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?

baking with AVOCADO!

I got two beautiful organic haas avocados in my CSA pickup last week. I really don’t like avocados and I wish I did. They’ve a lot of good nutrients in them, and all the fat is “good” fat! I’ve tried time and time again to enjoy them- to no avail. So upon getting them in my CSA pickup, I figured I’d just end up giving them away. Then I went to Whole Foods and found that if I had bought them there I would have paid $5.00 for the two I had. That’s one fifth of the cost of the entire pickup they were a part of! I knew I got a good deal, and the frugal, deal-seeking individual inside of me decided to find a way to enjoy them.

Google has all the answers, yes? I sometimes forget that. A tip in the comments of that post led me to look up avocado bread, and from there I learned something very interesting about this fruit …

Avocado can be used as a direct substitute for butter in any baked good!!!!

Seriously, friends, my mind has been BLOWN. This has opened up an entire realm of possibilities I couldn’t have imagined possible. I love to bake, and haven’t found a good excuse to do so until now. I had two avocados to make use of.

The first recipe I tried was one I found after some google searches: avocado zucchini bread. I had two (yellow) zucchini, and while I love them sauteed, I figured I could use them differently just this once. I followed the recipe almost exactly as it is written. The avocado was nice and ripe, so it was fairly easy to give it the texture of being pureed without too much effort. I used my little food processor to give it an extra boost, and it was good to go for the recipe. I didn’t measure the avocado, I just used a whole one.

As I have been out of my parent’s house for just a short two years at this point, I don’t have many options in the way of cooking appliances. I’ve been wandering the country too much to feel settled enough to buy most of the kitchenware that I’d prefer to have. Just a few weeks ago I finally bought some cookie sheets (to make kale chips), and during another recent trip I did buy a quality salad spinner. This day of baking made me sorely miss my mom’s Kitchenaid mixer; I got to mix EVERYTHING by hand for these baked goods.

The color of the avocado, along with the shreds of zucchini, made the batter look a bit interesting before the flour was added … yummy, right?

A change I had no option to make was to bake the bread all in one bread pan, as that was all we have in the apartment. The recipe calls for two 7″ pans, the one I used was 10.5″ or maybe larger, I’m not quite sure. So I just put all the batter in it and was ready to reap the consequences …

The result was the bread taking well over an hour to cook all the way through, and even at the end when I decided I’d had enough, there were still parts of it that were probably a bit more juicy than they should have been, and the bread fell apart when I switched it to a plate to cool down.

However, I put it back together and let it sit and didn’t cut it or try any bit of it until the next day. Since it had been taken from the oven a bit more gooey, the texture of the bread now is wonderful and moist- just the way I like it. The bread is not very sweet at all, but there’s something about the texture of it for me that allows me to enjoy it just how it is, no extra butter or sweeteners necessary.

Mainly a success!

My next endeavor was chocolate chip cookies. And not a recipe that I found online that already called for avocado. I decided to be brave and try my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe, and just substitute an avocado for the cup of butter it calls for.

My recipe:

1 cup of butter (so, just one whole avocado, pureed)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 pkg. instant vanilla pudding mix (my “secret” ingredient)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/4 cups flour (can use whole wheat PASTRY flour if not white, or part wheat and part white)
1 tsp baking soda
12 oz chocolate chips (I like semi-sweet)

-preheat oven to 375 (280 or so if using avocado)
-beat butter (avocado), eggs, sugars, pudding mix, and vanilla in large bowl
-mix in flour and baking soda
-stir in chocolate chips
-drop by pieces on un-greased cookie sheets (un-greased still worked for me, even without the butter)
-bake 10 minutes or until golden brown (changed this for the avocado- baked at 280 for 17-20 minutes)
-cool on wire racks

Looks like normal cookie batter to me, save for some green flecks! Tasted just as good as it normally does too!

The green flecks are there for decoration, right?

Beautiful, perfect cookies.

How these cookies worked out, and some other observations:

First, the avocado I had left was nowhere near being ripe. This was a bit of an issue, but I was already all in, so I made do. I spent a good half hour (no kidding) getting it all out of the skin and then I used my food processor to chop it into the tiniest pieces possible, adding some olive oil to give it a hopefully pureed texture. I believe that is why the green chunks in the batter never went away. Luckily this misfortune did not ruin the recipe or change the flavor.

From what I read about baking avocado, you’re supposed to lower the baking temperature by 25% and bake the goods for longer. I couldn’t find an exact idea for how much longer, so I just kept checking on the cookies. Around 20 minutes they were baked all the way through, but they could have stayed a bit longer to get more browned if I had the patience. I think more experimenting could be done with this to up the baking temperature at least a little bit.

I used a vegan, dairy free instant vanilla pudding mix (simply because it is all I could find outside of the jell-o instant vanilla pudding that I’m used to using). I can’t say whether or not this changed the cookies; I just didn’t want to put all the nasty ingredients in the jell-o packet in my “healthy” cookies (or any others I make from now on).

I’m used to the “normal” recipe making the cookies spread out a tiny bit while baking, instead of staying in the same clumps I made while putting them on the cookie sheets. Perhaps I could have pressed them down a bit more when putting the batter on the sheets, just for aesthetics.

The consistency of the cookies is much more “cake-y” than this recipe typically is. I am attributing that to the avocado, based on what I’ve read about baking with it. The flavor was hardly sacrificed; if anything I think the different pudding mix I used made it a bit stronger of a vanilla flavor than I’m used to (I grew up eating these cookies!)

Those who I have offered the cookies to thus far have complimented me on them, the avocado seriously does nothing to sacrifice the taste!

To use the remainder of last week’s CSA pickup I have been roasting the potatoes with fresh garlic and thyme and salt and pepper. They have been SO tasty this way that I haven’t even felt the need to add parmesan to them like I intended! I have also slowly been making batches of collard green chips to snack on (add olive oil, garlic, and cayenne pepper (or salt and pepper), bake for 13 min or so at 350 degrees), because I don’t know what else to do with them and I don’t necessarily enjoy them. They’re good to have around for snacking like that because at least they get used.

Oh, the flavors in these roasted potatoes!!

A delicious (not healthy) Sunday lunch. Roasted potatoes (mine have sauteed onions) and grilled cheese.

Have you ever baked with avocado before? What recipes work best with them? Any creative ideas for the remainder of my collard greens?

I’m trying out a different CSA and I have a box being delivered to me tomorrow morning. I am so excited to see what I get and to try some more new recipes! Joining a CSA has so far been exactly what I wanted out of it- a cheaper alternative to fresh, local, organic produce, and a way for me to explore foods and recipes I wouldn’t typically try. What new foods or recipes have you been getting into recently?

This Life in LA- The Counter

I live in Los Angeles and really it’s a bit ironic- I am so much a country girl at heart and yet I live right off of Hollywood Boulevard. I drive directly through Hollywood on my commute to and from work each day. I am surrounded by tourists who actually want to be here, and residents who seem to be okay with their over-priced apartments, food, gas, and everything else.

You don’t need to take this as an idea that I’m unhappy here. I’ve found plenty to enjoy in this crazy city. I have good people around me, I enjoy my job, and there is a lot to explore here.

So thus begins another consistent posting topic- “This Life in LA.” It is meant to be a series of posts of what I’ve experienced here in LA. The good and the bad, if you will, but mostly the good.

Today’s experience- eating at The Counter.

The Counter is a burger place that offers “custom built burgers.” It is primarily a California restaurant, with a few other locations across the states and two in Dublin, Ireland. I’ve no care for meat, and as a vegetarian I typically avoid places like this, but luckily for me there is a veggie burger option here. They claim “fresh and 100% natural angus beef, hormone and antibiotic free, humanely raised and handled.” No organic certifications, but they seem to be on the right track.

I went with two people I love dearly, my good friend Graham and my boyfriend Jeremy, because good food is meant to be enjoyed with good people. This was a place I’d been curious about for a while, but I wasn’t necessarily expecting it to be as delicious and immediately satisfying as it turned out to be.

I mean, seriously, check out the menu!

Happy hour ends at 7pm here, and happy hour means half price appetizers and $2 off drinks (if I remember correctly). We got there around 6:40 and were quick to ask for TWO orders of the parmesan french fries, two beers each for the guys, and a mojito for me. Sure, mojitos do not necessarily go well with burgers, but they are QUITE tasty!

I was overwhelmed by the options. We each got our own paper menu with a pencil and we marked off our selections. Veggie burger- that was easy. On a bun for sure, there is something entirely satisfying about biting into a burger, whatever type it may be. The cheese is where the options already started to become too numerous for me. What style of burger did I want? I LOVE feta cheese, but would it satisfy what I wanted in flavors? I ended up choosing the Tillamook cheddar on the basis that I wanted a standard, all-American burger. So the toppings for me ended up being dill pickle chips, grilled onions, organic mixed greens, and tomatoes. No premium toppings, as none of them really appealed to me. The sauce choice was another issue for me. I ended up choosing the hot wing sauce (everything is better spicy), but it was a hard choice between that or the sweet barbecue, or the basil pesto, or the chipotle aioli, or the peanut sauce.

The food came out fast and fresh. I tried to sit and slowly enjoy mine, and the urge to shove it all into my mouth was difficult to keep at bay- it was one of the best burgers I’ve eaten. I suppose from the concept of “building” your burger exactly as you want it added to the high-quality food they have, you really can’t go wrong. And those FRIES! Oh those fries. I really should find a recipe. I don’t care how terrible they might be for you, they were a fantastic splurge.

My burger and those amazing fries. I couldn’t help but eat some before I took the picture. Did I mention we ate outside in the beautiful California sunshine right on the Miracle Mile strip?

If I hadn’t been so full, I could have gone all-out and also ordered an “adult milk shake.” Yes, that’s right, milk shakes of varying flavors, with the addition of alcohol. Genius!

The price of the evening was medium, which really is about the maximum I prefer to spend going out. So, it was definitely a treat and not somewhere you’ll be able to find me often. But when I do go back, I can’t wait to try some other variations of burgers. An Asian-inspired veggie burger with sprouts, cucumbers, and peanut sauce? A Greek burger with feta and tomatoes? Or I could go “gourmet” with brie and scallions and sun-dried tomatoes?

Have you eaten at The Counter before? What burgers have you built? What combinations do you think would work well together?

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 sauté 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.

recipes from the week

As my CSA pick up is bi-weekly, I am waiting in great anticipation for this coming Sunday. Until then, I’ve been making use of what little I have left from two Sundays ago- bok choy in a cheese and tomato sandwich, plums and nectarines on the go, and the zucchini. Oh that wonderful zucchini. As a kid I never liked yellow squash or zucchini (except for zucchini bread, I could surely eat that all day!) I love zucchini now, but my typical (i.e. only) zucchini dish these days is in stir fry with teriyaki or soy sauce. I decided to mix that up and try something new. The creation? Zucchini fries.

There are varying recipes for this idea, the one I went for was baked instead of deep fried- deep fried food hardly appeals to my taste buds. The general idea is to slice the zucchini into 1/4″ sticks, dip in egg, roll in breadcrumbs or the like, season, and bake.

Finding edible breadcrumbs in the store was quite the adventure. Every box I looked at contained at least 10 lines of unpronounceable ingredients. Not the fresh, simple food I prefer to eat. I finally went with the Kikkoman panko bread crumbs. The only main ingredient is wheat flour, and it “contains less than 2% of each of the following: sugar, yeast, soybean oil, salt.” That’s as good as it gets unless you make your own.

I went through all the motions- slice zucchini, dip in egg, roll in breadcrumbs, place on pan. I experimented and used one pan with parchment paper, one without and ever so slightly oiled. Both were successful so I know for next time I can save my parchment paper and not worry about the fries sticking to the pan.

panko breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, garlic powder and parmesan shavings

I seasoned one pan with just salt and pepper and the other also with garlic and parmesan (I’m a wanna-be vegan who is a sucker for cheese!) Put them both in the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, then another 10, then another 10 … still didn’t think they were quite done but the breadcrumbs were starting to get a bit too browned.

Consensus? They were tasty for sure. I’d like to figure out how to make the zucchini a bit more dehydrated, as it was basically just heated up zucchini still all bendy and “juicy” covered in tasty seasonings. Have you tried making these before? Any tips I should know for next time?

They were a great addition to some leftover pasta I made the day before- bowtie with sauteed garlic, white beans, sun-dried tomatoes, lemon juice, and olive oil. And while I prefer a dry red wine, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to perfectly pair this meal with a white I bought up in wine country. It all made for a great Sunday lunch!

a day of greens

I was so happy to have the day off work, because it gave me a chance to prepare all my leafy greens before they go bad.

I invested in a quality salad spinner this morning, and after today I know that the purchase was not in vain. As it seems I’ll have a surplus of greens every time I pick up my CSA produce, the salad spinner is a great way to save time and frustration. It is so convenient and efficient!

lettuce in the salad spinner basket

I was most excited about making kale chips since I have heard so many good things about them. They only way I’ve prepared kale previously is by sautéing it and adding it to a stir-fry. I also learned today that baking kale does not harm the nutrients that are packed into it!

I love the look of curly kale!

I looked up a few recipes, and the general consensus is to line a pan with parchment paper, place bite-sized kale leaves on it making sure they are not on top of one another, drizzle with olive oil and seasonings, and bake for 10 minutes at 350*.

ready for the oven

I’m not very good at “drizzling” oil- more tends to come out of the bottle than I’d prefer- so after I spilled enough onto the kale, I just fluffed it all around with my hands to be sure all the leaves were coated. I salted one of the pans, and for the other batch I added salt, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper. I love everything spicy!

LOTS of cayenne!

I checked the leaves after 10 minutes in the oven and they weren’t quite dehydrated/crispy all the way through, so I gave them another few minutes and then took them out. They were PHENOMENAL. Plenty of the recipes I looked up had warned about how tasty they are and how you can’t stop at just one. I figured they’d taste good enough and that would be that. I was wrong. I really couldn’t stop at just one. In fact, I ate the entire tray of the spicy ones. And I had left some raw kale out to stir-fry later, but I ended up making it into chips as well.

Out of the oven and ready to eat! So delicious!

My only downfall was storing them in plastic bags for later. I brought some for dinner with Jeremy tonight and by the time I got there, the kale was limp and chewy. I’m hoping that putting them in the oven again tomorrow will rejuvenate the crispiness. Was it how I stored them that made them limp, or are kale chips just hard to keep in general? I’m wondering if I didn’t keep them in the oven long enough.

I also washed and stored the red leaf lettuce, mizuna, and bok choy. I used the lettuce and mizuna to make a quick stir fry with an onion, red pepper flakes, pepper, oregano, sun dried tomatoes, and parmesan cheese and ate that for lunch with a crumbled sunshine burger mixed in.

Washed, dried, and ready to cook for dinner.

The bok choy I am saving to eat raw throughout the week since I love its mild flavor. Every last bit of the rest of the greens, including what little kale I had left, went to Jeremy’s to cook for our dinner. I made a stir fry with lots of fresh garlic, peanuts, and one of my favorite Chinese-inspired sauces- 1.5 T water, 3 T soy sauce, 1 T rice vinegar, 1 T sugar, and some cornstarch to thicken it up. It was delicious!

So, all the greens I got on Sunday are already gone (save for the bok choy), and while I wish I kept them longer, I was worrying so much about them going bad that I am happy they all got used. In the next weeks when I get more I’ll have to try some of the ideas I’ve been given about extending the life of the greens.

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.

—–

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.

—–

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.

—–

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.

—–

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 FlourNiacinIron Reduced,Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1) [Vitamin B1],Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) [Vitamin B2], Folic Acid (Vitamin aB)), Cheese Skim Milk (Milk SkimWhey ProteinCheese CulturesSaltEnzyme(s)Annatto Extract [Color(s)]), Vegetable(s) Oil (Cottonseed Oil,Palm OilSunflower Oil and/or Soybean(s) Oil Partially Hydrogenatedwith TBHQ), SaltFlavor(s) Natural,PaprikaYeastPaprika 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.

—–

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.

—–

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.