Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Breakfast is Orange and Frothy

So today is Day #3 of my new drive to take charge of my health and weight. I started out on Monday with all the vim and vigour of the newly converted, hitting the gym and the juicer with equal enthusiasm, and vowing to myself that this was the start of something...erm...big.

Or small - whichever way you want to see it.

My fervor carried me through most of yesterday as I shopped for tons of fresh produce, spent a sweaty 45 minutes in the gym again, and noodled around the interwebs looking for inspiring weight loss stories.

But then came 6pm and it was time to cook dinner. :( As mentioned, My Beloved is trim and utterly without a peck of extra flesh so needs to lose no weight whatsoever. This means I have to be careful about dinners - the only meal we share during the week - as it can't be 'just' a salad. So I started preparing some vegan stuffed mushrooms (portabellos), tabbouleh and green leafy salad with a raw peppery-avocado dressing. Normally I would have baked a loaf of fresh, crusty, deliciously-warm-in-the-center bread to go with this, and perhaps a dessert for afterwards too. But this time I refrained. Keeping myself from devouring the stuffing - onions, garlic, spinach, breadcrumbs, thyme, pepper and Daiya cheese - by the handful was the tricky part as my mind screamed at me that I had been great all day dammit and I deserved some actual food!

Still I managed to resist but not without descending fairly rapidly into a crabby mood. It is interesting to me to see that, although I know that my love affaire with food has perhaps the most major impact on my emotional functioning, there seems to be little I have learned to help myself manage this. I am not without insight into my own mind, but still allow myself to be ruled by feelings around food: what to eat, how much to eat, even where to eat - the formality and process of a meal, and so on and so forth. I have read that folks doing a cleanse or a juice-fast (neither of which I am doing, btw) often have to deal with a surge of emotion around the food they are not intaking, but that they usually come out of the other side intact. I have to assume that this will also be the case with me. So for the meantime, I will plough on and just keep putting one foot in front of the other, along this path towards health and wellness.

Breakfast this morning was this:

Looks like an orange-creamsicle, no?

Actually, it is the juice of 2 large carrots, 2 oranges and 1 small grapefruit. And, yet again, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. :)

Monday, April 9, 2012

Thanks to the Nutrition Ninja

I can't deny it: I am not a skinny vegan. Nowhere. Near. In fact, I couldn't even claim to be chunky. 'Chubby'? Perhaps 'voluptuous'? 'Curvaceous'! Nope, plain and simple 'fat' is the more honest descriptor. I have battled weight all my life - both in my pre-vegan, omnivorous days and now. The problem is that fundamentally I am physically lazy, except when it comes to food preparation and consumption and then of course I am a dynamo. I can stand and cook for hours, eat as an Olympic sport, bake up a storm, and keep coming back for more. During my lifetime, I have tried the majority of the 'brand-name' diets, but either they don't sit right with me or I don't have enough willpower to make them work. Inevitably some pounds disappear but they always come back and when they do, they bring their friends.

During the course of her visit here, my mother channeled her inner Nutrition Ninja and bought me a juicer. It's one of those kitchen tools I've always quietly desired but never really thought to buy as a. they're expensive, b. they're uni-taskers, and c. I'd use it only for myself. My Beloved, skinny and gorgeous as he is, is more partial to a good microbrew or a glass of wine than he is to juices and I just thought it a waste of money to buy something solely for myself.

Thank you, Mum!

Here's the beastie she sneakily purchased without even telling me:

So I have resolved to incorporate a ton of fresh juices into my diet and see if I can crowd out the calorie-laden vegan goodies I have come to so enjoy. My plan is simple: juice and salads for breakfast and lunch, and smaller dinners with My Beloved.

I have not yet set goals for weight loss or milestones for the challenge, but I just know I have to change how I take care of myself before it all gets too late. I made the change from meat-eater and cheese-lover to vegan very easily and have really not looked back. But I always find it easier to act on behalf of someone else - in this case, the animals whose suffering and death I was supporting with my foolish choices - than to act for myself. This must change and it's started here, with lunch:

Cucumber, celery, pear, green apple, and a blood orange.

Actually, quite delicious. And now I want another! :)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Pizza 2.0: Introducing an Odd but Addictive Ingredient

Right now, my mother is visiting from the UK and because I am on 'best behavior' when it comes to food, we're cooking up all kinds of wonderfully healthy vegan goodies. Massive salads, lots of leafy greens, a veritable rainbow of vegetables from red peppers to deep purple eggplants, and everything along the spectrum. We are also eating low on the food chain and minimizing our use of processed ingredients in an effort to demonstrate that whole food-based meals are not only healthful and nutritious, but delicious too.

But My Beloved and I are not perfect and love our junk food as much as the next person. So, prior to my mother's arrival, we cooked up the biggest honking vegan pizza and devoured it all. Every. Last. Daiya-cheesy. Bite! Oh, and we took pix too so let me share the recipe with you. :)

Our absolute favorite pizza topping is not one that would probably spring readily to mind for most folks. Yes, we like vegan sausage on a pie, but no, that's not it! Yes, tempeh crumbles are sublime, but no, that's not what we reach for either. So what is it? Ok, here's a clue:

Got it yet? Cucumber with Chinese black beans! Yup, I DID say that it might not be the first topping that springs to mind when considering pizza, but please don't knock it until you've tried it because it is simply divine. Here's what to do:

1. Pre-heat your oven to around 450 or as hot as you dare

2. Prepare your pizza crust either by rolling out your dough or by grabbing a pre-made crust. I like to make the dough for my pies, but I can keep your secret if you go the store-bought route!

3. Using a vegetable knife or peeler, peel the skin off two medium-sized cucumbers, or one large 'English cucumber' and halve them lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds so that you are left with cucumber boats and then cut them into half-moons like this:

Ain't this pretty!

You can toss the seeds and pulp but I saved them to give to Darwin the Beagle as a snack. Yes, here's this post's second odd concept: my beagle loves cucumbers...go figure!

4. Finely slice some garlic cloves (how many is up to you but I normally go with around 6 - 8 for a large pizza) and saute in a little oil in a large-ish pan.

5. When the garlic starts to turn golden, add 1 generous tbsp of sambal oelek to the pan and stir well to combine. Sambal oelek is a thinish paste made of ground chillies and is relatively spicy but delish. A little goes a long way and, if this is a new ingredient, here's what it looks like:

6. Next add the chopped cucumber to the pan and stir well to make sure it gets coated nicely in the spicy mix. Add a splash - perhaps 1/4 cup - of vegetable broth and cook over a medium heat until the cucumber slices start to soften and become slightly translucent.

7. And finally: the last 'odd' ingredient goes into the mix....fermented black beans. No, these are not the Mexican kind of black beans as you get in burritos, but are salted, somewhat pungent little critters that I found to be rapidly quite addictive. This is what they look like (apologies for the unfortunately placed price sticker):

Add about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of these to the cucumbers and continue cooking for approximately 5 minutes or until the stock is mostly absorbed. As it's cooking down, the mix should look like this:

8. Spread the gorgeous cucumber-spicy-black-beany delight on your unbaked pizza crust, cover liberally with Daiya cheese (mozzarella) and pop unto the oven for approximately 20 minutes (or according to the package instructions if using a store-bought crust).

As you are waiting for the crust to bake, the cheese to melt and the whole kit-and-kaboodle to be ready, the smell emanating from your oven will drive you insane, so it's best to avail yourself of a nice glass of wine and resist checking the progress of your pie every 2 minutes. However, once it is bubbly and golden, hang fire for just a couple more minutes once you've removed it from the oven otherwise you will end up with a burned mouth and that is no-one's idea of a party. While you're waiting for it to cool a little, you can admire it up close:

Go on - try it...I dare you. :-D

Stay vegan, friends!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Cackleberry in California!

There is simply no excuse - good, bad or indifferent - for neglecting Cackleberry for so long. So here's one more attempt to get back on track and bring you the great recipes, vegan musings, updates on the animal rights movement and all the other good stuff I used to put out at least semi-regularly.

The news is that I moved, with My Beloved and our two rescue pups, from New England to California - finally fulfilling a dream that we'd shared for several years but never been able to act upon. However, when opportunity suddenly knocked, we leapt at the chance to make the transition from plucky New Englanders to carefree Californians. We quit our jobs, put the house on the market and high-tailed it west.

The road has been long and not a little challenging and you can read all about the actual journey at our travel blog,, which we updated each day as we drove coast to coast from Westfield, Massachusetts to Concord, California. We rented an RV - a singular experience in and of itself - and, having loaded all of our 'stuff' into a POD and shipped the cars via transporter, we spent 10 days living on the road. Why did we not just fly? Yes, I can hear you asking the obvious question! Well, the truth of it was that Darwin the Beagle, our senior pup, was undergoing a second course of chemo for lymphoma and he was too sick to fly. Besides which, neither My Beloved nor I were confident that either of the pups would be looked after by the airlines as well as we would want, so driving seemed like the only option to us. We gave him his chemo on the road and each state that we passed through offered a dog-friendly campsite that was happy to welcome a slightly shaky senior to its community. :)

And having settled in and felt the California sun on his Back, Darwin is now doing well, as are the rest of us. West coast living suits us and I am finding new interests and new meaning in my life. No, things have not worked out exactly as I had hoped, and there have been a number of disappointments and frustrations, but overall the change is refreshing and inspiring. I passionately want to get back to writing Cackleberry, to playing with new recipes, sharing new photos, and spotlighting issues within the vegan world. In terms of my commitment to veganism and to the animals, nothing has changed in the slightest.

I do not expect that the kind folks who used to follow this blog will flock back in droves, but I do hope the word might get out that Cackleberry is back: bigger, better, still uncompromising, and packed with news, updates, recipes, restaurant reviews, photos, gossip, and all things vegan and animal.

I hope to see you soon. In the meantime, stay vegan, friends!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad