Monday, April 30, 2012

I'm Not Much Into Health Foods

I had kind of a revelation, regarding the difference between "healthy foods" and "health foods." It seems that when you lose that Y, you go from the territory of reasonable foods (fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains, nuts, legumes) and into the domain of horrific concoctions which boast unsubstantiated health claims, are prohibitively expensive, are subject to food trends even more so than normal foods, and are usually only consumed by lunatics with a neurotic preoccupation with their health. Foods I would put into this category are things like goji berries, spirulina, wheat grass, many varieties of vegetable based "smoothies" or juices, the vast majority of foods marketed as "raw", and the awful beverage I just finished drinking, Kombucha.

I got blood orange flavored, because regular Kombucha would have potentially killed me.

I don't remember why I ever drank Kombucha before. I guess I must have been at some weirdo restaurant, and was tempted by the fact that it appears like it would be a delicious and refreshing beverage. People, DO NOT BE FOOLED into trying this stuff! According to the Bucha website: "Kombucha is an ancient Chinese brew made by fermenting organic teas with a live culture of yeast and bacteria." Yum! :-/ What the website fails to mention is that it's taste ranges somewhere between apple cider vinegar and a foot. 

Anyway, when I started this project, of course I put Kombucha in my List of Hated Foods, and I figured that I should see if I could make myself learn to like it. But at this point, I have changed my mind. The whole point of this experiment is to teach myself to embrace all reasonable foods that people enjoy eating, because they find them to be delicious. And I realized that, by my own criteria, most Health Foods are automatically disqualified from being considered! I mean, NO ONE eats these things because they think they taste good! They eat them because they are obsessive about their diets and often, because they are crazy! So, I hereby absolve myself from having to learn to like anything that I feel comes safely under the umbrella of Health Foods. Screw you, Kombucha!

That said, I'm still going to agree to subject myself to at least one meal at a raw restaurant. Not only because I already bought a Groupon to one ;-), but because I've actually heard otherwise normal people swear they have had good meals at raw restaurants. My personal experience with raw restaurants was that it was ridiculous garbage, and one would be a fool to buy into the whole Raw Foods Hype. But I'll try it again, if only so I can smugly say, "I told you so!"

Don't get me wrong. I've been trying VERY hard over the past 10 years to eat a pretty healthy diet. I eat kale like it is going out of style. I eat a green vegetable with every single meal I eat. I generally only snack on fruit or nuts. I'm not giving the finger to doing your best to eat a healthy diet.... it's just the trendy, expensive, marketed to rich white people, bad tasting stuff I'm giving the finger to.
I only included this photo because I want you to spend the rest of the day haunted by this image.
And now, off to make my healthY dinner of Tofu Vegetable Curry.... no health foods included!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

From Russia, With No Love

Here is one of the most ironic things in my life. Over the past 3 or so years, I have become known amongst friends as the person who makes the "best Moscow Mule in Los Angeles." (BTW, that link does not show the recipe I use. Mine is secret. ;-) ) My husband has seriously had one of his friends text him, after trying various Moscow Mules around town, and stating they were, "Not as good as your wife makes." Just last night, 4 separate people were reminiscing about the Moscow Mules I had made them years ago. (And in all honestly, one guy DID say that he finally had one that was a little better than mine.... but the bar he had it at has since closed, so I hereby declare myself the reigning champion once again!) As you can imagine, this is all very flattering. But the reason it is ironic is that, I HATE MOSCOW MULES! And it is very bittersweet to apparently have a knack for making something that so many people find to be delicious and thrilling, whilst you find it to be utterly awful.
The former Cock 'n Bull is now a Land Rover dealership. :-/
First, I would be remiss if I didn't briefly tell you the history of the Moscow Mule. It originated in the 1940's, at the Cock 'n Bull Pub, a now defunct bar that was located a mere 3 blocks from where I currently live. Legend has it that the bartender had a case of ginger beer on hand, that no one would drink.... and he also had a bottle of a type of alcohol that was only enjoyed by Russian immigrants, and not by your average 1940's Angeleno: Vodka (in this case, it was Smirnoff). The bartender decided that maybe he could get rid of these 2 unpopular beverages by combining them, with a squeeze of lime, and serving it in a copper mug... and he then gave the first one to Broderick Crawford. Hence the Moscow Mule was born, and became a sensation. And it is the cocktail that can take the credit for putting vodka on the map in the USA. (Which is another reason why I am mad at the Moscow Mule! I dream of a world where stupid vodka isn't so ubiquitous!!!)

Anyway, my husband became obsessed with the Moscow Mule after he heard this local tale. At that time, you couldn't find a Moscow Mule anywhere in town. However, proving that we are on the cutting edge, the Moscow Mule has since had a resurgence in popularity, and you can get your hands on one in several hip locations about Los Angeles. But before that was the case, he actually went to Ebay and got himself a set of authentic Moscow Mule copper mugs, and had me start making them for friends, using Smirnoff vodka (while authentic, the type of vodka doesn't really matter much) and the genuine Cock 'n Bull Ginger Beer (which is the one crucial ingredient to a true Moscow Mule.)
Here is my husband with his Moscow Mule mugs.

While we all know that I'm too snobby to drink vodka on a regular basis, the vodka isn't my issue with the Moscow Mule... it's the Ginger Beer. I can't explain it. I like Ginger Ale a lot! And I like to think I'm ok with the flavor of ginger in general. But something about the flavor of ginger beer is frankly awful to me! I am also no fan of the other drink that employs ginger beer, the national drink of Bermuda, the Dark 'n Stormy. But if my husband can now eat guacamole with me, then damn, I need to learn to drink a Moscow Mule with him!

I promise you, I got no kick from that mule! I'm not sure which one I found harder to drink... a Greyhound or a Moscow Mule, but I think it may be the Mule. I managed to choke down the whole thing (which included half a bottle of evil ginger beer), and it got a little better once the 500 ice cubes I put in it melted and diluted the awfulness a bit. But it was still bad to the last drop.
I made both of these faces while attempting to drink my Moscow Mule.
Anyway, we currently have *7* more bottle of ginger beer in the house, so I'll try it again... not only as a Mule, but I'll also try it as a Dark 'n Stormy (as we do have some black rum in the house!), as well as just plain ol' terrible ginger beer. Wish me luck.... this one is up there with cranberry juice and grapefruit, in how difficult it will be for me to overcome my aversion to!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Progress Report #2

OK, here is where I stand now, 2 months into this project. This will also help to catch up those of you who haven't been following along since the beginning of this adventure...


* Raw Onions
* Tonic Water
* Tabbouleh
* White Wine
* Endive
* Parsnips
* Kohlrabi
* Lamb's Quarters
* Root Beer
* Sauerkraut
* Mustard
* Baba Ghanoush
* Taro Chips
* Daikon
* Radishes
* Earl Grey Tea
* Pickled Ginger
* Broccoli Rabe
* Onion Rings
* Poutine
* "Everything" Pretzel Slims
* Beer, dark
* Grapefruit Juice, when served in a cocktail that includes sweet ingredients

Works in Progress...

* Grapefruit
* Seaweed Snacks
* Beer, light
* Mole
* Cranberry Juice
* Champagne
* Turnips
* Radicchio
* Mineral Water
* Bloody Mary
* Kombucha
* Sea vegetables

Haven't Gotten Around To.... Yet.

* Ginger Beer
* Green Tea Flavored Treats
* Baklava
* Tiramisu
* Spaghetti Squash 
* Brazilian Food
* Herbal Tea
* Lemongrass
* Chocolate with Spicy Stuff in it
* Raw Foods
* Floral Flavored Foods

New Additions... Because I Keep Thinking of More and More Foods I Dislike or Have Never Eaten

* Ruben Sandwich
* "Jerk" style foods
* "Blackened" style foods
* Flavored waters
* Chai

I must admit, I am pretty impressed with myself thus far! :-)
My husband has declared that he "likes everything" now.... and I have been shocked and impressed with his current ability to devour all kinds of things he wouldn't have touched 2 months ago.... most notably, mustard, avocados, beer and pickles.

Both my husband and I feel very liberated by this whole experiment, so far. We have both been surprised at how easy it actually is to tolerate many things you had convinced yourself you hated, just by the mere act of "getting over yourself" and being willing to try things! He is relieved that he no longer has to live in constant fear that his sandwich is going to show up with surprise mustard on it! I am relieved that, as long as something is vegan, I will officially be willing to eat ANYTHING. I'm not saying that I like everything yet, but I can't think of any vegan food that I would turn my nose up at anymore... I'm game to at least try it all. Which is HUGE for me!

I will leave you with one more thought for today. If my husband and I can do this, and find it to be pretty easy to overcome most food aversions, then you can do it too. If a food is commonly considered to be good to eat, and millions of people on this Earth enjoy it, but you do not, the problem is with YOU and not with that specific food! :-) It is not inherently bad tasting or inedible! You just need to deal with yourself, and with minimal to moderate effort, you can learn to understand why everyone else likes to eat something that you think you hate. I challenge everyone to give it a try! You don't have to try to rid yourself of ALL of your hated foods, as I am trying to do, but why not try and conquer at least the one that you most commonly encounter? The one that your life would be made more convenient if you could just learn to like.... the one that you are always asking your waitress to leave off of your meal... the one that you are always leaving pushed to the side of your plate.... give it a try! I dare you!!! :-)

Duke of Earl

Something amazing happened yesterday. I have mentioned that I had been forcing Earl Grey upon myself, and my new rule was, if I was going to be so extravagant as to treat myself to a THIRD cup of tea in a day, the third cup had to be The Grey Earl. After work, I came home and poured myself a cup of ambition... then, I went about my business, tea in tow.... I was doing a little bit of this, a little bit of that, take a sip of tea, do a little more of this, etc..... and it was only when I had about 2 sips of tea left in my gigantic tea cup that I remembered, "Holy crow! I've drank an entire cup of Earl Grey... and I didn't even notice its badness!!!" Which means that I didn't suffer at all! Which means the Earl's Ass is Mine! It only took about 7 cups of Earl Grey to go from being disgusted by it's awful aroma and terrible taste to become completely indifferent to it! Hence, I have mastered what my husband insists is "the most important thing" for me to learn to embrace. And I am sure that when life gives me Earl Grey, I'll be able to Embrace the Earl.
As you can see, I am enthusiastically embracing my new title!

However, not everything lately has been a smashing success. Last time I was at the Farmer's Market, I bought an "heirloom pink grapefruit," which was described as having a "sweet aftertaste." I figured this would be a lovely stop on my path to becoming a Lover of All Things Grapefruit! After procrastinating for a week, I finally decided it would be my breakfast today. And since this was apparently a mild and sweet grapefruit, I just dug right into it, naked (the grapefruit, not me!).... uh, yeah. If by "sweet aftertaste" they ACTUALLY meant "Bitter aftertaste", then I guess it wasn't false advertising! I have been racking my brain to remember if the sign actually employed ironic quotation marks, and it actually said "Sweet" Aftertaste. But I don't think so. I think they just told lies, lies, lies, yeah.
Here are the farmers that sold me the grapefruit. Their lies are gonna get them!
It has been about a month since my last progress report... I will break down my recent accomplishments and current struggles for you all some time this weekend!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Not All Avocados Are Created Equal

I will start by admitting that this particular "weird food" was not really a challenge for me. I have never met an avocado that I didn't like! And as you know, my husband, inexplicably, did not like them. So, he sat by, for almost 10 years, and watched me at the Farmer's Market.... if I was in need of an avocado for my own purposes, he would sometimes point to a Fuerte, a Bacon or a Pinkerton avocado and I always rebuffed him, saying that "I only like Hass avocados." Which was always an exaggeration. True, I PREFER the Hass variety (and honestly, who doesn't?!?), but would I have ever picked a Reed Avocado off of my sandwich? Of course not! So, in the spirit this project, I had my husband pick out whichever Damn Avocado that he thought we should have this week, which is how I ended up with a Gwen Avocado. Whatever Hubby wants, Hubby gets!
Here I am at the Farmer's Market, deciding to embrace the Gwen Avocado. Next time, I won't forget my pants.
I had great plans for Gwen! Plans that tapped into one of the most important issues at the core of this very experiment.... the ability to share all of one's favorite foods with one's spouse! I decided to include Gwen in one of my favorite meals.... which is a meal that I have actually NEVER made for my husband before! For almost a decade, I have only made it for myself when he is out of town! This is because it heavily relies on both avocados and cucumbers, neither of which he would eat. But since he has also decided to "get over himself", he has decided that he "likes everything now." So, I was finally able to make him the Spicy Tofu Bento Bowl that I so love.

If they could see her now, inside a Bento Bowl!
Anyway, I used Gwen in the Bento. And I'm not gonna lie.... Gwen was a little watery and not as creamy as Hass. Not that I didn't still love her very much! But still, I ate leftovers of the Bento Bowl the following day, this time using a Hass. It did actually make a huge difference. The tofu is this dish is SPICY, and the Hass was much more effective in cutting the heat than meek little Gwen was capable of!

Tasting Gwen made my husband understand a little more that an Avocado isn't really an Avocado isn't really an Avocado. But interestingly, as an Avocado Neophyte, he discovered that he preferred the less robust Gwen, as she "asked less of him." So, maybe while my husband is still getting his feet wet with avocados, I should let him experiment with avocados that have low expectations. And I will hoard all of the Hass for myself!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Here She Comes Now, Makin' Mole Mole!

A few weeks have gone by since I tried my hand at making a mole dish. You may recall, my mole-loving husband was a fan of the Enchiladas with Mole Sauce that I made last time. As for me.... not so much. But try try trying again is the point of this game!
Here's my husband, after eating my last mole. He was saying, "I love you mole mo mo mole, I do!"
 This time, I made a Lentil and Eggplant Chili Mole, which I curiously found online accompanied by claims it is "the world's most filling vegan dish." Hmmm. I definitely take issue with that claim, as I have personally cooked up some vegan gems that are filling to the point that one can literally do nothing but lay down for a few hours after eating them! Regardless, I thought this would be a good mole to whack!

This recipe was not as far out as the last mole recipe, which was a real fucked up conglomeration of bullshit! This one contained the expected, yet dreaded,  2 tbsp of cocoa powder, but everything else in it were things that one would more or less expect in a vegan chili. The last mole sauce contained, not only chopped baking chocolate, but peanuts, tortilla chips, and if I'm remembering correctly, the actual kitchen sink! 

For the skeptical, the eggplant was actually totally reasonable in this chili! I had my doubts, but the eggplant was a tasty and appropriate ingredient!
I liked this mole ok. It didn't make me feel so good, like a pony..... and I much prefer a "normal" flavored chili, but I could deal with it just fine. However, my husband was about halfway through his bowl before I informed him that he was eating mole chili. He replied that it was, "a little bit mole-like", but really, I guess you need to include the whole fucked up conglomeration of bullshit in order to prepare a true mole. I will try again, and next time, I'll use a real mole recipe that calls for eyes without a face, a rebel yell, a white wedding, a cradle of love and the rest of the screwed up stuff that is apparently essential to make a proper mole. And I won't stop cookin' til I feel all right, yeah!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

From the Sublime to the Radicchio

Although the recipes I had planned for this week called for a staggering *3* heads of radicchio, I knew I needed to start small. So, I got 1 head, cut it in half, and ate it over the course of 2 meals, in 2 very different ways, just to try and get my head about radicchio.

First Half of the Head: The Cooked

I made a very fancy dish. Grilled Marinated Tempeh Steak with Radicchio, Avocado, Orange Dressing, and Tahini. I was intrigued by this one, because, not only did it require that the tempeh be grilled, it actually calls for grilled radicchio. I am savvy enough to know that grilling salad greens is a current food trend, but the only reason I knew of the existence of grilled radicchio is that Sally orders it in "When Harry Met Sally", when she and Harry are on the bad double date with Jess and Marie. So, I guess grilled greens were also a food trend in 1989, and they are back again!

I took some liberties with this recipe. Mainly, I don't have a grill! Instead, I did the best I could do, and broiled the tempeh and the radicchio. The radicchio lost its bright magenta color, and turned nicely brown, which I was hoping would manage to tame its bitterness. In addition, since I severely cut down on the amount of radicchio I used, I presented the meal on a bed of green leaf lettuce and spinach, which I tossed in the nice orange dressing.
I cut up my radicchio into way smaller pieces than that! I wouldn't have handled those gigantic hunks of badness!
 Now, I must admit, this meal made me question my new motto of If It's Not An Important Part of the Recipe, It Wouldn't Be in the Recipe At All. Because, this dish was actually delicious..... the tahini tempeh, the greens with a lovely dressing of reduced orange juice, the avocado, all topped with a nice squeeze of lemon. It was actually perfect.... except for the radicchio part. That REALLY didn't add to the overall taste of the meal. In fact, it detracted from the loveliness, as far as I am concerned. But I will try and chalk that up to me and my unsophisticated palate.

Second Half of the Head: The Raw

I made a salad that I wouldn't have touched with a 10 foot pole just a couple of years ago.... a Radicchio, Radish and Fennel Salad. Literally, before about 2009, I would have only eaten the pine nuts and the cucumber out of it, but I would have been mad about even them, as the dressing was a maple syrup dijon dressing. But I have to say, this was a really good salad! For some reason, the raw radicchio treated me much better than the grilled did. I don't think it ruined an otherwise good salad, the way the cooked stuff kinda ruined the tempeh meal. I would make this again!
Strangely, the recipe didn't call for mixed greens, which are clearly shown in this photo. I went ahead and threw some greens in for fun!
In conclusion.... radicchio is not conquered yet! I need to spend a lot more time with my Bitter Buddy before I can truly embrace him!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Tonic Boom!

I have a very busy week coming up, but I had nothing much going on today. So, I decided to take part in some of my favorite weekend leisure activities. I made a lovely brunch of a Mexican Polenta Scramble. And as the weather was supposed to be hot today, I figured I would kick off summer, and make a refreshing cocktail that we could drink while relaxing outside in the sun. I very recently saw a recipe for a Cucumber Mint Tequila Tonic, and this seemed like the perfect occasion to make something new, exciting and potentially challenging!

You may recall that I didn't like tonic water, but I gave a Gin 'n Tonic a try at Musso and Frank a month or so ago. While I didn't absolutely LOVE the tonic, I did gain an appreciation for the complexity it brings to a drink, and I had to admit that the G&T was pretty refreshing. So, I wanted to test my tolerance for tonic water, by employing it in my own fancy cocktail.
Yes, it looks like a Midori Sour, but unlike a Midori Sour, it's actually fantastic!
 The ingredients for this drink look like a List of Ingredients You Would Find in a Drink in Heaven..... English Cucumber, Mint, Cilantro, Agave Nectar, Lime, Tequila. That is a whole lot of deliciousness for one drink! You basically blend all of that stuff together, chill, strain the solids, then top off with tonic water. And with so many wonderful friends in this drink, I couldn't imagine there was any way that some tonic water could spoil this party!

And I was right! I was 100% ok with the tonic water, and this drink was excellent! My husband, although he has been amazing during this project and has been fighting his own food demons just as diligently as I have, he opted out of the tonic water. He tasted mine, then decided he'd rather have his topped with mineral water instead. I knew I liked my Tonic version of the drink, but I did take a sip of his Non-Tonic Variation, to see which one I preferred. And wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles, I liked my Tonic Version better! It sure had a lot going on, and it was very delicious and interesting!
Here I am, realizing I liked the Tonic Water version more!
Hereby, I declare that Tonic Water has been officially OWNED!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Pickled Ginger, Dance on Air

FINALLY, I am back on track! This morning, I was able to do a huge amount of grocery shopping, to begin to refill my pitiful, empty kitchen. My shopping excursion involved the Santa Monica Farmer's Market, and not 1, not 2 but *3* different grocery stores! My refrigerator is no longer empty, and once again, I feel like a natural woman! Oh, I didn't end up spending a full $300 restocking my supplies, but I spent so close to that amount, I definitely spent $300's next door neighbor. :-/

So, here are the undesirables I picked up today....

* 1 Bottle of Tonic Water
* 1 Heirloom Pink Grapefruit
* 1 Bottle of Kombucha
* 1 "Gwen" Avocado
* 1 Head of Radicchio

I also have some very specific awful recipe plans that are not given away by that list of foods, so stay tuned for surprises!

ANYWAY, back to yesterday, before I was human again, and I still had a barren kitchen. In my real life, 95% of the time, I eat leftovers for lunch.... it's the healthiest, easiest, and most economical way to feed yourself, midday. But yesterday, as I had not cooked in 5 nights, there was nothing leftover! So, I did what I do when I'm in a lunch pinch, and I ate one of those prepared Trader Joe's meals. I assume that some people eat those meals for almost every lunch and dinner, but it is pretty rare for me to buy one. I had eaten their Lentil Wrap the past 2 lunches in a row (it's my favorite!), so this time, I got a package of their Veggie Tempura Rolls. Which comes with a little package of one of my Hated Foods, pickled ginger.
BTW, I have read the ingredients over and over again, and they look vegan to me, but they don't have the V on them, so I guess vegans need to eat at their own risk?

You guys, I'm not proud to admit this, but once again, it has been proven that I am one stubborn SOB, and it has negatively affected my life. Clearly, since I learned of the existence of Vegetarian Sushi in my late teens, I have eaten it hundreds of times. And all of those times, I cast aside the pickled ginger, because "I don't like pickled ginger." Which is very strange, because yesterday, I ate that package of tragic, pickled ginger, and it was goddamn delicious! Uh, why did I spend 20 years rejecting it? I now feel pretty sure that I actually never, in my life, tried the pickled ginger before! I am convinced that someone told the 18 Year Old Me that my veggie sushi was accompanied by Pickled Ginger, and I thought, "Yuck, I don't like pickled foods", so I never ate it. Until yesterday. And I loved it. And I look forward to going to an actual Japanese restaurant and getting some real pickled ginger, unlike the sad little package I ate yesterday!

So, today's lesson is: Pickled Ginger is a wonderful accompaniment to veggie sushi (and I assume, to fish sushi as well, though I will NEVER be one of those vegans or "vegetarians" who starts eating fish.... fish is a gateway meat!), and I was wrong to be stubborn about that! However, I 100% stand by my belief that Ginger Rogers is NOT a wonderful accompaniment to Fred Astaire, because she could not tap dance her way out of a paper bag. Pickled Ginger = A. Ginger Rogers = D-
You know that quotation, that Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but she did it backwards and in high heels?!? That is BS! Fred actually had the ability to tap dance, Ginger had no tapping skills whatsoever. Fred would have been much better accompanied by Eleanor Powell. Youtube "begin the beguine fred astaire eleanor powell" if you don't believe me!!!! End of Tap Dancing Rant!!!!!
 Finally, I have 2 more minor updates to report.

1) Hubby and I shared a beer today, and it was the first one we agreed one! He has learned to like the wheat beers, while I gravitate towards the dark brews. But we decided to try a beer from another part of the world, so we split a Jamaican Red Stripe beer, and we both thought it was pretty good, Mon.

2) I don't think I mentioned this, but I picked up a box of Earl Grey teabags. I have made a vow that if I ever dare to drink a 3rd cup of tea in a day, it has to be Earl Grey. Normally, I'll drink 2 cups in the mornings, and be done for the day. But sometimes, I get home from work, and I just need that 3rd cup. So, when that happens from now on, #3's name is Earl. In fact, I drank a cup of The Grey Earl yesterday afternoon, and you know, it wasn't THAT bad. Progress?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Seaweed is Always Greener, On Somebody Else's Cake

Since we were kicked out of our house by our landlord, he was obviously footing the bill for our hotel stay. Which included all of the room service we wanted. Clearly, I am vegan. Even if the amount of room service I wanted was a great deal of it, the grim reality is that room service NEVER offers anything for the vegan guests. At least not in any hotel I have ever seen! So, we were allowed a food per diem, and we decided to take advantage of it by going to the vegan standby, the slightly overpriced Real Food Daily.

RFD has been in West Hollywood for almost 20 years. I have been there dozens of times, but we don't go very often these days. It really is pricey, and the food is suitable, but not astounding. I will say that it is a great place for celebrity sightings, especially for celebrities of the vegan variety. I have definitely seen more celebrities in RFD than I have in Musso and Frank, and M&F prides itself on it's celebrity customers. To name a few RFD sightings, I have seen Sara Gilbert, Toby McGuire, Alicia Silverstone, Justin Long, Moby, Mike White, Roland Orzabal (from Tears for Fears), Kiernan Shipka (Sally on Mad Men!) and undoubtably the best vegan celebrity sighting possible: Wierd Al Yankovich. Twice.
In this case, he was referring to the Salisbury Seitan.
I was determined to eat something strange at RFD.... something you can't get most places. The obvious choice was sea vegetables. I'm not sure I can think of any other place that serves the icky things, those Under the Sea veggies with names like Hijacki and Dunce. Like seaweed, they creep me out a little. I toyed with the idea of just getting a side order of the unadorned sea vegetables, but I thought that may be asking too much of myself. Instead of diving into the sea, I decided to wade in slowly, so I ordered their Sea Cake appetizer.

The description sounded kinda awful, especially for my husband, as the Sea Cake included yams and butternut squash, in addition to the sea vegetables. It is not something I ever would have ordered on my own accord! But it showed up looking lovely. And it was actually great! Both my husband and I really enjoyed it, and we were pleasantly surprised. The sea vegetables were detectable in the cake, but not a problem. They just gave it a hint of seafood flavor, so it was like a vegan, gourmet, Krabby Patty.
BTW! I ate the tiny seaweed flag, and I didn't gag!!!
But my really big news is that, for the first time in my life, I ORDERED A BEER at a restaurant! I got a Butte Creek Porter, and I have to say, it wasn't bad! I managed to drink about 95% of it. Would I have been happier with a glass of wine instead? Sure, but at least I was able to handle the beer well enough that nobody watching me would have had any idea that I haven't been drinking beer with my dinner every night for the past 17 years. Which is a very big deal! 
Full of sea vegetables and beer, Hubby and I walked back to our hotel.
 Anyway, we are back home now. Back to my empty kitchen. And forget my worries that I will spend $300 the next time I go to Trader Joe's.... I could easily spend $400 at BevMo, just replenishing the essentials!!! Sigh.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Touch of Grey

I've been at it for almost two months now, and this morning, I finally had an opportunity to revisit the thing that my husband declares to be, "the most important thing for you to learn to like!" And that would be the Worst Black Tea in the World.... Earl Grey. To review, I become a monster when my tea tank is running on empty. And if this happens when I am away from home, I often find myself in a situation that the restaurant in which I am dining will only have one kind of black tea, and it will be Earl Grey. Historically, I have rejected the Earl Grey, and then, became a monster for my husband to deal with. So, I think you can understand why he believes that it is crucial for me to Embrace the Earl.

In my normal life, I am never too far away from my own kitchen, which is well stocked with at least 20 varieties of black tea at any given moment. I drink my nice tea at home, and I keep the monster at bay. However, today, I was not allowed into my own kitchen, as my house is covered with a circus tent and full of poisonous smoke! I spent last night in a hotel with an angry cat who did, in fact, spend much of the night marching all over my body, moaning and protesting the situation. Needless to say, I REALLY needed my cup of tea this morning!!!

I hope that what I am about to say will not offend any of my readers, but I speak my truth. As someone who has always been a bit outside of the mainstream AND as someone who became an adult in the 90's, I posses some attitudes that do not change with time. And one of my core beliefs is that One Should Not Go To Starbucks.... and, in fact, anyone who does frequent Starbucks is a douchebag. Until last year, I had only set foot in a Starbucks once in my life.... about 12 years ago, when I found myself in Walla Walla, Washington and I had a serious Tea Emergency. And I'm not kidding that I spent a good decade feeling guilty about that cup of Starbucks tea!

About this time last year, I was kicked out of my house, while my landlord did renovations. I had to spend 11 nights in the very same hotel, with the very same angry cat. I had it all planned that I would grab my morning cups of tea at the coffee kiosk inside of the Pavillions, which is the closest and most convenient place to fill my tea tank. And my heart sank when I entered the Pavillions and discovered that the kiosk was now a Starbucks Kiosk. I tried to rationalize that, at least I wasn't technically in a Starbucks, but my heart knew that I was still giving them my money, and it caused a real crisis of conscience! But desperate times call for desperate measures, I suppose!

This morning, I found myself standing in line with the other douchebags at the Starbucks kiosk. And I decided that if I was going to sell my soul to Starbucks, the very least I could do was to simultaneously try and advance my cause. So I ordered, "The Biggest Earl Grey Tea You Have".... because I am not about to play their stupid size game and order by their Veni, Vidi, Vici sizes, or whatever it is that they expect you to say. And as I left, carrying my gigantic cup, emblazoned with that telltale green mermaid, I felt as if I had a Scarlet D across my chest. My only hope is that getting two cups of tea at a Starbucks Kiosk is the douchebaggiest thing I do all year!

So..... how was the Earl, you may ask? Once again, Earl Ass. Ruining some perfectly good black tea with that awful bergamot is a true tragedy. But I shouldn't be surprised. After all, the British gave us both Monty Python and Radiohead. Clearly, they have questionable taste!!!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Lord of the Onion Rings

I feel so slack lately... I've really been thrown off by this impending fumigation. I have been trying my best to eat or drink at least a little something awful everyday, but nothing seemed monumental enough to dedicate an entire post to. For example, I realized I had gotten a little big for my britches (in more ways than 1!).... after drinking so much grapefruit juice lately, and effortlessly eating grapefruit in my salad on Sunday, I assumed I was ready to eat a raw, unadorned, grapefruit half. Turns out, grapefruit still tastes terrible! ;-) I covered the other half in about an inch and a half of agave, which helped a little, but not enough. Also, I was starting to get smug about, "I'm fine with dark beer now." And then, I tried a KBC Lager. I was most definitely not fine with that dark beer! I gotta keep on keeping on!

We went to Veggie Grill today, so that Hubby could claim his free birthday meal. I really wanted to eat something I didn't like, but at a place like Veggie Grill, which specializes in burgers, sandwiches and salads full of fake meat, I knew it would be hard to find something I didn't like! I could live off of that stuff! After scouring the menu full of delicious things I wanted to eat, I spotted the All American Stack... a sandwich I would most certainly enjoy, except for one little aspect: it comes with onion rings on it.

If you like it, then you should have put an onion ring on it.

So today, I ate my first onion rings! I know this is stunning. How could I have made it that long as an American without eating an onion ring?!? Well, it's pretty simple. Remember, I refused to eat anything with onions in it, until 10 or so years ago. So, eating a gigantic circle of onion was never an option for me, even considering the fact that it was battered and deep fried. Over the past 10 years, while my tolerance of onions has grown considerably, such a big chunk of onion seemed like a bad idea. And besides, any time onion rings were an option, french fries were also an option... and I KNOW I like french fries, so why mess around with onion rings?

Well, they sure weren't what I was expecting! I assumed they would be more, you know, onion-y... I was surprised at how sweet they were! Still, I liked them just fine. I mean, pretty much anything that has been deep fried is going to taste good, right? I bet I would enjoy a deep fried grapefruit or a deep fried seaweed snack!

So, there you have it. I would happily eat onion rings again, and it's a shame I ignored them for almost 4 decades! I mean, they're obviously inferior to french fries... they are even inferior to deep fried pickles... but there is no reason I should have shunned them for that long! Onion rings, I owe you an apology for those decades of neglect!
I am one step closer to eating like a true American.
And now... off to continue the kitchen purging and cleaning process!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Ghost Kitchen USA

My kitchen is beginning to look like a ghost town. I keep expecting Jim Backus to come and lock me up in an abandoned jail cell, because he thinks I'm trying to steal his gold! And I tell ya, anyone coming to my house to steal frozen food, pasta, rice or assorted oils and vinegars would be sorely disappointed in the current offerings! The freezer is basically empty. The normally packed shelves on the refrigerator door now contain just a few lonely bottles that fall over every time I open the door (this has NEVER before been an issue for me!!!). I have only 1/4 cup of olive oil left, which terrifies me. Will that measly amount possibly last me until Monday?!?!? I know I just bragged about what a small amount of money I spent on food for this week, but looking at my barren pantry, I now realize the dark side to this.... the next time I go shopping, I will literally have to spend $300 just to restock my essentials!
Here is the view of the inside of my freezer.
Even though I haven't been able to go wild with bringing a bunch of Weird Foods into my house this week, every day, there have still been moments which fill me with awe and wonder. For example, I needed a little snack before dinner yesterday. And do you know what I had a craving for?!? I'm not kidding, but I wanted some sliced radishes with Tapatio on them! I craved radishes! And I enjoyed them as a perfect little snack! Shocking! Last night, I also found myself doing something I'd never dreamed I would ever do. I made a batch of Pickled Red Onions, which I need for tonight, to serve on my Spicy Poblano Burgers with Pickled Red Onions and Chipotle Sour Cream. I don't know who I am anymore! Nor do I know who my husband is anymore! Last night, I sat, stunned, and watched him eat a Spinach Salad with AVOCADOS and Peppers, which was thick with Dijon Dressing. He is now fond of exclaiming, "I like mustard now! I like beer and I like avocados!"

Finally, after the success I have had so far in learning to like foods, as well as the success my husband has had, I must confess. At this point, when I hear someone insist they don't like something, in my head, I think they are just being stubborn. But I figure it's fair enough, since lord knows they all think worse things about me in their heads when they hear I'm vegan!!!! :-D

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Wheat Isn't Murder

After that major setback I faced yesterday, due to those horrendous seaweed snacks, I am pleased that I have some progress to report!

As I mentioned, this is gonna be a bit of a slack week. A week from today, I will be moving into a hotel room with my angry cat. I have been trying REALLY hard to focus on just using up the food we have in the house. And with the help of my Recipe App, I did an extremely good job this week! Case in point: I normally spend at least $130 per week on groceries, which covers everything for my husband and myself, as well as the meals I cook for my Personal Chef Client. This week, I spent only $90 for everything. So, I didn't go all crazy buying any Weird Things. I promise I'll go wild again after the tenting!

My husband came back from his trip last night. He spent Easter with his family. I didn't join him, mostly because of work obligations but also, let's be honest. The worst person who could possibly show up at your Easter Brunch would be a vegan! ;-) So, I didn't mind skipping it, and letting everyone have their fun eating chickens' periods and pigs' corpses away from my judging eyes.

I wanted to have something delightful for my husband to eat when he got home, so I tried my hand at recreating one of his favorite dishes, Fish 'n Chips. It was a little offbeat, as I used Sophie's Kitchen Breaded Vegan Fish Fillets, accompanied by Salt and Vinegar Potato Bites. And since I had managed to pick up a couple of beers this week, I figured that it would be only right to serve some KBC Wheat Beer with this particular meal.

To review, my husband has found that he is partial to wheat beer, and he can drink it with no problem now. I have found that I dislike wheat beer, and that I am partial to lager and stout. Hence, I need to keep drinking wheat beer! And I think maybe I have finally turned a corner with it! Because, I took my first sip, and thought YUCK...... but then, I drank the rest of my glass, and I didn't give it any additional thought. I know I was excited to see my husband again, and I was enjoying my Fish 'n Chips, but still! Apparently, I didn't hate every sip, or I would have paid more attention to it. Not only did it not kill me, but it didn't even make me suffer much! I think I have progressed to being indifferent to wheat beer! For me, that is HUGE!

I'm down with KBC?!? I don't know me!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Sunday, Bloody Mary

I didn't spend any time rejoicing today. Except for the rejoicing I did at the variety of food and drink I was able to enjoy at Mohawk Bend. Although I encountered a few pleasant surprises (and in the context of this blog, I am referring to the fact that my salad unexpectedly arrived featuring both grapefruit and red onions, which I considered to be a major score!), I want to address the two major feats of this meal: 1) A Vegan Bloody Mary 2) Vegan Poutine.

I have a very bizarre relationship with Bloody Mary. Of course, I never drank one in my youth, since not only did I not drink alcohol, I didn't drink tomato juice. But the strangest thing happened to me, about 12 years ago. I got an INTENSE craving for a Bloody Mary, and I had to have one! I was visiting a friend in Boston at the time (coincidentally, the same friend I was dining with today), and we went on a quest to find me the fixings for a Vegan Bloody Mary. I made it, I drank it, I enjoyed it, but I was left with the feeling of, "OK, I never have to do THAT again!" And then, about 2 years ago, I got ANOTHER craving for a Bloody Mary. So, I made one... but I must have done a bad job, because it was Ass Awful and I couldn't manage to drink even 1/3 of it. Well, as you know, I've had my eye on drinking a Bloody Mary for the purpose of this project. And finding a Vegan Bloody Mary in a restaurant is pretty much like spotting a unicorn. I initially thought I would try a "craft brew on tap" at Mohawk Bend, but when I discovered the Vegan Bloody Mary, the craft brew went out the window. After all, beer is everywhere. Vegan Bloody Marys barely exist outside of Narnia.

And let me tell ya! That Bloody Mary was great! I admit, after 1 sip, I thought I was in trouble... but after 2 sips, I was digging it. It was lovely! Very Spicy and very garlicky. I don't know if I like ALL Bloody Marys, but I sure liked that one! I may experiment with making a Vegan Bloody Mary at home sometime this week, to see if I like one that isn't all fancy like, as the one I drank today was.
Bloody Mary is the drink I love! It made me engage in Happy Talk!
Before I get into the Poutine, I want to point out a strange phenomenon that exists only in Picky Eaters Turned Vegan. There is a whole slew of foods that I wouldn't eat before I became vegan, but that I now embrace the Vegan Versions of. For example, I have never eaten a lamb, a duck or a blood sausage, yet I have eaten Vegan Versions of all of them. Here is a small sampling of things that I refused to eat the "normal" version of, but that the Vegan Versions of have become a part of my life:

* Cream Cheese
* Sour Cream
* Mayonaise
* Aioli
* Hollandaise Sauce
* Tartar Sauce
* Chorizo
* Bolognese Sauce
* And MANY more!

I mention this, in regards to the Poutine, because I have never eaten Poutine before today! I mean, it's not exactly common fare in any of the 3 cities I have lived in (Asbury Park, NJ, Greensboro, NC, West Hollywood, CA). (OK, I guess there is a variation of Poutine that you can get in NJ diners, which we call Disco Fries, but I never ate those either). And when we were in Montreal 2 years ago, we roamed the streets for Vegan Poutine (or at least, Vegetarian Poutine! I would have pushed the cheese curds aside just to claim that I ate Poutine in Quebec!).... but we couldn't find any. So, I never ate it... until today... when I ate another unicorn... Vegan Poutine!
Vegan Poutine = French Fries, Vegan Brown Gravy, Daiya Cheese
So, I will state the obvious. Anything involving french fries can't be bad! Heck, anything involving Vegan Brown Gravy and Vegan Cheese can't be too bad either! While I admit that it was a little strange to eat French Fries that were soggy with gravy, I couldn't complain. I liked my Vegan Poutine very much. And I can't wait until I can discover another random dish that I have never had, prepared Vegan Style.

Updates: I have cleaned out 3 binders worth of paper recipes at this point, and I have entered about 1300 recipes into the Recipe App. I don't have a lot of Weird Foods on my agenda for this week, as I am REALLY concentrating on getting rid of as much as possible that I already have in he house, before the extermination in a mere 8 days. And, NO... still haven't dared to eat another Seaweed Snack! :-/

Da Plain! Da Plain!

I've come a very long way from the ridiculous amount of food "hang ups" I had as a little girl. In retrospect, I am regretful that I missed out on so many food experiences growing up, because of my main childhood eating preference: Everything Must Be Plain. Now, I admit that I do consider it to be a Vegan Badge of Honor that I have NEVER eaten a Big Mac, but that's not typical of a normal American. But I never ate one, because I refused to eat anything with condiments on it. I rejected the #1 Childhood Sandwich, the PB & J, because I refused to mix the two, and would only eat, "plain jelly sandwiches." And even more tragic, I grew up in NJ, but I refused to eat pizza until I was in high school, because I wouldn't eat tomato sauce! Yes, I was the only child in the history of NJ who didn't like pizza! Nor would I eat a famous NJ Sub Sandwich, because I wouldn't eat the vinegary dressing or any of the other condiments. And I look back on all of those plates of spaghetti, with nothing but butter on them, and I realize what a shameful waste I made of my youth surrounded by all of that Italian American food! 

Even though I now embrace all manner of sauces, dressings and condiments, I can still see a bit of that Little Miss Plain in myself to this day. Guess what kind of bagel I eat 99% of the time? Plain. And all of the exciting flavors of potato chips around these days? I prefer plain. Heck, I even always choose plain hummus to the roasted garlic / roasted red pepper / whatever else varieties! I'm happiest with plain vanilla soy yogurt. Plain vegan cream cheese is fine, none of that herb stuff. And I would always prefer my pie plain, not a la mode. These days, I'll even take my whiskey plain! ;-)
Here I am, ordering a bagel.
For about as long as I've been married, I've been stuck on the same snack. I'm not really a big snacker, but I've gotten into the habit of having a handful of Trader Joe's Pretzel Slims in the evenings that we watch a DVD. It's gotten to be a joke between my husband and I. Trader Joes's obviously has a huge variety of crunchy snacks. And every week, year after year, I go and get another bag of Pretzel Slims. Yes, the plain ones. But this week, I did the wildest thing I've ever done.... I picked out the bag of Trader Joe's Pretzel Slims With Everything!

It may not seem like a big deal, but for Little Miss Plain, it really is! I have *never* before eaten anything that boasted having "everything"  or "the works." No Everything Bagel. No Everything Pizza. No Everything Sundae. That bag of Everything Pretzel Slims was actually a huge milestone for me!
There's a first time for Everything!
 Obviously, I liked them just fine. I'm not saying that I am going to only buy them from now on.... I still probably like the plain slims better.... but they serve as a good reminder to make an effort not to get stuck in a rut.... and not to be closed off to so many different food experiences, because I still automatically default to Plain.
I also made an attempt to embrace water that isn't plain. I'm no great fan of flavored water (and I now realize that I probably need to add flavored water to my List of Hated Foods)... so much so that whenever I get water in a restaurant, the first thing I do is frantically rid myself of the ubiquitous, pesky lemon slice, before it sullies my water! But the water I'm talking about is the one perfecto item you need to include if you're faking a homosexual suicide pact in Sherwood, OH in 1988.... Mineral Water. 

I don't have a lot of experience with Mineral Water. Obviously, I wouldn't touch the stuff when I was younger, as I had those issues with carbonated beverages (I know, I know, was there ANYTHING I liked, pre-2000?!? The answer is: No.). I did have a few run-ins with Mineral Water when I was in Germany 10 or so years ago. I swear, I always asked for "Stilles Wasser," but I gather the Germans found it funny to constantly give me "unstill" water instead. Needless to say, I spent most of my time in Germany being thirsty.... but hey, that worked out ok for me, since it meant fewer trips to their creepy toilets that have the shelves inside the bowl, to catch everything

Anyway, I figured that Mineral Water would be a no brainer for me now. I have no problem drinking carbonated beverages anymore. I was sure I would like it just fine! Which was not the case! Yuck! What the heck is wrong with that stuff?!? How it is possibly possible to make water taste that bad?!? Apparently, I need to spend some more time with Mineral Water, because it sure gave me a tough time!

However, this tale has a happy ending... and one that may stun you. A friend, who knew of my Grapefruit Quest and fondness for gin, randomly spotted a recipe for a drink called a "Kitten's Whiskers". This drink calls for Gin, Grapefruit Juice, Grenadine... and a splash of soda water. Now, of course I didn't have any soda water on hand, but I did have the rest of the Mineral Water (I couldn't manage to drink it all, unadorned). I used it in the cocktail. And I must confess that it was the best Grapefruit Juice cocktail that I have tried thus far! It was GOOD! Grapefruit Juice, Mineral Water and all! I can only assume that the Grenadine worked some kind of miracle! So, I happily drank of the rest of my Mineral Water in the form of a Kitten's Whisker.

Oh..... no progress on the seaweed snacks.... I'm still so very afraid of them..... :-/

Friday, April 6, 2012

Go Greyhound

Sometimes, everything aligns perfectly. It happened to us yesterday. For a few months now, my husband and I have been wanting to have an adventure and WALK to Musso and Frank, which is a 7 mile round trip. We did it once before, but it was by accident that time... we had walked to dinner (2 miles from home) and had planned on walking to a movie after dinner, but plans changed, and we walked to Musso and Frank instead.  And I had such a good time doing that, I wanted to do it again! Meanwhile, my husband got hooked on the idea of visiting M&F during the quiet hours, between 2 and 5 PM, on weekdays. And I got obsessed with having a Greyhound there. And my husband got a craving for their Chicken Pot Pie, which they only serve on Thursdays. As luck would have it, my work was canceled yesterday.... and we got a surprise $100 in the mail, from my parents, with instructions to Go Out To Eat. So, that is how I ended up at Musso and Frank at 3:15 yesterday afternoon, experiencing my first Greyhound.

It was a warm and sunny day in Los Angeles yesterday, right around 70 degrees. After walking 3.5 miles in the sun, I was sure happy to sit down at that cool, dark bar and order a refreshing cocktail! I love Manhattans, but in no way could they be considered to be refreshing! But people swear that Greyhounds are quite refreshing, so it was the perfect time to temporarily put aside my snobbishness about vodka, and finally Go Greyhound.
I expected to find the bar looking like this at 3 PM on a Thursday, but it was actually full of Manny Aguirre fans!
Anyway, the refreshing Greyhound, as you may know, consists of only 2 ingredients, vodka and grapefruit juice, neither of which I like! But I must really be getting used to grapefruit juice, because it went down pretty easy! Sure, it was still a bit bitter, but not so much that it was off putting. And I'll be damned if it wasn't refreshing!

A friend had tipped me off that maybe I should try eating a Cara Cara Orange, as kind of a midway fruit, between oranges and grapefruits. So, before I left on our trek, I energized myself with a Cara Cara Orange. And I would agree that it is somewhere in between and orange and a grapefruit. I didn't like it at first, but by bite 3, I was into it. I would willingly eat one again!
Looks like a grapefruit, but none of that awful after taste!
Anyway, I'm on my own for the weekend. My goal is to drink the rest of the bottle of grapefruit juice (both in adult versions and undiluted). Maybe I'll just get into the habit of walking 3.5 miles in the sun and then, I will find the grapefruit juice to be nice and refreshing!

Oh, and one more unrelated plug for Musso and Frank. My husband had Manny make him a Sidecar. He drinks them often, but neither of us had ever had a Manny Sidecar before. (Manny gave me a little martini glass of Surplus Sidecar to drink, along with my Greyhound.) Forget about making the Best Martini in America.... he should be known instead for making the Best Sidecar in the Universe! Amazing, and I highly recommend it to one and all!
I must say, it's more fun to ride in this Sidecar than to Go Greyhound!
And no.... still haven't touched another seaweed snack..... :-/

Thursday, April 5, 2012

I Dream of Rapini

A Rabe is a Raab is a Rapini.... What's in a name? That which we call a Rabe by any other name would taste as bitter.... and THAT is the only time you will see me reference Shakespeare in this blog! (and I only did it to stun my husband) However, future references to Gertrude Stein are not impossible!

Broccoli Rabe / Raab / Rapini is a vegetable with a Bad Raabutation. (I'm sorry) I've seen it mentioned in recipes for years, and the copy always frightened me off. It also said something to the effect of "Broccoli Rabe is an extremely bitter green that will knock your ever-loving socks off with it's nastiness! If you still have a taste bud left on your tongue, it would behoove you to replace the Rapini in the Recipe with something palatable, like Chard." So, I never dared to try it! I don't like bitter greens... and even more so, my husband has a tough time with bitter greens. This created a decade during which every time I read "broccoli rabe" I instantly translated that into meaning "chard." However, this project is all about challenging my own perceptions on food, so I decided to finally Give Raab A Chance.
It looks so harmless!

I made a batch of Sauteed Sausage and Grapes with Broccoli Rabe. And it made me wonder, what had I been so afraid of? Perhaps the sweetness of the grapes managed to trick me, but the Rapini didn't seem to be more bitter than something like Collard Greens. It was totally fine and there was no reason I should have spent 10 years Dodging the Raab!

Along with my dinner, since I'm a Beer Drinking Broad these days, I had a glass of Trader Jose's Dark Lager. And this helped to cement the fact that I really am now ok with many varieties of dark beers. The light beers still pose a huge problem for me, but I've come around to the dark ones. Which is major progress!

In closing, I want to tell you that I almost called this entry Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Rapini, but as much as I liked that, it makes no sense. And it reminded me of those idiotic PETA women who go around in those Lettuce Bikinis. So, I would like to take a moment to point out, in case any of you are confused, I don't know ANY vegans, or even other people who otherwise support animal rights, who are fans of PETA and their tactics. PETA clearly has nothing but lunatics as members, because no sensible people support them. I just wanted to make sure that no one reading this could possibly think, "Oh, she's a vegan, so she must go around wearing a Lettuce Bikini and holding up PETA signs in her spare time." I'm still too much of an Old School Feminist to embrace their nonsense!
Crazy lunatics giving vegans a bad name.
PS. I still haven't worked up the courage to eat another of those seaweed snacks....

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

A Tale of Two Tabboulehs

This weekend, I had a chance to consult the professionals..... the professionals at making Lebanese food. Hubby suggested that we should visit Sunnin, and let them work their Mezze Magic. I had never been there before, which I find shocking! The food was fantastic! Easily the best middle eastern food I've ever eaten. Better yet, the menu very clearly marks which items are vegan, a huge plus in my book! Also, they were happy to bring us a Mezze Platter sans meat. A Mezze Platter which included not just tabbouleh, but baba ghanoush as well! I was excited to see just how much I would enjoy the real deal!

So, they bring out a small bowl of hummus, along with a small bowl of baba ghanoush. This was just unfair to the poor baba ghanoush! How could it possibly compete against that hummus..... which I must say was some of the best hummus I have ever had. I could have happily eaten a tureen of it! But I tell ya, that baba ghanoush was good! I enjoyed it, and I hereby consider baba ghanoush to no longer be my Forgotten Foe, but to be my Found Friend!
Tabbouleh at Sunnin. Look at all of that parsley!!!
The tabbouleh was authentic. It was almost all parsley, with but a mere sprinkling of bulgar in it. It did, in fact, have the consistency of wet grass clippings, but I didn't hold that against it. The flavor was pretty good as well. I'm not gonna lie.... it was still my least favorite part of the mezze, but I really did like it ok. I liked it well enough that if I am ever invited to a traditional feast at Casey Kasem's house, I would not reject the tabbouleh and cause my host to go on a rant! I would happily go from an uptempo song directly into eating some Goddamn tabbouleh, and I would not find it to be ponderous in the least!

Last night, I made the Final Tabbouleh before calling it done. I made a Chicken Tabbouleh with Tahini Drizzle. This tabbouleh had almost nothing in common with the authentic one from Sunnin! It's like comparing Dick Sargent to Dick York! My tabbouleh was thick with bulgar, and while it included parsley, mint and green onions, it didn't go wild with any of them. Also, I had a stroke of genius, and I chopped up the tomatoes, then let them sit and drain in a colander for a good 30 minutes. As a result, my tabbouleh was not soggy! I enjoyed my unorthodox, Dick Sargent tabbouleh better than the authentic Dick York one.... I pretty much loved the tabbouleh I made, and I would recommend that recipe to anyone! Yes, I said it: I loved tabbouleh. Tabbouleh = Owned!
I guess my analogy doesn't exactly work, because who doesn't prefer Darren #1 to Darren #2?!?
Also with dinner, I decided to revisit radishes. I had gotten a couple of tips from friends about them, which I tried while I was preparing dinner. One was to simply 1. Sprinkle radish with salt 2. Eat. And that was good! Another tip was to slice up a radish and put some drops of hot sauce on the slices. And I'll be damned, that was a actually really good! I used most of the radishes in a Lemony Cucumber Salad, which was just cucumbers, orange bell pepper and radishes tossed in a very simple lemon and olive oil dressing. And I had no problem whatsoever eating radishes in that context! I even liked them! Radishes have been defeated!

But because I didn't want to get too cocky, (and I am not ready to subject myself to the seaweed snacks again just yet) I made sure to drink some cranberry juice before bed. Yep, that knocked me down a peg or two! Disgusting.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Progress Report

I've been at it for over a month now... figured it was time to offer up a progress report!


* Raw Onions
* Tonic Water
* Tabbouleh
* White Wine
* Endive
* Parsnips
* Kohlrabi
* Lamb's Quarters
* Root Beer
* Sauerkraut
* Mustard
* Baba Ghanoush
* Taro Chips
* Daikon

Works in Progress...

* Grapefruit
* Radishes
* Seaweed Snacks
* Beer
* Mole
* Cranberry Juice
* Earl Grey Tea
* Champagne
* Pickled Ginger
* Turnips

Haven't Gotten Around To.... Yet.

* Ginger Beer
* Radicchio
* Green Tea Flavored Treats
* Baklava
* Tiramisu
* Broccoli Rabe
* Mineral Water
* Spaghetti Squash
* Chicory
* Bloody Mary
* Brazilian Food
* Herbal Tea
* Lemongrass
* Kombucha
* Chocolate with Spicy Stuff in it
* Raw Foods
* Floral Flavored Foods
* Onion Rings

And for my progress entering recipes into my recipe app? About 1100 recipes in there so far! And I've gone through my paper recipes, and thrown away at least 100 of them, realizing I Am Never Going To Make That!

Finally, thanks to everyone who is sticking with me. Over 600 views and counting! Amazing!

Gag Me With A Weed

It is with a heavy heart that I introduce you to My New Worst Enemy.
I had only eaten any kind of "seaweed snack" once before, and it was so traumatic, I remember it well! It was almost 15 years ago. I put the seaweed snack in my mouth, the promptly began gagging, and had to spit it out. I was disgusted! Now, over the past 15 years, I've been no stranger to eating all kinds of vegan maki, all of which are wrapped in seaweed, of course. I truly love maki. In fact, one of my Top Five Favorite Dishes I Have Ever Eaten is the Avocado Tempura Roll at Cha-Ya in the Bay Area. I couldn't imagine that I would STILL have an issue eating seaweed! After all of the hundreds of Kappa Maki I have thrown down my gullet over the years? Impossible! So, imagine my surprise when yesterday, I took a bite from one of these seaweed snacks, and I promptly began gagging!

My only possible explanation is that, for some reason, the texture of dried seaweed, along with the smell of it (when it is not masked by wasabi and soy sauce), somehow triggers a survival instinct in my brain with a signal of That Isn't Food! And while I was extremely unhappy, I was able to get the whole "snack" down this time, but it felt so wrong... like I was eating something inedible. Like I was trying to devour tissue paper or cellophane. I admit, I was a college-aged adult before I knew that millions of people actually eat seaweed, and I was stunned and disgusted by that fact. I didn't even believe it at first! You can't eat seaweed! It's Not Food!

Anyway, I suppose I'll keep at it with the seaweed snacks, but I can promise you, this one is going to be harder than beer and cranberry juice combined! As unpleasurable as those both are, at least they don't literally gag me! So, I'll lower the bar for myself.... if I can manage to get a seaweed snack down without gagging, I'll consider that a victory!
This is what I will look like if I ever eat a seaweed snack without gagging! 

And if this wasn't enough gagging for you in one post, I've got some more!

A friend, who is quite knowledgeable about cocktails, has been giving me tips on how to deal with grapefruit juice. He mentioned that he had seen a bar which was offering up a gin / grapefruit juice / almond syrup cocktail. This sounded like a good option. After all, I still had to "use up" a bottle of gin.... and, I have an open bottle of Disaronno that needs to be "used up" as well. I looked all over, trying to find a cocktail recipe that used these 3 ingredients, and I failed. Most of the Gin / Grapefruit cocktails seemed to want to include Maraschino cherries in some form, so I took that into consideration as well. And I decided to just go ahead and Invent My Own Cocktail. I present to you The Gag Reflex! (G.A.G. = Grapefruit, Amaretto, Gin. Hubby gets the credit for that one!)

* 2 Parts Gin
* 1 Part Grapefruit Juice
* 1/2 Part Amaretto

Pour over ice, stir. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with 3 Maraschino cherries.
(FTR, you're never supposed to shake any cocktail with gin it in, only stir. Shaking bruises the gin, or so they tell me.)

I am proud to report that The Gag Reflex did NOT inspire it's own name in me! This was the first cocktail I ever "invented" and I have to say, it really wasn't bad. Obviously, it's not exactly my preference, but as far as grapefruit cocktails go, I liked it better than I liked Salty Dog. I'm planning on trying a Greyhound later this week, so we'll get see how my concoction holds up to a Classic Cocktail.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Whole Michelada

Last night, I stayed within my comfort zone for dinner. I made Black Bean and Corn Chilaquiles with Roasted Tomato and Chipotle Sauce with a side of Avocado-Butter Lettuce Salad. OK, I guess I was just slightly out of my comfort zone, as both recipes call for chopped, raw, red onions, which I never would have included before becoming The Unpicky Vegan, but in they went. Not only were they fine, but I must admit, those damn raw onions actually made the salad really good! Shocking! Raw onions, consider yourselves OWNED!

In keeping with both my Mexican theme, and my weekend Beer theme, I accompanied my dinner with a new twist on beer.... A Michelada.

I've noticed that Michaladas have become strangely trendy in Los Angeles over the past year. And I must say, their basic premise sure doesn't sound appealing! Not only do they include beer, but they include grapefruit juice... a double whammy of badness! On top of that, they require hot sauce, which is something I eat on the regular, but not something I am ever inclined to add to a beverage. But 113,423,047 Mexicans can't be wrong! So, I brazenly gave it a try.

Not shockingly, a Michalada tastes like a Corona with some Tapatio in it. :-) I cannot claim that these are two great tastes that taste great together, but I drank it all. And it did seem to go quite well with the food. Not sure if I'll ever be eager to drink one again, but I could handle one, if offered. And non, je ne regrette rien about trying one. No lamento nada either!

Well, maybe I do have one little regret. I was hoping to really horrify myself by drinking a beer / grapefruit juice combo, but the amount of grapefruit juice that went into this drink was so miniscule, it was not even detectable. So, here I am, with a whole bottle of grapefruit juice to contend with! I have only 1 drink's worth of gin left in the bottle I need to "get rid of" before the fumigation, so I'm researching some kind of gin and grapefruit delight for this evening. Should be great! :-/ 

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Kohlrabi Kid

I've been shopping at the Santa Monica Farmer's Market on Saturday mornings for well over a decade. As you can imagine, this has exposed me to a greater variety of produce than if I didn't dare to shop outside of Trader Joe's. Over the years, I've spotted dozens of unusual veggies, and wondered, "What the heck is that and how would somebody go about eating that?" And then, I would just walk on by, never deviating from my shopping list, and head straight for the potatoes and broccoli. But in the spirit of openness, I decided to finally try a strange vegetable that I had wondered about for a few years now. Have you seen this one?

Kohlrabi, as my husband put it, "Looks like an alien's heart." I consulted my recipe app to determine what one could do with kohlrabi. Apparently, one can cook it, or one can eat it raw. I decided to first experience kohlrabi in the raw... no, not by eating it while unclothed, but by trying it out in a Kohlrabi and M√Ęche Salad. Turns out, it's a very mild tasting vegetable, and easy to eat. So, now I know. I like kohlrabi just fine!

After my Big Beer Drinking Night, I decided I should stay on the Beer Train and keep at it. After all, I still don't like the stuff, and this whole experiment is to test if it really is possible to train yourself to like something, through repetition. I decided to try beer from a whole different continent, and explored Asahi beer. I have to say, it went down much easier than any of those other light colored beers did! So I wonder.... is it that I have more in common with the Japanese than just short stature and discreet toilet habits? Do I really prefer Japanese style beer more than the Belgian beers I tried early on, or have I really began to acquire a greater tolerance for beer? I suppose the only way to know is to revisit some of those beers I tried at the beginning of this project and see if I like them better now. Which I will do, after just a little bit more taste testing!

Finally, and this has nothing to do with anything, but I really want to express myself. I realized last night, as I ate my beautiful dinner of Penne alla Vodka, that if I could only have 1 pasta dish for the rest of my life, it would be that one. There is no better sauce for pasta.... and I've tried them all! So, heed my advice: Keep vodka out of your martinis and use it instead for pasta sauce! :-)