Saturday, November 3, 2012

Hurricane Sandy-HELP WANTED!

Reposted from Black, Gay and Jewish
When Sandy hit I was scared. We sat in our apartment, watching television just waiting for everything to go dark. I was sure our windows would burst through and wanted to tape them up. We slept with a box of matches and candles next to our bed when we finally went to bed and tried to get some sleep. Throughout the night the gusts of wind rattled our windows and shook the doors in their hinges, but when we opened our eyes and looked around nothing had changed. The wind took down a large branch in front of our apartment and leaves and twigs were scattered along the sidewalk and street but things were fine.
We turned on our TV and still had cable and we watched the round the clock coverage on the news. A day went by and another and we finally decided it was safe to leave our house. We rode our bikes around our neighborhood and witnessed many downed trees,crushing cars and homes, the sidewalks completely disheveled from the power of the tree’s roots. We rode through the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood where it was business as usual-nannies pushing their charges in fancy strollers, people shopping. We rode our bikes over the Brooklyn Bridge into lower Manhattan and it hit me.
The River covered in oil-Photo by Erika K. Davis
There is no power in lower Manhattan-no street lights and cops directing traffic. The sound of pumps working to get water out of basements filled the air, the smell of gas is also in the air. We rode down the the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel where the water reached 12 foot high, a mile long from Manhattan to Brooklyn. And today we spent a few hours sorting food donations, making salad, and schlepping boxes of supplies into trucks on their way to the devastated areas of Long Island, the Rockaways, and Coney Island with Occupy Sandy Relief.
NYC IMG Marathon is still on. This is, in my opinion, a terrible decision made by Mayor Bloomberg. They’re operating generators to help out the marathon, yet many people are and have been without power since Monday. Please sign this petition asking that the IMG Marathon be postponed.
UPDATE 5:11 NBC4 is reporting that the Marathon is cancelled. No word on new date of if it’s completely cancelled.
67 people have died in the tri-state area and millions are still going to bed in the dark and cold with expected lows at the freezing point tonight.
The pictures today are my own. If you’re in the NYC area and able to help please do. Here are ways and places looking for help.
It’s been four days since Hurricane Sandy blew through, and Brooklyn is starting to mobilize again. Restaurants are re-opening, the marathon is still on (for now) and the MTA is hobbling along, with full (though slow) bus service restored and almost every train running on modified service (not, the G train, of course, which remains suspended).
That being said, it’s obvious that even though we’re moving forward, things are nowhere near back to normal. And with the weekend coming up (or perhaps, with your giant seven-day weekend now extended to nine days), here are some ways to start plugging in to the community. We’ll be updating this all day, so send any tips to @Brokelyn on twitter or
Area in the Battery where people usually wait to go to Ellis Island-Photo by Erika K. Davis
-Folks looking to help out in Red Hook, one of the first neighborhoods to get hit by the flood, have a number of opportunities that only seem to only grow more plentiful by the day. Many of the efforts have been spearheaded by the Red Hook Initiative, an organization dedicated to empowering communities to create their own social change. Located at 767 Hicks St, RHI is currently good on volunteers but is still looking for donations of pre-prepared food (including food for children), candles, utensils such as spoons and bowls, jugs of water, flashlights, batteries, power strips, toiletries, paper towels, and paper for printing fliers. UPDATE: RHI can currently use toiletries, toothpaste, batteries, toilet paper, soft blankets (fleece, not wool) and clothes. They can be be brought to 610 Henry till 3 PM or directly to the Miccio Center located at 110 W 9th Street.
-Help unload supplies at RHI and the Park Slope Armory starting at 8am today (Friday). This is expected to be a massive, massive effort.
-The Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition will be cleaning up on November 3rd & 4th starting at 10am. Extra hands are welcome, especially if those hands are holding portable generators, long extension cords, or work lights. As many people as possible are needed for this effort, RSVP and/or send questions to
-Red Hook Recovers is also organizing resources according to what individuals need, what they have to give, and when they can volunteer.
-For those who want to help provide sustenance but have limited cooking bilities, hands will be needed to distribute free packaged meals and drinking water today at Coffey Park at 85 Richards Street in Red Hook 7:30am-12:30pm, and Saturday and Sunday 9am-1pm. Bring your own bag to carry food and water.
Brooklyn Battery Tunnel-Photo by Erika K. Davis
-Donations collection again today (Friday) for Rockaways at Dekalb & Fort Greene Park 1-3pm. Warm clothes, canned goods, towels.
-The Meat Hook in Williamsburg is collecting supplies to serve hot meals to those stranded in the Rockaways, some of whom haven’t eaten in days. They’re also facilitating folks to sign up for FEMA relief. Stop by their store at 100 Frost Street to drop off items listed here.
-Union Pool is looking for musicians, artists, and generally creatively-minded people to help put together a benefit for those in the Rockaways. Contact them with ideas at as soon as possible.
-It may not be possible to stress enough how much the Rockaways need resources. El Puente, a community initiative dedicated to the power of self-determination, will be collecting donations today and tomorrow at their CHE headquarters in Williamsburg. Drop food and supplies off on Friday 10am-5pm at 289 Grand St, and Saturday 9:30am-11am at 211 South 4th St. Bring non-perishable food, soap, shampoo, lotion, toothpaste/toothbrushes, diapers, formula, baby wipes, warm clothing for people of all ages, and cleaning supplies (shovels, garbage bags, gloves, etc). If you’d like to help sort and box the donations, email stbernadetteconvent@gmail.comHelp raise funds for the families of Rockaway Park.
-The Corcoran is hosting a drive for kids displaced in two of the hardest-hit neighborhoods in the city, Breezy Point and the Rockaways. Clothes, diapers, and food can be dropped off at 125 7th Ave. Donations for kids can also be dropped at Steve Levin’s Office at 410 Atlantic Ave.
-American Legion Post 1404 at 209 Cross Bay Blvd is running out of food VERY quickly, and neither FEMA nor the Red Cross have arrived. If anyone can bring water, pre-cooked, quick heat,etc. food PLEASE do.  (No electricity or running water.)  If you can help, please come.  They also need extra hands to sort clothes.
-If you’ve got toiletries, socks, underwear or sweatshirts, you can drop them off at Good Co. (10 Hope Street, Williamsburg), Pour House (7901 3rd Ave, Bay Ridge), Mullanes, (S. Elliot & Lafayette, Fort Greene) and at 118 Freeman St. b/t Manhattan & Franklin, Greenpoint
Keep reading.
The UJA shared the following volunteer opportunity on their website:
Volunteers needed today to help with clean up and debris removal from Seagate, this was one of the hardest hit areas and needs the most help.
Please go to Abraham Residence at 38-11 Surf Ave or 39-15 Neptune Ave in Brooklyn to our low income housing site to help our seniors clean up their homes. This was the evacuation zone and they need
a lot of man power to get back up and running. It is cold out so please dress warm and bring a flash light (there is no power). If possible please bring water to give out to the seniors.Drivers and cars with gas are also needed. We need help running errands and getting supplies. If you can bring your car please do so and help our seniors get access to food, water and medication.Please feel free to just show up anytime before 3pm and look for Dena. If you have questions you may call Dena at 917-592-2456. The service is spotty so please only call if absolutely necessary and leave a message.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Blacked Peas and Greens for Rosh Hashanah

Black-eyed peas, collard greens and corn bread on January 1st were a staple in my home. My mother, a North Carolinian born in the south, raised in the north and still in the Midwest made sure that we ate a full plate of the beans and stewed greens. She said they'd bring us wealth and luck, her mother told her the same thing and to this day on January 1st I eat black eyed peas an greens.

When my partner, a white Jew from Texas, insisted we buy black eyed peas on January 1st the first year we dated I raised an eye brow (or at least I tried since I can't actually raise one eye brow). What did this white girl know about greens and black eyes for New Year, I thought. Turns out, the tradition isn't a black American tradition, but a southern tradition.

Since I was always the only black girl in school, having a tradition no one else, I assumed it was based on my race. It felt good to know that my sweet Texan Jew also shared this tradition. It was a shock to us both that Syrian Jews (and other non-Ashkenazi Jews) also eat black eyed peas and greens for Rosh Hashanah to insure a healthy and prosperous new year.

I wrote a piece for The Jew and the Carrot that has my mom's recipe towards the end. Enjoy.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Ethiopian Shabbat Dinner

photo from Healthy Green
The first time I had Ethiopian was memorable. Mir and I had only been dating for a few weeks and she was taking me on a culinary adventure. We walked into the restaurant some where in lower Manhattan and as we sat down I was immediately less than impressed. It was the middle of summer and the restaurant lacked patrons or air conditioning. I didn't know what the menu items were so I let Mir order and sipped on water while we waited for the food. It came out, a large plate of unidentifiable stewed vegetables, meat and beans. I realized that the server had forgotten to give us silverware and called her over. "Could we get some utensils, please" I said in my sweet-not-so-sweet voice. With the same pseudo sweetness and a slight sneer she replied, "You've clearly never had Ethiopian" and stalked off. Mirs turned a deeper shade of pink and whispered, "You eat with your hands!"

That day in the sticky hot restaurant where Mir and I were the only ones silly enough to eat spicy hot food on a warm summer day I fell in love with Ethiopian food. Tonight, I'm going to attempt to make it. I found this recipe for injera, the sour spongy bread that does double duty as both plate and utensil, and hoped that today would yield "grassy" smelling bubbling yeast. Instead I held gagged violently at the smell and purple-blue mold that was growing on my starter. I did a quick Google search and found this quick injera recipe that I'll be using tonight. I'm subbing out the glutenous flours for teff, which is the traditional flour used, and buckwheat.

I'll be making a tofu Doro Wat, Gomen, Misr Wat and Alecha Wat using recipes from Healthy Green KitchenNavy Blue Kitchen, and my own obsession with making curries. I hope to take another stab at authentic injera in the future. Pictures and recipes to follow.

Shabbat Shalom!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Millet Bread

Arguably the most depressing part of gluten-free living is the lack of bread (and pasta, and couscous and pasta).  While I haven't attempted homemade pasta yet, I've taken my first stab at gluten-free bread.  I let Google do most of the work and the first appetizing recipe that came up was this yummy bread from Gluten-Free Goddess.  You have to dig a bit on her site to find it, but Google took me directly there.

I kept her recipe basically the same, except the sorghum flour is at my lady's house and all I had was gluten-free all-purpose flour which turned out lovely.  I was juggling two of her recipes on my blackberry and accidentally used 1 1/4 cups of water and 4 tablespoons of olive oil.  It tasted lovely the first day and today, the second day it's great toasted with almond butter and honey, though I'll probably add a bit more salt next time.

I'm excited to make it again this weekend for the lady, a millet bread nut.  This sure beats the frozen stuff from the market.

From Gluten-Free

First- whisk together your dry ingredients and set aside:

1 1/2 cups sorghum flour (aka jowar flour)-I used GF All-purpose flour
1 cup tapioca starch or potato starch (not potato flour!)-I used potato starch left over from Pesach
1/2 cup GF millet flour or GF oat flour
2 teaspoons xanthan gum
1/ 1/4 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 packet rapid dry yeast or 2 1/4 teaspoons
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon honey- or raw agave nectar to keep it vegan
1/2 teaspoon mild rice vinegar or lemon juice
2 organic free-range eggs, beaten or 1 tablespoon Ener-G Egg Replacer whisked with 4 tablespoons warm water till frothy
Using one cup of the water, proof the yeast in the warm water (110 to 115ºF) and a teaspoon of the honey/agave (add the yeast to the water and honey stir; allow it to get poofy).

Add the proofed yeast to the dry ingredients; add the olive oil, remaining honey/agave, cider vinegar and mixed egg replacer (or eggs); beat until a smooth batter forms. I use the word batter because gluten-free bread dough is more like smooth sticky muffin batter than wheat based bread dough -- it is not as thin as cake batter, though. Add up to 1/4 cup more water if you need to.

Scrape the dough into a ceramic loaf pan (or use a 7 to 8-inch round cake pan for rustic ciabatta style bread) and smooth evenly (I use wet fingers).

Top with sesame seeds. Place the pan in a warmed oven or draft free spot. Allow the dough to rise until it domes nicely -- from 45 to 50 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 350ºF.

When the oven comes to temperature bake the risen bread until it sounds hollow when thumped -- about 45 minutes to 55 minutes, and even up to 65 minutes if you're at higher altitude. Lower style round pan loaves will bake quicker -- at 30 to 40 minutes, usually.

If you like a crusty loaf, remove the bread from the pan and return it naked to the oven at 350ºF for an additional 10 minutes- keep an eye on it and don't let it get too brown. It should be a light golden color.

Cool on a wire rack.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Millet Bread

I used Gluten-Free Goddess' recipe for Millet bread...with some substitutions.  More tomorrow after I taste it.

Stewed Tomatoes and Asparagus Over Creamy Polenta

Stewed Tomatoes and Asparagus over Creamy Polenta

It's been a bit over a month of df/gf living and I have to say-it's not as bad as I thought it would be. Sure I miss grabbing a croissant with my iced coffee in the morning, it's nice to grab a cookie or other snacks on the run and Shabbat isn't the same without challah. Despite the occasional temptations and the accidental slips it's been a pretty easy month. My eczema hasn't gone crazy in a long time and my stomach issues have subsided substantially.  All-in-all not bad. Except when I got a craving for Italian today.

It's a little bit chilly in NYC today and what sounded delicious wasn't a kale salad or roasted beets. What sounded effing-amazing was a giant bowl of pasta with marinara sauce and garlic bread. Thankfully there is no pasta to be found in my cupboards-they've been gone since Pesach.  What I did have was a jar of polenta, three sad, almost dead tomatoes, lots of garlic and a eggplant/olive dip in the freezer from ordering way too much food for our Seder.

I dug into the great, big, beautiful Italian recipe dictionary in my head and decided I'd make Chicken Caccitore, minus the chicken.

I'm still not measuring anything-so bare with me on this one.
You'll need
 3 medium/large tomatoes roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic diced
1 small eggplant rougly chopped
about a 1/4 cup green olives chopped
a bunch of asparagus cut 1 in long
Nutritional Yeast
Olive oil

Literally, I pulled this one out of my head with the veggies I had laying around my apartment.  I think spinach would be lovely in this as well, kale would also be nice, even broccoli.

I started the polenta before I put in the tomatoes, et al because I used stone-ground corn.  It's course and takes a while to cook, but it's totally worth the waiting and stirring.  I cooked it with plain ole water (I miss you milk) and added a bit of Nature's Balance spread and a splash of Hazelnut milk to get a creamier texture.  Salt and Pepper to taste.  You can use instant polenta, but the stone-ground stuff is amazing.  Once you've added the polenta to salted boiling water (if using stone-ground) start on the tomatoes.

Start with a medium-hot pan and saute the garlic in about 1 tablespoon of olive oil until the garlic just starts to get golden around the edges.  When it gets a little golden add the tomatoes and the juices from the cutting board to the pan and lower the heat to medium.  I had frozen eggplant dip to work with, but if you're using the fresh stuff add the eggplants and olives here as well.  Cover the pan and let time do the rest.  After about 10-15 minutes add the asparagus and stir.  If the veggies stick, add some olive oil about a teaspoon at a time.  Cook the tomatoes until they start to shrivel up, and the skin starts to fall off.  This takes about 20-25 minutes.

If I had any red wine on hand, a splash would be really awesome in this.  Once the tomatoes are finished cooking add salt and pepper to taste.

Spoon the polenta into a shallow bowl or onto a plate and then spoon the tomatoes and asparagus on top.  Top with a twist of black pepper or some nutritional yeast and enjoy!

Yummy Recipe Facts
This recipe is Gluten and Dairy Free
It's Parve/Kosher
From Super Natural Food "One of the richest sources of folate, a B vitamin critical for healthy pregnancy is Asparagus."
Tomatoes are full of lycopene-a "vigilant protector against cancer, especially cancers of the prostate, testes, adrenal glands and cervix"

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Gluten Free/Dairy Free-Day Six

That's right.  The girl who hates labels officially has a label-I'm gluten and dairy free-well for the past six days I've been gluten and dairy free.

I've known for the majority of my adult life that certain foods bother my stomach-dairy is the number one culprit.  I've curtailed the issue by taking lactaid before eating cheese, eating cheese in small amounts, and realizing what bothers me (soft cheeses) and what irritates me (everything else) and what I cannot eat-ice cream.  Still, I'd buy fancy cheese at the farmer's market, add half and half to my iced coffee, and eat small bites of ice cream hoping and praying that nothing would happen-and it always would.  I won't get into details, use your imagination.

In the past year or so I've noticed that other items have been effecting my stomach as well.  I'd eat a piece of bread and within twenty minutes I'd be visibly bloated.  I'd attribute it to weight gain, PMS, anything to avoid the fact that the reason I was in pain with a distended stomach had to do with the wheaty, yummy goodness I was putting into my mouth.  I noticed it when I ate breads, crackers or pasta.

In addition to my tummy issues I have eczema-a fun skin rash that has shown itself on my body for my entire life in many variations.  From cracked, bleeding and puss-y fingers in my youth, to outbreaks around my eyes, to outbreaks in the crooks of my arms and behind my knees to this latest outbreak on and around my nipples and breasts.  I know that there are a slew of foods that I cannot eat-citrus fruits, tomatoes, avocados and have either eaten them sparingly or opened my mouth REALLY WIDE to avoid the juices touching my lips-which often didn't work and resulted in eczema on the insides of my lips.  Gross, sure. It's mostly incredibly uncomfortable.

Visit after visit my dermatologist would recommend an allergy test and instead I opted for Vanos-miracle cream extraordinaire. This stuff was amazing-literally upon application my eczema would clear up almost completely.  The cream was great, but as I kept putting the foods that irritate my skin into my body the cream sort of stopped working.  Now I only use it for severe outbreaks and have decided to take a good hard look at the things that I eat and how they effect me.

So I Googled foods that irritate eczema and both wheat and dairy come up-along with soy products, meat, nuts and a host of others.

So what am I going to eat?  That's what we're going to figure out.  I'm back ladies and gents.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

I promise I've been Cooking.

Soba noodles with wilted kale, cabbage ribbons and friend tofu

 Deconstructed Spinach Omelet
 Falafel and Hummus
 (undercooked) risotto style wheat berries with winter vegetables
 Sauteed Winter Vegetables with Cumin-scented Brown Rice
Sunny Breakfast bowl-Deconstructed Pepper Omelet with lemon-squeezed avocado and cherry tomatoes.

 Home Made whole-wheat tortillas that turned out more closely like flat bread.

Monday, February 20, 2012

I fell of the Wagon

I fell hard into a dizzying array of meat products, cheese, dairy and beer and wine.  A bit of depression for the past few weeks and filling myself with yummy, warm, hearty, comforting foods has been my Xanax. To try to curb my desire to eat to make myself feel better, I bought a Groupon (hiss boo) for a month gym membership for $30.  I plan on activating it on Wednesday and starting a 30-day Challenge.
Details to follow, oh and cooking without meat and meat products, too.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

What's For Dinner Tonight?

Raw Wheat Berries That's what.

I'm grumpy and a little drunk.  Here's the scoop.  I decided that I would follow an actual recipe tonight, something I very rarely do.  I own over a dozen cookbooks, but they're more like porn rather than something that I use to cook from.  I decided to take a stab at Heidi Swanson's Risotto-Style Barley tonight.  I remembered that I had barley in my cupboard from when I went a little overboard in the bulk foods section on a trip to The Fairway.  I found the Mason Jar of grains and grinned at the recipe's beautifully airbrushed and well-lit picture-this was going to be good.

As I looked over the ingredients and decided which things I would alter and what would stay I realized that I didn't have barley in my hands, I had wheat berries.  A quick Google search later I learned that wheat berries could, in fact, be substituted for barley and I prepared my dish...

Two hours later, too many glasses of wine, an upset stomach, annoying gas, a divided recipe and wasted veggies later the fucking shit is still cooking.

I did another Google search only to discover that wheat berries, unlike barley is a tough little shit of a grain.  Not only does it require over night soaking, it also requires at least an hour an a half or two hours of cook time.  Since the first search result didn't say I needed to soak these grains overnight here I am, two hours later with no dinner and an upset/gassy tummy from eating three bites of undercooked grains.

The recipe called for two cups of barley which equals over 3 quarts of food!  I've had to divide the thing into two separate pots and I'm sure I'll be up all night with searing stomach pain and exhaustion trying to cook these grains down into something edible.  I will not throw it away, at the advice of a friend it's going to be a stew...

What's for Breakfast?

The plan is to remove animal proteins from my diet.  This means no eggs, no milk, no butter, no cheese, no meat.  The reason I won't call myself a vegan is because I won't be spending my time reading the back of packages to make sure that there aren't any dairy products present.  I won't be turning my nose up at dinner at friend's homes, and I won't be scoffing at people who choose to continue to eat meat products. 

Some of my favorite food blogs are filled with yummy meaty-creations.  When I feel that I'm healthier (I can walk up the three flights of stairs to my apartment without feeling like I'm going to die) I'll probably re-introduce certain things sporadically.  For now, I'm doing my best so stick to the plan.  Still on days like today, when beautiful eggs are still in my refrigerator just waiting to be eaten, I eat them. 

The amount of food that Americans waste could feed every person in Haiti for a week.  I learned that watching the documentary Dive! over the weekend.  In my daily life I try not to add to food waste.  As I did before Passover when we remove all chamez (bread-based, leavened foods) from our homes I've been slowly eating my way through products in my fridge.  The milk was the first to go, whipped into a banana mango smoothie.  The butter soon followed by way of caramelized onions.  The eggs are holding out for something great.  Today it was a Deconstructed Spinach Omelette.

Real omelettes take a certain je ne sais quoi that I never had.  I've tried, unsuccessfully, to make omelettes on several occasions.  They always turn into scrambles which are tasty, but rarely pretty to look at.  This morning I wanted eggs, but I wanted to try to make them as healthy as possible.  They were delicious-enjoy!

Deconstructed Spinach Omelette


two eggs
a small handful of spinach washed and roughly chopped
about 5-6 mushrooms sliced
half of one small onion sliced
butter substitute or healthy oil

Brown the mushrooms in a pan over medium-high heat in about a tablespoon of butter substitute. When they're mostly browned (5-7 minutes) add the onions until they're transparent.  Using a fork or slotted spoon removethe mushrooms and onions from the pan into a bowl and set aside.

In the same pan turn heat up slightly (there should be a bit of oil left in the pan from the onions and mushrooms) add the washed chopped spinach.  The combination of remaining oil and the water from the washed spinach should wilt the greens rather quickly.  I kept them on the heat for only about 2 minutes because I wanted the greens to be firm, but warm.  When their to your liking lower the heat and remove the spinach and plate.  Add the mushrooms and onions on top of the spinach

Return the pan to the flame to medium and add the eggs.  Cook in any fashion.  I scrambled mine with a touch of salt and pepper, but a fried or poached egg would also be delicious.

When the egg is finished cooking place on the spinach and mushrooms.  Enjoy!

Recipe Notes:
This recipe can be made Kosher and is Vegetarian

Ingredient Notes:
I used a soy butter substitute
Spinach is a great source of iron, Vitamin C, betacarotene, folate lutein and calcium.
From Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson: "Researchers are finding that the phytonutrients in spinach have strong anticancer properties, particularly against cancers of the colon, lung, prostate, breast, stomach and skin.  In the case of prostate cancer, active ingredients in spinach seem to cause some cancer cells to self-destruct and others to go into a state of stasis, inhibiting proliferation of the cells."
I put spinach into all of the juices I I know why it will remain a staple for my juicing!

Erika vs. The Scale

The scale and I have had a hate-hate relationship since I can remember.  I don't weigh myself and have avoided owning a scale for at least a decade.  Even at my smallest, a size zero, medical charts deemed me heavy for my height and suggested that I lose at least 15lbs to come in line with my proper height and weight. 

As I grew older and the number continued to rise I realized that for me it's not about the numbers on the scale, but the number of my clothing.  How I felt more than how much I weighed became my mantra.  Still, every time I went for a physical (the last one being six years ago)  I'd have to climb on the scale and read the number.  It was never pretty.

So it's been six years since I stepped on a scale and I was perfectly content with not knowing what it read...until the other day when I accidentally stepped on a dog scale at work.  I was so shocked by the number that two things immediately rushed into my head:

1.This is why I don't fucking own a scale
2.Is this even right or is this what I weigh in "dog"

I planned on being completely transparent, but sharing that number is a bit much.  It's been flashing in my head since last Thursday when it happened and I've been doing everything in my power to try and let it go.  Maybe if I accidentally step on it again in a few months and it says something reasonable I'll share but for now you'll get this number with the real number hidden, like a puzzle.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

What's For Dinner Tonight?

Spicy Tofu Tacos on Homemade Whole Wheat Tortillas

Day Three of this mission to change the way that I eat to positively improve my health seems to be going okay.  I don't feel particularly different, but I know, based on books and websites, that the foods I'm putting into my body now are far better than say that quarter of a cupcake (and half of a black and white cookie) I ate at a staff meeting today.   

I've been craving Mexican-style food all week and tonight I thought I'd try a twist on tacos minus the seasoned beef, the shredded cheese, and sour cream.  I was pretty sure that anything I cooked would taste like a cheap imitation of the real thing-four tacos later (they were small) I'm patting myself on the back.  These tofu tacos kicked ass!  Tacos are easy, there isn't a "recipe" just fry some tofu with some seasoning (I used salt, pepper, cumin, and chipotle seasoning) add raw veggies and you're done.  I added black beans that I'd simmered with spices and onions and made the tortillas, but store-bought ones are fine as well.  It felt indulgent to have four tacos, but knowing that I'd made everything myself made it taste even better. 

Here's the Homemade Whole Wheat Tortilla recipe I used tonight.  I substituted whole wheat flour for regular and used grapeseed oil instead of vegetable oil.  I also added pepper and garlic powder to the dough for extra flavor.  I don't own a tortilla press and found that the back of a frying pan and a floured cutting board works just fine as long as you remember to flour both of them.  Besides the tofu and beans I filled the warm tortillas with shredded green kale, sliced red peppers, diced tomatoes, and sliced avocados.  I squeezed some lime on the whole thing before eating. 

Recipe Notes:
This Recipe is Vegan and Parve

Some Food Nutrition Notes:
Tomatoes and Red Peppers are great sources of lycopene which is thought to protect against cancer specifically prostate, testicular, and cervical cancer. 
Dark leafy greens like Kale are great sources of lutein which dramatically impacts eye health.  Lutein also has the ability to prevent clogged arteries, combat arthritis, and discourage colon, lung, prostate, and ovarian cancers as well as thickening artery walls.  Let's hear it for Kale!
Thanks to Heidi Swanson and her book Super Natural Cooking for the nutritional information.

Ode to Cupcakes

Cupcakes are the world's most perfect, most selfish, most self-indulgent culinary gifts on the planet.  They're miniature treats created for the sole purpose of individual satisfaction.  When done correctly, cupcakes are the perfect ratio of cake and frosting, not too sweet, fluffy and light as air.  They're best enjoyed slowly, painfully slow even, because when they're gone, they're gone.  Unless you buy two, which is what I like to do.

Tourists to New York often go to places like Magnolia Bakery or Crumbs for cupcakes because it's what they think they're supposed to do. Real New Yorkers, or transplants like me, know that Magnolia and Crumbs are for tourists only.  Instead, we've fin our own favorite bakeries and will go toe-to-toe with anyone who thinks otherwise.  I actually thought of dedicating an entire blog to my love of cupcakes, instead just this post.

Sugar Sweet Sunshine is tucked into the lower east side and is one of my favorite places for cupcakes.  When my friends visit the city and request Magnolia, I concede on the condition that they try Sugar Sweet Sunshine as well.  Not only is it run by two powerhouse women, it's completely down to earth and cozy.  No cookbooks lining the walls, no pretentiousness just sugar sweet sunshine in a cupcake.  Also in the running for best cupcake in New York City is Billy's Bakery. The frosting here is sweet, but not painfully sweet.  Babycakes, the Vegan cupcake staple of NYC has killer cupcakes as well.  When I first had a Babycake cupcake I knew for sure I was eating milk, eggs, and butter-but I wasn't.

These cupcakes are all good.  But the cupcakes at Pinisi Cafe are the best in the city.  Not only do they come up with wild flavors like coconut, blueberry, and pistachio they manage to make them into lightest, fluffiest cupcakes I have ever had.  It's like they add seltzer to the batter or something (maybe they do).  The frosting on these cupcakes is perfect-a fluffy, not too sweet deliciousness that always has me sucking on the rim of the paper wrapper hoping for more sugary perfection.

So what's a girl trying to go something that maybe starts with a V to do when she craves cupcakes and can't eat them?  She dreams of them.  And caves when they're in my face-even the worst of 'em.

Today at work a Crumbs cupcake got the best of me.  One of those giant ones I used to eat all by myself.  I had a fourth of one and it tasted good.  Except now I have a toothache and my tummy hurts.  Better start figuring out how to make vegan cupcakes so I don't throw away my money at Babycakes.

Monday, January 23, 2012

What's For Dinner Tonight?

Sauteed Veggies over Cumin-Scented Brown Rice

I'm on a super-tight budget so figuring out how to incorporate healthy veggies and greens into my diet is definitely a bit difficult.  While I love juicing, it seems sort of wasteful to throw away the pulps of the juices every morning.  If anyone has any suggestions for what to do with the pulps, send them my way.  I was thinking soup.

At any rate, being a New Yorker there are many large grocery stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joes with a large selection of organic food, which is what I normally buy.  This week, things are a little different-I shopped in my neighborhood at the Caribbean Market down the block.  I picked up a package of brussel sprouts, beets, kale, spinach, two zucchinis, 7 small onions, green onions and a two pound bag of brown rice for $14!  I was pretty impressed, while it's not organic and I'm trying not to think of the pesticides that are lurking in the veggies, I was able to get some veggies for a very budget-friendly price.  Hopefully it will last me the whole week, if I don't juice everything.

Just a note on my recipes:  I'm happy to share them obviously, but I'm not a professional chef and I very rarely measure things.  I go by smell and taste so the measurements here are an estimate for the most part.  When I've actually measured and ingredient I will notate.

Celery Salt
Olive Oil
About 6-8 brussel sprouts sliced
1 small zucchini sliced
about 12 green beans cut at about an inch long
1 small onion sliced
2 green onions diced
stems and leaves from one beet (or more depending on the stems and leaves.  Make sure the stems are firm and the leaves aren't wilted)
Brown Rice

Cumin Rice
In a large pot add about a tablespoon or so of  good-quality olive oil and three large pinches of good-quality cumin.   Turn heat on medium-low and stir cumin until it changes color to a deeper brown or until it smells really yummy.

Add 1 1/2 cups of rinsed brown rice to the cumin-scented oil and stir until the rice is coated.  Keep an eye on it and continue to stir for about three minutes or until the rice smells nutty.  Add 2 cups of water, raise heat until it boils.   Turn rice to low setting and cover.  Depending on the rice, cook until al dente.  Fluff and add salt to season.

Start with the onions in a large sauce pan with about a tablespoon or so of olive oil.
When the onions are glossy but not yet transparent add the green beans (unless you like them crispier)
When the green beans start to turn bright green but are still crisp to the bite add the brussel sprouts until they turn bright green.  When the brussel sprouts turn bright green add the rest of veggies except for the chopped beet stems and leaves.  Add about two teaspoons or more of cumin and about teaspoon of celery salt and four good twists of the pepper grinder.  Make sure the veggies are coated with the spices and olive oil.  If they start to stick to the pan add water about a table spoon at a time.  Cook for about 5-7 minutes and then add the beet stems and leaves and cook for another 5-7 minutes until all of the veggies are tender.  Taste for doneness and for spices and adjust as you like.

On a small plate or bowl spoon a serving of rice and top with veggies.

Recipe Notes:
This recipe is Vegan and Kosher Parve.
This was more than enough for me as a full meal.  I have rice for the rest of the week and veggies for lunch tomorrow. 
It can also easily serve four as two separate sides.

A Note on the Ingredients Used:
Beets Contain more sucrose than any other vegetable.  According the my favorite vegetable go-to book, The Produce Bible, by Leanne Kitchen (her real name) beets can be stored for 10 days in the refrigerator.
Brussel Sprouts are a great source of vitamin C and also contains fiber, iron, phosphorus, potassium and Vitamin A
According to Super Natural Cooking author, Heidi Swanson one cup of Green Beans contains 122% of the RDA of Vitamin K.  They have twice the iron of spinach, support cardiovasuclar health, protect against colon cancer (ding, ding, ding!) and prvide anti-inflammatory nutrients.
Green Onions are high in vitamins A and C
Zucchini is also full of vitamins and minerals

Introductions and Background Info.

Over the weekend I watched the movie Forks over Knives on Netflix.  It's been in our que for months and for some reason we decided to watch it.  I poured myself another glass of prosecco and snuggled into the couch for what I assumed would be an inspirational movie that would make me think about the welfare of animals and how what we eat effects the world on a global-scale and then happily make a few adjustments to my eating plan that are more in line with a local, sustainable, animal-friendly way of eating.  Like Food Inc. did.  Instead it made me want to make a radical change to my life.


I come from a fairly large family, but unfortunately most of them are dead: my uncles, grandparents and great aunts and distant cousins. My father is one of five, three of his brothers have passed away.  My surviving uncle has prostate cancer and my father just had major surgery in late 2011.  My maternal grandmother died before I was born of colon cancer, my paternal grandmother had diabetes, my paternal grandfather had some heart issues.  My favorite uncle was thought to be the healthiest of them all, but died of a fatal heart attack after a run with his wife.  My other favorite uncle had heart problems and died from cancer.  There is diabetes, heart disease, and cancer on both sides of my family.  Both of my parents have high blood pressure and the last time I had a physical, 6 years and 20 pounds ago, I had high cholesterol-at 26 years old!  Despite these terrible genetic odds and my waning physical activity and increased appetite for yummy food I didn't think anything of it.  No way a 26-year old woman could have a heart attack, right?


When I was young I was skinny.  I hung out around the size 0 mark until the Freshman Fifteen when I went up to a 4 and hovered there until I was 22.  Then I shot up to a 14 in about a year and now waiver somewhere between a 10 and a 12.  As I look at my frame in the mirror, the girly side with a past of semi-disordered eating and a complicated relationship with food sees a fat ugly person.  The intellectual side with a family history that kills us young sees the ability to change not just the size on the waistband of my jeans, but my health.

So, here we are.  The V-Word is named as such because I don't like labels-I tend to not fit into them perfectly.  The idea of taking out all meat products, dairy and eggs included (becoming a Vegan) seems a bit harsh and too much to do all at one time.  Instead, I plan to keep this online journey of my process with the hope of being transparent, honest, open, and healthfully critical of what I put into my body, my daily activity (and inactivity) with the hopes of walking into a doctor's office (when I have insurance) and getting a physical that reports a healthy 32 year-old.

I love to cook and finding ways to do that in a healthy way will be a fun challenge. The V-Spot will be part diary, part recipe sharing, part story-telling, part exercise log, part sanity relief.  One thing I know is that it will not be a diet, it's part of a bigger change to my life and lifestyle so that when the time comes having children, Be'ezrat HaShem, it will be easy.  It's not about looking to the past to lament my old frame, my old size, my slim-figure, it's about looking to a healthier future.

Day 1:
Breakfast :
20 oz of Juice
2 Beets
5-6 Carrots
3 Small Apples
1/2 Bunch (about a cup) of spinach/kale mix

Work-time indulgences:
3 Mediterranean treats
Black and White Cookie

Left over curried Cauliflower

Who knows...

I'm going to try to do some sun salutations tonight at home.