Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Okinawa Diet

I read an interview recently (can't remember where, unfortunately) where someone said we were due for another fad diet. I say we need another fad diet like a fish needs a bicycle. But what do you think it would be? Drink 10 cups of coffee a day to rev up your metabolism? Starbucks could sponsor it.

I like the Okinawa Diet because it seems to be a common-sense approach. It recommends low-fat, high-fiber foods, lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and not refined grains, and no liquids besides water and green tea. Who can argue with that? It includes animal protein, but limits the amounts very strictly, except for some fish. I think one thing that's missing is a cap on the amount of sodium. I often notice that low or reduced-fat foods are much saltier than their full-fat counterparts. And soups, one of my mainstays, can be loaded with sodium if you're not careful.

But overall, the RV gives a thumbs-up to the Okinawa Diet. This seems like a good place to share one of my favorite travel stories. I was in Japan at an onsen (hot spring). This particular hot spring was similar to a public pool. The hot spring water was piped indoors and there were separate pools for men and women, because you take the waters without a stitch on. I was in the women's section, and my male friend Jamie, a fluent Japanese speaker, was in the men's section. I found myself completely unable to make conversation with the friendly Japanese women in the tub with me. I just smiled and nodded at them. Then one of them pinched the flab around her waist, the universal "I'm so fat" gesture. I started laughing and the women and I all completely cracked up. No translation needed there!

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Two-handed blogging

Just putting the word out there that this is not my only blog. Check out my other effort here and come Fu-Schnicken with My! Gay! Husband!.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

But what do you eat?

My goal is to eat a mostly vegan diet with a minimum of the following: processed foods, refined grains, sugar, salt, and caffeine. Basically, I am trying to eat like a diabetic heart patient in the hopes that I will never become either.

I thought it might be useful to log what I'm eating today. Although my diet may sound boring, I never feel it is.

Breakfast: large bowl of fruit salad (bananas, apples, mandarin oranges), handful of mixed nuts.

Lunch: Sandwich on Ezekiel sprouted grain bread (great stuff; click on the link for the satire I pulled the picture from), containing avocado, homemade hummus, sprouts, red onion, and tomato. Carrot sticks.

Snack: Handful of multigrain chips.

Dinner: Red pepper/tomato/corn soup, green salad, maybe a homemade multigrain biscuit.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Is Lent over yet?

Come on, Jesus, why did it have to take you 40 days to rise from the dead? Couldn't you have accomplished it earlier, being the Son of God and all that?

Just kidding, people. No need to send me to the Kids on Fire summer camp for remedial religious tutoring.(And what's with the kid in the banner picture at the top of that page? Does he have stigmata on his face?)

I've heard it on good authority that when you give up something for Lent, you're allowed to indulge in it on Sundays. By that measure, I've been pretty successful at my no sweets except dark chocolate plan. But I had dessert two days in a row this weekend. Both were very good (homemade brownies with soy ice cream, and then sorbet), but I'd like to try and stick to my original plan for the last 2 weeks. I've been proactive by telling the friends I'm visiting in Chicago this weekend of my plan. I admit that I didn't want to tell them, but I plan to have some good Chicago-style pizza and I think that will be enough of a diet transgression.

Giving up sweets has actually not been too hard. I have some really good dark chocolate and a small piece is very satisfying. It also helps that there haven't been many sweets around my office, except for Girl Scout cookies. Post-Lent, I might try to limit myself to dark chocolate during the week and one dessert on the weekend. The reason I tried this in the first place was to control my blood sugar roller-coaster. I think it got worse before it got better (I had some mood swings that might have been due in part to sugar withdrawal), but now I'm feeling pretty good and healthy.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Pretty, pretty

Chapter 2 of the Free Advertising series concerns this jewelry store on etsy, containing items hand-made by the very talented Alexia. I have a green and silver necklace she made that I wear all the time. It's pretty but sophisticated and matches a lot of things I own. So check her store out if you're doing some spring shopping!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Vegan energy bar roundup

I generally try to eat fruit or nuts instead of energy bars. I figure I get more fiber that way and avoid any refined sugar. However, I'll often reach for an energy bar when the alternative would be a cookie or chips. Here are some that I've tried:
Luna tea cakes: These are new on the market. I had the Vanilla Macadamia one today. "Tea cakes" is a great name, isn't it? I picture a scone-like treat, soft and fragrant with tea and spices. The Luna tea cakes fall a little short of this vision. They're very similar to Odwalla bars, but with a little squiggle of frosting on top. And sadly I could discern neither vanilla nor macadamia.
Lunabars: most people are familiar with these. The best flavor by far is Chai Tea. These were my steady companion during grad school. The nutrition profile is not as good as most of the other bars on this list, though. They contain saturated fat.
Lara bars: Originally marketed to raw foodists, Lara bars have toned that image down to go mainstream. These are the bars I buy most often. They're sweet and flavorful, but have some staying power. Best flavors: Chocolate Coconut, Gingersnap, and Cherry Pie.
Jocalat: Made by Lara bar, these are marketed as brownie-like energy bars. The cute package and good copywriting convinced me to try them. Jocalat, I won't be back. Your chocolate orange flavor seems to have rye seeds in it (or something that tastes very similar).
Clif Nectar: My second-favorite energy bar, with potential to unseat the Lara bar. The ingredients are almost identical to Lara bars, but Clif has a lemon/vanilla/cashew flavor that's really tasty.
Organic food bars: The packaging was a little out there for me (it looks like something that would be advertised in a weightlifting magazine), but Hot Slice (known here as HS) convinced me to try them. They contain masculine, slightly frightening things like "phyto-nutrients" and "alkalizing protein." They taste very much like one of the major ingredients, almond butter, which is not a bad taste. I only had a nibble before HS, browsing the label, said "uh-oh" because he'd discovered my archenemy agave nectar was among the ingredients. I'm highly allergic to agave, of all things. When I eat it, it makes me want to curl up and die for about 15 minutes. It's all in the portion, though: a gram in an energy bar is OK. But tequila (distilled from agave): never again.

Monday, March 19, 2007

A completely satisfying meal

While literally freezing at the peace march on Saturday, HS conceived our Saturday night meal. He asked for "tofu cutlets," which I interpreted to mean double-sesame pan-fried tofu. Additionally, he requested brown rice and garlic green beans. After thawing ourselves for several hours, we sat down to a delicious meal. When I'm cooking vegan, I sometimes feel like something (dairy) is missing, but that was not the case on Saturday night.

Double-sesame tofu
1 block firm or extra-firm tofu (if you can find garlic & onion flavored, buy it)
3 tablespoons tahini
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1-2 tablespoons hot water
Dash of hot sauce
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup bread crumbs
Peanut or vegetable oil for frying

Press the tofu for about an hour (put the tofu on a plate, put another plate on top, put a book on top of that plate, and empty out the water that the tofu exudes). Cut the tofu in half along the middle of the block, then cut each half into quarters, giving a total of 8 squares. Put the tahini, soy sauce, hot sauce, and 1TB hot water in a small bowl and stir. Add more hot water if needed to obtain a consistency similar to a milkshake (mmm, milkshake). In another bowl, mix together the sesame seeds and bread crumbs. Add to a frying pan enough oil to cover the bottom and turn the heat to medium.

Use a pastry brush to paint each tofu square with the tahini mixture. Plop each square in the bread crumb mixture, completely coating all sides of the tofu. When the oil has heated up, place the coated tofu squares in the oil and pan-fry on both sides.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

This is not a vegan post

I try to stick to vegan-related topics here, but I need to interrupt with a short commercial break. One of my good friends, Monica Favela George, escaped the contracting world last year to launch her own line of shoes, named Gigi Favela. She's worked herself to the bone for several months to produce her first collection. The great news is that 1) her shoes are just as fabulous as she is, 2) the pair above will be featured on Good Morning America today as part of a spring fashion feature. You can also look at her shoes here or here. Before you choke on the price, I must note that these are the best quality shoes I've ever seen, as well as being the most comfortable heels I have (yeah, I admit flats are always more comfortable than heels). Gigi Favela is completely a 1-person operation, and I figure it can't hurt to give Monica another match on Google.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Sometimes, something's gotta give

What, you were expecting a different image for "something's gotta give?" I am morally opposed to any movie of the past 30 years in which Jack Nicholson plays the romantic lead. My list of men who should keep their shirts on at all times goes like this:
1. Frank Black of the Pixies
2. Jack Nicholson
3. Iggy Pop

Anyway, I've had a few moments where I've just wanted to order pizza or a really big ice cream ("Gotta have a bypass size" or whatever they call it) from Cold Stone Creamery. One of them happened last week after I finished giving a 2.5 hour training class at work. The second one happened yesterday, as I was on my way home and very hungry. I managed the first one with a small latte, and the second one with a very small amount of cheese on a rice/bean/tofu Mexican dish. (For local readers, I really like the grilled tofu option at Moe's southwest grill.) In both cases, I'm glad I kept the craving from getting too far out of hand, and it hasn't been hard to go back to my vegan plan.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Recipe: Sun-dried tomato and white bean dip

A year or two ago, I bought a book about Teany for a few dollars. It has turned out to be money well spent. The book has lots of vegan recipes, along with Fun Tea Facts and an herbal medicine section. OK, the medicine section is a little dubious. It recommends brewing "tea" from raw garlic and cayenne as a cold cure. That'd be a tough one for me to get down.

Doesn't Teany look like a great place to hang out on a sunny spring afternoon? I hope to do so when we're in NYC in a few months.

I think this dip/spread would be great on a sandwich with red onion, fresh tomato, and basil. I brought it to a very nice dinner party on Saturday and it was a refreshing change from hummus.

Sun-dried tomato and white bean dip
2 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
10 sun-dried tomatoes in oil (you could also use the non-oil type if you reconstitute them in boiling water first)
1 can (15 oz.) white or cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
juice of half a lemon
dash of black pepper
dash of cayenne pepper

Take the sun-dried tomatoes out of their oil and place them in a food processor or blender. Add the other ingredients and blend until smooth. You may want to add salt to taste, but I find that canned beans are salty enough.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Ode to a Thin Mint

Thin mint, thin mint, dark and small,
I can’t eat one without eating you all.

Why are you here? For whom were you sent?
Not me, since I gave up cookies for Lent.

You’ve been at my office's front desk all week,
And passing you by, my mood becomes bleak.

But if I had one, I know I couldn't leave;
In an hour, you'd be crumbs and an empty sleeve.

See you next year, same time and same place,
As long as I stay in the Girl Scouts’ good grace.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Not just a diet

I wanted to post about vegan: the diet versus vegan: the lifestyle. A 100% lifestyle vegan doesn't wear wool, leather or silk. She wouldn't use soap that contained honey. She wouldn't eat sugar without verifying that it was vegan sugar. Would she play soccer if the ball was leather? I don't know.

I applaud people living a vegan lifestyle, but the farthest I can go is being a dietary vegan. Early in my vegetarian years, I didn't buy leather, but my predisposition to athlete's foot nixed the nonbreathable footwear pretty quickly. Plus, I hate bees (except for my bee necklace) and it's fine with me if they live in captivity.

Monday, March 5, 2007

The Vegetable Garden, Rockville, MD

I'll occasionally post about vegan-friendly restaurants. Most Chinese places are very vegan-friendly, but The Vegetable Garden seems to be totally vegan (although there might be some honey in some dishes).

I'd heard of this restaurant many years ago, but since it's located at the other end of the DC Metro area, it seemed impossibly far away for dinner. Last weekend, HS and I found ourselves with an open evening and the restaurant is right across from a Metro station. We ordered the moo shi cilantro roll, pan-fried dumplings, General Tso's "chicken," and Curry Supreme "chicken." Everything was delicious. The moo shi rolls were like Vietnamese summer rolls (which I love), but were wrapped in moo shu pancakes instead of rice paper wrappers. The dumplings were stuffed with greens but not too strong or bitter. Both "chicken" dishes were nicely flavored, but the General's chicken was not nearly as spicy as I thought it would be. I hope we go back soon because there are many more dishes I'd like to try, such as the interestingly named mugwort soba noodle salad. I don't think I will go for the leek buds sensation or the veggie abalone, though. I like fake meat once in a while but fake seafood is much more unsettling.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Here's what's wrong with the American diet

I'm sure many of you have heard that Krispy Kreme is now selling whole wheat doughnuts. Yes, this will definitely help the obesity problem in the US. As long as they're whole wheat, we can eat as many as we want! We've seen this before with Snackwells fat-free cookies. To state the obvious, eating low-fat or high-fiber junk food is not going to make you fit.

It really takes just a few weeks of avoiding processed/ junk food to lose the taste for it. I've found that my palate adjusts to a new diet surprisingly quickly. When I hadn't eaten cheese for a few weeks and then had a piece, I was surprised at how salty it was, in addition to how rich it was. I've also come to really like the taste of vegetables. And laugh at me if you will, but I often eat half a grapefruit for dessert. The taste is so powerful and sweet-tart that it seems very satisfying.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Positive reinforcement

God, I love Microsoft Clip Art. The best clip art is the sports series that we had at the magazine I worked at in college (right, Kate?). It was like this but better:

Every image looks like it was lifted from a '70s ad for belted maxi pads.

Anyway, I thought I'd describe the positive changes I've noticed since I cut way back on dairy and increased my fruit and vegetable intake.
1. The extremely itchy, painful eczema that was on my hands is practically gone. Last summer, I regularly wore bandaids on my hands to cover the broken skin, and the eczema almost destroyed a fingernail. I have a few spots once in a while, but it's 95% gone.
2. I have much more energy. I don't have the mid-afternoon or post-dinner drowsiness that I used to.
3. People comment on how good my skin looks.

I hope to see more benefits as I continue to improve my diet.