Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Support Breastfeeding in Every Country!

A few years ago, I learned about how formula companies can operate. I am just horrified at how third world countries have been affected by these sometimes very unscrupulous activities. My heart goes out to every mother who doesn't feel there is any other solution.

My own experience with breastfeeding has been very positive. I wrote about my first time experience when our first born, a son, was born. Rocky though it was, I missed it once he was weaned at 17 months.

I am currently still nursing my daughter a few times a day. She is now 2 years old (27 months). I knew that I would nurse her longer, because we were moving to Ghana for 2 years, when she was not quite 4 months old. Nursing her longer - meaning that I was willing to nurse her exclusively (no other foods, except water) for up to 12 months. Then at that time introduce foods (she is THE healthiest of all of us in this house - rarely gets sick!). I did give her foods starting at about 10 months old because her teeth looked like she could handle foods well at that point. Each child is different. My birthing doula, Deb, had a child who didn't get her first tooth until she was 19 months old. She also nursed longer.

You can click on the images above or below this post to read about the Nestle boycott. This company has especially been very unethical about its practices. Being vegan would steer you away from their products anyway, but I especially wanted to give everyone (vegan or not) reading this blog, another reason why breastfeeding is so important - the world over.

I intend to post more about breastfeeding in the future. No matter if I am currently nursing a child or not, this is so important to teach all parents. No matter mother or father. Why? Because it takes support from everyone to make it easier to do the right thing, not just the popular trend of the day.
Please click on the images in this post to read why you should join me in the boycott.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Two Transcontinential Flights, Moving Countdown & Using Up Foods

OK everyone, this is a little of a tip and a request. In light of our moving in 18 days (!) from Africa back to the USA, I am using up things in my pantry, fridge and freezer. I have food I bought here in Ghana as well as foods that were sent with people visiting on mission trips. I even have foods we brought with us two years ago!

Here's what I have now of any amount (does not include fresh produce):

Nuts: Cashews, Raw Almonds, Walnuts
Seeds: Sunflower Seeds, Alfalfa Seeds (for sprouting)
Dried Fruits: Pineapple, Mango, Coconut, Dates, Prunes
Oils: Red Palm Oil, Sunflower Oil
Sweeteners: Raw Honey, Powdered Stevia
Beans: Mung Beans, Lentils, Groundnut paste (Peanut Butter)
Grains/Starches: Oatmeal, Wheat Flour, Rice, Banku (corn & cassava), Gari & Tapioca Pearls(cassava products), 100% Rye Bread, Rice Noodles
Other dried items: Sun Dried Tomatoes, Carob Powder
Other baking/cooking items: Active Dry Yeast, Baking Soda, Baking Powder, Balsamic Vinegar, Real Salt, Miso, Greens Powder, various other herbs & spices for seasoning
Drinks: Fruit & Grape Juice, Dried Mint Tea Leaves

Fresh Produce:


Some things I know I will use for snacks for our (more than 24 hour) travel time to the states in the airplane and 2 airport layovers. Some of the nuts and dried fruit will be used there because they are easy travel food. It just goes without saying that some of the dates, coconut and almonds will find their way into some dates balls for the trip. Same for the peanut butter and carob and honey for some fudgy treats. I know that the produce will be used and bought as needed until we leave.

You know, just writing this out has already helped me get some good ideas to make menus:

Banku with okra stew (okra with red palm oil, onions, garlic, carrots)
Vegan ice cream with the soy milk and honey
Sprout the alfalfa to put in a sandwich with the rye bread
Mint tea sweetened with honey or stevia
Baked oatmeal with peanut butter to stand in for some of the oil
Smoothies with fruit & greens powder, prunes, juice, carob & peanut butter
Make bread with the yeast and flour
Gravy with the sunflower seeds to eat on rice
Meatless burgers with the oatmeal and walnuts
Tapioca pudding with soymilk and tapioca pearls
Carob cake with carob fudge frosting using a few of the items
Granola with the oatmeal, almonds, coconut and honey
Lemon water
Soup with lentils, onions, garlic and gari
Barbecue sauce (or a version of it) with the sun dried tomatoes
Cookies with flour, honey, oil and walnuts
Homemade seasoned salt to use in savory dishes
Marinade (using balsamic vinegar for lemon juice) for a bean salad or vegetables on the grill
Noodles with cheese sauce
Carrot dip
Lentil tacos with flour tortillas
Popcorn for a snack

That ought to get me started. Maybe I'll start marking my pantry items in the future with the dates purchased so I don't wait so long to use them next time! =) Tip: use up what you have before it gets too old to be good.

Now for that request... I need some tips on what to do when we have layovers in Frankfurt, Germany (7 hours long) and Washington D.C.- Dulles Airport (4 hours). Anyone know these specific airports? I'm not as worried about the DC one, since it won't be as long, but tips for there are still welcome.
Keep in mind I have a 10 year old son and a 2 year old daughter. I need some frugal tips for our entire trip and move. So please pass them along. =)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Brown Gravy (Gluten Free, Dairy Free)

We love a good gravy now and then for potatoes or as a replacement for "cream of" type soups in casseroles. A good vegan replacement for the dairy in this sauce comes from sunflower seeds, thickened with arrowroot. (Pictured below is brown gravy I made today with added oyster mushrooms.)

Brown Gravy

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds (no added oil or salt)

1/4 cup arrowroot

3 Tablespoons soy sauce* (I use Bragg's Liquid Aminos)

1 Tablespoon onion powder

4 cups additional water

Put all ingredients into blender except the additional water. Pour into a 3 quart (or larger) saucepan. Rinse out blender with the additional water, adding it to the saucepan with the rest of the ingredients. Lightly boil, while stirring (a whisk works well), about 10 minutes, until thick. If you want a thinner sauce, add more water.

Use as a gravy on potatoes, sauce for casseroles, with vegetables, over homemade baked fries, or on whole cooked grains.

Add mushrooms & extra water for a "cream of" mushroom soup.

*If you use this for a soup, you may want to use only 2 Tablespoons soy sauce at first, adjusting it to taste when ready to serve for more "salty" flavor.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Reader's Question About Ghana's Foods

A reader asked about food preservation and what the Ghanaian people eat in the "off" season...

Good question...actually here in the tropical climate, there really isn't an "off" season per se. There are only seasons for specific foods. There are fresh local foods all year around.

Right now, the avocados are getting too expensive to buy again, because they are almost totally out of season. But the lovely mango fruit are starting to get very large and cheaper because they are in season. Oh, so yummy too!

The idea of refrigeration, freezing or canning produce doesn't really happen here for the majority of people. Because many do not have electric or even the space to store home canned goods plays into this. There are some stores in Accra (capitol) where supplies can be procured to do things like freezing or canning, so it's not impossible. But really, those supplies are there generally because of the expats (foreigners living in Ghana) that would buy them to do such things.

What you might find however is preservation by ground storage, drying, smoking, salting or other similar method that does not involve electricity. That's how many of our own ancestors preserved food before such modern conveniences.

The seasonal question is still valid here however, because of the planting and harvesting of certain foods at different times of the year. That mostly applies to fruits and vegetables, but for beans and grains, those can be bought at the markets anytime of the year.

A couple of weeks back, I bought a fresh white yam. It was not from storage, but rather had just been harvested. I thought I'd like to try a fresh yam to see the difference, thinking that it would taste much better and richer, etc. than the stored ones I had been buying. Believe it or not, we did not prefer it. It didn't taste as good as the stored ones. I don't really know why, but maybe that "aged" flavor is just better.

Each seems to have its own season: cassava, plantain, white yam, corn (maize). When it's corn season, you'll notice people selling it grilled or boiled. Then another time, it will be the plantains that are cheap. It's like this all year around. The food places on the street will change what they sell based on the in season foods. Rice can be found all year around, but lately prices have been going up here, just like in other parts of the world.

If there are places to buy stews, the main vegetable will vary depending on the produce available. Even sit down restaurants may not have half their menu available because it all depends on the season.

They really do eat locally and in season here. It's cheaper and some people grow much of their own food, if they have any land to speak of. No yards here, but maybe corn or cassava growing.

I think that that is where its at for everyone concerned with food availability and prices. Grow your own. If that's not possible, then eat locally and in season.

Know your food and grow some too. Gardens are good for the whole family! I can't wait to start one myself next year after we settle back in the states again. Until then, I'll try to find some good farmer's markets to go to.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Poll #4 Results

Poll #4 was a fill in the blank - 16 people voted.

"I am more likely to change something I do because...

...I read something convincing" - 100% of the voters answered this selection.

Since those of you who answered the poll already value the use of the internet as a great research tool, I'm not surprised. Seeing something in print somehow makes a persuasive argument seem more timeless and therefore more convincing. Seeing is believing they say. Ah, "the power of the pen" does ring true.

May I be honest and truthful with my "pen" here on Vegan Footprints. I hope that reading this blog has helped you in some way. Maybe to learn about something you've wondered about or never knew before. Maybe you'll learn a new vegan recipe to prepare for your family.

I do appreciate all my readers, from 40 different countries! Wow! My thanks to everyone who has commented. It helps me see what you think about when you are reading. I'm glad to everyone who asks questions. Send me an email if the comment section isn't exactly what you are looking for at: vegan footprints at gmail dot com (no spaces - listed this way to avoid spam).

Thanks to all who voted. My next poll #5 is up, so vote today.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Making Tofu in an African Village

There is a woman who sells "soya" to us here in Ghana. We call them spicy tofu kebabs. She has been coming to our house to sell soya for a while now. I realized that I will miss her kebabs one day, so I asked her to show me how to make it myself. Although I don't have all the steps learned yet, I thought I would show you our family field trip to learn the art of making tofu - Ghana style.

(captions underneath each photo will explain the steps)

Here's the woman (with my daughter, Francesca, on her back) taking her soybeans, which have been soaking for 3 hours, out of one container and putting them in another.

She cleans, sorts, and drains them all at the same time this way.

Here we are walking to the grinder about 15 minutes away.

She carries them on her head to the grinder

(daughter on my back and son in the foreground to the left - photo taken by my husband).

The grinder with his machine. Up to the left you see the wires he touches together to start and stop the motor.

While the soybeans are getting ground, he adds water to make it go through easier. This is the first pass through. By the time it's finished it will have gone through about four times. She says this greatly depends on the grinder. Sometimes it only takes one time through.

The final product of the grinding process. The soybeans are now like a thick paste with added water.

Back at her house again, she has put them into her very large bowl. You can see better the consistency of the ground beans.

She stirs the ground soybeans with her hand as she adds water.

She fills it to the brim with water. The final amount shown here.

Close up (looks like a foamy "ocean," as my son put it).

One of her kettles she will use to squeeze out the milk from the bowl. She will eventually get two kettles full from this amount of soybeans.

She fills a large cotton sack with the ground soybean and water mixture, scooping it from the large bowl into the sack, on the edge of her kettle.

This next step proved to me how strong this woman is - here she squeezes the milk from the mixture through the fabric to get all the milk out.

She squeezes and squeezes, twists and squeezes some more...

...and when she can't get anymore from the soybean and water mix bowl, then she adds more water from another bowl to get even more out. I think I now know what the phrase "milking it for all it's worth" means now!

Her setup inside her house during this step. Front center is her original bowl of soybean and water mixture. She is squeezing the milk into her cooking kettle. The black bowl beside her holds more water to get more out of the sack. The smaller bowl diagonally opposite to her kettle is holding the dry pulp (okara) that is left after this step.

This step is time consuming. I liked getting photos of her hands at work.

Her kettle on the fire. She has a tripod type setup for support.

Another view.

She uses Epsom salts for the coagulant.

Mixing the coagulant with water.

Since putting the kettle on the fire, the milk has been cooking. During this entire time, we were asking questions and taking photos (I took over 100 total). Our children were playing in the courtyard that she shares with other close neighbors. My daughter here exploring. If you look closely, you can see in the background that she has a small version of her large kettle on a square brazier or cooker (uses charcoal). She has separated some milk out to make soy milk with it. All of this larger kettle and another will go into making the soybean curd (tofu). She makes this everyday for her family this way. She let us taste it - warm and sweetened with a little sugar - very delicious, like hot cocoa without the chocolate.

Her kettle has been cooking away for a while. Now it it is starting to foam up. This is what it looks like right before she adds the coagulant and water mixture.

She pours in the coagulant.

Another view.

One of the kettles that "settled down" after this step.

After about a minute on the fire after she adds the coagulant, a neighbor will help her take it off the fire. They use cloth threaded through the small handles and then carry it off careful not to touch the hot kettle.

Here the "meat" as she called it, rising to the top and the liquid is underneath. You can see it has pulled away from the sides of the kettle.

She scooped out one side to show how it looks (curds and whey).

Here are both kettles with another bowl waiting to help with the next step.

She scoops out some of the liquid to move it out of the way. She is putting it into the white bucket (pail) to the left in the photo.

The setup for this step. Similar to the squeezing out the milk earlier, she now is pressing the curds in another large cotton flour sack. This time it is for the final pressing of the tofu. She scoops from one kettle and then the other to combine them in her sack.

Auntie Akua hard at work.

Scooping some of the liquid from the bowl that has come through the sack.

She twists it closed.

She lets it rest a minute. It is very hot and steaming.

She is almost finished!

She presses more liquid out with a bowl so she won't burn her hands. That's a lot of tofu!

She positions it on her homemade press. The press is 2 cement blocks in the ground with a plastic tarp-like sack underneath the tofu. The tofu in a flour sack...

...a flat piece of wood on top to even out the weights she will place on top.

Placing two large stones on the flat piece of wood...

...and another to complete it.

The tofu will be pressed this way for two hours. From the start of the soak time for the soybeans until now it has been about 6 to 6 1/2 hours total.

Here my daughter plays with her youngest daughter in the courtyard.

Her family (with my daughter) with 4 of her 5 children in the doorway of her home. She provides for them as a single mother. Making tofu is what she does for a living.

I took all of the photos except the ones I'm in. My husband took this photo of us together. I felt a little like a journalist that day. Camera, pen and paper in hand taking notes. We really enjoyed it. She was very patient with us.

Later she brought me some of the finished tofu. I took photos of it for you to see the final outcome of her hard work. It is very firm and dense. Perfect for using in kebabs on the grill.

This is a photo of the "soya" as we buy it from her, ready made.

The steps you don't see are the preparation of the kebabs. She freezes the tofu, cubes it, then fries it in oil. She then skewers it and adds her seasoning. The seasoning consists of peanut powder (groundnut) from which the oil has been removed, roasted corn (maize) flour, and chili pepper and other seasonings from northern Ghana she tells us. She also adds small pieces of red onion between each piece of tofu. They are very good and spicy.

I hope you enjoyed the little tour. Makes me more thankful for those kebabs! =)

For great kitchen tips, visit Tammy's Recipes. Don't forget to vote in the newest poll.