To infinity and Beyond Meat

It's beef...made of peas!

It’s beef…made of peas!

So can we talk about Beyond Meat? How do we feel about it? Why is there Beyond Meat? Who is it for?

I’ve always had mixed reactions to imitation meat products…it took me a while to come around on Boca burgers, Tofurkey and soy hot dogs. I think it’s because I don’t usually miss meat. I gave it up so long ago that I don’t really think of it as food anymore. And I’ve figured out how to cook tofu and tempeh pretty well.

Since my lady is now soy-free, my tofu skills aren’t as useful and we’re always on the lookout for protein (other than beans) that we can both eat. We’ve had some good meals based around Beyond Meat beef crumbles – they can be a little dry if they’re just sauteed, but added to a dish like SG’s vegan shepherd’s pie or this awesome tater tot casserole that I made for our Winter Solstice potluck, they’re pretty good.

Sometimes Twitter is too much power...

Sometimes Twitter is too much power…

I suspect that the target audience for Beyond Meat might be people who are struggling to give up meat or really missing it? I tried their chicken strips back in December – following the basic saute cooking directions – and my (omnivorous) lady thought they were pretty good. If they didn’t contain soy, she would eat them by choice. I wasn’t impressed by the texture. The strips were just…really…chewy. Kind of stringy? They’re pretty easy to cook, and the flavor isn’t bad, but I just didn’t get it.

So I happened to mention this feeling on Twitter a couple days later, and got a really sweet response from them. The problem is, I don’t know how they could improve. It’s not you, Beyond Meat, it’s me.

A couple weeks ago, I mentioned to SG that I was craving chicken fingers (weird, right?) and she showed up at my house with Beyond Meat chicken strips that she coated in gluten-free breadcrumbs and fried and served with chipotle mayonnaise. Yum. The texture of the breadcrumbs made the chicken strips more tolerable and the meal definitely hit the spot. So we had some leftover strips from that meal in the freezer and I decided to try something a little different last night.

If you're not roasting your broccoli, what are you doing with your life?

If you’re not roasting your broccoli, what are you doing with your life?

I started with sauteing six strips with some chopped garlic just until they defrosted and then added 1 cup of vegetable broth. I let them simmer until the liquid was absorbed/had boiled off and then let them cook a little longer to try to crisp them up.

I actually enjoyed the strips more once they absorbed some liquid – they weren’t as chewy or stringy. SG said the texture was more tofu-like, which probably means she didn’t like them as much. I served them with roasted broccoli and quinoa; I definitely need something to offset the texture of these strips. SG recommended cooking them in a cast iron skillet next time to get a crisper texture after the liquid cooks off. So…anyone have favorite Beyond Meat products or preparation techniques?

The longest month of the year

Seriously, February, you are the worst. I don’t know why you think you need to pack all of the stress into 28 measly little days, but I’m already over you and it’s only the 16th.

So far in February I have traveled to Boston, Denver and Las Vegas, broke my washing machine, defeated a death cold and helped SG move into my our apartment on the coldest weekend so far this winter. I am spent. It’s currently snowing in DC and I have everything crossed hoping for a snow day tomorrow so we can continue unpacking and settling into our space, since I’ve been on the road so much. And I thought I’d share a little vegan/gluten free travelogue of the past couple weeks.

This sandwich is the stuff dreams are made of

This sandwich is the stuff dreams are made of

First up: Boston! SG* had a work meeting the last week in January, and we found a roundtrip ticket for only $150 so that I could join her for the weekend. I lived in Boston a few years ago and I am still close to some very lovely people up there. So we stayed in a fancy hotel, had some fancy drinks, I saw great friends and we tromped through snow (thankfully, we were in town between blizzards and didn’t get stuck) to the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum. It was a lovely weekend, and I took exactly one photo the entire time. Of a sandwich.

I discovered Veggie Galaxy in Cambridge, MA while we were prepping for this trip and I was instantly enamored. In addition to vegetarian and vegan restaurants, DC is also sadly lacking diners. Veggie Galaxy combines both of these things AND has an extensive gluten-free menu. Hello, happiness. Most of my friends are omnivores, but they’re super flexible and willing to work with my dietary restrictions, so after SG and I wrapped up our museum outing, we all met up for an amazing late lunch. I had the The Club sandwich on gluten-free bread. I was obsessed with club sandwiches as a kid, so finding a tempeh and tofu version was really exciting. I ate like it was my last meal. After Veggie Galaxy, we wandered over to River Gods for an early drink and met up with more friends I hadn’t seen in a while. We spent much longer there than we’d planned, and then took the T from Central Square to Harvard to meet up with my friend’s fiance. They recommended Algiers for food and an escape from the Saturday night Harvard crowd. (Seriously, it was like -8 out and everywhere was packed. I forgot how normal it is to go out in freezing weather in New England.) Anyway, Algiers was exactly what we needed – we got a big table, lots of wine, french fries and gluten-free falafel. Boston was good to us. I’m excited to go back in warmer weather and show SG more of the city.

This is what I looked like at the end of Creating Change

This is what I looked like at the end of Creating Change

I returned from Boston on a Sunday night and flew to Denver the following Wednesday. SG flew from Boston to Raleigh for another meeting and didn’t get back to DC till after I’d left. In Denver, I attended Creating Change, the annual conference for the Nation LGBTQ Task Force. This year, more than 4,000 LGBTQ people and allies came together for the conference, and it was a pretty incredible weekend. In addition to speaking on a couple panels and live-tweeting my boss’ plenary on reproductive justice, I organized a huge karaoke/dance party for a couple hundred people. So that was pretty rad.

I also ate really well in Denver. The restaurant attached to our hotel, Yard House, had a surprisingly diverse menu and was able to accommodate my diet fairly easily. I had their tofu lettuce wraps twice – so good. I was a little disappointed by their truffle fries, which came sprinkled with Parmesan, although that wasn’t listed on the menu. If I could change one thing about the restaurant world, it would be to clarify that cheese is an ingredient, not a garnish, and since it’s a fairly common allergen, surprise cheese is not okay.

Native Foods take on nachos, minus the seitan

Native Foods’ take on nachos, minus the seitan

Our hotel was just down the street from one of Denver’s two Native Foods locations, and I managed to slip away from the conference twice to pay them a visit. I’ve been meaning to try their nachos since they opened in DC, but hadn’t gotten around to it yet. Since I’m gluten free and SG is soy-free, Native Foods actually isn’t super easy for us to eat at, despite being an entirely vegan restaurant. I’d love to see them introduce more gluten-free proteins and to offer some of their sandwiches on gf breads…I remember being moderately obsessed with Native Foods in college, but I’ve been less excited about them since they came back into my life last year.Anyway, the nachos normally have seitan “beef” on them, but they were pretty good without it. I went back a couple days later and they had smoky split pea soup on the menu. Since I was starting to come down with a cold, the soup and and order of their polenta bites was exactly what I needed.

Well, that and a package of Zicam lozenges.

I made it back from Denver in one piece and spent two nights at home before I shipped out the Las Vegas for another conference – the Road Ahead, organized by the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center. I have a lot to say about Vegas and about the Road Ahead, but that will have to wait for a future post.

xo

*aka my lady or my ladyfriend or Sarah…I don’t love the term “partner” and I haven’t decided how I want to refer to her in this space, but she’s a VIP.

On an unrelated note…

Hey so. I need to hijack my own blog and talk about race for a second. I know, right? I bet you didn’t see that one coming.

This is a conversation I’ve been having with myself in my own head for a couple years now. I don’t find a lot of opportunities to have it out loud. It’s awkward. It makes me uncomfortable to talk about it and I don’t think anyone wants to hear me talk about it, so.

But I just attended an amazing LGBTQ conference in Denver and spent several days hanging with some of my favorite people, most of whom are queer women of color, and I’m in this space, enjoying their company, and I’m still dialoguing with myself about my own racial identity. In my head. Because I don’t know how to talk about it. And there were a couple serious conversations about racism in the LGBTQ movement that were not part of the conference agenda but clearly needed to happen in this space. And then tonight, I’m flying to Vegas for another conference and I finally open Mia McKenzie’s Black Girl Dangerous book, and I found her piece”The White-Skinned Elephant In the Room” (which you can and should read here) and I’m like…oh, hi. That’s me.

I’m half Mexican and half white, but it took me a looooooong time to own my Latina identity. It’s not something my mom’s family was particularly proud of, and even though I always knew we were Mexican, I also knew we were different from “other” Mexicans and that that was a good thing. During my Junior year of high school, I was assigned a research project: how did your family come to the US? I had a fairly progressive US History teacher who was making a point about the US being a nation of immigrants, etc. So I researched my Irish and German relatives and learned some things about my dad’s family, but I just didn’t bother asking about my mom’s family. I didn’t think it would be interesting, and I honestly didn’t want to out myself as Mexican in class.

So I’m not a light-skinned Latina. I am a white-skinned Latina, and I don’t even have to cop to the Latina part unless I really want to. (These days, I actually get really excited when someone ids me as Latina or Mexican or speaks to me in Spanish, but it’s usually a positive interaction that makes me feel visible and not an experience of racism from another white person.)

Anyway, I mostly didn’t talk about my own racial identity through college and my mid-twenties, because I didn’t have to which is a really good example of the level of white privilege I’ve got. And I reached a point where I was embarrassed or ashamed to claim a Latina identity at all, because I’ve been hanging out with white people and being white my whole life, which made me feel shitty, because I’m not embarrassed or ashamed to be Mexican and it feels important to me not to carry my mom’s internalized racism with me. I don’t want to just tell people I’m white, because it feels like a denial of my family. And I’ve done that and it was shitty and I’m not interested in doing that anymore.

I had an interesting conversation with my boss about this a couple of years ago, where she pointed out that I don’t have to conform to anyone else’s standards or expectations of being Latina or a woman of color, and that I can define my identity for myself. Which was a relief, because I don’t talk like Sofia Vergara and I’m not about to start – but to call myself a light-skinned woman of color feels like claiming something that isn’t mine. I try to be really careful about when and how I use the term, because I think it probably is weird for a woman of color to hear it coming from someone who looks like me. I’ve caught myself talking shit about white people and getting some strange looks from people of color who I haven’t specifically explained my identity or background to. I also avoid woc-specific spaces, because I don’t want people in them to question my right to be there, and I don’t want my whiteness to make people feel like the space isn’t safe. And since I’m being real honest, I also keep myself just a liiiiiiittle bit distant from my friends, because I don’t really know how they experience my identity and I don’t know how to ask.

Mia’s piece, which she wrote in 2012, brought up a lot of these things for me. I have also really wanted a term for what I am that doesn’t erase my identity but still acknowledges my privileged experience. In the rare opportunities that mentioning race makes sense (it’s interesting that preferred gender pronouns are catching on, but we don’t mandate other identifiers, but that’s a post for another day), I usually go with “mixed,” but that feels really vague. (I used to say “half-Mexican” assuming that people could just see that I was also half-white, and also relying on white American understanding that white isn’t a race, it’s a standard, and therefore can be assumed.) Anyway, it’s helpful to get some of this out. I promise the next thing I publish will be a return to regularly scheduled programming.

¡Balela, balela!

You guys, I love Costco. I have always kind of loved Costco. When I was a kid, my mom ran a small snack store at my elementary school, and while I don’t think it was as effective a fundraising tool as she’s hoped, my sisters and I had a fabulous time helping to pick out the inventory at Costco. I will admit to an embarrassing affinity for Oberto Beef Sticks, and mom’s snack station was my enabler.

In college, I mostly used my Costco membership to buy toilet paper once a year. And then, through my twenties, Costco and I lost touch. I don’t think there was a Costco in Denver when I lived there…and I didn’t have a car in Boston…by the time I moved to DC, Costco was a distant memory.

And then Sarah entered my life. Sarah brings a Midwestern sensibility to all things, including bulk purchasing, and she offered to add me to her Costco membership even before we started dating. So now I have this rad ladyfriend and access to pounds and pounds of inexpensive quinoa. And giant loaves of gluten-free bread. And a stepladder that only cost $19.99!

Quieres balela conmigo?

¿Quieres balela conmigo?

On our most recent trip to Costco, in addition to the stepladder, I picked up a container of something called Balela. This kind of breaks my unwritten rule of not buying prepared things I could easily make for myself, since it’s basically beans and beans with some spices. But it was 38 ounces! And it was both vegan and gluten free! And I could do so many things with it! Also, balela sounds like an awesome dance that Enrique Iglesias might sing about, or maybe a lady that you met at the beach on vacation!

Except then I got it home and I couldn’t think of a single thing to do with it. I mean…it’s basically just beans and beans.

Last week, I packed it for lunch with some brown rice. The flavor is very similar to tabbouleh, it just needed something more.

Looking promising...

Looking promising…

In lieu of sticking it in a pita, which it was apparently designed for, I needed to come up with my own serving suggestion. So here we go: balela with sauteed zucchini and Barilla gluten free noodles – sort of a Mediterranean pasta salad. I wish I had some olives or capers to add, but this seems way more interesting than last week’s beans and beans and rice combo, right?

Also, have you tried Barilla’s gluten free pasta? I’d sort of missed them, since my neighborhood supermarket keeps the “special” gluten free brands in the natural foods part of the store and the gluten free versions of mainstream brands in another. Sidenote: these are often waaaaaaay cheaper than what you find in the natural foods section, which is annoying. I was paying close to $5 for gluten free oatmeal packets until I found Chex brand gluten free oatmeal in the cereal aisle. For $1.99.

Anyway, my ladyfriend’s sister bought Barilla pasta for me when we were in Florida over the holidays, and it’s definitely the best gf pasta we’ve tried. We don’t have to make two different batches of pasta when we cook together anymore, which makes life way easier. I don’t think Barilla’s gf is significantly less expensive than the other gf brands I’ve tried, but I’ve gone through three boxes of this, while at least four unfinished packages of other gf pasta collects dust in my pantry, so I guess I’m a convert.

Zoom, zoom, zoomin’

Oh hi.

This morning, I accidentally got a caffeinated latte at Peet’s by my office. I mean, I ordered decaf, and the barista said “decaf” when he handed over the latte, but about fifteen minutes into my workday, I started feeling like this:

This is your brain on drugs

I gave up caffeine over a year ago, since it really aggravates my IBS. And today was a really bad day to test out my caffeine tolerance. My day job is in reproductive health, and 2015 is not the friendliest time to be doing this work. Last night, Congress, who had been planning to “celebrate” the anniversary of Roe v Wade by voting to ban all abortions after 20 weeks, decided that they didn’t really have the votes to do that. Instead of taking this as a sign that banning abortion is just a bad idea, they decided to try banning abortion coverage for everyone who gets their insurance through Medicaid and other federal programs.

Jerks.

My team had prepped our student activists across the country to call Congress about one abortion ban and suddenly, nothing we had prepped was usable. And the vote was supposed to start at 10:30 am.

Anyway, we got all new materials prepped and even sent out an action alert out by 10:17 am. But I was buzzing all over the office and feeling really self-conscious about it. Not cool. It’s now 8:12 pm, and I finished my work day, went to the gym, made dinner, and I’m still more awake then I’ve been in years.

Mashing chickpeas can be therapeutic

Mashing chickpeas can be therapeutic

So what does one make for dinner while supremely caffeinated? Nothing that requires a long attention span. I’ve been meaning to try this ‘Chickpea of the Sea’ Salad Sandwich, and since the prep was only chopping, smashing and stirring, it seemed like the right choice. I LOVE the vegan tuna sandwich at Busboys and Poets in DC, but they don’t have gluten-free bread, so I haven’t been able to eat it in a while. Fortunately, I picked up a giant loaf of Udi’s Gluten Free Whole Grain bread at the Costco this weekend. Seriously, this thing is huge. I’ve had a sandwich every day and barely killed half of it.

This is a pretty good approximation of the coveted Busboys sandwich. I used hummus instead of vegan mayo and added some Nori Krinkles. I’d make this again, but with mayo and I’d crush up the Krinkles before I stirred them in.

The whole situation took about 20 minutes to put together, not counting the time I spilled all the chickpeas in the sink and had to pick them up and re-rinse them. This may be related to the fact that I was putting this together as though I was a contestant on Chopped, instead of a regular human making herself a simple meal at the end of the day. Thanks, latte!

Sorry I neglected you. Here is a Zelda selfie.

Sorry I neglected you. Here is a Zelda selfie.

So I always feel like I ought to say words about long absences from my blog, but I’m not sure how to strike the right balance between “sorry, I was busy” and trying to write some sort of update post that summarizes everything since October. And also I should mention that I’ve been kind of depressed and not doing very much that’s exciting, in the kitchen or otherwise. This actually is IBS-related, to be honest. I’m feeling really fed up with the dietary restrictions and limits on what and when I can eat and planning my life around fiber supplements AND even with everything I’m doing, I’m not entirely symptom-free. And I feel like a bad partner to my ladyfriend, since my IBS frequently restricts our activities. Anyway. I’ve started seeing a therapist, so I’m hoping some of this will get better in the months ahead. And I’m adding blogging to the list of things that I should make time for because they me feel better about my life.

xo

Rainy day baked pasta

Remember cookbooks? Back before pinterest and google and food blogs entered my life, I had a couple of cookbooks that saved my life. I still have a shelf full of vegan and vegetarian cookbooks, but I don’t open them up much since there’s always something exciting on the internets.

Hello, old friend

Hello, old friend!

Today I was on a quest for comfort and familiarity, so I pulled out Vegan Meals for One or Two, which I purchased shortly after I moved out of my parents’ house. Turns out, it’s available on Amazon (check it out here). This is one of the books that taught me to cook. The recipes are simple and being able to make small portions of these dishes meant I wasn’t swimming in leftovers for weeks after I cooked something for myself. My copy is food-stained and falls open to a recipe for garlicy tofu, which I can remember bringing to at least one class potluck in college.

This is a favorite recipe from that cookbook, which I’ve experimented with over the years. The original recipe calls for orzo (which led to a brief obsession with orzo in my mid-twenties) so this is my first attempt with gluten-free pasta. I made a few other tweaks, omitting mushrooms (obviously) and adding chopped broccoli, because I’ve had some in my fridge and couldn’t decide what to do with it.

  • canola oil (to coat your baking pan)
  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked gluten-free pasta (I used bionaturae)
  • 1 cup chopped broccoli
  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 cup + 1/4 cup mozzarella-style Daiya
  • 1 cup vegan sour cream
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp margarine
Cheesy goodness, fresh from the oven.

Cheesy goodness, fresh from the oven.

Cook the pasta according to package directions. Or use leftover pasta if you’re the kind of person that has leftover pasta in your life. I am not.

While the pasta is boiling, chop your broccoli and red pepper. Coat your baking pan with oil (I used a loaf pan this time). Preheat your oven to 400.

Drain your cooked pasta and throw it in a bowl with all the other ingredients EXCEPT the 1/4 cup of Daiya and the margarine. Stir it all together so your pasta and veggies are coated in fake dairy.

Transfer the mixture to a baking pan, sprinkle the 1/4 cup of Daiya over top and dot with margarine.

Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. This melts everything together but leaves the veggies somewhat crisp. Feel free to bake it longer if you’d like those suckers thoroughly cooked.

Yum!

Yum!

I’m not sure this would translate to a non-vegan audience. It’s gooey and delicious, but Daiya is not cheese. My girlfriend is getting braver about it, but most of the time, I think she’d rather live a cheese-less existence than eat the fake stuff.

So here’s the finished product. The best thing about this cookbook is that it inspired me to eat food containing fresh vegetables off a pretty plate for lunch, instead of chips and salsa consumed while standing in the kitchen.

Next time around I might cook a full two cups of pasta for this dish…the pasta to goop ratio was a little off for my tastes. Delicious, just very, very goopy.

What’s inspiring me today

IMG_1207

Morning after a storm in my neighborhood, March 2013

I love this post from the blog Headed Somewhere. I’ve been feeling tired and burned out and frustrated for no good reason, and these 10 ways to be happier in your own home actually feel doable.

  1. Make your bed.
  2. Bring every room back to “ready.”
  3. Display sentimental items around your home.
  4. Start a one-line-a-day gratitude journal.
  5. If you can’t get out of it, get into it.
  6. Before you get up each morning, set an intent for the day.
  7. Do small favors for your housemates, expecting nothing in return (not even a thank you!).
  8. Call at least one friend or family member a day.
  9. Spend money on things that cultivate experiences at home.
  10. Spend a few minutes each day connecting with something greater than yourself.

So you can read more details on each of these things on the original post, but I’m working to integrate each of these things into my life. My roommate finally moved out a month ago, and I’ve been working on reclaiming the apartment and making it a space that’s comfortable for me. I haven’t lived along since 2009, and it’s a different experience to have the space and the financial resources to really inhabit it. It’s actually a bit overwhelming. Making a decision about a new shower curtain took me weeks of online shopping, and I finally found what I needed for $19.99 at Target.

In addition to figuring out my own space, I’ve been thinking a lot about my role at work, and how it’s changing as the team I oversee grows. I’ve had to let go of some of the things I’ve always been in charge of, and  it’s opened up new possibilities, which is exciting and also overwhelming.

2014-10-05 18.14.58-1

Homemade dill pickles – my lady’s fall canning odyssey continues.

Anyway, I’ve got the day off today and it’s raining and gross out, so I’m hoping to do some deep cleaning and to spend some time in the kitchen. I’ve been stuck in a ridiculous cold cereal, toast, Amy’s frozen meals rut. It’s gross, and I’ve been feeling gross because of it. I’m excited to dig out my rainboots and wander over to Whole Foods.