July 30, 2012

The Jack of All Trades, the Polymath, and a Recipe for Non-Cooks

The blogs that I admire reflect the love they put into it, and it's really great to see people pick up new interests through their blogs. Some bloggers become better writers, more easily expressing themselves with wit and candor. Some find their niche and succeed in promoting their blog because it is of mutual benefit. An eye for photography develops, friendships are forged and communities built, entrepreneurial fires are lit. Mediocrity retreats from motivational drive, passion, visionary paths. The Jack (or Jill) of All Trades succumbs to the ever-growing expertise.

One of the things about this blog that is most exciting to me is the chance to delve into photography. It's been an interest I've had for a long time but one I've had to table for the sake of other interests. I've always chosen to play another instrument, participate in a new sport, learn my way around the kitchen, or spin clay into beautiful shapes. My passion to do these things has always out-passioned my desire to experiment with a camera. With that said, I don't expect to take prize-winning snapshots anytime soon. I do hope to catch a glimpse of beauty in my pictures rather than just snap to get it over with, but it will take some time to refine them. My hope is that when I look back at my blog beginnings, honing photography skills will be one of many accomplishments I'll see. And on a tight budget like mine, I'll get the added challenge of using an old digital camera and/or my phone. I'm up for it! You don't need the best tools to create something beautiful when you have ambition. It certainly helps, but its not a necessity.

So, hey let's give it a whirl. Below is a picture of a dinner I made the other night. I was in a hurry, and I was in desperate need of a grocery trip. For those who haven't been bitten by the cooking bug, this one's for you. There's nothing fancy about it. It's not really a recipe, per se, but more of a formula. It's versatile in that you can use any other vegetables, herbs, or condiments that you have in your house. You can substitute a raw pate, hummus, or leftover grains and avocado in place of the burger if you wish. 

 

A note on the raw collard wrapper: After I rinse and destem the collard leaves, I soak them in lemon juice and salt to make them more pliable and take out the bitter bite. It's the same concept as is used for a massaged kale salad. I let it sit for about 15 minutes while I am prepping all of the ingredients, rinse it off, pat it dry, fill it up, and roll away.

If you don't have 15 minutes, you can steam the collard leaf for a minute or two or use it as is if you don't mind the bitterness of the raw leaf. Also, you can pour boiling water over the sun-dried tomatoes to hasten the softening process or simply use fresh tomatoes. I've gotten some unbelievably delicious tomatoes in my CSA these past couple weeks. 

I served it with a side of cucumber sticks and leftover tahini sauce. Lately I've been eating cucumbers in everything all day long. It goes in my juices, smoothies, wraps, salads, and on-the-go snacks. It's definitely a food to get hooked on when the temperature and humidity are so high all the time. Watermelon, you're next!

Quick and Easy Collard Wrap

1 collard leaf
1/2 lemon, for soaking the leaf
1 Garden Herb Sunshine Burger
1/2- 3/4c veggies (I used red bell pepper and thinly sliced zucchini)
5 sun-dried tomatoes, soaked and chopped
small handful of greens
basil, chiffonade
parsley, chopped
squirt of mustard

Instructions:

-Clean leaf. Trim edge of the stem and shave off the raised portion so it is almost level with the leaf.
-Squeeze lemon juice and sprinkle salt on the leaf. Spread over leaf and into crevices. Flip and repeat.
-Place sun-dried tomatoes in water and set aside.
-Cook burger or grains if using.
-Slice vegetables, herbs and set aside
-Chop sun-dried tomatoes once they are soft
-Rinse salt and lemon off leaves, pat dry with a towel, and lay flat on cutting board.
-Place burger (or hummus, grains and avocado, nut pate) on one side of the stem
-Top with all other ingredients
-Roll up like a burrito or fold like a taco.


Are there any satisfying meals that you've put together on the fly? Does being low on groceries get your creative juices flowing? Are there any interests that you haven't had time to explore but are anxious to fit into your life?

July 21, 2012

A Vegan Love Fest: On Social Media and Animal Advocacy

In my first post, I mentioned the tendency for introverts to shine through the means of social media. Well, the ubiquitousness of social media facilitates this strength even further. People are able to broadcast their message widely without having to partake in nerve-inducing events like public speaking engagements or fast-paced back-and-forth debate sessions. While it's important for introverts like me to work on being as effective as possible when conveying my message in public, it's nice not to have to rely on this form of interaction all the time. As I was putting the finishing touches on my blog last week, I tuned in to a free online summit. A common piece of advice given was to not underestimate the power of social media in the quest to end suffering, cruelty, and the devastation on this planet.

Veganpalooza was a free summit organized by Steve Prussak of Raw Vegan Radio and Will Tuttle, author of The World Peace Diet. It was a week-long vegan love fest chock full of confidence, spunk, inspiration, and nuggets of wisdom. Prussak's Rawpalooza summit this past winter was fantastic, and I was certain that he was going to throw another great event. Well, it was more than great. 

I want to again highlight something that was said by virtually every speaker: We compassionate vegans must take advantage of social media. I am so thankful that someone like me who isn't tech savvy can occupy my own dot com space to voice my concerns about the injustices done on and to this planet. It's been hard to find my place presently in the animal rights movement because of my physical limitations. (Thank you, adrenals.) Luckily, writing on this blog is something that my exhausted adrenals can't stop me from doing. (Take that, adrenals.) With my words here, I am doing my part. Not my only part, but the one I am capable of right now. What kinds of things are you doing right now to shape a better world?

July 20, 2012

Sizzling Summer Potlucks and Trying New Foods

When my love affair with raw foods was still in its infancy, I made an effort to pick up 3 or 4 foods a month that I'd never eaten before. I had a lot of fun making recipes with these new-to-me items and am still amazed at all the different foods out there that I've yet to try. (Yet another example of how a vegan diet isn't all iceberg lettuce and tofu.) A bit of time had gone by since I'd tried something new, and the adventurous side of me was craving it.

On one sweltering evening a few weeks ago, the heat index reaching about 104 degrees, my partner J and I attended a raw food potluck in the park. If it was much hotter, our food may have crossed the line from raw to cooked, am I right? Too much? Ok, all joking aside, the spread of food looked fabulous – like a produce section. That's what I like to see! There was a ton of fruit, a large bed of sprouts, a couple different salads, and a fruit and nut crumble. I brought cucumber noodles with a tomato orange dressing. The dish was so refreshing. I have no idea what took me so long to spiralize cukes!

As we exited the car, I paused for a moment to absorb the beautiful surroundings. We were on a hilltop enveloped by trees and could see some city landmarks peeking out on the horizon. After spending so much of my time in a stagnant world of concrete and brick, I never tire of the rejuvenating charge that nature gives me when I set my feet in the grass, breathe in the fresh air, listen to bird songs, and watch the playful chipmunks bounce around. We walked over to the picnic area and noticed that everyone was gathered around one table feasting on the orange flesh of an unfamiliar fruit.

That night at the potluck I got a chance to try jackfruit for the first time. Before I continue, I should mention that I love eating with my hands. And though I am a very clean person in general, I don't mind the messiness. I actually find it to be a very meditative and mindful practice. I'm not talking about using your hand as a shovel to stuff your mouth with potato chips. I mean that I find it meditative to eat my mango caribbean-style, scoop up spicy veggies and legumes with injera (even more special when sharing with others), pick apart a freshly steamed artichoke leaf by leaf. The sense of touch is amazing in so many ways, and in this case, it triggers a process of full appreciation for the food that is nourishing me.

So, back to the jackfruit. This fruit tree is indigenous to Southeast Asia. The outside looks like a large honeydew with little spikes. As it ripens, the color turns brown and the spikes soften. I didn't arrive to the picnic before the jackfruit was cut open, but the outside of it is said to have a strong onion-like odor when it's ripe. Don't worry though, the inside has a sweet, pleasant smell. When you cut it open, the fruit is encased in a pulp of sticky latex. I'd advise you not to use your best knife for this job. Also, I've read that oiling your hands can prevent them from looking like you got in a fight with a tube of Elmer's glue. Cut and core the fruit like you would a cabbage. Pick through the pulp to find orange orbs of fruit, looking much like gigantic corn kernels, with a large pit inside. Peel any pulp off the fruit, remove the pit, and enjoy! Depending on it's size, a jackfruit can have hundreds of bulbs of fruit in one shell, so it's the perfect communal food. Needless to say, good conversation was had around the jackfruit table.

The many varieties that grow vary in sweetness. I thought it tasted reminiscent of cantaloupe, but the flavor was more subtle. Someone at the potluck said that it was the inspiration for Juicy Fruit gum. It's been years since I've had that gum, but I could discern that flavor in the fruit.  

What was most interesting to me about the jackfruit is its versatility. It's not only eaten raw when in a ripened state, but the unripe fruit can be used for cooking. It has a meaty, chewy texture that I've never known a fruit to have. I can see why it would be used as the meat component in curries and other traditional dishes of its origin. Jackfruit is also used to make other things like chips, dried fruit snacks, and custard. The plant yields much more than precious fruit bulbs: the leaves are served as a vegetable and also used for topical medicinal purposes, the rind can be used to make jelly, the latex is used as a glue/cement, and the wood of the tree is a termite-proof, anti-fungal material of the highest quality that is used for constructing many things.

The seeds are a wonder on their own and are edible if sun-dried, boiled, roasted, or preserved. They're not recommended to be eaten raw because of a trypsin inhibitor in the seed. They're a great source of protein, carbohydrate, thiamine, and riboflavin. The latter two are B vitamins. Thiamine, or B1, is an important vitamin for those like me who suffer from adrenal fatigue. It's also essential in maintaining a healthy nervous system and protecting the heart. Riboflavin, or B2, is particularly important for skin and eye health and growth processes of the body's tissues (Think about it. There are a lot of them). They both also aid in the conversion of carbohydrates into energy. So, nature provided these seeds with vitamins that help convert the high starch content into energy inside your body. How cool is that?

All in all, J and I had a fantastic time at the potluck. Our company was an admirable mix of people doing such interesting things with their lives. I'm looking forward to the next one!

Are there any unfamiliar foods that pique your interest? Have you tried any exciting new foods recently?

July 17, 2012

Welcome

Welcome!

I've carried a notebook and pen with me everywhere for as long as I can remember. It's been great for me creatively and emotionally. In the last year, I have written a myriad of journal entries that were begging to be set free from the confines of my moleskine. Unfortunately, I don't have many friends who get giddy talking about heme vs. nonheme iron or longevity cultures. Since I spend a lot of time perusing blogs, I know it's a great way to reach people who would be interested in talking about those things. At the same time, this blog will be an enjoyable avenue through which I can express myself and be an advocate for the animals.

I had a slight hesitation about blogging because of my reserved nature. This hesitation lasted but a moment because I subsequently came across an article posted last month on the Our Hen House website. Angela G. Colantonio wrote a review of a book called “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking” as it pertains to animal activism. I had heard Jasmin and Mariann's review of the book on their podcast and was curious to read a review from the animal rights perspective. It is well worth your time to check out the review because Colantonio does a great job putting a vegan slant on Cain's observations. She also makes mention of author Susan Cain's statement on the introvert's communication style. She says, “...Cain points out, introverts express their opinions best through writing, which allows them to excel in new spheres of social media.” In other words, ditch the fear and get busy writing! After reading the review, my excitement for this blog grew. I did a little happy dance andpromptly got in queue for Cain's book at my local library.

I hope to use this blog to pose intriguing questions and inspire intelligent dialogue, be a voice for the animals, and proclaim the joys of a high-raw vegan diet. I anticipate the chance to grow with my readers through engaging discussion and debate. Most of all I look forward to being a part of a community of bloggers who feel just as strongly as I do about animals, health and nutrition. This will surely prove to be a fun endeavor for me and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.