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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.

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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.

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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?

I’m not a Confident Cook

24 Mar

This post is written by Featured Contributor, Amanda.

People who know me would say that I’m a very motivated and positive person. But when it comes to cooking, I’m not a confident cook. Nevertheless, I’m determined not to let that stop me.

I’m not sure when I came to actually enjoy cooking. I can honestly tell you that I probably cooked an actual dish for the first time my senior year in college and I don’t think it was anything to brag about. Some sort of casserole or box mix for sure. Then came the Peace Corps where I only had a small kerosene stove, soybean oil, and a limited number of pots and utensils. Nevertheless, that was the first time in my life where I was totally on my own as far as food went. Luckily the wonderful family downstairs invited me into their home and subsequently their family and fed me dinner quite often during the week. I could only repay them by helping to prepare the food and by purchasing exciting new fruits and vegetables from the market. I also taught my Appa (sister) to make spaghetti, macaroni and cheese (whenever I could afford the imported cheese), no-bake cookies, and even popcorn. It’s true; they had never seen corn pop from the kernel. They thought I was a magician!

Upon returning to the U.S., I took it upon myself to continue this whole “cooking” thing that I had started in Bangladesh. A 4-burner stovetop, oven, and a sink with a faucet of drinkable water seemed like a dream come true.

Fast forward to 2007 when Jen asked me to join the GDC (Gourmet Dinner Club). I’m not sure what made her think I was worthy to join these ranks, but I accepted the offer. I spilled red pepper all over my black dress at the first dinner, broke down emotionally over German Chocolate Cake, and even threw in the towel on the French challenge and picked up a platter from “Pardon my French” instead of cooking anything. The GDC also serves as a source of new vocabulary for me as I just learned a new term this past weekend: charcuterie.

I try to turn my less-than-confident cooking nature into a “quirky” bit and I just cross my fingers that others find it somewhat cute and endearing. Unfortunately, I think people are starting to catch on. Perhaps my numerous questions are the give away.  I’m just not a confident cook. Here are some examples of real questions I have asked my more culinarily (I made this word up) endowed friends and relatives:

-What’s the difference between regular and quick oats? And which ones work in no-bake cookies?

-Why are red lentils called “red lentils” when they are in fact orange?

-Can I defrost something without pushing the defrost button on the microwave?

-How long do I have after a piece of chicken has defrosted before I have to throw it away?

-Can I freeze jalapeños?

-How do people typically cook poultry in order to then add it to soup or a baked dish?

-Why is unsweetened coconut so damn hard to find in your basic grocery store?

There have been many more embarrassing questions, but I’ve succeeded in blocking them from my memory…until I need the answer again.

I can proudly say that I’ve come a long way. I know there are many more mistakes on the horizon, but with each mistake comes a new realization and of course the successes keep increasing. Watch out “Cook’s Illustrated,” cover model here I come!

Do you have ever have cooking questions that you feel like everyone else already knows the answers to? Are there certain meals or dishes that have intimidated you?

the incredible edible egg

23 Mar

The following post is by Meghan. She is one of the four people participating in vegan lent.

You know how everyone says bacon is THE reason they could never possibly be vegetarian? Pretty sure eggs are THE reason I may not be able to be full time vegan. I don’t even miss them much yet but I miss how easy and quick they are.

Vegan lent rules. I’m beyond stoked about it but I’m not gonna lie – this past week was a challenge. I was starving pretty much all week, but it is my fault. I didn’t plan well. And as we all know, eating healthy is an act of thoughtful preparation.

Lent conveniently coincides with my hell time at work which means I am working some intense hours leaving little room for much else. Between trying to get in a few gym sessions and hoping to sleep a little, my diet was mildly ignored which left me hungry. Everyday. This is typically where eggs come in as my saving grace – chock full o’ protein and oh so delicious with even just a little salt and pepper. I will save any moral commentary here because yes, I am painfully aware of the implications of eating eggs and believe it or not, think about those every time I eat them. Doesn’t mean I don’t still love ‘em.

So this weekend we planned. Big time. We cooked. Big time. And now I am ready to face a week full of healthy, delicious, homemade vegan food. Bring it on.

Until lent is over my favorite go to protein source is now Seitan. But not the weird, salty, over processed goop at the store. I finally made my own. With a little help from T-dogg of course. I actually view seitan as my “meat” in that it still doesn’t feel like the most healthy food ever. I can’t eat it everyday but for my next “I’m starving” moment, I have a supply of homemade yummy goodness to throw into just about anything.

Steamed Red Seitan ~ Adapted from Viva Vegan! by Terry Hope Romero

For my homies who know the amazingness of Horizon’s – this doesn’t even come close but it’ll do. For those who don’t know the magical heaven that is Horizon’s I will say this, if I were rich I would make special arrangements to fly to Philly on the regular solely to eat there. Nuff said.

She makes a red and white version – I like the red best so whoop here it is…

1 ½ C cold vegetable broth

4 cloves garlic, peeled and pressed

3 T soy sauce

4 T tomato paste

2 T olive oil

1 ½ C vital wheat gluten flour

¼ C chickpea (garbanzo flour)

¼ C nutritional yeast

1 t dried oregano

½ t ground cumin

1) In measuring cup, whisk together the broth, garlic, soy sauce, tomato paste, and olive oil.2) In large bowl, combine wheat gluten, chickpea flower, nutritional yeast, oregano, and cumin. Form a well in the center.

3) Pour liquid ingredients into the well and stir with rubber spatula until dough leaves the side of the bowl.

4) Knead dough for 2-3 minutes to develop the gluten (it will get kinda stringy and mushy).

5) Let dough rest for 10 minutes; knead again for 30 seconds.

6) Place dough on cutting board, cut into four equal pieces with sharp knife then lightly knead each piece a few times.

7) Shape each into a roughly oblong loaf shape.

8) Tear off four 12-inch square sheets of aluminum foil. Place a piece of dough in the of a piece of foil. Fold the short sides of foil over the loaf, then fold the long ends over. The foil should be secure but you want a lil loose space around the dough so it can expand while cooking. Repeat with the other pieces of dough.

9) Place wrapped dough in a steamer basket and steam for 30 minutes. Unwrap and let cool while sitting on foil.

She says for best texture and flavor to prepare a day or two in advance. I agree. Just make sure it cools completely before you store it. To store it, wrap each piece tightly in plastic wrap. It stores up to two weeks in fridge but can also be frozen (wrap tightly) then thawed in fridge. I used the loaves after both storing methods and it was great. I’ve learned sautéing it in peanut oil gives it some awesome crunch but I’m sure cooking it up in any oil will work. We served it with homemade tortilla’s, sautéed onions and peppers in Mexican red sauce.

Are you veg or vegan? What are your favorite go to sources of protein in a pinch?

The Ride of a Lifetime…

17 Mar

What up folks? It’s me, Meghan.

Did the Ride of a Lifetime on March 6 and it was… well… DOPE! Perfect way to spend a chilly Sunday morning. The ROAL, because I am already sick of typing the whole thing out, is an event put on by Life Time Fitness billed as the world’s largest cycling class. Last year was the first year and apparently they broke a Guinness Book of World Record. Who knew there was such a record?

Pre-ride

It was a two-hour indoor spin class held at the St. Paul River Center with more than 1,000 sexy people in spandex. Okay, okay, the sexy part is debatable but you get the point. It was decked out. Banners everywhere, fruit and coffee aplenty, coat check, and the best part… 1,000 stationary bikes fully equipped with clean towels and a brandy new free water bottle. Suh-weet!

Life Time Fitness CEO, Bahram Akradi led the majority of the “class” along with four of his best spin instructors in the country. Not the annoying instructors who pick the worst music possible… The ones who basically make you angry just listening to them talk… The ones you are stuck with because it is the only class that fits in your schedule. These were four of his top spin instructors in the entire country! Again I say, dope.

On to the ride…

Once you get past your typical “How we feeling? I can’t here you! I said how we feeling?” crap and of course the obligatory “when I say hey, you say ho” hoopla the ROAL was yep, you guessed it, dope. What? A live DJ? Okay I guess that is kinda cool. Oh and now you wanna spin Michael Jackson, Prince and a lil Janet all while the live drummer next to you goes to town on his sick bongo set. Oh okay, I guess that is average. Oh, and what is that? All I have to do is sit here and listen to you tell me what to do for two hours, watch you have a blast on stage and in turn I burn 1,200 calories? And then as if that isn’t enough, you have dozens of volunteers running around with clean towels, fruit, energy gels and they want to refill my water bottle for me? BRING IT ON!

The event cost me $50. That $50 earned me a Life Time Fitness cycling club jersey and all of the aforementioned goodies plus the extra water bottle I snagged on the way out for good measure. Next year it will only cost me $20 because now I own the jersey. Totally worth it.

Look at all those bikers!

If you live in Minnesota you are painfully aware that we still have a bit of winter to endure and these next few weeks are among the toughest to get through because it should just be spring already – for the love of god! Are there any fun random things like this in your neck of the woods? What are you doing to keep your sanity during these indoor training months? Can I come?

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

16 Mar

The following is a guest post from fellow vegan lent participant and my dear friend, Jon.

If you’re the kind of person who’s inclined to revel in the ridiculous, you likely have friends who are equally entertained by absurd undertakings. That’s why you and your friends are fun. You’ve also undoubtedly been so disposed for long enough to have a family who accepts your idiosyncrasies as essential to your character. You are you, and you are awesome. These are the things I tell myself to justify my role on this part of planet and it works pretty well. I’m generally content with myself, and provided I attempt to keep life choices on the better side of the balance, most people are content with me too. There are specific times, however, when family and friends are not quite my own and downward-inflected “Ohs” are a sure sign an observer does not share my propensity for good-natured, old-fashioned impulsiveness. Such rare occurrences typically transpire something like this:

JON: “I work from home.”

CRITIC: “That must be nice.”

JON: “Yeah, it’s a rare day when I wear pants to work.”

CRITIC: “Oh.” Dropping off to chirping crickets.

Self-imposed veganese could have gone either way, especially since an impromptu trip to the Netherlands put me on my Lenten diet in a land that was built on cheese and sausage. To their credit, dinner hosts and restaurant-venturing companions alike understood of my discretionary limitations. This is probably a result of a Dutch tradition of compromise. It’s been explained as a necessity when your country is no bigger than a postage stamp with almost no resources of your own. You hone negotiating skills for trade, which necessitates a degree of tolerance unknown on this side of the ocean. Anyway, many thanks to .NL residents for helping me through my first animal-less days. I don’t recall any “Ohs” … at least not resulting from my menu choices.

So what does a vegan eat in a country that prides itself on a heritage of dairy supremacy? Especially when menus are in a language that only a handful of people speak.

In this regard my eating habits have helped tremendously. I’m a nibbler throughout the day and typically sustain myself on a few handfuls of nuts and fruit. The trouble comes with the evening meal, when I fill myself to the gills. I therefore only needed to be overly concerned for dinner from Wednesday to Saturday. (Although my last minute travel plans neglected to include an airline meal request verification. Thankfully I was able to trade a mushy lump of lasagna for some sparse greens and a pasty cracker.)

It appears American cuisine is unique in its longevity. Where citizens of other countries typically enjoy fresh food, Americans are more inclined to consume food that’s chemically embalmed. There’s a certain pride in our resourcefulness … that we can outsmart nature with food that will never decompose. Have you ever gone into your cupboard and noticed a dusty box of indestructible sustenance and smiled when you realized – even though you can’t recall the day the box entered the darkness of your cupboard – the best-if-used-by-date is still several decades away. Well, people in other countries are not of that disposition and trying to describe it might render a few well-targeted “Ohs.” And it was nice to enjoy some simple dishes comprised mostly of vegetables and grains.

Wednesday dinner was at H’s very old friend’s home on the other side of the rivers … where people celebrate Carnival and dress like Smurfs and “Sexy Midgets.” Dinner was a delicious green coconut curry with rice and tofu. Rather than dusting off a box of Hamburger Helper, the Dutch have ingenious spice packets that measure the spices for favorite flavors. I believe it in my head to be a remnant of the spice trade, one thing the Dutch might have excelled at … what with their negotiation skills and all. The packages require cutting and mixing, but it’s remarkably easy to produce some very nutritious meals. And while it takes 30 seconds longer than instant mashed potatoes, the result is far superior. They also take no space in a suitcase … and you don’t need to be an expert at trade to get them through customs.

Thursday I made dinner with my future mother-in-law. It was protein deficient, but none the less tasty. Bulgur boiled in vegetable stock under stir-fried kale and onion under pan-roasted pine nuts.

Friday we were guests at a dinner party with some of Amsterdam’s most warm, inviting and genuinely beautiful-to-the-core people. I had a carrot soup that was ornately layered with flavor from potato to orange to ginger to cayenne. It was the best thing I’ve eaten as a vegan … the best thing I’ve eaten in weeks. The only things that would have made it better were the bacon bits and soft cheese that everyone but me raved about.

Saturday was our last night in .NL and we were able to spend a quiet dinner for three at a Moroccan deli. Aside from hints of saffron, which is too expensive for me to buy for home use, the only memorable item was a grilled artichoke that reminded me barbecue season is starting and I can’t eat meat (INSERT EXPLATIVE). At least I can try to replicate the artichoke. To the best my uneducated palate can discern, it was brushed with some sort of nut oil and fired until the insides turned to mush. It was extra nutty and really smoky … 33 days to perfect it.

Thanks again to everyone in the Netherlands for helping me though the first couple days. But more importantly, thank you for being you and being awesome.

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?

Wusthof vs. J.A. Henckels

23 Feb

Sooooooooooooo… what is the dilly yo? Fancy knives are fancy knives – right? Well, I have no idea so I turn to all of  you and your foodie splendor.

T and I had $140 in Macy’s gift certificates to burn up yesterday, yes a dream come true for this kitchen gadget obsessed girl. We both hate shopping of any other kind, unless it involves bikes, so we headed straight to the home area of Macy’s. I had a whole list of little gadgets we “needed” but would never buy unless we randomly had $140 of free money to burn through. How that came about is a whole other story. Low and behold we stumbled upon the knives and they were all 50% off! All sorts of fancy sets of both brands 50% OFF! This meant we could own a brand new Wusthof knife collection originally valued at $400 for $60 – clearly the only logical choice given a dream come true like this. I couldn’t belive it. For years I have coveted the likes of Wusthof and Henckels. YEARS I tell ya!

This is where the questions start swirling about. How do we know which line of Wusthof is best? Are they really that much better than Henckels – I mean seriously how different  can they be? There is stamped vs. forged, a zillion different handle styles – ay mio! Seems almost absurd to have so many choices for a knife. As we walked around and talked to anyone who would offer advice, my enginerd boyfriend chimes in with the only logical solution – price, price, price. He looked at the original price of all options, then took into account all of our discounts as well as surveyed the knives available in each set to find what (by the numbers) appeared to be the most bang for our buck. We then laughed at ourselves for a bit because we spent nearly an hour talking about knives. Kind of ridiculous – but this is a big purchase people.

Alas, we are now the proud owners of a set of Wusthof Grand Prix II. The set includes – 8″ Cooks Knife, 8″ Bread Knife, 3.5″ Paring Knife, 4.5″ Utility Knife, 4 – 4.5″ Steak Knives, Kitchen Shears, 9″ Sharpening Steel and of course the Knife Block. One contributing factor to this choice is that we have an awesome store in NE Minneapolis called Eversharp where you can buy refurbished Wusthof for a fraction of the cost thus allowing us to add to the collection some day. But still…

Did we make the right choice? What types of knives do you use? Is one brand really better than the other? They are still in the box with the receipt. Just sayin… your opinion could change the fate of our kitchen.. FOREVER:)