Monthly Archives: January 2012

a life in wait.

When I moved out of my parents’ house, I knew the going would be tough. I live alone in a one-bedroom apartment, and despite everybody’s advice to move into a two-bedroom and split bills with a roommate, I felt that I really needed my own space. I crunched numbers and saved as much as I could for as long as I could and after three months of exhaustive apartment hunting, I found The Place. I really love my apartment but in terms of a location close to work, it’s not. One of the perks of moving out was supposed to be a closer commute, but I ended up staying 10 minutes east of my parents’. This helps me cut the cost of laundry because I take my clothes to their house instead of feeding the coin laundry in the basement and buying detergent, but still. It wasn’t exactly the best choice. The money I save with doing my laundry at their place does not cancel out the money I could save with a roommate or with living closer to work. The other not-financially-savvy aspect is that I live in a 100-year-old building with lots of windows and shitty insulation. It’s a plus in the summer because if I open all the windows, it’s a freaking wind tunnel and I barely need to use the a/c. The winter is another story–my gas bill has been killer.

While I make almost double I was making at my last job, it’s still a very, very modest living. With the cost of commuting (Illinois toll hikes doubling, gas prices constantly fluctuating, the mere hours I spend in the car each day that make me exhausted by the time I arrive home) and a few other financial set-backs (my employer’s medical premium tripled in 2012, my car crapped out on the highway and I needed a new tire, the amount of money I’ve been spending on food as of late for my new vegan diet, the increase in my cable bill as of March when the promo period ends), things have not been easy. I was really looking forward to a big tax refund in order to pay off all my credit card debt and free up the extra $300/month I throw at them.

Last night I sat down to compute my tax refund and while it is a pretty lump sum, it’s about $400 less than I was anticipating. This lead to a 20-something financial breakdown. My boyfriend and I sat down to configure my budget and we found that continuing onward at this rate will only leave me $56 of “entertainment” money per month after rent, bills, credit cards, tolls, gas, dry cleaning, and throwing $100/month into longterm savings, etc., etc. This leaves me a) no room for a social life to speak of, b) no room to do the things I love (yoga), c) no peace of mind. I constantly feel like I am in wait. I am constantly waiting for the next big thing to propel me out of this and I am not living mindfully in the moment, ever. I am constantly looking forward to an eventual promotion, to be thin, to be happy. It’s like completing the equation I think I need will magically transform me into somebody entirely new. What sorcery!

This all corresponds nicely with the reading for this week’s yoga + book club in Women Food and God. Geneen Roth writes:

…[this] is called the ‘ When I Get Thin (Change Jobs, Move, Find a Relationship, Leave this Relationship, Have Money) Blues.’ It’s called the ‘If Only’ refrain. It’s called postponing your life and your ability to be happy to a future date when then, oh then, you will finally get what you want and life will be good.

This is toxic. I am living my life in wait of these things. One day, when I get what I think I want, things are supposed to magically change. Just like I am lulled to sleep nightly imagining an alternate reality where things are different: I am thin, I am pretty, I am interesting, I have a higher degree, I have a better-paying and more-fulfilling job, I am a better friend, I am a better girlfriend. But living this way, we miss all the meat of the in-between.

This is where yoga fits in. Yoga’s purpose is to teach us mindfulness. Yes, it can be a great workout too, but what I glean from it is more on the meditation-side. The peace. The inner, happy solitude. It allows me to come home on Sunday night and feel hopeful, even if it’s only fleeting. I wake up Monday morning tired and unprepared to face the day, the work week, my life. But at least for a minute the night before, I felt entirely at peace with myself. Cutting yoga out because of my $56/month “entertainment” budget is entirely impossible to me at this stage of my life. I have to find a way to fit it in. And I also have to find a way to fit a social life in. My boyfriend and I have been spending our weekends at home watching Netflix (holy shit, United States of Tara is a good show!) and haven’t had actual social time with our friends in weeks, possibly months. We’re not islands. We all have to free up our schedules, finances, and our inclinations to bolt in order to do what’s good for us: we are social animals, we cannot subside entirely on isolation from others.

So today I am looking at life with new lenses. I am appreciating the small, modest bits that I do have. And however much of a financial drain it is to live alone, I love my apartment. It’s so me. I feel like the person I want to be when I’m here. It contains all my worldy possessions–my books, my records, my photographs. My essence. My being.

If you lived here, you’d be home now.

(even if the floors are sloping and creaky.)

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cruelty-free cosmetics

I made the decision to not completely restock my makeup and beauty products all at one time, mostly because I am on a budget. I recently ran out of foundation and powder so now I’m on the market for some good-quality, cheap cruelty-free products. Obviously, in an ideal world, these products would also be vegan. For anyone who has made the decision to only use vegan, cruelty-free products, you will know that a) this is a huge undertaking that takes mucho research, and b) it is probably an expensive endeavor.

Some preliminary research has taught me that a) TIGI products are mostly cruelty-free, although some of their suppliers cannot be verified as cruelty-free. This is somewhat good because I still have half a bottle of Bed Head shampoo (but I’m out of conditioner). b) Revlon is largely cruelty-free, but again, their suppliers and the companies they partner with cannot say as much. Also good for me, because I use their eyeliner crayon (black-brown) every day. Of all the eyeliner crayons I’ve ever purchased, this one works the best for me. The thought of a lifetime without it makes me incredibly sad. It’s REALLY hard to find a good eyeliner crayon for cheap, and Walgreens often has BOGO half-off sales. Can’t beat that.

Also fantastic (but not cheap, unfortunately) is that most Urban Decay products are both cruelty-free AND vegan. I can’t run out and buy a tube of $20 mascara, but I do have quite a few eyeshadows of theirs. I don’t wear eyeshadow daily, but for special occasions, I ALWAYS wear their products. I am thrilled to find that I can continue to wear these guilt-free. Victorias Secret, too, is cruelty-free from what I gather, which is great because I use their body lotion. I actually use it in a scent that I think was discontinued (Halo) so I’ve been saving it for years and only using it when my skin is super dry. I’m glad I can continue onward with this.

The hard part is that I use Cover Girl foundation and powder. It is the drugstore go-to for me because it works the best on my skin of anything I’ve found and matches my skin tone as closely as I’ve found. I use a product for oily skin (my pores really excrete tons of oil…gross) and I’m in love with it. I don’t think CG is cruelty-free so I need to branch out now. This is the only product I’m in the market for today and I’m trying to decide what to do about this. While Revlon isn’t totally cruelty-free, of the drugstore brands, it might be the best quality. Almay is also cruelty-free from what I gather. I could look into that. Whatever I choose, it has to be widely available at mainstream stores–mostly because I have a gift card for Target so I plan on going there today. This will likely mean several minutes in the makeup aisle trying to match my ethics and finances to my choice. Yikes.

I also need to buy some conditioner…I hear Trader Joe’s has a pretty decent stock of cruelty-free haircare. I might make a pitstop there today as well.

As I’m prone to adult acne, I also can’t imagine a life without Clearasil products. Do you know of any good cruelty-free/vegan acne face products?

What are your favorite cruelty-free and/or vegan products?

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serious produce fixation

So I’m on a big budget and it’s been difficult with this whole new vegan diet thing. I’m happy to spend money on fresh food because fresh food means healthy me, but damn if it’s not expensive. I was reading this the other day when I was bored at work and even though it made me feel better about my situation, I didn’t find the tips too helpful. One of them was to stock up on frozen veggies rather than relying on fresh but ughhh I hate frozen veggies. Growing up we lived off of frozen broccoli but it is SO not the same as fresh. And frozen stir fry veggies? Forget about it! Call me a veggie snob but I really need them fresh. Organic would be ideal but that pushes my budget, too.

Part of this transition is a complete overhaul restock of the kitchen, too: agave nectar to substitute for the (poisonous) Splenda I was putting in my coffee every morning, wholegrain bulk products to replace the white rice and rolled oats I used to buy in bulk…and let’s not forget that I’m heading to the store 2-3 times a week to pick up fresh produce, and every time I’m there, I find myself picking up a new package of tofu or soy crumbles or a pizza crust to make homemade pizza…or all the baking ingredients I really don’t NEED to buy. And let’s also not forget that my boyfriend is a big snacker and every time he finds something that is “accidentally vegan” he buys it thinking I’ll be pleased. But really, I don’t need a reason to eat oreos or nutter butters or kettle chips. Or the three dark chocolate bars he’s brought home at various times in the past few weeks. Stop with the junk food! I’m the kind of person who can’t turn it down, so it’s best to just not keep it in the house, period.

I intended to stop at the store to pick up a few necessities and to keep it under $25 but I wound up spending $65. Yikes! Part of this was due to the paper towels, toilet paper and a new book of stamps I desperately needed so I can, y’know, pay my bills on time, but it’s discouraging to spend so much when I already have so little to spend.

My saving grace is that canned beans are super inexpensive and I feel like they’ve become a staple. Kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans, oh my! I also have a pretty decent stock of oatmeal, brown rice, whole wheat pasta and lentils that shouldn’t need restocking for a couple of weeks yet. The problem is my constant recipe-surfing, which leads to more buying. What I need is a vegan recipe generator where I can plug in the ingredients I already have in my kitchen and it will spit out suggestions. Does such a thing exist? What do you do to combat the vegan expense problem?

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the inclination to bolt.

In my yoga + book club we’re reading Women Food and God and one of the chapters is about fighting the inclination to bolt. In fight vs. flight, I am 99.9% flight. I always run from my issues. A relevant example: this morning, after tossing and turning and getting terrible sleep, I wanted so badly to call into work and take a mental health day. Despite the fact that nothing important or urgent happened at work today, I knew I couldn’t/shouldn’t do that. I’ve played my fair sure of hooky and there comes a time in every adult’s life where hooky is just not acceptable anymore. I’m a grown-ass woman! I can’t just run away from work (or any other commitment I have) when the going gets tough. If I bailed on every single one of the commitments I had reservations about, I’d never leave my house. I’d be a complete agoraphobe. You can’t just block out all the uncomfortable, uneasy realities of your life: you have to face them.

Most of the time, the uncomfortable things I previously considered bailing on turned out to be pleasant experiences. Everything becomes an experience to learn from–a growth opportunity. Who would I be today if I didn’t branch out from my comfort zone and do things that scared me like go to college, get a job, try veganism? We all have our off days. It says a lot about the content of our character when we can push aside those feelings and show up anyway. Being present in the moment matters more than you could know. Participating in the moment, with however much unease you may be carrying, is always admirable.

I didn’t much feel like going to yoga last night but I didn’t really have a reason. So I showed up, we discussed the book, and I had one of the most fulfilling classes as of yet. We really honed in on our yoga breathing and I can’t begin to describe the amazing feeling that comes over you when your breath is aligned with your movement. It’s like everything is flowing freely, without effort–muscles become strong but feel like jelly all at once. I don’t know if everybody else experiences that sensation, but it’s a peaceful unity I feel within myself, especially in forward fold. My hamstrings are tight but there’s always a point in the practice where I feel like anything is possible. My body leads me. It sounds corny but it’s true, but to get there, you have to let yourself go and trust your instructor. My current instructor does a fantastic job of encouraging us all. She actually went as far as to call us all goddesses while we practiced a Warrior I vinyasa. The key is to forget what you may look like and just go with it. Stop looking around, stop wondering if you look stupid or wondering if you’re doing it just like everyone else–just feel it.

I started today with a bad case of the Mondays but I realize I don’t have much to complain about. This is part of embracing a positive, peaceful life, the one I set out to appreciate at the beginning of this new year.

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vegan cupcake disaster

I really hope what they say is true–that practice makes perfect–because after last night’s cupcake disaster, I could really use some consolation. I suppose this–my vegan baking project going south (and fast)–is a rite of passage for me. Raise your hand if you’re vegan and you’ve attempted to bake before and shit just did not turn out. Probably all of you.

I’m not sure what came over me but I decided hey, I know enough about vegan baking to head into the kitchen and just freakin’ freestyle it. There are several reasons why I should not be baking: 1) I am trying to lose weight and nothing sweet lasts longer than 12 hours in my presence. 2) I am a recipe-follower, not a recipe-maker. 3) While I have been following recipes for cookies and cupcakes for years and have a pretty good idea what goes into a recipe and in what quantity, that has no bearing on vegan baked goods! That’s a whole ‘nother ball game!

But against my better judgment, I headed over to the kitchen anyway. The craving for sweets knows no bounds. While these suckers just did not turn out presentation-wise, the taste was delicious! Even omnivore-approved! But let’s not forget: they didn’t rise properly, they fell apart, the frosting was more of a runny dip than anything that would even resemble frosting. But since they tasted so good, it had me wondering: why do we concern ourselves so much with presentation? It’s all going to get mashed together in our bellies anyway. I understand wanting baked goods to look nice for parties, events, but if it’s just you and your significant other at home, what does it matter if it leaves a little (or a lot…) to be desired in the looks department?

Without further ado, I present to you the recipe. If you don’t care how things look, follow this to a T and you will have a proud little army of cupcake rejects in your kitchen. Or, since you probably have a better handle on vegan ingredients, adjust the measurements and add/subtract to come up with something that will hold together long enough to get the cupcake wrappers off these little suckers.

Vegan Vanilla Cupcakes with Cream “Cheese” Frosting

Cake Ingredients
1 cup vegan margarine (I used Smart Balance light)
¾ cup granulated sugar (**you probably want to substitute organic/vegan sugar but I didn’t have any on hand**)
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 tbsp ground flax seed + 3 tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup almond milk
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon

Frosting Ingredients
3 tbsp vegan margarine
3 tbsp Tofutti vegan cream “cheese”
2 ½ cups confectioners sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Cakes:

1. Preheat oven to 375.

2. In a large mixing bowl, cream together vegan margarine and sugars with electric mixer until just blended.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk ground flax seed with water until mixture is gelatinous.

4. Add flax seed mixture, vanilla, vegetable oil, and almond milk to creamed margarine. Blend with electric mixer until smooth.

5. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Whisk until blended.

6. With electric mixer, add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and blend until smooth.

7. Spoon into cupcake tins until they are half full. Makes approximately 12 cupcakes.

8. Bake 20 minutes.


You can see that they don’t appear to have risen properly. The middles are sunken in.

Frosting:

1. While cupcakes are cooling, blend vegan margarine, vegan cream “cheese”, vanilla and 1 cup confectioners sugar with electric mixer.

2. Add remaining confectioners sugar little by little until fully blended.

As the texture of this frosting made the use of a pastry bag obviously out of the question, I attempted to frost using the aid of this spatula. After that failed attempt, I decided to try dipping them in to the frosting. This tactic worked with all but one cupcake–this little guy decided to jump ship. (“Cupcake overboard!” I yelled from the kitchen.)

At the end, these little rejects were the only cupcakes left standing. Between the one I taste-tested to see if making the frosting would even be worthwhile to the few that crumbled and fell apart pre-frosting and then the lone soldier that committed frosting suicide, this is all I had left in all their hideous glory.

But trust me on this–they tasted good. So good. I just need to figure out why the ground flax didn’t work well as a binder and why the flour + baking soda didn’t help the batter rise and why the frosting wasn’t destined to ever become fluffy.

I guess I should probably read up on Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World to get a better handle on things before attempting any other freestylin’ recipes.

Console me and tell me about your biggest baking disaster, and did you revisit the recipe to correct it at a later date? Have you ever baked something that had as poor a presentation as the cupcakes above but tasted ridiculously good anyway?

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leftovers shmeftovers

One of the great things about this dietary change is that I have leftovers for days. Days! So many of the recipes yield way more food than one person can eat in one sitting, and even though my boyfriend frequently eats what I cook, it’s just not enough to clean our plates. I know certain people (*cough* my boyfriend *cough*) are not a fan of leftovers, but to me, nothing is better because that means 1) I’m off the hook for a day as far as cooking goes and 2) I have a nice lunch to heat up at work instead of my pathetic and boring peanut butter sandwich I typically bring. Yes, sometimes I make something that I don’t really feel like eating for the next day, and that sucks. But you can make so many variations of things that the boringness-aspect of leftovers can easily be remedied!

Yesterday was an insane day of snow and horrible Chicago winter weather. We were released early from work and it took me two and a half hours to get home (normally a 45-minute drive). Insane. And it’s really a shame because once I finally got home, exited my car, and began the 3-block trek from the parking garage to my apartment, it was so peaceful and quiet and serene. Just 5 minutes prior, it was complete chaos–my wiper blades weren’t working properly and snow was freezing to ice on my windshield making it damn near impossible to see, the salt wasn’t working and nothing was plowed–but my 3-block walk was completely different. Beautiful falling snow.

It should come as no surprise that the weekend plans were ruined so I thought it would be fitting to break out the ole Sloppy Janes recipe for some much-needed comfort food. After my boyfriend and I each ate two heaping servings, I still have two medium-sized tupperware containers full of the stuff! The great thing is that this can be eaten on buns, it can be eaten alone, it can be eaten alongside a salad, it can even be used as dip on chips! Delicious.

Then this morning, I tried my hand at tofu scramble again. I know this is a vegetarian/vegan staple, but it’s still new to me so I did some experimenting in the kitchen. I added a touch of cayenne and cumin (in place of curry powder, which I’m not a fan of) to the only recipe I’ve played with so far. I also added some soy crumbles, and since my boyfriend was very uninterested in chowing down on this, I now have a big tupperware container of leftovers. The cumin inspired me–tomorrow I’ll fasten this into some breakfast tacos (not burritos because the soft shells I have aren’t big enough, but that’s okay! I’ll be flexible!). There is so much room to be creative with leftovers, really!

Unfortunately the snow has prohibited me from making the 45-minute drive to the organic/vegan bakery I wanted to check out today. That’s quite alright. I have some progress to make with my Women Food and God discussion notes for my yoga + book club tomorrow night.

What do you like to do when you’re snowed in?

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spicy black bean burger

Chicago has been hit with some frigid temps that are making my 100-year-old-building horrifically uncomfortable to live in. The insulation in my apartment sucks. My heat is set to 72, much to my gas company’s chagrin I’m sure, but it is literally freezing in here. Freezing!

Yesterday I tried my hand at making a homemade veggie burger. I don’t have a food processor so I found the simplest-looking recipe with the fewest ingredients I could find. I came across this, and it was good! Of course I would have liked a burger with some more structure–while the outside toughened up and fried nicely in the frying pan, the instead was quite mushy. I added some spice to the recipe (cayenne, cumin) and topped it with some homemade guacamole (another simple recipe of avocado, tomato, onion, minced garlic, lime juice and cilantro [of course I had to add some bite to it and put a little cayenne and cumin in this, too!]). Turned out pretty tasty and even the boyfriend enjoyed it.

The recipe claimed it would yield 6 patties but I only got 3 out of it, so I took the extra one to work with me and chowed down at my desk for lunch. People are always so interested in what I’m eating at work, even tofu scramble and homemade stir fry. They don’t even realize how interested they are in VEGAN fare! It’s a huge compliment when they say it smells good, seeing as I know they all eat meat and probably wouldn’t be caught dead making a black bean burger at home.

Speaking of work, it’s getting difficult to avoid treats. My desk is not far from the kitchen and people are always bringing in baked goods–all sorts of things I’d love to chow down on but now can’t. Today there was a tray of fruit and cupcakes and I was more than happy to eat my tangelo and grapes but the cupcakes looked mighty tasty…the only thing getting me through is the organic bakery I’m going to pay a visit to this weekend that has a huge stock of vegan baked goods. I can get my sweets fix without all the effort of baking myself and then being stuck with a bunch of goodies staring me down til I eat every last one. Hooray for moderation!

I’m going to jump under my covers and keep warm from this biting cold for now. What homemade veggie burger recipe do you like best? How do you avoid the temptation to eat non-vegan treats, or do you find yourself simply not tempted?

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yoga night

Yoga was great last night but I was not. I’ll start with the physical aspect: I f’ed up my shoulder really bad. I slept on it weird on Saturday night and it was a little bit sore all day yesterday. I thought yoga would help heal whatever the issue was but instead it exacerbated it. By 10 pm last night I could barely move my right arm without wincing. I actually asked my boyfriend (in a tired stupor of which I remember nothing) to sleep on the couch because I couldn’t get comfortable with him in the bed. Ugh. I woke up at 5 cold, alone, and sore. I went to get him for the next 45 minutes of glorious sleep and asked why he was out there and he informed me that I had asked him to sleep there. How sad.

Other than that, I enjoy the class a lot but I’m also disappointed in myself for being…me. This class meets for two hours once a week for 7 weeks. We’ll be reading Women Food and God and the first 45 minutes will be for discussion, the next 75 minutes will be for yoga practice. There are six women (including myself) in the class and I am the youngest. I’m used to being the youngest. Besides me, the two youngest are each 30, and then it goes up from there. We went around the room to introduce ourselves, to talk about yoga and what brought us to this class, and I learned so much. There is a breast cancer survivor. There is a first grade teacher. There is a fourth grade teacher. There is a fellow vegetarian who farms for a living. There are people who have had rough years and are trying to start this next year off right. My teacher is fantastic. She also teaches a “plus-size” yoga class and a lot of the women found their way to this class through her. This means that I’m the second thinnest in the class. 1) It’s so rare for me to feel “thin.” 2) Why am I taking inventory of the other women’s bodies? I’m not there to judge them.

So that was disappointment number 1. I was mad at myself for thinking that way.

Disappointment number 2 was how absolutely stupid I sounded when we introduced ourselves. I’m not good in public settings and while there may have only been 7 non-threatening women in the room, I just completely froze up. I anticipated this and that is why I drove around for 10 extra minutes practicing what I would say about myself. It sounded so great when I articulated it in the space of my car. In the space of the studio, I mumbled, I was awkward, I said something about how I might be transitioning to a vegan diet and how I put on a lot of weight in college that I’m trying to lose and I made mention of having “food issues,” which I left open-ended. I felt stupid. I felt like I could have opened up more. And I don’t want the other women to think I’m in this class to lose weight. I am not going to lose weight in this class. This is a gentle hatha yoga, I didn’t even break a sweat. I am there for peace of mind. I am there to read this book and discuss my deep-seated issues with food, with self-esteem, with body image. I don’t want them to look at me and see a 23-year-old who vaguely resembles some dippy teeny-bopper. I want to be taken seriously, but I did not present myself in a way to be taken seriously!

I left yoga feeling like this is the whole problem in my life. I think I’m not good enough, then I act in a way that presents myself like I’m not good enough, and then I get nowhere. All I can do with this is acknowledge it and try harder next time. I’m trying harder every day. I’m trying to not feel extreme sadness or extreme anger, I’m trying not to flirt with disaster, I am trying to be stable and rational and steady. Rock steady. I’m trying to be more open, I’m trying to be more social. If we want to take anything positive away, at least I spoke of my vegan plans aloud, in real life, in the company of others. I haven’t mentioned it to anyone yet besides my boyfriend. Considering the fact that my coworker mentioned this morning that she forgot the red velvet cupcakes she was planning on bringing in, which was a narrowly-avoided social minefield, I suppose I should start “coming out” if I’m serious about this.

My yoga teacher exudes such confidence and joy, like she is completely at peace with herself. I envy her that. I keep meeting these kinds of people that feel like their switch is always on. Do you know how much effort it is for me to act that upbeat and perky for just one hour? Imagine how difficult it would be to live an entire life that way, and having cynical bitter bitches like me mouthing off to their friends “what does SHE have to be so happy about?” Happiness is a coveted treasure—we all want it, but somehow, when we don’t have it, we are sickened by those that do. I wish I could be that happy, upbeat person but the effort it takes is so…sizeable. I don’t know if I have what it takes to always be “on.” But I’m going to try a little bit with each passing day.

I think yoga can help with this. I think it all starts with living mindfully. And I need to learn to stop beating myself up—that’s something people keep saying to me. I guess I should start listening.

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apple stuffed acorn squash

A week ago I purchased my first-ever squash and had no clue what to do with it. This recipe looked pretty unintimidating but it took me over a week to actually feel up to the challenge.

I didn’t know what to expect taste-wise, but obviously I was anticipating something sweet seeing as brown sugar and (vegan) margarine were two of the key ingredients. I think it turned out pretty well, but judging from other users’ photos, I feel like I picked up the worldest smallest acorn squash! I only needed one apple rather than the 2-3 suggested to fill this sucker up.

I obviously need a vegan food etiquette class because I had NO idea how to even begin digging into this bad boy. I fought off the temptation to simply eat the apples out of the squash bowl, but I don’t think you’re supposed to eat the squash skin (are you??). I’m glad no one was really watching because I wound up cutting one in half after eating all the apples and eating it like a complete barbarian, margarine running down my chin. Yikes. How are you supposed to eat one of these things?

I have another half squash to eat after yoga tonight and I have oodles of leftover black bean and quinoa to get me through several work lunches this week. I love leftovers. 🙂

All this cooking and baking is really wreaking havoc on my kitchen. Living in a small apartment with a tiny kitchen and NO dishwasher means I’m doing dishes, it feels, 7 times a day. Imagine my relief that my landlord takes care of the water bill! A lot of the time when my boyfriend eats over, we’ll divy up the workload–I’ll cook, he’ll clean. Since so much of this stuff doesn’t interest his omnivore palate, I’m stuck with much of the dishwashing duties. How is this not intimidating?

Doing dishes has actually become a little bit cathartic–I turn on some soothing music (lately, that’s been The National) and just zone out while scrubbing and hosing down all my kitchen toys.

You just have to make do with what you’ve got, I suppose. I also really need to invest in some new cutlery–well, mostly, knives. I have no idea how old my knives are–they’re hand-me-downs from my parents that have gotten me through college up until now, and I’m sure they were already ancient when they first came into my possession. I also don’t own a knife-sharpener so cracking open that squash was an interesting (and almost dangerous!) endeavor. What’s a broke girl to do?

I’m not too excited to return to work after this wonderful lazy weekend, so I’m taking things one step at a time. Yoga tonight, some leftover squash, and my wonderful cats.

They love to cuddle up in my obviously non-vegan footwear. I’m having a hard time parting with my past possessions, especially expensive possessions I came into owning by way of gift. The cats love cuddling in the Ugg boots, and my cold Chicago feet love their warmth. It’ll soon be time to re-evaluate my priorities, I s’pose.

How are you spending your Sunday?

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hearty quinoa and black beans

I don’t live very close to any Whole Foods locations. I incorrectly thought that the two closest were each about 45 minutes away (one of them about 5 minutes from my work) but I discovered that there is one location closer. It’s still about 30 minutes away, a drive I wasn’t too inclined to make just for soy yogurt. Suddenly it dawned on me: when vegetarian-high-school-me was constantly getting sick (tonsilitis, mono, the whole nine), my mom took me to a local health foods store to get a specially-formulated vegetarian multivitamin. This was several years ago and I decided that the chance this store was still in business after the economy crashed was pretty unlikely. A quick google search and I found that they’re still up and running. At only a 5-minutes drive away, that’s a hell of a lot closer than Whole Foods!

I made a short list of things I wanted that I couldn’t find at a “normal” grocery store and we set out to scour the aisles of the alternative grocer. Also, they have an in-store smoothie bar that serves almost primarily vegan and gluten-free items, so that was a huge plus. 🙂

I was able to pick up…

  • Quinoa (in bulk!)
  • Organic/vegan tortilla chips
  • Sliced almonds
  • Hazelnuts
  • Braggs liquid aminos
  • Light agave nectar
  • Two fresh smoothies from the smoothie bar (for me and the boyfriend) and…
  • A vegan brownie, bought entirely on a whim

(After all my excitement, completely forget to check if they had any soy yogurt w/o active milk cultures, d’oh!)

The prices weren’t cheap, as can be expected at an alternative grocery store. All in all, I spent about $43 on these purchases. But, I have a $5 off a $25 purchase coupon and I picked up a flyer for a free qigong class, which I might check out…who knows! The staff was very friendly and they have so many items in bulk–I almost picked up some steel cut oats but resisted because I am really working off a budget after my last paycheck…between the way the pay period fell and the huge increase in my health insurance premium, things are a little tight right now, to say the least.

So I came home and prepared this quinoa recipe. I had never eaten quinoa before but it was delicious. I made a few changes to the recipe–I added a lot more cumin and cayenne because the reviewers said that it was a little bland, I used a little bit less cilantro, and I used canned corn instead of frozen. I warmed up some pita bread and served it like this:

If you look closely, you can see that some of the quinoa split. Having never cooked it before, I’m not sure if this is normal. I did read that some quinoa should be soaked in water before cooked, which I didn’t do. Can anyone shed some light on proper quinoa preparation techniques?

My new yoga class starts tonight and I’m so excited. I took a fundamentals class that ended in mid-December and haven’t been back to my yoga studio yet, but they’re great and I’m glad I stumbled upon this specialty class. It meets 2 hours per week for 7 weeks and it’s a  “yoga + book club” class. We’re going to be reading Women Food and God. I hope to be enlightened. That will be 6:30-8:30 pm on Sundays. What was the most inspiring class you ever took, whether it be yoga, some sort of other exercise, or even a school course?

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