Saturday, March 31, 2012

Roll Out The Barrel!

Friends, I have some very exciting news! Last night, 2 monumental events in a woman's life finally happened to me. For the first time in my entire life, at age 38 years and 276 days, I drank an entire bottle of beer! And not only that, it was the very first time that I ever EVER drank beer at a party! Yes, I realize that I accomplished this a good quarter century later in life than your average lady does! I skipped right over Keggers With Kids and jumped directly into Quaffs With Quadragenarians!
Hubby made a painting of me to immortalize the big event!
I had a 1554 Enlightened Black Ale. I didn't like it as much as the Guinness, but it was definitely better than all of the other beers I have tried. My husband also drank an entire can of beer, all by himself, like a big boy! His was a Boddingtons. He waffled on it a little bit, but I think he decided that he basically liked it. So, watch out, people! If you invite Hubby and me to your parties now, you can bet your ass we will leave you with only 97 bottles of beer on your wall!!!
Things got a little wild at that party! I stood in the back and watched, awkwardly.

In addition to the copious amount of beer guzzling I did, I am also proud to tell you that I followed the directions of our hostess, and I put some raw onions upon the vegan Sloppy Joe I was presented with. And it was fine. So, I'm going to go ahead and declare that I have defeated raw onions! Funny. Going into this, I assumed that raw onions would be the toughest thing for me to eat, but they were pretty easy to deal with. It's the beer, cranberry juice and grapefruit that have really been the big challenges for me!

Anyway, I finally got myself back on track and did some shopping today. My beloved recipe app helped me choose selections that would help to use up a lot of the food that I want to get rid of before the tenting. But I was still able to pick up a large quantity of Weird Things! This week's undesirables are:

* 1 Package of Seaweed Snacks
* 1 Bottle of Tomato Juice
* 1 Bottle of Red Grapefruit Juice
* 1 Cara Cara Orange
* 1 Bag of "Everything" Pretzel Slims
* 1 Bulb(?) of Kolhrabi
* 1 Bunch of Broccoli Rabe
* 1 Bottle of Mineral Water
* 1 Bunch of Radishes
* 3 Bottles of Various Beers

And I'm gonna knock your socks off with some of the things I plan to do with some of these edibles!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Someone's in the Kitchen with Wifey!

I hope that what I am about to say will not undo all three waves of feminism (or are we up to the fourth wave now? I cancelled my subscription to Bust magazine, so I have lost count!). For the second time in our 8 1/2 years together, my husband cooked dinner for me! Now, before any Second Wavers try and have a dialogue with me about how I must learn to subvert the dominant paradigm and stop spending most of my life in the kitchen, cooking for my white, male husband, I must point out 2 facts: 1) I love cooking 2) I can count on one hand the number of times I have made our bed, and I don't think I have ever even touched the Swiffer. Hubby takes care of those tasks, so we have a fair distribution of labor. However, I'm not gonna lie. When I hear rumors about a wife who has NEVER (and I mean NEVER) cooked a dinner for her husband, unless she has no hands, I assume that she is a bad wife. I know that not every woman has the time or desire to feed their men as extravagantly as I do but NEVER?!? Pathetic! Oh dear, I hear a NOW representative knocking at my door, surely to take my feminist card back! ;-)

Hubby made me his famous Kraut Dogs. I have witnessed him make them for himself, on rare and random days when there weren't enough leftovers to eat for lunch. I always scoffed at them. Who would eat something like stinky old sauerkraut? As I discovered a few weeks back, turns out that I, in fact, happen to love stinky old sauerkraut! So, I got to have my first taste of Hubby's Famous Kraut Dogs.
Here's my husband and me having dinner last night!
When I last ate sauerkraut, it was fancy homemade sauerkraut, on a fancy homemade sausage, topped with fancy homemade mustard. This time, we were keeping it real! Smart Dogs, Trader Joe's yellow mustard and tragic canned sauerkraut. It was not fancy nor homemade, but it was still delicious! Hubby does make a damn good Kraut Dog! And as I sat there, eating my sauerkraut, with mustard and a side of pickles, all I could think was If They Could See Me Now! They'd Never Believe It!
Here's me after dinner, even though I didn't eat any fancy chow or drink any fancy wine!
And Hubby.... he really has conquered his 40 years of mustard hating! He hated it, now suddenly, because he got over himself, he likes it! He admits that he doesn't crave it yet, but he is confident that he will never again have to use one of his most commonly uttered phrases: "Please leave the mustard off of that."

Finally, I went back to Slimmons last night, and Richard Simmons greeted me with a "Hi, Darling!" and not, as I feared, a "Who is this little fat girl?!?" Even after my overly indulgent weekend in the Garden State, I am apparently no worse for the wear. 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Advice For Omnis

Taking a break from my usual format to bring a helpful list to my omni readers! If you ever encounter a vegan in the wild, here are some things you should not say to them. I have had ALL of these said to me personally, some of them dozens upon dozens of times!

Things Not To Say To A Vegan

* Do you eat fish?  / Why don't you eat fish? / I am a vegetarian, I only eat fish.

* I used to be vegetarian, but I started eating meat again because Insert Bullshit Reason Here.

* I could never date a vegan. (Said not to me, but to my husband many times when he started dating me.)

* Where do you get your protein?

* Why do you look like that, then? People who don't eat meat are usually skinny!

* It doesn't hurt the cow to take milk from her.

* I could never do that, I like meat too much!

* Do vegans breastfeed their babies?

* Eating meat doesn't hurt anybody.

* Any implication that vegans literally eat nothing but vegetables. "Sure, there is food for you to eat there, They have a dinner salad" or "My friend got sick because she ate nothing but vegetables."

* What's the big deal? It's just food!

* Why do you eat fake meat? If you like the taste of meat so much, why not just eat meat?

* Do vegans swallow? (And I think you know what they were talking about..... not tofu!!!!)

* Can you eat bread? Can you eat chocolate?

* Vegans are unhealthy and obnoxious.

* Vegan food is tasteless and pointless.

* I didn't claw my way to the top of the food chain to eat vegetables!

That last one really gets me as being the most idiotic! How about we put you, unarmed, with a hungry lion? I think we would see pretty quickly exactly who clawed himself to the top of the food chain!!!

And I know that asking about bread or chocolate is well meaning, and people somehow assume that all bread has milk or eggs in it (the vast majority does not) and that chocolate inherently has dairy in it (think about that one.... cacao isn't that different from coffee beans, so assuming that all chocolate automatically has dairy in it is like assuming all cups of coffee must have dairy in them!), but really people! Do you think I would volunteer to live a live that didn't involve bread or chocolate?!?!? ;-)

Anyway, I hope this will help you not look clueless when you next speak to a vegan! :-D If any vegan reads this and you have more examples, please leave them in the comments!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Little Appdate

As I stated before, my recent trip east threw me off track in my quest. Rest assured, I have some big plans for myself over the next couple of weeks! Since my primary focus needs to be on getting rid of as much food in my house as possible before the extermination, I'm probably going to concentrate a bit more on beverages for a little bit. I don't want to bring a lot of new food items into the house before I have to clear everything out of my kitchen for the dreaded tenting! So, I have lots of awful ideas involving beer, grapefruit juice, tomato juice and even (brace yourself!), the 1 liquor I am too snobby to drink: vodka.

Another reason why I will focus on drinks is that I need to have a little bit of a food detox after what happened to me in NJ. I may have been a bit tipsy when I typed it the other night, but my feelings of being "disgusting and huge" were accurate! When you are used to eating a very healthy diet, chock full o' kale and salads, and basically no junk food, it's amazing what a shock to your system is it when you go just a little bit wild! It was a mere 28 hour window of my trip that did me in. During that feasting period, I ate a big plate of pierogies, 2 bourbon cocktails, several (ok, many) handfuls of Utz Potato Chips, a platter of penne with olive oil, garlic and broccoli (at least I got one green veggie in me!), half of The Biggest Vegan Chicken Parm Sandwich in the History of Sandwiches and a 500 calorie cookie. No wonder the next day, I just ate through one nice green leaf, and I felt much better! I'm gonna do more salads this week.... many more! 
This is me by the end of the "Mad Men" premiere.


This is me when I woke up the next morning.

My only other news at the moment is about my beloved Recipe App! I'm still at it, and have entered about 800 recipes in it. My poor husband has barely been able to pry the damn iPad out of my hands so he can play a little Angry Birds! But the good news is I finally figured out how to add custom categories! At last, I can classify recipes in new and handy ways..... Sandwiches / Burgers, Dips, Asian, Soul Food, Indian, Middle Eastern, Comfort Food, Italian, Tapas, Tropical and Slow Cooker! Now, the unhealthy obsession fun really starts!!!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Looking Through A Raw Onion

First, my blog readers, a disclaimer. I am still in NJ. Which means extra eating, and also, extra drinking.... often with someone else to drive. I admit, I had 2 martinis tonight. And for some reason, they knocked my socks off! So, forgive my typos!

The past 48 hours in NJ has been an eating frenzy. Admittedly, there aren't always a ton of vegan options.... but the vegan options that there are tend to be a bit more extravagent in the calorie department than my usual diet. Yesterday, I went to bed feeling disgusting, and vowing that I would return to LA to a diet of salads and Cardio Barre classes every day! This was caused my those pierogies from Saturday night.... followed by Sunday, where I accidently ordered the Biggest Vegan Chicken Parm Sandwich in the History of Sandwiches. That damn sandwich was literally 12 inches long. Half of it is still in the refrigerator, as I bit off way more than I could chew with that one! Then, there were the two Family Sized bags of Utz Potato Chips that were waiting on my bed when I got here.... My mother is obsessed with buying my husband and me Utz Potato Chips after my husband became curious about them from an early season of "Mad Men".... he didn't imagine it was actually a real product. And there were also 3 of those 500 calorie Alternative Baking Company cookies waiting for me..... and I surely ate my fair share of Utz and an ABC Cookie while watching the "Mas Men" primere last night! So, I woke up today feeling disgusting and huge.... and in the words of my husband, that I was going to return to Slimmons this week and I would be so big, that Richard Simmons wouldn't even recognize me anymore, and instead, he would ask, "Who is that little fat girl?!?"

Anyway, yesterday, I didn't have too much say about my food (except for the Biggest Vegan Chicken Parm Sandwich in the History of Sandwiches). I had lunch at a baby shower. And you will be pleased to know I was given a fruit salad full of grapefruit! I ate it all. I didn't love it, but I ate every bit of the fruit of the grape.

Today, I woke up disgusting and huge. I decided that a salad for lunch would suffice! The menu stated this salad would include mixed greens, olives and avocado.... but it didn't mention the rings of raw onion it would have on it! You would have been so proud of me... I ate the raw onions. Not even wussy red onions, but regular old raw, white onions! Which are Nunber 1 on my list of hated foods. And you know what? They weren't bad. I didn't mind eating them! Not until an hour later, when I realized I had the Worst Onion Breath Ever, and here I was, about to interact with my friend's newborn. :-/ So, I realized something about those raw onions... I *can* eat them, but I probably shouldn't, if I don't want to offend the world around me.

Ok, those Martinis are still getting to me. I shouldn't write anymore. I've already been too gregarious! And I should go to sleep. Talk to you again from Los Angeles!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Turkish Delight on a Moonlit Night

I'm out of town for a long weekend, and far from my own kitchen, where I have full control over my meals. My options for vegan meals here are already limited, and since I'm in NJ, most of my options will involve a plate of pasta with tomato sauce or olive oil and garlic. So, I probably won't have too many chances to get outside of my food comfort zone, although I have already noted the grapefruit and tomato juices in the refrigerator. I guess I will drink them in an absolute pinch!

I ate dinner at Kaya's Kitchen, which is surely one of my favorite vegetarian restaurants on Earth. I went in with the full intention of ordering something I didn't like for my dinner.... but I just couldn't turn down the Pierogies! I'm not a strong enough woman to be able to refuse pasta dumplings filled with mashed potatoes!!! :-) After flirting with the idea do doing something so lame as just ordering a cup of herbal tea, I found my solution. For the table, I ordered the Turkish Delight. It consisted of some of my best friends (falafel, olives, pita and my BFF, hummus), along with my enemy, tabbouleh. And as a big bonus, it even contained my Forgotten Foe, Baba Ghanoush!

This was my third tabbouleh attempt, and I guess the third tabbouleh's the charm! I liked it! This version was not soggy at all, and was admittedly light on parsley, which helped matters greatly. I still want to try it at a real Middle Eastern restaurant, but I was very happy that I enjoyed it so much tonight!

I had completely overlooked the fact that I have issues with baba Ghanoush! I never liked the stuff. I have learned to like eggplant just fine. I even make a roasted eggplant dip at home, and I do love that. Tonight, while I ate the baba Ghanoush side by side with hummus, the problem was clear. You all know of my feelings on hummus. It is easily one of my top 5 favorite foods, and I have no control around it. So, next to the deliciousness of hummus, the baba Ghanoush is just so bland and boring! It didn't taste bad.... but made me feel like What's The Point Of Eating This? Especially When You Could Be Eating Hummus? So, I want to give it a chance at a Middle Eastern place as well. Soon, I will get serious and have an authentically made baba Ghanoush and tabbouleh, and we'll just see how I feel about them then!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Every Salty Dog Has Its Day

It was back to Musso and Frank last night. It was Manny Aguirre's 78th birthday. A true Hollywood icon, Manny has tended bar in several of the most legendary Los Angeles establishments (such as Nickodell's, Scandia and almost 25 years at Musso and Frank) over the course of his 55 year career. Manny is often credited with being the man who makes the Best Martini in America. Both his talent at his craft and his charming demeanor have made him beloved by everyone who has ever taken a seat at his bar. Last night, the entire restaurant sang Happy Birthday to him and gave him a standing ovation! I baked him a lovely batch of Lemon Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting. And I took advantage of my evening with Manny to further my own cause. Who better to trust to make me a cocktail with grapefruit juice?

After some minor consideration, I decided a Salty Dog, with gin, would be the way to go. I'm not ready to go Greyhound just yet. And I hoped the salted rim of the glass would do its part to ease me into the world of grapefruit juice.

Well. I thought it would be worse. I don't think I've actually ever drank grapefruit juice before.... why would I have?!? Manny used pink grapefruit juice, which I guess was milder than regular. The salt and gin helped to dilute the bitterness a bit. The bad aftertaste was still there, but not nearly as bad as when I ate the actual grapefruits! 

My verdict: Salty Dog was better than any beer I have tried, except for Guinness. Salty Dog was better than cranberry juice. But Salty Dog is not as good as a Gin and Tonic or Root Beer. And, as it wasn't a very strong drink, I did not wake up needing some Hair of the Salty Dog!

I'll be back to visit Manny in the near future. I mean, he's 78 years old and probably going to retire one day soon! I think my next task for this master will be to commission him to make me a vegan Bloody Mary! Because if anyone can make a Bloody Mary that I would like, it would be Manny!
Also.... over 400 blog views! Thanks to everyone who keeps checking back on my culinary adventure. I appreciate it, and I especially appreciate all of the tips and suggestions you have given me! :-)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Endiving On In!

I'm not sure that I've ever had endive before. Maybe some chef sneaked a bit of it in to my fancy salad at some nice dinner, but it always went under the radar. So, in my traditional fashion, I assume that I didn't like it. What I have now learned about endive is that color matters!

I picked up a mixed pack of endive, that had both of these varieties in it. I proceeded to use it all in an Asparagus, Orange and Endive Salad. This salad calls for a dressing with all kinds of sweet things in it.... raspberry vinegar, orange juice AND a tablespoon of sugar. Which should have clued me in to the fact that maybe there was something going on with endive that the dressing was attempting to mask. And I tell ya, that yellow endive was totally fine. I have no issue with it whatsoever. But that purple endive couldn't have been any more bitter!!! Like my hated radicchio, but maybe even worse. Even the sugar filled dressing didn't help it. Oh well, I guess I need to work on purple endive some more! But in other news.... there was also a good amount of raw onion in this salad.... and I was so distracted by the endive, that I actually FORGOT there was raw onion in it! Meaning, I guess, that I'm getting used to raw onions, to an extent that their mere presence no longer completely overwhelms me? Shocking, but perhaps true!

I did some more beer drinking as well. I tried Blue Moon *beer* beer.... I'm about 6 beers in, and I just don't get it. I'll keep at it, but damn, it doesn't taste good, people! The Guinness was tolerable... so far, nothing else was. I also drank a regular root beer, some kind of Trader Joe's Old Fashioned Root Beer kind of thing. It was totally fine. I don't love it, but I had no problem with it. I've been told that what I need to do is move up to Moxie, so I will see about trying that one in the near future!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

I'm Cuckoo for Recipe Apps!

It's been a week since my very life has been changed.... by that My Recipe Book app, of course! During the past week, I have spent almost every free moment playing with it, much to my husband's chagrin. But I have a huge project to conquer! Remember, I have over 5000 recipes which "need" to be catalogued! Well, in the past week, I have managed to enter over 500 recipes into the app! Which is no kidding around! Already, my life has been made easier by using it. Normally, meal planning involves 30- 45 minutes of me flipping through folders of recipes and cookbooks. But on Friday, I planned food for the whole week in 3 minutes..... on my iPad.... while at work.... with a baby sleeping on me. Talk about multitasking!

Even though I have only dealt with a small percentage of recipes that I possess, having 500 recipes at my instant disposal is pretty handy. And pretty fascinating to see what happens when you use the search function. For example, how many Vegan Mac and Cheese recipes does one girl need? Answer: 13. Hey, I'm in the mood for tofu, how many recipe options do I have? Answer: 56 And why would a vegan have 81 recipes for chicken? Answer: Fake meat for the win!
While I am convinced purchasing this app is the best $1.99 I have ever spent, I do have a small issue with the Categories that it allows you to sort your recipes into. All of my problems would be solved if you were allowed to enter your own custom categories, but you aren't, and their category options are haphazard and incomplete. For example, I am pleased it includes "Mexican" as a category (so I can locate my recipes for 17 different types of tacos with great ease), but why on Earth is that the only category of regional foods? Why not at least one for Asian food? Or Italian? True, there is a category for "Pasta" (104 recipes and counting), but I have tons of Italian recipes that aren't pasta based... pizzas, polentas, calzones, stews, salads, etc. And why include courses like Soups, Salads, Side Dishes, Desserts (and it even has a separate location just for Cookies) and not include a Sandwich category? As a result, I took to labeling my 59 kinds of sandwiches and burgers as "Gluten Free," just so I could sort them out. And my final concern with this app is HOW MUCH CAN IT HANDLE?!? Am I going to stretch it to capacity well before I get my 5000 recipes in it?!? I could make myself lose sleep at night worrying about that!

This is what I have spent the last week staring at... at this rate, I should only have 9 more weeks to go!

This will be me by the time I actually get all of my recipes imported into the app!
Anyway, there is another reason why I have been going like gangbusters with the recipe data entry this week. I have known this was going to happen for several months, but now, I have the date for this awful event. April 17. Our landlord has decided it is necessary to tent our entire complex to fumigate. Which not only means 48 hours in a hotel room with an angry cat, but obviously, all of the food needs to leave the house. And I have a notoriously well-stocked pantry! So, I now have a new goal. In addition to making myself eat all kinds of foods I never eat, I simultaneously need to use up as much food as possible in the house. This recipe app is going to simplify this process! I need to use up half a bag of raw cashews, half a pound of orecchiette, 5 bags of frozen black beans, 2 cups of Arborio rice and a half a jar of bread and butter pickle slices? Well, my nifty app is gonna tell me exactly what I need to do to expedite this pantry purging process! And the more recipes I have entered in the app, the more options I will have to help me purge.

Oh, and yes, we have to "get rid off" all of the open bottles of alcohol as well. It's all fun and games now, while there is still some Jack Daniels and Tanqueray lingering around, but I'm going to be a sullen woman the day I realize the good stuff is long gone and I need to use up the Buttershots and Sour Apple Pucker! ;-)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

No Olé For Mole

My husband is a social meat eater. He's happy to eat vegan at home with me and is generally content to eat vegetarian when he is out (even when I'm not watching him ;-) ). He eats some kind of meat maybe once or twice a month, usually when he is someplace that doesn't have an appealing vegetarian selection. Or when he wants to eat something he loves, but there isn't ever a suitable vegetarian version available. Such has been the case with mole.

Hubby loves mole. And mole doesn't usually come vegetarian in the real world! Not only is there always meat in the broth, but it's most often served on top of more meat. Now, over the past 14 years of being vegan, I've gotten pretty good at veganizing things. I can make a vegan version of anything that I crave. With the exception of a vegan Chik-fil-a sandwich, I miss nothing in life. I have tried to extend this to Hubby as well. I do my best to try and give him home cooked, vegan versions of the foods he likes, so he doesn't have to prowl the streets in search of meat! But I sure never tried to make him mole before, for a simple reason. I hate mole!

I have only eaten mole a couple of times, and only after I became vegan, so I have never eaten "real" mole. The first time was years ago, when I made it at home with my ex. I didn't know I hated it.... but one taste let me know I was no mole fan! I tried it out at a restaurant several years later, thinking maybe we just made it wrong, but I still didn't like it. So, I avoided it at all costs! A couple of months ago, we ate dinner at Border Grill, where I got some kind of vegetarian something. I forget what it was, but I do remember that it came covered in mole! The menu DID NOT indicate mole would be a part of my dinner! So, there I sat, suffering through my $20 entree, annoyed and angry with the world!

At first glance, I thought he was cooking himself in the pot!!!
 Last night, I made Vegan Enchiladas with Rich Mole Sauce. What a project! It took me a good 2 1/2 hours to make! Which is a lot of time to spend cooking something you expect you will hate! And do you guys know what actually goes into mole? Well, I'll tell you. It's the most fucked up conglomeration of bullshit that I have ever seen in any recipe! It starts out so normal, involving all of the usual suspects that you'd expect in an enchilada sauce: onions, garlic, pasilla peppers, ancho chilis, tomatoes, etc. But then, it gets so crazy that I felt like someone was playing a practical joke on me! Where was Alan Funt?!? I mean, raisins, roasted peanuts, crushed tortilla chips, and baking chocolate? In the same recipe with that other stuff? Where I come from, anything with spicy peppers and onions it shouldn't also involve chocolate. It's just plain wrong.

Anyway, after spending the better part of my afternoon making this weirdo recipe, dinner was served. And my husband, mole expert that he is, LOVED it and swore that my mole stood up with with the best of them. He was also excited to have mole served with fake chicken, which he had never experienced before.

I obviously wasn't as impressed with myself. I tasted the mole before I assembled the enchiladas, and I thought it was disgusting. I hoped against all hope that somehow the baking process would miraculously turn it into a good tasting treat. Alas.

I was able to eat my portion. I didn't gag. I didn't like it, but I guess by the end of the meal, I didn't hate it as much as I hated that first taste of the sauce. I take issue with the sweetness of it. I'm accustomed to Mexican sauces being tangy, spicy, garlicky, tomatoey, etc and not tasting of chocolate and raisins, flavors more suitable to a box of Raisinets than to a plate of enchiladas. Regardless, I'll try it again with some of the leftovers and since vegan mole is hard to come by, I guess I'll end up making it again to build up my tolerance. Because I don't ever again have to pout through a $20 entree at a restaurant just because someone decided to slip me some mole!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Cheater, Cheater, Tabbouleh Eater

Yesterday was chock full of bad things to eat and drink!!!! :-)

It started off with a lovely breakfast of Portabello Benedict. It came out beautiful, and as far as I was concerned, there was nothing to dislike about it. My husband was very brave and agreed to let me put the full amount of mustard that the recipe called for... a staggering 3 Tbsp of the yellow stuff! But this all went into the mushroom marinade, and not into the Hollandaise sauce itself, so he ended up having no issue with the final result!

After enjoying my delicious breakfast, I knew that I was going to get tough with myself for the rest of the day! For lunch, I made myself (and this was too insane for Hubby to even consider eating!) an Avocado and Pink Grapefruit Salad. Basically, it was a plate of mâche, sliced avocado and the fruit from half of a pink grapefruit, with a dressing that was made from the juice of the other half of the grapefruit, combined with things like honey, sesame oil, soy sauce and coriander. I was under the impression that pink grapefruit was milder than normal grapefruit.... damned if I could tell a difference! I mean, when it had the flavorful dressing on it, it always tasted pretty good initially, but then that bitter after taste just creeps on in and ruins all the fun! I ended up eating all of the grapefruit out of the salad first, to be done with it. And I have to say, once the actual fruit was gone, my mâche and avocado salad was pretty good, even in spite of the fact it was still covered in pink grapefruit juice. I consider this to be progress!!!

Dinner was Korean Barbeque Burgers, which I made primarily because I had some leftover radishes, and the recipe says you're supposed to put radishes on top of these. Not that I ever did that in the past, mind you, but things are different now. I put a rather large amount of thinly sliced radishes on my burger, and you know what? They actually added a nice amount of crunch and spiciness to the overall flavor! Once again, my new mantra was correct.... repeat it with me again... If it isn't an important part of the recipe, it wouldn't be in the recipe at all...

Now, for the side dish, I was a big cheater. I wanted to try my hand at making tabbouleh. I figured maybe I would like it better fresh. But I was still traumatized by my experience of eating that handful of parsley that made me gag and spit it all into the sink, so I took the Weenie's Way Out and I made Cilantro Tabbouleh. I figured maybe I had to take baby steps to embrace tabbouleh. Well, I suppose my homemade tabbouleh wasn't bad. The flavor was perfectly fine! But it was soggy. So, the Cilantro Solution actually didn't solve my tabbouleh problems! I guess I need to maybe leave tabbouleh to the professionals and try it done right the next time I go to a Middle Eastern restaurant.

AND IF THIS ALL WASN'T ENOUGH FOR ONE DAY: I also tried another kind of beer. Anchor Steam Beer. Holy crow, that was some VILE stuff!!! By far the worst beer I have ever tasted... hell, it was perhaps one of the worst things I have ever tasted, period! I don't mean during the course of the past 3 weeks, I mean during the course of my entire life! That one, I couldn't finish! How do they sell this stuff?!?


Sunday, March 18, 2012

My Goodness, My Guinness

I was able to celebrate St. Patrick's Day after all! After my dinner of Colcannon topped with Sausage and Lentils (alas, I have no idea how to make vegan corned beef!), I was feeling better. So, I honored my Irish ancestors (and accidentally, brought shame upon my fellow vegans... more on this later), and I drank a Guinness Stout.

To review, I have hence tasted 4 other kinds of beer during this project. Since I figured I was supposed to start light and work myself darker and darker, I tasted the Trader Joe's Corona-style beer, a Hoegaarden, a Hefeweizen, and a Stella Artois (in that order). I didn't even remotely come close to liking any of them. I decided to throw caution to the wind and just jump right into a Guinness. At least I knew it would taste different than the light beers that I hated. And I know that almost everyone (especially men, and lord knows, I'm a manly drinker!) loves Guinness. I looked at it this way.... I'm the kind of lady who doesn't appreciate the flavor of vodka, and shuns vodka drinks, but who is happy drinking a complex, smokey Scotch, served neat. Maybe light beers are just too wimpy for me?

Anyway, I am shocked to be able to report that I actually liked the Guinness! It tasted more like an iced coffee than like one of those icky light beers. I mean, I didn't love it so much that my very world has changed, but I feel like if someone offered me a stout, I could accept it and enjoy it. I liked it enough that my Irish grandfather and his grandfather before him are at least not rolling in their graves now!

However, since this is also a vegan blog, I must confess. I found out, after I drank the whole thing, that many types of Guinness are not technically vegan. I had no idea, since beer is not something I ever gave any thought to before. But apparently, they use animal stuff in some of the processing. That said, I personally don't let myself get too worked up over products that may use egg whites or gelatin as part of the processing. I wouldn't eat an omelette or Jell-o, of course, but I guess I don't lose too much sleep at night wondering if the red wine I'm drinking maybe flowed through an egg white at some point on its journey from grape to glass. To me, it's like fretting over the fact my vegetables may have been grown in soil that is treated with manure fertilizer. Life's too short! ;-) However, I felt obligated to bring this subject up, just so none of you non-vegans ever try and offer a Guinness to a very strict vegan!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Sickie Quickie

I'm not feeling very well today, which may put a damper on my shocking and radical plans for St. Patrick's Day! If so, I'll make up for that next week. I'm about 1/3 Irish, so any day can be St. Patrick's Day for me! :-)

I braved the rain and tried to swallow my sickness for long enough to do the grocery shopping. It's a blur to me, and at the moment, I can't actually remember all of the Weird Things I bought, but I do know they included endive, a pink grapefruit, another kind of Root Beer, and a variety of *beer* beers.

Finally, I made Potato and Root Vegetable Mashers last night, which included turnips. I liked it. Hubby liked it too, even though it had his hated sweet potatoes in it. Next time, I'll make something with turnips that doesn't disguise them so completely. I also ate cranberry sauce with my dinner, and discovered that I like that too. Who knew?

OK, back to bed with my sick self!

Friday, March 16, 2012

One Beer Down, Two To Go

I have realized that if something has the word "beer" in it, I generally don't like it. You all know of my issues with *beer* beer. I'll try to address that one in a shocking and radical way on St. Patrick's Day. I also hate ginger beer, which I will deal with in the near future. But first, I figured I would tangle with the least nasty of the Terrible Trio: Root Beer

Over the course of my life, I've tasted various types of root beer, dozens of times. I could never handle more than about two sips, before that Sarsaparilla flavor took me down. Most recently, I tasted it about two months ago. Hubby and I were at the movies, and due to having a Groupon, we got to be luxurious beasts and actually get popcorn and drinks at the movies. This NEVER happens! Anyway, Hubby went a bit wild putting cayenne pepper on his corn. I tasted it. While I can handle a decent level of spiciness, I definitely didn't appreciate this Picante Popcorn! I asked for a taste of his drink, to get rid of the bad flavor in my mouth. I was so desperate, I didn't care that what he had to offer me was root beer. I took a gigantic gulp, and was instantly reminded of why I don't like root beer! The Cayenne Corn tasted better than the root beer!

I decided to start with what I figured would be a bland root beer. It was Hansen's Diet Natural Root Beer. First sip = awful. Second sip = bad. Now, I was in alien territory with root beer and was about to go farther than I had ever gone before! Third sip = not good. Fourth sip = hmmmmm, I guess I've tasted worse things. Fifth sip = This stuff is actually ok. By the end of the can, I realized that I could drink root beer again in the future, if need be. I guess the key was just to get past that second sip, which I had never in my life managed to do!

Next time, I'll try a more authentic root beer. And I will also be sure to try it with food! And whilst donning a shoulder baring gown!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Recipes For Disaster

I would like to begin this entry with this stunning Julia Child quotation: We didn’t know many vegetarians years ago. Not eating meat became the thing to do some places in the ’60s, but the movement is much bigger in the ’90s. Personally, I don’t think pure vegetarianism is a healthy lifestyle. It’s more fear of food—that whole thing that red meat is bad for you. And then there are people who don’t eat meat because it’s against their morals. Well, there’s nothing you can do with people like that. I’ve often wondered to myself: Does a vegetarian look forward to dinner, ever? 

Now, I would like to tell you a little bit about my recipe obsession. My collection of recipes has been threatening to take over my entire life. I know you don't believe it is as serious as it really is, so let me break it down for you all, into cold, hard numbers.

Approx. number of new recipes I cut out of magazines or print off The Internet per year: 600

Approx. number of these recipes I manage to make, within the year: 450

Approx. number of those that I make, and don't want to repeat again, so I throw the recipe away: 50

Approx. number, per year, that are good enough to be put into the Special Binder of my Greatest Hits: 20

Now, let's consider that this has been going on for 11 years....

That means....

6600 recipes

4950 that I managed to make, leaving a deficit of 1650 that I still haven't made

550 have been thrown away

220 are saved in a special place

Which leads me to 2 conclusions....

1) I am never, no matter what I do, going to catch up and make all of the recipes I have gathered

2) There are currently about **5830** unsorted recipes in various folders in my kitchen.

So..... do you believe me now that recipes have been threatening to take over my entire life?!?

Even since I got my iPad, I've been thinking that I need to figure out a way to begin to digitize my recipe stash. But the process seems SO OVERWHELMING, that I didn't know how or where to begin! How do you try and tackle 5830 recipes? Especially when you know you will add at least 50 new ones, each month, to the pile?

I have a friend who has been keeping a blog for several months now, called Year of Months. She does something new for 30 days in a row, and writes about it. It was her blog, in part, which inspired me to take on my own little project here, and keep a blog. Anyway, she is organizing this month, and she also has a stack of recipes from magazines, and asked Is There An App For That? So, I went in search of the answer, and boy, did I find it!

My Recipe Book. Holy cow! This may be the best $1.99 I have ever spent! I am actually kind of stunned at how easy it makes it to store recipes from ANY online recipe site... or any web page, frankly! I've already spent a good 5 hours, since yesterday afternoon, playing with it! So, my goal is to finally chip away at those 5830 recipes. Either they get sorted into the recipe app, or they get sorted into the recycle bin.

This is all relevant to this project because it is also an EXCELLENT tool to use for searching and sorting recipes. So, I will continue on my food quest with even greater ease! I have already discovered 3 recipes using kohlrabi, a decent sounding tabbouleh recipe, and a couple using radishes and / or raw onions. Nothing can stop me now! Not even Julia Child and her belief that I am both afraid of food and dreading my own dinner! ;-)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Fine Young Radishes: The Raw and The Cooked

This morning, Hubby was reading an article called Why Do Kids Hate Brussels Sprouts? The gist is that children are born with an aversion to bitter and sour foods, as part of a survival instinct. Most poisons would be bitter tasting, hence, an inexperienced child wouldn't be tempted to eat them. However, sweetness usually implies that something is safe to eat, so, children naturally prefer sweet flavors. Throughout your life, your tastes change. Babies are born with a lot of taste buds, not only on their tongues, but on the sides and roofs of their mouths as well. In time, they lose the extra buds, hence, making them less sensitive to certain foods. And as people get older, our sense of smell weakens. 75% of what we identify as being the flavor of a food actually comes from the scent of it. So, when your sense of smell isn't as keen as it once was, foods will not taste the same to you as they used to.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately. I'm sure that my own picky palate was formed both by nature AND nurture. I do not doubt that a teaspoon of malt vinegar would have practically killed me if I tasted it as a child! And I'm sure there are many things that I tried as a little girl that I honestly didn't like the taste of, due to having a more sensitive palate, but that I continued to shun for decades after I could have been able to tolerate them. My mother, who is without a doubt the pickiest eater I know, would NEVER have encouraged me to try something again, if I didn't like it the first time. And so, I had most of my food preferences cemented in my head while I was young, and I never thought to question it. This is why, upon reading the list of foods that I historically didn't like, one of my husband's friends asked him, "Did you marry a 4 year old?" :-/

This all brings me to another food I tried as a child, decided I hated, so I never ate one again. And they are some of the cutest varieties of produce I have ever seen!

My friend, the same one who tipped me off to broiling grapefruit, suggested that I should try this Sauteed Snap Peas with Scallions and Radishes. Once again, my mind was blown. It had never occurred to me that one could cook a radish! I remembered radishes as having an unsettling spiciness to them, and I was curious if cooking them would tame down their unpleasant flavor. And yep, it sure did! Cooking surely took the edge off of the radish flavor. I'm not gonna say I loved them, but they were totally ok. Mild, even. It made me wonder if I was just remembering incorrectly how spicy radishes are. Or maybe my tongue that can now happily deal with Salt and Vinegar Potato Chips was ready for the radish flavor.

Then, I tried a raw radish, sliced very thin. THERE was that unpleasant flavor I remembered! I wasn't a fan of it, but it didn't almost undo me, so I went crazy and ate a whole (small!) radish. Hoo boy! That was not my idea of fun!!!! I was back to making my gargoyle faces!!!

I'll try raw radishes again, but I think I'll keep them sliced thin (which is, after all, the way that most normal people eat them anyway!) for the time being! My husband tells me that he has had success eating thinly sliced radishes on top of some kinds of soft tacos. Maybe I'll investigate that for next week!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Chardonnay? Chardonyea!

I've seen this road before. Last time, it was a long and wine-ing road. (Many apologies to my fellow vegan, Paul McCartney, for that disgrace!) About 16 years ago, I got tired of being Straight Edge, after having a sXe on my hand (metaphorically, but often, literally) for all of high school and college. I can't say enough how glad I am that I somehow had the wisdom to give myself an entirely sober high school and college experience. But once I was all grown up, living on my own, and had a Big Girl Job, I figured it was time to get over myself. So, I decided to teach myself to like wine. Even during my stompiest, hairiest, Righteous Babiest years, I apparently still had a sense of decorum, which led me to want to embrace wine.

I started buying bottles of red wine, and forced myself to drink a couple of glasses per week of the "wretched beverage", as I called it. This went on for over a year. Finally, I got to where I didn't hate it. I took myself off of the forced wine regime but continued to drink it socially for the next few years. One day, I realized that I didn't just not hate it anymore, I actually loved it. While I tend to gravitate more towards cocktails these days, there is nothing better than a glass of wine during many situations. What is more civilized than having a glass of wine with dinner?

I've tasted white wine many times over the years. I probably even drank an entire glass of it 2 or 3 times over the past decade. But I always kinda hated it. Still, if I was tenacious enough to learn to love red wine while I was still a young pup, I figured it would be a short road to travel to get used to white.

Last night, I made Black Pepper Fettucini with Chardonnay Sauce and Asparagus. I cook with white wine all the time, but what I normally do with the leftover wine is I freeze it into White Wine Ice Cubes. That way, I didn't have to dump the rest of the bottle of wine (since I refused to drink it!) and I always had some white wine on hand when I needed just a bit of it for cooking purposes. But this time, I was gonna make that sauce and keep the rest of that Chardonnay for drinking purposes!

I had spied the very intriguing Wine in a Pouch at Trader Joe's a couple of months ago, and I was fascinated with it! It met all of my wine criteria. It was from California (local is the new organic, after all)! It was sustainable! It had crazy packaging that reduced waste! It was $10 for the equivalent of 2 bottles worth! But, alas, it was white wine, so I never purchased it. I was so excited that this experiment gave me an excuse to buy a pouch!

I poured myself a nice big glass of chilled wine with my pasta, convinced it would be a perfect pairing since the Chardonnay Sauce contained two cups of the stuff. But I was still afraid of it, needlessly afraid. Maybe I just lucked out and this EcoVino happened to be an appealing wine..... or maybe I psychologically convinced myself that I needed to like it, because I was so obsessed with the packaging..... but I liked it! No, not nearly as much as red wine, but enough that I wouldn't reject it if I we offered it again, which is my main goal in learning to like any of these foods.

For those keeping score at home, of all of the things I've tried over the past two weeks, I've learned that I can at least tolerate all of them, and that I actually like most of them..... with the exceptions of Earl Grey and Champagne, which I still dislike.... and my current Triumvirate of Terrible: Beer, Cranberry Juice and Grapefruit. But whenever I start to get beaten down by the awful glasses of beer and cranberry juice I am forcing upon myself, I just need to remind myself how much I liked the sauerkraut, parsnips and lamb's quarter! I'm not nearly as picky as I thought I was! :-)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Holy Moly, Guacamole!

As previously mentioned, my husband is a good sport, and has decided to travel on this food journey with me. This week alone, he faced almost all of his Food Fears, with largely triumphant results. He suddenly likes mustard. He enjoyed the Hoegaarden beer we drank yesterday (I didn't enjoy it very much... but I'll keep on keeping on with the beer). He thought the pasta with the sweet potatoes in it was ok. He even ate half of the Broiled Grapefruit yesterday! I wasn't going to suggest he try grapefruit, but he offered to eat it. That one, he didn't care for, understandably, because grapefruit truly tastes terrible! Today, he he was willing to try another Hated Food.... a food I cannot understand anyone (especially a lifelong Californian!!!) having a problem with! Perhaps nature's most wonderful gift: The Avocado.

I made Beef and Bean Enchiladas today, so what better time to try and ease my Hubby into avocados by making a batch of The Best Dip in the History of Dips, guacamole! I didn't have a tried and true guac recipe... since I've been with my husband, I have had no occasion to make it! I wouldn't dare make it just for myself, as that is asking for trouble! I decided to make This Guacamole. I bumped down the amount of avocado in it a bit, and bumped up the tomatoes, lime juice and salt, in hopes of making it more palatable for Hubby.

Guess who likes guacamole now?!? Amazing!

Hubby admitted that he wasn't just tolerating it, but that he actually liked it. He agreed that the extra lime juice was the key to making it tastier to him. And he made a comment that sums up the entire meaning of this experiment: Sometimes, you just have to get over yourself.

And as for me getting over myself.... friends, I ate raw onion 3 times over the past 24 hours. Once, in my panzanella. Again, at dinner last night. We went and had a fancy dinner at Inn of the Seventh Ray, and I set out to only eat things I liked, but my salad showed up with many slices of red onion on it, and instead of pushing them into a reject pile on the side of my plate, I ate them all, pretty much with no problem. And that guacamole I made today? Well, it called for diced raw onion. And in the past, I never would have risked ruining something as lovely as guacamole by tainting it with raw onions, but I remembered my new mantra: If it isn't an important part of a recipe, it wouldn't be in the recipe at all. So, in went the raw onions! And while the guac surely would have been very delicious without the onions in it, I can't say it was sullied by the onions. I will keep on spending time with my alliaceous friends until I can't understand how I lived so long without them.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Grapefruit of Wrath

I didn't eat anything horrific yesterday. But because I am just that devoted to my cause, I couldn't let a day go by without doing something to break down my food barriers. So, I drank more cranberry juice after dinner.... not a Big Gulp sized amount like I tried to get away with the other night, but about 2 ounces worth. And while it was still not treat, I have to admit it didn't almost kill me, the way it did when I tried to drink a vast quantity of it.

This morning, I did my weekly shopping, and I would like to introduce you to the 6 Weird Foods for this week. Here are the undesirables that I now possess:

* Radishes
* Turnips
* 1 Grapefruit
* 1 pouch of Chardonnay (yes, you read that right. A pouch of wine.)
* 1 can of Root Beer
* 2 bottles of beer beer (1 Hefeweizen, 1 Hoegaarden)

The weather has been lovely in Los Angeles for the past week or so. It must have put me in the mood for summer, because I had the overwhelming urge to make a beautiful Panzanella Salad for lunch today. Without a doubt, this is my favorite kind of salad.... who doesn't love a salad that contains as much bread as it contains vegetables? :-) This recipe that I use contains fresh basil, an heirloom tomato, kalmata olives and some English cucumber, tossed in a simple dressing of olive oil, white wine vinegar, salt, pepper and a garlic clove. This recipe also instructs you to put chopped raw red onion in it. I have disobeyed that every time I have made this. A wicked raw onion has the potential to ruin my perfect panzanella! However, I'm no longer allowed to exclude any vegan ingredient that a recipe author thought was important enough to include. so, in went the wicked raw onion!

I know that red onions have the reputation of being rather mild, but I still figured they would take me outside of my onion comfort zone. But, I'll be damned. The panzanella was still perfectly delicious, even with the wicked raw onion in it! The onion taste didn't stand out amongst the overall flavor of the dish.... at least, not while I was actually eating it. After I was done eating, nothing was left behind but the onion taste.... which I decided to get out of my mouth.... by eating a grapefruit.

I ate a grapefruit half once, and only once, about 11 years ago. I was on tour with my musician boss, and we spent the night at his mother's house. She is a kindly octogenarian, and she wanted nothing more than to give me something for breakfast. She has a reputation for making the Best Poached Eggs in Iowa. Obviously, I turned one down. And I turned down cereal with milk. And I turned down at least 3 more egg or dairy options, until I felt like the biggest douchbag on the planet. So when she offered me a nice, vegan grapefruit, I excitedly accepted it, just to make her happy. I managed to choke it down, out of respect, and the desire not to come across as a horribly ungrateful guest.

A few days ago, a chef friend gave me a tip which blew my mind. She suggested a could try a Broiled Grapefruit. It had never entered my mind that one could cook a grapefruit! And considering that it is cooked with a topping of brown sugar, cinnamon and Earth Balance Buttery Spread, well, that would have to make it taste good! And it kind of did! When I took my first bite of the broiled grapefruit, my first words were, "That's kind of delicious!"..... but then, the bitter aftertaste kicked in. :-p Still, I made it through the whole grapefruit, and it wasn't nearly as torturous as the glass of cranberry juice! I wasn't a fan of the bitter aftertaste, but the carmelized sugar topping definitely made it more palatable. I plan to broil a few more grapefruits until I get myself more used to the bitterness.... then I'll move up to trying them raw... and then, if I am ever invited to breakfast with my boss' mother again, I'll be ready!

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Tonic Avenger

I love Musso and Frank Grill. It's the Oldest Restaurant in Hollywood and has been in business since 1919. I started going in a couple of years ago, and it was love at first sight. When you enter Musso and Frank, you are instantly whisked away to another era.... dare I say I much more civilized era? I think I had such a strong, all encompassing love for it initially because of sheer nostalgia. It reminds me of the kind of places my parents would take me to in the early 1970's: Those Old School, Upscale restaurants from a bygone era that have largely disappeared. But my true devotion to Musso and Frank has grown over the years because of my fondness for the men that work there. They are a wonderful bunch of characters! I have never visited Musso's without being thoroughly entertained by someone's antics! So, I go back, again and again. At this point, not only do I have "my" bar stool, but I also bake cupcakes for the bartenders on their birthdays, and I set up a Facebook fan site for them. You could call me a regular. :-)

When I started going to Musso's, I was instantly hooked on their classic cocktails. Not only did I have my first *real* Martini there, (I am ashamed to admit this, but before Musso's, I was a tragic figure who was actually under the false impression that vodka could possibly be an ingredient in a Martini!) but I had my first Manhattan, Old Fashioned, Sazerac, Rob Roy and Rusty Nail there! So, it should now be clear why I trusted my good friends at the M&F bar to expertly prepare me a drink with Tonic Water.

I had tasted tonic water 3 times before. Once, in my mid-20's, I sipped someone's Gin and Tonic, and I was horrified! The result of that one sip was that I was under the false impression for over 10 years that I didn't like gin! I never touched gin again, until my first Martini at M&F, when I realized that I actually liked gin very much. Once I knew I liked gin, I got crazy and ordered a Gin and Tonic while on vacation in Montreal. At this point, I was able to understand that the badness in a G&T is the Tonic, and not the gin! I vowed to never touch Tonic Water again! However, last year, some hipster bartender misunderstood what kind of drink I was looking for, and made me a concoction involving gin, tonic and muddled grapes. I was not impressed. So, with my hopes extremely low, I bravely ordered another Gin and Tonic last night, hoping against all hope that the magical bartenders at M&F would have a way to make it palatable. And if it was horrible, at least I would be able to wash the bad taste out of my mouth with one of their delicious Manhattans! Because if I could only drink 1 drink for the rest of my life, it would be a Musso and Frank Manhattan. :-)

You won't believe it, but the Gin and Tonic was ok! After a few sips, I got it. I could see why someone could find this drink to be delicious and refreshing on a hot summer day! Although it could never replace the Manhattan as my drink of choice, I could see enjoying one under certain conditions. And I'm glad I tried!

Next time I am at M&F, I will once again put my fate into the hands of their amazing bartenders, and try some of the other cocktails I am afraid of.... a Bloody Mary (because I know they will let me get away with bringing in my own vegetarian Worcestershire sauce to use in one), a Greyhound and a Salty Dog. If anyone can make me like a cocktail containing tomato or grapefruit juice, it would be those guys!

(Hollywood Blvd in the early 1920's. Musso and Frank is the second on the left. Click photo for a larger version!)

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Cranberries: Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't I?

My husband is a good sport. I have seen him sing part of "Suspicious Minds" with an Elvis impersonator at my mother's birthday party. I have seen Richard Simmons kiss him, dozens upon dozens of times, because he is willing to come to Slimmons with me. And tonight, I have seen him eat sweet potatoes.

In the spirit of solidarity, Hubby has decided to try and conquer a few of his Hated Foods. He doesn't feel the need to embrace things like grapefruit, radicchio and tonic water, but he wants to try and get used to more common things, such as beer, mustard, avocados, cucumbers and sweet potatoes. Those last 3 could safely be considered as 3 of my favorite foods, so I admit, it would be handy to have a husband who could appreciate them. How many sweet potato or avocado recipes have I ignored over the past 9 years, because I didn't want to make something that excluded my man?

Since he decided to be on board for this experiment (and you should have seen him eating mustard on his vegan sausage the other night!), I took advantage of this time to make a recipe that sounded great to me, but that I would have normally disqualified: Sweet Potato Chili Mac. It was DELICIOUS! Hubby managed to eat a large portion as well! Granted, it wasn't his favorite thing in the world, but he did it.... although he did have to add a lot of extra salt, to get rid of the sweet potato sweetness, which he finds to be disconcerting.

I knew I would be a fan of that main course, as well as the side dish, which was Brussels Sprouts with Bacon and Raisins. But it wouldn't be fair to make him suffer alone, while I relished a delicious feast.... so I poured myself a nice, big glass of cranberry juice. 100% cranberry juice. None of that Cranapple bullshit. And that stuff is ass awful! I drank most of it, each sip inspiring me to make a grimace that befitted a gargoyle, until I cried mercy. This was definitely the worst thing I have tried since starting this experiment. Honestly, I would rather have beer.... and that is saying A LOT coming from me!!!

The cranberry juice left me feeling a bit ill, so I took an hour or so to rest from the turmoil of drinking it undiluted. I figured that maybe I could face it in a cocktail? I did some research, and discovered, not surprisingly, that most cranberry cocktails are vodka based. Vodka is not something I prefer to drink. And no, I'm not going to sit here and force myself to like it because, as a mature woman of class and impeccable taste, I am ok with being a snob who believes that vodka is stupid. But I digress. Since a vodka and cranberry cocktail was not about to happen (I am one of only a handful of women in my age group who has never had a Cosmo), I finally found a couple of concoctions that contained a respectable kind of alcohol: bourbon. I made myself something that was described as a kind of Cranberry Old Fashioned. Basically, a combo of bourbon, triple sec and cranberry juice. And yes, the nasty cranberry juice was better when it had some delicious bourbon in it to tone down its badness. This wasn't a great drink, and tasted much more like a Whiskey Sour than an Old Fashioned, but whatever. At least it helped me drink an extra ounce of the stuff! Only about 3 more cups to go until I have consumed the whole bottle! :-/

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Sweet on Sauerkraut

Actively keeping track of what foods I don't think I like has opened up Pandora's Lunchbox! I keep coming up with more and more things that I actively avoid eating. So, in addition to the 20 or so foods I initially set out to conquer, I have some new additions:

* Bloody Marys (not normally vegetarian, but vegan Worcestershire sauce makes them an option)
* Brazilian food
* Herbal tea, aside from Peppermint or Rooibos
* Lemongrass
* Sauerkraut
* Sea vegetables
* Kombucha
* Chocolate with spicy stuff in it (such as chocolate bars with chilis in them)
* Taro chips (Which I already defeated, with that bag of Root Vegetable Chips that I powered down!)
* Raw foods (Meaning, the vegan meals they serve in those stupid raw restaurants, as well as the raw snacks they market to weirdos and sell at health food stores)
* Root beer
* Floral flavored foods
* Onion rings

Boy, do I have my work cut out for me, or what?!?

One of the guidelines that my buddy Jeffrey "The Man Who Ate Everything" Steingarten set for himself was that to teach himself to like certain foods, he should start with the highest quality and most expertly prepared version of it. So, if you didn't like pizza, ideally, you would start off with one prepared at a 150 year old pizzeria in Naples and NOT with a frozen DiGiorno! I'd been thinking about sauerkraut for the past week, and I felt ready to conquer that Kraut. I knew just where to find my perfectly prepared sauerkraut, without having to actually board a plane to Munich.... or even Phelps, NY, which I have just learned is the Sauerkraut Capitol of the World. Who knew?

Chili Addition is a local gem, for vegans and carnivores alike. The guys there aren't kidding around! Not only do they make over 75 varieties of their own chili, but they make almost everything they serve, from scratch.... sausages (vegan and meat versions), hot sauce, ketchup, mustard, pickles, BBQ sauce, ice cream (dairy and vegan), you name it! As I have already fallen madly in love with their pickles, I figured if anyone could make a pleasing sauerkraut, it would be these guys!

And because I really want you guys to know I'm serious about this, I decided to go the extra mile. Not only did I order my vegan sausage topped with sauerkraut, but I opted to have mustard on it as well! Now, I've gotten better with mustard over the past few years. I put it in salad dressing all the time. And I know a bit has been occasionally sneaked onto a few burgers I've had at restaurants, and I didn't mind it too much. But I've never deliberately and generously applied it to anything I have ever eaten. Still, remember, this is homemade, special mustard, so I figured I needed to start at the top.

So, I get this sausage, topped with about a pound of sauerkraut, and a ladle full of mustard. And I can now say with certainty that I like sauerkraut! In fact, I kind of loved it! I would actively pursue eating it over and over. Once again, I was shocked at myself for refusing to try it before. I'm sure I wouldn't have liked it 20 years ago, back when I wouldn't eat anything with a vinegary taste or anything with cabbage, but damn! I surely could have embraced it at any point during the past 10 years. But I didn't even try. Out of sheer, stupid stubbornness!

However, the mustard..... that was a little bit tough. I ate the whole dog and every last drip of the mustard, but I could have done without it. I didn't hate it, but I didn't quite like it either. However, it has potential. I'm probably just a few more tries away from truly acquiring a taste for mustard.

We don't normally do something as unhealthy as go out and eat Hotdogs and French Fries for dinner on a week night, but I was able to justify it a little, as right after dinner, my husband and I both went and danced our dogs off with Richard Simmons. :-)

Finally, I want to thank all of you who are reading this blog! I have no idea who is actually looking it at, but I have had well over 200 views in my first week, which is much more than I was expecting! So, thanks!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Parsnips and Prejudice

I am a very prejudiced woman. For most of my life, I have dismissed an entire category of vegetables, mostly without ever having tasted them. Root vegetables. Even by my own criteria, it makes no sense that I would have automatically shunned almost all of them. After all, some of my best friends are vegetables that grew under the ground! I have always loved potatoes, sweet potatoes and carrots.... but not so much beets and radishes. Still, it seems strange that instead of thinking, "I love carrots! There must be other root vegetables that are just as nifty!" I instead decided, "I'm not much a fan of radishes, so vegetables that grow under the ground must be the root of all evil." Sadly, that pun WAS intended. Forgive me.

For dinner, I made Citrus-Marinated Tofu with Onions and Peppers. Since that was a safe meal (with an extremely delicious sauce, I must say!), I decided that I would also roll out the parsnips. I thought these Baked Parsnip Fries With Rosemary sounded like they could be palatable. Of course, since we are talking about me here, I also threw a half a pound of green beans in, to roast with them. (See previous post, regarding my second rule on how to live my life.) 

My verdict: I like parsnips! And I am ashamed that I was so prejudiced that I avoided them for almost 4 decades! I will experiment with different ways to prepare parsnips in the future (I have already collected recipes involving using them in soup and in a mashed version), but as for these roasted ones, I liked everything about them. The taste and texture were both very appealing. My husband summed them up very well, "These taste like sweet potatoes, without the sweet!"

I know parsnips are not a popular vegetable, but don't be afraid of them. If you like sweet potatoes, potatoes and carrots, you'll probably be ok with parsnips as well. I am personally very excited that I have found yet another vegetable that I can roast, because if there is one thing that makes vegetables taste good (aside from turning them into zucchini bread or carrot cake! ;-) ), it's roasting them!

I will continue to fight my Root Vegetable Prejudice..... Watch out, turnips, I'm coming for you next!

Monday, March 5, 2012

It's Not Easy Eating Green

I live my life by following two basic rules. 1) Don't drink anything that Don Draper wouldn't drink 2) Eat green at every meal. The former has led me to favor bars where very old men both drink and tend the bar, so I am able to get my hands on a decent Old Fashioned, Manhattan or Martini (Gin!)... you'd be amazed at how many bartenders under age 50 I have flummoxed with my Classic Cocktail requests! The latter has caused me to force such a huge quantity of green things down my gullet, that I feel it sometimes borders on comedy. Or that I have pigeonholed myself into being Ms. Stereotypical Vegan, with my diet consisting so largely of kale and broccoli. I may have escaped 13 years of Catholic School unscathed, but I admit I feel true guilt when my lunch or dinner plate contains nothing green.

As far as I'm concerned, the most important and healthiest foods to eat are green veggies, especially the dark, leafy ones. I'm not making this up... look at ANY list of "Superfoods" or "Top Ten Healthiest Foods to Eat More Of" and leafy greens will be the one food that everyone can agree on. So, in spite of myself, I have learned to gorge on the stuff. With no exaggeration, before I was 25 years old, I ate NOTHING GREEN, with the exception of the occasional broccoli (preferably covered in cheese), peas (drowning in butter) and iceberg lettuce (on a sandwich or burger). Now, I am doing penance for those unhealthy (but, I admit, incredibly happy and delicious!) years where everything on my plate was some shade of beige or white.

Last night, I made Pasta alle Erbe. If my dinner is going to contain a full 2 bunches of greens, at least let me have an ample amount of pasta, a ton of garlic and a dose of crushed red pepper to help me choke it down! Besides, this recipe encourages you to Choose Your Own Greens.... so, what better time to incorporate that mysterious Lamb's Quarter I picked out at the Farmer's Market? For the curious, here's some Lamb's Quarter:

And I am happy to report that I now know that I like Lamb's Quarter! That is, I like it as much as I like any other green leafy vegetable.... which is to say, not much, but well enough that I can manage to force myself to eat my own weight in green vegetables at almost every single meal of my life. Lamb's Quarter is mild and smooth, with a taste and consistency very much like spinach. It was a fine counterpart to the Black Kale which I paired it with in the Pasta alle Erbe. As a side dish, I prepared Lemon Roasted Cauliflower with Capers, because I am a maniac, and the 2 bunches of greens in the pasta just wasn't enough veggies for a complete meal. At least I actually like cauliflower!

Although I do go over the top with the veggies, and especially the green vegetables, I recognize that everyone needs balance in their diets. So I say, bring on the Manhattans! ;-)

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Just a Spoonful of Sugar Helps the Daikon Go Down

5 days into this experiment, and I have already learned that one of my approaches is probably the wrong way to go about liking stuff. Today, I learned a valuable lesson from a daikon and a sprig of parsley.

For lunch, I made a Meatball Bahn Mi (and may I take a moment to point out that Gimme Lean beef and / or sausage are the keys to making vegan meatballs and burgers? That stuff actually holds together!), a recipe I chose to help me with my daikon aversion. The daikon I acquired at the Farmer's Market was more or less the size of a baseball bat. As I went wild, shredding that bad boy for the slaw (a process I could not have completed without my handy Julienne Peeler), I figured I needed to start sampling the daikon, to get used to the taste, so that its presence didn't ruin my sandwich experience. I just started eating the naked daikon as if I were eating popcorn. This was not pleasant! I have noted my issues with radishes, which I was hoping to break myself into slowly by using the daikon as my transitional radish, since I'm told it is a "mild" radish. To me, it supplied all of the strangely spicy radish badness that I remembered from the last time I dared to put a radish in my mouth (which I believe was during the Reagan Administration). I figured as long as it included daikon, my sandwich was going to be a lost cause.

Anyway, the daikon goes into a slaw with shredded carrots, green onions and basil, and the whole shebang is marinated in a mixture of lime juice and sugar. The banh mi has a slew of other ingredients (meatballs with water chestnuts in them, cilantro, cucumbers, vegenaise mixed with Sriracha), which I hoped would at least mask the daikon badness enough for me to eat my lunch. When it was ready, it looked something like this:

And it was one goddamn great sandwich, daikon and all!

Here's the thing: marinating that daikon in the sugar and lime juice made ALL the difference in the world! I was able to pick pieces of the daikon off my sandwich, and eat it all by itself, and it tasted GOOD. So, I learned that plain daikon is >8-p but marinated daikon is :-D . After avoiding it my entire life, I'm not afraid of daikon as an ingredient anymore, assuming that it will probably always be given some kind of special marinated treatment before it is used as an ingredient.

Now, for my Parsley Process. As promised, I was going to eat some doses of parsley on its own, to get used to the flavor of Parsley Overload, to help me conquer tabbouleh. So, I took a large pinch of parsley (about a tablespoon), and ate it. Or, shall I say, I *tried* to eat it. I chewed it up a little.... then gagged.... then spat the whole wad out in the sink. I was kind of shocked I had that reaction! I don't consider myself to hate parsley so much that I would be unable to even swallow a tablespoon of it on its own! I eat it all the time.... in recipes. I think I should give up on trying to like certain things (like daikon and parsley), by trying to eat them unadorned and naked. Some things just need a little help from their friends to be palatable. ;-)

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Beer and Loathing in Los Angeles

I just drank more beer than I had consumed in the first 38 1/2 years of my life.... combined. In other words, I just drank a mind-boggling HALF A BOTTLE OF BEER! But more on that in a minute!

Today, I did my first round of grocery shopping since I began this project. In addition to the large pile of foods that I actually know I enjoy, I came home with 6 Weird Things that I think I hate, or that I have never had. This week's food contestants are:

1) Lamb's Quarter (I had never heard of it either! So, even if I have never eaten a lamb, soon I will at least have eaten Lamb's Quarter!)
2) Daikon
3) Parsnips
4) Cranberry Juice
5) Root Vegetable Chips
6) 1 bottle of pale ale

I started tackling that list almost the moment we got home. I made a veganized version of Grilled Cheese with Tomatoes and Olive Tapanade for lunch. They were delicious, BTW! With them, I tore right into that bag of Root Vegetable Chips. You know what I mean, right?

I've had chips like these before, but never enjoyed myself. There sure aren't many kinds of snack chips that I don't like, but I was never a fan of these things, especially the taro chips. I thought very hard about what I disliked about them. First, the texture is hard and dense, not light and crispy like a potato chip. And the flavor is more sweet than salty, again, not like a potato chip. At this point, I realized it was my own prejudice that had been my problem all these years. See, I LOVE potato chips. As with hummus, potato chips are not allowed in my house, or bad things happen. I needed to consider these Root Vegetable Chips on their own merit, and not compare them to their more delicious cousin, Potato Chips. Once I stopped myself from feeling sad that I wasn't eating potato chips, but accepted that these Root Vegetable Chips were their own thing, well, they started to grow on me almost immediately. I could willingly eat these at a party.... that is, if there aren't any potato chips there to demand all of my attention!

Now, for a biggie. Beer. Guys, I am not merely indifferent to beer. I actively HATE it. The smell of it, the taste of it, yuck! I am 100% sure that I have this problem because I didn't drink at all during high school or college. Had I been a teenage drinker, I surely would have acquired a taste for beer before I acquired a driver's license! So, I'm coming to this game really late.... but I'm gonna try. I mean, beer was literally invented BEFORE THE WHEEL. Seriously! Every culture on the Earth that drinks alcohol at all, drinks some variety of beer. Time for me to try and join the human race. :-)

My husband is not a beer fan either, so he agreed to share the bottle with me. We took a whiff of it, causing me to make a horrible face, and him to exclaim, "It smells like my father's breath!" I managed to drink my entire half bottle, not without grimacing and complaining the whole time, but I did it. My issues with beer are apparently it's urine-like aroma and yeasty flavor. And this was with the palest, wussiest beer that Trader Joe's had to offer! At this point, I would rather drink a bathtub full of Earl Grey or Champagne than a bottle of beer. But I will persist. One bottle of beer per week for me, until I am doing the unimaginable and happily downing the darkest, beer-iest bottle of this drek that I can find.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Buy Something Weird

I am the queen of menu planning. I am also the queen of visiting the grocery store only once a week. To stay organized, I have a magnetic pad of paper on the refrigerator. Every time I notice I am low on a pantry staple (and I am aware I am in a very small minority of people who considers both Nutritional Yeast and Jack Daniels to be pantry staples), I immediately put it on the list, so I never run out of anything important. Once a week, I sit down and spend about 30 minutes planning all of the meals for the week (which is usually 5 dinners, plus 1 lunch or brunch, for my husband and I, as well as 3 large meals I get paid to cook for a friend, who hired me years ago to be his personal chef), carefully considering seasonal produce, and ensuring I will be presenting a proper variety of vegetables, proteins, grains and foods from various ethnic backgrounds. My husband and I go food shopping together on Saturdays, often hitting up the Farmer's Market, as well as a health food store and / or Trader Joe's. I almost never buy anything that is not on my shopping list. My method works very well for me. I save time and money. I always know what the plan for dinner is several days in advance. I *seriously* cannot understand people who have no idea what they are going to eat for dinner until they get home after work at 7 PM. But I guess someone has to be buying all of those Lean Pockets and frequenting Taco Bell. In my 14 years in West Hollywood, I have had a delivery man bring me take out food a total of *1* time. I am confident I am the only woman in the entire state of California who can make that claim!

So, yeah. The clothes in my dresser drawers are a rumpled mess. I throw the Tupperware willy nilly into the cabinet. Chances are high that you will encounter a Tupperware avalanche by opening my kitchen cabinet. I can be pretty lackadaisical about some things, but when it comes to my menu planning, I am The Most Organized Girl in the World.

So far in this experiment, I have encountered some Hated Foods only because they have randomly been thrust upon me. But now is the time I take control, and employ my next new rule, Buy Something Weird.

Each week, I will be taking a two pronged approach to this. First, I will make sure that every meal plan involves a couple of foods that I either hate, or that I am undecided about. I can promise you, parsnips and daikon have NEVER appeared on my shopping list before, but they are on it at this very moment! Second, I will go against my very nature and..... get ready, because this is a real shocker..... Buy Something Weird That Is Not On My List! I'll see what crazy crap Mother Nature has for me at the Farmer's Market, then figure out what the heck to do with it. I mean, do YOU know what one would do with kohlrabi?!? I shall also keep my eyes open at Trader Joe's, and make a point of picking up something I think I don't like. By incorporating at least 4 or 5 questionable foods into my weekly shopping excursion, I will have ample opportunity to chip away at that big list of things I hate.

Finally, my husband and I go out to eat about once a week. He asked me if I had any ideas about where I may like to go this week, and I became the First Person in History to reply that I didn't know where I wanted to eat, except that it had to be a place where I can order something I hate! :-D