Monday, June 28, 2010

In which I am clearly not cut out for hot yoga.

On Saturday morning, I gleefully packed my yoga mat and some water and went on down to the Inner Harbor, where Charm City Yoga was offering a free outdoor seva class. Seva means “service,” and I think it is kind of the same thing as a mitzvah: Do something good. In this case, everyone who came to do yoga was asked to pay it forward in some way to a worthy cause. I liked this idea. I was optimistic that I would get a solid workout and feel spiritually awesome at the same time. Besides, two nice things had already happened: Next to us, a wedding party was preparing to depart on their day cruise, and a sweet girl had offered me her prepaid parking receipt, saving me $2. I was so shocked that I’m not even sure I thanked her properly. I knew it was going to be hot that day, but I had water and a towel and was feeling froggy, as my regular instructor likes to say.

Then it rapidly approached 90° at 9:00 a.m., and my ambitions turned into a miserable puddle of sweat and fervent prayers to remain upright. I was mildly nauseous and a little overwhelmed. Midway through, as we flowed into Warrior II (and I really like Warrior II, incidentally), I heard my body say very clearly, “Bitch, if you don’t take Child’s Pose right now, I am gonna render your stupid ass unconscious and then we’ll both have something to be embarrassed about.” I sank to my mat, feeling my sweaty forehead squish into the rubber, and tried to re-focus on my breath. This sucks, I thought. I will never ever be able to become a yoga teacher if I can’t handle practicing in the heat. When I finally stood up, the glaring brightness of the morning (and it was still morning, pathetically) clashed with the dizzy blackness in front of my eyes. I probably said “fuck” a time or two.

Of course, as fate would have it, the sky clouded over as soon as we finished with standing poses. Even with the clouds, I noticed something funny about doing sitting and lying poses outdoors: Your mat gets hot. I don’t know whether having a rubber mat is better or worse, but I was irrationally pissed at my Manduka eKo for having the gall to superheat when I was already struggling so hard. As we stretched out for Savasana, the fountain show at the nearby visitors’ center kicked off, complete with the bombastic strains of “Good Morning Baltimore” from Hairspray.

All of which is to say, I might be regretting the 5-class Bikram pass I bought for cheap off Groupon. Any takers?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A moment of namaste.

This morning, I stepped outside my office to get a little fresh air and stretch my tired body. Standing, I reached into Gomukhasana, which feels so lovely in my arms and shoulders. “Yoga!” exclaimed a guy on the sidewalk. “That’s right, that’s right, relieves the stress!” I laughed as he continued on his way, smiling.

Image courtesy of Yoga XTC.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

CSA Week 2: What the hell is mizuna?

This CSA delivery started off more auspiciously than the previous one, because we actually knew what everything was. There was a list this week, so Red was able to jot down what we had. That is how I learned that one of our many bunches of greens was a mysterious form of vegetation called mizuna. “Are you sure you wrote it down right?” I asked him, squinting at his handwriting. He rolled his eyes and proved to me, via the power of the Internet, that mizuna is a Japanese mustard green and not one of Godzilla’s lesser-known adversaries.

Forgive the plastic bags. I put everything away before realizing I hadn’t taken a picture for you people yet.

Perhaps fittingly, our mizuna found its calling in the wok, where it partied with some garlic, ginger, and beet greens. (Veganomicon’s Easy Stir-Fried Leafy Greens, in case you were interested.) Totally easy and delightful. I am not a particular fan of beets, so the beets themselves are still sitting in the Crisper, awaiting Red’s pleasure.

Arugula liked us so much that it decided to return for an encore. This resulted in one of my stranger culinary mash-ups thus far. I hacked a tester recipe from Isa Chandra Moskowitz’ upcoming cookbook; there was no way it could be a valid test, since we didn’t have all the ingredients, but Red and I decided to ghetto it up and see how it fared. We ended up with a pasta salad (always a good start) with arugula, kalamata olives, and black-eyed peas, tossed with a sun-dried tomato-walnut dressing. It was unusual. Totally edible, but perhaps not something I would serve to strangers. Had I been able to make it properly, I’m sure it would have been a rousing success.

Orange bowl of doooooooom!

Continuing with the salad theme, next I made a strawberry salad from Becoming Raw. I think this is where the green-leaf lettuce ended up. (My confusion stems from the fact that we still have red-leaf and romaine lettuce chilling in the fridge—they’re a little tired, but they’re to meet their destinies this evening in a Caesar salad. SO MUCH LETTUCE.) It had an orange-poppy seed dressing that was really, really yummy. I could just drink the dressing, and it was so simple to put together! I dumped everything into a jar and shook it like a Polaroid picture. Now this was a salad fit for company.

Ain’t this some fancy-looking shit?

On Sunday, I moved back to the stove and made some seitan. I try not to order you guys around, because you’re here of your own volition, but you should really learn to make your own seitan. It doesn’t take too terribly long and it’s hella cheap, plus you can flavor it however you want. The seitan at the store is all slimy and expensive. Anyway, my seitan went into the wok with rainbow chard and spinach (minus a few leaves that dedicated themselves to pre-yoga hummus wraps) for Veganomicon’s Sautéed Seitan with Mushrooms and Spinach. It’s not Asian-inspired at all, but French; I just made it in the wok because that’s the biggest pan I have. I’m sure a French chef out there would die after hearing that, but life’s tough for all of us. We spooned it over mini gnocchi, but there was way more seitan and veggies than gnocchi, so now we’re eating the leftovers with rice. (No, I did not make the gnocchi from scratch. What kinda time you think I got?)

It looks like a mess, but it’s quite elegant. Kind of like yours truly.

Finally, it was time for kale. I love you so much, kale. You’re infinitely versatile and uncomplaining. I could take you out back and run you over with a truck, and you’d still be delicious. This lucky bunch of kale went into the wok for that fabulous Vegan with a Vengeance creation, the aptly named Garlicky Kale. You would never think that three ingredients—garlic, kale, and oil—could be so goddamned tasty. I didn’t even bother making the accompanying tahini sauce. Who needs it? I could have eaten that kale all day. Between us, we ate all of it with some BBQ tofu. Homemade BBQ sauce, what what! Alas, the victory was bittersweet, because there was no Twin Oaks tofu to be had at the hippie grocery and we had to slum it with some vastly inferior stuff. Please, Twin Oaks tofu, come back to me!

Natural light makes my photos suck less.

And there you have it. Just in time for tonight’s haul! This has already been a really good exercise in learning what to do with all these greens. Happily, the simplest explanation seems to be the best: stir-fry ‘em lightly, then chow down. I can handle that, though I think I might try a frittata from Vegan Brunch if we’re snowed under with leafy goodness again this week. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Who’s my pretty girl?

Lucy is, of course! Naturally, she’s gorgeous, but when the time came for us to buy her a new collar, we wanted one that was as sassy as she is. The collar that she came to us with is still serviceable, but it’s plain and at 1” wide, a little skinny for her big, blocky pittie head and thick neck. Thanks to rave reviews from It’s a Vegan Dog’s Life, I had been longingly browsing K9 Closet for some time. Recently, Red and I finally decided on a collar. Lucy is now the proud owner of a sparkly red Hot Rod collar, which, as you can see, looks fabulous on her. At 2” wide, it fits her better too. It’s a martingale combo, which means it has both a martingale loop (in case we ever need to clip her leash on immediately and don’t have time for her harness) and a side-release buckle for easy removal. The best of both worlds! I was a little concerned that a collar made of vinyl might be on the stiff side, but Lucy is pleased to report that after a day or two, the vinyl softened right up and is very flexible. It’s lined in satin for extra comfort.

Then, to make things even snazzier in the collar department, It’s a Vegan Dog’s Life offered a collar flower giveaway! Now, my girl is not exactly the dainty floral type, but these flowers were so adorable I had to ask Molly to send us one. I chose rainbow, because really, what is better than rainbows?

Good dog, bad photo.

The giveaway also included this cute sticker, which will soon grace the bumper of my car.

You have no idea how much I need this reminder.

From nom-worthy recipes to fashionable accoutrements, It’s a Vegan Dog’s Life has ensured that Lucy will be well fed and glamorous. Thanks again, Molly!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

CSA Week 1: So. Many. Greens.

Welcome to the inaugural installment of a new feature here at Chez Burnout, wherein I will regale you with our weekly CSA haul. Are you excited? Good.

Red and I bought a share from One Straw Farm, which is located about an hour north of us. They are lovely people up there and grow some really tasty food! Initially, I waffled on the idea of committing to a CSA: I wanted to support a local farm, but I really didn’t want to give up control of what we’d be eating every week. Who hasn’t looked at a pile of random produce and wondered how the hell to turn it into dinner? I’m used to picking recipes and then going shopping, not vice versa! Eventually, I got over myself and reasoned that it would be a good experiment in eating seasonally and would stretch my creativity in the kitchen. We won’t be getting any avocados, for sure. We got 24 weeks, kiddos, so strap in.

[Technically, this should really be Week 2, or Week 1b, since we had a surprise early delivery of a whole big bunch of strawberries two weeks ago. They were divine. We ate a couple pints, then turned another couple into a strawberry-coconut crisp (I hacked a recipe from Veganomicon). I highly recommend eating local strawberries whenever they’re in season where you are. There’s nothing like it.]

So. First week of our CSA, and what do we have? Greens. A massive boatload of green leafy things. Holy cats, there was so much greenery I thought it was effin’ Christmas.

Well, it wasn’t entirely greens:

There were some strawberries that clearly wished they’d been on the bandwagon two weeks ago. They were fine, but definitely not the luscious jewels we’d gobbled before. Strawberries, alas, are fleeting.

There was also a bundle of green freakiness that looked like Medusa’s hair as interpreted by scallions. These little devils turned out to be garlic scapes, also known as that part of the garlic that sticks up above the ground. It’s garlic hair, y’all, and it behaves like a garlicky scallion. Ours found their destiny in the Zucchini-Corn Fritters from 30-Minute Vegan.

The green chard was easy to identify, since I love it so. I knew exactly what to do with it, too: Veganomicon’s Fresh Dill-Basmati Rice with Chard and Chickpeas. This recipe is so good, I cannot stress it enough. I don’t know what it is about the lemon and dill, but they remind me of my grandma and it is one of the simplest, tastiest meals I have ever made. You seriously need to make it. Red and I could crush the whole batch in a single day if we were of a mind to.

Arugula! Oh, weird peppery-smelling arugula. What do I do with you? We didn’t really feel like eating salads all week, so we went the cooked route. Half the bunch went into miso soup, and we were delighted with the results. Arugula rocks in miso soup, guys! You don’t need any fancy seaweed or baby spinach—use whatever greens you have on hand, and your miso soup will be good. Shameless product plug for which I am not being paid: Twin Oaks Tofu is rad. It is rad in scrambles, stir-fries, and now miso soup. I’m sorry if you live too far away from the Virginia commune where the hippies make it, but we do not, and we reap the benefits of their hippieness. The rest of the arugula and tofu contributed to a stir-fry with diced zucchini and peppers, which then got together with…

…Red leaf lettuce for lettuce wraps! Man, these were a bitch. I officially hate lettuce wraps. It doesn’t wrap! I had a tantrum and made Red do the wrapping. Didn’t he do a nice job, though?

Only two more bunches of greens to go. After much consideration, we settled on turning the kale into kale chips. I was a little sketched out, because how good could roasted kale taste? It’s leaves, after all. But we reasoned that if our direst fears came to pass, we could chuck the whole batch into the compost bin and try something else with the next head of kale. I used this recipe; it took me twice as long to get the kale crispy and chip-like, and I added way too much salt because I was afraid of eating bland dried-out leaves, but they were good! The kale chips were declared a success by Red, King of All Snacking, and even suggested as a worthy accompaniment to veggie burgers in place of potato chips. A triumph.

The last bunch of greens was a puzzlement, indeed. I must have searched online for damn near an hour trying to sort out its provenance. Curly endive? That wasn’t it. Celeriac? The leaves looked right, but it terminated in thin stalks, not a bulb. Finally, by sheer luck and Googling “WTF is this vegetable,” I found it: dandelion greens. It was almost anti-climactic, but I was relieved to finally know what I had in my fridge. We had some leftover potatoes, and Google led me to Mark Bittman’s (Mr. “Vegan Until Dinner,” don’t get me started) recipe for Green Mashed Potatoes. I couldn’t tell if the dandelion greens added anything flavor-wise, but you can’t go wrong with mashed potatoes. I think I’ll have some after yoga tonight, actually.

And there you have it, my darlings—a recap of everything we did with our first CSA pickup. I’m anticipating plenty of greens for the foreseeable future, to be slowly replaced by more winter squash than I can roast, puree, or steam to perfection. Tell me: What are you doing with your seasonal produce, CSA or not? Together we will stave off local-eating exhaustion!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Friday rant: Book contracts are for misogynists.

Picture me, dear readers, with my head on my desk as I type this. I didn’t want to write about it. I was hoping that other people would. Indeed, a few have.

Long story short: Dude named John Joseph has written a book entitled Meat is for Pussies. Sit with that one for a sec, then feel free to join me down here on the desk at any time.

Where do I start with this one? (To the haters who are gonna ask if I’ve read it: Hell no, I haven’t read it. Why should I waste my time? I’m a blogger, not a book reviewer.) Perhaps with the idea that shaming someone into changing his or her behavior is not only frequently ineffective, but always unacceptable? With the reminder that feminizing insults are hateful and do nothing but reinforce destructive gender stereotypes and power structures? Maybe with the editorial suggestion that all the compelling reasons to go vegan will doubtless be lost in all the macho rhetoric, thus alienating a huge number of potential readers? And finally, with the admission that I am so over fighting with people like Joseph, who would probably tell me to lighten up and stop being such a bitch, and do I just need to get boned?

I know I’m not the only one frustrated with this. So, where is the blogospheric outcry? The Discerning Brute, that arbiter of vegan masculinity, announced its publication in a brief-but-positive paragraph that acknowledged the “controversial” title. (Way to understate things.) Bitch, on the other hand, brought the noise with a brilliantly reasoned post about the dangers of single-issue veganism, sexism, unexamined privilege, and general assholery. Kjerstin Johnson may not be vegan, but she really hit it out of the park, as did the majority of Bitch’s commenters, including a hetero vegan guy who said he was “never okay with harming one movement in order to help another.” I’m hopeful that more writers take this on, because however noble John Joseph’s intentions, however lyrical and majestic his prose, this narrow-minded shit hurts more of us than it helps.

So, to recap:

Compassion is not gendered.

Using sexism and homophobia to market your book is unoriginal.

Shock-value veganism is half-assed veganism. Go play with PETA and leave those of us doing real work in peace.


Image courtesy of I Can Has Cheezburger? (as if you didn't know).

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Plate+Simple interviews the Burnout!

Dearly beloveds,

Normally I wouldn't tell you to navigate away from Burnout Central here, but you simply must venture over to Plate+Simple and read the interview that Hilary was kind enough to do with me! I've never done an interview before, but it was so much fun and Hilary asked such thoughtful questions. Plate+Simple is a lovely blog, filled with yummy recipes, positive energy, and pictures of the cutest child ever born (that is, until Red and I spawn, but for the time being, Maya's supreme cuteness is unchallenged). I'm truly honored to be featured on such a cool site, and I hope you all enjoy the interview!


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Carob cookies!

Not for me, dear readers! Perish the thought. I’m a snobby chocolate-loving vegan who thinks carob is barely fit for human consumption, but Lucy sure loves it! This weekend, I made her carob biscuits from It’s a Vegan Dog’s Life. Since we had carob chips and the recipe called for powder, I threw the chips into the chopper to grind them up a bit. They didn’t get powdered very finely, but Lucy didn’t care.

Red and I brainstormed about how to get the maximum number of cookies out of our finite amount of dough. Making drop cookies works well, but they are often big and we end up breaking them into pieces. We don’t have very many cookie cutters, and those are big too. Then, I had an epiphany: shot glass. It worked like, well, like you might expect a shot glass to work, which was awesome. I hereby officially recommend the shot glass for cutting out dog biscuits, because you get a biscuit that is the perfect size for just about any dog. And if you have a bigger dog, like Lucy, you don’t need to feel bad when you sneak him or her a second one.

They look like mini chocolate-chip cookies!

And that is pretty much it! If you have a dog or love one, especially a vegan one, the recipes and tips at IAVDL are super-valuable. Thanks for another winner, Molly!

Can I have another cookie, mama?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Transatlantic vegan lunch date.

I typically spend a portion of my day hanging out on the PPK. It is, in my humble opinion, the best forum there is: friendly, funny, active, and with a nearly nonexistent troll population. And, of course, it’s vegan. When Hannah posted that she and her partner would be coming over from England to do a little tour of the East Coast, I was delighted to learn that one of their stops was Baltimore. Seriously, no one comes here. Everyone skips us in favor of D.C., Philly, or New York (incidentally, those were Hannah’s other stops). Those cities are wonderful, and they have clearly figured out how to market themselves in ways that Baltimore hasn’t. So, I suppose, more power to them. Either that, or people really do think it’s like The Wire here. Which, of course, it is in places. Every city is like that in places. (Also, seriously, did none of you clutching your pearls over The Wire watch Homicide: Life on the Street?)

Ahem. Red and I made plans to meet up for lunch with Hannah and Linnea, another PPKer and Baltimoron. On a typically balmy late-spring day—so, it was probably nearing 90°F—we met at Hannah’s hotel and walked up the street to Donna’s. (Hannah’s partner was passing the time at Maryland DeathFest, and to him I say: Stay metal, my friend.) I was jonesing for an iced coffee, so Donna’s hit the spot. So, mercifully, did the air conditioning. Donna’s is quite vegan-friendly, and when the waitress realized she had a table of three vegans and a vegetarian, she promised to make sure the kitchen knew of our needs. I didn’t take a picture of my veggie wrap for you, because you know what they look like, but everything was delicious.

Hannah, sweetheart that she is, brought us a gift of the yummiest vegan chocolate caramels. I am not a particular fan of either caramel or milk chocolate, but these Choices have changed my mind. The best part? Hannah told us you can find these babies in regular grocery stores in the UK! Vegan candy, represent!

Look! It says “vegan” right on the package!

We had a great time and it was so refreshing to be among vegans. Thanks for a lovely lunch, ladies!

That’s me, Hannah, and Linnea after our PPK lunch summit.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Make way for ducklings, version 2.0.

So, the nicest thing happened as I was driving home yesterday. I was but two minutes away from our house, nodding along to Dire Straits’ “Twisting by the Pool,” when I noticed that the car in the opposite lane had stopped. It’s never exactly a busy street, and I thought I was hallucinating when I saw a peacock trailing her tail as she calmly walked across the road.

Okay, I wasn’t hallucinating, but those damn adorable baby ducks were in such a perfect formation, they looked just like their mama’s tail. You know, if she were a peacock (‘scuse me, peahen) instead of a duck.

The driver behind me stopped as well, and we all watched Mama Duck and her brood waddle safely onto the sidewalk. There’s a pond over there, which explains their perambulation. You may recall that I scolded an earlier Mama Duck for not detouring out to the ‘burbs so I could snuggle her babies. The effort put forth by this Mama Duck to make up for her shortcomings is much appreciated.

I didn’t have time to get a picture, but trust me, their cuteness was the pick-me-up I needed. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to Cute Overload for my baby animal fix.