Sunday, February 20, 2011

Going Almost-Vegetarian Part 2

A year and a half ago I wrote here about my difficulty in sticking to a diet relatively free of factory-farmed meat. I've been having a lot more success with this lately. Partly because I no longer live with a meat-eater and have more control over what I eat, but also partly because I experienced a mental shift toward vegetarianism.

For years I lived with an avid carnivore and consequently ate plenty of meat. At home I cooked a lot of quality grass fed/sustainably raised meat from farmers markets. Braised lamb shanks. Meatballs. Bison steak. G rilled pork chops. Perfectly crisp bacon for curing hangovers. And so on. For dinners out, I often ate at Brooklyn's many new-american-local-seasonal restaurants where I was happy to order meat. But I also found myself at average restaurants with lackluster vegetarian options or at family or friend's homes where I felt bad turning down non-vegetarian food they'd prepared - which is where it got tricky.

When I started cooking for just myself several months ago, I decided to eat less meat - only when my body craved it for nutrients. However, I realized that I rarely crave it. Instead, I'm eating a lot of roasted vegetables, eggs, cheese (pizza!), and beans, which satisfies me. When I go to the farmers market, I have no desire to buy meat for myself, nor do I want to spend the added expense on it. Moreover, I've even found that when I try a bite of a friend's sandwich or sample a free meat and cheese plate at work, it doesn't taste as satisfying as I expect - for the most part. Every now and then I'll still enjoy meat, like Fette Sau barbecue last week, which is oh so good and comes from organic and small family farms.

I don't think it's realistic for everyone to become a vegetarian. I just think we should be more conscious about where the meat on our plate comes from and eat less of it. So many people go to a deli and mindlessly order a turkey sandwich without thinking about all the implications.

On top of all the water pollution, excessive antibiotic usage, deforestation, and methane and carbon dioxide emissions related to factory farming, I also recently learned that meat eaters intake higher levels of carcinogenic chemicals called dioxins - industrial byproducts that end up in the air, water, and soil, and in higher levels in animals because they are bio-accumulative. Something to think about next time you're ordering lunch at the deli.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The 20 Lessons of Moving from Brooklyn to Boulder

Remember my friend Gina, who left Brooklyn a year and a half ago for a fresh start in Boulder? Well she gave a funny and inspiring talk about the lessons she learned along the way, as part of Ignite Boulder's monthly series of quirky 5 minute presentations. This video made me smile when I first saw it. When you take a risk, you are never sure what you're going to get, which is why I am so happy for her that she was able to create a good life there, and that we both found our way out of our ruts to venture forward in life's journey. I had the pleasure of visiting her in Colorado this fall and at some point (hopefully) soon, I will share my own Brooklyn versus Boulder experiences from my visit here on this blog.

So check out her video below. Gina's words are guaranteed to make you smile too and maybe even take a chance of your own. The big takeaway - If it's reversible, just do it!

"Drugs, Sex, Love, and Environmentalism: 20 Things I Learned During My Move from NY to Boulder"

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Experimenting

I haven't have a whole lot of time or inclination for cooking or blogging lately, as music making has been edging out other activities as a priority. So it makes me happy when I manage to find an occasion to cook something new rather than the tried and true like yesterday's post.


I had some delicious soft and slightly sweet bread at Spring Street Natural a few weeks ago that we deduced to be sweet potato bread. I experimented with making my own recently, adapting the potato bread recipe from my trusty copy of Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book. And my new apartment came with a dutch oven(!), which makes it easy to achieve this beautiful crust without needing to adapt my slow cooker crock with aluminum foil. I used one medium sweet potato in my version, and the flavor came out nice but a little too subtle, so I'd like to experiment again with a greater proportion of mashed yams.


I also tried my hand at homemade veggie burgers for the first time recently. I don't know why I'd never done this before...I guess I thought it was more complicated, but it really is as easy as throwing beans and a few other ingredients in a food processor, forming patties, and frying them. I forgot to snap pictures, but I made vegan black bean burgers with onion, garlic, cumin and other spices, and oats instead of bread crumbs. Well, they were vegan until I added cheese on top. It was a winning combination together with toasted slices of sweet potato bread and mustard.


I would have liked my burgers to be less mushy on the inside, which seems like a common problem with veggie burgers - does anyone have any tips on that? My sister recommended incorporating wheat gluten for consistency. I will be experimenting with homemade veggie burgers more now that I have become an almost vegetarian (more on that another day), so I'll report back once I settle on a recipe or two I like.