Friday Fun! (August: First Anniversary! Beaches! Ok, ok, and also orientations and tooth extractions)
Hello my lovely readers!
August is always a bit of a tough month for me, because it’s when the students arrive back at my university. I wind up teaching a lot of orientation classes and also just flat-out am much busier doing one-on-one orientations to the library. While I truly enjoy teaching, I’m also an introvert and, thus, interactions with people drain me of energy, so I come home and collapse in exhaustion at the end of these days. A friend who also works in academia joked that everyone in academia runs around for the month of August yelling, “The students are coming! The students are coming!” in a Paul Revere voice. Very true.
I also, unfortunately, had to have a medical procedure this month. My dentist deemed it necessary for my wisdom teeth to come out as soon as possible, so I managed to find the one slow week at work and booked the appointment to get them ripped out. I only had three wisdom teeth, the fourth never developed (yay for being 25% more evolved woooo). They were all fully erupted, though (fully came in, not impacted). The procedure, thus, was quick and simple, although it still was bloody and painful, and I had to convalesce for a few days. The worst part, by far, was having to eat soft foods for a minimum of 3 days. I work out a lot and am a hungry panda and frankly I just like crunching things. I was very happy to be back to eating! My partner took great care of me, and I laid around watching old movies and playing Harvest Moon while I was recuperating.
This month wasn’t all difficulty and stress, though. It was also mine and my boyfriend’s first anniversary! We went away for an evening to an inn in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. Our room had a two-person hot tub and was truly divine. Plus, the inn had 5 star dining, and my partner called ahead and told them I’m vegetarian, so the chef prepared a full 4 courses of vegetarian options for me, which was the first time I ever got to actually have 5 star food. He’s so thoughtful. :-) It was so wonderful to get to actually get away to celebrate our first anniversary. I’m glad we were able to get out of the city, even for one night, but I’m even more grateful to have found my partner. :-D
We also finally got a chance to go to the beach. We went to America’s first public beach, Revere. We took the motorcycle there, and stripping out of motorcycle gear down to a bikini underneath was hilariously awesome. I was really impressed at how nice Revere Beach is!! It has a lovely boardwalk and plenty of room for how popular it is. Everyone was nice and polite, and it was wonderfully relaxing. We’re going to have to plan more 2up beach trips in the future :-)
As for the blog, I managed to mostly catch up in book reviews. I now am only one review behind! Woohoo!
As for my writerly pursuits, I’ve figured out a method to work more writing into my day, and I’m really glad to be back in the saddle. It helps, of course, that my partner and I are now living together. It’s so much easier to plan for things when you’re taking care of one house instead of two.
How was everyone else’s Augusts? What was your biggest stress and your best relaxer?
Cookbook Review: Green Smoothie Magic – 132+ Delicious Green Smoothie Recipes That Trim and Slim by Gabrielle Raiz
Lots of leafy greens are important to incorporate into your diet for health reasons (vitamins! fiber!) but it can be difficult to work them in. Enter the green smoothie. Blend up the greens with other ingredients to give yourself a delicious sweet or savory drinkable treat and get 1 to 2 cups of leafy greens into your belly in the time it takes to drink a drink! Raiz walks you through all the steps to incorporating green smoothies into your life from the basics of what greens to use and how to what makes a good blender to recipes to how to tweak and personalize the recipes.
I picked up this cookbook when I spotted the kindle version on sale for 99 cents because I wanted exactly what it promised. A way to work in more leafy greens into my life in a delicious way.
The cookbook is organized into sections entitled: introduction, the magic of the green stuff, not all green smoothies are green, don’t get stuck with the same green, greens, how green should my first smoothies be?, green smoothie magic basics, the pragmatic approach to health nutrition and everything!, freezing fruit, green smoothie rescue — what to do if a recipe doesn’t work out!, about blenders and blending, about drinking and storing your smoothie, green smoothie magic 101: instructions at a glance for blending any smoothie, and green smoothie magic recipes. If that sounds like a lot of sections, it’s because it is. Raiz has a lot of information to give the reader. She clearly knows what she’s talking about, and I found a lot of what she had to say very useful! Particularly how to pick the right blender, the different flavors of greens and how to pick which ones to use, how to store greens, how to save a smoothie that doesn’t taste quite right, and the basic elements of a smoothie. Also, the recipes of course! But how this valuable information is organized is a bit haphazard and can sometimes be repetitive. I’m glad I took the time to read it all and glean out the important bits, but I’m not sure everyone would stick it out through such a disorganized and long introduction. A more concise introduction to the hows and whys of green smoothies is needed.
The recipes themselves are creative without going too far off the deep-end in exotic ingredients. For instance, even though Raiz recommends making your own nut milks, she provides substitutions for those of us who would rather not do that. The recipes are easy to read, fully utilizing bullet-points and simplicity. I really appreciated that. There are also full-color illustrations throughout the cookbook , although they are primarily of the ingredients and not the smoothies themselves. I get it that green smoothies tend to be, well, green colored, but a few more smoothie pictures would be nice.
So I read through the whole book and was ready to try a recipe. I knew from reading the book that my low-powered food processor wasn’t ideal for blending but would work with a recipe with less tough ingredients (for instance, the beet smoothie might be a bit too much for my food processor). I also followed Raiz’s newbie caution and went with a recipe with a more traditional smoothie taste to ease myself into it. Below is the recipe I tried out with a picture of the result.
“Cinnamango Smoothie (location 1558)
1 cup water with 1/4 cup almonds (soaked overnight) OR 1 cup nut milk OR 1 cup coconut water
1 cup mango (frozen)
cinnamon, salt, and vanilla
2 cups spinach leaves (or any combination of mild greens)
1 T chopped mint leaves
Ice and extra water to get your desired temperature and consistency.”
You can see how simple the instructions are. It is a smoothie after all. I left off the introductory paragraph, which is primarily featured in the earlier recipes and talks more about the ingredients, and skipped right to the actual recipe. The ingredients introduction is nice and makes it more conversational, but it is a smoothie after all. You just put in the general ingredients to fit your tastes and away you go, and most of the recipes utilize this simpler style I chose here.
I used coconut water for the base of my smoothie, and my mango had kind of defrosted by the time I got home from the grocery store. I also didn’t have spinach, but I did have swiss chard from my CSA, which was listed as a mild green in the cookbook, so I subbed those in. When I took the first taste, it felt too strong and not smoothie-like enough to me. So I read over the section on how to fix your smoothie and noticed that Raiz states that the temperature of the smoothie affects the taste. Perhaps my mango being defrosted mattered? So I added in ice, blended again, and voila! An incredibly delicious green smoothie! It was, admittedly, a bit less well-blended than I would have preferred, but I was well aware that was the fault of my food processor, not the recipe.
So what’s the verdict? Well, I got so excited about green smoothies after this cookbook that my partner got me a blender for my birthday (using the recommendations in Raiz’s book to help him choose which one). So I’d call it a success! The recipes are easy, adaptable, and Raiz arms you with troubleshooting techniques to help you learn to get it right. The beginning of the book needs more focus, organization, and clarity to help Raiz’s true expertise and talent shine through but if you want to start incorporating green smoothies into your life, this book is a great place to start. It both explains greens and green smoothies and blenders AND gives you a bunch of adaptable, easy recipes to get going.
4 out of 5 stars
The final plenary, and indeed, the final non-CE class or tour event of MLA13 Boston, was on my list of events to blog for the official conference blog. I summed up the entire presentation. As stated previously, I can’t reproduce those posts here on my personal blog, so please go over and take a look at that summary before reading my responses to and thoughts on the presentation.
Got it? Good!
Ok, so, what was my reaction to this lecture? Well, first, honestly I had a bit of a panic. I felt frightened, unsafe, and like the world is doomed. At first I thought that was just my anxious-prone self over-reacting to the presentation, but after discussing it with friends and colleagues who were also there, I realized that Garrett seems to have actually sought to pull out this fear in people.
In a presentation that ends with pleas for us to fight fear and panic, why did she spend so much time investing in frightening us and very little (if any) spent in reassuring us? Why focus so much on pandemics just a single mistake away, germ warfare close at hand (although, not really since 3D printing of germs isn’t happening yet). I don’t know. I don’t know what would make Garrett think making people feel this way is a good thing. Maybe she’s fallen prey to the idea that the only way to get people to pay attention to your cause is to frighten them. I know people in various movements who use that tactic. It’s not one I’m a fan of. Maybe she didn’t intend to gloom and doom the people present. But I think she did. Given that her own speech pointed out the dangers of panic and unwarranted fear, I find it odd that this was her intent. And yet there you have it. A room full of frightened librarians. Think I’m exaggerating? Check out just a few of the tweets from during her presentation:
Everyone has their own style, and I certainly learned a lot from the presentation and wasn’t bored. But. I’m not a fan of nonfiction presentations (aka not horror plays or movies) inciting fear and panic in the audience. I think it’s counter-productive when talking to a room full of intelligent, educated individuals. Librarians aren’t 5 year olds who need to be told about icky germs in order to get us to wash our hands. I’m sure there could have been a way to give this presentation with truths and realities that could be frightening without actually inciting this level of anxiety. Even just a little positivity and more hope for the future would have been nice. You don’t want a populace that is exerting all their energy preparing for Armageddon.
I should also mention that I stood up to ask a question of Garrett at the end. With all the talk of synthetic biology, I wanted to know what her opinion was on GMOs. I admit, this is not an issue I am yet clear-cut on myself. I generally prefer organic, but I also understand the value of say rice that has been modified to have more vitamins in it for an at-risk population. But on the other hand I get the concern of manipulating something at a genetic level and what that might do to our own bodies when we ingest it. It’s something that just doesn’t have enough long-term studies yet to really show if it’s truly safe or not, and it concerns me that it’s mostly the poor, at-risk populations who are being used as guinea pigs eating it.
In any case, I asked Garrett at the public microphone about her stance on GMO foods and the movement to label them. Given all of her doom and gloom talk about synthetic viruses, I was shocked at her answer. She believes that GMO foods are necessary because as more of the world becomes middle class, more of the world is eating meat, and meat eating just cannot be sustained on the land we currently have available, so we must turn to eating synthetic foods.
Um, EXCUSE ME?!?!
So the lady who just spent over an hour and a half talking about how dangerous synthetic biology could turn out to be turns right around and says that meat eating isn’t sustainable to feed the entire globe (which it isn’t, see this article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition) turns right around and says that well we have to eat GMOs to feed everyone because people won’t just give up meat. Right, ok, if someone is so concerned about the possible bad consequences of synthetic biology don’t you think she might possibly take this opportunity to espouse a vegetarian, vegan, or even just more plant-based diet to combat the global food crisis instead of relying exclusively on GMOs? Apparently not. Apparently it’s really great to fear-monger about pandemics and international relations but when it comes to what we eat, the basis of much of our health, that’s too controversial.
Well, at least it was an interesting final couple of hours of MLA13, although I can’t say I really feel that it was very useful to librarians or working to promote true global health.
Book Review: Animal Rights Poetry: 25 Inspirational Animal Poems, Vol 1 by Jenny Moxham (Series, #1)
I picked this up because one of the blogs I follow mentioned it was on sale (for 100% off), and I figured there had to be at least one poem in there that I would find inspirational. Of course, there was.
The poems are mostly written in rhyme, a vibe that feels very similar to Mother Goose style children’s poetry. Some of them worked better than others, but it’s certainly a fine style choice. It’s easier to remember rhymes than almost any other sort of poetry.
Personally, I preferred the poems that contained solid arguments to use when debating animal rights issues. My favorite, is this one:
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
I’ve often heard it said by folk
Who relish eating meat,
“The animals were put on Earth
For human beings to eat.”
Well if God made them just for us,
Explain it, if you can,
Why they arrived one hundred million
Years ahead of man
I was less of a fan of ones addressing particular events, because I think those would be less useful in more general animal rights work. I also was surprised by how many of the poems were about Christmas. Perhaps Christmas is a meatier affair in the UK, but in a book with only 25 poems, having five about one holiday felt like a bit much.
Overall, Moxham’s talent and passion do shine through, but a more varied and longer collection would have been more enjoyable. Recommended to those with an interest in memorable phrases to use in animal rights work.
3 out of 5 stars
This is such a pretty cookbook! Beyond gorgeous full-color photographs of the food, the recipes themselves are colorful with the numbers in blue and the headings in red or green. It’s not just readable and usable; it’s fun to do both.
This is a vegetarian cookbook, not a vegan one, but there are quite a few vegan recipes, and they are all clearly labeled with a green “V.” There are also some gluten free recipes labeled with a green “GF.” These labels are found in both the contents and on the recipes themselves.
The cookbook is divided into: Introduction, Veggie Burger Basics, Bean Grain and Nut Burgers, Vegetable Burgers, Tofu Seitan and TVP Burgers, Burger Buns, Sides: Salads and Fries, and Condiments and Toppings. I have to say while I was pleased with the inclusion of sides, I was most impressed by the inclusion of the section on burger buns. I also really appreciate the anti-processed food stance in the Introduction. It’s a nice touch, particularly for people who follow a diet that often leaves us wallowing in processed foods at friends’ bbqs, and we can’t complain because, well, they bought us veggie burgers, didn’t they?
One drawback to the cookbook is quite a few of the recipes call for ingredients that are kind of hard to find like: chickpea flour, bulgur, roasted chestnuts, Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP), or arame. If you’re pushing for people to do fresh, whole foods instead of processed, you shouldn’t make the ingredients list so complicated.
I found about three recipes that intrigued me enough to add to my “to try” collection. So far I’ve tried one, Beet and Brown Rice Burgers on page 59. It’s a fairly straight-forward recipe: combine shredded beets with cooked brown rice and mashed up beans, along with a few spices. I made them all at once then froze them. I also added in vital wheat gluten, which Volger oddly doesn’t use in a lot of his recipes in spite of its binding qualities and protein content. I’m glad I did because the burger still had some issues staying together even with it in there. However, the flavor and textures are different from other veggie burgers I’ve made, so it was definitely worth the effort. I still think the recipes in the book in general need a bit of tweaking, particularly for flavor and stay-togetherness (shhh that is so a word). The burger was good but not great. It’s almost there….I do intend to try it out again and tweak it a bit.
So….out of the whole book I found 3ish recipes, have made one, it was different and interesting but needs some tweaking. Not exactly a result that would make me encourage others to purchase. I do suggest you borrow it or check it out from a library if my review has intrigued you at all. You may find it more useful than I did or perhaps enjoy the flavor combinations more or even just have more easily accessible oddball ingredients in your town.
3 out of 5 stars
Source: Public Library
A farm sanctuary is a farm whose sole purpose is to save animals from farm factories and slaughter. The Farm Sanctuary in upstate New York was started in 1986. In this cookbook, one of the proprietors has gathered vegan recipes inspired by farm life. Think down-home cooking that is cruelty-free.
As a country girl, I was delighted to find a down-home cookbook free of animal products. Everything about the cookbook hearkens back to classic American cookbooks from the layout to the simple black and white pictures at the beginning of each section to the layout of each of the recipes themselves to the sayings peppered throughout the book. (The sayings are veganized versions of classic American ones).
The cookbook starts with an intro to the Farm Sanctuary, followed by a very personal explanation for her veganism by Stepaniak. This is followed by the more scientific explanations for eating vegan and how to do it properly. Substitutes and special ingredients are explained, and the intro is rounded out by a sample weekly menu.
The recipes themselves are divided into: tips and tails (hints and basics), beverages, breakfasts and breads, uncheeses butters and spreads, hearty soups and stews, salads and dressings, sandwiches, the main dish, sauces gravies and condiments, and happy endings (desserts). Each section starts with a photo of one of the rescue animals and their story. It’s a sweet, light-handed approach to veganism that I appreciate.
So what about the recipes? They are definitely geared toward beginner plant-based cooks with a desire to replace their animal-based recipes with similar tasting ones. There’s a plethora of traditional American recipes with the animal products simply switched out. As a long-time vegetarian, I found this focus not quite my style, but I can see it being enjoyed by newbies or when hosting omni friends and family or to find that one thing you still really miss like bacon or meatloaf. Personally, I found the dairy substitutes far more useful and interesting, since these can be expensive to buy, but are far healthier for you then the dairy norm.
I was able to find quite a few recipes of interest to me that I copied out. So far I’ve only been able to try one, but it was amazing! I tried Chuckwagon Stew on page 89. Seeking to replicate a hearty, country stew without the meat, the stew is built around tempeh. The ingredients were easy to find (I got everything at Trader Joe’s), cheap, and the recipe was a quick one to make. I fully admit I inhaled half of it that very evening. I am eager to try the rest of the recipes, particularly the Crock Cheeze on page 74 and the Seitan Salami/Pepperoni on page 40.
Overall, this is a country style, omni-friendly vegan cookbook that lets the animals and recipes shine for themselves. The recipes predominantly use grocery store ingredients, the exceptions being vital wheat gluten and nutritional yeast, which are easily ordered via Amazon. They are also simple enough that any moderately skilled cook should be able to follow them with ease. I highly recommend it to omnis and veg*ns alike, as the recipes are happy, healthy, and friendly. Personally, this is definitely going on my to own wishlist.
5 out of 5 stars
Source: Public Library
Note that the second edition has a different subtitle and more recipes.
Hello my lovely readers!
This week I haven’t seen much of my library since I’ve been participating in the Science Librarian Boot Camp. I’ll be posting my notes from the Neuroscience section next week, since I think those were the most interesting (at least so far). Perhaps the capstone this morning will be inspiring as well and make the grade too though. :-)
It’s been great to see some of my librarian friends this week, although the Boot Camp was a bit of a struggle. I’ve been experimenting with eating less dairy for multiple reasons (primarily health). I ate quite a bit of dairy on the first day of the conference and subsequently had a flare-up of my IBS. Not pleasant, trust me. :-/ It was frustrating and frankly hard on me emotionally. I’ve struggled with this syndrome for so many years and just when I think it’s mostly under control, something happens again. Although I am passionate about heath, it is frankly sometimes difficult to have to be so incredibly strict on my diet, stress level, sleep amount, etc…. or pay the consequence of being physically ill almost immediately. Trust me, I wish I could indulge in gluttony periodically with the only consequence being a few extra miles on the treadmill! But I know in the grand scheme of things it’s a minor thing to have to deal with, and I am lucky that Boston is such a mecca of vegan food. The key for me, I think, will be figuring out how much indulgence is acceptable to my body. Nobody can be strict all the time! In the meantime, FSM bless Boston for having indulgences like vegan cupcakes.
I also guess this just means I’m going to have to start requesting vegan food at the conferences.
This weekend I’m hoping to see one of my good friends, resume work on my next novel (tentacles, oh my!), and of course gym it. Happy weekends!
Cookbook Review: Olive Trees and Honey: A Treasury of Vegetarian Recipes from Jewish Communities Around the World by Gil Mars
Vegans beware. When this says it’s a vegetarian cookbook, it really means it! Almost every recipe is drenched in animal products, primarily dairy and eggs.
The Introduction explains the various food cultures that have sprung up in Jewish communities around the world, complete with maps and such. This part was fascinating, although I felt that it was a bit too Old Wold focused. I know for instance that there are strong Jewish cultures in Argentina and Brooklyn, but they are not included in the book.
After the Introduction is an explanation of vegetarian foods incorporated into Jewish holidays. I found this part rather averagely done and skimmed over it.
The recipes are oddly divided up. The chapters are: cheese and dairy spreads; pickles, marinated vegetables, and relishes; salads; soups; savory pastries; cooked vegetable dishes; vegetable stews; legumes; grains; dumplings and pasta; eggs; sauces and seasonings. As you can tell, some of the recipes are put together based on the type of dish (salad, soup) and others based on the ingredients (eggs, legumes). This makes the book appear disorganized. Also the complete lack of dessert is sad.
Beyond the maps in the Introduction, there are no pictures. Additionally, the recipes are mostly designed to serve 6 to 8. I’m not sure what planet the author is from, but that is not a typical family sized meal in America. I must admit, that I didn’t try any of the recipes because I couldn’t find a single one I wanted to try. They are all completely swimming in cholesterol and insane food portion sizes. Looking at the soups, which should presumably be a healthier option, the Persian Onion Soup on page 123 contains 3 eggs and the Hungarian Cream of Mushroom Soup on page 125 contains TWO CUPS of sour cream. Similarly, almost all of the breads and pastries are fried. My cholesterol practically spiked just looking at the cookbook.
Essentially, then, this book is a good introduction to Old World style Jewish food but ignores the healthier options that I know from experience exist in Jewish communities in the Americas. It is difficult to enjoy the cookbook since there are no pictures or colors. Additionally, all of the recipes are designed for 6 to 8 servings, which is a bit large for the typical American household. Overall, then, I would recommend this book to those with a vested interest in Jewish culture and cuisine who can see past the dull layout and design of the cookbook.
3 out of 5 stars
Source: Public Library
With an intro endorsement from actor Woody Harrelson, who just so happens to also be vegan, Chef Renee Loux Underkoffler seeks to present not just the ins and outs of raw cooking, but also the beauty in it.
So, I picked up a copy of this via Better World Books back when a close friend and I were getting into trying some new raw food recipes. They’re great in the summer for a change from salads when you want something cool, fresh, and healthy to eat. Plus, I’m always interested in learning more, so I was excited to see that Underkoffler provided more than just recipes, but also chapters featuring the benefits of the various raw ingredients and preparation techniques. Unfortunately, ultimately this cookbook really did not work for me.
First there’s the fact that a book seeking to show the beauty of raw foods has zero color pictures and almost no black and white illustrations. It is almost entirely straight text. Very unattractive in a cookbook!
Second, the background information goes on for an excruciatingly long time. The recipes do not start until page 261 of the book! And as much as I like learning more about some veggies and fruits, it felt like information overload to me. If I really wanted to know all the properties of every fruit and vegetable out there, I’d become a nutritionist. Knowing the basics, such as what is provided by the scientists in DASH–lots of servings of brightly colored fruits and vegetables are good for you–that’s really all the consumer needs to know. Well, that and how to properly assemble the foods for the right tastes and textures.
So I was pleased to get to the recipes, but only found three that I found to be at all doable by me. The rest required either an insane amount of prep time, special tools, or special ingredients that even with all of my grocery options in a city like Boston I was unable to even fathom where I would find them. (Vegans should also note that the recipes make abundant use of raw honey).
I, admittedly, have yet to try the three recipes I did find, primarily because they all require a blender, and mine is broken. I did save them to try in the summer during a hot spell of a week. But even if Underkoffler’s recipes are delicious, they are overly involved and intimidating, even to someone like myself who cooks a ton. I suppose her market might be raw chefs, but then why have the entire beginning of the book be toned toward beginners with no idea what’s in fruits and vegetables? The book is a bit of a mystery to me, honestly.
Ultimately, although the title of the cookbook is lovely, the recipes and content themselves are not. Underkoffler’s cookbook lacks a true direction. It is unclear if her target audience is talented raw chefs or the average American developing an interest in raw foods. As such, neither audience is properly served. I would not recommend starting with this book if you have a new interest in raw cooking, but chefs may be interested in flipping through the recipes in the back to see if any are new ideas to them.
2 out of 5 stars
Source: Better World Books