Our idea of what constitutes "food" in American culture has become so skewed that it is almost unrecognizable. Our supermarkets are packed with products whose ingredients include unpronounceable chemicals, dyes, bacteria, and growth hormones. They are irradiated without our consent and contain GMOs.It's time to bring back FOOD. Pure unadulterated organic RAW food.This blog is a documentation of my continuing journey on a plant-based lifestyle.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Vegas Is Not For Hippies

Nope. It most certainly is not. And if you go there thinking you might find an awesome health food store tucked away on a side street off The Strip... Or buffets piled high with various fruits and a cornucopia of salad options (like I did) you are sorely mistaken. Not even at The Bellagio, not even.

I suppose my idea of what Las Vegas was really like was something out of a movie, say, Sarah Jessica Parker and Nicholas Cage-type Vegas. I pictured only gambling tables, men in suits, women in '80 shoulder-padded dresses -- like a cross between Dynasty and Miami Vice; classy with a drive through wedding chapel and a fake Elvis here and there...

Vegas was a culture shock.

Vegas 2010 is really: People that start drinking at 8:00 A.M., that is, if they've even gone to bed from the night before. They stare like inebriated zombies into dollar slots while chain smoking. They've got mullets and missing teeth. They wear nascar jerseys and acid-washed cut offs and mom jeans.  Everyone is ENORMOUS, yet they dress like they wear a size two. Their kids, who I'm positive all have asthma and will surely develop lung cancer from all the second hand smoke thanks to their parents, have RAT TAILS and are running wild like feral children all over the casinos. The old women haven't gotten the memo that they're OLD and shouldn't be wearing mini-skirts and tube tops, especially when they've got a muffin top and a behind the size of Texas.

Oh, what I wish my eyes didn't see.

And the buffets, good luck, because you couldn't pay enough to eat that slop; I've seen better variety and quality at Old Country Buffets and that's saying a lot.

We had planned that on the second day we would buy the all day pass and just eat at the buffets, so in preparation we literally checked out EVERY buffet on the Strip from Excalibur to The Venetian. I had imagined overflowing bowls of pineapple, watermelon, spring mix, avocados galore - I mean, it's a buffet...there's supposed to be OPTIONS. I planned to gorge myself and bring containers for late night snacking.

I would have been lucky to find a piece of ripe melon...

We wound up eating at Whole Foods both days and saving a considerable about of cashola. They must know that there is nothing for Vegans in Vegas because nearly everything from the bars was at least vegetarian. And they had a Burrito Bar with tons of Vegan options and Vegan Veggie Pizza as well...two days in a row. You can't even get that kind of consistency in Cali! Fortunately, I'm a smart biatch and brought my usual stuff with me to Vegas: dulse, my huge farmers market organic cucs, lemons, nutritional yeast, avos. I added some stuff from the salad bar like romaine lettuce, arugula (love this lately), and red peppers and made myself a delicious raw food meal 'on the road' so to speak. I was even able to snag  considerable amount of vanilla-cakey coconut date rolls!

Whole Paycheck Foods sometimes makes me very angry with their over-priced products and conventional produce, but they seemingly always come through in travel situations and for that I am so, so greatful!

So what the heck did I actually do in Vegas??

Well, when I wasn't having to plug my nose, hold my breath, and run from inhaling cigarette smoke - Kevin and I walked up and down the Strip, just checking out the hotels and some of the free shows that they offered (Mandalay Bay and Wynn were my favs.) I got Kevin to do Bikram with me and we both got our bums kicked. We did some window shopping in the Bellagio and in the Planet Hollywood mall. And we treated ourselves to some Starbucks Soy Mistos and Iced Lattes.

Hey, if my only Vegas vice was some decafe coffee and soy milk then I'm wayyy ahead of the game! Right?!

Overall, Vegas was...interesting...to say the least. I love love LOVED the heat and all the sun and wish I could have taken it back to California with me. The highlight of the trip for me was definately discovering Rick Moonen's seafood restaurant which only uses sustainable seafood and ingredients. And Susen Feniger's restaurant that uses only organic, all grass-fed, sustainable meats and produce, with no processed food whatsoever. They even had some vegan options (tho wildly expensive) and sweeten their food with agave necter! I'm a Top Chef Master's nerd, sorry, I nearly peed my pants with excitement since RM and SF are incredible culinary masters and they really have done a lot to bring awareness to sustainablity in the reataurant biz.

Not sure if I would go back again, this was kind of like an "I only live four hours away and have to go to Vegas at least once," kind of deal.

Although...I could be persuaded with a room at Mandalay...or the Wynn..

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

You Know You're Italian When...

Thank you so much everyone for the well wishes a la the eco-friendly wedding planning and finally settling on a place. I swore I would never do a 'destination' wedding and here I am planning not only the very thing I swore I would never do, but taking on the raw vegan eco-wedding challenge as well. Apparently, I like to do everything the hard way. Alas, I think it's important and I don't think I would feel right otherwise.

 This was another busy food week for me. Kevin and I were leaving for Vegas on Sunday morning (more about that later!) so I had to have all food prepped and ready to go by Saturday for early deliveries. Just thinking about it makes me exhausted. I can't believe how fast I was able to get everything done. I had Kev wash dishes (lol) so that cut a considerable amount of time off my work load.

Anyway, last week I finally got around to making what was supposed to be Eggplant Rollatini di Melanzane except there was no rollatini-ing here since all the eggplants I could find at the farmers market were pretty stubby and in no shape for rolling. I just laid them flat, stuffed 'em, and stacked them instead. I guess this was more of a lasagna than anything else, but either way, my sources are telling me that this is turned out exceptionally well.

Eggplant Rollatini di Melanzane

I went for an all out Italian-themed menu last week. Italian is my favourite and I love trying to create raw versions of the food I grew up with. I don't normally use beans, sprouted or otherwise, when making raw food. They never taste the same as the cooked version and I'm just not a fan. However, I figured, 'what the heck' and made this raw minestrone soup. I soaked the beans for almost 48 hours but, didn't sprout them to avoid that strange taste they develop when sprouting and made a tomato, celery, parsley based broth. I loaded it up with a variety of greens and three different types of beans. I have no words. I couldn't believe how similar it tasted to the real thing. Yum yum!

Minestrone Soup

Italian-themed menu's wouldn't be the same without pizza. I veered from the traditional margarita pizza and opted for a white pizza with raw, ricotta cheeze, 'sausage', garlic cashew cream sauce, and lemon-parsley butter on an herby crust. Two thumbs up all around!

White Pizza

We've been getting really ripe, juicy fresh strawberries from the farmer's market lately. I love farmers market strawberries. You can totally taste the difference; they are so much sweeter and make for a mini raw cobbler that is out of this world. I like to put it in the dehydrator so that all the juice from the strawberries turns into this yummy, thick syrup. Pretty sure I've mentioned this before, but it is worth mentioning again. Cobblers have become one of my favorite raw desserts to make. Their simple, but always allow the flavors of the fruit to come through. The only sweetner I added here was some coconut sugar- my new fav. It tastes like graham crackers!!

Strawberry Cobbler

Mangia! Mangia!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Kraut Success, Bowls of Yum, & Thrifty Vintage Delights

After four days of poking, pushing, and prodding my Jalapeno-Cumin Kraut was finally ready to be eaten today! It turned out magnificently! Oh, it was sooo good, if I do say so myself. It was deliciously spicy, but with a subtle sweetness from the carrots.  I threw some on top of my usual bowl of yum, which is a varying amalgamation of cucs, avo, various herbs, zucchini, nutritional yeast, and dulse. I even threw some romaine lettuce on there like a raw food nerd interpretation of a deconstructed taco! (I'm reaching here, totally...)

The kraut is peeking out from behind the romaine!

I make food for other people all day long. When it comes to my own meals, I'm a certified lazy mclazerson. I like things that are simple and fast with minimal ingredients (aka less clean up, thank god.) If I can throw it into the blender and it tastes good together, I'm as good as golden. Don't judge the green mush soup...stew..(stewp???)

So, onto my exciting news!!! Well, I'm finally get married! We've officially set a date, found our location, and are getting the ball rolling on making all the arrangements. We got engaged last August right before coming to California after almost six years, but we didn't want to get married right away since Kev was going to be in Grad School. Let me tell you, a year goes by really fast! I am beyond thrilled. Though, in my mind, this is really just a mild formality. As far as I'm concerned Kevin and I have been 'married' since October 2006 when we moved into our first apartment in NYC together. Once you live with someone and really get to know them, getting married just becomes a nice way to declare your love in front of other people.

(picture from 100layercake.com & onelovephoto.com)

I'm determined to make this wedding as eco-friendly and green as humanly possible. I've already found a caterer who is going to work with me to plan a vegan and raw vegan menu. They also use all local and organic ingredients! My dress will be vintage for sure. Organic flowers. And I'm looking to get seed paper invitations. We're getting married in Sonora, CA which is about three hours outside the Bay Area. It's rustic, indie, vintage, and a bit French Provencal....in other words, everything I've always wanted.

We've been pretty set on getting married in New York City since it's always been our place, but when I looked at the pictures for this location I knew in my heart that this is where I had to get married. We've decided that we're going to get our marriage license in New York that way legally, we'll be married in NYC.

Nearly all our friends and family are on the East Coast so any advise about 'destination' weddings or planning weddings in general would be greatly appreciated. I've already decided that I am not going to get stressed over this in any fashion. I mean, this is supposed to be fun right? An un-complicated celebration, that's what I'm going for!

Time for yummy green smoothie ice cream and The City....and ok, I watch the Hills too, but only because it hilarious to watch it crash and burn...

Lots of yums coming this week!

Itzy Bitzy Kitch

What I wouldn't give to be able to work in a sizable kitchen with an island; big enough to accommodate two high speed blenders, a monstrosity of a food processor, a dehydrator, stock piles of mason jars & heaps of produce from thy farmers market. I've had it with wobbly make-shift cutting boards over oven tops and hardly any elbow room to speak of. (Hurrah, Top Chef comes back this week!! Sorry, kitchen-talk always makes me channel my inner Top-Chef-worshiping-self. This blog post really has nothing to do with Top Chef, except that their kitchens are enormous and make mine look even punier!)

And yet, my itzy bitzy kitchen still manages to turn out more food than I know what to do with sometimes...wobbly cutting board and shifting blender/food processor no counter space and all!

Last week my impractically small kitchen turned out some pretty delicious raw food goodness:

Strawberry Jam Shortcake Bars

Served warm and ooey gooey straight out of the dehydrator...

I'm a sucker for veggie loafs. They make for super quick and easy meals that are just packed with lots of veg, nuts, and seeds. It's a great way to sneak in veggies that people don't normally like. 

 This week I did a 'Parmesan' Encrusted Italian-style Veggie Loaf

The veg loaf is so versatile too. You can cut it up and eat it in a wrap or crumble it over a hearty kale salad.

Another yummy delight and an all around raw food nerd fav.: FALAFELS!!!! Raw, vegan dollups of herby deliciousness!

Cumin-Cilantro Falafels

I loooovee cumin...in everything. I mix it with nutritional yeast and add it to my many variations of avo mac&cheeze and my cucumber mash. It's sooo good. I try and eat pretty clean and I don't get too crazy with adding tons of spices to my food, but for someone who really doesn't eat nuts and seeds, I think seasoning is really important. It's a great way for me to remain 'consistant' and basically eat the same thing everyday while still allowing for variety.

On Friday, in the midst of a cleaning frenzy, I decided to whip up a batch of sauerkraut. I haven't had it in so long and I was really craving some. I threw together a rather spicy batch of green cabbage/carrot/jalapeno/cumin kraut.

I've read a lot of conflicting facts about the health benefits of kraut/fermented veggies. I can't imagine that eating what essentially is rotting food can be all that good for you, but it sure tastes good! If my only real vice is some delicious fermented food, then guilty I shall be. lol.

All jarred up and ready to be fermented!

I've been incredibly thirsty these last two weeks which probably has something to do with yoga. Bikram has been so humid and I've been sweating so much...like pouring in my eyes sweating..I go through an entire gallon of water during class. Afterwards all I want is juice, but alas, I am far too lazy to cut, blend, and strain everyday. (Ohhh huroom, I'mmm waitingggg!)

And so begins my love affair with melons of all varieties...watermelon and honey dew make the most insane tasting juice. Maybe I've just been a raw foodist way too long but, it seriously tastes like liquid cotton candy!

The Blendtec has made juice making so easy. Especially when I've got ten trillion blood oranges and tangelos to get rid of. They were like eight for $1 at the Farmers Market. I heart minola tangelos - so tany and tart, but still sweet. Unfortunately, the tangelos had so many seeds it really wasn't worth the trouble of picking them out so I just made a yummy juice instead. Carrot/Orange/Lemon juice. You can stuff so much into that carafe!

I strain it through a nut milk bag and it's fantastic. It's actually still kind of thick which reminds me of drinking pulpy OJ. Although, I think regular navel oranges are the best for making homemade pulpy OJ!

In other, less foodly, news, I am trying to get better with blogging and commenting back! I suck, I know. I'll be better, I promise. Either way, I always appreciate the comments! It gives me some serious motivation to get my tush in gear. (Hence, it's 11:52 PM and I'm writing out the rest of this post that I started on Saturday! Saturday! Oye vey!)

I've also got something very exciting to share this week! No, I'm not pregnant...my bump is strictly from eating too much watermelon...lol

P.S. Has anyone else been watching Food Network Star? Am I the only one who thinks this season is a disaster? I feel bad for the two women, Artie and the Britney Murphy-look-a-like, since they are the only two who really have a shot at this. They should just send the rest home now and let those two compete, Iron Chef-style...

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Exercising The Demons

Pour me a cup of MSM-ed Watermelon Juice and let's call it a day because I seriously (well, we really, but I don't think Kev would be doing this if it wasn't for me anyway...) must be a masochist. I've got one exception in life when it comes to reaching far..far..beyond my threshold for pain and being uncomfortable and that's the sweaty suffering of exercise.

I, however, am not a fan of lingering pain...especially involving my ankles and shins..

This jello-ing of my limbs was brought on by none other than LA's Runyon Canyon perched high in the Hollywood Hills. Apparently, though I have yet to spot one, a lot of celebrities exercise there. After a feast of delicious vanilla cake-esque coconut date rolls and 20 minutes of searching for parking Kev and I made our way to the base of the Canyon:

Let me just say that walking up the street alone to get to the entrance is a workout in and of itself; the hills are insanely steep. So much for Sunday being my Bikram-only rest day...I was dripping sweat after five minutes and my heart was nearly beating out of my chest. We only walked up, but a good portion of the people were running.

Runyon obliterated my ankles..and my shins...and my knees for almost an entire week; I think it was the going down part vs. up that did it since the path we took down was semi-stairs and extraordinarily steep. I was doing double Bikrams for extra stretching because it was the only thing that made them feel better.

Yet, in true A. fashion Kev and I went back to Runyon this Sunday. I know, I'm totally asking for it...

half-way up..

and this is why my extremities turned to jello...

and how Kev got rid of his farmer's tan...

while I stopped for a photograph break with the agave plant behind me...

When we were about 1/2 a mile-1 mile from the very top of Runyon we passed by this loverly little animal sanctuary with two horses and a goat that had been rescued. I used to ride horses and they're my favourite animal. No dogs or cats for me, I'm holding out for my own horse.

My ankles and shins don't hurt nearly as bad as they did last week so I guess muscle memory is kicking in...

Hope you all had a fantastic week. I'll be back tomorrow to share some weekend eats.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Watermelon Baby Belly, Afflictions, & Creamy Dreamy Spirulina Ice-a-cream-e

I've been pounding down the watermelon lately like it's going out of style. Nine pound watermelon? No prob. And I've got the watermelon baby belly to prove it. I've been eating them everyday after yoga because it's pure sugar water and super hydrating. (Sometimes two in a row! Shhhh!)

To be honest with you, watermelon isn't even one of my favourite fruits. There's that whole "got to wait 15-30 minutes" in between eating it and anything else bit and it doesn't combine well other fruits (or anything for that matter) so you always have to eat it alone. It's kind of a pain in the bum which is why when I eat watermelon I eat watermelon.

Go hard or go home, as they say. I'm that way about everything though, so it doesn't surprise me that I'd find a way to apply this to food.

Actually, I was discussing this with Kev in the car the other day on the way to Whole Foods to get cherries. (Mmm, cherry splendidness. Cherries, dates, and figs are at an even tie for my absolute favorite of all favorite fruits. You should see how crazy I get when figs come into season. I used to buy out the little farm market store on 96th and Lex and eat figs for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. My precious figs, ::le sigh::) Sometimes I think it is a serious personality default (this all or nothingness) because it prevents me from understanding/relating to people, especially since it makes its way into so many areas of my life.

For example, with Bikram. I've watched people walk out right before the last pose - which mind you is on the floor. Why would you spend 85 minutes in a hot, humid room with 30+ other sweating people just to walk out before the end? It's mind boggling to me! I mean, I understand people sitting out poses as we've all been there. Bikram never gets easier no matter what anyone tells you. As someone who goes everyday, it's no walk in the park just because you are consistent. There are some days that room feels like it's on fire and I'm seriously so nauseous I'm positive I'm going to vomit or I'm so thirsty that I don't think I can last another second...but, I do. You always do, because 99% of it is mental.

I have such a low tolerance for pain and being uncomfortable that the only thing that keeps running through my head is, "If I can do it, anybody can." The concept of putting forth that much effort to just give up at the end just seems crazy. I mean, right?

And then there is the more serious aspect to this personality affliction of mine which applies entirely to food. I'm the type of person where if I find out something is bad for me and there is enough evidence to back it up, then I'm done with it forever and cut it out immediately. (There's a replacement for everything anyway...) I can't understand how other people don't do the same (do you seem my problem here...)

For example, rewind three years. I'm on my way to class and there is a little yellow flier stuck to the wall outside the elevator in the EL Building of New School. "Splenda tested on rats...processed with arsenic..etc." Silently, I shrieked in horror since this was my drug "sugar replacement" of choice at the time. From coffee, to splenda cheesecakes (pre-vegan days), to grapefruit. Sometimes I used to just dip the spoon in the bag and eat it like fluffy white snowflakes of tumor-inducing goodness! ::points:: Splenda-holic right here.

After that, I ditched the Splenda. Threw it all away. Haven't had it since.

The same thing happened when I was slathering up an apple with good old conventional Jiff peanut butter (who claims to be so natural) and my dear friend Martin was like, "That has partially-hydrogenated oil, a trans fat that's pretty horrible for you." You know when someone who can pack away some serious junk food tells you there's something deathly in your food, you had better stop eating it.

Little did I know, P.H.O., was in just about everything I was eating..yogurt, dressings, my freaking PB...along with high-fructose corn syrup...interesting..

Further research proved Martin right and I cut out both immediately. Which meant finding an entire new way of eating (yay veganism!) since both are basically staples of conventional American 'cuisine'. And, of course, becoming a compulsive label checker. (Like did you did you know Tofutti, the company that makes those vegan cream cheeses and ice cream bars and all that good stuff, yeah, their products contain partially-hydrogenated oils too! I mean honestly, they are sold in health food stores everywhere! Wouldn't have known that unless I read the label...)

I guess what I am really saying is that I cannot, for the life of me, understand how people can continue living in ignorance when they know how bad something is for them. I mean, I know this is entirely irrational, but it honestly makes me so angry. And this anger comes wholly from a place of concern and love because I just want everyone to be healthy, happy, and live a long time. The pharmaceutical dependency in this country and reliance on conventional doctors to just prescribe and right all our wrongs is devastating.

Have you ever noticed how everyone who eats like crap has some sort of ailment or disease? They are always complaining about something: my shoulder, my back, I've got this cancer and so and so just died of that cancer, I'm fat, I've got diabetes, allergies, etc. It never ends.  Honestly, what did you expect after years of abusing your body? I have a hard time feeling any sort of sympathy for people who make bad choices and refuse to correct them.

I know this seems rather bitchy, but think of this as the "Skinny Bitch" or Gillian McKieth's "You Are What You Eat" approach to life and healing the body. I feel like I can say all this because I'VE BEEN THERE. I've had the migraines, sinus infections three times a year, chronic strep throat, digestive problems galore, the list goes on forever...I know what it is like to not be able to lose the weight and feel like crapola all the time. Up until a few years ago, I was that person. And then I found out all these little tidbits of information, changed my habits accordingly, and now I feel excellent.

As Ann Wigmore so candidly wrote, "Why Suffer?"

And this has nothing to do with raw vs. cooked or even vegan vs. omnivore. It's more of the Matt Monarch philosophy: it isn't what you put into your diet, but what you take out. Raw food is a personal choice. Same goes for veganism. And neither of these are strict requirements to being "healthy". If people simply switched to Organics and cut out the shitzel their health would improve ten-fold.

You cannot even cry "taste" here. Health food has comes leaps and bounds since its granola-only days where it's all carrot sticks and celery. I'm a serious food nerd (duh)...like to the point where I dream about food and eating it and how good it tastes. I'm all about flavor biatches! And while I may be able to suck it up and take one for the team by drinking cups of Vitamineral Green alone for greens-on-the-road sake, I'm not the type to just eat food just because it's "healthy". I love food too much to let that happen.

Kevin says I just have an over abundance of will power and that's why it is so easy for me to give up things once I discover how bad they really are. But, I don't think that's necessarily the case. I wasn't always this way. (Like Splenda I had quite the attachment to non-dairy creamer and it's assorted flavors even though my Mim used to plead with me to ditch it because it was nothing more than powdered chemicals. I ignored her for the longest time.) Now, I feel like it's just common sense: how can something with an ingredient list the size of Texas be good for you? Or ingredients that you cannot pronounce or identify as a real food? Does the light bulb not go off?

Maybe 10 or 15 years ago ignorance could be justified, but there is far too much information available today to allow this "blissfully unaware" excuse to be rationalized.

A lot of the time I find myself wondering whether I am simply far too jaded...have I seen to many Food Inc.'s? And read to many Michael Pollan books and Organic Consumer Association Newsletters??

Either way, I know I've got to find some way to let it go because I can only do so much. I'm really not a confrontational person, so peacefully educating people I suppose is the best way to go...
In other, happier news, the countdown to the release of Twilight Saga: Eclipse has begun! I saw the first billboard last week!! I'm marking down the days on my Edward calender! Seriously, I'm going all out in my Twilight gear. I know, so nerdly..

And thanks to my glorious blendtec I've been making this scrumptilly ice cream number every night. It's thick, icy, and the perfect nightly treat. I can't get enough of it!

Spirulina Dream Ice Cream

P.S. Thanks for listening to my rant. I've been mulling over these thoughts for quite some time now and it feels very good to get it off my chest.