Thursday, April 30, 2009

Reflections

Have to post again because I won't be back on the blog until Tuesday. I've been collecting my thoughts on this whole vegan thing.

1. You'd be surprised at the things that you normally eat that are vegan.

2. It only works if you like and are able to cook and go grocery shopping every day. Eating out or even buying prepared foods is pretty tough.

3. Vegan bread isn't always easy to come by.

4. I'd like to reduce the amount of eggs and cheese I eat. They weren't as hard to cut out as I thought they'd be.

5. I do cook dinner most nights and wouldn't be opposed to try and cook vegan dinners a few nights a week. Breakfast and lunch were considerably harder.

So wish me luck as I head off to sin city. In my absence I'm hoping that the blog won't be totally neglected. I know we've all been eagerly awaiting the first installment of "Betty's Bargains" and I've been promised something from Sam (Slack)heap for days now. I'm counting on Dino to hold down the fort, and hey maybe he'll even have some words of wisdom of his own to share.

Lastly, if I eat steak in Vegas it stays in Vegas right? Isn't that the rule?

Vegan Experiment Day 4!

Well folks. In t- 2 hours I will:

1. Be 24.
2. Be digging into some non-vegan chocolate lava cake.
3. Probably not be able to sleep because I'm going to Vegas!!!!

Ugh, so much I want to write about right now. I made it through 4 days with only a couple minor difficulties. Yesterday was a comedy of errors searching for some vegan kaiser rolls. Note to self: the simplest answer is usually the best. Thank you Amoroso's (and the mini mart on 21st and sansom.)

Portabella Sandwich with Herb Pesto




Portabello Mushroom Caps
Kaiser rolls

Herb Pesto:
Basil
Cilantro
Garlic
Pine Nuts
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Drizzle some olive oil, salt and pepper on the mushroom cap. Put in the oven at 350-400 degrees. Meanwhile blend all of the pesto ingredients together. The mushroom takes about 20 mins to roast. Then put the sandwich together and serve with some fries. (Sweet potato fries from Trader Joes above and highly recommended.)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Why I'm (an aspiring) Vegetarian

I think I do a pretty good job of not preaching some new age, "meat is murder" philosophy to my meat eating friends. I would like to take this opportunity to fully explain why I try to abstain from meat. It's also an invitation to anyone who feels strongly about the issue to chime in as well. I would love to hear why other people are vegetarian, but also hear from meat eaters about why they just can't give up that juicy double bacon cheeseburger.

Here are some of my opinions:

1. I do believe as most meat eaters point out that eating meat is natural. Fine. But, how can you say that the way animals are raised, slaughtered, and fed hormones and chemicals to produce meat is natural? I also agree with Sam Slagheap who said that just because something is natural does not make it right.

2. There is a lot research on the harmful environmental effects of meat factory farms. So much, that it's hard to find the genuine, unbiased research in the sea of extremist, political, and one sided literature that's out there. Bottom line: It's wasteful and inefficient.

3. For me, vegetarianism is just one small part of being environmentally and socially responsible. It's not simply about avoiding meat. What you personally eat is a decision that has impacts across the globe. If you want to better the world, start by thinking about what you eat. Are you paying to have a mealy, pesticide ridden tomato shipped from Mexico in the dead of winter? In my mind, eating locally raised and hormone free beef would be a better choice than that tomato. It would probably taste a whole heck of a lot better too.

4. It's healthier. Not just on your waistline, also safer in terms of avoiding hormones and meat bourne illnesses.

5. It's cheaper. Just go out to any restaurant and see what the cheaper items are.

So I do stray more than I would like to. The way I see it, everytime I conciously eat a vegetarian meal, I'm making a difference. Reducing meat is better than doing nothing at all so why be discouraging? The world does not have to be so black and white.

Being veg isn't a quick fix and certainly not the only way to impact the world through food. No decision is right if it is unimformed or made blindly. Like I said, I would rather eat meat that is raised locally and sustainably than produce that isn't. Maybe that's just me.

One of my biggest role models is Jane Goodall, and her book "Harvest for Hope: A Guide to Mindful Eating" helped convince me to make the change. Some of her writing does have strong religious overtones, but I trust her on most issues.

So that pretty much sums it up. Take it or leave it, but don't worry. I won't judge you for eating that burger, but I may ask for a bite.

Vegan Experiment Day 3

I couldn't wait for the novocaine to wear off yesterday. It lasted well into the afternoon and I was starving. I had planned to make some vegan pad thai for dinner. I don't cook too much asian food, and for some reason never feel like it would taste like the real thing. If you like the ubiquitious thai staple but wish it didn't always have egg and shrimp in it, make this at home. Surprisingly vegan and surprisingly satisfying if you're craving pad thai, it couldn't be easier. I have to admit I don't work with tofu too much. I'm of the opinion that you can be vegan/vegetarian and not eat tofu. I always hear from meat eaters that they could never go veg because they hate tofu.

Vegan Pad Thai

Extra Firm Tofu
Canola Oil
Rice Noodles
Hoisin Sauce
Bean Sprouts
Fresh lime
Frozen Peas
Peanuts
Cilantro

Working with tofu takes a little bit of practice. I like extra firm for dishes where you are sauteeing it. The key is to get it as dry as you can. I usually drain as much as I can in a colandar then squeeze gently and repeatedly with paper towels. Unused portions can be frozen.

While the rice noodles cook, cube the tofu and sautee in some canola oil. If needed, gently use a spatula to flip the tofu during cooking so it browns on all sides. Season with salt and pepper. When it starts to brown, add some frozen peas and bean sprouts.

When noodles are drained and still hot, put them back in the pot they were cooked in. Slowly add in the hoisin sauce. It's strong, so add a little bit at a time. You can always add more later. Then fold in the tofu mixture stirring carefully to avoid breaking up the tofu. The finishing touches are lime juice, plenty of fresh cilantro and peanuts sprinkled on top. I like to sprinkle peanuts on the individual plates so they stay crunchy.

(Once this experiment is over I'll make this again with egg and shrimp. Wait, did I say that out loud?)

Let me also state for the record that I did bring Betty some leftovers, but she's out sick today so guess I'll just have to eat it myself.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Pumpkin: Not Just for Halloween

I've walked past Pumpkin around 17th and south many times. Friday, when I was looking for a byo within walking distance that I've never been too, it was perfect. Fred and I picked up some wine on the way.

It's definitely small, and I probably should have made a reservation. They were happy though to squeeze us in by the window. First impressions: not vegetarian or wallet friendly. It's also cash only, so Fred had to dash out to an ATM.

The menu changes, I think on a daily basis, which means everything is fresh and seasonal, just how I like it. It's a pretty short menu, and nothing was vegetarian. Given the title of the blog, you can guess that I wasn't deterred. I do eat seafood on occasion, so luckily there were plenty of choices.

I started off with white bean soup (Oops, it may or may not have had proscuitto in it) and Fred had some scallops. Let's just say I knew we were in for a fantastic albeit expensive meal.

My next course was Spanish mackeral with some sort of crispy potato stick? Well whatever it was called, I'd go back just for that. I tried to convince Fred to get the duck. When I go to nice restaurants, I try to order things I would never make at home. I would never buy a duck breast to cook at home. (But then again, am I really going to cook him lamb shoulder which is what he ended up getting?)

As you'll learn, I was born without a sweet tooth. Every once in a blue moon (or maybe after enough wine) I'll order dessert. How could I not order a house made biscuit with seasonal berries and whipped cream? I wanted something light, while Fred opted for the chocolate bread pudding with peanut butter ice cream.

Verdict: A special occasion splurge. You pay for the ambiance and service. We absolutely loved our waitress! I think they have a prix fixe deal on Sunday nights. I'm sure it's crowded but I would check it out.


Guest Blogger Betty Presents:

Cheap 'N Healthy...Do these words belong together?

Last year around this time I joined Discovery Health’s National Body Challenge to get back in shape. It is a great online resource for weight loss tips, healthy recipes, answers to common questions about health and exercise, and you can even get a pass to Bally’s Total Workout to help get you into a workout routine. It is definitely worth checking out especially if you don’t know where to start and you want to get back into shape. The other nice thing about this program is that you are sent emails from time to time highlighting articles, recipes, etc that are worth reading. The emails are infrequent enough where I still want to read it but frequent enough that I remember the National Body Challenge.

Today, I was reading a couple articles when I was inspired to write this entry. “Eating Healthy on a Budget” immediately caught my eye but the article turned out to be a bust. I did NOT find it helpful. So I thought it would be a good time for me to write my own segment:
Cheap ‘n Healthy: where to buy foods on a budget and foods to stock up on when you are in a pinch

Stay tuned for Betty’s Bargains….

Picnic in the Park


The Frankenstones (newly engaged!) invited me to picnic in Washington Square on Sunday. We made a pitstop at one of my favorite places, Reading Terminal. If only I lived a little closer and they had later hours. I'd heard about the fair food farmstand, but never been. I figured it would be the perfect place to pick up some fruit and cheese, while (future) Mrs. Frankenstone picked out some cookies. The staff was very friendly and happy to let me take some pictures. They suggested a delicious pepper jack, and of course what I was most curious about: Vrapple. Yes it's exactly what you'd think it is. Vegan scrapple and probably an oxymoron. Unfortunately I didn't want to bring it and let it sit out in the heat. I did pick up a 15% off coupon for Sam Slagheap.

With food and drinks in hand we found a nice shady spot.

Our spread included: zucchini bread, hummus, salad, apples, cheese, cookies, Mr. Frankenstone's chicken wrap and pickle suprise. He also provided some delicious refreshments. Perhaps he will be kind enough to share the recipe with us. Uncle giggles also joined us and it was the best way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Too bad the Frankenstone's are moving soon...

Saturday Fun in the Sun

I met Betty and Barney at Clark's Park farmer's market on Saturday. Betty and I love us some farmer's markets. Can't beat the fresh local produce at a great price. Luckily, there are several that are convenient to me. If you live or work near one and don't go, shame on you. Here is a great resource:


http://www.thefoodtrust.org/php/programs/farmers.market.program.php


I got some zucchini bread and a basil plant that barely survived it's journey through West Philly and back to my house. Next we headed down to Penn Relays, one of my favorite events of the year. Team Jamaica was there in full force. If you've never seen thousands of screaming Jamaican's it's quite a spectacle. Unfortunately I missed the racewalkers and the 70+ events. I heard the 92 year old was pretty good.


It was hot out but worth it to see some of the best athletes in the world and Bill Cosby all in the same day.

Vegan Experiment Day 2

So last night I made a very simple and light dinner. Perfect for the hot weather. Betty generously shared some of her bangin' bruschetta and some bread. I made some vegan garlic bread and some sauteed sugar snap peas. Here are the recipes:

Vegan Garlic Bread

Baguette
Fresh garlic cloves
Olive Oil
Lemon Zest
Dried Basil and Rosemary
Salt
Pepper

Pour some olive oil into a bowl. Into it, start grating some garlic cloves (or use a press). Add all of the other ingredients to taste and spoon evenly and liberally onto sliced bread. Wrap in foil and bake at 350 degrees for about 15 mins. Unwrap so cut side is up and bake for another 5 minutes until desired crispiness.

Sugar Snap Peas with Soy Sauce and Lemon


This is pretty much self explanatory. Sautee some fresh sugar snap peas in a little canola oil over medium heat. Add a splash of soy sauce and a squeeze of lemon juice. Season liberally with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes.

Day 2

Note to self: Probably not a good idea to go 5 years in between visits to the dentist. I've always had pretty good teeth, and I never really go home where my regular dentist is. Ok, so I don't have a good excuse. I have good benefits at my job so I guess I've just been lazy.

New Dentist was not too happy with me but did he really have to keep shaking his head and laughing at me in the hallway to his dentist friends?

Long story short, I'm now sitting at work drooling on my self and unable to talk let alone eat. I am trying to slim down before I go to Vegas, but I would not recommend the novacaine diet...

Monday, April 27, 2009

Guest Blogger Betty Presents: Viva this Vegan!

This is the third time that I have curtailed my carnivorous customs in a quest to prove I am more than a meat eater (and I think it’s fun :0). When Wilma told me about her interest in veganism I immediately encouraged her by remarking, “You canNOT give up cheese and you know it!” But Wilma’s determination inspired me. She tailored a plan from a change in lifestyle to a 4-day detox challenge just before she hits Vegas. I told her if you are serious about doing it then I will do it with you.

After going vegetarian for Lent, I thought to myself, what are you doing? I figured that I needed a kick in the pants to get back on my “Get Right for the Summer” workout plan and decrease meals where MEAT is the star. Wilma and I brainstormed our menu for the four days and planned to start on Monday.

With the launch of the Worst Vegetarian Ever blog, we launched into our Vegan Experiment. For breakfast I had the intention of eating mangos but I ended up eating hummus and bread. YES, THERE IS VEGAN BREAD (thanks Pebbles from home). Lunch is the trickiest meal. I opted for a non-dairy smoothie and in this 92 degree heat it hit the spot.

Being a Vegan is possible with a little planning. If you are not sure you can go this extreme, I suggest you try this recipe before you write off this experiment. It actually is a raw food recipe but it is amendable to just being vegan. Here it is:

Betty’s Bangin’ Bruschetta
1 Beef Steak Tomato or 3 Roma Tomatoes
1-2 TBSP Good Olive Oil
1 Clove Garlic, roasted preferred
Several Basil Leaves, thinly sliced
Salt and Pepper to taste

Wash tomatoes in warm water. Dice into bite sized pieces. Place in a medium bowl. Finely mince 1 large clove or 2-3 small cloves of roasted garlic. Place into bowl.

*To make roasted garlic, place one head of garlic in some aluminum foil and dizzle a small amount of olive oil. Place in a 325 degree preheated oven for 30-40 minutes. Garlic should appear soft and a tad wrinkled.

Add olive oil, salt and pepper to the bowl. Mix well so garlic incorporates into the mixture but be careful to not mush the tomatoes to a paste. Finally add basil and mix until incorporated. Enjoy on vegan breads, crackers, even avocado would be tasty!

Earth Day Adventure




The first of many foolish tales with Betty...

So in honor of Earth Day Betty and I decided to see Earth (http://disney.go.com/disneynature/earth/). I called up the Bridge on 40th St. to inqure if they were showing it. After 3 days of being told to call back because they didn't know yet they finally told me the day before that alas, they were not. To which I responded "Aww man, now we have to go to 69th street." The random guy on the phone wasn't sure how to react, but I feel like calling him back and saying "We did go to 69th street and it was great!" Of course I'd be lying, but it was an adventure.
My student worker, let's call him Dino, has been raving about Don Memo http://www.donmemomexicanrestaurant.com/ for a while which is near the theater. Well, when in Rome. (Or Upper Darby.) So hungry for some good mexican grub we wandered around in the rain trying to find the elusive Don.

We finally found him hiding across from the courthouse. We were the first (and only) ones to arrive, but it was 5:30 on a rainy Wednesday night. We started with some delicious guacamole made tableside served with chips and salsas. The salsas were more of a sauce, but still tasty. Betty ordered the carne asada, which is the mouthwatering picture at the top of my blog. My vegetarian fajitas with the works were just what I wanted served with warm flour tortillas.
Verdict: it will definitely hit the spot if you're in that 'hood and looking for hearty portions of mexican classics. I've been told they have a cart around 38th and chestnut, which would have been considerably easier to get to. Maybe next time.
Oh yeah and go see Earth.

Vegan Experiment Day 1

So I'm going to Vegas this Friday (much more on that later). I can't imagine eating vegetarian in Vegas is easy so I've decided to go vegan Monday through Thursday. I'm pretty sure 4 days is about all I can handle, and frankly if you're betting money that I can't do it you're probably right. Betty decided to join me in my quest so maybe she'll have some updates as well.

This morning I had a very sensible organic apple (from http://www.whitedogcafefoundation.org/farmstand.html) and some peanut butter. I was saddened to learn that my favorite breakfast standby Thomas' English Muffins contain milk.

For lunch, the pickings for a vegan around my office are slim. I chose some veggie summer rolls, which had the wrong label on them. Ok, so what was I supposed to do, complain to the manager that it had the wrong stinkin label or eat it and assume that it's vegan? Yeah I sure hope it didn't actually have "natural crab flavoring" in it.

Ode to a Food Truck


I remember being skeptical
Of eating off the street
But after trying many foods
It really can’t be beat

Whenever I need comfort
I know what’s sure to please
It’s something very simple
A Bui’s egg and cheese

The line at Magic Carpet
Sometimes makes me hesitate
But the tasty bella donna
Is always worth the wait

And Hemo’s is a favorite
I’ve heard it is delish
But how 'bout something veggie
Or maybe even fish?

Viva Las Vegans
I love your crispy fries
But how come you are never there
Despite my many tries?

For some nachos or a taco
I go to Lucky’s Mexican Spot
They have salads and burritos
For those who like it hot

To both of the Le Anh’s
I’ll never know which one is real
But no matter which I go to
I’m sure to find a deal

Koja grille on 38th
Makes great Korean food
Perfect for something different
When I’m in the mood

Lyn’s outside of lower quad
I can not get enough
Of your delicious eggplant parm
That’s filled with lots of stuff

For price and convenience
Even Wawa can’t compare
So to all my favorite food trucks
Thanks for always being there

Hello in Blogosphere

Hi,

Welcome to the foolish misadventures of my life. I hope you find it entertaining, amusing, and maybe informative? I am a self proclaimed foodie and as the title suggests the worst vegetarian ever. I don't even deserve to call myself that. If we're getting technical here (I hope not) I suppose you would call me a flexitarian. Well, whatever I am, it's been fun. Read on to learn about my philosophy on food and life in general. You'll hear about why I'm in love with Portland, my brief career as a waitress, birthday lasagnas, but mostly about cooking and eating out in Philadelphia with my ragtag group of friends - Fred, Betty, Barney, and Sam Slagheap to name a few. (No, those aren't their real names.)

Thanks for listening,
Wilma