Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Guest Post from Down Under by Jessie

This is a guest post by my friend, Jessie. She is, among many things, smart, thoughtful, gorgeous and she always remembers my birthday--even from all the way in Australia, which is why I've chosen a picture of an Australian water lily for her post.

My name is Jessie, I'm 26 and I've just started my graduate job. I started thinking about being vegetarian when I saw a documentary on pig-farming when I was in my teens. It had a profound effect on me and I found it difficult to justify eating meat after that. Soon after that I made the transition into not eating meat over a period of 3 years. I started out at 15 by cutting out pork products. It was easy for me to do this. I didn't miss ham or bacon at all. Then at 18 I decided I didn't want to be a part of the meat production cycle at all. Again it was pretty easy. I have however, always eaten crustaceans, although I stopped eating large fish, like tuna, a few years ago. I don't really buy into the politics of vegetarianism. I acknowledge that seafood is flesh and experiences pain when it is killed. If people have a problem with me calling myself vegetarian I don't mind. I'm not particularly attached to the label, and as long as people know that I don't eat meat when they're serving me food I am a happy camper.

I love vegetables and do enjoy cooking alone, and for myself. When I eat with my parents I usually cook for us. They're very flexible and relaxed about eating meals with no meat. Luckily my live-in partner has recently “converted” to not eating meat (but still eating seafood including big fish). I don't really know why he's done it or if my diet has had any effect on his decision to do that. I think he has done it for environmental reasons, such as the carbon dioxide and methane produced in meat farming. Having a partner with similar dietary requirements as your own is really convenient and I don't feel like so much of a weirdo now at friends' parties and at restaurants. I doubt his conversion will be long-term, but he might surprise me. He told me he still occasionally hankers for steak and sometimes sausages.

In terms of my diet, I try and eat tofu when it's on the menu at restaurants. At home I like to use firm tofu in Vietnamese cold rolls, salads and stir fries. I think tofu is good for you, as it contains lots of vegetable protein. As a typical vegetarian, I am quite fond of pasta. It's easy to cook and many non-vegetarians don't have a problem with eating vegetarian pasta. Ever since we started going out my partner has been very sensitive to me being vego. He always cooks vegetarian meals for me and we eat together. However, when his son is staying with us (2-3 nights per week) he cooks meat or fish for his son. This doesn't impact on me at all. I do sometimes wonder what my own child would eat, and if he/she would be raised vegetarian.

Even when my partner did eat meat it didn't impact on my life. If he was eating a sausage and salad for dinner, I could always eat a vegie sausage or chickpea burger and salad. I think he was OK with eating mostly vegetarian. He's pretty happy-go-lucky when it comes to food and will always eat what's put in front of him.

My best friend is also vegetarian so I feel I am pretty lucky in terms of being accepted as a vegetarian. Being vegetarian is normal in my day-to-day life. Even in my immediate work place I am not alone in my dietary choices. Three of the 5 people in my team are vegetarian. I still field a lot of questions about my diet but it's a nice feeling when you're not alone :)

If you would like to share your story or tips on how you navigate being a vegan, vegetarian, or ominvore who navigates "interdietary" relationships, please leave a comment or send an e-mail to We would love to hear from you and possibly share your story. Thank you!

Mutual Menu is giving away one copy of Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. To enter to win and for more details, please leave one comment here.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

My New Favorite Quick and Easy Weeknight Supper Bowl

Quinoa Buy a package. I like the red Inca variety. Cook 4 servings according to directions, adding ½ to a whole vegetable bouillon cube to the pot. Add 1 cup of frozen peas to the mix when the quinoa is about 5 minutes from being done cooking.

Seitan Buy a package at your local health food store/co-op, Whole Foods, or Wegmans (or, if you’re truly hardcore, pick up a cookbook and make your own). Put seitan into a large bowl with 2 teaspoons olive oil, a few drops of tamari, freshly ground pepper to taste, a drizzling of agave nectar, and 2 chopped garlic cloves. Marinate while you prep the following.

Beans Buy a can of Goya pink beans and sauce. Pour can into a small saucepan and heat. You can also add a package of Badia Sazon for extra seasoning and a pleasantly neon orange color. You can find Goya and Badia products at any major grocery or Latin food market.

Asparagus Clean and snap the ends off of half a bunch of asparagus. Pat dry and line asparagus on foil or oven-safe platter. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon olive oil and a generous amount of kosher salt, freshly ground pepper, and 1 chopped garlic clove. Place in an oven preheated to around 450 degrees (I use a toaster oven on the broiler setting). Roast for around 5 minutes or until slightly browned and crisp.

At this point, your quinoa should be ready (it will take 15 to 25 minutes to cook). Dump into a large bowl or Tupperware container so you can use the same pot to cook the seitan in. Place all of the seitan mix in pot, cook over medium-high flame—stirring often—until browned.

Scoop about 1 cup of the quinoa and peas into another bowl. Top with ½ cup of beans, ½ of cooked seitan, and all the asparagus. Lightly sprinkle with sea salt—just a touch to brighten it since there is already plenty of salt in everything. I also splash some hot sauce atop the bowl. Eat. Save the leftover quinoa, beans, and seitan for a very satisfying, filling, and delicious lunch for the next day. Just add a salad to the mix for more veggies.

How easy was that?
Mutual Menu is giving away one copy of Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. To enter to win and for more details, please leave one comment here.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Marion Nestle answers the question: Are veganism and vegetarianism healthier?

In a word: "Absolutely."

In more words: "They are probably healthier."

In her complete words.

As I said to my mother this weekend, no diet is perfect. Because humans are not perfect. And the world is imperfect. But certain diets are certainly more optimal than others. Very few sane people will reason that fruits and vegetables are bad for you. Eating them in abundance and in conjunction with whole grains, nuts, seeds, and some fun stuff every once in a while is, of course, healthful.

You can't go wrong eating lots of fresh, whole foods and minimizing the amount of food that comes in wrapping you have to open before you can eat know, unless it's a banana or something.

Usually when people question the health of a plant-based diet, they are not concerned about health at all. They are concerned with tripping you up. Just like the person who questioned Brian's veganism and my vegetarianism even though they were on, I later found out, two cholesterol and blood pressure medication. In their thirties. And they hunted innocent animals too. 'Nuff said.

Baseball's Vegetarian Prince

From a New York Times article, "Meat Is Out at Fielder’s Plate," on Prince Fielder of the Milwaukee Brewers. Originally linked by Emphasis is mine:

Fielder, 23, decided to make the switch over the winter after
reading how cattle and chickens were treated and “was totally grossed
out,” he said.
His wife, Chanel, preferred a no-meat diet as it was, so
he embraced a new approach.

Fielder had been as carnivorous as your average puma — pushing 200 pounds
since he was 12, he scarfed down a 48-ounce porterhouse as a teenager and had
barely slowed down since. (He played last year with 270 pounds on his 5-foot-11
frame, not all of it muscle.) But he figured he could get his protein from beans and shakes instead of meat and fish, leading to conversations since the beginning of spring training that have grown quite tiresome...

"Yeah, I’m a vegetarian — but still, some things are just nasty,” Fielder
said. “I like salads. But sometimes, they get too creative. I like
regular food, just no meat in it.”

Muscles cannot tell the difference between the protein found in soy
burgers and poultry
, [Leslie Bonci, the Brewer's nutritional
consultant] said, so eating one or the other should not affect something
even as timing-sensitive as hitting a baseball...

Less than 24 hours later, Fielder stood in the batter’s box against one of
baseball’s best young left-handers, Cole Hamels of the Philadelphia
. Fielder smoked two home runs in the Brewers’ 5-4 win. Less
filling, tasted great.

The article also makes mention of Tony Gonzalez of the Kansas City Chiefs, who is vegan. It's so great to see mainstream media coverage of vegetarian and vegan diets from people who don't fit the supposed veg mold--athletes, black men, Hispanic men, former Porterhouse steak devourers. I find articles like this inspiring. Although I have no problem walking right past the meat counter without looking (in fact, I try not to look), I do still look longingly at the cheese and pastry aisles. Knowing so many people easily eat, move, and live well without meat, eggs and dairy gives me motivation to keep at what has been the biggest and most exciting life changes I've ever made.

Mutual Menu is giving away one copy of Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. To enter to win and for more details, please leave one comment here.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Random Fridays: Cruelty-Free Hair Products Round-Up

EDIT: Since I wrote this post, I found out that Deva Mist-er Right contains beeswax. So, not vegan. (4/28/08)

Co-owned by author of Curly Girl, Lorraine Massey, Deva Concepts' products are focused more on botanical ingredients rather than harsh chemicals. Their No-Poo cleanser was recommended to me by my stylist at Juju Salon in Philly (which I highly recommend for the organic, mostly vegan products they carry and they fact that, prior to my appointment, they always give Brian and me delicious vanilla rooibos tea from their next door neighbor, House of Tea, and ginger cookies ). I finally picked some of this nonlathering hair cleanser at Harmon's/Face Values, a Jersey health and beauty discount chain that I cannot go to unless I want to spend $30 or $40 on bottles of sweet-smelling stuff I slather onto some part of my body. Seriously, they are the best and pretty cheap, too. Cheap until you buy 10 more things than you originally planned. The next day I made the mistake of going back to purchase Deva Mist-er Right, which enlivens wet or dry curls and smells like key lime pie.

Though the Deva bottles state that the products aren't tested on animals and the ingredients list seemed relatively unspooky, there was no cruelty-free bunny logo. I sent an e-mail to their PR contact and she wrote back:

"No way never!" (PLEASE SEE NOTE ABOVE)
I also purchased Giovanni Frizz Be Gone Anti-Frizz Hair Texturizing Balm, which can finally replace my years-long use of John Frieda's Frizz Ease. So far, my curls are frizz-free and bouncy. Their products clearly state that they are free of cruelty and animal by-products.

For more information on beauty products and their ingredients list, please check out:

Go Cruelty Free
For vegan shopping ideas, visit these blogs:
Swanky Veg
Philly Businesses Listed in This Post:
located at 716 S. 4th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(215) 238-6080
located at 729 S. 4th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(215) or (888) 923-8327
Mutual Menu is giving away one copy of Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. To enter to win and for more details, please leave one comment here.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

What's New Around Here

I signed up for Twitter. You can see my updates on the side.

We now have a blogroll. As it grows, we may break it down into categories but for now, this is just a collection of blogs I read regularly and find inspiring, helpful, entertaining, and well-written. Some are by friends (Eats Well with Others, Ladypoverty), some are based in Philly (Ladypoverty, The Urban Vegan, Straight from the Farm), others are based in San Francisco (Eats Well with Others), and all of the food-related ones are vegetarian or vegan.

We’re giving away one free copy of Vegan Cupcakes Take over the World. People are actually entering! You should too. All you have to do is leave a comment here. When you sign in to comment, make sure it links back to a Blogger page or your e-mail address.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Happy Earth Day 2008

One of the many green tips in the April 2008 Green Issue of Glamour was to give up meat once a week. I sent them the following letter applauding the tip but asking them to go one further—give up eating meat entirely:

I loved the Green Guide in the April 2008 issue. I especially loved the tip about giving up meat once a week to lessen the damage meat production causes to our environment. I’d like to go one way better, though—how about giving up meat entirely? It’s not only better for the environment; it’s the only truly humane way to treat the animals so many of us love (I think most people who live with a cat or dog would agree that there’s no “humane” way to kill their beloved Fido, right?). After a lifetime of meat-eating and saying, “Oh, I could never be a vegetarian!” I finally gave it up a year ago. It’s by far one of the most rewarding, healthful, and delicious choices I’ve made in my life. Rather than limiting my options, being a vegetarian has opened up my taste buds to a world of produce, grains, and flavors I never tried when I ate grilled chicken every night. More importantly, now that I no longer eat animals, I can look my dog and any cow, chicken, or pig in the face and know that I’m finally living out my conscience.

If you’re thinking of a way to commemorate Earth Day today, consider not eating meat today. Here are some links to site with recipes. Or pick up some of the following cookbooks at your local library or buy a used copy.

* The Post-Punk Kitchen, the website of Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero, the authors of the awesome cookbooks Veganomicon and Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World. You can enter to win a copy of Vegan Cupcakes from us just by leaving a little old comment here.
* Top 10 Recipes of 2008: I found this link on Elaine Vigneault’s excellent blog, which is now a daily read for me.
* Eat, Drink and Be Vegan Dreena Burton's blog and her latest cookbook, which I refer to frequently and with much success.
* The Joy of Vegan Baking by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau. Try making the German Apple Cake or Blueberry Coffee Cake and see if there are leftovers after just an hour. Colleen’s working on a new cookbook now and I’m going to be one of the recipe testers. I cannot wait to test and eat the sure to be delicious recipe she’ll send over.
* Compassionate Cooks is Colleen’s main site, where you can find both free and reasonably priced recipe packets, her excellent Food for Thought podcasts, and sign up for cooking classes
* Vegetarian Times I really knew I was a vegetarian when I canceled my years-long subscription to Cooking Light and signed up for Vegetarian Times. About 70–80% of their recipes are vegan. The rest are easily veganized. You can search for free recipes on the site too.
* Veg News More features than recipes but I got the recipe for a delicious chocolate chip banana bread in a back issue.
* Herbivore magazine will stop printing the magazine this year. That sucks. Issues usually feature a few recipes and you can order cookbooks at their store.
That should get you started on a very delicious and enjoyable animal-product free day. Enjoy!

Everyone Is a Little Vegan

My friend just came back from Canyon Ranch and was going on about how lovely it was, how good the food was, how restorative restorative yoga was. Just listening to her made me want to go so I checked out the web site and looked over the menu. They clearly label vegan items, like miso soup and smoothies, which is really great. However, I noticed that some clearly vegan items did not garner a vegan sign next to it. Apparently, bananas, berries, melons, rice, and potatoes are not vegan.

When many people think of vegan food, they often think of tofu or fake meat strips. They are vegan and I happen to like both. We often forget that the fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, and nuts we are eating are vegan too. It’s strange that the completely unadulterated foods—almost all of which are vegan—don’t get labeled as such. Why are they not immediately deemed vegan by your average meateater, then? When Brian and I bring fruit salad to a lunch, it doesn’t get labeled vegan so everyone gobbles it right up. When we bring out the cake that doesn’t contain eggs and butter, though, trepidation often kicks in because it’s V-E-G-A-N. But it’s no more vegan than the fruit.

What makes a diet without meat and other animal products seem daunting is the idea that we will have to eat food that isn’t “real”, is too different, isn’t good enough. I certainly used to think that way and still have some of that thinking to a degree (hello, cheese). Thing is, I always ate vegan food even when I was an omnivore. The banana in my cereal, the beans on my rice, the salad for lunch—all vegan. We’re all eating vegan food all the time. Thinking that it’s an entirely foreign diet is inaccurate and makes something already familiar and available in abundance seem unnecessarily weird and lacking.

Mutual Menu is giving away one copy of Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. To enter to win and for more details, please leave one comment here.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Mutable Menu

I saw pigs in a truck while driving to work this morning.

I see many trucks on my commute along I-287 every morning and afternoon. I normally don’t check the trucks out unless one of them is obnoxiously and dangerously cutting off cars that are a fifth of their size, which happens often enough. The sides of the trucks are usually emblazoned with company logos for supermarkets, soda, moving companies.

The body of this truck carrying pigs had no logos, just metal open slates for air. I knew there were animals in there and peered to see what kind. At first, I could only see the walls of the truck, nothing else. As I got right beside it and took a better look, I saw the backs and tops of heads of pigs. Immediately my stomach dropped and I stopped looking.

For a few moments, I imagined what would happen if I followed the truck and tried to stop whatever was going to happen. The pigs were pretty big so I guess they were going to a slaughterhouse. I thought about just tailing the truck to wherever it was off to and pleading (screaming and crying) with the driver to let me have them. This seemed impossible for a number of reasons. One, I doubt any business person and animal-owner would hand over their property to me and I wouldn’t be able to afford what a truck full of live pigs probably costs (although I would have no problem being able to pay for the pigs once they are turned into ham, bacon and chops; I’m pretty sure pigs are cheaper when they’re dead). Also, who knows where the truck would end up? I’m already late on my way to work. Finally, what good would it do? Let’s say the truck and I end up in some alternate universe where my hysterics persuades all interested parties to hand over the pigs to me. Then what? I take them home? The dog has 100 new siblings?

I did what was practical, convenient and less painful. I drove way past the truck and went to work. I thought about how there didn’t seem to be that many pigs in that one truck given how much meat I see in a supermarket. I started thinking about how many trucks have to travel everyday just to fill up the Stop and Shop in my neighborhood, let alone all over the world. It seemed incomprehensible, the number of animals and miles. I thought about how this is the first time in my life I’ve seen pigs in a truck. I’ve seen horses before but never pigs or cows or chickens or sheep. The animals being transported and killed are truly invisible but once they are dead, processed and package, we can’t escape it. We don’t have to because it’s ok once they are in the refrigerated section. Just another product to pick up like the cereal and toilet paper.

When I told Brian about my idea for Mutual Menu, I wanted it to be about how vegans, vegetarians and omnivores could happily coexist without anyone’s proverbial feathers being ruffled, no dish being questioned. I’d write about making chicken and tofu using the same recipe or how I was buying all my steak from Whole Foods now because it’s humane. I was so excited and happy! Everyone would get their cake and eat it too. Just as quickly as the blog was up, though, I stopped eating chickens and pigs and cows. Then I stopped eating the fishes. Now it’s been a while since I’ve bought cheese but I’ll still eat it in a restaurant. I once told Brian that maybe we’d have to change the name of the blog if I went vegan because then the menu wouldn’t be so mutual. As soon as I said that, I didn’t need him to point out the huge idea I was missing. I realized which way the mutuality could go. I’d be extending it the animals. I didn’t have to change the name. I’d just change myself.

Mutual Menu is giving away one copy of Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. To enter to win and for more details, please leave one comment here.

Monday, April 14, 2008

First Mutual Menu Giveaway: Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero

Something I've wanted to do for quite some time on Mutual Menu is have occasional contests where we give away cookbooks and other items we really love. We're finally getting this rolling after being inspired by Vegan Soapbox's Cookbook Giveaway and Elaine Vigneault's post on why blog giveaways are great.

Our first giveaway is a brand new copy of Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World: 75 Dairy-Free Recipes for Cupcakes that Rule by vegan cookbook heavyweights, Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero (they've also co-authored the recent Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook and Moskowitz created the seminal Vegan with a Vengeance: Over 150 Delicious, Cheap, Animal-Free Recipes That Rock) . Vegan Cupcakes seemed an obvious first choice for many reasons. One, who doesn't love cupcakes? Two, the book is compact, cute, full of scrumptious pictures, and written in a friendly tone. It's also the first vegan cookbook I ever purchased and every creation I've made so far--Golden Vanilla, Apricot-Glazed Almond Cupcakes, and Lychee Cupcakes with Coconut Glaze--has been delicious. Additionally, the book contains many practical tips and troubleshooting for successful cupcake baking so anyone looking to enhance their baking repertoire in general will find much to learn here.

A major deterrent for many when it comes to adopting animal-free eating is the idea that food will not taste good anymore or that some food items, such as baked goods, will be impossible to replicate. I can assure you, you don't need chickens' eggs, cows' milk, and butter to make delectable cakes, cookies, pies, and other treats. Vegan Cupcakes is a testament to this fact.

Brian and I bought this book on Sunday at Robin's Bookstore in Philadelphia, which was one of the places we went to on our first date. It was in Robin's where I first realized I was going to know Brian for a very, very long time.

OK, back to the book, we will pick one person at random and send the cookbook to them. To enter the giveaway, just leave one comment to this post (be sure to include your e-mail address when signing on to comment). Entries will close on May 12, 2008. Unfortunately, to keep shipping costs down and post office visits short, we can only ship the book to those in the USA. Depending on how the first giveaway goes, we may, however, open up later contests to other countries.

Visit The Post Punk Kitchen for recipes and community. Visit Robin's Bookstore and buy some books. Visit Vegan Soapbox and enter their cookbook giveaway too. Please do spread the word and invite others to enter and read as well.

*Picture courtesy of The Post Punk Kitchen.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Random Fridays: Piglets, Painters, Plasma and More

I know I may be one of the last people on the Internets to have heard about Randy Pausch’s “The Last Lecture,” but better late than never. His lecture was part of a series at Carnegie Mellon Univeristy where members of the university community would share everything they would want to share if it were the last lecture they were ever to give. I finally listened to Dr. Pausch's lecture this week and was definitely moved, not just by the fact that the lecture is among the last Dr. Pausch will give (he is dying of pancreatic cancer), but because I always enjoy learning how people who love their work accomplish that feat.

In life, Dr. Pausch says, you’ve got to decide if you’re a Tigger or an Eeyore. I can relate to melancholy Eeyore more than bouncy, cocky Tigger but I’ve decided that I'm neither. I'm more of a Piglet:

A ‘Very Small Animal’ with a generally timid disposition, he often conquers his
fears and seems to want to be brave…Piglet himself can read and write, at least
well enough for short notes.

In honor of all the piglets, why not sponsor a rescued one at Catskill Animal Sanctuary (CAS)?Being greeted by the pigs when Brian and I first visited last September was one of the highlights of our trip. The pigs were very gracious hosts and allowed us to rub their bellies and coo at their piglets. I loved all the animals there and I pretty much love all animals but I do have a soft spot in my heart for pigs.

A lighthearted blog post I enjoyed this week was on the site, Book A Week with Jen, where one entry explores the long ago and simpler days before Gossip Girl when the Sweet Valley Twins reigned.

This weekend, Brian and I are going to take his mom to the Lee Miller and Frida Kahlo exhibits at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA). I’ve been dying to see the Kahlo exhibit for months and, though I’m not as familiar with Miller's life and work, after reading a bit about her in a Philly paper, I'm excited to see both exhibits. And yes, as I first time visitor to the PMA, I will be running up those steps a la Rocky.

Brian and I are also donating blood. I’d never donated blood before meeting Brian but he is a veteran. I didn’t know my blood type prior to donating and now I know that Brian and I share the same type, A positive (as a co-worker sarcastically remarked when I told him this fact, "How romantic"). It is the type that, according to the diet book, Eat Right for Your Type, means you should be a vegetarian, which, hey, I agree with. Other blood types should be too, though.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Farm Sanctuary by Gene Baur

Last week, I mentioned that Brian went to hear Gene Baur, founder of Farm Sanctuary, speak at University of Pennsylvania Law School. I would have gone myself but during a work week, it's damn near impossible to get from northern New Jersey to Philadelphia in a timely fashion. Being the amazing person that he is, Brian picked up a copy of Gene Baur's new book, Farm Sanctuary. Not only that, the author also signed the book to both Brian and me, "Thank you for caring."

I was a bit alarmed when I first saw the wrapped package on my bed this weekend (with lovely wrapping paper from the dollar store, no less!). I thought maybe I had forgotten some obscure holiday and had no gifts to bear. No, it was just Brian being his usual awesome self.

I have not started reading it yet but I've been flipping through it and have already been moved to both smiles and tears by the stories and pictures of the animals on the sanctuary and of those still trapped and tortured on factory farms. I can tell that it's incredibly well-written and thoroughly researched so I urge you to pick up a copy to read.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Random Fridays: It's Raining Today

* Did you see The Savages? With a father in a nursing home and an arthritic dog in a wheelchair, it hit very close to my home so I cried through most of the movie One of the funniest, most relate-able moments was each time Laura Linney's character did aerobics to an exercise DVD. Yeah, that's also me. I've been to a gym once in my life and while I loved the elliptical and treadmill, I just can't justify spending that much a month to sweat when I can sweat in my house or on the street for a fraction of the cost. Lately, however, I've been bored with the DVDs I have to I've bought a few new ones.

I know a workout is good when I have the exercise music stuck in my head during my lunch break and the songs are from Karen Voight's Sleek Essentials, a 3-DVD set with cardio, strength training, and flexibility workouts. The cardio includes lower body toning section that will make your butt sore the next day. Cuing in the aerobics section is good but there are enough subtle differences in the moves from other DVDs I have to keep it interesting. Her weight routines are always unique and really work. The workout uses a foam roller and it's worth springing some extra cash to get it. Doing crunches and leg lifts while balancing my back on a foam roller made my whole body shake, it's that hard.

Kathy Smith's Peel off the Pounds Pilates doesn't quite live up to its name's claim. With only 20 minutes of very light, mostly low-impact aerobics and 10 minutes each of upper and lower body toning, I don't feel like I'm working out very hard. But that's actually what I like most about it. On days when I am too tired to workout or my repetitive strain injury is acting up, I pop this one in to get my blood circulating and I always feel better than if I had just done nothing for the evening.

The last DVD I picked up is The Firm's Burn and Shape. I love The Firm so I was excited about this 40-minute mix of cardio and strength training. Emily Welsh's cuing, however, isn't the clearest during the aerobics sections (a surprise, since an older DVD of hers has excellent cuing). The moves aren't impossible but they don't flow intuitively so it takes much longer to get the hang of it. I've only done it once, though, so I'm sure I'll catch on eventually.

Collage Video is full of all the exercise DVDs you can hope for.You can watch clips, read very helpful user reviews, and can return even opened DVDs if they are not what you're looking for.

(picture courtesy of CED Magic)

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Vinegar: It's What's For Dinner

Why not take the cattle industry's advertising trope and turn it on its head with a tale of an entirely plant-based and exceedingly delicious dinner...

Italian (by way of Asia) Marinated Grilled Tofu with Roasted Veggies (or, How to Save Your Meal When You Add Too Much Vinegar)

This past weekend, Brian and I made a simple and warm dish that featured some seasonal vegetables that are beginning to make their way into the markets now. Like many, my favorite seasonal produce is in the spring and summer months--sugar snap peas, berries, onions, peaches, nectarines so I'm very happy to be digging into all of those foods again. (For a list of when seasonal produce is available across different parts of the US, visit Sustainable Table's "Eat Seasonal" guide).

We also made the Italian Marinated Tofu from Veganomicon. It calls for a 1/2 cup of white wine in the marinade. Since I didn't have any, I thought, why not substitute some white wine vinegar. I like vinegary food but this was a bit much. Once I got the tofu going on my new Calphalon grill pan, which I love, I tasted a small bite and all I could taste was vinegar. Brian suggested adding a bit more tamari. I did and then thought, why not a little agave nectar too. Those additions saved dinner by cutting the bite of the vinegar and adding just a hint of salty-sweetness. Grilling the marinated tofu gave it a nice, pronounced crust and tender, flavorful interior. Having tofu steaks, as opposed to stir-fried cubes, also was a nice change of pace from how I normally eat tofu.

On a parchment lined baking sheet, we loaded up some roasted red potatoes and yellow onion wedges that had been tossed in a small amount of olive oil, kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. When the potatoes are crispy brown and and the onions are softened and a bit charred (this takes anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes at 475 degrees F, depending on your oven), we added asparagus, chunks of garlic and a few tablespoons of white balsamic vinegar. Yes, we still needed more vinegar. It's worth using the white balsamic as opposed to the usual darker variety. Once roasted, it's subtle and savory rather than hitting you over the head with--WHOMP! VINEGAR! It takes about 5 minutes for the asparagus to be ready and then your whole meal is done.

While we prepared dinner, I also cooked for Luckie, who had his usual turkey, rice, and veggies combo. The dog normally has carrots but since asparagus was on the menu, I gave him the snapped off ends of the stalk. He goes nuts for asparagus, can eat loads of the stalk.

Why no pictures of the final meal in its complete state? Because Brian and I are eaters before we are bloggers and we just started eating before the idea of taking more pictures occurred to us. Dessert was chocolate chip cookie dough soy cream topped with a maple french toast twist by Barry's Bakery. No dairy or eggs or funky preservatives and only one Weight Watchers point for each crunchy, flaky treat. That is living.
NOTE: This post is actually by Brian and me. I wrote the text but Brian took the pictures and we both cooked the meal. In other Brian new, he will be headed off to a talk with Gene Baur, president and cofounder of Farm Sanctuary this evening at 6:30 pm at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. It's hosted by the Animal Legal Defense Fund.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Blog Round-Up

I've stumbled across some exceptional blogs lately. I encourage you to check out each of them ASAP:

* My good friend and our first guest blogger, Sky Chari, is now blogging regularly at her new venture, Eats Well with Others. It's chock full of restaurant reviews and tales of being vegan amongst the aforementioned others.

* I came across Elaine Vigneault's blog after reading her balanced and reasoned comments in response to a particularly heated post on I Blame the Patriarchy. Elaine's post today, "Because They Can," led me to...

* Vegans of Color, which, after comments like the one that follows, I am so eating up.

I’m glad some people are looking at the socioeconomic implications of the meat industry. So much attention has been put on animal welfare, animal rights, health, and the environment in relation to vegetarianism and veganism. Few people — vegans included — are aware of, or choose to think much about, who is relegated to the killing floors, namely minorities.


Finally, today is the one year anniversary of my grandfather's death. I'm not so much sad as I am just shocked that I've lived without him for a year. It wasn't long after he died that I decided to stop eating land animals. I didn't think the two had much to do with one another until I remembered how my grandfather often was treated like another cog in the hospital industry's wheel. How he was prodded and poked and turned over at the ease of the hospital staff and was completely dependent on others for his life. This isn't to say there weren't quite a few great nurses and aides and doctors. After all my grandfather needed to be turned and jostled because he was so sick. It still made me feel sad and powerless, nonetheless. I can't help but wonder if the sadness I felt for my grandfather being just another sick person out of many opened me up to feel sadness for so many other things, including for the billions of anonymous animals we eat.

Well, a lot has changed for me during this year without my grandfather, except for the fact that I still miss him terribly.