|April 6, 2013||Posted by Nada under Recipes, Veganism|
As of late, I find myself having to defend and explain my veganism to a lot of people. I chalk this down to one of two things:
1. I’m meeting a lot of new people on a regular basis (through work, various events and inevitably mutual friends), who are instantly intrigued/horrified/incredulous/skeptical when they hear I’m a vegan.
2. Most people (whether old friends or new acquaintances) generally like being provocative, if only for the sake of a good discussion or debate.
Now I’m never one to complain – but I won’t lie, it does get to be a little bit tiring and redundant sometimes. I recently found myself wishing I could create a small animated short on why I’m vegan which would automatically play every time somebody asked me the question (but that’s just the design geek in me).
In all seriousness though, I always try to answer questions in the most clear, diplomatic and succinct way possible, no matter how ridiculous they sound. I make it clear that it’s a personal lifestyle choice and I don’t seek to impose my views or lifestyle habits on everyone. If it’s a person I’m a little more familiar with I’ll offer to cook or bake something for them, because in my experience nothing can win over a skeptical omnivore like a superb vegan cookie.
The other day, over a lunch discussion I mentioned how lazy I had been with food prep lately, and somebody asked me something that got me thinking:
“Isn’t it really hard to be vegan? What do you do when you get home at the end of a long day and you just don’t feel like cooking? I would just make a cheese sandwich but you can’t exactly do that. What’s your ‘cheese sandwich’?”
My initial response was to say I just eat whatever’s on hand and doesn’t need much prepping, which may range from pre-made veggie burgers to a smoothie, but after thinking about it later on I realised that I definitely have my go-to quick meal staples.
But if I had to pick my all-time favourite quick and easy go-to meal, it would without a doubt be this.
Nada’s Classic Tofu Scramble
- 1 serving of extra firm tofu, preferably pressed but not necessary (I find)
- 1/2 a cup of chickpeas
- 1/4 red onion roughly chopped
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 1 small tomato, diced
- 2-3 button mushrooms, sliced
- 1/4 red/green bell pepper, chopped
- 1 small carrot, finely grated
- 1 small courgette/zucchini, finely sliced
- 1-2 tsps Bragg’s liquid aminos (or soy sauce)
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/2 tsp curry powder (mild)
- 1-2 tbsp nutritional yeast
- squeeze of lemon juice (optional)
- coconut or olive oil
- Black pepper to taste
- Slice up all your veggies. To speed this up I use a little hand grater/mandolin slicer which is a lifesaver (just make sure you don’t accidentally slice your fingertip off in the process – it happens.)
- Heat your choice of cooking oil (or vegetable stock – for lower fat cooking) in a large pan, and start to sautee the onion and garlic, followed closely by the rest of the veggies. Cook for 2-3 minutes on medium heat till the vegetables start to soften.
- Crumble the tofu in using your hands, then add the Bragg’s, turmeric, curry powder, nutritional yeast and lemon juice. Add a splash of water if needed and stir to mix. I typically add a pinch more of whatever seasonings I’m feeling, so the amounts in the recipe are just a guideline. Go with your gut, especially if your gut tells you to add more nooch.
- Add in the chickpeas and cook for a further 3-5 minutes, depending on how soft you like your vegetables and until the tofu has absorbed all the flavours.
- Serve solo or avec some spinach/greens if you so wish. Sometimes I add some baby spinach or kale in right at the end until wilted which is delicious.
The great thing about a tofu scramble is that bar the seasonings, there really are no rules. You can add as many or as few veggies as you like, add in beans, fresh or dried herbs, or top with avocado, crumbled up veggie sausage – pretty much anything goes.
It’s one of those dishes that is so much simpler than it looks/sounds. Choc full of veggies, protein and downright delicious.
One thing’s for sure – it definitely beats a cheese sandwich.
So on that note, I’d love to know – what is your ‘cheese sandwich?’ Vegan or otherwise?
|February 16, 2013||Posted by Nada under Veganism|
Good morning dear readers! Before I get into today’s post which is a little less food-centric than usual, I just want to say I’m so glad you enjoyed last week’s recipe my Super Chunky Lentil and Zucchini Soup! It seems a record number of you made it and that makes me so happy – thank you for commenting back and posting pictures too Proof once again that delicious vegan food can be simple and non-fussy.
Anyways, moving on to the topic du jour. You may or may not know this, but I’ve been a fan of soy milk for years – back when I was just starting middle school, my mom started following a mostly macrobiotic/organic diet under the tutelage of Mariam Nour (a somewhat whackadoodle TV personality at the time). Interested and eager to join my mom on her health craze I went along for the ride. We switched out white rice for brown, frosties for organic rye muesli, and skimmed milk for soy.
I won’t lie and say that all those habits stuck – I had years of atrocious high school and university eating habits ahead of me still, but one thing was for sure, I liked my soy milk. So much so that when it came time to axe all the dairy from my diet (long before I went vegan) I didn’t think twice about switching back to soy.
When I was living in the UK, I was always a fan of the Alpro/Provamel brands, purchasing everything from their milks to pouring yogurts and even soy creamer for those slightly more decadent recipes. In Bahrain I’ve grown accustomed to buying Silk Organic, which I’ve grown to love.
So imagine my disappointment when I stumbled across a post on Reddit, which informed me that Silk is actually owned by Dean Foods, the largest producer and distributor of Dairy in the US. And if that weren’t bad enough, it turns out Dean Foods is one of the many companies that spent millions trying to block Prop 37, California’s Right to Know’s ballot initiative to label genetically modified food. Needless to say I was shocked – but even more upsetting was a little tidbit of information I found when I did some more digging: Dean Foods had actually acquired Alpro back in 2009. So in all my years of being a soy milk devotee, I’ve been unknowingly supporting a largely unethical dairy conglomerate. Needless to say I was beside myself in frustration.
Am I being a little extreme? I don’t think so. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: veganism to me is more than just diet – it’s a lifestyle whose ethos are at the core of defining who I am as a person and what I believe in. If I claim to eschew animal products due (in part) to the horrifying conditions and maltreatment of animals, exploitation of resources in modern day agriculture and my overall commitment to be an ethical consumer – then how can I continue to knowingly support a company like Dean Foods (whose track record by the way, isn’t exactly stellar)?
On the other side of the coin, some would argue that by “voting with my dollar” when I buy a non-dairy item from either Silk or Alpro, I’m showing the company that there’s a higher demand for vegan friendly products, which should be seen as a good thing as far as raising awareness goes and making vegan diets more mainstream.
Unfortunately for me the negatives outweigh the benefits in this case. I would much rather continue to seek out and support smaller, ethical (and preferably local/regional) brands when it comes to my choices as a consumer.
The sad truth however, is that so much about the way food is produced in today’s world can be deemed unethical in some way shape or form.
Palm oil for example been deemed taboo in vegan circles for example due to the fact that harvesting it results in the destruction of rain forests and the death of indigenous orangutans.
More recently, quinoa-eaters have been put in the ethical hot seat, as a controversial article in The Independent highlighted how the price-rise of highly coveted pseudograin has damaged the livelihood of the Bolivian farmers who can no longer afford it.
And lest we forget about cacao (an estimated 43% of the world’s chocolate comes from the Ivory Coast, where child slavery and unsafe working conditions are the norm), coffee beans, bananas, coconuts, sugar and every other crop that is typically harvested unsustainably.
The harsh truth of the matter is that if I were to eschew every unethical product or foodstuff, I’d essentially be unable to consume anything except the food grown in my backyard.
So where does one draw the line?
One thing I’ve learned in my short time of being vegan is that it isn’t about perfection, and it isn’t a competition. Even the most careful person will mistakenly purchase or consume an animal by-product at some point, and there’s no need to beat myself up about it. Mistakes will happen, it’s just about doing what you can. Veganism to me, is striving to lead a lifestyle that is cruelty-free, compassionate, and ethical to the best of my ability.
This week that meant rotating a few new non-dairy milk options into the mix to find an apt substitute for my beloved Alpro. No big deal, in the grand scheme of things, but a step forward to becoming a more ethical consumer nonetheless.
|February 3, 2013||Posted by Nada under Recipes|
As per usual, winter hardly stopped by Bahrain this year.
Sure, we had a few days of incessant winds and some colder than usual nighttime temperatures, as well as the occasional rain shower – but all in all the weather’s been pretty peachy.
What I’m getting at is that I didn’t really have an excuse to make this soup (which I would consider to be a “winter warmer” in a cooler climate) but what I did have was a plethora of zucchini from the farmers market and the desire for something hearty and warm after a week of cold packed lunches.
Enter this soup.
Super Chunky Lentil and Zucchini Soup
- 1 red onion, diced
- 1 tsp coconut oil (or cooking spray, or even some vegetable stock if you want this recipe to be oil-free)
- 2 average sized cloves of garlic, finely grated/crushed
- 1 courgette, cut into chunks
- 3 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 4 small-medium tomatoes, skinned
- 1 tbsp pure tomato paste
- 1 cup red lentils
- 2 1/2 cups vegetable stock (I use the low sodium Kallo organic brand)
- 1-2 cups water
- 1 tsp dried thyme, oregano, fresh parsley, basil and/or whatever herbs you have on hand
- sea salt and pepper to taste
- Start by sweating the onions and garlic in a little oil or stock, until translucent. Add the courgette and balsamic vinegar then cook for about 10 minutes or so until soft. Feel free to add additional stock if you notice the pot getting dry.
- At this point skin your tomatoes by dropping them in a pot of boiling water for a few minutes, then peeling. If you’ve never done this before – beware. It’s awesome. They come right off! Who knew?
- Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, herbs and remaining vegetable stock and bring and stir through before adding the lentils.
- Bring to the boil and add additional water as needed (I added about 1.5 cups), then cover and simmer until lentils are just about done – they should retain their shape so keep a watchful eye to make sure things don’t get too mushy.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper, garnish with a smattering of fresh herbs and serve piping hot.
If I’m honest, it’s so chunky it’s more of a soup-meets-stew situation. If you prefer a soupier soup I’d only add 3/4 cup of lentils and up the liquid a little.
Either way this one is a winner, whatever the weather!
|December 29, 2012||Posted by Nada under Food, Reviews|
Weekends are a beautiful thing.
Especially when I have nowhere to be on a beautiful Saturday morning (a rarity, between my usual crack-of-dawn driving lessons / events for work), and can finally make it to the newly launched Bahraini Farmers Market I’d heard so much about.
I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw a poster circulating on social media a few weeks ago advertising the market, it sounded too good to be true being only minutes away from my neighbourhood!
I’m always on the lookout for fresh/local produce especially since living here means the vast majority of fruits and veggies are imported. Needless to say I was pretty excited.
My mom and I headed out early and made our way to the Budaiya Garden where the farmers had set up shop.
We got there just past 9 o clock, but the place was already hustling and bustling with shoppers which was a pleasant surprise.
The weather was perfect – clear skies with a light breeze and thankfully no sign of the unusually heavy rain from the day before.We grabbed a trolley and made our way through all the different stalls and vendors, picking up a couple of things from each one.
Local broccoli + broccoli leaves. I have absolutely no idea what to do with the leaves but they reminded me of collard greens which I miss being able to buy so I snatched them up (at no extra cost, might I add).
Beautiful, beautiful beets.
Nothing beats the smell of fresh herbs.
And of course, we all know a true Bahraini farmers market wouldn’t be complete without…
It’s not exactly date season anymore, but this vendor was selling them frozen with a promise that if left outside to thaw for a day or two, they would ripen as normal. I’ll take his word for it.
Other treats included some homemade jams and spicy pickles, known as “achaar” in the local dialect.
A vendor selling date palms
and offering date samples sprinkled with sesame and fennel seeds – yum.
A little further down there was a stall selling traditional Bahraini sweets -
not really my thing (I’m very picky when it comes to Arabic sweets.
And a nikhi and bajela stand
Definitely more my thing.
If I hadn’t already had breakfast, we definitely would’ve queued up for some grub at the live cooking station at the next stall over.
Ps. how cute are those little veggie cups? Love.
There was also a little petting zoo at the end with some of (what I assume were) the farmers’ animals.
All in all – a beautiful morning.
The atmosphere was seriously great – it was just so nice to see a whole community gathered in one place, supporting local farmers and enjoying the outdoors with their families. I’ll definitely be heading back next week.
Wondering how you can keep up with the farmers? Well – like most everyone else in Bahrain, they are now on Instagram.
The Bahraini Farmers Market is open every Saturday from 8 AM – 12 PM and runs until the end of May 2013.
Make sure you get yourself down there if you can!
|December 18, 2012||Posted by Nada under Health and Wellness|
So there really is no two ways about it. I’ve been a bad, bad blogger and I know it.
In the past I’ve cited my (new-ish and technically first real job) as an excuse. The long hours and challenging workload keep me busy, it’s sometimes hard to fit in some of the things I really love – like the occasional evening yoga class, or an afternoon of weekend cooking, and of course, blogging and even blog-reading (which I’ve missed terribly).
But the truth is – that’s no excuse. I’m quickly finding out that “adult life” (I can already picture reading back on this in 2-3 years time and laughing/cringing) is all about striking a balance. You make time for the things and the people that are important to you, no matter what.
As much as I value and prioritise my job I’ve come to realise that there are certain things I have to make time for – for my own sanity, health and well-being.
Spending time with family and friends is at the top of that list, (after all I moved home after four years for a reason).
Followed closely by maintaining a regular workout/running schedule.
I’ve been called crazy for getting up at the crack of dawn to run to the gym for a workout but the truth is exercise keeps me sane and that is no exaggeration. Waking up early is a small price to pay if it means I get to clear my mind, shake my legs out and work up a decent sweat before taking on the day.
Also, my life in Bahrain is unfortunately much more sedentary than I’m used to. I spend 8+ hours at my desk most days and hardly walk anywhere – so now more than ever exercise has become a priority for me. I don’t see it as a chore or something that needs to be “done” – it’s just a natural part of my day and I truly relish and enjoy it.
Another thing I try to find time for is doing at least some meal planning/prep – even if it means a measly batch of hummus on a Saturday night.
Some weekends I get more time than others and can actually put together a decent spread which my mom and I live off of during the week.
And of course getting a little time each week to rest and is key for me. Aside from the fact that my body is usually drained from a week of hard workouts – I also need some time to mentally re-charge. Call it “me-time” if you will. It can be anything from sleeping in on a weekend (a rarity) to catching up on my favourite TV shows, curling up with a good read or even devoting time to the blog and writing a cathartic post like this one.
I’ve noticed that when any of these things falls by the wayside – my whole life is out of balance.
If I don’t get a chance to de-stress, unwind and rejuvenate, I’m a mess. I go to work cranky and restless, I’m unfocused and unorganised and nowhere near as productive as my usual self. I silently resent myself and others, my temper could flare up at the drop of a hat and all of a sudden I’m harbouring all this negative energy and it just feels…well frankly, like crap!
I guess what I’m trying to say is it’s important to make time for yourself. I can’t stress the importance of this enough. It may sound like a no-brainer but the truth is it’s really easy to get caught up in the everyday hustle and bustle without taking a second to yourself. So please, don’t forget to step back every once in a while, and don’t feel guilty about putting yourself first.
And on that note – I’ll end this by saying that I have resolved to blog more. Not just for myself, but for anyone who reads. This blog is important to me, and so are my readers (even if there are only two of you left!) so I will find a way to make time for it just like I do everything else I love.
Have a great week everyone.