Thursday, September 30, 2010

Gonna make you sweat.

I did a silly thing on Sunday. I waited too long to book my spot in a yoga workshop I really wanted to take, and it sold out. I pouted for a few minutes, then turned to the most nonsensical yoga fallback plan ever: Bikram.

As I told you here, I really struggled doing outdoor yoga on a 90° day. I was seriously rethinking the 5-class Bikram Groupon I bought impulsively, and even tried to sell it last week. Evidently all my Facebook friends thought it was spam, and I got no takers. Being cheap, I didn’t want to let it go to waste, and I started resigning myself to the fact that I might actually have to take at least one Bikram class to feel like I’d gotten my money’s worth. Financial incentives aside, I was really apprehensive about doing yoga in a 105° room. I also wasn’t enthused about the idea of wearing shorts and a sports bra in a room full of strangers and a huge mirror.

You know what? I did it, though. My regular instructor told me to hydrate like hell beforehand to prevent dizziness, so I made drinking water my mission that day. I downed about 60 ounces; I’d been going for 80, but ran out of time. Knowing my blood sugar like I do, I filled my bottle with half water, half orange juice. I grabbed a towel, tried not to think about being half-naked in public (says the girl who pulled up her shirt to show strange men her tattoo), and prepared to get my Bikram on.

“We who are about to die salute you,” I said to Red as I headed out.

“We who are about to rock,” he corrected me.

Initial thoughts: It was hella hot. I was not the nakedest person there. I was the most obviously tattooed. I was sweatier than I’ve ever been (holding Eagle Pose with slippery arms and legs is no joke!). All that drinking must have made a difference, because I only felt dizzy once. I tried to leave my ego at home and not have expectations about how much I’d be able to do, but I felt confident and strong. The instructor was very welcoming and encouraged me to do my best, although he didn’t do any of the asanas. Seriously, you can put a group of people through sweltering yoga boot camp, but you’re not gonna do it with us? Way to rest on those instructor laurels. Maybe I’m spoiled because my regular instructor always does asanas along with us, and I prefer that method of teaching.

I never thought I’d enjoy standing poses until the alternative was to be face-down on my sweat-soaked towel on my sweat-soaked yoga mat on a sweat-soaked floor. This may be a problem endemic to hot yoga studios, but the floor stank like week-old unwashed crotch. (Obviously, I’m assuming here, because my crotch-sniffing experience is limited.) I’m sure I smelled less than delicious myself, but damn, that funk stayed in my nose for two days.

Bikramites, tell me: What is with your obsession with locking elbows and knees? I don’t lock my joints on purpose, ever, and no teacher on Earth can convince me that it’s a good idea. Bikram, dude, you could be the second coming of Jesus Christ, I’m still not locking my joints for you. Why the insistence? Is it because you’re kind of a douchebag? I’m guessing so.

Bottom line: I survived, didn’t fall on my ass, honored my body and my limitations, and expanded my yoga horizons a little. I might do Bikram again, and I might not. Either way, I’ve overcome my apprehension about hot yoga, so I count that as a win.

A very sweaty namaste to you all!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Lucy in the Sun with monkeys….

Just a quickie this evening, darlings, but I couldn’t let the weekend finish without giving you a heads-up on Lucy’s latest media coup. Jill at the Baltimore Sun’s Unleashed blog was kind enough to ask us to test-drive a cute-as-hell Paul Frank collar and leash. Once I saw that it was orange and had monkeys on it, how could I say no? The results, as you can imagine, were adorable. Pop over there to read our review and see pictures of Lucy and BaltimoreGal’s lovergirl pittie, Stella!

In case that isn’t enough Lucy for you, check out these snaps from our photo session:

Enough with the flash already!

Hi! Are you here to play with me?

Serious dog is serious.

This modeling stuff is hard work!

Close-up with tongue!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

CSA Week 14: Return of the squash!

Y’all, I am so so happy about this week’s bunch of goodness, because we finally got a winter squash! A gorgeous, perfectly sized butternut, and it thrilled me no end to realize that I could finally make risotto! I made that exact risotto (adding a few of Week 13’s red onions), and it came out in exactly the right way, delicious as ever. Oh, how I missed you, winter squash. Fall is almost here, kids. I’m not happy about needing to wear socks, but I do enjoy all the warm, comforting fall dishes.

We’re still not sick of spaghetti, which is great because we got more luscious Roma tomatoes, thyme, and a fabulous bonus: basil! I am kind of a basil snob, because I can’t grow it to save my life, but my mom has only to glance at the stuff and it erupts into basilicious glory. My point being, we frequently have basil from her garden tucked away in the freezer, and it’s so awesome that I have a real difficulty buying dried basil whenever we run out. Luckily, One Straw took care of us this week. We made a truly great marinara sauce (still riffing on 30-Minute Vegan’s recipe) with plenty of Week 13’s garlic and red onions.

Week 13’s potatoes had been waiting patiently, and with this new batch, we found ourselves with more potatoes than we knew what to do with. Who are we kidding—we always know what to do with potatoes! I felt bad eating mashed potatoes by themselves for dinner, though, and Red wanted gravy, so we found a new favorite recipe: Vegan with a Vengeance’s Mashed Potatoes with Punk Rock Chickpea Gravy. If it’s got chickpeas, it’s automatically a balanced meal! We had an extra-large can of chickpeas, so we added maybe a third of a cup to the potatoes and mashed ‘em all up. (We don’t even bother buying 15-oz. cans of chickpeas anymore.) Because we suffer from delusions of classiness, we added some sautéed onions and garlic to the potatoes too, before smothering them with that seriously badass gravy. Isa is not kidding when she calls it punk rock. If you haven’t tried it, you must.

After those three killer meals, we found ourselves kind of bummed to realize that we had several heads of lettuce and a bunch of grape tomatoes left over. (I think they are grape tomatoes. I guess they could be cherry tomatoes, even though they are way smaller than either cherries or grapes. I’m going with grape. Tiny, tiny tomatoes.) Oh, God, salad? Indeed, it was meant to be. We added one of those lovely green peppers, some shredded carrots, and a handful of sunflower seeds, then Red whipped up an impromptu Dijon mustard vinaigrette that made the whole thing tasty. Good job, husband. Leftover salad also works well in a hummus wrap, in case you were wondering. Also, in case you were wondering, Veganomicon’s hummus recipe is really dead-on. You probably knew that already, or else you don’t care because just about everyone can make hummus on the fly, but now you know. It would appear that our blender gave its life for this latest batch of hummus, and unless we can get a replacement part, it will be missed, although it weighs about 90 pounds.

We’ve got a few peppers left, and we’re planning to stuff them this weekend. We’ve already started with Week 15’s delights, and it’s looking exciting, so stay tuned!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Bubblegum fruit.

So, remember when I told you about the incident of fiscal irresponsibility that led us to bring home a monstera deliciosa, a fruit that looks like it would kill you rather than let you eat it? Were you wondering how that bizarre little scenario shook out?

As you may recall, the key to the monstera is to let it peel itself. In its jar it sat, dropping its little scales everywhere until we set the jar in a spare dog dish to catch them. At times we kept it on the counter, and other times in the fridge, depending on my mood and how concerned I was that it was ripening too quickly. Whenever we opened the fridge, we were treated to a whiff of tropical fruit, which was rather nice, although a reminder that we would eventually have to eat this science experiment. It took probably about a week for all the scales to fall off, although we learned via the internet that we probably should have been eating it piecemeal instead of waiting for the whole thing to denude itself. As you can see, it got a little brown in places.

Oh, well, live and learn. Once we decided it was time to eat this beast, we had to figure out how best to go about doing that. Should I use a knife to slice the kernels off, a la corn on the cob? Pluck them off one by one, a process that was sure to hold my interest for about half a minute? I tried the latter, and resorted to using my index finger to dislodge the kernels from the core. This was a messy process that left sticky stuff all over my hand, including bits of a substance that was kinda brownish. At this point, I’m sure you’re doubting my sanity, but let me remind you that this mother cost $7, and Red and I were going to eat every last sugary little nubbin of it.

Red thought I was childish for snickering at this poor phallic representation, but then my mom said the exact same thing, and we all know that Mama Burnout is never wrong.

After minimal slimy drama, we had a bowl of monstera kernels sitting on the counter. They looked like corn kernels, only paler and a slightly bigger. There was only one thing to do: get a spoon and dig in.

We were told to expect a flavor reminiscent of pineapple and banana. I would agree, if one is accustomed to pineapple and banana as formulated by Bubblicious. The monstera was sweet almost to a fault, even for Red, who never met a sweet thing he didn’t love. I kept feeling like I should try to blow bubbles with my mouthfuls of monstera kernels, and afraid that should I swallow them, they would lurk in my gut for seven-plus years.

Between us, over the course of a few days, we managed to eat all of the monstera. A little monstera goes a long way, so we spaced out our noshing sessions, getting quick hits of sugary fruit. In summary, we won the battle, but I don’t think we’ll be gunning for a rematch anytime soon.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

CSA Weeks 12 & 13: Potatoes and peppers and tomatoes, oh my!

We are crazy full-up on late summer produce, kids. These past two weeks have been full of seasonally delicious delights, and we had a really good time figuring out what to do with our seemingly-random assortment of veggies. Here’s Week 12:

As promised, we made burritos, or something like them. Really, what we did was chop up the scallions and a few of the green peppers, sauté them with black beans and Mexican spices (no, really, that’s what it says on the bulk jar) and roll them up in tortillas with shredded lettuce, Week 11’s tomatillo sauce, Tofutti sour cream, cheddar Daiya, and my coworker’s luscious guacamole. Seriously, dude had never even had guacamole until about a month ago, but he’s made up for lost time and shared the wealth. The burritos were awesome. Messy and awesome. I made a quesadilla with the leftovers, and it too was fantastic.

I feel guilty for the amount of processed food that went into these, even though it was only the Tofutti and Daiya. Still, that’s a lot for us. I try not to rely on pre-packaged foods like those, considering them more of a treat than the fixings of a meal. And while, unlike many vegans, I don’t think Daiya will save the world, I will allow that its flavor is growing on me and it melts most fetchingly. I even made a decent grilled-cheese sandwich with it.

You’ll note the massive watermelon and its less-massive cousin, the cantaloupe. Do I really need to tell you what we did with these? Nom nom nom. However, we did manage to foist some of the watermelon off on Red’s parents and grandmother. For a fruit that’s basically water, it sure can be tiring to eat it day after day. I think it’s the seeds that wear me out.

We decided that we’d try something easy and comforting with the potatoes: soup! I’d say we used a recipe, but we really didn’t. We sort of did, then gave up and just made some damn soup. I think we had minestrone in mind, but with potatoes instead of pasta. We whipped up a tomato base, which was broth from cubes simmered with diced tomatoes. It came out very well, actually. Red is a champ at laying waste to tomatoes with our mandoline, I tell you! Then we added the diced potatoes, the green peppers that were not burritoed, and sliced green beans. We threw in a bunch of salt and pepper and Italian seasoning, too, then let it simmer for a while. It was really good, but it made a ton, so we froze about half of it. I managed to not overfill the jars this time, so we didn’t have any freezing-induced breakage. I still feel really stupid about the one and only time I’ve done that. When in doubt, underfill your jars!

We got a sweet little bunch of marjoram, too. I’d never seen it in its natural state before, and it’s very pretty! Actually, I was trying to find a picture for you just now, and it doesn’t look like the herb we had, so I don’t know if we actually had marjoram (like we were told) or something else. It smelled reliably herby, though, and worked well in the spaghetti sauce that I will tell you about in just a minute.

Here’s Week 13:

Another watermelon! Are they trying to kill us? Don’t they know those suckers are heavy?! I liked this one better than its predecessor, because it had fewer seeds. Still, Red ate more of it than I did, and we gave some to my parents. Spreading the watermelon love around, y’all.

Oh, yeah, that spaghetti sauce. This is probably the most ghetto spaghetti sauce ever. We didn’t bother measuring a damn thing. We sautéed those red onions with a few of the small green peppers (plus some left over from last week) and some garlic in a pot that was too small, because we needed the big pot for the spaghetti. Then we dumped in the diced tomatoes, fearful that they’d overflow and we’d really be in trouble (and out of dinner), and tried to stir that mess. We added the rest of the cheap-ass wine that is only good for spaghetti sauce, some sugar, and a frozen hunk of tomato paste (the only saving grace of many a quick tomato sauce). We tried to class it up on the seasoning front, though: instead of the holy triumvirate of salt-pepper-Italian seasoning, we used salt, pepper, a little dried basil, last week’s marjoram, and this week’s fresh thyme. I love it when we get herbs! Then, we prayed the sauce would reduce into something edible while the pasta cooked. Wouldn’t you know it, it did! It was certainly not our best tomato sauce, but I liked having the peppers in there.

I like the small Japanese eggplants much more than the huge American ones (really, I just learned that they are called American eggplants). They’re easier to slice and less bitter. We diced these and threw them into a curry with the rest of Week 11’s scallions and this week’s green peppers. I made Veganomicon’s Baked Curry Tofu, then whipped up a sauce with the leftover marinade. Everything got together in the wok, partied for a bit, and chilled out over some brown rice just in time to save us from starvation. It was a lovely curry, very flavorful but not too spicy.

As of this posting, we’ve still got the potatoes and most of the lettuce left, along with a few red onions and that garlic. The garlic’s easy: It’s going into the chopper, then into a jar because I have discovered that making your own diced garlic is the best of both worlds. Once it’s chopped, I get the ease of jarred garlic without the weird preservatives and crazy high cost! Lazy garlic for the win!