Friday, September 28, 2007

Random Fridays: Helping You (and me) Procrastinate

* Addicted to Race is a podcast hosted by Carmen Van Kerckhove, co-founder of many fabulous blogs (Racialicious, Anti-Racist Parent, and Race in the Workplace), which focuses on "America's obsession with race." The first podcast I listened to was, "Where are all the bloggers of color?" (Hello. Right here. Just because you can't enter "blogs + colored" in google search and find the one domain we're all supposedly hanging out in doesn't mean we're not here! Wow!). Addicted to Race tackles what I just put in parens beautifully. I'm currently listening to the episode on celebrity adoptions and they are so right on. And while I'd love to link to the individual episodes, the page is not working right now so just visit the site and scroll through a bit.

* Jezebel is sorta old news but I just finally decided that I need to read them every day and I love their biting, feminist, silly, and serious commentary on such subjects as, "Is Amadinejad hot?" and "Does it suck standing next to Angelina Jolie at the Clinton Global Initiative?" It's like eating organic junk food. Somewhat naughty but oh so good.

* Brian and I are going to the Cloisters this weekend with his friends in Brooklyn. We'll also be stopping at Moo Shoes so I can buy winter shoes and, of course, eating vegan cupcakes of some sort.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Catskill Animal Sanctuary + Saugerties = 4ever

Brian and I had a wonderful time in Saugerties, NY. We came for the Catskill Animal Sanctuary, and our visit did not disappoint, but we also fell in love with Saugerties, a very charming, small town chock full of antique shops and adorable restaurants and storefronts (and not a little bit spooky to drive through on a very foggy night). We started our day by unwinding in our Hojo's hotel room before venturing into the downtown area in search of snacks to tide us over before our dinner reservations at New World Home Cooking. We weren't out and about for but an hour when a huge rainstorm hit. We ate the bananas and nut bars we picked up at Mother Earth Health Food Store under an awning and ran into a bookstore right before the skies opened up. The owner gave us shelter and, when he told us about all the places he traveled to as a food writer, we told him about the humble little operation you're visiting right now. We didn't get the friendly owner's name but Brian agreed with me when I said he looked like a Bartholomew. He just did.

We ran off to dinner only to find out that the thunderstorms had knocked out power at New World Home Cooking. Very hungry, we drove back downtown and settled on dinner at the surprisingly veggie-friendly, Pig Bar and Grill. Seeing a pig cut as a restaurant out is usually not a good sign but it actually worked out. Brian had a delicious coconut tofu sandwich and I burned my mouth on the blackened fish (the pros of pescetarianism continue to wane). But my mojito was good. We were going to go see Halloween or Hairspray at the old-time moviehouse, the Orpheum but I hate horror movies and neither one of us wanted to see Hairspray so we passed on both. We attempted a night drive to the Saugerties Lighthouse and turned around after the fog and dark winding roads has us feeling like we were in the middle of our own horror film. Like the elderly people we are quickly become, we went back to the hotel and nodded off while watching and making fun of the phenomenon that is High School Musical (but Disney wins because we actually voluntarily watched this swill, which I would have loved when I was nine).
The next day, we went to Miss Lucy's Kitchen for brunch. I was looking forward to drinking a mimosa when our waitress informed us they could not serve alcohol before noon. So I settled for the delicious challah french toast with strawberry compote while Brian dug into some tofu scramble with home fries and salad. We tried taking pictures but my camera was refusing to take pictures. Trust me. Our plates were very pretty and tasty. Miss Lucy's is not veggie-friendly at all for dinner, however, where bunny is heavily featured. Gross. But their brunch is nice and hanging aprons and country-ish air is appealing.
We window shopped a bit before heading to the farm sanctuary. I was so excited to be going. Just seeing the sign made me happy. We were greeted by one of the friendliest (read: doggiest) cats I've ever come across. She came over to us purring and cuddly. We made our way to the HUGE pigs sunning themselves in the mud. One pig put his snout through the gate and let me pet his big, wet nose. They didn't oink; they growled like my dog.
We wandered into the empty visitors' center, where there were vegan flyers, pamphlets, and recipe booklets galore. Another couple came a few minutes later before our tour guide, Betsy, finally came. She put on a short film about the sanctuary and its reasons for existence. She warned us about a portion of the film that showed factory farming footage and assured us it was short but urged us to watch. I never watched the last few minutes of Fast Food Nation, which is the scene that shows real slaughterhouse footage of cows being killed. I won't watch Earthlings. I can't even stand to watch a dog be sad in a fictional movie. But I tried to steel my courage to watch the sanctuary film in its entirety. Watching the pigs being thrown and jostled was heartwrenching and seeing the calves in their veal stalls was awful but what actually set me off was watching two chickens looking sad, sick, and scared holding onto one another while cramped in the cage. That's when I started crying. The camera zoomed in on their faces and there was no denying that not only were they terrified but they were trying to protect and comfort one another. When Betsy came to turn off the film, she saw me crying and acknowledged how awful it was.
After the film, the fun part began we went into the stall to meet all the animals. There was the blind horse, Bobo, who had furry prosthetic eyeballs and was kicking his stall for more oats (it was feeding time when we arrived). We met a mother pig and the cutest piglets but my camera was acting up when it came time to meet them.
Perhaps our most memorable host was Rambo, the ram who, when he first arrived, was so hateful towards humans that he threw three of the farm workers into his stall. A year later, he is not only recovered from having been abused, he is one of the most peaceful and gracious of all the animals we met. In fact, he was so peaceful, we were told he rarely needs to be in the stall and basically roams around, checking in on the other animals who may be more scared or shy. He alerts the staff when anyone is sick. He reminded me of my dog, Luckie, when he came towards me and nuzzled me with his head then gently kicked me when I stopped rubbing him.
After hanging out with the goats (who I can only describe as regal and proud), horses, and some pigs in the stalls, we ventured out to meet the ducks, the chickens and pigs bred to be so abnormally large that they have the same cardiovascular and respiratory problems that a morbidly obese human would have.
Then we were off to see the former dairy cows and cattle. The cows were so huge. It was impressive to be so close to just their enormous heads let alone the rest of their big bodies. They were so gentle and their tongues were sandpapery like a cat's when they licked me.

After that, we headed over to some more horses. We got their at an opportune time because one of the female horses unloaded an impressive stream of urine before flapping her vulva in front of all of us to see. Quite a show.
While walking with Betsy, I told her that I had given up eating land animals but was still eating fish, eggs, dairy, and especially that crack cocaine of dairy, cheese. She said she had a cheese issue herself and then told me how she doesn't eat any meat except for tuna a few times a year when her hunting husband brings some back for her. Huh? Brian asked if the sanctuary housed any sea creatures and she responded with, "No. Only farm animals." Well, fish are definitely animals and nowadays they are farmed ones too. Betsy was awesome as a guide and is doing great work but it was interesting to note how you can work so closely with animals and in a facility that actively promotes veganism and still have blinders on about certain animals (present blogger included).
We ended our last day in Saugerties by visiting Opus 40, a quarry museum where Brian was in his glory.
Then we finally had our New World Home Cooking dinner. The white bean dip and herbed bread they give every table is amazing. In fact, it was better than my dinner of rubbery and bland penne and calamari arrabiatta. Brian got the blue-corn crusted seitan with collard greens and yams. I had one too many apple martinis and we shared a slice of vegan and spelt chocolate cake with raspberry sauce. After being stuffed, we headed back onto the highway towards New Jersey and, though we never got lost once in Saugerties, we did in New Jersey . I blame it on the overabundance of food and relaxation. We didn't want to come back.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Random Fridays: Getting Off the Computer

* No posting this week because I've been dealing with a nasty bout of ongoing repetitive strain injury. One doctor says I now have arthritis in my right hand. Fun. I told Brian that I was reading a copy of Arthritis Today and that all the active seniors pictured in the magazine are now my people. While I get all this sorted, I've been using some great (and free for 45 days!) software, RSI Guard. Even if you're not suffering from any symptoms yet, if you're on the computer or sitting at a desk regularly, I encourage you to try it out. Stretching and resting work best in preventing a problem rather than correcting one so take care of yourself now. The program interrupts your work, prompting you to stretch. And it also demonstrates the stretches for you! You can adjust how often you'd like the interruptions and can postpone them if you'd like (but you really shouldn't) or, if you're low on willpower, set it so that your mouse and keyboard will stop working until your stretches are complete. It also gives you a full report on your computer habits. In just about an hour and a half of use today, I've made 404 mouse clicks. Now I know why I'm well on my way to bingo tournaments and Tai Chi classes at the senior citizens center! I wish I had started using this about 5 years ago.

* Compassionate Cooks' Colleen Patrick-Goudreau has finally released her first book, The Joy of Vegan Baking. I ordered my copy yesterday and cannot wait to get my hands on it. Just the chocolate chip cookies featured on the cover alone seem worth the price of admission. I've tried out a few of Colleen's recipes already from her site (it was she who inspired the maple syrup and tamari combo I am now obsessed with) and they've all been tasty.

* On Monday I went to my very first cooking class. It was with vegetarian-friendly cookbook author, writer, and chef, Myra Kornfeld at the Natural Gourmet Institute for Food and Health in New York City. I had so much fun that I walked out of there convinced I should become a chef. For now I'm just going to take more classes. I will post more about the class when arm pain has subsided. The short version is Myra, the assistants, and all my classmates could not have been nicer; I ate a lot of macaroni cheese; I made yummy roasted curried sweet potatoes with shallot-yogurt dip and chickpea corn cakes with olive tapenade; and just about died eating the apple brown betty and ginger chocolate mousse (and I'm not even that big a fan of ginger!). Everything was so delicious. Don't tell Brian but I'm going to make him the potatoes this weekend. He'll die.

* I'm going to stretch now!

Friday, September 14, 2007

A Very Quick Random Fridays: Things That Made This Week Better

* The boombox player on the Fred Flare web site: Arcade Fire, Feist, Nelly Furtado, Paris Hilton, Mary J. Blige, and more altogether. Also, this hat. And this wig.

* This interview with Penelope Trunk of Brazen Careerist, the blog that rekindled my love of blogs. If only she would start podcasting...

* Speaking of podcasts, today was improved with the long overdue latest episode of Vegan Freaks Radio. The hosts, Bob and Jenna Torres wonder how non-vegetarians can stand the podcast. It's because they are so funny and good at podcasting that, for better or for worse, you can dismiss the whole animal rights stuff and just enjoy the quality of the show.

* I updated my profile here. Please read it.

* Getting together with my BFF, Darcy for some kind of retarded fun tonight and seeing my BBF (best boyfriend evah) tomorrow for some kind of retarded fun.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

"But how do you get enough protein without meat?"

Two recent new stories point towards the West's--and particularly the U.S.'s--overconsumption of protein rather than our need to go more Atkins. Specifically, we overconsume animal protein (lest we forget that protein is only found in animal flesh and their secretions). A piece in this morning's Yahoo! News states the not-so-obvious to some, "Eating less meat may slow climate change." The article explains findings from a special energy and health series of the medical journal The Lancet and goes on to note that:

Reducing global red meat consumption by 10 percent, they said, would cut the gases emitted by cows, sheep and goats that contribute to global warming...

Other ways of reducing greenhouse gases from farming practices, like feeding animals higher-quality grains, would only have a limited impact on cutting emissions. Gases from animals destined for dinner plates account for nearly a quarter of all emissions worldwide…

"That leaves reducing demand for meat as the only real option," said Dr. John Powles, a public health expert at Cambridge University, one of the study's authors.

The amount of meat eaten varies considerably worldwide. In developed countries, people typically eat about 224 grams per day. But in Africa, most people only get about 31 grams a day.

Man, when I calculated how much protein I need (for healthy adults, multiply your weight in pounds times .4 or use this protein calculator), it was way, way less than freakin' 200 GRAMS! I need about 60 grams. 60, people. And that's from a nutritionist's stance, vegetarian or otherwise. We just don't need all this meat. Besides the harm it does to animals, it doesn't do human animals much better.

In an original contribution to the American Journal of Epidemiology, published online on September 4, researchers found a link between eating cured meats (such as bacon and hot dogs) and an increased risk for chronic pulmonary obstructive disease in men. Even after adjusting for age, smoking status habits, energy intake, race and ethnicity, geographic location, body mass index, and physical activity, the consumption of cured meats was positively associated with the risk of newly diagnosed COPD. The reason for this increased risk is probably due to the high amount of nitrites in cured meats. I remember trying to drink orange juice with my bacon after hearing the vitamin C could counteract the possible cancer causing effects of the nitrites. Now I just don't eat pigs (more to come on hanging out with live pigs at the Catskills Animal Sanctuary, which just further adds to my resolve to not eat animals).

But we do need protein and we do need to eat. So how? No matter your diet--vegan, vegetarian, omnivore--this next dish is super easy and tasty, chock full of protein, fiber, and flavor. I made it for dinner last night and the leftovers will be even tastier tonight, now that the ingredients have really melded all day. This is more a suggestion than a strict recipe. Just use whatever veggies you have handy:

Quick Tofu Stir Fry with Tamari and Maple Syrup, Serves about 4 (or two really hungry people)

Drain and press a block of extra-firm organic tofu (tofu and soy in general is one of those products worth springing a few extra cents for so you can have the organic. Nonorganic soybeans are otherwise highly pesticized). To press, after I've drained the water from the package, I just place the tofu on a plate, place another plate on top, and put a bottle of water atop the plate so all the water drains out. While the tofu is being drained, I cut up some of the veggies I have around--a red bell pepper, half a yellow onion, a whole bunch of broccolini. In a bowl, mix up about 1/4 cup of tamari (or soy sauce) with a few good plops of maple syrup (I'd say about no more than a tablespoon). Then add a teaspoon of canola oil and a teaspoon of sesame oil, a tiny sprinkle of kosher salt, and a good grinding of fresh pepper. Mix it all up. Use a paper towel to pat dry the pressed tofu. Cut it into smallish triangles (or cubes) and place in the tamari-maple syrup mixture, making sure to coat it well. Heat a teaspoon each of canola and sesame oil in a pan. I had some leftover recaito, an absolutely necessary flavor base in Puerto Rican cooking but only optional for this dish. Recaito is just mixed up onion, sweet chilis, a bell pepper, garlic, and cilantro. Not necessary but it's nice to have on hand (I freeze the remainder into an ice cube tray so I can use small amounts as needed). Otherwise, add your onions and red bell pepper to the oil and let them heat up and brown slightly, for about 5 minutes. Add broccolini, tofu mixture, and a handful of frozen peas. Stir-fry over medium high heat for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring often, allowing tofu to brown slightly. Pour a serving over some brown rice, making sure to get that yummy tamari and syrup mixture over everything. Eat up.

There you go. Tons of protein and no extra flatulence from cows or cancer from bologna.

Friday, September 7, 2007

A Not So Random Friday: Catskills Animal Sanctuary

Brian and I are headed up to Saugerties, NY on Saturday morning to visit the Catskills Animal Sanctuary, as well as doing some eating (of course), hiking, window shopping, and general unwinding. We'll be back with pictures and tales next week.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Serving One...With a Cold

Is it cold season already? Apparently so because I have one. I know you can get colds anytime of year but it just doesn't seem right to have one before sweater weather. I spent my Labor Day weekend with Brian and his family and friends, sneezing lots and sniffling. It wasn't until Sunday evening that I really began to feel terrible. I felt achey and feverish and the air conditioned supermarket seemed colder than usual, causing me to shiver. I don't get too hungry when I'm sick but I do crave a few staples: bread, cheese, noodle-y and brothy soup, farina. Here are two recipes to refer to when you're feeling a bit under the weather or just need something soothing and smooth to put in your stomach.

Soothing Tortellini-Broccolini Soup
Adapted from Serves One by Toni Lydecker, a very thorough cookbook with a warm, engaging tone about cooking for one. I usually cook only for myself and highly recommend it. I love broccolini, which comes in small batches, making it somehow seem more manageable at the end of a workday than does broccoli. So of course I would prefer it when cooking for a cold. For the broth, I use Pacific Natural Foods organic broth, which comes in handy 1 cup 4-packs, also perfect for cooking for one. Measurements are suggestions rather than hard and fast rules. Add more carrots if you like or omit them entirely. You could also add a large handful or two or frozen baby peas, asparagus, or onions that have been lightly sauteed in some olive oil.

1 clove garlic
1 cup canned lower-sodium vegetable broth
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup fresh or frozen cheese or vegan tortellini
1/2 cup chopped broccolini
1/4 cup thin carrot slices
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese (optional)
small handful of whole-grain crackers (optional)

1. Thinly slice the garlic clove lengthwise and then cut into slivers. Combine broth, water, and garlic in saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer 5 minutes.

2. Add tortellini, broccolini, and carrot and cook a few minutes longer, until vegetables are tender. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with cheese or cracker crumbles. Retire to bed or the couch. Serves 1.

Cuca's Farina
My grandmother, Cuca, often made farina for me. She added a special touch by laying little blocks of cheese in a circle around my steaming bowl of farina. I would circle my spoon around the melted cheese and continue to circle around the bowl until it was empty. Since my grandmother left behind no written recipes, this is more my interpretation of a memory from long ago rather than a strict reenactment. I can assure you that hers was better but this isn't bad either. I must admit, 1% or 2%, if not regular, cow's milk works best here. The fat makes it ultra creamy. But vanilla soy milk doesn't hurt. It's just not quite as rich. I haven't had much luck heating rice or almond milk but if you do, go for it.

Boil 1 cup of milk with a stick or two of cinnamon and a pinch of salt. Watch very carefully as it boils, stirring frequently. Once cow's milk begins to boil, it takes only a second of turning away from it for the milk to boil over completely and then burn (although my grandmother did slightly burn the milk on purpose in preparation for adding it to her coffee since the brief scorching adding a caramel undertone to the milk). Add 3 tablespoons of farina/cream of wheat, stirring well. Add 1 tablespoon of maple syrup, 1 teaspoon of walnut oil (or butter or Earth Balance or no extra fat at all), and a sprinkling of cinnamon and nutmeg. Bring to a gentle boil again and lower heat, continuing to stir frequently for a few minutes or until the farina thickens. Add 1/4 cup of trail mix (walnuts, cashews, raisins, dates, sunflower seeds etc.) and stir before eating.