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how to go vegan without really trying

26 Apr

chocolate dipped macaroons, recipe courtsey of The Blissful Chef

About a month and a half ago, my dad made a startling announcement: Steve Ryan, complete and utter carnivore, was going vegan. After reading a handful of books, like Skinny Bastard and Tom Robbins (of the Baskin-Robbins family)’s Reclaiming Our Health, then driving the point home with Slaughterhouse and the like, he was slowly phasing out caffiene, sugars and fish, and had dropped meat, poultry and dairy completely. His reasons were many, most glaringly to finally take control of his body, get back into shape but also eliminate many things from his diet that have been linked to cancer and heart disease. He used to be able to put away a plate of steak. Now he’s trying to eat as true to the earth as he can. It’s been inspiring.

When he came to visit in March, he challenged me to “go vegan” for 30 days. I started what I like to call “vegan-adjacent” on April 6th. My cheats? I’m not worrying about what restaurant bread is made out of. I still eat chocolate. And if it’s an enormous pain at a dinner that I’m not paying for (for instance, a friend’s parents took us to Street, a kind of family style restaurant in Los Angeles which is almost completely meat-centric), I enjoy what appears on my plate. But otherwise, I’ve been really sticking to the challenge.

Amazingly enough, right around the time I was beginning, Christy (aka The Blissful Chef) was looking for recipe testers for her upcoming vegan cookbook. Perfect timing – my guess is it’s easier to stick to a dietary choice like veganism if you are armed with weapons of deliciousness.

Last night, I made the chocolate covered macaroons above, and this tasty Indian Curry Chickpeas side dish. I added califlower for a little extra weight, but the curry sauce (made with coconut milk instead of dairy!) was delicious, a little sweet and a little spicy. Perfect comfort food.

If you’re a vegan, or interested in trying a few vegan and vegitarian recipes, keep an eye out for The Blissful Chef’s new book. And if you’re in LA, sign up for one of her cooking classes!

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on being outstanding

19 Mar

Hiking Runyon last weekend, a friend and I had a long talk about what it takes to make it in the workplace these days. It seems for our generation (and the entertainment industry, especially), the only sure bet for job stability and growth is to be a true innovator. It’s about establishing worth to your company; finding a niche and becoming that niche’s expert. Constantly thinking ahead – not just as a problem solver but as a ground breaker.

Which is hard, terrifying, especially at this entry-level adjacent point we’re at right now. I’m two years into my career, which comes with this true sink or swim moment – move too slowly and you’ll fall behind your peers. But the only way to really break ahead and be meaningful is to create, create, create. Don’t get me wrong – this is an exciting new perspective and it’s opened my mind even just in this past week. It’s also sent me on a search for innovators and tastemakers in other industries, in an effort to learn more about focus and change. And that’s how I happened upon Jim Denevan, a slow artist and founder of Outstanding in the Field. My mind? Blown.

Outstanding in the Field “sets the long table” at farms, in gardens, on mountaintops or in sea caves; on islands and on ranches. Sometimes indoors (a barn, a greenhouse, even a museum), but mostly outside, Outstanding in the Field’s mission is to re-connect diners to the land and the origins of their food, and to honor the local farmers and food artisans who cultivate it.

Founder Jim Denevan started in 1999 with the vision of putting the spotlight on the organic food in his hometown of Santa Cruz. Word quickly spread throughout Northern California, and by 2004 his tour was reaching coast to coast.

In 2009, Jim, his crew (led by field manager Katy Oursler) and an army of servers, farmers/producers and chefs – each team different from place to place – held 54 dinner parties throughout the US and Canada. The 2010 tour schedule goes live tomorrow (March 20) and will likely sell out within the day.

To support Outstanding in the Field and your local chefs and producers, check for your area’s dates here: http://outstandinginthefield.com/

on binges

15 Mar

I’m a sucker for a wood paneled website. This wine bar just opened up in Venice Beach (ok, adjacent. Ok, marina del rey.),  and will be the start of my week-long wine crawl. Seven tastings in seven days – I’m hoping for good wine, good stories and not too horrible a headache.

On the schedule: The Mercantile (Hollywood), Venice Beach Wines (Venice Beach, proper), Malibu Family Wines (if you haven’t been, check back next week for photos – a Saturday afternoon at this place is the perfect cure for the work week), and Silverlake Wine. Let me know if you have any other LA suggestions! I’m especially hoping to find a great downtown shop.

Clink, clink!

apples, bacon and brussel sprouts

17 Feb

Anyone who has been to Alta in the West Village has undoubtedly (hopefully!) been coerced into ordering their famous Brussels sprouts.  No sprout fan myself, I caved in the nature of trying new things (and the realization that there were about 40 other bacon-wrapped and chorizo-stuffed dishes I could replace the veggie with if it tasted anything like I imagined), and I was BEYOND pleasantly surprised!

Caramelized to perfection and tossed with deliciously sweet apples, these sprouts were incredible!  Excited at the discovery of this fabulous new food, I began to order anything that remotely resembled a caramelized Brussels sprout at an array of restaurants around the city.

While I found a number of tasty sprouts in this city over the past few months, none have yet to live up to those at Alta.  So last night, in search of a yummy dish to accompany (man-requested) fish sticks, I decided to try to recreate Alta’s masterpiece. I followed the recipe below (it’s a Disney family recipe, don’t judge!) and I must say, it was a COMPLETE success.

Cheap, simple, and kind of healthy, follow the recipe to a T (or add a little extra of the good stuff for sweeter sprouts) and you will LOVE this new addition to your side dish repertoire! Ten minutes of prep and an hour of cooking time – so easy.

Ingredients
1 pound Brussels sprouts
3 slices thick-cut uncured bacon, cut into one-inch pieces
1 medium onion, cut into medium dice
2 small firm red apples (such as roma), cored and chopped
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
Salt and pepper (1/2 teaspoon each)

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut off bottom core of Brussels sprouts, halve lengthwise and place on a large cookie sheet with sides.
2. Add bacon, onion, and apples. Toss with melted butter, maple syrup and salt and pepper. Place in oven and roast, stirring occasionally for 40-50 minutes or until Brussels sprouts are caramelized and apples are tender.
3. Drizzle with cider vinegar, taste for seasoning and serve immediately.

My love for vegetables..

26 Jan

Kohlrabi is broccoli-like and Mike-like

Fact: If you prepare them right, organic fruits and vegetables are all kinds of delicious. When I eat a nasty (ok, absolutely mouth watering) box of chicken mcnuggets, or a bowl of chocolates (so many holiday leftovers, still), I become a total brat – completely unpleasant to be around. When I eat a particularly healthy meal, I like to imagine the goods coursing through my veins, loving up on my insides and brightening my mood.

Marked up at the grocery store, it’s hard to shop organic and eat well-rounded meals on a lean budget. When I go to the Farmers Market without a plan, my eyes are often bigger than my reusable bags and I end up blowing through a lot of cash. So when I heard about the South Central Farmers’ Cooperative CSA (community supported agriculture) box – which hooks you up with about 5lbs of veggies for $15, I was intrigued.

I signed up for just one week – I’m a little bit commitment-phobic in life in general – and picked up my box at the Hollywood Farmers Market. It was a little bit refreshing to go to the market with a purpose – one purpose – and I marched straight to their table, picked up my giant box, turned around and headed home. Giddy with unexpected anticipation, and I popped open my box in the car at a red light (I live four minutes from the market and this was unnecessary). Holy-greenery. The box was stuffed with leafy greens the likes of which I had never seen before. I could name the cilantro, the kale and the green onions, but everything else was mysterious to me (especially kohlrabi, which looks like a Monsters, Inc. character and I now looove). I went to the SCF’s “What’s In A Box This Week?” website and played the matching game with their photos and my goods. It was like cereal box prizes, only the prizes were nutrient dense side dishes.

My handsome man and I spent the week thinking up recipes, intent on cooking from the box at every possible meal. We made kale chips to have alongside fish tacos, mixed kohlrabi and tomatoes into our pasta with trader joe’s sausage. I ran home during lunch two days in a row to cook up collard greens to eat with my cold cuts sandwich. I spent less time on fashion blogs and more time searching for inspiration for my next meal. Eep. The CSA box took over my life.

And that was the downside; that I spent my week trying desperately to empty out the box (and even then, we still threw away some wilted lettuce and extra cilantro, a handful of radishes). I think if we were a bigger family, had some little kids to force veggies on, the box would be a completely affordable miracle in my life. For now, I think we’ll box it once a month or so. Or maybe I’ll just calm down a bit and accept that if a few things go bad, they go bad. It’s not a race to the bottom of the box; it’s about supporting the local farming community, about eating healthy, and about letting the true thrill of veggies get me all hot and bothered.

Do any of you participate in your local CSA?