Monday, December 31, 2007

I'm a dip

for not posting in so long. I've been with my family and HS' family over the holidays and, in general, I have been eating someone else's cooking rather than my own. I'm looking forward to getting back into the kitchen when I move into my new place this week!

HS and I are planning a simple New Year's Eve dinner of ravioli, salad, and berries for dessert. We'll start things off with this kickin' dip recipe, which will be served on brown rice crackers.

Green olive and artichoke tapenade
14-oz can of artichoke hearts, drained
1 cup chopped toasted walnuts
1 cup pitted green or Spanish olives
1 garlic clove, pressed or minced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel
4 teaspoons lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
black pepper to taste

Put the following in a food processor and mix for a few seconds: artichoke hearts, walnuts, olives, garlic, parsley, lemon peel. Scrape down the sides and add lemon juice and olive oil. Process for a few more seconds. You'll have a rough paste. Add black pepper to taste. Serve at room temperature with crackers.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Food for thought

I'll get back to blogging about food, rather than just about food-related issues, in a week or two. I moved last weekend and real estate transactions are on the horizon; I'm just a little superstitious about them until all's said and done. Those things, combined with not having a stove for nearly 3 weeks, and having a really bad bout of bronchitis, have made it hard to cook much.

This book is on my wish list. The author photographed 30 families from around the world surrounded by the food they ate during a week.

I found this contrast especially interesting.
1. Here is a family from North Carolina who spent $341.98 on food that week:

2. And a family from Chad who spent $1.23 on food that week:

Saturday, December 8, 2007

David Blaine: Visionary or Wacko?

(I started writing this post many days ago, hence the back-date.)

In keeping with the topic from my last post, I was intrigued by this news item about David Blaine's next stunt.

He plans to stay awake for at least 11.5 days. Standing up, even. Now, I've read about keeping people awake and on their feet for 36 hours plus: as a torture technique. How is DB going to come through with his faculties intact? It all comes down to diet.

"I'm on a raw diet that includes brown rice. No red meat. No animal products besides cooked fish...we already know dietary restriction is a retardation of aging and disease. When you overeat your body must work and it gets tired. If I eat medicinally, my body will be entire."

David Blaine: proof that a mostly-vegan diet gives you superpowers. (But is he going to eat that brown rice raw?)

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Tingle all over!

We caught a great documentary last night: Dr. Bronner's Magic Soapbox. It was part of a film festival; I don't know when/if it will come to theatres. I'd bought Dr. Bronner soap in the past and attempted to read the bottle, but I learned a lot from the documentary, namely:
--Dr. B was admitted to a mental hospital, underwent shock therapy, then escaped
--He basically abandoned his 3 children (they were raised in orphanages or foster homes) in order to work on "saving Spaceship Earth"
--He claims to be Einstein's nephew
--He called the FBI almost daily for months and his file was put in the "nut cabinet"
--He is Jewish and the original peppermint soap label is blue and white to match the Israeli flag
--Eldridge Cleaver is a fan
--His descendants run the company now and have capped the top salary at 5x the lowest salary
--The company was the first to use 100% post-consumer recycled plastic for their bottles
--The company is the U.S.' largest buyer of industrial hemp

Also, Dr. Bronner credited his longevity (he lived to be 89) in part to his diet. In one passage from the documentary, he talks about his magic food: raw avocado mixed with raw garlic, onion, and lemon juice. Sounds like a garlicky guacamole. I, on the other hand, am eagerly awaiting my new stove tomorrow and am sick of eating raw! Snow is expected for tomorrow and I'd just like to have a baked potato or bowl of pasta. Is that so wrong?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

A crock?

My stove died last Saturday. I've got a new one coming in 6 days. It's definitely strange not to be able to make, say, pasta, or stir-fries. I've been eating salads and frozen meals, mostly. I still have a microwave, toaster oven, and crock pot.

Does anyone have good vegetarian/vegan crock pot recipes? The ones I've found online by searching for "vegetarian crock pot recipes" are either shudder-inducing (Applesauce Sauerkraut), unclear on the concept (Vegetable and Beef stew) or just plain weird (Carrot Pudding, Turnip Custard).

I'm not sure if any good veg crockpot recipes exist besides bean and vegetable stews, but if you know some, please pass them along!

Friday, November 23, 2007

No Tofurkeys were harmed

for my Thanksgiving dinner.

I must have a mental block against taking pictures of my food, because it seems like I always forget these days. Above is a picture of the last slice of our Thanksgiving entree, a tofu-leek-mushroom pie with a whole wheat/cashew crust. Yum! It was tasty and very filling. The recipe is from The Voluptuous Vegan if you want to try it.

I neglected to take a picture of the other pie, a dessert cranberry/blueberry pie, and the leftovers are at my parents' house.

We also brought garlic dip, I mean, sundried tomato/white bean dip that contains a load of raw garlic, as well as a bottle of wine that I've been saving for a special occasion.

I'm glad we avoided getting a Tofurkey because they're pretty nasty from what I hear. Has anyone else tried them?

Today HS and I observed Buy Nothing Day. We were going to do it last year but couldn't pass up a going-out-of-business sale at a music store. Since we didn't do much today, it wasn't hard to Buy Nothing. However, I thought about going to the corner to buy the paper this morning, then realized I couldn't.

Here are some Buy Nothing Day-related links. I really want to see the movie What Would Jesus Buy. The trailer is here. It's Shopocalypse Now!

--NYT article
--The ad MTV found too sensitive to air (whaaat?)
--What Would Jesus Buy?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The RV recommends: A mall-free holiday

I abide by a personal rule not to go inside a shopping mall between Thanksgiving and Christmas. If I have to break it (not very often), I only go on a weekday. Mall culture gets to me at the best of times.

Here are 5 suggestions that don't require you to set foot inside a mall. (Oh, and don't forget about Buy Nothing Day, November 23/24, depending on your part of the world.)

1. A photograph from Equivoque's collection. I love her blue-tinted photos, which were taken with now-defunct Polaroid Time-Zero film. (The prints for sale are reprints from scans of those originals.) More Time-Zero photos can be found here.

2. Jewelry from Anne Holman's Etsy shop. Her many cool designs include custom antique map pendants, and you know how I feel about maps. The one pictured is the one she made for me, but you can ask for a custom pendant showing literally any location on earth. Vegans note that the cord is leather, but I'm sure she would have a vegan replacement.

3. Tea from Upton's. This store offers the highest-quality tea I've seen in North America. Their sample sizes are a great idea and allow you to try a bit of that special small-estate Darjeeling that's $30/bag. (Most of their teas are very reasonably priced, though!) They also have customer-submitted reviews of each tea and a detailed picture of each tea leaf.

4. A cosy knitted item from Heyday Fashion, such as this adorable toy

for the over-3-years kid in your life or this cute hat for a friend. (This hat is vegan but some of the other ones are made with wool.)

5. Don't forget charitable contributions. Seva will let you restore sight to one person in an underdeveloped country who is blind from cataracts. The cost of sight? $50.

(Oh, and if you want to send some of the best brownies in the world that are decidedly not vegan, go here. And I'm not saying this just because I've known the brownie-makers since I was 3!)

Monday, November 19, 2007


Sorry about the long absence. Holiday busy-ness and a cold put me out of the blogging mindset for a while.

Here's what's been going on with me lately:

1. We cooked a meal this weekend that was all vegan and consisted of
--Red lentil soup
--Roasted cauliflower and tomatoes
--Garlic bread on my homemade bread

This meal contained about an entire head of garlic so it should beat my cold into remission!

2. I'll do another entry about our Thanksgiving, but we plan to bring:
--White bean & sundried tomato dip
--A savory tart with leek filling and mushroom sauce
--Berry pie

3. This weekend, HS and I were talking about how both our workplaces forbid us from using the stairs. Elevators are the only option. I don't understand why this is--allegedly it's for security but that doesn't logically add up. Once you get through the front door, you have access to the whole building, it's not a floor-by-floor basis.

I don't think this policy was designed to thwart my fitness efforts, but it seems like employers are reluctant to do easy things which would promote better health and fitness among their employees. Maybe this is more prevalent in the US than abroad.

Have you noticed any fitness opportunities that could be available to you at work, but aren't? Or, does your employer offer fitness incentives and opportunities?

Friday, November 9, 2007

Sunflower: a love story

I was in Atlanta for business this week. At the end of the day on business trips, I generally just want to have a casual, simple dinner and watch cable TV from my bed, a treat for non-cabled me.

However, I'd been lured by the Cafe Sunflower website and promised myself that I'd try to make it out there. It took about an hour on a very chilly evening, but boy, was it ever worth it. The food is amazing and the atmosphere is warm and comfortable. I ate
--butternut squash soup
--peppercorn-crusted tempeh with grilled hearts of romaine and garlic-rosemary mashed potatoes.

I would have liked to try their vegan desserts but I was truly stuffed by that point. The flavors and presentation were exquisite. If I'd been able to go there twice, I would have tried the smoked seitan with BBQ sauce special entree.

You can try one of their recipes at home: this page includes a stuffed acorn squash entree recipe that I think would be great for Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Got chard?

My diet guru Dr. Fuhrman sings the praises of leafy greens of all types. Ideally, he says, you should have leafy greens at every meal. (For breakfast, he recommends a small amount of spinach in a fruit smoothie, in case you were wondering.)

Eating greens is a sizable hurdle for me. Most of the problem has to do with going grocery shopping once a week, cooking for one most of the time, and my utter revulsion for limp, floppy greens. In other words, when I make salads for a week's lunch, the lettuce/spinach/etc. is looking pretty limp by the end of the week, and (shudder) a salad of greens past their prime pretty much turns me off greens for a good while.

I can live with chard at the end of the week, though. I put chard in the veggie chili that I made this week. Because it is such a substantial green, it likes being cooked and retains a good tough chewiness when being microwaved several days later.

I've also had luck putting bok choy or napa cabbage in stir-fries.

Does anyone have green recipes or suggestions for me?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Stick-to-your-ribs muffins

I love muffins, but they usually contain a lot of white flour, sugar, and fat. Is it possible to bake a healthy muffin that's also tasty? I think so. I tried a recipe for muffins that contain barley, cashews, and sesame seeds. Barley is a whole grain and a fiber champ! 1/4 cup of dry barley has 8 grams of fiber. In these muffins, barley lends a good chewy texture. The muffins are indeed tasty, and make a filling breakfast or snack.

Next time I make these muffins, I'll add fruit--maybe cranberries, blueberries, or dried fruit. I've included the fruit in the recipe below. Keep in mind that you have to cook the barley before you can begin making the muffins.

Hearty Barley Muffins
1 cup white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons (packed) brown sugar
1-1/2 cups cooked barley
1/4 cup sesame seeds (I used a mix of white and black)
1/4 cup chopped cashews or other nuts
3/4 cup soymilk
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 egg replacer
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup fresh fruit, such as blueberries, or 1/4 cup dried fruit

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Mix the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and brown sugar together. Stir until mixed. Add the barley and use a fork to separate the grains and stir it in. Add the sesame seeds and cashews.

In a small bowl, combine the soymilk, maple syrup, egg replacer, oil, and vanilla. Stir together and add to the dry ingredients, along with the fruit. Mix until just moistened.

Pour into muffin cups. This makes about 10 muffins. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

Oh, and...Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Michael Pollan, American Hero

I hope that Michael Pollan is the one who will bring sense back to Americans' eating habits. He's doing a good job so far.

Five great Pollan moments:

1. His article in the NY Times magazine laid out a plan for successful eating in 7 words:

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. "Food" is defined as only those foodstuffs that your great-grandmother would recognize.

In the same article, he notes "Of course it’s also a lot easier to slap a health claim on a box of sugary cereal than on a potato or carrot, with the perverse result that the most healthful foods in the supermarket sit there quietly in the produce section, silent as stroke victims, while a few aisles over, the Cocoa Puffs and Lucky Charms are screaming about their newfound whole-grain goodness."

2. The guy actually grew his own yeast in order to make a self-produced meal in The Omnivore's Dilemma. (You might want to skip the part where he kills the wild boar, though.)

3. He smacks down Whole Foods for talking the talk but not walking the walk; specifically, for publicizing the importance of choosing local food while not offering their customers many local foods at all.

4. In an interview about his new book, he hits the nail on the head regarding our fast food nation:

"I think that there's some brainwashing going on with this idea that we don't have time to cook anymore. We have made cooking seem much more complicated than it is, and part of that comes from watching cooking shows on television -- we've turned cooking into a spectator sport."

5. He explains why the Congressional farm bill is so important, despite its low profile. Long story short, it encourages overproduction of crops such as corn and soy that become added sugars and fat in our lowest-priced foods and in the school cafeteria:

"The farm bill essentially treats our children as a human Disposall for all the unhealthful calories that the farm bill has encouraged American farmers to overproduce."

HS already has Pollan's new book on pre-order: we'll have to arm-wrestle to decide who gets to read it first.

Friday, October 19, 2007

End vegetable discrimination now!

I've been reading about a book by Jerry Seinfeld's wife that's on the bestseller list. It's called Deceptively Delicious and it's about how to disguise vegetables so that your kids will eat them without fussing. Most of the method involves pureeing vegetables and adding them to things like mac & cheese and cakes. So, the kids don't see the vegetables, they eat their favorite foods, they're healthy and the parents are happy.


HS reminded me that this seems a lot like the apples disguised as french fries story. Again I cry: why must we disguise fruits and vegetables so that people will eat them? And why is the book called Deceptively Delicious? Because if vegetables are starring as themselves, people could never think a dish was delicious?

I know kids are fussier than adults, but parents are probably the biggest influence on people's eating habits, even in adulthood. Jessica Seinfeld's kids will grow up in a rarefied social strata with personal chefs and trainers likely at their disposal. However, I imagine other kids whose parents were fans of this cookbook going to college and continuing to eat mac & cheese and cupcakes, only this time there is no cauliflower puree in the cheese sauce or beet puree in the cupcakes. They might never develop the habit of eating fruits and vegetables.

So, how do we help people, especially kids, increase their fruit/veggie intake and increase the allure of the naked vegetable? Here are a few ideas:
--Buy the best quality produce that you can. The difference in taste is amazing.
--Bring kids to "pick your own" farms every year.
--Provide fruit and carrot & celery sticks as after-school snacks.
--Try to introduce soups and stir-fries as comfort foods rather than white-carb-heavy foods.

Any thoughts?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Entering the season of sugar

With Halloween coming up, I know I'm going to encounter more sweets than usual over the next few months. However, I will prevail, armed with a high-fiber veggiecentric diet.

To make matters a bit worse, I've been put in charge of the Halloween charity bake sale at work. People go crazy for the bake sale, scarfing down chocolate cake at 9 am. My plan is to bring healthy, breakfast-suitable alternatives, such as these pumpkin muffins (and Monika, it's the recipe you've been waiting for!).

Pumpkin Oat Muffins

1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup white flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup rolled oats (old-fashioned style)
1 egg (or replace with 2 tablespoons flaxseed plus 1 tablespoon water)
1 egg white
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
3/4 cup soymilk
1/2 cup unsweetened pineapple juice
2 tablespoons oil
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup apricot preserves
1/2 cup chopped nuts (pecans are best)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, sift together the flours, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Whirl the oats in a blender or food processor until they reach the consistency of cornmeal and then add them to the flour mixture. In another bowl, lightly beat the egg and egg white together (or mix the flaxseed and water). Stir in the pumpkin puree, soymilk, pineapple juice, oil, and brown sugar. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until just combined.

Spoon the batter into muffin cups and dot the center of each muffin with a small spot of apricot preserves. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Yoga food

I found a great new source of recipes: the recipe section of Kripalu's website.

Kripalu is a yoga center in the Berkshire mountains in Massachusetts. I've been there twice. I actually prefer Yogaville, which is a lot closer to me, because Kripalu can (but certainly does not always) attract a lot of people who seem to have what I call the Yoga Journal lifestyle. That's where people become caught up in acquiring things like diamond OM necklaces and $500 meditation chairs, which is more than a bit ironic. I don't mean to malign Yoga Journal subscribers nor Kripalu fans. I enjoyed my time at Kripalu very much, I just think Yogaville is a little simpler and I prefer that style of yoga retreat.

One of the best things about going to either yoga retreat is that vegetarian/vegan food is varied, abundant, and I don't have to expend any effort to make it or clean up afterwards! Both places have good food, but Kripalu has the edge in food, I think. So I was very happy to see Kripalu recipes online.

I'm intrigued by the Brazil Nut Bars, and I think I could make a fine meal out of
maple ginger tofu,
pecan wild rice pilaf, some kind of vegetable (HS, want to chop some more broccoli?), and
cinnamon soymilk pudding. The temperature has recently dropped here and that sounds like a great fall meal, no?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Barbecue at the beach

We stayed in cozy little cottages on Cape Cod that were equipped with kitchens. I appreciated this as otherwise I would probably have ended up eating less healthy foods, and more cheese.

Our finest meal was undoubtedly barbecue tempeh with brown rice and broccoli. There is no actual BBQ grill involved, but there is one heckuva BBQ sauce. The recipe below is adapted from the "Barbecued Tempeh and Peppers" sandwich recipe in Moosewood Cooks at Home. I think it is better over brown rice than as a sandwich. My sister said, "There are a lot of bad tempeh recipes. This is a good tempeh recipe."

Barbecued Tempeh and Peppers
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups of chopped onions
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 red bell peppers, in bite-size slices
2 packages of tempeh (about 1 pound total)
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground fennel
A few shakes of hot sauce or a diced jalapeno

3 tablespoons soy sauce
1/3 cup tomato paste
2 tablespoons brown sugar or molasses
1 1/3 cups water

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and saute the onions for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and red peppers (and jalapeno if using that instead of hot sauce). Continue to cook for about 5 minutes longer. Cube the tempeh, add it to the pan, and saute for about 5 minutes. If necessary, add a bit more oil to prevent sticking. While the tempeh browns, mix together the sauce ingredients in a small bowl and set aside. Add the coriander and fennel to the saucepan and cook for a minute. Add the sauce and simmer for about 5 minutes. Add hot sauce if using, and more salt to taste. Serve over brown rice.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Loaves of glory

I'm excited to have successfully made bread today. The active part of the bread-making was about 15 minutes--perfect for my work-at-home day.

My sister gave me this recipe when I last saw her. I like it because it is packed with whole grains, but has an un-doorstop-like consistency. She makes it regularly and I would like to as well. There is NOTHING like the smell and taste of warm, fresh bread, don't you agree?

Here is the loaf sliced:

and here it is as my lunch, with black olive spread, avocado, and sprouts:

Finally, here is the recipe. It contains 2 eggs and I am not sure how to substitute for them (flaxseed?). The first time, I wanted to make the recipe as written.

7-grain whole wheat bread
1 cup 7 grain hot cereal (I used Bob's red mill)
1- 1/2 cups boiling water
2 packages or 4 teaspoons dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (when you pour it on your wrist, it should feel neither hot nor cold)
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 cup honey, plus an extra spoonful
2 teaspoons salt
2 eggs, beaten
3 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups white flour

Pour boiling water over 7 grain cereal in a large mixing bowl and add the salt. Wait 30 minutes while the cereal cools to lukewarm. In the meantime, dissolve the yeast in the warm water and add the extra spoonful of honey. Stir and then wait for the yeast to foam a little. When the cereal is lukewarm, add yeast and all remaining ingredients except for the white flour. Beat vigorously by hand or with a mixer for 2 minutes. Work in the remaining flour. Separate the dough into 2 equal parts. Knead each part thoroughly and place in a greased loaf pan (i.e. you will have 2 loaves).

Cover the loaves with a clean towel, place in a warm place, and let rise until about double in size (this takes about an hour). Preheat oven to 350. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Something old, something new

As promised, I am back. I spent a few days in a beach cottage with my better half--a welcome break after the workathon to get my condo ready to sell. There was no internet access and that was probably a good thing!

I'll post a writeup of one of our beachy meals once I find the camera USB cord. (A side effect of clearing all the clutter from my condo is that now I can't find anything.)

In the meantime, I thought I'd do something different and pass along some music recommendations. I've been listening to some older music lately and found that these have stood the test of time:

--Remember this dance? Actually, HS and I saw MC Hammer perform a few short weeks ago. For free! He brought it, that's for sure.
--A new wave classic
--There will always be a special place in my heart for britpop.

I also wanted to share the video pictured because I am massively impressed with the Pipettes' debut. It's just too bad that the CD didn't come out during the summer, since it could have been the record of summer '07 for me.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

I'll be back!

I'm still alive, just working every waking minute to get my condo ready for sale. Entries will be sparse for the next week or two, but I'll be back!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Tidbits from Texas

I'm on the road again, in a state (Texas) not known for its vegan-friendliness, and a city (Houston) not known for its global warming consciousness. I had booked a mid-size car at the airport, but they said they didn't have any in stock, and tried to give me a Dodge Caravan (minivan). When I said no, I had to wait for 10 minutes and was told I'd been given a free upgrade to an SUV. At that point, I just didn't care and went out to get the car. It turned out to be a Dodge Durango, with a handy MPG calculator built in. The highest MPG I saw was 13.3 and the lowest was 12.5! Even worse, the mid-size car I'd requested was in the space next to the Durango.

I ate pretty well during my time in Houston, surprisingly. I went to good Vietnamese, Thai, and Mexican places. The lunches supplied at the event I was attending were a grilled vegetable sandwich on wheat bread with no cheese, and then a very nice salad wrap that had beans, corn, and a tiny bit of parmesan.

So, being in Texas wasn't so bad. Today I had a conversation with someone about a very intriguing event: the Sweetwater Rattlesnake Roundup. It contains elements of rodeo, state fair, pageant. Now, I'd want to have at least one time zone between me and "over 123 tons of Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes," but apparently it's quite popular. It would be a nice community event, if it didn't involve killing so many animals.

I also visited the Lucy exhibit. I have very mixed feelings about Lucy being put on display, especially since only a replica was displayed in her native country. But I couldn't miss the chance to see her, and the exhibit had some great artifacts from Ethiopia as well. After 3.2 million years, Lucy still has some teeth--so why is it that we can rot our teeth in a decade or two from eating too much sugar?

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Where is my mind?

I had friends over for dinner last night. Our dinner was entirely vegan and I think it turned out very well. However, I totally forgot to take a picture of the feast and by the time I remembered, all that was left was about a cup of rice pilaf. As the Pixies said, where is my mind?

Here is what we had:

Portabello mushrooms stuffed with a mixture of tofu, carrots, onions, red peppers, bread crumbs, walnuts, and seasonings including tahini and miso. These puppies are good! They make a great Thanksgiving entree.

Wild and brown rice pilaf

Steamed broccoli

For dessert: soy ice cream with homemade blueberry peach sauce on top.

It was a great evening.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Quick soups--what more could you ask for?

Soup has turned out to be the best way for me to increase my veggie intake. I also like stir-fries, but a 3 minute (microwave) preparation time for soup is better for me at dinner than a 10-15 minute stir-fry time.

One of the many reasons I love the Simple Suppers cookbook is because there's a section on soups whose total preparation time is in the 15-20 minute range. This week's winner is Curried Cauliflower and Chickpea soup. It doesn't look too good in photographs, but it tastes great, especially considering how healthy it is. In fact, cauliflower even has a special website singing its praises, with a section about "cauliflower ear!"

Curried Cauliflower and Chickpea Soup (adapted from Simple Suppers):
1 1/2 cups chopped onions
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 1/2 tablespoons grated peeled ginger root
1 tablespoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
15 oz can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
3 cups water
1 small head of cauliflower (yields about 4 cups of chopped cauliflower
15 oz can of diced tomatoes
Your favorite chutney

In a soup pot on medium heat, cook the onions in the oil for a few minutes. Add the ginger, curry powder, and salt, and saute for a minute, stirring constantly. Add the chickpeas and the water, cover, and bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, cut the cauliflower into bite-sized pieces. When the water boils, stir in the cauliflower and tomatoes, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the cauliflower is tender (5-10 minutes).

When the cauliflower is tender, remove the pot from the heat. Puree about half of the soup in a blender and stir it back into the pot. Top each bowl of soup with a spoonful of chutney.

Monday, September 17, 2007


Tropical Theresa tagged me for a meme. Here it is:

Players must list one fact, word, or tidbit that is somehow relevant to their life for each letter of your first or middle name.

When you are tagged you need to write your own post containing your first or middle name game facts, word, or tidbit.

Doing my middle name (Robinson) would be a bit of an undertaking, so I'll do Amy.

A is for Activist. Injustice bothers me mightily, and I hope that never changes. The biggest mystery that I contemplate isn't about God, it's about why I can order shoes online from my comfy sofa while so many good people are sleeping on a dirt floor trying to ward off malnutrition or malaria. My 2 years as a Peace Corps volunteer in a country with a per capita income of $129 per year helped form this viewpoint, of course.

I'm especially proud of my parents here, who were great activist role models. In fact, my dad went on the anti-war protest march here this past weekend. (I was out of town.) At the march, a guy approached him and said he works for the Smithsonian and would like to add my dad's protest sign to their protest art collection! Apparently it has a drawing of Bush about to be crushed by a tree he's just cut down. The caption is Bush saying "I don't cut and run." Yay Dad!

M is for Maps. Don't ever come with me to an antique map store unless you have a few hours to spare. I can stare at old or modern maps for hours, fascinated by the way people used to perceive the world, or plotting imaginary journeys. I'm a geographer and I think I chose the right profession! I can't wait to design the map of our wedding site to put in the invitations. I am going to put sea monsters on it! Sea monsters really need to make a comeback in the mapping world.

Y is for Young-at-heart. I still enjoy going out--to concerts, parties, obscure movies, and events around town. My daily schedule usually leaves me pretty tired on the weekend, but I don't think I ever want to "settle down" if it means making every Saturday a Blockbuster night. Call me naive, but I think I can keep this up indefinitely.

This meme has been around for a while now, but any readers are welcome to try it!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

You want apples with that?

I foresee problems for the current generation of children. Apart from dealing with the effects of global warming and other man-made disasters, they will grow up being confused about the difference between a french fry and an apple.

The blame will rest with Burger King, which is

"developing what it calls BK Fresh Apple Fries. The red apples are cut to resemble french fries and are served in the same containers as fries, but they are not fried and are served skinless and cold."

This is part of Burger King's plan to create healthier kids' meals. The meals will contain items such as broiled chicken and low-fat milk. It is not clear to me whether the apple fries are destined for kids' meals only or as a regular menu item. In order to prevent the apples from turning brown, BK will treat the apples with a "pre-wash that contains lemon to keep them from turning brown." (I'd like to know what else the pre-wash contains.)

What is wrong with our culture when we can't feed people fruit without disguising it as junk food?

Kudos to Miriam Pappo, a clinical nutrition manager, who says "It's a good trend. The actual ultimate solution is still to eat less fast food."

A related but older article about the fight against fast food can be found here. It details how the head of the Cleveland Clinic attempted to kick fast food chains out of the clinic food court.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Reluctant Vegan recommends

This is the first in an infrequent series of things (vegan or not) that I like and recommend.

The RV recommends: Saying "I understand."

I'm not gonna get all pop-psychology here, but it's amazing what saying this phrase can do. It tends to bring out the best in people.

The cashier can't give you a refund because you don't have your receipt? You understand. (And you'd be surprised how often rules can be bent.)

Someone is upset with you? You understand. Watch the situation start to get better from that point.

My UPS man wouldn't leave packages at my door because of the risk of theft. It was a major inconvenience because the UPS pickup location is 30 minutes away, but the next time I saw him in person, I said I understood. Since then, he's left packages on my balcony without being asked to.

It's important to be sincere, and not to say "I understand" in the hopes of the other person giving you what you want.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Happy vegan-versary to me

Is that a cute cake or what?

It was a year ago that I read a few books (this one and this one) that convinced me, against my will, I should try to go vegan.

When I became a vegetarian, I took about a year to fully transition (between the ages of 16 and 17). After that year had passed, my vegetarianism was pretty entrenched until I started eating fish on rare occasions again when I was about 28.

It has not been as easy to go vegan. First of all, I freely admit I don't want to be 100% vegan. My goal is to limit animal products to 2 meals a week, which is 10% of my meals. I deeply admire people who are 100% vegan in diet and lifestyle. I also know myself well enough to know that if I am too restrictive in my diet, I can rebound by losing control (I'm not talking true binge eating, just something on the order of a large piece of cake or several slices of pizza). If there is a time that I can kiss cheese, tangy, rich, satisfying cheese, good-bye forever, that time has not yet come. My 2 dairy meals a week are a concession to this realization.

The problem has been that I've done a lot of traveling and socializing this summer. (Since late May, Montreal, NYC, San Diego, Guatemala, and Oklahoma City, each for about a week.) Some places have posed a real challenge to eat vegan. But in others, I let myself be lax because I'm away from home and can't prepare my own food, or because the most tempting thing on the menu is vegetarian but not vegan.

I also just cannot stomach soy cheese. Long-time vegans, do you really like soy cheese? It reminds me of eating fish in a restaurant with one of HS's friends who is a meat eater. I remarked that the fish really tasted like chicken. He took a bite and said that I just thought that because I hadn't eaten chicken in so long. I mean, do you really think soy cheese tastes like dairy cheese?

During the second year of my reluctant vegan-hood, I'd like to stick hard and fast to the 2 dairy meals a week rule. I know there are plenty of vegans who travel a lot, or who live in an unfriendly state and stick to it. I'm also going to re-read Eat to Live to boost my motivation.

As a side note, I think we have found a place that will provide vegan food--really good vegan food--for our wedding!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

An ethical dilemma

I am not proud of this picture, which shows the contents of my kitchen and pantry. I have so much kitchen stuff. You see why I was talking about simplifying a few posts back!

Why has my kitchen relocated to my guest room futon? I've had roaches for a few months and it's really been wearing me down. There's nothing like walking in the door at 8:00 (the time I get home if I work out) and dealing with roaches on the floor and counter. Hence my dilemma. I believe in animal rights but I don't consider roaches animals. Still, I dislike killing things and a roach bloodbath lowers my spirits. What does an aspiring vegan with a roach problem do?

Reader, I chose annihilation. Yesterday I bought a $500 roach extermination package which includes an initial sweep, a follow-up visit, and monthly visits for a year. I almost consider that cheap for my peace of mind. Before the first "treatment," I had to clean out my entire kitchen so the exterminator could access the deepest crevices of my cabinets. It took over an hour to move everything out, and that was even with the help of HS and my future mother-in-law (thanks, guys!).

Animal-rights-inclined readers, what do you do when you have an insect infestation?

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Back to soups

Sorry about the leisurely pace of my blogging lately. The holiday weekend flew by as HS and I were wined and dined by his visiting family. The dust has settled and I've found a bit of time to cook.

Since Labor Day is traditionally the end of summer, I decided to make a soup. This one is adapted from the Moosewood Restaurant Simple Suppers. It's unusual, nutritious, and filling. I think the challenge with squash soups is to make one that doesn't remind you of baby food. This one definitely succeeds by that measure.

Thai Butternut Squash Soup
1 cup light coconut milk
1 teaspoon Thai red curry paste
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups vegetable broth
24 oz of frozen cooked winter squash (I found this in the second grocery store I tried. You could peel and cut your own fresh winter squash but it will take a lot longer)
1 lime
3 cups fresh baby spinach
Chopped fresh cilantro

Pan-friend tofu:
1/2 cake firm tofu (or the extra-firm kind that is already cubed, if you have that)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon red curry paste
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1 can of corn, rinsed and drained

In a soup pot, stir together the coco milk, sugar, curry paste, salt, and broth. Add the frozen squash, cover, and bring to a simmer. Cook about 15 minutes. (If you are using fresh squash, cook longer until it is very tender.)

Meanwhile, prepare the pan-fried tofu. Place the soy sauce and curry paste in a bowl and mix together. Add the cubed tofu and stir to coat. Warm the vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the marinated tofu and pan-fry for about 5 minutes.

When the soup is done simmering, let it cool a bit and then puree it in batches in a blender. Return it to the pot and add the juice and grated peel of the lime. Stir in the tofu, corn, and spinach and warm the soup over medium-low heat until the spinach has wilted. Serve topped with cilantro.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Everything's gone green

Hot Slice and I decided my dowry was finally big enough* to get engaged. We officially became engaged a few weeks ago. I try to keep my personal life out of this blog, but suffice to say that I've been accused of being radiantly happy more than once lately.

It was a priority for us to wear rings that had a low impact on the environment. Mining is incredibly destructive environmentally, not to mention the questionable labor practices for the workers. We found three companies that use recycled gold and either fair-trade or synthetic gems:

Leber Jeweler
Brilliant Earth

We decided to purchase our rings from Brilliant Earth. Shown above are my sapphire engagement ring and HS' engagement/wedding band (he is already wearing it). We were very happy with Brilliant Earth's service and the quality of the rings. My sapphire is more sparkly in real life than in the picture. I knew I didn't want a diamond and so I was happy to see the wide variety of non-diamond engagement rings available.

I hope that the "green" jewelry industry grows, because researching mining has been a real eye-opener for me.

*Just kidding, of course. I still need to add 5 cattle to it.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007


My dinner is pictured above. It has probably been my dinner on 50% of the nights I've been home: vegetables and tempeh or tofu stir-fried with low-sodium tamari sauce and a few squirts of Ginger Jerk sauce. I'd like to serve it over rice but I'm trying hard to limit starches to lunch only. I make a large portion of the stirfry (it's pictured in a bowl that you'd serve a large salad in, or chips...mmm, chips...) and it's definitely filling.

I don't really get tired of the endless procession of stirfrys. They don't take long to prepare, they're hot and fresh tasting, and they are obviously packed with nutrients and fiber.

I feel like since I've started going semi-vegan and overhauling my diet, my attitude towards non-food things has changed as well. I've been thinking about all the stuff in my condo and the amount of time I spend shopping for stuff, carting it home, and returning it when it isn't right. Apart from the money, I resent stuff taking up my time. I've definitely made some major purchases in the past months, like a new bed, but I haven't been making as many minor purchases or shopping recreationally as much.

I do buy into the idea of voluntary simplicity, and consider myself very lucky that I can choose not to buy things; in other words, that I have the means to buy them if I wanted. I realize that I cherish one or two special objects more than if I buy the same object several times. For example, I really love the three antique map prints that I have. If my condo was bedecked with them, each one wouldn't be as special to me. In practice, I'm finding that buying a new shirt or pair of shoes doesn't perk me up as much as it used to. I consider this a good thing.

I've been doing some reading on materialism & spending, and the following have been good resources:

The Overspent American
Your Money or Your Life
Nickel and Dimed (not about simplicity but it made me realize how ridiculously much I have)

I'm curious to know if other vegans have found themselves rejecting stuff while changing their diets. Non-vegans, please also chime in about any voluntary simplicity changes you may have made.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Out of my element

I spent last week in Oklahoma City taking a training course. I don't think I generally move in rarefied circles, but OKC posed a challenge to stay vegan, let alone vegetarian.
--I could see several steakhouses from my hotel window. The best-named was the Rib Crib.
--As I walked into the training room after a break, the instructor asked me, "You ever hunt rabbit?"
--The only vegetarian meal you could get in the airport was...salad and french fries. Is that a meal? No? Well, how about a cinnamon bun, then? That's as close as you are going to get. Luckily I had packed several Larabars.
--The local Wendy's had a sign out front that said "Order the Baconator before it orders you." (Hot Slice's response: "Orders you a triple bypass!") And no, there was no vegan alternative called the BaconNOTer or the Fakin'ator.

I even checked for inspiration on where to eat. There are 4 listings: 3 Indian restaurants and a coffeehouse.

I ended up eating at a good Mexican restaurant, Panera, and an all-you-can-eat Chinese buffet. The last was the most vegan-friendly, though Panera makes some good vegan soups. I ended up eating cheese more than I wanted to, which always seems to happen when I'm travelling.

I'm happy to be back in my Baconator-free kitchen.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The company you keep

Many of you have probably read the results of the study that found people tend to have similar weight ranges(fat, thin) as their friends and family. This is not a big surprise and I've witnessed it in many circumstances myself. For example, one branch of my family is all overweight and food is the center of any social activity. The fact is, it is really hard to resist junk food or too much food when you are hanging out with unhealthy eaters or overeaters. That is one of the more minor reason why I am happy to be with Hot Slice. He is very dedicated to a healthy diet and lifestyle and I know it's good for my health to be around him.

When I was growing up, my parents were pretty alternative in food choices. They weren't vegetarians--I'm still the only one in my family who is. However, they joined a food co-op, only let me drink the aforementioned 100% juice, and even made my teething biscuits from scratch because the commercial brand had too much sugar.

Here's a list of the good and bad food habits my parents instilled in me.

--taught me to cook at a very early age
--almost never had processed foods around
--limited my sweet consumption
--got me in the habit of bringing my lunch (much cheaper, and almost always lower in calories and fat)
--never had soda around, so I never developed a taste for it
--not directly a food habit, but taught me the joys of exercising, even if it was just a walk

--as I got older, I noticed that Mom saw junk food as a reward. I still see it as a "treat" and that has been a very hard habit to break. Our special nights when Dad was travelling always involved a bag of cheese puffs or other unhealthy food
--encouraged me to drink milk, a habit I only recently broke
--that is really all the bad stuff. I am lucky!

I'm curious to hear the good and bad food habits that were a part of your upbringing.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Not so juicy

Sorry my blogging has been sparse recently. Hot Slice and I went to the beach for a few days, and I'm off on a business trip all next week. In between, I have a good friend coming to visit on her way to Central America for 2 years!

I had a traumatic experience last week, when I was trapped on a jam-packed elevator for 20 minutes. I am somewhat claustrophobic, and it took all my yoga training to stay calm. Anyway, that brought to mind another bad experience which falls under the category of Packaged Food Horror Stories.

Perhaps it's a mistake to share this, and I will lose my 2 or 3 regular readers. You have been warned.

My parents only bought me real (100%) fruit juices when I was growing up. One of the easiest to find was Juicy Juice. I remember being at my grandmother's house and drinking a glass of grape Juicy Juice. I felt something strange in my mouth, which I spit out. It was...a dead cockroach. Of course I'll never go near Juicy Juice again, and I was surprised to find it's still available.

I'll bet you have some Packaged Food Horror Stories. Care to share them?

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Some days I feel like Sisyphus

struggling under a huge boulder of nutrition misinformation.

Our free daily, the Express, published an article today on how men can stay healthy. It's excerpted from Men's Health. HS subscribes to Men's Health and has taught me many things from it, but this article is dismaying, to say the least.

Two of its tips are to eat meat and to eat more dairy!

It says that substituting lean red meat for white starchy carbs can lead to a small drop in blood pressure. Details of the study are not given, but since study after study has shown that a diet high in animal fat and animal products raises heart disease risk (of which blood pressure is one indicator), I have my suspicions about this study. I think it can be explained by the fact that high-carb diets lead to high blood pressure, and the body is reacting to the subtraction of unhealthy white-flour carbs, which contain no fiber and which the body digests as sugar. To suggest that white carbs be replaced with meat is going from worse to bad. I mean, you could probably substitute a venti mocha for white carbs and see the same small drop in blood pressure.

With regards to dairy, the article says that consuming 3 or more servings of dairy a day can decrease the risk of heart disease. Since blood pressure is related to heart disease, many of the things above apply here. But I'd like to give a bit of detail from a study conducted by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn in 1985. Eighteen volunteers with severe heart disease agreed to follow a diet that was very low-fat and which omitted almost all animal products. (Five years into the study, Dr. Esselstyn cut out animal products entirely.)

Before the study, the 18 volunteers had had 49 "coronary events" among them. In the first eleven years of the study, only one coronary event occurred--and that happened to someone who went off the diet for two years! Also, 70% of the subjects experienced their arteries un-clogging and re-opening.

I don't know if there's much more to say here, except that
--the false claims of the dairy industry are really pissing me off,
--people don't want to hear the simple truth, which is: stop eating sugar, refined carbs, and animal products, and start eating more fruits, veggies, and whole grains!

Friday, August 3, 2007


I've had the book Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen for a few months, but I just cracked it open this week. (I think the name looks better with an umlaut, don't you? Groo-ooob.)

This book relates closely to thoughts I've had recently. Since I've embarked on my semi-vegan adventure, I've been trying to stay away from super-processed vegan (or any other) foods. In other words, instead of using soy cheese that has 20 ingredients listed, I'm trying to lose my cheese habit altogether. And instead of bingeing on vegan sweets, I'm trying to eat just dark chocolate and one dessert on the weekend. Progress on this is very slow sometimes, with lots of relapses. But generally 75% of the things in my grocery cart are produce or unprocessed foods like beans.

The picture shows the current state of my fruit bowl, which is packed with peaches, tomatoes, garlic, and lemons. This is one of the reasons that I love summer. Peaches this year are fantastic and I've been eating at least one a day.

The authors define Grub as "real food" that is organically and sustainably raised, and which is good for the body, the community, and the environment.

The foreword to Grub is written by Eric Schlosser, who expressed some of my ideas better than I can:

"[People] may worry about calories and carbs, and yet miss the real point. What we eat has changed more during the past thirty years than in the previous thirty thousand. Trans fats, genetically engineered soybeans, livestock pumped with growth hormones and fed slaughterhouse waste, Chicken McNuggets--nobody's ever eaten this stuff before. We've become a nation of guinea pigs, the subjects in a vast scientific experiment, waiting to see what happens when human beings eat too much industrialized food."

More about "grub" as I progress further in the book. What do you think about the value of processed foods?

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Living it up in Guatemala

It's a little late, but I'm finally getting around to posting about my vegan adventures in Guatemala. As I've said below, I loved the place and hope to return. The picture above shows one of the most charming places in Antigua, Guatemala. It's an old-fashioned dolce shop. (I think it's called Dona Maria.) Gorgeous little cookies and pastries are sold by women in immaculate white costumes. The sweets in the display cases are the only things for sale; the rest is just bric-a-brac.

I didn't follow a completely vegan diet there, but it was quite easy to find vegan food almost everywhere. Our hotel in Antigua had a yummy breakfast consisting of a fruit plate and a basket of warm bread:

We went on a hike up the Pacaya volcano. After several hours of somewhat difficult hiking, our guide produced from his backpack a whole pineapple and supplies for pita sandwiches with beans, avocado, tomatoes, onions, red peppers, and cucumbers. Here are members of our group enjoying lunch in the rain:

The afternoon we arrived at our second destination, Lake Atitlan, I was felled by a bad sandwich. The next day, when my appetite had returned, we went to the Bombay cafe. The food was tasty but the service was pretty slow. However, their homemade ginger ale was just what the doctor ordered:

I followed it with another pita sandwich, this one stuffed with marinated tofu, spinach, and peanut sauce.

One day, we went to a huge market day in Solola, a small-ish town in the hills above Lake Atitlan. Among the thousands of items for sale were these roosters. Let's hope they were purchased by a vegan (yeah, right!).

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Eight random facts

Kate tagged me with a meme. I'm supposed to list 8 unusual facts about myself. Here ya go!

1. The food I dislike most in the world is pickles. Second place is a close race between mustard and ketchup.
2. I have never had cable TV in any place I've lived (and plan to keep it that way).
3. I was a Nielsen household for a year.
4. One of my baby teeth is exhibited at a dental school somewhere. I had a siamese twin-tooth.
5. The closest I've come to being arrested was for the offense of urinating in public (behind a palm tree in Africa; I was probably the 20th person that day to use the tree as a rest stop).
6. I've been about 50 feet away from an avalanche.
7. I cannot stand still while brushing my teeth. This has led to me inadvertently dropping my toothbrush in a toilet (yes, I threw it out).
8. I narrowly avoided running over Martha Stewart's dogs with my car a few years ago. They weren't on a leash!

Flowers courtesy of Hot Slice.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

...And some have veganism thrust upon them

This is my favorite picture from my recent Guatemala trip. It was taken by my lovely and talented travelling companion, Kate. Someone's having guacamole for dinner!

Guatemala exceeded my expectations. The land is beautiful, the people are gracious, and the climate was perfect in the highlands (except for intermittent rain). The only blemish is the food poisoning I got on our 3rd night. I was definitely not feeling chipper for a few days and I still have to eat cautiously (6 days later).

I've spent a lot of time in undeveloped countries and am well used to food-related sickness. My usual way of dealing is to eat nothing (just drink liquids) for a day or two. That usually kills off the bad guys and when I resume eating, I'm OK. I only fasted for half a day in Guatemala because I wanted to stick to our scheduled activities. I've found that (as is usually the case for me) dairy is the worst thing for my digestive tract while I'm recovering. So that has been added incentive to eat vegan, and hopefully this will continue even after I'm back to 100%.

It was quite easy to eat vegan in the Guatemalan towns we visited. My next entry will give a full rundown.