Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Becoming Vegetarian

I don't think I ever seriously tampered with the idea of becoming vegetarian, but recently it struck me. I think it was primarily the health aspect that hooked me, but after reading Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer, the ethical and ecological grounds for vegetarianism became much clearer to me (not to say that I didn't have a fairly good idea of where my meat was coming from, but his book does go into pretty graphic detail).

Having been a meat-eater for the 22 past years of my life, I'm not about to make this transition cold-turkey. I'm hoping to experiment with vegetarian and vegan recipes, build up a collection of staple-recipes and eventually transition into full-vegetarian. I'm living at home right now (blech!) and my parents are very much not vegetarian, so it should be an interesting change. For now, I am trying to achieve 2 vegetarian meals per day. I figure that will be a fairly easy difference in diet to deal with (both psychologically and physically).

As for the vegan option, I don't know if I'll ever get quite that far, but it's appealing. I've already taken a liking to almond milk, and can definitely see myself phasing out milk entirely (although I do occasionally enjoy a good slice of cheese). I'm not particularly fond of eggs but every now and then, breakfast just isn't complete without them. Fortunately there are a few people around where I live who sell eggs from their own chickens, so I know there are humane local sources for eggs. Still, the concept of vegan baking intrigues me. Today I got Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar by Isa Chandra Moskowitz from the library and once I acquire some ground flaxseed, I'll be good to go and can't wait to try a few of her recipes. I also borrowed the Veganomicon from the library, by the same author. There are some tasty looking recipes but I have no idea where to start. I bought some tofu a few days ago and I really want to try making something with it (might as well begin learning how to use tofu, I figure). So I guess I'll look through the book for a good-lookin' recipe with tofu as its centerpiece.

So for now, I'm still 1/3 meat-eater (probably the way it should have been in the first place). I'm really looking forward to trying new recipes and finding new favorites.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Veggie Burger Attempt #1

Today I tried making veggie burgers for the first time. Actually making them wasn't too difficult, but I'm not sure I'll make them again. Here's the recipe I used, along with the "good" and the "bad."

Recipe from Food.com (originally from Food Network).

3 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup fresh corn kernels
6 mushrooms, finely chopped
2 scallions, finely chopped
1/2 red bell peppers, finely chopped
1 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon cumin
1 dash cayenne pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh spinach
1 carrots, peeled and grated
1 small potatoes, peeled and grated
1 egg whites
salt and pepper
1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs

1. In a large pan heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium high heat.
2. Stir in corn, mushrooms, scallions, and bell pepper. Cook for 3-4 minutes.
3. Add garlic, cumin and cayenne and cook for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and stir in spinach.
4. Add carrot and potato and stir to combine. Add egg white and season with salt and pepper.
5. Stir in enough bread crumbs so that the mixture holds together.
6. Shape mixture into 6 disks and place on a plate. Chill for 1 hour.
7. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in non-stick skillet and cook veggie burgers until golden on each side.

The Good
-Lots of veggies (rather than grains/breadcrumbs, which seem to be the main ingredients in many veggie burgers)
-Readily available ingredients
-Easy prep (no food processor required)

The Bad
-Squishy in the middle, not very firm or burger-like once you start eating it
-Not much flavor despite the spices (I think the corn was the most prominent flavor)
-Somewhat difficult to keep in one piece while cooking (I cooked three patties and was able to keep two of them in-tact, after partially destroying one)

Overall, I don't think this was a bad recipe, but I'll keep searching for the perfect veggie burger. I'm thinking some lentils or black beans might give it more substance and prevent it from being so squishy. Once I get a functioning food processor I might also try using that to chop the veggies more finely.

Monday, September 13, 2010

No Poo -- Six Months Later

I stopped using shampoo over six months ago, and now only "wash" my hair once a week. I used to have to wash it every day, or risk becoming a greasy mess. Needless to say, I'm happy with the change. So, what did going no poo mean for me?

I started out cold turkey--shampooed my hair one last time, and then just let it go a few days. Once it was REALLY in need of washing, I started with the no poo regimen: about 1 1/2T baking soda to 8 oz water, and 1 1/2T apple cider vinegar to 10 oz water. I applied the baking soda solution using a hair dye application bottle, so I could squirt the solution directly onto the roots of my hair. After getting in the shower and wetting my hair a bit, I'd scrub the solution into my scalp using my fingertips, and thoroughly rinse my hair. After that, I'd just dump the apple cider vinegar over my head, scrub with my fingertips, and rinse. I was immediately impressed; my hair was silky and clean and it was wonderful! However, it still became greasy after just a few days. While I never really experienced the dreaded "transition period," it did take me many months to get beyond having to wash my hair every 3 days or so.

My routine hasn't changed much. I now use 1T baking soda to 8 oz water, and 1T apple cider vinegar to 8 oz water. Note that the baking soda solution is kept in a bottle, so each individual application does not include the WHOLE 1T--it's actually a very small amount of baking soda being applied to my scalp. Occasionally I use lavender essential oil diluted in water as an extra nice-smelling rinse, used after the apple cider vinegar. Not only does it smell wonderful, it also makes my hair soft and silky.

On in-between days (that is, the other 5 or 6 days when I'm not using the BS/ACV), I just give my scalp a good scrub while I'm in the shower. If you have hard water, no poo may be a more difficult transition. I found that my hair responded very differently depending on where I was (I was semi-permanently living in two different places which apparently had different types of water). When I had to shower using hard water, I usually put a shower cap on to cover my hair on in-between days, since the hard water made my hair stiff and greasy-looking.

If you're just starting no poo and the BS/ACV combination doesn't seem to be working for you, don't despair! There are many, many combinations of washes/rinses for you to try. I recommend the no poo community on Livejournal (linked below) for specific information about different types of washes and rinses. For more general information about no poo, please see some of the other links I've listed below.

Useful No Poo Links

Wholesome Goodness: bye bye shampoo
The Boston Phoenix: The No Poo Do
Info about going shampoo free
Livejournal no poo community


Hello "everyone" (i.e. my invisible audience). For now I suppose this blog is just a chronicle for my own sake. To remember what I've changed about my lifestyle and to remind myself that there's still a long way to go.

Some of the changes I've made already that I will be discussing:
-No poo
-Menstrual cups
-Locally produced mineral makeup

Of course, in the spirit of creating as little waste as possible, I'm using up all of my products before replacing them with natural/sustainable alternatives. This is mostly in reference to bath and beauty products, which I have an abundance of but look forward to replacing with far simpler solutions. I plan to replace:
-Deodorant containing aluminum (currently using Dove)
-Face wash/special face creams (currently using Mary Kay)
-Lotion (currently using Mary Kay for face/store brand fragrance free for body)
-Shaving cream/lotion (currently using Avalon Organics)

Basically, I want to minimize the ingredient-lists in my life. Many of the above products can be replaced with far simpler substances that contain only one or two ingredients (deodorant is perhaps the most complicated one).

Another big change that I hope to implement is the inclusion of more vegetarian foods in my diet. I'm not sure if I have it in me to go completely vegetarian, but I can try to eat less meat and only meat from local/organic/humane sources.

The purpose of this blog will be to collect and share resources, reviews, links, and information. More exciting posts soon!