Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Conclusion

For those who are wondering, Sam and I completed our three-week vegan stint on January 21st, meaning it's been over a week since we have technically incorporated animal products a bit more into our diet.  Through this process, I learned it can be difficult to be allergic to gluten and try to eat a vegan diet.  Difficult, but not impossible.  I find that when I cook for myself, it's fairly simple, but eating out or having dinner at someone's home poses a bit of a problem.  I already feel like enough of a diva demanding my food be gluten-free, so it seems a bit much to request others comply with my dietary preferences.  Having said that, I am thankful more and more restaurants are becoming enlightened about how many people are allergic to gluten and are offering choices for people like me.  I do wish that there were more options offered that are free of gluten and animal products, but hey, maybe that just means I should eat at home more.  Or eat solely at Vita in Portland.  I'm okay with that.

I plan to continue to make vegan food when at home, and only when dining out will I consume possibly some dairy or eggs.  I'll also probably ease up on special occasions and holidays.  People keep asking what I eat if I can't have bread and avoid animal products.  Rice, beans, fruit, veggies, gluten-free pasta with tomato sauce, lots of soups, and salad are my favorites.  A favorite meal is sweet potato chili (thanks for the recipe, Janna!) with some gluten free, vegan cornbread.  So perfect for the cold, gray days we've been having in Oregon!  For snacks I really like salt and pepper popcorn (with no butter) and sliced cucumber with a masala dip I found at Trader Joe's that is rather tasty.  Really my diet just involves avoiding as many processed foods as I can. 

I will admit that on our first day of not being strictly vegan, I went to Limeberry twice and got frozen yogurt.  Yes, twice.  Once on my way home from work, and once with Sam.  It wasn't until I had my yogurt and we were on our way home that I admitted to Sam I had already gone once that day.  I'll probably need to focus a bit more on sorbet or other frozen fruit treats to satisfy my sweet tooth, because the day after I had all that frozen yogurt I was miserable.  Sam has also mentioned he doesn't feel as good physically as when we were eating strictly vegan.  Amazing what you discover about how you feel when you perform an experiment like this! 

At this point I have now said all I will say about the vegan subject unless specifically asked.  I'll probably share recipes I come across that I find particularly tasty, and if anyone is curious about anything I'm happy to answer questions, but I feel like I've said enough about this subject for now.  I had no idea what a controversial subject food is!

On a different note, I'm anxiously awaiting the arrival of sweet Bree!  She's on her way to my house at this moment and I can't wait to hang out.  We're going to explore Salem together tomorrow (because, shamefully, I haven't done much of that yet), and then we plan to spend the day in Portland on Tuesday.  This will be the first time Bree will meet Morty and Willow.  I keep telling the cats, "You get to meet Aunt Bree soon!"  Don't bother telling me that they don't understand what I'm saying because I'm certain they do and I'm certain that when they meet Bree they will know exactly who she is. 

Amazing times and stories are sure to follow.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Eating and Snowing

Week two didn't go quite as well as week one.  I still haven't eaten any animal products, but I have learned a few things.

First of all, it is very important to plan.  Sam and I both leave for work around noon and don't get home till 9:30pm, so I have to do all the food preparation in the morning.  Work was extra busy this week, which didn't leave as much time for grocery shopping.  Also, this happened:

The snow made going to the grocery store a bit difficult for the past three days.  Luckily it stopped snowing by the time I had to go to work, but I wasn't able to drive in the mornings.  We live up on a hill and Sam wasn't crazy about me risking anything in the snow.  He wasn't as much worried about me as he was about other cars running into me.  This may have to do with the fact that I got rear-ended a few weeks ago on an early morning trip to the store, and Sam woke up to a phone call of me crying and saying I'd been hit by a car.  When he arrived at the scene there was a fire truck there, so he freaked a bit.  Naturally, he's been a little extra protective lately.

Between working a lot and the snow, there wasn't a whole lot I could do about food.  When I did have a second to run to the store, I just grabbed a few essentials I knew we'd need.  Consequently, last week our menu was a little boring and I think it made us both want to eat some different food.  Today I finally got to go grocery shopping for real and made Sam a portobello mushroom hamburger with hummus, spicy brown mustard, grilled onions, and tomatoes.  I couldn't have any because of the wheat in the bun, but Sam assured me it was delicious.  I think as long as we can keep having fun with trying different recipes, we can keep this up.

That's the other thing I've learned; Sam and I both really like all the foods that correspond with a vegan lifestyle.  As I've said before, I'm obsessed with curry and other types of Indian and Asian-inspired dishes, which make it easier to eat vegan.  We also both really like veggies - peppers, mushrooms, onions, sweet potatoes, zucchini, and asparagus in particular.  I know a lot of people don't care for these foods, so I totally understand the hesitation in adopting a vegan diet.  As I've said before, I'm not a huge fan of meat anyway, so that part was easy for me.  However, I love, love, love ice cream, frozen yogurt, and cheese!  If anyone knows me well, they know I used to eat ice cream every day.  So I do really miss ice cream sometimes (especially when I got some Cold Stone gift certificates in the mail from Kris!) but whenever I am tempted I just think about all I've read regarding dairy foods and it isn't quite as tempting.  But as I've said before, after the three weeks are up, I'll probably indulge in ice cream once in awhile, just not nearly as much as I used to.  (And Kristy, Sam and I got some yummy strawberry-banana-mango sorbet with marionberries mixed in from Cold Stone!  Delish!)

I've also learned that just because something is vegan does not mean it is a healthy meal.  I may or may not have just had chips and guacamole and a few handfuls of cashews for dinner last week.  Not exactly a well-rounded meal.  I won't be making that mistake again.  Also, for some reason I thought that because I was eating better, I could forgo working out.  That was also not a good idea.  When I finally went back to the gym I had a lot more energy at work.  Lesson learned: being healthy involves a clean diet and exercise.  Duh.

And on an unrelated note, I learned I don't mind the snow as much as I thought.  For a little while right after high school I lived in the snow and completely hated it, but this time around it was actually a bit fun, albeit inconvenient.  A few of my customers assumed that because I am from California, I had never seen snow.  Seriously.  For anyone who was unsure, I just want to say that it does, in fact, snow in California, even so much that lots of people ski and snowboard there.  And sure, laugh at me when I admit I don't know how to drive in the snow.  It's only fair because I laughed at you when you were complaining of the "hot" ninety degree weather in the summer.  Ninety would make for a pleasant day in July in Porterville.


Monday, January 9, 2012


I sort of love Portland.  And by sort of I mean totally.

I went to Vita Cafe in Portland yesterday with my cousin, Janna.  With the help of our patient waitress, I decided on the NW Corn Cakes, made with hazelnuts and served with organic maple syrup.  It was hard for me to decide what to get because most of their menu is gluten-free and vegan.  Amazing.  I ordered a single corn cake, fortunately, because that single cake took up my entire plate.  It was sweet, and slightly crunchy, sort of like the sweet corn cake often served at Mexican restaurants but in a pancake-style.  I would have taken a picture, but even Sam gets embarrassed when I whip out my camera to record my food at restaurants, and I didn't want to do that to Janna.  If I could eat at Vita every day for every meal, there wouldn't be a single problem with remaining vegan forever.  I promised Sam I'd take him there soon, mostly because I'm dying to try the rice and currants porridge.

Long after we finished eating, Janna and I sipped the strong coffee and talked about resolutions, writing, and how we are decidedly not hipsters.  Our poor waitress kept walking by, slyly checking to see if we had even glanced at the check yet while the popular cafe filled up with Sunday brunch crowd.  We hadn't.  There was just too much to discuss.  We're very much alike; both passionate about reading and writing, both sarcastic, and we both love lists.  We also enjoy talking.  A lot.

Janna is living my dream life right now.  After all, she lives in Portland in an adorable older house filled with character and a claw-foot bathtub, she gets paid to write, and she has sweet twin boys, who have always been very well-behaved around me.  This morning they greeted me with some meows, and Janna explained that they like to pretend they are cats.  Dear Lord, if I ever have children please let them pretend they are cats and meow at me all day.  Pretty sure I could handle being a mother if that were the case.  However, I don't know if twin boys would be good for me and Sam - my funny husband has decided that if we ever have twin boys we will name them Jenson and Benson.  Swenson.  Ha ha.

After breakfast I walked around downtown Portland and tried to imagine what it would be like to live there.  Maybe I'd work here:


It sounds wonderful to live in one of the cute little neighborhoods, where Sam and I could get to know our neighbors, and walk or bike to the grocery store, the gym, or to work.  Sort of like the small-town feel with the city conveniences.  But I don't think I could ever get used to crossing the street when I have a red hand telling me not to.  It drives Sam crazy, but I am such a rule-follower that I refuse to cross the street until I have a green light, even if there are no cars in sight.  Today people kept brushing past me, not even waiting for the light, while I stubbornly stayed on the sidewalk.

Still, it's a pretty awesome place.

Yeah, I could see myself here.  Right?

I was trying to get a picture of the mountain behind me.  You can barely see it in the photo, but it was such a clear day that you could easily see it in person.  Sunny, gorgeous Sunday in Portland.  When I got back to Salem, this is what I was greeted with:

Fog, fog, fog.  Literally as I left Portland, I drove right into a huge cloud cover, and all the way home it was like this.  Of course.

Portland, even if I never call you home, I'm thankful you're close enough to visit.  I'll be back soon for the company, the sunshine, and the delish vegan food.  Delish vegan food!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Day 6

You win some, you lose some.

Last night we had Chipotle for dinner, partly because I hadn't had time to go to the grocery store and partly because it sounded really yummy.  Sam got a burrito with black beans, rice, salsa, guacamole, corn, peppers, and onions, and I got the same thing but in a bowl form because of the flour tortilla.  We both kept saying how good it was and how full we felt after not even finishing our food.  (My leftovers lasted me through lunch and dinner today, too!)  Apparently cheese and sour cream is not required in a meal such as this, because it was wonderful without it.  I never would have known!  Chipotle will most definitely be added to our list of quick dinners when we don't have time to cook.  The lovely Venti's in Salem also has vegan fare, and a friend at work suggested I try Marco Polo, a restaurant downtown, which offers a vegan and gluten-free menu. Winning.

Tonight I tried a new recipe for a sweet and sour sauce.  It was not a success.  It just tasted like heated tomato juice.  Eh.  But that's what experiments are for - learning what works and what doesn't.  Lesson learned.

Today I made some rice pudding that was quite yummy!  I needed two teaspoons of raw sugar for the recipe and couldn't find any at Winco.  Not to be deterred, I headed to a certain coffee establishment that I happen to know carries this product.  I ordered a grande coffee (er, a medium) and just took a few too many sugar packets from the condiment bar.  No harm, no foul.

My friend Laura asked me to go into a bit more detail about what being vegan really means.  Basically you just avoid anything made with animal products, which includes all forms of meat, dairy, and eggs.  Sam and I are doing a completely vegan diet for these 21 days, but after that I will go toward a "mostly" vegan diet.  That means I just want to be a lot more purposeful about what I eat, avoiding cheese, milk, and eggs as much as possible, though I will probably indulge on a treat like frozen yogurt once in awhile.  I'm fairly certain I will never eat meat again, which won't be too difficult for me.  I've never really had a huge appetite for it (with the exception of tri-tip sandwiches from Porter Street BBQ in Porterville).

I found this list of substitutes for baking without oil - not sure what works in different recipes, but these are ideas from The McDougall Quick & Easy Cookbook:

Carbonated water
Mashed bananas
Mashed potatoes
Silken tofu
Pureed prunes
Baby food

I haven't tried any of them yet, but I'll let you know if and when I do!

I just asked Sam how he was doing with it, and he said he feels really good!  He also said, "It's really pretty easy."

Couldn't have said it better myself.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

january 3

Three years ago today I went on my first date with Samuel.  Two years ago today he asked me to be his wife.  I said yes.

I remember how nervous I felt driving the three hours to our first date.  Sam and I had been emailing each other, talking on the phone, and video chatting for a month, but this was the first time I would see him in person since meeting him three years earlier.  I wondered how awkward it would be, especially since I had told him several times how much I hoped to kiss him.  (Yep, I was a little forward, and yes, I was all talk, because I was actually very nervous about what I'd do if he tried to kiss me.)  I wondered what would happen with this guy because I had very nearly fallen for him through our conversations alone.  I made up my mind that I would be totally myself that day, no matter what, and just hoped he liked me back.

We met up at Wal Mart in Los Banos because that was the only place we thought would be easy to find.  I saw him walking toward me down the aisle and suddenly freaked out and hid behind a rack of clothes.  Pulling myself together, I stepped out so that he could see me.  He marched right up to me and gave me a huge hug and immediately things flowed.  It wasn't awkward for a moment.  We went and had breakfast at Eddie's Cafe, then decided to just drive, and see where we'd end up.

We ended up in Santa Cruz, found a beach to walk on, and spent the rest of the day sitting on a log, talking and laughing.  It was there, on the beach at sunset, where he kissed me for the first time.  At that moment I was a goner.  Totally in love.

Our first pictures together, on that day:

A year later, on that same beach, by that same log where we first fell in love, this happened:

(Ignore the ridiculous face I'm making...I thought Sam was making a funny face behind me.)

Thanks for telling me you had to see me and asking me to meet you halfway three years ago, Cute Face.  And thanks for asking me to be your wife a year later.  And thanks for being the best husband I could ask for ever since.

Monday, January 2, 2012

In Defense of Being Defensive

I often feel an intense need to defend my decisions and thoroughly explain myself.  The husband has experienced this problem a few times when I have found myself unnecessarily offended by a simple question or comment from him and I become disgruntled.  Sorry, husband.  I would normally analyze why I think I have this desire, but that would just lead to more explaining of myself and more justifications, so we'll try to avoid that cycle and just get to the point.

I admit I feel a bit defensive when it comes to explaining this whole vegan experiment because most people are utterly baffled as to why we would even try something like this.  I know it shouldn't bother me, but comments like, "Why would you do that?!" laced with obvious disapproval fill me with an urge to clarify our decision and convince the person that we are not, in fact, crazy, and that we're just trying to do what we think is best for us.  Sometimes I take it too far in the wrong direction, and my explanation results in what sounds like a sermon on why what we are doing is the better way.  I considered this after I read over my blog post, and I just wanted to apologize if I came across as obnoxious.  While I try to be honest in my writing, I also think it is important to be delicate in discussing my thoughts on certain subjects.  Sometimes those two ideas seem to be at odds with each other.

The truth is, over the past month or so, I've been fascinated reading about this subject, and I found myself thinking, "How have I never heard about all of this before?"  I wished I'd heard about it sooner, or that someone had told me about it.  I got a little zealous in my excitement in telling others, simply because I think it's at least something to consider and learn about.  I just wanted to share whatever information I could, especially if it helped others in their own well being.  But, as I said in my post, I'm not trying to force anything onto anyone.  My reason for discussing it on my blog is to share my experience and what I learn along the way.  I never want to judge those who make different decisions, just as I appreciate not being judged for my own choices.

Speaking of which, so far the eating plan is going really well!  I've learned several things.  First of all, I need to eat a lot more food than I'm used to because the calorie content is much lower in plant-based foods.  This is a good thing for me because I love to eat!  On Sunday night at work, I realized I hadn't brought quite enough food with me, and was hungry when I got home.  That's okay though - mistakes mean I'm learning!  Secondly, I am ever so thankful for my rice cooker, a lovely wedding present from Marci and Josh.  I made a huge batch of rice yesterday, which I've been able to add to recipes.  It's easy and quick and rice doesn't contain gluten, which makes it my new best friend.  Also, our rice cooker steams veggies while cooking the rice - major bonus.

Tonight for dinner I steamed some broccoli in my Pampered Chef Small Micro-Cooker and improvised a recipe based on my favorite, Broccoli with Garlic Butter and Cashews.  I had to leave out the butter, so I mixed some peanut butter with gluten-free soy sauce, a little white vinegar, and a little garlic.  (I would have added cashews but didn't have any and was feeling too lazy to go to the store.)  I threw the sauce over some rice and broccoli and had a very tasty meal.  Honestly, I could not believe how good it was, and I learned I don't need butter to make a yummy sauce!  Even better, it took less than ten minutes to prepare and clean up.

I know there is a myth that it is expensive to eat vegan, but rice, broccoli, and soy sauce are all very cheap.  Peanut butter is getting expensive, but I figure that's one food that most people, vegan or not, are willing to put up the cash for.  And if you aren't, you obviously don't love it as much as I do, which I think is strange, since peanut butter is awesome.

But again, no judgement.  :)
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