Pride 2013 in San Francisco
I love a parade: we happened upon Pride in San Francisco

I had planned on writing a post about the non-food aspects of our recent California and Oregon trip, but a theme escapes me, aside from summer fun with family, parades, my camera, our hiking shoes, beautiful western gardens, an awesome national park, and interesting urban scenery – none of which is all that novel, especially in mid-July.

As such, my Flickr set of photos taken on the trip will have to suffice. Do check them out – but don’t be surprised if a few of them re-surface in coming weeks as inspiration for a post or two.

Darlingtonia californica
Cobra lily, AKA west coast pitcher plant

In fact, a photo shot in my mother’s garden serves well here as a segue to some cooking adventures Steve and I have been taking since our return from that trip. We got back to the bungalow feeling a little gluttonous, perhaps even a few pounds heavier than desired, so have resolved to try a few modifications to our current eating habits, to try and lose a little weight and generally improve our health.

Measure one: keep our alcohol consumption to (or below) the recommended level per day. This means one drink for me, two for Steve. This proves a little challenging when visiting with friends from afar, which happens with striking frequency in July. Steve’s also trying his hand at brewing beer this summer, and so far it’s going well, so there is … an abundance. Ah well, if it weren’t a challenge, it wouldn’t be a challenge. At least it’s allowing me to better appreciate my newfound bitters-infused cocktails, one at a time. In fact, I’ve just discovered the genius of Lillet Blanc, thanks to a lovely dinner we had at Salut Bar Americain, this week.

Measure two:  The pitcher plant pictured above has been eating a much larger percentage of meat than we have: We’re eating plants only, prior to 6pm, every day, at least until our trip to Utah in early August. It’s an oddly draconian and feasible way to ensure that more veggies and (hopefully) fewer calories go into our bodies. Another option I considered was eating vegan on weekdays. Skipping morning milk, eggs and bacon altogether sounded more promising, on the anti-gluttony front.

This one’s been a semi-struggle, but mostly because we like to cook vegan and we tend to use our cooked evening meal leftovers as lunches. Since we live in Minnesota and Minnesotans spend most our our short summers in a mad, celebration of the warm outdoors (with friends, bicycles, grills, lakes, etc.), our evening plans of late haven’t allowed much time to get another pan of leftovers into the fridge. So it’s meant a couple weekday noontime mad rushes to the nearby co-op to restock my supply of lentil soup cans at work, or to get a tofu steak sandwich from the deli there.

There’s been at least one lunch for either of us when we really, really just wanted to eat a bratwurst or get a turkey sandwich. And both of us are craving some bacon for breakfast. We will either cave in and do a pancakes-and-bacon dinner soon, or we will demand that our hosts in Utah take us to the nearest greasy spoon for breakfast pork.

Pot Rack shop
Nary a mathani: the Pot Rack in Jacksonville, OR

In spite of the logistics issues (and the leg of lamb staring at us whenever we open up the freezer), we’ve made some very delicious bean, grain, and/or veggie dishes. Last evening’s Rustic White Beans and Mushrooms, a recipe from The Veganomicon, were stellar, perhaps due to the lovely flageolet beans that we smuggled back from a California farmer’s market. We spiked the dinner by having some goat’s milk cheese from The Cheese Shop for dessert.

Earlier in the week, I pulled together Bryant Terry’s Velvety Grits with Summer Squash, Tomatoes & Parsley-Walnut Pesto, from his Inspired Vegan cookbook, which came together quickly as I had some of that pesto in the freezer.

Last weekend my typical grocery-day tour of the twin cities took me out to a far corner of the metro area to Pooja, in search of a few Indian cooking ingredients, in order to try this dal recipe. These included curry leaves and toor dal. This dish turned out so well that I got about one spoonful, the night we cooked it. Steve devoured the rest for lunch, the next day. So much for his “but I’ll starve!” thoughts, on this diet.

I’d love to hear about any new vegan recipes you have explored in the comments. Have a great, green day!

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