Heart of Palm “Carnitas” Lettuce Wraps

palm heart carnitascarnitas

Heart of Palm “Carnitas” Lettuce Wraps


1 head red leaf lettuce, preferably wilted slightly

for the Heart of Palm “Carnitas”
1 14.5oz can or jar whole hearts of palm packed in water
1/2 medium onion
1 cup vegetable stock

for the Roasted Tomato Crema
1/2 cup roasted sunflower kernels
1.5 cups cauliflower florets
1-2 serrano peppers, depending on how spicy you want the crema
1 lb fresh tomato(es)
2 cloves garlic
Juice of 1 meyer lemon, or to taste
Salt to taste


Finely slice the onion and saute in water to caramelize.

Meanwhile, cut each palm heart in half lengthwise. Use your fingers or a fork to shred the tender interior. The exterior is often too tough to shred using this method. If this is the case, a small paring knife can be used to slice the outer portions into thin strips.

When onion has caramelized, fold in the shredded heart of palm. Add the vegetable stock in increments as needed, using a spatula to scrape the bottom of the skillet (if using cast-iron) to mix in the especially caramelized bits throughout. Add the remaining vegetable stock and allow to simmer, stirring occasionally, until all of the liquid is absorbed.

for the Roasted Tomato Crema
In a soup pot, boil or steam the cauliflower. Slice the tomatoes (if using cherry tomatoes, skip this step). Arrange on a cookie sheet or oven pan, with the 1-2 serrano peppers and 2 cloves garlic, and broil on low for 7-10 minutes, checking once to rotate the peppers. Turn off broiler, remove the pan, and let cool for a few minutes. In a blender or food processor, puree the steamed (now slightly cooled) cauliflower with 1/2 cup sunflower seeds, roasted tomatoes, roasted garlic and lemon juice. Add small amounts of vegetable stock or cauliflower water if necessary, if liquid is needed to blend. Blend until smooth. Cut the serrano pepper in half lengthwise. The skin will peel right off, and the seeds will be easy to remove with a paring knife. Unless you know you you can tolerate a lot of heat, reserve the seeds and add one pepper at a time, blending and taste-testing as you go to adjust the level of heat for the crema. Use the same method for adding the seeds.

for the Lettuce Wraps
Spread an even layer of roasted tomato crema over the interior of each lettuce leaf. In the fold, arrange the heart of palm carnitas from one end to the other. Tightly wrap each leaf like a taquito, holding down both sides as you roll to keep the filling from escaping.
heart of palm carnitas

lettuce wrap carnitas

Share on YummlyPin on PinterestShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on TumblrEmail this to someone

But, Beans Aren’t Paleo!?

beansI’ve recently received a lot of messages and comments regarding how “un-paleo” my recipes are.

Yes, I cook with beans. No, I’m not sorry. Nor do I claim them to be “paleo”, because nothing we eat today is actually paleo as in “things people ate during the paleolithic era”. The concept of a “paleo diet” in popular culture is not informed by anyone familiar with the archaeological record.

Here’s the SparkNotes version:

Beans grew wild (without cultivation) in Africa and Asia before we had record of their introduction to the Americas. Considering the fact that indigenous pre-Colombian societies cultivated beans and thrived on them as a dietary staple, this could be an opportunity to discuss the Bering Strait, or how the first peoples of the Americas arrived here.

I won’t claim that pre-Colombian is synonymous with paleo, because it isn’t. I will state that during the paleolithic era, people ate legumes. Bean varieties that during the Agricultural Revolution—and later the Industrial Age—were artificially selected, by humans, to become the varieties we recognize as “beans” today.

Where do you think pre-Columbian peoples came up with the brilliant idea to cultivate beans? In other words, beans didn’t evolve after we did. They were there, in the wild, and we noticed them as we began to create the cultural forms that define our lives today.

One might wonder while reading this, why we don’t often associate beans with the diet of the first humans.

In the paleolithic era—humans did not eat the things we now call pinto, kidney, soy, lima, black beans, chickpeas, fava beans, broad beans, white beans or navy beans. If that makes you wonder why—it’s because those varieties didn’t exist in the paleolithic era. Just as the cow didn’t, but its bovine ancestor did.

Now lets talk about all those foods on that reality TV series Fear Factor. I never watched it, but you probably did.

People ate a lot of things during the paleolithic era that would irk most people on the “paleo diet” today. Yes, they ate meat. But said types of meat weren’t boneless, skinless chicken breast, hard-boiled eggs, or bun-less kobe beef sliders. They ate insects. Organ meats. The brains of primordial bovine creatures (the ancestors of the cow). Hearts. Placenta. Liver. Hooves (how do you think we came up with the concept of gelatin?). We hadn’t yet developed the social constructions involving what is “good to eat”. This is why in different parts of the world, what is “good to eat” is not the same in Korea, for example, as it is in North America. In the Andes (South America, i.e. Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia) cuy (guinea pig) is a delicacy. That probably grosses you out, since you most likely cared for a guinea pig as a pet when you were a child, or knew someone who did.

Any meaning we attribute to anything, culinarily-speaking or otherwise, is the result of a cultural or societal construct. So, “are beans paleo?” No. Beans are as un-paleo as beef.

Share on YummlyPin on PinterestShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on TumblrEmail this to someone

Arugula Salad, Featuring Oregon Berries



2 cups arugula lettuce
1/4 cup sliced homegrown or non-GMO cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup fresh-picked Oregon berries (blackberries

Place the arugula in a bowl or on a plate, and top with the sliced cherry tomatoes + blackberries in an aesthetically-pleasing arrangement of your choosing.

for the Vinaigrette w/ Oregon Berries

1/2 cup home-grown, wild, or store-bought (frozen) Oregon berries. I would suggest raspberries, or a tarter variety. If using blackberries or marionberries, depending on their ripeness, definitely use the liquid (if using frozen berries). Actually, in any case—never use frozen if fresh are available. If your recipe requires a sweeter “tang” and all you have access too are under-ripe blackberries, add a drop or very small pinch of stevia extract (see stevia conversion chart). In this case I was able to use fresh berries without the need for stevia, but in many locations that sort of thing isn’t an option. My favorite Oregon Berries are wild blackberries (since I picked them myself in the wild, obvs), but I love all other varieties and also enjoy the raspberries that I learned to make into the best jam ever, via my days as apprentice under the tutorship of a certain culinary rockstar who you might run into in the hills outside Hood River, Oregon if you should be so lucky.

…back to the vinaigrette: other ingredients include…

1/4 cup hulled sesame seeds
1 red bell pepper
1/4 cup Oregon berries (red raspberries work best)
1 pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 Tbsp dry roasted sunflower seeds (see recipe here)
1/16 tsp pink Himalayan salt, sea salt, or any or salt, to taste
Juice of 1 lime
1/2 cup water

*if you really want this dressing to “gel” like dressings that contain xanthan gum, add a pinch of chia seeds to the mix before blending.


Juice the lime into the blender pitcher or food processor. If using frozen Oregon berries, either drain liquid from thawing or use in place of the water required for this recipe (to give it an extra berry “kick”). Add all other ingredients for the dressing, and blend until smooth. Transfer carefully from the blender pitcher or food processor, into a device for pouring salad dressing like this one (featured in the photo below) that the Oregon Berry Commission sent me. *The Oregon Berry Commission also purchased the ingredients used in the development of this recipe, so I could share them with all of my landlocked and international friends. (I would use an exclamation point here, but all you friends and readers know how much I loathe to use it in punctuation, I think. So you’ll get it).



Pour that tart raspberry (better than its dairy product alternative) dressing over that spicy-delicious arugula and farmer’s market or homegrown heirloom cherry tomatoes.

And that’s it. Now go forth and celebrate Oregon. You know you want to.

Share on YummlyPin on PinterestShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on TumblrEmail this to someone

Chickpeas in Broth with Senna and Kale

senna leaf chickpeasI have a confession to make.

While as paleoveganista I photograph and write about every new recipe I make that has garnered favorable results among family and friends (and sometimes just me) I have a set of standards and ethics to adhere to when sharing or promoting these recipes. Granted, I do taste things periodically and therefore never completely fail with a recipe that I see headed south…I invent things as I go and when I sense disaster I try as hard as I can to steer it in a better (edible) direction. The predominant reason for this = I can’t afford (financially or morally/ethically) for the labor that a) went into the cultivation/transportation/manufacture of the food in question, or b) for the labor that earned the money I spend to buy or grow it, and c) I have a complex about food waste, ever since I started working at Whole Foods in 2006 and pursued a 9-year course of self-study in raw foods, alternative medicine, permaculture, supply and demand/where our food comes from and its economic implications, and then its anthropological implications (which I should write a book about, if I could tone down the conceptual frameworks and years of research to appeal to a mainstream audience) so in short; I hate myself for days if a recipe ever goes wrong and I can’t redeem it. For this reason the depression and/or self loathing that I experience when I create something inedible, and the anxiety I sometimes face in taking risks—like in the case of baked goods, veg/gf/paleo pancakes or burgers…when if you add certain spices or over-salt or over-stevia if you can’t go back i.e. You ruin it—can result in weeks without any new recipes and/or “safe” recipes you’ve made 100 times before. The “high” that comes from researching old cookbooks to pursue a new take on a vintage recipe, or from creating something entirely new—it can take weeks before I work up the courage to try again. The thing is, I’ve never received anything other than very positive feedback or constructive criticism regarding my ideas or recipes, or my writing in general as paleoveganista, and even the occasional aggressive naysayer never gets me down; to the contrary, they motivate me to continue this and “stick to my guns”.

So, what’s my big secret? I use the ever-controversial senna leaf, and not just to make tea or tinctures. I also cook with it sometimes, ever since my long-undiagnosed dislocated shoulder resulted in lymph edema. I won’t take prescription or over-the-counter diuretics, and prior to this condition I occasionally took something sold in Chinatown and/or bodegas called dieter’s tea, cleanse tea, or ballerina tea. When I went to college and there was no Chinatown or bodega within 200 miles, I realized that the main ingredient (senna leaf) is sold in most co-ops and natural foods stores. Ever since then I have made my own infusions and tinctures with it and other herbs, and when used correctly it (senna) has none of the toxic effects that the mainstream media has reported this decade. Of course, if you chase it with a cup of coffee or other stimulant you might experience significant cramping and other symptoms. If you drink coffee throughout the morning and then drink senna leaf as a tea in the evening, those two substances shouldn’t interact in a way that would bring upon said symptoms. It should act merely as a mild diuretic—one that might cause you to need to get up to urinate in the middle of the night, but in my case it works as a natural alarm clock; also depending on my water intake the night before.

Another thing about senna: it adds flavor to food. If not for its stigma, it would be sold in supermarkets alongside cumin and turmeric. Before all of the stigma that spurned from the tragedy and media spectacle of a few kids who used it improperly and/or along with an overdose of caffeine or something more hardcore…

For centuries senna has been mentioned as an ingredient in food and also as a calmative. Only later came the contemporary documents/literature listing it as a diuretic in The West. I looked far and wide to find proof of this, and in some antiquated texts the writing involves so much xenophobic, anti-feminist, and otherwise intolerant and ignorant writing that I would rather not provide links. *if you are mature enough to handle the other content, please email me or comment to receive access.

I don’t want anyone to misinterpret my ability to see it *in this context* as in agreement with the sentiments indicated in these books.

Apart from these texts, here are some available scientific texts regarding senna leaf:

Southeast Asian Journal of Tropical Medicine and Public Health. 2006 mar;37(2):388-93.
Barakol contents in fresh and cooked senna siamea leaves.
Padumanonda t1, gritsanapan w. Http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17125004

Southeast Asian Journal of Tropical Medicine and Public Health. 2009 jul;40(4):835-9.
Laxative anthraquinone contents in fresh and cooked senna siamea leaves.
Sakulpanich a1, gritsanapan w. Http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19842421

College of Life Sciences, South China Normal University, guangdong provincial key lab of biotechnology of plant development, guangzhou, 510631, china, lich@scnu.edu.cn.
Http://sennaleaves.in/recent studies on senna.html

Department of Pharmacognosy, Faculty of Pharmacy, Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand.
The Southeast Asian Journal of Tropical Medicine and Public Health (impact factor: 0.55). 04/2006; 37(2):388-93. Http://www.researchgate.net/publication/6673230_barakol_contents_in_fresh_and_cooked_senna_siamea_leaves

In parts of Southeast Asia and regions of Africa, senna is used in cooking as a spice/herb and not necessarily as a diuretic or stimulant. In restuarants that serve these types of cuisine, senna is not used—due to its stigma and concern about it among the general population in the states.

Here is my newest recipe using senna leaf:

Chickpeas in Broth with Senna and Kale

Makes 3-4 servings


1 cup dried chickpeas (cans are for the weak, unless you have no alternative)
3-4 phrik kii noo aka red thai chiles
1 tbsp dried senna leaf
1/2 medium onion, chopped
2 cups finely chopped kale leaves
1 hibiscus flower
1 tbsp fresh minced or dried granulated garlic
1 bay leaf
salt to taste


Soak chickpeas with senna overnight or for 6 hours.
Sauté onions in a covered soup pot, dutch oven, pressure-cooker, or crock-pot (slow cooker) using the dry-sautee or oil-free method that I will explain later, should you have yet to hear of it.
Add chickpeas with 4 cups water.
Bring to a boil, and add garlic + chiles.
Lightly salt the water.
Cover over low-medium heat for 20-30 minutes or until chickpeas are tender.

chickpeas with senna
Serve as a soup *be sure to let any other participants in this meal know that the broth contains senna.

**amount of senna contained in soup broth per serving does not exceed that of a single tea bag sold as cleanse tea at natural food shops.

***in general, this soup will help alleviate mild bloating. It should not result in any dehydration, and is much more mild in effect than any store-bought “detox” kit.

****the kale in itself possesses cleansing or “detox” properties, so this recipe should not activate an automatic detox (any more than eating several leaves of kale would).

Share on YummlyPin on PinterestShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on TumblrEmail this to someone

YAWP! (the redemption of the health bar)

slideshow_1YAWP! bars are the best thing to happen since…ever.

Since 2007 I have viewed all “energy bars” with disdain or else voiced ironic and original quotes (and often outright anger) regarding their place in “society” as glorified candy bars, or their infallible ridiculousness as a supposed health food.

Chewy Granola Bars? Gross, and also stupid. With the level of processed carbs and corn syrup they contain, any kid would be better off stuffing their face with a Snicker’s bar.

Power Bars? Give me a break (and not off a piece of that Kit Kat). To market “power bars” as a means of energy for competitive bicyclists, is asinine. Take it from the daughter of one: I handed out those bars at races in the mountains as a child. I could never understand the appeal, but my parents used them as meal replacements while exercising or competing…so to me, they were “healthy”.

A couple of years later I tried my first cliff bar, and was hooked. I would take a bite of one before each class in high school, for energy. Or sometimes it was a luna bar. If I forgot to bring one or the other, I’d get a Nature’s Path bar from the vending machine (because they’re vegan, and seemingly healthier than anything else available in the cafeteria). When I transferred schools I benefited from the free apples and carrots (and stolen packets of mustard). Mustard and apples make a great combo, for the record.

Lara bars are another thing. They were the first “bar” that fit the criteria of my dietary preferences, but their overly-soft texture turned me off. I wanted to bite into it and experience that “crunch”. As much as I hate to admit it, the crunch of the Nature’s Path bars I substituted for lunch in yesteryear might have shaped the path along which I have judged every other so-called nutrition bar.

Something about the crunch of it gave me the impression that it was real food…as opposed to some soft-baked Keebler cookie.

During 10-hour layovers in Latin America, as a vegan my dietary options were pepita, sesame and almond dulces held together by panela (unrefined sugarcane). After trying to melt them down in hot water to release the sugar and fork out the seeds/nuts, I gave in. My dentist lectured me at every visit afterward (I had a cavity for the first time, at age 20).

YAWP! bars remind me of those dulces, but in a way that neither hurts my teeth nor reminds me of the vegan “health bars” of yore. They crunch like Nature’s Path, minus the corn syrup and processed grains. They meet the criteria that a paleo-vegan test would require ingredient-wise, with flying colors. As in, a solid A. I could eat these every day. I haven’t eaten a “bar” in years, but for YAWP! I’d make an exception.

Would you like a case of YAWP! ? Of course you would!

To enter: click here!

(email me and you will be entered in a contest to win a case of YAWP! bars) :)

Share on YummlyPin on PinterestShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on TumblrEmail this to someone

Sesame Broccoli with Sautéed Scallions

broccoli with scallionsThis recipe might just win the award for Most Sustainable Paleoveganista Recipe to date. I would call it radical, but then again most of my recipes fall into that category.

After living in a tent this summer (in a region where the drought in California struck rather significantly) it made sense to pay more attention to my “water footprint” and how to reduce it. When not at work and dining in the mess hall or teaching campers how to cook over a fire, I mostly ate raw vegetables. When I wanted the meal to look nice, I used a leatherman (pocket knife) to chop the cabbage (my dietary staple since 2010, it doesn’t require washing or boiling—as opposed to broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, carrots, and pretty much every other vegetable other than onions). Don’t get me wrong—I love onions, especially when raw…but I’d never try to make a meal out of a raw onion. Cooked onions on the other hand, I could probably live on. Back to cabbage; like onions, they have layers. Like I do. Ha. Broccoli and cauliflower on the other hand, or romanesco (the vegetable I find most aesthetically intriguing, as indicated by the Paleoveganista logo) are visions of fractal geometry and perhaps inspired the concept itself. *For anyone who would like to nerd out with me on this: just google(scholar) fractals, romanesco, doctrine of signatures—or ask me about books and publications/journal articles for recommended reading.

So, I have worked toward developing recipes that require fewer tools, appliances, and natural resources. Some things I pondered and insights intwined with my personal experiences include:

If the campground you stay at allows it, it—why not build a fire and cook over it rather than haul a propane stove and rely on the propane fuel? Granted, I haven’t always backpacked in to my camping destination. I grew up using propane stoves on camping trips and rarely hiking in more than 1 mile from the car to set up camp. Smaller backpacking stoves are one thing, but 2-burner Coleman stoves are another. That’s a lot of work. As I got older and started backpacking by myself or with friends or significant others, I never used pots or pans. We generally relied on cans of mixed vegetables or black beans (which taste great straight from the can when you’re hungry) or leftover almonds from the trail mix (never bring trail mix with chocolate on a trek, fyi). Raw cacao beans work well for energy, however. You can eat them with dried fruit (to sweeten the acidity) or on their own (if you like acidity or don’t mind it). You can also eat coffee beans if you don’t have water to boil them in, or don’t want to stop but feel a lapse in stamina. In many regions of the western hemisphere, wild blackberries or varieties of them grow along the trail. So do wild greens. In any case of foraging along the trail, be sure to identify it first.

This recipe for Sesame Broccoli with Sautéed Scallions utilizes a single burner and one pot + one skillet. There are several ways to make it happen, depending on your resources.

I boiled an artichoke the night before and saved the water. I used this to boil the broccoli (covered) for 5 minutes. Then I removed the pot of broccoli from the heat, and transferred the skillet to the flame. I added 1 Tbsp sesame oil to the skillet and then the sliced scallions. After 1 minute, I covered the skillet and removed it from the heat. I returned the pot of broccoli in broth to the heat, left it there (covered) for 1 minute while I cleaned the cutting board and knife. I turned off the heat and removed the pot from heat, replacing it with the skilled to absorb the residual heat. Then I served the broccoli in broth and topped it with the sautéd scallions. From start to finish, it took 10 minutes. Here’s how:


Bring water (or vegetable water/broth) to a boil whilst chopping the broccoli into florets. Chop the stalks also, after removing any unusable parts. Add chopped broccoli and stalks to the boiling water. Salt the water if not using veg broth/water. Cover, and reduce heat to slightly lower setting. Chop the scallions, and add 1 tsp sesame oil to your skillet. If you don’t have a skillet, wait to chop the scallions until they are cooked. In this case, place the scallions evenly over the grate (if campfire cooking) or (if using a camp stove) place them over the flame and let them broil for a minute and then turn them over (assuming you have tongs or something else to safely flip them with). When cooked, remove onions from the fire or flame and set aside to cool. Return the pot of broccoli to the fire after checking to determine whether or not more water is needed. After that, once scallions have cooled, use a knife to slice them horizontally. Remove broccoli from the fire and/or turn off heat, pour broccoli/broth into bowls and top with the scallions. Top with fresh squeezed lime or lemon juice, if desired. Be sure to safely put out your fire.
broccoli scallions

*If you cook the scallions over a campfire and/or did not sauté them in sesame oil, drizzle each bowl with a modest amount (a few drops) of sesame oil if you have it on hand.

Share on YummlyPin on PinterestShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on TumblrEmail this to someone

“Refried” Anasazi Beans

anasazi beansAt most Mexican restaurants outside California and major cities, the beans contain lard. When they don’t, the go-to alternative is hydrogenated vegetable oil aka Crisco.

I find this frustrating, though I do understand the logic behind it. Crisco adds calories, which prevents starvation and wasting. In parts of Mexico and Latin America, certain populations/communities are in danger of this, or at least want to prevent it. Over the course of the last 50 years, the standard “Mexican restaurant” fare in the United States reflects this. Therefore, despite the fact that refried beans do not require fat (neither vegetable nor animal) to taste delicious and provide nutrients, the tradition of using it to cook beans, rice, meats, etc. has prevailed.

I look at this issue the same way I see soup preparation in Ecuador. No, there is no need to add a bottle of vegetable oil to the soup served to school children. An overload of empty calories from an industrially-manufactured bottle of pure processed fat won’t help their nutritional intake, and will do little more than taint an otherwise healthful vegetable soup.

In any case, here is my recipe for “refried” anasazi beans.

* The Anasazi (“Ancient Ones”), thought to be ancestors of the modern Pueblo Indians, inhabited the territory of southern Utah, southwestern Colorado, northwestern New Mexico, and northern Arizona now known as the Four Corners, from A.D. 200 to A.D. 1300.

Refried Anasazi Beans


1 cup dry anasazi beans
1 fresh tomato
1/2 medium onion
1 dried chili de arbol
salt to taste


Soak anasazi beans overnight in enough water to cover them x2 or a 1 : 2 ratio of beans : water.

Add 1/2 tsp salt to the water and simmer beans in a pot or use a slow-cooker.

When beans are ready, turn off heat but keep the pot covered.

Dice the tomato and onion.

In a skillet, saute tomato and onion without oil. Using a spatula or wooden spoon, scrape the tomato and onion from the bottom of the skillet as they carmelize (about 4 minutes).

In a blender, add 1 the beans and the sauteed onion+tomato. No need to strain the beans beforehand; a bit of water/bean juice is good. *Tip: use a ladle to transfer from the pot to the blender, and tilt to remove excess liquid. Remove the chili before blending for mild beans; leave in for extraordinarily spicy beans. I leave in the pepper, fyi.

I tried this method several times, and each time the consistency turned out a perfect, yet much healthier replica of the “restaurant-style” variety.

Blend until smooth.

Share on YummlyPin on PinterestShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on TumblrEmail this to someone

The Dark Side #camplife

michelle phillips girl scout smoking

Life is fragile and absurd –Leo Tolstoy

Veganism doesn’t simply revolve around food choices. Adopting (or adapting to) a vegan lifestyle has anthropological, sociological, economical, and environmental implications. In this specific case, taking “a stand” as a vegan considers the effect of subliminal messaging through media (song lyrics, television, and other cultural factors) on the world’s youth. To be more specific, the youth of America—and even more specifically, the “repeat after me” songs taught to campers.

At the camp I worked at this summer, certain songs embodied an eerie, dark tone. Children’s rhymes and faerie tales à la Hans Christen Anderson and The Brothers Grimm might give insight into the ways in which popular and supposedly age-appropriate “entertainment” geared toward children in the Western world have developed. Consider The Little Mermaid, where the later-named “Ariel” (in the Disney rendition, which differs greatly from the original with its happy ending) must spend the rest of her life in agony as every step she takes makes her body’s pain receptors react as if she is stepping on nails…to decades later receive the forgiveness of the Lord in order to live among the fallen angels in purgatory…or the denouement of Hansel and Gretel in which the brother and sister are baked in the oven by the evil witch. Both are punishment for “acting out” against parental control…the mermaid for refusing to comply with rules set by her totalitarian father, and the children for “wandering off” without permission.

In general, camp songs are often dark or politically incorrect and/or against the feminist message that the association/corporation strives to promote. Take for example, the following: I recently listened to a story via DemocracyNow! in which Amy Goodman described the action taken by Girl Scouts of Western Washington to reject a $100,000 donation because of the donor’s insistence that it could not be used to benefit trans-gendered girls. The stance taken by GSWW is a fine example of the way in which GSUSA does not tolerate discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Why then, would the summer camps in which its members and alumni attend and work, include songs in its programing that directly oppose its social and political stances?

The ethical dilemmas posed by camp songs extend to a population larger than that of vegans and animal-rights activists, even when the problems with the songs suggest animal abuse. For example, “Percy the Pale-Faced Polar Bear”, a song I hadn’t heard prior to this summer, ends with the formerly free-roaming polar bear’s capture and eventual confinement in a zoo. At first he wasn’t happy, but “he met his girlfriend there”.

Way up in the land of ice and snow
Where the temperature drops to forty below
Who’s the happiest one up there?

Percy, the pale-faced polar bear

Sleeps all day and then at night
Catches a fish by the pale moonlight

Has no worries, has no cares…
Percy the pale-faced polar bear

Then one day a hunter came
Caught poor Percy by the snout.

Put him in a great big cage.

Percy howled, and growled, but he couldn’t get out.
Now he’s living in a zoo.
Funny thing, he likes it too.
‘Cause he met his girlfriend there
and she loves…
Percy the pale-faced polar bear
Percy the pale-faced polar bear.

Another verse, or alternate, not in the official songbook at this particular camp but adopted via staff from other camps throughout the USA:

Percy has an enemy
Ranger, Ranger Rick

Ranger, Ranger Rick
Ranger, Ranger Rick

Percy has an enemy,
Ranger, Ranger Rick

Percy has a girlfriend now
Cindy, Cindy
Percy has a girlfriend now
Cindy, Cindy Lou

Cindy, Cindy Lou
Cindy, Cindy Lou
Percy has a girlfriend now
Cindy, Cindy Lou

So, Ranger Rick caught Percy and put him in a cage, took him to the zoo, and he was at first sad. Then he met his girlfriend and all is well.

*editor’s note: this song was boycotted by several of the author’s coworkers, who are by no means vegan but very against Sea World.

Then there’s “The Rooster Song” that offends almost everyone forced to sing or teach it:

I had a chicken, no eggs it laid
Until that rooster came in our yard
and caught that chicken, like totally off guard!

We’re having eggs now, we never used to
Until that rooster came in our yard

I had a toaster, no toast it gave
I had a toaster, no toast it gave
Until that rooster came in our yard
And caught that toaster, like totally off guard!

We’re having Eggos, we never used to
Until that rooster came in our yard

I had a garden, no veggies it gave
I had a garden, no veggies it gave
Until that rooster came in our yard
And caught that garden, like totally off guard!

We’re having eggplant, we never used to
Until that rooster came in our yard

I had a gumball machine, no gum it gave
I had a gumball machine, no gum it gave
Until that rooster came in our yard

We’re having Chicklets, we never used to
Until that rooster came in our yard

I had a Chinese shop, no food it gave
I had a Chinese shop, no food it gave
Until that rooster, came in our yard
And caught that Chinese shop, like totally off guard!

We’re having eggrolls, we never used to
Until that rooster came in our yard

I had a holiday party, no drinks it gave
I had a holiday party, no drinks it gave
Until that rooster came in our yard
And caught that holiday party, like totally off guard!

We’re having eggnog, we never used to
Until that rooster came in our yard

I had a rooster, it was quite sick
I had a rooster, it was quite sick
Until that doctor came in our yard
And caught that rooster, like totally off guard!

It’s laying eggs now, it never used to
Until that doctor came in our yard


I dare anyone to not find this problematic on a number of levels.

Share on YummlyPin on PinterestShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on TumblrEmail this to someone

How to stay vegan at camp #camplife

I’ve wanted to write this post for awhile now. I’ve spent the past month at a camp for kids as program assistant and manager of the camp store. At the store, campers can spend cash $ or bring $ and hand it over to myself or a counselor/unit leader during registration. Parents can also set up accounts prior to camp, and some campers have $ left over from the previous year or have funds earned via credits earned during the year. The camp shop also accepts credit cards and checks from parents and camp staff. I assume campers could use credit cards and/or checks as well, though most utilize the account system.

After breakfast on the last day of a week at camp, before they return home on the bus or their parents pick them up, campers frequent the camp shop to ask for their account balance and/or receive a refund of $ not spent. Yesterday I panicked because I thought I over-refunded one kid’s account. I remember this because when I informed her of her account balance on the second-to-last day of the session, she made a comment along the lines of “great, then tomorrow I can buy a hamburger when we stop on the way home”. The next day, when this camper asked for her refund, it perplexed me that it amounted to $9. I could have sworn she had $6 left, because I’d associated her hamburger comment with the Carl’s Jr. “six dollar burger” commercials aired on TV in the late ’90s. Later, when I “counted out” for the evening and calculated the sales/factored in the refunds, it appeared that I hadn’t given her 3 extra dollars after all. Who knows, perhaps the price of burgers has risen significantly since 1999. Or maybe the camper in question planned to stop at an overpriced hipster establishment on the ride home. Maybe somewhere in the town nearest to civilization, the irony is thick enough to have one. When the camper said “burger”, she could have meant “kobe beef slider”. Whatever the case, over-refund I did not—so the reason for the prevalence of this experience on my psyche escapes me.

Here I now sit, just outside a mountain town town I practically grew up in due to its significance as a stop along the way toward family vacations every summer. Its familiarity comforts me, I think. I sip coffee with almond milk and a glass of pineapple juice, my lungs rejoicing in the increased availability of oxygen from the lower elevation. I recall last night, and the heirloom tomato I enjoyed with sliced red onion and a glass of “Unruly Red” California red wine. I hadn’t tasted wine in a long time. I now either appreciate it more, or my acceptance of the “wine hype” has waned. I can’t pinpoint this heightened sense of critiquing social norms and things humans in “society” consider fun or recreational, but I must admit I don’t dislike it. Moreover, this feeling or “sense” (which in this context might seem analogous to jadedness) is not new. An important component of my personality, I have repressed and questioned it the more I develop a self-consciousness of “being an adult”, looking back on my gypsy-vagabond life path and serendipitous decision-making. In the past year I have wondered “am I crazy”, thinking of the airstream trailer and 1985 motor home parked in the field behind the house situated between the two radio towers and deemed by my grandmother as a “meth house” (not so, but her statement did not surprise me based on its appearance to the outside world/drivers on the 1-5). Currently I reside in a raised platform tent, on a cot with a mattress and ultralight REI sleeping bag. I use a flannel/canvas sleeping bag underneath it, which helps the plastic “mattress” to not seem as such—and a pillow I picked up at WalMart at the last minute after realizing I’d forgotten the luxurious one my Nana so graciously lent me, despite the frequency of her reminding me to pack it in my car so as to not leave without it in the morning. Sure enough I left without it, an action that I justify to myself daily under the pretense that “sleeping on a WalMart pillow builds character”.

The camp has a salad bar, so my diet consists mostly of sliced black olives, beets, iceberg lettuce/red cabbage/carrot mix and sunflower seeds. On good days it includes broccoli or cauliflower, cucumbers, and sliced onions or tomatoes. Due to dietary needs by gluten-free and vegetarian campers, the weekly menu includes things like vegetable stir-fry, curry, tacos, pizza, and pasta. For me, this means beans on taco night, stir-fry or curry over lettuce minus the rice, marinara over steamed broccoli on pasta night, or a slice of gluten-free thin-crust cheese-less pizza on pizza night. Sometimes the vegan or gluten-free option has nothing to do with the meal served to the majority, and/or involves raisins (strongly dislike) or pecans (allergic). In general, the adaptability of the kitchen staff to accommodate vegans has impressed me thus far. At first it perplexed me that on some days the vegan or gluten-free option contained no protein (usually on pizza or pasta nights), but the availability of sunflower seeds at the salad bar has allowed me to avoid requesting additional “special food” from the kitchen. On certain days the salad bar includes a plastic 9-pan filled with three-bean-salad. In a bowl or a cup filled with hot water from the carafe across the dining hall, the salty-sweet, vinagre-y syrup strains out, leaving only chickpeas, wax beans/string beans, and kidney beans.

*Disclaimer: I love washing dishes. It’s my favorite chore. I’ve also been paid to do it, even at the camp. Something about scraping things I don’t eat from a plastic plate and arranging them in a plastic rack, or rinsing the forks, knives, and spoons and separating them into separate containers and pass through the sanitizer really gives me a zen experience. I don’t think it’s crazy to enjoy certain meaningless tasks. I hate dusting, for example. It mainly bothers me that professions such as dishwashing are stigmatized, and influence social strata among social and work relationships alike.

Share on YummlyPin on PinterestShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on TumblrEmail this to someone

Brussels Sprout Bisque

I recently watched a tutorial in which Gordon Ramsay demonstrates how to make broccoli soup. Unlike many other soup or bisque recipes, this one did not involve “15, 20 ingredients…chicken stock…shallots sweating down for 20 minutes [or] half a liter of white wine”, but rather “it’s just got broccoli and water”.

Sure enough, most of the broccoli bisque or blended brussels sprout soup recipes do call for chicken stock, white wine, butter, potatoes, onions, bay leaf, half and half and/or flour. So basically, to make broccoli bisque or blended brussels sprout soup the assumption is that one must create a roux and spend hours in the kitchen. No no no this is so illogical it hurts. And Gordon Ramsay, celebrity chef mastermind whose recipes are not typically hashtagged vegan, frugal, or basic seems to agree. As stated in the video, “The most important thing now, is keeping that water. That’s where all the goodness is. It’s got all the flavor of the broccoli in there”.

I planned to emphasize the importance of keeping the vegetable water, but now I don’t have to.

Chef Ramsay then said “We don’t need a chicken stock or vegetable stock. How can you make a broccoli soup with a chicken stock for god’s sake?”

My thoughts exactly.

Then he said “…this thing is great for vegetarians as well, bless ’em.”

Aha there it is…the vegetarian joke, to remind us all that the culinary world at large doesn’t take us seriously. It’s the sort of thing I expect to hear during a holiday dinner, and take with a grain of salt and/or see the humor in. It’s a rendition of what I hear at every holiday, with the exception of last Xmas (when I arrived after dinner) and the year before when I couldn’t make it due to car trouble, so I went to Chinese food with friends and ordered steamed vegetables (which is my favorite food anyway, although most people don’t believe me) or the Xmas four years ago when I had to work.

I’ve made blended soups using only 1 type of vegetable i.e. broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini for years, but never thought to share the recipe(s) on my blog because they seemed so simplistic and obvious. After watching Chef Ramsay demonstrate the recipe and explain each step in precise detail, I realized that single-ingredient blended vegetable soup can be more than a just a simple, frugal, no-frills meal or a means of utilizing the overgrowth of zucchini in the garden. With a bit of finesse, this basic soup becomes something of 5-star quality.

When I make this soup with broccoli, I boil the stalks along with the florets. I don’t see any logic in discarding them, especially in the case of a pureed soup. Also, with brussels sprouts, I typically don’t follow the convention of cutting them in half. I think the flavor improves when boiled whole, like in this recipe.

Seasoned with nothing other than bit of salt, this simple (but not simplistic) version is a ten-minute recipe that exemplifies just how easy it is to prepare healthy, crowd-pleasing meals for vegans and non-vegans alike.

You will need a pot with lid for cooking, a colander, a second pot for saving the water when drained from the cooked sprouts, and a blender.

Brussels Sprout Bisque


2 cups brussels sprouts, trimmed
4 cups water

Bring a pot of salted water to a rapid boil. Cover, and boil for 5 minutes. Run a knife through one of the sprouts; if it slices through easily, turn off heat. Carefully pour brussels sprouts with water into a colander over a large empty soup pot. Immediately add sprouts to the blender, and add enough broth to half-cover them. Puree until velvety smooth and thin enough to drink from a mug or a jar, yet thick enough to enjoy in a bowl with a spoon. If the result is more of a puree than a liquid, add more broth in 1/2 cup increments until desired consistency is reached. Add salt to taste and blend again, if desired. Serve immediately.

brussels sprouts soup pre blend
brussels sprout bisque
brussels sprouts bisque square

Share on YummlyPin on PinterestShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on TumblrEmail this to someone