finalemofo: cocktails and the quest for the tater tot taco shell

bnb_victrolaHappy last day of VeganMoFo!

It’s been, as is the case with VeganMoFo, a month of successes, failures, and inspiration. One accomplishment I’m very proud of is finally making my own giardiniera…and using said giardiniera on Italian seitan “beef” sandwiches. One failure I did not share with you was the vegan s’mores waffle, a waffle topped with way too much chocolate and marshmallow. I ate it, but the sugar made me so crazy that my cats hid from me—I just didn’t think it was right to put that sort of destruction on the Internet.

And one task I have set up for myself, which I really wanted to perfect and share with you by the end of MoFo, is the Tater Tot taco shell, or the totilla. My Vida Vegan partner Janessa mentioned it and I figured it couldn’t be too tough, so I accepted the challenge. And I’m getting closer. Experimenting with different binding recipes and cooking methods, I expect to figure it out before too long—and believe you me, you’ll know when I do! It’ll be the breakfast tacos to end all breakfast tacos.

But when my latest attempt failed this evening, after a very long day, I told Tom that I could really go for a cocktail, so it was off to the Bye & Bye. Pictured up top is the Victrola, tart and smart.

bye_and_bye_cocktailThe rest of these photos are going to be a bit grainy, and I apologize. We were in the very dim back patio, and all I had was my phone.

Here’s the signature Bye & Bye, which Tom started off with and I chose as my second cocktail. Anyone who has never ordered one of these, it is deceptively sweet and delicious. It will knock you on your butt if you are not careful.

bnb_meatball_sandwichWhile I almost always get the grilled cheese (rarely straying), Tom has 100% always ordered the Weeping Tiger tofu sandwich. Until tonight. He went with the “meat”ball sub and was not displeased. It normally comes topped with almond parm, but that could potentially kill him (nut allergy!), so they swapped in some Daiya.

empty_bye_and_bye_cocktailAnd, finally, empty glasses on a rainy night, bringing a delightful end to a very long, very stressful day. Good company and good food—I just couldn’t be happier with where I am. (Thank you, Tom and Portland and the Bye & Bye.) A pretty nice end to the Vegan Month of Food.

vegans & body image: lisa

Welcome back to Vegans & Body Image, the biweekly series in which vegans share their stories and thoughts on body image in general, and what effect, if any, veganism has on it.

Today we have Lisa Febre, a Los Angeles & Las Vegas blogger who also appears in the T.O.F.U. Body Image issue, having penned an article on vegan dining in mainstream restaurants.   

lisa_febreLisa, 39 years old, petite and fit after one pregnancy. 5’4″, 120 pounds

I have been vegetarian/vegan for 23 years (since 1990), but it wasn’t a straight path. In 1990, I was a sophomore in high school watching my first PETA videos and was horrified at what I was seeing. That same day, I became lacto-vegetarian. There was a lot of resistance from my parents, my mother in particular, because she was the one doing all the shopping and cooking. Even though I had the best intentions, I could not sustain a 100% meat-free existence. There was a lot of pressure and guilt associated with not eating what was offered, and on occasion I would “slip.” At that time—and for a long time—I did not fully grasp the connection between dairy and meat, so I continued to eat dairy and, occasionally, eggs. When I went off to college and was finally able to control my own diet, I experienced something very new to me: a vegetarian community. Strength in numbers was something I’d clearly needed all along, and something I firmly believe every single new veg*n needs to find.

In 2007, at the age of 33, I finally made the leap to veganism. The dairy connection finally clicked into place and that was it: No more dairy ever again. In retrospect, I can see that’s where my vegetarianism went wrong, in that I and my family viewed it as a diet, or worse, a fad diet. But veganism quickly became a way of life. It defines who I am. On the short list of roles I play: mother, wife, yogini, vegan, musician—vegan has to be there.

I do actually put quite a bit of work into my body, but not as media would have us believe “work” entails. I am a dedicated yogini with a 15-year, daily practice of Ashtanga Yoga. This, compounded with veganism, is truly a way of life. Yoga begs for a healthy attitude toward the fuel you put in your body, and veganism easily delivers. I take a B12 supplement, but that’s about as far as supplements go with me. I live an exceptionally clean lifestyle. I have minimized exposure to chemicals in our home, buy organic produce, avoid GMOs, and do not eat anything that comes from a box, bag, can, or jar. The downside is that this practice makes me more sensitive to chemicals in other people’s homes, and lower-quality foods often make me ill.

Going vegan actually made a huge difference in my body image. The feeling of “lightness” that some vegans describe really made all the difference in the world to me. My yoga practice deepened once the fats were expelled from my joints, my head felt clearer, my skin and hair became healthier, progressively my seasonal allergies have all but disappeared (which I know can’t be proved it’s because of veganism, but the relief did coincide with cutting dairy), and my mental health seems more even.

“Healthy” is not about weight for me, it’s about my attitude. When I’m feeling healthy, everything falls into place: my weight, my general outlook, my activity level. I feel open and aware, introspective and empathic at the same time. There’s a vibrance to my body when I’m feeling healthy. I have suffered from depression, I have experienced the deepest depths of despair, and can only say that “healthy” is so obvious to me it’s difficult to put into words, like describing “green” to a blind person.

I have been lucky in that I don’t suffer from an eating disorder, but would consider myself a restrictive eater. To me, this term means that I eat the same thing day in and day out, and to break this pattern can leave me feeling stressed or guilty and, if I’m not careful, can lead to even more restrictions in the days to follow. I am fully aware of this behavior because it did get out of control during my depression–I went from 120 to 102 pounds because of my self-imposed restrictions. At a healthy point in my life now, I recognize my behaviors and can quickly negotiate my way out of destruction. I used to be deathly afraid of going out to eat for my blog (so many calories!), and would restrict for days to follow, but now I work through those stresses and fears and have found much more constructive ways to deal with these feelings.

I think there’s a negative view, sometimes, of people who are fit, and then that’s exacerbated if they’re also vegan. It starts “Of course you’re thin, look how much yoga you do,” then quickly descends to “and you’re vegan (sigh),” like I’ve done something to wrong them. I haven’t really seen the positive side of people’s views of vegan bodies. Either people are looking at me like I might be secretly sick, they can’t believe I’m even alive much less able to walk a straight line, or they are comparing me to themselves with a tsk. There’s no winning. I think it’s as important for us vegans to look healthy as it is to live healthy.

Unfortunately, our outward appearances affect people’s views of this lifestyle. If we are happy with our choices, it shows, and it forces others to reassess their own negative and suspicious views of veganism. Sometimes it feels that for each person who supports our veganism, a hundred will condemn and criticize; it’s important to have a thick skin and let those comments go. Personally, I am proud of my choices, of the way I live my life, and the effect it has had on my body and spirit. And the strength I’ve found in this lifestyle gives me the courage to stand up again and again for what I know is the most compassionate choice there is.

Thank you, Lisa!

 Read others in the series, and please share your story. Find more info here or email me at VegtasticVoyage@gmail.com.

 

toast-or-nomofo: rye bread is the best

marble_rye_sandwich

So, rye bread’s the best.

I grew up in Chicago eating S. Rosen’s rye with caraway seeds. Obviously, I can’t get that out here in Portland. I haven’t found a rye that matches it. In a huge departure, I tried Marsee marble rye. Again, it’s a totally different creature—the only similarity is the rye flavor—but it’s good for what it is.

Here’s the thing, though. I was telling Tom about my idea for a post on rye bread, how you should only eat it toasted. Untoasted rye bread is really undercooked rye toast. To eat rye bread without toasting it is an affront to the food gods and you’re likely to be punished with an overripe avocado or a big chunk of frozen-together Tater Tots in the middle of your next bag so they’re really hard to cook evenly without getting a big mash of broken-up Tots. Of course, I thought this was great, but Tom stopped me cold and said, “Well, you know how I feel about it.” Wait, what? He said he doesn’t care about toasting. He just loves rye bread and will eat it any which way. I know—I share my bed with this guy!

I don’t know why I should be surprised, really. He’ll also drink apple cider hot or cold, the savage.

So I turn to you, before I file for divorce. Am I overreacting on this one, or is this maybe something we should have covered 17 years ago and we’re looking at irreconcilable differences here?

 

phomofo: (almost) instant pho

pho_vegetables

Never mind the leaf. It fell as I was shooting this and I had to act fast to beat the cats. And yes, my spoon has a little pickle man on it. I hope he’s not saying anything rude.

It’s almost instant, because while I used packaged broth, I still had to cut up a bunch of vegetables. That makes it a little more respectable, right?

I found a packaged vegan phở at my local Asian market, so of course I picked it up. It’s pretty neato, with broth powder and spice (tea)bags. It only comes with two spice bags, and it’s enough mix for 20 cups, so that’s a little annoying if you’re only cooking for two folks at a time, but whatcha gonna do? I made 4-5 cups two nights in a row, so I just reused one spice bag, keeping it in the fridge overnight.

While the broth is good, with hints of anise and cinnamon, without a solid collection of vegetables, tofu, and rice noodles, it’s simply not phở. I stocked my bowl with:

  • baked tofu, cubed and cooked in broth for just a couple of minutes
  • celery, cooked in broth for about a minute
  • mushrooms
  • red bell pepper
  • scallions
  • cilantro
  • bean sprouts

For the tofu and celery, I wanted to give them a head start so they weren’t raw. I normally wouldn’t add celery, but I had just a little in the fridge and it was on its way out. I tossed them in the broth, removing them before tossing in the rice noodles, which soften and plump up pretty quickly (depends on the type you use—just follow your directions).

Then all conversation ceases as you inhale this soup so fragrant and hearty that you wouldn’t dare wonder where the crackers are.

pho_bowl

tomatomofo: my favorite pasta with the last of the pretty tomatoes

tomato_shallot_pasta

I made this last week and forgot to photograph it, so the other night, when Tom was on his way home from work, he tried to pick up some more of these pretty heirloom cherry tomatoes. Alas, he was told by the grocer that he’d missed them by a couple of days; the season was over. Boo!

But then I found some at another store. Yay!

This is one of those 10-minute meals, where it’s totally possible—if you’re coordinated and don’t have a migraine at the time (which I did)—to seemlessly and fluidly put together everything and have it all done at once. It’s super hearty, and with the Beyond Meat, you should be able to convince an omni partner or friend that even vegans can eat full, well-balanced meals.

What’s in it? (Serves two hungry adults)

  • 1 pint of the prettiest cherry or grape tomatoes you can find
  • 2-3 shallots, depending on the size (you want about a handful), sliced
  • 2 cups baby spinach, chopped if the leaves are still pretty big
  • ½ package Beyond Meat (I like the grilled one best), cut into bite-size pieces
  • olive oil, salt, red pepper (dundicuts, if you can find them)
  • ½ pound pasta—maybe just under, ’cause this is a lot of food!

While you’re getting your water boiling, chop everything so it’s ready to go.

Heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat and add the shallots. After a few minutes, add the Beyond Meat, salt, and pepper.

Your water should be boiling now, so get that pasta going. After about 5 minutes, toss your tomatoes in with the shallots and pile on your spinach. After about a minute, stir it all up and check for seasoning. If your tomatoes aren’t acidic enough, you could add a dash of lemon juice.

The pasta should be done by now, so drain it and stir it all up.