Sunday, 2 February 2014

Helping Evil Become Vegan



Pizza! I love it. K here. While listening to Welcome to Night Vale, I decided to make brunch today. Not that Welcome to Night Vale reall inspired the food, it's just that there was a new episode that I hadn't listened to.

I’ve been wanting to try what I’m calling the VanAwesome low-carb Pizza ever since I saw it on VanAwesome's YouTube Channel. VanAwesome is a guy doing a series called The Handsoming. He’s working on bettering himself and losing some of the life weight he’s accumulated. VanAwesome is doing the keto diet, which is working for him so that’s all I’m going to say about that subject. Reddit offers a lot of information and discussion on all things keto if you’re interested. I like some of the recipes from the various associated sub-reddits.

Now on the the delicious pizza I had for brunch.

by Adventure Partners
Behold!

So there they are, the actual ingredients I used based on what I could find at the grocery store at 9pm on a Saturday. I’m pretty happy with what I found. The biggest challenge was finding a good pasta sauce that doesn’t include added sugar in the ingredients. You’ll find most of them include sugar because they want to keep you fat. Rao's Homemade Sauces are a little expensive at $7, but the flavor was worth it.

1 Mama Lupe’s Low Carb Tortilla
1 Tbsp Newman's Own Organics Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 cup Rao's Homemade Tomato Basil Sauce
1 oz Del Duca Prosciutto
1/4 cup Kraft Shredded Mozzarella Cheese
handful Marketplace Arugula & Spinach Mix

Directions: Start with the tortilla, brush the olive oil on both sides, then top with sauce, prosciutto, and cheese. Bake at 450 °F (230 °C) for ~12 minutes. Top with arugula (rocket), cut, and enjoy! (Next time I make this, I'm going to decrease the olive oil.)

by Adventure Partners
Ready to cook!

As prepared, the nutritional information for one whole VanAwesome Pizza is:

367 calories
Total fat: 29g
   Saturated Fat: 7g
Sodium: 1265mg
Total carbohydrates: 12g
   Dietary fiber: 5g
   Sugars: 2g
Protein: 21g
Vitamin A: 43%
Vitamin C: 18%
Calcium: 33%
Iron: 11%

by Adventure Partners
Yum!

Final thoughts. Since starting the rest of the my life with my current workout schedule on  6 January, I’ve been staying away pizza (and all things bad). This has led to significant weight loss since the beginning of the year and I’m only just getting started.

As you've probably figured out, this isn't a vegan pizza. The title was inspired by the "Welcome to Night Vale" that I was listening too as I was making the pizza. :) I'd like to thank the PBS Idea Channel for introducing me to the small town of Night Vale.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

BBQ!



K and I are both certified KCBS BBQ judges. In order to compete KCBS style, you need to provide four entries for judging: pork shoulder (pork butt), beef brisket, pork ribs, and chicken. If you’ve ever watched one of the BBQ reality shows and wondered what it’s like to compete without a few hundred thousand dollars to drop on a rig, here you go:

We headed down south for some fun with the in-laws and a combination MBN and KCBS BBQ competition. I realize that every part of a BBQ competition can be met with a 12-year-old’s sense of humor, so when you’re laughing at “meat inspection” and “smoking meat,” know that I did too.

We competed on my brother-in-law’s team last year, so we had a decent idea of what was going on, but this was our first solo competition. We started the trip out with two goals. One, do better than last year. Two, place in the top half. Half of achieving your dreams is having low expectations, so I tailored my own goal: Don’t come in last.

Two people makes for a pretty small team, so we kidnapped our closest friend and put him to work. He proved to be smarter than both of us, as he had a cot/tent overnighted to my in-laws’ house. While I slept at a 90-degree angle on wet, hard plastic in the back of my car, he was happily sprawled out in his seven-foot bed for the weekend.

We packed up the car, drove the nine hours down after work on Wednesday, and arrived shortly after midnight. My mother-in-law greeted us with boxed wine and a smile, so we were off to a good start. I set her up with an e-cig, and she was happily vaping with one hand and smoking with the other when I went to bed.

We got up early on Thursday to set up our competition space. We invested in a port-a-potty for the weekend, borrowed two tables from the VFW, and set-up our smoker. We brought one pop-up tent with us, but had to purchase a second one when the hurricane-style rain hit. One of my friends from Texas posted a nice picture of the storm, which stretched from Mexico to Canada. Our ambassador was kind enough to acquire/steal some cardboard so we could craft a “floor” in the muddy parking lot.

The first night featured a fish fry and chicken wing competition. We didn’t place in the top five in either category, but that’s not the point of entering. For auxiliary events, the contest provides the meat. So, we got 10 pounds of free chicken and fish to “compete with” and then eat/share with everyone around us. Delicious and economical.

We hit up the local liquor store for some discount rum and presented HB with a gift for joining us. K and I opted to sleep on a real mattress for the first night and left HB in his rum-scented tent to guard the port-a-potty.

K and HB attended the 0800 meat inspection on Friday, which I felt entitled to skip out on. I showed up at noon and pretended to be interested in prepping the pork shoulder and brisket. Meanwhile, the next-door RV battery shorted out in the rain and partially electrocuted one of the competitors. Luckily, K used to work for a battery supply company in town, so he took the man of the RV over to the warehouse to pick out a new battery.

K and I went to the head cooks’ meeting at 1600, where we heard some inspiring quotes such as, “You can’t have a BBQ competition without teams.” Then we picked up our gift baskets, which consisted of 70-ish pounds of free charcoal, moonshine, soda, beer, sauces, T-shirts, apples, aprons, rubs, key-chain razor blades (yes, you’re reading that correctly), and notepads. We already felt like winners.

We finished prepping the chicken thighs and ribs (gross) and setting up for a long night of smoking meat (hehe). After a rousing game of meat tetris, we accepted that it wasn’t all going to fit on the smoker and decided to add my father-in-law’s Weber grill. He also brought us the industrial-style florescent light from his shed to help with the nighttime cooking. It worked. You can see that thing from space.

Once everything was prepped and we had a timeline set up, we took the opportunity to check out our competition. Some of their rigs cost more than my house, but I have to admit they do look really cool! After confirming that the VFW team was already shithouse drunk, we returned to our homemade setup, ready to win.

My brother-in-law stopped by to inform us that the VFW team had called in back-up cooks, but even they were starting to slur unintelligibly. My father-in-law used to be a competitor, and has many great stories of teams that were unable to get a single category turned in on time due to alcoholic difficulties. This competition was starting to look up for us.
We feasted on chili dogs as we prepared hundreds of dollars worth of meat for our anonymous judges. The waste is always concerning to me, as each judge will take a tiny bite of the meat and the rest is thrown away. It not as though we enjoy wasting good BBQ. I was told in judging class that if you only take a small bite of each competition piece, you can expect to eat two pounds of meat in one afternoon.

After ensuring all of our gauges were reading correctly, we retired to our respective sleeping arrangements. Around 0500, I gave up on “sleeping” and began to clean the prep space and set up for the day’s events.

Everything made it to the grill/smoker at the appropriate times. HB began designing the turn-in boxes with the tenacity of an Adderall-fueled housewife. Every piece of parsley was specially chosen and carefully laid to enhance the appearance of the meat. Box design is an art, with only certain types of greenery allowed in competition. Then again, you have to trust that your judges can distinguish curly leaf parsley from arugula.

HB’s dedication to vegetable arrangement scored well in all categories. After everything was turned in, we did shots of tasty, tasty whiskey with the neighbors in exchange for local wine.

HB and I headed back to the house to shower and change before the awards ceremony. While he was in the shower, I sat down to rest. I woke up late that night, confused and still reeking of BBQ. We’d missed the awards ceremony, but I’d successfully caught up on 3 days of sleep.

We headed home the next day, with our gift basket in hand. K’s already preparing for the next competition, and I’ve been buying more salads.


Tuesday, 20 August 2013

In the End


It’s been a crazy, weird summer. I finished my Masters with my 4.0 intact and received a perfect score on my thesis. I suppose I should feel ecstatic right now. I set a goal, formulated a plan, and I completed said goal. However, I feel a little…empty.

For one, whenever I answer the dreaded question, “What did you get your degree in?” I’m met with blank stares and then the inevitable, “What are you doing to do with that?” I’ve found that replying with, “Who cares?” does not elicit a positive response. Truthfully, I have no idea what I will do aside from thinking critically and taking pride in the fact that I completed the degree that posed the most interest to me. Also, if you misquote classic literature, I can totally call your ass out on it.

I have another degree in the works because, why not? My inner masochist apparently enjoys learning new things and earning degrees, which is as good a hobby to have as any. I think the reason I feel a certain emptiness has more to do with the timing of my graduation than anything else.

In July, I experienced a death in the family. I’ve experienced the deaths of friends before, both from senseless violence and from the inevitability of being a veteran. I understand that we will all eventually die, and I’ve lost my youthful belief that I am somehow immortal. I don’t take as many risks as I used to take. I buckle my seatbelt, don’t smoke, and try to eat vegetables every now and then.

But in the end, we all die.

As I spoon-fed thickened cranberry juice into the mouth of a man who taught me so much about life, I couldn’t feel excited about another piece of paper framed on my wall. In the end, this man that I admired and thought was larger than life, slipped away from me.

I’ll always have my memories and the lessons I learned from him, but he’s gone from this world. I can’t pick up the phone and hear his voice. I can’t hold him. I can’t get irritated with him or love him in spite of it. It’s times like this that I wish I still believed that there was a magical place where we’ll all meet up and laugh about that one time I got a massive speeding ticket in Iowa.

This led me to many nights of tears and wondering about the purpose of this crazy thing we call life. My adventure partner summed it up pretty well during one of these dark times, saying that maybe it’s just to leave this place a little better than we found it.

This week, in a dark moment at work, I went into the cooler and cleaned out all of the dead flowers that never made it into arrangements. I emptied the muddied water, tossed out the wilted buds, and swept the floor clear of debris. I may only have two days left at this job, but the cooler is cleaner because I was here. Today, as I listened to the soft cries of a woman on the phone ordering flowers for her lost friend, I accepted that my role at that point was to pacify her pain for a few minutes.

I can’t change the world, I can’t bring back the ones that I love, and although I’m still crying right now, I know that if I can bring a moment of peace to someone who needs it, my work here is done. I end this post with Ralph Waldo Emerson’s thoughts on success, if nothing else to prove that an MA in Humanities in useful:

Success

To laugh often and much
to win the respect of intelligent people
and affection of children; to earn the
appreciation of honest critics and
endure the betrayal of false friends;
to appreciate beauty, to find the best
in others; to leave the world a bit
better, whether by a healthy child
a garden patch or redeemed
social condition; to know even
one life has breathed easier because
you have lived. This is to have
succeeded.

-Ralph Waldo Emerson
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