Friday, February 11, 2011

Vegan Coconut Curry on a Budget

Recently Oprah had a challenge for all her employees at Harpo Studios to eat vegan for one week. Everyone who wanted to sign up did so and many also decided to cut out some other bad habits like too much coffee or soda. One guy lost eleven pounds. Eleven pounds! That is fantastic and pretty crazy. It just goes to show how many unnecessary calories people are taking in. Everyone commented on how great they felt, how much energy they had and how well their digestive tracts were working. I'm not saying that you have to go vegan in order to lose weight and be healthy, it's just that eating vegan forces you to avoid most food that can be really bad for you. Eating vegan means eating no food that comes from an animal. That means no dairy, eggs and obviously no meat.That eliminates a huge amount of fast, junky food and many baked goods. While a week isn't really that long, for the meat, sugar and fat loving majority of the population, it is long enough to start weaning yourself of your food addictions. It also is long enough to get your poop flowing properly. Yup, I said poop. Whether you do a vegan, vegetarian or even a "reduce the meat and dairy" challenge, I guarantee you'll have big healthy poops coming out. And a good poop makes everyone happy. Really it does. Some call it "Pooh-phoria." It feels like you are completely emptying your colon and afterwards you want to run and jump for joy, like my dog does after a good poop. My mom is probably cringing reading this because, in our family, the woman were very private about that part of their lives. As far as I know, my mother and grandmothers have never, ever gone poop. But I figure if Oprah can talk about poop then so can I. I think it is important because of the amount of colon cancer that is devastating North America and being silent will never make a difference. Our modern day diets of high fat, high fructose corn syrup, high meat, high dairy, highly processed food along with food additives and preservatives are wreaking havoc on our digestive systems. We need to stop ruining our bodies with excess. While I'm supporting trying a vegan, vegetarian or "reduce your meat and dairy intake" challenge, I want to point out that I am not a fan of the processed vegan products on the market. Full of wheat gluten, bean and rice flours, flavourings and sodium, they not truly natural and they cost a lot of money comparatively to other forms of plant and whole grain proteins. That being said I also don't think that factory farming excessive amounts of animals for us to indulge in is natural or healthy either. I still believe that we were designed to function efficiently with what nature gives us and if we had to fend for ourselves without factories producing "meatless burgers and to-furkey," then what would we eat for protein in the wild?
 I know, we don't live in the wild anymore and can make whatever we want because we are at the top of the food chain, blah, blah, blah. 
My point is, just because we can manufacture a product, doesn't always make it okay or good for us. We need to be aware of what we are really eating, where it comes from, what is in it, how was it made? Soybeans as a whole food is a good protein source but by the time most of the soy products get to our tables we've lost most of the good stuff. Plus, the majority of soy grown in North America comes from genetically engineered soybeans and there hasn't been a sufficient enough time for research to be conducted to test the safety of GMO's yet. So, with that in mind, if you go vegan or vegetarian for a week (or forever, good for you!) choose whole foods as a protein source like sprouted whole grains, beans, quinoa, lentils, chickpeas, nuts, nut milk, nut butters and non-GMO, traditionally fermented, whole soybean products like Tempeh. Look closely at your labels when drinking soy milks. It should be made with non-GMO soy beans, water and sea salt. That's it. Also keep in mind that the amount of soy that is considered healthy is dramatically less than what is consumed by the average person. One other thing to consider is the amount of controversy surrounding whether soy is good or bad for you. When issues like this come up I wonder why so many studies have to be conducted on whether it is healthy for you or not. You don't see numerous studies being done on apples or carrots, they are real, natural and we know they are good for us. Stick to what Mother Earth provides us or a close, minimally processed version of it, something you could process yourself. Soy is big business and that means big marketing to persuade you to buy it. Remember, everything in moderation people, moderation. If you go vegetarian for a week you can add in organic eggs, rennet free, unpasteurized cheeses and fermented milk products like Kefir. And if you absolutely cannot give up any meat, even for one day (which is ridiculous by the way), you can help your body, your colon, your heart, the environment and save some animals by choosing to, at least, make your meat consumption, at most, one meal a day. Choose ethically raised, organic meat from farms you know. Eat some fish for a meal, eat less red meat, ban all deli meat (processed, additive and preservative riddled yuck) unless you know how it is made and contains only natural ingredients, like salt, to cure it. I would bet that once you start eating this way you will find it easier and easier and feel so much better. And you will save money. Meat costs a lot! Substituting one cup of uncooked lentils for your protein source costs about 50 cents. Try feeding four people with meat for 50 cents, it's impossible. Cook those lentils, make a stew, add some rice and a salad and you've fed four people for around $10. You can eat cheap and healthy. We have doubled our consumption of meat in the past 50 years and it is not necessary. People didn't eat meat everyday throughout history. Because of our greed and self indulgence we have helped to destroy the environment through mass production of fertilizers and pesticides to grow the grain to feed the animals which in turn produce more carbon dioxide and waste that continue to pollute the waterways and so's a vicious cycle. I am only just barely scraping the surface of the true destruction of factory farming, more to come in a later blog. You can make a difference by eating one less meat meal a week. Then two, then three. Be a flexitarian, some days you eat organically raised, small, family farmed meat, the next day you go veggie, the next day, vegan. Switch it up, it'll be fun. Think of all the new recipes and foods to try. That's really not a lot to ask and I can't believe that we could be so selfish to not even try it. Paul McCartney and Oprah are promoting Meatless Mondays. If they are are board, why can't you be? The Environmental Defense tells us that if we eat one less meat meal a week it is the equivalent to taking 500,000 cars of the road along with their emissions, we save 70 million gallons of oil a year, reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 40% and save millions of animals...just by eating one meatless meal a week. It's about your health and your world and doing your part to keep you and it healthy for your grandchildren. Meatless Mondays, just do it!

Vegan or Veggie Coconut Curry
Once you have purchased all the staples you can make this recipe for 4 under for under $10. Buy your spices in bulk it saves a ton of money and your Basmati Rice in the 8lb bags. No Frills in Toronto sells premium Indian Basmati Rice for 9.99 for 8lbs. That works out to .20 cents per cooked cup. Ghee is in grocery stores now but by shopping in ethnic stores you may find an even better price. Pure Indian Foods sells a premium grass fed ghee online. If you have the time, buying chickpeas dried and cooking them yourself will save even more money. Once you add in the salad, rice and whole wheat naan this meal for four is still under $20 and full of all your essential dietary needs. Enjoy.

Serves 4
Using *ghee in place of sunflower oil makes this dish vegetarian and much more rich and authentic in taste. 

1 can organic chickpeas, drained
1 can coconut milk
1 28 oz can organic whole tomatoes
2-3 tbsp sunflower oil or 1/4 cup *ghee (adjust to own preference)
2 carrots, diced
1 onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced (optional, but important for flavour)
2 tbsp minced fresh ginger
1 jalapeno pepper (optional: with seeds=spicy, 1/2 with seeds= medium spice, 1/2+seeded=mild)
2-3 teaspoons curry powder
2-3 teaspoons garam masala powder
2-3 teaspoons ground cumin
2-3 teaspoons turmeric powder
sea salt and fresh pepper to taste

1. In a large heavy bottomed pot heat oil or ghee. Add carrots and saute 5 minutes. Add onions and saute   10 minutes more until soft.
2. Add garlic, ginger and jalapeno pepper. Saute 5 minutes, careful not to burn the garlic, reduce heat if necessary.
3. Add tomatoes, breaking them up with a wooden spoon. Stir in well.
4. Add coconut milk and chickpeas.
5. Add the curry powder, garam masala, cumin, turmeric and salt and pepper. Stir well. Bring everything to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Let cook for about ten minutes. **Check the flavour and adjust the spices to your own preference.
6. The curry is ready to eat but letting it simmer for a while enhances the flavours. 

* Ghee: is a savory, delicious alternative to butter or oil. It is clarified butter and adds a rich, authentic taste to any South Asian dish. Read more about it here:

Serve this curry with basmati rice, some naan bread and a fresh side salad for a filling and delicious meatless meal.


  1. Well I must make a comment on this. It was superb.The flavor is outstanding. The funny thing is that Krist's dad is a real lover of meat. We had this and he loved it. Will make this again and again.

  2. Thanks Mom,
    I'm so glad Dad liked it, if my meat loving Scottish Dad can eat it and enjoy it then everyone can. xo

  3. I've been using this as a foundational recipe about once a month for the past 8 months. Thank you for sharing this. I really appreciate it.

    1. I am so happy to hear this, that is terrific! I know, it's so versatile, you can have it vegan, vegetarian or add meat, if inclined. You can also omit the coconut milk and add veggie stock to make it even lower in fat. Thank you for sharing with me that you use it, it really means so much. Enjoy!