Two hundred and twenty-five

Quinoa

I find many people don’t know about quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) and it’s health benefits.  Although it looks like a grain or a rice, quinoa is more closely related to spinach, swiss chard, beets and tumbleweed.  It originated as a food source in the Andean region of Peru 3000 to 4000 years ago.  The ancient Incas held the quinoa crop as sacred, calling it the “mother of all grains”.

Quinoa’s has numerous health benefits.  First of all, quinoa is a complete protein, meaning all nine essential amino acids are present in correct proportions for supporting biological functions in the human body.  Quinoa is 12% to 18% protein and about 1/2-cup a day will provide a childs protein needs (therefore great for vegans and great for non-vegan looking to get protein from a plant-based source).  It is especially high in lysine, an amino acid essential for tissue growth and repair.  Quinoa is also high in manganese (combined with copper it creates an antioxidant), magnesium (great for migraine-suffers and cardiovascular health because it relaxes the blood vessels), iron, copper and phosphorous.

Quinoa is a seed that when cooked opens up to reveal what I think looks like a tail.  In its natural state it’s coated with bitter-tasting saponins that need to be rinsed before cooking (although generally pre-packaged quinoa has already been rinsed).  You can tell if there are saponins present when a soapy foam rises to the top when you are cooking it.

I generally put 1/2 cup of quinoa to 1 cup of water or vegetable stock (I like cooking it in vegetable stock because it adds flavour) and boil it until all the water or stock is absorbed (15-20 minutes).  It can be used instead of rice or couscous and the texture has a little pop in your mouth when you eat it.  You can also put it in soups, stews or eat it as porridge. Yum!

Sources and more reading:

“Quinoa”, Wikipedia.

“Quinoa”, The World’s Healthiest Foods.

Railey, Karen.  “Quinoa from the Andes”, Chet Day’s Health and Beyond Online.

“Complete protein”, Wikipedia.

Two hundred and twenty-four

Quick post today: The honey debate

Is honey vegan?  In the strict sense, honey is an animal product and therefore not vegan.  In the 1994 manifesto of the British Vegan Society honey was prohibited from use, a “position consistent with the requirement for full (vegan) membership in the American Vegan Society since its inception in 1960.” (vegsource.com)  However some vegans can be more lenient on insect products.  According to the Vegan Action website: “Many vegans, however, are not opposed to using insect products, because they do not believe insects are conscious of pain. Moreover, even if insects were conscious of pain, it’s not clear that the production of honey involves any more pain for insects than the production of most vegetables, since the harvesting and transportation of all vegetables involves many ‘collateral’ insect deaths.”

Jo Stepaniak from Grassroots Veganism describes why there is reason to avoid honey:

To collect honey, beekeepers must temporarily remove a number of the bees from their home. During the course of bee management and honey collection, even the most careful beekeeper cannot avoid inadvertently injuring, squashing, or otherwise killing some of the bees. Other commodities may be taken from the hive as well, including beeswax, honeycomb, pollen, propolis, and royal jelly.

Bees are not harmed by the process of pollination — it is something they would do whether or not humans were involved or reaped any profit. If one were to stretch the point, using honey could, in a broad sense, be considered analogous to dairying. Furthermore, there is no reason to take honey from bees other than to sell it. Utilizing bees to pollinate crops in no way necessitates ravaging their hive.

I will avoid honey for the rest of this month, but I’m not sure I’m sold on giving it up forever…

Two hundred and twenty-three

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving – a holiday filled with yummy things to eat, celebrating family, and giving thanks for all the things we have.  A holiday that I thought would feel like I was missing something by not having turkey, gravy and mashed potatoes.  I was wrong.  I love my family.

The smell of the turkey is amazing.  The ham looks delicious.  It’s been too long since I’ve been able to go to a holiday family get-together because of my job at the pub.  It must have been Christmas since I last saw everyone.  Veganism is one of the topics of the day.  “Who’s party is this?”  my uncle teases me, as everyone has made accomodations for my new eating choices.  My mom had a separate bowl of mashed potatoes without the butter or milk.  My aunt had a side dish of turnip for me.  My other aunt who hosted even asked a friend of hers from work who is vegan for ideas and made a vegetable-casserole dish and a vegan rice dish with cashews for me to eat!

There were a few teasing moments and some debates on topics about veganism that I have yet to research fully (for example, if a vegan was dying of cancer and the only medicine that would save them was tested on animals, would they die or take the medicine?  My response to my brother who asked this question was “people do extraordinary things when they are dying in order to survive – like eat their brother if there was no other food!”). 

When it came time to eat, I did miss the traditional meal, but mine was delicious too.  Even though my family might not understand why people would give up gnawing the meat off the turkey bones or enjoying the creamy ice cream with their dessert, they had fun with the concept.  And the dessert I brought had everyone that tried it (besides my bratty brother) impressed.  I felt full and tired when I left and thankful for the wonderful family I have – just like any other Thanksgiving, vegan or not!

Here are the recipes again (and some photos) for the salad and cake I brought – Quinoa and Sweet Potato Salad from PETA and the Pumpkin Gingerbread with Spiced Buttercream Frosting from Oh She Glows, both of which I wrote about yesterday.  The gingerbread is to die for!  Just as good as a non-vegan version and I’d highly recommened it .