Pudge

In the past few months, I have . . . uh . . . gained some weight. Now, I wasn’t skinny to begin with, mind you. I never have been. In fact, at the end of high school, I was tipping the scales at 250 pounds. Two years in chicago later and I was down to 170. When I returned to the sedentary lifestyle and high-fat diet of northern minnesota, I gained a bit of that back. I had been sitting at around 180 since about 2007. I’d adjusted to being a size 14, being curvy, and being able to shop in normal stores.

However, in the past 6 months, things have changed.

I have always been known in my family for being a bit of a weakling. I don’t lift a lot of boxes on moving days, I don’t do yardwork, running for “fun” is completely and totally out of the question, and I get sick if I work more than about 20 hours a week. My mom always just thought I was lazy. But, everything has always been really hard for me. I can’t remember a time in my life when I haven’t been at least a little bit in pain.

As I eluded to before, about 6 months ago it got worse. A lot worse. I was spending entire days in bed because I was so tired and in so much pain. I finally went to the doctor and they ran a bunch of tests. None of them came back with unusual results, so they diagnosed me with depression, gave me a prescription, and sent me on my way.

I find it strange how drugs are the first thing doctors try. The drugs have to be fairly unsuccessful before they even consider the nonpharmesutical option of therapy . . . Anyway, story . . .

The drugs only sort of worked, my mood was better, but I was still always worn out and sore. In march, my doctors finally considered another diagnosis: fibromyalgia. It’s a chronic pain condition. I had all the classic symptoms, widespread pain, specific tender areas, chronic exhaustion, sensitivity to certain sensations, symptoms of depression and anxiety, et cetera.

This diagnosis actually made me really happy. It was an answer, finally. I’d been suffering all of my adult life with these problems and the fibromyalgia diagnosis made sense. The part I was less excited about was the treatment: more drugs. But I was willing to try them. Hell, I was willing to try anything.

The good news is that this time they worked. The pain is fairly well controlled and I have very few days that I have to spend in bed. The bad news is that one of the side effects is weight gain. I have gained 20 pounds since I started the medication. I’m back up to 200 and none too happy about it. Where six months ago I was wearing a size 14, now I can barely button a 16 and dreading the thought of having to shop at lane bryant again.

With that rant over, I announce a new project . . . I am actively trying to lose weight for the first time ever. I’d like to not be overweight anymore, but let’s shoot for losing that obese tag first.

The first step in my plan is to blog what I eat. Everything I eat. It means I’m holding myself accountable for everything that goes into my mouth. The second step involves rollerderby. I’ll discuss that later.

This begins today . . . Technically. After I go to bed and then wake up again, that is. Wish me luck in my journey towards a healthy weight, I’ll need it. And if you have stories or advice to share concerning fibromyalgia, I would love to hear from you. I’m the only person I know with the condition, not feeling so alone with it would be nice.

Testing New Teese on Pizza

Vegan Pizza Night

Our very good friends at Chicago Soydairy were nice enough to send me a sample of their new formula of mozzarella teese for testing.  Having not had any decent vegan pizza since I was in Chicago in February, it was the only thing I could foresee myself making with it.  And making pizza by one’s self is no fun at all, so I got my friends over to my house . . .

Dustin

Tasha

Hugh

These are my good friends from the philosophy department, Dustin, Tasha, and Hugh.  They are all omnis, but due to my superior cooking abilities, they were all willing to test the new teese formula on some mushroom, vegan sausage, and artichoke heart pizza.

In the email sent to notify me that I’d be receiving this sample, Chicago Soydairy noted that all their Teese varieties would soon be undergoing a similar change to their formula.  They promised that Teese would be stretchier, and more solid when melted, as well as having an improved flavor.  I had always been fairly satisfied by Teese.  It has, thus far, always sated my cheese cravings.  The formula I was used to melted well on pizza, but always did have the problem of being too liquidy, and sort of flowing over my pizza rather than holding it’s shape and stretching.  However, it always tasted halfway decent, and as long as there were some toppings on the pizza to hold the teese in place, it worked just fine.

For those of you unacquainted with the world of vegan cheese substitutes, let me tell you, no matter what a package says, vegan cheeses usually don’t melt or stretch like you would expect them to.  And the taste of many vegan cheeses is, well . . . lacking.  That’s the nice way to put it.  After eating them I’ve always been left thinking: In a world with so many chemists and engineers, one would think that SOMEONE could come up with a substance chemically identical to cheese without using any animal in it. Granted, that would probably involve some scary chemicals and processes that would leave the substance devoid of any nutritive value whatsoever . . . but damn it, I’m vegan and sometimes I miss cheese!

Okay . . . so pizza.  I started with some agave-whole wheat crust that I just whipped up in my trusty bread machine.  For those of you who are vegan and don’t own a bread machine, I highly recommend purchasing one.  It will save you so much time and worry at the grocery store when you’d be looking over ingredient labels just praying to find one that you can eat.  Also, you can make pizza crust in like 45 minutes with one.  And other stuff . . . anyway, pizza . . .

I also made some sauce by chopping up half an onion, sauteing it with 3 cloves of garlic, adding basil and oregano, and then pouring in one can of tomato sauce and one can of diced tomatoes and letting that simmer for around 10 minutes.  It makes a nice, fresh tasting sauce that isn’t too heavy and doesn’t overpower anything else that you want to put on your pizza.

I'm so excited for teese!

When it came time to top the pizza, we sliced up an Italian “smart sausage” from Light Life, some mushrooms, red peppers, and drained a can of artichoke hearts (about half of which ended up in our mouths before even touching the pizza . . . tee hee . . . I ❤ artichoke hearts).

Then it came time for the teese grating.  From previous teese experiences, I knew that it could be a bit sticky and hard to sprinkle on pizza.  However, when we grated this log o’ teese, the shreds were much less sticky and more solid.  This could only be a good sign.

And indeed it was!  The teese sprinkled easily on the sauced and topped pizza.  I didn’t really have to break up too many clumps of sticky shreds or anything.  It found its way onto the pizza very nicely.  It even looked like “real” cheese.  And this was certainly encouraging.

Then into the oven it went!  Now, normally the deal with pizza is you bake it as hot as you think your ingredients can stand it until your crust is done and things are bubbling.  With other vegan cheese alternatives, you have to be very careful, because sometimes things get over melted or they burn or they just don’t do anything, they just sit there, all shredded getting hotter and hotter but not melting.  The instructions that came with the teese sample said go ahead and bake it up at 500 degrees.  I was a little scared to do that on the first pizza, so I baked it at 450 for about 17 minutes.  And this was the result . . .

fresh out of the oven

Crispy crust, hot toppings, melty teese that didn’t look like it was too liquid or buned.  In short . . . it looked perfect.  But was it, indeed, perfect vegan pizza?  Could this be?

The teese did, indeed, stretch and stay more solid than the old formula.  It cut nicely, served, nicely, looked authentic.  I was getting excited.

There would be nothing more awesome in my little vegan life for there to be a convincing cheese substitute.  I mean, we’ve got marshmallows now, meaty things, milky things, eggy things, but no real cheesy things.  No cheese alternative that looks, acts, and tastes even close to dairy cheese. That is, it appears, until now . . .

The taste test . . .

The tasting . . .

It was good.  Very good.  It definately reminded me of mozzarella, if not tasting pretty damn close to it (I scarcely remember what dairy cheese tastes like anymore, but I knew that this stuff was really good).  It had a creamy, delicate taste with that little bit of fatty mouthfeel that one really craves in a cheese.  The only thing that seemed off was the salt level.  The teese didn’t seem salty enough.  Though, I really really like salt.  I mean I REALLY like salt.  So I sprinkled some on top of the pizza.  Problem solved!  My verdict:  This stuff is friggin’ awesome!

The verdict from the omnis was mixed, but still fairly positive.  Tasha noted that the taste was good, but not like mozzarella.  She agreed with me that it needed salt.  And she also thought that the texture was something like “undercooked egg yolk.”  Dustin said roughly that, though it didn’t taste like cheese, it was still pretty good.  Hugh wasn’t very talkative about it,  I remember him saying “yep, it’s good,” and then shoving another piece of pizza in his mouth.  I think he approved.

So general verdict:  Vegans will be very satisfied by this new formula.  Omnis will find it pretty acceptable, too.

In fact, they found it so acceptable that a second pizza had to be made.  Having more confidence in the teese, I baked the second one at 500.  It was even better when it was baked hotter.  The only thing I wish was that the teese would have browned a bit in some spots.  Perhaps next time I acquire some, I’ll try a light misting of oil before it goes into the oven.  So I recommend baking it at 500 degrees Fahrenheit.  Though, I do wonder what would happen in a commercial pizza oven, baking up at 800.

Just so you folks know, I got hungry while I was writing this, so I went to go make a grilled teese sandwich with the bit of leftover teese I had.  Holy.  Effing.  God.  That was possibly the best vegan grilled cheese I’ve ever had.  Teese makes FANTASTIC grilled cheese sandwiches.  It melts just right and stretches like you want a grilled cheese sandwich to.  I cannot wait until this formulation is on the market.

You win again Chicago Soydairy!  You folks are my favorite vegan food producer.  Next time, how about some temptation vegan ice cream samples?  😉

Pizza cat is pleased with your offering.

Awesome Vegan Product Alert!!!

Hey folks, just a quick note tonight.

So I made this Moroccan-inspired veggie cous cousey thing for dinner tonight out of some leftover cinnamon, raisin, almond cous cous I’d made for breakfast.  I didn’t expect it to be very pretty to look at or anything, so I wasn’t expecting to write about it.  It isn’t . . . BUT for a quick protein source, I used this new thing I found at my co op called Gardein Home Style Beefless Tips.  I really wasn’t expecting much from them when I bought them because I’d tried the “crispy tenders” a couple weeks ago and found them sort of dry and tasteless unfortunately.  However, the Beefless Tips . . . ARE FANTASTIC!  It could be that I just think these taste better because I fried them in coconut oil in stead of baking them like the 7-gain crispy tenders, but eating this bowl of cous cous and beefless tips I am a very satisfied customer.

So, if you see them at your local naturalish food store, try the beefless tips!! They’re GOOD!

K, ’nuff for tonight.  Bye bye!