Friday, February 26, 2010

Weekend Cookin'

Bonjour, friends! Happy Friday! I'm in a fantastic mood today, not only because it's Friday, but because I have lots of fun plans for this weekend, almost all of which involve FOOD!

Tonight I'm having myself a tex-mex kind of night and plan to make a yummy burrito with spicy black beans/quinoa/corn and a gorgeously ripe hass avocado wrapped up in a spinach tortilla and washed down with a delicious mexican coke (I know it has sugar and highly suspicious "natural flavors," but yeah... baby steps). Then I'm going to take advantage of what is likely to be a quiet Friday night at IKEA. Yeah, baby!! I haven't been to IKEA in ages (mostly b/c I always end up buying way too much stuff I don't need when I go), but I DO need some kitchen stuff. A dutch oven, oven-safe frying pan, and a rubber whisk are some of the items on my list. I heart IKEA and totally relish the thought of spending my Friday night there. Is that odd?

Saturday morning I hope to wake up early, drop Lola at daycare and head to the Boggy Creek Farm market and get some gorgeous, seasonal, local and organic produce. I've never been, but many Austin restaurants use their stuff, and I've heard it's got a fantastic selection. I'm pretty unimpressed with the Austin farmer's markets so I have high hopes for Boggy Creek! (I kinda wanna play with their hens, too!)

I plan to cook a LOT this weekend, but I'm not sure of everything I plan to make yet. I am definitely making pad thai b/c I have been craving Asian noodles all week, and there are tons of vegan-friendly recipes. Also a must-cook for the weekend are Alicia Silverstone's peanut butter cups. YUMMY! I've been craving dessert, and I think these will definitely hit the spot. I've heard nothing but rave reviews! I mean, seriously, is there anything better than chocolate + peanut butter + nuts? I think not.

In other food-related news, both the Vegan Brunch (you can get it for around $6 off amazon - merci to City Girl for letting me know!) and Veganomicon are headed my way!! I should be getting Veganomicon today, and I cannot. wait. I've heard it truly is the ultimate vegan cookbook, and I plan to a chunk of this weekend curled up on the couch with it.

So tell me, what're you up to this weekend? Are you cookin' up any yumminess I should know about??

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Austin Restaurant Week

I knew this would happen.

A good friend of mine (who knows about the vegan thang) just emailed me exclaiming that next week is Restaurant Week, and we should totally go to dinner and then watch Gossip Girl!!! Hmm... I immediately headed over to the ARW website to check out some of the menus, and sure enough, NOTHING is vegan. Very few things are even vegan-friendly. Okay, I take that back - there's one place that has actual vegan dishes (including a vegan brownie for dessert), but to be honest, I've never heard of the restaurant, and it doesn't sound appetizing or restaurant week-esque.

This is when it's hard. When I feel like I'm the odd one out, and I can't participate. Nevermind the fact that every ARW experience I've had has been tres mediocre (the food is just not that good), I still feel bad for disappointing my friend, not being able to enjoy something we enjoyed once before.

I know what's happening right now. I know she'll see my reply (in which basically reiterated what I said above) and groan and think ugh, when is Carolyn going to get over this, and blah blah blah. It sucks. It sucks to think about that. I care way too much about disappointing people and not being what people expect, especially when it comes to my friends.

But then I think, really? REALLY? It's Austin Restaurant Week, for crying out loud. It's nothing. I actually think the whole thing is ridiculous, especially considering most of these restaurants aren't that expensive to begin with, and you are limited to a very, very limited menu. I mean, it's not New York City. But I digress. The point is: as much as I don't care about AWR, it bums me out that there are some things I just can't do anymore (unless I want to go really, really hungry).

How It's Going & Fave New Blog

Howdy, friends! The last post was, uh, a bit serious (and depressing) so I thought I'd lighten things up in today's post and let you know how this whole vegan thang is going. I've technically been eating a vegan diet for a week now (albeit with a couple of hiccups, like the bread pudding a la mode I had last weekend). How am I feeling one week in?

Well, overall, I'm feeling fantastic. Spiritually and emotionally, I am confident in my decision and so thrilled about it, in fact, that it has kept me cheery even in not-so-cheery circumstances. Physically, I'm a bit mixed. On the one hand, I am most definitely lighter. I've lost 2 lbs already, which is remarkable not just because it's 2 lbs, but because I lost them the week of my period, which as you women know, is nearly impossible. The weight loss, I have to say, is a fun bonus, but honestly did not motivate me in any way to do this. Health, however, did motivate me. I have not noticed any difference in my allergies or congestion nor have I noticed any increase in energy. I'm still tired and requiring buckets of sleep, but I've also heard that it's not unusual to sleep a lot when first transitioning. I realize one week is not going to change my life, but I am wondering how long it'll take to see results health-wise. I'm curious, how long did it take you?

The most significant effect this diet has had on my life is the way it has changed my relationship with food. It didn't surprise me one bit that I lost weight because I know I am eating substantially less calories and saturated fat than before. Also? I find that it's really hard to emotionally eat when eating a plant-based diet. Has anyone found that to be true for them as well?? It's the oddest thing, and I can't really describe it, but all the "comfort foods" of my past are no longer options for me, and so I just kind of... ignore it. If I need comfort, I find it somewhere else besides the kitchen. Right before I started this diet, I was on a cereal kick, and almost every night I'd have a bowl of cereal (my faves include: honey nut cheerios {semi-healthy), berry berry kix (not healthy), and cocoa krispies (super unhealthy)) with 1% milk. And not one serving, mind you, but one of those Anthropologie latte bowls filled to the brim. Do I kind of miss that stuff? Yes, admittedly I do, but I do not miss how I felt afterwards. (And yes, I realize there are plenty of healthy vegan cereals that I can eat with soy/rice/amond/hemp milk, but it's not the same for me.)

And then there's dessert. While my cravings for sweets have definitely subsided, they have not disappeared. Luckily, I discovered that those Rice Dream mint pie thingies are actually quite delish (oatmeal cookies? yes, please!!!). I'm also discovering a TON of yummmmmy-looking vegan dessert recipes online that I cannot WAIT to try.

Which brings me to the Voracious Vegan... What a fabulous blog! I've spent the last two days reading through her archives, and she's absolutely right, eating vegan is DELICIOUS. I've bookmarked a number of recipes (including this peanut butter cake and these quesadillas) and will be sure to let you know what I try and how it turns out. She's got me all kinds of excited about cooking new things! I highly highly recommend this blog for any of you looking for delicious, satisfying, and healthy meal ideas. (Seriously - how good do those look???)

And with that, I'm off... I plan to do some cookin' and dessert makin' this weekend, and I'll be sure to keep you posted. Merci again for all your rockin' support!!

Monday, February 22, 2010

In Foer's Words

"Why is taste, the crudest of our senses, exempted from the ethical rules that govern our other senses? If you stop and think about it, it's crazy. Why doesn't a horny person have as strong a claim to raping an animal as a hungry one does to killing and eating it?"

"Look at what we as a society have done to animals as soon as we had the technological power. Look at what we actually do in the name of 'animal welfare' and 'humaneness,' then decide if you still believe in eating meat."

[The above quotes were not from Foer, but from "the kind of person who finds herself on a stranger's farm in the middle of the night."]

"Shit became a problem only when Americans decided we wanted to eat more meat than any other culture in history and pay historically little for it."

"One study found that roughly 4.5 million sea animals are killed as bycatch in longline fishing every year, including roughly 3.3 million sharks, 1 million marlins, 60,000 sea turtles, 75,000 albatross, and 20,000 dolphins and whales."

"Whether we're talking about fish species, pigs, or some other eaten animal, is such suffering the most important thing in the world? Obviously not. But that's not the question. Is it more important than sushi, bacon, or chicken nuggets? That's the question."

"Does anyone really doubt that the corporations that control the vast majority of animal agriculture in America are in it for the profit? In most industries, that's a perfectly good driving force. But when the commodities are animals, the factories are the earth itself, and the products are physically consumed, the stakes are not the same, and the thinking can't be the same." [A Vegetarian Rancher]

"Let's describe the reality: that piece of meat came from an animal who, at best - and it's precious few who get away with only this - was burned, mutilated, and killed for the sake of a few minutes of human pleasure. Does the pleasure justify the means?" [A PETA employee]

"Just how destructive does a culinary preference have to be before we decide to eat something else? If contributing to the suffering of billions of animals that live miserable lives and (quite often) die in horrific ways isn't motivating, what would be? If being the number one contributor to the most serious threat facing the planet (global warming) isn't enough, what is? And if you are tempted to put off these questions of conscience, to say not now, then when?"

"Most simply put, someone who regularly eats factory-farmed animal products cannot call himself an environmentalist without divorcing that word from its meaning."

"We can't plead ignorance, only indifference. Those alive today are the generations that came to know better. We have the burden and the opportunity of living in the moment when the critique of factory farming broke into the popular consciousness. We are the ones of whom it will be fairly asked,
What did you do when you learned the truth about eating animals?"

[All quotes from Eating Animals by Jonathan Safron Foer]

{See Jonathan talk here and here (i heart Ellen!)}

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Pourquoi & My 1st Vegan Weekend

I assume most of the people reading this (if there are any at all) have come from my original blog: Hang On Little Tomato. And I bet you're wondering why I felt the need to start a new blog devoted to my foray into veganism. Well, my reasoning goes a little something like this: not everyone wants to know about my diet. And because I have a sneaking suspicion that I will have a LOT to say over the next several weeks about what I'm eating and what I'm not eating and why and how hard/easy it is, I thought it best that I put it in an entirely separate place. Does that make sense? (Plus, I thought the name "vegan tomato" was kinda fun!)

Anyway, on to my first "vegan weekend." My weekend was full of social engagements, and all of them involved eating. It was admittedly difficult, though not impossible. Friday night I had dinner at 34th Street Cafe with several dear friends, and it must be said that 34th Street Cafe is not vegan-friendly. It's not like I could just order something without the cheese - the cheese was an integral part of the dish (and I'm not just saying that b/c I love cheese!). So I couldn't indulge in any of the appetizers, and I ordered the veggie plate for dinner, prepared sans butter or milk. Well, that basically meant I got a plate of asparagus, swiss chard, and quinoa, all of which was ridiculously over-seasoned, particularly with salt. LE SIGH. Whatever - at least I got my greens in for the day, right? On the bright side, my friends' reactions to my, "I'm trying to eat a vegan diet..." was not as bad as I expected. Most were actually tres supportive in making sure the chef was informed (chef was a friend of one of them) so that was sweet.

After dinner (and too many glasses of wine), I met up with two other friends at Uncorked, a hip wine bar on the east side. I was, naturally, craving something sweet, and when I saw the bread pudding a la mode on the menu, I couldn't resist. I figured this would be my last hurrah! I mean, technically I'm not starting until March 1, right? Right... So I ordered it and I ate most of it, and yes it was delicious, but was it worth it? I don't know. My tummy was less than pleased almost immediately, and it pushed me over the edge to that uncomfortable full feeling. So, I don't know if it was worth it or not. But, happily, these friends were also supportive of my decision and agreed that cutting dairy was likely to have great effects on my health and overall well-being. Yay!

Saturday night, however, was a bit more challenging. I had dinner with a friend whom I knew would be giving me shit about the vegan thing. Under normal circumstances I think I would've dealt with it in a lighter way, but I was kind of over the whole "how will my friends react" thing. Snarky comments combined with my general exhaustion over the topic equaled a very irritated moi. This is to be expected. This IS what I expected, but I can see that my patience for it is tres limited. Have any of you dealt with this? How do you do it? How do you stay upbeat and positive and ignore the haters??

Today, Sunday, was the hardest. I woke up and had my coffee with soy creamer (fine), and then decided on grits for breakfast. Well, the problem is, I normally have my grits with a pat of butter, a sprinkle of cheddar/monterrey jack, and a delicious fried egg. This morning I had my grits with a scoop of Earth Balance, which admittedly was not bad. The problem is, I added too much liquid so the grits were more watery than usual, and the fact that I didn't have cheese to ooey-gooey them up made me a little sad. After a few bites, I threw them out. And then made myself a hemp shake w/ rice milk.

Then came my trip to Whole Foods. As I was reaching towards the avocados, my nose was immediately hit with that salty pungent and terribly familiar smell of parmigiano reggiano - a giant wheel of it. Okay moving on... I picked up some fruit, greens, coconut creamer, soy milk, vegan worcestershire sauce, tamari, an Amy's frozen cheeseless roasted veggie pizza, etc. It was all well and good until I hit the salad bar to make a late lunch to-go. None of the hot foods were vegan. Okay, fine, I'll just make a salad (even though I HATE eating nothing but cold food as a meal). And what's the first thing I see? My FAVORITE feta - huge chunks of it, speckled with delicious seasoning and ready for eating. Pass. Boiled eggs? Pass. Pasta salad? Pass. Tofu? FINE. Ok so my salad will be ridiculously healthy, that's fine.

Or it was fine, until I got home, ate it, and was so. not. satisfied. Because then I got all depressed and was like, "is this what my life will be like without cheese???" and dramatically threw myself face first onto my bed and cried to Lola. Yeah, can we say melodramatic? After about 20 minutes, I made myself a piece of toast w/ peanutbutter and felt way better. And then I proceeded to search the web for yummy vegan and cornbread recipes that would satisfy my desire for warm, flavorful food. And you know what? They were DELICIOUS. And even though I now have enough chili to feed a small army (must cut recipe in half next time), I'm soooooooo glad that my first attempt at vegan cooking went very, very well.