Lately I’ve noticed when I tell people I’m vegan, they ask me if I can eat wheat (they also tend to ask me other, equally amusing questions…translation: I know you’re vegan but do you eat fish, are you from Brooklyn, is your dog vegan, are you buddhist, do you just eat salads all the time, do you eat bread, are you one of those people that forages for their own mushrooms, do you ride a bicycle, do you eat raw, do all vegans have unicorn friends.) <– last question’s reply is a resounding no, I am unique in that regard.
Brief side note for the confused: A fish is any member of a paraphyletic group of organisms that consist of all gill-bearing aquatic craniate animals that lack limbs with digits. Fish are abundant in most bodies of water. They can be found in nearly all aquatic environments, from high mountain streams (e.g., char and gudgeon) to the abyssal and evenhadal depths of the deepest oceans (e.g., gulpers and anglerfish).
Sorry, but fish are sentient beings too. And no, I do not eat them. Now back to wheat…
In the last year, I haven’t been able to get through a conversation without the word “gluten-free” sneaking its way in. Everyone from vegans to electricians to soccer moms have read or heard about Celiac Disease, and the resulting demonization of those innocent looking waves of grain. So what’s the deal? Is all wheat bad?
In a kernel (pun intended), it’s more complicated than “good” versus “bad”. Wheat is a grain made up of three parts: the starchy insides (endosperm), the nutrient-rich embryo (germ), and the hard fiber-rich outer shell (bran). Together they make up the wheat kernel. When you consume foods made with white flour, you’re eating the endosperm, which is a highly processed starch that spikes your blood sugar, causes weight gain, inflammation, and tempers your hunger for a hot minute. Processed wheat should be avoided entirely, period. This is not a new concept, and most people already know that whole grains are nutritionally superior to processed flours. But are whole grains much better for you? It depends. If you are part of the 1% of Americans who have an autoimmune response to the protein found in wheat called gluten, then avoidance of all wheat containing foods is essential. But for the rest of us, some studies are suggesting that wheat consumption is damaging to everyone’s health. Wheat is inflammatory, causes weight gain, spikes blood sugar levels, and may become addictive due to the opiate effects of the protein Gliadin on brain receptors. Some medical professionals, like Dr. William Davis, author of the bestseller Wheat Belly, believes that wheat is the culprit behind a myriad of illnesses including autoimmune diseases, diabetes, migraine headaches, and more, and should be universally avoided.
Solution? Eliminate wheat from your diet for 3 weeks and see how you feel. There is also a blood test for Celiac Disease, but even if that comes back negative, you may still have a sensitivity to wheat. Now before you go buy every packaged good that says “gluten-free” on it, remember that gluten free products are usually made with highly processed starches like potato, tapioca and cornstarch. Yeah, they don’t have gluten in them, but that doesn’t mean they’re good for you! It’s the same thing as going vegetarian and gorging on veggie dogs! Instead, stick to a diet that’s rich in vegetables, beans, quinoa, millet, and other plant-based proteins. While you’re at it, make your diet completely anti-inflammatory and cut out that sweet devilish pair: dairy and sugar. See my post on why sugar is evil here.
So to answer the original question, yes, I do eat wheat, but I’m very picky. I only eat sprouted whole grain breads because the sprouting process breaks down the phytic acid (which blocks absorption of certain nutrients), and increases the digestibility of the grain. If you have a slight sensitivity to wheat you may find, as I have, that sprouted whole grains are much easier to digest and don’t leave you feeling like a giant fog monster blew over your face.
Now that you’ve decided to cut out wheat, why not treat yourself to an indulgent spring brunch of crepes? Yup, that’s right, you can still eat crepes without ingesting a single kernel of wheat, dairy or sugar. Hooray for the happy coupling of health and deliciousness!
For the crepes:
1 1/2 cups water
1/3 cup cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp sea salt + fresh black pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups chickpea (garbanzo) flour
1 T dried italian seasoning or 2 T chopped fresh herbs
For the filling:
1 block extra firm, preferably locally made, tofu, crumbled by hand
1/2 yellow onion, diced
2 cups diced button or cremini mushrooms
1/2 bunch of collard greens, kale or leafy green of choice, stems removed and shredded into small pieces
1/2 red pepper, diced
Small handful of cilantro, chopped
Dash of the following: garlic powder, turmeric, paprika & cumin
1-2 T apple cider vinegar
1 T tamari
Small handful of nutritional yeast
Fresh pepper to taste
In a mixing bowl, combine crepe ingredients and whisk until emulsified. The mixture should be slightly thinner in consistency than pancake batter. Set aside. In a large cast iron pan or saute pan, heat oil over a medium flame. Add onions and tofu and allow to cook, untouched, for 4 minutes. Flip and add collards, peppers, and mushrooms. Add a few shakes of turmeric, paprika, cumin and garlic powder. Deglaze with apple cider vinegar and tamari. Stir and incorporate scramble, then top with cilantro and nutritional yeast. In a crepe pan, heat a little refined coconut oil over a medium flame. Ladle about 1/2 cup of batter into the center of the pan and tilt to spread into a thin circle. Cook until golden brown on the bottom, about 3 minutes or so, then flip and brown on the other side. Set aside on a plate and cover while you finish with the rest of the batter, adding coconut oil as needed. To serve, cover half of each crepe with filling and fold it closed. Top with hot sauce if desired. Makes enough for 4 unicorns with wheat bellies.
why plants don’t have feelings / sprouted wheat bagel with cashew cream cheese & maitake mushroom bacon
Whether you’re vegan (VEE-gan not VAY-gan, which sounds like we’re from another planet) or not, chances are you’ve probably heard some wild accusations about it. Translation: we only eat hummus, we are from white, wealthy families, we all have tattoos, we are skinny and pale, we don’t eat carbs, we are angry at everyone who isn’t vegan, we only ride bicycles, we love animals more than people, we are hipsters, and we are self righteous liberals. While some vegans may fall into these categories, this is a gross generalization of a growing demographic that in my experience, are a diverse and wonderful group of individuals.
So why all the judgement?
Like religion and politics, food is very personal. Your plate is as powerful as slapping a blue elephant sticker on your car or wearing a cross around your neck. People notice and sometimes, take offense. This is the reality of our world, and there’s no reason to flip out because someone disagrees with your diet choices. If the goal of veganism is compassion and respect for all living things, then we must embrace and accept our own species first! But sometimes, this can happen…
After noticing the tempeh reuben on my plate, a seemingly innocent diner observes: “You’re a vegan?”
“Yeah,” I reply.
“But what about plants?” cries the diner with a shocking amount of passion. “Plants can feel pain too!”
“*$%&#!@&$^%#@!” <– exclamation inside my head.
What I actually say –> “Plants don’t have a central nervous system, which means they cannot feel pain in the same way that sentient beings can.”
This is a generally accepted principle, however, there are still some people who argue that plants do feel something when harvested. But even if that is true, it still leaves us with the same options: eat plants & animals (who definitely feel pain and suffer needlessly), or just eat plants. For me, the choice was easy.
Now that you’re feeling moody and want to throw hummus at everyone, why not blow their minds with a creamy, fluffy, and indulgently thick cream cheese that will make you feel like you’re in a Philadelphia cream cheese commercial from the nineties! Cashews play the leading role in making this oh-so-dreamy spread, along with my good friend, the bagel. I adore Alvarado Street Bakery sprouted whole grain onion & poppyseed bagels. Seriously, buy these bagels and let them change your life for the better. Toasted and topped with a huge dollop of herbed cream cheese and crispy maitake mushroom bacon and you are in for a serious taste bud explosion!
Sprouted Wheat Bagels with Cashew Cream Cheese & Maitake Mushroom Bacon
1 bagel, sliced & toasted (I recommend Alvarado Street Bakery Onion & Poppyseed Bagels)
2 cups raw cashews, covered with at least 4 cups of water and soaked overnight
1 1/2 tsp probiotic powder (you can buy a jar of probiotics in capsule form at many natural foods stores; just open capsules and pour out powder)
1/2 cup fresh water
1 T dried herb blend (I recommend Penzey’s Fox Point Blend) or 1 T fresh chives, minced
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 container or 2 loosely filled cups of maitake mushrooms, split apart by hand
1 tsp olive oil or refined coconut oil for sauteing mushrooms
pinch of sea salt & freshly cracked pepper to taste
After the cashews have been soaked in water overnight, drain and rinse, then place them in a high speed blender. Add the water and probiotics and blend on high until creamy and smooth. Pour into a small mixing bowl and cover with a piece of cheesecloth. Leave in a cool, dark place overnight.
Remove cheesecloth from fermented cashew mixture, and stir in the seasoning blend and salt. Set aside. In a saute pan, heat oil over a medium flame and add mushrooms. Allow them to brown for a few minutes before stirring with a wooden spoon. Once they are crispy, turn off flame and place on a paper towel to drain.
To serve, spread a generous dollop of cream cheese on a toasted bagel and top with maitake mushroom bacon. Makes about 2 cups of cream cheese, or enough to serve 4 merciless plant eating unicorns.
So I made the mistake of listening to an American history book on CD while driving to Florida and have come to two conclusions: firstly, that the Union and the Confederacy should have just gone their separate ways, and secondly, that America has a profoundly unhealthy obsession with making money. But as we crossed state border after state border, the only real opinions I could generate about each state were based on the billboards that stretch along the I-95. They started off with nuance and wordplay, hinting at what they were selling without insulting the driver’s intelligence, perhaps even resulting in a dry chuckle or a whispered “touché”. The chic Audi billboard “Your move, BMW” and the suave reply “Checkmate” got our trip off to a sophisticated start. I nearly had to roll down my window and light up a cuban while pretending that my Subaru was the 2012 Audi A4.
After driving past billboards for ipods, itunes, ipads and all things apple, and at least three billboards for Breaking Dawn: Part 1 that read “forever is just the beginning” followed by a not-so-brief desire for my husband to become a vampire (translation: Rob Pattinson), we reached North Carolina (we don’t need to mention Delaware because I’m fairly certain that no one lives there). This is when we began to see signs like “When you die, you will meet God” interspersed with South of the Border’s witty one-liner’s: “You never sausage a place, you’re always a winner at Pedro’s” and “Pedro’s weather report: chili today hot tamale!”. I quickly found that the combination of the billboards and the increasing heat slowed my brain function, and as we continued south, confederate flags began to crop up on the backs of trucks and Darwin fish were replaced by Jesus fish. Religious billboards continued to multiply like pine trees with bold statements like “Where are you going? Heaven or Hell?” and “Anti-God is Anti-American” (ironically, when we stopped for gas in Georgia, I went into the store and, in addition to the usual items, were a string of occupied slot machines and a neon sign that read “Playboy” above a vast selection of colorful magazines (translation: the billboards aren’t working).
Florida brought with it a slew of ads for community living with walled-in pink stucco houses, palm trees and neon grass. Everyone featured in these ads was 106 and had replaced their cadillac with an electric golf cart, and find bridge absolutely scintillating. There were a few ads for Ron Jon’s surf shop featuring the nearly extinct sun-bleached surfer dude (who I suspect has been hunted and turned into egg-salad sandwiches and prune juice).
Driving down the I-95 and feeling bored? Whip out your waffle iron (which you obviously packed in your suitcase) and make a batch of yummy waffles! These waffles are hearty, crunchy and have just the right amount of sweetness to make you dream about breakfast every night. This recipe is adapted from the fabulously vegan Post Punk Kitchen.
Buttermilk Pecan Waffles with Blueberries
2 cups nut milk (I use soymilk)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 cups whole wheat pastry flour or all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
It’s a cool, cloudy morning. I’ve got a cup of steaming hot tea, three sleeping pets, and an empty apartment. In a word: heaven. I sit down at the computer, open up my laptop, and take a satisfying stretch before delving into fantasy land, when I hear the most obnoxious sound…
A leaf blower.
Not only is a leaf blower one of the loudest machines I’ve ever heard, it’s also the most useless. People seem to use these odd contraptions to collect the fall leaves from their lawns (translation: hot air blasts out of smelly machine and blows leaves in every direction). And then? Oh, that’s simple, you place your pile of leaves into trash bags and put them at the end of your driveway because then your lawn will be perfect again and the neighbors won’t judge you. Plus, it gives you a sense of “I am the ruler of this castle and with my bare hands I shall rid it of all evil (translation: leaves)”. Frankly, I don’t see why you can’t just leave the leaves (no pun intended) on the ground. Perhaps it’s more of a “man and his machine” syndrome, otherwise known as the urge to lift heavy objects made of metal, gas, and lava that make absurdly loud noises and do “masculine” things like blow, cut, slice, dig, and screw. It also helps if the machine has a hose, saw, or spiky things shaped like…(let’s just say- pickles or the Washington Monument). Extreme weather conditions, a midlife crisis, and alcohol will make these machines even more exciting. Because there’s nothing quite like a good snow plowing in the middle of a blizzard or mowing the lawn after a bottle of wine or powerwashing the garage after buying that Harley you always wanted. Upon finishing such herculean tasks, a man may enter the kitchen victorious, smelling of gas, sweat and blood. He may have lost some good men out there, but the mission was clear, and he had to see it through. His expression looks like a combination of “the few, the proud, the marines” and John Wayne. He might as well be wearing chaps and saying something like, “courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway”. This is the time when you must notice his battle wounds (translation: miscalculation of branch height on lawnmower due to alcohol consumption = small cut on forehead) with a level of concern bordering hysteria. “It’s just a scratch,” he replies, his voice a full octave lower than usual. He is a man and men don’t feel pain.
Solution? Bring out your tweezers, and pluck one hair out of his back.
When you’re out on your horse, and there’s no time to visit the saloon for a whiskey and some grub, what are you supposed to eat? A nutty granola bar of course! These little guys are easy to make and will fill you with energy to ride out on the plains and look for the Native Americans who stole your cousin.
Nutty Granola Bars
1 cup raw almonds (soaked for an hour = pour water over almonds and let sit, then discard water)
1 cup dates, pitted & any variety (soaked for an hour)
1/2 cup roasted, unsweetened peanut butter (I use Santa Cruz Organic creamy peanut butter)
1/2 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut (I use Let’s Do Organic unsweetened coconut)
1/2 cup sprouted buckwheat grouts OR finely chopped raw almonds
2 T sesame seeds
1/3 cup ground flax seed meal
2 T raw honey
2 T virgin coconut oil (I use spectrum organic or Dr. Bronner’s organic)
1 T vanilla extract
1 T + ground cinnamon
In a food processor, process dates and almonds until crumbly, not pureed.
Transfer to a mixing bowl and add all other ingredients, combine, and press into a glass baking dish or dish or your choice. That’s it! Serves ten bow-legged unicorns in the wild west.
Last night I picked up our mail and was pleasantly surprised to see an envelope from the Department of State. Must be my new passport, right? After an evil post office woman, four hours, a $110 check, and yelling obscenities in the privacy of my car about the inefficiency of government run businesses, I was actually receiving my passport in a timely fashion. I nearly felt guilty for my previous post (see Passport Renewal), but then I opened the thick, manila envelope. New passport? Nope. It was my old passport, all of my filled out paperwork, and a fresh white letter telling me that my passport renewal had been denied. I looked in the envelope for the returned check. No luck; the bastards took my money anyway…and, on top of it all, they had the audacity to tell me in that my check amount was incorrect. I was supposed to send $135 dollars instead of $110 dollars. Super. So why had it been denied? Apparently I had already applied for a passport in 2003.
#$%*@#?! (translation: I am a little frustrated) because I sent them my old passport, marriage license, social security number, soul, and a unicorn friend to vouch for me…and they still turned me down (not to mention my unicorn had to be overnighted which was expensive).
Luckily, my husband’s passport is up to date, so he just needs to renew his green card (he’s from outer space!!!). Isn’t it strange how they call non-citizens aliens? Every time I see his “legal alien” card I envision a purple, bug-eyed creature with antennae and sticky fingers like E.T., not a cute englishman.
And speaking of aliens…Dragon (samwise gamgee) has been mewing all morning and staring at the ceiling as though a demon has infiltrated our apartment. I think it may have something to do with the fact that we removed the AC unit from our bedroom window. This is rather catastrophic (no pun intended) for a cat like Dragon. She lives in our apartment, every second of every day, and isn’t allowed outside (for reasons I think you may be able to guess…she gets lost in open spaces, remember?). There was a large, grey object that made loud noises and now there isn’t (translation: demons are in the apartment and she must alarm everyone to their presence). I also made the mistake of leaving the closet under the stairs (mordor) slightly ajar. Frodo went inside (naturally, because he’s got to throw that ring into the fires of mount doom already!) and when Dragon approached the dark, menacingly entrance…she panicked. She could hear the crinkling of bags (translation: roar of mount doom’s inferno), and feared for Frodo’s life, so she pooped outside the litter box and has been running around the apartment like a maniac for the last ten minutes.
Needless to say, I’ve been slightly distracted and unable to edit my novel very much this morning. Solution? A raw smoothie to energize my spirits (and an excuse to turn on the blender and further confuse Dragon). Raw food used to scare me because I love cooked, hot, cozy food, and whenever I thought of the word raw I envisioned cold, gazpacho soup, goosebumps, a food dehydrator, and an unsatisfied stomach. But you know what? Raw food is pretty r-awesome. Yup, I just said rawesome…deal with it, haters.
Blueberry bliss smoothie
1 large banana, peel removed
1/2 cup frozen or fresh blueberries
1 cup soy milk (I use Edensoy Extra Original) or non-dairy milk of your choice
A few pinches of ground cinnamon
3-4 ice cubes
**For a protein boost, I add a small scoop of hemp protein powder (I use Living Harvest Organic Hemp Protein…nothing but cold milled hemp!)
In a high speed blender, combine all ingredients and blend until smooth. Serve to two sluggish unicorns without passports.