Thursday, March 31, 2011

Chinese Spicy Eggplant - Recipes: Organic & Vegan

Part of the training in the Abbey Stillroom involves cookery. Not only do we have all the ingredients, but we have to know how to use them to make ourselves and our families healthy, as well as provide the means for our clients to change their lifestyles. It also works out that you really get to make the most of your grocery budget.

One of the components of our training is learning how to use and access as much Organic as we can, as inexpensively as possible. Organics have been proven to have nearly double the vitamins, minerals, and other essentials of conventionally grown, so you get more bang for your buck at nearly the same price. There is almost no chance of toxin and GMO contamination, so for us, it's a no-brainer. It's also the only way for an individual to encourage farmers to grow sustainably, by voting for durable practices with your dollar.

One of most often given pieces of advice to improve health in this culture lately seems to be: cut down on your meat! I've been vegetarian for nearly 20 years now, and my children are raised that way. They certainly haven't suffered. In my work with the Greens, I've had the honour of meeting Deputy Leader Georges Laraque several times. He is one of our famous hockey celebrities and a touted vegan. His physique is most impressive. I can assure you - a vegan diet does not rob you of anything but unwanted fat, toxins, and cholesterol.
We don't have to re-invent the wheel here. Lentils made up to look like meatloaf or carrots shedded in one's lasagne just seem forced to me. There are many traditional mature cuisines around the world that are solely or largely vegan in composition.  I personally specialize in Indian and Chinese styles which already have a fully developed vegan and vegetarian repertoire.

So, to bow to the will of my Etsy Alberta Teammates, as well as my apprentices, I will publish a few of the tasty, nutritious, resturant quality foods that come out of my kitchen.  For those that looking to start making changes in their diet or unfamilar with some of the ingredients, I will go into a bit of detail for each inclusion.

If you don't choose to use, or can't find, organic ingredients, double the amounts for garlic, onion, salt, and soy sauce, and halve the amount of sugar.

Chinese Spicy Eggplant

One white medium organic onion chopped fairly fine.
5-6 cloves of organic garlic chopped fairly fine.

1 large or several small organic or local hothouse eggplant
Slice off end and cut into thick french fry fingers.

Pour about an inch organic olive oil into wok and begin to heat.
I use a carbon steel wok, which does actually impart some iron into the food.  Leave sauce or silverware in it overnight sometime and see the difference.  So keep your cookingware very much in mind as a source of health or harm in your diet.
Eggplants in particular are known for their ability to absorb oil and other elements in cooking. I won't relate the famous legend of the origin of the name İmam bayıldı. Because you are ingesting all that oil and not just cooking something in a tablespoon of it, why not make it a vector for your health? In all my eggplant recipes, I use organic olive oil. The problem with olive oil, of course, is that it deteriorates very quickly under heat, and loses much of value. It really can't be deepfryed with, and shouldn't actually be heated up much at all. But if you get the eggplant in as quickly as possible, it has a chance to absorb all that goodness to it's core before the omegas are destroyed.

Toss as many eggplant slices in as can reasonably fit. Cook until limp, soaking up as much oil as they can, and slightly brown. Fish out with a slotted spoon, set aside, and continue until all the slices are done.  Try not to cook skin side down, as it makes them a little chewy.  Don't worry if they aren't cooked all the way through.  We aren't finished with them yet...  Add oil as necessary around the sides after you pop the pieces in so that they have a chance to absorb some of the oil before it even has a chance to get warm.

When all the slices are done, pop in the onions and garlic.  Add a touch more oil if necessary.  Fry for about 30 seconds or until they go limp and slightly brown.  Return the eggplant to the wok.  Now add 2 tbsp organic soy sauce. I use organic Tamari.  A traditional form of brewing leaves it far more flavourful and darker than ordinary soy sauce, and much less salty.  If concerned about GMO's, it's even more important to use organic soy products, since there is such a high rate of contamination of the soy bean crop in North America.  Always check the label.  That's how I learned that Asian Family has fabulous dark and light traditional soy sauces made from organic soy beans!  Why isn't that right on the front?  They don't even advertise that! Seriously...  What a marketing problem...

a 1/2 tbsp organic whole sugar
about 1 tbsp chilli/garlic paste
I use alot more than that, of course, but I like it hot.  The easiest to find chilli/garlic paste in my area is the one with the Rooster on it.  There is almost no English on the label so I have no idea what to call it other than that.  They are always an orange red, and some still have whole chili seeds in them.  My local Safeway has even started carrying it in the Asian foods aisle!

and speaking of Asian Family..
1 tbsp Asian Family Black Bean Sauce.  You can get away without this ingredient by adding about a tsp more of organic sugar and 1/2 tsp Celtic Sea Salt, but I have found that it's the only thing that nearly replicates the flavour of our local famous veggie restaurant Padmanadi's.  Otherwise, I might have to start making my own fermented black beans.  I'm kinda hands-on crazy, but not quite that much yet...

Let simmer until more of the liquid is absorbed, about 5 min, stirring occationally.  Serve with organic jasmine rice or organic steamed buns.

Since I make the buns myself, I can give out that recipe, too, if there is enough interest...

This recipe is adapted from the marvelous book Chinese Vegetarian Cookery, which has been my constant companion lo' these many yars.  Invest in it, if you really want to learn the basics...

One of my easy recipes to help you on your path to frugal healthy living everyday!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Non-Toxic Insecticide: Diatomaceous Earth - Natural and Traditional

In North America in particular, the fear and actual infestation of bedbugs is making a huge impact on human lives, property, and the environment. With their high resistance, current conventional treatments seem to only include the most devastating and toxic substances, or complete demolition of some rooms or buildings. Bedbugs and other pests have plagued us for thousands of years, and one of the natural traditional remedies for tiny hard body insects is something that is just as effective today as it was then.

Diatomaceous Earth is a completely natural mined clay that contains the fossilized bodies of microscopic former marine residents known as diatoms.  Under an electron scanning microscope, they look alot like pollens, with their spiky little arms coming out all over the place, but as fossil skeletons, they are harder and the spines pierce the bugs. DE works on the micron level but it doesn't work on creatures on a more macro scale. Bedbugs are about the biggest.  It's a mechanical action, puncturing their exoskeletons which dehydrates and kills them, so they can't develop an immunity to it. It also works for other hardbody parasites like fleas, ticks, earmites, ants, cockroaches...

DE is one of the safe, natural, non-toxic and traditional remedies for bedbugs and other hardbodies. It is an actual dust that has to touch the exoskeletons of the bugs in order to work. The DE can be dusted on skin or fur for external use or sprinkled in corners, on bed linen, or anywhere beasties are hiding. You can leave it on floors, in mattresses, and other bedbuggy living zones to ensure they don't take up residence.  It works great for pets, too!  Rub a little in their ears for earmites, their fur for fleas with some in their bedding.  However, like any fine dust, you, your family and pets shouldn't breathe it in, so keep that in mind when placing or using it.

If you think you need to use the DE for internal parasites, and there are a few, I've experimented with ingestion. Capsules seem to work fine, since you can fill them yourself. I've also used the traditional method of moulding wet nutritive clay into cakes and then drying for easy eating.

Bedbugs are particularly virulent, but as well as DE there were some solutions in even classical and medieval times to get rid of them. Otherwise, they would have been overrun. Some additional suggestions are Four Thieves Vinegar to repel them, sunlight and extreme cold to kill the adults, and borax and hot water added to all your laundry and washing, which kills the eggs.

Diatomaceous Earth is just one of the wonderful appropriate and traditional technologies that is being re-discovered and making a much deserved comeback.  Why not try safe, natural, inexpensive and non-toxic first?  If you aren't happy with the results, you can always call the exterminator and dose the place with chemical pesticides later...

UPDATE: Another natural remedy for bedbugs just proven by scientists.