Thursday, June 17, 2010

Baby's got them whey powder blues

More about trying to eat healthy in the land of tamales.

I did not figure I would actually be "vegan" but I thought I would give it a shot under the premise that no matter where I start, I will eventually lose ground. Best to set the bar high. I  have developed a few concerns beyond the risk of B12 deficiency.

Concern #1. I was thinking food and health and "vegan" is a term specifically coined by those who embrace a whole life-style and philosophy. No leather shoes. No honey because it's cruel to the bees. PETA on speed dial, probably ahead of Mom. I would not have the choices and the information that I have were it not for them but it's not for me. I respect their claim to the label so, I will use the word as an adjective for recipes only.
Concern #2. There are animal products in everything! Whey powder, casein, egg white, buttermilk solids, anchovies in the Worcestershire sauce, milk in the wheat buns, cheese in the Boca Burgers. "Natural Flavor" can mean anything from vanilla to chicken fat and the label doesn't have to say if it's not on a certain list of allergens. Even table sugar is sometimes whitened using filters containing bone char. I doubt if much bone remains but if you really want to eliminate animal products, you can't buy anything that might contain refined sugar as it might contain bone char.

So much time is now spent cleaning greens and learning new recipes and new techniques that I'm not so down with making my own vegan Worcestershire sauce. I think I can live with the anchovies. The cost of organic sugar or alternative sweeteners is outrageous, especially when you also use it for wine-making. I need the store-brand 10 pound bags and to hell with how it was filtered.

So here is tonight's dinner: Mini (because that's the only bread I had) baked seitan sandwiches with almond mozzarella "cheese" which would be vegan were it not for the Worcestershire, dolmas made by nimble-fingered Greek women and a small glass of blackberry-honey wine.  The wine was made by me.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Vegan shopping in the land of Tamales

I have decided to try a more plant-based diet as the burgers just kill me these days. Our ever expanding waistlines are also cause for concern and sweetie has decided that he's lactose intolerant. I've already quit using so much cheese (and I love cheese! I got no problem with cheese!). 

My self-serving theory is that eating healthy most of the time means we need not feel guilty when we don't. So I do a little research on staple foods, download some promising recipes and thus armed, head to the groceries in Socorro. The little market in Magdalena, sweet as it is, is not much of a resource here. I can pick up canned beans, maybe some frozen spinach but they never have fresh cilantro let alone anything more exotic. They sell lard in really large buckets, though. It's an essential ingredient in tamales.

Tamales. Sigh. Pork, corn, red chile and lard. Fabulous! But I gave those up over a year ago and seem to have survived. The Mexican family that sells their home-made tamales in front of Smiths was there yesterday. We used to buy them by the dozen. Those were the days...

But back to tofu and what-not. We have Smith's and we have a John Brooks affiliate. Technically, we also have a Wally world but they rarely had what I wanted before. I didn't even look for vegan foods. So it seems possible to eat this way without regular trips to Albuquerque but only just barely. There are large, gaping holes only some of which can be filled by mail-order.

Smiths has some tofu but no tempeh. John Brooks has some nice tempeh but the soy milk is mostly flavored and only comes in half gallons. We use little milk now. Pints or quarts would be better. Safflower and coconut oils can be had (pricey, though) but not soy margarine. I find margarine to be an abomination (butter flavored plastic) but I was willing to try the soy to make the vegan bechamel sauce with cashews. Maybe I can make the roux with safflower oil instead. Butter may end up staying moderately in the diet, though. Shrimp and honey are staying (no such thing as a vegan mead!).

Thai foods are very scanty.  I found Thai coconut milk at Smiths but none of the other ingredients to make a Thai curry. No curry paste, no lemon grass, no kaffir lime. I really love green curry now so I'm seeing Albuquerque in the future. Wonder how long the lime leaves keep?

Quinoa flour is here but not the whole grain. I did pick up TVP at Smiths but if nutritional yeast is here, I don't know where they put it. I suspect they wouldn't really know where it should go. I should have checked the baking aisle!

I'm mostly looking for asian foods but I did order a cook book of vegan comfort foods (Quick and Easy Vegan Comfort Foods by Alicia C. Simpson) that has a lot of vegan versions of non-vegan foods. I'm figuring out now that those kinds of foods tend to be loaded with fat, salt or sugar. They're vegan but not healthy. Well, we all need a little comfort some time and maybe it'll help ease the transition.

I was drawn to Isa Chandra Moskowitz's book Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World. Beautiful cupcakes, fabulous flavors! Not healthy, per se but such a fun treat. But I looked at some pages on Amazon plus I went to the author's blog and saw some more recipes. Until Socorro gets soy margarine and soy yogurt, it's not happening. Deleted that book from the wishlist.

Meanwhile, an online Asian grocer is sending me red and white miso, a couple different sesame oils, dried shitakes (which I could get but the price was actually better online) and a few other things that are escaping my memory right now. In fact, it just now occurs to me that they may have wakame, another thing I couldn't find here. Shipping was a mere $5 for fedex ground. Lovely!

Food Fight in Oregon is sending me nutritional yeast, some locally-made Thai curry paste, some low-salt organic vegetable bouillon cubes (no vegetable bouillon at Smiths, I didn't check Brooks) and Braggs Liquid Aminos. The Braggs is weird but it seems to be a staple and is a healthier substitute for soy sauce. I'll give it a try.

>Bob's Red Mill will get an order to get the quinoa for sure and they have so many other delightful things. They also are touting new, lower shipping costs. Shipping kept me from ordering very often so I'm really quite excited. I hope I don't over-spend.

Speaking of money, it sure isn't cheap to eat healthy. However, a lot of what I'm buying are staples that will last a while so I think it'll get pretty cost-effective so long as I stay away from the prepared foods - except for Boca portobello burgers. Those are just plain good! They have them at Smiths.