Product Review – Yoga Earth goodies

Hey friends! VegSpice here and – What’s that? A POST? That’s right, I’ve been neglecting this blog far too long and am back from the depths of 9-5 working (and now deep in the depths of grad school). Today I’ll take you on a tasty tour reviewing some fancy raw offerings from Yoga Earth. I’ve done yoga a few times and always end up trying too hard to impress everyone else and tearing something. I figure all my Pop Physique classes make me the most flexible badass there, and then for the whole following week I’m cursing every staircase I have to walk up. Anyway, Yoga Earth sells a wide variety of organic, raw, and all-that-good-stuff goodies in eco-friendly packaging. Here you can see my fabulous assistant, Fatty, modeling them:

She’s got style.

 

I’m actually not usually a super big fan of raw foods or the raw lifestyle in general – I mean, I enjoy some of it, but for an all-day-every-day thing it’s hard to sustain. I love some things at Cafe Gratitude but the dreadlock zombie thing doesn’t really do it for me, you know? But I was excited to try these products, because they were entirely new to me. The first up: Raw Almonds.

ooh baby I like it RAWWWWW

 

I don’t usually go for raw almonds because they have that bitter cherry-ish benzaldehyde-y flavor. I prefer smoked or tamari flavored almonds, so I was expecting that I would get the same bitter flavor from these guys. I was totally surprised at how creamy and soft they were, like my best buddy cashews! They had only the slightest taste of that bitter flavor at the very end, so I found myself chewing handfuls of these. Fatty was very interested in them too.

but really, what won’t she eat?

whatenberries?

Up next: Goldenberries. Wait, WTF are goldenberries? Apparently they’re also called Aztec berries, so I have to be down with that. These guys reminded me of big plump cranberries, very chewy and tart at the end with a very interesting almost tropical sweetness at the front of the taste. The texture was my favorite part. As soon as I tasted them I thought, TRAIL MIX COOKIES so I think that’s what these babies will have to go into. Really cool and full of crazy phytonutrients too!

crunchy munchies

Up last was the Meridan Trail Mix. I love trail mix, for real. It has to have: a) cashews, b) chocolate, and c) some sort of dried berry. This one hit all of those requirements and then some. The raw cashews in this were suuuper creamy and delicious. The cacao is a little dusty, but I’m not the biggest fan of cacao – I do like really dark bitter chocolate, but I wasn’t feelin’ this. Goji berries in a trail mix are always cool and make me feel all exotic and cool like I should have my own personal assistant or something. Go get me that latte and do my homework, ok? The mulberries are the really interesting part here. The first time I saw a bag of them at Cafe Gratitude I thought first, what the hell are those? Then, wait, didn’t those always fall off our tree and clog the pool filter every summer? Then, wait, you can EAT those? Turns out you can! They’re chewy and tart. I don’t know that this trail mix is my thing because I’m all about the trail mixes that are practically dessert, and my husband (oh yeah, I got married) wasn’t that big of a fan either. It felt like very good quality stuff, though. The food scientist in me does want to point out that the cacao is described as “[dipped in] coconut nectar” but coconut isn’t listed anywhere on the ingredients list. Food regulations are fun and they can be your friend too! Just kidding, they’re super boring.

Anyway, even this cranky skeptic was won over by Yoga Earth’s goodies, and if raw food is your thing give these a go! Starting Thursday, they’ll be available on awesome site Vegan Cuts, where they’ll be offering a sweet deal- 10% off  EVERYTHING on the site with the discount code BLOGFRIEND –  and you should totally hop on that, as well of all of the other awesome veg deals they have going on. (Umm, I need that caramel sampler inside of me.)

Drink Your Vegetables (And Your Vodka).

Sometimes, you just need a drink.

Now.  Let’s take a moment to acknowledge that when I say “you”, I mean “me”, and when I say “need”, it’s akin to a pre-teenager “need”ing to wed Justin Bieber.

So basically, “you” (I) never “need” a drink.  But doesn’t it sound refreshing?

It is not my intention to extol the virtues of functional alcoholism to the Internet masses (I’d like to think that results speak for themselves).  Rather, it is to express that lately, I have found myself in a near-perpetual state of needing bloody marys.

Bloody marys! The unsung heroic beverage of brunch.   While mimosas have their place—usually preceding a Sunday afternoon nap—bloody marys can be enthusiastically consumed at every hour (except business hours.  Or so I hear).  They’re savory, spicy, and, best of all, contain vodka—an essential nutrient that sometimes eludes those of us with day jobs. (Seriously though, I drink bloody marys for dinner sometimes.  You can’t argue with multiple servings of vegetables as your evening meal.  It’s health food.)

You probably wonder what this has to do with veganism.  You are probably thinking, “Yes, Sugar, I already knew you were a lush.  Clearly, all of your posts were penned [typed] in a state of mild inebriation.  Why would I care that you decided to start adding tomato juice to your liquor?”  But dear, loyal readers (all two of you): I have perfected the vegan bloody mary, and it tastes like some unprecedented genius [i.e., me] pureed a delicious gazpacho and spiked it with booze.  And making a vegan mary is no small feat, given that Worcestershire–key in omnivorous marys–is an impermissible ingredient.  So, without further hesitation, here it is: my perfect vegan mary.

To get down like the vegetable-loving lush you are, you will need:

Tito's, Tapatio, fancy salt, white pepper, V8, and lemon (I like meyers).

After amassing your ingredients, the first question you need to ask yourself is: Do I want to salt the rim of my glass, like a fancypants mixologist?  (The answer to this question is yes). To do so, you 1. Rub a lemon wedge along the rim of the glass; then 2. Invert your cup into a shallow container of salt and move it around to ensure even distribution.

You’ve been so patient.  Let’s make the actual beverage.

1. Coat the inside of your glass with Tapatio (You could experiment with other hot sauces here, but it’s my suspicion that Sriracha would be too sweet and Tabasco would be too vinegar-y.  Besides, how can you say no to a man in a sombrero?).

(Also! Traditionally, vegan/bloody marys are made in a highball glass; if you’re using one, you would still coat the inside of your cup with the hot sauce.  I just used a martini glass because I like to pretend that I have class.)

2. Add a dash (maybe 1/4 teaspoon) of white pepper, a pinch of salt, and ice.

3.  Pour your delicious, delicious vodka into that cup for about 1.5 seconds.  Or use a shot glass to measure, if you want to be like that bartender you hate because (s)he makes weak drinks (do you not want to be tipped, people?)  P.S. Tito’s is Barnivore-approved and delightful.  And cheap!

4. Add V8*, another squeeze of lemon, and give it a stir.

5. It’s ready for your binge-drinking pleasure!  I recommend garnishing with a celery stalk or carrot stick, if available.  Right now, I need to go grocery shopping, so.

*If you are reticent to use V8, I understand.  But: 1. I think V8 is delicious; and 2. It adds complexity (and sodium) that might be absent if we were using an organic vegetable juice.  Still.  I’ll try to get a little more creative in the future, okay?

Salad! It’s Worthy of Exclamation Points.

It’s a new year, and with it comes a litany of self-improvement pledges most of us don’t intend to keep: get organized; finally learn French; lose weight; take up beer enemas; et cetera.

But really, among all of those things, weight loss is the resolution most frequently pronounced, and (often) the most easily forgotten.  It’s easy to see why: people, resolutions are fleeting. Pie is eternal.

/ Would never abandon you. /"

Nevertheless, at this time of year, I feel that it is incumbent upon me to present you with healthier-side-of-junk options.  Because despite my Vegenaise addiction, my love of combining baked goods with cookie dough (peanut butter cookie dough brownies, y’all), and my tendency to drink more beer than water (my metabolism wishes I was kidding), I love salads.

Salads.  They seem so boring.  I literally just yawned after thinking too long about iceberg lettuce.  But contrary to the uninteresting incarnations of salad one usually conceives, salads have capacity for whimsy; they’re like the cupcakes of entrees (stay with me).  Think about cupcakes: there are s’more cupcakes; fluffernutter cupcakes; s’more fluffernutter cupcakes (for the catatonically stoned); peanut butter and jelly cupcakes; banana split cupcakes; creamsicle cupcakes; cupcakes paired with wine (okay, a quick detour into Chubby Town: banana cake/peanut buttercream/shaved chocolate paired with Beaujolais.  Prepare to have your mind blown).

(Sorry about that Bubba-Gump-esque diatribe about cupcakes; I’m done, I promise.)

Anyway.  Much in the way that delicious cupcake combinations draw on inspiration from other dishes, salads can be interesting, a culinary delight in a bowl.  For example:

The Pizza Salad!  The pizza salad is not quite the comforting, carbohydrate-coma-inducing experience that actual pizza is.  It is, however, delicious.  Consider the veggies you like on pizza: spinach, basil, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, red peppers, olives, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, fennel…(okay that’s enough).  Throw your choice toppings on a bed of romaine, toss with a little tomato-basil vinaigrette, tofu ricotta or grated soy cheese, and croutons (or toasted bread.  Pizza needs crust), and top with a dribble of vegan ranch and red pepper flakes (for an authentic pizza experience).

Kind of like this?

The Stir-Fried Salad!  Similar to a chicken-sesame salad, except, you know, sans chicken carcass, consider the elements of stir-fry: teriyaki tofu, snow peas, green onions, bok choy, broccoli, shaved carrot, cabbage, almonds, water chestnuts, and ginger-y dressing (for an easy one, combine rice vinegar, soy sauce, ground ginger, agave, and sesame oil).  Put it on a bed of greens, and voila! (Is my salad-pushing beginning to remind you of the Slap Chop guy?  I’m sorry.  I assure you that I have neither a coke problem nor a tendency to beat sex industry workers.  As far as I know).

The Chicken Dijon Salad!   I’m not a huge proponent of mock meats, but I support the use of TJ’s Chick’n Strips (or Gardein) in this recipe (if you’re opposed, marinated tofu would make a fine substitute).  Sautee the strips in garlic and serve on a bed of butter lettuce with tomato, thinly sliced shallots, blanched green beans, and heirloom tomato.  Make a Dijon vinaigrette by whisking together Dijon mustard, olive oil, white balsamic vinegar, agave, tarragon, salt, and white pepper.

Indian Curry Salad! When you go to an Indian restaurant, what do you order (besides samosas and IPA)?  If you have a soul, the answer is probably chana masala and aloo palak.  Toss chickpeas with boiled potatoes, and finely chopped tomatoes and onions.  Make a tangy, creamy dressing with vegenaise, lemon juice, garlic, ginger, salt, cumin, garam masala, and coriander (for heat, add some cayenne).  Serve this creamy dream on a bed of spinach (bonus if it’s warm and causes the spinach to wilt a little).

Maybe these aren’t the 40-calorie salads prescribed by sadistic weight-loss programs, but they are the sorts of salads that you actually enjoy.  And in the end, isn’t enjoying a dish full of vegetable goodness more fulfilling than losing five vanity pounds?

(Narcissists: please don’t answer that question.)

My Standard “So You’re Going Vegan” Spiel

Since it’s the new year full of new starts and resolutions and hopes and dreams and hangovers, many people tend to transition to veganism around this time of year (including me, initially, in 2003 – for about a week before I failed miserably and tried again in a few months). I thought that my lengthy tirade about just how the hell to do it would be appropriate and hopefully help a couple folks out.

I majored in nutrition and food science, so my friends that go vegan often come to me first when they have questions about how the hell to do this giant life change. First, I congratulate them and teach them the secret vegan handshake, then write them novels like this on what it’s all about (mostly, though not entirely, the hokey pokey). Veganism is a pretty big deal in that it changes aspects of your life you’ve never even considered before and makes you a much bigger pain in the ass to your friends and family. You will also get really good at reading ingredient labels, answering questions about whether or not you eat honey, and lecturing fools on just how much more healthy protein you get in your diet than they do.

this was for a friend that had specific questions about protein, energy levels, and weight gain.

*disclaimer – though i did get my degree in nutrition and food science, i’m not an RD and these are my (relatively well-informed) opinions and what i’ve found works for me*

-ease into it. if you haven’t already, start slowly transitioning more and more meals to be veggie. the first time i tried vegan i dove into it headfirst and didn’t last a month. a few months later i had begun eliminating dairy and egg from my diet (i was already vegetarian for a long time) and it was much easier. if you start slow, and build up, say give yourself a month or so, it’s easier to do than doing all at once. at least, it was for me.

-protein is NOT going to be a problem, seriously. if one more person asks me where i get my protein i’m going to start biting them. most americans get WAY too much protein anyway and it’s bad for your kidneys. as long as you’re not eating just fries and chips and bread (the most wonderful things in the world, of course), you’ll be fine. it just takes healthy eating and a little foresight, which everybody should be doing anyway. I highly recommend using this site: http://www.choosemyplate.gov/ it’s a good diet tracker, and gives you an idea of how each plate should look. i used it all the time when i was studying and teaching nutrition. easy ways to make sure you’re getting enough protein:

  • BEANS. seriously. they are your best friend. i always have like, four cans of garbanzos in my pantry.
  • nuts. not too many, because it’s easy to eat like 2 cups of them in one serving and realize you’ve just consumed all your fat for the day, but peanut butter is awesome and a really good source of healthy fats.
  • whole grains. i eat almost exclusively whole grains – breads, brown rice, whole grain pasta, quinoa, etc. and avoid white bread where i can. much higher in protein than the bleached stuff and better for you in general – vitamin, fiber, energy, and calorie-wise.
  • dairy alternatives like soymilk and soy yogurt. i eat a lot of soy so i try to limit it to one or two meals a day instead of all three and use unsweetened vanilla almond milk by Blue Diamond (everyone’s favorite, you can get it at trader joe’s) on my cereal. but i’m not so much concerned about it being soy as eating too much of one thing. these are also good sources of calcium.
  • our bffs, tempeh, tofu, seitan, and veggie meats like Gardein. learn how to work with all of them. tofu needs to be pressed to not be soggy, tempeh needs to be steamed to get the bitterness out, and seitan can be kind of rubbery. gardein is awesomely meatlike. i use it maybe twice a week or so at the most – i don’t use that many veggie meats too often anymore.

-energy levels shouldn’t be a problem. if you’re eating more fruits and veggies, which you definitely will be, and especially whole grains, you’ll have more energy. exercise is of course super important for that too.

-weight gain? i can pretty much guarantee you’ll lose weight. i lost a good 15 pounds in my first few months of being vegan, and another 30 over the next year or so. and kept it off…mostly, haha. But yeah, you’re going to be eating way less saturated fat and much, much more fiber (get ready to poop at least 3 times a day), so you’ll probably lose weight pretty rapidly. again, if you’re eating like shit and surviving on potato chips and pasta you won’t lose weight, but you’d get sick of that real quick.

-on a side note, you don’t need a lot of supplements. vegans really only need to supplement their diets with B12 (since it doesn’t exist in a vegan diet except for small amounts in nutritional yeast, which is a delicious cheddary cheezy powder that is awesome), calcium (which all women should be taking anyway), and a good omega-3, -6, and -9 fat supplement (most people just need an omega-3 since they get plenty of -6 and -9 in their diets, but vegans need a little extra. helps me a lot with PMS and stuff). i take a cheap multivitamin just to cover my bases on the B vitamins, and since i was a little low in D last time i got a physical. but calcium and an omega fat blend, a teaspoon or two of that oil a day, and that’s it. tastes nasty but goes down easy with OJ or in a smoothie.
i would recommend getting some vegan cookbooks. being vegan means that you’re going to have to cook for yourself a lot, and you’ll enjoy it, too, because it’s so rewarding and gives you a lot more variety than just sticking another Dr. Praeger veggie burger on the george foreman every night (though i fucking love those burgers). my favorite, and every vegan’s favorite author is Isa Chandra Moskowitz. her blog has awesome recipes on it, and links to all her books:

http://www.theppk.com/

Every single one of them is worthwhile. my copy of vegan cupcakes take over the world is covered in stains because i use it all the damned time. i recently got her Appetite for Reduction book, which is low-fat vegan cooking, and have been very impressed with it. the baked falafel, cajun bean balls with cajun spaghetti, baked onion rings, and almost everything else in there have been fantastic save for one or two duds. Veganomicon is great to have because I use it more as a reference. it’s got guides in the front section on how to roast, grill, etc. almost any veggie, prepare any grain, soak any bean, and it’s awesome. veggies are your new best friends – you’ll be inhaling kale, broccoli, and collard greens like they’re air. (which, again, will help boost energy levels and lead to weight loss!) the recipes in there are sometimes a little involved but they’re all winners. the chickpea cutlets are the fucking BOMB. and Vegan Brunch is great for impressing your friends and making them all sleepy full of greasy delicious hash browns and tofu omelettes and coffee cake.

there are a buttload of blogs and forums out there too. vegweb.com is great for whenever you want a basic recipe to go from for a particular food.

I know that’s a novel, but i really get excited when people tell me they’re going vegan…it’s such a great thing to do for yourself, and for the planet. it definitely works for me.

Some Like it Raw, Day 3: A Near-Death Experience

I drank kombucha today. This sounds like a prosaic report to make, since hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of Americans drink kombucha every day. Having now tasted it, this abundance of kombucha drinkers sounds like a worrying social problem —situated somewhere between poverty and girls who insist on wearing Uggs.

I never drank kombucha prior to today because it is entrenched in my psyche as a byproduct of new age spirituality, and I avoid new age spirituality the same way I avoid weeping sores. Stores that sell crystals, men who speak at length about their mastery of tantra, middle-aged women with dyed black hair and tattooed eyeliner named Raven: in my mind, they all perfectly represent new age, and they make me uncomfortable. I bet they drink kombucha.

It wasn’t hate at first sip: initially, I thought, “Oh my! A beverage concocted to taste like pickle juice. Delightful!” I didn’t even mind when stray chunks of ginger slipped into my mouth, or that the pungent flavor caused me to spasmodically shudder with every swallow.

So I guess my sudden turn on kombucha is my fault, because it resulted from incompetence: I inhaled it. You would think, at age 26, I would be capable of controlling my ingestion mechanisms. But no. I inhaled it. And let me tell you: inhaling that vinegar drink made my nose burn, and my eyes water, and my lungs quiver, and my life flash before me–which ended with the epitaph: “Here lies Crystal. She accidentally drowned in kombucha, less than twenty-four hours before being reunited with her lifelong love, the mashed potato.” Cruel fate!

There is little else to add about my diet today; it’s hard to feel inspired to comment when all I ate were salads. How much can one say about lettuce, anyway? “It’s crunchy” “It’s fibrous” “It’s stupid and no one likes it” (take that, lettuce!).

So the detox is over, and if my tummy weren’t full of raw collard green (used in place of tortilla in a wrap; this technique is only recommended if you share the same digestive system as cattle), I would run to my fridge and undo any potential benefits I may have reaped from this cleanse. I probably wouldn’t do a detox like this again, mostly because I feel more –toxed than de-. Abrupt diet changes are generally inadvisable, and I’ve realized that if I want to amend my habits (which I grudgingly admit may not be the worst idea; the secretaries at my work incessantly remind me that my vending machine habit will someday catch up with my ass), it would probably be better in smaller doses.

Like carrots in carrot cake.

<3

Some Like it Raw, Day Two: Lettuce Rock

I began my morning with another chocolate shake.  I am not even upset that it restored my previously eradicated food baby; after all, food babies are the reason that the good lord (or some merciful fashion designer) invented fluffy skirts.

But now it’s 11:15 a.m. and I’m feeling a bit peckish.  I think I’ll eat…

???

A giant bowl of mustard.

Oddly enough, this baby-food-esque puree not only looks like mustard; it has a fermented, vinegary flavor that is reminiscent of mustard.  But it isn’t mustard.  It purportedly does not even contain mustard (I remain skeptical).  It’s corn chowder, “slightly spicy with cilantro and cayenne”, but I do not taste spicy.  Well, unless you count the overwhelming flavor of fermentation that causes a numbing sensation with every bite. Hm.  Every day brings new knowledge: paresthesia inducement is a property I had never previously attributed to corn.

11:36 a.m.: Why am I still eating this?  It’s like baby food for a less discerning palate.  I guess it’s mostly because I miss the gooey foods that I consumed with reckless abandon just 48 short hours ago.  Like burrito fillings.  And cake batter.

The first time I ever went to a raw restaurant, it was with an omnivore.  He ordered lasagna, and winced when a cold plate of raw squash was brought to him.  “But there aren’t any noodles!” he pouted.  “And it’s like…cold.”  “Yeah dude,” I responded, filled with smug faux wisdom.  “It’s raw, what did you expect?  All raw food is like salads.  Like, creatively constructed salads, you know?”

But in retrospect, I was wrong.  Sometimes, a fermented bowl of puree is placed before you, and it is perfectly reasonable to pout about it.

12:45: kale salad time!  This is the most normal-looking dish in the detox plan thus far: kale, tomatoes, sprouted wild rice, pickled cabbage, mung beans, and pureed avocado moonlighting as creamy dressing (it’s as brilliant as it sounds).  Despite a tinge of fermentation, the flavors are well married.  The kale is hearty without being indigestible, and I chomp it with gusto.  It’s like my teeth were never semi-retired (they’re the Michael Jordan of the digestive process!).  I do have an inclination to pour an ocean’s worth of salt on top of this salad, but I refrain: besides (presumably) being against detox rules, over-salting falls under the purview of “bad habits from which I am taking a break”.  But seriously.  It needs salt.

All of these fermented foods has left me wondering if Leaf Cuisine is trying to get me drunk (if so: that’s nice of them).  After considering Leaf’s potentially nefarious plot to intoxicate strangers versus the raw food agenda, I realize that this is probably a way to circumvent cooking.  Now I’m even more confused.  Did a group of raw vegans convene and conclude, “Hey, we’ll just use this here bacteria to break down these here molecules, and then we won’t need concentrated heat application!”  Because molecular breakdown is molecular breakdown, you know?  And isn’t avoidance of molecular breakdown like, the thesis of raw foodism?

Eh.  I’m sure they have their reasons.  I just wish it were kept away from my precious, precious kale.

Since food is permissible today, I’m not quite as overwhelmed with the urge to throw it all away and become a fast food bandit.  But this junk food deprivation is beginning to cause hallucinations: the letters “t-a-c-o” hover before me when I close my eyes; the aroma of apple pie haunts my senses; I begin to experience phantom cookie dough syndrome, which is sort of like phantom limb pain, but more delicious.

Anyway.  It’s 5:30 p.m., and my condition quickly deteriorates to a debilitating nausea: I feel like I’m going to vomit mulch.  In the back of my mind, a voice gently reminds me: Taco Bell would never forsake me this way.

I get home, feign wellness long enough cuddle my dog, and proceed to lay in the fetal position for twenty minutes. I pop a Tums.  Tums aren’t part of the detox deal, but feeling awful because my body doesn’t know how to process salads isn’t, either.  My digestive rebellion subsides.

Time for another salad.

The Caesar salad (romaine, “crawtons”, tomatoes and Caesar dressing) settles my stomach a little more, presumably because it contains fat.  It also contains the aforementioned crawtons, a substance of truly incomprehensible composition.  It tastes like TVP chunks that have been partially rehydrated: salty, spongy—meaty? I have no idea how to describe them, but my dog enjoyed them.  Of course, she also eats fertilizer.

Who, me?

Day Two is over and I am 66.666666666666…% of the way through this all-too-fibrous experiment. I’m ready to designate waffles as a raw food group (I mean, pizza can be categorized a vegetable! With sufficient lobbyist muscle, anything is possible) and cry chlorophyll tears.  But I’ll persist!

Waffles 2012!

Tomorrow:  Installment 3 of 3 (Otherwise known as salvation.)

Some Like it Raw, Day One: No Chewing Allowed

Every morning, I stand before my mirror, facing profile, and assess how many months pregnant I look (no paternity tests needed: Food, you are the father).  This morning, my guess is about eight weeks (which is to say, my food-baby bump would only be visible to those thoroughly acquainted with my torso).  Since I’m going on a liquid fast for the day, I anticipate it will shrink over the next 24 hours.  At least, it had better, or I will contact Groupon and self-righteously demand a refund.

So.  First on the prescribed detox menu is the Got Greens drink, which is a blend of celery, spinach, kale and cucumber juices.  Those are some of my favorite green foods!  It doesn’t sound disgusting, despite resemblng Slimer’s ectoplasmic residue in Ghostbusters. And I am delighted to report that, indeed, it is not disgusting!  It tastes like water flavored with essences of celery and grass, which is actually better than it sounds when you know you have no other options.

Meals for the day. In the world of food porn, this is a fetish.

20% through this green concoction, and my stomach is beginning to feel like I swallowed a bottle of multivitamins without food.  I don’t think it comprehends today’s objective.

Two hours later.  I have only drunk about 80% of my juice.  HOW MANY OUNCES WERE HIDING IN THAT CUP?

Two hours and ten minutes later (around 11:00 a.m.): I’m finished!  But now that I have no edibles to put in my mouth, I sort of miss it.  Oh well; I did just drink my weight in kale juice. That’s more than most accomplish in an average morning.

An hour has passed.  It is noon, and I am ravenous.  I have an urge to go on a rampage, wherein I crawl through every Del Taco drive-thru window in a six-mile radius and demand they surrender all of their French fries to me.  But instead, I walk to my office kitchen and retrieve my Veggie Combo juice (carrot, celery, beet, and kale) from the refrigerator.  My boss saunters in and inquires what the hell I am drinking (he’s British, so when he swears at me it’s charming).  I tell him about my dietary plan, which elicits an eyeroll.  He decides that I am actually drinking blood.  Evidently, blood tastes very strongly of beets.

The drink isn’t bad (I like beets just as well as the next kid who grew up watching Doug), but it could definitely benefit from some vegan Worcestershire sauce.  And a celery stalk.  And vodka.

Anyway, I down it…in about an hour and a half, which is significantly rapider than the previous beverage.  Despite my increasing ability to power-chug juices, I feel about as sluggish as I would on any other day that I skip my morning espresso-chased-with-Diet Dr. Pepper-followed-by-green-tea.

It’s now 3:00 p.m., and I am growing certain that I am slowly wasting away from starvation, so I turn to the beverage I have been dreading most: Druids [sic?] Detox, which contains burdock root, lemon, apple, ginger, agave and cayenne.  Most of the ingredients sound palatable; cayenne is a bit questionable, and burdock root—I don’t have any preconceived notions about that, actually.  Apparently, burdock is a biennial thistle that moth larvae like to eat, and it has numerous medicinal applications. Hm.  I wonder if that’s the ingredient that lends a woodsy odor to my drink.

I take a tentative swallow.  It is not delicious.  My stomach growls.  I hold my breath and take another sip: consumed in this way, it tastes like lemonade with a curious afterburn.  Not bad!

I finish it, and in record time (twenty minutes!), but I can’t help but suspect that druids had strange tastebuds, or lacked olfactory bulbs (perhaps that anatomical feature evolved later, or was bestowed upon the human race by Stonehenge aliens).  Or maybe druids were just starving and ate everything.  (I can relate.)

As my work day comes to a close, I don’t think I can definitively declare that I’m more alert and energetic, or that my mood has been elevated, as a result of raw food alchemy.  But I will say this: it is a miracle that I have gone this long without eating and have not yet experienced the urge to strangle someone.

I get home and manage to clean my kitchen for ten whole minutes (this is practically a record) before tearing into my final drink of the day: Chocolate High Fiber Smoothie (cacao, banana, nut mylk—P.S.: they made me spell it that way—chia seeds, and dates).  Every time I considered throwing a Hail Mary today, I remembered that I got to have a chocolate milkshake for dinner, and I was sated.  It was worth the wait: wondrous, chocolate-banana sludge. I devoured it thusly:

Step 1: Vanna White that shiz.

Step 2: Chug with the enthusiasm of a hazed sorority rush.

Step 3: I'm a lady.

Day One of this detox is over (therefore, I am 33.333333333333333333…% on my way to Thanksgiving feasting!).  My boss thinks I’m a vampire, I’ve considered robbing multiple Del Tacos of their French fries, and I had a milkshake for dinner.

Not bad, all things considered.  But I wonder if I’m going to sleepwalk to my refrigerator in the middle of the night to ravage a burrito.  Only time will tell!

Tomorrow: Installment 2 of 3 (now with solid foods!).

Some Like it Raw: The Preamble

I’m not exactly what one would consider health-conscious: I could spend my days floating on a lazy river filled with melted Earth Balance, devouring cookies faster than the Cookie Monster and slathering aioli on everything, including exposed areas on my body, and be quite satisfied (and my skin would be so supple!).

This is not to say that I am not health aware; I have a basic understanding of health principles, and when forced, I’m capable of eating salads and otherwise competently monitoring my nutrition.  But most of the time, I’m a “takes her multivitamins with a swig of beer”-type girl.

My awareness of basic nutritional tenets makes me wary of cleansing diets. It’s just a fancy title for a crash diet; you only lose water weight (and that is what Diurex is for—well, that and peeing the color of Windex, which is an excellent conversation starter in the ladies’ room); and cleanse-diet shillers often utilize marketing terms that make my skin crawl, like “detox” and “probiotic”.

It’s all so GOOP, you know?  This is the sort of approach people take in an attempt to emulate Gwenyth Paltrow.  I don’t hate Ms. Paltrow (she’s a convincing actress in the right part, and has surprisingly extensive knowledge of good hip-hop), but I don’t aspire to her waify build.  She looks great, but I could stop eating entirely and never attain her BMI.  Plus, who would want to give up eating?  There is a lot of [vegan]pizza in this world, and I’ve devoted my life to ensuring that it all finds a proper home.  In my tummy.

So many pizzas, so little time.

Also, if Sir Mix-a-Lot is to be believed, a little jiggle can be a good thing.  And when it comes to muffin top, everyone knows that the top is the best part of the muffin, anyway.  Right?  Right.  I’m comfortable with the amount of fat on my body (usually), and even when I’m not, no one wants to hear the petite girl whine about her genetically regrettable birthing hips. So I generally shy away from weight loss regimens of any kind, but especially ones that prohibit me from eating cookies.

Somehow, I’ve still duped myself into purchasing a “detox” cleanse from Leaf Organics (I’m blaming Groupon).  It’s a three-day dietary program consisting of raw juices and raw salads, and touts the ability to “cleanse, detox, lose weight, increase alertness and mood”.  Its promises have the familiar ring of overpriced skin serums at Sephora (tighten pores!  eliminate wrinkles! attract Ryan Gosling!), and I do not expect it to fulfill all of them.  But having been to Leaf in the past, I know that it is possible eat worse things than their salads for three days (I have, for example, been on the Taco Bell diet before, and the results weren’t pretty).

Still, willfully adopting this regimen is out of character for a number of reasons, some of which are outlined above, and not least of which is that chewing is one of my favorite activities–and Day One of the cleanse is all-liquid.  I’ve considered liquid diets before, but I’m usually idly wondering about the feasibility of subsisting entirely on pumpkin spice lattes and multivitamins, or deriving all of my nutrients from beer.  Speaking of: no beer (or wine, or scotch, or other adult beverage) is permissible for the duration of the diet.  My liver is going to be so bored for the next three days.

But I have resolved to go through with this: I want take a break from my questionable dietary habits.  I’m curious how I would feel if I did not consume fried foods on a regular basis.  And if nothing else, I will devour fat-soaked carbohydrates on Thanksgiving with cataclysmic delight.

Goodbye, miracle emulsion.

Hello, fridge full of nonalcoholic liquids.

So! Coming tomorrow: Installment 1 of 3.

The Blue Dog Cafe: Inebriety, Pet Obesity, Mediocrity (But Still…Pretty All Right.)

So, how long have you been vegan? is often asked of me.

The most accurate answer I can give to this question is, “Oh, since high school, so I guess about…[count on fingers]…nine years.  Nine years?  Jesus.  Nine years.”

But the most honest answer to this question is: “Too fucking long.  Really.”

Don’t get me wrong: I love being vegan.  I love what I cook, I love what I bake, I love that I can look upon fields of grazing cattle and squeal at their cuteness and anthropomorphize them and never have to think, “Hey, I eat you.” I also love that I can maintain a healthy weight while eating (vegan) pizza with (vegan) ranch dressing at least twice a week.  The perks of a vegan diet vastly outweigh the detriments, and even though it has been too fucking long, really, since a devilled egg (or a similarly cholesterol-laden food item) has crossed my lips, I don’t look back on any of these herbivorous years with regret.

Part of being a vegan old-timer is that I remember how things were, and reminiscing about that is liable to invoke “back in my day” speeches not unlike those your metaphorical grandfather would tell you about walking shoeless in the snow whilst defying natural law (really, grandpa, I know I was four years old but I wasn’t stupid enough to completely disregard Newtonian physics).  And let me tell you: back in my day, soy cheese was scarce, and it was rock-hard and crumbly, and it tasted like the plastic in which it was packaged.  Vegenaise was a twinkle in a food scientist’s eye.  Soymilk tasted like soy (ever thought about blending a block of silken with water and then using it to douse your cereal?  No, because that sounds disgusting? Well.  That’s what it tasted like).

I suppose part of this can be explained because I cut my teeth on veganism in the Inland Empire, where vegan options are rarer (although: Baker’s continues to be an IE-exclusive phenomenon.  And I’m calling Baker’s a phenomenon because it is phenomenal: salty-to-the-point-of-hypertension TVP tacos, and fries, and from a drive-thru?  Be still, my heart!),

(No, don’t really do that, heart; I’ll do some cardio soon, I promise.)

So, when I first made the vegan conversion as a gastronomically clueless 17-year-old, my newfound vegan diet consisted of…bread.  Sometimes the bread was spread with barbecue sauce, since it was the one condiment I trusted.  After several weeks of severe fatigue, Clif bars were added to my dietary regimen (don’t ask me where, oh, fruit and vegetables were at that time; that much common sense eluded me).

And forget about restaurants.  Vegan options were usually limited to French fries and iceberg lettuce “salads” without dressing.  I was probably vegan for two full years before I ever saw a specifically vegan item on an omnivorous restaurant menu, and regardless of what that item was, I ordered it (it’s just a giant mushroom? Mushrooms are fungus and that is gross? Fuck it, it’s vegan!). Which brings me to the topic at hand: Blue Dog Café.

 

Blue Dog Café is sort of a gastropub.  They have burgers, a couple of non-burger sandwiches, a lackluster vegan menu, and beer. I say that it’s “sort of a gastropub” because really, calling a burgers-and-beer joint a gastropub feels inaccurate; there is nothing gastronomically innovative about pairing greasy finger foods with beer.

Anyway, they have a lot of beer.  And it’s well selected.  Their beer list consists largely of brews that cause you to exclaim, “Hey, they have _____!  That’s my jam!”  (Well, maybe you don’t exclaim “that’s my jam”, because you are not a dorky white girl with a seven-year lag on colloquial trends.  But you know what I mean).  They have Old Rasputin on tap.  They have Raging Bitch in the bottle.  They have a plethora of other beers that I have never tried, because I am a creature of habit and Flying Dog Brewing Company is a rare sight in a bar, or a restaurant, or an establishment that is not my apartment.

Just like me.

Basically: you do not go to Blue Dog for the food.

Actually, that isn’t true: an omnivore probably would.  Having been accompanied by a meat-eater to this joint, it’s clear that Blue Dog makes some crazy-decadent, likely-exceeding-1,500 calories-per-entrée burgers.  But for us vegans, beer is the main draw.  Because Blue Dog’s vegan options are reminiscent of vegan fare of yesteryear: the “vegan special” amounts to a hummus sandwich.  It’s pretty tasty: toasted multigrain bread, a generous spread of silky hummus, tomatoes, fresh basil, and (sometimes) avocado.  But—it’s a hummus sandwich.  On the scale of culinary creativity, it ranks somewhere between a Subway Veggie Delite and, I don’t know—something that I would actually be excited to eat.

Ooh yeah, give it to me, baby.

They also have a vegan chili I have yet to try, and some of the most glorious fries in the Valley (hand cut; fried in peanut oil; oh my god), and if you’re into commingling the foods on your plate, they offer chili fries.

Here's a close up of them fries.

I believe there is a “spa” salad, but since I’ve never been inclined to pair rabbit food with my beer, I’ve only given it a cursory “Oh hi we’re both vegan so it’s nice to make your acquaintance” glance.

I hope this review does not seem excessively critical.  I am delighted that there are establishments in the Valley that have explicitly vegan, non-sketchy (oh, hello, questionable meat at every Thai vegan place ever) options, and beer, and my dog is welcomed.

 

Translation: Fur babies welcomed.

Did I forget to mention that tidbit?  It isn’t called Blue Dog for no reason: pictures of pups adorn the walls, which provokes a litany of squeals every time I enter.  And they allow dogs to chill on the patio while their owners get appropriately soused, which means that on nice days, my spoiled fur baby can accompany me on my descent into afternoon alcoholism while I feed her inadvisable quantities of fries (I sometimes feel like the unfit parent of an obese child on a daytime talk show who rationalizes overfeeding their offspring with the proclamation that “THEY’RE HUNGRY!”).

Like mother...

...like daughter.

There is little else to add to my review of this place (the music is okay, sometimes: on a good day they play Otis Redding, but it more than likely will be circa-Blue Album Weezer–not the worst auditory fate but I’ve been over Blue Album since Rivers stopped being bone-able; the servers range from being genuinely nice to oddly unfriendly; the clientele ranges from cool-ish to “I am silently judging you”).  I did manage to embarrass myself in front of some actor the last time I went: the actor, who is moderately famous, but whose name I don’t know–essentially Katherine Heigl with a penis–walked directly into a drunken impromptu photoshoot of me and my dog, in which my pup refused to reciprocate my affections (bitch!).

Luckily, all of my dignity had been (blessedly) exhausted long before this occurrence.

So anyway, if you have a dog, and/or you emphatically appreciate hummus and/or beer, and/or you are irrationally excited by lukewarm actor sightings, Blue Dog Cafe is worth going to.   If not: eh.  At least you won’t be there to call me out on contributing to my dog’s weight problem.

She's just big boned.

Product Review: Delicious Delights by The Marvelous Food Company

If you must avoid gluten because you have a genuine sensitivity to it or celiac disease, my heart goes out to you. If you’re one of the many people avoiding it because it’s trendy, you’re ridiculous and easily influenced because bread rules. It is because bread rules so hard that my heart goes out to those that must do without the wondrous protein composite that is gluten. I know I love me some seitan and other gluten-y veggie meat products, and my baking forays into the gluten-free world have been less than successful – though many such as The Sensitive Baker do it like it ain’t no thang. And not using eggs to do so is tough!

Enter The Marvelous Food Company. They’re a small mom-and-pop owned bakery that has a really heartwarming startup story. Their products contain a ton of fruit and veggies in prepackaged single serving portions, so I didn’t feel too guilty scarfing them down after a workout-induced hypoglycemic event. The first thing I noticed, though, when reading the ingredients was a pretty huge, glaring error. The products are touted as all vegan on their site. The first ingredient in the chocolate mini-muffins, and the second in the chewy ginger cookies, is honey. I personally eat honey if it’s in small amounts of products I like, but by the strictest definition of the word, honey is not vegan, so they’d better change that right away…or switch to something like agave or Just Like Honey. My advice? Just change it to say allergen-free. Vegan is a whole other thing to be guaranteeing people, and honey is definitely not vegan. Claiming something’s vegan when it is NOT is a way to get a whole bunch of people really mad at you (see: Vegan Supreme Marshmallows, and a million other things over the years).

On to the products themselves. They currently come packaged in these little golden tetrahedral pouches, and are recommended served chilled.

delightful indeed.

 

Unconventional and maybe a little wonky, but for a startup it’s more than understandable. (It is BEYOND DIFFICULT to get a company going these days, let alone one that makes food, so I hand it to them for even figuring out how to package their product in general.)

I was a little leery of the ingredients listing so many fruits and veggies and claiming to be so nutritious…and a little more so when I took the cookies and muffins out of their bags. Not particularly visually stimulating, but hey, that’s the way of the gluten-free for you.

chewy gingerbread cookies doin' the nast

 

I scarfed down a couple of the cookies, and was impressed. The texture was indeed chewy, and with a really nice spice level and sweet tang. I continued on with the little chocolate mini-muffins (they were stuck together, cowering in fear I bet)…

choco mini-muffin pile

 

These babies were delicious too. Aptly named, huh? The verdict: if you’re gluten-intolerant and looking for something sweet AND nutrient-dense, get yourself some Delicious Delights from the Marvelous Food Co. I can’t say that I’d seek these out myself, and they aren’t technically vegan if you don’t eat honey. But considering the massive hurdles in making gluten-free baked goods palatable (I mean, have you SEEN what babycakes tries to pass off as donuts? Atrocious!), I applaud what they’ve been able to accomplish, and with such a healthy roster of ingredients. These are great for those mamas and papas of GF families that want appropriate portions of gluten-free foods with an added health benefit.

…I am none of those things, so I probably won’t be getting them again.