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.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Walking on the wild (grain) side

I am pretty unimaginative with my grains. Steady dates include brown rice, whole wheat pasta, flour of course, bulghur, and oatmeal. I know a few gluten-intolerant people, but I've always thought they were the only ones who ate the more exotic grains, like spelt. (Also, I'm not very interested in any food that can only be bought at Whole Foods, since it requires a special trip.) But my sister passed along the following recipe which is tasty and different. I've got some spelt flour now and who knows what grain madness will ensue next.

I found that spelt is "naturally high in fiber, and contains significantly more protein than wheat. Spelt is also higher in B complex vitamins, and both simple and complex carbohydrates. Another important benefit is that some gluten-sensitive people have been able to include spelt-based foods in their diets." (Link here.) Since the pancakes have scallions and regular flour in them, I didn't get a totally clear sense of the true flavor of spelt, but the pancakes were good and had a nice nutty flavor.

As an aside, I leave tomorrow for a short vacation in Guatemala. We'll see what the vegetarian/vegan offerings look like there. I'm bringing some Lara bars and mixed nuts just in case...

Recipe: Tofu & Bok Choi with Spelt-Scallion Pancakes
Pancakes (makes 4-5)
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
1/2 c. vegetable broth + 1/2 c. water
2/3 c. spelt flour
2/3 c. white or whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
6 thinly sliced green onions
Sesame or black sesame seeds

Whisk all ingredients except scallions together in a bowl. Heat a
small amount of veg. oil in 9 or 10" pan over med-hi heat. Pour 1/4 to 1/5 of
the batter into the pan, spreading it to cover the bottom of the pan.
Scatter scallions and sesame seeds over the top. When the top looks dry (about
2 mins), flip pancake and cook for 1-2 min on other side. Repeat with
remaining batter and onions. Keep warm while making tofu & bok choi.

8 oz firm tofu, rinsed, drained, & pressed, cut in bite-size pieces
8 oz baby bok choi, cut in bite-sized pieces
2 tablespoons veg broth
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil

Heat veg oil over medium heat. Add bok choi and cook, covered,
stirring once (about 5 min). Push to one side and add tofu & broth;
cover & cook for 4 mins. Meanwhile, stir together soy sauce, rice
vinegar, and sesame oil. Add soy sauce mixture to pan and heat
through. Serve with pancakes, tearing off pieces to pick up tofu-bok
choi mixture.

Monday, July 9, 2007

The Chicken and the Egg

Edited to add a picture of the eggs. Aren't they gorgeous? The blue ones come from Ameraucana hens.

Tomorrow I'm going to see a man about some eggs. As I've mentioned, a farmers' market comes to my office once a week. (My office contains over 5,000 people, so this is not as strange as it seems.) I'm not 100% vegan, but most of my lacto-ovo transgressions occur during the weekend. I love eggs for Sunday brunch and the energy they give me for the rest of the day.

One of the farmers at the market brings a limited amount of eggs to sell; you have to put your name on a list beforehand to have a chance at getting some. I'm first on the list this week but there is no guarantee of eggs. "The girls" (as the farmer calls the hens) can be cantankerous when the weather is hot. If they don't feel like laying eggs, no eggs will be sold. Obviously, these are truly free-range hens and they live something close to a natural chicken-life. I am an aspiring vegan for two reasons: health and animal welfare. I am willing to accept the health risk of 2 eggs a week. My talks with this farmer reassure me that the animals are well-treated. Other vegans reading this, would you buy eggs in this circumstance? Why or why not?

(Non-vegans are welcome to comment as well, of course. I'm not looking for support for my decision; I've already made it. Just curious about whether other people see a difference between buying eggs at the grocery store and buying eggs from the person who collected them.)

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Root Beer & Me

(No, that is not me. I was trying to photoshop Michael Moore in "Roger & Me" but since I don't have photoshop, it's been tough going and is one of the reasons I haven't posted in a while.)
The only sodas I'll drink these days are root beer and some kinds of ginger ale. I love the more expensive brands of root beer but drink them rarely, due to the high sugar content.

There are quite a few root beer resources on the Web:
--Root beer's history
--Root Beer World, a great site with reviews of hundreds of root beers
--Detailed directions for making root beer, which is quite an ambitious project

Not all root beers are vegan, since some contain honey. Here are brief reviews of root beers I have known.

Barq's: Decent flavor but overly carbonated. Root beer should not have big Coke-style bubbles. It should be more like an amber beer, with small, tingly bubbles. Also, I think root beer should be in a bottle, not a can.
Dominion: Nice carbonation and flavor. A tad too sweet. Contains honey.
IBC: Now this is root beer. Complex and good touch of wintergreen. Good availability as well.
Jones: Nice looking bottle, but disappointing taste and too much carbonation. See, the great root beers use a blend of herbs, extracts, & spices for their flavor. It's obvious that Jones is using pre-packaged "root beer extract" and no brewing is occurring.
Stewart's: I've had this but I can't accurately remember the flavor. Chime in if you've had it.
Virgil's: A masterpiece. It's usually pretty expensive, but it's obvious this root beer is handmade by someone who knows what they're doing. The anise is pronounced so you may not like it if you don't like licorice. Best of all, it's available in kegs!