Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Highlights of the week (so far)

I've done a couple new things this week that worked out pretty well. But first. Amy's. Mac. And. Cheeze. I know I reviewed this already, but I ate it before I could take a picture. So, of course, I had to have another, and here's the proof. The picture says it all.

I also made some spaghetti sauce this that varied from my usual concoction. Usually, I saute zucchini and fresh tomatoes for a fresh, chunky veggie sauce. I didn't have any fresh veggies other than tomatoes, so I decided to make a vegan "meat" sauce. I cut up some roma tomatoes pretty small, then added garlic and olive oil. After simmering for a bit, I added some frozen veggie meatballs. Once they softened up, I smashed them into tiny bits and it looked like a meat ragu. And it tasted great. Satisfying.

Another thing I've gotten into lately is baked sweet potatoes. My aunt's neighbor, who is over 100 years old, says she has eaten a sweet potato almost every day for as long as she can remember. I take that as a good sign.

I'll throw them in the oven, wrapped in foil, with a bit of canola oil to keep them from sticking. I don't skin them or anything, I just scrub 'em and bake 'em. I put some Earth Balance buttery spread on top and that's it. They're really good. They take about 45 minutes to cook, but that doesn't have to suck. For example, I'll get home from work and throw them in the oven right away. Then I walk the dog, read my mail, make the rest of my meal, and then the potatoes are done. And I have an extra for work the next day.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

"How's the vegan thing going?"

"Are you still a vegan?"

To me these question sounds a lot like Sarah Palin's recent speech asking, "How's that hopey, changey stuff working out for ya?"

I'm sure some people mean well, but I sense sarcasm and/or cynicism in there sometimes. And both being vegan and the hopey-changey stuff are working out very well, thank you.

Lately I've been answering in the simplest terms possible.
"For life."
"Love it."
"Never felt better."

And to those being sarcastic, I always see a look of surprise at the confidence in my answer. It's like they expected me to say:
"Man, this vegan thing sucks. I had to eat a burger the other night cause I'm so weak. It's really hard. I'm not sure anymore. I'm changing my mind."

And then there's usually no follow-up besides "Really? Wow. Alright, see ya later."

I handle it like the mature adult that I am. I don't get upset. So to the sarcastic nay-sayers I say:
In your face. 

Monday, March 29, 2010

Eating Animals Forum

I recommend joining the Eating Animals forum.

There's lots of good discussions going on there, but it could use more members and activity. It can be frustrating because some threads are very anti-vegan, but most of it is helpful, thoughtful discussion. For example, here are some inspiring stories from people who went vegan after reading the book—like me!

Food Revolution

I'm no fan of reality TV, but I saw this clip on the Huffington Post and was shocked. On Jamie Oliver's new Reality Show he attempts to educate children about their food, and making healthy choices. He doesn't advocate for veganism, but it's a huge step in the right direction. He advocates for fresh, unprocessed diets, high in fruits and vegetables.

In this clip, he thinks showing the kids the nasty process in which chicken nuggets are made will turn them off. Well, it doesn't quite work out that way. Check it out:

I saw another clip recently where the children couldn't tell him what he was holding in his hand: a tomato. Scary.

After seeing this, I realized what and uphill battle this is really going to be. The next generation of kids in this country don't have even the most basic knowledge about food. I didn't think it was possible not to recognize a tomato.

What I want to see next is a vegan reality show. Let's put a bunch of nay-saying-omnis in a house and make them go vegan for 30 days. It'd be interesting to see how many stuck with it after it was over.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Doctor approved!

I recently got the results of my bloodwork—and it's all good. I have no deficiencies, no evidence of anemia or any other problems. In fact, my overall condition has improved.  As I said in my earlier post, I've lost 14 lbs. I'm trying to gain that back by increasing my weightlifting and protein intake (more lentils and nuts).

Here's what the American Heart Assoc. considers healthy.

Here are the highlights of my results:
142 - Total Cholesterol (desireable < 200)
42 - Triglyceride (fat) Level (desirable < 150.
58 - HDL good cholesterol (desirable level above 39)
76 -LDL bad cholesterol (desirable level < 130)
83 - Blood sugar (normal 69 - 99)

Here's my favorite part:

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Review: Amy's Mac and Cheeze

Yea, that's cheeze with a "z".

Since going vegan, I've tried non-dairy, boxed mac and cheese. Nice try, but no. I've seen the recipes on Vegan Yum Yum and other recipes people have been so kind to offer me, but I haven't made them. For me, mac and cheese is a tradition of making something really quick for immediate satisfaction. Gooey, gooey satisfaction.

Needless to say, I had high hopes for the mac and "cheeze" of Amy's. The picture on the box looks fantastic. And I feel lucky I even got a box of it, since there were only a few left in the store's freezer.

I had it for a snack at work. And...we have a winner! This stuff will never be like the real thing, but it's really damn close. Mmmmm, cheesy, salty, not really good-for-me goodness. Thanks Amy's!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Another recipe idea

Some of my friends who've been inspired to eat less meat have said it's hard for them. But, they've also said pictures from my blog sometimes pop in their heads and give them ideas.  So, here's one for the vault that I've made quite a few times.

Usually, I don't add the veggie sausage, but it was surprisingly good. I put the sausage on the Foreman Grill til' it was crispy. For my sauce, it was almost all fresh. I chopped up yellow squash and zucchini, a tomato, an onion, and added a can of unsalted diced tomatoes. I didn't cook it for too long cause I like the veggies crispy. I also used some olive oil and garlic. Toss that on your pasta and you're good to go! Dinner in less than 20. And it's a familiar meal.

Some of you may want to know why the photo is only of 2/3 of the plate. Me too.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A Hearty Dinner

Last night, I was craving meat. I didn't crave the taste, and I don't know if I could have even eaten it, but I wanted the feeling in my stomach it gave me. Also, I had a case of the after-work-I'm-tired-don't-want-to-do-shit feelings. So, I was on a mission for heartiness and fullness.

I quickly decided, arabic/mediterranean food, with lentils instead of meat. The whole thing took less than 30 minutes. Maybe even 20.

First things first, I threw the rice in my rice cooker. I wanted that going while I was prepping the rest of the meal. (I find my rice cooker essential. It's so easy, and I wouldn't make it otherwise). Then I boiled about 1/3 cup of dry green lentils (about 1 1/2 servings). I toasted a couple wheat pitas, put some hummus and olives on the plate, and dropped a handful of pine nuts and almond slivers on for texture. The rice and lentils finished it off.

It looked kinda brown—not the most appetizing. Not bad either. But with the brown rice, wheat pita, get the picture.

Regardless of how it looked, it definitely did the trick. It could've used a salad, but I didn't have the fixings. It filled me up. I was stuffed. Whew.

Meatless Monday.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Review: The Pizza Cookery

I went to The Pizza Cookery with friends from work on Friday afternoon, and was surprised and delighted by their extensive vegan and gluten-free menu! Who knew Topanga Blvd. was so hip? I had a 6-inch pizza with artichoke, olives, and vegan cheese. The cheese was melted and crispy on the edges. Yum. And it didn't get all weird as it cooled off either. This is the best vegan pizza I've had to date.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A Check-up from the neck-down

I saw my doctor this week. The last time I was there was in September, for a physical. This week, I had my bloodwork done to be sure I'm healthy, and getting all my nutrients with my new, vegan diet. It's been almost 5 months since going vegan. I feel great, and I have no reason to believe that I'm deficient in any way, but I just want to be sure. I don't have the results of my bloodwork yet, but my doctor said I look healthy.

However, I can report on my weight. In September, I weighed 162 lbs. Now I weigh 148 lbs. That's a loss of 14 lbs. I don't think I've weighed this much since I was a teenager. I checked my BMI and I'm well within the normal range for my age and height. And my doctor wasn't concerned, either.

I don't feel skinny, but my pants are getting a bit looser around the waist. I've gone from a 32 to a 30 inch waist. I feel energetic. I feel strong. I feel fit. I can still train hard. As I continue on my new weightlifting routine, I hope to put on some lean muscle mass and weight.

I'll report on my bloodwork as soon as I get the results. It shouldn't be long.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Found my Nikes

These are 100% synthetic. And they're super light. It wasn't too hard to find them, but they only had 2 styles in stock at the Nike Town here in L.A. I'm a sucker for kicks. My options are a lot more limited, but that just makes the hunt that much more fun.


I just got my FREE McCruelty Action Pack! It's got a bunch of stickers, leaflets and a poster. I'm gonna spread the word. In case you didn't know, McDonald's has a system in the U.S. for killing chickens that skins and boils them alive. There is a pain free way to kill chickens using gas, and McDonald's already uses this system in Europe for some facilities. This campaign by PETA is to have McDonald's end the horrific cruelty in the U.S.

The poster's going up in my office, for sure. I'm not so sure about the stickers and flyers. Any ideas?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I said something smart

A lot of people I know ask me why I'm vegan when they get the chance. And I've found the best answer is as follows.

"I'm vegan for three main reasons. For my health, for the environment because factory farms are horrible for the environment, and for compassion for animals."

This is the best way to go because it's simple, concise, says it all and it's hard to argue with. Well, maybe it isn't so hard to argue with. But it almost always creates a long pause before I hear the usual questions and/or statements about lack of protein, calcium, no cheese, etc. I attribute that pause to realizing being vegan makes sense.

Well, a few days ago, a couple good co-worker friends of mine and I had a couple beers and it came up. I gave my usual answer, but got very thoughtful replies.

I'm getting closer to where I say something smart.

My one friend, I'll call him "Pablo", said he admired what I was doing. He wanted to do it but wasn't disciplined enough. I said it doesn't have to be all or nothing, and that he could just try eating vegetarian here and there and see how he feels. It felt good to be admired though.

And then, I heard something new. This guy, I'll call him "Jerry", said that vegans eventually lose bone density from lack of calcium and nutrients, and were likely to have arthritis and other chronic problems. On the topic of veganism, being combative doesn't work out well.

I'm getting even closer to where I said something smart.

I instead said to Jerry that what he said is surely true in some cases, but that The American Dietetic Association concluded well planned vegan diets are healthful for all people, young, old or pregnant. To belabor the point: Read their statement here.

OK, here's where I said the smart thing. And it was totally freestyle, dude. I said most people don't eat balanced diets, and usually they don't eat enough fruits and vegetables. I don't think vegans are automatically worse off. We eat plenty of fruits and veggies. Who's to say which possible deficiency is worse? And research shows vegans live longer and have less disease.

The reply was "good point, good point." And that was that. Confrontation avoided. Conversation civil. Points communicated reasonably. Time not wasted. A smart thing was said. More beers ordered. Done.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Gigant-o Eating Day

I think it's worth mentioning that I ate like a monster today. For lunch, I had an Indian lunch special with lentils, vegetable rice, wheat vegan naan, chana masala (garbanzo beans) and a green salad. Usually I can barely finish it, but today I powered through it, no prob.

For dinner, I had pasta. I made enough to take for lunch tomorrow. And then I ate all of it. 2 full plates. The sauce I made had a small can of tomato sauce, 4 whole tomatoes, half an onion, a zucchini, garlic, and 8 "veggie" meatballs. It filled up my whole huge saucepan, and then apparently, my stomach.

I guess I needed the fuel!

Review: Amy's Frozen Vegan Pizza

I know frozen pizzas aren't the greatest thing to put in my body, but everyone once in a while I need a pizza fix. And this time is usually around 11:00 pm when pizza spots are closed, especially any with vegan options.

In comes Amy's. In my ongoing quest for non-dairy Amy's Mac & Cheese, I discovered Amy's Rice Crust, Gluten Free, Non-Dairy Cheese pizza. I know, it sells itself!

It was really good! It satisfied my craving. Here's how it works: You bake it for about 8 minutes, and then broil it for about 1 minute to melt the cheese. I was skeptical about the cheese, as I haven't seen a lot of melted non-dairy cheese be successful. But, I got excited when I saw it starting to melt and crisp up! Thumbs up Amy's! It's not like the taste blew me away, but it did the trick.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Mani's Bakery

I love Mani's Bakery! On my way to the Chiropractor yesterday, I stopped in for a quick breakfast snack. I remembered that they had vegan options, but I hadn't been there since going vegan. To my delight, they had 1 last vegan muffin left, the "morning glory." And it was quite glorious. It's a carrot, raisin, maple concoction of epic proportions. It's topped with sunflower seeds. Soooooo tasty. Glad I stopped in! I'll be back there soon for a proper meal.

Anatomy of a Green Juice

I get asked this a lot, so here's an example of my typical breakfast juice/smoothie.


And once it's blended it looks like this (except there are 2 glasses full, 32 oz.)

I try to put in multiple greens, so some days it might be spinach and kale. I put tomatoes in there cause I won't eat them otherwise, usually. Whenever I drink one of these, it makes a huge difference in my day. My mood is better, and I have more energy. Cheers!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

I Chose to Slip

This has been a crazy work week. Lots of late nights and early mornings and eating lunch at my desk. So, when my co-worker offered to pick me up something for lunch yesterday, I appreciated it. I had nothing and I had no time to go anywhere. He was heading to Baja Fresh, so I asked him to pick me up a veggie burrito, no cheese. And he did just that.

I had meetings. and the thing sat on my desk for an hour. I finally got to it around 3 in the afternoon. I was starving. Well, after 1 bite, I saw it had sour cream on it. Choice: Throw it away and eat whatever scraps I had (some nuts and an apple for a snack later), or eat the burrito with the sour cream. I ate the burrito. It wasn't enjoyable, but I needed the fuel. I gave in.

This was a case that I won't beat myself over it. I wasn't thrilled to have the dairy in my system, I didn't like the taste, but my needs trumped my values. Life's about choices and balance. This choice worked for me.

But, I learned my lesson though. Think ahead and be specific.