Thursday, April 12, 2012

Foraging Ahead

Hey, we didn't forget about this blog. Really. I've been out of town for work and the kids have been on spring break, so things have been a little hectic. I won't go into too much detail yet, but did you know that Norwegian, or Roof, rats are significantly larger than the normal black rats found in many urban areas?

Anyway, Annie gives me a lot of crap for my nature-boy mentality. I think somewhere in the back of my mind, I'm always learning new things to prepare for the eventual collapse of modern society. No big deal. This time of year, I'll often turn up with a bag full of weird plants that I've found growing somewhere. Sometimes I have a great deal of success with them, such as with wild garlic, morel mushrooms and nettles. Sometimes however, I ruin everything, as with my recent adventure with curly dock.

This is curly dock. I found a ton of it springing up on a hill near the river next to the hospital at which I work.

It's a common plant in the midwest, considered an invasive weed by many. It's high in oxalic acid, which gives a sour, lemony taste. It's totally edible, kind of like a kale or a chard, but if you eat too much the oxalic acid is no good for you.

As a leaf vegetable, eaten raw, it's pretty good. It'll add a nice sourness to a salad. However, if you cook it, it is a terrible, terrible disaster.

Apparently, dock has mucilaginous qualities when cooked, similar to okra. When cooked too long, these bright leafy greens degrade into a greyish slime. When I served up to the family, there wasn't a lot of excitement around the table. The kids pushed it around stoically, but Annie whined and cried about it. Annie is many great things, but stoic ain't one of them.

Not that I can blame her at all. My pride required that I eat all of mine, heavily doused in vinegar. Later on, though, I was more than happy to agree that dock would never be seen on our tables again.

We had just returned fromI did slip a little into a green soup I made out of this garlic mustard, dandelions and violet blossoms foraged from our yard. It's a great soup thickener. Annie calls my variation of her Green Goddess soup Hulk Soup, but she won't touch it.

Garlic mustard grows everywhere right now. We have tons of it along our fence row. It smells just like garlic and has a slightly bitter, peppery flavor not unlike arugula.

The real prize of springtime foraging are nettles. They can be hard to find, I've found, so when I do find them I try to gather them up as soon as I can. They have a brief growing season and have been popping up early due to our freakishly warm early spring.

The little bastards are covered in tiny stinging hairs that will leave a itchy rash if they prick you, so I try to keep some gloves or a plastic bag handy on my little hikes.

Nettles have really earthy flavor, somewhat like spinach. You have to cook them to get rid of the little hairs, but once you do they are delicious. I made (another) green soup out of nettles, carmelized onions and potatoes that I've been sucking down all week. Nettles contain about 25% protein by weight and high amounts of vitamins A and C as well as tons of minerals.

Ok, so I know I'm crazy, but my grandparents taught me about all kinds of wild edibles. They were depression era farm folk from a holler in Tennessee. People have no compunction about chomping on some wild blueberries or apples, but start harvesting weeds and you get funny looks.

That's fine, more for me.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Spring breaking for Rally's

This week Brian has been in Albuquerque, a very vegan/vegetarian friendly city, and the kids and I have been spring breaking it here in Indianapolis.  I've totally given up on cooking every night, so  sandwiches and frozen pizza have composed most of our menu.  The kids are eating everything from ham, turkey, pepperoni, to tuna, but I've tried to stay vegan-true as much as my weak will-power-in-the-face-of-a-half-eaten-Rally's-cheeseburger will allow me.  Yes, I'm that mom who eats off her kids' plates.  Heck, I'd probably eat off yours if you'd let me; just ask my coworkers.  I also observe the 10 second rule almost anywhere.  Monday night we had a great dinner of Green Goddess soup, salad, homemade wheat bread, and the kids ate mac and cheese with it.  Plus, my daily breakfasts and lunches have been perfectly vegan.  Success!  But last night I lost my vegan way when I reheated the left-over mac and cheese for me.  That's pretty pathetic considering left-over mac and cheese is typically on the bottom of my list of good eats.  But at least it's vegetarian and I was able to pass on the lunch meat sandwiches and pizza, and I ate a vegan PBJ instead (yeah, as long as you get the right bread, PBJ is vegan).  However, I think it was the 2nd PBJ that I had for lunch that threw me into a vulnerable state as to leave me utterly helpless when Zoria got into the car with her Rally's cheeseburger.  Thank goodness she only left me a small piece of it, but it was Junkfoodie heroine in my veins.  I'm pretty sure I'm going off the rails at dinner.  Just try to stop me (think of your heart, a future stroke, or worse, the scale)! 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

When we're good, we're good

Despite our weekend struggles with meat, dairy, and junk food, we are killing it as work-week vegans.  Last night we made a soup called "Green Goddess", and I'm still worshiping her today.

Even the kids, armed with a standby of mac and cheese (real cheese) ate this soup and loved it. 

It's made from a bag of frozen spinach, bean sprouts, an avocado, onions, garlic, silken tofu, almond milk, vegetable bouillon and a dash of nutmeg.  You cook it and you puree it.  Then you put it in your face and make weird but loving sounds as you eat it.  Then you will want the world to eat it.  It's got a proselytizing effect.

But is it hard during the week?  Do I miss meat?  Do I miss cheese?  Only starting Friday night.  Maybe it's because we cook all of our meals through the week.  Maybe it's because we have gotten into a really good routine of planning our menus in advance, but it's working like a charm.  We're generally happy eating vegan recipes, and we're motivated to get healthier and leaner. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

Gluttony Weekend

I’m pretty sure all of the work that we put into eating vegan for 5 straight days last week was utterly undone over the weekend.  It started with a simple nacho dinner on Friday night.  They were healthy enough with roasted peppers, vegetarian refried beans, pico de guallo, guacamole, but then we added a little cheese and sour cream.  And worse, we ate a TON of them. 

Upon waking Saturday morning, we all went out to the Rock-Cola Cafe ( for the best diner breakfast in town.  Oh, and did I mention that it was a buffet?  Yeah, so we were stuffed on biscuits, gravy, bacon, sausage, waffles, eggs, and potatoes (the first planned meat meal of the weekend).  This place is my absolute favorite, and this type of food will forever be my ultimate weakness.  After suffering mild heart attacks, we headed home to finish our half gallon of Choc-Ola. 

Pizza, Dairy Queen for some, and Taco Bell for others (yes, I finally had the Doritos Locos Taco), with Zoria’s raspberry-filled chocolate cupcakes with white chocolate cream cheese icing to finish…well, I’d say we need to shoot for vegan meals throughout the entire week, only allowing one cheat meal per week, because we surely did some damage to our guts and added some inches to our butts.  Better luck next weekend. 

Thursday, March 15, 2012


Last night, I tried making a "Vegan" recipe. Ugh.

It was couscous pizza casserole. Ugh.

The couscous was ok. The sauce that went on it was good. But sweet fancy Moses did I ever make a huge mistake.

There is a reason I have always shied away from the term "Vegan." Besides the frustrating amount of condescension and superiority that seem to go along with people who call themselves "Vegan," anytime the word "Vegan" is attached to a food, that usually means one thing: it is terrible.

So why did I buy "Vegan" sausages (please understand at this point the use of quotation marks totally signifies me rolling me eyes when I say the word "Vegan") and expect anyone ever to enjoy them? They are shaped like sausages, I guess. They kind of smelled sausage-like. But the taste and texture were decidedly NOT sausage.

Marketers and manufacturers of "Vegan" food need to understand something about semiotics. When you give a name to something, you need to understand what that means. If you call a thing a sausage, when the word is invoked, the brain becomes primed with its expectations of what a sausage is. Your senses are ready to experience the thing that the brain expects to be associated with the word sausage. So when you bite into the thing that is called sausage with all of your little neurons at rapt attention, it had better %*#@ing taste like a sausage.

My theory is that if you didn't call it a sausage, we would all better accept it. Call it a Nutritional Flavor Tube or something similar. Call it a Smoky Tofu Cylinder. If you called it any of these things, I think we all could have found a way to enjoy it. But when you call it a sausage and it is so far removed from sausage that you couldn't hit sausage with a shotgun, you have basically committed a crime.

This is why I have never liked "Vegan" food.

That being said, Vegan Mozzarella was pretty good.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


I love thai food. Hot spices combined with cool coconut and peanut sauces, yes please. Some of the dishes can be a pain in the butt to make, but with a little planning it can all come together pretty quickly.

Since we're giving it up animal style through the week we don't get to use any fish sauce, but you don't really miss it in the mix of other flavors.

Here's what we need:

Stir fry:
2 cups shelled edamame.
2 cups chopped bok choi
2 cups chopped red/yellow/orange sweet bell peppers

12 oz or so of rice noodles, soaked and drained (i used mai fun, but go with whatever works)

1 can of fire roasted tomatoes
1 can of coconut milk
about 2 T fresh ginger (i just cut off about a 1 inch piece and peel it)
2-3 gloves of garlic
1/3 cup peanut butter
3 T soy sauce/tamari
2-3 T Sriracha (more to taste)
2 T maple syrup/agave/honey
Juice of 1 lime.

1/4 c cilantro
1/4 c chopped peanuts
Lime wedges

To make:
In a blender or food processor, toss all the sauce ingredients. Process the hell out of it for 1-2 minutes until everything is combined. Taste, add more sriracha or sweetener to your taste and recombine it. My recipes are always just suggestions, really. Everything gets adjusted to taste in the moment.

In a wok or large frying pan, add a little bit of oil and bring to high heat. Toss in your veggies. It will look like summertime. Stir fry for 5-7 minutes, until the edamame and peppers start to brown a little.

Toss in your drained rice noodles, toss everything around to combine.

Dump in that delicious sauce. Toss again and simmer for about 5 minutes.

Now plate that mess with some class and elegance. Garnish with cilantro, peanuts, lime juice and more Sriracha if you like.

Now throw away your fork and eat it with your hands like an animal, if you prefer.

Or dine like a distinguished gentleman.

Bask in the familial warmth of a shared dinner.

After dinner, it's time to go to your bed.



Monday, March 12, 2012

Do Over

While Brian was busying immersing himself in vegan recipes, The China Study, and exercising, I was only making a halfhearted attempt at this, so I'm calling this week a do-over for me.  My excuses for eating a meat and/or dairy product daily were: I was too busy to cook a proper vegan dinner, I love Taco Bell, and there were only so many vegetables and beans that I could eat without craving a slice of pizza.  I'm a bona fide Junkfoodie, and apparently Doritos and Blizzards aren't vegan.  However, Fritos and Fruit Roll-Ups are, and so are Fruity Pebbles if you use coconut milk.  So with those junk vices to hold me over, I think I can try this again.