Sunday, November 9, 2008

Barbara brings it

We spent the day at the Green Festival, which I look forward to more keenly than Christmas. The festival was huge and mobbed; a good sign. This year, I was impressed by the growth of the home and building material sections. Some of my favorite booths were:
--Kallari chocolate (I have been a fan of this stuff since I discovered them at the Green Festival two years ago. With great difficulty, I tracked down a supplier and now I order this chocolate in bulk by mail. It is the best that I have ever had, and believe me, the sample size of my unscientific study is large!)
--Organic Comfort Zone, where we bought two pillows. I wish we could afford one of their beds, sigh.
--The Animal Welfare Approved booth. This nonprofit certifies that animal products originate from animals that have been raised humanely. It's kind of like the Organic certification, except that farmers do not have to pay for it. It's funded by an anonymous donor (here is my guess as to the donor's identity). That strikes me as a great idea because it seems to remove pressure to "pass" the farm. My feelings about this certification in general are mixed because it seems to condone eating meat as long as the animal was raised humanely. However, I know that most people eat meat, and this could be an important step in "humanizing" animals, which may lead to decreased animal product consumption. Your thoughts?

We saw two great speakers at the festival: Barbara Ehrenreich and Mr. RV's personal guru, Seth Goldman of Honest Tea. (One of our most contentious marital issues is Mr. RV's addiction to Honest Tea and my position that "You can make those for 15 cents each! Paying two bucks a bottle is ridiculous!") Barbara delivered a great speech, speaking about the need to remember green concerns in the midst of our economic upheaval. One point struck me in particular: she said that she notices a movement of "eco-puritanism," which tells people to give up pleasurable things, like car trips and hamburgers (to use her examples). She said that this is not going to work because few people will voluntarily deny themselves habitual pleasures. Instead, we should find a way to express that "less stuff does not have to equal less pleasure." Sometimes I scoff at the green movement for all of the hundreds of unnecessary products labeled as green. Basically, I think that instead of buying a new set of recycled glass dinnerware, you should just use the plates you already have, or pick up some at a thrift store. But I can see how green versions of certain luxuries can stop people from feeling deprived and encourage them to research "going green" a little more.

By the way, check out Barbara's hilarious blog post on the Socialist Conspiracy. An excerpt:

"So we decided to suspend our usual work of standing on street corners and hissing, "Hey, how'd you like to live in a workers' paradise?” Instead of building socialism, one worker at a time, we would focus on destroying capitalism, hedge fund by hedge fund.

First, we selected a cadre of crusty punks from the streets of Seattle, stripped off their Che t-shirts, suited them up in Armani's and wingtips, and introduced them to the concepts of derivatives and dental floss. Then we shipped them to Wall Street with firm instructions: Make as much money as you can, as fast as you can, and as soon as the money starts rolling in, send it out to make more money by whatever dodgy means you can find – subprime loans, credit default swaps, pyramid schemes – anything goes. And oh yes: Spend your own earnings in the most flamboyantly gross ways you can think of -- $10,000 martinis, fountains of champagne – so as to fan the flames of class resentment."

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Victor(y) is sweet

Time flies, huh? I'm sure I'm not the only blogger who was moved to write today after a long absence. I watched Obama win at a friend's house in DC last night. When we'd finished cheering, we heard a great noise coming from outside. Turns out the noise was the beginning of a massive street party. We actually didn't know where the core of it was, but we saw plenty of ecstatic, honkin', whoopin' and hollerin' people on our way home. I've never seen anything like it, except on New Year's Eve, but this went on for hours instead of minutes.

What's up with the pig? I saw it in the window of an antique shop a few weeks ago and have had my eye on it since. Mr. RV and I decided that if Obama won, the pig was coming home with us. Today I picked him up. His name? Victor, of course.

We're moving in a few weeks and I haven't had much time to blog these days. Also, while I still seek out vegan recipes, many things I make are not vegan. I'm working with a nutritionist to try and get my blood sugar issues under control and ruling out dairy, fish and eggs just makes it ten times harder for me. I'll probably only write about vegan food, which is still a great interest of mine, but I needed to say that in the interest of full disclosure. I'll also be going on a yeast-eradicating diet in January, which will be the topic of another post. Taking antibiotics every day for two years as an antimalarial really messed up my system in ways that I am just now beginning to grasp. Until my next post, here are a few pictures from our honeymoon in Bermuda:

Tofu strudel (delicious!)

The best Mussaman curry I've ever had. Yes, that is a whole cinnamon stick in there:

One of the locals:

Friday, September 26, 2008

Catching up

Well, we're off to sail the high seas just hours from now. I'm sure cruise ship food will be an adventure in itself. One of our wedding presents was a new camera so I'm eager to put it to the test. I also gave Mr. RV a teeny video camera as a wedding present, so maybe some videos will eventually find their way onto this site. Meanwhile, here are a few dishes I photographed but didn't get a chance to blog about while the wedding planning was in high gear.

A tasty midsummer bulghur salad. I wanted to do something different from tabouli. This has grapes, pecans, cucumbers, red onions, and red peppers. I think the dressing was a simple lemon juice/olive oil vinaigrette.

Roasted vegetable napoleons. I made these for dinner with a friend after seeing their deliciousness on Vegan Yum Yum. They were very time-consuming to make, but came out very flavorful. The stuff sticking them together is a variation on baba ghanouj. The paste didn't turn out too great. I would make these again, but I'd slice the veggies more thickly and I'd probably use a silken tofu concoction between the layers. Don't they look like some kind of space colony in this picture?

I've got to get packing, literally!

Monday, September 22, 2008

My descent into respectability

Readers, are you out there? I am back, at least for this week. Our wedding is a wrap and the honeymoon starts on Saturday. The wedding was truly perfect, despite being married in the second worst storm (the remnants of Hurricane Hanna) to hit this area in at least the past 6 years. I’ve put a few pictures of me and HS* up but will replace them with pictures of just me in a few days, since HS is a bit wary of Internet-posted photos. The quality of the pictures should improve when I replace them, since these are just snaps taken by tipsy people, not the real photos from our pro photog friend.

Here are some ecologically-friendly aspects of our wedding:
--We had it in a neighborhood that is extremely walkable and well-served by public transportation.
--The location for both the ceremony and the luncheon was America’s first certified organic restaurant. Of course, vegan alternatives were available for all courses!

(Non-vegan risotto; vegan version did not have parmesan thingy on top)

--About 90% of our wedding-related expenditures went to independent businesses.
--We did away with many of the wedding trappings that we didn’t care about. There was no wedding cake, nor special ceremonial wedding cake knife with its own corsage. I made the centerpieces for about $100 total. Needless to say, there was no bouquet toss or garter removal. There was a classical guitarist instead of a DJ, and the only dancing was a conga line to “White Wedding” for our exit.

(Classy friends, cheap centerpieces)

--I hope to be able to wear my wedding dress again, and I asked my two bridesmaids to buy any dress that they would wear again.
--We kept the guest list to 50 people (fewer guests=less travel and less emissions).
--We didn’t register, because we really have everything that we need for our new place.
--Our rings are recycled gold.
--No limousines were deployed. (I had hoped to make our exit on a tandem bicycle, but the rain definitely prevented that from happening.)

We knew we wanted to do things our way for the wedding, and not follow the path of “traditional” weddings. (I put that in quotes since I think the traditional American wedding is really cake and punch in a church rec room or the bride’s parents’ house, not the 40K affairs now called traditional.) It was difficult to swim against the Wedding Industrial Complex current at times, but we are both extremely happy we stuck to our guns and had the small, nonreligious, intimate wedding that we desired.

Hopefully I’ll have the chance to blog again before we leave for the honeymoon. I’ve got a few pictures and many health-related thoughts to share.

*HS will now be known as Mr. RV.

(At the afterparty)

Thursday, September 4, 2008


It's not much of a lighthouse; it looks like a small farmhouse with a light instead of a chimney. The massive highway construction project that has spanned 10 years so far and cost 2.5 billion dollars turned all the land surrounding it into an asphalt wasteland but spared the small park around the lighthouse. I walked under the highway overpass in the blazing sun today to pay my respects.

The lighthouse was owned by Margaret Brent in the seventeenth century. The inscription reads, "An extraordinary woman, she spent most of her adult life fighting discrimination of her sex." She was a land baron as well as a litigator, and people were often stunned at her very unladylike ways.

Our rapidly approaching wedding has made me reflective. I am grateful to Margaret and everyone else who fought for gender equality so that I can marry the person I love, not the one who will support me or the one my family has chosen. I left Margaret flowers in gratitude.

Margaret must sometimes have been discouraged by the enormity of the fight towards gender equality. 400 years later, sexism still exists, and attitudes towards animal rights, resource consumption, and the environment frustrate me on at least a weekly basis. However, I told Margaret her work was worth it, and I hope that ours is too.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Time for a blog-cation

Oh, how I wish I was in Fiji right now. But I am not. If it isn't already obvious, I haven't had much time to write or read blogs lately. I'm going to take a blog-cation until mid-September, when I'll be back in good form with lots of inspiration (hopefully). Enjoy the rest of your summer (or winter if you're part of the Southern Hemisphere contingent)!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Tagine and teeth

This week I went to the dentist. My insurance plan allows me to go to what I think is the cheapest 10% of dentists in the area. This dentist is on the edge of a transitional neighborhood, in a basement office. He accepts walk-ins. My appointment was rescheduled because (I think) he forgot to pay the phone bill and the line was disconnected for a few days. But he is a character with lots of colorful stories and he swears like a sailor.

While he was examining me, he abruptly asked, "Are you a vegetarian?" When I asked how he knew, he said, "It's because your back teeth are worn down." He went on to say that cellulose (plant walls) wears down tooth enamel, but that steaming or sauteing vegetables will break down the cellulose enough for teeth to handle it. (So, this pointed to me eating a lot of raw vegetables, not necessarily to me being a vegetarian.)

Is this true or just another of my dentist's tall tales? All I've found is one article that says it probably isn't true, although eating citrus fruits isn't especially good for your teeth. I don't eat that much citrus, but I do eat a lot of raw vegetables. I like my veggies crunchy, and I think the nutrients I get from them are more important than some wear and tear on my teeth.

On a completely unrelated topic, I'm going to a potluck tomorrow where the theme is "Mediterranean Vegetarian." I'm bringing tofu tagine (pictured). This recipe is awesome. It won a Vegetarian Times reader recipe contest about 8 years ago and I've been making it ever since. It's somewhat time-consuming but totally worth it. Fried tofu is simmered in a sauce with savory spices, cinnamon, onions, garlic, lemon, and honey (I subbed maple syrup). It's served with couscous that also has a salty, lemony flavor, in addition to mint and dried fruit. Then the whole mess is sprinkled with toasted almonds. The flavor is complex and unusual. Let me know if you try it!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

When natural isn't better

I just got back from the vegetarian/vegan Mecca, NYC. We had great meals at Angelica Kitchen, Red Bamboo, and Two Boots Pizza. I can highly recommend all eateries. I'd wanted to try Angelica for several years and it did not disappoint. I had soup and a salad and HS had a seitan burrito. Red Bamboo has an extensive ecletic menu. This time we both had seitan; a sandwich and a skewer plate. Two Boots is my new favorite pizzeria, and they have a hearty vegan slice. They just need to put their jalapeno pesto on it (not really a pesto, more of a puree, and I'm sure it's vegan) and it would be perfect.

I have a letter to the editor in Natural Health magazine this month. My letter is in response to an article about sustainable sandalwood products. I say that sandalwood has been pushed to the verge of extinction due to the perfume industry, and that it's better to buy products with synthetic sandalwood, which smells exactly the same but uses only a fraction of the resources that sandalwood tree production (sustainable or not) does. It's important to replant sandalwood, of course, but I think it's a mistake to always prefer "natural" scents. In some cases it takes a ton of flowers, leaves, etc. to produce a gallon of essential oil. It just reminds me a bit too much of meat production in its resources in/ product out ratio.

Another way that I don't prefer natural is in regards to sweeteners. Actually, just one sweetener, agave. I figured out a few years ago (it involved tequila; don't ask) that I'm violently allergic to cactus derivatives. I can stay away from tequila but agave is more pernicious, often masquerading as a "natural sweetener." It rules out a lot of energy bars or vegan sweets for me. I'm writing about it because there is next to nothing on the 'net about agave allergies/reactions. (My reaction is horrendous stomach pains.) If you know anyone who's also allergic to agave, holla back so I know I'm not alone!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Taco time

I am woefully late in posting about this yummy dinner. What can I say? I've been busy with work, more work, wedding stuff, and trying to determine which of these is the better rhyme:
1) abuse me/ muesli
2) on ya/ Apollonia
(if you have an opinion, let me know!)

Anyway, one of my favorite vegan (or vegan-friendly) meals for guests is make-your-own tacos. It sure uses a lot of bowls but seems to satisfy all tastes. The picture above shows chipotle brown rice, avocado-corn salsa, Yves fake meat with tomatoes, onions, and chili powder, as well as soy cheese, lettuce, beans, etc. Although I'm not particularly drawn to meat substitutes, Yves is my favorite of the type. It tastes good and is filling, yet is freakishly low in fat and high in protein.

I wish I had gotten some pictures of the actual tacos people made but that's a good reason to have Taco Nite again. For dessert, we had mango-strawberry cobbler. This picture came out terribly blurry but it's all I had. I only remembered to take it the next day when the cobbler was nearly gone.

This cobbler is no ordinary dessert, at least not to me. A friend once described it as one of the best desserts he'd ever had. The secret is cardamom. I know, a container of it costs 7 bucks or more, but it is essential in this recipe. If you omit it, all bets are off. (Note that the recipe requires ground cardamom. If you buy the kind in the pods, you'll have to grind the seeds first.) Here is the recipe, heavily adapted enough (one might say cobbled) that I don't feel bad about sharing it:

Mango-Strawberry Cobbler

Fruit Layer
2 mangoes
1-1/2 pints fresh strawberries (about 4 cups, chopped)
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
3 tablespoons flour

Peel the mangoes and cut them into bite-sized pieces. Wash, remove the stems, and chop the strawberries into halves or quarters. In a bowl, mix together all fruit-layer dry ingredients. Add the fruit to the bowl and toss to coat.

1-1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons white sugar
1/4 cup oil
1 cup "milk"

Stir together the flour, salt, baking powder, and sugar. Add the oil and milk and stir together until just combined. Place the fruit-layer mixture in a 8" square pan (you want the fruit layer to be pretty thick, thicker than in my picture, ideally). Gently pat the topping mixture over the fruit layer. Use a light touch--the less it is messed with, the better the topping will rise. Bake at 375 degrees for about 35 minutes. Serve topped with your favorite vanilla ice cream alternative.

Monday, June 23, 2008


in the elevator today...

Woman #1: They made me eat some vegan cake at the party this weekend.
Woman #2: Vegan cake? What is that?
Woman #1: It's cake with, like, the meat products taken out.
Woman #2: It's been a long time since I made a cake, but I never heard of a cake with meat in it!

Believe it or not, meatcake actually exists. Now who is going to volunteer to make a vegan version of this--maybe with a smiling cow on top?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Not too much going on this month. I'm having friends over for a vegan dinner this weekend; I'll post about that next week. My meals haven't been particularly inspiring lately otherwise. I've been eating things like pasta salad, stir-fries, and veggie burgers. I've also been using the yogurt maker I got for my birthday. I'm making dairy yogurt, but the instruction booklet includes less than enthusiastic directions for using soy milk to make soy-gurt. It does its best to warn you away from that option, since only certain types of soy milk can be used to make soy-gurt. I'm having enough trouble with regular yogurt as it is. It's delicious in flavor, but the consistency is still decidedly thin.

Anyway, I thought I'd write about a few of my favorite vegan spots in DC for anyone who might be visiting this summer. A Northern Virginia installment will follow!

Asylum(Adams Morgan): As HS knows, I kind of hate this place. It's a biker bar by night, but they're locally famous for their vegan brunch on the weekends. Even though it's a favorite place for HS' friends to meet, I always think the food is mediocre at best, and the ambience...well, it's pretty clear that it's a bar. But apparently they have a new chef and things might improve. On the link, scroll down to see the vegan menu.

Dos Gringos (Mount Pleasant): Well, I like Dos Gringos much better. It's actually my favorite brunch place in DC. It is tiny and the most prominent menu is in Spanish. It's not primarily vegan/vegetarian, but there are plenty of options. The great thing about Dos Gringos is that everything is customized. You build a sandwich starting with the bread, and adding yummy things like bean mash or chipotle grilled tofu.

Lunch or Dinner
Java Green (Downtown NW): Guest blogger Hot Slice says: "Try the rice bowl with spicy vegan sausage." I never go to this place since it's out of the way for me (ironic because it's downtown), but I'm going to try to make it there soon. It's a vegetarian cafe where most things are vegan. Everything possible is organic, fair trade, and biodegradable, and it uses carbon offsets.

Tonic (Mount Pleasant): OK, so this place is fairly meat-centric, but what puts it on my heavy rotation list is the half-price burger special, which includes vegan black bean burgers. They're served with tater tots and the half price means your dinner can cost as much as a trip to Starbucks. The dining room is well laid out, with nice booths, and is rarely crowded.

Sticky Fingers (Columbia Heights): This place is a freakin' national treasure. I am usually highly suspicious of ersatz foods such as tofu cheesecake. However, Sticky Fingers is an awesome bakery first and vegan second in my mind. All of the baked goods taste totally authentic. They've also branched out into savory foods. HS and I picked up lasagne and peanut noodles there last week. Everything is vegan. They also make wedding cakes (pictured above). We decided not to have a wedding cake because dessert is already included, but I am set on getting a cake from Sticky's for a special occasion in the future. They have a genius copywriter who uses words like "slathered" and "nestled" to describe their cakes. Mmmm!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Kill your television

I don't watch much TV. Maybe 2 hours a week, plus a DVD about twice a month. My current TV is about 6 years old, and when I turned it on last week, it made a popping sound and a red light fluttered urgently for a few hours. The next morning, the light was gone and the thing was completely dead. (NB: I don't recommend Philips electronics. The companion DVD player died about 2 years ago.)

I was thinking of going without a TV until HS and I shack up in a few months, but HS, for one, was not too keen on the idea (something about the NBA finals, but also, we're really enjoying Flight of the Conchords on DVD).

I rummaged around in my parents' basement for an old TV to hook up in the interim. I unearthed my old TV, a Signature 2000 (two thousand!), which dates from the early 90s. It works fine, but seems to have no DVD hookup. Ah well.

I'm writing this because I've lived without a TV for years in the past, and I'd like to hear from people who have chosen not to have a TV. If you don't have one, are you glad? If you do have one, do you ever want to turn it off for good? I often notice that when the TV is on, all attention in the room is focused on it. I don't think this is good. I used to leave it on most of the evening for background noise, but now I much prefer quiet.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Happy belated World Vegetarian Week!

OK, so I'm a little slow on the uptake re World Vegetarian Week. But I'm at least happy that my birthday fell during it, so I can say I celebrated. This article on Alternet is meant for non-vegetarians, but it still taught me a few things, most notably, that chickens can "worry about the future" and are at least as smart as cats and dogs. I mean, holy crap, if chickens get stressed out, what hope is there for the rest of us?

I have extra reason to celebrate WVW because my father, truly one of the most carnivorous people I know, has decided to cut down on his meat consumption. My mom says he read an article in the New Yorker that talked about all the bad stuff that's in meat and turned him off of it. I'm a little surprised that he is just now finding this out, but better late than never, I guess! If I find out which article he read, I'll link to it.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Probar testing

I conscripted HS to help me test the new Probar flavors that I recently received as a freebie (thanks, guys!). HS is a big fan of Probar, but I don't believe I'd ever eaten one until our test. Here are some testing notes.

Overall: Probars are tasty and satisfying. I had 1.25 Probars for breakfast (1/4 bar of each of 5 flavors), and that kept me full and alert, with no blood sugar weirdness, for several hours, including an hour-long workout. Since that was about 500 calories, though, it makes sense. Probar is marketed as a meal replacement bar rather than a snack bar. Unless I'm going on a long flight, though, I prefer to eat meals that are in non-bar format. I generally have half a Larabar or Gnu bar before a workout, so I'm not ravenous when I finish. That amount of calories (just under 100) is about right for me in that situation. I wish that Probars came in an optional smaller size, to better match my caloric requirements. However, aside from being yummy, the Probar ingredient list is beyond reproach, containing lots of fiber and nutrients.

Favorites: I've listed them below, with my most favorite first.
Maple Pecan: The clear winner. I'm a sucker for maple flavor and this bar has it in abundance.
Sesame Goji: Goji berries are not very strongly flavored, but they are antioxidant powerhouses. The predominant flavor is sesame, so if you like that, you'll like this bar.
Cherry Pretzel: One of my favorite flavor pairings is cherries and chocolate. This bar has dark chocolate chips in addition to pretzels, so points for that. The cherry flavor was not strong enough for my liking, though. I think Probar should add some almond extract to complement the cherries.
Cocoa Pistachio: The dark chocolate in this bar is unsweetened (according to the label), so it's gorgeously intense. The pistachios looked green and fresh, but their flavor was just not strong enough for me. Pistachio ice cream is one of my favorite flavors, and I don't know what they do to amp up the flavor in the ice cream. But whatever that is, this bar would benefit from it.
Kettle Corn: I'm not a big fan of kettle corn (popcorn coated with a sugary, buttery hard shell) to begin with. I don't like the sweet varieties of popcorn much. This bar did taste like kettle corn, but the taste seemed artifical to me. This is probably the only bar I wouldn't try again.

If you've sampled these bars, let me know what you thought too!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

That's how I roll

It was a rainy, quiet Sunday here. I made one of my favorite recipes, whole wheat seed-y rolls, and took a nap while they were rising. This is a good recipe for people who are intimidated by yeast. The rolls contain yeast, but they are pretty much foolproof. I've never had them turn out badly. They're yummy with their sesame seeds, poppy seeds, and hint of garlic flavor, and just the right size for a veggie burger. I'll send the recipe to anyone who wants it!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Get happy

Things that have rocked my week so far:

1. Manzana Chili Verde from Veganomicon. It's a white/green chili hybrid, containing unusual ingredients like apples, potatoes, tomatillos, and white beans. I was a bit dubious about how all this would taste as a savory chili, but it is damn good. The flavors are complex and the amount of heat is just right.

2. My new Envirosax bag, purchased at Greater Goods. I've accumulated way too many bags from stopping at the market a block from my place on my way home. I'm coming from work so I don't think to carry a shopping bag with me. Enter Envirosax. The beauty is that it folds up small enough to easily fit in my (quite small) purse, so I always have it with me,

And it unfolds to a huge, sturdy shopping bag:

3. My hemp hoodie, made by Livity and purchased at the newly opened Capitol Hemp store. It's perfect for the chilly, rainy days we've had this week.

4. Finding that Probar did not forget about me, and made good on their promise several months ago to include me in a testing group for new Probar flavors. I received a package of 5 new flavors and will review them next week, since HS (one of Probar's biggest fans) has begged to be part of the review process.

Friday, May 9, 2008


I've come across two rather mind-boggling articles on Yahoo recently:

1. Substituting chicken, fish, or vegetables for red meat can help combat climate change.

What the article says: It's not very clearly written, but I think the point is that it's better to eat non-red-meat foods than to eat locally grown red meat. The energy used to grow or to raise food is responsible for 83% of the resources used to get food on your plate, while the transportation part is only responsible for 11% of the resources.

Why it works my nerves: Learning about the environmental impact of eating meat was one of the reasons that I converted to vegetarianism...19 years ago now. This is not exactly news. Also, chicken is hardly the anti-red meat if we're talking about resources used to produce food. Vegetables, fruits, and grains are, of course, the best choice for resource-efficient food production. I wish the article had stated this instead of suggesting substituting meat for meat. Also, the article degrades the movement to buy food locally, saying the benefits to buying local are overblown. Maybe they are, if you don't care about supporting small farmers, but supporting Big Agriculture and some of its evil machinations is troubling to say the least.

2. Better weight loss through chemicals.

What the article says: Four ideas for 100-calorie snacks.

Why it works my nerves: Apart from the extremely annoying cutesy tone, this article gets to me because these snacks are mostly processed to the nth degree. Fat-free cool whip is not food and therefore not a snack. Peruse the ingredient list if you will:

I will admit that the last "snack," broccoli nachos, has 2 out of three components that are actually food (broccoli and the corn chips which are processed but with a lighter touch). But who knows what's in the broccoli's cheese sauce.

Hey, Hungry Girl, if you want a 100 calorie snack, how about an apple? Or 2 cups of carrot sticks or strawberries? Or a small handful of almonds? Oh, never mind, I guess you're too busy trying to make cupcakes containing ingredients such as diet hot cocoa mix and "jet-puffed marshmallow creme." No wonder you're hungry.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Be realistic. Demand the impossible.

In honor of May Day, the above is a slogan from the May 68 uprising. When I was in Paris in March, there were all kinds of great new books about Mai 68 as the 40th anniversary approached. One that I purchased for HS had very thick cardboard pages and was in a block shape with sand pasted to the cover, so it looked like a paving stone.

This week, I've been enjoying a yellow split pea soup with Indian spices and spiced yogurt as a garnish. The yogurt is simply plain yogurt mixed with turmeric (which has all kinds of good medicinal properties), cumin, paprika, cayenne, and salt. What I like about this is that savory yogurt is much more unexpected than sweet yogurt. I like challenging my tastebuds with familiar foods used in unexpected ways. For example:
--salty, briny preserved lemons
--peaches in a chunky salsa with black beans
--chickpea flour used in sweet baked goods
--breakfast muffins with quinoa and black beans
--a few squares of dark chocolate added to bean-based chili

So, in the spirit of rebellion, how have you used familiar foods unconventionally?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


At the request of HS, I've been taking a teaspoon or two of hempseed oil a day. He pointed out that it helps mitigate PMS symptoms. Now, why would he say a thing like that? I need you to tell me why (wail!).

Anyway. Too soon to tell if I'll enjoy that benefit yet, but it does have a yummy flavor and my skin has been breakout-free since I've started taking it.

HS is going for the fish oil, himself, and the chronically dry skin on his forehead has cleared right up. See, it's all about the Omega 3-s. There's, like, three different kinds. Two kinds are used pretty easily by the body, the other kind is not. Algae supplements and fish oil contain DHA. Fish oil also contains EPA. Flaxseed and walnuts contain ALA, the type that isn't as easily used. Hempseed oil is best for the ratio of Omega 6-s to Omega 3-s, a balance that is out of whack for people in most "developed" countries.

Why should you care? The list of Omega 3 benefits is long and contains short-terms (better skin, better mood) and long-terms (better...chance of staying cancer-free?). Especially pertinent to me is its calming effect on blood sugar wackiness. Anyway, I'll report back on the benefits of the hempseed oil in a month or two!

Saturday, April 19, 2008


I'm having a little trouble adjusting to the fact that it has been 80 degrees here more than one day this month. This may be the new normal for our poor fevered planet, but my closet is still stocked with winter clothes and I'm still prone to making winter dishes. Last weekend, when I actually had to use the air conditioning, I made lentil soup. The picture shows my Good Mother Stallard beans from Rancho Gordo, soaking. I was thinking about making a bean and vegetable stew with them, but that doesn't seem seasonally appropriate. So my new plan is to make a taco salad-esque entree.

Today I went out and bought ingredients to make the Pineapple Cashew Quinoa stir-fry in Veganomicon. So now I've got a fresh pineapple sitting on my counter, ready to usher in spring. I also went to the farmer's market this morning (it ends at 10:30 am and you don't want to know what time it starts) and bought heaps of strawberries and two delicious filo dough creations from the Filo Dough Lady. She has at least half a dozen different varieties of little filo squares, and many are vegan. I passed up the mushroom and green lentil/bulghur varieties this week, but I bought black bean/rice/chipotle and apricot/ricotta.

What are your favorite spring dishes?

Oh, and I know I haven't been a very consistent blogger lately, but I hope to improve. The other transition in my life (the change in my tax filing status a few months hence) has been cutting into my blogging time, but that's OK.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Veggie Vacation

I know I haven't posted in a while, but I went to Europe and then got the flu. The two events overlapped by about 2 days. I'm still recovering from the flu (1.5 weeks later) and have much less energy than I'm used to. I took about a week off from push-ups but am back to my regimen now.

We went to Amsterdam and Paris. I'm not going to lie and say I ate vegan all the time, but some of my favorite meals were vegan.

Fresh mint tea on our first day in Amsterdam helped wake me up:

Maoz makes amazing felafel, and they have branches in the US, including a DC branch coming soon! (Finding this out just made my day.) Every component of the felafel is great. The patties are light and crunchy, the bread is super-fresh, and the toppings are tangy and spicy.

Amsterdam's also famous for its fries, which we got topped with satay (peanut) sauce, due to my intense dislike for mayo.

Where does one get great fries? Why, the Chipsy King, of course!

One of the best meals we had on the trip was when we ordered rijsttafel, the Indonesian meal where they pull out all the stops. About half of the places we saw had a vegetarian rijsttafel. Check out this insane spread for just the two of us (not even showing the first course, a tomato vermicelli soup)! I imagine there was some honey involved but I don't think there was any dairy or egg in the meal. There were "shrimp chips," though. My favorite dishes were the coconut cabbage and the corn fritters.

Paris was not a vegan tour de force but I loved our street, Rue Mouffetard (we rented apartments in both cities rather than stay in hotels). Behold the glories of the street market!

One of the temptations in the farmer's market was morels. But at 80 euros for a kilo, I had to pass. I did see them this weekend at a farmer's market in DC, though, for about the same price, in case I change my mind!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

2008: A Push-Up Odyssey

I thought I'd say a little more about my push-up program since it seems to have caught the interest of a few people.

I'd been doing push-ups on my knees for years. Truthfully, I'd been doing most of my workout on auto-pilot, just like with those push-ups. 30 minutes on a cardio machine while I listened to music, read a magazine, or often did both simultaneously, followed by 20-ish minutes of weight machines. At the end of these workouts, I was never sore, and I often wasn't even sweaty. I had a mild amount of muscle tone and was a few pounds above where I wanted to be, but I thought I was exercising 5 days a week and doing all I could.

I don't buy into a lot of wedding hype, but around the time I got engaged (August 2007), I decided I needed to bust out of my fitness rut. Something I read a while back stuck in my head: the writer was saying he really loved to be truly sore the day or two after a workout. It had been a long time since I'd felt that and I craved it. I also wanted to figure out why my hours at the gym weren't showing real results. At the time I had a longer commute and going to the gym meant I got home around 8 pm. I didn't want to keep going if it wasn't worth it.

My gym was running a special on personal training sessions and I decided to buy a few with a trainer I'd observed. I'll call her Jane. Jane had a really muscular body that wasn't in female-weightlifter territory. She was slim but certainly not underweight. She looked strong and healthy, and seemed friendly. I bought 18 sessions in all with her. After each one, I was sore, sometimes painfully so for 2 full days. She re-introduced me to free weights, squats, pull-ups, and, yes, push-ups. We did them on my knees but at the end I told her I wanted to try real ones. My first set of push-ups was pretty wimpy but I made it through (and then collapsed in a puddle).

A few weeks later, I read something in Shape magazine about how doing push-ups on your knees is a very different exercise than full push-ups. They work different muscle groups (the magazine also has an amusing quote: "[Push-ups] seem punishing, but that's only because we spend so much time dreading them"). I decided I was not going to do knee push-ups again. I started doing 10 push-ups before and 10 after each workout. I got a few admiring comments from fellow gym-goers that increased my motivation and I decided to challenge myself to do 1,001 push-ups in a month. You know how that story goes. I've continued to do about 20 good push-ups each day, going down farther than I did during the push-up challenge. Once a week, I do 50 good ones, which definitely leaves me sore the next day.

I've come to see push-ups as emblamatic of the paradox of Americans spending lots of money and time on fitness but not being truly fit. As this excellent article says (and do watch the video too), "the push-up is the ultimate barometer of fitness." So many people (my former self included) put in time at the gym but can't do a push-up, full sit-ups, or a pull-up with assistance of less than half their weight. (I've resigned myself to never being able to do an unassisted pull-up, unless I quit my desk job and work out as much as Madonna.) I'm grateful that I've pulled myself out of my fitness rut and am making my workout time really count.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Two from Veganomicon

Sorry about the paucity of posts lately. The next two weeks won't be much better since I'm on vacation--but I'll be visiting two great food cities and will have lots to share upon my return.

I made two recipes from Veganomicon recently (HS gave me the cookbook as a Valentine's Day gift). The first, Quinoa with Black Beans and Mango, is shown below.

This was just a'ight. It needed more salt and the juice of a lime to perk up its somewhat bland flavor. I also threw some chopped up red cabbage in because, well, I had it. I'll make it again, but I'll also add avocado and a diced jalapeno.

I also made Seitan Piccata for a fancy dinner:

This was quite tasty and somewhat unusual. The sauce smelled a little funky in the pan but had a full, complex flavor. We used purple potatoes for the mashed potatoes--can you see the color? I'd defnitely make this again for company.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Get stuffed

I think Theresa is right when she says most people rotate through the same 9 meals again and again. I would like to think my number is closer to 20, and this is one of them.

They are tofu stuffed mushrooms, and they will always have a place in my heart because:
--they reheat beautifully
--they're satisfying; low in carbs, high in protein
--they look impressive and so are great dinner party or special occasion fare
--they are deliciously more than the sum of their parts

They have even temporarily fooled my cat, who thinks there must be meat in there somewhere.

Tofu-stuffed portabellos
3 tablespoons oil (vegetable or olive)
1 cup diced onions
1/2 cup diced sweet red peppers
1/2 cup peeled and grated carrots
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried dill
1 cake (16 oz) firm tofu, pressed
1/3 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1 tablespoon tahini
1 tablespoon miso
1 tablespoon soy sauce
4 to 6 large portabellos

Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a frying pan. Add the onions, pepper, oregano, basil, and dill and saute until veggies are tender. Set aside.

In a large bowl, crumble the pressed tofu. Stir in the nuts, bread crumbs, tahini, miso, and soy sauce. Add the sauteed veggies and mix well.

Clean the mushrooms and use a knife to remove the gills. Discard the stems. Brush the remaining 2 tablespoon oil over the mushrooms. Spoon the filling into the mushroom cavities. Place the mushrooms in a baking dish and bake for about 25 minutes, until the filling has slightly browned.

Sunday, March 2, 2008


I made it to my goal of 1,001 pushups in February around 9pm on February 29. I did the last 10 pushups with Ceri. In February, I did between 20 and 40 "real" pushups every single day, even after I was in a minor car accident and had mild whiplash.

I did my first set of 10 "real" (not on my knees) pushups in recent memory in December or January. It was pretty tough at first but got easier quickly. I don't go far enough to have my chin touch the floor but that's something I'll continue to work on. I'm doing zero pushups for a few days to allow my muscles to rebuild themselves. Then I'll concentrate on quality rather than quantity during March. I can feel some new muscle tone in my arms but most importantly, I just feel more confident about my fitness level.

On another topic, shown above is our second meal of chickpea cutlets, with tomato sauce, parmesan, and basil on top. The yummy fried things are the best onion rings in the world. HS and I are seriously contemplating buying a Fry Daddy to try to replicate them--but that way lies madness (and sweatpants). The cutlets are flanked by two interesting salts we picked up. One is smoked and the other contains rosemary, sage, garlic, and pepper (can't find a web page for them but the brand name is Feast).

(Pushups completed: 1,001!)

Monday, February 25, 2008

A little fun

...because I do get tired of writing about food & culture sometimes.

I like to think of funny names for meat/animal product substitutes. Some of these are real and some I have made up. Join me?

Salmon= Salm-un
Tuna= Tu-not
Meatballs= Neatballs
Chicken= Chick-un
Pate= Pat-yay
Veal= Heal
Liver= Live-er
Sausage= Soysage

(Pushups completed: 890)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Pollan & Pleasure

Huh, do you think this guy is covering Miss Jackson? I wonder.

I recently read In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. I was pretty shocked to see that it was #1 on the bestseller list. Pollan draws some conclusions which are quite a radical departure from the Standard American Diet. His mantra, originally expressed in a seminal NY Times magazine article, is "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." I love Pollan and could go on for some length about his new book, but I want to focus on one thing he says towards the end:

"What nutritionism sees when it looks at the French paradox is a lot of slender French people eating gobs of saturated fat washed down with wine. What it fails to see is a people with a completely different relationship to food than we have... They seldom snack...they spend considerably more time eating than we do. Taken together, these habits contribute to a food culture in which the French consume fewer calories than we do, yet manage to enjoy them far more."

I think this could be the next diet trend: it's not what you eat, it's how and where you're eating it. Mireille Giuliano has touched on this but it really deserves more attention. Americans as a whole eat in their cars, at their desks, in front of the TV, standing up--often as quickly as possible in order to attend to the next task. It takes the body 20 minutes to register full-ness, but I would bet most Americans rarely eat a meal outside of a restaurant that lasts that long. I, for one, have been focusing on
--buying high-quality food, even if it's more expensive
--savoring my food as much as possible
--if I must eat at my desk, I turn away from my computer and concentrate on my food
--consciously thinking about whether I want to finish a whole portion instead of just eating until there is no more food

Since I do eat most of my meals at work or alone, this is a challenge, but I think I've been eating less, experiencing more pleasure, and feeling more satisfied.

(Pushups completed: 720)

Monday, February 18, 2008

Chilling Out

I spent a long holiday weekend at the Ananda Ashram in NY state. My friend J and I went there to do some yoga, catch up, and relax. The ashram grounds (shown above) are beautiful, but we were unprepared for the extreme cold (by the way, that is a lake frozen solid in the picture). We had to walk to different buildings for classes and meals, and the paths we were walking on were solid ice. We did see many deer (pictured in the distance below) enjoying the snow, though. Our taxi driver told us they like the ashram and are not afraid of the people there. I guess they know they are not in danger of ending up on the menu!

The food at Ananda is vegetarian, and about 75% vegan. Of the three ashrams I've been to over the years, Kripalu has the best food, but Ananada was nothing to sneeze at (and also, Ananda is about half as expensive as Kripalu). For the dinner shown below, we enjoyed seasoned tofu, collard greens, root vegetable stew, and pineapple-coconut cake. As much as I love cooking, I also love a break from it sometimes!

(Pushups completed: 640)

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Happy Heart Day

I didn't mean to be alarmist in that last post. I would describe myself more accurately as "hypoglycemic" rather than "diabetic." I have had one test that confirmed that a few years ago, but since then my blood sugar tests have been normal. I'm definitely going to try to focus on vegetables rather than animal products as I try to lower the amount of carbs in my diet. Of course, the most important thing for me is to cut out/severely limit sugar and white carbs. Progress has been slow but mostly steady on that front.

In any case, we had a delicious, healthy vegan meal for Valentine's Day. We went to Sunflower vegetarian restaurant, which was packed with people of all different ages and backgrounds. I always love to see a vegetarian restaurant full!

We started with miso soup and "sushi" as appetizers:

and moved on to a veggie & tofu sandwich and "Orange Imagination," a delicious plate of seitan, broccoli, carrots, orange slices, pine nuts, and goji berries all coated with a tangy orange sauce.

It was a very satisfying and special meal. And to top it off, a copy of Veganomicon was one of my Valentine's presents!

(Pushups completed: 370)