An Exercise in Futility

November 7, 2014

I’ll let this picture of an Instagram of a tweet do the talking.

UGH. UGH. UGH. UGH.

UGH. UGH. UGH. UGH.

My total cholesterol went up 7 points. My bad (LDL) went down 7 points. I’m still in a bad zone, or whatever.

I have no idea how that works, but I’m pissed.

:(

But I’m going to keep trying, and probably stay vegan? We’ll see…


Things I Did Whilst Unemployed…

November 5, 2014
This is what's up.

This is what’s up.

Happy autumn! Arguably my favorite time of year. (Like, I have to argue with myself about it? I don’t like to play favorites!)

Since it’s now just past my 6 month vegan-versary, you’re probably wondering what I’ve been up to for the last couple of months. (Or you’re not… that’s valid.)

I’ll tell you what I wasn’t doing: going to work. My last job ended in August, and then I found a job in September, but it doesn’t start until… next week. This was my longest period of unemployment since… since pretty much ever. A “summer vacation,” slightly shifted into fall.

So what does one do (other than work on writing samples — which one is always doing, btw, in case anyone of import is reading this)? Here’s an abridged list of things that, in retrospect, helped me beat the “unemployment mopies” that I referred to in my previous post:

-I spent a weekend in San Francisco. That was pre-planned, but it was convenient that I wasn’t working. (I actually got the job the day before I left and thought I might have to work that coming Monday.. but then I didn’t.) (I also went to Boston right after the last job ended and GOT IN A TANK WITH A BELUGA and didn’t mention it in the last post, somehow. Just FYI.)

Favorite place in SF. Two words: Free samples.

Favorite place in SF. Two words: Free samples.

-I got into calligraphy. I realized it was something I loved looking at on Instagram, and I had time, so I took an online class that led to a book that led to an online forum. Along the way I acquired a bunch of ink and watercolors. I went full art-lady, which is okay because I don’t actually dine at my dining room table.

You know, a vegan who writes cheese names. One of those.

You know, a vegan who writes cheese names. One of those.

-I got back into BodyPump and yoga, as I tend to do when my mornings are free. (I’m about to have my longest commute ever, so… bye bye gym! Until I figure out my routine, at least.)

-I cooked a bunch of different versions of lentil soup, and then got creative and decided to try making my own pad woon sen (it was just okay) and my own avocado sushi (surprisingly successful). But let’s be real, it’s probably more expensive to buy all the ingredients than to order it out. (Although maybe slightly more healthy?)

All you need is a sharp knife. (And love?)

All you need is a sharp knife. (And love?)

-I discovered the most delicious giant white beans at the Gelson’s salad bar, and have been unable to figure out what they are called.

What are you?! (The bottle cap was a size reference.)

What are you?! (The bottle cap was a size reference.)

-I watched the World Series. That was fun, but sad in the end because I was rooting for the Royals.

It's not baseball without Cracker Jacks.

It’s not baseball without Cracker Jacks.

-We dressed as Bob & Linda from Bob’s Burgers for Halloween, and Sam even made sliders (and delicious vegan sliders, too!).

Alriiiight!

Alriiiight!

-I watched a bunch of horror movies. Sam, who loves horror movies, usually tries to get me to watch one in honor of Halloween, and this year he was going to let me copout and watch this John Travolta movie about a sound editor. But then we were invited to see a musical version of Scream, so I had to watch Scream. That led to Scream 2, Halloween, Halloween H20, and probably Scream 3. I didn’t know I had it in me, and I actually enjoyed them. (Well, Halloween is about as tense and bloody as I want to go.)

-We also watched a lot of 30 for 30 ESPN documentaries. They’re just good stories, even if you’re not into sports.

-In addition, I caught up/checked out a lot of TV, old and new, mostly as I practiced calligraphy.

The table is now too cluttered with art supplies to fit the laptop.

The table is now too cluttered with art supplies to fit the laptop.

-I voted! I decided to finally switch my registration from OC to LA, so for the first time ever I voted in person, at a nearby Masonic lodge. I was very proud.

Hooray!

Hooray!

-I started trying to clean out my closet, so I could donate a lot of clothes to Goodwill. It’s a work in progress. (Somehow it’s easier to donate things than just throw them out. I’m like — someone’s gonna love you, old underwear!)

-I ordered a new iPhone, so my pictures will be better soon. If it ever ships.

-I got a flu shot! While I was chasing down the UPS truck to retrieve the pumpkin ciders from MA, pictured at the top of this post. You know, sometimes there are flu shots on the way to things.

So I wasn’t SUPER productive (that would have probably involved more cleaning and a FINISHED writing sample), but I was SOMEWHAT productive.

And how is my cholesterol, you may be asking yourself, after six months of vegan-ity? I am asking myself, too! I went to the doctor a week ago, but due to… computer error or something, my results took a week to process (I guess?) and I’m allegedly going to find out what’s up tomorrow.

So I’ll let you know soon, how all that’s going. Probably.

I’m worried that even if my cholesterol is better, I’m getting too much sodium or not enough calcium or whatever. So the next step might be to seek out a dietician? But I’m worried that’s like seeking out the biggest party pooper ever, who won’t let you eat any bread after 6pm or other madness.

Until then, I’m always up to date on my Instagram, @yapplebee. And you can see that looked-better-than-it-tasted pad woon sen.


4 Month Veg-iversary

August 28, 2014

Today, August 28, 2014, is exactly 4 months since veganism was mandated upon me. 

For a while I was kind of depressed about it, but luckily that all turned around, because there are bigger things in my life that want my negative attention now. (Like, my unemployment mopeys.)

And I’ve managed to go on various trips (within the US, important to note) without having to cheat too horribly. 

How am I celebrating? I bought myself some nutritional yeast (aka “nooch,” apparently). 

Great.

Great.

Anyway, I’m in the mood to write lists today, so here are 4 things that I’m thankful about, four months in. 

1) Finding a favorite vegan restaurant. This has been really key because it proved to me that vegan food can be delicious, and usually it doesn’t even involve any fake meat. The restaurant is called Sage, and it has TWO locations — one in Echo Park, one in Culver City. In addition to the regular menu, the Culver City location has a beer garden, pizza, pretzels, and SOFT SERVE Kind Kreme. (The one in Echo Park has regular Kind Kreme.) They both have the “famous” pierogis and amazing vegan nachos. (I didn’t even like nacho cheese in my non-vegan life.)

I have been there probably 8-10 times in the last 4 months, including TWICE for my birthday. I’ve been to the Culver City location twice — which is a major endorsement, because I am Westside-phobic.

My second birthday dinner at Sage. Part of it.

My second birthday dinner at Sage. Part of it.

2) Figuring out what I like and what I don’t like. Likes: coconut milk-based ice creams, pretty much any cheese made with nuts, kale if it’s in soup, Amy’s low-sodium soups, if I don’t have time to make one myself. Dislikes: daiya cheese, possibly nooch (?!). (I’m giving it another go because it’s such a thing for vegans.) If you don’t know what you don’t like, you keep eating the wrong stuff, and then you don’t like being vegan. (And you need to like a lot of things so you can mix it up.)

Basically what I’m learning is that what I — and probably most people — really miss is that creamy, dairy-esque flavor. So it’s important to get some of that, however you like it best. 

And finding good stuff inspires me to try to recreate it. (See: the ice cream below, inspired by an amazingly creamy scoop of coconut milk ice cream at Salt & Straw in Portland… both the original and the homemade were creamier than Kind Kreme. Sorry, Kind Kreme.)

Kale in lentil soup. Good to go. (I made this!)

Kale in lentil soup. Good to go. (I made this!)

3) My new food processor! So far I’ve only used it to grind some almonds for coconut milk ice cream, but I’m looking forward to making all sorts of fake cheeses, pestos, etc. with it. (Also, food processors have the SCARIEST warning labels. It’s like, back away if you want to liiive!) There’s something really satisfying about cooking a vegan meal for myself… and then I have leftovers. Leftovers are key.

2014-08-27 21.36.50-2

You can’t really see the nuts, but they’re in there. Thanks, food processor.

4) People who are good-natured about going to Sage with me (and then get HOOKED). It never goes unnoticed when my friends (and loved ones) are cool about going to a vegan restaurant, or let me order our shared pizza with cashew cheese, or even cook a special dish for me if I’m visiting. Because food is no fun if you can’t make it social!

All right, that’s enough of that. Time to grind up some pesto… carefully. 

xoxo…


SNACK TREK: A Stress-Free LA Sunday in Hollywood/Los Feliz

June 2, 2014
Bounty of the Hollywood Farmers' Market.

Bounty of the Hollywood Farmers’ Market.

People who know me, know that I function at a high-ish level of stress and worrying. It’s mostly a function of being me, and partly a function of having a job where I’m always on call and have to be really detail-oriented.

For me, the weekends are not always a time to kick back, even when work doesn’t beckon. As an aspiring TV writer, it’s really important that I work on my own material on the side. Therefore, I have an (amazing) writing group, and in order to finish my material/read theirs, I usually wake up at 6 or 7am on both Saturday and Sunday, and work or go to group until the early afternoon.

And if I’m NOT doing that for some reason — maybe a weekend off — I’m just generally stressing that I didn’t write enough, all the time.

This time of year is what I call “fellowship season” — when several studios allow aspiring TV writers to submit their materials and personal essays, hoping that we’ll manage to secure the equivalent of a golden ticket: a spot in one of their workshops/fellowships, which could very well lead to being staffed on a TV show. The dream.

AKA it’s kind of a stressful time, and then around Labor Day it’s stressful again because it’s the “am I going to hear back?!” time.

ANYWAY — that’s all to say that this weekend the first big deadline passed, and my material was in (another deadline’s coming in a few weeks, but the heavy lifting is over). Thanks to the deadline, writing group didn’t meet. Saturday I ended up having to work, but Sunday the day was wide open, and I felt like I could just do whatever, guilt-free.

So obviously I wanted to eat and drink. I called my sister in for hangout reinforcements.

First stop was the Hollywood Farmers Market, which I don’t often make it out to, these days. Usually I’m kind of conservative in my purchases, but yesterday I splurged on the famous Harry’s Berries (okay, like $6, but whatever). The seascape berries are what all strawberries should taste like — that bright, sweet flavor.

I also splurged on Forbidden Fruit Orchards blueberries, which are really firm and sweet and tart. So many grocery store blueberries turn out to be a disappointment, or full of squishy ones. Forbidden Fruit Orchards doesn’t play you like that.

Really, it’s important that you go sample fruit at the farmers market from time to time, to remember what fruit is supposed to taste like.

The picture above also features boysenberries, which I’m not sure I’d ever officially tried before — they’re the sweeter version of blackberries, almost like candy-sweet, definitely like jam-sweet. It’s like scooping jam into your mouth, without the scary process of canning.

And of course I got Ranier cherries, which I discovered last year can often be more delicious than regular red cherries. (Sadly, I didn’t not catch the names of the orchards for the boysenberries/cherries.)

We also sampled amazing vegan mole and other delights from Bloom Foods, but I regrettably didn’t purchase anything.

Then we went back to Los Feliz, where we wandered around while we waited for a table at Little Dom’s. I got the eggs bruschetta with egg whites, a breakfast I often dream about.

Leaning tower of egg whites.

Leaning tower of egg whites.

It’s grilled bread, pesto (possible dairy cheat?), roasted tomatoes, and eggs, with some sort of delightful basil oil, I think. Maybe it’s just pesto run-off.

I joked to Dana that we’d gotten like 20 egg whites each. An egg white doesn’t make very much, and it seemed like SO MUCH EGGS.

Along with that, Dana got a fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice. (They have such good fresh-squeezed juice that it doesn’t feel like completely insanity that it’s $5.)

I got a grapefruit shandy (40% beer, 60% fruit soda), which is really hot right now in Los Feliz. It makes me happy because I first discovered shandy when I was 18, at the Stiegl beer tour in their factory in Salzburg, Austria (Brauwelt aka Beer World, which amuses me to no end, for some reason — oh, German) — and this shandy is FROM THERE!

Dana added her grapefruit lip gloss for... scale?

Dana added her grapefruit lip gloss for… scale?

Life, right?

(I really need to go back to Brauwelt, because I think I’d appreciate the whole experience a lot more now that I have more of a palette for beer. Also — two free beers and a pretzel! At the time, at least.)

One of the best things about being vegan is that I can still drink (in moderation… anything more is not heart friendly).

Then we went home and watched “So You Think You Can Dance” and  “I Wanna Marry Harry,” which turned out to be hilarious. Some of the girls are real firecrackers, and others are just crazy. I always prefer a show with a twist or some silliness to the earnest weirdness of straightforward dating shows.

And we snacked on fruit, obviously.

Later, for dinner, Sam joined us and we went to Messhall… which is like a block from Little Dom’s. Small radius of eating. Dana and I ordered the two vegan dishes on the menu (the chili and the curry) and split them… and both were good, I’m happy to report. (Dana is about to be my neighbor, part of the reason why I’m intro’ing her to all the trendy restaurants of LF.)

Dana and Sam also had oysters, which sadly are verboten for me — shellfish is a cholesterol pitfall. But honestly, as good as oysters can be, they are also the consistency of snot, if you got a lot of snot together. So I’ll probably live without eating them.

And I got a Riesling. I don’t even really care about the brand of Riesling. Have Riesling, good to go. (And good to later have a headache… whoops.)

I took no pictures at Messhall. Sorry not sorry.

Instead I’ll show you a picture of my new go-to meal, “broasted” veggies. (Roasted Brussels sprouts and various potatoes.)

This is how I felt yesterday, as told in veggies.

This is how I felt yesterday, as told in veggies.

And then Sam and I came home and watched Game of Thrones and the Silicon Valley. I actually don’t technically watch most of Game of Thrones… I look away and Sam tells me when the bloody stuff is over. But I accidentally caught a glimpse of an axe to the head early in the episode, which brought to mind how much just READING about that in “Crime and Punishment” in high school traumatized me.

Luckily Silicon Valley cut through the trauma, a real palette cleanser. Comedy — it makes everything better! (This year there is so much good comedy out there — Louie, Kroll Show, Inside Amy Schumer, Broad City, Key & Peele, Bob’s Burgers… go check them all out.) (Yes, although I stress about writing a lot, I also spend a lot of time watching TV… RESEARCH.) (This would be a much better excuse if I wrote comedy.)

And that was basically as good as it gets, when I have a day off to just kick around in my neighborhood.

Happy June!


The Rules of Cheating

June 2, 2014
A worthy cheat -- strawberry rhubarb galette at Stone Brewing on Sam's birthday.

A worthy cheat — strawberry rhubarb galette with goat cheese creme at Stone Brewing on Sam’s birthday.

I think the hardest thing about being mostly vegan in the hopes of lowering my cholesterol is negotiating the rules of cheating.

My cardiologist’s thoughts were: Occasional fish is okay, and it’s fine to cheat on special occasions (mitzvahs, as he put it).

The word “occasional” has really got me agonizing about how much fish I ought to eat. Fish once a week? Fish once a month? Did he mean that I SHOULD have fish because overall it’s pretty healthy (omega-3s, but then again a lot of veggies have them), or that I SHOULDN’T but it’s the least offensive?

Really the question is, how often can I have sushi? I love me some sushi, and definitely steeled myself to go have salmon sushi one night, only to walk out of the restaurant, unsure of myself. My final-ish thought on the matter was that I’d only eat fish at the really tops sushi places in my book, the Katsuya in Studio City (the best, non-SBE one) or Sugarfish (many locations, our closest is also in Studio City). They’re both expensive and often crowded/long waits, so there’s only so often we’d realistically be going there.

But then I discovered something that has held me over for now — avocado sushi.

It’s like it sounds — just avocado, seaweed paper and rice. But A) I love avocado and B) it actually kind of feels like squishy sushi-fish in your mouth. Perfect.

When I discovered it, I had it two days in a row. And I didn’t even have to worry about mercury poisoning.

Thanks, avocado. Never change. I love you. CA loves you.

Other than that, my arbitrary rules of cheating are pretty basic:

Once a week, on a special occasion or the weekend (which is ALWAYS a special occasion, because it’s the weekend), I can have –

1) One fish cheat.

2) One egg-white cheat.

3) One dairy/dessert cheat.

4) One fried food (usually French fries or chips) cheat.

If I don’t use it, no roll-overs. Like a cell phone plan.

So far, I’ve actually gone for weeks at a time without using my cheats, except for French fries — which are technically not a vegan cheat, but are a heart-healthy-living cheat.

The dessert cheat has only really been employed on birthdays. (Both Sam’s… once on his actual birthday, and another the next week when we got him a Cuban cake from Porto’s. It was delicious.)

The egg white cheat is mostly for brunching, and was first employed yesterday.

Oh, and if we’re going to get technical about veganism, I still eat honey. Sorry, bees.

The best news/biggest relief is that I can still have Chipotle, and that I actually like the tofu sofritas. Who would have guessed? (My first date with Sam was at a Chipotle, so it has all sorts of special places in my heart.)

What do you think of my cheats? What would your cheats be, if you were me?

Veg-ish-ly yours…


DO IT YOURSELF: Eggplant Curry (w/ A Celebrity Cameo)

May 21, 2014
Dutch oven borrowed from Sam.

Dutch oven borrowed from Sam.

It has been a little depressing getting into this whole vegan thing, because it feels like my eating world has been made a lot smaller. I mean, LA has a lot of vegan restaurants and everything, but the point of being vegan is to be healthy, not to go out and eat vegan versions of pizza and fried “chicken.”

This is the story of the night the depression finally took a turn, but not for the reason you would think. (Wait for it.)

One good thing about having to venture into this lifestyle choice is that I DO like vegetables, and I like cooking, and I even have the Moosewood Cookbook (a lovely illustrated vegetarian cookbook with a lot of vegan substitutions). Sam gave it to me a few years ago, so he’s clearly a visitor from the future. Or something.

Anyway, one fact about me is that I LOVE eggplant, and another fact about me is that I DON’T LOVE very complicated recipes. One night about a week ago, I knew that I have to cook something nutritional and veggie-ish for myself (I’d had a rather empty lunch), and was floundering and hemming and hawing about what to eat (classic me) until I saw the Moosewood Cookbook’s Eggplant Curry recipe. It’s basically veggies, spices, simmer 30 minutes, et voila.

Sam walked me to the store but was in a bit of a rush to go meet a friend. So he gathered the onion, eggplant, and frozen peas, and I gathered the necessary spices that I didn’t already have (cumin seed, mustard seed, turmeric). Sam left just as I realized I should have asked him to grab the optional cilantro. So I headed to the produce section to rectify this error.

Just my luck, every green leafy thing in the produce section was labeled EXCEPT the cilantro. I made the logical deduction that the unlabeled thing probably WAS the cilantro. I stood there sort of half-heartedly sniffing it and trying to figure out if it smelled like Mexican food. (There’s a lot of cilantro in Mexican food.)

A very tall man in a baseball cap approached the cilantro and we had this (paraphrased) conversation. Note: He was facing away from me the entire time.

Me: Excuse me… is this cilantro?

Man: Yes… but they don’t call it cilantro in Britain, where I’m from.

Me: Oh… that’s confusing. [In my head: I hope he’s sure it’s cilantro, then.] They should…

Man: Choose one name for it.

Me: … Label it.

At that point, the man wandered away, and I bagged some cilantro. But then I got really curious — what DO they call cilantro in England? Of course I didn’t have my phone to look it up (I’d forgotten it at home, which I very rarely do), and I might forget. Luckily, the man wandered back.

Me: Excuse me… so what do you call cilantro in England?

Man: Coriander.

Me: Oh… of course! [I’m not sure if I actually knew that.]

At this moment, the man turned around, and I realized it was Stephen Merchant.

Me: [super flustered] I guess we just have the… uh… Mexican influence. Bye!

I walked away thinking A) I can’t believe Sam missed Stephen Merchant! B) I don’t even have my phone to text him! C) Of COURSE he was a celebrity, he was wearing a HAT! and D) Just generally feeling bad that I’d bothered Stephen Merchant, because I have a don’t-bother-celebrities personal code.

But also I wondered if he thought I’d been flirting with him, because “Hello Ladies.”

Anyway, I walked home and told Sam and his friend about Stephen Merchant (they were jealous), went back to my place and made the curry, using the cilantro that Sam joked had been “blessed by Stephen Merchant.”

I guess it made me realize that there are unexpected silver linings to any situation that puts us out of our comfort zones. If I hadn’t been forced to be vegan, I wouldn’t have dragged my miserable butt to the store, and I wouldn’t have had an accidental conversation with an internationally famous creative mind.

Ingredients.

Ingredients. “Coriander” front and center.

In case you’re wondering, the curry came out just okay. Maybe because the eggplants seemed kinda old/bruised, maybe because I didn’t add enough water at one point and it burned a little. But I ate it for several days, because… a girl’s gotta eat (vegan).

But this is ALL the cilantro I used. (I don’t love it, and I’m not good at mincing leaves.) The rest is still sitting (let’s be real: probably rotting) in the fridge.

A pinch.

A pinch.

I might start calling it coriander from time to time. I’m so worldly now.

Things have turned around since this meal, though. The next few things I made after my first vegan chili and this eggplant curry actually came out pretty good… I’ll share them soon. All I can say is, thank goodness I suddenly love Brussels sprouts, they are my champion.

Until next time…


DO IT YOURSELF: Lovely V-Day “Taste of SF” Meal (Feb 2014)

May 16, 2014
Delicious-ness.

Delicious-ness.

So the point of the previous SF post was to tee up this excellent Valentine’s Day dinner. It’s a tradition that Sam cooks up a wonderful meal with a surprise menu for V-Day, and this year I knew he had something major up his sleeve because for a WEEK ahead of the meal he retired to his next-door apartment almost every night to do secret cookings.

It turned out that the meal was “A Taste of SF,” celebrating the culinary highlights of our November trip. One of the secret cookings involved making a sourdough bread starter. And another was pre-making custard for the ice cream, which I will elaborate on in a bit.

FIRST COURSE: Sourdough, infused oils (home-infused!), and store-bought soft cheese.

This, of course, invoked our lovely time at the Ferry Building, tasting oils, and our little picnic. Because the bread was young it wasn’t super sour — I actually think it tasted a lot like the bread at Morton’s Steakhouse, which Sam has never had but he should take my word for it. Fancy bread.

The oils were tasty but kept turning solid when we tried to store them, which kinda freaked me out. I have botulism fears.

SECOND COURSE: Salad. Not pictured. Sorry, salad.

THIRD COURSE: Cioppino, aka seafood stew, invented in SF. (And pictured twice. Take that, salad!)

DESSERT: Tartine apple crisp, homemade vanilla bean ice cream, garnished with dark chocolate Ghirardelli square.

Tartine was a restaurant we didn’t have time to try in SF, so Sam used their recipe for dessert. You guys, this was easily one of the best desserts I’ve ever had, counting restaurants and homemade. I’m not always the biggest fan of apple desserts, but this one came out just right — I like my apples very mushy, in pie-like situations, and the crust was… I think all butter. It was fantastic.

And the ice cream had like a hundred egg yolks and real vanilla bean, and was also incredible. I know you weren’t there to taste it, but you just have to take my word for it.

I’m glad this all happened before my vegan eating days… once again, I think I know how my cholesterol went up. Worth it.

I’m the type of person who doesn’t always believe in typical presents — I think a card and a good meal or experience can be better than a tangible gift. And this was one of those meals that 100% endorses my theory. It’s a wonderful memory… of a wonderful memory. It’s an ouroboros. Or something.

Sam has stipulated that Valentine’s Day must continue to be a cheat day (“cheat” = eating a bit of dairy and fish), and I’m okay with that.

Next up: Probably some vegan cooking anecdotes. Hold onto your butts!

xoxo…


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