Well… I’m still here!

January 14, 2009 at 12:13 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I apologize to anyone who has been checking my blog in the last six months– I’ve definitely been on a hiatus from blogging! The last six months or so have seen a lot of huge changes in my life, and I figured that rather than deleting my blog, I might as well try to start posting again. I had fun when I was blogging regularly, and I want to get back into it and try to improve my blog.

So: what have I been up to? The biggest change in my life is that my husband and I are expecting a baby! This is the most incredible, exciting, wonderful experience of my life; we are so excited and can’t wait to meet our little boy (yes, it’s a boy!!). I am thoroughly enjoying being pregnant– I feel wonderful, and I’m enjoying every minute of it. It’s so exciting to be able to feel the baby kicking inside me– it makes me laugh every time I feel him move! I’m nearing the end of my second trimester right now; the baby is due approximately around May 1st.

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One really unexpected result of being pregnant (and the main reason that I stopped keeping this blog) is that I am no longer vegan, or even vegetarian. Before I got pregnant, I fully expected and planned to stay on a vegan diet the rest of my life, including during pregnancy. I had read everything I could find about being vegan while pregnant, I participated regularly in an online forum for pregnant vegans/vegetarians, and I felt like I had really done my homework as to how to be a healthy pregnant vegan.

What I didn’t anticipate was the strength and unpredictability of my pregnancy cravings. I was able to stay vegan for about a month at the beginning of the pregnancy, but then the uncontrollable cravings kicked in. My first real craving was for fish and cheesecake (in the same meal)! Since then, I’ve been eating fish (and shrimp) about twice a week. One other really strong craving that I had in my first trimester was for fried chicken; I resisted it for about two weeks, and then I had to give in. (After one meal of fried chicken, I had no more cravings for meat.) I decided that this was my body’s way of telling me that I needed more protein.

So, I added eggs back into my diet, and then gradually added dairy products (which I’d resisted other than the cheesecake episode). Adding fish and eggs into my diet went smoothly, but the dairy took a month or two to get used to. I probably could have avoided dairy, but somehow I just felt like it was something I needed, or wanted. When I added eggs/dairy/fish back into my diet, I stopped having strong food cravings; this seems like it’s my body’s way of telling me that I’m getting all the nutrients I need. And, to be honest, I have eaten meat a few times (probably three or four times) throughout my pregnancy also, mainly when I was traveling or visiting relatives and didn’t have access to high-quality non-meat protein such as tofu or beans.

I had a really difficult time at first, accepting the new reality of my food choices. I felt like a traitor, a hypocrite, since I had been so strongly in favor of veganism up until now. I felt very guilty and upset with myself. Finally, though, I made my peace with it– pregnancy simply is unpredictable, and I can’t control what my cravings are going to be. Even though I know it is possible to have a healthy vegan pregnancy, for me in this pregnancy my body was telling me that I needed to eat differently. I finally made my peace with it; my main priority right now is making a healthy baby, and if I eat eggs, dairy products, and fish, that doesn’t mean that I’m a bad person. It’s simply what my body feels like it needs at this stage in my life.

Another change in my life: sadly, in September, our cat Mirabella passed away. She was just over a year old when she suddenly and unexpectedly became really ill. The vet determined that she had FIP, a type of cat virus for which there is no treatment or cure. (She most likely got it from her mother or from another cat when she was in the animal shelter.) It was the most heart-breaking decision of our lives to have her put to sleep, but considering the state of her suffering, and the rapid, violent progression of the virus, we felt it was the only compassionate thing we could do. We miss her so much; we still feel like we are grieving for her. She was only in our lives for about nine months, but she was such a special part of our family. She was an incredibly happy, loving, trusting little cat and we will always miss her.

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Another new thing for me is that I’m going back to school. I’m starting to work on a second master’s degree (my first was in music, this one is in library science). I’m very excited about this, and am really looking forward to it! Classes officially start next week. I will be taking all the courses online, which will be a new type of experience for me. I’m really excited about it!

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to over the last six months! I want to start using this blog to write about food again, but, since I am not currently vegan, I will understand completely if any of you vegan bloggers out there remove me from your blogrolls, etc. I still read many of your wonderful blogs; you all are such great inspirations for making healthy yummy food!

Tempeh-Peanut Cabbage Rolls

July 12, 2008 at 11:05 am | Posted in Vegan Recipes | Leave a comment
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Last night I felt like making something combining tempeh and peanuts. I also had in my mind a cabbage roll that I had made back before I was vegetarian or vegan, which had ground beef, rice, and blue cheese in it. I decided I wanted to make something similar, but vegan! I looked at what I had on hand, and made this up– and it really turned out pretty good! (I’ll share the exact amounts that I used, but be warned that there are plenty of leftovers. This would make enough for at least 6 people, I believe. If you’re cooking for fewer people, use less!) So here it is!

Tempeh-Peanut Cabbage Rolls

  • Napa cabbage leaves
  • 8 oz. tempeh
  • 1 cup (uncooked) brown sushi rice
  • 1/2 cup raw unsalted peanuts
  • 1/8 cup sunflower seeds
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 tsp. raw sesame tahini
  • 1/4 cup tomato sauce
  • 2 tsp. caraway seeds

Rinse off the cabbage leaves, and let them dry. Boil the sushi rice with the peanuts, until done (use about 1 1/2 or 2 cups water). Meanwhile, boil the tempeh separately, for about 15 minutes. When the tempeh is done, place it in a large mixing bowl. Add all the remaining ingredients (except the cabbage), and mix well. When the rice is done, add it to the mixing bowl. Place a large spoonful of the tempeh mixture in the top part of each cabbage leaf, and roll it up, securing with a toothpick.

Fourth of July

July 11, 2008 at 4:21 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I’m finally getting around to posting my 4th of July pictures! I attempted to make a vegan hotdog, based on Susan V’s vegan pepperoni recipe. I changed a few things, to try to make it more hotdog-like; I didn’t use all of the seasonings in the pepperoni recipe, and instead used a mixture of cayenne pepper powder, garlic powder, paprika, and I can’t remember what else. I also mixed ketchup, miso, and water for the liquid ingredients, leaving out the cashew butter, liquid smoke, and agave nectar. I also added pureed firm tofu with the liquid ingredients. My attempt at changing this recipe wasn’t quite successful– I think I didn’t get it quite right. It ended up being kind of tough and chewy, although it did taste pretty good.

I also made a red, white and blue salad for the 4th of July! I got my inspiration from this NY Times article about picnics, and this NY Times article about healthy foods. I used white peaches, orange tomatoes, frozen blueberries, sunflower seeds, and grated raw orange beets. For the dressing I mixed together white wine vinegar, lime juice, a little bit of olive oil, and sugar. It was good!

In other happenings, I’ve discovered spelt! It’s a variety of wheat, as I understand, and it is easy to cook– just boil with water, as you would for rice. It cooks quicker than brown rice does, and it tastes really good– it has a chewy texture and nutty, sweet flavor. I used it in this garbanzo bean salad: garbanzo beans (cooked from dry), spelt, tomato, cucumber, onion, dill, powdered ginger, and olive oil-apple cider vinegar-lime juice dressing, with salt and pepper.

I also used spelt like rice or pasta, topping it with a stroganoff-like dish (mushrooms and rehydrated soy strips).

Finally, here’s my favorite sandwich right now: a mock egg salad sandwich, made by mashing firm tofu with your favorite brand of vegan mayo, dill, and garlic salt.

“Cloud Atlas” by David Mitchell

June 30, 2008 at 1:55 pm | Posted in Book review, Reflections | 4 Comments

It’s time for a book review!! This is not a book about food, but it has one of the most compelling stories that relates to the vegan philosophy, of any book I’ve read. The book is “Cloud Atlas,” a novel by David Mitchell. This is a wonderful book, a really brilliant, original novel; the book was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize in 2004. I read it about a year ago, so my exact recollection of the details may be fuzzy, but I will attempt to describe how I remember it.

Roughly, the book is a series of inter-related stories, with characters and plots that connect to each other (although the connections are not clear until the end). I love the structure of the book; it has an intricate structure and complex stories. Some of the sections are structured as a diary, some as an interview, some as a mystery-suspense novel. The different parts of this book deal with different characters and settings, but roughly it is the story of one soul that keeps getting reincarnated through different lives and keeps dealing with themes of tyranny, control, and fights for independence. There are several contrasting settings and characters: a 19th-century quack doctor who travels the Pacific, a missionary on a Pacific island who exploits and converts the natives, a composer who tries to escape the tyranny of the mentor who steals his melodies, a journalist in the 1970’s who gets threatened with organized violence when she tries to expose a corporate plot, and a futuristic island where people have reverted to uncontrolled violence and warfare in an attempt to survive. David Mitchell’s writing style is so unique, so vivid– it is a really compelling book.

The story that sticks in my mind the most is called “An Orison of Sonmi~451″ (divided into two sections in the book). When I first read this book, this section really shocked me, and I really strongly disliked it (it has very graphic descriptions of violence in it, quite shocking), but after a year, I find that I keep thinking about it, and I really appreciate it now. The story is structured as the transcript of an interview with a prisoner, before her death sentence is carried out. The setting is a futuristic Earth, in which a large corporation has come up with a brilliant method of providing food for a large population. The corporation uses human clones, bred for servitude and loyalty. The clones live their lives in the fast-food restaurants, serving food and repeating 1984-like chants of loyalty to “Papa.” The clones are fed rosy stories of how, after they have payed back their debt (for their creation) by years of loyal service, they will be taken to a wonderful resort island to live out the rest of their lives in luxury. One particular clone becomes enlightened when she starts to find out small details about the outside world, and wants to escape and live her own life. The most chilling, terrifying scene in the book is how she witnesses the retired clones being taken, not to a paradise island, but to a meat processing plant, where they are processed to become the food that they have served their whole lives.

When I first read this book, I found this part of the novel to be very shocking, violent, and disturbing. I was very upset by it, and I almost didn’t finish reading the book because of it. But after thinking about it for a year, (and now after becoming vegan), I realize that this story is a wonderful metaphor for the current state of our mass food supply (specifically fast-food restaurants). Also a wonderful metaphor for how “we are what we eat.” Our society relies on cruelty and exploitation of animals and people in order to supply the food we eat. In the story, the violent descriptions were necessary in order to create the effect of shock and disbelief, similar to how PETA uses videos of animal cruelty to expose what happens in meat processing plants. Mitchell’s intent was to be shocking. It is easy to remain complacent and to keep believing a rosy picture of how our food gets to our plate (I think most people picture happy cows and happy chickens on an idyllic country farm), when the reality is much more disturbing and cruel. “An Orison of Sonmi~451″ (in “Cloud Atlas”) is a very stark, shocking, but brilliant picture of ourselves, cloaked as a picture of a fantastical, futuristic setting. It is an exaggerated story, a fantastical, unrealistic story, but it represents the vast corporate meat industry that markets “happy meals” and erects huge “golden arches” all over the world. I would highly recommend this book!

My weekend

June 30, 2008 at 12:06 pm | Posted in Auto-biographical | Leave a comment
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This past weekend my husband and I traveled to North Carolina for my sister-in-law’s wedding. It was a wonderful weekend, and we had a great time seeing our families! I enjoyed being a bridesmaid in the wedding, and it was so much fun to visit with everyone! I put a lot of thought beforehand into how I would handle my vegan lifestyle while traveling: I took vegan soap, shampoo, conditioner, and cosmetics in 3-oz. containers, in a plastic quart-size ziplock bag (for air travel). I bought some vegan shoes to wear with my bridesmaid dress. I took some healthy snacks with me– Odwalla cereal/fruit/nut-type bars, tamari-roasted cashews, a banana, and some date/raisin/sesame seed squares.

Even though I’d been worried ahead of time about how I would manage to eat vegan food in the heart of the South, I managed to (mostly successfully) navigate my way through all the meals. When my in-laws picked us up at the airport, they took us out to eat at an Indian restaurant, which was the first time they’d ever eaten Indian food, I think! So that was fun! I ordered a lentil curry and rice, and it was delicious! The next morning, for breakfast, my mother-in-law fixed me a breakfast of fruit (fresh local organic plums!), tea (she knows I like tea, so she always makes tea for me when I visit her– she’s so sweet!!), and a cinnamon bun. I ate the cinnamon bun, even though it was not vegan– in cases like this, when I am someone’s guest and they make an effort to feed me, I feel it’s more important to appreciate their hospitality, than to make them feel bad by refusing their food (although I don’t ever eat meat). For lunch that day we ate at a Mexican restaurant, and I ordered veggie fajitas without cheese, sour cream, or beans (they only had refried beans with lard).

The rehearsal dinner was a bit difficult: the dinner was at a steak-house. The guests had their choice of steak, chicken, or salmon, along with salad and a baked potato. When the waitress took my order, I asked for just a salad and a plain baked potato, without any meat. I asked what salad dressings were available, and she said that they all came with ranch, so I asked for a plain salad without dressing. And I ate some bread, without any butter. I had mixed reactions from the people at my table: I got some very strange stares from the groom’s mother when she heard me say that I am vegetarian, but my husband’s uncle, who was sitting next to me, asked if I was vegetarian or vegan, after seeing what I ordered. He was very impressed that I was vegan, and said that his son had been vegetarian for two years. He also said that he and his wife have started eating a lot of raw vegetables after reading about the raw food movement. I was impressed!

The next morning was the bridal brunch. It was a buffet, with bacon, eggs, sausage, chicken salad croissants, various pastries, and a fruit salad. I knew that this would be the only meal I would get until dinner, since we would be busy with getting ready for the wedding during lunchtime, so I decided that in order to not starve during the day, I would eat some (non-vegan) pastries. I felt like I really didn’t have much choice, so I don’t regret it. I ate an apple-walnut danish, a biscuit with jelly, and some fruit. It was still not a substantial meal, but at least I was able to avoid meat. (And I munched on my vegan snacks around noon.)

After the wedding, at the reception, I ate some fruit and crackers (the only vegan items), and for dinner that evening, my mother-in-law prepared a really great meal– I was so happy and impressed!!! She made brown rice (since she knows I like healthy foods), and a vegetable stir-fry (fresh local organic zucchini, squash and onions, with olive oil, sesame oil, and soy sauce), and sliced tomatoes. She also made chicken with mushrooms and onions, separately, for the meat-eaters. All the vegetables were really fresh, and really local– they were grown by a local couple who have a vegetable garden behind their house, and sell the veggies at a roadside stand next to their house, just 2 miles away from my in-laws’ house! The veggies were delicious!!! I was so happy– that was a very good meal!!! Anyways, so that was my weekend. I had a wonderful time; it was great to see family!!

To finish up, here are a few pictures. This is a meal I made sometime last week– mashed yellow potatoes (with a little almond milk stirred in), topped with portobello mushrooms (cooked with olive oil, onion, a sun-dried tomato tapenade, garlic powder, cumin, and coriander), and broccoli topped with a “cheesy” white sauce (pureed cannellini beans, firm tofu, olive oil, almond milk, garlic powder, salt, and dried sage). (In this picture you can see Mirabella sitting on a chair underneat the table– isn’t she cute?!!)

And here is a yummy, easy breakfast dish: cornmeal mush (cornmeal and water), with a little wheat bran, some flax seeds, walnuts, almond milk, a little salt, and pure maple syrup.

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