90% Vegan

Dear Lindsay,

I think we can both agree that this last month has been just a tad bit stressful, which has definitely been the leading cause of the lack of postings. But hey, it’s almost March, and February is almost in the past, which means that the winter blues (at least here in Oregon) are almost gone. So maybe it’s time to start posting again.

I’m not sure if it was the craziness of the last month, or the general malaise that set in, but I started thinking a lot about the food I was putting in my body, and reading blogs about staying healthy and feeling better. A lot of them suggested 80/20 diets, where you pay close attention to eating 80% really healthy and allow yourself 20% crap food, but I wasn’t really sure how to measure that and I’m not really one for food journals. About two weeks ago, I watched Forks Over Knives on Netflix because mum suggested it. And as Mum and Dad have recently gone vegan, I started thinking about maybe trying it out too. The biggest problem for me is that I don’t really like the idea of doing things to extremes, and I don’t want to be “that person” at the restaurant asking what’s in everything because I have a laundry list of foods I prefer not to eat. In keeping with the 80/20 diet I decided I would try going 90% Vegan. I would stick to being vegan at home, and if I could, when I went out to restaurants. But I’m not going to eat a garden salad when I’m out with friends  just because it’s the only thing that doesn’t have meat in it on the menu. And if I want a cookie and it has milk and butter in it, then so be it (I don’t believe in eating crappy tasting junk food just because it’s vegan. If it’s junk food, it better taste delicious).

So I’m 2 weeks in, and it’s working pretty great and I’m feeling pretty good, but more than that, it has me looking up recipes and trying out new things, which actually gets me excited about cooking. The daily monotony of throwing food together was not helping the healthy eating.

Oh! And I found a solution to something ridiculous. Have you ever tried putting soy milk or almond milk in coffee? It just kind of sinks to the bottom and your coffee never turns color no matter how much you add or how much you stir. Psychologically, it is not coffee. It’s some form of thick uncoffeelike hot drink and it stinks. But I was at TJ’s the other day and they had coffee, so I poured myself a cup and tried putting their soy creamer in it- instant coffee color! I almost shrieked. I said to the girl working next to the coffee stand that I was so happy that my coffee had changed color with the soy creamer (which seems like an odd statement in retrospect but I was SO happy), and she replied as if I’d said something completely normal, “I know! It’s one of our best selling products because people are so pleased that it actually lightens their coffee!” I’m totally sold. I bought a lot of it. Being vegan is not so bad specifically because of this one thing.

I’ve been eating shredded wheat  and almond milk for breakfast (super yummy), and some nuts and dried fruit for snacks and then cooking up a ton of veggies and some wild rice or bulgur to go with it for dinner. I’ve been keeping cold salads in my fridge at all times (tabbouleh and  couscous salad are my loves), as usual, and I’m also taking my vitamins! We’ll see how it goes, but for now I’m starting to feel good.

I know you’re busy with your fancy pants lawyer life, but try to write me back; I miss you.

xo Meg

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Roundhouse Health Kick

Dear Lindsay,

I’m so happy to hear that you found a bit of Portland in Orlando- that town needs some quirk and mushy pea avocado sounds like just the trick.

It’s wonderful being surrounded by yummy Pinot Noirs again, but I’m tasting a lot in class lately that has nothing to do with Pinot- like a 1978 Cabernet Sauvignon from Witness Tree that was absolutely delicious. I splurged a bit on a bought a bottle of Spanish Rioja that turned out to be lovely and a cheap bottle of Pinot Noir from Burgundy I picked up at Trader Joe’s the other day is still sitting on my counter waiting for me. I’ve been neglecting the Oregon Pinots, but not for long, I’m sure.

I went on kind of a health kick this weekend. I haven’t been feeling as good as I thought I should, so I did some research into any kinds of vitamin deficiencies I might have (#firstworldproblems) and decided to get rid of all the junk in my kitchen. I headed to TJs and bought nothing but yummy veggies, some grains and rices (and a B-Complex, some vitamin D, and fish oil) to make healthy lunches and dinners.

I made some great couscous today! It’s the larger Israeli couscous, and I boiled it in vegetable broth instead of just water. I cooked up some mushrooms, mixed in some kale, cherry tomatoes and raisins, and then added the couscous when it was done. I sprinkled on some balsamic vinegar just before I ate it. So yummy and should do me for a few days at least. Hurray for health kicks. We’ll see how long it lasts!

Love,

Meg

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Portland Strikes Again…

Dear Megan,

Tonight I went to dinner in Portland. There’s this little converted house off of Mills/50 behind the Vietnamese restaurants which is a little oasis of circa-1996 SE Belmont at 35th. Think Rimsky Korsakoffee and Pied Cow without couches (confusingly).

It’s called the Dandelion Communitea Cafe. Although the name had kept me away (Communit-ea… really?) the place is a mecca to everything that makes me miss Portland.

The food is all vegan/vegetarian/organic/local however it is also delicious ( I know, I really need to be more open minded about the non-meat thing, I just still have lingering bad memories of the Vita Cafe on Alberta, maybe that’s my issue). I had the black bean burrito which was more of a panini pressed sandwich in presentation but it was filled with quinoa and black beans, sweet corn, green pepper, red onion, and their specialty “whirled peas” which is basically a guacamole made with mushy peas instead of avocado. It’s delish and you really don’t know it isn’t avocado unless you are thinking about it.

They serve a full-range of expected local and regional microbrews that are trendy and yummy. They have a whole wall of tea blends that they will brew up for you and a rotating selection of daily brewed iced teas. I had something that is amazing but I cannot remember what it is.

To top it all off there was music that started at 8, just as we were leaving. So we tucked in for an extra little while with an organic, vegan brownie (why can’t they get the consistency right on these things??) and listened to the musical stylings of Noah from…… PORTLAND.

Yes, that’s right. His car, Oregon license plate and all, parked out front. He is traveling on some sort of musical road tour and here we are just commenting on how much this little place feel like Portland (dippy servers/waiters n’ all) and this guy confirms everything we are seeing. Portland.

I will go back. I’ll even try and take Husband. The food was awesome and it was a timewarp worth retracing my steps back to.

What are you drinking now that you are home? Happy to be back in wine country?

Put a bird on it,

Lindsay

Swimming in pork buns

Can your husband make me dinner?

You should eat better: breakfast bars aren’t real food. But are Kashi bars any good?

I’ll mail you a pork bun.

 

 

A non-food post

Dear Megan,

I have nothing to write about cooking, because I didn’t do any today. Breakfast was a yogurt and Kashi bar, lunch was another Kashi bar (because I never left the office) and dinner was husband-made and was peanut chicken and egg noodles.

we did go to the movies this evening, though. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. It was pretty good, euro spy thriller set in the mid-70’s.

I love the polenta suggestion and plan to make it next time I am in the kitchen for more than 2 minutes.

Can you mail me a pork bun, they look delicious!

Nom Nom,

Lindsay

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Holy shit, I made pork buns

Lindsay, I made pork buns. Class started today so that’s the end of any potential ambition I may have had in the kitchen.  I think I’m maxed out. Now, on to stews for the rest of my life.

I picked the ugliest, but easiest looking recipe: http://chinesefood.about.com/od/dimsumbuns/r/charsiubao.htm

Here are pics. They are delish. You should make some.

xo

Meg

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Ah, the epic frustration of lunch

Dear Lindsay,

Ha! How wonderfully apropos. As we speak I’m making tonight’s dinner/tomorrow’s lunch.

Lunch will forever be the bane of my existence, and the only way I have found to combat it is to tolerate absolute repetition and to embrace a love for leftovers. My two strategies: One- Make large quantities of interesting salads (couscous salad, tabouli, cucumber and tomato) on Sunday night and eat them for basically the entire week, and two- learn to make just a bit more than I need for dinner the night before so that I can take it for lunch the day after. Of course, this is how my life works in theory. I’m terrible at remembering to do this, and I definitely fall short of doing it everyday, but I feel like aiming to eat home cooked food 3 out of 5 work/school days a week is a good goal, just like we talked about. I like small, achievable numbers instead of going balls to the wall (so to speak). Maybe we should do this together? Let’s keep each other on task about this. This week’s goal: 3 meals for lunch made at home- what do you think?

Which brings me to what I’m making right now! Kale, tomato, mushroom, cilantro and polenta “salad”. To be served with my dinner tonight, and as tomorrow’s lunch!

I’ll be the first to admit that it doesn’t sound (or as you’ll soon see, look) overly delicious, but it actually is really good.

How I make it: Take an 8-inch pyrex dish and put in a cup of polenta, 3 1/4 cups of warm water, some salt and about a tablespoon of EVOO. Cut up a handful of mushrooms, half a tomato, and cut some kale into small pieces and toss it all in. Throw in some 21SS, stir it all around and stick it in the oven at 350 for 50 minutes.Stir it up every 20 minutes or so just so you don’t end up with veggies on top and polenta on the bottom (unless you like it that way…).

SO EASY it’s almost stupid. And it’s actually really good, it just doesn’t look the prettiest.

Now, as you know from our phone call earlier, I found an Asian grocery store in Salem and I went in and bought some much-needed groceries that I haven’t been able to find in this weird little town (e.g. Chinese Rice Wine, Hoisin sauce, Oyster Sauce, etc.). You wouldn’t think it would be hard to find these things, but it is, surprisingly. So I got to thinking what I could do with my loot, and I remembered about our conversation last week when I was talking about wanting to learn how to make BBQ Pork Buns, like the ones you get at Dim Sum. So I stopped off at the grocery store near my house on the way home and got a pork roast. I’m making BBQ pork tonight, and I’m going to use a third of it to make buns tomorrow night (stay tuned for that epic disaster!).

BBQ pork is actually really easy to make, but you do need a few sauces that you may not already have.

Ok, it looks daunting- it’s totally not! Look- I’m using ketchup. Anything that involves ketchup is automatically not daunting. The deal with BBQ Pork is the rule of 2s. You will soon see. Take any pork roast (shoulder, loin, whatever) that’s about a pound and half, and cut it into 1 to 2 inch strips, and a few inches long. Put them in a shallow baking dish. In a bowl mix 2 tablespoons of: Rice Wine, Hoisin Sauce, Soy Sauce, Ketchup. 2 cloves of mashed up garlic.2 teaspoons of: sesame oil and brown sugar. Add some pepper and some cloves. Mix it all up and pour it over the pieces of pork. Refrigerate it for 2ish hours. It’s the recipe of 2s! 2 of everything! Super easy to remember. (Oh, and if you want it to look red like it does in restaurants, add some red food coloring. I don’t have any and I’m not about to buy some to color my food. I think that’s weird.)

Ok, so now take the polenta dish out of the oven, and fluff it around, and put it in some tupperware and stick it in the fridge. TA DA! Lunch for tomorrow! Go watch the new episode of Grey’s until the pork is done marinating. (BTW, have you watched it yet? I cried 3 times in the last 10 minutes.)

Oh, it’s done? Lovely. Put the oven onto 350 again. Put the pieces of pork on a rack, and put a baking sheet filled with water underneath it. About 3 times over the next 45 minutes, brush the pieces of pork with the marinade. And then, at the end of the 45 minutes, take them out and voila, some BBQ pork, and a side of ugly-looking (but Healthy Healthy Healthy) polenta and veggies. That’s my dinner (and tomorrow’s lunch)! 

Tomorrow night, I’m making pork buns out of the leftovers! I’m so excited! I bought yeast! AH!

Keeping each other on task about lunch, right? Pinky swear. Also, send recipes for chicken and ribs and whatever else yummy stuff you made yesterday- it all sounds delicious but you didn’t send pictures or the recipe!!

xoxo

Meg

PS. blogging about food is time consuming…

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Who am I to judge? I make carbon Kale chips.

Dear Megan,

I made another stab at the Kale chips last night while Mum and Dad were here for dinner. The secret, ironically, seems to be NOT using the convection setting on the oven. The hot air dries them out too fast and they vaporize. Luckily, you don’t have this problem which is probably while your kale chips come out perfect every time.

I am not judging your breakfast… as a non-breakfast person, who am I to judge “the most important meal of the day?” If I can get a cup of coffee and a Publix yogurt into me before 10:30, I’ve accomplished something special. For a while there, I also was doing the smoothie thing but having broken a blender, a hand mixer, and then a Ninja, I gave up. Apparently, frozen fruit is stronger than titanium, who knew?

This morning, because it is Sunday, the day I feel I should “start as I mean to go on” (and never do..), I woke up and had a cup of coffee (Seattle’s Best at the moment, it was on sale) and a piece of white bread toast with cinnamon butter. I took the peanut butter to work, a move I thougth would pay off in spades but instead has just left me pissed off anytime I open the fridge and go “damnit, where is the peanut butter?!?!”

Today was pizza and wing Sunday. A culinary masterpiece that only comes around while football is on television (a rule) and has been perfected like America’s Test Kitchen was in our house. It does me proud that every week I yet-again surpass myself with the best non-fried fried chicken and homemade pizza. I am gifted, that’s all I can say about that.

Tomorrow is back to Monday and work. Eating meals at lunch at work is a challenge. Most days I end up going out to eat with coworkers… the alternative is that I skip lunch and have nothing at all.

Mum and I talked about this over dinner last night (BBQ chicken and ribs, which were amazing, btw) and we agree that other than salmon there’s really not much out there to put between two slices of bread anymore and Lean Cuisine and all those frozen lunches are just pre-packaged junk.

So what do you do about weekday lunches? I’m curious and in need of better suggestions because I’m willing to take a lunch, I just can’t think of anything better than either lunch out or nothing at all. Help!

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Don’t judge my breakfast

Lindsay,

Have we ever talked about what we eat for breakfast? I can’t remember ever having a breakfast-centric conversation.

I eat/drink the same thing every single morning and I have a feeling my breakfast choices might spark some controversy.

Controversy #1: I fill the coffee filter with coffee grounds, pour water into the back of the coffee maker, pour milk into the coffee pot and I let the coffee drip into the warm milk. A poor man’s cafe au lait, if you will. It works beautifully (except for the 1% of the time when the milk curdles and I have to pitch the pot and start over).

Controversy #2: I drink a smoothie every morning (no apologies) that contains two raw eggs. I know, I know, salmonella. But I’m buying no hormone, cage-free happy eggs! I wouldn’t do this with the eggs that are pumped full of bad chemicals.

So I crack two eggs into the blender, add some milk, a banana, a bit more than a tablespoon of      almond butter and I blend it all up! I always had a problem with breakfast until I started making this everyday. I would eat something and two hours later I was famished (this was especially true with toast). For whatever reason, this keeps me full and happy for hours and I feel like superman because I drink it everyday.

I’m ok with the criticism that may follow- both on the faux cafe au lait and the raw egg salmonella fronts.

 <—- Please note my smoothie glamour shot

xo

Meg

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Perfecting the Kale Chip

Dear Lindsay,

I think you’re lacking some EVOO. They really shouldn’t be crumbling. Also, how long did you leave them in for? I took a whole head (?) of kale last night and turned them into chips while I was watching that new Ryan Gosling movie, Drive (you should see it by the way- it’s artsy and retro-80s, and the story is pretty good with some fun gory scenes). I tore the kale apart into pieces, laid them on the baking sheets, and just sprinkled some olive oil over top of them and some 21 SS,  and then stuck them in the oven for 20 minutes at 350. They came out magical, crispy and filled with flavor. I think I need a rack for them to sit on though, to drain off some of the oil while they’re cooking. Nevertheless, they are the BEST SNACK EVER. I’m an addict.

Meg

PS. Please note that I put a Ryan Gosling tag in here, because I hope he comes up in conversation on a regular basis.

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