Two hundred and fifty-eight

Happy World Kindness Day!

“Look beyond ourselves, beyond the boundaries of our country, beyond our culture, our race, our religion; and realise we are citizens of the world. As world citizens we have a commonality, and must realise that if progress is to be made in human relations and endeavours, if we are to achieve the goal of peaceful coexistence, we must focus on what we have in common.” – Australian Kindess Movement

November 13th marks the anniversary of the first World Kindness Movement conference held in Tokyo in 1998 and the 35th anniversary of the Small Kindness Movement of Japan. Today take some time to really talk to someone from a different culture, learn about their traditions, do some research, be kind to the man at the corner of the street who is having a hard time crossing.  Be kind to animals, our planet, and even the bitchy woman serving you brunch who obviously doesn’t want to be there – maybe you’ll brighten her day and she will pay it forward.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Anthropologist Margaret Mead

More information at World Kindness Movement.

Chicken Soup for the Soul Recap 

Since vegan month ended I have tried to stick to a mostly plant-based diet (although still some fish).  Last week, I did try some of our new menu items at work which had dairy and meat in them.  After the pains in my stomach and moodiness that came along with it, I realized how much the plant-based diet has made me feel great.  So I’ve decided to stick with it.  I’m excited to try out all sorts of new vegan recipes (with my friends and co-workers sometimes being my guinea pigs).  Not to worry mom and certain friends, of mine I will still have the occasional meat if I’m out for dinner or at someone’s house, but I’m going to try to cook mostly vegan at home.

On that note, I didn’t make chicken soup yesterday.  I did, however, make soup that is just as good for you (if not better) – miso soup.

A little on miso from southrivermiso.com:

Miso (pronounced mee-so) is a delicious all purpose, high-protein seasoning which has played a major role in Japanese culture and cuisine for centuries. It is most often made from a combination of soybeans, cultured grain, and sea salt by a unique, double fermentation process, which was elevated to a state of fine craftsmanship in traditional Japan.

Miso is best known as a seasoning for soup. It is used for flavoring a wide variety of other dishes as well (see recipes). Miso offers a nutritious balance of natural carbohydrates, essential oils, minerals, vitamins, and protein of the highest quality, containing all of the essential amino acids.

In traditional Japan, miso gained a special place in the minds and hearts of generations who came to rely on miso soup as an essential part of their daily life. In Physical Constitution and Food, Dr. Shinichiro Akizuki, director of St. Francis Hospital, Nagasaki, writes:

I have found that, with very few exceptions, families, which make a practice of serving miso soup daily, are almost never sick…. I believe that miso belongs to the highest class of medicines, those which help prevent disease and strengthen the body through continued usage…Some people speak of miso as a condiment, but miso brings out the flavor and nutritional value in all foods and helps the body to digest and assimilate whatever we eat….

“A traditional Japanese seasoning produced by fermenting rice, barley and/or soybeans, with salt and the fungus.  Natural miso is a living food containing many beneficial microorganisms such asTetragenococcus halophilus which can be killed by over-cooking. For this reason, it is recommended that the miso be added to soups or other foods being prepared just before they are removed from the heat. Using miso without any cooking may be even better.” - Wikipedia

Click here on how to combine chicken soup and miso to get all the benefits of both!

Two hundred and fifty-seven

Happy Chicken Soup for the Soul Day!

Yep, those books that inspired us, our moms, teachers, young at heart, preteens, runners, dogs, alternate universe selves… ok, that’s going a little too far, but I swear there is a Chicken Soup for the Soul for everything.  There are over 200 titles, selling over 112 million copies and translated to more than 40 languages.  There is even Chicken Soup for the Soul brand pet food, publishing, games, toys, dvds, pasta sauces and baby food!  They’ve come pretty far since their first book in 1993.

Our grandmothers always told us that chicken soup is the best cure.  I will admit I used to love those books.  So inspirational.  And gives you warm fuzzies – just like homemade chicken soup.

Why is chicken soup thought to be a cure when you have a cold or the flu?  Does it actually help or is it a myth?  This is a topic of much controversy.  Here are a few answers:

Shara Aaron, MS, RD, and Christine M. Porretta, “Feel-Good Foods: 10 Cold & Flu Fighters”:

“Chicken soup has specifically been shown in studies to thin mucus secretions. Broth and noodles provide carbohydrates for maintaining your energy levels, potentially helping you feel less lethargic. If you add vegetables, you’ll boost the level of nutrients in the soup, which will help support immune function.”

Tara Parker-Pope on Health, “The Science of Chicken Soup”, New York Times blog:

“As it turns out, a handful of scientific studies show that chicken soup really could have medicinal value.  The most widely cited of these studies, published in the medical journal Chest in 2000, is by Dr. Stephen Rennard of the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. He conducted laboratory tests to determine why chicken soup might help colds, beginning with his wife’s homemade recipe, handed down by her Lithuanian grandmother. Using blood samples from volunteers, he showed that the soup inhibited the movement of neutrophils, the most common type of white blood cell that defends against infection. Dr. Rennard theorizes that by inhibiting the migration of these infection-fighting cells in the body, chicken soup essentially helps reduce upper respiratory cold symptoms.”

From the same study at HealthBulletin.org “Doctors Test Chicken Soup for a cold – Don’t Laugh”:

“Store-bought chicken soup (listed in order of presumed effectiveness):

Knorr’s Chicken Flavor Chicken Noodle
Campbell’s Home Cookin’ Chicken Vegetable
Campbell’s Healthy Request Chicken Noodle
Lipton’s Cup-o-soup, Chicken Noodle
Progresso Chicken Noodle.
Other brands, including some of Campbell’s, were less effective.

Here’s the recipe. More work of course, but you can cut the excessive use of salt found in store-bought types:

1 5-to 6-lb stewing hen or baking chicken,
1 package of chicken wings,
3 large onions,
l large sweet potato,
3 parsnips,
2 turnips,
11 to 12 large carrots,
5 to 6 celery stems,
1 bunch of parsley,
salt and pepper to taste.

Cover the chicken with cold water, and bring it to boiling. Add chicken wings, onions, sweet potato, parsnips, turnips and carrots. Boil about 1 1/2 hours, removing fat regularly. Add the parsley and celery. Cook all about 45 minutes longer. Remove the chicken, which is no longer used for the soup. Put the vegetables in a food processor until chopped fine or pass them through a strainer. Add salt and pepper.”

It is also believed by some that breathing in the steam from the hot soup can help with congestion and the spices such as garlic and pepper help with the thinning of mucus.  Some doctors remain skeptical and further research is unlikely because of the differences in chicken soup recipes.

More of the debate at Google Answers: Does Chicken Soup Work?

Remembrance Day recap

Pledge of Remembrance

They were young, as we are young,

They served, giving freely of themselves.

To them, we pledge, amid the winds of time,

To carry their torch and never forget.

We will remember them.

Yesterday I went to the Ontario Remembrance Day ceremony at Queen’s Park.  A windy, brisk day, yet hundreds of people stood outside to hear the Last Post; take two minutes of silence; listen to the reading of Flanders Fields; watch the laying of the wreaths in front of the Veterans’ Memorial; hear Premier Dalton McGuinty, Brigadier-General F.A. Lewis and Major-General Richard Rohmer speak; and pin a poppy on the People’s Wreath.  Thousands more honoured our veterans at the Toronto ceremony at Old City Hall.

Although I observe the two minutes of silence every year, this is the first time I’ve attended a ceremony.  I had a few tears in my eyes when the mother of a fallen soldier placed a wreath on the memorial.  I will always remember the sacrifices these men and women made for our country.

Two hundred and forty-eight

Happy American National Sandwich Day (and Culture Day in Japan)!

I know you’re probably thinking exactly what I was thinking when I heard that “National Sandwich Day” is a holiday: what sandwich company made that one up to sell more sandwiches?!  Apparently it is the 293rd anniversary of the birthday of John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, and supposed inventor of the sandwich.  The legend has it that: “this Englishman was said to have been fond of gambling. As the story goes, in 1762, during a 24 hour gambling streak he instructed a cook to prepare his food in such a way that it would not interfere with his game. The cook presented him with sliced meat between two pieces of toast. Perfect! This meal required no utensils and could be eaten with one hand, leaving the other free to continue the game. Sadly, the name of real inventor of the sandwich (be it inventive cook or the creative consumer) was not recorded for posterity.” (foodtimeline.org)

Of course the actual National Sandwich Day in America didn’t start until much later.  The earliest printed reference Food Timeline can find comes from Chases’s Calendar of Annual Events, 1981 (p. 110), although there is no record of where or when it was originally created.  Of course companies like Subway and Ziploc have taken full advantage of the “holiday”, having National Sandwich Day contests and using it as promotion.

Either way, sandwiches are very popular in our world of convenience and eating on-the-go.  According to the National Restaurant Association, the sandwich is the second most popular lunch choice by full-time employees (fruit being number one), with hamburgers being the most popular type of sandwich (informationweek.com).  Whether a marketing tool or not, I love sandwiches, so I don’t have a problem celebrating them today.  So Happy National Sandwich Day!

It is also Japanese Culture Day, held every year on November 3rd to promote, culture, arts and academic endeavor – if you want to eat some sushi and watch a video of the Feudal Lord’s Procession that happens every year in Yumoto Onsen, Hakone.  “A procession of a total of 170 people dressed up as samurai warriors and princesses parades over a distance of some 6 km in the hot spring town.” (Japan National Tourism Organization)

Or you can combine both holidays and eat a Katsu-sando, a tonkatsu (deep-fried pork cutlet – you can probably figure out why my vegan-adapted body didn’t try this one out) sandwich – recipe here.  Or try to figure out this bizarre Japanese Sandwich Maker game I found online: http://www.girlsgogames.com/game/japanese_sandwich_maker.html

All Souls Day Recap

Spending the entire day at the cemetery (like some do in Mexico) by myself seemed both insulting to the tradition and a little creepy.  I’m sure I’d be kicked out when I started trying to give skull candies to any youngsters passing by while draping colourful home-made garlands over gravestones.  Without a community to support me, I’d have a hard time explaining what I was doing.  And the thought of having a picnic on top of a buried coffin made me feel a little uncomfortable.  I’m also not Catholic and therefore spending the day at church seemed like a wrong choice as well.  I don’t know of anyone who recently passed away who needs praying for to help their journey from Purgatory into Heaven.

I do, however, appreciate the day to remember my family and friends who have passed away.  So, on my way to visit my parents, I stopped in on my grandfather’s grave.  A man I deeply respected, who spent countless hours driving me to and from swimming practice when I was a competitive swimmer as a teenager, was calm and kind and I still hold a special place in my heart for.  I put a chrysanthemum on his grave and spoke aloud to him to thank him for being an inspiration to me and to wish him well wherever he may be.  Sometimes we need to remember where we came from to have guidance of where we are headed to.

As I was going to bed I almost forgot to leave an offering for the spirits in Purgatory who returned to Earth for the night.  I searched my parents’ cupboards and found Ritz crackers and a tomato – not much of an offering, but it will have to do.

Two hundred and thirty-five

I haven’t been cooking this month as much as I would like.  I am just loving the curries, though, as a comforting dish in the cold weather.  My friend Angie gave me the following recipe for Chana Masala, which I made this afternoon for lunch.  It is so tasty, with just the right amount of spice to make your whole body glow.  The leftovers I plan to take to work tomorrow so I can eat something yummy when everyone else is eating pizza (our managers at the pub buy us pizza on the really busy days, so we don’t bombard the kitchen with orders for food).  Being vegan you have to think ahead all the time, so you know you have something to eat.

Chana Masala with quinoa (I ran out of rice)

Chana Masala
1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas 
onion, chopped 
tomato, chopped 
green chili pepper, chopped 
garlic cloves, chopped 
1 inch gingerroot, chopped 
2-3 bay leaves 
1 teaspoon red chili powder 
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder 
1 teaspoon coriander powder 
1 teaspoon garam masala powder 
3 tablespoons olive oil
  1. Cut onion, tomato and green chili. Grind it in food processor along with ginger and garlic and make paste.
  2. Heat oil in a pan and fry bay leaves for 30 secs.
  3. Add the paste and fry on medium heat until golden brown (The oil starts separating from the mixture).
  4. Add red chili powder, turmeric powder, coriander powder, garam masala and salt. Mix well. Fry for 2-3 minutes.
  5. Add water enough to make thick gravy. Bring the gravy to boil.
  6. Add can chick peas. Stir well and cook over medium heat for 5-7 minutes.
  7. Garnish with chopped green coriander leaves and serve hot.

Vegan recipe websites

I know I’ve mentioned most of these before, but just to have them all in one place, here are some great recipe websites for vegan food:

Voracious Eats - vegan and non-vegan recipes by Tasha

Oh She Glows - all vegan recipes by Angela Liddon

The Kind Life - a collection of recipes by Alicia Silverstone and other vegan chefs

Post Punk Kitchen – vegan recipes by Isa Chandra Moskowitz

The Vegan Project – three ladies (Bridget Burns, Jen Hanover and Jessica Grajczyk) from Vancouver learning about veganism and posting delicious-looking recipes

ChooseVeg.com - I haven’t tried any of these recipes yet, but they have hundreds of vegan recipes

Two hundred and thirty-three

Have I mentioned recently how much I love my friends?  Maybe it’s the healthy food, or the yoga, or the fact that I am surrounded by amazing, supportive people who want to not only encourage my crazy experiments, but be a part of them, but I’m just so full of love today.  Everyone has ups and downs – I definitely have my moments (you should be glad you didn’t know me during my teenage years – sorry mom).  But, whatever choices I’m making this month have definitely changed the way I feel as a whole.

It’s funny how this year has been such a roller coaster ride.  I have gone from month to month researching and learning about topics and worlds I had no idea about.  Some months have been healthy (art, cooking, first kiss interviews, some of the pushing myself out of my comfort zone) and some months have destroyed me physically and mentally (date month).  Through it all, though, I’ve had my writing to keep me company and my family and friends to both laugh with me (and sometimes at me) and push me along.

Yesterday my friend Leah from work had me over for a home-cooked vegan lunch.  She was so excited about being able to help out this month.  She cooked the most amazing chickpea curry and we made vegan chapati bread together (recipes from voraciouseats.com).  Vegan or not, you should try this recipe (mom, I’m talking to you – and yes, you can use real milk if you really want to). Super healthy, easy and super tasty.  Thank you Leah for a lovely afternoon!

I know sometimes people are more interested in reading about when I encounter challenges (and do silly things) than when I’m happy and healthy.  But the downs don’t mean anything without the ups – the balance of life.  I personally like the ups better than the downs!