Monday, April 20, 2015

Gooeyness, Creamyness, Deliciousness, and a Rant

A vegan equivalent to eggs benedict isn't just a fantasy. It's real, and it's delicious.

I made another quiche this morning. This time I didn't have any artichoke hearts and not a whole lot of spinach, so I was forced to branch out. Besides the small amount of spinach I did have, I ended up adding some well-chopped broccoli, cauliflower, yellow carrot, and a few heaping tablespoons of fake parmesan. Now, when the quiche first comes out of the oven, it's super creamy and thick, and reminds me of a hollandaise sauce. That's where the benedict inspiration strikes. Hungry for lunch, and unwilling to wait the time it can take for the quiche to completely cool and set, I ran with it.

I had some apple-smoked fake sausage in the fridge that I cut into slices lengthwise and laid across half a piece of naan. I broiled this until it was warm and crispy, then smeared some fresh-from-the-oven still-gooey quiche over the top of it and broiled for a few more minutes.

It didn't taste a whole lot like traditional eggs benedict, but the mouthfeel was creamy and the flavor was savory and salty in the most perfect way. Mm.

I would also like to share my recent pinto bean revelation. I like to make them from dried when I can, but wondered why my beans never came out as nice as canned. The texture was never quite creamy, they would go from hard, to soft and a little grainy, to mushy. I had a different experience altogether the last time I made them, though, and let me tell you what I did. I soaked the dried beans overnight in cold, salted water. I did not boil the water, and I did not rinse the beans after soaking. I cooked them the next day until they were soft. They came out perfectly cooked, with the skins nicely intact, and the loveliest creamy texture, even nicer than canned.

Now please allow me a moment of complaint. Yesterday, I shared my dinner plans with a neighbor and he got super rude. It went like this:

Me: We're grilling hot dogs tonight! I've got an urge for a chili-cheese dog and we got all the ingredients vegan! I'm excited!

Him: Oh. (face-making)

Me: It'll be good!

Him: That's an oxymoron.

Me: What is?

Him: "Good" and "vegan". Those don't go together in a sentence.

Me: Aw, don't be closed-minded! That's sad!

I was trying to stay jovial about it, but it still devolved into him calling vegans rude and angry, and me saying I've met way more rude meat-eaters than vegans (CASE IN POINT), to which he replied that he was happy for me??? Which I guess is sarcastic, but I'm too old to give a fuck frankly, so I gave up and let the other meat-eaters nearby (who had heard this bizarre exchange) school him for me. And later that evening, one of them tried a vegan chili-cheese dog and proclaimed it delicious! SO I WIN! :D

I'm proud of my mostly vegan diet; I don't hide my preference for avoiding animal products, and I can get excited when I tell someone about some tasty dish I made entirely from plants that I perhaps could not have even conceived of in my pre-vegan days. It's a thing that makes me happier. Now, I don't shame others for consuming animal products (I'm only mostly-vegan myself, anyway) or intrusively inform people about my morals regarding their diet, but it sometimes seems like an impossible request to ask some meat-eaters to give me the same respect. I got comments as a vegetarian, but now that I am rejecting the cheese and ice cream, it is really being taken personally.

Happily, there are so many more people who don't make weird comments, who don't make fun of me, who ask perfectly polite questions or who simply ignore our dietary differences, because it's no one's business but our own what we eat, amirite? Those people are delightful, and if you are one of those people, we should be friends.


Friday, April 17, 2015

The Dentist

I went to the dentist and it was awful.

I've been putting of the dentist for years. Too many years, it seems, because I have quite a few cavities. Many people I've spoken with recently say that going to the dentist is torture, and I would agree, but I very much want to challenge these people get their cavities filled with a migraine. My dentist had to stop after one filling because my shaking and crying was making it difficult for her to work. For the record, I would have withstood at least one more, but I can't help my body's reaction to extreme pain. I was recommended to sedation dentistry, but I don't know how much that costs, or if denti-cal will cover it. I believe firmly that they should, but what's right and what's covered aren't at all the same things.

The dentist could have done a few things to improve my experience. I told them I was nervous because I had a migraine and that I was somewhat needle-phobic. I asked the doctor to warn me before she stuck me. She didn't. Instead, she told me to close my eyes, then poked me repeatedly while grabbing my cheek hard and speaking to me in a soft, gentle voice. That last part was fine, actually, but without any warning, I couldn't help but feel frightened by the surprise needle in my mouth. Despite my best efforts at remaining calm, I could only take four stabs before I started panicking.

If she had warned me before starting, or counted down the number and the durations of each stick, I honestly think I could have dealt with it easily by breathing and forcing my muscles to relax. This has worked pretty well for me in the past, and as long as I felt I could trust the person doing this awful thing to me (ie blood draws, pap smears, vaccinations) I would get through it with minimal tears and we'd all part friends. But by ignoring my simple requests, she obliterated any natural trust I might have had; and even after my initial, very evident panic, she totally dismissed my repeated pleas for warning of what she was going to do in my mouth. She insisted it would make me MORE fearful, and I would tense up MORE at her warnings. I couldn't get her to listen. She made it clear I couldn't trust her, and I couldn't relax.

She came back a while later, after the novocaine had kicked in, and started work. As I already mentioned, there was shaking and crying. I don't know if I can explain what it feels like to have a drill grinding in my tooth with a migraine. The dentist tried to stop early on, said we should reschedule for when I don't have a migraine. With tears streaming down my face, I sobbed that I ALWAYS have a migraine, it would never go away, and if she could do the work, I could take it. Then I put my head back and opened my mouth, ready for the torture. She finished the one cavity she'd started, then disappeared into another part of the building, probably to drink herself into a stupor.

The poor thing had spent most of my polishing and prep telling me about how far dentistry had come, and how the needles are the worst part. I had tried to tell her that wasn't my real issue, but I don't think she was at all prepared for how intense it would get. While she worked, she tried soothing me with that soft voice again, and it was rather nice, "You're doing great, darling, we're almost done." Near the end, even softer than her other reassurances, she said once, "You are a very strong woman." At the time, if I could have laughed, I would have. I didn't feel strong, not even an iota. I was a complete wreck and wasn't aware of a thing except the impossible pain coming from my head, my boyfriend's hand in mine, and her voice. But looking back, I am a fucking badass. Who willingly lays back and allows an unpredictable stabber to inflict pain at a level beyond explanation? Me. At the time I thought the dentist was patronizing me, but in hindsight, I think she meant it.

But yeah, sedation dentistry. It's another ball of worries, but I think it's the better option for me, and for my poor dentist.


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Food Photos

I hate my current cameras. I have a point and shoot and the camera on my smartphone and both are just terrible. There is hope for the future of my photography hobby, but for now, we will enjoy the best I can do. Which is a little blurry.

I snapped a shot of one of my macro bowls.

Except it's a macro plate, I guess. This one is pretty kale heavy, but excessive garlic powder and those seared mushrooms cover any bitterness nicely. Also featuring brown rice and chickpeas.

I was so proud of this pizza, I joyfully took a before-cooking pic:

but then I ate it before it occurred to take an after shot. It was gorgeous, and tasted incredible. Under those portabello mushroom slices is a layer of savory pesto. This dish is one of those that saved me during my intense IC diet, and I'm just so happy I live in a world where just a handful of ingredients can transport my heart to a place of bliss. I mean, portabellos and pesto. There is no happier combination.

I've got a wee garden going in our yard!

I've already had to do some pest control, and I'm afraid the deer are going to trample our pathetic fence as soon as they notice those fresh, tender baby greens, but I'm also hopeful for a summer filled with fresh kale and chard, and maybe more if we get our butts in gear on raised beds.

We also have an accidental potato patch in the compost bin.

I knew this would happen when I tossed green potatoes in there, I don't keep it nearly hot enough to kill the sprouts. The plants aren't growing a whole lot of potatoes so far, there isn't much sun where they are, but it's pretty amazing to watch them try.


Sunday, April 5, 2015

Chickpeas Mostly, But Also: Hot Dogs and Cheeze

Vegan quiche remains half my diet.

I exaggerate, but I have been eating a piece every morning. Scrambled like eggs, on top of toast, or most recently, sandwiched with some daiya cheddar on a biscuit. They were totally reminiscent of McDonald's breakfast sandwiches, but way better. They were so good, it was painful to finish them. The biscuits weren't vegan, so it's not something I want to eat often. I need to find vegan biscuits.

Speaking of vegan junk food, I've got the biggest craving for hot dogs! I'm going to get some veggie ones and indulge the craving, since it doesn't come around often. I missed being able to eat soy, it gives me so many more options. I'm really looking forward to a chili dog with cheeze, but I've never met a hot dog topping I didn't like. It's gonna be a party.

Not being able to eat soy did introduce me to Quorn, so I guess there was a bright side. I adore their chicken bites. Most recently, I used them to make ramen a legit meal, with the help of some chopped bok choy.

The last Whole Foods I went in had Miyoko's, that cashew cheese I'm always raving about (occasionally here, constantly irl). That's my favorite snack right now, eaten with an apple or a pear, the smoked farmhouse is simply heaven.

I made an accidental hummus dressing today. I meant to make regular hummus, but neglected to strain the canned chickpeas before dumping them in the processor. The extra liquid made it way runnier than is appropriate, so I went the salad dressing route with it. I've got two heads of green leaf I need to use up, so I grabbed a bunch of leaves off one of them and peeled a few carrots, tossed it in the dressing (which was 1 can of chickpeas and their water, some peanut butter, pesto, and lemongrass (i'm still a little afraid of citrus)). I wasn't feeling like having a salad plain, so I wrapped it all up in a tortilla! I love salad burritos!

I made asparagus with dill, lemongrass, and garlic powder for dinner tonight. And I scooped some vegan quiche on top of it! No wait, hear me out. The quiche was fresh from the oven, and before it cools, it's very rich and creamy and runny, so eating it with the asparagus was almost like a chunky veggie hollandaise sauce. OMG I need to make a vegan eggs benedict pronto.


Saturday, April 4, 2015

Hiking with a Migraine: I Recommend Not

Had my first truly disabling migraine while hiking alone, and while it didn't last long and I made it home fine, it was a harsh reminder of how badly things can go.

It was a new trail, I'd only been on it once before and I'd been pretty distracted by dogs and conversation so I didn't quite remember the terrain accurately, so it was steeper than I'd anticipated.

The sudden, sharp pain was bad enough to make me worry about being alone in the forest, but brief enough that I kept going without thinking about it too hard. I was far enough out that no one I knew would hear me if I yelled (and we don't always know who else is hanging out in these woods) so I wanted to get as close as I could to my people before the migraine decided if it was coming back and if so, how hard. The path was very clear, for that I was grateful because at the first possible fork, I had to stop and think for a frightening moment, my brain refused to remember going up the hill I was faced with. Luckily, the old synapses weren't totally migraine-fried as it was only a few seconds of uncertainty before I recalled: of course I didn't hike up the hill on my out, I'd hiked down it. "What goes down must go up," I reassured myself as I started the climb. My head didn't like it, protested every footfall that seemed to echo from my feet to my eyeballs, but I made it home without further incident and decided that I wouldn't be traveling any more unfamiliar trails unless I KNEW I was well enough.

Unfortunately, that resolution only lasted a week before I found myself traversing an old logging road on a bad day. So it goes: I walk the dogs, we wander, I see something that piques my curiosity and shortly thereafter I'm kind of wishing I wasn't so damn curious all the time. At least satisfaction keeps bringing me back!


Thursday, April 2, 2015

Enchilasagna, Pot Pie, and a Very Tasty Burrito

Today I felt like using some glass baking pans, so I did.

I love enchiladas and I've been making some variation on them for years. Of course, I never follow a recipe, and they come out different every time, especially now that my diet is such a careful thing. I'm still slowly introducing IC trigger foods, but haven't been brave at all about acids or chilis yet, so these enchiladas are rather mild. And I was feeling too lazy to wrap, so they became more of a enchi-lasagna for all the layers, and yeah. Improvisation is the most essential ingredient in my kitchen.

I lined a large glass baking dish with corn tortillas and some bell pepper sauce I made with my little chopper. Over that, I spread a bean and corn mixture I whipped up with three cans of different beans, a can of corn, and herbs and spices to taste; salt, chili powder, oregano, basil, garlic powder, and a touch of cumin and cinnamon. Over that, another layer of tortillas, another of sauce, then beans, more tortillas, and the last of the sauce. Bake at 400 until bubbly, about half an hour.

At the same time, I used the last pie crust in my freezer and made some pot pies. First, I roasted the vegetables for premium flavor (I used a frozen medley of broccoli, carrots and cauliflower). Once done, I chop the veg and mix them with some salt, pepper, sage, basil, flour, garlic powder, and nutritional yeast. Toss that in a baking dish with a 1/4 cup of veggie broth, cover with pie crust, poke it and bake at 425 for twenty minutes. Then, cover and bake for another ten or so, til it's all brown and bubbly. I normally make a gravy for the filling, but again, lazy. It's good without!

You may notice more spices being added to my foods! I certainly do! Still, small amounts, in moderation, but I'm so excited to be eating a little more freely.

Hilariously, after making all that, I was super in the mood for leftovers for dinner. It was a roasted chickpea burrito with cabbage, bell peppers, and pesto brown rice. It felt a little boring as it was, so after I wrapped it up, I fried it in a cooking-sprayed pan, turning so all sides went brown and crispy.

Anybody like these posts? I'm enjoying writing about my food, and hopefully with practice I'll get better at it, but any suggestions? Requests? You can always email me at if you aren't a commenting kind of kid but have thoughts to share.

Happy Eating!


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Best

I love being outside.

I ventured out from under the redwood canopy for a few hours today, felt the sun on my skin, got a little sweat on, hiked some hills that made me proud of the regular exercise I've been putting in, and enjoyed meandering a really lovely, overgrown, occasionally precarious mountain trail with my dogs.

Regaining my physical fitness has been a huge challenge, and the freedom I felt today was the best reward I could imagine. Besides a billion dollars. That would be the best best, but physical stamina and agility are a close second.


Saturday, March 28, 2015

Lentil Loaf Memories and Spinach Dreams

That quiche.

I reheated it for breakfast this morning, a spinach and artichoke one, and served warm over toast; it's nearly passable for scrambled eggs and I was in heaven.

For lunch, I made potato wedges and warmed up some pea soup with coconut milk. I can't mess with perfection.

Dinner was brussels sprouts, halved and roasted, lentil loaf, and cheezy nooched-up brown rice. I love lentil loaves, they remind me of dinner at my grandma's house as a kid (but that was meatloaf). I would beg for more ketchup-glaze and nothing was better. Except maybe spaghettios. Or mac and cheese with hot dogs. Those childish taste buds are something, aren't they?

So I made two lentil loafs with two cups of lentils already cooked with a bay leaf, a big jar of homemade tomato sauce (so far, no IC reaction! This is extremely exciting!), cumin, molasses, liquid smoke, garlic powder, a little ketchup, and a large handful or so of oatmeal. It smelled like baked beans as it simmered on the stove. I mashed the lentils and tomato sauce chunks about halfway, then poured the whole lot into some loaf pans. I cooked them in the oven at 400 for about an hour to get a nice crust started, then smeared the top of one with ketchup (for old times' sake) and put them back in at 350 for another hour until they were firm.

I'm always looking for new ways to make greens and an idea occurred to me today that made me salivate in anticipation. Creamed spinach, with coconut milk. I mentioned it to my boyfriend and he immediately started talking about cream of spinach soup with coconut milk, which is not the same thing, but also: YUM. So, that's going to happen for sure.


Friday, March 27, 2015

Homeopathy and Supplements

I've got a small cache of homeopathic treatments that I've been sitting on.

Some of these products I've been collecting are clearly junk and some of them I used a few times without any obvious results, so I put them away one day and forgot about them completely for months, sometimes years. Much of this collection was part of a care package the lovely Jessica at Painfully Speaking sent to me, so many moons ago. I used some of her gifts immediately and completely, and others... got dusty in the bin. But all that is changing right now. I received a new supplement to sample, and the ingredients list looks no more remarkable than my multivitamin, but I'm going to give it an enthusiastic try because why not. I can't help but doubt that it will do anything miraculous for me, but because that feeling of amused skepticism reminded me of that dusty little homeopathy bin in my nightstand, I'm also going to spend the month using every single one of these until they are gone. Let the woo begin!

Day 1 - I started taking HCF Happy, Calm, Focused pills. (My full review is at the bottom of the post). I used Head Clear on my temples, and three Migraide pills every hour for three hours. Nothing did anything, but it was distracting.

Day 2 - I'm having a lot of muscle tension in my neck and back. I stuck an Aculief on each hand and felt a small amount of relief. I actually like these, but at over $30 with shipping, if I hadn't received mine from Heather at War on Headaches, I never would have tried them. Call me cheap, but I can always squeeze my own hand for free.

Day 3 - Discovered a hot spot on my dog, my ensuing minor freak-out called for a dose of 911 Stress Control Spray. Just moving to get the spray made me feel more in control, which I think is common for *minor* stress and anxiety. Once you make the choice to feel better, you start feeling somewhat better.

Day 5 - Again, used the stress spray and again noted that the very thought of using it calmed me down. This is really useful information and makes me think I need to be better about self-soothing rituals in general. I've been using the supplements for a few days now, and so far, I see no difference, though I do get to practice a pill-swallowing technique I just learned. If it's a tablet, swallow with your chin up, but if it's a capsule - because they float - swallow with your chin down. These are capsules, and I can't tell you how many times I've gagged on them in the past, but now I have no issues!

Day 8 - I've got a stubborn headache; not my worst ever, just persistent. So, I'm using everything today. I've got an aculief on each hand, I'm popping Migraide every hour, spraying anti-stress spray whenever I start feeling anxious or irrationally angry, and I started out with just a little head clear on my temples but cracked the roll-top open and have escalated to smearing it all over my neck and shoulders. Aaaahhh minty. Unfortunately, the aculiefs only lasted five minutes before they became excruciating, a problem I have on my allodynia days. Nothing else seemed to effect the migraine, but again, the process of administering all these treatments to myself was sort of soothing on its own. The migraine lasted a few more days, eventually petering itself out overnight long after I ran out of Migraide.

Day 13 - I still like the aculiefs, but their claim that you can wear them during normal activities is a bit of a stretch. Because these things don't. Stretch. And when they do, they don't relapse quickly enough to keep them from popping off every time I use my hands for anything.

Day 11 - So the headache oil officially does nothing for me, but I'm using it until it's gone because i like the minty-lavender smell.

Day 15 - I can't tolerate the aculiefs at all right now, I'm so tender. I don't normally have trouble sleeping - in fact I'm nodding off at 9 pm every night - so I hadn't had a chance to try these homeopathic lozenges for better sleep called Moon Drops. Oddly, it was the only night all month that I woke up suddenly in the wee hours, feeling physically restless and anxious, though I did fall back to sleep quickly.

Day 18 - My boyfriend was nervous for surgery so I made him use the Stress Control spray and he scoffed, but used it and then stopped complaining about being nervous, so hmmm.

Day 20 - The really nice thing about the Head Clear is that is doesn't make me break out, like so many commercial products do. It's a lovely massage oil, and I'll likely refill it with my own diy version when it's gone because I love the smell. I miss scented products, so I can't help to indulge when I find something I can tolerate.

Day 21 - Used the moon drops again last night, I was amped up from a long day and evening with friends and couldn't relax enough to sleep. Like, it was 2 am and I was scrolling compulsively through tumblr as if I hadn't already absorbed possible every meme and otp into my eyeballs six times. But it finally occurred to me to take one and I forced myself to lay down with Jumbline (an anagram game for smartphones, i love it), and was asleep within half an hour.

Day 25 - I'm disappointed that I'm not feeling a difference with the capsules, and I feel silly for feeling disappointed. Per my limited searching, the amino acids in HCF could be very beneficial to a person, but I think that person needs to be deficient in those amino acids for it to matter.

And the rest of the month was uneventful. Here's the supplement review, which I also posted on Amazon.

HCF Happy, Calm, Focused contains a variety of minerals, B vitamins, and amino acids. The two amino acids, DL-Phenylalanine and L-Glutamine, do reputedly have restorative properties, but have not been proven in clinical settings.

I tried HCF for a month; three pills every morning, half an hour before breakfast. I don't normally have a problem with pills, but these capsules were determined to float and nearly every time I took them I felt like they'd lodged in my chest. It was only after I'd eat (at least half an hour later) that the feeling would go away. I normally take a multivitamin, but I replaced it with HCF for the month, though I still took an iron pill daily, because I'm anemic. I noticed no changes in mood, nor in my concentration. If anything, my chronic migraines have been worse. I do recommend vitamins to anyone who has a vitamin deficiency, or even if they just make you feel more secure in your health, but I can't recommend HCF. It's not a complete multivitamin, it's not USP verified, at 30 bucks per bottle it's more costly than equivalent supplements, and ultimately, I saw no changes in my mood or concentration.

I was given a free bottle of HCF to try, in exchange for this review, and I've been advised that I'll receive another once the review is posted. With that bottle, I'll try a higher dose, and I'll report back any significant findings.

All in all, this was not the worst experiment ever. There were no side effects, and that stress spray actually has a pretty good record! I'll continue to use the products I didn't finish and will update if anything interesting happens.

Ever onward!

As always, my opinions are my own and can never be bought. I've provided links to the products I tried but I don't receive any compensation if you click them or buy the products. I just thought a reference would be helpful since I didn't want to take my own pictures.


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Soup, Broth, and Dog Food

I made potato and leek soup today. It is super hard to mess up!

I had two leeks in the fridge, so away I went. I cleaned them via the chopping and soaking method, but I still got some grit in the soup (not the worst thing ever, but annoying), so I'm going to look for another leek-cleaning method for next time. Suggestions welcome! So, sautee two leeks 10 to 20 minutes or until they're soft. Add to that 4-6 gold potatoes that have been chopped into manageable chunks, some garlic powder, a little chili powder, dill, sea salt, and 2-4 cups of broth or water. Bring all that to a boil, then simmer on low-med for 45 minutes. Add most of a can of coconut milk, and season to taste. I'm eating it for dinner tonight over brown rice and I'm a little jealous of future me right now.

I'm making a batch of veggie broth today. Which means I empty the plastic baggies I keep in the freezer of their veggie scrap stash and boil it all up in my biggest pot. I've got leftover bits from mushrooms, kale, bell peppers, chard, and there may be a rosemary stem or two in there too. I simmer it for hours, until the liquid is at least a rich gold, then strain and jar it. If the veggies still have some life in them, I add more water and do it again. I freeze the broth in jars, and in cubes.

I'm also making a batch of dog food today. We do buy kibble, the best we can afford, and we stretch that purchase by cutting it with homemade food. The recipe varies, but it couldn't be simpler: I chop up a couple carrots or squash or other dog-compatible vegetables and toss them in my rice cooker with some brown rice and lentils and double the normal amount of water. If my boyfriend has some meat prepped, I'll add that to the pot, too. I really like making this in the rice cooker because I can plug it in outside if it's too hot to cook indoors, or too cold to open to windows to let the moisture out. Cooking this outside is also appealing because I am free to enjoy the reactions of the neighbors who have commented on the tasty food smells. I gleefully tell them that it's dog food their mouths are watering for and their faces are priceless! Of course, it's all perfectly good for human consumption, but I let them sit with it for a minute before I share that.

Ain't I a stinker?