Friday, April 20, 2012

this is your brain on bacon

Bacon.  It's kind of like The New Superfood except that it'll kill you, not make you stronger.  In addition to its high fat and cholesterol content, there is a carcinogen in bacon that is activated through the cooking process.

Nevertheless, Bacon.  People love it.  All kinds of people - big people, little people, fat people, thin people, couch potatoes, athletes....and vegetarians?  Yup, sometimes vegetarians love it, too.  It's been referred to as the "gateway meat," the one temptation that proves too much even for a committed vegetarian to resist.  I've heard stories of friend's friends who are steadfast vegetarians... until they get really drunk and then they want to eat bacon.  I guess it's not made of pig when you're drunk.

But listen, I'm not here to criticize.

If you ask most vegans/vegetarians what one thing they miss, taking animals and the environment and everything else out of the equation, it's normally bacon.

Once upon a time, in a land kind of far away (not really), I had a weekend tradition.  My friends and I would go out to a club/bar on Friday night and drink and dance until it closed, then we would return to the home of the friend who lived almost right behind the bar/club, eat nachos and then either disperse or fall asleep.  The following morning, we would curl up on the couch and drink coffee and watch ridiculous things on the TV until we were hungry enough to send her boyfriend to the nearby Burger King for food (yes, I thought that's what it was way back then).  I always got a #5 value meal with Dr. Pepper.  The #5 was a Double Bacon Cheeseburger with fries and I loooooved it.

Time passed and the "weekend treat" turned into my Go-To "to go" meal.  I would even get the "gourmet" version at a local Philly pub.  I truly don't know how I lived long enough to become a vegetarian, but I'm glad I did (and so are my heart, arteries, and waistline).

Believe it or not, this is all building up to my lunch today.  Please keep breathing - I didn't eat a double bacon cheeseburger...

I had a Ziggy Burger from HipCityVeg!  Please excuse the rotten picture - the place was packed, so I took my biodegradable, recycled-and-recyclable bag of lunch across the street to Rittenhouse Square and I care way too much about whether strangers will think I'm weird for photographing a burger, so I just took a crappy picture with my ancient dumbphone.

Anyway, I actually had planned to get the Philly Steak, but when I asked about getting it without the mushrooms and onions, I was told that they were "cooked into" the seitan, so that ended that little dream.  The bubbly, cute girl behind the iPad "register" suggested the Ziggy Burger.  She had me at "smoked tempeh," so I decided to give it a try.

Once I'd seated myself on a bench in the park, I pulled my burger out and was immediately amused by the wrapping:

It looks even neater up close.

The first bite of my burger was an almost otherworldly experience - I never thought I would taste a bacon cheeseburger again, but that is exactly what the Ziggy Burger tastes like.  It was so good.  I don't even want to describe it, I just want you to go to HipCityVeg and try one yourself.  Or anything else from this amazing menu...

photo credit

I want to try everything that doesn't involve Portobello mushrooms.  This is a goal that will likely be spread out over several paychecks, since the fast food set-up does not over-ride Rittenhouse Square pricing.  What's worse is how I only vaguely cringe at this point when my burger came out to $9.10 (including tax).  Actually, no, what's THE worst is that $9.10 only covered the burger.  If I had gotten fries (or kale!) and a drink, I'd have paid $15-20.  For lunch.

That being said, it was a great burger (though I kind of suspect the patty itself might have been a Boca vegan burger...) and when I entered the joint I was offered a free shot of their "Groothie," a green smoothie made of apples, bananas, kale, and pineapple and it was amazing.  I would totally pay $3.50 for it... on occasion.  I was fortunate to get there at a "lull" in the excitement.  Yeah, every seat was taken and some people were lined up along a wall waiting for their food, but I walked right in and up to the register to order - no waiting.  I must have (for once) had perfect timing, because by the time I moved to the wall to await my white satchel of burger with HipCityVeg stamped oh-so-indie-ly upon it in black ink, there was a queue of people straight out the door!

If you miss bacon, do yourself a favor and go to HipCityVeg.
If you love bacon and still eat it even though it will kill you, do your body a favor and go to HipCityVeg.
If you just love to eat good food (tasty and nutritious!), go to HipCityVeg!

Maybe I'll see you there after I get my next paycheck ;)  I'll be the one with sweet potato fries, sauteed kale, and a groothie begging the lady with the iPad to take my money.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

black magic, brown rice

I know, I know - how many posts can I really devote to brown rice?

At least one more.

I am just so pleased with myself at the moment.  Tonight I made the Seitanic Jambalaya from Veganomicon in just under an hour!  The book gives it an hour and a half, and previous attempts
have seen me begging the rice to be plump and done after two and a half hours of simmering uselessly on the stovetop.  Tonight, though, I nearly made this into an express meal!

Well, okay, let's not get out of control here.  Besides, it's not like I did anything terribly innovative - I just used the same trick I've employed for other brown-rice-stovetop-simmering recipes - I cooked the rice separately and then added it to the pot.  Ah, yes.  The pot.

Another contributor to my success may have been the use of my beautiful 4-quart saute pan.  Everything fit!

Speaking of perfect fits (and awkward segues...), I am so excited about a new development exactly halfway between the two center city locations of my company.

HipCityVeg is the new venture by Nicole Marquis, who was formerly the General Manager at my dear, departed, and sorely missed Horizons.  I knew I was in love when I read a review that featured a casual mission statement from the proprietress: "I wanted to put Horizons on a sandwich."  Um... you had me at Hello!

Great reviews abound and apparently there have been lines out the door since the place opened on Monday.  I am hoping to stop by there for lunch tomorrow since I will be traveling from one store to the other and, like I said, it's mid-way.  My mouth absolutely watered checking out the menu...

I'm putting my camera in my purse now and with a little luck (and probably a lot of patience), I'll finally have some food photos for you tomorrow (and of course, as detailed a review as I can muster!)  Until then, chickpeas, take care!

Friday, April 13, 2012

music in my kitchen

Do you ever have those moments, normally in the midst of some utterly mundane activity, when all of a sudden you are completely at peace?

I may be sending women back a few decades when I share this, but for me, those moments most commonly occur for me when I'm in my kitchen.  Tonight's Introspective Mundane Activity involved peeling the safety seal off of a new bottle of Hunt's ketchup.  There was really no good reason, which is what made it such a delightfully calming moment - opening a new bottle of ketchup has absolutely no symbolic significance (unless you really want to dig, Dr. Freud) and I would hardly consider it a life-changing experience.  Yet, as I was prying up the edges of the seal and pulling it carefully back from the bottle, I just had this moment where all was right in my world and I could honestly say that I am happy with where my life has brought me.

I generally try to stay away from existential dilemmas and my life-long angst around them (Sword of Damocles and all that) on the blog because I like to keep things generally light-hearted (so that when I occasionally go on a babbling streak about something I care about passionately, there's a better chance people will listen). To tell the truth, though, I have not been very happy with my life over the last year.  I think that is one of the reasons this is only my sixth post in 2012.

Other reasons include my wacktastic work schedule lately.  It's about to either settle down or get a lot crazier, but I'm excited about some changes taking place and looking forward to the new adventures I'll have as I learn my new position and work my way up this new "corporate ladder."  Nevertheless, in the past few months, I've needed to work later than I'd prefer some nights, resulting in a dinner schedule that is erratic at best.  Since I've stuck primarily to familiar recipes, dining out a little more frequently, and more dinners involving prepared foods, I haven't felt inclined to share, especially in the face of the writer's block that apparently also struck me mid-January.

Fortunately, it appears my recent obsession with current events and political hot topics, leading to last night's post (which went a bit further from the point I was trying to make than I'd prefer), has broken my inadvertent silence.  I might even start taking pictures of food again!

Let's not go overboard, folks.  Tonight's dinner was veggie burgers and fries.  But first, a word from our sponsor: Fantasies for a Future Kitchen....

{cue shimmery deedly-deedly music and wiggling fingers}

I have this vision in my mind.  Actually, it's kind of like a collage of many visions which all combine to create My Perfect Kitchen.  It's spacious, of course, but efficiently designed so that all the things I need are near me.  It's big enough for a small breakfast table, probably, and a baker's rack.  Not only is there enough space for all my stuff, but there is space left over for more!  So now I can fit in a stand mixer and... my Bose SoundDock, so I can charge my ancient iPod while listening to its eclectic mix of music out loud while I cook, rather than through my earbuds with the iPod unceremoniously tucked into my apron pocket.  Maybe I can even sing along without Mister thinking I've lost my marbles.

{shimmery music fades, returning us to my small but happy and efficient urban kitchen}

There was music in my kitchen tonight, though, despite my iPod being plugged into my computer to charge while I labored over frozen fries and frozen Boca patties (we're all about the brand placement tonight, folks!).  Actually, while we're on the subject, I would like to put in a little plug for Ore-Ida.  Ordinarily, I buy the store-brand fries (as well as just about anything else), but there was a sale on Ore-Ida, so I picked up a package of "Extra Crispy" fries.  They really are!  Seriously - crispiest, tastiest fries I've ever cooked in my own kitchen.

But wait - there's more!  They sing!

Yes, really.  They sing.  Or whistle, or scream bloody murder.  Whatever.  At one point, they kind of sounded like bagpipes and for some reason, I found that so amusing I thought I actually might like to listen to bagpipes (ssshhhh! don't tell the "Irish" bar across the street!).  Seriously, I noticed a kind of sizzling noise when I stirred them halfway through cooking, but when I pulled them out of the oven, they were making a whole heck of a lot of noise.  It wasn't unpleasant, though, it really sounded like they were singing for me.

I truly never thought I could write a fun post about veggie burgers and fries for dinner, but I also never knew fries would sing for me.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

kids today...

When I was a kid, there was a guy on TV that could probably be called a comedian.  His name was Rodney Dangerfield and in a trademark act, he would make his eyes all big and bulgy and indignantly utter, "I don't get no respect!"  That became a commonly reiterated phrase around our dinner table when my dear father didn't feel his daughters or wife were giving him the respect he deserved for whatever pearl of wisdom he had shared.

By the way, I know I haven't posted in nearly three months, but this post will have nothing to do with spinach.  Or Angst.  In fact, this will most likely relate to food minimally and second-hand, if at all.

Moving on...

I'm gonna do it.  I'm going to say the phrase that probably every generation before mine has said, full of righteous indignation:  Kids today have no respect.

That's kind of broad, don't you think?  I remember the first time I caught myself making a "Kids today" comment and felt like my parents and their parents before them.  I'm sure my grandparents were appalled at the misbehavior and lack of respect their children (my parents) showed them.  I know my parents were mortified when my sister and I grew our own personalities and our awareness of the world extended to the knowledge that adults were not necessarily entitled to respect purely because they had lived longer than us.  It should not (and does not) then surprise me that I think "kids today" have no respect for the world around them.

Okay.  It does, actually.

I saw in my generation a "turning around," if you will.  It seems each generation has certain paradigm shifts and cultural revolutions to which they can lay claim, but it really felt like my generation was beginning a paradigm of giving back to the world and caring for those around us.  Maybe I am wrong.  Maybe I was just blessed to be surrounded by the kind of people who would do that in any generation and age.  See this post for more on that.

I'm gonna say something now that will probably make me unpopular.  I don't like hipsters.  Like the adherents of most "counter culture" cliques, hipsters think they're really deep and thoughtful and love to take a steadfast stand on every issue that sounds remotely controversial... while normally skipping out on any kind of meaningful engagement with that issue.  I realize this is not true of every person who identifies themselves with that vapid group of people, but can we all at least agree that it's ironic that a group full of such smart people consistently misuses the word "ironic?"

I had the unfortunate opportunity to remind myself today why I try to limit my interactions with "kids today."  A friend posted an article on Facebook about how the government is now conspiring to take away women's hard-earned rights by allowing doctors to calculate the approximate date of conception using the date of her last period.

Apparently this is something new.

Ha ha -  just kidding.  That's how it's always been done.  Unfortunately, a bunch of folks who wanted to make their stand for women's rights very clear took this article as justification for their beliefs that the only issue at stake when discussing feminism and gender equality is abortion.  Clearly, if a woman is deprived of the right to mindlessly evacuate a "clump of cells" that has inconsiderately attached itself to her uterine wall, obviously through no actions the woman did or did not take to prevent that from happening, soon women won't be allowed to vote or drive a car or go to work or be viewed as human beings.  Clearly, it all hinges on the "right" to make the tiny heart of the parasite inside her body stop beating.

It probably doesn't take too much imagination to figure out where I stand on abortion "rights."

Nevertheless, there are two points I want to make.  I actually started to ponder the first point back in December when I was struggling to figure out why my colleagues were trying to rain on my happy parade with their oft-spoken hatred for the Christmas music played in all the stores throughout holiday shopping season.  "Kids today" are living in a post-Christian world.  "Kids today" were probably not brought up in the Church, or if they were, may have abandoned it once they were out on their own and no one forced them to go.  "Kids today" do not, as a general rule, follow a set of ethics that value the sanctity of life and even resent "mindless religion" for forcing people to consider that group of cells which has formed itself into the shape of a human and has a heart beat after only 22 days and a gender at the 8th week a living being.  Well, Kids, sorry to rain on your parade, but I cannot see how you can deny that the thing that has taken up unwelcomed residence in some woman's privately-owned uterus is a life, or that that life has value purely for being alive.

But that's just me.

Several comments made by friends of my friend stated, sometimes in very ugly language, that it is better to kill the child before it is born so that it:
- does not interfere any further with the life of the DNA donors
- does not die of some degenerative disease outside the womb
- does not bounce around the child welfare system (which shows nothing more than complete ignorance of how the process of adoption - and even foster care - works)
- does not contribute to the overpopulation of a world that cannot sustain additional life

I have to admit, that last one is my favorite.  So that leads to my second point:

Effective immediately, I am against any research into cures for cancer, AIDS, or any other terminal disease.  


The more time, effort, and funding we put into finding the cure for cancer (et cetera), the longer people will live when they would otherwise die of some dreadful disease.  I'm just trying to prevent overpopulation.  The world can't sustain all these people, so something must be done.  Just let them die - they've already lived long enough.

It's really no different.  Think about it for a minute.

There's really so much more that can be said about that, but that's a whole other post for another time.

There is a man named Bryan Kemper.  He used to run an organization called Rock For Life, which was a pro-life organization.  He left because he felt it was too focused on the abortion issue.  In a great speech my husband was fortunate enough to witness, Bryan explained that abortion is only one issue for someone who is truly pro-life.  To truly call yourself "pro-life," you must advocate for the end of all needless suffering and unnecessary death - that means no abortion, no death penalty, no war, no nothing that takes away life.

People like to focus on abortion because it is a polarizing issue and one about which almost everyone has a definite and vehement opinion.  The news media and gossip sites alike prefer to focus on how the government is trying to "turn back time" on women's rights by putting restrictions on when in a pregnancy a woman can get an abortion or if there are certain hoops she must jump through first (like the controversial proposed sonograph legislation).  Women's rights are far wider than whether or not we have the privilege to kill an inconveniently planted "clump of cells."  There continues to be inequality in the work place, there are still misogynistic beliefs about a woman's place and purpose that slip through lips too easily and with far too much chuckling acceptance.  I am not denying that we still need to fight to completely reverse the paradigm of our grandparents, and some of our parents, regarding "a woman's place," and what not.

All I'm saying is think first before letting a left-spun (and poorly researched and written) article get you all riled up about that one hot topic.  If you care to, I'll also ask you to spare some time to think about how you feel about life - when it begins, when it should end.  Then ask yourself why you think that - when and where did you learn it? Who or what taught you?

If you, having taken time to think, wish to leave a respectful and engaging comment, I invite the dialog.  If you are unable to be respectful, I will not hesitate to delete your comment.