Saturday, March 31, 2012

Humus Havoc

I have finally started to like humus after years of being afraid to even try it. Because I had been eating so much in the past few months I decided it was a great idea to try to make my own. I don't know if it was because I haven't had major failure in the kitchen for a while or if my karma was somehow skewed, but the humus was a mess from the start.

I decided to cook the beans myself instead of using them from a can because it is cheaper and uses less packaging (dried beans vs. canned). The smell of the cooking beans was so bad that I seriously questioned my sanity for thinking that making this on my own was such a brilliant idea. However, things didn't start to really fall apart until I started using the blender. 


The recipe said to use a blender to get a smoother humus, and I dutifully complied. However, after only a few minutes the blender started to smell weird and I was making little progress towards actually breaking down the beans. Once the smell got stronger I called in reinforcements and my mom and I tried to coerce the poor thing into just finishing the job.


No luck. Instead the blender completely stopped working, and refuses to turn on since. I ended up switching to the food processor, which held up to the beans significantly better, to finish the job. 



I am really not sure anyone would call what I made humus (which is why I have left out the recipe). What I made is an incredibly thick, tasteless paste. With some extra oil and cumin I was able to make it palatable, but for now I think I will leave the humus to the professionals. 

Friday, March 30, 2012

Ode to homemade food

Over spring break I have had so much amazing home-cooked food (and not just because someone helped me make it or made it for me). I have come to realize that there are things I can make during the week when I am at school that are fast, nutritious, and delicious. 


Like most people, as soon as I am busy the first thing to go is cooking. During finals week I was living off bread, frozen meals, and canned soup. This quarter I am going to try to make more of my own meals throughout, and not just pasta or quinoa (although I will still be eating them regularly). I think I am finally to the point where I feel comfortable enough making my own meals and I have come to realize that the hour it takes me to cook, eat, and clean is a great way to de-stress and collect my thoughts. 


Check back tomorrow to see my homemade humus!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Adventures in San Francisco: BART

There are few things I hate and fear more than having to drive in the city. But with BART and Caltrain I rarely have to. Even though the BART trains are absolutely disgusting (a study found e. coli on the seats, among other things), I still get excited to take it. I love the convenience of it, and today my mom and I had a great time meeting new people on the packed commute train. 

Image courtesy of MLB Reports

Image courtesy of cyclelicio.us

The one thing that would make me love BART even more (other than it actually being clean) is if it went to more places. The city and part of the East Bay have great service, but the rest of the Bay Area is left lusting after better public transit. I would love to one day be able to take efficient public transit to work. A girl can dream.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Veganomicon's tomato-rice soup with roasted garlic* and navy beans

With the rainy California weather I really wanted a warm, hearty soup. One of my favorite things about soups are how easy they are to make and how long they last. With this one recipe three people can eat it for at least 3 nights, or if I was by myself I could freeze a good portion of it. This soup also has very few ingredients, but was incredibly flavorful and hearty.

Ingredients:
2 bulbs garlic*
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 medium-size yellow onion, diced as small as possible
1 cup long-grain brown rice
1 teaspoon dried majoram
2 teaspoons salt
several pinches ground black pepper
2 (28-ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
1 (15-once) can navy beans, drained and rinsed (about 1 and 1/2 cups)
4 cups vegetable broth (or water)




Recipe:
1a. *I decided not to roast the garlic, but if you do roast it, then preheat the oven to 425 and prep the garlic to be roasted (tutorials are online), otherwise:
1b. Preheat a soup pot over medium heat


2. Saute the onions in the olive oil for 5-7 minutes, until soft and translucent. If you do not roast garlic*, add 6 cloves of minced or pressed garlic in with the onion.



3. Add the rice, bay leaves, thyme, marjoram, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes.



4. Add crushed tomatoes, four cups of vegetable broth or water, and fill one of the 28-ounce cans with water once and pour it into the soup.


5. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to medium-low or low, cover, and simmer for about 45 minutes until the rice is cooked. 



6. Add the beans, turn off the heat, and wait until the beans are heated through before removing the bay leaves and serving. 






This recipe is quite possibly my favorite tomato soup. It has complete protein in it with the rice and beans and it definitely isn't lacking in flavor. Thanks Veganomicon!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Adventures in San Francisco: Treasure Island Flea

Yesterday my parents and I decided to visit the Treasure Island Flea in San Fransisco. The flea market is hosted in the 1939 Historic San Francisco World's Fair building on Treasure Island, and to be honest most of the allure of the flea to us was the location. I had never been to the Island before, and the entire concept intrigued me. 


The Island itself is a man-made island that was created for the World's Fair, but later used as a naval base in World War II. We drove around the island and although some areas are rented out and people live there, most of the island looks like something right out of a zombie apocalypse with boarded up windows and moss/mold covered empty windows. 


Image courtesy of Skyscrapercity.com

The flea market itself was the fanciest flea market I have ever been to. Outside the building food trucks were lined up and people were willing to stand in the rain to get a taste. 


Image courtesy of Treasure Island Flea

Inside there was a random assortment of things from jewelry to the typical used clothes and household items. The building was packed full of people and stuff for sale. 



Unfortunately I forgot the camera at home, so sorry for the grainy cell phone photos. 


Across the way from the main building there was a large warehouse that was portioned off with a stunning winery in one side. The building was beautiful and winery itself was drawing quite the crowd. 





Flea markets are a great way to find used items or your next new treasure. We came home with a great new tablecloth and some cloth napkins. By the crowds it's safe to say that flea markets are no longer a place for trash and are becoming a popular way to find what you are looking for. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Vegetarian inspiration

My first vegetarian cookbook was the Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat Favorites. Now that I am home on spring break it is time to dig it out and make some of my favorites. Part of why I love this cookbook so much (other than the pure fact that it is vegetarian) is that it holds a variety of foods from breakfast to dessert and many different Asian, Spanish (and more) inspired foods. With a week to do what I want, I can't wait to get in the kitchen and get my hands dirty.


Image courtesy of Veggin'

A great thing about most vegetarian cookbooks, and this one too, is how easy the recipes are to make vegan. Check out these past posts for some recipes from the Moosewood Cookbook: Homemade Veggie Burgers and Black Bean Chilaquile.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Paper towel waste

It amazes me how obsessed the U.S. is with paper towels. Even though we have real towels and cloths in our closets that could do the job just as well, if not even better, than a paper towel, we insist on spending money on the disposable version. 

I have started weaning my roommates off paper towels, and I am currently working on a research project that will hopefully decrease the amount of paper towels used on campus. In every bathroom at SCU there are paper towels, and I have heard there are hand dryers in a few, but I have yet to see any (I have been in most buildings on campus, especially the new ones). 

As part of my research project my partner and I created reminders for people that you only need 2 pumps from the dispenser to dry your hands, which is about 8-10 inches of paper towel. We went through the paper towel "trash" from the weight room and bathrooms of the gym on campus and the results we found were shocking. 

Before we put up reminders people used an average of 24 inches. Average! That's insane! It's 3 times as much as you need. After our prompts the average fell to 16 inches. Although there is a lot of room for other factors and error, it's a positive step. But even with our prompts someone used a paper towel that was 63 inches long or 5 feet 3 inches – that's only 2 inches shorter than I am! Who in the world needs that much paper towel? And they didn't even use the whole thing.

Next time you reach for paper towels (and you have no other option) use as little as possible and remember only 8-10 inches (about 2 pumps).

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Dangers of red meat

All red meat is bad for you, no matter what the serving size, according to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times. A study that followed more than 110,000 adults for more than 20 years has found significant correlation between eating red meat and the chance of dying. Even just adding a 3-ounce serving of unprocessed red meat (no bigger than a deck of cards) daily was enough to increase the chance of dying by 13 percent during the course of the study.


According to the article, "All red meat is bad for your, new study says:"
"Even worse, adding an extra daily serving of processed red meat, such as a hot dog or two slices of bacon, was linked to a 20% higher risk of death during the study.

"Any red meat you eat contributes to the risk," said An Pan, a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston and lead author of the study, published online Monday in the Archives of Internal Medicine."
 
So what are your options? Obviously not eating red meat would be best:
"Eating a serving of nuts instead of beef or pork was associated with a 19% lower risk of dying during the study. The team said choosing poultry or whole grains as a substitute was linked with a 14% reduction in mortality risk; low-fat dairy or legumes, 10%; and fish, 7%."
What is it about red meat that makes it so bad for your health? Researchers have hypothesized that the nitrates and nitrites used to preserve them, the chemicals created by high-temptertaure cooking, and the iron and saturated fat in the meat may be to blame. 


If you really are absolutely unwilling to cut red meat out of your diet at all costs, the researchers recommend limiting yourself to one or two servings of red meat per week and to eliminate all bacon or other processed meats (such as hot dogs). 

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Finals stress

With finals beating down my door I am drowning in what feels like endless stress. One of the worst parts about finals is how long they drag on for. For some classes I will end up studying or writing a paper over a week or more. 


To deal with some extra stress I have been cleaning. It's amazing how much better I will feel after cleaning the kitchen floor or unloading the dishwasher real fast. I can study for hours and then see progress after only a few minutes of scrubbing. To finish something and actually see progress makes the biggest difference.


What do you like to do to relieve some stress?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Veganomicon

Before I went back to college this year I had very little interest in cooking. I thought it took way too long and was ridiculously dangerous. (You may laugh now, but think about the last time you burned or cut yourself, or when you saw someone who cooks on TV slice their finger open. The open flames alone is enough to make anyone a little apprehensive.). Throughout high school and my first two years of college I refused to learn to cook or help. I truly believed that toast and mac and cheese out of a box were hot meals. 

Now that I am no longer forced to eat the gross food in the dining hall, my desire to cook has grown enormously. I no longer view it as a nuisance, but rather as a skill that increases my independence. It is also a perfect activity for people who like instant self-gratification, especially those who like to eat.

At this point I have been feeding myself for well over six months and I am starting to get incredibly tired of the few things I can make. I bought the recipe book "Veganomicon" after a recommendation from someone I interviewed for my upcoming project on veganism. 

Image courtesy of Post Punk Kitchen

When I first saw the book it was love at first sight. The front cover is colorful and beautiful, while the book itself is packed full of hundreds of vegan recipes that are well organized and simple to make. 

I don't think I have ever been so excited to have time to cook. This book means I won't have to be bored all of the time, and the recipes that can be done in 45 minutes or less will become my new go-to meals. From desserts (most important, obviously) to main courses and snacks, "Veganomicon" makes vegan cooking easy, flavorful, and fun for everyone, not just vegans. (Keep your eye out for all the things I will make after my finals next week.)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Flexivegan

With my recent project on veganism (a magazine piece that I will link to or post when it's published), a lot of people have been asking me if I am vegan. So here it is, my complicated explanation. 


I have been vegetarian for six years. My original reason for going vegetarian was because meat really freaks me out. I don't see the difference between eating an animal and chewing on human flesh. I am also lactose intolerant, so I rarely, if ever, eat dairy. So why am I not vegan? Well, to a certain degree I am. I eat vegan for many meals, but if something was made with a slight bit of whey, milk, or other animal products, I will still eat it. I will also eat desserts or other items made with eggs.


I have recently been exploring vegan alternatives to many of these items, and although I have mostly cut out butter from my daily meals, as of right now I don't see myself going completely vegan (although I do not use products tested on animals or buy things made out of animal products when I can avoid it). It is too frustrating to not be able to eat something because it has a small amount of an animal product in it, or make people feel horrible when you are a guest in their house and you can't eat anything they made. It is already such a struggle for friends and family to be able to meet my dietary needs, and to add one more thing in would cause a lot of problems.


To all of the vegans out there, I completely admire you, and perhaps one day I will go completely vegan, but for now I am happy the way things are. I will continue to eat as little animal products as possible without sweating the small stuff. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Wangari Maathai: environmental leader

In honor of international women's day I wanted to honor one of the many influential women in the global environmental movement. Wangari Muta Maathai won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her work in Kenya with her Green Belt Movement to become the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Maathai led the grassroots organization and the women in it to plant more than 20 million trees on farms, schools and church compounds. 


Image courtesy of The Green Belt Movement

Maathai is internationally known and recognized for her work for human rights, democracy, environmental conservation and women's rights. As the first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a doctorate degree, Maathai not only encouraged women through her work, but paved the way for many more to follow through her personal achievements. Although she died in 2011, her legacy will live on to inspire women and men around the world to create lasting change.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Addicting smoothies

I am absolutely in love with smoothies. I have had one every day since Saturday, and I have no plans of stopping any time soon. I started making smoothies to get an extra boost of protein and a few more servings of fruit all in one quick hit. 


Simple, but healthy recipe:


- 1 carton soy yogurt (or dairy if you wish) for protein, to make it really flavorful I have been using flavored yogurt of the main fruit I am using (in other words peach for a peach and strawberry smoothie, berry for a berry smoothie)
- as much frozen fruit as you want (I usually use a cup or more)
- a splash of soy or flax milk to loosen up the mixture






Monday, March 5, 2012

Doomed and depressed

One of the biggest problems standing in the way of drastic change to prevent climate change is the depression that comes with the increased knowledge and research on the severity of the problem. Around the world people are already seeing and feeling the effects of climate change. The reality that is facing our species (humans) and all other living organisms on the planet is dreary. And yet one of the worst things we can do is become apathetic or downtrodden in the face of our growing problem. 


I was in the newsroom one morning during parents weekend and a student's father came in to talk to us. He wanted us to create an environmental column in the newspaper (which I have been dreaming about for at least a year), but he started off by saying "your generation is going to be the last humans here." (not quite an exact quote, it was early and I didn't want to be weird and write it down...) As much as my friends and I joke that I am a debbie downer, even this was too much for me (not to mention the scientific inaccuracies, unless he really believes in 2012 as the end of the world). 


Image courtesy of Technorati

So what do we do when it looks like the world is falling apart at the seams and we will be one of the many to go? Instead of giving in to apathy or doomsday predictions we need to ignite our passion and our drive that is so unique to humans and start making changes. Although we need large, drastic changes, we also need individuals to make small, lasting changes as well. We have the tools, we just need to start getting everyone to use them. 


Image courtesy of Quatar Academy

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Sustainable shopping

With six people living in our apartment, especially since 4 are college athletes and 2 of us are just athletes, we go through a ridiculous amount of food. Yesterday I came home to two of my roommates screaming like they were being murdered and telling me that they were so hungry they were getting delusional. Perhaps we should have gone grocery shopping a little sooner.


Today three of us went out and bought bulk goods for everyone and groceries for ourselves. We bought bread, milk (for them), eggs, and snacks in bulk at a big box store to save on money and packaging. Earlier in the year we each bought our own bread, etc. and it not only took up a ridiculous amount of room (especially to have 4 cartons of eggs and milk in the fridge), but more often than not we couldn't finish what we had bought and it would go to waste. By eating more like a typical family would (in other words sharing food), we are able to cut down on our food waste, have a more communal feel to our kitchen, and save some money! What more could college kids ask for?


What can you do?
1. Share food! Buy things in bulk, or even the regular size and split them with other people. If you don't have a ton of roommates like I do, neighbors or friends are a great option too.


2. Be sure that you aren't sacrificing quality or sustainability for money. Just because it's 50 cents cheaper doesn't mean it's better than the product that is organic, local, and/or comes in better packaging.


3. Watch out for things you wouldn't normally buy. It can be incredibly tempting to buy the biggest thing of jelly beans because if you are all going to split it it's not that many right? Stick to your list and you will be fine.


4. Farmers markets are also a great place to buy produce in bulk and share the wealth. 


4. Don't forget to bring your reusable bags!