Sunday, April 10, 2011

Maybe I do have willpower?

I did it! I ate out and I ate vegan. I have to say I wasn't the least bit tempted, even when my fellow diners told me they wouldn't tell on me. I passed up yummy chicken wings and stuck to my salad rolls and rice noodles in spicy, sweet sauce.

I've passed up several opportunities to partake of truly delicious looking food this past week, but for some reason turning them down has been easy. Perhaps I am getting more vitamins but I have zero cravings. Before this I would go to the candy bowl at least once a day and scavenge for snacks or leftovers.

Today is the last day of my official turn as a vegan, but I think I'm going to continue on...can't think of a good reason not to?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Vegan Day One

I made it thru day one (almost day 2) and I'm surprised how easy it was. It helped that I did a lot of research and planned out a menu and snacks. I even passed up a free Baja Fresh lunch.
I guess part of the ease is our diet tends to be plant based--Mike doesn't eat red meat and isn't a fan of cheese. For breakfast I had my usual muesli with cut up banana, but instead of regular mix I substituted in soy milk. Easy! However, I missed my luscious half and half in my coffee.
Luckily I made tempeh stirfy over the weekend and had that as leftovers along with some cashews and popcorn for an afternoon snack. I have to say, I love nuts so much, but I tend not to eat them since they are so high in fat and calories.
Deborah Madison is one of my favorite chef and her recipes are not only amazingly delicious but primarily vegetarian and easy to make vegan. For dinner I made a recipe that is destined to go in our rotation for a while: Buckwheat linguine with French lentils, carrots and chard (pictured above). Simply amazing. It's from her The Greens Cookbook.
Day one verdict: Completely satisfied and not missing dairy or meat AT ALL.
(And no weird digestive issues...yet.)

Friday, April 1, 2011

Vegan Challenge and this has nothing to do with Oprah

Over plates of roasted chicken and grilled steak topped with whipped pork fat, I announced to my dinner guest that I was going to go vegan for a week starting on Monday. Her response was not what I expected, "That's so cool! Were you inspired by Oprah?"
So why am I doing it?
I just finished reading "On a Dollar a Day" which chronicles a couple's experiment to better understand food poverty facing thousands of Americans firsthand. Very eye opening and highly recommended. The couple is vegan which is a lifestyle I don't think I could ever adopt. While I don't eat a lot of meat, I love cheese and there is nothing more perfect than fresh eggs from Ava, ZsaZsa or ES. Just seems so restrictive and not very fun. But maybe I just don't understand veganism because I've never tried it, right? So I decided to try it out, just for one week.
I'm going vegan starting on Monday armed with some rocking recipes from Veganomicon (thank you, Kathy Lee!). I'll be posting recipes and reaction to this new temporary lifestyle.
If you are vegan and have recipes or tips and tricks to share, please don't be shy!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Making Stock, the Julia Child Way

For our New Year's Day dinner, I am making stuffed veal breast. I couldn't turn down the butcher's offer to keep the bones, so I hurried home to make stock. While I've made basic chicken stock from a leftover roasted chicken, I had some time so I brought out my "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" cookbook. Who else could tell me more than I ever wanted to know about making stock than Julia Child!

Before I jump into the process, first lesson: stock is supposed to be clear. The cloudiness comes from the fat and scum (unpleasant but an accurate description) incorporating into the stock when allowed to boil. Instead, stock should simmer very slowly "just a bubble or two of motion at the surface."

Second lesson: never cover your simmering stock completely. Leave an inch or so open to let the steam escape, otherwise it will sour.

Third lesson: you can extend the life of your stock in the fridge by reboiling every 3 - 4 days. Not sure which is more work - remembering to defrost my stock in time for use, or remembering to boil it twice a week? I am trying the freezing route.

Fourth lesson: keeping your stock clear is hard. Maybe impossible? For this attempt, I definitely failed! But not to worry, Julia explains how to clarify it on the chance that I want to serve "a rich homemade consommé, jellied soup or aspic." Simply by beating egg whites into cold stock, then heating to just below simmer for 15 minutes, "the egg white globules dispersed into the stock act as a magnet for all the minute cloudy particles. These gradually rise to the surface, leaving a crystal-clear liquid below." For now, I am leaving it as is. :)

So, to make "fonds blanc" or white stock from veal bones, I first blanched the 2 lbs. of bones I had. Turns out veal releases a tremendous amount of scum so Julia recommends a quick boil, drain and rinse to remove much of the scum.

Back in the pot they go, covered with water by 2 inches, brought to a simmer, skimming any remaining scum as necessary. Then, I added a quartered onion, the leafy tops of my celery and a bouquet garni of herbs (thyme, bay leaf, parsley sprigs, two unpeeled garlic cloves tied up in cheesecloth) and 2 tsp. salt.

Now, the way Julia describes it, "my taste should convince me that I've simmered the most out of my ingredients" to know that the stock is done. After 5 hours, I was not confident in my taste as I am so used to heavily salted store bought stock, but I can tell you it has a nice rich flavor. If I had doubts, I could boil it again to evaporate some of the water content and concentrate the flavor.

When removed from the heat and cooled, I refrigerated the stock overnight. After removing the hardened fat on the surface, I strained into a glass jar and it's ready to go! Now, back to the kitchen to get started on my stuffed veal breast.

Happy new year everyone! I hope 2011 is full of culinary adventures and good eats.