Archive | May, 2012

I Can Stop Anytime I Want: Trader Joe’s Vanilla Chai-Spiced Coffee

31 May

I could not restrain myself from buying this when I saw it on the New Products shelf at Trader Joe’s. I was cranky because they didn’t have the Masala Dosas I wanted so desperately (sure…denial!). I already have about two pounds of coffee stockpiled at my house *just in case* (in case of what? A hurricane? The Zombie Apocalypse?). My lust for coffee knows no bounds. The thyroid problem is not exactly helping, but OK—I know I am a junkie. Whatever.

Surprisingly, I am not overenthusiastic about this coffee. I was excited about it when I saw it and it smells yummy in the can. It has an odd, medicinal aftertaste while drinking it hot. Maybe it wouldn’t if it was iced? I’m going to try it that way later and we will see what happens.


Must Have Spices For The Plant-Based Cook

30 May

Whoops, wrong Spices! But seriously folks, I can’t live without my spice cabinet. No Spice= Miserable Food. Here’s the spices I love and have leaned on consistently during my plant-based eating journey. Some of these are somewhat unconventional or, um, not “health food nazi approved” but they work for me.

1. Kelp granules

Vegan faux fish tacos and “tuna” salad represent! I try to not overuse this because of my thyroid, but it does work really well in certain dishes where you want to give things a mock-fishy flavor.

2. Frontier Mexican Seasoning

Normally I like to add spices individually, but this blend has been an old stand-by for me for years. Great in any Mexican dish or on tofu/tempeh.

3. Goya Adobo Seasoning

Yes, it has sodium and therefore is not E2 compliant. Yes, it is probably irradiated. However, it is the last vestige of my childhood aside from coffee left to me, so you will have to pry it out of my dead, cold Cuban-American hands. Besides, I have really low blood pressure. When I don’t eat a little salt every day, I feel like I am going to pass out every time I come up out of Prasarita. No salt = No bueno. Actually, more like No Salt = No Prana.

4. Parsley

Usually thought of as a humble garnish, but works so well in so many recipes. It’s especially good if I need a little bit of a “cool” taste to offset something in a dish. I usually prefer the dried organic flake version to fresh, but there are some dishes where the more intensely “cool”/pungent taste of the fresh works better. An essential ingredient for one of my favorite bowl sauces, Hippie Sauce. Parsley is antimicrobial, contains a compound called apigenin which is thought to have anti-cancer activity and is loaded with carotenoids.

5. Asafoetida or “Hing”

Excellent for Indian dishes, natch. Gives things the critical, secret bitter/pungent accent that is so prevalent in many Indian dishes. Also somwhat umami-esque, which my tastebuds adore. Although I do notice that my sweat is particularly um, unlovely, after I eat this stuff. Putting the “ass” in asafoetida! Apparently Asafoetida is also known as The Devil’s Dung, Stinking Dung AND the Food Of The Gods.

6. Smoked Paprika

Where have you been all of my life, smoked paprika? So yummy!

7. Truffle Salt

Again, not E2 compliant, but truffle salt is so ridiculously good! Imparts a savory, chewy, umami vibe to all sorts of dishes. “Umami” is that savory, meaty flavor that is usually associate with, well, meat. Using spices that give things some umami keeps me from feeling bored and deprived with my plant-based diet.  If you have blood pressure problems or any kind of cardiac issue, talking to your health care practitioner about salt or just leaving it out altogether is probably a wise move.

8. Tumeric

Excellent for tofu scramble and great for inflammation.

9. Liquid Smoke

Fake bacon taste, baby. I’m all about it! Used it the other night in a delicious Cream of Potato chowder (which I should probably post the recipe for). Again, it’s umami.

10. Freshly Ground Black Pepper

If you are not riding this train, you need to get on it. Peppercorns are not only tasty, but interesting. Peppecorns are actually the seeds of a berry (from a vine, no less) and have been used for more than 4,000 years by humans. There’s a patented medicinal preparation of black pepper called BioPerine that is thought to enhance the absorption of whatever nutrients are paired with it in a formulation. The proposed mechanism of action is the increased GI circulation that black pepper causes. Whooops, I’m letting my day job seep into my blog!

Don’t be afraid to experiment with spices in your cooking. Pick a few and start with a recipe–before you know it, you will be able to adjust the taste of a dish without relying on recipes and you’ll be cooking intuitively, which in my opinion is where it’s at, man. Cooking becomes something that comes straight from the heart and not your head.

Sh*t Ashtangis Say

29 May

I’ll admit it—I was amused. I especially loved the one involving the coffee cup. Although I’m sure everyone has had MORE than enough of the Shit That Everyone And Their Mother Says youtube videos, I was laughing nonetheless. And I don’t know the names of the poses in Sanskrit either, cuz I’m a POSER, dude:

It Ain’t Easy Being Cheezy: Vegan Cheeses for the Engine 2 Diet

28 May

This one goes out to my lovely amiga, Marissa Cohen!

The lowdown on the E2 and most of the commercial vegan cheeses out there? They all have too much oil according to Rip. Most of them are palm-oil based and contain lots of saturated fats and are therefore not part of the Engine 2 protocol. So what’s a cheese craving E2’r to do? There’s a few things commercially available that are E2 compliant. I’ve found these here in Nevada at Whole Foods and Sunflower Market. Both are fat-free and E2 compliant. One is Food For Lover’s Vegan Queso:

The other is Nacho Mom’s Vegan Queso:

Obviously, these are both Tex-Mex style quesos that work really well in anything quasi Mexican, but they are also great on top of veggie burgers, veggie dogs, steamed veggies and chili mac. Nacho Mom’s even has a gluten-free option for those who swing that way.

And how could I have forgotten my original favorite, Road’s End Organics Chreeze?  This is a mix that you can prepare using water or a non-dairy milk if you prefer a creamier taste. It takes under 5 minutes to make. You can order this directly from the company or from There’s even a bulk, economy size available that I order from them. They also make an Alfredo style and have regular as well as gluten-free options.

There’s also some good recipes out there for making your own creamy cheese concoctions. One of my recent E2 compliant favorites comes from Happy Herbivore (go get her cookbooks NOW, so worth it). Here’s the link to her website:

Another option, especially for pizzas and Italian dishes, are nut or seed cheeses. I have a recipe up on a previous entry (I believe it is the Faux Fish tacos) for a Mexican cashew cheese. If you change the spices, it can be used for anything Italian. You can also substitute sunflower seeds (use 1/2 cup and a few more tablespoons of water as needed to make it blend) instead of cashews for a lighter cheese. Nut and seed cheeses are more like ricotta in flavor and consistency.

I’ll admit, when I first went vegan I used a LOT of vegan cheeses. It was like my methadone, as I was a hardcore cheese junkie. I swear, it felt like I went through a detox as far as the cheeses were concerned. I used these for several months, and then I started trying the recipes as my taste buds changed and I started craving cheese less and less.

My favorite of the vegan cheeses if you can’t take it and you need to have some goddamned fake cheese? Better to eat some faux cheese than to either a. shank someone or b. go crazy and order a Pizza Hut Cheese Lovers Pizza! I give you Teese, by Chicago Soy Dairy:

They make Mozzarella (pictured), Cheddar, a Creamy Cheddar Sauce and a Creamy Nacho Sauce.  Here’s a link to their site:

I also like Vegcuisine’s Vegan Feta and Vegan “Blue Cheese” crumbles, both of which contain olive oil. Pretty tasty stuff and good on salads:

Everyone went crazy for Daiya when it first came out, but I feel like the shreds have a bizarre aftertaste. Almost plastick-y. Recently they came out with new sliceable vegan cheeses that can be eaten cold (!!!). I tried them at the Expo West Natural Foods trade show in March, and damn they were good! The Havarti was my favorite, and you can eat it on crackers (OMFG!). You might have a hard time finding them in stores, but they are available and could be special ordered at Whole Foods depending on what part of the country you live in:

From the blog

from the blog

Vegan Essentials is a great website for ordering hard to find vegan items. Not all of us get to live in California (you lucky bitches in Cali have it EASY!). I’ve been ordering from them for years, and they are a great, independently owned vegan company. They can ship things cold, too:

Engine 2 Diet and Ayurveda

28 May

From, an Ayurvedic guidebook and cookbook for modern living

I’ve been experimenting with Ayurveda for a few weeks now as far as my diet is concerned. We are working on some new Ayurvedic products at my job and I’m doing a lot of the research for our formulator, which I am thoroughly enjoying. The more reading I do, the more I’ve realized that to a certain degree it makes sense that the Engine 2 diet would work as a food plan for me. Engine 2 in many ways is a Kapha-pacifying diet. People with a Kapha constitution are naturally slow, stable, tend to gain weight easily and are more “cold and damp”—all qualities of Earth and Water. Anything that amplifies this cold, slow, damp sludginess is going to increase Kapha, which will through Kapha types more out of whack. The things Engine 2 eliminates are classically the things I should avoid as someone with a more Kapha constitution or a Kapha imbalance (which happens when you are overweight):

  • no meat, no dairy—all plants
  • no oils, reduce or eliminate avocado and olives
  • limited nuts and seeds, raw or dry roasted only. If you have trouble losing weight, eliminate them completely
  • avoid coconut-based products because of the fat content (in Ayurveda, they are very cooling and heavy, which is a bad scene for Kapha dosha)
  • the recipes are for a lot of lightly cooked foods and some of them are quite spicy (which is good for pacifying Kapha)
  • include bitter greens like kale as much as possible, LOTS of veggies
  • does not recommend smoothies or juices because they spike your insulin and don’t fill you up
  • not many sweets except for cooked fruit dishes
  • eat actual food– no processed crap, eat when hungry until you are full
  • limit tofu and tempeh, limit fake meats
  • the meal plan itself is for 3 meals, but if you want snacks they are all dry for the most part:  baked tortilla chips, rice cakes, fruit like apples and berries.
  • no coffee, which I of course totally ignore.  I wish I had a copy of the E2 right now so I could remember why, but I’m sure it’s for the obvious slanderous reasons: raises blood pressure, can stimulate or reduce appetite too much for some people, stresses the adrenals, causes cravings for dairy and sugar for some people, dehydrating, addictive, etc.  Kapha is the only dosha who can handle coffee, but it is not recommended in most Ayurvedic texts. Whatevs, I’m drinking coffee RIGHT NOW.

I have developed this salad aversion in the last year, which makes me laugh because I used to live on salad, yogurt, iced coffee, diet soda, Amstel light beer and fruit when I lived in Florida (all of which are awful for someone who has a Kapha imbalance and is a predominantly Kapha constitution to begin with). My acupuncture physician used to yell at me about it! I do love the places where Ayurveda and TCM overlap, but that is a story for many separate posts.

Engine 2 could definitely be easily modified for all three doshas . Just some slight tweaks might make a big difference in how someone feels on the plan and how successful they are at getting back into a healthy balance for their body. None of this is medical advice, obviously. I am not a doctor and I don’t even freaking play one on TV! I actually discussed my vegan/E2 eating plan with my endocrinologist, and he is very happy with it and extremely supportive. I get regular bloodwork done, and I would suggest that to anyone who wants to be their own best health advocate.

Kapha types:

  • totally eliminate seeds and nuts. If you want to eat one or the other, go for seeds in very limited quantities.
  • emphasize rigorous physical exercise, like Ashtanga (yeah!), hiking, running, cross-training, boot camp: you know the drill. Ironically, all of the Biggest Loser workouts are perfect for Kapha doshas or people with a Kapha imbalance. For Pitta and Vatas, they would be a nightmare. The Pittas are the ones on Biggest Loser who are always competitive and fighting and angry, and the Vatas are the ones having meltdowns every five minutes and always talking to the camera. The Kaphas are looking half asleep, depressed and trying to hide/mother everyone, but have the best endurance and can lift heavy things.
  • no sweets except for fruits. I feel your pain.
  • ditch the cold food completely, except in really hot weather.
  • try non-fat soy milk instead of almond or rice, unless you are hypothyroid like me. Unsweetened almond milk works well for us Hashimoto/hypo types. Poor thyroid challenged Kaphas!
  • stay away from soy or almond yogurt
  • stick to the more Kapha-pacifying, astringent  fruits: apples, pears, berries. Avoid melons, tropical fruit and citrus.
  • three meals a day is great for Kapha. Don’t snack continuously—it sludges up the works for us Kapha types.
  • hot teas and hot water with lemon between meals helps Kapha.
  • do not give in to the urge to eat tofu and tempeh like they are going out of style (ooooh I hate this part!). Lean toward tempeh or steamed edamame, but other cooked beans are better for Kaphas.
  • avoid or eliminate wheat (hate this part too). Ezekiel bread or non-wheat breads or no bread at all would be a better choice.

Pitta types:

  • avoid the vinegar-based E2 salad dressings: way too sour for Pitta. Stick to creamier nut or seed based dressings in moderation
  • Pittas can eat more nuts and seeds than Kapha dosha (lucky bitches!) due to their increased digestive “fire”, but don’t get too crazy
  • Pitta needs sweetness to balance out hotness and sourness, so eat sweet fruits and avoid the sour ones like grapefruit or any unripe fruits
  • avocado is A-OK for Pitta dosha
  • stay away from hot spices, like cayenne, black pepper, chili peppers. Avoid spicy Mexican food like the plague
  • eat regular meals and snacks to stay calm, cool and balanced
  • chill out on the hot beverages
  • avoid too many tomato based sauces in the E2 recipes–that will definitely irritate Pitta.
  • do cooling exercises, like swimming. Winter sports are awesome for Pitta. Ski and snowboard away, Pittas. Bikram yoga is possibly the worst thing ever for Pittas. You will want to die and stab someone all at the same time. Avoid at all costs!

For Vata types:

  • out of all three doshas, Vatas need the most fat. Make sure to eat adequate amounts of nuts, seeds avocados.
  • Vata is also a cool dosha like Kapha, but it is cool as well as dry. Try to take it easy on salads or even eliminate completely, as they are hard to digest for Vatas. Stick to lightly cooked or warm foods. “Creamy” soups (use those cashews!) are great for Vatas.
  • Vata dosha types make the WORST raw foodists ever—it aggravates Vata severely.
  • Avoid sprouts, cabbage and any veggies that causes gas attacks. Vatas are gassy by nature in the first place, as they are the “air” dominant dosha. Most beans will make Vata really gassy, so they get the green light on tofu and mung dahl which should be easier for you to digest. If  Vata doshas want to eat beans (which they will, as this is a vegan plan!), soak them for a minimum of eight hours and cook them thoroughly with kombu or sorrel to help reduce gas.
  • Sweet foods in moderation are helpful for reducing Vata. Cooked fruit and grain desserts make Vatas happy!
  • “Milks” pacify Vatas, so be happy with all of the nut, seed and grain milks. Try not to drink them ice cold. Warm, decaf rooibos chais with some agave or brown rice syrup would be excellent for Vatas.
  • Vatas need the most soothing exercise regimen of all of the doshas. Vatas are excellent dancers and natural yogis, but should avoid anything too strenuous or over-stimulating. Tai Chi is great for Vatas.

My friends who have had challenges with Engine 2 are all either Pitta-dominant or Vata-dominiant as far as their constitutions, but still have weight to lose. My Pitta-dominant friend has instinctively started including some more cooling foods. She’s *obsessed* with vegetable juices, especially the really cooling ones, and has been eating more salads. She naturally started reducing her coffee (which way aggravates Pitta dosha) and when she drinks it she usually has it iced with almond milk and agave.  She is figuring out how to make it work for her without even knowing about Ayurvedic principles!

Since I’ve been on a diet or had an active eating disorder for most of my freaking adult life, I am hardwired to eat “diet” foods, some of which are downright awful for Kaphas or anyone with an active Pitta subtype. Instinctively, I have developed this salad aversion in the last year. This  makes me laugh because I used to live on salad, cold tofu, yogurt, iced coffee, diet soda, amstel light beer and tropical fruit when I lived in Florida (all of which are awful for someone who has is a predominantly Kapha constitution with a Pitta subtype). My acupuncture physician used to yell at me about it! I do love the places where Ayurveda and TCM overlap, but that is a story for many separate posts.


Burning Through Obstacles

27 May

I love the connection she makes between the process of yoga and the 12 step process in this video. Negative samskaras as addictions…very cool stuff to chew on. I think I need to listen to this like 20 times at least. I really love Kino, and I hope to get to study with her someday. She’s in my home state, so I have a feeling that will be possible in the near future. Is it sacrilege that I’d rather go to Miami than to Mysore?

Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride

27 May

Last night after a very uninspired dinner of a glass of almond milk and an Ezekiel bread, peanut butter, wheat germ and agave nectar sandwich, I had a parade of very shiny dreams with sharp little teeth. They started off with me living in Korea and eating bibimbap at a large outdoor strip mall. I couldn’t understand anything anyone said to me, but when I spoke it was in perfect, unaccented Korean. There were children everywhere, and they kept coming up to me and pulling on my skirt. I was dressed entirely in pink and everyone had pink balloons.  The dream then cut to me being involved in a plane crash with the actor Joe Pantoliano, the guy who played Cyper in The Matrix:

Joe was trying to sell me on the merits of cannibalizing our fellow passengers as soon as we crawled out of the wreckage, and I was simultaneously baffled and pissed off. I also had a small child with me (a Korean baby, surprise) and all I could think about was that I needed to get the hell away from Joe Pantoliano before he tried to eat my baby. It was kind of like Cormac MacCarthy’s The Road meets that episode of South Park where the people of South Park get locked in a room for 15 minutes and immediately start eating each other.

“He mistrusted all of that. He said the right dreams for a man in peril were dreams of peril and all else was the call of languor and of death. He slept little and he slept poorly. He dreamt of walking in a flowering wood where birds flew before them he and the child and the sky was aching blue but he was learning how to wake himself from just such siren worlds. Lying there in the dark with the uncanny taste of a peach from some phantom orchard fading in his mouth. He thought if he lived long enough the world at last would all be lost. Like the dying world the newly blind inhabit, all of it slowing fading from memory.”

I think someone put acid in my Ezekiel bread. There’s a good reason why only hippies eat that shit.


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