rennet

Rennet. A complex of enzymes produced in any mammal’s stomach. Extracted from slaughtered, young, unweaned calves. (Thanks wikipedia.)

I think I had heard about this before, or at least I was familiar with the word, but apparently I hadn’t done my research enough.

I have a vegetarian for three and a half years and counting. I became a vegetarian because I no longer loved the taste of meat. I stopped eating red meat long before I came a (lacto-ovo) vegetarian. And I’ve just never gone back. I don’t see myself going back anytime soon, if at all. Meat just doesn’t taste good. So I don’t eat it.

For a while I tried to go vegan, and then I tried to just be a weekday vegan and allow dairy on the weekends. I tried to cut out eggs altogether. All of these pursuits failed, but still have the positive outcome of me eating less dairy, particularly a SUBSTANTIALLY less amount of cheese. I eat an egg almost every morning for breakfast again, as I used to before my vegan pursuits began. I still enjoy veganism and still try to have a day or two a week that I eat only vegan foods.

When it comes to cheese, I enjoy it too much. Also when it comes to cheese, apparently I have not done my research as I should have. Rennet is a main ingredient in many different cheeses. I know I’ve seen it listed on cheese that I have shamelessly enjoyed. I didn’t necessarily know what it was. Unfortunately (or fortunately), my eyes were opened up to the world of animal rennet very recently. And now I have a lot more research to do.

While I became vegetarian because I don’t enjoy meat, it’s now a conscious choice that I don’t want to eat anything with animal rennet in it. The animals were killed and the rennet was extracted. Moreso than “the animals were killed,” is that rennet comes from inside the animal and I really don’t like that. This is a weak argument. I’m not trying to argue anyway. There’s just something in my mind that finds the idea of rennet a bit disgusting. So I, in my newly enlightened mind, am now choosing to be exceptionally careful about the cheese that I eat. Perhaps this is a natural step pushing me closer towards veganism again. Who knows.

Thankfully, I found this website¬†that has two fairly comprehensive lists of cheese that I “can” and “can’t” eat, based on the type of rennet or enzymes used (if one is used at all). I’m committing to stay away from all cheese that contains animal rennet or enzymes that do not specifically say whether or not they come from an animal source. It will be harder to find cheap cheese now, but that is also a good thing. There are too many processed foods in the market, and if my self-imposed diet limitations are going to help me even further to stay away from processed food, it’s all for the better. Quality is always better than cheapness. I just happen to have a weak spot for cheese.

Thankfully, one of my favorite cheeses- vintage reserve from Trader Joe’s- is made from non-animal enzymes or rennet. And the huge block of feta cheese that is sitting in saltwater in my refrigerator specifically says “vegetarian” on the front of the container. Two saves! Take-out pizza, however, is going to be difficult to find now, I imagine ūüė¶

Who of you eat vegetarian or vegan? What have you learned about rennet? Did you know about it when you started your chosen way of eating? What steps do you take to avoid it? I’d love some help as I foray into this new idea!

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another beautiful CSA day- with recipes!

I tried a new CSA recently, and had a beautiful box of produce waiting for me when I checked outside my apartment at 7:00am. What a wonderful thing to wake up to, no?

Plums, peaches, romaine, bok choy, beets, carrots, broccolini, and avocado. The box was supposed to have sweet potatoes, but I put them on my list of things I don’t want (yes, I’m one of the few that just can’t seem to enjoy them), and so the bok choy was subbed in for them. Upon pulling out the beets, I thought perhaps they made a mistake- I thought I had added them to the “no” list as well. Another look at my subscription and I found I was wrong. I believe I decided to keep them on the list so that I could try to like them.

I only had a week to use these veggies before heading on a trip out of state, so I got to work with them immediately. The broccolini went well as a bed for vegetable gyoza from Trader Joe’s that I eat at least once a week (it is TOO tasty!) Hooray for a vegan meal!

The fruit has been used well as snacks, as always. I wasn’t as thrilled with the quality of it as I have been with the other CSA, but I’m going to give this one another week before I make any solid decisions. The carrots weren’t wonderful at all, but I ate them anyway, just raw and simple.

I’m still trying to find a better way (that I enjoy) to use up all the leafy greens. Stir fry continues to be my default. A good friend of mine is living with me for this month of July and she brought a blender, so perhaps I’ll delve into the world of green smoothies. Until then, I used the beet greens, bok choy, romaine, and leftover collard greens from a week or two ago to make a stir fry with scrambled eggs, peanuts, onions, fresh garlic, crushed red pepper, and soy sauce, all over rice noodles. It turned out to be SO MUCH more satisfying than I expected- I was just making it to eat the greens, but it was SO tasty!

The best food to come out of this box was actually the beets and the avocado. I was excited for the avocado because of my new realization that I can bake with it. Since google was so helpful with that idea, I decided to look up “baking with beets,” and I came across some interesting recipes. I knew that beet juice can be used in place of red food dye (which is something EVERYONE should do, red food dye is terrible!), so I figured I might come across something. The recipes weren’t too numerous or different from each other, mostly cakes or breads or cupcakes. It seems that beets are best used in baking alongside chocolate to help mask the flavor a bit better. I’m completely fine with that- I LOVE chocolate. I decided on this Chocolate Beet Tea Loaf¬†that I came across in my searches, and I am SO glad I did!

I chose this recipe because most of the others I found required the beets to be cooked. Though I could find step-by-step directions on how to cook them, I still didn’t quite trust myself. I think the last time I’ve seen an actual beet was when I was just a few years old and my mom tried to make me eat them (I didn’t). This recipe just calls for raw, shredded beets, and I liked the idea of the simplicity. Also, I already had all of the rest of the ingredients necessary, and I need to calm down with buying baking ingredients right now.

I substituted an avocado for the melted butter or oil that the recipe calls for and it still worked beautifully! I used all three of the beets I got in the box, they weren’t very large. I didn’t measure them (or the avocado), but everything worked out well. Due to the avocado, I baked the loaf at 290 and checked on it every 5 minutes or so after it was in the oven for 45 minutes. It didn’t take much longer than an hour. I stuck with the proportions of the rest of the ingredients; I didn’t add extra sugar because I prefer a darker chocolate anyway.

Peeled and shredded beets. Such a beautiful color!

Another “loaf out of the pan” fail, but not as terribly so as the zucchini bread.

This cake loaf turned out DELICIOUS! It is a bit thicker and very moist- I think the combination of the avocado alongside the beets is helping it retain all that moisture; it’s fudgy in some parts. It is a bit earthy in flavor, but I really think it is the right combination of earthy and sweet. Not everyone I’ve shared it with has loved it as much as I do, but only one person hasn’t liked it (or at least, I found it sitting on the table an hour later, forgotten about after the initial tiny bite, I’m right in assuming I think). I really love a good chocolate cake, and this one has enough chocolate to satisfy me without being overbearingly sweet. I will now spend the rest of my CSA days hoping for beets in every box, just to make this recipe again.

Thick, fudgy, and wonderful!

Have you ever baked with beets? I’d love to hear your experiences! And how about those avocados? Have any of you tried baking with them yet?

Sunday CSA #2

After much anticipation, I finally got my second CSA pick up. And oh it is such a good one this week!

Red and gold potatoes, donut peaches, black beau plums, yellow nectarines, haas avocados, bell pepper, collard greens, red romaine lettuce, green beans, thyme, and what I’m told is yellow squash. Looks like zucchini to me, are yellow squash and yellow zucchini the same thing?

So I’ve cut up and washed and stored the leafy greens, and I’ve snapped and washed and stored the green beans. I really don’t know what I am going to do with all these vegetables- I like all of them so much on their own, but should I try new things with them? I think I’ll end up roasting the potatoes (and perhaps the green beans as well) with the thyme; what other seasonings go well with thyme?

I am not a fan of avocados. I am going to give them a try again, and then probably just pass them off to someone who can enjoy them. I sincerely wish I did enjoy avocados since they have so many great nutrients for you. Are there any recipes with avocado that are good for a non-avocado eater? My problem with them is mainly that I am a texture eater, and their texture does not bode well for me at all.

I can’t wait to savor the fruit over the next week or so. It all looks so good I could eat it up right now. We’ll see how long it lasts …

So far as the lettuce and collard greens go, I suppose I could saut√© the collards with some fresh garlic (I ALWAYS have that on hand!) and add them to my quinoa, black beans, and salsa staple (seriously every single day for lunch). The lettuce I am still at a loss for; I was directed to a few recipes in the comments of my last CSA post, but not many look to appetizing to me. I’m just not a lettuce eater. I wish I could make lettuce chips and collard green chips as easily as I can make kale chips, because those were amazing!

I think during my trip to Whole Foods later today I am going to do some price comparisons to see how much (or if) I am saving by getting my veggies this way. I am grateful that this is such an easy way to get organic, local produce- but I am such a number cruncher that now is the time to see how the convenience and cost balance out.

Sunday CSA!

Today I picked up my first bag of local organic fruit and veggie goodness. Last week’s post explains why I joined a CSA, and today I couldn’t be more happy about it!

curly kale, red leaf lettuce, arugula, onions, bok choy, fava beans, zucchini, cherries, plums, nectarines, tomatoes

bok choy

arugula

glorious fruit!

onions

We picked up the food at noon today, so of course I had to incorporate some of it into lunch. I had¬†Sunshine Burgers¬†in the freezer (they were on sale at Whole Foods over Memorial Day weekend, otherwise the price isn’t worth it), so we cooked them up and added lettuce, kale, and tomatoes for a delicious vegan meal.

We also shelled the fava beans and boiled them for a few minutes, as suggested by an email I got from Savraw this morning. I’ve never had fava beans before- they were quite good, they reminded me of peas. We just tried a few, and I’ll be having the rest with lunch tomorrow.

On Tuesday (a day off work!) I will be attempting to make kale chips; if anyone has any suggestions, it would be greatly appreciated- I’ve never tried it before.

I’ll be trying my best to savor the fruit and hopefully spread it over the entire week. It will be a stretch- I LOVE fruit! (I am most excited about the cherries! Since I typically go out of my way to avoid non organic produce, cherries are not at the top of my shopping list due to their cost.) As for the rest of the veggies, I suppose I’ll buy a few supplementary types and make a some stir fries this week. I am not a huge fan of lettuce, does anyone have any suggestions as to how to use it before it goes bad? I would like to eventually purchase a blender so I can make green smoothies whenever I have a surplus of leafy things.

What was the best part of your most recent CSA bundle? What meals are you planning to make with your fresh produce?

Community Supported Agriculture

I got frustrated the other day at Whole Foods after spending a ton of money because I wanted vegetable stir fry for dinner. Two yellow squash, three zucchini, a bunch of carrots, two heads of broccoli, and some teriyaki sauce set me back about $20 for dinner for two. Not absolutely ridiculous (though slightly), but it’s not something I can do every day of the week. The next day I set out to research some CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) programs here in LA, something I’ve been intending to do for a while.

What is CSA? The best I can explain with my knowledge is that you are paying money to a local farm to help it support itself (essentially, in a way, buying “stock” in the farm), and in return you get a generous helping of various fresh fruits and vegetables from the farm every week (or bi-weekly). Most of the farms involved in CSAs seem to be organic. What better way to eat healthy, eat local, and eat organic?!

I found a great blog post here, with a seemingly comprehensive list of all available CSAs in the area. After doing some of my own research online and asking around, I decided to sign up for Savraw Organics¬†(formerly known as CSA California). I signed up for the $25 box, bi-weekly, and my first pick up is on Sunday June 3, just a mile away from where I go to church. So convenient! I am very excited to start saving money and eating more fresh and local whole foods. I am also looking forward to broadening my cooking skills and recipe repertoire, as I’ll surely be getting some vegetables I’m not used to eating. I’ll be sure to post some of my favorite new recipes once this starts happening.

Ironically, the day after I signed up for Savraw, there was a Living Social deal for Farm Fresh To You, another CSA. Of course, I couldn’t pass it up, since buying the deal (half off a $31 box!) got me a voucher to use whenever I desire, and the produce will be delivered right to my apartment! I’ll be sure to post about that when I redeem it.

Do you invest in a CSA? Which one? I’d like to know other people’s experiences!

smatterings

Sure this blog hasn’t been updated as often as it should be (or as often as I intended it to be), but that’s beside the point.

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in which I quickly update
I started working at the very end of September. This has been good on various accounts, i.e. a source of income, a place to live, something to keep me busy, feeling fulfilled in what I’m doing, and having my employer’s consent to take time off to go to China at the end of this month.

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in which I write (again) about vegan food
Recently I found a video on Ted Talks¬†about being a weekday vegetarian. As has been previously noted, I’ve been a vegetarian for the better part of 2.5 years now. And I have no yearning to go back to eating meat. This video got me thinking, however, about my failed attempts at veganism over the past few weeks. The ideas spawned in my head from Forks Over Knives¬†have still not gone away, and though every documentary needs to be taken with a grain of salt, I am trying to incorporate some of the ideas from FOK into my daily lifestyle (alongside my own research, of course). So for now, I am aiming to be a weekday vegan, and I allow myself non-vegan foods on Saturdays and Sundays (i.e. CHEESE!). Still no meat, simply because I really don’t want it. At all. I haven’t been 100% successful at this endeavor, but it is a step I am happy to be taking and will continue to refine it.

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in which I write about exercising and fundraising
Running is still happening, as I have 26.2 miles to run on March 18. I’ve been consistently running 3 miles at a time, 3 or 4 days a week, and my weekend runs are starting to get longer. This is the training schedule I have just started, with a few revisions so that my rest days are Sundays; sticking to it means I will be prepared to run that marathon on time. Of course, the circumstances I signed up for this marathon were that I would have $750 raised for Love Without Boundaries by February 1st. If I do not accomplish this fundraising goal, I am no longer eligible to be running the marathon. I can’t do this without other people’s help, and I will keep unashamedly including that little ditty in every blog post henceforth. The link to donate is to the right of this blog post, or HERE.

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in which I rant about healthy vs unhealthy food
I recently overheard a conversation between a child and a mom that flabbergasted me. The 9-year-old boy started eating a banana for an after-school snack. He was quickly reprimanded for eating the banana and told to put it in the trash can (including the portion in his mouth). The reasoning? Bananas are “the worst thing you could be eating right now”, there are 11 grams of sugar (other sources tell me 28 grams), and no type of sugar is good for you, eat some Cheez-Its instead.
Ok sure, no type of sugar is good for you. I’ll take it, but hey, I’d prefer to be eating natural sugar to chemicals. And while a guilty pleasure of mine is cheddar jack Cheez-Its, I eat them knowing full well that I am gaining no nutritional advantage with them sitting in my stomach. (This happens maybe two times a year.)

Let’s look at it this way:

The ingredients of a banana: a banana

The ingredients of a 100 calorie pack bag of Cheez-Its: Flour Enriched (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Iron Reduced,Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1) [Vitamin B1],Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) [Vitamin B2], Folic Acid (Vitamin aB)), Cheese Skim Milk (Milk Skim, Whey Protein, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzyme(s), Annatto Extract [Color(s)]), Vegetable(s) Oil (Cottonseed Oil,Palm Oil, Sunflower Oil and/or Soybean(s) Oil Partially Hydrogenated, with TBHQ), Salt, Flavor(s) Natural,Paprika, Yeast, Paprika Oleoresin (Color(s)), Soy Lecithin

Chemicals or whole foods? I’ll take the whole foods please. I eat a banana every morning before I run.

If people could realize that eating healthy means eating real food, their health problems could start diminishing very quickly. A good place to start is the rule of TEN: If what you are about to eat has more than 10 ingredients, or if any of the ingredients listed has more than ten letters, leave it alone and find something better to eat.

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in which there is a cute dog

Bella

This is Bella

Bella needs a home where her owners can give her lots of attention and retraining. She is a major trouble maker, mainly due to the fact that she doesn’t get enough attention during the day. I have become quite attached to this dog because as much as she is a troublemaker, she is also extremely friendly and loyal. She just needs a home that is suited for her. If you are this home, or if you know someone who could offer her this home, let me know and I can give you more details.

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in which I am happy
These past few weeks have brought about great things: a job, cute baby animals to play with, sunflowers, tea from Japan, a new book to read, pictures of my brother in China holding a family picture of us, a place to live, a church to get involved with, and of course, this guy. This girl is happy.

woes of the wanna-be vegan

The other day, Jeremy and I watched Forks Over Knives. This highly informative documentary is about how a “plant-based whole foods” diet is supreme over any other.

As previous posts have mentioned, I am a vegetarian. According to a former roommate of mine, I am (thankfully) a “normal” vegetarian. I’ve deduced that the term “normal vegetarian” means that I don’t go around making people feel bad about eating meat, I have no problem with preparing it and serving it to others, and my main reason to keep it out of my diet is that I don’t particularly enjoy any sort of meat (and because it is healthier to not consume the ridiculous amount of meat that the typical American does). (Amy, if you come across this, correct me if I’m wrong!)

I remember as a child being given steak to eat for dinner, and while I didn’t actively dislike it, I have memories of drowning the bite-sized pieces in steak sauce before putting them into my mouth, and then spending what seemed entirely too long to chew them up and swallow them. I never found any pleasure in that eating experience.

I suppose that’s the reason red meat was the first to go at the beginning of my foray into vegetarianism.

Forks Over Knives is not, however, about simply vegetarianism. It takes this diet to a level I have told myself I will never purposefully reach: veganism.

Giving up meat is one thing. I can still eat egg sandwiches with cheese, the tomato-mozzarella panini from Panera, my second-place-winning homemade macaroni and cheese, grilled cheese with pickles (a childhood favorite), feta cheese, sharp cheddar cheese, red leicester cheese (discovered it while in Scotland), cooper sharp cheese, port wine cheese, and all the other wonderful varieties of and recipes with cheese cheese cheese!

So what’s this vegetarian to do while she watches Forks Over Knives and slowly becomes convinced that switching over to veganism just might be the way to go?

She decides to give it a trial run.

Day 1: Went food shopping. Wanted something salty to snack on so I perused the chips aisle and found the Food Should Taste Good brand on sale (win!). Reached for the cheddar flavored … realized what I was doing … bought the olive flavor instead. Got home from the food store and realized that while I avoided the cheddar chips, I neglected to even think twice about the 3 boxes of Annies macaroni and cheese that were put into my shopping basket (they were on sale for $1 each, what was I supposed to do?!)

Day 2: Did not mix shredded cheese in with my morning meal of quinoa, black beans, and salsa. I can get used to that, it’s how I used to eat it anyway. Went to eat some broccoli soup that I bought the previous day and upon tasting it, realized that it doesn’t taste half as good unless I add cheese to it. Really now: broccoli soup + cheese = the only way it should be eaten. So, there went in the cheese.

Day 3: On top of having to finish my broccoli soup (with cheese) because I didn’t want it to sit in the refrigerator and be forgotten, I needed to start working on those three unnecessary boxes of macaroni and cheese (at least it was organic!)

Day 4: Quick food store run to buy more quinoa (the only healthy thing I’ve been eating consistently while homeless and jobless). I was once again struck with the urge for something salty (it’s all I want when I want to snack. I love chocolate, but that’s not a snack, it’s an indulgence. I need some salt!). I purposefully decided to buy the Pirate brand Smart Puffs. That’s right, purposefully buying more cheesey snacks. Also, I went to a friend’s for dinner and ate some delicious home-made nachos loaded with plenty of melted cheese. My favorite.

Day 5: Jeremy’s birthday. I was doomed from the start, as we intended to get Qdoba to celebrate (I suppose I could stop eating shredded cheese. And queso. And shredded cheese on top of queso). Those plans fell through and I thought maybe I could actually avoid dairy for the day … until, 2 minutes later, I suggested eating Panera. And a trip to Panera means the deliciousness that is the Tomato-Mozzarella Panini. (And a brownie. Because it was free.)

Day 6: I’m ashamed to admit it, but I ate more of the empty carbs that are called “Macaroni and Cheese.” On purpose. After going for a run.

Day 7: That would be today. One week into my exploration of veganism, and I have failed each day so far. This morning I snacked on a homemade fruit bun, and then realized it was made with milk. For a late lunch, there was one box of macaroni and cheese left, and the milk in the fridge was going to go bad soon. Sigh.

The vegan lifestyle: can I do it? I think my love for cheese is too high to avoid it altogether. However, after watching Forks Over Knives, this week has been a painful appreciation of how I could lessen my intake of that glorious processed food. I don’t think that I will be able to eat cheese again without thinking twice about it.

My loose decision:

Stop buying cheese. However, when circumstance calls for it, like I am being offered food at someone else’s house that contains cheese/milk/etc, or I am craving a slice of pizza (a guilty pleasure), or I am out to eat (which doesn’t happen too often), then I can make the exception to eat it. Instead of avoiding cheese altogether, I will do everything I can to drastically lessen the amount that I am eating. I really don’t think that the vegan lifestyle is for me, but I know that I (and the rest of us) can definitely benefit from the idea of it. Thoughts?

Give Forks Over Knives a look, let me know what you think. It’s instant streaming on Netflix currently, or you can buy it through the website.