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3.14.2009 ||> Tuscan Beans
I got this bean mix from Wegmans. A co-op dedicated to lifting women up from poverty and establishing independence has their members create it as a fund raising tool. It seems tasty so far, and I definitely need to get protein into my system, for my health.
Also, because a day without eating onions caramelized in a good sherry is like a day without rainbows. Try it, and you'll know what I mean.
I also thought that buying and making something good today could mitigate the fact that I might be selling my soul for an internship. It's under negotiation.
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I've been going for comfort foods to fill me up during the week. Last week's Chickpea Noodle Soup lasted until Thursday. This week, I'm including a more vegetarian "meat" and potatoes kind of meal. Potatoes do my Irish heart good, and the seitan and mushrooms fill me up without making me hungry later.
While seitan isn't that healthy, being wheat gluten and all, it does have a lot of protein and I think the spinach give it some good nutrients. Next week is finals, so I will need all the quick and easy foods I can get.
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The last time I had chicken noodle soup was in July of 2002. It was gross and made me sick. This version of the feel-good classic is soooo much better. I do love a good chickpea.
The recipe is from the book Veganomicon, and it's essentially, chickpeas, noodles, carrots, onions, mushrooms, spinach and spices. Perfect for the cold weather.
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I worked at McDonald's for three years, and I usually defend it against people that say it's styrofoam. Well, not any more.
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I live in a very walkable town, and Tony and I like to walk to Starbucks, the mini mart, and restaurants in the area. Well, we were walking back to our place when these people had set up a booth right in front of our pathway with all sorts of signs about lowering the price of gas and how ethanol is causing the food shortage. They approached us and asked us what we thought about ethanol and whatnot.
I, obviously, disagree with this. From everything I have read that's not oil-friendly propaganda, it's not ethanol that's really the problem, it's a broken food distribution system, the fact that GM plants are creating havoc with native species of food crops while producing lower yields than the natural varieties, and the price of oil and meat consumption that's really the issue.
I brought up the meat consumption first, and she was really surprised that I said that, which frankly, blows my mind. How can you be so passionate about food scarcity and not realize that meat puts such a strain on the food chain? For example, according to the USDA, to get two and a half pounds of chicken on your dinner plate, it takes over seven and a half pounds of grain, and that is the most efficient ratio. To get two and a half pounds of pork, it takes 19 pounds of grain. It's simple math, really. If that grain was available to us to eat, then there would be more food for everyone.
I've never really cared about whether or not people eat meat (other than myself) but if you do eat a lot of it, realize that you are contributing to the food shortage. There is not enough grain in the world for every person to eat meat every day. But some people would rather blame a new fuel source than look to their own habit.
Do I think ethanol is the end all be all of oil replacements? No. I really think that we will need multiple energy sources to replace the influence of fossil fuels. We need geothermal heating and solar and wind power to replace heating oil and energy in homes, and we will need combinations of ethanol and electric cars to replace gas. There isn't going to be one savior that's going to pull us out of this thing, and demonizing one component of the solution not only doesn't help, it sets us back.
Tony brought up a great point: you are lamenting the energy crisis, but against a solution? That just doesn't make sense.
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Still going through all the food in my pantry, my options are becoming much more limited in what I can cook, so I decided to go try a minestrone soup. I love soup, and when I was single, it was the staple of my existence. It's also super easy to make with leftover frozen veggies, and you can make a batch that's cheap as hell next to the canned kind you buy in a store. I really liked this soup. Tony doesn't like any soup (much to my dismay), so he can't really give a verdict.
4 whole wheat tortillas
garlic powder to taste
1 tsp olive oil
Preheat the broiler. Cut tortillas into small chips. Spread olive oil onto chips with hands. Sprinkle with garlic powder and layer on a cookie sheet. Broil on one side until brown. Flip the chips and broil on the other side until crispy (about three minutes on each side).
2 leeks, cleaned and chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
oregano, thyme and rosemary to taste
1 16 oz bag mixed frozen vegetables (I used Trader Joes Organic Foursome)
1 28 oz diced tomatoes
4 cups veggie broth
1 15 oz can chickpeas
1 cup spiral noodles
Saute the leeks and garlic until they are soft. Add spices and heat them up for about a minute. Add in diced tomatoes, veggie broth, bag of veggies and chickpeas and simmer 30 minutes.
Add in the spiral noodles and cook until they are al dente. Serve. This recipe makes quite a lot.
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No picture this time, because Tony and I ate these sandwiches right up. I got the original recipe from the Veganomicon, p. 100 and then adapted everything to what I had on hand. Judging by these sandwiches, I bet the actual recipe tastes fantastic. The only thing I would absolutely change when I make these sandwiches again is that I will be using a tougher bread, like sourdough that has a thicker crust.
My changes were that I halved the olive salad and made it with black olives only, used premade eggplant patties from Trader Joes, put far less olive oil than the recipe calls for and used hamburger buns instead of the peasant bread in the original. You are also supposed to let the sandwich sit for up to three hours. But I couldn't do that, so I let them sit for a couple minutes. My recipe makes 4 sandwiches, and will fill you up, but not in a heavy, lumpish way.
Olive Salad Relish
1 cup black olives
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes, dry
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp powdered rosemary
1/2 tsp powdered thyme
1/2 tsp celery seed
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried basil
Olive oil, to taste
1 box Trader Joes eggplant patties
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
3 cups fresh spinach leaves, washed and dried
2 roasted red and yellow peppers (mine was out of a jar at Trader Joes, but you can roast your own)
4 hamburger buns
Preheat the oven according to the directions on the eggplant box.
Place the olives, parsley, garlic and sundried tomatoes in a large bowl. Toss with the balsamic vinegar and dried herbs. Chop everything up with a hand blender (you could probably also use a regular blender or food processor) to the consistancy you like - mine was pretty fine, but you can go choppy. At this point, I added a splash of olive oil to make it more moist. Cover the salad with saran wrap or put in an airtight container in the fridge.
Prepare the eggplant to package directions.
Put the spinach leaves in a bowl and sprinkle with the red wine vinegar.
When the eggplant is done, assemble the sandwiches. Open the buns, and spread the olive salad in a thick layer on each side. Layer the bottom with an eggplant patty, then some spinach, some roasted red pepper, another eggplant patty and spinach.
Take the sandwich, and wrap it in aluminum foil (or saran wrap if you prefer) and smoosh it down with your body weight. Really flatten it. Leave them for a couple minutes and then unwrap and place on a plate. Serve.
The texture on these sandwiches (with the buns) was a little soggy, but the taste was awesome.
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After looking at those web advertisements for a long time, I finally took the test at RealAge. Apparently, while I am 28 years old, my body is in fact 24. That's good news!
Although, I really think the test is lacking and some of the age calculations are completely arbitrary. Like, did you know that going over the speed limit can age you? Yeah, neither did I, but my habit of going 5 miles over means I am .3 years older than I could be because "going over the speed limit shortens your life expectancy." Which is okay, but it wouldn't age me, that makes no sense. This isn't supposed to be a life expectancy test, it's an aging test.
Also, the nutritional analysis isn't there. They keep saying I get too much saturated fat. But, I don't eat meat, and very rarely eat dairy, so where is all this saturated fat coming from? Nowhere, that's where. But they didn't ask, and there isn't an "are you a vegetarian" question on there, which really makes me wonder about the whole test.
I liked the test, because it was okay after all, I just wish they wouldn't be so shady and arbitrary.
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As part of my spring cleaning, I have thrown away all my expired food and have catalogued everything on my shelves. One thing that I have a lot of is flour. I don't really use it much anymore. Since beginning the Eat to Live diet last year, I have not made pancakes or muffins or dredged my tofu or cauliflower in an egg-flour batter. So, I have a ton of flour that I have been doing nothing with for the past year.
Compounding that, I am moving out in July, so I have to get this stuff cleared out of my apartment. So much for stockpiling in the face of the rising cost of food.
So, this morning, I looked around on the net for a recipe that was vegan, low fat and would get rid of some flour and sugar (another thing I never use anymore). Lo and behold this recipe from fatfreevegan.com. Cinnamon muffins that will use up a lot of the stuff I have on hand and is low in sugar and fat! Perfect.
I had to substitute a couple of ingredients. I didn't have orange juice, some of the spices or soy yogurt. I had some berry juice I use in smoothies and a mashed banana is a good substitute for the yogurt. So here is my altered recipe, which turned out to be fantastic with a bit of peanut butter.
Cinnamon Berry Muffins
2 cups white whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
1 medium mashed banana
2/3 cup Kagome purple berry juice
1/2 cup soy milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup agave nectar
4 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350F. Spray muffin tin with non-stick spray.
Mix together dry ingredients (flour through flax seeds) in a large bowl. In a smaller bowl, mash the banana and mix the rest of the wet ingredients. In an even smaller bowl, mix the sugar and cinnamon.
Pour the wet mixture into the flour mixture and stir just until thoroughly moistened. Do not beat or overmix. Spoon about 1 heaping tablespoon of batter into each muffin cup. Sprinkle each half-full muffin with 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon sugar and fill with remaining batter. Sprinkle remaining cinnamon sugar over each muffin. Take a toothpick or thin knife, insert it into the batter and swirl gently.
Bake for 17-22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. Cool for a few minutes before serving.
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As you might be able to tell from my side bar, I am Wiccan and listen to Wiccan podcasts. Podcasts are cool, because they're like radio shows about things I'm interested in, rather than some dumb asshole in the morning getting in between me and my music. I specifically like two - Witch in the City and Deo's Shadow. Witch in the City is my favorite though, because I love ranting, she's podcasting from Arizona, and she has a great perspective of city life as a Wiccan.
However, for the last two shows, there has been some diatribe against vegetarianism that I can't stand. Literally, it's like nails scratching the chalkboard of my skull. It develves from "vegetarianism/veganism isn't part of paganism" which I agree with to "meat is part of the circle of life, kumbaya. Yay meat!" The promotion of meat eating is exactly the kind of thing they were railing about vegetarians doing the opposite of and it drives me crazy.
So, I would like to explore some vegetarian myths out there. In fact, ones that were perpetuated by the podcasts.
1. Vegetarians do not want to convert you. No, that one vegan your cousin's college roomate met that one time doesn't count. It's what sociologists call anecdotal evidence. On the whole, vegetarians are too busy making sure that meat wasn't "accidentally" slipped on their plate to even look at what you're eating, much less convert you. On the whole, we do not care about your dietary choices, as we get frustrated when ours aren't respected.
2. Vegetarians do not eat fish. Ok, Serenity did not talk about this, but it begs repeating. Unless someone shows me the plant that fish grow on, it's still meat and I'm still not eating it. Vegetarians that do are not being truthful about being vegetarian.
3. Eating a plant is not the same as eating an animal. There are whole philosophical arguments dating back millenia about this. Buddhists, Hindus and mystics of other faiths and philosophers agree: animals are sentient, plants are not. Killing a sentient being is not the same as killing a being that is not sentient.
And how do we know plants are not sentient? Well, since this is a blog, and I don't have time or inclination to type out all the philosophical evidence for thousands of years, I'm just going to say: because they're not, and I refuse to try proving a negative to satisfy a stupid argument. If you're so interested in proving they are, go for it.
So, basically, saying killing a tomato is the same as killing a calf for veal is not the same. The tomato example is especially infuriating because it's fruit. It's like saying cutting someone's toenails is the same as killing that person. A tomato is not a plant, it's the product of the plant.
4. Eating meat is not part of the "circle of life." The circle of life does not involve a chicken growing up on a factory, having its beak cut off so that it won't poke the birds next to it on it's one foot wide feeding crate, and being forced to reproduce over and over and over again until it is too old, and then electrocuted to death so that someone can pick up chicken wings from Wal-Mart. The circle of life should never include Wal-Mart. Surely, Simba never shopped there.
If you're a hunter and you eat only the meat you kill or fish, then great. You can say that you are part of this circle. Here's a gold star. But if you are buying your food from facories that are interested in profit and productivity over health, safety or even basic compassion, then you are sadly mistaken that you are part of some natural pecking order. What we do to get our food is so far from natural, I don't even have the words.
I'm not calling out this podcast because I don't agree with the majority of views, but there is a call for common sense, and yet when it comes to dietary lifestyles, that seems to go out the door. My refusal to eat meat is not an idictment of other's choice to do so, and yet any omnivore would be amazed at the amount of hostility I receive for just this one change from people who just assume that I am judging them. I really wish those defensive people would get over themselves, and leave my plant eating in peace.
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Mmmm... my morning smoothie! I promise it tastes better than it looks. Today's smoothie has:
1 cup strawberries
1 cup blueberries
1 tbsp flax
1 cup water
rest of the blender full of spinach.
(About 4 cups)
All in all, it's the complete Recommended Daily Intake for fruits and vegetables for the day. So, the rest of the day is just gravy with the soups and salads that usually make.
Snuggles has been on the smoothies since he became ill last month and is in much better health since he started. I completely skipped cold/flu season so far, and it doesn't look like I will be getting sick at all.
It's weird because I thought the idea was terribly gross before I tried one out. And now, I feel deprived without my morning smoothie, with a banana and some nuts or seeds.
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In addition to my GMAT scores, I also received some blood test results from my doctor this past week. When I took the test two years ago, I weighed 141 pounds and had a total cholesterol of 199. Which was horrible, considering I was only 26 and had been a vegetarian for 13 years at that point.
So, when I weighed myself at the doctors, it turns out I have lost 16 pounds, and am now back again to being my high school weight of 125, but even better, my cholesterol is now 163! My goal is to get it down below 150, of course, but I am definitely on my way.
I'm very happy to have passed this test.
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I do most of the cooking in the Snuggles-Sepra household. In the summertime when we have fresh produce, I usually cook from scratch because it's actually easier for me to do that than cook with processed food because it's the way I learned. And the more I hear about eating processed foods, the less I like, so it's a good thing I cook this way.
But some days, I am hungry, with a full freezer and just want to throw something together. I read on my new favorite site, fatfreevegan.com a recipe for Eggplant Pancakes Florentine that looked good awhile back, but a bit too complicated. On this night, I had eggplant patties and creamed spinach in the freezer, fresh tomatoes and garlic on the shelf and I was too hungry to care about how processed dinner was.
I baked the eggplant while microwaving the creamed spinach and chopping the tomatoes. I mixed in the garlic while everything cooled and layered the eggplant and spinach, topping with the tomato-garlic sauce. We also had some corn on the cob, so I boiled some of that and viola! A semi-healthy, semi homemade dish that Snuggles and I could eat fast.
It was tasted great and even met with the highest honor for Snuggles: "You can make that anytime you want." Hell, who needs the Nobel Peace Prize when you get those kinds of accolades!
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So earlier last week, I got down to my goal weight of 125 pounds, which is a 15 pound weight loss from what I weighed in March. I have not weighed this since the year 2000, when my father died and I ate myself into a diabetic coma on a regular basis with crap college food. I didn't even weigh this in the Peace Corps, when I got food poisoning on a regular basis and threw up 3% of all my meals.
Because of this weight loss, whenever I see all those weight loss ads on TV that try to get you to be a trimmer, slimmer you, I roll my eyes and think about how happy I am that I was able to do it and how I don't need to listen to that stuff anymore. I actually enjoy getting on the scale or looking at myself in the mirror. I enjoy trying on size 6 pants at Ann Taylor Loft, and having them fit like a dream.
So, of course this week I have eaten a pack of six oreos for lunch every day this week and today even had two packs. This last weekend I also had a small dish of Cold Stone ice cream. I need four words to describe how I feel now: I am blowing it. The thing is, that this is not the first time I have blown it. I remember in 1998, when I was a slim 119 pounds, that I got a love for chocolate milkshakes. I had one everyday until I was back up to 128. This time, will I shoot my goals down with Oreo bullets? Will I not be able to maintain?
By posting this, I am hoping that it will shame me into getting back on track with my maintenance diet. That I will make more vegetable-only meals and not eat processed snack food. That I will be able to get my cholesterol down to at least 150 by my next doctor's appointment. That I will reach all my goals.
Wish me luck, and feel free to scold. Apparently, I need it.
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Fish dishes bother me. Not on a visceral level, but on the way people treat them.
A fish is an animal. It breathes, it swims, it breeds. Meat is a product made of animals. Therefore, fish dishes are meat. It's not a difficult concept. So why is it such a polarizing issue with people?
I am an ovo-lacto vegetarian which means that I eat eggs, dairy, caviar and honey. I eat animal by products but not animals. I also firmly believe (along with 99% of all vegetarians) that if you eat animal flesh, you are not a vegetarian. Call yourself whatever you like: flexatarian, pectotarian, fishatarian. If it makes you feel better to label yourself with a -tarian, go for it. But let's not confuse the issue. Just because the Pope said that fish is not meat doesn't mean it's true. Infallability, my ass.
People that either know one of these pseudo-vegatarians or are one themselves get very upset with this fact. I'm sure they get it all the time, and find it annoying. They also are never interested in debating the fact. They simply want everyone to believe that fish is not meat and let it go at that. The most frequent conversation goes like this:
"Well, so and so is a vegetarian and they eat fish."
"No, they're not. If you eat meat, you aren't a vegetarian."
"Fish isn't meat."
"Yes it is. It's certainly not a plant."
"Well, we'll just have to agree to disagree."
My inner feelings? So and so is a poser. The actual so and so would never engage in a conversation like this, prefering to huff about as indignantly as possible.
If you or someone you know is like this, please stop the insanity.
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The second thing that people like to do to newly-discovered vegetarians is soliliquize about their own love of meat. Yes, I mean you. You did it too.
A typical conversation looks like this:
"Oh, you don't eat meat? How can you live without meat? I couldn't live without meat. There is nothing I love more than a thick, juicy steak. Rare."
"But, clearly I don't feel the same."
"Yes, but I mean, you're missing out on so much. I can't even feel full without something meaty in my food."
"That's crazy. I mean, don't you ever crave it?"
I think you see where this conversation is going. The funny thing is that these people aren't even paid by the meat lobby. They should be.
What is it about vegetarianism that makes omnivores so defensive? What makes them want to ramble on about how meat is the most wonderfullest, perfectest food in the whole universe when faced with someone that doesn't like it? I like beans, but I never went on about how tasty they were when I realized that my boyfriend hated them (I was guilty of asking "why"). So what is so important about meat that people have to insist that others concur with them on the taste factor?
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One of the most typical things that people say when they learn that I am a vegetarian is "why?", as in "why would you possibly give up meat?" It said with either a tone of vague horror or suspicion, as if I either have gone crazy or have a wacky political agenda.
This is a genuinely difficult question to answer. I have been a vegetarian for so long that my reasons have changed and now form a web so entangled that I don't have a short, pat reason. Is it political? Not really. Spiritual? Nope. It's not really a health reason either. It's simply who I am, with no real reason or excuse.
The askers won't let up either. In the past, I have made many a pithy comment. That I'm really pro-life; that I think it's cool; that if they had to eat my mother's cube steak, they'd be one too. They simply chuckle and ask, "no, really... why?"
I will sometimes make up health reasons. I say I'm allergic, or that if I eat meat, I will get sick. This is true, but people won't accept it either. They will ask how I got that way, how I started out being a vegetarian. Well, it happened 13 years ago, so I really don't remember.
But, above all I cannot tell the truth. If I say that I simply don't know why I'm a vegetarian, except that it feels right for me, they will psychoanalyze me or put words in my mouth. Every single time. "Well, how can you not know?" "Well, how did it start out?" Like they are psychiatrists and I am a fascinating case study. I would be touched, but I don't like delving into my childhood on normal days, much less with strangers. Excepting the ones on the internet, naturally.
My question is this, you Omnivores of the Blogosphere: Why do people do this? Why do they always have to ask why? When I find people that like brussel sprouts or Nascar, I don't put them through interrogations on their preferences. What is so intriguing about vegetarianism and why are all these pseudo-sociologists doing their informal studies?
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Another cow is reported to have a probable case of mad cow disease. If the tests come back positive, it would make this the second cow in two years to be found with the condition. Naturally, cattle producers are a bit anxious, seeing as how foreign countries were very quick to ban American beef the last time. It's interesting that when Europe was having their big epidemic and the reports of people dying were coming in, the USDA was very quick to assure us that American beef was safe. Now that it's been years since the first case of mad cow disease cropped up in Europe, we're the ones having the problem. We're the ones still using blood feed on our beef cows and generally being sloppy.
It sort of makes me wonder why some places still don't offer more vegetarian fare. One cow a year for the last two, and they could potentially be killing off their customers with cows that were never caught and tested.
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The Veggie Sense is much like the Spider Sense except we veggies don't get cool superpowers to go along with it. It is the tingling feeling we get when we sense a nasty restaurant experience coming on. So we can't anticipate an attack with it, unless it's in the gastro-intestinal area. The veggie sense is oftentimes triggered by this phrase: "Yeah... I'm pretty sure that this restaurant has... salads."
When the unsuspecting vegetarian hears that, the reaction involves no small tickle of fear that, while all her meat-eating friends will be satisfied with the menu, she will be stuck with a "house salad" that consists of a few weak iceberg lettuce leaves drowning in an artery-clogging dressing. These travesties still occur, as certain restaurants have not caught up to the 21st century where vegetarians are an economic power to be catered to. Once upon an evening, David took me to Applebees where (and I think I blogged about this) there was nothing without meat. Even the salads had it. Luckily, I didn't encounter this in Germany, although for a while I was mightily scared this would happen. Our gracious host scared me with the above line and I felt my veggie sense tingling and I became very nervous. Although to be completely truthful, while there was enough to accommodate me, it is a little bit like there was never any mad cow disease or anything the way they carry on with their bratwurst and so on over there.
On the other hand, anything is worth it in Germany when you factor in the quality of the beer. Besides, if you can't eat, you get drunker faster, right? Seriously, I was drinking the beer there and although I was feeling tipsy (which I didn't want to be) I didn't want to stop drinking because it tasted so darn good. This also happened in London at one point. (yeah Mom, still sorry about that one...) I think when I get back to America, I will make it a point to only drink good beer. And no more vodka. Ever. Again.
By the by: I put up 3 more reviews in the articles for this site: book reviews for Kushiel's Dart and Life of Pi and a movie review for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
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