Thursday, January 1, 2015


It's been 3 years and twenty pounds since my last post here on TF and I'm proud to say that in my absence I've reached my goal to return to vegetarianism. Yes, it's been a struggle in my quest and my intentions to document it here on my blog. But among this exciting news that I'm two pounds from my vegetarian weight of 2003, is the even more exciting news of the birth of our daughter Mai-Lin Margaret on August 26th, 2013.

At 16 months old, she is today's drive for my road to nutritional healing. Her vegetarian mom who inspired me in the beginning has gone vegan in recent months and despite donning my favorite leather jacket, at least my diet is now vegan. We are raising Mai-Lin vegan as well and the future of this blog is dedicated to her well being and the growth of our little family.

Walking this child round-the-clock has contributed greatly to the exercise part of my weight loss while her light sleeping prevented me from raiding the fridge and cupboards at three in the morning.

My family and I would like to wish all of you and yours a wonderful and healthy 2015, and a big thanks for following my rants and musings.

On a final note, the birth photographer responsible for the above video and preserving the most cherished moment of our lives is Andrea Frappier of Northern Accents Photography in Holtyre, Ontario. Andrea is tops in her class of photographers, and the classiest in the region. I always check the link to the video before sharing and although I've lost count of how many times I've seen it, my responding tears are the same as the first.

Godspeed to Dr. Peter John Pace who brought Mai-Lin and thousands of others into our world, and left his legacy behind after a tragic automobile accident almost one year ago.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Gung Hay Fat Choy!


Happy New Year everyone!! 

Well, it's almost a year since I started this blog and I'm proud to say that this week, as we celebrate the Year of the Dragon, I've only eaten 4 chicken dumplings and a couple bowls of egg drop soup. Everything else was vegetarian - tofued and/or deep fried to death. We didn't even fry any dogs (hot).

2011 was no doubt a challenging year as I embarked (failed) on my meatless journey. But other than the recent holidays I can pretty much count on one hand how many times I've had meat since September. I think it's safe to say that after little discipline and huge weight gain 2012 is going to go a lot smoother.

I've been working from home a lot more which means my work clothes match my slippers. I don't spill food on my pants anymore cause now it stops on my shirt. It's not that I've seen a lot of weight gain this past year I just haven't seen my feet.

So this is the year of the "draggin' my ass" out of the chair where regular exercise is more than just trips to the john. But if I didn't run up and down the stairs for snacks all day I'm sure I'd be a lot bigger.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Tofurkey - the ghost of seasonings past...

Who loves ya, baby!!

Sheesh Louishe! Nearing the end of November already? I know October was a blur with it's cornucopia of holidays and events but this month seems to be passing by even faster as I scramble to ketch up on all my eggs. Here's last month's recap:

Margaret celebrated another birthday in all her garb and glory as a Ninja Turtle (Michaelangelo) with this year's Heroes and Villains Theme (I was Shredder). With her birthday so close to Halloween it seemed fitting to dress up for the party. Last year it was Favorite Eras and the year previous was 80s.

Instead of cake, her special request this year was for a giant pizza cookie which went down faster than a wall of dominoes.
Guaranteed devour in 30 minutes or less.

 And speaking of pumpkins, there's been plenty to snack on with Halloween's leftover seeds and sugar. 

Rotting pumpkin from too much candy...

With best intentions I still never got to making my own pumpkin pie which comes of a surprise after September's flake and bake pie-fest. Bags of berries still bulge from the freezer door and I'm confident they'll make tasty gifts this Christmas.

We celebrated Thanksgiving last month in Canada and this week I send my best wishes to our American neighbors. Enjoy that pumpkin pie!

Christmas and cranberries were fresh on my mind and plate during our Thanksgiving weekend. Both holidays are combined with the perfect ingredients - food, family and friends. And with only 4 weeks til Xmas the meal plan is done cause it's gonna be exactly what I had for Thanksgiving - tofurkey.

A tofurkey dinner has all the trimmings of the traditional turkey feast and is just as enjoyable if not more.
It doesn't look like a turkey, but I suppose with a lot of patience and imagination you could mold it into something respectable of it's predecessor or the shape of a football. However, with the right blend of flavors and scents the taste will make up what it lacks in appearance. And it won't make you pass out before the second half is over!

Eat tofurkey and catch the end of your favorite game or movie.

Whether it's for this week (U.S. Thanksgiving), this Christmas, or any time of year, this tofu turkey recipe will gobble up all the attention.

Tofurkey for Two

1lb block extra firm tofu
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
1/2 tsp dried sage
1/2 tsp ground pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp dry dill
3 cloves garlic thinly sliced
Shallow glass or metal baking pan.

You can substitute the rosemary, sage, thyme and marjoram with  1 tbsp of a turkey rub (we use Epicure).

Press tofu with a heavy object to drain excess water:

The longer you wait, the better the press. You can play all tracks of the Beatles White Album or let it be overnight. I wouldn't recommend putting your 8-track player or other priceless collectibles in the fridge.
Mix the ingredients in a bowl and let stand while doing other prep work.
Slice the tofu horizontally into 4 even slabs:

Pour enough of the mixture to cover the bottom of the pan.

Lay the slabs side by side and pour the remainder of the mixture over them. Let them marinate overnight or for a few hours. There is no hard and fast rule here - whatever your time permits. The longer it sits, the better the flavor:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and place the pan on the center rack.

Bake for one hour, turning the slices over after thirty minutes.
Remove slices and brown in a frying pan before serving:

Serve with your favorite stuffing, potatoes, gravy and side dish (wine). And don't forget the cranberries!!
Not my prettiest presentation but it was so good we couldn't wait to eat!!

Today is a day of thanks in America, and I am thankful every day for all of you fellow foodies who visit and feed my inspiration.

Happy Thanksgiving.
All the best,

Monday, September 12, 2011

Deep Fried Tofu in Black Bean Sauce

Photo: Copyright Perry Kong
This is a spin on an old family recipe, which I'm sure is just more of a cultural thing than something passed down through the ages and sages. The recipe is for Garlic Chicken Wings which is what my mom always called it, and as far as I know, my dad. My niece calls it Chinese Chicken. I think the more commonly known term today is Chicken in Black Bean Sauce. I used to think the black beans were just something that got tossed into the mix, but they're the special ingredient that makes the dish what it is.

I  suppose what makes it a family recipe is that throughout most of my lifetime, my mom was the only person I knew who could make it. The recipe originates from my father, who emigrated from China, and died when I was 4. I now realize at the time, the recipe was part of the Chinese community and culture, and a minority in the small northern Ontario town I grew up in during the 70s. For all I know, it could have been the most popular thing on the menu at every Asian restaurant in the larger urban centers like Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. But back then, we were the only people I knew who knew it, enjoyed it, and were befriended for it.

Technology, television and travel have opened minds and mouths of millions and now black bean sauce is as common a household name as beans on toast. Turns out,  it wasn't a family secret at all but just a sign of the times when we were among the few that knew the recipe and where to get the 'stuff'. We had a friend who made trips to Toronto for supplies for the local Asian restaurants and community. Today, the family 'secret of the black beans' is spilled all over store shelves and the net.

The recipe was passed down to my siblings and I, and we pass it on to our friends, as our mom did with hers. And to my pleasant surprise, most people I meet still haven't heard or tried my mom's infamous Garlic Chicken Wings, a.k.a. Chicken Wings in Black Bean Sauce. But I have noticed however, that black bean sauce, more specifically Tofu in Black Bean Sauce, is well known throughout the vegetarian community.

Since becoming a vegetarian, and my recent return to becoming a vegetarian, I've made one slight change to the recipe. I replace the chicken with deep fried tofu. Everything else remains the same. I got hooked on deep fried tofu when I worked in a Chinese restaurant in southern Ontario. I was a committed vegetarian back then, and the cooks were most accommodating. Deep fried tofu with mixed vegetables and hot sauce became an almost daily occurrence. And now deep fried tofu finds it's way into all sorts of places on my menu.

I've pan fried my tofu over the years in oil, but with the acquisition of a deep fryer two Christmases ago, I've enjoyed the real deal and many versions of it since. And I confess as a struggling vegetarian, if you love hot dogs (real, not fake) you'll love them more out of the deep fryer. Just plop them in and wait til they float and you're good to go. Beware, they hold the heat and flavor for a very long time.

Margaret has become my number one fan of the deep fried tofu, and has mastered the recipe herself. Many friends and family have explored and enjoyed my vegetarian version alongside mom's original during the annual feasts we have here Chinese New Year.

To spare you the drivel if you need to print this or come back for future reference, the methods and recipe below are in the 'Recipes' page.

On with the show...

Perry's Recipe
Deep Fried Tofu in Black Bean Sauce
(Mom's Turning Over in Her Grave Right Now).

1 block firm or extra firm tofu
1/4 to 1/3 cup preserved black beans
1/4 cup soya sauce
1 cup water
2 med to large size garlic cloves
vegetable or canola oil

Firm and extra firm tofu works best since you'll be cutting it into small triangles. Anything softer is difficult to slice and work with in this form but it can be done with medium if it's all you can find. Just be more gentle when pressing it to remove the excess water.

Slice open the package, drain, and remove the block of tofu. It will still be soaked with water and you'll need to apply pressure to squeeze out the excess. There are specially designed tofu presses on the commercial market that range from mini bench vises to plastic spring loaded food presses (Amazon), but most people just wrap it in a towel and place a towel wrapped brick or book on top of it. The longer you leave it, the more it will drain. Overnight in the fridge is ideal if you have the time and memory - I possess neither. Just do the best with what you can.

A couple of good reads or Margaret's purse
make good tofu presses.

I wrap my block of tofu in a cotton tea towel and place it between two plastic cutting boards. I either stack a couple books on it, or leave it in the sink and place a large heavy pot on top. The sink is just for balancing the pot.

Remove the weights and towel once you're happy with the amount of moisture removed,  or right now if you've lost track playing XBOX and only have ten minutes before your girlfriend gets home from work and the gym. FYI - thrown and broken XBOXes make excellent tofu presses. PlaysStations, 360s and Wiis are just too light. Haven't seen one in some time, but it's safe to assume Pong or an old 8-track player have some weight too.

Cut the block horizontally in half...

..then turn the halves up vertically
and slice them down the middle.

Lay the slices flat and cut them corner to corner
to make four triangles each (16 total)

Set the temperature on the deep fryer to 350 degrees and wait for the green light.

Place the triangles in the basket and lower into the fryer. Shake the basket vigorously to ensure the tofu doesn't stick to the bottom. Otherwise it will tear when you try to pell it out. Put the lid on, and keep shaking the basket every 30 seconds. How long or crisp you prefer to cook your tofu is totally up to you. I've done from 90 seconds to 7 minutes and everywhere in between. Keep in mind that the tofu will soak and soften a bit when you cook it in the black bean sauce.
Keep it movin' & shakin'
2 minutes: 30 seconds

4 minutes: 30 seconds

Remove the basket from the oil and let drip for a few seconds, then dump tofu onto a plate or bowl lined with paper towel to soak up excess oil.

Black Bean Sauce

The main ingredient is the preserved black beans, not to be confused with the Mexican whole black beans. The fermented beans come dry in a cellophane pack, and are usually only found in Asian food markets and stores. The prices range from 99 cents to just under a buck and a package goes a long way.

Some large grocery chains may carry them. I haven't seen them here in northern Ontario, but  I have seen the prepared Black Bean Sauce in jars if that's all you can get. I haven't tried the stuff as of yet but hear it's a decent alternative. I'll do kitchen trials in the future.

You can also order them online through Amazon.

I've also gone to my local Asian restaurants and asked them to order them for me, and they've been very accommodating.

Like my mom, my hand is the measuring instrument and just a palm full will do. If you choose to use measuring spoons and cups, 1/4 to 1/3 cup ranging on your tastes.

Pour the beans in a bowl, and rinse and drain them under cold water. Then soak them for 5 minutes in just enough water to cover them.

Make a fist, and gently mash them under your knuckles til they're somewhat pasty.

Add a cup of water, 1/4 cup of soya sauce, stir and set aside.

Heat up oil in a skillet and saute chopped garlic for 30 seconds then add the black bean sauce. Cover and let simmer for 2 minutes. Add tofu and stir, then reduce heat to low and leave covered for 5 minutes stirring occasionally. Stir fry your vegetables of choice in a separate pan with oil and preferred seasoning. For this recipe, I charred broccoli spears in a dry non-stick pan.
Photo: Copyright Perry Kong
When done, you can add them to the tofu, serve them on a platter with the tofu on top, or serve it all together on a bed of noodles or rice.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

They came, they ate, they went...

Toast and fried rice - only in the north, eh.
After a week off and week of visiting with my southern sibling I've once again gone fowl on my veggie commitments with another round of 'how much meat can I eat' as we celebrated family fairs of chinese sausage and wings. A visit to our hometown to pay respects to our origins ended with a feast on ginger beef and bbq pork. The pepperoni calzone I had for lunch wasn't too bad either.

To make ammends, we stayed the course (and appetizers) at home while my nephew bunked on an air mattress and he graciously consumed huge amounts of homemade pancakes, jam and veggie pot pie. I made burgers one night but it was a good way to use up the leftover meat in the freezer from my other nephew's visit in May.

It seemed appropriate to spend the week twisting wrenches and beer caps with the young gearhead and we got the old Ford in the driveway running after a three year hiatis. Now that the grease is finally out from under my nails it's back to gettin' dirty in the kitchen (btw - kneading any kind of dough is a great way to get those hands back from oil-pan to dish-pan shape).

On that note, and my hands were CLEAN, I made a pie the other night to Margaret's surprise. She suggested using up some berries that were in the fridge and I suggested she make me a pie. She said 'too much work' and I said 'I'll do it,' revealing the last of my best kept secrets after dating for two years (last year she found out I play guitar). The pie was a huge success but I got burned as designated pie-maker for the rest of this lifetime.

The visit was one of the best ever as far as family gatherings go and the reminiscing continued the day after they left as Margaret and I sat in the porch enjoying leftover vegetarian fried rice my sister had prepared for her. The oldest of four children and our new queen since my mother moved on, I made the comment that she is the only one that can duplicate my mom's recipes precisely, including her fried rice. Margaret's vegetarian version is custom made.

Long live the Queen!
Our conversation led to the foreign crispy topping that accompanied her leftover lunch - a slice of buttered toast. It was Margaret's first encounter with the strange combination which is common in Northern Ontario. Chinese restaurants always served toast with an order of fried rice when I was a kid, and I believe some still do. Lunch continued and ended in the spirit of the week with full stomachs and memories of some of our fondest childhood years.

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Bird in the Hand...

It's Me..... Kong!!!

After my lengthy absence I could easily rethink the title to be Confessions of a Struggling Blogger as I haven't posted here since early June, and to my dedicated readers I apologize.
It's been a busy take-off with the long awaited and short summer here in the north and there is an almost frantic energy in the air as we scramble to get as much done around the house and yard, dodging weather and mosquitoes.
I've been successful with maintaining my Veggie lifestyle with few exceptions - a one week visit to Margaret's hometown in Southern Ontario where I felt the urge to indulge in meatly mayhem; a couple annual family gatherings and traditions; one stag and doe; a wedding; a 40th birthday; and a visit from my good friend Dean who has just ventured out west. 

mmm... bacon wrapped water chestnuts - oddly, it's the same jacket and expression as past meat-chompin' pics.

The culprits include a list of cajun and bbq wings, strip steak, ribs, hot dogs, burgers, meatballs and pizza. For those who are gravely disappointed in my discipline and distaste, you'll be pleased to know that I was crapped on by a tiny bird almost immediately after saying to Margaret, 'I think I'll have the wings' while stopping at a waterfront sports bar patio.
Awwww crap!!

Last night we celebrated my late step-dad's birthday the way he knew best with grease spattering burgers, rings and fries. And on this note, blood is thicker than water as it took some extra scraping and suds to clean the pans compared to the usual vegetable, olive, flax, canola and sesame oils that slide right off.

Here's the current list of convictions which I unregrettably praise 'Guilty!', despite the Lone Star sparrow who cried fowl and slapped the back of my hand with a judged, juried and perfectly executed bowel bomb from the string of patio lights above:
Stag and Doe - meatballs and cold cuts
Wedding - chicken, beef, big chunk of rib, more cold cuts and meatballs
Trenton/Kingston - wings, steak, burgers, dogs, loaded pizza and tuna sandwiches
Joanne's 40th birthday party - more cold cuts and meatballs preluded by a boatload of Jell-O shooters
Canada Day with friends and family - bbq backribs

A spruce bug humored us at a roadside cheese factory.
Our favourite Deseronto coffee shop was closed this trip but we'll catch up next time. Hugs!!!

We opted out of the usual coffee and chip stop for a relaxing 2 hour veggie picnic.
The Toronto Vegetarian Association Veggie Challenge I took in June was a great success and although we followed our own regimen and recipes, the daily e-mails and support by the TVA were delivered as promised and I found them most encouraging and inspiring, as well as the comment posted by Steve. I did not follow through with the 3 week challenge afterwards and failed to post my daily progress as planned so I will sign up for the challenge again in the weeks to come.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Perfect Pop, Timing and Breasts

                                                         © Perry Kong
Lunches - Tortilla soups capped with toppings and naps.

Yesterday I signed on for the Toronto Vegetarian Association's Veggie Challenge. It is a 7 day challenge for non-veggies to try going vegetarian, and for vegetarians to give vegan a go. The sign-up and survey were quick and simple just like they said it would. The survey takes 5 minutes or less and makes you eligible to win prizes. I'm looking forward to my first of seven e-mails, which includes tips, recipes and resources to increase my odds of success. TVA says you should receive it within a day of signing up.

Keep in mind, my vegetarian goals are to be on the other side but include dairy and eggs. I'm a little too chicken right now and I'll cross that road when I come to it.

Meatless Monday was successful but I couldn't resist the egg salad sandwiches shelled out at a wake. The sandwiches just worked with my 9th coffee, and so did the cake.

If you recall, I was able to salvage what was left of last week's National Vegetarian Week in the U.K., and signed on with three days to go. To date, I've been meat-free since Sunday of the May 24 long weekend when I ate cheeseburgers to accompany my nephew.

The past week's menu was great, and I'll list a few here with recipes to follow later. I'll warn you now, don't expect to see too many breakfast items as I usually get up closer to lunch, and need at least half an hour and coffeepot before hunger strikes.

The following morning I did have breakfast while my nephew still infiltrated with video games and guns. To my surprise he ordered a second helping of oatmeal and berries and enjoyed the almond milk. And I confess, I enjoyed the brown sugar just as much as he.

The rest of the week followed with tortilla soup, veggie ground round tacos, curried veggies with chick peas with basmati rice, mac and cheese w/ veggie dogs, gnocchi in marinara sauce, and colorful salads loaded with flavors and scents. And of course, our favorite deep-fried tofu in black bean sauce with noodles. Sunday we upgraded our stove and I stalled on the install - timed just right so Margaret would burn dinner plans and order a pizza.

Snacks included toast with black strap molasses and tahini,  home made granola bars, fruit smoothies, and Captain and kernel crunches. Our popcorn consumption exploded since we got our Whirlypop last Christmas.

If the menus and days don't seem to add up it's because we're leftover friendly, which is a bit of an oxymoron cause when Perry's around there usually aren't any.

Challenges have been easy because I don't think I left the house since the long weekend, therefore, no temptation. I confess, I got a bit excited when a Facebook friend mentioned chicken, and a bit hungry when they were showing all the fast food in the movie Food, Inc. , revealing the food industry where corporate America pits profit against health - for big breasts and butts on chickens and chops.