion eggs removed from the shelves and thousands of people seriously ill from salmonella poisoning, the ongoing egg recall is one of the worst food crises in recent history," says Weekly. "Wright County Egg, one of the two factory farms responsible for the current salmonella scandal, has 7.5 million egg-laying chickens crammed together so closely in battery cages that the birds can't even stretch their wings. The chickens often live in their own bacteria-breeding excrement, and never see the light of day."

I don't know that much about chickens- hell, I don't even remember the last time I saw a live chicken, but this statement just makes me want to cry!  As a person who chooses not to eat eggs, this outbreak is not much of a concern for me health-wise, but from an ethical standpoint, it breaks my heart and angers me at the same time.  I understand why there is a demand for eggs, but I do not understand why chickens have to suffer in this way in order to produce them!  The same goes for all factory-farmed animals (including dairy cows).  It's a large part of why I became vegan.

I don't normally preach, but come on, let's get with it!  Especially if you are a serious foodie like me, you MUST care about where your food comes from and how it is produced!  Let's get together and tell the FDA to enforce stricter laws for food safety, which will in turn enforce more humane treatment of our food animals.  It's the least we can do for sentient beings who unwillingly relinquish their lives every day for our food.

Join me in signing the petition below!

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Check out my next post for my project in molecular gastronomy, and how I will make...
The Vegan Egg
...dom dom dom!