1 Food You Should Learn to Make in College

…when you don’t want to eat like this:
college-food-pyramid (1)

College is difficult to navigate on many levels, with or without the dreaded “freshman 15″. In my case, as a raw vegan, I could’ve avoided it easily with a bit of planning ahead–but unfortunately (as a raw vegan entering college at 17) there weren’t any resources geared toward people of my demographic. Sure, vegan how-to guides for college students existed…but most of those focused on the need to appeal to a younger or otherwise “college-age” crowd, i.e. the irony was so thick you could cut it with a knife. *Disclaimer: The copy in those books never ceased to be clever, and for that I think they’re great. I adapted many of the recipes to suit a raw food diet and later said recipes actually became quite helpful. That said, the avocado-date-kale smoothies I made in the dorm kitchen prior to moving out did not do me many favors in terms of staying fit. The walks from work to school and drinking coffee instead of breakfast did. I’m not saying you should skip breakfast, in college or otherwise. Knowing your body takes time. It’s complicated. The recipe that saved my physique, taking the place of too much fat and sugar, as well as too much coffee, in order to stay alert and not fall asleep in class…is this:wakake-carrot-tahini

Wakame-Carrot-Tahini Bowl

I invented this after acquiring a food processor at Goodwill in February 2008 that I noticed while in search of cassette tapes (this was pre-smartphone/iPhone, obviously) for my 1996 Subaru Outback. I admit I’m a bit of a blender snob (if that’s a thing; I doubt it is) so the 1985 Oster blender caught my eye immediately. So did the 1981 food processor. Ironically and to my sheer and utter delight, I found both that day. After that fateful second-hand shopping spree, inevitably my raw (and later, paleovegan) recipes started to require a food processor or blender. Take note, parents and grandparents of college students or other progeny with hectic schedules: sometimes you can’t take the time to eat a salad. It is, however, possible to throw said salad in a blender, pour it in a coffee mug, and drink it on the way to class or to work.

Despite the monologue regarding blenders, this post concerns a recipe that doesn’t require one. (It was merely to foreshadow upcoming posts for future recipes geared toward paleovegan college students). This wakame-carrot-tahini bowl incorporates every component of the type of meal that scientific studies have proven to meet the requirements of satisfaction regarding the human palate. It’s true: see this article. It also contains 160 calories…about the same as a Luna bar, a Lara bar, or other “bar” I previously relied on for a “snack”. It does contain fat (13g) but the absence of oil makes it paleo. I lost 10 pounds after eliminating oil, avocados, and bananas from my diet. *Note, I’m not against the consumption of avocados or bananas. In fact, I actually really like them. It’s just not natural, in my opinion, to eat them in non-tropical regions of the world. If you live in a tropical climate and those fruits are available in-season, locally…you should incorporate them into your otherwise balanced paleovegan diet.

wakake-carrot-tahini (2)

The Need for Seaweed

I’m discovering more and more how significant a part seaweed plays in a paleovegan diet no matter where you live. Seaweed is available and sourced naturally from one end of the earth to the other. Wherever there’s ocean, seaweed exists. Granted, some states and provinces are landlocked…but never more than halfway across a continent from a beach. Eat seaweed. But do take note of the semi-recent radiation scare re: Fukushima…and also be aware of the fact that only hijiki seaweed is thought to have been affected. So, avoid hijiki if you’re worried about the potential radiation (which many studies show did not actually affect the seaweed) but don’t worry about other varieties. Seaweed contains iodine, a nutrient missing in most other foods but considered important according to science. A member of the algae family, the plethora of seaweed available falls into three different categories: brown, red and green. The most commonly used by chefs throughout the world are the brown varieties such as wakame (the seaweed used in this recipe) followed by kelp (of which there are so many varieties I can’t list them here). Then there is red seaweed, a subgroup of seaweed that includes nori (the type used in sushi).
wakame-carrot-tahini

 Wakame-Carrot-Tahini Bowl: The Recipe

…so easy and satisfying, you’ll kick yourself the times you brought ramen noodles to school or microwaved frozen dinners for late-night sustenance.

ingredients

Makes 1 serving

3/4 cup dry wakame seaweed
1 cup raw julienned carrots (or you can use a vegetable peeler to shave off noodle-like pieces).
2 Tbsp raw tahini (or you can use roasted, which some people prefer and is the type generally used in hummus and babaganoush)

method

Put wakame in a small bowl or mug. Pour enough water over it to cover and let sit for 10 minutes (wakame is perhaps the quickest to hydrate of all the seaweeds, hence the use of it in this “quick and easy” student-friendly recipe).

After wakame is hydrated, there shouldn’t be much water to drain. It depends on your salt preference. If you like ramen noodles or recently stopped eating meat or cheese, don’t drain it. If your taste buds are more fine-tuned (having gone vegan at least 6 months ago), drain at least part of the water.

Add raw tahini to the carrot pieces to coat them. Then add carrot to the seaweed, stirring as you would a salad.

Eat.

…and await more raw vegan and paleovegan recipes. Focus on your studies and let me take charge of your meal plan. You’ll thank me later.

Mineral Makeup 101 #NaBloPoMo

Nov 14 National Blog Posting Month prompt: Do you enjoy growing old or do you fight against it?

I don’t fight against it. I don’t consider myself old. I think that age is relative, at least to a certain extent. In fact I’d like to turn that question in the opposite direction–to propose the idea that we can actually lose age, to suggest that age could equal wisdom. In other words, sometimes I feel as if I’ve lost wisdom–and therefore, with each un-wise experience I become younger. That’s probably fruit for an over-analyzation or existential debate, so in the case of this answer I’ve decided to write in a more practical tone.
mineral makeupOver a decade ago, mineral makeup revolutionized conventional ideas about concealer and foundation, forever changing the cosmetics industry. The first major contender in the mineral makeup industry was Bare Escentuals, but according to Leslie Blodgett–who would later rebrand the line as bareMinerals, “…the shades Bare Escentuals had created weren’t working. They were gross.” Blodgett, an FIT-trained now-CEO of the company with a bootstrap-ethic backstory (as explained in a 2010 interview with Inc. for the column “how I did it”) redesigned the pigments used in Bare Escentuals and relaunched the line as bareMinerals.

With the rebranding of bareMinerals , the idea that chemical-free, paraben-free, 100% natural makeup could contend with big-name designer and drugstore makeup brands seemed far-fetched to many, and perhaps can explain why the bareMinerals name took almost 2 decades to harness the spotlight and force every major player in the cosmetics industry to follow suit. In other words, back when bareMinerals launched, the market for natural makeup pertained to more of a niche audience.

I saw bareMinerals as a revolutionary new take on makeup. After a facial/skin treatment in Northern California in 2006 I was sold, merely because I’d finally found an alternative to Neutrogena and Clinique liquid foundations and powders (the two labels that caused only minor breakouts as opposed to full-on dermatitis on my face). I used bareMinerals for years before I discovered alternative brands at natural food co-ops, marketed without the hype or glamour of the bareMinerals brand. I didn’t want to make the trek to the mall in order to purchase refills from Macy’s, so I started to buy the “knock-off” brand sold at the co-op in town. About 2 purchases in, it hit me: why not make it myself? After a bit of research I found online retailers that sold every ingredient for cheap, and soon learned that mixing pigments did not require rocket science.

Why Make Your Own Mineral Makeup?

Over the years, when the cosmetics industry caught on that its lack of success in marketing tactics had something to do with the chemicals in its formulas–coupled with the surge in popularity of all-natural, mineral cosmetics–the market exploded. Tried and true brands/manufacturers began to market what is essentially the same product, with each of their respective labels. Take for example, the newly popular drugstore brand e.l.f. (stands for eyes, lips, face). At a drugstore, online, or even at Grocery Outlet, you can buy loose powder mineral foundation, concealer, and other products like “primer” and “mineral veil”, for $3-5 per individual piece, or a starter kit for $12. The ingredients and pigments mimic those present in bareMinerals, a more expensive brand that I highly doubt you would ever find on the shelf at a bargain/discount grocery store.

Here’s the thing: Loose powder mineral makeup is sold online, in bulk. It is purchased by companies that market it as their own. There is nothing wrong with this, but even the brands you see at natural foods stores that look as if they were lovingly created via mortar and pestle in the home of a toltec shaman in New Mexico…are actually made in a factory in China (unless specified otherwise).

Take a look:

bareMinerals
Net weight: 8.5g
Cost: $25.00
Cost per gram: $2.94
Ingredients: titanium dioxide, iron oxides, zinc oxide, bismuth oxychloride, mica, ultramarines

Purely Cosmetics
Net weight: 6g
Cost: $22.00
Cost per gram: $3.67
Ingredients: titanium dioxide, iron oxides, zinc oxide, mica, ultramarines

Laura Mercier:
Net weight: 9.6g
Cost: $35.00
Cost per gram: $3.65
Ingredients: titanium dioxide, iron oxides, zinc oxide, mica, bismuth oxychloride, pearl powder, ultramarines

Youngblood:
Net weight: 10g
Cost: $34.95
Cost per gram: $3.50
Ingredients: Titanium dioxide, bismuth oxychloride, mica, iron oxides

e.l.f.
Net weight: 7.9g
Cost: $8
Cost per gram:
Ingredients: titanium dioxide, iron oxides, zinc oxide, bismuth oxychloride, mica, ultramarines

The above brands list their ingredients. Other brands that claim to use only natural ingredients and don’t test on animals have failed [or decided against] revealing their formulations or company policies regarding animal testing. Natural and paraben-free brands that do list ingredients but contain other ingredients past the basic formula as listed above include Physicians Formula and freshMinerals, among others. The ingredient bismuth oxychloride has raised alarm among certain individuals such as breast cancer survivors. This concern has led to deliberate avoidance of that particular ingredient by established and up-and-coming brands. One notable example is Afterglow cosmetics. Brands including Loreal, Cover Girl, Revlon, and others found at drugstores have jumped on the mineral makeup bandwagon due to the high demand for mineral makeup. However, what isn’t widely understood is the fact that the original demand did not stem from a widespread interest in “mineral makeup” per se. Rather, it’s the absence of chemicals and simplification of formulas–in essence, a product that will not harm the skin or contribute to future breakouts. Considering the toxins we breathe and absorb through our skin (and often our food) every day, the last thing need is to wear them on our face.

The above brand comparison sheds light on the fact that despite very minor variances in ingredients–some come with a hefty price tag and others do not. Something else to take note of is the difference in brushes between companies like bareMinerals, e.l.f., and EcoTools. I’ve purchased face brushes from each with neither complaints nor significant observances of difference among any of the aforementioned brands, yet the contrast in price is extreme.

bareEssesntials
Kabuki Brush: $28
5pc Starter Brush Set: $49
bareminerals-kabuki-brush

e.l.f.
Kabuki Brush: $6
5pc Starter Brush Set: $10
elf-kabuki-brush

EcoTools
Kabuki Brush: $6.99
5pc Starter Brush Set: $12.99
EcoTools-kabuki-brush

From personal experience, I recommend EcoTools over e.l.f. in terms of brush quality.

Next post: Mineral Makeup DIY

Extended Writer’s Block #NaBloPoMo

National Blog Posting Month, November 12 prompt: Have you ever had extended writer’s block? How long did it last? What did you do to break out of it, and do you have tips for other bloggers?

Yes, I’ve had it. Hasn’t every writer?

…At least that’s how they portray it on television. It’s challenging, and we’re naturally critical of fellow writers’ work whilst anticipating the criticism of other writers or editors. I think this TV representation provides a good example.jenny-gifYes, writer’s block exists. It can extend for days, or weeks. In my case, I’ve lost not only days or weeks but an entire month spent unable to tap into the faction of the brain that writers depend upon tapping into in order to produce work.

Writer’s block is a real thing. Did I already write that? Probably. Going through it is complicated and depressing, since as writers we’re aware of every thought we have and analyze it to such an extent that we occasionally end up harming ourselves. My favorite writers: Hunter S. Thompson and Sylvia Plath, and the photographer I look up to the most, Diane Arbus…all harmed themselves in a fatal way. I’ve no idea what other issues the aforementioned trifecta might have been experiencing at the time, but the point is: keep calm and carry on with your work…and keep in mind that it’s not necessary to feel tragic to prove yourself as a writer. I felt tragic and jaded during a significant breakup (basically a marriage) and from my experience I know how unproductive it is in every sense to entertain ideas about tragedy.

Writer’s block (or creative block) in the extended sense can result in irrevocable harm. My advice to fellow bloggers (since that was part of the prompt) is to continue it if you feel passionate about it or could be your life’s purpose. If it is, you will know. So follow your dreams and prosper, but know it could be a tough road.

Guilty Pleasures #NaBloPoMo

National Blog Posting Month, Nov 11 prompt: If you could permanently get rid of one worry, what would it be?
mexican-marketGuilty pleasures. We all have them, yet as a person with an anthropology degree I can’t write this post without pointing out that the concept of guilt is culturally-constructed; a residual facet of modern industrial society rooted in the dark ages–back when they covered human body parts on roman art sculptures with leaves.

One of my “guilty pleasures” is going to Mexican markets for groceries. By “groceries” I mean cans of Jumex, diet Jaritos (yes, they actually make that) pico de gallo, salted pepitas, and occasional glass bottles of coke. Oh wait–that was a guilty pleasure of my ex. I was never much a fan unless on a rooftop in Ecuador and using it as a mixer for cheap aguardiente. All that aside, my reason for writing this is not about the purchases I make at Mexican markets. Even though tamarind-flavored diet Jarritos contains caramel color and aspartame, and Jumex contains sugar. I know what you’re thinking: food coloring, artificial sweetener…not exactly healthy. However, those things sometimes serve to ward off pangs of nostalgia. The occasional fried tostada spread with a tablespoon of guac, cilantro, and salsa de tomate…chased with a glass bottle of Tamarindo Jarritos…after a long day at work…never ceased to satisfy. Granted, the fried tostada thing was a rarity…something I started buying on the street out of mental fog when seeking sustenance to keep me from passing out on the walk home. It wasn’t a guilty pleasure so much as a saving grace.

The guilty pleasure I planned to write about has nothing to do with food in the objective sense. I go to Mexican markets not necessarily for the Jarritos or Jumex but to practice my second language. See, I hate to address a server at a Mexican restaurant in Spanish. It’s not fun, probably because their English skills are just as decent as mine. I feel like a pre-teen in 7th grade Spanish class, at a Mexican restaurant to fulfill my assignment: “order in Spanish, and then write about your interaction!”. Without fail, servers either engage in conversation and then figuratively pat me on the forehead, telling me how good my Spanish is (and then walk away to snicker among their coworkers, as they rightfully should) or look at me like I’m a character in American Horror Story: Freak Show. It tends to be an uncomfortable situation either way. Luckily, I realized again recently how much I dislike restaurant dining. I mean, I appreciate it when invited–but never feel at ease enough to enjoy it. That might be the result of my need to make substitutions for most menu items, even at vegan restaurants. Also, I’m not a fan of conversation while eating…probably because of the meditation classes I took in college and books I’ve read that changed my life by essentially reinforcing the thought I’ve always had: when you do something with conviction you should focus on it and nothing else. That’s why I tend to be thinner when I have a deadline or a project that consumes all my mental energy. If asked to go to lunch with coworkers, I always decline. That might be considered unhealthy, but honestly–a quiet office (with everyone gone) becomes a zen space for that 1 hour in which I can make actual progress on whatever I’m writing at the time. So, I eat breakfast and dinner but never lunch. But when I have a deadline, I tend to frantically snack on things like carrots and celery…and probably couldn’t tell you the day of the week let alone the hour.

So my guilty pleasure is walking into a grocery store where everyone speaks Spanish to one another, and despite the fact that the cashier speaks a bit of English–I do not feel self-conscious when I address them in their first language. The vibe is so different, and I like the feeling of a simple transaction and bit of conversation or interactions like the time I was asked what “manillas” meant (the cashier was from a region of mexico in which the word is cacahuates). I don’t like being waited on in general, probably because I’ve been a waitress…but at Mexican restaurants the feeling is most uncomfortable and strange, as if I enter a sort of twilight zone for the food-service industry. The “guilty” part of the pleasure I experience from going to Mexican markets is that I know I only go there to take advantage of the potential for real dialogue without the proverbial forehead-petting.

I also used to talk to day laborers outside 7-11 convenience stores but now I don’t live next to one.

I think I need to change my profession to something that involves regular communication with immigrants from south-of-the-US-Mexico border. Any ideas? Leave them in the comments, por favor. Un abrazo. :)

Raw Vegan Japchae

skinny-japchae-featured (1)

Japchae?

Japchae, jabchae, chapchae, chop chae, or chap chae is a Korean dish traditionally made with sweet potato noodles aka dangmyeon (Korean: 당면) stir-fried in sesame oil with very thinly sliced aka julienne-cut carrots mixed with fresh spinach and thinly sliced shitake mushrooms and onion…topped with toasted sesame seeds and garnished with hot chili flakes. Served hot or cold depending on the season, japchae is vitamin-rich and considered medicine in a number of cultures within Korean society. The flavor profile of japchae is important, so I adapted it to the best of my ability to suit the diet(s) of raw foodists and the paleo inclined.

Developing this recipe proved less challenging than I’d expected, since shirataki noodles easily replicate sweet potato noodles* or vermicelli** (bean thread) in all recipes. The noodles I used for this particular recipe do not contain certain additives present in commercial brands of shiratakI. The type I buy fresh costs approx. $1.25 USD per 8oz package fresh–so for this recipe, if you choose to use fresh as opposed to dry shirataki you will spend $5 on noodles if cooking for 4-6 people. Obviously, all ingredients are vegan.

*The nearly carb-free noodles used in this recipe are made from Konjac yams as opposed to conventional yams or sweet potatoes–and often at Korean or Vietnamese grocery stores the labels do not provide translations in other languages. For this reason, I have provided the following images to assist you:

clear-shirataki-noodle clear-shirataki-noodle1 konjac-yam

**Also called bean thread noodle, vermicelli is as high in calories as sweet potato noodle but looks the same and tastes the same. For those with an aversion [regarding flavor] or lack of availability [to purchase] shirataki noodles I recommend kelp noodles as an alternative.

Now that we’ve established* that…let’s get on with it, shall we?

*Ask in the comments or shoot me an email if certain things don’t make sense.

Raw Vegan Japchae Recipe

Makes 4-6 servings

Ingredients

8 ounces dried shirataki noodles or
8oz pkg fresh or reconstituted shirataki noodles
4 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 Tbsp chili garlic sauce
1/4 tsp stevia powdered extract or 6 to 9 drops liquid extract
4oz fresh or reconstituted shiitake mushroom, stems trimmed, thinly sliced
1/3 cup sweet onion, thinly sliced
1/3 cup fresh raw carrot, very thinly sliced (julienne-cut)
1/2 cup baby spinach or chopped spinach leaves
1/2 cup scallion or green onion, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp toasted sesame seeds

skinny-japchae-featured (2)

Method

Step 1: reconstitute and/or marinade:

*To reconstitute dried shiitake mushrooms: Cover 1 ounce dried whole shiitake mushrooms with warm tap water. Let sit until softened, at least 6 hours or overnight.

**To reconstitute dried shirataki noodles: See above.

In a small bowl, combine the tamari/soy sauce with the stevia powder or extract, lemon juice, and chili garlic-sauce. Consult the stevia conversion chart. If using powder or granules, stir until dissolved.

Soak the sliced onion, carrot, scallion, fresh shiitake mushrooms, and baby spinach with the tamari/stevia blend for 2 hours or overnight. If using reconstituted shiitake mushrooms, you can do this step overnight at the same time. Just add the mushrooms to the mix after they hydrate.

Step 2: Drain shirataki noodles and return to bowl. Drizzle with 3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil. Drain excess stevia/soy sauce marinade from vegetables and toss with noodles. Top with scallions and toasted sesame seeds.
skinny-japchae

Vegetable Broth + Paleo Vegan Pho

National Blog Posting Month, Nov 10 prompt: What knowledge do you have that others don’t? Write a “how to” post about anything you’ve got skills for, small or large.vegetable-broth-101Sure, you can buy it by the carton. It’s less of a hassle than running around the produce department, gathering carrots, parsnips, celery, etc., only to return home and realize you’ve forgotten the onions or another key ingredient. We’ve all been there with some recipe or another. However, store-bought vegetable broth contains too much salt in my opinion–while the low-sodium kind lacks flavor. With a bit of planning and mere minutes of prep time, it’s easy to make your own. I guarantee you’ll notice an improvement in the flavor and body of soups and stews. More elaborate recipes might have ingredients you don’t recognize (which won’t be the case at the end of this tutorial. More on that later). We’ll start with a basic, unintimidating recipe that utilizes everyday ingredients for use as a prototype for more complex broths and stocks in the future. When I’m short on time, this is my go-to recipe:

Basic Vegetable Broth

Makes approximately 2 quarts
Tip: Don’t peel anything or discard the scraps. Things like the tops of carrots or celery, stems, etc. contribute to the flavor and nutritional value of the broth/stock. Obviously, discard any spoiled or rotten parts.

Ingredients

1 gallon water
1 cup celery, diced
1 cup onion, minced
1 cup carrot, chopped
2 cups tomato, quartered
1 medium bell pepper, cut
2 cups parsnip, chopped
6 cloves garlic
1 bay leaf
2 whole peppercorn
1 tsp red pepper flakes (like the kind they give you at pizza restaurants)
1 bunch cilantro, chopped

Add all ingredients to a large stock pot. Bring to a full boil and reduce to simmer. Lower the heat to medium-low to continue cooking (covered, to maintain the flavors and vitamin content of the vegetables) until the liquid is reduced by half.

Pour broth through a filter/sieve/colander, with a bowl or pot underneath it that is larger than the circumference of the filter (to avoid wasting any broth).

Asian-Style Vegetable Broth

asian-style-soup-broth
Using the basic vegetable broth recipe as a base, you only need a few more ingredients to emulate the flavors of a Chinese-style noodle soup or traditional Vietnamese pho. You can experiment with combinations of different ingredients, so the following are merely suggestions or guidelines. I recommend using ginger in all combinations if you can. As with any broth recipe–you don’t need to peel the root since you’ll remove it before serving/adding the noodles and toppings.

Ingredients

1 x 4″ piece ginger root, unpeeled, sliced
5 star anise pods
1 cinnamon stick
ginger-rootcinnamon-sticksstar-anise
4 cups vegetable stock (see above recipe)
2 cups water

Method

Simmer 20 minutes on medium heat

Paleo Vegan Pho

vegan-pho

Ingredients

6 cups Asian-style vegetable broth (see above recipe)
2 x 8oz package fettuccine-style shirataki noodles.

Toppings

4 scallions or green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
3 jalapeno peppers, thinly sliced. Remove the seeds for less heat.
1 cup fresh bean sprouts
4 Tbsp vegetarian “fish sauce”, found in Asian markets, natural food stores, some conventional grocery stores, and online. *However, many of these brands contain preservatives and food coloring/caramel color, and even the natural brands contain sugar. Vegetarian “fish sauce” is very easy to make with all natural ingredients & no added sugar:

Combine 1/4 Tbsp pure powdered stevia extract OR 12-18 drops Stevia Liquid Concentrate (for more info, see the Stevia Conversion Chart) with 1 cup warm water + 1/4 cup canned pineapple juice (if you use fresh, I’m totally impressed) and 1 cup 2 Tbsp low-sodium tamari or 1 Tbsp regular tamari. You can also use conventional soy sauce like Kikoman brand if you’re not worried about the additives. When I’m traveling or living abroad it tends to be the only thing available, anyway :)

fresh cilantro, shredded
fresh Thai basil leaves
lime wedges
chili garlic sauce

Method

In a large pot over medium heat, add the ginger, star anise and cinnamon sticks to 4 cups vegetable broth (diluted with 2 cups water) and simmer about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare shirataki noodles according to package instructions.

Reduce heat to low and remove the ginger, star anise, and cinnamon. Stir in 4 Tbsp vegetarian fish sauce and let simmer on low for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

Drain shirataki noodles and divide among 4 bowls. Top with broth, scallions, cilantro, basil leaves, jalapeno, red onion, and bean sprouts. Serve with chili garlic sauce and lime wedges.

Sea Spaghetti: Better than Kelp Noodles

saladLately I’ve seen quite a few recipe posts that feature kelp noodles, especially as a carb-free replacement for noodles. The type of kelp noodle these recipes call for is stripped of its outer green/brown layer in order to resemble vermicelli or bean thread aka glass noodles. This process removes not only flavor but also vitamins and minerals. While still a decent alternative for the paleo inclined, I prefer to use sea spaghetti, or Himanthalia elongata, a species of kelp with a natural noodle-like shape (no processing required).

Nutrients in Sea Spaghetti vs. Kelp Noodles

According the the nutrition fact labels of kelp noodle brands on the market, a 4oz serving contains 4g dietary fiber, 15% calcium, and 4% iron. In contrast, a 4oz serving of sea spaghetti contains 5% dietary fiber and 25% calcium, 400% vitamin C, 40% potassium, 29% magnesium, and 56% iodine.

Unprocessed kelp like sea spaghetti and other sea vegetables play an important role in staying healthy and balanced, especially when following a paleo-vegan diet. I try to eat some form of it daily; if not as a meal, in the form of spirulina, blue-green algae or chorella supplement. I’m kind of a sea vegetable connoisseur, and I enjoy the natural flavor and texture of all varieties. Considering the reduced nutritional value, bland flavor profile, and vaguely chemical aroma prior to cooking/soaking, kelp noodles just don’t do it for me.

Also, considering the cost of some varieties it seems like a waste to make the splurge and not benefit from the vitamin C, pantothenic acid, zinc, copper, vitamin K, riboflavin, folate, iron, calcium, and magnesium naturally present in kelp.

Where to Buy Sea Spaghetti
Sea Spaghetti is harvested in Brittany and the west coast of Ireland. Shipment to the United States or elsewhere can be costly, especially direct from the manufacturer. Fortunately, like other retailers in the UK and Europe, some manufacturers of sea spaghetti have partnered with Amazon.com to significantly reduce the cost of shipping as part of an overall purchase of $25.

I have not ordered sea spaghetti online, but tried it at a raw vegan potluck and purchased some from a friend who bought it wholesale to reduce the cost. I later discovered it on sale at an Asian grocery store in San Francisco for $1.99. It was merely labeled “dried seaweed” but the flavor and texture seemed like sea spaghetti. *Edit: It was arame, which looks and tastes very similar so if you can’t get the real thing I recommend it. Look for “long arame” at Asian grocery stores.

How to use Sea Spaghetti, Arame, etc.
Soak overnight or for at least an hour if you choose to use it raw. You can also boil it or cook it under 115 degrees Fahrenheit so it is technically raw according to the principles of a raw food diet. To use as a replacement for spaghetti (as a raw foodist) soak it first and heat on low until the water achieves warmth to your liking/dietary requirements. For those who don’t follow a strict raw diet, heat it as you would regular pasta. If this is the case for you, there isn’t a need to soak it first (though some experts say this is more optimal for nutrient absorption). Use in place of spaghetti in any recipe, in a salad, or by itself. I like it with sesame seeds and no dressing or other ingredients (see photo, above). It’s also great with tahini and carrots, a recipe I developed my sophomore year at college and rediscovered a few days ago. I’ll post the recipe soon.

After visiting a few other Asian groceries and a bit of internet research, I’ve arrived at the conclusion that any “string” or “sea tangle” seaweed would function as sea spaghetti. Not all of us can or want to pay $25 in shipping for Irish or French sea spaghetti. I no longer keep in touch with the aforementioned friend from the raw vegan potluck, and haven’t met anyone else who wants to buy it in bulk. That said, I think it’s a great product and perfect replacement for wheat or rice or quinoa or other grain pasta…but other seaweeds can work just as well. Enter: arame and other types that are often marketed as wakame or kombu but are cut in strips to resemble spaghetti also. I was never a huge fan of spaghetti anyway, but the sheer novelty of the fact that seaweed can emulate it so easily and pack such a profoundly more potent nutrient punch–I had to write this post. Not to mention the fact that it’s carb-free and causes weight loss while flooding your body with more nutrients. Did I mention nutrients? Oh yeah, I did.

Resorts and Cruises and Poverty! Oh My!

Where is the one place you would never want to go on vacation that other people seem to love?
nytfashionpoor3
I don’t know whether I could accept an invitation to stay at an amenity-laden resort in a third world country or go on another cruise*. I know how that might sound: privileged and unappreciative of the times in which family members and other people I was close to invited me and paid for my ticket. The invitation to go on a cruise with family or friends is a gift, and nothing I’d want to criticize or downplay the importance of. I don’t regret going on cruises or staying at resorts, but after backpacking through and living in South and Central America and Mexico “on a shoestring” (to quote Lonely Planet) for a cumulative total of just under two years, cruising felt wrong somehow. It’s the hype. The display of affluent first-world citizens ordering everything off the menu and leaving most of it on their plates to be whisked away by a hard-working person of a considerably less affluent lifestyle who spends 9 months of every year away from his or her family in order to provide for them, while the Americans order dessert wine, a cheese plate, and espresso–reveling in the luxury and novelty as they anticipate the next day at port where the facade of bottomless margaritas, duty-free cigars, and artificial representations or caricatures [of the region’s culture] encourage further disconnect and perpetuate the spread of affluenza…I just can’t. I can’t. I’m allergic.

Further reading: Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic a 2001 critique of consumerism by documentary filmmaker John de Graaf, environmental scientist David Wann, and economist Thomas H. Naylor.
The Innocents Abroad, or The New Pilgrims’ Progress by Mark Twain published in 1869 which humorously chronicles what Twain called his “Great Pleasure Excursion” on board the chartered vessel USS Quaker City throughout Europe and the Holy Land with a group of American travelers in 1867. Published before 1900, it is in the public domain and free to read or download.
Audio book (MP3): LibriVox
Ebook download: Google, Project Gutenberg
Read online: About.com, Project Gutenberg, Google

*Disclaimer: I’ve never not enjoyed a vacation with family or former family, friends, etc. It’s just that I’d rather have spent it at a cabin on a mountain overlooking the forest and cliffs above the ocean where everyone was cramped for space with only one bathroom to share between 5-10 people. I’ve more experiences like that than cruises or stays at resorts, and despite the absence of 24-hour buffets in contrast with a spike in potential for arguments and misadventures…those times are responsible for the fond memories of my childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood. I wish I’d taken more photos or filmed interactions between people. When I die, those are the days I want to remember. Take note, future grandchildren, when you examine my facebook for memorial purposes.

“Professional” Blogging #NaBloPoMo

Do you consider yourself a “professional” blogger? Why or why not? What does that mean to you?
Carrie_Bradshaw-laptop1The title blogger never seemed to fit right. Why? It reads “amateur” somehow, even though I know it shouldn’t. It stems from my education and research in anthropology, mainly–as well as my upbringing, social conditioning, the development of my online presence and voice, and the way I see the world in general. I don’t use the term blogger when I tell people what I do. First of all, a writer doesn’t refer to herself as a “professional writer”. Why should a blogger? Anyone who writes could call herself a writer, whether or not she earns a living from it. To be a professional blogger must you quit your day job? If a blogger or freelance writer cleans hotel rooms to supplement her income, is she not a professional? Unlike Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw, not all writers can afford an apartment in Manhattan. Especially not a freelancer (as she was initially before the book deals and Vogue gig) swimming in credit card debt. The image I chose for this post, a still from the show, is one of the more realistic depictions (Carrie isn’t lounging on the bed, nor does she look as glamorous as she normally does when writing articles for her column). She looks like she’s working. Perhaps suffering from writer’s block, even. Dedicating yourself to weekly posts or twice-weekly posts isn’t a piece of cake. It’s enjoyable and thrilling but also challenging and in the case of NaBloPoMo or Vegan MoFo, exhausting. Hosting your own blog and relying on no one but yourself to manage every aspect–from the technical to the social. And that’s just to keep above water. If you let it slip, weeks of hard work can prove to be in vain. Other people can catch up with you and market your ideas as their own, leaving you in the dust. Out of stamina or consumed by frustration, you ponder what you did wrong. It’s not a hobby, blogging. At least not for me.

pro·fes·sion·al
prəˈfeSH(ə)n(ə)l/
adjective
adjective: professional
1.  of, relating to, or connected with a profession.
2. (of a person) engaged in a specified activity as one’s main paid occupation rather than as a pastime.
3. having or showing the skill appropriate to a professional person; competent or skillful.
“their music is both memorable and professional”
synonyms: expert, accomplished, skillful, masterly, masterful, fine, polished, skilled, proficient, competent, able, experienced, practiced, trained, seasoned, businesslike; top-notch. “a thoroughly professional performance”.
worthy of or appropriate to a professional person; “her professional expertise”.
antonym: amateur

With the above definitions in mind, I think it’s safe to say blogging is a profession but to make that distinction would depend on the blogger in question. Or writer, rather. Blogging is one of the platforms I use, but it it doesn’t define me as a writer. My income from web content and articles far exceeds the revenue from the blog, but that’s the beauty of creating something rather than working for someone else. I do both, and enjoy both. In conclusion, I consider myself a writer and designer. Blogging requires writing and design, HTML, CSS, research…as is required by other things I do professionally. That said, I’d never call myself a “professional writer” or “professional web designer” so the term “professional blogger” feels even less fitting than “blogger”.

Be Original. Don’t Plagiarize. #NaBloPoMo

Answer to the Nov 5th NaBloPoMo prompt via BlogHer:
Do you feel you have found your voice on your blog? What techniques have you tried to develop your voice in your writing? What are some characteristics of your personality in your writing?

be-originalWhen I launched Paleoveganista the original title was Vegan-Paleo: Recipes for the Hunter Gatherer, under the domain name vegan-paleo.com. In the beginning, I focused on the photography and the facts. It would be several months before I began to feel as if I engaged with my readers. As is the plight of many a first-time blogger, the only feedback I received at first involved irrelevant or generic commentary, often with links to ads.

I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but welcomed the challenge. It felt like an addiction, actually. I never questioned my blogging voice or personality, because my vision was clear and I felt secure in creating my own niche.

I started under the premise that this would be a new kind of blog, focused on scientific evidence, the archaeological record, and otherwise relevant studies or findings concerning the diet and lifestyle of the first humans.

As I moved forward and developed a dialogue with readers, I began to sense an evolution or “shaping” of my voice as a writer. I began to feel like an expert, and for good reason. Reader inquiries in the comments and on the Paleoveganista facebook page led me to further research to improve the quality and credibility of my answers. I mentioned other bloggers in some posts which resulted in conversations with other bloggers.

I recently discovered something interesting that seems relevant to this post. In VegNews, Colleen Holland’s 15 Most-Anticipated Vegan Cookbooks of 2014 includes Paleo Vegan: Plant-Based Primal Recipes by Ellen Jaffe Jones (Eat Vegan on $4 a Day) and Alan Roettinger (Extraordinary Vegan). I was shocked, since before I created Paleoveganista the terms paleo-vegan and vegan-paleo did not exist within the blogosphere, the internet in general, or in print media. Despite my enthusiasm that the vegan-paleo/paleo-vegan concept caught on–it also birthed a number of ebooks published in late 2013 and 2014 i.e. The Vegan Paleo Cookbook – The Natural Caveman Diet by Healther Lieberman and Everyday Vegan Paleo Recipes: Tantalize your Taste Buds with Mouth Watering Recipes by Laura A Jones. The content seems paraphrased from the original Paleo-Vegan articles I wrote in 2012. As the original paleo-vegan blogger / media personality, I imagined myself entered the Twilight Zone…or perhaps more accurately, the zone in which plagiarism is legal.

paleo-vegan-book-2paleo-vegan-ebook-1paleo-vegan-ebook2