Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Day 44: "Mexican" Quinoa & Rice with Corn and Chorizo

This was a spur of the moment, "the pantry is empty" recipe that ended up tasting delicious. I was inexact with my measurements, so if you're trying to recreate this, bear that in mind.

"Mexican" Quinoa & Rice with Corn and Chorizo

  • olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup long grain white rice
  • 1/4 cup quinoa
  • 1/4 cup red quinoa
  • 1 can Rotel tomatoes and chilies
  • 1/2 t garlic powder
  • 1/2 t onion powder
  • 1/2 t (heaping) chili powder
  • water

  • 1 vegan chorizo, diced (I used the LightLife Smart Sausages brand)* A poster kindly pointed out that these sausages are not actually vegan, as they contain egg. I believe I will try to make steamed seitan sausages from scratch this weekend.
  • 3/4 cup frozen corn
  • dried, minced onion, reconstituted * for some reason I am using this stuff in everything lately

  • chopped avocado
  • shredded vegan cheese
  • chopped cilantro

  1. In a sturdy saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.

  2. Add the chopped onion and saute until translucent.

  3. Add the garlic and the rice and two kinds of quinoa. Stir well, be sure that everything is coated.

  4. Dump the Rotel tomatoes, chilies and juice into a measuring cup and add enough water to make 2 1/2 cups.

  5. Add the spices to the rice and onion mixture, stir well, increase heat to high and add the tomato and water mixture.

  6. Cover, bring to a boil and reduce heat to low and let cook for 15 minutes, then turn off the heat. Let sit at least 10 minutes before removing the lid. The longer it sits, the better.

  7. In a medium-sized skillet, saute the diced chorizo in olive oil over medium-high heat until browned.

  8. Add the corn and reconstituted onion, stir well and cook until it's as browned as you like. I like the corn to have a bit of color.

  9. When it's done, add the chorizo mixture to the grains, stir well. Serve in a bowl topped with cheese, avocado and cilantro.

Notes: This recipe uses my basic pilaf technique:
  • I saute the aromatics (chopped onion or shallot) in olive oil over fairly high heat until it just starts to sweat and turns translucent, then add the garlic and then almost immediately the grains.
  • Up the heat to high, stirring pretty frequently, making sure that the grains are nicely coated. You can saute them longer until they're slightly browned and give off a nutty smell, and then add the liquid.
  • Cover immediately with a tight-fitting lid and bring to a boil I like to use a pot that has a glass lid so I can see exactly when it's come to a nice boil - then lower the heat and let simmer for 13-15 minutes. This is where the glass lid comes in handy. You can see the surface of the rice if there are holes, like small craters where the hot air has forced through but there is no more liquid bubbling, it's perfect.
  • Turn off the heat, and let it sit for at least 10 minutes before you remove the lid to fluff the rice.
  • I use this for mixed-grain pilafs and when I was a dairy eater, would add grated cheese and a pat of butter at the very end when I would stir in the last ingredients.
  • One of my favorite mixed-grain pilafs uses 1/2 cup of rice, 1/4 cup of bulgur and 1/4 cup of quinoa and 2 cups of liquid.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Day 42: Sunday Morning Vegan Fry-up

I've never been a fan of cold cereals, pancakes, waffles or french toast for breakfast. I've tried the light breakfasts of fruit and granola, and on the whole, they just don't work for me. I need a solid breakfast under my belt to get me going in the morning. On those occasions when I want a big breakfast, I'd always opt for a big greasy plate piled high with eggs, sausage, some mess of fried potatoes and toast.

I have fond memories of when I was in Korea after partying in Itaewon, my friends and I going back to my apartment where I'd make a late-night( or very early-morning ) breakfast mess of a huge skillet filled with fried potatoes cooked down to a lovely golden crisp with sauteed vegetables and topped with scrambled eggs. We called it the Peasant's Breakfast Special, but oh my GOD was it good, just thing thing after a night of too much beer, soju and the greatest disco hits of the 70s.

There's nothing like a nice fry-up on the weekend, and there's no reason you can't have one, even if you're a vegan.

Vegan Sunday Fry-up

  • olive oil
  • 1/3 package vegan Gimme Lean Sausage
  • 4 T dried, minced onion, reconstituted
  • 1/3 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 tomato, diced

  • 1/3 package extra firm tofu, blotted dry
  • 1/2 onion, chopped fine
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed and coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 t onion powder
  • 1/2 t garlic powder
  • 1/2 t turmeric
  • 1 T nutritional yeast

  1. In a skillet, over medium-high heat, cook the sausage in olive oil until it starts to brown. Add the reconstituted onion and stir well.

  2. In another skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat, then crumble the tofu into the pan. Stir well and cook until browned.

  3. While the tofu is browning, add the red bell pepper to the sausage mixture in the first skillet, stir well, then lower the heat and let cook through.

  4. Once the tofu starts to get lightly golden-brown, add the chopped onion and garlic. Stir well.

  5. Add the onion powder, garlic powder and turmeric to the tofu mixture and stir thoroughly to coat.

  6. Add the chopped tomato to the sausage mixture, stir well.

  7. Add the nutritional yeast to the tofu mixture, turn up the heat to high briefly, stirring constantly, then add the tofu to the sausage and vegetable mixture in the first skillet. Fold it all together, then serve and eat.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Day 41: Refreshed

For the past 8 years ever since my son's death, a good portion of the month of June is hard for me. I often disappear from the radar, I'll stop blogging, avoid my usual internet haunts, hole up at home, reading books, watching movies, and quite often, just go to bed.

This past week I did not eat healthily; I ate completely vegan, but I basically ate nothing but bread. I took in no fruit at all, and very few vegetables. I took refuge in homemade naan and whole wheat flatbread. I craved Korean and Indian food for some reason, and made aloo gobhi and kimchi fried rice. Kimchee fried rice was one of my comfort foods when I was teaching in Korea: cheap, easy to make, and very filling, it satisfies.

This morning, though, I feel as though I've finally woken up. The girls have been begging me to take them to see the movie "Up," so we're off to the movies in a little while. They also asked for Chinese food, but I told them that a trip to the movies and take out was too much for one day, but said that we could do our DIY takeout, and they liked that.

So, later on, we'll be making mandu, veganized, 0f course. I'm planning on two kinds: the fake ground beef sort adapted from my original meat-based recipe here (I'll use the Gimme Lean fake ground beef), and veggie mandu filled with baby bok choy, tofu, shiitake mushroom, green onion, soy sauce, garlic and ginger.

I have some nice asparagus that I'll roast, glazed with soy sauce and sprinkled with sesame seeds, and I still have some leftover sticky rice that could heat up as an accompaniment. Presto! DIY takeout Chinese night. It keeps the girls happy, and as the three of us sit together at the dining room table making the mandu, we do silly things like sing songs and tell stories. Then we'll eat pic-nic style in the living room while we watch some dvd.

The girls' gradual introduction to vegan replacements for old standards has gone very well. They are actively taking an interest in what I eating and are willing to try things out. They have found that "these things taste good," which is the usual fear with healthy foods.

I'll post pictures of our mandu feast later on.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Day 32: June 18th

Today is the 8th anniversary of my son's birth and death and I'll be going to the cemetery later on, so this will be short and sweet.

It's rainy, cold and gloomy out, a fitting parallel of my mood. I needed a hearty breakfast this morning, and decided to veganize one of my comfort food breakfasts: Scrambled Eggs with Onion & Tomato.

Scrambled Tofu with Onion and Tomato

  • 2 T olive oil*
  • 1/2 block of extra firm tofu (I like nasoya organic tofu best)
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1/2 tomato, chopped
  • 1/2 t onion powder
  • 1/2 t garlic powder
  • 1/4 t turmeric
  • 2 T nutritional yeast
  • salt and pepper to taste

  1. Put the olive oil in a pan and turn the heat to medium-high.

  2. Drain the tofu and blot it with a paper towel.

  3. Crumble the tofu into the pan and saute until it's nicely golden-brown.

  4. Push the tofu to the sides of the pan and add the chopped onion and saute until translucent.

  5. Add the tomato and stir the mixture together.

  6. Stir in the onion powder, garlic powder and turmeric and mix well.

  7. Fold in the nutritional yeast, making sure that everything is well coated. Let it cook for about a minute more, then plate.

  8. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

*Unlike Rachael Ray, you'll never see me prance around the kitchen calling it EVOO.

  • It looks amazingly like the real deal scrambled eggs, thanks to the turmeric and nutritional yeast.

  • I always preferred my eggs on the dry side which is why I did not opt for any additional moisture, but if you like yours creamier, you can whisk your nutritional yeast into some warm soy milk or soy creamer first and then add it to the tofu and vegetable mixture.

  • I may try something like this in my quest to make the perfect vegan omelette. Omelettes were my favorite egg-based dish. If I coudl recreate their essence with tofu I would be very happy indeed.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Day 30: Perspective

Well, it's not what I'm eating, there's something else going on because as of this morning I've gained 5 pounds since yesterday, all in excess water I can feel sloshing around in my tissue. All day yesterday I was ridiculously thirsty, drinking glass after glass of ice water, and running to the bathroom constantly. Nevertheless, I have accumulated 5 pounds of fluid, so obviously there is more going on here. My first thought, especially because of the extreme thirst, was diabetes, but I was just tested, and my numbers were fine. I'm not nearly at a weight that would put me at risk for it either, so unless this thirst persists for days, I will rule that out.

Then I got to thinking, I did start a new medication two weeks ago, and for some lucky reason, I am prone to weird side effects of medications. Reading the literature on this medication I noticed that a rare side effect is... hyperglycemia or diabetes. Great. I think I'll call and have them order a blood glucose test for me and see if perhaps my blood sugar numbers have sky rocketed in the past few weeks. Or I suppose could just stop taking it, it's not an essential medication, it was just for migraine prevention.

So in other words, staying true to my ideal of eating healthy should be the way to go. I may put the Eco-Atkins on the back burner for now and continue to eat smart, eat healthy and choose from all the groups, and to Hell with the scale.

In other news, today we have our big day at the zoo. My younger daughter's long-awaited class field trip to our local zoo is today, and I somehow volunteered to be a chaperone. I still am not sure how that happened. She's so excited that I'm coming along, and packing our lunches in the laptop lunch boxes. The forecast is for a beautiful day, I'll get plenty of exercise walking around herding kindergarteners, all in all, it should be an epic day.

If only I can keep from running to the bathroom.

Enjoy your day, everyone.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Day 29: "Now is the Time on Sprockets Ven Ve Dance!"

Ok, not really. In fact, in the swirling torrents of my mind right now, it actually goes something more like "Now is the time on Sprockets ven ven obsess over our veight."

Ugh. I weighed myself today, and inexplicably, I am up a pound and a half from Friday. I knew it was happening too, because I could feel the water weight accumulating over the weekend. I hate that. It makes me feel like a bloated sponge. I wish I could just wring myself dry.

What. The. Fuck?

I haven't been eating unhealthy foods, I haven't been overindulging, the portion sizes aren't gluttonous, yet *BAM* I haven't even been overdoing it on the breads, well, except for yesterday. I made my whole wheat flatbreads to accompany the cauliflower and lentil dish and had four of those; 1 "tester" straight off the griddle when I was cooking them, another to test the cauliflower dish as it was simmering and then two later on with the meal. Granted, they're small, but still. I'll have to put them in the freezer until I can sort this out.

So, how lovely, my firm resolution of the other day is basically all shot to shit, and I am now obsessing over the idea of doing this Eco-Atkins plan that's got people's tongues wagging. Basically, for two weeks I'd eliminate the carbs I do eat: the whole wheat bread, whole wheat tortillas, potatoes, grains & the occasional Guiltless Gourmet chips. Oh, and the damned vegan pancakes. I never really cared about pancakes before, I don't know where this craving came from.

Part of me really hates that I've become so scope-locked on this as primarily a weight loss issue, instead of as a healthy lifestyle & ethical change, when it's both. I guess I assumed that now that I am eating healthily (and virtuously for God's sake, I'm saving cows and pigs and chickens), the pounds should be melting off of me as quickly as they did the first time I adopted a vegan diet. I remember losing 20 pounds pretty damned quickly, but then again I am 40 now, and was 18 then. Big difference in metabolisms.

Anther option would be to go raw, which would mean no cooked or processed anything: bread, tortillas, hummus, refried beans, cooked lentils, tofu, seitan, tempeh, fake meats. Basically a lot of what I've spent money on the past three weeks at the grocery store. It's just not economically feasible to throw food out, that's throwing money out, so I'm going to say no to going totally raw. I am going to continue keeping the bulk of what I eat raw fruits and vegetables though.

So I think that for the next two weeks I'll just cut out what flour-based items I have been eating, along with the occasional rice or potato dish along with the snack indulgences and anything that might still have sugar in it, though to be honest, I haven't used white sugar in months. I'll increase the amount of protein because I've read that boosting the higher-protein plant foods might be especially helpful for vegan women looking to lose weight.

I am keeping the fruit, at least for the next two weeks. If the pounds don't start sliding off in a steady manner, then I'll see about taking the drastic step of eliminating them for two weeks.

So, a sample menu for my day on an Eco-Atkins diet would probably look something like:

Monster Green Smoothie
20 almonds

apple with peanut butter

1/2 cup of hummus with 2 cups of raw vegetables: raw red bell pepper, celery, grape tomatoes

1/4 cup of roasted soy nuts

Celery sticks with cashew cheese

Tofu and veggie scramble

So, lots of raw vegetables, beans, nuts, soy and legumes for protein, plus some fruit and plenty of water. Oh, and I won't be stepping on the scale again in a while. Let's see where I am after two weeks of doing this.

Of course, getting back to the title and the sentiment Dieter's expressing in the photo to the right, you know, I really should get up and dance, or so some cardio daily. My copy of Yoga Booty Ballet beckons.

If the weather cooperates today, I will walk instead of drive to pick the kids up from school, and tomorrow is my little one's big day at the Zoo, and she made me promise to come on the field trip with her, so no doubt we'll be walking all day, plus I'll have my own bevy of kindergartners to herd.

This would all be so much easier if I had the support of a loving spouse, but yet again, one of life's big lessons is that if you don't love yourself, then really why the hell should anyone else love you? It's especially difficult in those times when you feel as though you really want to give up, but you know that you can rely on a loved-one to buck you up. Don't get me wrong, I get a ton of support from my friends, and I appreciate every bit of it, but it's a different kind of support from the type you get from someone who loves the hell out of you. So yet again, I have to suck it all up and just pull through this shit on my own. It's tiring, and kind of demoralizing after a while.

Well, enough of that Monday morning negativity.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Day 28: Indian Food in a New Kitchen (Sort of)

The girls and I embarked on a long-overdue spring cleaning of sorts yesterday. They'd put off really cleaning their rooms and I'd put off really laying down the law with them until things reached a critical mass yesterday. I held out the reward of a cool pet keepsake craft kit with a scrapbook and a photo album which they could do while watching a Pokemon movie.

I must say, that worked as a pretty effective carrot on a stick. You call it "bribery;" I call it "two clean kids' rooms."

While they toiled upstairs, I sorted out all of the stuff from the lower cabinets in my kitchen, ripped out the old contact paper, washed the shelves and applied new contact paper. I tossed out some old stuff hanging around, like a package of beef jerky still lingering from my South Beach Diet days (won't be needing that anymore), an old can of soup which I believe we actually moved with us up from Maryland 8 years ago, and a seasoning packet for pasta salad that had hardened into a solid lump of salt. *shudder*

Now my flours are all in nice containers, nicely aligned, my rices and grains are nearby, everything looks nice, although I could devote an entire post to how un-Martha I am. I'm pretty sure that some other chick has taken the title of the "Anti-Martha," and although I do not smoke, and believe it or not, don't really drink much anymore either, I am the idea of the Martha who's got a strong drink on the counter, a cigarette smoldering in the ashtray and a stream of curses flying out of her mouth as she struggles with the contact paper.

That contact paper is the devil.

Although my cabinets are all in order, the top of my counter is a different story: jars of at least 8 kinds of nuts, seeds and trail mixes squeezed in what small space can be found between the blender, food processor and juicer - each of these vital to my daily routine. If I can dredge up the will to do it, I'll go through the upper cabinets and reorganize things there so I can shift the jars of nuts up there and give me back some counter space.

Of course I'd probably just clutter it up with the food dehydrator which I've been dying to use. Some of the raw food cracker recipes look mighty tempting, but that thing is a monstrous space-hog.

We'll see. At any rate, I was looking around for vegan recipes for cauliflower when I stumbled on this: Cauliflower Dal with Panch Phoran from the FatFree Vegan Kitchen. The critical ingredient for this dish is a Bengali spice blend called Panch Phuran. Despite a trip to Wegman's early yesterday, I seemed to be fresh out of this stuff. Fortunately for me, we do have a few Indian groceries in my area. A quick trip through Google later and I was nearly salivating on my keyboard, ready to roll down the hill to get to Kashmir's and sample their vegetarian samosas, rotis and naan. I'm trying my best not to go out to the store for specialty items every day though.

My craving for Indian food now completely stoked, however, I have been poring over Indian food blogs and recipe sites seeking out recipes I could make using what I have on hand, when it occurred to me that I already have a tried and true recipe for Cauliflower and Chickpea Balti that I could adapt. I've been heavy on the chickpeas lately, in fact, today's lunch was a hefty dose of Sabra Chunky Hummus and an assortment of raw veggies. Delicious. If you haven't tried their hummus, do yourself a favor and pick some up the next time you're wheeling past the kalamata olives, baba ganouj and feta.

Anyway... to keep from overdoing it on the chickpea quotient, I thought I'd satisfy another craving and add red lentils to this recipe.

Cauliflower and Red Lentils in Balti Sauce

  • ¼ cup red lentils
  • ½ t turmeric
  • ½ t salt
  • 1 cup of water

  • 2 Tb vegetable oil
  • ½-in piece ginger, minced
  • 2 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 shallots, chopped
  • 1 cup of water
  • 3 tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 T chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 t ground cumin
  • ½ t turmeric
  • ¼ t chili powder
  • ½ t paprika
  • ½ t garam masala
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 green cardamom pods, slightly crushed
  • 1½ t salt

  • ½ head of cauliflower cut into fourths
  • fresh cilantro leaves for garnish
  • garam masala (optional)

  1. Rinse the red lentils well, then drain. Place them in a pot with the salt and turmeric and 1 cup of water, bring to a boil and simmer, covered for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. While the lentils are cooking, heat the oil over medium heat.
  3. Add the onions and cook until they are translucent.
  4. Add the water and bring to a boil. Add the garlic, ginger, tomato, cilantro, cumin, turmeric, chili powder, paprika, garam masala, bay leaves, cardamom pods and salt, cover and simmer on a low heat for 30 minutes.
  5. Remove the bay leaves and cardamom pods, add the cooked lentils and cauliflower, cover and simmer until the cauliflower is just tender.
  6. Stir in the coriander. Just before serving, sprinkle additional garam masala on top. Serve with flatbread or over basmati rice.
This makes 4 sizeable servings.

  • I had to cook more lentils to add to the sauce. By the time the cauliflower had finished cooking, there was no sign of them, so I turned off the heat and cooked some more red lentils.

  • The original recipe also had green chili peppers in the sauce, but that was on ingredient I didn't have. This recipe is deliciously spiced, but not spicy. The chilis add a wonderful heat to it, so if you want it hotter, go for it. :)

  • The next time I make this, I'll make a lot more lentils and add them last, when the cauliflower has finished cooking.

  • When I heated these leftovers up, I added some chopped pickled green chillies (mirch achaar), because I wanted some heat. Excellent. I went on to use some of them in the straight in the curry sauce when I made aloo gobhi instead of jalapenos.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Day 26: What Not to Eat

It may be easy to assume that the majority of vegans eat a healthier diet than most non-vegan Americans, but it's worth nothing that that's not necessarily so. Even though vegans have cut out synthetic trans fats and animal-based saturated fats, they still run the risk of swamping meals with "healthy" fats like walnut oil, olive oil and flaxseed oil, also with high-fat fruits like avocados and coconut products, and then there are all of those nuts for snacks.

There are still carb-laden junk foods, like bagels, Oreos, Fritos, unfrosted Pop-tarts, tortilla chips, Cracker Jacks, pretzels and potato chips. Yes, those are all vegan! Then there are varieties of organic and "healthy" junk food alternatives in the natural foods section of many large chain grocery stores.

So what if they're organic? They're still more or less empty calories! Simply making a one-to-one switch of the animal products to plant-based ones, like eating vegan pizza topped with cashew cheese and fake meats instead of a regular Meat-lover's pizza from Pizza Hut three times a week may bring some benefits, but it's not as healthy as ultimately changing the way we eat.

You could eat nothing but peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, bagels with Tofutti cream cheese, nachos assembled from Guiltless Gourmet blue corn tortilla chips, vegetarian refried beans, guacamole and soy-based casein-free "cheese," and topped off with salsa, vegan sour cream and black olives and say, "Hey, I'm a Vegan!" and still not get a healthy allotment of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

I know. I've done it.

My food credo, if you can call it that, is to eat the majority of my food in as close to its natural state as possible: more natural food and less "industrial food," as Michael Pollan would say. In his book, The Omnivore's Dilemma, he described industrial food as "any food whose provenance is so complex or obscure that it requires expert help to ascertain." In the Standard American Diet (SAD), this probably means corn or some derivative thereof, and wow, is it everywhere, from the sweeteners, to the flour, to the wax on a lot of the produce, to the grain that fattened the cattle who ultimately became Quarter Pounders, or fed the chickens who turned into your kids' Purdue Dinosaur Chicken nuggets; it even fed the dairy cows who produced the cream in my old favorite pint of Chubby Hubby ice cream.* Edit: upon some review, it appears that Ben and Jerry's actually makes real efforts to work with dairy farmers who pledge to use grass-based dairying, whose benefits are many; among them being a more sustainable agricultural practice with less need for chemical fertilizers, and a healthier herd, so less call for drugs.

The Egg McMuffin? A lot of corn behind that baby, plus a smidge of overly-refined wheat flour.

So, no more with the military-industrial complex and their frankenfoods. I haven't even touched on the issue of genetically-engineered foods and the evil that is Monsanto.

I resolve to eat most of my fruits and vegetables raw, same goes for my nuts and seeds. Unlike with a 100% raw diet, I'll have baked whole-grain bread, though I may try some dehydrated cracker recipes from raw food sites. I do have some processed soy and vegetable protein items, (soy milk, tofu, tempeh, soy-based meat and cheese replacements) but they will not constitute the bulk of my diet.

In fact, I am still delving into what's "ok" and what isn't. I recently discovered that my favorite soy milk, Silk, no longer uses organic soy beans. From what I've read, genetically modified soy beans have pretty much contaminated the general supply, so unless the package is specifically marked organic, chances are good that you're consuming a genetically modified organism (GMO).

Silk did not substantially change their packaging except to remove the organic stamp and the "organic soy beans" from the ingredients list. They did this with as little fanfare as possible. In fact, I only heard about this through vegan blogs and a twitter-fest over the past week. Now I have to check the labels even more thoroughly on my soy-based items. It's not enough that many of the "non-dairy" soy-based cheeses aren't actually vegan because of traces of casein, something which I discovered to my chagrin after I bought three blocks of Soya Kaas last week. No, now I have to worry about the quality of the soy beans in my supposedly healthy food.

How aggravating.

I have to work twice as hard and spend more money to feed my kids and myself the healthiest foods, as free of pesticides, antibiotics and suspect science as possible. The food industry markets the most unhealthy food the most aggressively. They have the grocers' associations on their sides as well as the food manufacturers because their bottom line is a financial one, although it is patently absurd, since at the end of the day, they all have to eat too. But here is where there is a disconnect: they don't see the animals and plants as anything other than commodities to be processed into other exchangeable items.

I see animals that have been poisoned, inhumanely slaughtered -against our own laws, even- and contaminated food that has been processed and stamped USDA-approved thanks to the ridiculous concept of an industry regulating itself. Let's be realistic, if fraternities can't manage the honor system, we can't expect billion-dollar corporations to do so.

That's just scratching the surface. /rant

So, what to eat, then?

There's been a lot in the news in recent days about the Eco-Atkins, or a veganized version of the Atkins diet, and yesterday I was excited about it because I'd done a low-carb, high-protein diet 3 years ago and lost a good deal of weight, only to have some of it come back when my unresolved eating disorder issues popped to the fore during times of stress.

Now I know that it's naïve of me to assume that switching to a vegan diet/lifestyle would be a panacea for all that ails me. I know I'll probably have to see a therapist about this at some point, truth be told, but I know from my past experience that weight loss with a vegan diet is quite common. Hearing about this vegan version of the Atkins got me revved up until I realized that I've been losing weight already, albeit slowly; what's more, I have been feeling great ever since I made the switch. So, why mess with a good thing? Besides, as of this morning, I'm down another pound, so, as far as I'm concerned, I'm good.

Using a Vegan Food Pyramid as a guide, the base of my diet will be fruits and vegetables instead of grains.

I have to be wary of which grains I eat because of they way they affect my blood sugar levels. Rice, even brown rice, is tricky for me. I can eat a huge serving of a brown rice dish and be craving something shortly thereafter even though I'm not hungry. I have already given up pasta except on rare occasions, going on 3 years now. At first I thought I'd die if I couldn't have pasta 3 times a week, but look, I haven't! When I do make it for the kids, I try to use whole grain varieties, which are expensive, I admit, so there's even more of an incentive to try other things like quinoa, millet and bulgur.

Whole grain breads don't seem to have the same affect on me as pasta and rice do, which is nice since I am a bread-making fiend. I can make a mixed grain pilaf with rice as long as I am heavy on the other grains (bulgur and quinoa are my favorite) and add some beans and nuts as well and round out the meal with plenty of raw vegetables. I can't make that dish very often though.

All in all, I like the emphasis on fruits and vegetables instead of grains. Most of the pyramids use the grain and cereal group at the bottom, and it seems to suggest to people that they can go ahead and eat 2 bowls of cereal or have 3 bagels or snack on pretzels all day and they're set.

That's nuts.


-Source VeganMethod.com

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Day 25: The List

As I mentioned way back in the beginning, 25 days ago, part of the reason I switched to a vegan diet was that I wanted to lose weight. Although my blood-work came back with outstanding test results despite the number on the scale (I still secretly think that the scales in doctors' offices are set a good 5 pounds heavier), I decided that I need to drop some mass off my frame.

Since making the switch, I've felt really pretty awesome. I've lost some weight (6 pounds), feel energized, have increased my yoga workouts, instituted a meditation practice and even started some cardio. Hurray. That one pebble thrown in the pond has cast some wide ripples. /zen

Always looking for more ways to stay motivated, I'm taking a cue from two friends who've embarked on a journey to lose a bit of themselves in order to find themselves (heh, that's hokey, but I'm keeping it), and creating a wish-list of the things I'd like to do once I'm in the shape & fitness level I've always dreamed I'd attain.

1. Take a yoga class at the local yoga center and not have to wear a tunic-sized t-shirt.

Hell, that roomy shirt always ended up down around my neck when we did the inverted positions anyway, so why bother, right? Ok, I'm not saying I'll be traipsing around, scantily-clad, in a sports bra and spandex shorts, but I do have a workout shirt with a built-in bra that would fit the bill... once I lose some of this winter padding around my waist.

I am actually planning on registering for their next session, starting June 29th, although I will not be wearing that top. I'd need to go down like two cup sizes before I'd feel comfortable wearing that in mixed company, but that's just me.

2. Take an adult ballet class.

I know, my God, I know!

I took 10 fucking years of dance when I was young, and bitched about it for, oh, about 9 of them. Once I stopped, I missed it almost immediately. I am extremely fortunate that all those years of dance gave me a good muscle base and a sense of balance as a foundation on which I can rely even now, as out of practice and shape as I am.

Still, there's no way in hell I am squeezing my ass into a leotard until I lose some body mass.

3. Take part in a mass cross-country skiing event.

Ok, it doesn't have to be the massive endurance ski across Greenland. What? Think I'm joking? Check out the Greenland Icecap Challenge:
The race distance is 550km and competitors will have a choice whether they are supported or unsupported. The route will follow an arc just above the Arctic Circle from the West to East coast. Competitors will pull their individual and team stores in sledges, sleep in tents and deal with diverse challenges such as surviving in temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees, navigating the crevasses, as well as watching out for Polar bears on the East coast.

birkieSounds exciting doesn't it? Insane, too. I bet it will be filled with men named Sven, Olle and Kjetil. I hope National Geographic will film it so I can watch it from the warmth, comfort and relative safety of my living room as I sip coffee laced with whiskey. Lykke til!

Anyway, I'm sure there must be a shorter race somewhere closer to me without the threat of plunging to one's death down glacier crevasses or being eaten by polar bears even if there will be a profound dearth of men named Sven, Olle and Kjetil. :p

Note: the event pictured above is the American Birkebeiner race, not the Greenland Icecap Challenge, which is slated for 2011.

Another note: a little extra padding is actually a plus for this event. The polar bears like that too.

4. Attend a week-long workshop at the Kripalu center

Talk about pie in the sky dreams. I'd have to sell a kidney or create the next big pyramid scheme to come up with the money for this, I think.

This place is like yoga summer camp for grownups. It's in the Berkshires, and it is literally, right on the mountain next door to Tanglewood. You can sit outside on the hill and hear the Boston Symphony Orchestra play. If that isn't a little bit of nirvana right here on earth, then I don't know what else could be. As an added bonus, it's in New England which is just the vegan icing on the cake.

5. To any of you that ever made some crack about my looks (like calling me "pudgy" or *shudder* "chunky" God, I hate that word), I will hunt you down on Facebook and haunt you with a skinny & young-looking picture friend request, only to delete you and tell you to fuck off.*

Ok, probably not, that's too bitchy & spiteful even for me, but I can sure as hell daydream about it. I mean, what else are those revenge fantasy scenarios good for if not to get that crap out of our systems so we can move on, right? Sure.

C'mon, we all indulge in those secret fantasies where the people who wronged us on the playground of Borough Elementary school when we were 8 get their comeuppance at some hazy point in the future, and all is right with the world. Right? I can't be the only crazy one here who does this...

Ok, I'll put the crazy back in the box for now. /crazy

6. Have a custom-made dress for a fancy occasion.

Sure, I have no idea what occasion that would be, I'm not exactly going to red carpet events on Viggo Mortensen's arm here in CNY, and the last time I got an invitation to take tea with the Queen was some time ago, and I'm hardly into haute couture. Frankly, I think it's a waste of money to devote to stuff which is out of style every season. That said, it would be nice to have a dress for special occasions made just to fit me, in a style that flatters my body shape, and in a fabric which I actually like.

Sadly, I am no fashionista; I would commit the high crime of fashion and wear it more than once. :p

7. Go to some fancy-schmancy resort spa for a weekend.

fish pedicureI am not a girly-girl spa girl. Shocking, no? Oh, if you could see me now, braless in a t-shirt and yoga pants with my hair twisted in a bun, you'd have no doubt. I've had 2 manicures in my entire life, rarely even paint my nails myself, have never had a professional pedicure and frankly hate spa facials because instead of leaving my skin feeling invigorated, they make my skin feel like an oil slick. Yuck. I'm 100% in favor of the hour-long massages though. Bring those on!

Nevertheless, I'd love to go to one of those places for a whole weekend and get plunked in a mud bath, wrapped in seaweed so that I look like a walking California roll, and have all the hair waxed off of me (as long as they numb me up first) and whatever else they want to throw at me... except a high colonic.

Juice fast? Yes. Gourmet macrobiotic dishes? Yes. Microdermabrasion from shelter-rescued kittens? HELL yes! Fish pedicures? WTH, why not? Enemas? Noooooooo....

Best of all would be if my GP girlfriends were there too. Now THAT would be epic.

8. Take a cross-country cycling tour.

This would involve my bringing the bike up from the spiderweb-infested depths of its corner of the basement, taking it to the local bike shop for a tuneup, actually hauling my ass onto the seat once in a while, and finding the time and money to break away from this random assortment of stream of consciousness moments I like to call a "life," but yeah, I think it'd be fun. It would be even more fun to do with a significant other, but that's making another huge assumption that I won't even address here.

Oh, but fret not, I would never, ever ride as a couple on a tandem bike! The cutesy-and-gag factor there is just too high.

9. Take the all-day horseback trip over Flattop Mountain... again

When I was 16, on a family vacation out to Colorado I went on this totally awesome trail ride from Grand Lake to Estes Park over Flattop Mountain. My sister, who was forced (by our parents, not by me) did not think that it was so cool.

Anyway, we got to the stables in Estes Park at some ungodly hour of the morning, and drove with a cowboy-looking guy whose nickname ought to have been "Slim" in a rattly truck on these terrifying switchback roads along the side of a mountain range to the Grand Lake stables where we were matched up with our trail horses. Then it was like 10 or 11 hours in the saddle as we trekked over a damned mountain back to Estes Park. Totally awesome, even if I did walk bow-legged for three days afterward.

10. Just be happy and comfortable with my body as it is.

This one might take a miracle.

Or therapy.

Or a lobotomy.

*I stole this one pretty much verbatim from Shannon. Thanks sweetie!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Food Nazi

"You want to sit me down and force-feed me kale."
Stephen Colbert to Eric Schlosser

Day 24: A Green Smoothie Addict

I can't get enough of these green smoothies. For the past 3 days I have had what I've been calling "Monster Green Smoothies" for two meals. They're "monster" because they're big and green: 24 oz of tasty greenness.

I know I ought to seek out new recipes so that I don't get tired of drinking exactly the same smoothie every morning, and I do mix it up a bit, but I stick to a base of banana and spinach. I have come to like Michael's Super Defense Food Powder quite a lot. I have some soy yogurt which I could use as a base once I run out of bananas. I think I'll hunt down some new smoothie recipes today.

1 Monster Green Smoothie:
  • 2 bananas
  • 1/4 of a fresh pineapple
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1/2 cup of pineapple juice
  • 1 oz of baby spinach
  • 1 scoop (2 teaspoons) of Michael's Super Defense Food powder

1 glass of water
1 multivitamin, 1 flax seed oil, 1 evening primrose oil
Potato-veggie Tofu Scramble*
1 glass of water
Afternoon Snack:
2 glasses of water (lunch was very filling)

1 avocado
1 tomato
3 T tomatillo salsa

ok, yes, basically, I ate a bowl of guacamole for dinner, but my GOD was it good! The ingredients were organic, and all so fresh that it didn't need the enhancement of tortilla chips (no, not even Guiltless Gourmet or my homemade ones) or tortillas. I was eating this with a spoon until I thought better of it, got up and sliced up a red bell pepper.

1 red bell pepper
2 glasses of water

Note: I didn't even eat the whole bell pepper or the entire bowl of guac.

Potato veggie Tofu Scramble

  • 2 medium red potatoes, diced
  • 1 vidalia onion, diced
  • 5 cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 block of firm tofu, diced
  • 1/2 oz of shredded soy cheese
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 heaping t of smoked paprika
  • salt and pepper

  1. Saute potatoes and onions in a skillet that's been coated with cooking spray over high heat.

  2. Cover tightly so the steam helps cook the potatoes.

  3. Cook 5 minutes, then add the mushrooms, stir to coat and cover again, but stirring from time to time.

  4. Once the mushrooms have released much of their liquid, add the red bell peppers, stir and cover.

  5. Mix the tofu, shredded soy cheese, tomato, garlic and spices together in a bowl. Toss well.

  6. When the potato has cooked through, add the tofu-cheese mixture.

  7. Stir well, heating through, and serve hot.

Makes 2-3 servings

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Food Log for the day

1 cup of coffee with soy milk and stevia

1 Monster Green Smoothie:
  • 2 bananas
  • 1/4 of a fresh pineapple
  • 1 1/2 cups of water
  • 1 handful of baby spinach
  • 1 scoop of Michael's Super Defense Food Powder
Morning Snack
1 piece of peanut butter toast
1 glass of water

2 vegan Italian sausages (Lightlife)
1 red bell pepper
1/2 vidalia onion
3/4 cup of chunky tomato sauce
2 glasses of water

Afternoon Snack#1:
1 bottle of raspberry Guayakai Yerba Mate (16 oz)

Afternoon Snack#2:
1 glass of water
2 oz Terra Stripes and Blues Chips

Wow, these are really good!

I love Terra chips; their exotic vegetable chips, like sweet potato
, yucca and taro chips are outstanding. These are no exception.

1 monster Green Smoothie
  • 2 bananas
  • 1/4 of a fresh pineapple
  • 1 1/2 cups of water
  • 1 oz of spinach
  • 1 scoop of Michael's Super Defense Food Powder

  • My earlier blog post has got me all het-up over this issue of food-activism. I'm no wide-eyed naïf (ha!) but even I, in all my jaded cynicism, was surprised by the level of corruption and greed between the U.S. government and the food industry. Before reading these books, I had actually thought that the government had more power than it does, and that there could be no way that our elected representatives would let the rights of the many (read: all of us) be outweighed by the interests of a few wallets.

    How revolting that it's not so.

  • The girls had Tofupups for lunch. Now over the years I've bought tofupups, smart dogs or Yves's brand of meatless hot dogs more often than regular meat hot dogs, mostly because I found the idea regular of hot dogs, that is, stuffing all the leftover bits of "whatever's left and then some" to be pretty revolting.

    In all that time, the girls have never complained about tofu dogs tasting yucky or meaty franks being better, so there ya go. :)

    The way I see it, a good deal of the flavoring in any sausage is in the spices, not the particular meat. Very often sausage makers used heavy spicing to disguise what sort of meat and other stuff was inside the casing.

  • They've been asking me for deli meats for their lunches. Now, Lightlife and Yves do make fake ham and turkey deli slices, but compared to the deli counter, it's not exactly frugal. Still, I'll see what I can do. I need to get them involved in coming up with creative lunch ideas to fill their laptop lunchbox Bento boxes.

  • I have become seriously hooked on these Green Smoothies. I get so that I crave it during the day now.

    Wegman's had organic bananas on sale for 69¢/lb, and the regular bananas were 49¢/lb, so I bought four bunches of the organic bananas, at only 20¢ more per pound. Totally worth it. I got two containers of cored organic pineapple, and a huge 11-oz package of organic baby spinach. I've been using the smaller scoop that came with the Michael's powder and haven't felt it to be overpowering at all.

Day 23: The More I Read, The Angrier I Get

I'm currently reading Christopher Cook's Diet for a Dead Planet: Big Business and the Coming Food Crisis, in which he takes a hard look at the food industry.

It's seriously insane, the power that the industry wields versus how impotent the federal government regulatory agencies are. What's so troubling is how in bed the U.S. Department of Agriculture is with entities like the U.S. Cattlemen's Beef Association, Monsanto and the meatpacking industry (to name but a few). It's like an interlocking directorate of conflicting interests.

Add to this the legacy of deregulation starting with the Reagan and Bush administrations and zero enforcement of the Sherman anti-trust legislation, and you have a taxpayer-subsidized juggernaut devastating the environment which also affects our health in so many ways from levels of obesity which the CDC has now termed epidemic, to the outbreak of food-borne pathogens that sicken thousands every year.

I wonder if this is the issue which will spur me to activism.

The thing is, this is not a vegan issue. It isn't an animal rights "fringe" issue. This issue affects anyone who eats anything grown, raised, bred, manufactured or processed anywhere: in short, it affects everyone.

We are, all of us, being fed poison, shit, drugs, diseased tissue and pathogens, all of which has been stamped USDA-approved.*

What the fuck?

The trailer for Food, Inc.

This could be the food revolution for all of us, vegans, vegetarians, flexivores, frutitarians, unabashed omnivores, or I-only-eat-fish-on-Fridays-in-Lent-ivores.

*Don't believe me? Check out my abbreviated reading list:

Monday, June 8, 2009

Day 22: More Weight Gone

Yes, more weight gone, I am down 6 pounds in total, and I know I am walking a tightrope of judgmentality here by even saying this, but it's an undeserved weight loss. I say this because this past week, I have been eating a lot of junk food, even though it's been 100% vegan junk food. I made vegan nachos three times and vegan pizza twice. Good God. Oh yeah and then there were the pancakes, which I made twice. Twice, for the love of GOD! I didn't make regular, non-vegan pancakes two times in the preceding 10 months, let alone twice in the same week! What the HELL?! What's next, deep-fried, vegan Oreos?

Also, after the catastrophe that was my post-migraine phase, my coffee consumption went back up to a pot a day from a cup a day. I need to ratchet that back down.

*deep breath* So...

  • This week I start anew with the emphasis on raw fruits and vegetables first.

  • I will begin each day with the Green Smoothie for breakfast, though I'll be reducing the amount of Michael's Super Defense Food powder, because frankly, there is just some ingredient in there that is overwhelming, and not in a yummy, good way. Sad to say, it might be the spirulina. Or perhaps it's the Atlantic Kelp, or maybe even the barley grass juice powder. Hell, I don't know, but there's something in there that is a wee bit overpowering although I do feel damned energized afterward. Actually, I just opened the container and inhaled it. I think it's the cilantro, which is odd, because I love cilantro, (unlike these people) I just don't normally add it to my drinks. So whatever, I'll just add less and see if I don't get accustomed to the taste.

  • Back to vegan junk food: I'll allow myself a vegan junk food indulgence on the weekend, be it nachos, pizza or both. I've finally found a decently-melting vegan cheese: Soya Kaas makes both a mozzarella and a cheddar version in blocks so I can grate it myself.

  • Yoga & meditation. I will commit to do one or the other, if not both, every day. I've been pretty good about it over the past 5 days.


God, I wonder if I am the only vegan who is also struggling with an eating disorder.

The odds would suggest not. In a way, it's twice as harsh because now I have yet another thing to add to the column of self-loathing, as if general body image and food issues weren't enough, now I can add vegan ones to the mix. Huzzah. So really, one might say that I am setting myself up to be critical of myself no matter what I do. Hmm. Interesting.

Okay, I really need to break out of that mindset; it's destructive, not constructive, even if it is somewhat illuminating.

To put a positive spin on things, I have had more energy in the past 3 weeks since I started this. So despite the demon of food issues rearing his ugly head, it's been a good thing.

So getting back on track, I'll post my food log here this week:

1 cup of coffee with vanilla soymilk and stevia
1 monster Green Smoothie:
  • 2 organic bananas
  • 1/4 of a fresh pineapple
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1/2 scoop of Michael's Super Defense Food Powder
  • 1 handful of organic baby spinach leaves (1 oz)
  • 2 ice cubes

Early Lunch:
Vegan & Raw Creamy Cauliflower Soup* see recipe
1 glass of water

Afternoon Snack:
1 garlic portobello mushroom burger
1 tomato
1/4 English cucumber
2 T hummus
2 T crunchy sprouts
1 glass of water
Late Afternoon Snack
1 pieces of peanut butter toast
2 glasses of water

Monster green smoothie:
  • 1 banana
  • 1/4 of a fresh pineapple
  • 1 mango
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1 scoop of Michael's Super Defense Food powder

  • *Vegan & Raw Creamy Cauliflower Soup

    • 1/4 of a head of cauliflower
    • appr 3/4 cup raw, unsalted, organic cashews
    • appr 1 - 2 cups of water
    • a dash of fresh lime juice
    • red curry powder
    • sea salt


    1. Blend all ingredients in a blender or food processor until you reach the consistency you like.

    2. Add more salt and red curry powder to taste.

    3. Serve at room temperature.

    This makes two fairly large servings, and is very good, though with the extremely high fiber content and the fact that cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable, I'd suggest taking bean-o with it if you are unused to eating raw cauliflower. Also, drink plenty of water.

    Saturday, June 6, 2009

    Day 20: Finding My Center

    I got up and meditated and did the AM Yoga dvd with the girls this morning, at their request. I hadn't realized just how stiff and uncomfortable and "wrong" I was feeling with my body. It felt wonderful to shed some of that with the stretches. Now, I am planning on a busy day working on the book, plus there's a painting I'd like to get a start on today, but I think I really need to spend a good hour devoted to meditation.

    As always, I have to focus on mindful eating rather than automatic eating.

    No more self-loathing for cravings for the animal products. I accept that this is a process, a journey. Eventually I may reach the place where I no longer crave cheese. In the meantime, I'll accept that these things are likely to happen, and move on.

    There. I feel a bit better just acknowledging it.

    Now onto the other cravings: I had a fleeting thought yesterday about the types of things that I typically crave, the starchy, salty, carb-laden, cheese-covered things and wondered what it was about the taste/eating experience that I craved.

    Was it the mouthfeel of the dense starchiness?
    The heaviness, the solidity of it in my stomach afterwards?
    The sharp saltiness on my tongue?
    The creamy cheesiness?

    Not sure yet.

    I certainly don't crave iceberg lettuce. Hell, I can't stand that stuff. There's nothing redeeming about it, nutritionally or gustatorily. A salad made of romaine, spinach, endive and radicchio is much better than some limp, soggy mess of slimy iceberg lettuce.

    But I digress.

    What is it exactly about these comfort foods that I crave? It's nothing to do with a nutritional deficiency: I certainly can't claim that in times of stress my body's stores of salt and carbohydrates suddenly plummet, sad to say.

    Is it some emotional connection with those foods and if so, why those foods?

    What is it about them that even creates an emotional connection?

    There has to be some chemical connection ultimately, because when you get right down to it, we are a massive stew of electro-chemical reactions.

    So anyway, something to mull over.

    Oh, "mull" makes me want wine. I still have no idea if the wine I have in my cabinet is even vegan. I'd say it probably isn't. I guess I'll stick to water for today.

    Friday, June 5, 2009

    Day: 19 "What do you mean he don't eat no MEAT?"

    A very funny scene starting at the 5:09 mark in this clip.

    "Oh that's ok. That's ok. I make lamb."

    *wild cheers"

    It cracks me up every time.

    Thursday, June 4, 2009

    Day 18: Unsteady, But Getting Back on My Feet

    Wow, did that post-migraine trip really screw me up! During my post-migraine phase, I craved coffee, chocolate and cheese. I managed to resist the cheese and chocolate, but overindulged in caffeine. I ate no fruit and very few veggies. Instead, I had two peanut butter sandwiches and later on two vegan burritos on whole wheat tortillas.

    I was up very late last night because I went to my figure drawing group, which is a g0od thing, but I was so wired after it ended I ended up going to the movies by myself to see Star Trek. At 10:35 pm.

    Now this morning I have had 3/4 of a pot of strong coffee and feel as though I am just one minor mental breakdown away from making myself an omelette, which would fill me with even more self-loathing.


    So, what can I take away from all of this?

    When I am stressed, whether it's from having a hard time with the girls, running around like crazy, or the physical rigors of the after-effects of a migraine or suffering from a lack of sleep, my food issues come to the fore. Those are the times that cravings set in hard, and when I would most likely binge.

    Ok, I know what triggers this "behavior" or yearning, but how the hell do I stop it? Can I stop it? Is dealing with an eating disorder basically a lifetime of managing the cravings and obsessions? Is it like with alcoholics in which they are just one drink away from a relapse?

    How frustrating, disappointing and downright scary.

    Perhaps I need to find a strategy to deal with the stressful situations so that it does not reach the point of triggering a desire to binge or eat non-vegan foods, or once I reach that level of stress, redirecting my energies elsewhere in a helpful and healthy way.

    God, this sucks.

    On a related note, I saw a neurologist yesterday and have a brand-spanking new prescription for a migraine med, the sides effects of which are weight loss. Naturally, I all but got up and tap-danced around the exam room.

    I ought to be more concerned about the health aspects of the drug that any dietetic side effect. I am wondering where my head is on all of this. I really think I have to start a solid meditation regimen to find my center and strenghten it. I am beginning to feel as though I am spinning around, being flown to bits, if that makes any sense.

    Wednesday, June 3, 2009

    Day 17: First Migraine Since I Made the Switch

    I had a migraine yesterday. I was wondering when and if this would happen.

    I get a few of them every year, and most of them are doozies. They always start off with visual aurae, sometimes spots in my vision or an increased number of "floaters"; other times I'll get black patches or dead spots in my visual field. One time it was so bad I'd lost a significant portion of my peripheral vision in one side and had fiery arcs zigzagging through the middle portion of my visual field in the same eye.

    That's just how they begin. Usually within an hour of the onset of the aurae, the photosensitivity kicks in. I have to turn out the lights, and preferably lie down in a darkened room. I am sensitive to sounds as well, and can't even really tolerate physical contact. My whole body is like a bristling, sensitive, hurting organism.

    Then the nausea strikes right before the headache hits and boy does it ever hit.

    I had an acquaintance whole told me once that all migraines are triggered by food, and she went on to give me a list of known migraine triggers: alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, cheese, chocolate, coffee... basically anything that might give some joy to life. I'm surprised that orgasms weren't on the damned list. She told me that I must have eaten or drunk something off the list, more than usual and presto, migraine.

    Now I've never noticed a common food denominator, and tried to tell her, but she said I must have been mistaken, because this was never wrong. ("this," or SHE?) Anyway, I've always found that my migraines seem to cluster around monthly fluctuations in hormone levels, especially if those are accompanied with a funky weather system (those sudden summer storms do a number on me). If you add stress to the mix, then BANG, the worst of the worst migraines.

    Then there are those which defy calculation or prediction. They just seem to appear with no apparent trigger.

    Since this switch to a vegan diet, I have eliminated just about all of those common food triggers, God, I haven't even had any chocolate since I started this! I really believe that food is not the source of my migraines. I did have pretty regular garden variety stress headaches for the past 6 months, and they disappeared pretty quickly once I cut the meat and dairy from my diet. Those horrendous caffeine-withdrawal headaches would set in rather quickly if I didn't start infusing the coffee almost immediately after I got up, and once those puppies strike, there is nothing you can do to ease the pain. I have cut out the daily caffeine ritual, but gradually, and have not had one of those skull-crushing headaches yet.

    I was astounded that it all had happened so quickly. I guess I was hoping for a miracle that this would also rid me of migraines forever. I don't want to seem optimistically simplistic by pinning all of my hopes on this dietary change

    Coincidentally enough, I have an appointment today with a Neurologist, so I'll mention the migraines.

    And here's a recipe since I am moving to too much talk and not enough cook:

    Homemade Falafel
    • 2 cups of dried chickpeas, soaked in water for 8 hours overnight*
    • 1/4 cup of bulgur or quinoa
    • 5 cloves of garlic
    • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
    • 1/2 small onion, chopped
    • 1 t cumin
    • 1/2 t turmeric
    • 1/2 t coriander
    • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
    • Salt, pepper
    • 1 Tb of sesame seeds
    • 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs
    • 2 t baking soda

    1. Put the bulgur or quinoa in a bowl and add enough very hot water (just short of boiling) until it's about an inch higher than the layer of grain. Let sit 30 minutes until softened. Drain well.

    2. Rinse the soaked chickpeas and put them in a food processor with the bulgur/quinoa, garlic, onion and spices. Pulse until you get a rough texture; you can add a little water if needed. Be careful you don't pulse too much. You don't want a soupy paste. We're not making hummus here. We still want some texture.

    3. Move the mixture into a large bowl, add the sesame seeds and breadcrumbs and put in the fridge, covered with plastic wrap, for 30-60 minutes.

    4. Add the baking soda to the mixture and knead a little.

    5. Shape the mixture into little balls. Pan-fry until you get a deep brown shade. I have also baked these to make them healthier.

    6. I like to serve them in a pita or folded in a flatbread with saffron basmati rice, baby spinach leaves, chopped tomato and cucumber and a tahini sauce or a tzatziki sauce.

    *You can do a quick soak for the chickpeas. Put them in a pot with about twice as much water, cover it, bring to a boil and let boil for 2 minutes, the turn off the heat and, leaving the lid on the pot, let them sit for an hour and a half. Then rinse and proceed with the recipe.

    Or if you're super lazy just use canned chickpeas. :) But make sure you rinse them very well. I've always thought that the thick gel-like fluid in the can with the chickpeas is gross.

    Also, in case you didn't know and are having a difficult time finding chickpeas, they are also called garbanzo beans or ceci.

    In the days when I first started making these I had no food processor. I used to put the chickpeas on a large plate a small mound at a time and mash them with a fork. Once they were mashed, I'd add some more. After they were all smashed up pretty well (the mixture still has some texture to it) I'd dump it into a large bowl and add finely diced onion, minced garlic, the bulgur (I prefer quinoa now, but bulgur was nice too), breadcrumbs and the spices. It was incredibly time-consuming, but also very satisfying and peaceful sitting there at the kitchen table in our dumpy little apartment over Mrs. Robb's store looking out the window occasionally to see what was going on.

    The ex used to say, when we still lived there, that someday we'd look back at that time as "the time we lived in that dumpy little apartment over Mrs. Robb's store and were poor and happy and in love."

    A self-fulfilling prophecy, but for once not MY negativity. Maybe he always assumed it would always fail and set us up for the eventual separation and divorce. Hmmm.

    Anyway, try the falafel, they're awesome!

    Tuesday, June 2, 2009

    Day 16: There's Animal By-Product in My Chewing Gum!

    Last night I was sitting in my studio, working on my book when I absent-mindedly grabbed a piece of chewing gum, my fourth that day. When I flipped the package back over, I saw a tiny line of red text that stopped me in my tracks:

    What? A milk-derived ingredient? In my gum?! They're certainly not making it easy to be a vegan.

    A little Google-exploration brought me to the official website for this gum where I found this:

    What is Recaldent®?

    Recaldent® is an ingredient derived from casein (pronounced kay-seen), part of the protein found in cow's milk. Its technical name is casein phosphopeptides-amorphous calcium phosphate, or CPP-ACP.

    Yum. That sounds awesome. Reading further:

    I can't eat dairy products, can I chew Trident Xtra Care®?

    If you are allergic to milk proteins, then you should not chew Trident Xtra Care®. However, if you are lactose intolerant, which means you have difficulty digesting milk sugar (lactose), then Trident Xtra Care® is fully digestible and safe to consume.
    My taste for this stuff has suddenly disappeared.

    I started wondering where the other hidden animal products were. I already knew about gelatin being made from the connective tissue, skin and bones of animals and about the pigment cochineal (carmine coloring) made from crushed up beetles and used in paints as well as a "natural food coloring." Where else were animal by-products lurking?

    Let's find out!

    • Guinness stout: They use isinglass (from the swimbladders of fish) to clarify their beers.
    • Worcestershire sauce: Basically soy sauce plus anchovies and tamarind marinated in a brine with molasses and spices
    • Starburst: The candy contains gelatin. Hell, it's not even Kosher (not that I care, really).
    • Snickers. Well it may be Kosher but it's not remotely vegan with skim milk, milk fat, and egg whites.
    • Wine: This is trickier. Some wines are vegan, others aren't, using any one of several substances to clarify or refine the wine, from isinglass, gelatin, casein or albumin from egg whites. Before I buy wine next time I should do some research into which wines are listed as vegan.

    Those are just a few of the consumables. The list* of cosmetics and clothing items that use some sort of animal product range from the expected wool sweaters and leather shoes to the bone china handed down from my great-grandmother to pearl necklaces, silk shirts, exfoliating cream, cold cream and toothpaste.


    Even here in my studio bits of former animals pop up, from the cochineal in my carmine lake paint to the bristle brushes I use for oils (made from hog bristles) to my treasured kolinsky sable watercolor brushes ( made from the Siberian Mountain Weasel).

    I suppose this is evidence of how it takes conscious effort to maintain a vegan diet.

    *Note about the list: the source is PETA, and one of the ingredients they listed as non-vegan was benzoic acid. I did some more research and did not find anything to support the idea that animals are used as a source for this. Historically, it seems to have been derived from a plant; now, it is synthesized in the laboratory. Maybe I'm missing something, but I haven't found any indication that animals are a source of this chemical.

    Monday, June 1, 2009

    Day 15: Feeling Comfortable

    It's weird, I am not a sweets for breakfast type of girl; I was always the one who'd rather choke down a monster omelette and a mountain of hash browns than devour a stack of pancakes dripping with melted butter and sticky syrup, but this morning I had the most insane craving for pancakes.

    I blame this, in part, on a Facebook discussion I had with a friend yesterday about Denny's Pancake Puppies. I had never heard of them before and assumed that they were some mutant crossbreed of pancakes and hush-puppies: basically, deep-fried globules of thick, sweet pancake batter.

    A little Google exploration yielded this:

    There are so many levels of wrong with Denny's Pancake Puppy dessert. The mutant cross between a pancake, beignet, and hush puppy, this delectable treat is addictive in its delicious, oh-so-bad for you simplicity. Crusty, humble fried pancake bites, coated in cinammon sugar and served with warm syrup for dipping, these may indeed be the cruelest thing to come out of a Denny's since...the Denny's.

    Damn you, late night diners, and your evil, evil temptations!
    - From Foodie (see restrictions)

    Sure enough, deep-fried pancake batter. A little more searching and I found this on RecipeZaar:

    They appear to be dollops of pancake batter deep-fried and rolled in cinnamon sugar, served with syrup for dipping. They're described as a cross between a pancake, a beignet and a hush puppy (thus the name). -From RecipeZaar

    Oh My God. These really are a good example of what's wrong with the Standard American Diet (SAD). Sugar, more sugar (white flour), eggs and milk, fried in the same bubbling oil they no doubt used for their shrimp platters and onion rings, then dipped in more sugar and served with maple-flavored sugar. This should come with a vial of insulin on a doily too.

    Holy shit.

    So anyway, back to my pancake craving this morning. :/

    From reading my copy of Vegan with a Vengeance this other day I saw that Isa Moskowitz provided a bunch of vegan adaptations of standard favorites. I thought I remembered a pancake recipe or two, and I was right.

    The Banana-Pecan Pancakes were very tempting, but I had neither the pecans nor the bananas, so I opted for the regular old pancakes. Yum. It was so worth it, however, I'm bothered a little bit by my sudden cravings for some of these comfort foods dishes.

    That was really the only "bad" thing I've had today. I've gone on to eat about 7 servings of fruits and vegetables combined (all raw), and was sparing of the fats and sugar (other than the pancakes topped with real maple sugar), but I made the switch to a vegan diet in part because I wanted to eat healthier and make better choices for foods. Now, that's not going to happen if I just substitute some vegan fake-meat version of a SAD item or just omit the eggs in waffles, cookies and cakes.

    My goal is to start with the fresh fruit and vegetables first before launching myself headlong into a loaf of bread even if it is a hearty multi-grain loaf.
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