Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Schwing! Success!

All 35 commitments have been obtained!

Thank you to everyone that signed up! I can now start the best part - trying out your recipes!

Just wanted write a quick note to let everyone know that we've reached what the point calls "the tipping point." This means that my project is more likely to succeed because I already know that people are interested and invested in it.

I've set up an email account for the recipes: clare[dot]cookbook[at]gmail[dot]com. Send 'em on over and let's start the real fun.

In other news:

If you want to do something good for the world today, join the Bono, Retire from Public Life and we'll Donate a Ton of Money to Fight AIDS campaign.

Two birds, one stone!

Monday, July 28, 2008

High Fructose Corn Syrup - No Good!

I have been researching high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) for a project at work and found a huge number of people interested in getting rid of HFCS in their diet. I wrote a note on facebook about some of the issues regarding HFCS and why the stuff is so nasty for the body. Plus, the web has a plethora of articles, blog posts and campaigns dealing with the subject. If you are interested in reading any of them - here are some of the most interesting and informative I've found:Feeding Kids, US Food Policy Blog, The Fat ExPat, and Culinate.

The campaign on The Point that led me to find this information is using the approach of a carrot (consumer dollars) instead of a boycott. We want to show soda manufacturers how many people would buy soda if it was sweetened with pure cane or beet sugar instead of HFCS. Jones Soda made the switch, and maybe one of the major companies will too. Anyone interested in joining can find the campaign here.

My boyfriend is getting more and more concerned that I'm going to make him a health nut too. He relaxed a little after he ate the jambalaya I made him this weekend (vegan and HFCS free!).

Okay I may have added some chorizo to his half of the dish, but I do love making him happy! He returned to New York last night, but only one month until I move up there.

Until then, I send him songs like this that hopefully embarrass him at work.

Monday, July 21, 2008

On Tofu

I don’t specifically recall my first exposure to tofu, but I do remember not being impressed. It looked like cheese to me, which meant it should be delicious! Instead it tasted soggy and plain. When I decided to cut out red meat at the age of 11, I never thought I could swear off all meat because of the sad state of my relationship with tofu.

I tried tofu again at an Asian restaurant some years later. It seemed to me that if anyone knew good tofu, these Asians would. However, since this was less “5 star” and more “mall food court,” I found myself again disappointed. This time the tofu was chewy in addition to being tasteless. I almost lost hope.

Luckily, my mind changed about the soy product. I have since discovered its joys and versatility, and I couldn’t be happier about it. I understand where others are coming from when they claim to dislike tofu, but I wonder if they know tofu the way I do.

In nutritional standings, tofu ranks high. Low in calories and fat, high in protein and completely free of cholesterol, tofu has proved itself as in studies as a heart healthy alternative to meat. An extremely versatile food, tofu can take on any flavor and many textures. I have had tofu in breakfast, lunch, dinners and desserts. None of the meals have disappointed.

How can you overcome your rift with tofu? Hopefully my cookbook will help. I plan on including tofu recipes to satisfy the savory to the sweet tooth. The best way to get over the fear of the unfortunately named bean curd is to try out recipes with it. You’ll be surprised at how well it works in a variety of dishes. My favorite vegan parfait from whole foods uses tofu and maple syrup to create the most delicious faux yogurt.

I’m posting a recipe that I made over the weekend for my (non-vegan, very meat-eating) parents. I still haven’t cracked my 18-year old brother, but he hasn’t gotten around to eating much besides steak, pirogues and hot dogs yet.

When I get him to convert, I’ll expect a personalized thank you note from peta.

Blackened Tofu with Navy Beans and Swiss Chard*

  • 1 pkg extra firm tofu

  • 1 can navy beans (drained and rinsed)

  • 1 bunch swiss chard, cut into 2 in strips

  • 1/3 cup soy sauce

  • 1 clove minced garlic

  • 1 Tbls Rice Vinegar

  • 2 Tbls Paprika

  • 2 Tbls ground black pepper

  • 1 Tbls salt

  • 1 Tbls cayenne pepper

  • 1 Tbls Garlic powder

  • ½ Tbls Thyme

  • ½ Tbls Oregano

  • 2 Tbls EVOO

  1. Slice the tofu (length-wise), then again diagonally creating four pieces

  2. Whisk together soy sauce, vinegar and garlic and paprika, marinate tofu pieces in mixture for 30 min

  3. Combine pepper through oregano on plate, dip each piece of tofu on both sides into rub

  4. Heat large saucepan on stove with EVOO, place tofu slices into pan

  5. Cook 3 minutes on first side, flip, and add navy beans to pan.

  6. Cook until desired firmness is reached (approx. 4 min)

  7. Turn off heat, add swiss chard and cover, let sit for 2 min.

  8. Serve with swiss chard as a bed for the beans and tofu.

Serves four.
*Blackened Tofu taken from recipe at www.goveg.com

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Almost Up and Running

I am at 25 out of the 35 necessary commitments I need to start the cookbook. According to mathematicians everywhere, that means I have 71% of the necessary members. I am so close and I can’t wait to start trying recipes. Haven’t signed up yet? What are you waiting for?

Some people have gotten worried about the fact that their recipes aren’t healthy enough. Sign up and send them in any way! A lot of what I’m hoping to do with the book involves writing memoir type stories and anecdotes. So even if your recipe makes hearts and arteries everywhere shudder, I will probably still use it! I want good, healthy food, but I really want great stories. I hope to become a professional writer and utilizing these skills in a cookbook certainly can only help my ultimate goal.

Offers for recipes have also come in from people not using the campaign on the point, and I hope to use those. I have received responses from some cookbook authors and bloggers that I greatly respect and am so excited to hear from them. In particular, I have heard from Nava Atlas, the author of Vegan Express (my favorite vegan cookbook), Amy Cook, the author of the food blog at goveg.com and Janelle, the author of the blog Talk of Tomatoes. Their advice and encouragement has been great to hear, or I suppose to read.

Offers for recipes from my father have also come in, though he hasn’t signed up for the point campaign either. He has offered me a tasty hot dog recipe. I’ll give a big hint for this one: it involves boiling water. Don’t say you didn’t get any sneak peaks!


I will wait until the rest of my recipes come in while I work on some of my own. I work on recipes my mom has taught me, some I have taught her, and some that I think she will like. Plus, I spend many of my nights trying recipes from the authors listed above, from Cooking Light magazine and from my imagination. So I’ve got plenty to keep me busy -- oh, and getting a job and apartment in NYC occupy some of my time also.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

When I Get Hungry, Get Out of My Way

My hunger sneaks up on me. I have no idea it's coming and then I get ravenous - eat your arm ravenous. This is why I firmly believe in two important things:

Snacks and Leftovers

I've upheld this mantra since my youth. After school I needed a snack. Not just because I wanted something to munch on, I mean I would beat up my little brother until my mother provided me with a snack. I was indeed that hungry, plus he was at a pretty annoying stage of life - he's really made some great progress since the age of three. One of my favorite snacks: little faux-tortillas made of salami and filled with cottage cheese.

I've progressed somewhat as well, some of my favorite snacks now include:

  • Soy yogurt with cinnamon and a banana (I recommend WholeSoy & Co. yogurt)

  • Celery and hot sauce (at some point I will write a post on how hot sauce is the universal condiment, stay tuned!)

  • Wheat bread and any kind of fun 'butter' i.e. pear butter, cashew butter. I try to find fun butters at the farmers' market.

Now onto the leftovers - a key to my anti-hunger crusade. This requires some background first. During my final year of college I had some unfortunate events involving roommates and our food cleaning habits (read more about the lovely situation here). I quickly learned that cooking for large groups, while fun, ensures that clean up will be a pain. And so began my journey to find ways to cook just enough.

The golden ratio I've stumbled upon is approx. 2.5 generous servings per dish, per person. This allows enough food for all, including the large and hearty men I usually end up cooking for, and just the right amount of leftovers for me to make into a snack!

It's all come full circle now! You see how one is the other and really the world is colored with shades of gray! Revelation of revelations. When I become hungry, I have a fully cooked snack available to me at a touch of a microwave button. This reduces clean-up from the making of the snack as well. I've covered all my bases and allowed my roommate to keep her arm intact. Success!

What can I say, I like to celebrate the little victories in life.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Let's make this clear.. an entry on selectarianism

When people ask what I eat, I tell them I am a vegan.

When I go to restaurants where the only vegan option is salad I will order something that has dairy in it.

"How contradictory! Outrage!" You exclaim!

But I don't see it that way. Let me explain.

I chose to become a vegan six-seven months ago in January 2008. I read "Skinny Bitch" and immediately had to completely give up meat. If you want to know why the change had to be so quick, read the book. Otherwise, just trust me, I had to. But the book doesn't stop there, it advocates for full fledged veganism. In addition, the authors hate refined sugars, coffee and constipation. They really go all out.

Eventually I do want to be a full-fledged, card-carrying vegan. I recognize that the world hasn't made the shift yet and sometimes I have to adjust to that.
So I chose to go vegan, cut back on my alcohol intake and nix all the caffeine. I haven't been completely successful. I still drink coffee on mornings when I can't see straight and I think even if it's organic vegan red wine, drinking a bottle of it is not on the recommended list. But what I have found is that just like any lifestyle decision, putting it into practice involves a lot of work and adjustment. Frankly, I'm proud of what I've been able to accomplish. Here's how I've done it so far:

  • At home, all the food is vegan. The food I cook, snack on and bring with me somewhere adheres to the strictest of vegan rules. I love trying to make new dishes, and if they suck, I can only blame myself. Or my roommate.

  • At restaurants without clear vegan options I am more lax. Have you ever gone out to eat with someone on a strict diet and they took 15 minutes to order? I know the cook is probably going to cook my grilled vegetables in butter (or worse) no matter what I ask for, so I try to keep it as simple as possible.

  • Eating with my boyfriend is where I really mess up. What can I say? He makes me so happy, and really how could I tell him no when he orders me ice cream? Plus we're in a little bit of a battle of the meat eater vs. the vegan. Even I'll admit sometimes a little compromise is necessary to keep everyone afloat. He did take a bite of my vegan (read: tofu) quiche, so we're both trying!

Eventually I do want to be a full-fledged, card-carrying vegan. I recognize that the world hasn't made the shift yet and sometimes I have to adjust to that. I pick my battles - and most importantly, I feel good. How can you argue with that? So when I tell you I'm a vegan, I mean that I am against factory farms, pollution and cruelty. When I order the veggie burger even though there is cheese in the patty, it means that I'm doing the best I can. Some people are better, but somebody's always going to be better. Those jerks can look down on me all they want.

I'm still occasionally going to order the portobello entree even if it comes with a cream sauce. And I'm going to like it.