Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Wagon (and the injuries sustained from falling off)

I have struggled with various little addictions and unhealthy behaviors in my life. And often when you're on a "winning streak," you'll do a little self-sabotage. For instance; ever been on a no chocolate diet and sat there, after a long run of no chocolate, asking yourself, "what would happen if you just had 2 M&Ms?"

Giving up animal eating wasn't exactly like that. I didn't ever really feel like I was giving up anything, because in actuality I started eating much better food. Still, I have had fish a few times, and kept telling myself if I ever wanted a steak I'd have it. It's been over 2 years since I've had a steak, and I can honestly say I haven't wanted one, even once.

All this to say, last night I was in Milwaukee. And for those who haven't been to Milwaukee, they have really amazing German food. I love German food. I especially love sauerbraten. Sauerbraten is typically a leaner piece of beef that is marinated for several days in a vinegary "brine." It's basically deteriorating, so that the final dish literally melts in your mouth. The Bavarian version is served with a ginger sauce with a side of spazle and purple cabbage.

When I stepped into Mader's (claimed as the best German restaurant in the U.S.)my intention was to order the mushroom strudel. But, when the familiar aroma of vinegar-bread-beer and whatever-else hit my nose, I wanted the saurerbraten. So, I ordered it. And I ate it. And I drank a beer. And it was good. Sort of. Although I only ate a little less than half of my serving, within 30 minutes it felt as if something was slowly growing in my gut.

By the time I got back to my hotel I was in pretty serious pain. My stomach was burning and it felt as if a small bowling ball was trying to get through my intestines. I drank 2 bottles of water before going to bed, with the hope this would disolve things down a bit and wash it all through.

As I went through my evening ritual, I did feel really sleepy, and barely stayed awake through my evening stretches and gratitudes. I fell asleep fairly quickly, but all night I tossed and turned. I woke up at 3am from the burning in my tummy, and stayed awake until about 4:30am.

When my alarm went off at 6am I felt very sluggish and could barely get through 1/2 of my morning yoga practice. I also noticed immediately how oily my face looked, even though I didn't have any extra oil or butter on anything (I typically eat about 1/8c of olive oil a day, and eat all kinds of nuts)the day before. And the smell. I know this is really gross, but I smelled like vinegary fat. I know that is really super-gross, but that's the best description I can come up with. It's exactly what I smelled when I sniffed the inside of my wrist, even after a shower.

All day I've felt like crap. As I drove through the beautiful Wisconsin farmlands, I had to fight to stay awake. And I felt terribly nausiated, not wanting anything but coffee and water until about 1pm. I just wanted everything out of me. Finally, I went to a wonderful deli in Green Bay, Wisconsin called Parisi's. There I had a big salad with lemon and olive oil, washed down with lots of cucumber spiked water. For dessert I had rose-water lemonade, which was awesome.

Connected to the deli is a wonderful restaurant called Kavarna. There I picked up a black-bean and wild rice salad, and a small spinach salad. Black beans are like little scrub brushes. I was craving foods that were raw, and simple and would clean out all my pipes. I'm back in my room, drinking a ton of water and doing slow yoga.

As soon as I get back to Chicago I'm going to spend the next 6 days doing a little cleanse with fresh juices and broths. And I can't imagine under what circumstances I will ever eat beef again. The 15 minutes of yumminess weren't worth the nastiness and pain my body is going through now.

I've heard of others who don't have such a dramatic reaction, and can move back and forth without such a negative reaction, but this was honestly my experience and it really made me realize a few things about my body and diet.

1. For me, utilizing energy to break down animal flesh takes energy away from living my life.

2. Eating "clean," truly keeps my body clean, sweeter smelling, more glowing, and vibrant.

3. I truly believe that taking the life of a creature that has very likely had a horrid existence transfers to my own energy and makes me feel bad. Not just physically, but in my heart.

4. I like the taste of meat (except chicken and lamb make me want to vomit), and I'm glad that I've tasted some amazingly prepared dishes including animal protein, but there is no doubt that for the next 1/2 of my life, being a vegetarian is a good fit for me. And I may occasionally eat fish and dairy, but the mainstay of my diet is vegetables, and I'm really good with that.

5. I was sad to learn Vita Rawstaurant was no longer open as a restaurant, but now only hosts private dinners and cooking classes. I've always encouraged "main stream" restaurants to up their vegan offerings, but it's essential for vegans and non-vegans alike to support those proprietors who have committed to serving vegetarian and vegan dishes.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Fried Green Tomatoes

What was I thinking?? All this time I would have sworn I had recipes for my beloved fried green tomatoes posted, as well as how to create a friend green tomato poboy. What in the world!!!

Ok, so here it is:

Fried Green Tomatoes (Annie May Style)

Please! For the love of all things holy, do not make a batter with a lot of flour and milk and I-don't-know-what-all. Unless you want people to think you're from Texas, stick with plain corn meal.

4-6 Green Tomatoes, in 1/4" slices, with peel
salt and white pepper
about 2 cups of yellow corn meal
vegetable oil

I hate to be so vague about the measurements, but this is one of those things I do by taste. Slice your tomatoes and put on a plate. You need them to be a little juicy so the meal will stick. Season your meal. I actually will even add a little hot sauce sometimes, but it depends on the mood. Salt and pepper are really perfect. Probably to 2 cups, 1 tsp. of salt would work. Don't want to over salt, and you can always salt after frying.

Put a cast iron skillet on a medium hot burner. When skillet is hot add oil. When oil is hot drop in 3-4 tomatoes at a time. Don't over-fill as the oil will get cool and you won't get even coloring on your tomatoes. Make sure you have a draining rack placed over a towel. This will keep the slices crisp on both sides, which is kind of a big deal.

When edges start to curl in and turn a bit brown, turn tomato and cook for another minute on the other side. I always figure 1 tomato will feed 1 person well. It should make 2 sandwiches.

Fried Green Tomato Poboys
serves 4

4 hoagie-style sandwich rolls, or petite baguettes
Earth Balance spread
2 Fried green tomatoes, room temperature
2 cups iceberg lettuce, shredded
Vegan remoulade sauce (see recipe below)
*bonus points* 6 slices Smart Bacon, cooked crisp

In the afore mentioned iron skilled, melt a little Earth Balance and split the sandwich rolls. Toast the insides until golden. This can also be done in the oven, but while the skillet is hot, what the heck.

On each roll smear a generous bit of remoulade sauce, then top with the bacon slices, the tomato slices (about 4 each), then lettuce then more remoulade. My step-father prefers lettuce before the sauce so as not to have a soggy bun, but to me that's why you toast the bread. Whatever. Serve this with oven baked sweet-potato fries and a free-form peach galette for dessert. I seriously want this so badly right now, I can't even tell you!!!

Vegan Remoulade Sauce

2 Tbsp. Vegenaise
1 Tbsp. whole-grain Creole mustard
1 Tbsp. hot sauce (go to and mention Bunny)
2 tsp. capers
1 Tbsp. celery, diced really fine

Mix all together in a small glass bowl and chill until ready to assemble poboys.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Farmer's Market Finds

It's that time again. Time when Midwest farmer's markets explode with ears of fresh sweet corn. There are many ways I'd rather spend my time besides shucking corn. Bringing golden kernels from cob to plate is a complex lesson in entomology, biology and general ickiness. At best, you will render yourself a bowlful of gorgeous golden nuggets with only a slight bit of sludge under your nails and a big fat mess. At worst, whatever creatures are living in the ear of corn will be angry at you disturbing them and bite and/or sting you. I digress...

This is one of my favorite and easiest corn recipes:

Corn Chowder
serves 6-8

8 ears of sweet corn
2 Tbs. butter or vegetable oil
1 med. onion, chopped finely
2 med. carrots, chopped finely
2 stalks celery, chopped finely
3 med. potatoes, cubed (I don't peel mine)
5 cups vegetable stock
pinch of salt
whatever fresh herbs you might have around. I used a little thyme
1 Tbsp. chili powder

Remove corn kernels from corn and scrape cobs to get milk. Do all this over a bowl so you get juice. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Toss 1/2 cup of corn with chili powder and roast in oven until crispy and brown. Saute onions in butter or oil, over medium heat, for about 5 minutes. Add carrots and celery and cook about 3 more minutes. Add potatoes and corn and cook for about 30-45 minutes. I then used my hand mixer to make it all more creamy, but you could also let it cool and then blend. Reheat the whole business, then serve with the roasted corn and maybe some cilantro sprinkled on top.

Black Bean Fritters with Guacamole
makes about 12 fritters


1 avocado, chunked
2 Tbsp. favorite salsa (I love Hell on the Red)
juice of 1 lime
1 scallion, sliced fine
1 Tbsp. jalapeno
1/4 c. cilantro, chopped
pinch of garlic salt or to taste

Mix all and leave half of lime in mix, cover with plastic wrap, and stick in the fridge.


1 can black beans, rinsed
4 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 c. chopped onions
1/2 c. shredded sharp cheddar (you could use Daiya, but I didn't)
1/2 c. bread crumbs
1 lg. egg
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 Tbsp. chili powder

Heat medium skillet over medium-high heat. After warm, add vegetable oil. In a large bowl mix all ingredients except oil. If you don't want to use the egg you could substitute a little water. In about 1/4 cup bits make small "patties," and cook 3-4 at a time until crisp and firm. It took me about 3-4 minutes on one side, and about 2 on the other. Serve with dollop of guacamole. Yum!!!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Fun with Adrenals

Hello! Wonder where I've been? Oh, it's too much for one post...we'll have to draw it out. For now can we just chalk it up to summer break? For those who are still with me, thank you so much, and I hope all the new info I have to share was worth the wait.

First, what do you know about your adrenal glands? Do you even know where they are? They are these little walnut-sized gems that sit on top of your kidneys. And as I've learned over the past 4-5 weeks, they actually pack a punch! When they get tired you're in trouble. I have a slight case of adrenal fatigue syndrome.

But, the good news is, you can often perk them back up with a healthy diet. I've been reading this amazing book, Adrenal Fatigue, by Dr. James Wilson. I also had an amazing chat with nutritional guru, Katerina Getchell, after hearing her on a teleconference with Christine Arylo. You also must increase sleep and reduce stress (even good stress).

Even though I eat really high quality foods, and would normally stack my diet beside anyone's, since going through some rather challenging experiences after the first of the year I noticed the following symptoms:

1. I was either craving sugary snacks (more than a weekly More Cupcake hit) and salty bits every day, usually around 3-4pm. I once had an entire jar of pickled okra for dinner!

2. My muscles seemed to take longer to recover from my normal 90-minute Sunday yoga practice.

3. I would get this weird energy burst around 10 or 11pm, when normally I'm out by 10pm.

4. I was always a little sleepy, but didn't sleep well and would often wake really hot, which made me worry I was pre-meneposal.

5. Although I hadn't gained on the scales, my belly has become more poochy than usual (Even when I was quite under weight I have a pooch. I love it, but like to keep it under control)

So...what do you do? Everyone is different, so you really need to read up. And I actually got blood work done and specifically told my Dr. what I was concerned about as many doctors don't really look at adrenals. After learning I had a slight case of fatigue I came up with the following plan:

1. When I wake I drink a glass of warm water with 1/2 tsp. of sea salt. It's gross, and I gagged the first few times, but now it doesn't bother me as much.

2. Eat early and often. I haven't given up my 1.5 cups of coffee, but it is no longer the first thing in my tum. I have a green drink, packed with spinach, mango, avocado, flax see and almond milk.

3. Have your lunch a bit earlier (around 11am) and then a good snack between 1-2pm. This helps me in a huge way. Huge!!!

4. Be consistant with your sleep time. And, when possible, sleep until 9am. For me this is really difficult as I naturally wake around 5:30am, so "sleeping in" means 7am. But I'm working on it. Try to get 8 hours, at least, every night. Really. Try it.

And here are a couple of recipes that will make your adrenal glands smile!

Black Bean Soup (from Kitchen Doctor)

2 T. clarified butter or virgin olive oil
2 t. cumin seeds
7 cloves of garlic
1 large yellow or red onion
1 cup rinsed black turtle beans
1 dried red chili pepper
2 t. turmeric powder
2 t. freshly grated ginger (or ginger powder)
bouillon powder or cubes


Sauté in cumin seeds in clarified butter or extra virgin olive oil until golden brown. Do not burn the seeds!

Add chopped garlic and chopped onion and sauté until the onions are translucent. Add black turtle beans and ample water (use large pot.) Add the chili pepper. When the beans start to become a bit tender, add the turmeric powder and some ginger. When the beans are completely tender, add the bouillon for flavor.

While the beans continue to cook, drink the liquid (which should be a bit thick.) Top off the water and add more turmeric and ginger and bouillon to taste. Eat as much as desired, but do not refrigerate and reheat. The beans can be kept warm in a slow cooker and eaten several times a day to build stamina and drain fluids from the body.

Sesame Ginger Kelp Noodles (from Dr. Rita Marie)

Sea veggies are supposed to be especially great for your endocrine system. I'm trying to incorporate more of them into my diet to up minerals and natrual salts. I think of this as more of a noodle-salad, and added some shredded cabbage, straw mushrooms, thin slices of carrots and red bell pepper.

1 bag kelp noodles
1 inch slice ginger
2 tablespoons raw sesame tahini
1/4 teaspoon sea salt or to taste
1 teaspoon sesame oil (optional)
1 clove garlic (optional)
2-3 tablespoons of lemon (or more to taste)
1/4 – 1/2 cup water (depends on desired consistency)
sesame seeds(optional)
chopped greens, scallions or other veggies

Put kelp noodles in a bowl and rinse well. Cover with water until sauce is ready. In blender, combine remaining ingredients until smooth. Adjust water to achieve a thick smooth consistency. Adjust salt to taste.

Pour sauce over noodles and massage with hands to help the noodles soften. Add chopped veggies if desired. Sprinkle with sesame seeds (optional). Eat immediately or save for later. The noodles soften more the longer they sit in the sauce

note: the noodles can have a fairly strong sea smell, so you really need to rinse them. I liked this salad a lot, but will make a dressing that's a bit more spicey next time...maybe add chile flakes and a little agave nectar.