Monday, February 22, 2010


What is it about tofu that intimidates people? And why do many people assume that tofu is all vegans and vegetarians eat? True, it is a very versatile protein, and yes, we vegs eat more (probably) than most omnivores do, but it isn't always the center of our culinary and dietary universe. Beans have protein too, remember.

Having said that, I suspect most people believe the only way of eating tofu is in its bland white form, cubed, and diced into a soup or a stir-fry. And I understand when people recoil at the words "bean curd" on Chinese take-out menus (why CAN'T they say tofu, anyway? Tofu sounds much gentler and more approachable than the word curd. Would you want to eat anything with the first four letters of the word curdle in it?)

Frankly, just eating plain tofu as is would be the same as eating flour with a spoon. Why would you do this? Tofu (like flour) is the foundation on which you build a meal. And the beauty of tofu is, it soaks up all the flavours you pour into a recipe. I tell my hubby when we order Thai food that if you love it spicy, tofu is the best bet over any meat product because of its sponge-like nature to take in every drop of the sauce. (If I get to choose the last meal I eat in this life, it will be the crispy tofu with sweet basil leaves entree at one of my favorite Thai restaurants--sorry, Mom! )

I confess I have not perfected the art of cooking with tofu myself. Often I will just pan-sear tofu slices in oil then add soy sauce and let it glaze and make a tofu sandwich. I have used it in smoothies and recently I have been making tofu spinach lasagna that is out of this world. Who knew tofu (with some added ingredients) could replace ricotta cheese so well? Even my husband, a devout tofu-phobe, was astounded to learn the lasagna he ate and loved was filled with bean curd--er, tofu.
If I am to be totally honest, I must admit that even I, a vegetarian for over 5 years, vegan for several months, still find myself a little intimidated by this magical white block of protein. I have made dishes that did not turn out so well--doesn't grilled tofu steaks with pomegranate sauce sound great? I thought so, but it was blah! I never blame the tofu, though--it is usually my lack of skill to blame. Did I drain the tofu enough? Did I use the right firmness? Did I let the tofu marinate long enough? (I have failed at this one many a time, including the pomegranate recipe above, but I blame that on chronic impatience and hunger.)
I guess what I am trying to say today is PLEASE don't give up on tofu! Keep cooking with it, experimenting with it. Sooner or later you will find a recipe and a technique that will stick and you will use it over and over again. Don't let tofu-phobia keep you from enjoying delicious and nutritious meals, be they at home or at restaurants.
The Hoppy Vegan

Sunday, February 14, 2010

My Bunny Valentine

This month Ruby, my white red-eyed rex rabbit, turns 8 years old. She was the bunny who started it all for me and to whom I credit not only my respect for ALL creatures big and small but for my vegan lifestyle. There is no question that a cat or dog never would have raised my consciousness as much as this sweet rabbit has--after all, we don't eat cats and dogs in America. Having a companion animal that others see as an entree changes your view on a lot of things--had my husband not brought her home impulsively from that fair in Virginia eight years ago, I would probably still be eating animals today. And let's not forget the other six rabbits who share and have shared our lives since adopting Ruby--I credit Ruby for saving their lives as well.

All that aside, Ruby was the rabbit who taught me all things rabbit. I had known NOTHING about rabbits till she showed up, and she had to put up with my anxiety as I learned all about her charmingly sweet and sensitive species. The first time she flopped over on her side in our living room, I panicked and called the vet's office--is she sick? Depressed? Suicidal? WHAT IS SHE DOING? Turns out she was just being happy--stretching out, content with her surroundings. Her back feet stretched out flat, her whole body pressed against the floor.

People who don't see rabbits as loving pets don't know rabbits. Ruby is to this day a very affectionate rabbit--as I learned over the years, not all rabbits groom their human companions, and she does it often and often very ardently. (I get nose nudges from my other rabbits--Ruby is the only one who licks.) She is also still, even at eight, very agile. She will jump up on me on the floor no matter how I am lying down. She is part mountain goat, I swear. And while she no longer speeds around the house as she did when we first got her, looking like a white bullet blurring across our living room, she still has her binky moments. She is very happy with her mate of almost 8 years, Cocoa, a brown and white velveteen lop rabbit who appears to worship the ground she hops on.
It is so hard to me to imagine my life without these love buns or the others who eventually came to live with us -- Woodstock, Cinnamon, Ghirardelli, Willow, and God bless her sweet soul, Polly who left us too soon for the Bridge two years ago. For all the joy infused in my life, for the newfound awareness I have of the natural world around me, for opening my eyes to the plight and delight of all animals we share this planet with, I give great thanks and hugs to a white rabbit with ruby eyes.
Happy Valentine's Day, Ruby. May I be blessed with many more years of your great influence and presence.
The Hoppy Vegan

Monday, February 1, 2010

February is Adopt a Rescue Rabbit Month

Woodstock, the rabbit we "fostered" almost 7 years ago