Veg*n Cooking and Other Random Musings: It's Valentine's Day?!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

It's Valentine's Day?!

I am probably the only female on the planet who did not know today was Valentine’s Day. I guess it just completely slipped by me. I found out this morning when I got to work and noticed a lot of sweet treats (but all very non-vegan of course) in the break room. I didn’t think too much of this as my co-workers bring in treats from time to time (as do I). Then one of my coworkers, Kathy, came in to tell me she made brownies with applesauce (they were dairy free, but had egg whites), so I asked what was up with all the baked goods. She gave me this odd look and said ‘Um, it’s Valentine’s Day!’ I’m sitting at my desk like, ‘is it really? Huh.’ Shows how much I pay attention to these things. I’m sure any of you reading my blog would probably suspect that I’m not super into corporate holidays. I read on another blog and wholeheartedly agreed that every day is a good day to show your partner (or friends, cats, whoever) that you love and appreciate them, not just one corporatized day of the year. I’m suspecting there were all sorts of ads on TV (probably to the effect of ‘go into debt and buy your wife a car and a giant diamond for Valentine’s Day or you’ll be sleeping on the couch’), but since I don’t watch TV, I (so sadly) missed out on the frenzied advertising campaign.

I was actually planning on blogging today about some food (of course), but also some thoughts I have had reading the book ‘War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning’ by Chris Hedges. It is a very fascinating book and most definitely makes you think about war in general, human nature, our predisposition for violence, etc. But seeing as how it’s Valentine’s Day, I’m sure no one wants to hear about war, so I’ll save that one for tomorrow or perhaps for Brett's blog as I'm not sure how interested the veg*n community is in my social and political rants.

One more thing before I get on to the food. I’m wondering how many of you out there has heard of the author Michael Pollan. I read his book ‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma’, and even though I wasn’t even an omnivore anymore when I read it, I highly enjoyed the book. He has a new book called ‘In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto’ that I’m interested in reading. Anyway, he was on Democracy Now! yesterday and as always the discussion was enlightening and fascinating. I really enjoyed his discussion on nutritionism (yes, like many other things this has now turned in to an –ism), finding it very interesting how he noted the American obsession with focusing on quick fix diets and specific nutrients. We do this to the point where we see food as merely a collection of nutrients, and even as we ‘learn more’ about nutrition we (Americans) keep getting fatter and more unhealthy. This has a lot to do with all the focus on particular nutrients, not our overall eating patterns, which allows for agribusiness and food science companies to sell their value-added ‘food-like substances’ (as Michael Pollan calls them), and make us think it’s good for us since it has antioxidants or less fat, even though it is more of a scientific concoction than actual food.

You see, the ambiguity of our nutritional advice (namely the USDA’s ‘Food Pyramid’) is not unintentional. Cattlemen’s associations, farmer’s associations, food manufacturing associations have a very large pull in the USDA, hence why they’ll never come out and tell you NOT to eat a certain product (as this could reduce business for the above stated organizations), but have no problem telling you to eat more of something than you really need (you can make money this way). It is easier just be vague and confuse everyone to the point where they think nutrition is too complicated for regular folks to understand, so they give up and go the McDonalds. Mission accomplished.

To be completely honest, there is no money to be made in telling people what they really need to hear: eat whole grains, fruits and veggies, avoid meat and dairy. It is that simple. Michael Pollan has a really nice one liner that pretty much says it all, ‘Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.’ Hard to believe it’s really that simple, eh? Just remember that for thousands of years, people did just fine by simply listening to their bodies and eating FOOD (not food-like substances), and a wide variety of it. And if anyone is interested in reading more about corporate and political influence on nutritional advice, I recommend ‘Food Politics’ by Marion Nestle (and pretty much all her other books as well).

Onto the food. I feel bad for spending this much time talking about other things when my dinner last night was truly amazing. This was seriously the best recipe I have tried for a long time. I made Happy Herbivore’s Maple Glazed Tofu. I was going to serve it over quinoa, but sadly I got home to realize that I only had about a quarter of a cup of quinoa. So sad. So I served it over brown rice and it was still fantastic. It was really easy to make. The tofu got nice in golden in the coconut oil. I am getting more comfortable with stir-frying (I’ve been reluctant to cook over such high heat for fear of burning stuff), but was brave last night and the tofu got all golden and crispy. Since I live with The Proverbial Sweet Tooth, I decided to make her variation for a sweeter glaze. Damn agave takes things to a different level, doesn’t it?

Both Brett and I are fans of steamed carrots, but I literally could have eaten the carrots and the Maple Glaze alone as a dessert. I’m honestly not sure when was the last time that I wolfed down something like I did this. I loved the glaze so much, I think I might try it with plain veggies, or as Brett suggested, make the Maple Glazed Tofu again and add more veggies like bell peppers and snap peas.

I brought the leftovers to work today for lunch to have with an arugula salad, and my mouth and belly were quite happy.

Now I understand why the Happy Herbivore is so happy, it is easy to be happy when your body is fueled with healthful, protein, vitamin, and mineral packed food that tastes delicious to boot! I’m going to try some of her simple Indian recipes here in a couple of weeks. If those are as good as this recipe, she may be my go-to-blogger for good, quick, healthy meals. I’ve been going through some of her archived recipes, and you all should too. (Oh, and just to let you know Lindsay, if all your food is as good as this recipe, you should write a cookbook too!)

'Til next time!


Ruby Red Vegan said...

I think Michael Pollan has some good ideas, but I think he over-simplifies the profession of a dietitian to the point that slightly offends me. I've only read the first 10 pages of one of his essays, but from what I read he didn't acknowledge the difference between someone who randomly proclaims to be a nutritionist and someone who is actually a Registered Dietitian. Since I'm a nutrition major in college, I guess it's easier for me to get offended, but nutrition is so much more than working with a client and telling them what to eat. Science may not be necessary for the average Joe who knows he needs to eat fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and calcium to be healthy. But science has proven to save lives and experimentation has come up with certain guidelines for nutritional needs in special situations and in different stages of the life cycle - in working with women in high risk pregnancies, like pregnant teens who haven't even finished growing, or women who are likely to be carrying a child with fetal alchol syndrome, there are researched ways to reverse or prevent further damage. These are urgent and dangerous situations! What about working with the impoverished, with people who have HIV and AIDS and have elevated nutritional needs? Okay, rant against Pollack is done now! Whew.

It sounds like you really enjoyed your Maple Glazed Tofu. There's a superb yet easy recipe for a dish of the same name over at, too. Mmm.

Anonymous said...

I really liked the Omnivore's Dilemma--I think that it is great that it has become such a hit in the "mainstream"--yes, maybe it is oversimplified, but at least it draws attention to it.

I hope you have a happy Valentine's Day!


Jennifer said...

Ruby Red - I understand where you are coming from, but I think my point about it is, that the media feeds people 'nutritional advice' about mineral 'a' or vitamin 'b' or whatever and make it seem to people that this is the cure all. I don't disagree that a registered dietitician does know something about food, health, and wellness, however the advice most of us get about nutrition does not come from these sources. It comes from the USDA, Cosmo Magazine, and these errant studies done on 10 people. Not to mention we didn't have the diseases, or at least the frequency of occurrence many moons ago that we have now, and it is mostly due to environmental factors and poor lifestyle choices, much of which is fed to us by the media. Remember when eggs were 'bad' according to 'scientists' and now they are suddenly 'good' again? That was my point. Politics has taken a lot of the science out of it by using nutrition as a vehicle for food companies to make money. Just as my discipline, psychology has had a lot of the 'science' and credibility taken from it due to 'pop psychology'. I’m not at all trying to discredit your profession or the validity of what you do, I’m expressing distaste with how the knowledge gleaned by real science gets convoluted into meaningless, excuse my language, shit.

Thank you very much for you opinion. I don't just write these things to profess my knowledge of a subject, I do it to spark dialogue and you bring up some very good points. And I don't agree with Pollan completely, I don't agree with anyone completely, but I think he brought up some interesting ideas.

Courtney - Thanks, you too!

Jennifer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jennifer said...

Ruby Red - Oh, and I must clarify that I am referring to the average, middle-class American Diet here, not special populations. But yes, I agree that nutritional advice could aid all the situations that you are speaking of. I do, however, think that social programs to help indiviuals from becoming impoverished in the first place would be more beneficial, butI do understand your point.

ChocolateCoveredVegan said...

I have been planning to make Happy Herbivore's "meatloaf" this weekend, so I'm glad to hear she's a good cook :o).

Thanks so much for saying you'll add the link to your blog. I found out at work that the Pet Rescue website wasn't getting enough traffic and they were considering having to shut it down because they might not get enough advertisers without more traffic... so I of course do not want to see that happen!

Pleasantly Plump Vegan said...

ah, i enjoy reading yr "rants" . . . in fact I am a huge fan of rants (when I agree with them ; )
agave nectar is on of my favorite things in the whole world , and have a big sweet/savory tooth (actually, several teeth).
thanks for the book recommendations! always looking for new things to read, especially food politics.

ChocolateCoveredVegan said...

No worries! I am always having issues trying to figure out how to do things on my computer. For the longest time, I didn't even know how to get photos off my camera onto the computter!

Anyways, here's how to add the link box to your blog: Open the internet and go to this site:
Scroll down to where it says "graphical links" and copy the entire code that's in the white box under the paw print image.

Now go to your blogger Dashboard page, and where it says "Manage Posts, Settings, Layout" click on "Layout". On the right, click on "Add a page element". Then click "add to blog" for "HTML/Java Script". Right-click to paste the code into the "Content" box. Then save your changes. If this doesn't work, let me know :o)

Monika K said...

An interesting article indeed. I remember checking Pollan's book out of the library last spring and the librarian was like - "you must be the only person who hasn't read this yet!" The thing that I like about his book and others like The China Study is that they emphasize the healing power of food (more so with China Study). When you eat food, mostly plants and not too much, you're actually helping your body ward off disease, heal any infections/sickness and prevent future problems. That's one of the main reasons I switched to a plant-based diet - it's just plain healthy, and when done right it can prevent disease (as ruby red vegan so eloquently points out).

Also, I've certainly noticed a change in my taste buds since my "veggie conversion." I wasn't the hugest soy fan and still have to work on getting straight soy milk down, but now I eat tofu without any trouble. Spices and flavors that I never would have considered before suddenly taste delicious to me (ie garam masala). Thanks for the recipe recommendation - I made one of Happy H's meals this week and loved it. Now that school's done for the week, I may even have time to update my blog!

Lizzy said...

Ha ha, I don't care for Valentine's Day either. On the 13th my boyfriend was like "Oh, it's Valentine's Day tomorrow!" "You're not giving me anything, are you? Cause I'm not getting you anything!" "No no!" And that was it ;)

Somehow I must have missed Happy Herbivores blog. I LOVE it, thanks for leading me to those awesome recipes =D
I already bookmarked at least eight recipes and as always I wish I weren't at work right now but at home instead, cooking all these great dishes!

I think I have to give Tofu another try. I went to the Asian supermarket last night(hadn't been there in at least 4 years) to find out that a box of Tofu costs around 90 cents while I paid about 2.80 at the Bio supermarket I used to get it from. Since most tofu recipes turned out crappy I figured I wouldn't buy it for so much money. But if it turns out crappy yet only costed me 90 cents then that's fine with me.
What is the difference between Seitan and Tempeh? Or what do they taste like in general? I haven't had either, but since my Tofu experiences weren't that great I am not convinced yet to try these.

Btw, I already like the title of the book. Pretty much says it all.

Jennifer said...

Chocolate Covered - Thanks so much for the directions, the link has now been added to my blog. :-) Any little thing we can do to help is worth it, so thank you for letting us know about this, and also helping this computer dense girl get it on my blog.

Pleasantly - Thank you, it is much appreciated.

I was so surprised at how good agave it. I think you'll enjoy Marion Nestle's book. She is highly educated with a PhD in molecular biology and a Master's in Public Health from the University of California at Berkeley, and checking her sources only adds to her credibility. Not to mention her books are very accessible and readable, you don't have to a molecular biologist to understand what you is saying.

Monkika - I do agree with you. I don't necessarily agree with every point Pollan brings up, as for one, he doesn't have a problem with eating meat, which obviously I do. But I think his take-away message is very positive for mainstream America to hear and that is to stop eating fake stuff parading itself as 'food', start eating real food, not too much of it though, and make it a wide variety of foods, mostly plant based. I don't see how one could argue that this is not sound, simple nutritional advice that your average Joe Blow could understand and utilize.

And Ruby is indeed right, eating habits can do A LOT to improve health, if fact I read somewhere that individuals suffering Multiple Sclerosis who also drank or ate things with aspartame in them (like my mom), saw a huge reduction in symptoms once kicking the aspartame. My main argument was not against nutrition science, it was against nutritionism, there is a different. Nutritionism has turned into this almost cult like mentality that the South Beach Diet, or the Atkins Diet (all promoted by health professionals no less) are the cure all to all American's problems, and also the focus on particular nutrients, which are then added to faux foods and passed off with health claims on the box that confuse the hell out of people.

It is weird that when you go veg, your tastes change, I used to despise mushrooms and olives so much, and now I can't seem to get enough of them.

Thank you so much for comments Monika. I have truly appreciated all the well thought out, well reasoned opinions my post elicited.

Lizzy - Nice to know I'm not the only one who doesn't care about V-Day.

You should totally try H. Hebivore's food, and her blog rocks, she has another blog she just started documenting her fitness journey that is both inspirational and makes me feel like a lazy bum that needs to, well, get off my bum. :-)

Tofu is an acquired taste, it really is. Wow that tofu from the Asian market is so cheap! I'm jealous.

Seitan is made from vital wheat gluten, so it is a wheat based product. Tempeh is a fermented soy product. Seitan has a mushroomy like flavor, and the texture is wonderful. I'm probably not the best person to ask about tempeh, I've only had it once, and wasn't too sent by it. But I had the flax flavor, I haven't yet come across a plain variety to give it another try.

Jennifer said...

Monika - Oh, I meant 'difference'not 'different'

Welcome to the Happy Herbivore! said...

woot woot! so glad you loved my tofu!

(i will reply to the political ode soon... trying to save procrastination for later)

Welcome to the Happy Herbivore! said...


I've had the chance to read all the comments and I am practically in tears! thank you all for such wonderful kind words about my websites and food. As much as I want veganism to spread I want health to be a gift for all and I try so hard to make healthy food taste good. Thanks a million to anyone that has ever dared to try anything I make - you're MY hero!

Political: My friend recently sent me the omnivore's dilemma and I can't wait to start. it. One thing I learned when reading Skinny Bitch, Eat to Live and Diet for a New America & The China Study is that the FDA's statement is clear: their mission is to help the farmers NOT the Americans. They're all in bed with each other and so of course they will never tell people the truth about what they need to eat because they wont make any money which defeats their mission. Because its the govt people rely foolishly. It took three years to convince my mom that my diet wasn't unhealthy as a vegetarian because she's been brainwashed for 50 years of her life into thinking i should eat meat 3x a day at all meals. What finally sold my mom was when I ran a marathon and lost 40 lbs as a vegan.

Now her and my Dad try to listen to my advice and eat mostly veggies but then they'll go to church or to a friends and the ignorance of mainstream comes out and they tell my parents I'm just a weirdo and to "eat as they were raised." and then they'll call me and the entire cycle of lecturing and explaining starts all over again. Bah!

Tanks everyone for your political thoughts and opinions - I always like to see what people think and why. Most of my friends would never discuss such topics with me...

Welcome to the Happy Herbivore! said...

p.s. (i swear Jenn its my last comment!)

i don't celebrate V day and never knew it was even happening...until we got Lily and *of course* she was born on 2/14


Jennifer said...

Happy Herbivore - Thank YOU for providing the recipe! It was my pleasure eating and enjoying it.

No problem about the comments, I don't think we were intending to make you cry though. :-) You would be surprised what a profound influence one can be by leading by example, you do a good job. Glad you’re not a crazy 'vegangelical' as I've heard extreme vegans called.

You would probably like Marion Nestle's book, she talks extensively on food politics, the FDA, and the UDSA and their 'nutritional advice'. Don't forget they told us that aspartame was safe, cows fed rendered cows were safe, many food colorings that have since been pulled were safe. I'd be pretty wary of anything chemical in nature that the gov't has labeled as 'generally recognized as safe', what the hell does that really mean any way? Sounds pretty ambiguous to me.

I KNOW! I am forever trying to convince people that I am healthy and happy even though I don't eat by the 'Food Pyramid', surprising we're still alive, huh, since we don't eat all the crap they recommend for us. I don't know how many times I've been asked where I get my protein and calcium, and the argument that the calcium vegans get from plant based sources is actually metabolized by the body better than from animal sources (too much milk can actually increase ones chance of osteoporosis), that argument is lost on most people.

I lost about 20 lbs when I went vegetarian. I'm 5'1, so on my frame, that translated to quite a bit. My skin is clearer, my hair is shinier, I have more energy, I don't get fatigued in the afternoon (probably helps that I don't eat junk food or refined sugar anymore).

I'm still working on my mom, and it breaks my heart. She has Multiple Sclerosis and is a bit heavier than she would like to be, and I feel like her ways of trying to lose weight are more like starvation and depravation than anything, I think that we have to get it through our heads that a diet is not something temporary, a diet merely refers to our eating patterns, long term. She also drinks diet soda. After watching a documentary (Aspartame, Sweet Misery, Poisoned World) that claimed that many who drank or ate a significant number of products containing aspartame experienced very similar ailments to what my mom was experiencing, I went out and did more research. After clarifying that the evidence seemed pretty solid, I tried to get my mom to read and watch what I found. I've tried to get her to stop drinking the soda, eating better, but I can’t force her. I don't want to be preachy, and so far, everything I've tried doesn't work. I just hate to see her waste away, she's my mom, but she also has to do it on her own. And even though all else has failed, I'll continue to try. Why wouldn't you want to do something to make yourself better if it's possible? Diet soda can't be worth your life.

Haha! Thank YOU for contributing to the conversation. (and by the way, my friends won't talk to me about this stuff either, their eyes glaze over and they tend to look quite bored, giving me the 'nerd-alert' type response)

Comment all you want!

How did Lily's birthday go with your kitchen fiasco? Happy Birthday Lily!!!

Welcome to the Happy Herbivore! said...

send your mom skinny bitch. the first chapter is about aspartame (did you know they have entire support groups for people who have suffered illness from the junk?)

i didnt know any better until i read that book. Now, I've suffered from migraines since I was 7. Yes, I said 7. I've been to countless doctors, etc and you would think at least one of them would have mentioned that aspartame triggers migraines! of course they didn't! Finally almost 20 yrs later I'm free of migraines and why? I stopped drinking diet soda!

People say athletes can't be vegan because we don't get enough protein... someone has never looked up a foods content on whfoods! I've since met 3 other marathon runners, a uy who ran 15 miles on his 100th day of a juice fast and two pro body builders that look like arnold!