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.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

4 Million in 4 Hours - A Call to Arms

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As a photographer and artist there is a saying among our communities that we started taking pictures because we can't draw.

True in my case, and many photographers will say the same if they're being totally honest.

Some aspiring art and artists were brought to my attention by a call to arms last night as concerned mums across the world are posting their children's self-drawn portraits in support of the No Child Born To Die campaign by the Save the Children organization.

World leaders will gather for a 4 hour vaccine summit in London on June 13th. A petition is circulating around the world and web in support of 2 new vaccines that will stop diarrea and pneumonia, two of the biggest child (5 yrs and under) killers  in developing countries. The vaccines have the potential to save 4 million children's lives by 2015 - 4 Million in 4 Years (see this clip at

Funds and manpower are lacking, and how much to be pledged towards getting the vaccines safely to where they are needed will be decided. Save the Children will be presenting the petition to U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron at the summit.

Three of our blogosphere's empowered and passionate voices from the U.K. have hooked up with Save the Children H.Q. and are en route to follow a vaccine's trail from lab to limb, in an effort to raise awareness for the lack of access to vaccines for preventable diseases, compared to the ease of access in developed countries where vaccination is assumed, a choice, and available.

The Mums in Mozambique trio of bloggers are Lindsay Atkin (Lilies are Like - vblog), Chris Mosler (Thinly Spread) and Tracey Cheetham (A view from the Public Gallery). Their compassion and commitment is gaining momentum inside and out of the online community. The vaccine the women are tracking took two years to produce in The Republic of Ireland, and the cold-stored solution will make it's final trek on the back of a motorbike when it reaches a child in a rural part of Mozambique - a country where more than half of the 21 million people are under 18. Over 1.4 million of them are orphans, almost half orphaned by HIV and AIDS. Atkin says in her video post that she, Mosler and Cheetham will witness the administration of the vaccine by an STC health worker.

To get more insight on the June 13th summit and powers that be, log on to GAVI ALLIANCE at

As for the awesome artwork I mentioned at the beginning, you can find it where I did, across the pond at Faceless Food's We Don't Eat Anything With a Face. The meme and message is spreading quickly through the world and web, and you'll find all the blog hop details through her. The pictures alone are worth the look, and the personal stories from the many participating moms. Most importantly, the deadline to sign the Save the Children petition is for June 13th, so there is still time to spread the word. You can click on the SC link to sign and show your support, and/or give them a boost on your site.

I'm not a mom. I don't even have any children, although my very fertile girlfriend keeps a handle on how many hours I spend on the seat when I go cycling.  As a man, a bachelor, and an uncle, children have been somewhat alien to me throughout this lifetime. And I have certain rules before they can have parent-free access to the UNKL P Fortress of Solitude (think amusement park with the raccoon sign in front of the rollercoaster - 'You must be this tall and potty trained to enter. And tell mommy to bring me some chips!').

And even my own 48 year childhood has been pretty good so far.

But I love kids and with my own on the horizon, I live with the same fear and wishes as any parent - for a healthy child with a long life. And last year, Margaret had a first hand look at life in the Townships when she volunteered in Capetown. You can read about it on her blog.

How ironic that the words 'viral' and 'meme' that are so popular in the blogosphere, will use this very platform as a powerful weapon between the good and evil of their origins. I don't have thousands of readers, or kids, and I definitely can't draw. But I have a voice, a keyboard, a Saturday afternoon and a choice.

This tiny post on this tiny blog is like finding a needle in the world wide haystack - but I think it's worth a shot in the dark, and the arm.

Friday, May 27, 2011

3... 2... 1... Go!

National Vegetarian Week

It might seem moot to chomp into National Vegetarian Week so close to the end but I think it's a testament to motivation, mindset and momentum. Barely scratching the surface as I dig through my past, I feel like I've evolved a fair bit during this short week.

My Veggie Pledge is now sworn in the ethereal archives of the NVW pages and the countdown begins with less than 72 hours left over at the U.K. challenge. But my view is I had a head start with being meat-free since Monday, and a Meatless Monday at that. The rest of NVW takes me to Sunday, which leads into another Meatless Monday. On that day, I'll sign up for the Toronto Vegetarian Association's seven day Veggie Challenge, which will take effect Tuesday, and also take me through the next Meatless Monday.


Should I succeed, I'll continue with the TVA's Phase 2 challenge, and strive to go meatless for three more weeks. I'll tack on an extra day in lieu of each Meatless Monday that falls in between. Not a bad start after all, with plenty of strength and determination to move forward.

And somewhere in there, I have to squeeze in time and pants to trim a few pounds for a mid-June wedding.

When I started this little blog and adventure, I had no idea any of these challenges existed, including the now expired World Vegetarian Week which put me on this quest to find more. It's been one week since my return to this blog and I owe all my progress to date to the overwhelming and ongoing support of fellow foodies, bloggers, and Margaret. I have no doubt that I will succeed to return back to my veggie roots, and with exponential growth.

Menus are flourishing but I confess there are issues with eating schedules and late night snacks - and the trail of chip crumbs between keyboard and thumbs.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Surf 'n' Turf

                                                           © Perry Kong
Got a good 'bad' veggie-burger story?
Tell us all about it!
Leave a comment or e-mail me at

Thanks to the power of caffeine, the internet, and our veggie friends over in the U.K. we have another challenge to help salvage World Vegetarian Week. The Vegetarian Society is holding it's annual National Vegetarian Week from May 23rd to May 29th. With three days to go and my best fork forward, I'm ready to step up to the plate.

Inspiration came late last night from a great vegetarian site that issued a challenge among fellow foodies and bloggers, and if you want a piece of the action you can link up and contact Faceless Food at We Don't Eat Anything With A Face. The one week challenge is for hunters and gatherers to go the extra mile and go vegetarian, go vegan or go home. It's a bit late for the 29th deadline but I like to think of it as a stay of execution after tossing the WVW, and I'm going the full seven days.

Faceless Food's site is filled with recipes and ideas that will allure vegetarians and non, and the pages are as warm and embracing as the flavors and scents that I'm sure fill her home. She was instrumental in introducing and pointing me towards The Vegetarian Society. Established in 1847 and located in Altrincham, Greater Manchester, it is the oldest vegetarian organization in the world. Their website is loaded with resources and recipes that are worth checking for the challenge and any time, like the Big Bad Boy Salad (TVS - NVW recipe), and the Tofu, Chocolate and Hazelnut Mousse (Cauldron Foods). Cauldron Foods is the NVW sponsor, and a wonderful resource for vegetable based foods and all things tofu. The mousse is their recipe of the month and can be found on their own site as well as NVW. The picture alone makes me want to eat only that for the next seven days.
Speaking of moose, do you remember the culinary skits and giggles from the great Swedish chef from the muppets? I found a few retro memories and moments on a video clip at Taste It My Way. It was the familiar gas and flame blue blogger template that made me want to explore further when I saw his site on FoodieBlogRoll. I'm glad I did. It was fun, informative, and time well spent.

Benefits that result from vegetarianism are endless and when it all began for me there weren't any laptops, blogs, or Google. Heck, there weren't even any other vegetarians! It was a word or two of mouth and a few really dated books from the public library. A good read could be found at a book or health store - but they were few and far between for me and my location. Finding ingredients were even tougher than the chewy sawdust veggieburgers of the day. Now you can find plenty of what you need at your local supermarket, or even online. Kudos if you have a great health food store with knowledgeable staff. And some of the best salads are through the bar on your search engine.

I think it's never been easier to explore the ways of the vegetarian. The ether is filled with more information than you can ever consume, even if you tried 24/7. And my sleep habits are about as close to that as I will ever get. Until last year I only had access to dial-up. Now I can quickly surf millions of resources, find inspiration from like-minded across the ocean, or share a laugh with a streaming video of my favorite muppets.

As writers, our work and wanderlust drifts into the wee hours of the night and net. And when we least expect it, something happens right in front of us that can change us for a moment, or a lifetime.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

End of Days

It may not be the end of the world after Saturday's failed rapture prediction but it is the end of World Vegetarian Week. Oblivious to both, I realized only after the fact and although I'm still here, today is WVW's last day. An annual challenge for the non-veg sector to give it up for seven days, this year's event was May 19th to May 25th. In the wake of the long weekend, I failed miserably to meet their goal and deadline, and raise awareness for the benefit of the event, the planet, and you.

I still managed to salvage four of the seven days just with my daily regimen, but I did eat meat almost every meal for the three offending days, mostly from takeout and tradition.

I won't fool myself into thinking I deserve any pats on the back for still accomplishing four days of meat-free meals - on the contrary. I know and should do better. As someone trying to set an example for others struggling with the move towards vegetarianism, I've done all of us a great injustice by missing out on this great week of celebration and support. But wallowing in guilt isn't my premise, persistence is - as I am committed to helping those struggling with the changes. Don't let the bad keep you from moving forward to more good.

So fear-not fellow foodies - WVW 2012 is only a year away, and there are plenty of opportunities to train for it.

The Toronto Vegetarian Association has an open invitation to Take the Veggie Challenge and go meat-free for one week. It's easy to sign up, and easier than you think, with a herd of volunteers and support.

Once you sign up with your name and e-mail address, you'll be prompted to a short survey, and soon after you'll receive your first of seven daily e-mails loaded with tips, tricks, recipes and resources from qualified motivators and nutritionists. And links on where to shop and eat. They'll also have answers for popular questions like - 'Where do you get your protein?' Response - 'where do animals get theirs?'

The site shines with stories of struggles and success, and you are invited to share your own experience. After the one week challenge, you can do it again, or sign up for phase 2 to continue three more weeks to round it off to an even month. If you're already a vegetarian, try being a vegan.

I like the TVA's challenge approach. Organizers say 'It's liberating,' not 'limiting,' with 'all the bases covered to have a successful challenge.' It's on an honour system, nobody's watching, and there are no hard and fast rules. Whether you're in it for the health of your own, the environment, or for others, that really isn't the focus. Your efforts towards challenge and change is gratefully recognized and supported, with a world of like-minded individuals cheering you on. And if you slip up, just keep trying your best but most of all, have fun with it. Invite family, and e-mail your friends.

I'll be signing up in the days to come, and will report on my daily progress, or lack of.

If a whole week seems daunting, then you might consider joining the Meatless Monday movement. Their focus is to reduce meat consumption by 15% by cutting meat out of your menu one day a week. It's modelled after effective strategies of the great wars to ration food supplies, and this time around they're fighting for the life of the planet by increasing health while reducing climate change and the carbon footprint.

Based on internalized behavioral studies, Monday seems to set the stage for fresh starts and successes during the week and if you miss your mark there's always another after the usual lax and lavish weekends. The Meatless Monday website is chock full of recipes, resources and support. Both Meatless Monday and Take the Veggie Challenge provide free motivation and promotional materials for groups and educators who want to raise awareness in their communities.

Point being made, life is made up of 'little victories' and if you do just one thing different, no matter how small it seems, the rewards will be big in how you feel, and how you move forward. It reminds me of something 80's motivational guru and life coach Anthony Robbins said about a 'Class-1' experience...

"It feels good. It's good for you. It's good for others - and it serves the greater good."

And if you slip up just try again tomorrow, or the next day, or next Monday, next week and next year. After all, it's not the end of the world.

Two-Four the Show

May Two-Four... synonymous with the coveted cold-cased design of condensation clad bottles and beer. A truly Canadian occasion as fellow countrymen celebrated the official kickoff of summer, with opening season for cottages and campgrounds. Around the home front, it's the opening of my sun porch, and preparation for our annual spring clean-up where the curbs are littered with junk and unwanted items from 8-irons to tracks.

In my gear-head days it was the resurrection of my winter stored summer rides - Chevelles, Biscaynes and bicycles.

It's also a statutory holiday here, for my non-Canadian viewers who may be interested to know, and a day off school for nephews to hang out at the ol' 'UNKL P' Fortress of Solitude and sleep deprivation where the sun and XBOX controller never goes down.

But something occurred to me when I was driving my 11 year old prodigy home. Upon observing the ghost-town resemblance (more than usual) due to Monday's holiday closings, he asked why, and I explained - with my own revelation that the reason for the holiday is rarely observed anymore and possibly unknown even to the many Canadians celebrating.

Victoria Day is in celebration of Queen Victoria. Her birthday was May 24th, and was celebrated for many years before she died in 1901 when they made Victoria Day official. Since then, the following powers that be were honoured on their birthdays but the dates were staggering, so Victoria Day has been designated annually on the last Monday of May to celebrate the current reign of power. Although it falls on various dates, it is often referred to as May Two-Four weekend, and traditionally will include beer and barbecues, at least in my neck of the woods.

This leads to yet another stab at my veg efforts and self-discipline as I indulge in whatever is on the grounds and grill. Due to the flurry of activities mentioned in my last post, I was able to avoid the whole scenario but my burger loving nephew's special guest request is one of those rare times I cook meat in our home. Being the gracious host, I joined him so he wouldn't feel like the odd man out. Truth be told, I was happy to be the scape goat but didn't enjoy the beef, while Margaret blissfully bit into her portobello mushroom burger from across the table.

Sufficient to say, I think my meat days are numbered as I indulge more and enjoy less. Ironic that the last day of World Vegetarian Week could possibly be my first day back to a meatless life.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Checks and Balances


Best efforts are out the window as I write amidst the Victoria Day weekend. A whirlwind of activities has consumed my original plans to spend a few quiet days resurrecting my '93 Ford Ranger, which has been parked since July 2008 after it sprung a gas leak on the way to a Trooper concert. Spending most of Saturday and the weekend with the carnivores made it once again, too easy to fall prey to the trap and temptations of the devil inside.
My baby sister and her husband are unexpectedly in the process of making an exciting real estate transaction. We did what we've always done best - respond to the call to action and help paper and plaster, as friends and family emerged from the woods and woodwork during this highly anticipated campfire weekend.
Saturday morning started with a drive-by for Margaret's coffee and cranberry muffin at the local arches. I'm sure I said 'for two' but the gremlins and glitches of drive-thru technology must have altered my speech to say 'number two,'  somewhat akin to the backward vinyls and voices of the 60s, 70s and 80s. 'REDRUM... REDRUM... REDRUMMM!' Next thing I knew, I was indulging with sin and sausage.
We made it home for lunch and I repented with a veggie chicken nugget and spinach wrap and a side of steamed vegetables. But upon returning and after a dogged, hot day of cleaning and construction, the family gathered for the mass destruction of a wiener filled platter. Earlier, Margaret had put a couple veggie dogs on ice to bring with us and asked if I wanted some too, but that would have thrown off the one constant since the beginning of time - the uneven wiener-to-bun ratio masterminded by the food industry and gods. So I took one for the team and said no, seeing an opportunity to bring balance to the food chain, our family, and the world.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Failure to Launch


Well, I'm back. It's been a hard winter and even harder keeping up with my blog and goals, but I'm ready to move forward. Let's recap:

Vegetarian - nope
Lost weight - nope
Plenty of exercise - nope! Sleep - nope! Fluids - nope! Sex  - ...!

Chicken? Check!
Hot dogs? Check!
Big Mac? Check!
Sex?  ...!

Since I set out on this journey in February, I've eaten meat on many occasions but really only through two sources - family functions, and my role as a roving reporter. Both were for the sake of convenience (I was going there anyway). Yummy, full course meals (that I didn't have to cook) or good-to-go hot dogs (that I didn't have to cook).

Recent meat and greets:
May 14th - family food fry (turkey)
Mother's Day tributes -  Chinese Food
May 7th  - family BBQ (steak and hot dogs)
April 30th - family stag & doe (meatballs, cold cuts)
April 30th - on assignment (ham, beef, salmon/chicken/egg salad      sandwiches - that's right tried them all)
April 14th - on assignment (hot dogs for breakfast, hot dogs for lunch, chicken for dinner)
April 7th - on assignment (roast beef dinner)
April 5th - on assignmnent (meatballs, meatballs, more meatballs)
Can't remember the dates but there have been a few road trips involving gold and arches, and on one occasion bought two hot dogs for charity but gave one away, so technically - half the fat.

I'm pretty sure the drumstick I had at the last turkey fry weighed about 5 pounds so at least I've been working out my left arm, which is good because that's also the side my heart's on.

We can't choose our families but I've made a recent career move and I'm now working exclusively online. There are less public appearances, and temptations as I only eat meat when I'm out of the home. Occasionally I'll order takeout but I rarely cook meat. According to my gal, I rarely cook at all. She's probably right - she's been right before.

Ironically, it was my deep-fried tofu in black bean sauce that she couldn't resist when we first met. Served hot with a cold Stella, I was quite iresistable in my day. I thought it was my resemblance to Richard Gere, and I'm sure he's often told - 'Hey, you look like Perry Kong!'

Okay then, back to reality...

As for family it's BBQ and salad season with plenty of sun and mayo. I usually grab a pack of tofu-dogs on the way over so it'll be a shoe-in, unlike the shoe leather they used to mimic. They've come a long way, and so have the tofu burgers.

Since trying normal wieners deep-fried (saw it on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives... 'nuff said), the competition's getting stiffer but I've yet to try it on tofu dogs. I deep-fry my regular tofu often and it's my favourite. I haven't found anyone that didn't like it prepared that way, and it's a great method to introduce it to someone exploring tofu for the first time.

I'm surprised by how many times I still hear, 'never tried it.'  And that was my first inspiration to create this blog, to encourage more people to discover tofu beyond it's bland and bouncy characteristics - it's delicacy, it's role in the vegetarian lifestyle, and it's health benefits. I'll be posting a 'recipes' page soon.

I haven't been getting any smaller and in my defense I'm not bigger either. But with less time in the field and more at my desk, I need to be conscious of falling into the trap of gluing myself to the keyboard 24/7. Recently Margaret surprised me with a shiny (with wheels and buttons, just like my profile said) new mountain bike so there is hope for an exercise routine as I rekindle my love for cycling. So far I've ridden about 5 times in 4 weeks, including the maiden voyage from the store. I've spent more time buying stuff for it than on it, and it's pretty sweet to look at.

I look forward to riding, and Margaret's cheers when I can finally shout out, 'Going for a ride nowww! Love yoouuu!" Aahhh, summer - hair and ketchup flying in the wind over a combo of burger and bicycle stands. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Mission Vegeterrorized

I'll get straight to the purpose of my being here (this blog, not my existence - that's mission impossible). Yes, this is about vegetarianism, and our love for the 'other' protein - but more so about the trials and tribulations for those of you giving it your best (and worst) to make healthier choices, or entertaining the idea.

Vegetarian lifestyle changes aren't easy, and many get discouraged for many reasons from boring meals to peer pressure, to actually getting sick, which could be two-fold. Either their menus are out of balance, or they haven't grasped the detoxification process and it's symptoms. And then some of us just plain fell off the wagon, and our discipline got thrown too far under the bus (we'll revisit excuses later). But it doesn't have to be this way. Making vegetarian choices can be be quite rewarding on many levels.

As we progress (that would be me), I'll introduce some ideas, methods, and recipes that will help add inspiration and variety to your new culinary lifestyle. Throw in a few fun facts and hopefully the worst you'll get burned with is a tickled funny bone.

This isn't exclusively for vegetarians. All are welcome who are trying to add more vegetarian choices to their menus and lifestyle. Meanwhile, share some of your own stories and struggles, and I remind guests that this is a positive environment to inspire and encourage each other, and the vegeterrorized struggling to make healthier choices.

We're not here to preach, judge or condemn each other and this isn't an arena for controversy. There are plenty of other places on the internet for that. This is all about fun. Tofu Fun!!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Year of the Vegetable

That's right - I confess!  My reputation as a dedicated vegetarian has vanished.  Since 2003, I have been including all types of animal products in my diet prepared in the tastiest of fashion - fried, deep-fried, and refried leftovers of the fried and deep-fried (although leftovers are getting to be few and far between).  My ten year record and pride is shot at the mercy of my siblings, getting the last laugh as they bust a gut over my now busting gut.

Since embarking on a career in writing, my highschool track and field times have been reduced to running for coffee and snacks, and I jumped this hurdle with bigger mugs and drawers (insert double entendre here).  But since moving the office to the second floor, runs up and down the stairs for the toilet often leave me wiped.

It's the middle of Northern Ontario winter.  I'm not a big fan, and even less for going out in it.  Shovelling daily dumps from weathermen and dogs are my only source of fresh air.

This week I celebrate Chinese New Year (February 3rd) and family tradition with the annual feast and fest.  It's two big occasions really, the second being the only time I invite family members for dinner.  My late-night lifestyle (writer) fails to attract them otherwise, unless they want dinner during Letterman.  This year dinner is at five, but my history and ability to distort time might still make the Top Ten list.

Yes, I will indulge in the usual delicacies of Chinese sausage, BBQ pork, and the family's garlic chicken wing recipe with a side order of cold beer.  Technically, beer is still a vegetable in my universe, and for all intents and purposes, this blog. If this offends you, get your own blog but you can still share my beer. 

"This is the last time I'm eating meat," said the bullshitting cow eater (hey, that's me!!).  With several lame attempts at New Year's resolution, I've reduced it over the years to, "I'll just eat meat for the Chinese New Year feast."  As a Tiger, I was pretty sure 2010 was going to be the year I finally got it right. Today, I had peameal and eggs for breakfast.  I think I'll go open another vegetable.