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Archive for the ‘vegetarian’ Category

It is possible that this summer, I am leaving Boston. As of right now, I have no idea. Even if I stay, I will likely not live in the same apartment, same neighborhood, the same job…

this has two food-related implications.

A) I have started a mental Eat This Before You Leave List. All the places in Boston I’ve been meaning to try out…

and

B) I am already getting nostalgic for my favorites and wanting to eat them all the time, knowing that my time might be running short.

Add those two together, and it is clear that I will be leaving Boston quite plump and quite broke.

Today, an ode to the Clover Foodtruck that parks outside of my school.

Chickpea fritter sandwich, I love you.

Hummus, warm falafel, carrots, cabbage, pickle, tahini sauce, whatever else is in there…

you’re the best.

I will miss you.

 

 

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And we’re back! I hope everyone had a lovely holiday season. I spent the bulk of mine cocooned on my parents’ couch in Michigan. We played some games, we opened some presents and we watched a lot of TV, as we are wont to do. A lot of that TV was Food Network or FN-related, and when it started, it freaked me out: What would my folks say? Would they give me the side-eye and ask how many of the things we saw I had made? Would my sister go into a “how could anyone ever eat meat/cheese/butter SO GROSS” tizzy before patting her own tiny stomach in a self-satisfied way? Would my mom immediately suggest we go on a walk?

Clearly, I have a lot of complicated feelings about food. Much fewer than I did when I was younger. Food has always been a challenge for me. I think that’s why I like baking, especially for other people. There’s therapeutic value in measuring, and mixing, and tasting and giving a treat to someone who will really appreciate it. It takes your head, and your appetite, out of the game. For a long time, it wasn’t about the preparation for me, it was the aftermath: Why did I feel/look the way I did? I think a lot of that has to do with my family. My parents are crazy-supportive people. The kind of parents most kids dream of having. But I absolutely regret the first time (and I don’t remember when this was) I ever opened my mouth and said the words “I’m fat.”

You see, supportive parents want to push, push, push their baby birds to do the very best they can, to achieve the most. They never compared me to my sister, who’s a good six inches taller than me, rail-thin and vegan (except once, when my dad plucked a banana from my hand as I was about to bite, and handed it off to her, saying, “You don’t need this. She does.”). I’m grateful for that, since I spent a lot of my young adulthood doing just that. My folks, like all good parents, just wanted us to be our best selves, and be as happy as we can be. So a self-criticism like “I’m fat” was a recipe for encouraging exercise (my mom got me to join Curves with her when I was in high school), discouraging snacking, and a whole slew of food issues I wish I had never brought onto myself. Eating at my parents’ house, especially, has been fraught with nerves, the likes of which have previously:

  • sent me into “secret eating” mode, in which includes but is not limited to sneaking Christmas cookies after parents have gone to sleep, hiding food in my room, and once, at age eight or so, getting caught standing on the kitchen counter with a flashlight and my stuffed Lamb, mawing down Willy Wonka Heartbreakers at an alarming rate.
  • made me hyper-vigilant of portion sizes, so I only put two bites of kielbasa, a smidgen of kapusta, a dollop of potatoes, etc., on my plate, going for some sort of “oh, this is all I need” food martyrdom, only to be hungry again an hour or two later.
  • driven me to many, many visits to my grandparents’ houses, where I get a pile of junk food and a comment from my Grandma Woho “you must have lost weight!,” no matter how much I’ve gained.
  • on more than one occasion, spurred an IBS attack, the likes of which I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy (Nicole R. from second grade, who stole my friend Julia’s Squiggle-Wiggle Pen).

My parents have never called me fat; I need to make that very clear. And I haven’t called myself fat in years, although I think if we are going for an accurate description, I am obese by BMI standards (which are, of course, bullshit) and curvy/full-figured/round by many other people’s. I’ve been called a fat bitch by people I know, and by strangers on the bus and on the street. By my own standards and descriptions, I am awesome. That is what I am.

It’s taken a lot of time, and effort, and self-actualization to figure out my relationship with food and my body. It took a “you can’t tell me what to eat anymore” conversation, and several instances in which I felt like I needed to somehow “prove” that I’m healthy. “Look, I can run a mile! See how well I do in my yoga class? Still not diabetic!” But really, who do I need to prove my health to? Myself, and my doctor – and maybe not even that guy!

What I know now is this: I can run a mile. I do just fine in yoga, but not so well in Budokon classes. My blood pressure, heart rate and A1C are all pretty awesome – no major diseases in sight. I love to cook, and I love to eat, and I’ve learned what feels nourishing vs. what will satisfy only emotionally, and what benefits and pitfalls last with each thing I eat. I’ve learned that caffeine triggers my IBS, but so does stress, and that ordering three well drinks will make me sick for days, but one or two Makers Marks will warm me, and that’s it. I’ve learned that sometimes, I really DO need a cheeseburger from McDonald’s, and I’ve learned to not feel guilty about enjoying it. Food is fuel, yes. But it is not inherently good or bad. It is just food.

All of this is a long-winded way of saying: It sure was nice to watch the Food Network with my family and not feel anything other than pleasure about being home. My mom and I even decided we wanted to make one of the recipes we saw. Here’s my adaptation.

Lindsey’s take on Giada’s Forbidden Rice

You’ll need:

3 1/2 C salted water

2 C forbidden rice (Trader Joe’s didn’t have any when I went, so I went with brown jasmine rice. You do you!)

One big chunk of ginger, peeled and diced

Cook the rice with the ginger in it. Yum. 

When that’s done, saute with some oil:

A whole bunch of sugar snap peas, cut into 1-inch pieces (try to get the threads out of these guys if you can)

2 peaches, sliced (it is fine to use four peach halves from a jar, as far as I’m concerned)

Saute the peas for a couple of minutes, then throw the peaches in. After a couple of minutes (you want them to retain their shape), put those on top of the rice, which you have cleverly put in a bowl while the peas were sauteing, of course.

For the dressing, you’ll need:

1/4 C rice vinegar

1/4 C grapeseed oil

3 TBSP honey

1 TBSP soy sauce (but don’t kid yourself, you’ll probably add more)

Stir those together and pour over the rice. Eat warm or room temp. I put mine in the fridge, then warmed it up and ate it with some toasted peanuts. Delicious.

Happy new year, team. I hope that in 2012, any resolutions you made about food were to enjoy it, be healthy and not make yourself crazy.

xo

-Lindsey

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I like all things Southern. I like peaches and iced tea. My love of Paula Deen is well documented. I never met a fried chicken I didn’t want to devour. The drawl has been known to melt my cold Northern heart. But here’s a confession: I don’t think I like red velvet cake.

Now, my favorite bakery in DC is Red Velvet, but I always get the Summertime cupcake. I made a red velvet cake for my ladyfriend Kate Kreps, and she assured me it tasted right, but to me, something was off.

Lemme tell you, though, I don’t doubt Ms. Deen’s abilities, or Kate’s red velvet know-how. So here’s the cake I made.

You’ll need:

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon cocoa

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups canola oil

1 teaspoon vinegar

1 (1-ounce) bottle red food coloring (NOTE: use the liquid kind. I started with a food color gel and that did not go over well)

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup buttermilk

So, obviously, cream your eggs and sugar together. In a separate bowl, sift your flour, baking soda and cocoa. In yet another bowl, mix the other ingredients except for the buttermilk. Put your liquid mixture (bowl number three) in with the eggs and sugar and mix it up. Then mix in flour, buttermilk, flour, buttermilk, flour. Pour into three greased round cake pans and bake for 25 minutes at 350.

At least two will look like this:

Let those puppies cool completely while you make your frosting.

You’ll need:

3/4 cup butter

12 ounces cream cheese

1.5 boxes powdered sugar, sifted

3/4 teaspoon vanilla

Just, you know, mix ’em all up. Spread onto bottom cake, throw the second one on, ice again, throw the top one (the nicest looking one) on top. Cover all the cakes, tops and sides. I added 50% of the icing for you because the original recipe was not enough. Hide all topside imperfections with toasted pecans, like so:

 

 

So maybe this wasn’t my best cake ever. It still satisfied, and on a hot summer day, that and an iced tea is really all you can ask for.

-Lindsey

 

 

 

 

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Ever since I moved out of my parents’ house and into my own pad, I’ve thought a lot about what it means to truly be an adult. There’s a lot of self-sufficient things one can do, but some of them are deceptively childish, in my own, highly subjective opinion.

Some examples:

Adult Activity: getting a credit card

Child Activity: sinking yourself into credit card debt

Adult Activity: Inviting some friends over for drinks

Child Activity: Inviting some friends over for drinks in your messy apartment, but not having enough food/drink/ice/potential sleeping arrangements available.

Adult Activity: Opening a 401k and contributing the max your employer will match

Child Activity: Letting your money languish there after you leave your job… for two years and counting :-/ (oops)

Feeding oneself, I believe, is a big factor in one’s relative adulthood. This isn’t to diss anyone else’s choices, but for me, if I’m being a responsible grown up, that means I am subsisting primarily on real foods that will nourish my body, increase my health and well being, and taste good. This has evolved as I’ve grown older: in college, all I was aiming for is Having Enough Food When I Needed It Where I Needed It, when I first moved here I was mostly concerned with Having Enough To Eat On A Small Budget. But I’ve gained confidence in the kitchen, become more grocery-savvy, and changed some of my values since then, so while I’d still like to have enough to eat when I want it and for a low price, that doesn’t mean I have to eat marinara and noodles for dinner or sip Slimfasts anymore.

I’ve already talked some about how meal planning is a Big Fat Adult Thing To Do. It is. It sucks. It’s hard and complicated and while I think I’m getting much better at it, I still mess it up. See: midweek, over-budget shopping trip because I ran out of non-dinner food on Tuesday. TUESDAY!

But there’s more to Feeding Yourself than planning an expert meal plan and matching grocery list. Adulthood can also be measured in what you do when your Adult System fails.

Child Activity: When your friends come over with little notice, just shrug and laugh off your disgusting living habits.

Adult Activity: At least attempting to pick up a little make sure you clear off the futon and wipe the bathroom sink.

Child Activity: When you know you’re going to come home late from work and not have enough time to cook, just order takeout!

Adult Activity: Learn to cook some things that are as wholesome as they are delicious that you can cook in no time flat.

Jessica’s Pesto Mushroom Sandwiches

I started making these sandwiches, actually, to replicate a favorite panini I like to order at one of our local delis, The Real Deal.

It’s not quite as good, of course, but it stands up against the competition, and save for the mushrooms, it is mostly made of ingredients that I have lying around my house on the average day.

Ingredients:

Whole grain bread

Butter or olive oil

One package of mushrooms, white or baby bella (or probably any kind of mushroom you like! I buy them whole and slice them myself, but do what you wish. Presliced shrooms are better than a Big Mac)

One normal-sized onion

Salt & Pepper

Balsamic vinegar

Shredded Cheese (I always have sharp cheddar, but I could see this working with Swiss or Provolone or Mozzerella or something creamy and delish. Don’t get it pre-shredded though. Yuck.)

Mayo

Pesto

Step One: Slice up onion and mushrooms. I like to slice the onions into long pieces (fajita-style?) and the mushrooms pretty thin so my sandwich doesn’t get too fat.

Step Two: In a sauce pan or skillet, heat a little olive oil or butter on low-medium- enough  to saute the onions. Then… saute the onions.

Step Three: When the onions are soft, add the mushrooms. Stir and then cover the pan and let cook until the mushrooms let out their liquid and look soft and tasty – a few minutes. Then remove lid and let some of the liquid evaporate – another few minutes. Season with salt and pepper while you wait and toast your bread to get prepared.

Step Four: When the mushroom juice is almost gone, add a splash of balsamic vinegar – not too much, a mid-sized splash goes a long way! Cook until most of that liquid evaporates and the mushrooms are at a good consistency to put on bread.

Step Five: Spoon mushrooms onto toast. Sprinkle cheese on top to melt a little bit. Spread mayo and pesto on the other piece of bread.

Step Six: Unite two pieces of bread into a SANDWICH. Eat. Revel in your ability to feed yourself.

I don’t always plan ahead, I don’t always take the high road, and sometimes when I have perfectly good planned meals ready to make, I answer the siren song of Indian delivery or Anything-to-Go. But I’m also slowly gathering an arsenal of recipes good for different occasions… and I think the Too Busy To Cook occasion is probably a more frequent event than a dinner party or other event.

Simple, tasty meals that don’t take long or require too many ingredients: to me, that’s the fuel for a real adult.

P.S. Full Disclosure: the pesto mushroom sandwich, although delicious, is not TRULY an emergency food… unless you are one to keep your fridge constantly stocked with mushrooms.

When I’m really trapped at home without a meal on the horizon and no time to dream something up, this adult chooses something quintessentially childish:

Boxed Mac & Cheese with frozen peas.

Pro-tip! Throw the peas into the simmering water a few minutes before the noodles are done cooking. They will defrost quickly, the frosty-freezer ice will melt into the water and drain out, and it all ends up in the same strainer anyway!

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Part One

Part Two

Part Three

So here I am, after a year of not-eating-meat. I am thinking about how to proceed with my food-life, how the past year has gone, what I’ve learned, and my goals for the future.

Point #1: Not eating meat is really not particularly difficult or unpleasant

I’ve had cravings, for sure, and a lot of weird dreams where I eat meat and wake up with a guilty, dream hangover, but overall, eating vegetarian is pretty easy given my particular lifestyle. I don’t think I ate any fake-meat products (other than some at my parents’ house which I shared with my vegan younger sister), I learned how to cook a lot of new tasty dishes, and I developed a repertoire of interesting, satisfying, non-meat meals.

As I mentioned in Part Three, if it’s something I CAN do that has a variety of positive impacts, then why not continue to do it?

I worry that if I “give myself permission” to eat meat again, I will just throw it into my diet just because I can. There’s no reason to eat at McDonald’s, but if you are a meat-eater and starving, you might end up with a double cheeseburger (and a stomachache…), but as a vegetarian, you’ll probably hold out until the nearest Subway.

So why mess with a good thing?

Point #2: I am somewhat concerned about my overall nutrition as a vegetarian

I don’t think that a vegetarian diet is an inherently unhealthy diet. I’m sure there is much research proving the opposite, actually. However, I do worry sometimes that my particular vegetarian diet is a little heavy on the carbs, on the sugars, and on the cheese. I probably eat one or two bean-based meals a week, but that’s about all I can stomach – is my diet lacking in lean proteins? I don’t have a weight problem, necessarily, but I am concerned that relying on salty hummus & crackers & cheese all day, every day, is contributing to a few unnecessary pounds. Fruits and veggies and beans are great, but sometimes I struggle to find foods that actually fill me up, which leaves me susceptible to over-snacking.

I am also concerned about those pesky Omega-3’s. I’ve been getting better at eating greens almost every day, and when I have a bowl of cereal or oatmeal I usually throw on a tablespoon of ground flax seed, but I wonder if a little salmon once in awhile might improve my health/quality of life.

I haven’t done much research or analysis of my own nutritional intake, but it’s something I think about from time to time. There isn’t any reason a vegetarian-diet can’t be healthy, but there might be a better choice for my current lifestyle and nutritional needs.

Point #3: I am unsure of how far my morality stretches, and in what directions.

Jonathan Safran Foer did a good job of challenging my own beliefs about the reality of killing animals to put them on my dinner plate. That is for sure.

However, I’m a moderate at heart: I don’t think that meat, as a source of fuel, is an inherently “bad” thing. Like Michael Pollan, I think that the quickest way to turn people off to dietary change is to tell them what not to eat – in the long run, meat is going to be around, so proselytizing against carnivorism is not going to get you or society anywhere. It is better, maybe, to find BETTER sources for meat than CAFOs, and to promote and support those endeavors with your “food dollars.”

I also agree with Barbara Kingsolver that LOCAL is probably much more important than MEAT vs. NOT-MEAT. Meat is really just another vehicle for calories, and in many climates (see: Boston), the weather just doesn’t support eating high-quality, local produce all year-round. In February, I am probably doing more good eating a hamburger from a cow in Vermont than I am filling my basket at Whole Foods with organic lettuce and tomatoes and broccoli shipped up from Argentina.

So I’m not sure how “okay” I am with eating animals. It could be a situation where practicality wins out over theory.

Point #4: I don’t know if my budget will allow me to eat the kind of meat I would like to include in my regular diet

All practicality aside, the thought of returning to eating meat indiscriminately turns my stomach – literally and figuratively.

There’s just too much corruption/danger/bad karma/brutality going on in the general, mass-produced meat industry these days. I go to Qdoba and watch people order a chicken queso burrito: they see tasty chicken pieces for their dinner, I see a pile of who-knows-what from who-knows-where.

I haven’t thought about specifics yet, but I think in an ideal world, I would be okay with eating locally-produced, ethically raised/caught/slaughtered meat dishes from trustworthy vendors.

The good news: I live in Boston. I can find that kind of meat, I can find restaurants that only serve that kind of meat, etc.

The bad news: I live in Boston on a grad student’s budget. I can’t afford to add another 20-30 dollars to my weekly food bill just so I can eat chicken parmesan on Friday nights.

So basically, even if I was like Yeah! Rah! Let’s Eat Meat Again!, I can’t really integrate it into my diet in any sustainable way.

In Conclusion:

I am still thinking about the past year and how to proceed in the future. Until I have time to settle things with myself, I will continue to abstain from eating meat. I can envision some kind of Vegetarian-in-Practice, not-in-Name scenario, where I continue to eat as I have grown accustomed to, but with a few concessions. A slice of turkey or a scoop of sausage gravy on family holidays. A special occasion cheeseburger from a restaurant that sources Good meat. Maybe a Thursday-night salmon dinner if I can find an acceptable/affordable source.

It’s tricky, fluid, and confusing, but I am really glad that I decided to live as a vegetarian for the past year. I’ve never once regretted my decision or how I’m choosing to interpret my task as a Responsible Eater. I’m glad that, because of my choice, I have explored new foods, forced my roommate to eat fancy vegetables she’s never tried, and that my boyfriend is practically vegetarian by default. I don’t know if my health has improved or not, but I did only get sick four times in 2010 (that’s pretty good for someone who is living with a brand-new elementary school teacher), and I haven’t struggled so much with low energy levels.

It’s been a good year. I hope the next 365 days can be just as excellent and full of great food, whether I am herbivore, carnivore, or omnivore.

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Part One

Part Two

A year ago, I decided to stop eating meat.

It wasn’t much of a stretch. Don’t get me wrong, I love a nice medium-rare (maybe more toward the rare) steak, a thick cheeseburger, and you can’t keep me away from seafood…. mmmm…. but on a practical, day-to-day level, I’m very okay with not eating meat.

Sample menu from the Casa de Vegetarian-Jessica:

Breakfast

2 eggs, over easy, fried in a little butter

toast with butter and honey

Morning Snack

Starbucks mocha

Trail mix

Lunch

Sharp cheddar and whole grain crackers

Apple and peanut butter

Afternoon Snack

Hummus and tortilla chips

Dinner

Rice and broccoli casserole

Desssert

Wine 🙂

I felt the heat, occasionally, at restaurants. You’d think that in this day and age, in hippie-Liberal Boston that you’d be able to feed yourself on most every menu… but that is not the case. I often found myself choosing between two undesirable entrees, or ordering things like the Chicken Bacon Ranch Salad, hold the Chicken and the Bacon.

That being said, I started out this dietary change with something in mind and that something is still here, a year later:

It’s more important to me that I cultivate a non-meat-based lifestyle than adhere to any particular LABEL.

So yes, I ate eggs. Lots of eggs. And when I was at the beach with my family at a seafood joint, I ate crab legs. And instead of ordering separate entrees on my anniversary dinner, I went to the Melting Pot and ate 7 kinds of meat. There may have been a surreptitious piece of bacon sometime in the last 365 days. I really can’t confirm or deny that.

So maybe I’m not a real vegetarian. I’m cool with that. Again, it’s not about ascribing to some higher standard of eating, about feeling like an elite-eating-member, about anything except the practical bits of life:

I don’t eat meat 99% of the time, which is better than not eating meat 98% of the time, which is better than not eating meat 1% of the time.

I’ve read Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal Vegetable Miracle a few times, and it really resonates with my idea of living harmoniously and healthily with food. For those of you who haven’t read, Kingsolver and her family decided that food was important to their family, so they moved from food-desert Arizona to a homestead in Appalachia. The book is a year in the life of a family eating locally – buying local, growing vegetables, raising (and slaughtering) chickens and turkeys. It’s really inspiring to read not only because it’s delightfully pastoral and… well.. written by Kingsolver, but also because it’s a story of a family that is doing what they can, in their life, within their means, to live in a way that is commensurate with their values.

So while I’m not caught up in labels, not sure what vegetarianism means to me on a personal/moral level, it’s still something I can do. So I might as well do it.

But I told myself I would re-evaluate my stance in a year. So stay tuned for that, tomorrow.

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Two Christmas’s ago, I added Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food to my yearly book wish-list. My mother obliged my request, and I read it during the month of January 2009.

This book opened my eyes to a lot of issues with American food production and shed light on my own daily struggle to take the reigns of my own nutrition.

There’s a lot going on in this book.

– How the government is making us fat with regulations, dietary guidelines, and agricultural subsidies.

– How the ideology of “nutritionalism” has robbed Americans of any real connection with nourishment, left us grasping at some nebulous/questionable definition of “good health,” and made feeding oneself difficult and dangerous over the years.

– Simple rules for improving ones relationship with food, helping to support a better food system for all Americans, and – in the process – achieving better health and nutrition.

And so much more…. an awful lot of mind-blowing for 200 or so pages.

When I read this book in 2009, I wanted to put it under my pillow and kiss it before bed. I wanted to re-read it immediately and tattoo his new Food Rules to my forehead.

But there was one particularly interesting section of the book that stuck with me. It was about Omega-3s.

Omega-3 fatty acids, Pollan asserts, are crucial for any diet. You get them from eating plants. Having low levels of Omega-3 acids – or having too many Omega-6 acids (which come from seeds) and not enough Omega-3s – can have the side effects of cardiac disease, neurological issues, mood disorders, and diabetes. And that most Americans probably suffer some of these side effects from this imbalance.

Those side effects? Also current national health issues.

So we eat too many grains and not enough leaves. I get it. But what really threw me for a loop was when Pollan stated that it’s not that Americans are necessarily eating less greens (although this is probably true)… it also has to do with the MEAT that we eat. Back when people still ate meat from small farms, before huge, mega-farms and Confined Animal Feeding Operations came into vogue, people used to get enough Omega-3s from their MEAT: cows and pigs and chickens raised on smaller farms were allowed to graze. They ate grass. The grass was metabolized, the Omega-3s permeated the animals, the Omega-3s then ended up in our bodies through our chicken dinner.

Now, because of a number of factors, the animals we eat no longer eat grass and bugs and whatever other interesting plant matter they can get past their teeth. They eat corn. Lots of it. Corn is not a leaf. Corn has limited nutritional value, therefore, the meat we eat has limited nutritional value.

……

This made me feel very deceived. At the time, I didn’t know what to do with all that information and I still don’t. But a year ago this Saturday, I stopped eating meat, so I’m going to post a little bit this week about why I made that decision, what it means to me and for my life with food, and my plans for the future.

Stay tuned, and read this article if you have a chance.

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