Tuesday, January 26, 2010

We've Gone Vegan, Thanks, Tal Ronnen

Every few weeks Curt threatens to go vegan. And then there's a meat sale at the commissary and he makes ribs three days in a row. Not only is it annoying, but it is unhealthy. As much as Curt loves preparing and eating meat, it is just not realistic for us to go vegan. Plus, it makes things difficult when you are eating out or eating with others. While we may go vegan or vegetarian one day, we are not ready today, but we've decided to start incorporating vegan/vegetarian meals into our life. To get started with our experiment, I bought The Conscious Cook by Tal Ronnen. Hey, if it is good enough for Oprah (who loves cheese), it's a good place to start.

We have made several recipes from this book and they are all delicious. Some are so good I exclaimed,"Damn!" The food is just so damn good. The Mediterranean Chickpea Wrap has to be my favorite. It is a sandwich so good that it DOESN'T NEED CHEESE. And that, my friends, is the highest compliment you can pay a sandwich. (Seriously. In fact, I will go even further and say that cheese would take away from the taste. I don't think I have ever said that).

But, back to the book in general. This is not a book that you give to a college kid going through a vegan phase or even a long-term vegetarian who does not cook. These recipes take a lot of time and every pan and gadget in the kitchen. The Conscious Cook is a great book for someone like Curt who owns all the required equipment and knows how to use it, but just doesn't know how to cook vegan.

Anytime you want to make a new recipe, you should read the ENTIRE recipe all the way through, but with this book, it is critical because many of the recipes involve using cashew cream (a fat/cream substitute), which you have to make ahead of time. The preferred method involves soaking the cashews overnight, but even the shortcut takes over an hour. Many of the recipes require marinating or pressing the water out of the tofu or letting things set up and chill, all of which adds to your prep time. The times he lists for the recipes are how long it takes HIM to do it. If you are not experienced, or have to make the cashew cream, you need to add more time.

The book is filled with interviews with vegan chefs and manufacturers of meat/dairy substitutes and even the first importer of quinoa. Meat substitution has come a long way from the white ham loaf that the vegans at at my friend Tom Mattzie's Easter celebration years ago in DC. Tom and I and the other meat eaters were devouring lamb while looking at the vegas with a combination of pity and disgust for their unappetizing entree. Ronnen shows you that you can use meat substitutes to create elegant, satisfying meals. It just takes more work. Meat is delicious on its own. A little salt and pepper and fire and meat can be incredibly good without any additions or side dishes. Meat substitutes, especially tofu, do not really stand alone. But, combined with marinades, sauces, starches, and veggies, they provide the substance that makes the tasty bite satisfying.

Our goal is to make all the recipes in the book this year. We will probably have trouble getting all of the ingredients here, but it will serve as a mini-course on vegan food preparation so we can begin improvising with more success.

Update: 3/4/2010 I had VegetarianinKorea over for Vietnamese-Style Tofu Hero with Vegan Slaw. It is another truly delicious sandwich. It doesn't take too long to make, but there are a lot of ingredients and steps. Fresh french bread is key, so you need to plan ahead, but definitely worth making again.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Views from the Plane

The way there:

In Business Class:

Meeting Friends during the Overnight Delay in DC on the Way Back:

The Way Back, Not Business Class:

Eva squirmed most of the flights. That photo documents her sleeping, but she was awake for most of the journey. We needed the extra changes of clothes. Air pressure changes= increase in powerful butt-plosions? Seems to be true in Eva's case. I did get her to pee on the airplane potty, though.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Th Next Ultimate Fighter Champion

Don't let those long eyelashes fool you, this girl is strong. Her favorite move is to headbutt us. At one point, Ian, Curt and I all had split lips from her headbutts. I think we've finally wised up and gotten better at blocking. When Ian nursed, it was like he was mainlining a powerful tranquilizer. He would go completely limp and relax. Eva seems to get infinitely stronger from mama's milk. When she's not doing nursing acrobatics, she whacks me with her hand, not the gently nursing pat that Ian used to do, but a hard slap! When she throws a ball, I am afraid she might break a window.

I love my strong daughter, I guess those first 6 months of rest were really building up to something big!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Update: Luggage for Frequent Travelers

I wrote a post last year about trying to find some high quality luggage that would not disintegrate in one flight. We bought some amazing Pathfinder luggage on mega-clearance, plus store coupon (about $100 a bag, original price was $440 and $460 a bag). Curt moved up two levels in the Frequent Flyer club this year and always brings the Pathfinders. They are holding up exceptionally well and are a true joy to travel with. When I was looking for the link for this post, it appears Pathfinder may be out of business so the bags are deeply discounted right now. Most luggage lines have bags of varying quality so make sure you are getting the ballistic nylon bags. The Delseys are holding up, but get less use because they aren't quite as luxurious as the Pathfinders. Be VERY careful with Delsey because they have both Polyester and Nylon bags and don't always list the fabric type in a way that is easy to find. If it doesn't say "ballistic nylon" don't buy it. Polyester luggage is for people who travel by car or carry on their bags.

Product Review: JL Childress Ultimate Carseat Travel Bag

We went from Korea to the US for the holidays. I had ordered a Britax Frontier Carseat-to-Booster and had it shipped to my parents' house with the plan of using it while we were there and taking it back on the airplane. Eva is ready to transition out of the infant carseat so I needed to get another seat. We travel a lot and have experienced the destructive powers of airline baggage handlers on our luggage and gear. The lesson:

Travel bags are essential for air travel!

Why? To protect against dirt and damage and help you transport the seat.

Yes, some airlines will put your carseats in plastic bags, but that really only provides some protection against dirt. It is not easy to carry a carseat in a plastic bag, either. Not all airlines do this so it is best not to count on them doing it.

I ordered the JL Childress Ultimate Carseat Travel Bag Back Pack. There is also a slightly different version with wheels. We went with the back pack style because it appeared to have more padding and we did not plan to wheel it through the airport, we just want to protect it during travel. Also, I've read in some reviews that the wheels on wheeled travel bags got caught or broke off.

This travel bag is awesome.

Its maiden voyage was international took our carseat on 3 flights with an overnight delay due to bad winter weather. Every plane change and every delay is just another chance for the airline baggage handlers to damage or lose your bags so I was so glad we bought this travel bag. Here are the best features of this product:

1. Made of heavy-duty, water resistent nylon: I have learned from my quest for durable luggage, that nylon is much better than polyester.

2. It is padded on the back, front, sides and bottom to protect your seat from damage, not just dirt.

3. Big opening makes it very easy to put the carseat in.

4. ID pocket built-in to the bag: Those little paper tags can break off, a built-in tag is better. I personally use the built-in pocket, a paper tag and sometimes even put something on the inside or directly on the seat. Maybe this is a bit paranoid, but I want to help the airline staff as much as possible to locate my bag. Of course, they also put their tracking stickers on the bags, but it sure doesn't hurt to have extra ID info.

5. It keeps all the straps and bits from getting caught. This advantage is true of all travel bags, but I wanted to point it out, because if a strap gets caught in the machinery, you could end up with a shredded carseat.

Two points to keep in mind when using this product:

1. The back pack straps do not detach so be sure to pull them as tight and flat as possible before checking so they don't get caught on anything.

2. The padding makes this bag a bit bulky so if you are planning to bring your carseat onto the airplane for your child to sit in and are looking for a way to transport ytour carseat through the airport, I would not recommend this bag or the wheeled version. I would get the Go Go Kidz Travelmate or the Traveling Toddler or the Tote a Tot. The first one attaches directly to your carseat and makes it like a wheeled suitcase. The latter two attach your carseat to a small wheeled bag so you can wheel it through the airport. I have the Go Go Kidz Travelmate and while it works very well, I don't bring the carseat on the airplane because my kids won't sit in the carseat for long trips so I would rather check them and have the room. Knowing what I know now about my own children, I would probably look into one of the products because they are much cheaper and take up less room.

So who needs this product? If you are a frequent traveler and will be checking your carseat, you DEFINITELY need this product. If you are going to check your carseat, even for one flight, I recommend this product. The grime and damage can occur in just one flight. If you always bring your carseat on the plane for your child to sit in, you don't need it.

There are some cheaper alternatives, like bringing your own large trash bag (construction quality trash bag), but trash bags don't have padding and aren't as easy to carry. The cheaper travel bags will probably not last as long. If you shop around, or wait for a sale, you can get this travel bag for the about the same as the cheaper polyester bags from One Step Ahead, but if you need it right now, spend the extra money on the JL Childress on the front end instead of dealing with a cheap, ripped bag that you will need to replace.

Friday, January 1, 2010

My Grandfather, The Birth Activist

What a great way to start out the new year! My 85-year old grandfather (who doesn't talk much but when he does, always has something interesting to say) told me that he was talking to a woman he used to work with and she told him about one of her employees who was going to have to have a c-section due to breech and was terrified. My grandfather said,"Why, I told her that there was a doctor in Pittsburgh at the Womens Hospital that would turn the baby around. I told her you did it and you have a normal delivery after. Then, I got a call a few weeks later saying that the gal went to Pittsburgh, had the baby turned, and then had the baby normally."

C-section averted by an 85 year old electrician.


Tell your birth story. You never know who is listening. Sometimes, all someone needs is to hear that there is a realistic alternative. Erie to Pittsburgh is realistic. Erie to the Farm is not for most people. Spread the word on your local and regional natural birth supporters and help give women choices!