Monday, August 9, 2010

Revamping Recipes

 A few posts back I waxed poetic about how much we loved Seitan Piccata recipe from Veganomicon.  It was so tasty.  I really like that recipe, but it uses regular potatoes for the mashed potatoes and you need to have seitan on hand to make it.  I decided to revamp this recipe using cauliflower steaks and sweet potatoes instead of russet potatoes.

Making mashed potatoes out of sweet potatoes is pretty simple: boil chopped sweet potatoes for 30-45 minutes until soft.  Drain the water.  Mash in a bowl with some almond milk and Earth Balance.  Season with salt and pepper.
To make the cauliflower steaks, I cut the head of a cauliflower parallel to the table while sitting stem down approximately an inch thick.  I don't know if that was the best approach as many of my "steaks" fell apart.  Next time I may try cutting them perpendicular to the counter to see if that works better (it may not).  I then dredged them in WWPF (whole wheat pastry flour) and fried them in oil like the Veganomicon recipe.

The whole thing turned out quite tasty.  It was nice to be able to eat a slightly healthier and easier version of this dish. 

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Asian Sensation

I've been going hiking up in the mountains on the weekends before going to the local farmers market.  I love the farmers market.  I was up hiking around the other weekend and saw this drawing on the water tower thing up there.  I thought it was pretty funny.

While at the farmers market I picked up some tasty veggies.  Among which was this enormous zucchini.  It was the size of a baby's leg!  I was looking for some fun ideas for the veggies I purchased and came across Chef Chloe's blog.  She had some fun Asian inspired meals that looked tasty and I wanted to try.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Curry Chickpea Salad

I've always enjoyed a good chicken salad back during my meat eating days.  Since becoming vegan I've eaten plenty of egg-less salads using tofu in the place of the eggs, but never made a chicken-less one.  The recipes I've found typically use tempeh, but I am getting tired of constantly using soy in my meals.  Lately I've been scaling back on those ingredients and looking around for possible replacement.  Chickpeas seemed like a good start.

I always found it funny how many names there are for chickpeas.  There's chickpea, garbanzo bean, Indian pea, and Bengal gram.  Chickpeas are also considered one of the longest cultivated vegetables in the world.  I also found out, via handy dandy Wikipedia, that India produces the most chickpeas in the world by quite a large margin.  About six times as much as the country in second place: Pakistan.  And of course, chickpeas are an excellent source of protein.  Now on to the recipe!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Sprout some Sprouts!

I don't know if it gets much more hippie-like than growing your own sprouts.  Sprouts are a great source of nutrients, are considered a superfood, and are delicious!  My fav to grow are fenugreek sprouts, primarily because the seeds are very accessible to me.  Whole Foods sells them in the bulk spice section and they are very easy to grow.  Other sprouts are delicious as well like broccoli, radish, sunflower, alfalfa, etc.  The process is pretty much the same for all these seeds, so google possible sprout choices and go to town!

The process is basically rinse and repeat until sprouts start to develop.  To start off you want to find a glass jar and a mesh lid.  It can be as elaborate or inexpensive as you want.  To make mine I got a bell jar and the tradition lid.  The lid typically is a metal disk and a ring that screws on.  I cut a piece out of some crappy nylons and then secured it to the jar with the ring, ditching the metal disk part.  This allows you to be able to drain off water without having all your seeds/sprouts escape.

Once you have your jar set and your seeds picked out, fill the bottom of the jar with seeds; I use about 2 spoonfuls for the fenugreek seeds.  Cover the seeds with water and let soak overnight.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Delicious Cookies

Mmm chocolate chip cookies!!  Normally I hate to turn on the oven during the summer.  Lately we've had non-stop 90 degree weather.  Today it got up to 93 degrees.  Tomorrow it's supposed to be 91 and Thursday it's supposed to be 94.  Ick. 

Occasionally, like today, a storm rolls through and the 90 degree weather takes a nose dive.  That day I happened to bust out quite a few meals and my bf felt bad, so he baked me some "Cowboy" cookies from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar.  These ended up huge and delicious.  Nothing beats getting delicious homemade cookies without having to bake them yourself.

If you want to give them a whirl yourself, here's the recipe.  The cookbook is awesome; I'd definitely recommend you get a copy.  The Rocky Road cookies are also very, very good.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Gray goo

Have you ever made something that looks repulsive but tastes delicious?  I think to most people my morning smoothies have a strange tinge, but are quite tasty.  The combination of green leaves, red strawberries, and blue fruit doesn't combine to some beautiful color, that's for sure.

The food I made the other night might take the cake though.  It's what I would imagine liver pate to look like...

The pic isn't great, but it's basically gray goo.  A spreadable gray goo, similar to hummus in consistency.  What makes it gray?  Mushrooms!  I'll admit when I made this recipe and peered into my food processor, I was a bit put off.  How could something that looks like that, taste good? 

Monday, July 19, 2010

Late Nights and Lentils

Last night, which was a Sunday no less, I drove an hour up to my place of business to have a teleconference with a person I'm training in India.  I was at the office from 9:15-midnight and didn't get home until 1am.  It's amazing all the things that are different when you don't follow your usual routine.

For example, it usually only takes about 45 minutes to get there and back on a normal day.  There's never much traffic, but the distance is far.  Last night however, I failed to take into consideration that they do all the roadwork construction at night.  Luckily for me, I missed it going in to work, but I was significantly slowed down coming home, despite the late hour.  I'm impressed by those construction workers laying pavement at 1 am.

Additionally, the on ramp to the highway up at my office was closed, which meant I had to drive on a frontage road for a bit before I could get back on.  Driving on a frontage road is scary because you never know what sort of creature is going to pop out and scare the crap out of you.  I saw a couple of little dark creatures (like the size of a gerbil) dart across the road and a raccoon who shrank back when my lights blared it in the eyes.  It definitely had me freaked about a potential deer encounter.

Once I got to the office, I found that the normal entrance I drive through was padlocked closed.  I was a little concerned, but I'm still good on time, so I try the second gate.  This one is closed too.  Now I'm starting to freak out, because if I can't get in I'm basically going to have to turn around and go home, waste a night, and have no way to easily let my counterpart in India know what happened until an hour after I miss the start of the meeting.

Friday, July 16, 2010

When good things go bad

Today was a kitchen experiment disaster.  They don't happen too frequently, but when they do, it's a doozy.  I hate throwing out food, especially when I know I like some of the ingredients by themselves, but sometimes the concoction is so repulsive you just have to dump it. 

Recently I was gifted with a Vitamix, and I love it.  It can make smoothies in about a minute, which is awesome.  I've been drinking a smoothie of some sort almost every morning.  We were at the farmer's market last weekend and I picked up this lovely bunch of organic rainbow chard.  It was so pretty.  During the past week, I've been dumping some into my smoothie with the rest of the more fruity ingredients with much success.  It's an easy way to get more leafy greens in my diet without having to chow down on salad all the time.

At my regular grocery they had some of the greens on sale, so I wanted to pick up some more.  I've never had mustard greens before, so I grabbed a bunch.  Figuring they'd be like kale, spinach, chard, etc., this morning I put a bunch of leaves into my smoothie.  Big mistake.


Wednesday, July 14, 2010

It's getting hot in here...

The temp is at 95F right now and it's hot.  I've had to run later in the morning the past couple of days due to early morning meetings with people in India, and this morning was a struggle.  Even my podcast talking about Voodoo wasn't enough to distract me from my dying in the heat (did you know that the slave uprising in Haiti in the 1791 was the only successful slave revolt?!).  I was so hot while running that I was panting like crazy, not all that different than my pup running with me. :)

Unfortunately the temperature isn't going to let up any time soon, 89 tomorrow, 90 on Thursday...blech.  Maybe I'll be able to hit the pool after work one of these days.  Until then I'll have to enjoy my green smoothie and carry my little blue fan around with me in the house.

It's days like this where I don't want to be turning on the oven or spending a bunch of time over a hot stove.  Quick, healthy and tasty meals are what I want, but I don't want to be eating a salad every night.  A pot of noodles, some pesto and veggies and a tasty meal is made.  This is made really quick if you have some leftover pesto in the fridge/freezer, if not, it adds a couple of steps.  My favorite vegan pesto recipe is from Vegan Planet.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Down and Dirty Dinners

Sometimes I get caught up in the complicated meals that I don't really challenge myself to create food with just random ingredients in my pantry and fridge.  I am highly ordered when it comes to meal planning and grocery shopping.  (Actually, I'm rather ordered about most things).  I go grocery shopping once every 2 weeks and I typically plan out the meals I want to make over those 2 weeks.  It doesn't mean I sit down and go, Monday I will make pesto pizza, Tuesday leftovers, Wednesday snobby joes, etc.  I usually get some ideas for meals, maybe 4-6, some difficult, some easy.  The difficult ones that take more time will probably be Friday or Saturday night meals.  I also add some staples to the list based on sales at my grocery like bananas, apples, and other fruits, baby carrots, etc.

Over the months I end up with a glut of basic ingredients.  Too many cans of beans, coconut milk and tomatoes, lots of various grains, dry noodles, frozen fruit and veggies, etc.  Items leftover from one too many meals that never made it on to the table (I'm not very good about checking what I currently have in stock before shopping).  These past two weeks I decided to step away from the cookbooks and just wing it based on the ingredients I had on hand.

I discovered two things: 1) I remembered that veggies can be just as tasty steamed as being combined in a more elaborate meal (like enchiladas).  2) I'm more likely to be lazy and want to eat out.  I think this is because I first have to figure out what ingredients I have, what I want to make, and then make it.  With my typical approach, I just have to look through the recipes I marked (if I can't just remember them) and pick one that sounds good.  I know I have all the ingredients because I just purchased them. 

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Breakfast Bunnies!

Aren't bunnies so cute?  At least they are cute until they start munching on your garden.  I wonder if this is the one that was caught nibbling on my lettuce, or the one that was nibbling on my strawberries.  Either way, that bunny is a cutie!

I've stopped purchasing regular cereals from the grocery.  Vegan cereals that are healthy tend to be rather expensive, so I've been trying to develop different foods to eat that involve whole foods/ingredients.  I'm always looking for new meals to try at breakfast, something quick but delicious. My go to meals are either oatmeal (with mix-ins!) or granola.  Granola is relatively easy to make, however you have to think ahead to make sure you have it on hand.  I like to bake mine on low heat for a couple of hours, which means yet another heat source during the summer.  Yuck.  On top of that, I also like my granola somewhat soft, so I heat it up in almond milk when I eat it for breakfast, but in the summer, the heat is a bit ugh. 

I've come across a couple of new ideas.  The one above is basically a lazy person's cinnamon rolls.  Get the smell and taste without the hours waiting for dough to rise.  I got this idea from Vegetarian Sandwiches.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Water Kefir What?

What is that?  It's a jug of water kefir slowly brewing.  What is water kefir?  It's a probiotic drink made with water.  There are also milk kefirs made with dairy products, which make (presumably) creamy, tangy yogurt-like drinks.  I wouldn't personally know, as I don't consume dairy these days.

Water kefir is interesting because in addition to getting more probiotics in your diet, you also can make your own at-home sodas, since the cultures in the kefir give off CO2.  It's a cheaper, easier, and healthier way to make your own fizzy drinks at home.  It is also possible, for those vegans like me out there, to make a creamy drink with coconut milk out of water kefir grains.  However, personally, I have not yet tried it out.  I'll let you know when I do!

I decided to give water kefir a try after I saw it mentioned on the Green and Crunchy blog.  You can easily get kefir grains (water or milk) from the Kefir Lady, where I got mine.  It costs 20 dollars to have a little baggie of water kefir grains to be shipped to you.  To get started all you need is some filtered water, a large jar or jug (larger than a quart), and some sugar.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Patriotic Pie

Okay, so this pie is more like pink, yellow and blue, but it's close enough. :)  Fourth of July is pretty low key around here.  We went hiking around the mountains with the pup during the day.  It's so gorgeous up there.  We debated going to the fireworks, but nature made the choice for us when a t-storm whipped up around dusk.  What did you do for the holiday weekend?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Kitchen Cleanup and Vegan Cinnamon Rolls

Alas I forgot to take a picture of the delicious cinnamon rolls I made before they were snarfed down, so you're stuck with a pic of my highly organized pantry.  Since I started shopping at our local, farmer's market grocery store, I've been purchasing a lot of items in bulk.  Grains, dry beans, dried fruit, flours, sugars, nuts, seeds, you name it.  The problem was that my pantry quickly filled up with wispy bags that crinkled obnoxiously when you reaching for the peanut butter and hindered my ability to find ingredients.  My bottom shelf of my pantry was just "baking", which meant it was next to impossible to find anything since it was all plastic baggies from the bulk bins.

After reading Green and Crunchy as I mentioned in my previous blog post, I was inspired to rectify this atrocity.  For as much time I spend in the kitchen, it should be organized and neat, not a jumble of bags.  I popped out and bought some bell jars and some of those plastic lids and went to town.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

I want to be a billionaire...

Have you heard that song on the radio lately called "I want to be a billionaire" by Travie McCoy featuring Bruno Mars?  Its lyrics go:

I wanna be a billionaire so fricking bad
buy all of the things I never had
I wanna be on the cover of Forbes magazine
smiling next to Oprah and the Queen

Makes me wonder what I would do if I was a billionaire.  I'd probably stop working at my current job (which is probably telling) and travel more.  Maybe take my sister and I on a trip to New Zealand.  Donate a huge chunk of it to animal shelters.  Buy some shares of Tesla Motors. :)

Instead I spend my days enjoying my wee, inexpensive kitchen projects.  My recent projects have largely been inspired by Shari at Green and Crunchy.  I'm in love with her blog.  I want to buy a house so I can start buying bulk, organic goods and growing a large veggie garden.  The harvest from my pots on the stoop isn't cutting it for my vegan self.

I was intrigued by her interesting desserts she makes, and even more challenged when I discovered that she infrequently puts down recipes.  She may mention the ingredients, but she doesn't typically list out the corresponding quantities.  I decided the treats looked good enough to wing it.  Plus I just got my new Vitamix, so I wanted to try it out.

First up, raw banana chocolate cheesecake.  So good and so easy!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I'm Fruity!

I love breakfast!  I'm always looking for new meals to try, especially something that's healthy and fast.  I recently started reading the Raw on $10 a Day (or Less!) blog.  I can't really imagine myself going completely raw, but the breakfast ideas are wonderful for a summer day.  The one pictured above was quite scrumptious.  It consists of a raw "pudding" made of a half a mango, a banana, and an avocado blended in a blender or food processor.  Then you top it with sliced bananas, the other half of the mango, chopped, and some granola I made previously.  Soooo good!  Next time I make this, I'm going to add in some lime juice or lime zest.  I really enjoyed the tang from the mango and wanted to add to it.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

My Secret Love

I love cookbooks.  I'm so weird that I will borrow all sorts and then read them in bed.  I'll get all excited and call out to my bf to look at some food photo or I'll rattle off an ingredient list.  Only recently have I started to try and cook meals of my own inspiration, rather than straight from a cookbook. 

My favorite vegan cookbook, hands down, is Veganomicon.  Practically every recipe I've made from this book is golden.  I've made enough of the recipes that I have a hard time picking one I haven't yet made vs ones I know are brilliant like snobby joes, leek and bean cassoulet, smoky tempeh, BBQ seitan sandwiches, the grain salads....I could go on.

That being said, I've recently made a new recipe out of this book that I thought was brilliant: the seitan picatta. 

Monday, June 7, 2010

Granola and Delta Force

Today's run involved listening to Stuff You Should Know podcast on the Delta Force. They sound so bad ass; these mystery "operators" that travel the world and put down the opposition in the name of the US. Considering I don't particularly agree with our current wars, nor do I like the idea of sending thousands of troops in, these Delta Force guys sound pretty awesome. If you want to read more about them, check out the How Delta Force Works article.

Now down to the good stuff: granola.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Run to Learn

I have a love hate relationship with running. I like running after it's over, however during the actual run, all I can think about is how I'm getting tired, how my foot itches, how my shoulder muscle is sore, etc. This quickly gets me down and makes me feel even more tired, like I can't go on.

I find this a strange phenomenon. When I run on an elliptical at the gym, I can go for much longer without this situation occurring, primarily because I can get engaged into a book. It may be weird, but I typically prop up a book on the machine while running. I realize that running in a gym is easier than running outside, but the differences are quite drastic.

I do have an iPod and I tried running outside with music, but music just doesn't suck me in, leaving me in the same predicament. Luckily, I've discovered a new way to take my mind off running: podcasts. More specifically, the "Stuff You Should Know" podcasts. The more recent ones are about 30 minutes long (earlier versions are only 5 minutes each). They are really interesting and amusing as well. I also get more excited to run, because I refrain from listening to them except when running. Today I listened to one today about counterfeiters. For example, did you know that the Nazi's were big into counterfeiting? It wasn't so they could have more buying power, but to undermine the Allies' economy via inflation. They counterfeit British pounds and then they dropped the money from planes. Crazy!

Question of the day: do you do anything to distract yourself while exercising?

My favorite cookbook right now is Veganomicon. This is somewhat surprising because it has so few pictures (I typically like pictures to inspire me), however each recipe I've tried, and I've tried quite a few, has turned out great. Recent I made a few recipes out of it: the smoky tempeh and the baby bok choy. Both were delicious. I also made an interesting carrot and arame side dish from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, which was surprisingly tasty. I also heated up some leftover brown rice to serve as a side.

I've also been getting into raw desserts. I made another dessert from Ani's Raw Food Desserts, the chocolate ganache "cake". I had read online lots of good reviews, so I decided to give it a whirl. The best thing about raw desserts is how quick they whip up if you have all the ingredients. The cake was quite tasty, but my favorite part was the delicious chocolate frosting. Mmm!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Feelin' Hot Hot Hot

Out in Colorado it's supposed to be 90 degrees today. Somehow, seemingly overnight, we went from getting a foot of snow to 90 degree weather. Unfortunately, after going through the whole winter without even a hint of a sniffle, I have contracted a cold. What the heck?!

My favorite ways to soothe my symptoms (hot drinks, hot showers, hot soups) don't sound that fantastic in blazing summer heat. On top of that, it's a 3 day weekend! I've been pounding those smoothie drinks like Naked Juice, Bolthouse Farms, Odawalla, etc. that have large quantities of vitamin C. I drank one this morning that was 2000% of my RDV of C. I am determined to blast this bug right out of my body.

One of my favorite things about summer is being able to eat cold treats. I love ice cream, smoothies, etc., but I don't really feel like eating them when I'm freezing my butt off during the winter.

Alas, this is the first summer where no dairy is allowed. How will I survive? Well I found this cookbook, Ani's Raw Food Desserts, where she has some ideas for raw ice creams. Mine is a variation of one of her recipes and is sooooo good.

(Almost) Raw, Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream
- 1 c soaked cashews
- 1 c water (not the soaking water from the nuts)
- 1/2 c dates (I used medjool)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp peanut butter
- handful of chocolate chips (I didn't have raw cocoa nibs, so this is why it isn't raw)

In a blender, preferably a high powered one, blend cashews, water, and dates. Blend until it's a smooth consistency. If you have a normal, kitchenaid type blender like me, you may have to blend for a bit, scraping down the sides occasionally.

Once it's at a very smooth consistency, add the vanilla. Blend for a couple of seconds to combine and give it a taste. If it needs more vanilla, add it. If it isn't sweet enough for you, add more dates, etc.

Pour the finished mixture into a tupperware container. Add the peanut butter and chocolate chips and mix them in. Pop into the freezer for a hour or so. After an hour, you can transfer it to your ice cream maker, or you can just mix it up, and put back into your freezer. If you decide to do it by hand, you'll need to take it out every hour or so to mix it up. When I'm ready to eat it, I like to let it sit in the fridge for 30 minutes to thaw a little bit.

This made about 2 servings. P and I sat down and ate the whole batch between the two of us. Very tasty, very easy, and healthy for you too!

Unfortunately, we ate this so quickly I forgot to take any pictures of it. If you are familiar with Dairy Queen, it looked a lot like a chocolate peanut butter cup blizzard.

This recipe is pretty easy to customize for your own tastes. If you want mint chocolate chip, add some mint extract and chocolate chips. For chocolate ice cream, add some cocoa powder. Coconut? Could be awesome... The variations are endless!

Now if you excuse me, I'm going to go back to laying on the couch while watching 30 Rock. Have a good holiday weekend!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Weekend Cooking

I don't know about you, but it's usually the weekends when I decide to make something involved for dinner. It's hard to get motivated to spend significant time in the kitchen making something brand new during the week. It's after work, weeknight shows are on, etc. etc. Plus you never know if this new, involved recipe, will turn out as a total flop.

Last weekend, our local grocery was having a sale on potatoes, 10 lbs for a dollar. I sent my bf out to purchase some and he came home with 2 bags (we already had some potatoes in the fridge). Now I'm looking through all my cookbooks and favorite sites to see what I can make with potatoes. There's always the classic baked French fries, roasted potatoes, baked potatoes, etc. etc., but I don't want to eat 20 lbs of French fries.

I did however, come across gnocchi. I've never had homemade gnocchi before. I've only first had it recently (in the past year or so) and each time it was either at a restaurant or from a box. Gnocchi is surprisingly vegan; you only need flour and potatoes. Some recipes also call for egg and butter, but you really don't need that. The key with good gnocchi is to get as much of the water out of the potato as possible. You do this through a series of steps, which aren't very complicated.

I decided to bust out a batch yesterday to see how it goes. I served them with pesto sauce.

Gnocchi with Pesto
- 2 lbs of potatoes (~2 large russets or 4 smaller potatoes)
- 1c bread flour (you can use WWPF or All purpose, however the higher gluten content will help the dumplings stay together)

- Your favorite basil pesto recipe (I like the one from Vegan Planet)

Step 1: Bake the potatoes
Set your oven to 400F. Wash the potatoes and pierce with a fork. Then take a knife and lightly score the potato with an "X" at each end. Connect the X's along the side of the potato. This will make peeling the hot potato a lot easier when they are done.

Pop into the oven in a baking dish. I did not wrap mine in foil as I wanted the potatoes to dry out as much as possible. Cook for 30 minutes. Flip them over. Cook for another 15-30 minutes depending on size. The potato should be easily pierced with a fork when done.

Step 2: While you're waiting...
While the potatoes are cooking those last minutes, set up a pot of boiling, salted water. Salt should not be added to the dough, as that will pull moisture into the gnocchi, which we don't want. Instead, to get the seasoning, you will want to generously season the water.

Also set up a bowl of ice water near the pot.

Set up a floured surface to create and roll out the dough. Flour a plate, where you will set your raw gnocchi. Get out a fork to roll the gnocchi on (to get the ridges). Get out your ricer, grater, or food processor with grater attachment.

Step 3: Prepare the potatoes
Now that the potatoes are done, quickly peel the potatoes while they are still hot. You will probably need a dish towel to help you handle the potatoes. If you are having trouble peeling the potatoes, you can use a veg peeler or the back of a knife to help you out.

Once the potatoes are peeled, ideally, run them through the ricer. If you don't have a ricer, grate them. I was having problems getting them box grated, so I popped them in my food processor with the grating attachment.

Once grated, spread out the potato on a flat surface so the steam can come off (try not to compress it, you're just giving the breathing room it needs to air out). Leave for 15 minutes.

While you're waiting, make sure all your stuff is ready to go.

Step 4: Dough
Once the potato has cooled a bit, you can now make the dough. You want to use as little flour as possible to get a good dough you can roll. Basically you're getting it to a point where it doesn't stick to your hands or work surface.

Pull all your potato into a flat ball. Put a 1/4c of flour over it and work it in. You should work it in like pastry dough, rather than kneading it. You don't want to overwork the dough. Once it's worked in, continue to add in 1/4c at a time until it reaches the right consistency. I only used about 2/3c of flour.

Pull a chunk off the dough ball and roll into a long, skinny tube, about the diameter of your finger. Cut into 3/4 inch "pillows". Roll the cut piece down the back of a fork to get the ridges and place in floured plate. Once you have enough of them, put in your pot of boiling water. They will sink for 30 seconds or so. Once they pop up, let them boil for 1 minute. Scoop out with slotted spoon and put in ice water bath. Let sit for 30 seconds. Scoop them out with slotted spoon onto a dish. Repeat until all the gnocchi is made.

At this point is where you can either combine with sauce or freeze them for later use. From what I have read, freezing the raw dough (pre boil) doesn't turn out so great when you reheat. Instead you should do the initial boil and then freeze.

I popped my finished product into the fridge until dinner. If you're making sauce, save some of the potato water. The starchy water makes the sauce stick better to the pasta.

For dinner, I pulled out my thawed basil pesto and put in a hot pan with the gnocchi. Once heated, I added a couple of ladles of potato water. I let it simmer for 7 minutes or so. I made a side salad of spinach, sprouts, sunflower seeds, and raspberry vinaigrette. Very tasty!

The gnocchi was a little softer than I remember it being at the restaurant, but I wonder if that was due to my food processor method, vs using a ricer. I'm going to go investigate my local thrift store to see if they have one.

For dessert, we had a delicious, practically raw, chocolate chip and peanut butter ice cream. Directions to come in my next post!

Question of the day: What would you make with 20 lbs of potatoes?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Best Part of Waking up is Breakfast

I love breakfast. Sometimes I want to go to bed early so I can enjoy breakfast sooner. I love every part of it: pancakes, waffles, French toast, roasted potatoes, cinnamon rolls, fruit salad, smoothies, oatmeal, granola, tofu scramble, it's all delicious.

I was never a big fan of tofu scramble until I found this recipe:

It was so good. I like to mix in whatever veggies I have lying around like sliced mushrooms, zucchini, green pepper, etc. It's all brilliant. The sauce part makes a lot, but if you freeze it, you can save it for another tofu scramble day (or put it on some veggies during dinner).

French toast is also a weekend favorite, especially when it's topped with fruit and maple syrup. The egg free version is as tasty as I remember. I basically leverage another recipe from

The mixture is 1 cup plant milk (I prefer almond), 2 tbsps of whole wheat pastry flour (WWPF), a 1/2 tsp agave syrup, a dash of cinnamon, and a half tsp of vanilla extract. Mix it up in a shallow dish (like a pie tin). I also like to toast my bread before I dip it in the mixture, so help prevent it from becoming mushy.

On the weekdays, I keep the breakfast creation a little simpler. I typically pick either oatmeal, muesli, or granola. Practically every day during the winter I ate granola I made myself.

Recently I've been rediscovering my love of oatmeal. When I used to make oatmeal for myself (not from instant packets), it was always the same: oats, water, raisins, cinnamon. Eating that day in and day out can get a bit boring. It wasn't until I started following Chocolate Covered Katie's blog that I started to see oatmeal as more of a foundation to create delicious breakfast meals.

I recently made oatmeal with ground ginger, lemon zest, and blueberry jam (all fruit). So tasty and interesting.

When the days start getting warmer, I like to eat muesli instead (ie basically cold oatmeal). I take out a bowl the night before and put in:
- Rolled oats
- Raisins
- Nuts/seeds that float my boat (almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, etc.)
- Spices (cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg)
- Almond milk to cover the oats

I put in the fridge overnight covered with plastic wrap. In the morning I may add a little more almond milk, maybe some sweetener (agave or maple syrup), and/or fresh sliced fruit (berries, bananas) and chow down. The oats will have absorbed the milk and turned it into a creamy consistency. Very tasty.

Question of the day: what's your favorite breakfast meal?

Last night I spent a good amount of time updating my resume. It's good to occasionally take the time to look it over, add any new information, etc. even when you're not actively job searching. I will say writing a resume as an experienced professional is a bit harder than doing it for college. Trying to capture what you do at work that's important and sounds impression can be a little difficult.

Even after I finish, I like to send it to a couple of people to see if they have any feedback. Everyone has their own style when it comes to resume writing, so it can be a challenge to pick and choose what you want to incorporate into your final version.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Abused by the Internet

Last night I somehow accidentally downloaded malware while looking for haircut ideas. This one was a crafty bugger too, preventing me from going online, throwing errors that looked like they came from Windows, etc. It kept saying my computer was infected and I should buy this antispyware software immediately. Luckily, I have many more computers at home and was able to dig up directions on what to do to get rid of the crud infecting my system.

However, while my computer was going through a scrubdown, it did make me ponder what happens to people who maybe aren't as savvy as I. People like my gma. Would she just have purchased the software? I'd like to think she'd call up my parents or someone to get help, but you never know. The approach must be lucrative enough to keep these shady people in business.

Today I went running and got lost in suburbia. I've been trying to get up to 4 miles this week, and I did out a route on to make sure I could hit that number. Unfortunately, while I was running I made a few wrong turns and ended up taking a completely different route, a route that was more like 3.25mi rather than 4. Oh well. I did get to see some fun things while running, like kids playing at the elementary, a house with a bunch of those fake animal statues (why, people?!), etc. Oh well, there's always tomorrow.

I've eaten some delicious foods in the past couple of days. The other day I whipped up a super easy salad that was surprisingly delicious. I was inspired by Susan at Fat Free Vegan and her Taco Salad.

C's Taco Salad
- Tomato
- Green pepper
- Red onion
- Garlic
- Jalapeno
- Lime juice
- Cilantro

- Lettuce (your choice, I used red romaine, though any sort of mixed greens would do)
- Avocado
- Spicy vegetarian refried beans

Make a quick salsa out of the first ingredients. I didn't include measurements as it depends on what you prefer and how much you want to make. I used about 1 roma, a fourth of a green pepper, an eighth of a large red onion, 2 garlic cloves minced, fourth of a large jalapeno, a couple of tablespoons of fresh lime juice, and a couple of tbsps of cilantro. Let the salsa marinate for a few minutes.

Put lettuce on a plate. Cut up avocado into chunks and mix in. I also mixed in some cilantro into the greens. Scoop out some refried beans into a bowl and mix it up (sometimes there's moisture at the top of the can that needs to be worked in). Add to the top of your lettuce. Top with salsa. Enjoy!

To make even easier, you could top with premade salsa. The fresh stuff from the grocery would work best, though some from a jar would work too.

This meal was very tasty and very easy to make.

Afterward, I made some almond joy balls, based off of the idea from Chocolate Covered Katie. Very yummy.

Question of the day: Has your computer ever been infected? How bad was it?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Oatmeal for dessert? Brilliant!

I've discovered the best easy, yet healthy dessert: oatmeal!

Okay, not just oatmeal by itself, because that's a little boring and bland, definitely not something my taste buds dance for. However, when you mix it with chocolate, peanut butter and maybe a bit of agave or maple syrup, well that's magic.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Maple (CPBM) Oatmeal

- 1/2c quick oats
- 1 tsp - 1 tbsp of unsweetened cocoa (depends on how much you like dark chocolate)
- 1 generous spoonful of peanut butter
- water or plant milk
- maple syrup

Put oats into microwave safe bowl. Add cocoa and dollop of peanut butter. Use water or plant milk of your choice to cover oats. Pop in the microwave for 1-1.5 minutes. Take out and mix. Top with drizzle of maple syrup.

You may want to test for sweetness before you dig in. Depending on how much cocoa you put in, it may be bitter, requiring more maple syrup (or agave).

Fun fact: did you know that quick oats are just rolled oats cut into smaller pieces?

Running continues...
Today I ran for another 3 miles; I'm so proud of myself. It's becoming easier, so yay for that. The one thing I hate is my sore calves the next day. How long should you wait to run (if at all) if your calves are killing you? I always wondering if I should not be running at all, running a shorter distance (which is what I typically do), or ignore the soreness all together and do another 3 miles. I feel lazy if I don't work out at all, plus I have a dog who needs a walk/jog/run regardless if my legs are tired or not.

I'm pretty excited for tomorrow; I'm volunteering at work to supervise (read: babysit) 4th and 5th grade girls while they're visiting our company. We do a Girls Tech Camp every year for a day to teach girls about how fun math and science can be. It's a really awesome program that I'm pleased my company does. I've helped 3 times in the past so far; the girls are lots of fun. It doesn't hurt that I also get to take time off work to do it.

Question of the day: What do you like to volunteer your time to?

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

My mom is out of town for my sister's college graduation. I'm watching the two aging pups for my parents instead. Don't worry though, I made my mom breakfast last weekend when we returned from Belize. We had a vegetable hash and some banana crepes; quite tasty.

Are you doing anything special for Mom's Day?

The past couple of meals I've failed to take pics of, however I did create some yummy breakfast pancakes yesterday that everyone can use for Mother's Day!

Banana Oat Pancakes:
1c rolled oats

2 ripe bananas
1/2c almond milk
1/2c water
2T oil
1T maple syrup
1/2t vanilla

1/8-1/4c flour (preferably whole wheat pastry flour, though AP will work)
2 1/4t baking powder
1/4t salt
1/2t cinnamon
1/4t nutmeg

Take oats and blend them in food processor or high powered blender into a flour. Put in a large bowl, set aside.

Take bananas, almond milk, water, oil, maple syrup, and vanilla and blend in the food processor until liquid.

In bowl with oats, combine flour (you may need more or less depending on how fine of oat flour you created and how big your bananas are), baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Mix together.

Pour liquid into the dry and mix together. Try to avoid over mixing.

Heat large skillet on medium heat. Spray with oil if necessary. Once heated, pour the batter into skillet into pancake sized rounds. I like to spread them so they cook evenly by skimming the top with the spoon. Flip when sides are dry-ish.

Serve with warm maple syrup.

These pancakes were delicious. It was nice to make them with oats because at my mom's house they only have AP flour, and I've been trying to avoid white flour and other "white" foods (white sugar, white pasta, white rice, etc.).

I've also recently had Snobby Joes from Veganomicon, one of my favorite easy, healthy recipes. Had some baked French fries and some arame salad from Chocolate Covered Katie. I don't know how I feel about the arame salad; I think I need to try a different dressing. It isn't bad, it just doesn't make my taste buds dance.

Yesterday we saw Iron Man 2, which I enjoyed. It seemed to be on par with the first Iron Man. Make sure you stay through the credits to see the sneak peek. We always sneak in candy from a drugstore; I had a bar of dark chocolate. I really miss Junior Mints.

What's your favorite candy to sneak in to movies?

Thursday, May 6, 2010


Not the grass covered pottery, but the super healthy seed, chia! I found some in the bulk bin at my grocery store and decided to try it. I had only saw it online in passing regarding raw desserts, but didn't think anything of it. Then, lo and behold, there it is, sitting in the bulk bin, so I decided to buy a bit to see what I could make out of it.

A little background on the chia seed, these little guys are a powerhouse of healthiness. They are the richest plant source of omega-3s. They contain more calcium than milk, more fiber than bran flakes, more antioxidants than blueberries, and are a decent source of protein. They can also help with weight loss if you're into that sort of thing. Many people mix them with foods, which adds more heft to the meal, without adding calories. I've seen recipes to mix it with fruit jam to make more "jam" without adding additional calories.

Another cool property of chia seeds is that they can absorb 9-10 times their weight in water, similar to flax seeds. They can be used in place of flax seeds in baking. They can also be used to create a chia gel in about 10 minutes. It's about a 6:1 ratio between the liquid and the chia seeds, however you may need to play with it depending on how thick you like and what else you want to add to the gel.

The first thing I tried making was chia pudding. Basically I took a cup of almond milk, tsp of cinnamon, a 1/4 tsp of nutmeg, a handful of raisins and 3 tablespoons of chia seeds and put them in a jar (an old mayo jar). I shook it up and put it in the fridge to sit for an hour or so, shaking again half way through. I dumped it into a bowl and dug in. It was a creamy, delicious dish without having to spend a bunch of time making rice. It's raw as well, which is a bonus. Super easy and super tasty.

I also made an extremely yummy Mexican salad last night that I proceeded to inhale. I may even go back to the grocery to buy more ingredients to make it again. It was the Raw Corn and Black Bean Salad with Avocado from Fat Free Vegan. I added some fresh cilantro to the salad which really went well. It didn't make that much, so I'll have to make it again soon.

For breakfast this morning I had a blended grain porridge with millet, almond milk, blackberries, and cardamom (that Katie and her blended grains are brilliant!). I then took my stick blender and whipped it into submission, which turned it to a fun purple color. I topped it with some left over parfait topping (dates, walnuts, coconut) and some maple syrup. Mmm!

So the question is, what will you be making from chia?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Want to read my diary?

Strange thing number...5? I forget what number I'm on. It doesn't really matter.

I keep a food diary.

Even I think it's weird. I've always thought food diaries were for crazy people who want to count calories or have a weird eating disorder, but actually they are quite interesting. If you're anything like me, I have a hard time remembering what I ate even only a couple of days later. Keeping track of it is good to see if you're leaving some kind of nutrient out. It can also be helpful to see how your moods or physical ailments correspond with what foods you ate that day. You may feel blah one day because you didn't eat any fruit, etc.

Keeping track of what you eat also helps decrease random snacking on bad things. My bf kept a food diary for a few days to try it and he said it prevented him from eating random cookies from the break room, chips, etc. because he'd have to write it down. It made him think a little bit more about what he was actually ingesting.

Since I've started trending towards vegan, I also find the food diary helpful to make sure I'm not leaving anything out, like B12 from nutritional yeast, etc. It also gives me a resource to look at for when people ask me, "What do you eat?" I also think food diaries play to my love of lists. I love lists and crossing them off, or using them to see what I've accomplished. I even have a large list of all the books I've read and whether I liked them or not. I know, I'm weird.

Training Continues

I continued on my quest to run a 10K. Today I jogged/walked 3+ miles! Go me! I walked a little in the middle because my dog pooped for a second time, and along the way the bag must have fallen out of my pocket. I had to run to the baggie station on the trail I was on to get one and then I used the time to walk back and cool off a bit. I think I'm going to have to start running a little earlier to avoid the powerful rays of the Colorado sun. Even T was panting (which hardly ever happens).

Last night I had a delicious dinner, I was quite impressed with myself since I haven't been to the grocery in about 3 weeks. I'm really scraping the bottom for meal ideas. We have next to no produce left in the fridge.

I whipped up a batch of Fat Free Vegan's bean burgers (the ones with chipotle, but minus garlic because I didn't have any), some millet, broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots topped with leftover cheeze sauce, and some applesauce with cinnamon. The burgers had BBQ sauce (Veganomicon recipe) and some guac. I have a ridiculous amount of avocados in my fridge because they were on sale at some point and I bought a ton of them.

For dessert I made these nut pudding parfait things from a recipe in The 30 Minute Vegan. It was heaven in my mouth. When I have desserts, I'm going to try and focus on the raw ones, since they are so tasty and yet so good for you!

For breakfast this morning, I had some millet topped with leftover parfait "granola" and almond milk. I also made a weird smoothie with an avocado, pineapple and its juice, lime juice, and frozen peaches. It tasted good, but it was a weird color.

The question is, what am I going to do for food tonight?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Run Forrest, Run!

I want to start training for a 10K. I don't even really like running that much, though I will say that since adopting my dog over a year ago, I run a lot more. We don't have a yard, so if I want to take her for her daily constitutionals, I need to take her for walks around the block. She goes for about 2-4 walks a day. Since I'm going to be doing it anyway, I've started throwing on a sports bra and shoes and just running the walk instead.

However, the distance for these runs are rather pathetic. I do a quick jog around the neighborhood which is a little less than a mile, hardly a 10K. So for the next month or so, I'm planning on working up to that distance. I'm not sure how long I'll be able to run with T though. She's a goofy dog where she likes to do our jogs as a quick trot. As the temperature continues to grow warmer, she typically becomes slower and slower. Spending 6 miles trying to prevent her from sniffing, peeing, and lagging behind will grow tiresome. I stay optimistic though.

Today I did a little longer run, 1.5 miles according to WalkJogRun. Hmm, that's pretty sad amount. I'll have to find a longer route to try. I'll amp it up tomorrow. I need to get back in the swing of things after not doing pilates for 2 weeks and not running for a week while on vacation.

This morning I had a new breakfast of strawberries and oatmeal with a hint of vanilla. I blended it with a hand blender which turned the oatmeal into an awesome pink color.

Lunch was some leftover veg curry I had froze and a peanut butter-craisin wrap. Mmm!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?

Do you remember that show, game, etc? I remember sitting in front of my computer pouring over the World book trying to figure out where she was. She was a crafty girl!

Strange thing number 4: I love to travel!

Okay, maybe it's not that strange, but I love to travel. Any place is fine, especially overseas. I find it fascinating to learn about other cultures, experience their flora and fauna, and see the sights. I'm soon to be off to Belize for a week, which I'm pretty psyched about. We plan on snorkeling a bunch, doing cave tubing (like river tubing, but the river goes through caves), and seeing Mayan ruins. We're staying on Caye (pronounced "key") Caulker in an apartment, so we'll have access to a kitchen. That will be helpful in keeping our costs low and also with our food issues (veganism). It will be nice to be able to just eat some toast and a banana in the morning rather than having to go out for breakfast.

Why did I pick Belize? With only a week of vacation available for me through work (damn you work!), I had to pick a location that's close enough that I'm not spending 2 of my 7 days just on a plane. Latin America seemed like a logical choice, however I had to choose a place I haven't been to yet and is not rife with political turmoil.

I'm pretty excited. I can't wait to go snorkeling in all the cool locations. I would love to see a manatee as well (from a distance, of course). Hopefully the weather will be nice and everything will go smoothly.

I've traveled to other locations as well. A couple of years ago we went on a 3 week trip to Costa Rica. I planned everything, it wasn't through a group. We traveled all over the country, flying into San Jose and traipsing about. We did an overnight white water rafting trip. Spent some time in Avenal where we got to experience a live volcano. Our rooms were so close that when it exploded it jarred me awake (I don't know if that's necessarily a good thing...). We checked out the local hot springs, took a horseback ride to Monteverde. Wandered the cloud forest and got to see the rare quetzel, the coolest bird ever. Did night walks and saw tarantulas and scorpions in the wild. Hit the beach in Manuel Antonio after hitching a ride with our ziplining Canadian friends. Took a flight to the secluded Drake Bay to play in the surf, snorkel and hang out. Our last days we were in Tamarindo surfing and boogie boarding before heading to Liberia to fly out.

I've also been to Mexico a few times, the Caribbean, briefly in Canada while going to and from our cruise to Alaska, France, spent a month in China, Italy, and Spain. I love it!

My "other" doesn't love traveling as much as I, so I've got to keep international trips to once every two years and do something in the US the opposite year. Next year I think we'll go to Yellowstone. The year after that I'd like to get back to Europe, maybe Germany or Crete (I hear Crete is very vegan friendly).

My top places I want to visit at some point, hopefully when I have more vacation days and more money are Africa on a safari, Australia, and Egypt. I also think India would be cool in a semi-scary way, but it's really really far and I'm more likely to go there due to work these days...

I would also love to live in another country. I hope I get the opportunity to do so at some point.

I recently saw that Veg Times is starting vegan trips around the world. I think it would be fantastic to get in on the next one that could work. I'll have to keep my eyes peeled.

Where have you been? Where do you want to go?

Monday, April 19, 2010

Wriggly worms

Strange thing number 3: I conduct worm composting in my home.

I currently rent a townhome and we don't really have a yard. We have a small patch of grass that my dog is slowly turning yellow and that's about it. During the spring/summer we utilize pots to make an attempt to grow veggies and herbs. We've had mixed success, primarily due to issues with watering and fertilizer. Fertilizer was a problem because we didn't want to use chemical fertizilers but "natural" fertilizers typically contained bone, which was a no-no due to our veg*nism. Where we live is rather dry, so watering was also a challenge, though we did a better job of it this past summer.

We're big proponents of eating lots of whole, plant foods which means that these days, most of what we were throwing out was plant waste (scraps from dinners, etc) and plastic bags. I didn't like the idea of our plant waste going to some landfill, where it will take much, much longer to compost. Landfills typically have minimal air/water circulation, which prevents items from composting naturally.

But with our small yard, what could we do? I googled a bit and found a great website ( that discussed worm composting. You can do it in your house and it is supposed to have no smell and is easy to do. I whipped up a tupperware box, saved food scraps, and bought a pound of worms, and voila! composting!

This turned out to be easier said than done. Currently, my box doesn't get enough ventilation, so there is a bit of water in the bottom of my bin which is preventing my box from getting to a brilliant, soil state. I've been airing it out the past week or so and adding more newspaper to try and soak it up. I didn't put holes in the bottom of the bin, and I'm wondering if this is going to be a major problem.

That being said, my worms are alive and happy and breeding. There's tons of worms in there of all sizes (even little white worm babies!). There's no smell, providing the paper to food ratio is correct, and it's easy to do. Hopefully I can get this water situation rectified so I can have some worm poop for my pot garden for this summer.

I'm always asked if I've named my worms. The original pound of worms contains about 500-1000 worms. It would take quite a bit of time to name them all. At this point, they've probably multiplied quite a bit, and there's way more worms in there today.

If you're looking for a way to make use of all those banana peels, apple cores, dead herbs, give a vermicomposting bin a try! It also makes a cool science project!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Dogs are idiots

So this entry is side stepping the weird things about me for a moment so I can wax poetic about my idiot dog.

We adopted our dog over a year ago from the local humane society. She's a mix of a variety of breeds; when we visit the pet store many people like to guess what she is. In my opinion she definitely has some boxer in her, as she has the characteristic brindle coat with white paws and a white chest. However she's missing the square face typically seen in that breed. The humane society believed her to be a mix with pit bull, however it's hard to say. Plus most people, even professionals, cannot successfully identify a pit bull. (

Our dog is a sweetheart and is easy going in most cases except one: when we leave the house. When we first adopted her, we let her roam the house with no problems. One day we came home and she had ate an entire white cake off the counter. She also had a stomach of steel since she didn't even throw any of it up or was even seriously affected by it.

We figured, our bad, so we made sure to keep cakes off the counters and any other foods. Then she got into the dirty dishes, a lunchbox, and the recycling bin... We locked her in the bedroom to chill. Again, she was fine, until one random day she decided to rip up the comforter. She also did something similar at my parent's house. Left her all day in their bedroom for some holiday and she was fine. The next day we left for an hour to go to the grocery? She obliterated the down comforter, feathers were everywhere.

After that we started confining her to her crate which she HATES. Absolutely detests. She will run as far away as possible to avoid the crate. We've smeared peanut butter in there, thrown in treats, even tried to get her in there when we weren't leaving and she would have none of it. It was a bit of a hassle to go get her and carry her to the crate. Also, since she hated it so much, I felt bad putting her in there to begin with.

Eventually we decided to give the bedroom another go, but this time leave the radio on (NPR, lots of voices). Things seemed to be going well. No ripping anything up, she didn't mind that much getting put in there, etc.

Of course, all good things must come to an end. One day we came home after work and she was sleeping on the couch, rather than being safely ensconced in our bedroom. ??? Somehow she figured out how to get out of the bedroom. We have doors with the lever handles, but the door opens into the room. Very mysterious. Perhaps it was a fluke, so I put her in there again when I went off to pilates for an hour.

Came home and found her at the door, waiting to greet me. What the?! So far, all of her escapes had led to no destruction, she was just chilling out in the living room.

The next time we left, we barricaded her in the room, using a bin in front of the door. We were gone for about 7 hours and she was still in the room when we came back. Success!

Yesterday we went out for a couple of hours, did the same set up, and came home to find DISASTER!

The previous day I had made a couple of batches of delicious chocolate chocolate chip cookies. We packed them in tupperware and left them on the counter. There was also a half pan of brownies covered with tin foil on the counter.

We came home to find our happily wagging dog at the door and annihilated cookies all over the floor. She pulled down all four containers of cookies and ripped them all open (thanks for ruining the tupperware) and went to town on them. Ate about a complete batch and there were still some in their mangled containers, suggesting that we may have caught her in mid-chow down. I also noticed a piece of tin foil on the floor, which reminded me of the brownies. Mysteriously, the brownie pan was completely missing. It took us a while to find it, but it had gotten wedged under the couch, of course, completely empty.

We called up the emergency vet for advice (it was a Sunday). This is not the first time she has inhaled large quantities of chocolate. About 6 months or so ago she also ate an entire bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips, though for that quantity we didn't need to bring her in. This time, due to the unsweetened bakers chocolate found in both the cookies and the brownies, on top of the chocolate chips also in the cookies and brownies, we decided to take her in.

Luckily, the office visit was 79 dollars, which could have been a lot worse. Our reg vet charges about 50 dollars. They induced vomiting for $90. She puked up 3.5 pounds of chocolate goo. I think the vet was impressed. They also gave her some charcoal stuff that binds to any poison remaining to help her pass it for about $55 dollars. Long story short, she's fine. She woke us up a few times to pee and poop last night, but no throwing up (unlike the chocolate chip incident) and she's fine this morning.

Our dog is an idiot with a craving for chocolate. What is with dogs consuming very dangerous things? We leave all types of food on the counter. There's bananas, cuties, a big container of granola, dirty dishes, oils, etc. and she ignores them. She ignores them for days, but as soon as she smells chocolate, she goes nuts. Not only that, but when we took her to the vet, nothing bad had happened yet. So my dog just inhaled a bunch of delicious chocolate, got to go for a car ride (which she loves), and meet new people (which she loves). I feel like if I have to spend large quantities of money and take you to the hospital, you should look miserable, not like you're having the time of your life!!

My parents' dog is equally ridiculous. When she gets upset she eats carpet. Not only is that very weird, but you'd think after the first or second time of trying to pass carpet and being induced to vomit it up, she'd learn not to eat it. But no, inexplicably, they keep consuming it. I can't even smell raspberry vodka after a drinking binge left me vomiting all night, but the dogs of the world seem to have no problems in that area.

That being said, my dog has to just look at me with her cute eyes and her wagging tail and I remember why I got the dog in the first place.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

But their tails are so gross!

2) I have pet rats

Over the years I've had a variety of pets. I started out with fish, my Chinese Fighting fish was BA. I also had an aquarium with a slew of fish. Moved up to a gerbil, Skippy. Had family dogs. Had a pet, wild snake for a bit (had to release him when he wouldn't eat). Had a couple of anoles (wee lizards), Tarzan and Jane. Had a gold fish and fiddler crabs.

However, once I was living in an apartment in college, I really missed the pets you could play and interact with. While Cucumber and Asparagus (the fiddler crabs) were entertaining to watch, doing their little mating dances, trying to have babies, eating brine shrimp, it's not like you're going to pick one up.

After doing an immense amount of research on all sorts of animals, I decided on getting pet rats (a corn snake was close second). Before you get all "eww" on me, rats are super clean. Even though they are often portrayed as pest ridden, garbage lurkers, they are obsessed with cleaning themselves, very similar to a cat.

They are far, far more intelligent than gerbils and hamsters. Not only will they learn their names, minor tricks, and who you are (ie human treat dispenser), they can problem solve and know where the loo is.

We ended up adopting Noam and Jean, two sister rats, from the locally owned pet store. If I were to do it again, I would have checked out the local humane society. You should almost never adopt pets from a pet store, especially not those big box stores. Not only are they gross and typically don't have the right environment for the animal, you're also indirectly supporting companies that breed the crap out of small animals. Blech. Many small animals sit day after day, week after week at local humane societies without homes.

We brought them home and they grew up fast. I got them a huge cage and we let them run around all over the couch when we were watching TV or doing homework. When they got a little older we let them roam around the floor. We brought them in the bathroom while we showered. They liked to lick the water off our toes when we got out, which is a little alarming. My boyfriend accidentally left the cage open when we went to bed and we woke up to find them hiding under a desk. Seemed okay, so we put them back. Later we found out they chewed half the electrical cables to hell (especially the TV connection and an ethernet one).

I ended up finding a cool site ( which showed other rat owners doing crazy awesome stuff. Using fleece for liners for the cage floors. Creating little fleece cubes for the rats to snuggle in. Items in the cage color coordinated, and these cages were huge! I wanted to make sure my rats were living in just as plushy environment, so I searched Craigslist for a sowing machine and got to business. These days my cages have fleece floor liners, cubes, hammocks, tubes, etc. for the ratties to play in. (Probably should call this weird thing, number 2.5...)

I also got my rats medical treatment when necessary. Unfortunately, Noam kept getting reoccurring mammary tumors, which is very common in female rats. I kept getting them removed at about 250 a pop, but after a while it was getting too hard on her and we had to put her down. Her sister was put to sleep earlier due to an apparent pituitary tumor.

There was a bit of time where Noam was still alive, by herself. I ended up adopting another pair of girl rats, this time from a local breeder. I didn't want to have to deal with the emotional and financial trouble of pituitary and mammary tumors, and a responsible breeder is one way to accomplish that. They all hung out together until Noam passed away. Now it's just Volt and Nimbus.

The only problem now is that we have a dog. A rather small animal aggressive dog. It took her awhile to get used to the rats (there's a dent in the cage where she charged it one time), however, we can no longer let them run about unsupervised. This is really a shame since it's cut back on the amount of time they are handled. These two are not as well socialized as Noam and Jean were, and honestly, it's all my fault. Volt does fine with me, but she has a tendency to bite others. She also likes to climb up my pants or get into my slippers and nibble on my toes.

Long story short, rats are the best. If I have kids and they want a pet, it's going to be rats, not stupid gerbils or hamsters. They are way cooler and loads of fun! A great pet option, they've been referred as mini dogs by some people. If you aren't in a position to get a cat or dog, rats are a good alternative pet.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Beginning of the End

There are many strange sorts of things about me, at least, if you're taking a typical American viewpoint they are. In my next few posts I'll cover some of them.

1) I am a vegan.

I originally became a vegetarian (lacto-ovo) during college after a speech communications class where I gave a persuasive speech on the benefits of a vegetarian diet. My boyfriend was a vegetarian at the time and thought it was rather hypocritical for me to spout such claims and then go home to eat a nasty, dorm hamburger. So I took up the challenge and went vegetarian for a month. It wasn't as hard as people seem to think it is. Once you get out of the mindset that every meal needs to include meat, it isn't hard to go without. Most omnivores I encounter believe that by becoming veg*n you must now consume mass quantities of tofu. Tofu looks weird and blobby, kind of like a dense, white jello when uncooked. Not exactly appetizing.

That is not the case though. Many meals can easily be made without meat. Burritos, pizza, pasta, most "ethnic" dishes like Chinese, Thai (watch out for fish sauce!), Indian, etc. etc. After a month, I got my free trip to the Shedd Aquarium and decided to stick with it. It was even easier in a dorm setting at a large state university where they were obligated to provide veg dishes.

But alas, come November I realized I'd have to go without the sacred turkey! Gasp! No! So I got back on the bandwagon for the most part, however I decided to stick with shunning red meat.

During the following year I mostly ate seafood and the occasional piece of chicken, which really saved me when I went on a school sponsored trip to China. Since most of the meals were decided ahead of time and were done family style, I'm pretty sure I would have wasted away eating only steamed rice and horrendously overcooked veggies.

My veg boyfriend and I moved in together towards the end of college and it got more difficult to make separate dishes, so I decided to go the full shebang again. I was finally able to find some vegetarian cookbooks that had ingredients I recognize and could get at the local Meijer. It was the best for both of us as he was primarily subsisting on yogurt, boxed mac and cheese, grilled cheese, and the occasional tofu and pasta dish.

The only other major lapse was eating some lobster. I really loved seafood back in the day and decided to eat some on a cruise, especially since it was already included in the price. What I found though was that it didn't taste as good as I remembered. Perhaps I got a sub-par batch of lobster, maybe my taste buds had changed, or maybe since it had been so long since I had it, I had bolstered its memory. Either way, I abandoned the lobster and yearned for more broccoli.

Recently I became a vegan (about 5 months ago) after reading more and more about the atrocities committed by the meat, dairy, egg industries (both the treatment of animals and the environmental impacts) and the health issues associated from consuming dairy. I have always believed that if you're a veg for the animals you should really be a vegan. Dairy cows and egg laying chickens can be treated far worse than the beef cattle.

Veganism turned out to be very accessible. I initially started out trying to just cook at home vegan. No more mac and cheese from scratch, no more homemade cheese pizza, no scrambled eggs for breakfast, but what about cookies? Muffins? Pancakes?

Turns out that it's really not that difficult to go from veg to vegan, especially if you're willing to try new things. My pancakes today taste just as good as the ones with eggs and butter, but are much healthier without the cholesterol. I have a new favorite cookie (Rocky Road from Vegan Cookies Invade your Cookie Jar). My grocery bill went down, so I can try new foods without worrying about the extra expense. It really wasn't too difficult.

The only challenges, which aren't all that different from vegetarianism, is eating out. Restaurants are getting better at providing vegetarian options, but vegan meals can still be tricky to find. Calling ahead to find out if they can serve you is one way to avoid this issue. Many times chefs are willing to throw something animal free together. Eating at a friend's/family's home isn't too hard if you're willing to bring a dish to pass.

There are other, sort of strange, benefits of going vegan. Not having to obsess over cleaning. No raw meat, no raw eggs, no problem. You can finally ignore that sage advice from mom and lick that brownie bowl clean!

You end up trying meals you never thought of before. My current favorite food is not something I ever had while I was vegetarian: grilled avocado sandwiches. Make it like a grilled cheese, but mash up avocado, top with a slice of tomato and bean sprouts, sooooooo good! Pizza without cheese seemed like a terrible prospect, but top a crust with pesto and tomatoes, or tomato sauce and a slew of roasted veggies? Yum! Milkshakes made out of frozen banana, peanut butter, and chocolate sauce or chips? Delicious!

You stop going to fast food places. While some places have vegan options (Taco Bell is pretty vegan friendly, if you like that sort of thing), many don't. Why bother going to McDonald's, Wendy's, or BK? If I do want a quick meal out, these days I hit up Thai, Chinese, Chipotle, or Noodles. Saves you money, since you probably eat out less, and no one ever said McDonald's is good for you.

(Just saw this article today: )

Anywho, that's the first weird thing about me. More to come!