Archive for November, 2011

Quinoa

Quinoa is a remarkable food.  There has been a lot of buzz out there about quinoa, but not very many really good recipes.  It’s grainy, like chopped rice, and pretty bland.  I haven’t found a way to make it that has convinced my kids to eat it.  However, I took the following recipe to a luncheon at work, and it was a big hit.  It’s from the cookbook 150 Vegan Favorites by Jay Solomon.

 

I like Solomon’s book because it uses ingredients that I can buy at the grocery store.  I rarely have to make a trip anywhere but Publix to get everything I need.  Other cookbooks incorporate exotic ingredients that make shopping a pain.  But, this one doesn’t.  Another thing about the book that I find helpful since I am a vegan novice is the description of different rices and grains.  This thumbnail reference has given me the courage to branch out a little and shop like a pro.  The only thing the book is missing is pictures.

I’ve paraphrased a little here and there, but here’s one of my favorites from Solomon’s book:

 

Confetti Quinoa Salad

1 cup quinoa, rinsed

2 cups water

1 can red kidney beans, rinsed

4 whole scallions, trimmed and chopped

1 red pepper, seeded and diced

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced

1 can corn, drained

2 tablespoons canola oil

2 tablespoons fresh parsley

½ teaspoon black pepper

½ teaspoon salt

2 limes

Boil the quinoa in the water for 15-18 minutes

Meanwhile mix all the other ingredients except for the lime in a medium mixing bowl. Stir in the cooked quinoa and the juice of one of the limes.

Serve warm or after refrigerating. Squeeze the remaining lime over the salad immediately before serving.

 

The Office Party

So, today was our office “Holiday Party,” a Thanksgiving/Christmas combo designed to celebrate all the winter holidays in one fell swoop.  Although I’m happy for an opportunity to eat cornbread pancakes and peach cobbler for lunch, I’m left wondering if a meal is the same as a party.  If you’re like me and you’re careful about the food you eat, you don’t want to waste your junk food allotment on food you don’t really love.  And, if you’re like most of us, you think office parties are pretty lame (at least the ones with no alcohol!)  How can you make it through?

  1. My first suggestion is to schedule an appointment for the day of the party.  You have a good excuse not to eat or attend a lame celebration.  Today’s party at my office was artfully unattended by my friend who was interviewing for another position at a different company.  Nice one!
  2. Or, you could follow the example of my other friend who notified party planners early on that the menu would ruin her diet and, consequently, she would not be attending.

However, both of these friends have met with repercussions.  The first has not been spoken to in 4 hours.  The second has been talked about behind her back for 2 weeks.  (Note to self:  do not talk incessantly about your diet and then put on 5 pounds.  Even people who wouldn’t have noticed before will notice now.)

I think you might prefer this:

  1.  Attend the party and draw very little attention to the food on your plate.  After all, we’re vegan-ish so most of what is being served will not jive with our lifestyle choices.  (I say vegan-ish because I’m still learning what it’s like to deny myself baked goods made with eggs and creamy stuff made with cheese.)  Fill your plate with vegetables and salad if they’re available, a roll, baked potato, the fruit filling out of a couple pieces of pie.  Almost every menu has something.  Think side dishes! And I do mean pile it on.  An empty plate will make everyone around you think you are dieting.  Nobody likes a dieter.  Dieters make other people feel guilty and uncomfortable. This is a party, for Pete’s sake.
  2. Once your plate is full, walk around with your head high, not figuratively, literally.  Look up!  When we eat we have a tendency to look at our food, and when we walk around parties, we look at other people’s plates too.  Look up!  Notice the decorations, the lights, the faces of the people around you.  Strike up a conversation.  Sip on a beverage like black coffee or tea. A drink will keep your hands busy.

 

If your parties are like ours, and I sincerely hope for better for you, there’s no dancing or singing karaoke, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have pleasant interactions with coworkers.  Food is not a party!  Repeat that to yourself.   Now, figure out what is and go find that at your next office get-together.  If you’re lucky, you’ll forget about your plate of food and get through the afternoon just fine.

 

The Pleasure Principle

Tonight for dinner I ate a Winter Apple Salad.  It was delicious, vegan, and fattening. (I’ll post the recipe separately.)  Although I usually don’t want salad on a winter night, this one is an exception.  This salad and the glass of Riesling that accompanied it, gave me real pleasure, and pleasure is my highest goal.  Pleasure in my life, and I believe in the lives of many others, is in short supply.

 Don’t get me wrong:  I’m not depressed or whiny.  I don’t have a bad life and I know I have lots to be thankful for.  But, I’m like thousands of other women out there.  I have a husband, children, step-children, a house that’s too small, a checking account that’s too shallow, and a butt that’s too wide.  All of it requires my attention, whether I like it or not.  There’s just not that much time for fun.  So, I do what many others do—I eat.  I have a special treat after the kids go to bed.  I schedule a decadent dinner for date night.  I snack to ward off anger and to fill in the time left vacant by my procrastination.  I try to keep the kids happy with pizza and soft drinks.  I make special occasions more special with food.  In short, I smear a thick coating of frosting over all the events in my life to try to make them sweeter.  In the end, the events take a backseat to the food, I’m doing even more work to keep up with my own food demands, and I’m less happy toting around extra pounds.

 I have a theory about why I struggle with my weight—I have a hard time remembering what makes me happy.  I spend a lot of my day working, cleaning, cooking, and parenting—and to some degree I love many aspects of each of them.  But, I rarely experience shear happiness.  I’m constantly bordering on broke, my (real) job is unfulfilling, and my house is a money pit.  On a scale of one to ten, my happiness hovers around a four.  I resort to the short-term happiness of food and accept along with it the long-term unhappiness of feeling fat.

 That’s why I’m trying to be vegan to achieve fitness.  I believe that as a vegan I can find true pleasure in food without bargaining away my self-esteem.  I believe that as a vegan I can live in harmony with my body and my taste buds and my summer wardrobe.  I believe that I can eat food and live in a state of pleasure-seeking like none I’ve experienced in my past dieting life.

 Here’s the Pleasure Principle:  the more pleasure I find in my life, the less I’ll require from my food.

 With that in mind, I give myself permission to be a little less conscientious about the state of my house.  I can sit down to watch a sitcom if I want.  I can put on a little more lipstick and obscenely high heels before my husband comes home from work.  I can make the kids clean up the kitchen tonight and not worry if they stack the dishes in the dishwasher badly.  I can sit on my porch and watch my pansies grow.  I can lay in my bed under my heating blanket (EMF’s be damned!) and doze off.  I can drink 2 glasses of wine on a Tuesday night as I fix dinner and try very hard to get tipsy before the kids go to bed.

I can have sex and not worry about whether or not I look fat in the dimmed light.  I can do all these things just for the pleasure of them.  And when I work up an appetite, I’ll eat more Winter Apple Salad.

 Winter Apple Salad

**This salad takes less than 10 minutes to throw together!

 Lettuce mixture (straight out of a bag works for me)

1 bell pepper of any color, chopped (I like orange or yellow because they’re milder)

½ cup toasted pecans or walnuts (see below for toasting instructions)

½ cup dried cranberries

¼ cup raspberry walnut vinaigrette

2 small apples, chopped (use 1 if it’s large)

 Toss all ingredients together in a large bowl except for the apples and vinaigrette.  Put chopped apples in a small bowl and toss with half the vinaigrette.  Mix the apples lightly with a spoon.  You want to cover the apples in the dressing so that they don’t turn brown if you have leftover salad.  Pour apples and remaining dressing over salad and serve.

 To make this recipe attractive to carnivores:  you can add chopped grilled chicken breasts and a few tablespoons of crumbled feta for the rest of your animal-eating family if you need to make this for the whole family.  We don’t need that because we’re going to get our protein from the nuts!

Toasted Pecans or Walnuts

*Nuts are just the kind of pure pleasure that your vegan-eating body will love and your dieting friends will envy.

 Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Toss 1 cup of nuts in 2 teaspoons of olive oil.  Spread on a cookie sheet in a single layer.  Place in oven for 5 minutes or until the nuts become fragrant.  Remove and season as desired with salt, spices, cinnamon and sugar, etc.

Why I’ll Never Diet Again

I used to be on a diet all the time. When I was in the second grade, I measured my thighs with a tape measure and decided I needed to go on a diet. By the time I was 14, I was taking appetite suppressants. At 15, I tried very hard to make myself vomit, but I never could make it happen. At 17, I decided to eat no fat whatsoever and abstained until I had painful stomach cramps that threatened to land me in the emergency room. Yet, I remained large. I wore a misses size 12 when I was 11 years old. At 14, I weighed 176 pounds. At 21, I still weighed 176 pounds. I resigned myself to the idea that I would always be bigger than average. Maybe, I thought, that’s just the way I was made.

But in my mid-30s I had a ground-breaking thought: My body was designed to maintain a healthy weight without my having to worry about it. God (or The Universe or Nature or whatever you want to put there) made us to work, to reproduce, to move, to eat, to live, to sleep, to heal, etc. Staying at a healthy weight should not be like having a part-time job. It should be natural. If I eat naturally, I’ll weigh what I should naturally weigh.

I resolved to eat food made in kitchens, not in laboratories. No high fructose corn syrup, no long lists of unidentifiable ingredients, nothing manufactured to sit on a store shelf for 6 months. Real food.

Then, a year later, I read the book The China Study by T. Colin Campbell. He explained that our bodies don’t need as much protein-rich foods as we think and don’t need animal protein at all. He claimed that if we eat a plant-based, whole foods diet we would never have to worry about our weight ever again. So, I tried it for 6 months. In 6 months, I lost 10 pounds, ate heartily, enjoyed my food tremendously, and exercised when I was able. I was sold.

Vegan is the way to go. However, vegan is not easy. Our society is carnivorous. Milk products are particularly hard to avoid because I like half and half in my coffee and cheese on my salads. Furthermore, my family does not share my vegan enthusiasm. Although all of my loved ones have noticed my success, not all of them are willing to follow me. Even my 9-year-old son will admit that vegan is the best way to eat, but that doesn’t keep him from getting a burger every chance he gets.

This website is devoted to exploring how to make being vegan and being fit accessible to the lone, mainstream, health-conscious, budget-strapped reformed dieter. I’m going to glean all the information I can from the people who are really good at being vegan and being fit, condense it into a usable format, stir in a healthy dose of reality for those of us that have full-time jobs that don’t include shopping at 4 different grocery stores, and serve it to my internet friends. I will never diet again because being vegan makes being on a diet unnecessary.

I will never diet again because diets are depressing. They separate you from your friends and from special occasions and from pleasure. I will never diet again because they don’t work, or at least they don’t work for long. I’m sick of always watching the scale go up or down. I’m ready to get thin and stay thin. I’m never going to diet again because skinny people don’t diet and I want to live like I’m skinny. I’m never going to diet again because God didn’t create diets. He created avocados and macadamia nuts and potatoes and grapes (for wine!), and I don’t want to miss out on any of that stuff.

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