Archive for July, 2011

The Vegan Experiment: Day 24

Day 24

Breakfast: Oatmeal with walnuts and banana
Lunch: Baja Fresh Baja Burrito – no cheese or meat with pinto beans
Snack: Animal crackers
Dinner: Gardein Mandarin Chick’n, Brown rice salad

I gave faux meat yet another try and was again disappointed. It looks like meat, but it does not taste like meat. In fact, I think that substituting faux meat for real meat for a new vegetarian might result in a big failure in that person’s attempt to adopt a vegetarian lifestyle. It just doesn’t taste good. You might be thinking that it is just my opinion, but you should know that I like most foods except for anything with dill in it and lima beans. No more faux meat for me. I’m sticking with beans, tempeh and I will keep working on tofu.

I have a complaint about yet another ingredient substitute. The citrus vinaigrette recipe came from It calls for 1/3 cup of parmesan cheese. I found a vegan version of parmesan at the grocery store. The first time I made this vinaigrette, I added the cheese per the recipe. I was skeptical because the cheese didn’t smell all that good and the taste was a little sketchy, but I was optimistic that combined with other ingredients you would never know it wasn’t real parmesan. Let’s just say that the vinaigrette was made a second time without the faux parmesan cheese and the cheese went in the garbage. Another strikeout for fake food.

Brown Rice Salad

2 cups cooked brown rice
1 sweet onion, chopped into big chunks
1 yellow pepper
1 cup cooked peas
1 cup chopped green leaf lettuce
citrus vinaigrette

1. Toss onion and pepper with olive oil, salt and pepper
2. Roast onion and pepper for 40 minutes in a 400 degree oven. Chop into smaller pieces.
3. Add all ingredients together.
4. Toss with citrus vinaigrette to taste.

Citrus Vinaigrette

1 finely chopped shallot
zest of 1 mandarin orange
juice of 2 mandarin oranges
2/3 cup of olive oil
1 tbsp of white wine vinegar

Mix all ingredients together.


Enjoying My A/C

I’ve been thinking a lot about air conditioning the past couple of days. I spent this weekend at an outdoor wedding (not even the bathrooms had a/c!) and an outdoor birthday party during one of the most debilitating, heat-filled weeks on record for Pennsylvania (and most of the United States). To attest to how hot and humid it was, I took my son outside to play at 8:15am on Thursday morning. My son loves to be outside, begs to be outside, cries to be outside. After 20 minutes of playing, he collected his toys to be put away and waited at the back door for me to let him in the cool, air-conditioned house.

While the heat was uncomfortable and the main topic of conversation at the wedding, it didn’t diminish the good time that we had. After several hours of profusely sweating, the heat eventually eased, and we enjoyed just being outdoors on a summer night. Even at the birthday party, we stayed in the shade, drank a lot of water and went about our afternoon enjoying the party. That doesn’t mean that driving home in an air-conditioned car wasn’t a relief. By Sunday evening, I was actually chilled enough just sitting in my air-conditioned house that I needed a blanket. I guess my body had already started to adjust to the heat from my weekend activities.

Since then, I have been thinking about what the impact of air-conditioning is on our environment. The first story is good news. The Montreal Protocol was established in 1987 to phase out the use of chloroflourocarbons (CFCs). CFCs are actually deplete the ozone. All UN recognized nations have ratified the treaty. In 1992, the Montreal Protocol was amended to include hydrochloroflourocarbons (HCFCs). While HCFCs do not cause as much damage to the ozone as CFCs, they are still harmful. Why is all this important? The refrigerant used in air-conditioners is an HCFC. If you have an air-conditioner older than 1992, it most likely operates by cooling the air using this ozone damaging refrigerant. Consequently, the Montreal Protocol outlines how this refrigerant must be handled during a/c unit servicing and decommissioning to make sure that it can’t negatively affect the environment.

All that is great news in protecting our ozone, but the negative aspect of air-conditioner use that we can’t eliminate is its dependence on energy sources to run. A/C units operate using electricity, which is provided by power companies. Power companies can use a variety of fuel sources to operate, but the most commonly used source is coal. We all know that burning coal produces a dirty exhaust that makes clean air unclean. I’m sure that you can think of a host of other reasons why excessive a/c use can put a strain on our environment because of our dependency on the power company to provide us with electricity.

What can you do to lessen the environmental impact of your air-conditioner:

1.  Produce renewable energy. As a solar panel owner, in the last 12 months, our energy production has completely covered our electric bill except for July and Aug (because of our a/c use!) and January (because we had a lot of snow).
2.  Make sure your windows and doors don’t have any leaks.
3.  Set your thermostat a couple of degrees higher when you’re away or even when you’re home. You can easily adjust from a temperature setting of 74 to 75 degrees. Just think – 75 degree temps outside = gorgeous weather!
4.  If possible, have your house outfitted with multiple zones so that you can adjust your temp settings based on where you spend most of your time. For example, if you spend all of your daytime downstairs, your zone for the upstairs can be cranked up to 80 degrees during the day and vice versa for nighttime.
5.  On those unexpected cooler summer days, turn off your a/c and open up your windows.

A/C use isn’t going anywhere for any of us. If you understand the broad picture of the impacts of a/c use on the environment, you can still enjoy you’re a/c while taking some steps to lessen that environmental impact.

The Vegan Experiment: Day 23

Day 23

Breakfast: Island Vanilla Kashi, soy milk
Snack: Cashews
Lunch: Whole wheat pizza, chips
Dinner:  Black bean burgers with tomato and avocado, polenta fries, peas, and 2 mandarin oranges

Today I have discovered something delicious – polenta fries! I got the idea from Whole Living magazine. You buy pre-made polenta (the kinds that is packaged like sausage). You slice it into fries, toss in olive oil, salt, and pepper and then roast at 450 degrees for 30-40 minutes until crispy. These have a unique flavor and are delicious. We ate them dipped in marinara sauce. Fabulous.

The black bean burger recipe that I have included is one of the best ones that I have made to date, and trust me, I have tried many. This one results in burgers that hold their shape and very flavorful. You can never go wrong with black beans and cumin! Enjoy.

Black Bean Burgers

1/2 red onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves minced
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup oatmeal
1/4 cup + 2 tbsp hummus
1/4 cup corn
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
couple of dashes of hot sauce

1. Saute onion and garlic in olive oil until tender. Add celery, cumin and paprika.
2. Mash about half of the black beans.
3. Mix all the ingredients together and form into patties.
4. Cook in a skillet with olive oil over medium heat until heated through.

The Vegan Experiment: Day 22

Day 22

Breakfast: Kashi Island Vanilla cereal with soy milk
Lunch: Whole wheat pizza, orange
Snack: Crackers and hummus
Dinner: Peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat toast, fruit salad

I’ve lost another pound! Kathy Freston was right when she said that following a vegan diet will help you slim up without even thinking about food portions. I’m also starting my 4th and final week of this experiment. It hasn’t been as difficult as I thought it would be. It helps that I already wasn’t eating meat before I started, but some of the food substitutes have been difficult. I really miss milk. I’m surprised by that. I thought that I would miss other things more, like milk chocolate and cookies. The truth is that I really don’t like soy milk or almond milk. I was thinking about trying rice milk, but I don’t think that it would satisfy my milk craving. I’m sitting here wondering if I could go the rest of my life with milk. That would be a tough change for me to make.

I also had success in finding farro today at Whole Foods. I find it disappointing and frustrating that my grocery store does not carry some of these foods that are so good for you but a little different. I don’t have the opportunity to frequent multiple grocery stores. My regular grocery store isn’t that close to Whole Foods and the Whole Foods isn’t that big, which doesn’t enable me to really do all of my shopping.

How Eating a Steak Can Cause Global Warming

Have you ever thought about how your food choices affect the environment? We’re all aware of the benefits of recycling, driving hybrid cars, and packing our groceries in reusable bags, but have you ever given any thought to the food you eat and its environmental impact? If you haven’t, today is the day to understand what it means to consume different foods.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) just released an assessment of the environmental impact of a variety of protein sources. When you eat a steak, it’s not as simple as butchering a cow to get it on to your dinner plate. The cow needs a place to live until it is slaughtered. This home requires running water which is powered by electricity. It needs farm workers which travel via car to the site. The cow needs to eat, which requires another farm to grow and ship the food. The cow then needs to be transported to a slaughterhouse to be butchered. During this whole process, the cow is eating and emitting methane gases through the digestive process.

Why is methane bad you ask? According to the EPA, methane is 20 times better at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. That translates to methane being much more effective at global warming. When there is large consumption of food that originates from methane producing animals, we are contributing to global warming. Since cows produce methane, the food products that have the largest carbon footprint are beef, lamb, and cheese.

Here are just some of the climatic savings that you can make by eating less meat:

  • Eat 1 less hamburger per week –> Taking your car off the road for 320 miles
  • 4 person family skips meat and cheese 1 day per week –> Taking your car off the road for 5 weeks
  • 4 person family skips steak 1 day per week –> Take your car off the road for 3 months
  • Everyone ate no meat and cheese 1 day per week –> Taking 7.6 million cars off the road or not driving 9.6 billion miles!!!!

Protein sources with the lowest carbon footprint are lentils, tomatoes, milk, and beans. To make a difference, all you have to do is replace a hamburger with a veggie burger 1 day a week or have beans in your taco instead of beef. It’s cost savings for you, and an environmental savings for everyone.

The Vegan Experiment: Day 21

Day 21

Breakfast:  Oatmeal with brown sugar and banana
Lunch:  2 slices of whole wheat toast with peanut butter
Snack:  Cashews
Dinner:  Whole wheat pizza with sauce, roasted onions and roasted green beans

OMG! Roasted green beans are delicious!  I typically only think of roasting the typical roasting vegetables – potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, carrots, beets, etc.  I decided to get a little crazy tonight and roast green beans.  They were so much better than steaming them.  I could have eaten them as a snack.  Combined with the roasted onions and pizza sauce, I didn’t even slightly miss the cheese on my pizza.  It would have masked the flavor of my vegetables. 

My other experience of the day was my search for farro.  I have a recipe for a farro salad that I would like to try and attempted to buy some during my weekly shopping trip.  First of all, you may be asking what farro is.  In a nutshell, it’s a whole grain.  I’ve read that it is compared with barley and can be used interchangeably.  I have barley in pantry but really want to try farro in this dish and see what it tastes like for myself.  It is full of protein and high in fiber but not sold in my grocery store, not even in the natural foods section.  I’m going to search for it tomorrow at Whole Foods and am keeping my fingers crossed that I will find it.  Stay tuned for my review.

The Vegan Experiment: Day 20

Day 20
Breakfast: Oatmeal with brown sugar and raisins, banana
Lunch: Peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat bread, chips, mandarin orange
Snack: Animal crackers
Dinner: Whole wheat pasta with marinara sauce and meat-free ground beef and veggies

First of all, I am still not a fan of faux meat. There is just something about the texture that makes me want to gag. This one was definitely not a winner. It was so bad that I didn’t even save the leftovers. I’m not willing to throw in the towel yet, but I’m slowly working through my options without success. Maybe I’ll just stick to beans as my meat substitute.

Secondly, I want to extol the praises of whole grains. Awhile ago, I read on someone else’s blog that she picks a whole grain and then plans her meal around that item. I thought that was a little weird, but I’m starting to get it. Whole grains make you feel full. This fact is essential to anyone who is trying to master the balance of eating appropriate amounts of food versus feeling hungry. Kathy Freston said in her book that usually has a breakfast of brown rice with nuts and maybe fruit. When I first read that I kind of chuckled, who eats rice for breakfast.? Rice isn’t a breakfast food. I’m learning that maybe it should be. Your body goes for hours overnight without food. It stands to reason that you need to fuel yourself in the mornings with something that is going to be satisfying for a long time.

I just read someone’s blog post today in which she said that she had a rice bowl for breakfast. It sounded really good and inspiring. It may have taken me 20 days to learn this lesson, but whole grains should be part of everyone’s diet daily.