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.