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food for thought: staying healthy on the road

8 Apr

I’ve been in Chicago this week for my day job. This trip was super fun because I got to meet up with fellow blogger, Liz from DC. Liz and I met last summer at the Healthy Living Summit in Chicago. It was so great to see her again and get caught up in person about our similar passions – healthy living and fitness. She’s a rad runner and she was also in need of oatmeal sans dairy so we were a perfect pair. We met at Cosi where they have steel-cut oats made with water and you get to choose your toppings. I love toppings. I opted for granola and strawberries.

Hello squinty eyes!

Between my work travels and my personal travels, I feel I’ve created some pretty solid strategies for staying healthy while on the road.

I want to share with you what works best for me to stick to a healthy plan. Plan is the key word here. If you do not plan correctly, you are setting yourself up to fail. There is no way around that. You can’t expect that being healthy on the road is just magically going to happen. Most of the tips below are geared toward work travel. I am not nearly as diligent when I’m truly on vacation.

  • If you are traveling to a conference, let them know if you have any specific food needs. I actually did not do this this time (fail!), so no one new I was vegan. Thankfully, I work with awesome people and the hotel I stayed at was extremely accommodating. I find that if you let people know, they really do want to help. However, if you don’t ask and are rude about it, don’t expect them to bend over backwards for you.
  • Pack snacks. I always bring a pile of snacks with me on every trip. Typically this includes larabars, mini bags of almonds and dried fruit, apples (they travel well), baby carrots and other cut up veggies (mainly for the plane ride) and sample packs of protein powder or super food. These come in handy for your actual travel time and if you are attending a conference where the food does not fit your dietary needs.
  • Stay hydrated. I find that if I’m at a conference, it is difficult to get enough water in as the rooms I’m in are usually freezing. When I’m freezing, water does not sound good. However, I try to take advantage of hot water when it’s available and force myself to down water throughout the day. Staying hydrated will help you not attack the lunch buffet and will just make you feel better.
  • Many hotel rooms have fridges that you can store things in (call ahead and ask). Many times I will find a grocery store as soon as I arrive and pick up things like fruit, yogurt, etc. to ensure healthy options.
  • You will not work out unless you bring workout clothes. Pack them. To me it’s worth having to bring all the extra gear and check a bag if I need to.
  • Use the workout gear you have. Just having it in your suitcase doesn’t count.  Almost every hotel has a fitness center. It may not be as nice as what you’re used to in all cases, but hey, you have to take what you can get. I find that staying on my regular workout schedule makes me feel better during my travels.
  • If you are traveling to a nice climate, ask the hotel if there is a safe place to run or walk outdoors. You want to make sure you’re in safe area. Please carry a phone and ID with you.
  • Yoga podcasts are awesome. I’ve downloaded a few Dave Farmar podcasts (they’re free!) and done yoga right in my hotel room.
  • Explore on foot. The best way to get to know a city (most of them anyway) is on foot.  Throw on the sneakers and get some fresh air!
  • Most conferences I go to have big meals plus treats during the breaks. I fill up as much as possible on fruits and veggies when they are available. I do my best to skip the desserts. I mean, I don’t eat dessert for every meal when I’m at home, so why would I at a conference? I’ll cave if it’s something that looks fabulous and that I can’t live without. More often than not, the desserts served in hotels or at conferences are not that great.
  • Limit the alcohol.  For me, this is key. Having more than one drink messes with my sleep and it makes me want to eat more. Plus, it makes it harder to get up and workout in the morning. If  I am feeling the pressure (why is there so much pressure?), I typically sweet talk the bartender to make a club soda and lime look like a fancier drink. Or I make one glass of wine last a looooong time. Sometimes, I may not even finish it.
  • If you have free time to eat out, research great restaurants in the area. Don’t settle for a chain or even worse, fast food, if you don’t have to. This past trip, I totally took advantage of the salad and hot bar at a nearby Whole Foods. That was dinner for me two nights in a row as I was working in my hotel room. I know…I lead a super exciting life.

Traveling during vegan lent was interesting. The hotel I was at had great food and almost always had something I could eat at meals. The one plated meal was the only difficult one. I picked the cheese off my salad so that was easy enough. The main course was either chicken or the vegetarian option which was cheese ravioli. I asked very nicely if they would be able to steam some vegetables for me (seemed like something that wouldn’t be do difficult so maybe they’d be willing) and I was presented with steamed asparagus and carrots – score! That coupled with some bread held me until the next break where I grabbed my packed snack of almonds and dried cherries.

Breakfast was more difficult. I tried the nearby Corner Bakery and they down right refused to make oatmeal with water. Seems to me a funny thing to have such a firm stance on but whatevs. From then on I stuck with my standby, Starbucks. Starbucks make their oatmeal with water and it comes with nuts and fruit and they always have bananas. Thank you Starbucks. Vegans appreciate you.

I was lucky to be in a big city. Traveling to more rural areas as a vegan, or even a vegetarian would be much more difficult. I would to have to pack an extra bag just for snacks.

Do you have any tips on staying healthy while on the road? I’d love to hear them!

restaurant review – cafe maude

7 Apr

The following post is written by Featured Contributor, Liza.

 

A few weeks ago we went out for a grown-up dinner (this only happens a few times a year in our worlds right now) with our BF’s  to celebrate Matt’s Birthday.  Here are the BF’s Matt and Heather, aren’t they adorable?

Heather and I were brainstorming about places we would like to try and she suggested Cafe Maude.  I had heard great things about it and was excited to try it.  Here is a pic of the hubs and myself.

Here are the deets…

Atmosphere – We had made reservations and thank goodness we did because it was PACKED!  The vibe is very dark, cozy and warm; very bistro like.  Highly recommend making reservations especially since this was a Friday night.

Service – This is our big complaint.  Our server was definitely a bit slow.  We ordered several small plates that we shared and the time between courses was too long.  Not sure who to blame here the server or the kitchen staff?

Drinks – Their drink list was pretty fabulous.  Being the pregnant one, I opted for a mocktail – the strawberry starlight.  It was very refreshing and delish.  Matt order a margarita…ok maybe a couple.  This was a big deal as he typically orders something much more girly like a cosmpolitan =)  Heather drank the Natasha which was a blackberry cosmo.  The hubs ordered the Double Double.  The title says it all as it is heavy on the scotch and all you need is one.  Ever since traveling to Scotland last year he has become a real scotch lover and this didn’t disappoint.  He was toasty in no time.

Food – We started with hoisin spare ribs, grilled asparagus and house cut fries.  They were all delish but the spare ribs were superb!  Now I am not typically a rib kind of girl (I know, I know…) but these were AMAZING.  Seriously, I could have eaten a whole plate by myself.

Then we moved onto grilled hanger steak and mac and cheese.  Rob and Matt have a serious love for mac and cheese so this was a must order.  It was good with a lot of lemon in it which was surprising but we decided we liked it.  The steak was great as well, it really melted in your mouth.
The mac and cheese went so fast that we ordered another bowl and another order of fries (because the pregnant lady was craving them – therefore no questions asked).  However had we known it would have taken so long to arrive, we probably would have just skipped it for dessert.

It being a birthday of course we had to have dessert. Again Cafe Maude didn’t disappoint.  Matt and Heather ordered the milk and cookies.  It was a HUGE platter, more than enough to share.  And the milk was melted vanilla bean ice cream.  It was awesome.  Rob and I shared the hazelnut chocolate torte – it was ok, nothing to write home about though.

Overall Experience – It was a great night with awesome company.  The food was good and we would for sure go back.  Though for us it is more of a celebratory occasion kind of place but for some it could appeal even on a weeknight.

Have you been to Cafe Maude?  What was your experience like?

broken bones and other bits

6 Apr

The following post is written by vegan lent participant, Jon. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. The man has some wit.

It’s been a painfully interesting few weeks since my last vegan post. Here’s the abridged version: I biked out to meet friends for a St. Patrick’s day bump when a shoelace tightened around a pedal and pulled a foot through some front spokes. I have a shoelace, a pedal, a foot and some spokes. And since I don’t particularly remember otherwise, I can only assume my set of items is the same set of items that hurled me shoulder-first into dry pavement. Now there’s a 7-inch gash from my throat over my left shoulder through which a metal plate was inserted to bolt my clavicle back together. The pre-op x-ray shows four splintered bits of bone floating among muscle and lung. The wreckage can easily be imagined into a soup stock for cannibals, which I couldn’t possibly enjoy because this is the vegan challenge and food derived from animals is unfortunately off limits.

I’m healing quickly and my convalescence as afforded the opportunity to relax, a rare vacation form myself. My buddy Tilley lent me Anthony Bourdain’s “Kitchen Confidential.” I’m only 100 pages in, but am thoroughly entertained. It’s not the quality of the prose or the uniqueness of voice that get me hot because the prose is nonexistent and the voice is average. The book is great because there’s a bipolar flow to the narration that leaves me hating it but needing more. As a reader, I equally admire Bourdain’s appreciation of individual contribution to culinary culture, want to ingest diverse intoxicants with the guy, and give him a fist sandwich. But again, I digress.

photo-1

In the last few vegan lent posts fellow challenge-takers Willa and Meghan discussed —among other things — what they eat and what they miss eating, and I’ll agree with them on all points. It takes a degree of preparation and foresight to be good at most things, veganese is no different. It also helps to be prepared when people ask, “What do you eat?” Before vegan lent nobody asked, which is sort of a shame. Maybe they’d be more shocked by my former answer: a routine weekly grocery shopping list contained four frozen cheese pizzas, a red onion and two bags of barbecue potato chips. I have no clue how the onion was used. I do know that the pizza and chips were washed down with too much beer. And while my waistline hasn’t increased in 17 years since high school given a fortunate genetic predisposition and an active lifestyle, the fat in my diet was hiding somewhere on my frame. At weigh-in before the surgery, I was surprised to see I had lost 15 pounds through the winter. While I’m not intensely sure vegan lent was the only reason for the loss, eating clean-burning food certainly helped. And now with 500 grams of titanium in my left shoulder weighing me down, I’m going to need all the help I can get.

As I might have mentioned Harrisburg isn’t known for diversity in cuisine. And unlike everyone else who contributes to this blog, that’s perfectly fine by me. Different is good, but as long as brew pubs exist and I have pulse, they unarguably provide the meaning to life. Unique food is a far second to quality beer on my list of personal musts. So imagine my happy surprise last week when a different friend (Scott) with a different injury (torn tricep) from a different sporting accident (snowboarding) invited me lunch and the local brew pub (Appalachian Brewing Company), which had vegan pub food. We swaggered through the door in arm braces, slings, stitches, bandages and scabs — very much looking worse for wear. The waiter asked which us of won the fight, and I think I did because the ABC vegan menu fares better than the standard pub-grub. That afternoon I had a sun-dried tomato and roasted red pepper hummus wrap. Even though it wasn’t a regular menu item, I don’t think the waiter had many requests because he pronounced hummus, “hue-mas.” Again this is a Central PA brew pub and I’m not that into food. So in my colorful imagination I said, “yes, that’s what I’ll have, thank you. The hume-ASS.” Then Scott and I snort and giggle like pre-pubes on acid. Except we’re not. Two beat up white, middle aged guys in the middle of a Wednesday enjoying each other’s company at a place that serves more beer than food … as life is.

photo-2 (2)

So the wrap was all right but my happy surprise in finding a vegan brew pub was quickly unrequited last night when Henriët and I returned to the ABC for a second course. I had hoped there would be more of a selection, but was sadly confronted with only a pale black-bean, quinoa and curry patty surrounded by lettuce and rolled into a sloppily thawed tortilla. The redeeming part of the meal was more an after thought. I ordered onion rings and halfway through the eleventh of a dozen I realized the batter likely contained egg. In that moment it all became clear. The choices we make invariably deny us the alternative and that’s frequently for the best. Otherwise one might add hume-ASS to their clavicle stew and no one would mind.

 

Looking to catch up on other vegan lent updates?

a brief guide to making friends as a vegan in a country of cheese

The incredible edible egg

What do you eat?

What do you eat?

30 Mar

The following post is written by Willa – a Featured Contributor and vegan lent participant.

It’s hard to believe that we are at the halfway point in our vegan lent challenge. The week before vegan lent started I ate out a lot. To my great fortune, it coincided perfectly with Restaurant Week and my birthday. Not that I ever need them, I found myself with multiple reasons to go out and enjoy tons of amazing food.

I assumed that eating out would come to a screeching halt, but that has not been the case. Many restaurants already have a vegan option on the menu or they are willing to work with “special dietary considerations.” While I have put the latter to test with great success, I am not going to make a habit of it. I will leave the menu design and dish creation to the chefs.

Which restaurants are vegan friendly? More than you would think. While I haven’t personally eaten at all of these restaurants, I’d like to provide a short list that might appeal to all likings: Au Bon Pain, Shish Cafe, Chipotle, Pizza Luce, Triple Rock Social Club, California Pizza Kitchen, Ecopolitan, Everest on Grand, Turtle Bread, Red Stag Supperclub, and French Meadow Cafe.

An interesting predicament has arisen from my vegan experience. At this point, I don’t miss any particular foods eggs. While I have not found it hard to be vegan, I do not plan on being vegan forever. That said, I feel incredibly defensive when asked, “But, what do you eat?” or told that it is impossible to eat well as a vegan.

Modesty is going out the window. I am defensive because I know a lot about food. It is an obsession of mine, both for the better and worse. I cook great, healthy food. Prepackaged convenience food-like items with 50 ingredients that I can’t pronounce do not make an appearance in my kitchen.

I love to cook. It is not a burden for me. Am I perfect? Absolutely not. But, if you want to talk food and health with me I am well equipped for the discussion.

There are two very important factors that can’t be overlooked: 1) we can afford to eat well and 2) I am cooking for 2 people, not a family of 4 or more. I have the time and monetary luxury of making the food decisions that I do.

So, back to the original question, what do I eat? I seriously considered recording every single morsel of food that I put into my mouth and attaching it as an addendum to the blog. Really? Who wants to read about what I ate for every meal, every day, for forty days? I know I don’t.

Here is an idea of what I typically eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. In case you’re wondering, I am not starving nor deprived. I have not been eating a bunch of weird foods that you can’t find at the regular grocery store. You might agree or disagree with me. I know I am putting myself out there for critique but it is something we can all learn from.

Breakfast

Grape Nuts cereal, soymilk, blueberries or blackberries, chia seed; coffee

Ezekiel or sourdough toast, almond butter, banana; coffee

Oatmeal with banana, soymilk, and peanut butter (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it)

Snack

Handful of cashews and an apple

Cherry Pie Lara Bar and a pear

Peanut butter granola bar and a banana

Soy latte and a banana

Lunch and/or Dinner

Whole wheat penne with kale, garlic, cherry tomatoes, cannelini beans, kalamata olives, crushed red pepper flakes, olive oil

Giant salad with mixed greens, shredded carrots, bell pepper, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, garbanzos, edamame, pepita seeds and vinaigrette

Lentil soup, bread, salad

Stir fry with tofu, carrot, onion, red bell pepper, celery,  and spinach served with basmati or jasmine rice

Black bean chili, rice, salad

Whole wheat noodles with peanut sauce, red bell pepper, onion, carrot, cilantro, and tofu

I try to fill our plates with delicious fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and healthy fats (sounds a little like the Mediterranean diet to me, sans fish of course). Some days I eat more, some days I eat less. I typically eat a lot on Saturdays because that is our long run day. I always eat a lot on long run days because running 10+ miles makes me really hungry.

It’s funny, so many people have cautiously asked, “How’s it going?” I can see the disappointment when I don’t have any vegan horror stories to tell. All in all, I basically eat the same things that I did before vegan lent.  Anticlimactic, I know but it is a good example of how livable a vegetable based diet can be.

Are you willing to tip the seesaw of balance on your plate from primarily meat to primarily vegetables?

What do you think would be the biggest change, or the food that you would miss most?

restaurant review: ecopolitan

25 Mar

I’ve been aware of the uptown restaurant Ecopolitan for quite some time. I always wrote it off as “way to hippy for me”. I knew they were a raw vegan restaurant and to me that was scary.

Meghan has been trying to get me to go there for awhile and somehow I managed not to schedule that gathering. However, with vegan lent , I knew it was bound to happen. So, Meghan, Willa and I (the MN vegan lent briggade) made a date to go check it out.

Ecopolitan is more than just a restaurant. It is also a Juice Bar, Wine bar and an Eco-shop. It’s a non-profit organization which promotes Eco-Raw Living, which according to their web site is an “educated lifestyle that harmonizes health science, nutrition, ecology, and community to promote a sustainable future on Earth” They provide many different Health Services, “uncooking” classes, lectures, eco-stay retreats and more.  You can check out their website for more details, as I’m going to just focus on the food.

Meghan had eaten there before and couldn’t say enough about it. As a long time vegetarian, she loves that she can order anything on the menu without haveing to ask for modifications. I totally get that. I, however, was still skeptical. Mainly that I was going to stick out as a sore thumb.

So, how did it go?

Pretty well, actually. I’m not saying that I’m going to be going there on a weekly basis, but overall, the experience was better than I expected. The company helped, of course.


So, let me break this down….

Atmosphere: Ecopolitan is in an old house so that’s kind of cute. The two front rooms serve as the dining room and the kitchen and pre-made items and smoothie bar are in the back. The table and chairs reminded me of what I picked up at a garage sale to furnish my first apartment, but they seemed to fit well for this place. It was full the whole time we were there (on a Monday), but it wasn’t overly loud. It definitely has a laid back vibe.

Service: Here’s where they lost me. Our waitress was very nice and gave excellent recommendations. Can you sense a but coming your way? It’s a big one. Everything there literally moves at a snails pace. Maybe that’s supposed to be part of the charm, but it did not work on me. It took forever to get our main courses. In fact, in total our meal took 2 1/2 hours – and it wasn’t because we were gabbing away like crazy…it just took that long to get our food. What doesn’t make sense to me about this is that this is a RAW restaurant. Meaning – they didn’t have to actually cook my food, just assemble it. And, it seemed like many of the components of our dishes were likely made ahead of time. So, what gives? Does this laid back vibe mean slow-mo in the kitchen? Apparently. I probably wouldn’t mind had it been a Friday or Saturday night. But it was a Monday and I turn into a pumpkin at 9 p.m., so this really got on my nerves.

Food:

The food was tasty and very different. I really want you to be able to see what it looked like, but my photos are horrible. I’m going to show them to you anyway so you get the gist. Apparently the cough and cold I was suffering from made me forget the basic functions of a camera.

We ordered the Cashew “Cheese” Log for an appetizer. Here is the description: Rolled in sun-dried tomatoes, olives, & fresh basil. Served with balsamic onions & flax crackers. It tasted a lot like a vegetable cream cheese spread and it was pretty tasty with the flax crackers. I would have never known it was made with cashews.

We each ordered a different entree so we could all sample a few things.

My dish was the favorite of the evening and was a recommendation of our waitress:

ECO-SAUSAGE PIZZA – Macadamia-cashew “cheese”, walnut eco-sausage, bell pepper, marinated mushrooms, onion, & ginger marinara sauce.

It was so good and tasted and smelled a heck of a lot like pizza. If I go back, I’ll be ordering that again.

Meghan had the next best at the table:

PESTO PASTA – Pine nut pesto on zucchini noodles with tomato, bell pepper, marinated mushrooms, & walnuts. Served on balsamic- vinaigrette-dressed spinach.

The zucchini noodles were very fun and came with a lot less guilt than a pile full of pasta and we all really enjoyed the dish. It had plenty of flavor….thought not as much as my pizza.

Then there was Willa’s dish:

NOT-CHO “CHEESE” PLATE – Pine nut “cheese” on greens with bell pepper, cucumber, marinated mushrooms, onion, cilantro, cashew “sour cream,” & hot sauce. Served with eco-chips.

I think we were all most intrigued about this dish. It is served over kale so to me it looked more like a salad with a few chips on the side. More chips would’ve been welcomed at the table. My main issue with the dish was the spice. Now, I know I’m a wuss when it comes to spice, but I have gotten so much better the past few years. This, however, was way to much for me. One bite was all I could handle. Willa, the who has the ability to eat habaneros as a snack, didn’t have a problem with the spice, but it wasn’t her (or Meghan’s) favorite either. I don’t think any of us would order it again.

While we were eating we saw a gigantic sundae-type dish come out, so we immediately asked about it and then ordered it. Eating a raw food meal I think automatically means you get dessert.

We did check out the pre-made desserts in the case, but nothing really looked that great. Plus, I think we were sold on the sundae as soon as we saw it.

The parfait was whipped frozen bananas and strawberries that were served in a glass coated with a coconut-date spread and nuts. We all really liked it, but weren’t necessarily blown away. You could make something just as tasty (and maybe better) at home following this recipe as your base.

So, what’s the overall opinion?

Some may find it a bit spendy compared to other restaurants (my two pieces of pizza were $15), but they used quality ingredients so that certainly didn’t bother me at all.

I think if you are a vegetarian or vegan you will love this place and appreciate the options. You might like it on a more regular basis. I think it’s an interesting experience for others to try as well – especially if you’re an adventuresome eater. I would go back if invited, but because of the sloooooowwwwww service, I won’t be running there every week. Though if Meghan figures out how to make their pizza at home, I would be really happy.

I also realized I’m far from anyone giving me a “hippy” label, but I can happily be a guest among them.

Have you been to Ecopolitan or a similar type restaurant? What did you think?

the night I cooked at the Corner Table Restaurant

20 Mar

This past week I attended an event specifically for Minnesota Food Bloggers. Getting together with people who like to geek out about food as much as I do is one sweet way to spend an evening.

What makes it even better? I actually got to cook with a fellow food blogger in the kitchen of the Corner Table!

But let me back up.

This evening was the second gathering of local food bloggers and I see it becoming a regular occurrence. This edition was hosted by  Scott Pampuch from the Corner Table. Why? Because Scott is a very smart man. You’ll see why by reading the following.

Upon arriving, we got to mingle with fellow food lovers which is always super fun. Plus, I got to speak with Scott himself and tell him how much I enjoyed my experience at his restaurant (you can read my review here).

Photo by Amy Peterson

I may or may not have touched his arm about 12 times. Apparently I was a little star struck. I’m confident he dug that, but was sick of me touching him. We all have our social awkwardness. Touching other’s arms is mine.

During all the chatting, bloggers feasted on an amazing spread that consisted of a very large charcuterie platter and various breads and relishes. It was nothing short of amazing and it got rave reviews from fellow bloggers. Us bloggers, we like to rave about good food.

Then came for the main event and the reason he invited us into his establishment for the evening. He spoke to us about all he’s doing to elevate the local food movement – he is the best in the city about working with local farmers. Seriously. Most importantly, he wanted to tell us about his latest project: Community Supported Kitchen (or CSK). Similar to the concept of a CSA, a CSK box includes locally sourced meats, dairy and prepared products like chicken stock, pickled carrots, braised cabbage or similar items that are in season. It’s a pretty cool idea and would be a great compliment to those who have a CSA. The project will be starting soon and has options for families of 2, 4, and 6 and it’s very flexible as far as the commitment is concerned. Keep your eye on their web site for more details and while you’re there, check out the menu.

After hearing from those who had piloted the program (all feedback was positive), Scott allowed us to tear into the CSK boxes and head to the kitchen.

Ummm…excuse me? I can cook in the Corner Table kitchen and you will provide me with everything I need? Um…okay. You’ll even let us use chef Dan to cater to our every whim? Check.

I followed fellow blogger, Kate, when she jumped up and grabbed a box before Scott could stop talking.  With very little prodding, we ran headed into the kitchen and got cooking. The crowd of camera-crazed bloggers followed.

Kate tackled the marinated chicken and also cooked up the sausages in a lovely red wine reduction. As a bed for the sausages, I put together somewhat of a hash out of bacon, onion, apple and the braised cabbage. And yes, I had Chef Dan cut up my apple. I had to have him do it twice – and can’t believe I told him what to do. He was so nice about it too!

Here’s what it looked like after it was finished…and a few bites were taken. (Yes, I tasted it. I was not going to serve food bloggers something I didn’t try! I’m hoping my fellow vegan lent participants forgive me. )

Thanks to fellow bloggers, Joy and Amy, here is a photo journey of the evening.

Here’s me telling Scott what’s up. Clearly, he is impressed.

Photo by Joy

Maybe not.

Photo by Joy

Inside the CSK Box…

Photo by Amy

Surely if we point to the contents in the box long enough, we’ll figure out what to do with them…..

Photo by Amy

Kate praying that I don’t slice my finger open.

Photo by Amy

 

Feeling the pressure….

Photo by Amy

I can’t believe I’m cooking in this kitchen!

Photo by Amy

 

Please don’t let me mess this up.

Photo by Amy

 

Stacks of All-Clad pans – a dream come true.

Photo by Joy

 

And scene.

After we finished our stint, other bloggers and Scott and Dan all got cooking in the kitchen. Burger, eggs and lots of bacon were enjoyed by all. Well not all, I abstained…except for that one bite!

Photo by Amy

 

Having cooked with the contents of the CSK box, here are my thoughts.

The food is high quality and is better than anything you’re going to find at the store.

This would work well for a family who likes to cook and has confidence in the kitchen. Recipes are not provided. Scott is against providing recipes and while I can understand him wanting people to learn technique and then get creative, I do think some general suggestions would be nice. Something like, “this chicken would go really well with the following in-season produce”. Somewhat of a roadmap without getting as specific as a recipe would be nice.

Families who are busy (and who isn’t) that want to eat quality food from quality sources and like meat (the box was very meat-heavy), this is for you. You’ll still need to go to the farmer’s market or grocery store to round things out, but this saves you many steps and will provide some yummy eats.

Vegetarians, this might not be for you. However, maybe if it goes over well, Scott will consider a vegetarian box? Just a thought.

 

So, have you figured out why Scott is such a smart man? Clearly, if you invite food bloggers to your restaurant and let them cook (and eat. and drink), we will take photos and write about it.

 

What do you think of the CSK idea? Would it be something you would get involved with?

 

Note: The food and experience provided at this event was free. However, my opinions are my own and I was not asked to write about it.

 

 

 

 

 

vegan for 40

9 Mar

Today is a big day. Today begins the vegan lent challenge.

If you’ve been reading the blog for awhile, you know that I do some type of challenge for lent. Not because I’m a super religious person, but because I think it’s a fun way to try out new things. Last year was sugar-free lent. That was certainly a challenge. It was during last year’s crazy 40 days that Meghan floated the idea of vegan lent for 2011. I loved it. I cannot believe it’s already here!

For the next 40 days, I will not be eating any thing that comes from an animal. No meat, no fish, no eggs, no cheese,no yogurt, no milk, no honey, no fish sauce…you get the idea. I’m applying this challenge to food only. I’m not going to be putting aside my leather boots or looking at every single personal product I own. Food is a big enough challenge.

I recruited some friends to do it with me. Two of them you’ve met, Meghan (it was her idea…duh) and Willa. I also have an east-coast correspondent and male perspective in my buddy Jon.

I’m thrilled that I could persuade all three of them to join me in this challenge. You’ll be hearing from one of us each week on how things are going and what challenges we are facing.

To start, each of us have put together our thoughts, concerns and excitements about this challenge below.

Name: Jen

Current food philosophy:

I believe in good food. Real food. That’s about it. I don’t have a label for myself. I don’t eat a lot of meat and the meat I do eat, I’m picky about. I want to know where it comes from. I am not a fan of processed food and would like to be able to educate people on how easy it is to put together meals that don’t come from boxes. I don’t eat out a lot and when I do, I like to frequent local establishments that are also picky about the quality of their food.

I think what we eat is one of the most important factors in our health and that it is the most powerful tool we have to prevent chronic disease. No joke.

I don’t expect any of the above to change over the next 40 days….well except the part about meat since there obviously won’t be any of that.

Why you are participating in vegan lent?

After going vegetarian for the summer, I was intrigued if I could take it a step further. Meghan’s idea of trying it for lent was brilliant. I can do anything for 40 days.I’m super curious if I will feel a significant change in my energy and weight. I’m also wondering how it will affect my training for the half marathon. I also hope to expand my repertoire of vegan recipes and develop some of my own along the way.

What are you going to miss the most?

Yogurt. I eat it every day and love it so much! I will also miss runny eggs.

What did you eat as your ‘last meal’?

Fat Tuesday has been more like Fat week! I definitely had a case of “oh my god, I must eat this before lent or I’ll surely shrivel up and die”. The actual last meal was on Monday and it was thanks to Willa. It included Mexican pulled pork, black beans, arepas with butter and my addition, the carrot cake. Fat Tuesday I found myself at home with a cold, so none of the food I ate was worth writing about…except the carrot cake for dinner. :)

Is your significant other supportive?

Yes. He calls himself a vegan by association. Translation: he’ll continue to eat whatever I make here at home, but reserves the right to eat a burger when he goes out for lunch.

What are you most nervous about?

I’m more excited than nervous. I found myself wanting vegan lent to hurry up and get here already. I think the biggest challenge is going to be eating out and being in social situations where I’m not in charge of the food. I don’t want to be that gal that always has special food requests, but at the same time, I’m determined to experience this full boar and make it the whole 40 days. So….I might just have to be that gal. Or at least that gal that always has a LaraBar and a bag of almonds in her purse.

Name: Willa

Current food philosophy:

In Michael Pollan’s words, “Eat real food, mostly plants, not too much.” I have a tiered food philosophy that I do my best to adhere to: 1) Eat real food, not “food-like” products; 2) Eat local; and 3) Eat organic.

It may sound cliché but I love good food.  I also love to cook good food.  I was a vegetarian for 10+ years but now I eat meat, poultry, fish, and dairy. I pay attention to what I eat and how it makes me feel. This is so important, especially when training for a big event such as a half marathon.

Why are you participating in vegan lent?

I am always up for a challenge and am thrilled to have been invited to participate.

As a dedicated follower of the No Meat Athlete blog and having recently read the book Thrive: The Vegan Nutrition Guide to Optimal Performance in Sports and Life by Brendan Brazier, I am really curious about the impact that being vegan will have on my training.

On the heels of watching Oprah’s vegan challenge episode, I admit that I am also curious about what impact, if any, eating a vegan diet will have on my weight. I will be eating out far less than I have been lately, so that alone should lead to looser clothes and a heavier wallet.

What are you going to miss the most?

I am going to miss cheese, sushi, and eggs.

What did you eat as your ‘last meal’?

Um, what haven’t I eaten during these last two weeks? Arnoldo and I dined at Travail where we ate a wide array of meat and tons of butter. We polished off Spanish chorizo sautéed with garbanzos and spinach, topped with a hearty drizzle of olive oil. I accompanied Jen to the Cheese monger in St. Paul and purchased an out of this world sandwich with delectable meats and goat cheese. I enjoyed my favorite Oaxaca tamale at La Loma. Sushi made an appearance along with a pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting at my pal’s birthday party. We relished chicken, pork, yucca, fried plantains, and plenty of wine at Brasa for my birthday. And, last but definitely not least, I made Cochinita Pibil (recipe from Mexican Everyday by Rick Bayless) and served it with black beans, arepas, avocado, salsa, and cheese. A final homage to two of my favorite cuisines: Mexican and Venezuelan.

Is your significant other supportive?

My husband is always 110% supportive of everything that I do. I am not asking him to be vegan; he can eat anything that his heart desires.

What are you most nervous about?

I am not nervous, per se, but I know that social events and eating out will be challenging in new ways. I don’t plan on eating out very often.  I am wholeheartedly against processed foods and plan on avoiding vegan convenience foods too.

Name: Jon
Current food philosophy:
My yearnings for food typically stem from its necessity as means to survival. If it satisfies hunger and is edible, it is food. The reasons to eat are, therefore, typically void of emotion, determined by logic and prescribed by a basic instinct to consume nutrients through my mouth hole. Food is. As such, labels like “foodie,” “gourmand,” or “impassioned eater” likely will never be placed upon me, but always the inquisitivist, I can explore food as the thing of philosophic discovery and value it as each sense appreciates the object of its purpose. Of food, we know its natural qualities are the product of billions of evolutionary years, the result of natural selection and/or genetic engineering. The physical qualities of food, which systematically or randomly privilege and subvert themselves, guarantee natural or artificial reproduction for human biological and social normalcy. The taste sensations we experience are direct protections against poisonous food and a means to observe, evaluate and give preference to foods more adept in supporting the continuation of our species. Likewise, social convention tends to privilege or subvert foods consistent with social norms; for example, eating dog burgers is rarely customary in Western society but fermented cabbage is perfectly acceptable as a complement to hot dogs. Therefore the context in which food is consumed merits equal value in the assessment of its worthiness in the pool of all that is edible. But, we are bound, as we always are, by language and its limits in order to define our experience with food, which brings its own set of irreconcilable issues. Therefore I’m content to describe food as critics tend to comparatively dissect works of art and creativity — that is in terms of mood, color, contrast and texture. That’s enough philosophy for one paragraph.
Why are you participating in vegan lent?
Aside from Jen’s asking, the occasion affords the opportunity to suffer, a practice I’ve perfected. It also gives me the chance to try some new things, specifically thinking creatively about flavors that cannot be achieved or supported with animal fat. I think mostly about practicing my sauce-making skill since I have none, and it’s something that will be useful long after this exercise in self-denial has concluded. And at present and in general, I’m a bit unexcited by life and expect vegan lent to figuratively and literally spice things up.
What are you going to miss the most?
We do not eat much meat in our household. Because meat production is not particularly good for the environment or balancing the human condition, but because Sunday barbecues are the source of much pleasure, we’ve chosen to confine meat consumption to weekends. It has reduced our meat-production-related impact on the environment by 60 percent. It also means we can more enjoy glistening, fire-charred and smoked animal with narrowed guilt and can be flexible if a sudden craving for bacon overcomes us during the week. For the most part we consider ourselves vegetarian from Monday to Friday but there are some staples for which I now must find substitutes. Items typically OK in a vegetarian diet but pooh-poohed by vegans, my routine favorites are cheese, butter and egg. Until recently, I didn’t realize the extent to which these items pervaded my diet … but it’s only 40 days.
What did you eat as your ‘last meal’?
Since we are traveling and since today I start a diet of dust and crackers, I felt justified in suspending my weekday vegetarianism. On Monday, Henriët’s mom treated us to traditional rustic Dutch fare. Pre-dinner, I slid two greasy kroketten — deep-fried lengths of spiced meat paste — down my throat.
As an entree, I learned a few new Dutch words, which I’ll undoubtedly forget before we get back to H-burg: biefstuk met gebakken ui en champignons (steak with fried onion and messrooms).
Is your significant other supportive?
Henriët is usually supportive of my experimental ventures, provided they don’t cause me harm or impinge upon our relationship. As an indirect participant in this experiment, I suspect she’s averse to some of veganism’s restrictions (the Dutch are an exceptionally lactose tolerant bunch given a dairy-product cultural privilege, and there is usually a firm supply of cheese and yogurt in our refrigerator). As the sometimes recipient of my short-term culinary pursuits, I’m sure she’s equally thrilled to enjoy my successes and roll her eyes at my failures.
What are you most nervous about?
Starving to death is at the top of my list. I’m also suspect of my ability to find vegan cuisine in the Netherlands and on my return flight with AirFrance. But I’ll be back in Harrisburg Sunday and reading ingredients on labels will simplify this endeavor greatly. Lastly, I’m nervous to offend dinner hosts who are inconvenienced by my temporary choice of diet. Let’s hope they understand. I wish I did.

Name: Meghan

I am literally watching “The Best Thing I Ever Ate: Bacon” on Food Network while writing this. Ha!

Current food philosophy:

Vegetarian since 1994.

Why you are participating in vegan lent?

Ever since I became a vegetarian I’ve struggled with not just going whole hog – did I just say that? Gross! Ethically speaking veganism aligns very well with the way I try to live my life yet somehow I just never made the leap.

Jen and I started talking about this over a year ago during sugar free lent and I am excited that the time has come. My body also does this weird thing about once a year… something just goes off that says I should avoid dairy. I’ve never listened and instead said things to my friends like, “yeah, my body is telling me to stop eating dairy and I consider it… then I have an ice cream cone.” So now my body is craving a little vegan time and it’s finally gonna get it. Woot!

What are you going to miss the most?

Huevos Rancheros

I eat eggs like it is my job. I love them like Jen loves yogurt. They are so quick, so easy, so yummy. Huevos rancheros are hands down my favorite brunch selection.

I hear you judging. You are thinking mustard? Seriously Meghan? Trader Joes mustard? You can’t be serious. Oh but I am. I eat it on pert near everything. Have you ever tried this stuff? It is incredible. I would tell you to try it, but that wouldn’t be very vegan of me as it has eggs in it.

mmmmmmm…. BRIE!

Many, many, many a night T-Dogg and I make a meal of this and only this. With a lil olive tapenade, aforementioned mustard and vino. As a matter of fact for years I had no idea that most cheeses aren’t actually vegetarian. True story – rennet=cow stomach. Believe it. Luckily, many places now carry cheese made with vegetable or microbial rennet resulting in this girl gettin’ her cheese on.

And of course, my non-vegan life wouldn’t be complete without a big slice of heaven every once in a while…

Tres Leches!

What did you eat as your ‘last meal’?

Broders Italian. Plain. Simple. Delicious and decidedly not vegan. I am an East Coast girl after all.

Is your significant other supportive?

Like whoa. He rules. If you haven’t met T-dogg, you should. He makes the world a better place just by waking up. I just threw up a little bit in my mouth too. It’s okay.

What are you most nervous about?

Honestly, I am excited. Food is a main focus in my life. If I am not cooking I’m usually thinking about what I want to cook, where my food comes from and what it will do to or for my body. I travel to experience food. I like to see friends and family too I suppose, but the first thing I think about after I book my ticket is where I will eat. Most often, food is the way I experience the culture I am in. The funniest thing is I feel as a vegetarian there are so many options so now I am curious as to how it will feel as a vegan.

I gave up cow dairy two months ago. You here all these people praising the gospel about how much more energy they have and blah, blah, blah. Well kids I must say – for my body it is the truth. My energy levels sky rocketed and my head just felt so much clearer. Side note – I’ve consumed copious amounts of dairy in this last week as my splurge and while I’ve enjoyed every single bite I feel awfully sluggish again.

Cheers to an awesome 40+ days kids… are you doing anything special?

So, what do you think? Are we crazy? Anyone else want to join us? Are you giving up something different?