Archive for the 'vegetarian' Category

Progress: Mmm-Hmmm, Now Changes

Hey there!  I’ve missed you guys!  I realize that that’s my fault for not posting, but be assured I missed you while I was avoiding you.  So after that vacation to New Zealand, I was useless with jet-lag for a few days, then the sniffle I brought back got worse for a few days (no, not swine flu, got it checked out, but I did get prescribed this amazing cough syrup for whatever it was), and then I got inspired for a few days, and now it’s now.  More on that later.  First my July goal.

In July, that sunny month of my birth, I had pledged to travel sustainably.  And I think I did a very good job.  Bought local, stayed local, ate local, considered the sources of things, etc.  Usual behaviour, only over there, not here.  And with souvenirs.  I will be posting on some the places I stayed- all of which have excellent green practices and were run by locals.  I’ll be posting on some of the environmental issues I noticed there- fishing (obliquely related, with a book review) and pest control (I think you’ll like that one!  It comes with taxidermy photos!).  And the food I can summarize here- I ate a) well, b) meat, and c) more vegetarian than I expected.

As you have gathered, my attempts at being vegetarian- even for a little- have been largely halfhearted and begrudging.  The first meat I had after the pre-trip veg was Air New Zealand plane food.  Not terrible, and if you forget how it looked, pretty good,  and served with free wine (refills available), so rock on, ANZ.  But ordering meat again in restaurants was strange.  It felt wrong.  Wrong and freeing, but still wrong.  One nice thing about meat in New Zealand is that it’s probably locally produced- a lot of cows and sheep and plenty of seas about, and your dinner doesn’t have far to travel.  They also have deer farms too- tried the venison a lovely terrine in a pub opposite Parliament.  It was very easy to stick to local restaurants.  But transportation isn’t the biggest sustainability issue with livestock, so that’s a small consolation.

I did my time on the North Island (Auckland, Napier, and Wellington) traveling alone and thus entirely according to my own whims, but in the South Island I was hosted by the dashing D, who has vegetarian proclivities of his own.  His excellent cooking and general good behaviour about picking restaurants with tofu on our road trip inspired me to try harder myself- buddy system.  We still ate meat (oh dear I do love lamb) on several occasions.

Coming home, though, I haven’t had meat since the last ANZ meal- lamb and oh that wine- and I feel good about that. I noticed my digestive system is happier without all the meat, too, especially the red stuff.  In-teresting.  But whether it’s just too hot out to eat anything ‘real’ or I’ve actually unfurled a new petal, I’m getting my kicks from lots of fruit and vegetables (and cornbread) these days.  Even making plans to get a blender and crock pot (craigslist!) to aid me in my attempts to prepare fruits and vegetables in new and exciting ways.  This is an unexpected and pleasing development.

Alright, that’s the goal summary, now the changes:  I’m not making new resolutions for August.  Or probably for a while after August.  I’m going to keep on posting about all the other things I’m trying (there will be compost changes shortly, for instance) but I won’t add things.  I am beginning the process of applying to graduate schools of urban or city planning for next fall, starting last weekend- and with that on top of the real job, studying for an exam that’s real job related, and architecture classes beginning in three weeks, I should not have the time to make any big new changes around here.  If I do, someone please tell me to get back to my homework.  I am very excited about all of this (ok not the job exam, but I am excited about passing that as a revenge for all the boring stuff I have to learn for it), and I’ll keep you updated on how it’s going.  So far I’ve got specialties of interest identified, a list of schools to apply to, a list of deal-breakers, and I’m starting the asking-other-people-who-actually-know-planning about it.  Not bad for three days, think I’ll take a month off.  Ha ha!  Ha.

Busy fall.  I planned it that way.  But I’ll be back, and soon, and you will see some opossum taxidermy the likes of which you have probably not imagined.  At least I hope so.

Trials, Errors, Coping Mechanisms

I’ve been struggling a little with both the No-AC and the vegetarian thing (only 10 days of that left!) lately.

First, the AC.  I haven’t turned it back on- with just a fan it was even nice enough for about seven of us to brunch in the apartment Sunday afternoon.  But for about two weeks I couldn’t sleep, because of both the heat and humidity, and the means I use to keep it under control.

Normally, I fall asleep like dead within a couple minutes of laying down.  I like sleeping, and I’m very good at it.  But with the noise of the fan or two, light and more noise from the open window (it’s above a parking lot), and plenty on my mind, I tossed around for hours.  I tried different combinations of window coverings, fan positions, sheets, and such.  Putting the fan in the window made things a little easier- at least the noise was all coming from the same place.  Really, though, the thing that’s made it noticeably better is that it’s getting cooler now at night- less humid and with a nice breeze, and we’re down into the 70s.  Back to death sleep the past couple nights, so that’s a win, but I can only hope it doesn’t get bad again.

It’s with walking or biking to work, or trying to cool my house, that I notice how I am no longer impervious to weather.  I’ve taken for granted not having to pay attention to it for years, since somebody made it obsolete for us, with climate control.  For about 2 seconds, I feel like a pioneer, struggling against the elements, but then I remember I can to drive my car to a grocery store to buy ‘food’ I’d have no idea how to make for myself.  Then I remember why I like not being a pioneer.

Speaking of ‘food’, know how I’m bad at balancing my diet?  Anyway, I forgot to eat anything with protein in it for four or five days, and felt terrible, after- no protein, no sleep, rough week- so last week I stocked up on soy patties.  They’re breaded, and the people who make them pretend they’re chicken.  They don’t taste anything like chicken, for the record: they taste like chewy breaded protein, and they’re not awful with ketchup.  Ketchup raises them to ‘forgettable’.  And now when I forget to eat real food, I can fix it by nuking some more fake food and getting my protein fix.  This is not precisely a dietary victory, I know.  But it works for me- easy enough even I’ll take the time to eat the stuff I need.

It does make me curious though- it’s a soy patty.  It’s not chicken.  The only reason we buy them is because they’re not chicken.  If we could have chicken, we’d buy that.  But we want the soy.  What’s wrong with calling a breaded soy patty just that?  It is to assuage the doubts of hesitant defectors-from-meat like myself?  Because I’m only left wondering how bad it would taste if they didn’t try to make it like fake chicken.  More ketchup would fix even that though, I bet.

I’ve got fake burgers to try after the fake chicken runs out.  I think the emotion that creates in me is resigned optimism.

Onward and upward, we hope, but on these two resolutions, I’d be fine with my current stalemate.

Progress: Growth

In April, I was focusing on gardening, and negotiating with the apartment complex for unlame recycling facilities.  Now May is half over, and they’re both going very well.  My garden is growing, up and out.  Dad gave me tomatoes and a pepper, and Mom gave me a flower and some oregano this weekend, so my deck is pretty cluttered.  I’ll take a picture for you if it ever stops raining.

I’m growing spinach (and/or baby’s breath- I thought I planted both but everything looks the same, and this might be weird because I might have planted spinach with the morning glories), morning glories, peas the vegetable, sweet peas the flower, and I think that’s it.  Compared to last year, it was painless- I dumped some seeds in and forgot about them, it rained for two weeks, and now everything is green.  I’ve either gained garden perspective, or I’m more easily distracted.

Next steps:  Ascertain what I did plant, repot and stake the tomatoes.  Stick trays under the pots, since they’re peeing on the deck underneath me, and it’s just too soon to alienate my neighbors.

I was also bugging the office.  I determined they are violating a law!  I’m not sure I properly expressed how thrilling that day was for me.  Felt like a citizen hero, became David to Goliath, etc.  I did talk to the property manager about that last Friday, actually, and she said the city never enforces those laws so it’s cool for now.  It was a fascinating interview- I learned a lot about her personal life- but the management position is, the law isn’t enforced, and we residents are uncooperative, so they aren’t going to push it.  She wasn’t aware until I pointed it out that they were in violation, though, and she said she’d send out another notice.  Which is required anyway twice a year.  She did mention that, if more people recycle, they’ll save money on trash pick-up, since recycling pick-up is basically free, and the trash is changed by weight.  So, I see a two-fold path on this:  figuring out who enforces this for the city, and why they don’t, and cajoling the management to take some recycling baby steps.  Proper container labeling, for one.  No progress on the bike racks so far.

I’m going to follow up on the apartment agitation, so let’s count that as something for ‘half-May’.

For a legitimate new challenge, though, I’m going to work out my travel offset plans.  I finished my classes this Tuesday, so I can let myself read my guidebooks and do the fun research for New Zealand with a clear conscience now.  I’ve been vegetarian for a couple weeks now, as part of that project.  I did eat some pepperoni, and I had shrimp on Mother’s Day, but otherwise awesome.  Except for when I tried a peanut butter and banana sandwich, which is seriously gross and how did Elvis eat those?  That was a rough morning, gastronomically.  It sounded like such a delicious idea.  I’m pretty sure I’m getting enough protein- eggs, tofu, chickpeas, those are protein right?- and I’ve done a little online searching for recipes, which worked well.  Though they did lead me to the pb and banana combo.  Mixed bag, I guess.

More of that for the rest of the month, then, plus some research on carbon offset programs, and commenter bullmooser made a great point that some sort of activism to reduce emissions in the long term would be another great way to offset my carbon guilt.  Stay tuned.

Plane Tickets: Putting the Guilt to Use

While sick and babbling at you the other day, I mentioned my tickets to New Zealand.  Not just the ravings of a madwoman:  I have plane tickets to New Zealand.

I’ve always wanted to get out and see the world, but I wanted to pay my own way, and go in as untouristy a manner as possible.  So I waited, saved, and assumed a better time would come along.  It didn’t, but now I have a passport and a twenty-fifth birthday approaching, and it’s now or never.  Well, probably not ‘never’, but definitely later.  I emailed an old friend in NZ for some advice a couple weeks ago, and, having been promised hiking and penguins, bought the tickets Sunday.

Let me digress for a moment to direct you to the new link, Cr!key Creek.  It’s my kiwi friend’s blog on water issues- focus on NZ, but he gets around.  Along with all the other parts of this trip I am completely excited about, hanging out with a  dude who’s done so much work on sustainability ranks pretty high.

But see, now I have a dilemma.  I’m flying halfway across the world twice.  This is a big ol’ suckerpunch to my environmental changes.  According to Terrapass, by flying roundtrip from Washington to Auckland, I’m responsible for 7,120 lbs of carbon emissions.  That’s like driving my car (Civic Hybrid) around for a year (also according to Terrapass).  Actually, hey, I thought it was going to be more like driving a Hummer to the moon.  Not feeling quite so guilty now.

Well, either way, that’s a pretty big negative impact on the environment, which I need to do something about (blog being all about channeling the guilt to environmental use, yup yup).  But what!?

Rhetorical, I’ve already decided what I’m going to do.  But first let’s talk about the “not going” option.

The simplest way to not rack up this carbon guilt is to not go to New Zealand.  Stay home, find some pictures of it online, and email the kiwi when I want to chat.  Going to New Zealand to bum around and walk on mountains is purely a privileged, selfish act.  Money would be better spent donating to local food shelters while I spend the two weeks volunteering to muck out the Anacostia.  This is all true.  But I don’t feel guilty about that at all:  I’m stoked about every part of this trip.

Mine is not an abstemious sustainability.  Perhaps you guessed from the frequent Salvation Army trips.  I want to do as much and live as well (according to my idea of well) as I can with as little as I can manage it on.   I get that lots of environmentalists aren’t comfortable with that balance, and why, but I am. So let’s recap the guilt nuances:  trip to NZ, sweet, impact of ghg emissions, lame sauce.

Here’s how I’m going to use this:  first, I’m going to offset my carbon.  Yup, can’t buy a green conscience, but if I can afford the tickets, I can afford to support serious emissions-reduction programs.  I will look for programs that actively remove emissions and donate enough to cover my flight.  I’ll report back, of course.

Second, my time in NZ will be spent environmentally.  Start with supporting the local economy- no chain hotels or restaurants, no ‘Made in China’ junk for the folks back home.  I’m researching B&B’s to stop in along the way.  I’ll tread lightly on the mountains- pack in, pack out, pat the trees soothingly, etc.  I’ll use public transport as much as possible (apparently they have a great national bus system, so no need to rent a car).

And third, I’m using the promise of this trip as a carrot for my efforts.  Literally.  I’m going vegetarian, starting as soon as I’m done with the Sha Cha chicken delivery leftovers, until I get on the plane.  Doesn’t seem so daunting now- though I will draw a line at pizza (I’ll try for all-veg but if it’s plain cheese or pepperoni only, like I’m locked in a room for 12 hours with nothing but a cheese pizza and a pepperoni pizza, I’m eating the pepperoni, but it’s not going to come to that), and food other people make for me in good faith.  If I go home and Dad cooks me shrimp, I’m having some shrimp.  (Dad cook me veggies.  Mom will help.)  But I promise 98.9% vegetarian intake, at least.  It’ll be easier with a reward at the end.

So that’s how I’m going to deal with that.  For the interactive part of this feature:  whatcha think?

Progress: It’s Been A While

Hey there!  I moved.  It took a while, because there was also a wedding and a class project in there too.  But the composter is humming away on my new balcony, my herbs are sitting in the window of my new kitchen, and I’ve got my very own separate gas and electricity bills are coming in, so pretty soon I can follow EcoCheap’s excellent example, and switch to wind power!

So, good start- I’ll post photos of the seedlings, which I expect any minute now.  I have checked three times in the past day- nothing yet.

Oh, also!  Biking to work?  I can, as soon as I mentally prepare myself to carry the bike down two flights every morning, then up the same stairs each night.  I’ll be in the weight room tomorrow morning, working on that part.  I imagine this will build me more character than muscle, really.

But the eating-my vegetables thing has been going really well.  I cooked a big vegetarian meal for the folks who came by to help me move- cheaper than pizza.  After the move, I’ve been living off of, well, cheese and crackers, but I’ve cooked two or three other big meals too.  I’ll post the recipe for my most recent tomorrow- pierogies with onions and apples.  Actually, that pretty much is the recipe, but I’ll flesh it out a bit for you, I guess.

The most important thing is, I haven’t purchased meat in a couple weeks.  And I still eat it when I eat out, and when other people cook, but I’m not missing it in my own food prep.  You can thank me later, environment!  Just make my plants grow.

New goals:  definitely gardening, this month.  I might also start harassing my apartment complex to working on the truly pitiful recycling options here.  They have three normal garbage bins for the hundreds of people who live in this complex, and they’re hidden in the back.  Now, I’d like them to fix a few things in my apartment before I get annoying, but maybe I can convince them to at least get recycling depositories in each building, or maybe even bins in each apartment!

Gonna dream big.

Recipe: Double Sauce Pasta

Warning: Only the laziest of vegetarians should even consider making this.

Once you have determined that you are a lazy enough vegetarian, here are two reasons for you to attempt this recipe, specifically:

1) The thought of eating just one kind of pasta sauce AGAIN makes you want to throw all your tortellini out into the snow (yes, this makes you a certain kind of difficult person).

2) You do not have enough of one kind of pasta sauce to cover your tortellini to your taste (this means you fail at groceries).

Either way, you need:

Some alfredo sauce

Some tomato sauce

Pasta of some variety you like

Make the pasta according to the instructions on the box.  You don’t need all the water they say you do (I knew that by myself, the NYT people had to call chefs and ask if it was cool, since they are ludicrous).  Frozen pasta is pretty good nuked- uses less energy, both personally and householdwise.  Stick on the leftovers of whatever jar of tomato sauce (or alfredo sauce) after you drain the pasta.  Open the new jar of alfredo sauce (or tomato sauce) and dollop on the rest to your taste.  Mix together the pasta, tomato sauce, and alfredo sauce. Cap the rest of the second jar and stick it int he fridge for the next batch. You’re in luck if one of the jars has a garlic flavor!

Eat this mix of sauces, and you will grok the meaning of Gestalt.  I know I did.

Busy Week and Vegetarian Insight

I’m planning and building a tiny kitchen for a class assigment this Saturday.  Also, V’s apartment is soaked with very gross stuff and they’ve knocked out a couple of his walls to find out where it came from, so add that to the hectic.  So pardon the slow posting while I draw and help V move stuff around- and ust know that my kitchen has a built-in compost pile, greenhouse, and herb gaden, so I am with you all in spirit.  Maybe I’ll post some pictures when I’m done with the model?

And yes, I realize I am leaving you hanging, without a monthly goal, but right now the goal is to survive the week.  Plus I was all excted about gardening then it got cold again, so I’m just being stubborn and not wanting to do anything but that this month.  I’ve overwatered my houseplants to compensate.

As for the vegetarian hook- I was exclaiming with a vegetarian friend over the bizarreness of this report on how scientists at the Antarctic research station no longer eat penguin breasts for dinner.  No longer!  Thank goodness that madness has stopped!  Seriously, how do you look at a penguin and think for even a second that they could be tasty!  They’re so adorable and squawky, how can you not be so amused and happy with them that you have no chance to consider them with a nice mustard sauce?

My wise friend then pointed out that, as a moral vegetarian, she looks at every animal and thinks that.  This gave me pause, because only penguins evoke this reaction in me.  Not that I love meat entirely and wholly, but at some point, I’m going to look at an animal and wonder how it tastes, and if it’s offered in a legal or at least safe fashion, I’ll have a try.  But not penguins.  Now, why are we wired so differently?  Her comment was a big insight for me into how different my world view would have to be for me to be a happy vegetarian.

Nonetheless, I am considering some sort of flying bargain- I get to fly, guilt-free with offsets, if I eat vegetarian for some specified amount.  I’m not saying this negates my carbon from flying or absolves me from planetal destruction, but it’s a way to leverage my guilt to make one good change.  Hum.  Maybe.

P.S. Argh so sad.

Recipe: Sweet Potatoes Without Marshmallows

I do not like marshmallows.  This kept me from sweet potatoes for years, since they were always buried under the goo.  My folks invaded my first apartment for Thanksgiving the year I was fresh out of school, though, so I got a chance to influence the meal.  This recipe is lifted straight from a good friend, who gave it to me when I realized I had no idea even what to do with sweet potatoes after all those marshmallows.


Sweet Potatoes, washed


Brown Sugar


Aluminum Foil

Find a baking pan big enough for your group (be sure to have enough potatoes to fill it).  Rub it with butter, sprinkle in some brown sugar.  Slice the sweet potatoes into discs, about 1/2 inch thick.  Cover the bottom of the pan with a lawyer of flat sweet potato discs.  Cover that layer with plenty of butter and brown sugar- I like “lots”.  Add a layer of sweet potato discs on top.  Cover the second layer with plenty of butter and brown sugar.  Repeat until the pan is full.  Add a bit more butter and sugar on top.  Pour a little water in the bottom of the pan (~1/4 in.) so the potatoes steam a bit, cover the pan with foil, and bake it at about 400 until they’re soft (this is probably more than 30 minutes).

What’s your favorite Thanksgiving recipe?

Progress: Eat Less Meat

I did alright this month.  I started off with a relatively poor diet and lazy cooking habits, and I ended the month a little more excited about cooking, and slightly more likely to eat my vegetables.  I had a little red meat twice, just as I planned, and stuck to eating meat at one meal a day, generally.  Sometimes visiting or lack of planning lead me to eat it more frequently, but there were plenty of vegetarian-only days, too.  Overall, I ate much less meat than last month, both by frequency and serving size.  I cooked much more, and I’m now in a pattern of planning vegetable-laden meals and plotting things to cook.

So it was a very good start for me, and I’ll be trying to keep up with it from now on.

A few strategies that helped:  First, I stopped by a grocery on the way home from work every few days and bought a few fresh vegetables, with no real plan for how to eat them.  This forced me to think of ways to eat things before they went bad.  Second, when I cooked, I made a ridiculous amount of whatever I was preparing, so that I could have vegetarian leftovers for a few days.  Third, if I cooked with meat, I shorted the ratio of meat to veggies- two peppers to one sausage, for instance.

For this next month, I’m going to focus on water issues.  Using too much, and putting gross stuff in, specifically.  It’s likely I’ll even be timing my showers.

Just so you know, shower time is very important for me.  Regulating it is going to be very difficult for me, and I am going to resent it.  But maybe with a timer and practice, I can balance the time and the relaxation.

For the next week, showering won’t even be much of an issue.  In WI, we bathe in the lake.  There is a shower, though- a tarp on a wooden frame, with a pump in a trash can of water.  We sunk a well (yes, by hand) a while back, so we can shower in pump water now- and with a few tea kettles of boiling water, it’s comfy.  Scrubbing under the pines!  It’s the best way to shower.  But prep time for carrying and heating the water is prohibitively long, so mostly we lake it, or rely on deodorant and breezes to keep us from smelling too human.

Considering how closely our fun and cleanliness are linked to the quality of water in the lake then, we’re careful about what we put in it.  I need to consider the toiletries I take up, and how well they’ll break down into non-harmful materials in the lake.  Same with toothpaste and dish soap up there- we discard it a few meters from the lake, so it all gets back there pretty quickly.  My showers and soap use should be similar at home, so here’s the toiletry rule:  if I wouldn’t want to stick it in the family lake (how would this shampoo effect that sunfish?), I’m not sticking it in my water at home.  I’ll fill you in on what those are when I get back.

Recipe: Potato Chunks and Cucumber Wheels

To wrap up the eat-vegetables-more month, here are two fast snacks I like to fall back on.

Salted Cucumbers

I will not sport with your intelligence by providing the ingredient list.  Peel the cucumbers, slice them into wheels (or logs if you’re feeling daring, but wheels are so lovely on a plate), and lightly salt them.  The taste is oddly refreshing.  Try different kinds of salt (The GF prefers Lawry’s Salt to just salt) and add slices of cheeses to mix it up.  Thinly sliced sharp cheddar, or chunks of something nutty like Parrano do very well.

It’s hard to not feel elegant whilst eating cucumber.

Baked Potato Chunks


Baking Potatoes (the big brown suckers)

Vegetable/Olive oil



Other Spices to taste- I tried out Paul Prudhomme’s Cajun Something Or Another.  It was ok.

Wash the potatoes and poke fork holes in them.  Nuke them for 3-4 minutes (turn over at half-time) to precook them a little- not to edible consistency yet, though.  Cut the potato up into big rectangular chunks (or dinosaurs of Circles, whatever you like, just make them thick as a thumb, at least).  Stick chunks in a bowl or bag with oil oil and spices, jiggle them about until they’re evenly coated.  Put them on a baking sheet in an oven at about 300, and leave them alone until they brown.  This browning may take longer than you think, depending on pre-cooking time.  Cool, and eat.

Good for a light meal or fast side dish.

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