Saturday, February 28, 2009

Who needs an indoor grill...

When you've got a cake rack and a stove?

Cake rack as indoor grill
and cake rack as cake rack

I came across this nifty idea last Saturday when i had a roasted vegetable dilemma. My oven takes forever to heat up, especially when things are being cooked on the stove. The stove was being used a lot that time... And I had to bake some zucchini and bell peppers quick. I have a toaster oven but with the volume of vegetables to cook I knew it would take even longer.

As with typical Filipino kitchens, my family has 2 stoves. One of the stoves wasn't being used last Saturday. And I had a wire cake rack. I'm sure I heard about this idea from somewhere, probably from Rachel Ray. Anyway, it was a good thing I decided to grill the vegetables. Not only do "grilled vegetables" sound better than "roasted vegetables", they cook a lot faster and taste a lot better. Roasting a pepper would probably take 20 minutes with frequent turning which is quite a pain... you always have to brave the oven heat when you open the door.

Check out the fire action! Love it.

You still have to do the frequent turning thing with your DIY grill though. It's not so bad because the heat isn't as strong. And, grilling a pepper would take about 10 minutes.

If you're not in the know of how to grill a pepper, rub the pepper with oil (preferably olive), salt, and pepper. Brush the cake rack with oil as well and place it on top of your burner. My cake rack is probably about 10x10 inches and it fit perfectly. Turn on your stove to about medium heat. The heating up doesn't take too long.

Place the peppers on the rack, on top of the flames. I only had to cook 2 peppers, you could probably fit 3 with all 3 getting enough heat / fire. Turn frequently until each side is blackened. Once cooked, place the black peppers in a large bowl and cover with a plate. Let them cool until cool enough to handle. Remove the black skin with your fingers.

So, on to the zucchini. You could grill 4 slices of zucchini at one go. Slice at a diagonal, maybe 1/2 inch thick. Brush each side with oil, salt and pepper. Grill at a diagonal as well, maybe 3-5 minutes per side.

I used these vegetables for a couscous salad which I will blog about soon!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Pigs have ebola but the gov't says it's ok to eat them.

Holy crap. Bro #5 called to my attention a very important issue in the local animal agriculture scene, specifically the pork industry. It's been such a huge deal, it's in the New York Times.

There is an outbreak of the Ebola virus in pigs in Bulacan while 4 particular pigs have been confirmed to have it. Bro #5 saw on the news some footage of these poor pigs eating what appears to be sewage. Good grief, no wonder these pigs are infected, they literally eat shit.

According to the NY Times, a piggery farmer actually caught the virus 6 months ago but this particular strain (the Ebola-Reston) is not known to be dangerous to humans.To risk sounding insensitive, if this is the same farmer who reared these ebola-pigs, don't you think he would've deserved to be infected? You reap what you sow.

So this strain isn't dangerous to us, but you never know how viruses can mutate to hurt us. FYI according to Wikipedia, some serious symptoms of the virus that is dangerous to humans include diarrhea, bloody stool, bloody vomit, hemorrhage, hypotension, and organ damage, among others. "On occasion, internal and external hemorrhage from orifices such as the nose and mouth may occur... Ebola virus can affect levels of white blood cells and platelets, disrupting clotting."

WTF. ABS CBN says,
"Unlike monkeys, pigs are farmed for food and far more people are exposed to them, which puts them at risk of getting infected if the epidemic in pigs is not under control." It was in monkeys that the first Ebola-Reston virus strain was found.

Okay, so these pigs have the Ebola virus, and so do the pigs in other Asian countries (according to this article). The government says it's still okay to eat them though. Just, you know, don't buy a pig that died from Ebola (if you can pick the pig out of ground pork or the chicharon). And, make sure you cook it til it's no longer pink.

Of course this is (relatively) good news to the carnivores that can afford to shop at regular groceries. Two-thirds of this country is poor and can only afford to [a] buy meat from the palengke or wet markets (where raw meat is displayed in 30 deg C weather all day, plus all the flies!) or [b] rear their own pigs in their backyards in gestation crate-sized prisons. Let's not forget, a huge part of Philippine food culture includes street food.

These are the government's efforts, according to this article:
  • The Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) is set to conduct a Luzon-wide surveillance and improve vaccine coverage against common pig diseases with high morbidity and mortality to reduce outbreaks in the swine population.
  • The Department of Agriculture (DA) will enhance bio-security measures to prevent and contain any future outbreaks as the government’s second line of defense to the spread of the virus.
  • The DA and the Department of Health emphasized the need for all animal handlers in commercial and backyard farms to practice safe farming and biosecurity measures.
  • The Occupational Safety and Health Center of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) will come up with guidelines to ensure the occupational safety of all animal handlers as well as other recommendations on the proper use of personal protective equipment.
  • The government is working to prevent the entry of “double dead” meat into the market.
  • BAI has already enhanced their pig movement and shipment control, and increased strategically located quarantine checkpoints to prevent transport of sick pigs.
  • The National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) has also tightened its control and is working closely with local governments to curb this unsafe practice.
Wow. Why not... go vegetarian and save EVERYONE (both human and non-human animals) a lot of heartache? You can't get Ebola, mad cow disease, and bird flu from vegetables, that's for sure.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Baking = nature and art appreciation

How can one not appreciate the fine art of baking? The whole process from measuring out the dry ingredients to consuming the baked good is pure art. One cannot fully appreciate food if one doesn't know how it is made.

I can stare at ingredients in their original state all day. Or, photograph them all day. Take the humble flour (with other white powders such as baking soda, baking powder, and salt) and the intoxicating cocoa powder. The "rock formations" are something to marvel at. I also like staring at avalanches of powdered sugar.

Once sifted together, the powders look almost homogenous and are not clumpy. From rock formations they turn into powdery chocolate mountains.
Mixing them together, they form craggly rock formations again.

Mixing dry ingredients with the wet, the mixture resembles soft mounds of earth.

Handling your food is always ideal. Cookie batter almost feels like mud.

From deep earthy pebbles...

Into flattened rock...There go the cracks again.

Appreciation of the fissures on the cookie surface.

Baking = truly is, nature appreciation. The satisfaction I get from baking must be akin to what God felt when he created the earth, the plants, the animals, and man. Pure bliss.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Homemade pizza and bruschetta = why even bother going to a restaurant?

Why do I even bother being patient with Italian restaurants in the metro? Or pizzerias, for that matter? I am so tired of the boring vegetarian pizzas they serve us. It's as if they want to torture vegetarians with blandness. I remember one pizzeria STEAMED their veggies to oblivion before baking the pizzas. Seriously, guys? Lucky for you I forgot your name.

Not all pizzerias have bad vegetarian pizzas. I like Amici di Don Bosco's vegetarian pizza because they actually put other vegetables other than olives and tomatoes, such as eggplant and zucchini.

In all pizzerias, just remember to order your pizzas without the cow reproductive secretions aka cheese. That's usually the only animal product in vegetarian pizzas but always check to be sure. I'm just saying, beware of the tastelessness. You'll wanna dose your pizza with chili.

Homemade pizza is unbeatable. Absolutely zoom in.

I was lucky enough to score an impromptu dinner at my Tita (Aunt) Colette's home last Friday. She bribed me with homemade pizza and promised to make a vegan one for me. How could I resist? I miss good tasting pizza. You can buy regular pizza dough / shells at the grocery store; she says they're P50 (US$1!) for 2 shells.

She dressed this baby up with a good brush of olive oil and marinara sauce. I added pre-roasted mashed eggplant, fresh shiitake mushrooms, onion slivers, minced garlic, and basil chiffonade (I hate that pizzerias don't utilize herbs in their pizzas). By the way, please don't try munching on fresh shiitakes, they taste like wet paper. A good sprinkle of sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper is always welcome.

She laid the pizza on the oven rack at around 350 F until it looked toasty. After coming out of the oven I topped it with freshly torn arugula leaves, my absolute favorite salad green (I hate hate hate fresh salads, only because that's the only thing I usually get to eat at western restaurants and also because their version of salad = leaves + tomatoes + vinaigrette, that's it. But I'll down a salad with arugula any time). This was such a refreshing change from dull restaurant pizzas. Absolutely add dried chili flakes, and homemade tofu ricotta if you have some.

Tita Colette also made some nice bruschetta -- sliced whole wheat batard rubbed with olive oil and garlic, and grilled on the stove on a cast iron grill pan until nice and toasty. Topped with an "Italian salsa" of chopped tomatoes, minced garlic, basil chiffonade, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and trusty s&p, this was an unbeatable dinner.

Rest in peace, dear sweet Lolo Ben

My dear Lolo (Grand-uncle) Ben passed away at around 3am this morning. He was the brother of my Lola (Grandma) Amy, mom of my mom. They were good companions to each other since my Lolo Doming (dad of my mom) passed away about 4 1/2 years ago and especially when Lola Amy had a fall and became bed-ridden.

He was always a jolly guy, waking up every morning at 6am for his walk around the block and his gardening duties. He would always eat 2 cups worth of oatmeal everyday.

I laugh whenever I'd see him sneakily eat a few fish crackers -- he has high uric acid and in the past he got gout from an overdose of salty fish crackers!

He was always so proud about his survival of World War II -- at 9 years old in Baguio, he and Lola Amy were running away from the Japanese; one Jap actually hit his head with a bayonet! My lola had to carry Lolo Ben on her back as she trekked the Cordillera mountains to safety.

He was the main source of our news. As a child I remember calling him early in the morning just to see if there was no school for the day (due to typhoon). He was our local newscaster, he knew every piece of news from his trusty FM radio. He could tell you the latest chismis (gossip) about politicians and local celebrities.

He loved playing solitaire and could play that game day in, day out.

There are other memories I have of my gentle Lolo Ben.

Lolo Ben, I'm sure you're in a better place now. Sleep well. We'll miss you!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A study of homemade vs. white powdered sugar

Okay so here's a post showing my kitchen geekness / Martha Stewartness.

I hate using white flour because it has no nutrition whatsoever. But, you can't make cupcakes with wholewheat flour -- you might as well call them muffins. Or hockey pucks. Next best option should be unrefined, unbleached white flour, but that stuff's not available commercially and affordably. Healthy Options sells Bob's Red Mill organic unbleached white flour but... who can afford that stuff anyway? Who buys that stuff in this country, under these economic circumstances? Probably the expats and the class AAA's. RIght now I'm limited to refined white flour, b

My next baking peeve is white sugar. At least in this arena we have alternatives -- brown and raw sugar. I'm trying to switch to raw sugar in my baking permanently. Quite surprisingly brown and raw sugar are cheaper than white by like three pesos (6 US cents?) at the baking supply store. According to this site:

"Unrefined raw sugar is made from the juice from the sugar cane plant and has trace minerals and nutrients present. Refined sugar is devoid of all nutrients. Typically, white sugar is made of pure carbohydrates. Today, it is common knowledge that refined white sugar has devastating affects on the body and health in general. Besides being a certain way to elevate blood sugar levels, refined white sugar is considered to be “empty calories” as it offers no nutritional substance whatsoever. Raw sugar contains minerals and nutrients that are stripped from refined white sugar. Raw sugar contains roughly eleven calories per teaspoon and has the same vitamin and mineral consistency that is found in the juice from the sugarcane plant. These minerals include Phosphorus, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, and Potassium. In addition, when sugar is refined and processed there are many harmful ingredients that are added to the sugar as a result. Unrefined raw sugar does not have these harmful chemicals. Some of these include: Phosphoric Acid, Sulfur Dioxide, and Formic Acid."

Raw sugar: the lesser of 2 evils

But what's difficult is the frosting. You can't have cake and cupcakes without frosting, and you can't have frosting without powdered sugar. Commercially available and prepared powdered sugar is of course, made of refined white sugar.

I've seen recipes for homemade powdered sugar
in a couple of vegan cookbooks which I've been dying to try out. I finally was able to experiment last week. I used the recipe from Eat, Drink and Be Vegan. Pretty straightforward: blend 1 tablespoon of cornstarch and 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups of sugar for a few minutes until powdery. Instead of cornstarch I used sweet potato starch; instead of white sugar I used 1 1/4 cups packed raw sugar. In the homemade-powdered-sugar arena, blenders are superior over food processors.

It did take me a few noisy minutes to come up with homemade powdered sugar. I also had to stick a knife in to occasionally break up the clumps (turn off the motor when doing this). Here are the results:

the devil's posion. Right: the homemade stuff.

You can see that powdered sugar made from raw sugar is a little honey-colored while that refined stuff is dead white. Homemade doesn't clump up as much because of the blender -- obviously blenders made for the home cook / baker are less powerful than industrial blenders made for corporations. I think the powdered raw sugar granules are heavier than their white counterpart, hence its non-clumping qualities. The texture is actually slightly coarser but it will still be able to pass through a sieve. Oh yeah, while white powdered sugar has no smell, raw powdered sugar has a slight molasses-like smell.

I used my favorite vanilla frosting recipe and here are the results:

immaculately white vanilla cupcakes with white vanilla frosting.
Right: vanilla cupcakes made with raw sugar, with vanilla frosting made from powdered raw sugar.

I think this world is not ready for vanilla cupcakes made with raw sugar (what more with wholewheat flour?). People are purist about vanilla cupcakes -- they must be white white white. If frosting's not white, okay if some other artificial color. Not saying there's anything wrong with wanting white cupcakes, it's purely a matter of physical preference.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Nature appreciation: La Mesa Eco Park

A bunch of coworkers and I participated in a company-sponsored tree planting activity in La Mesa Eco Park in Quezon City last February 7. La Mesa Eco Park houses a 700ha reservoir and 2000ha forest. The reservoir is Metro Manila's sole source of potable water and sadly the forest is the last remaining one of its size in Metro Manila. It's always nice to get away from the city (even though the park was in Quezon City) and see an actual forest. I stumbled across some interesting flora and fauna...

A mother duck and her little ones. A little googling and wikipedia-ing tells me that she is a Muscovy duck, aka Cairina moschata. She's not as regal looking as her Google lookalikes though (OMG someone actually cooked a muscovy duck and uploaded a photo in the image search! Beware). I'm sure she's had quite a hard knock's life.... It isn't easy being a duck in the Philippines.

Her babies are the cutest ever. She's one protective mama -- every time I'd try to get close to photograph her and the ducklings she would flap her wings and quack at me. She loved to nestle in the grass and observe her kids run around excitedly.
A kind human offers her and her kids some breakfast.

The fruit of the samak tree. People from Laoag City, Ilocos Norte commonly ferment the fruit, leaves, and bark with sugar cane to make vinegar and basi. What your eyes don't see...

Yellow orchid. I think it is a Odontocidium. From
this website: Odontocidium Tiger Crow 'Golden Girl' is an intergeneric hybrid consisting of Odontoglossum and Oncidium. It grows in a wide range of temperature conditions from warm to cool. The flower spikes emerge often twice per year and are colored in yellow and burgundy. The species behind the cross include Oncidium tigerinum, Onc. leucochilum, Odm. crispum, Odm. pescatorei, Odm. hallii, Odm. harryanum, and a host of odontoglossum hybrids.

I think it's so interesting to find out the scientific names of plants and animals, and learn more about them.

NB / disclaimer:
The La Mesa website says it has a "butterfly trail and hatchery" -- I didn't get a chance to visit this place. Oh and La Mesa has horseback riding = not vegan! It has a pond and boating lagoon -- I honestly have no idea if it's manmade or not and whether it has natural fish (versus fish bought from some Cartimar vendor). And, I have no idea if the duck was endemic to that area (or again, bought from Cartimar as a baby in a paper bag).

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Braving a cold winter's night with soup + classy impromptu salad dressing #2

Last Christmas day my family and I trekked over to Lake Tahoe for our first time to experience snow (!!!!). My dad rented a cabin "that could comfortably fit 10-12 people" but in reality could've fit 20. Seriously, there are residential cabins out there that could house 20 people. Anyway all ten of us plus my three cousins made the trip at around 4pm on December 25 and arrived there at around 9:30. It was EXTREMELY cold but we enjoyed every moment of it, especially because we got to snowboard!

What we did NOT enjoy was our first night. So arriving at the driveway we had to shovel the snow off the garage door. Then we entered a 49 degree F / 9 degree C (if I can recall correctly) house, tired, hungry, cold, and cranky. The heater was broken. We literally could see the fog coming out of our mouths when we breathed. We had to wear our winter clothes inside the house.

My mom cooking in her parka. Nice.

While some of the boys tried to figure out the heater issue my mom and I decided to cook some dinner. We didn't have much supplies... To be frank I wasn't in the mood to open a can of beans and chop onions. Everyone was cold and the only thing that could've helped us was soup. We didn't have any soup supplies except for...

Excuse the ugliness and the extremely not vegan taxedermied snake in the background.
The snake came with the house.

Behold the V8 vegetable juice. We bought this because my American cousins don't eat enough vegetables (sorry guys, potatoes aren't really vegetables) and American restaurants don't serve 'em. During my stay in the US I drank this everyday so I could get a dose of veggies and vitamins. Anyway we ended up making fake soup: V8 juice gently simmered with Italian spices, chili pepper, salt and pepper. I think I may have added powdered garlic (too cold to peel and chop fresh). All the spices were found in the kitchen cupboard.

Too simple to make, it shouldn't even be blog-worthy. But it had a cold-winter's-night story so I thought I'd share. Moral of the story: always make sure you have V8 juice on you in case you're stranded in a freezing cabin.

We brought some Boy Bawang (extremely garlicky deep fried corn kernels) from home which made an excellent crouton-like topping. Yum with the ever dependable white rice.


The next night after a full day of snowboarding I had to make salad dressing. We were in the middle of winter and all my mom got for veggies were salad greens. With no dressing.

Something good always comes out of a salad dressing dilemma, I always say.

This time the only acid on hand was bottled orange juice and the sweetener, strawberry jam. Orange juice isn't as tart as kalamansi juice so we had to add a good dose of salt. It was a good "gourmet-tasting" dressing.

Strawberry Citrus Salad Dressing
1/4 cup orange juice
1 heaping tablespoon of strawberry jam
1-2 cloves of garlic, grated
1/2 to 3/4 cup olive oil, to taste
salt and pepper to taste

Add the juice, jam, and garlic in a small bowl and whisk together -- try to break up the clumps of strawberry with the whisk. Slowly pour in the olive oil while whisking the whole mixture together. Add salt and pepper to taste. If still too sweet, add more oil or splashes of water.

Me making the dressing with Pop, my oil pourer. I had to keep on wearing a beanie to hide my Medusa hat hair.

Hmmm I think this is my last Christmas entry! Finally. Now I can get on with more current stuff.

Bro #6 enjoying the sun and cool air on our way back to the Bay area.

Monday, February 9, 2009

I got mentioned in Appetite Magazine! + a letter opposing animal exploitation

Wow. I still get giddy thinking about it.

I must've mentioned in my past posts that a local food magazine was to feature my baking company in its pages (come to think of it, I did mention the magazine here). Well, it finally happened. I think I'm the only vegan baking company around (?)... and to be featured in a mainstream food magazine?! To think the Philippines is VERY meat-centric. And dairy- and egg-centric. And not so vegan friendly. We Filipino vegans are a dying breed (I know no vegans aside from bro #5 and the guys at PETA).

Anyway here it is.

PETA Asia Pacific found out about me back in October and I've been on a baking whirlwind ever since. They've ordered pretty much everything off my menu. They've been so supportive and promised to feature me in the veg section in Appetite Magazine called Herbivore. I kind of forgot all about the magazine-feature thing... Several months have passed, I'd check out the magazine every month with no mention, then last Friday I remembered to check it out after doing some grocery shopping during my lunch break... and lo and behold!

This is a big step for veganism in the Philippines you guys! Well I'm no second coming of Jesus... But it's good to let the public know that vegans need not give up cupcakes in order to boycott the dairy and egg industries, no?

I know there are a lot of vegetarians and veg-friendly places in northern Metro Manila... so it's also nice that southern Metro Manila is represented =)

Oh yeah, I may be under "Restaurant Review" but I don't have a restaurant. I churn out baked goods from my oven at home and either deliver or have the things picked up...

Appetite Magazine, February 2009 issue

Herbivore section, page 84
close up of the article, squee!


In other news, bro #6 called to my attention that his (all boys) school is having a Father's Day / sports fair (what, no mother's day?) this Saturday. Typically in school sports events small pet animals such as rabbits and chicks are sold like candy. I think you can get a chick for P50 (US$1)? I remember buying a rabbit, duckling and chick once when I was a kid and didn't know any better. Anyway, I didn't want to be that kind of person who's all talky about animal cruelty this and animal cruelty that, without taking any action. So I convinced bros #5 and #6 (bro #4 who also studies in the same school apparently can't grasp the gravity of the situation here) to draft a letter to their school director. They really didn't want to do it... and the rest of my family who are ho-hum about the whole issue didn't help either. But what the hell man, what's the point of taking a stance on an issue when you can't take action when given the chance?

Here's the letter. The fair is this coming Saturday and it's a long shot if the school bans the sale of animals this Saturday. But, hopefully the letter sheds some light on the issue and will stop the sale of animals in the next (2010) sports fair.

I can't wait til bro #5 is faced with the dilemma of dissection (he's in his sophomore year = biology). He claims he's not required to dissect, but bro #4 went through it. While my parents don't give a damn about this issue I sure as hell do. Both brothers don't want to create a ruckus lest they get suspended... I hate that students are encouraged to stand up for some (read: religious) things but turn a blind eye on other things.

Dear Mr. R,

We have noticed that in the past, animals such as chicks, ducklings, rabbits, hamsters, fish, and snakes were sold in Father's Day purely for our entertainment and use. We would not want this to happen in this coming Father's Day and in all future Father's Day events. As men of integrity we realized that we need to stand up and speak out for those who have no voice in this situation.

Chicks and our other animal friends are born in this world purely to be sold and treated like non-sentient objects by us humans. They are ripped from their mothers and packaged in crates, boxes, and plastic bags with no thought to their well being nor their feelings. They are sold to children who look at them and treat them as novelties. These children have no idea how to take care of such creatures and without their knowledge, may not provide proper attention to them. The animals usually die in a short amount of time, unloved, forgotten, and often mistreated.

God has made us stewards of the earth and of the animals, and we believe that this does not give us the right to exploit either of them. We believe that Father's Day can still be full of fun without this form of animal cruelty. We'd hate to think that those who buy these animals may be in conflict with section 6 of the Philippine Animal Welfare Act, which states that "it shall be unlawful for any person to torture any animal, to neglect to provide adequate care, sustenance or shelter, or maltreat any animal" because they bought them in the spur of the moment in Father's Day.

We know Father's Day is a few days away but we hope this letter will be able to do some good. We do not want S to be a school that is known to support animal cruelty and animal exploitation. We hope that in the future, S bans the sale of animals and entertainment provided by them in its premises.

Thank you.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Tofurky Noche Buena & New Year (plus a recipe)

Christmas 2008 was my first time:
1. To celebrate it as a vegan
2. To celebrate it out of the country
3. To have a Tofurky roast
4. To not cook all day for Noche Buena / Christmas Eve dinner

Normally I despise all store-made, pre-made, catered, pick-up-from-the-restaurant food, generally for special occasions and particularly for Christmas. I belong to the school of thought that homemade food that usually takes all day to make is real food. This is why I'm not a big fan of fake meat. We made an exception to the all-day-cooking rule for Christmas because we were celebrating it in my tita's (aunt's) home abroad. Funny, we spent both Christmas Eve and New Yearís Eve days doing laundry at a Laundromat in Alamo (10 in the family + 1 week of no laundry = 5 loads in the washer); while my brothers waited at the Laundromat my parents and I went to the grocery for Christmas Eve / New Year's Eve dinner.

So anyway, I finally made peace with the fact that I couldn't pull an all-day cooking thing for Noche Buena so I bought a Tofurky veggie roast. This was super easy to prepare; aside from what came in the box I had to prep potatoes, carrots, olive oil, soy sauce, and some sage. It only took one hour in the oven and I had to use the toaster oven because the real oven was being used to cook the dead bird (why oh why must we celebrate an occasion with a cruel death... why?). The tofu-seitan roast had a wild rice and mushroom stuffing and gravy. Good dinner, although I would've preferred something more homemade, like a roasted vegetable dish with tofu and a homemade pie.

2007 was my first Christmas as a vegetarian and the complete opposite of 2008 -- I spent ALL AFTERNOON AND NIGHT cooking and baking. I even remember what I made -- a baked lentil loaf with roast garlic gravy. I was the only veg person then so I had to cook my own food, all by myself. It was pretty sad because there were a ton of people fixing the dead bird / cow while I was going crazy making gravy -- roasted garlic and veggie broth included -- FROM SCRATCH, ALONE. It was about 100 degrees F / +30 degrees C in the kitchen; everyone was in pretty Christmas clothes while I was in a sweaty shirt. So, I guess I really shouldn't complain about the speediness of the Tofurky (by the way the loaf turned out weird but the gravy was a hit to the omnis)...

New Year's Eve dinner was something more semi-homemade, I'm happy to report. Brother #5 and I discovered Tofurky sausages during the Christmas break and made a stir fry out of it. We used Tofurky Polish Kielbasa but the Italian works well too (we actually prefer Italian over the Kielbasa, but we only had Kielbasa on hand then). For the vegans with no access to Tofurky you could use your canned fake sausages (arghh I despise that stuff, it has no taste!!) and just add more spices. I've included the 2 options in the recipe below although I have to confess I haven't tried it with the spices yet.

New Year Tofurky sausage and zucchini stirfry

splash olive oil or vegetable oil
1 package of 4 Tofurky sausages, any flavor (Italian or Polish Kielbasa)
2 white onions, sliced into half-rings
5 egg tomatoes, sliced into chunks
2 zucchinis
salt and pepper to taste
chili pepper (optional)

To prepare the sausages: slice the sausages in half lengthwise, then slice it into thirds crosswise at a diagonal.

To prepare the zucchini: slice the zucchinis in quarters lengthwise, then slice it crosswise so it's about the same size as the sausage chunks.

Heat the oil in a skillet at medium heat. Fry the sausages until they get a nice crust on both sides, then remove the sausages from the pan.

Heat more oil in the skillet. Add in the onions -- when the onions have turned transparent / caramelized, add in the tomatoes. Cook until the tomatoes have melted into the onions -- add salt and pepper and chili to taste. Place the mixture in a dish and put the fried sausages on top.

Heat more oil and sautee the zucchini slices. Add salt and pepper to taste and be sure to scrape up the brown bits at the bottom of the pan. Lay the zucchini on top of the sausages, and serve.

If you live in a non-Tofurky world, you can use canned or frozen vegan sausages (about 540g). The ones I find here in Manila have zero taste and need to be spiced heavily.

Slice the sausages according to the directions above. Place the sausage chunks in a bowl and drizzle in some oil, salt and pepper.
Add in either:
2 tsp paprika, chili pepper (optional), 3/4 tsp ground mustard seeds, and 1 tsp crushed fennel seeds
2 tsp paprika, chili pepper (optional), 1/4 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp cumin, 1/8 tsp allspice
2 tsp paprika, chili pepper (optional), 1-2 tbsp crushed fennel seeds, 1/2 tsp dried oregano, 1/8 tsp ground all spice

Toss the sausage-spice mixture together. Usually the canned veggie sausages here are Vienna Sausage-like in texture, so you might want to coat them in cornstarch before frying to get them nice and crisp. Then, fry as directed above.

Photos of the Tofurky roast courtesy of brother #4 aka Jose Gonzalez.
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