Monday, March 31, 2008

Five or Less

I'm finally getting around to reading The Omnivore's Dilemma, and I have to tell you, it's freaking me out.

Corn is starting to scare me. It's everywhere, in everything, and it's kind of creepy. I'm starting to feel like, even though I don't eat meat, if I eat processed foods, and therefore corn, I'm supporting factory farms, because I'm supporting the system that creates so much corn we end up forcing it into animals. Ack!

(P.S. Know I'm not knocking the farmers, here -- they get screwed in this system just as much as the animals and the consumers do.)

I realize I may be taking a very oversimplified view, here. However, I'm going to make a few changes that I hope will minimize my consumption of #2 Field Corn. (Shudders!)

First, I'm going to try to eat as many whole foods as possible. I feel like I do a reasonably good job of this already, but there are still processed foods that creep into my diet -- breakfast cereal, condiments, crackers, junk at work, etc. With this change, I'm going to institute the "Five or Less" rule -- the food that I buy from now on will contain five or less ingredients. There may be one or two exceptions, but for the most part, I'm going to try and stick to this rule as much as humanly possible!

Second, I'm going to research participating in a CSA this summer. This may not be a feasable option for me, since they tend to produce in volume. With that understanding, I may just try to frequent the farmer's market on a more regular basis.

Third, I'm going to cut back on eating out. (And when I do eat out, I'm going to choose smarter restaurant options -- restaurants that try to use local, sustainable, organic ingredients.)

Read The Omnivore's Dilemma, if you haven't already!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

less than a week!!!!!

Since we leave for Haiti in less than a week, I figured it wasn't too soon to start looking at the weather.

So excited! (So excited, in fact, I'm already mostly packed!)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

I made a label cloud! (plus some food, too.)

I'm so proud of myself -- I used this link and made myself a label cloud! Woo! (I've been working on labelling previous posts, and was envious of the label clouds I've seen on other people's blogs.) It's kind of fun, looking over past posts and seeing how my blog has changed over the years, and all the silly things I've written about. It's been pretty time-consuming, since I have over 500 posts to back-label, but I've been working on it in fits and spurts, here and there, and the labels are coming together nicely. Wee!

And some food . . .

Dinner the other night:
Lentil soup (from the freezer,) half a grilled-cheese sandwich, some leftover steamed broccoli, and a Reed's ginger ale! Yum.

Dinner last night:
Yes, more sushi. :) I experimented with including some toasted sesame seeds this time, per a fellow blogger's urging, and also some pickled radish that was given to me as a gift by a former co-worker, plus my usual cucumber, red pepper, and avocado. Yum, yum, extra-yum!

And, I've realized Oliver hasn't made an apperance here lately:
He's still as sassy as ever, kickin' butt, more energetic than he's ever been, and thanks to the diet the vet encouraged me to put him on, he's quite svelte,too. Hooray, Ollie!

Monday, March 17, 2008

breaking in new bakeware, kid food

First, some random oatmeal I made for breakfast last weekend:
Actually, come to think of it, I think this was 10-grain hot cereal from Bob's Red Mill. Made with almond milk and a diced apple, spiced up with a little cinnamon and sweetened with a teaspoon of honey, this was just right -- creamy, filling, and not too sweet. Yum!

I bought two new pieces of bakeware a couple of weeks ago! First, my new muffin pan:
Wee! Blue silicone! Contents: Ruthie's 10-Grain Muffins (from the back of the Bob's Red Mill 10-Grain Cereal bag -- veganized, though. I also added vanilla and nutmeg.)

My new removeable-bottom bar pan:
Contents: another batch of Raspberry-Oatmeal Bars (well, these are strawberry,) from Joy of Vegan Baking. Yum again!

I made myself "kid food" for dinner tonight:
Mac and cheese (from the box . . . but still organic!), steamed broccoli, and a Minneola tangelo. Sometimes even I need a little white flour and gooey cheese sauce, despite my otherwise mostly healthy diet!

With that said, I'm going to enjoy my last piece of candied ginger, and start the dishes. Posts may be far and few between these next couple of weeks -- I am unusually busy, and then leave town for Haiti early April, so I'm planning easy meals and trying to clean out my fridge and freezer before I leave. Know that I'll still be reading everyone else's blogs, though!!

Friday, March 14, 2008


Quick funny story . . .

As many of you know, I purchased a Soyabella soymilk maker some months ago now, and have been happily making my own soy and almond milks ever since. (And one experiment with some almond-pistachio milk -- delicious, but slightly pale green in color!) Dan always gets excited when it's time to make a fresh batch of almond milk -- and always wants to drink a big glass when it's finished!

I was talking to Dan last night, and he told me that he brags about my soymilk and almond milk-making to people. Am I a nerd? Is Dan a nerd? Maybe?

But I think that's pretty funny! ("My girlfriend's so cool -- she makes her own soymilk!")

TGIF, indeed, folks. I'm SO glad it's almost the weekend!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

disasters in gluten-free baking (plus a dinner and shoes!)

We have treats during our break at church choir rehearsal every week -- usually some kind of baked good (muffin, cookie, etc.,) plus fruit or veggies. The whole "treats" thing started when folks found out that a lot of people were coming to rehearsal straight from work and not eating dinner, so people started taking turns providing a substantial snack during our 8:30 break.

It was my turn to bring treats this week, so I decided to try my hand at some gluten-free baking. (One of the folks in the choir is gluten-intolerant.) Originally, I had planned on making two different kinds of mini-muffins -- a gluten-free banana, and the vegan spiced chocolate muffins I made a couple of weeks ago. THEN, I forgot to borrow Courtney's mini-muffin pan! Egads. So, I decided to just make loaves of quick bread.

Tuesday night rolled around, and I was in a time crunch -- tired, ready to sit down and eat dinner and watch a movie with Dan, I decided to just make a larger batch of gluten-free banana bread. I threw the breads together, stuck them in the oven, and sat down to dinner. Later, I smelled something . . . opened my oven and found that the breads had overflowed all over the oven floor! Crud. (The lady I talked to at the co-op said I could use the gluten-free mix she recommended in place of flour in a regular recipe . . . then I read the back of the package and learned that the mix recommended that I do that, but cut down the fat and leavening. Sheesh!)

At that point, I was ready to give up and go to the store the next day and just BUY something for choir treats. However, later Tuesday night, I decided to try one more time, and make a nice, safe, simple treat -- chocolate chip cookie bars.
Full of wheat (and not vegan -- I used an egg, although they were dairy-free,) I threw in the towel in regards to gluten-free baking . . . at least this time. I have a half-package of mix to use up yet -- we'll see what I end up doing with it.

(The bars were a hit, by the way -- only about six made it home at the end of the night!)

Ok. Enough ranting.

Dinner Tuesday night: Chinese Hot Pot!
I have to admit, I was a little worried about this recipe at first, because, honestly, it smelled a little funny. However, it was delicious, and very easy! I highly recommend this simple crock pot soup -- you start the broth in the morning, add the tofu, mushrooms, snow peas, and green onions when you get home, make some rice, and dinner is ready! Nice and spicy without being over the top, this soup is flavorful, healthy, and fantastic!

AND . . . new shoes!
So, I learned a couple of weeks ago that it's not recommended we wear sandals in Haiti -- the streets are pretty dirty, and I guess it's quite easy to pick up some kind of bug just walking around. I have plenty of closed-toe shoes, but most of them are suited to fall/winter/spring in Minnesota -- not a hot, humid, tropical climate. I do have a pair of Vans, which I will bring along, but I wanted a second pair of shoes in case we get caught in a rainstorm and/or I step in something totally gross and need to rotate out a pair of shoes. Here come the Sanuks! I had never heard of these shoes before, but found them on when I searched "vegetarian." They are a flip-flop bottom with a light, canvas upper, cute as heck, (the color of my shoes was called "scribble,") and surprisingly comfortable. I hope they will be just the thing for my trip!

Until later . . . gotta go to work!

Monday, March 10, 2008

baking and dinners

Courtney and I got together for another baking party this past Saturday! We made two delicious things:

1. Maple-Pecan Snack Cake:
We veganized a glazed maple cake recipe from Cooking Light for this treat -- sweetened naturally with maple syrup, full of whole-grain pastry flour, and just plain tasty!

2. Carrot-Spelt Mini Muffins:
This is Courtney's own recipe, and a great one! The muffins remind me somewhat of loaded bran muffins -- dark, rich, moist, with tons of raisins, carrots, and other good stuff. (Also, sweetened naturally with agave and stuck together with some flax and applesauce!)

I've also made a couple of exciting dinners this week. Sunday Night:
TACOS! Homemade tortillas (I pressed, Dan cooked,) homemade refried beans (from my freezer,) grape tomatoes, greens, Monterey Jack cheese, tofutti sour cream, tomatillo salsa, a squirt of sriracha (Dan only,) and chips and guac on the side. YUMMMMMMMMMMM-UM!

A mushroom-barley risotto (from Eating Well,) loaded with TONS of arugula. Baked sweet potato on the side.

Happy eating, everyone!

Friday, March 07, 2008

cooking projects in an evening

Sometimes, I get it in my head that I need to come home from work and spend the evening in my kitchen. I may be exhausted, but that doesn't seem to matter! Last night was one of those nights -- washed a mountain of dishes, made dinner, and did a little baking. First, dinner:
I made Bazu's "Pasta alla Puttanesca" for dinner last night. Simple combination of herbs and spicy chili flakes, olives, capers, onions, garlic, and crushed, fire-roasted tomatoes. Delish, and filling when served with whole-wheat pasta. (Bionaturae is my favorite brand, hands-down.) This "recipe" that I've developed based on her suggestions is large enough for two hungry people, or leftovers for lunch the next day. (So excited for more pasta at lunch today!)

Then, I decided to bake. Chocolate Chip Cookies from The Joy of Vegan Baking:
These cookies taste great, but they didn't spread hardly at all, which I find very disappointing. I followed the directions exactly . . . grumble, grumble. I have chocolate chip cookie nuggets to bring to work today, I guess. (Sheesh!) I hate to admit it, but my recipe for vegan chocolate chip cookies is better. (And uses whole-grain flour!)

On that subject for a moment . . . I have been very pleased with the bar and muffin recipes that I've made from The Joy of Vegan Baking so far, but both cookie recipes have fallen a little below my expectations. Hm. Has anyone else had this problem?

Thursday, March 06, 2008

breakfast, supper

I can't remember whether it was Monday or Tuesday, but I got it in my head that I wanted French toast. So, I sliced off some homemade bread and made some!
Basic recipe, nothing fancy. Delicious topped with sliced banana, toasted walnuts, and maple syrup! This had to have been a nutrition-packed breakfast with all of the healthy ingredients in the bread (whole wheat, molasses, flax,) and the bananas and walnuts, too! Yum.

Dinner Tuesday night:
Dan brought over some tofu, potatoes, and vegetables, and I whipped up a quick roasted tofu and veggies (broccoli, carrots, and red peppers,) seasoned with some extra-virgin olive oil, Northern Lights (from Wayzata Bay Spice Company,) a little extra salt, chili flakes, and a splash of balsamic vinegar at the end. Also, Dan requested "potato-mashed garlic." Ha. (Which translates to mashed potatoes with lots of garlic.) Side of stinky (but delicious) potatoes. :)

In other news, does anyone else think this week is DRAGGING?? Isn't it Friday yet? I don't mean to complain or anything . . . I'm just ready for the weekend. (Even though it's supposed to be FREEZING again in Minnesota! Sheesh.)

I'm also ready for spring, but that doesn't seem to be on its way quite yet.

Monday, March 03, 2008

weekend food!

Saturday night's dinner:
Yes . . . more sushi! BUT . . . more exciting this time, because I used brown rice. I found loose directions for turning short-grain brown rice into sushi rice in my most recent issue of Eating Well magazine, which I slightly edited: rinse 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons short-grain brown rice. Bring 2 cups plus 2 tablespoons water to a boil. Stir in the rice, cover, lower the heat, and simmer the rice for 50 minutes. Remove the rice from the heat and allow it to sit, covered, to steam for an additional 10 minutes. Toss the rice with 1/3 cup sushi vinegar, allow the rice to cool, then get rollin'!
(I found the rice really didn't seem to stick together all that well until it really cooled most of the way. Different from white sushi rice, in my opinion, but it still worked!)

Mango and Black Bean Salad:
I had planned this salad for lunch yesterday, but we ended up going out for brunch instead. Oh well -- now I have the salad leftover for lunches this week!

Homemade bread:
I have had, ahem, mixed results (i.e., dense and inedible) with homemade bread-baking in the past, mostly because I think it's just really difficult to get good gluten development when kneading with your hands. :) However, this loaf was an exception! This bread turned out to be light and tender, chewy, and delicious! I loosely based this loaf of bread on Mollie Katzen's "Basic Bread Recipe" from The Enchanted Broccoli Forest, with a few modifications of my own. Recipe:

5 cups whole-wheat bread flour (or white-whole-wheat flour)
1/3 cup vital wheat gluten
2/3 cup ground flaxseeds
2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
1/3 cup molasses, divided
1/4 cup melted Earth Balance
1 teaspoon salt

1. Combine the flour, wheat gluten, and flax, stirring well with a whisk. Reserve this mixture.
2. Combine the yeast, water, and a teaspoon of molasses. Let this mixture sit until it begins to foam, about 5 minutes. Stir in two cups of the flour mixture, cover, and allow this (the "sponge") to rise in a warm place for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
3. Combine the melted butter, remaining molasses, and salt. Stir this mixture into the sponge. Continue stirring for 100 strokes, or until everything is very well combined.
4. Stir in the flour mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, until the dough is too difficult to stir with a spoon. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and continue adding the flour mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, until you have a smooth, slightly tacky (but not sticky) dough. (You may not use all of the flour mixture -- I had over 1 cup left, so I just stuck it in a container in the freezer, and will use it next time.)
5. Knead the dough for 15 to 20 minutes. (Who needs to lift weights at the gym, anyway?) ;-)
6. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, flip the dough over to coat it with the oil, cover with a towel, and let rise in a warm place, about 1 hour.
7. Punch the dough down and knead for 15 more minutes.
8. Shape the dough and place in your desired pan (make sure the pan is greased and floured well.) (I used a large, 9X5X3-inch loaf pan. You could also make two smaller loaves, a baguette, a boule, whatever.) Cover and allow the dough to rise for 1 hour.
9. Bake the dough at 375 for 30 to 40 minutes. Immediately remove from the pan and allow to cool on a wire rack.
10. Dig in!

I may be baking my own bread in the future, now that I know how to make an edible loaf! Wahoo!