Day 23: Stuffed Tomatoes

September 23, 2008

It’s just a short one today. I’ve been working like a dog the past few days; I have a dental appointment on Thursday afternoon, and I wanted to get some flexitime accrued so I could go without having to take a half-day of my annual leave on it.

Flexitime is a fantastic idea; it’s a wonder more companies don’t do it. Sure, you don’t get regimented, orderly work days that finish on the dot at 5:00 p.m., but you also allow more flexibility and freedom for your workers, ultimately resulting in a happier and probably more productive workforce. Oh, well.

Dinner tonight was stuffed tomatoes, as mooted yesterday. I got two big beef tomatoes, and cut off a little hat from each one and scooped out the seeds and most of the internal flesh, leaving me with two hollow tomatoes.

I set them aside, and then gently fried some chopped onions, garlic, and celery, and then added some beansprouts because I had them lying around and was in that kind of mood. I seasoned them, and while they were frying, I cooked some rice. You can use boiled or steamed, whatever floats your boat.

When it was cooked, I added the rice to the mix and stirred it all in, adding some dill weed to flavour it. I love dill, it’s one of my favourite herbs. It has such a wonderful flavour; sort of creamy/buttery. It’s also a carminative, meaning that it’s good for your digestion and soothes the stomach.

Now, if you’re a clever person, like me, you might also think of adding pine nuts or something similar to this dish, possibly toasting them a little before hand. If you’re a person who can actually outremember a goldfish, unlike me, you’ll make sure to add them in. Oh, well. Take it as read that the dish contains pine nuts or similar; I find that sunflower seeds, lightly toasted in a pan, make a delicious and crunchy addition to rice dishes and can quite easily take the place of pine nuts.

I then lined the tomatoes with some slices of Cheezly, of the cheddar-style variety, and stuffed the rice mixture into them, and put the hats back on them before baking them for about twenty minutes or so in a hot oven.

Man, were they good! The flesh of the tomatoes was cooked just right, it was just melting away, and combined beautifully with the Cheezly. The rice mixture came together in a slightly sticky mass that was still able to fall apart as rice should. The whole thing was so damned good I’m tempted to make it again tomorrow… Except that I have another tofu dish planned, with a Japanese theme again. Stay tuned for more good eatin’!

Tomato image via Tomsil.


Days 21 & 22: A Brief Segue into Lentils

September 22, 2008

Sorry about not posting yesterday – I was unable to get a very good connection with WordPress from home for some reason, so couldn’t post.

I made the vegan macaroni and cheese, and it rocked! I added a little bit of Cheezly to the recipe, and it was righteously good. It wasn’t macaroni cheese, although it tasted similar to the old favourite; it was just a little different. I think I’ll stick with making it this way even if I don’t stay vegan or vegetarian at the end of the experiment.

I added some breadcrumbs and baked it until it had browned on top, and it was very good. I can highly recommend it to anyone.

Tonight I’ll be eating a vegetable masala, which is a kind of curry, which I picked up cheap at the supermarket. It’s made by a company called Vegalicious, which makes all of its products by hand. It’s kind of weird to think of eating ready made food which someone else actually made: all too often our prepared food is made solely by machines.

I’ll be having it with some masoor dal (of course!). I can’t get enough red lentils, seems like. They’re extremely healthy and versatile: you can use lentils for all kinds of different dishes. They provide a delicious flavour and texture which can be entirely different to how they’re cooked.

Lentils have been continuously cultivated by humans for literally thousands of years, and are amongst the first plants domesticated by farmers in the Middle East. Archaeologists think that they’ve been cultivated since the aceramic (pre-pottery) Neolithic, which is approximately 10,000 years ago. That’s a long history right there, and no wonder — lentils are 26% protein, contain significant levels of complex cardohydrates and are an excellent source of dietary fibre. If combined with rice, they constitute a complete protein meal. Lentils are a superfood, basically: the high fibre they supply, along with the significant levels of folate, magnesium and iron, helps maintain digestive and cardiac health.

three varieties of lentilLentils come in many varieties, mainly as red and green, although many different varities exist throughout the world in many different cuisines.

Lentils are also extremely suitable for cultivation in dry climates, making them a particularly useful crop in deprived areas. Interestingly enough, though, most of the world’s imported lentils are grown in Saskatchewan, Canada. The biggest single producer is India, although most of their product is consumed on the domestic market; unsurprising, given its high vegetarian population and the fact that its traditional cuisine encompasses many pulses and legumes.

Incidentally, while unsuccessfully looking for a link to the company Vegalicious, I came across a site called by the same name, which can be found here. It has a compendium of recipes aimed at vegetarians and vegans. I’ve only looked quickly, but it seems to be professionally done with a great deal of care and attention, and the recipes seem varied and interesting. I’ll definitely be checking over there more often.

That’s about it for today (and yesterday); I think tomorrow is going to be stuffed tomatoes or something similar. I have a couple of beef tomatoes which need to be eaten, like, yesterday.


Three Day Bonanza Post, with a reprise of Mac and Cheese

September 20, 2008

It’s been a busy few days. I had the work event on Thursday, and then yesterday I was working like a madman all day, and felt like I got nothing done.

Kids, stay in school and study and stuff, because otherwise you’ll end up in a job where what you do all day is field calls from whackjob parents of unappreciative kids and data entry.

The Thursday bonding event for work was better than I expected, actually. I thought it was going to be uncomfortable silences and no fun at all, but it turned out that we all had a nice time. No small credit for this goes to the entertainer at our charming event, an up and coming magician by the name of John Ensor. He’s skillful, interesting and kept the children and adults alike entertained throughout. The end of it was a display of fire work, including juggling, fire eating and fire breathing. His website is at http://www.itsjonnie.co.uk/ and you can see a clip below of his children’s act, some of which, like the floating table, he does for adults too:

The food wasn’t too bad, either, although in the end, my oriental stirfry turned out to be a veggie burger… I ate fairly well, really, having some salad and a baked potato alongside it. Nice, generally.

Yesterday I didn’t eat so well; I skipped breakfast, and ate bagels for lunch, along with some unhealthy maize crisps, followed by some suspect biscuits at my grandfather’s house.

Not a good day for me, really. Today hasn’t been great, either, if I’m honest – I spent a lot of it cutting back the hedges in the front garden, which was a job, I can tell you. I then discovered a blocked drain, which I failed to unblock. It reeks. It’s probably blocked by old dishwasher powder or washing powder. I then came inside, thinking I was going to go into my bedroom and have a little sit down, call my wife and so on, and the door was just jammed shut. I could not open it. In the end, I pulled off part of the door frame and eventually ended up chiselling part of the frame away so that the locking plate would fit properly.

Door Frames 0, Tools 1.

Tonight, I’ll be doing something a little better, I think. I’ve been craving macaroni cheese, or mac and cheese as your Merkans call it. Unfortunately, recipes for it seem to come at it from all kinds of different directions. Some use cashew nuts, some use tahini, some use white miso, even. All of them look fairly complicated. Some use vegan cheese substitutes, like Cheezly or Sheese, although most of them seem to use nooch as a jumping-off point.

I eventually found a very simple recipe, although being me, I’m going to mess around with it a little, maybe add some Cheezly that I have kicking about. And some turmeric, probably, just for the colour, maybe a little smoky sweet powder. Either way, it looks good!

Now, I promised I was going to talk about veganism and weightlifting this week, and now I will, finally.

I’m a big guy. You can’t tell from my picture, obviously, but I’m 6’4″ tall, and I carry a lot of weight. Throughout most of my life, I was fat. And I mean fat in the sense of dangerously obese.

A few years ago, I started exercising, changed my diet for the better, and lost a lot of weight very quickly. I went from 320lb or so to around 235 or thereabouts in under a year. And while 235lb sounds a lot to most people, bear in mind that it’s stretched over more than six feet of me… This was all done with aerobic exercise, mainly treadmills and stationary bikes. I didn’t use a lot in the way of weights at the time, concentrating instead on the cardiac stuff so as to lose body fat. After a while, I left my gym, and started exercising at home, using free weights. This, combined with vigorous bicycling recently, has put me back up to around 280lb or so, most of the gain being muscle.

One of the main concerns a lot of people have about vegetarianism and veganism is protein: they think that living a vegetarian lifestyle entails lack of protein, because most people associate protein intake with meat. This in turn would lead most to suspect that someone on a veggie diet would be unsuitable as a weight lifter, which ties into the “weak vegan” stereotype.

However, there is ample evidence to the contrary, such as the revelation by Viennese scientists in 2007 that Roman gladiators ate an almost entirely vegetarian diet, not to mention vegan bodybuilders like Robert Cheeke.

In fact, a quick use of the Google on the internet machine shows that vegan bodybuilding is now only alive and well, but also growling and lifting like there’s no tomorrow.

It is not only possible to maintain the diet and lift, it is relatively easy; or at least no more difficult than any other vegan diet!

I haven’t noticed any muscle loss or degradation since I started this thing and it’s been nearly three weeks now. I still lift every day, and I still feel as strong as ever. Better in a lot of ways, if truth be known. While I’m still considering whether or not to maintain the vegan lifestyle after the experiment is over, I can honestly say that it has not proved a hindrance to my fitness and exercise regime while I’ve been doing it, and might even have given it a boost.

More tomorrow on some other subject…


Never Do Yoga In Bed!

September 19, 2008

Earlier this week, I thought it might be a good idea to do my yoga in bed. Well, the lying down poses anyway. I have a firm mattress and I thought it would be more comfortable that way.

Placing a folded towel under my tail bone and knees helped considerably with the pain in those areas, but the floor is still a little too hard for me to lie on. The idea of doing my exercises on a nice comfortable mattress seemed like it would be better. Oh, and it was! Until a couple of hours later, that is.

I was so sore!

While my mattress is quite is firm, I think yoga requires more solid support. I suppose there’s a good reason all the yoga experts do it on the floor. I couldn’t tell much of a difference while I was doing it, but there obviously was one.

Apparently there are specific yoga routines which can be done in bed. I don’t think the one I have been doing is among them, though. I may check into some of them, but for now I’m staying on the floor.

My advice: unless your yoga routine is specifically designed for doing in bed, don’t!


Day 17: Nooch!

September 17, 2008

Today was veeeery busy at work, plus I overslept a little and ended up in a rush this morning. I didn’t really do myself proud at lunch (becoming a theme) but I did stay vegan, despite an overpowering urge to go and buy cheese and scoff the lot while laughing maniacally. Yay me!

To celebrate this, I decided to make cheesy food for dinner. I didn’t succumb to the cravings because the Force is strong in me but I did want a cheesy taste. Like a nicotine addict with that horrible gum. I swear, giving up smoking was never as hard as giving up dairy.

Wholewheat noodles, because I love those things. I said it before, but it bears repeating: the texture is much better. It’s a little chewer, a little less prone to being sticky and slimy. I added some Tofutti cream soy cheese to the noodles when they were cooked, and it was good, but not quite right. It might’ve worked with cream Sheese, but unfortunately, the shop where I bought it has decided not to stock it anymore. Gah etc.

So, I added Tofutti Garlic and Chives, and tasted it from the pan. Not bad, but not quite right. A little salt helped, and some pepper did too, but it wasn’t quite there. On a whim, I added some Engevita, and stirred it in, letting it kind of melt into the sauce of Tofutti. It was perfect! I gobbled up this whole huge bowl of noodles in about two minutes flat, face in the bowl and everything.

EngevitaEngevita is what’s known as nutritional yeast. It’s a by-product of brewing, usually, and consists of deactivated yeast in flakes. And, I gotta tell ya, it looks like the evil love child of dandruff and toenails. The flakes are light yellow or cream in colour. I’ve come across it before, in passing, but it’s a staple to a lot of vegans. The taste is what makes it – it’s slightly cheesy, nutty and a little rich, as well as being chock full of vitamins and minerals, particularly those important B vitamins which can be difficult to obtain in a vegan diet. I wouldn’t recommend it dry, although apparently some vegan fans swear by it as a popcorn topping, to which I say, to each his own. Perverts.

My Columbo moment today is to bring to your attention that I will be at a works function tomorrow evening. It’s supposedly a team-building exercise, designed to bring us all together as a smooth functioning team that cares about each other and shit. In other words, we’re being taken out to dinner at an implausibly remote location and entertained by a magician. No lie.

I’ve been promised a vegan menu in the form of an “oriental stir fry”. Yeah, exactly. I went “Whut?” as well. It should be interesting, and it’ll be my first experience eating out as a vegan.

In the meantime, good night all.

Crossposted at The Odd Blog


Day 16

September 16, 2008

I’ve been having fun with tofu, which is a sentence you only rarely see written down.

Unadorned tofu is terribly bland. You know that expression about there being a party in your mouth, and everyone’s invited? Yeah. That never gets used about untouched tofu. It’s more like a funeral.

So, I’ve been having fun with marinades and so on. After the success of my Bourbon Tofu yesterday, which I am considering renaming to Drunken Soy or something, I decided that I would try to do barbecue tofu.

Now, correctly speaking, barbecue as a cooking method means slow cooking over a low heat for a long time, with smoke from wood chips on a banked fire trapped in an enclosed space, like a drum. It is then smothered in a spicy sauce.

This is obviously not a viable means of home cooking. At least, not in my house, and I don’t know that it would work with tofu.

So I went with the barbecue sauce flavour. I marinaded the tofu in it for a few hours, and then shallow fried it. Boy, but did it spit! I think the wateriness of the tofu and the sauce itself were was did it, and I can only counsel caution to anyone else.

I had it with sweetcorn again, as well as mashed potato, which was somewhat disappointing: I caved and bought some soya milk earlier, a brand called So Good. It actually seemed to work in coffee without separating, which was a bonus. Unfortunately, it’s rather too sweet to use in mash, as I found out, and there is a very slight, almost unnoticeable vanilla flavour to it which didn’t go over very well. I coped by adding salt and pepper afterwards, but I think we can put it down as a qualified success.

I know I promised something about weight lifting and veganism, and I haven’t forgotten: my brain is not yet cheesecake, as I have been taking my B12 supplement. Interestingly, though, it seems that B12 is one of those which builds up in the body and is recycled somehow… but I don’t want to take the risk, really. I mean, my brain is one of my favourite body parts. I use it all the time, and I’d hate to lose it to a freak vitamin deficiency.

Anyway, that’s it for now. Have a good night!


A Few Improvements

September 16, 2008

I was going to post an update yesterday since it was the halfway point in the experiment. But, to be honest, I was totally pooped by the time I finished work and then everything else I had going on just finished me off.

That said, I feel more energetic overall. And that’s only part of the good news!

Yoga bendingI’m definitely having less pain. This improvement has been consistent enough that I am now convinced it’s a result of the yoga. I usually hurt more when it rains, but we’ve had two good rains since I started this, and I didn’t notice any difference at all. This is down to a chronic condition which causes me considerable, constant joint and muscle pain on a daily basis.

I was cleaning house the other day, and started to bend over to pick up something from the floor. I braced myself for the usual pain I feel in my lower back when bending over, but it didn’t come! In fact, that was the first time I realized that I brace myself that way. I guess it had become such a habit that I didn’t even notice. Not feeling the pain I had expected was what called it to my attention.

Saturday, I walked a mile; Sunday I walked a little more than that, and then spent about two hours shopping. Normally, either one of those things would have landed me in bed with a heating pad for the rest of the day, and possibly the next. But not this time! I felt slightly fatigued, but I was able to work through it. I finished several other things I needed to do on Sunday and would have slept like a baby it hadn’t been for the barking dog next door, but that’s another story.

I have a few more things I’d like to share, but I’m out of time and need to get to work. I’ll just save it for another post. I need writing material anyway, and you know what they say: always keep ’em coming back for more!

Thanks for following our progress.