Wednesday, January 28, 2009

My adventure into food.

I first became a vegetarian a little over 4 years ago, just before Thanksgiving. You see, I'm all about timing. Growing up on a farm, especially when you're poor, requires you to eat everything that's put in front of you (well, except for pineapple and baked beans. No way, no how) I had stomach issues that started in middle school and ended when I stopped eating meat. If I was the least bit anxious, I'd be sick. If something smelled weird, I'd be sick. If I ate too much (and back then, I ate very little) I'd be sick. After graduation I moved in with my then-boyfriend and we were surrounded by quite a few fast food restaurants. This is where my health went downhill. It was so fast, cheap and easy I was eating it everyday. I gained over 80 pounds and felt awful. My face was broken out all of the time. I kept having to buy bigger clothes and I was so sickened by myself, but I either didn't know how to fix it or I didn't want to try.

After I broke up with the boyfriend, I lived on my own. I decided I was sick of being sick and started Weight Watchers with some coworkers. I'm not an advocate for the program and I'm not getting paid to say this, but it worked. The program got my brain on track of what I was putting into my mouth and how much. I stayed on for about 2 months and couldn't afford to go any longer so I started to apply the ideas to real life, on my own. I also quit eating meat and (most) dairy. I thought that they were the culprits in my stomach issues....and they were.

Now, 4 years after going vegetarian and a couple months of veganism, I had lost a total of 80 pounds and gained a little bit back (still need to cut back on the oil, obviously!) My stomach issues disappeared when I stopped eating processed crap and started making my food from scratch, and not from a box. I absolutely love cooking now. This is coming from a girl that made "scrambled egg soup" and "macaroni soup".

I will relate my first experience at making tofu. I was so excited to make it for my sister in a stir fry - I just assumed it would cook the way it did at Thai restaurants. I don't remember anything about how I attempted to make it, but it was cold and slimy and and neither one of us could eat it. Silly me.

In my next post I'll relate my experiences with crepes and brussel sprouts. Don't get too excited!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Living Healthy and Broke.

So do I really need to mention how much this economy sucks? I didn't think so.

I work in construction and it's really cut throat for us right now. We're being aggressive about bidding jobs and they've started to lay off office employees. We're a fairly big company and it's extreme when that starts happening. They haven't laid a single office employee off in the 5 years I've worked here, or the 9 years that my coworker has been here. Scary. A couple of months ago I was averaging 50 hours a week. Now I'm down to 40 and I'm afraid they're going to cut more. I already make a crappy hourly rate, so this is stinging a little bit.

So how am I surviving? I remember that I still have a job, which helps keep me in perspective. We've also cut way down on nights we spend going out. In the summer, we would go out at least 3 days a week. Now, we're lucky if we go out once a week and it's usually after my one day a week paper route - we like to hit up Miser Mondays at New Old Lompoc. I've been getting all kinds of books at the library and we use Netflix like nobody's business. I refinanced my car - not something I really wanted to do, but it dropped the payment $100, which I definitely need right now.

Another action we've been taking is buying a lot more vegetables and bulk foods. I know this is one of the most repeated ways of saving money, but I've always kind of ignored it. Bad kid. Anyways, our trips to the produce market have yielded large amounts of veggies for little amounts of dollars. Like last night. I bought a bunch of roots (carrots, yam, beets, turnips, potatoes) some spinach, herbs, oranges, pears and tomatoes for a mere $18. That's enough to last almost a week, and equal to a (decent - not talkin' fries and beer here) dinner at the bar around the corner. And soooo much healthier. I also stock up on frozen and canned when they're on sale - not as fresh, but very convenient. We always base a meal around a protein/carb whether it's pasta, rice, tofu or beans. I find I'm fuller with less and have enough for lunch the next day. Well, I will if Jeff doesn't finish it off. If that happens, I get PB & J.

We've got money saved up for our trip to Europe in May that I'm proud to say I haven't touched yet, and I've even been adding little bits of cash here and there. We bought the tickets when gas prices were still high because I don't know ANYTHING about flying (other than I hate it) so there's no turning back now! Not that I wanted to, of course.

Oh, and after stocking up mega-liquor for New Years, we've got almost a full bar. So we're saving a lot on one of my favorite hobbies by keeping at it at home.

Gratuitous Cats and Boy Love:

Monday, January 19, 2009

~Not Food Related~

I had a rather silly run in with some sore losers this weekend.

I've been playing on an indoor soccer team for about 2.5 years now. We played at the beginner level this whole time because we're there to have fun and frankly, we're not that great of players. My "professional" soccer career started when a couple of coworkers threw the idea around and I jumped at the idea. I've currently got some friends and strangers from craigslist mixed in and our skills may have improved, but not enough to advance to the intermediate level.

This last Friday we played a team that's historically kicked our butts every time we play them. They all know each other really well and they communicate while they're playing, which is a problem for us. Jeff complains that they kick a little too hard at him in the goal but for the most part, they belong on another level. This particular game we picked up an additional player that happened to be really good. He's the kind of player who's there to play and doesn't show off. He just has fun.

I was subbing out the last 8 minutes of the game and sitting on the bench to catch my breath. I heard a commotion and stood up, fearing a shoving match or worse; an incident like the header that happened the week before that resulted in 13 stitches. The entire team that we were playing was walking off the field! I asked one of my players what happened and he told me they were fed up with us being too advanced. Now, I would understand if we were ahead by more than 7 points or so, but the score when they left? 6-3. This team has definitely won over us by much larger gaps. I really don't think they're used to losing and I don't believe their actions were fair. The ref was laughing at them and a female player on their team came over and apologized for how her teammates were acting. I told her that this was a first for us and while we picked up an advanced player, we were definitely not as good as they were making us out to be.

Seriously. You can't win them all.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

General Tso's Fried Goodness.

So, I'm sorta new to this cooking-for-fun-and-health adventure. For the past couple of years, I was eating cereal, sandwiches, hummus and couscous, over and over again. They were quick and easy and I was short on time due to two jobs and some schooling.

The real cooking started when the down time increased. And then I married a type 1 diabetic that had previously grocery shopped at Plaid Pantry. No joke. I don't know how this man survived. He loves that I'm enjoying cooking and he is my best taste tester, in that he'll try anything and everything. I mean, he doesn't like eggplant, but he tried it on 3 separate occasions just in case he might start to like it. I feel responsible for keeping the both of us healthy.

So last week, when I took on this recipe for General Tso's Tofu, he was more than excited. He's a big fan of chinese food and had been craving it lately. I made some revisions: I was out of soy sauce and vegetable broth (not sure how THAT happened), I used 3 tbsp of sugar and I forgot to put in the vinegar. The verdict? It was darn tasty for my first attempt! I think that this weekend I'll do the recipe right!

On a stranger note, can anyone explain a sudden aversion to foods? A couple of months ago I found that I feel nauseous if I even think about soup or beans in whole form. I'm fine with hummus and black bean burgers (thank god) but anything else makes me a little green. I noticed over the weekend that the smell of the bread on my sandwhich was killing hunger, too.

Monday, January 5, 2009

10 reasons I love my city.

10. Voodoo Doughnuts. I remember my first experience, wandering in with my now-husband on our second date. We were both Voodoo virgins. He ordered the McMinnville Cream, I got the vegan Oreo. It was love. Well, love for the doughtnuts. Our love came soon enough.

9. Within a 6 block radius of my house I'm privy to a bakery, my credit union, a produce market, two pizza parlors, a Safeway, the diviest of dive bars on Hawthorne, Jam (only the bestest little breakfast place evah) and a funeral home. So when I die from gorging on all the goodness my neighborhood has to offer, I know where I'll end up.

8. The scenery. You can go from metro to rural within minutes. When I was a scruffy country kid from Amboy, driving over the 205 bridge into Portland at night was something magical. I still get a little breathtaken on I-5 at the Rose Quarter, when all you see is bridges.

7. Powells. So many books, so little time.

6. Portland is stuffed to the seams with awesome local music. A couple of years ago my old roommate and I went to Lewis and Clark College to catch a free show by Scissors for Lefty. We hadn't heard of the opening bands but were absolutely blown away by the energy they produced. World, I urge you to check out Reporter (formerly Wet Confetti) and the Shaky Hands. Another fond memory was going to see the Decemberists play a show billed as "the December Brides". Colin Meloy was drunk and insulting the alternative weeklies, and it rocked. Our fair city also holds a number of music festivals; they may not reach the level of hype and attendance as SXSW or Coachella, but in my opinion, they're so much better. And who knows, you may find yourself swaying along to the local goods with a famous singer standing next to you in the shadows (Britt Daniel, I'm talking to you!)

5. My eating habits don't pose a problem here. I am surrounded by so many local cafes, restaurants and bars that cater to what I eat (or rather, what I don't eat). Going to a restaurant and being able to pick whatever I want, without the worry of what might be in it, is so refreshing. Also, since I cook almost all of our meals, I find the markets, co-ops and bulk bins fascinating. And, hello, vegan mini-mall?!!?

4. Driving the opposite way to work as rush hour traffic. Yeah it sucks working in Vancouver, and it sucks that the bus system just doesn't work for what I need, but at least I'm not stuck in traffic.

3. The (mostly) temperate climate. We rarely get snow (don't listen to the news! It was a freak snowstorm, I tell ya!) and the summers aren't too hot. What's that? Well, yeah, it rains. But not as much as you think. They say you can distinguish the true Portlanders by their lack of umbrella. I say that they're soaked.

2. 2 hours from the beach and 2 hours from the mountain. You could build a sandcastle and ski Mt Hood in the same day if you wanted to. Just remember our beaches are cold and drizzly.

1. I just love it. I feel like I belong here and my time spent in other cities was spent preparing myself for Portland. Is that a good reason?