Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Mid-winter meal

I made a very tasty vegan winter dinner for a visiting friend. We had a stew and avocado sandwiches on whole wheat bread. Here is the stew recipe, courtesy of my sister.

Red lentil and escarole stew

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 carrots, sliced in 1/4” rounds
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 c red lentils
4 c vegetable broth
6 c lightly packed escarole or green swiss chard, cut into small ribbons (about 1 bunch, leaves only)
1 large tomato, diced
2 tablespoons sherry or white wine
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary or thyme
black pepper

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, carrot and garlic; stir often until vegetables begin to brown (5-7 minutes).

Add red lentils and broth to the pan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat
and simmer, uncovered, until lentils are almost tender (about
10 minutes). Add escarole or chard and stir until wilted (about 3 min). Increase heat to high and bring stew to a boil. Add tomato, sherry or wine, and rosemary/thyme. Return to a boil, then turn off heat and add pepper.

You can never really escape Catholic school

I went to Catholic school for 5 years (starting in kindergarten) when we lived in upstate NY. My family is definitely not Catholic, but it was the most economical private school in an area where the public schools were not good. It was a pretty hippie Catholic school, the kind with guitar-playing nuns and "modern" hymns. Good times.

Anyway, I've decided to give up all sweets (except for small amounts of dark chocolate) for Lent. I don't remember the last time I gave anything up for Lent, because I'm usually unaware of when it begins and only have a 50% shot at guessing which month Easter falls in. However, this year I'm on the ball. I hope this will break my sugar craving cycle and help my hypoglycemic tendencies. I've read that hypoglycemia doesn't exist in the way we think; instead, it's withdrawal symptoms from a diet rich in sugar, fat, animal products, and salt. Sugar seems to be the major hurdle for me.

I've done OK so far, but I admit I had a few bites of a dessert at my parents' house, and an oatmeal cookie. I hope this blog will keep me honest from now on.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Umami heaven

Natural Health magazine may have atrocious covers, but it's a great read. I actually find myself taking notes when I read it. Last month's issue had a story on umami, the recently-discovered fifth type of taste. Umami is a savory, rich taste. Mushrooms, aged cheese, and balsamic vinegar are all umami-heavy. (By the way, is umami a band name? It should be.) The image above shows a world map of popular umami foods.

HS (my partner in vegan crime) and I made an umami-packed dinner that ranks as one of our most triumphant meals. It is not vegan, but I swear I'll make it vegan next time. Also, this contains more processed foods than I aim for, but I don't see a way around that.

Umami BLTs
(makes about 5 sandwiches)

1 loaf of whole-grain bread
Umamayo: whip in the food processor half a carton of silken tofu, a few tablespoons of blue cheese (substitute chipotles in adobo to make it vegan), 1 clove raw garlic, salt, pepper, and 1-1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar.
1 or 2 tomatoes
1 avocado, sliced
1 red onion, sliced
Leaf lettuce
1 package "Smart bacon" (fakin' bacon), pan-fried and blotted on paper towels.

Toast the bread and spread the umamayo on it. Layer the other ingredients and enjoy!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A reluctant vegan is born

This blog will chronicle my attempts at becoming 90% vegan. I am doing this for reasons most clearly explained in this book (and this one as well). I simply can no longer ignore the evidence that animal protein does not do a body good. Vanity is also at work: do I want to be healthy, slim, and have that gorgeous glow vegans have? Yes. Do I want to stop eating milk, eggs, and cheese? No, no, and hell no. I've already been a vegetarian since I was 16, so I don't have problems with giving up meat.

My solution so far has been to use dairy products and eggs as occasional condiments. I'll be posting recipes, thoughts, and dispatches from the daily struggle to avoid picking up pizza on my way home.