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Dec. 31st, 2020 11:59 pm Blog privacy query: please read!

Edit, June 2010: I am reposting this entry, originally posted in May 2008, with a far-future date so that new readers of my journal will see it and can respond accordingly if they choose. Thanks!

Edit, Dec 2013: I am now openly genderqueer and transgender, and I no longer identify as bi, but am still "queer" with regard to sexual orientation.

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This message is public as it pertains to friends who read my journal but are not LiveJournal users. Comments are screened.

As most people who are more than very casual acquaintances know, I have what some call an "alternative" lifestyle. Specifically, I am bisexual and polyamorous (non-monogamous). I have become more open and vocal about these aspects of my life as I've grown increasingly frustrated and disillusioned with the status quo of acceptable relationship structures in American culture. Hence, I occasionally blog about events or parties I attend that cater specifically to bi and/or poly people, or dates with people other than my husband (boyziggy). Any explicit sexual content (text-only; I don't post porn) is always protected as friends-only (I have no specific filters currently, if you're on my friendslist you get everything), but other such posts may well be public.

As I have some bi and/or poly friends who are not out about their lifestyles, I generally do not mention other people by name in these posts, public or private, unless I'm quite confident they're OK with it. But I do enjoy it when other people mention me in their blogs (in a good way, at least!), and so I like to acknowledge spending time with others if they are OK with it.

So if you have any doubt about what I know of your status and openness thereof, or have any preferences as to how and if I refer to you in my blog, now's the time to speak up. Comments are screened. E-mail me if you prefer, especially if you want a reply.

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Nov. 3rd, 2014 11:12 am Running for love, running to live

I posted in September about my great experience at the Beat the Blerch half-marathon. What I didn't post about, and didn't find out about until days later, is that a young, apparently healthy man, Evan Sebenius, died running the half-marathon on the second day of this event. Often when this sort of tragedy occurs, an undiagnosed heart condition is to blame. The family hasn't released autopsy results, but did note that Evan had prepared diligently for the event, even hiring a personal trainer.

The running community rallied and created a fundraiser to cover funeral expenses. Within hours, the initial target had been well exceeded, including a $10,000 donation from the race creator, Matthew Inman aka The Oatmeal. The grateful family announced that they would use the funds to finish building a family orchard, and donate the produce to local food banks. I had already contributed a few dollars before hearing this, but was very happy to learn of these plans.

A 5K memorial run in Evan's honor was also set up for Sunday, November 2. I ran it virtually, along the Embarcadero in San Francisco. I had posted about it to the event page, but didn't really expect anyone to join me, given the conflict with the US Half Marathon and the fact that I needed to start at 7:30 in order to get to my regular volunteer shift in time. Despite having spent the entire previous week at home with a bad cold, I gave it my all, and finished with a personal record: 28:35, running the third mile in 8:59, another milestone. Running nine-minute miles now feels like running ten-minute miles used to. Certainly the testosterone helps, but I wouldn't be able to run that fast without training.

Running is a necessity to me. It isn't a chore that I do reluctantly like washing the dishes or paying bills. Challenging my heart and lungs and legs while exposed to the elements makes me feel alive. I could never get this feeling on a treadmill in front of a TV monitor. Inman writes about this in his book, The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances, which I highly recommend. No one has to run an ultra-marathon or even a 10K to get a runner's high, but if you hate running and you've never run more than a mile, you haven't really given it a fair chance.

Of course, some people have orthopedic injuries or live in dangerous areas or have other perfectly valid reasons to work out on specialized equipment. Brisk walking on a treadmill is certainly better than no exercise at all. Regardless, being sedentary is far more of a risk than the very remote possibility that you'll drop dead of a heart attack at mile 12 of a 13 mile race. All of us who rallied for Evan understood this. We love to run, we run to live.

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Sep. 30th, 2014 10:14 am VeganMofo 2014 #20 - Let our garden grow



We've come to the end of another VeganMofo. I haven't been as enthused about participating this year because I think my goals, diet, and attitude are too different from those of the organizers and the majority of the participants. The daily round-up posts and giveaways have focused largely on vegan versions of animal-based foods, especially cheeses, and packaged products.

As I've mentioned previously, I don't think there's anything inherently unethical about eating plant-based substitutes for dairy and flesh, but they are not my focus. Many are expensive, not widely available, and not particularly healthy. And even some "naturally" vegan products, like dark chocolate and palm oil, may be produced in ways that are particularly damaging to farm workers, animals, and the environment.

I love my volunteer work in gardening because I get to see and interact directly with the bounty of the Earth in its natural state. At the 23rd Street Garden, the first thing I do when I arrive is walk around under the trees looking for avocados. This Saturday I found 30 of them! And those were just the completely undamaged ones; there are always more that aren't quite good enough to hand out to our garden visitors or Free Farm Stand guests, but still have edible parts.



In addition to our trees bearing avocados, chestnuts, pears, apples, and persimmons, we're growing potatoes, greens, and lots of herbs. And then there are the raspberry bushes. It's a treasure trove of beauty and color.



One favorite tradition we've carried over from the Free Farm, which closed in December, is having a free vegan lunch for our volunteers. We often join hands in a circle and go around and say our names, express gratitude, then pass around bowls of homemade soup, stew, pasta, rice and beans, or other simple, hearty food. There's always a salad (usually not as fancy as the one above) featuring produce from local gardens and/or Alemany Farm, and often bread and fruit as well. I would seriously rather sit outside sharing this food with like-minded people than eat at a fancy vegan restaurant. Even if the latter were also free.

Not everyone has the space or time to plant a garden, but we really encourage more people to get directly involved with their food, even if it's just growing herbs in a pot on a windowsill. Many cities have community gardens, and many small farms offer produce through CSA - community supported agriculture - boxes you can pick up or have delivered to your home.

When it comes down to it, for me at least, ethical veganism is not a diet. It's a commitment to ending the exploitation of the vulnerable, human and non-human alike. Food is only a part of that mission, but it is an important part. My food justice work is a means to bring plant-based food, plus knowledge of vegan nutrition and cooking, to everyone. For more work in that area, I highly recommend checking out the Food Empowerment Project.

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Sep. 29th, 2014 10:04 am VeganMofo 2014 #19 - "Fried" rice, and a lesson in label reading



"Fried" rice, made with vegetables sauteed in vegetable broth rather than oil, is a staple meal at my home. I always make large amounts of brown rice at a time so that I have leftovers available for this and other dishes. I got the original recipe from The McDougall Quick and Easy Cookbook, which calls for either instant or leftover brown rice, plus soy sauce, fresh ginger, garlic, and vegetables. I usually include broccoli and add either cashews or diced extra-firm tofu. In the dish pictured above, I used homemade tempeh gifted to me from a friend, and the same brown and wild rice blend I used in the Jeffburgers I posted previously.

For years, I've used reduced-sodium tamari instead of soy sauce. This condiment is not low in sodium, however, containing 700 mg per serving. I decided this had no place in an SOS-free diet, so tried Bragg's liquid aminos, which are salt-free, as a replacement. I was concerned that Bragg's wasn't organic, meaning that the soybeans might be GMO, but figured I'd use up what I had until I figured out a better replacement.

Upon further reading of the label however, I realized that these aminos, despite being salt-free, are even higher in sodium than the tamari I was using. The amount of sodium listed is 160 mg per serving, but a serving size is only 1/2 teaspoon. The 700 mg per serving of reduced-sodium tamari is for one tablespoon. Very sneaky! It would be quite easy to be fooled into thinking this is a low-sodium alternative when it is clearly not.

This called to mind a great video featuring Jeff Novick, which exposes the lie of "fat-free" oil sprays, which are 100% fat and have a serving size of "1/3 second spray". While searching for that video, I happened to come across another one by him that says exactly what I just wrote about soy sauce above.



Read those labels, folks!

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Sep. 26th, 2014 08:34 pm VeganMofo 2014 #18 - Jeffburgers



As I mentioned in a previous entry, I've never been a fan of traditional veggie burgers. That's why I like the bean patties pictured above, made by nutritionist Jeff Novick. They're a healthy and satisfying blend of kidney beans, rolled oats, brown rice, salsa (or ketchup or BBQ sauce), and spices.

This dish is one of a selection of simple recipes that Jeff has published on his Facebook page. He probably has posted them on the McDougall forums somewhere too, so non-Facebook users can find them. They are all designed to be very inexpensive and quick to make, as well as nutritious and low in salt and sugar (none contain oil).

The ingredient lists and instructions for some of these recipes may frustrate some with their imprecision. These burgers, for example, don't specify what seasoning to use or how long to cook them. As I'm becoming a better cook, I find that I like the flexibility of choosing to make the recipe a little different each time. This time I used a Cajun seasoning blend from the Everyday Happy Herbivore cookbook, a blend of brown and wild rices, and homemade ketchup from Straight Up Food (as I said in my last burgers and fries post, I was looking for an excuse to use it again!).

After chilling overnight as instructed, I baked them in the toaster oven at 350F for 10 minutes on each side, and later reheated them in the microwave for about a minute. As with the previous burgers, I simply ate these with a fork, as patties, with a vegetable side (broccoli in this case). boyziggy really likes these burgers, so I'll probably be making them more often.

This kind of food isn't fancy or terribly exciting. But per The Pleasure Trap, we shouldn't expect every meal to be an amazing taste sensation. Healthy, hearty, inexpensive grains and beans are the foundation for feeding a hungry world.

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Sep. 25th, 2014 06:32 pm VeganMofo 2014 #17 - Colcannon



From Happy Herbivore Abroad, a traditional Irish dish of mashed potatoes and cabbage. The author, Lindsay, adds parsley, mustard, and nondairy milk (I used soy).

The first time I made this dish, with green cabbage, it was delicious, and boyziggy and I snarfed it down quickly. The second time I made it, with purple-red cabbage (pictured), it didn't taste nearly as good. But I believe it's because I didn't steam the cabbage long enough; the texture was way too crunchy. (The color of cabbage wasn't specified in this recipe.)

Cabbage is a vegetable that I want to include a lot more of in my diet: It's cheap, tasty, nutritious, and versatile. In addition to this dish, I've made a couple of great SOS-free recipes from Straight Up Food using cabbage. I'll post one soon.

ETA 9/29 - since it's near the end of VeganMofo and I haven't gotten to all the recipe posts I'd planned, here are quick links to the SOS-free cabbage recipes from Straight Up Food: Creamy Coleslaw and Cabbage Salad with Dijon-Lime Dressing.

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Sep. 24th, 2014 09:29 am VeganMofo 2014 #16 - Vegan in Seattle



I'm behind in my VeganMofo blogging as we were out of town for a few days, and I was trying to spend more time away from the computer than in front of it. (The unreliable WiFi at our hotel helped in that regard.) This post will deviate from my SOS-free theme to talk about the food boyziggy and I had in the very vegan-friendly city of Seattle.

I'd already visited Seattle several times, so knew that there were numerous vegan-friendly restaurants. What I hadn't realized is how many 100% vegan restaurants the city now featured. We went to five vegan restaurants and a vegan grocery store, and there are even more vegan restaurants that we didn't visit on this trip.

First up, though, was a vegetarian (not vegan) restaurant that I've been to on every trip to Seattle, with and without Ziggy: Cyber-Dogs. This tiny Internet cafe has veggie dogs (all can be made vegan) and lots of vintage posters and kitsch. I had a chili dog, which ended up being too spicy for me. But it was still fun, and I enjoyed beating Ziggy at the tabletop Ms. Pac-Man.

Then we went to Whole Foods to get breakfast items and snacks, as our hotel had a kitchenette (mini-frig not stocked with booze, sink, and microwave). Here's the one place I mostly stuck to being SOS-free, as I got plain oatmeal, peanut butter, bananas, dates, and unsweetened almond milk. But I did end up going back to drinking black tea (with sugar) for this trip unfortunately, as I got no sleep the first night and little the second, and had an important race. (We switched hotel rooms after the first night to get away from the noisy street level.)

The next day we went to Wayward Vegan Cafe, which a local resident had noted was not only all vegan but vegan-operated as well. (We got into a lengthy discussion about this on Facebook, as he insisted a vegan restaurant should only hire vegans. Ziggy and I, and others, strongly disagreed.) The food was excellent; I had the biscuits and gravy, pictured above.

This café appeared to be in a vegan-centric part of the city (University district), as just across the street was another vegan restaurant, Pizza Pi, and a vegan grocery store, Vegan Haven. If I'd known about the latter, I would have stocked up on groceries there instead of Whole Foods for sure. We still bought a bunch of snacks and other things, including beeswax-free lip balm which I'd been looking for for awhile. I also had to pick up a copy of this magazine (free) from the pig sanctuary that Vegan Haven benefits; the issue featured Ziggy's namesake on the cover.



From Pizza Pi, we got vegan pizza for dinner, and had leftovers for lunch the following day.



Another great place we visited was Black Coffee Vegan Co-op, which definitely seems oriented toward counter-culture and revolutionary types. Lots of books, board games, and zines. I got a strawberry-peach scone and a pumpkin spice chai.



We also visited Plum Cafe, which was close walking distance from our hotel. I got a kale salad (which was large enough for two meals) and brownie, but didn't take a photo. We'd planned to go to the full-service restaurant, Plum Bistro, as well, but they didn't take reservations for two people and the waiting time on a Saturday night was too long. We went to Veggie Grill instead, where we also got take-out to eat at the airport on the way back.

Finally, I took the opportunity to leave some business cards and bookmarks from The Abolitionist Vegan Society at several of the restaurants we visited, including the vegan-friendly Plant Café at SFO where we ate at the beginning and end of our trip.



It was great to see all the vegan restaurants in Seattle. I hope we can have more of these, and even better, a vegan grocery store, in San Francisco.

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Sep. 21st, 2014 08:31 am Race report: Beat the Blerch half marathon



This week, boyziggy and I traveled to Seattle to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary (a week early) by running our first half-marathon together: Beat the Blerch. We scheduled two days on either side of the race day, Saturday, to relax and enjoy the area. (I'll write more about the rest of the trip in a future entry.)

Friday we went to Road Runner Sports to pick up our race packets and get an autographed book from Matthew Inman, aka The Oatmeal. We arrived mid-afternoon and were able to get our race packets immediately, but the line for autographs was extremely long. We weren't in a hurry, so Ziggy shopped and did test runs in shoes while I stood in line. I had a great conversation with the woman behind me, a local who was also a running enthusiast and the same age as me.

After 2 1/2 hours (!) I reached the front of the line. Matt not only signed my book but drew a quick picture! I assume he did that for everyone, and must have had hand cramps by the end. Not only that but he would be racing on both Saturday and Sunday, and signing merchandise there as well!

Race day arrived, and we left early for the 40-minute drive (in a Zipcar) from Seattle to Carnation. It was foggy and in the 50s, but the weather forecast said the sun would emerge and the temperature soar later, so I didn't want to over-dress. I wore shorts, an undershirt, and my No Meat Athlete tech tee, and didn't bother with a jacket. Ziggy forgot his jacket, and was most freezing and quite unconvinced at my assurances that he would be quickly warm up.



We started right on time, 9:30 a.m. (quite late for a race, but befitting fans of The Oatmeal). The marathon runners had already started at 9 a.m. I'd lined up in the back (there were pace signs, but the slowest was 9 min/mile), as I didn't expect to run a fast race. I had no time goal, but thought it would be nice to at least average 12 min/mile. I vaguely remembered my half-marathon PR, at my birthday race last year, being 2:26-something, but had no expectation of beating that as I hadn't been training that hard. Ziggy had never done a race of this length, and we agreed to run separately so we could each go at our own pace.

The going was slow in the beginning, as the path wasn't that wide and I had trouble passing people. I also had trouble getting to the right side of the road and out of people's way for my walking break (I did my usual 5 min run, 1 min walk intervals). I finished the first mile in 11:44. But I was grateful for the slow pace so that I could enjoy the beautiful scenery. The race went through a forest on a trail, which had a few rocky places in the first mile but otherwise was quite smooth and flat, an ideal running surface.

The race featured several people dressed up as "the blerch", a fat cherubic creature taunting us with demotivational phrases. Slow down, walk, have some cake... There was also a sasquatch hanging out at the mile three aid station. He was behind a tree when I first saw him; on the way back, he was sitting on a couch posing with people for photos. Each aid station also featured Nutella and birthday cake, neither of which I ate (being vegan, and also not wanting to throw up). I stuck to Medjool dates and water.

I so enjoyed this run, I was going faster in the second half of the race than in the first. I had some soreness in my left hip but no other pain. In the last couple of miles I really picked up speed. I had only looked at my pace at each mile marker, but after mile 12 I saw that I was at 2:14:05 and realized I might actually be able to get a PR. So I cut out the walking breaks and just ran. I actually ran mile 13 in 9:15, which for me is almost unheard of. Of course, I haven't done much fast running since going on testosterone, so that's certainly a factor, but the ideal race conditions really helped.



I sprinted to the finish and indeed got my PR, by a full two minutes, finishing in 2:24:36. Even more surprising, I ended up in the middle of the pack: 400 out of 949 overall, 193 out of 344 males, 36 out of 70 for males 40-49. I expected to fare much worse in my first race signed up as a male, but Oatmeal fans are not really known for their athletic prowess. It's also possible more of the fast people ended up in Sunday's race, which is identical to Saturday's (Sunday was the original race day, but he added a second day of events when it sold out in under 30 minutes).

(ETA, Sep 22: Official results have now been posted. My finishing time is unchanged, but the field of official finishers is smaller and thus my place in the pack is a bit lower, which makes sense.)

Ziggy finished in 2:04:16, really great for his first half-marathon. We were both very happy with this race, and hope to run more destination races together.

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Sep. 19th, 2014 09:16 pm VeganMofo 2014 #15 - PB banana rollups



I mentioned in my previous entry that I've been attempting to use corn tortillas as an SOS-free bread substitute. Here's one example. A snack I've been enjoying very frequently in recent years is an open-faced peanut butter and banana sandwich. Normally I'd simply spread peanut butter on a slice of whole wheat bread, top with banana slices, sprinkle with cinnamon, and add a small squirt of agave.

When I started going SOS-free, at first I left out the agave and switched to salt-free peanut butter. But the few SOS-free breads I found were not at all tasty. I thought I'd have to give up my favorite snack. Then I decided to try warming a corn tortilla (or actually two halves of one, as my whole bag of tortillas managed to split in the middle) and roll up the bananas, peanut butter, and cinnamon that way.

It was... not bad. I actually imagined someone who was not SOS-free could try inserting a popsicle stick and deep-frying these. Or maybe they would need to roll the bananas in corn masa batter first. Sort of vegan banana corn dogs? Not to give anyone ideas....

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Sep. 18th, 2014 10:03 am VeganMofo 2014 #14 - Burgers and fries



I've never been much of a fan of veggie burgers. I ate burgers all the time before I went vegetarian (and later vegan), but the taste of the beef itself was never the big selling factor. As with hot dogs, I liked the form factor: A patty on a bun, convenient and fun to eat. As I found more and more tasty foods that did not resemble animal products either in taste or visual appearance, I gravitated to those. I now generally avoid anything that tastes too much like animal flesh, which I haven't eaten in over 22 years.

I do occasionally make something resembling a veggie burger at home. This recipe, Kidney Bean and Peach Patties, is from Conveniently Vegan by Debra Wasserman. While this cookbook focuses on packaged products, I usually buy fresh and make my own. So I used fresh peaches (from the Free Farm Stand where I volunteer) and home-cooked kidney beans instead of the canned equivalents. I also substituted oat flour (rolled oats ground in a blender) for wheat flour.

Since I've pretty much given up on finding any tasty SOS-free breads, I had no buns to put these on. I had one on a corn tortilla and another just on lettuce. I'm trying to use corn tortillas basically as a bread replacement, but they don't work well with all foods. The patties were tasty, regardless.



As for fries, I sometimes eat some when I go out with a friend, but try not to eat too many because of the oil. When we make them at home, we bake them, oil-free. I found a delicious recipe for salt-free ketchup and baked fries on the Straight Up Food web site. This ketchup is so good, it's totally spoiled me and I doubt I'll be going back to using a bottled version. I don't even use ketchup that often, and now I want to find more recipes that use it as an excuse to make this again!

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Sep. 17th, 2014 11:27 am VeganMofo 2014 #13 - Baked apple and pear dessert



Another very simple and sweet dessert, this one from the McDougall Newsletter. Though all of the McDougall recipes are oil-free, many contain small amounts of salt and sugar, so it's nice to see one that is SOS-free by design. This dessert consists of apple, pear, yam, applesauce, and cinnamon.

For this recipe I used a pear from a tree at the 23rd Street Garden and an apple from Alemany Farm, two places where I do volunteer work. Pears can be frustrating because they can take forever to ripen, and then once they are ripe quickly go rotten. Glad I got the timing just right!

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Sep. 16th, 2014 05:35 pm VeganMofo 2014 #12 - Sweet yam pudding



As promised in my previous sweet potato entry - a simple and delicious dessert from The Health Promoting Cookbook. Baked yams blended with orange juice and spices. Perfectly sweet, absolutely no sugar or other added sweeteners needed.

I recommend using garnet yams, with the deep orange flesh, for this recipe. I had some of this pudding warm, and some cold the next day. By then it had set into a firm custard and was even more delicious. Highly recommended.

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Sep. 15th, 2014 10:40 am VeganMofo 2014 #11 - That old chestnut



At the 23rd Street Garden, a block away from the Free Farm Stand, we've been harvesting chestnuts for the last several weeks. Until just this year I had no idea that chestnuts come inside green spiky pods. And I do mean spiky; the spines pierced right through my gardening gloves. Tree taught us to step on the pods and roll them gently until the chestnuts emerge.

Here's one volunteer doing that while another volunteer knocks down chestnuts from the tree. Tree planted these trees on the sidewalk outside the garden in 1982. They were only three feet tall then!



Not all pods contain a good-sized chestnut, but we did manage to harvest a fair number of them.



Tree told me that a couple of people walking by while he was harvesting said that it looked like a terrible mess and that he should just cut the trees down. He had to explain that this was actual food! We give the chestnuts away at the farm stand on Sundays. I was also happy to explain this to curious neighbors and garden visitors. It's wonderful to be able to connect to the food we eat in such a direct way.

Connecting with neighbors and helping with food security is what this project is all about. One man who walked by stopped to talk about how he moved here from El Salvador decades ago, barely spoke any English, commuted and worked and went to school for 18 hours a day so that he could make his way in the world. He now has his own business just around the corner, and does some free work to help poor clients. I gave him an avocado from the garden and he offered to donate a hammock to us.

Since we didn't have a lot of chestnuts I didn't take any for myself, but I wanted to make something with chestnuts. So I took some old ones I had bought over a year ago, hoping they were still good (they were packaged and hadn't passed the expiration date). I found a recipe in the Forks Over Knives cookbook for a soup that used chestnut puree. I found a recipe for chestnut puree online. (I used almond milk instead of dairy milk.) Unfortunately after I boiled the chestnuts I couldn't get all of the peels off, and the puree and soup ended up tasting bitter. It also looked unappetizing, so I didn't take a photo.

Oh well, I'll try again sometime. Roasting chestnuts will be lovely once the weather turns cooler.

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Sep. 12th, 2014 06:51 pm VeganMofo 2014 #10 - Sweet potato dal



This is probably my favorite savory dish of all time: Sweet Potato Dal from Everyday Happy Herbivore. I know I posted about it in VeganMofo 2012, and two years later I'm still making it all the time. The combination of greens (I usually use kale instead of spinach in this dish), sweet potatoes, and lentils is so tasty and filling, and the garam masala spicing - which I never used before getting the Happy Herbivore cookbooks - is just perfect.

Speaking of greens, we harvested over 56 pounds of chard at Alemany Farm today! I'm cooking some up tonight, with potatoes... and I have another delicious sweet potato dish which I'll blog about next week.

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Sep. 11th, 2014 04:24 pm VeganMofo 2014 #9 - Raw apple crumble



Especially since eliminating most refined sugar from my diet, I've been eating more and more fruit. At the Free Farm Stand this summer we've been getting a lot of stone fruit (peaches, nectarines, plums, pluots) from the Stonestown Farmers Market. And now we're starting to get a lot of apples, including some we harvest at Alemany Farm.

I found a delicious new way to use apples at the Straight Up Food web site: Raw Apple Crumble. I'm not big on raw dishes, especially for dessert, but this one was surprisingly delicious. The lemon juice added tartness (and prevented browning), and the dates and raisins added the perfect amount of sweetness. Definitely a keeper.

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Sep. 10th, 2014 11:44 am VeganMofo 2014 #8 - PB banana slugmuffins



This is Banana Slug. He came to live with us after a trip to UC Santa Cruz, where the banana slug is the school mascot. This is awesome, not because I particularly care for banana slugs but because I love bananas. So Banana Slug hangs out in our fruit basket, eager to welcome fresh bananas into our home.



Banana Slug is a little lonely right now because I took most of his bananas last night to make yummy muffins. I was inspired by a recipe on a fellow VeganMofo blogger's muffin roundup page. I decided to modify the original recipe, using oat flour instead of spelt, dates instead of sugar, and making a couple of other changes. My version is below.

PB Banana Slugmuffins
(no slugs were intentionally harmed to make these muffins)

3 large ripe bananas
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
6 tablespoons water
1/2 cup peanut butter (peanuts only; no added salt or other ingredients)
1 3/4 cup oat flour (old-fashioned rolled oats ground in a blender)
6 Medjool dates, pitted and chopped
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk (or other nondairy milk)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Put the dates and almond milk in a blender, and set aside to soak for a few minutes.
3. Whisk the flaxseed and the water, and set aside to stand for a few minutes to thicken.
4. In a large mixing bowl, mash bananas, then add peanut butter and flaxseed mixture and mix thoroughly.
5. Puree dates and almond milk in blender, then add date puree and vanilla to bowl and mix thoroughly.
6. In a medium bowl, whisk oat flour, baking soda, and baking powder.
7. Add flour mixture to other ingredients and stir until just combined.
8. Fill nonstick muffin cups (I use silicone) with batter, 3/4 full.
9. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

These muffins have four of my favorite things - peanut butter, bananas, oats, and dates - and it was hard not to eat the batter with a spoon before getting it into the muffin cups. It was equally hard not to devour all of the muffins as soon as they came out of the oven. Hope you enjoy them too! Thanks again to Lisa's Project for the inspiration.

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Sep. 9th, 2014 09:53 am VeganMofo 2014 #7 - Great greens



Greens are one of the foods I've included a lot more in my diet in recent years. Unlike just about every other food, there's virtually no disagreement amongst doctors and nutritionists that green vegetables are healthy for everyone and should be included regularly in the diet. Some people who know this but don't like greens try to hide them by blending them into smoothies with fruit or in other ways. But I feature them prominently in the dish.

Overcooked greens is one reason some people don't like the taste. For greens like kale, chard, and collards, I generally steam or sauté them for no more than five minutes. I always remove the stems from kale and collards (and save the kale stems to make vegetable broth), but for chard they can be included in the dish, as in the Happy Herbivore Rainbow Greens recipe pictured above. (It's not online, but available in one of my favorite cookbooks, Everyday Happy Herbivore.)

My volunteer work in gardening has also increased my respect for greens. When we harvest a lot of chard at Alemany Farm, I take a little bit home and often cook it for dinner that very evening. The taste of freshly-harvested chard, sauteéd until just wilted, is incredible. Kale is an even more frequent part of our meals; boyziggy particularly loves it.

I'm glad that through my food justice work I can make greens and other fresh produce available to more people who might not otherwise be able to afford it. It's a serious misconception that poor people - disproportionately people of color - eat a lot of junk food because they don't want anything better. The truth is that, because of food subsidies and other reasons, it's cheaper to buy fast-food meals than to eat healthfully in the US. We've had over 200 people lined up at our Free Farm Stand for our weekly sharings, and they eagerly take the fresh vegetables and fruits we offer, grown in local gardens and/or donated from farmers markets.

This produce, plus inexpensive whole grains and beans, can make very nutritious meals. That's why I've been offering links to vegan recipes alongside my information on ethical veganism at the farm stand. The recipes I share are all freely available online, and feature produce that we frequently share at the farm stand, including kale and other greens. We're revising the web site now, but I hope to have a page up with links to these recipes soon.

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Sep. 8th, 2014 09:30 am VeganMofo 2014 #6 - Not so Bravo



As I was getting into SOS-free vegan cooking and looking for more recipes, I decided to order Bravo! by Ramses Bravo, the chef at TrueNorth Health Center. I was concerned that the recipes might be more sophisticated than my usual cooking, but I figured it was worth picking up since I only had one other SOS-free vegan cookbook on my shelf (The Health Promoting Cookbook by Alan Goldhamer, also from TrueNorth).

When the book arrived, the recipes confirmed my fears; most were more complicated than the way I usually cook, and many required ingredients that weren't normally in my kitchen. Nothing terribly exotic, but I prefer to find recipes that fit what's already in my kitchen rather than shopping for specific recipes. So I chose recipes for which I'd only have to buy a few ingredients I didn't normally have on hand: shallots, leeks, and yellow split peas.

The first recipe I attempted was Yellow Split Pea Stew. In addition to the split peas it contained corn, potatoes (the recipe didn't specify what kind so I used Yukon Gold), and yams, which I love. I had not cooked with split peas before, and figured they would cook quickly, like lentils. But even after soaking all day in vegetable broth - and then using the broth in the recipe, which is not how I'd normally cook legumes - they were taking forever to cook. Much of it was my fault for not having good-quality cookware, and not paying enough attention to the stove to verify the peas were at a good simmer. My three-quart saucepans are good cookware but my larger pots are not. I've already put a high-quality seven-quart pot on my shopping list.

I ended up removing the stew from the stove before the split peas were fully cooked, as I was getting very hungry and impatient. It wasn't inedible, but I wasn't happy with it. If I cook with split peas again (which I should as I have a good pound remaining), I'll make sure to cook them thoroughly. I was also very gassy for the days following eating this stew; I normally rinse beans after soaking, which I think helps with that problem.

The next recipe I tried was Boulangere Potatoes. This one took forever, and once again, the main ingredient failed to cook properly. I probably should have used a mandoline to slice the potatoes more thinly, because after 25 minutes most of them still weren't translucent. The broth didn't all cook off before I put the potatoes in the oven, and even after baking the dish for much longer than suggested I ended up with a soupy mess that I didn't even bother to photograph. It was still edible, though I added black pepper and vegan parmesan to it; the parsley and thyme seasoning (same as for the split pea stew recipe) wasn't really to my liking.

So I think I'll give this cookbook a rest for now, and go back to the Happy Herbivore and Straight Up Food recipes that I love. Someone who is a more patient and better cook than I am would probably get more out of this cookbook.

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Sep. 5th, 2014 08:47 am VeganMofo 2014 #5 - Creamy rice cereal



As a kid, I remember enjoying cream of wheat and Coco Wheats. I really loved the latter, often attempting to make it myself and being frustrated by getting a lot of lumps in it.

I haven't had cream of wheat in a long time, but a couple of weeks ago, I found a recipe for creamy rice cereal on Cathy Fisher's Straight Up Food web site or Facebook page. I can't find the recipe online now, but it's basically just one part uncooked (dry) brown rice to four parts water. Grind the rice to a fine powder in a blender (I use a Vitamix with blades optimized for dry foods), bring the water to a boil and whisk in the rice. The trick is to whisk constantly to avoid those pesky lumps.

Then reduce heat to low and cook for five minutes. Since I have an electric stove, I had to lift the pan off the burner to stop the rice from boiling and splattering while the burner cooled down. I so wish I had a gas range.

I enjoy this comfort food with soy or nut milk and fruit. Came in handy when I ran out of my usual oatmeal and quinoa.

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Sep. 4th, 2014 07:09 pm 13 years and 13 miles



In preparation for the Beat the Blerch half-marathon that's coming up in only a couple of weeks, I scheduled a final long run of 14 miles with boyziggy for this week. He really wanted to run somewhere outside of SF, so today he got a ZipCar and drove us to Sunnyvale to run along the Bay Trail.

We didn't get started until after 11 a.m. It was sunny and the temperature quickly rose to 80 degrees. The roads were flat and we saw hundreds of birds, which was wonderful. But the heat (and occasional foul smells from the water) really got to both of us. Even with a stop to refill Ziggy's bottles, we both ran out of water before the end of the run. We also ate most of the ten Medjool dates we'd brought with us, though I was more thirsty than hungry as we'd had a good hearty breakfast (quinoa with peanut butter and bananas).

Near the end of the run I mentioned to Ziggy that this was the thirteenth anniversary of our first date. Back in 2001 when we met in Berkeley, I was about 45 pounds heavier and Ziggy probably had another 30 pounds on him as well. When we moved in together eight months later, we spent much of our free time eating stuffed pizza and chocolate, playing video games, and watching TV. Though I had already run a half-marathon myself in the year 2000, I was so out of shape by the time I moved in with Ziggy that I couldn't have dreamed we'd be planning to race together over a dozen years later.



We survived the run, which ended up being about 13.6 miles. Had a delicious mid-afternoon lunch at the all-vegan Veggie Grill in Mountain View. It was a departure from my SOS-free diet of late, but I'd planned that. I did have a salad entreé, but shared an order of fries and dessert as well.

Looking forward to our first half-marathon together, and my first out-of-state race. Hopefully it will be cooler in Seattle!

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