Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Hello and goodbye


The end of the year always motivates me to reflect and take stock. In fact, I've tried to get into this blog a few times over the past year but some issue with Blogger had me locked out of it.

I am no longer trying to go vegan, and I'm happier with my eating habits than ever. This is not meant as an affront to vegans, whom I will always admire for their dedication to animal welfare. I find that about half of my meals just turn out to be vegan. I don't eat meat, but I eat fish 2-3 times a month. Increasing the protein in my diet has been one of the best changes I've made. Plain yogurt with fruit and nuts is my mainstay for breakfast, but the protein in other meals is more often from beans, tofu, eggs, or seitan than it is from dairy/fish sources.

In late 2009, I decided to try to drop some weight and started a good old-fashioned calorie-counting regimen. By late 2010 I'd lost 25% of my body weight, bringing me from 6 pounds "overweight" to near the bottom of my "healthy weight range." I lost 4 clothing sizes and half a shoe size. I've maintained all of that weight loss and a few pounds more since the end of my diet, 14.5 months ago. I joined the National Weight Control Registry, which is a research group of Big Losers.

I discovered that I love weightlifting. I also love yoga, running, and walking. However, my weight loss was 90% due to diet and 10% due to changes in my exercise routine (I've been exercising at least 4 days a week for the past 16 years now).

I've become pretty good at naturally balancing my intake and output. Contrary to what you might read in the popular media, weight loss is not that hard. Slow and steady is the key, not the starvation diets cited in the linked article and too many others like it. Also, I don't think any weight loss programs will succeed without frank and honest examination of emotions attached to food.

I'm nattering on about weight loss because it was more than an aesthetic undertaking for me. Seeing it through has transformed my relationship with myself, as well as sparked even more interest in health, food, and fitness.

It doesn't seem right to continue a vegan blog when I have decided not to commit to veganism. I've been logging regularly at the forums at, which is a paid subscription site. I'm not sure whether I'll resume a public blog. I still dip into vegan blogs occasionally for recipe ideas and because I still like all of you!

Best wishes to everyone in 2012 and beyond.


Saturday, June 6, 2009

Pasta with mushroom sauce

Recipe by request.

3/4 lb dry pasta
1/4 cup crumbled dried wild mushrooms (you can use porcini or those assorted wild mushrooms blends)
1-1/4 cups boiling water
1 large onion, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
1 teaspoon oregano and 1 teaspoon basil, or about 1 tablespoon each of chopped fresh basil/oregano
dash of salt
2 tablespoons flour
2/3 cup red wine
1 tablespoon soy sauce
black pepper to taste
chopped parsley and/or cheesey substance of your choice

Place the dried mushrooms in a bowl with the boiling water. While they soften, start sauteeing the onions. When they begin to soften, add the herbs, salt, and fresh mushrooms and continue cooking over medium heat. At this point, begin boiling the pasta water and cooking the pasta. When everything is soft in the saute pan, sprinkle in the flour, wine, and soy sauce. Stir and continue to simmer for a minute or two.

Place a coffee filter or paper towel in a strainer and drain the wild mushrooms, making sure to save the soaking liquid. Add the soaking liquid to the saute pan. Rinse the wild mushroom pieces, chop them finely, and add them to the pan. Simmer everything on low heat for about eight more minutes, until the sauce has thickened a bit.

Serve over the cooked pasta, topped with parsley or cheese.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

In which I try to poison my husband

I know my updates have been sporadic and incomplete lately. Many forces (work, social life, charity work, housework, The Wire) are in a tug-of-war for my time and updating my blog is not winning. I'll be updating when I can/ want to, but it probably won't be every week.

I've been trying a few new or so-old-they're-new recipes over the past few weeks. Last night we had pasta with mushroom sauce, which is deliciously rich and complex, but easy to make (and vegan). I think the secret is the generous amount of red wine. The alcohol burns off during cooking...or does it? If anyone wants the recipe, leave a comment.

I also made a broccoli-tofu stirfry with a hoisin-based sauce. Because I'm not sure if I like hoisin, I told the Mr. "I have to warn you that this sauce includes hoisin..." Before I could continue, he said, "POISON?? The sauce is POISON??" Heh heh.

Tonight I'm excited about going to see Bryant Terry, the author of Vegan Soul Kitchen, speak at our local library. Will they serve food in the library? I hope so but I'm skeptical. Does anyone have his cookbook? It's getting a lot of buzz around here.

I tend to be unduly hard on myself when I miss a workout or eat something that's not good for me. I got a dose of perspective when I was in a class last week. At the beginning of the class, they put out a plate of doughnuts, muffins, bagels, etc. People devoured them and got coke or coffee during the breaks. Then huge plates of cookies and brownies appeared each day after lunch, and people helped themselves to about 4 or 5 pieces each. At one time, I would have been carbo-loading right along with them. I'm not trying to sound judgmental, but watching their eating habits reinforced to me how far I've come in overhauling my diet. It feels good to be healthy.

PS: I'm now on Twitter.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Adieu, Starbucks

I'm back, with a new hard drive. Man, you never realize how many preferences, plug-ins, etc. reside on your computer until you have to replace your hard drive.

I spent all evening at a bike maintenance class and am turning in soon, but I don't want to keep my two or three readers in suspense about the results of my allergy test for any longer.

I'm writing an essay about the two week break from wheat and dairy for a fine publication, so I'll keep it short here. I discovered that I am not gluten intolerant (oh, how relieved I was), but that I have a moderate intolerance to dairy. It's not a true allergy, but I realized that milk makes me congested and probably makes my skin break out. So I am bidding farewell to liquid milk, and ice cream, except for a very rare gelato. This is a change that I tried to make about two years ago, but I couldn't summon the will to just give up milk voluntarily. I think I like it so much because the protein in it helps to modulate my blood sugar. I know there are many evil sides to milk, though, and other things have the protein that I crave. I have switched to almond milk, which I find the most palatable of the non-dairy milks.

Yogurt does not seem to cause the intolerance symptoms, so I'll continue to have yogurt a few times a week. If I don't have it, I find that I'm a lot more susceptible to yeast infections (sorry if TMI).

My period of abstinence was grueling at times, but honestly, I felt so good that the cravings were generally easy to ignore. I credit the good spirits to my vitamin regimen, which I started about a month ago. I agree with my nutritionist, who thinks that vitamins shouldn't be used in place of food with nutrients. However, because I feel distinctly better, I must have been lacking some of the vitamins I'm now supplementing. I eat at least 2 servings of fruits and a minimum of 2 vegetable servings a day, but perhaps that was not adequate.

I have a few food pictures to post, but I'm not sure if the camera app is back on my computer yet. More next week!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Living without

Sorry it's been a while. This will be short because it's late, plus my hard drive is dying and I'm afraid to use my computer too much at this point.

I'm on day 10 of a 14 day no wheat, no dairy diet. This is to determine whether I'm allergic to these foods. My nutritionist thinks I could be allergic to something because I've had recurring eczema and sinus issues, plus I retain a lot of water. We'll see. Personally, I don't think it's either of these foods. My symptoms have not improved since I started this diet. But, in general, I have been feeling great for the past few weeks. I credit it to my new vitamin program. I'm taking a multivitamin plus vitamins C, E, and B, as well as chromium, which has had a wonderfully stabilizing effect on my blood sugar. Also, since I started taking the vitamins, I am no longer cold all the time, and I've been sleeping like a log every night.

I'll write on the results of the allergy test next week, whenever my computer is back from the shop. More pictures then, too.

Man, I am really tired of brown rice at this point.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Getting biblical

A day late because I'm briefly home between trips this week. I just finished the book The New Optimum Nutrition Bible by Patrick Holford. I highly recommend it. It's just so damn rational, for one thing. None of that "how to make a fat-free cupcake" shiz that I can't stand. Tofu is pretty much the most processed food that Holford endorses. But don't think that he's just telling you to eat more vegetables. The book is a very comprehensive guide to vitamins, minerals, and other supplements like Omega-3s. Holford's position is that it's pretty much impossible to achieve optimum nutrition without supplements. He includes a quiz that gives you the vitamins and minerals you need, and recommended dosages.

I never was a believer in vitamins, but his evidence is extremely convincing. Most significantly, he talks about an amino acid called homocysteine which is a very accurate predictor of how long you will live. Your homocysteine level can be lowered (which is desirable) by cutting down on caffeine, eating more greens and less meat, and by taking supplements like B vitamins, zinc, and folic acid.

I could go on for some time about all of the good info in this book. Here are a few changes I'm making after reading it:
1) Renewed dedication to a low glycemic load diet which keeps my blood sugar more stable
2) A 2-week regimen of no gluten or dairy (starting Monday!). I have a lot of symptoms of a low-level food allergy, according to the book.
3) Taking a multivitamin plus additional vitamin C, B vitamins, chromium (to stabilize blood sugar), and vitamin E.

I'm hoping that within a month I'll be free of sugar cravings and that the intermittent eczema on my hands clears up. I've already noticed a large drop in cravings and an increase in energy since I started following a low glycemic diet. Like the Katamari video game, a low glycemic diet builds on itself. By this I mean that when your blood sugar is more even, it's easier to resist bad foods. In Katamari, you're rolling a ball around and gradually picking up larger objects. In other words, the bigger you get, the fewer things stand in your way. How's that for a tortured analogy?

In other news, the cafeteria at my government office building put on one heck of an Earth Week celebration. I was dubious, because they put out layer cake as one of the breakfast offerings. Today at lunch, they had a bunch of vendors giving out samples of "green" foods. It was quite a lineup:
--Artist Michael Albert, who creates cool art and tasty natural juices
--Hormone-, antibiotic-, preservative-, and clone-free cheese from Andrew and Everett
--Green tea beverages from Steaz
--Various hummus and tofu-based products
--And the piece de resistance, One Stop Natural's smorgasbord of delicious vegan snacks and dishes. But there weren't just samples; they were giving away full size containers of everything! I snagged some BBQ tofu which has a delicious smoky flavor and some vegan dumplings.

In the elevator, someone commented on how good the food I had looked. I mentioned that they were giveaways from Earth Day. A guy on the elevator said "Oh, EARTH DAY" in the most scornful tone. What's your damage, dude?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Earth Day= Vegan Day?

I saw a story yesterday on a very mainstream news broadcast advocating eating vegan on Earth Day. And I do mean advocating: it was an opinion-style piece rather than news reporting. They mentioned a cafe called Bread and Brew which is Green Restaurant Certified. On Earth Day, Bread and Brew will be serving a totally vegan menu. The piece also gave props to another very popular cafe, Java Green, which is vegetarian all the time. I hope that this "vegan for a day" idea catches on. The amount of animal products spared will be small, but I think it could be a great step in helping people overcome their fear of veganism. I do enjoy it when people think veganism is a weird cult but will sit down to a meal of spaghetti with a chunky veggie sauce and a green salad, unaware that they're eating vegan.

This article in today's Times also talks about veganism. Has anyone read Jeffrey Masson's new book? He's a sometime vegan, but probably more frequently than me.

What is everyone doing for Earth Day? I plan to eat vegan, even though I'll be en route back from vegan-unfriendly Texas on that day. Yup, I'm taking two round-trip flights the week of Earth Day, although I don't usually fly a lot.

I'm exhausted tonight so I'll keep this short. I've been to 3 concerts in 8 days recently, the biggest of which was the men who brought me my blog tag line.