Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Some eats, some treats, and my dilemma

Thank you all so much for leaving your comments about my last post. I know when I get frustrated about our unyielding omnivorous society, I feel torn between being too passive--making people think I don't really find it that important--and too aggressive--shutting people's ears to what I'm saying. It helps to step back and let someone a little more removed from the situation give their opinions, and I appreciate the points each of you made.

Ahh... I've finally been doing a little more cooking these past few days, now that I'm feeling more "at home."

I spiced up these baked sweet potato fries with chili powder and lime juice, and I made a chipotle mayo dipping sauce that brought out a nice zing. I used about one teaspoon of chipotle paste to two tablespoons of Nayonaise.

Tofu scramble... Nothing special, but it sure was good.

I love graham crackers, and since packaged ones nearly always contain honey, I decided to try my hand at making my own, using the recipe in La Dolce Vegan! I don't know why I imagined these being so complicated to make but they were really quite easy, and have such a fresh and delicate flavor that could never compare to anything commercially produced. Does anyone know how long these will keep? Because around here, they lasted about... two days. Hee hee.

Daiku inspired this dish with his wonderfully fresh, beautiful potato salad. I looked at the picture but didn't read his recipe until after I had made mine... I'm surprised at how similar mine came out to his--but not really, I guess, since small waxy potatoes, fresh dill, crisp green beans, and a sweet and tangy vinaigrette make a wonderfully sweet and savory combination with a very satisfying bite. I left the potatoes slightly on the crunchy side. Perfect.

One of the simplest treats I've ever made is banana ice "cream." This time, I flavored it with cocoa powder and coffee extract--bananas and coffee pair surprisingly well together, you know!

I've had a bottle of Trader Joe's Mango Chili Vinegar waiting to be put to good use... Melody and Urban Vegan have both posted about this stuff. I liked the idea of a mango tofu stir-fry, though, so when Stonielove posted such a meal, I took a cue from her and created this meal. My friend Vesna came over and helped me make this one up, actually, and it was quite a sensation. I'll post the recipe for you at the end. A crisp green salad rounded out this meal.

And I'm going to leave you with another question. I have been eating about 75-80% organic, striving for 100%. Organic farming is something I (and I'm sure many of you) feel very strongly about, not only for health reasons but also for the environment... Conventional farming is brutal on the soil and on the air and water into which the chemicals leak--and while this method may yield more produce in the short run than organic farming, in the long run conventional agriculture is wholly unsustainable. However, what do you do when you go to buy produce and you have to choose between buying local or buying organic? Here's what happened: I went to the produce market to buy some cucumbers. The Georgia-grown conventional cucumbers were sitting in a bin right next to the California-grown organic ones. As much as I wanted to choose organic, I could not justify buying them all the way from California when I had an option that had been grown practically in my own backyard... so I chose the conventional ones instead. When organic local produce is not available, which do you choose to support?

Thanks for humoring yet another question from the brain of Laura. Have a wonderful week!

Mango Tofu Stir-Fry

1 pound tofu, drained, pressed, and cubed
2 teaspoons oil, divided
1 green bell pepper, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 small yellow onion, sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 jalapeño, minced, or more to taste
1 mango, peeled and diced
1 tablespoon tamari
1 tablespoon mango-chili vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
1 teaspoon ketchup
1 cup whole-wheat couscous
1 cup boiling water

Heat one teaspoon oil in a large pan over medium-high heat and add the tofu cubes. Cook, tossing frequently, until golden brown. Splash a bit of tamari into the pan and toss the tofu until well coated on all sides, then remove tofu from the pan and place on a clean towel.

Mix the tablespoon of tamari with the vinegar, ginger, and ketchup to make a sauce; set aside.

Place the couscous in a bowl and add the boiling water; cover and set aside for five minutes, until the couscous absorbs all the water. Fluff with a fork.

Clean out the pan and then add the remaining teaspoon of oil and heat over medium-high. Add the peppers, onions, garlic, and jalapeño, and sauté until the vegetables just begin to become tender. Add the mango and the tofu cubes and cook for another minute or so. Add the sauce mixture and toss just until everything is coated. Serve over couscous.


Jamie said...

I think organic vs. local is a tough question. I probably would have chosen the local produce also, in part because of the reduced transportation but also because I would be supporting local agriculture. Perhaps you could talk to your grocer about providing produce which is both local and organic.

Neva Vegan said...

You might ask at the farmer's market what kind of production methods they use. I know some local farmers cannot claim organic status because of the previous use of the land, but try to be as good as they can, like using netting to protect vegetables from insects instead of chemicals. They might also like to know there's a market for local organic produce, as an incentive to keep trying to do better.

theONLYtania said...

Hey, I've been busy lately, trying to catch up. Your new place looks neat!
Mmm sweet potato fries, I need to take my hand at those again, they didn't come out so good the first time.
Your graham crackers look great! I'll have to try that.

aTxVegn said...

Organic v. local is a tough one, but my thought without hesitation is local. I think neva is correct in that the local farmers are as organic as they can be.

Your food looks wonderful as usual. And the graham crackers - you did a fantatic job! I gotta try those and Daiku's potato salad.

Veg-a-Nut said...

The graham crackers are amazing. I thought for sure they were store bought. I know there are vegans who eat honey and I had stayed away until I needed graham crackers and I figured other vegans eat honey so it must not be too bad. Mind you this all happend in the past 8 days. I have stayed away from honey since I went vegan until all this. I have not felt overly excited about using or eating them since then. Even though I bought organic ones they still they have honey. Yes torn, that is what I am. I don't want to throw them away. I never thought you could make them. Wow! I have to get that book from the library and give them a shot.

Tofu scramble is the greatest. It is different in its own right everytime I make it. What a wonderful meal.

I have one lonely sweet potato that needs to be cooked very soon. I think your fries are perfect and I love the dipping sauce.

Thanks for sharing your mango tofu dish. I think it is a hit. In fact I think that is what I will cook for dinner tonight.

About your question. I think many of us have the same decision making everytime we shop. I have a small card that I carry in my wallet tha tis called the dirty dozen. It gives the top 12 crops with the highest pesticide rating. I will buy local conventional if it is not on that list. If it is on the list I go organic every time I can. Here is the website

Judith MacCaellich-Young said...

Laura, you have been busy!
What fabulous food, I loved the look of the graham crackers :)

I would also ask around the market, many producers will not pay the money to be credited as 'organic' but may follow traditional organic growing methods.

Another place to check out is your local community gardens/allotments as many household producers are very happy to sell or exchange fresh organic veggies.

Courtney said...

Once again, everything looks great! I am so impressed by your graham crackers--when I saw the photo, I thought, why is she taking a picture of (store-bought) graham crackers?! I cannot believe you made them--they are beautiful!

For the local vs. organic, I agree with others and will usually chose local. A lot of the local farms ARE organic, they just cannot afford certification (a long, expensive, lengthly process, from what I understand), so they cannot advertise as such. I also have the "dirty dozen" list that veg-a-nut mentioned, and I try to buy those organic.


VeggieGirl said...

oh my goodness those graham crackers look too perfect!! excellent job on that - it's a shame that nearly all graham crackers sold in stores contain honey and other vegan-UNfriendly ingredients. and thank you for posting that mango tofu stir-fry recipe - looks and sounds terrific!!

I buy organic 98% of the time; and I always make it a priority to ONLY buy the organic "version" of produce that is typically more prone to pesticides, such as apples, strawberries, peaches, etc.

I buy local sometimes, but often I find that the organic produce not only looks better, but tastes better as well. maybe that's just the case where I live, but I'd rather have tasty, bruise-free organic produce from California, than a beat-up, flavorless fruit or vegetable from a farm located a couple miles away.

julie said...

Those fries and dipping sauce look divine! Also, thanks for posting the recipe for that stir-fry...YUM!

I try to buy as much organic stuff as I can, but cost is an issue for me, so if organic is just too much I go with conventional. I see how you were torn by your situation, I proabably would have gone with the local produce also, so I could support local farmers.

Have a good rest of the week!

Vicki's Vegan Vice said...

homemade graham crackers?! you rock, Laura! hmmm, that's a good question -- I'd probably buy the local produce over the far-away organic. I appreciate your restaurant experience and it's frustrating that people actually believe there is sucha thing as humane slaughter.

Johanna3 said...

your homemade graham crackers looks so good! they are the most perfect graham crackers i ever seen.

all the food looks great!

stonielove said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
stonielove said...

ooo i missed your last post... i agree with you that it's a challenge to keep an optimal balance about sharing a view point.

it's nice that you are feeling more at home! oh and your dishes are gorgeous, and the crackers look so professional!

as for your question, i understand that organic produces are better than locally-grown conventional produces in terms of the ecological footprints. i'd choose organic fruits and locally grown vegetables. it would be helpful to know those local farmers' farming method, too. ah, i miss farmer's market...

Jes said...

I try to buy local over organic because it leaves a smaller footprint. Have you checked out the plethora of local farmers markets we have here? I work with the East Atlanta market, but there's a Morningside one, a Piedmont Park one, and even ones in the burbs if you live farther out (Marietta, Kennesaw, Lawrenceville, etc.). Since I've started buying local and organic produce at these markets it's been pretty awesome.

Fun to find another food blogger in Atlanta!

Shelley said...

Just recently started reading your blog, found a link from another blog. You've got some great thoughts and dishes! Thanks!

As to the local vs. organic. I used to always choose local over organic and then everything else organic. But recently after learning more about the farming in my area ( I live in the Midwest) I have changed my mind. Yes, it's true that many local farms are organic without being certified, but unless you have a list of who's using what chemicals, how do you know who to trust. For example, I recently found out a local farm I was buying all my corn from, has one of the highest pesticide bills in the area. Yuck!!!

Yes, it's true that local can have a smaller eco footprint, but mostly when compared with out of the states, like say Cuba. In the states most produce is flown in...and planes are actually more fuel efficient than cars! It's when you have to ship produce that you are really harming the environment. So no matter what don't buy even the organic produce if it needs to be shipped in. After that, it's your call...if you know you can trust a local farm, then definitely go for it. Otherwise, I would choose the organic.

Hope it helps! And I look forward to your future entries! ;-)

Vegan*asm said...

I have been wanting to make graham crackers for such a long time. Yours look beautiful, perfect for spreading with peanut butter and dipping in apple least thats how I like mine :)

As far as local v. organic goes, I usually always choose local. Not only can I not support the use of wasted fuel to carry my produce thousands of miles across the country when a closer option is available, but I also like to support local farmers to help their business thrive. I have also found that most of the time local produce is grown organically, but isn't labeled so because the farm hasn't gotten "certified". So, it's kind of like having your local organic cucumber and eating it too!

springsandwells said...

Okay, first I have to join in the reverie over your amazing-looking homemade graham crackers!!! I didn't even know that such a thing was possible. They look great, and now all I can think about is making some for myself.

Secondly, it seems like many people have already chimed in, but I'll cast another vote for local. I think local is less destructive than all the transportation. I do the vast majority of my produce shopping at the farmers market - and that helps me keep things almost all local. But I also live in a great area for local organic produce!

Why not call up that local farm that's growing cucumbers and ask if they've ever considered growing some organically? Tell them you'd be interested!

:) xo

Sarah said...

Hi Laura,

This local v. organic question is one that I have struggled with for some time, having finally settled (as with many of the commentors above) on local. I think that's the message of a lot of "food experts" (term used very lightly!) like Michael Pollan (ok, so I haven't really finished Omnivore's Dilemma, but someone told me that local is the winner in the book). There's another article from Time about this question (again, not the first source I usually go to on such questions, but still - it is evidence of the debate in the public forum). Here's the link:,9171,1595245,00.html\


Janey said...

What amazing food you make, WOW!!! Beautiful photos and I bet it all tasted even better!

Anonymous said...

Without a seconds thought- local. You do realize that organic does not mean sustainble. The organic business is getting so huge that it also is creating some very dire environment problems, and huge corporations are getting involved in not the best way. also I know many local farmers here who while there farms are organic they cannot afford to become certified. Its all about politics and money, and the only thing that can help is a local enconomy!!!

bazu said...

Hey Laura,

I'm a bit late responding to this post, but thought I'd throw in my two cents about the organic/local debate.

First of all, Peter Singer's book (The Way We Eat) has really influenced my thinking on this matter. I really believe that if you eat 100% organic, but your stuff is all shipped from 1000's of miles away, that it's not really doing the environment any net good.

I also believe, as I read on Dreena's blog and other blogs and articles, that as vegans who eat much lower on the food chain, that we don't have to worry about pesticides and other chemical residues that omnivores do. This is due to bio-accumulation- basically, when you eat a cow, you not only eat all the chemicals he's been pumped with, but also all the chemicals his feed has been pumped with. We vegans get a fraction- in fact I read somewhere that an omnivore who eats all organic gets more chemicals than a vegan who eats all conventionally grown produce.

My solution to this is, I've memorized the list of the top 10 produce highest and lowest in pesticides, and try to make my decisions according to that. For example, broccoli tends to be low in pesticides, I go for conventional (local, seasonal). But celery is high in pesticides, so I tend to go for organic, but buy less of it in months when I can't find it local and organic.

I hope that made sense- and I didn't mean to ramble on and on, it's just that this is one of my favorite issues to talk and think about!

KleoPatra said...

i'm always all about local whenever possible.

Your graham crackers are stellar! Nicely done...