Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Single Ladies

Mr. RV is away for a few days. (He is sending me desparate text messages from the land of soft rock and bad Chinese food, otherwise known as a retirement community in Florida.) When I'm cooking for myself, I like to make delicate, light food. But you serve a guy a dainty salad and bruschetta for dinner and he's like, that was a good appetizer, but where is the main course?

Tonight I made sushi (and am working on tomato-chard-barley soup to go with it). Please do not laugh at my sushi. This is my first time ever making it. I highly doubt I used the proper Japanese technique, but it came out tasty regardless.

First, I julienned a bunch of stuff: scallions, carrots, baked tofu, and cream cheese (easily omitted, but I had some leftover from last week's blueberry tart).

Then I set out my mat with seaweed, brown rice seasoned with a little vinegar and sugar, and julienned stuff on top.

Next, I realized my seaweed was oriented wrong, and very carefully flipped it (and added the cream cheese).

Then, er, long story short, I huffed and puffed and rolled up the sushi, and cut it into slices.

Et voila! Next, I might try the spicy tempeh roll recipe from Veganomicon. I just didn't have the patience to steam the tempeh tonight.

I've just returned from a few days in Austin, where I stayed at at a great vegetarian B&B. Here are two breakfasts:

I loved the breakfast/diner culture in Austin, and the spicy southwestern food, like this homemade salsa sampler at the South Congress Cafe:

And you've gotta love a trailer repurposed as a cupcake stand! They even had vegan cupcakes!

I've gotta get back to the soup, but I'll close with a picture of an unexpected visitor to my office last week. In the past 6-ish months, we've had George W. Shrub, the pope, and this visitor come. Needless to say, they saved the best for last!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Gimme some sugar

A new look for the blog, and time for the first Wednesday update. First, sweet things.

1. Blueberry-cream cheese tart

I made this for Valentine's Day. I've been trying my best to limit my sugar intake and the tart only has about 1/3 cup sugar in the whole thing. The recipe is from the Greens cookbook by Deborah Madison. Her recipes come out great, but boy, are they complicated. She has meticulous notes about technique, many of which I disregard. The base of this tart was a mixture of cream cheese and sour cream with lemon and a dash of sugar. I think you could use tofu cream cheese, maybe thinned with a little soy milk, as a good substitute.

2. Rice krispie treats

By the time I remembered to take a picture of these, only two were left. As I said before, they use no refined sugar, yet the texture is exactly like traditional RK treats. The flavor is also the same, with a hint of nut butter. Here is the recipe, via my awesome nutritionist:

1 box rice krispie cereal (brown rice krispies if you can find them)
1 1/3 cups brown rice syrup, or a mixture of rice syrup and barley malt syrup
½ Cup almond, peanut, or cashew butter
1/2 Cup coarsely chopped toasted almonds
1/2 Cup chopped dried fruit

Pour cereal into large bowl, add fruit and nuts. Bring rice syrup (or barley malt syrup) and nut butter to a boil. Cook for a few minutes. Pour over cereal mixture, mix, pour into a 9x13 inch pan lined with parchment paper. Moisten hands with cold water and pat to compact.

3. My dietary journey
I started going to a nutritionist a few months ago. My goal was to take a fresh look at my dietary habits, and hopefully drop a few pounds along the way. We discovered the problems I experience are probably due to fluctuating blood sugar. I had to face the fact that my system is very sensitive to caffeine and sugar. Along the way, I:
--read The Low GI Diet by Patrick Holford. It's a great eating plan that's easy enough to do over the long term. It's also quite vegetarian-friendly.
--gave up all sugar and caffeine for two weeks. This was hard but got easier after the first few days.
--started paying more attention to signs of fluctuating blood sugar, and planned five small meals a day.
--decided to eat sweets only on Saturday.

4. Candida
My nutritionist thinks I probably have a problem with high levels of candida albicans. I have many symptoms that point to this, such as lethargy, "brain fog," recurring fungal skin infections, a nose like a bloodhound (seriously, an acute sense of smell is one of the symptoms), and mood swings. Strangely, though, I don't have the problem you'd most associate with women and yeast.

I probably got my candida levels out of whack when I lived in Africa and took an antibiotic every day for two years as an anti-malarial. Broad-spectrum antibiotic use is the most common cause of candida problems. But the other medicine available made me feel like I was going crazy and has a few class action lawsuits against it, so there you go.

If you're interested in taking a candida diagnostic questionnaire, there's one here.

The treatment for candida is a very restrictive diet. As you might guess, it does not involve a lot of desserts. I'll write up my experience with that in the next post.

Also, I'll try to get the other recipes people requested up next week. But between now and then I'm going on a mini-vacation!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Hey na, hey na, my blog is back

If you're like me, maybe you wonder briefly what happened to a blogger who's been off-air for a while. What's she up to? Is she okay? Doesn't she care about my blog-surfing fulfillment?

In my case, it was a matter of equal parts busy-ness and lazyness. I last wrote in early November. We bought a house around that time and moved in late November. A bunch of home projects (including blood-pressure-raising interactions with Ikea) and running a household of two people and one demanding cat has kept me busier than usual. I've been taking pictures and notes for blog entries, but keeping the blog current has been low on my priority list.

However, I enjoy blogging and I definitely enjoy reading other blogs. As I mentioned earlier, I came to the conclusion that being vegan isn't the right thing for me. About half my meals are vegan but I'm concentrating now on a low glycemic index diet. I have very delicate blood sugar and it seems to be helping. More on that later. Some of the recipes/pictures I'll be posting are not vegan, but if possible I'll include vegan substitutions.

Here is a montage, if you will, of food-related highlights of the past 3 months. I think from here on out I'll try to blog on Wednesdays, starting with this Wednesday.

1. Couscous and a minor celebrity
I'm a big fan of Couscous restaurant in Richmond. Pictured below is their amazing "mock chicken" tagine. I am weeping with longing for it now. (I live about 1.5 hours drive from Richmond.)

While we were there, the woman in the Room Store commercials walked in! This is probably only of interest to local people, but in the (oft-broadcast) commercials, she's pixielike and so perky you want to stuff her in a credenza. At Couscous, though, she looked hip and fun. I wanted to send her over a drink, but chickened out. (Our waitress confirmed that it was her, though.)

2. Another couscous dinner
Made this lovely vegan dish this week. Flanking the couscous are "tofu steaks" by Helen's Kitchen, which I highly recommend.

3. More new dishes
My nutritionist (another topic I'll revisit) came up with two great snack ideas for me. One is brown rice balls with umeboshi plums, wrapped in seaweed, and the other was rice krispie treats made without refined sugar. Believe it or not, they taste almost exactly the same as the sugar-packed ones. I'll post those recipes later if anyone's interested.

4. An offer you can't refuse
This is actually what prompted me to blog today: reading about an initiative by Anti records to donate money to an animal society for every blog who posts the video to a Neko Case song. Sadly, the offer expired February 3. But check out the details anyway. It's a great idea.